Win Any Political Debate With Only Sixty-One Feet of Paper

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Rep. Steve Stockman has gathered signatures from special forces veterans who want a special committee to investigate the terror attack in Benghazi, Libya last September. He will reveal those signatures by rolling a huge petition down the steps of the Capitol — the "largest petition ever presented to Congress." But don't worry, other advocates. That's an incredibly easy record to break.

Stockman likes to cause commotion. Most recently, the Texas congressman was in the news for tweeting his Earth Day appreciation that the best thing about our planet is that poking holes in it causes oil to come out. And now, hoping to get a majority of the House to back his push for an investigation into the attack, the petition stunt. The Hill reports:

Stockman on Tuesday will unveil a 60-foot-long scroll signed by 1,000 special forces veterans who support the committee. Supporters tout it as the largest petition ever presented to Congress, and Stockman plans to unroll it down the Capitol's steps.

Boom. Who can argue with that?

People who know geometry, for one. Or print designers. A thousand signatures on a 60-foot petition is a weird standard. In three columns, you can fit 1,000 typewritten names on few sheets of paper. Replicate signatures, a few sheets more.

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So how'd this one get to 60-feet long? Use the "scale" tool. For a petition that long, 720 inches, we're talking about one signature every 3/4 of an inch. But that gives you a scroll that's about three inches wide — hardly something the cameras will find impressive. If you put the signatures two across, you can make them an inch-and-a-half tall, and the petition is twice as wide. Three inches tall, and you've got yourself a petition! Granted, it's still only 1,000 signatories — .03 percent of the Department of Defense — but it looks way cooler.

What we'd like to offer, however, is a counterpoint. You don't need 1,000 signatures scaled up to make a huge petition. You only need one! We took Treasury Secretary Lew's signature (the cool, old one) and made it into a PDF. Here it is:

(Incidentally, the signature above is about an inch-and-a-half big, depending on your screen. So two columns of 500 signatures at that size would yield a scroll 62-and-a-half feet long.)

You can literally download the signature above and print it out at whatever scale you want. You want a 200-foot-long scroll to unfurl on the steps of the Capitol? No problem. You just need 50-foot-wide paper and a big printer. But then you will have the Longest Petition in Congressional History™, plus the endorsement of Secretary Jack Lew. (You should ask his permission first.) And then the world is your oyster.

To think that Senate leaders wasted time asking lobbyists to try and sway members of the House. All they needed was a lot of ink, a lot of pulp, and a few strong interns to climb the steps. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.