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SeaViews: Insights from the Gray Havens 
March 2002

(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,
"Should the minimum wage be nationally tied to the inflation rate?"

Washington and Oregon have the 2'nd and first highest state mandated minimum wages in the US. They also have the 3'rd and 2'nd highest unemployment rates in the US. Need we say more?

Well, OK, then  we'll just say this ... "Positive Feedback Cycle." [See David Gay's letter.]

On Physics;
 Sometime ago some friends were asking me about cosmology. The April issue of "Discovery" has a great article about Alan Guth's inflation theory about the creation of the Cosmos - and possibly the greatest thing about it is that it explains how the birth of the Universe does not violate Mass/Energy conservation.

Guest Editorial:

Jonah Goldberg
March 14, 2002

Steeling ourselves for real economic travesty

Remember the wailing and caterwauling over Enron? Remember how Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, with his merry band of carpers in tow, tried to make it a transitive verb? President Bush, we were endlessly told, was trying to "Enron America," through his proposed budgets, tax cuts, Social Security proposals, choice in neckties, whatever - just so long as Enron and Bush were in the same sentence.

Rather than dampen the hysteria of the political class, the pundits poured gasoline on it. George Will called the collapse of Enron a "systemic crisis of capitalism." Newsweek's Jonathan Alter called Enron "a cancer on capitalism." Bill Press fretted that "the human impact is staggering." Paul Krugman - once a respected economist - declared in his New York Times column that Enron would go down in history as a much bigger and more historical event than Sept. 11. As if years from
now our children will ask, "Where were you when Enron filed for bankruptcy, Daddy?"

Well, this all looks pretty silly now. First of all, it's pretty clear that the Bush administration had nothing to do with Enron's collapse. While the executives of Enron (and their accountant-enablers at Arthur Anderson) still have a lot to answer for, the magnitude of their malfeasance is now being recognized as something less than the crime against humanity it was portrayed as a few months ago. For example, most Enron employees were neither "forced" to buy Enron stock nor were
they inordinately compelled to hold on to it.

Regardless, Congress will surely pass new laws to "fix" the "systemic crisis of capitalism," but the truth is that capitalism has reformed itself. Companies and analysts have been forced - by the demands of the market - to get their houses in order. Firms are restating profits, clarifying their books, and Arthur Anderson probably will collapse - certainly the most punitive
fine a company can receive and a clear warning to other accounting firms.

You would think that after shrieking and ululating like Arab women at a funeral over Enron, the press and the politicians would be a little more inclined to make a fuss over a real "systemic crisis of capitalism": President Bush's craven decision to raise tariffs on steel.

This decision will have a far more staggering human impact than Enron's collapse ever could. Twelve million U.S. jobs depend on cheap steel, and for every one of the ever-dwindling 160,000 steel-producing jobs saved by this steel tax, anywhere from eight to 12 steel-consuming jobs will be lost. Moreover, this will make things like cars, trucks and appliances more expensive for American consumers.

The Economist magazine, the intellectual conscience of English-speaking free traders everywhere, pronounced, "This steel-tariff plan, it is important to remember, lies well outside the ordinary run of bad economic policy: it is so wrong it makes other kinds of wealth-destroying intervention feel inadequate."

Yes, the steel industry is in real trouble in the United States, but mostly because it is bloated and inefficient and cannot compete with new "mini-mills" here in the United States. The big steel companies and their unions argue that an increase in tariffs on foreign steel will save it. Nobody else believes this. Rather, these "temporary" tariffs will simply make the process of pulling off the bandage take a lot longer.

In the meantime, our allies overseas are rightly furious contending that the leader of the free world is against economic freedom. Indeed, on the issue of trade, Bush is more of a hypocrite and less principled than Bill Clinton - and that is a painful thing to say.

Nobody - not even the Bush administration- plausibly argues that this was not political pandering to voters in vital swing states. The call was made over the objections of economists inside the administration and out. Even Alan Greenspan publicly admitted his disagreement, usually a no-no for the Fed chair.

U.S. Trade Rep Robert Zoellick - America's official proselytizer for freer trade - offered the best defense he could: "The only way we can continue to get support from the American people to open markets and trade," he said, "is to use our domestic and international laws to the fullest." Translation: We need to raise tariffs in order to win votes so we can fight for free trade.

To their credit, some of the pundits who overreacted on Enron, particularly Krugman and Will, have been tough on Bush's steel decision. But the media in general has already forgotten the steel story, largely because free-market conservatives in the GOP don't want to hassle their deservedly popular wartime leader, and because the Democrats, Daschle especially, are never going to complain about protectionism.

Enron became an "outrage" because Democrats cynically exploited the media's guilt over Bush's wartime transformation and its obsession with campaign finance "reform." But, when the president actually caves to the political pressures of special interests, to the detriment of millions of Americans, indeed a million times the total number of Enron employees, the media
yawns, Democrats applaud and conservatives hold their noses. That's the real outrage.


1. Chuck writes from MN

Subject:         Lord of the Rings
   Date:         Sat, 9 Mar 2002 13:52:59 -0600 (CST)
   From:         Charles Scripter <>
     To: (Steve Langer)

Hi Steve,

This bounced, so I'll resend...
Gosh... Sorry, I didn't see the movie in time to write a review...

> "Send in your review of the "Lord of the Rings""

I liked it.  Good action, good scenery, overall well done.  Though
it's been something like 25 years since I've read it, so I couldn't
tell you how much or little they deviate from the book.

But I do have one question...  Why did they use such puny guy for the
Dwarf King.  They should have gotten somebody with *real muscles*...
somebody like ROOSTER!...  ;)


2. And David Gay writes in.

Subject: RE: lastcall
Date: Mon, 1 Apr 2002 09:17:29 -0600
From: "Gay, David" <>
To: "'Steve Langer'" <>

Hi Steve,

Just returned on an Easter Holiday trip to St. Clair Shores
Michigan. I don't know if I'm too late on this one or not.

"Should the national min wage be tied to the inflation rate?"

Isn't a mandated minimum wage one of the key drivers of inflation?
If this is true, then perhaps we should seriously look at removing the
minimum wage.


3. Some unknown idiot wrote this to me. I suppose the name is an anagram for something. I reproduce it here as an example of stupid fraud attempts.

from: PIUS OBA []
sent: Wed 3/14/01 3:31 PM



After due deliberation with my colleagues, I decided to forward to you
this proposal, we want a reliable and trustworthy person who could assist
us to transfer the sum of US$20M (Twenty Million United States Dollars)
only into his account.

This fund resulted from an over-invoiced bill from a contract awarded
by us under the budget, allocated to my ministry and the bill was approved
for payment by the concerned ministries, the contract has been executed,
Commissioned and the contractor been paid his actual cost for the contract.
We are now left with the balance of US$20M as the over-invoiced amount,
which we have deliberately over estimated for our own use. But under
our protocol division, civil servants are forbidden to operate, or own
a foreign account. This is why I contacted you for an assistance. We
have agreed that you will be entitled to 30% of the total sum, 60% for
us while 10% for any expenses incurred on both side while transacting
this business.

As you may rightly want to know I got your address from our Chambers
of Commerce and Industry here in Lagos. I am a top official with the
Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). We the officials involved
in this deal have put in many years of services to our ministries, we
have been exercising patience for this opportunity for so long and to
most of us, this is a life time opportunity we cannot afford to miss.
This transaction is very much free from all sorts of risks.
To enable us get this fund paid into your account, we have to present
an international business outfit and consequent upon your agreement,you
should send to us the followings below to enable us apply formally to
the various government agencies concerned for approvals:

1.your private Tel$Fax numbers.
2.your Bankers name $ address.
3.your Bank Tel$Fax numbers.
4.your Bank account Nos.
5.your Business name and address

You may be required to sign the fund release authority at the Central
Bank of Nigeria(C.B.N.) when all approvals are gotten or alternatively
you may also be required to proceed to any of the the C.B.N.offshore
payment centre in abroad. Thereafter,three officials
will come to your country for our share. All these will only take us
10 working days to get the fund transfered into your Bank account right
from the day we receive the above requirements.
When I received positive response from you I will give you other details.

NOTE: Your discussion regarding to this transaction should be limited,
because we are still in Government service.
Let honest and trust be our watch words throughout this transaction.
Your prompt reply will be highly appreciated.

Best regards.

you cal as well

Quote(s) of the month:

*Politicians and diapers have one thing in common. They should both be
changed regularly and for the same reason.*
-- unknown

"Trying to do anything is this institution is like trying to thread a mile long fiber through four hundred needles during an earthquake"
-- SGL, March 2002

Fix of the month:

"What is going on with GW? Raising tariffs. Signing the Incumbant Protection Act (aka Campaign Finance reform bill). Should there be a recall?"



1. Yakima, 28 March: Savidore Bravi, like many security conscious people, installed a home alarm. However, one day he came home to find that the police were in his house responding to an alert. He fainted. It turns out that he was growing 10 pounds of pot. When he came to he was arrested and is now on trial with a possible sentence of 5-10 years. He told the cops, "As soon as I get out I'm gonna rip out that alarm."

Smart boy.


1. Portland, 3/15: The US Forest Service has been found to have falsified data about the scarcity of Spotted Owls and their habitat requirements. As a result in part of US FS reports, the owl was listed as an endangered species and large tracts of forest were blocked form logging - killing thousands of jobs in the early 90's. Judge Margolis in US District Court said USFS reports have since been discredited by independent university researchers.


1. Boston, March 14: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology plans to create     military uniforms that can block out biological weapons and  even heal their wearers as part of a five-year contract to     develop nanotechnology applications for soldiers, the U.S. Army announced Wednesday. MIT won the $50 million contract to create an Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, or ISN.  The ISN will be staffed by around 150 people, including 35 MIT professors, specialists from the  Army, DuPont and Raytheon, as well as doctors from the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology, according to MIT.


1. March 12, Northern Colorado University: The basketball team has named  their team and mascot "The Fighting Whities". This, the team coach said, was to hilight awareness of racial stereotypes. The team, which is composed of whites, indians and Hispanics, wear jerseys that say "Don't worry, everything will be all white." Soloman Little Owl, team member, said the name was chosen in response to a local high school that picked the name "Fighten Reds".

 However, as usually happen with humor impaired liberals, the plan to "give whitie his own medicine" backfired. Rather then the expected backlash of white community outrage, the team is being inundated by fans nation wide that are lining up to buy the team jerseys. I've ordered one. You can too at


1. Lake Mille Lacs, 3/18: A recent court decision declares that ice shanties must be offered the same 4'th Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure as homes. This will not sit well with state game wardens who have heretofore just knocked and entered shanties to check for game violations.


1. LA, March 24: The Oscars picked their first black Actress winner in the form of Miss Halle Berry, but it appears that to some, she was not black enough.  Numerous protestors are decrying that since her mother is white - she does not know what it's like to be truly black. It didn't help her cause that in her tearful acceptance she paid homage to numerous other mulatto actresses (Lena Horn, Dianne Cannon, etc) but left out Whoopi Goldberg who was standing behind her.

2. LA, March 27 : The Cartoon Network now has lone distribution rights of the Warner Brothers Cartoons, and those of you who grew up watching Daddy, Bugs and Sylvester may be chagrined to know that CN has now suspended any further showings of Speedy Gonazales on "cultural sensitivity" grounds.
[Ed: Although, this may backfire like last month's tale about the Fighting Whities of Colorado.]


1. January, Fort Worth: At the Ft. Worth/Dallas airport, a man and his wife were attempting to demonstrate to the airline ticket agent that the hunting rifle he was checking in was unloaded. Apparently it was, and it discharged across the lobby, the  bullet going a window and lodging into a planter outside. Rather then slapping the couple into jail, shutting down the airport and other panicked steps that would have occurred in an Eastern airport, the authorities just double checked the rifle, checked it into the plane - and the couple went on their Montana hunting trip.

2. March 16: Several 4'th grade boys were suspended from school when they performed oral sex on each other during a quiet reading period in their class. The teacher did not see them because they were sitting in the back of the class and hiding the activity under their winter coats. Local police were trying to ascertain where the kids picked up this idea.
[Ed: Hmm, they may want to see if the school library is carrying that children's classic "Heather Has 2 Daddies" or "Monica - her story".]

Washington D.C.

1. March 13: The CAFE bill that would have raised the required fuel economy of all vehicles in the US to a fleet average of 37.5 mpg was defeated in the Senate. Thus, we will be able to buy pickups and SUVs for a little longer.

2. March 13: Six months to the day after 9/11, a Florida flight school announced that they got approved student visas for the 9/11 highjackers to attend their school for another year.

3. March 15: The American Lung Assoc. has released a list of states that have used dollars from the 1998 Tobacco Settlement in a "bad" way. Forty Six states got over 280 billion (over the next ten years). Thirty three of those states have reinvested some of that money into Tobacco companies. Among them are TX, MA, IL and others. Of course, the public believed that the money would be used for reimbursing state's coffers that spent money on Medicaid patients with tobacco related ills.

4. March 24: The FAA has now released the results of a test screening since the Federalization of Airport security. A firm of undercover security professionals tested the walk on luggage screening of Atlanta, O'Hare, Dulles and LAX. The results:

knives: 70% undetected
guns: 40% undetected
bombs: 60% undetected

Not tested was the ability to sense and stop bio or chem. agents - since no airport currently screens for them.

Net News;

1. from

First Human Cyborg unplugged by Airport security

STEVE MANN, an engineering professor at the University of Toronto, has lived as a cyborg for more than 20    years, wearing a web of wires, computers and electronic sensors that are designed to augment his memory, enhance his vision and  keep tabs on his vital signs. Although his  wearable computer system sometimes  elicited stares, he never encountered any problems going through the security gates at  airports.

Last month that changed. Before boarding a Toronto-bound plane at St. John's  International Airport in Newfoundland, Dr.  Mann says, he went through a three-day  ordeal in which he was ultimately strip-searched and injured by security personnel.  During the incident, he said, $56,800 worth of his $500,000 equipment was lost or  damaged beyond repair, including the eyeglasses that serve as his display screen.

Without a fully functional system, he said, he found it difficult to navigate normally. He said he fell at least twice in the airport, once passing out after  hitting his head on what he described as a pile of fire extinguishers in his way. He boarded the plane in a wheelchair.

              "I felt dizzy and disoriented and went downhill from there," he said.

Since losing the use of his vision system and computer memory several weeks ago, he said, he cannot concentrate and is behaving differently. He is   now undergoing tests to determine whether his brain has been affected by the   sudden detachment from the technology.

Alejandro R. Jahad, director of the University of Toronto's Program in E-Health Innovation, who has worked closely with Dr. Mann, said that scientists now had an opportunity to see what happens when a cyborg is  unplugged. "I find this a very fascinating case," he said.

2. Wisdom from the net

 Lord of the Rings as an allegory for the Ph.D??

 The story starts with Frodo: a young hobbit, quite
 bright, a bit dissatisfied with what he's learnt so far and with
 his mates back home who just seem to want to get jobs and settle down
 and drink beer.  He's also very much in awe of his tutor and mentor,
the very  Senior professor Gandalf, so when Gandalf suggests he take on a
 short Project for him (carrying the Ring to Rivendell), he agrees.

Frodo very  quickly encounters the shadowy forces of fear and despair which will
haunt  the rest of his journey and leave permanent scars on his psyche, but he
also  makes some useful friends. In particular, he spends an evening down
 at the pub with Aragorn, who has been wandering the world for many
 years as Gandalf's postdoc and becomes his adviser when Gandalf isn't

 After Frodo has completed his first project,  Gandalf (along with Head of department Elrond) proposes that the work should be  extended.  He assembles a large research group, including  visiting students Gimli and Legolas,
 the foreign postdoc Boromir, and several of Frodo's own friends from his  undergraduate days. Frodo agrees to tackle this larger project, though  he has mixed feelings about it. ("'I will take the Ring', he said,  'although I do not know why.'")

 Very rapidly, things go wrong. First, Gandalf disappears and has No
more   interaction with Frodo until everything is over. (Frodo assumes his
 supervisor is dead: in fact, he's simply found a more interesting topic
 and is working on that instead.) At his first international conference
 in Lorien, Frodo is cross-examined terrifyingly by Galadriel, and
betrayed  by Boromir, who is anxious to get the credit for the work himself.
Frodo  cuts himself off from the rest of his team: from now on, he will only
 discuss his work with Sam, an old friend who doesn't really understand
what it's  all about, but in any case is prepared to give Frodo credit for being
rather   cleverer than he is. Then he sets out towards Mordor.

 The last and darkest period of Frodo's journey clearly represents The
 writing-up stage, as he struggles towards Mount Doom(submission),
 finding his burden growing heavier and heavier yet more and more a part
 of himself; more and more terrified of failure; plagued by the figure
of  Gollum, the student who carried the Ring before him but never
 wrote up and still hangs around as a burnt-out, jealous shadow;
 talking less and less even to Sam. When he submits the Ring to the
fire, it is in  desperate confusion rather than with confidence, and for a while the
 world seems empty.

 Eventually it is over: the Ring is gone, everyone congratulates him,
and  for a few days he can convince himself that his troubles are over. But
there  is one more obstacle to overcome: months later, back in the Shire, he
 must confront the external examiner Saruman, an old enemy of Gandalf,
who  seeks to humiliate and destroy his rival's protege. With the help of
his  friends and colleagues, Frodo passes through this ordeal, but discovers
at the  end that victory has no value left for him. While his friends return to
 settling down and finding jobs and starting families, Frodo remains in
limbo;  finally, along with Gandalf, Elrond and many others, he joins the brain
 drain across the Western ocean to the new land beyond.

3. The following are my predictions for the new Star Wars film that will be coming out soon. Those of you who don't want to have any surprises ruined for you  - don't read on. You've been warned.

Star Wars Episode Two: The Clone Wars
plot presummary

First off, George Lucas introduces a new fuzzy character that can be sold to Burger King.

Anakin  SkyWalker continues his Jedi training under Obi Wan. The Jedi council continue to warn Obi Wan against training the boy, but he adheres to his dead master's last wish. He warns Anakin about the dangers of the strong emotions such as love, hate and fear. Nevertheless, the boy falls in love with Princess Amadala and she becomes pregnant with Luke and Leah.

Sen. Palpatin (who is really a Sith Lord) gets himself elected president.  Recall he lost his last apprentice, Darth Maul, in episode 1. The new president perceives that the Jedi council is becoming suspicious of him.  He engineers the Clone Wars to distract the Jedi, and have an excuse to declare martial law with him the declared emperor. The emperor needs a new apprentice.  He decides to turn Anakin to his service.

Anakin turns on Obi Wan, there is a cliffhanger light saber battle where Obi Wan ends up cutting off Anakin?s hand. Anakin's turn to the Dark Side is complete.

  4. And from Science News, They see with their Tongues.

Investigators at the UW-Madison have begun to interface artificial eyes to the human tongue.