Monday, December 18, 2006

Spyware is Evil

My computer has started acting up a bit. About a month ago it started getting slow. In fact, as the month progressed it got slower, and slower, and slower . . . kind of like and old man on vicoden. Anyway, like any hack hacker, I started looking at my system processes.

Now, I don’t know what even half of these things do, but I’m willing to screw around with them. I’m kind of dangerous that way. My real computer guru friends all cringe, smile, and chew their tongues when I talk with them about this sort of thing.

So I started doing searches on the web for each of these processes. So far so good. Low and behold, one of the cropped up as a spyware program. I’m pretty careful, or as careful as I can be. I don’t open email with attached files that I’m not expecting, and so on. Computers have minds of their own, it seems, and mine got infected.

I found a really cool program, though. It’s called Spyware Blaster. It’s made by a company called Javacool software. They’re right. It’s cool. It doesn’t uninstall spyware, it just stops it from running. I installed it, ran it, and even set it up to automatically load when I start my computer.

My computer runs so much faster now. Amazing, isn’t it?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Iraq Report

The Iraq Study Group Report came out this morning. From what I've heard, there are no real surprises (or smoking guns) here. I've only started perusing the actual report (hat tip to the AP for the pdf link), it's 160 pages long.

The recommendation that may just be the most difficult one to deal with is the call for greater diplomatic talks with Iraq's neighbors. In times past our government has made many deals with governments that not only disagree with the ideas of democracy, but in some cases are down right evil in the way they deal with their people. In this case we've got Syria and Iran to contend with, both of which have shown that they talk out of both sides of their mouth. Iran openly hates us and calls for our destruction but then says it stands ready to help out in Iraq. I can't help thinking that it'll end up as a double cross. Worse, I suspect it's an attempt to create a stable U.S. supported government that will be another voice for the genocide of Israel. That would put the U.S. in a very difficult position, for sure.

By the way, if you don't think Iran, and the vast majority of Middle Eastern countries, wants Israel blown off the map, you really have been living with your head in the sand.

A friend of mine, who is "in the know" on such things, told me over a year ago that the problem with exporting democracy into the Middle East is that they are an essentially immature people. While I thought it was an interesting idea at the time, the more I see of what's going on, the more I understand what he was saying, and the more I think he's right. It takes a certain level of maturity to be able to assign value to other people. Children and adolescents often think only of themselves. Many care little if what they do hurts others, as long as they get what they want. What they want, sometimes, has nothing to do with reality. They just want to feel powerful.

This seems to be the same thing with the terrorist factions in Iraq, and elsewhere. They don't assign value to human beings, just because they are humans. For many of them, killing Americans, Israelis, or anyone who sympathizes with them has the same moral implication as stepping on a bug. Worse, by doing so, it makes them feel powerful and in control. Such control is an illusion, but how do we negotiate with that kind of a mindset?

It's going to get interesting.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Should Have Seen it Coming

It seems that in all the hub-bub and, in the case of a few Massachusetts judges, conspiracy surrounding same-sex marriage laws, someone forgot that these same couples might just be like many hetero-sexual couples in more than one respect. They’ll want to get divorced, too.

It turns out that a lesbian couple that got married in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, has filed for divorce in Rhode Island. There are no laws dealing with same-sex marriage in Rhode Island and so the judge assigned to the case isn’t even sure he has jurisdiction over the matter.

Hmmm . . .

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Trying a Religious Leader

The trial of accused polygamist Warren Jeffs is underway. The actual charge he's facing is being an accessory to the rape of a child. He was said to have forced a 14 year old girl into marriage and sex with her first cousin. What blows my mind is that it took six years for us to get to this point. Now that young woman is 20 years old.

This is going to be an interesting, and difficult, case to try. The young woman in question testified at a hearing that Jeffs, the leader of a Mormon Fundamentalist sect, was considered to be "God on Earth." He was their religious leader, their prophet. In her testimony she said, "I was very scared to say no to them because that was unheard of. You never defied or questioned what they told you to do, or they told you that God told you to do."

What makes it hard for me is my own faith, and my views of our justice system. I'm a card-carrying member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In other words, I'm a Mormon. My own church's history includes a time when polygamy was practiced. Not along the lines of arranged marriages, as the offshoot fundamentalists groups are doing, but polygamy none the less. The fact the leaders of his radical group are offshoots of my own church is just disturbing to me. Not that I'm questioning my own faith, just that these people could dare claim to have anything to do with the modern LDS church and its teachings. They don't, no matter what they may claim.

You see, I don't have a problem with arranged marriage, or polygamy, on principle. As long as all parties are happy, consenting adults, fully aware of what the ramification will be; go for it. But not like this. Not a forced in-bred marriage with child brides. Not a society where men control all and woman are treated as chattel. It's unconscionable. It's wrong. It's evil to the "nth" degree. Heck, it goes against so many of the scriptures this group claims to believe in it's amazing.

And yet I believe there is a prophet on earth. I don't believe he's God. I don't even believe he's perfect. But when he speaks as the prophet and leader of my church, I tend to listen. I understand the social and religious pressure that kind of power can hold. When someone abuses that trust, as I believe Warren Jeffs has done, how do we hold them accountable?

With regards to Jeffs, I want to know how we can prosecute this guy to the full extent of the law, find justice for this poor young woman (and others like her, I'm sure), and still respect the sanctity and rights of a people to practice their religion, even if we think they're weird? The first amendment cannot be ignored.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Voting Results

This is soooo disappointing. As for the election results, nationally, I got what I (grudgingly) wanted. At the state and county level? One person I voted for got in. That’s it. Out of a half dozen positions or so, only one.

It sucks to be me.

Let it be known that for the next two years you can’t blame anything that goes wrong in Utah on me. I didn’t vote for it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tooele Vote

This upcoming election has been really strange for me. It’s a pretty important one for my city and county. I can’t think of a year when so many important local positions have been up for grabs. From state and national senate and house seats, to the local county commissioner, I’ve got a lot of votes to cast this year.

The real strangeness has come in trying to decide who to vote for. From the bulk mail and billboards and such, each one of these guys (and girls) have certain views that have been potential “deal breakers” for me. I was really up in arms.

Finally, there was a debate for the local level leaders. If you’re in Tooele County, you may find it useful. I know I did. After viewing it, and weighing the pros and cons of each candidate and incumbent, I find myself voting (once again) across partly lines. I’ve never had it be split so evenly between the Democrats and the Republicans before, but there you go.

No. I’m not going to tell you who I’m voting for. You’ll have to figure that out for yourself.

Better yet, figure it out for yourself, and then go vote.

I’m voting early this year. Whether you do it early, or on November 7, just go do it. It’s your right, privilege, and duty as an American citizen. Why wouldn’t you want to exercise your rights?

What’s that? You don’t want to vote because you don’t like any of them? I used to use that excuse, too. Mostly when I was too lazy to look up the issues, and take the time to figure out where each candidate stood.

Stop make excuses and just do it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Household Decisions

My wife and I have made an agreement in order for us to better organize our household. I’m going to make the decisions regarding all the “big stuff” and she’s going to make the decisions regarding all the “little stuff.”

By “little stuff” I mean things like where our children go to school, what businesses to frequent, what banks to use, what cars to drive, where and how we spend our money, and so on.

By “big stuff” I mean things like who should be the President of Botswana, what the price of tea in China should be, how to solve world hunger, and so on.

Something didn’t quite work out for me in that agreement. I’m not sure what. I’ve just got this nagging feeling . . . .

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Lower Gas Prices, Please

Utah’s gas prices have risen (or rather 47 other states prices have fallen) to a point where our average gas prices are now the third highest in the nation. We’re only being beaten out by Hawaii and Nevada. Yup! Californians now pay less for a gallon of gas than Utahns do.

For a few weeks now the question on many people’s lips has been “Why?” Utah has five of its own oil refineries, so transportation isn’t an issue. Some less intelligent retailers have claimed it’s because of the “high priced gas left in the tanks.” That’s clearly smoke and mirrors since gas prices will jump at a moments notice when there’s even an imaginary threat to the oil supply. Why aren’t they still selling the “cheaper priced gas left in the tanks” at the lower price?

Well, Utah’s Governor Huntsman has had enough. He’s been working with a team of investigators to figure out what’s going on. There conclusion, so far? Utah is just being gouged at the pump. That’s it. Greed is keeping the prices high. The other states rose faster than we did, and got gouged on the way up, so we’re getting gouged on the way down.

I love what KSL is doing. They’ve got two strategies. First, they openly report the lowest gas prices in town. Right now they say in Salt Lake, the cheapest gas is the 7-11 on 2100 South and State Street, for $2.58. Just thought I’d pass it on.

The other thing is that Doug Wright, one of KSL’s talk show hosts, is calling for a boycott of the gas stations.  Don’t buy gas on October 13th if the prices don't go down before then.

I’m with you Doug.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Utah Wins Nuclear Battle

It looks like the western deserts of Utah won’t be temporary hosts to tons and tons of nuclear waste after all. Whoopee! The leader of the Goshute tribe doesn’t like it, but oh, well. I know plenty of members of the tribe that do. In fact, back in May, against tribal leadership, they sued the Feds for allowing it to happen.

I really hope this is over. Of course, the BLM decision can be appealed, but let’s all hope it won’t. Having tons of radioactive waste material above ground, and in what amounts to my backyard, isn’t an idea I’m thrilled about.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Terrorists as Animals

The pundits have started punting again. I shouldn’t be surprised. By trying to lay out the case of the CIA “secret prisons” clearly, President Bush has just given his detractors all the fuel they need to get up on their high horses and pontificate about how Bush needs to be stopped and how they are sooooo much better and more civilized than he is. The rest of the world likes to get in on the Bush bashing, as well.

Now, I’m all for humane treatment of humans. I really am. I also don’t “tow the party line” when it comes to the Republicans. Of course, that’s meaningless because I’m not affiliated with any individual party. The all make me crazy. What I wish some of these people would realize, though, is that the terrorists have left the realm of human beings.

Yeah, you read that right. When these terrorists decided to act like animals and brutally destroy innocents, they quit being humans. They’ve left the path of humanity and chosen the path of the violent animal. Why shouldn’t we treat them like the dangerous animals they really are?

Heck, most animals are less destructive than some of these guys.

Hmmm. Maybe the ASPCA should get involved in dealing with terrorist “rights” instead.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Rally Day

Today in Salt Lake City, President Bush had come out to be the keynote speaker at the national American Legion convention. Yesterday V.P. Cheney and Secretary Rice came out and spoke. Condolezza Rice is just a cool woman on all counts in my book. I'd agree to have her three-headed love child, if my wife would let me.

With all large scale public figures comes large scale controversy. I'm cool with that. People should be able to express themselves in public forums. It's a basic tenet of the Constitution. But when it comes to self-expression, we also need to be careful how we do it. Rocky Anderson, Salt Lake City's bone-headed mayor, hasn't figured that out yet.

Here we have the President of the United States, his V.P. and the Secretary of State all coming to Utah to speak. This isn't something that happens every day. It's a very cool thing, no matter who is in office. They've been invited as guests, by our guests - the American Legion. Needless to say, the Legion has paid large sums of money into the Salt Lake City coffers, so far, in the form of hotel and convention space rentals, not to mention the restaurants. Instead of welcoming these people, as Salt Lake City's mayor, a representative of the citizens of Utah's capital city, Rocky has chosen to actively organize a protest against President Bush. He somehow feels that he can step aside as the mayor for the day, neglecting his mayoral responsibilities, and act as a "regular citizen."

Because of his actions, a lot of other groups have taken notice and are coming out. Some of them are coming out of the closet. There are rallies everywhere today. Some are in defense of the President, some as a show of support for our troops. There's even going to be a rock concert called "Rock Against Rumsfeld" tonight. As much as I like live music, I think I'm going to give this one a "miss." I can't stand guitar-driven pontification.

There's one group that has just got my goat, though. It's a Baptist group that's threatened to fly in from one of the southern states (I forget which) to appear at the funeral of a Salt Lake City Marine, Adam Galvez. He died while serving in Iraq, struck down by an IED. It turns out that he may also have been gay. This group is coming down to protest gays in the military, at the funeral, saying that "God struck him down."

I don't care what your feelings are about homosexuals and their inclusion in the military. This kind of behavior is vile. This Marine's poor family doesn't need you to hoist your crap over their private (and sacred) service honoring their lost son. Shame on you, you hypocritical twits. How dare you disturb this family in this way. How dare you call yourselves Christians, all the while proclaiming that God is a terrorist. You want blasphemy? Look in the mirror. I have no patience for such filth. UPDATE: This group was a no show, thank goodness. Maybe they read my blog. . . nah.

(Okay, John. Take a few deep breathes.)

Other than that, I have no strong feelings about it.

Okay. I'm going to go take a walk and calm down now.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Why I Hate the FDA

This morning I was reminded exactly why I hate the FDA. It's broken. It has been for years. There is a faction within the FDA that would like to make vitamins and other diet supplements available only by prescription, and yet they've decided it's alright to make Plan B the so-called “morning after” pill has hit the shelves as an over-the-counter drug. Only women who are 18 years old, or older, can buy it, but they can do it without a prescription.

This is an absolutely insane cave-in to the far left and has nothing to do with public health.. The FDA says that it's safe, and yet lower doses of the same medications are only available by prescription.

Yes, you read that right. The morning after pill is essentially a very high does of estrogen. Estrogen, used in lower doses (some very low when compared with “Plan B”) can only be gotten through prescription. This is the exact opposite of what's happening with most drugs.

Let's look at this. Low level doses of ibuprofen are available over the counter. In order to get higher doses you have to have a prescription. Same story with hydrogen pump blockers to control stomach acid, such as Prilosec. Low doses available over the counter, higher doses only by prescription.

And yet Plan B is just the opposite.

The level of lies and deception that I'm seeing in the popular media is just as insane. Watching television this morning I came across a woman who was touting the safety and efficacy of this drug. Huh? If it's so darn safe, why are lower doses, which would be presumably safer, but unavailable over the counter?

This is nothing but the FDA caving in to lobbyists and political support. They've thrown the idea of protecting the public health out the window.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More Good than Evil

Guess what? From the Basement seems to be more “good” than “evil.” Not much more, though. Maybe I need to repent more.
This site is certified 59% GOOD by the Gematriculator

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Power Grubbing in the Utah Senate

Yet again Utah Senator Chris Buttars, in his on-going quest for local political power, is trying to bypass the Utah State Constitution. Last session he championed the dubious topic of teaching divine intervention in schools. This time around he wants the state senate to be able to fire judges they don’t like.

Get a load of this:

"That is the only way to make the public aware of some of these terrible decisions. ... I don't know where some of these decisions are coming from. Some judges just go in there and wing it," Buttars said.

Oh, that’s just brilliant. NOT!

Scott Daniels, former president of the Utah Bar Association, had this to say:

"If you did something that displeased the power brokers (in the Senate), you would be out of office, without a practice, without clients. You'd have to start your practicing career all over again. Who would risk that?"

He’s right. This move simply destroys the independence of the Utah Judiciary.

"We have the cream of the crop in judges in this state," said Buttars, but every year, one or two judges "make a decision that makes no sense" and they need to be held accountable for those.

Nice pandering, but I just gotta ask, “Who gets to decide if the decision made sense not?” Buttars wants the state senate to do it, even though the state constitution clearly provides a way for the judiciary to police itself already.

In the long run, this is just another power grab by a silly local politician who is trying to service his career by pandering to a group of disgruntled right-wing zealots. Don’t get me wrong. I’m part of the “right-wing” conservative group myself. But if you start getting too far to the right, you start looking like a fascist, not a conservative.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

GITMO Guards Have it Bad, Too

Here’s something you don’t see every day. The mass media is actually reporting on how badly the guards are being treated by the detainees at GITMO. Usually they ignore this part and just try to paint these accused war criminals as poor victims of our military.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Individual Rights vs. Safety

At what point do we give up our rights, or infringe on the rights of others, in the name of safety? This is not a new argument. It was certainly debated with the Patriot Act. It’s become a local Utah issue as well with the Destiny Norton case.

For those who don’t know, Destiny is a five year old girl who came up missing a few days ago in Utah. This poor girl was missing for several days only to be found in a neighbor’s home last Monday.  

The police were criticized by the Norton family, and many others, for not finding the girl sooner, even though she was a mere 150 feet from the home. One man I listened to even said that, “When the police went to his door and he wouldn’t let them search his home, they should have known there was a problem and gone in anyway!” The family has apologized to the police, but the sentiment is still raging in the minds of many Utahns.

As heartbroken as I am over the loss of this innocent girl, there is a problem here. It’s called the Fourth Amendment.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

At the point the police were searching the neighboring homes they had no warrant or probable cause. Some people I’ve talked to have said that, “in cases like this they [the police] should be able to just go in anyway.” As we find more about the suspect, Craig Gregerson, a picture is painted of an anti-social person. Another neighbor to the Nortons said, “The police should be able to investigate people like that. They should have known that he was probably dangerous because he just wasn’t normal.”

That’s when I fell out of my chair. I understand the grief. I understand that grief makes people say weird things they regret later. I’ve done it countless times.  But haven’t we gotten past the notion that we can take police action against someone because they’re “different?”

This is why we have such laws, people. I’m pretty “different” myself. I’m a member of the LDS Church. I like science fiction. I’m a “geek.” I like Jazz music. I hate yard work so my lawn is more brown and dead than green and alive. I prefer to live a quiet, and more private, life. I’m a blogger (the dichotomy is not lost on me, okay?). Does this make me “different” enough to be dangerous? Should my privacy be violated because of it?

If we give credence to such ideas, we are stepping on road that will lead to the loss of the liberties that we, as Americans, claim to cherish.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Liberty of Thought and Expression

A couple of weeks ago I started asking questions about what Liberty really meant. I’ve been reading John Stuart Mill’s take on the matter in his book, On Liberty, and he’s got some interesting things to say. With that reveal, I’d like to start exploring Liberty of Thought and Expression today.

In America we call it “freedom of speech” and it’s guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Mill considered all encroachments on the free expression of opinion to be illegitimate, even if sanctioned by a government. He said, “If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose . . . the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth produced by its collision with error.”

Humans have never experienced a time where opinions were free from all error. We may like to think our opinions are perfect and right, we must acknowledge that we are all fallible. (The irony of me stated the opinion that all opinions have errors hasn’t been lost on me.) If we make the assumption, though, that human affairs can only progress though the exchange of ideas, and the ability to see and rectify mistakes in the light of discussion, disagreement, and experience, where does that leave us today? Is wisdom gained by exposure to a variety of opinions? I’d like to think so. Mills said, “The strongest foundation for any belief is a standing invitation to prove it unfounded.” If this is true, social tolerances for ideas, and a free press, are vital to a free society.

Do we really have a free society, then? Social stigmatization of non-majority beliefs has been with us for decades, and persists to this day. Our social system is so splintered, however, that we find ourselves in the strange situation where majority beliefs are stigmatized in certain circles as well. Just look to the rants of the various talk shows and op-ed pieces that masquerade as “news” on television, radio, and the newspapers. It seems to me that, as a people, we haven’t left open the possibility that our own opinions, even our most deep seated convictions, can and should be disputed in open forum. We don’t tolerate the circulation of opposing ideas.

Even the threat of social intolerance of a particular idea is enough to prevent its expression and circulation. I would contend that one position can’t be fully understood until its opposite has fully seen the light of day. Our near fatal tendency, as humans, is to quit thinking about something once we’ve made up our minds. We begin to make the most errors when we consider a thing to be no longer in any doubt. This includes science as well as religion.

If this is true, that free speech is part of our fundamental belief in Liberty in the United States, do we protect all speech? What about hate speech? Do we protect a person’s right to disseminate that? Where does free speech cross into libel? If we can praise people, can we also malign and slander them? What if what we say is true? What if what we say about someone is not true? When we write things like, “At least he’s quit beating his wife” we are implying that a person did, at one time, beat his wife. But what he never struck her in the first place? “What? You haven’t quit beating your wife? You cad!” Of course he hasn’t quite beating his wife. He never beat her to begin with! And yet we see this kind of half-baked slander all the time on the 5:00 news. The press protects itself from being accused of libel by saying, a person “allegedly” did something.

It’s even worse in the political arena. Most political arguments these days contain only partial truths. Each side quietly suppresses half of the argument. Because they refuse to acknowledge the remainder, a useful dialogue is impossible. Only a conversation with all the facts can lead us to a stronger resolution than the ones we had before.

So, do we live in a society with true freedom of speech? Ten years ago I would have told you no, there’s no way. Even today, “political correctness” rears its ugly head and stops the free expression of ideas. In the name of “political correctness” many have misread the meaning of free speech. It’s not that all ideas, cultures, and ideologies are equal and good, as many would have us believe. They’re not. I refuse to buy into that idea. A culture that values slavery in any form, whether formalized as it was in the early days of this country, or through social stigmatization and cultural violence, is not good! It’s that the expression of either side of any argument is right and good.

Freedom of speech means I have the ability to use any means of non-violent expression I want, be it words, music, dance, or whatever, to share my opinion. Blogging is one way I do that. In order for my opinion to have any strength, though, I have to allow you to fully express your dissenting opinion, even if I find what you have to say distasteful and evil.

Feel free to disagree.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Double Standards and Greed

I feel a rant coming on. Two rants, actually.

First off, I woke up this morning to discover that my own Utah Senator Orrin Hatch has helped get a music producer (that just happens to be signed with the same music label the Senator Hatch is signed with) out of jail in Dubai.

On the surface this is a good thing. I don’t want any American rotting away in a jail cell in Dubai. Where this gets sticky is that this producer, Dallas Austin, was jailed after being convicted of drug possession when he tried to bring 1.26 grams of cocaine into Dubai.

Several years ago Senator Hatch ran as an incumbent on the “War on Drugs” campaign byline. How is actively seeking the release of a convicted cocaine smuggler fighting the war on drugs? Again, I don’t like the idea of anyone rotting in Dubai, but when’s the last time Senator Hatch tried to get anyone out of a foreign prison? Sorry Senator. I don’t think a record producer should get special treatment, just because he’s signed with the same label you are.

Next I discovered that a federal judge decided that DVD editing services such as CleanFlicks, and CleanFilms are violating copyright laws and need to cease and desist.

Let met give you some background on this. These two companies provide a service. They sell you a movie, just like anyone else does, and pay all the royalties associated with that sale. Then they turn around and sell you a second copy of the movie that has been edited for content, much like a movie would be for viewing on airline flight or on broadcast, and some cable, television networks. This is done for people who don’t like to go watch “R” rated movies and want gratuitous smut and violence left behind. They want to control the content that comes into their homes.

Michael Apted, director of "Coal Miner's Daughter" and president of the Director's Guild of America, gave the argument for Holywood suing these folks: "Audiences can now be assured that the films they buy or rent are the vision of the filmmakers who made them and not the arbitrary choices of a third-party editor.”

This is a lie, or if not a lie then an example of sheer stupidity. These movies are already being edited for content and time by broadcast networks and airlines. In fact, that was one of the big “selling points” of DVD when they were first exploring the technology. Hollywood couldn’t give us edited versions of the movies on VHS because it would be a technical nightmare for them. They could only put on show on one tape, so how many of which version did they need to create? But, Hollywood assured us, that with the advent of DVDs they could include both versions on the disk.

We already get edited DVDs. We can choose to see a DVD in widescreen or fullscreen format. We can even choose what language to listen to it on.

What this is really about is Hollywood retaining complete control of how consumers view and use their product. It’s about how much money they can get out of us as consumers. Even though the CleanFlicks consumer has already paid the licensing fees to see the movie in their homes, and could do the editing themselves under fair use laws, they can’t pay someone else to do it for them according to this ruling.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What is Liberty?

We use the words “freedom” and “liberty” so often when discussing America, and rightly so. Unabashedly we can proclaim that we are a land of liberty. Just recently we celebrated those freedoms by observing Independence Day. I wonder, though, if we have used these terms so often that we’ve become unthinking about them. Along with the hot dogs, ice cream and fireworks, I’ve been contemplating what “liberty,” from an American perspective, actually means.

What is liberty? Is it the freedom to do whatever I please? What if it pleases me to rob my neighbors, or kill them? Then I’ve infringed on their liberties. How do we deal with liberty as a national aspiration?

Democracy is certainly founded on the principles of liberty. It replaces a dictatorship, whether it’s a king or some other potentially despotic ruler, with the voice of the people. But does democracy guarantee liberty for all? All people enjoy the idea of living in a society that enforces rules that give them rights. Too many people, however, still think that others should live as they do. Formulating laws that guarantee liberty to all is difficult in a pluralistic society. This is the central problem in modern democracies: the tension between majority rule and the protection of minority and individual rights.

In order to preserve a community, what kinds of limitations on liberty can we make on the individual? There is a limit to the legitimate interference of the collective majority against an individual. If we can agree that each person has an “inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” then I think we can also agree on one very simple premise: the only reason a government can exercise authority over the individual in a democracy, bent on preserving individual liberty, is to prevent harm to others. The individual should be granted sovereign authority over his or her own body and mind. (The only exceptions to this would be children, and people with mental disabilities of some kind. Their faculties are not fully developed, or have been compromised. They cannot be expected to make proper decisions about their lives.)

If we assume that the above principle is true, we can extrapolate three main components to liberty:

  1. freedom of thought and expression

  2. freedom to plan one’s own life pursuits

  3. freedom to unite in groups for any purpose not involving harm to others.

The Bill of Rights seems to guarantee these rights. As we have too often seen in our history, though, the devil is in the details.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Is the media really to blame?

It’s probably not new to anyone that the New York Times, and other media outlets, recently disclosed a federal program to investigate the financial records of suspected terrorists using records subpoenaed from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or Swift.

Financial records have been a tried and true intelligence gathering system for many years. If you can track where a known (or suspected) terrorist is getting there money from, that can lead you to the leaders and backers of international terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda. Instead of wasting all of your resources finding and identifying the “foot soldiers,” it helps you take out the leaders behind them, crippling their ability to send more “foot soldiers” at you.

For years the government has done this through various means. They subpoenaed SWIFT and SWIFT gave them access to a bunch of records. The U.S. government, and SWIFT, have both stated that the subpoenas were legal.

Apparently there are some dissenters from with our government, though. As the New York Times reported in an editorial:

"Most Americans seem to support extraordinary measures in defense against this extraordinary threat, but some officials who have been involved in these programs have spoken to The Times about their discomfort over the legality of the government's actions and over the adequacy of oversight," Mr. Keller said. "We believe The Times and others in the press have served the public interest by accurately reporting on these programs so that the public can have an informed view of them."

While the administration talks about the role of journalists in this endeavor, and rightly so, one other question comes to mind. Who leaked the story to the press in the first place, and why? Did they feel like there views weren’t being looked at seriously by the Bush administration? That’s one reason that people will leak sensitive secrets; to get their views heard.

While I can understand that frustration, simply disagreeing with a policy, and being frustrated that those in power aren’t doing what you think they should do, is not enough of a reason to put our ability to gather intelligence safely, and securely, at risk. By exposing the ways we gain intelligence data, it only compromises our ability to gain more data through the same sources. In some cases, where the sources are human, it puts their lives in danger.

Now, this is not “human intelligence.” It’s technology. How much of an impact it will have is yet to be seen. But if a terrorist cell knows that it will be tracked if it continues to use one method of money laundering (and let’s face it, that’s what this is), it will simply change tactics to less traceable, if more inconvenient, methods.

It seems to me that while the media deserves some of the blame, those who betrayed their oaths and leaked the story in the first place have much more to answer for.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

If any of you have talked to me about economics, you probably know that I’m really not happy about NAFTA. I blame it for being the “straw” that eventually “broke my career’s back” and drove me away from printing and visual media into my new career dealing with the internet. Yes, Virginia, I am one of the people who lost their jobs when the work went to Mexico after NAFTA was signed.

Don’t tell me it made things better for the people in Mexico, either. I don’t care. It hurt American manufacturing and helped drop the median wage. In other words, because of NAFTA the American owners of manufacturing companies got richer, by outsourcing their workforce, and the American middle class continues to disappear. Sorry Reganites, the “trickle” down theory has clogged pipes.

Guess what, though? It’s even worse than I thought. Check this quote from an article on the North Amercian Union:

The Bush Administration is pushing to create a North American Union out of the work on-going in the Department of Commerce under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America in the NAFTA office headed by Geri Word. A key part of the plan is to expand the NAFTA tribunals into a North American Union court system that would have supremacy over all U.S. law, even over the U.S. Supreme Court, in any matter related to the trilateral political and economic integration of the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Now, if you’re a democrat, don’t get all high-and-mighty on me. Remember, it was President Clinton that signed NAFTA into law.

Right now, Chapter 11 of the NAFTA agreement allows a private NAFTA foreign investor to sue the U.S. government if the investor believes a state or federal law damages the investor’s NAFTA business. Under Chapter 11, NAFTA establishes a tribunal that conducts a behind closed-doors “trial” to decide the case according to the legal principals established by either the World Bank’s International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes or the UN’s Commission for International Trade Law. If the decision is adverse to the U.S., the NAFTA tribunal can impose its decision as final, trumping U.S. law, even as decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. U.S. laws can be effectively overturned and the NAFTA Chapter 11 tribunal can impose millions or billions of dollars in fines on the U.S. government, to be paid ultimately by the U.S. taxpayer.

In other words, NAFTA has the power to challenge U.S. sovereignty in its own lands. The government under Clinton’s administration agreed to it, and the government under Bush’s administration wants to expand on it.

Why is this not scaring you? It scares me to no end. This is government by international corporation, not by and for the people. In many fundamental ways it challenges the U.S. Constitution itself simply by the fact that it has supremacy over U.S. law and the Supreme Court. Are we so willing to sell our liberties to the highest bidder?

I used to roll my eyes at pundits who talked impeachment. Now I’m beginning to wonder if they’re right.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Free Speech for All, Unless You Work for the Government

I admit it’s been a couple of weeks since this news story broke, but this kind of disturbs me. Richard Ceballos, a supervising district attorney in Los Angeles, had sent a memo out raising some questions about whether or not a deputy sheriff had lied to obtain a search warrant in a case that has come before the Los Angeles court. Later on, he testified as much at a trial, bringing into question the validity of the warrant.

He got demoted for blowing the whistle. In this case I think it was less “whistle blowing” than “if we’re going to prosecute this guy, we better get our ducks in a row.” He files a federal lawsuit saying that he was demoted in retaliation for his memo.

Eventually the case went to the Supreme Court. It ended in a 5-4 split decision that basically said that Government employees don’t get free-speech protection when it comes to exposing misconduct at work.

Here’s what Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote about it, when speaking for the court: "When an employee speaks as a citizen addressing a matter of public concern, the First Amendment requires a delicate balancing of the competing interests surrounding the speech and its consequences . . . When, however, the employee is simply performing his or her job duties, there is no warrant for a similar degree of scrutiny."

Huh? So, if I try and let someone in the government agency I work for that something is amiss, I can get canned for doing my job, just because what I had to say was unpopular? This seems to support the idea that it’s okay to cover-ups illegal or dangerous activity, and we’ll fire you if you don’t go along. It certainly does nothing for the safety and welfare of the people that agency serves.

Here’s a quote from the dissenting side:

In a dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens called the majority opinion "misguided."

"The proper answer to the question 'whether the First Amendment protects a government employee from discipline based on speech made pursuant to the employee's official duties' is 'Sometimes,' not 'Never,' he writes.
"Of course a supervisor may take corrective action when such speech is inflammatory or misguided," Justice Stevens writes. "But what if it is just unwelcome speech because it reveals facts that the supervisor would rather not have anyone else discover?"
In a separate dissenting opinion, Justice Souter wrote:

"But I would hold that private and public interests in addressing official wrongdoing and threats to health and safety can outweigh the government's stake in the efficient implementation of policy."

Justices Stevens and Souter seemed to hit the problem on the head, if you ask me.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Twisted Truth = Lies

You know, just when you start to respect someone’s innovative and fun approaches to writing and illustration, they start getting “innovative” with the truth. One of the talented staffers over at BoingBoing has bypassed his brain and republished an opinion piece that rewrites the facts behind the War on Terror in order to push an anti-Bush agenda.

I know, I know. None of these kinds of tactics are new, and normally I just roll my eyes and keep reading. But for some reason, this one just pissed me off.

Here’s what they said:

As NBC News reported back in 2004, U.S. military planners drew up plans to take out Zarqawi three times in 2002 and 2003, but the Bush administration killed the plans each time. Why? Because, military officials told NBC, the Bush administration feared that destroying Zarqawi's terrorist camp in Iraq "could undercut its case for war against Saddam."

If you go and actually read the MSNBC story they reference, you find a very different story.

“People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists,” according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.

In other words, the Bush administration was so worried about the liberal pundits, and trying to avoid launching strikes against a sovereign nation while they sought U.N. approval for a larger invasion

Let's put it another way, the Bush administartion was cautious (maybe too cautious) and tried to play by the book. That’s more than Clinton did when he bombed Iraq in 1998.

It’s not that I don’t think Clinton should have bombed them at the time. I’m just sick of the far left liberal pundits twisting the truth to damn President Bush, all the while praising President Clinton.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

More on Same Sex Marriage

It’s interesting to note that the idea of a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman only was quashed today. Senator Kennedy went so far as to accuse people who are against same sex marriage as being “bigots – pure and simple.”

I think he’s full of crap.

I wonder, does that make me a bigot against rich and narcissistic white men who pontificate on how they are so much better than the rest of us in the name of appealing to their voting base?

Hmmm . . .

In any case, I think the idea of trying to protect same sex marriage is dangerous. It makes marriage irrelevant and has already forced one religious charity group to cease operations, even if they don’t take money from the government.  Just so you know, this was a privately funded adoption agency that refused to adopt kids out to same sex couples because of the agency’s ties to the Catholic Church. (My friend Mark Hansen first let me in on this, BTW.)

If you ignore some of the more blatent hyperbole, this article lays out the case of sex being used as a trump card in these situations.  One of the quotes I found particularly interesting:
By forcing court-ordered same-sex “marriage” on the rest of us, political activists pushing the homosexual agenda will compel the great majority of American citizens and religious groups to ignore their deepest spiritual convictions, and effectively embrace—at the point of a legal shotgun—a homosexual definition of matrimony.
And, in doing so, these same advocates will force open the door for polygamy and countless other redefinitions of the term. Marriage, having ceased to become what it is, will effectively become nothing at all.
If you look at the Catholic charity closing it’ doors, it seem that sex now trumps even the first amendment.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

State Sponsored Sex Changes?

WARNING: I’m going to get very politically incorrect, here. In fact, the subject, and my comments, may be downright offensive to some.

When I first saw this article, I did a double take. It turns out that a convicted murderer is trying to get the state of Massachusetts to pay for a sex change operation. Will wonders never cease? Perversion and feelings of entitlement seem to keep going on. Get this:

A psychiatrist testified Tuesday that he believes Robert Kosilek - who now goes by Michelle - will commit suicide if state corrections officials refuse to allow the surgery and Kosilek is unable to complete the transformation into a woman.

Let me get this straight. Here’s a guy who murdered his wife in cold blood in 1990 who’s having a sexual identity crisis, and I’m supposed to care? Now he’s threatening to kill himself if we don’t cut off his dick. Why don’t we let him do himself in? It’ll save all the tax money we’re spending in frivolous litigations and psychiatric help, let alone room and board, for this murderous pervert.

Apparently this isn’t the first time he’s approached the state about this. He got his foot in the door with this little number:
In 2002, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled Kosilek was entitled to treatment for gender identity disorder, but he stopped short of ordering the state to pay for a sex-change operation.
Since then, Kosilek has received psychotherapy, female hormone treatments and laser hair removal.
Kosilek sued the Department of Correction for the second time last year, saying psychiatrists _ including two of the department's experts _ had determined a sex-change operation was medically necessary.
"We ask that gender identity disorder be treated like any other medical condition," said Kosilek's attorney, Frances Cohen.

What the hell!? I’m cool with psychotherapy and psychiatric meds for convicts, but since when did the standard for treating gender disorders become state sponsored elective surgery? I can’t believe they agreed to pay for the hormone treatments and hair removal back in 2002. This is absolutely stinking nuts.

When is our society going to quit subsidizing perversions in our criminals? Based on the fact that Massachusetts paid for hormones and laser hair removal for this dork, I’d say this latest suit shouldn’t be a surprise. You get the behavior’s you reward. If we continue to reward perverted and criminal behavior, in the name of political correctness, perversion and crime will increase.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Wanna buy a blog?

Guess what! From the Basement is worth money! Wow. I’d have never guessed. Any one wanna buy it?

My blog is worth $2,258.16.
How much is your blog worth?

Monday, May 15, 2006


Sorry no blogs of late. I’ve been having some more problems with my gall-bladder and it finally ended up in surgery a couple of weeks ago. You can read more about it over at my Campus Codger blog.

The world is getting weirder and weirder, though. Today I hear the President is thinking about putting National Guardsmen on our southern border to help support our border patrol for a while. At least until we get the immigration mess we’ve created sorted out a bit more. What’s weird to me is that I heard on the radio that the governor of New Mexico is up in arms about it. He doesn’t want them there. Why not? Is he offended that the border patrol might need help?

The whole immigration thing just has me shaking my head. I hear so many arguments about how “immigrants are important to America.” Yeah. We know. No one is arguing that. Why is that suddenly supposed to be a carte blanche to break the law? Illegal immigration is the problem.

For years, though, we turned a blind eye to the issues. As American’s we’ve created the problem by ignoring it, or failing to enforce it. I’m not advocating that we suddenly go on a witch hunt and round up and deport every last illegal immigrant that’s currently in our country. Many of them have families now, with children that are American citizens. What do you do with these kids if you deport their parents? Not a good scenario.

The funny part is that people are protesting all over the country about this. You know what? I don’t think they even know what it is they’re protesting. Everyone I’ve talked to or read about, that is interviewed can only talk about things like fair treatment for Mexican people. Legal Mexican immigrants, and American citizens of Mexican descent aren’t going to be effected by this. They aren’t breaking the law. The protests seem to be more about civil rights issue within our borders, and nothing to do with the issue at hand, effectively enforcing current immigration law. They’re two separate issues, people!

The issue of what we are going to do about currently illegal immigrants can’t even be addressed effectively until we do something to control our borders. You can’t perform surgery unless you stop the bleeding first.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Yuri's Night

I can’t believe myself. I missed the fact that today is Yuri’s night! 45 years ago today, Yuri Gagaren was the first man to orbit the earth. 25 years ago today, John Young and Robert Crippen flew the first Space Shuttle flight to orbit. How cool is that?

Excuse me while I go party.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Media Heroes

For a long time, I’ve lamented the fact that the media doesn’t seem to know how to tell a news story. Before you get your journalistic panties in a bunch, let me explain. Quite simply, most media outlets are getting lazy, and getting their facts wrong. In some cases, they’re ignoring the facts altogether. Take this article by Tomas Sowall as a better example than I can give. I just wish I could write like he does. You’ll want to check out his other articles as well. Trust me. Agree with him or not, the guy is a good read.

The normal media outlets also seem to focus in on all the bad things going on, and ignore the really good things that happen. Until now, that is. Kudos go out to KSL for publishing an article about three boys who rescued their dad after an ATV accident.

Even more kudos go out to the boys themselves. The Red Cross honored them, and rightly so, for being true community heroes.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Passing of Stansilaw Lem

One of my favorite science fiction authors, Stanislaw Lem, died yesterday. His stories were always unique, and original. Most of you will know him as the author of the story “Solaris.” Two different groups have made this story into a movie, including Andrei Tarkovsky, in 1972, and by Steven Soderbergh, in 2002. This last version starred George Clooney and Natascha McElhone. Both versions were visually stunning, and are an interesting exploration of the nature of love and grief.

My first introduction to his work is still probably my favorite, The Cyberiad. Here’s a bit from the Wikipedia entry:

The Cyberiad is a cycle of short, amusing and somewhat cartoonish science fiction stories by Stanisław Lem. It was first published in Polish in 1967, and in English in 1974. It details exploits of two robots, Trurl and Klapaucius, in a fictional universe populated practically entirely by intelligent and highly anthropomorphic robots (hence the name Cyberiad). However, some of the stories involve main characters other than these two, typically some knight trying to win the heart of a princess. The stories focus on problems of individuals and societies (as seen in the somewhat absurd fairy tale cum scifi framework) and on the vain search for human happiness through technological means.

I loved these stories. On first reading they were quirky and fun. They are deceptively simple. The ideas they explored were more about humans than robots.

He will be missed.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Insert blog topic here.

It’s been a while since my last post and a lot has gone on in the news. Much of it is definitely blog worthy. Now I just need to decide what has me motivated enough to blog about here.


Nope. I got nothin’.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Gay-Straight Club Banl

Today is the last day of the Utah State Legislative session. After having wasted our time on several silly bills that will amount to very little, they are finally buckling down on some real issues.

One bill that was passed back on February 22 caught my eye, though. Utah Senate Bill 97 (Student Club Amendments) passed the Senate, 18 to 11. I don't know if it's hit the House yet. This is a bill that, in many ways, targets Gay-Straight alliance clubs (GSAs) in high schools and tries to ban them by using broader language.

Sen. Chris Buttars, the sponsor of the bill said, ``We're not declaring any club that's out there unlawful. What we have done is present an outline of criteria that schools can use to evaluate (clubs) of all sorts. It can apply to any groups. The only group that's made this their battle ground is the gay and lesbian community.''

In session, however, his rhetoric targeted gay-straight alliance clubs. He even got permission to have a citizen recount a family story of a niece who had attended a GSA at her high school and then said attempts were made to "recruit" her to homosexuality.

Most gay and lesbians I know would deny ever trying to recruit anyone, claiming it's not really a matter of choice. Many supporters of GSAs say that they are only there to promote tolerance of others. They're trying to reduce hate related violence in their schools.

Now that you've got some background, let me bare my neck and take a stand. I hope this bill passes the house. I really do. It has nothing to do with how I feel about homosexuality. I think people who commit violent acts just because someone is different from you should be prosecuted for each and every one of those violent acts. But I also don't think that a high school club should be based on sexuality.

"But they're not based on sex!" scream the pundits. Yes, they are. Whether you like it or not, the lines are drawn in that club based on sexual preferences. I don't think high school students are mature enough to even figure out how to deal with their own sexuality, let alone define it. The hormones unleashed on them at puberty are still raging in their systems and most of them are still trying to sort all of that out.

Guess what, in Utah schools it takes permission from parents to talk about the physical aspects of human sexuality. Why is homosexual sex being treated as something they don't need permission to talk about, when heterosexual sex is?

"But that's not what we're about!" the pundits scream again. It doesn't matter. There is a thing called the "law of unintended consequences" at work here. Kids are curious. At that age they're mostly curious about sex. They can't help it. They're going ask questions. They're going to invite each other to participate in sexual exploration outside of the confines of the club in order to answer those questions. Without intending to, these clubs will foster an atmosphere where sexual promiscuousness is encouraged, peer to peer.

Think my argument is baseless? Feel free to comment and blow holes in it.

Let the flaming begin.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dangerous Blogger

This is a bit old, but check out this article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. File this under “weirdness.”

The government concluded its "Cyber Storm" wargame Friday, its biggest-ever exercise to test how it would respond to devastating attacks over the Internet from anti-globalization activists, underground hackers and bloggers.
Participants confirmed parts of the worldwide simulation challenged government officials and industry executives to respond to deliberate misinformation campaigns and activist calls by Internet bloggers, online diarists whose "Web logs" include political rantings and musings about current events.

Since when did free speech become a threat to national security? Big Brother is not only watching, he’s getting weirder and more paranoid.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Losing the Dog

I’m a big advocate for “doing the right thing.” Whatever that is. As a parent it’s even more important to me to instill this kind of thinking in my children. I want them to follow moral principles. I want them to live just lives. I want them to treat others with consideration and mercy.

Sometimes doing the right thing sucks.

Three months ago my wife called me on the phone and told me that we had a new dog, little Pekinese named Abbey that she had gotten from someone outside the local department store. Apparently it was a beloved dog, but they just had too many and needed to get rid of a few. Knowing that the price was right (free is good price), my wife snatched up the dog. It was an older dog and had already been housebroken. Bonus!

Now, I wasn’t too keen on the idea at first. My wife’s relationships with previous pets have been less than longstanding, for one reason or another. I didn’t want a repeat of “isn’t this a great pet” only to be followed by “we can’t take care of this cat anymore (my youngest and I are allergic)” or some other thing. I do think having a pet is good for my kids, though, so I went along quietly.

The other day we got a phone call from the Abbey’s original owner. It turns out that the original owner is not the person we got the dog from. She had raised Abbey from a pup (her mother owned Abbey’s mother) along with at least one of Abbey’s “sisters” from a previous litter. She and her husband had gotten divorced, but she couldn’t keep the dogs, so he did. For about a year she would go and visit the dogs. On one visit she finds that, unbeknownst to her, he ex has gotten rid of them and won’t tell her where they went. Doing her best to track the dogs down (they went through a couple of owners after her ex, it turns out) led her to us. We live in a small town so I doubt it was too hard.

Long story not quite so long, she wants her dog back.

My wife and I discussed the issue, and we decided that she was telling the truth. We also thought it would be the “right thing” to give the dog back. How would we want to be treated if the situation was reversed?

The trouble was the kids. They loved her. My wife loved her. Even I had gotten a bit fond of her. How do we help them “do the right thing,” and also help them deal with the loss of a beloved pet?

A sensible person would lie. We decided to tell the truth. Shows you how much we know.

Talking on the phone with the woman for a second time, my wife arranged for them to come and pick her up the following day. Trying to push the subject they wanted to “just come and see her” that evening. My wife is not good at confrontation and I started to hear her say “Well, I guess it would be okay to just come and visit with her tonight.”

I am not a subtle person when my children are involved. In order to stop my wife from rolling over and playing dead to this request, I yelled “NO WAY” across the room at her. “They can come tomorrow and pick her up like we arranged, and that’s it.” I’m not sure if the woman on the other end of the phone backed up as fast as my wife did, but it had the desired affect.

Try to understand. I wanted my kids to have one more night to say their goodbyes and deal with the issue at hand. I didn’t want them to have to deal with someone snatching a dog they loved out of their hands without notice. I also didn’t want this lady to further manipulate my wife during a “visit” and try and taker her dog home earlier. We would do the right thing and return the dog, but it would be on our terms, not hers.

Sunday came and the expected tears and cries of loss did not disappoint us by failing to show up. My middle daughter had the hardest time with it, but even our youngest is still asking where the dog is, and she can’t really talk yet.

I’d like to think that the dog wasn’t happy about leaving us, although she didn’t fight too much I admit. I’m probably just hoping they’ll have problems and bring her back. Abbey did seem angry at the dog they introduced as her “sister,” though. When she barked and growled at her (after being sniffed way too long and then finally being picked up), there was a part of me that was pleased. I thought to myself, “Yeah, you’ve got your dog back. But it you won’t be happy about it.”

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Assisted Suicide in Oregon

There's been some talk on the net about the Oregon state assisted suicide law. The Supreme Court seems to have upheld it, but it still bothers me. Mostly I'm concerned for the situation it may put Oregon doctors in.

What happens to a doctor in Oregon that personally opposes assisting a patient in committing suicide? Can he refuse to help the patient kill themselves? I have heard of court cases involving abortion where a doctor was forced, by the courts, to perform a procedure (an abortion) he was personally opposed to, even though the patient could have gone to another doctor for treatment. Are doctors now going to find themselves in situations where, by law, they have to violate the oaths they took when they first became doctors?  Some doctors seem happy to push that oath aside, as if it doesn't matter. I'm not sure I want to go to a doctor that takes his oaths so lightly, but that's another matter. Here's one comment posted in a blog I found interesting.

There was a time in my younger years when I would have objected strenuously and in horror to assisted death. Our duty was to preserve life, not take it. But years of experience caused me to change my mind. ... I have seen my patients welcome death, beg for death. I came to believe that they had a right to be spared the long, drawn out degrading and dehumanizing experience if they so desired. They had a right to die in dignity and peace. ... .One of the best experiences I had with a dying patient came about 3 A.M. when an elderly lady coded and the usual emergency protocol was instituted. We would get her pumped up, then she die off again, over and over. One last time we managed to get her vital signs reinstated and we stood around her, watching her intently in case she coded again. We assumed she was in a coma, unaware of her condition. To our vast astonishment she suddenly opened her eyes, glared at the young attending physician and sternly admonished him, "Young man, why don't you leave me alone and let me die in peace!!" She then coded again but that time we were unable to revive her. She had escaped our well meaning ministrations and died as she wished. To her, death came as a friend.

The example given in the article of a doctor "changing his mind" on assisted suicide doesn't hold water for me. If the woman described in the article would have signed a "Do Not Resuscitate" (DNR) order then, when she first coded, she would not have been worked on and would have been allowed to die. Why was this not brought up to her as an option? The quoted doctor doesn't say. The problem in this case may not be assisted suicide so much as in self-serving doctors and hospital staffers not enforcing a DNR order to ease there own consciences and egos (I've seen that happen as well).

When I first went to college I worked in a nursing home. There I saw people die very painful deaths because of cancer, and yes it is horrible. Many of them just need to know that someone is listening to them, instead of ignoring them, even as they are dying. I worked with one elderly man who had a very sever stroke on his way out. When I went in to see him he kept saying over and over, "I'm dying! I'm dying!" When I held his hand and quietly said, "I know," he calmed down and was able to approach his death with dignity. He just needed someone to validate his experience, instead of lie to him about how he'd "be just fine."

Ending a dying patient's suffering is important, and an aggressive pain management strategy can assist in that. There are problems with balancing dosages of the meds, though. Doctors want to give enough of a drug to relieve suffering, but not enough to kill the patient. Tragically, in the most extreme cases, that isn't always possible.

The problem I see is not in allowing a patient to die, if that is their wish, the problem is in creating laws that makes a doctor become an accessory to their patient's suicide. Allowing a patient to die, because they have consciously chosen it, is very different from forcing a doctor into helping a patient kill themselves.

Bipartisanism = Playground Cliques?

Remember back in grade school when kids would segregate themselves into groups or cliques? You didn’t play with kids in the other cliques because they had some other horrible and indefinable “wrongness” about them. They just weren’t “cool.” Maybe they even had (gasp) cooties.

Looking back at those times we can see how silly they really were. I mean, we all just wanted to go play and have fun, right? Just because this kid wore a Star Wars t-shirt (that was me, by the way), and that kid wore a western shirt (that was my brother) didn’t mean they were bad kids, to be shunned as the devil incarnate. They were just kids with different tastes and backgrounds. Isn’t it nice that as adults we don’t participate in such juvenile discrimination any more?

Yeah, right.

They certainly seem to be participating in that kind of juvenile nonsense in Washington D.C. these days. Just look at the process of appointing our new Supreme Court Justice, Judge (now Justice) Alito. This vote was a perfect example of bipartisan politics in action. Only five senators out of 100 “crossed party lines” with one Republican voting against the nomination and four democrats voting for it. That’s 95% voting a strict party line.

Listening to the hearings prior to the vote I was left with the impression that even though Judge Alito was supposedly the man of interest here, the real man of interest was George W. Bush. I honestly don’t think that any of the senators that voted for or against Alito even bothered to base there judgment on the man himself. Oh, they back-pedal and claim any number of insane things to justify their decisions, but let’s face it, the majority of these folks voted for or against Alito only because Bush nominated him. It had less to do with whether he was the right man for the job than it did that a Republican president nominated him. The right side of the aisle wants to support and praise everything that Bush does, and the left side of the aisle wants to hinder everything he does. It doesn’t matter what it is, or whether it’s good for the country, or even if it’s legal. It’s just playground politics.

Of course I’ve never actually met Justice Alito. Maybe he has cooties.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

More on the Health Care Front

You’ve read me rant about the cost of health care and insurance companies before. This article (by way of Back Talk) is really interesting, though. The author hits several points on the head. This quote is pretty telling:

Americans want more health care for less money, and when they don't get it, they indict drug companies, insurers, trial lawyers and bureaucrats. Although these familiar scapegoats may not be blameless, the real problem is us. We demand the impossible. The changes we truly need are political. We need to reconnect people with the public consequences of their private acts.

While he pays some lip-service to the idea that the drug companies, insurers, et. al. carry some blame, I don’t think he goes far enough in showing how greed oriented these groups seem to have become. When drug companies cover up evidence, or the FDA ignores it, that certain new drugs are potentially more harmful than helpful, there’s got to be a reason, and I think that reason is greed. Odd things seem to happen when greedy people find they have a captive (and sick) audience.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Jedi-insurance Mind Tricks

Yesterday morning I had another incident with my gall bladder. Some of your may recall that I had a previous attack, but that I’m putting surgery off. I’m still putting it off because I’m not entirely sure it’s not related to my gastric problems.

As you may recall my doc had prescribed Nexium for me, but I had to go “off” if when my insurance company refused to pay for it. Guess what? More tummy pain and a trip to the emergency room. Here’s the irony for you. The emergency room doctor recommended that I start with Priolsec, and work up from there. That way there’s a history of meds that have failed, and then it’s more likely that the insurance company will pay for the stronger meds, like Nexium. Here’s the kicker, though. Because Priolsec is and over-the-counter drug, the insurance company won’t pay for that either.

I feel like I’m in massive amounts of pain, and the insurance company is trying to get me to believe I don’t have a problem. It’s a scene from a weird corporate based version of Star Wars where Obi-Wan Kenobi tries to tell me, “These aren’t the drugs you’re looking for. You can go about your business. Move along.”

Trouble is, insurance mind-tricks don’t work on me. The pain sure does, though.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Keeping America

Over this last week we saw both Martin Luther King Day, and the birthday of Benjamin Franklin. These two important figures helped shape America as we know it today, and I think it’s good to remember them and what they did for us. I’m sure many read reminded themselves of the famous “I have a dream” speech as part of that.

It’s sad to me that the things they helped create, are being squandered by later generations. More and more we find speech that distorts the truth. We find speech that, while is reported to celebrate our “diversity,” only serves to deepen the divide between people in our culture. There are various groups within American that seem more concerned with being celebrated for where they, or their ancestors, came from than they do about where they are now. (I will not give links to such sites that might support them.) They seem to forget why they, or their ancestors, came to America in the first place. Many want us to forget that, whether our ancestors came from Europe, South America, Africa, or the Middle East, we are all still Americans.

Benjamin Franklyn valued personal liberty. He valued it so much that he once said, “Those who give up liberty for the sake of safety deserve neither.” And yet since the tragedy of 9/11, we find our government taking away our liberties and telling us it’s all in the name of creating a safer America.

Civil liberty isn’t and addendum that we’ll “get around too when we can.” It’s a fundamental part of our constitution. If we aren’t vigilant about keeping them, we will cease to have an America at all.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Good News on the Anti-Nuclear Waste Front

Here’s some good news for the folks out in the western deserts of Utah. You, people like me and the Goshute Indians. Cedar Mountain, the proposed site for all a trainload of hot nuclear waste material, has been declared as wilderness, and is now protected from certain kinds of building. That means you can’t build railroad lines through it, and PFS (the evil people who want to dump this stuff on us) wanted to use rail.

PFS hasn’t given up the fight just yet, but this is surely a large amount of rain on their nuclear waste dumping parade. This quote from the KSL article is interesting:

But cooperation among lawmakers does not kill the project completely. A longer-term solution could come from a bill sponsored by Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who proposes keeping nuclear waste at or near the place where it's generated.

That’s the most sensible thing I’ve heard coming out of D.C. in a long time. Let the people who make the garbage deal with it.