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November 26, 2011 6:09 AM   Subscribe

How Money Corrupts Congress (previously) - John Baez sez: "It's easy to get distracted in a thicket of issues. Thoreau said 'There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.' But what's the root? Watch this video for Lawrence Lessig's answer."
posted by kliuless (32 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fantastic.
posted by jopreacher at 7:08 AM on November 26, 2011


Am I the only one who first read "Joan Baez" and who has spent the past 30 minutes trying to hammer "It's easy to get distracted in a thicket of issues. Thoreau said 'There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.' But what's the root? Watch this video for Lawrence Lessig's answer" into the meter of "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night."

(crickets)

Just me then.
posted by Mike D at 7:14 AM on November 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


No, until you said it, I thought it was Joan. I thought she'd turned it into a song.

I'm converting this into an mp3 so I can listen to it at work today. Sounds good.

Lessig's book, "Free Culture," is available as a creative commons bit torrent as well, in case anyone's interested. I am.
posted by Trochanter at 7:23 AM on November 26, 2011


It's not just issue #1. It fills out the top 5.

Which is why all talk of "reforming the Democratic Party from within" will be simply a waste of time without public campaign financing and, even less likely, the reversal of the Citizens United ruling.
posted by Trurl at 7:27 AM on November 26, 2011 [12 favorites]


Holy crap, it is *that* John Baez, right? The physicist? Cool.
posted by symbioid at 7:28 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


If it is the physicist, it says Joan is his cousin.

Also? Lessig speaks at Occupy about the need to unite Occupy and Tea Party (the libertarian anti-crony capitalism original kind -- not the latched on bigots, religious nut-jobs and Dick Armey Republican lackeys) .
posted by symbioid at 7:31 AM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mike D: no, I read it as "John Baez". But I knew someone would be in this thread confusing him with his more famous cousin, because that always happens.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:46 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I endorse the idea 100%, but Rootstrikers is a poor choice of name. It's fairly opaque compared to Occupy Wall Street or the Tea Party. If you have to explain the name of your movement, you're already losing the battle for mindspace.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:17 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Root is where the word "radical" comes from.
posted by warbaby at 8:33 AM on November 26, 2011


Horace - That's exactly why it's a good name....it demands an explanation which describes the mission. OWS and Tea Party both describe tactics rather than mission.
posted by tommyD at 9:08 AM on November 26, 2011


Root is where the word "radical" comes from.

In this case, aren't they synonyms? The word 'root' has its origins in Old English whereas 'radical' is from Latin.
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:14 AM on November 26, 2011


Compromise: Radish.
posted by stebulus at 9:25 AM on November 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yes, I'd agree with Lessig that the lobbying industry and campaign finance should be viewed as the root problem, but I've criticism :

These reforms are precisely the one demand originally proposed by Adbusters.

There is of course a question about whether this demand is baked deeply enough into Occupy Wall Street to resist Democrats' song, which goes "Imagine how much worse the Republicans will make everything. We'll hold them off a little longer if you give us your personal power."

Yet, there is an underlying 'social technology' issue that Lessig doesn't discuss : All this lobbying could be viewed as a `legal technology` for committing graft and establishing oligarchy. There are also democratic technologies we've designed to counter these technologies of oppression, notably deliberative democracy, i.e. involving ordinary citizens in the legislative process directly.

Occupy Wall Street has inherited precisely these ideas from Spain's Democracia Real YA.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:26 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This piece has some excerpts from Lessig's book on his disappointment with Obama.
posted by homunculus at 9:27 AM on November 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


When I was taking high school algebra root and radical were synonyms in algebra class.
posted by bukvich at 9:36 AM on November 26, 2011


Who's rooting for whom? Radical!
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:38 AM on November 26, 2011


To watch both videos at the same time, click here and mute the video on the right.
posted by suedehead at 10:15 AM on November 26, 2011


Thank you so much for posting this; it articulates concepts that I could sense but not express. Better still, it give me a direction to head in.
posted by Mooski at 10:19 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lessig's talk is well worth watching. Almost nothing in it seemed new to me but it is put together well.

If you don't have time to go through it basically he says we are hosed unless the states call for a constitutional convention to get the big money out of congress constitutionally.
posted by bukvich at 10:32 AM on November 26, 2011


The utopian fantasies of some upper crust former law clerk for Justice Scalia and Judge Posner do not contain the the answer to our present political difficulties. The best thing to do would be to tax rich guys like him. Transfer the wealth to the middle and lower classes. This will take away the chief weapon of our oppression and arm an army of voices. If money prevails; then let us have it.
posted by humanfont at 11:28 AM on November 26, 2011


In math, isn't the root the base number and the radical the power? In 2 ^ 3, two is the root, 3 is the radical. The cubed root of 8 is 2, for example.
posted by gjc at 12:05 PM on November 26, 2011


Lessig always has really wonderful theoretical insights which he delivers charismatically. I'd agree any constitutional convention discussion sounds way too premature though, given we've never gone that far before.

You could however imagine creating a people's congress outside various state capital buildings which mirrors every vote held inside congress though, essentially shredding the legitimacy of every bill they pass.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:11 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wrong video link! Lessig gives talks with incredibly rich, kinetic slideshows... this (incredibly galvanizing) has one too.
posted by joshuahhh at 1:29 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


In math, isn't the root the base number and the radical the power? In 2 ^ 3, two is the root, 3 is the radical. The cubed root of 8 is 2, for example.

The two roles in the expression "23" are called "base" (not "root") and "exponent" (or "power", but certainly not "radical").

The way to describe the number 2 by the property that if you cube it you get 8 is by saying that 2 is the cube root (not "cubed root") of 8.

The way to describe the number 3 by the property that if you raise 2 to that power you get 8 is by saying that 3 is the logarithm (base 2) of 8. Certainly not "the base-2 radical of 8" or anything like that.

A radical is an expression such as "∛8". It is not the name of any part of this expression, nor the name of its value.

That's how it is in my linguistic community, anyway.

posted by stebulus at 2:40 PM on November 26, 2011


This page is accurate as far as I can tell:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nth_root

When I try and copy and paste a radical sign out of there it does not transfer.

Root and radical are not synonyms. My high school algebra teacher treated them as synonyms. This is only very slightly incorrect. The slightness of the incorrectness is hopefully indicated by a high school mathematics teacher in the 20th century treating them as equal.
posted by bukvich at 3:01 PM on November 26, 2011


Haven't watched the video, but wanted to chime in on the "root"/"radical" issue.

The Latin noun, radix, radicis means "root". It's where we get "radish" and also "radical" which in the political sense has a meaning of one working to make changes to the root structures or values of a social or political order.

I don't know the mathematical meanings of either "root" or "radical."
posted by gauche at 3:42 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I suppose we could have had rooticle, but we don't.
posted by warbaby at 6:06 PM on November 26, 2011


I've always loved Lessig's code is law shtick.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:36 PM on November 26, 2011


I looked at the youtube with the presentation slides after first seeing the youtube sans slides. His message definitely has some good points, but I found his rhetoric flaky.

First of all there seems to be some attention deficit when he flicks through five slides all with one or two words on them. (Does anybody know what that font is that seems designed to give the impression of slamming the chalk against the chalkboard?) Second the tone is tense and preachy which means there is a horrible dissonance when he is makes a joke like Casablanca police guy shocked that gambling is going on, or the thing about left-wing economist Milton Friedman. Very few polished professional speakers can pull off that over-earnest-tense-diaphragm thing he seems to have going on; I got the impression he had way too much caffeine in his system.

He had one error in fact I noticed. BP was doing exploratory drilling, not experimental drilling, when the Transocean Rig blew up.

I actually got a better impression of the guy on the first view when the slides were invisible to me. This is not the presence I would expect from a Harvard U. Law Professor.
posted by bukvich at 7:10 AM on November 27, 2011


I actually got a better impression of the guy on the first view when the slides were invisible to me. This is not the presence I would expect from a Harvard U. Law Professor.

I actually know a fair number of lawyers who speak brilliantly when they're unaccompanied, but don't do very well when there are visuals or a slide deck involved. I'm not sure if it's a certain type of speaking/presenting that law school or actual litigation prepares you for, or just a preference.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:10 AM on November 27, 2011


Roots Radicals!
posted by lunasol at 12:51 PM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]




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