Liveblogging LessigSubmitted Fri Jun 27 2008 10:12:00 GMT-0400 (EDT)
Lawrence Lessig ... speaking to a packed house at the DIA user conference keynote.
(ot) Seating nailed down at the power strip oasis. Why are there never enough outlets? airports are a special offender in this ... or, maybe i should think about a computer with more than 30 seconds of battery life.
DIA board member Ed Walters with the intro.
So here's LL:
We need a "declaration of independence"
... we get stuck in the "pattern of 4ths ..." we wake up every four years, and then go back to sleep.
"our 'thursday night out'" + thunder sound effect. nice.
everything is focused on this one year, as if it can save us.
but ... of course it can't.
thesis: the framers failed. apostasy! what's next, Charles Beard???
ergo: "no golden past" ... we're much better today in many ways.
number of lobbyists and cost of lobbyists in 2000 have both doubled. (maybe that latter is the collapse of the dollar ...) -- business is willing to "invest" in them.
as he says that congress' approval rating is lower than bush's, a baby starts to cry.
"crony capitalism" is at the core of the government ... he calls this more subtle than Daniel Webster 19th century outright bribery. doesn't seem much more subtle to me.
"question people on the right need to ask is, how much extortion-enabling regulation is out there, and would public funding to elections stop it?"
but the left gets the wrong answers to the right questions. sort of vague on that one.
there are easy cases! his copyright extension case, of course, is one.
25% of our diet can come from sugar, according to the FDA, blowing off the WHO.
here's some photography:
global warming ... another easy question. contrasts popular media still treating global warming skepticism as legit vs. the scientific literature, and the harm of massively delaying any possible remediation.
after the example of world-screwing ecological catastrophe, saying that "trust" is the most fundamental problem caused by all this might be a little questionable...
telco immunity's up next ... democrats who switched on telco immunity got twice the contributions of dems who didn't.
"we need more than every four years in this quad-annual hope-fest" ... "we need something more sustained than this if we're to get change"
hence ... Change Congress ("[beta]" ... nice.)
references Creative Commons, which the above pictures are posted in.
so, change congress is about:
1. no $ from lobbyists/pacs
2. reform "earmarks"
3. support public finance of public elections
4. support total transparency
cites Barack Obama getting the DNC to pledge not to take lobbyist money. (where does he stand on obama's no-public-financing move? does he give any credence to the line that public financing of elections as a baseline value is obsolete?)
he says he "flung" himself from california last night at 2 in the morning. how lame am i to be hung over after the mere salsa party last night?
"there is a flaw at the core of the people's house ... that flaw is dependence. we need to change that dependency. but we won't change it through the quadannual practice of thursdays." -does he mean tuesdays? i'm totally not getting the reference. i should probably get out more.
compares it to alcoholism ... you have to solve the alcohol problem before you can do anything else -- so it's not necessarily the *worst* problem, it's the *first*, most fundamental problem.
into the Q&A
-first question is on obama and the public financing. glad i wasn't the only one who caught that.
"do i have to answer that question?" -- justifies it as realpolitik because of those dirty-fighting 527s. guarded concern ... concern that it erodes confidence in whether obama is really about hope we can believe in. hmmm.
lessig is "absolutely 100% convinced that this is what he believes in, public funding for public elections" -- not every pol can realize this obama effect of demokratichny internet-driven big-money-out campaigns.
lessig remains very pro-obama, and troubled by what others will see from this change -- and the telco change, which i hope was someone's pending question. "the world doesn't need to see this kind of change." ... but he's unconditionally backing obama.
-to the next question, he adds that he *does* think the move to distributed small-dollar fundraising is progress ... and that leads to "dependency" on "the people" which is what the framers wanted. a couple of endlessly debatable propositions there, too.
moots anonymizing donations as a parallel solution to the anonymous ballot ...
-doesn't think he's necessarily going to succeed (also true of copyright work) ... he has the luxury of being a tenured professor. fewer and fewer of those in these days of academic proletarianization ...
but he actually thinks the Change Congress mission is not that far necessarily from succeeding. could happen within three years if everything breaks right!
-question about reform of corporate statutes -- the "corporate persons" power to act against the public interest.
ll responds, essentially, that the supreme court isn't going to change that stuff. proposes that destroying the power of the corporation to have disproportionate influence on the process is another road to the same destination.
DIA's own Jeanette Russell asks what progressives can do now to help...
Lessig gives an admittedly geeky answer -- support/use/build open source software as an infrastructure for reform.
"we have about eight years when we understand the code, the technology, better than they do. and there's a potential to leverage it in a surprising way ... we've got to do it now and we need to do it quickly ..."
Very nice question from Tauna at Connecticut Parent Power about crossing ideological/partisan divides instead of being the same people talking to the same people.
ll: reform won't come from democrats alone, nor partisans alone -e.g., "good for them" (the Republicans) being stronger on earmarks.
ll was born and raised a republican, youngest member of the convention that elected Ronald Reagan. "I did not know that," as Walter Sobchak said.
his pitch to republicans is that getting money out is an investment to make it *possible* for them to downsize government and, you know, drown it in a bathtub.
"people on the right" are "people too" ... "i used to be one of them!"
question about whether there are some more fundamental things at work here in the human capacity to do this stuff.
ll remarks that institutions of government are hundreds of years old. echoes his past lines on the "code" in the constitution ... e.g., his media reform conference presentation, which we've posted before ...
-in america, "you can actually shame the members of government." (well ... some of them.)
last question is from "a lobbyist for a nonprofit" -- "would we exist?"
-ll embraces some role for lobbyists ... for providing information, helping legislators do things they want to do anyway, but draw the line at the bribery/extortion racket.
that's it for LL ... lots of people over to talk to him on the side after a huge ovation.
apropos of nothing, this is a very short excerpt of his remarks on telco immunity earlier.
... and, for no particular reason, a slide he used of "the people" (or was it "poor people", contra the ones who can buy influence?) (artwork genesis unknown ...)