“You cannot expect phone companies to participate if they feel like they’re gonna be sued. I…I mean…It is..These people are responsible for shareholders. They’re private companies.”

—President George W. Bush, January 28, 2008, talking about the warrantless wiretapping program and the “Protect America Act”.

What is it about that statement that makes my blood pressure spike? Again, when did my rights as an American citizen suddenly vaporize? Whatever happened to my Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure?

I don’t give a shit about the telco companies. I don’t give a rat’s ass if they get sued six ways to Sunday by every one of their customers. They chose to aid the government with this program (except for Quest), they have cadres of expensive lawyers who tell them what to do, and they can sink or swim on their own. It’s obvious Bush doesn’t care about being responsible for us, the citizens of his country, by the letter of the Constitution, which requires that a warrant be supported by probable cause and sworn to by someone who is accountable for it. We as citizens should be outraged by this invasion of our privacy, but we’re not.

The argument “I don’t care if they listen, because I’m not doing anything wrong,” is weak and ignorant. We have laws that state clearly what the President is allowed to do in the interest of national security; in this case it’s the 1978 FISA act, which never required a court order in the first place. This administration felt it needed to expand the scope of its powers beyond any type of oversight or accountability, which immediately makes me suspicious of its motives.

When a government oversteps the written laws, the erosion of those laws is the inevitable result. Grabbing for unlimited power is human nature, and our laws are there to keep that impulse in check. This administration has repeatedly asserted that it is not accountable to Congress for its actions, many of which make a mockery of its claim to defend “freedom”.

I feel less and less like I want to participate in this society if I feel like I’m living in a police state, governed by vague threats of fear and panic. My President should be accountable to his shareholders too, but nobody seems to give a shit about what this administration does.

Update 3.7.08: See this article for more information on abuses of power.

Date posted: February 29, 2008 | Filed under history | Comments Off on Your Bill of Rights And You.

I couldn’t wait for the full two weeks to pass, so I popped one of the beers in our basement and sampled the brew this evening. The result: A rich, medium hopped wheat beer with a sweet finish and a pleasant carbonation. Very tasty.

Date posted: February 28, 2008 | Filed under friends, life | Comments Off on The King Of Beers.

Roughly one-third of the male population of my high school hometown are rejoicing this morning, on the news that Zubaz, onetime makers of zebra-striped pants, are reforming and producing a new supply for retail sale.

Date posted: February 28, 2008 | Filed under humor, shortlinks | Comments Off on Zubaz are back.

Aw, crap. One of my favorite junk rummaging locations, State Salvage (google cache), is closing its doors. Over the last couple of months their inventory has been getting thinner and thinner, in contrast to years past when it’s been filled to the gills with desks, chairs, computers, and heavy equipment. The guy at the desk told me they’re selling what they have left on the floor and then it’s all going on the internets, at a site called Govdeals.

Crap! Where am I going to find $10 coat racks or $5 steel shelving now?

Date posted: February 27, 2008 | Filed under general | Comments Off on No More Surplus.

Typography nerds, this one’s for you: Keming, “the result of improper kerning.” Chortle.

Date posted: February 27, 2008 | Filed under design, humor, shortlinks | Comments Off on Improper Kerning

My repertoire has been expanded to five songs since I picked up the guitar in January. I’ve got the first two, “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Boys Better”, down cold. The chord changes that stymied me weeks ago are solid at this point. I’ve got two R.E.M. tunes figured out but not clean: “Texarkana” and “Radio Free Europe”, each of which contain tricky changes between C and B chords. Finally, this afternoon I learned the iconic opening phrase and bridge to “There She Goes” by the Las, which is a lot of fun to play.

I’ve been pretty lax with my practice schedule, which has made itself clear at my lessons. Two hours of frantic playing right before my lesson does not make for a spectacular performance, but I’m in love with the growing familiarity of the chords and the natural feeling of playing along with the few songs I know. Lessons are going on hold for a little while as I catch up to some other commitments, but I’m not going to stop playing—this is too addictive.

Date posted: February 26, 2008 | Filed under music | Comments Off on Guitar Lesson, Week Eight.

Snorkel Beach 2

It’s day 4,000 of gray February 2008, so I thought I’d post a picture of some sunshine and blue water to remind myself what “warm” felt like.

Date posted: February 26, 2008 | Filed under photography | 1 Comment »

Please, for the love of all that is good in the world, don’t vote for Ralph Nader. Just remember how that screwed us all last time.

Date posted: February 25, 2008 | Filed under politics | Comments Off on Nader Runs Again.

This weekend, I took a drive up to White Marsh to see my old girl, and to help her new dad take her apart in order to start the process of restoration. Based on the weather we’ve had this past week, I was expecting a cold slog through the mud and ice to bang knuckles against cold metal, so I wore about fifteen layers, but somebody upstairs was smiling on the three of us. The sky was deep blue, the air was clean, and the sun was warm on our backs.


She’s in an enclosed yard, surrounded by semi tractors and utility equipment of all kinds, which is fitting, I guess, considering the lineage of the manufacturer. The only thing more appropriate would be a tractor repair yard.

oil press

B.’s already gotten a lot of work done since the beginning of the year—more than I would have in the same amount of time: both seats are out, the dashboard is out (wiring carefully marked, not a small or easy job), and the steering column through to the pump is out. After piling the parts on the ground and setting up a sheet of cardboard and plywood (cheerfully referred to as “Tennessee creepers” by our host) under the truck, we spread out some tools, rolled up our sleeves, and got to work.

operating table

First, we went after the seatbelt anchors, which were located in the center of the rear bed, and which are impossible to remove with only one person. After struggling to break them free with vice grips and a breaker bar, B. pulled out the cutting wheel and braved the rain of rust underneath to split them in half. Next we worked on the rollbar, and got three-quarters of the bolts off before being stymied by the remainder, tucked carefully under the front lip of the rear wheel arch.

Pile of parts

I would have laid money on requiring an impact wrench, a weightlifter, and an hour of prayer to get either of the doors to budge, but surprisingly, both of them came off in about ten minutes. After a break for lunch, we pulled the hood off and started on the fenders, which were fastened with a bucketful of bolts in interesting and challenging locations. So the headlights, marker lights, and turn signals all came off in order to reach the last few.

day's work

Standing back to survey the results, it was surprising to see just how quickly it came apart, and how much we got done. There is, of course, much more to do, but it felt good to get ouside and get my hands dirty, and help B. with his new project. I’m happy to help him realize his dream, but I’ll admit my motives are not entirely altruistic: Helping him rebuild the Scout, even if it’s just lending a wrenching hand once in a while, makes me feel a little better about leaving it to sit in the driveway for three years. I’m excited to see it’s finally getting the attention it deserves.

Date posted: February 24, 2008 | Filed under friends | Comments Off on Old Friends, New Friends.

I used to regularly visit the Detroitblog back when the author was spending a lot of time doing urban exploration—Detroit is full of empty historical buildings. The author has shifted focus to profiles of local businesses and people, which adds a face to a town much like Baltimore: blue collar, economically depressed, ad fighting to find a new identity. This profile on Damon’s Record Center is a great example.

Date posted: February 22, 2008 | Filed under shopping, shortlinks | Comments Off on Damon’s Record Center