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Congress About To Pass 'The ______Act of____' (These Are The People We Elect?)

from the bang-head-on-wall-slowly dept

This coming Wednesday I was supposed to be attending the Congressional Internet Caucus' State of the Net West event, but late last week it was announced that the event was postponed, because for only the third time in the past twenty years, the Speaker of the House (in this case, Nancy Pelosi) has called the House back into session early to vote on pending legislation. With Congress back in session the Congressional reps scheduled to attend the event couldn't make it, and it's not much of a Congressional Internet Caucus get together without Congressional reps. Anyway, the last time the House was called back early like this, it involved emergency legislation to deal with Hurricane Katrina. So what's so important this time around? Apparently, it's The ______Act of____.

Yes, The ______Act of____.

It appears that our friendly Senators were in such a rush to get this bill through that they forgot to name it. Jim Harper noticed this when the bill showed up as the oddly named The XXXXXXAct ofXXXX on his always excellent WashingtonWatch site. Apparently, the Library of Congress' Thomas reporting system converted the underscores into X's. And, yes, even The Congressional Record (pdf) notes that "This Act may be cited as the "_______Act of______".

And don't think the House can easily change it, either. If it changes the name of the bill, the Senate would have to come back and vote again. In the meantime, what is the bill? Well, it's actually been quite a moving target. It was originally about taxing executives who received TARP funds. Then it was changed entirely to have something to do with aviation, and now it's about an Education Jobs Fund. At one point, prior to its current non-name, it was called "The Aviation Safety and Investment Act of 2010," but that's got nothing to do with what it is now. If you look at WashingtonWatch's own summary of the bill, it still says the bill "would impose an additional tax on bonuses received from certain TARP recipients," even though I don't believe that's in the bill any more. As Harper notes in a different blog post, since this bill (by number only) is listed on the White House's pending legislation page, anyone tracking that bill might think Obama is about to sign into a law a bill (which hasn't been approved by Congress) about taxing TARP bonuses... despite that not even being close to true.

I honestly have no idea if the specific details of this bill, requiring the mad dash back to DC for House Members is a good thing or not. And I don't know whether the taxes on TARP recipients or the Aviation Safety efforts were important as well. But all of this demonstrates a few key points: (1) if you're trying to follow what Congress is doing by following bills, the fact that they just swap stuff in and out can make that pretty difficult. (2) For a bill that's deemed so damn important, wouldn't you think that at least someone involved with it would have taken the time to give it a name? Or were they really in such a rush to approve it that it didn't need a name?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 8:31am

    How about...

    Hey, let's get those over-paid chow-hounds to pass a law requiring all laws be less than 1000 words, legible to any average literate citizen and topped by a clear and honest statement of what the law is intended to accomplish.

     

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  2.  
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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 8:38am

    We could suggest

    How about: "The Copyright and Patent Abolition Act of 2010".

     

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  3.  
    icon
    Andrew (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 8:39am

    Kang and Kodos would be proud

    Forward, never backward, upward, never forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 8:42am

    I think this bill is a ____ of ____.

     

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  5.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 8:52am

    I'm assuming (and hoping) this will be cross-posted over at the Onion.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Jim L, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 9:01am

    read it

    Maybe we could have a law requiring them to read any law before they can vote on it

     

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  7.  
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    imbrucy (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 9:09am

    Re: read it

    Only problem is none of them would read the law requiring them to read the law which violates the law to requiring them to read the law which would create a never ending circle.

     

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  8.  
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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 9:12am

    tl;dr

    After reading every act, and without exception, each congressperson signs it off with the following comment: tl;dr

    The lobbyists write the legislation. The only people expected to read it are the lawyers paid to apply it, and the judges paid to interpret it.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Ryan, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 9:25am

    Just doing what they were elected to do

    Isn't this what a great portion of our idiot electorate is always asking for - that Congress "gets things done"? That voting against a bill or insisting on actually debating its merits is merely obstructing progress for political points? I mean, who cares whether the bill is Constitutional or good for the country or, shit, even has the name filled in?

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 9:27am

    Re:

    Ray of sunshine?

     

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  11.  
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    Matt (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 9:29am

    Bill shortage

    Is there some sort of bill shortage in DC right now? They have to reuse existing stalled/failed bills rather than just creating new ones?

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 9:49am

    Re: Re:

    Exactly.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    greg.fenton (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 10:00am

    Ailing airlines

    Maybe the sudden recall of Congress was an indirect stimulation to the travel industry? Last minute business class tickets tend to be costly.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 10:01am

    Re:

    Bill of Mad Libs?

     

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  15.  
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    Cohen (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 10:09am

    Looks like porn legislation to me

    Triple X video?

     

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  16.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 10:14am

    Re:

    It's depressing how often real life scoops The Onion.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    tracker1, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 10:16am

    Re: How about...

    I've actually thought it would have been nice if the original constitution required that congressmen had to be present for an oral reading of a bill on the floor before being able to vote on it... that would have had a natural effect of reducing legislation, or they'd have to hire the Micro Machines guy.

     

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  18.  
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    In New Hampshire, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 10:26am

    No, it's just Illinois politics as usual. There, they leave blanks in the law that they'll fill in later. They don't want the public to know what they're doing. I'm not kidding. I used to live in Chicago and this is just the way the machine works. Did you think Obama wasn't part of the machine?

     

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  19.  
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    Beta (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 10:38am

    Re: read it

    No good. As Calvin said, "reading goes faster if you don't sweat comprehension".

    I think they should have to write it out (by hand of course) before they can vote for it. Voting against it does not require this, and if the hand-written version doesn't match the official version perfectly then the vote doesn't count.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Yakko Warner, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 12:20pm

    Re: Re:

    I think it has more to do with where the sun doesn't shine...

     

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  21.  
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    Dan (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 1:06pm

    They're radifying ACTA

    nuff said...

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    zota, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Bill shortage

    You were probably being sarcastic about the shortage of bills, but actually yes, there is a huge shortage of legislation moving through Congress right now.

    I'm not sure of you've heard of this thing: Republicans in the Senate? Apparently they just realized that the Senate has mostly run on traditional adherence to reasonable practices.. which is for LOSERS! How about some blind holds on everything!

    So yeah, there's actually an extremely good reason people are scrambling to get any bill through, even if it's something reasonable and necessary, like taxing the bonuses of TARP millionaires.

    But who cares! It's way more fun to make "Congress so dumb" jokes, amirite! Congress stupid hurr durr!!

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 10:24pm

    Re: Re: Bill shortage

    "But who cares! It's way more fun to make "Congress so dumb" jokes, amirite! Congress stupid hurr durr!!"

    So wait, are you arguing that congress is smart? Really? If you consider congress smart then you must be dumb.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 10:26pm

    It's one of those bills with so many loopholes that they need to fill in the blanks.

     

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  25.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Aug 10th, 2010 @ 3:47am

    Re: How about...

    I think if you want to reach the most citizens, it'd need to be 140 characters or less.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Cheddar, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 9:06am

    If you wanna know..

    If you want to know the name, and what's in it, you have to pass it. :)

     

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  27.  
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    WorstAdministrationEver., Aug 10th, 2010 @ 9:22am

    *sigh*

    They pass bills without reading them, and as Cheddar pointed out, say we must pass them to find out what's in them, so...

    Par for the course.

    Worst.

    Administration.

    Ever.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    zota, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 9:52am

    If you think your representative is stupid...

    75% of Americans do not know how many votes it takes to break a filibuster.
    http://pewresearch.org/databank/dailynumber/?NumberID=951

    Yes, many members of Congress are barely functioning idiots. But they're representatives. If you are represented by an idiot, you, my friend are an idiot.

    And if you complain that bills must be passed in ridiculous ways without acknowledging WHY they must be passed in this way, you are far worse than an idiot. You are a puppet, squatting on the fist of a propagandist. Enjoy the ride.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Dargus, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 9:59am

    Re: Bill shortage

    If there's a shortage, I have a few bills I can send them...electric, Internet...

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    My United States of Whatever, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 10:05am

    Re: *sigh*

    Until the next one.

    And the one after that.

    Repeat ad nauseam.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Nancy Pelosi, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 10:06am

    You have to pass the bill to find out the name of it.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 10:16am

    The Legislative Ambiguity Act of cir. 2000

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Walt, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 10:22am

    Re: How about...

    That always sounds good, clear honest statement in plain English.

    But, in fact, that isn't what you want in a bill. You want it written in clear, specific, legal terms - something the average lawyer can understand, and all lawyers, upon reading it, can agree on what it means.

    Legal terms are a precise and specific vocabulary, and they need to be used for legal purposes.

    Just like you have to use proper syntax in a programming language for the computer to understand it, the "programming language" for the legal system is the set of legal terms, and they need to be used, clearly and consistently, in laws.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    bowerock, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 10:26am

    Re: Kang and Kodos would be proud

    Do we at least get miniature American flags?

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    bob, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 10:45am

    Re: How about...

    That's a maximum of...not 1,000 words, but 240 characters!

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    nonya, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 10:46am

    "(These Are The People We Elect?)"

    We nothing; I don't vote Democrat.

     

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  37.  
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    Korla Pundit (profile), Aug 10th, 2010 @ 11:35am

    How about renaming it...

    The !@#%!&* Act of !#@&%^$*?!

     

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  38.  
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    Korla Pundit (profile), Aug 10th, 2010 @ 11:37am

    It's a bill perfectly suited for voting "Present."

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 11:47am

    Hey, TechDirt

    Don't you think it's irresponsible to assume this bill is something nefarious without first giving it some analysis? All you've said is along the lines of, "they called congresspeople back from the August recess to pass it", and "it's changed a lot", and, "they goofed up on the name". That doesn't say anything about whether it's good or bad.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    jlw, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 12:11pm

    Re: How about...

    and congress may not exempt itself from the laws it passes

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    Steven Slater, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 12:17pm

    The Blank Act of Blank you!

    "To the passenger who called me a "blank, blank. Blank you." I've been in the business 28 years. I've had it That's it."

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Sarah Natividad, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 12:31pm

    The _____ Act of ____ is so ________!!!

    The _____ Act of ____ is a horrible law. It would ______ the entire ______ industry, saddling them with ______, a burden they can't possibly meet. In addition it would require ___________________, _________, ____________ and, worst of all, _________________. Congressman _______ must be smoking _________ to think this bill is going to help our country at a time like this.

     

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  43.  
    identicon
    Sarah Natividad, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 12:38pm

    Re: Hey, TechDirt

    You fail to grasp the gravity of this situation. It's bad enough that Congress has been passing vague laws and handing them off to the executive branch for years' worth of byzantine rule-making required to make Congress' ill-informed wishes happen. And it's also unfortunate that they have figured out how to hide stuff from the American people and from each other by swapping out thousands of pages of bill text less than 24 hours before passage. If they can pass a law that doesn't even have a name and changes content radically, they can conceal it from even the most eagle-eyed watchers.

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Hey, TechDirt

    By the way, since posting this I looked into it. This is the stimulus to the states that Dems have been talking about for some time. Because Republicans have been blocking everything in congress, the Dems have to use weird parliamentary tactics (like calling folks in during the August recess) to get anything done. Seriously, look into this more if you don't believe me. GOP votes on most issues, whether or not there is a real ideological debate on them, has vote straight NO for doing anything. They managed to water down the stimulus from 2009 with tax cuts, and the Senators from Maine took out aid to the states which is what this bill is about. If you live in the US chances are you've heard in your local news that your state has a budget crisis. This bill is supposed to be a fix for that. The GOP doesn't want the feds to step in to ameliorate the situation, because they want the economic situtation in November to be as bad as can be for the election. Hence the weird tactics on the part of the Dems to get something worthwhile passed on the economic front.

    The way the techdirt summary is phrased is a hatchet job.

     

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  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Re: Hey, TechDirt

    You fail to grasp that if you had been following the Washington press you'd have known this was going to happen for more than a week. That is when I first heard that Pelosi was planning to rush through a stimulus to state budgets during the August recess. Parliamentary maneuvers to unblock a deadlocked congress, nothing more...

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    OnlyaBill, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 12:56pm

    Re: Re: Hey, TechDirt

    Now why oh why would I want this bill passed if it is for what you say? Why should my tax dollars go to bailing out yet another group that has managed to spend more money than it takes in? If the states can not affort to maintain all of the verious retirement plans, welfare plans, and entitlement plans, maybe, just maybe they should try cutting their spending instead of crying to the feds to give them more money the feds don't have.

     

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  47.  
    identicon
    Snatch, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 1:29pm

    I know what it is.

    The Final Act of God. They are going to kill you all and stay safe and sound in underground palaces. We build them.

     

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  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Re: Re: Hey, TechDirt

    Because you need roads.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/09/opinion/09krugman.html

    Also, check out the pie chart here:

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/09/schoolteachers-driving-cadillacs/

    Also, try to remember that revenues are down because of massive economic failure. That's not the fault of the states. And when all those state workers lose their jobs, it has a visible negative impact on the economy. Moreso than if some 1% of wealthy people pay what they paid in the 90s for taxes.

     

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  49.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 10th, 2010 @ 2:48pm

    Re: Hey, TechDirt

    Don't you think it's irresponsible to assume this bill is something nefarious without first giving it some analysis?

    I didn't think it was nefarious.

    I made no comment on the quality of the bill at all. In fact, I said: "I honestly have no idea if the specific details of this bill, requiring the mad dash back to DC for House Members is a good thing or not." This post had nothing to do with the relative merits of the bill. It had to do with the screwed up process by which the bill got to where it is.

    I find it highly amusing and ironic that you trash me for not having done enough when you clearly didn't even read the whole post.

     

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  50.  
    identicon
    Dylan Wright, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 3:14pm

    Re: Re: Hey, TechDirt

    Face it Mike Masnick, by writing this post without any knowledge of what WAS in the bill (as you have at least admitted) OR the political reasoning behind such maneuvers (as pointed out in the two anonymous comments above), you have just either been pwnd by the GOP's PR machine (i.e. see all the similarly ill-informed comments about 'see how dumb congress is nya-nya' as evidence of the ignorance you have just confirmed in many readers minds) or are in fact a willing tool (in which case I'm guessing this post will be deleted).

    Bummer dude!

     

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  51.  
    identicon
    Katherine, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 3:27pm

    Re: Re: read it

    That is a feature not a bug.

     

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  52.  
    identicon
    Shayne, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 7:37pm

    Re: How about...

    Lobo, thats actually not a bad idea. Many european countries and australian states have policies now that all laws should be fully understandable by non-lawyers, and have programs of reviewing old laws with a view to rewrite old ones that are considered arcane and latin-heavy. It works really well, permits non lawyers to get involved with politics, and helps people avoid accidently breaking the laws. And naturally it helps avoid this sort of shenanigans.

     

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  53.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 10th, 2010 @ 11:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Hey, TechDirt

    Face it Mike Masnick, by writing this post without any knowledge of what WAS in the bill (as you have at least admitted) OR the political reasoning behind such maneuvers (as pointed out in the two anonymous comments above), you have just either been pwnd by the GOP's PR machine (i.e. see all the similarly ill-informed comments about 'see how dumb congress is nya-nya' as evidence of the ignorance you have just confirmed in many readers minds) or are in fact a willing tool (in which case I'm guessing this post will be deleted).

    I'm not sure what you mean by that at all. I had no interest in what was specifically in the bill, as that was not the point of the post at all. I made no comment on whether the bill itself was important or good or bad. I simply pointed out the FACTUAL information that the name was missing and that the actual contents of the bill changed repeatedly, leading to confusion on many sites that track this info.

    I felt -- and still believe -- that both of these points are highly problematic, and indicative of a political machine that does not function well.

    This site is pretty religiously non-political. I disagree equally with politicians on both sides of the aisle. In fact, we purposely don't mention the political affiliation of politicians on the site (unless it's key to the story) in order to avoid political discussions.

    So I disagree. You think that what's in the bill was the point of this post. It was not. The points I made were factual, and important. I don't see how I was "pwned" by anyone's PR machine, since this story had nothing to do with any particular political party.

    Finally, we don't delete posts, no matter how critical or wrong they might be. I believe in responding to ignorance with facts.

     

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  54.  
    identicon
    Barbara Wedau, Aug 11th, 2010 @ 5:58am

    nameless bill

    Every bill should be written in plain English for the benefit of the American people. No riders should be attached
    in order to get it passed. The process of debate is to create an understanding for all those who vote on the content. It may be a slower process however the American people then can understand where their represenatives stand on the subject at hand. Doesn't that open the door of who they are representing instead of lobbyist and special interest groups

     

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  55.  
    identicon
    Schirf, Aug 11th, 2010 @ 9:01am

    Name Idea

    How about calling it the "The Act Formerly Known As the Blank Act of Blank of 2010"

     

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  56.  
    identicon
    Mike, Aug 11th, 2010 @ 1:04pm

    Re: If you think your representative is stupid...

    Do you really believe that the representastives we have in Congress represent the people of their district? They are professional politicians. It takes so much money to get elected that few can on board unless they are also a professional politician. Not a dumb working slob such as myself. Until the dollar is taken out of the equation for election, this will never change.

     

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  57.  
    identicon
    Alan, Aug 11th, 2010 @ 1:32pm

    Re: read it

    Downsize DC has had a proposal on the table for quite some time: Read The Bills Act. It would require every member of congress to sign an affidavit that they have read the bill before they vote for it (they don't have to read it if they vote against it).

    http://www.downsizedc.org/etp/campaigns/27

     

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  58.  
    identicon
    Alan, Aug 11th, 2010 @ 1:36pm

    Re: Re: How about...

    Oral reading of the bills is what Downsize DC's "Read the Bills Act" would require -- and reducing the amount of legislation to what is absolutely necessary is absolutely necessary for the rest of us to get Congress out of our hair so we have a life to get on with.

    http://www.downsizedc.org/etp/campaigns/27

     

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  59.  
    identicon
    Alan, Aug 11th, 2010 @ 1:38pm

    Re: How about...

    Support Downsize DC's "One Subject At a Time Act" by telling it to your Congressional employees: http://www.downsizedc.org/etp/campaigns/83

     

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  60.  
    identicon
    Dylan Wright, Aug 11th, 2010 @ 8:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Hey, TechDirt

    Mike - my objection is just that: that the content of the bill (and why it was passed in such a manner) were not the subject of your post. To me it seems that you have added almost no information whatsoever, beyond the fact that congress was about to pass a bill with a funny name (and some handwringing over the stupidity of politicians).

    But that's just me being critical and wrong :D

     

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  61.  
    identicon
    Brian, Aug 16th, 2010 @ 2:36pm

    Same thing with technology

    There are just too many laws for anyone to grasp. So many blind spots and assumptions, that over time, knowledge becomes lost.

    Look at technology - it's becoming so incredibly complex that people are just choosing to not use it, or they can't figure it out and it becomes more of a burden than a tool. Programming languages are becoming too complex with C++ as the main language (now that patent troll Oracle took over Sun, I doubt Java will have a bright future).

    The people that made most of the laws are dead, and so are their reasons for creating the laws. No one knows why many laws are in place, and if the government can't come up with a good reason, then the law shouldn't be there. Unfortunately, no one looks thru and filters out these old laws (otherwise marijuana would be legal by now) which means the legal system is a huge mess.

    Don't you just wish there was a "Reboot" button?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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