It is interesting to watch the national discussion to define marriage. What is marriage? What does it mean in the greater context of society? Who defines it? Is it really just Going Steady for grown ups? If there is more to it than that, where does it come from? The answers to these questions depend heavily on your worldview. Marriage might mean one husband with up to four wives, one wife with several husbands, one husband with one wife, or two husbands or two wives, or something else.

In recent years the Christian worldview has come into question here in the US. This comes largely out of the push to legalize same sex marriage. I enjoy these challenges to my own beliefs. They force me to re-evaluate my own worldview. Keeping my own worldview logically consistent, at least in my own head, is important. At least to me.

What follows is an articulation of what I believe. I am putting it out there because it might be interesting or useful to someone else. I have no desire to force my view on anyone. That you do not agree with me presents no significant issue for me. I am wrong a lot. I am OK with that.

I subscribe to the Christian worldview. Therefore, my concept of marriage is derived from my understanding of Christian precepts. Your mileage will vary depending on your feelings about Christianity. That too, is fine.

The Christian concept of marriage is an integral part of God having created man in His image and goes all the way back to Genesis. “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image…” (Gen 1:26) We start from the trinity. Inherent in the image of God is relationship because God is three persons. Without relationship, you simply do not have an image of God. Any singular identity cannot be the image of God because God has for eternity been in relationship; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The image of God requires relationship.

If God created man in His image, which is the image of God? Man or Woman? This seems like an issue. It was a curious question for me until I was listening to Stuart MacAllister on an RZIM podcast. It was actually a something of a quip, an aside that he made. MacAllister said, “What if man and woman are both God’s image, two sides of the same coin.” This was a huge ah hah! moment for me. Not all at once. I spent a couple of weeks working through what that meant. I am probably still working on it. But suddenly, marriage and a lot of the things they say about marriage began to make sense.

Man is only half of the image of God, woman is required to complete that image. The image of God in the Christian worldview is one man and one woman in a committed relationship for life, as God is in relationship for eternity. According to this view, two men in relationship is not the image of God in that it is missing the components that only a woman can bring to the relationship. Likewise, two women.

A man and a woman entering into a relationship, forsaking all others, building trust that comes from year after year of knowing that person is still committed only to you, remaining in relationship for their entire lives, until death does part them is a reasonable, human illustration, of the image of God. An imperfect image, to be sure.

We aren’t living up to this worldview very well, given the prominence of divorce in America. Even those who claim to hold a Christian worldview some times treat marriage a lot like Going Steady in high school. However, that does not diminish the standard set forth. The best example of the trinity in human experience is a man and a woman in a committed relationship, forsaking all others and becoming, ‘one flesh’.

I can see pitch forks, torches and rocks out there. This describes what I believe to be a Biblical view of marriage. As a Christian, I hold this view. However, I also understand that anyone who does not share my worldview is very likely to have a different view of marriage. It might be only slightly different or it might be radically different. There are some even within the Christian worldview who will not agree with what I have described here. The challenge in any society is working out how to integrate disparate worldviews into a peaceful coexistence. American society is in the throes of working out exactly what ‘marriage’ means.

One of the GOP’s main talking points this election season is repealing Obamacare. The real point of that is to keep Obamacare at the fore since the American public is still unconvinced that it is a good thing. In general, I agree that Obamacare is not a viable, long term solution in its current form. One way or another, I think the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will morph into something else. However, I do not think the GOP will be successful in repealing the ACA and if they are successful I do not think the action would be popular.

I am a life long registered GOP voter. I do not always agree with the party but it most closely represents my political views. If the GOP is serious about repealing ACA they first need to explain what they will replace it with. What does the GOP healthcare reform look like? The DNC did a good job of squelching GOP proposals and even GOP participation in the healthcare debate during the 2008 – 2010 time frame when ACA was developed and finally passed. I think most voters believe that the GOP had no alternatives proposals. This is untrue. The GOP was making proposals, they just weren’t very effective at getting their story out, which is a long standing problem for the GOP.

The proposal I still prefer had three main components; decouple healthcare from employers, allow insurance providers to operate at the national level instead of the state level, implement meaningful tort reform. To this I would add one more important component; an assigned risk pool for those deemed un-insurable.

Insofar as I can determine health insurance as an employment benefit started during World War II when wage caps prevented employers from offering ever higher wages. Health insurance coverage became allowed as a form of compensation to attract workers. Today, health care coverage being attached to one’s employer makes no logical sense. Moreover, the arrangement skews the market in a direction that puts the individual at a disadvantage.

Because health insurance is currently obtained primarily through one’s employer, heath insurance companies spend the bulk of their effort developing products aimed at winning medium and large companies because this is where the biggest profit is made. Health insurance products for individuals and small companies require significantly more effort to sell and offer a significantly smaller profit margin.

Decoupling health insurance from employment is simply a matter of taxing health insurance contributions made by the employer as income to the individual. This will force health insurance providers to focus on developing products for and selling to individuals rather than corporations. The individual consumer gains direct control over their health care options rather than being forced to choose from whatever list of options their current employer decided to provide. The health care provider is motivated to develop better products for the individual and family because this becomes their primary means of delivering their product.

Removing state boundaries allowing health insurance companies to operate nationwide greatly broadens the pool of insured. All but the smallest health insurance companies already operate nation wide. Eliminating the state boundary requirements would simply allow them to do so more efficiently. Some states would benefit from increased competition.

Tort reform would be a real attempt to reduce health care costs. Much of the increasing cost in health care is related to minimizing exposure to malpractice suits, either through higher malpractice coverage or by ordering a myriad of tests primarily for the purpose of protecting the practice against law suits. Tort reform would very probably also be the most difficult piece of the proposal. Tort lawyers are politically well organized, well funded, and very active in lobbying.

The component not on the GOP proposal but which I think is critical is an assigned risk pool. In my mind, this would work similar to auto insurance assigned risk. Individuals who have medical conditions that warrant it are put in the assigned risk pool. In the case of auto insurance assigned risk carries a high cost as a penalty for being a bad driver. Since medical conditions seldom if ever warrant punitive measures, assigned risk health insurance could work exactly the opposite. Anyone in assigned risk would get health care coverage at the same price as a healthy individual with no medical issues. The assigned risk pool would be evenly distributed across all health insurance companies and participation is required. The government could help subsidize this group thereby using tax dollars to help those who need help.

I understand that people do not like ACA but let us get passed the emotional desire to punish anyone and focus on making a better health care system in this country. If the issue is providing top quality health care to as many citizens as possible, let us focus on that. Not on whose plan we are using or who gets the credit or the blame.

The GOP could implement each of these components without the drama and backlash of repealing ACA. Either as a package or as individual items. The GOP could bill it as their contribution to improving ACA which would go to demonstrating their willingness to find common ground and cooperate.

How does the GOP plan to solve the problems that ACA is attempting to solve? I understand that the GOP does not think ACA is a good solution. I even agree that it is not a good solution. However, ACA has made things better for my family. My son, who has a pre-existing condition and cannot get health care coverage on his own, benefits from ACA. The GOP should focus on convincing American voters that it can make health care in America better. Better than it is now, better than what ACA is offering. The GOP tells me they want to repeal ACA but they are silent when I ask what they plan to replace it with.

It is so obvious that if you do not understand this you are clearly uninformed, uneducated, stupid and possibly evil.

This is the basic argument of all things political in America today. We see it all over social media. The blatant insinuation that if you do not “understand” X, you are stupid. If you don’t understand that Obamacare is bad for America, you are stupid. If you do not understand that the Koch brothers are buying/have bought the American political system, you are stupid. If you do not know that Obama is a Muslim, you are stupid. And on it goes. The naked arrogance in both tone and content makes any civil discourse about the given issue all but impossible. The deep partisan divide is as much a grassroots movement as it is a problem inside the Beltway, in fact what happens inside the Beltway may well be a reflection of this grassroots phenomenon.

There is actually a lot going on in formulation of these arguments. First, a complicated and convoluted issue is reduced to a single component. That single component is then encapsulated in an emotionally loaded statement that is heavily biased. The statement is delivered with righteous indignation, calling into question your intelligence if you do not immediately and unequivocally agree. The ploy is that emotion, ego, and bewilderment will take you down the primrose path before you have a chance to question the original premise. Before long, it feels so good to support such a worthy cause that honestly and openly evaluating the cause in earnest seems almost evil.

One thing I have learned in life is that I am never the smartest guy in the room. Regardless of the topic, no matter how many years I have been doing it, there is a better than even chance that someone in the room knows more about it, has more experience doing it than I do. And if I am not the smartest man in the room, I am definitely not the wisest man in the room. Ever. My greatest moments of wisdom are when I have the presence of mind to shut up. So, I am not really comfortable with idea that I have figured out the answer to any given thing and anyone who does not agree with me is wrong. I have some pretty strong political opinions. I have a preference for how I would like to see government work. I also recognize that very smart, wise people who have studied forms of government and government process most of their lives have arrived at opinions and preferences that are very different from mine. It would be the height of arrogance to assume that they are not as smart is I am. It would be only slightly less arrogant to presume that I am smart enough and wise enough to discern which of two opposing groups of smart people is correct to the extent that I am willing to call everyone who does not agree with my choice stupid.

Life demands that we all make decisions. An old adage says that wisdom comes from making bad choices. I think that is only partially true. We do seem capable of repeatedly making bad choices while never getting any wiser. At least I am so capable. As we go through life we come to conclusions about how life works, why things happen. I think that our choices, conclusions and opinions would benefit from taking the time to fully understand the person who has arrived at a completely different choice, conclusion or opinion. Even after we fully understand how she arrived there we may not agree. I might even think he is not very smart. If I was a wise man, I would also consider the possibility that I am the one who is wrong. Maybe even on both counts.

“I’m the village idiot, I don’t have anything to do with this pathetic little opera, I just felt like passing through!”

A quote from Hansel and Gretel and Ted and Alice,
an opera in one unnatural act
by PDQ Bach.

My wife and I are 25 year Mac users. We have about 5 or 7 Apple computers in the house. Everyone in the family owns at least one iPhone. Since 1986 I have been a self-confessed Apple Fan Boy.

This week I set up the first non-Apple computer we have had for regular use, a System76 Ratel Performance. Bottom line up front (BLUF): I am surprised at how good the experience has been. I cannot wait to order my laptop from System76.

In addition to the computer I bought a Logitech K360 keyboard, a Logitech M325 mouse, a Wacom intuos 5 touch medium tablet and a Dell U2412M monitor. I also planned to install Kubuntu 13.04, replacing System76’s supported Ubuntu OS. I had everything working in about 90 minutes, including the OS install and updating.

Everything was plug and play. The keyboard, mouse, and tablet worked right out of the box with both Ubuntu as it was installed on the Ratel when it arrived and again on Kubuntu once I completed the install. Additionally, the Epson Workforce 600 that we already had worked without modification, printer and the scanner. When I say everything was plug and play, all of the drivers were already there. I did not install drivers, the OS did not hit the Net to find and install additional software. It was all there.

There are a few things I would do different. The Logitech peripherals use the Logitech Unity wireless protocol. Ubuntu does not appear to provide the software tools need to add devices to a Unity dongle. In the future, I will probably replace the Logitech Unity devices with Bluetooth devices so that I can manage them entirely through Ubuntu. I had to connect the Unity dongle to my MacBook to get the keyboard and mouse working on the same dongle.

I would get the Asus PA246Q instead of the Dell U2412M. They get pretty equal reviews and the Asus has an HDMI connector which should provide a better video signal.

While I am very happy with the System76 computer, System76 sales question responses were not terribly helpful. Their answer to every question I asked started with disclaimers. I asked if the Ratel could be expected to work with the Dell U2412M monitor. “While we do not test individual monitors, I would expect the monitor to work as you’d expect.” However, I have been using a System76 Meerkat NetTop at work for 2 years with excellent performance.

 

Since its inception, I have really wanted to like Google’s Nexus phone. I really like the idea of an affordable smartphone purchased independent of my cellular service provider. This would allow consumers to buy a phone on the merit of its features and subscribe to a cellular service provider based solely on its coverage, service and price. $299 for a top tier smartphone should be awesome but, as always, the devil is in the details.

The Nexus 4 is really a very nice phone. The hardware is made by LG. Hardware geeks can check the specs here. The Google Nexus line of products comes with the latest version of Android unadulterated, exactly as Google intended. The Nexus line is always first up to get the latest Android OS up date. Perfect. Sounds great. Buy a Nexus 4, dump the contract with the cell provider and jump on whoever is offering the best pay as you go service.

The Nexus 4 is effectively limited to two cellular networks; AT&T and T-Mobile. This is due to the transceiver used in the hardware and some peculiarities of one cellular technology. The Nexus 4 supports GSM and HSPA+ (the chip in the phone can do 4G LTE but Google disabled it). Those are the technologies used by T-Mobile and AT&T. Verizon and Sprint use CDMA. Because the Nexus 4 does not support CDMA, it is currently a non-starter on Verizon networks. If Google were to add CDMA support to a future Nexus phone, it would still not be as simple to move it onto the Verizon network.

GSM networks use a SIM card. Insert the SIM card into a GSM phone that supports the appropriate frequencies and the phone joins the network. CDMA requires that the cell provider activate your phone on their network and link it to a phone number. Verizon has a sordid history of disabling hardware and software features that devalue for fee services Verizon provides. Verizon’s trustworthiness notwithstanding, switching an unlocked phone onto their network is not hassle free.

The purchase a Nexus 4 gives me the option T-Mobile or AT&T. T-Mobile coverage is pervasive east of the Mississippi but more restricted to metro areas in the West. This makes T-Mobile pretty unattractive to anyone who does any rural traveling west of the Mississippi. Which leaves AT&T. Which means I will probably stick with iPhone for another rev and AT&T for another two years.

I sent the following email to Senator Feinstein via Senator Feinstein’s web site response to her statements in this video clip:

Senator Feinstein: Veterans may have PTSD and should not be exempt from assault weapons ban.

Senator Feinstein,

I am a service member in the United States Army Reserves. I have served in the United States military for 15 years. I have done two tours in Iraq. Wearing the uniform of this great nation is one of my greatest privileges.

I want to let you know that I take your categorization of all US military veterans as a risk who should have their second amendment rights abridged as a direct and personal insult. I find it utterly shocking that you actually believe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is something unique to recent conflicts. It has gotten a new name and we understand it better but it is the same disorder that has affected combat veterans for as long as there have been wars. This nation has veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, as well as OIF and OEF who suffer from the affects of PTSD. You should take the time to understand us and make an effort to fight for the services that my brothers and sisters ought to get from the nation they have sacrificed so much for instead trying to take away the rights we fight to defend.

You do the military veterans of the State of California a grave injustice in your failure to represent our interest.

Respectfully,
— Mark G. Smith, SSG United States Army Reserve

Proposition 30: Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

This is essentially a bail out to compensate for a California State legislature that is incapable of doing its job. The State of California operates at a $13 billion deficit because the state legislature spends money it does not have. This is a symptomatic fix to a systemic problem. In 2010 the California state legislature enjoyed a 9% approval rating, yet California voters turned out not a single incumbent. Not one.

The state legislature needs to understand that you can only buy goods and services that you have the money to pay for. They need to understand that given limited fiscal resources, you have to prioritize spending. Voting for temporary tax increases while the state legislature continues to spend with complete abandon is to facilitate behavior that is counter to the best interests of Californians.

I am voting no on prop 30


Proposition 31: State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

As I see it, prop 31 implements measures to force fiscal responsibility. I understand the opponent’s arguments that it is not a perfect solution but I also note that most of the opponents have a financially vested interest in the current state budget. A $13 billion deficit is not going to be easy to address. Left to their own initiatives, I do not believe the California State government is capable of it. The proposition does increase the power of the governor’s office but not beyond what, at least to me, seems reasonable. The governor has to power to cut budgets but only during fiscal emergencies. Do not want the governor to get that power, don’t allow fiscal emergencies to develop. Pretty simple, really. Brinksmanship suddenly becomes distasteful.

I am voting yes on prop 31


Proposition 32: Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Contributions to Candidates. Initiative Statute.

The union’s argument against prop 32 assumes that the current playing field is level. That individuals, corporations, unions all have fair and equal influence on the political system. I do not believe this is true. I think, have long thought that unions have an advantage. I think that unions first represent unions, then the members of those unions. Unions are first about self preservation, members are second. Unions provide a lot more influence than just dollars. Unions hold persuasive power over their members that corporations do not. Unions can deliver votes. Unions also deliver campaign workers. Union influence in the American political system is significant beyond simple cash contributions.

I might feel differently if this were a right to work state and people actually had a choice about joining the union. In many occupations they do not, teachers, public safety, airlines just to cite a few examples. If you do not like the politics that the union is promoting you do not have the option to leave the union without leaving your occupation. Or losing your benefits.

Nothing prevents the unions from forming SuperPACs and participating in the political process the same way corporations do. If the union members agree with the union’s political endeavors, they can sign up to make an automatic payroll contribution to the PAC, much the way some industry employees do now. That would put the political influence of the unions in the hands of its members and allow those members to make their own decisions about how their money is used.

I am voting no on prop 32.


Proposition 33: Auto Insurance Companies. Prices based on Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage. Initiative Statute.

As I understand this proposition it will create greater competition between auto insurance carriers by allowing them to compete on price for consumers. The current rules provide an advantage to the company that currently has the individual’s business. Increased competition is good for the consumer. The primary argument against this proposition is essentially that individuals who opt to discontinue coverage for more than 90 days will pay a penalty upon re-entry. However, that might also be stated this way. All drivers should be penalized so that those individuals who opt not to have auto insurance are not. I would like to see greater competition among auto insurance companies.

I am voting yes on prop 33.


Proposition 34: Death Penalty. Initiative Statute

This is about money, pure and simple. The death penalty is too expensive and I do not think that the process can be revised to make it economical. While I do believe that there are some crimes for which the perpetrator should die, I can find no argument that reasonably justifies the expense of the death penalty.

Scholarly Articles on the death penalty published in Loyola Law Review.

I am voting yes on prop 34


Proposition 35: Human Trafficking. Penalties. Initiative Statute.

Human trafficking and sex slavery are horrible injustices that should be fought at every opportunity. This proposition does not add anything of substance to that fight. It does increase costs to the state budget which is already out of control. Victims’ advocacy groups are critical of the law. Education in human trafficking and sex slavery is already required at the federal. I know this because I have to complete a course on it every year for the Army.

I am voting no on prop 35


Proposition 36: Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties. Initiative Statute.

Again, it is about budget. I think the Three Strikes Law is a good idea. However, I do believe the state of California can continue to afford incarcerating everyone who gets convicted three times. Thus, it makes sense that we should apply the three strikes rule more vigorously to those who commit serious or violent crimes.

I am voting yes on prop 36.


Proposition 37: Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling. Initiative Statute.

I am just short of militant about pure food. I adamantly believe that GMOs should be labeled. 37 will not deliver that in any kind of effective measure. Just because companies like Monsanto are against it does not make it a good law. It is important to also look into who is backing it and why.

San Francisco Chronicle Editioral.

I am voting no on prop 37.


Proposition 38: Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs. Initiative Statute.

The California education system needs a ground up overhaul to improve effectiveness and efficiency. The state legislature needs to step up and do its job of deciding what the state is going to fund and how. Managing the budget for the state’s education system through complicated and competing ballot propositions is damning condemnation on those elected as law makers to the state legislature. They are the ones that should be figuring this out. Continuing to fund a bad system is not a good answer.

I am voting no on prop 38.


Proposition 39: Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding. Initiative Statute.

I was originally intending to vote yes on prop 39. In researching this blog entry. I changed my mind. California desperately needs to increase revenue as well as cut costs. That is the only way it is going to reduce and eliminate its $13 billion budget deficit. While this proposition would close a loop hole in the tax code and increase tax revenue by an estimated $1 billion, it then also dictates that money be spent on green energy and education. Spending on green energy has been a fiasco in my opinion, with Solyndra as its poster child. But more to the point, given California’s current and ongoing budget crisis, I do not think the state can afford this kind of directed spending.

Californians need to demand that its legislators finally show up to work and do their job. They also need to provide the resources in an unfettered manner to get that job done. I believe that the state and the country is ill served by those who use the ballot to promote their favorite issues. Life and its governance is complicated and cannot be reduced to pursuit of single concerns. There are a plethora of issues and problems facing California today. Green energy does not deserve special funding in the face of the current budgetary issues this state faces.

I am voting no on prop 39.


Proposition 40: Redistricting. State Senate Districts. Referendum.

It started with proposition 11 in 2008, proposition 20 in 2010 and now, what we should hope will be final approval with prop 40. This process takes control of the political districts out of the hands of the party in power in the state legislature and puts it in the hands of an independent committee. This is not a perfect solution but it is an improvement.

Passage of Proposition 11
Redistricting Committee FAQ

I am voting yes on prop 40.

The unemployment rate among college graduates is 4.1% (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). We might choose to believe that this provides a case for getting a college degree. However, this overlooks some very important truths. Some people are not good at or happy in the types of jobs that a college degree affords. College is not necessarily the best format for preparing people for all occupations. Society needs the services of many occupations that are not well served by college education.

The thought being that if we give everyone a college education, they will rise to the socio-economic advantage that people with a college education normally have. However, what if it is not the college education that is the key to success? Is it not more likely that success comes out of pursuing that which you are good at, that which you find fulfilling? Is the only difference between an auto mechanic and an economist, the college education of the latter? Is it reasonable to suppose that had the auto mechanic instead gone to college, majored in economics, she would be happy working in economics? The most rudimentary survey of high school students shows that this is clearly not the case. Some people are made to more academic pursuits. Some people are wired to be outside. Some people are only happy when their hands are covered in grease and oil and they are up to their waist in a motor.

As a society we have made it second rate to pursue a career that does not involve going to college. Kitchen tables all across America are the battle ground of kids who are being told that they must go to college even though their passion is to build homes, fix cars, or be a cowboy. Where would today’s unemployment rate be if being blue collar were not equated with being second class? If students who sought to pursue vocational careers paths were given equal time and resources as their college bound peers?

Mike Rowe hits the nail on the head his testimony before the Senate.

As I stood in the parking lot changing out of my wet suit after a morning of surfing, I heard someone say, “hey, the world trade center blew up.” What? What are you talking about? As I got home and put the surfing gear away, I mentioned to my wife that something must be happening on the East Coast.

I drove to work. As I walked into the office it was my first sense that something was really wrong. Everyone was quiet, staring at video playing on their computers. I sat down at my desk and started looking at email. One of the first ones that caught my attention was a link to a newsfeed. The newsfeed everyone was watching. For the next six hours, not much got done. We all sat silently watching in horror at the death and destruction and then the acts of heroism.

I was watching the names of the dead scroll by on the screen as they replayed over and over the video of the airplanes flying intentionally into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Up to then I had just been filled with sadness. But then I saw three names scroll by, all with the same last name. Because the ages of the individuals were included I could see that it was a family with a small child. Christine Lee Hanson, two and a half years old. My own son was only six, my daughter 11. The thought went through my head. What do you say to your small child when you realize that death is eminent? For the first time that day, I cried.

I do not remember much of the rest of the day. Around 1500 I decided to go home to my family. Nothing was getting done at work and I really needed to let my family know that I loved them. Driving home I listened to the radio. In an interview with a man on the street he told about watching firefighters joking with each other as they wrote their social security numbers on their limbs and torsos. That was to make identification of their bodies easier. I had to pull over.

In the weeks that followed, security was heightened everywhere. Parking in front of the building at work was no longer permitted. Car that were parked in from the building were towed almost immediately. For at least a day or so there were no aircraft in the sky. None. I saw flags everywhere. On my drive home that day there were flags on almost every overpass on the freeway. And they stayed up for weeks to come.

Congress stood as one for at least a moment. For a while, we were a nation united.