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Aaron Swartz's story has been on my mind all day.  I've collected here some stories that have struck me in the coverage of this issue and some songs that crossed my mind today.  Every now and then a story comes along that crystallizes a number of things that I've been thinking about and this is one of them.  What lies just beneath the surface of this story is revealing information about how the government is using its power to suppress not only whistleblowers and the dissent of people who have legitimate grievances against the system, but also to intimidate
those who work to make the world a better place.  If the buck stopped at a bunch of overzealous prosecutors, that would be one thing, but given that the Secret Service took over the case 2 days before Swartz' arrest - responsibility for this tragedy goes all the way up the food chain to a desk on Pennsylvania Avenue.  This is an issue that needs a lot of attention.



Canned Heat - So Sad (The World's In a Tangle)


"Aaron is dead because the institutions that govern our society have decided that it is more important to target geniuses like Aaron than nurture them, because the values he sought – openness, justice, curiosity – are values these institutions now oppose. ...

What killed him was corruption. Corruption isn’t just people profiting from betraying the public interest. It’s also people being punished for upholding the public interest. In our institutions of power, when you do the right thing and challenge abusive power, you end up destroying a job prospect, an economic opportunity, a political or social connection, or an opportunity for media. Or if you are truly dangerous and brilliantly subversive, as Aaron was, you are bankrupted and destroyed. There’s a reason whistleblowers get fired. There’s a reason Bradley Manning is in jail. There’s a reason the only CIA official who has gone to jail for torture is the person – John Kiriako - who told the world it was going on. There’s a reason those who destroyed the financial system “dine at the White House”, as Lawrence Lessig put it. There’s a reason former Senator Russ Feingold is a college professor whereas former Senator Chris Dodd is now a multi-millionaire. There’s a reason DOJ officials do not go after bankers who illegally foreclose, and then get jobs as partners in white collar criminal defense. There’s a reason no one has been held accountable for decisions leading to the financial crisis, or the war in Iraq. This reason is the modern ethic in American society that defines success as climbing up the ladder, consequences be damned. Corrupt self-interest, when it goes systemwide, demands that it protect rentiers from people like Aaron, that it intimidate, co-opt, humiliate, fire, destroy, and/or bankrupt those who stand for justice."

  -- Matt Stoller


News and Opinion

Aaron Swartz - a Fighter Against the Privatization of Knowledge

"So, clearly the objective has to be to send a message that anyone that has the kind of specialized know-how or talent that Aaron had, you stay away from privately owned or state-owned documents, period. This has to be about, you know, making—sending the message to this community."

Aaron Swartz Faced A More Severe Prison Term Than Killers, Slave Dealers And Bank Robbers

On Friday, Internet pioneer and open information activist Aaron Swartz took his own life at the age of 26. At the time of his death, Swartz was under indictment for logging into JSTOR, a database of scholarly articles, and rapidly downloading those articles with the intent to make them public. If Swartz had lived to be convicted of the charges against him, he faced 50 years or more in a federal prison.

To put these charges in perspective, here are ten examples of federal crimes that carry lesser prison sentences than Swartz’ alleged crime of downloading academic articles in an effort to make knowledge widely available to the public:

Bank Robbery: A person who “by force and violence, or by intimidation” robs a bank faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. If the criminal “assaults any person, or puts in jeopardy the life of any person by the use of a dangerous weapon or device,” this sentence is upped to a maximum of 25 years. ...

Selling Slaves: Under federal law, a person who willfully sells another person “into any condition of involuntary servitude” faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, although the penalty can be much higher if the slaver’s actions involve kidnapping, sexual abuse or an attempt to kill. ...

Helping al-Qaeda Develop A Nuclear Weapon: A person who “willfully participates in or knowingly provides material support or resources . . . to a nuclear weapons program or other weapons of mass destruction program of a foreign terrorist power, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be imprisoned for not more than 20 years.”

[more at link above]

Aaron Swartz funeral: Internet prodigy mourned in Highland Park

The sanctuary was filled to capacity at Central Avenue Synagogue in Highland Park today as mourners said tearful goodbyes to Aaron Swartz, an Internet prodigy described by several people who eulogized him as brilliant, funny, provocative and out to make the world a better place. ...

“Aaron wanted so badly to change the world,” said his partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, choking back tears. “He wanted it more than money. He wanted it more than fame.”

Stinebrickner-Kauffman said Swartz believed it was important to see the world as it really is – even if it is cruel and unjust.

“When things are hard - and he said it is the important things that are hard, you have to lean into the pain.  With his trial and what he is facing the last two years, he finally fell into the pain, ” Stinebrickner-Kaurrman said.  

Aaron Swartz and the Assault on Open Information

Advocates of open access argue that information should be free, especially when public dollars and public consent, however torturously that consent is extracted, lie at the root of the creation of that information. Yet we live in an age of mounting government secrecy and a relentless push to privatization: of not just our public schools, our public health clinics and a host of other taxpayer-funded civic goods, but of our court proceedings, publicly funded research, and the contortions and conversations that go into creating government policy that our tax dollars bankroll but of which we are denied knowledge. That reality, that great corporate-supported push to hide essential, publicly funded information behind private firewalls and government secrecy, represents a breathtaking breach of the basic tenets of democracy. It is this breach above all else that information freedom activist Aaron Swartz sought to subvert. ...

And at the same time that our government is mounting an unprecedented attack on whistleblowers and information freedom activists, the boundaries between corporate power and government-sanctioned repression grow ever more fluid. One need only look at the most recent cache of heavily redacted government documents exposing widespread collusion between public officials, corporate operatives and private security companies to monitor, spy on and disrupt the explicitly non-violent Occupy Wall Street movement. ...

Police spying, government infiltration, entrapment and politicized government prosecutions targeting dissidents and critics of U.S. policy have a long and odious history in the United States — and those government strategies have been wildly popular in the last ten years under both the Bush and Obama administrations. The Obama administration, for example, continues to hold 23 midwest anti-war and solidarity activists under threat of long prison terms for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury fishing expedition — with an undercover government agent at the heart of the ‘investigation.’ This vendetta follows on the heels of a series of politically motivated prosecutions of Muslim charity groups in the United States — including five defendants in the federal Holy Land Fund prosecution, who were convicted of providing material aid to terrorism based on the secret testimony of an agent of the Israeli state. That case has been described by civil rights attorney Michael Ratner and his colleagues as a politically motivated coproduction of the U.S. government and the State of Israel.

What does this leave us with? A fake domestic war on terror. An officially sanctioned legal assault on those critical of U.S. policy. A government deeply committed to concealing evidence of its wrongdoing. A corporate sector looking to profit from public dollars — by garnering big bucks selling public documents back to the public (a dynamic Aaron Swartz sought to subvert in the case that originally brought him to the attention of the FBI), by using fat-cat government contracts to facilitate spying on the very public that seeks more information on government and corporate wrongdoing, and by secretly colluding with the government to thwart scrutiny and criticism of criminal corporations.

Remove United States District Attorney Carmen Ortiz from office for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz.

This poll has 32,193 signatures as of 6pm EST, having passed the threshold of 25,000 signatures required for an Obama administration response.

Fire Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Heymann.

This petition is currently far from the threshold number of signatures required for a Presidential response.  Please help out!

Reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to reflect the realities of computing and networks in 2013.

This petition also needs attention!

Remembering Aaron: Sign up for updates about activism to forward Aaron Swartz's legacy

This is a link on the Demand Progress site, a site which Swartz co-founded to promote progressive policy and fight internet censorship.


Blog Posts of Interest

Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.
What's Happenin'

Punishment Before Trial: More Than 1,000 Days and Counting for Bradley Manning

Why Was the Secret Service Involved in Aaron Swartz Case?

Sweden eliminates forced sterilization of transgender people



A Little Night Music



Jimmy Rogers - The World is in a Tangle

Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac - The world's in a Tangle.

Calvin Frazier: This Old Worlds in A Tangle

John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Freddie Below - King Of The World

Steely Dan - King of the World

Marion Williams - Mean old world





Debate

Remember when progressive debate was about our values and not about a "progressive" candidate? Remember when progressive websites championed progressive values and didn't tell progressives to shut up about values so that "progressive" candidates can get elected?

Come to where the debate is not constrained by oaths of fealty to persons or parties.

Come to where the pie is served in a variety of flavors.

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum."  ~ Noam Chomsky




mood ring 1

Originally posted to DFH writers group on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Team DFH.

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