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Web Letter

I think this article, like many others similar to it, is very misleading. The author opens up by properly stating that Congress is the problem, then he does all he can to connect President Obama to those problems. Obama cannot force Congress to vote for the laws he push for. He cannot pressure Congress members to do anything either. This blame game needs to end.

And you conservatives that come in here with denigrating terms like "Obamacare" need to quit. That's "American-care" that the President is pushing for, be it all good or not. He is trying. And we will never know if it is a good try or not because he can't get Congress to act! And there is nothing President Obama can do about it.

Congress is the problem. But as of now, you can't properly judge Obama because he has no support from nearly 100 percent of the Republicans and just enough Democrats to basically oppose anything he tries. Which is why he is doing all of this negotiating that Lessig criticized him for.

As Americans we cannot gain by falsely accusing this president for things he have no control over. People, especially you conservatives, this is your country and defending the interest of big business does not help any of us--including conservatives.

Khazeem Asadullah

New Orleans, LA

Feb 8 2010 - 7:55am

Web Letter

We are in a deep hole. The economy has tanked and the tankers are still running the show--the show being our so-called people's democracy.

Read and weep: “Goldman stood to gain from the housing market’s implosion because in late 2006, the firm had begun to make huge trades that would pay off if the mortgage market soured. The further mortgage securities’ prices fell, the greater were Goldman’s profits.” (From today’s New York Times (2/7/10), "Testy Conflict With Goldman Helped Push A.I.G. to Edge," by Gretchen Morgenson and Louise Story.)

Goldman-Sachs placed bets that the housing market would tank, made a fortune when it did tank, and then took billions more in the government bailout. Who is this beast?

Goldman Sachs--a k a Government Sachs, a k a the place that does God's work, bled AIG dry? And then the government gave them even more money? It all proves one thing: GS runs the government and probably the world. They make their money selling illusions and bubbles. They make nothing real. These illusionists control our economy, and since they own the royal road to riches and are holding on tightly, they are leading the rest of us lemmings over the cliff.

Howard Kaplan

Belmont, MA

Feb 7 2010 - 5:59pm

Web Letter

It seems that most citizens, Mr Lessing and President Obama's campaign agree, "fundamental change" is needed. I believe Mr. Lessig's Constitutional Convention is a good approach--albeit one that is meant to raise "awareness" rather than actually get the votes it needs to pass.

Assuming the ultimate goal is to have a Congress that reflects the will of the people, I propose the following:

The basic premise is that voting on bills by members of Congress should be continuously measured against the will of the people. In order to measure citizens against their officials, citizens must have the ability to vote on the same bills.

Imagine tens of millions citizens voting on various bills, equaling hundreds of millions of votes. What would happen if a senator's constituents voted no and he or she voted yes? Would this event influence the senator's future behavior? Would it make them give second thought to the policies they support if they knew a clear public display of their opposition will be available? I believe it would. The important thing to differentiate here is that this is not an online petition. Such a system would have to be centralized, neutral and therefore truly reflect the will of the people.

I must admit that I am a proponent of such a system because of my part in a website that is trying to achieve the above result. Voteocracy.com is a site that was designed to allow citizens to take deliberate, measurable action on the bills that affect their lives. I don't believe we have realized the potential of the Internet as a tool for change. With some support, sites like Votetocracy can have enormous influence over the Congressional representatives that we elect.

David Kraljic

West Orange, NJ

Feb 7 2010 - 4:31pm

Web Letter

I still see the belief that government is inherently evil coming from the words of some letters in response to Mr. Lessing's essay. This belief is contrary to what government actually does on a daily basis--the belief that government is always wrong, the wrong choice, not a "solution" to whatever societal problems we may have.

Reagan so popularized this "government is the problem" thinking that it is still within the minds of those who heard him over forty years ago.

When the basic government of our society is so utterly damned, reviled and scorned as a basic tenet of running this society, this bias influences everything and results with the type of government we have today. Government is the bad guy, the boogie man. For forty years we got rid of as much government as could be done. The world we see today in America is thanks to such thinking.

I didn't hear Mr. Lessing cite this simple fact in his essay of what is wrong with Congress today. The complexities of life are such that it requires acknowledging such basic tenets of American political thinking. This is just so much of a given in the psychology of the American individual.

To omit this mighty influence leaves this essay devoid of the political mindset whereby such "reform" is all about.

Bernard Eckholdt

New Orleans, LA

Feb 6 2010 - 9:31pm

Web Letter

Lawrence Lessig's essay is a valuable contribution to fixing what's wrong in Washington but he only goes halfway. Here are a couple of additional ideas to fix the problems.

1. Enact strict term limits. There is no reason for people to make a career of being in Washington and away from the people they are suppose to represent. A Congressman/woman who cannot get anything done in three terms does not deserve to remain for more than that. Senators should be gone after two terms. I am even in favor of establishing terms for federal judges (i.e., fourteen years, one term).

The arrogance of a representative or senator assuming he or she knows what's best for us is the real driving force behind the Tea Party "movement." The career politician assumes that there is no one else who can do the job well, which is a bad assumption at best. Power corrupts, therefore the possessors of power should be limited.

By "strict" term limits, I mean one person serves a net of three terms in the House and cannot go to another district and run again and cannot sit out a term and run again. Three, period. Tow for senators, period.

2. Change the culture of Congress. Democrats and Republicans largely refuse to associate with each other, even over lunch. This is the responsibility of the leadership and it's long past time for the leadership to change this. Now!

3. Change the way campaigns are run. If you want the people to make an informed choice, make the candidates and the parties do away with the nonstop campaigning (television spots, radio spots, robo-calls, etc.) and force the candidates to meet face-to-face in actual debates about actual issues on local television. A debate, by the way, includes a presentation of positions followed by rebuttals, etc. "Town halls" are not debates.

The current methodology of campaigning assumes that the voters are not intelligent enough to sort through the issues and make informed decisions and that they must be led by the hand to whatever conclusion the candidate or pary has taken. As I said before, this arrogance is what is behind the Tea Party. You ignore the "tea-baggers" at your peril.

Again, I am grateful to Lawrence Lessig for starting the conversation. Let's carry it forward in a manner that will result in the eventual restoration of the democratic republic we want.

Patrick Crawford

Kansas City, MO

Feb 6 2010 - 11:50am

Web Letter

It's interesting to read somebody with a sharp left-leaning perspective describe Congress as fundamentally broken, a charge that's been made equally fervently by the Tea Party crowd. Regardless of how it came to be, and whether it's about a body hijacked by financial corruption, or simply slothful and unresponsive, is really beside the point.

The core failure is not, as Mr. Lessig asserts, that Congress fails to deliver the laundry list of items he references (centralized healthcare, cap and trade, etc.). The failure is that they're being requested in the first place with no clue as to how to pay for them.

I thoroughly agree with his thesis that Congress is broken and that the legislative process will prove insufficient for a resolution. I, too, believe a constitutional amendment (whether through a convention or otherwise) is required to reform that institution, and the underlying problems that are surfacing through Congress. The amendment we need, however, is a limit on the ability of Congress to increase the debt limit.

Far from being unresponsive, Congress is delivering exactly what people are asking for, and it's bankrupting the country. Let's figure out how to pay for the goodies we want (and ensure that we do pay for them) before blaming our representatives. Like any project faced with an impossible, contradictory and mandatory set of requirements, our budget and our Congress will fail until we bring some sanity and realistic expectations to our requests.

Scott Grabo

Annandale, VA

Feb 5 2010 - 11:02pm

Web Letter

The appearance of such an article in The Nation, written by, of all things, a Harvard Law professor, gives me hope for the future of this republic. However, there are a couple of things I would like to point out, since they were not addressed.

First, Mr. Lessig's claim that it is progressive to wish an "end to global warming" is dubious. A great deal of evidence has recently come out showing that the climate debate is not nearly as settled as was once believed. Also, if Mr. Lessig is not aware of the blatant economic self-interest that people on Wall Street and in positions of high financial power all over this world have in whether or not we begin trading carbon credits on a massive scale, he hasn't been doing enough reading. Even if climate scientists return to the practice of extremely rigorous and transparent data-gathering and analysis and, in so doing, prove beyond all remaining doubt that human-caused global warming is a genuine problem, that does not automatically mean that "cap and trade" is the best (or only) solution.

The problem is not necessarily the purchase of votes for one bill or another one, The deeper problem is there are entire groups of solutions to problems that are not proposed at all because of the influence of corporations and foundations. People decry the influence of insurance companies in defeating the current healthcare legislation, for example. I, on the other hand, decry their influence in shaping it in the first place. If we want decent coverage for all Americans, why has no one even brought up for consideration the repeal of the HMO Act of 1974? I would argue that neither the president nor Congress is considering it because it would just be too radical for the insurance interests.

Given the choice, of course, the HMOs would rather have no controls at all. But if they are going to have to cover people with pre-existing conditions, well, then they just must be allowed to charge top-dollar. They must be guaranteed a certain number of new accounts. This is blatant evidence of the type of corruption Mr. Lessig writes of.

Lastly, Mr. Lessig is quick to remove blame from President Obama's shoulders and place it squarely on the business-as-usual Congress. I would like to remind Mr. Lessig that President Obama chose his cabinet and his czars. He claimed he would stop the Patriot Act, then he extended it. He campaigned against NAFTA and GATT, then he sent one of his people to Canada to let the Canadians know those comments were just campaign rhetoric. He chose Larry Summers, who was one of the architects of the destruction of Glass-Steagall. He has continued the Bush policies of use of the unitary executive and of ethics waivers, all the time claiming he stands for something other than business as usual. President Obama could set a good example by cleaning up his own act before asking the Congress, as he did during SOTU, to work to restore the people's faith in government.

Kyle Partridge Klain

Nashua, NH

Feb 5 2010 - 7:15pm

Web Letter

I heard Lessig's discussion with Hugh Hewitt yesterday and wanted to read his article myself. Hewitt obviously pulled a bait and switch to get Lessig on the program, where he did anything but talk about the central points of Lessig's argument.

That said, what starts out as a balanced and thoughtful piece is ultimately betrayed when Lessig casts the principles of of conservatives and progressives as being US-focused versus globally focused, as if the consrvative movement has no need or understanding of the greater issues faced by the whole planet.

Only the progressives see the entirety of the needs of humanity on the earth--not!

Our government is corrupt because, as another letter states, we have become an Empire and have failed to uphold the integrity and basic concepts within the Constitution that would preserve the Republic.

I pray not, but it may be that we continue lurching toward moral and economic ruin until the only tools left to right these great wrongs are the First and Second Amendments.

Ron Miller

San Diego, CA

Feb 5 2010 - 3:52pm

Web Letter

I fully agree that our government is and has been purchased by the caviar and Pinot Noir crowd. The Supreme Court decision only clarified and legalized for the final time Buckley v. Valeo, and for the average voter has essentially gone unnoticed. Not because they are stupid, dumb, don't care, but because they have realized that the government doesn't care about them and doesn't work for them. They have been labeled protectionist, parochial, populist, uneducated etc. They have watched their sweat equity being traded to China on some grand scheme that China would become a democracy and improve its human rights, "rising tides lift all boats"; instead, we have ended up with a super-rich minority. Ten percent of us own 80 percent of the country's wealth and we have a political swamp for a country. The reality is that both political parties have been doing this kabuki dance for public consumption knowing full well that doing nothing is much safer than risking the ire of the powerful. The verdict on Obama is still out, but you are correct, he seems to have fallen into the same Washington swamp.

james l. pinette

Caribou, ME

Feb 5 2010 - 9:48am

Web Letter

Your article does run on but misses some important points. What the 11/08 election showed is that too many people didn't do their homework and adequately research where Zero was coming from and where he wanted to take this nation. Namely to become a very oppressive and tyrannical socialist state.

This was borne out by some of the many parts in Obamacare and cap-and-tax. The whole reason for their being was to completely oppress this country with Obamacare and make the citizens of this country into feudal serfs without two nickels to rub together by making energy prohibitively expensive. FYI, the wheels have come off the AGW scam. Funny thing, this is being reported outside this country so much more than within this country. Of course, the Lame Stream Media still doesn't understand why they are going out of business. But, this has been the goal of the repressives (liberals) that run the Democrap party for many years. Namely, that we should alternately starve and freeze to death in our unlit homes without any utility services. All of us in flyover country are just too stupid to live.

This asinine attitude on the part of the repressives has become more than a little irritating when they started saying it more openly and publicly as they seemed to be reaching their goal to rule us all.

What you also fail to, or don't want to, acknowledge is the business that started booming after the 11/08 elections. FYI, many of us are keeping our large stores of powder dry.

The SOTU clearly demonstrated that Zero completely misread what happened in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts. All he is going to do is dig himself a bigger hole. Unfortunately, if he doesn't back off, it will be put to a use that he can't imagine. I have no respect for Zero and would hope that he will come to his senses, but the NPD isn't helping. In any case, I cannot change anything myself. However, it sure doesn't look like this is going to happen.

Robert McCall

Sheffield, VT

Feb 5 2010 - 12:47am

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