UofC law professor Lawrence Lessig gave one of his trademark presentations as the keynote today. Lessig is launching a new initiative aimed at reducing the "distorting influence of money in Washington." This is a similar presentation he gave at UCSB in April. Interesting bit on climate change about 20:30 in.
Just sat through a panel hosted by Yglesias, Ackerman, Rossmiller, and Goldenberg -- an impressive group of foreign policy bloggers without doubt. Unfortunately most of the conversation was focused on how Iraq is a failed endeavor and that our best strategy at this point is simply to get out. Clearly Netroots participants are more interested in the domestic political ramifications, but I would have been interested in hearing about what ways in which regional diplomacy might be employed to move the ball forward. However, there are two points that were made that you might find interesting. First, Goldenberg noted the severe strain that the refugee population is having on Syria and Jordan, which are both hosting a 10 percent increase in their population. It's nice to see that this issue, which we have frequently posted on, is being thought about. It would be even better if it were coupled with vocal support for the UN's efforts to take care of those populations. Second, the point was made that a number of recent peace deals, not limited to the one in Lebanon were made without.the assistance of the U.S.
I must say that Howard Dean looks pretty comfortable up on the stage, and it's not just the open collar. This crowd likes the red-meat scraps he's tossing out. I, however, am finding the way he's phrasing the foreign policy section of his presentation a little limiting (and oddly structured). Dean says that the way we get to "sit down at the table" with other nations on global challenges is regaining our "moral authority" (i.e. not torturing and not engaging in "misguided" wars). Don't get me wrong, I too think that these "moral authority" issues are of the utmost importance. However, I disagree that we will have to wait to regain that authority before we're allowed to "sit down at the table." Other nations want the U.S. to sit down at the table now; in fact, on a lot of issues, they want the U.S. to chair the meeting. Of course, I realize that this is simply Dean's clever way of plugging into a dominant rallying cry in the room. But the rest of the speech was largely devoid of serious discussion on serious global challenges, and I'm more than a little worried that the rest of foreign policy debate at this gathering will be focused on regaining an elusive idea that serves no grander purpose than making progressives feel good about themselves. The immense energy in this room will be better used pushing our next President toward practical and strong leadership on global challenges.
Onion Web Editor Baratunde Thurston was on stage for a long time tonight as filler for the tremendously late Howard Dean. Netroots was lucky to have him. He kept the crowd juiced, despite the fact that everyone was packing distracting gadgets. To paraphrase one of his jokes: I know, I know, you're bloggers, so I can't ask you to turn your cell phone off. Just, please, turn them down. And, if you've got a pager...just leave. There's a very small bus outside to take you back to 1994. There are Vanilla Ice mix tapes on board.