SeaViews: Insights from the Gray
(formerly the _Rochester Rag_, formerly the _News
Motto: The surest way to get a reputation for
being a trouble maker these days is to go about repeating
the very phrases that the Founders used in the struggle for
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On last month's Fix;
the answer to last month's Fix,
"Should the state or county govt. be permitted to raise
taxes on the general populace for the express purpose of
furthering the investigation of a murder suspect who has
been indicted on thin evidence?"
For over eight years somone known as the Green River
Killer has been murdering women in Eastern Washington
and the tri-Cities area. The body count is somewhere
over 30. The cops have got a suspect in the person of
Gary Leon Ridgway, a married, 52 year old blue collar worker
from Auburn Washington. King County Prosecutor Norm Meleng
says the costs to prove the case in court could cost
$millions and take years. Meanwhile, the public defender
Tony Savage says that the defense could cost over $1 million
of which the county will cover only $250K.
Mr . Meleng has asked the King County Council to pass a
0.1 % increase in the county sales tax eperessly for funding
the investigation of this case.
So, what we have here a a county govt that is willing to
tax taxpayers extra to finance the prosecution of a lone
individual of finite resources.
Tyranny has many faces ...
On the Holidays;
Apologies, usually this issue gets out before
Xmas, but it will be out before New Year's. Which is better
then I can say for last year's Xmas Card (which never went
out). This year Sheryl did yeoman's work (whatever that
means) and sent out a great Xmas letter featuring cover
pictures of our new home and the dog searching for the
meaning of life in the bottom of an ice cream bucket.
The year has been one of significant flux for us,
and more is coming. We had to leave our long established
rented home on Bainbridge Island and moved to our own place
on Kingston. At work, a promotion has meant my
responsiblities have been subtly changing, and the systems I
designed I'm no longer even consulted on by the new
kids. [And to be honest, I do enjoy it when their
arrogant ignorance leads them to kill systems for 1/2 a
day.] On the positive side, I should be getting more
time to do actual research on my two main interests: medical
informatics and therapeutic ultrasound. My last living grand
parent passed away in June 2000, and this year on the
anniversary of that event I was hosting the Medical Physics
Summer School, the same event I was only attending when she
died the year before.
In the past year, Sheryl had another temp job, which
introduced her to a new friend who is now practically our
neighbor. Also, she completed a tax prep course tought
by H&R Block, and scored top in her class. Block offered
he a job, at $7/hour, 40 miles from our house, with a 2 year
non-compete clause. She wisely declined. It's very
frustrating for her, since she doesn't want to face the 3.5
hour daily commute I do, she wants to work on the West Sound
shore. However, she can take programming, accounting and tax
classes and make $7/hr, or work at McDonald's for the same
As I write this from the loft of our new house on
the last day of 2001, the rarely clear skies reveal a
stunning pink dawn creeping over the snow capped Cascades.
Truly - everyone should have a chance at least once in life
to see such sunrises and sunsets over the mountains and sea.
As a child of the Midwest - and having lived in the grand
forrest of Bainbridge until four months ago - I never really
understood the draw this view holds for so many people. But
now I realize that someday when I am fortunate enought to
return home, this is one of the only things I'll miss.
Anyway, the times they are a-changing and in the next few
months there will be some significant developments. Please
keep in touch (you know how to reach us) and we hope that
you and yours will have a happy, healthy and prosperous new
On American Heroes and Patriotism;
Have you noticed that despite all the hooplah, the money and
the noise - it's not the govt that has improved safety over
the US skies - but the people themselves. Even on 9/11, some
people took themselves down over the fields of Penn. rather
than risk lives on the ground. And this past week, normal
everyday folks on a American Airlines flight from Paris to
Miami beat down another martyr wanna be. No Air
Marshalls. No govt. employees. Nada.
Now, airport security is screening people's shoes! But it
doesn't matter. The screeners will never catch up, becuase
they don't have the imagination to conceive of all the
things the terrorists can do. Next will be a C4 enema with a
pen shaped remote detonator. And if we resort to cavity
searches, the bad guys will implant explosives surgically.
Next, every passenger will be XRayed. And this still won't
catch the guy who is in the incubative phase of carrying
America is a nation of heroes. Maybe not everyone of us,
but enough so that on the average plane, one or two of us
will take these bastards down - and to hell with the risk.
This is what made, and can still make, America secure. Not
the govt, and not even the privatge sector - but rather
individual americans exercising their right to exist in a
free society. Freedom, not the loss of it, makes us
That said, both Bush II and the advertising media
want us to do our duty by spending lots of money this Xmas
and getting the economy back on its feet. Strangely though,
while the airlines, car manufacturers and retailers
ask us to be brave and spend - they are laying off (30,000
from Boeing, another 3000 from Amazon.com, 2-3000 from
General motors, etc). Rather like a 400 lb doctor telling
the patient to lose weight. It does little good to push cars
with 0.0 % loans when you lay off the customers whom you
expect to buy them.
December 26, 2001
O come, all ye faithful
Every December, people get religion about religion -- and
for a fleeting moment, government secularists lose their
invincibility cloaks. Example: Ron Sims, the county
executive of my old stomping grounds in Seattle, got
roasted nationwide after issuing a memo urging public
employees to avoid using the phrase "Merry Christmas"
any other faith-specific greeting). Internet discussion
boards buzzed with derision. Newspaper editorialists took
their Grinch costumes and denounced such godless
bureaucratic humbug. And angry citizens across the
deluged Sims' office with so many e-mails and phone calls
that he was forced to abandon his party-pooping
But what happens when the spiritual holidays are
Once the New Year begins, too many Americans pack up
their Menorahs, throw away their Christmas trees, and
allow politicians and ACLU extremists to continue their
relentless crusade to banish God from the public square.
Those who are truly outraged by such religion-bashing antics
can put their money where their faith is by supporting
individuals and organizations that combat rampant secularism
365 days a year.
Jewish World Review (www.jewishworldreview.com) is a
webzine of political and social commentary edited and
published by New York journalist Binyamin Jolkovsky. The
daily online publication, which celebrated its fourth
anniversary this month, was founded to communicate
traditional values and morality from a Jewish perspective
and to counter growing indifference among young Jews to
their religious heritage. Among JWR's prominent Jewish
contributors: terrorism scholar Daniel Pipes, Jerusalem Post
columnist Jonathan Rosenblum, and journalists Nat
Hentoff, Bob Greene and Paul Greenberg.
The 33-year-old Jolkovsky, who operates JWR on a
shoestring budget in Brooklyn, has used his sharp pen to
criticize hypocritical Jews on the left and defend
conservative Christians on the right.
When Connecticut Senator and former Democratic
vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman
orthodox Jewish doctrine on the Don Imus show and later
courted anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, Jolkovsky bluntly
exposed Lieberman's sellout of his core religious beliefs in
pursuit of higher public office.
When feminists, ethnic groups and the media painted
Attorney General John Ashcroft as a bigot during his
nomination hearings, JWR reported on the strong support
Ashcroft received from Orthodox Jews in Missouri.
And when Johnny Hart's popular cartoon strip, "B.C.," was
attacked earlier this spring by liberal Jews upset with
its overtly Christian message, Jolkovsky bravely stepped
into the fray. "As a Sabbath-observant Jew, rabbinical
school alumnus and publisher of the most-accessed Jewish
website, I see absolutely nothing wrong with Hart's
message ... The majority religion in this country is still
Christianity and those who feel queasy about
public displays of it should grow some thicker skin."
Forming coalitions across denominational lines is
important, Jolkovsky says, "in order to give greater voice
those who hold religious values dear." So JWR's stable of
regulars also includes many non-Jewish writers
(including Tony Snow, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams and
yours truly). In fact, Jolkovsky refers to his site as
"Jewish e-dress for all peoples of all faiths. There is far
more that unites us than divides us."
Another of JWR's contributors, Kevin Hasson, heads The
Becket Fund for Religious Liberty -- a bipartisan and
ecumenical, public-interest law firm based in Washington,
D.C., which protects the free expression of all
traditions. Among The Becket Fund's most famous ongoing pro
bono cases is its defense of Zachary Hood, a
Christian first-grader from New Jersey whose public school
teacher forbade him from reading his favorite story
about Jacob and Esau aloud to his classmates. The group also
represents several houses of worship -- including a
Baptist church in Texas, a Jewish congregation in
Pennsylvania, and Catholic churches in King County, Wash.
which are all under attack by overzealous zoning
Long after the December media buzz about government
Grinches dies down, committed champions of religious
liberty and expression continue to fight the extremes of
liberal secularism. For JewishWorldReview.com, The
Becket Fund, and many other unsung warriors, the campaign
against the Ron Simses of the world is more than a
passing holiday fancy. It's a lifelong labor of love and
December 26, 2001
It's still a wonderful life
To many Americans, this season would not be complete
without at least a few scenes from "It's a Wonderful
The movie wasn't a hit when it was first released just
after the Second World War, but it has slowly acquired
immense popularity -- and even a certain critical acclaim.
Maybe because it represents a peculiarly American
vision. It is not a vision of Christmas -- despite that
last, tear-wrenching scene in front of the tree -- but of
society, and how it ought to be.
This year the movie's picture-postcard image of
small-town America came alive. It happened in a place
Clintonville, Wis. (Pop. 4,700). It's got four stoplights.
And it's where they've been making New York City's fire
trucks since the days when New York's mayor was named not
Giuliani but La Guardia. So when the Twin Towers
were struck, so was Clintonville. It knew a lot of those
firefighters, who had visited the town over the years to
check on their fire trucks as they were being assembled. The
whole town went into mourning, then action.
After all, Cindy of Cindy B's Pub & Grill in
Clintonville has 400 firefighters on her Christmas card
list, and she
started making phone calls to the bereaved families. Bars,
restaurants, churches, schoolchildren ... all raised
and sent letters. And Clintonville started building 54 new
fire trucks for New York. It could have been a scene
from the movie, as the whole town united to help friends in
Indeed, after Sept. 11, New York has become a small town
to many of us out here in mid-America -- no longer
an impersonal metropolis but a community we can all identify
I once read a brief analysis of "It's a Wonderful Life by
a professor of American Studies at Boston University. He
said it shows that, while life can be "an enriching Norman
Rockwell experience, it also can be smothering, where
you end up marrying the girl you went to high school with,
and you never get to go to Europe. ... It tells us
is one of the most sad and lonely and tragic characters ever
imagined. I cry when I see it."
I confess to having shed a few annual tears over "It's a
Wonderful Life," too -- but not for the professor's
For nothing in the movie seems as sad as the professor's
analysis of it.
George Bailey a tragic figure? Why, he's the richest man
in town, as his brother says at the end of the film. He
makes Mr. Potter, that old miser, look like a pauper --
because George Bailey has loved and sacrificed and built
and given and stood alone a time or two, and, well, he has
lived. No, he never got to be a tourist in Europe, but
didn't go through life as a tourist, either. He lived. He
changed the lives of others. He mattered.
If there is a moral to Frank Capra's movie, it may be the
comment from Clarence, George's bumbling guardian
angel, to his despairing charge: "Strange, isn't it? Each
man's life touches so many other lives, and when he
around he leaves an awful hole to fill, doesn't he? ... You
see, George, you really had a wonderful life. Don't you
see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?"
This movie makes marrying your high school sweetheart
seem any number of things, including comedy, but never
tragedy. It is a celebration of the usual middle-class
virtues, which are not usual enough in this or many
To quote Nancy Dillon, a writer who can remember watching
the film with her father: "We laughed, and cried, a
lot that afternoon, and at the end I no longer saw my father
as being at all ordinary." There are few things more
extraordinary than the ordinary virtues of small-town,
middle-class America. Nancy Dillon, it might be noted,
in Worthington, Ohio -- which sounds not unlike the movie's
Bedford Falls. The values of Bedford Falls are those
our professional intellectuals are supposed to see through.
Sometimes they are so busy seeing through them that
they don't see them at all. Or they confuse the happy with
the sad, the lonely with the interconnected, and,
strangest of all, the triumphant with the tragic. Just as
George Bailey did in his despair.
The movie may celebrate, but it does not idealize
small-town life. It sees the potential, sordid Pottersville
every wholesome Bedford Falls. The jealousy, envy, greed and
misplaced values. There's that moment when
George Bailey sees his friend The Success driving off to
Florida, complete with homburg, plaid suit, limo and
out of the 1940s' Good Life catalog, right down to the fur
And all George can think to do is stare at his old jalopy
and kick the door. The Chance of a Lifetime has been
missed. As if he and Mary hadn't just done something
infinitely finer by installing another family in a home of
own in Bailey Park, complete with bread and wine.
The craftsmanship of Frank Capra invests scene after
scene with this kind of darkness and light. Just one
ordinary man, like George Bailey, can make the difference
between the two, between a Pottersville and a Bedford
Falls. Just as his Mary made all the difference for him.
Think of all those who make a difference in your town --
and those who don't. That professor's view of George
Bailey as a tragic figure strikes me as sadder than anything
in the movie. It's also kind of comic, this being
land of the happy ending. I wish the professor a brighter
perspective, a merry Christmas, a happy New Year ...
and a wonderful life.
1. Doug writes
Date: Sat, 29 Dec 2001 08:43:28 -0600
From: Douglas E. Wilken <email@example.com>
To: LANGER STEVEN C <sglanger@Oakland.edu>
Subject: Re: lastcall
>Fix of the month:
> "Should a state (or any) govt. be able to
raise taxes to pay for
> additional investigation of a murder suspect who is
being held on
> insufficient evidence?"
The thought makes me nervous. Did we forget about
Give a bureaucrat lots of extra funding and I suppose
evidence can start
appearing to justify the funding. Or am I too
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours.
Quote(s) of the month:
"Ho ho hooo. Merry Christmas."
-- Santa Claus
Fix of the month:
"This month, something you should all enjoy - a film
review of the "Ring". I would especially like to hear from
Jeff, Kerry and Tom - some of the most avid scifi and
fantasy readers I know."
1. 12 December, Seattle: King County Supervisor Ron Simms
released a memo to all county supervisors that they should
not use the words, "Merry Xmas" or "Happy Hannukah" in any
of their day to day work. It was permissable for them to
say, "Happy Holidays" however. This was interesting to me
because I had already seen Xmas trees (aka Hannukah bushes)
in public areas of Harborview Medical Center, a county
Nevertheless, the Simms memo said that a
non-inclusive holiday greeting would not be acceptable. Then
a local media pundit on King 5 news (Ken Shram) took Simms
to task on the air, and a mail in campaign deluged Simms
with over 200K letters.
2. Seattle, 27 December: Three weeks after 9/11, the
airline industry convinced the Feds that due to the shutdown
of air services for three days by the FAA - the $billions
shuold be refunded by the Feds. So - in October, Congress
approved $15 Billion in bailout for the airlines. But -
Boeing also went to the Feds and said, "Becuase of the
airline cutbacks - we too are losing sales and deserve part
of the pie - to save manufacturing jobs in the US."
The feds agreed. Boeing got a piece of pie ($1-2
Today, Boeing announced that they will move
production of the 767 to Japan - and lay off another 10,000
workers in the Puget Sound region.
[Editor: The lesson is clear. In a free market, the
govt. should minimize its feeding off the people, but
likewise - the market must not be fed off the govt. Even
when govt's try to do good - by attempting to save jobs at
tax payers expense to buoy up the economy - the outcome will
not be what was expected. Rather - the debt is increased to
support corporate welfare.]
2. 2 Dec, ELLENSBURG, WAóIn a gala breakup
featuring the town mayor and the Ellensburg High School
marching band, Chris Schiffman
was ceremoniously dumped Sunday by Vicki Arness, his
girlfriend of three years. "Ladies and gentlemen
of Ellensburg, let the word go forth from this
day that Vicki and Chris are no longer an item!" Mayor
Robert Todd announced before 3,000 cheering attendees.
"Vicki has let it be known that she wishes to see other
people, and see other people she shall!" The
scissors-wielding mayor then officially declared the couple
broken up by cutting an oversized photo of them in
1. Boston, 23 Dec: Alledged British citizen Richard Reid
was coralled by fellow passengers as he attempted to
detonate his PETN laced shoe bombs as the American Airlines
jet entered US airspace. The plane, which came from France,
was scheduled to land in Miami. "Reid" was originally
detained by security in Paris and as a result missed his
flight. American Airlines paid for him to be put in a hotel
so that he can board a flight the next day.
1. San Diego, 15 Dec: Cameras located at intersections
take pictures of cars and send tickets to those owners who
run red lights. The ticket is $271. The city claimed that
the system would boost safety and reduce accidents. However,
the police and installers shortened the length of the yellow
lights so that the units would catch more "evil doers". The
upshot was, more people were jamming on their brakes becuase
of the short yellow, and got rear ended.
Former San Diego Mayor Richard Hitchcock led a
class action suit to sue the police department and pointed
out that the only "benefit" of the system was increased
money to the city.
1. Dec 31: The FBI announced that 1500-300 groups or
individuals are currently being "observed" on the US for
possible ties to the Al Kaida network. One can assume that
covers all electronic forms of communication as well as
visual and banking moves, according to an FBI agent.
2. Dec. 8: The Supreme Court declined to hear a case that
will likely decide the life or death of Russel E Weston.
Weston is accused of shooting to death two Capitol police
officers, but the defense argues he is innocent by reason of
insanity and unfit to stand trial. The prosecution argues
that with the proper medications, the defendant would be
lucent enough to take the stand - and they are ordering that
he be given the drugs. The defense argues that forcing the
drugs on his client violates the 5'th Ammendment protection
against self incrimination.
3. Dec. 3: The court has agreed to hear a campaign case
from the state of MN. At issue, "Can a candidate for State
Supreme Court state his views on politics and law during the
election?" The current state rule forbids this. The Rep
candidate, Greg Wersal, joined by the Rep party, says this
violates free speech. The state Attorney General says
campaigning for a Court is different than running for
Congress or govnr. "Litigants have a right to expect that
decisions will be based upon law and facts - not statements
made during a campaign."
[Editor: They may have a right to respect that, but
anyone who recalls the Dem grilling of Clarence Thomas and
Robert Bork certainly knows that the Dems (worried
that Roe v Wade would be overturned) don't believe
1. 25 December, the U.N. : Stepping in to avert a famine,
the UN sent over 90,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan to
assist the US in providing food and lodging for refugees
created during the US' war on terrorism. In the previous
month 75,000 tons were delivered - mostly from US and
Canadian farms. The current assesment is that there will be
no widespread starvation this winter which is in marked
contrast to reporters claims in November when US bombing was
at its peak.
1. from the Onion
REGO PARK, NYóGabe Kloster, a 32-year-old
Queens-based entrepreneur, expressed fear Monday that he
be unable to sell his remaining inventory of 40,000 urinal
cakes bearing an image of Osama bin Laden between a pair
"A few months back, I couldn't make them fast
enough," said Kloster, who supplies news- and
pop-culture-related novelty products to discount stores and
street vendors in the New York area. "Now I can't get rid of
the goddamn things." Kloster came up
with the idea for bin Laden urinal cakes a few days after
"I saw that guys on the Internet were already
selling Osama bin Laden dartboards, toilet paper, trash
cans, and kitty-pan liners, so I thought people would get a
kick out of having the chance to piss on him,"
Kloster said. "Besides, I knew a guy in Paramus
who could do the printing real cheap."
On Sept. 20, Kloster moved forward with an initial
run of 2,000 urinal cakes, which sold out in just three
days. He subsequently upped the run to15,000, and by early
October, the product had proven so popular that he decided
to halt the manufacture of all other novelty items to focus
exclusively on the cherry-scented, terrorist-decorated
"The sports bars loved
them," Kloster said. "Paddy O'Lantern' s, this bar near my
house, even put a sign on the
men's-room door saying 'Target PracticeóThis Way.'
That same week, a newspaper in Hartford called to say they
interested in doing a story on [the cakes]. They
never wound up doing one, but it was obvious I was on to
Encouraged by the positive
response, Kloster raised the production run to 50,000 in
early November. Unfortunately,
interest soon began to wane. Since the beginning of
December, Kloster has only sold 141 cakes, a 97 percent
his early-October sales peak.
"Bush said this war could
drag on for years, so I quadrupled production, figuring the
market would be hot for a while,"
Kloster said. "But then the Northern Alliance started
capturing huge chunks of Afghanistan from the Taliban, and
here began to calm down a little. The last few weeks, with
the war going so well, sales have really been in the
"Hopefully, bin Laden will
do something else to really piss America off," Kloster
continued. "I mean, I don't want another terrorist attack on
the U.S., but maybe he could give us the finger or call us
some really bad name. Short of
something like that, I'm fucked."
Li Chang, a street vendor
on Canal Street in New York's Chinatown, said he does not
plan to order any more of the urinal cakes. "In
October, first time I order, I sell out very fast. In
November, I order more, but it take longer to sell," Li
said. "Now, I don't want no more. People still mad at
[bin Laden], but not like before."
John Traber, owner of
J.T.'s Touchdown Bar & Grill in Lyndhurst, NJ, also does
not intend to reorder.
"This is kind of gross, but
drunk guys kept stealing them out of the urinals to keep as
souvenirs," Traber said. "[Kloster]
was charging four times as much for the bin Laden cakes as
you'd pay for regular ones, and I couldn't afford to
replacing them, so I decided to go back to the regular
Added Traber: "They had
way too strong a cherry smell, anyway. Made the bathroom
stink like perfume. Who wants to
be overpowered by some sweet, fruity odor when you're taking
Despite the inventory
surplus, which could cost Kloster upwards of $70,000, the
entrepreneur is feeling positive about
his next venture.
"I got a really sweet deal
on these framed posters of an American eagle crying in front
of the Stars and Stripes... 25
cents each from this distributor in Ohio who needed to
unload them fast," Kloster said. "I think I'll combine the
with the posters as sort of a commemorative 'God Bless
America' war-souvenir package."