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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How does a lawyer hide the bad stuff?

In a mountain of paperwork.

As near as I can tell, over the last few years Congress has churned out roughly the same number of laws each session. (Each Congressional session is a 2 year period). We are actually looking at that trending down this session.image

But the total words signed into law each year has steadily increased.


This is extremely disturbing. As we have had cries of “Did you read the bill?” recently, it becomes more and more difficult for them to read *any* of it because of the sheer volume. The average number of words per bill in the bills that have passed have steadily increased.

The trend has to build fewer but larger bills. Just look at the number of MASSIVE bills that have been passed over the past few years. The recent health care act being the largest so far at around 370,000 words.


Passing large bills has a number of effects.

  1. It makes reading, understanding and debating them in their entirety impossible. Yes, I said impossible. No single person can pull all this together in their head and understand the complete implementation or ramifications of any of these bills.
  2. It makes it very easy to slip things in that are difficult or otherwise impossible to pass on their own. This subsequently causes misuse of the rules processes to create unusual situations in order for the bill to get passed.
  3. It causes an all or nothing approach to legislation which traditionally would have passed in pieces. It further encourages the us vs them mentality because no one can be for part A and against part B with their single vote.
  4. It completely distorts the public’s view of their representatives’ votes. The record only reflects the final vote on the whole. Many of these votes are only made because of certain tweaks or they are made under threat of censure from the larger party system or are “allowed” by the larger party system because the individual vote is not needed for passage. All of this makes reviewing the record of the congressman worthless
  5. In the end it becomes so difficult that the law makers will either start asking for broader and broader powers just so they don’t have to go through the process because its become too cumbersome or they will just start rubberstamping everything.

We all know from our Law & Order School of Courtroom Tactics that when someone sends you a mountain of paperwork there is something very important buried in it that they don’t want you to see.

Now imagine all the stuff they also have to read that doesn’t even get turned into law!

I’d love to see a rule limiting the size of any one bill but as we saw with pay-go legislation, they would just pass another rule allowing them to ignore the size whenever it was convenient.

On methodology

All my data is culled from where I simply pulled the list of all the bills that were listed as “enacted” and then pulled the text for each bill and did a word count on them. Of course counting words is a tricky thing and I’m sure anyone replicating my work will find different absolute numbers depending on what counts as a “word” but the important idea is that a consistent method looking over time should produce the same trends.

Also note that while some of the graphs look like they are trending down in the current session, we are only 3/4 done with it so the data needs to be extrapolated upwards by ~25%.

To Protest Hiring of Nonunion Help, Union Hires Nonunion Pickets

I thought of attempting to add some wit to that title but I can’t. Its complete as is.

The cognitive dissonance continues

"For a lot of our members, it's really difficult to have them come out, either because of parking or something else," explains Vincente Garcia, a union representative who is supervising the picketing.

So the issue is sooo important that a little parking problem prevents you from showing up yourselves? The issue must be reeeaaally important.

The union's Mr. Garcia sees no conflict in a union that insists on union labor hiring nonunion people to protest the hiring of nonunion labor.

Well, how about he pay the union members to do the picketing? You know, keep it in the family? Why isn’t there a National Picketers Union to pull labor from?

Of course, the real problem here is that its completely disingenuous. When you see people picketing on the street – especially for a union cause – you naturally assume they are there because they are either directly affected or they care about the cause. If you believe that then you are more likely to sympathize with them and support them. If they are getting paid, they are just lobbyists.

To put it another way, do you sympathize with the poor lobbyists in DC? I didn’t think so.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The ray gun arrives

Imagine taking off-the-shelf lasers and mounting them on a floating ship, tying in some wicked guidance control and a radar system, locating a flying vehicle two miles away which is moving at 300 mph and holding the laser steady enough on the target to engulf it in flames and bring it down. Why imagine when you can watch the video?

Have you ever use a laser pointer and try to hold it still at just 10-15 feet away? And I was impressed with the US navy snipers shots at the pirates last year.

Now imagine that again but place yourself on the battlefield with this thing aiming at the mortars that are attempting to come down on your head.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Releasing music like its 1999!

So a today a break from from celebrity political weirdness to just plain celebrity technology weirdness. The artist formerly known as “the artist formerly known as Prince” is going to release his upcoming album on CD only with no digital distribution because the internet is over.

"The internets completely over. I don't see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They wont pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they cant get it."

He further popped: "The internets like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that cant be good for you."

Although this kind of reality-challenged statement doesn’t surprise me. Especially after hearing Kevin Smith’s story of his involvement with shooting a documentary for the old has been artist. (btw – the Smith video is highly recommended. He is an excellent story teller and very entertaining)

Now where did I put my raspberry beret?

<HT: Borepatch>