More on the meaning of "change"

Both Dems say they are for “change” in Washington. One (the one who believes lobbyists represent “real Americans”) is the leading recipient of earmarks. From “day one,” business as usual. That’s “change” in Washington-speak.

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30 Responses to More on the meaning of "change"

  1. slag says:

    Hillary’s demonstrated willingness to take lobbyist money is my primary objection to her. She’s the top recipient of pharmaceutical money and a huge recipient of defense contractor money.

  2. I think you underestimate Clinton. There could be change towards more earmarking.

  3. Evan says:

    The article’s first sentence states that Clinton is “among the top 10 Senate recipients of what are commonly known as earmarks.” She is not, as you claim, the “leading recipient.” That honor belongs to Thad Cochran, (R-Miss.), who brought home nearly a billion dollars of bacon. Please be more careful in your boosterism.

  4. Steve Baba says:

    And the second paragraph of the article starts with:

    “Working with her New York colleagues in nearly every case, Clinton supported almost four times as much spending on earmarked projects as her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination”

    So Clinton (working with NY colleagues) is only 4 times as bad as Obama.

    Sounds like I only beat my wife as a fourth as much as you beat your wife argument.

    And adjust for the size , population, taxes paid of NY to IL, and one could make the argument that they are about the same.

    And its not really new news that Clintons take money. It will be new news to all these idealists that Obama does.

  5. bnb614 says:


    “Clinton went after Obama, tying him to nuclear interests and blaming for doing little to stave off job losses in Illinois.

    “My opponent says that he’ll take on the special interests,” she said. “Well, he told people he stood up to the nuclear industry and passed a bill against them. But he actually let the nuclear industry water down his bill the bill never actually passed.”

    Clinton was referring to Exelon Corp., a Chicago-based energy giant and nuclear plant operator, whose executives and employees have contributed more than $200,000 to Obama’s campaigns since 2004. This month, The New York Times examined whether Obama, at the behest of Exelon lobbyists, had weakened legislation aimed at tightening regulations on the nuclear industry.”

  6. Steve Baba says:

    Living in the DC area and seeing a hard copy of the story, there is a graph and chart of their earmarks that makes it clear that Clinton (with her NY colleagues) is NINTH, putting here among the top 10, but not “the leading”/number one.

    The online versions of the Washington Post can be confusing and don’t automatically show graphs and charts UNLESS you click on the very small button showing three bars (symbol of a bar graph) at the bottom of the “This Story” box, below the title and comments option.

    The same article also states:

    “Obama has been criticized for using a 2006 earmark to secure money for the University of Chicago where his wife worked until last year.”

    I don’t know anything about it; if it’s kosher or not, but it makes me wonder why the Harvard Law School does not teach students to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

    Also, while a good chunk, but not all, of the $18 billion in earmarks is wasted due to the lack of competitive bidding and not choosing the best program, $18 billion is not relatively that important. Tax breaks and other preferential treatment, such as for Iowa farmers for grain, are far greater.

  7. By the way, this all is a small example of why I keep saying that data-mining is no path to truth. All the factoids are embedded in a very selective (money driven, highly politicized) media ecosystem, and the Z-listers correcting the A-listers doesn’t seem to have much effect.

  8. Steve Baba says:

    John McCain read the same Washington Post article and referred to it in a speech that made ABC nightly news, bashing both Obama and Clinton. He took an extra dig at Obama for getting “only” getting $82 million because he was the “junior” senator (read inexperienced) and for not releasing his 2005 and 2006 earmark requests.

  9. I heard an interview with Newt Gingrich, discussing the election. His opinion was that whichever presidential candidate succeeded in being seen as the candidate for change would win.

  10. Tom Poe says:
    This article has nothing to do with the post. Or, does it? Does it go to the heart of the problem of earmarks, lobbyists, corruption in politics?

    Bachmann pays huge sums of money to hold state-of-the-art town hall meetings with her constituents. Or does she? Has she chosen to support corporate outsourcing of her office? Who is deciding which constituents will participate in her online town hall meeting?

    The Internet makes it possible for anyone to set up a town hall meeting, and the cost is not in the equipment. The equipment requires a cheap desktop computer with a VoIP software capability. If video is added, the addition of a cheap webcam and videoconferencing software that is freely available can be obtained. There is freely available software to enable broadcasting across a network, Internet, or across the airwaves which we own. So, why does Bachmann pay the huge sums to a corporation to handle logistics? Where is the bottleneck that prevents our civil society to engage in democracy with town hall meetings controlled by the public, not a corporation? It resides in the issue of broadband infrastructure.

    Once the country embarks on a broadband infrastructure policy that encourages access to reasonable wholesale pricing for broadband access, the way our elected representatives gather their research on topics important to their constituents changes dramatically. The voice of the public is going to be able to be acknowledged, heard, and heeded. Politicians will no longer be able to talk about earmarks, or bringing home the bacon, without the help of their employers, the public. They will do so, as elected representatives carrying out the tasks assigned by their bosses, the public.

    Now, that’s change. Imagine if a national town hall meeting was able to be coordinated on every computer across the country, connected to broadband infrastructure that was affordable for all, and 150 million voices spoke out at once about how they felt about . . . . well, name your hot issue. Sit back, and dream.

  11. King Rat says:

    Well, Obama may not be buyable (I’d debate that) but for sure he’s willing to buy. Both he and Clinton have been giving PAC money to super-delegates for their campaigns. And in this case, Obama is in the lead.

  12. Evan says:

    Tom: There are 300 million Americans. There are 535 living members of Congress. Now, like my fellow Southerner Mike Huckabee, I didn’t major in math, but a little back of the Bible calculation tells me we’ve got several hundred thousand citizens (never mind the illegals) for every Congressman, Congresswoman, and Congresschild in Washington. Let’s take a figure from my average high school Old Testament class, and say that one in twenty people wants to ask a question, and a question takes about, oh, two minutes to respond to. 300 million people… 535… carry the 2… sixty minutes in an hour… subtract sixteen minutes of commercials… almost there… two of each species… times ten commandments… GOT IT. A town hall meeting will need to run 10 hours a day every day all year round if everybody’s going to get their question in. This leaves very little time for Congressmen to golf.

    The point is it’s not because of the money, it’s because of the math: national politics will continue to be a spectacle, because “mass democracy” is logistically (not to say ethically) impossible.

  13. Evan says:

    And Seth: I am no “Z-liste[r] correcting the A-liste[r].” I (sir) am a proud gray-named no-lister.

    If I did have a blog, I imagine it would fall somewhere in the P-Q-R-S range. My hypothetical blog would still fall short of “Buxom Brooklyn Bartender,” but it would certainly whip “I Teach Poor African Children in Africa (And All I Got Was a Loss of T-Cells)”, at least in the Technorati rankings. Given my expertise in long division and my facility with times tables, combined with my highly cursory knowledge of world religions, and my fear of illegal substances, I was thinking about targeting the math/Bible study/anti-drug niche (call the blog “490”… you know, try co-opt “420” (or is it 240, I forget) while slipping in a little friend called Matthew 18:22). What do you think?

    On to the point: A rumor gets going when a credible individual says something that is more than false but less than true. We’re just helping Lady Truth find her granny panties so she can catch up before the next blog cycle. I’m not out to overthrow the media-industrial complex, I just calls ’em as I sees ’em.

  14. Mark Osler says:

    The other day a man on a street corner who was holding a jangling coffee cup asked me for “change.” Because of the way the word has been used so often in this campaign, my brain heard his request as a plea for societal change, not dimes.

    And perhaps it was, and if so, it was more sincere than those of the candidates, who will benefit from the political structure staying the same once they are in office.

  15. Rick Rushing says:

    Good point, Steve Baba. It appears that Republicans are going to push the earmark issue. McCain is well positioned and the fact that Bush has been hammering Congress on it even before the Democratic candidate is known indicates that they’re going to work it hard. This has Karl Rove written all over it. It’s not just a conversation-changer; it’s seriously insidious.
    We’re already disenchanted with the House of Rep’s. Virtually nothing that we elected them to do has been accomplished. They seem impotent, even subservient, to Bush. They could have impeached him but passed on the basis that we’d just have Cheney. The most impeachable president since Nixon got a free pass, effectively tacit approval from the Congress. Further, they’ve allowed Bush to get the PR mileage from the economic incentive program.
    So it plays as: “We’re at war. Homeland security must be provided. The economy is struggling. Congress keeps earmarking with total abandon.” Absurd, of course, given the past travesties of the Bush administration, but the collective American memory is short and and goes to zero as we approach an election. It works because earmarks are inherently odious. The idea that a lawmaker might have a different opinion about a key piece of legislation if his pet earmark is included IS pretty smelly.
    What does the House do? “Business as usual” and get hammered by Bush all the way to the election? Back off the earmarks and appear, yet again, to be “managed” by Bush? A pointless non-binding resolution? It’s a very sticky wicket.
    We the people would probably like to see more scrutiny of earmarks; even cost-benefit analysis. At the same time we’d probably like to see the presidential “signing memo” throttled back. What started as simply a presidential position statement has turned into a controlling document; a flat-out refusal to enact or enable a bill or certain provisions of it. Unconstitutional to my thinking.
    But the Democrats won’t go there. They figure to get the presidency and the power of the signing memo in January. Even if, in a moment of ideological clarity, they tackle the issue it would entail, in my view, nothing less than a constitutional amendment. Both the earmark and the signing memo are “assumed powers never contested.”
    So once again Karl Rove earns his paycheck. The war, homeland security, the economy, border issues, and China are old issues with neither party holding the sure-fire winning cards. “Earmarks” may well be the issue that comes out of nowhere and changes the landscape.
    Rock – Democratic Congress – hard place.
    The Democrats cannot let this issue dominate. They will constantly be on the defensive. They must push a counter issue and I can think of none better than the Protect America Act (PAA). The House simply must take a stand with absolute resolve.
    I suspect that very few Americans understand the issue. Fine, enlighten them. Drag it out. Force Bush and McCain to address the immunity issue and the underlying issues instead of allowing them to constantly ping on the politics of fear. The House owns the high ground here; they need to show some guts and use it.
    This is not just an ideological argument. Bush is on the hook with the telecoms (and the Constitution); big time. He’s got to compromise or back off. As for the telecoms: they’ll scream and yell but in the end they’re businessmen. They’ll get over it.

  16. lars lopy says:

    Taking lobbyist money has never set well with a lot of people. Money should never be the main reason a person wins.

  17. dbt says:

    King Rat, to anyone actually interested in building the party that says that Obama is committed to that idea, while Clinton largely kept her extra war-chest to herself (even while spending a ton of money on her relatively unopposed 2006 re-election).

    It’s a net win to Obama. And note that he’s been doing it long before it seemed that anybody would care about “superdelegates”. These are simply elected Democrats.

  18. Worth noting that unlike Clinton or Obama, McCain doesn’t request earmarks. One of the very few areas where he’s better.

  19. Steve Baba says:

    Newt Gingrich was likely promoting his own book titled REAL CHANGE, and not endorsing Obama. But the title of the book shows the meaningless of the term change.
    Didn’t the Beatles have a song.. .. We all want to change the world….

    Many of you seem to be making the classic mistake of underestimating your opponent; both Hillary and McCain, in everything except their ability to use dirty tricks. And likewise overestimating your own strengths – like compared to McCain or even Hillary, Obama has any military experience, knowledge or credentials to anyone except antiwar activists.

    But fortunately the issue again appears to be, “It’s the economy stupid, “ which is not even according to McCain, McCain’s strength.

  20. Form says:

    Another odd jab, complete with an important factual error in the first sentence. It’s a silly mistake, one that indicates an over-eagerness to indict Clinton as much as the general lessening of intellectual rigor that characterises Lessig’s posts of late.

    There’s an interesting article in NY Mag by John Heilemann that explains, pretty well I think, a context for Lessig’s bias in recent times. You can find the Heilemann article here. I recommend people read it carefully, and with open mind, and then review Lessig’s “20 minutes 4Barack,” a strange ramble about abstractions which perfectly exemplifies Heilemann’s case. Bizarrely Lessig’s “examination” of Clinton’s character begins with a reprise of her husband’s actions over “don’t ask, don’t tell.” As a queer I was hardly enamoured of the Clinton compromise, but good grief, how is it relevant to an evaluation of HRC’s character?! The juxtaposition of the “example” of WJC with the instance of HRC was shoddy, morally lacking, outrageous in a post that attempts to argue moral character.

  21. Jim Carlile says:

    I agree with much of what you say, Form.

    I’m really baffled how intelligent people can go ga-ga over Obama. He’s such an obviously apparent empty-suit, and the idea that “the Clintons” have engaged in some kind of dishonest, hard-ball campaign against him is, to put it bluntly, totally batty.

    Obama’s gotten a free ride from people– this is all about celebrity-hood. And against McCain, he’s going to be cremed on the “experience” factor– he hasn’t a chance of winning the general election.

    And about “earmarks,” has anyone examined exactly what’s wrong with them? Earmarks are things like libraries, and community centers, and park pools, and freeway onramps, and grade crossings, and all the things that make government work on the local level. There is nothing intrinsically corrupt about them, and this kind of unexamined premise– like the Clintons as Rovian operatives — is what charterizes most of our public discourse these days. It’s shamefully misguided.

  22. Fredy says:

    Jim Carlile, i fully agree

  23. Steve Baba says:

    Yes people have examined what’s wrong with earmarks and it’s not a black and white case, no pun intended.

    An earmark is just a way of funding a project – which could or could not be the same exact project that a competitive bidding would award – the same library or same off ramp or the same bridge.

    The problem with earmarks is that they don’t go through the same evaluation – do we need this bridge to nowhere – and competitive bidding that other projects go through.

    Because earmarks don’t go through the same evaluation – they are subject to improper influence such as campaign contributions to have the off ramp built on your property or earmarks to hospitals family members manage.

    On the positive side for earmarks – they are another way for “good” projects to be approved if normal funding fails – for example if no civil servant wants to be ridiculed for funding a Woodstock Museum.

  24. Steve Baba says:

    Also, the money spent on one congressman’s bridge to nowhere is money that can’t be spent on a bridge elsewhere. Same with off ramps, librarires, community centers. If built in a worse location, it’s a waste of government money.

    And it strikes me as inefficient micromanaging that senators should be involved in choosing the location of libraries, community centers, off-ramps bridges – as opposed to just setting the national funding for such. – or keeping watch on the big things like Iraq, the economy…..

  25. Closets says:

    Earmarks are just the tip of the iceburg with whats wrong with our federal government system. But I doubt that a political outsider will have any success in bringing about real change in Washington. It will take an exceptional political leader to create the alliances necessary to defeat the corporate backed power brokers.

  26. PoliMolly says:

    Obama promised to accept public funds for the general election campaign if his Republican challenger did the same. Both would forgo private money and return any general election funds they’d already raised. McCain has agreed to this, but Obama has refused to honor his promise.

    I understand that Obama stands to lose under this proposition because he can out-fundraise McCain. But it speaks poorly of his commitment to campaign finance reform. So what if Obama has to give back $6.1 million in general-election funds? If he really cared about campaign finance reform he would understand that that’s the reality of the type of reform he wants to push — in real elections, even the candidate who can out-fundraise the other candidate has to sacrifice these capabilities in the name of principle. If they don’t, who’s to say that true campaign finance reform will ever work? McCain has already stepped up to the plate. It’s time for Obama to do so, too.

    Otherwise, it’s really just the same old politics.

  27. ShaunTheEdifice says:

    Uhh, PoliMolly, you are misinformed. Obama has not refused to honor his promise. That’s just another Rovian spin put out by the Clinton campaign. He said he would accept public funds and that was that. He hasn’t commented on it since. Somehow for Clinton and McCain supporters that translates to: Obama is not honoring his promise.

  28. Steve Baba says:

    Obama has not “refused to honor” his promise, since the deadline for deciding on public funding is in the future.

    Obama has refused to reaffirm his promise to take public funding. .

    It’s not entirely Clinton campaign “spin”, it’s McCain “spin.”

    If Obama is 100% committed to public financing, one would hope that he would reaffirm it for no other reason then to not look like he was weighing honoring his pledge and not look like he was forced into it.

    From USA Today:
    Last week, Obama’s campaign manager Bill Burton told the Associated Press that public financing was “an option” that’s still “on the table.” Obama said, “It would be presumptuous of me to say now that I’m locking myself into something when I don’t even know if the other side is going to agree to it.”

  29. Eric says:

    I have never believed that neither Democrats nor Republicans, for the most part, want real change. They are much too indebted to big money and corporate interests to truly effect change. Real change virtually always comes from grassroots, populist movements; and it always comes by struggle, and with a high price. I think that, until the electoral college system is done away with, and third-party candiday can ascend, we will not see the kind of change that really will improve the quality of life for the majority of Americans.

    Eric Bryant, CEO
    Gnosis Arts

  30. Victor says:

    Politicians this year have echoed the sentiment of the American people that we need substantial change in the way that politics is working in Washington and around the nation. The fact that “the system is broken” is widely accepted. But no new President — or Congress — elected in 2008 can change much as long as corruption prevails. Bribery of public officials and the corruption of public office must be stopped. Let’s do just that!

    Do not for a moment believe those who say “but bribery is already illegal.” In fact, it has been institutionalized by corrupt politicians. Most specifically, corruption has been legalized in the way that political campaigns are funded and conducted “under prevailing law” Real change can only come if the power is returned to the people, rescued from the hands of lobbyists and special interests motivated by greed rather than the public good.

    We therefore propose the below Constitutional Amendment to prohibit bribery and the sale of public office. The effort here is to make politics an honorable profession. “Politicians” are too often demonized — unless they have been dead long enough to become “statesmen.” Many of our elected officials were motivated by public service when they began their careers and are very uncomfortable with the prevailing system. But if they fight the system, they know they will be out-campaigned by others who are better financed by special interests and will lose office.

    But, how can we get such an amendment passed under the prevailing system? It would seem impossible — but it is not.

    We suggest that you forward this amendment to ALL of your elected officials (national, state, and local) and ask them to support it. If they do not respond, or if they try to argue that prevailing law is enough, refuse to vote for them — ever! Vote only for candidates who are pledged to support this idea. Remember that Constitutional Amendments must pass the proper number of State legislatures as well.

    We suggest that you forward this amendment to each candidate for the Presidency (or any office where you vote) in all political parties, and say that you intend only to vote for persons who supports the REAL change that this amendment can make. Do not vote for anyone, even the candidate of your favorite party, if that person is unwilling to change the present broken system.

    If you have not been voting due to disgust with the system, register now! Register as “independent” if you wish, but put good government before political affiliation.

    Constitutional Amendment against Bribery

    1) Bribery of any public official of the United States or of any of the several States shall constitute a felony. The solicitation or receipt of bribery by such persons shall constitute a felony and is a high crime against this Constitution. This amendment shall not be construed to lessen the seriousness of any crime covered by existing legislation.

    2) The public offence of bribery includes the offering or giving of payment in any shape or form that it may be a motive in the performance of official functions for which the proper motive is a conscientious sense of duty as accepted by such public official by his or her Oath or Affirmation to support this Constitution.

    3) The same laws against bribery that currently affect appointed officials in each jurisdiction, shall also affect elected officials and judges. Bribery may not be disguised in the form of gifts to family members or associates, campaign contributions, or commitments for future employment.

    4) Public office involving policy-making functions or policy implementation, may not be bought or sold. This applies to governmental positions of the United States and of the several States. The buying or selling of such a public office shall constitute a felony under this Constitution. Persons seeking elective office shall not spend in such pursuit of election a sum of personal funds that is more than half of the salary to be earned while in that office; to do so shall constitute an effort to buy public office.

    5) Honest government, being necessary to the security of a free State, elected public officials shall be paid salaries that are independently adjudged to be commensurate with their responsibilities.

    6) The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

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