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

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On Being Pro-Life

I consider myself to be pro-life. What does that mean? Simply put, I'm in favor of life. I think life's a good thing. All other things being equal, I'll support something that's alive over something that isn't.

I also believe in respecting the beliefs of others. So, for example, being pro-life I am also a vegetarian. However, when I go out to eat with friends who aren't I have no urge to try to convert them, and I expect the same respect.

Being pro-life, I also would never get an abortion. Of course, I'm a member of the approximately 50% of our population who will never be given the opportunity to test that resolve. I can't guarantee that, if things were different and I were able to have an unwanted pregnancy, I'd make the same decision. So, I consider it none of my business when someone else makes that decision, one way or the other.

Being a pacifist has been pretty easy for me. I'm at exactly the right age to have missed the draft for Vietnam, and I'm too old to ever have had to even register for the draft. So, I haven't been tested on that one. But it's hard for me to come up with many circumstances in which I war is the best answer. Iraq certainly doesn't raise itself over that bar. If someone wants to volunteer to go fight in a war I can't stop them. But if they are doing it for the wrong reasons (my country, my religion, my people are more important/better than others) they have lost my respect (for whatever that's worth).

Capital punishment is another problem for me. Besides the idea that we are almost certainly killing innocent people, there is the fact that it does not deter any crime and the fact that it costs more to kill a criminal than it does to lock him away.

Pro-life also means that I believe in supporting the other living entities on this planet, as well as the systems in which they thrive. Yes, just because they are there and they are alive. I believe we, as the dominant life form on this planet with the capability to destroy so much so easily, have a duty to protect the other life forms. I believe that, to the extent that the people and businesses on this planet don't do this, the governments on this planet have a duty to provide a voice to protect the planet and enforce that protection.

So, there you have it. I'm pro-life, and I refuse to let someone else co-opt a perfectly good phrase and make it mean something else, just to make their cause sound better. I'm pro-life, but you won't find me at any anti-abortion rally (on either side). I'm pro-life, but not because some religious leader told me to be but rather because I believe it's the right way to be.

Now, who's willing to take a stand and claim to be anti-life?

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, April 22, 2007

They're Called Sub-Prime for a Reason

It seems like every week I'm reading another story about how, because of the failure of so-called "sub-prime" mortgages, foreclosures are at a new high. Each story has some new tale of misfortune of a family that is losing its house after catastrophic medical or other bills, rising interest rates, and malicious mortgage companies.

It's true that foreclosures are up, and its true that this increase matches an increase in sub-prime mortgages. But whose fault it it really?

Clearly, if a mortgage company is lending money to a consumer, and that money has a good chance of not being repaid, the company is not managing its resources well. Its owners and managers certainly have questions they need to answer about why they are doing business this way. These companies are not charities, so that can't be the answer. Are they charging enough interest on all their other loans to make up the difference, and if so what does that do to everyone else's ability to make their payments?

But I think the biggest question is, how much sympathy should we have for people who clearly bought more house than they could afford, and then neglected to read and understand the loan agreement? Now I know that some foreclosures result from truly unexpected crises, such as major medical expenses. But when the people who bought a house just can't make the payment when the interest rate on the ARM goes up as scheduled, I have trouble getting up much sympathy.

And when we're asked to help save these poor folks from their own gullibility, I hope that our elected officials don't forget that many of those poor folks hold some of the responsibility for their current situation.

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Camera Doesn't Lie, But ...

Our local newspaper had a makeover this week. They're very proud of their new look, every day telling us some great new thing.

For example, they changed the fonts, and made the headlines stand out more. Unfortunately, the bigger type meant that their old name "The Daily Camera" no longer fit on the masthead, and they had to shorten it to just "Camera".

Better looking headlines doesn't mean they are any more enlightening. Just today we were boldly informed that a "Drowning victim recovered" in Fort Collins. Unfortunately for that man, he didn't really recover, but rather his body was recovered.

But my favorite unintentionally funny headline was over a guest opinion in yesterday's paper. The opinion was written by the Executive VP of Public Affairs for Cemex, which operates a notoriously polluting cement plant in Lyons just north of Boulder. Rick Shapiro was defending his company against the charges in a recent Camera editorial, along with run-ins with neighbors, the EPA and the state. The headline was "Cemex taxes public health very seriously."

Yes, the font on the headline was indeed very attractive.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Teach a Man to Phish ...

While hiking out in the wilderness, we startle a flock of geese. The geese fly up, and right into the path of a bird with the markings of a U.S. flag. One of the geese strikes the flag bird, which flies out of control into a tall tower. It craters a hole in the side of the tower, and smoke and noxious chemicals start billowing out. We need to get out of the area immediately, because the landscape is about to be destroyed. But, also, I'm late for a flight and I need to get to the airport or I'll miss my flight.

Suddenly the phone rings.


Easter Sunday, and it was going to be my perfect opportunity to sleep in. My wife is out of town visiting family. Morning swim practice is cancelled for the holiday. And, with my dreams of a White Easter come true with an inch of fresh snow on the ground, plans for a long bike ride are out the window. A perfect day for Easter on my keister.

I pick up the phone and a recorded voice on the other end greets me:
This is a call for (my wife's name mispronounced) or (my name mispronounced). We are calling on behalf of (mispronounced name of our credit union) Visa credit card to verify a charge. If you are (my wife's name mispronounced) or (my name mispronounced) please press one now.
I press one now.
Please enter the last four digits of your social security number now.
I freeze for a moment. This is a call from my credit union, or someone on their behalf. They run free clinics on avoiding identity theft. Surely they wouldn't resort to asking their members to provide personal information to an unsolicited caller. But I definitely don't want my wife to be stuck in New Jersey with a blocked credit card. I hang up.

OK, now I'm really irritated. I know I'll never find out if I made that plane, but I try to go back to sleep.

Thinking about my dream, it really starts to creep me out. Of course, living in Boulder, I know lots of people who are convinced that the 9/11 attacks were a U.S. government conspiracy. An out-of-control flag, crashing into a tower, wreaking havoc on the countryside. Not to mention making people miss flights. Does this mean that I'm starting to be one of them?

I must have lain awake for an hour before I decided to get up. The phone rings again immediately. Same drill. I hang up again.

What are they thinking? On their suggestion, I would never respond to an unsolicited email and provide any personal information. We shred anything with our credit card number, signature, social security number, mother's maiden name, favorite color, childhood dog's name, or high school mascot. And now they want me to forget these rules, just because it's a low-tech telephone call and not high-tech email message.

Knowing there will be no response on Easter morning, I call the credit union's number from the back of my credit card. Just a recorded message, but there is a phone number to call to report a lost or stolen card. I try that one. But no, all I can do at that number is activate a new account or report a lost card. No option to verify a charge or talk to a person.

So that's it. I'm tired and convinced I'm (turning into) a kook. My wife is stuck in New Jersey with a credit card she doesn't know is going to be turned down. And I've lost my full faith in credit union.

By the way, here is an anonymous (meaning I couldn't find the author) expounding on the Confucius quote that inspired my headline:
"Give a man a fish, feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish, feed him his entire life."

Give a man a fish? What fish? Trout? Scrod? Herring? Fresh-water? Salt-water? Pickled? Could you be more specific? Can one fish feed a man for an entire day? Depends on the fish I guess. We need clarification. And come to think of it -- what man? Who is this guy?

Now about this 'teaching a man to fish' nonsense. I don't have time to teach a man to fish. I have enough crap going on in my life. I have bills to pay. I don't need the increased responsibility of running a fishing class for grown-ass men who don't have fish.

There are a lot of tricks to fishing too. Selecting the right pole, the right reel, fishing line, hooks, bait. It's complicated! And he's going to have to put down a deposit in case he breaks something. Does he have a credit card? I'm not getting stuck with repairs. What am I, UNICEF? I should run a background check to make sure he isn't likely to cut my throat with a paring knife.

And I have to be honest; I don't know squat about fishing. I was raised in the city. My dad used to take me to museums, not lakes. We went fishing once. We didn't catch anything so we went to Vons. Grilled up some T-bone steaks instead.

But let's pretend I know how to fish. I'm a regular fishing expert. Where's this guy gonna go fishing? He's going to have to arrange for transportation. "...Teach a man to drive, get him to his destination his entire life." That's a little better. I can teach a man to drive. But what, I gotta rent him a car now too? Screw 'im!

About the best thing I can do for this guy is to teach him how to pick out a fish. You want a fresh fish - that's rule #1. It shouldn't smell. If it smells, the fish isn't fresh. Fresh fish should be kept on ice -- they go bad quickly. You also want a fish that's been cleaned, unless you already know how to clean it. Does this man know how to clean a fish? Oh, he knows how to clean a fish, but he doesn't know how to catch one? That's the trouble with today's educational system. They teach you half of what you need to know. That's not my problem.

This guy should become a vegetarian. In sixty-seconds I can teach him how to catch a celery.

Labels: , , , ,

Directionally-Challenged Hate

Nationally-syndicated columnist Deroy Murdoch recently wrote a diatribe against liberals. It seems that, after the right-wing Tennessee Center for Policy Research took Al Gore to task for using too much electricity, a bunch of leftist kooks sent particularly venomous emails in response.

Murdoch writes: "Such anti-intellectual intimidation reflects the high-octane hate that fuels so much Leftist discourse."

I can't decide if Murdoch is stupid, or if he is deliberately fanning animosity between political groups in this country.

Deroy, I don't know about you, but I learned back in grammar school that just because some Xs are also Ys doesn't mean that all Xs are Ys. Sure some liberals are unthinking jerks. But that doesn't mean that this reflects liberalism in general.

What if I were to use Deroy's own argument to define the right-wing mission based on the unthinking hate spewed by people like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly (and, apparently, Deroy Murdoch). I might just say that such anti-intellectual intimidation reflects the high-octane hate that fuels so much Rightist discourse.

But that wouldn't be fair to my conservative friends, who in general are smarter than that.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Bush Appoints Self to Supreme Court

The Supreme Court announced Monday that the EPA would have to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from cars. In response, President Bush added two conditions to the ruling. First, the EPA couldn't slow economic growth in its regulations. And second China and India can't be allowed to offset any improvements we make.

Never mind the stupidity of assuming that the EPA has any authority over what China and India do.

The more grievous insult to our intelligence is that the President still does not understand the basic separation of powers defined in the U.S. Constitution. The court gets to interpret the laws, not he. The President has absolutely no authority to attach any condition whatsoever to any court ruling.

Kind of like when the Congress passes a law and the President attaches conditions (a so-called signing statement) to the law, thinking that either he gets to write the laws or he gets to interpret them. He doesn't. Read the Constitution, Mr. Bush.

Reminds me of the right-wing charge that rulings they don't like are the result of "judicial activism." Judges do their jobs and interpret the law. If you don't like it, change the law or change the Constitution. (I thank the founding fathers every day that it is so hard to do that!)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, April 02, 2007

Kafka Was Right

Speaking of Gitmo, it turns out that there is a way to get out after all. All you have to do is be convicted of terrorism.
David Hicks has been held there for five years. Finally, he pled guilty and was sentenced. To nine months. To be served in his home country of Australia. And, since Australia is a penal colony itself, I'm pretty sure that means he's just going home.
Abd al Rahim Hussein Mohammed al Nashiri, a Saudi Gitmo prisoner suspected of masterminding the 2000 bombing on the USS Cole has apparently not figured this out. He earlier confessed his role, and almost certainly was on his way home, but now he has recanted. Seems now he claims he was tortured by the CIA, and only confessed to make them stop. Now they're never gonna let him out!
Meanwhile, superstar detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed made a detailed confession of planning everything from the 9/11 attacks to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. No doubt he was on the short list for a "vacation" in a Pakistani prison. But now he is claiming to be a victim of CIA torture. That has surely put his release plans on hold.
When will these terrorists learn? It's almost as if the CIA doesn't want them to be let out.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Gitmo For Life

Here are some fresh pictures from the prison that just keeps on giving:

The noble terrorist hunt:

There'll be none of this:

Every prisoner has access to his lawyer:

Victim of the shoe bomber (as confessed by Gitmo prisoner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed):

The prisoners are happy:

Professional, friendly prison guards:

Fun stress positions:

Humane interrogation methods:

Cultural sensitivity:

Labels: , , , ,