Monday, February 20, 2006

Celebrating Presidents Day 2006

There are a lot of interesting articles about the Presidents of the United States either linked from or on the pages of the National Archives. Here are some of the ones I read tonight:

The Surprising George Washington
Our first president was also our first ex-president,and this article touches upon what that meant as well as busting a few myths about his life.

Thomas Jefferson and the Patent Act of 1793
A look at how Secretary of State Jefferson attempted to influence Congress on the passage of the patent act.

Fireside Chats of Franklin D. Roosevelt
Very readable. I could almost envision myself sitting next to the radio, listening to these chats.

Mutual Admiration and a Few Jokes:
The Correspondence of Harry Truman with Groucho and Harpo Marx

Sixty Years Later, the Story of PT-109 Still Captivates

With Easter Monday You Get Egg Roll at the White House

Happy Presidents Day.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Wikipedia in Washington: Delaware Representative Entries

Wikipedia is truly an incredible online project, where easily editable pages allow anyone to become involved in helping to maintain an online encyclopedia which has ambitions of becoming the most comprehensive ever.

A word of caution: because Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, you may come across information that isn't quite accurate. Instead of relying solely upon the encyclopedia as an authoritative resource, instead consider using it as a starting off point to conduct research.

Again, Wikipedia can be edited by anyone.

That's both its strength, and its weakness. Recently some of the edits have come from staffers from Capitol Hill offices in Washington, DC. Those edits haven't been unnoticed. Today's Wilmington News Journal takes a closer look at Delaware's role in changes to wikipedia pages with an article titled Biden staffers take Web bio entry into own hands.

In case you haven't seen them, and might even be interested in adding to the articles, here are links to the pages of Delaware's federal representatives:

Joe Biden

Tom Carper

Mike Castle

State level politicians also have entries in the wikipedia. Here's the entry for Delaware's Governor:

Ruth Ann Minner

Thursday, February 09, 2006

National Federation Of The Blind take on Target

The National Federation of the Blind have brought a lawsuit against Target Corp. over accessibility issues involving their web site.

They are seeking to have the case certified as a class action suit on behalf of all blind Californians who want to use the site.

I used an accessibility validator to check the Target site and see what types of things make it inaccessible. The major problems seem to be a lack of alt text for a large number of spacer images - which are supposed to help in the layout of the design of the web site, and the use of tables to present a layout.

I also checked the pages, and am happy to say that except for a couple of minor issues which we will look into, we do ok.

I hope that this lawsuit will convince web site owners to take a closer look at their own sites, and see what they can do to make their pages easier to use for all visitors.

Keep in mind that when you fail to provide alt text - even an empty alt text attribute for an image, that a screen reader will read the URL of the image, letter by letter, like this: h-t-t-p-:-/-/-w-w-w-.-e-x-a-m-p-l-e-.-c-o-m-/-i-m-a-g-e-s-/-p-i-c-t-u-r-e-.-g-i-f

Now imagine a page filled with 150 or so small images used to layout the design of a site. To use the site with a screen reader, you would have to listen to the spelling of those spacer images over and over and over. Like on the Target site...

EFF files class action suit agains AT&T

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T.

A copy of the complaint that has been filed is available at the link above, and it charges the company with illegally eavesdropping on the phone and internet communications of people who use the company's phone and DSL services, and datamining information from people who use its services.

I have AT&T long distance. Might be time to go shopping for another service provider.

Why do non-tax paying 18 year olds get to vote in tax referendums?

This is a question posed to us from a reader, which I will begin to respond to here... at least until my assistant comes in and gets me back on my work-track.

I will interpret this question as a request for general public information rather than a request for legal advice. Legal advice requests and responses should be made in private communications between the client and the attorney - not in a public forum.

The 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution made it unlawful for the US government and the State governments to limit voting rights by age for those who are at least 18. One of the pressures to which the government was responding in 1971, when we passed this Amendment, was the Vietnam War. Many felt that if an 18 year old is old enough to be required to fight and die for his country, that he should also have the right to vote. It seems that this sentiment won the day.

Voting Rights Amendments have been consistently expanding our rights, as from the: 15th Amendments bar against racial discrimination in voting; the 19th Amendments granting of voting rights to women; and the 24th Amendment banning of poll taxes for federal elections. When our country was created, the only persons permitted to vote were white male property owners. And in some circumstances there were religious requirements for voting as well.

But it seems that land ownership is still sometimes used as a qualification for voting. In Montana, for example, there are types of voting rights that are based upon the number of acres of irrigable land that one might own (in 40 acre blocks).

Delaware School Referendum voting qualifications are set out at Title 14, Section 1077, which basically qualifies all residents of the district who are 18 or older.

Interestingly, the Delaware Constitution still has the 21 year old age requirement, but that would be ignored in light of the US 26th Amendment.

To accomplish a change in your local voting qualification laws, you should probably contact your State Senators, and Representatives, as your issue is primarly a State and local issue governed by State law... so long as it doesn't conflict with federal law. Perhaps support for such a change might be coordinated through forming or mobilizing political action groups for this purpose, as well.