Reversals

Crowdsourcing a public whip count; the real name fallacy; and more.


  • House Republicans reversed their decision to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics in response to “national uproar,” Eric Lipton and Matt Flegenheimer report for the New York Times.

  • However, as Jed Miller pointed out on Twitter, some news outlets chose to report that they reversed their course “after Trump tweets” instead. See: This Bloomberg Politics piece by Billy House and Erik Wasson. Or the Business Insider piece by Allan Smith headlined “House GOP reverses course on gutting ethics office after Trump takes a whack at them.” Or the Associated Press story by Ken Thomas and Julie Bykowicz, all of which attribute the uproar to Trump’s tweets, although the backlash was already well underway before Trump tweeted yesterday morning.

  • Before the reversal, the Sunlight Foundation proposed crowdsourcing a public whip count—which you can see underway here—where Americans could call their Member of Congress and ask what their vote was.

  • Writing for The Atlantic, Norm Ornstein remembers the turbulent origins of the Office of Congressional Ethics, and why the attack on the office (even if it has since been stopped) shows an increased willingness to tolerate unethical and illegal behavior in politics.

  • The GOP has let up ever so slightly on their effort to curtail taking pictures, videos, or livestreaming from the House floor, as the Democrats did during the gun control sit-in last summer, after C-SPAN cameras were turned off, Rachael Bade reports for Politico. Now lawmakers who are fined $2,500 for violations can appeal the punishment with the House Ethics Committee.

  • CNN has broadcast a leaked video from Trump’s New Year’s Eve party in which he praises a business partner from Dubai, Hussain Sajwani. David Fahrenthold opined on Twitter, “Great get by @cnn. This sort of thing will follow @realDonaldTrump every day if he can’t separate himself from business.”

  • Jk, jk!, says incoming press secretary Sean Spicer regarding the secret hacking information Trump promised to reveal to the world—he’s “not going to reveal anything” at all, Jack Moore snarks over at GQ.

  • Earlier this morning Trump was also tweeting about Julian Assange’s comments on the U.S. media, using Assange’s skepticism to bolster Trump’s own perception of himself as the maligned president-elect under attack by the biased and elite media.

  • J.Nathan Matias explains the origins of the “real name fallacy” or why we blame all of the internet’s problems on anonymity, and argues that this position is based on scant evidence that has been simplified and misrepresented beyond what the original researcher ever had in mind—basically arguing that anonymity isn’t the problem at all.

  • Cathy O’Neil, the blogger mathbabe and the author of Weapons of Math Destruction, is totally unsurprised to hear that recidivism risk algorithms are inherently racist. According to O’Neil, this information has been available since at least a 2011 paper by Faisal Kamiran and Toon Calders.

  • Procurement isn’t govtech’s problem, Nick Bowden argues on GovFresh. It’s a failure to figure out founder-product-market fit, or to understand zero-sum budgets, or not scaling with social proof.

  • How our society could be transformed by open source, according to Catherine Devlin via Tanya Schlusser. And what hunter-gatherer societies and evolutionary theory have to do with it.

  • Leah Hunter profiles Iran’s leading civic tech entrepreneur, Firuzeh Mahmoudi, for Forbes. Among the projects Mahmoudi is working on are: “the Iran Prison Atlas – a database of all the country’s political prisoners, the judges who sentenced them and the prisons where they’re held,” a Yelp for rating public officials, and a health tracker tailored for women.

  • Lauren Weber reports for the Wall Street Journal on how workers are using technology to swap shifts and take greater control over their jobs, sometimes under the wary and disapproving eyes of their managers. Meanwhile, labor organizers are looking to these apps to see how they can share information and harness people power.