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March 20, 2006

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VIP TREATMENT....Via Hilzoy, Elizabeth Warren alerts us to a new film called Maxed Out, which promises to take us on "a journey deep inside the American debt-style, where everything seems okay as long as the minimum monthly payment arrives on... [Read More]

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The Germans found the solvency solution: printing their own money...

The author of Hellfire Nation points out a classic example of what you're talking about in the original white-slavery laws making it a crime to transport girls across state lines for immortal porpoises--er, immoral purposes. The bill was written so vaguely to prevent white slavers finding any legal loophole, but the side-effect was that it also brought adulterers, regular prostitutes and others who crossed state lines into violation of federal law, which hadn't been intended.

"to transport girls across state lines for immortal porpoises--er, immoral purposes."

Fraser, if you're going to made an egregious pun, make the whole one. It's transporting gulls across a staid lion for immortal porpoises.

Getting the wording right is critically important. Also just getting the right legislative intent is important. Too many laws are passed in a rush to give the impression that something is being done, with little, if any, attention to whether the law addresses the problem in an effective manner. This sucks for liberals, since it creates a big mess of lousy law which the right can use as evidence that government doesn't work. The core liberal effort should be towards effective government, not just government that tries to address problems. It's not just a matter of doing the job right, it's also a matter of smart politics.

I am one of what I imagine is the vanishingly small group of non-lawyers who get really annoyed by badly drafted statutes.

I'm another. I suspect that the problem is more widespread than we know.

I was once involved, peripherally, in a case that challenged how Good Conduct Time ("time off for good behavior") is calculated for federal prisoners. The statute is unclear for the simplest of reasons - it fails to define critical terms and then uses them to mean different things in different places.

The law here is not particularly complicated or lengthy. It would have been easy to be precise. It just wasn't done.

Okay, but precision and venality are by no means mutually exclusive. Sit in a room full of corporate lawyers and that will quickly become apparent. (Sorry, I wouldn't actually wish that on anyone. Well, maybe a Republican. But no, they might enjoy it.)

Anyway, is there anything more to this than simply "Christmas tree" sloppiness? The Garbage Can Model of legislation: it's gonna pass, so get a provision attached.

Perhaps a certain inaccuracy is actually to the benefit of the credit card issuers and their fellow travellers: the denser the legal thicket, the less likely anyone without corporate-sized pockets will be able to use -- much less challenge -- the law.

"OT: we're up for best series."

And as I pointed out before, not going to win when the pointers go to the broken search engine results and largely to irrelevant posts. Shame, that, but apparently no one is any more interested in fixing it now than when I pointed out the problem a year ago.

It really is a shame, though, that people won't even get to read your posts due to this.

What are you referring to, Gary? The links in the post cited at Wampum go to the posts on the Graham amendment, in the order they appeared. I just opened them in sequence; none of them appeared to me to be irrelevant. Are you pointing to problems with links inside the posts themselves?

I doubt this series will win, either, but that's because the nature of the topic, nothing about the links. It was a heroic example of effective intellectual and political response to a moment of crisis for our legal system. The posts were written under intense time pressure, for practical use in countering the 'arguments' put forward by the Enablers -- yet much of the writing stands up well as writing.

The Graham amendment series is one that doesn't aim to tug at the heartstrings. It's a small "market": Plame obsessives outnumber by many times those focused on the Unitary Executive/Enabling Legislature/Detention & Torture waking nightmare. And the quality of the competition is extremely high.

I'm an activist. Writing that motivates and equips for action impresses me far more than writing for reflection, or recreation, or the many other purposes possible. This series, to me, exemplified the "highest and best use" to which blogs can be put.

But it quite possibly is not what most people are looking for in a Koufax winner. Doesn't diminish my awe a bit if not.

I thought it was "sedate lions"?

"What are you referring to, Gary? The links in the post cited at Wampum go to the posts on the Graham amendment, in the order they appeared."

Ah, I see this Wampum post is a new post, only there since yesterday; hadn't noticed that when I quickly looked again earlier today; the one that's been the one people voted off of before March 20th had no such link. It simply gave the same broken link to the Atomz search result that is still the first link in this Wampum post, which is what most people will logically click on first, which is as I previously described.

But it's a step in the right direction that at least now, as of March 20th, people have an easier way to find the nominated posts, beyond the previous clicking on the link, not noticing that the link was semi-useless, and having to hunt for the posts on their own.

I'd still suggest that the two minutes necessary to get rid of the Atomz search engine in the sidebar here and replace it with Google or any other working search engine might be a two minutes well spent. But I've only suggested this half a dozen times or so for more than a year, and it's not my blog, so I should try to shut up again about it.

Meantime, I'd quite like to see Katherine and Hilzoy's efforts win, but if they don't, I'll blame it on this fiasco. (And since ObWi was previously nominated in other categories, I can blame it not advancing on this problem.) (Honestly, though, I hadn't even noticed that this is a new round of voting; I thought the last round was the final round, because I don't pay any attention to any of the blog awards, because a) awards are silly; and b) I see a clear flaw in them for now. :-))

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