BREAKING: U.S. Congress clueless, ignorant

Miller-McCune's Emily Badger:

When members of Congress earlier this month considered the Stop Online Piracy Act — better known to anyone who actually hangs out on the Internet as #SOPA — the most notable feature of the debate turned out to be the sheer ignorance of the elected officials discussing it. One after the other, members of the U.S. House of Representatives professed — nay, bragged about — approaching this weighty legislation from the vantage point of someone who is not “a nerd” or a “tech expert.”

Maybe pride in ignorance of their own legislation is an emotional defense mechanism, related to not having taken a significant role in writing it.


  1. What I heard in a children’s cartoon on tv this morning (more or less):
    “We went looking everywhere for clowns. […] We visited the House of  Congress too. It was full of clowns, but they weren’t funny.”

  2. This is a nation that glorifies stupidity and has a representative government.  All this means is that democracy works.

      1. This meme needs quashing. Mussolini did not make the trains run on time. Like all right-wingers he took credit for policies enacted by the previous admin. Just like how Bush took credit for the economic boom that resulted from Clinton’s tax policies and then proceeded to destroy the global economy.

        Authoritarian states are *less* efficient than democracies. Their claim that they must sadly enact their restrictions on liberty in order to have a well functioning state is pure bullshit. It’s a lie and they know it’s a lie.

        1. It’s often claimed that “capitalism with Eastern values” — i.e. authoritarian capitalism — is more efficient than democratic capitalism. It’s one reason why China is considered such an economic threat.

          1. China is considered a threat for two reasons;

            1) Lots of people live there.
            2) Business leaders, who largely determine what politicians and “journalists” think, are huge boosters for it.

            I don’t think the first point needs any explanation, but what about the second?  Why do our business leaders find China so darn impressive? 

            A part of it is China’s growth rate over the last few decades; this, however, is not as impressive as it is typically made out to be.  Every industrializing state sees huge growth rates, those numbers tend to be even larger in opaquely administered states where “cooking the books” is simple, easy, encouraged, and difficult to prove, and when such a state can make use of the expertise of neighboring or interested industrialized states -as China has via the US, Japan, and Taiwan- those rates will, again, be even bigger due to all the stuff they don’t have to invent, figure out, and build themselves.  My point is that there’s nothing inherent about China that makes their growth so impressive, which tends to be the conclusion business types draw on the issue because business types are typically very parochial and ignorant people.  Rather, it is a natural process -one greatly exaggerated by the mendacity of Chinese officials- that will slow in time.  In fact, some bears have already been saying for few years that China’s real growth is far, far lower, and may in fact have been entirely stalled over the last 2-3 years.

            The second part of it is the basic simple mindedness of humans, no matter how much clink they have in their pockets.  Business types doing deals in China marvel at how quickly they can get construction planned, started, and completed; comparing it to the US, it is so very quick, and so they think to themselves “Wow, this authoritarian approach sure is impressive; I guess the democracy back home ain’t so hot”, a few which nicely plays into their aristocratic prejudices, anyway.  Of course they don’t think about what comes with it; things like spectacular pollution, dangerously shoddy construction, unenforced safety standards in production, obscene levels of graft, the forcible displacement/labor conscription of vast numbers of people, and all the rest.  Nor do they think about what follows those things, namely, your citizens going out into the streets with machetes and hacking officials to pieces.  There is a reason why official corruption carries a death sentence in the Mainland; if the state did not do it then the citizens would, and then they’d go to the next village over and do it there, too, and so on and so forth until it’s the Yellow Turbans or the White Lotus all over again.

            So don’t buy the hype about China; while impressive, their growth has not been the Most Spectacular Thing Ever it has been made out to be, nor are its companies The Most Awesomely Managed as bankers desperate to get investments over there frequently rant on Charlie Rose.  They have problems, they frequently fail to deal with them intelligently, they face a difficult future, and if they succeed in surpassing the US it’ll be as much because of our own blunders, like the CCP-emulating SOPA, as it will be because of their achievements. 

          2. China is courting disaster with increased income disparity.  There are many in the urban areas who are getting very rich from the adoption of free market capitalism but China is ignoring the safety net for most of the rural population.  Just like the USA, and, to some extent, the European nations that are having economic troubles, increasing inequality of income causes economic and social disruption.  As a retired CIA economic analyst of the Chinese economy I predict rural unrest and urban violence within 20 years.  Perhaps even another revolution.  The Arab Spring is mirrored in China as the Jasmine revolution and is currently being suppressed.  It will boil over!

          3.  Tell that to the hundreds of millions of Chinese still living practically in the stone age, having to bribe party officials for access to the most basic  health care, education, housing or jobs.

  3. If I showed up to my job anywhere as willingly and willfully clueless about anything and everything as our supposed representatives, I’d be fired ON THE SPOT.

    It is not a representation to need smacking with a clue bat.

    You  are supposed to inform yourself.

    Going into public office should lead to the office holder becoming more enlightened, not as friggin’ stupid as an ox and proud of it, and looking for ways to screw the tax payer (that’s US) out of every cent that’s out there.

    Lets give our selected  (not elected) representatives as salary equal to whatever they were making and watch them like hawks to make sure that they don’t suddenly become millionaires during their one and only term in office.

    1. If you’re interested in people doing it right, try being satisfied with just ONE copy of your avatar? Lead the way. 

    2. There’s a balance to be struck. If I showed up to my job pretending that I knew everything I’d eventually make a mistake and I’d probably get fired. The right thing is to put your hands up and say “hey, my job is x, this thing here is out of my area of expertise. I need to talk to an expert.” 

      “Inform yourself” is a very particular thing if you’re legislating for a country. I get to read Wikipedia to inform myself about random new stuff I come across day to day but I’m not in Congress.

  4. Clueless and Ignorant?

    Considering the very strong possibility that the citizen’s representatives in Washington DC have been using their insider information to buy stock (illegal for everyone else to do so) in companies that will benefit with the passage of SOPA (probably before we even knew the name “SOPA”), I’d say they were not stupid at all.

    Traitors to their TRUE constituency, yes; but not clueless and ignorant.

    1. It’s not simply that we chose them (and the WE is up for debate), it’s that we keep re-electing the same ones. I’d see congress full of people who don’t know where the bathroom is yet.

  5. This is a perfect example why ethics in politics should be law.  If you don’t know what you are voting on, maybe you should abstain.  God forbid how many Senators bail (abstain) when there is something that needs to be stopped.

  6. They aren’t so much clueless as motivated by other things than, oh, the will of their constituency or a vision of anything but what will benefit them personally…..

  7. Recent research has confirmed what seems obvious in retrospect:  that the less people know about a subject, the less aware they are of how much they don’t know (and hence the more willing they are to assume that their opinion is as good as the experts’).

    I am sometimes amazed that the species has survived this long.

  8. Its not just technical ignorance.  Its complete lacking of common sense on the part of many members of Congress and their staffs.  A few years ago I sent Senator Menendez an email asking for help getting the USPS to restore my mail delivery.  He responded by sending me a letter requesting more information.

      1. The USPS resumed delivery after a complaint to the Postal Regulatory Commission after which I received the letter from Senator Menendez.

    1. Puuuhhhlease….you are kidding right?  You really believe any senator is doing other than what their lobbyists are paying them to do???? 

      Especially Menendez, whose voting record is almost strictly neoconservative?

      Awhile back, on one of those phony, poseur self-described “progressive”  shows formerly affiliated with Air America (the only progressive with that group was Janine Garafolo), the Pap & whatever-ring-of-fire show, claimed that Sen. Cantwell (D-WA) had an awesome record (yeah, for a Bush-dog dem who votes as a neocon):

      Cantwell voted:
      YES on NAFTA,
      YES on CAFTA,
      YES on the USA PATRIOT Act
      YES on the Iraq War,
      YES on subsequent war financing,
      YES on doubling the foreign worker visa program,
      NO on the public option for that healthcare reform (both she and Murray voted down the Dorgan Amendment — the ONLY public option offered on the Senate floor).
      NO on repealing tax subsidy for companies which move US jobs offshore.
      Opposes linking Human Rights to trade with China
      YES on free trade agreement with Oman
      YES on free trade agreements with Korea, Columbia and Panama (which ships bulk of jobs not to South Korea, but to SLAVE LABOR CAMPS in North Korea, and utilizes the zero corporate income tax in Panama to benefit American-based multinationals and corporations and thus further destroy the American tax base)

      And just the other day, both Wa. senators Cantwell and Murray voted for that NDAA, essentially killing due process, habeas corpus, and the doctrine of posse comitatus.  (She was originally from Indiana.)

  9. To know that you don’t know and to acknowledge there is a significance to knowing (“expert”) but not make an attempt to get “experts” involved or to learn more about it?
    Well, we voted in the best and the brightest.  Guess when something catastrophic happens they just beg Billy to wish it into the cornfield.

  10. Well, these are the same class of people (right-wing ideologues) one of whom (Tom Tancredo) claimed that the heliocentric theory was a Jewish plot or who wanted to decree that the number Pi should have the Biblical value of 3.

  11. Any way you look at it, the US Congress will subvert the last method Americans have have accessing any real news and factual data; they certainly aren’t able to get it from the American propaganda network:  Fox-CNN-NPR-ABC-CBS-AP.

    The economy has been dismantled, the media nonexistent, whorescum “newsies” still prattling about “conspiracy theory” “conspiracy theory” even after the black boxes were released from several of those aircraft from 9/11/01, indicating no hijackings took place; even after facts surfaced about the aircrafts’ transponders being turned off in radar “dark zones” — after purposely flying there — then returning to their destination routes (a most recondite piece of technical aviation information few are really aware of in the aviation biz, and they certainly didn’t learn about it at those instant-flight schools in Florida and Arizona, etc.).

    US congress was bought and paid for a long, long time ago (the last two actual democrats, Dorgan and Feingold, are long gone, one finally giving up and retiring, the other voted out of office by idiots, assuming the vote was accurate).

    Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, one of the three anti-American worker members of the Clinton family (Bill earned $100 million from lobbying on behalf of the jobs offshoring industry, Chelsea works in a similar capacity at McKinsey, etc.), falsely accuses the Russian election of having been fixed —- hilarious given that the exit polls conducted by non-Russian, neutral organizations, came within 5% of their election results — far closer than any national election in the USA over the past 15 years (sure, they’ve got major problems in Russia, what with absolute political corruption and the agenda to privatize everything —- sound familiar?   Exactly the same as in America, huh???)

  12. Their ignorance is beyond disgusting, the fact that they voted in something they clearly state they have NO UNDERSTANDING OF, PISSES ME OFF.  First the patriot act, then all the BS between that and this SOPA.   I HATE CONGRESS, CLEAN HOUSE ALREADY.  Is there some LAW that allows us to remove complete morons from congress on the basis that they are MENTALLY UNFIT!!!!!!!!!!!

    Wait, where are all the idiots crying thats its the fault of the democrats and republicans?   ITS BOTH.
    Oh thats right you fools just found out how well picking sides works.  Time to make sense instead of dollars.
    Ive known all of this for 20 years and it seems to never be until the last damn minute or even after the fact, that people realize what I already knew.  Its VERY EASY to stand and scoff the new idea coming from the “independent” party.  Its very easy to stand around a genius, a lot of fools, and scoff or laugh at what wild futuristic worries are told.  Yet when they come true everyone blames anything but THEIR OWN IGNORANCE…….
    We all know Congress is the opposite of Progress, we all know presidents lie like dogs to get into office and do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING they say they will.  We all know lawyers are scumbag liars, many would sell his mother for a crisp $100 bill.  We know cops are corrupt and now beating citizens on a regular basis…ACTUALLY its happened for YEARS but now there are cameras everywhere.  We all know the system is completely worthless.

    Yet we continue, scoffing the geniuses, laughing at foretold outcomes, pointing out obvious flaws in their reasons but not acting upon them or holding them to their decisions.

    Face it folks, Freedom in America is OVER, Prepare to be servants because you are already.
    You owe 10k for coming into the world, you owe for lower education, you owe money for simply owning, you owe for living, you owe to be educated formerly(MAJOR FLAW), and you owe to have property, you owe to stay healthy and keep your teeth, you owe your savings to healthcare in your elderly years, then you owe someone about 8k for dying.  If you happen to sign up for military you then owe YOUR LIFE to keep America in this tyranny.
    You are OWNED, by mentally inferior masters no less.

  13. There’s been a trend towards people wanting politicians who are “regular guys.” They want someone just like them, not someone who can understand complex issues and have the intelligence to make reasoned decisions.

    And you wonder why our government is crap?

  14. These are the people who blew off studying in school, barely passing each year.  Made fun of their teachers instead of respecting their authority; showed no self discipline or determination to learn; unwilling to work hard toward a long term goal.  Now they want to get rid of the teachers they disrespected.

    The definition of “conservative” ain’t what it was.

  15. Members of congress are charged with making decisions on issues about which they have no expertise. This fact has finally caught up with us. The issues have become so complex (socially, economically, scientifically, environmentally, globally, diplomatically, etc. etc.) that they are being hacked at with axes and clubs instead of with fine surgical instruments. Are we F***ED?!

  16. Imagine trying to use software that was wriiten in the 80’s and the code and been added to hundreds of times over the years.  The software would be so buggy and bloated by now that it would barely work.  Add that the OS the software was written for is no longer in use.   Anyone in their right mind would just rewrite the program to get a fresh start.
    Our government is like software and it was a good program but it no longer works like it was intended and needs a rewrite.

  17. typically, your government will try to move a mountain with a spoon. sending incompetents to deal with the problem…. and more than likely….these fools will decide on some all encompassing legislation akin to squashing a bug with a bulldozer.

  18. Not surprising. Ignorance of all types is glorified in our culture. If you admit you actually know things, you’re called elitist and shunned. In what other culture could Larry the Cable Guy have gotten so big?

  19. If We The People wanted anything different, we’d be smashing the voting machines instead of whinging and grizzling on the Internets.

  20. There is a good point made that if you want a politician to respond to your wants, you need to approach him on his own terms. For example, instead of asking “Do you understand that the methods proscribed by this bill endanger our civil liberties,” ask, “why are you soft on Iran (and other repressive regimes)? Do you hate freedom, too?”

    And instead of saying, “this system exposes American citizens to systematic abuse and security risk,” say, “I won’t support any politician who votes for a Chinese internet.”

    If half-baked allusions to the menace-of-the-month is what they understand, then by God use that.  If their sole concern is getting elected by constituents that they think are stupid, fearful, and panicky, then make sure they know that they’re fearful and a panicky about the bill that special interests are putting forward.

  21. I just realised that the only way to scare Congress into ditching SOPA is to hammer home the idea that it will make the rest of the world move away from ICANN and its control of the DNS to an alternative network, and rob the USA of its dominant position in the WWW and the rest of the internet. Their DNA ticks to the idea of maintaining American exceptionalism, so this may the the only thing that wakes them up.

    After all, the threat of Galileo keeps the GPS system relatively open, as they don’t want the EU’s planned alternative going online. The same sort of alternative threatening in the wings could help keep the Internet open.

  22. Slightly off-topic, your comments on Galileo don’t make much sense. The U.S. has kept the GPS system relatively open because GPS units are now cheap and freely available, and military precision systems can be acquired on the black market fairly easily. These days, the only reliable security mechanism the U.S. has is the on/off switch.

    The U.S. offered the “keys to the kingdom”, proverbially speaking, to it’s allies (because if you can’t keep your enemy from using it, you may as well let your allies in as well).  Most in Europe felt it was better to have their own system, completely independent of the U.S.  Given the level of cooperation we already enjoy, it seems kind of pointless.

    Galileo’s still not flying because there was a complete breakdown in the founding philosophy that it would be funded and developed as a 50% government/50% private project. Industry has shown no interest, and governmental bodies had to eventually take up the slack. Private industry just has no interest in developing that kind of infrastructure; that’s why governments exist in the first place.

    I suspect the U.S. would be more concerned about China’s new system. They only need good coverage of the Asia Pacific to support an invasion of Taiwan, which is an objective that’s always on the radar for military planners in China. They have weak coverage of the area now, but a larger array will mean they don’t have to resort to tricks like augmenting geolocators with AUV data.

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