Streams

It's A Free Country...Or Is It?

Our new site is based on the notion that here in the United States, you can express yourself however you want. Hey, It's a Free Country, right? But we also know that political discourse has reached a point where people are talking past, not to, each other. We've been asking our guest bloggers "What does the phrase mean to you?" and "What's broken in politics, and how do we fix it?" Now we want to hear from you! Take the Free Country survey below. You don't have to answer all of the questions, just tell us what's on your mind.

March 20, 2011 09:20:09 AM
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eric stone

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This is no longer true. The country is now dominated by what I call religious fascists who are persecuting non-believers, progressives and liberals.

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The power of our country has shifter to the wealthy, the corporations and the religions that support them.

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First, the wealthy should have to pay their fair share of taxes.
Second, the corporations should be restricted from supporting campaigns of candidates.
Third, religions should pay their fare share of taxes.

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You should not be intimidated in presenting the news of religious persecution of nonbelievers, progressives and liberals.

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March 16, 2011 09:41:18 PM
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RUCB_Alum

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Our government can exercise no authority in the restraint of political speech; in the right of the people to peaceably assemble; there is no state church; and the press is free to gather and disseminate the news.

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Too much private money in elections; too much private money in the media.

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Push tax revenue into elections. Possibly, a corporate surcharge. Increase the number of seats in the House to no more than 100K citizens per representative.

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Hire a logician. I was a philosophy major in college. Rather than spend time on the religious side of the arguments...on the advertising, so to speak...I want more truth squad'ing and logical analysis. Less emotional confrontation.

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March 15, 2011 07:05:23 PM
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Lubeelu

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It means I can express myself without fear of being fined, sued, incarcerated or punished by anyone that disagrees with me. The "free" does not, to me, give me license to destroy another person's reputation by distorting facts or presenting them out of context.

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First, campaigns financed by the wealthy have corrupted the candidates.

Second, the "revolving door" method of going from an elected political position to lobbyist has turned public service into a self-seeking racket.

Gerrymandering leads to gamesmanship rather than a serious interest in serving constituents.

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There should be only public financing of campaigns with NO loopholes available.

Next the "revolving door" racket in Washington should be changed. Once a candidate has served, he or she should not be allowed to become a lobbyist, period.

No gerrymandering of voting districts allowed ever!

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There should be more expansion of the consequences of specific ideas presented by politicians. "Soft ball" questions are a waste of time. This is especially important when the politician is simply repeating a line decided upon by experts who know the public can be manipulated with the use of clever wording. It pains me to listen to a journalist I know could clarify an issue just let a politician get away with a "party line" by not pressing for the deeper meaning or letting the public audience know it is in reality meaningless.

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March 10, 2011 04:36:45 PM
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Julie

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Freedom is a right, privilege, and responsibility.

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Truth and facts are largely absent in discourse (mostly on the political right). The good of the American people is secondary to personal success of politicians.

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People on the political left need to make their voices heard, but they also need to accept the reality of what is possible. I think the tendency has been to sacrifice all for their ideals.Perhaps that is also true of the far right.

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Here is what is missing: where is the ACT part of this website? I was hoping to find links to organizations that are taking action on the issues. Could be orgs on all sides of the issues, but there is strength in numbers and I am eager to do my part.

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February 18, 2011 05:12:59 PM
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Schoolyard nonsense.

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December 17, 2010 12:51:43 PM
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December 13, 2010 01:54:46 PM
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mickogold@aol.com

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to do and say what you wish

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our system is broken in the U.S. by MONEY.Our state is broken since 1978 when the Brennan Center labeled it disfunctional due it's reliance on real estate and other corporate funds.

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change the system to seek the best not the powerful.

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when the chicken crossed the road to the middle- nothing happened.

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December 13, 2010 01:11:37 PM
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Graham

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My immediate response is that the country is not free, as in free beer, because everything we get has to be paid for by someone, but that is too materialistic and exposes my own insecurity of loosing my home, livelihood, access to education, medical care and public services; and my children will loose them, too.

On second thought, freedom is about access to information and the ability to change the system to make more fair and pleasant for everyone. Freedom of speech is essential but to make communication effective, it has to be based on a shared understanding of how the system works and what the purpose of the social/government/economic system is.

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First, there is a greater skill and professionalism in politics by which demigods can manipulate the population by framing the question and harping on those issues all day long on right-wing talk radio, The children of rich benefit most because they go to the best schools, learn the improved skills and get jobs in large corporations to squeeze more money from the lower and middle classes. They are the ones practicing class warfare.

Second, the academic discipline of economics has been captured by business and corporations to advocate capitalism and corporate profits as the only important value in our economic system. The children of the rich get well paying corporate jobs and perpetuate themselves as a class that doesn't need the lower and middle classes to thrive. They have enough political power to skew to laws make tax expenditures to favor corporate interests and the rich. Also, the engineering disciplines have been extremely successful in using machines to produce all our material wealth without relying on skilled manufacturing workers.

Third, corporations and the rich are paying less taxes and the middle class doesn't make enough income to pay for infrastructure and social services, so states and local governments are going broke.

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People have to become better educated in understanding how the laws are biased to favor the very, very rich.

One area is the reporting of economic statistics. The rich and the poor are lumped together in computing average incomes. The average is biased upward by million and billion dollar incomes of the very, very rich. It is taken as axiomatic that an increasing GDP is a sign of prosperity and improving economy, but the distribution of income and wealth is a bimodal distribution and the so-called improvement is the rich getting richer. It increase understanding if the news media would explain the whole distribution, and compute the average income and employment rates for those over and under $250,000 per year.

The conservatives are still harping on supply-side economics, especially now that they have control of the House. They say we have to give more money to the "investing class" because they are the ones that create jobs. They keep harping on it and it is reported in the news media, but there is no evidence that it is true and I can't find any convincing rationale or explanation. Capitalism, and especially supply-side economics is a religion supported by sound bites from vested interests and amplified incessantly by the media.

The conservatives and republicans have such big megaphones that they drown out rational thought by repeating the same lies over and over again.

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A page on the philosophical principles that underly political debate:

1) Do all people have a right to health care that doesn't bankrupt them?

2) Do all people have a right to a job that pays a living wage?

3) Should all people benefit from technology and productivity improvements even though their skills are no longer needed?

4) What motivates people to learn and apply the skills needed by society? Are most people lazy and selfish so they wont do anything but watch sports unless they are going hungry or get a big reward?

5) How fair is it for us or our rich to prosper while the rest of the worlds suffers?

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December 09, 2010 12:44:00 PM
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Herbertvoos

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At least the freedom of expressing and distributing information and opinion on the internet not unanimous. I am committed to the idea that government is a voluntary organization to solve social problems. Secrecy is withholding of information and therefore counterproductive.Secrecy in essence is a means for a party to muster power to advance its agenda. Power is a means of force; information is a means for reaching agreement.

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A two party system is not capable to discuss sociatal issues it can only distill a crude yes or no response. Money in politics is the power to influence in favor against the individual. Anonymity admits false opinion instead of opinion based on facts. Above all an individual has the right to participate in decision influencing its life.

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Make participation in politics meaningful by factual unedited information. Open politics to be able to admit more factual opinions to influence the decision making process. MORE PARTIES, MORE VOICES, MORE FACTUAL AND INTEGRATED NEWS, PUBLIC DISCUSSION FORUMS, TOWN HALL MEETINGS, most of all education to think than to obey. Anything other will lead to Class warfare.

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Make the Declaration of Independence part of our constitution, obey the mantra CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW .... The modifications of these constitutional law have to be made by amendment to the constitution, not by the Supreme court, because a court that gives a corporation the same right as an individual to free speech is incompetent.

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December 09, 2010 07:37:21 AM
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opinion 8

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Its a generic term, that sounds nice but is so general as to be misleading and incorrect. Just as the expression "Everyone Knows That"

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Most everything. We are not a democracy nor have we ever been that. We are a republic, dependant on people with there own self interest to do what we hope is the right thing for our nation and society. However these people are motivated by power and money. We citizens helped make the problem worse. If a candidate doesnt have buckets of money they cant get there message out, so our representatives focus on money, not people. Additionally very few have the courage to speak the truth, simple truths as in " no program is free, what ever we do we have to pay for" No one wants to say, that America Companies have learned to function without the people they laid off, so where are we getting 15 million jobs. We as a people and society are very happy not to hear about things that dont directly impact us.

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Free media time. Dependant on the office, every candidate gets a certain but equal amount of paper, TV, radio, etc time. But thats it to get there message out.
New procedure for pulling elected officials out of their position if a majority of people dont like there performance.
Federal House of Representatives put up a web site, that provides number of response to a given bill, or policy that states number of response, number for it number against it. We here representatives tell us that there voters have asked for (blank) I want proof. No congressman has ever polled me, or any of my co workers. We you get the idea, prove to me that this is national opinion.
Federal Web site that allows "us" to vote on laws and policy. Not that our vote decides, however that everyone can see the number of people who take the time to use it, in favor or against. Than our representative would have publicly displayed number of people who have voices an interest to decide how they should vote.
If people are not interested, than they would have to accept what ever happens, but our government needs to provide the opportunity for people to get interested again.

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December 07, 2010 12:04:49 AM
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Carmine Stoffo Jr.

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? ? ?

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There is plenty broken. I'll address one thing only:
the government is too big, but the elected part of it is too small.

In a small town you run into the mayor and other elected officials as you go about your business. You have lots of opportunity to tell them what you are thinking. They are actively immersed in local community activities themselves so they have a perceptual understanding of the issues.

But in Washington DC, there are 537(?) of them to over 300 million of us. There is no real chance that any of us will have a detailed discussion with our congress(wo)man or senator on any issue at any time in our lives. They are most exposed to big business interests and most inclined to giving them what they want. It is part of the symbiosis of power.

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Make the congress larger, making each representative and each senator smaller, making each of them closer to each of us.

Say if there were one representative for every 5,000 citizens, that would make about 60,000 of them. On the surface that sounds unmanageable. But they could spend more time in their home towns to pay more attention to us. They could meet in smaller regional groups to address regional issues. Occasionally the whole bunch of them could get together, maybe in a sports stadium to address larger issues.

Of course they would not be able to make so many laws. This would be good for us. Because the less they control centrally, the more local control we have. That is to say: the more individual freedom and responsibility we each have.

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On another point, I agree with the poster who suggests abolishing the electoral college and making every election based upon popular vote.

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December 06, 2010 02:35:34 PM
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Lin2rose

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It means that you have a right to "voice your opinion" in acceptable ways (according to the constitution and supreme court rulings) as long as the consquences do not create a hazard for others or infringe on others' individual rights or health and safety.

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1.Individual and corporate greed 2. The desire of elected officials to get elected"at any and all costs" 3. lack of campaign spending limits 4. recent Supreme Court ruling charactrizing corporations as "individuals" and lifting corporate campaign contribution limits 5. the physical and intellectual laziness of a large number of Americans who prefer to get their limited national and international news and information from biased news media and don't think it's their obligation to participate in the electoral process 6. the lack of civility in Congress and in the national dialogue as manifested on TV and radio 7. the refusal of members of Congress to engage in civil dialogues that do not play to electoral politics. Name, calling, lack of factually based statements and arguments; lack of logic in discussions; boldfaced "biased reporting" and brainwashing of the populace 8. Desire of the elements who ruined the financial system by their reckless betting and investments, to now regain control and continue to steal money from the American economic system and the people. 9. Lack of enough politicians to "speak up"; stand up for principles and to tell the truth!! Shame on this country, we will soon be a 2d to third rate world debtor nation if people does not wake up and get serious about their respective obligations to society, their families and themselves.

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1. Immediately institute campaign finance limits both in dollar amounts and campaigning length similar to other nations 2. Not elect any politician who does not live up to campaign positions and promises to his/her individual constituents 3. Seriously consider "trm limits" for all politicians 4. Limit media (print and broadcast) to factual reporting and/or truthfully and overtly identifying their corporate and financial biases and funding 5. Redefine the political dialogue --there is not a choice between starting the economy and balancing the budget. One is short-ranged and immediate; the other developed over time and will take time to pay down. 6. Stop allowing "misinformed, avaricious movie-star wannabees" like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck to masquerade as informed individuals or politicians. They have tasted the "good financial life" of TV and movie stars; as well as successful authors and love the MONEY --pure and simple!! They are paid "prostitutes" who are peddling "nonsensical garbage" to bamboozle the people and accumulate great wealth. 7. Stop "underestimating the intelligence" of the American people. All politics is still local; the baby boomers and others are better educated than any other generations and will not take this lying down. People analyze their "monthly budgets" and their present living situations even if they don't pay close attention to what is going on They just need to not "give up on the electoral system" which is the best in the world.

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I love Brian's program and listen to it every day; even when out of NYC I stream it. He is brilliant, impartial and exemplifies what true reporting is and should be! In the heartland, it is hard to gain access to such news. His topics and guests are varied and great. I am proud to be a Brooklynite and New Yorker in this regard, despite NYC's recent deterioration in civility and quality of life. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.
I know and understand the political and educational process very well having spent 6 years alone in DC and 35-40 years in the public education arena.I am a retired attorney and educator and have followed and participated actively in politics for the last 50 years. We are on the brink of great devastation as a nation if we all don't wake up. Obama is trying but needs more experienced, "senior level" advisors around him as had other Presidents such as JFK, Bush 2, Johnson etc. Time is limited; problems are multiplying and he must be more flexible, gain advice from "seasoned, experienced, bi-partisan individuals" of all backgrounds. It is also necessary to "get hands dirty"; stop trying to "negotiate with those who do not want to negotiate"; stop believing that "mediation and the strength of logic" can win all battles. I too went to Harvard and am cerebral but at some points, one has to roll up sleeves and "get in the gutter" if that's what the opposition forces one to do!! Vary tactics, listen to more people; stop believing that Larry Summers and Geitner are financial genius gods. Summers was a disaster as Pres. of Harvard and these guys are too tied in to financial interests to be objective. Look at what Robert Rubin and others did to the country and for themselves in previous administrations! Even Felix Rohatyn and Paul Volker are having apoplexy!
Oh, by the way, the Cathy Black appointment is a naked power grab by czar Bloomberg. It is bogus, an affront to New Yorkers, a continuation of the emasculation of the public education system; an example of greed and cynicism. All those within the system understand what is happening. As a retired educator, believe me, Klein et al have been lying to the public for years and now are "the experts" and are poised to benefit financially from their years of their "on-the-job training" and contempt for educators, parents and the public at large!

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December 06, 2010 10:28:38 AM
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It means there is a little more room to maneuvedr than one is able in a country that is less free. It means in this instance that conress cannot be approached b y individuals only by groups

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People catering to their personal doctrines instead of thinking out each individual problem one issue at a time.

So politics becomes a religious matter rather than something rational

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Educate the public. TV educates the public about criminal minds and murder from 9-12 pm on almost any channel.There is no reason these programs can't be designed to include educational facts amidst the mayhem. Even murderous have geographical beginings and the road to hell has algebrain coordinates. Damaged art has history besides clues. Greek and trojan wars have enough excitement as well as history,.

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The public is getting so dumbed down that the independence of mind is challenged--and it took so long to get here.

Also I find sit difficult to find places to write comments on your shows. The places seem mercurial from week to week some other place. Oh I forgot your site has been "improved"

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December 01, 2010 11:05:20 PM
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Gera

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The ability to have an opinion freely expressed.

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Everything

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1)limit length of all campaigns to 6weeks
2)Each media ad must be backed by one from the opposite point of view. A limit should be placed on the total amount spent on advertisements.
3)Politicians should be paid no more than the median wage of the US citizens and they should be prevented from all lobbyist perks.
4)All advisory commissions should have a proportionate number of regular voters as there are politicians,the rich and corporate leaders.
5)If the Republicans threaten to filibuster, make them actually do it.

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November 29, 2010 07:54:22 AM
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hotspur

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It means that, so far, no one will put you in jail for expressing a position critical of the government. Of course, no one does that any more so it doesn't matter.

For instance, where are the critics--left or right--suggesting that 9/11 was an act of revenge brought on by previous American foreign policy and that occupying Muslim countries makes it worse.
Where are the voices asking why we need to have troops stationed in 60 or 70 countries around the world? We need Social Security and Medicare; we don't need to occupy the world.

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At the national level, most of them are in it for the money.

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Eliminate government pensions and health care. Give them all 401(k) plans and wish them luck, like the rest of us. Make them buy group insurance in the open market, like the rest of us. And, oh yes, pay a big chunk of the premium like the rest of us.

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I'd like to see meaningful criticism of the government (not Tea Party B.S.) and more stories that are "underreported" (thank you Leonard). If you don't know what they are, listen to WBAI for a while.
Let's see if it is a free country.

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November 21, 2010 09:25:50 AM
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oldwolf

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On one of your shows you there was talk about a group of computer geeks who were donating their time to develop various applications. I have a suggestion for one of these projects. I would like to see a metric developed to give every politician a performance score that would be published a election time. An objective non political score based strictly on performance. It should include things like present for votes, how does voting record compare with campaign promises, follow the money what was their net worth before elected and after each term, % of money from various sources and effect of money on votes, etc.

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November 17, 2010 11:54:56 AM
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charlenu

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It sstarts with your web site--as a former devotee of writing comments it seems that the comment place changes periodically-today I have scoured all sites to comment on fund free country--the definition changes with every change in technology that has a majormeffect on citizens--i.e big bos stores that employ meny people but de-incentiviZew the employees from starting thir own business

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Politics is broken because getting a serious debate with your representatives is impossible; and getting in touch with media news men is eqjually impossible.

TDhis stunts freedom, sdtunts ability to propoagate new ideas.

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Things may be too big to large to be fixed--after all the equilibirum of small enterpizeis more democratic than taking these guys out of circulation into big box communities.

The press is broken and has to beomce uniquely one line

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Make your comment links visible and in the same place each time with a space to indicate the talk you you are responding to.

I like to speak my mind but find your web stie difficult for that.

I have modified health care in a significan t way but can't get a response from anyone at WNYC to consider it or talk to mne about it. Ye it might be very important.

REaching congress of course is worse.

One great thing about ytoutube and other sites demonstrates if nothing else how much great talent is around.

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November 08, 2010 02:27:09 PM
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Peter Boyle

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At its most fundamental it mean that we have a Constitution that delineates our freedoms (Unfortunately it does not delineate our responsibilities). In general parlance, it means that anyone can speak their mind without fear of governmental sanctions (except in obvious circumstances. Unfortunately, it is often accompanied by a lack or honesty or at least a lack of unbiased research. Just because a person has a right to say a thing, in no way infers that the person is correct...or even honest.

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MONEY!!!!! As in other things, money is the root of the evil. Until we take the money out of politics by strict public finance laws, coupled with forensic accounting of office holders and candidates finances, we will not break the cycle we are locked in. Where are the Roosevelts when we need them.

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A ten dollar addition to federal income taxes would be distributed equally to every candidate for use in a one month campaign before teh election. Public airways would be required to air equal time to each candidate. State and local tax and control would also follow that line. Any candidate who could produce a signature count of 3% of voters they would represent would be considered a candidate and treated equally.

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I agree with Alan Cranston: 15% of the general population is less than honest, including politicians. Running for office should require a deep forensic accounting of your finances and that would continue for as long as you held office. A five year ban on being able to receive any form of job or compensation from any Lobbyist or Government Contractor after leaving office. It must be re-established that Corporations are NOT people in any way, shape or form, Corporations are NOT persons under the Constitution or the Law.

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November 01, 2010 04:07:17 PM
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Dana Snyder

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It used to be a representative country. Now its a bought and paid for country. Whoever has the most money wins.

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The way we choose our elected representatives. They are already bought. Our vote for them merely gives them the opportunity to do the buyer's biding and get paid a salary for doing it.

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I would outlaw lobbyists. I would limit television ads. I would outlaw attack ads.
I would insist on any ad be issue oriented.I would make it a felony to attack a rival politician with personal attacks and I would not allow anything that was out of context. Explain just what you mean by that remark or comment, when did it happened, why was it done or said, what relevance does it have to his or her ability to govern.

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Lets hear about what's good for the country, not the party. This isn't a chess match. Its not a game. It's our future.
Don't tell me you won't raise taxes. They might be necessary. We might be much worse off with whatever cuts you plan to make, and by the way what CUTS DO YOU PLAN TO MAKE.
And oh. dear God, stop lying. Do you really think we believe you!

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October 23, 2010 01:11:34 PM
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Sally

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Juan Williams should be able to express his feelings.

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The question is - What's broken at NPR. I can't believe that someone like Brian Lehrer would agree with what happened.

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Ms. Schiller should apologize.

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Not according to what happened at your network,

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