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Using Wikis to Catch Outdated and Bad Laws? 137

Posted by Cliff
from the better-society-through-judicious-application-of-technology dept.
Mick Ohrberg asks: "While listening to NPR this morning, I heard about the ridiculous law, passed in 1675, that orders the arrest of all American Indians entering Boston, and just now, 330 years later, is ready to be repealed. There are a LOT of really outdated and/or inappropriate laws out there; would an 'open' Wiki-style approach to law-making (with appropriate supervision, of course) be able to catch more of these 'bad' laws? Should the law-makers be able to keep track of all these laws, or are the number of laws simply too large for that relatively small group of people to keep track of? The more and more outdated copyright laws also come to mind as an area that could stand some more scrutiny."
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Using Wikis to Catch Outdated and Bad Laws?

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  • by bob whoops (808543) <bobwhoops@@@gmail...com> on Friday May 20, 2005 @07:59PM (#12595307) Homepage
    I'm not sure how accurate this is, but my friends and I used to have fun going through these. http://dumblaws.com/ [dumblaws.com]
    • From the memepool.com Sex archive:
      >Friday Nov 12, 2004
      >A couple sets out to break every one of America's weird blue laws,
      >and photograph the process to boot.
      >to Sex by riotnrrd

      Since the links don't show in the quote:
      http://www.dribbleglass.com/subpages/strange/sexl a ws2.htm [dribbleglass.com]
      http://www.nerve.com/photography/egan/illegalacts/ [nerve.com]
      (Sorry, when first posted on memepool the second link was free, but now it's "premium.")
    • Having contacts in the law enforcement profession in Boston I believe I can speak with some certainty. For the most part, such laws aren't even given any attention. And should you get "cought" you are likely to be let off with a couple of chuckles at most.
      • For the most part, such laws aren't even given any attention.

        What about when they decide to start enforcing the silly laws?

        Case in point: Here in Ontario you are issued a license plate sticker for snowmobiles. But they aren't very attractive, so for years pretty much everyone was putting custom designed numbers on their snowmobiles instead. While it was technically not legal to do so, it was never enforced. Then all of a sudden a few years back they decided to crack down on it. About a year thereafter th
        • Then all of a sudden a few years back they decided to crack down on it. About a year thereafter they got around to changing the law, but people were charged during that period. So, in conclusion, the same could happen with any law, no matter how silly it is.

          That's exactly why the existance of unenforced laws isn't a joke. When it is completely up to the discretion of law enforcement agencies or city councils, etc, to enforce a statue, it becomes possible to play this sort of fundraising trick or worse

    • Where can I find references for these so-called dumb laws? For example, how do they figure that "Spitting is forbidden" in Chicago? Without references this could easily be something people mostly made up.
    • A lot of those laws, however, are only 'dumb' to the people who make the site. For example, they list as 'dumb' a law that states 'Citizens may not relieve themselves or spit on the street.' I don't really think that making it illegal to relieve oneself in public is dumb, do you?

      They also list the French language laws in Quebec, which state that signs must be in French, or, if bilingual, the French must be larger. French, however, is the official language of Quebec, and thus this law makes as much sense as
  • The laws ARE open (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MerlynEmrys67 (583469) on Friday May 20, 2005 @08:01PM (#12595320)
    There are a few strange building code laws, but by and large - for the price of publication - you too can get a full copy of the law as it exists on a given day.

    That said - this document would be HUGE and frankly no one will want to read it.

    I would love to run to become a congress critter with a sole platform of "I will not vote for any law that I can not read and understand". Unfortunately - I would have to vote against pretty much EVERY law being writen today. Of course the libertarian in me says this will be a good thing

  • by Trepalium (109107) on Friday May 20, 2005 @08:04PM (#12595342)
    Generally, more effort is put into making new laws rather than getting rid of old obsolete ones. The basic problem with repealing old laws is they become bikeshed type events [unixguide.net] with endless debate on things that don't really matter. Secondly, as a politician, no one will remember you for the laws you got rid of, only the ones you brought into existance.

    Also, keep in mind that laws that are not enforced might as well not exist. If they do get suddenly enforced, I believe a court may very well turn over any decision because of this selective enforcement.

    • The problem with obsolete laws is that they can be used for blackmail by the state (an example of largesse). 1) Make a joke about that blowjob you got to an undercover cop. 2) Write an editorial recommending police cuts. 3) Wait for the arrest warrant...
    • That's the great thing about old laws. They are designed to make everyone a criminal. Think about how many things in any given day you do that are illegal if the law is followed to the letter.

      To make matters worse, they say ignorance of the law is no excuse. Tell me how I'm supposed to know all of the existing laws, when there are hundreds of local laws and likely thousands of state laws.

      Perhaps there should be a system whereby every 100 years a law must be reviewed for it's relevence.

  • experation date (Score:2, Insightful)

    Just require an experation date on the laws.

    • Re:experation date (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sancho (17056) on Friday May 20, 2005 @08:17PM (#12595432) Homepage
      I can only imagine the nightmare this would cause.

      While it would be a good way to keep things in check, it would bog down Congress more than they already are, and allow for riders to get in more easily and with less scrutiny. Just imagine:

      Democrat: "Oh, looks like the 'murder is illegal' law is expiring. Better make a new one."

      Republican: "What an opportunity! We can add a bill to remove freedom of speech while we're at it! And add addendums such that no court (except the Supreme Court, which is backlogged anyway) can overturn the law! And if the Dems vote against it, we'll claim they're murderers! Win/Win!"

      This is not to mention the problems police officers would have with laws which could, at any point in time, be in a state of flux. Imagine the unlawful arrest suits when your local government lets jaywalking laws slip, for example.
      • Re:experation date (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ebrandsberg (75344) on Friday May 20, 2005 @08:32PM (#12595538)
        Congress NEEDS to be bogged down. If by law they have to read and vote on each law at least once very 20 years, then the bad laws will be thrown out so they don't have to read them. The system of laws in this country is now so complex, nobody knows them all, so forcing them to simplify would be of value.
        • Re:experation date (Score:3, Insightful)

          by WIAKywbfatw (307557)
          If by law they have to read and vote on each law at least once very 20 years, then the bad laws will be thrown out so they don't have to read them.

          (Bold emphasis added by me.)

          Ah, but first you'd have to get the US Congress to pass legislation that made it compulsory for Congressmen to read the all laws that they are voting on, and that's never going to happen. Just as turkeys don't vote for Christmas, Congressmen won't vote to give themselves a more demanding workload.

          Most Congressmen will openly admit
        • Congress isn't bogged down because:
          1) We have unprecedented party-line voting due to corporate interests.

          2) We have essentially nonexistant third parties at the federal level. (IRV/RCV can help this)

          Usually, though, Congress, IS bogged down - that's the point.

          Of course, there are a ton of other misunderstandings in this article.

          1. Copyright law isn't an outdated leftover, it's actively being made worse all the time. It is an obvious sign of the control of our government by corporate non-persons.

          2.
      • ...it would bog down Congress more than they already are....

        And you say that as though it were a bad thing.

        However, all you need to do is allow a simple, on the record yes/no vote - should the period of $LAW be extended another 5 years?

        That way, unpopular laws (55MPH, PATRIOT, CAN-SPAM) can be allowed to expire, and good laws (murder) can be renewed with little effort.

        Require that any change other than extending the date require a new law, and also that the effective date cannot be extended by more t

        • Re:experation date (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          You still end up in a situation where all the legislature would do is vote on old laws. There are way too many laws, and it would consume all of thier time to review each one to find if it was worth keeping the law around. I think the current method where outdated laws are challenged when they are found is better. The one major change I would like to see is the removal of riders. There are very few legitimate reasons for riders to exist and too many unpopular and bad laws are passed simply because they are
          • Wouldn't that be great? No more fucked-up additional laws? Do we need additional laws? I think everything can be distilled into it's basics, and infered through debate at it's instance. All laws should be writen in large letters on a single side of a sheet of paper, and anything above that is unwaranted. Don't fuck with other people, enjoy life, and don't impede on other people's fun. Too simplistic? Perhaps it can be worded more succintly?
          • Minnesota Constitution, Article 4, Section 17:

            http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/cco/rules/mncon/ A rticle4.htm [state.mn.us]

            Sec. 17. LAWS TO EMBRACE ONLY ONE SUBJECT. No law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title.

            In fact, we all were reminded here in Minnesota of this constitutional article not too long ago, when the courts struck down our concealed-carry law, not because the law itself was illegal, but because it came attached to a DNR-related bill. (that was unrelated to gun

      • Re:experation date (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mbstone (457308)
        Actually, sometimes it happens that a court decision invalidates a whold bunch of laws that most people would consider good public policy. Earlier this month, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that roads on military bases in Virginia are not "Virginia highways," thus invalidating most traffic laws on military bases in Virginia. So if you find yourself on a military base in Virginia (and you are not in the military and therefore subject to military discipline) feel free to drive as fast as you want.
        • Re:expiration date (Score:3, Insightful)

          by wronskyMan (676763)
          However if you break traffic rules on most military bases, you can have your base driving privileges revoked, which are enforced by serious people with M-16s.
        • A friend of mine used to be an MP. Civilians who committed serious traffic offenses, or other crimes, on base had to appear before a magistrate in a federal court. That was California. I don't see why Virginia would be treated differently.
  • I think this could be done. One way of handling it logistically, is for people to concentrate on their home state. Although you wouldn't get nation wide coverage right away, but as the project became more popular than it would build. I think what you are talking about are for the most part blue laws (In Connecticut, I tihnk you can't eat a pickle on Sundays). From a logistical standpoint it makes it easier, as there aren't too many blue laws being passed now a days.

    The real problem is going to be poli

    • Its a good idea that its geographically localized. I also think it should only have laws that are technically in effect, not replaced/removed laws and bylaws.

      I'm interested in the dumber laws of Toronto, Ontario, that I can sue people over, bring the laws in court, and have them removed from the books, for instance I can sue a friend and he can sue me for the same amount against two different 'dumb' laws. As soon as theyre challenged in court, I suspect they will be removed.

      A nice GPL 'many eyeballs' way
      • maybe the best first step would be to enter all of the original laws into a batch of text files; then log them in ala CVS, then edit them as you come across amendments ala patches, generate changelogs referencing which amendments change which laws and when then finally when done compare the latest generated version against the published law.
        At that point you could do text searches generate glossaries of the legal terms, and finaly if you chose to make value judgments about the laws.
  • by Rocketship Underpant (804162) on Friday May 20, 2005 @08:22PM (#12595474)
    I believe in the US it is possible to obtain a published set of all laws currently in effect and on the books. I think it's around 20 volumes, with the index itself being one 700-page monolithic tome.

    The legislative model of democracy is absolutely ridiculous. Law has nothing to do with right and wrong any more; legislators spend all their time trying to pass as many laws as possible while spending no time actually reading or understanding these laws. Legislators think it's their job to "do something", and the media portrays a deadlocked Congress as an obstacle to progress. In fact, the opposite is true.

    As a democracy progresses, it becomes absolutely impossible for any individual to know, understand, or abide by the actual law. Indeed, many of the hundreds of thousands of laws and statutes conflict with each other, so you're a law-breaker no matter what you do.

    This is great for tyrants, since there's always a law you can accuse someone of breaking. That's especially true in the US, now that there's a whole class of federal "conspiracy" crimes that don't require any proof of wrongdoing for a conviction.

    Legislatures have made law irrelevant, paradoxical, oppressive, and absurd; and Western democracy is going to fail because of it.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The legislative model of democracy is absolutely ridiculous.

      It's not an intrinsic property of democracy, merely a pitfall many implementations have succumbed to.

      I don't think that a wiki in particular would be all that useful, but I do think that geek technologies in general could help democracy greatly, simply because we built tools to cope with massive amounts of communication between disparate groups, while dealing with trolls, spammers, short attention spans, etc.

      legislators spend all their ti

      • If I were constructing a government today, in the constitution, I'd have a section saying that all laws must have a summary and rationale attached to them, detailing exactly why the law is required, and it would be a crime for somebody to vote for a bill without reading at least the summary and rationale. I'd suggest something stricter. Give every bill a sunset of one year, so that every law on the books must be renewed or expire on an annual basis. That way, only the most worthwhile laws will stay in forc
    • I believe in the US it is possible to obtain a published set of all laws currently in effect and on the books. I think it's around 20 volumes, with the index itself being one 700-page monolithic tome.

      Kindly get yourself down to your local law library; your state capitol, local law school, or local community college should have a reasonably up-to-date sample.

      You should be able to find the 20+ volumes of the USC, the 20-odd volumes of your local state couterpart to the same, maybe a copy of your town charter, and the 50-odd volumes of legal precedent and casework.

      Why all this bulk? Because the nitty gritty of law can be very, very complex, after years and years of arguing as to what the law means in the innumerable situations that come up.

      Law has nothing to do with right and wrong any more

      Law never was about right or wrong. Law is about what acts are illegal, and when your rights trump my rights.

      This is great for tyrants, since there's always a law you can accuse someone of breaking. That's especially true in the US, now that there's a whole class of federal "conspiracy" crimes that don't require any proof of wrongdoing for a conviction.

      Conspiracy crimes--which date back to Prohibition, mind you--require an illegal act or an illegal purpose. And if you're a US citizen, there's a rather finite ammount of time that they can hold you before they have to bring you before a jury and convince the jury that their conspiracy case is solid.

      You're probably thinking of "terrorism" crimes, which are problematic when it comes to non-military enemy combatants and a bit unsettling when it comes to the investigative powers of our government.

      As a democracy progresses, it becomes absolutely impossible for any individual to know, understand, or abide by the actual law. Indeed, many of the hundreds of thousands of laws and statutes conflict with each other, so you're a law-breaker no matter what you do.

      Actually, the hundreds of thousands of laws across this country have strict priority, with the newest and the highest ones overruling the lower ones. The best example of this is sodomy laws--they're still on the books in the dozen-odd states that passed them, but they're irrelevent unless SCOTUS or the Constitutional Amendment process lets states outlaw sodomy again.

      And if you're worried about not always following every law, just remember this: the law is only words on paper. When it comes down to the wire, it's three learned citizens (two lawyers and a judge) arguing a case which gets decided by twelve-sixteen common folk, who can almost ignore legal precedent at will.

  • Isn't hizzoner being a bit hasty? Why not keep the law on the books, for history's sake? Not that anyone would, should or could enforce it. Just as a matter of historic preservation, like brick pavement or steam locomotives or the Electoral College. If the mayor feels that the law is too much of an embarrassment he should at least offer it to Williamsburg, Virginia, a town dedicated to the preservation of Colonial history.
  • Many locations are putting their laws online (the state of Minnesota coming to mind immediately). Most of the time, legislators will never take the time to go through these older laws and weed out those that just don't make sense any more, because there are other, more important things that they feel they could be working on (which is probably true most of the time).

    Since they're already publically available, you could certainly use a wiki to start to draft your own versions of existing laws / create a li
  • While the idea might be nice in theory, it's unfortunately laughable in the real world.

    The law is practically infinite.

    West Publishing's Annotated California Code (a set of books containing a subset of California's legislative law, plus excepts and pointers to relevant cases that interpret, clarify, expand, and/or limit those statutes) has an index that is five encyclopedia-length volumes long. And the type's really small, too. The number of issues that the law covers is literally infinite. Just think
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The number of issues that the law covers is literally infinite.

      Is there a law covering proper use of the word "literally"?

      • Point taken, AC. I was unclear.

        The number of issues the law has covered thus far is not infinite, just very numerous. I meant to convey that there is no limit to the number or type of disputes that arise between human beings; in that sense the potential scope of the law is infinite.
  • When I was in law school I discovered that (in 1990) duelling was still illegal in California, as well as challenging someone to a duel (then a felony). I published my findings, there was some press, and the laws were repealed. I regret having people's attention called to these laws (especially since there are so many, many other California laws that need repealing). There are other quirky California laws still on the books, but my lips are sealed
    • Such as there being a $500 fine for detonating a nuclear device?
      • CAL. FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL CODE SECTIONS 37291-37292

        37291. Renovated butter is the product made from impure or rancid butter reduced, for the purpose of cleansing and renovating, to a liquid state by melting and draining off the liquid milk fat and afterwards churning or otherwise manipulating it in connection with milk or any product of milk.

        37292. It is unlawful for any person to sell any renovated butter unless there is printed upon the label of each and every package, or other container in which s

        • And what's wrong with that? Unless you are a manufacturer of refurbished rancid butter, of course.

          Haven't I seen this text before though? Where's me old EULA collection... Ah, here it is.

          37291. Microsoft Windows XP is the product made from impure or rancid Windows NT reduced, for the purpose of cleansing and renovating, to a liquid state by melting and draining off the non-kernel components and afterwards churning or otherwise manipulating it in connection with BSD code or any product of BSD.

          37292. It is
        • I love that. Refurbished butter. Sign me up for a few pounds.
      • Do you know it's a felony for a convicted felon to possess a nuclear device, or for someone to offer said felon a nuclear device?

        Don't worry, it's completely legal to own one if you're not a felon.

    • Your statement does not make any real sense.
      Unless your point as there are bigger to fish
      to fry, in which cash you can have phrased it more cogently. In any event "The journey of a thousand miles..."
  • it could work.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Goeland86 (741690) <goeland_86@yaho o . fr> on Friday May 20, 2005 @08:51PM (#12595672)
    I'd say you'd have to start by creating the wiki first, then try and publicize it to the public, and when enough people read it and think it's a ridicule law you could then lobby [wikipedia.org] our lawmakers to repeal them. This I think would be the best approach, especially if you create online petitions from that community.

    Of course, you don't want to have some big corporation that depends on a given law to come in and erase your wiki either, so keeping a history of modifications is in order too.

    This might be an efficient way to get rid of stupid IP laws that the crowd on here loathes so ferociously.
  • Because there are so many legal cases that are based on other cases. It's truly a wiki-esque industry (if you can call the Law that).
  • The first 10 amendments.

    Anything else i dont feel should be honored, and personally i act as such.
    • Some of the founding fathers didn't want a bill of rights. Not because they were evil tyrrants, but because they felt that if you start listing your rights, then any rights that weren't on the list would be trampled over, because they wouldn't be explicitly stated. It's happened. How many people beleve they have a right to privacy? It's not in the costitution or the bill of rights, so it's been pretty much trampled...to the point that some people say we don't have any privacy and we should just get used
  • In Canada, I don't think we have any outdated copyright laws, just the odd ham-handed enforcement of laws by people who know nothing about technology. Those are two different things.

    In Canadian law, it's OK for two private people to share (not for profit) things they own which are copyright (IE: music, games), because -- honestly -- how the hell could that ever be enforced, and what kind of negative impact would it have on word of mouth?

    The US laws are pretty decent, they just overspecify in a few areas,
  • by imsmith (239784) on Friday May 20, 2005 @09:48PM (#12596039)
    It seems to me that if the charter of a legislature (whether it is internal rules or in the appropriate Constitution) should compel the legislature to engage in a kind of zero-sum game with regards to the body of law.

    If it took a two-thirds or five-eighths majority to add a law without removing a law, those old laws would get cleaned out pretty quickly.

    If the also had to reduce the body of law by five or ten percent before the end of every legislative session we'd accomplish the same thing.
  • ... and they want their laws back. I heard about the ridiculous law, passed in 1675, that orders the arrest of all American Indians entering Boston, and just now, 330 years later, is ready to be repealed. Has anybody *else* noticed that 1675 is more than 100 years before the United States of America even came into existence? Why is it a problem, if the law was made by a government that doesn't exist anymore?
    • by geoffspear (692508) * on Friday May 20, 2005 @11:36PM (#12596584) Homepage
      The city of Boston existed before the United States was founded, and if you read the Constitution you'll see that the states, in founding the United States, did not in fact repeal all of their existing laws and those of their municipalities.

      Or do you think that the day after the Constitution was ratified it was suddenly legal for everyone to kill each other because the state legislatures were too busy celebrating to pass new sets of statutes?

    • Why is it a problem, if the law was made by a government that doesn't exist anymore?

      As far as I can tell, the city of Boston, and its government, still exists. Can't be too sure, though, as I am in Denver. But I did a google search and found some pictures. They pretty much convinced me.
    • What are you talking about? Boston, Massachusetts was founded in 1630, and has existed ever since.

      Although, obviously, the government of the state of Massachusetts split from the city of Boston at some point, because they started out as a single entity. But cities are just 'virtual' governments...they exist solely because the state government chooses to have them exist. So the colony of Boston's government turned into the State of Massachusetts, and laws that applies to Boston were transfered to Boston's n

      • You have it backwards.

        Royal land grant to a trading company in 1624 for Cape Anne created it. Some of the settlers moved to Salem, and it became a full colony run from Salem under grant in 1628. Another grant in 1629 rolled everything from the old Dorchester Bay Company and existing Massachusetts Bay Company, and the settlers sent over with the new grant set up in Salem. In 1630, another group of settlers rolled in, bearing yet another grant and charter, and set up shop in Boston.

        After the city was up at
      • by kalidasa (577403) * on Saturday May 21, 2005 @12:33PM (#12599376) Journal

        More or less. Salem, Massachusetts predates Boston by I believe 4 years (1624 versus 1630), and was the first settlement of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. What is today Plymouth, Massachusetts, founded in 1620, was a separate colony until Massachusetts Bay and Plimouth Plantations merged in 1692. However, what happened is that the Massachusetts Bay colony government was transferred to Boston from Salem (I believe as part of the foundation of Boston).

        The date of the law in question is important. 1675 is the beginning of "King Phillip's War" (there's a lot of debate about what it should be called, but that was what colonial Americans called it). Metacom ("King Phillip") was the sachem of the Wampanoags, who historically had been allied with the Mass Bay Colony and Plimouth colony (the Wamponoags signed a treaty with Plimouth in 1621). A complex sequence of events strained relations between the Wamponoags and the English colonies, and caused the English to force the Wamponoags to give up their arms in the early 1670s. When a Christian Indian was assassinated by Wampanoags (possibly for espionage), and the killers were executed, the Wampanoags rearmed and began to attack English settlements (in 1675). This led to a terribly destructive war between most of the Native American settlements in New England and the English colonies, though the Mohawks notoriously remained neutral, and there were many Christian Indians who were either neutral or pro-English. There were very heavy losses on both sides (massive losses, really, for the population sizes), the colony of Mass Bay lost its charter, the United Colonies were dissolved, and many Native American's fled the region.

        So the law is a vestige of a nasty ethnic war. Even the various neutral Indians were banned from Boston. A lot of Indians were dependent upon English goods because of the drastic changes to their economies and agriculture resulting from deliberate actions by the English - buying land, etc. - and the terrible epidemics of the late 16th and early 17th century after first contact (mostly from contact with the small fishing expeditions who spent time along the New England coast - keep in mind that the first settlers of Plimouth were greeted in English by Squanto).

        I can't think of ANY legitimate reason why this law should still be on the books, period.

  • Jury Nullification (Score:5, Informative)

    by peter hoffman (2017) on Friday May 20, 2005 @10:21PM (#12596234) Homepage

    One thing that would help a lot would be for more people to be aware of Jury Nullification. While the laws would still exist, unjust laws would be ignored.

    There are some good links on this subject at:

    As the saying goes There are four boxes to be used in defending our freedom: soap, ballot, jury, and ammo. Use them in that order.

  • I'll bite (Score:2, Funny)

    by zbik (194004)
    Courtesy of fortune -m:

    Atlanta makes it against the law to tie a giraffe to a telephone pole or street lamp.

    Frankfort, Kentucky, makes it against the law to shoot off a policeman's tie.

    In Columbia, Pennsylvania, it is against the law for a pilot to tickle a female flying student under her chin with a feather duster in order to get her attention.

    In Tulsa, Oklahoma, it is against the law to open a soda bottle without the supervision of a licensed engineer.

    It is against the law for a monster to e

    • by DavidTC (10147)
      Atlanta makes it against the law to tie a giraffe to a telephone pole or street lamp.

      You know, people make fun of that law, but it works...I've never seen a giraffe tied to a telephone pole or street lamp in Atlanta.

      And can you imagine the chaos if someone actually did do that? We'd have all sorts of traffic problems as people slowed down to gawk, and, trust me, Atlanta has enough traffic problems for two cities already. (Luckily, we've started exporting them to surrounding suburbs.)

      The one obvious ob

    • Some of these are stretches though,
      like one i saw saying "In .... it's illegal to throw a computer at someone across the street.". The actual law forbids throwing projectiles across streets, which is rather more sensible and understandable.

      Many of these 'ridiculous laws' are simply a somewhat reasonable, but generalized law, with a ridiculous example of a way to break it.

      I don't know the actual law but,
      say the law is "Atlanta makes it against the law to tie an animal to a telephone pole or street lamp."
    • In Tulsa, Oklahoma, it is against the law to open a soda bottle without the supervision of a licensed engineer.

      As a denizen of Tulsa who has, in fact, read the statute which is probably in question here, I believe an exception has been made. Pressure vessels under a certain diameter are now completely unregulated.
  • by mbstone (457308) on Friday May 20, 2005 @11:22PM (#12596521)
    Write it into the Constitution that the entire law of a state (or of the federal government) can not exceed x number of bytes, and the most recently-enacted (total bytes - x) bytes (or the oldest such number of bytes) are deemed invalid (i.e. they go to the bit bucket).
  • by JabberWokky (19442) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Saturday May 21, 2005 @12:20AM (#12596769) Homepage Journal
    From what I have heard (and checked up on), almost all of the supposed "laws" date back to the 50s, when joke books would list them. They have since propagated as "fact", although they do not, in fact, exist.

    Examples includes "it is illegal to bathe in a tree in Kansas", etc.

    State statues are available online and often municipal statutes. Of all the goofy ones that have been presented as "fact", I have yet to see one that is real. Not to say there aren't any, but many of the ones presented as existing are simply jokes that got out of control.

    --
    Evan

    • Many are true... but not necessarily dumb. I live in Oregon, I can speak to some of Oregon's more interesting laws.

      A selection from dumblaws.com:

      Dishes must drip dry.

      True. For restaurants. I'm not sure why this law exists, but I'm sure there is a good reason.

      Canned corn is not to be used as bait for fishing.

      True. Then again, all kinds of angling laws exist.

      Drivers must yield to pedestrians who are standing on the sidewalk.

      True. But a bicycle being ridden is a vehicle and has a driver. Bi
      • Dishes must drip dry.
        Canned corn is not to be used as bait for fishing.

        Both of which have no actual statute attached to them and are merely rated as to how dumb they are. These are good examples of the ones that are ULs.

        Drivers must yield to pedestrians who are standing on the sidewalk.
        It is illegal to place a container filled with human fecal matter on the side of any highway.

        These are the two which are real, and they make sense. There has been a real problem with fecal matter on the sides of h

        • Dishes must drip dry.

          Both of which have no actual statute attached to them and are merely rated as to how dumb they are. These are good examples of the ones that are ULs.

          While it may not be an actual statute, Board of Health regulations usually stipulate that dishes must dry on their own, they can't be wiped dry using a towel. They can either drip dry or use some type of an process to speed up the process (heat and/or air). Towels quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria and the like which ge

        • Both of which have no actual statute attached to them and are merely rated as to how dumb they are. These are good examples of the ones that are ULs.

          Or, perhaps they are not in statute because they are due to Oregon Administrative Rules, which have the force of law?

          I'll admit that the "canned corn" rule no longer appears to be present, at least not in the form it used to. But, as an angler, I know I have been aware of it, and there was such a rule in the past (though it really didn't say "canned corn").
          • Please listen to what I am saying:

            Many of the silly law lists are populated with urban legends. Several date to 50s joke books and have been reproduced as fact.

            That was part one. The second part was:

            You list a site that does not cite any laws. I'd be wary of that, but it doesn't invalidate the really silly ones that I'm talking about like bathtubs in trees and elephants talking on the phone.

            Do you note that the two are not connected? That I was not "defending" or "attacking" anything? Do you see

            • Please listen to what I am saying:

              This is Slashdot. Why would I do that? :)

              You list a site that does not cite any laws.

              It does, in some cases, though not any of the ones I selected. I did only selected ones that I was sure were real. (Though the fish bait rule is gone).

              I wasn't refuting the fact that many are urban legends, I was defending my selections, since you saw fit to say that two of my selections did not appear in statute.

              Do you note that the two are not connected? That I was not "defend
              • I was defending my selections, since you saw fit to say that two of my selections did not appear in statute.

                On that site, yes, they are not cited. That is what I said. So we agree on that point.

                I'll grant though, that many supposed "laws" are completely urban legend.

                Which was my original point.

                So we agree. You're being awful antagonistic for somebody who agrees with what I said.

                --
                Evan

                • So we agree. You're being awful antagonistic for somebody who agrees with what I said.

                  I am currently a rather Libertarian student on a rather Marxist college campus. Antagonism is how I survive on a daily basis.
                  • I think I have you beat. Unless you live in Davis, CA too? ;)

                    I can totally understand your situation. I just got done listening to somebody explain that it is ethical to lie about environmental issues because otherwise people won't understand how urgent they are.

                    --
                    Evan

                    • I think I have you beat. Unless you live in Davis, CA too? ;)

                      Eugene, OR. I imagine Eugene and Davis are similar... I've heard them both described as "little Berkeley".

                      I can totally understand your situation. I just got done listening to somebody explain that it is ethical to lie about environmental issues because otherwise people won't understand how urgent they are.

                      I've heard the same kinds of things here, too. Usually from members of OSPIRG.

                      I've also been told how evil I am for wanting to earn m
  • There seems to be more common for legislators to keep adding laws than for them to repeal them. And they become a burden on society - you can't remember and keep all the zillions of laws.

    So except maybe for constitutional laws and a small set of critical laws (e.g. involving life, death, family), all laws should have a lifespan.

    The longer the lifespan required, the more approval needed from more legislators or even a referendum.

    Sure it means more work for legislators just to keep laws around, but at leas
    • I'd rather enjoy the idea that, every few years, half of the words in a law are randomly removed.
    • This is a wonderful idea.

      All laws must be renewed, depending on their nature. Common bad crimes (murder, theft, etc) can have a more permanent status. But most of the laws are more ephemeral so they would need review. It would be a good way to get rid of a lot of the bad laws that keep cropping up due to legislators being on the coporate take.

      It also has the side benefit of keeping legislators so busy reviewing old laws, so they can keep them on the books, that they never have the opportunity to make new
  • by Nice2Cats (557310) on Saturday May 21, 2005 @03:42AM (#12597571)
    Stupid old laws are not the real problem but simply a symptom of the archaic American Common Law legal system. There is a good reason why modern legal systems insist that laws are given numbers and written down in books instead of accumulating them as hard to access "Jack Dipdork vs. the City of Jerktown" cases that even the professionals have trouble finding. Unforunately, fixing the cause and not the symptoms is totally unrealistic in a system where Congress is full of lawyers who don't even want tort reform: They realize too well that the real goal of the legal system is to make money for lawyers and prepare their political careers, with justice just a side effect.
  • I've always wondered why nobody's taken the effort to really go through the books and figure out what can REALLY get tossed these days, case in point being that Boston-Indian law. Even if it's just an ongoing project for a law school in the area, every semester the prof hands out a few chapters to everyone and at the end of the year give it to the lawmakers to weed crap out. Rough brainstorm, but something along those lines.

    Personally, like many others, I feel there's way too many laws out there restrict
  • Nature contains not just birth but death as well.

    We need more death for progress.
  • while it seems stupid, we really should repeal old and archaic laws. our present situation, simply ignoring them, makes a mockery of the law. thus, we can simply say "it's a bad law, just like _________, and we shouldn't follow it..." versus actually repealing the bad law. a society of laws must follow the law, and more importantly, we must enforce the laws. taken to an extreme, what we're doing is anarchy.
  • gladiators....

    Seriously, the proposal is a joke.

    Old laws are kept around for selective enforcement. Who knows when some middle easternee entering boston might look suspicious and yet not be stoppable bacause of the dumbass liberals at NPR grinning over the 'no indians' law repeal.

    i mean it's like the 55 MPH spped limit on I-75/85 through Atlanta or the 70mph on I-20 in Eastern Alabama. No one obeys the law but if some punk ass indian keeping up with the 95mph traffic in a tanker truck rouses the suspicio

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