less clear

It was a major project.   Multiple billions of dollars involved, with dozens of interested parties, dozens of consultants, multiple government agencies and quasi-government organizations, plus five activist groups.   The Environmental Impact Statement had been held up by a lawsuit for years, and all the interested parties had lawyers involved on one side or the other.  After ten years they were down to one particular issue.  The state agency convinced everyone else to sign off on the EIS, with the proviso that the engineering study for that particular issue would be re-done on the basis of a new analysis, and that the affected portion of the project would wait until the engineering study was signed by all the affected participating agencies.  So about a billion dollars’ worth of the work was waiting on the study, while the remainder of the project got started.

The project would take several years, so there was plenty of slack time to get the engineering study done.   After a couple of false starts, I was put in charge of the engineering study.  After four months of analysis, I had enough to start writing the report, while the remaining analysis work continued.   I read the previous work on the issue, and then set aside and wrote a fresh report from a new start.

I had a great engineering director.  She was a great woman engineer who came into engineering when there was plenty of open anti-woman bias in the field.  She was shrewd and tough and became my good friend.  She helped me navigate the minefield of the reviewers.

Before we could send the report out to the different agencies, I had to get legal review.  On my consultant team we had two environmental lawyers and an overall lawyer.  The State sponsoring agency had two lawyers, plus a consultant lawyer.   So my draft report had to be reviewed by six lawyers, each one with the charge of keeping in mind the likely legal challenges that would come from the other agencies.

I wrote a really tight report.  Even so, it was about 25 pages.   That is really long for an engineering report.  Previous reports that I had written were typical engineering reports, so about four pages of text with about 300 pages of appendices.   But this one had to be a self-supporting document, so I had to summarize big chunks of the EIS.

The lawyers went to work.    Four of the six were energetic wordsmiths, determined that not a single word of the engineer’s original text would remain.  However, they all wanted to delete different parts of the text, and their re-writing would overlap, and in some instances, conflict.  It was a lot of work to address all their comments.  The analysis was complete before we were finished with the third draft of the text.

In the end, my original 25 pages had become 42 pages.   Two of those pages were tables that presented the remainder of the analyses.   The other 15 pages were fluff.

A comparison of my original to the finished product showed me that the added information could have been fit onto a single page.   Plus, there was more than an equivalent amount of information that had been deleted.   The overall result of the involvement of the six lawyers was that we used a lot more words to convey less information.

I was put in mind of that experience while reading about the latest Trumpian lawyering over Russian collusion.

The president has previously expressed his willingness to speak to Mueller, but frequently oscillates from one position to another on that issue. And since Giuliani was brought on board, the president’s stance has only become less clear.

Less clear.   I am familiar with that.   More words with less information.

Go, Giuliani, go.  Run rings around them.  Protect the President.   Make the fake news media guess at the meaning of what you just said.   Clarity is not your goal.  Winning is the goal.

Even if he was guilty as sin, which I don’t believe, it would be better for America for President Trump to win this legal battle and be loosed from the entanglements of lawyers.   The Mueller investigation is hindering progress at Swamp-draining.

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6 thoughts on “less clear”

  1. MJBubba:
    Clarity is not your goal. Winning is the goal.

    Woof!  So true!

    It is in itself a profound engineering feat to plow through the facts and data and write a result that gets the job done.  Been there as an adjunct to a sales department, helping write proposals and close deals via careful descriptions of pesky physics.  Our customers were all government entities, mainly defense, from around the world.  Gummint lawyers; meh.

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  2. I seldom speak at public meetings.   The lawyers or senior staff from the State agency will dissemble and give a non-answer.   I prefer to give straightforward and honest replies.

    “Well, on average, we would be adding an amount of traffic to the road in front of the school that would statistically represent an additional fatality approximately once every 25 years.”

    However, you can imagine how such an innocuous statement gets mangled by the reporters in the room.    We end up getting portrayed as killers of schoolkids.

    So, lawyer up.

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  3. MJBubba:
    We end up getting portrayed as killers of schoolkids.

    Journalists treat engineers sort of similarly to the way they treat Republicans.

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