Domestic U.S. policy and its rationale

Opinion, commenced by Ken Wear 8-15-04
For comment since, see index (blue, below)

Living creates opinions as politics shifts as different philosophies became dominant. Public charity. Free trade. Environment. Our Supreme Court often loses sight of our first principles; the Federal bureaucracy extends its hand into local matters; communication and travel shrink the world while security concerns grow.

Someone must lead, else all will wander. At the birth of our nation, no one could have foreseen that the combination of personal initiative and benign government would produce the strength and wealth that has made this country the model of prosperity and beacon of hope it has become. It could be better, but it could be worse. For the sake of the future, as well as history, we must remain strong and vital, committed to the individual yet a cohesive unity. We are the embodiment of hope for mankind and must remain so if there is to be someone to lead; there is no one else. If we allow this country to sink from its stature among nations, the hope for the future that we represent will be lost. For the sake of our children and their children, we must continue to lead.

This page is mostly domestic policy; for foreign policy, click here.; Or religious extremism, click here.
Index appears below; use your BACK button freely.

The Table of Contents of this web site is a gateway to fact and opinion on abortion, school reform, intellectual giftedness, drug policy, display of the Ten Commandments, shortcomings of our Constitution, and more. To go there, click here. Other comment is indexed below.

To use this index, click entry in that column
abortion page 1-05
agriculture 2-19
athletics Click
atmosphere 3-10
"Big Foot" 11-24
birth rates 11-11
book Love to live ... book
church & state amend Feb 2-16 page
crime Click 10-7 4-07
constitution Amendments desperately needed on a variety of topics
defense 2-09
disasters 12-30 9-1 3-16 2-14
education essay 1-27
energy & oil Click page 10-14 8-21
English language Click amend
finance & govt 1-27
free vs fair trade 2-09
guns & control 1-27
health care 12-1
homosexuals Click 12-08
immigration Click amend 7-6 9-22
marriage Click link
medical 2-09 book Ap,Jl
money & credit 10-29
nuclear waste 8-03,rep
patriotism 6-10 Mar
politically correct Xmas
prescription drugs Click
public charity page 1-05
race relations 3-29
security 10-31 Mr,Ag
sedition 3-15 12-07 page 11-10
sex education essay 12-24
Social Security Fb,Ag 7-6
suicide 1-05
term limits 6-05
Terri Schiavo Apr
tobacco settlemt 3-29
tort reform Click 6-05
trade Click 10-31 2-09 5-04
trade unions 2-01
war on drugs essay amend 1-27

Life goes on! I recall my cousin commenting on the importance -- the indispensability -- of any one individual: Take a pan of water, stick your finger into it, and contemplate the hole that is left when you pull your finger out.

Personal data in the hands of foreigners
The thought of any organization or group, including government -- at any level -- farming out sensitive data on its employees or citizens to foreign nationals, over whom no effective control can be asserted, is odious in the extreme. It is difficult to comprehend a greater degree of short-sightedness. A corporation might as well farm out to the lowest bidder, including perhaps a competitor, control of patents and other proprietary information. Or let Islamic extremists control our national data bank on extremists.

Cost of security at points of entry
Access to our markets should be limited to the companies and organizations who pay their fair share of the cost of maintaining those markets. Corporations going overseas to tax havens for the purpose of avoiding taxes here have demonstrated their lack of citizenship and have therefore forfeited their right to unfettered access. Some means must be found to impose a tax that removes any competitive advantage for moving offshore. Moreover, companies (regardless of ownership) wishing to export to the United States products made in any other country should, as a minimum, pay the costs of security at the ports of entry and other gateways for their products. Farming out production overseas is an economic decision, and part of that decision needs to be the cost of crossing our borders. It is economic suicide to insist the American taxpayer bear the economic burden of allowing alien corporations to operate freely in this country or to require taxpayers to support the costs of security against the consequences of such simple greed. I don't want my country to descend to Third World status in order to improve the profit margins of a few citizens (or aliens).

Petroleum and conservation
The U.S. should undertake, on an accelerated basis, development of flora that will efficiently produce 100 gallons (or more) per acre of vegetable oil extracted from its seeds. At the same time, there should be pressure from the Federal government to remove from use vehicles that are grossly wasteful of fuel, such as the larger SUVs. I would advocate using tax policy for the purpose even if it requires a fourth pump at the gas station and a special nozzle with mating gas tank fill tube. Furthermore, it may be necessary to tap the Alaskan wilderness for its oil reserves, again using tax policy (such as a premium on each barrel pumped) to encourage development of alternative fields and renewed pumping at marginally economic wells.

Profiling: We know who commits most of our crimes. It is absurd to pretend that all are equally law abiding and to be treated identically. Police agencies should be encouraged to use profiling as the most economical means of maintaining order and apprehending criminals. Moreover, a national data base should include for each person who has run afoul of the law (juveniles included) fingerprint, history of arrests and dispositions, a photograph (dated, if you please-- we do change with time), chain of residences, vehicles, firearms, licenses, . . . For those guilty of sex crimes, their victims should be cross- referenced if only name, nature of offense and present location (with no real effort to stay current).

Marriage, Civil unions, Domestic partners, Homosexuality
The church, following the practices of its members, established the sacrament of marriage. It is an unfortunate fact of history that the legislatures appropriated the term 'marriage' when they defined the conditions for recognition by the state of a mutual commitment of two people to each other as 'marriage;' it is in fact a 'civil union.' Always has been; always will be a 'civil union' because the state has decreed the terms for its recognition. Legislatures need to step forward to outline the benefits and penalties for a 'civil union' and leave the church alone with its definition of 'marriage.'

We should not discriminate against any citizens, including homosexuals. If two homosexuals wish to commit themselves each to the other, the law should recognize that commitment just as it recognizes the wish of heterosexuals. 11-11-09 Comparing the promiscuity of many homosexuals with commitment of two to each other, I far prefer commitment; far less sexually-transmitted disease that way with a much smaller financial burden.

Promiscuity, AIDS and public health
One of the greatest disasters connected with homosexuality results from the promiscuity of its practitioners. I had a friend who had a friend who was homosexual; he claimed to have had in excess of 1200 lovers; he is now dead of AIDS. A dominant contribution to the AIDS epidemic has been the promiscuity of homosexuals. I can't help thinking that legal recognition of civil unions, in the public record recognizing the commitment of one person to another, would reduce promiscuity and thereby promote public health.

Malpractice insurance for physicians
Insurance premiums are running doctors out of business. I wouldn't care if I didn't need a doctor's attention now and then. But my last doctor asked me to find someone else, and my sister did not get timely treatment for her stroke because no doctor was available. It is becoming personal. Of course a person injured through malpractice is entitled to compensation for actual loss, but awards for punitive damages far exceed the limits of reason. Unfortunately, it is mostly the lawyers who benefit and that offends my sense of propriety. Class actions: Lawyers seek "victims" in Mississippi because they have learned that juries there are more inclined to be sympathetic and make large awards.

Cost of imported medications
Americans are paying more for medicines manufactured in their own country than residents of neighboring countries pay. It is a practice impossible to justify. Sure, I hear the excuses offered by FDA and the manufacturers. But there is a lack of reason in asking me to pay more for something manufactured nearby than distant customers pay, especially since it must cross a national border to become available there. Yes, there are counterfeits; and there are countries that do not respect the international patent treaties, but asking customers in their own country to pay more is not an appropriate safeguard. The computer industry has found ways to thwart illegal copies; they had an incentive to do so; our government protecting drug company profits rather than drug users is a cheap way to repay lobbyists and relieves the companies of any incentive to seek ways to insure the safety of products bearing their names.

Common language: comment added late August
We, the Caucasians, took this land from the Indians by force of arms. They were a diverse people divided into tribes with different languages, religions and customs, while we had homogenized ourselves into a single people with a common language. Had the Indians been a single cohesive group it is questionable the military conquest would have been possible (so expansion would have required peaceful means); the advantage of a single language and the ready communication it makes possible is obvious. We may look at Europe and its attempt to form a single nation; the multiplicity of languages makes cohesion difficult even with a deliberate joint effort at union. While our legislatures were unsuccessful in making English our official language, it had until recently been the common bond, the blending our diversities had produced. But we now allow ourselves to become split into two peoples, each with its customary language. I question if we can remain a single people if we cannot communicate with one another.

We have on occasion invited uncontrolled floods of immigrants to join us -- indeed, lured them with promises of the benefits of a welfare state; the Chinese who built our railroads (late 1800s) and the Vietnamese fleeing a collapsing country come to mind. They learned our language. The Cubans, Haitians, Mexicans and Central Americans have come uninvited and in the communities they formed have retained their native Spanish language. And they have successfully bullied weak-kneed legislators into accepting the need for bilingual government. I say to one and all: If you don't like our English language, then go where the language is more to your liking; if you intend to stay, then learn our language.

I have proposed a constitutional amendment to require American English as the national language of our country. To read it, click here.

Let me cite three undesirable consequences of illegal immigrants in this country:
1) I have heard stories of their overrunning medical facilities, especially emergency rooms, to the extent hospital administrators are charging exorbitant fees where insurance is available. Cash flow. Hospitals are required by law to offer emergency services; they have no choice but seek money wherever it may be found. Citizens, the people who are here legally, are paying.
2) Uninsured motor vehicles exact huge costs of the citizens. And lack of an address on the part of violators makes a mockery of our system of court appearances. Again, anecdotal: In some jurisdictions near the border police have ceased writing tickets because of futility; the ticketed won't show up for court dates and jailing simply places the burden of a boarder on the taxpayers.
3) You have heard that illegals do the work citizens don't want to do. That is a fault of our welfare system. Who can blame a citizen for not seeking work at a pay scale that nets him pennies an hour over what he receives without expending any effort whatever? Why should a grower invest in equipment that would allow higher pay if he can hire illegals to do the same work without making the investment? Why should a meat packer offer higher wages when he can get all the help he wants at less than minimum wage? The illegals, in conjunction with our welfare system, are undermining the system by which employers are motivated to offer attractive wages and citizens are encouraged to seek employment.

Immigration abuse at Mexican border
Recent news stories tell of large numbers of young Middle Eastern men entering the U.S. across the border with Mexico. By the hundreds. These aren't Mexicans or Central Americans, and the rationale for allowing their entry is completely at odds with the reasons for allowing Hispanics to enter. I am fearful of the motivation and the potential consequences. It might be recalled that, in advance of World War II, Germans entered the U.S. and organized themselves to follow the dictates of their government. If these Middle Easterners are members of extreme Islam, we had better be concerned. Control of that border is mandatory -- a fence if necessary, mine fields if needed -- but an uncontrolled border is becoming increasingly a matter of national security.

International Olympics
I am an unrestrained fan of the Olympic movement and the Olympic games it produces. So long as nations and peoples can set aside their financial and territorial ambitions and participate with honor and fairness in athletic competitions, there is hope for peace in our world. I applaud the recent Games in Greece. I have a nagging recollection that the Games were, just a few decades ago, limited to amateur athletes, those who drew on their own resources for financial support and did not draw their livelihood from athletic competitions in their specialty. But information leaked from the USSR that the government supported its Olympic hopefuls and it became apparent amateur status could not be defined, much less enforced; and the Games were opened to professionals, who now dominate many competitions. The transition from amateur to professional is murky, but at least in the United States there are local, regional, national and international competitions of all sorts so there are opportunities aplenty for an aspiring athlete to expose himself to potential sponsors and to be given financial support and professional status. The ugly side of competition -- partisanship or corruption in judging athletic performance -- may show up at the more significant games. As it did in the winter Olympics in this country and in Greece in gymnastics. (Two judges were replaced by officials for obviously partisan scores and yet later with the altered officiating crew a controversy erupted about one specific gold medal award: a judge had erred and correcting that mistake would have changed the winner of gold; later review of film of the event showed another mistake that had been overlooked, so the original award was correct; the sponsor of the losing gymnast is pursuing change in the award and the controversy now reeks of the spirit of unrelenting greed. In another instance, a judge in a diving competition awarded an obviously low score to an outstanding performance for partisan reasons, but, luckily, the rules allowed tossing out the inappropriate low score.) Vigilance on the part of those overseeing the Games resulted in those attempts being unsuccessful. So long as merit determines winners, I will continue to admire and support the Games. Of course, the use of drugs (and increased sophistication points to some which cannot be detected) and the advent of introducing gene-altering substances (which will likely never be detectable) suggests that future events may be overshadowed by unfair tactics that will destroy the movement.

Unwise Federal re-insurance: comment added after hurricane Ivan:
It has been reported that the Federal government's reinsuring structures along the coast in hurricane-prone zones has resulted in unsound development. The practice needs to be abruptly stopped and safeguards devised before continuing on an altered basis. I would not wish to see a Federal agency develop as a zoning and building inspection agency; the Federal government should develop guidelines on construction features that can withstand hurricanes of the varying strengths; then states and localities could adopt these guidelines as a condition for Federal guarantees. Local building codes and their documentation and enforcement should then be the basis for whatever reinsurance is undertaken, with enforcement on the Federal level being by inspection after the fact of storm damage and before reimbursing the insurance companies. Individuals should assume the risk of compromising sound construction standards in the name of economy, and insurance companies should assume the risk of inadequate guarantees of compliance with standards.

Muslims in our midst: comment added 10-31-04
In my view the Muslims in this country have a desperate need to step up and assert themselves in rejecting and discouraging extreme expressions of their faith. This country is not needful of reason to question the loyalty of those who have chosen this as their home.

In the larger picture the world can ill afford to have two major faiths pitted against each other in a military struggle for dominance. Should such a struggle continue, there is no hope for peace short of utterly wiping out those who hold extreme views and therefore cannot accommodate civilization. Those who feel that dominance of their religious faith is more important than accommodation of competing faiths must be totally removed from society on a world-wide scale.

Rejection of the Global Warming Treaty
I shudder to think of the consequences had our government yielded to international pressure on the global warming treaty; you can imagine the loss of American jobs to overseas companies while domestic industry underwrote the costs of updating to meet those requirements while foreign companies were exempted from the treaty.

Christmas, 2004:
I was shocked to recognize that Political Correctness has apparently been successful in diluting Christmas. It is a Christian holiday and making it anything else is sacrilege. Some 85% of Americans have in the past celebrated either Christmas or the Jewish counterpart as what they are; offending 85% to avoid offending the 15% is somehow out of balance. To my mind the 85% ought to respond by boycotting merchants who have participated in the PC sacrilege.

Social Security debate, February 2005
It can become quite emotional, but there are a number of facts that can be objectively discussed. For one, the matter of benefits, the number of dollars per month that recipients will receive. The program suggested by the President would continue benefits under current rules for persons age 50 and over, so any changes in Social Security is not expected to have any impact on them. The forecast is that, at some time -- 2040 or so, beyond any concern to most of us -- the ratio of beneficiaries to contributors will require a decrease in benefits unless the program is significantly altered. In the interim the suggestion is that, in return for the opportunity to personally own a portion of the money that is currently being withheld from pay checks, the guaranteed benefit upon retirement will be reduced; that is merely economic fact. Today's argument is really whether the total disposable income at retirement (for people presently under age 50 and retiring before the worker/retiree ratio requires reduced benefits), that is, the total of guaranteed Social Security benefits plus income from annuities and/or investments, will be greater or less as a consequence of changes in the Social Security program. Today's demagoguery has not made this clear. I would share with you four concerns:

1) It is true that, historically, investments on stocks, bonds and other assets have risen in value faster than the value of the Social Security "trust funds." But with so much new money to be invested there must surely be an effect on interest rates as well as on the degree of care in examination of proposed investments. I would expect interest rates to be adversely affected because of the quantity of new money, but I have to say "So what!" But I do recognize a potential for greatly increased volatility in the stock market and failures of investments due to lack of soundness or due to lack of clairvoyance on future earnings and growth.

2) Costs of administration of the proposed private investments: Presently the Social Security Administration is supported from general tax revenues, and money withheld from workers is not used. But, under private control, administrative costs must be supported by dividends and growth. Of course there will be need for a degree of government supervision of the new program, but I foresee little if any reduction in government administrative expenses at any time as the program goes forward.

3) Congress has been accustomed to having money available for general budget items without the necessity for imposing taxes because the excess of contributions over beneficiary pay-out has been appropriated to the general budget (the so-called "trust fund," where the cash has been swapped for government bonds carrying 1% interest, which at some time must be redeemed, likely through tax increases). A reduction in incoming money due to a reduction in payroll taxes will necessitate adjustments in taxes. And this is a short-term problem that is already becoming more obvious each year as the worker/retiree ratio declines, not something that will become a problem when pay-outs begin to exceed current income to the program in 2018 or so.

4) Benefits to the handicapped and families of workers killed prematurely have been part of the Social Security program. Granted it has been grossly abused because of the apparent surplus of available money, but I have heard nothing about this aspect of Social Security.

Perversion of the First Amendment; posted Feb '05
Such convolution of language! How did it come about that religious expression is banned from public places? The First Amendment to our Constitution is clear in announcing that Congress is enjoined from favoring one religion over another. No mention is made of states or local communities. While the Constitution guarantees to each state a republican form of government, involvement with religious practices is not an aspect of the republic. I have great difficulty following the thread of logic that the Supreme Court apparently applied in extending the First Amendment so broadly. How such clear language can be so distorted is beyond my comprehension.

I recognize that the Congress has used the appropriation of federal money to coerce localities to follow their mandates so that a trivial contribution to local expenses has persuaded local governments to accept federal guidelines. But, for instance, a court house erected entirely at the cost of the locality is not in any way a recipient of federal money and hence is not dependent on the Congress for its construction or support. I fail to see how a prohibition that prevents Congress from doing certain things is expanded to make illegal what the community wishes to do with its own money.

While I wholeheartedly agree that no level of government should favor one religion over another -- and I mean that categorically, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Wicca (witchcraft), Atheism, Hinduism, . . . -- I see no reason to prohibit any locality from displaying whatever artifacts it wishes. I would even concede that, should as many as 20% of the voters in a locality be offended at such a display, that display should be muted or perhaps removed completely. But to offend the 80% in order to placate the 20% is quite a bit out of balance.

As for "faith based initiatives," that would be the most efficient way to spend federal money on social programs. Granted the recipient organization must be restrained from proselityzing -- since that would run contrary to the First Amendment (Congressional appropriations being used to give one religion advantage over others) -- it seems grossly inefficient to duplicate organizations in order to avoid tainting social -- charitable -- enterprises with a possible connection with persons or organizations admittedly operating on the basis of religious conviction. It is an extreme waste of taxpayer money to build a local federal agency to do what volunteers in faith-based organizations will do if only allowed the opportunity, and the money wasted for administration could be passed along to the programs and their recipients.

Posted 6-16-05 I did not follow the Terri Schiavo case closely during those 15 years from her collapse but have inquired fully since it became a national scandal. Once brain dead, it was a travesty against the victim to continue artificially maintaining her body. Tests in '95 indicated no mental activity; if necessary, legislations should be passed relieving all parties of any further obligations once brain death has been certified. Terri's body was incapable of thought; it was incapable of experiencing pain. Since brain death appears irreversible, ordinary human decency dictates that body death be expeditiously allowed. Once brain death is certified, the primary care physician should pull the plug.

A description of aspects of the case and the time line appear at my auxiliary web site. To access, click here. Your BACK button should then return you here.

Social Security and Medicare, Aug 30, 2005
During my working years I put off thoughts of retirement income because of the certainty of financial assistance from Social Security. I am grateful for the forethought of FDR in spurring Congress to enact Social Security. At the same time I am not blind to its consequences and prospect for the future. I am also a beneficiary of Medicare and appreciate having the guarantee of some degree of medical care as I age. But, again, I am not blind to its effects and prospects. Those high-sounding words certainly resonate, but they also reduce to the nitty-gritty of taxes, enforcement and administrative personnel and all of the strife that conflicts of interest engender.

There is, first, the fiction that payroll deductions are being invested in securities; these "securities" are obligations of the U.S. government; so long as worker contributions exceed payouts plus administrative costs there is money enough to meet all payments to retirees and the handicapped and their families. But the sad truth is that the excess is used by Congress as general revenue just like direct taxes, but with the fundamental dishonesty they are "borrowing" from Social Security Trust Funds. As the excess dwindles because of demographics and an aging population, other taxes have to be increased; and, long before we reach the sad point that the trust funds must be tapped to meet promised payments, there will be forced upon Congress an honest reckoning and the necessity to increase taxes still further.

I think we are forced to recognize that Social Security is in fact another social welfare program differing from others only in the openness of the tax and the paperwork manipulations of collections. Means testing of recipients will become necessary although at a higher level than other welfare programs. Those who have had the foresight and ability to create sizeable holdings must be asked to be charitable toward their less successful brothers and sisters. (I find the prospect of someone with an income of $20,000 a month grousing about losing $1,000 a month in Social Security highly distasteful.)

Medicare has become a sorry joke. Congress has not had the backbone to provide for the additional medical personnel necessary, with the consequent higher costs that simple economics of supply and demand bring about. And paperwork shuffling in attempts to rein in costs create unconscionable administrative burdens and new career paths that are utterly without social merit. Add to that prescription drug coverage with the attempts by Congress and the FDA to protect manufacturers from the economic consequences of competition. (I note that software manufacturers and musicians are finding ways to protect their intellectual property without intruding on taxpayers.) There has to be a limit on the burden non-recipients are asked to bear.

I like the idea of receiving for myself top-notch medical attention and all manner of drugs at no cost to myself other than the time away from my leisure pursuits. But, let us face the need for each individual to be forced to educate himself enough to be selective in demands on the system. The only way that can happen is for me to bear a significant portion of the real costs of my own care. (And I guess we are forced to deal with people who display their greed by conferring their belongings on their heirs in order to place themselves on public charity.)

Hurricane Katrina, Sept. 1, 2005 and later hurricanes Rita and Wilma
Nature will not be denied. Storm surge. Tsunami. Prudence dictates we strive for balance between risk and safety.

Katrina gives new appreciation of un-harnessed power and the devastation suffered on the rim of the Indian Ocean last December. The difference between scenes on the news today and late '04 is one of scale because of the higher density of development along our Gulf Coast. Physically, the damage is done. The human loss is yet to be learned. As a nation we face, first, the needs of displaced people, and then restoring some semblance of civilization. As individuals we must question the degree of personal sacrifice we can tolerate on behalf of those who placed themselves to benefit from a generally benign but sometimes vengeful Nature.

Half a century ago I visited Gulfport a year after it had been hit by a major hurricane; the damage to the infrastructure was still evident and I suspect that Nature was left to obliterate signs of destruction. But people rebuilt and, to the next generation, such a catastrophe was unthinkable. But here it is again just a few miles down the coast.

I recall looking at scenes from the tsunami and thinking of all the building material that had become disordered but likely usable if only someone would make the effort. Bricks, lumber, furniture, appliances. But bulldozers were called in to create landfills and whole forests will be depleted to replace those materials. Wouldn't it be advantageous to hire some of the displaced workers to salvage what they can before the rubble is buried?

New Orleans: Been there several times; love that town. But it is questionable if it ought to be rebuilt without massive rethinking of the flood plain and how to live with water at river or sea level. The national economic health dictates that the seaport and some industries be restored to operation and there must be personnel to operate them. Only time will tell if there is a French Quarter as an entertainment hub and historic site or if the site will be abandoned as a premier residential and entertainment area.

News of the looting reminds me of a time when I lived in Rochester, N.Y., and a major storm was bearing down on the city. Leaders in the black community warned there would be extensive looting in the wake of the storm, and the police chief responded by publicizing his order to his police to shoot to kill; there was not a single shot fired because there was no looting. In the New Orleans disaster police had no place to put arrestees so as a practicality they ignored looters; an order to shoot to kill would have precluded looting. Parenthetically, in Rochester many of the prospective looters were residents of public high rise housing -- six stories as I recall -- who complained of broken windows, but when workers undertook repair they started at the top and, by the time they reached the third floor, they were dodging broken glass from their newly installed windows. This is a good example of behavior of people who have no vested interest.

Afterthought added Sept. 19:
It is time for sober reflection on calamities, either man-made or produced by Nature, and our response to them. Categorization by degree of (or capacity for) destruction in a specific geographical area should dictate response. Of course those likely to be affected have the greater interest and therefore local people and their leaders bear the prime responsibility for exercising prudence in the face of real or anticipated disaster, and sanity dictates extensive planning "just in case." On the Federal level there is reasonable certainty there will be disasters needing Federal action, and there should be stockpiles of items likely to be needed in the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic event, such as portable toilets in units four to six wide; beds and bedding; prefabricated tent parts for family-size or larger units; food, water and medications (consistent with military needs so there can be rotation of supplies to avoid stagnation). And there needs to be an act of Congress reflecting a national consensus on chain of responsibility so there can't be later recriminations of "He was supposed to . . ." -- finger pointing to evade responsibility for personal lapses.

Later: Three major storms! Responses from government (at all levels) make it obvious that local people must bear responsibility for their own viability. Governments should not pose barriers to local responsibility or to outsiders whose charitable instincts lead them to try to help. FEMA's response has been wholly inadequate, even with Wilma after what should have been learning experiences with Katrina and Rita. Private charity, which was hindered by government, is the only hope for salvation in the face of major disasters. Governments can throw money at a situation, but, apart from military experience with logistics, are not geared for timely and adequate response.

Moreover, I am appalled at FEMA's response to criticism for barring citizens who wished to help. Even doctors, sorely needed in such an emergency, are being required to undergo "sensitivity training" in order to gain approvals that would allow them to render aid. Sheer insanity!

Dec. 31, 2005 Obviously this catastrophe has had an impact on me, considering the number of times my attention has been turned to it. Thinking about recovery of New Orleans from the disasters: The fundamental problems were political. New Orleans has a long history of corruption, and they had a mayor who was a product of the system. He allowed massive failures that were within his province to heed. But there is no point today pointing fingers at specific failures by whom; the problem is recovering a great city to functionality.

Mayor Nagin obviously should be removed from office, or certainly not be reelected. But who will run against him? Likely the whole political structure should be revisited. But there has to be a local initiative. Even if the Federal government were disposed to run New Orleans as a protectorate of some sort, there must be, as in Iraq, a resurgence of local initiative. And: who will lead; who could possibly want the job? I visualize bond holders who invested in the New Orleans infrastructure and who lost their entire holdings; why would anyone be willing to pour more money into such a rat hole? And where will tax monies come from, since the tax base has been ravaged, for minimal maintenance of a civil society? It's a quagmire in dire need of selfless leadership. We must hope organized crime does not seize an opportunity, if, indeed, they could recognize an opportunity here.

It would be utter folly to pour billions of dollars into reconstruction if the result is to be a return to corruption and mismanagement. But, where do leaders come from? I remember stories of the carpet bagger days in the South after the War of Secession; the South recovered but it took many decades -- generations -- of suffering, and two great wars, before there was a renaissance of local control by persons committed to the local good.

Profiling: added 10-7-05 Many readers will not recall when HIV and AIDS first came to our attention. It was made illegal to keep records or announce the names of victims for fear they would be stigmatized -- as indeed they should have been. But as it became evident locality by locality that such a policy put their hospital and public safety personnel at risk, the law gradually fell into disuse. So it must be with profiling: We know who creates mischief and it is a dereliction of duty to shield them.

For instance, there was a musical group of mideasterners flying to a concert; the cases for their instruments aroused suspicion and they were delayed in travel while they were examined; they sued and recovered. I truly regret such an incident -- not that they should not have been challenged, but that national policy forbade questioning them because of their obvious ethnicity. In the name of reason, these mideasterners have a necessity to try to persuade their mosques to join forces with moderate Muslims and publicly declare their displeasure at extremists of their religious faith hijacking their religion for partisan purposes. If they still wish to make the U.S.A. their home, they have a dire necessity to speak out and demonstrate their loyalty.

Gasoline prices, politics and terrorism Laissez faire has its limits. Are we to believe that a temporary upset in distribution causes an increase in production costs? Or is it that owners of the raw materials see an opportunity to induce bidding?

I have seen petroleum prices depressed by an over-supply so that producers are inhibited from bringing new sources to production. And now, with strong demand, prices have more than tripled. I have no quarrel with any producer seeking a good profit, and it is true that higher prices encourage bringing new production to market. But the cost of pumping that barrel of oil has not changed because of strong demand; higher prices simply mean larger profits.

History does teach lessons. A century ago there was pressure to rein in monopoly-building in the oil industry with its artificial control of supply and resultant increased prices. The result was a law limiting monopolies, and we have seen in recent decades the result of loosening monopoly control of telephone facilities. Politics to the rescue!

I fault our President for allowing the present run-up in petroleum prices. While he may have placed his holdings in a blind trust, there is that certainty that the source of his wealth is based on petroleum, so, without knowing which companies produce his dividends, there is no question in his mind that high oil prices and high profits are to his economic benefit. Politics at its worst!

Is there a connection between high petroleum prices and terrorism? Unfortunately it is an inescapable conclusion that there is a direct link. High prices at the oil well -- where, as I have noted, production costs have not increased -- increase profits and the available cash in the hands of the owners. Reflect on where oil is produced: heavily, Muslim countries. Do Muslim moderates support Muslim extremists? In the choice between smiling upon your brothers in other sects of your own religion and smiling upon those who profess a very different religion, who do you think the moderates smile upon? I wish I could perceive it differently, but I suspect Muslims generally are hesitant to speak against their radical sects in favor of Christians in spite of a common interest in moderation. What I perceive is high petroleum prices fueling terrorism and the complicity of our leaders in protecting their source of wealth even with knowledge of the terrorist link.

Homosexuals in the Military: It seems odd that, in the debates about homosexuals in the military, I have never heard mention of homosexuals and heterosexuals living in close proximity. When I was in the Air Force -- 50s -- there was never concern for nudity since the question of homosexuals was never raised. I was rather naive, but I never gave a second thought to sharing common restrooms and showers. I cannot visualize myself as a target of a homosexual in the closeness of military life. Neither do I understand how homosexuals and heterosexuals can effectively perform such tasks as going on patrol together; it would be similar to mixing men and women on patrol. Or the command structure could be compromised by affections between superiors and those under their command.

I have no opposition to women in the military so long as their strengths and weaknesses determine specialties and assignments since there are many military needs where women would be expected to perform better than men. Neither do I oppose homosexuals in the military, but I like the Greek model of whole divisions of either homosexuals or heterosexuals -- no mixing either in quarters or on the battlefield.

Guns and gun control, added 1-27-06 From an attempted e-mail opinion exchange undertaken in January '02:
Debate seems to center on the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. However, some claim ownership of weapons is a natural right not addressed at all by the Constitution. Much like the right to personal privacy, which the Supreme Court found it necessary to address but which had always been assumed as a right not in need of enunciation. In that setting questions involving weapons fall in the province of state or local control, in the same way as education (which, according to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, is not a Federal concern.

Regardless of questions of constitutionality, the question of personal safety, whether an individual is safer from personal harm, with or without constraints on weapons, has been adequately answered by the concealed carry laws in the various states, where violent crime statistics show dramatic reductions following enactment of laws allowing concealed carry of guns. It seems simply true that, if a person wishes to harm another, knives, axes, bats, bricks, broken bottles, etc., make useful weapons, and it is beyond any possibility of controlling the ingenuity of persons wishing to make weapons of whatever is at hand.

Control of Schools, posted 1-27-06 From an attempted e-mail opinion exchange in January '02:
Schools, according to the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, are not subject to Federal involvement. But it is true that our Congress has seen fit to tie Federal budget issues to state and local conformity to Federal rules and regulations. One cannot deny that Federal authority over money and interstate commerce has made it possible to have free interchanges across state borders, which has contributed greatly to the economic development of the U.S.A. But it is educated persons and not education itself that are transported across state borders, so an argument for Federal involvement in education is hollow.

Personally I prefer the Federal government be limited to recommending course content as a guide for authors of school books (history excepted because of the adage "the victor writes the history"). But note that this is a recommendation only and any school district may select books that conform to the educational wishes of the parents in the district. Thus there is a legitimate Federal role but it is far short of mandating school organization or curriculum or teacher pay or athletic involvements or any other aspect of public schools. If we can trust voters to elect their politicians, surely we can trust them to guide their schools since their children are much more dear than the money confiscated by politicians.

Teachers are not respected as once they were. There are many contributing factors, such as lack of discipline (due to rules beyond the teacher's control), promotion policies that tie the teacher's hand, a union concerned more for financial benefits for members than with educational objectives, the local politics of education, assignments of students for reasons other than educational attainment, and generational propagation (where today's students recognize their teacher's plight and avoid pursuit of training to become teachers.

War on drugs; posted 1-27-06 From an attempted e-mail opinion exchange in January '02:
Our nation tried to control potable alcohol and discovered the effort at control created lawlessness but did little to curb peoples' appetite for alcohol -- in fact encouraged the curious to sample. If people can find access they will have what they want, and it is pointless to speculate otherwise.

I see education as the only possible long range solution to what problems mind-altering drugs produce. I am personally of the mind that each of us has freedom to do whatever he wishes so long as he accepts responsibility for his actions and does no harm to any other (including a raid on his resources). In the long run we must allow our gene pool to cleanse itself. Those bent on self-destruction will find ways and it is economically ruinous to underwrite their protection from their own personal folly: It is political folly to think otherwise. Proceeding to the obvious conclusion, I feel our 'war on drugs' is misdirected: It may alter the behavior of a few, but it won't alter their appetites.

Trade union excesses, posted 2-1-06 The present situation of General Motors competitively brings to mind observations over the years of unionism and its effect on the economy. Years ago I worked at Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus, Ohio, which was founded as a trust by a steel- based fortune and derived part of its income from metallurgical research, so I had reason to follow the steel industry. Late 50s, campaign for president of the union: the candidates seemed to be competing on the basis of which could exact the most favorable contract from the steel industry, and the union members seemed oblivious to the effect on their companies of their wages, which were already favorable by the standards of the union movement. At the time you could buy German-made steel at the docks of Cleveland cheaper than comparable steel made in the mills in Cleveland. The U.S. government protected the industry for a time, but you can't repeal economics indefinitely. I changed jobs and didn't follow developments for a time, but in a few years the steel industry had fragmented. I have no numbers on unemployment, but have wondered many times if the former union members ever reflected on the connection between their wages and the loss of jobs.

That recalls an earlier development. During World War II John L. Lewis was president of the coal miners' union. They struck repeatedly for higher wages and benefits. After the war, when new equipment became available, natural gas became the fuel of choice because coal had become so expensive and, with the smaller price differential, people accepted the higher price of gas in return for a cleaner fuel. The industry made technological leaps, but the number of miners is a fraction of what it used to be in spite of increased demand. I have no idea how the displaced miners felt about John L. Lewis.

A few years ago Eastern Airlines was faced with union contract talks with maintenance workers; the union leader was intransigent and workers went on strike. The air lines had been for decades protected from competition by Federal regulation and the workers enjoyed high levels of pay by union standards. But the air lines had been deregulated and low-fare carriers were competing for fliers. Eastern folded and the union members were out of jobs. The media never carried stories about the resulting unemployment.

UAW members enjoy some of the best wages and benefits in the country. Cost added to GM products is said to be $2500 per car for benefits alone. As I said, you can't repeal economics indefinitely.

Years ago, when Medicare was instituted, the American Medical Association (a union, to be sure: if it quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, . . .) insisted there were already too many doctors. No provision was made for the additional medical personnel that would be needed because of the higher demand that would, predictably, be brough about by Medicare. We have seen the result in spiraling medical costs brought about partly by the economic realities of competition.

2-16-06: Thoughts about church and state
Ultimately religion and state come together. It seems a paradox, but the highest purpose of the state is to provide conditions that allow men to live together in harmony, while it is the highest purpose of religion to lead men to wish to live together in harmony.

Mankind has been blessed -- or cursed -- with a multitude of religions and he has experimented with a variety of forms of government, but, in finality, the individual is supreme because the only connection between individuals is the stream of ideas that connect brains that are autonomous. What common background we share includes at least some ideals of fair play and personal advantage.

3-15-06: Islam and sedition. I have no idea and no way to learn what is being taught in the Muslim mosques in these United States. But I am concerned. The only news I have read is Muslims complaining at being profiled because of their Near Eastern origin. I have heard nothing whatever of their reaction to the genocide in Sudan or, for that matter, their reaction to the insurgency in Iraq or the Iranian ambition for nuclear weapons or the destruction of Israel. Are these Muslims indeed true citizens of their adopted homeland, or are they simply residents awaiting the ultimate victory of Islam and the establishment of a theocracy here?

I am asking our local media to educate non-Muslims in the underlying thinking of this portion of our population. In my mind we have a serious need to dust off our laws against sedition. And it is necessary to be reminded of that teaching of the Prophet to lie when and where it will advance your purpose. I refer to the report I have heard many times that influential Muslims speak of peace in English but violence in Arabic, of love and benedictions to us but of strife until the ultimate victory of Islam when addressing their own.

H5N1 avian or bird flu: The public is being primed for a catastrophe so widespread and so devastating that only government can effectively respond. Yet the lesson of Katrina is that, even with plans developed and in place, the government response depends on someone in authority hitting the switch to turn on the plan. Whatever the mayor was thinking, those school buses could have evacuated thousands and I still picture them under water. Whatever the governor was thinking the disruption spread well beyond the mayor's responsibility. Whatever the president was thinking the organs of government were not prepared to swing into action in an orderly and effective manner. To compound the problem, people wishing to help were hindered by government by first blocking entry of supplies and transportation vehicles and then demanding "sensitivity training" for volunteers. Totally inept. Government can help (or hinder) but cannot be the solution. You and I in our exercise of personal wisdom represent the only hope for survival.

Quarantine has been talked up. I can think of nothing worse than disrupting the whole economy of a city or region. I can visualize the effect after a few weeks when supplies have been exhausted; it will be anarchy of the most vile description. There must be more productive approaches. I describe one.

A virus is a protein and each protein exists in an exact configuration as its strings coil and fit together in specific patterns. Our body counteracts by learning how and then producing another protein that fits the invader exactly so these anti-bodies in our blood latch onto the invaders one-on-one with an exact physical fit and thereby render the invaders harmless until the liver or kidneys filter out and excrete the combined protein. The nature of Nature is to proliferate. The danger in an unknown protein is that it will proliferate so quickly that the body's natural response (immune system) is overwhelmed. Publicity tells us that the danger to humans of H5N1 lies in a mutation that is contagious in humans, that our immune systems do not contain (or know how to produce)anti-bodies sufficiently close to match the invaders so our system is too slow in response. Obviously it was a mutation in a virus already common (and harmless) to birds that has caused infection in humans, and it is the nature of evolution that further mutations will occur. What our bodies need is anti-bodies to fit as closely as possible a new invader to order to slow its proliferation enough that our own immune systems can respond.

My understanding is that, once a new virus is recognized, the existing medical manufacturing system knows how to incubate and produce muted strains of the virus so that inoculations with the muted strain sets our immune system into action to produce anti-bodies. So, if the most-recently-recognized mutation of H5N1 becomes the object of inoculation, the body is at least modestly prepared to respond to a further mutation. This being so, it seems to me the best preparation we can make is to prepare muted strains for this mutation in the hope that the anticipated mutation (which could become epidemic) will be met with a protein as close as possible to this new mutation.

I feel the government is wise to encourage development of facilities for rapid manufacture of vaccines. Inclusion in flu vaccines of killed viruses closely resembling the H5N1 strain gives our bodies our best hope of preparing our own immune systems for further mutations. With that much preparation by the government, it then becomes a matter of individual initiative to take advantage of these inoculations.

7-6-06 Immigration and Social Security Reason Magazine, Aug/Sep 06, has a series of essays on immigration. The position of the magazine is apparently that it is not such a big deal, since all essays echo that. But I am reminded that:
1) Employers in this country represent the key to success since survival in a competitive market requires they hire illegals if their competitors are allowed to do so. And enforcement is the key with employers. (Employers have been ingenious in finding ways to skirt the laws that have been passed and we can realistically expect that to continue. Moreover, we can expect that some people feel a moral obligation to devise means to thwart any system that is put into place. We do the best we can and accept the risk of violations we can't detect.)
2) The comment that the illegals do the work that citizens don't want to do is a reflection on the failure of our welfare system rather than a statement of the distaste of citizens to perform certain tasks.
3) Unintended consequences have tended to dominate the results of the various laws to control immigration in the past.

A number of interesting statistics may be gleaned from the essays. For instance, only some 60% of illegals in this country entered without proper papers; the other 40% overstayed tourist or student visas.
Or: Before the 1986 immigration reform over half of the illegals entering the country returned home, but, because of the difficulty posed by again infiltrating, the rate of return has dropped to less than 25%.
Or: A high percentage of small businesses are created by immigrants -- legal or illegal.
Or: the unemployment rate among illegals is less than that of certain groups of adult citizens.

I am suggesting an extension of our Social Security system to both make that serve us better and provide a device that may be used to enforce immigration laws. It would be voluntary for all citizens, required of all persons entering the country, and would ultimately become universal. Implementation for hiring practices would be stretched over a period of time, say 4-6 years. (I was in the screen printing business as OSHA gradually, industry by industry, extended its influence over work safety requirements. I did not agree with all rules, many of which were obviously promulgated by uninformed pencil pushers, but OSHA gradually extended its reach to all businesses they felt might include employee risks. The same sort of gradualism is needed in immigration control.)

I am impressed that I can, at the local grocery, swipe a card and have my bank account drafted for the amount of my purchase in a very few seconds. The technology is here; it is part of our routine existence; I see no reason not to extend it to hiring situations.

I have never heard anyone object to the requirement to register with the Social Security system since that promises future benefits. Moreover, we are more and more asked for photo IDs in the pursuit of our every-day activities, and it would ease the burden of securing a photo ID were that offered routinely and became widely available. Photo IDs need to be updated from time to time because we do change in appearance as we grow and age.

I suggest that our Social Security card be an extension of "plastic," to include a photo as well as some other form of identification that is difficult to confuse, such as thumb print. (If there is any reality to detective TV, finger prints are reducible to a series of digital readings; that could be encoded magnetically in the Social Security card.) My original SS card had only name, SS number and signature; to that should be added a photograph. On the back should be magnetically encoded the SS number and digital thumb print. (Ultimately, states would be allowed to ask that such information as child predation or prisoner status be included on a separate line accessible only to police or others with equipment to read it.) More on the card below.

If it is true that the illegals come here to work, then control becomes a matter of limiting illicit work opportunities. I foresee, in the matter of hiring workers, use of "plastic" to screen those eligible from ineligibles. Initially a card reader on the employment desk would serve; later a hand-held reader connected through cell telephones would be needed for day laborer recruitment. I suspect that most employers know their employees, so reading of the "plastic" would be only for certain needs such as hiring. The telephone connection would be to a central computer, preferably in Washington, and the employer would receive, in return for swiping the "plastic" of a prospective hire, information on status, such as green card holder or temporary permit, to indicate eligibility to be hired.

It should be self-evident that, with difficulty finding work in this country, illegals (if they truly came here to work) will find it wise to scurry home and then try to make conditions there more amenable to the good life. (As opposed to that government using emigration as a policy tool to deal with population pressure, as seems the case now with Mexico.)

Today a citizen seeking a job has only to say "I am a citizen" and that ends the discussion; it is not surprising that there are holes in our systems. Some form of identification is necessary to correct this flaw. I am mindful that Florida and California have both tried to devise "tamper proof" ID cards. I am suggesting a system that obviates some of their problems. It involves, in the hiring situation, connection to a central computer and its response to the query, which can be in a matter of seconds, and the prospective employer has the information needed to fulfill his commitment to the law. Penalties for an employer violating the system should be so extreme that compliance is voluntary. Of course, there must be inspectors visiting job sites to inspect worker cards.

The photo on the Social Security card would not be necessary for an infant, but it should be revised at certain events or times during the life span. Such as age 5 (or entering school), age 18 (or graduation from high school or entering the work force), age 40 (--somewhere in mid-life), age 67 (or eligibility to retire). Updating would not be mandatory but would confer advantages that would encourage most card holders to cooperate. Such as (after the program is fully implemented) getting work. Or as certain identification. Or passport information.

Security of the system is paramount. Each time there is an update, as a condition to issuing a new card, the identifying information of the person accepting the changes should be verified by the central computer and incorporated on the new card, along with addition of a notation on the old card that it is in process of update. I feel this verification process would obviate many potential breaches in security.

There is no rational alternative to some form of identification.

Away from Internationalism, added 8-03-06 The United States cannot support the world. Neither can we defend all regimes from their disaffected populations. We entered the Iraqi war with ideals held high, but we cannot force our version of society upon an unwilling people. There are too many beggars with their hands out for us to aggressively, however benign, convert all other societies to our ideals.

I am becoming increasingly isolationist. Let us seek what is good for our people and let the world founder. If the Europeans find their parochial interests so great they cannot see what dangers lurk on their own borders and take action to protect what, with our help, they have achieved, we must rethink our commitment to provide for their security against their apparent wish. We provided the English and French and Germans and Japanese with peace and actually furnished money to help them build industries with state-of-the-art equipment to compete with our often-outworn equipment. We intervened in the Balkans while the rest of Europe slept. The Filipinos withdrew their support in Iraq to save one trucker while our armed forces help keep their insurgents at bay. South Korea accepts our military shield from North Korea but will not take a stand. Mexico accepts the benefits of NAFTA so it need not reform its political system. Russia is relying on unsustainable oil prices to enable it to assert itself on the international scene. Sudan. Somalia. Rhodesia. Cameroun is vying to become the world's most corrupt government. I am now told the world's largest known oil reserve (shale) lies under our Rocky Mountains (and reserves under the Gulf of Mexico are greater than all other known petroleum reserves added together).

We must return our attention to the industrious among us in this country and let the rest commence to pull their own weight.

Oil from shale and sands (added 8-21-06): If known reserves of oil from shale in the U.S. truly dwarf other reserves combined, the question of exploitation revolves around cost. As an arm chair exercise I have pondered the effect of our government subsidizing shale oil after the fashion of agricultural products. Of course increased world production should result in return of crude prices to more sustainable levels. And refining should be done on site. But, would production from existing wells simply be diverted to other markets while the U.S. consumer supports domestic production at the higher prices? I see tremendous opportunities for capitalistic greed to take advantage of government efforts to rein in out-of-control world prices (which are themselves exercises of greed since the cost of pumping oil has not increased noticeably in the face of increased demand). And, would a significant increase in world production cause existing suppliers to moderate their price demands, restoring more realistic pricing but possibly bankrupting shale oil entrepreneurs?

Continuing 9-11-06 Has anyone noted the drop in petroleum prices since announcement of the reserves that have been discovered under the Gulf of Mexico? We have long known about deposits in shale, but the cost of recovery has discouraged investments adequate to bring massive quantities to market. I am struck by the apparent response of OPEC to the announcement since they view it in their interest to hinder bringing these deposits to market, and discouraging investment is their best hope. I recall well the comments about market- driven prices -- a modern myth; I have asserted it was unconscionable opportunistic greed since costs of production have not changed. But the prospect of new competition has already had an effect. (Added 8-19-08 Apparently oil producers realized very quickly how long it would take to bring into production oil from shale or the Gulf. Prices soon began to escalate.)

In my understanding of the larger economic picture, the USSR (Russia) depended on petroleum revenues to support its military machine in the days of the Cold War. When President Reagan deregulated petroleum prices, which were in effect subsidizing Russia, the USSR could no longer afford its military and the USSR fell. On the current market high petroleum prices are allowing President Putin to flex his muscles and allow funding of international terrorism by Iran and the support of madrassas all over the world by Saudi Arabia. (Recall that the Saudi Arabian sect of Islam is Wahhabi, the most fundamentalist and poisonous sect of the Muslim world.) Our best hope for encouraging Russia to moderate its intransigence and undermining fundamentalist Muslim terrorism is development of shale resources and bringing to market Gulf of Mexico petroleum.

I don't know much about the economics of petroleum recovery, but in earlier years, when OPEC tried to increase prices, non-OPEC oil at around $15-20 (I think it was really more like $9-12) per barrel caused OPEC to lose control of pricing. Were our government to offer a price guarantee for new oil for domestic use -- only domestic, not export (or even allowing diversion to foreign users of foreign resources that are under contract) -- at a level of say $20-25 a barrel -- enough to protect investments over the long term -- prices would quickly return to rational levels and remain there for decades. I hesitate to suggest this during Pres. Bush's term since he knows the source of his wealth (even though it is supposedly in blind trust) is petroleum, and I suspect him of complicity in the recent run-up of petroleum prices. (Earlier presidents acted, successfully, when OPEC sent oil prices up and succeeded in limiting price increases and then returning prices to sustainable levels, while Bush has stood by and argued price/demand.)

Unintended consequences: Setting a price guarantee per barrel in this country, even restricting diversions, will most assuredly set the international price, so it must be realistic in offering a modest -- but not excessive -- profit.

Medicare and Medicaid: 2-09-07 I recall articles at the time Medicare was being debated in the halls of Congress. The theme advanced by the American Medical Association was that there were already too many doctors and this would provide employment for the surplus. So no provision was made for increasing the number of medical personnel that the newly-funded demand would predictably require. That generation of doctors has retired, but the growth of the bureaucracy created by that law, which mandates paperwork and attempts to rein in costs, dissuades young people who might otherwise wish to enter medicine. Still, I understand acceptance rates at medical schools are well below 40% so, while many of the brightest may seek other careers, there are still people aplenty wishing medical careers.

One aspect of the run-up in medical costs is competitive pressure. If I believe stories about the difficulty in finding a doctor, it is evident not enough doctors are being graduated to keep pace with demand for medical services. I recognize two imperatives to satisfy the need for doctors and keep costs within reasonable bounds: 1) decrease the amount of interference presented by the bureaucracy and 2) increase the number of seats in our medical schools to accommodate a higher percentage of applicants.

Lessons from Katrina (and Rita and Wilma) 2-14-07
1) Nature will not be denied
2) A government cannot keep people from their own folly
3) A government that overreaches breeds disaster
4) Personal safety is a personal matter and it is folly to rely entirely on government
5) It serves no purpose to point fingers once disaster strikes
6) Our wisdom is inadequate to anticipate, much less control, weather -- which is forunate because government would attempt to regulate, control or tax it.
I have been appalled at the short-sightedness of politicians and the stupidity of relying on them. It should be obvious from the partisan wrangling in Congress that concensus is illusive and there is no guarantee of its wisdom once reached.

Neither local nor state nor federal government could effectively deal with the humanitarian aftermath of the storms; it was private efforts -- which government tried to impede -- that mitigated the effects of the storms. I think there is one clear message here: governments impede; private efforts succeed.

The disaster was magnified by federal re-insurance, so that insurance companies could be protected from bankruptcy from their unwise acceptance of risk, in areas that should have been left to Nature. Add to that the fraud perpetrated by insurance companies, no doubt abetted by their sales agents, in assuring people that hurricane insurance protected from the total effect of the storm, both wind and water, while they now insist they intended to protect from wind only. There can be no question it was fraud on a massive scale and, for my part, not only should insurance companies bankrupt but their officers should be held accountable for the fraud.

Federal money had been appropriated for the express purpose of reinforcing the levies in Louisiana, but it was diverted by local politicians to pet projects. The Corps of Engineers had been responsible in their efforts, but they were frustrated by politicians who found other priorities. Unfortunately, dredging a straight shipping canal had destroyed a natural protection enjoyed by New Orleans: Isn't hindsight wonderful! (Engineers had attempted to protect upper reaches of the Mississippi River, but some years ago Nature unleashed a storm whose waters breached the levies there.)

Pres. Bush wrongly accepted responsibility for government failures after Katrina; he had approved emergency measures days before the storm hit; it was the failure of mayor of New Orleans and the governor of Louisiana to respond to warnings and the offers of assistance that greatly magnified the human cost and destructive aftermath of the storm. The Coast Guard was effective, as was the National Guard once it was called in. The president's ineptness lay in appointing a chicken farmer (or some such inexperienced manager) to head FEMA, which proved woefully inadequate even with Wilma after the lessons of Katrina and Rita. (Evidence of the president's inept personnel selection was further displayed by nominating Harriet Miers for a Supreme Court vacancy.)

Agriculture, entered 2-19-07 There are both good and evil in genetically modified (GM) foods (and other crops):
1) Profit seems the dominant motive, sacrificing taste and other characteristics
2) Natural plants survived because they fit the environment; GM crops may not survive catastrophe or climate shift or ill-advised change. I applaud those people who maintain seed stocks of older (heirloom) varieties even though selections are dated.
3) Legal issues such as protection from wind-borne pollen have bankrupted some farmers. Pursuit of genetic change to prevent saving seeds for later plantings seems the ultimate folly and reckless disregard for all except profits.
4) Government involvements produce strange results such as inheriting acreage allotments and then receiving a subsidy not to plant, or in freezing out small farmers.
5) Lobbying distorts the logic of the market.
That said, modifications are as old as agriculture; we could not feed today's world population without cultivation- and genetically-modified varieties of foods.

Memorial Day, 2007, brought e-mail exchanges about attitudes. It is remarkable the difference in attitude toward patriotism and country between those who have served in the military and those who have not. Among those whose history does not include service there is the clamoring for self, for what is in my best interest, for what I gain from any incident. But those who have served feel a kinship with each other and are openly grateful for the sacrifices that have been made in their behalf; there is a pride in country and their participation. The contrast is remarkable. It is for this reason that I applaud the Peace Corps and similar programs and feel that a universal draft of some sort of service to country is the best possible transition from student to maturity.

Of course there is opposition because advanced education should not be interrupted. There are many avenues to service. I served in the Air Force and then completed college; that period of introspection and exploration was invaluable in molding me into a citizen. Service to country is an experience I would wish on all, not to meet military manpower needs but to help make contributing citizens out of emerging adults.

Immigration, legal or illegal: Does Congress really care? (9-22-07)
I have learned from a recent letter to the editor of Reason Magazine one of the major reasons for difficulties in our immigration system. (Oct. 07 issue, letter from Kerry Howley, page 10). I am, frankly, both disheartened and disgusted at the apparent lack of oversight exercised by the Senate and House. I know they are busy and have many concerns, but they have staff to assist, and this is something that begs for attention. I wonder if anybody bothers to read reports by Immigration Omsbudsman Prakash Khatri. He has outlined the problem, but it will require consistent oversight and pressure to break the log jam.

Khatri reports that a proposed FBI computerized case management system has been repeatedly delayed. Yet immigration applications must be scrutinized at hundreds of FBI locations using manual searches. Manual! I will grant there are secutity concerns, but each FBI location should be able to computerize its files in a simple data base, with a key if necessary to the office or case agent involved. Given a series of local files in the various locations, a simple program could easily integrate data bases into a larger data base, so there is no reason to delay computerizing data until a master system is designed and operating. At the very least the FBI should be able to arrive at a massive data base that shuttles information requests among its various locations.

A comparable data base at the Citizenship and Immigration Services should be able to key its entries to names (or pseudonyms) requiring comparison with FBI files. Or, if necessary, separate data bases for student visas, tourists, temporary workers, consuls, etc.

I was part of government long enough to understand some of the issues of featherbedding, make work, nepotism, budget protection, fiefdoms, etc. It is time for someone in Congress to break through the bureaucratic jungles at the FBI and Immigration. It will require consistent attention by a staffer armed with authority to demand detailed information on procedures, staffing and progress toward inclusive data bases, hopefully sweet enough a personality to secure cooperation without threats of court proceedings. The current back log is inexcusable; it is a massive dereliction of duty. And it won't be cured with appropriations; it will require Congressional staffers riding herd on wasteful and unproductive procedures from top the bottom from political appointees to the clerks who man the computers. More, it may require reassignments and demotions.

Pearl Harbor Day, 2007 On this Pearl Harbor Day I am thankful for the sacrifices of our military heroes in preserving the ideals of freedom of thought we enjoy in this country. And I am reminded of a threat to that precious freedom of thought that we can ill afford to ignore. Let me quote an exchange I had with an emissary of Islam whose job is to travel and lecture in order to improve relations with this country:

From him: "Now regarding your view that religions should adapt or perish, I would say that you are partially correct. It is true for almost all faiths except Islam. Islam is not a man made religion which should keep on changing its rules and regulations each decade or century. Islam is the guidance provided by God to humanity. As such, God, our creator knows that His guidance will be relevant and beneficial for humanity, now and till the end of time. Thus, there is no need for Islam to adapt to the world, it is the other way around. It is the world which should adapt and accept Islam for its success or it will perish in its immorality, racial hatred, drugs, family break-down, guns and violence, suicides, rapes etc.

"Islam provides solutions to the above mentioned perils of the society and likewise provides the most complete guidance, covering all aspects of a society and persons life, namely, Social, family, financial, educational, legal, political, spiritual etc. Thus, with its supreme guidance for the society, it is in the best interest of the society to ADAPT to Islam for its success."

I responded: "While I am grateful for your forthrightness, it was with great sadness that I read your message. When I compare records of the life of the Prophet and his teachings, as recorded in history, with your unflinching and uncompromising statement that no adaptation of Islam is possible, I see no possibility but a wrenching confrontation until either (1) all religions except Islam disappear from among men or (2) Islam disappears from among men. Whatever the future holds, I hope it can be accomplished by gentle persuasion rather than subversion or force.

"I heartily endorse your mission to improve relations between faiths and question my conclusion that you support fundamentalists, such as bin Laden, who is, after all, simply continuing the Prophet's program to seek dominance [or submission, since one is tantamount to the other]. If moderate men cannot compromise, peaceful co-existence is not possible and the stage is set for a conflict that must of necessity result in utter destruction of one or the other. Perhaps for the good of humanity and Earth that should happen. But I prefer fostering understanding and cooperation between the various religious faiths; to my mind that requires good will and compromise by all."

To my mind the emissary, in carrying out his mission, must of necessity teach the dominance of Islam; this is nothing short of sedition. I have reached the conclusion that, as the State of Utah was required to renounce plural marriage as a condition for admission into the Union, Muslims must be required to renounce theocracy as a form of government as a condition for citizenship. It is not enough that they swear loyalty to our Constitution; they must specifically renounce theocracy and declare acceptance of our democratic republic as a form of government.

12-24-07 Sex education: Taken from an essay now abandoned:
If we must choose who we will encourage to have children, we should take advantage of the opportunities to strengthen our species -- not so much in physical mass or brute strength as mental prowess and freedom from disease. And we obviously must discourage wanton practice of sex without regard for the result.

I sometimes think the wrong people are providing our future population. All school children, both boys and girls, should complete their education so as to have a chance at good jobs and what that entails; girls should not be consigned to lives of poverty by allowing births where there is no visible means of support. Imbeciles (those of mental development below the age of eight -- or possibly ten --years of age) and the severely physically challenged should be discouraged from having children, surgically if necessary. And I would discourage pregnancies and marriage of those of mental development below or comparable to some 12-14 years of age.

Medicine will undoubtedly in time learn how to intervene to alter our genetic code to remove genetic predispositions for specific diseases. (How widely that will be practiced may reflect personal financial resources.) Until then -- and even then -- it seems reasonable that genetic predispositions should be included in the information available to -- and freely discussed among -- young people in pursuit of sex or marriage partners.

We have in our high schools clubs based on scholastic performance. I endorse extending that practice to college, where the fraternity system and clubs based on career specialty already provide a degree of selectivity, so those of outstanding mental ability are more readily introduced to each other. Convocations of members could strengthen the effort to increase interactions between our most gifted young people.

Some will think these are crass suggestions because of their obvious orientation toward encouraging the physically and mentally fit while discouraging propagation of weaknesses; maybe so, but I will let them stand because they would be steps toward significant improvement in our species. I can already hear it from believers and non-believers alike: "Would you play God?" No, but I remind you we are stewards of what God (or evolution or fate) has provided and ought use what mind we have to work toward a better future.

1-05-08 Two issues are closely associated with what can be termed the "culture of life;" both belong to the states and localities and our Federal government has no business intruding. I address these in proposing amendments to our Constitution, which may be found by clicking here and then clicking in the table on the first page.

  • Abortion: Of course I oppose abortion as a substitute for responsible sex. But I can't help thinking that categorically denying abortion effectively places a higher value on the incipient person than on his host. Relative values! For a more complete discussion click here.
  • Suicide: Not only do I favor allowing antique or fragile persons (and those with diagnosed terminal illness) to select the manner and timing of their death, but they should be allowed to seek assistance without condemning their assistant to criminality. I touch that a little more fully in the Social Contract; to see that click here.
  • Public Charity: But many elements of our national policy are tantamount to the self-inflicted death of our republic. I discuss several policies that I feel are destructive to our republic; click here.

    2-09-08 Trade, "Fair" or "Free" The sorry truth is that the super-wealthy display no regard for the consequences of their pursuit of still-greater wealth: they will have their security; they will have their freedom; they will have their extravagancies: regardlesss of where they call home. But, in moving their operations (and jobs) out of the country they are both (1) weakening our middle class, (2) exporting our means of self-defense and (3) exposing our citizens to harm.

    The effect on self-defense speaks for itself. As manufacture moves off shore, we no longer support, and therefore lose, the skills necessary to produce munitions and other needs of our armed forces. And the equipments used in their manufacture, even if retained and maintained in this country (which they aren't), would not be upgraded to keep pace with science. So we lose on two counts: equipment and skills. As we saw in World War II, given a pool of skilled to teach, rudimentary skills -- note rudimentary -- can be learned quickly; but equipment must be converted from its accustomed use and, if there is nothing to convert, its acquisition would cause a time lag that would allow an enemy to overwhelm before new equipment could be brought on line.

    The rape of our economy began with moving their titular headquarters (mostly in name only) off-shore to reduce taxes while retaining access to our markets; we quietly acceded to their obvious stealth and did nothing to require these companies to help support the market they relied on for their incomes. Then trade agreements became the focus of their reach for wealth and are producing a lop-sided economy where all citizens (through taxation) absorb a substantial portion of the costs of importing their products. With heightened security requirements caused by fractious religious extremists, costs for security have escalated; yet taxpayers are asked to pay for security without recompense by importers. And the true cost of importing goods includes costs of security; apportioning those costs would help bring retail prices for domestic and imported goods into balance.

    Much as I dislike the abuses by labor union members and their managements, they did enlarge our middle class so it includes more than professionals and management and helped make our middle class a large and viable economic force. But with companies recruiting work force and management overseas, both of these elements of our middle class are in decline. What results is a population less able to support the costs of security along with the need for increased security.

    We had two economic bubbles that helped mask the harm done by relocation overseas. In the 1990s there was an unsupportable run-up in stock market prices (anticipated taxes on which created the illusion of a balanced federal budget); that bubble collapsed. In the 2000s there was an unsupportable run-up in real estate prices; that bubble is now in the process of collapse. And realization of the damage done by 'free trade,' with its loss of manufacturing and middle management jobs, is slowly coming home.

    I can't quarrel with a foreign government attempting to upgrade its economy and bring its population into the First World. But I insist it is not properly the business of our government to impose our culture on other nations, such as democracy or standards of anti-slavery, child labor, consumer protection, etc. Our government's role should be limited to protection of our own peoples. While inspection of manufacturers in foreign nations is properly the role of their governments, I am lacking in insight on how we go about guaranteeing the safety of imported products and ingredients in our domestic products although the owners of good crossing our borders must be required to underwrite the safety of their wares.

    Neither can I quarrel with the increased selection in agricultural products in our stores brought about by 'free trade,' although questionable safety resulting from local agricultural practices is a domestic concern. But I do quarrel with many subsidies by our government that distort market values and encourage one product over another. (Whether the result of lobbying, lack of understanding by our leaders or response to over-zealous environmental protection, the quests for energy independence is also producing gross distortions, such as pursuit of ethanol in gasoline and lack of development of off-shore oil and oil-bearing shale.)

    And I especially quarrel with 'free trade' that does not recognize the true costs of importing foreign-made goods. I would readily espouse 'fair trade' that allows fair apportioning of true costs and shields our consumers from sub-standard goods.

    3-20-08My book, Love to Live and Live to Love: Making Longevity Worthwhile is finally available. Order from the publisher, Llumina, by clicking here or from Amazon. For information see URL or for a brief description click here or for a more complete description click here.

    3-29-08 (Moved from another essay)
    That tobacco 'settlement' still bugs me. It was a distortion of both ethics and law. Smokers voluntarily undertook and maintained a corrosive habit knowing full well it was harmful to their health -- considering black mucous and hacking cough, there never was a question. States won huge settlements for anticipated costs of health benefits (but all have added the moneys to general budget rather than dedicating it to health and hospitalization); lawyers were handsomely rewarded (and one hopes to become President). You cut your hand; you bleed. You smoke; you pay the price in compromised health; what concept could be simpler? Elemental fairness of cause and effect has been turned into a black hole of demanding the public pay for the smoker's personal excesses. To compound the unintended consequence, politicians are using the states' portions as a windfall and thereby an undeclared tax.

    10-29-08 The gambling aspect of investment in corporate stocks (Wall Street speculators), in commodities (Chicago Exchange) and other opportunities to exchange money for profit could be readily discouraged by the simple expedient of establishing a third tier of reporting for income tax purposes. We presently have short term (less than a year holding time for any particular stock) and 'long term' or holding a stock for more than one year. This distinction offers some discouragement for speculation on a day-to-day, week-to-week or month-to-month basis. But to call one year 'long term' is short-sighted; 'intermediate' perhaps, but not 'long' term. Declaring 'long term' to be at least five years, with a tax advantage for long term holdings, would be a tremendous incentive to change gamblers into investors. I suppose we will always have gamblers among us, even those willing to sacrifice their very self to a favorable roll of the dice, but tax law can be used to convert at least some gamblers into investors.

    1-27-09 "Government is not the answer to our problems; government is the problem." (Pres. Ronald Reagan)
    Leading up to the present financial morass was a series of U.S. government policies, well intended for social betterment but not well thought-out. Unintended consequences will assert themselves. Pressure on lending facilities to make relatively insecure loans led to unsustainable increases in real estate evaluations, and requiring those same institutions to carry on their books prevailing market value rather than paper value led to wholesale loss in book value as mortgage defaults mounted which, considering required reserves, resulted in large scale 'dumping' of securities in order to shore up reserves. Panic!

    Individuals and organizations, recognizing impending financial problems, look to measures to forestall disaster, while potential investors look for promising securities. But, when it was whispered the federal government might intervene to prevent further erosion of value and trade, business leaders and investors ceased the normal quest for solutions and investments and commenced to conspire how they could profit from government largesse. Thus the combination of government (largely legislative) stupidity and personal greed has led to a financial melt-down and massive government efforts to forestall further erosion.

    It's a pretty damning example of ignoring sound financial practice to support improvements in the lives of people who look to the government instead of personal resourcefulness for their livelihoods.

    4-16-09 Personal safety: When you are staring into the eye balls of someone bent on doing you harm is no time to think about police protection. Your need is immediate and only tools at your immediate disposal will be of any value. Except in specific enumerated areas open carry of firearms has apparently always been legal, but it is concealed carry laws that have resulted in improvement in statisics on violent crime.

    VFW Magazine, March 2009, reports that Japanese society is progressively revising history to alter public perception from Japanese military aggression to Japanese victimhood in their participation in World War II. Political and economic rivalry seems their justification since the rise of South Korea, China, Twiwan and the Philippines to economic prosperity and competitiveness. Teachings of history in our schools downplaying Japanese cruelties and presenting nuclear holocaust to end the war as inhumane remove from the Japanese the stigma of national shame.

    4-15-09 Medical expenses: My internist sold part of his practice to a couple, one of whom is a cardiologist. I experienced slight dizziness and was concerned that my carotid arteries may be increasingly plugged by plaque. We checked the carotid but she detected an abnormality in a cardiogram and recommended a stress test, which also reported an abnormality. The charge for that stress test was absolutely obscene, which brings up four points:
    1) Although a cardiologist, she did not rely on her own judgment, which I assume is standard practice of defensive medicine. Tort reform is badly needed to encourage physicians to be more self-reliant.
    2) When I examined paperwork from my insurance carrier I recognized once again that charges assessed for medical procedures are roughly double what the physician expects to receive from the insurance carrier. I recall that, years ago before I had Medicare, my doctor charged me substantially more than he charged insurance companies (even while expecting a payment smaller than his charge). If the medical profession is truly burdened by the paperwork requirements for insurance, they should charge less of the uninsured than they expect to be paid from insurance. They are in effect encouraging government-controlled health care by the practice of charging the uninsured more.
    3) Inconsequential charges (or co-payments) encourage use of the medical system for trivial problems. Co-payments should reflect the degree of attention required of the physician or, preferably, should be applied only to more serious problems so the physician makes an honest charge and is paid by his patient for routine care.
    4) Education and self-education offer the only way for people to become more self-reliant in matters of health and medical assistance. I advocate government-sponsored educational clinics to assist in education on both bodily processes and the state of medical procedures for various illnesses and disabilities.

    5-4-09 Cap and trade of carbon dioxide: This is the ultimate folly and will predictably accelerate the race to the bottom. That third world building boom will be triggered by the flight of manufacturing to low-wage areas with no control over quality. What follows?

    Those empty factories and office towers might be converted to housing for the homeless. Left over space will, I suppose, gather dust and eventually be demolished. Stilling the world's engines of growth cannot result in prosperity; rather, misery will become more universally spread.

    Can you imagine the result when the United States has lost its sources of revenue and must default on its obligations? If you enjoy today's financial dilemmas you will delight in the ensuing panic -- the race for the bottom.

    I don't fancy the owners of the wealth that drives our economies suffering any hardship or disadvantage. They will continue to compete with each other from their palatial homes and yachts and luxurious vacation spots. Will their sense of patriotism or charity influence their quest for more wealth or power?: Draw your own conclusion.

    Since Malthus it has been fashionable to deride warnings of impending peril. Yes, I am pessimistic, but I am an old man and won't have to live in the world produced by today's madnesses. I can only hope the deteriorating situation in the "first world" doesn't foster an international harshness that leads to self-destructive competition and a world-wide holocaust. I fear it is already too late to commence building enclaves (those Mountain Meadows I have endorsed) to assure the survival and continued advance of our civilization.

    6-05-09 A friend has commented that our representative government is collapsing under the weight of special interests. Lobbying can be beneficial when organizations use it to educate legislators, but when it goes beyond education the sense of equity and justice on the part of legislators is impaired. Voting up or down on legislation because it will influence campaign contributions undermines a legislator's sound judgment. I agree with my friend. Tort reform has been repeatedly defeated because the legal profession, to which a high percentage of legislators belong, overrules good sense. Term limits would be very helpful in curbing the destructive influence of lobbyists.

    It is morally offensive to require of a person who has accepted the disciplines necessary to extended healthy living that he be required to pay the medical expenses of others who have refused -- knowing the possible consequences -- to discipline themselves or curb their appetites. Our government is trying to require those with known pre-existing medical conditions be insured at the same insurance rates applied to healthy people. Granted there are those who have suffered, even while trying to live responsibly, but there are others who have ignored prudent measures or defied reason in pursuit of personal greed or other gratifications. I regard the innocent with compassion but I regard the deliberate pursuit of risky behavior with contempt. Somehow our government programs must reward prudent living more favorably than it rewards those unwilling to be prudent.

    11-10-09 We have just had the spectacle of an officer in the U.S. Army taking up arms against his fellow soldiers and killing several and wounding a number of others. And this was done openly in the name of Islam with the perpetrator shouting Muslim defiance. We are pushing religious tolerance too far when we allow seditious acts in the name of religion. I have long advocated requiring Muslims in our midst to demonstrate their devotion to our democracy even at the expense of rejecting teachings of their religion. I have applauded the United Kingdom for deciding to deport imams and others in their country who openly teach sedition. It is enough that they teach that Muslims should, as a matter of religious practice, become as much a burden on English society as they can; teaching and encouraging acts of violence and terror against the society that has welcomed them goes beyond the pale and should be forcefully ejected from that society. I further advocate FBI and other intelligence officers regularly attend mosques in order to identify potential threats so that teachers of sedition can be ejected from this country. Fomenting violence and terror cannot be accepted as part of a civilized society.

    It is my understanding that, in times of war, sedition is punishable by death. If we are truly in a war on terror, then acts of sedition, or even preaching sedition, should be punished by death until that war is successfully concluded.

    11-11-09 People who specialize in tracking population suggest that, if each married couple in a population had 2.1 children, that population would be stable. I question the logic since many people do not marry. Years ago I read the statistic that, to perpetuate a family name, 3.4 children per couple would be necessary, and I consider that to be much closer to the requirement for stability in a population. Those experts report that 1.6 children is the boundary between the possibility of recovery of a population and inevitable disappearance of that population. They also report the U.S. is at 1.6 while Europe as a whole is 1.38, and the prosperous nations there at lesser rates. But the statistic that frightens me is that Muslims are averaging 6.1. Faced with that statistic it seems inevitable that, with their population now near 20% of world population, within two generations they will be a world-wide majority and it is unlikely there will be a government anywhere that is not dominated by Muslims. The world will adjust, but the teaching that members of another sect of Islam are infidels who it is appropriate to kill holds the horrible prospect that their rise to dominance will mean incessant war until one sect is in the clear majority.

    I see no clear remedy for the consequences of this imbalance in birth rates. It is only immigration -- mostly illegal -- into this country that produces the increases in total population in the U.S. since 1.6 indicates a declining population.

    11-24-09 It has been several years since I heard of a reported sighting of a large man-like creature in the wild. Considering the nature of discovery, in that few ideas or things are deliberately sought but present themseles to people with minds open enough to receive them, it is not surprising. But what reports I have heard are so wide-spread geographically that it is unlikely to be the same being; more, it seems unlikely that reproduction is possible with such rarety. Even if these were remnants of Cro-Magnon or Neandertal man, it is likely there are no more survivors. So such reports are likely either of an individual whose grotesqueness caused him to depart from the mainstream or a figment of imgination in response to an unusual event in the reporter's experience (or, simply, a hoax).

    I have vented on nuclear nonproliferation and waste fuel rods from nuclear reactors at my web site on energy. You may go there by clicking here.

    It is unrealistisc to think the proposed health care reform will improve health care programs for the patients under Medicare -- or Medicaid either for that matter. If the paperwork requirements are reduced there will be savings, but what is camouflaged as reducing payments to insurers will result in reduced payments to medical personnel for services, and there are already complaints about the present system of negotiated reductions in payments. The proposed "end of life counseling" is a naked proposal to deny care. Unhappily, the recent announcement encouraging less frequent breast examination and mamograms is interpreted by the public as the beginning salvo in a series of curtailments in covered medical services regardless of what statistical justification studies have supported.

    If there is real interest in reducing medical costs, the starting point is tort reform. Doctors undergo years of training to earn their certificates, but they rely on the analysis of tests by technicians, trained only in the use of their testing apparatus, in making their recommendations. It is a mockery to require years of education of the physician and then the physician rely on a relatively uneducated person for recommendations. For myself I want a doctor who relies on his own judgment rather than practicing defensive medicine by prescribing all sorts of tests that will be performed by those technicians. Tort reform!

    And if there is real interest in reducing the costs of health care insurance, then reintroduce competition. In a real sense it is competition that has made the U.S. such an economic powerhouse; restricting competition can only lead to inferior performance or inflated costs. Restore competition between insurance carriers!

    I note that the number of announced presently uninsured include many who can afford their choice of medical care and don't want insurance; it is folly to require them to purchase insurance. And it is infuriating to propose covering people who are illegally in this country; their citizenship should determine which government provides the care they need.

    Should you care to offer rational comment via e-mail, use as subject "I read your post about domestic policy" and click here.
    Should your interest be foreign policy, click here.
    Or religious extremism, click here.
    If I get enough comment I will undertake a separate page to accommodate it.

    My printer uses 26 pages or 13 sheets of paper to print this document.