Wednesday, March 31, 2010
$50 million. Just imagine what that kind of money could do if actually used for something productive, like health care costs or new clean energy technology. The Chamber is an outmoded and outdated institution that argues for what it perceives as business interests, no matter what the cost to the community, and I hope its influence wanes.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Fascinating post (http://www.aclu.org/blog/lgbt-rights/dadt-hits-home-cbs) on how a CBS correspondent had her life protected by a woman soldier who was later kicked out of the military for violating DADT. Sgt. Lacye Presley won the Bronze Star, but it didn't keep her from being discharged. Kicking people out for being gay is not only discriminatory, it is stupid. Here is a woman who was very good at her job as medic and yet she was kicked out for something she was born to be. To me it is similar to how hellaciously many left-handed people were treated for centuries, accused of being devils and evil for being left-handed!
I'm still extremely angry about the many years of sexual abuse of children by priests and by the Church's response to try and limit damage to the Church, rather than trying to limit damage to children. This would be the case in most bureaucracies, I fear. But it illustrates to me the folly of any human institution claiming to be infallible, and of any human believing it. How many Catholics are now feeling betrayed and heartbroken? How many will leave the Church over it?
The Center for Public Integrity | Front & Center News - Washington Lobbyists Cash in on Health Reform
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 26, 2010 — While patients, taxpayers, and lawmakers debate the impact of the new health care reform law, one result is clear: The epic battle was a bonanza for K Street lobbyists.
Contact: Steve Carpinelli
The Center for Public Integrity analysis of 2009 lobbyist disclosure data, “Washington Lobbying Giants Cash in on Health Reform Debate,” shows the biggest winners, based on number of lobbying clients, from health care reform. They are Patton Boggs LLP, Alston & Bird LLP, Foley Hoag LLP, Podesta Group Inc., Capital Tax Partners LLP, Holland & Knight LLP, Dutko Worldwide LLC, Drinker Biddle & Reath LP, Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti Inc., Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP, Bryan Cave LLP, and Van Scoyoc Associates.
The clients who hired these firms ranged from influential industry associations to small non-profit advocacy groups. Some hired more than one of the top firms to lobby for their interests. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, for example, hired Capital Tax Partners, Dutko, Mehlman, and 22 other outside firms, in addition to the group’s own in-house lobbyists. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. hired Patton Boggs, Podesta Group, Mehlman, and Bryan Cave.
About 1,750 businesses and organizations hired about 4,525 lobbyists, total — eight for each member of Congress — and spent at least $1.2 billion to influence health care bills and other issues, according to a Center analysis of disclosure documents that included “health reform” or similar wording. The exact dollar amount spent on health care reform remains unclear because lobbyists are not required to itemize how much money in a given contract is devoted to a specific area. But if only 10 percent of that lobby spending went toward health reform, the amount would total $120 million — and that’s likely a record for a single year’s spending on a particular issue, experts say.
From former congressional aides to former agency heads, the firms unleashed well-connected lobbyists to push their clients’ agendas, including Thomas Scully, a former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President George W. Bush, and Colette Desmarais, a former top health policy aide to Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. Scully is now a lobbyist with Alston & Bird LLP and Desmarais works for Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti Inc.
The tremendous financial boost that health reform brought to lobby firms in 2009 was greater than even veteran observers expected. “I think it is unprecedented,” Washington lawyer and lobbying expert Ken Gross said about the amount of money spent on the health reform battle. The length of the debate, paired with the more than 1,750 business and organizations that signed up to lobby on health reform bills, likely made it the strongest and most expensive lobby push ever, he said.
“First of all, it went on for so long,” Gross said. “Second of all, it was high-stakes poker. It stands to reason that it would be a record-breaker.”
The money in politics is astounding already, and now the Supreme Court has opened the door for more.
Museum of the History of Science
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Between 13 October 2009 and 21 February 2010, the Museum held the world’s first exhibition of Steampunk art. This extraordinarily successful exhibition showcased the work of 18 Steampunk artists from across the globe, and drew over 70,000 visitors to the Museum in the four months that it was on, and was enormously popular. Find out more about the exhibition by following links below – watch a documentary about the exhibition, take a virtual tour, see photographs of the costumed visitors on the Museum’s Steampunk Catwalk and watch some Steampunk machines in action.
To coincide with the exhibition, Secondary School Art and D&T departments were invited to submit students’ work to The Great Steampunk Art and Design Competition! A slideshow of the resulting artworks can be found here.
Further sites of interest
More intriguing images and a full list of artists can be found on the exhibition’s official blog site: http://www.steampunkmuseumexhibition.blogspot.com/
- About MHS
- What’s On
- Visit the Museum
- Schools and Teachers
- Online Exhibits
- Library and Archive
- Join Us
- Broad Sheet
- Web Archive
- Video: Steampunk at the Museum
- Steampunk Photo Album
- Sydney Padua’s ‘Lovelace and Babbage’
Museum Opening Hours
Monday Closed Tuesday to Friday 12 to 5pm Saturday 10am to 5pm Sunday 2 to 5pm Admission is free.
Jane Mayer is an excellent writer and journalist who wrote one of the definitive books on torture during the Bush administration, Dark Side. In this article she writes to debunk Marc Theissen, who wrote a recent book Coutring Disaster which claims that torture was necessary and produced actionable intelligence. I wish we could simply rely on the fact that torture is morally wrong and illegal, but that doesn't seem to persuade everyone. But I think the evidence shows that torture doesn't produce any more actionable intelligence than normal FBI interrogation techniques, and has, indeed, produced misleading lies, as someone being tortured will say anything to get the torture to stop.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
|Title||Shoot to Thrill (A Monkeewrench Novel)|
|Author||P. J. Tracy|
|Tags||mystery, series, monkeewrench, computers, software, fbi, hackers, crackers|
|Life Is Good. FINALLY a new P.J. Tracy in the Monkeewrench series after far too long, and next up in my stack of books are the final two in Stieg Larsson's trilogy that started with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. My bliss would be complete if Edward Wright would come out with another John Ray Horn novel.This is the fifth in the series about a firm of software engineers. The company is called Monkeewrench. All of the team are brilliant, capable, and damaged, none more so than Grace MacBride, the main character, who has been through levels of trauma that seem unsurvivable. She lives carefully, and works with the people who are essentially her family, and sometimes with Minneapolis detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth. Magozzi loves Grace, and she lets him get as close to her as she can let anyone.The FBI finds that there are five videos on the internet that are of genuine murders. Agent John Smith, nearing retirement, comes to Minneapolis to hire Monkeewrench and other computer crackers to find who is posting the videos so they can catch the murderer or murderers. Magozzi and Rolseth get involved when a sixth murder happens in their jurisdiction. Someone leaks the story, and the code that identifies that a new murder video will be posted becomes the next viral Internet meme, greatly hampering the investigation.It is a good book, though not my favorite in the series. I did really like the new character of Agent Smith. And I appreciate that the global level of communications brings new dangers along with great benefits, though I think the authors (a mother-daughter team who use the pseudonym P.J. Tracy) come close to getting preachy about it. Read the whole series, it is well worth it.|
|Publication||Putnam Adult (2010), Hardcover, 320 pages|
|ISBN||0399155201 / 9780399155208|
|Title||Thereby Hangs a Tail: A Chet and Bernie Mystery|
|Tags||mystery, series, dog, private eye, los angeles|
|Second in the Chet and Bernie series. I loved the first one, Dog On It, so was happy to read the sequel. Chet, the narrator, is a large dog of uncertain breed. His person is Bernie, a private eye whose life is something of a mess, but to Chet he is the best person in the world.Bernie gets hired to protect a show dog whose owner had gotten a threatening picture of a bull's eye overlaying the dog. Chet misbehaves, however, and Bernie is fired. When the show dog, Princess, and her owner get kidnapped, however, Bernie insists on working the case.The novelty of Chet's character isn't there as much in this novel, and it drags a bit in places, but is still a fun read. Chet is still just what one thinks a sentient dog would be like. He loves life... there is nothing better than riding shotgun with Bernie, feeling the wind in his face, except maybe for tasting food and smelling things. He gets easily distracted, so misses some of the nuances of what people are saying around him, but that's ok by him.Overall, Quinn pulls it off again. This book is a lot of fun.|
|Publication||Atria (2010), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 320 pages|
|ISBN||1416585850 / 9781416585855|
|Title||The Body in the Vestibule: A Faith Fairchild Mystery|
|Author||Katherine Hall Page|
|Tags||mystery, series, faith fairchild, lyon france|
|Fourth in the Faith Fairchild cosy mystery series. Faith's husband Tom spent a semester in France while a college student and loved it. One of the friends he made while there suggests he come to Lyon for a month and use the university library to complete research for his Ph.D. Faith, lover of good food, is thrilled about the trip, even though it means traveling with a three-year old and while she is pregnant with her second child. She and Tom have a delightful time with the people and the food, at least until Faith finds the body of a beggar in the building where they are staying. By the time the police come, however, the body is gone. The beggar seems to be back in his usual place the next morning, but Faith believes it is an imposter.So far this series has yet to disappoint. The setting for this one is particularly nice.|
|Publication||Avon (1993), Edition: 2nd THUS, Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages|
|ISBN||0380720795 / 9780380720798|
|Title||The Body in the Kelp: A Faith Fairchild Mystery|
|Author||Katherine Hall Page|
|Tags||mystery, series, faith fairchild, sanpere maine, quilting|
|Second in the Faith Fairchild cosy mysteries by Katherine Hall Page. Faith's son Benjamin is now in his terrible twos. She, Tom, and Benjamin, on the suggestion of their neighbor Pix Miller, go to Sanpere island off the coast of Maine for a vacation. Tom loves it, Faith isn't so sure, especially not when Tom has to leave for a church camp that lasts a couple of weeks. Things get especially upsetting when she and Benjamin find the body of a young man, a local potter, whom she had liked. She gets distracted, though, by a quilt she buys at auction that seems to be a map to a treasure rumored to belong to the now-deceased quilter.Another good book in a good series. Page creates realistic characters and plots.|
|Publication||Avon (1992), Edition: 6th THUS, Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages|
|ISBN||0380713292 / 9780380713295|
|Title||The Body in the Belfry: A Faith Fairchild Mystery|
|Author||Katherine Hall Page|
|Tags||mystery, series, faith fairchild, aleford massachusetts|
|First in the Faith Fairchild series by Katherine Hall Page. Faith is a minister's daughter and granddaughter, and never expected to marry a minister herself. She had a successful catering business in New York City, and can't imagine not living there. But she meets Tom Fairchild and marries him. Now she lives in Aleford, Mass., and has a five month old baby Benjamin.She finds the body of Cindy Shepard, a young Aleford woman soon to be married. She was not well-liked in the community, however, as she had an unpleasant personality. She was beautiful, however, and had affairs with many men. Faith, it must be admitted, is a little bored with her life and the prospect of solving the mystery is exciting.The next murder changes all of that, as it is of a woman beloved by all. Page is excellent at showing how such a death affects the other characters. Faith herself, her baby, and the pre-teen daughter of the murdered woman come into danger before the case is solved.I read the 17th book in the series first and decided I liked it and would go back and start from the first book. It was a good decision. A good book that promises a good series.|
|Publication||Avon (1991), Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages|
|ISBN||0380713284 / 9780380713288|
|Title||How to Wash a Cat (Cats and Curios Mystery)|
|Author||Rebecca M. Hale|
|Tags||mystery, series, san francisco, antique shop, gold rush|
|First in a new series about a young woman accountant who has just inherited her uncle's antique shop which specializes in artifacts that relate to California's Gold Rush. Our narrator decides to keep the shop and move in with her two cats, though she is not altogether sure what to do with it and it needs a lot of renovation to bring up to local standards. She begins to find indications that Oscar's death may not have been a stroke and to find out that there are mysteries relating to the Gold Rush past that may be still causing trouble.This is an ok book. The characters of the narrator and Uncle Oscar and a couple of others come through well, but at least one character needs more fleshing out, as does the plot. It is good enough that I'll read the next book in the series.|
|Publication||Berkley (2010), Paperback, 304 pages|
|ISBN||0425232042 / 9780425232040|
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Mittens never knew how to use the timer - Lolcats 'n' Funny Pictures of Cats - I Can Has Cheezburger?
A monkey who is on the loose in Florida has become a facebook phenomenon. "Facebook’s favorite primate lists his personal interests as, “Bananas, swinging through trees, messing with the popo, flinging feces, screeching at the top of my lungs, and basically hanging out with my peeps. I am also interested in the theory of relativity, and post modern art. I also like the warm sun, a cold cervesa, and a nice grouper sandwich.”
As a Pagan with multiple deities to choose from, the God/desses that appeal most to me are those who include the attribute of compassion, and it is a main reason I am attracted to Buddhism. This Charter (http://charterforcompassion.org/) is a statement of trying to increase the level of compassion in our interactions with others. I may not agree with the Charter 100%, but in theory I think it is a fine idea. The Golden Rule Rules!
The Supreme Court, at the last hour, stayed the execution of Hank Skinner in Texas, a case I blogged about yesterday. The man may be guilty, or he may be innocent. There is DNA evidence that could prove it one way or another. That it isn't automatic that such evidence be used, especially in capital cases, is repugnant.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Since Glenn Beck gets good ratings, this isn't a surprise. The pleasant surprise is that there are people at Fox News who dislike what he does. The unpleasant reality is that he does get good ratings, which speaks very ill about the state of political discourse in this country. Jon Stewart has done two marvelous parodies of Beck, the most recent last Thursday March 18th:
<table style='font:11px arial; color:#333; background-color:#f5f5f5' cellpadding='0' cellspacing='0' width='360' height='353'><tbody><tr style='background-color:#e5e5e5' valign='middle'><td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;'>The Daily Show With Jon Stewart</td><td style='padding:2px 5px 0px 5px; text-align:right; font-weight:bold;'>Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c</td></tr><tr style='height:14px;' valign='middle'><td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'>Conservative Libertarian</td></tr><tr style='height:14px; background-color:#353535' valign='middle'><td colspan='2' style='padding:2px 5px 0px 5px; width:360px; overflow:hidden; text-align:right'>www.thedailyshow.com</td></tr><tr valign='middle'><td style='padding:0px;' colspan='2'></td></tr><tr style='height:18px;' valign='middle'><td style='padding:0px;' colspan='2'><table style='margin:0px; text-align:center' cellpadding='0' cellspacing='0' width='100%' height='100%'><tr valign='middle'><td style='padding:3px; width:33%;'>Daily Show Full Episodes</td><td style='padding:3px; width:33%;'>Political Humor</td><td style='padding:3px; width:33%;'>Health Care Reform</td></tr></table></td></tr></tbody></table>
Interesting information on the Tea Party demographics, views of people who support the Tea Party, and the view of other people about it. Some surprises - that it has more women than men, and that it does pull primarily from Republicans, not independents. Therefore in a three-way race the Democrat will will.
Enlarge Mark Duncan/AP
Ella Mae Johnson was witness to more than a century of black history. She insisted on seeing — with her own eyes — Barack Obama sworn in as president.Mark Duncan/AP
Ella Mae Johnson was witness to more than a century of black history. She insisted on seeing — with her own eyes — Barack Obama sworn in as president.
Ella Mae Johnson was a witness to more than a century of African-American history, and last year, on Inauguration Day, she was determined to be in Washington to see Barack Obama sworn in as president. When she died at home in Cleveland this week, at the age of 106, she felt that trip to the nation's capital was a highlight of her life. It also changed her life.
Johnson was a pioneering professional woman. In 1926, when she'd gone to graduate school to become a social worker, she was the first black student. But she wasn't allowed to live on campus.
She dealt with such slights throughout her life with an air of formality and dignity.
But on Inauguration Day, she was willing to look a little silly in order to sit outside in the bitter cold for seven hours. She put on an elegant jacket and put on her pearl necklace. But in her wheelchair, she let her nurse cover her from head to toe in a bright blue sleeping bag, with just her round glasses and her nose peeking through the puffy fabric.
The trip from Judson Park, her upscale assisted living facility in Cleveland, had been exhausting. She talked about what Obama's presidency meant to her. "My hope for him is my hope for the country," she explained. "If he fails, the country fails. He knows, and he says, 'Not me, but you. Not us, but all of us.' "
There was a surprise that came out of that trip to Washington: A book editor heard her story on NPR and offered her a contract. Next month, her memoir will be published. It's called It Is Well With My Soul: The Extraordinary Life Of A 106-Year-Old Woman.
When the galley proof for her book arrived recently, she picked it up and kissed it. She was proud that she'd leave that legacy.
"Ella Mae's real lesson is that compassion is what will get you through life," says her co-writer Patricia Mulcahy. "She was orphaned when she was only 4 years old, and literally raised by the next-door neighbors. And this incredible example of compassion, outreach, whatever you want to call it, informed the rest of her life."
She'd gotten help from others, too, when she needed money to go to college. In 1921, women from her town in Texas gave her a scholarship to go to Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. Later she would do graduate work at what is now Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
After she graduated, she wanted to turn things around. She wanted to be the one who gave to others. So she became a social worker. She was always reaching out to someone or raising money for some cause.
Last year, over Thanksgiving weekend, she had a stroke. She didn't want to let other people take care of her. She'd try to walk and she'd fall.
Her friend Betty Miller talks about the loving letter that came from one of her two sons. "He just wrote her a letter. E-mailed it to me, and I printed it out," Miller recalls. "And he just told her she'd been a social worker for years helping others, she'd been compassionate, now this is her time to get some help. This is her time to accept the fact that she's 106 years old. She read it and I said, 'Ella Mae, do you understand it?' And she said, 'I'll try.' "
There was one last act of determination. When Johnson died Monday evening, she died where she wanted. She was out of the hospital. She was out of the nursing home. She died in her apartment at her assisted living facility.
She was surrounded by friends, many of them from her church. And as Johnson died, Betty Miller was reading the 23rd Psalm — Ella Mae Johnson's favorite.
What a wonderful story! I would like to read her book when it is published. She is a true role model, and while I grieve for her passing, I celebrate her life.