Mountain Views News, Sierra Madre Edition [Pasadena] Saturday, March 25, 2017

MVNews this week:  Page B:3



 Mountain Views News Saturday, March 25, 2017 


Mountain Views



Susan Henderson


Dean Lee 


Joan Schmidt


LaQuetta Shamblee


Richard Garcia


Patricia Colonello




John Aveny 


Kevin Barry


Chris Leclerc

Bob Eklund

Howard Hays

Paul Carpenter

Kim Clymer-Kelley

Christopher Nyerges

Peter Dills 

Rich Johnson

Merri Jill Finstrom

Rev. James Snyder

Dr. Tina Paul

Katie Hopkins

Deanne Davis

Despina Arouzman

Renee Quenell

Marc Garlett

Keely Toten


To understand the primary problem with the American health-
care system - cost and massive inefficiency are two major causes 
- it’s helpful to revisit a 1958 essay, “I, Pencil,” by Leonard Read.

A pencil appears to be a very simple, inexpensive tool. Read, 
however, explains that its production is incredibly complex.

The standard pencil begins when a cedar tree is cut down. Ropes 
and gear tug it onto the bed of a truck or a rail car.

But lots of people and skills are needed to mine ore and refine steel to produce the 
saws, axes and motors that fell that cedar tree.

Lots of people are needed to grow hemp, then transform it, through various stages, 
into the strong rope that pulls the tree onto a truck.

The logs are shipped to a mill and cut into slats. The slats are kiln-dried, tinted, waxed, 
then kiln-dried again.

How many skills were needed to produce the tint and the kilns, Read wondered. What 
about the electric power? What about the belts, motors and other parts at the mill?

The cedar slats are shipped to a factory. A complex machine cuts a groove into each. A 
second lays the lead into every other slat’s groove. Glue is applied. Two slats are sealed 
together as one, then cut into lengths that form pencils.

The lead alone is incredibly complex. To produce it, graphite is mined in Ceylon. The 
graphite is packed and shipped, then mixed with clay from Mississippi. It is treated 
with a wetting agent - such as sulfonated tallow, which is formed when animal fats 
chemically react with sulfuric acid.

The pencil receives six coats of lacquer. Lacquer has numerous ingredients, including 
castor oil. Think of all the chemists needed to create the lacquer - and all the castor-
bean growers needed to produce the oil that’s refined and shipped.

The brass end that holds the eraser in place is a marvel. Miners need to first extract zinc 
and copper from the Earth. Experts transform those materials into sheet brass, which 
is then cut, stamped and affixed to the pencil.

The eraser is made from “factice,” writes Read, a rubber-like product that is produced 
when rapeseed oil from the Dutch East Indies reacts with sulfur chloride.

An awe-inspiring amount of work goes into producing a pencil. Millions of people 
collaborate to produce it - millions ply their unique trades and skills - yet they have no 
idea they are collaborating.

The pencil, explains Read, is a triumph of human freedom - a triumph of creative 
human energies spontaneously responding to human necessity and desire.

Its efficient production is the polar opposite of the American health-care system.

Now that the government plays such a heavy role in health care - ObamaCare requires 
that each insurance policy cover 10 essential health benefits - it dictates what private 
insurers can and cannot do. Massive rules and regulations inhibit competition, which 
is the mother’s milk of efficiency and cost savings.

Our health-care system’s third-party payment system - private insurers or the 
government fund almost all health-care activities - detach consumers from the cost 
of the care they consume. Since consumers do not pay directly for most health-care 
services, few know or care what those services cost.

Read concludes his essay with this advice: The best thing our government can do is 
leave our “creative energies uninhibited” - remove the obstacles that prevent human 
creativity and innovation from flowing freely.

By removing such obstacles from our health-care system - by infusing free-market 
reforms - we could dramatically impact the cost and inefficiency problems and free up 
funds to provide care for the needy.

But any attempt to introduce free-market principles is met with cries that politicians 
are trying to hurt the sick and the poor. Thus, solving the health-care mess is not going 
to be easy.

I’m just thankful that our government hasn’t mandated “free” pencils for all. Pencils 
would cost a fortune.


Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood” and 
“Wicked Is the Whiskey,” a Sean McClanahan mystery novel, both available at, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist.

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 Both parties in Washington can’t stop going down their favorite 

 And the rest of us poor civilians from coast-to-coast and in-between 
have to watch – and suffer.

 The entire country has been poisoned by the constant “I hate you more than you hate 
me” bipartisanship from D.C., which throws around lots of charges and countercharges with 
virtually no solid evidence to back them up.

 Each party won’t stop digging their rathole.

 President Trump continues to insist that President Obama ordered surveillance of Trump 
Tower last fall.

 The liberal media openly scoffs.

 Democrats continue to insist that the Trump campaign and the Russian hackers colluded to 
defeat Hillary Clinton.

 The liberal media openly fans the sparks of that conspiracy, assuming and hoping it’s true. 

 When it comes to each of these dumb ratholes, it doesn’t matter what the latest scoops or 
opinions from CNN or FOX News are.

 It doesn’t matter what the next reckless Republican or Democrat congressman says is or is 
not true about the surveillance of the Trump Tower, the FBI, collusion with the Russians, the 
weather or anything else.

 Did some members of the Trump Team who were not named Flynn talk to Russians who 
may or may not have been spies or Putin cronies last year?


 Does it mean that a devious Trump-Russkie pact was made to wreck Hillary’s campaign – 
and successfully did so?

 Nope — and nope.

 Were President Trump and/or his transition staff the “incidental” target of data collection by 
American intelligence agencies last year.


 These days just about every human who emails, texts, tweets or talks on a phone to any 
foreign citizen about anything is surveilled by some federal agency or other.

 But that doesn’t prove – or disprove – that the president’s infamous “Obama ‘wiretapped’ 
Trump Tower” tweet is accurate.

 With each of these ratholes, it’s not “Where’s the beef?” It’s “Where’s the evidence?” 

Both sides are guilty. 

 Democrats want you to hate Trump. Trump wants you to hate Democrats, even though he 
was one for most of his life.

 Both sides are rolling around in this endless childish mud fight and we have to sit and watch 

 It’s sent the whole country into a permanent state of political disunion and argument.

Wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, golf and poker buddies, parents and kids – they’re all 
either arguing about politics or not talking to each other because of politics.

All it takes is the mere mention of the T-word – Trump – to ruin a dinner or a coffee break.

 It’s maddening and frustrating and it ticks me off to have to watch this crap.

Conspiracy theories have left the fringes of the social media and are now playing out live every 
day in Washington. Each is pushing their own conspiracy theory and we all have to suffer 
because of it.

 As for the Trump-Russian conspiracy theory, the Democrat dogs in Congress won’t ever let 
go of that bone.

 The lack of evidence or proof doesn’t matter to them. They’d be happy to hold hearings from 
now until November of 2020.

 President Trump can do his part to end at least half of the problem today.

 He can walk away from the whole Obama-wiretapping rathole and say, “Thanks for 
investigating, guys. Thanks for letting me know Trump Tower was not wiretapped by Obama, 
as I was led to believe.”

 Trump needs to accept the truth and publicly say, “Hey, the Democrats didn’t wiretap me.”

 And Democrats need to say, “Hey, there was no collusion with the Russians.”

 And then they both need to get on with the important business of fixing the country.


` Copyright ©2017 Michael Reagan. Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a 
political consultant, and the author of “The New Reagan Revolution” (St. Martin’s Press). He is 
the founder of the email service and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. 
Visit his websites at and Send comments to Follow @reaganworld on Twitter. 

 Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For info 
on using columns contact Sales at


The word of the day for Republicans is “unmask.”

 You heard it incessantly at the House Intelligence 
Committee hearings on Monday, and later on cable news. That 
single word is the Trump supporters’ answer to explosive news 
from FBI Director James Comey that the agency has been investigating possible 
collusion between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign. 

 Yet, among Republicans and Democrats questioning Comey, you would have 
thought you were hearing two separate hearings. Democrats focused on the epic 
charges of alleged election tampering, while Republicans spoke almost exclusively of 

 The unmaskee in this case is Michael Flynn, who briefly held the post of National 
Security Advisor under Trump until he was fired for lying about having conversations 
with the Russian ambassador. Flynn’s activities were uncovered by FBI surveillance 
and then made public in leaks to news media. 

 By Monday night, Trump aide Kellyanne Conway summarized the day’s hearings 
this way on Fox News: “The unmasking of an American citizen through intelligence 
leaks should concern everyone. We learned about that today.” 

 Period. No mention by Conway of collusion with the Russians. And no mention 
of the day’s other headline: that there is no information to support Trump’s wild 
accusation that Trump Tower was wiretapped by President Obama. 

 Over on CNN, left-leaning pundits insisted there was so much “smoke” in Trump’s 
dealings with Russia that there must be “fire.” But the Trump apologists on the panel 
only wanted to talk about the horrors of unmasking. 

 Trump has crafted a parallel universe for his followers. When bad news comes 
along––as it seems to with increasing frequency - Trump fires off wild tweets. 
Accusations in the tweets, no matter how farfetched, must, of course, be investigated. 
The investigation, naturally, is given equal weight with more serious matters - at least 
in the minds of Trump supporters. 

 And then, through artful marketing, a single word is invoked to grab the public’s 
attention. Unmasking! 

 Ironically, whoever leaked Flynn’s name is arguably a national hero. The Trump 
administration took no action to fire him, despite the president’s full awareness of his 
activities, until leaks made it impossible for Flynn to stay. 

 But on Capitol Hill we were reminded repeatedly by Republicans, led by Rep. Trey 
Gowdy, that such leaking is “a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.” 

 Meanwhile, Trump himself has already employed his favorite words, “fake news,” 
to dismiss the FBI’s investigation into his ties with Russia, even before the probe is 

 Trump and his staff have yet to prove they know much about governing. But they 
are forces to be reckoned with in the increasingly important war of words. 

Peter Funt is a writer and speaker. His book, “Cautiously Optimistic,” is available at and 

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