It's Election Season, And The Web Is Letting You Know How Much Your Elected Officials Cost You

from the who-needs-a-law-for-transparency? dept

The bipartisan "transparency" bill sponsored by Tom Coburn and Barack Obama has received plenty of attention for at least shining some amount of light on the pork and back scratching that gets thrown into various bills and laws. However, you don't always need someone to pass a law to get transparency. While things like real-time fact checking may not be all that useful to the political process, taking existing data and making it easier to access can be quite helpful. We've already seen that with a bunch of online sites, such as those who track where political donations come from. Now, the website Washington Watch has launched a new effort as we head into election season to shine some more of that transparency light on politicians. It's showing just how much various laws passed by the last Congress cost or saved each American household. Of course, in some ways, it's a little unfair to reduce everything simply to a dollar amount. After all, some things are worth spending money on. However, it does provide yet another way to look at the data that most people never had access to previously.

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  • identicon
    RantMax, 17 Oct 2006 @ 6:14pm

    You dirty blogger, you

    Recycled techniques in Mike's posts that are pissing me off:

    - Reusing saved phrases word by word on every second article, like "the music industry doesn't get it that pirated content is promotion for them", and "the companies don't get it trademark is about brand recognition and it's not like copyright", to spur rants from angry commenters.

    - Throwing in 5-6 links to other barely related to the subject articles, to boost ad revenue.

    - Using titles that is totally misrepresenting the facts in attempt to sound witty or shocking

    - Promoting hippie logic in attempt to please the geeky fans (like me I guess) who keep visiting his blog.

    But I'm getting seriously tired. Enough is enough Mike. Show us some new tricks.

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

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 17 Oct 2006 @ 6:53pm

      Re: You dirty blogger, you

      Recycled techniques in Mike's posts that are pissing me off:

      Sorry I've let you down, though at least let me respond to some of the points.

      - Reusing saved phrases word by word on every second article, like "the music industry doesn't get it that pirated content is promotion for them", and "the companies don't get it trademark is about brand recognition and it's not like copyright", to spur rants from angry commenters.

      Hmm. Each post is different, and is about a different issue. We actually specifically reject articles that are pure repeats. But, that doesn't mean certain themes or trends aren't important and we're going to highlight those -- because that's what we do. It's not to "spur rants from angry commenters." It's the opposite, honestly. It's trying to highlight these important trends so that people can react to them in ways that are beneficial. The reason some of them repeat is because many people still don't seem to see the trend, and showing repeated evidence that the trend is true will hopefully make it clearer.

      - Throwing in 5-6 links to other barely related to the subject articles, to boost ad revenue.

      Hmm. This is flat out false. We do link back to relevant articles, so that we can keep our posts short, without having to repeat everything we've shown in the past. In fact, as I noted in the point above, since we're trying to show a trend and use multiple data points, linking back to the older examples allows people to see the trend.

      It has nothing to do with ad revenue. Our business isn't based on ad revenue, and while we have ads, we couldn't care any less if you ignored them or hid them with adblock or whatever.

      - Using titles that is totally misrepresenting the facts in attempt to sound witty or shocking

      We do try to have fun with the titles at times, and many of our readers tell us they like this. Apparently, you don't. We'll take it into consideration. However, I do take exception to the idea of "misrepresenting the facts" with the titles. In fact, we are pretty strict about that and have rejected plenty of titles that could be taken as misrepresenting the facts. That said, we do often try to use *satire* in the titles -- and if you don't read it as satire, perhaps you might think it misrepresents the facts. I apologize for that, but it's not at all on purpose or to be "shocking." It's just to have a little fun.

      - Promoting hippie logic in attempt to please the geeky fans (like me I guess) who keep visiting his blog.

      Hippie logic? I'm not sure *what* hippie logic is, but if you have a problem with the logic we use (which is mostly based on free market economics, and which we back up in all of our posts), then show us the logic is wrong. It's not about pleasing geeky fans. It's about showing what we believe is happening.

      It's funny, by the way, that you first accuse of writing things to incur angry comments, then say that we write stuff to please geeky fans. Neither is true. We write stuff because we think it's interesting, highlights an important trend and/or might make for an interesting discussion.

      That's all... nothing more nothing less. We write this blog because it's fun. I'm sorry that you feel we do things you don't approve of, but I must say that your assumptions about our motives is way off. I have no problem with people accusing me of being wrong or making a mistake (if you back it up), but at least get the motives right.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Oct 2006 @ 6:57pm

      Re: You dirty blogger, you

      Things that annoy me:

      People who go to someone elses site, of their own free will, and complain that its not precisely what they want.

      RantMax, if you don't like the content, why are you wasting your time consuming it?

      More importantly, why are you wasting my time with your complaints that the free meal doesnt have enough salt to match your liking?

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

  • identicon
    A chicken passeth by, 17 Oct 2006 @ 6:25pm

    ...as of yesterday, the people you all have voted into office have failed you. There are no other candidates. Good luck.

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

  • identicon
    me, myself, and i, 17 Oct 2006 @ 6:58pm

    at mike in regards to #1

    maybe its just me, but i read it as maybe, possibly, a satirical post 'transparencing' your activities in this blog. just me however

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

  • identicon
    Sohrab, 17 Oct 2006 @ 7:03pm

    I think the reason the poster would say such things is when you dont agree and or you support the opposite side of the argument or view point, it tends to piss you off. I agree with many things Carlos and Mike say but when they bring topics against the Film Industry (industry im apart of) and or poke fun at companies that I very much support (sony) it does tend to piss me off at times and makes me want to lash out but dosent make it right and dosent make them any less right

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Oct 2006 @ 8:00pm

    As stalwarts of free market economics, please tell me how there are some things that it is unfair to reduce to dollar values. Do things whose value to society are hard to analyze and discern need to have their costs hidden to keep people from jumping to conclusions about them?

    It is traditional in this country to reduce things to absurdly simplified dollar costs to get at least one basis for an apples to apples comparison.

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

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 17 Oct 2006 @ 8:10pm

      Re:

      As stalwarts of free market economics, please tell me how there are some things that it is unfair to reduce to dollar values. Do things whose value to society are hard to analyze and discern need to have their costs hidden to keep people from jumping to conclusions about them?

      Well, first of all, it assumes that it's perfectly easy to accurately state how much legislation is actually costing someone. It's not. It's nearly impossible to take into account all of the impact.

      Second, this only shows the cost side of the equation, and not the benefit. Something may cost a lot, but if the overall benefit outweighs the cost, then it's unfair to focus only on the cost.

      The point isn't that it's a problem, but that just focusing on the costs is hardly enough. I think it's great that Washington Watch is doing this, don't get me wrong, but by reducing everything to the dollar value, it gets people to only focus on the dollar value, and that makes it easy to avoid the bigger picture impact, and the other variables that are impacted by legislation.

      Free market economics isn't just about reducing everything to a dollar value, but understanding the economic ramifications of any decision.

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

  • identicon
    RantMax, 17 Oct 2006 @ 8:22pm

    "why you rant, rantmax!?"

    "RantMax, if you don't like the content, why are you wasting your time consuming it? More importantly, why are you wasting my time with your complaints that the free meal doesnt have enough salt to match your liking?"

    Yes, why are you wasting your time reading it? You can't scroll past it? You browser forces you to read every comment before you move on?

    What is it?

    As for why I do it, let's turn to science, shall we. There are few forces that result in me reacting this way:

    - Me being annoyed at the abeforementioned flaws of Techdirt's articles

    - Me desperately trying to show off as a smartass

    - Me wanting to "open the eyes" of the Techdirt visitors for the abeforementioned flaws

    - Venting after a hard day

    - There was a form beloe with Name, Subject, Comment, so I thought: what if I fill it with something and click Submit!? It worked!

    And now, Mike:

    "I have no problem with people accusing me of being wrong or making a mistake (if you back it up), but at least get the motives right."

    I appreciate you took the time to answer my rants. Thank you.

    But .. man, I don't have to guess your "motives", geez. This is not the lottery, is it.

    It's a feedback of how Techdirt appears to me, as an end result. If it's not matching your motives there are a few options:

    1. change your motives to match my rant (not recommended)

    2. change your blog to address the issues (recommended)

    3. denial (this is not recommended, but most people go for it, maybe it's not that bad!)

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

  • identicon
    Frink, 17 Oct 2006 @ 9:34pm

    RantMax, you forgot one option. Start your own blog and leave this one alone. Then we can all come and read yours and tell you what you're doing wrong.

    See how easy that is?

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

  • identicon
    Spartacus, 18 Oct 2006 @ 12:27am

    Mike's responses

    I like that Mike generally responds to intelligent criticism or questions, what I don't like is when he responds defending himself and someone responds back showing why his defense was wrong and Mike realizes he was probably wrong and... moves on to the next blog. I've seen a few times where a commenter showed that Mike made a mistake and I don't think I've ever noticed Mike admitting it. As humble as Techdirt writers pretend to be, this is a starkly opposite impression we readers get.

    Please note that this doesn't mean that Rantmax has shown Mike to be wrong in any way. Mike's responses to Rantmax have simply reminded me of the way he consistently handles things.

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

  • identicon
    TAR, 18 Oct 2006 @ 3:28am

    Keep up the good work.

    For whatever it's worth, Mike I enjoy reading your posts. Keep up the hard work.

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

  • identicon
    PsychoMax, 18 Oct 2006 @ 6:49am

    Mike's responses

    @Spartacus

    He's doing what's best for the business. If he doesn't reply, he'll seem unresponsive, and let pressure build up.

    Of course when I rant, no pressure builds up, since my nick suggest I'm here to rant and make fun of everything, hence people don't regard my opinion as such in the first place.

    But still he does it just in case.

    He can't admit faults, since admitting faults is hard, and makes you think you look weak.

    He's always polite even though I may go over the full repertoire of swears, since he has to take care of his image that keeps his corporate intelligence business running.

    What I wonder is, if I become excessively obscene, will he filter or delete my message?

    It's a tough call, if he erases this one message for example, I may start spreading information on how TechDirt "censors its commenters" which will bring him more harm than otherwise.

    Otherwise people will reply a little and forget about the whole article and comment thread in 1-2 days.

    I conclude my report.

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

  • identicon
    BC, 18 Oct 2006 @ 8:45am

    Porkbusters

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

  • identicon
    Idiot without a cause, 18 Oct 2006 @ 9:46am

    subject

    I LOVE how this one rant got the entire page completely off topic. I for one would like to know what my "representitives" are really up to.

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

  • identicon
    Another idiot without a cause, 18 Oct 2006 @ 10:37am

    subject

    Well, idiot (without a cause), it's a tough think to rely on critical information from unmoderated comments on a random blog, now, isn't it?

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


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