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"Tell the chef, the beer is on me."
Gamification is one of those off-putting words that sounds like nails on a blackboard*.
But it was front-and-center (no pun intended) on this week’s FullFrontal with Samantha Bee. And gamification — introducing gaming elements into things that aren’t games — has helped scientists solve problems related to AIDS and Alzheimer’s as well as explore new drug design.
In a segment on challenges faced by local news, Sam interviewed Canadian Gabe Zichermann. He explained that gamification makes things we should do, but don’t, more fun. And thus more likely that we’ll do them.
As an example, he gave a shout-out to FoldIt, a University of Washington crowdsourcing computer game that lets average folks contribute to scientific research:
After about 20 minutes of training, people feel like they’re playing a video game but are actually mouse-clicking in the name of medical science…
The game looks like a 21st-century version of Tetris, with multicolored geometric snakes filling the screen. A team that includes a half-dozen UW graduate and undergraduate students spent more than a year figuring out how to make the game both accurate and engaging.
Zichermann told Sam that FoldIt helped scientists solve a problem related to HIV. After 15 years of traditional science failing to find a solution, more than 40,000 people playing FoldIt produced an accurate 3D model in 10 days. Those findings appeared in the September 18, 2011 issue of Nature.
The UW project is ongoing and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux computers (not smartphones or tablets). Anyone can play, but there are also tools for educators to incorporate FoldIt into their classrooms.
In the course of but one year, “gamification”, the use of game design elements in non-game contexts, has managed to grow from a self-description used by some vendors and proponents to a placement on the Gartner hype cycle – and in the IT business, it doesn’t get much more ‘official’ than that. Yet the term still stirs hot debate. On one side, game designers and scholars despise the whole notion as an “inadvertent con” (Margaret Robertson). On the other, proponents counter that gamification already ‘delivers’ (in terms of numbers), yet is still in its infancy. Hence it would be premature to call foul on something so young, with no time to learn from failure and sort wheat from chaff. So who’s right, who’s wrong?
Multiple news organizations reported Friday that a Secret Service agent left her agency-issued computer in a car outside her home, where it was stolen about 3 am.
Authorities are frantically searching for a Secret Service-issued laptop — containing floor plans for Trump Tower, information about the Hillary Clinton email investigation and other national security information — that was stolen from an agent’s car in Brooklyn, police sources told the Daily News Friday.
The car, with Maryland plates, was in the home’s driveway, per witnesses and surveillance video. According to news reports, the thief took:
According to the NY Daily News, the agency computer “doesn’t contain classified information but could be used to access a server that does.” A Secret Service statement said:
Secret Service issued laptops contain multiple layers of security including full disk encryption and are not permitted to contain classified information.
And yet the theft “compromised” national security, according to a CBS report.
It has not been a good week for the Secret Service.
The post Theft of Secret Service computer raises unanswered questions appeared first on WiredPen.
On Friday, the Trump administration ordered 46 U.S. attorneys to resign immediately, generating a hailstorm of publicity.
The announcement came on the heels of a Fox news commentator, Sean Hannity, calling for the Trump White House to “purge” Obama appointments:
— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) March 10, 2017
In addition, the mass dismissal follows a memo from Attorney General Sessions to all U.S. attorneys “asking them to make fighting violent crime a priority.” The violent crime rate has been declining steadily since it peaked in 1991. In 2014, the murder and nonnegligent manslaughter rate was at its lowest point since the early 1960s.
Moreover, media reported that incumbents were told to “summarily … clear out their offices.” CNN reported that at the time of the announcement, “many prosecutors had not been formally notified or even told before they were fired.”
Wholesale house cleaning is not out of the ordinary. However, abrupt dismissals are not normal, no matter how many stories you read that says “but Clinton did this” (nope – details below).
However, abruptly and counter-to-precedent is how this administration fired its diplomats, so the move should not be a complete surprise.
To answer that question, let’s look backwards, recognizing that the law has changed (rather dramatically) twice.
According to the L.A. Times (2007), in their first two years:
Replacing U.S. attorneys at the start of a term of office is the norm.
Forcing abrupt, mass vacancies is not normal. It is also, according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA), ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, contrary to prior White House promises:
In January, I met with Vice President Pence and White House Counsel Donald McGahn and asked specifically whether all U.S. attorneys would be fired at once. Mr. McGahn told me that the transition would be done in an orderly fashion to preserve continuity.
However, official statements suggest that is what Trump has done. Here’s Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores:
Until the new U.S. attorneys are confirmed, the dedicated career prosecutors in our U.S. attorney’s offices will continue the great work of the department in investigating, prosecuting, and deterring the most violent offenders.
What happened in prior administration changes when there was a change in party in the White House?
Sending all U.S. attorneys packing on the same day is unprecedented.
Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, came to this position after several high-profile investigations. One of those led to the resignation of Bush Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in 2007, while Bharara was chief counsel for Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY). That was the Bush-era #attorneygate scandal.
According to the NYTimes, the demand for a resignation was a surprise to Bharara:
In November, Mr. Bharara met with then President-elect Donald J. Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan and told reporters afterward that both Mr. Trump and Jeff Sessions, who is now the attorney general, had asked him about staying on, which the prosecutor said he expected to do.
Also, the timing of the demand for resignation comes on the heels of a request that Bharara investigate the president:
It also came the same week that government watchdogs wrote to Mr. Bharara and urged him to investigate whether Mr. Trump had violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which bars federal officials from taking payments from foreign governments.
The Manhattan district is a high-profile one; one of its most prominent cases involved Bernard L. Madoff.
The Department of Justice operates with 93 U.S. attorneys in 94 districts located throughout the 50 states and U.S. territories. The last time I wrote about U.S. attorneys (not attorneys general) was in late 2006 during the Bush Administration #attorneygate.
U.S. attorneys are responsible for prosecuting federal crimes in the areas that they oversee and report to Department of Justice. For almost 100 years, when there was a vacancy, the district court appointed an interim U.S. attorney. The president would then appoint a replacement, who would be confirmed by the Senate.
Since 1986, however, the authority to appointment replacements in the case of a vacancy has shifted to the U.S. Attorney General. But the clock was ticking: if a nominee was not confirmed within 120 days, the district court would appoint an interim U.S. attorney, according to Sen. Feinstein.
The Patriot Act Reauthorization Bill of 2005 added another twist in the politicization of the Department of Justice. It enabled the President — through the office of the Attorney General — to arrange for U.S. attorneys to resign and then to replace them with political appointees not subject to Senate confirmation.
When introduced as HR 3199 in July 2005, the bill totaled seven pages (web text converted to PDF). When signed by the President in March 2006, it had morphed into Public Law 109-177, a “final print” behemoth at 277 pages.
Because of the changes in PL 109-177, the March 2006 reauthorization of the Patriot Act, U.S. attorneys can be appointed without Senate oversight until the end of the President’s term, instead of for only 120 days. This clause — as well as several other “miscellaneous” items — was added to the bill during the conference process. Behind closed doors.
Unprecedented timing. If, as the official statement implies, all 46 were told to pack up and leave on Friday, outrage is not misplaced. If the spokesperson misspoke, and all are remaining in place until their successors are confirmed by the Senate, then this is politics-as-usual.
The post Trump “fires” 46 U.S. attorneys: standard practice or outrage? appeared first on WiredPen.
The latest “Please copy/paste and share widely” meme spreading like wildfire on Facebook this weekend asks readers to call Congress and say “vote no” on a list of 10 bills.
They all sound awful (just looking at the titles).
But … how many of these House measures have actually been booked for a hearing in a committee? How many have more than a handful of co-sponsors? How many are being proposed by a congressman who is actually ON the relevant committee?
And have any already been voted out of the House? [Hint: yes. Calling about that one makes you look woefully uninformed and devalues any future feedback.]
There were 12,063 measures introduced in the House and Senate (some were resolutions) in the most recent session of Congress (2015-17). Only 661 bills came up for a vote in one of the chambers over that two-year period. Of those, only 329 became law (passed both chambers, signed by the President or veto overridden).
The same percentage (3%) passed in the 94th Congress (1975-77) but more than twice as many measures were introduced 40 years ago.
Do the math: it does not make sense to oppose a bill simply because someone introduced it.
Exception: is the prime sponsor from your state’s delegation and the same party as your representative? If yes, and this is important to you, ask that your rep not sign on as a co-sponsor.
It’s best, when bills are at this stage, to talk to your Representative about your concerns about the environment or health care or <insert your hot button issue>. Focus. Focus. Focus.
Unless your Rep is on a committee. Then it’s appropriate to ask them to vote no should a bill come to a committee vote.
Congressional staff are smart.
They know when you’re responding to a chain mail (or its current Facebook equivalent – the anonymous copy&paste).
Also, I recommend that you call or write the local office. Your written missive will be read more quickly (because of scale at the Congressional post office and security measures). You are going to talk to a staff person, anyway, so call locally and bypass the scale challenge affecting the Congressional switchboard (busy signals).
The local office is the front-line for interacting with constituents. To ensure that you’ll speak to a staffer, call during business hours. Please be patient; you’re speaking with a front-line customer service person.
Relative to your two Senators (who represent the entire state), members of the House of Representatives have smaller budgets and staff. Both have interns. (I was a Senate intern, back in the day, and a lobbyist once I graduated.)
If you care deeply about an issue, make an appointment with the local office and organize several people to meet and share specific stories/concerns.
Please don’t share the anonymous-and-undated copy&paste, specifically when it is a political call to action, as a matter of principle. This is the modern equivalent of chain email.
Any political call to action made by a legitimate organization will have been a public post. Public posts are shareable, even if you saw the post shared by a friend with a “friends only” setting. Share the original, not your friend’s posting.
Facebook also penalizes frequently repeated content (the same image uploaded and shared over-and-over for example) per a 2014 announcement.
Great! You care about the issue and want to communicate that to your elected representatives. Yeah!
I have only one ask: if the issue is important to you, please take a moment to research the call-to-action. (This is a best practice before any share, actually, but I’m concerned primarily with political ones.)
Then tell us where where you found the information; date it; give us links. Provide footprints that everyone (even if the post is friends-only) can see. Add something to the original request to it to make it your own.
In other words, think slowly (thank you, Daniel Kahneman), rather than knee-jerk react. That’s what these posts are designed to do — trigger a knee-jerk, quick (also known as “thought-less”) emotional response.
That’s right: I’m asking you to invest some of your own time.
The copy&paste request making the rounds this weekend did not even include a link to the bills. In my original Facebook post, I linked to each measure as a comment. I’ve put them in chronological order here. Note that bill titles often bear only a limited resemblance to the actual content of the bill. See the Senate one listed as an example.
PASSED THE HOUSE on 2/17 (225 – 193)
IN THE SENATE, received 2/17
Prime sponsor, Rep. Barletta, Lou [R-PA-11]
Only nine (9) co-sponsors
01/23/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security
Prime sponsor, Rep. Franks, Trent [R-AZ-8]
01/23/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice
Prime sponsor, Rep. Black, Diane [R-TN-6]
** 136 co-sponsors **
01/25/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on Health.
S.241 – Protect Funding for Women’s Health Care Act
(yes that’s really its name)
Prime sponsor, Sen. Ernst, Joni [R-IA]
**26 co-sponsors** (that’s a lot)
“To repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and health care-related provisions in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010” (Congress.gov title)
There is more than one of these ACA repeal bills – this is NOT the primary one
Prime sponsor, Rep. Flores, Bill [R-TX-17]
** ZERO co-sponsors **
02/10/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs.
[also repeals a rule relating to nutrition standards]
Prime sponsor, Rep. King, Steve [R-IA-4]
** Three (3) co-sponsors **
01/23/2017 Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Prime sponsor, Rep. King, Steve [R-IA-4]
** 15 co-sponsors **
02/01/2017 Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce
Iran Nonnuclear Sanctions Act of 2017 (Congress.gov title)
Prime sponsor, Rep. Roskam, Peter J. [R-IL-6]
** Four (4) co-sponsors **
02/01/2017 Referred to House Oversight and Government Reform
Prime sponsor, Rep. Gaetz, Matt [R-FL-1]
** Three (3) co-sponsors **
02/10/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on Environment.
Prime sponsor, Rep. Massie, Thomas [R-KY-4]
** Seven (7) co-sponsors **
02/07/2017 Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Nine of these 10 measures were featured in a dodgy left-leaning website, which might have provided the impetus for the post.
The post Just say no to political “copy/paste” shares on Facebook appeared first on WiredPen.
[UPDATED3] President’s Day is a national holiday, and U.S. senators and representatives held town halls around the country this week.
Town hall scenes from Colorado, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Maryland tonight, where voters showed up but GOP congressmen were no-shows. pic.twitter.com/qfNRnNASlI
— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) February 22, 2017
— Mister Al (@ScionOfScorpio) February 23, 2017
However, many congressmen seemed to share this point of view:
@mattmfm Why should GOP congressmen show up when there’s a set up of Soros protestors. Town Hall should be by invitation only.
— SwampMops (@SandyHermannJ) February 22, 2017
Consequently, in a whole lot of communities, citizens held town halls without their congressmen.
Republican lawmakers dismiss this wave of town hall anger provoked by Trump at their peril https://t.co/u80l0xE7sN
— Mark Follman (@markfollman) February 23, 2017
— Brenda Johnson (@TucsonVoice28) February 23, 2017
I don’t know if we’re going to be able to repeal Obamacare now because these folks who support Obamacare are very active, they’re putting pressure on congressman and there’s not a counter-effort to steel the spine of some of these congressmen in tossup districts around the country.
Lest you think that Rep. Brooks thinks this is a good idea …
And you may not even see a vote to repeal Obamacare, you might see something where they call it a repeal but really it’s an amendment. You and I have talked about this before. We need an outright repeal of Obamacare and then whatever’s gonna come after it, fine, let’s have that discussion. But this monstrosity needs to be repealed and right now, in my judgment, we don’t have the votes in Congress to pass a repeal bill, in part because of what these people are doing
Party leadership, starting with the President, have characterized the citizens as agitators trying to “bully” the Congressmen. Brooks echoed this refrain, claiming that there are “some anarchist types, criminal element types, disruptor types.” Headlines are noticeably missing reports of this type of behavior, and “if it bleeds, it leads.”
GOP Rep. Mo Brooks says protests at town halls around the country might prevent lawmakers from repealing Obamcare https://t.co/8JikNdVEV4
— CNN (@CNN) February 24, 2017
— Greg Leding (@gregleding) February 23, 2017
Woman at Tom Cotton town hall: “We’re going Medicare MY way. Not your way. My way. I’ve got a husband DYING.” pic.twitter.com/fHF9nbyqiB
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 22, 2017
— Matt Farwell (@mattbfarwell) February 23, 2017
— Benny Esanu (@BennyEsanu) February 21, 2017
— Peter (@Pajjr2016) February 23, 2017
It's a full house in West Fork, Ark for Congressman Womack's Town Hall. pic.twitter.com/zhOoUJRJyB
— Julie Heimeshoff (@JulieYouJest) February 21, 2017
— Valarie McCourtney (@speechwithease) February 22, 2017
— Shifra Teitelbaum (@Shifra1000) February 19, 2017
— IndivisibleELCERRITO (@ECindivisible) February 23, 2017
— H. L. (@allEQallDay) February 23, 2017
— CA 23rd (@CA23rd) February 23, 2017
Packed Town Hall Crowd Greets Rep. Tom McClintock For Nearly 3-Hour Marathon https://t.co/w3rvB9hvUl
— CBS Sacramento CBS13 (@CBSSacramento) February 23, 2017
— suzanne eckes (@suzeckes) February 22, 2017
— TashiLynn (@TashiLynnCA) February 22, 2017
— Mike Levin (@MikeLevinCA) February 22, 2017
Inside & out, this Issa #townhall is packed w/ constituents.
Darrell, where are you?
— Indivisible SanDiego (@SDIndivisible) February 22, 2017
At a town hall in in Colorado, citizens hold up their state IDs to prove to GOP that they are 100% real constituents pic.twitter.com/t2ABatcfJ4
— Kaivan Shroff (@KaivanShroff) February 22, 2017
— Toby Partridge (@t_partridge) February 23, 2017
— INDIVISIBLE NEPA (@INDIVISIBLENEP1) February 22, 2017
— Rebecca Hussey (@Ofbooksandbikes) February 22, 2017
— Jess LNM (@JessLN13) February 23, 2017
— Tomas Kennedy (@Tomaskenn) February 22, 2017
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 23, 2017
— diane straub (@didikins4life) February 22, 2017
A town hall in Savannah tests its reputation for civility https://t.co/8Le01oF3WO
— Gerry Moylan (@gmoylan) February 22, 2017
— Sharon H (@sharon_resist) February 22, 2017
— Matthew Johnson (@mjohnsonuu) February 23, 2017
— Indivisible Hoosiers (@IndivisibleHoos) February 22, 2017
— SeriouslyUS? (@USseriously) February 21, 2017
— Kathie Obradovich (@KObradovich) February 21, 2017
Chuck Grassley asked about impeachment of Trump at town hall in Garner, Iowa pic.twitter.com/HQ3js0iVEb
— RogelioGarcia Lawyer (@LawyerRogelio) February 22, 2017
Lines outside of Grassley town hall. Started at 7:45 am; half of crowd can't get in pic.twitter.com/jdu6bfUsCA
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) February 21, 2017
"I want the dog to be able to drink out of the stream." Constituent Rose Mudd Perkins who spoke up at Mitch McConnell's Town Hall #CNN
— Karen DaltonBeninato (@kbeninato) February 22, 2017
— Libusters (@bob4gov_now) February 22, 2017
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told local business leaders that “winners make policy and the losers go home.”
Angry crowd shouts down GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy at Louisiana town hall pic.twitter.com/rYIZF6E4g7
— RogelioGarcia Lawyer (@LawyerRogelio) February 23, 2017
— SeriouslyUS? (@USseriously) February 22, 2017
— Ryan Kailath (@ryankailath) February 22, 2017
GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy booed at a town hall in Louisiana—someone shouts out ‘Bannon is the president’. pic.twitter.com/2YgF3AZo2p
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 22, 2017
— Indivisible_MDI (@Indivisible_MDI) February 22, 2017
— IndivisibleTakomaPk (@IndivisibleTkPk) February 20, 2017
Estimated 250 people downstairs for the Frelinghuysen DIY town hall. Another 100 in second room. pic.twitter.com/7uoWCnnL74
— John O'Connor (@johnroconnor) February 22, 2017
— Mary Joan L. Murphy (@MJM1218) February 19, 2017
Packed house at NJ03 town hall. pic.twitter.com/aoD8hhCjFL
— Indivisible NJ03 (@IndivisibleNJ03) February 23, 2017
— Jonathan D. Salant (@JDSalant) February 23, 2017
— Mark Elliott (@markmobility) February 21, 2017
— Indivisible NationBK (@bkindivisible) February 22, 2017
Line for the Yvette Clarke town hall in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn now encompasses nearly 3 city blocks. Wow pic.twitter.com/6F8q5OSDqY
— Daniel Stein-Sayles (@Danny_SS) February 22, 2017
— Hudson Valley Strong (@hudsonvalstrong) February 21, 2017
— Jess McShea (@jessmcshea) February 22, 2017
— BullCityVA (@BullCityVA) February 19, 2017
— Indivisible Oberlin (@indivisoberlin) February 21, 2017
Just returned from Rep Jim Jordan town hall. Chants of INVESTIGATE TRUMP and DO YOUR JOB. "Donald Trump and Russia"
— August Morgan (@_August_Morgan) February 20, 2017
— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) February 20, 2017
— Karin Cecile (@karincecile) February 23, 2017
— INDIVISIBLE NEPA (@INDIVISIBLENEP1) February 22, 2017
— Hillary Demmon (@hdemmon) February 21, 2017
— Townsend Davies (@TownsendDavies) February 21, 2017
— IndivisibleTX17BCS (@BCS_Indivisible) February 20, 2017
Indivisible organizers playing a loop of cricket sounds after each citizen concern since their rep Roger Williams was no-show to town hall. pic.twitter.com/zE22BaFtpz
— Mary Huber (@marymhuber) February 19, 2017
— Courtney Howell (@court_insession) February 21, 2017
— Kyung Lah (@KyungLahCNN) February 20, 2017
Womack: Let's respectfully discuss where we disagree. Constituent: I'm worried about <insert concern>. Womack: We won. Get over it.
— Julie Heimeshoff (@JulieYouJest) February 21, 2017
Virginia GOP Rep. Dave Brat is having a town hall in a small town away from his population centres. Fifty people in line two hours prior. pic.twitter.com/8xlcgPoSxM
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) February 21, 2017
Here's a transcript of the amazing town hall exchange where Virginia Rep. Dave Brat said economic growth is how to protect the environment: pic.twitter.com/ggQjohNRpR
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) February 22, 2017
Auditorium seats 974 available here for frosh Rep. Taylor town hall. At least 700, maybe 750 here. Impressive. Thoughtful Qs so far. pic.twitter.com/vh4MyKhcar
— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) February 21, 2017
— Suzanne (@Sukiesnap1) February 21, 2017
Photo: Seattle Women’s March, 21 January 2017
POSTED: 11.23 pm Pacific, 21 February
UPDATED: 11.45 pm Pacific, 22 February
UPDATED: 6:20 pm Pacific, 24 February
Town hall fury: If the Republicans think this is bad wait until Trump voters turn on them too https://t.co/EEqdEKo9Kq
— P. Pink (@ideas4thefuture) February 23, 2017
The post Citizens confront congressmen at town halls around the country appeared first on WiredPen.
This week’s (11-17 February) episode of Donald Trump’s America brings us the following:
North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2017
This week’s (4-10 February) episode of Donald Trump’s America brings us the following:
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2017
In addition, the White House travel ban continued to lose in court:
The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2017
So now the WH may rewrite the executive order. Or maybe it won’t.
News from Congress:
Hundreds Protest Trump At California Congressman's Town Hall https://t.co/7oNCRIHDYb
— NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) February 5, 2017
— Derek Cressman (@DerekCressman) February 5, 2017
This is the scene out Rep. Tom McClintock's town hall. We just made it inside after pleading with Roseville police. pic.twitter.com/13UaXMvWph
— Max Resnik (@KCRAMax) February 4, 2017
It's like 2010 in reverse, Republicans getting earful from constituents in support of Obamacare. Florida town hall: https://t.co/3pfkcne6I7
— andrew kaczynski 🤔 (@KFILE) February 5, 2017
— MJ Lee (@mj_lee) February 10, 2017
At rowdy town hall, ex-teacher asks Chaffetz — chair of House oversight — “what’s your line in the sand” for Trump? pic.twitter.com/8U7IkpZtsS
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) February 10, 2017
— Indivisible_SAZ (@Indivisible_SAZ) February 7, 2017
— CNY Solidarity Co (@CNYSolidarity) February 9, 2017
— IndivisibleFL22 (@IndivisibleFL22) February 9, 2017
— Town Hall Project (@townhallproject) February 9, 2017
The nominee was Betsy DeVos. The tie was because two Republicans, Sen. Susan Collins (ME) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK) voted against their party.
In back-to-back floor speeches, the lawmakers said Ms. DeVos was unqualified because of a lack of familiarity with public schools and with laws meant to protect students, despite her passion for helping them.
Shout-outs to these two Senators have already begun. They are misplaced.
Had either of these senators — Collins or Murkowski — voted against DeVos in committee, her nomination would never have come before the Senate.
DeVos “passed” the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on a 12-11 party-line vote. Collins and Murkowski both voted to RECOMMEND that DeVos be elevated to Secretary of Education.
Nothing has “come out” about DeVos in the week between the committee vote and the full Senate vote that is “new”. If DeVos is unqualified today, as both Senators contend, she was unqualified then.
In other words, Collins and Murkowski have a lot of explaining to do to their constituents. And the nation. Because the work of Congress takes place in committee.
Senators and Representatives cannot have subject matter expertise — or subject matter staff — on every issue that comes before the legislative body. They delegate those tasks to other legislators, just like voters delegate subject matter expertise to elected representatives. The world is too complex for anyone to know everything about everything.
Although Collins and Murkowski bear responsibility for the HELP Committee recommendation, GOP moderates bear responsibility for her being elevated to a position that she seems qualified for only by virtue of her $200 million gift to the GOP. Lust for power trumps common sense, much less common decency.
No swamps are being drained.
Photo credit: official Senate photos of Collins (in blue) and Murkowski (in red).
The post Collins and Murkowski bear responsibility for Betsy DeVos being Education Secretary appeared first on WiredPen.
The things you see on Twitter! I took a peek before heading to bed, only to see that the National Weather Service of Chicago had tweeted a dashcam from an Illinois police car … showing a meteor falling from the sky. Timestamp: 01:25.
— NWS Chicago (@NWSChicago) February 6, 2017
In case you’ve forgotten your science classes:
A meteor is a space rock—or meteoroid—that enters Earth’s atmosphere. As the space rock falls toward Earth, the resistance—or drag—of the air on the rock makes it extremely hot. What we see is a “shooting star.” That bright streak is not actually the rock, but rather the glowing hot air as the hot rock zips through the atmosphere.
Meteorites are meteors that reach the Earth’s surface; they are rare.
So I started poking around. The meteor was seen in at least two states, Illinois and Wisconsin, and perhaps Iowa and Indiana.
Lots of reports of a meteor from Iowa across Wisconsin, Illinois into Indiana. Did you notice anything? Any get a picture or video of it?
— NWS Chicago (@NWSChicago) February 6, 2017
Times are Pacific.
— Kyle Nachman (@knachman8) February 6, 2017
— NWS Milwaukee (@NWSMKX) February 6, 2017
— NWS Milwaukee (@NWSMKX) February 6, 2017
— Tom Purdy (@TomPurdyWI) February 6, 2017
— NWS Chicago (@NWSChicago) February 6, 2017
Here is a video of the flash from the meteor seen flying over Wisconsin tonight. https://t.co/ejhsdgeqpD
— Jacob Graf (@jacobgraf) February 6, 2017
— John Lalande (@JohnLalande) February 6, 2017
At least 16 witnesses captured the 1992 Peekskill, NY, meteor on video, “making it one of the best-documented meteor strikes in history.” Pretty sure that record just turned into dust.
The Ensisheim Meteorite (1492) landed near the town of Ensisheim in Alsace, France. It is the earliest meteorite “witnessed in the Western world” from which we have samples.
Two months ago, I phoned my husband while driving through classic southern red clay fields and tree-lined hills.
“Remind me why I don’t want to live here,” I choked, eyes watered. “I mean, I know I don’t want to live here, but the pull of the land…” I couldn’t continue.
“Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin’ for, worth fightin’ for, worth dyin’ for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.”
~ Gerald O’Hara, Gone With The Wind, 1936
My mother instilled this message long before I read GWTW. And I read the book long before I saw the movie. That was, after all, long before VCRs and DVDs.
“The land” of my mother represented a rootedness that did not jibe with my desire to get away. I left for college with the (unarticulated) goal of never seeing a farm or farmer again … yet I would get a master’s degree in agricultural economics and then work for a northeastern dairy cooperative.
Nevertheless, I had flown the coop.
After moving to the Pacific Northwest, I swore I’d not return to the south during the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day. (Those days of white shoes, burning sun and sweltering humidity.)
Visits to southwest Georgia revolve around end-of-year holidays, family reunions, and the occasional wedding/anniversary. They are marked by cultural touchstones: a Waffle House breakfast, boiled peanuts, fried catfish, sweet tea, camellias in bloom (if I’m lucky). Coca-Cola, with its high sugar load, is a treat of the past.
As I have aged, each visit has become a little more painful due to the troubling words that wash over me from the mouths of relatives and neighbors and friends.
The changes on display in the South do not seem to be those of progression but rather of regression. For example, when I was in the eighth grade, we had a girl’s-only sex ed class. I cannot image such a thing in today’s political climate.
Today’s South seems more evangelical, more enamored with a glorified past, less open to opposing views. People do not seem to hear the bigotry sprinkled throughout their speech. Perhaps that’s not a surprise, since oral history was the only post-Civil War regional history that we were taught. Just as a fish is not aware of the water that surrounds it, we unconsciously absorb and integrate cultural messages. One of those messages was that the symbols of the Confederacy were to be venerated.
Not too long after I had become part of a community of motorcyclists who like good food and spirited debate, I got into an argument about the reasons for the Civil War. It was not slavery, I insisted, but northern industrialization that was subsidized by tax dollars.
I was wrong.
I didn’t know that Alexander Stevens, Confederate States of America vice president and 50th Georgia governor said this, to applause:
“Our new government is founded upon … the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.”
Nor had I learned in school that the Confederate flag bandied about today is a 20th century fabrication, as well as the chosen symbol of the KKK . Come to think, that ugly symbol of hate seems far more routinely displayed today than when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
~ The Life of Reason, Santayana, 1905
Perhaps this lack of contextual history can explain South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s flip-flops on the Confederate flag flying at the capitol.
The first generation American daughter of Indian immigrants was born and reared in South Carolina. Somehow – I’m not sure how – she thinks that her election “fixed” the historical racism that South Carolinians have exhibited towards black Americans.
Moreover, in an election debate last fall, she quipped:
“What I can tell you is over the last 3½ years, I spent a lot of my days on the phones with CEOs and recruiting jobs to this state. I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag.”
It seems impossible that she could speak those words if she knew of the political hay that has been made with the Confederate flag. Dixiecrats nominated South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond as a candidate for the presidency after the 1948 national Democratic convention, where the Confederate Battle Flag waved boldly. Afterwards, “[s]ales of Confederate flags, long moribund, exploded.”
It was not until 1961, on the 100th anniversary of South Carolina triggering the Civil War when it attacked Fort Sumter, that the Confederate flag would begin flying above the S.C. state Capitol.
In-between those two events: Brown v The Board of Education.
This very flag, the Battle Flag, flew over “an army raised to kill in defense of slavery.” It was “revived by a movement that killed in defense of segregation.” And last week, a modern version was “flaunted by a man who killed nine innocents in defense of white supremacy,” Yoni Appelbaum wrote in The Atlantic.
On Monday, bowing to national outrage, Governor Haley told the S.C. legislature that she wants the flag to come down. That will require a two-thirds vote. Note that demands like this one do not have a great track record when it comes to future political livelihood.
But come down it must.
And all vestiges of the Confederacy must be excised from my home state flag as well.
The Confederate Battle Flag became a central part of Georgia’s state flag in 1956. And what was happening then? Outrage at the Brown decision and desegregation.
In 2003, Georgia’s citizens approved a new flag design that substituted the original and lesser known flag of the Confederacy, the Stars and Bars, for the Battle Flag. Although it does not carry the emotional punch of the Battle Flag, it remains a conscious tentacle to a past marred by slavery.
Can you imagine a German municipality deciding to create a new flag that incorporated a swastika as its centerpiece? Me, either. So why do we whitewash our own tributes to hate? And willfully fail to acknowledge them?
I’m left wondering about my heartstrings.
@anildash I’m asking myself these days “what is true Southern culture?” I’ve been away for 35 years and it’s changed, not for better
Yes, April was an emotional period: my dad was in the hospital after having a mild stroke and carotid artery surgery. But that alone cannot explain my sudden and irrational exploration of ways I might find gainful employment in a rural corner of Georgia.
The heat and humidity cripple me. The farm has AT&T mobile data as its “broadband” Internet. It’s miles from town and even further from the closest city. None of these things create an inviting environment.
But it will always be home, warts and all. And warts? They’re caused by a virus. The virus is more likely to cause a wart when it contacts skin that has been cut or otherwise damaged.
“Every wart is a mother wart that can have babies. You need to get rid of all visible warts whenever they appear so you don’t have more spread,” dermatologist Robert Brodell, MD, told WebMD.
The Confederate flag is like a virus. Bigotry is the wart that it creates when minds are susceptible to its connotation. Removing that symbol — with very public dialog about why it needs to be removed — is one step towards excising the larger, persistent social ill that is racism.
“It is place, permanent position in both the social and topographical sense, that gives us our identity.”
~ J.B. Jackson
Photos by Kathy E. Gill. Battle Flag, NPS.
 The St. Andrews Cross became a Confederate Army Battle Flag; the it was always square. A horizontal version of this flag appeared mid-20th century. In addition, the dark blue of today’s pop culture Confederate flag is borrowed from the Stars and Bars.
The post A southern daughter looks at her past. Warts and all. appeared first on WiredPen.
If you haven’t upgraded Mac Office because 2008 does what you need to do … this tip may be for you: how to delete Excel blank rows.
I’m working with data from AT&T, and the CSV has a blank row between each row of data. (Think “double-space” in writing.) I want to rid the data of the blank rows without having to manually click-and-delete each row.
All the how-to’s online suggest including the row “above” and “below” the affected area.
I have not been able to find this window in Excel menus.
Your “blank rows” are now highlighted.
That’s the “minus” key (to the left of the plus key on top row).
Your blank rows are gone!
The Washington Secretary of State has an application called MyVote which is a portal for registered voters to update address, find elected officials, and so forth.
Scenario: You’ve just moved to Washington and want to register to vote. You’ve been given the MyVote link as your starting place to register to vote. You’ve not decided if you want to register online or in person.
Task: Figure out your voter registration options.
See one task analysis in this YouTube screencast.
What do you think? Am I too harsh? What’s your experience?
The post User task analysis: does this starting page work for you? appeared first on WiredPen.
I encountered this 404 page after following a link in a blog post (only a day old). Either the referring URL was wrong or the backend (not WordPress, apparently) didn’t have the information on the new URL in its database. It’s not clear when looking at the two URLs which might have been the culprit:
My initial reaction was a big smile. I appreciated the local humor.
But upon reflection, I realized that the page wasn’t helpful.
I couldn’t find the story I was looking for by shortening the URL “back” to the word “politics” as a way to get to stories about politics.
And there is no “politics” bucket in the main navigation.
I didn’t see a search box. Only now, while reflecting on the screen capture, do I see the magnifying glass (metaphor for search). But it’s to the right of the login/subscribe links … my brain does not put “search” in the same functional bucket as login.
Plus, when looking for a way to search, I look for a search box (something to type in).
So I went back to the Seattle Times home page, where I finally saw the magnifying glass icon.
How might the 404 page be more helpful?
The post Crafting effective error messages (cute is not enough!) appeared first on WiredPen.
This example comes from two data points in a recent Pew study.
The chart on the left shows the change from 2007 to 2014 using a complete (0-60) vertical axis.
The chart on the right does more than zoom in when it shows only data points 49-55; it changes the slope, making the change look more dramatic.
Technically, this is legitimate because of the clear “break” in the vertical axis. But the emotional/connotative impact of the two charts is very different, and that’s what gives me heartburn. And leads me to label charts like the one on the right as chart junk.
Here are some direct examples from the the study summary:
There’s not a lot of slope (change) evident in these charts. Try to imagine how little slope there would be if you saw the complete vertical axis.
I understand why charts are presented this way in print: for effect or because of space constraints. The effect is exaggerated change, so that’s an editorial choice. But on the web, where is the space constraint?
Line charts are traditionally used to show change over time. But in this case, there are only two points. A bar chart would be more visually neutral. And intellectually honest.
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