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Is it true that the more things change, the more they remain the same?

by Ralph Heller

e finished 1997 with a revelation from medical authorities and researchers that a drink a day may be the best medicine of all for cardiac patients—but did you know that this had been figured out 43 years before modern medicine decided to tell you about it?

Dr. Walker Kempner of Duke University, among others, had long been fascinated by what would later become known as "The French Paradox." It seems that in those days on an actual per capita basis the people of southern France drank more booze than Americans, smoked more cigarettes than Americans and consumed more cholesterol than Americans—and, for good measure, exercised less than Americans—yet for some reason lived longer than Americans.

A few cardiologists like Dr. Kempner took this seriously enough to begin instructing their cardiovascular patients to have a drink a day—preferably red wine since they suspected that it was the daily consumption of red wine in France that differed most from the daily habits of most Americans. Now all we need to know is why it took modern medicine 43 years to undertake the testing necessary to validate those assumptions of a half century ago.

This is the way the world works, it sometimes seems, and two features in this issue of your favorite magazine underscore how little we often manage to accomplish even with herculean efforts and massive expenditures.

While Congress was dithering over the 1997 budget, something called "KidCare" materialized behind closed doors, setting in motion also a number of state programs that may or may not improve medical care for the nation’s uninsured children.

Nevada’s answer to KidCare is a plan called "Nevada Check-Up," which seems to have been developed in response to KidCare before the public even knew that KidCare existed. This sort of thing will happen in nations like ours, of course, where federal and state governments talk to each other while "neglecting" to report to the "governed."

In this issue Managing Editor Erica Olsen examines KidCare which she smilingly calls "Hillary-Care for Kids" because it materialized so mysteriously, not unlike the First Lady’s doomed national health care plan a few years ago. Yet there really are millions of children in need of health insurance and Ms. Olsen painstakingly lists for us the options available for meeting the challenge of insuring these children—and makes clear that Nevada Check-Up is not one of the more promising options.

Also in this issue is a "first" in Nevada journalism—an actual accounting of all education measures coming out of Carson City for the last 10 years, complete with a report of the current status of each and every measure and program. And at the same time, fortuitously, a teachers’ certification exam from a century ago seems to have surfaced in neighboring Downieville, California and I suspect you’ll enjoy NPRI’s report on the old test, along with a few of the questions yesterday’s teachers used to be asked.

So is it true that the more things change the more they stay the same? Certainly an unending stream of education reform measures in Nevada have accomplished little more than frustrating another generation of Nevada parents who are left gritting their teeth over what passes for education "standards" these days, and KidCare would appear to be nothing more than yet another of Washington’s overly costly and impractical ideas.

What invariably survives its own foolishness, of course, is the government bureaucracy that burdens us with bad ideas and measures in the first place. Last month in Japan, for example, bureaucrats from nations all over the world came up with a hundred ways to inconvenience you in the interest of a cleaner environment, blithely ignoring the fact that even today over half the world’s electricity is still generated by burning coal. Cut the number of coal burning generating plants in half and you’ll do more to clean up the earth’s atmosphere than all the trendy environmental plans to inconvenience consumers and motorists combined.

But it wouldn’t be as much fun, of course, and wouldn’t require such an enormous, bureaucratic empire to oversee the effort.

So tonight treat yourself to a glass of red wine, check out the alternatives to Washington’s bloated KidCare program, tell our education officials that you’d like to start using that century-old teachers’ certification exam again, make sure your power company has plans to switch from burning coal to some other generating fuel, and ignore most of what you find on the day’s newspaper editorial pages.

Oh, before I forget: Also last month Dutch archaeologists unearthed a 3,400-year-old bureaucratic center of the Assyrian civilization and found evidence of both bribery and womanizing.

   But no, despite your suspicions, that ancient Assyrian civilization developed along the banks of the Tigris River, not the Potomac. u

Ralph Heller is Senior Consulting Editor for Nevada Journal.


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