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

Monday, September 29, 2008

Protecting the State Constitution -- Colorado 2008 Referendum O

I have often whined about how easy it is for a group of disgruntled citizens to get a change into the Colorado State Constitution, and how hard it is to modify what they've done afterwards. In fact, our state's constitution is among the easiest to change. It is just as easy to change this guiding document as it is to make changes to our statutory laws. And once those changes have been made, they cannot be undone (or even slightly tuned up) without going back to the voters.

As an illustration of the problem, of the 14 initiatives on the ballot this year, 11 are written as amendments to the constitution, while only 2 of them really belong there. No wonder -- if you really believe in your idea, wouldn't you rather make it incredibly hard to change once it is approved?

This is also a reason why I sometimes vote against measures that I would otherwise agree with. Putting even a good idea in the constitution is a bad idea if it is something that might need to be revisited over time.

Referendum O is an attempt by the state legislature to fix these problems. It does this by making it easier to get a statutory initiative on the ballot and harder to get a constitutional initiative on the ballot. Provisions include:
  • The number of signatures required to get a statutory initiative on the ballot will be decreased, while the number required for a constitutional initiative will be increased.
  • For constitutional initiatives only, a significant proportion of the signatures must be collected from every congressional district in the state, ensuring that it has broad appeal.
  • Drafts of constitutional initiatives will be required to be submitted earlier in the election cycle, while providing more time for collection of signatures for statutory initiatives.
  • Statutory initiatives will be protected, once passed, from any changes by the state legislature for five years, unless there is a 2/3 vote. This hopefully will give initiators comfort that their good idea won't be immediately undone if they go the statutory route.
  • Public comment will be allowed on proposed initiatives at public meetings held after the draft proposal is submitted. The goal is to identify problems and unintended consequences before the proposed ballot measure is finalized.
Given the many issues caused by the ease of amending our state constitution, I enthusiastically support this measure.

Vote YES on Referendum O.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Whine E. Coyotes

The pack looks for weaknessOne of the things I've noticed in this political season is how quick each side is to jump on the other. Like a pack of coyotes, they are looking for any sign of weakness. This pack mentality seems to start with the first sound bite, which then triggers the vicious little attacks. Nobody seems to think for himself, or question the selection of target; it's just assumed that the greater good of the pack depends on the common task of taking down the weakest target within the prey herd.

A few days ago, Sen. Joe Biden was talking to Katie Couric about the current economic problems. The VP hopeful said, "Part of what a leader does is to instill confidence, is demonstrate that he or she knows what they're talking about and communicates to people: if you listen to me and follow what I'm suggesting we can fix this. ... When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed. He said, 'look, here's what happened.'"

The Bash Biden BusLots of folks have jumped on the bash Biden bus, saying that not only was there no television in 1929, Roosevelt wasn't even President until 1933. Well, I've been reading about FDR and his Fireside Chats. It turns out that Joe Biden was more correct than most anybody has been willing to admit.

Roosevelt started his Fireside Chats in March and April of 1929, while he was governor of New York. The stock market had not yet crashed, but there was an agricultural depression in the state. In these and future talks, he picked a topic, explained the situation in plain, non-condescending language, encouraged nonpartisan efforts, put forth suggested solutions, and asked for public feedback.

Roosevelt's first Presidential Fireside ChatFDR continued these talks through his governorship, and then reconstituted them when he was elected President. He continued these chats though 1944.

The records on exactly when his radio talks occurred as NY governor or what they covered are slim. But it is a matter of record that his very first Fireside Chat as President, which occurred on March 12, 1933, was on the topic of the bank crisis.

I found this interesting quote from a newspaper editorial after one of his talks in 1930, shortly before he was elected to his second term as governor:
If television were perfected, thousands who listened in last night ... would have seen their Governor seated comfortably behind his big desk in the Executive Mansion, flashing his characteristic smile with each sally, shaking his head for emphasis over a good point.... They would see him settling down into an earnest plea to "lend a hand" and his mouth set with determination.... Taking his radio audience into his confidence the Governor leans forward just a little to make a scathing jibe.... And turning away from the mike, the Governor gives a boyish smile of "that was a good one...." Slyly taking a quote from a Republican campaign speech, he pours a bit of polished satire into the "mike." Leaning back, straightening his broad shoulders ... and with the same grimly amused glint in his eyes and the same "well you understand how ridiculous it is" smile, the Governor pokes fun at his opponents for his unseen audience. Then he anticipates. He keeps the air still for a second. His eyes narrow and he launches an attack.... When the half hour is over and incidentally Governor Roosevelt is pleased as a boy when he hits the broadcast time nail exactly on the head, he settles back to talk in that same smooth musical voice radio listeners and critics have come to admire.
To beep or not to beepThose who are quick to join the pack in condemning a comment as a gaffe should first make sure they know the facts before jumping in.

Here's what I think: Won't it be nice to have a Vice President who is more likely to say too much than to keep every single thing secret, and who can smile rather than sneer at us?

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sprucing Up an Old Constitution -- Colorado 2008 Referendum M and Referendum N

Seems like every election cycle there's a proposal from the state legislature to eliminate obsolete stuff in the Colorado state constitution. This year, there are actually two.

Referendum M would get rid of a provision that was in the original document in 1876 to allow the state legislature to defer property tax increases on land that result from planting trees and hedges. This provision was actually used several times up until the early part of last century, but has not been exercised in recent memory. So passing this measure would take away a minor ability of the state legislature that has not been used for decades and that nobody is contemplating using.

I suppose at some point in the future the state legislature could decide that it is important to encourage tree planting, and passing this measure would limit their ability to use this tool to do so without another vote of the people. Maybe climate change would even be a good reason to do something like that. I guess I'm not convinced that the provision being targeted is truly "obsolete", but rather not currently relevant. In that sense, I think this is being mismarketed. It's probably not a big deal, but I'm going to vote against this one, on the grounds that they either need to prove it is obsolete or give us the true rationale for killing this provision.

Referendum N would repeal two sections in the state constitution. The first section prohibits the manufacture, sale, or importation of "spurious, poisonous, or drugged" liquors. This was part of the original constitution, and is no longer needed because the federal government regulates the quality of alcoholic beverages. The second section to be removed was added at the end of prohibition, and allowed the state legislature to regulate the manufacture, sale, and distribution of alcoholic drinks in the state (but disallowed the authorization of saloons by the legislature). I'm not sure why this second section is no longer needed, but perhaps the legislature just assumes they have the power to regulate alcohol without explicit approval in the constitution. Or, maybe, someone in the state legislature has a business plan to start a saloon and wants to lobby for a saloon license from the legislature after leaving office. Term limits, you know.

In any case, seems like this one really should have been split into two measures (as much as I hate ballot growth). If this measure has been submitted as a citizen initiative, it would have been required to meet the single-topic rule. Why doesn't the state legislature hold itself to this same standard?

I don't see a problem with the first half of this one, but I'm not 100% convinced on the second half. So, I'm not supporting this one either.

But the real question is, what is the process whereby each ballot has one (or two) of these issues? Is there someone in the state house who has nothing better to do than read through the state constitution and try to figure out the things that aren't relevant anymore? If so, why don't they give us the full list now, rather than nickle and diming us one or two at a time?

Or, why don't they go off and hold a constitutional convention to rewrite this thing from scratch? They could take out all the junk that doesn't belong in a constitution and make sure it is all covered in the state statutory code. One big, contentious election later, we'd have something more on the lines of the concise document that has served the U.S. federal government well for 221 years with only a few minor additions.

In summary:

Vote NO on Referendum M.
Vote NO on Referendum N.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'll Explain When You're Older -- Colorado 2008 Referendum L

Yes, it's that time of year again. The ballots are being printed and people are starting to discuss the extremely long ballot we're going to have to vote on. The State of Colorado alone will have 18 measures on the ballot. Boulder County will also have two, and the City of Boulder will have seven. As usual, I'll be analyzing each of the issues between now and the election, so keep tuned as I make my way through them.

At the top of the list are four issues referred to the ballot by the state legislature. First on that list is Referendum L, which would reduce the required age to serve in the state legislature from 25 to 21. Upon reading the bill, I noticed that they also added the requirement that a candidate be an elector of the State of Colorado, which means registered to vote here, although this aspect doesn't seem to be discussed in other forums.

First, the age limitation. Typically one graduates from college at about 22, so this would allow college juniors to run for state office. This doesn't excite me, although I suppose in theory they would naturally be filtered out at the ballot box. But then, why let them run in the first place if they may not be qualified?

Who is old enough to serve in the state legislature? I would think that a minimum would be a college graduate (or equivalent real world experience) plus a couple of years out in the real world. So, maybe 23 or 24 would be ok, if the candidate were very mature, smart, and had relevant experience.

Second, the referendum would add the requirement that a candidate be an elector of the State of Colorado -- registered to vote. This is actually a good idea, as it would filter out people from serving who don't care enough to actually vote.

Unfortunately, this measure is written as an amendment to the state constitution. This means that it will be very difficult to make even minor changes once approved. It will have to go back before the voters. Therefore, it has to be right, or we may be stuck with a bad rule for a hundred years.

Therefore, I would send this back to the state legislature to get it right. Add in the requirement to be an elector, but don't lower the age limit any more than about 24, if at all.

Vote NO on Referendum L.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Good Deal -- A Parable

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sarah Smile

When asked about her insight into Russian actions, Sarah Palin said:
They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.
Now that's pretty impressive. I've certainly never seen Russia from Colorado. But here's the shocker: Notice how carefully she worded that statement. She never actually said she had ever been on that island, on a clear day, and looked in the direction of Russia. So, we really can't be sure she has actually ever really seen Russia. And, if she hasn't seen Russia, how can she really be sure that "they are our next door neighbor" or that we really need to have a "mutually beneficial relationship"? I think we need to see some proof. Maybe a snapshot on her cell phone, a picture on her MySpace page showing Russia in the background. Only then will I really be confident in her foreign relations credentials.

Oh, and did you watch her when she was talking about foreign policy with Charlie Gibson? She repeatedly said she wouldn't blink, but I counted at least twenty blinks during the times when she was talking about not blinking. Which is it, Sarah? Can you stare down those godless terrorists or not?




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Friday, September 05, 2008

Your Flag Lapel Pin Won't Keep You in Office Anymore

While digesting Congressional Digest
In the airport bathroom stall,
With a tap a flag with a pin on the back
was kicked under the wall.
I peeled that flag up off the floor
And stuck on my lapel,
And if I could have old Betsy Ross
I'd tell 'em all to go to Hell!

But your flag lapel pin won't keep you in office anymore.
They're already overcrowded with liars, cheats and whores.
Now Jesus don't like hypocrisy, no matter what the reasons for,
And your flag lapel pin won't keep you in office any more.

I popped in the Senate this morning
And the lobbyist said to me:
Said, if you vote for my silly bridge
I'll give you ten of them flags for free (plus a boat).
Well, I didn't hestitate a bit,
I took him up on what he said.
And I stuck those flags all over my suit
And one on my wife's forehead.

But your flag lapel pin won't keep you in office anymore.
They're already overflowing with lyin', cheatin' whores.
Now Jesus don't like thievin', no matter what the reasons for,
And your flag lapel pin won't keep you in office any more.

Well, I got my suit lapel so filled
With flags I could not breathe.
So when I wiped my nose upon my shirt
I poked my eye out with my sleeve.
By the time they calmed the doctor down
I was already dead.
And I'll never understand why the man
Standin' at the Pearly Gate said:

That your flag lapel pin won't get you in heaven anymore.
We're already overcrowded from your 100-year-long war.
Now Jesus don't like killin', no matter what the reasons for.
And your flag lapel pin won't get you in heaven any more.

And your flag lapel pin won't keep you in office any more.

Any your flag lapel pin won't get out of China

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Buzz Is: I'm Not Driving Enough

I try my best to avoid driving as much as possible. Riding my bike, walking, taking the bus, whatever. But this is ridiculous.

I went to fill my gas tank tonight, opened up the cover to the gas cap, and was confronted with a wasp nest. It has obviously been there a while, as there were dead insects strewn about inside.

Some people claim they've been stung by the high price of gasoline, but I think I have them beat.

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