February 18, 2013  ·  Lessig  · Reblogged from  Tumblr

On Saturday I returned from .GE — where I didn’t sleep at all. Saturday I slept some, but last night critical, as I had two final days to put the final parts on the lecture I must give Tuesday: Aaron’s Laws.

But alas, at 1am, my incredibly sweet 3 year old daughter did what she has now formed the habit of doing — coming into our bed, flopping about like a stranded fish for 15 minutes, and then falling asleep. 

Usually it is a minor annoyance. Jetlag turned it into the end of the nights sleep. So at 2am, I got up to begin today’s work. 

15 hours later, I’m finished for the day. 

This is a really difficult talk to craft. In principle. And in practice. There are too many points where I need a strategy to avoid spinning into blubbery. I am hopeful that if I can persuade sweet Tess of the wonders of her own bed, one more day’s preparation will do it. 

If you can make it, come. If you can’t, it will be webcast. The info for both is here.

(Original post on Tumblr)

February 14, 2013  ·  Lessig  · Reblogged from  Huffington Post

“There’s another challenge that we must address and it is the corrupting force of the vast sums of money necessary to run for office. The unending chase for money I believe threatens to steal our democracy itself.”

No, that’s not a quote from the President Obama’s State of the Union address. But it is from a recent speech by the newest member of his cabinet: John Kerry.

We both were struck by Kerry’s candidness and eloquence on the matter of money in politics as he gave his farewell address to the Senate, where he has spent the last 28 years of his life.

We were so struck, in fact, that we – and our good friends at HuffPost, including Arianna – need your help.

We’re calling it the On the Record Project.

We need to get every member of the House and Senate on the record about the force “that threatens to steal our democracy itself.”

We can no longer afford to have our public officials remain silent on this crucial issue. They should no longer be allowed to duck it, or to act is if there is no mandate to fix the problem.

In fact, the mandate couldn’t be clearer. Year after year, poll after poll has shown that we, the people, are sickened by the way in which money corrodes and corrupts our democracy. In a Gallup poll last July, 87% of us said that reducing government corruption should be an “extremely important” or “very important” priority for the president. It ranked second on a list a dozen – from improving education to strengthening national security — just below job creation (which came in #1, at 92%).

Corruption. It’s a strong word. But that’s how vast majorities of us see it, and now Secretary o State John Kerry confirmed that we’re not nuts: “I’ve used the word ‘corrupting’ and I want to be very clear about it. I mean by it not the corruption of individuals but a corruption of a system itself that all of us are forced to participate in against our will: The alliance of money and the interests that it represents, the access that it affords to those who have it at the expense of those who don’t, the agenda that it changes or sets by virtue of its power is steadily silencing the voice of the vast majority of Americans who have a much harder time competing or who can’t compete at all.”

We Americans are not the type of people who have ever allowed our collective voice to be steadily silenced. Other countries may have a higher tolerance for such muting of the masses, but not us. And it’s time to speak up, and to get every one of our elected representatives to speak up, too. Do they agree or disagree with 87% of us? Do they think John Kerry’s reflections, informed by three decades of service on Capitol Hill, are accurate or not?

To help manage the On the Record Project, HuffPost has set up a system for all of us to help get every member of Congress on the record.

It’s simple enough, but will require some guts and persistence to pull it off.

Here’s what we need you to do:

Go to a gathering that your representative or senator is attending and ask him/her:

What is your view on campaign finance?

Do you believe that the “unending chase for money” has corrupted politics?

Record their answers to both questions on video. Use your cell phone or whatever device you want and then post it with the other videos so that we have an exact record of what they said.

Upload your audio to SoundCloud and tag it #campaignmoney

Or, send us video clips through SendSpace.

Or, send files to us directly at [email protected]

The goal of this project is not merely to get every one of them on the record, but then to use what they say to help propel them to act – to reform the system — or to hold them accountable when they either fail to act or fail to acknowledge the crisis of corruption.

Acknowledgement of an illness is the gateway to wellness. As it is with alcoholics, the first step to sobriety is publicly admitting the addiction.

And on that front, once again John Kerry was very clear: “We should not resign ourselves, Mr. President, to a distorted system that corrodes our democracy, and this is what is contributing to the justifiable anger of the American people. They know it. They know we know it. And yet nothing happens. The truth requires that we call the corrosion of money in politics what it is – it is a form of corruption and it muzzles more Americans than

it empowers, and it is an imbalance that the world has taught us can only sow the seeds of unrest.”

Indeed, they do know it. And they do know that we know it. And, yet, nothing is happening in Washington.

At least, until now.

Let’s get every politician to take a stand – either for the status quo or against it — so that we know who’s on what side. Doing so will help all 87% of us democracy-loving Americans draw the battle lines for the future.

Please, join the cause. Become a part of the On The Record Project now.

Questions on this project? Let us know in the comments below. We will update this scorecard with your responses.

(Original post on HuffPo)

February 8, 2013  ·  Lessig  · Reblogged from  Tumblr

So as I packed for the trip to Tblisi this morning, I was happy to read that they’re in a warm spell — temperatures in the low 60s. 

But as I sit on the train and watch the news unfold, I see that things are not just warm, but hot. Read the speech of the President (being given right now), as reported on the amazing Civil.GE

(Original post on Tumblr)

February 8, 2013  ·  Lessig  · Reblogged from  Tumblr

On my way (by train via DC to avoid #Nemo) to Georgia (as in .GE) to help/learn/think about their latest constitutional crisis. Twenty years ago this work began, with a delegation from Georgia traveling to the University of Chicago and drafting their first, post-communist Constitution. What happened then is the story remixed in the West Wing episode that portrays me as old as I now feel … 

It is a weird and strong bond I feel to this country — weird, because there’s no ancestry to account for it; strong, because over the past 20 years, I’ve come to know the genuine and serious struggle of people trying to build a constitutional Republic.

It is once again a critical moment, and the President and his party have an enormous opportunity to be for Georgia what Adams et al. were for America. Indeed, this was exactly the lesson that I was first taught by Aleksandr Davidovich Chikvaidze when I first went to Georgia in the early 1990s. As I waited to meet the President, Eduard Shevardnadze, Chikvaidze quizzed me: “What was the most important moment in American history?” he asked. I had no idea what he was thinking of, so I offered all the obvious dates. “Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG,” he scolded. “March 4, 1801.” “Why that date,” I asked him? “Because that was the date that America had its first peaceful transfer of power between two fundamentally opposed parties.” One party (the Federalists) accepted its defeat, but showed the world that democracy had come to America, because they showed the world, they could step aside (the judiciary is another story…).

This is precisely the question in Georgia right now. A new party has swept the parliament. The President now must decide whether and how he could be Adams, or be every other Georgian president since the Soviet Union fell. Mikheil Saakashvili has likely done more good for Georgia than Adams did (as President) for the US. His fight to end the corruption of the Georgian police is world-historic and an amazing success. And there are many in his party that have real questions about the party that now demands the right to govern. But he and everyone else involved in this struggle must now bridge a critical trust gap. Not sure it’s possible. But it would be extraordinary if they can.

Stay tuned…

(Original post on Tumblr)

February 6, 2013  ·  Lessig  · Reblogged from  Tumblr

I was very sad (irrationally so, as I spend way too much time preparing for talks) that the AV wizards didn’t have audio during my talk at Aaron’s DC Memorial Monday. Nonetheless, the event was amazing, and you should watch the other talks — especially by the conservatives. Issa’s words promise something important (the only one to talk about copyright). I was very encouraged by the event.

But the one thing that struck me, independent of the subject, was my amazing freshman (now senior) Senator, @SenWarren. There were many Members who showed up. Almost all of them wanted to speak. Almost none of them had time to stay for the whole event. And almost all of them were pulled constantly to their preferred brand of tech-distraction. 

Except Warren: She didn’t ask to speak, she didn’t check her blackberry, and she stayed the whole time, listening, thinking, and offering support at the end. 

I’m sure her staff will teach her someday that this not how politicians are to behave. I was glad to witness her before those lessons are learned. It let me dream — maybe they never will be learned.

(Original post on Tumblr)