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Sunday, April 15, 2018

When Your City Has No Leadership and No Plan

By John Slamkowski

I want to take a moment to reflect on what has happened to my hometown of Elk Grove, CA.  Several contributors to this blog live in Elk Grove. First some background. Our City was founded on July 1st, 2000, splitting off from being an unincorporated area in Sacramento County.  The vote passed overwhelmingly; mostly because the folks pushing hardest made some convincing arguments.

The folks pushing cityhood argued that we (Elk Grove residents) were being overcharged and underserved by the County.  The Elk Grove area is represented by one of five county supervisors and the other four could care less about our needs and concerns. Cityhood was advocated to allow residents to control their own destiny instead of being subject to the whims of folks that don’t live here. The cityhood plan was to contract certain services such as law enforcement and leave fire and parks to the Community Services District (CSD) which had been running them for many years while allowing the city council to manage other aspects of a small and fairly rural community.

It was hoped that cityhood would result in less expensive private trash service and a bus system that wasn’t Sacramento County backed Regional Transit (RT).  On the surface the thoughts may have resonated well, RT most definitely was not perfect, and one would figure a private trash hauler would be cheaper than a county run one. 

For a while things started off rosy. Trash bills went down as Waste Management took over garbage collection.  The transition to a new bus service E-TRAN went like any other government takeover….horrific.  E-TRAN was the first 100% hybrid bus fleet of its kind and in hot 100-degree Sacramento Valley weather, most of the buses either died or had the air conditioner go out frequently.  Additionally, the buses had a very difficult time linking up with the RT buses to commute to downtown.  I knew of one example of someone who was a lifeguard at James Rutter School. She would have to catch a bus that left at 6:30 AM just to be able to transfer to an RT bus and get to James Rutter by 11:30!  The City also never understood one simple fact, mass transit is a drain on any budget; let alone when you decide to have a local bus as opposed to one administered Countywide.  Additionally, no one is ever on those buses when I see them pass by! 

A few years after cityhood passed, the carefully balanced cityhood agreement began to be dismantled by the city council. Two of the five council members who were active Sacramento County Sheriff deputies, were able to convince the council to establish its own police department. Before proceeding, I want to make one thing clear; no one writing for this blog is anti-police in any way, but this department is one of the worst run departments in the State of California. 

First, when you form a new department, other departments around the area are more than happy to “pass the trash” from them on to you.  (This term was used by a former lieutenant at EGPD by the way). Then we hired a police chief who resided full time in Renton, Washington, not Elk Grove.  After telling you that, are you surprised our police department gets more complaints filed against it than any other city in Northern California? 


The kicker came last year when a former trainee officer filed a discrimination lawsuit regarding his homosexuality against the city naming ¾ of the sergeant and lieutenants, as well as the outgoing chief and incoming chief of police, in addition to the internal affairs officers. Just as a side bar, not a single officer named in the lawsuit was placed on leave, terminated, or was ever investigated. It looks like a 7-figure settlement will be forthcoming.  Hard to imagine if that is how they harass their own, what they must think of the average citizen who lives, works, or commutes through here daily.


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58 percent of City of Elk Grove Budget is law enforcement
38,104,054/65,605,012=58.1 percent

City of Elk Grove 2017-18 Budget page 28


To make matters worse our City Council began appearing in the local and Northern California papers for all the wrong reasons.  Some examples include a midnight vote guaranteeing health care benefits for life for the City Manager and City Attorney.  Then one of our finest, Jim Cooper, who was on the council, also serving as a Sac County Sheriff Captain at the time, voted repeatedly on matters involving a contract between the City of Elk Grove and his own Sheriff department, leading to a grand jury investigation…ouch that had to bite.  He will forever live in infamy with his Sheriff Deputy and councilmen pal Mike Leary—best known for being arrested after losing election for evicting his former girlfriend from their home and forging a document.  Not to mention the City and our Parks, Recreation and Fire District, sued each other for several years regarding who should be in control of the City’s area parks.  Like any other lawsuit, when two government entities sue each other, no side won or lost, lawyers got very wealthy, and the citizens got a Pepperidge Farm sausage to the backside.

During this period, city leaders began to see its residents as sources of revenue instead of the people that they were supposed to serve. Under the guise of helping law enforcement, the city installed “Cooper Cams ” at various intersection throughout the city to raise revenue to fund our ever-expending city payroll. The city doubled its utility tax, in part by calling it a tax cut in the ballot argument—which by the way was unopposed by the CRA and Tea Party folks living in our midst. The amount of taxes and fees just to break ground on a residential project rose to about $100,000 per home.

This was all happening during a time of unprecedented growth in this area. Population growth in Elk Grove was the highest in the United States for three years in a row. Most legislators in Sacramento resided in Elk Grove due to its quality of living and small-town feel. 

Then the housing bubble popped, and Elk Grove found itself being hit extremely hard by its high concentration of subprime mortgages.  This also saw the development of our “going to be better than Roseville Galleria Mall” stopped due to the mall developer’s parent company filing bankruptcy.  The blighted area became a heavy topic of future city council elections allowing Steven Detrick and Steve Ly to get elected to the body.  Suddenly the city that was known throughout the county as being a renegade town quickly became a part of the good ole boy network.  By the way Detrick has more FPPC violations and grand jury investigations than most would have in several lifetimes. 

Not long afterwards, voters decided to implement the election of a mayor every two years as opposed to rotating the job amongst the five council members every year. The original proponents of cityhood had purposely setup the rotating system amongst the five councilmen to allow for more sharing of power. No one person could have more sway with voters than another. Being mayor was just one among equals. The other purposeful distinction of cityhood was that candidates for council were elected by all the votes so that they were accountable to all not just represent their district to the exclusion of all else. It was a purposeful rejection of the model used by county supervisors in hopes that the council would act based on what is best for the city not just their little fiefdom.

It seems like since we got an elected Mayor that this city became Los Angeles on steroids.  Suddenly strip malls start being built everywhere in central and western Elk Grove (Laguna).  Worse yet, the buildings were erected but most never had a tenant, some even sit vacant to this day.  It’s almost like the city just wanted property tax revenue as opposed to collecting tax just based on the land.

While that was going on, more disturbingly we began hiring top positions for our city from other cities throughout northern California, none of whom called Elk Grove home.  Our City Manager Laura Gil?  From ritzy El Dorado Hills.  City Economic Director Randy Starbuck?  Pittsburg, California.  As mentioned earlier, the Police Chief continued to call Renton, Washington home. 

When you hire people with no ties to your city, they tend to not have the best intentions.  Take Randy Starbuck for example; he worked for this city from 2011-2014, a time where cities’ economies were reviving, and the result of his three years of hard work?  70 new jobs in Elk Grove, the majority being minimum wage jobs.  Starbuck was known for the monthly “business trips” to Las Vegas to try to shake down businesses and convince them to come to Elk Grove. He also spent countless hours trying to lobby Major League Soccer to grant Elk Grove a team.  Think about that for a couple moments, Las Vegas trips and a major league soccer team….in a town of 175k? 

Editor’s note: If soccer is so great, how come nobody talks about the success of the taxpayer funded multimillion dollar facility in Stockton?

I attended the council meeting where Starbuck was grilled and had his fate sealed. I remember the meeting like it was yesterday, he was grinning ear-to-ear talking about how he had recruited Green Acres to open a store here in Elk Grove…..yeah….great success.  The council let him have it, as did the actual residents of this town.  Reality is, it wasn’t all Cluster***ks fault. The city manager and council share more than a majority of the blame. They allowed this man to run around unchecked and not held accountable.  Also, Starbuck was not fired. Instead, he was put on paid leave for the remainder of his contract. Yes, folks we have a typical crony capitalist city out here now.

Despite efforts at economic development, the stores opening in Elk Grove aren’t much better either. We now have four Little Caesars Pizza stores, pretty much every chain restaurant known to man, a Smart and Final, Popeye’s, and a Grocery Store Outlet.  Gone are stores such as Bel-Air, The Fresh Market, and Baguettes.  Essentially the stores coming in match the clientele moving in, lower middle class and working poor families. 

I doubt any legislative staff or legislator calls Elk Grove home anymore. They have all moved to Folsom, Roseville, or downtown.  What do two of those cities have in common?  They are fighting adding more Section 8 housing within their city limits. Again, I’m not being racist here, just stating the obvious. Look at the Franklin/west of Highway 99 area of Elk Grove; most of the government subsidized, low income housing was built there, and crime has skyrocketed.  A friend of mine was hit by a hit and run driver in that area. Upon speaking to a police officer dispatched to take an accident report, he was told “hit and runs are an epidemic in this area now.”  Crime being up and hit and runs are a direct result of police officers not chasing bad guys but instead focusing on writing tickets in an effort to close the budget gap in our town.  Bringing me to my next point.

Remember how I talked about shopping centers popping up on each available square inch of land in the city?  Government buildings are going to start popping up very soon as well.  The city council is spending money they don’t have like a couple of drunken congressmen. In the hopper already is a new library (keep in mind we have two already run by the County), an convention center (the Falls Convention center was built less than two years ago and with private funds) an aquatic center (we have 2 water parks already—run by CSD—as well as two privately owned gyms with Olympic sized pools). Apparently, the city needs to have facilities that they can control, or it doesn’t count.

At the January 13, 2016 City Council meeting, staff presented a conceptual Civic Center Master Plan for the southern portion of the Civic Center site that would include an Aquatic Center and Commons, Senior Center/Community Center, Veterans Hall, Children’s museum, Library and botanical gardens/nature preserve.  At the meeting, the City Council directed staff to proceed with the completion of the refined Civic Center Master Plan, including a Phase 1 of the project, which includes an Aquatic Center, Senior Center/Community Center and Veterans Hall. The site plan and facilities continue to be refined through design team efforts and public outreach.

These Phase 1 projects are estimated to cost approximately $61 million.

City Planning and Special Projects

By the way, our city council thinks we will get some of the summer Olympics events here if California bids for them.  Yup, why would an Olympic swimmer want to swim in sunny southern California with Shamu and Mickey Mouse, when they can choose Elk Grove, that mass of houses in a bedroom community near Sacramento? 

We are building a sports complex in sparsely populated east Elk Grove. I’m not upset because I live out there, I’m upset because if you live on the other side of Highway 99—which goes through the center of our town—you are closer to downtown Sacramento than to Grant Line Road. 

Elk Grove city employees are seeking input on possible features and amenities at a proposed sports complex on property just south of the city.

City staff at a July 11 workshop will provide a presentation on the 100-acre parcel near the corner of Grant Line and Waterman roads in south Elk Grove.

City Manager Laura Gill said the cost to build all of the elements at the complex is estimated at around $110 million.

Elk Grove Citizen: Sports Complex

Also, rather than pay Sacramento County for animal shelter services at 500k per year, we are going to build our own dog pound for 12 million dollars plus salaries, benefits, and upkeep.  Lastly, we will be getting a landfill at some point because…well we could get fees from other cities and municipalities to dump here! 

Bid document for Animal Shelter and Community Center

Again, these will all be government administered buildings, which means more government jobs, pensions and benefits paid out later, paid for by bonds and taxpayer dollars right?  Or will they be? 

Remember that mall that was supposed to get built?  Every 6 months we got an update from one or more of our council members saying we will be breaking ground soon.  Our Mayor at the time, Gary Davis, said in the Fall of 2018 that the mall would be ready to be up and running.

“Outlet Mall. Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC) continues its development and leasing efforts for The Outlet Collection at Elk Grove, which will involve the construction of approximately 775,000 square feet of commercial uses… certificates of occupancy must be issued for 400,000 square feet by November 2018…”  City of Elk Grove 2017-18 Budget page 3


City of Elk Grove Budget 2017-18

Steve Detrick told me to my face that city staff were cold calling and already had half the leases spoken for at our state-of-the-art mall that would make every other city jealous. 

During the mall talk, an Indian Tribe nobody ever heard of before started looking at Elk Grove to build a casino, yes one of those casinos.  We were told again by the same two city councilmen and soon to be Mayor Steve Ly that a possible site could be at the mall, but the casino was just doing fact finding on available options.

Then overnight, the casino was announced. The casino developers promised that between the city and local school district over 132 million would be contributed over 20 years. 

The Elk Grove City Council on Sept. 28 unanimously approved a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the Wilton Rancheria. The tribe is proposing a $400 million entertainment and gaming facility on a 35.9-acre site near Highway 99 and Kammerer Road.

If the casino opens for business, the tribe would pay nearly $132 million in recurring and nonrecurring payments to the city and community of Elk Grove during the first 20 years of the MOU.

Elk Grove Citizen: Council Approves Casino Agreement

“The total cumulative payment from the Tribe to the community over 20 years is approximately $132 million. This amount far exceeds that which the City would expect to receive from tax revenues associated with the portion of the mall site upon which the Casino would be built.”

City of Elk Grove 2017-18 Budget page 4

The only good to come of this was that the city’s effort for a local sales tax increase was put on hold for a few years. The casino was coming to Elk Grove in the place of the planned mall….let’s call this exhibit 666 from our three congenital liars on the council.  This casino is being built because the city wants to expand and thinks it can legally extort its citizens to do so, via laundering the money through gambling agreements.

I have been harboring my feelings of frustration on the decline of our community for a long time but then the big boom, last straw or whatever you call it occurred when I went to my mailbox the other day and found a city-taxpayer funded glossy with an outline of Elk Grove, the purpose of which was to encourage citizens to spend money inside the lines, so it stays local to fund citywide initiatives.  At that point I felt the need to vent on the mismanagement and hypocrisy that passes for local government from people claiming to represent me.


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Shop Between the Lines Newsletter


The article makes a point to avoid the Target on the other side of Calvine Road, even though that Target wanted to locate in Elk Grove before being rebuffed.  Ditto for both the Lowe’s and Costco.  Add the Walmart on Florin Road to that list, Steve Detrick fought it and that propelled him to be a councilmember.  Additionally, targeted, ironically are the CarMax and the new Delta Shores Mall by Green Haven.  This is rich, both entities wanted to be in Elk Grove. CarMax was willing to make every concession possible, but they were told “NO”, so they built just on the outside of Elk Grove.  Delta Shores, a nice brand new shiny mall, should have been here in Elk Grove but instead the council wanted a casino.  Full disclosure we are getting a Costco soon, but this is what happens when you have no vision and no plan.

 

Posted by william on 04/15 at 06:39 PM
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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Natural Gas from Sewers?

I was minding my own business yesterday and as is my usual practice, I went out to the communal mailbox to fetch my daily installment of junk mail and hoping to see a new Netflix DVD. I received a form letter that was from one of our many local utilities. This particular envelope was from Pacific Gas and Electric Company commonly known as PG&E. While the utility does provide electrical service to much of northern California, in our area electrical service is provided by SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District). PG&E only supplies natural gas in my area.

On the face of it, this letter is weird. It appears that PG&E is concerned that past work on their natural gas pipelines has been cross-connected with sewer lines.

As part of our commitment to ensure your safety, we have hired a qualified contractor to perform gas and sewer safety inspections in your neighborhood.

These important safety inspections will ensure that our past natural gas pipeline work did not result in a conflict between your sewer line and gas service line .

Our contractor will use a video camera to inspect your sewer line.



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Copy of PG&E letter with proper redaction


All I can think of reading the text of this letter is the San Bruno neighborhood that went up in flames many years ago. However, I know that inferno was the result of a different problem.

When I was a kid, it was common practice to light and then extinguish a match after a person spent a long time sitting on “the throne” to mask the smells in the bathroom; however, I had no idea that such a practice was a life threatening exercise due to PG&E getting natural gas from the sewer lines.

Why doesn’t PG&E spend time checking their own lines? The sewer lines don’t belong to them. I know because we get to write a generous check to the County of Sacramento on a regular basis to have the privilege of flushing our one gallon potty and washing dishes.

If there were any evil gasses escaping from the sewer lines then I would know because we have at least two drain traps in our home that have no seal on them because the fixtures are never used and the water in them has evaporated long ago.


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Illustration from Plumbing Info showing how P-Trap seal works


Reading this letter reminds me of the joke about losing something and looking elsewhere because the light is better.


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In 1942 a version of the joke appeared in the popular syndicated comic strip “Mutt and Jeff”. Three of the five panels in the strip are shown below. The gentleman in the top hat is Jeff.
Link: Better Light


I’m glad PG&E is able to fund this snipe hunt for cross-connected natural gas lines. I’d rather see them spend extra money on this because it’s at least related to utility service than spending my utility payments fighting traditional marriage like they were doing back when Prop 8 was on the ballot.

Once this vital inspection is completed, I will be relieved that my bathroom is once again declared a sanctuary free of life threatening gasses; in fact I will breathe easier.

Posted by william on 04/11 at 07:38 AM
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Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Ogden Roadtrip

Last week, I took a roadtrip to Ogden Utah to see the middle child. Along the way I had a few ideas that might end up being blog topics but I thought I’d jot down some thoughts that I had.


First, Elon Musk is a fraud.  As soon as you depart the once Golden State in your privately owned vehicle, you will find zero charging stations along the Interstate 80 corridor. While electric vehicle travel within California is a sketchy proposition, outside of California it is not possible or practical. Hybrid automobiles are a rare sight away from the Left Coast and electric ones are unheard-of.

Musk thinks he can sell ten thousand vehicles a week and sustain that production? It’s a Ponzi scheme. He can’t even get to 5K per week and is running out of cash and good will.

Musk is a flimflam guy of the first order and gets lots of other people’s money (often tax dollars) from Liberals to do stuff that is not market based because these guys believe that governments not markets should decide what our economy should look like. The AB-32 crowd wants to use the power of the State to force us into electric vehicles that are not able to leave the gilded cage of California just because it is their religion. Their arrogance to pick losers and winners is hubris of the highest order.


Second, the path from Reno to Salt Lake City is the only proof of a universal flood anybody should need. Except for a few mountains here and there, this whole path is clearly a shallow sea that was only recently drained. This was within the last few millennia not millions of years ago.


Third, Brigham Young sure picked a crappy spot to proclaim the new Zion. My biggest gripe of the area is the lack of trees. But he did have big plans.

The Territory of Deseret would have comprised roughly all the lands between the Sierra Nevada and the Rockies, and between the border with Mexico northward to include parts of the Oregon Territory, as well as the coast of California south of the Santa Monica Mountains (including the existing settlements of Los Angeles and San Diego). This included the entire watershed of the Colorado River (excluding the lands south of the border with Mexico), as well as the entire area of the Great Basin. The proposal encompassed nearly all of present-day Utah and Nevada, large portions of California and Arizona, and parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon.

Link: State of Deseret



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Map of Proposed Deseret region


Brigham seems to have wanted the 1840’s version of “fly-over country” to be united under his banner; whether as a state or a separate country depends on what you read. The presence of Los Angeles and San Diego as part of his territory would indicate a separate nation was in the back of his mind. The war of northern aggression ended that dream and he reluctantly settled for Utah statehood after yet another rewrite of Mormon Scriptures to get rid of polygamy. Why the “god’ of Mormons is not the same yesterday, today, and forever like the one revealed in the Bible is a subject for another day.


Fourth, the amount of indigent and homeless people in Ogden really surprised me. Latter Day Saints try really hard to cultivate the reputation that they care for their own—maybe they do—but for the folks outside their church, clearly they are on their own.


Fifth, the amount of young people with ridiculous amounts of body art and piercing was a surprise to me. I was expecting Donny and Marie type youth but clearly not everyone follows this expectation. My wife thinks that Ogden draws youth from outside the LDS world for the skiing. Maybe this is true. Clearly a large segment of young people are nonconformist.


Sixth was a news story that I saw on the local television station. This is interesting because the LDS church is front and center of a story about a man named Joseph Bishop.

(Note: Although the LDS church has clergy with the title of “bishop” this is not the same as in Protestant Christian Churches and not Mr. Bishop’s title just his last name.)

Mr. Bishop was in charge of training youth that knock on your door as missionaries. Mr. Bishop is accused of giving private lessons to some of the female candidates under his care—much like President Clinton did in the Oval Office with Monica.

SALT LAKE CITY — (KUTV) - On March 20, as a sexual assault scandal was exploding around former Missionary Training Center President Joseph Bishop, his son, and attorney Greg Bishop sent an email to 2News unsolicited.

In the email, he unspools a five-page dossier about the past of the woman who had accused his father of rape.

The email included the woman’s criminal record, alleged false allegations she’d made in the past, and jobs she’d lost.

It even included details about an incident that occurred when she was 17 years old. Bishop encouraged reporters to examine the woman’s past adding, “consider the source.”

In the last two days, 2News has obtained a letter that was written by David Jordan, a lawyer at the firm, Stoel Rives, acting on behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The document is a response to a letter from the woman’s attorney, Craig Vernon, requesting a settlement from the LDS Church.

The document includes everything we saw in Bishop’s email, plus a review of her ecclesiastical church record.

At the bottom, the Jordan indicates that he sent the letter to Greg Bishop.

It appears Bishop took portions of the letter, and at times, repeated allegations word for word and sent it to the media.

Link: Exclusive: Documents reveal how the LDS Church responded to MTC sex scandal

Related Stories
Link: New statement: LDS Church responds to alleged sexual abuse by former MTC president

Link: Church Statement About Alleged Sexual Assault by Former Mission President

The woman told 2News Bishop had been grooming her, taking her out of class to talk about the sexual abuse she had suffered as a child. She said he seemed to enjoy the discussion, then one day he invited her to a place he called, “special.”

“He didn’t tell me there was a bed or a TV or a VCR down there, he just said it was this really special room,” she said.

“I was nervous and uncomfortable, and I should have listened to that feeling.”

Once she and Bishop got into the small room, he advanced on her.

“He tried to kiss me and I pushed him off, I was like, ‘oh my gosh, here’s this old man, I’m 21 years old,” she said. “Then he pulled my blouse and rips my buttons off. It had little pearl buttons, then he ripped the back of my skirt, it was an A-line skirt, and then with one hand he pulled my garment and my pantyhose down, there he was, trying to rape me.”

The woman tried to tell officials in the LDS Church on multiple occasions including her bishop.

2News documented as many as four times when the woman tried to speak out to church leaders, but the woman says she had told as many as 10 different church leaders about the alleged abuse.

“Oh no, oh no, I have been talking to bishops and stake presidents for years; one bishop in Colorado Springs called me a liar and wouldn’t even talk to me.


Link: Exclusive: The woman at the center of the MTC abuse scandal shares her story

I find it interesting that the LDS Church saw fit to release a letter concerning the character of the accuser and defending Mr. Bishop by saying there is no need for them to look into this matter. The LDS church has a long history of circling the wagons when things don’t go their way.

Here is another example of the “see something, say something” mentality. Put yourself in her place, do you want your church releasing an official letter about your past?

When has your church ever made an issue of your:
• Juvenile behavior?
• Morals?
• Employment record?
• Criminal record?
• Marital status?

Sorry, I thought churches were in the business of changing lives thru the power of God’s Word not keeping a tally of what notorious sinners we are just in case they need to shut us up.


At the same time this story is going on, another one about sexual abuse had faithful Mormons marching in the streets.

Link: Mormon church to allow parents in youth bishop meetings


Link: ‘Stop protecting sexual predators’: Outburst interrupts LDS General Conference



Seventh, we went to Easter services at an Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Ogden. It was a nice service that emphasized the importance of the bodily resurrection of Christ.

 

Posted by william on 04/03 at 06:24 AM
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Friday, March 16, 2018

Hawking Death

A few days ago, Stephen Hawking died. To me, Hawking was just a guy in a wheelchair that suffered from an illness. For some reason he seems to many in pop-culture a successor to Carl Sagan. The only thing both men seem to have in common was a disdain and hatred for organized religion—especially Christianity (why is it that Liberal icons never say anything bad about Islam?)—and both claimed that the cosmos can be explained without a Creator.

Stephen Hawking says he’s an atheist, arguing that science offers a “more convincing explanation” for the origins of the universe and that the miracles of religion “aren’t compatible” with scientific fact.

“…if there was a God, but there isn’t. I’m an atheist.”

In 2011, he told The Guardian that he didn’t believe in a heaven or an afterlife, calling it “a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”


Stephen Hawking Says ‘There Is No God,’ Confirms He’s An Atheist



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I find it curious that Christopher Hitchens did not get the same send-off when he died. He believed the same things as Hawking and Sagan.


After people die, there is often a bunch of sentimental nonsense uttered in an effort to comfort those left behind. This is doubly true of those with no hope. Much of this sentimentality comes from or about people with no evidence of faith. In such circumstances we often hear things attributed to them that are undeserved.

“Baby Doe is in a better place now.”

“Uncle Bob is in a place with no cancer.”

“Pirate Sven is sailing in a place with fair winds and calm seas.”

“Johnny don’t be so sad. I’m sure Grandma is running through a meadow in her bare feet and she and Grandpa are looking down on you.”


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Such was the case for Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot.

“Rest in peace Dr. Hawking,” Gadot wrote in a tweet. “Now you’re free of any physical constraints. Your brilliance and wisdom will be cherished forever.”


Gal Gadot’s Seemingly Innocent Tribute To Stephen Hawking Offended Some People



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I have a number of problems with this expression of sentimentality.

First, I think Gadot was trying to be compassionate towards those left behind in Hawking’s family. In our culture “Rest in Peace” is often used, especially for those who knew no peace in this life or suffered greatly. This expression is an indirect reference to the belief expressed in Revelation 21:4
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Second, atheist Hawking has no reason to hope for any rest. The best he can do is hope for the oblivion expressed in Ecclesiastes 9:5

For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

However, we are assured that all men will stand before God on the last day.

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: Hebrews 9:27

The Bible is pretty clear that God doesn’t believe in atheists.

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. Revelation 21:8


Gadot received lots of blowback from the Tweet that I just commented on but not from the religious community. It was an attack from disabled leftists and atheists.

People with disabilities and their advocates took offense at Gadot’s statement that Hawking was finally free of his “physical constraints” and said the assertion was ableist, or discriminatory toward people with disabilities.

Gal Gadot’s Seemingly Innocent Tribute To Stephen Hawking Offended Some People

This subgroup of the disabled community who are attacking Gadot are really attacking the foundations of Western Culture. They are denying sin and its effects on the Creation. The Bible is clear that we all have corruptible bodies that are tainted by the effects of sin and that we will get a resurrected body that is incorruptible.

And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:49-58

For the disabled community to attack Gadot like they did is a denial that all our bodies are corrupted. When we say ‘disabled” we are talking of degrees of how defective our bodies are. We all age, we all died, we all return to dust. The Bible is clear that no matter how distorted it may be, we are image bearers of God and made in His image. Each of us is created just as God wanted us—even if we are blind or lame we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”.


Another comment on Hawking’s death also got some media attention.

A Texas state representative came under fire on social media Wednesday over a tweet about famed British physicist Stephen Hawking that some found insensitive.

Just hours after Hawking died, Rep. Briscoe Cain, a Republican, tweeted: “Stephen Hawking now knows the truth about how the universe was actually made. My condolences to his family.” Hawking died Wednesday at age 76.

But despite the overwhelming criticism, the lawmaker remained defiant and stood behind his comment.

“While many see him as one of the greatest public intellectuals of the last century, and no one disputes that he was brilliant, the fact remains that God exists,” Cain told the American-Statesman. “My tweet was to show the gravity of the Gospel and what happens when we die, namely, that we all will one day meet the Creator of the universe face to face.

“Stephen Hawking was a vocal atheist, who advocated against and openly mocked God,” Cain continued. “Hawking has said, ‘[T]here is no god. No one created our universe, and no one directs our fate.’ And, elsewhere, `I’m an atheist.’”


Lawmaker’s tweet after physicist Stephen Hawking’s death draws criticism



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My first reaction to Briscoe Cain’s comments is preach it brother. God has done everything to necessary to keep us out of Hell but only if we come to Him through Jesus. We can’t live life as we see fit and expect to enter Heaven on our own merit. The best works we could possibly do are called by God “filthy rags”.

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Isaiah 64:6

But what are filthy rags? The best modern translation is “used tampons”. Here is the Strong’s definition.


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In the Old Testament, a woman having her period was ceremonially unclear during that time and for a few days after. So the bottom line is that your best works of righteousness are not just physically unclean but keep you from entering God’s presence. They are fit for nothing but to be burned.

God’s remedy was to send Jesus to die in our place so His righteousness could be used to obtain what we could not, peace with God. But we can only do this on His terms not ours. Only then can we say this:


We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:8

Stephen Hawking chose poorly.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
Romans 1: 18-23

Posted by william on 03/16 at 10:19 AM
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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Why Republican Losses Are Good For Trump

Republicans have an openly hostile relationship with President Trump. We all know this but it’s really difficult for a sitting President to be at war with his own Party. Trump has a strategy to fix this, but it involves pain. I don’t like that Trump keeps backing Establishment candidates in the various special elections that have occurred since he was sworn in; however, the electorate doesn’t mistake Trump as part of the Establishment. If Democrats take back either the House or Senate, it will be a different dynamic. Trump will be the beneficiary. Here’s how.

• It’s OK that Trump is openly at war with the Democrats because they are the other Party.
• Trump will get more legislation passed if he must deal with the Democrats. Trump will gladly take 65 or 70 percent of something he wants than 100 percent of nothing—which is what the current crop of feckless Republicans have given him. But what about the tax cuts? Folks, the tax cuts are temporary, and, in a few years, they will revert to the old rates unless Congress passes more legislation. Remember, Washington wants issues to campaign on; they are not in the business of fixing anything.
• Without incumbents in election races, Trump can back whoever he wants and there is no political downside for him. Trump can handpick a legislative team willing to work with him. Even if the Establishment doesn’t like him, they will be forced to publicly pledge themselves to working with the President.
• Trump is head of the Republican Party and can control where much of the campaign money is spent.
• The Establishment types love power more than anything so they will set aside their differences with the President if they think he can help them keep their jobs.
• Trump—like Reagan—can bring issues before the public and bypass the media and political class.


Truthfully, it may not require the Democrats to prevail in November. The thought that it could happen may be enough. If Republicans stand with Trump they will be OK but if they try to throw him under the bus, then they might be the ones looking to spend more time with their families after November’s ballots are cast. Trump’s name is not on the ballot this year, but he has a better track record than any Republican campaigning in this cycle. If Republicans in Congress run on their own record they will lose, if they run with Trump they will win.

Posted by william on 03/14 at 01:44 AM
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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

When Google Attacks

I was looking at a job opportunity yesterday and on the application was a map link to their location. Upon clicking the link this is what popped-up. I think these guys have a better rating than my local Denny’s but I’ll let you be the judges.


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Oh, and click here for the link on Google Maps.

Posted by william on 03/07 at 07:33 AM
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Friday, March 02, 2018

Billy Graham

Today is the funeral of Rev Billy Graham.

I wanted to briefly discuss how Billy Graham touched my family and affected my relationship with God as a result. I thought this a fitting tribute. While my beliefs don’t perfectly align with his, I wish this blog to accentuate the positive on this occasion.

As a condition of being married in the Roman Church, my dad was required to sign an agreement with the Church that he would allow his children to be raised Roman Catholic—my mom’s faith. Just over a decade later, in the 1970’s, I was transitioning from a private Catholic elementary school to a public junior high.

At this period, my mom watched Billy Graham on a local television broadcast. She knew about Jesus but felt distant from him. As Graham spoke, she felt her need to have a more lively faith and walk with Christ. As Graham asked his audience to pray with him, so did my mother. 

Graham’s basic message included the concept that it was not our works—the things that we did or did not do—that got us into heaven but that our works were inadequate to gain salvation. Our sin separated us from God. Only the work of Christ dying on our behalf could get us into heaven. We must acknowledge our sin and ask Christ to forgive us and enter our hearts. It was not the external that related us to God but the renewing of our hearts that cause our regeneration (in Graham’s terminology, being born again). To this end, it was Graham’s practice to conclude his sermons with a call to get into a right relationship with God. As such, he would ask that people pray with him as he recited “the sinner’s prayer”.


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This prayer caused a change in my mother and she began to explore other places to worship. As a result, we ended up attending a local Baptist church. A few months later, my sisters and I attended a summer camp sponsored by the new church. At camp, we also made a commitment of our lives to Christ.

As a result of my camp experience, I was a different person. I had a hunger for reading the Bible and learning about God. I had a lively faith and wanted to share it with others. Over the years, I have continued my walk with God, sometimes closer than others. I have moved beyond the Baptist ways and found a way to make peace with the Roman Church as well.

I am grateful to the ministry of Billy Graham for the difference that has been made in my life.

Posted by william on 03/02 at 09:42 AM
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Thursday, March 01, 2018

Issues That Are Never Solved

There is an old saying, “he who frames the issue wins the debate”. But what is supposed to happen is that after the debate, (eventually) the issue is solved or voted upon and then we move on. However, sometimes that doesn’t happen. Did you ever wonder why?

Before I proceed on this topic, please understand that I am the messenger. I wish to have readers look at my examples not in terms of agreeing with one side over another but as a political analysis.

I wish to begin with two topics that seem to have no solutions: abortion and immigration.


Abortion
Abortion opponents say that they wish to have government support life and will stop at nothing short of the human life amendment.

A Human Life Amendment can be both a unifying strategy for individuals and organizations and a powerful political tool to discern the true pro-life convictions of our elected officials.
The ultimate goal of the pro-life movement


Abortion supporters want unlimited abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy—this is the status quo under Roe v Wade. Plus, they want you to pay for them with taxpayer dollars. Many see abortion—or the absence of child bearing—as the only way to have real equality with men.

As you can see, there is no room for common ground, compromise, or any other of the usual political maneuvering using such a binary equation.


Immigration
Some folks want to allow everyone that can get inside the borders of the United States to come and then once here, they wish to unilaterally confer upon them all rights and privileges of citizenship without them even asking for it. No assimilation is required. This includes voting, employment and education. Think California once Gavin Newsom is sworn in as governor.

Other folks say they want to deport everyone here illegally. For them, Trump’s wall is just a symbol of the protectionism necessary to insure United States sovereignty. They wish to keep illegals from accessing any of the programs or opportunities available to our citizens. Only those who followed the established path to Green Cards and citizenship are welcomed.

As you can see, there is no room for common ground, compromise, or any other of the usual political maneuvering using such a binary equation.


Yes, there is a segment of squishy people in the middle of both these issues but the people driving the issue tend to be on one side or the other.

My question is why can’t a political solution be found for either issue? My answer is simple. Neither side wants it solved. They would rather have the issue to get votes in the next election than fix anything. 

Remember Obamacare and the Republicans? Republicans wanted the issue for campaigning but really had no plan to “repeal and replace” even though they campaigned on that promise for eight years. When they got the chance with majorities in the House and Senate plus a supportive and friendly President, they could pass no legislation because there was no plan.

In the same way, abortion is not about killing or not killing babies, its about votes. Democrats view being pro-abortion as a winning issue for them and most Republicans view being pro-life as being to their benefit. Again, this is just posturing.

I have been told by Liberal Republicans that they wish the pro-lifers would go away because social conservatives have ruined the Party. My response is “simple, get the taxpayer money out of the issue. If you do, abortion will no longer be a political issue.”  Think about it, both sides have built their respective fortresses on the issue of “to fund or not to fund”. Yes, there are moral issues involved but without taxpayer money, it is a mute topic at election time for the vast majority of folks.

Immigration is a more complex issue but given a choice of fixing a defective and broken system or having the issue at election time, politicians of all stripes would rather have the issue than fix it.


Conclusion
This ladies and gentlemen is the real gridlock in Washington.  Both teams are happier playing “prevent defense” than winning. To strike a decisive blow for your side is to risk galvanizing the opposition. Think of it as trying to steal the other guy’s honey without being stung by their bees in the process. Get as much as you can and still make a clean getaway. This is what passes for modern statecraft.

Or to use a different analogy, we have entrusted our economic harem to the eunuchs in Washington hoping that they won’t screw us too badly.

Posted by william on 03/01 at 12:19 AM
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Monday, February 19, 2018

Limits of the Digital Age

I wish to begin this discussion today with two propositions:

Rush Limbaugh says that for most people, history begins when you are born. In a sense that is true because you remember best what you experienced.

We have also been admonished that those that don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

My subject today touches on both propositions.


In recent times, the Internet has revolutionized the availability of information; however, I don’t mean this in the way you think I do. We have made everything transient and disposable. One such casualty is “Truth”. Our culture often speaks of “what is true for you” as opposed to “Truth” as an objective, absolute standard. Liberals have their “truth” and conservatives have theirs, too. Most of the time the intersection of the facts in any discussion is tangential to the discussion and not central to it. We talk past each other not to each other. Look at the news of the day and how CCN or the old gray lady covers it as opposed to Fox or World Net Daily or Breitbart. How do folks witness the same events and come-up with this stuff?

I love the ease of finding things on the Internet but try finding the same event or article six months or a year later. There is a good chance the link (URL) is gone or broken. It could be moved, purged, or the website is just gone. If you are lucky, the article might be behind a pay firewall—and thus out of reach anyway.


Example: Rita Crundwell “The Crooked Comptroller: Poster Child for Segregating Duties”
I took a college level class a few years ago and we had to read an article about a particular person that was written by a particular author. The subject was business ethics. The required article was owned by a company that wanted $595 for a membership just to access its contents. I wrote the company and they made an exception and allowed me to get a copy to write my report. Ironically the instructor had no copy of the article and didn’t seem to know that it costs money just to get it.


I dislike the current practice of allowing school children to compose reports solely from “research” conducted on the Internet. We all know that search engines put their thumbs on the scales when it comes to getting results. This can be to promote a particular political viewpoint or to promote one advertiser over another. Furthermore, research on the Internet only goes back for a few years. The farther back you go, the less you will find. Much prior to the “digital age” is unavailable.


Another factor that affects search results is that companies and people are employed to “scrub” the internet of unfavorable reports. This is particularly true of politicians and large companies and institutions. Here are two examples. 

The University of California at Davis tried to scrub any references to an on campus protest in which students were maced by campus police. They were “busted” doing this and mercilessly raked over the coals by local media. The story eventually went national and lives on in infamy on Wikipedia.

Local Coverage: Sacramento Bee newspaper
UC Davis spent thousands to scrub pepper-spray references from Internet

National: CNET News
UC Davis spent $175K to hide pepper spray cop on Google, says report

Living in Infamy on Wikipedia
UC Davis pepper spray incident


While on Elk Grove’s City Council, Jim Cooper, ran for Sacramento County Sheriff. At the time, the department was facing budget cuts and layoffs. Candidate Cooper said that his solution would be to make the department more financially stable by the wide scale use of traffic cameras to fund the department. (Cooper by his statements admits that cameras are not about safety but revenue.) I heard Cooper say this while I was attending a candidate forum but I dare you to find a written report of his comments via an Internet search.


The Internet has other limitations as well. Ever buy music on Apple or Amazon or some other service? Here’s what you are missing.

• Who wrote the song?
• Who produced it?
• Who are the musicians?
• What inspired the artist to record it?
• Where was the track recorded?
• When was it recorded?

All this and more was once common on the jacket of a vinyl record and less so on a compact disk. Now you get no context to the song.


Electronic documents such as Adobe PDF files and EBooks are another area of concern when limitations of the digital age are concerned. With the click of a mouse or push of a remote button, these documents can be disabled in their entirety or edited without any user input. Paper books are better for sharing anyway. The thought that Amazon can edit, disable, or delete any book that you’ve purchased from them should give you some cause for concern. If someone modified or disabled, the PDF file extension then anything in that format would become unreadable. If you drill down into the licensing agreement, you will find that you really don’t own the software, music, or book that you think that you purchased. No, in reality you have only bought a use license and ownership is actually retained by some faceless corporation not you. The digital age has its benefits but don’t overlook the limitations as well.

It doesn’t take an EMP weapon from North Korea to end the “information age” as we know it. Buyer beware. Clearly I like the digital age but I like parts of the “old school” ways as well. In my mind physical media is always better.


Lastly, for your reading and amusement I present a technology called B.O.O.K. Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge.

BOOK is a revolutionary technological breakthrough: no wires, no electric currents, no batteries.  Nothing to be connected or switched on.  So easy to use, even a child can operate it!  Compact, portable, it can be used anywhere—even on a beach, yards from a power point.  Yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc!  Here’s how it works:

BOOK is constructed of literally hundreds of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding thousands of bits of information.  The pages are locked together with a custom fit device (a “binder”) which maintains each sheet in its correct sequence.

Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows the manufacturer to utilize BOTH sides of each sheet, thus doubling information density while cutting costs.  Sheets are scanned optically, registering information directly to the brain—the most efficient interface yet developed!

Read the full description of B.O.O.K.

Posted by william on 02/19 at 01:51 PM
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Friday, February 09, 2018

Thoughts on California’s Housing Shortage

Happy Friday!

I’m just wondering what things are like in your corner of the world? Here in the shadow of California’s capitol, I keep hearing how great the economy is but I think its wishful thinking. Prices of food and energy keep going up due exclusively to government policies. In my town, Elk Grove, the city council is spending money faster than a drunken Congressman with a new girlfriend.

The only fault here that any politician will admit is a housing shortage. What shortage? The only thing in short supply is affordable housing. Ten years ago, at the peak of the housing boom, it cost about $100,000 per lot just to get a building permit. Wages, taxes, and utilities cost much more than ten years ago, but real estate prices in my area have never recovered their peak values of the last decade.

Nevertheless, single people that I know at work are paying apartment rental that is double what my monthly mortgage is costing me. What is worse is that there is plenty of housing available. I have three empty homes in my neighborhood that are within a two minute walk of my driveway. Two of the three are not even listed as being for sale. Yep, they are just sitting there. One has been empty for about two years and another for six months, and the third for about four months. Another family on my street is closing up shop and heading out of state later this year. If this is a common occurrence then things are worse than I imagine.

I fear that by the time Gavin Newsom and the gang in the “bill mill” are done with this state, we will be comparing ourselves to Haiti or Puerto Rico. That’s when you know that California has achieved its goal of being the worker’s paradise that we have been promised.  Oh, and then government will have created affordable housing to boot. Until then, buckle-up.

Posted by william on 02/09 at 03:04 PM
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Thursday, February 08, 2018

Comments On Learning How To Think Straight

Bob Dylan released a track on his Grammy winning Slow Train Coming album called Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking but I’m not sure the article below is what he had in mind.


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At first glance you might think this is the prison version of My Fair Lady but we are not talking about which fork to use at the fancy dinner or “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain”. Neither is this a redux of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten where rules such as “don’t hit others” and “share” were the life lessons that folks used to learn.

No, the article below is a target rich environment for an alien way of thinking. We are in fact looking at a religion of self-improvement and behavior modification which yields no improvement in the human heart; thus there is no real moral or ethical basis why the prisoner should change.

Inmates at Corcoran learn how to think straight

By Lt. Edward Sanchez, AA/PIO
California State Prison, Corcoran

Thinking for Change recently congratulated its second graduating class on Facility 3B at California State Prison, Corcoran. The inmates in the class learned social skills such as active listening, apologizing and responding to anger.

The next subject the class learned last fall was, Cognitive Self-Change: paying attention to how their thinking affects their responses, recognizing risky thoughts and behaviors that are likely to get them into trouble and how to identify new and different ways of thinking and acting that will help them avoid conflict.

After practicing these skills, the next subject was Problem Solving: learning to take problems they experience every day, such as conflicts with cell mates, family members and staff and develop a more constructive way of dealing with those difficulties.

Members of the class learned by observing the group leader and one of their own members who had already completed the class demonstrate the specific skills they were learning.

They then identified their own problem situations, worked through the process of identifying potential solutions, chose one and acted it out in front of the class with another inmate.

For Inmate Harris, this was the second time through the class, this time as a teacher’s assistant who helped demonstrate the various skills and worked with some of the other inmates to help them complete assignments in between classes.

“This wasn’t just book learning,” said another inmate. “We actually did what we were learning about.”

“The experience I got out of this class was the most helpful thing I have received in all my years in CDCR,” said another inmate.



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Graduates of Think for Change

Folks let’s face it, the guys in prison are those that are more logically consistent than the rest of us. If Darwin is true—which is what we teach from elementary school on up—then taking what you want and exploiting the weak is proper behavior. Rape, murder, theft, and other “crimes” are just survival of the fittest in action. What these inmates learn the hard way is that society for the most part doesn’t really believe Darwin.


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You see, we want the morality of Christianity—the fruits if you will-without the consequences of the reality of God. We latch onto Darwin to explain our existence apart from God and justify abortion on demand but otherwise we don’t really have much use for him.

Inmates acted like animals (per Darwin and evolutionary theory) and subsequently got caged. Thus the society that caged them is now trying to train them to behave better. Acting according to nature got them in trouble so now somebody decided that the problem was their lack of nurture. Sorry but even with Siegfried and Roy, the animals were still wild, they just acted tame in a controlled setting for short periods of time; their fundamental nature is not changed.


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Siegfried and Roy

Likewise, this prison program cannot effect the type of change that these men really need, only the Gospel of Christ can have lasting change. Why? Because when God saves us, he gives us a new heart, a new nature, His nature.

From a biblical point of view, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation can’t really do either correct or rehabilitate. God is in the business or redeeming people from their sins. (Imprisonment is not a biblical punishment anyway.)

When the government gets into the business of trying to redeem people, they have left their God given sphere of responsibility and strayed beyond their mandate. These eight guys were able to get out of their cells and interact with others but sadly they were not given the antidote to their real problem just a placebo.

Posted by william on 02/08 at 09:16 AM
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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Folding Tablets Are New Cell Phones

Later this year two design concepts will converge to create a new category of devices.

Always Connected
Windows 10 devices will be entering the market which run on ARM chips. ARM chips are the same ones that power smart phones. This is not Windows RT or Mobile but the same Windows 10 that runs on your desktop and laptop. These always connected devices will hold a charge measured in days not hours and can run most programs that you use at work or home.

Foldable Tablets
In addition to laptops and tablets, a new set of foldable devices will also be marketed beginning later this year. This new technology category is the folding tablet that just happens to be a smart phone. Several Android and PC manufacturers are entering this market space.

Combining Both: Andromeda
I’m particularly interested in Microsoft’s Andromeda devices. These foldable tablets are always connected, run Windows 10, and support touch and pen. Andromeda is believed to be the mythical “Surface Phone”. Now that the top brands of cell phones routinely cost more than one thousand dollars, Microsoft can market this tablet without the sticker shock that would have occurred a few years ago. Also the technology has become both powerful enough and efficient enough to be practical.

Here is are sketches of the Microsoft Andromeda concept.

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Sketch from Patent application


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Render of Andromeda from Engaget

Microsoft ‘Andromeda:’ Everything we know about the rumored foldable device

I’m looking forward to seeing these gizmos at my local electronics retailer later in the year. (and hopefully under the Christmas tree too)

Posted by william on 01/31 at 07:51 AM
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Saturday, January 27, 2018

When Hyper-V Attacks

A coworker has an old program that he couldn’t get to run on his computer, so he asked me to help. From the description of the program it sounded like it was probably written with 16-bit code, so I told him about DOSBox. He had never heard of the program; nevertheless, I convinced him to try it. (I like D-Fend Reloaded mod)  Once he got it installed he tried to run his program. It gave him an error because he didn’t have Windows installed.  After several text messages, we agreed that he would bring the program CD to work, give it to me, and I could try it at home the next day.

In the meantime, I pulled out my old Windows for Workgroups 3.11 CD and tried to figure out how to install it on DOSBox. Yes, I know there is no such thing as a Windows 3.11 install CD, I made it myself almost 20 years ago. The CD is also bootable, I tweaked an image of a Windows 98 (or ME) rescue floppy and added some improvements. It can install WFW and Norton Desktop—a product that looks suspiciously like Windows 95 but is much older. It makes 3.11 have a different desktop experience and features portions of Norton Utilities as part of a graphical interface. It’s really cool software. After fiddling with DOSBox for a while I was able to get Windows installed. Oh, nice thing about having it on CD is no prompts for inserting the next floppy disk.

I then had to configure the sound card and video. Sound was easy, just select SoundBlaster and set Interrupt and IRQ—typical old school stuff. Video was a big problem. I picked Living Books “Arthur’s Teacher Trouble”. Believe me it was trouble too. The video in DOSBox just wouldn’t go. I changed the settings within Windows to every size and shape monitor but they all failed. Finally, I found a complete answer which I’m happy to link to HERE.
Having conquered Broderbund, I decided to revisit Microsoft virtualization in Hypervisor. I clicked on Hyper-V Manager in my Windows 10 machine and found a treasure—or so I thought; a relic of Windows 7, I found Windows XP. I tried running it and it errored out. One error was that the network settings were invalid. I was forced by Windows into a reboot after each failure. Unable to get it running, I decided to use the same virtual hard drive but use it in a newly created session of Hyper-V. I accepted the defaults and tried to create a new virtual PC. After letting Hyper-V run for about ten minutes I aborted to program. I knew something was wrong, it should only have taken a few seconds.

While messing with the virtualization software, I noticed that the virtual network card was running but my regular network card was dead. It said no network cable was attached to my computer. I tried many things, but none worked:
• At elevated Command Prompt: netcfg -d
• Help in Hyper-V had no content when I tried to use it
• Restore Point from a week before
• Delete all network cards in Device Manager
• Delete Hyper-V
• Reinstall NIC drivers
• USB network card (which said no ethernet cable attached to PC)

All these ideas and a few more failed. But things got worse.

In the midst of this, the Wi-Fi for our whole house went down and despite several reboots, nothing happened. I checked with a friend in the area and his connectivity was normal. On my phone, the ISP website assured me that there were no outages in my area. I ended up having to do a factory reset of the cable modem to get anything running. More than three hours after I tried to run my virtual hard drive, I finally admitted defeat and went to bed.

This morning, I was contemplating running a cable from another part of the house to my computer until I could get a wireless dual band NIC. Just for fun, before I left for work, I unplugged my computer from the hub in my wiring closet and plugged the cable into an unused port and immediately the green light came on and my computer was connected. I was glad to have my computer connectivity back but…

Folks think about it, a malformed piece of software on my desktop computer had the power to kill a port on my gigabit hub and my cable modem/router at the same time. Port 8 on my hub is dead and buried and a factory reset was needed to recover connectivity to the Internet. It sounds like I may have stumbled onto a bug or potential exploit. Whatever happened, I hope the boys in Redmond get this fixed. A simple message that this is not a supported operating system would have saved me a few hours of inconvenience.

Posted by william on 01/27 at 12:30 AM
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Thursday, January 25, 2018

State of the CRA

The CRA has graciously invited me to their annual convention in March; an honor that I must respectfully decline.

They will be gathering in once Republican Orange County to considering such weighty topics as:
Battle for Congress—Which seats are at risk
State of our State
Why be activists?
How to engage Non-Republicans?

Also they will vote to endorse candidates for Governor and U.S. Senate.


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However, I must respectfully rip this confab as a relic of a long dead age. The CRA, and Republicans in general, living in California are much like zombies. They move around, make noise, occasionally mumble about brains, and can occasionally be herded about totally unaware that they died long ago.

Conservatives blame Pete Wilson and Charles Munger Jr. while Liberals blame pro-lifers and religious Conservatives for the Party’s demise; however, both are wrong. Two factors deserve the lion’s share of the blame for the decline of the Republican Party in the once Golden State, George Herbert Walker Bush and demographics.

• In 1973, Los Angeles County alone had 270,000 aerospace jobs, mostly due to the military. The aerospace industry was one of the biggest employers in California. While the number of jobs in this industry was declining due to the decrease in spending for the space program and end of Vietnam as well as improvements in materials and manufacturing, it was still an important industrial sector in the state. 
• In the late 1980’s, then San Francisco Mayor Diane Feinstein refused to allow the USS Missouri to be stationed at Hunter’s Point as a permanent museum.
• A year after Ronald Reagan left office the Berlin Wall fell.

George H.W. Bush created the military base closure commission to celebrate the mythical “Peace Dividend.” This “Blue Ribbon” commission decided which bases would be closed and Congress agreed that no amendments would be allowed, it would be a straight up or down vote, that way if a base in someone’s district closed it was the commission’s fault not theirs. Furthermore, Bush agreed to sign the commission recommendations into law before it ever saw the light of day. This commission stripped most military installations from California. Ironically, the money from the base closures ultimately went to bailing out the Saving and Loan Crisis that was solely created by the same Congress.

Demographics in California changed for a number of reasons but the mass exodus of conservative and Republican voters from the state due to the base closings sealed the fate of the state. This change in the electorate coupled with the influx of people arriving from other countries changed the face of California forever.

It was during this era that CRA saw two things, a precipitous decline in membership and the rise of Barbara Alby and the Christian Right. CRA went from north of 100,000 members to about 20,000. Today CRA numbers less than 2,000 members in a state of 38 million.

For CRA to hold a convention about Republican victories is like the survivors of Pearl Harbor or Civil War reenactors gathering to honor the good old days of a bygone era. They can pound their chests and drink a beer in honor of their fallen comrades but other than being armchair quarterbacks to current events they are as irrelevant as Pete Wilson to contemporary politics.

Posted by william on 01/25 at 08:34 AM
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Thursday, January 04, 2018

New Year with Teenager

The wife and I have decided to do a course correction in the life of our teenager. We have come to the opinion that both his older siblings have holes in their upbringing that we don’t wish to replicate in his life. Our son is not allowed to use electronic devices including computers, phones, and television during school nights—defined as Sunday evening thru Thursday night; however, this rule has not been enforced in any meaningful way because if we watch television, he is right there with us. This is not just to insure that he does homework but electronic stuff can end up being too much of a good thing.

We are trying three new changes this year to move in what we hope will be a better direction.

First, once a week, our son is responsible to fix dinner. We have set this as a Friday night event with three caveats; first, he can pick a night earlier in the week to complete this task but not later; second, if we eat out on Friday he is off the hook for the week; lastly, he must make a balanced meal. Chocolate cake and milkshakes is not a balanced meal.

Second, Wednesday night is reading night. We can either read by ourselves or aloud but reading is good and we need to do more. I’m thinking about doing a read aloud of a chapter a week from Paul Harvey’s Rest of the Story because my son has no idea who that is and I can’t get him to read the darn book.

Third, Sunday night is daddy school. For one hour a week, we will spend time with various aspects of the Christian faith such as doctrine and apologetics. Our son has spent his life in Christian schools but much of their theology is shallow (the Apostle Paul rightly called it, “the milk of the Word”). A few books we will be dealing with include Walter Martin’s Kingdom of the Cults and James Sire’s The Universe Next Door. I want him to have an answer for the hope that is in him and be able to discern truth from error. I also want to make an effort to get him to make the faith of his parents his own. Nothing I’ve seen other parents do seems to insure that result and arguably it is in God’s hands but I want to know I did my best in my primary duty as a father.

This week will be our first attempt at these goals. We have some good ideas, I’m hoping that the implementation will bear some positive results even if it needs some modifications along the way.

Posted by william on 01/04 at 09:39 AM
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