Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

If someone knows Lawrence Lessig personally and can deliver this message, please tell him to look at www.CorruptionManagement.com. The problem of political corruption (and all other varieties) can be solved very simply and very easily. The only thing that's lacking is the will of a few prominent people like Lessig to make the choice between corruption-free government and its usual variety.

Andrei Vorobiev

Lexington, KY

Feb 25 2010 - 1:48pm

My compliments on Lawrence Lessig's article and identifying the problems with the Fundraising Congress.

My compliments on Lawrence Lessig's article and identifying the problems with the Fundraising Congress. I spent thirty-four years in government and the problem he identifies of the pervasiveness of campaign funding extends well downward into the executive branch. As an example: after 9/11 it was decided in the DOT and the Congress that the FAA aviation security group had screwed up royally. In reality, it was the upper levels of the FAA (including the security heads), the DOT, the Congress and several successive political administrations that set the conditions for the failure of the FAA aviation security system on 9/11. Namely, the Air Transport Association (ATA) always opposed additional or new aviation security measures. It worked against any new security measures in the FAA Aviation Security Advisory Committee (I had a hand in establishing that committee in early 1989). If the ATA and the airlines were unsuccessful in their efforts to delay, amend or kill new or revised security measures, they then took their case to the FAA administrator, then the DOT secretary, the existing political administration and finally Congress. They also made very liberal contributions to campaign funds of Congressmen/women and members of the administration--in other words, they had them in their pocket. As a consequence, the aviation industry, with the money and the ability to make contributions to campaign funds, actually controlled the extent of the FAA's development, implementation and application of aviation security measures. This corrupting influence neutered the FAA's security system in the pre-9/11 days and still exerts a considerable influence on the DHS/TSA.

The extensive articulation of Lessig's identification of the nature of our problem with our Congress notwithstanding, he is too focused on his area of expertise, i.e., the legal profession. To me he is focusing on the "trees" and he needs to also focus on the "forest." The problem with our Congress is basically structural, in that we now have career senators and representatives, and the framers of our Constitution never visualized that situation. In any Constitutional Convention we need to address term limits, the limits of Congress's ability to involve itself in the running of the executive branch through hearings, etc. We need a fundamental restructuring of Congress, along with the measures Lessig proposes.

Mr. Billie H. Vincent

Oak Hill, VA

Feb 21 2010 - 11:49am

Web Letter

Jan Lundberg tells the truth. To change, we must change ourselves.

It is not Congress that is at fault. It is not "Obama." It is not some "them." It is us.

As Lessig said, loud and clear without realizing it: "Maybe that was his plan all along."

This is a country that righteously blames the hooker, but never the john. Because to do so we would have to admit that we are the johns, and indict ourselves. Blame not the prostitute, blame those who create the murderous, genocidal progeny-killing whorehouse. That's us.

We who live each day exactly as the members of Congress do. And they live each day exactly as we.

We kill millions of people, or enslave them, or destroy their irreplaceable DNA, or simply starve them to death. I don't think Lessig fails to see this--I know that he knows, but can't or won't tell the truth.

"As long as people think they can shop for what they need, and give their time and labor over to a boss or corporation, they will just be following the Wall Street elite and its Congressional friends down the slippery slope of petrocollapse and climate extinction." (Lundberg letter)

The fault dear is not in the stars or in Congress, but in ourselves. To create change, we must change.

David Rubinson

San Francisco , CA

Feb 14 2010 - 7:16am

Web Letter

The recent Supreme Court decision will stand unless there is a concerted effort to trim the power of corporations.

On the theory that a good defense is an offense, I suggest we say, "OK, if you are a person, not a handy fictional person for economic advantages, it is time to surrender those economic advantages." We could begin by taking away the favorable terms of the corporate income tax, and the corporation-person can pay like the rest of us people.

Then there is the entire question of liability: let them have personal liability like the rest of us. It will keep the lawyers busy for centuries, figuring out how to make all the shareholders personally responsible for pollution which kills and maims.

I left it to last--here is the pièce de resistance: the corporations get only one vote in the voting booth. Of course, we will no longer have the best Congress money can buy, but perhaps we can live with that.

Mary W. Carpenter

Prescott, AZ

Feb 13 2010 - 6:07pm

Web Letter

No president can work alone. The Bush/Cheney White House had the unquestioning cooperation and knee-jerk reaction of the Repubican members of the Congress. The Obama/Biden White House has had to contend with a Congress that has, for the most part, reacted as though suspicious of its party-leader president, treating his submissions with, if not hostility, then down-right cynicism.

Fear of failing in the next election and failure to obtain sufficient funds for a vigorous campaign may have led many an otherwise good public servant to balk at helping his/her president make true changes in the government. The perceived numbers and power of the far right--as demonstrated most tellingly by the so-called Tea Party, has led to pussyfooting around any suggested change.

I submit that President Obama's efforts to work the system and get his agenda passed is doomed to change unless the people of the United States get off their collective duffs and begin to make waves at least as high as those generated by the Tea Party.

Janet Daily

Doylestown, OH

Feb 12 2010 - 4:35pm

Web Letter

The US Congress is corrupt by the nature the role of money has in the campaign process. Money buys attention of our legislative members, this money influences future decisions. Our founding fathers envisioned citizen lawmakers serving their nation briefly and then returning to their previous jobs. Our “public servants” continue raising more money for the next campaign, driven to stay in office, and everything else is diminished. Thus, in order for our nation to solve our healthcare funding, make proper banking regulations, revive our ailing economy, or even create a sane federal budget, we need to stop this incessant drive for more campaign funds.

I believe we have a grand conflict of interest, whereas our nation suffers greatly. Not only do decisions get “gridlocked” due to multiple masters and therefore legislation rendered ineffective or lacking but our voters are increasingly becoming frustrated and cynical about our government, and that causes the voters to become either hostile or withdrawn. Neither of these positions foster effective citizenship or democracy that works.

So, what's the solution? Both the House and Senate have bills to limit the amount of individual donations to say $100 each, so that our total campaign fund could decrease and our lawmakers could focus on the task of lawmaking, not money-raising. Get involved and advocate to all who will listen. What about the Supreme Courts decision of January 21 in Citizens United vs. FEC? Later, that's different, but important. Think Continental Congress.

Daniel O. Rynberg

Yarmouth, ME

Feb 11 2010 - 8:46pm

Web Letter

We do not need a Constitutional Convention. We need to begin a movement now for an elegant amendment to update election law for our times:

popular vote, not electoral college;
short campaign with all media required to freely and fairly present candidates and issues for each election;
electronic voting system that correctly keeps track of our voices (they do it with our money now!);
introduce direct democracy with same system to augment polling data now and let people begin to legislate too

A well-written amendment would appeal to a supermajority of the left and right, coopt the tea parties from their leaders and set up the next election to begin changing Congress in a fundamental way.

bucky wilbury

Bisbee , AZ<a name="lundberg"></a>

Feb 9 2010 - 10:31am

Web Letter

While there's much truth in Lawrence Lessig's article, what he leaves out is the controlling part of the big-picture equation. He does not understand petroleum or how it will fail us and cause petrocollapse. Without petroleum in unlimited supply for food production, distribution, preservation and preparation, what do you think will result when there is a major oil crunch or crop failures, and food riots hit?

This can be triggered by a significant shortage in this age of peak oil, most likely from a geopolitical event. What will happen to businesses and the work force if commuting and trucking are stopped from lack of fuel for more than a couple of days? These questions are kept out of both corporate news media and the progressive press. Likewise, preparations for a transformation to a more localized, sustainable lifestyle are suppressed or occasionally given green lip service. It's as if the Obamas' organic White House food garden constituted a change in the way people were fed and treated the land.

The other blind spot in Lessig's limited political analysis is that he fails to see what the dominant culture's role is in North Americans' behavior. The scum rises to the top, so the aspiring and current members of Congress will take money any way they can to serve their corporate masters or other funders. It's not just a small class of greedy people ruining a country but rather a materialistic culture that believes in private gain and property over the needs of the community. Nature is something to milk until she's dry. So now we reap the whirlwind of climate change, loss of biodiversity, soil erosion and food security.

As long as people think they can shop for what they need, and give their time and labor over to a boss or corporation, they will just be following the Wall Street elite and its Congressional friends down the slippery slope of petrocollapse and climate extinction.

A symptom of a greater problem should not command all our attention. An example is the problem with Priuses. Please enjoy the cartoon on our recent story "Stuck Accelerators: Toyotas and the Fossil-Fuel Growth Economy."

Was "our democracy" ever ours? Exactly where does Lessig want us to get back to?

Jan Lundberg

Portland, Oregon

Feb 8 2010 - 4:01pm

Web Letter

Though not all politicians may not seek money, it does tend to find them--and affect what they do and say. What people should remember is that the First Amendment does not give citizens the right to say whatever whenever. For example, I cannot (as another letter writer seems to do) directly threaten the life of the POTUS. Nor can I scream "fire" in a crowded movie theater for the sheer thrill of it. For the same reason—the common good--we must put the brakes on corporate giving, not go in the opposite direction, as the Supreme Court does with its decision in Citizens United v. FEC.

I think Professor Lessig is right to support the Fair Elections Now Act and I thank him for naming corrupt names. Although it may be impossible to shame the shameless, people need to know who is on the take and to whom he or she is beholden (Max Baucus, $3.3 million from healthcare; John Campbell, $6 million from used car dealers; Evan Bayh, however much he can get his hands on; etc.). Our elected leaders know that Mark Hannah was correct when he said, "There are two important things in politics. The first is the money and I can’t remember the second." The rest of us need to stop pretending otherwise and act by supporting legislation that promotes public funding of elections.

Anthony Feschyn

Bloomington, IN

Feb 8 2010 - 2:28pm

Web Letter

Irrespective of either political views as either a Republican, Democrat, Liberal, or Independent, all citizens must hold accountable their legislators permitting government attorneys and judges to abuse the delegations from Congress under the Judiciary Act of 1925, the Rules Enabling Act, and US Judicial Conference Act. Court records of the past three decades provide evidence of a coup d’état by the legal profession in the Beltway to assume away the limitations, prohibitions and separation of power under our constitutional system, to deprive citizens of fundamental rights under the Constitution, deny access to impartial courts, assume away the right to civil jury trials and ignore the statutory rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Watergate legislation.

Isidoro Rodriguez

Annandale, VA

Feb 8 2010 - 8:20am