April 4, 2008

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Listening to, and blogging, Lessig live from the Ames Courtroom here at Harvard, as part of the Berkman@10 celebration. Lessig was here at the founding. Some public notes from his talk…

There are two and a half doctors for every drug representative.

Story: He disqualified himself as a geek by asking a question about law at a geek conference.

Question: Is government just stupid?

The government often gets the easy cases wrong. Such as. There is a consensus among public policy makers that any copyright term change should be prospective only. But governments always extend terms. An easy case the gov gets wrong.

Nutrition… The sugar lobby urged the government to get the Food Nutrition Board to say no more than 25% of your caloric intake from sugar, while the WHO said 10%.

Global warming… There is a consensus that it’s real and we need to work on it. 1000 peer reviewed articles over a period of time. None disagreed. But junk science did, and the government, by doing as little as possible, got it wrong.

This leeds geeks to a position of hopelessness and disengagement. Most think government is a waste of time.

The problem is not stupidity. The system of influence by lobbyists and campaign fundraising that radically effects access, attention and understanding, weakening the government’s ability to get it right.

If money distorts, then pubic financing of elections would stop it. That’s one of Lessig’s theses. He also thinks the right should like public financing because it would result in smaller geovernment. Many on the right were against deregulating cablecos and telcos because deregulating them would remove them as sources of campaign financing.

So. Need a netroots campaign that is not DC centered. That’s why Creative Commons was born.

Change Congress wants a simple way for citizens to signal what they want.

Next is wikified tools for an army of collaborators to suss out who is for reform.

Fund reform after that. Take the problem you’re trying to solve, and make it manageable, digestable and segmentable.

These aren’t new ideas. Just a new opportunity.

Argument: Only if the outside makes a demand will the inside change.

Bribery in congress was not illegal until 1853.

Jefferson expected expected bribery to win.

The top 1% protect themselves from the bottom 99%.

“We do nothing as this happens.” This is exactly what Larry said to the geeks in his first Free Culture speech, by the way.

Criticism: people care more about substance rather than process.

Comparing the current problem to alcoholism. It’s the first problem. We can address no problems sensibly until we face this first problem. Until we change congress.

People tell them they’re happy about this project, but that he will fail.

Yet even certain failure teaches. It’s not excuse not to do something.

We, the most wealthy, secure and articulate people in this polity must be the first to work on this.

These corruptions are promulgated by the most privileged.

Now he’s asking us to “join me here.” The moment is straight out of Billy Graham. We should recall the success of the technique.

Introducing Congressman Jim Cooper of Tennessee…

  “You have witnessed an important moment in American History.”
  He was once the youngest congressman in America. “Sadly this is no longer true.”
  “We’ve got to change Congress.” Impressed that a man like Lessig would “risk his career and reputation to do the right thing.”
  Rep. Graham is for Senator Obama, by the way. No surprise there. A main point of Lessig’s is that Change is more than a slogan. It’s not an empty phrase or a campaign slogan.

Lessig again: Congresspeople spend hours a day telemarketing. Looking for money.

“Congresspeople have an extraordinary job… they get to do the right thing.” Geeks need to push them to do this.

“If it’s my movement it fails.”

It’s still early. No board. No structure yet.

Note to selves: a lot of what Larry wants here is what Britt Blaser and friends are working on.

By the way, Larry will be speaking a week from today, at noon, at UCSB’s Multicultural Center Theater, courtesy of the Center for Information Technology and Society (with which I am also affiliated) there. I can’t recommend it too highly. Larry’s talks are a great show, as well as a call to commitment that’s likely to be as strong and appealing as any you’ll experience in your life.

[Later…] Here’s a picture gallery from the talk.