Monday, June 16, 2014

Et tu, Oklahoma!: Something To Consider: A Front Range Bypass

Et tu, Oklahoma!: Something To Consider: A Front Range Bypass

As it turns out, not only are other countries using canals for the transfer of water, but they're using them to create electricity as well. Here's the story:

So not only could we build our front-range canal to equalize the spring snow melt from the Rocky Mountains, but the land could be put to good use to generate electricity, which would help pay for the cost of the project. Since the entire system would be connected, it would provide an energy spine down the front range that would facilitate energy transfer as we upgrade the electrical grid - all while generating countless jobs. Sounds like a win-win situation, doesn't it?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Looking for the Right Health Care Reform

With the current Supreme Court hearings on the Affordable Care Act, I thought I'd repost one of my columns that was printed in the Edmond Sun on Dec. 29, 2009. Here's the link:


EDMOND — After months of hearings and haggling, Congress is in the final stages of reforming our health care system. Lawmaking has been compared to making sausage — combining perfectly good steak with other less desirable ingredients, then trying to pressure it through the legislative machinery. It’s not pretty, and we get the good with the bad, but that’s the way the process works.

There’s no question we need health care reform. Americans pay more than twice as much for health care per person as in other industrialized countries, and that cost is growing three times as fast as wage increases. But what do we get for our money?

We’re 50th in the world in life expectancy, just ahead of Albania. Our infant mortality rate is higher than in other Western nations. Sixty-two percent of all bankruptcies filed in 2007 were linked to medical expenses, even though 80 percent of those who filed for bankruptcy had health insurance. We spend more than a thousand dollars per person per year on medical paperwork and overhead alone, more than three times as much as in Canada. And for all that, we leave 45 million people without any coverage at all.

How did we get in this mess? In 1900 there was no such thing as health insurance. Medical care was paid for through barter or out of your own pocket. In today’s dollars that averaged about a hundred bucks a year. Now we spend $3,000 a year on health care per person.

When hospitals faced empty beds and unpaid bills in the Depression, Baylor Hospital administrator Justin Kimball developed a plan under which teachers could prepay for hospitalization. Within a year, 75 percent of Dallas teachers had enrolled; soon, other employers began offering such benefits as a recruiting incentive. Private health insurance coverage grew from 9 percent in 1940 to 70 percent in the 1960s. An entire insurance industry has mushroomed around the idea.

But times have changed. Today the percentage of Americans with health insurance provided through their employers is 56 percent and falling. To mandate that burden on all employers with penalties, as current legislation proposes, will be difficult to sell.

Republicans, and now Sen. Joe Lieberman, balk at the idea of having a public option to private coverage. Medicare and Medicaid are both “public options” of sorts, and help moderate the cost of health care. But the insurance lobby has a lucrative product and they don’t want to lose it.

Howard Dean is right — the current proposal working its way through Congress will be a victory for the insurance industry, not everyday Americans.

Good health care shouldn’t depend on the wealth of the patient. The cost of heart surgery is the same for rich bodies and poor ones. Why should a wealthy person have access to it and a poor person should not?

People have no more right to medical care than they do, say, to highways. But the government builds highways and bridges for everyone to use because it benefits all of us. When we buy a car, our choices are governed by our wealth. You only buy a Lexus if you can afford it. But luxury cars and clunkers share the same highways, where equal access is guaranteed to all.

The same principle should apply to health care.

I once listened to a radio personality named Rush Limbaugh. Before his prescription drug abuse problems surfaced, he once said his health care solution was to simply pay cash for routine doctor visits. He said it really didn’t cost that much, and was easier than dealing with the insurance paperwork. He’d save his health insurance for catastrophic care.

I hope you’re sitting down. For once, I agree with Limbaugh.

Instead of expanding a system that doesn’t work, let’s wean ourselves from our addiction to health insurance. Let people pay for everyday medical expenses out of pocket. We should expand Medicare and Medicaid and SCHIP to cover all Americans, employed or not, for catastrophic illnesses that would cost more than, say, $10,000 a year. In turn, employers would pass along the premium savings to their employees. The healthier we lived, the less we’d need to visit the doctor, and the more of that we’d pocket or spend on other bills. The added income would generate higher payroll taxes to help cover the cost.

The issue of abortion coverage would disappear because first trimester abortions usually cost under $1,000. Almost all plastic surgery also would be excluded. If that’s what you want to spend your money on, go ahead — but don’t expect the rest of us to pay for your implants.

I’ll leave it to smarter people like my friend Mickey Hepner to figure out the details. But spreading the catastrophic care costs across all taxpayers would make the system more manageable. Risks would go down, and more people would bear the responsibility for healthier lifestyles. Health care providers would focus on providing better outcomes instead of simply running more tests for the sake of profiting from them.

We need health care reform. But we need the right type of health care reform. Simply saying no isn’t the answer. Simply saying yes to the health insurance industry isn’t either.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Final Battle

In October 2004, Osama bin Laden issued one of his famous videotapes in which the head of al Qaeda said his group's goal is to force America into bankruptcy.

Bin Laden had not been heard from in almost three years. Posted just before election day, the video was clearly directed at an American audience that was facing a decision - continue with the status quo, or reverse course with new leadership. The CIA had just reported that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, placing in doubt the credibility of President Bush's decision to invade Iraq. The number of U.S. casualties had topped 1,000, the Abu Ghraib atrocities were front-page news, and a new government in Iraq gave a glimmer of hope that American forces should and would be coming home soon.

Bin Laden's missive gave Americans even more to consider. "We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah," bin Laden said. He said his fighters did the same thing to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, "using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers."

"We, alongside the mujahideen, bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat," bin Laden said.

He also said al Qaeda has found it "easy for us to provoke and bait this administration."

"All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations," bin Laden said.

As part of the "bleed-until-bankruptcy plan," bin Laden cited a British estimate that it cost al Qaeda about $500,000 to carry out the attacks of September 11, 2001, an amount that he said paled in comparison with the costs incurred by the United States.

"Every dollar of al Qaeda defeated a million dollars, by the permission of Allah, besides the loss of a huge number of jobs," he said. "As for the economic deficit, it has reached record astronomical numbers estimated to total more than a trillion dollars.

"It all shows that the real loser is you," bin Laden said. "It is the American people and their economy.""It all shows that the real loser is you," bin Laden said. "It is the American people and their economy."

The total U.S. national debt, now over $14 trillion, was more than $7 trillion in 2004. The U.S. federal deficit in 2010 was almost four times as much as it was in 2004. Our unemployment rate rose from 5.4% in October 2004 to 9.2% today.

Now, Osama bin Laden is gone. Good riddance. But his legacy lives on. For our national leaders are now embroiled in a battle over whether to raise the national debt limit, to accommodate the hemorrhage of red ink of the past decade, or dive into the untested waters of default.

Most economists agree that the ramifications of default are catastrophic. An unprecedented downgrade of the nation's creditworthiness could send shock waves through markets around the world, raise interest rates and fuel inflation at home, and gut the struggling economic recovery.

It is no longer a question of how the crisis will be averted. Whether spending will be cut, Social Security or Medicare are trimmed, or taxes are raised, the common denominator is that the debt limit must be raised. Everyone wants their pet preference pampered. Everyone wants to be able to crow to their constituents that they solved the problem. That's great re-election fodder. But it's selfish, and doesn't help the common good.

Those who push us to the precipice are in fact fulfilling the prophecy of Osama bin Laden. He and his minions would love nothing more than to see our economic collapse. For that, the stage has been set. While bin Laden is not entitled to all the credit - we injured ourselves by allowing the mortgage industry to run unchecked - we spent billions on an unnecessary war in Iraq and are achieving limited success in Afghanistan chasing the Taliban.

The President is ready to strike a deal to extend the debt ceiling. As he said in his press conference on July 22, he's been left at the altar more than once. However, Republican negotiators have repeatedly walked away from the table, failing to reach an accord to avert this calamity, always coming up with an excuse as to why they cannot say yes and follow through on a commitment.

Nobody ever gets everything they want in a negotiated settlement. Everyone must give in order to reach a deal. But some extremists on the right have taken rigid pledges that they'll vote for no new taxes - a pledge that sounds great, but in reality is naive. It ties their hands and prevents them from having the necessary flexibility to deal with the facts before them. There is no single solution; what's needed is a balanced approach to stem the tide, and some are too bound to dogma to be of any help. There will always be time to revisit those issues. But here and now, we need to avert this crisis and extend the debt ceiling.

By their actions, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and their Tea Party compatriots do nothing less than give aid and comfort to al-Qaeda. As each minute slips by, as the August 2 deadline draws near, al-Qaeda's remaining leaders keep their fingers crossed that their unwitting allies, the Republicans, will stand their ground and bring America to its knees.

Let's hope sanity will prevail. Heaven help us all if it does not.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Something To Consider: A Front Range Bypass

Heavy rains in the Midwest this spring have pumped historic volumes of water down the Mississippi River, headed for the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. Corps of Engineers in May opened floodgates into Louisiana's Morganza Spillway for the first time since 1973 to prevent flooding in New Orleans and other riverside cities.

Now, folks in the Missouri River basin, where the Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska and other states are either under water or bracing for flooding from record rains and melting snow in the northern Rocky Mountains. The Corps is urging people living along the river to once again make evacuation plans.

It's a dance that's been repeated for centuries. But, as cities grow along their banks, the consequences grow as well. Everyone wants a view of the water, just not in their living rooms.

Much of the problem is not with the Mississippi River itself, but with her tributaries. They cannot discharge their regular flows into the Mississippi because the water level of the Mississippi is so high, so streams back up into urban neighborhoods and overflow their banks.

Meanwhile, western Oklahoma and Texas continues to suffer from drought and fire danger. Is there a way to bring balance to this natural imbalance?

The Mississippi River is the world's third-largest watershed, funneling runoff from 41% of the nation's land area from the Continental Divide to the Appalachian Mountains. The Corps has spent decades trying to understand it, and speculating on what combination of factors would create the greatest calamity downstream. As levees are built, and rivers (including the North Canadian River through Oklahoma City) are channelized and developed, the Corps' challenge is constantly changing. Add global warming and amazing climate fluctuations, and the best-made plans of these engineers are questioned and reviewed.

Three-fourths of the basin's land area is between the Mississippi and the Continental Divide. The Great Plains have fed the nation, and the water to grow those crops in the semi-arid plains has often come from water wells tapping the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest underground water sources in the world.

Runoff from the Rocky Mountains either flows above ground, to the Mississippi, or below ground into the Ogallala Aquifer. It's essentially a massive lake ranging from a few feet to more than a thousand feet deep, depending on the depth of the ancient surface below. As the Rocky Mountains eroded, sediment washed into the ancient lakebed to the east, filling in the valleys with more porous material burying the water. We have mined, in effect, over 250 million acre-feet of water from the Ogallala in less than two centuries. At the rate we're going, some estimates indicate it will dry up in the next couple of decades.

The U.S. Geological Survey reports that about 27% of the irrigated land in the United States lies over the aquifer, which yields about 30% of the nation's ground water used for irrigation. The aquifer also provides drinking water to 82% of the people who live above it. When you fly from Oklahoma City to Denver, you can see round circles of green; those are fields watered by center-pivot irrigation wells tapping into the Ogallala.

So, is there a way to detour floodwaters bound for the mighty Mississippi, and store that precious liquid in the Ogallala?

The Rocky Mountains, of course, form a spine running from Canada into Mexico; rainfall on the east side of the Continental Divide flows toward the Mississippi, through rivers like the Missouri, the Arkansas, the Canadian and the Red. The terrain gradually slopes from Denver, a mile above sea level, toward the Mississippi. If you look at a topographic map, the gradient lines run evenly from north to south. Lubbock in the south at 3,241 feet is as high above sea level as Rapid City, some 850 miles to the north.

So what would happen if we did what our grandfathers used to do, but on a grander scale, and terrace the Great Plains? What if we carved a huge trench, running 1,200 miles from South Dakota's Black Hills down to the Pecos River in Texas, which flows into the Rio Grande? Through a series of gates, water flow could be controlled and diverted into the myriad of rivers that cross the Great Plains, including the North and South Canadian, the Arkansas and the Red that flow through Oklahoma. With smart engineering, excess water flow from the Rockies can be redirected into drier territory, bringing new life to the western Great Plains and providing a source of replenishment for the Ogallala.

What's neat about this concept is that forecasters have considerable lead time in which to act. If the Rockies receive above-average snowfall, engineers can detour some of the melting snow in the spring so the east-bound rivers can maintain an appropriate flow of water. Or, if North Dakota is hit with heavy rains causing flash flooding, water flowing into the Platte River in South Dakota can be reduced so that, by the time the two meet around Omaha, flooding can be minimized from that point downstream.

Such a huge venture wouldn't be impossible. The Suez Canal and the Panama Canal were massive engineering projects over relatively short distances. The California Aqueduct which waters southern California is over 700 miles long, pumping water over numerous mountain ranges. They're all much more sophisticated than this overflow canal would need to be.

Instead, think of China's Grand Canal. It was begun over 1400 years ago to transport grain to Beijing and control flooding. Instead of flowing downhill, it connects five river systems parallel to the coastline, with an elevation change of about 100 feet over its 1,115 mile length.

At the north end, the American canal could begin in the natural basin created between the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Laramie Mountains of Wyoming, along the North Platte River. At the south end in Texas, the canal could feed into the Colorado River or Pecos River, both of which are important water supplies for both agriculture and urban centers in south Texas.

One of the beneficiaries would be the 48,000-acre Lugert-Altus Irrigation District in southwestern Oklahoma. Begun during World War II, the project includes more than 300 miles of concrete canals that bring water from Lake Altus-Lugert to cotton, peanut and alfalfa farmers in the region, as well as municipal water for Altus. During times of drought, the lake level drops so low that visitors can see the foundations of buildings of the old town of Lugert in the lakebed.

Usually the lake builds up water reserves through July 4, which begins the irrigation season in the region. But western Oklahoma's drought is taking its toll; as of May 11, the lake was less than 48% full, 20% below where it was this time a year ago. It could be argued that some of the water that could be filling Lake Altus-Lugert is flooding homes and farms in Memphis at this very moment.

The canal wouldn't be intended to carry freight; it wouldn't become a noodle of a lake, either. The main purposes would be to move water north and south when the need is greatest, and to recharge the Ogallala Aquifer whenever possible.

The cost? I have no idea. But it would be less than the cost of the damage being done along the Mississippi River today. It would bring new life to the western Great Plains, which would stimulate economic productivity. And, it would employ a lot of people who need jobs as we struggle to recover from this recession.

Smarter people can come up with the details. But it's a project worth considering.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Sally Kern's Rant

Controversial State Representative Sally Kern has done it again. This time she's disparaged African Americans and, incredibly, even women, of which she is one. In particular, she asserted that women don't work very hard because their minds are on their children and their families (as if men's minds are not) and that "people of color" are lazy and don't work hard. (No mention was made as to whether people who are not "of color" are sometimes lazy as well, as if only African Americans bear that inherent trait.)

Some have called for her resignation, or at least a reprimand from her peers and supporters. Neither is likely; indeed, as Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice said, "I know of no instance in which a fellow Republican has ever condemned her."

Rep. Kern has a habit of speaking her mind. She drew nationwide attention when she said, a few years ago, that gays pose a bigger threat to America than al Qaeda. This time, instead of a conservative Republican forum, she spoke on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

I don't think Mrs. Kern should be vilified for expressing her opinion. She is, after all, entitled to it. In a nation that cherishes freedom of speech, we should make sure she has every opportunity to speak her mind. Let everyone clearly know how she thinks, what she believes, and why she votes the way she does.

And let the Republicans, who control the House, the Senate and the Governor's Office, stand behind her. Let it be clear that she is one of them, a spokesperson for their cause.

Then let the voters reject such nonsense on Election Day.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Google: Welcome to Oklahoma!

Google continues to invest in innovative sources of alternative energy, and that brings the California cash machine all the way to Oklahoma.

Through its subsidiary Google Energy LLC, the search engine giant recently announced a deal to buy electricity from an Oklahoma wind farm to power its new data center near Pryor. The $600 million facility is one of four developed by Google in the past four years. It's located on the 9,000 acre Mid-America Industrial Park, the largest rural industrial complex in the nation, and is expected to open later this year.

Google's electricity doesn't actually go directly from the wind generators to their data center, 180 miles away. But the electricity enters the grid and effectively substitutes a megawatt of electricity for every megawatt of power it draws down for its data center in Pryor. The result is a "greening" of Oklahoma's power grid and another move away from carbon-based energy sources for Oklahoma's economy.

Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources is developing the 100.8 megawatt wind farm near Minco, between Oklahoma City and Lawton. NextEra has the largest collection of wind farms in North America, generating 8.3 gigawatts of power. They already have more than 300 wind turbines in this state, enough to power over 137,000 average homes. But this 20-year contract with Google will keep energy flowing toward Google's servers, which draw huge quantities of power.

Google operates over one million servers in data centers around the world, and process over a billion search requests every day. IT and telecommunications facilities like Google's account for about 120 billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year, about 3% of all U.S. electricity use, according to the Energy Department. The current rapid growth in this industry would require the construction of two new large power plans a year just to keep pace - or alternative investments like wind power. (Google is also installing solar panels in California to provide up to 1.6 megawatts of electricity, enough to meet 30% of the energy requirements of their California corporate headquarters.)

The Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA), which powers Mid-America, has total production capacity of about $1,728 megawatts. Because over half of GRDA's power comes from hydroelectric and natural gas powered facilities, it is able to keep its cost per kWh down to $.0528 for industrial users (2009 figures). The average cost in the United States is 62% higher, and that was clearly a factor in attracting electricity-guzzling Google to the plains of Pryor. (Right to work, by the way, had nothing to do with it.)

Google is clearly sensitive to criticism from environmentalists about the amount of energy it consumes. Besides receiving sales tax and property tax incentives from state and local governments, Google persuaded the Oklahoma legislature to pass a law allowing municipal power companies to not report the power usage of their largest industrial customers. As a result, the local utility in Pryor doesn't have to disclose the amount of Google's energy usage. Now, Google has the additional argument that it is offsetting their massive power consumption with green energy. That lack of transparency may not reflect well on the company that has done so much to make information readily available to all.

This is the second such investment for Google Energy. Last year they invested $38.8 million in two NextEra wind farms worth 169.5 megawatts in North Dakota, buying a 20% stake in the project. They also bought 100 megawatts of Iowa wind energy from NextEra on a 20 year contract, near their Council Bluffs data center. Google Energy is also an investor in a project to build the Atlantic Wind Connection, an underwater cable network off the Atlantic coast designed to connect future offshore wind farms with on-shore transmission grids.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) now has authorized Google to buy and sell electricity on the wholesale market. Although Goggle expects to primarily power their own facilities, hundreds of large industrial consumers like Alcoa and Walmart have similar market-based rate authority.

All this reminds me of how the railroad barons in the 19th century fueled expansion across the United States. Cornelius Vanderbilt made a fortune in steamship lines, beginning with a ferry service between Staten Island and Manhattan when he was 16. By 1864 he'd sold all his steamships and concentrated on railroads. At the time of his death he was worth the equivalent of about $150 billion in today's currency. He and his competitors, folks like Jay Gould, invested millions in expansion of the railroads. Although ruthless business characters (and I'm not implying that the folks at Google share the same personality shortcomings), these capitalists made it possible for westward expansion to succeed. And, while the federal government helps by creating incentives, the dollars come from private hands.

The point is, somebody has to be on the front line, making the investments to bring down the cost of doing business. What Vanderbilt did with railroads in the 1800s, Samuel Morse did with the telegraph, AT&T did with telephones, and Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did with computers, now Google is doing for alternative energy. It's a critical step in the transition from carbon-based fuels to renewable energy. With lots of wind energy, Oklahoma's in a great position to benefit from the extra jobs and spending in the local economy.

Welcome, Google! And welcome, Oklahoma, a step closer to the 21st century!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Cards

January is here.

Now behind us is the annual barrage of obligatory Christmas gifts, visits to relatives, eggnog and other indulgences, and holiday decorations. Except for those who celebrate Epiphany and the twelve days of Christmas, the ho-ho-ho-ing is history for another year.

Part of the holiday season is the annual ritual of Christmas cards. It seems like we send them for a variety of reasons to a variety of people, but almost everybody has sent Christmas cards at one time or another.
The first commercial holiday greeting cards were produced in 1843 in England; the tradition came to America in 1875. They have varied from simple to fancy, religious to sacrilegious, sometimes with expensive foil or cut-outs or fold-outs - but what should be most important is the sentiment attached.

I don't know how many Christmas cards I sent out this year, but it seemed like a lot. Most, of course, go to family members scattered across the country, many of whom I haven't seen in far too long. I don't expect to be in their wills, nor will they be in mine, but it seems they should know we do still think of them from time to time.

Other cards go to friends and acquaintances, some close and others I'd like to know better. There's a feeling of guilt if you don't include your friends on your Christmas card list. "Hey, I didn't hear from you this Christmas," they may say next year. "Is everything all right? Have I offended you in some way last year?" For some folks it's an offense to be dropped from someone's Christmas card list.

A few went to groups of people with whom I have worked in past years. I'm sure they sat in an office somewhere, prettying the place up along with cards from board members and paper vendors. I know they seem impersonal, but it's an efficient way to say "hello" to a cadre of acquaintences all in one envelope.

I suppose I sent a card to some individuals, hoping to guilt them into renewing our friendship a little more. "Hello! Remember me?" Maybe it seems like it's their turn to call or write for a change. You'd think the least they could do is send an email every once in a while. That is undoubtedly the wrong reason to send a Christmas card to someone. On the other hand, I'm sure I've forgotten to send cards to some very good people over the years, just through carelessness. In the grand scheme of things, there's probably a perfect balance of friends who deserve a card and those who don't.

From what I understand, Christmas card sales are down this year. The Chicago Tribune reported the percentage of consumers purchasing Christmas greeting cards fell from 77 percent in 2005 to 62 percent in 2009. An estimated 1.8 billion Christmas cards were mailed last year, but the number was expected to drop to 1.5 billion this season, the report said.

One reason is the increased use of Facebook, texting and other electronic means of communication in our society. It's easy to email blanket holiday greetings to all your friends on Facebook, knowing that covers a good percentage of people you'd otherwise bless with a Hallmark card. Another reason is the ever-rising cost of postage, a moot point on the Internet.

Still, there's something nice about getting a tangible Christmas card from your friends. It's a warm fuzzy. You know, at least for a few seconds, they thought about you before moving on to someone else on their list. I guess Santa Claus has the same problem with his list every year.

My best friend and his wife in Washington always send a Christmas letter and a family photo, outlining what they and their four boys had done during the year. It's a way of vicariously staying close, even though we're 2,000 miles apart. Somewhere around the house I think I have kept all the letters they've sent in the 23 years they've been married. Maybe one of these days I'll aggregate them in one place. Yeah. One of these days....

My family never got into the idea of professionally printed Christmas cards. It just didn't seem right. My mother would spend weeks in November and December, addressing envelopes and writing personal notes to loved ones. We checked the incoming mail daily to see from whom we had received a card or letter. We'd chuckle at our "rich" relatives whose names were printed on their cards, as if they couldn't take the time to put pen to paper for a few seconds.

An aunt and uncle in Minneapolis always included a hand-written letter about how much snow they'd already received and what they'd been doing at church. She wrote the first 80% of the letter and he added a few lines at the end, usually summarizing what his wife had already written. Getting those cards and letters was all a part of Advent in our family.

While I was going through my late parents' belongings, I found neat bundles of Christmas cards my mother had saved, going back decades. Some of the names I didn't recognize - their friends from church or distant relatives from before our time, most now long gone. In the simple act of saving and treasuring them, it was clear those cards had sentimental value for my parents. It was a way of saying hello, we're thinking of you, we wish you well. And that, after all, is what wishing someone "Merry Christmas" is all about.

I don't think I'll throw them away.