Thursday, December 15, 2005

People see what they want

It looks like the whole “evolution vs. creationism” battle has hit the federal courts. If this article is true to what’s going on, the whole thing is absolutely silly. Bizarre may be a better word.

First off, it looks like Cobb County, Georgia schools put a sticker on their biology books saying, "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered." Why they felt the need to put this sticker on these books is anyone’s guess. The school board calls the stickers "a reasonable and evenhanded guide to science instruction" that encourages students to be critical thinkers. The stickers seem unnecessary to me, but okay.

Most modern biology texts I’ve ever read (including my latest one) present it as a core theme in modern biology (which it is), explain it’s core process, natural selection, and then show how certain elements of biology seem to coincide with it. They don’t bowl you over and say, “God doesn’t exist and evolution is the only true gospel of creation.” In fact, I’ve never seen a biology textbook that mentions God at all, let alone tries to prove or disprove his existence. They just teach biology as we understand it today; or at least at the time of publication.

Apparently some folks disagree. Some parents, as well as the ACLU (surprise surprise) have sued, claiming the stickers violate the constitutional separation of church and state. U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper ruled that the sticker "conveys an impermissible message of endorsement and tells some citizens that they are political outsiders while telling others they are political insiders."

Huh? Endorsing critical thinking violates the first amendment? Since when? What is this statement endorsing if not careful study and thought? And just who are the political outsiders, here? People who can’t think for themselves? The judge is doing nothing but concocting a condition that doesn’t actually exist. Judge Cooper must think that critical thinking, and forming your own opinions, is dangerous. I wonder what he thinks about bloggers?

This quote from the article is brilliant:

"If it's unconstitutional to tell students to study evolution with an open mind, then what's not unconstitutional?" said John West, a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that supports intelligent design, the belief that the universe is so complex it must have been created by a higher power. "The judge is basically trying to make it unconstitutional for anyone to have a divergent view, and we think that has a chilling effect on free speech."

It seems to me that these parents, the judge, and the ACLU, are simply saying “What’s constitutional is what agrees with my position, and anything that disagrees with it is unconstitutional.” Oh, yeah. Way to protect our civil liberties, there. Not!

“Opponents of the sticker campaign see it as a backdoor attempt to introduce the biblical story of creation into the public schools…”

What? Where in this sticker’s message does it mention the Bible? Where does it mention religion? Give me a break, people! You’re seeing ghosts where there are none!

"The anti-evolution forces have been searching for a new strategy that would accomplish the same end," said Kenneth Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University and co-author of the science book that was stickered. "That purpose is, if not to get evolution out of the schools altogether, then at least undermine it as much as possible in the minds of students."

Huh? Since when is thinking critically about something an attempt to undermine biology? What wrong with simply saying that evolution isn’t a proven fact and going on to teach it anyway, along with all the other stuff we do know (more or less) for sure? Heck, we don’t know how prions function but we still teach how we “think” they might and no one bats an eye.  Why is evolution so sacred that we can’t allow students to weigh the evidence and think for themselves? That’s not undermining science, that’s the fundamental nature of science! Question everything and refine our understanding!

But silliness isn’t confined to only one side of the argument. Get this:
In 2004, Georgia's school superintendent proposed a statewide science curriculum that dropped the word "evolution" in favor of "changes over time." That plan was soon scrapped amid protests from teachers.

You think? How stupid is that? Call a spade a spade, a duck a duck, and the theory of evolution the theory of evolution. Don’t back away from it! Teach it! Question it! Show all its holes as well as its wonders! Then let students decide for themselves.  They’re going to make up their own minds, anyway, no matter what you do.

UPDATE:12/16 One of our readers. The Sanity Inspector, left a link with some more background information. I followed that link back to one of his own blogs. It turns out he was at the initial hearing. I reccomend reading it. Very interesting stuff. Thanks SI!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tookie Not a Victim

I don’t think I’ve ever been driven so nuts as by the people who are all over mourning the death of Tookie Williams. All kinds of “evidence” is crawling out of the woodworks to say that he wasn’t a co-founder of the Crips gang. What’s next? He didn’t murder all those people in cold blood after all?

Give me a freaking break.  

This dirtbag was convicted over twenty years ago on several counts of murder. In some cases, it looks like it was more of an execution. I don’t give a crap what he may or may not have done in the intervening twenty years between his conviction, sentencing, and finally his execution. The state gave him twenty years that he never granted to his victims.

If you want to debate the validity of the death sentence, go ahead and do it. If you want to hoist a cold-blooded murdering oxygen-thief up on a flag-pole and get me to salute him as a martyr, forget it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Good Health Care, NOT!

Utah prides itself on its health care. We’ve been told for years that because of the research and efforts done here, mostly at places like LDS Hospital, the University of Utah Hospital, and Primary Children’s Hospital, that we’ve got access to the best health care in the nation.

Or maybe not.

According to this report Utah’s HMO’s are severely lacking. Just take this example:

Collectively, Utah's five HMOs failed to meet the national standard in 34 of 39 areas, according to a statewide survey released Tuesday. The worst performer by far was Regence HealthWise (Blue Cross Blue Shield), which fell below even the statewide average in all but one category in which it submitted data.

Guess which health care plan I’m signed up with. Yup, Regence HealthWise. I’m none too happy with it, either. It’s terribly expensive, terribly restrictive, and a pain in the butt to work with. For example, my doctor has prescribed Nexium for me, because of my abdominal pain and two trips to the emergency room because of gall-bladder and intestinal trouble. I got some samples from him (and my Mom, who used to be on it), and it seems to be working. Guess what, though. Regence won’t fill the prescription unless he calls them and makes the case that I need it. Isn’t that what the prescription slip is for? What do they think, I’ve conned my doctor into prescribing it to me so I can eat it as a snack?

Later in the article the people at Regence make excuses and try and cover up the problem.

.... Doug Hasbrouck questions the reliability of the state survey. Hasbrouck, chief medical officer for Regence, says . . . . If Regence checked charts and audited its numbers, the company would compare favorably, he said, but the cost would have to be divided among a relatively small number of clients. . . ."To spend the money to prove that point doesn't make sense to our customers who are concerned about the price of their health insurance," Hasbrouck said.

Guess what Mr. Hasbrouck. It costs too much as it is, and you won’t cover the care I need, even though my premiums would pay for the drug three times over. Why should I, or anyone else, believe you care about anything other than your profits?

If good health is the measure of a good HMO, then Regence is succeeding. According to the statewide study, 68 percent of HealthWise customers rate their overall health as excellent or good - the most of any HMO in the state. However, the company received only average marks in all other consumer satisfaction categories, from claims processing to customer service to rating of their health plan.

Interesting. They never asked me. I wonder why that is? Oh yeah. I think they’re full of crap and merely padding their pockets with my high premiums. No wonder I have intestinal trouble.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Big Brother is Watching Your Cell Phone

I gotta tell you the truth. This scares me. The good folks in Baltimore and now going to use your cell phone to keep track of traffic patterns. Now they’ll be able to track your movements through the city whether your cell phone is in use, or not. As long as it’s turned on, they can figure out where you are. The potential for abuse is staggering.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Happy Veteran's Day

November 11 is Veteran's Day. As a USMC vet, it's an interesting day for me. I didn't serve in combat, but I did serve stateside during the Libya debacle, ermm . . . conflict.
Another fun bit for me is that November 10th is the traditional birthday of the USMC. Two days in a row I get to celebrate. How cool is that?

One of the nicest things someone ever did for me on Veteran's Day was to remember my service, and wish me a Happy Veteran's Day. "You're a vet, right?" he asked.

I know that sounds weird, but it took me by surprise. Someone cared enough to do something as simple as that for me. It made me feel good that he remembered and honored my, albeit limited, service.

Remember to tell the vets you know, will you? Believe me. It'll mean more to them than you think.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Get out and vote

It’s official. I stink. For the first time in at least five years I haven’t voted. Today, I suck.

I woke up this morning and felt terrible, so I blew off a college chemistry class and slept in. I got up, and started heading to work, realizing about half way there that I should have stopped at my local precinct and voted. I work late today, so my only hope is to get home before the precinct closes. I hope I can do that, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Don’t follow my example. I work 40 miles from my local precinct, so I can’t just hurry and run home to do it. Get out and vote. The Iraqi people came out in droves for their first vote. We should be old hands at this. It should be second nature.

Go vote.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Guilt, anyone?

A friend of mine posted a recent blog about ; how busy his life is.; I can certainly relate.

One thing I can’t relate to is that he has a "special needs" child; he’s got cystic fibrosis. To be honest though, I hate the term "special needs." I’ve got four "normal" children and each one of them has special needs unique to them. Those needs just don’t tend to migrate to the medical extremes that my friend’s kid does.
Which, of course, makes me feel guilty when I complain to him about my life.

In spite of my shortcomings with understanding everything that goes on with his youngest son, this bit from his post was telling:

And overall, in spite of the fact that it’s filled to the brim, I’m constantly feeling like I’m not giving enough. I don’t work with Jacob on his therapies enough. I don’t get things done at my job enough. I don’t get to spend time with Jodi enough. I don’t sing or write enough. I don’t go out with the missionaries enough. It’s just not enough.

That’s how I feel, sometimes. I’m complaining a bit here, but I work 40+ hours a week at a job it takes me over an hour to drive to. That’s two hours a day, lost in traffic. I’m a student as well, putting in nine credit hours a week (which translates to 20+ hours a week if you include homework and study). I’m also a private music teacher. I’ve only got two students right now, but that sucks about 3 or four hours a week if you count prep time, as well. I’ve also got a wife and four kids to deal with. Each of them needs my time. Our church recommends “dating” our spouses. My wife and I barely find time (or money) to sit in front of the TV together for a short video, let alone go out on a date every week. Now I’ve got the director of a local community orchestra asking me to come and perform the trumpet solo for the yearly Messiah production. I’m a decent trumpet player and I like supporting the arts in the community.

Somewhere in all of that time I’m supposed to find time to pursue stress-relieving hobbies and self-development, and keep up on the bills that four growing children, and insane gas prices, create. And when any of that falls by the way side, I feel guilty for not doing what I should.

My choices these days seem less about what I want to do, as much as what I want to feel guilty about this week.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Utah College Enrollment Down Overall

This KSL article talks about how only three Utah colleges/universities are up in enrollment, and six others have declined. I’m not surprised, overall. I am surprised that the University of Utah made the list of those growing, but that’s just my own bias talking. I’m not personally (morally or politically) excited about that school, even though I graduated from it.

Phil Alletto, student services vice president at Dixie State College, says in the article that in an improving economy, "schooling takes a back seat to work." I’m not sure I understand that. I’m not sure the economy is all that improved, locally. That may be just my own personal situation, though. I went back to school recently because I lost my career (most of the work left Utah for overseas destinations) and a third of my income. Maybe I’m just weird, though. Certainly a sampling of one Utahn’s life isn’t enough to declare a trend. Wouldn’t more people have to quit school, though, in a bad economy than a good one? I mean, school’s expensive, and student grants and loans only go so far. Then again, I’ve never claimed to be an economist.

The folks from USU and the University of Utah have more to say on the matter, though. If you’re interested in the fallout of socio-economic trends on such things you may want to check it out.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Can we finally let go of this, then?

It turns out that the 10th US Circuit Court of appeals has lain to rest the ACLU’s continuous desire to slam Salt Lake City, the LDS Church, and the sale of a portion of Main Street to make the Main Street Plaza. What I think is so funny about this case is that the ACLU can’t seem to find a target. Former Mayor Dee Dee Coridini signed the deal, and yet according to this KSL article, they were going after current SLC Mayor, Rocky Anderson. I don’t think he had much to do with it; he just tried to clean up the pile of manure that was left to him. I guess if they couldn’t get their way going after one person they decided to try someone else. Who’s next? Governor Huntsman?

The ACLU could still appeal this case, and others could bring more (we live in such a litigious society it’s ridiculous), but this ruling is definitely a sign that we won’t have to be bothered with this bit of legal wrestling motivated by blatant religious bigotry for much longer.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Intelligent Design vs. Evolution – Get ready to laugh

I’ve tried to avoid blogging about this, but I just can’t bite my tongue any more. It’s too sore as it is. This whole “intelligent design” thing is just too funny. The Dover PA school district doesn’t think so, but maybe they’ve just lost their sense of humor.

Let me start out my saying that I am a person of faith. I believe in God, and most people would consider me a Christian. I’m also studying biology in college. While I don’t think that evolutionary theory is complete and correct, I’m not above talking about in a science class because it’s one of the core themes of biology. It’s only uniformed religious bigots that like to try and use it to prove that God doesn’t exist. In fact, there are a lot of biologists who don’t see a conflict between evolution and their faith in God.

I also don’t support the idea of teaching intelligent design in schools. It’s not science; it’s metaphysics. Save that for the philosophy and religion classes, please.

These quote from the Dover PA trial just made me shake my head, though. The star witness for the defense is Kenneth Miller, a Brown University biologist. Get a load of this:

The statement read to Dover students states in part, "Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered." Miller said the words are "tremendously damaging," falsely undermining the scientific status of evolution.
"What that tells students is that science can't be relied upon and certainly is not the kind of profession you want to go into," he said.
"There is no controversy within science over the core proposition of evolutionary theory," he added.

Cough . . . choke . . . sputter. What? Since when? First off, it may be damaging to Darwin’s theory, but it’s not damaging to kids thinking about biological sciences as a career choice. And since when is there no controversy in biology over evolution? Saying there’s no controversy is like saying Swiss cheese doesn’t have holes.
The double talk gets thicker, though.
During his cross-examination of Miller, Robert Muise, another attorney for the law center, repeatedly asked whether he questioned the completeness of Darwin's theory.
"Would you agree that Darwin's theory is not the absolute truth?" Muise said.
"We don't regard any scientific theory as the absolute truth," Miller responded.

Okay. Let me get this straight. We want to teach science, but we don’t regard science as truth? We don’t want to question the validity of evolutionary theory, even though science is all about questioning what we know, and don’t know? That sounds like religious dogma to me. Don’t question Darwin, but go ahead and question God? Isn’t that a double standard? I think Mr. Miller is just having a tough time explaining it because for him, and may others proponents of evolutionary theory (whether they wants to admit it or not), evolution is a matter of faith.
Go put that in your pipe and smoke it for a while.

Liars Fighting Liars

Whenever the ACLU does something, I have to raise my eyebrows. In this case, I think I’m may to have to put aside my animosity towards them, and give the devil his due. According to this KSL story they’ve joined the fight against the Utah County Sheriff’s Office for wrongfully raiding two dance parties in Spanish Fork Canyon.

Now, I’m all over the Utah County Sheriff’s office on this one. They blew it, and then they lied about it.

. . . county officers say they were justified in breaking up the August concert because organizers lacked necessary permits. Officials also say undercover officers at the concerts spotted the sale and use of illegal drugs.

The Utah County Sheriff is a lying bastard. I know some people who were involved, including one of the DJs. The organizers had the permits, but were threatened at gun point and told to shut up when they offered to show them to the raiding officers. There were no undercover officers. The police showed up in full military grade riot gear carrying M-16’s. The illegal drugs they supposedly seized were those confiscated by the private security force the people throwing the party had hired.

And now the ACLU has gotten involved. I’ve always considered the ACLU to be a bunch of bigoted (anti-religion) lying sacks of shit for what they’ve tried to do (and in some cases succeeded) in Salt Lake City. Now they’ve decided to go after another bunch of bigoted (anti-dance scene) lying sacks of shit. Go figure.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Rocky Anderson Overstepping Mayoral Bounds

There’s one thing I can say for Rocky Anderson: he’s certainly given me a lot to blog about.

This latest escapade involves him acting like a dictator instead of an elected official. According to this KSL article, he’s going to sign an executive order offering benefits to non-married, domestic partners of Salt Lake City employees.

Now, I’ve blogged about something similar before. No matter which side of the aisle you are on when it comes to gay marriage, I really think health insurance should be dealt with by the household and financial need, not by whether you’re married and what age your kids are. I’m a capitalist to be sure, but when it comes to health care I’ve got a real socialist streak.

The issue for me is not whether Salt Lake City should offer these benefits, but whether it’s up to Rocky Anderson to do it. Isn’t this an issue better left for the city council? There’s also a question of legality. This kind of action may very well conflict with the Utah State Constitution.

Personally, I don’t think even Rocky believes that this will stick, no matter how it’s created. It’s just a way for him to get his name in media, and in the face of the people he believes are his constituents. In other words, it’s just a publicity stunt. He’s only got a 36% approval rating, and he thinks that this will appeal to the democrats in Salt Lake City that elected him.

It’s a re-election strategy that is going to cost Rocky, nothing. It will cost the people of Salt Lake City between 38 and 113 thousand dollars, whether he can keep it in effect or not.

What a bizarre way to get a campaign contribution.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

NRC Okays Nuclear Waste in Spite of Opposition

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has shown their bias and stupidity once again, by approving the storage of spent nuclear fuel rods at a proposed above ground site on the Goshute Indian’s Skull Valley reservation in western Utah. In spite of the fact that the tribal members don’t want it there, and the danger posed by the nearby Dugway Proving Grounds and the munitions training and testing area (where fighter pilots learn how to bomb the spit our of ground targets), the NRC feels that it’s a “safe site.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. How is putting a bunch of radioactive waste in concrete containers very close to a place where the military drops live bombs safe?

The only people I know of in the Goshute tribe that are even mildly interested in having it there is the tribal leadership. The Goshutes are in the middle of a trying to establish new leadership over the tribe because of this very issue. I saw a lawyer for the Goshutes commenting on this issue on a local news channel. She said that because the Goshutes are looking for new leadership, allowing this deal to come through anyway is illegal according to tribal law. I don’t like “playing the race card,” but this lawyer said that if the PFS continues to force the issue, and the Federal Government allows it to happen, it will be just another example of continued racial prejudice against American Indians.

Fortunately for Utah, Governor Huntsman and our senators and congressmen are taking up the fight. Even the LDS Church is taking a stand.

I have to admit, my hope for this stuff staying out of Utah is waning. The eastern constituents just have too much influence with this issue, and I suspect that there is some money changing hands under differing tables as well. I can’t be sure about that, of course, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all. I fear that no matter what we do as native Utahns, just like other issues in the past (such as the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument), our states rights and desires are going to be overrun by uncaring people at the federal level.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Prospering in the Face of Disaster

Here’s an article I wrote for a newsletter I write for. Given the tragic messages coming out of the southern states, in the wake of hurricane Katrina, I thought I’d share it with you gentle readers, as well.

Just take a look at the headlines from any major newspaper and you’ll realize that the world is an ever changing place. Nothing is completely secure, and disaster can strike us at a moment’s notice, with little to no warning. When you take natural and economic disasters as major components in financial uncertainty, the picture starts to feel overwhelming. If we are prepared, however, we can survive and prosper during such uncertain time.

Economic Problems

Odds are, you neighbor spends more than he or she makes. Maybe you do, too. The same could be said of local and national governments. Debt and mortgages are the norm. The result of spending money is inflation. If we understand the dangers involved, though, we don’t need to be eaten alive. We just need to make some simple decisions regarding our assets.

Inflation leads to one thing, a decrease in the value of your money. Historical and contemporary trends have shown that national and international crisis weaken personal pocketbooks and shatter national economies. Our economic future depends on the value of the U.S. dollar, which is recurrently at risk for collapse.

In like manner, individual retirement accounts may be robbed. Retirement annuities that may have looked promising twenty years ago may have had their strength reduced as the value of the dollar decreases. While you may have felt at one time that it would be enough, with a decrease in buying power you may end up living at or below the poverty level. In short, inflation reduces spending power and diminishes the value of your assets. The only people who win in such situations are: big borrowers (like the government), big businesses, mortgage companies, and those who invest early to hedge against potential financial chaos.

Costly safety and other services in major cities, along with a preponderance of poor and dissatisfied inhabitants, may become the first victims of inflation and economic disruption. The already dangerous climate in our cities is worsening. Crime pays because so few criminals go to jail. Welfare roles swell because there is little economic incentive to work; slums expand, property values plummet, and jobs become scarce.

Preservation Strategies

Even if the odds favor good times, it can be useful to create a financial safety net. If you have reasonable self-sufficiency you can survive, even if various resource distribution methods suffer set backs for a while.

Avoid Unnecessary Debt

Financial over-extension creates risk, and accompanying fear. Borrow only to purchase income-producing investments, or those that inflate in overall value. Pay off your credit card and mortgage debt as fast as you can. When buying a home or investment properties, either pay in immediate cash, or invest as little cash as possible. By choose one of the two extremes, you avoid the interest of a mortgage, and leave your funds available for other good investments.

Spread Your Risk

Don’t put all of your investment “eggs” in “one basket.” If one investment loses money, the others can take up the slack. In other words, diversify your investment portfolio. You may lose money in one investment, but because the others remain more or less intact, your total assets are not affected as strongly.

Be Highly Self-Sufficient

Learn about food storage and plant gardens. Raise food animals like chickens or rabbits, if you can. Have a good generator, a fresh water supply, and other forms of back up heat and energy where possible. A good bicycle can be useful, as well. Learn practical skills such as home and auto repair.

Plan Your Future as if Social Security Didn’t Exist

Maintain some cash reserves for emergencies, but don’t keep all of it in a savings or checking account. Money-funds and treasury bills can earn better rates, are liquid, and safe.

Create a Crisis Supply

Have on hand enough usable food to last one year. Dehydrated food and extra water storage should be a top priority.  This can “panic-proof” you by creating your supply before a crisis can strike. Food and water are vulnerable commodities. Weather conditions, oil supplies, transportation and worker demands, not to mention economic need, all contribute to the ability to obtain food. Remember, no one can raise the price of food you’ve already bought.

No amount of preparation will be perfect for all situations, but by taking a few common sense steps, and creating a safety net should hard times come, we can prosper when trials come our way. Such simple steps help us make real progress towards meeting our present goals, future prosperity, and giving us peace of mind.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Religious Bigotry and Stupidity in SLC Mayoral Office

It's been pretty typical for Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson to put his foot in his mouth. Many times in his career he's said bad things about the LDS Church, and just about everybody living in Utah outside of Salt Lake City. He's been kicking into overdrive lately, though.

First off, he staged a political protest against President Bush. The President was the keynote speaker at a VFW convention. The irony here is that Mayor Anderson wants to encourage conventions coming into Salt Lake, and was happy to take the VFW's money, all the while using his mayoral office staff and materials to organize a protest against them. I don't have a problem with Rocky Anderson protesting as a private citizen. People should speak their mind. It's a part of the Bill of Rights, for heaven's sake. What I object to the Mayor of Salt Lake City protesting a speaker at an event that Salt Lake City takes in money from. If Rocky wanted to go out and scream and shout and protest, fine. But he used tools and materials provided by Salt Lake City taxes to further his personal agenda. Others have been fined or impeached for things like that.

Next, it turns out that Mayor Anderson is a bigot. Not a racist, mind you, but a full blown bigot when it comes to religion. A lot of his staff members have been resigning because of it. In this KSL article Deeda Seed, his former Communication Director, is quoted as saying, "I'm very relieved I don't have to deal with that any more. Rocky creates [a] hostile work environment, uses foul language, berates people...He's a religious bigot." In a separate radio program I heard, he apparently likes tells off-color jokes belittling members of the LDS Church, including members within his own staff, as well as just being a general pain in the derriere.

While he and other staffers are are defending him, I tend to think that Deeda Seed is closer to the mark. He got elected on a vaguely anti-LDS platform to begin with. Of course, he's always happy to take the Church's money when they do things like rebuild and revitalize structures in downtown Salt Lake. He just wants them to go away, and leave their money on the doorstep.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Unmotivated in Sandy

Ever have a day when you were so unmotivated that you could barely move? That's the kind of day I'm having. I'm sitting here at work, trying desparetely to come up with a reason to actualy do something contsructive, and I just can't. (Don't worry, o' employer o' mine. I'm working, I just don't like it.) I'm so unmotivated I can barely blog. Yes, it's that bad.

Trouble is, I can't figure out why. Maybe I'm just stressed. I'm going back to school to pursue some post-grad stuff this week. It all starts in two days and it's adding a level of complexity to my life that I don't really want. I'm resigned to it though. Maybe that's it. I'm not excited; I'm just resigned. Whatever it is, I hope I get motivated when it comes time to get to class.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Gas and Drug Companies Continue to Screw the Poor

The numbers are in, and it doesn't look good for the poor and middle classes. Greed is rampant in the pharmaceutical and oil companies, with prices going through the roof, and beating out standard inflation rates by a long shot.

According to a recent AARP study (via Yahoo News), wholesale prices for the brand-name prescription drugs rose at more than twice the rate of inflation during the year, ending March 31. That's a 6.6 percent increase in drug prices (general inflation rates rose about 3 percent). The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America accused AARP of using "fuzzy math."

Yeah. Right. Silly accusations are a lot more convincing than hard numbers. Give us a break, PhRMA! How stupid do you think we are? The AARP found a price increase in 110 of the 195 medicines they looked at. That's a significant number.

Gas prices aren't helping any, either. They've risen by more than 60 cents a gallon over the last year. That means if you drive 15,000 miles a year and gets 20 miles per gallon, you pay an extra $450 a year at the gas pump. That's a big chunk of change for most people. This is compounded by the fact that many lower-income families commute long distances to work, because housing in rural areas is lower in cost, but more jobs are found in the larger cities.

Add this together and we get a greater divide between the rich and poor. The working middle class starts to disappear as more and more money is spent on things they need, medicine and transportation just so they can get to work.

And the fat-cats in the large pharmaceutical and oil companies just get richer as they line their pockets with the additional money spent by those who can least afford to spend it.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Mattress Talk

Cozy, my wife, likes soft squishy mattresses. I hate them. I'd almost rather sleep on bedrock than something I'm going to sink into very far. The trouble is, she's been having a tough time getting comfortable on our bed at night, and so she tosses and turns quite a bit. All this movement in the bed might be nice if we were both awake, but all it seems to do is wake me up, instead of her. So we've got to do something about our divergent mattress tastes.

I've thought about getting one of those mattresses that you can adjust the "hardness" levels on. They're really expensive, though. To be honest, I don't know if I could come up with a "sleep number" even after several weeks on the thing, anyway.

Cozy decided to solve the problem for us. Well, at least for her. One of her close friends was getting a new mattress with a memory-foam top, and was getting rid of her old memory foam mattress cover. Cozy, in a fit of pure unthinking greed, decided it would be a good idea to take it off her friend's hands, and put it on our bed.

Without going too far into the reasons behind why you should never sleep on a mattress that another couple has been sleeping (and copulating) in, it should be no surprise to anyone that I didn't want it. (At least the darned thing has a cover that could be washed in bleach before putting it on the bed.) Cozy is very sneaky, though. She called me at work and asked if I wanted their old mattress. Of course I said no, after forcing the bile back down my throat. She didn't ask about the mattress topper. No fool, her.

Now, I love my wife. I really do. I also love my sleep, so I was willing to have a go at it. So far it's been, shall we say, less than ideal.

Let me explain something to you about foam mattress toppers. This one has a two-inch section of firm memory foam, backed by about four inches of regular squishy foam. Regular squishy foam doesn't bounce back; it just fools you by making it look like it has.

On my side of the bed is what I can only describe as a sinkhole, and it's right where my pelvis should be. Cozy's friend is only slightly shorter than I am, but let's face it, as some might say, "baby got back." Based on the difference between her, and her husband's builds, I'd have to guess that this side is the one she slept on. So now, in an attempt to be considerate to my wife, I find that I'm sleeping on a squishy mattress in her friend's butt-divot.

Let's not mince words. My side of the bed now has an ass-hole in it. Some might say it always did, but that's a different story.

Needless to say this is causing me all kinds of physical and emotional stress. On one hand, it's really disturbing to think that my butt is trying to occupy the same space as Cozy's friend's butt did. It's not as bad as sharing underwear, but you get the idea. To top it off it means that my butt sinks into the mattress at an alarming rate, screwing up my back and letting my feet fly up above the level of my head. Not a comfortable position in any case.

On the other hand, Cozy's tossing and turning a lot less, so I wake up less. Or at least I wake up for different reasons.

I don't know what to do. She's promised to turn the mattress topper around today so she can sleep in her friends butt divot instead of me, but that's just as disturbing. I'm weirding out just writing about it.

We've got to do something, though. I can't keep waking up several times a night just because my wife wants to roll over. My schedule is going to become way too tight in the next few weeks to put up with more of that. The only thing that is certain (so far) came out of a conversation I had about the whole thing with Cozy this morning.

"You know I'm going to have to blog about this," I warned her.

"You're not serious," she said.

Oh yeah, I'm serious. "But don't worry," I told her. "I won't mention any names but yours."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Free WiFi in Salt Lake

File this under cool.

Local ISP, X-Mission, is offering free wireless internet access at certain locations along main street in Salt Lake City. According to this KSL article:

This morning, Mayor Rocky Anderson announced free wireless internet access on Main Street, from South Temple to 400 South. The free service is also accessible from the Gallivan Center and the Main City Library.

That's not a huge amount of real estate, but it's still pretty cool. It makes me want to get a wireless card for my laptop and hang out downtown more often.

It's also a major PR stroke for X-Mission. They're giving the service to Salt Lake City for free.

X-Mission has been plagued with a changing reputation over the years, ranging from "really reliable" to "corporate Internet Nazis." But from my perspective, this latest move is certainly a feather in their cap. Kudos, X-Mission!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Pain Bad! Morphine Goooood!

Last Thursday at 5:30 AM my four year old decided it was time to get up. Not only did she decide it was time for her to get up, it was time for Mommy and Daddy to get up, too. I'm always torn when my kids do this, or at least when they do it with a smile. On the one had, it's great to see them in the morning being happy. On the other, I like to sleep, thank you.

Interestingly enough, she wasn't the biggest pain I had that morning, though. As I started trying to extricate myself from the mattress, I started getting a pain in a band across the top of my abdomen. At first I thought it might be muscular. I've started working out in the evenings and hitting my "core" muscles pretty heavy. Trouble is, it didn't go away.

I took some ibuprophen and tried to get ready for work, but things just kept getting worse. I even tried eating a light breakfast but that didn't go so well. The pain just kept intensifying, alternately feeling like an ache on steroids and a muscle "burn." My back started aching, too, mostly from bending over and trying to hold the rest of my body up.

Have you ever been in enough pain that you can't think straight? That's where this was taking me. Finally, at about 8:00, I gave up on going to work and told Cozy to call the doctor. He couldn't see me until 10:30. After bit of hemming and hawing about the cost (we've got really crappy insurance through Healthwise Blue Cross) for a half an hour, I told Cozy to wake up the older kids (to watch the younger ones), and take me to the hospital. I couldn't wait two hours to see a doctor; I hurt too much. It hurt when I moved, and it hurt when quit moving, so I'd hit my limit.

Cozy drove me over the emergency room, and I was seen pretty quickly. When the triage nurse was taking my vitals and interrogating me about my condition, she asked, "On a scale of one to ten, with one being very little pain at all, and ten being someone tearing your arms off, how much pain are you in?"

I told her, "I don't know. A seven? I've never had my arms torn off so I don't really have a point of reference." She just looked at me in disbelief, tried not to smile, shook a hear head and moved on. I can't blame her. I get that a lot.

They showed me to a tiled stall (I'd hate to call it a room) with a gurney, a window, and a drapery over the opening. Then they hooked me up to an I.V. and took several phials of blood out of my arm.

Eventually the doctor came in and proceeded with the interrogation. She poked and prodded my belly so she could find just the right place to make me scream. One thing I will say, she's was good at it. I must have told my would-be captor what she wanted to hear, because she gave me morphine as a reward for good behavior.

Pain bad. Morphine good.

About 15 minutes later I was pretty zonked. The pain was gone, thank goodness, and I was in morphine heaven. The nurse wheeled my stoned butt down the hall to get an ultrasound done. After more pushing, poking, and picture taking, I was taken back to my stall to sleep off the rest of the morphine.

A bit later the doctor came back and declared me a victim of gallstones. My gallbladder was throwing rocks at my small intestine and causing all the trouble. Funny. I never realized the two of them didn't get along.

I was then referred to a surgeon for a consultation in a few weeks. The doctor promised me more pain and torture. I think they want to take out my gall bladder. I know it's been misbehaving, but ripping it out of my body seemed a bit drastic at the time.

My captors didn't find sufficient evidence to hold me on charges, so they let me go home, with a prescription for Lortab. I don't like that stuff, to be honest. It doesn't do much for my pain; it just makes me nauseous. When my head hit the pillow I was out like a light. Yeah, the doctor said the morphine would wear off in two hours, but I don't believe her. I slept straight through the day until 5:30 that night, exactly twelve hours after my daughter had first woken me up.

At this point I'm thinking I'm going to have to beg off on the surgeon. If I can keep this under control for a while, without resorting to surgery, I think I'll be better off.At least I'll be better off financially. Like I said, we've got crappy insurance. On the other hand, I was in a lot of pain and I'm not looking forward to that happening again.

Then again, maybe it's the morphine calling.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The RIAA Has Done It Again

Well, the RIAA has done it again. They've made me angry enough to stop buying, and buzzing about, yet another band's music. Sorry KoRN. You just lost a fan because the RIAA thinks that fan based art, celebrating your music, is bad, and mentioned your name in the threatening letters they love to send out.

I found this by way of Boing Boing. The RIAA sent one of its threatening letters to RPG Films a machinima site. Machinima is a growing fan-based video art form where people match up video game action with popular music. It's a celebration of both the games and the music, not a business. Not a one of these guys doing it is making a cent off it.

I know that many of you may be surprised that I like KoRN's music, but don't worry. I won't be listening to it any more. I would encourage you gentle readers to quite listening to, and more importantly, quit buying, their music as well. At least I won't be listening (or buying) until they apologize for being so stupid as to let the RIAA decide to threaten legal action against people who are clearly their fans, and not the pack of money hungry thieves the RIAA claims them to be.

Then again, maybe the real money hungry thieves are the members of the RIAA. They
certainly don't like independent musicans trying to play the game. That vile behavior is clear in light of the recent Sony payola scandal. Don't you just love legalized monopolies that use Mafioso tactics to hurt the very people that feed them? Sheesh.

Sorry KoRN. You let the RIAA do this, so you get to share the blame. Don't like it? Stop the RIAA from hurting your fans by actively protesting such actions. Then maybe I'll start listening (and buying) again.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Moon Landings and Lost Friends

Today is the 35th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. 35 years ago, humans first set foot on another planet. Wow. That's an amazing thing for me. I think it's what may have started my love affair with astronomy and the space program.

You see, even though I was only three years old, I remember it. My parents had taken my brothers and I over to my Aunt and Uncle's place to watch it. I still remember seeing those grainy pictures of Neil Armstrong stepping down from the lunar lander, and uttering those immortal words, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." It still fills me with awe, and wonder.

What's even more amazing is that they did it with computing power that is completely archaic by today's standards. The box on my desk is smarter than the computers they used. (So why does it crash so often? Hmmmm . . . ) One thing those computers couldn't do, though is show it to you in full panoramic view (by way of Boing Boing). Got check it out. It's been 35 years, and it still gives me goose bumps.

It seems only fitting, then, that if one of my childhood heroes had to die, that he did it today. This morning James Doohan passed away quietly at home. Mr. Doohan played Mr. Scott on TV's Star Trek.

Like many folks my age, I really only got to see Star Trek in syndication, but I loved every episode. Mr. Scott gave us a great role model. Okay, maybe a drunken Scotsman isn't such a great role model, but one who loves his job, loves engineering and technological problem solving is. He showed a (albeit fictional) combination of competence and creative thinking that I'm sure inspired many a geek into various engineering fields. His ability to think under pressure, and still keep his sense of humor, was just cool.

Mr. Doohan was a wonderful actor, and from what I know of him, a great human being. Will Wheaton said of him, "Everyone who watched Star Trek liked Scotty, but everyone who met him loved Jimmy . . . I'm sure I'm not the only person today who feels like they lost a friend."

I'd like to think that maybe now, Mr. Doohan is getting to "explore strange new worlds," with as much joy as he gave us, when he was only pretending to.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

"Domestic Partners" and Salt Lake County

Jenny Wilson and Joe Hatch, democratic council members from Salt Lake County, have proposed that "domestic partners" of Salt Lake County employees should have equal insurance protections. Councilman Cort Ashton, however, said that he believes residents have already made up their minds on the issue. When amendment three of the Utah State Constitution was approved last November, it excluded gay and lesbian couples from legal marriage, and the benefits thereof. Wilson claims the benefit is not about marriage, but instead aims to expand the benefits to partners who have shared the same residence for at least a year, and are jointly responsible for living expenses.

The term "domestic partner" is nothing but a badly coined euphemism for people living together in a sexual relationship outside of marriage, whether they're gay or not. In that sense, the proposal is not about marriage. It is about marriage rights, though. Some would say Wilson and Ashton all have some things right, and some things wrong.

I think they're both missing the real issue.

Why can't the insurance companies just step up and say, "We don't care. If you pay the premiums, you can add who you want." The only reason I can see is money. The more independent policies the insurance companies can force people to pay for, the more money they make. Covering people in the same household, whether they are married, or the children of the insured, needlessly complicates the issue.

Think about it. Why is the "who" of the household so important? If I have medical insurance through my company, and I add my wife, that's only one other person on the policy and I pay more money for it. Why does it matter whether or not it's my wife? It's still just one more person. Why does a "family" plan have to only be my wife and children? What about an elderly parent who is a dependent? My parents don't live with me, but if they did, why couldn't I put them on my insurance?

The only answer, again, is money. "Fair Insurance" is an oxymoron these days, if it ever was to begin with. I've blogged about the mess that modern health insurance is, before. This is just more fuel on the fire.

So why does Salt Lake County care about new proposals and bills, when it could be a selling point for the insurance company? All the county would have to do is demand such coverage flexibility when they renew their contracts. Whoever they're using as an insurance provider would be nuts to ignore such a large client. In fact, I think the insurance companies are too greedy to ignore it. New laws and policies wouldn't have to be passed, and the market would make the correction by itself. The repercussions on the industry may just move beyond Salt Lake County, as well. Smart coverage could become the rule, and not the exception.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Stolen Data Trade in Moscow

I found this article about the stolen data market in Moscow by way of security expert Bruce Shneier's blog. It details an experience the writer had at a software market in Moscow. Within 15 minutes he was able to talk with a vendor selling databases of private information, gleaned from various sources in Russia. This is the exact kind of data that could be used for identity theft, and who knows what else. Reading the article was a very surreal experience for me. The really weird part is when you start considering the possibility of this kind of thing happening with information from other countries, including our own.

Thoughts Turn to London

In light of the terrorist bombings in London today, I just wanted to express my condolences to the families of those who have died, or been injured, by these criminal attacks. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

I've never been to London, myself, but I found an article by someone who has. This is actually an old travel journal entry from 1987, but I think it's a more than fitting tribute to the character and strength of our friends across the "big pond." It was so touching; I just had to share it with you.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Melting Pot Medicine

I found an interesting article over at Yahoo News about how many immigrants are choosing to use plant-based remedies they learned in their home-lands, over the modern medicines being offered by American doctors. This is an interesting revelation. I've blogged before about the rising cost of health care, and according to the Yahoo article, that's one of the main reasons some of these immigrants are seeking "natrual medicines" over modern "chemical medicines."

I'm curious to see what kind of an impact this will have on our national health care system. The debate (more like a shouting match) over so-called "natural" and "alternative" medicines vs. "modern" or so-called "allopathic" medicines is really bizarre. It's very politically charged. Different groups get very passionate about what they perceive of as truth, and scream bloody murder about the "other guy." All the while they ignore the fact that the "other guy" might be right once in a while.

A lot of it has to do with money. Health insurance and pharmaceutical companies are very big businesses. They see plant-based medicines and "alternative therapies" as both a detriment to American's health, and the company's profit margins. (I've got my own unsubstantiated opinion as to which is more important to them, but that's another blog.) Companies and practitioners of alternative and so-called "natural" medicines scream and rant just as vehemently, trying to defend their practices so they can stay legal, and unregulated.

I think some of the problem is simple terminology. Some Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) are called naturopaths. Some people refer to Mecial Doctors (MDs) as "allopaths" or "practitioners of allopathic medicine." MDs just call themselves doctors (even when they don't have a Ph.D.). ODs (Osteopathic Doctors) call themselves either osteopaths, or just plain "doctors" as well. Most people don't refer to Chiropractors as doctors, and yet they are "Doctors of Chiropractic" (DCs).

The way we talk bout medicines is bizarre, too. Pharmaceuticals are referred as "modern medicine" or "chemical medicine" while plant-based medicines are referred to as "herbal medicines" or worse, "dietary supplements." What's so funny is that many Pharmaceuticals started life as plant-based medicines. Aspirin is really salicylic acid, and was originally derived from white willow bark. The Pharmaceutical companies just refined out what they considered to be unnecessary.

It's all chemical. Even food is chemical. Everything we eat, drink, or swallow, whether it's food, herbs, or drugs is chemical, and it all affects us. That's why the term "side effect" throws me. There is no such thing as side effects, only unwanted effects.

Modern medicines are no safer, or more deadly, than natural medicines. Pharmaceuticals and herbs are both potentially dangerous when used incorrectly. Heck, some of them are dangerous no matter what. To make things even more confusing, both pro-herbal and pro-pharmaceutical sides like the use that same argument against each other.

Exacerbating the problem is the lack of research on many herbal remedies. The scientific community and the FDA like to "remind people" that there is no scientific evidence on herbal medicines, but then they make no effort to create such evidence. In many scientific circles such research is considered to be a waste of time, or "unworthy of scientific pursuit." Something must be going on, even outside of the obvious "snake oil" approaches, or some of these remedies wouldn't have survived this long. Where such research is being done, in many cases the research itself is shoddy, not meeting rigorous scientific standards, and yet it still gets published by the media (and the researchers doing the work).

The controversy surrounding Hypericum (St. John's Wort) is a perfect example. Some studies show effectiveness in treating mild depression, but not major depression. Others show no benefit at all. Still others show benefit in all kinds of depression, as well as anxiety and sleep disorders. In Great Britain it is commonly prescribed for minor depression, but in American it's not a prescribed medicine at all. Who are we supposed to believe?

I know I don't have all the answers, but it seems that if a treatment is working for a large body of people, it's worth studying, don't you think? Whose side is the FDA on, anyway? The pharmaceutical company's or the American public's? (That's another blog in the making.) One thing is for sure, though. With the rising costs of modern health care and pharmaceuticals, more and more Americans, immigrants or otherwise, are going to be looking for alternative solutions.

I recently discovered that a lot of research is going on in Europe on herbal medicines, where they are more widely accepted than in America. Much of it is very promising, but the FDA and the medical industry in America refuse to consider the research.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Senator Coryn (R-TX) introduces "Protection of Homes" Bill

I first found out about this by way of WatchBlog. It seems that Senator John Coryn, of Texas, is introducing a bill called the "Protection of Homes, Small Businesses, and Private Property Act of 2005." It seems to be in direct response to the SCOTUS ruling on the Kelo vs. City of New London case, allowing cities to seize private property for economic development according to their "eminent domain" powers. The bill doesn't do much to protect most homeowners, unless the project involves federal funds (cities would still be able to seize private property in order to turn it over to private enterprise), but it does go a long way to start balancing things out, and returning us to the original intent governing seizure of property in the Constitution.

An interesting side note to all of this, Justice David Souter, one of the five Supreme Court Justices who supported the New London decision, may have a problem. Justice Souter owns a home in the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire, and an application has been filed by a private developer to build a hotel on it.

Monday, June 27, 2005

MPAA Wins, but Do We Really Lose?

This morning (June 27, 2005) the Supreme Court unanimously ruled (9-0) in favor of the MPAA in the MPAA vs. Grokster. Ltd. and Streamcast Networks case. After reading the Supreme Court brief, I'm left a little stunned, but not completely distraught.

The overall question was under what circumstances the distributor of a product that was capable of both lawful and unlawful uses could be held liable for acts of copyright infringement done by third party users. From what I can tell, the Supreme Court has come down in favor of both copyright protection and file sharing technology. The question of liability is not going to be the technology, but the intent of those providing the technology.

The brief sites several instances that clearly show that Streamcast knew that its target audience would be using their P2P software to share copyrighted material illegally. What concerns me is that the brief seems to hold Grokster liable because they were going after old Napster customers.

Essentially, Grokster is being held liable because the audience they were marketing to initially used a separate product for illegal purposes, and therefore their intent was to promote their product for illegal purposes. There may be other evidence against Grokster not mentioned in the brief, I don't know. But that argument's a bit weak for me. It's guilt by association.

I don't think this is the end of the arguments, or the lawsuits, though. In theory, I agree with the Supreme Court. I'm just not sure what this is going to mean in practice. The MPAA and the RIAA have traditionally used lawsuits, and the threat of lawsuits, as a scare tactic to force what they want, over what is actually legal.

How many technology developers are going to stay excited about P2P file sharing technology (including Bit-torrent) when even working in it could now backfire for them? Could a technology provider be sued into the ground, just because Hollywood (or Nashville) is afraid of a new technology that could, or could not, be used for copyright infringement?

I don't think Supreme Court decision is all that . . . well . . . decisive. It alludes to intent, but then also leaves a loophole for how much evidence you need to determine intent. How is this going to play out in the thousands of court cases that are bound to be tried in response to this ruling? I haven't a clue. We'll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Supreme Court Rules that Property Can Be Seized for Economic Development

Just when you think it's safe to buy a home, the Supreme Court rips your porch out from under you. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that New London, Connecticut, can seize the homes and businesses owned by seven separate families in order to facilitate the development of waterfront hotels and other people's businesses.

New London claims that the project is designed to revitalize their very depressed local economy. Under the U.S. Constitution, city and state governments can take private property through their "eminent domain powers" in exchange for just compensation, but only when it is for public use. Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote for the court's majority opinion, said that the city's proposed disposition of the property at issue qualified as a "public use" under the Constitution. In his mind, and the mind of five other members of the court, the city's determination that the properties were distressed was good enough.

What a crock. The properties in question weren't considered to be "sufficiently distressed" before they refused to sell to the developers. If you look into the facts of this case, it's insane to think that this is nothing more than a money grab on the part of New London. According to them, it seems, higher tax bases, and subsequently higher city income, is more important than the rights of their citizens to own property and live in their own homes.

Normally "public use" is defined as something that benefits everyone, like a city library or needed power plant. Now it doesn't matter. "Public use" has become a catch phrase for city-wide fund raising as well. Who cares what lower income families think, as long as the city coffers are filled! Bah!

Here's what Justice O'Conner, one of the dissenting votes, had to say:

"Over two centuries ago, just after the Bill of Rights was ratified, Justice Chase wrote:
'An ACT of Legislature (for I cannot call it a law) contrary to the great first principles of the social compact, cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority . . . . A few instances will suffice to explain what I mean . . . . [A] law that takes property from A. and gives it to B: It is against all reason and justice, for a people to entrust a Legislature with SUCH powers; and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they have done it.' Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386, 388 (1798) (emphasis deleted).

"Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded - i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public - in the process. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings 'for public use' is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property - and thereby effectively to delete the words "for public use" from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Accordingly I respectfully dissent."

Me too.

Read the brief for yourself.

Say No to Flag Burning (Amendment)

It looks like the House of Representatives has, once again, approved a constitutional amendment allowing lawmakers to ban flag burning. It's going to the Senate for final approval.

Let's make sure we all know what we're talking about, here. This is not an amendment that bans flag burning; it's an amendment that lets state legislatures and the U.S. Congress ban flag burning. It overturns a 1989 Supreme Court ruling that protected flag desecration as free speech.

Personally I find desecrating the national ensign to be insulting. As someone who served my country in the USMC, I consider it vile. I love the American flag. It is a symbol of what I find great about this country.

I love the U.S. Constitution more. I don't like to see it mucked with.

This proposed amendment conflicts with the first amendment, which guarantees free speech, among other things. In other words, I can rant (or blog) about what ever I want (much like I do here) and the government won't haul me away to jail. There are darned few countries in the world where you can do that.

What concerns me is that, even though I think people who desecrate the flag are idiots (they're fighting against the same country that gave them the very right to do what they are doing without going to jail), what kind of a precedent does it set if we start limiting this kind of speech? What's going to be next? We're already fighting a losing battle over the freedom of religious rights (also guaranteed by the first amendment, ironically). Will we not be able to criticize our public leaders when they do things we don't like? Will it become against the law to blog about public policy that we find unjust? Will we have to start worrying about the legal ramifications of doing anything that might offend anybody? I hope not.

Just say no to this amendment, and urge your Senators to do the same. The U. S. Constitution, which I truly love, guarantees the right to freely voice our opinions without worry of prosecution. It doesn't protect us from ever being offended. Nor should it. Let's keep America Free.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

More NRC Stupidity

Here's an update on the ongoing battle to stop the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Private Fuel Storage LLC from dumping spent nuclear fuel rods in Utah.

This morning the NRC rejected the argument that the temporary storage might become permanent. The fear is that once it gets here, even though it's earmarked for the developing Yucca Mountain, Nevada site, PFS will leave it here.

What makes this so galling is that PFS is still planning on going along with their plans even though it turns out that the storage casks aren't compatible with Yucca Mountain's abilities. Yup! Rumor has it that even if they do end up being sent to Yucca Mountain, they can't actually store it there. So it will have to go . . . where? Let me guess. Skull Valley, Utah?

There's also talk about the length of the "temporary stay" being extended from say, 10 or 15 years, to 50+ years. It all depends on the NRC and what the Yucca Mountain site can, and cannot, handle when it is completed.

Now, we're not talking about a few rods. We're talking about 40,000 tons of depleted uranium. The fact that the states that this stuff is currently in don't want it is understandable. PFS claims that the 103 existing Nuclear Power Plants are running out of places to put this crap and if a solution isn't found soon, they'll have to return to coal and oil instead of "clean, safe nuclear power."

If that's not an oxymoron I don't know what is. If it was so darned clean and safe why would they need to get it out of their own states? Gimme a break, people! If you want to see more lies and dissembling look up the PFS website. (I refuse to link to it because links from other sites can increase your search engine ranking. They will get no help from me!)

If you want to find more really good information about the problem, you can go to KUED's site about the matter (a companion to the documentary they did here a few years back). Another good site to check out is the fact sheet over at Public Citizen. They even have links to help you find and email your local members of the Senate and Congress.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Who's really crazy?

The Science & Theology website reports on a New York Times article and government sponsored survey about mental health. It's an interesting article. They report that data from the survey suggests that more than half of all American's will suffer from some form of mental illness during their lifetime.

It got me thinking about my own experiences with the mentally ill. When I was younger, and still an undergrad student, I worked as a CNA at a long-term care facility that housed both elderly and psychiatric patients. I saw some really weird things go on there. Some of it was terrifying, and mostly because of the practices of the nursing staff and doctors, not the patients.

What I would see happen is that whenever a patient had difficulty with the practices of the facility, and 'acted out' because of it, the nursing staff would call the doctor, get a prescription for some drug (generally an anti-psychotic) and immediately, and forcibly, begin administering it to these patients. What seemed to me as a minor rebellion on the part of the patient (hey, these guys just wanted to be treated like adults) was interpreted by the nursing staff as psychotic behavior. In two specific cases the patients were mentally retarded, having the intellectual and emotional level of 3-year-old children, and yet when they presented behavioral problems (i.e. throwing a tantrum), off to the medicine cabinet the nurses went.

To me, this was the truly insane behavior. A patient acts out because of perceived ill treatment, and the nurses sedate them. Not only do they sedate them, they get the doctors to sign off on the idea that this patient needs anti-psychotics such as haloperidol (Haldol). I'm not kidding here! An older woman, with the mental ability of a 3 year old, was given Haldol just to stop her from throwing a tantrum. Haldol has some nasty side effects, by the way. It screws up your peripheral nervous system. I've seen it put this patient (and others) into wheel chairs for the rest of their lives. And yet this stuff was handed out like candy.

I knew when governmental authorities were due for various inspections, too. Two or three of the nursing staff would show up on the graveyard shift and start rewriting the patient's medical records. How they knew the inspectors were coming is anybody's guess.

Is this really what mental health treatment is all about? I don't think so. I can only hope that my experience is the exception, and not the rule, for such places.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

What's the Deal with the Dems?

Recently I've been hearing more and more press about how several of the Democratic leaders, and other high profile Democrats, are pontificating against the Republicans. No news here. High profile Republican's rant against the Democrats as well.

What's got me shaking my head is that the latest party line is about the supposed abuses and human rights violations against the "detainees" at Guantanamo Bay. I think of them as prisoners and can't figure out why anyone would think otherwise. That's beside the point, though. What kills me is that even though several organizations have got involved, including Amnesty International, only a few of the allegations of abuse and mistreatment have proven to be true. In fact, most of the things I'm hearing being recommended by the Dem's, claiming that we've violated the detainees' rights guaranteed by the Geneva Convention, are just weird.

Here's the facts on the Third Geneva Convention in relation to the folks at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba:

In order to be considered a prisoner of war, and under the protection of the Geneva Convention, consider the following from Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention:

(Art 4) Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy.

  • Members of the armed forces
  • militias...including those of organized resistance movements...having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance...conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war
  • Persons who accompany the armed forces
  • Members of crews...of the merchant marine and the crews of civil aircraft
  • Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms

The folks kept at Guantanamo are thought to be members of the Taliban army, and Al Qaeda. Here's their problem.

Al Qaeda members don't satisfy the requirements of being armed forces members or members of a militia. Certainly there are leaders, but the Al Qaeda's cell structure contradicts the notion of a highly specific chain of command. Moreover, because of their deliberate attempts to blend into the civilian populace, they violate the sanction of having "a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance (that means they don't wear recognizable uniforms, separating them from the civilian populace)." Worse yet, because they attack civilians and civilian targets, they clearly do not follow the established "laws and customs of war." Therefore Al Qaeda prisoners are not considered to be prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention, and are not "lawful combatants."

What about the Taliban fighters, though?

The Taliban resembled a more traditional army, but there are still issues. The Taliban was never recognized as a legitimate government by the United Nations, so that kills the "members of the armed forces" argument. Because they had a tighter command structure, it could be said that they were members of a militia, but they never wore a uniform to distinguish themselves from the civilian populace. That's a big deal, BTW. Besides being a good thing to fight in, uniforms identify lawful comabants and cut down on civilian casualties. The Taliban would also commonly hide military equipment in civilian population centers as well, further cutting down on that distinction.

Could they be considered to be "Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms?" I don't know. To me that implies that they were ONLY defending themselves from invasion, and were organizing themselves into militia groups at the time, somthing we've clearly stated they are not.

Just because they aren't POWs doesn't mean they don't have rights, though. They are required to be treated fairly and justly. They are not being treated inhumanely and, outside of access to the U.S. legal system, are allowed most of the same rights that prisoners in the U.S. do.

What I think the current administration needs to do, however, is step up the "trial by military tribunal" that they do have rights to. That's what the Geneva Convention says you've got to do with folks caputured who are not deemed to be legal combatants. Many of these tribunals must have already taken place. By my recollection, there are currently just over 500 detainees, but in the beginning, there were over 700. I'm not sure how many deaths there have been, but I think it was somewhere between 16 and 28. I could be wrong on the numbers. Regardless of that, though, the sooner the rest of them get tried, the better.

There Are So Many Things Wrong About This

A few weeks ago I came across some information about a new X-ray device that may be used in our airports as an additional screening tool for security. I dismissed it at first (hey, I had a lot more on my mind, okay?), but now that I've been researching it a bit more, I can't say I'm impressed. In fact, I'm disgusted.

What I'm talking about is Backscatter X-ray Screening. This is an X-ray device that works very quickly, and generally doesn't penetrate the body. It's supposedly safe. It's also vile. What it amounts to is the realization of the old "x-ray glasses" ads we saw in comic books when we were kids. You see, the backscatter device x-rays go through clothing, but not people. What you end up with is a picture of a naked person. (Link not safe for work, or young children.) It amounts to an instant strip search of everyone passing through it.

This violates so many privacy issues (let alone morale ones) I can't even think straight. It still doesn't address the problem of hiding explosives or other contraband in body cavities, because the device doesn't penetrate the body. From what I can tell, it doesn't really do much more than current detection methods; it just does it differently.

What's even worse is considering that most of these devices can save the images as computer files and have built in floppy disk drives. This opens up a whole new host of potential abuses by unscrupulous screeners. They could post images on the Internet. If used on a child it would violate federal child pornography laws. Some screeners may even use the device as an excuse to strip search someone they thought was attractive because they "saw something suspicious on the scan."

Improved security is one thing, but these devices don't seem to provide any substantial benefit over the methods used now, and are incredibly intrusive. I'm hoping that popular opinion will create such a backlash against this technology that not a single device will ever be installed. If airports start putting them in I'd dare to bet that the airlines would start to scream as well. I suspect widespread use would result in a massive reduction in airline ticket sales (and some lawsuits). I know I'd certainly refuse to fly. Then again, seeing me naked may be punishment enough.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Medicinal Marijuana

In a six to three decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has outlaws the use of medicinal marijuana. What this means is that states who have laws allowing it can no longer protect users of medicinal marijuana from arrest and prosecution. This article at KSL reports on it, and quotes several people who have been helped by medicinal marijuana. One woman involved in the case is quoted as saying, "I'm going to have to be prepared to be arrested."

The article is pretty fair minded in it's reporting, addressing an issue of state vs. federal law, and so on, but it misses one valuable piece of information. In fact, this missing bit of information (almost) completely diffuses the arguments for, or against, medicinal marijuana. It already exists as a completely legal medication called Marinol.

Marinol is already prescribed by doctors for most of the major problems that medicinal marijuana is recommended for, and it's legal. Even the U.S. Department of Justice mentions it on their website.

On the other hand, cost may be the biggest issue. I did some research and found that neither IHC nor Blue Cross Blue shield will cover it as one of their "preferred" medicines. In fact, I couldn't find it in any of their medicinal databases. I wasn't able to find any information as whether the University of Utah medical system covered it or not. The question then becomes, why not?

In the interest of fairness, I'm including a link to this article talking about the ineffectiveness of Merinol. I have issues with the arguments the article makes (it seems to commit a few logical fallacies), but I'll leave the final decisions up to you.

Basement Update

My daughter's got to move back into their room last Saturday. We lucked out in that we were able to salvage the carpet and pad after all. They had to be cleaned and disinfected, to be sure, but everything is back in place now. We used the mess as an opportunity (read: "much needed excuse") to go through the girl's stuff and get rid of things they didn't need/want/use anymore. Getting rid of clutter in their room is a good thing. Trust me.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Like I Said, It Could Have Been Worse

My last entry detailed my own experience with flooding, and a bit about its impact on my daughters. Like I said in the blog, though, it could have been worse. This California Teen had her life impacted on a far more substantial level than our simple basement flood had on my own daughters.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Water in the Desert Not Always Welcome

Tooele sits on the border of Utah's western desert, so rain is always welcome. Well, almost always. I've had to rethink that sentiment over the last few days.

Memorial Day was very memorable for me and many other residents of Tooele, Utah. We had rainstorms the likes of which I've not seen since we moved here five years ago. In a matter of just a few hours, we had received twenty percent of our annual rainfall. The ground was saturated and simply couldn't hold any more water, and flooding was rampant. Several homes in my neighborhood were affected, including my own.

With it raining so hard, my wife and I were checking the windows to make sure they were all closed. My wife went downstairs to check the basement windows, and noticed that our daughters' window wasn't closed enough that we could lock it. She opened the window slightly, and then hurried and shut it tight when water started coming through the window. It was dark down there, and my wife didn't think much of it at first.

Not long after, my oldest daughter came upstairs and said, "Dad, water's coming in through my window." Rats. We had a pipe burst a couple of years ago and her room had flooded then, so all sorts of remembered frustrations came to mind. I went downstairs, saw the water leaking into her room from around the window, and hurried and pulled the drapes down so I could figure out where it was coming from. I was stunned to see a good 12 inches or so of water in the window well, pouring in from around one side of the window casing.

We got several towels to help stem the tide, but it was pretty obvious they wouldn't be enough. She and her younger sister started pulling their stuff out of the room, to prevent further water damage. My wife, my son, and I ran outside with buckets and a wet/dry vac to try and bail/suck the water out of the window well. It was raining the whole time, and freezing cold, but we eventually got the majority of the water out of the well. Or at least we got it low enough that it was actually below my daughter's window.

After we got the water to stop coming in, we had to clean up the mess we had. Between the wet/dry vac and pulling up sections of the carpet, we did what we could to suck up the remaining water.

After we got our own affairs in order, we started calling around the neighborhood to check on everyone else. One of the people from our local church was organizing relief efforts for the worst cases, and my son trotted off to help with that. As a minor leader in my church, I continued calling the people I knew and felt responsible for. It was at that time I learned we were pretty lucky, all in all. Some of our neighbors in older homes had the sewer backing up into their basements. I was feeling pretty bad about mucking about with the rainwater. I can't imagine what it would have like to be ankle deep in raw sewage.

While I stayed home and held down the fort, watching my youngest children, my wife and two oldest kids went to volunteer and fill sandbags. My wife works as a crossing guard and the police department had called to encourage the crossing guards to come out. It turns out that the city was trying to divert the water flows down 700 south street, and the sandbags were being used there. The sandbags were also available to citizens that needed them, so my wife brought a few home. We had been told there was another storm on the way, and we didn't want to be caught with more water in the basement.

Now I have several fans going in my daughters' room, trying to dry things out. I'd take the carpet out to dry, but it was raining again when I left for work this morning, so that wouldn't have done much good. I'm afraid we're going to have to replace the pad at least, if not the carpet. We may need to replace parts of the sheetrock as well, we'll just have to see what the extent of the damage is.

The ironic part is that this isn't covered by my homeowner's insurance. They'll pay for water damage caused by a broken pipe, but not rain or ground water. In the meantime, my daughters get to have fun "camping out" in the living room. My wife and I, however, get to worry about trying to get everything fixed. I just keep reminding myself, "It could have been much worse."

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Utah Construction Company Turned Extortionist?

KSL, a local Salt Lake City based television station, reported that Kimball Roofing, now Kimball Construction, is suing its customers over increased billing fees that the clients don't want to pay. What seems to be happening is that Kimball is giving some of their customers a contact stating certain fees, and then jacking those fees up by two to three hundred percent. When the customers refuse to pay, based on their original contracts, Kimball is suing them. Kimball's excuses are ranging from a "computer glitch" to customers filling their rented dumpsters too full. One of their clients said they thought that the lawsuits were simply designed to frighten the customers into paying the inflated bill. That sounds like blackmail, to me. (Sounds like the latest RIAA tactics, too.)

It could be that Kimball Construction has just had some bad luck with a few customers, and that's what Kimball Strickland, the owner of Kimball Construction, has tried to claim. He says that the number of lawsuits he has filed is not significant compared to the large number of clients he has serviced, who he didn't sue. Trouble is, the reporter investigating the story found lawsuit after lawsuit against customers on behalf of Kimball Construction.

Whatever the truth will turn out to be in this case, one thing is for certain. I'm never going to do any business with Kimball Construction. I refuse to do business with a company that uses the legal equivalent of mafia thug tactics.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Utah One More Step to Becoming Nation’s Toilet

It looks like the Federal Government is at it again. They want to use Utah as their own personal toilet. The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (no link to help your Google ranking, you shmucks) has rejected a Utah petition to stop the "temporary storage" of dangerous spent nuclear fuel rods at the Goshute Indian Reservation in Utah.

As a native Utahan, let me give you some background on this. A bunch of people who benefited from using nuclear power in other states don't want to deal with the fact that generating electricity from nuclear power plants creates radioactive waste.

The Goshutes are pretty divided on this whole thing as well. Their tribal leadership wants it because it's a way to generate revenue for the tribe, but many of the actual tribal members don't want such dangerous crap on their land.

The articles I've read mention that the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board rejected the argument that the chances of a fighter jet from Hill Air Force Base crashing into the fuel casks makes the project too risky. What they failed to mention, and maybe the representatives from Utah failed to bring up, is that it is mere miles from a munitions proving site and bombing range. I'm more worried about a stray bomb landing near the fuels casks and spreading radiation throughout Tooele valley than I am about a fighter plane crashing into them.

The people that want to put this stuff here remind me of a neighbor who has eaten his dinner, enjoyed desert, turned it into feces, and don't want to use their own toilet. They want to come into my backyard and to take a dump instead.

Now, I think it's pretty rotten for a neighbor to bring his dog over and let him take a crap in your yard, let alone the neighbor himself. I certainly don't make a mess and then hand it over to my neighbors for clean up. So why are our neighbors? My personal feeling is that there is a federal disregard for both Utah and Nevada (except for Vegas). There's a lot of desert out here, and the less scrupulous leadership in other states think that the people who live out here in that desert don't matter. We didn't put them into office, so what do they care? If they get their way, they will continue to blissfully make their toxic messes, and dump them over the fence into our backyard.

Don't believe the feds want to continue to dump on us? Just think of the recent push to restart above ground nuclear testing at the Utah/Nevada test ranges. You know. The ones they tested the first atomic bombs at. The ones that caused all kinds of medical problems for the people living "downwind" of those test sites. They didn't understand the first time, and thousands of people were affected, dying of cancer and other radiation related illnesses. Apparently they haven't learned.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Parents are Responsible for Everything, But Don't Need to Know Anything

According to this Associated Press article the U.S. Supreme Court is getting ready to hear a case regarding whether or not parents needs to be notified if their children, under the age of 18 (defined as "unemancipated minors in the law), decide to have an abortion.

This just blows my mind. I have kids. They can't even get Tylenol from a school nurse without my permission, and yet they can go through a major surgical procedure without me even being notified? We're not talking about getting permission here, were talking only about notification. In a day where schools, and about every other organization, are afraid to do anything without parental permission, it throws me that this kind of thing comes up. Honestly! Kids have to get permission to ride the bus, get over the counter medicine from school health officials, pursue athletics, and just about everything else. According to this, though, they can get an abortion without me even knowing about it.

What do you want to bet that I'll be liable for the bill, though?

It gets even worse. I found out this morning that according to Utah law, any minor over the age of 12 can keep all of their medical and psychological dealings private from their parents if they want to. Health practitioners aren't liable to talk to me about anything that relates to the health and wellbeing of my teen-age children. How stupid is that? How am I supposed to help my child, and support them through difficult times, if my hands are tied behind my back?

I may have a solution to this one, though. You just have to be willing to wreck your credit rating. Got a kid, or rather one of their doctors or councilors, that doesn't want to talk to you because by law they don't have to?

Don't pay them.

You read that right. Don't pay them. By refusing to talk to you, they've given you no reason to suspect that there is a problem, and so how can they justify the bill? Call your insurance provider and notify them as well. That way they won't be paying for what can only be construed as false claims.

They may take you to court (these kinds of people are very litigious), and you may lose, but maybe not, either. Then they'll have to talk about the patient's (your kid's) condition to someone to justify their claims. Then you counter-sue them in the name of your kid (their patient) for breach of professional ethics and breaking the law.

Are they so high and mighty that they want to keep you out of the loop and hold you liable for things they won't even talk to you about? They want to play games with you instead of doing what's morally, if not now legally, right? Hit 'em where it hurts. Hit 'em where they'll pay attention. Hit 'em in their pocketbook.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

US Stalls While Kuwait Moves Forward

Most of the hoopla going on in the Senate and the news right now is about filibusters. Should we outlaw filibustering on Court nominations or not? I certainly don’t think so. I just think there are several Democratic senators that need to quit acting like children and get on with it. They seem to be simple obstructionists, wanting to stop anything the Bush administration tries to do whether it’s good for the country or not. You can read about the latest bit of political whining here if you want to.

But going nearly unnoticed is an event of spectacular import in the Middle East. Kuwait made a giant leap forward in terms of human rights in the Islamic world. They’ve given women the right to vote.

This is awesome. Yeah, some Islamic fundamentalists have snuck in a clause requiring future woman voters to abide by Islamic law, but so what? It’s still a big deal. Condolezza Rice is quoted in the article as saying, "It is a historic decision. It is a courageous decision. . . With the empowerment of women, societies are complete. And now as Kuwait moves toward other reforms, it will do so with its entire population active in that process." I agree with her.

So here we are, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, squabbling over petty political turf wars, while the people of Kuwait are changing the face of democracy in their country. Seems like we could take a lesson there.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Newsweek Backpedals

Buy now many of you have heard the story. Newsweek ran an article claiming that interrogators flushed a copy of the Qur'an down a toilet to intimidate Muslim detainees at Guantanamo Bay. It turns out that their sources were pretty bad. Something like, "The Pentagon didn't confirm it, but they didn't specifically deny it either, so it must be true."

Isn't this the kind of shoddy reporting that got Dan Rather in trouble? The difference here is that Dan may have ended his career, but Newsweek caused a riot and got 17 people killed.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think Newsweek should be held directly responsible. They didn't pull the triggers and kill a bunch of people, nor ask anyone to do it for them.

But they may as well have. What did they think was going to happen? Did they think an immature nation, populated with a culture having a violence seeking past, weren't going to over react? Most Muslims are nice people, and would never think of committing murder. But guess what? Newsflash, people! There is a small segment of that society that are ready to kill people in the name of Allah, whether Allah wants them to or not! Telling someone that is willing to kill for their religion that someone else, whom they already consider to be the devil (the U.S.), desecrated a copy of their holy writings is going to piss them off! For some of the people in the Middle East, there is no such thing as peaceful demonstrations. They just aren't used to the idea of having an alternative way of voicing their opinions. Instead, they pull out their guns and start shooting!

No, instead if good reporting, Newsweek saw an opportunity to sell more magazines by creating fear, doubt and controversy. They decided to light a powder keg instead of checking their sources beforehand. That's what a publishing company is about, after. Making more money for a few stockholders, not good reporting.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Real Credit Card Thieves

I've always considered myself a conservative. Not a Democrat, not a Republican, not a Libertarian, not a --- fill in the blank with whatever political organization you care to, but still a conservative. What I mean by that is I get really worried when people start proposing change for the sake of change, and when the government starts mucking about too much in my business.

I also don't buy this line of "you can't legislate morals." Of course you can. We already do. With little exception, all laws are about legislating morals. If murder isn't a moral issue I don't know what is.

Having said that, you can probably guess that most Democrats and so-called "liberals" and I don't get along very well. We don't see eye to eye on a lot of issues. But that doesn't mean I buy everything the Republicans (and other so-called "conservatives") say without questioning it. The Republicans make me just as angry as the Democrats, just not as often.

Knowing this, it should also be no surprise that much of what is written over at the newly published Huffington Post site just curdles my small intestine. I want to know what both sides are saying, though, so I force myself through much of this unsubstantiated crap.

But, once in a while I find something that really hits a chord with me.

I don't know much about Elizabeth Warren and she probably doesn't care one whit. She wrote an article that hit me to the core as being absolutely dead on right, though. She's talking about the dastardly way the credit card companies are ripping us off. She points out:

Let's say you buy a new washer and dryer. The sticker says $2200, and you pay $2200. If the store called you up two months later and said, "We changed our minds. We want $4,000 for those babies," you'd tell them to jump in the lake. But let's say you put that washer and dryer on a credit card that charges 6.9% interest, and you expect to pay it off over the next 36 months. Next month, when the credit card company changes the interest rate to 29.9% interest (which is just like an $1800 price hike ), you can't do anything about it.

Head on over and read the rest of the article. You'll find it interesting.

Credit card companies are committing highway robbery. If you haven't figured it out yet, the fees they charge you are designed to keep you in debt forever if you just pay the "minimum amount due." Please do yourself a favor. Pay off your credit cards as soon as you can. If at all possible, never use them again. Freedom from debt is just that - Freedom.