Sunday, February 27, 2005

Humor Department: Don't Politicize 2-28!

The Taipei Times weighed in with a comical story entitled "Don't Politicize 2-28, Mainlanders Say." They left off the unspoken corollary, which should read something like "...but let us keep our priviliged positions in the military, the government, and society at large that we earned as a result of the political killings."

The article itself was a wonderful bit of unanalyzed political propaganda. The "news item" was actually a poll conducted by the Mainlander Association in the Taipei area (~30% mainlander). It's about as representative as conducting a poll about Castro only in Dade County:

To better understand the connection between the 228 Incident and ethnic relations, the Mainlander Association released yesterday the results of a telephone survey the group conducted last month, making 1,000 random phone calls in Taipei City and Taipei County residents.

Even more comical were the results that attributed tensions between the 'ethnic groups' to 'political maneuvering.'

While split over whether talking about the 228 incident helps ethnic relations, the survey showed that more than 80 percent of the respondents agreed that tensions between ethnic groups are a result of political maneuvering. Further, over 50 percent think that ethnic tension is a serious problem in Taiwan.

It's true that jailing one's opponents, suppressing their culture, murdering tens of thousands of people, and sending hundreds of thousands of others into exile is a 'political maneuver.'

In addition, more than 40 percent said that, as an ethnic group, Mainlanders are losing their political influence.

It's interesting that over half said that wasn't the case, also my own impression. From boardrooms to university departments, cliques of mainlanders continue to run Taiwan.

Chief executive director of the association, Huang Luo-fei (黃洛斐), said that characterizing the 228 Incident as a conflict between victims and perpetrators paints Mainlanders as those who are guilty of the massacre.

This is a great bit of doubletalk. If a political massacre isn't an event between perps and their victims, what is?

"In talking about the 228 Incident, it is crucial to focus on the individuals who were involved in the tragedy." Huang said.

I agree! Let's focus on the individuals -- all 100,000 who were killed over the years, and their murderers, many of whom are still at large, unpunished, in positions of privilege.

"Accusing an ethnic group of a historical crime is not the solution to ethnic conflict," Huang added.
Mainlanders are not an "ethnic group" but rather a group of disparate cultural backgrounds united by their allegiance to the former ruling party, the KMT, and their own interests, which the KMT furthered. They are a political construction, not an ethnicity, and they were purpose-built as a minority ruling class. Until mainlanders stop thinking of each other as a class with shared interests diametrically opposed to the locals, the "ethnic conflict" -- actually class-based political struggle -- will continue. Bluntly put, this conflict will cease anytime mainlanders give their primary allegiance to Taiwan and not each other.

In other words, mainlanders grousing about "ethnic conflict" are really mainlanders anxious about the rising Taiwanese consciousness and its threat to their hands on the levers of society.

A great letter

My Taiwan website generates 4-8 emails a day, and many are like this:

Dear trusty author,
I couldn't help it. I just had to stop my tour to congratulate you on
your great website. Everything there is just great: from the tips you give
to foreigners to the amazing pictures and accompanying captions. I must
say you are both an excellent writer and a great photographer.
Congratulations!!!I've spent the last two hours visiting every link of
your web site and I'm not sure if I'll be able to sleep before I can get to
the very end of it. I do love Taiwan, I know lots of other web sites
containing pictures and information on this country, but none compares to yours in
terms of quality. By the way, "trusty author" is how you call yourself in one of the
captions: "Your trusty author in Neihu in younger, thinner days. The views over
the city from the mountains nearby are breathtaking." Now I will resume my tour ...
Best wishes to you and your BEAUTIFUL family!



Our new dog!!!!

We got a new dog today! A fully housebroken and beautiful golden retriever.

If we get any more animals we'll have to apply for government permit to operate as a Zoo!


Thursday, February 24, 2005

A-bian's Contract on the PFP

"You should have stuck to your original contract. Or your second plan. Or your third. You should, in fact, have stuck to something. Anything. Your total self-interest didn't make you strong. It made you a rag in the wind, anybody's to pick up." -- The Vor Game
News today reports that Chen Shui-bian, our energetic President, has signed a contract with James Soong, the head of the "opposition" People First Party (PFP). Lots of people are already complaining; after all, didn't we elect A-bian in part to keep that fox Soong out of the henhouse?

Before we get too upset at our President for signing a contract with that Peron-wannabe Soong and his faction of corrupt, power-hungry, Taiwan-hating mainlanders, let's recall that there are three major parties involved here, the DPP, the KMT, and the PFP. The DPP needs a deal to get a majority in the legislature, and while the KMT is for sale like any political party, the DPP cannot afford the price. On the other hand, the PFP is solely interested in power, and thus, belongs to anyone willing to bargain.

But what exactly did A-bian give up? He promised not to declare independence, stage any referendums, change the name of the country, and so on. Raise your hand if you really believed any of this was going to happen in the second term of a man whose country has hundreds of missiles pointed at it, whose senior military officers are apparently sympathetic to Taiwan's enemies, whose capital is essentially a territory of rival political party formally committed to the eradication of an independent Taiwan, whose major western ally, the US, is now a power clearly in decline (and which supports his political rival Soong), who gets no support at all from Europe eager to sell weapons to China, and who rules with a razor-thin majority atop a completely divided legislature. Yes, all those things were really going to happen in the next four years. I'll bet you also believe that the 2004 Florida vote count was kosher too.

No, essentially, A-bian is promised that he wouldn't do things he wasn't going to do anyway, in order to get cooperation from the PFP on some urgent political needs. No doubt this will last about as long as the triumvirate of Marc Antony, Octavian, and Marcus Lepidus, as two sides fundamentally opposed to each other stick it out exactly as long as interests are served. Fifteen minutes?

Once the smoke clears and tempers cool, A-bian's political acumen will once again be revealed. By signing a deal with the PFP, he has put another spike into the wedge between the KMT and the PFP. Loyal KMT cadres already hate Soong for selling out the KMT, and now here's another reason to hate him: a deal with Darth Vader himself, Chen Shui-bian. What is the real cost to A-bian? "Ink on a page" as one of my favorite TV shows once put it. Should an unlooked-for miracle occur and the opportunity for independence arise, does anyone really think that this contract will constrain Chen?

And let's not overestimate the real effects of this. Taiwanese political parties are notorious for their inability to impose discipline. The figures at the top can do what they like, but the bottom will crawl along as before: locally focused, gloriously corrupt, and contemptuous of the center as only Taiwan can be. Can the PFP really muster the kind of party discipline needed to make this deal go? Inquiring minds register doubt. Really, looking at what goes on in the legislature, I do not even know why Beijing would want this crazy island; they ought to be paying Taiwan to stay away.

So relax, and enjoy what promises to be an entertaining 15 minute partnership.

What should Taiwan do?

Marc Plumb wrote an informative letter to the Taipei Times on the EU drive to resume selling weapons to China.
For Taiwan, the upcoming trouble the US will have with Iran may push the Chinese navy to make a move to blockade Taiwan, not only to challenge those who support independence, but also to give the US more to deal with since China (and Russia) have partnered with Iranian oil interests. North Korea may complicate matters as well. Taiwan may end up having to fend for itself.
Between the suicidal violence of US policy, and the venal hypocrisy of the EU, Taiwan doesn't have much of a choice. With US power steadily eroding on its way to an (increasingly probable?) Argentina-style meltdown, what is the proper stance for Taiwan?

Even as we speak Japan is haltingly drawing closer to Taiwan, and this trend needs to be encouraged. Americans are apt to view the natural counterweight to China as Japan, but the reality is that China's main rival in Asia in the long-term is India. The region along the Himal, from Kashmir on one end to the tiny Himalayan states on the other, is one of the most explosive, though least remarked on, tinderboxes on earth. Taiwan, as I recommended many years ago, needs to be reaching out to India and developing it as a counterweight. This may sound like a bizarre recommendation but in dollar terms India's economy is only about twice the size of Taiwan's, and it is much less developed in many ways.

Perhaps, though, there is just no more time for a strategy like this. Time to bristle with missiles, folks.

A Morning Guffaw

A friend of mine sent me this hilarious blog entry about an important find in a used book store in Taichung.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Want some...Fried Rice? Need a cookbook title suggestion....

My wife, who translates cookbooks, got a doozy in the mail today. With names changed to protect the guilty, the book, written by an older woman who is a famous local chef, was entitled Mrs. Chen Teaches Fried Rice (Chen taitai jiao ni chao fan). For those of you who aren't up on the local slang, "fried rice' is slang for makin' the beast with two backs. For some reason, I feel urgently compelled to translate this title exactly, you know, like "Mrs Chen Teaches Home Cookin'" any suggestions for a comparable idiom?

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Mention My Name in Atlantis

You just never know when and how your name will turn up. I googled my name, just for fun, and found that people had posted emails I sent them and all kind of stuff, scary and stimulating and rewarding. I gave an international adoption site permission to use my pics, and they picked some nice ones. Meanwhile, a e-learning program in Canada has referenced my website as a source on how to teach. Several of my movie reviews are linked on other sites, especially my Lord of the Rings review, which many people have emailed me about. My Saving Private Ryan review also generates some links. Several people have written me about that as well. Interestingly, my review of The Thing, my favorite SF horror flick, made it on someone's list. Posts of mine at Infidels show up in forums, like this one, or as fodder for the arguments of others.

There's a moral here somewhere....

News Flash: Taiwan at Bottom of Environmental Index

The Taipei Times and other major newspapers reported the other day that Taiwan has perhaps the worst environmental record on the planet, ahead of only Stalinist North Korea. The findings were released by the Environmental Sustainability Index, a joint project of Yale and Columbia. Taiwan was a full 12 spots behind China, which is an empire of environmental disaster. The article had some nasty things to say about Taiwan:

Other analyses, however, show a sobering account of Taiwan's performance in environmental protection. When graphed to show its effectiveness in environmental sustainability relative to GDP per capita, Taiwan stands isolated in a very unfavorable zone on the chart, indicating that while national wealth can be a boost to environmental sustainability, Taiwan proves that it does not guarantee it. Taiwan's position is even lower when charted relative to its economic growth competitiveness, which the World Economic Forum last year placed at fourth globally.
The article cited a former EPA scientist named Winston Dang, now a legislator in Taiwan, whom I knew briefly in the early 1990s when I worked for one of the independence movements' offices in Washington, D.C. Dang "expressed reservations about the quality of the data," which among other things placed Iraq and China ahead of Taiwan. I thought I'd check out the methodology of the report, available on the ESI website above, to see if Dang was simply putting a brave face on things, or whether the numbers were really not as strong as they could be.

One thing that struck me is that the methodology gives great weight to vehicle density, which punishes Taiwan and rewards China. The list of variables not imputed was also interesting. It included the national biodiversity indirx, the percentage of country's territory in threatened ecoregions, threatened mammal species as a percentage of known ones (ditto for birds and amphibians), water quality -- suspended solids, freshwater availability per capital, internal groundwater availability per capita, generation of hazardous waste, waste recycling rates, percentage of country under severe water stress, productivity overfishing, salinized area due to irrigation as a percentage of total arable land, agricultural subsidies, and many others. It appears that a lot of these favor ranking China above Taiwan.

So perhaps there is something to Dang's comments after all.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


In the category of Civilization in Decline, you know those icchy paraffin-and-cardboard flavored mass market puddings, with disgusting brown syrup on top that looks like WD 40 with caramelized sugar added? Well, Haagen-Daz has a new flavor out....

World-record stinginess: My wife recently sold a poncho to a woman over the Internet for a whopping $11 -- that's NT, not US. The woman emailed her and asked her for four-digit password so she could transfer money directly to my wife's account without paying the usual $7 fee. One might suspect scam, but we do not appear to be the only be she has treated in this way. My wife graciously said she could just mail her $11 in stamps from the post office, but apparently that was just too troublesome. She eventually transferred in the $11 dollars.

Great weather! What's the story with Taipei this February? I was walking around on Chung Hsiao East Rd, and enjoying the site of all those bare midriffs well into the evening? If this is global warming, give me more!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Night Markets: Entertainment for the Working Class

My wife negotiates with a Night Market candy dealer

Night Markets like the one pictured above are a slowly vanishing form of entertainment for the working class. My Taiwan website has a collection of pictures of night markets from around the island, if you want to see more.
Two or three Saturday nights a month my wife and I take the kids to the night market near our house. It is a very small night market and resolutely working class. This kind of market is vanishing breed, however.

As Taiwan becomes more affluent, the night markets have started to bifurcate in response. The new middle class has, like all middle classes, developed upper class tastes and so disdains the traditional night markets as dirty and uncontrolled. The result has been a slow evolution toward night markets like this one in Keelung. Once a traditional night market with a pleasing anarchy of stands and sellers, it has become a lifeless touristy dump of identical storefronts where people show up in decent clothing (gasp!). Fortunately beyond the precincts of the government-mandated cookie cutter sameness the Stainless Steel Rats still hawk their wares in the traditional manner, from stalls with haphazard wooden tables piled high with second rate goods sold at inflated prices.

At the same time the traditional night markets like ours still survive, but only barely. Large parking lots suitable for night markets are steadily being gobbled up by the insane pace of development, turned into hideous apartment buildings or cookie cutter housing estates. Their low rents mean low revenues, while as the picture below shows, many of their wares are illegal and sooner or later will be the subject of crackdowns.

What kind of razors are these? Look closely; the eye can deceive.

Night markets have always been a unique aspect of local culture. When they are gone, I'll miss them greatly.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Chinese New Year

We're back!

We went to Hsinchu this Chinese New Year. My in-laws live in Taipei, which we hate going to because of the cold, rainy weather during Chinese New Year. Here we are gathering for another round of that most human of activities, eating with family.

We went up early to avoid the massive New Year's traffic, which paralyzes the roadways and increases travel times threefold. Later that day we went to Neiwan, a Hakka community in the mountains above Hsinchu.

I've made a page on Neiwan on my Taiwan website. After returning and eating a scrumptious dinner, this being Taiwan we enjoyed a round of calligraphy. My father-in-law has considerable painting and calligraphy skills. He decided to give us many of his old paintings.

Here he is hard at work.

Meanwhile, the kids sat around and watched the recent flick The Ice Age in Chinese, with Chinese subtitles. One of the interesting things about such movies is the built-in class structure of the dubbing. The serious leading characters, the sabertooth and the mammoth, were dubbed in Chinese with a Beijing accent, while the sloth, a buffoon, was dubbed in Chinese with a strong Taiwanese accent. The subtext was clear: people who speak in Taiwanese accents are stupid buffoons. This sort of thing is extremely common in the local society, where the media, in all of its multivariate aspects, continues to be a mainlander stronghold. In movies and TV, Taiwanese are lampooned for being vulgar, uneducated, yokels.

The Taipei Times report today that Chinese New Year is losing its appeal due to the pressures of money and family gatherings. It's just too expensive, and too much work. This year we did it potluck and paper plates. Next year.....maybe will skip it altogether, and get together the following weekend, when it isn't so crowded. It's silly that on a single day the entire island piles into a car and heads somewhere. Its high time we stopped running modern industrial states using the ideas of ancient fuedal agricultural societies. The world would be a better place....

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Driving and Land Use in Taiwan

Here a car speeds past a line of waiting cars and runs a red light.

One of the things that I want to do is use this Blog as a way to elaborate on the points made on my website. So without further ado, let's comment on some issues raised on my page on Driving in Taiwan. First, two perspectives, both common. This is from George Thompson's letter of a few days ago:

Driving habits offer another example. The driving situation here is not a matter of poor driving skills, but horrendous driving habits. The driving culture illustrates a near total lack of respect for the rules of the road as indicated in the number of vehicles that run red lights at high speeds.

The response from K. Avrom Medvedovsky, while generally excellent, wavered a little on this point:

How utterly common to hear a foreigner complaining about the driving habits of Taiwanese motorists. Yes, Thompson, the Taiwanese don't drive like the folks back home. Given the sheer density of traffic on this postage stamp-sized island, is it any wonder? Nevertheless, I've yet to see or hear about incidents of road rage in Taiwan in which guns are fired. As for people running red lights, clearly Thompson has never operated a car in Montreal, or Washington, or any other major North American city, where to venture off the sidewalk is to risk life and limb.

It is true that people in large North American cities occasionally run red lights, but they do not do so routinely, nor do police cars sit idly by while major traffic infractions are committed in front of them, as happens in Taiwan (see this pic of cars driving past a line of waiting cars and illegally entering the intersection ahead of everyone else as a police car watches for an example). There's no equivalency here between North American cities and Taiwanese drivers, as any Taiwanese or foreigner who has driven in both will aver. The fact that this perception is made by both sides ought to signal that it contains a strong component of reality. And I am sure that if you actually pressed Medvedovsky, he would agree. He's just pooping all over Thompson's whining newby horse manure, and more power to him!

Medvedovsky does make one on-target observation, and that is the high population and traffic densities. Let's draw this point out a little.

First of all, it is imperative to point out that high population densities are the result of deliberate choices made by government policy, both in population planning and in land use policy. In Taiwan in the 1950s and 1960s birth control and abortion were both difficult to access, as the Chinese Nationalists who were occupying the island wanted plenty of warm bodies to fill out their army to retake the mainland one day. As this fantasy faded, sensible population control policies asserted themselves. But the damage had already been done.

More important than this, however, is the land use policy that has done grievious damage to the island's living standards. Let's look at a picture of Taichung at dusk:

Notice anything strange about this picture? The taller buildings are very spread out across a wide area of the city. And more importantly, buildings of medium height are everywhere. A large American city, by contrast, has low buildings on the outskirts, with the height rising steadily until it reaches the center, where the buildings are tall indeed. An American city looks like an inverted funnel, while a Taiwanese city resembles an inverted box. Why is that?

In Taiwan, the government has insanely decided that the height of buildings shall be determined not by market forces but by government fiat. Thus, each street has a regulation that controls the height of the buildings that may be erected on that street. On some streets that is just three stories, others five, others 8, and so on. In economics this represents a quota, or a limit on the amount that can be produced. In Taiwan there is a government quota on the number of stories a given parcel of land can produce. This has a profound impact on nearly every aspect of Taiwanese life.

In the US, if the value of your land increases, you can whack down your current building and erect a new, taller one, because the value of the land determines the height of the buildings, not bureaucratic fiat. In Taiwan, no matter what happens to the value of the land, if you whack down a three story building, you can only put up a three story building. Therefore it makes no sense to knock down an existing building; there's nothing to be gained. Hence the large number of run-down, crappy, small buildings in the heart of expensive urban districts.

Because there is not enough space in Taiwanese buildings, residents are forced to engage in all sorts of illegal behavior just to obtain the requisite living space. Thus almost every building on the island has an illegal structure or two on top, as well as illegally built out balconies. Residents also are compelled to annex unoccupied space around their buildings and use it for their own purposes. Thus the customary rule that everything in front of a building or storefront belongs to that structure, including the public space.

A further problem caused by this is the sprawling cities of Taiwan in which greenspace is constantly gobbled up by developers to put up yet another block of hideously ugly and excrutiatingly identical three-story concrete pestholes.

What is the fallout for driving? Well, it's pretty obvious: too much space is devoted to buildings, and there is not enough for everything else that people need or want, like homes with yards, parks, golf courses, parking lots, and so on. This includes, of course, roads.Since the infrastructure does not take into account actual human need by either bureacratic insight or through market signals, the result is anarchy: high traffic densities that force drivers to park without consideration for the needs of others, and force them to enter intersections dangerously, and so on. Because too much space is given over to buildings, there is not enough for other needs.

Note that this is not a problem caused by Taiwan's small size, as both locals and foreigners are apt to claim. There is plenty of land in Taiwan, and nothing stops people from putting up mighty skyscrapers full of apartment buildings. That would create plenty of choices for everyone: tall buildings in the center of the city, for people who liked that lifestyle, and large homes in the suburbs, for people who liked that lifestyle, and the whole spectrum of choices in between. Here in Taiwan, though, everyone in urban areas gets the same two choices -- ugly short buildings, or cramped apartments in taller towers.

Certainly the drivers education and enforcement systems are daft here. Certainly people do not know the rules. Certainly there is no ethic of civil society that compels individuals to account for the needs of others. But the Taiwanese are not essentially evil or essentially stupid. None of the aforementioned can occur without that most basic of needs, space, being able to respond to the requirements of Taiwan's nascent civil society. And I fear that until it does, civil society will not be able to fully blossom on the Beautiful Island. As long as Taiwan's land use laws encourage an artificial density of human activity, it will not benefit individuals to behave as though civic society existed.

Why does this situation exist? Who benefits?is the question that needs to be asked. A quota, as any economist can tell you, benefits producers by driving up the price. Thus, land developers, construction companies, and cement firms are the primary beneficiaries. In other words, the Taiwanese get it coming and going: their houses are too small and poorly-constructed, and they pay too much for them. The exploitative land policy in Taiwan is solely the result of KMT greed. The land developers, cement companies, and other concerned businesses were either owned outright by the former ruling party, or by its good buddies. In the 1960s the cement companies got rich selling cement to the Americans for their imperial adventure in Vietnam. When that business disappeared, the government promulgated the Ten Great Infrastructure projects, which, not by coincidence, demanded mass quantities of cement whose producers, not by coincidence, were closely connected to the KMT. When these petered out the housing market was the natural target, and so the development boom began, fueled by the island's increasing affluence. Houses in Taiwan are built of concrete, not wood, favoring local cement companies, owned, of course, by friends of the KMT. Wooden houses are perfectly legal and you can build one if you like. The catch is, however, that the fire department won't certify it for fire safety, and without that certification, you can't get fire insurance, which means that you can't build the house. This informal trade barrier exists solely to protect the cement market in Taiwan, and the KMT's friends.

So next time someone cuts you off in traffic, reflect on the height of the buildings, and curse the KMT, and not the drivers in front of you.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Our New Cats!

On a personal note, we added two cats to our menagerie, which now includes two dogs, two cats, two birds, one fish, and two turtles, and innumerable geckos, spiders, and similar.

The Canonical Pattern for this Blog

I think I might post pics that I take in my daily life around Taiwan (I go everywhere with camera in hand), and then discuss them. See where it takes me.

The First Post!

I'd thought I'd start off my blogging with something really positive. One of the best things about teaching in Taiwan is shown right here: dinner with one's students. Here are Dennis and Mindy, two of my adult students from my night classes. Dennis came to me a couple of weeks ago to thank me. Seems he took inspiration from what he saw as my example of intellectual versatility, and though he had no background whatsover, enrolled in a biotechnology masters degree program. Hooray, Dennis! Every teacher should have such students, especially those who take him out. Let's hope, though, he doesn't emulate my eating habits too.....

The big thing lately in Taiwan has been the horrible case of "Little Sister Chiu." The poor girl was abused by her father and suffered severe brain injuries. Because of problems built into the system by the requirements of the national health insurance plan, the poor girl traveled from hospital to hospital in Taipei like Joseph and Mary looking for an inn. Rejected by all, she was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Taichung, where she received care, but died anyway. The case sparked the usual exchange of letters, with a still wet-behind-the-ears expat writing an indignant letter about how the case was typical of Taiwan, and an able reply from someone who actually knew their stuff.

The second paragraph of Thompson's letter stated:

"Having lived in Taiwan for close to three years I have noticed that service, accountability and responsibility are weak concepts here. More dominant is the desire to do what is easiest and best for oneself at the expense of others. We do not have to look to extreme cases to see that in Taiwan, "what can I get away with" seems to be the national creed. Three basic examples from daily life can demonstrate this point."

Here's a clue for future would-be commentators: if you are writing a letter to the newspaper, and you begin it with "Having lived in Taiwan for close to three years" just stop, tear up the letter, and toss it away. You don't know enough about local society to say anything intelligent, and all you will do is embarrass yourself, as well as provide further evidence to the locals -- as if any more were needed -- that Foreigners Really Are Stupid.

The interesting thing about the Little Sister case was the political fallout, which was nil, and the interesting example of Chinese political behavior it provided. The feckless Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou had a public cry over this case. Ma's Oscar-seeking performance came as he put off a trip to Australia to deal with the 'crisis' of the Little Sister case. In Chinese society, politicians crying is the equivalent of the American politician who poses with his family in the middle of a crisis: a cynical appeal to visceral emotion to generate a bump of sympathy and blunt further declines in public popularity. I suppose I shouldn't be amazed, but it still amazes me that anyone could believe this stuff. But then Ma is exceptionally pretty, and though totally lacking in spine and political judgment, he is at least intelligent enough to present an appealing public face.

Another interesting aspect of the case, sociologically, was the "scapegoating" aspects of it. In Taiwanese political culture major cases function as 'scapegoats' for public emotion, enabling cathartic release of them, without threatening the system with fundamental change. Little Sister's death was similarly used. Public anger was harmlessly vented over her treatment, while the need for such concrete, basic changes such as increased payments for health fees, enhanced auditing and oversight, restraints on hospital construction, medical staff dissatisfaction with the system, and other serious system problems do not receive public attention. In the meantime the public will continue to be teased and titillated by 'revelations' of the system incompetence, which will of course be laid to an individual doctor's judgment, just as every airplane crash is always the pilot's fault....