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Religion, Politics, & Culture: Defined and Explained


Friday, October 28, 2005

Just in Time for the Holidays, Fishing for Impeachment

It�s fishing season in Washington D.C.

Game Warden: Patrick Fitzgerald

Bait/Sacrificial Lamb: I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr.

First Prize: George W. Bush

Second Prize: Carl Rove

Rules: None

After two years of being unable to prove that a crime that was ever committed, Warden Fitzgerald decides Scooter is the weakest link into the White House.  Scooter gets drawn and quartered on national television. As his life blood is leaving him and the Beltway sharks gather around his corpse, Scooter is told that his only chance to live is to roll-over on Carl Rove who will be scared of a prosecutor who thinks Martha Stewart got off easy and in turn offer-up his boss, George w. Bush. The game ends when a lonely President has been stripped of his key officials and is forced from the Beltway in disgrace never to return again.

Posted by william on 10/28 at 03:43 PM
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Bush Gets “Do Over” on Supreme Court

After proving that she probably would be a justice like Sandra Day O�Connor, Harriett Miers has thrown in the towel. While we held out hope that she would be a justice like Thomas or Scalia, it became less likely as the hearings were drawing near that this was the case. The more we learned about Miers, the murkier her core values became. She appears to be just another antinomian evangelical merrily going through life.

Miers gave us a break by stopping this train wreck before it went off the bridge. The real question is will President Bush give his supporters a real constitutional conservative that they can rally around or will he give us another pick like his father did? It has been truly amazing how timid that President Bush has been on domestic issues.

Perhaps the President will realize that the Democrats don�t want peaceful coexistence but to eradicate all conservative Republicans starting with him. Bush needs to get a spine and lead by example, not capitulate to his enemies. They want his head on the impeachment spear before the next election.

How this man can so compartmentalize his mind that the Global War on Terror is just but domestic enemies are to be appeased and not defeated is truly a marvel. He took an oath �to defend us from all enemies foreign and domestic�. If he would secure the borders, appoint the judges that he promised and reign in the spending of Congress he could elevate himself as one of the best Presidents in our history. I hope that the President will step-up and take advantage of this opportunity.

In the movie City Slickers, Billie Crystal�s line was �Life is a do over�; for President Bush, so is this chapter in his administration.

Posted by william on 10/28 at 12:13 AM
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Monday, October 24, 2005

Special Election Picks

Since today is the last day to register to vote in the upcoming special election on November 8th, I thought I would contribute my opinion about the measures that voters will be considering.

First, a word to the wise; anything that you read about the wonders and perils of any ballot measure should be viewed skeptically. The opinions expressed are not legally binding to either side. If the claim is not found in the text of the initiative or can be reasonable inferred by the implementation of the initiative then it is likely to be false.

If you like an idea and it passes, then chances are that the ACLU or some other group of self appointed guardians of the constitution will have it blocked in court before the vote is certified.

If something does become law, it still must get past the Legislature�whose failure to act responsibly is why it went to the voters in the first place�and the bureaucrats that write the regulations that give the measure the force of law. 

You can worry about all this legal “sausage” and how it gets made after the election.

My recommendations are as follows with reasons listed below:


YES  -  Proposition 73  Waiting Period And Parental Notification Before Termination Of Minor’s Pregnancy

As a parent, you must give your daughter permission to take an aspirin at school, get her ears or body pierced or go on a field trip to the zoo but under current law she can get an abortion without your knowledge or permission. Not only that, if �the procedure� goes wrong mom and dad are responsible for all ensuing medical bills. This measure tries to correct an obvious inequity of state law. Look for it to be overwhelmingly approved and go just as swiftly to court.


YES Proposition 74  Public School Teachers. Waiting Period For Permanent Status.

This measure is a modest attempt to try for some teacher accountability before the union can fully shield a teacher from job performance.


YES  -  Proposition 75  Public Employee Union Dues. Restrictions On Political Contributions. Employee Consent Requirement.

This is a measure that allows union members to keep their money and not have it go to political actions that are contrary to the beliefs or members. Currently, union members must forfeit other benefits such as disability insurance and legal representation to opt out of dues for political purposes.


YES  -  Proposition 76  State Spending And School Funding Limits.

Allows Governor to take state spending off of autopilot. This would not be necessary if legislature would do their job.


YES  -  Proposition 77  Redistricting

Allows for possibility of more competitive legislative districts instead of safe seats for every elected legislator in the state. New district would be in effect for 2006 primary. This measure is main reason why the special election is being held now instead of waiting for June 2006.


NO  -  Proposition 78  Discounts On Prescription Drugs
NO  -  Proposition 79  Prescription Drug Discounts. State-Negotiated Rebates

These measures are intended to cancel each other out. Worse case would be both passing and letting a judge �cherry pick� which parts of each that voters will have imposed on them. There is no legitimate reason why government should be buying and selling drugs. They screw-up medical decisions and healthcare enough without these programs.


NO  -  Proposition 80  Electric Service Providers. Regulation

Having an interest group make such a unilateral proposal will not benefit consumers and enhance competition. This is the worst idea floated since Gray Davis threatened to seize all privately owned power generating facilities in the State and wondered why no one wanted to invest in our utility infrastructure.

The Secretary of State Summaries appear below.

PROPOSITION 73

WAITING PERIOD AND PARENTAL NOTIFICATION BEFORE TERMINATION OF MINOR’S PREGNANCY. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
� Amends California Constitution, prohibiting abortion for unemancipated minor until 48 hours after physician notifies minor’s parent/legal guardian, except in medical emergency or with parental waiver.
� Defines abortion as causing “death of the unborn child, a child conceived but not yet born.”
� Permits minor to obtain court order waiving notice based on clear, convincing evidence of minor’s maturity or best interests.
� Mandates various reporting requirements.
� Authorizes monetary damages against physicians for violation.
� Requires minor’s consent to abortion, with certain exceptions.
� Permits judicial relief if minor’s consent coerced.

 

PROPOSITION 74

PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS. WAITING PERIOD FOR PERMANENT STATUS. DISMISSAL. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
� Increases length of time required before a teacher may become a permanent employee from two complete consecutive school years to five complete consecutive school years.
� Measure applies to teachers whose probationary period commenced during or after the 2003-2004 fiscal year.
� Modifies the process by which school boards can dismiss a permanent teaching employee who receives two consecutive unsatisfactory performance evaluations.
SUMMARY OF LEGISLATIVE ANALYST’S ESTIMATE OF NET STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT FISCAL IMPACT:
� Unknown net effect on school districts’ costs for teacher compensation, performance evaluations, and other activities. The impact would vary significantly by district and depend largely on future personnel actions by individual school districts.

PROPOSITION 75

PUBLIC EMPLOYEE UNION DUES. RESTRICTIONS ON POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS. EMPLOYEE CONSENT REQUIREMENT. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
� Prohibits the use by public employee labor organizations of public employee dues or fees for political contributions except with the prior consent of individual public employees each year on a specified written form.
� Restriction does not apply to dues or fees collected for charitable organizations, health care insurance, or other purposes directly benefitting the public employee.
� Requires public employee labor organizations to maintain and submit records to Fair Political Practices Commission concerning individual public employees� and organizations� political contributions.
� These records are not subject to public disclosure.
SUMMARY OF LEGISLATIVE ANALYST’S ESTIMATE OF NET STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT FISCAL IMPACT:
� Probably minor state and local government implementation costs, potentially offset in part by revenues from fines and/or fees.

PROPOSITION 76

STATE SPENDING AND SCHOOL FUNDING LIMITS. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
� Limits state spending to prior year�s level plus three previous years� average revenue growth.
� Changes state minimum school funding requirements (Proposition 98); eliminates repayment requirement when minimum funding suspended.
� Excludes appropriations above the minimum from schools� funding base.
� Directs excess General Fund revenues, currently directed to schools/tax relief, to budget reserve, specified construction, debt repayment.
� Permits Governor, under specified circumstances, to reduce appropriations of Governor�s choosing, including employee compensation/state contracts.
� Continues prior year appropriations if state budget delayed.
� Prohibits state special funds borrowing.
� Requires payment of local government mandates.
SUMMARY OF LEGISLATIVE ANALYST’S ESTIMATE OF NET STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT FISCAL IMPACT:
� The provisions creating an additional state spending limit and granting the Governor new power to reduce spending in most program areas would likely reduce expenditures relative to current law. These reductions also could apply to schools and shift costs to other local governments.
� The new spending limit could result in a smoother pattern of state expenditures over time, especially to the extent that reserves are set aside in good times and available in bad times.
� The provisions changing school funding formulas would make school and community college funding more subject to annual decisions of state policymakers and less affected by a constitutional funding guarantee.
� Relative to current law, the measure could result in a change in the mix of state spending�that is, some programs could receive a larger share and others a smaller share of the total budget.

PROPOSITION 77

REDISTRICTING. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
� Amends process for redistricting California�s Senate, Assembly, Congressional and Board of Equalization districts.
� Requires panel of three retired judges, selected by legislative leaders, to adopt new redistricting plan if measure passes and after each national census.
� Panel must consider legislative, public comments/hold public hearings.
� Redistricting plan effective when adopted by panel and filed with Secretary of State; governs next statewide primary/general elections even if voters reject plan.
� If voters reject redistricting plan, process repeats, but officials elected under rejected plan serve full terms.
� Allows 45 days to seek judicial review of adopted redistricting plan.
SUMMARY OF LEGISLATIVE ANALYST’S ESTIMATE OF NET STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT FISCAL IMPACT:
� One-time costs for a redistricting plan. State costs totaling no more than $1.5 million and county costs in the range of $1 million.
� Potential reduction in costs for each redistricting effort after 2010, but net impact would depend on decisions by voters.

PROPOSITION 78

DISCOUNTS ON PRESCRIPTION DRUGS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
� Establishes discount prescription drug program, overseen by California Department of Health Services.
� Enables certain low- and moderate-income California residents to purchase prescription drugs at reduced prices.
� Authorizes Department: to contract with participating pharmacies to sell prescription drugs at agreed-upon discounts negotiated in advance; to negotiate rebate agreements with participating drug manufacturers.
� Imposes $15 annual application fee.
� Creates state fund for deposit of drug manufacturers� rebate payments.
� Requires Department�s prompt determination of residents� eligibility, based on listed qualifications.
� Permits outreach programs to increase public awareness.
� Allows program to be terminated under specified conditions.
SUMMARY OF LEGISLATIVE ANALYST’S ESTIMATE OF NET STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT FISCAL IMPACT:
� One-time and ongoing state costs, potentially in the millions to low tens of millions of dollars annually, for administration and outreach activities for a new drug discount program. A significant share of these costs would probably be borne by the state General Fund.
� State costs, potentially in the low tens of millions of dollars, to cover the funding gap between when drug rebates are collected by the state and when the state pays funds to pharmacies for drug discounts provided to consumers. Any such costs not covered through advance rebate payments from drug makers would be borne by the state General Fund.
� Unknown potentially significant savings for state and county health programs due to the availability of drug discounts.
� Potential unknown effects on state revenues and expenditures from changes in prices and quantities of drugs sold in California.

PROPOSITION 79

PRESCRIPTION DRUG DISCOUNTS. STATE-NEGOTIATED REBATES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
� Provides for prescription drug discounts to Californians who qualify based on income-related standards, to be funded through rebates from participating drug manufacturers negotiated by California Department of Health Services.
� Prohibits new Medi-Cal contracts with manufacturers not providing the Medicaid best price to this program, except for drugs without therapeutic equivalent.
� Rebates must be deposited in State Treasury fund, used only to reimburse pharmacies for discounts and to offset costs of administration.
� At least 95% of rebates must go to fund discounts.
� Establishes oversight board. Makes prescription drug profiteering, as described, unlawful.
SUMMARY OF LEGISLATIVE ANALYST’S ESTIMATE OF NET STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT FISCAL IMPACT:
� One-time and ongoing state costs, potentially in the low tens of millions of dollars annually, for administration and outreach activities for a new drug discount program. A significant share of these costs would probably be borne by the state General Fund.
� State costs, potentially in the low tens of millions of dollars, to cover the funding gap between when drug rebates are collected by the state and when the state pays funds to pharmacies for drug discounts provided to consumers. Any such costs not covered through advance rebate payments from drug makers would be borne by the state General Fund.
� Unknown potentially significant net costs or savings as a result of provisions linking state Medi-Cal rebate contracts and the new drug discount program.
� Unknown potentially significant savings for state and county health programs due to the availability of drug discounts.
� Unknown costs and revenues from the provisions regarding lawsuits over profiteering on drug sales.
� Potential unknown effects on state revenues and expenditures from changes in prices and quantities of drugs sold in California.

PROPOSITION 80

ELECTRIC SERVICE PROVIDERS. REGULATION. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
� Subjects electric service providers, as defined, to control and regulation by California Public Utilities Commission.
� Imposes restrictions on electricity customers� ability to switch from private utilities to other electric providers.
� Provides that registration by electric service providers with Commission constitutes providers� consent to regulation.
� Requires all retail electric sellers, instead of just private utilities, to increase renewable energy resource procurement by at least 1% each year, with 20% of retail sales procured from renewable energy by 2010, instead of current requirement of 2017.
� Imposes duties on Commission, Legislature and electrical providers.
SUMMARY OF LEGISLATIVE ANALYST’S ESTIMATE OF NET STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT FISCAL IMPACT:
� Potential annual state administrative costs ranging from negligible up to around $4 million for regulatory activities of the California Public Utilities Commission, paid for by fee revenues.
� Unknown net impact on state and local government costs and revenues due to the measure�s uncertain impact on retail electricity rates.

Posted by william on 10/24 at 04:02 PM
News & PoliticsPermalink

Doom—The Movie

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I have been a fan of the computer game Doom for well over a decade. I can remember listening to Amy Grant as the game sound track (instead of Nine Inch Nails) and blasting away with the BFG at anything that moved. I was glad that someone wanted to make a movie based on the game.

I was concerned that elements of the storyline were altered. The storyline in the game is that a portal to another dimension has been opened by a secret lab on a remote world. Unfortunately the portal opens a doorway to Hell not ET�s home world. Doom II introduces us to Hell on Earth. Doom III is basically a revisit of the first game with better storyline and graphics.

Several years ago, the story was novelized. Instead of a doorway to Hell, a race of aliens are using evil imagery to exploit our primal fears so they just look like demons but are just genetically engineered freaks.

In the movie, the whole Hell part has been dropped in favor of a secret genetic engineering experiment that went terribly wrong.

Starring in the film version of Doom are Dwayne �The Rock� Johnson, Carl Urban and Rosamund Pike. If you have played Doom III then you will recognize the general setting of the station on Mars and some of the types of creatures that will be fought in the film. The movie maintains many of the same features that can be found in the game. Game elements in the film include the BFG (which contrary to the movie doesn�t stand for Bio Force Gun) chain saws and lots of automatic weapons; sewers and mutant critters. The gamer tribute to John Romero of the Living Dead films is clearly present.

Granted that this is a niche marketed movie but if you ever enjoyed playing the game or like films like Alien v Predator then this is a must see film. It does have an ending but nothing would exclude a sequel.

Posted by william on 10/24 at 01:09 AM
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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Basis of Global Peace

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This week, my junior high school student came home with an assignment to draw a poster for a Peace Poster contest. The instructions were to draw a picture but use no text or writing of any kind in your design. This turns out to be a preliminary step in some international competition. This event is sponsored locally by the Lions Club.

We were surprised and concerned that our child received such an assignment. As a result, my wife and I had an hour long discussion with our child about what is peace? What is war? What about nations that are not at war but tyrannical?

Our child wanted to use primarily a symbol of a dove to represent peace. Ok so what does the dove represent? Our child did know that the dove (with olive branch) was from the biblical account of Noah and the ark. Our next question was where else in the Bible do you find a dove and what does it represent? Our child was clueless. We opened the New Testament and read the account of the baptism of Jesus. Mark 1: 9-11 From this story we learn that the dove often is related to the presence of the Holy Spirit.

We also discussed the purpose and origin of government. As source material we used the Westminster Confession of Faith section XXIII on Civil Magistrates, the scope and limitation of government as viewed by our founders and the biblical covenant where God first established human government Gen 9.

What was shown was that God established human government as a means of protecting the innocent and punishing the wicked. God raises up human leaders and removes them at his pleasure. The government has a God-given role, the church also has a God-given role in society and each citizen has obligations to their government.

We also briefly mentioned a description of Christ on his throne ruling over the nations as described in the book of Revelation. We talked that normally war is only justified as a defensive measure. Government insures the safety of citizens from threats both internal and external.

Our child kept saying that harmony was a goal of nations. It was a typical Rodney King moment appealing to the �why can�t we just get along?� sentiment. Ok. What does that mean?

Using the Global War on Terror as our example we explained that not everyone is interested in peace. Peace can often be confused for surrender. Just ask Cindy Sheehan. We asked our child what the United States could do to have a ceasefire with the Islamic fundamentalists. Who would we negotiate with? Who has authority to sign a treaty? What assurance would there be to compliance with the terms of peace? (These are the same questions that the Liberals are unable to answer.)

The War on Terror is a just war because it is a defensive measure necessary because of a clear and present danger to our nation.

Our child enjoys music and said that all the nations are a big orchestra and peace is defined as a harmony of all the parts. We then inquired as to why nations should be in harmony and to extend the analogy, what would they be playing?

My contention is that there can only be peace �when every knee shall bow and tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord�. Phil 2:11 To that end our song is �Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!Rev 6:8b Only to the extent that nations are obedient to Christ and fulfilling their God ordained role can any nation truly know peace.

Question 1 of the Westminster Catechism asks, �What is the chief and highest end of man?
Answer �Man�s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.�

One purpose of government is to maintain a society where man is free to worship his creator and live in peace.

Now that you understand all this, we told our child to go and make a poster about world peace.

Posted by william on 10/19 at 12:25 AM
Global War on TerrorPermalink

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Boo!

Every fall about this time we find an unexpected package on our doorstep. No it�s not another one like the Stork left of our doorstep last year about this same time, but a plastic pumpkin from the local Dollar Tree store full of candy and some signs made from cheap orange paper that say �Boo!�.

We aren�t sure which family started this game—although we have it narrowed down to two houses�but the rules are simple. Place a Boo! on a neighbor�s doorstep without getting caught. Then they are supposed to place a Boo! sign on their front door and then do likewise to someone lacking a Boo! sign on their door.

It�s much more fun than a chain letter and will end at midnight on October 31st. Try it and see if you spread a little good cheer in your neighborhood.

Posted by william on 10/15 at 12:36 AM
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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Thoughts on Hariet Miers

There has always been a coalition that makes-up the Conservatives within the Republican Party. On one end are the religious Conservatives whose primary interest is to reign-in the assault on traditional faith and morality and on the other end are those whose primary concerns are fiscal Conservatism. These folks have advocated less government and lower taxes.

Since Ronald Reagan was president, both of these groups and those who cling to one degree or another to both viewpoints have been moving in the same direction. However, this single nomination by President Bush has broken these groups into their component pieces. Frankly, this is a fascinating to watch.

The Democrats have dutifully circled the wagons and braced for major combat but they can’t decide what their target should be. They are furiously spinning in circles waiting for orders from their special interest groups. The Democrats are willing to fight any nominee because their side needs the fundraising opportunity that a Supreme Court vacancy can generate.

Both sides want a knockdown, drag-out fight to vanquish their enemies in the public arena. This fight would be the political spectacle of the 21st Century. The stakes are for the heart and soul of the Republic. The outcome would be the fourth Constitutional period of our country. (1789 to Civil War; then Civil War to New Deal, then New Deal to Bush Court.)

Instead, President Bush has taken a page from Bill Clinton and triangulated a third option. Not since Solomon decreed that each mother should get half of the baby has something so out of the box of conventional wisdom been tried.
Look at the early results. We know from the public record that Harriet Miers is a church going lawyer that has a unique skill set to offer to the position. She teaches Sunday school at a conservative church where she has attended since becoming a born again Christian about 25 years ago. She has managed a law firm of 400 partners—getting that many lawyers to agree is a really big deal. She also has had her turn in trail settings. Plus she has been with George Bush for many years.

Don’t you wonder why the Religious Right is giving each other high fives for this nomination? There is a private record that will never see the light of day but some on the Christian Right have dropped enough hints to read between the lines. There are code words from these pundits that hint at why they are really upbeat. My conclusion after hearing several of the folks in this camp interviewed is that Harriet Miers will be very pro-life, supportive of traditional marriage, and a solid conservative. She may end-up as one of the most conservative jurists on the Court.

The fiscally Conservative folks in the Republican ranks are clueless about these hints that have been offered for our comfort. Since the whole Christian thing is not as important to them, they miss the subtlety of this pick. They want raw meat in the public square and not Bush’s political triangulation. They are not happy. A polite “trust me” from the President is of little comfort to them.

Since almost anything would be an upgrade from the disappointing legacy of Sandra Day O’Connor, they might not opposed Miers but there is no enthusiasm for this pick.

The Democrats are just beginning to realize that Bush skunked them really good with this pick. Again they have no paper trail to use against the nominee. No paper trail means that it will be difficult to mount a unified opposition and there is nothing for their interest groups to use for fundraising except that she is a Christian. Bashing Miers on that score will cause the Democrats to risk dividing their own people. They will lose many—especially the racial minorities—if they push religion too hard. Plus they risk confronting the Constitutional prohibition on test oaths. Not that they care much for the Constitution but this is new ground to desecrate even for them. They still have an institutional memory of JFK and the Catholic issue. They can’t afford to loose the gray-haired New Deal Democrats in the rest homes.

Worse news for the Democrats will be that both of these confirmations (Roberts & Miers) will force them to concede that they are in the minority for the foreseeable future. All they had left was the threat of the filibuster and Bush has found a strategy to take that from them. He turned their tactic for getting Clinton’s judges back on them; “I sorry but that case might come before the Court so I can’t answer that question.”

The next vacancy will occur after the 2006 elections if the nine in black robes (weren’t they the bad guys in Lord of the Rings-fallen greedy kings of men) remain in good health. Why because the Republicans will pickup two or three seats in the Senate and the liberal Northeastern Republicans will cease to be the power brokers (spoilers) in the Senate. At that point it will be game over for the Democrats and then a justice or two will throw in the towel and retire. Bush could end-up with four picks before the end of his second term.

Yeah, I want “red meat” in the public square too but this might be a far sighted gamble with a better payoff at the end. They say the Lord works in mysterious ways, well folks this is one of those instances

Posted by william on 10/13 at 12:15 AM
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New Look

This website is undergoing revisions. Please check back for more posts.

Posted by william on 10/13 at 12:06 AM
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