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

Thursday, February 28, 2008

If It's War the Politically Correct Want ...

There's recently been a huge controversy on campus -- specifically at the Campus Press. Until last week, I assumed that the folks at CU really were culturally sensitive. But then it hit me. They hate our Constitution, and hence are truly insensitive to the root of our culture.

Really, this is hitting very close to home. Max Karson, a CU student and staff editor at the Campus rag, ignited this conflagration with his article. But soon the campus, the city, even the nation erupted with calls for his head. The charge? Bad satire that some people found offensive. If bad satire that is not PC is a crime, then all my loyal reader are going to have to come find my latest rants in jail.

I read over Max's piece. And what did he say that was so offensive? Well, he suggested that all white people are drunk, racist, narcissistic, stupid, sadistic, domineering, redneck cultural slaves. And that Asians aren't.

So, now everybody is upset, not that he made fun of us white Americans, but that he didn't equally make fun of the non-white folks. This is no longer land of the free, home of the brave. It is land of the meek, home of the slave. The spirit of the First Amendment has been sacrificed at the altar of cultural sensitivity.

And just think of it. You can see the same types of comments every night at the comedy club or on prime time TV. Where would Sarah Silverman, Stephen Colbert, Larry David, and Steve Carell be without this type of tool in their box? And if a college kid can't learn to do this at the campus newspaper, how are we gonna teach the next generation of Sarah Silvermen?

Remember, the greatest satirists of all time, like Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain, are considered so today largely because the targets of their wrath no longer exist, and hence they are no longer offensive.

So, please, if you can't stand the heat become a Danish-Muslim comic aficionado, and leave the rest of us to examine our own foibles in our own embarrassing way.

Warning: Every one of these clips is highly offensive.

Sarah Silverman:

Stephen Colbert:

Larry David:

Steve Carell:

South Park:

Mark Twain:

Jonathan Swift:

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, February 24, 2008

McCain Plays to his Base and Tortures Constitution

I wrote earlier about the positions that the Democratic Presidential candidates had taken in support of requiring the Commander in Chief to follow the dictates of the U.S. Constitution. Although I haven't seen a specific response from Senator McCain, his recent statements give a sense of where he stands on some of the issues.

A few days ago the Senator from Arizona, who himself was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, urged President Bush to veto a bill that would have made it clear that waterboarding and other torture techniques can't be used by the CIA. So, the presumptive Republican candidate thinks it important enough to play up the conservative base that he is willing to compromise his own principles and make this statement, claiming at the same time that it is consistent with his previous positions.

I'm sorry, John, but this doesn't bode well for your ability to convince independents that you truly think outside the Bush bubble.

So, how in the world did we get to the situation that the right to torture has become a liberal vs. conservative question? Isn't it obviously a question of common sense along with the guiding principles of the Constitution?

Well, one point in Sen. McCain's favor. He has promised not to follow the Bush lead of issuing signing statements on legislation he disagrees with and usurping the Constitutionally-granted powers of the legislative branch.

So now we know McCain's position on two of the ten issues on the Constitution-protection hot list. He's against torture but doesn't think that should be written into law. And he is against signing statements. Let's see if we can find out where he stands on the other eight points.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, February 16, 2008

An Oath and a Pledge

When our next Commander in Chief is sworn in, he or she will make the same oath as George Washington:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Yes, our founding fathers thought it so important that they made it explicit in this oath. Protecting the Constitution is more important than protecting the Flag, protecting the Citizens, and protecting the national interest.

And yet, not all Presidents have taken this oath seriously. Our current President, George W. Bush, has taken abuses against the Constitution to new lows. Yes, you can argue that he is doing the same things as his predecessors. No doubt that is true, although he has gone much further than any in recent memory.

That is why, to me, the most important issue in the Presidential race this year is the candidates' stands on protecting the Constitution. If a candidate can only keep us safe from terrorists by locking us all up, then I say, don't bother we'll take our chances with the bad guys. If the only way to maintain a healthy economy is by scrapping freedom, then we'll scrounge for bread crumbs. Remember, our founding fathers were willing to give up their security and risk dying to create this institution. We shouldn't be so ready to give it up to keep the securities we have collected over the years.

And that is why it's not surprising that a liberal group and a conservative group with very similar names have taken on this very issue. The right-wing American Freedom Agenda and the left-wing American Freedom Campaign have both created 10-point pledges for the candidates, outlining specifically how they will undo the damage done to our founding document by the current administration.

Rep. Ron Paul, whose campaign has gotten lots of interest but few votes, was the first to sign on. He even introduced a version of the pledge as a bill on the House floor. None of the other Republican candidates (neither McCain nor Huckabee) has followed. However, all of the Democratic candidates have signed the pledge (Obama) or issued similar statements (Clinton).

Here's the bottom line, and why the founding fathers felt so strongly about this. When it's your guy (or gal) in the White House, then abuses of power are all for a good cause. No harm, no foul. But beware. The other team is bound to get a turn in control. And when that happens, they are sure to use all of the same new powers, and are likely to push them even further.

So, if you trust George Bush to decide who is an enemy combatant, would you also trust Hillary Clinton to make the same determination?

Here's the list from the conservative group. See if there's anything on here that's not a no-brainer:
  • Prohibit military commissions whose verdicts are suspect except in places of active hostilities where a battlefield tribunal is necessary to obtain fresh testimony or to prevent anarchy;
  • Prohibit the use of secret evidence or evidence obtained by torture or coercion in military or civilian tribunals;
  • Prohibit the detention of American citizens as unlawful enemy combatants without proof of criminal activity on the President’s say-so;
  • Restore habeas corpus for alleged alien enemy combatants, i.e., non-citizens who have allegedly participated in active hostilities against the United States, to protect the innocent;
  • Prohibit the National Security Agency from intercepting phone conversations or emails or breaking and entering homes on the President’s say-so in violation of federal law;
  • Empower the House of Representatives and the Senate collectively to challenge in the Supreme Court the constitutionality of signing statements that declare the intent of the President to disregard duly enacted provisions of bills he has signed into law because he maintains they are unconstitutional;
  • Prohibit the executive from invoking the state secrets privilege to deny justice to victims of constitutional violations perpetrated by government officers or agents; and, establish legislative-executive committees in the House and Senate to adjudicate the withholding of information from Congress based on executive privilege that obstructs oversight and government in the sunshine;
  • Prohibit the President from kidnapping, detaining, and torturing persons abroad in collaboration with foreign governments;
  • Amend the Espionage Act to permit journalists to report on classified national security matters without fear of prosecution; and;
  • Prohibit the listing of individuals or organizations with a presence in the United States as global terrorists or global terrorist organizations based on secret evidence.
Now, go vote based on your candidate's willingness to follow the Presidential Oath of Office.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's Defeatable

I have in the past written about problems with TurboTax's It's Deductible product. So, in all fairness, I need to post the workaround that I discovered for my problem (with no help from Intuit).

My problem is that there is no way to get the charitable donation valuation data out of It's Deductible unless you are using Intuit's sister product, TurboTax. And, since my tax situation is outside of TurboTax's capabilities, I can't retrieve the data without purchasing a copy that I won't be able to use.

Here's the workaround: Start a tax return with TurboTax Online. You won't be charged until you either file or print your taxes, and you won't have to do either one of those. Go directly to the charitable donations section and load your data from It's Deductible. Then go back and revisit the section again. You will be able to view all of your donations, including valuations. You can't print the form (I suppose print screen would work), but I just copied down the numbers by hand. Then I just give that sheet to my accountant to complete that section of my tax return.

Pretty simple, eh? Too bad Intuit couldn't tell me that.

I wonder if they will remove the ability to do this in future years?

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Colorado Caucus: In Which Thousands of People Pretend to Vote

The other day, I decided to go to the Colorado Caucus for the first time, to see if I could figure out whether it makes sense in this primary season. You see, about five years ago Colorado decided to dump its primary to save money. Then, for this election, the replacement caucuses were moved up to Super Duper Tuesday to give us the illusion that our votes matter.

Well, it turns out that record numbers of Coloradans had the same idea as I did, and decided to give the caucus a whirl. There were overflow crowds across the state, and Boulder was no exception. But did our votes matter? I still haven't figured out how this works. But in our precinct we elected seven delegates for the county convention and assembly, in March. At that forum, delegates will be chosen to go to the state convention in May. There, Colorado's delegates to the national convention will be chosen, and they will hopefully bear some resemblance to the delegates chosen in the individual precincts. But then there's something about super-delegates chosen by the party. So, when they say that Colorado voted for Barack Obama, it seems to me to be just an interesting theory for now, one that will hopefully be borne out in a few months.

We headed over about 6:20 (to a neighborhood middle school), wanting to get there in time to register. And when we were half way there, we started noticing the heavy traffic. This is strange, I expected that there would only be a few political wackos showing up. Instead, the school parking lot was full, and people were parking in the neighborhoods blocks away, and walking back to the school on the snow-and-ice-covered streets.

We walked around to the front entrance of the school. People were handing out campaign stickers for Obama. Again strange. I know that it is illegal to electioneer within 100 feet of a polling location in Colorado, but I guess the caucus doesn't count for some reason.

Walking in the front door, we see the registration table. But there is also a line of people waiting. We follow the line down the hall around the corner, down the next hall, and just keep going. Eventually the line splits in two and heads for the back of the school. It winds through the lockers by the gym so that people don't have to stand outside behind the school in the cold. We find our place in line at the end of a row of lockers.

Well, this is crazy. There are probably a thousand or more people waiting in line to register, and maybe five volunteers checking them in. I know the caucus is supposed to start in twenty minutes, and line isn't moving. Is this going to be a 2:00 AM commitment?

Ten or fifteen minutes passed and we made it past one row of lockers and into one of the main hallways. It was clear that nobody had expected this level of turnout. Someone started handing out registration cards to people in line, but there was no sense of when they would be needed. Until there was a rumor that they had stopped registering people. Were we just supposed to go home? No, everybody was gathering in the cafeteria, or maybe the assembly hall, or the gym. We followed the crowd, and crammed into a big room with no space.

Well, at least we were in the right place. After a while, the chair of one of the local precincts (it turns out that eight of them were caucusing at the school) got up to talk.

The first order of business was to give us the agenda for the night. The good news was that we absolutely had to be done by 8:45. That's PM. Less than two hours. Then each a representative for each candidate got to speak for exactly two minutes. Not a second longer, as the emcee was literally dragging them off the stage if they went over.

When the big group broke up, the original plan had been for each precinct to take over a classroom for its meeting. That plan was obviously out the window. So, our precinct, along with two others, went to the gym, and it was pretty tight in there.

Each of the precincts had to pick someone to be in charge. Then we had to figure out how to actually count the votes. You see, another difference between an election and a caucus is that there is no secret ballot in the caucus. You have to public state who you are supporting. So eventually we had all the Obama supporters stay in and near the bleachers, while the Clinton supporters went to the other side of the room. The uncommitteds were to stand under the basketball hoop. My wife and I split up, not to see each other until the night was over. Each group counted itself off. For Obama, 121. For Clinton, 33. The uncommitted group was deemed nonviable. Since we got to pick seven delegates, that meant 5.5 for Obama and 1.5 for Hillary.

Well, we couldn't very well split a delegate in half, so we needed to resolve the rounding issue. One more count. And this time, with the undeclared recommitted, the totals came out 121 to 34. Hillary won the round-off. Then the two groups had to select the five or two delegates, plus alternates for the county convention and county assembly next month.

With the presidential choice selected, a number of people left. We went through the same process to select our party's nominee for Senate (Mark Udall won all seven the delegates.) Then, our congressional district (Jared Polis got four delegates and Joan Fitz-Gerald received three.) Again, we had to select delegates.

The final order of business was the survey on the party's platform. But it had been published only on the web and nobody had filled it out or brought copies. So that was pretty much a waste of time. It's the thought that counts?

What did I learn? Well, a caucus is pretty much the opposite of an election. Secret vs. open. Neat vs. messy. Electioneering illegal vs. electioneering encouraged. For the masses vs. for the people who have very strong opinions. Designed to fit into your life vs. you'd better work your life around it.

The other thing that is obvious is that people are very much into this presidential election. I understand that last time only one person showed up from our precinct, and in the last presidential election there were only 12. This time it was 155.

Plus, I'm not even sure to what extent my vote last night actually influenced the selection of the party's candidates. You'd think with fewer people voting than in a primary each individual vote would be worth more. But then with such an arcane, byzantine process, who knows?

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Who Caucus?

Up until about five years ago, we had primaries here in the State of Colorado. Then, in an attempt to shave some government spending, we converted to the caucus system.

I liked the primary system just fine. Since we allow early voting by anybody here in Boulder County, it meant studying the candidates at your own pace, and then heading down to the county courthouse at your convenience to cast a ballot. Or, waiting until election day, and going to your precinct polling place. In any case, for a primary there was never any wait. So, even though we adopted one of the slowest voting processes after the incompetents in Florida forced everybody in the country to abandon perfectly functioning voting systems, it was pretty quick.

But no longer. I haven't been to a caucus, so I don't really know how they work. But here's what I picture: The biggest loudmouths in the neighborhood gather and argue their points of view. I assume it's mostly the people with the most strongly held, and possibly extreme, points of view. The more reserved folks, if they bother to show up at all, probably just sit in the back of the room afraid to speak up. And anybody who has a life may not be able to make the time to give up a Tuesday evening anyway.

I'm not all that impressed with this whole primary/caucus season anyway. Folks in early voting states have a big say. But if you voted for one of the fringe candidates your vote may not even count, as your candidate may have dropped out before the convention. And later voting states don't even get the choice of many of the non-mainstream candidates. A month into the election season, and by the time I get a say my first, second, and third choices may have all dropped out. (Okay, I have a weakness for losers.)

Meanwhile, the media is going all kooky over the whole process. Mostly, I suppose, because of all the air time they have to fill, they are over analyzing to the point of ridiculousness and embarrassment.

But this is the process we have. And I need to keep an open mind. So, we decided to go to the caucus on Tuesday night. I'll give up or reschedule my swim practice. We looked up the location. (With elections, not only did the precinct maps and locations all get published in the paper, but you would get a postcard reminding you exactly when and where to go. Not so with caucuses.) And I'll write more here after I see how it goes.

Labels: , , , , ,