Does extraterrestrial life exist? It's a question that, for the past 25 years, Congress didn't care to try and answer.
In 1993, just as SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) was getting its shit together with a massive program that would see observatories around the world equipped to search the universe for signals that may have been produced by intelligent alien life, Congress pulled the plug on funding them, preferring to throw money at NASA instead. In the U.S. Capital, SETI became a four-letter s-word that didn't end in 'hit.' While all of this is literally in the past, it's now also figuratively in the past as well.
The U.S. House of Representatives has proposed a bill that includes $10 million in NASA funding for the next two years "to search for technosignatures, such as radio transmissions, in order to meet the NASA objective to search for life's origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe." Such technosignatures would come in the form of radio waves that have the telltale features of being produced by TV or radio-type technologies. An intelligent civilization could also produce those signals intentionally to communicate with other civilizations like ours.
Having SETI funded by the U.S. Government, again, would represent one helluva boost in resources for scientists who, for the past two decades and change, have had to rely on funding from private interests like universities to continue their search for intelligent life beyond earth. However, as with all things the government sticks its snout into, there's a catch. Read the rest
It makes me very happy that the "Bad Lip Reading" folks took Zuck's recent testimony footage and made this gem of a video. Read the rest
In 1998, Disney led an entertainment industry lobbying effort that resulted in the term of copyright being extended by 20 years, even for works that had already been created -- a law with an incoherent basis, given that the US copyright system is constitutionally constrained to passing laws to promote new creative works (giving creators more copyright on works they've already created doesn't get them to make new ones, and it reduces the ability of new artists to remix existing works, the way Disney did with the Grimm's fairy tales).
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A moving campaign ad. I hope we see Lt. Colonel McGrath in congress! Read the rest
Former FBI director James Comey will testify tomorrow before Congress on investigations involving Trump, Russia, and the U.S. elections. Highly awaited: Comey's testimony on interactions he had with President Donald Trump. This early copy of his remarks delivers a bombshell. Read the rest
In this video for Mic, former Congressman Steve Israel explains the best way to get your representatives’ attention. Calling is good, but talking to them in person is better. Read the rest
Update: They've backed down because Trump warned them it would be a distraction from taking away healthcare and giving tax cuts to rich people.
The independent Office of Congressional Ethics -- created in 2008 after three Congressmen were jailed for corruption -- has been stripped of its powers by the House GOP, who held an after-hours vote, with no notice, on Monday night. Read the rest
Even though both parties' presidential candidates say they oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership -- the secretly negotiated "trade" deal that lets corporations sue governments to repeal their environmental, labor and safety laws if they hurt profits -- Obama's plan to ram through a vote before the election is alive and well. Read the rest
Summoned to a congressional hearing into price-gouging, entrepreneur Martin Shkreli smirked, dodged and insulted those before him, even when all they wanted to talk about was Wu-Tang Clan.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen the committee treated with such contempt,’’ Representative John Mica, a Florida Republican, said after Mr. Shkreli was excused and left the room. Mr. Mica asked if Mr. Shkreli could be held in contempt of Congress. The committee chairman, Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, said he did not intend to do so. The theatrics surrounding Mr. Shkreli’s appearance, which included his smirking at some remarks by committee members, overshadowed some of the more substantial discussion about huge overnight price increases in the prices of old drugs by Turing and another company, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International.
Shkreli famously raised the price of a cheap generic medication to $750 a pill, knowing that it would take years for other companies to get products approved. He was recently arrested on unrelated fraud charges and released on bond, thereby justifying his use of a phrase — "On the advice of councel… I respectfully decline" — used seemingly to mock his interrogators today.
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Cryptographers and security experts gathered on the Hill yesterday to tell Congress how stupid it was to ban crypto in order to make it easier to spy on "bad guys." Read the rest
NPR’s Science Tumblr Skunk Bear created this cool data visualization based on a study of the rise of partisanship in the U.S. House of Representatives: Read the rest
Rep Ted Lieu (D-CA) is a USAF reserve colonel, former member of the Judge Advocate General Corps and holds a computer science degree -- he's one of the four members of Congress with any formal computer science qualifications. Read the rest
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster [R-PA] admits that he's having an affair with Shelley Rubino, vice president for global government affairs for Airlines for America, but swears that's not why he gave her industry so many awesome legislative gifts. Read the rest
The Senate has approved a bill (which already passed in the House) that makes it legal for you to unlock the phones you own so you can choose which carrier you use. Read the rest
Ever since Newt Gingrich consolidated power in 1995, purging any Congressional technical experts who might question his judgment, the GOP has waged war on intelligence in the halls of Congress, leaving an expertise void that has been filled by lobbyists, especially the Heritage Foundation, and an oversight void that hasn't been filled at all. Read the rest
The Congressmen who sent letters to the FCC condemning Net Neutrality received 2.3 times more campaign contributions from the cable industry than average. The analysis, conducted with Maplight's Congressional transparency tools, shows that Dems are cheaper to bribe than Republicans (GOP members received 5x the Congressional average from Big Cable; Dems only 1.2x) and shows what a chairmanship of a powerful committee is worth: Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who chairs the FCC-overseeing Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, got $109,250 (the average congressscritter got $11,651).
29 Congresscritters own stock in Comcast, and Comcast is the 25th most-held stock in Congress. Read the rest
Senator Joe Manchin delivered a grandstanding, technologically clueless, facepalm-inducing request to the Treasury Department to ban Bitcoin. In response, Rep Jared Polis (who proudly wears Boing Boing tee-shirts in his spare time, and rocks some snazzy duds on the floor of Congress) wrote a mock-serious request for dollar bills to be removed from circulation, pointing out that practically every objection that Manchin raised over Bitcoin applies equally well to paper money. Read the rest