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SeaViews: Insights from the Gray Havens 
January 2000

(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,
"Without resorting to totalitarianist, Big-brother measures, how can we encourage the average human to be more generous, honest and a better citizen."

Of course, religion is the method that comes to most people's minds.  But this violates the "non-big brother" principal that was a precondition to the question.  People who are only "good" because they fear that some omnipotent being will punish them in the hereafter, aren't really being better people of their own accord.  Leaving aside for the moment the entire argument of whether morality derives from God or reason, the point is people must have their own internal code of honor by which they live their lives. Certainly, externals such as the 10 Commandments and Bill of Rights are good jumping off points, but they will do little good if the only thing that keeps a person honest is their fear of discovery and punishment. For atheists who are unobserved, there is then no argument for integrity.

The stick of punishment must give way to the carrot of mutual respect. You should not cheat another, becuase you would not wish to be cheated. The Golden Rule.

Of course, this is hardly a new theme, but why does it still carry so little weight? For several reasons I would argue. First, time and space. It seems our culture is accelerating and leaving less time for introspection. Further, people's overall angst increases with pop. density (no surprise to anyone whose overcrowded a rat cage). Also, Americans feel less and less responsibility for their neighbors as they rely more on govt. services to take care of them (and yes, there is a contradiciton in this). Reduced community self-reliance, it seems to me, reduces everyone in the community sense of  self-worth.

Second, honesty shouldn't be punished. When honesty with the tax collector results in more and more confiscatory taxation, don't expect tax payers to be angels. By definition, mutual respect has to be mutual and its difficult to be honorable with those who are not. Third, citizens must have an understanding and pride in where we have come from. The rise of America to a world power will be swiftly reversed if the lessons of liberty and justice are not taught to the young.

As our nation ages, the clarity of purpose and integrity that once occupied the various offices in D.C. (and the states) have been blurred by special interests whose voices are heard more clearly via campaign contributions. Full disclosure of payments from these agents, and to whom, for what reasons, would seem a marginal first step to restoring an open system that the average citizen could have some trust in. But even this is pointless if the citizenry is apathetic.

Ah, the crux. The republic rises our falls on the informed decisions of its citizens. Therein lies the rub. With less time to think, more garbage (usally) to think about, more crowding and a decreased sense of community, it seems likely that improving humans will be a struggle.

On Declining Crime in America;

FBI stats continue to show a decline in violent (murder, assualt, rape) crime in America which has been noted since about 1993. Of course, Clinton claims credit saying its due to the 100,000 new cops he put on the streets in 1994-5. The Reps. claim its due to the 3 Strikes rule that many states enacted on felons in the1994 elections. No doubt Al Gore will soon claim credit, becuase he invented law enforcement. However, the Dec. '99 or Jan '00 Scientific American offered another possible alternative. The 1973 passage of Roe vs. Wade which produced a surge of abortions, mostly by single mothers, who persumably whould have had truble raising non-hooligans. Hence 20 years later, there are fewer hooligans. The theory seems to be gaining some adherents in academia.

Can in utero genetic testing with prophylactic abortions of likely trouble makers be far behind?

Remember, you read it here first.

On the State of the Union Show;

I'll spare the details of the 90 minute diatribe. Clinton/Gore are for everything good (ie liberal), against everything bad (ie conservative), the Nation is the best off its ever been becuase of Clinton's policies that were rejected by the Rep. controlled Congress, and he promised new programs that ran about $7 Billion/minute during the speach.

On Y2K;

OK, its here. How bad was it? Well, contrary to the bi-polar press who are disappointed that nuclear missiles didn't spontaneously blow up, the Eastern seaboard didn't go dark and the world is still here, there were actually quite a few problems. I can tell you that virtually every Windows/Intel related piece of medical software/hardware that wasn't fixed showed some glitches (like claiming that a person born in 1965 was born in 2065). However, almost more trouble was caused by the vendor service people who installed the "fixes" incorrectly. And since most of these people went from high school, to the Armed Forces as repairmen, then came back into the private sector knowing only how to fix things if they have a recipe to follow, this actually happened quite often. So at the stroke of midnight, Jan. 1, 2000, your's truly was not celebrating, but frantically trying to fix things that had already been broken earlier in the week by the vendors "fixes."

In contrast, I'm still running Windows 3.11 on two of my machines - and they're just fine.

But this is the kind of hysteria that comes from using tools without understanding them. John Dvorak (noted columnist for PC Week) wrote the following entertaining bit, although JD should have checked his facts first. In fact, Seattle did have a fireworks display, but the accompanying party was cancelled. But hey; fact checking is passe' in the post-Clinton media era.

"Of course, because the public wasn't buying into Y2K computer hysteria, the media gave them something else to worry about: terrorist attacks. Board up the shops! Cancel events! It was incredible to me that the all-time-most-afraid-of-its-own-shadow wimp city, Seattle, actually canceled its planned fireworks display because of perceived threats. Like a terrorist wants to waste time on Seattle. "Vlad, we have the bombs; we have the detonators; we are ready. Should we attack Rome? Paris? London? New York? Hong Kong?" "Nyet - Seattle, you fool!" Does anyone besides me think that Seattle has an inflated sense of its own self-worth? And what a marketing blunder for a city that relies on tourist dollars. We saw the Eiffel Tower ablaze with cool fireworks. And in Seattle? Fearful squirrels wringing their hands. Losers."

On how Govt. Subsidies Boost Efficiency!

The other day while coming home from work in the communally inspired Van pool, one of the riders mentioned that as a result of a recent referendum in the last November election, the price of ferry tickets was about to increase about 60 percent.  The gist of the referendum, known as I 695, was that a value based tax for car registrations would be rolled back to a flat rate.  This has the effect of reducing about 20 percent ($700 million) of the state's annual tax revenue.

I casually mentioned that I didn't have a huge problem with the fare increase, noting that I didn't think it was just for a person in  Spokane to have to subsidize my ferry ride.  The person took issue with the statement, as you could probably assume they would.  First, some background.  This 40 something person was raised near Cornell, obtained her undergraduate degree there, and then received her masters at Michigan Ann Arbor, and is a card carrying member of Earth First.  You may be forgiven for making the natural assumption that she is a liberal. However, even I was not prepared for what next came from out of her mouth.

"Well, I studied the effect of government subsidies quite a lot, and in my experience I've always found that they decrease prices."

"Well," I said, "of course they decrease prices to the end-user, that is the definition of a subsidy.  That the user doesn't pay the full price.  But the overall price usually increases as a result of inescapable government inefficiencies.  Certainly, you don't mean to say that the actual price of the program in total decreases?"

"Yes I do," she said.  "Government can get economies of scale that the private sector cannot and overall price per unit of the service decreases.  Take for instance, mass transit.  The cost per passenger mile on a train is much cheaper than the 37 cents per passenger mile of the car."

"Well... yes, but you're comparing apples to oranges.  What would the total passenger cost per mile be on a private railroad vs. govt. (and include the whole cost, not just what the passenger pays)?  How about some counter examples?  What has happened to the total cost of health care in United States as a function of GNP since the creation of Medicaid and Medicare in the early 1960s?  And what has happened to the housing market in New York City as a result of rent control?"

"Okay, rent control has not worked so well but that's one example. I disagree on health care, it's cheaper now."

"Not so fast," I said.  "Let's look at rent control. Prices have stayed down in controlled apartments.  But at what other cost?  Usually the landlord can no longer afford to keep the place in good repair.  So it becomes a dump.  It gets condemned.  It gets torn down.  And as a result, housing in the city becomes even more scarce-and more expensive in the not rent control units.  In the case of health care, from 1963 until now it has gone from about 7 percent to 16 percent (1/6) of GNP after adjusting for inflation.  As a function of the federal budget it has gone from next to nothing to 60 percent.  At that rate, the government will go broke in less than 20 years trying to subsidize "cheaper" health-care.  If subsidized health care is so good, why are 20 percent of your cancer patients from Canada?"

"Well, anyway, we don't pay enough for gasoline. Did you know that in Europe gas is over $4/gallon because they don't subsidize it?"

"Really?", I said. I could have pointed out that $0.77 of the $1.30/gallon we pay in this state is for taxes, but why trouble her with reality? I gave up and turned back to my book.

Guest Editorial:

Departing the brutal century
by Walter Williams

[Ed: Dr.. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.  He was also a former boxer and brags, " I'm black by popular demand."  This guy is  so brilliant, I can pretty much say with certainty that if it comes from his mouth, I will agree with it.]

This year marks the last year of the 20th century.  One that will be remembered for unprecedented technical progress, advance of knowledge, and the most brutal century ever.  Among the most murderous governments are: the former Soviet Union (1917 through 1987 murdering 62 million of their own citizens), the People's Republic of China (from 1949 to 1987 35 million), a distant third is Nazi Germany (21 million Jews, Serbs, other Slavs, homosexuals and the mentally ill).

We might ask why the 20th century was so barbaric. Part of the answer is that in earlier times there wasn't the concentration of power that emerged in the 20 century.  Had  Hitler been around in the 1800s, he would not have had the authority.  Instead, when Hitler came to power, he inherited decades of consolidation by Bismarck and later the Weimar republic.  Through the enabling act of 1933, Hitler destroyed the remaining autonomy of the provinces which made it possible for him later to commit his atrocities.

Decent Americans are paving the road for tyrants today in the same way.  In the name of one social objective or another, we're creating what the Constitution's founders feared-concentration of power in Washington. The framers envisioned a republic.  They guaranteed it in Article 4,  section 4 of the Constitution, making the individual states authority competitive with and  in most matters exceeding, federal authority.  Now it is precisely the reverse.  In the pursuit of lofty goals like Healthcare, fighting crime and improving education, Americans have given up one of our most effective protections against tyranny-dispersion of political power.

Try this thought experiment.  Pretend you are Hitler.  Your goal is to kill all blacks, Jews and Catholics.  Which would you prefer, the United States with political power centralized in Washington with powerful agencies that have detailed information on Americans such as where they live, what their assets are, and whether or not they are armed?  Or, thousands of agencies with local jurisdictions that are not centrally directed or monitored?

You say, "Williams, what happened in Germany could never happen here."  I'm betting Germans who lived at the end of the Weimar Republic said the same thing.

Harrison's life spared by anti-gun laws?
Larry Elder

The Washington Post had an opinion piece titled, " Thank 'My sweet Lord' for gun laws".  Ex beetle George Harrison, maintains the columnist, is alive today only because of England's tough anti-gun laws.  Breaking into his home, the assailant stabbed Mr. Harrison four times before Mr. Harrison and his wife managed to disarm the suspect (Mrs. Harrison used a lamp).

"John Lennon never stood a chance in 1980 when he was ambushed by a gunmen outside his New York apartment", the columnist said.  "Had his fellow beetle been living in America rather than London, it is entirely possible that tonight we would be having a candle light vigil."

Perhaps, and maybe if England did not have such confiscatory tax laws, John Lennon would not have been living in America.  Amazing how self righteous anti-gun folks display no doubt about the causal connection between the presence of guns and murder.  Yet, when proponents of three strikes laws claim credit for lower crime rates, opponents call their reasoning "simplistic."

Pulling the trigger requires little effort, goes the logic.  Therefore, the presence of guns makes crime easier and more deadly.  But what about suicide?  Both Japan and England, with extremely restrictive gun laws, have suicide rates in excess of Americans.  And in Scotland and Ireland where the gun control laws are similar to England's, guns kill more people per capita than in America. Meanwhile, in Israel where many homes have automatic weapons, rates are lower.

England, because of its zero tolerance for handguns, enjoys a quiet reputation as a law-abiding nation.  But in robbery, burglary, assault, and motor vehicle theft-England's per capita crime rate exceeds America's.  In America, 13 percent of burglaries are called hot (where the thief enters a home known to be occupied).  In contrast, in England nearly half of all burglaries are hot.  Why?  Because in England, the thieves are assured that the occupants are not armed.

In 1998, 40,000 people were killed by cars.  Yet aside from Al Gore, nobody wants them illegal.  Their their benefits are seen to outweigh the liabilities.  But with guns, then the debate shifts solely to liabilities, without answering the other part of the equation: do guns save lives? John Lott, author of "More guns, less crime," says absolutely.  In his book he finds that more than two million Americans use guns successfully for defensive purposes each year, preventing deaths, rates, assault and other serious injuries.

L.A. police Chief Bernie Parks wants to outlaw so-called "Saturday night specials."  I asked him how often Americans use guns for defensive purposes, saving lives and injuries.  He admitted he did not know. Is a relevant question in the debate?  "No," he answered.  Incredible.

According to David Kopel, former Manhattan District Attorney, in 1979 through 1985 a study by the national crime survey found that when a victim does not defend himself, the robber succeeds 88 percent to the time and the victim is injured 25 percent of the time.  When the victim resists with a gun, robberies success falls to 30 percent and injury rate drops to 17 percent.  No other response to a robbery, from pulling a knife, to shouting, to macing, to fleeing, is more effective.

Two years ago, Australia commenced a gun by back program.  The government confiscated 640,000 firearms.  Within the next year, homicides increased 3.2 percent, assaults increased 8.6 percent, armed robberies increased 44 percent.  And in the state of Victoria, homicides increased 300 percent.Oddly enough, the criminals don't appear to be deterred by the gun laws.


1. AZ Matt writes;

Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2000 08:33:26 -0700 (MST)
From: Matt Birkholz <>

> Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000 11:26:08 -0500 (EST)
>  >
> "A question worthy  of the millenium. How can we make humans
> more caring, honest and peacful without resorting to totalitarian
> passification?"

MORE compassionate?  MOST of us would give the shirts off our backs when
others are in need.  Just because there is an annoying 1% that gets all the
TV "news" time doesn't mean we need/should/can do anything to make humans
MORE caring.  Just stop watching the so-called "news" they put on TV.  If
you are whining about rudeness, try a fifth of Scotch (half a joint?,
another hour of sleep?) on days when everything is pissing you
off... chemical self-passification wins.

2. Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 12:01:12 -0600
From: Douglas E. Wilken <>
Subject: Re: lastcall

Dear Steve,

>"A question worthy  of the millenium. How can we make humans
>more caring, honest and peacful without resorting to totalitarian

Wow!  I'm merely an evil corporate phyisist.  But let me try.

My best guess would be either genetic engineering and/or cooperative
selective breeding.


Quote(s) of the month:

"I was the author of that proposal. I wrote it."

-- Al Gore in a Time interview, taking credit for the Earned Income Tax Credit. It was passed a year before Gore came to Congress.

Fix of the month:

"Given that the nation is the best off  it's ever been, how aobut an international fix? Like -say- is it a good thing the the Chinese have bought the rights to control both sides of the Panama Canal?"


New York;

1. NYC, 7 Jan: Yesterday, ABC became the second of the four major networks to announce a deal with the NAACP to add more racial minorities to its ranks, agreeing among other things to tie executive bonuses to minority hiring practices.  Earlier in the week, NBC announced a similar agreement, removing the threat of boycott that the NAACP issued last summer when true attention to the lack of minority actors on the new fall shows.

2. NYC, 28 Jan: On welfare?  Not to worry.  New York city is recruiting welfare recipients to work from home as telephone psychics.  For those who are not gifted with Prophecy, the city offers job training.  The effort began last April and has led to 15 people on welfare being hired by a company called the Psychic Network, says Ruth Reinecke, a spokesperson for the city's human resources administration.  "We teach them how to read Tarot cards and stuff."

What does it take to be a telephone psychic?  The recruitment flyer says qualified applicants must be on public assistance, have a caring and compassionate attitude, and the ability to read, write and speak English.  The jobs have a minimum salary of ten dollars per hour plus bonuses, the flyer says.

Self-described professional psychics were on the happy over the city's effort.  "You are talking about people with no real talent who are simply interested in the money."

Rhode Island;

1. Providence, 28 Jan : An off-duty police officer was mistaken for a suspect and shot dead by two fellow officers early today.  Cornell Young, 29, in plain clothes, saw a suspect confronting two officers outside a restaurant and rushed to help them with his gun drawn.  The officers failed to recognize Young as a fellow officer, ordered him to drop his weapon, and when he didn't they shot him dead.

The original suspect, whom it is not clear was even armed with a gun, is being charged for the murder of officer Young.


1. St. Paul: State loggers are suing the US Forest Service for violating the alledged Constitutional separation of Church and State. The Forest Service, in halting logging on areas regarded as populated by sacred trees (as defined by environmentalists), is "... compelling the loggers to accept a state sponsored religion" according to logging counsel Stephen Young.
Ed: This promises to be fun.


1. Tallahassee, Jan: Pro-lifer's in Florida are to suspend their First Ammendment Rights for the benefit of the Natl. Organization of Women and the Natl. Abortion Rights Action League. NOW and NARAL are incensed that drivers in the state can order personalized license plates that proclaim that the driver is a pro-lifer. The case is pending in the state's supreme Court.

2. Debary, Dec.: A cow wondered into knee-deep water along I4 and concerned drivers pulled over assess the creatures condition and call 911. A state trooper went to the scene to investigate and found the animal was fine. But the  calls continued, so the Florida state Highway crew put up a generator powered lighted sign saying "The cow is OK". This worked well for the rest of the day. The next day, however, things took a bad turn. It seems the cow moved on, but the sign did not, so motorists clogged I4 while they slowed to look for the missing "OK Cow".


1. Austin, 20 Jan: Texas state troopers have been given a gift from Maothers Against Drunk Driving. MADD has provided the troopers with several dozen flashlights, that are more than flashlights. The devices can be used when a trooper pulls over a motorist. Typically the trooper will put the light in someone's face (that's one of those things they teach in law enforcment school). But now, the light also has a mini-vacuum cleaner attached, so if the trooper pushes a button, the device will pull in the breath of the motorist and analyze it for - you guessed it - alcohol.

The "perp" will likely never know they have been breathalized - unless the cop gets a positive and then has to use the bigger more accurate unit in his car to get an arrest.
Ed: So, where is the vaunted "right to privacy" in this case?


1. San Bernadino, November: City council members are asking the state for $200 Million to purchase a corridor of land that would connect several cities - so as to have a strip of wilderness to preserve the flyway of - a fly. The Delhi Sand fly is on the verge of extinction, and its thought that combining the remaining breeding populations along the flyway will help it survive.

Washington D.C.

1. Georgetown Univ., November: The Law School has a course on the current president, and his legal problems. One of the guest lecturers was - Monica Lewinsky. Monica took time out from her busy speaking schedule which profits her by exploiting her special relationship with Clinton, to exploit her special relationship with Clinton. One student thought she was, "Very inciteful." The Washington Post reported that, "... she confided to her students that she was having a bad hat day - then removed her Chateau Marmont chapeau."


1. Shire Valley, November: Crocodiles have been killing people at the rate of at least 2 per day, but the rate could be even higher and is just not being reported becuase its so common. The crocs have flourished since the Endangered Species Convention forbade culling them. The normal food supply is no longer sufficient so crocs are going into agrarian villages and eating the villagers.

Net News;

1. from

Saving Earth from environmentalists
By James Freeman

                  The smartest guy I know has just written a great book. So the first chance
                  you get, buy a copy of Peter Huber's Hard Green. The subject, "a
                  conservative manifesto for the environment," may sound a little dry, but it's
                  an excellent read. Huber explains with clear logic what so many of us have
                  felt in our guts.

                  Huber, a former MIT engineering professor, shows why burning oil and
                  smashing atoms are good for the environment. He also explains why
                  encouraging solar power would lead to environmental disaster. In trashing
                  another cherished urban myth, Huber explains why biotechnology is saving
                  the environment, while trendy "organic" farming destroys wilderness.

                  Here's the basic idea ñ if you want to save the planet, you have to use the
                  efficiencies that come from technology.

                  Most environmental debates today involve claims of unseen chemical threats
                  or predictions of doom at some unknowable future date. Huber moves
                  beyond theories of environmental harm to focus on the things we can
                  actually measure. Like the amount of wilderness in the United States. And
                  he shows that modern environmentalism destroys wilderness areas because
                  it forces us to use more land.

                  Take the energy needs of New York City as an example. Every day, New
                  Yorkers consume 55 watts per square meter of land. Since the best solar
                  panels can only collect 20 watts per square meter per day, you'd have a
                  hard time lighting the place with solar energy. Yes, you could cover a lot of
                  rooftops with solar panels. But even if you covered every square inch of the
                  place ñ every sidewalk, every street, all of Central Park ñ with
                  photo-voltaic cells, you'd still need to clear a wilderness area almost twice
                  the size of the city to deliver the necessary energy.

                  Well, you might say, solar panels will become more efficient in the future.
                  Maybe, but keep in mind that the sun only sends us 180 watts of energy per
                  square meter per day. You can't turn up the volume on the sun. And even if
                  you could collect and store all of that energy with 100% efficiency (highly
                  unlikely, as 20% is usually considered outstanding), you'd still have to
                  clear-cut huge areas of wilderness to meet our energy needs.

                  That's because right now a coal mine yields 5,000 watts per square meter
                  per day, and an oil field yields close to 10,000. By digging down into the
                  ground, by using the stored, concentrated solar energy of fossil fuels, we
                  avoid clearing the land. We save wilderness. Nuclear power, extracting
                  enormous amounts of energy from tiny uranium atoms, is the most
                  environmentally friendly resource of all.

                  The story is the same for high-tech farming. Outlaw pesticides, restrict the
                  use of new technologies, and you deprive farmers of the tools they use to
                  become more efficient. That means they'll get less food from the same area
                  of land. That means they need to clear more land to feed us. Low-tech
                  organic farming may be popular, but it destroys wilderness.

                  Some critics will say that if we didn't have so many people on this planet,
                  we wouldn't have this problem. We wouldn't need to use dangerous
                  technologies to grow more crops or heat our homes. I think the burden of
                  proof is on the critics. As the population has increased and technology has
                  advanced, we've grown richer and healthier. And there's no limit to growth
                  in sight. Even today, all of our homes, buildings and roads occupy less than
                  three percent of the land in the lower 48 states.

                  Other critics will say that burning fossil fuels may save wilderness areas, but
                  it also dumps CO2 into the atmosphere and causes global warming. If you
                  believe the theory, here's the good news: Thanks to efficient use of land, we
                  have lots of trees in the US, so we actually consume more CO2 than we
                  produce. Scientists call the US a "carbon sink." You don't hear too much
                  about it because it makes it hard to blame us for global warming.

                  After reading Huber's Hard Green, you'll find it hard not to agree with him.

© Steve Langer, 1995-2000