In case I haven’t posted enough “Lessig-on-congressional-corruption” articles, here’s another good one

Excerpt from a February article in The Nation:

“The source of America’s cynicism is not hard to find. Americans despise the inauthentic. Gregory House, of the eponymous TV medical drama, is a hero not because he is nice (he isn’t) but because he is true. Tiger Woods is a disappointment not because he is evil (he isn’t) but because he proved false. We may want peace and prosperity, but most would settle for simple integrity. Yet the single attribute least attributed to Congress, at least in the minds of the vast majority of Americans, is just that: integrity. And this is because most believe our Congress is a simple pretense. That rather than being, as our framers promised, an institution “dependent on the People,” the institution has developed a pathological dependence on campaign cash. The US Congress has become the Fundraising Congress. And it answers–as Republican and Democratic presidents alike have discovered–not to the People, and not even to the president, but increasingly to the relatively small mix of interests that fund the key races that determine which party will be in power.

“This is corruption. Not the corruption of bribes, or of any other crime known to Title 18 of the US Code. Instead, it is a corruption of the faith Americans have in this core institution of our democracy. The vast majority of Americans believe money buys results in Congress (88 percent in a recent California poll). And whether that belief is true or not, the damage is the same. The democracy is feigned. A feigned democracy breeds cynicism. Cynicism leads to disengagement. Disengagement leaves the fox guarding the henhouse.

“This corruption is not hidden. On the contrary, it is in plain sight, with its practices simply more and more brazen. Consider, for example, the story Robert Kaiser tells in his fantastic book So Damn Much Money, about Senator John Stennis, who served for forty-one years until his retirement in 1989. Stennis, no choirboy himself, was asked by a colleague to host a fundraiser for military contractors while he was chair of the Armed Services Committee. “Would that be proper?” Stennis asked. “I hold life and death over those companies. I don’t think it would be proper for me to take money from them.”

“Is such a norm even imaginable in DC today? Compare Stennis with Max Baucus, who has gladly opened his campaign chest to $3.3 million in contributions from the healthcare and insurance industries since 2005, a time when he has controlled healthcare in the Senate. Or Senators Lieberman, Bayh and Nelson, who took millions from insurance and healthcare interests and then opposed the (in their states) popular public option for healthcare. Or any number of Blue Dog Democrats in the House who did the same, including, most prominently, Arkansas’s Mike Ross. Or Republican John Campbell, a California landlord who in 2008 received (as ethics reports indicate) between $600,000 and $6 million in rent from used car dealers, who successfully inserted an amendment into the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act to exempt car dealers from financing rules to protect consumers. Or Democrats Melissa Bean and Walter Minnick, who took top-dollar contributions from the financial services sector and then opposed stronger oversight of financial regulations.

“The list is endless; the practice open and notorious. Since the time of Rome, historians have taught that while corruption is a part of every society, the only truly dangerous corruption comes when the society has lost any sense of shame. Washington has lost its sense of shame.

“As fundraising becomes the focus of Congress–as the parties force members to raise money for other members, as they reward the best fundraisers with lucrative committee assignments and leadership positions–the focus of Congressional “work” shifts. Like addicts constantly on the lookout for their next fix, members grow impatient with anything that doesn’t promise the kick of a campaign contribution. The first job is meeting the fundraising target. Everything else seems cheap. Talk about policy becomes, as one Silicon Valley executive described it to me, “transactional.” The perception, at least among industry staffers dealing with the Hill, is that one makes policy progress only if one can promise fundraising progress as well.”

Find out which company owns your congresspeople at The Center For Responsive Politics.

And before I let go of this completely, a last quote from the article:

“There is a brilliance to how the current fraud is sustained. Everyone inside this game recognizes that if the public saw too clearly that the driving force in Washington is campaign cash, the public might actually do something to change that. So every issue gets reframed as if it were really a question touching some deep (or not so deep) ideological question. Drug companies fund members, for example, to stop reforms that might actually test whether “me too” drugs are worth the money they cost. But the reforms get stopped by being framed as debates about “death panels” or “denying doctor choice” rather than the simple argument of cost-effectiveness that motivates the original reform. A very effective campaign succeeds in obscuring the source of conflict over major issues of reform with the pretense that it is ideology rather than campaign cash that divides us.”

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Welcome to New York. Not.

The sold-out Ninjatune 20th anniversary party at Santo Party House was closed by the police 30 minutes before doors. Why? A several-months-old report of some undercover buys in the toilet, none involving club employees. Why wait several months before doing anything about this shocking – shocking – crime? Well, how better to inflict the maximum damage on a club that hosts people of color ? And how better to punish a club that perhaps doesn’t pay the precinct bagman the price he/she asks?

I’m finding out about this outrageous crap a bit late; BlackBook has it, the Voice covered it (twice);  Brookly Vegan has it, as well.

And if you don’t like my opinion,  well…

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Auction of extremely boss stuff, musical and otherwise

WFMU is auctioning a ton of great stuff on de dread eBay. List includes:

– Sing onstage with Yo La Tengo during one of their Hanukkah shows

– Tea for Three with Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields

– Sit in on a cast read-through for The Simpsons

– Tickets to the sold-out Guided By Voices show in NYC

– VIP passes to The Colbert Report

– Spend a day in the WFMU Music Library

– Host a 3-hr radio show on WFMU

– Eat lunch with Tom Scharpling: Best Show on WFMU Mega Pack

– Seven Second Delay broadcasts from your home

– Robert Plant autographed guitar

– Art by Captain Beefheart and John Fahey

– Tickets to the Joanna Newsom show at Carnegie Hall

And quite a bit more, including (ahem) an autographed test pressing of the privately pressed Double Dee & Steinski Mastermixes 12″, with the Payoff Mix on side 1 and The James Brown Mix (Lesson 2) on the other.  And that’s not just an autograph, friends – that’s a personal message to you from Double Dee & Steinski, right on the almost blank label – and if you get in on the auction now, we’ll throw in for the lucky winner a SEALED copy of one of the 500 actual discs we had made, of which there are almost no more because we only pressed up about 500 of them and gave them out freely to everyone and their grandma, sometimes several copies if Grandma had it goin’ on, you feel me?

Remember, shoppers, that an identical item without the sealed copy of the ultra-rare 12″ went for $368 USD several years ago (and that guy sent us cash, too, which was exceptionally awesome. I think we went out and had a very nice dinner).  But no dinners for us this time; all the bread goes to WFMU. Bid early and often. Sell your car. Pawn your aunt’s diamond necklace. Dip into the college fund. Represent.

Free to the winning bidder. People pay good money for these.

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This’ll keep the wrong element out, for sure

Questions on th US visa application for persons applying from Europe:

So if they catch you doing something, they can additionally sue you for lying on the visa application. Let’s see ’em talk their way out of that, ladies and gentlemen of the military tribunal.

And as far as the last 4 questions go, that would keep out a lot of important people we support, I daresay.

Just a sampling from the 20 pages of questions in the application. Twenty pages.

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San Francisco debriefing & set download

Covered in logos, Stein gets all touristy, squinting and sort of grinning.

“So Steve, how was San Francisco?”

Quite wonderful, thanks to the many cool people I was able to hang out with.

Matt Haze of The Slayers Club generously gave up his master bedroom suite so I could crash in his Mission apartment – hotel rooms being at a premium due to 40,000 Oracle programmers invading town for a convention.

I was finally able to spend some time with Raymond Larrett, a colossally talented cartoonist and designer alternatively known as Norman Dog. I’ve admired his stuff for over 20 years; hanging with him was a real thrill.

Facilitating the entire visit was my old friend Dave Bassin – radio star, insanely knowledgeable music maven, and all-round fount of information and fun. David is a true prince, and I’m privileged to know him. He also took the photo above and the ones of me at Brizio’s (below) with his tricked-out iPhone.

I spoke at the panel and played at the party that Slayers Club put on for the first theatrical showing in SF of Copyright Criminals, the fine film by Ben Franzen and Kembrew Mcleod.

Here’s (from left) panel moderator Larisa Mann, me, Jeff Chang, Amp Live, and Tim Jones of the EFF. Tony Berman is cut off by one of the four enormous speaker arrays in the club; awesome sound.

My set (60 minutes) included audio from an amazing interchange on Fox News between Alfonse D’Amato, former US Senator from NY  (not such a hot senator, either) and some “Republican strategist” named Jeff Berkman. Here’s the clip:

YouTube Preview Image

The Republican Party is really changing when Al D’Amato is the guy who calls out the scum.

After the gig, I was able to hook up with Anthony Falzone, copyright/IP/public domain/fair use expert extraordinaire, who came to the show and stayed throughout.

You can e-mail me for a link to the set, which I (of course) forgot to record when I played it, so I came home and ran it off in the privacy of my studio and then seriously edited and smooved it out; instead of a picture being PhotoShopped, this is my set after being AudioShopped (so to speak). Apologies to people who have my other sets; this contains a few things you’ve already heard (mostly my older material).

David B was also kind enough to tote me to 2 separate SF meccas; we went to Amoeba Records, where I bought only one full-price CD (Jim Jones coaching everyone about drinking the Kool-Aid, if you must know), and Brizio Street Rods, where I dropped a lot of money on back issues of The Rodder’s Journal and a souvenir hat. Brizio’s is kind enough to let the random schmuck off the street wander through their garage/studio, and David whipped out his magic phone and shot me good.

Playing "Let's pretend" with someone else's fine automobile.
I actually drive a 10 year-old, dirt-brown Honda Civic.
I wouldn't take a photo like this under almost any other circumstances. I've passed up Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower, and Stonehenge.

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Stein speaks and plays in San Francisco Sept. 23

I’ll be playing in SF on Sept. 23 following a showing of the fine, fine, superfine documentary Copyright Criminals. Before the film, I’ll be speaking along with a few other souls. The entire shebang is organized by The Slayer’s Club (to whom I’m indebted for hooking this up; thanks, Matts) and the JCCSF. I’m opening the musical portion of the program; there are some intensely cool DJ’s following me (Amp Live, The Polish Ambassador, Kid Kameleon, etc.).

It all goes down at Mighty, which looks to be a fine venue. I’ll attempt to get in a bit of shopping at Amoeba, and perhaps drop in at Brizio’s, if they humor fans who just appear off the street.

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