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From User: Decius

Current Topic: Politics and Law

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

The Main Driver
Topic: Politics and Law 6:26 am EST, Nov 16, 2010

"Leonard Nimoy":

It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies. And in the end, isn't that the real truth?

The answer ... is No.

Charles P. Pierce:

Truth is what moves the needle. Fact is what sells.

Paul Krugman:

It's true that the PowerPoint contains nice-looking charts showing deficits falling and debt levels stabilizing. But it becomes clear, once you spend a little time trying to figure out what's going on, that the main driver of those pretty charts is the assumption that the rate of growth in health-care costs will slow dramatically. And how is this to be achieved? By "establishing a process to regularly evaluate cost growth" and taking "additional steps as needed." What does that mean? I have no idea.

Col. Lawrence Sellin:

I don't hate PowerPoint. In fact, I use it often. I do object to its use as a crutch or a replacement for serious thinking. Also, the overuse of PowerPoint can give the illusion of progress, when it is really only motion in the form of busy work. It can confuse the volume of information with the quality of information.

George Packer:

Last week, a local reporter asked the Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey, why tax cuts should be expected to improve the economy when real incomes actually dropped after the original Bush tax cuts. According to the Times, Toomey "brushed aside" the question with the reply that he "did not believe the data." How convenient for him!

David Phillips:

Once you've told the big lie, you have to substantiate it with a sequence of lies that's repeated.

Peter Norvig:

Using PowerPoint is like having a loaded AK-47 on the table: You can do very bad things with it.

C. J. Chivers:

One day in spring 1968, after a skirmish in a gully near Khe Sanh, Gunnery Sergeant Elrod found an AK-47 beside a dead North Vietnamese soldier. He claimed it as his own. This was not a trophy. It was a tool.

A few weeks later, Gunnery Sergeant Elrod was walking across a forward operating base near Khe Sanh with his AK-47 slung across his back.

A lieutenant colonel stopped him.

"Gunny, why the hell are you carrying that?" he asked.

"Because it works," Elrod replied.

Slim Charles:

It's what war is, you know? Once you in it ... you in it. If it's a lie, then we fight on that lie. But we gotta fight!

The Main Driver

The Rally To Restore Vanity
Topic: Politics and Law 8:36 pm EDT, Nov  1, 2010

Dr. King, in 1963:

This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.

Mark Ames:

A century-old ideological movement, Liberalism: once devoted to impossible causes like ending racism and inequality, empowering the powerless, fighting against militarism, and all that silly hippie shit -- now it's been reduced to besting the other side at one-liners ... Sure there are a lot of problems out there, a lot of pressing needs -- but the main thing is, the Liberals don't look nearly as stupid as the other guys do.

Louis Menand:

Other people's culture wars always look ridiculous.

Douglas Haddow:

We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves. We are a defeated generation, resigned to the hypocrisy of those before us, who once sang songs of rebellion and now sell them back to us. We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us.


That's it, that's all this is about: Not to protest wars or oligarchical theft or declining health care or crushing debt or a corrupt political system or imperial decay -- nope, the only thing that motivates Liberals to gather in their thousands is the chance to celebrate their own lack of stupidity! Woo-hoo!


If you think "Russia" when you hear "oligarchy", think again.

Mark Twain:

It is desire to be in the swim that makes political parties.


Only now, when Liberal ideals have vanished into mythology and all they stand for is "not as crazy or stupid as Republicans" is it safe to camp out with the Democrats. They put nothing on the line ideologically, which perfectly jibes with this generation's highest value.

The Economist, after election night, 2008:

He has to start deciding whom to disappoint.


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


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The Rally To Restore Vanity

No Price to Pay
Topic: Politics and Law 6:52 am EDT, Jun 17, 2010


Surely the case of Maher Arar was a chance to show that those who countenanced torture must pay a price.

Malcolm Gladwell:

Free is just another price.

Bill Gurley:

Customers seem to really like free as a price point.

Martin Kaplan:

What we really need are leaders with more character, followers with more discrimination, deciders who hear as well as listen and media that know the difference between the public interest and what the public is interested in.

Merlin Mann:

I love when [...] people unfollow me. It delights me, because that is the sound of my audience getting better.

William Deresiewicz:

Excellence isn't usually what gets you up the greasy pole. What gets you up is a talent for maneuvering.

James Lileks:

The Apple tablet is the Barack Obama of technology. It's whatever you want it to be, until you actually get it.

Viktor Chernomyrdin:

We wanted the best, but it turned out as always.

The Economist on Obama, from November 2008:

He has to start deciding whom to disappoint.


There is no excuse for the Obama administration's conduct.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, in 2005:

If you [...] tell them the truth even when it threatens their beliefs, you run the risk of losing them. But if you peddle cleverly manipulated talking points to people who trust you not to lie, you won't merely lose them, you'll break their hearts.

Kathleen Parker:

Giving up being liked is the ultimate public sacrifice.

No Price to Pay

Obama to Palin: 'Don't Mock the Constitution'
Topic: Politics and Law 10:08 pm EDT, Sep  9, 2008

It was in St. Paul last week that Palin drew raucous cheers when she delivered this put-down of Obama: "Al-Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America and he's worried that someone won't read them their rights."

But Obama, who taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago for more than a decade, said captured suspects deserve to file writs of habeus corpus.

Calling it "the foundation of Anglo-American law," he said the principle "says very simply: If the government grabs you, then you have the right to at least ask, 'Why was I grabbed?' And say, 'Maybe you've got the wrong person.'"

"The reason that you have this principle is not to be soft on terrorism. It's because that's who we are. That's what we're protecting."

Palin's quip was troubling; I'm pleased to see Obama call her on it, but I don't expect her to seriously engage the subject. It was a throwaway line for her.

Here are two threads on the subject from earlier this year:

Benjamin Wittes’ Law and the Long War is required reading for anyone interested in the legal challenges posed by the war on terror.

Six years after the September 11 attacks, America is losing a crucial front in the ongoing war on terror. It is losing not to Al Qaeda but to its own failure to construct a set of laws that will protect the American people—its military and executive branch, as well as its citizens—in the midst of a conflict unlike any it has faced in the past.

Obama to Palin: 'Don't Mock the Constitution'

The American Conservative -- Save the War Nerd
Topic: Politics and Law 8:49 pm EDT, Jun 26, 2008

The eXile, the Moscow-based alternative paper founded by Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi — and which has been home these past few years to occasional TAC contributor Gary Brecher, the War Nerd — has been shut down by Russian authorities.

The American Conservative -- Save the War Nerd

What much of West bans is protected in US
Topic: Politics and Law 6:18 am EDT, Jun 13, 2008

"The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market," wrote Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in his 1919 dissent in Abrams v. United States, which eventually formed the basis for modern First Amendment law.

"Canadians do not have a cast-iron stomach for offensive speech," said Jason Gratl, a lawyer for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. "We don't subscribe to a marketplace of ideas."

"Western governments are becoming increasingly comfortable with the regulation of opinion. The First Amendment really does distinguish the U.S., not just from Canada but from the rest of the Western world."

What much of West bans is protected in US

FRONTLINE: showdown with iran | PBS
Topic: Politics and Law 10:59 am EDT, Oct 27, 2007

As the United States and Iran are locked in a battle for power and influence across the Middle East—with the fear of an Iranian nuclear weapon looming in the background—FRONTLINE gains unprecedented access to Iranian hard-liners shaping government policy, including parliament leader Hamid Reza Hajibabaei, National Security Council member Mohammad Jafari and state newspaper editor Hossein Shariatmadari.

Frontline continues to be worth the hour. This report paints a damning picture of defeat snatched from the jaws of victory in US/Iranian relations mostly due to incompetence. Watch it online.

FRONTLINE: showdown with iran | PBS

Why the Shootings Mean That We Must Support My Politics
Topic: Politics and Law 3:22 pm EDT, Apr 18, 2007

Many people will use this terrible tragedy as an excuse to put through a political agenda other than my own. This tawdry abuse of human suffering for political gain sickens me to the core of my being. Those people who have different political views from me ought to be ashamed of themselves for thinking of cheap partisan point-scoring at a time like this. In any case, what this tragedy really shows us is that, so far from putting into practice political views other than my own, it is precisely my political agenda which ought to be advanced.

Why the Shootings Mean That We Must Support My Politics

Colbert Defends Alberto Gonzalez
Topic: Politics and Law 6:10 am EST, Jan 24, 2007

This is strict constructionism on drugs.

Colbert Defends Alberto Gonzalez

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