Archive for December, 2005


Court, Jail or Congress

December 31, 2005

For [author, journalist and NSA expert James] Bamford, there is only black and white when it comes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a 1978 law that specifically requires warrants for any NSA wiretapping of U.S. citizens. “If you want to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens, you go to court. If you don’t, you go to jail,” Bamford says. “If you want to change the law, you go to Congress.”

Bamford’s outrage stems, in part, from having been misled by agency officials. For years, he says, his contacts at the NSA repeatedly assured him that the agency was strictly following the letter of the law, even after Sept. 11. At the same time, President Bush assured the American people that “nothing has changed.” “When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists,” Bush said in one speech, “we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so.”

Read the whole article over at


Nikon D50

December 30, 2005

With some help I finally made a decision on the camera thing: a Nikon D50 6.1-megapixel digital SLR. The one I ordered is bundled with a 28-80mm zoom lens and a 512 megabyte SD storage card (for maybe 140 pictures). Joy! Now the pressure is on to take some great pictures.

my nikon d50


Suspending the Fourth Amendment Only Worries Evil-doers!

December 29, 2005

In a discussion about president Bush’s warrantless spying, a Bush apologist actually demanded to know how any of this affects us law abiding citizens.

Feldstein, I am waiting to hear… what, specifically, is happening to me or anyone else who has no ties to FOREIGN terrorist, that is destroying my civil rights.

How does it affect you to have the president violate the law and probably the fourth amendment of the Constitution? I don’t know. How would it “affect” any of us if we were to do away with the darned thing altogether? Would it take a dollar from my pocket? Interfere with my commute to work? Stop me from watching my favorite reality TV show? Your question demonstrates a shocking lack of understanding of the role of the Constitution in American life and an alarming failure of imagination with regard to how different things might be without the freedoms it guarantees us. You appear to be one of those people who are willing – no, eager – to give up your freedom and disregard the Constitution just because someone says we are at war or in danger or have an enemy. There is always an enemy, sir. It doesn’t frighten me that there are people like Mr. Bush who think it is their duty to seize more power than is good for us; people like that have always existed. What really keeps me up at night is how many of my fellow Americans are like yourself: perfectly willing to cheer him on as he does it.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union seems to think we’ve seen this kind of thing before.


Drinking Liberally: Year In Review Edition

December 27, 2005

It’s that time again. Time to meet all your liberal pals for a drink at the Milwaukee chapter of Drinking Liberally! Come on down and ring in the new year early with us: December 28th (that’s tomorrow!) from 7p.m. to whenever at Club “try the chicken wings they’re amazing” Garibaldi in Bay View. 2501 S. Superior Street.


Shut up, I Like These Things

December 27, 2005

i know how you feel, i just don’t care.

Who’s Your Happy Bunny?
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The No-Camera Blues

December 26, 2005

I’m really hurting in the camera department right now. The Canon Powershot G2 is broken for the second time. Same problem, too: the swing-out LCD is fried. The camera still works using the optical viewfinder, but it isn’t primarily meant to be used that way. It’s well out of warranty so I can’t send it in for free, either. Even Paige’s camera, the Powershot A60, is broken. It won’t accept a memory card. Every time you put one in the camera malfunctions. It is of course useless without a card in it, so the camera cannot be used at all. It is also out of warranty.

I have thought about getting a new camera, but I’m not sure what I would get if I did. On the one hand I vowed that the next camera I owned would be a digital SLR, like Canon’s Digital Rebel (and now the Rebel XT), but that’s an expensive purchase. My dad owns a Rebel and he offered to send me the lens that came with it if I bought just the camera body, but even that is still pretty expensive. On the other hand, I could break with my Canon tradition and get a Nikon D50. On the other other hand, I could cheap out and get another point-and-shoot, say the Canon Powershot A520, for $180 or less.

Get the cameras fixed? Get a dSLR? Get a new point-and-shoot? Get one camera fixed and…

I just don’t know what to do. Meanwhile, I’m really hurting. My camera phone is a poor substitute for having even a cheap point-and-shoot, even if it can send photos directly to the web. I really, really like photography and there have been points when I thought I was getting fairly good at it. As it stands right now, though, it’s just a hobby that I used to have.


King Kong and Narnia

December 26, 2005

I saw Peter Jackson’s King Kong yesterday. Wow. Two thumbs up. Jack Black was perfectly cast in the role of Carl Denham, the by-the-seat-of-his-pants filmmaker looking to make something amazing into something tacky. The movie was long, yes, but it never felt too long. There were lengthy moments when Kong and Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) simply regard each other, for example, that really worked. I was surprised at how little she spoke to him, but I was equally surprised at how effective it was.

The special effects were breathtaking, if at times grotesque. The action sequences were nail-biting. I literally had to pry my hands from the armrests after Kong’s incredible battle with the T-Rexes.

Ultimately, though, it is the dramatic weightiness of the tragic end that must make or break any Kong remake. I’m happy to report that this film delivers the goods there, too.

A few days prior, I saw The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Above all I want to single out little Georgie Henley who gave a magnificent performance as Lucy Pevensie. I thought the whole movie was nicely done. The acting was good, the script wasn’t too cheesy (a definite risk for a children’s fantasy) and the special effects weren’t too jarring or distracting. If you’re wondering about taking small children to see this here are some specifics on that: there generally isn’t anything more frightening than snarling wolves and some odd-looking creatures, but there is violence (albeit bloodless). Kids that hide their faces during sword fights ought to be left at home.

The movie is of course based on the classic fantasy novel by C. S. Lewis, and there is the issue of Lewis’ work being a fairly obvious retelling of the New Testament. You thought Tolkien’s masterwork Lord of the Rings was “about” World War II? That’s a stretch compared to the one-to-one, no-way-you-can-miss-it parallels between Narnia and the New Testament. The movie remains faithful to the book on this point, as it should. How much you enjoy this retelling may depend on your feelings about the original. To me the book and the movie suffer from a certain preachiness but your mileage may vary.