religion

The Brazen Serpent
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The Old Testament is full of interesting stories. Many of them seem downright immoral, but that’s mostly because of mistranslations and/or cultural differences. They are usually full of symbolism and capable of teaching us many things.

One of my favorite stories has always been the story of the brass serpent.  I like this story because it brings up two questions:

  1. How do you make the Lord so mad, he sends poisonous snakes to kill you?
  2. Why did He choose to heal them this way?

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Tag clouds are fun (and useful) for visualizing the text of a given speech or website.  It counts the number of times each word is used and the more a word is used, the bigger the font size.  It then jumbles each word together in a fun cloud.

LDS Media Talk has a post with a tag cloud by Connor Boyack.  It’s a great-looking cloud (they call it a Wordle, after the site where the cloud was made).

Recently, though, a site has been made called Tagxedo, that allows you to conform your word cloud to an image.  So, I tried it out with the text from General Conference and the results are below.

I’d love to see what other people come up with, so here is the text from April 2010 General Conference.  If you make a cloud, please put a link to it in the comments.  I’d love to check it out!

I can’t watch this video without thinking of the parable of the talents*.

http://scriptures.lds.org/en/matt/25/23#23

“23. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”

I hope to show this video to my children one day and teach them that they can do anything the Lord wants them to do.  Without exception.

* I realize the “talents” discussed in the parable of the talents are monetary units and not talents as we think of them today. I think that makes the parable apply to much more than talents but still include talents.

p.s.  Thanks to my mom and Erika for sending this to me.

Painting by an unknown painter, circa 1842. Th...
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You know that prophesy Joseph Smith made that “the Constitution will hang by a thread” and the Elders of the Church will save it?

Yeah, well, not so much.  It’s not Church doctrine:

http://www.rexburgstandardjournal.com/articles/2009/12/24/news/42.txt

Kim Farah, the Church spokeswoman, said:

“The so-called ‘White Horse Prophecy’ is based on accounts that have not been substantiated by historical research and is not embraced as Church doctrine.”

Good to know.

PORTSMOUTH, NH - AUGUST 11:  Diane Campbell, 5...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

A month ago, I wrote about the “tragedy of the commons” and how it applies to health care in the US. Basically,

“The same holds true for health care. Collectively, we all have an incentive to avoid over-utilizing health care and unnecessarily burdening our system. Individually, however, when we have no skin in the game, when somebody else pays the bill, we have no incentive to monitor our use of this pooled resource.”

My proposed solution to the health care crisis was,

“I’d like to see a proposal that gives tax advantage to high-deductible plans, so people have skin in the game, and that forces doctors and hospitals to publish their prices before treatment is given. With both the use and cost of health care better controlled, health insurance will become much cheaper.”

Predictably, Harry Reid and the Democrats are not only refusing to make high-deductible health plans tax-advantaged, they’re trying to eliminate them altogether.

“The Reid bill also assaults health savings accounts, or HSAs, which allow individuals to accumulate tax-free funds for future medical expenses when coupled with low-premium, high-deductible insurance. The Reid bill changes tax provisions to make HSAs less attractive, but the real threat comes via increased regulation.

These insurance products will likely be barred from the insurance ‘exchanges’ that will demolish and supplant today’s individual market. Employers will also find them more difficult if not illegal to offer once the government has new powers to ‘define the essential health benefits’ that all plans must eventually offer. Plans that focus mainly on catastrophic health expenses, instead of routine procedures, aren’t generous enough for Democrats.

In other words, instead of bridging the gap between payer and consumer, the very heart of the problem, we’re increasing the gap.

Mark my words, this can have no other effect than to increase health care costs.  This won’t just leave the costs as they are now, but make them worse.  People who are already being responsible about health care costs will no longer be incented to do so.

Even worse, remember the other effect of the “tragedy of the commons” I discussed.  The crab fisherman I talked about did everything they could to get all the crabs before somebody else did.  The same applies here.

Health care is a scarce resource (meaning there isn’t an unlimited amount of it).  This is because there are a limited number of doctors and other health care professionals, facilities, machines, etc.  One reason prices are so high (besides the lack of price competition, see post linked above) is that our health care system is overburdened.

Cash Money

Image by jtyerse via Flickr

Another scarce resource is money.  Despite the government’s willingness to deficit finance over the past 10 years or so, there is a scarce amount of money in the world.  Of course, the US could start printing money (they’re not, despite what Glen Beck says) but if they do that on a large scale, get ready to occupy your underground bunker ’cause things will get rough.

Given that the services and the ability to pay for them are scarce, we can expect Congress to work to manage those costs through lower coverage and higher premiums for the “public” option (or legislation that makes other plans look worse, compared to the public option).

Knowing this, consumers who enroll in the public option (already expected to be the highest users of the health care system) will explode their utilization in an effort to get all the services they can before the costs go up.

The bottom line is this:  the current Senate plan not only doesn’t do anything to cut health care costs, it will raise them.  Guaranteed.  At a price of $1.2 trillion ($2.5 trillion by some measures that account for Congress’ accounting gimmicks), this is unacceptable.

Please, please, please contact your Senator and Harry Reid’s office and make sure they know how you feel about this bill.  Your ability to provide health care for your family is at stake.