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Tag Archive: Change Congress

The Nation on Lessig

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Earlier today, Lawrence Lessig spoke about Change Congress at the Free Press' fourth annual National Conference for Media Reform, being held this year in Minneapolis. As always, Larry gave a killer speech. You can watch an earlier speech he gave at the National Press Club in March when he launched Change Congress here. Which reminds me...

Not to be missed: In the current edition of The Nation, Christopher Hayes, the magazine's Washington editor, profiles Larry and Change Congress. It's an extensive profile and a good read. (And I say this not only because he quotes me!) You don't have to take my word for it, Cory Doctorow called the profile "fantastic." Hayes writes "playing David to various Goliaths (armed with a laptop as slingshot) is the defining narrative of Lessig's career." If you're a Lessig fan, it's a must read.  If you're unfamiliar with this bona fide and burgeoning cult hero, check it out...And join the revolution!

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Sunlight Really is a Pretty Darn Good Disinfectant.

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Speaking of Change Congress, I was reading Japhet Els' posting about earmarks and wanted to weigh in here. (I just joined the Change Congress Google Group and will post this there, too.)

First of all, it is always easier to identify the problem than to solve it, no matter which policy arena you are playing in. But in this case, it's even hard to identify the problem. Is it that lawmakers get to decide where to spend government money and the process is too subjective? (If not them, would a government bureaucrat know the needs of a district better?) Is it that the private financing of public elections corrupts public officials absolutely (or partially), and so we can't trust the spending of government money to them because they simply can't make unbiased decisions? (I kind of think the latter is a big part of the problem if not the whole of it.) Is it because some lawmakers have private investments in companies that might execute the contracts to perform the work designated by earmarks or that they make decisions to benefit their own personal holdings. (See Dennis Hastert.). It's probably all of the above and more. (See Bill Allison's frequent blog postings on earmarks.)

Second, proposals for reform have to be realistic. (Yes, they can be idealistic and realistic at the same time.) It is simply not realistic to propose to ban earmarks, I mean, someone has to decide which bridges and roads need to be fixed, which universities are doing great research and need to be supported, which community health clinics deserve government money, and yes too, how many new bombers we need. And while I understand that calling for an earmark ban is useful as an organizing vehicle, as policy it doesn't make a lot of sense. Who would decide how to spend the money? And even if you suspend my disbelief, a history of reform efforts show us that such a "ban" would most likely drive the spending underground and make it even hard to track how Congress spends taxpayer money. The money will get spent.

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Lawrence Lessig Featured in Sunshine Week Lecture

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Larry Lessig, renowned expert in intellectual property and Sunlight Advisory Board member, will launch his new "Change Congress" project in a Sunshine Week lecture on March 20. In this lecture -- sponsored by Sunlight and Omidyar Network -- Lessig will describe his decision to focus his academic interests on the issue of the systemic corruption of American democracy. He will explore the ways in which our democracy is threatened by corruption and ways we, as citizens, can respond.

The event will be held at the National Press Club from 1:30 to 3 PM on March 20th, in Murrow White and Lisagor Rooms and it will be Webcast.

Space is limited so RSVP soon.

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