November 12, 2007  ·  Lessig

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Jack Goldsmith is a friend from law school. We clerked together at the Supreme Court. We have remained friends since. When he went to the Justice Department to head the Office of Legal Counsel (read: the coolest possible job in the world of public lawyers), many of us were anxious. The kind of legal storm that was/is the Bush Administration is not a place one wishes on friends.

The Terror Presidency is the story of Jack’s time at OLC. It is a book that makes me very proud — of the ideals of my profession, and of my friend. You’ve no doubt heard the sexy bits — orchestrating the reversal of OLC on the torture memos, the scene at the hospital with Ashcroft, etc. Those alone make the book worth the read. Indeed, the new attorney general said he “couldn’t put it down.”

But the two parts that grabbed me were these:

(1) The hardest part of this story for those of us who believe in executive oversight (and believe that the Constitution means what it says in Article I, Section 8, Clause 18) is the extraordinary account of the costs of legalizing (as in subjecting to law) much of the work of the CIA and Defense Department. Long after this administration is gone, careful souls will need to understand how to overcome the debilitating costs of this sort of legal uncertainty. The simple answers (repeal the law; expand the regulation) are too simple. But Jack’s account interestingly flipped my understanding of the struggle inside the administration. It is hard not to see that the problem was often not a lack of law, or respect for the law, but an over-abundance of law. (We) Liberals, happy to have clear and plain speaking from an inside-conservative, should not be so quick to overlook this critical point of the book.

(2) There is something unavoidably fantastic about watching up close law have its independent effect. Most go into this profession believing in its integrity. Many find it too hard too often to see or feel that integrity. This is a book about that integrity. As anyone close to this subject knows, it is always possible to bend the law to some political end. It takes a kind of courage, or at least, self-respect, to resist that bending. Jack’s story here is compelling, not only because he doesn’t attribute the bending to illicit motives, but also because it makes clear just how hard it is to feel the ground on which one needs, always, to stand. If our students understood only a fraction of this, it would make enormous difference.

I am proud of this friend.

November 6, 2007  ·  Lessig

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The good folks at Sunlight Foundation have build this cool little viewing tool to let you see where the House “earmarks” are. “Earmarking” as you likely know is the ability of a member to tag funds for a “particular use or owner.” It will be a focus of my research. But long before I figure out anything interesting about this bizarre institution (a big assumption, I realize), you can see the where and how of this if you’re willing to let Google Earth be your viewer. Very cool.

November 5, 2007  ·  Lessig

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JUMP: 系列 Photographer:老0
Creative Commons License

From Joi Ito‘s blog:

I landed in Beijing yesterday at 5AM from Los Angeles and am leaving today at 1PM for New York. From a logistical and environmental perspective, I think this was one of my stupider trips. However, from a content perspective, this was one of my best trips ever. I really met more interesting people, saw more interesting things and had more interesting conversations in a single day than I’ve had in a long time.

I started out the morning yesterday by giving at talk at cnbloggercon organized by Isaac Mao. I gave a talk about the sharing economy and got some interesting questions and hallway conversation about sharing in the context of China. I also got to meet a lot of the Chinese bloggers I only knew by name. Many thank for Isaac and his crew for organizing this excellent annual conference and sorry I haven’t made it over before.

Then I went to the Creative Commons China Photo Content ceremony at the National Library in Beijing. There were 10,000 submissions of professional and amateur works licensed under various CC licenses. There were three categories: Society, Nature and Portraits. Winners were chosen by a panel of judges including famous photographers, professors and other notable people. The photographs were amazing. There is a web page of the winning photographs. Don’t forget to click the link underneath the winning photos for the second place winner gallery.

While we have silly people in the West saying that for every free photo on Flickr a professional photographer loses their job, we have professional photographers in China licensing their best works under CC licenses. As far as I could tell, the amateur and professional photographers seemed integrated and supportive of each other.

After the awards ceremony, we have a workshop with presentations from an illustrious and interesting group of speakers. Overall a groundbreaking and well executed event. Congratulations Chunyan and the CC China team!

I’m uploading photos from my trip in a Flickr set. I found out yesterday that there is a Firefox Plugin to bypass the Chinese block on Flickr. Yay!