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March 24 2017

07:16

FoldIt, an example of social gaming

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.

Want to know more about gamification? The University of Pennyslvania has developed an online course on gamification. There’s a body of research.

Back in 2011, I expressed my view about the hype around gamification on Google+ where I shared Tim’ O’Reilly’s response to this review of Zichermann’s Gamification by Design:

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?

 

Watch the FullFrontal episode

Check out FoldIt

* For any youngsters reading this, blackboards were a mainstay of the 20th century classroom (and date to the 16th century). They were made of thin sheets of black or dark grey slate. You wrote on them with chalk, and if your nails scratched the board, they made a screeching sound. Eventually, blackboards would be replaced by chalkboards (green paint) and then white boards (which use colored markers).

The post FoldIt, an example of social gaming appeared first on WiredPen.

March 18 2017

08:59

Theft of Secret Service computer raises unanswered questions

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:

  • the agency-issued computer
  • a personal laptop
  • ID pins that allow agents entry into security perimeters
  • an agency-issued radio
  • an access keycard
  • other “sensitive” documents
  • a black zippered bag with the Secret Service insignia

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.

Questions not answered in news reports (with no suggestion that they were asked)

  1. Why would a Secret Service computer contain information about the Clinton email investigation?
  2. Why would a Secret Service agent leave her work computer, much less everything else reported stolen, overnight in a car?
  3. Why does the car have Maryland plates? Who owns the car? (Note: it’s possible that it belongs to the agent or her family, as they reportedly moved into the neighborhood last year)
  4. Is the agent a veteran of the Secret Service or part of the private security service Trump retained after the election?
  5. Why doesn’t the Secret Service have something like “Find My Device” on its computers? (And yes, I know that this requires an Internet connection.)
  6. Why doesn’t Secret Service have the ability to remotely wipe a computer, like I do with my (personal) MacBookPro?
  7. What is the Secret Service policy about agency-issued equipment? Is the agent suspended?

It has not been a good week for the Secret Service.

  • Investigation 1: A man who jumped the fences (and a gate) surrounding the White House last Friday was on the grounds for more than 16 minutes before being captured.
  • Investigation 2: two agents who were assigned to protect President Trump’s grandson took selfies with the eight-year-old while he was sleeping.

Sources

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March 11 2017

07:00

Trump “fires” 46 U.S. attorneys: standard practice or outrage?

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:

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.
 

Is the Trump demand for resignations unusual?

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:

  • Reagan replaced 89 U.S. attorneys
  • Clinton replaced 89 U.S. attorneys
  • Bush replaced 88 U.S. attorneys

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.

The case of the New York attorney

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.

A brief history

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.

Verdict

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.

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March 06 2017

09:04

Just say no to political “copy/paste” shares on Facebook

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).

FB political share

Screen capture of Facebook share request

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.

How to effectively contact your elected representatives

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.

Why those copy&paste requests are a bad idea

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.

  • There is no provenance (which means, credibility is MIA)
  • They are, in my experience, never dated. I’ve seen month-old (and, thus, expired) calls-to-action shared this way

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.

But the issue is important to me!

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.

 

That list of 10 House measures

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.

1. HJR 69 Repeal Rule Protecting Wildlife

PASSED THE HOUSE on 2/17 (225 – 193)
IN THE SENATE, received 2/17
https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-joint-resolution/69

2. HR 83 Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Bill

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
https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/83

3. HR 147 Criminalizing Abortion (“Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act”)

Prime sponsor, Rep. Franks, Trent [R-AZ-8]
**59 cosponsors*
01/23/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice
https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/147

4. HR 354 Defund Planned Parenthood of 2017

Prime sponsor, Rep. Black, Diane [R-TN-6]
** 136 co-sponsors **
01/25/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on Health.
https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/354

Here’s the companion bill in the Senate

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)
https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/241

Here’s the bill from the prior session

She introduced the same bill in 2015-16

5. HR 370 Repeal Affordable Care Act (the FB “title”)

“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.
https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/370

6. HR 610 Vouchers for Public Education

[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.
https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/610

7. HR 785 National Right to Work

Prime sponsor, Rep. King, Steve [R-IA-4]
** 15 co-sponsors **
02/01/2017 Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce
https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/785

8. HR 808 Sanctions against Iran (FB title)

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
https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/808

9. HR 861 Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency

Prime sponsor, Rep. Gaetz, Matt [R-FL-1]
** Three (3) co-sponsors **
02/10/2017 Referred to the Subcommittee on Environment.
https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/861

10. HR 899 Terminate the Department of Education

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.
https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/899

 

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.

February 25 2017

07:48

February 22 2017

07:23

Citizens confront congressmen at town halls around the country

[UPDATED3] President’s Day is a national holiday, and U.S. senators and representatives held town halls around the country this week.

However, many congressmen seemed to share this point of view:

Consequently, in a whole lot of communities, citizens held town halls without their congressmen.

On Friday, Alabama U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R) acknowledged the movement on local radio:

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.”
 

Scenes from

  1. Alabama
  2. Arkansas
  3. California
  4. Colorado
  5. Connecticut
  6. Georgia
  7. Florida
  8. Idaho
  9. Illinois
  10. Indiana
  11. Iowa
  12. Kentucky
  13. Louisiana
  14. Maryland
  15. Maine
  16. New Jersey
  17. New York
  18. North Carolina
  19. Ohio
  20. Pennsylvania
  21. Tennessee
  22. Texas
  23. Virginia
  24. Washington

 

Alabama

 

Arkansas

 

California

 

Mariposa

 

San Diego

 

Colorado

 

Connecticut

 

Florida

 

Georgia

 

Idaho

 

Illinois

 

Indiana

 

Iowa

https://twitter.com/mcspocky/status/834490482399051783

 

Kentucky

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told local business leaders that “winners make policy and the losers go home.”
AP

 

Louisiana

 

Maine

 

Maryland

 

New Jersey

 

New York

TOM REED

 

Brooklyn

 

Rhinebeck

 

North Carolina

 

Ohio

 

Pennsylvania

 

Tennessee

 

Texas

https://twitter.com/BlazeBerner/status/834300215511248896

 

Virginia

 

Blackstone

 

York

 

Washington

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

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February 19 2017

06:55

Donald Trump’s America: week four

This week’s (11-17 February) episode of Donald Trump’s America brings us the following:

Day 29, 17 February 2017

Day 28, 16 February 2017

Day 26, 15 February 2017

  • Andrew Puzder Withdraws From Consideration as Labor Secretary.
    Republican senators who expressed concerns included Susan Collins (ME), Johnny Isakson (GA), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Rob Portman (OH), John Thune (SD),  Thom Tillis (NC), and Tim Scott (SC).
  • The FBI released 400 pages of records from the government’s race discrimination investigation into Trump’s real estate company.  “In October 1973, the Civil Rights Division filed a lawsuit against Trump Management Company, Donald Trump and his father Fred Trump, alleging that African-Americans and Puerto Ricans were systematically excluded from apartments. The Trumps responded with a $100 million countersuit accusing the government of defamation.” The parties settled the litigation with a consent decree in 1975.
  • TWITTER: Trump castigated the media (“fake news”).

Day 26, 14 February 2017

Day 25, 13 February 2017

Day 24, 12 February 2017

Day 23, 11 February 2017

 

Cabinet Tracker (link provides current information)

  • February 16: Scott Pruitt confirmed as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (52-46)
  • February 16: Mick Mulvaney confirmed as Director of the Office of Management and Budget (51-49, McCain voted with the minority)
  • February 14: Linda E. McMahon confirmed as Administrator of the Small Business Administration (81-19)
  • February 13: David J. Shulkin confirmed as Secretary of Veterans Affairs (unanimous)
  • February 13: Steve Mnuchin confirmed as Secretary of the Treasury (53-47, Manchin III voted with the majority)
  • February 10: Tom Price confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services (52-47)
  • February 8: Jeff Sessions confirmed as Attorney General (52-47)
  • February 7: Betsy DeVos confirmed as Secretary of Education (50-50, tie cast by Vice President Pence)
  • February 1: Rex Tillerson confirmed as Secretary of State (56-43)
  • January 31: Elaine L. Chao confirmed as Secretary of Transportation (93-6)
  • January 24: Nikki R. Haley confirmed as Ambassador to the United Nations (96-4)
  • January 23: Mike Pompeo confirmed as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (66-32)
  • January 20: John Kelly confirmed as Secretary of Homeland Security (88–11)
  • January 20: James Mattis confirmed as Secretary of Defense (98–1)

See CabinetVotes.org to track your Senators.

The post Donald Trump’s America: week four appeared first on WiredPen.

February 11 2017

07:48

Donald Trump’s America: week three

This week’s (4-10 February) episode of Donald Trump’s America brings us the following:

Day 22, 10 February 2017

Day 21, 9 February 2017

Day 20, 8 February 2017

Day 19, 7 February 2017

Day 18, 6 February 2017

Day 17, 5 February 2017

Day 16, 4 February 2017

In addition, the White House travel ban continued to lose in court:

So now the WH may rewrite the executive order. Or maybe it won’t.

News from Congress:

  • Republican Congressmen grilled by constituents at their own town halls (TN, UT)
  • Republican Congressmen cancelling town halls (AL, NY)
  • Citizens demanding Congressmen hold town halls (NY)

Congressmen grilled at town halls

California, Florida, Tennessee, Utah

Much more on Rep. Chaffetz town hall in Utah on Storify

Congressmen cancelling town halls

Alabama and New York

http://leftinalabama.com/al-05-mo-brooks-public-town-hall-event-canceled-after-public-found-out-about-it/

Citizens demanding town halls

Arizona, New York

Coming up over the weekend

 

The post Donald Trump’s America: week three appeared first on WiredPen.

February 07 2017

20:59

Collins and Murkowski bear responsibility for Betsy DeVos being Education Secretary

For the first time in the history of this country, a vice president had to break a tie vote (50-50) on a cabinet nomination.

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.

Neither Collins nor Murkowski stand for re-election in 2018.

 

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.

February 06 2017

09:53

Meteor seen across midwest early Monday morning

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.

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.

 

Chronology of meteor sighting, as posted on Twitter

Times are Pacific.

 

00:17, Wisconsin

 

00:30, Wisconsin

 

00:51, Wisconsin

 

00.55, Wisconsin

 

1:13, Illinois

 

1:18, Wisconsin

 

1:35, Wisconsin

Famous meteors

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.

 
Credit:
Featured photo is montage from this tweet

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July 22 2016

18:28
calmes-helen-thomas-replies
For Storify / storify.com/kegill/tracking-the-helen-thomas-obit-revival
18:13
18:13
18:13
helen-thomas-facebook-search
For Storify / storify.com/kegill/tracking-the-helen-thomas-obit-revival

February 11 2017

07:48

Donald Trump’s America: week three

This week’s (4-10 February) episode of Donald Trump’s America brings us the following:

Day 22, 10 February 2017

Day 21, 9 February 2017

Day 20, 8 February 2017

Day 19, 7 February 2017

Day 18, 6 February 2017

Day 17, 5 February 2017

Day 16, 4 February 2017

In addition, the White House travel ban continued to lose in court:

So now the WH may rewrite the executive order. Or maybe it won’t.

News from Congress:

  • Republican Congressmen grilled by constituents at their own town halls (TN, UT)
  • Republican Congressmen cancelling town halls (AL, NY)
  • Citizens demanding Congressmen hold town halls (NY)

Congressmen grilled at town halls

California, Florida, Tennessee, Utah

Much more on Rep. Chaffetz town hall in Utah on Storify

Congressmen cancelling town halls

Alabama and New York

http://leftinalabama.com/al-05-mo-brooks-public-town-hall-event-canceled-after-public-found-out-about-it/

Citizens demanding town halls

Arizona, New York

Coming up over the weekend

 

The post Donald Trump’s America: week three appeared first on WiredPen.

February 07 2017

20:59

Collins and Murkowski bear responsibility for Betsy DeVos being Education Secretary

For the first time in the history of this country, a vice president had to break a tie vote (50-50) on a cabinet nomination.

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.

Neither Collins nor Murkowski stand for re-election in 2018.

 

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.

February 06 2017

09:53

Meteor seen across midwest early Monday morning

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.

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.

 

Chronology of meteor sighting, as posted on Twitter

Times are Pacific.

 

00:17, Wisconsin

 

00:30, Wisconsin

 

00:51, Wisconsin

 

00.55, Wisconsin

 

1:13, Illinois

 

1:18, Wisconsin

 

1:35, Wisconsin

Famous meteors

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.

 
Credit:
Featured photo is montage from this tweet

The post Meteor seen across midwest early Monday morning appeared first on WiredPen.

July 22 2016

18:28
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