Unless some legislator pulls off a last-minute double-cross, health care reform will pass the Senate this week. Count me among those who consider this an awesome achievement. It’s a seriously flawed bill, we’ll spend years if not decades fixing it, but it’s nonetheless a huge step forward.
Now consider what lies ahead. We need fundamental financial reform. We need to deal with climate change. We need to deal with our long-run budget deficit. What are the chances that we can do all that — or, I’m tempted to say, any of it — if doing anything requires 60 votes in a deeply polarized Senate?
Some people will say that it has always been this way, and that we’ve managed so far. But it wasn’t always like this. Yes, there were filibusters in the past — most notably by segregationists trying to block civil rights legislation. But the modern system, in which the minority party uses the threat of a filibuster to block every bill it doesn’t like, is a recent creation.
The political scientist Barbara Sinclair has done the math. In the 1960s, she finds, “extended-debate-related problems” — threatened or actual filibusters — affected only 8 percent of major legislation. By the 1980s, that had risen to 27 percent. But after Democrats retook control of Congress in 2006 and Republicans found themselves in the minority, it soared to 70 percent.
Father Tim Jones, parish priest of St Lawrence and St Hilda, broke off from the traditional Nativity story yesterday, and said stealing from large national chains was sometimes the best option many vulnerable people had.
He told the congregation: “My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift. I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither.
“I would ask that they do not steal from small, family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices. I would ask them not to take any more than they need, for any longer than they need.”
He said his advice did not contradict the Bible’s eighth commandment, not to steal, saying God’s love for the poor and despised outweighed the property rights of the rich.
He added: “Let my words not be misrepresented as a simplistic call for people to shoplift. The observation that shoplifting is the best option that some people are left with is a grim indictment of who we are. “Rather, this is a call for our society no longer to treat its most vulnerable people with indifference and contempt.”
It’s not often I agree with a priest…
Verizon has unilaterally updated user Storm 2 BlackBerries and other smartphones so that their browser search boxes can only be used with Microsoft Bing.
The move is part of the five-year search and advertising deal Verizon signed with Microsoft in January for a rumored $500m.
Verizon pushed the search change over its network two days ago, the company has confirmed with The Reg. “We’re a proud supporter of Microsoft’s Bing search engine,” a company spokesman tells us. “On a couple of select smartphones (Storm 2 the most prominent), we’ve changed the [Verizon Wireless]-supplied web menu to make Bing the default search engine.”
Previously, the search box – baked into the top of Verizon’s browser, above the url address bar – could be set to search Google, Wikipedia, and other sites.
Naturally, such sites can still be queried via the browser proper. But countless users are up-in-arms over the switch. A discussion thread dedicated to the change at CrackBerry, a popular BlackBerry user site, is now 36 pages long.
I can’t imagine who at Microsoft and Verison thought this would be a good idea… $500 million for undying animosity and ridicule…
Just in time for the holidays: a Hubble Space Telescope picture postcard of hundreds of brilliant blue stars wreathed by warm, glowing clouds. The festive portrait is the most detailed view of the largest stellar nursery in our local galactic neighborhood.
The massive, young stellar grouping, called R136, is only a few million years old and resides in the 30 Doradus Nebula, a turbulent star-birth region in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. There is no known star-forming region in our galaxy as large or as prolific as 30 Doradus.
Many of the diamond-like icy blue stars are among the most massive stars known. Several of them are over 100 times more massive than our Sun. These hefty stars are destined to pop off, like a string of firecrackers, as supernovas in a few million years.
The image, taken in ultraviolet, visible, and red light by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, spans about 100 light-years. The nebula is close enough to Earth that Hubble can resolve individual stars, giving astronomers important information about the stars’ birth and evolution.
Since 1965, the percentage of graduates of highly-ranked business schools who go into consulting and financial services has doubled, from about one-third to about two-thirds. And while some of these consultants and financiers end up in the manufacturing sector, in some respects that’s the problem. Harvard business professor Rakesh Khurana, with whom I discussed these questions at length, observes that most of GM’s top executives in recent decades hailed from a finance rather than an operations background. (Outgoing GM CEO Fritz Henderson and his failed predecessor, Rick Wagoner, both worked their way up from the company’s vaunted Treasurer’s office.) But these executives were frequently numb to the sorts of innovations that enable high-quality production at low cost. As Khurana quips, “That’s how you end up with GM rather than Toyota.”