“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”

September 7, 2007

Statue of Liberty

For more than 120 years the Statue of Liberty has stood as a beacon welcoming those who want a better life for themselves and their families. A life free of religious and political intolerance, where opportunity awaits.

America is a land of immigrants. We should remember this every time the issue of immigration comes up. We need to shape our immigration policies so that both our safety is protected and our historic kindness to strangers is maintained. We need a policy that has high walls AND wide doors.

High walls, both physical and as procedural barriers to entry need to be extended and broadened. Illegal immigration should be stopped and those who help people cross our borders illegally or who employ illegal immigrants should be punished. A sovereign nation has both a right and the duty to control its borders and immigration.

Wider doors need to be created so that the demand for the American lifestyle can be satisfied legally and in a controlled manner. We should allow more people in to work, to invest and to become citizens. Each channel of work, investment or citizenship should have its own track and clear, easy to understand rules.

One example of the work channel could be to issue a Temporary Workers ID Card to anyone who wanted to come to the USA and work for a bit. This Temporary Workers ID would have the person’s name, address, picture and other data on it. They would be allowed to work here in any job they could find (maybe at a wage higher than minimum so that U.S citizens would be offered the position first) and would be taxed like anyone would. They would also have some money withheld from each paycheck on a sliding scale that increased with time that would go into a savings account for them and which they could get ONLY once they were back in their country of origin. The automatic savings would start at 10% the first year and increase by another 10% each year so that by year 10 they were not making any money at all. It would all be going into the savings account. This would give them a big incentive to work a few years and then go home. After all, the longer they worked here, the less money they would make and if they went home, they could collect a bonus in the form of their savings account. An advantage this system has is that we would be able to track all foreign workers, something we cannot do now, and we would be able to see which ones may be working “off the books” if somehow they are contributing 100% of their income to the savings account and yet still able to live here.

An example of the citizenship channel could be time and effort. Being a citizen of the United States of America is the best thing in the world. If you really want to be a citizen and enjoy all the benefits it has for yourself and your family you will need to prove yourself. You will need to put in time and effort like:

• Living here a minimum of 10 years.
• Learning English.
• Having a steady job.
• Getting and maintaining car and health insurance.
• Taking and passing citizenship exams on the Constitution and U.S. History.
• Not commit any crimes.
• Or serve in the Military or Volunteer for a local civic non-profit for at least 3 years.

Your steps toward citizenship through each one of these tasks will be monitored yearly and progress must be quantitatively demonstrated and improved upon each year until successful completion. Becoming a U.S. Citizen should not be easy, but it also should not be so hard to drive good people into an illegal lifestyle.

I am a third generation American and I welcome your comments.


The Food and Drug Administration should allow terminally ill patients greater access to developmental drugs

March 17, 2007

Abigail BurroughsAbigail Burroughs

Abigail Burroughs had just turned 21 back in March 2001 when she ran out of conventional options in her battle against cancer. She was being treated at the world renowned Johns Hopkins Medical Center when her oncologist urged her to try a new drug, C225 (Erbitux) not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (the “FDA”). She could not get on any current drug trials and the pharmaceutical company would not sell it to her citing FDA rules and regulations. Abigail died six months later on June 9, 2001.

Erbitux was later found to be almost miraculously effective against her kind of cancer.

Since then her father, Frank, has worked tirelessly toward helping create wider access to developmental cancer drugs and other drugs for life threatening illnesses for terminally ill patients through the Abigail Alliance . They are trying to help promote creative ideas to get promising new drugs to the market sooner.

Denying drugs to a dying patient on the grounds that they have not been proven safe and effective is wrong.
Why should some regulator in Washington D.C. have the final say in our personal treatment if everything else has already been tried?

A Solution to Global Warming?

February 19, 2007

Deepak LalDeepak Lal

I was talking by phone with Professor Deepak Lal, the James S. Coleman Professor of International Development Studies at UCLA, the other day. “So, how’s the weather? Sunny ?” I asked. “Yes… but… you know the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report for 2007 is making a lot of headlines these days” Professor Lal began. “Of course I’ve heard of it (thank goodness for Google)” I said quickly, “Well…” he continued “…the weather and global warming is a renewable resource” “O.K, I understand, you mean there is a lot of it and we all own it or have responsibility for it” I said.

Professor Lal then gave me a very interesting mini-lecture describing a solution to the problem of renewable resources, a subject that concerns us all. He continued “Good, then you understand that many renewable resources face the “problem of the commons”. If the renewable resource is owned by all of us, it is not really owned by anyone. As such there is an incentive for everyone to use it excessively. Thus, a commonly owned lake will be overfished. The answer lies in creating ownership rights which provide the owner the incentive to conserve his resources to the optimal extent. The African elephant provides an example of how creating private ownership of commonly owned renewable resources can prevent their uneconomic use. The elephant population in sub-Sahara Africa was declining because of poaching for ivory. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species sought to stem the decline by banning trade in ivory. This merely sent the ivory trade underground. As the legal trade was suppressed but demand remained undiminished, ivory prices soared. The profits of the poachers involved in the illegal trade also soared, along with their incentives to kill even more African elephants. South Africa bucked the trend. It allowed herds to be privately owned for eco-tourism and safari hunting. Its elephant population was stabilized and even increased.” Professor Lal explained.

“So one solution to global warming would be to privatize it? I asked.
“Which is already happening, with carbon credits”

According to Wikipedia “Carbon credits came into existence as a result of increasing awareness on the need for pollution control. It took the formal form after the international agreement between 141 countries, popularly known as Kyoto Protocol. Carbon Credits are certificates awarded to countries that are successful in reducing the emissions that cause global warming.”

Carbon credits can even be traded on the Chicago Climate Exchange or bought from NativeEnergy and used to offset your own CO2 emissions.

Understanding that global warming is a “problem of the commons” and working to create privately owned and tradable carbon credits is just one way I would explore to make sure all our tomorrows are sunnier than today.


How I would make us $250 million

February 6, 2007

In January, United Airlines won a four-way contest to provide new service from the USA to China beating American Airlines, Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines.

United’s application was for a non-stop Washington DC to Beijing flight while the competitors’ applications took off from other airports like Newark or Dallas or made stops along the way. The Department of Transportation handled the application process. This took over a year to finalize before granting United the winning bid. The government said United’s proposal had the potential to benefit the greatest number of passengers. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said the final choice was difficult, but “ultimately the goal is to do everything in our power to expand service, destinations and frequencies between the United States and China.”

Roger King, an airline analyst for CreditSights (an independent research firm) says the new route could be worth as much as $250 million for the winning airline, “There’s a ton of money in these routes”.

Now, here is how I would make us, citizens of the USA, richer by $250 million (Sorry, no personal checks being cut today). Instead of the Department of Transportation spending a year trying to figure out which application would benefit the greatest number of passengers, they should hold an auction. Invite United, American, Continental, Northwest and anyone else qualified to fulfill the necessary safety requirements and have responsible experience in order to enter the auction. Then, award the route to the highest bidder. We would have a winner in 24 hours instead of one year and we citizens would be $250 million richer. Clean, fast and simple.

For years the Federal Communications Commission has held auctions of spectrum for telecommunication use and have raised billions of dollars for us. Likewise the Interior Department habitually raises more billions from auctioning offshore drilling rights. Why should the Department of Transportation act any differently, squandering both a year and $250 million dollars.

Auctions, just one way I would work make Government smarter and more efficient. Know any other simple measures we can do today to make government smarter and more efficient?


Let free market supply and demand determine price

January 16, 2007

Every day, over 300 million people & businesses buy and sell goods and services. This natural market interaction creates something remarkable and useful and free – the price of things.

Boring you say? Who cares about the price of things? You do. Every time you fill your car with gas, buy groceries, get a new pair of shoes or turn on cable TV. The price of gas, groceries, shoes, cable TV, of anything conveys information. It tells us who is currently winning the battle between supply and demand. It also tells us how we should change your behavior to take advantage of or protect ourselves from the battle. If the price of gas is too high it means demand is greater than supply. Because of the high gas prices, we get angry and yell at the gas companies when we fill up at the pump. AND we take action. We drive less, buy more fuel efficient cars and make sure our tire pressure is at the correct level. In other words, we buy or demand less. Less demand and stable supply means prices go down.

The little actions that each one of us does naturally every day affect demand.

It works the other way too. If there is more hamburger meat (supply) and prices go down, I buy more (demand).

Prices go down, I buy more making prices go back up.
Prices go up, I buy less making prices go back down.

Up, down, up, down go the prices showing who is currently winning the supply/demand battle. I change my behavior to affect the battle and help change the price. It is a giant ongoing feedback mechanism and one of the key aspects that make capitalism work.

Just about the only thing that can break this feedback mechanism is Government. After all, you or I cannot set the price of goods and services. We cannot make people buy no matter what the price. Our customers would laugh in our face, go down the block or pull up a different web page and buy it cheaper from our competitors. But the Government can set a price. It can say “All sugar sold in the USA will cost at least 21 cents per pound”. And that’s that, end of story. It would not matter that other sweeteners get invented or that sugar only costs 11 cents overseas. Here, in the USA, because the Government says so, sugar costs at least 21 cents a pound. This is where problems begin.

Once Government sets a price, it creates something that does not truly reflect supply and demand (our input on the price of things). A Government set price creates many unintended and bad side effects. People who supply things get rewarded unjustly or use capital unwisely to meet artificial demand. We, consumers, get hurt through higher prices and end up spending money we could have otherwise spent or saved on other things. Things we really wanted, not the higher prices.

Besides these bad effects, Government sets prices do even more damage by creating black markets. If the Government sets prices to high it practically invites smugglers and other lawbreakers in. For example, during Prohibition it was illegal to buy or sell alcohol (wine, whisky, beer…). In essence, the Government set the price of alcohol at a very high price. However, just because the Government sets a high price and stops most demand, it cannot cut off all demand. If you wanted to celebrate your birthday or job promotion during Prohibition with your friends and a bottle of Canadian Whisky all you had to do was find out where the local speakeasy was, say the secret word and have fun. Who knows, you might even get lucky that night and see a real gangster, local politician, or cop (At least that’s what I saw on Chicago staring Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renée Zellweger).

Black markets are not regulated, taxed and make good people to do bad things (like smuggle and bribe to evade the law).

By letting the free market determine the price of things, we all benefit. Government should take a hands off or “laissez-fraire” approach to prices and not regulate them in any way.

Do you know of any other bad things that can happen when Governments set prices?



December 29, 2006


Think global act local may seem like a saying from hippie days but it has more truth and meaning now than ever. This Christmas we took the kids down to LA to visit their Grandma Debbie. Along the way we splurged a bit and stayed at the San Francisco Hyatt Regency on the Embarcadero (a very nice hotel that has wonderful holiday decorations and model train displays up this time of year). While there, I noticed the card pictured above. It says that they will not change your towel every day. Now, I like a nice new fluffy towel as much as the next person but I like our planet better. One Hyatt in Atlanta saved 13,663 gallons of water a year by not changing towels every day and implementing other water saving measures. If every one of the 215 Hyatts had the same results this hotel chain alone would save over 2.9 million gallons of water a year!

This is only one example of how one hotel chain acting locally can affect global issues. SELF Magazine in conjunction with the National Resource Defence Council came up with these easy steps we all can do to help protect planet Earth.

  • Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs. They consume less energy and last up to 10 times longer. If every family changed 5 standard bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs, it would be like taking 8 million cars off the road.
  • Unplug chargers. Devices that are “on” even when off waste energy and account for 10% of your electric bill.
  • Buy energy-efficient appliances. A refrigerator with an Energy Star label uses 40% less power than an older model.
  • Purchase recycled paper products. If every household replaced one roll of virgin toilet paper with one recycled post-consumer-waste roll, 424,000 trees would be saved.
  • Stop drinking individual bottles of water. Or at least refill them from a larger container. The annual amount of oil expended to produce plastic bottles sold in the United States is enough to fuel 100,000 cars for an entire year.
  • Use safer drain cleaners. Commercial drain cleaners can be highly toxic. Try pouring ½ cup baking soda down the drain followed by ½ cup white vinegar next time you clean you sink.
  • Check your car’s owners manual to make sure you’re not buying higher octane gas than you need. Not only is high-octane gas more expensive, it also emits more pollutants than lower-octane gas.
  • Test your furnace and have it cleaned every year. Inefficient home heating systems can waste 20% or more of the energy they burn.

THINK GLOBAL – ACT LOCAL. Great advice then, even better now.
What else can we do as individuals to help the environment?

How can we help to create a poverty-free world?

December 13, 2006


Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus asked us that question on Yahoo recently. Professor Yunus is the founder of Grameen Bank, a provider of micro-credit to the poorest of the poor in rural Bangladesh. Micro-credit is the extension of small loans to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. These unfortunate but industrious people have no collateral to offer as security on the loan yet they manage to pay it back without defaulting. Micro-credit is a cost-effective weapon to fight poverty and serves as a catalyst in the overall development of socio-economic health.

I am proud to have supported Grameen and other micro-credit providers. I believe in the old adage “Better a hand up than a hand-out”.

As your Congressman, I would lower the barriers of entry into banking and insurance. This would let micro-finance enterprises flourish here in the United States too.

What other things can we do locally to help create a poverty-free world?