Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Friday, April 23, 2004

Canterbury Tales - From the Prologue.

WHEN that Aprilis, with his showers swoot,
The drought of March hath pierced to the root,
And bathed every vein in such licour,
Of which virtue engender'd is the flower;
When Zephyrus eke with his swoote breath
Inspired hath in every holt and heath
The tender croppes and the younge sun
Hath in the Ram his halfe course y-run,
And smalle fowles make melody,
That sleepen all the night with open eye,
(So pricketh them nature in their corages);
Then longe folk to go on pilgrimages,
And palmers for to seeke strange strands,
To ferne hallows couth in sundry lands;
And specially, from every shire's end
Of Engleland, to Canterbury they wend,
The holy blissful Martyr for to seek,
That them hath holpen, when that they were sick.
The first 42 lines of T. S. Eliot's The Wasteland
.
APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
Frisch weht der Wind
Der Heimat zu.
Mein Irisch Kind,
Wo weilest du?
'You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
'They called me the hyacinth girl.'
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Od' und leer das Meer.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Launch Begins of Space-Time Experiment. Really cooler article . (I fixed the link, and got a picture in the bargain.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Post-Modern Management
An exchange

Carol started it by sending an email with the following excerpt:

GEN-X STRIVES FOR LIFE, NOT A LIVING
In the next couple of decades, what's described as perhaps "the most media-literate, sophisticated and cynical generation ever," will take over the reins of power, and the corporate world may be in for a wild ride.
Generation X, raised in an era of massive layoffs and restructuring, isn't interested in company loyalty -- it views work as a transaction where short-term payback is sought. It also tends to distrust hierarchy and formal authority, and confers respect based on merit, not status.

The conundrum for businesses is that the very people most able to adapt to change, who are eager to learn and immerse themselves in new experiences, are also those least likely to want to work in traditional arrangements. So what's a manager to do? Review your company policies and revise them to be as flexible as possible. Make it easy for people to come back if they decide to leave. Accommodate your worker's preferences for location, including offering telecommuting options.

And managers themselves will have to change, too. "What we are demanding of managers has to evolve," says an independent human capital analyst. "The emphasis in management will have to shift from one of ensuring compliance to one of communicating direction, facilitating problem solving and building commitment." (Toronto Globe and Mail 31 March 2004)

To which I reponded:
Not a surprise at all. Much of my job with InterVarsity is managing post-moderns. And, I am a post-modern who is currently managed! I would say, in regards to managing post-moderns (which includes the so-called "GenXers"), that the manager needs to be "for" them. So, it's not so much "managing" as it really is "pastoring" them. That is, in part, what the article is talking about when it says, ". . . communicating direction, facilitating problem solving and building commitment." I think that, managers who are Christians,and whom allow their obedience to Christ to infect their managing, do this intuitively.

Does this mean that managing a post-modern doesn't ever "lay down the law" when it comes to corporate policy? No. But it does mean that, when explaining/enforcing company policy, one continues to be "for" the employee, helping them to understand the "why" of the policy (not just, "because I'm the boss, that's why"), exploring with the employee the effects of the policy on the employee, and being willing to re-visit the policy (or engage the powers-that-be over the policy) if there is injustice or not enough room for grace within the policy.

I think that managing post-moderns for the long-term benefit of the company and the employees has a couple of implications. I agree that one ought to "Review your company policies and revise them to be as flexible as possible." But the truth is that the philosophy behind many company policies is to shield managers from messy/difficult managerial situations.

My intuition is that companies have inflexible policies because:
A) managers don't want to/don't have time to deal with gray areas in personnel management. (I would argue that there are few places in personnel management that aren't gray.) It takes a depth of character to work through gray areas of policy and personal issues well. It takes emotional and intellectual engagement. That's tiring. It's much easier to say, "dems da rules."
B) companies don't trust their managers to be competent to deal with gray (probably because they've hired incompetent managers!), and the company is "protected" from this by it's ironclad policies. Managers then don't have to manage, they just have to enforce the rules.

So, in order for a company to seriously "Review your company policies and revise them to be as flexible as possible," in any meaningful way, there's got to be a willingness to hire and have managers to deal with gray. This is not a chicken/egg connundrum, it's simply a "both/and" issue. You've got to do both at the same time.

For most post-moderns (myself included), the world is almost all shades of gray. We don't see very much black/white, and seriously mistrust anyone who does. What we do see and value are relationships. Which brings us back to managers who must be "for" their employees.

It's hard for me to conceive, as a post-modern, how one would ever manage anyone other than the way I'm trying to describe. I don't think that post-moderns have the corner on this market of how-we-want-to-be-managed, but I do think that, as opposed to "moderns", we have far less patience for institutions that are only black/white.


Walter responded:
I appreciate sociology and terms and the like but aren't they describing youth in general?

"it views work as a transaction where short-term payback is sought. It also tends to distrust hierarchy and formal authority, and confers respect based on merit, not status"

Couldn't that just as well have described the baby-boomers in the sixties?


Paul added his two cents:
That's where the GenX generation got it.

And then I piled it back on:
Yes and no.

In terms of "short-term payback," yes, in my opinion, we're talking about the general short-sightedness of youth. (Present company excluded, of course.)

In terms of "distrust hierarchy and formal authority, and confers respect based on merit," yes, this did describe baby-boomers in the sixties. But while many boomers "grew out" of their phase, I think the case can be fairly conclusively made that there is a culture-wide values change afoot, moving from what can be called "Modernity" to "Post-modernity."
In other words, so-called "GenXers" will not "grow out" of this phase. You, Walter, are thoroughly post-modern, as am I and as Mary is. In general, the things you value (many of which you've learned from the general culture, which btw, doesn't necessarily make them bad) you will continue to value as you grow up, so long as they conform to the Mind of Christ. Your start-up values (at least those which were not overruled by Mom & Dad), were learned in a post-modern world. The fact that you love and value your work at Amplifier so much is based very much on post-modern values. (You might protest, "They're Christian Values I have!" True enough, but most of those values you learned through the culture initially. Many post-modern values are Christian values, which I think is an example of God's common grace to the world.)
In fact, I think that the reason you so whole-heartedly rejected the idea of a job "in business" before and while in college is because you perceived the "business world" to be a thoroughly "modern" world, although this was happening at an intuitive level for you. Amplifier, on the other hand, is a business run with far more post-modern values, if not all post-modern values. And this shouldn't be a surprise, Jef & Justin are poster children for post-modernity.

(An aside: I'm not sure "post-modernity" is here to stay, it may be just a cultural way-point to a new non-Modern culture. In InterVarsity, rather than try to make the declaration that the new 1000 year reign of the "Post-Modern" culture is here, we are calling this new culture as the "Emerging Culture." That is, we recognize that it is after-Modernity and different from Modernity, but we're not sure the final shape it will take will be what people-who-know think of when we say "post-modernity".
Also, I am convinced that "post-modernity" does not equal "anti-christianity." In fact, the post-modern values of community and relationships are far more Godly than the modern values of individualism and function. While we're on the subject, "modernity" did not equal "anti-christianity" either. There were values of modernity, such as the elevation of critical thinking that are not against the Mind of Christ.
What you might say, then, is that in every age, pre-modern, modern, or post-modern, Xtians were being conformed into the Image of Christ, by the power of the Spirit. But in every age, those individuals began at different starting points. For the Modern, they began with the Godly values of thoughtfulness, but then had to be conformed to an understanding of Biblical Community, and submission to the Mysteries of Faith. For the Post-Modern, we begin with an a priori valuing of Community, and Mystery, but we must conform to the understanding of Christ's declaration of himself as The Truth, subjugating all other truth clams.)


Walter got the last (so far!) word:
fair enough.

I don't think that today's situation is near at all the situation of the
60s, I just think they did a poor job of describing today.

Policies have to change because the company doesn't control the information
anymore.


Anyone else want to chime in?

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Go Canes! Carol and I attended a luncheon last week at which Larry Coker, the head football coach at the University of Miami, spoke. He told this joke:

Bobby Bowden, coach of the FSU Seminoles, died and, of course, he went to heaven. He was met at the pearly gates by God himself, who took him to where he would be living. It was a house, a modest house: frame construction, two bedrooms, a window air conditioner. In the little front yard there was flag pole with a somewhat bedraggled FSU flag drooping from it.

Coach Bowden took it all in, and then he looked up. There on a hill nearby was a beautiful, spacious multilevel mansion, with a view that commanded miles in every direction. Huge UM football flags on flagpoles at each end whipped and snapped in the wind.

Coach Bowden could not keep quiet. He turned to God and said. "God, I am glad to be in heaven, and I don't want to complain on my first day here. But why do I have this little house and Coach Coker has that big house up on the hill."

God said,

"That's not Coker's house. That's my house."

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Vaccinating Children. Now that the next generation is beginning to appear in our blog community, I thought I would post an article on vaccinating young children. This is an article on the website of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Antinomianism, some thoughts

(this would take more than there's space in the comments section, thus it becomes a post)

Two thoughts on antinomianism. Thought one, dealing with the logic issues embedded in the argument. There is, one must admit, a logical argument for antinomianism. It is good logic to say that, if I have been forgiven for all past, present and future sins, then I'm really free to continue sinning.

However, as the good lawyers, Mr. Carr and Mr. Stokes probably know, not all logical inferences are true. I may look outside my window, see that the sidewalk is wet and conclude that it has rained. This is a logical inference correctly made. (after raining, the sidewalk gets wet. the sidewalk is wet. it rained.) Clearly, though, there are more options to the sidewalk getting wet than rain. My neighbor could have sprayed it with his garden hose. It could be melted snow. An elephant from a passing circus parade could have sprayed it with it's nose. Simply because something follows logically does not, in fact, ensure it's veracity.

(To placate my freshman year logic professor, let me say here that the problem is actually in the pre-argument assumptions. that is what, in fact, leads to false, although logically correct conclusions.)

So this is the first problem in the antinomian argument: grace is a license to sin. Yes, it is logically correct to say so, but that does not ensure its truthfulness, or, to put it another way, it does not ensure ontological validity.

The second thought is more theologcial. The reason why the above, although logically correct, is not true is due to the nature of how it is that we receive this grace through faith.

We do not receive our "own" grace apart from Christ. It isn't as if we receive a get-out-of-hell-free token when we are saved by grace through faith. Rather, we partake in God's own righteousness in Christ, by the Spirit. That is, when we become Christians (Christ-followers, people of the way, etc.) we are, by the Spirit, united to Christ. Paul uses this language 164 times in his letters. That is, the language of "in Christ."

The Church Fathers & Mothers talked about this "union in Christ" as the reason for the "great exchange" between him and us. All that is ours is now Christ's, and all that is Christ's is now ours. So, our sin & rebellion becomes Christ's, and his righteousness, his intimacy with the Father, his death & life, his power, his Spirit are now ours.

But this exchange only happens because we are united to Christ by the Spirit. ("How," you might ask, "am I 'united' with Christ? I'm right here! I don't see me united with anything!" The answer is, you are united with Christ by the Spirit. Difficult to see, the Spirit is.)

Now, Luther talked about not being able to have only "half" of Christ because of this union. What half was he talking about? The half that the antinomians wanted to take: grace, forgiveness, righteousness . . . all those "good" things that came through faith alone. But because we only have those "goods" in our union with Christ, we also have the "bads" (as antinomians might say) that come from our union with Christ.

What are those things? Obedience, death to self, etc. Why do we have those as well? Because of the "great exchange". Remember, that's how we got to participate in Christ's righteousness. It is also why we now participate in Christ's obedience to the Father, even unto death. This is the crazy, wonderful thing! We are united to Christ, by the Spirit! We now have no choice but to do what Christ is doing: being obedient to the Father. That obedience does not earn us anything, it is the corollary to our salvation.

And not some insipid corollary that goes like: "Well, Jesus did such nice things for you, don't you think you 'owe' him? Don't you think that the least that you can do is stop sinning, for a least a little bit?" Rather, this is a corollary that has its base, not in sentiment, but in the reality of our union with & in Christ, by the Spirit.

The problem of the Antinomians (or at least one of the problems) is that they lost the theological understanding that their salvation came through their union with Christ. This is a very relational understanding of what happened to us in Christ. Instead they got it in their head that salvation is more about forensic or Federal issues. That is, there's some great judge that must be placated, and so, Christ placated Him by giving us all get-out-of-hell-free tokens that Christ "earned" by shedding his blood. If that's your understanding of what happened, it's extremely easy to go down the antinomian road.

Sadly, some of my more "reformed" brothers (and here I use the term in the extremely narrow understanding that the Westminster Confession of Faith is the definition of Reformed Theology) find themselves in trouble because, while they wholly hold to "salvation by grace alone," they hold to it in this forensic/Federal sense, and have to fight all the time on why antinomianism isn't the right way to go.

Monday, April 12, 2004

More On Medical Services

I have some anecdotal evidence for the Paul Stokes theory on the effect of scarcity on medical services. (You'll recall from his comments: "the demand for medical services is not so fixed: the more accessible (less scarce) medical services are, the greater the demand. Demand for medical services doesn't work the same as demand for most other things that are for sale. Usually if the supply of something goes up, the price goes down because demand stays about the same. But that's not true for medical services. And its especially true if they are free. Medical services get more scarce. If price, then, is not going to determine how scarce medical services are going to be allocated, some other system has to be in place.")

So yesterday, Easter Sunday, Kellsey and I found ourselves in the Emergency Room of Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte. I'd woken up that morning with what the ER doctor told us was "Positional Vertigo" caused by an viral-caused inflamation of my inner ears. This essentially meant that unless I held my head very, very still in one certain position, it felt like the room was rapidly and very unpleasantly spinning around me. This sensation was accompanied by the usual results of motion sickness, which is why I had to go everywhere with my own little plastic bag lined garbage can.

(If you'd like to know what I feel like every time I turn my head do the following: take a baseball bat or tube of the same length. Put one end of it on the ground and, bending over, place your forehead on the other end. Now walk around the bat, pivioting on your forehead. Walk around 7 times and then stand up and try to walk in a straight line. That's how I feel, unless I keep my head very, very still. Thankfully, sitting in front of a computer is a non-head-moving event.)

In case you were wondering, Easter Sunday is a very popular time to go to the ER. We waited for about 6 hours to see the doctor. While I would have preferred to see one sooner ('cause they eventually gave me Valium. Yum!), I was ok to just sit, hunched over, in a chair and watch BET Gospel Sunday Mornings, Hardball, starring Keanu Reeves, and Kindergarten Cop, starring Governor Schwartzenegger. (Later, when finally in an examining room, I also got to watch Phil Mickelson win the Masters. Hooray for Phil! Kells and I about teared up watching him finally win his first major, and the Masters, no less!)

Anyway, the waiting room was full. Kells and I were the only ones there who met the White, Under-30 demographic. For almost the whole time our other waiting room friends were minorities and a white elderly couple. Almost everyone was, like us, content to sit and wait and wait for our turn. No one in the waiting room was in obvious trauma.

After we were there about two hours, a man in his latre 30s/early 40s came in with a friend of his and sat down next to us. He was having an asthma attack and when he came in they gave him a nebulizer and medicine to treat the attack, but had him wait in the waiting room to see a doctor after he was stabilized. After about an hour of waiting, he started asking us around him how long we'd been there. When he heard that he was waiting behind people who had already been waiting for now 3 hours, he got a bit upset.

He commented to his friend, "Man, next time this happens, I'm just calling an ambulance, 'cause my insurance will pay for it and they take you right in when you come in an ambulance." Finally, about 20 minutes after that comment, he said, "Forget this s#*&, I'm fine now, I'm just going to pay what I need to pay and leave." So he ripped off his hospital wrist band and walked out of the waiting room.

I was struck by his willingness to use his insurance company's money to pay for an ambulance ride (which are not cheap) for a non-emergency event, simply to keep him from having to spend the day in the ER waiting room. And, by the way, jump in front of the line of us who were waiting to see an ER doctor.

I am happy to report, though, that this man was the exception in the crowded waiting room. Everyone else there seemed content to wait, even celebrating the moments when one of us waiting-room-folk would have our name called.

Between bouts of nausea (caused by the vertigo and Kindergarten Cop), I thought some more about this man's comments. It reminded me of the time I was at the dermatologist having some moles examined. Some of them warranted a biopsy to check for cancer (all negative btw), but one prominent one didn't warrant the check. However, the doctor offered to "fudge" his report so that, if I wanted, he could remove that mole and would write it up so my insurance would pay for it.

Besides being unethical (the nice way to say "fraudulent"), the reason I didn't ask to do this was that InterVarsity is self-insured. That means that everyone in the Fellowship pays into what you might consider a Medical Savings Account (MSA) that InterVarsity owns. When someone in the fellowship gets sick, the Fellowship pays for that out of this account. (The account is administered by GreatWest, but the money is ours.)

So my thoughts went something like this: "Hey, I've always wanted to get that mole removed, now's the time!" "Wait a second, that money's for other staff people when they get sick. They're counting on that money being there." "Besides, the Fellowship has had so many illnesses lately that the MSA is almost overdrawn." "Oh, and I think it would be insurance fraud, too." "No, I don't think we'll do this today."

After these two experiences, I can see how having an MSA would incent one to spend less and only when necessary.
Antinomianism. Is grace a license to sin? That question came up in the discussion at the Bible study and breakfast that I attend each Friday morming. My friend, Austin Carr, who is also a lawyer, is the founder of that Bible study. Here is what he wrote me Saturday about this question. I told him I wanted to put it on the blog and that was OK with him.

The question that came up at our breakfast Friday is, by no means, a new one. In fact, there is a word for it and it is:

Antinomianism: (anti, against, and nomos, law) The heretical doctrine that Christians are exempt from the obligations of moral law.

The term first came into use at the Protestant Reformation, when it was employed by Martin Luther to designate the teachings of Johannes Agricola and his secretaries, who, pushing a mistaken and perverted interpretation of the Reformer's doctrine of justification by faith alone to a far-reaching but logical conclusion, asserted that, as good works do not promote salvation, so neither do evil works hinder it; and, as all Christians are necessarily sanctified by their very vocation and profession, so as justified Christians, they are incapable of losing their spiritual holiness, justification, and final salvation by any act of disobedience to, or even by any direct violation of the law of God.

Here is a link to a page that gives more information about it. CATHOLIC
ENCYCLOPEDIA: Antinomianism which goes into depth about the analytical flaws in following the perceived logic of it.

Two points of mine before you go to the link:

1. There are very few original thoughts, if any.

2. See how quickly our sinful minds try to seize onto a thought, doctrine, some logic or explanation, so that we can get away with sin. (Sin being defined here as doing what we want to do and controling things for ourselves, rather than what God would prefer that we do and what He knows is best for us and relinquishing control of our lives to the one more qualified to pilot it.)

Friday, April 09, 2004

New Blog on the block!

Thought I'd let the Kith&Kin community know that I've started the Coast & Crown blog to help friends, prayers & donors understand a bit more about my work as an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Area Director.

This won't take the place of Macon's Missive, but I hope it will be a good supplement to it. At any rate, it's an experiment to see if I can't be a better communicator about the ministry of which I get to be a part.
Help Wanted. Legal secretary for senior trusts and estates lawyer in boutique downtown Miami law firm. College graduate preferred. Must be literate, computer and otherwise, must know WordPerfect, and must enjoy dealing with people. Experience would be good, but a bright, teachable person should not hesitate to apply. Email pstokes@smpalaw.com and attach your resume.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

The War on Wal-Mart. Look at the article by this name written by Steven Malanga in City Journal. (The WSJ published a shorter version on its editorial page on Wednesday, April 7.) If you think that Wal-Mart is not a good thing, especially for poor people and those clinging to the bottom rungs of the middle class, this article could change your mind. Malanga identifies a "crusade" by a left-wing coalition of "labor unions and their allies [who] try to convince the public that super-efficient operators like Wal-Mart lower workers' standard of living." To the contrary, Malanga makes the case that people clamor for the jobs that are open when a Wal-mart store moves into neighborhoods, particularly now that Wal-Mart is moving into urban areas. "[W]orkers in minority communities traditionally friendly to the left's agenda have shocked opponents by welcoming Wal-Mart." There is a lot more in the article to chew on.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Language Magic. I ride "MetroRail", a commuter train, from about a mile near my house to the Government Center on the west side of Downtown. From there I transfer to the "PeopleMover", another public mode of transportation that is elevated and runs in a couple of loops around all of Downtown and over the Miami River to what we call the Brickell area (if you remember Miami Vice, Crockett was always shown driving down Brickell Avenue in his sports car.) The PeopleMover brings me within a block of my office building, and I walk the rest of the way.

Sometimes the PeopleMover is crowded, as it was today. One stop away from my stop, even more people entered the already crowded car. I had moved over near one of the doors so that I could more easily exit when we arrived at my stop and thought I was well positioned. But one stop away the new crowd got in and several people bunched between where I was standing and the door. Not a big problem, but I knew I was going to have to ask for folks to let me out. The people who were between me and the door were several Haitian young men, one of them dressed in a kitchen uniform. I figured they were going to one of the hotels at stops beyond my stop. They were speaking Creole.

As my stop approached, I was trying to think of the French word for Excuse Me, Please. I managed to remember Excuse Me, but not Please. So when my stop arrived, I said "Excusaymoi" (I did not study French and I know that's not the right spelling).

Well.

Those guys were really surprised. They had been ignoring me and everyone else when the crowded in. Not in an offensive way, but I think that if we had been in a Southern, middle-class place, they would have been careful to position themselves and conscious that others may want to get off (not because they were black and others were white, but just because of the idea of community courtesy that I think is stronger in the South). But that was really OK. This is Miami, and people tend to keep within themselves and they are not going to relate to "strangers" automatically.

So here I was in my lawyers uniform: white middle aged guy, $400 suit, white shirt, tie - the works.

"Excusaymoi".

They were surprised. The fellow right in front of me moved over without hesitation and said very politely. "Monsieur", as if to show me the way out. Absolutely no irony in what he said. Pure courtesy and a little surprise in his voice.

I couldn't remember the words for please and thank you until I got out and the doors closed. Shoot! I should have said, "Si vous play" (again, bad, bad spelling). And "Merci".

Oh well. But that little interchange, where I connected with these young men, was a flicker of intensity, recognition, and friendliness that I did not expect, but which, I guess, I was really hoping for.

Miami is a great city, and I am very happy to live here. I am going to learn some Creole.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Meanwhile, back in Spain, things continue to deteriorate. I read this article in the NY Times about the changing of the guard in Spain. The article says Mr. Zapatero, president-elect, thinks that Spain needs a "social and sexual revolution, " which indicates that Spain somehow lags behind western civilization in those two spheres. Somehow, I did not see that at all when I was there. The Spanish seemed quite sexually liberated: the local beaches were just like South Beach; transvestite prostitutes paraded their wares across the university campus every evening; and I quickly learned through trial and serious error to mark Spanish film off my list because of its pornographic tendencies. I did not sense great disparities between the sexes, and the only machismo I experienced was in Paris and Italy, not in Spain. Granted, I spent most of my time in Barcelona, which has a more "continental" atmosphere than does southern Spain; and of course, four months in a country is hardly enough time to begin to understand all its history and feeling; but still, I have a hard time accepting the dated, flawed picture that the new guard seems to want to paint about their country. Zapatero (a name which keeps recalling in my mind that of a famous Mexican revolutionary...) apparently hopes to rid the country of any residual conservatism left over from the last president and to further purge the country of any religious, more specifically Catholic, residue.
The US System for Delivering Medical Services. Our system of rationing scarce medical resources is to make the cost of insurance too high for many people. The big winners are the insurance companies, the medical profession, and people like my family who can afford to pay for the insurance.

What alternatives are there? My vote is a Medical Savings Account ("MSA"), where people can save money in an account like an IRA and then draw from it to pay medical expenses. There would be a tax deduction for putting money into the plan and no tax taking money out of the plan, provided it is used for medical expeneses.

That plan would be paired with catastrophic medical insurance that would pick up after a substantial deductible is paid (say, $2000 or more). For poor people, the government would deposit money in such an account or just give them money that they can use as they choose, including putting it in such an account.

A Medical Savings Account would let people withdraw money from it after they reach a certain age for any purpose. If they draw it out for a non-medical purpose, however, then its subject to the income tax.

This will give people an incentive to do what they can to avoid medical expenses or keep them reasonable. Maybe they will lose some weight and get some exercise. Maybe they will shop around for the best physician or hospital for their needs at the best cost.

Paired with that appraoch, we should de-regulate the medical service industry. Let Wal-Mart (OK, Macon, Super Target) type people get hold of the system.

MSAs are currently available under some circumstances. They have been made more accessible under the recent Medicare legislation. We are looking into MSAs here at the firm.

Let me add, finally, that the current US medical services delivery system, with all of its faults, has been very, very good to my family and me over the years. I don't think that medical services delivered by any other country can compare with the quality of those services here in the US, provided you have the insurance or other means with which to pay for it. But I don't think its the best of all possible worlds.
Movie Review: "My Darling Clementine". This has Henry Fonda playing Wyatt Earp and Victor Mature as Doc Holiday. Walter Brennan plays one of the most irredeemable villains ever seen in a Western. Ward Bond is one of Wyatt's brothers. It came out in the late 1940s. Good and evil are drawn in stark relief. But when Good responds to Evil, it does so in a lawful and deliberate way and it suffers casualties that could have been avoided if due process considerations had been ignored. So I found it fascinating when I viewed it a couple of months ago. Its on VHS and recently came out on DVD with some footage restored and an alternate ending. John Ford directed it. I have the VHS and will mail it to you if interested and if you will either mail it back or mail it to the next person who would like to see it.


"As the speed of information increases, the tendency is for politics to move away from representation and delegation of constituents toward immediate involvement of the entire community in the central acts of decision." Marshall Mcluhan, Understanding Media, 1964