A Bright Hope for the Future

For the last few years, I have worked with a charity called Bright Hope International (www.brighthope.org). Bright Hope is a spiritually-based organization that provides hope to the desperately poor in Asia, South America and Africa.  Bright Hope works its miracles through indigenous churches offering food, nutrition, clean water, medical assistance, child care and disaster relief. Bright Hope facilitates educational efforts, job creation, microenterprise and the rescue of those in the clutches of human trafficking.  And Bright Hope offers a Christian message of love, care, healing and salvation.

Bright Hope International was founded 45 years ago by Dr. Kevin Dyer.  Initially efforts were directed to those in the Eastern Bloc — behind the Iron Curtain.  Today, under the leadership of Craig Dyer (Craig is a “boots on the ground” guy who is often on site), Bright Hope has expanded its mission to include those on the bottom rung of the economic ladder in Bolivia, Chile, India, Cuba, Haiti, Peru, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and elsewhere.  As the website states, Bright Hope provides hope for today, hope for tomorrow and hope for eternity.

We are all challenged by the gnawing question of just what we can do to “make a difference” during our lives.  With our lives.  To help those in extreme poverty.   And we all feel the “tug” of many fine and worthy charities.   Over the last 2-1/2 years, I have had posts on four not-for-profit organizations.  Bright Hope International is a fifth.  You may enjoy checking out their website.  Bright Hope is making a big difference in a big way.  Let me take this opportunity to wish everyonebright hope for a healthy, happy, peaceful and wonderful 2014.           

A Race to the Bottom?

According to a 2008 study by the Illinois Education Research Council, Chicago Public School teachers scored an average of 19 (out of 36) on standardized ACT tests. This compares to an average score of 21 among all Illinois high school students and 18 of Chicago Public School students. Younger/newer teachers tended to have higher ACT test scores.   Conclusion?  Many Chicago teachers are likely unfit for teaching.   How about Chicago students?  A mere 33% of Chicago Public School students who enter high school will go to college.  Fewer will graduate.  In an article a few months ago (Philip Elliott; Associated Press), it states that only 5% of African American students are fully ready for life after high school.  Chicago’s educational system is dysfunctional and depressing.     

But there is a glimmer of hope.  When it comes to ACT scores, it was reported several weeks ago that academically the top 11 open-enrollment high schools in Chicago are charter schools.  This is reason for optimism.  I have a keen interest in education – and improving the “system.”  I’ve not been shy about editorial comment or criticism (e.g. see posts of 4/2/12; 4/5/12; 9/12/12; 9/17/12). 

Bottom line?  We need to recruit better teachers.  We need to dump lousy teachers.   We need more charter schools and magnets schools.  We need more tutors.  Mentors.  Accountability.  Family involvement.  Outreach to those who live in poverty.  We need to focus on non-cognitive skills as well as the cognitive.   If the Chicago Teachers Union and the politicians who support them continue to get in the way (which they do regularly on the issues above), they deserve the blame for our children’s failures.   As it is, they seem to be leading Chicago’s educational race to the bottom.  Are we there yet?  Giddyap. . . .

Christmas 2013

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given . . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David).  To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.   And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.   Luke 2:4-7 

I can’t believe it’s Christmas.  Again.  Time seems to move so swiftly.  The days are long but the years are fast. . . .

My best wishes to all of you for a Happy and Blessed Christmas, New Year and Holiday Season!!  

Tort Reform

When you go to the hospital emergency room, the first person you see after checking in is a triage nurse or physician’s assistant who will determine the nature and severity of your injury or illness. And then you will be treated accordingly.

In the judicial system, there is a triage system to determine the merit of criminal cases.  It’s called a “grand jury” or a “preliminary hearing.”  If a case does not have merit, a judge will throw it out (or a grand jury will vote down taking the matter further).  But for civil cases, there is regrettably no triage system for determining their merit.  Result?  Many of America’s civil cases have little or no merit.  Yet you hear plaintiff’s lawyers squealing like stuck pigs whenever someone talks about limiting their right to bring lawsuits — or limiting the fees they might collect.  Pardon me — I mean limiting the damages their client might recover.  Even in Plato’s Apology (399 B.C.), he explains how any case that one wanted to bring needed the threshold approval, of one fifth of the 501 jurors of Athens.  There was a triage system for new civil cases – 2,500 years ago.     

One of the biggest costs to America’s health care system is lawyers. But for lawyers, doctors would not perform needless procedures and order unnecessary testing.   But for lawyers, damage claims might be held within reason.  It is because of lawyers that tort reform and damage caps need to be put squarely on the table (especially if our ailing health care “system” is to survive).   Maybe loser should pay.  There needs to be discussion and implementation.  If there’s pushback from the lawyers, it may be Dick the Butcher (Shakespeare’s Henry VI) was on to something . . . . .   

Don’t Get “Tired”

My friend Al reminded me that in cold weather, it’s a good idea to check car tires since the cold will contract air pressure and tires can flatten out. I did and sure enough – my front two tires were low. Really low.  It was night.  Cold.  So I went to a gas station where they have one of those air pumps where you have to pop for 75 cents. I unscrewed the valve caps, had my air gauge at the ready and dropped 3 quarters. The machine kicked in and I applied the hose to the tire valve. Nothing happened.  Everything was frozen.

Now this is not an issue that I’ve dealt with before so I went into the gas station where a lone clerk sat behind a thick glass partition. I explained the problem. “Valve’s frozen,” he said.  Hoookayyy. . .  “Stick the hose up your exhaust while the motor’s running and . . . . [he grabbed a lighter from the shelf and passed it under the window] warm your tire valves if they’re frozen.”  “Bring back the lighter,”  he said. 

I went out and slid the hose a couple feet up the exhaust.  And let it sit for a few minutes.  And warm.  I lit the lighter and warmed the tire valves.  After a couple minutes, I took a breath, dropped in another 75 cents and applied the hose to the tire valve.  “PFFFFTT.”  It worked like a charm.  Whew!  The tire inflated and I brought the lighter back.  I thanked the clerk (offered him a tip – he declined).  “I used to drive a semi” he said.  “Used to happen all the time.  It’s one of those little tricks you learn.” 

Now you all know the trick.  🙂   

Sparkles

I am an anti-sparkle guy.  You know – those little shiny whatevertheheckyoucallthem thingees that get all over the table, all over the floor and all over everything.  I do not like “sparkly” Christmas (or any other kind of) cards.  I do not like sparkly ribbons.  I do not like sparkly paper.  And I most of all do not like those folks who – when they put their Christmas card in the envelope – think it’s festive to fill the card full of sparkles.  So when you open the card, sparkles fly into the air and fall onto the table.  Just think about inhaling a lungful of sparkles.  Or worse yet your child or grandchild inhaling sparkles.  Or eating sparkles.    

I remember having meat loaf a few years ago and I remember looking at it.  It sparkled back at me.  Meat loaf that sparkled.  Now the recipe called for Italian bread crumbs, seasoning, and salt and pepper.  But no sparkles.  Then I remembered having opened a Christmas card which was full of. . . .you know.  And I looked at my sparkly hands.  Since then, I have been on a campaign to ban sparkles from all ribbons, gifts, cards, wrapping paper and whatever.  Write your Congressman.  Senator.  The President.  If you have a sparkly card or a ton of sparkles, send it all to Congress.  Or the Senate.  Or the White House.  That may get some action. . . .   

Winning the Lottery

You hear about the Mega Millions Jackpot reaching 300 million dollars. The Powerball is 400 million dollars. Everyone in the world buys at least a “quick pick.” Hoping. . . .  But the big question is what happens if you win?  If you take the money (often paid out over 20 years), when all is said and done, your tax will be about 50%.  Or more.   So you win 300 million smackers — the feds and your state will karate chop your hand before you get a nickel.  And then anything you earn on the retained amount is taxed like there is no tomorrow. . . .

I have a theory.  Let’s say you win $300 million.  You pick your 5 or 10 favorite charities:  Salvation Army; Red Cross; Augustana College; the Boy Scouts of America; Misericordia; and so on.  And you belly up and tell them “Look.  Here’s the deal.  You agree between you to split the $300 million.  You pay no tax because – voila – it’s all charitable income.”  And you hand them the winning ticket.  Those charities will be on this like a football player jumps on a fumble.  But what about you? 

You tell the charities that their ownership of the winning ticket (don’t call it a “gift”) is informally conditioned on them providing you each year with a stipend (perhaps the max you can give an individual without tax consequence).  This amount can be paid each year to yourself, your spouse, children, etc.  It’s way more than enough to incentivize the charities.  The IRS will bite its knuckles and the state(s) will growl.  But who knows?  It might just work.  Everybody wins.  🙂  Accountants I’ve spoken to suggest that such an arrangement would be challenged.  But ain’t it worth the try?  I like this.  All the money is used for charitable purpose instead of paying off debt to China or paying the salaries of bureaucrats.  I look forward to considering this when I win the Lottery.  Again.