Friday, February 05, 2010

I love this song....

There is no song out there right now that compares to how this makes me feel.

He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us oh
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us oh,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.

And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…

That He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.

Friday, November 06, 2009

I have a dream....

Famous words from a famous speech, but do we really ever reflect on this speech? Today one particular line caught my eye.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Martin Luther King Jr.

Do we really judge people by their character and not the color of their skin? We claim we are colorblind, but are we? Do we not assume certain things about people based on height, weight, race or religion? What is it in us that makes us do this? We all have, at one time or another, judged someone based on these criteria. Being born one race is not a privilege or a disadvantage. People are people and should be treated as equal.

That being said, I tread into hostile waters. My friends are varied. Most of them believe as I do and are of similar backgrounds at least ethnically. It seems to be in human nature to bond with people who are most like yourself. Why is it some intelligent people, who accept conservative ideals, voted for Barack Obama? I ask myself this and remember the Howard Stern experiment in Harlem. It was because of the color of his skin and not the content of his character.

Mr. King had a great point and one that is overlooked in an effort to promote diversity. People should not have privileges because of their race. All men and women are created equal. We should judge people based on their character and their ideals not their skin color. Yet, we do and we did. Make no mistake; I know many people who disagree with over half of what Mr. Obama stands for yet voted for him. They wear “The first black President” shirts and political T-shirts that speak of “Change”. The very change they did not want all because of the color of someone’s skin.

It is a sad fact that we still do not vote based on character. We vote based on who is the most like us or to break some tradition. One day, I hope I see a nation that focuses on character and not skin color. I too have a dream that all people are created equal and that one day we will vote based on principles and character and not skin color.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Circus or Trial?

There are many things I do not understand about the legal system. I am trying to cure this by getting into law school. One such example is the circus known as Lemaricus Davidson's trial. Two college students were raped, tortured and subsequently murdered and 5 individuals have been charged. There are many things the jury is not allowed to hear because it would "taint" the jury's opinion of a known violent thug. It is a circus.

You can watch it here:

And read about it here:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lamar Alexander and Student Loans

This is also worth reading....

Floor Statement of Senator Lamar Alexander

September 23, 2009

"…I would like to say a few words about Federal student loans.

President Obama said the other day, in what I thought was a very perceptive comment, that he understood the health care debate and all its intensity is a proxy for a larger debate, and that is about the role of government in our society. What I and many Republicans believe and, I think, many Independents and Democrats, as well, in the State of Tennessee, and I suspect across the country, is that we have suddenly seen too many taxes, too much spending, too much debt, and too many Washington takeovers.

The President says, and he is correct to an extent with this, that some of these Washington takeovers were not his fault, were not his doing. I suppose he would say that about some of the bank takeovers and the insurance company takeovers. I am not so sure about the takeover of the automobile companies or the takeover of the farm bonds or the proposal to takeover health care. But here is a voluntary takeover that is absolutely unnecessary, is unwise, and the American people should pay attention to this.

This goes to the center of what the President said. If health care is a proxy for a debate about the extent to which the American Government ought to be involved in our society, then the proposal by the President to take over the entire student loan program and move it from the private sector into the government is a perfect example of what we ought not to be doing.

Let me speak first to the dimensions of this program. The United States has the best system of higher education in the world. One of the greatest aspects of it, one of the greatest contributors to its quality, is that we have a generous amount of Federal dollars which permit about half or more of our students to either get a Federal grant, which we usually call Pell grants, or a Federal student loan which follows them to the institution of their choice. So unlike our our elementary and secondary schools, your Pell grant -- your grant going all of the way back to the GI bill in 1944 -- can follow you wherever you go.

That choice and that competition and that money have helped to create not just some of the best colleges and universities in the world but virtually all of them. Most observers agree on that.

The higher education system today is 6,000 institutions. These are the universities of North Carolina and Tennessee. That is what we might think of first, but there are also community colleges, the 2-year schools. There are also nonprofit colleges. There are also the religious institutions -- Notre Dame and Brigham Young and many others. So there are 6,000 institutions.

Last year, 4,400 of those 6,000 institutions used the regular student loan program. That is the one where you go to the bank, usually your community bank or local bank, and you get a student loan. And 1,600 schools, or about one-fourth, used the direct loan program, which was put in at the time I was Secretary of Education about 20 years ago, and you just go to the U.S. Department of Education and get your money. On the private side of it, which is what 3 out of 4 students choose, there are 2,000 lenders that participate in the program.

This year, there are nearly 19 million loans to students and parents and 14 million of them are in the regular student loan program, 4.5 million through the government. There was $86 billion of loans made. So the regular student loan volume through the private lenders was about $64 billion; the direct loan volume was $22 billion.

So all in all outstanding, $617 billion of volume for both programs, and the President has said we are going to take all of that and put it in the U.S. Department of Education. So what his proposal is, if you are one of the 14 million students today who are getting their student loans from their local banks, starting in January you are out of luck. You better line up outside the U.S. Department of Education with the other 19 million people who want a student loan and hope they can provide you with the same sort of service your community bank or lending institution or nonprofit organization in your area provides you today.

There is a lack of evidence to show that the U.S. Department of Education can do a better job of making loans than banks can. I used to work at the U.S. Department of Education. I was the Secretary. It is one of the smaller departments in government. The people there know a lot about education, but none of them really is running for banker of the year.

Arne Duncan is President Obama's Education Secretary. He is one of his best appointments. I would much prefer seeing him in Memphis working on charter schools or in Denver trying to find ways to pay outstanding teachers more or trying to help create a better system of colleges and universities or community colleges instead of trying to manage the problem of, how do I grant $100 billion in new loans to 19 million people every single year? How do I replace 2,000 private lenders?

Let me give you an example of what a private lender might do. In Tennessee, we have EdSouth. This is a nonprofit provider. Here is what they do. They had five regional outreach counselors to canvass Tennessee to provide college and career planning, financial aid training, college admissions assistance, and financial aid literacy. They made 443 presentations at Tennessee schools through college fairs, guidance visits, and presentations. They worked with 12,000 Tennessee students to improve their understanding of the college admissions and financial aid process. They provided training to over 1,000 school counselors so those counselors could work better with their students. They distributed almost 1.5 million financial aid brochures to Tennessee students and families. Will the U.S. Department of Education start providing those services, or will the 19 million students who want student loans simply line up outside the U.S. Department of Education or one of its offices somewhere and apply for a loan? I think I know the answer to that question.

According to the Department of Education, it costs them about $700 million a year to administer the loans they make today. That is for one-quarter of all the loans. They estimate they can make those same loans to 19 million students with about the same amount of money. I doubt if that is true, which brings me to the point of the savings -- the alleged savings of this program.

Senator Gregg and I -- the Senator from New Hampshire, who is the former chairman of the Budget Committee, the ranking member now -- talked about the alleged savings in moving all of these loans from the lending institutions that make them to 19 million students today, to the U.S. Department of Education.
Senator Gregg received a letter from the Congressional Budget Office on July 27. I ask unanimous consent to have that letter printed in the Record.

Senator Gregg basically asked: Is it true that if we stop making loans through private and nonprofit lenders whereby the Federal Government guarantees the loans and pays a regulated subsidy to the lender -- if we stop that and start making all of them through the government directly, will we save $87 billion? And the short answer -- if you want the long answer, the letter is available -- the short answer is no, you do not save $87 billion; you are likely to realize $47 billion in savings over the next 10 years.

Instead of saving $87 billion, we save $47 billion. Then we have to deduct the administrative costs. Remember, instead of making some of the loans, the Department of Education is going to make 19 million loans. The Department estimates it might cost it $7 billion over the 10 years to do that. Others think it might cost $30 billion. So the real savings -- the real savings are either $47 billion or more like $20 billion or $23 billion in savings over 10 years.

In order to do that, of course, we are going to have to raise the Federal debt. We are going to have to borrow $1 billion a year for the next 5 years. So at a time when we are concerned that we are adding $9 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years, we are going to add another half trillion over 5 years so we can make student loans instead of doing it through private institutions.

Here is the real clincher. When you press and say: In order to make these loans, what is the real reason you think you can do this if the savings aren't really $87 billion but they are more like $47 billion or more like $23 billion over 10 years?

They say: Well, the real reason is the government can borrow money cheaper than the private banks can.

That is true. The government can borrow money at a quarter of a percentage point, and then it loans it to the students at 6.8 percentage points.

Well, my first point would be that I don't think the government ought to be making a profit by overcharging students for their student loans and then turn around and take credit for starting new programs. What the government is actually going to be doing is charging a student who has a job and is trying to get a student loan -- is going to say: OK, we are going to borrow the money at one-quarter of 1 percent and loan it to you at 6.8, and then we are going to take that money and pay for your Pell grant or pay for someone else's Pell grant.

In other words, they are going to overcharge the student to make the Congressman look good. That is what we are doing. We are going out and announcing all of these programs. So we are spending $87 billion, when it is really between $23 and $47 billion -- that is the amount we really have -- and we make that money by overcharging the students.

At the very least, if we are going to take all of these loans into the government, we ought to reduce the interest rate so we don't overcharge the students.

I see the Senator from Oklahoma. I am going to defer to him and welcome him to the floor. But I hope, as we think about the issue the President so accurately described -- he said: The health care debate is really a proxy for the role of government in our society. He is exactly right about that. And while some of the Washington takeovers may not have been avoidable at the beginning of the year, there is no reason in the world why Washington should take over 19 million student loans, eliminate 2,000 lenders, stop students on 6,000 campuses from having a choice in competition, and say: The government is the best banker in America; line up outside the Department of Education, all 19 million of you, in January and get your student loan.

So I am thinking of introducing an amendment that is called a truth-in-lending amendment if this legislation were to pass, and it would say to every one of the 19 million students: Truth in lending -- beware. Your government is overcharging you so that your Congressman and your Senator can take credit for starting a new program.

I yield the floor."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Something worth passing on...

I received this via email from a co-worker. I think Corker's response is important to read and worth the time. I have inserted the text below:

"Thank you for taking the time to contact my office about H.R. 3200, the America's Affordable Health Choices Act. Your input is important to me, and I appreciate the time you took to share your thoughts.

I share your concerns about the provisions in H.R. 3200, and I assure you that I will not vote for this bill as written if it is introduced in the Senate. I believe that all Americans should be able to purchase affordable, private, quality health care coverage for themselves and their families; however, I do not support an overhaul of the system that eliminates choice of doctor or health care services, forces Americans out of their current coverage, or further burdens Americans with more taxes and more debt.

The America's Affordable Health Choices Act would take money from Medicare, a program that is itself almost insolvent, and use it to create a whole new set of health care entitlements. This is not sensible and will add incredible amounts of debt to our country's balance sheet. To address this issue, I have written a letter signed by 36 senators to Senate Majority Leader Reid stating that that any potential monies found through Medicare reform should only be utilized to secure the financial stability of this program.

I also have concerns about the America's Affordable Health Choices Act's creation of a public plan option as an alternative to private health insurance plans. I believe that the private health insurance market, with many improvements, has the capability to effectively lower the cost of individual health insurance. Although I am supportive of increased competition among health insurers, I believe that a public option could seriously threaten private plans' ability to compete on a level playing field. As the Senate debates comprehensive health care reform, I assure you that I will be working with my colleagues to craft legislation with the best possible balance of choice, quality, affordability, and competition among health insurance plans. The attached op-ed article further explains my views on how I believe responsible health care reform should proceed.

The America's Affordable Health Choices Act has not yet been introduced in the Senate, but the insight you have provided in your letter will certainly help my staff and I more effectively look in to this issue.

Thank you again for your letter. I hope you will continue to share your thoughts with me.

Sincerely, Bob CorkerUnited States Senator"

Here is the content in the attachment:

August 6, 2009

I’ve spent two years and countless hours in bipartisan meetings working toward comprehensive health care reforms that would enable all Americans to access affordable, private health insurance, and last month I accepted President Obama’s invitation to discuss health care reform at the White House. I believe we have a moral obligation to give our honest attention to a crisis that is affecting, to varying extents, every single American.

Unfortunately, I believe the Obama administration’s proposal takes us in exactly the wrong direction. It would be, in Governor Bredesen’s words, “the mother of all unfunded mandates,” sending billions in costs to already overburdened states. It takes money away from Medicare, an already insolvent program, and leverages it to create a new entitlement program, further jeopardizing a program our seniors depend upon and adding to our country’s burgeoning deficit. It asks small businesses to bear the largest brunt of its costs, and perhaps most disturbing, the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says the proposal would “significantly expand” health care spending. Clearly, the administration’s plan is not the answer.

Congress’s first objective should be to do no harm. Second, we should create a budget neutral mechanism to make health insurance more accessible to millions of Americans. Next, it’s critical that we focus on making Medicare more solvent and begin addressing the $40 trillion in unfunded liability that threatens its future. Finally, we should modernize our health care system to increase efficiency, improve quality and lower costs.

Millions of Americans could be covered today, without adding to the federal deficit, by providing advanceable, refundable tax credits, which would give citizens cash in hand to make monthly payments for health insurance. It could be paid for by changing tax code to limit tax benefits for the “Cadillac,” or most costly insurance plans, which are currently not taxed. I believe this concept, and the many variations of it that have been discussed, could win strong bipartisan support.
We could also pass reforms requiring insurers to issue policies to all applicants and preventing insurers from pricing policies based on health status, so that even those with pre-existing conditions would be offered competitively-priced coverage. These reforms would help every American, not just the newly insured.

Nothing poses a greater risk to our country’s financial future than out-of-control entitlement programs like Medicare. Medicare trustees expect the program to be insolvent in 2017. Unbelievably, the administration’s proposal would take cuts made to Medicare and use them to leverage a new program to cover the uninsured – rather than putting the funds toward extending the life of Medicare. Instead of robbing Peter to pay Paul, which compounds debt on future generations, we should focus on making Medicare more solvent. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Health and Human Services Department should spend ample time implementing pilots and doing the hard work to determine how we can deliver Medicare better than we are today. Americans should be fearful of 100 senators and 435 members of the House trying to make these highly specialized decisions about how beneficiaries receive care and what services should be available.
Finally, we need to modernize our health care system to create better, more efficient care. Today, instead of a health care “system” we have health care “silos” that prevent providers from coordinating care effectively. Standard health information technology platforms would help providers communicate, eliminate duplicative tests, and ensure patients receive the best standard of care possible. Standardized insurance claim forms would allow providers to spend more time treating patients and less time doing paperwork. Requiring providers to publish transparent pricing and quality outcomes would empower consumers to make informed decisions about their health. Tort reform is also long overdue. According to the American Medical Association, liability pressure raises health system costs by $84-$151 billion per year. With modernization reforms, Congress could expand access to those who need it most, while strengthening coverage for those already insured – all without adding to the federal deficit.

There is no issue more important or more personal to Americans than health care, and there may be no issue more complex. Reforming our health care system in a way that protects America’s unparalleled quality of care and innovation, preserves choice, expands access, and lowers health care costs for all Americans will take time and hard work. I still believe responsible health care reform is possible this fall, and it’s my hope that Congress will slow down and get it right.