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Congressional Velocity (March 2015 Update)

Standard Into:

This is the latest in a series of quarterly posts on congressional legislative output.  I started these in June 2013 in response to a flurry of commentary about how the 113th congress was lagging behind in output compared to previous congresses.  Now, it is fundamentally debatable if passing fewer laws is a good thing, a bad thing, or just a completely meaningless number since of course the impact of laws varies widely.  I’m guessing in reality, it is a pretty meaningless number.

But I noticed that in many of these debates, there was a lack of rigor in the ways these numbers were used.  For instance, it seemed common to compare the current number of laws passed in the 113th, to the TOTAL passed in the 112th or 111th.  Or maybe talking about the “pace” at which legislation was being passed as if there was an expectation that this would continue linearly.  Never did I hear a comparison that actually looked specifically at where the previous congresses had been at the same point in the cycle. So I made one.

Now the new stuff:

The 113th congress is over. No new laws were signed after my December update. So the 113th ended up with 294 bills signed compared to 239 in the 112th and 249 in the 11th.

But now the 114th congress is in session.  How is that going so far?

As of March 20th, the 76th day of the new congress, 6 bills have been signed into law:

  • Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2015
  • Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act or the Clay Hunt SAV Act
  • Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act – to fund the Department of Homeland Security through March 6, 2015
  • An Act making appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015, and for other purposes.
  • An Act to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Foot Soldiers who participated in Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, or the final Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in March of 1965,…
  • Office of Compliance Administrative and Technical Corrections Act of 2015

At the same time in the last few congresses, the 113th had 5 laws, the 112th had 6 laws, and the 11th had 10 laws. So for this time in the cycle, we’re pretty much right in line with the last two congresses, and just a tad behind the 111th.

Here are the graphs:

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 16.31.31000

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Is Curmudgeon’s Corner getting longer?

In addition to swearing on Curmudgeon’s Corner, Iván and I apparently just like to run our mouths. In her comments on our March 12th show my mother also asked “Why are you doing shows near 2 hours in length now?”.  Well, to quickly answer the question in the title, yes, our shows have been getting longer.  Here are some graphs.

First, since we just completed our 400th show, here is a breakdown of the length distribution of the show, split up 100 shows at a time, grouped into 10 minute wide intervals:

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 07.20.46746

There is a lot of interesting stuff here if you look into it.

Our first 100 episodes were a bimodal distribution. We did a bunch of “short” shows, between 10 and 50 minutes, and then we did a bunch over an hour, mostly just over an hour long. Basically, when we first started, we targeted shorter shows, perhaps averaging 30 minutes, then we decided to make the jump to an hour. Between the two modes, we averaged 51 minutes per show (rounding to the nearest minute).

The second and third 100 shows were a more typical near “normal” distribution.  The second hundred we averaged 53 minutes per show. The third hundred we averaged 63 minutes per show.

In the fourth hundred, shows under an hour became extremely rare (only 4% of shows). Our distribution was moving toward longer shows, and thus we had a longer tail to the right, including two shows that were actually over two hours long. Our average jumped to 80 minutes. A full 25% of our shows were over 90 minutes long.

You can also see the trend toward longer shows in a chart showing show lengths vs episode number, along with a 10 episode moving average:

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 07.21.10911

You can sort of see that although there has been tons of variability for our whole run, we started out averaging around 30 minutes per show, then we decided we could go longer, jumped up to averaging a bit more than an hour through episode 100 or so. We then started cutting back, getting down to just over 40 minutes per show on average right before episode 150. Then ever since we’ve slowly been getting longer and longer. We just stopped bothering to shut up, and just keep talking until we don’t have much left to say.

As we’ve thought about it, Iván and I agree that while under an hour sometimes seems a bit cramped now, over 90 minutes is really getting too long, unless perhaps there is a LOT of very interesting news that week…  which there usually isn’t… and maybe not even then.

So we are going to be working on tightening things back up again. Maybe not all the way back to averaging 60 minute shows, but probably cutting back quite a bit on the number of shows that end up stretching over 90 minutes.

Of course, this is all subject to feedback from our listeners. What length would you prefer? 30 minutes? 60? 90? Or are you one of those folks who really like 2 or 3 hour podcasts? There are many of those out there of course. I don’t think Iván and I will make podcasts of that length a habit though. :-)

All Swearing Curmudgeon’s Corner Supercut (Sorry Mom)

CCCover20141121-SwearingIván and I have a good time each week doing our Curmudgeon’s Corner podcast on current events. But last week we got a comment from a listener (OK, it was my mom) saying we just plain swore too much and it detracted from the show.

Of course, I had to check this out with numbers. Our March 12th show was 102 minutes long (plus a few seconds). In that time by my count Iván swore 99 times, and I swore 33 times. That gave us a total of 132 times, or on average once every 46.5 seconds.

Of course, that’s if you listen to the whole show. As part of our March 20th show where we respond to my mom’s comments (and give some additional stats), I compiled a “supercut” of JUST the swearing from the episode she was reacting to. In this version, the March 12th show is reduced to JUST the bits with swearing. You get all 132 instances, compressed into 7:38, or an average of once every 3.5 seconds… for almost eight minutes.

Now, if you are offended by such things, don’t hit play. But we actually found this rather amusing, and on the podcast I promised to make this also available independently from the podcast itself. Here it is:

As amusing as this was to listen to once or twice, Iván and I actually agree that our use of “bad language” was excessive in that episode. Quite a bit so. And that is not necessarily out of the norm for the episodes we have done in the past.

We are going to try to clean it up a little bit in future shows. We sometimes don’t even notice we are doing it, but it seems like putting in a bit of effort here is probably worth it. We’d like to get a few more regular listeners, and we know from previous comments from other folks that my mother is not the only one turned off by this kind of language.

We won’t try to avoid it entirely… it is a normal part of how normal people talk, especially when they get emotional about what they are talking about. But, yes, averaging more than once a minute is a bit too much. Maybe we can get it down to one every five minutes. Or maybe even ten?

Tune in to find out.  :-)

Edited 11:57 UTC to add a link.

Edited 2017-04-15 17:09 UTC to fix audio player, which had stopped working at some point.

Curmudgeon’s Corner: Episode 400!!!!

In the latest Curmudgeon’s Corner Sam and Iván talk about:
* [00:00:09-00:13:12] 400 Episodes / Swearing
* [00:14:10-00:28:02] Israeli Elections
* [00:28:46-00:42:37] Federal Budget
* [00:43:46-01:00:07] Over the Top TV / Apple Stores
* [01:01:10-01:35:07] Lightning Round / Swearing Supercut

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Recorded 2015-03-20

Length this week – 1:35:27

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@abulsme tweets from 2015-03-20 (UTC)