During debate of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), co-sponsor Representative Melvin Watt (D, N.C.) basically admitted that he didn’t completely understand the bill he was sponsoring. His justification?
“I’m not a nerd.”
He and Representative Maxine Waters (D, Calif.) voted against bringing in actual experts on the Internet, with Waters actually saying that it would “waste time.”
Given that many of the sponsors of this bill have received bribes - I’m sorry, I meant “campaign donations” - from Hollywood lobbying groups, it seems obvious that their ignorance is almost purely willfull.
Many groups that are knowledgeable on the Internet, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, say that SOPA will unnecessarily curtail liberties online, and I’m inclined to agree with them. The EFF is a great source on issues like this. But this is a detour from my main point of general willfull ignorance.
Unfortunately, lack of understanding and pride in that is not relegated to the hall of Congress.
A few New Hampshire legislators in N.H. State House of Representatives have put forth a bill that would require all state laws to have a basis in the Magna Carta. Yes, the English document from 1215.
Though the document applied almost entirely to English nobles, it still remains an important document, and I’m sure there are parts that are still relevant. But most of it talks about ancient demands like the return of the Welsh hostages.
Lucien Vita (R, Middleton), one of the three co-sponsors, admitted that he hasn’t actually read most of the Magna Carta.
A bit of context: New Hampshire’s House is unusually large for its size. There are 400 members representing about 1.3 million people. In contrast, there are 435 people in the U.S. House, representing about 300 million.
And in recent years, the Texas Board of Education has repeatedly shunned science and history experts when it comes time to discuss state academic standards. Don McLeroy, a departing member of the TBOE, said they have to “stand up to the experts.”
Those are but three examples, but I could find many more, if I had the space.
The point is, why do these and other politicians think it’s acceptable to write laws or set standards on issues they admit they know little about? When did it become a bad thing to know what you’re talking about?
In the NH House, all bills come up for a vote, so the fact that the bill has been introduced in no way means that it will be passed.
And SOPA is still in committee in the U.S. House. And while there is bi-partisan support for it, there is also bi-partisan opposition to it, so it’s passing is also far from certain.
Franklin Clark is a reporter for the Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.