Same old, same old – for forty years

Dale Irby wore the same disco-era shirt and sweater vest for all 40 years of school photos in his teaching career in Garland Texas. Those photos and a video of them have now had more than 1.3 million hits online.

I have heard from journalists in Australia, England and Germany wanting to follow up on the saga — as well as producers at CNN and ABC. I heard that NBC’s Today show did a spot on Dale this morning.

Not a bad note for a great teaching career to end on.

Tell you why this is such a hoot for me. I think I owned that same shirt for 30 years, anyway. Moths got a similar sweater vest that I had just as long when I was living in the Navajo Nation 20 years ago.

It’s a guy thing.

From Goldman Sachs to Microsoft – corporate support for gay civil rights puts pressure on backwards politicians

Support for gay marriage by companies as varied as Goldman Sachs, Microsoft and Starbucks is gathering steam to change policies in states that bar same-sex couples from tying the knot.

Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions on June 26 heartened supporters of the cause while showing an increased willingness of business to back the effort. In one case, more than 200 companies signed a brief against a federal law that denied benefits to same-sex couples. Five years ago, only a handful had lobbied against California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriages, the target of the high court’s other decision…

State legislators stand to feel the heat as more businesses speak out against laws in states including Texas, Florida and Michigan that recognize only heterosexual marriage. While fewer than half the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 are based in states that allow gays to wed, most already have policies that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“Companies do have the choice where they locate, where they set up shop,” said Kellie McElhaney, founding faculty director of the Center for Responsible Business at the University of California Berkeley. Local policies on sexual orientation “will eventually become part of the choice process…”

Goldman Sachs and Expedia are among businesses gearing up to support a federal bill to prevent workforce discrimination based on sexual orientation. Of Fortune 500 companies, 88 percent include orientation in their nondiscrimination policies and more than 60 percent offer domestic partner health benefits, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Companies moved ahead on providing health benefits for same-sex couples and adopting nondiscrimination rules since the 1990s just as Congress went in the opposite direction to approve the federal government’s rejection of gay marriage in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Now, corporate America is pushing for uniform laws that protect against workplace discrimination, said Edith Hunt, Goldman Sachs’s chief diversity officer…

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U.S. Postal Service logging all your mail to give to the coppers

Leslie James Pickering noticed something odd in his mail last September: a handwritten card, apparently delivered by mistake, with instructions for postal workers to pay special attention to the letters and packages sent to his home.

“Show all mail to supv” — supervisor — “for copying prior to going out on the street,” read the card. It included Mr. Pickering’s name, address and the type of mail that needed to be monitored. The word “confidential” was highlighted in green.

“It was a bit of a shock to see it,” said Mr. Pickering, who with his wife owns a small bookstore in Buffalo. More than a decade ago, he was a spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front, a radical environmental group labeled eco-terrorists by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Postal officials subsequently confirmed they were indeed tracking Mr. Pickering’s mail but told him nothing else.

As the world focuses on the high-tech spying of the National Security Agency, the misplaced card offers a rare glimpse inside the seemingly low-tech but prevalent snooping of the United States Postal Service.

Mr. Pickering was targeted by a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, a forerunner of a vastly more expansive effort, the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, in which Postal Service computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States — about 160 billion pieces last year. It is not known how long the government saves the images.

Together, the two programs show that postal mail is subject to the same kind of scrutiny that the National Security Agency has given to telephone calls and e-mail…

Bruce Schneier, a computer security expert and an author, said whether it was a postal worker taking down information or a computer taking images, the program was still an invasion of privacy.

“Basically they are doing the same thing as the other programs, collecting the information on the outside of your mail, the metadata, if you will, of names, addresses, return addresses and postmark locations, which gives the government a pretty good map of your contacts, even if they aren’t reading the contents,” he said.

But law enforcement officials said blah, blah, blah. You already know what they will say.

The program has led to sporadic reports of abuse. In May 2012, Mary Rose Wilcox, a Maricopa County supervisor in Arizona, was awarded nearly $1 million by a federal judge after winning a lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The sheriff, known for his immigration raids, had obtained mail covers from the Postal Service to track her mail. The judge called the investigation into Ms. Wilcox politically motivated because she had been a frequent critic of Mr. Arpaio’s, objecting to what she considered the targeting of Hispanics in his immigration sweeps…

Mr. Pickering said “I’m no terrorist — I’m an activist.” And I’m no terrorist — I’m an activist. First time I deliberately defied illegitimate laws was in 1960. I sat down at a drugstore counter with a Black friend of mine and we both ordered soft drinks. That brought the cops in from outside the store.

Less than 50 miles from the White House.

I’ve had my mail tracked for decades. Managed to get one postal employee busted out for exceeding the limits of authority. That never stopped anything. Frankly, I’d like to see the investigation widened. Do you think the Feds don’t make the same requirements of UPS or FedEx?