Monthly Archives: May 2006

The constitution continues to recede

The first amendment to the United States constitution reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Nowhere in there does it say anything about “unless the people work for the government”. Well today another big chunk was chipped away from the bill of rights by the conservative majority on Supreme Court including new shrub appointees Alito and Roberts. In a case involving a Los Angeles prosecutor attempting to expose a lie by a witness the court ruled that

The Supreme Court on Tuesday restricted the free-speech rights of the nation’s 21 million public employees, ruling that the 1st Amendment does not protect them from being punished for complaining to their managers about possible wrongdoing.

Although government employees have the same rights as other citizens to speak out on controversies of the day, they do not have the right to speak freely inside their offices on matters related to “their official duties,” the high court said in a 5-4 decision.

Why the hell should government employees not be allowed to speak freely on matters relating to their official duties. This implies that soldiers for example would not be allowed to speak out about orders that were illegal. This is something that has clearly been deemed a soldiers responsibility by multiple war crimes courts since World War 2. If someone sees the law being broken as part of their official duties they plainly have a responsibility to the people of the United States to speak out and do something about it. The court is absolutely wrong on this decision.

The Bush administration and the Republican party have total contempt for the Constitution and the Bill of rights. The Presidential oath of office states

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

and the congressional oath of office is

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God

Please read both of those oaths carefully. Nowhere in either one does it say anything about defending American people, property, or corporations. The one and only thing the President and Congress are charged with defending and protecting is the Constitution of the United States. Also

The Constitution specifies in Article VI, clause 3:

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

However, the man residing in the White House today and his cronies in the administration and the congressional leadership have consistently done nothing but undermine the constitution. They have passed and renewed the Patriot Act, they have waged an illegal war in Iraq, they have incarcerated people without legal representation, or charges for indefinite periods, and the president has repeatedly issued signing statements that he will ignore laws passed by congress. This president, and vice-president need to be impeached and all the republicans in congress need to be thrown out on their asses.

The Bill of Rights: As Revised By George W. Bush

Note: The following text is a transcription of the first ten amendments to the Constitution in their original form. These amendments were ratified December 15, 1791, and form what is known as the “Bill of Rights.”

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

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.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people

Corner Brewery 2

If you’re in the Ypsilanti area, don’t forget that the Corner Brewery is opening up on Thursday. It’s a new micro-brewery pub located in the old Motor Wheel plant just north of Depot Town. It’s owned and operated by the owners of the Arbor Brewing in Ann Arbor. Support your locally owned businesses. We need more of them in Ypsilanti and everywhere else. The brewery is at 720 Norris St in Ypsilanticorner breweryIt’s right in the center of the map.

Gerry’s music

My friend Gerry has recorded some his songs and put them up on his Myspace page. He has some great songs and is a really good guitar player. Gerry always brings his guitar along to parties and it’s to L. Ron, Ron. His music has kind of Steve Earle feel to it and I really like it. I particularly like Good of the Country. Head on over and give it a listen.

Memorial Day

Monday is Memorial Day in the United States. It is a day when people are supposed to take time to honor those who have fought and died to defend America. What did they fight for? Do defend American freedom and the United States Constitution. The Constitution includes 27 amendments, the first 10 of which are known as the Bill of Rights. These include the rights to freedom of speech, protection from unreasonable search and seizure, equal protection under the law, a speedy trial, and others. What better way to honor those who gave their lives to protect these rights, than to continue fighting to protect these rights today. We all need to defend those rights against anyone who tries to take them away. Today the biggest threat to our freedoms does not come from outside our borders. It comes from within. In Franklin Roosevelt’s first inaugural address he said:

let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Fear is the weapon of choice of our own government today. They continue to bring up vague threats of terrorism as an excuse to subvert the rights enshrined in the US Constitution. By making people afraid, they make them willing to give up freedom in the name of security. But what use is security without freedom? The protection of freedom must come first and foremost weather the threat comes from some islamic fascists in the middle east, christian fascists in Alabama and Texas or robber barons on Wall Street. We all have limited life spans and will inevitably die eventually. We need to live in the here and now and having freedom is a big part of that. Don’t dwell on avoiding death, because sooner or later it will catch up with you either via natural causes or other wise. Have the best life we can today and protect our rights.

Honor America’s war dead by defending what they died for. Communicate with others about the need to protect our rights. Contact your congressional representatives and tell them that protecting freedom must come first and foremost. Tell them to impeach any president that actively works to subvert the constitution. And go out and work against politicians that support the subversion of the constitution.

Jpeg is saved 2

JPEG is the image compression standard that is used in almost all digital cameras, scanners and across the web. It is a very efficient format and provides high levels of compression and with high quality. The format is approved by the international standards organization. Today the US Patent and Trademark Office invalidated the main parts of the JPEG patent held by Forgent Networks. Forgent did not create the ideas involved in the patent. They bought company that owned the patent in 1997. In 2002 when their main business wasn’t doing much they decided to try and make some money off this patent. They sued several dozen companies for infringement including Kodak, Dell, Apple and Sony. They reached settlements for a bunch of companies and collected over $90 million. However, the Public Patent Foundation challenged the patent and produced a whole bunch of prior art. Prior art is evidence that the idea already existed before the patent was filed. If a concept is published then you cannot claim you invented something and get a patent. It was shown to the USPTO and the USPTO decided to reject the patent. Apparently Forgent even knew about this prior art before asserting their patent rights. So they knew the patent was invalid but tried to profit from it anyway. Good riddance to another patent troll.

Open source in schools 3

I’ve always thought that the premise of using windows and MS Office in schools because that is what they will use in the workplace is a crock. First of all it is not the job of the public schools to train kids how to use specific proprietary software packages. Any software tools that are used should be their because they meet a specific need related to the curriculum. If the kids are learning to plot data, the lesson is about ways to represent data in a meaningful way. There are many packages that can achieve this end some proprietary, some open-source. Similarly if the kids have to do research and write a report, they need to learn how to search for information, they need to learn how look up books in the library, and do effective internet searches. Whether they use IE or Firefox or Camino is irrelevant. Search engines work basically the same in all browsers. Learning how to write effectively is more important than learning how to use MS word. If the kids are taught how to write they can type a report or story in any word processor.

Since Michigan schools have had increasingly tight budgets in recent years thanks to the tax policies of the Republican legislature, it is ever more important to reduce costs. Ypsilanti schools got new computers about 5-6 years ago. For PC’s this is a long life span. At some point in the future they will need some upgrades. There are now several Linux distributions that are specifically geared to the needs of schools both for workstations and servers. There are also many open-source educational programs and also programs like GIMP for image editing, InkScape for drawing and blender for 3d modeling and animation. Of course OpenOffice provides all the functionality that is needed from MS Office at ) cost. As updates are needed the district IT staff should really need to consider moving to open-source solutions. Linux generally needs much less in terms of hardware resources than Windows (and with last weeks release of the hardware requirements for Windows Vista that one is out of the question without complete hardware replacement) The existing hardware could be updated with new open-source software at much less cost.

Smoking workers

Over the years my workplace has become more and more hostile to smokers. Smokers are definitely in the minority around here but there are nonetheless a fair number of them around here. Seven or eight years ago there used to be one break room in the building where people could smoke while drinking their coffee. Then during one of the sessions of musical chairs that occurs periodically around here, they decreed that there would be no more smoking in any of the buildings here. After that you could regularly find groups of smokers congregating outside the doors to the building, several times a day. This occurred year round, rain or shine. Then last fall during enrollment for benefits this year, it was announced that effective January 1, 2006 anyone using tobacco products would have to pay an additional $475 a year for health insurance. Then this spring it was announced, that effective May 1, there would be no smoking allowed anywhere on company property. So now you can witness smokers trekking across the parking lot to stand over behind the Big Lots store or the Sports Authority. So far the weather has mostly been OK but that sure won’t be fun come January. I generally don’t have much sympathy for smokers, but it really is pretty pathetic to see people huddled in the rain and cold just to get a hit of nicotine.


Jules was at her desk this morning and spotted this squirrel In the tree right outside the window.squirrel The squirrel was only about 8 feet away and this shot is uncropped.

Mashups are good!

One of the great things about digital media and the internet in recent years is the remix culture. One of the best I have seen is the 10 Things I Hate About Commandments which I found via

Of course if the big media companies had their way, no one could create works like this without paying insane amounts of money for the privilege of using the footage from the film. This kind of creativity is why the current copyright law needs to be rolled back and restricted not expanded. Clips like this clearly demonstrate the need for the public domain.