Ugh. Bet this doesn’t happen to @joi on his “Dreamliner” at Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) – View on Path.
Annual ritual becoming weekly ritual… at Flatbread Company – View on Path.
Apparently we’re the only family with the tradition of bowling at 9am on New Year’s morning. at Flatbread Company – View on Path.
I’m an eager “author” at The Atlantic, happy to blog whenever I can about the issues that matter most to me. But The Atlantic is a proper publication, which means it exercises editorial control, which always means AT LEAST that they get to pick the title.
I’m 99% of the time fine with that, but sometimes, the title creates an impression different from what I mean. And so it the case with the latest “Why a Democratic Tea Party Is the Best Hope for Fixing Corrupt Government.”
To someone who just read the title, you might think the piece was an argument for a partisan-based movement in favor of reform. And if you have read what I’ve written before, you would be surprised by that (as I work INCREDIBLY HARD to push the idea of a cross-partisan movement for reform).
But if you read the whole piece, you’ll see that the title gets drawn from this paragraph:
Democrats have a real chance here. While no one doubts that the corruption of this current system is symmetrical — Democrats are just as dependent as Republicans on funding from the tiniest slice of the 1 percent — the reform movement is not symmetrical. The GOP has become the anti-reform party (unless by “reform” you mean increasing the corruption of a system in which the tiniest slice of the 1 percent fund America’s campaigns). Only Democrats are talking about ideas that might actually end that corruption.
It is time for Democrats finally to steal a move from the Republican’s playbook: Boldness inspires. If there’s going to be a Tea Party for Reform, Democrats must start talking about ideas that give people a real reason to get excited.
This isn’t, and wasn’t meant to be, a suggestion that the reform movement should be Democratic. It shouldn’t. The point instead is simply that only the Democrats have begun to take up this corruption — a corruption, again, that afflicts both sides.
jxchristopher: Unusually partisan for you, Professor @Lessig - you’re much more persuasive when striking at roots rather than branches http://t.co/R856ldSV
It is true, the piece is, and it was difficult to write because it is. It is my style, and for good purpose, to keep it clear that the problem that I am describing — the problem of the corrupting influence of campaign cash — is completely bi-partisan. I work hard to make that point as clear as I can (and am most proud when people see that).
But I was struck when I read Thomas Mann & Norm Ornstein’s book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, with both (1) how convincing they are about partisan problem that they are describing, and (2) how difficult it is to take their position.
Their point is that the Republicans are now different. Echoing others (see, e.g., Michael Grunwald’s The New New Deal), Mann and Ornstein argue that the behavior of the Republicans is unprecedented in modern history, and that that behavior is unambiguously harmful to our type of democracy. A parliamentary democracy can afford a militant minority, since the majority can still govern. But a constitutional democracy with the kind of separation of powers that we have cannot survive a militant minority, since the consequence of that permanent war is perpetual stalemate. The “ideals” that Newt Gingrich introduced to Congress destroyed Congress and thus also our ability to govern. And while there are people who don’t mind if government can’t do anything, they are not people with any connection to reality.
Only the Republicans have been militant minority-ists. The Democrats, in minority during the Bush years, never adopted a “we will not give you one vote” rule. But that was precisely the rule McConnell and the house leadership insisted upon when Obama became President. We have suffered from that militant behavior since, and it continues even after this election. (HuffPo: Boehner to GOP: Fall in Line)
Yet it is hard to remark this — especially hard for people like Ornstein and Mann, who depend upon access to Congress for their work. Indeed, these two intellectual deans of congressional studies have been meticulously a-partisan for most of the history of their work. It seems unseemly to be anything but. Yet as they describe in this latest, it was impossible for them to write honestly and not address this fundamentally destructive turn in the behavior of the GOP.
Their point is not fundamentally partisan. They would criticize the Democrats if Democrats behaved in the same way. But the consequence of their speaking so clearly and convincingly is a book that strikes directly at one party. And in this era of “objective” journalism, where every truth must have two sides neutrally described (global warming, evolution, and the partisanship of political parties), there’s something jarring in reading their book.
I am fortunate that my subject doesn’t require their courage. Both parties pander to the money. But out of respect for them, convinced as I am of the fundamental character of the problem they described, I wrote as I did, repeating their strong attribution of blame.
(Note: I am not as convinced as they are that the problems of polarization are unrelated to the problem of money. I wish they had done more to address that point. But I am convinced that the truth they have so simply and directly stated is one we must all have the courage to repeat.)
There is something fundamentally unAmerican (in the non-McCarthy sense of that term) about the current attitude of the GOP to their (lack of) power. It is an attitude that is disrespectful of the best of our traditions, that echoes the worst of our traditions, and that is unsustainable for a nation that intends to thrive. More of us should call them out for it. Especially the only powerful politician in our system not running for reelection: The President.
(And all this would be true, even if a majority of Americans hadn’t voted Democratic in the House, Senate and Presidential races.)
My family and I spent a couple hours with Mike Connolly (@nomoneyconnolly) and his fiance, Kacy, talking to Cambridge voters yesterday. Connolly is running for State Representative in a district that straddles Cambridge and Somerville. He’s a “progressive independent,” challenging an incumbent Democrat, Tim Toomey (who simultaneously sits on the Cambridge City Council, making him one of the highest paid government officials in MA, yet with one of the worst voting attendance records in MA).
Toomey has opposed “Clean Elections” in Massachusetts. The signal issue for Connolly is clean elections. He is taking no money to fund his campaign — and asking people to symbolically donate $0.00 to him on his website. He would be an incredible fresh voice to shake up an effectively one party state — around the issue many of us have been pushing.
But what was most striking about walking with “No Money Mike” was how many already knew him, and the excitement they could barely contain. Connolly’s yard signs are everywhere. And though radically underfunded, his message seems known. He stopped one 20-something woman to give her a brochure, and she said, “Wait, you’re Mike Connolly?” Then with the excitement of a teen meeting a superstar, she gave him a high five, and turned to her friend, “This is Mike Connolly, the guy I was telling you about.” And after a couple minutes of talking, she grabbed a pile of brochures and promised to spread them broadly.
It struck me then that this is all it takes. Not the candidate, and not the campaign: Of course it takes that too, but that’s too often not enough. Beyond that, it takes this sort of excitement by people who know of the campaign, with something we on the Left don’t do as well as people on the Right: carry-through. If that woman actually carries through, and gives that literature to her friends, and if they, and others like them spread the word and turn out, this could be an important surprise for MA, and revitalize a campaign in MA — for Clean Money — that should have been resolved long ago.
We who care about this issue have few races this cycle where we can make a stand. The issue has been invisible at the Federal level. Too many in MA wish it would be forgotten locally too. But here is one place where a victory would be unambiguously a victory for the idea that this corrupt system must change.
If you believe in this cause, do something to help it here. The idea of beating a 20 year incumbent Democrat circa Cambridge is, let’s say, difficult. But six thousand votes would win. The district has plenty of students. If you have friends there (the 26th), share with them the substance of this fight (Mike’s site; Toomey’s site), and give them a sense of its importance.
Back from an amazing Vermont Amendment Weekend. Scores organizing to discuss the next steps to pushing corruption out of this government. Last year, Vermont passed a resolution demanding Congress propose an amendment reversing the hated Citizens United. This year, the question was what were the next steps — and on the table were three ideas: addressing corporate rights at the state level, pushing for Citizen Funded Elections (such as the voucher program I discussed, but generally any small-dollar funding system) at the state level, and a call on Congress for an Article V Convention (to propose amendments to the constitution).
The weekend confirmed for me a point friends like Mark Meckler and Eric O’Keefe have been making — the problem of scale with government. Vermont is small. Its representatives really are. Four or five state senators and reps participated in the weekend. They connected directly with the people. They reminded me of the democracy I once described Brazil to reveal. (The key leader was an extraordinary Senator, Ginny Lyons, whose manner and skill made the term “politician” a term of praise.) It was impossible for me to imagine a similar conversation in California or New York. But here it felt genuine and, well, democratic. Count one for the value of local control, and smaller governments. It made me at least think sensible government was possible.
And then there’s this wonderful sign. The organizers, Bill Butler and Susan Harritt, had literally scores of signs peppering the whole region of Jericho. This was my favorite. It builds on a story about a fight a Vermonter is having with Chick-Fil-a. The Vermonter believes in the goodness of Kale. (Bias alert: so do I). He started selling t-shirts: Eat More Kale. Chick-Fil-A didn’t like him “competing” with their trademarked “Eat Mor Chicken” campaign. So they sued him to stop. There’s a trailer for an in-works documentary here. But the above sign remixes the story in the obvious way — Corporations are neither people, nor Kale. Or so those crazy Vermonters believe.
This movement — or better, these movements — are critical and important. They give me hope.
I’m excited and honored (and happy I get to bring my family) to be participating in Vermont’s first “Amendment Weekend.” Here’s the program. Click on the RSVP at the bottom if you want to participate.
Amendment Weekend w/ Lawrence Lessig & Bill McKibben
October 13 &14 —— THREE EVENTS FOR YOU!
We enthusiastically invite you to hear
LAWRENCE LESSIG and BILL MCKIBBEN:
In a few weeks Lawrence Lessig will be in Vermont.
He wants to meet with us to discuss where we should all be going together next in our Amendment Effort.
Last July, Senator Leahy held Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings on a Constitutional Amendment to rescind the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Professor Lessig was one of the star witnesses. Larry is the author of Republic Lost- How Money Corrupts Congress and a Plan to Stop it. His lectures are available on the web, as is a fun interview he did w/ Jon Stewart on the Daily Show.
You all know Bill McKibben, who continues to fight to change the course of climate change devastation. Bill will preview his Climate Change Musical Road Show. You are invited!
Special Interest Money is destroying democracy and the environment.
Citizens United is one example among many of how this is happening.
Linking the Amendment and Environmental Movements will be a defining theme for the weekend.
OCT 13 - Saturday-
Lawrence Lessig & Bill McKibben
EVENT I: Professor Lessig
WHEN: 5 o’clock Saturday afternoon.
WHERE: University of Vermont. Lafayette Hall (next to Royall Tyler Theater). Room 108. Please get there at 4:45. Parking is available off Colchester Ave behind Ira Allen Chapel.
Larry’s message is, in part, that the threat to our Democracy and the need for a Constitutional Amendment goes well beyond Citizens United. What better subject when our election and lawmaking process seems to be controlled by special interest money.
After Larry’s talk we will break for some conversation, some food, & Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Please RSVP.
EVENT II: Bill Mckibben
WHEN: 7 PM Saturday evening
At 6:45 we will walk next door to Ira Allen Chapel for a dress rehearsal of Bill Mckibben’s new musical road show. Please RSVP if you want to attend. Seats will be reserved for you.
OCTOBER 14 — Sunday-
EVENT III - Amendment BBQ w/ Lawrence Lessig
WHEN: Sunday 4:30- 6:30+/-
Bring a dish, bring yourself, and share a unique opportunity to talk with Lawrence Lessig. Have a conversation with Larry over dinner. Amendment activists from around Vermont will be there. This is an organized potluck. We will provide the main course and drinks.
Please RSVP and let us know what you will contribute to the potluck—side dishes and desserts.
WHERE: Bill Butler/ Susan Harritt homestead
23 Bentley Lane, Jericho VT
Folks are welcome to stay longer, if the conversation continues.
Accommodations are available for those traveling from a distance.
All offers of help will be appreciated.
See you Oct. 13/14!
Bill Butler, Susan Harritt, Senator Ginny Lyons
I’ve been a fan of Congressman Sarbanes (D-MD) (son of Paul Sarbanes) for sometime. I wrote about his Grassroots Democracy work in HuffPo last December. Today, Sarbanes did something critically important for the anti-corruption movement: He introduced, with a significant number of co-sponsors, the most ambitious set of ideas for “Citizen Funded Campaigns” that we have seen in many years — The Grassroots Democracy Act.
Sarbanes was a co-sponsor of the Fair Elections Now Act. That statute was a matching fund statute — small contributions were multiplied by matchin grants. This bill includes a matching fund provision, but adds (1) tax credits for small dollar contributions, (2) a pilot for a version of the idea Ayres/Ackerman originally proposed and which remixed and called “Democracy Vouchers,” (not visible in the website summary), and (3) a clever (though we’ll see what the Court thinks of it) way to deal with outside spending.
This is important legislation to support and watch. We should all be grateful to Sarbanes for bringing it forward — especially in a political context that seems deeply committed to forgetting the issue.
In my capacity as director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, which runs a Lab studying “institutional corruption,” I am incredibly happy to report this very significant finding in a study we helped to support.
A string of researchers (Aaron S. Kesselheim, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., Christopher T. Robertson, Ph.D., J.D., Jessica A. Myers, Ph.D., Susannah L. Rose, Ph.D., Victoria Gillet, B.A., Kathryn M. Ross, M.B.E., Robert J. Glynn, Ph.D., Steven Joffe, M.D., and Jerry Avorn, M.D.) ran tests to determine whether researchers discount research based upon whether it was funded by industry.
The conclusion published today in the New England Journal of Medicine is: they do — regardless of the merit of the underlying research. That is, regardless of how rigorous the underlying work is, the fact it has industry funding leads doctors to be less confident about the results.
This is an important result. It is also an encouraging result. (Al)Most (all) in industry who fund research believe they are funding “the truth.” If the fact of their funding the research leads people to doubt “the truth,” that might lead them to fund the research differently — a donation to neutral funding entity, e.g.
Or put differently: if industry funding is viewed as corrupting, then this research demonstrates: corruption doesn’t pay.
Joseph writes to ask me to stay root-focused:
THE KEY LOG
Recently, a friend chided me for being overly concerned with the issue of corruption in Congress and in the Executive branch of our government while ignoring the other important issues confronting our country. He’s forgotten, perhaps the issues on the need for generating more wealth in the private sector, on useful stimulus vs. wasting money, on taxing the rich, and on the increasing burden of our debt and its inevitable consequences. But he’s right in one respect: I do believe that corruption is the biggest elephant in the room. Further, I believe that until this elephant is put down, we have no reason to expect other problems to be resolved in the interest of the American people. So here’s my response:
In the early days of logging in New England, trees were cut in the winter as snow was necessary for transporting logs to the edges of rivers and streams where they would be piled up to await the spring floods. At that time, the logs were pushed into the water to be floated downstream to mills and ports.
Along the way, there were numerous narrow spots, at which men were posted with pikes so as to assist the logs through. In spite of their efforts, logjams occurred, and it became the duty of the foreman to locate the KEY log and remove it with a pike. Loggers knew that to move other logs was worse than pointless because more logs would continue to pile up in the jam until the KEY log was removed. When the foreman was successful, he had to run for his life across moving logs. When he failed, dynamite had to be used (and no, they did not use Chinese for this work—a tidbit of history)
All the best,
As an optimist, and Rootstriker, I fantasize about what will happen when Lawrence Lessig and others are successful, and we get rid of government by special interests. As a realist, I wonder what life will be like if we don’t, and how can my children, grandchildren, and all those I care about, preserve a decent quality of life?
Meanwhile, go to the poles, but do not vote for candidates of either party for national office, to do so would merely validate the system, and the pols and special interests will continue to have their way with us (never change a winning game). Fill in a real name, or leave it blank. And staying home is not an option, doing so adds power to the special interests in a perverse way.
Ben Franklin, when asked whether we had a republic, or a monarchy, replied,
"A republic, if you can keep it."
There may be a way to neutralize Citizens United without amending the Constitution. I missed the chance to describe it last month when I testified before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, though explained it in a followup letter to Senator Blumenthal. Representative John Dingell (D-MI) (an anti-copyright-term-extension hero from way back) apparently didn’t miss it, and has now introduced a bill that coud do it. I explain how in my latest post for The Atlantic.
For the record:
Today, in America, we celebrate the declaration of our independence from Britain. If you read the list of wrongs that led those Americans to “dissolve the bands” which tied them to their forebears, and contrast them to what’s happening in Syria today, you can see that in tyranny too, human kind has made real progress. We distract ourselves with a million other things, but distraction doesn’t change reality: thousands have died; thousands more are being held; tyranny still lives.
One of our own, Bassel Khartabil, is one of those thousands. Bassel is a free software engineer. He’s also a Creative Commons volunteer. Three and a half months ago, he was detained by Syrian thugs. We have recently learned that he is being held at the security branch of Kafer Sousa, Damascus.
For most in the free software and free culture movements, the worst that ever happens is the sneer from a copyright lawyer. But in the middle east, the fight for freedom is generic: To stand for the right to create and share freely is to risk the most extreme response. Bassel is now suffering that most extreme response.
There are a thousand ways you can help the people of Syria. Here is one more: On this day of independence, stand with this one free soul. There’s a site, a Facebook page, and a hashtag: #FREEBASSEL. Use and share them all.
No doubt, puny stuff compared with Syrian brutality. But with the thousands who have Bassel in their prayers, let it be the beginning necessary to get the world to resolve to end this brutality. Now.
In 2009, Massachusetts took a national lead in banning gifts of more than $50 to doctors from pharmaceutical and device companies. The idea was that doctors should be making such decisions on the merits, and an increasing array of data suggested that subtle forms of persuasion — including small gifts like dinners — could cloud the decisions of such doctors.
Indeed, some of the most interesting research I’ve seen suggests a U-like relationship on the effectiveness of (effective) “bribes” — both small and large are effective, while middle sized bribes are less effective. (Large are effective because, well, everyone has a price. Middle sized are not so effective because people realize they’re being bribed. Small are effective because people don’t realize they’re being bribed, but patterns of reciprocity get built subconsciously, without the target even being aware.)
These studies are not uncontested, and there are many who believe the ban is unnecessary. And if there were strong evidence suggesting the ban had no effect or was unnecessary, then of course, it should be lifted.
But astonishingly, even the great Deval Patrick is now apparently leaning towards removing the ban. The apparent reason? Pressure from restaurants who suffer the most when doctors can’t be the targets of gifts.
Could anything be more absurd? (Actually yes: Now a chocolate shoe maker is joining the fight against the ban since it is hurting his chocolate shoe business.)
If the ban made sense, it can’t make sense to repeal it because restaurants want more customers. If the ban doesn’t make sense, then produce the data to say so, and rely on that data.
There’s a campaign to resist the repeal here.