Op-Ed: The Worst Ideas Of The '00s Some great minds conceived some awful ideas in the last ten years. As we close out 2009, guests share their picks for the worst ideas of the decade, from Sarbanes-Oxley and torture memos, to the Blackberry and TV dance competitions

Op-Ed: The Worst Ideas Of The '00s

Op-Ed: The Worst Ideas Of The '00s

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Mya and Dmitry Chaplin on "Dancing with the Stars" in Los Angeles. ABC, Adam Larkey/AP Photo hide caption

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ABC, Adam Larkey/AP Photo

Mya and Dmitry Chaplin on "Dancing with the Stars" in Los Angeles.

ABC, Adam Larkey/AP Photo

Read The Washington Post's Roundup, "The Worst Ideas Of The Decade"

Some great minds conceived some awful ideas in the last ten years. As we close out 2009, guests share their picks for the worst ideas of the decade, from Sarbanes-Oxley and torture memos, to the Blackberry and TV dance competitions.


Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor for Slate. She cites the torture memos as one of the worst ideas of the decade.

Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of Reason.tv and Reason.com. He thinks the Sarbanes-Oxley Act takes the title.

Clive Thompson, contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and Wired. He nominates vaccine scares.


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Rebecca Roberts in Washington.

You know, it has been a mediocre decade when we can't even agree what to call it. But whether it's the aughts, or the naughts, or the 2000s or the iDecade, the first 10 years of the 21st century have abounded with lousy ideas. Contributors to the Washington Post recently compiled a top 10 list of the worst ideas of the decade. Their list runs from the dangerous, to the annoying to the inane. In the last 10 years Blackberry devices took control of our lives, sports seasons lengthened behind all reason, movies trended toward the - we aren't so different after all theme. And don't forget about torture memos and TV dance competitions.

The list goes on and on. Oh, what a decade it was. We'll talk with some of masterminds behind the Post's list and you can find a link to the piece at npr.org. Just click on TALK OF NATION.

Later in the hour, Hanks Stuever, on the sheer size and scale on Christmas. But first, a super-sized edition of the Opinion Page - The Worst Ideas of the Decade. We want to hear from you - what was your worst idea of the decade.

Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. Our Email address is talk@npr.org. And you can join the conversation at our Web site. Go to npr.org and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

We start with Dahlia Lithwick. She's a senior editor for slate.com. Her pick for the worst idea of the decade - the torture memos. She joins us, now, from her home in Charlottesville, Virginia. Welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

Ms. DAHLIA LITHWICK (Senior Editor, Slate.com): Thank you so much for having me.

ROBERTS: So, what made the torture memos the worst in your mind?

Ms. LITHWICK: Well, it was a tough choice. I confess that "Dances With The Stars" never was on my top.


(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: You defend the reality dancing craze.

Ms. LITHWICK: With passion. But, you know, it was very tough to, as a legal reporter, to isolate the moment in the �war on terror,� that things really went south. I mean, certainly you can make a strong argument that Guantanamo was the worst moment, or very, very broad theories for executive power or indefinite detention. So, I had a kind of large menu to choose from. And I settled on the torture memos because I thought they were unique in smoking out, really, the worst parts of the legal war on terror. I mean, they showed the complicity of attorneys, how attorneys could help twist and bend the law to make that which is absolutely prohibited by domestic statute, by international treaty, somehow negotiable. And I thought that was really toxic.

I think it went to what was really wrong with the president's own advisors who are supposed to be standing up for the Constitution and the rule of law and instead were essentially saying - do you want fries with that, sir? and giving the president, not only everything he asked for without qualm, but really not even pushing back at all as a legal matter.

So, to me, I think it really said, the legal process broke here and broke here in a way that's almost irreparable. And also, I think, licensing torture took us to a real new low that even had we, you know, gone through with Guantanamo, had we gone through with indefinite detention, it seems that when we became a nation that tortured and that could condone it with what looked like logical legal analysis. That was a moment from which there was no turning back.

ROBERTS: You believe it's almost irreparable?

Ms. LITHWICK: Well, I believe it unless we do much, much harder work at investigating what went wrong and why it went wrong, and holding the people that were instrumental in the architecture of this legal thinking to some kind of account. I think we really are looking at the possibility, as a nation, of doing it again sometime in the future, and saying, as we did last time, well, these were existent circumstances, everybody was freaking out and that makes it okay. Unless we really, I think, draw a line on this, and say this is where we have gone too far, I think it is incredibly likely that torture is now on the menu in the future.

ROBERTS: You say that the memos sort of represented the lowest low point in post 9/11 legal thought. Was there a lot to choose from, in your opinion, of low points in that time period?

Ms. LITHWICK: Yeah, I mean, I do think there were. And I think there was just a general sense, right from the outset, that by framing it as the war on terror after 9/11, and refusing to believe that any of the existing legal mechanisms - criminal legal mechanisms - that we knew had worked - you know, including criminal trials for terrorists, including legal interrogation, you know, we had interrogation mechanisms that were vastly superior to torture - and lifelong interrogators have said, and continue to say: torture doesn't work.

So, why is it that we resorted to ideas that were really bad ideas? And I have to say, Jack Bauer, "24�-driven ideas, instead of a whole set of mechanisms - criminal mechanisms that we knew worked. So, to me I think the entire notion of framing it as a war instead of as a crime really set us of the wrong track.

ROBERTS: What I find so intriguing about this list is that it does encompass things as serious as you say, from the moment we became a nation that tortures, to fashion mistakes. And I notice that you were on a live chat with The Washington Post earlier today, and someone said - Crocs was the worst mistake of the decade.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LITHWICK: That was on my short list. You know, not only did I vigorously defend �Dancing With Stars� on The Washington Post live chat, but I defended Crocs, only because, as the mother of small boys, the idea that I don't devote four or five hours a day to lacing small shoes really I think liberated me to be the journalist I am today.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LITHWICK: I can't really be opposed to Crocs. I do think some of things on the list that were a little frivolous, or sounded a little frivolous, had some truth to them - including our being enslaved to Blackberries - and including, just generally, reality television. I can't tell you how many Washington Post chatters wrote in, just enraged about the fact that we have become a culture that watches other people, you know, endlessly and obsessively - simply because those other people are married to guys with lots of money.

ROBERTS: Let's hear from Tania(ph) in Madison, Wisconsin. Tania, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

TANIA (Caller): Hi, you know, it's funny she just kind of touched on it, the whole idea of reality TV kind of took over the old genre of soap operas. But additionally, I would like to say there seems to be whole new element of very young people being very cool. (Unintelligible) what happened with the whole Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, all the boy bands that, you know, started getting really popular in the early �90s and then just kept going with Hannah Montana and all those other people but it just seems like, you know, these 12 and 13 year olds, you know, kids, are very cool nowadays.

ROBERTS: Are you sure it's not just that you got older, Tania?

(Soundbite of laughter)

TANIA: It was - you know, it's quite possible. I'm still in my 20s. So, I would like to think I could remember back that far and I certainly wasn't nearly that cool at that age.

ROBERTS: Thanks for your call.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TANIA: Thank you.

ROBERTS: We are talking about the worst ideas of the decade - would like hear what you think was the worst idea you had this decade. Give us a call at 800-989-8255 or send us Email: talk@npr.org. My guest is Dahlia Lithwick. She's a senior editor at Slate and her idea for the worst idea of the decade in The Washington Post collaboration was torture memos.

We're also joined by Nick Gillespie. He's editor in chief of Reason TV and reason.com. His choice for the worst idea of the decade was the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Nick Gillespie, thanks so much for joining us.

Mr. NICK GILLESPIE (Editor In Chief, Reason TV and reason.com): That's a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

ROBERTS: So, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a law from 2002, not necessarily a obvious choice. Why did you pick it?

Mr. GILLESPIE: Well, I try to be unpredictable. But among other reasons, it was suggested to me by The Washington Post. But let me immediately expand a - my - the object of my scorn into a slightly altered topic, which also tracks somewhat with what Dahlia Lithwick was talking about. But it's not just Sarbanes-Oxley, but the bipartisanship that we were told we really desperately needed in Washington throughout the aughts.

Bipartisanship tends to give way to legislation, which is not overwhelmingly passed, but is really idiotic. And here you can think about things like the Patriot Act and No Child Left Behind Act, which was brokered by Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush, the authorization of force in Iraq, which went through like nobody's business, or more recently - just a year ago, or a little bit more than a year ago - the TARP legislation, which is - I think everybody, virtually everybody outside of the Beltway recognizes as a big disaster.

Sarbanes-Oxley, an accounting bill that reached, you know, just completely re-jiggered the way that publicly-traded companies are supposed to report on their accounting practice, has had absolutely no upside - other than that it's a full employment act for accountants who really, rarely are begging for business anyway. It basically has had only negative effects across the board.

It has made it much more difficult for smaller companies, with now with much harsher accounting requirements, to compete with bigger companies that can absorb those costs. It has not, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, done anything to minimize fraud or fooling around with financial statements. They've actually said that they've seen more mismanaged accounting statements and fraud going on after Sarbanes-Oxley was passed, and it also hurts companies that have to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley versus ones who don't; keeps companies private, which deprives them not only of capital but of investors possibly investing in publicly traded companies.

So overhaul, just a bad, hysterical piece of legislation that doesn't accomplish its basic goal.

ROBERTS: Well, you talked about, you know, that these bills tend to be bipartisan and not get a lot of dissent, and you just called it hysterical legislating - which also, you know, is the context. So this was passed in the wake of Enron and other scandals.

Mr. GILLESPIE: Right, Tyco, Adelphia, WorldCom in particular, and there's a sense that, you know, we have to do something.

The Patriot Act is probably the most serious bit of legislation in this vein, and also one of the most telling - where it's a bill that everybody knows, and you know, if you listen to people who were there - like Congressman, or former Congressman, Bob Barr - nobody but nobody had any time to read that legislation before they passed it - something which, again, is replaying, right now, in health care reform.

Whatever you think of health care reform, there is something deeply, deeply troubling with the notion that it is becoming increasingly common that legislators pass massively long transformational pieces of legislation without even taking the time to actually parse through them. Very disturbing.

ROBERTS: We are talking about the worst ideas of the decade. Let's hear from Parish(ph) in Charleston, South Carolina. Parish, what's your worst idea?

PARISH (Caller): I'd say the urban SUV - to kind of modify the SUV a little bit - but the fact that everyone in every city that I've lived in for the past 10 years now drives an SUV. I hadn't even heard of them 10 years ago.

ROBERTS: Yeah, you know, I'm pretty much with you on the SUV-hating, although I was sort of jealous of the people who had them this weekend.

PARISH: Oh, yeah, definitely. And it's created almost a driving culture, a road culture, to where you need one. I've heard my friends defend their purchase of an SUV in that you have Escalades and Hummers on the road, and they don't want to be in a Prius that gets crushed by one, which I can understand. But, it's definitely been a scourge on the decade.

ROBERTS: Parish, thanks for your call. We'll get more of your picks for the worst idea of the decade in a moment. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. You can also reach us by email. The address is talk@npr.org. I'm Rebecca Roberts. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

ROBERTS: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Rebecca Roberts in Washington. We're talking about the worst ideas of the decade. The Washington Post compiled a list in their Outlook section in the Sunday paper. TV dancing competitions made the list, the Blackberry, too. It's spiraled out of control, according to John Freeman(ph). You can read the full list through a link on our Web site. Go to npr.org and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And what about your worst idea of the decade? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Our email address is talk@npr.org. And you can also join the conversation on our Web site. Go to npr.org, and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And we should say at least some people in our audience think that one bad idea is talking about the end of the decade when technically it has not ended. We have an email from Jonathan, who says: Why can't we get it right and realize decades, centuries, millennia, etcetera, do not end until the first day of years ending with a one? There is another year left in this decade. It drives those of us that are mathematicians nuts.

So Jonathan, we're sorry. You are right. We are going to continue to talk about the end of this decade, acknowledging that we could perhaps be 365 days off.

We are talking with Dahlia Lithwick, she's a senior editor at Slate, her choice was torture memos for the Washington Post compilation; and Nick Gillespie, he's editor in chief of Reason.tv and Reason.com. He wrote about the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

And Nick Gillespie, what were your runners-up?

Mr. GILLESPIE: Well, you know, one of the things I was just going to say, based on the email you just read: If we've got another year in this decade, I am incredibly depressed.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GILLESPIE: This is really about the worst - I think this is my fourth or fifth decade. My math skills are bad, but it's certainly been the worst of mine.

There - you know, on a serious note, I think virtually any of the big, bipartisan pieces of legislation that I mentioned at the top, I mean, whether it's the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, the coming - the TARP bailout was tremendously awful and will continue to diminish our economy, I think, for decades to come and sets a terrible legislative precedent, as well.

On lighter notes - on much lighter notes, you know, I think that the rise both of the bowl college system, as well as the constant threat and in some ways congressional threats about having a college football playoff are horrible ideas. And more prosaically, I think the tyranny of hardwood floors across America.

ROBERTS: Oh, really, are you tyrannized by hardwood floors?

Mr. GILLESPIE: I am absolutely tyrannized by hardwood floors, and in my house in Ohio, which I bought a couple years and was told that there was just sub-floors under the unbelievably gross carpet, I recently picked up a corner, and lo and behold, there is hardwood there, which I'm going to be digging out over the next couple of weeks.

But what I dislike about it is that we all need to have hardwood floors if we don't have tile or slate or something even more expensive and exquisite. What people always fail to recognize is that fashion choices are, by their very nature, superficial and are not any more windows into the soul than Putin's eyes are for George Bush into Putin's soul.

And you know, I grew up in an era, in the '60s and '70s, when wall-to-wall carpeting was the sign that you had made it. Only farmers and poor people had hardwood floors. That wheel of fashion has turned once again, and now it's all about exquisite teak and parquet and whatnot, and I find it a bit tedious. I'm looking forward to, you know, the day when wall-to-wall shag carpeting comes back in a big way.

ROBERTS: As are we all.


ROBERTS: Dahlia Lithwick, would you agree with Nick Gillespie that this has just been one of the lousiest decades?

Ms. LITHWICK: This has not been a great decade. Had the Post asked us to say what was the best idea of the decade, I think it would have been a much briefer feature. I probably don't agree with Nick on the hardwood floors, and I'm just going to suggest inviting a group of toddlers over and just have them sort of race around, and they'll polish it up right quick.

Our hardwoods are as slippery as ice because of years of my kids sliding and slipping and dropping grape juice on it. So I think there are cheap and effective ways to make hardwood really slidy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LITHWICK: But I don't think that this has been a decade that there's an enormous amount to be proud of. And I say that even as we watch the decline in journalism, too. I think that - I'm not sure that journalism has really acquitted itself brilliantly in this past 10 years.

ROBERTS: That journalism has not done well for itself or that the industry as a whole is over with?

Ms. LITHWICK: Well, I think both. I think clearly, the industry is scrambling to reinvent itself, but I'm not sure that we've done our very, very best to be great journalists in this era.

ROBERTS: Let's take a call from Andre(ph) in Toledo, Ohio. Andre, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

ANDRE (Caller): Hi there. Well, I've got to say my thunder was a bit stolen. I was going to mention the BCS college football ranking system, but since that has already been brought up, I can say the second-worst idea of the decade was Congress deciding to weigh in on the argument. So in December of 2019, we'll still be talking about the BCS and what a worthless kiss-your-sister type of issue we have here.

ROBERTS: Andre, thanks for your call.

ANDRE: Sure...

ROBERTS: We also have an email from Nick(ph) in Madison, Wisconsin, who says: In my opinion, the worst idea of the decade was the concept of outer-space tourism culminating with the idea to send Lance Bass into space. To me, it sums up both the unfortunate fads of the decade and the ridiculous economic speculation. I think the recession has really put that one in perspective.

We're also joined on the line now by Clive Thompson. He is a contributing writer at Wired, and in his Washington Post column, he wrote that vaccine scares are one of the worst ideas of the decade. He joins us from his office in New York. Welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

Mr. CLIVE THOMPSON (Contributing Writer, New York Times Magazine, Wired): Good to be here.

ROBERTS: Why did you choose vaccine scares?

Mr. THOMPSON: Well, I thought that this is an example where a patently unscientific idea gained really enormous currency and had real-world effects. I mean, well, the example I cite in my piece is that the question of why didn't the government have enough swine flu vaccine this fall at the outset.

Well, one of the reason is because they decided - they had decided not to put adjuvants in the vaccines. Now, adjuvants are these basically something that can boost the immune system, and in Europe and Canada, they typically include this in the vaccine because it lets you stretch your vaccine further. You don't have to put as much in each syringe, right?

So if they had used adjuvants, they could have had four times as much swine flu vaccine, enough to probably cover the country. Why didn't they put it in? Because they were worried specifically about the anti-vaccine movement attacking them because the anti-vaccine people think adjuvants might cause autism.

So if you want to know why there wasn't enough swine flu vaccine, it was because that is how powerful the anti-vaccine movement has become. Even though there is really no solid proof at all linking vaccines to autism, it has begun to regularly deform government policy. I think that qualifies as a horrible, horrible idea.

ROBERTS: So it wasn't necessarily that they feared a particularly reaction from this ingredient in the shots; it was that the confidence in the vaccine is so important to make sure people get it that they needed to...

Mr. THOMPSON: Absolutely, absolutely, yeah.

ROBERTS: Have the right PR.

Mr. THOMPSON: The anti-vaccine people are very vocal about scaring parents about this stuff. And so, you know, if the government's thinking well, we could make more of this vaccine, but what if people don't take it, you know? And their backs are up against the wall because that's how powerful this lobby has become.

ROBERTS: We are talking about the worst ideas of the decade. Let's hear from David(ph) in Las Vegas. David, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

DAVID (Caller): Thank you. My ideas were staying in the market at the peak of the stock bubbles and their subsequent decline.

ROBERTS: Oh, David, I think you probably have a pretty big support group on that one being the worst call of the decade.

DAVID: Oh, yeah, oh my goodness. Boy, would I be in good shape if I had gotten out at the peak and then gotten in at the bottom. But if I could only time the market, then I wouldn't have to work.

ROBERTS: Well, you do live in Las Vegas.

DAVID: This is true, and I don't really gamble, either, at least on stocks, which are supposed to be more of a sure thing, definitely more of a sure thing than a casino. But I'd be way ahead in my retirement savings if I would have been able to time the market.

ROBERTS: David, thanks for your call. It's interesting. You know, David referred to something last year. Most of these ideas have been sort of in the latter half of the decade, and is some of that because we have short memories, or did the decade start off strong, do you think? Dahlia Lithwick?

LITHWICK: You know, one of the folks who wrote into the Washington Post Chat made that point, that 2000 was no picnic, and the Marc Rich pardon was nothing to smile about, and there were a lot of horrible ideas before 9/11.

But I do think, at least in terms of, you know, my viewing of things through a sort of legal prism, certainly I think 9/11 was a game-changer. And so you know, the things that started to happen in 2002, 2004, 2005, in relation to the war on terror were really a whole new degree of awfulness. And so I can look back to, for instance, Bush v. Gore and say, well, that was a bad idea that happened in this decade, but it just doesn't seem to be on par with the things that I've been talking about here today in terms of unitary executive or unlimited, indefinite detention for no reason.

ROBERTS: Well, to second that, we do have Ed in Warren, Michigan, who says the Y2K debacle has to be in the Top 10, although at least by our mathematical standard, that was not in this decade.

And Shannon(ph) in San Francisco, she says: Dangling Chad gets my vote. With this, we saw our election process hi-jacked, the unprecedented involvement of the Supreme Court, which then ushered in the fearful eight years of W, George W. Bush.

We turn now - let's see. We've got Michael(ph) in Boston, Massachusetts. Michael, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

MICHAEL (Caller): Yeah. I realized that actually the Iraq invasion was the worst idea that what I thought of. But speaking of George W. Bush, when you promulgate or at least give lip service to an ideology that says that government can't do anything right and that the free market can basically solve everything, then the people who get into government seem to be the people who don't really care about getting it right.

ROBERTS: So, free market capitalism?

MICHAEL: As an ideology. It's a useful technology but - it's a really great engine but it's a good idea to hook it up to a drive train and some wheels and to have someone driving.

ROBERTS: Michael, thanks for your call. Nick Gillespie, do you agree with him?

Mr. GILLESPIE: You know, no, I don't, as a matter fact because one of the things that - and I wrote about this the day after George Bush left office for the Wall Street Journal. George Bush was in no way a free market capitalist. He was the biggest expander of government since Lyndon Johnson, which is the only - the oldest benchmark we have because they changed the way that the government accounts for its budget in the mid-'60s.

He increased government spending, discretionary and mandatory government spending, by 100 percent in real terms. And unfortunately, he seems to greased the skid for the current executive. Bush also passed more what are called economically significant regulations than any president in recent history, meaning regulations that cost the economy more than $100 million to implement.

What we - you know, there's no question that Bush and his handmaidens in the press, his supporters as well as his detractors, all pretended that he had something to do with free markets and with capitalism. In fact, he didn't, which I think is most clearly seen in both in a variety of policies he pursued throughout his presidency. But then in the TARP bailout. There's an easy free market solution to what happens when companies fail, which is that they go into bankruptcy, such as GM and Chrysler. They could have gone into bankruptcy without government support. And everybody in the long run and actually even in the near run would have been better off.

ROBERTS: I want to run through a bunch of these emails. Jesse(ph) says giving Obama the Nobel Prize is his pick. Erin(ph) in Portland says cancelling DAY TO DAY, which was the single best show on NPR. Sorry, guys, I'm like hit-me-as-a-young-listener coming back every day to listen. Here is a shout out for you, Nick. Todd(ph) says, as a consultant who profits from it, I have to wholeheartedly agree Sarbanes-Oxley.

And this is one of many emails that echo this sentiment. This is Gabriel(ph) in Oakland. Why hasn't anyone mentioned the Iraq War? So let's start with you, Dahlia Lithwick. Why didn't you choose the Iraq War as your worst idea?

Ms. LITHWICK: You know, it's interesting when I did the live Washington Post chat this morning, that was the, I think, overwhelming amount of mail said, that this list can't possibly have not included the invasion of Iraq. And I think that probably this is what happens when you ask 10 people for the worst idea, everybody thinks the other nine will have picked the invasion of Iraq. So, you know, I think it just somehow slid through the cracks. But certainly I think an awful lot of us, if you'd polled us again, would have put it on our lists.

ROBERTS: Clive Thompson, do you agree?

Mr. THOMPSON: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think the Iraq War was a catastrophically bad idea. And moreover, I mean, it was sort of the beginning of this problem that has sort of - it's sort of like an UR(ph) problem that affects a lot of things. The thing I talked about, vaccines and in fact other things, which is a retreat from the idea that facts sort of matter, you know what I mean? And that we can agree upon the facts.

It used to be that - Clay Shirky(ph), a thinker here at NYU said, you know, there's been this very strange thing that's happened sort of epistemologically in the last decade which is that facts used to nail down an argument and now facts just start arguments. So the question what was really going on with, you know, weapons of mass destruction, whatnot, sort of became, you know, in the aftermath of the Iraq War, this really fraught issue. A lot of people listening arguing, well, they were there, they were not there.

And the idea of whether or not we should actually nail down these questions and answer it has just sort of boiled away. It's become a very common response to a lot of very difficult questions. You see it with global warming. You see it with the vaccine stuff. You see it with intelligent design. Everyone has a cherry-picked set of facts and no desire to actually commonly hammer out what the jointly agreed upon facts actually are.

ROBERTS: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And Nicholas, we will give you a crack at that one, too. Why didn't you choose the Iraq War?

Mr. GILLESPIE: You know, partly I did mention the authorization of force in Iraq in my Washington Post piece. And one of the things that's fascinating is that invading Iraq and then the immediate flush of victory there, mission accomplishment there, you know, this action had something like 80 percent approval ratings from the United States. Certainly more than 80 percent of American legislators voted in favor of invading Iraq and staying there indefinitely.

You could also, I think, wrap in realistically the Afghanistan mission, which immediately became unclear as to what its objective was once we lost the trail of Osama bin Laden. It has not been clarified whatsoever by Barack Obama, despite the fact that he has increased troops by about 100 percent since the beginning of this year in two increments or two announced increments.

One of the things that is worth asking the American people, and I say this as somebody who was against the Iraq War before John Kerry had voted for it and then voted against it, is where were you when this was going on? I agree with Clive that it's worth thinking about facts. Facts are always - facts, though, are never really fully settled. They are merely kind of the endpoint of a previous argument or a previous claim.

And it might be that we have entered an age where just as everybody is able to kind of program their own media and program their own environment to a degree that was unthinkable even 20 years ago, people can now program their own reality so that facts become more slippery. I would like to argue on some level or at least in some cases that that's actually a very liberating thing. And it's one of the few good things that has happened over the past 10 years is that, ironically, even as all of this horrible things happen, particularly in the political sphere, I think, it is true that people are - even in the diminished circumstances of an economic recession, we are more able than ever to live our lives the way that we want to in terms of lifestyle, in terms of social pressure...

ROBERTS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. GILLESPIE: ...in terms of inventiveness, in terms of recreating work, at least those of us who have jobs, and 90 percent of us still do. But...

ROBERTS: Well, we have to leave it there. Nicholas, the editor in chief of Reason TV, Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate, and Clive Thompson, contributing writer for New York Times magazine and Wired. You can read the whole top 10 list at npr.org.

We give the last word to Brian(ph) in Oklahoma City who says: well, I commend the man who dreamed up the millionaire idea of punching two holes into an airline blanket and fashioning the orifices with sleeves, this idea has made giant adult bibs into a fashionable staple of the American sofa. Cheers to you, evil Snuggy man. It's TALK OF THE NATION.

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