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Quite the World, Isn't It?

On Alaska, ice, and other photos

For the past week I've been out of reach of handy Internet access, aboard a cruise ship sailing the Inland Passage through British Columbia and southeastern Alaska. Friends over the years have reported back on the inexpressible beauty of the place, so our expectations were high. And they were exceeded. It really is spectacular.

Part of the trip was a side run up a fjord called the Tracy Arm, near Juneau. The deeper into the fjord we went, the more mesmerizing the scenery became, until we stopped within view of the face of the Sawyer Glacier - and in front of a field of ice floes. The captain of our ship, the Norwegian Star, explained later that he decided not to move closer because he feared he wouldn't be able to turn the ship around. It was windy and cold and wet - and beautiful.

In Seattle now, with a talk and signing set for this afternoon at Elliott Bay Books. It will be hard not to talk about Alaska, too....

(This is a slide show and could take a bit to load depending on your browser and Internet link).

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San Francisco, and The Fear Within

Just back to the hotel after a great event at The Booksmith on the Haight in San Francisco. Wonderful and passionate crowd of about 60 people jammed into the back of a gem of a bookstore. The kind of talk authors love - challenging questions from an audience many of whose own lives were touched by the historical events I wrote about in The Fear Within: Spies, Commies, and American Democracy on Trial.

Thanks to owners Christin and Praveen for the hospitality, and to fellow author Frances Dinkelspiel for getting me on their events roster - and for bringing the wine. Linked up with some old friends, met some new ones, and learned that I might have screwed up a couple of dates in the book. Sigh.

So northward we drive. Hope to see some of you in Seattle on July 31Read More 
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On Google, street views and the presumption of privacy

A article in The Buffalo News the other day caught my eye this morning during a pre-dawn browse (the things you find when you wake up early and can't fall back to sleep). The piece looked at the return of Google's "street view" car to Western New York (where I once lived) to refresh its 360-degree images for its online mapping service.

What jumped out at me was this quote:
“Google Street View captures a snapshot in time and posts it for many months to years,” said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum. “That snapshot in time becomes memorialized, and not everyone wants that. Some people don’t mind it at all, but what if it’s your children, playing in the front yard? You’re probably not going to be comfortable with that.... People should have more say on whether they participate in the first place. I’d like people to have more of a choice going in rather than on the back end.”
No. Privacy is a big concern of mine, and this is really a non-issue. A real privacy issue is what we, as a society, have so willingly given up in the wake of 9/11 under the Patriot Act, including warrantless searches, indefensible gag orders, and the government's new ability to rummage around in individual library and bookstore patronage records. It's positively Orwellian what the government is now allowed to do with barely a screech of protest from a public more drawn to sensational murder trials and dance shows on TV than to their legal standing in society.

Google's cameras taking photos on public streets? That is not a privacy issue. Google is able to cruise the streets with the cameras running because of hard-won First Amendment protections that mean anything that an average person can see from a public position - driving down the street or walking through a neighborhood - can be photographed, and published.

This is as it should be in a free society. It's bad enough that police routinely interfere with news photographers by falsely claiming that the taking of a few photos somehow obstructs justice. People who are out in public have no claim to privacy, whether it be from Google's car, news photographers, or a shutterbug like me.

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Summer road trips

I've been spending some time on the road this summer -- one of my favorite things to do -- and have more travel to come. Margaret and I leave next week (burglars alert: Leaving our two six-foot plus sons and the dog at home) for a three week driving/cruise trip that will take us up the West Coast and into the lower Alaskan waters. Yeah, we're looking forward to that.

Part of the trip is work; I'm doing a talk and signing in San Francisco on July 20, and again in Seattle on July 31. Hope to see some of you at those events.

Meantime, here are some photos from my recent trip through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, which included my appearance at the annual Ludlow memorial gathering at the Ludlow Massacre site.

Enjoy. And let me know what you think.

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The reason for the long weekend

You know, some of those guys could really make a political argument:
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights,  Read More 
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