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,
"Should the minimum wage be nationally tied to the inflation
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
Well, OK, then we'll just say this ... "Positive
Feedback Cycle." [See David Gay's letter.]
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Lord of the Rings
Date: Sat, 9
Mar 2002 13:52:59 -0600 (CST)
Charles Scripter <firstname.lastname@example.org>
email@example.com (Steve Langer)
This bounced, so I'll resend...
Gosh... Sorry, I didn't see the movie in time to write a
> "Send in your review of the "Lord of the Rings""
I liked it. Good action, good scenery, overall well
it's been something like 25 years since I've read it, so I
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
somebody like ROOSTER!... ;)
2. And David Gay writes in.
Subject: RE: lastcall
Date: Mon, 1 Apr 2002 09:17:29 -0600
From: "Gay, David" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "'Steve Langer'"
Just returned on an Easter Holiday trip to St. Clair
Michigan. I don't know if I'm too late on this one or
"Should the national min wage be tied to the inflation
Isn't a mandated minimum wage one of the key drivers of
If this is true, then perhaps we should seriously look at
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 [email@example.com]
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
us to transfer the sum of US$20M (Twenty Million United
only into his account.
This fund resulted from an over-invoiced bill from a
by us under the budget, allocated to my ministry and the
bill was approved
for payment by the concerned ministries, the contract has
Commissioned and the contractor been paid his actual cost
for the contract.
We are now left with the balance of US$20M as the
which we have deliberately over estimated for our own use.
our protocol division, civil servants are forbidden to
operate, or own
a foreign account. This is why I contacted you for an
have agreed that you will be entitled to 30% of the total
sum, 60% for
us while 10% for any expenses incurred on both side while
As you may rightly want to know I got your address from
of Commerce and Industry here in Lagos. I am a top official
Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). We the
in this deal have put in many years of services to our
have been exercising patience for this opportunity for so
long and to
most of us, this is a life time opportunity we cannot afford
This transaction is very much free from all sorts of
To enable us get this fund paid into your account, we have
an international business outfit and consequent upon your
should send to us the followings below to enable us apply
the various government agencies concerned for approvals:
1.your private Tel$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
Bank of Nigeria(C.B.N.) when all approvals are gotten or
you may also be required to proceed to any of the the
payment centre in abroad. Thereafter,three officials
will come to your country for our share. All these will only
10 working days to get the fund transfered into your Bank
from the day we receive the above requirements.
When I received positive response from you I will give you
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
Your prompt reply will be highly appreciated.
you cal as well email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Quote(s) of the month:
*Politicians and diapers have one thing in common.
They should both be
changed regularly and for the same reason.*
"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
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
[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
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
[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".]
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
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
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
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.
First Human Cyborg unplugged by Airport
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
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
"I felt dizzy and disoriented and went downhill from there,"
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
2. Wisdom from the net
Lord of the Rings as an allegory for the
The story starts with Frodo: a young hobbit,
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
and is working on that instead.) At his first
in Lorien, Frodo is cross-examined terrifyingly by
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
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
The last and darkest period of Frodo's journey
clearly represents The
writing-up stage, as he struggles towards Mount
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
wrote up and still hangs around as a burnt-out,
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
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
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
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
Investigators at the UW-Madison have begun to interface
artificial eyes to the human tongue.