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,
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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.
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 <email@example.com>
> From: LANGER STEVEN C
> Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000 11:26:08 -0500 (EST)
> "A question worthy of the millenium. How can we
> more caring, honest and peacful without resorting to
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
another hour of sleep?) on days when everything is pissing
off... chemical self-passification wins.
2. Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 12:01:12 -0600
From: Douglas E. Wilken
To: LANGER STEVEN C <sglanger@Oakland.edu>
Subject: Re: lastcall
>"A question worthy of the millenium. How can we
>more caring, honest and peacful without resorting to
Wow! I'm merely an evil corporate phyisist.
But let me try.
My best guess would be either genetic engineering and/or
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?"
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
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
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
The original suspect, whom it is not clear was even armed
with a gun, is being charged for the murder of officer
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
Ed: So, where is the vaunted "right to privacy" in this
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.
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
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.
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
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
smashing atoms are good for the environment. He also
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
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
or predictions of doom at some unknowable future date. Huber
beyond theories of environmental harm to focus on the things
actually measure. Like the amount of wilderness in the
United States. And
he shows that modern environmentalism destroys wilderness
it forces us to use more land.
Take the energy needs of New York City as an example. Every
Yorkers consume 55 watts per square meter of land. Since the
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%
unlikely, as 20% is usually considered outstanding), you'd
still have to
clear-cut huge areas of wilderness to meet our energy
That's because right now a coal mine yields 5,000 watts per
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,
enormous amounts of energy from tiny uranium atoms, is the
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.
organic farming may be popular, but it destroys
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
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
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
After reading Huber's Hard Green, you'll find it hard not to
agree with him.
© Steve Langer, 1995-2000