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Lessig Bets On the Net To Clean Up Government

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the change-congress dept.

Social Networks 126

christian.einfeldt writes "Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig really 'gets it' when it comes to the efficacy of distributed open source code production. Now he is attempting to use distributed production methods to expose corruption in the US Congress with the launch of another 'CC' organization — this time it's called 'Change Congress'. CC (as opposed to cc for Creative Commons) would invite users to track whether US legislators are willing to commit to Change Congress' four pledges. CC will rely on users to record and map the positions of candidates who are running for open seats in the US House and Senate. Change Congress will use a Google mash-up to create a map depicting which legislators have taken the CC pledge, which have declined, and which have signaled support for planks in the Change-Congress platform. The four pledges (which are not numbered 0 through 3) call for greater transparency in government, and less influence of private money in shaping legislation."

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Naive (1)

yourpusher (161612) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819826)

Larry's been hanging out with us for too long. He seriously thinks that he can get legislators to sign onto a CC labeling (licensing?) scheme? And if he does, the big stick if they violate it is . . . wait for it . . . voter outrage!

Heh. Yeah. That's been working just great for us, don't you think?

Re:Naive (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819940)

Well, anyone who has been reading my posts knows that I'm all for it. Knowledge is a very powerful thing. When the voters KNOW what the people they are voting for are really doing and saying after elected, they WILL wield their votes more powerfully. With knowledge, people become rather more opinionated. I'm all for letting the constituents tell their legislators loud and clear how they want them to vote on any given issue, in real time... put more of the of, by, and for the people in it.

Voter outrage is a bit more powerful than you seem to understand. When the politicians can control what news the people hear, they can control how those people vote. That should by now be common knowledge. When the people get to hear the truth, the will make their voting decisions based on it. yes, there will be those that will vote the party ticket always, but that will be a small percentage compared to those that will make informed voting decisions. People want to be informed, information wants to be free. The current system prevents both with regard to political information and voting.

Re:Naive (1)

aurispector (530273) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820978)

Complicit in our current electoral shams are the media corporations, who have a vested interest in the current system and control what we read in newspapers, hear on the radio and see on tv. The internet is a good way to propagate information, but credibility is a serious problem. Journalistic integrity is as important as ever.

I don't think you can ever stop the influence of big money on politics but anything that will force it out into the open is a step in the right direction.

Two simple fixes (1)

baldass_newbie (136609) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821848)

Two simple fixes would be publication on the web of any bill before Congress for at least 5 days before a vote.
The other would be in the new 'virtual' world, have Congress meet virtually like any other organization. They could each get offices in their State complexes and keep them closer to home and make it that much tougher for lobbyists to sway votes.
Plus you would hopefully have fewer unfaithful public servants.

Re:Two simple fixes (1)

GigG (887839) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822706)

As for your two simple fixes.

1. All the bills are on the web usually much longer than 5 days before a vote.
2. While that would probably require a Constitutional Amendment (which pretty much drops the simple out of it) what makes you think lobbyists would have any more trouble swaying votes if the congress critters were in their home districts? Also, it would make legislative oversite of the executive branch a bit more difficult.

Re:Naive - #1 pledge suggestion / addition (1)

zotz (3951) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822370)

I think the number one pledge needs to be:

[ ] Support Instant Runoff Voting.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=instant+runoff+voting&btnG=Google+Search [google.com]

all the best,

drew
http://packet-in.org/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page [packet-in.org]
Packet In - net band making libre music available gratis. Enjoy.

Re:Naive (1, Interesting)

johnlcallaway (165670) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822404)

One cannot assume that all knowledgeable people think PAC money is bad, and that public financing of elections will have any impact.

I don't agree with either stand. PAC money means no Sierra Club as well as no Exxon. Lobbyists, in all of their forms, can do a much better job at 'educating' politicians than the average person can, I would rather have one knowledgable person, but biased, from the Sierra Club and one from Exxon talking to my congressman than thousands of consituents whose knowledge ranges from expert to 'I heard from my neighbor'. Just because someone doesn't believe in a particular viewpoint doesn't make it invalid. We all have different value systems, and this country was founded on our right to disagree with each other. If PACs are eliminated, they will be replaced by something else. There is nothing that stops Exxon executives from getting together as a group, and deciding amongst themselves who to donate to. The same goes for Sierra Club members.

Public financing of elections won't help, politicians will still muck rake just like they have for the entire history of this country and you still won't know what any politician's stand really is (plus, I think it would be unconstituional, that free speech thing works both ways). Ron Paul proved that the amount of money you raise has very little to do with being able to win an election. Or how good you would be as a politician (I think he would be horrendous, but just my opinion.)

Politics, whether it is your local club or the US Senate, doesn't change because the same people will still be running for office. Find a way to get someone who can really examine issues and make decisions to run.

I don't have that answer. And from what I've seen of world politics in general, no one else does either.

Re:Naive (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22822414)

Are you serious? I would say that "Straight Party Ticket" makes up the majority of the voting public, and unless I see some well-funded studies that refute this with better evidence than polls of people asking "Do you make up your own mind when you vote?" ("Well, duhr, of course I do! I don't let no one tell me what to do! That's why I'm voting for the incumbant!") I'll continue to believe it. How else do you explain people who continuously vote for a candidate of a particular party, even after amazing scandals of corruption and misdoing come out?

Re:Naive (2, Interesting)

7311587 (755664) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819958)

An extension might be useful for causing elected politicians to have desired behaviour. The problem is when a politician wants votes before they are elected you can influence them but after they are elected then they are influenced by others. You need to maintain the before election influence after they are elected. Creating a contract that the politician signs before they are elected is good. This contract will constrain their behaviour. If they violate the contract then the contract becomes their official unrevokable resignation from office. During the election you can then advertise which politicians have signed which contracts. After the election if they violate they contract they are out and people can vote again. Politicians have different behaviour before they are elected than after so getting weaker politicians to sign on might cause the more senior ones to sign on if they have too in order to compete.

Re:Naive (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821952)

Shouldn't the oath they take be good enough? And we have impeachment procedures to remove those who violate that oath. It's up to us to make sure those procedures are enforced...with teeth. We already have a few sites with lots of info. But mass media is doing its best to keep us distracted from them, and so far it is succeeding.

Re:Naive (1)

AgentSmith (69695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822478)

To impeach, one must have evidence.
How can one have evidence without investigation and tracking?

The best a single citizen can do is say -
"Gee, yer honor. I know in my gut that Rep. Foobar is dirty and guilty of . . . "

Guilty of what? Violating his campaign promises? A possible ethical violation, but hardly a crime.
And that's if the violation is clear cut. These days of semantic, hair splitting and defining was "is" is
you can't really see much integrity. More spin than an atomic orbital level.

The oath of office

as plucked from http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Oath_Office.htm [senate.gov]


I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend
the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;
that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;
that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion;
and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.


Nothing in there about being a lying, backstabbing, opportunistic money grubber as long as the Constitution and the US is defended.

Voters in collective groups are scared and ignorant with short memories.
The best we can do is watch these congressmen likes hawks and have everything open and transparent as possible.

When they realize their past will be accurately recorded for quality assurance you will
see them starting to be afraid.

I am bitter. . .naw no no no no. Yes.

Re:Naive (2, Interesting)

darjen (879890) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820100)

I don't think the public cares much about what their politicians do. There must be a reason most congressmen are re-elected. They could be completely transparent in everything they do and still not be held accountable for their actions by the voters. This is because the public operates under the assumption that the government generally takes care of things people normally don't want to do. Yet, the same problems of human nature continue to occur year after year. The best we can hope for is that people begin to realize that this isn't the case, and stop depending on the government to take care of them.

Re:Naive (1)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821128)

Voter outrage ended the war in Vietnam and it will end the war in Iraq as well, hopefully before my children are old enough to be sucked into that tragic mistake. You have more power than you think. Get out there and live!

Augean Stables (2, Funny)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819846)

This looks to be one Lessig's more long-term projects.

I think I'll head over and sign up.

Hand me a mop and some bleach, bro.

Re:Augean Stables (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822076)

Hercules! Hercules! Hercules!

It's the spending stupid. (2, Insightful)

with a 'c' (1260048) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819872)

I think we all have differing ideas on what changing congress (Government) means. Lets start with something simple. Ask all candidates "what present of an individuals income should they pay in taxes?" It could even be a graduated rate. Then let government do what ever they like with that amount of "Limited" money. No limits on the money they spend seems to be the big problem.

Re:It's the spending stupid. (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820264)

Ask all candidates "what present of an individuals income should they pay in taxes?"

If its a present can I decide not to pay if the govenment hasn't been good this year?

Re:It's the spending stupid. (1)

with a 'c' (1260048) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821808)

what ever dude.

Re:It's the spending stupid. (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822148)

If only you had transposed the "re" then it would have been the coolest post/username pairing ever!

Re:It's the spending stupid. (1)

with a 'c' (1260048) | more than 6 years ago | (#22823426)

crap I can't even misspell properly. ;)

Re:It's the spending stupid. (1)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820420)

There is a simple simple way to limit government spending but it will never fly. Most government employees vote right? SO.....

Given Budget for year is X. If spending = X + 10% then all government employee pay is REDUCED the amount of the overage or 10%. If spending = x -10% for that year then government pay goes up say 5% In plain language: cut pay when the budget is missed. One year of this and the wastrels woud be voted OUT by workers interested in the bottom line. See? told'ya it would never fly.

Re:It's the spending stupid. (1)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | more than 6 years ago | (#22823012)

And where's the incentive for Congress to stick to their budget? If their salaries get cut 10%, they can just vote themselves a 10% "cost of living increase" or something like that.

One way I could think of to reduce the budget: Require all members of Congress to be present and listening on the floor while the full budget, no matter how long it is, is read. Every single solitary line item. Allow the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate and his/her staff and the corresponding officer in the House to wake any Senator or Representative who falls asleep, or to stop any that are working on other material, by any reasonable means. Yes, I can imagine how long that would take and how boring it would be. If the members of Congress don't like it, they can simply make the budget shorter next year.

Re:It's the spending stupid. (1)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 6 years ago | (#22823368)

You missed the point. It is NOT the fact that Congresscritters are the foxes guarding the henhouse and can vote themselves a wage. The Idea is that ALL FEDERAL WORKER'S pay gets cut too. ALL Fed Wages! and THEY VOTE. Would YOU vote for someone who just cut your pay? And since Congresscritters are all about votes (or they are out of a job), they will do anything in their power to apease a voting block as HUGE as the federal employees in their district. -That last fact is sad in and of itself...

Re:It's the spending stupid. (1)

DittoBox (978894) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822154)

It's not just Congress that needs a swift boot in the ass, it's the Executive branch too. No war since (and including) Korea has been declared by Congress --who is constitutionally the only body allowed to make war. For some reason being the "Commander in Chief" has gone to some peoples' heads that they go on little military adventures across the globe to fight whatever godless terror they've found (even if 20 years ago we put that godless terror there...but that's another story).

And that's only on a part of the foreign policy side of things, there's a whole 'nother can of worms you can open on domestic policy where the Executive pokes its little nose.

Oversight though will let the terra-ists win though!

Re:It's the spending stupid. (1)

MacDork (560499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22823194)

Won't work. A voter can be smart, but voters are stupid. Voters want lower taxes. Voters also want their candidate to bring home the bacon. Those two stances are diametrically opposed. Either you want reduced spending or reduced taxes. Our endless deficits are only the candidates giving voters what they want. BOTH. The same is true for /. moderation. You can say two things that are exact opposite and receive +4 or +5 moderation on both statements. It all depends on your spin.

No limits on the money they spend seems to be the big problem.

I beg to differ. I think their ability to create money is the big problem. Their way out of this quandary should be understandable to any intelligent thinking person. They will print money to cover the debt, and in doing so, destroy the value of your dollars with inflation. In 1971, an ounce of gold cost $40. Today, an ounce of gold costs over $900. In 1860, an ounce of gold would buy a really nice suit. Today... an ounce of gold will buy a really nice suit. Gold supply is fairly inelastic. Therefore its value in relation to other goods remains roughly the same. Since dollars are no longer backed by gold, dollars can be printed on a whim.

Fractional reserve lending [wikipedia.org] is the root of all evil here. If you have representative money like the dollar of 1929, then you end up with a run on the bank. If you have a fiat currency that isn't backed by anything like the dollar of today, you have endless inflation. That happens because fractional reserve lending creates more debt than there is money to pay that debt. [gold-eagle.com] Yes, that's a cute little fictional story, but it does a pretty good job of explaining the situation so that even children can understand it.

It becomes literally impossible for everyone to pay their debt, so you become a slave to your creditors. The banks. You've sold your soul to the company store. If you have debt, you are enslaved by the Federal Reserve System. [wikipedia.org] They spin debt as a positive thing. It's not debt, it's "credit." Even president Woodrow Wilson realized his mistake shortly after creating the Fed. He's quoted as saying: [quotiki.com]

I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the civilized world. No longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.

It's almost a 100 years later and that small group of dominant men still rule you like kings. There's only one candidate who claims to have any intention of doing anything about it. Too bad he's "unelectable." I guess that word means he's not in right banker's pocket.

Is he serious? (2, Insightful)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819894)

I mean, really - is this a joke?

Repeat after me - "In terms of fundamental human behavior, the internet has not, and will not, change JACK SHIT."

Politics is the way it is because of fundamental human behavior - greed, ambition, and apathy. No "series of tubes" will change that.

Re:Is he serious? (4, Insightful)

Cantus (582758) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820070)

But concerted human action *can* bring about change. And the Internet allows that.

It's not the "Internets" changing anything, it's the people using it making that change possible.

Re:Is he serious? (1)

with a 'c' (1260048) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820240)

Please don't forget that many wrong voices don't make right. The danger of mobs is mob rule at the expense of the minority rights.

Re:Is he serious? (0)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820442)

Let's also not forget that Majority rule != Mob rule.

Mob rule implies rule without laws. IE: The Anarchy of the Strongest.

Majority rule is implicit in it's requirement of laws. IE: The Majority is constrained by the checks and balances of lawful government.

That said, I really don't think that his attempts here are going to "Clean Up" anything. Mostly because he has some crappy ideas as "principles".

No money from lobbyists? Riiiight. How the heck do you think most politicians are able to finance their very expensive runs for Congress? McCain-Feingold has already crippled the money raising process for campaigns horribly. Lessig's idea would make it IMPOSSIBLE for ordinary citizens to actually RUN for public office.

I assume he intends to fix that by the "publicly funded elections" bit. Sounds good in theory, until you look at the countries, states and localities it's been tried in, and realize that "Publicly Funded" means nothing more than "Incumbent Lock-In". As the "Public Funds" very quickly become buried with byzantine legislation specifically designed to keep the great unwashed locked out of the process.

The problem with elections is NOT the private sector. The problem is TOO MUCH GOVERNMENT in our election processes.

Re:Is he serious? (2, Informative)

hotdiggitydawg (881316) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820542)

Please don't forget that many wrong voices don't make right. The danger of mobs is mob rule at the expense of the minority rights.
In most cases, these "minority rights" (sic) of which you speak are corporate special interests, so they don't even deserve the label "rights" in the same sense as human rights, voter rights, etc. Yet they still seem to be put first in the current system.

In any case, this project won't force the system to change - all it does is effectively add a greater degree of transparency. Its up to the people to force the changes they want.

Re:Is he serious? (1, Flamebait)

Asmor (775910) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821222)

Like in the 1950s, when all the white people were oppressing the corporate special interests called "black people."

Yeah but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22821892)

Who says only the good guys can use the internet ? If CC really works couldn't couldn't right wing Christian Fundamentalists do something similar ? Perhaps evaluate all congressional behavior in terms of what would Jesus think ? And do you think corporations can't create phony grass roots organizations ?

Re:Is he serious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22820074)

> Repeat after me - "In terms of fundamental human behavior, the internet has not, and will not, change JACK SHIT."
> Politics is the way it is because of fundamental human behavior - greed, ambition, and apathy. No "series of tubes" will change that.

Here in the US, the "Founding Fathers" believed that a system of government could be created that would overcome such fundamental human behavior. They came up with some pretty good ideas, based on what had worked in the past, and what had not.

Ideas like the rule of law, popular election of leaders, limited terms of office, separation of powers, checks and balances, recognition of the rights of the people, blah blah blah.

They came up with the core of a pretty good system, and it seemed to be working fairly well... for a while...

The real question is, can the Internet help people motivate others, and facilitate those who are already motivated, to make a positive change?

Re:Is he serious? (4, Insightful)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820116)

I have to disagree with you there. The purpose is to start some sort of grassroots campaign or a watchdog group that will monitor what your senators are doing and try to force a level of transparency with them. This isn't really going to change human behavior, I'll agree with you there, but RTFA next time. It is trying to change the way politics are done. Your citation of apathy seems to be pretty accurate since all you are doing is sitting back complacent about the sad state of politics but don't care enough to try and change that.

Re:Is he serious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22820556)

Yeah look at how great the Internet has proved against reforming the politics in China! Can you say Tiananmen? Burma? Tibet? Look at the great strides. Yessir!

Re:Is he serious? (1)

rsborg (111459) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820558)

Repeat after me - "In terms of fundamental human behavior, the internet has not, and will not, change JACK SHIT."
Well, I guess I'm just going to have to refute you instead. The Internets have already changed politics as we know it, just like every other technological advance. Radio. TV. Mass-Mailing, Telephones... all changed the political fundraising and activity landscape as campaigns used these to reach their voters and to fund their campaign. In recent history, the 2004 election was dramatically changed due to Howard Dean's massively successful [marketingvox.com] internet-based fundraising and collaboration efforts. When the purse-strings of politicians are affected, politics is very easily changed.

Re:Is he serious? (3, Insightful)

thanatos_x (1086171) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820616)

Repeat after me - "In terms of fundamental human behavior, the printing press has not and will not change anything."

Should all technological innovations should be ignored as they don't change human nature, nor could they influence something that does, such as education? I'll agree that humanity has changed very little in the past 2,000 years, and the fundamental nature of politics hasn't changed much - there's still deception, ambition, alliances, etc., however it has changed the effectiveness of certain aspects. Voters (a largely foreign concept 500 years ago) are now more educated, the butterfly flapping its wings on the other side of the world causes hurricanes where it was ignored before, ideas can spread to the masses very quickly, etc.

So while maybe the fundamental nature hasn't changed, but how things are gone about certainly does. Your position is akin to saying that because the objectives of war are the same (erode your enemy's will to fight), machine guns, airplanes and the drastically increasing importance of public opinion are unimportant in war, when in fact they've fundamentally changed how it is fought, even though the fundamental goal is the same.

Re:Is he serious? (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820664)

Politics is the way it is because of fundamental human behavior - greed, ambition, and apathy. No "series of tubes" will change that.
Yeah, I mean it doesn't change anything that an information takes 100 ms to cross the country or 10 days. It doesn't change anything that anyone can search in news archives freely and in the blink of an eye.

The former makes it possible to have a less centralized government, the latter makes a transparency policy possible and cost-effective. Lobbyism is called corruption in other countries. It is not an inevitable flaw of any political system, it is a correctable flaw of the US political system. Lessig tries to debug that, using technologies that could dramatically reduce the costs of such a campaign. I, for one, welcome our overlords' cleaning effort.

Re:Is he serious? (1)

Vrst1013 (1216232) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820904)

Why is Lessig still attracting an audience? He lost the slamdunk Microsoft anti-trust case, none of his work on copyright has amounted to anything, why is he still in the news? Aside from a killer resume and an ear for self-promotion, what's he got? He's famous for being famous, which is a cushy job.

Re:Is he serious? (1)

AgentSmith (69695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822902)

Dunno.
Maybe it is because he's a lawyer who understands technical issues.
He actually tries to tackle some legal issues we harp constantly on everyday at /.

Being a David in this age of Golliaths gets you some kudos.

Re:Is he serious? (1)

pseudochaos (1014063) | more than 6 years ago | (#22823232)

Great questions, but they don't fall into the realm of relevancy. What's important about this article is the potential for transparency in government, so that we can slowly crawl toward our national ideal of democracy.

Re:Is he serious? (2, Insightful)

thestreetmeat (1055390) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821344)

This isn't about changing fundamental human behavior. It's about increasing transparency, which in turn will increase accountability. If a politician is held accountable by his constituents, it doesn't matter how greedy or ambitious he is.

Re:Is he serious? (2, Insightful)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822470)

Myamar?
The riots of the people in Myamar earlier this year are a good example of how the internet is changing the world. Without the internet, word would not have gotten out about the huge protests, monks getting killed, etc. The country had a clampdown on all other media (and thought it did on the internet), so we would not have heard anything about it.

Now the fact that nobody did anything other than to say pretty words is a completely different topic.

Hopeful (3, Insightful)

SpuriousLogic (1183411) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819910)

This all depends not so much on what congressmen sign up as it does exposure to the general public. If you can get enough constituents to be aware of this, then you can force the members of congress into it. But unless this is somehow tied to American Idol, I seriously doubt the general American public will care. As long as they have their fast food and idiotic TV shows, they could care less about what happens in government.

My idea... (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820014)

This all depends not so much on what congressmen sign up as it does exposure to the general public

FTFA: Candidates can signal their intentions to take any one or all of the pledges by filling out a form at the organization's web site, which then formulates code that provides a graphic that the candidates can then place on their election campaign web sites.

This is my suggestion: Make it part of a subtle smear campaign, initially. In other words, all you need is one candidate who will be a part of this and advertise that the other guy isn't. That will imply the other guy is corrupt. Sounds like "clean" politics, but it'll start getting the others on board. I'm too cynical to believe that it will take anything less.

Re:My idea... (1)

SpuriousLogic (1183411) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820084)

That would work too, it would just need a politician with enough clout to pull it off. Even in a tight race, it could suck in two politicians, but unless the seat had an important position, most likely would only last the election. Like most anything, it needs critical mass. And the LAST thing politicians want is to be tied to their promises.

Re:Hopeful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22821060)

Perhaps we should consider a system where your vote is weighted according to civics.

Should the vote of somebody who doesn't care about what's going on really be weighted as heavily as somebody who actively watches and follows what's going on?

Note: I have no idea how we'd objectively compute the weighting function. That's an exercise for all of Slashdot. :-)

Re:Hopeful (3, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821446)

I had a simpler idea. Before the election, each candidate should fill in a 20-question multiple-choice exam about their policies. At the polling station, the voter has to fill in the same test. If the voter's opinions do not correlate with those of the candidate to a certain percentage, their vote should be ignored. An astonishing number of people vote for candidates who believe the opposite of what they do because their parents voted for that party, or they believed in that party's ideals a few decades ago when it still had some.

There would be nothing stopping a candidate from publishing their answers on flyers that voters could take into the polling station and copy, but at least it would encourage them to actually know what the candidate believes in. And then you'd have a legal, public record that could be compared against their track record at the next election.

Re:Hopeful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22821268)

"But unless this is somehow tied to American Idol..."

or link to it from the GOOGLE's frontpage

Could *NOT* care less! (1)

Elrac (314784) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821690)

Although I agree with your sentiment, I deplore your use of the phrase "they could care less".

Realize it or not, the fact that Government is screwing the people is related to the fact that people accept lies as truth. "Could care less" means caring a lot, which is exactly the opposite of what you mean to say. It's the same kind of thing as instituting a program called the PATRIOT act to screw the citizens, or saying "we do not torture" but vetoing a ban on waterboarding. Democracy is damaged when the truth is; and truth is shaped by language. Call me crazy for taking this seriously, but I do.

Nerds for Congress (1)

downix (84795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22819912)

What we need are solid, intelligent geeks out there running for congressional seats. We have a plethora of legal-types within our community who are faster at coming up with why things work, and why they don't, than those within Congress itself. We are the force to unify both Conservatives and Liberals. In general we like our personal freedom, but also know how to be individually free *within* a collective, and to use that collective for it's strength. We are the middle road.

Re:Nerds for Congress (1)

jnana (519059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22823096)

There's one minor problem with your suggestion: the Joe and Jane Sixpack will never vote for a "geek" when a "normal Joe" [in fact or appearance] is on the ticket as well.

Public Financing : Bad, Earmarks, Good (2, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820022)

I think taxpayer funded elections are the worst idea imaginable, because you ultimately tie the success of any candidate to a commission in government, who approves that finance. Such bodies are always politicized, and even worse, tend to favor established players and existing bodies. Nor do I think earmarks are bad.

First, I would advocate the internet model, with transparent donations. Let anyone donate any amount of money directly to their candidate of choice, and just have full disclosure over how much and who got what. If your candidate is 'Bill Gates boy', then it will be duly noted. But at the same time, if you work for Microsoft and are from that area economy, betting on 'Bill Gates boy', might well be in your interest.

Secondly, I have no problem with earmarks. Earmarks are comparatively small part of the federal budget and generally go towards pet district projects that generally do benefit the community from that district. If you don't like the way your Senator or Congressman does earmarks, don't vote for him or her.

If you want to really attack corruption in Washington, it is time to really dismantle the twin industrial complexes of defense and medicare. The defense industry is hip deep in all sorts of cosey relationships with the few mega-contractors that are left, and medicare is basically a buddy boy of the pharma industry. Any time a cut is threatened on both, we are treated to visions of [fill-in-the-blank country of origin] bombs exploding over all of our cities, or, millions of people dying because they were denied the latest $1000 a day super pill that only has marginally better efficacy than a $10 a day pill.

Sometimes, you just have to cut your risk aversion investments and focus on growth. No matter how much money we spend on security, if someone wants to bomb us, that bad, they are going to bomb us. And, people are going to die, no matter how much we spend.

So let's cap medicare and cut defense.

Re:Public Financing : Bad, Earmarks, Good (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820158)

If you don't like the way your Senator or Congressman does earmarks, don't vote for him or her.

Many (most?) congressmen run unopposed when running for re-election. Plus it's done by just about everyone, so there's almost no one to vote for who won't do it. The only option is not to vote, which won't change anything.

Earmarks are comparatively small part of the federal budget and generally go towards pet district projects that generally do benefit the community from that district.

We're still talking about billions of dollars annually. And much of that goes to large industry instead of local communities.

Re:Public Financing : Bad, Earmarks, Good (1)

gambolt (1146363) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821430)

You really want a separate floor vote every time a federal building needs a new elevator or a post office parking lot need repaving? They would never have time for important stuff.

Something else that a lot of people seem to miss is that pork=jobs. A congressman who brings jobs to a district with high unemployment will always be reelected.

A lot of Americans live out in the boondoggles where there is no work and industry has no reason to build. It takes public works programs and bribing industry to relocate to keep these people from starving to death. The alternatives are direct public assistance or paying relocation costs for everyone who lives in the boonies.

My family comes from Appalachian coal country. Between automation and the move away from using coal in homes and industry, there is no work in these one-time company towns unless someone wants to build a new road or widen a highway. It's no coincidence that everyone sells weed and meth in these places. It's how you feed your kids.

I'm all for public financing, but the kneejerk assumption that all earmarks are bad are insane. Sure there are a lot of boondoggles but there are a lot of valid ones as well.

Re:Public Financing : Bad, Earmarks, Good (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822818)

You really want a separate floor vote every time a federal building needs a new elevator or a post office parking lot need repaving?

Yes.

They would never have time for important stuff.

Right now they spend more time fundraising for campaigns than voting or writing legislation. Ideally they should spend more time doing their job than campaigning for it. Legislation should be hard to pass and take lots of votes so only "good" legislation gets through.

A lot of Americans live out in the boondoggles where there is no work and industry has no reason to build. It takes public works programs and bribing industry to relocate to keep these people from starving to death.

Move. Welfare through earmarks or welfare through the official welfare system is still welfare. If you live where all the jobs have dried up then move to where you can have a decent job. Lots of people do it.

And before someone responds with the typical, "Oh, you don't know what it's like," I've had family and friends move to other states for better housing and jobs. They're all much better off now.

Re:Public Financing : Bad, Earmarks, Good (1)

teh kurisu (701097) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820366)

I thought it odd that public financing was on the list too. It's been discussed here in the UK, and the prevailing opinion seems to be that nobody wants taxpayers' money to be spent on the campaigns of parties like the BNP [wikipedia.org] . Every system of party campaign finance is going to be flawed, but this seems like a flaw that nobody wants to stomach.

Re:Public Financing : Bad, Earmarks, Good (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821516)

In the UK, you do get some things free when you stand for election, such as one bulk mailing to everyone in your constituency and a certain amount of guaranteed TV airtime for party-political broadcasts if you field candidates in certain number of seats. On top of that, there are also strict caps on the amount a candidate is allowed to spend campaigning. The limit is around £30K per seat, which works out to around £0.50 ($1) per person in the constituency.

Re:Public Financing : Bad, Earmarks, Good (1)

gambolt (1146363) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821542)

This is the US. Public financing here would be used as yet another way to lock out third parties. I'm willing to bet that funding would be tied to either how many votes a party got in the last election or

If the result is public financing putting the Greens, Libertarians and SWP on the same footing as the Democrats and Republicans, that would be a dream come true for me. Since it's going to be the Republicans and Democrats passing any such law, I have no reason to think they are going to let go of their monopoly easily.

Re:Public Financing : Bad, Earmarks, Good (2, Informative)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820638)

You misunderstand how the system works. Taxpayer funding for elections works just fine in Canada and other civilized countries. Ensuring fairness is trivially easy, and it cuts those idiotic two-year American campaigns to a matter of weeks. And our politicians actually do real work, instead of spending every moment trying to raise more money so they can outspend their rivals in the next election.

There's still problems in Canada relating to lobbyists and special interests, and the system (though better than the US system) still has many flaws. But any slight tendency to favour existing parties is easily overcome. Canada's Green Party is knocking roadblocks aside right this minute, and will likely elect one or more candidates in the next federal election.

I agree with you that sacrificing civil liberties for security won't make you safe. And the cure is definitely worse than the disease.

Re:Public Financing : Bad, Earmarks, Good (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821260)

You misunderstand how the system works. Taxpayer funding for elections works just fine in Canada and other civilized countries. Ensuring fairness is trivially easy, and it cuts those idiotic two-year American campaigns to a matter of weeks. And our politicians actually do real work, instead of spending every moment trying to raise more money so they can outspend their rivals in the next election

First off, Americans actually like the elections and the democratic process, which is why we revel in it so much. Secondly, let the politicians, as I said, put up web sites, and eliminate caps on individual donors. Problem solved.

Re:Public Financing : Bad, Earmarks, Good (1)

TheSync (5291) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822238)

The funding of New Zealand's elections: Current problems and prospects for change [anu.edu.au]

Alleged Tory Internet scheme sparks call for probe [thepolitic.com] - making political blogging illegal.

"Stephen Harper's Conservatives are currently being investigated [blogspot.com] "by Elections Canada for allegedly orchestrating an elaborate money-laundering scheme that allowed them to spend more on national advertising than the law permits during the last election while attempting to get rebates for monies the national party hid by funnelling through Conservative candidate campaigns."

And our politicians actually do real work

Some would argue that is not a desirable outcome.

4 pledges (5, Informative)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820038)

Since the summary doesn't list what they all are. Here they are:
  1. No money from lobbyists or PACs
  2. Vote to end earmarks
  3. Support publicly-financed campaigns
  4. Support reform to increase Congressional transparency

Re:4 pledges (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820174)

I bet that it is possible to fund a decent lifestyle based on nothing but running a semi-successful campaign for a state office every two or four years, as long as the campaign is publicly financed. It might be possible to do this on a federal level also, which would just mean a better lifestyle. This brings up the possibility of the professional candidate who appears on the ballot every time but without ever winning enough votes to actually be elected to an office.

Eliminating the two-party system for lots and lots of marginal parties would certainly assist in the formation of this new and exciting career path. It would be possible then to have quite a number of these professional candidates.

Do you really think this wouldn't happen?

Re:4 pledges (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820566)

You just might be right, it might be entirely possible to be a "professional marginal losing political candidate."

But if the rules are done right, while it would be possible, I'll bet it wouldn't be very lucrative. I also suspect it would be *cheaper* than what we have today, where there are fewer are involved, but their "take-home" is a heckuva lot higher.

Re:4 pledges (2, Insightful)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820780)

Easy enough to fix. If the campaigns are publicly funded, then the amount of money handed out is known in advance. Then, demand that the candidates hand over invoices & receipts for the monies spent on the campaign, and all remaining monies. There: no living off the campaign funds. Sounds pretty reasonable to me!

Actually, in Australia, I believe the bulk of campaign funds are public in origin. Unfortunately, we also permit private & corporate donations, which means we still have a certain amount of undue influence (more's the pity). However, Australian politics do not appear to be (quite) as corrupt as American. For instance, I have a great deal of faith in our electoral administration; our elections are run by an NGO called the Australian Electoral Commission. Elections are strictly paper-and-pencil affairs, with counting done by hand, by volunteers, with scrutineers from any political party that wishes to attend. I would be shocked to the core if we had the same sort of shenanigans that seem to surround American electronic vote-rigging machines.

Re:4 pledges (1)

leono (76178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820832)

It's an interesting idea, but I definitely wouldn't see it as anything like a free lunch. It takes a lot of hard work (well, if you considering shmoozing hard work like me) to raise money. Lots of traveling and staying in hotels... You'd be basically a traveling salesman, selling the idea of yourself in office.

Re:4 pledges (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821432)

It takes a lot of hard work (well, if you considering shmoozing hard work like me) to raise money. Lots of traveling and staying in hotels...
Uh, you missed the part about... well, the entire thing we were discussing: public funding. If every campaign is paid for by the government, then you don't have to go around trying to raise private funding.

Re:4 pledges (2, Insightful)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821064)

3. Support publicly-financed campaigns

I never understood this one. Put the people worried about getting re-elected in charge of giving out money to their opponents? No room for corruption there huh?

Re:4 pledges (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821522)

Most likely, this is modeled on the British civil service. The people in charge of doling out the money will be civil servants, with no election to worry about for them. Not only that, but they can be fired for handing out more money to someone. Since this is a public office, the budget and budget allocations will be public, and the public can actually trace the handouts.

The idea is to remove the money disparity that people achieve by promising all kinds of things to deep-pocketed corporations and PACs.

Personally, I'd like to be able to contribute to politicians. But I'd like to remove all non-personal contributions. In other words, corporations and PACs cannot contribute, but individuals like me and you can. Yes, there are loop holes, but they can be tracked. Especially if all contributions have to be publicly disclosed.

Re:4 pledges (1)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821426)

1. No money from lobbyists or PACs
So the money will have to come straight from the heads of the oligarchy. The biggest open secret about politics is that all interests are "special interests". Banning money from lobbyists and PACs is just a way to shut out large groups of people that have NO power individually. If the politicos aren't being paid, they will have no reason to listen. At the end of the day, will Elizabeth Dole (my senator) listen to the CEO of Boeing and American Airlines, or a simple private pilot like myself, when it comes to how FAA policy will affect general aviation? Without the lobbyist hired by AOPA and EAA, I would have no voice.

      2. Vote to end earmarks
And next year you will have the same thing, with a different name. Congresspeople from Arizona will want to push billions into solar energy research. Nothing wrong with solar energy, but are they pushing for money to be spent on this research vs nuclear research because they expect the money to come rolling into their sunny state (vs Kentucky's mined state). How about supporting a bill to end unconstitutional Federal spending? They can still spend the money. They just have to go through the proper process (amend the Constitution in the prescribed manner).

      3. Support publicly-financed campaigns
In which case we hand over large sums of money to random "candidate" that then use the money to try to convince us how much money they can bring back home vs the other "candidate"? Why not just remove money from the equation and support publicly-financed debates. Ones where every candidate gets to submit questions, and every candidate has to answer the same one. The problem with our current campaign paradigm is that the media is a co-conspirator to keep the public in the dark. Pouring more money into this cesspool will just dilute the contents, not clean it out. Hearken back to the South Carolina Republican Debate. Everyone gets a serious question about fiscal policy, then they mock Ron Paul with a question about beliefs of some of his supporters. Why was each candidate asked a slightly different question, and one completely mocked? You want more money for that sort of nonsense?

      4. Support reform to increase Congressional transparency
Vague, but commendable. Force all meeting to be open, recorded, and made available in a YouTube like manner. Heh, I'm with you on this one, Lawrence.

Re:4 pledges (1)

lbgator (1208974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822314)

1. No money from lobbyists or PACs

At the end of the day, will... my senator... listen to the CEO of Boeing and American Airlines, or... [me], when it comes to how FAA policy will affect general aviation? Without the lobbyist hired by AOPA and EAA, I would have no voice.
You would have no voice because the lobbyists from Boeing would take over? ALL lobbyists would be banned from bribery (yours and their's). Without money to cloud her mind, your voice would be louder and clearer in the ear of your representative because your's would be the voice that can vote.

2. Vote to end earmarks

And next year you will have the same thing, with a different name. Congresspeople from Arizona will want to push billions into solar energy research.
I admit that I am not as knowledgeable here as I should be, but I think that you are technically wrong here. "Earmarking" is the process of delegating money without using one of the 13 appropriations subcommittees. If earmarking is banned, all money will be spent through a subcommittee, rather than by a single congressman with a lot of pull. Thus the Congresspeople wouldn't be able to put billions into solar energy research, they could only adjust how much goes into the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee. A large body of supposedly impartial, but appropriate people would then divvy it up as they felt appropriate (with Solar energy being one of many beneficiaries, if appropriate). There is still the potential for sliminess, but at least it is one level lower.

3. Support publicly-financed campaigns

In which case we hand over large sums of money to random "candidate" that then use the money to try to convince us how much money they can bring back home vs the other "candidate"?
There are potential valid arguments against this initiative. This one is not high on that list. Especially when you assume that pork barrel spending can be controlled.

4. Support reform to increase Congressional transparency

Vague, but commendable. Force all meeting to be open, recorded, and made available in a YouTube like manner. Heh, I'm with you on this one, Lawrence.
Um... One out of four isn't bad?

A politician's agreement to an abstract principle (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22820092)

Is like a college's student members of "student-faculty committees:" useless, except for the PR.

Use the 'net to draft legislation with wiki's (2, Interesting)

gethoht (757871) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820188)

Let's use the net to draft legislation as well! Senator Chris Romer of CO has proposed the idea of using a wiki as a way to have the people input their ideas into legislation:
http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/jan/29/skiers-might-get-become-citizen-lawmakers/ [rockymountainnews.com]

I think it's a great idea. To me it's one of the greatest ideas for implementing true democracy that I've ever seen.

Voters aren't the solution, they're the problem. (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820282)

IMO the two biggest issues facing the country right now are the war and the assault on civil liberties. Neither one of those, AFAICT, has been affected in any way by lobbyists, campaign contributions, or earmarks. Individual voters wanted security theater after 9/11, and that's what they got, at the expense of civil liberties. Bush got the war he wanted, not because of lobbyists or PACS, but because Congress is too spineless to ask hard questions. They were spineless about it because the idea of going to war was overwhelmingly popular with individual American voters. The basic problem is that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and our government is too big and powerful these days.

Re:Voters aren't the solution, they're the problem (1)

dbcad7 (771464) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822244)

the war and the assault on civil liberties. Neither one of those, AFAICT, has been affected in any way by lobbyists, campaign contributions, or earmarks.

If there weren't billions of dollars being made off of these, then maybe I'd believe that.

Some points against his pledge (0)

kcurtis (311610) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820294)

1) not accept contributions from registered lobbyists or PACs

You know, it seems great to make lobbyists and PAC's out to be the bogeyman. You can claim that they have undue influence over legislators. This greatly simplifies a complicated situation. Lobbyists and PACs also are the only ways that the little guy gets attention. With Congressional districts so large the average voter has difficulty making his voice heard, not because of evil congresscritters, but because there are too many of us in each district. So if you want your voice to be heard one way is to donate to a PAC that represents your views -- the AARP, VFW, move on, whatever. There is a PAC with a lobbyist who can make your voice heard. Without this only the richest folks will be able to afford to have their voice heard. I prefer the ability for collective voices to be heard.

2) support the abolition of "earmarks"

This is a terrible idea. If there are no earmarks then only the President has the ability to direct spending. I don't know about you, but this President has seriously lowered my respect for the ability of a President to do this in a fair manner. If the only control over EPA spending is by the President, how many anti-pollution programs will really be funded?

Yes, there should be more transparency to avoid situations like the Bridge to Nowhere, but even that funding was eliminated eventually.

The Congress is not only an equal part of our Government, but it is specifically tasked with the job of managing spending. Eliminating earmarks removes this power. Cutting a blank check for the President is a bad idea.

3) support reform to increase transparency in Congress.

No argument here.

4) support public financing of public elections.

I am ambivalent about this. I think it should be something to opt-in to, as it is in the Presidential campaigns. However, I believe that my giving money to a candidate or a cause is one way for me to promote my views -- it is an act of freedom of speech and expression. I am against infringing on the freedom of speech in any way. This administration has taken away enough of my freedoms without other people helping to take away even more.

Re:Some points against his pledge (1)

Changa_MC (827317) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820728)

This is the best analysis of the 4 pledges I've read anywhere.

Personally I'd only gotten as far as 1-bad, 2-bad, 3-good, 4-meh. I suspect 25% good ideas is the current state of congress, not an improvement.

Re:Some points against his pledge (1)

TheSync (5291) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821856)

3) support reform to increase transparency in Congress.

What the heck does this mean? This is typical political BS, it sounds good but has no meaning.

4) support public financing of public elections.

This will mean that those who are currently in power will control the purse-strings of elections. Is this really a good idea? Do you imagine that the Democrats and Republicans would allow say Greens or Libertarians to get any public financing? If you look at the history of ballot access, you will see that the major parties try to stifle independents and third-parties on a continuous basis. This would only give them another way to keep non-Demopublicans out of office.

Look, we've already had a range of quasi-unconstitutional "campaign finance reform" laws, and while they may limit your freedom of speech, they don't actually work.

What works is people not being idiots when they vote. No amount of "reform" from government is going to fix that problem.

I highly suggest The Myth of the Rational Voter [wikipedia.org] to understand that most voters are misinformed on basic economic points, and thus rather than think more democracy (or "more open","reformed", etc.) can help us, we should understand that the best use of democracy is not micro-managing the country, but simply throwing out the clearly incompetent.

Re:Some points against his pledge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22822358)

You know, it seems great to make lobbyists and PAC's out to be the bogeyman.
You've not addressed (a major part of) the point, which is not accept contributions. Lobbyists and PACs are, IMHO, good things. Politicians accepting contributions from them (a form of bribery)...not so much.

Agreed on the other items, though.

Re:Some points against his pledge (1)

lbgator (1208974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822442)

No. Wrong. I'm sorry to be rude, but you really must understand how our government works if you wish to fix it.

1) He didn't say abolish lobbyists. He said we should no longer "accept contributions from registered lobbyists or PACs". Lobbyists are good on some level, but allowing them to bribe is bad.

2) Congress spends the money. The president proposes a budget, but Congress does the actual money funneling. The normal process is for Congress to put money into one of 13 general purpose "bins". These bins are the 13 Congressional Appropriations Committees, which have documented processes for how their money is allocated. When Congress votes to fund a certain project (rather than a Appropriations subcommittee in general), that is called an Earmark.

3) At least you aren't wrong on this one.

4) So you feel that J. Q. Public has the appropriate amount of influence? You don't think that maybe the Waltons or Bill Gates has a wee bit more than 1/300,000,000th of a say? Think about what Lessig stands for... do you think he is trying to disenfranchise individuals?

Again, apologies for being snarky, but you are way off base on your points here.

Re:Some points against his pledge (1)

kcurtis (311610) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822964)

No. Wrong. I'm sorry to be rude, but you really must understand how our government works if you wish to fix it.

Well, having spent five years on the hill as a legislative assistant I'm guessing I know more about how this system works than you do. I had simplified it to make my points.

The budget process does not work the way you suggest. The President's budget is a wish list. No where does the President have authority to present a budget.

The House and Senate pass an overall budget. It has the amount of money to be spent, as well as general guidelines.

Authorizations are done by the committees that cover that part of government -- the Committee on Armed Services authorizes Department of Defense spending, for example. This is where individual programs are approved (authorized) for spending.

In addition, all spending bills originate in the House. This is really more by custom as the Constitution only regulates the origin of taxing bills. However, as much as Senators may argue that they have the right to originate spending bills, they do not really do so.

The main point is that, in the end, it is the Congress who is given the obligation to "provide for the common Defence and general Welfare", not the President. It is their job to prioritize spending. That is what earmarks are for. They are where the Congress says "you must spend $5 million fixing this highway". Any money not earmarked is at the discretion of the President.

It should also be noted that the President does not have to spend most of the money being appropriated. He can't spend it on something else, but he doesn't have to spend it at all. (This is in dispute, but in practice this is the current case)

You may not like the fact that Congress designates spending this way, but that is the way it was designed, and it works to balance the power of the President.

Oh, and you were wrong. Just adding that in because you insisted wrongly that you knew better how the system works.

Re:Some points against his pledge (1)

kcurtis (311610) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822994)

I typo'd an html code and this line got lopped out above the Authorizations line:

The budget is then divided up in two manners -- appropriations and authorizations. The job of the appropriations committee is to peg a number on the budget. They are not supposed to specify spending details any more than by department or branch

Re:Some points against his pledge (1)

keithjr (1091829) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822536)

2) support the abolition of "earmarks"

This is a terrible idea. If there are no earmarks then only the President has the ability to direct spending.

You seem to be misunderstanding the concept of earmarks [wikipedia.org] . It refers to riders attached to spending bills that stipulate exactly where the money goes, usually diverting funding to pet projects instead of the original intent of the bill. It does not refer to any spending bill. Congress can still pass funding for public schools, the EPA, whatever. They just can't slide in a small-print line to send X amount of this bill to My Brother Joe's Construction Company, etc.

Re:Some points against his pledge (1)

kcurtis (311610) | more than 6 years ago | (#22823090)

It is exactly as I noted. And nowhere in your reference does it refer to riders. The whole purpose of the Authorizations process in Congress is to specify earmarks. It is what Congress does with much of its time. Without earmarks you are giving huge sums to departments with no specifications. With earmarks Congress has its say on how the money is spent.


Congress is directed by the Constitution to provide for the "general welfare". If it believes that fixing Highway 1 is in the general welfare, and is not certain that the Department of Transportation agrees, it writes in an earmark for that project. That is its job.


So what Lessig proposes is to just give every department a sum of money and depend on that department to spend it. I guess if you think that this is a good idea you might oppose earmarks.


Of course, earmarks are the right and obligation of Congress to meet its duty to provide for the general welfare, regardless of the opinions of the President.


In the end, eliminating earmarks is bad for spending, bad for oversight, a violation of the duties of Congress, and maybe unconstitutional.

Re:Some points against his pledge (1)

keithjr (1091829) | more than 6 years ago | (#22823296)

So what Lessig proposes is to just give every department a sum of money and depend on that department to spend it. I guess if you think that this is a good idea you might oppose earmarks.

That's my thinking, yes. If you have a problem with your local transportation department, then you should take it up with them. The idea of our system of government is dividing power between the Federal, State, and Local levels. Earmarking breaches this principle by micromanaging the appropriation process, or doing the state/local levels' jobs for them.

To me, it's a question of who you trust. I'd prefer to keep some degree (not all, mind you) of authority in the local levels of government, since they are much more accessible to me. Thus, it's easier for me to hold those officials accountable.

And who is watching? (2, Insightful)

vinn01 (178295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820374)


The formation of this watchdog group, or any grassroots organization that aspires to be a movement, assumes that people have an non-short attention span. I think that's a poor assumption and most marketers would agree. It's a long known lesson that most people are far too lazy to pay attention for even a few seconds.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll reach for my remote control and go back to watching the pablum that network television is spewing. Change Congress? Well, maybe I'll change the channel.

Lessig, Ashdown, and the Internet-savvy politician (1)

davejenkins (99111) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820426)

This is continuing a hopeful trend. Lessig is aiming directly at Congress, Pete Ashdown (owner of the ISP www.xmission.com ) ran for Senate, and others are beginning to make their way into the political class. Soon enough ($DIETY willing) we will really see politicians who "get it" for privacy protection, data transparency, Open Source, and the social ramifications that those technologies bring.

Re:Lessig, Ashdown, and the Internet-savvy politic (1)

Random BedHead Ed (602081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821606)

Soon enough (Great Green Arkleseizure willing) we will really see politicians who "get it"

There, interpreted that for you.

- Humma Kavul, missionary of the Jatravartid people

I'm almost impressed. (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22820634)

The site is far, far better than it was when he was running for Congres, but it has a long way to go. I'm looking at it at work, and kind of enjoy the fact that it's partially broken in Internet Explorer.

I love the idea and sincerely hop it works. I'm critiquing it here in hopes they'll improve it farther. I want this thng to work!

I say "Partially" broken because the Google Map takes so long to load it SEEMS to not work; one would click a page link or the "back" button long before the map loaded. Perhaps I'm mistaken in thinking that this is an IE failure. I'll have to look at it in Firefox later.

More critique on the site:

  • + large print. Again, I'll have to look in Firefox to see if [Ctrl]-[+] makes the typeface larger.

  • + Good, easy navigation.

  • + Not image intensive

  • + No flash! Yay, I hate flash!

  • - Nav bar is blue on blue. Not all of us are under 30. Geezers have a problem with low contrast. This isn't a Jazz Jackrabbit site, after all.

  • - The margins are too big. It looks clunky and amateurish.

  • - <script src="http://media.change-congress.org/jsr_class.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
    <script type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8" src="http://media.change-congress.org/jquery-1.2.3.min.js"></script>
    <script type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8" src="http://media.change-congress.org/jquery-form.js"></script>
    I'll have to download these scripts later when I have more time to see what they do, but the mouseovers are surely included in one of the scripts. One of my own personal rules (YMMV) is "never use a scripting language unless it's absolutely, positively necessary." Plain vanilla HTML is always best when it is possible. A page that looks like plain vanilla HTML should be plain vanilla HTML.
  • - width: 50px;
                    }
                    #content {
                            width: 720px;
                            padding: 30px 30px 10px 30px;
    NEVER use absolute positionng unless absolutely necessary. You don't know your reader's screen size or resolution. My computer at home has a 42 inch monitor set at 512 scan lines; it's a TV set. It also has an old 14 inch monitor that's started malfunctioning, so I can't use the whole 14 inches.
  • -<ul> er, what's that for? There's no unordered list!

All politics is local (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821356)

The winning candidate represents the interests and values of his district.

That can be as simple a thing as replacing the cross-town bridge. It can as complex as providing food, medical care and housing for the elderly.

The winning candidates delivers the goods.

The present mood isn't for political reform as the Geek understands it.

It is a demand for attention to pressing domestic needs and a deep-rooted fatigue with the ideologues of the left and the right.

My only question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22821574)

Do we really need another CC acronym

"Cc me about using cc for the CC software"

What's Lacking....Trust. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22821618)

Yeah... And two weeks after this goes live, Karl Rove will have a team of twenty Young Republicans going in and sterilizing the records of all Republicans, then ruining the records of all Democrats. It will be like twelve-year-olds vandalizing Wikipedia, except this will be backed by money from a conservative think tank and will actually damage our society.

Transparency is the best solution of the 4 pledges (2, Interesting)

zuikaku (740617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22821742)

1. No money from lobbyists or PACs
      While we like to think of politicians as corrupt, money-grubbing jerks who'll take money from any lobbyist in order to stay in office, the truth is that most politicians already believe in certain causes and will gladly take money from their allies in those causes. The NRA is not likely to change the mind of an anti-gun senator with promises of money. That senator is likely getting money from an anti-gun group already, since that group's aims match his own. Perhaps this would be less true of corporate lobbying, but transparency could help alleviate this by letting voters see who a politicians allies are. If a politician were known to be taking Archer-Daniels money, and that politician then voted for more ethanol subsidies, I might be less likely to vote for him next time. Long story short, I don't think there is much quid-pro-quo going on, it's more an aligning of interests between pols and PACs. This is not to mention the potential freedom of speech issues of banning lobbying. After all, everyone has the right to petition the government.

2. Vote to end earmarks
      This is kind of like laws against profanity - "I know it when I hear it". One man's earmark is another's worthy cause. It would be ideal if we could prevent earmarks, but defining exactly what an earmark is in such a way as to make it difficult or impossible to pass another earmark without also impacting useful legislation is practically impossible. English is a rich language that lets you say one thing and mean another in some cases, and politicians are especially adept at using the language to get what they want. Transparency is the best choice here as well, since the only sure way for "obvious" earmarks to be stopped is if the people are aware that they have been attached to unrelated bills or perverted the intentions of related bills.

3. Support publicly-financed campaigns
      To me, this is the worst of all the pledges. Why should we have political welfare for people running for office? Do we really want our tax dollars spent so that some candidates can have an election allegedly free of special interests? Remember, he who controls the gold makes the rules, so public financing could be perverted into an institution that funds only "worthy" candidates, with "worthy" defined by whomever is currently in power. Even with the currently limited system for Presidential candidates, the candidates have to raise a certain amount of money and be subject to other restrictions that they find onerous. This is one reason why many of the present candidates did not accept public funding - it got in the way of raising the real sums they needed to win.

4. Support reform to increase Congressional transparency
      This is one pledge I can get behind, but the devil is in the implementation. Every donation to every candidate would need to be disclosed, preferably on the web, and there would need to be dire consequences if anyone was caught trying to hide a donation or the source of a donation. Every bill, including amendments and votes, would need to be available as well. All meetings would need to be open, meaning that the press (at the least) is invited and minutes are taken and made available on-line (with reasonable exceptions for things like national security issues and maybe a few others - of course, this can be perverted as well). There are numerous documents that the government has erroneously (or illegally, if it was to CYA) classified as secret which would need to be declassified, and better oversight for what can be classified should be put into place (perhaps this is a bit beyond the scope of Congress itself). Some of these things already exist, to some degree.

Re:Transparency is the best solution of the 4 pled (1)

TheSync (5291) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822032)

If a politician were known to be taking Archer-Daniels money, and that politician then voted for more ethanol subsidies, I might be less likely to vote for him next time.

If a politician voted for ethanol subsidies, I would be less likely to vote for him or her regardless of where they got their campaign money from, because ethanol subsidies are stupid.

Re:Transparency is the best solution of the 4 pled (2)

lbgator (1208974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822554)

No! NO! NO! I only read through your second bullet. Your first was off base, but your second is unforgivable.

An earmark is a process by which congress can "go around" the normal process of funding things. Please read a book or Wikipedia or something. This is the third post I've responded to where the parent has been way off base in their understanding of what an Earmark is. Congress, in general, funnels money into one of 13 general. These "pots" (Appropriations Subcommittees) have stated and precise ways for people who know to make decisions on what to fund. When Congress funds the Health/Human Services Subcommittee, and that board decides to put $XM into new hospital initiatives, and that board decides to put a new hospital in BFE - that is the designated process, NOT AN EARMARK. When a politician with a lot of clout decides that his district needs a new hospital and makes it happen, THAT IS AN EARMARK. There is a precise definition of earmark. You can argue whether earmarks are good or bad - but not whether individual legislation is or isn't an earmark. Apologies for being rude. But seriously... +4 Insightful? Larry Lessig is a very smart man who has clearly thought through what is plaguing our government. You don't even seem to know how our government works at a very basic level and you are going to critique the plan? And that gets marked "insightful"? On a completely different topic. Has anyone seen that movie "Idiocracy"?

Re:Transparency is the best solution of the 4 pled (1)

ZombieRoboNinja (905329) | more than 6 years ago | (#22823070)

"The NRA is not likely to change the mind of an anti-gun senator with promises of money. That senator is likely getting money from an anti-gun group already, since that group's aims match his own."

This is really bad reasoning, because it assumes that every issue has lobbyists and PACs for both sides of the issue, and that both sides are about equally well-heeled. This simply isn't the case, as anyone who's paid attention to politics for the past 7 (okay, 70) years will notice. Large corporations that pollute, injure people, mistreat their workers, lie to consumers, etc. have a lot more money that citizens' groups that oppose those things.

As a relatively minor example, take Comcast. They're pretty much a government-empowered monopoly in many places, and yet the government (to a large degree) lets them run rampant. Why? Because Comcast (obviously) has a large team of lobbyists and lots of funding, whereas pissed off customers have maybe a couple guys from poorly-funded consumer watchdog groups who also have 500 other corporate swindles to try to take care of.

Track Them ALL With Cameras! (1)

itsybitsy (149808) | more than 6 years ago | (#22822296)

Track ALL government people no matter which branch of government they are in at ALL times with Video and Audio Cameras! Only that business which is ON CAMERA and MADE PUBLIC at the time it's recorded is valid government business! POWER TO THE PEOPLE.

REVOKE your governments powers to make war. Revoke your governments powers to make arbitrary laws that impact your rights. Revoke! Take back your government from those who are in it! Record and publish everything online in real time.

Peace.

Call me cynical but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22822364)

..Lessig is far too optimistic. Given the current trend, I think it's a safer to bet on the Government to clean up the Net.

Executive Summary: Use computers more (1)

ThurlMakes7 (937619) | more than 6 years ago | (#22823022)

Great! So it's a big campaign to use the internet and cool tools like mash-ups and blogs and wikis, to, er ... what? He doesn't say.

All the great reformers of history, of whatever color or background, all had a positive view of what the wanted to do. They had specific laws to pass or repeal. Or, whether you agreed with them or not, they wanted to shrink government, or use government to defined outcomes... Fine. There was a vision there.

This sure looks and smells like a "campaign" - a great big crusade - but the only vision he has is more people using technical processes. The only faith he has, is more people using the internets must be good. So it's a SIM game of politics, with all the (real) politics taken out.

I guess the hyper-real is now realer than the real. Cool. Sign me to er, something. Or whatever! It's got to be good. Right? When can I start pushing buttons on my computer?

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