Thursday, March 31, 2011

Politics: Just how much is $61 billion in cuts? Another view ...

Imagine a car with a sticker price for $38,190.

One salesman says, "I'll sell it to you for $37,580. Would you buy it now?"

That is what cutting $61 billion dollars from the US Federal budget is equal to on a percentage basis on an automobile dealership lot.

Politics: Just how much is $61 billion in cuts?

The GOP has proposed $61 billion in cuts. The Democrats say that is too much. Looking at the figure suggests that both parties have their heads in the sand. Figure is from Cato Institute.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Politics: Should public-sector unions have collective bargaining rights?

At the moment, the Wisconsin public sector unions do but its Republican Governor and Republican members of the legislature want to remove that right.

Question: Do Federal workers have the right to collectively bargain?

Going to google ... many of the top website hits are people arguing with each other in blog discussion sites ...

Of sites that might be less heated and try to stick to the facts ...

It appears at the Federal level they do have some rights but national security workers appear to have limited rights according to this PolitiFact item. Excerpt:
Under the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act, all federal employees have the right to bargain collectively, but the president has the power to restrict those rights for employees working in the intelligence or national security fields.

At the state level, it appears to be the opposite in that this item posted in 2007 from the Heritage think tank seems to say that collective bargaining rights is widely available to public safety employees (i.e. police, fire, etc). Excerpt:
Thirty-four states already have collective bargaining for both police and firefighters. Four states extend collective bargaining privileges to firefighters but not police officers. In states without laws mandating collective bargaining, some local governments nonetheless do so. Other states authorize public employers to voluntarily recognize collective bargaining agreements, but do not require it.

In this Newshour item, David Brooks points out two difference between public sector and private sector unions which I've marked in bold. Excerpt:

I think, when a private sector union negotiates, they know their company can go out of business if they ask too much. That's not the state with a state monopoly. When the private sector negotiates, a private sector union, the management has an incentive to say no.

Here, the management has much less incentive. Most importantly, the public sector unions have a chance to help select the people they're negotiating with through their campaign donations.

And, so, they get to ask what they want. I perfectly understand that. But when it's slightly off-balance, then you get what you have got in 30 or 40 states, fiscally unsustainable situations. So, I think I'm not totally in agreement with what Scott Walker is trying to do, which I think is way too polarizing, but I do think the balance has to shift a little.


The multi-billion dollar question is how does one shift it back? The pension and benefit liabilities the states have to their employees are busting their budgets. Can it be done while leaving collective bargaining in place?

On a related note, Dennis Prager wonders how the media would cover the story if Tea Party people started camping out in a statehouse like the way the unions and their allies are doing in Wisconsin?

Friday, March 04, 2011

Theology: Does the Bible Support Same Sex-Marriage?

According to Prof. Robert Gagnon, no.

In his piece, he addressed the question of analogies to slavery. Excerpt:
Scripture shows no vested interest in preserving the institution of slavery but it does show a strong vested interest from Genesis to Revelation in preserving a male-female prerequisite. Unlike its treatment of the institution of slavery, Scripture treats a male-female prerequisite for sex as a pre-Fall structure.

The Bible accommodates to social systems where sometimes the only alternative to starvation is enslavement. But it clearly shows a critical edge by specifying mandatory release dates and the right of kinship buyback; requiring that Israelites not be treated as slaves; and reminding Israelites that God had redeemed them from slavery in Egypt.

Paul urged enslaved believers to use an opportunity for freedom to maximize service to God and encouraged a Christian master (Philemon) to free his slave (Onesimus).

How can changing up on the Bible’s male-female prerequisite for sex be analogous to the church’s revision of the slavery issue if the Bible encourages critique of slavery but discourages critique of a male-female paradigm for sex?

Much closer analogies to the Bible’s rejection of homosexual practice are the Bible’s rejection of incest and the New Testament’s rejection of polyamory (polygamy).

Homosexual practice, incest, and polyamory are all (1) forms of sexual behavior (2) able to be conducted as adult-committed relationships but (3) strongly proscribed because (4) they violate creation structures or natural law.

Like same-sex intercourse, incest is sex between persons too much structurally alike, here as regards kinship rather than gender. Polyamory is a violation of the foundational “twoness” of the sexes.


The church I'm a member of is part of the PCUSA denomination that is currently voting on whether to alter the following language as a standard for ordination of ministers:

Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.


If this standard is repealed, the new wording would make it likely that ordination of practicing homosexual pastors would be allowed.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Non-profit of the Month: March 2011- Cato Institute

Tired of the talking-screaming heads on television news?

One of the places I go for thoughtful analysis of policy issues of the day is the Cato Institute.

Its a think tank in DC that often says the answer isn't a program based in DC.

From their "about" page:

Founded in 1977, Cato owes its name to Cato's Letters, a series of essays published in 18th- century England that presented a vision of society free from excessive government power. Those essays inspired the architects of the American Revolution. And the simple, timeless principles of that revolution — individual liberty, limited government, and free markets — turn out to be even more powerful in today's world of global markets and unprecedented access to more information than Jefferson or Madison could have imagined. Social and economic freedom is not just the best policy for a free people, it is the indispensable framework for the future.

Non-profit of the Month: February 2011- Americares

When a disaster strikes somewhere in the world, only a handful of agencies have the size and know-how to get help in fast.

Americares is one of those organizations.

From their "about us" page:

Since our founding in 1982, AmeriCares has provided more than $10 Billion of aid to 147 countries. To accomplish these results, AmeriCares assembles product donations from the private sector, determines the most urgent needs and solicits the funding to send the aid via airlift or ocean cargo to health and welfare professionals in the indigent locations. The model is time tested, cost effective and experience driven. Historically, for each $100 donated, AmeriCares delivers more than $3,500 in emergency relief and humanitarian aid, including medicines, medical supplies, clothing, blankets and nutritional supplements.

AmeriCares has a longstanding commitment to fiscal responsibility and has consistently received high rankings from Charity Navigator for our efficiency. These ratings reflect the fact that more than 98% of our overall expenses directly support programs and relief for people in need – and just under 2% represent administrative costs.

Non-profit of the Month: January 2011- Union Rescue Mission and Venice Family Clinic

Starting the year off with a local flavor. I've mentioned them before but I'll mention them again because I am supporting these long time organizations that have been doing good working in the City of Angels. Hope you will do the same!

Union Rescue Mission

From their "about" page:

Established in 1891, URM is one of the largest rescue missions of its kind in the United States and the oldest in Los Angeles.

We provide a comprehensive array of emergency and long-term services to our guests, including: food, shelter, clothing, medical and dental care, recovery programs, transitional housing, legal assistance, education, counseling, and job training to needy men, women, children, and families.


Venice Family Clinic

From their "clinic in brief" page:

Founded in 1970 in a borrowed storefront dental office, the Clinic has grown into the largest free clinic in the nation. Founder Phillip Rossman, MD, and co-founder Mayer B. Davidson, MD, called upon friends and colleagues to help. That spirit of volunteerism prevails today with more than 2,000 volunteers and $12.1 million in-kind contributions from hospitals, laboratories, specialty-care providers and pharmaceutical companies.

The Clinic provides comprehensive primary health care, specialty care, dental care, mental health services, health education and child development services, as well as public insurance enrollment to more than 24,400 patients, including more than 6,000 children, who make over 103,000 visits annually. Prescription medicines are provided at no charge.