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Current Topic: Politics and Law

A Not-Fun Time Was Had By All
Topic: Politics and Law 11:31 pm EST, Feb 13, 2013

Brian Eno:

Most of the smart people I know want nothing to do with politics.

Barack Obama:

It's not a fun time to be a member of Congress.


I've come to the conclusion that you actually want shifty, dishonest politicians elected by an apathetic populace. This means that things are working.

Brian Eno:

Whatever the reasons for our quiescence, politics is still being done -- just not by us.

We expect other people to do it for us, and grumble when they get it wrong. We feel that our responsibility stops at the ballot box, if we even get that far. After that we're as laissez-faire as we can get away with.

What worries me is that while we're laissez-ing, someone else is faire-ing.


Civil liberties really matter, and nobody cares.

Teju Cole:

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather. A bomb whistled in. Blood on the walls. Fire from heaven.

Just One Click
Topic: Politics and Law 1:02 pm EST, Nov 21, 2012

Harry Reid:

Cybersecurity is dead for this Congress.

Natasha Singer:

Soon there may be no personal spaces left for our private thoughts.

Jeremiah Grossman:

If people knew just how much of their personal information they unwittingly make available to each and every Web site they visit -- even sites they've never been to before -- they would be disturbed. If they give that Web site just one click of the mouse, out goes even more personally identifiable data, including full name and address, hometown, school, marital status, list of friends, photos, other Web sites they are logged in to, and in some cases, their browser's auto-complete data and history of other sites they have visited.

Ministry's next single?

Just one click

Like if I boarded a train
Trying to take in another station
Join us and the choice will be made
Unless we kill the lie as a nation

Just one click

Stephen Colbert:

You have to be vigilant to stay ignorant.

Gillian Orr, on David McRaney's new book:

The brain is very invested in taking chaos and turning it into order.

The Misconception: Your opinions are the result of years of rational, objective analysis.

The Truth: Your opinions are the result of years of paying attention to information that confirmed what you believed, while ignoring information that challenged your preconceived notions.

Andrew Piper:

It turns out that not paying attention is one of the best ways of discovering new ideas.

How Modern Politics Works
Topic: Politics and Law 10:02 am EST, Nov 20, 2012

Dr. David Scheiner, who was once Obama's doctor:

Obama invited his barber to his inauguration -- his barber! But I wasn't invited. Believe me, that hurt.

Mary Beard, on Boris Johnson:

He was particularly taken with the suggestion that a politician was well advised to lie his way into popular favor, or at least that he should promise more than he could deliver. "After all," as Philip Freeman translates it in his new version of [Quintus Cicero's "How to Win an Election"], "if a politician made only promises he was sure he could keep, he wouldn't have many friends." "Exactly," said Boris. "That is just how modern politics works."

David Hockney:

Can governments maintain control when they know the street has a new power which they are forced to accept? It might look like chaos, but new forms of representation will arise. Could they be better?

Paul Volcker:

We look upon ourselves, with some justice, as a great country, the strongest and richest in a changing and troubled world, a place of stability and leadership. But now our country is mired in debt. It is dependent on large continuing flows of capital from abroad, without much savings of its own and with slow growth and household income flat. Those are not characteristics of a country willing and able to prolong its global leadership.

It is widely known that the constitutional process for nominating and confirming the federal government's senior policy officials has become dangerously distorted, inhibiting the prompt and effective leadership and management of any new administration.

The delays and risks for an able and well-respected man or woman willing to take up the gauntlet of public service are daunting. These days too many of the highly competent and willing, even those eager to make a contribution, simply refuse to be considered or to wait out the process.

Robert C. Pozen:

Instead of counting the hours you work, judge your success by the results you produce.

Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress -- and a Plan to Stop It
Topic: Politics and Law 10:16 pm EST, Dec 19, 2011

This talk is worth your time.

Lawrence Lessig, in an October 26, 2011, Google Talk:

In an era when special interests funnel huge amounts of money into our government-driven by shifts in campaign-finance rules and brought to new levels by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission-trust in our government has reached an all-time low. More than ever before, Americans believe that money buys results in Congress, and that business interests wield control over our legislature.

With heartfelt urgency and a keen desire for righting wrongs, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig takes a clear-eyed look at how we arrived at this crisis: how fundamentally good people, with good intentions, have allowed our democracy to be co-opted by outside interests, and how this exploitation has become entrenched in the system. Rejecting simple labels and reductive logic-and instead using examples that resonate as powerfully on the Right as on the Left-Lessig seeks out the root causes of our situation. He plumbs the issues of campaign financing and corporate lobbying, revealing the human faces and follies that have allowed corruption to take such a foothold in our system. He puts the issues in terms that nonwonks can understand, using real-world analogies and real human stories. And ultimately he calls for widespread mobilization and a new Constitutional Convention, presenting achievable solutions for regaining control of our corrupted-but redeemable-representational system. In this way, Lessig plots a roadmap for returning our republic to its intended greatness.

While America may be divided, Lessig vividly champions the idea that we can succeed if we accept that corruption is our common enemy and that we must find a way to fight against it. In Republic, Lost, he not only makes this need palpable and clear-he gives us the practical and intellectual tools to do something about it.


It's important to understand that it isn't Congress that must change -- it is us.

Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress -- and a Plan to Stop It

A Crisis Of Followership
Topic: Politics and Law 4:10 pm EST, Nov 26, 2011


It's important to understand that it isn't Congress that must change -- it is us.

David Frum:

Few of us have the self-knowledge and emotional discipline to say one thing while meaning another. If we say something often enough, we come to believe it. We don't usually delude others until after we have first deluded ourselves.

Lawrence Lessig:

There is this bizarre blindness. If we can't get beyond the architecture of polarization, we are doomed.

Steve Bellovin et al:

Architecture matters a lot, and in subtle ways.

Douglas Rushkoff:

Corporatism, with its promotion of competition between individuals over scarce resources and money, laid the ground for individualism and for a heightened concept of the self.

Evgeny Morozov:

It's time that citizens articulate a vision for a civic Internet that could compete with the dominant corporatist vision. It's not just geeks and tech-savvy young people who need to think hard about what an alternative civic Internet may look like; for such visions to have any purchase on society, they need to originate from (and incorporate) much broader swathes of the population.

Finding a way to articulate a critical stance on these issues before technology giants like Facebook usurp public imagination with their talk of "frictionless sharing" should be top priority for anyone concerned with the future of democracy.

David Frum:

Cain's gaffe on Libya and Perry's brain freeze on the Department of Energy are not only indicators of bad leadership. They are indicators of a crisis of followership.


Everyone participates in the process of producing the truth every day. Your recommendations matter. You will need to be able to think critically about the range of ideas that you are exposed to and decide which ones make sense.

It is that last part that will really move us forward.

Our Own Ecstatic Solitude
Topic: Politics and Law 11:48 am EST, Nov 25, 2011

Douglas Rushkoff:

The debt-based economy was invented so that people with money could get richer by having money, that's what it's for. I'm not saying it's evil, it was an idea. But, it doesn't actually work. If the number of people who want to make money by having money gets so big that there are more people existing that way than actually producing anything, eventually the economy will collapse.

Jack Abramoff:

Two fancy Washington restaurants that became virtual cafeterias for congressional staff, the best seats to every sporting event and concert in town, private planes at the ready to whisk members and staff to exotic locations, millions of dollars in campaign contributions ready for distribution. We had it all. But even with these corrupting gifts, nothing beat the revolving door.

Staff members who thought they might be hired by our firm inevitably began acting as if they were already working for us. They seized the initiative to do our bidding. Sometimes, they even exceeded the lobbyists' wishes in an effort to win plaudits. From that moment, they were no longer working for their particular member of Congress. They were working for us.

Eliminating the revolving door between Congress and K Street is not the only reform we need to eliminate corruption in our political system. But unless we sever the link between serving the public and cashing in, no other reform will matter.

Harold Bloom:

I am moved by the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations but remain skeptical that you can achieve a lessening of money's influence upon our politics, since money is politics.

Obsessed by a freedom we identify with money, we tolerate plutocracy as if it could someday be our own ecstatic solitude. A dark truth of American politics in what is still the era of Reagan and the Bushes is that so many do not vote their own economic interests.

I wonder though which is more dangerous, a knowledge-hungry religious zealotry or a proudly stupid one? Either way we are condemned to remain a plutocracy and oligarchy. I can be forgiven for dreading a further strengthening of theocracy in that powerful brew.

Jane Mayer:

The lineup promoting TransCanada's interests was a textbook study in modern, bipartisan corporate influence peddling.

Lawrence Lessig:

The question isn't whether money is speech. The question is whether we should allow money to so ... [ Read More (0.2k in body) ]

Justice, Too Much and Too Expensive
Topic: Politics and Law 12:04 pm EDT, Apr 17, 2011

Joseph L. Hoffman and Nancy J. King:

The never-ending stream of futile petitions suggests that habeas corpus is a wasteful nuisance. We need a new approach.

Jon Lee Anderson:

The air stinks heavily of raw sewage, but no one seems to notice.

Jerry Weinberger:

So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find a reason for every thing one has a mind to do.

Justice Scalia in 2009:

"This court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent."

Have you seen Conviction?

Justice, Too Much and Too Expensive

National Strategy on Trusted Identities in Cyberspace
Topic: Politics and Law 10:13 pm EDT, Apr 15, 2011


Unfortunately, on the Internet as in life, not everyone is looking out for our interests.

Howard Schmidt, from last June:

What has emerged is a blueprint to reduce cybersecurity vulnerabilities and improve online privacy protections through the use of trusted digital identities.

Eric Schmidt:

If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.

NIST, today:

The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) envisions a cyber world -- the Identity Ecosystem -- that improves upon the passwords currently used to log-in online.

The identity ecosystem is voluntary.

Mark A. Marshall, President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, on Facebook:

If you're not dealing with it, you better deal with it.

Nick Bilton:

The Internet never forgets.

Bruce Schneier:

Will not wearing a life recorder be used as evidence that someone is up to no good?

Steven Bellovin

People often suggest that adding strong identification to the Internet will solve many security problems. Strong, useful identification isn't possible and wouldn't solve the security issue; trying to have it will create privacy problems.

National Strategy on Trusted Identities in Cyberspace

The Risk We Run
Topic: Politics and Law 8:51 am EST, Feb 21, 2011

David K. Shipler:

Digital information is different.

Digital inspections raise constitutional questions about how robust the Fourth Amendment's guarantee "against unreasonable searches and seizures" should be on the border, especially in a time of terrorism. A total of 6,671 travelers, 2,995 of them American citizens, had electronic gear searched from Oct. 1, 2008, through June 2, 2010, just a tiny percentage of arrivals.

Jerry Weinberger:

So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find a reason for every thing one has a mind to do.

Russell Feingold:

The policies ... are truly alarming.


It has a loophole ... If the ACLU's characterization of this [watch] list is anywhere near accurate, the list is a complete joke. It simply is not objectively reasonable to suspect that someone on this list is dangerous.

Kelly Ivahnenko:

We're in the business of risk mitigation.

Tony Judt:

We appear to have lost the capacity to question the present, much less offer alternatives to it.

The question is, What do we do now, in a world where, in the absence of liberal aristocracies, in the absence of social democratic elites whose authority people accept, you have people who genuinely believe, in the majority, that their interest consists of maximizing self-interest at someone else's expense? The answer is, Either you re-educate them in some form of public conversation or we will move toward what the ancient Greeks understood very well, which is that the closest system to democracy is popular authoritarianism. And that's the risk we run. Not a risk of a sort of ultra-individualism in a disaggregated society but of a kind of de facto authoritarianism.

The Risk We Run

Adrift On A Leaky Raft
Topic: Politics and Law 7:38 am EST, Nov 27, 2010

Ellen Barry:

Juries were supposed to change Russia. Introduced amid a raft of liberal reforms in 1993, they shifted power away from the state structure and thrust it into the hands of citizens. Juries introduced real competition into Russia's courts, granting acquittals in 15 to 20 percent of cases, compared with less than 1 percent in cases decided by judges.

But the state has never been happy about leaving the fate of high-profile prosecutions in the hands of ordinary people.

"The law doesn't work. People in power can do whatever they want with the law," said Iosif L. Nagle. "It is always unpleasant when some of your illusions are destroyed."

Lauren Clark:

It's good to have a plan, but if something extraordinary comes your way, you should go for it.

Tux Life:

I won't say I wanted to be put on a jury for a criminal case, but when the opportunity arose I certainly welcomed it.


Apparently, once the prosecution realized that there was a hung jury, they became nervous that the tide would turn, as is frequently the case and as was the trend in this case as well according to our votes, from guilty to not guilty. Rather than risk losing a conviction and/or having a retrial, they dropped their demand that the defendant be tried as an adult and allowed him to take a plea of "strongarm robbery," which would put him in something called a Youthful Offenders Program, which is a sort of transitional detention from boyhood to adulthood which requires that its residents get a GED and learn skills that will keep them from coming back into the legal and penal systems. It's one of those pesky rehab facilities the crime-and-punishment crowd loves to hate. The judge was very happy with this result because he didn't want to see this boy get sent off to a man prison and either not survive or come out more serious about crime than his very serious but seemingly unconsidered youthful indiscretion. He would also pay the victim $2,000 in restitution. The judge even told us that he had predicted a hung jury, that the evidence, while convincing, just wasn't solid enough in either direction.

What you truly have is a proverbial sausage factory: it's incredibly messy, nothing seems to make sense, nothing looks good or reasonable or even real, but at the end of the line there is something like justice. It doesn't always look right. It doesn't always feel right. It doesn't even always taste right. But it's at least palatable. And no matter how it is, it's never for a lack of sincerely trying.

Mark Twain:

In my early manhood and in middle-life, I used to vex myself with reforms, every now and then. And I never had occasion to regret these divergencies, for whether the resulting deprivations were long or short, the rewarding pleasures which I got out of the vice when I returned to it, always paid me for all that it cost.

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