Book Ratings

Book ratings explained:

* I didn't like it | ** It was OK | *** I liked it | **** I really liked it | ***** I loved it

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Story

In November, 2007, a small group of six citizens - two screenwriters, a physicist, a marine biologist, a philosopher and a science journalist - began working to restore science and innovation to America’s political dialogue. They called themselves Science Debate 2008, and they called for a presidential debate on science. The call tapped a wellspring of concern over the state of American science.

Within weeks, more than 38,000 scientists, engineers, and other concerned Americans signed on, including nearly every major American science organization, dozens of Nobel laureates, elected officials and business leaders, and the presidents of over 100 major American universities. See who here. Among other things, these signers submitted over 3,400 questions they want the candidates for President to answer about science and the future of America.

The Process

Beginning with these 3,400 questions, Science Debate 2008 worked with the leading organizations listed to craft the top 14 questions the candidates should answer. These questions are broad enough to allow for wide variations in response, but they are specific enough to help guide the discussion toward many of the largest and most important unresolved challenges currently facing the United States.

The Questions and Answers

Barack Obama's answers appear below. John McCain has said he will also answer the questions.

Read the questions and Obama's answers . . .

And a little closer to home

The Spy Who Billed Me | Blackwater Gearing Up for Hurricane Gustav
Blackwater Worldwide is currently seeking qualified law enforcement officers and security personnel to potentially deploy to provide security in the possible aftermath of Hurricane Gustav. This is the first time Blackwater has mobilized under its controversial Homeland Security contracts. Blackwater did deploy security personnel to assist New Orleans in wake of Hurricane Katrina and this resulted in great controversy since it was the first time a private military corporation had deployed on US soil.

Land of the free, part two

Majikthise | Inside an RNC raid
Thanks to the miracle of cellular technology, I was able to talk to a homeowner while his home was surrounded by police conducting an RNC-related raid.

I reached Mike Whelan, a waiter and army veteran, by phone at his duplex at 951 Iglehart Ave. in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Whelan invited independent observers from the group LegalWatch stay in one half of his side-by-side duplex while they monitor RNC protests.

Whelan describes himself as a supporter of the RNC demonstrations, but says he is not affiliated with any particular group. "I want to build a country that's based on good social values," he said.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The land of the free

Not. | Massive police raids on suspected protestors in Minneapolis
Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets.

The New York Times | Dozens Detained Ahead of Convention
ST. PAUL, Minn. — On the weekend before the Republican National Convention, law enforcement agencies detained dozens of people and issued a series of search warrants aimed at groups believed to be organizing demonstrations while delegates and Republican officials are in town.

How stupid do you think I am?

When I heard Obama had picked Biden to be his running mate, the first thought that flashed into my mind was that McCain had to pick a woman to be his so he could be part of the history being made with this election. Let's face it folks . . . The only way the Republicans could stay in step with the Democrats was to actually pick a woman as the VP candidate since the Dem's had a woman AND an African-American vying for the top position and the African-American got the spot.

When McCain's running mate was announced, my first reaction was, "Who?" My second was, "How stupid do you think I am? Am I really supposed to think you're not jumping on the bandwagon?"

The answer to my first question - "Who?" - was fairly simple. A friend sent me this link - and the answer was made abundantly clear. Palin is all for raping the land as long as no one profits illegally from it.

And the second and third questions . . . Well . . . I don't do bandwagons.

What is McCain Thinking? One Alaskan’s Perspective.

Quoted from the blog post What is McCain Thinking? One Alaskan’s Perspective.

So, if McCain had made his selection six months ago, the squeaky-clean governor meme would have made a little more sense. But, Sarah Palin is currently under an ethics investigation by the Alaska state legislature. The details of this investigation read like a trashy novel, and I suspect that the players will soon have newfound celebrity on the national stage. I’ll try to explain for all you non-Alaskans who suddenly have good reason to want to know more about Sarah Palin. For those of you not interested in trashy novels, feel free to skip ahead. Here it is…what we in Alaska call “TrooperGate”.

Sarah Palin’s sister Molly married a guy named Mike Wooten who is an Alaska State Trooper. Mike and Molly had a rocky marriage. When the marriage broke up, there was a bitter custody fight that is still ongoing. During the custody investigation, all sorts of things were brought up about Wooten including the fact that he had illegally shot a moose (yes folks this is Alaska), driven drunk, and used a taser (on the test setting, he reminds us) on his 11-year old stepson, who supposedly had asked to see what it felt like. While Wooten has turned out to be a less than stellar figure, the fact that Palin’s father accompanied him on the infamous moose hunt, and that many of the dozens of charges brought up by the Palin family happened long before they were ever reported smacked of desperate custody fight. Wooten’s story is that he was basically stalked by the family.

After all this, Wooten was investigated and disciplined on two counts and allowed to kept his position with the troopers. Enter Walt Monegan, Palin’s appointed new chief of the Department of Public Safety and head of the troopers. Monegan was beloved by the troopers, did a bang-up job with minimal funding and suddenly got axed. Palin was out of town and Monegan got “offered another job” (aka fired) with no explanation to Alaskans. Pressure was put on the governor to give details, because rumors started to swirl around the fact that the highly respected Monegan was fired because he refused to fire the aforementioned Mike Wooten. Palin vehemently denied ever talking to Monegan or pressuring Monegan in any way to fire Wooten, or that anyone on her staff did. Over the weeks it has come out that not only was pressure applied, there were literally dozens of conversations in which pressure was applied to fire him. Monegan has testified to this fact, spurring an ongoing investigation by the Alaska state legislature. But, before this investigation got underway, Palin sent the Alaska State Attorney General out to do some investigative work of his own so she could find out in advance what the real investigation was going to find. (No, I’m not making this up). The AG interviewed several people, unbeknownst to the actual appointed investigator or the Legislature! Palin’s investigation of herself uncovered a recorded phone call retained by the Alaska State Troopers from Frank Bailey, a Palin underling, putting pressure on a trooper about the Wooten non-firing. Todd Palin (governor’s husband) even talked to Monegan himself in Palin’s office while she was away. Bailey is now on paid administrative leave.

As if this weren’t enough, Monegan’s appointed replacement Chuck Kopp, turns out to have been the center of his own little scandal. He received a letter of reprimand and was reassigned after sexual harrassment allegations by a former coworker who didn’t like all the unwanted kissing and hugging in the office. Was he vetted? Obviously not. When he was questioned about all this, his comment was that no one had asked him and he thought they all knew. Kopp, defiant, still claimed to have done nothing wrong and said to the press that there was no way he was stepping down from his new position. Twenty four hours later, he stepped down. Later it was uncovered that he received a $10,000 severance package for his two weeks on the job from Palin. Monegan got nothing.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Another favorite for 2008

I've got to admit that since I've joined Library Thing, I've bought several books I would not have considered buying before if I'd simply stumbled upon them in a bookshop, and I've bought books I'd never heard of because I live in the back hole of civilization.

Because of Library Thing, I bought The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. It is a wonderful book about a 12 year old boy coming to grips with the death of his mother and the inclusion of a stepmother and half brother into his family by withdrawing into a fantastical world. The blurb on the back of the book says it all:

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While he family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his won -- populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

Joe Biden

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Go to work, don't go to work

Edouard is wreaking havoc with the work schedule. At 7-ish this morning I called the employee hotline to discover conditions were such the office would open at 10 a.m. but a new advisory would be put up at 9 a.m. so check then before coming in. I just called the hotline again and apparently the area where I work is currently being pounded by rain so the office is closed again . . . however . . . A new bulletin will be put up at 10 a.m. so call back then.


It wouldn't be so bad if it didn't take me an hour plus to get to work. During the hour drive time conditions can change so much getting an update at 10 a.m. won't tell me what to expect when I get into the area around 11-ish. Oh, well.

Now playing: Loreena McKennitt - Santiago
via FoxyTunes