Lawrence Lessig's new ebook One Way Forward is one of the most exciting documents I've read since I first found The Federalist Papers. One Way Forward is more of a long pamphlet than a book. It's tempting to call it a "manifesto," except that it's so darned reasonable, and that's not a word that comes readily to mind when one hears "manifesto."
At the core of Lessig's reasonable manifesto is the corrupting influence of money in politics, a corruption that predates the notorious Citizens United Supreme Court case. Lessig ascribes to this corruption the outrage that mobilizes both Occupy and the Tea Party, and he believes that the corruption can't be ended until both the left and right realize that though they don't have a common goal, they do share a common enemy, and unite to defeat it.
To this end, Lessig has a series of extremely practical suggestions, legislative proposals that, individually, strike at the root of the corruption, and, collectively, could kill it. Most of these don't require any kind of constitutional amendment. All are designed to be passed through the nonpartisan action of activists of all political stripes, working together on ideals that neither should find fundamentally objectionable.
Indeed, the steps laid out in One Way Forward remind of nothing so much as Creative Commons, in that they constitute a set of principles and actions that we can undertake individually, but which grows into a movement the more of us join in, and that are designed to reside in a sweet spot that does not violate any dogma or ideology. Read the rest
People walk past graffiti on a street in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, Jan. 13, 2012. (REUTERS)
Editor's Note: In response to an anonymously-sourced wisecrack we published about police corruption in former Soviet states, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs responded with a statement, which we published in full. A Boing Boing reader from Georgia also asked to respond to the anonymously-sourced wisecrack, with which he takes issue. Like the wisecracker, this person requests anonymity.
The police in Georgia are definitely not fat or lazy. They are not corrupt on the street level, either. But the whole system still retains elements of corruption (in enforcement, in the judiciary, and in the legislative realm). The problem lies more in the definition of corruption: the fact that you can no longer bribe the policeman in the streets or at the sovereign borders does not mean everything is crystal-clean.
The fact that citizens are still afraid of police in Georgia as if they were monsters is still an expression of the damage of corruption. The fact that you can be imprisoned for smoking pot weeks before actually being tested by cops (because you might seem suspicious to them, not because you've been caught smoking pot) is a kind of corruption, I believe.
There is a terrible feeling of vulnerability in Georgia. Police are still used as a tool to terrorize people and make money, but these days, paying bribes to individual policemen is no longer normal.
Georgian policemen stand to attention during a daily shift change at the Interior Ministry in Tbilisi, Jan. Read the rest
Editor's Note: In response to an anonymously-sourced wisecrack we published about police corruption in former Soviet states, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs has responded with a statement, which we are more than happy to publish in full.
Georgian Police: Model for Successful Transformation
The article published on [Boing Boing on] January 12, 2012, about the initiative by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia to introduce new portable field computers (so called “Police Pads”) ends with an anonymous quote declaring that "100% guaranteed those crooked, fat, lazy cops will be using these devices primarily for porn and Russian gambling services."
Stereotypes like this are easy to toss out—but are quite simply incorrect. This quote does not reflect the productivity, effectiveness, transparency, and reliability of the police force in Georgia today, but rather the bygone era of the 1990s, a reality that has drastically changed thanks to an ambitious and successful reform process.
The reform process in Georgia began immediately after the 2003 Rose Revolution. The new government inherited a completely corrupt and bloated law-enforcement system. The systemic corruption and the high level of crime throughout the country resulted in a very low level of public trust: fewer than 10% of Georgians had confidence in the police, according to 2003 polls. And the very low average policeman's salary (approximately $68 per month) made the soliciting of bribes routine.
Georgia has since made the creation of an efficient and modern police force a national priority, undertaking a series of reforms that sought to rebuild the national police force literally from the ground up. Read the rest
United Republic is a group that campaigns to get corporate money, corruption and lobbying out of politics. They've formed coalition with similarly aimed groups like Larry Lessig's Rootstrikers and Dylan Ratigan's Get Money Out campaign, and have an inclusive, credible campaign strategy to make democracy accountable to the interests of people, not money.
We aim to transform our nation’s outrage over corruption, gridlock, and cronyism into a powerful political force that can demand and deliver lasting change. We will hold politicians accountable; expose how corporate lobbyists hurt ordinary Americans; build a coalition of supporters from left, right and center; and provide financial support to the best people and organizations working on solving the problem.
Already our coalition is growing. In the fall of 2011, we joined forces with Rootstrikers, a group founded by Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig that shares the goal of ending the domination of Big Money over the political process. The group’s name is inspired by the Henry David Thoreau quote, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” And we've recently merged with the Get Money Out campaign, an effort started by MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan that shares similar goals.
United Republic | Democracy is not for sale
(Thanks, Larry!) Read the rest