Christopher Locke (modern fossils, TSA confiscation sculptures, adult coloring book) sez, "I want to hand-draw a few hundred portraits on Post-It Notes, then compile them into a book, so I'm asking people to buy the portraits in order to fund the project: $25 gets you hand-drawn likeness of yourself, arriving in the mail and suitable for framing. The process will help me in teaching middle-schoolers about dedication to long-term projects."
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The ACLU and SXSW will host a video chat with Edward Snowden on Monday, during the day's civil-liberties-focused program track. I'll be speaking immediately before Snowden, with Barton Gellman, and we will be staying for the Snowden event. Snowden will be interviewed by ACLU technologist Christopher Soghoian, and the event is moderated by the ACLU's Ben Wizner. I hope to see you there -- it's why I'm flying to Austin.
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Jonl sez, "Streets near the University of Texas at Austin today are safer, thanks to quick and effective action by the local police, who caught and arrested a jogger, observed wearing a pony tail, black shorts, and a headset in the area. She was apparently menacing traffic by crossing the street in a manner construed as 'jaywalking,' however her apparent arrest was due to her failure to provide identification: i.e., she was guilty not just of jaywalking, but of anonymous jaywalking."
I'll be returning to SXSW Interactive this March for the first time in more than five years, to interview Pulitzer-winning journalist Barton Gellman, who is one of the journalists who's been entrusted with some of the Snowden NSA leaks. We're doing a presentation called "Snowden 2.0: A Field Report From the NSA Archives," which follows an address by Glenn Greenwald. We're speaking on March 10 -- I hope to see you!
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Alan sez, "So there's this woman who decided she wasn't going to give Keystone XL passage rights through her land in Texas. Not even for the few tens of thousands of dollars they offered. And then the story gets weird.
In Texas, companies (like TransCanada) can use eminent domain. All they have to do is declare themselves a 'common carrier' which is apparently a one-page form you have to fill out. Keystone did that and then took Julia Crawford's land."
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The ACLU is representing a New Mexico woman in her fifties who was subjected by federal agents to a two-handed (!) vaginal and anal examination, an involuntary X-ray and CAT scan, and was forced to defecate in front of strangers. The woman was suspected of being in possession of drugs, on the basis of a drug-dog alert at the Juarez/El Paso border-crossing. No drugs were found. The federal agents -- it's not clear what agency they were with -- did not obtain a warrant. The doctors at University Medical Center in El Paso performed the procedures without the victim's consent, including the CT scan, which subjects people to a high dose of potentially harmful radiation.
Third generation Texas judge Elizabeth E. Coker has resigned just ahead of being investigated for misconduct; she admits that she texted instructions to prosecutors in order to help them convict the defendants whose cases she heard. She also is accused of other indiscretions, including meeting with jurors and attempting to influence them to convict defendants. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct suggests that she lied to them as well, perjuring herself. She's out of a job, but apparently will face no criminal or civil sanctions for her crimes; nor will the victims whose trials she perverted be freed.
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Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.) has introduced legislation that would cut off funding to schools whose zero tolerance policies lead them to punish children for brandishing pastries in the manner of a gun, for making gun-fingers and saying "bang" (or similar), for pointing pretend guns that are smaller than 2" in length, drawing a picture of a gun, making a gun out of legos or pencils or whatnot, or wearing a t-shirt "that supports Second Amendment rights."
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14-year-old girl who was called a "whore" for her pro-Choice sign expresses disappointment in adult world
Tuesday Cain is the 14-year-old Texas girl who designed the "Jesus isn't a dick so keep him out of my vagina" sign that went viral in a photo that showed her friend holding it up in front of the Texas Capitol. She was protesting Texas's misogynist, retrograde anti-Choice law. Afterward, a number of self-identified Christian opponents of abortion heaped the vilest, cruelest abuse on her, calling her a "whore" and worse. In this editorial, young Ms Cain explains how this made her feel, and reminds us that calling young women "whores" does not make your case for you.
I'm going to be honest about what it feels like to be called that as a 14-year-old girl who has never had sex and who doesn't plan to have sex anytime soon.
I feel disappointed.
It's hard for me to understand why adults would be calling me this. It's hard for me to understand why anyone would use this term for a 14-year-old girl.
It's not anyone's business, but as I said, I am a virgin, and I don't plan to have sex until I am an adult.
But none of those facts make me feel any less passionate about fighting for a woman's right to choose and the separation of church and state in my home state of Texas.
Clark Baker, an "AIDS denialist" who plays hardball with his critics -- for example, calling a critic's elderly mother and saying that, as an ex-police-officer, it is his opinion that her son was a violent criminal who might murder her in her sleep -- can dish it out but can't take it.
Baker operates a consultancy that helps people who have HIV and have unprotected sex escape from the legal consequences of their recklessness. His professional service involves appearing in court and arguing that HIV is not the cause of AIDS.
Understandably, this draws firm and impassioned criticism. One critic, J. Todd Deshong of Texas, is now the target of a lawsuit by Baker and his attorney, Mark Weitz of Weitz Morgan PLLC in Austin, Texas. They have brought suit against Deshong for "trademark infringement, defamation, "business disparagement," and for injunctive relief."
As Ken at Popehat points out, this is without legal merit. But nuisance suits can be ruinously expensive, and if you're a deep-pocketed pseudoscientist-for-hire whose career as an AIDS denialist depends on silencing critics who point out the obvious holes in your scientific reasoning, then no price is too high when it comes to frivolous litigation.
Mr Deshong needs help from members of the Texas bar and supporters around the world who can come to his aid and defend his right to participate in vigorous debate over important, life-or-death issues without this sort of litigious harassment.
Todd Deshong needs help. He's being sued for attacking junk science; he's being sued by the sort of loathsome nutter who threatens the mothers of critics. Your freedom to speak without fear of censorious and frivolous litigation chilling you depends on the willingness of people to step up in situations like this. If nobody helps Todd Deshong, then anybody can be driven to penury by a flawed legal system that serves as a vehicle for despicable and un-American censorship by lunatics of every stripe. If you're a Texas lawyer, please consider helping. If you know Texas lawyers, please bring this to their attention. If you have an online presence, please tell this story — and research Clark Baker's behavior yourself. Clark Baker and his lawyer should experience the social consequences of their actions — help be a part of those social consequences. Step up for free speech.
Kyle from Bumperactive sez, "Support the thousands of Texans standing for Women's Reproductive Freedom at the State Capitol this morning with a 'Come And Take It' Uterus tee, printed by Austin printshop Bumperactive and designed by liberal Texas troublemakers Cole Latimer and Carrie Collier-Brown. $12.00 from the sale of each $25.00 benefits Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas and The Texas Democratic Party in an equal split. The design is riff on the famous flag of the Texian Settlers in the first battle of Texas Revolution. The imprint is a one-color screen-print on a Texas Orange pre-shrunk Gildan tee." Come And Take It
Thrift-score: mad, wonderful scrapbooks of 19th C Texas butcher who loved flying machines, secret societies
Robbo sez, "Charles Dellschau, a retired butcher in Texas in the late 1800's created a series of scrapbooks: '2,500 intricate drawings of flying machines alongside cryptic newspaper clippings filled the pages, crudely sewn together with shoelaces and thread' - it's an astonishing collection of mystery and whimsey with loads of drawings and plans for arcane flying machines, a secret society and coded messages strewn throughout. The books were found by a junk dealer in the 1960's and are now valued at $15,000 - per page."
These are astounding illustrations and amazing fantasies; they've been collected in a book called THE SECRETS OF DELLSCHAU: The Sonora Aero Club and the Airships of the 1800s, A True Story, which includes a lot of commentary on Dellschau's work and context.
He began with three books entitled Recollections which purported to describe a secret organization called the Sonora Aero Club. Dellschau described his duties in the club as that of the draftsman. Within his collaged watercolors were newspaper clippings (he called them “press blooms”) of early attempts at flight overlapped with his own fantastic drawings of airships of all kind. Powered by a secret formula he cryptically referred to as “NB Gas” or “Suppa” — the “aeros” (as Dellscahu called them) were steampunk like contraptions with multiple propellers, wheels, viewing decks and secret compartments. Though highly personal, autobiographical (perhaps!), and idiosyncratic, these artworks could cross-pollinate with the fiction of Jules Verne, Willy Wonka and the Wizard of Oz. The works were completed in a furiously creative period from 1899 to 1923, when air travel was still looked at by most people as almost magical. Newspapers of that period were full of stories about air travel feats and the acrobatic aerial dogfights of WWI were legend.
Dreams of the Sonora Aero Club [John Foster/Design Observer]
Update: Here's an interesting, longer piece about Dellschau by Rebecca J. Rosen from the Atlantic
Texas is on the verge of passing legislation that patches a hole in federal privacy law. Under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, no warrant is needed to spy on email once it has been opened, or if it is unopened on a server for more than six months. The Feds have fought efforts to reform this antiquated law, which the DHS and its affiliated snoops rely upon to conduct mass-scale, warrantless surveillance. The Texas law is somewhat symbolic (since it won't stop Fed snooping), but it's still an important step toward establishing a better norm in privacy standards for files on cloud-based services:
On Tuesday, the Texas bill (HB 2268) was sent to Gov. Perry’s desk, and he has until June 16, 2013 to sign it or veto it. If he does neither, it will pass automatically and take effect on September 1, 2013. The bill would give Texans more privacy over their inbox to shield against state-level snooping, but the bill would not protect against federal investigations. The bill passed both houses of the state legislature earlier this year without a single "nay" vote.
This new bill, if signed, will make Texas law more privacy-conscious than the much-maligned (but frustratingly still in effect) 1986-era Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). With the ECPA, federal law enforcement agencies are only required to get a warrant to access recent e-mails before they are opened by the recipient.
As we've noted many times before, there are no such provisions in federal law once the e-mail has been opened or if it has been sitting in an inbox, unopened, for 180 days. In March 2013, the Department of Justice acknowledged in a Congressional hearing that this distinction no longer makes sense and the DOJ would support revisions to ECPA.
Unprecedented e-mail privacy bill sent to Texas governor’s desk [Cyrus Farivar/Ars Technica]
Lizzy writes from Austin's magnificent toy emporium Toy Joy:
Here at Toy Joy, April Fools Day smells like Unicorns! Specifically, Unicorn Farts! Not only is April 1 celebrated globally as a holiday of mischief, it also happens to be the best day for harvesting the rarest of poots: Unicorn Farts! Currently offered both in store at Toy Joy and at ToyJoy.com for the low price of $2.95, this enchanted product is sure to bring a smile to your prince or princess.
* 100% Organic Concentrated Unicorn Farts
* Unique Addition to Most Fart Collections!
* Important Ingredient for Magic Spells.
* Handy Household Fragrance.
* Delicious on Salads!
We anticipate a high demand for these rarest of odors, and recommend stocking up on this magical product. Unicorn Farts won't be around forever!
Please feel free to contact the wizarding team at Toy Joy for additional information on this product, or the harvesting process. Send all emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Fort Worth, TX cop told a guy in a Statue of Liberty suit to move along from the road-median where he was advertising Liberty Tax Services. Lady Liberty did not immediately comply ("Get away from me! What are you doing? Go talk to my boss!") so the cop tazed the Statue of Liberty. Three times. As Lowering the Bar points out, this has bad optics.
People in Liberty suits have rights, too, but not the unrestricted right to solicit customers from a median. While this does implicate the First Amendment, it would be the kind of time, place, and manner restriction that usually passes muster. The situation would be different if a local government tried to completely ban the use of such "moving signs" or (as I prefer to call them) "business mascots," which of course is something that has happened before. See "The McHenry Code," Lowering the Bar (Sept. 6, 2006).
b Coincidentally, that incident (which happened in Illinois) also involved "Lady Liberty," as well as the Verlo Mattress Factory's "Mattress Man," a 4-by-3-foot ambulatory mattress with "comically large hands." McHenry's city council had decided that such "live moving signs" were distracting drivers (which is part of the point of having one) and causing a nuisance because people honk at them. (The council also threw in an alleged "safety risk" to the person in the costume, saying they might get heatstroke.) If I recall correctly, the council later reversed itself on the complete ban, thus giving Liberty some limited freedom.
Like I mentioned in the Blooming Flower post, I'm headed home with a suitcase full of dirty laundry and toys for my five year old. Another awesome score from this trip is the Hello Kitty Reversible 8" Plush: Hamburger, a plush Hello Kitty toy that inverts and forms a Hello Kitty hamburger. It's a thing, then it's another thing! (And there's a turkey version, too).
If you're headed to SXSW, you should really get all your friends in a taxi and ride out to Toy Joy and then eat some of the spectacular barbecue at Ruby's BBQ, kitty-corner from the shop. It's pretty much the perfect outing, and at least as cool (if not cooler) than anything you'll actually see presented on the conference floor.
More scenes from a book tour: SECURE DOCUMENTS!
Scene from a Houston grocery store, courtesy of a touring author's life. I did not buy any of these things.
Remember the potential weirdo sex-dungeon in Houston's Hotel ZaZa? A reader with inside knowledge writes,
That "two-way mirror" in 322 hangs on the bathroom wet wall for the more spacious suite 321 next door. So in the "secret voyeur room" case, you'd be standing in the bathroom next door and looking through a piping chase full of sanitary and domestic water lines. The bricks are a veneer that they decided to stop at the frame of the mirror. It doesn't seem like this room was specially built for secret sex shows or whatnot. At least, no more than any other hotel room with potential for pinhole cameras and so on.
I think it really is just an awkwardly placed and sized room, dictated by adjacent suite and service elevator lobby/shaft requirements. (See attached snippet from floor plans.) The associated balcony sits in a corner, so it is in fact larger than the balconies in the adjacent conventional rooms, as the ZaZa rep claims. I have no explanation for why some owner, architect and/or interior designer thought this would be a good theme for a room, though.
The Orleans Parish Public School Board has rejected the Louisiana Science Education Act, which followed Texas's lead by putting Creationism into the state's schools. A Board decision prohibits the teaching of Creationism in science class, and forbids the use of Texas's revisionist, Creationist "science" textbooks.
The policy says: "No history textbook shall be approved which has been adjusted in accordance with the state of Texas revisionist guidelines nor shall any science textbook be approved which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories."
It stresses the separation of science and religious teachings:
"No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach any aspect of religious faith as science or in a science class. No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes."
Orleans Parish School Board votes to ban creationism [Tania Dall/WWLTV] (Thanks, Patrick!)