BRAVO, Mr. President


President Obama “announced guidelines aimed at curbing the number of pet projects in appropriations bills” (aka, earmarks).

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15 Responses to BRAVO, Mr. President

  1. N. Dan Smith says:

    Earmarks are a direct consequence of representative democracy.

  2. I think that we need to be working for a clear definition of “earmarks” and a Just Say No, i.e. Veto the Bill, policy.


    My suggestion is that:

    . 1) An earmart is any item that can not be satisfied by more than one contractor in more than one state.

    . 2) No such can be included in a budget unless it is authorized by a SEPERATE/Veto-able bull.

    . 3) All contracts be allocated by the executive department thru competitive bidding and unless there are two or more reasonable geographic bidders, the contract must be approved by a separate veto-able bill.

    . 4) The president commit that any budget/allocation that contains more than one earmark will be VETO’ed by him and sent back for removal of the earmarks or a veto override.


    If we do not such a clear line, then we will continue to have the “One Man’s earmark is another’s local project”


  3. Jardinero1 says:

    I will support any earmark, over any other item, in the rest of the budget, any day of the week. At the very least, an earmark goes back to the constituents who pay the taxes unlike non-earmarked programs such as the department of defense, the social security administration and pretty much 99 percent of the budget. Too bad, programs such as domestic surveillance, indefinite detention, gov’t torture of EPW’s aren’t subject to the same strictures and accountability standars as earmarks. I suggest a viewing of just the first ninety seconds of the following speech on earmarks by the utterly uncorruptible Ron Paul:

  4. Terry says:

    You really have your head up your ass.
    Obama promised to veto any bill with earmarks in them during the campagin. Is he doing it?
    No. NO, he is not doing it.
    Instead he is promising to have strict guidelines NEXT TIME.
    And you Lessig believe his promise, a promise just like his campagin promise.
    Why doesn’t he veto the earmarks NOW? Why doesn’t he apply his guidelines NOW?
    You can’t trust him.
    You are a schmuck Lessig, a real goddam, pathetic schmuck.

  5. Josh You can't be Serious says:

    You realize that this will give only more power to him and more money to spend? A subtle expansion of the executive power no better than what Bush did, all under the guise of stopping “wasteless” spending.

    Learn what earmarks REALLY are about:

  6. Scott says:

    Two words for Obama:

    1. LIAR

    Change we can believe in?

    Yeah right, just more of the same BS. I’m fed up with it.

    As for those of you who voted for this idiot………thanks a lot………….Really!

  7. Steve Baba says:

    Two words Lessig:

    1. Biased

    2. Shilling

    An advocacy group we can believe in?

  8. Steve Baba says:

    This is how the Obama-endorsing Washington Post describe it on the front page:

    Obama Signs Spending Bill, Vowing to Battle Earmarks
    By Paul Kane and Scott Wilson, Page A01
    President Obama’s call to rein in the use of earmarks was met with derision yesterday even from some of his past reformer allies, dealing an early blow to his attempt to change how business is done in Washington.

  9. David says:

    Earmarks may be, as N. Dan Smith say “a direct consequence of representative democracy,” but they are a bad consequence.

    Campaigner Obama may have been naive in saying that he would veto any bill with earmarks, or he may have been playing politics, knowing full well that such a promise can not be kept if pressing legislation contains earmarks. The latter would be playing “chicken” with the country and hoping that Congress collectively blinks before the President.

    The proof will be in the actions that President Obama takes now and continues to take to reduce or eliminate earmarks. I would not be quick to condemn his efforts to date, nor would I be shouting “Bravo” at the first baby step in the right direction. Time will tell whether his words were hollow promises on the campaign trail or a commitment to rein in the practice.

  10. Karl Sigfrid says:

    Prof Lessig,

    Thank you for your contributions to the debate on copyright. I’ve used plenty of your material in the heated Swedish file-sharing discussion.

    Right now, the trade agreement ACTA is coming to the public’s attention, and in Europe there’s a movement for opening up the negotiations to the public. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has responded to a request-for-information by claiming that ACTA is a matter of national security.

    Could this be Obama’s position, or does it just show that he hasn’t paid attention to the issue?

    For more information on ACTA, see:

  11. Rick says:

    Good post and good question. Thanks.

    Here is a link to the HP article that includes the actual denial letter from Carmen Suro-Bredie(Chief FOIA Officer). The executive order cited was issued by Bill Clinton but was heavily amended by Bush in 2003 by EO 13292 (here). Humorously (or not :)) it begins with: “Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their Government. Also, our Nation’s progress depends on the free flow of information.”. Then it proceeds to slam the door on that noble thought.

    Needless to say, the Bush administration catered to big-money interests, this being one of them. Beyond that obvious point, my guess is that ACTA was deemed “secret” because it involved negotiations with foreign countries. Probably more importantly (as justification for secrecy) is that the enforcement policies and techniques would likely involve web technologies simlar to those used in surveillance and security. It’s a wild guess but this might be the sticking point for Obama (assuming he’s even aware of this in any detail).

    In my view we have an “umbrella of secrecy” under which the unsavory aspects (actually the major aspects) of the proposition are withheld from public view to avoid backlash (aka “debate”). A proper approach would have been to publicly make available the copyright and enforcement elements while protecting the proposed enforcement technology. Indeed, one wonders how much protection is actually in place given the widspread dissemination of documents among lobbiests and other countries.

    Of particular interest are parts 3 & 4 of Sec 1.7 (a) which specifically prohibit classification in order to “restrain competition” or to “prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security.”
    Hmmmmm. Clearly, in my view, the deep intent of ACTA is to restrain competing technologies. It’s VCR deja vu all over again.

    Two thoughts:
    1. The Europeans seem to have a much greater awareness of ACTA than we do, perhaps because of their sensitivity to having lived long under US copyright law being forced upon them, the Pirate Bay soap opera, or Microsoft’s aggresive marketing tactics. On the ground here in the US it seems to be low-key so far. We need to crank up awareness.
    2. Perhaps Obama might be approached on the basis that the umbrella of secrecy is too far-reaching. The elements of copyright and enforcement policy are not security issues. They are purely commercial matters.

    Note to interested parties:
    Googling “ACTA” is not real productive; too many other ACTA’s out there. Best to go for “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement”. Yes, it’s another one of those titles meant to disguise the true intent of the effort. 🙂

  12. Thomas says:

    Um, earmarks are a GOOD thing. For one, it’s Congress’ job. Earmarks do not drive up the cost of a budget bill; the dollar amount is going to be spent regardless – it’s already determined. Earmarks just direct where some of those dollars go. Earmarks are good in that they specify where the dollars are going. If there are no earmarks, then Congress abdicates its Constitutional authority to the Executive and we get something like…TARP. Remember that? No one knows where the money went, how much went where, etc. The money wasn’t earmarked. If you are against spending – and granted some earmarks do go to unnecessary things, then call your Congressman to vote AGAINST the bill, not to grandstand against earmarks.

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  14. rodander says:

    Most of you people here are so easily fooled.

    If one thing is apparent from Obama’s first couple months (if not earlier), it is the utter disconnect between what he says (symbolism) and what he does (such as it is). Decrying earmarks while having just signed 9000 of them into law is a great example.

    Yet here y’all go, arguing among one another about whether earmarks are good or bad. As if the substance of the matter makes any difference whatsoever. Congress is gonna do what it is gonna do, and Obama will get rolled and sign off on earmarks again, either because he doesn’t care or because his words have no meaning (or both).

  15. Lelo Elise says:

    The fact that there are people on this page making such outlandish criticisms of Obama two months on the job, when a complete nutjob made bad decision after another for the past 8 years shows how dumb some American’s can be.

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