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.

The Oligarchy Times: How the President could Really Change the World

The Oligarchy Times, Volume 2, Issue 2

In the past, I have made suggestions for the President that he was highly unlikely to act upon. I have a few very realistic actions that President Obama could take that will take care of several issues and truly change the world:

1) His dropping pole results
2) Fuel costs in the US
3) The loss of the US’s position as a true super power
4) Unemployment
5) Our impotent threats against Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine

If he would drive getting rid of ridiculous EPA prohibitions against fracking and northern drilling and push for the passing of the XL pipeline, we could take a large portion of that oil, sell it to European nations dependent on Russian oil at a rate far lower than Russia’s, and bankrupt the Russian economy by removing that income stream.  We could win that “war” without deploying a single soldier or firing a single bullet.  Fuel costs in the US would drop, we’d have a viable economic weapon to diplomiatically impact the world for good, tens of thousands of jobs would be created, and Russia would be forced to stop these invasions that are based on its stabilizing its major income stream.  It could happen.

President Obama’s Promise Zones

Promise Zones? Really? The president promised Detroit that he would not let it fail. He promised us that if we liked our doctors and our insurance, we could keep them. He promised us that he would close Gitmo. He promised us that he would lead the most transparent administration in history. I look at his promises like a bad case of gas.  They stink from the moment they are made and eventually they are followed by crap that needs to be cleaned up!

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!”

Our New Commandeer-in-Chief, President Enron

The Oligarchy Times

Vol. 1, Issue 2.

President Obama now has a new name and new title.  As of today, I declare his new name to be President Enron.  Why?  Enron promised to deliver a functional energy exchange.  It took in lots of money, but it turned out to benefit a very small number of clients but profoundly benefitted the principles of Enron.  It was incapable of delivering on its promises.  President Enron promised to deliver a working healthcare exchange.  He got elected to the highest office in land based on the lies he told about keeping doctors, keeping insurance, and not costing the taxpayers one dime. What followed the enactment of the Unaffordable Careless Act earned him his new title, Commandeer-in Chief.  This is not a typo.  President Enron commandeered over $700 billion from the Medicare trust fund.  Here are the numbers:

pic_corner_092112_murdock_PB

President Enron and his minions are responsible for the creation of a system that doesn’t only have a flawed Web portal, it doesn’t even have a system created to pay insurance carriers.  So the Unaffordable Careless Act has the ability to take money in but it doesn’t have the ability to send money out.  The Commandeer-in-Chief is also a prolific liar.  He told millions of Americans that “the product is good.”  If the product was good, it would be able to do what was promised.

If you don’t like the name President Enron, I have an alternative: President Barry Madeoff.

Washington is officially snubbing Catholics in additon to Jews

The placement of a U.S. embassy in a nation is an important action.  In 1995, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act.  The Act dictated that the U.S. would have to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to the recognized capital of Israel, Jerusalem by 1999.  It is still in Tel Aviv thanks to executive orders from presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama.

To provide equal opportunity insults, the Obama administration has ordered the U.S. mission to the Holy See (a/k/a Vatican City) be moved to the campus of the U.S. embassy in Rome.  The Holy See is effectively the world capital of Roman Catholicism.  The Holy See has made it clear that embassies should be set up in Vatican City.  The justification of the move is security and cost savings.  The State Department does not identify any unusual security problems in Italy, the Holy See, and San Marino (travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1146.html).  The cost savings is projected to be $1.4 million.  That is a whopping 1.4% of what taxpayers shelled out for the Obamas to travel to Africa in June and July of this year.

To my Catholic friends, welcome to the fold, you now get to experience some of the slights my people, the Jews, have experienced for millennia.

Affordable Care Act Update: America Held Hostage, Day 20

On October 1, 2013, America was forced to participate in the purchase of a service that the majority of Americans do not want.  If uninsured Americans don’t have insurance and don’t buy insurance under the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), they will be penalized because, as the Supreme court determined, Obamacare is a tax and that tax will be a penalty imposed on Americans that choose to not buy the service.  At 2PM on October 20, 2013, I attempted to go to the exchange page for my state’s Health Insurance Exchange.  This is what I was greeted with:

aca20131020

I am a hunter.  This continued lack of availability of the ability to sign up for Obamacare is akin to requiring me to buy a hunting license online before hunting but then not having a working website to buy that license.  That is just flat-out ridiculous!

If you want to say, “I told you so”

I am inviting anybody in the United States that held a different opinion than mine about our newly re-elected president to say, “I told you so” to me when any of the following happen:

  1. The national debt ceases to grow for 12 months straight
  2. Our credit rating goes back to AAA
  3. We completely leave Afghanistan
  4. A budget is passed
  5. The president sets foot in Israel
  6. Real unemployment stays at or below 6% for three consecutive months
  7. DOMA is repealed and benefits like Social Security and military spousal privileges are extended to all legally married people
  8. The academic rating in science and math of U.S. students gets back into the top ten in the world
  9. The president fulfills his 2009 promise to shut down Guantanamo Bay
  10. The number of appearances the president makes on talk shows in a year is less than the number of press conferences he holds in the same year
  11. There isn’t a single presidential appointee at the USDA that has not or does not benefit from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s)

You know where to reach me.

U.S. politcal outlook prediction update

Almost two years ago, I predicted that Mr. Obama would win if the Republicans put a moderate in place.  Furthermore, the House and the Senate would stay the same.  For 2016, the Republicans will put a real conservative in place, possibly Chris Christie.  The Republican landslide in the 2016 election will be Reaganesque in magnitude to include the loss of the Senate.  I’ll add a few more details:

  • In 2014, the House and Senate will hold their current majorities although to a lesser extent

  • DOMA will still be the law of the land, despite a growing number of states passing marital equality laws

  • Our credit rating will not improve above AA+

  • The Department of Homeland Security will expand

  • The national debt will increase at a somewhat slower rate but it will be nearly $20 trillion by 2016

  • We will still be in Afghanistan

  • Unemployment will hover around 8

  • Things will be stagnant through Mr. Obama’s second term as a mixed Congress will never allow him to get any of his pet projects passed.  There will be one exception because Mr. Obama will present something more moderate and that will get passed

  • Our trade deficit will increase

  • Businesses going offshore will increase

  • Bankruptcies will increase in 2014 when the full set of laws under Obamacare hit small to medium businesses

  • An increasing number of Republicans will become “liberty-minded” and more libertarian planks will find their way into the Republican platform for 2016

Just remember, if you always do what you always did, you will always get, what you’ve always gotten.

University of Phoenix

I am a four classes away from finishing my Master of Information Systems degree at University of Phoenix. It has been made known to me that there are some who doubt the value of an online education at Phoenix and other quality schools with the mission of providing the highest quality of distance education available. Please accept this as my personal testimony in regard to the quality of what UoP provides. First, I want to address the reasons that I am writing this. Then I want to tell the story of many other students, my colleagues, some of whom have become lifelong friends.

*

I am a sixteen year veteran of the IT analysis profession. When I came to Phoenix, I already had a Bachelor’s in Psychology and Sociology from Rutgers University in Newark. Rutgers is one of the top research universities in the nation. I was made a member of Psi Chi, the National Honors Society for Psychology. I was also in the R.O.T.C program at Seton Hall University. Like Rutgers, Seton Hall is known by many to be a school of excellence. I received a diploma in Military Science from Seton Hall. My education there lead to my first career as an officer in the United States Army. While in the Army, I attended several schools including the Armor Officer Basic Course at Fort Knox, KY, the Chaplain Officer Basic course at Fort Monmouth, NJ, and Nuclear , Chemical, and Biological Warfare training at Ft. Bliss TX. I logged over 1,000 hours on the instructor’s platform and I wrote the training evaluation program that was used to assess the combat readiness of Cavalry scouts. Several years after leaving the Army, I made a career change to being a full-time minister in a very large denomination. During that time, I earned a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies. I finished my studies in 1994 via distance learning that used video tape and textbooks. At the age of 32, I was accepted into the Doctor of Sacred Ministries program at what is now known as Northland International College. I was the youngest member of my class. Although I enjoyed my time in ministry, I realized that I did not have the temperament to be as effective a minister as I needed to be. Because I was a computer help desk lead for the three years I was getting my first Master’s, I was able to go into the technology field. My first job after being in the ministry was as a software instructor for a nationwide chain of computer stores owned by a stalwart of American business, The Tandy Corporation. Within two months of taking that job, I doubled my classroom capacity, added two part-time instructors, and had the second most successful training operation in the entire company. Tandy, the parent of Radio Shack, decided to close down the chain eight months after I was hired. In 1996, I became an applications analyst. The word “analyst” has been in my job title for most of the last 16 years.

*

If you examine the previous paragraph, you will not see any technology education. Until recently, that was not much of an issue. I have a Master’s, lots of experience, I have trained myself to program in several languages, and I am a Microsoft Certified Professional. I was able to get jobs that required someone with an IT Master’s degree because a line in the qualifications section of job postings used to say, “Has a Master’s degree in a technology field or commensurate experience.” Today, jobs such as the one I currently hold have dropped the “commensurate experience” from the qualifications. I found that out the hard way in 2010. I was a contractor on assignment to the Bureau of the Census. I wrote the requirements for the single largest operation in the 2010 Census. The application that was developed from those requirements impacted 49 million American homes. Once the Census was over, like most contractors, so was my job. It was then that I faced something I had only faced once in my life, unemployment. Apart from two weeks of unemployment while I was still in college, I have always been employed. I wasn’t concerned about finding a new position. After all, I thought that I was bringing so much to the table, that it would be only a matter of days until I found another job. That’s when I noticed the “commensurate experience” phrase dropped out of job descriptions. It took me seven weeks to find a new job. I was out of money and totally frustrated because all I had worked for counted for nothing to most employers because I didn’t have an IT degree. Within days of getting my new job, I enrolled in the Master of Information Systems program at Phoenix.
You might wonder why I have gone through this litany of education and experience. There is a simple reason. I am about to give my testimony of what the University of Phoenix means to me. Whoever is reading this needs to know when I speak of the quality of education, I speak from significant experience. When I speak of the modern technology workplace, I know first-hand what it is like. When I speak about the value of education, remember that I trained our soldiers in skills that meant something far more important than how to be profitable. I taught them how to avoid being killed and how to defeat the enemies of our great nation. My former unit, the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, was the first over the line during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. I did not worry for them because I was only one of an untold number of men and women who, regardless of formal education, made teaching them to succeed in the most hazardous work environment on Earth, the modern battlefield, their purpose in life. I have degrees from ground-based institutions and I had my first distance learning experience in 1994. I understand that many of the people that will be attempting to influence the place on the education landscape of schools like the University of Phoenix have never been in an online classroom. I am somewhat baffled over how someone that has not even audited an online class feels qualified to determine the value of an online education. I know the value of an online education. I am staking my career on it. I carry a 4.0 GPA average at Phoenix that I have worked extremely hard for. For those in Washington who feel that the University of Phoenix is some sort of “diploma mill,” I issue you a challenge. Stand up in front of your colleagues and read one of the papers I’ve written while at Phoenix. After having read it, I challenge you to tell anyone in this nation that Phoenix is a diploma mill. I live in Baltimore, MD, just an hour north of The Capitol. If you like, I’ll hand-deliver the paper to you. In fact, if you want, while I’m there, invite me to stand on the floor of Congress so that you and your colleagues can ask me about my education. If you like, find a GS-15 Functional Analyst and have him or her quiz me on business and systems analysis. It will be easy to find me. I’ll be the 50-year-old guy with the red and white University of Phoenix ball cap.

*

Allow me to share a University of Phoenix story that took place just a few days ago. I am fortunate to have an unusual amount of experience in the class that I am in as of this writing. That comes through in the answers to the discussion questions that each student is required to submit at least twice a day, four days per week. (As an aside, I’ve not experienced a ground-based program that has such a requirement. My first class at Rutgers University had over 400 students. Nobody was required to raise their hands, let alone make what Phoenix calls “a substantive contribution.”) One of my classmates asked why I didn’t just test out of the class. Apart from the fact that such a thing isn’t done in my program, I had the following answer for him:

I have been in this business for a lot of years and I know a lot of things but I am self-taught. The inherent danger of being self-taught is that you teach yourself what you need to know, so by default you don’t know what you don’t know. That results in knowledge with holes in it. I have never had a class here where I didn’t discover at least one hole in my knowledge. When I start my teaching career, I owe it to my students to be as free as possible from holes in my knowledge because I can’t teach them about things I know nothing of.

You see, I have one more career change ahead. For most of my adult life, I have wanted to teach professionally. It was shortly after I started at Phoenix that I finally decided I would leave my career in IT and teach IT to distance learners full time. I have already been accepted into the post-graduate program of Liberty University in Virginia. Liberty has a fully-accredited online education program as well as a fully-accredited ground-based program. In case you are wondering why I am not getting my Doctorate at Phoenix, it is because the Liberty is faith-based and I want to have the Christian worldview of Liberty impact me in a way that a secular university cannot.

*

If you think that a quality education can only come through a ground-based education, please consider the following. By the time I complete my Doctor of Education degree at Liberty, I will have attended the school both online and on the ground. I do not anticipate learning less while at home than I will on the ground. Bricks and mortar are not key ingredients in getting a world-class education. If they were, then I guess Sal Khan didn’t get the message because he educates almost as many people as Phoenix. If you don’t know who Sal is, you should consider improving your studies in contemporary education. If bricks and mortar are your thing, then before you discount Phoenix because its students can get degrees online, please remember that the University has over 200 ground-based schools, including three within driving distance of my home, that I may attend any time I want to. I have physical limitations that make such a thing extremely difficult. Fortunately, the only wall between me and the University of Phoenix is a firewall. There is something else you should be aware of. American institutions like Harvard and American University in D.C. have online programs now. So does my alma mater, Rutgers University. Those three schools have been teaching people for a combined total of 740 years. I think it is safe to say that they know a lot about education. Have they made mistakes in offering online learning? Maybe Congress should discount their value as well. If you do discount their value, then I guess you are saying Congress made a mistake when it chartered American University in 1893.
Here is something else to consider. If learning from home is less than credible then maybe working from home is also less than credible. If that is the case, then I guess the years that I have worked from home as a contractor to the Department of Veterans Affairs are not fully credible.

*

That’s my story. Allow me to share the story of another group of University of Phoenix students, those who are depending on their degree to help them make a change in their lives. As much as I struggled to find a job during my seven weeks of unemployment, I could have easily had a job in the high five-figures instead of the six-figures I was accustomed to. The folks I’m talking about have no hope of a future without an advanced degree. As part of giving back to the school, I volunteer my time to mentor my classmates that are struggling with the material. These folks fall into roughly three categories. The first are students with a native tongue other than English. They have come here from all over the world. I remember of couple of Serbian students who lived in danger every day. During DBM/502 (a database management course), I worked with a man who came here from Serbia. The gentleman was very intelligent but was struggling with grasping some concepts because English doesn’t always translate well, especially technical terms. My facilitator let me take time with him so I could explain some of the principles he wasn’t catching by presenting him with several analogies. He got it and finished the class. Without Phoenix and other high-quality online institutions, this man’s American dream would be limited to jobs that paid far less than those he had the ability to hold. He has a wife and three children along with a full-time job. No ground-based program in this country would have worked for him.

*

The second group of people are single moms with children at home. Some of them had not worked outside of the home for years while others worked in technical jobs but had hit the limit of what jobs they could get. These women are like lionesses watching over their cubs. They sacrifice to provide for them as well as they can. I remember spending hours tutoring and counseling with a single mom from California. Her husband left her with no support and three kids. She was a nurse but like a lot of tech-savvy non-IT people, she was the one that people went to for solutions to their computer problems because the help desk was backed up or because it was three AM and while the help desk is sleeping, the nurses are working. She tried getting tech jobs but she found out very quickly that being tech-savvy didn’t qualify her for jobs, even if she knew how to do them. Where and when is that woman going to get the degree she needs?

*

I remember working with another single mom that had great grades but she was struggling with an important concept in the class we took together. She wasn’t available to work with me until later in the evening because she worked all day and had to put her kids to bed after spending some time with them. I set up a Web conference with her and we worked through that tough spot for almost six hours. After that, she was rock-solid for the rest of the class. I guess I am particularly sympathetic to their plight because I was raised in the 1960’s by a single mom. In those days, being a single mom was not commonplace like it is today. She worked very hard and eventually became the vice-president of a company.

*

The last group is closest of all to me. These are the veterans that never quite made the transition from the military to the civilian world. I was fortunate to make the transition. When I was in the Army, I had an additional duty that required me to learn office automation. Even with that skill, it was hard for me to find a job. I was a Cavalryman in one of three Armored Cavalry Regiments in the Army. My Regiment’s mission was to conduct reconnaissance, find the enemy, engage with them, start killing them, and then draw them toward the heavy armored units to finish the job. There is not a lot of a call for those skills in the civilian world. I was two days away from running out of money when I finally got a job offer for a position that paid $20,000 less than I made as an Army officer.

*

At Phoenix, I’ve worked with many vets but let me tell you the story about one of our patriots that I am working with right now. In the University of Phoenix, unlike ground-based schools, we are required to share a biography with the class before getting started. Let’s call the vet I’m about to talk about Bill. Bill’s biography showed a man full of frustration and anger because after eight years in the military, he was never able to get the sort of job he needed to take care of his family, a wife and eight children. The class facilitator treats Bill with exceptional grace but there is only so much he can do because he is, as are most of the facilitators, a full-time IT professional. Bill has made it clear to the class that he knows technology but without this degree, he’s just not going to make it in the world. Bill, like so many others, has had low-end tech jobs, but because he does not have the appropriate degree, he has stagnated. As a former Army chaplain with some of pastoral counseling experience, I feel confident in saying that he is depressed and possibly bordering on despondency. For a vet, despondency can be fatal. In the 90 or so minutes that I have been writing this, one of our veterans has taken his or her own life. 18 veterans per day die this way. More veterans have died this way in the last 12 months than during the entire conflict in Iraq. I asked the facilitator if it was acceptable for me to work with Bill on the side. He most gladly gave me permission. Bill is a hard case. After two days of working with him, I was telling my wife about him and I broke down crying because I wasn’t sure if I could get through. She encouraged me to stay with him. After all, I hope to be a full-time educator in a few years and there are a lot of hard cases out there. The next few days weren’t very different but two days ago, after another attempt at getting him to understand a concept that he wasn’t getting, he made a post to our team’s discussion forum. There were three words in that post that should be carved in stone as a testimony of what the University of Phoenix and other quality online institutions can do in the lives of their students. The words were “I got it.”

*

Education is the key to breaking down so many barriers in our country. Even today, we discriminate against people because of their color, their gender, their sexuality, and particularly their levels of education. Online learning is a battering-ram that breaks down those barriers. I am so committed to it that when I walk the platform as Dr. Knaster instead of Mr. Knaster, I’m quitting my job and teaching Bill, the single moms, the former refugees, and anyone else that wants to live out the American dream by working hard and earning a degree. Please do not mitigate against my dream or the dreams of the hundreds of thousands of American distance learners in this country and around the world. Some people’s lives depend on it.

GGW

Today’s entry in The Valley of Wrongness goes to the Infernal Revenue Service.

The letters GGW stand for two things, both of which are equally obscene.  One is Girls Gone Wild and the other is Government Gone Wild.  The text that follows is from Fox Sports’ article, “Win a medal, pay the price.”

Go for the gold — but should you succeed, be prepared to dole out some gold of your own.

The U.S. Olympic Committee awards prize money to American medal winners: $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, $10,000 for bronze. That prize money is taxed at a rate of as much as 35 percent, Americans for Tax Reform calculated. On top of that, the medals themselves are taxed: You only have to fork over $2 to the IRS for the privilege of keeping your bronze medal, but carve off $236 worth from that gold medal.

Michael Phelps should have no trouble shouldering the tax burden — he makes millions in endorsements. But fellow U.S. swimmer Allison Schmitt has won two golds, a silver and a bronze in London. That’s $75,000 in total prize money — and $26,857 owed to the United States Treasury.

Did I say that both GGW’s are equally obscene?  I was wrong.  If a commercial for Girls Gone Wild appears on your TV, you have the option of turning it off.  If you want to own it, you have to choose to buy it.  Government Gone Wild is there whether or not you want it to be there.  There is one big advantage that Government Gone Wild has over Girls Gone Wild.  It will not result in the breakup of your marriage. 

Do you have an entry for The Valley of Wrongness?  Post a link as a reply and add your own commentary.  If it’s really wrong, I’ll post it and give you all of the credit.

These things I believe

Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I’ve taken some time to be alone, in quiet, and examine what I believe. Some of these are theological, some philosophical, and others are political. They are in no particular order and may not be comprehensive. These are right for me. You may feel differently and I’d love to civilly and respectfully discuss those differences. Here is the result of my self-examination of what I stand for. These things are an integrated unit so if you are interested, read them all first and then we should talk. I believe…

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Cisco/Linksys customer support is almost as useless as the U.S. Congress

If you are thinking of buying a residential networking solution, let me recommend that you might want to get it from a vendor other than Cisco/Linksys.  I almost hate to say this because I have been a faithful user of their products for years.  The problem is not so much with the products as it is with the customer support and service system Linksys now has in effect.

I had a Linksys WRT56 for years.  I wanted to upgrade to an N-class router so I went back to Linksys.  I went directly to Cisco’s online store and purchased an E1500.  For a few month’s it worked fine but then the wireless download speeds went below 1 Mbps.  I follow all the troubleshooting steps twice over.  Uploads were fine.  Connections wired to the router were fine.  I contacted their tech support and had a ridiculously bad experience.  I had already typed out the problem, the troubleshooting steps I had tried, and the results.  When the tech came on the support chat line, I pasted the text into the chat window and sent it.  I might as well have typed in Morse code.

For example, the tech would say, “let’s see if you have the latest firmware.”  I said, “I have the latest firmware.  I just downloaded it from your site and installed it.  The version is 1.0.01 (Build 7).”  The tech said, “here are the steps to determine what version of the firmware you are using.”  For a second time, I explained I had the most recent version.  The tech must have a been from the town of Stepford because once I got done talking, she reverted back to her near-robotic litany of help desk script reading.  I went with it.  The tech even told me to change the size of my MTU window and let the router sit for a few hours “to get used to the new setting.”  I did that and when it was as effective as Joe Biden I called Linksys back.  After another half-hour of them telling me to do stuff I already told them I had done or had been told by a previous tech to do, they relented and sent a replacement.

It arrived a week later and didn’t work.  I followed the troubleshooting steps twice to no avail.  Then I figured I’d swap the patch cable that came with it for a cable elsewhere in my network.  It worked.  I contacted Linksys to get a replacement cable. As hard as they made it to be, you would think I was asking them to find a man with gold teeth, kill him, remove his teeth, melt them, extrude 2m of wire from them, remove his vas deferens, and use them for insulation.  I got swapped around more times than an unloved wife at a swingers convention.  Finally I gave up.  If I would have spent half the time I spent with Linksys support on dumpster diving for aluminum cans to be recycled, I could have raised the money to buy a cable at Best Buy.

Here is the transcript:

This is the session transcript you requested for session # 628815707 with Jeg Mark P. (17580) on Thursday, November 17, 2011 3:49 pm

   Please wait… Your number in the queue: 1
   A representative will be with you in 1 minute(s)
   A representative will be joining you shortly.

Monchy N. (26830) has joined this session.
from Monchy N. (26830) to All Participants:
Hello Andrew! Welcome to Linksys Live Chat. How may I help you?

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
Hello. I just received my replacement E1500.

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
It wasn’t working but when I switched the patch cable with another one on my network it worked.

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
I just want a replacement patch cable.

from Monchy N. (26830) to All Participants:
Okay. I’ll be glad to help you with it. Before anything else, may I know which country you are based in?

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
U.S.

from Monchy N. (26830) to All Participants:
Thank you. May I know the serial number of the router?

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
10910c12142956

from Monchy N. (26830) to All Participants:
Is this your first time to contact Cisco Live Chat Technical Support?

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
No. Cisco replaced my defective E1500. This unit is the replacement. It works fine. I just need a replacement patch cable because the one shipped with it was bad.

from Monchy N. (26830) to All Participants:
Thank you for all the info, Andrew. By the way, the computer you are chatting on, is it wired to the router?

from Monchy N. (26830) to All Participants:
Or to the modem?

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
It is connected wirelessly. The cable is bad. I replaced it with a known working cable and it is fine. I just need a replacement patch cable to replace the one I cannibalized from elsewhere in the network.

from Monchy N. (26830) to All Participants:
You are referring to the ethernet cable, right? If that is the case, we cannot replace an ethernet cables. I suggest to purchase it on any retail store.

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
Cisco just shipped this unit to me. I bought it directly from Cisco. I should not have to purchase something I paid Cisco for. It did not go bad. It was defective out of the box.

from Monchy N. (26830) to All Participants:
Okay. It would be better to contact our Customer Service for this. You can contact them at 1-800-546-5797 and follow the voice prompt. They are open 8 am – 5 pm PST weekdays and 6 am – 8 pm PST weekends.

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
So I have to wait in their queue? Why can’t you just replace it? I paid Cisco for a router, a power supply, a CD, and a patch cable. I have a right to all four items in working order.

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
May I speak with your supervisor?

from Monchy N. (26830) to All Participants:
Please give me 2 – 3 minutes for this.

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
Fine.

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
4

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
5

from Monchy N. (26830) to All Participants:
Please give me more time. I’m still trying to transfer this session. Hold on.

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
Why is this so hard? I just want a replacement cable? Are you incapable of shipping one?

from Monchy N. (26830) to All Participants:
Thank you for waiting, I’ll be trasferring this session to our immediate superior.

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
Great. How much longer will that take?

Jeg Mark P. (17580) has joined the support session.
Monchy N. (26830) has left the support session.
from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
Hi Jeg.

from Jeg Mark P. (17580) to All Participants:
Hello Andrew.

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
I have a simple problem.

from Jeg Mark P. (17580) to All Participants:
Please give me a minute or two to read your conversation above.

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
Sure. Take your time.

from Jeg Mark P. (17580) to All Participants:
Thank you for waiting Andrew.

from Jeg Mark P. (17580) to All Participants:
So you need a replacement for the Ethernet cable right?

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
No problem.

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
Exactly. That’s all I am looking for.

from Jeg Mark P. (17580) to All Participants:
The replacement device was received just today, right?

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
Yes.

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
The device is fine. Only the cable is bad.

from Jeg Mark P. (17580) to All Participants:
Okay.

from Jeg Mark P. (17580) to All Participants:
Did you ship the cable along with the defective unit?

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
Yes. I shipped everything as I was told to.

from Jeg Mark P. (17580) to All Participants:
Alright.

from Jeg Mark P. (17580) to All Participants:
Please hold on while I check for our possible options.

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
OK. Why is this so complicated? If the power supply was bad, you could replace it, couldn’t you?

from Jeg Mark P. (17580) to All Participants:
We normally replace defective units.

from Jeg Mark P. (17580) to All Participants:
This has something to do with the shipping so I’m looking for the best option that we could offer.

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
You can just mail it. I don’t need it to be shipped overnight.

from Jeg Mark P. (17580) to All Participants:
The warehouse or the source for devices and accesories is in another location and as part of protocol we will have to channel it through the customer service department.

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
OK. Can I just give you my address so once it is figured out, it can be shipped?

from Jeg Mark P. (17580) to All Participants:
So we would advice you to call the customer service department. We will note in your case that this is already approved for cable replacement.

from Andrew Knaster to All Participants:
The other person suggested that. I didn’t want to wait in another queue. Can’t you just contact customer service and tell them to ship it?

from Jeg Mark P. (17580) to All Participants:
Just give them your case number/reference number which is 111117-006718.

I called customer service and gave them the number.  The tech must have been reading the same script the other had and was using the same technique of waiting for the pauses to ask questions that had been answered and to tell me things to do that I had already done.  She wanted me to call sales support.  I asked her if she could just take my address and once this was figured out have somebody ship me a cable.  She kept repeating the number to call and telling me they could help.  I said good-bye and told her it was fruitless to continue.

I can’t remember a company that I have worked for in the last two decades that didn’t use Cisco Systems networking components.  They make exceptional products.  I just got done writing a case study for grad school where the recommended solution included a Cisco 7609 router chassis, a Cisco IPsec blade, and dozens of Cisco Aironet 1250 wireless PoE Wi-Fi routers.  I’m assuming Cisco gives good customer service and  that it sends all of its reject techs to Linksys.

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