Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Aborting One's Grandchildren

A really sad thought, as I consider the millions of unborn babies killed in the US over the past 40 years: The children aborted by my contemporaries in the seventies would, had those children lived, be raising children of their own by now. Those children would be contemporaries of my grandchildren.

More on the Arizona Boarder Problem

Sen. McCain's so-called "flip-flop:" it's not just politics. (Thanks, Glenn Reynolds.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"An Economy of Liars"

Congressional committees overseeing industries succumb to the allure of campaign contributions, the solicitations of industry lobbyists, and the siren song of experts whose livelihood is beholden to the industry. The interests of industry and government become intertwined and it is regulation that binds those interests together. Business succeeds by getting along with politicians and regulators. And vice-versa through the revolving door.

We call that system not the free-market, but crony capitalism. It owes more to Benito Mussolini than to Adam Smith.

-Gerald P. O'Driscoll in an opinion column in today's WSJ entitled "An Economy of Liars."

Good-bye, Mr. Sharpe

In the middle of the fourth book in the Sharpe series, Sharpe's Trafalgar, our hero murders a man who threatens to tell a cuckolded husband of Sharpe's affair with the cuckold's wife. Notwithstanding that the victim was seeking to use the threat to have his own way with the adulteress, I concluded that Sharpe is not a man I want to spend any more time with and put the book down.

Meanwhile, Back at the Border

A call for 3,000 more US Troops. (Thanks, Drudge.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weekend at River Cities

For the first time in many years, Carol and I attended the Miami Springs' River Cities Festival this weekend. This has definitely not been a must-see event for us, mainly because we are so stuck-up. But also because the event is so very well lubricated with outdoor bars set up for the occasion and plenty of beer. We let that more or less characterize the event for us, which probably was to our detriment.

But this year, our pastor thought our church should use the occasion for evangelism. So after talking about what to do for several months, we decided not to have a booth, as the rest of the churches do, but to conduct a survey. A group of us, then, with clip-boards in hand, invaded the festival with a survey about religious attitudes, a paper thin pretext for talking to people about Christ. It turned out to be much more fun that I thought it would be and made the festival itself very enjoyable.

The main thing about doing the survey is that it required me to focus on the people, rather than the context. Our targets were people who, at least momentarily, seemed to be just standing around deciding what to do next and were not in a hurry to get anywhere. Everyone I approached was polite, although some of them declined the survey. Many of those who took it turned out to be professing Christians, and it was encouraging to them and to me to discover that. One man, although polite, thought churches were full of hypocrites; others, once we got started asked if they really had to complete the survey and were relieved when I said, "Of course not." One fellow chased me down and wanted actually to take the survey, and then proceeded to tell me his views on the age of the earth and how Noah's sons each fathered a sort of proto-race with implications to this day and time, giving me book titles and authors. Having conversations with these strangers this way was a special and surprising pleasure.

I also had a good look at all the booths this year, and I discovered that Miami Springs has a new church, the King of Glory Anglican Church. It meets at Grace Lutheran, and is one of those break-off groups of Episcopalians that is part of the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMIA), under the Archbishop Kolini of Rwanda. They were passing out leaflets from the Miami Rescue Mission and Food for the Poor, and were selling Rwandan coffee with the label The Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee. This is a fund raiser for a development in Rwanda that addresses the awful damage of the genocide in that country. The church's website has a statement of beliefs.

I ran into people I had not seen or talked to for years as well. I think the fact that I was trying to connect with people anyway facilitated these link-ups. One couple graduated with me from Hialeah High School. I had not seen them since 1964! Another man had grown up in my neighborhood on Falcon Avenue and I had not seen him in decades. And there were others I simply had not visited with for a few years. I saw the Curtis' kids (now young men), for example. Brad is working for Curtis Publishing, Matthew lives in Delray and has a business there, Atypical Rim & Tire.

I met two cousins who have gone into the "mobile barbecue" business, and had a most impressive rig from which wafted a most delicious aroma. They are from Port Charlotte and are known as Smokey Trails BBQ. They were attracted to my Despair "knock knock" shirt, which I suppose is a pretty good evangelism tool, when you think about it.

I don't know if anyone "got saved" as a result of our efforts. But the nice thing about being Reformed is that it's really not up to me, so I'm not worrying about it. And why wouldn't anyone be interested to find out that God took on the form of a man to reconcile us to himself? That's pretty interesting, I think.

SEC's Fraud Suit Against Goldman Sachs a Diversion

Goldman Sachs is accused of facilitating a hedge fund in the fund's betting against the real estate market. But what hedge funds do, mainly, is short market enthusiasms. (Hence, the word "hedge.") In the case of the real estate bubble, it wasn't mere enthusiasm, it was insanity that inflated the bubble. That is, it was politics, as the easy money policy of the federal government encouraged the banks to make bad loans. So a hedge fund asked GS to build a way for it to short the resulting surge in real estate values, and it did so.

The bubble burst and the hedge fund made money. That's what happens when a hedge fund bets right. But neither the hedge fund nor GS created the real estate related madness. The whole thing was bound to crash. But now GS gets sued. It's a scapegoat. Everyone needs to remember that. Whatever it might have done wrong in the process was really not the problem. The problem was the federal government's policy of making credit for buying real estate available for the asking, abetted by big banks (who simply resold the bad debt to others, with all concerned making fee after fee after fee in the process). And when I say "federal government" I mean Congress and either complicit (in the case of Clinton) or distracted (in the case of Bush) Presidential administrations.

I wish I could have figured out a way to bet against the real estate bubble. We all knew its burst was inevitable. Everyone paying attention knew.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Let's Send Barack to Sarkozy's Body-Language School

(Front page of WSJ today. The WSJ caption of the photo, taken at the Nuclear Security Summit this week, is entitled "Mutually Assured Discussion.")

Monday, April 12, 2010

Embracing Guns & Religion. And where would that be?

At and about "Our Lawless Mexican Border." The link is an indirect link to the WSJ column that appears in Saturday's WSJ and written by Leo W. Banks. Without a WSJ on-line subscription, you won't be able to read the entire article, but you will get the gist of it. However, if you let me know, I will email you a full copy of the column.

Another approach is to go the Tucson Weekly and read Banks' other articles on the subject. Here's a good one to start with.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Teaching and Electronic Whiteboards

A lot of what I do in my estate planning practice is teach. A client's Last Will, for example, is her or his legally enforceable expression of what the client wants to happen to the assets that would be subject to that document at the client's death. A Last Will, then, is an expression of the client's intention with respect to the particular "estate" that the Last Will controls. (An "estate" is simply an aggregate of assets that have a feature in common. An " estate" subject to a Last Will is an aggregation of assets that must go through probate proceedings in order to be distributed to a client's beneficiaries at the client's death.)

But usually a client is not exactly sure of what she or he wants to happen at his death. The client may be generally sure, but is rarely exactly sure. What are the issues involved? What are the options available? My job is to inform the client of those issues, those options, and to suggest strategies. This is a teaching job. I find it challenging. But not only that, it is the sweet spot of my work. It is where the joy resides for me. I love to teach.

My favorite way to teach is to have an easel or white board to mark on. I think I do some of my best teaching while I stand up and draw diagrams, lists, maps, circles, squares, arrows going here and there, and so forth. I often will jump up and down from my chair to the white board or easel at a client conference (some of them lasting two hours or more). I think that this activity alone keeps the momentum of the conference going and all of us awake.

I have been looking at "electronic whiteboards." They are expensive, but by way of a Wiki article, I came across a genius whose name is Johnny Chung Lee. Johnny has a way of doing an electronic whiteboard on the cheap. I have embedded one of his YouTube videos.

I would welcome any comments or suggestions as to any of this.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

He Stood and Delivered

Jaime Escalante died.

Read My Lips

In 2011, income tax rates for the highest earners will go to 39.6 percent, up from 35 percent, and the capital gains tax will rise to 20 percent from 15 percent, unless Congress acts. The increases aren’t likely to be overturned by Congress, said Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy at the Washington- based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The capital gains tax will rise to 23.8 percent in 2013, to help pay for health-care reform signed by President Barack Obama March 23. That’s because the legislation applies a 3.8 percent Medicare tax on unearned income such as realized capital gains, dividends, interest, rents and royalties. The health-care bill also increases the employee’s share of the Medicare payroll tax levied on wages by 0.9 percentage points to 2.35 percent in 2013.

Both increases related to the health-care legislation will apply to about 1 million individuals who earn more than $200,000 annually and about 4 million couples who file jointly and make more than $250,000.

-From an excellent article by Margaret Collins and Alexis Leondis from Bloomberg News in Business Week. Its worth reading the whole thing.

Note, however, the last sentence of the second paragraph of the quote. The increase in the "employee's share of the Medicare payroll tax" applies to all employees, and not just individuals who make more than $200,000. Somebody call Joe the Plumber.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Anna and Paloma are Baptized

Anna is baptized at sunrise yesterday, Easter Morning. A very similar photo appeared on the front page of this morning's Miami Herald but with a photo of Anna's sister, Paloma, who was baptized yesterday too. That photo has a caption that reads in part, "Paloma . . . is baptized in the waters off 73rd Street and Collins Avenue after attending the 17th annual Miami Beach Easter Sunrise Service. Pastor Rick [Paloma's dad, a Friday morning breakfast brother], left, and Pastor Robert Fountain [of Calvary Chapel, Miami Beach] performed the baptism."

I just love the expression on Rick's face in the second photo. What a joy to have your children accept Jesus Christ. I am reminded of the broad promise from Acts 16 at verse 31, a promise that I have claimed from my earliest moments as a father: "They [Paul and Silas] replied [to the jailer, who had asked Paul, 'Sir, what must I do to be saved'] believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved - you and your household."

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Eating Meat and Brain Damage

From Dr. McDougall's recent newsletter:

Copper and Iron from Meat Damage the Brain and Body

Risks of Copper and Iron Toxicity during Aging in Humans by George J. Brewer published in the February 2010 issue of Chemical Research in Toxicology [Brewer GJ. Risks of copper and iron toxicity during aging in humans. Chem Res Toxicol. 2010 Feb 15;23(2):319-26] found that, "Diseases of aging, such as Alzheimer's disease, other neurodegenerative diseases, arteriosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, and more, may all be contributed to by excess copper and iron. A very disturbing study has found that in the general population those in the highest fifth of copper intake, if they are also eating a relatively high fat diet, lose cognition (brain function) at over three times the normal rate... both (minerals) contribute to the production of excess damaging oxidant radicals."

The author's recommendations are to:

Avoid almost all multivitamin/multi-mineral pills because they contain copper and/or iron.

Avoid eating all kinds of meats because they are plentiful in both minerals. Copper and iron are much more bio-available from meat than from vegetable foods. Liver and shellfish are particularly high in copper. Red meat is particularly high in bio-available iron.

Avoid drinking water with elevated copper content. Eighty percent of the homes in the US have copper pipes for water. Check levels in your water. A reverse osmosis device can be installed on the tap used for drinking and cooking water.

Comments: Copper and iron are metals essential for life; however, in excess they are toxic to the body's tissues. The author, Brewer, points out that careful research by Waldman and Lamb in their book, Dying for a Hamburger, has shown that Alzheimer's disease did not exist until 100 years ago. It still is rare in India and Africa. (Waldman and Lamb believe the infectious prion agent that causes Mad Cow Disease from tainted beef causes this form of dementia.) Brewer believes copper and iron toxicity cause Alzheimer's disease from consuming meat. Other metals taken in with our foods and beverages, especially aluminum, are also believed to play a major causal role in Alzheimer's disease. The Western diet has been tied to Alzheimer's disease because of damage from the cholesterol and fat in the diet.

Brewer considers diabetes, atherosclerosis leading to heart attacks and strokes, and other common diseases to be from mineral toxicity. His paper adds to the interesting debate about which part of the Western diet is most harmful? Or does it really matter? As consumers we have enough evidence to know which foods (meats and dairy products being prime culprits) are making us sick.

Basketball in Lucas Oil Stadium

As I watched the Final Four on CBS last evening, I thought, "How could you see anything as a spectator in that place?"

Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe writes this morning

So now [Duke] will be playing national darling Butler for the championship tomorrow night.

A matchup like this, taking place in this city, deserves to be played in a magnificent basketball atmosphere such as the Canseco Fieldhouse, rather than in this monstrosity, where patrons (and not just those in the upper reaches) are seated closer to the Illinois border than the court.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sharpe's Tiger

The name of the first historical novel in Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe series. The epoch is the same as that in the C.S. Forrester Hornblower novels and Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series. Masterpiece Theater has brought filmed adaptations of Richard Sharpe stories to public television, and last Sunday night we watched a re-run of one of them. This provoked me to the downtown library, and I discovered an entire bookshelf of Cornwell's books.

The particular settings are actual British battles and the events surrounding them. In my edition of Sharpe's Tiger, the author writes a "Historical Note," where he describes how his narrative differs or is similar to what historians record. He also commends two histories of Wellington, who appears as a young colonel in this book: Longford's Wellington, the Years of the Sword, and Weller's Wellington in India.

Sharpe's Tiger whetted my appetite, and I'm going back for more.