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Showing posts from April, 2010

Politics: Common Sense on Illegal Immigration = Temporary Worker Visa Program

It is easy to demagogue the issue.

As long as the disparity in economic opportunity is so great, illegal immigration to the USA is inevitable. There just is too many miles of borders to guard.

Thus, the sensible thing to do is provide a mechanism like temporary worker visas.

The people who want to work would be provided a means to be here legally and the employers who want to hire them won't have to break the law to have them on the payrolls.

That is the idea in this article which, in my opinion, is offering a pretty common sense approach to the issue.

Excerpts:In the early 1950s, Congress and President Eisenhower faced a similar challenge. The U.S. Border Patrol was making 1 million apprehensions a year. Congress and the president responded with more vigorous enforcement, but also a large increase in visas for temporary workers.

The result: Apprehensions at the border fell by 95%. Given the choice, low-skilled immigrants from Mexico chose by the millions to enter legally rather …

Devotional Thoughts: Do not be surprised at suffering

Image
image source: http://www.indianolapres.org/joomla/images/candles-big.jpg

1 Peter 4:12-19 ...

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.

When Peter wrote this, I wonder if he was thinking about the teachings of Jesus found in places like Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21?

Mark 13:9, But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.

But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

I also wonder to what extent the Apostles were familiar with each other's writings?

This verse reminded me of Philippians 3:10-11 where Paul believed he could in share in the sufferings of Christ and thus, like Christ be vindicated in resurrection, that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share…

Business: Would United's CEO Try the "Undercover Boss" Experiment?

Dear Mr. Glenn F. Tilton,

As the chairman and CEO of United, have you attempted what some are doing on the television show “Undercover Boss?”

Have you attempted to use one of your self-check in kiosks?

Have you worked along side the agents behind the counter?

I recently took two friends to LAX on the morning of April 28, 2010 and found a chaotic scene at the Terminal Seven United ticket counter. Though I’m not a frequent flier (once or twice a year), I do understand there is some amount of waiting involved but this scene was clearly out of control.

My question for you and your management team are the following:

Are your software engineers working on improving the self-check-in computer system such that less agent intervention aside from tagging the luggage is required?

On that morning, there was a long line to get to the check-in machines which we understand as many east-coast bound flights leave at that time. But what was frustrating was that upon using the self-check-in device, we q…

Economics: Cost of Health Care

One of the RR readers posted a link to this CNN.com article.

And certainly, the immediate reaction is outrage.

However, we have to think a second time and get beyond the initial reaction.

The startling number: surgery that costs $33,127 in the USA versus $2930 in the UK.

Taking a closer look ...

At the bottom of the article, it turns out the hospital misquoted the cost to the patient: "We inadvertently provided an incorrect quote for the consumer," a hospital spokesman wrote in an e-mail. "The actual procedure price was less than half of what we initially quoted."

The cost should have been at most $17,850.

The number is still quite striking (rounding-off) $15K vs. $3K.

Why does it costs more in the USA?

If I was the CNN reporter, I would check the following ...

The author points out: "If something goes wrong, you don't have the same legal recourse as you have in the United States."

How much additional cost is due to malpractice considerations?

The a…

Economics: How do you reform the banking industry?

Not an economist but as an observer of economic activity, here are some thoughts:

Is "too big to fail" here to stay?

Because of globalization and the size of big projects, super large banks are needed. There is still a place for your friendly small town banker for some activities but when you are financing multi-billion dollar projects with multi-national partners, you need a ginormous bank.

But the problem with "too big to fail" is that those banks will take risks because they know or think they know they will get bailed out if they get into trouble.

Is there a sweet spot where banks are big enough to conduct business on a global scale yet small enough that if one or two fail, it doesn't bring down the US or Global economy?

This item in Business Week says, let them fail and NOT letting them fail actually caused more chaos. Excerpt:

The driving premise offered is that investment banks such as Bear Stearns and commercial banks such as Bank of America (BAC), …

Economics: Wind Farms off Cape Cod

UPDATE: Wind farm greenlighted by Dept. of Interior.

Really didn't know what tag to put on this item. Economics? Politics? Culture?

Interesting piece at CNN.com about the wind farm project in Cape Cod.

And it appears after all the court cases, environmental impact reports and lobbying by both sides, it comes down to the Secretary of Interior to give the thumbs up or down on the project.

Excerpt:

The decision now rests in the hands of one man: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. He has the unenviable choice of cutting through nine years of regulatory red tape. He can greenlight the project or kill it.

For Salazar, the wind farm proposal is a perfect storm as well. It represents a collision of Interior Department priorities: green energy, Native American heritage and eco-concerns over fisheries and bird life.

The Cape will soon learn which is the top priority. Salazar has said he will make his decision by the end of April.

I don't envy his the decision he has to make!

Cape Wind Tr…

Food: Coq Au Vin

Am not as talented as Julia Child or as obsessed as Julie Powell but the chicken is marinating in the red wine and I can go to sleep and hopefully, tomorrow, something like Coq Au Vin will be for dinner.

If people knew the details, I'm not sure they would eat it!

Why you ask?

Bacon fat!

But I did pull the skin off the chicken!

Culture: Tax Day April 15!

How many Americans pay NO Federal income tax?

142 million.

For more numbers see here.

Now, in fairness, there are other forms of taxation which hits those who do not pay income taxes and the article points that out.

So what is the big deal?

Well, as a matter of principle, I think if something benefits all people than most if not all should help pay for it even if only very modestly for the lower income folks. I realize there are some people's income that is really low and they should have no Federal income tax burden. However, 142 million in a nation of 300 million seems like a lot of people!

And that is the point the article ends with:

As the number of refundable tax credits continues to grow, more and more tax filers are seeing the IRS as a source of income, not as a feared tax collector. That may be OK for the public relations department at the IRS, which now pays for ads nationwide touting its giveaways, but the nation needs the IRS to be a tax collector, not a welfare dispens…

World: Who has the bomb?

With all the activity in DC about containing nuclear weapons, I was wondering: who actually has "the bomb?"

This briefing sums it up.

Not surprisingly, the "big" powers that have veto power in the UN:
China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States

These have tested their weapons:
India and Pakistan

Never tested but universally believed to have them:
Israel

Nations of concern developed or developing nuclear weapons:
North Korea, Iran, Syria

Had weapons but gave them back to Russia:
Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine

Had weapons programs but gave up for various reasons:
South Africa, Iraq, Libya, Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan

Politics: MD shortage

MD shortage coming soon after years of fearing a glut of doctors.

I wonder if the roles of physician assistants and nurse practitioners will increase?

There will always be a need for doctors and their extra advanced training for the more complicated cases. But for a lot of routine health care, a PA or NP could do a excellent job and looks like that is already happening.

In light of the MD shortage, will their roles increase?

I would hope so!

Food: My pet microbes ...

My new hobby ...

Keeping a sourdough culture going in my refrigerator.

My first attempt yielded edible bread. Not too much sour taste though but very fluffy!

Plan to experiment in future batches by using whole wheat flour, rye flour and whole grains!

Politics: We may not agree ...

As a blogger with an opinion, I have to accept the criticisms, fair and unfair, that comes with this small piece of turf on the Internet.

I will continue to try my best to present reasoned discussions of the issues of the day and resist the temptation of shrill screaming style punditry.

I have to say it is challenging when some readers believe that being an opponent of the President's policies means your side consists of liars, belong to the KKK and advocate violence.

I wonder how many of the visitors to this blog looking for political discussion are on the political left, right and center? How many are interested in a thoughtful conversation? How many want to engage in "flame wars?" How many leave thinking that calm political debate is actually possible? How many conclude it is a lost cause?

I suppose one part of the problem in political debates these days is that one side can't accept that the other side might have honorable objections.

As for me and this blog, I…

Devotional Thoughts: Use whatever gift you have received to serve others

Continuing on ...

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

There is a branch of Biblical Studies called textual criticism. Since the Bible is so old, what we have are copies of the lost originals. From what I have heard, the copies are quite good for documents of such antiquity. Now, some, Bart Ehrman being most famous, feel it isn't good enough. Interestingly, his teacher, Bruce Metzger, who died a few ye…

Devotional Thoughts: Sabbath in the 21st Century

Previously, had some thoughts on Sabbath.
Excerpt:

Let us seek the wisdom of God and encourage each other to find practical ways to set aside time to differentiate Sabbath from the rest of the week and make it sweet and beautiful. Each of us has different life situations, so our Sabbaths won’t look alike, but each of us has a need to carve out time to cease, to stop and to rest so we can remember. Whatever it looks like for you, find the answer to this question: how shall we organize our time to serve the causing of remembering?

What are some of the things that you do to help yourself to rest and remember?

We all have different situations so there isn't a one-size fits all way to approach the practice of Sabbath.

For me, part of Sabbath is the typical idea of ceasing from work life, in my case, from Saturday sundown to Sunday sundown. Like most of folks, I work Monday to Friday but occasionally on Saturday for a few hours but not often. I sometimes check work emails or do "…

Politics: Tax Freedom Day, April 9

Tax Freedom Day!

Excerpts:
The answer this year is that taxes will amount to 26.89 percent of our income, and the stretch of 99 days from January 1 to April 9 is 26.89 percent of the year.

But if one factors in the annual deficit ...

If Americans were required to pay for all government spending this year, including the $1.3 trillion federal budget deficit, they would be working until May 17 before they had earned enough to pay their taxes - an additional 38 days of work.


I wonder what the numbers look like if one factors in the cumulative Federal Debt?

Am not an anarchist! I believe the government has a role in society. The questions are how big a role, is it doing a good job and is it being fiscally prudent?

I suspect many feel the answers are "too big," "no," and "no."

Devotional Thoughts: Easter Sunday - Maasai Creed

We believe that God made good his promise by sending his son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left his home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing that the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He was buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, he rose from that grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.

We remember.

Thanks be to God.

For more about the Maasai Creed, go here.

Devotional Thoughts: Holy Saturday

In the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, there is a prayer for Holy Saturday listed in the "Proper Liturgies for Special Days" section.

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the
crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and
rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the
coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of
life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Devotional Thoughts: Good Friday - Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, Gorecki

On this Good Friday Evening, as I reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, my thoughts turn to Gorecki's Symphony #3, Op. 36 also known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.

In the first movement, there is a lament of Mary (Mother of Jesus) written in the 15th Century at the Holy Cross Monastery in Poland.

My son, chosen and loved,
Let your mother share your wounds
And since, my dear son,
I have always kept you in my heart,
And loyally served you,
Speak to your mother,
make her happy,
Though, my cherished hope,
you are now leaving me.

Non-profit of the Month: March 2010 - Venice Family Clinic

Regardless of one's view of the newly passed health bill, I think we can all agree that there are folks who could use some help.

Thus, I'm directing a donation to the Venice Family Clinic.

Here is their story:

Mission
To provide free, quality health care to people in need.

History
Founded in 1970 in a borrowed storefront dental office, the Clinic has grown into the largest free clinic in the nation. Founder Phillip Rossman, MD, and co-founder Mayer B. Davidson, MD, called upon friends and colleagues to help. That spirit of volunteerism prevails today with more than 1,500 volunteers and $11.3 million in-kind contributions from hospitals, laboratories, specialty-care providers and pharmaceutical companies.

Programs and Services
The Clinic provides comprehensive primary health care, specialty care, dental care, mental health services, health education and child development services, as well as public insurance enrollment to more than 23,500 patients, including approximately 5,8…