A “Conservatarian” View of the SCOTUS Same Sex Marriage Decision

I’m not a constitutional scholar, but I’ve invested a good amount of time in this issue. I don’t need to reiterate what others have said about the intricacies of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Simply started, the Equal Protection clause states that all Americans are entitled to equal protection under the law, period.  What bears stating is the legal precedent in referencing the Fourteenth. Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there were “Jim Crow” laws in the southern states that required the states, under law, to segregate based on race. Facilities were supposed to be “separate but equal.” They rarely were equal. President Woodrow Wilson, an overt racist, practiced gross discrimination. The equally overt racist Democrats of the late 1800s through the mid 1960s did everything possible to undermine the anti-segregationist policies of the Republicans. The southern states felt their state sovereignty allowed them to discriminate within the borders of their states. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth was the constitutional basis for the federal government to overrule state sovereignty because the federal government is responsible for ensuring all citizens get equal protection under the law. Given the preponderance of states that have marital equality laws, it was not, in my mind, a far stretch to apply the same principles that shot down Jim Crow. What the Fourteenth does not touch is the right of people that are not agents of the state from discriminating except in areas such as housing and employment. This ties into the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. By law and practice, churches are not agents of the state. Congress cannot force a non-agent to act. I am an ordained minister. I cannot be compelled to perform any service for anyone. I don’t know the individual laws of every state where marital equality is the law, but I can tell you that Maryland’s law is well-crafted and explicitly protects the clergy. Here is the text of Question 6, the public referendum for marital equality in Maryland,

“Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.”

I am a libertarian. I voted for Question 6 even though I will not personally perform a same-sex ceremony. I am not discounting what I believe to be the biblical truth on the topic. I am standing behind the right of two people to enter into a legally binding contract, which in the eyes of the state, is what marriage is.

The reason we have this mess is that our bloated government stuck its nose into marriage, a thing formerly under the scope of religious bodies. It chose to grant legal privileges to married couples. Once it did that and the individual states began to legalize same sex marriage, it was inevitable that it would have to respond.

Before we are too quick to respond to this ruling, think of where America would be if Jim Crow was still in existence.

Common sense carbon emission reduction

With all of the whining going on about carbon emissions, I decided to do some research in ways to get the carbon out of the air.  A single device powered by a coal-energy plant would remove ten times the amount of energy needed to run it.  The device in this article was created over 5 years ago.  Imagine the improvement in the technology and drop in the costs to air-capture-pix-small-thumbproduce it.

http://cleantechnica.com/2008/09/29/scientists-create-device-to-remove-carbon-directly-from-the-air/

The Oligarchy Times-The Product Isn’t Good

The Oligarchy Times, volume 1, issue 3

In today’s issue of the Oligarchy Times, we examine the most consistent man in the United States, if not the world. President Barack “Enron” Obama made the following statement on October 23, 2013:

“The product is good. The health insurance that’s being provided is good. It’s high quality and it’s affordable. People can save money, significant money, by getting insurance that’s being provided through these marketplaces. And we know that the demand is there. People are rushing to see what’s available. And those who have already had a chance to enroll are thrilled with what’s available.” (Source: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/susan-jones/obama-shills-obamacare-product-good-call-now#sthash.s6xg4RDg.dpuf)

In almost flawless constancy, President Enron lied, flat out lied.  How can a person state that a largely unavailable product “is good?”  Even if the site is 100% running and available, by all accounts, it is not secure.  In order to go window shopping, you have to give sensitive information.  It is like going window shopping at the mall while naked.

The following is directly from the Chicago Tribune, December 15, 2013

CHICAGO — Rachel Arai is a 38-year-old stay-at-home mom with a second child on the way in February. Her family has never been without health insurance, coverage her family views not as a luxury but as a necessity.

She and her self-employed husband, Devin Stites, want to buy a policy for 2014, but like millions across the country, they’ve found themselves in limbo: With just days left to select coverage that will kick in Jan. 1, they lack the information needed to make a decision on what policy to buy.

The family has health insurance through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. But they’ve been eager to see if they can get a better deal, and possibly a tax credit, through the new Illinois health insurance exchange set up as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The problem: Blue Cross hasn’t told them how much they’ll have to pay for their existing plan in 2014. And HealthCare.gov, the federal website where consumers in 36 states, including Illinois, are supposed to be able to compute their subsidy amount and buy health insurance, has been largely inoperable for many consumers, including Arai.

As the Dec. 23 deadline to obtain insurance coverage approaches, frustration is mounting across the country for people who fear they’ll have little time to assess their health care options or, at worst, not be able to sign up for a plan in time because of the bumpy rollout of the health care law.

There’s not much Arai and her husband can do, aside from wait and hope they get the information they need in time to ensure no gap in coverage.

“I’m really frustrated at this point, (and) I don’t have hours and hours to try and get pricing on my health insurance,” she said. “I’m nervous about the situation, but my hands are kind of tied. I don’t know what to do, and my husband is beside himself.”

For people with chronic conditions or those who require ongoing medical treatment like Arai, the loss of coverage — even for a month — could create a big financial hardship.

How the family and others like them ended up in this pickle is largely a reflection of the technological meltdown that rendered the website all but unusable in its first two months, a reordering of the insurance market spurred by the health care law and the policy reversal that followed.

New regulations under the health law that required all new policies to cover a list of 10 essential health benefits, including prescription drugs, hospitalization and maternity care, with no extra charge. That spurred insurers across the country to cancel plans for millions of Americans with private coverage, including about 185,000 in Illinois.

Massive public outcry erupted, prompting the White House to change course. President Barack Obama announced in November that states could allow insurers to offer existing policies for one more year, even if they didn’t meet the new standards.

Blue Cross, the state’s largest insurer that issued the majority of plans on the individual market last year, decided it would go along. But it has yet to communicate 2014 rate information to Arai and other customers.

“Every week I call they say next week. The email I got earlier this week said next week. Everything is next week, but next week never seems to come,” Arai said.

Lauren Perlstein, a spokeswoman for the parent company of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, said the company will notify its members soon of adjusted 2014 rates that reflect new taxes and fees associated with the health law.

In a letter sent two weeks ago to customers, the insurer said it would tack on an additional 4.1 percent to premiums reflect those new fees, plus another unspecified rate adjustment to account for 2014.

The insurer advises them to compare their current plan to new 2014 plans on its website to ensure they’re getting the coverage that is right for them.

Other insurers that sold individual policies in Illinois this year also will offer those plans next year, including Health Alliance, which said it will increase rates on extended plans by 21.8 percent effective Feb. 1.

Humana is offering renewals for small group plans, but still hasn’t made a decision about individual policies, a spokesman said. Aetna said Thursday it would not offer old plans next year.

State and federal officials have urged consumers to keep trying to access the website, which is working far better in December than in its first two months of operation. They also encourage those who need help sorting out their options to contact one of several dozen community groups across the state that have a combined 1,500 trained helpers who can help people navigate the process of signing up for coverage.

That’s little consolation for Fran Schlesinger, 45, of Naperville, who has spent more than 20 hours trying to sign up for coverage on the federal website, including at least seven hourlong calls with federal call center helpers, to no avail.

After her husband lost his corporate job in 2011, her family of six has purchased coverage on the individual market. Their current policy, through UnitedHealthcare, will cost more than $1,000 a month starting in January, up from about $900.

She estimates the family will be eligible for a hefty federal subsidy to buy an insurance policy on the exchange, but the one time out of dozens that she was able to get through the application process, she inadvertently entered an erroneous income figure. The system kicked her application into Medicaid, the state-federal insurance program for those with low-income or the disabled

Once she realized her mistake, she made four calls to the federal help line, spending an hour on the phone with a helper each time. But she’s still unable to remove or correct her application, leaving her locked out of the system and unable to compare the private policies her family intends to buy.

“At this point, I’ve thrown up my hands and said I can’t deal with this anymore,” Schlesinger said. “I feel like I’m in one of those hamster wheels, where you cannot get off.”

Pam Lefkowitz, 53-year-old Lincolnwood self-employed IT consultant, called the entire process “the biggest nightmare.”

After two months of failed attempts, the finally was able to view health plans on HealthCare.gov Dec. 2. She didn’t like what she saw.

Although she’ll qualify for a monthly tax credit of about $91 if she buys a plan through the exchange, the policies offered carried higher total out-of-pocket costs than her old plan from Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which she would prefer to keep, depending on how much it costs.

She received an e-mail last week from the insurer saying it would renew that plan and send her information this week on how much it would cost in 2014. As of Thursday afternoon, the letter had not arrived.

“I’m in a holding pattern,” Lefkowitz said. “I’m not doing anything until I hear from Blue Cross.”

——

Even for enrolled, obstacles remain

Even those who have signed up via the health exchanges are running into red tape and roadblocks.

The website also has had a number of back-end issues that affect the way it notifies insurance companies of their new enrollees. The federal government said last week that about 10 percent of the enrollment forms HealthCare.gov submits to insurers have errors, including incorrect information, duplicate forms and, in some cases, missing forms.

That’s down from an error rate of about 25 percent in October and November, before a host of significant repairs were made to the website, officials said. Even so, the continued issues raise the specter that some people who believe they are enrolled in a health plan may show up to a doctor’s office or a hospital and find that insurers have no record of their application.

Administration officials and insurance companies suggest that anyone who enrolls in coverage via the federal website call their insurance company to confirm they’ve signed up. For the plan to kick in Jan. 1, enrollees also are required to pay their insurer the first month’s premium by Dec. 31.

In a nod to the ongoing sign-up problems nationwide, federal officials announced several steps Thursday aimed at helping people who get stuck in health care-law limbo. The Department of Health and Human Services said patients enrolled in special insurance plans for people with pre-existing conditions would be able to stay on that coverage until the end of January.

—Peter Frost and Chad Terhune of the Los Angeles Times

To quote The Thompson Twins, “lies, lies, lies, yeah!”

One reason why I am changing careers

I am changing careers.  After 25 years as a technologist, I am going into instruction and training.  I resigned my position as a business analyst in early August and stepped out in faith.  Originally, it was because my former employer could not place me in a business analyst position.  As I began to look for business analyst positions, I found that the fact I had been working in a different aspect of Information Technology for over one year severely impacted my ability to get a business or systems analyst position.  Instead of lamenting that, I have chosen to make a change.  Those who know me know that my passion is for education, particularly adult education.  I am devoting myself to changing to a career that involves instruction, training, and instructional design.

I have an application for a full time instructor position at a college that offers online instruction.  In a discussion with the recruiter for that position, I explained that one of my burdens for going into education is the plight of the combat veteran, who after leaving the service, finds that combat skills are not highly prized in the civilian workforce.  I wrote the following to her:

Sadly, the greatest danger to combat veterans these days is not the battlefield; it is coming home.  By Labor Day, more veterans will have killed themselves in 2013 than died in the entire Iraqi conflict.  When I was in seminary, I volunteered to serve in the first conflict as a chaplain.  The law does not allow seminarians to deploy overseas, but I was allowed to serve as a chaplain at Ft. Hood as part of the recovery effort in 1991.  I was on the ground for 18 hours when I was called to the Psychiatric ward of Darnell Army Medical Center.  One of our soldiers tried to kill himself by taking 400 Tylenol because he couldn’t cope with life after war.  One in four homeless people are veterans.  Remote education is a weapon to combat those problems.  Veterans can start to learn before they leave the service.  Veterans that have returned but are facing unemployment or underemployment can go to school after business hours.  Not having a meaningful job can lead to despondency.  Despondency is dispelled by hope.  Hope comes from a knowledge that something better is possible.  Career-focused education can provide hope.

There are three types of occupations: jobs, professions, and callings.  A job is something you take to put food on the table, regardless of what the duties are or if there is room for advancement.  You have obligations and are committed to meeting them.  Having a job is a fine and noble thing.  A profession is an occupation that your are committed to for the long haul.  You work extra hours, go to school for it, attend seminars and workshops to improve your skills, and take risks to demonstrate just how good you are.  Professions are also fine and noble.  A calling is a profession that is so all-encompassing that you cannot be satisfied with anything else.  A calling drives you to sacrifice.  A calling keeps you up at night and makes you excited for the next opportunity to operate within it.  My calling is in education.

I have made many applications and have some solid leads, but as with any career change, especially when you are older, finding positions is challenging.  If you know of an opportunity, please let me know or pass along my résumé (the link is below).

Andrew Knaster – Resume

Star Trek and the Systems Analyst/Project Manager Bargaining Game

The bargaining game of analyst estimates and PM timelines is key to an analyst’s success. The analyst typically asks for too much, the PM offers too little, and they meet somewhere in the midst.  The best example of how the analyst wins at this game is seen in the rare crossing of the original Star Trek engineer, James Montgomery Scott, a/k/a Scottie, and the Star Trek, The Next Generation (TNG) engineer Geordi LaForge.  Scotty locked himself in a transporter buffer loop thus allowing himself to exist as unaging demarterialized energy.  The Enterprise’s crew figured out how to release Scotty from the buffer.  As a result, there were two chief engineers on deck.  Scotty was the old salty dog who always said things couldn’t be done and then did them.  La Forge was a younger, more idealistic, by-the-rules engineer.  The following dialog took place in a scene where Captain Picard (the captain of the TNG Enterprise) had given La Forge an order to produce some critical analysis.
LA FORGE: Yeah, well, I told the Captain I’d have this analysis done in an hour.
SCOTTY: How long will it really take?
LA FORGE: An hour!
SCOTTY: Oh, you didn’t tell him how long it would *really* take, did ya?
LA FORGE: Well, of course I did.
SCOTTY: Oh, laddie. You’ve got a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker.

You see, everything I ever learned about systems analysis negotiation, I  learned from Star Trek.  We may have been considered nerds when we were young, but we make more money than the cool guys ever will.