Wednesday, January 25, 2012

¡Hola, Caballero!

Last evening on the way home from the office, I dropped by the Home Depot just off Okeechobee Road, near LeJeune.  (Over the weekend I discovered the world's greatest garage shelf as I researched the problem on the internet and bought one Sunday afternoon at HD.  It was on sale for $10 less than shown on HD's web page, and it worked out so well, I went back to buy another.)  I was dressed in my lawyer's uniform, but left the suit jacket in the car.

At HD there is a security guard at the exit door to check one's receipt against the merchandise he is carrying out.  The security guard waiting as I approached the exit was a woman.  "¡Hola, Caballero!"  I was a little taken aback - not Señor, but Caballero - but recovered in time to say, "¡Señora, hola a usted!"  When she checked the receipt she said, "Buenas Noches," and so did I.  Not a word of English.

The gray hair, the white shirt and tie: I am entitled not only to courtesy but also to deference at HD.  I love the Latin culture in Miami.

Introduction to Artificial Intelligence and Other Subject Matter

Online education without charge at Stanford and other places.

I wish I could go on-line for more time, say an extra day a week when I needed it.  I'm waiting for that.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"The Role of Health Professionals Should Be to Share Knowledge, Teach"

Dr. Gustavo Parajón emphasized a bottom-up community approach to the prevention of disease and promotion of health rather than the more traditional top-down hospital-based approach. He believed that in every community there were capable leaders, regardless of their level of education, who had the skills, passion and commitment to make a difference to improve the health of their communities. He also believed that in a setting like Nicaragua, where health services did not reach the poorest people, that the role of health professionals should be to share knowledge, teach and encourage lay health workers.

-from "A Tribute to Dr. Gustavo Parajon," on the Amos Health & Hope Website.

Could that model work in the US?  It might, if it were allowed.  But with our dense regulation of medical services, this probably only works in a country like Nicaragua.   Or maybe I'm ignorant and this sort of thing is already working in the inner cities of America and rural America.  Or maybe the "community" in the phrase "community leaders" is something different in Nicaragua than it is here.

On the other hand, we do have the development of health services at places like WalMart.

Interfering with a Nation's Oil Supply is Serious Business

Japan is extremely poor in natural resources, and the situation was not much different in the pre-World War II era. Consequently, Japan had to depend on trade heavily to function as a modern nation, and it was a serious and vital issue for Japan to keep all crucial strategic resources, particularly oil, coming in to it from the outside world. If the route for Japan to obtain these materials was cut off, and therefore, the strategic resources were stopped from coming to Japan, there would basically be only two choices left for Japan. One is to lower the level of function as a modern nation to where it could meet the level of domestic productivity for natural resources. And two is to go out actively and find a way to gain what it needed to maintain its function as a modern nation. The conflict and negotiation between the US and Japan in the pre-World War II period illustrates a good example of the case and explains why Japan went to war against the US. The US, the biggest oil supplier for Japan at the time, imposed the oil embargo on Japan in July, 1941, and it helped the Japanese to make up their minds to fight against the Americans. Thus, in a way, the attack on Pearl Harbor was not a surprise one at all; it was a necessary result of the conflict and negotiation.

-from Arima, The Way to Pearl Harbor: U.S. vs. Japan in the American University's ICE Case Studies.

Do the Iranian mullahs have the backbone that the Japanese had?  I guess we'll see.

"The GOP Deserves to Lose"

Subtitled: "That's what happens when you run with losers."

Wow! Bret Stephens of the WSJ takes the GOP to the woodshed.

UPDATE:  Considering the President's SOTU speech last night, both parties deserve to lose.  No one on the Democrat side took on Obama.  Where are the Eugene McCarthys of this generation?

Salud y Esperanza

First Baptist Church of Ft. Lauderdale is very much involved in this mission in Nicaragua.  (This is the church that sponsored the Israel tour that Carol and I recently took.)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Wishing the ECO Well

An essay by Don Sweeting, President of Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando. But the Huffington Post is not happy.

¿Cómo se dice "Crossfit" in Español?

Whatever. Carol and I are going to a free class at Crossfit Miami Thursday night.

Grr!

Active Minds Correlate with Reduced Alzheimers Risk

Keeping the brain in gear throughout life with reading, games, and other mental activities cuts down on beta-amyloid plaques thought to cause Alzheimer's disease, researchers found.

--from today's MedPage Today

"How Not to Waive Your Legal Rights on a Cruise"

See a good article in the Herald by Miami attorney Gabrielle D'Alemberte.

Those of us used to the American tort system and the ready availability of top-notch (and not so top-notch) "plaintiff's lawyers" will be shocked to learn of the severely restricted rights of cruise ship passengers to compensation for injury or of the families of cruise ship passengers who lose their lives as a result of the negligence of the cruise ship line.

Frankly, I doubt the efficacy of Ms. D'Alemberte's self-help advice about marking up one's cruise ship ticket as he boards the boat. But at least she gives a heads-up on the unfamiliar legal world that one enters when taking a cruise, especially on a foreign line.

My advice is for one to purchase reasonably broad insurance for life's contingencies (life, disability, medical), to the extent that one can. You can get extra coverage for a given vacation or trip, just for that trip. As to getting someone else to compensate you or your family for life's contingencies? If you get hit by a Coke truck on Flagler Street that was running a red light, then good for you. But don't count on it.

Mr. Romney's 15% Income Tax Rate


Mr. Romney said he makes most of his money from investments, not wages or salary. Thus his income is really taxed twice: once at the corporate tax rate of 35%, then again at a 15% tax rate when it is passed through to him as dividends or via capital gains from the sale of stock.

All income from businesses is eventually passed through to the owners, so to ignore business taxes creates a statistical illusion that makes it appear that the rich pay less than they really do. By this logic, if the corporate tax rate were raised to, say, 60% from today's 35% and the dividend and capital gains tax were cut to zero, it would appear that business owners were getting away with paying no federal tax at all.

This all-too-conveniently confuses the incidence of a tax with the burden of a tax. The marginal tax rate on every additional dollar of capital gains and dividend income from corporate profits can reach as high as 44.75% at the federal level (assuming a company pays the 35% top corporate rate), not 15%.


-from the WSJ via Best of the Web.

I worry that the American people don't understand this sort of thing, even though it's pretty basic stuff. I don't think Jim Morin, the gifted political cartoonist of the Herald, does. (I'm giving him the benefit of the good-faith doubt.)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Newt's Grandiose Thoughts

Althouse links to a list of them on a Romney website.

My favorite: "I have enormous political ambition. I want to shift the entire planet."

Is that like making the earth move, as in The Sun Also Rises? But Hemingway was writing about sex wasn't he? Maybe Newt's talking about sex, although he refers to "political ambition." But everything is politics to these people.

My second favorite is "I'm a Viking." Right, Newt.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Same Sex Marriage/Unions

I'm on an estate planning listserv that a very fine New York lawyer, Sharon L. Klein of Lazard Wealth Management LLC, authors. Her email of this week includes the following on the status of pending same-sex marriage/union state legislation:

Colorado Civil Union Proposal

Pursuant to very detailed legislation introduced in Colorado on January 11, 2012, two unmarried adults over age 18, regardless of gender, would be allowed to enter into a civil union.

Parties to a civil union would be afforded many of the same benefits and protections under Colorado law as married spouses. These benefits are specifically listed in the bill and include rights of inheritance, survivorship benefits, priority for appointment as guardian, conservator or personal representative and benefits of laws regarding medical directives and care. However, the bill provides that, since Colorado income tax filings are tied to federal filings, civil union partners will be prevented from filing a joint state income tax return. The creation of a study commission to investigate state income tax treatment is proposed.

The bill provides that anyone who enters into a civil union in Colorado consents to the jurisdiction of the Colorado courts for the purpose of any action relating to the civil union, even if one or both parties cease to reside in the state.

New Jersey Same Sex Marriage Proposal

On January 10, 2012, a bill was introduced in New Jersey to recognize same sex marriage, in lieu of the civil union regime currently authorized under New Jersey law. Under the bill, marriage would be defined as the legally recognized union of two consenting persons in a committed relationship. Civil union partners would have 60 days following the bill’s enactment to dissolve their civil union, otherwise the civil union partners would be deemed married.

Washington State Same Sex Marriage Proposal

On January 13, 2012, identical legislation was introduced in the Washington House and Senate to recognize same sex marriage. The bills would allow persons over age 18 to marry regardless of gender, and, except in limited circumstances, would supplant the registered domestic partnership regime currently authorized under Washington law. The bill requires that any statute, rule or regulation referring to husband or wife be construed as gender neutral and applicable to spouses of the same sex.

Except in limited circumstances, same sex couples in a Washington registered domestic partnership would be deemed married as of June 30, 2014, unless the partnership is dissolved or converted into a marriage before that date.

Missouri Constitutional Amendment Proposed to Prohibit Same Sex Marriage Recognition

On January 9, 2012, the Missouri legislature proposed an amendment to the state constitution to prohibit Missouri from recognizing any federal action mandating the recognition of same sex marriage or civil union, or any relationship other than the marriage of one man and one woman. The amendment would be submitted to Missouri voters for their approval.

West Virginia Constitutional Amendment Proposed to Prohibit Same Sex Marriage Recognition

On January 11, 2012, the West Virginia legislature proposed an amendment to the state constitution to restrict marriage to one man and one woman, and to prohibit West Virginia from recognizing same sex marriages. The amendment would be submitted to West Virginia voters for their approval.

Wikipedia has an article that gives the current status of same-sex marriage legislation state-by-state.

Wiki also has an article on on the current status of" civil unions" or "civil partnerships." Part of that article addresses the subject in the United States.

A Reputation for Being Very Tough Businessmen

During the 1970s there were some failures of banks known as "Edge Act" banks. An Edge Act bank could loan money only to borrowers who would use the funds off-shore. Thus, such banks would not compete with domestic banks but only foreign banks. Domestic banks, which otherwise were restricted or at a regulatory disadvantage to foreign banks in making international loans, would form Edge Act subsidiaries, which had a different set of rules. The purpose of the Edge Act was to level the playing field on which our banks played and the foreign banks played. This was before the sort of international free-for-all we have in banking and finance today.

During the 1970's, Miami became a center for Edge Act banking. I don't exactly know why. Perhaps it was because it was during that decade that the "latinization" of the community achieved critical mass. By 1970, it had been ten years since Castro took over. During that decade, the first wave of Cuban immigration washed over South Florida, and a second, smaller one, washed over again with Mariel in the early 1970s. During the 1960s, the Cubans who arrived here had been in a survival mode but by 1970 they had become well-established, thanks in large part to the generosity of our government, a generosity motivated by our anti-Communist policy and the toxic nature of the Castro regime, and to the values and character of the Cubans themselves. These "refugees" and the government policies that helped them opened a door for Miami to Latin America. So Edge Act banks popped up in downtown Miami during the early 1970s. CitiBank had one of them.

As I mentioned, we had a recession that decade, and a lot of Edge Act loans went bad. Citibank's Miami Edge Act subsidiary carried a portfolio of these non-performing loans that needed the help of lawyers. At that time, Miami's banking lawyer community was very small. Through Senator Smathers, my firm got almost all of the Citibank Edge Act business. We weren't banking lawyers in that firm at the time, we were litigators. But bank "work-outs" looked like litigation. There was so much of this business at Smathers & Thompson that everyone in the firm got at least a couple of cases. I got a couple, me, a young lawyer who had been cutting his teeth on railroad crossing accident cases. In one of those Edge Act matters, there was a Mormon on the other side, a businessman who had borrowed money from Citibank to make investments in the forest industry in Honduras.

A Mormon? We forget that Mormons send their children into the world as missionaries for a term. They come back home culturally sensitized, knowledgeable, and with a second language. Furthermore, the Mormon culture celebrates success, especially business success. It promotes a clean life-style that allows someone to focus on what the culture finds important. The Mormons are very successful business people.

And they are fairly ruthless, as I found. The Mormon borrower on the other side was very pleasant personally and courteous. He did not exactly lie, he told a version of the truth, but he was out to win, he played close to the edge. The legal cards were stacked against him, however, and we had a good "work-out," but I learned something. In talking about this experience with other people who either were Mormons or had dealt with them, I realized that the person I dealt with was a sort of typical Mormon businessman.

I do appreciate the problem of bigotry and stereotyping, but the people I spoke to seem to think that, with Mormons, one deals with something special, and one needs to be careful. They are definitely not "good old boys." We have other business stereotypes like them, stereotypes that are probably useful to a point, Jews, Chinese, Scots come to mind. These are groups who have been oppressed or discriminated against economically or politically or both, and who fall back on their wits, on education, and on strong and networked families to succeed. For at least 100 years after they appeared in American history, the Mormons developed on the margins of American culture because of their unorthodox religious and social views. Now the religious and social unorthodoxy of the social elites in America have overtaken and passed them by. Now the economic benefits of the Protestant Ethic produce a very strong and successful subculture.

Which brings me to Romney: nice looking, courteous, well-spoken, good family man. Underneath all that is focus, determination, useful experience, competence, moral decency, and a sort of ruthlessness. Frankly, I think that's what we need right now in the White House. (I don't suggest that the President lacks moral decency. He appears to me to lack some of the other qualities, however.) Romney does what he has to do to achieve the objective, whether as governor of Massachusetts, as head of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics, as an executive with Bain, or as a Presidential candidate.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kodak Files for Bankruptcy

Not Chapter 7, which would involve a liquidation, but Chapter 11, which would involve a recapitalization, etc., with the expectation that a New Kodak would emerge that is financially viable. (This process is one that the President did not allow GM to undergo.) The federal bankruptcy judge, however, can find that there is no financially viable Kodak appropriate for Chapter 11 and can move it into Chapter 7 (as a judge could have done with a GM bankruptcy).

The company has a huge pension burden. According to the WSJ's blog, the company spent $245 million on pensions and other benefits for retirees in 2011 when it generated only $93 million:

Kodak says it has “been unable to reduce the amount of cash consumed by post-employment benefit obligations to make them proportional to a financially smaller Kodak.”

The "pension and other benefits" matter can be dealt with in Chapter 11 and in Chapter 7. The US Treasury will be on the hook for at least some of those benefits in either case.

Sad.

From the Home of Goldman Sachs and MF Global

The New York Board of Education wants to ban religious use of schools on Sunday mornings or at other times the schools are otherwise unused - even though the churches rent the space, dropping an estimated several million dollars per year into the city cashbox. If the ban prevails, more than 150 congregations will have to move to other meeting space starting next month - and that's hard to find in New York City.

-from the January 28, 2012 issue of World Magazine

As if there is no connection between Christian faith and honest, prudent financial behavior at every level, including the highest.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"The Mortal Threat from Iran"

A Mark Helprin piece in today's WSJ.

As I read this article, it dawned on me why we have been so long in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have been preparing for war with the Persians.

It would be good for Obama not to be President when that happens. But it may not wait.

Abuela and her Boyfriend

Connie Barron stepped through the glass doors of Concourse J at Miami International Airport Monday afternoon and immediately saw an overwhelming sight: her three grown daughters and six grandchildren rushing to embrace her.

“We want Abuela! We want Abuela!’’ the children, ages 2 to 13, had just finished chanting when their grandmother of Pembroke Pines emerged with her boyfriend, Miamian Jesus “Jay’’ Garcia – both 62.


-from the front page of this morning's Herald, complete with a photo above the fold.

Abuela and her boyfriend Jesus are among the survivors of the Costa Concordia cruise ship.

Thus, "marriage" - or the lack of it - among the middle-aged post-moderns. It will be hard to talk the little girls out of living with their boyfriends in a few years, with Abuela's example at hand - as if someone will likely be there to raise the question with those young people.

It won't be Abuela, absent the grace of God. Yet the grace of God is already active in Abuela's life, obviously. She could not swim. She survived. And there's this from the Herald aricle:

On Friday night, after she and Garcia escaped, she slept on the floor of a church building.

There is hope for Abuela and her family. May God continue to bless them.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Evidence that the English Don't Plan on Going to War Anytime Soon

They apparently want the Scots out of Britain.

Why don't the Scots simply finish moving over here? They should bring their cousins in Northern Ireland with them.

Thanks to Instapundit for the link.

Carnival Fail

Carnival Cruise Lines owned the Costa Concordia.

Europe generated about 38 percent of Carnival’s revenue in fiscal 2010, the last full year for which geographic results are available. Its Genoa-based Costa Crociere unit is the continent’s largest cruise line based on passengers and ship capacity, according to Carnival.

-from the Link

Did you think the accident happened to some back-water Italian cruise-line?

MORE:

Luxury and efficiency make bad shipmates.

-from an article in the Atlantic magazine written a year after the loss of the Titanic.

Why do I think that this is all a metaphor for American civilization? As the Italians have arrested the captain of the Costa Crociere, do we get to arrest the ruling elites here?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Donna at Church Bought a Carry


A Berreta PX4 Storm Type F Sub Compact in 9mm. In the parking lot after the service, we discussed starting a church gun club. Our idea is to call it the "FPC Clingers," as in people who cling to their Bibles and their Guns. I'm sure Jack would join.

James Dobson and a Bunch of Other "Evangelical Leaders" Join the Pat Robertson Club

They are supporting Rick Santorum, who is not a bad guy but does not have a chance. Why is it that my visceral reaction, and a very strong one, is that they ought to mind their own business? Of course, I felt that way about Dobson during all those years he was telling me on the radio about how I was supposed to treat my wife.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Glenn Reynolds Boosts the Glock as "America's Gun"

Here.

I wouldn't mind having one, but as a carry you can't beat the S&W revolver I keep in my pocket. To my mind, the 12 pound trigger pull is a feature not a deficit. I'm sure I will have plenty of strength to pull the trigger if, God forbid, I should ever have to unpocket the thing in self-defense. Furthermore, if I can't bring the target down with five shots at the close range for which a carry is intended, it will be over for me anyway.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Using Interactive Tools to Assess the Liklihood of Death"

This helps answer the question, "How old are you in dog years?"

No, seriously, as an evermore elderly elder, I don't like to be lumped into an aged defined peer group that includes flesh-eaters, smokers, drinkers, drug users, and couch-potatoes by a medical system that's looking for an excuse to under-treat me because I'm going to die soon anyway.

Thanks to Althouse for the link.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Where have we been?

Carol and I went to Israel with a group from First Baptist of Ft. Lauderdale. I have to say that it was just great being around a group of Southern Baptists for 10 days.

(My observations from the start of my association with God's frozen chosen have continued to be that the SBs as a group are simply friendlier people, especially to newcomers and strangers. Maybe that's why they are growing and we are shrinking. I do love my Presbyterian friends, and there are many exceptions to this general observation. But social facts - or perceptions at least - are facts. My dad, an SB who only came to our church to see his grandchildren, referred to the Presbyterian church in any given town as "that ice-house down the street.")

We will post some photos at some point and some comments on the trip. It exceeded my expectations big time.

Not Scarcity but Plenty

Thirty years ago I assisted a former chairman of Texaco with his estate planning. Along the way, he gave me a paper to read about the history of oil discovery. The thesis of that paper was, essentially, that we were not going to run out of the stuff anytime soon. The paper recounted the cycles of perceived plenty and perceived scarcity, with the doomsayers in full-throat during the down part of those cycles. Yet there was always another find or another technology developed to rejuvenate abandoned wells or to reach depths considered unreachable or to process crude that once seemed too expensive to process.

Here we go again on the upside - this piled on top of the recent oil-shale and natural gas discoveries here in the US. Thanks to Instapundit for the link.