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SeaViews: Insights from the Gray Havens 
December 1999

(formerly the _Rochester Rag_, formerly the _News from Detroit_)

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 independence.

-- 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 industry.

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 there.

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 December.

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 brutality.]

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 Earth?

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 speech.

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?

On Christmas

Although its late, Sheryl and I wish you all a happy, healthy Xmas and New Year.

Guest Editorial:

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 an           oddity.

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 25 years."

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 structures.'

"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 moral          questions?"

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 something          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 technological         research.

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 the          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 <>
Cc: Doug Wilken <>
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 result
in "looting" as you are fully aware.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

-Doug Wilken

2. David Gay sent the following:

Date: Tue, 28 Dec 1999 23:18:50 -0600
From: David H. Gay <>
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 Congress.
> The same group that perpetually cranks out hundreds upon hundreds
> of new laws designed to keep the rest of us in line.

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 barracks.

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, these knock-offs           are exported from China to our shores, where they are free to intermingle with real,  made-in-the-U.S.A.     Americans." 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 balance.


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 state courts.

Washington D.C.

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 said.

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 energetic people."
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 history."

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 difficult."

"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