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
-- C.A. Beard
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On last month's Fix;
the answer to last month's Fix,
> Is it the govt's duty to protect it's citizens from
their own stupidity,or
> is it just a convenient excuse to loot the
producers of society?
Most of us have probably heard the old joke, " Hi, I'm
from the government and I'm here to help you."
Instinctively, liberals will believe that opening line, and
conservatives and Libertarians will run like hell. It
is manifestly hypocritical of the government to, on the one
hand supply tobacco farmers with price supports and accept
tobacco taxes from cigarette sales to fund government
research, then turn with a straight face to the American
public and say that it is the evil tobacco companies that
are the conflicting costs and ruin on American health
Even if a grassroots movement is what initiates a call
for new environmental taxes, or rent controls, or what have
you, the bottom line is it provides another lever to a
politician who can use it as leverage-either against an
electoral challenger or as a "gift" to his
constituents. A gift which is been paid for by some
other politician's constituents.
I believe it was Alexis de' Toqueville, who writing about
the American experiment in the 1700s said, "the American
form of government will fail when the politicians realize
that they can buy votes from constituents with their own
money." I submit that we passed that yardstick after
Franklin Roosevelt - perhaps even earlier. Each of you must
understand, you have no innate right to the wealth of
another person. And you have no right to expect
complete strangers to pay the costs of your errors. So
On New Year's, the Century and the Millenum
As we have done for a couple of years now, Sheryl and I
have taken our winter break starting a day before
Thanksgiving and extending through mid December. We do
this for couple of reasons: I have a meeting in Chicago that
starts the day after Thanksgiving so I can delay returning
for an extra two weeks and have my vacation flight paid for,
and it also gets us in and out of the airports before the
real holiday travel insanity starts. It does have some
drawbacks though. Both of us are working, and as such
we didn't have any time to spare to send out our Christmas
cards yet (you can expect a millennium card though - we can
probably get one of those out in the next thousand years).
Also, much of our present shopping was actually performed by
Sheryl on the Internet from a laptop while on the
road. And we only got our own Christmas tree on the 19
Because of our travels, we missed that whole world trade
organization thing. However Sheryl kept in touch with
some of her friends who were still working in downtown
Seattle. I imagine it must be rather odd to be
talking to one of your friends while she is in the fringe of
a tear gas field. As one of her girl friends said, "I
wasn't so much scared as fascinated. It was like
watching the news from Israel."
Perhaps that lady was not scared. But I was.
What scared me the most is hearing the news coming out of
the city that people were complaining that the police were
exercising too much restraint. [Even though as I
write this, at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 31, two women who were in
their car as innocent bystanders were asked by an armored
policeman to roll down their window. He then maced
them. They were fortunate enough to have videotaped
the incident and are now suing the police department for
I include for this month's guest editorial the piece
"Miracles at Warp Speed" to act as an optimistic balance to
what I am now about to write. Quite frankly, I'm
worried if our nation will survive in anything like its
current form for the next century.
I can't recall which talking head is its author, but the
book "the American Century" is certainly aptly named.
Most of us are probably not truly aware at how young United
States is. It is hardly older than two long life
spans. My father was born in 1923. In the 40
years between his birth and mine he went from using a single
bottom plow behind a horse to seeing the ascendency of the
internal combustion engine over steam, invention of radar,
the atom bomb, color television, and the first space
shots. In the 30 some years of my life we've seen
tubes go to transistors to chips. The invention of the
laser. And the ability to engineer the building blocks
of life itself. And yet, I disagree with the doctor in the
guest editorial who makes the statement, "science is the
most powerful force in our time."
We are by far an adolescent nation among the great powers
on this planet, and yet we are the sole remaining superpower
(although given lapses in our current government that could
change in the next five years). How can this be?
How can one of the youngest nations in the northern
hemisphere be the preeminent world power?
Freedom. The American experiment, and indeed the
American Century are a tribute and a monument to the
capability of unfettered human beings achieving the full
capability of their innate talents. Cynics like to
point out that America was blessed with many natural
resources that not all nations have. Sure
enough. But Japan has little in the way of raw
materials on their island, but since the restructuring of
their government by the United States in the aftermath of
World War II, they have very nearly equalled America's
economic output. Russia, for a counter example, has
resources galore - and what good did it do them, except
maybe help create one of the largest pollution dumps on
Freedom and free markets work. However, a dark
cloud is thickening over our nation. It is cloud that
was predicted by Benjamin Franklin when he said, "he who is
willing to sacrifice essential liberty for temporary safety
deserves neither." The cloud is greed for unearned
wealth, sloth and cowardice.
Increasingly our citizens believe they have a right to
housing. A right to health-care. A right to a
job (notice they don't say the right to work). And if by
their own life choices (such as smoking or drug abuse) they
have "lost life's lottery", it is still considered unethical
to not help these people out. By what right should my
wealth pay for the mistakes of others?
But the looters are winning. Our politicians have
discovered how to buy our votes with our money. And
increasingly the means for self-sufficiency and self defense
are becoming illegal. Ayn Rand wrote, "don't expect
the citizens to be law-abiding when the methods for survival
become illegal." But that is precisely what we are
doing to our country.
For time I thought that the rise of the Internet and
similar information technologies would make it possible for
citizens to have a more rapid appreciation of the effects of
the hypocritical laws being passed by their legislators. And
for a time, it seemed to be working. New technologies
in information gathering were being released faster than
ruling bodies could study, understand and control them.
However, the race to tax, censor, and monitor the Internet
by the feds is being won-and not by the forces of free
Will we pass on a monument of freedom toward our
children? Or are we too frantic in the pace of our
daily lives to pay attention as the fingers around our
throats squeeze tighter and tighter?
Although its late, Sheryl and I wish you all a happy,
healthy Xmas and New Year.
Miracles at Warp Speed
by Bob Herbert
Just 50 years ago, no time at all in the long excursion
of history, Americans were driving cars with divided
windshields, listening to ballgames on radios that crackled
with static, and reading comic strips that suggested someday
there might be a portable electronic device (a wrist radio,
perhaps) that would allow individuals to have the equivalent
of a telephone with them at all times.
Forget for a moment your personal computers and fax
machines. Americans on the cusp of 1950 hadn't even heard of
rock 'n' roll. Milkmen were ubiquitous. Credit cards were
not. Even television was
Just 50 years ago.
Tonight the country will raise a toast to the peaceful
and prosperous transition from one epoch to another, a toast
that in effect is a salute to the remarkable advances
of the past half-century. Those advances
have been driven by science
and technology and a commitment to the ideals of freedom,
and they have lifted the quality of life for most of us to
heights that would have astonished midcentury America.
Now buckle up. This ride is just getting started. The
last few decades have been amazing. But the next few will be
profound. Listen to Dr. Dari Shalon, director of the Harvard
Center for Genomics Research:
"Some recent results have indicated that
things that looked very complex, such as aging and
intelligence, can actually be altered with a single gene.
And once you can alter something with a single gene, it's
not far-fetched to imagine gene therapy permanently altering
what's called the germ line, which means it gets transmitted
from generation to generation. I think people will be very
hesitant to do that on humans, but it's very easy to make a
small molecule drug that you can just take as a pill that
alters the activity of a single gene. The pharmaceutical
industry is well geared to do that.
"So once certain genes are discovered that
actually change, if you will, a cognitive trait --
intelligence -- or even things such as life span, it's not
too far-fetched to imagine a small pill that actually
influences these two activities. I don't think it's as
far off as people think.
"Less drastic will be things such as tissue regeneration.
So, for example, people who are suffering now from nerve
disorders -- say, Parkinson's disease or liver disease --
we're getting pretty close in animals and pretty
soon in humans to be able to simply regenerate those tissues
from what's called stem cells. And that's a new form of
therapy that I believe is going to be on the horizon within
Or listen to Dr. Michael Crow, executive vice provost for
research at Columbia University:
"Science right now is the most powerful single force in
our culture. We've got guys who are not just working on the
double helix, approaching the structure that carries all of
our DNA-based genetic code --
they're saying: 'Well,
let's build something beyond that. Let's build our own
"How do you get into that very, very heady business of
building molecular communication molecules -- which puts us
into the role of life designer -- and not deal with the
complicated ethical and
We are speeding semi-blindly into frontiers that will
change not just our standard of living, but even, in very
fundamental ways, what it means to be human. The science and
technology that have made
wondrous of our lives to date are now pulling us ahead at
warp speed.The crucial task is to find out how to do more
than just hang on.
Dr. Crow is helping to develop a project that will bring
experts together from a wide variety of disciplines to study
the implications -- and, where feasible, help shape the
outcomes -- of scientific and
Offering an illustration of the astonishing speed of some
scientific advances, Dr. Crow said, "Biological science's
knowledge is doubling every 180 days."
When the toasts are done and our heads have cleared and
we are squinting in wonder at the rising sun of the new
century, we'll see the need for a more knowledgeable and
mature approach by all of us to
accelerating miracles of science and technology.
If we're up to the task, and our luck holds, we'll hand
the coming generations a world that even in our most
optimistic moments we could never have imagined.
1. Doug WIlken's reponse to the last Fix:
Date: Sun, 19 Dec 1999 20:38:34 -0600 (EST)
From: Doug Wilken <email@example.com>
To: LANGER STEVEN C <sglanger@Oakland.edu>
Cc: Doug Wilken <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: lastcall
> Is it the govt's duty to protect it's citizens from
their own stupidity,or
> is it just a convenient excuse to loot the
producers of society?
In practice both pure and impure motives have tended to
in "looting" as you are fully aware.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
2. David Gay sent the following:
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 1999 23:18:50 -0600
From: David H. Gay <email@example.com>
Edward Fleming wrote:
> an you imagine working at the following
Company? It has a little over
> 500 employees with the following statistics:
> *29 have been accused of spousal abuse
> *7 have been arrested for fraud
> *19 have been accused of writing bad checks
> *117 have bankrupted at least two businesses
> *3 have been arrested for assault
> *71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit
> *14 have been arrested on drug-related charges
> *8 have been arrested for shoplifting
> *21 are current defendants in lawsuits
> *In 1998 alone, 84 were stopped for drunk driving
> Can you guess which organization this is?
> It's the 535 members of your United States
> The same group that perpetually cranks out hundreds
> of new laws designed to keep the rest of us in
Quote(s) of the month:
"I am a Socialist at heart."
-- Ted Turner, from Investor Business Daily
"Finally this evening, part history and part myth.
It was 50 years ago that the People's Republic of China came
into being, ruled by its founding father Mao Tse-Tung.
China's going all out to celebrate the triumphs of the
Communist revolution and ignore its failures. In the
ceremony they will also ignore the fact that China today, is
hardly a Communist country."
-- Peter Jennings, ABC News
Fix of the month:
A question worthy of the Millenium. How can we make
humans, as a species, more honest, caring and peaceful
without employing totalitarian passification?
1. Seattle, 1 Dec.: While the attendees of the world trade
organization conference largely state confined to their
hotel buildings, labor, environmentalists and other
demonstrators took to the streets in the thousands. Police
and National Guard forces were largely restrained on the
first day, but on the second tear gas, clubs and rubber
bullets were liberally applied. Over 700 protesters
were arrested and held in temporary, pseudomilitary
Members of the trade organization, unable even to agree
on their agenda, left Seattle having failed to secure such
basic agreements as Europe-American beef sale targets.
2. Seattle, 8 Dec.: Having come under intense criticism
for failing to have acted with sufficient force in a more
timely manner, Seattle's chief police resigned his
position. Meanwhile, the mayor, a self described '60s
hippie, said that while he himself despised the use of
force, he could see no alternative once storefront windows
were smashed and looting began.
3. Tocoma, 15 Dec.: A local man, formerly a vice
president at Walt Disney studios, was found guilty on
multiple counts of child pornography during his trial
today. The man was trapped by an under cover FBI agent
posing as a minor in an Internet chat room. When the
suspect actually agreed to meet with the "minor", he flew to
San Francisco for the meeting. When he showed up he
was arrested. He was also found guilty for having
images of child pornography on his home computer.
4. Tocoma, 17 Dec.: The Walt Disney Vice President
previously convicted on multiple counts of childhood
pornography had at least one count overturned today. A
U.S. District Court Judge determined that the pornographic
images on the man's computer were only animated drawings,
and were therefore protected under the First Amendment.
5. Port Angelas, 18 Dec.: An Algerian man was captured in
his car as he attempted to drive off the Victoria to Port
Angeles ferry. Having boarded in Victoria Canada, the
man arrived in the small Washington port town intending to
drive on to Seattle where he had reservations at a hotel
near the space needle. His car contained numerous
types of explosives and detonators.
6. Seattle, 31 Dec.: After interrogation of the the
Algerian man captured earlier, FBI and city police believe
that the man had accomplices. Because they have not
been found, nor their bombing target absolutely identified,
the city's mayor has called off the millennium new years
celebration on the space needle grounds. As many as
60,000 people were expected to attend the celebration, they
will now have to be dispersed around the city, hopefully
presenting less of target to suspected terrorists.
1. UC Davis, 1 Dec: First it was Mothers Against Drunk
Driving. Then, it was open season on the tobacco
industry. Of course, sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco
are nothing new in this country. We even have a
federal organization called the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco
and Firearms expressly created for controlling and taxing
these items. But now, the other shoe has
dropped. Soon, there will be a fat tax.
I kid you not. Judith Stern, professor of
nutrition at the University of California Davis and
president of the American Obesity Association, claims that
the cost of treating obesity related health problems in the
United States is a hundred billion dollars a year. She
has called for Congress to increase funding for obesity
research to the National Institutes of Health by $100
million every year for the next five years. She also
asked Congress to investigate the possibility of taxing
high-fat foods. In effect, a couch potato tax.
1. Topeka, 15 Dec.: During a speech Monday before members
of the Topeka VFW Hall, a concerned Pat
Buchanan said that "hundreds of thousands" of U.S.
citizens were made in Communist China. "These shoddy,
Asian-looking, 'knock-off' Americans are the mass-produced
product of non-union, low-wage parents," the Reform Party
presidential hopeful told VFW members. "Every day,
are exported from China to our shores, where they are free
to intermingle with real,
Buchanan added that if he wins the presidency, he
would impose stiff tariffs against
U.S.-citizen-producing nations and return all bootleg
Americans to their nation of origin.
Ed: This report courtesy of The Onion.
1. Cahokia, Dec. 2: Seven-year old Lamont Agnew has been
suspended from school, for bringing toe nail Clippers to
school. The second graders mother, Terika Box,
complained to school officials that her son is not a threat
to other students. The school administrator explained
that the district has adopted a strict no weapons
policy. According to Illinois law, a student can be
expelled for up to two years for possession of a
weapon. "Nail Clippers qualifies as a weapon".
Editor: Where is the five-day waiting period for the
purchase of toe nail Clippers? Where are the
background checks? And where are the safety
locks? Our children's future and safety hang in the
1. Miami. 1 Dec: Elian Gonzalez, a 6-year-old Cuban boy,
is the subject of a bitter international custody battle.
Foundat sea on Nov. 25, two days after his mother drowned
with 10 others in an ill-fated attempt to fleeCuba for the
U.S., the boy is currently living with relatives in Miami.
His father, who lives in the Cuban town of Cardenas, has
demanded his return. Pres. Clinton declined to speak
personally about the case, preferiing it to go through the
1. 18 Dec: Former first lady Nancy Reagan says that five
years after her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's
disease, he no longer is capable of having a conversation
that makes sense. Mrs. Reagan also said that friends of
former President Ronald Reagan no longer are invited to
their California home because Reagan does not recognize
them. The former president no longer swims or takes walks,
She commented during a recent conversation with C-Span
executive Brian Lamb at the Ronald Reagan Presidential
Library in Simi Valley, Calif. The session was part of the
cable network's series "American Presidents: Life
Portraits," which has aired throughout the year. Mrs.
Reagan's interview currently is being broadcast.
2. Dec. 2: The British broadcasting Corp. reports that
the U.S. Army has begun producing a new type of quote
"green" bullet. The kinder, gentler, environmentally
friendly bullet doesn't contain any lead, but is made out of
tungsten or a tungsten-nylon mix. The environmental
impact of military weapons became a big deal after the 1991
Gulf War. Environmentalists were concerned that the
depleted uranium armor piercing slugs used in that conflict
would pollute the soil with heavy metal fallout. A
spokesman for the Pentagon says production of the new
bullets is "part of a comprehensive program to move to green
ammunition in the next century."
1. PANAMA CITY, 31 Dec.: "It's ours. May God Bless
me", said President Mireya Moscoso as he claimed the Panama
Canal from the United States at noon on Friday, bringing to
a close a checkered century of U.S. involvement in
Panama. Moscoso said his prayer seconds before a giant
countdown clock flashed the figures 00:00.
Thousands of flag-waving Panamanians broke through
security cordons in pouring rain to join the president
on the steps outside the canal administration building.
1. Moscow, 31.Dec.: President Boris Yeltsin, asking Russians
for "forgiveness" for the difficulties of recent years,
unexpectedly resigned today on the eve of the new century,
saying he wanted Russia to enter the new millennium "with
new politicians, new faces, new intelligent, strong and
Yeltsin named Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has been in
office only since August, as acting president. Under the
1993 Constitution, Russia will have presidential elections
in three months. Putin earlier had said he will campaign for
the presidency and he is today far and away the front-runner
for the post.
Acting President Putin later signed a decree giving
"legal, social and other" guarantees for Yeltsin and his
family, including immunity against prosecution.
Looking puffy and speaking agonizingly slowly, Yeltsin, 68,
announced his departure in a televised address. Then,
wearing a black overcoat, he showed Putin, 47, to his new
Kremlin office, and a military officer appeared carrying the
black Samsonite suitcase that contains a remote control
system in case of nuclear attack. The nuclear suitcase was
transferred to Putin, and Yeltsin walked out of the Kremlin
into a light snow and waiting limousine.
"Many times I have heard it said, Yeltsin will try to
hold onto power by any means, he won't hand it over to
anyone," Yeltsin said. "That is all lies. That is not the
case." He pledged to honor the constitution.
Yeltsin, who has been in ill health, did not say
precisely why he was quitting other than referring to the
need for new people. But he said that after the Dec. 19
parliamentary election, "I understood that I had done the
main job of my life. Russia will never return to the past.
Russia will now always be moving forward. I must not stand
in its way, in the way of the natural progress of
Yeltsin begged "forgiveness" of the Russian people
"because many of our hopes have not come true, because what
we thought would be easy has turned out to be painfully
"I ask to forgive me for not fulfilling some hopes of
those people who believed that we would be able to jump from
the gray, stagnating, totalitarian past into a bright, rich
and civilized future in one go."
© Steve Langer, 1995-2000