Nukes (and the President) [RadioLab]

(Photo Credit: Official CTBTO Photostream)

My early exposure to the concept of nuclear war was oddly calm: duck under your school desk, cover your head, and all will be right with you and the world.  It was only later, when visuals on TV showed more horrific images, that the terror of it became clear; along with the inanity of “duck and cover,” that tender ode to nuclear annihilation.

I was a child during the Cuban Missile Crisis. As a child, I didn’t truly understand the horrors the world was facing. As an adult, it’s becoming all too clear, especially with the current saber-rattling of nations around the globe. Including ours.

Which got me to wondering: what are the “rules” around launching a nuclear bomb? Who gets to authorize it (the President) and can anyone stop him from doing so (no).  This RadioLab episode provides a unique look at the process, considering it from the perspective of a military officer who would receive a call to launch. Could he refuse to act?

Continue reading “Nukes (and the President) [RadioLab]”

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What’s a salamander got to do with gerrymandering? [Civics 101]

Wild Mushrooms at Kims Fall 2014History engages me more when there are nuggets of intrigue and interest buried in the history itself. Gerrymandering has its nugget. The name was first used in 1812 in the Boston Gazette, when the paper blended Massachusetts’ Governor Gerry’s name with salamander, the shape of one of the districts mapped out under Governor Gerry’s redistricting. Sometimes being memorialized into the future carries a certain ignominy.

What is gerrymandering and why does it matter?

Continue reading “What’s a salamander got to do with gerrymandering? [Civics 101]”

Filibuster – Update! [On the Media]

2016-12-27 19.41.29 (2)My “What’s a Filibuster?” post provided a short filibuster lesson, taken from the Civics 101 podcast. Senate Republicans have since eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations, a decision referred to as the “nuclear option.”

After the “nuclear” decision, On The Media delivered helpful historic context about the filibuster, stuff I hadn’t gotten from the Civics 101 episode.  If you want a quick overview with some more “filibuster flesh,” listen to Brooke Gladstone’s interview of guest Sarah Binder. Binder, a professor of political science at George Washington University and author of Stalemate: Causes and Consequences of Legislative Gridlock, had thoughts about the “fabled filibuster.”

Continue reading “Filibuster – Update! [On the Media]”

Spying On a City [RadioLab]

2015-09-03 22.26.52

As a kid, getting spied on usually meant Mrs. Harper down the street had seen me doing something I shouldn’t be doing, and reporting it to my mom.  As long as I kept clear of Mrs. Harper, I could safely mess around and not get busted.

Now, my computer may be spying on me.  “Cover up the camera on your computer,” I’m warned, “hackers may be watching you.”

Then there’s my phone. If it’s always ready to respond to my “Hey Siri,” how can I know for sure it isn’t listening to other conversations?

And with the Internet of Things, I have to start worrying about whether my refrigerator, my TV, my washing machine, or my toaster are recording my words or movements.  Because “wiretapping” now appears to include the possibility that our microwaves are listening.

Continue reading “Spying On a City [RadioLab]”

What’s a Filibuster? [Civics 101]

My head is about to explode; I’ve been following Washington’s attempts to govern this past week. The news headlines are breathily reporting the Democrats will filibuster Neil Gorsuch’s nomination for the Supreme Court. No! Not the filibuster! Continue reading “What’s a Filibuster? [Civics 101]”