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United States Government Programming Politics

Number of Coders In Congress To Triple (From One To Three) 163

jfruh writes Last weekend, Tim Berners-Lee said that the UK needs more members of parliament who can code. Well, the most recent U.S. congressional election has obliged him on this side of the Atlantic: the number of coders in Congress has tripled, with the downside being that their numbers have gone from one to three.
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Number of Coders In Congress To Triple (From One To Three)

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  • Is at an all time high.
    However, I'd rather have morons in power than smart guys. The smart guys can really screw us!
    • Is at an all time high.

      However, I'd rather have morons in power than smart guys. The smart guys can really screw us!

      Even worse, smart guys with the best of intentions.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        I'm good with coders in congress; as long as they have debugging experience, and most of the bugs were in code written by their peers.

        • If the bugs weren't written by their peers, they'd be features.

        • I'm good with coders in congress; as long as they have debugging experience, and most of the bugs were in code written by their peers.

          The problem is these coders will never see the 1.0 release before they are asked to vote on it. There are no opportunities to debug the first draft.

          • Why debug the first draft when you have the entire nation acting as quality control?

          • by plopez ( 54068 )

            Vauge requirements and design are par for the course.

          • you do know how parliamentary procedure works with you know amendments to motions :-) id suggest reading Citrine and Roberts rules as background than the standing orders and rules of debate for the congress before making that assumption
            • you do know how parliamentary procedure works with you know amendments to motions :-) id suggest reading Citrine and Roberts rules as background than the standing orders and rules of debate for the congress before making that assumption

              Did you ever watch CSPAN when Obamacare was being drafted? I watched one night. Something drafted in the backrooms by who knows who was brought out. Democrats offered zero amendments. Some republicans offered BS amendments and were rightfully voted down. Other republicans offered constructive well thought out amendments with explanations for the problem / unintended consequence they were addressing. Every single one of these amendments were voted down **without** discussion. No questions. No debate. No disc

              • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

                Every change means more headaches when the bill goes to reconciliation between the two houses. That’s one of the big disadvantages of a bicameral legislature—there’s a strong disincentive to fixing problems by the time a bill gets out of committee, which means if you’re not on the committee, you usually have little to no say unless the problem with the bill is grave, in which case enough people vote against it (you hope) to keep it from passing, and the committee has to rethink it.

              • hmm where these "constructive well thought out amendments " actually spoiling amendments?
                • hmm where these "constructive well thought out amendments " actually spoiling amendments?

                  No. Those I lumped under "Some republicans offered BS amendments and were rightfully voted down.".

                  What I thought "constructive well thought out amendments" were more like someone identifying a loophole/exploit and suggesting a fix. A fix that did not go against the spirit and intent of the legislation. Reasonable constructive criticisms and suggestions. And I want to emphasize these loopholes and exploits were not even discussed. Zero questions, zero debate, zero discussion; just an immediate no vote. It

        • as long as they have debugging experience

          Don't get your hopes up. Despite what the summary says, the article says the complete opposite. The newly elected members do not have any "coders" (god I hate that word), but they do contain 2 people with CS degrees. One of them went to work for the CIA on counterterrorism, followed by working for a cybersecurity company, and the other joined the Air Force and then became a lawyer. They are not software developers, they are people who majored in computer science.

    • by Macrat ( 638047 )

      The smart guys can really screw us!

      All coders are smart?

      • Re:IQ of congress (Score:5, Interesting)

        by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@g m a il.com> on Wednesday November 19, 2014 @02:55PM (#48420361) Journal

        Was just gonna say this. I know a guy who can do all kinds of coding and believes that both evolution and climate change are not real. Another who thinks the moon landing was a hoax. Apart from these tinfoil-hatters, I also know some coders who are massive douchebags and even idiots.

        Ability to code is no guarantee of good intelligence or character.

        • Re:IQ of congress (Score:5, Interesting)

          by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@g m a il.com> on Wednesday November 19, 2014 @03:02PM (#48420433) Journal

          Addendum: Now that I think of it, if I had to choose between a politician who was a coder and one who wasn't a coder with no other information, I'd vote for the non-coder. Too high a percentage of the coders I know (or know of) are conspiracy nuts and/or egomaniac manchildren.

          • Addendum: Now that I think of it, if I had to choose between a politician who was a coder and one who wasn't a coder with no other information, I'd vote for the non-coder. Too high a percentage of the coders I know (or know of) are conspiracy nuts and/or egomaniac manchildren.

            I'm guessing a high percentage of the people you discuss issues with are coders.

            A high percentage of people are conspiracy nuts and/or egomaniac (wo?)manchildren.

        • Re:IQ of congress (Score:5, Informative)

          by VAXcat ( 674775 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2014 @03:04PM (#48420451)
          There was a time, a golden age most of you have never even imagined, when, to work in IT, you had to be very smart, well educated, and very dedicated to coding and computers. Sadly, that decades gone Xanadu has been replaced by legions of people just looking for a paycheck, who have never seen any other platform than Windows, and whose main qualification is that they have a certification or two. Makes me sad to look back on it...
          • Re:IQ of congress (Score:5, Insightful)

            by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2014 @03:20PM (#48420637)

            A world full of people like that means that a person of a skillset and interest that you are attributing to yourself should be able to find a very comfortable place.

            I look at it this way. I'm not a fan of car salesmen. However, if I love cars, design a good one, and want to make a business out of it, I need car salesmen to sell the cars. Not all of them will love cars. Some of them will simply love making money or sales. They still help my dream to come true.

            In theory, for every bunch of boot camp MCSEs out there, there needs to be at least one person who knows what they are doing. Although it feels like you may now be surrounded by careerists who don't love computing, those careerists ultimately make it possible for people who love computers to have a bigger niche to fit into.

            The percentage of people who love computing against the careerists may be the same, or even lower than it was before, but the absolute number of enthusiasts has probably never been higher.

          • I'm sure these guys are smart too. Why, they even have degrees from ITT Tech to back up their intelligence
          • Sadly, that decades gone Xanadu has been replaced by legions of people just looking for a paycheck, who have never seen any other platform than Windows, and whose main qualification is that they have a certification or two.

            Good news! That decade is gone also. Now we're on to a new decade with all new things to complain about!

          • Remember, kids, any field where you have to be very smart, well educated, and very dedicated just to get in will have tons of people who aren't as smart, as well educated, or as unwilling to suffer for their expertise who want the jobs. This means that the employers can pay crap and abuse their employees, because if one quits there's one almost as smart and educated who will take just a little more crap to work in the field. Alternately, the job is just so bleeping difficult that it will burn out people

        • by Creepy ( 93888 )

          Religion and political ideology indoctrination sometimes trump science, even with otherwise intelligent people. Proof: my brother believes both evolution and climate change are not real. He is a rich religious conservative republican that eats up both ideologies and listens to pretty much nothing but conservative talk radio. Other than that, he is also a brilliant electrical engineer with hundreds of patents that both codes and owns an electrical/computer engineering contracting company. Whenever people sug

          • I don't know your brother and can't speak for him. I also don't have the same beliefs, I think evolution is real and humans have caused massive problems on Earth including Global Warming. At the same time, I don't believe everything people claim about either of those things. I question what I'm told, and that gets me labelled as a 'conspiracy theorist'.

            As one easy example, I read through the UN Agenda 21 reports which were out well before many people were talking about global warming. Since I know the in

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      When a Congressman becomes a Senator, the IQ of both houses improves increases.

      • When a Congressman becomes a Senator, the IQ of both houses improves increases.

        FYI, a Senator is also a Congressman.

        • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

          Not really, no. The words are segregated such that Congressman referred specifically to a member of the House of Representitives. Congressman Joe Smoe is a member of the House. You wouldnt say Congressman Bob Smith to refer to a Senator as Senator is his proper title. The phrase properly used to apply to generically to ether side is Member of Congress.

          The closest you can get to use the word to apply to both sides, is to use it in the informal sense, ie lower case "congressman" as opposed to the formal sense

          • Not really, no.

            Really though, yeah. Congress is made up of the House Of Representatives and the Senate. Therefore, a Senator is also a Congressman. A Representative is a Congressman also. A Representative is not a Senator, and a Senator is not a Representative. Really. That's how it actually works. Just because people might prefer to refer to Representatives as the more general Congressmen does not mean that Senators are not also Congressmen.

    • Yes, if they are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, they're less likely to stab you in the back.

    • Knowing programmers the most inconsequential thing will cause a 'Holy War' to break out. Also there will be trawling, grammer nazi-ism, heavy sarcasm, and an in- ability to empathize.

      • I hadn't thought of that. It will be like vi vs. emacs but with nukes! They have to be stopped now before it's too late for humanity!
    • When future president James Garfield [wikipedia.org] was a congressman, he published a new and innovative proof of the Pythagorean theorem. So not all congressmen were dumb. If computers existed in the 1870s, he probably would have been a coder.

    • If I was a smart guy, I'd make everyone think I'm a moron, so I could do anything I wanted and the real morons would always let it slide.

  • ...now figure out how to get all that legal code to compile without error... and while you are at it, fix the thread locking issues that keeps coming up between Republicans and Democrats.
    • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2014 @02:45PM (#48420277)

      They'll be too busy fighting over the space they get in the Capitol basement.

    • by Creepy ( 93888 )

      The problem is, the code looks something like this right now

      #include <sys/types.h>
      #include <unistd.h>

      int dem = 1;
      int rep = 1;

      void main() {
      while (dem||rep)
      {
      fork();
      }
      }

      For you non programmers, that is a slight take on an old UNIX joke for taking down the mainframe before we had process limits. Pretty sure congress doesn't have any limits, and they certainly can't budget.

      • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2014 @03:58PM (#48420971) Homepage Journal

        <PEDANTIC> main() returns int </PEDANTIC>

  • Well 1 Real One (Score:4, Informative)

    by glennrrr ( 592457 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2014 @02:40PM (#48420205)
    So 2 people who've gotten academic degrees in CS, but never worked professionally as coders, and one actual developer: the Republican Majority Whip Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2014 @02:45PM (#48420269)

    Given the average age of those serving in Congress, perhaps it's important to define the term "coder" here.

    Sure it's always beneficial to have a few "geeks" as lawmakers, but I kinda doubt that someone who took a FORTRAN class a few decades ago is going to be providing much value towards policy governing next-gen internet technologies.

  • by Primate Pete ( 2773471 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2014 @03:20PM (#48420639)
    Really, I don't need my legislators to know how to program, because I don't know that programming skills are what's needed to produce good legislation and policy.

    Basic literacy in science, and the honesty to make evidence-based decisions would be much higher on my list of essential skills for congressvermin.
    • I agree with you that science would be better than just being a coder, but I think coding could help if it contributes to a person's ability to think logically and consistently.

      • Yeah, coding would be good knowledge for people on the hill, especially in the light of legislation about H-1 visas and the like. No disagreement.

        That said, I think general science literacy would have greater overall impact and make a greater positive impact on my life and my confidence in the direction that things are going.
  • I think a few networking folks would be more valuable at present.
  • If all of congress truly would code (blue) it could pave the way for some actual improvement.
  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2014 @03:59PM (#48420977)

    I can just see the Java and C# factions forming.

    That will leave the task of writing legislation to the third guy. The one who codes in Malbolge.

    • I can just see the Java and C# factions forming.

      It fascinates me that there are people who would prefer to build things in either language.

    • I can just see the Java and C# factions forming.

      That will leave the task of writing legislation to the third guy. The one who codes in Malbolge.

      Its government the would write laws in obfuscated Brainfuck [wikipedia.org] just to screw with us.

  • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2014 @04:07PM (#48421045) Journal
    Thomas Massie [house.gov] is a tech guy with a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering & a master's in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, and founded SensAble [crunchbase.com]. I'm sure he had to do quite a bit of coding in his time in school, and probably a bit while he was building his company as well.
  • by michael_cain ( 66650 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2014 @04:09PM (#48421069) Journal
    from Colorado founded an internet access and web hosting company while he was still in school. Started bluemountain.com and proflowers.com. Sold the three for upwards of a billion dollars. Might not be a hands-on tech guy, but certainly an early recognizer of the potential.
  • Bill Foster, Congressman from Illinois, can program in assembly language, among others.

    http://www.cnet.com/news/the-t... [cnet.com]

    • Bill Foster, Congressman from Illinois, can program in assembly language, among others.

      FTA:

      What this actually means to tech policy remains unclear. Computer programming skills do not automatically lead to sound logic or wise positions on important issues. A quick read through Slashdot user comments easily demonstrates this.

      Ouch!

  • They're COBOL programmers.

  • Is it because of the rule of threes?

  • One of the new legislators-who've-written-code is Will HURD.

  • ... that now coders outnumber competent legislators in that institution.

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