Insomnia Log

This is what keeps me awake at night???

Who needs sleep? (well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep? (tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep? (be happy with what you’re getting,
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war)

-- words and music by Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States

Everything you need to know about me can be found in my posts

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I Hate Crime

A young woman student in Boulder was brutally attacked last week. It seems she offered her couches as a place to crash to two men she didn't know. When they started coming on to her, she told them she was gay. At that point, one of the men beat her severely, while the other watched.

Many are calling this a hate crime. In fact, sexual orientation was added to the Colorado hate crimes statute a couple years ago. By this law, when a crime such as assault is committed against someone in one of the protected classes because of his or her membership in that class, an additional $100,000 fine and/or six year prison term can be added to the sentence. Of course, the motivation has to be proven in order to convict for this additional charge.

So, let me get this straight. If the woman were beaten up because she wouldn't sleep with a man because he's a jerk, no additional charge. If she tells him she's gay as an excuse but really isn't, still no hate crime. But if she says she won't sleep with him because she's gay, then he has committed a much worse crime. This seems to me to be unfair to all of the other women who may also have been brutally beaten, but for "legal" reasons.

We have a laws against assault for very good reasons. If someone commits this crime, he should be punished appropriately. However, I have a serious issue with punishing someone for his thoughts. First of all, there is no way to know what is going through somebody else's head. Second of all, all of us have terrible thoughts on occasion. If we don't act on them, it is good and appropriate self control. If we don't we should be held accountable. Third, how do we judge which motivation is worth extra punishment? If someone is beaten up for the color of his skin, it is legally worse than being beaten for the color of his eyes. And lastly, this is the United States. Freedom of speech is protected in our constitution, and freedom of thought is much more basic.

Anybody who reads my blog regularly knows that I am not anti-gay. I've written many times in favor of gay rights. That is not what this is about. This is about making people responsible for their actions.

Let's have the Boulder police concentrate on finding the men who committed/enabled this crime, and let's try them, convict them based on the evidence of illegal action, and punish them.

Here's another thought experiment. If someone commits an act of kindness (say, donates to a church program that helps needy people), with the motivation of hate against one of the protected classes, does that mean they should be punished?

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Wanna Be Mega-Church Hijacks Boulder County

Rocky Mountain Christian Church (RMCC) in Niwot wants to more than double its structure size, to almost a quarter of a million square feet. Unfortunately for them, the area they want to expand in is zoned for agriculture, and Boulder County denied their permit. This is the same process that the county follows for all other applicants and that process is one reason that the area is so desirable to live in.

Well, unfortunately for the rest of Boulder County, the U.S. Congress passed, and President Clinton signed into law, something called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) a few years back. This law, at least in some interpretations, includes a section that pretty much allows any religious institution to bypass any local land use regulation. Since the law went into effect, religious institutions have been suing local governments like crazy, and winning. Boulder County is now on the receiving end of one of those lawsuits.

Here's the problem. If the law says what its supporters claim, it means that the local government is required to change or bypass its own rules to benefit the church, which means additional costs and other negative impacts to the county government, other residents, and local businesses. This means that the county is, in effect, supporting a specific religion. This, in my book, is a classic example of the government establishing a preferred religion, which is explicitly prohibited by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

How about this: Members of the Boulder Church of the Sacred Prairie Dog put an application before the county to create a prairie dog altar and worship site adjacent to the RMCC. If the county approves expansion of the RMCC church, they are interfering with Prairie Doggerals right to worship, and they should be taken to court. Makes just about as much sense to me.

Here's what the RLUIPA says:
No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution, unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person, assembly, or institution--
(A) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(B) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation that ... unreasonably limits religious assemblies, institutions, or structures within a jurisdiction.
Clearly, the government has a compelling interest in denying the application (a large majority of the residents consistently vote to support maintenance of open space) and it's hard to think of a less restrictive way of treating the church (they can expand, but it has to be below ground, so that the prairie dogs can continue to roam.) I guess it's that whole subjective phrase "unreasonably limits".

Well, now that I look at it again, the RLUIPA is clearly constitutional. Why? Because it says so. That's right, it declares,
Nothing in this Act shall be construed to affect, interpret, or in any way address that portion of the first amendment to the Constitution prohibiting laws respecting an establishment of religion.
That's right, by enacting, as part of the law, a statement that the law is constitutional, it clearly must be ok. Just as the President does with his notorious and self-serving signing statements, Congress is ignoring the very clear separation of powers delineated in the Constitution.

I'm reminded of the sign I see on the back of the gravel trucks that travel local roads: Not Responsible for Damage to Windshields. By telling us it's not their fault, they absolve themselves of all responsibility. Kind of like me saying that I'm not responsible for the damage to your monitor when you smash it because you are so angry about what I write.

Go ahead. Smash your monitor now. I guarantee you will feel better, and my nasty old opinion will surely disappear.

Anyway, back to my previous rant. The county commissioners have written to the local congressional delegation asking for their support in modifying RLUIPA to allow them to fairly do their job. Seems reasonable to me. The members of RMCC should be free to worship as they please, as long as the rest of us, who may have different religious beliefs, are not forced to pay for them to do so.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

I'm in Big Trouble Now!

Senator John Edwards has gotten in hot water over the past few days, because he has (ok, had) a couple of people on staff who wrote supposedly outrageous opinions on their own blogs.

Think about this. These two women wrote their own opinions on their own time, prior to being hired by Edwards. The Presidential hopeful hired them as technical advisors, and now he is responsible for what they said before he even knew them?

I guess this means that I will never be allowed near anybody's political life, because I've said a few things (no I'm not going to link to them -- you're going to have to find them!) that just might have offended someone. Accidentally. Well, okay, maybe just a little bit on purpose. But only if they deserve it!

I'm going to make it clear right here and right now. Nothing that I've written or will write here reflects the views of any current or former employer or any political campaign that I may someday be involved with. Heck (oops, sorry for the language), a good part of the time it isn't even my opinion; I just say it because it seems funny to me. I'm that kind of person.

If this post doesn't get me fired from Chelsea Clinton's presidential campaign, I don't know what will!

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Intergalactic Waste Services

The story of Kim Nowak, the astronaut supposedly caught in a Bizarre Love Triangle, normally would have been the sort of thing I would ignore. I've gloated about ignoring lesser stories in the past.

However, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to remember the classic Donovan song. I hadn't heard it in many years, but I thought I needed to share it with my loyal reader(s) who may not be familiar or who may have forgotten.

Here it is. If this link doesn't work let me know.

<div><a target=_blank title="download Donovan - Intergalactic Laxative.Mp3" href=="">Donovan - Intergalactic Laxative.Mp3</a></div>

The Intergalactic Laxative
Words & Music by: Donovan Leitch - 1973
Performed by: Donovan
Album: Cosmic Wheels - 1973

I was impressed like everyone
When man began to fly
Out of earthly regions
To planets in the sky.
With total media coverage
We watched the heroes land,
As ceremoniously
They disturbed the cosmic sand.

In awe with admiration,
We listened to the talk.
Such pride felt they,
Such joy to be
Upon the moon to walk.
My romantic vision shattered
When it was explained to me,
Spacemen wear old diapers
In which they shit and pee.

Oh, the intergalactic laxative
Will get you from here to there.
Relieve you and, believe me,
Without a worry or care.
If shitting is your problem
When you're out there in the stars,
Oh, the intergalactic laxative
Will get you from here to Mars.

They don't partake like you and I
Of beefy burger mush.
Their food is specially prepared
To dissolve into slush.
Absorbed by multi-fibers
In the super diaper suit,
Otherwise the slush would trickle
Down inside the boot.

Oh, the intergalactic laxative
Will get you from here to there.
Relieve you and, believe me,
Without a worry or care.
If shitting is your problem
When you're out there in the stars,
Oh, the intergalactic laxative
Will get you from here to Mars.

You may well ask now what becomes
Of liquid they consume.
A pipe is led from penis head
To a unit in the room.
The water is recirculated,
Filtered for re-use.
In case of anti-gravity -
Pee gets on the loose.

Oh, the intergalactic laxative
Will get you from here to there.
Relieve you and, believe me,
Without a worry or care.
If shitting is your problem
When you're out there in the stars,
Oh, the intergalactic laxative
Will get you from here to Mars.

Wherever man has conquered
On the quest for frontiers new,
(Da da da da)
I'm glad that he's always had to do
The number one and two.
It makes it all so ordinary,
Just like you and me,
To know the greatest heroes,
They had to shit and pee.

The intergalactic laxative
Will get you from here to there,
For cosmic constipation
There's none that can compare.
If shitting is your problem
When you're out there in the stars,
Oh, the intergalactic laxative,
The intergalactic laxative,
The intergalactic laxative,
Will get you from here to Mars.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Ethics Schmethics

A poll was published recently showing that most people in Colorado didn't intend to punish regular people when they voted for Amendment 41, our new pseudo-ethics law. Backers of the law are claiming that banning children of state employees from accepting scholarships and banning professors from accepting cash awards are just unintended consequences.

The people who wrote this law are either very stupid or they intended exactly what the new law says. It's not ambiguous. Anybody who actually read the amendment before voting on it knows that. The law bans every government employee in the state at every level (and their immediate families) from accepting any cash gifts over $50, and from accepting almost any other significant gift as well.

This points out something that may get me in trouble. Direct democracy is bad. Ordinary people can't write laws. The founders of our country never intended for there to be an initiative process.

In our recent election, there were seven citizen initiatives on the statewide ballot, as well as two on the city ballot. Every single one of them was fatally flawed. The people who write these proposed laws always come at it from a single point of view. There is no incentive for them to consider any consequences. In fact, the incentive in writing an initiative is to be as extreme as possible because they know that if it passes they won't get another chance to change it for a good long time.

The backers argue not for the law but for some abstract concept which they claim the law supports. For example, in the case of Amendment 41, the backers argued for ethics, which was a high-profile cause at the time. A large majority of the voters never actually read the items they are voting on -- they just read other people's opinions about the abstract concept behind the proposal.

There's almost always a hidden agenda behind the law. For example, I suspect the backers of Amendment 41 are secretly trying to cripple government by scaring people away from it. As I've said before, if I was a government employee after Amendment 41 passed, I would have quit.

And then, in Colorado, the backers of these supposed good ideas almost always draft them as constitutional amendments, so that it will take another vote of the people to fix any flaws that may become apparent (as has happened with 41).

Well, now the state legislature is considering a law that would "clarify" Amendment 41. I have news for them. The state legislature cannot change our constitution without a vote of the people. Amendment 41 is also clear:
Legislation may be enacted to facilitate the operation of this article, but in no way shall such legislation limit or restrict the provisions of this article or the powers granted therein.
That's very clear to me. The legislature can fund the new ethics commission, and it can appoint members to that commission. But it cannot change the fact that the state constitution bans the child of the receptionist at the county courthouse from accepting a scholarship. A court will no doubt agree with that, and then we will have to vote on another law the fix this one.

Maybe there should be a special class you have to attend if you want to initiate a change to state law. Or maybe there should be a special commission that reads all the proposed changes and tells us why they are all stupid.

In the meantime, I guess I'll just have to keep voting against all citizen initiatives on principle. Or maybe I should come up with one myself. ... Hmmm, I think I have a couple of ideas.

I'll let you know November after next.

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