Monday, January 14, 2013

On the internet

On Virtually Speaking Sundays, this was the main topic Digby and Marcy Wheeler discussed:
"Internet pioneer and information activist takes his own life: Aaron Swartz faced decades in prison for downloading academic articles." He was 26.
Alex Stamos on "The Truth about Aaron Swartz's 'Crime'"
Glenn Greenwald on The inspiring heroism of Aaron Swartz
Lawrence Lessig, "Prosecutor as bully"
Cory Doctorow
Rick Perlstein, Remembering Aaron Swartz
Patrick Nielsen Hayden discusses and links.
Marcy Wheeler wonders how the Secret Service got involved early in the case: "A lot of people are justifiably furious with US Attorney Carmen Ortiz and AUSA Heymann's conduct on this case. But the involvement of the Secret Service just as it evolved from a local breaking and entry case into the excessive charges ultimately charged makes it clear that this was a nationally directed effort to take down Swartz."
Susie Bright has something to say about the way the feds hound people to death.
The 15th Annual Muzzle Awards
Swartz family statement
Matt Stoller on Aaron Swartz's politics: "Aaron Swartz was my friend, and I will always miss him. I think it's important that, as we remember him, we remember that Aaron had a much broader agenda than the information freedom fights for which he had become known. Most people have focused on Aaron's work as an advocate for more open information systems, because that's what the Feds went after him for, and because he's well-understood as a technologist who founded Reddit and invented RSS. But I knew a different side of him. I knew Aaron as a political activist interested in health care, financial corruption, and the drug war (we were working on a project on that just before he died). He was a great technologist, for sure, but when we were working together that was not all I saw."

Aaron's importance to the internet can't be overstated, nor his importance to trying to keep public information public. He may have been one of the most important anti-censorship activists of the last ten years. This is, indeed, a tremendous loss.

But I couldn't help thinking, as this became one of the most ubiquitous stories on the internet, that I was hearing nothing about its appearance in the establishment media - except that one person IM'd me to say no one was talking about it on the alphabet networks. And I remembered how, since long before there was a liberal blogosphere, certain journalists had gone out of their way to talk about the importance of the internet - as long as what was on the internet was a lot of right-wing Clinton-hating. How things bubble up from the internet. How...Matt Drudge rules their world. Sure looks the establishment doesn't want to talk much about Aaron Swartz and what his story means.

* * * * *

Trevor Aaronson was the guest on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd. "Trevor Aaronson's work as an investigative reporting fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, culminated in an award-winning cover story in Mother Jones magazine. The Terror Factory reveals shocking information about the criminals, con men and liars the FBI uses as paid informants - including the story of an accused murderer who has become one of the Bureau's most prolific terrorism snitches. Aaronson documents the extreme methods the FBI uses to ensnare Muslims in terrorist plots, which are in reality conceived and financed by the FBI." Marcy Wheeler also joined the discussion. A recent article from Aaronson on the same subject appeared this week in Mother Jones, "Inside the Terror Factory".

"Police in schools may be included in Obama's plan [...] The idea is gaining currency among some Democratic lawmakers, who see it as a potential area of common ground with Republicans who otherwise oppose stricter restrictions on firearms. Sen. Barbara Boxer, a liberal Democrat from California, said she presented the plan to Vice President Joe Biden and that he was "very, very interested" and may include it in the policy recommendations he makes to President Barack Obama." Disgusting.

Yglesias admits, "Barack Obama Has Long Subtly Favored Cutting Social Security Benefits [...] Obviously it's a bit strange to say that a 1983 bill stabilized Social Security "for the next sixty years" but also be standing around a mere 22 years later talking about "the problems with the Social Security trust fund." But the key point is that while on a lot of issues Obama is happy to just lay down what he thinks should be done policy-wise, on Social Security he alludes to a past bipartisan deal to raise taxes and cut benefits and suggests a similar process rather than a desired outcome. So when Democrats ran the show he didn't try to move on Social Security. But with Republicans in control of the House, the stage is set for the preferred outcome of cutting benefits in the context of a bipartisan deal." I didn't think it was so subtle, since he's been harping on it forever, but it's amazing how few people seem to have noticed.

Matt Taibbi: "Hank Greenberg Should Be Shot into Space For Suing the Government over the AIG Bailout: A lot of people are wondering what to think about the news that the board of AIG is considering joining the lawsuit filed by former AIG head Maurice "Hank" Greenberg against the Fed and the U.S. government - a suit that one news outlet describes as charging the state with handing out an 'insufficiently generous bailout.' [...] But here's the funny thing about the lawsuit filed against the government: It isn't all wrong. In fact, parts of it are quite on the mark."

Incarceration in the United States - Hm, I wonder why it hasn't been updated in the last few years....

Thanks to GOP redistricting, Congress is actually losing a pretty good legislator from North Carolina, Brad Miller. Bluenc provides a clip of Miller demonstrating that he knows what he's talking about when he questions the banksters, and says, "Make no mistake, the redistricting that pulled Brad's seat out from under him wasn't just an afterthought, or merely one element of a state-wide approach, or some sort of payback for redistricting he took part in years ago. He was a threat to some very influential people, who are very skilled at shifting money around."

This is a Google translation of a German article about water privatization and a company called Veolia Group that is suing to stop distribution of a documentary called Water Makes Money. Thanks for the tip to ksix who provided the heads-up in comments to the previous post, explaining, "The gist of it seems to be that French company Veolia can't sue the German film directors in German court so they're going after the French distributor and a Veolia whistleblower in French court. The film shows privatized water utilities in German and French cities to be inefficient, costly and, in some cases, corrupt. The intent of the lawsuit is to keep that information from the public. This kind of harassment seems to be the current corporate strategy for discouraging documentary filmmakers. (Dole did the same thing to the Swedish director of the film "Bananas.")"

Remember Diethylstilbestrol (DES)? That's the anti-miscarriage drug that didn't prevent miscarriage but did cause lots and lots of cancer and malformation of reproductive organs. It was marketed in the United States long after Eli Lilly knew this, and continued to be marketed even longer in other countries. (Not too sure about this petition, though...)

The time Mark Evanier met Richard Chamberlain. I love these stories.

Gorgeous Illustrated Posters of classic genre films

Fireworks in reverse


  1. Sure looks the establishment doesn't want to talk much about Aaron Swartz and what his story means.

    Do you think Fluffyhead, The Chuckster(aka Chuck Todd), Brian Williams or Jake Tapper even know who Swartz is/was? They're more concerned about getting invited to Sally Quinn's mansion for cocktails.

  2. aaron was a hero. thank you for putting him top o the page.

    the important thing about his death is a lesson i hope all of us, esp younger people learn. which is yes, they will go after you for as little as a blog post or facebook wall, and throw the whole weight of the state behind the effort to ruin you.

    think about that.

  3. Barack Obama and Social Security: back in 2008, enthusiastic Obama supporters insisted that his comments about reforming entitlements had nothing to do with Social Security. It was all about getting universal health care, they said. When I pointed out that he was saying nothing of the kind, they insisted that he was saying what he had to say to get elected, but then it would become clear that he was talking about universal health care, not about Social Security.

    It was the damnedest thing. Before Bush, I don't remember that "saying what you have to say to get elected" was acceptable. I thought knowing that "he really meant the opposite of what he said" was a ludicrous Bush fan characteristic. Now it seems the way politics are done. The politician is like a movie star -- his function is to focus the fantasy life of his fans.

    On another topic, Brad Miller is from North Carolina.

    1. Dammit, these mindo-s keep creeping in! I knew that!

    2. On another another topic. I went with two of your recommendations and they did the trick in bridging the digital divide -- thanks again.

  4. Sure looks the establishment doesn't want to talk much about Aaron Swartz and what his story means.

    I scanned a few mainstream newspapers and only found mentions of him in the Boston Globe and the LA Times. Not even McClatchy, which did find space for Chandra Levy.

    This is a more intelligible version of the Veolia article from the English language version of the website (which I wish I'd seen earlier).

  5. So depressing about Swartz, but I don't feel sorry for him. He did the right thing, and I think he's better off now. As for the country and world we're left it, I really can't say they deserve someone as brave and idealistic as that.

    And as contemptible as Heymann and Ortiz are, this has Bambi's fingerprints all over it. He's the perfect Oreo of evil: Cheney and Emanuel evil hellbent on vengeance on the inside, with a thin veneer of Cosby that still seems to sucker the masses. There is no point fighting the Antichrist, he has been given dominion over the world. The only rational response is to withdraw from the world and his evil.

  6. The outrage over Swartz's case should serve as a reminder that movement liberals are not Big Government statists.

    Movement liberals are for adversarial checks and balances between powerful public and private interests, not for state power for its own presumed benevolence.

    Establishment liberals, on the other hand...

  7. Marcy Wheeler on Lanny Breuer:

    If we want to fix the injustice that was done to Aaron Swartz, we need to fix the aspects of the system that rewarded such behavior. We need to fix the law that empowered the prosecutors gunning for him. We need to put some breaks on DOJ’s power. And we should start by getting rid of the guy who has fostered this culture of abuse for the last four years.

  8. The US Secret Service is the lead agency on computer crime in the USA, and has the people with the specialised skills to supervise such things as the handling of evidence. In the early days, it looks as nobody really knew what they were doing. Twenty years later, having a Secret Service agent involved would seem to be pretty routine.

    That doesn't make their presence a good thing, but it is less significant that some think.

    I'm reminded that the UK's legal system still has a split between the people who prepare cases, and the people who argue cases in court. That's not entirely a good thing: the people with the court experience will kill a bad case, but they don't get to see it until late in the process. But a British Barrister, who might be a very specialised lawyer, not just an advocate in court, follows a set of professional rules which mean he will act for both prosecution and defence (in different cases, of course).

    The British system and the American system diverged before a recognisable modern system emerged. That is partly why the US Constitution has some of the clauses it does, trying to block some of the potential for abuses. In Britain, William Garrow was changing, by personal example, how trials were conducted. Were elected prosecutors that good an idea? It was, I suppose, seen as a counter to tyranny. The British system, with the Judges picked from a large pool of experienced trial lawyers, doesn't seem to have gone for such things as Plea Bargains: imagine what a good defence lawyer could make of the sort of prosecutorial threat that Aaron Schwartz faced, and remember that in Britain the prosecutor in court, and the Judge, have experience of defending cases.

    Neither system is perfect. But, when they interact, as with the attempts to extradite Gary McKinnon showed, the differences and the politics combine is a rather ugly mess. The persistent US efforts, and the apparently exaggerated charges, combined with the scope of the penalties being talked about, sat uneasily with the questionable mental health of McKinnon. It shifted from legal issues to political, but the possible 70-year sentence, compared to less than four years for a guilty plea, doesn't look like justice from the top of the Clapham omnibus.

    It's not just this case. It's not just this prosecutor. There's an ugly pattern in the US justice system, and petitions aimed at removing a single bad-apple from the barrel ignore a stinking, rotten, mass of strange fruit.

  9. Today's my birthday and this is what conservative industrialist Cyril Blubberpuss says about it.

  10. I tell you, we've just got to find more targets for all these drones: