Emptywheel has some intriguing analysis of Senatorial hidden threats, smiling public faces, and back room parliamentary deals regarding our dearly beloved Patriot Act.
The five senators involved in this were born between 1933 and 1956.

Between those two dates,

  • America had prevailed in WWII,
  • the semiconductor industry had begun to develop out of applied physics (at AT&T),
  • the transistor had been created,
  • the telephone network (as a utility) had become widely accepted in the U.S.

In other words, between the birth of DiFi in 1933 and the birth of Jeff Merkley 23 years later (in 1956), America had become the dominant economic power in the world and the technologies that underlie telephone networks, computing, and computer networks were being invented.
The oldest of the five senators (DiFi) was elected to the US Senate in 1992, which is prior to the birth of the Internet as we know it.

  • At the time of DiFi’s election to the US Senate, the personal computer was only about a decade old.  It was The Era of the Desktop.
  • Ron Wyden was elected to the US Senate about a year after Microsoft released the first Internet Explorer browser; the Desktop Connected to the Network.
  • Sheldon Whitehouse was elected to the US Senate  (Nov 2006) only two months before the release of the iPhone (Jan 2007), at the emergence of mobile devices (and mobile apps).
  • By the time that  Tom Udall (NM) and Jeff Merkley (OR) were elected to the US Senate in 2008, the iPhone had been on sale for over a year and the App Store was open for global business, offering mobile applications for users worldwide.
  • In summary: five senators — three communication eras: desktop, Internet, and mobile devices.

How might the birth dates, educational backgrounds, and cultural melieu of the five senators named in Emptywheel’s Patriot Act post affect one’s views of the Patriot Act?  Would growing up in WWII predispose one to have somewhat different views about government surveillance and privacy rights than growing up in the raucous 1960s?  I contend that it would, but I wondered whether I might find any patterns in a quick search through Wikipedia archives.  (Yes, I know that Wikipedia is not 100% accurate and well may be a spook’s dreamscape, but nevertheless, it’s simple and easy.  So that’s where all of the information listed below was located.)
The events and milestones listed below are *not* deterministic; n evertheless, as I started to collect a list of milestones, I began to marvel at some of the connections, some of the contrasts.
You may find some of the events or milestones resonate with your own life; if they do, please leave a comment.

Birth Dates: of semiconductors, as well as senators

—— 1930s ———————-
1933 DiFi born to a prominent San Francisco family of Jewish heritage (grandparents from St Petersberg, who appear to have fled Russia during the Revolution of 1917).  DiFi was probably entering first grade at the outbreak of WWII.   ALL of the other Senators mentioned in this post were born post-WWII, and entered adult life during, or after, the VietNam war. Two (Udall, Merkley) have strong backgrounds in international relations and international law.

—— 1940s ———————-

1947 Researchers at AT&T’s Bell Labs in US working in applied physics coin the term semiconductor
1948 Tom Udall born to a New Mexico family of Mormon affiliation with a family history dating back to Territorial days.  DiFi would have been at Catholic High School in SF.
1949 Ron Wyden born in Kansas, later the family moved to Palo Alto where he grew up.

—— 1950s ———————–

1954 The first silicon transistor is produced by Texas Instruments; one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century
1955 Sheldon Whitehouse born into an East Coast family with a heritage of diplomacy.
1955 DiFi graduates from Stanford, BA in History
1956 Jeff Merkley born (Myrtle Creek, OR.)

—— 1960s ————————————–

1961 DiFi is in her  late 20s,  — Merkley and Whitehouse were probably starting kindergarten
1961 Tom Udall’s father (Stewart Udall) becomes US Sec of Interior (1961 – 1968)
1961 On Aug 4, 1961 in Hawaii, Barack Obama is born

  • DiFi was in her late 30s
  • ‘Prague Spring’ in Czecheslovakia; riots in Paris
  • Bobby Kennedy and MLK assassinated
  • Merkley and Whitehouse were in junior high
  • Wyden was in college (Santa Barbara or Stanford), as was Udall (at Prescott**)
  • The US was at war in VietNam
  • The first Apollo mission launched
  • Best Picture:  Oliver! beat out Funny Girl and Romeo & Juliet
  • Best Actress: Katharine Hepburn won for The Lion in Winter
  • Tammy Wynette won Best Country Grammy award for “I Don’t Wanna Play House”
  • The Beatles had just released  Magical Mystery Tour
  • Outstanding Television Drama Series: Mission Impossible beat out Star Trek;  Get Smart won for Comedy television series
  • The origins of what would become the Internet were being invented: the next year [1969], the first two nodes of what would become the ARPANET were interconnected between Kleinrock’s Network Measurement Center at  UCLA’s School of Engineering and Applied Science and Douglas Engelbart’s NLS system at SRI International (SRI) in Menlo Park, California, allowing communication between computers [29 October 1969]

—— 1970s ————————-

1970 Tom Udall graduates from **Prescott College, Pre-Law
1971 Wyden graduates from Stanford with a BA
1974 Wyden, JD from Univ of Oregon
1975 Udall, BA Law from Univ of Cambridge (England)
1977 Udall, JD from Univ of New Mexico
1978 Whitehouse, Yale

  • Best Picture: The Deer Hunter
  • Best Actor: John Voight Coming Home, a movie about a VietNam vet)
  • Best Actress: Jane Fonda (Coming Home)
  • The Sex Pistols play final show (until 1996) in DiFi’s city of San Francisco
  • The first computer bulletin board system [predecessor to blogs] is created in CBBS in Chicago, IL
  • The Police, a New Wave band formed the preceding year, develop a new style of rock influenced by punk, reggae, and jazz
  • The Blues Brothers make their first appearance Saturday Night Live
  • The Camp David Accords are signed (Pres Jimmy Carter, Begin, and Sadat) in Washington, DC
  • The nation is enthralled by Star Wars, released the previous May (1977), which surpassed Jaws [1975]  as the highest grossing movie to date.

1979 Merkley, Stanford, BA in International Relations

—— 1980s ————————-

1980-1 86-DOS is purchased for $75,000 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who rename it MS-DOS
1982 Whitehouse, JD Univ of Virginia
1982 Merkley, MS in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton Univ
1982  MS-DOS 1.0 is released with the IBM PC; personal computing emerges, but it is not yet linked to telecomm systems
1984 The first Apple Macintosh PC (the Macintosh 128K) is released, priced at $2,495 with 128 KB built in memory
1985  Windows OS 1.0 (basically, a Microsoft copy of the Mac GUI system) is released in November:

  • USSR, perestroika (economic restructuring) begins, led by PM Gorbachev
  • Anthony M. Kennedy is appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States
  • Best Picture: The Last Emperor (directed by Bernardo Bertolucci) wins nine Oscars
  • Michael Dukakis is the Democratic Presidential Candidate, with Lloyd Bentsen for Vice President
  • The Iran–Iraq War ends 20 Aug 1988, with an estimated one million lives lost
  • TAT-8, the first transatlantic telephone cable to use optical fibers, is completed
  • Michael Jackson’s  Bad and the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing are two of the top 5 biggest selling albums; Bon Jovi’s  Bad Medicine and U2’s Angel of Harlem also hit the charts
  • Pre-Internet: the NSF-sponsored conversion to a higher-speed 1.5 megabit/second network became operational in 1988.
  • (Three years earlier, in 1985, the United States’ National Science Foundation (NSF) had commissioned the construction of the NSFNET, a university 56 kilobit/second network backbone using computers called “fuzzballs” by their inventor, David L. Mills)
  • NOTE:  A key decision to use the DARPA TCP/IP protocols was made by Dennis Jennings (in charge of the Supercomputer program at NSF circa 1988)
  • The opening of the NSFNET to other networks began in 1988
  • The US Federal Networking Council approves the interconnection of the NSFNET to the commercial MCI Mail system in 1988, and the link is made in the summer of

1989 The following year, 1989, the Web was invented by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee while working at CERN (a NeXT computer was the first www server)

—— 1990s ————————-


  • DiFi elected to US Senate from the State of California
  • A seminal science fiction book, Snow Crash (by Neal Stephenson), is published  (the book takes its title from a term for a particular software failure mode on the early Apple Macintosh computer)
  • NOTE: The preceding year, in 1991, the NSFNET backbone was upgraded to 45 Mbps, but decommissioned in 1995, when it was replaced by new backbone networks operated by commercial Internet Service Providers.
  • (Al Gore may not have ‘invented’ the Internet, but as the Vice President, he oversaw science policy, and must surely have helped shape these developments.)

1994 by late 1994 there was growing public interest in the previously academic, technical Internet
1995 Internet Explorer released by Microsoft; it is ‘bundled’ with other MS software
1996 The words Internet and email become commonplace, and consequently, so had its use as a synecdoche in reference to the World Wide Web.  Netscape had become widely used; Microsoft was releasing Internet Explorer updates
1996 Wyden beats Gordon Smith for US Senate seat in Oregon

  • Russia begins to circulate new rubles to stem inflation and promote confidence
  • Lewinsky scandal: On American television, President Bill Clinton denies he had “sexual relations” with former White House intern, Monica Lewinsky
  • Osama bin Laden publishes a fatwa, declaring jihad against all Jews and Crusaders
  • United States troops stationed in the Persian Gulf begin to receive the first anthrax vaccine
  • Best Picture: Titanic wins a record 11 Oscars
  • The Food and Drug Administration approves Viagra for use as a treatment for male impotence, the first pill to be approved for this condition in the United States
  • United States v. Microsoft: The United States Department of Justice and 20 U.S. states file an antitrust case against Microsoft
  • Nuclear testing: In response to a series of Indian nuclear tests, Pakistan explodes 5 nuclear devices of its own in the Chaghai hills of Baluchistan, prompting the United States, Japan and other nations to impose economic sanctions
  • Nuclear testing: Pakistan conducts 1 more nuclear explosion following its first test.  A 6.6 magnitude earthquake hits northern Afghanistan, killing up to 5,000
  • Microsoft releases Windows 98 (First Edition)
  • France beats Brazil 3-0 in the World Cup final, with the first two goals scored by Zinedine Zidane
  • Monica Lewinsky scandal: Ex-White House intern Monica Lewinsky receives transactional immunity, in exchange for her grand jury testimony concerning her relationship with U.S. President Bill Clinton
  • U.S. embassy bombings: The bombings of the United States embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya kill 224 people and injure over 4,500; they are linked to terrorist Osama Bin Laden
  • Russian financial crisis: Russia defaults on the state short-term bonds, and devalues the ruble
  • The ruble loses 70% of its value against U.S. dollar in the next 6 months
  • Several of the largest Russians banks collapse, and millions of people lose their savings
  • Google, Inc. is founded in Menlo Park, California, by Stanford University Ph.D. candidates Larry Page and Sergey Brin
  • Telecommunications companies MCI Communications and WorldCom complete their $37 billion merger to form MCI WorldCom
  • America Online announces it will acquire Netscape Communications in a stock-for-stock transaction worth US$4.2 billion
  • Green Day, Matchbox 20, and Celine Dion top the music charts
  • During the late 1990s, it was estimated that traffic on the public Internet grew by 100 percent per year, while the mean annual growth in the number of Internet users was thought to be between 20% and 50%.

—— 2000s ——————————–

2000 In Bush v Gore, SCOTUS deals a near-death blow to the legitimacy of US federal government; over the ensuing years involving bogus claims of WMD in Iraq, no-bid contracts for defense contractors and telecomm companies, outed CIA agents, and Cheney’s Secret Energy Task Force (including SCOTUS protection of government secrecy claims), this problem of government legitimacy deepens.
2006 Whitehouse beats Lincoln Chaffee for RI for US Senate seat in Rhode Island, Nov 2006
2007 On 9 Jan 2007, the iPhone is announced by Steve Jobs and the era of mobile devices begins to accelerate
2008 Merkley beats Gordon Smith for US Senate seat in Oregon
2008 Tom Udall wins US Senate seat in New Mexico, replacing Pete Domenici (who retired)

  • NOTE: Udall’s cousin Mark won the Colorado seat in 2008

2008 [includes specific dates]:

  • January 2 The price of petroleum hits $100 per barrel for the first time
  • Feb 18 A general election is held in Pakistan, delayed from January 8 due to riots in the wake of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Opposition parties, including Bhutto’s, take more than half of the seats, while President Pervez Musharraf’s party suffers a huge defeat
  • March –April:  Rising food and fuel prices trigger riots and unrest in the Third World
  • March 25 – A 414 square kilometer (160 sq. mi.2) chunk of Antarctica’s Wilkins Ice Shelf disintegrates, leaving the entire shelf at risk
  • April 28 India sets a world record by sending 10 satellites into orbit in a single launch
  • May 7 Dmitry Medvedev takes office as President of Russia, replacing Vladimir Putin
  • June 27 – After three decades as the Chairman of Microsoft Corporation, Bill Gates steps down from daily duties to concentrate on philanthropy
  • August 18 Pervez Musharraf resigns as President of Pakistan, under impeachment pressure from the coalition government
  • October 3 Global financial crisis: U.S. President George W. Bush signs the revised Emergency Economic Stabilization Act into law, creating a 700 billion dollar Treasury fund to purchase failing bank assets
  • November 26 – November 29 A series of terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India by Pakistan-based Islamic militants kills 195, and injures at least 250.

From 2009 onward, the Internet is expected to grow significantly in Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Indonesia (BRICI countries).

  • These countries have large populations and moderate to high economic growth, but still low Internet penetration rates.
  • In 2009, the BRICI countries represented about 45 percent of the world’s population and had approximately 610 million Internet users, but by 2015, Internet users in BRICI countries will double to 1.2 billion, and will triple in Indonesia

3 of the 5 senators are linked with Gordon Smith, former Oregon US Senator (GOP)

  • Second-cousin to Tom Udall, NM and Mark Udall, CO
  • Beaten by Ron Wyden in 1996, then elected to the other Oregon US senate seat
  • Beaten by Jeff Merkley in 2008

Of the 5 Senators, 3 are Stanford grads:

  • DiFi 1955 (the year Whitehorse is born, the year before Merkley was born)
  • Ron Wyden, Standford BA 1971
  • Jeff Merkley, Stanford 1979 (Foreign Relations)

3 of the 5 senators have JDs:

  • Whitehouse (Yale 1979, then Univ of VA for JD)
  • Udall (Prescott College 1970, Univ of Cambridge UK 1975, Univ of New Mexico JD 1977)
  • Wyden (Stanford, then Univ of Oregon)


** It appears that Tom Udall would have been in the original graduating class of Prescott College, which was among the first colleges in the US to emphasize interdisciplinary studies and self-directed learning.



Eclectic interests. Like to read.