What a sane court would do: pick an issue that it turns out needs re-argument, and carry the case over until the fall, when it can be decided after an election.
I was also asked to address the graduating class at Loyalsock Township High School, in Williamsport, PA — my high school, from which I had graduated 33 years ago. Here’s the speech:
I have three young children — two boys, 8 and 5, and a girl, who is two.
The 8 year old, Willem, finishes second grade next week.
There’s something very cool about a second grader. In a second grader, there is the first flicker of a teenager. Last month my kid rolled his eyes at me for the very first time. It was beautiful. As wonderful as the “papa-can-do-no-wrong” stage is, it is even better to see the beginnings of a soul who thinks for himself.
But if you’re like me, there’s not a lot about second grade that you remember. I remember my teacher, Ms. Bruch. I remember Becht School. I remember the lunch line — I was a really fat kid back then. But I don’t remember much about what was happening inside the class room.
The only thing I remember clearly is what was happening outside the class room. For when I was a second grader, something about America changed. I couldn’t see it directly; but I saw it through the change in the adults around me. This was just after the “Tet Offensive” in Viet Nam, when images of an apparently defeated military were blasted across (our first color) TV. The anti-war movement was taking off in 1969. And I remember asking my dad why all the stop signs in our neighborhood had the word “war” painted beneath the word “Stop”. Was the mayor against the war, I asked? It never occurred to me — good fat kid that I was — that ordinary people would deface a public sign.
Yet it was then, when I was in second grade, that America came to see that it wasn’t invincible. And that set the tone for the generation, ours, the “VietNam Generation,” that followed.
In this one way, you, the class of 2012, had a second grade similar to mine. I doubt you remember much about what happened at your elementary school. But there’s no doubt you remember that morning in September, in 2001. And not the horror — many parents refused to let their kids see what happened then — but the utter astonishment at the very idea that we were vulnerable here. You didn’t get that idea directly. You were too young. But you saw it on the faces of your parents, and your teachers. And you experienced it in every way that our nation changed.
But because you weren’t just a kid — after all, you were the age where you rolled your eyes at your dad — it registered. You didn’t know what it meant. You had no context against which to judge it. But something extraordinary had happened. And like the day Kennedy was shot, or the 1972 flood, that time would mark everything that happened since. It would define the meaning of the time. It would define you, the “9/11 Generation.”
In the time since, in the “days between the summers” since you-first-rolled-your-eyes and today, you have grown up, knitting a life with your friends, guided by your teachers, inspired by the sacrifices you have seen others make — none greater than those who served by going off to war— to become graduates to the next stage of your life.
This stage was pretty great. For all of you. I don’t mean it was necessarily fun for all of you. You all know who had fun, or who only had fun. You all know who worked insanely hard, or who had it tough.
But regardless of what it was, it was a great four years. Because there is no period in your life that you will think back to more. It is crazy. It makes no sense. But high school defines us. Not that we’re always who we were in high school — though some will never change. But that at every point after high school you will think back to these four years, and measure — is it better than it was then, is it what I imagined then it could be.
That’s because almost every important experience in life happens first here. At some point, each of you worked hard here. At least once. Almost all of you fell for someone, at least once, here. Every one of you had to imagine — for the first time, seriously — what you would become after here. For the first time, you experienced a process that tried to measure you against everyone else in the country. Just about every important experience happened here for the first time, and every time after this, when you have that experience again, you will think back to this first time.
I’m not saying that’s necessarily a good thing. There are people who never escape high school. That’s not a good thing. There are people who are forever trying to make right what didn’t quite work in high school. That’s not a good thing. When I was in college one of my best friends was obsessed with a girl who wouldn’t give him the time of day in high school. She was too cool. He was a geek (long before geek was cool). For years, he tried to connect. Through college. Through law school. For 10 years after law school. And then, in their 30s, she agreed to see him. They dated. But a couple months into the romance, my friend ended it. “I’m not sure,” he said to me after, “what all that was about.”
The point isn’t that high school is life. It is that high school is the first round of life. Everything else is a do-over. And what you learned here — not calculus, or Spanish, or how chemicals bond, but friendship, and respect, and the reward that hard work gives — you will practice again and again after here, in these endless rounds of do-overs.
Most of you will go to college. That’s a do-over for high school — the slog of writing draft after draft, of reading carefully, of caffeinating well to defend against insanely boring lectures. You’ve done all that before (well maybe not the insanely boring lecture part), but most of the rest of it, you did here first.
Some of you will serve our nation in military service. That too, you will see, is a do-over for the experience of building trust and friendships, and working insanely hard for something great.
And some of you will go to the real world, and begin to work. But that too is a do-over, of the discipline it will take to keep focused on the job, or the joy that will come from the friendships you will build.
Everything from now on is a do-over of these four years.
But a do-over means a chance to do again and to do better. Or differently. Or with an emphasis that is new. Because life really is like that terrible movie, Ground Hog Day.
You really do get the chance to make the same decisions again and again. Will I work hard to do well? Will I say what I honestly mean? Will I keep my word? Will I give help when I am needed. Will I be there for them? These are the questions you had to answer here, first. And these are the questions you will do-over, that you will answer again and again for the rest of your life.
And like me, when you think about those questions, there will be people you remember from here who answered them in a particular way, and who affected you because of how they answered them.
For the whole of my whole life since second grade, I’ve wanted the courage to do “A Joey Wilson.” On the playground, Joey always did what was impossible for any body to imagine that anyone could do. When there was no chance, he would shoot for a goal. When there was no way he could cut through the line of other team, he would bear down, and drive. Joey ignored what was obvious to everyone else. He ducked his head and pushed. And a million times since I’ve thought about mustering the courage for “A joey wilson.” Only a few times have I succeeded.
Or I think about the character of my friend Jeff Orwig.
In second grade, the library ran a contest. The person who read the most books in a month would win a prize. It was obvious how to win that price — read short, simple books. And I launched on that obvious path. Jeff didn’t. He read long, complicated, chapter books. Why? I ask him. You can’t win like that?
Because, he told me, I want to learn to read.
He and I then both went to the University of Pennsylvania. We both wanted to become lawyers — that’s what his dad was, that’s the work I had dreamed to do, partly because of the inspiration Chad Greevy’s grandfather gave me as I watched him as a judge the Lycoming County Courthouse. But when we got to Penn, Jeff majored in engineering. And thing about engineering at Penn is that no one gets good grades. Almost never. The GPA of engineering grades is always one step below everyone else. And I so I asked him about it. How are you going to get into law school if you major in a field that only gives B’s and C’s? Why are you doing this?
Because, he told me, I want to learn something that is hard.
And then when we graduated, and I went to study in England, he went to Paris. Maine. And took a job at a antique car museum — antique cars being his life long obsession. And I asked him — Jeff, you’ve got a degree in engineering from an Ivy League university. How can you be a curator at an antique car museum?
Because, he told me, I want to learn to do something that I love.
Again and again, in the do-overs of life, I have tried to practice the courage of Joey. The character of Jeff. I’ve rarely achieved either. But those bars — those ideals — were set here. In the work we, high school students, did together. In these “days between the summers.” You’ve done that too. And it too will define your life.
But as I think about the world we stepped into when I graduated from this place — in 1979 — I can’t help but think that our parents gave us a more promising America than we have given you.
In 1979, it felt as if everything was possible. It was “Morning in America,” as Ronald Reagan’s television ads would insist. The war, the failed war, was forgotten. The Cold War was about to be won. And there seemed no limit to what we as Americans could do. We were about to climb to the top of the world. In a decade, the Iron Curtain would fall. And even then, in 1979, it seemed we were on a path to something endless and great. That greatness had been given to us, the class of 1979, by the struggles of our parents. They had recovered well from the anxiety I saw in them in second grade.
Things seem different today. No one feels as if everything is possible. When you entered high school, the economy fell off a cliff. It is falling still, at least for that endangered species called the middle class.
More troubling is how foreign much of America has become — not in persons (we were always an immigrant nation) but in ideals. Chicago economist Luigi Zingales writes in his new book about a survey in Italy which asked Italian managers to name “the most important determinants of financial success.” 80% named “knowledge of influential people” first. “Competence and experienced” ranked 5th.
Now that’s not quite America today. But something close to that, or certainly as corrupt as that, increasingly is.
As I look at my students at one of America’s greatest law schools, I know they are people who got the highest grades in a great college. I know they got top marks on the LSAT. But I also know — as Chris Hayes describes in a wonderful new book, Twilight of the Elites — that most of them spent thousands to prep for that LSAT — or rather their parents did — just as they did on the SATs to get to college. And I also know many of them had professional application services prepare their college applications — a friend told me the story of a mother who punished her daughter for submitting her own personally written college essay rather than the professionally written essay the mother had bought her. “This is too important for that,” she scolded her daughter. And I also know that many of these students came to Harvard from private schools, because public schools are no longer good enough.
You don’t step into an America governed by its middle class any more: the America I knew, growing up here. In 2012, you step into an America that is more unequal than at any time in last hundred years. When the idea of success is entitlement, not competence or hard work, and where entitlement, like some first cars, is something your parents buy you.
This is a tougher world than the one I knew in 1979. To succeed in this world feels cheaper. We have not done as well as our parents to recover from the shock you knew as second graders.
But you, from here, do have an advantage. For you know America, the real America, the best part of America. That part is here.
This town has known bad times. But there is promise here again — heck, it is “fracking morning in Williamsport.”
And you have graduated from a great public school — greater than it was when I was here. We didn’t get silver medal from US News & World Report. Or a bronze. Or even a — what’s after bronze, a recycled cardboard — medal. We were just a public school like any public school.
But you come from a public school like too few public schools — a great public school — and in these “days between summers,” you have lived and worked and played with the ordinary, normally privileged souls we call citizens.
Souls who will do as much to rebuild this nation, and defend this nation, than any from the privileged halls of Choate or Lawrenceville.
Souls who are real, not bought. Souls who are a privilege to know, not privileged.
The world our generation has given you is different from the world we inherited. We as a nation were not bankrupt then. We are bankrupt today. My parents’ generation borrowed to build great bridges, and great highways. We have borrowed to bailout Wall Street, so that they can pay themselves the largest bonuses in human history. We have built a government that will bankrupt you, but long after we are gone.
And it is time for you to confront this fact, and like my second grader, it’s time for you to roll your eyes at what we’ve done, and begin the work to do it over.
To take the habits of mind that you have learned here.
To take the greatness you have achieved here.
To take the incredible good looks you have aspired to here.
And do something with it.
To do it over, like Joey Wilson: and surprise everyone.
To it over, like Jeff Orwig: and be precisely who you want to be.
And to do it over, like me, and keep the dream of an America of good and decent and hard working souls, who know public school, who know every kind of citizen, and are happy to celebrate all the good that is.
Thirty-three years ago, I missed my graduation. I was asked to be tutor on a trip to Korea. How could turn down Korea to stay and give — as the salutatorian — a graduation speech.
In those 33 years, I’ve been to Korea half a dozen times. But I’ve been here, in this building, just once.
This time. And as I walked the halls last night with Matt Reitz and Chad Greevy, what rushed back into my heart, and what overwhelmed me again and again, was the recognition of how everything began here. Everything I know now began here.
I don’t know where I was in such a hurry to go 33 years ago. I don’t know why it has taken so long to get back. What I know is that there is something special in a place like this. Something the world — or America at least — needs. Again. Something you need to race out and teach.
Be proud of what you have made in these “days between the summer.” For everything you make from now on is just a do-over of this. And America needs — desperately needs — the do-over you could do.
Congratulations to the Class of 2012. To you, and your parents, and the teachers who have brought you here.
The Great Bob Kohn — Kohn on Music Licensing, eMusic, and now RoyaltyShare — felt it important to launch a twitter-snit against me, after I tweeted that I was going to deliver the commencement address at my high school (33 years after missing my own graduation). Here is the exchange:
Great, Larry. Let them know why you hate the 1st Amendment: “@lessig: Friday I get to go back and give the commencement address.”
6/6/12 8:51 PM
@bobkohn you first.
6/6/12 9:56 PM
You’re way ahead of me Larry. Jefferson would be appalled at what you are doing. Why have you sold out? “@lessig: @bobkohn you first.”
6/6/12 10:37 PM
@bobkohn bob, what are you talking about?
6/6/12 10:49 PM
Your support of government censorship of political speech. “@lessig: @bobkohn bob, what are you talking about?”
6/6/12 10:56 PM
Rootstrikers @lessig : “Decl. of Indep. was speaking of natural persons only.” So, The NY Times, a corporation, has no 1st Amendment Rights?
6/7/12 2:49 AM
Before I offer my own reply to this, here’s what @jsalsman tweeted:
Which is great enough, but doesn’t respond to Kohn’s charge about me “selling out.”
extracake asked: I am terribly interested to know about your time clerking for Judge Posner, how he shaped (or didn't) your views about the law, the experience of working with him, what kinds of things you may have learned from him, and perhaps how that experience differed from your time with Justice Scalia. I hoped you could write something about it here.
Thanks. I’ll think about whether there’s something useful to say.
I was asked to post the text to the Commencement Address I gave at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School on May 19. With some hesitation (as tongue-in-cheek gets lost in writing), and with one important clarification (the corruption alleged was mine!), I post it here.
I am a professor of law at Harvard. I run the university’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. At that Center for Ethics, we study corruption. Not Rod Blagojevich, or Randy Duke Cunningham corruption — not “criminals violating the law” sort of corruption. Instead, corruption as in improper influence.
Think about a doctor taking money from a drug company, and then sitting on a panel that reviews that company’s drugs: Not illegal; if disclosed, not unethical, but nonetheless, an influence that leads many to wonder whether it is truth, or money, that led the doctor to approve the drugs.
Or think about an academic taking money from a telecom company, and then giving testimony before Congress that just so happens to serve the interest of that telecom. Nothing illegal about taking that money; if disclosed, nothing unethical about taking that money. But an influence that leads many to wonder whether it was the truth, or money, that led the academic to speak in favor of that company.
Or think about just about every Member of the United States Congress: taking money from the interests they regulate — Wall Street banks, coal companies, insurance companies, big Pharma — and then regulating in a way that makes life great for them, while making life for the rest of us not quite as great. Nothing illegal about taking that money; if disclosed, nothing unethical. But an influence that leads many to wonder whether it is truth or justice that leads Congress to care about them. Or whether it is just the money.
Now I tell you this about me because I want to establish my own expertise about corruption, so that I have the authority to say this:
My being here today, as your graduation speaker, is totally corrupt. There are plenty of brilliant and successful souls who would have loved the honor of addressing this graduating class of lawyers. But I’m here because I begged. And I begged because my nephew is one among you. And the love and pride that I feel for him led me to do something that I have literally never done before — ask to speak some place — and that in turn led your law school to do something no law school has ever done before — granted me an honorary degree and allowed me to speak to a graduating class. This is all deeply corrupt; I am expert and I can prove it: It wasn’t reason that led me here; it was love. And while that’s perhaps a more pedestrian, forgivable, sort of corruption, the question it now begs is whether I can dig myself out of this deep and corrupt hole, to make something useful, maybe even virtuous, from this corruption.
That’s something many of you know something about — deep holes that you need to dig yourself out of. I tried to find the tuition of Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School on its web page but I could only find the cost per credit hour — $1,128 — and because I’m a lawyer, there’s no chance I would know how to multiply $1,128 by the number of credit hours you all need to graduate, but I take it it’s big. And I take it as well that most of you have had to finance that big number with even bigger loans. Which, when they’re paid off with their even bigger interest rates, will be a really really big number. Way beyond the capacity of a mere lawyer to calculate, but I’m sure some of you know waitresses who could calculate it just fine.
Suffice it that you leave this place with a great deal that you owe others, yet with a degree in a profession that too many have much too little respect for.
Indeed — let’s be frank — a degree in a profession that many think is itself just corrupt. That just like the doctors, or the academics, or the Members of Congress that I spoke of at the start, a profession that many believe has lost its true north. That cares too little about the justice it was meant to serve, and too much about the wealth it increasingly defends.
Many of my students feel this corruption every day of their working life. They came to law school to do justice. They left law school to work in Inc. law — “inc.” as in “incorporated” as in the law for corporations. No doubt that is an honorable and important part of our profession, but for many of them, this isn’t the law they imagined when they came to law school. They go through their whole career never meeting a client who is a real person, only clients who are representatives of the persons we call corporations. And while there are many who are convinced that corporations are persons, as I once saw on a sign at a protest, I’ll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.
My point is not to criticize “Inc. Law.” “Inc. Law” helps create wealth, it helps protect wealth. It gives great innovators a chance to bring their innovations to market.
Instead my point is to emphasize the importance of the other part of law. Not the “Inc.” part, but the people part. The person part. Or the real person part. The part that touches real people. With real problems.
The part that keeps a family in their home against an unjust demand for eviction. Or that enforces a simple contract with a bank, to supply the credit for a coffee shop. Or that protects a woman against her abusive husband. Or that forces an insurance company to pay on a claim they rightly owe. Or that defends a child in a foster home against the neglect of a distracted state.
This too is law. The law of Erin Brockovich, not the law of Cravath Swaine and Moore.
But here’s the thing about this law:
No one thinks it works well.
There are plenty of lawyers in “Inc. Law” who go home at the end of the day and feel that that system works. Their clients got the process they were due. Their arguments were heard. Their interests were fairly considered. If through litigation, litigation in a federal court: With great judges. Beautiful carpet. Clean bathrooms. If through a transaction, a deal cut in conference rooms at the Four Seasons. No doubt these lawyers work hard. Insanely hard. And the system rewards them with the sense that the system works.
Not so with the law of real people. There is no one in the criminal justice system who believes that system works well. There is no one in housing law who believes this is what law was meant to be. In contracts, you read about disputes involving tens, maybe a hundred dollars. The disputes of ordinary people. These disputes are not for the courts any more. Or if they are, they are for courts that are an embarrassment to the ideals of justice from our tradition.
The law of real people doesn’t work, even if the law of corporations does.
Now if I were to don my reformers cap, and turn to the question that I spend most of my time now addressing — the corruption of our democracy by the corrupting influence of money — I’d say, and who is surprised by this? In a world where .26% of Americans give more than $200 in a congressional election; .05% max out; .01% give more than $10,000; or .000063% — 196 Americans — give more than 80% of the superPAC money spent so far in this election, who could be surprised that it is the law for the rich that works, and the law for the rest of America that doesn’t.
This corruption we lawyers are responsible for. And we lawyers will only earn back the respect of the people when we show the people that the law serves the people well. That it serves them quickly. That it serves them efficiently. That it serves them justly.
John Marshall — whose name this law school borrows — was not among the framers of our constitution. But among those framers, there were businessmen, farmers, scientists, physicians and some lawyers.
No one could doubt the progress that business has made in the 225 years since our constitution was drafted. That progress is extraordinary.
Likewise, the drafters would certainly be in awe of the progress in farming too. Lack of food isn’t America’s problem. Too much food is.
Ben Franklin, the most famous american scientist, and most beloved of the founders, couldn’t even conceive of an iPhone, let alone a hand-held calculator.
And Dr. James McHenry, who studied with the framing generation’s most famous doctor, Dr. Benjamin Rush, still believed that bloodletting was the best way to deal with most illness.
In all of those fields, we as a people have made enormous progress.
Yet the story of the law is more ambiguous.
We today can pronounce the word “equality.” Our framers stumbled over that idea. And we today can be proud of the range of citizens that we count as equal as compared with those they plainly and wrongly excluded.
But if you think about the law day to day, the law as it affects ordinary people, it was clear the law then was aimed at a more pedestrian crowd. At ordinary citizens and ordinary problems. And it was clear the greatest lawyers worked first on the law aimed at that pedestrian crowd. The law aimed at ordinary citizens and ordinary problems.
But since that time, since the founding, we have seen little progress in this aspect of the law. Indeed, we’ve seen an accelerating retreat.
We can cure cancer today. We could, if we chose, feed every human on the planet, three times over.
But we can’t give an ordinary citizen a easy and efficient way to protect her rights.
Courts are less open today than they were back then to the small claims — small in the scale of things, but not in their importance to those who bring them. Courts are less relevant to most Americans. The law has convinced most Americans that the law is for the rich, except that part of the law that involves the prisons.
We, all of us, have a duty to fix this. To repair this. To make it better. We lawyers in particular have that duty. And we make it better by practicing it better. By practicing the law of real people, and through that practice, making that law better.
When my nephew told me he wanted to give up his career in journalism, and his career as a race car driver, to become a lawyer, I was skeptical. I got the journalism part. But give up being a race car driver?
I was skeptical because I’m not convinced we know any more how to do this law stuff well. How to do it in a way that should make us proud, and gives others a reason to be proud of us.
But as I watched him grow through his years at this law school, I recognized that my skepticism was wrong. Never more than the day when he told me that he was thinking of simply hanging up a shingle after he left Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School, and practicing the law of real people.
Because he is brilliant, and generous, and playful and smart: And he will have a life that almost none of my students have: every day, he will meet the people he is trying to help. And some days, he will feel that he has helped them. He has the talent to make “People Law” better. This law school has given him the right and the will to make “People Law” better.
And so I begged to celebrate this day with him, and therefore with you, because I wanted him, and you, to hear this one thought:
When you practice this law of real people, when you experience the way the law fails real people, when you see that the only medicine that you have to prescribe — bloodletting — helps no one except the vampires, recognize this:
There is no one who could justify the system we’ve allowed to evolve. There is no one who could defend its failures.
But the men — and ok, only men, and only white men, and mainly white men with property — who gave us our nation also gave us a promise of something more than this.
And so when you experience this law of real people, you should feel entitled to demand that it work better. However bad it is, you should be proud of your work. But remain proud only if you do something to push it to become as great as our proud tradition promised it would be.
When LBJ took up the cause of civil rights, he was told by his advisors he couldn’t. That he would lose, and doom his presidency. “What the hell is being a president for,” he replied and then passed the civil rights act of 1964.
Well I say, what the hell is being a lawyer for?
You are as great as your proud parents hoped you would be. That’s what they feel today, as they watch you today accept this degree.
They stand with you today. Those who watched you grow up, and now celebrate the promise of your life. But as you begin as a lawyer, as you begin to dig yourself out of the financial hole that you are in, as you enter a field too many think is just corrupt, don’t think just about them, and the pride they can’t hide today.
Think also about those who forty years from now will look up to you, and ask you: what did you do then? Think of your kids, and their family. Think of the work they will see. Think of the reward they will recognize.
For like you, they won’t respect you for your money only. Or your fame. Or your incredible good looks.
They will love you no doubt regardless. But they will only respect you for what you did. For who you became. For how you left the world. For how you made the law, “People Law,” better.
Leave it better, lawyers, than we lawyers have given it to you. Than we, the lawyers who have educated you, have given it to you. Leave it in a place that your mother, and your daughter, your father, and your son, could respect.
Not corrupt, but true.
Not just rich, but just.
For what the hell is being a lawyer for?
Congratulations to Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School class of 2012. Congratulations to you, and to everyone who got you here.
* thanks to Luis E. Ventura for helpful corrections.
John Lumea has a piece criticizing Americans Elect and me about “neutrality.” I don’t agree with the criticism, nor with the genre of criticism it represents. (And this is really bad form but this has to be a hit and run response, because I’ve got 5 presentations in the next 3 days and am turning my internet connection off).
First the good news:
What’s refreshing and valuable in John’s criticism is the form and manner. Most seem to write as if they were feeding a snark meter. John’s is an honest and direct effort to engage an idea. I’m exhausted by the snark. I have enormous respect for the straight-forward engagement. Thanks for that.
Second: The substance, part 1.
Americans Elect has a neutrality policy: The org will not — indeed, given the structure of the organization as approved by the DC Circuit, cannot — endorse a candidate prior to the rules being run and a candidate being selected.
AE has a board, and a staff.
AE also has an advisory board.
I’m on the advisory board. I don’t know about others, but I was asked to join the advisory board after I had indicated some support and some criticism. When I was asked to join the advisory board, I was told it would not interfere with my ability to support any particular candidate — whether an AE candidate or not. To encourage this innovation, I agreed.
As a member of the advisory board, I have asked questions, criticized certain decisions, channeled the criticism of others, and participated in calls. I have also argued in public a number of times that AE might be a useful path to selecting a reform candidate. In particular I have mentioned Roemer and Walker. Both seem to me to be plausible candidates to challenge the conspiracy of silence around the money in politics in this election.
John criticizes my serving on the advisory board because he believes my advocacy is inconsistent with the principle of “neutrality.” He believes, moreover, that the distinction between an “advisory board” and “board and staff” is “Clintonian” — that the difference is “hair splitting” and not real.
But the difference is real and common and completely the same with every other major party. Advisory board members are just that: They offer advice. They have no power. They have no rights. They can’t steer the org in one way or the other (beyond the effect of whatever argument they make, and that effect would happen whether or not they were members of the advisory board.) Certainly, to serve on an advisory board is to offer some level of endorsement — though as John notes, my endorsement is limited, as I don’t support the idea of AE because of its aspiration for a centrist candidate. I support the idea because it is a possible path to reform.
John concedes there are these differences, but says the standard isn’t the reality of the difference, but the “public perception.” But here he seems to be making a move/mistake that others are making about AE as well: Compared to the other political parties, is there any difference here? The Democrats and the Republicans both, when there is no presumptive nominee (i.e., an incumbent) run party primaries. During those primaries, the entity running the primary is to remain neutral. But that entity has advisory boards. Does anyone doubt the freedom of members of those boards to indicate a preference for a particular candidate, even if the people running the primaries shouldn’t?
The same point can be made about the criticisms of the “anonymous” loans to AE. I’ve criticized this anonymity too. But again, the important question is to compare AE (and its candidate, were it to have produced one) to the Democrats and the Republicans. Is either party able to say that is not supported by any anonymous money? Of course not: Both with have anonymous superPAC contributions pushing their candidate. The GOP had them for primary candidates. Had the Democrats had a primary, they would have had them for the Dems as well. I’ve argued that AE’s form of anonymity is less troubling that these examples — since it is to support a platform, not a candidate — but even so, the criticism loses its force once it is put in context.
In both cases, my point is the same: We’ve got to avoid the Ceaser’s-wife syndrom: If a new institution comes along promising a change from a plainly broken existing institution, the test should not be whether it is perfect. The test is whether it is better than the alternatives — because otherwise, you bias in favor of the (plainly broken) status quo.
I should think, even counting “perception,” AE looks more “neutral” than the Republicans. And it is certainly afflicted with less tainted cash than the alternatives.
Third: substance part 2
After criticizing’s neutrality, John goes on to make the claim that
A major reason why Americans Elect [cancelled its primary ballots] is this: Americans Elect is not seen as a neutral broker.
That’s a pretty strong empirical claim. I wonder what’s empirical foundation is? But then he doubles down:
Had Americans Elect instead created an unambiguous and airtight “public neutrality” plank … [it] would not be where it finds itself today. Of this I am sure.
I guess I’d to know how one can be so sure. There are lots of things that weighed in the decision whether to participate in AE or not — from the fear of supporting a spoiler, to the difficulty in verifying voter identity. The former is inherent. The latter is unnecessarily difficult. And while I’m sure the AE team will be testing exactly what was the most significant in explaining the relatively low level of participation, I’d be surprised if the data confirmed John’s assertion.
Or again, to link point 1 and point 2: When the governor of a state endorses a candidate during a primary, John, do you think that leads voters in the state not to vote because they “believe that they have been ‘pre-subjugated’ to the will of insiders with money, power and media access”? And if not, why would you think that with a member of an advisory board, with no access to the mechanics of the voting system, no authority over the organization, and no “media access” worth nails beyond a simple twitter feed?
Thanks again for the engagement. And apologies again that I am going to run away now to work.
So useless customer support forces me to this public place to ask this not-quite-public question: Why doesn’t T-Mobile work at ORD?
Since upgrading to OS X 10.7.3, logging onto wifi networks has been much more difficult. At ORD, at least in the United Club, it is impossible using the T-Mobile network. Whenever I connect to the tmobile network, it opens the new (supposedly-quasi-automatic) wifi login screen. But it gets stuck there forever, with an indication that it is trying to connect to an apple URL. Why? Is there away around this?
Here’s a screens shot:
Republic, Lost is going into paperback this fall. I’ve been grateful to all who have sent corrections. I’d be grateful for other errors flagged below. Unfortunately this can’t be a rewrite, so even if I should chuck it all and start again, not really possible. Thanks in advance.
There are moments when
all this seems worth it.
Fewer the fewer days I get with my kids.
Today was one.
A guy in a military cap,
out of place in an auditorium
of law students and faculty,
had heard me on an interview
before the talk, here in
And came. Convinced,
as he said,
that no one got it.
as he said,
that some do.
There is a potential here.
Way out here.
Here’s what we know:
In an unscripted television talk show appearance, Hilary Rosen referred to that differently-experienced inequality. She said that Ann Romney has “never worked a day in her life.”
Ann Romney, of course, has worked plenty of days in her life — as a mother raising five children. As a father who watches in wonder as my wife works to raise just three children, I have endless respect for anyone who can do what she, or Ann Romney does.
But it is absolutely obvious that Hilary Rosen was not saying that Ann Romney didn’t work in that sense. What she meant was that Ann Romney did not work in the sense that Hilary Rosen has, and millions of other women have — that while raising children, she has also spent at least 40 hours in a work place, away from home.
And even if Ann Romney had, she wouldn’t have done that the way the vast majority of women who do that have to do that — without permanent childcare, without someone who can always come to get a sick kid at school, without help to clean the house, without staff to cook dinner.
What Hilary Rosen was saying was that it is difficult — to say the least — for someone in the cradle of privilege to say that they know anything about people who live like most Americans: without privilege, without guaranteed support, constantly against an unforgiving edge which, if Obamacare is overturned, will only get sharper.
Yet immediately after Rosen made her completely true comments, her friends openly gather to ostracize her. Her true comments were “offensive” says Axelrod. Jim Messina “couldn’t disagree more.”
Really? Not even if you try really really hard, Jim?
It might be right that family should be off limits. But no one was talking about particular kids, etc. The comment was about a candidate’s spouse’s ability to judge, given she had claimed the right to judge.
The comment was totally fair, and right, in my view.
"The Democratic party is now facing a great crisis. It is to decide whether it will be, as in the days of FDR, the party of the plain people, the party of progress, the party of social and industrial justice; or whether it will be the party of privilege and of special interests, the heir to those who were FDR’s most bitter opponents, the party that represents the great interests within and without Wall Street which desire through their control over the servants of the public to be kept immune from punishment when they do wrong and to be given privileges to which they are not entitled."
"The Republican party is now facing a great crisis. It is to decide whether it will be, as in the days of Lincoln, the party of the plain people, the party of progress, the party of social and industrial justice; or whether it will be the party of privilege and of special interests, the heir to those who were Lincoln’s most bitter opponents, the party that represents the great interests within and without Wall Street which desire through their control over the servants of the public to be kept immune from punishment when they do wrong and to be given privileges to which they are not entitled."
Can someone help me understand what this is about?
I joined a forum in order to respond to a comment. Immediately after I joined, I began to receive literally hundreds of emails from other fora I hadn’t joined, each sending me my joining credentials for that forum.
What benefit does anyone get from this?