Aaron Swartz


I noticed a lot of comments on the suicide of young Aaron Swartz on my last post. It’s a tragedy when anyone takes their own life and I can’t really write about the issues surrounding the legal case he was involved in because I’m tired of dealing with the Mob– the idiots that send me emails saying “Why don’t you shove a nail in your ass” after we released our report on Ad Networks and Piracy. The problem with the copyleft is that they can’t imagine someone actually having to go to jail for stealing intellectual property. That was probably part of Aaron’s problem. It never occurred to him that breaking into a server was the equivalent of breaking into a house. He had a history of depression and wrote romantically about suicide in the comic book movies he loved. He seemed like a very generous soul. But he was clearly not ready to go to jail.

But the fact that I feel constrained to speak my mind about piracy because I am tired of the mob is sad. Last year I wrote about my friend David Fanning having his whole web enterprise destroyed by Lulzsec because his show Frontline reported on the darker side of Julian Assange’s sense of morality. I know for a fact that most musicians are scared to speak out about having their content exploited by criminals like Kim Dotcom, because they are afraid of the cyber mob. I don’t know how the hell we are going to have a civil conversation about IP with those of us who want to defend the artist’s right to get paid for their work, being under the threat of bodily harm (note that most of the most threatening comments have been taken down)?

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67 Responses to Aaron Swartz

  1. len says:

    It’s getting nasty. There are websites with the usual conspiracy theories about who killed Aaron. Anonymous hacked and defaced the MIT page. The tone of discussion for anyone who doesn’t want to be a party to the Martyr Machine is ugly.

    And so dammed predictable.

    The hacktivists and their supporters keep comparing him to MLK and their causes and means to the 60s. As I recall the organizations and individuals who led those movements worked hard to plan and to protect the people who worked with them. They were clear about what would happen at a protest. They prepared for jail and in the case of MLK, even set themselves up for it. They fought prosecution but they invited it, understood it and understood that there were consequences.

    Not the hacktivists. I won’t name names but I’ve been reading the responses from the intellectual leaders, the lawyers, the authors, the web site owners all of whom knew Aaron but somehow don’t seem to have prepared him or themselves for the outcomes. They deny that their movement for all of its commendable goals has created a shadow, the pirate bays, the kim dotcoms, the outrageous profits of the big iron server owners who both support and exploit freedom of expression.

    The web cabal made a witches brew and when the light is turned on, they say, “those are social issues, we don’t solve those, we aren’t responsible for those, we are just… engineers.” But they want the fame and the acclaim.

    Aaron tried very hard to change the world, to fix the “brokenness” and he wasn’t a soul that understood the consequences. He was not going to jail for 50 years as CNN wrote. The legal system can be harsh and unfair but that wasn’t going to happen. Was Carmen Ortiz making an example out of him? She’ll have to answer for that. Is the legal system fair? It is the best legal system money can buy as the British say.

    But none of that makes up for the zeitgeist created by these forces, a zeitgeist that says information should be free but won’t account for piracy and theft and corruption of our culture. Who will answer for that? Not the cabal. And Aaron? They will go on using him, are still and they don’t admit it, won’t change their methods, and when the next kid signs up, they’ll strap a cause du jour to his chest and put him on the bus.

    Lacrimare mortis. Rest in peace, kid.

  2. Rick Turner says:

    How do the folks in the “information should be free” crowd earn a living?

    Are the “trustafarians”?

    Did they make theirs in IP behind solid firewalls?

    Didn’t Aaron make some sort of small fortune…at least enough to live on for a while…selling his hard earned IP to someone who expected it to be reasonably secure from virtual theft?

    What if ALL THE CODE were to be hacked and freely distributed as soon as it is written? And I mean from ALL of the software companies from Oracle on down to lowly Microsoft.

    Where does the money come from to support the hacker and free-information culture?

    Do John Perry Barlow and Stewart Brand cash their royalty checks or tear them up? Isn’t the info supposed to be free?

    There’s one hell of a disconnect going on here…

  3. Ben Trafford says:

    Rick, all of the code involved in Infogami (Aaron Swartz’s company) and Reddit (which Swartz was a co-owner of) was open sourced in 2008. Released to the wild.

    Most open source “information should be free” types support themselves by offering services not strictly related to the sale of IP, but mostly around installing, enhancing and customizing it.

    That’s where the money comes from.

  4. Rick Turner says:

    So code is a loss-leader?

  5. Rick Turner says:

    And wouldn’t the terms “installing, enhancing and customizing it.” amount to yet another form of Intellectual Property? That should be free…?

  6. Ben Trafford says:

    No, it shouldn’t. It’s a service that’s provided, and often, the code that comes with it -is- released as open source.

    And code is a loss leader, yep. As an IT professional, I can tell you that I loathe working with closed source systems, because even if I -could- fix a problem that comes up with it, I’d be in legal hot water if I did. Instead, I get to pay a corporation to be stuck with their broken code.

    Also, let me be clear — I am -not- an “information should be free” guy. And actually, many people who support Swartz aren’t. The information that Swartz was trying to free was, in large part, paid for by your tax dollars and then locked up by a corporate middleman.

    It’s also interesting to note that the alleged victim in the Swartz case specifically requested that he not be prosecuted and later opened up their service. In other words, they set their information free.

    Trying to use him as an example in an antipiracy context is foolish.

  7. len says:

    He is example of a human shield, Ben. The pirates stand behind him and those like him. He is gone and now they’ll use him to find others to do the same thing.

    Code is a loss leader after they sell the company, BTW. And I know as much about the IT revolution as the next geek, but I also know the entertainment industry to some degree and the publishing industry and people are being screwed by the very forces Aaron helped set in motion. You want people to be sympathetic. Fine. It’s time the web cabal opened it’s eyes and looked realistically and truthfully about who is hiding behind them and what they are doing to this culture. They aren’t heros and Aaron will be a Judas Goat. Word.

  8. Rick Turner says:

    I’m totally sympathetic to your points, Ben. This whole thing is a flash point for discussion that will get deep and very muddled. And, yes, when anyone in academe publishes but was supported financially by the university (or whatever) and the state, who owns the copyrights? Wouldn’t that constitute “work for hire”? And so, if the institution feel that it has not been wronged, why literally make a federal case out of it? But that’s the slippery slope of legal interpretation. And it’s like calling the police to eject an unwanted intruder, but then refusing to call them a trespasser…meanwhile, the person is handcuffed in the back of a cop car…

  9. Ben Trafford says:

    Rick: I suspect they followed corporate protocol in the U.S., which amounts to “call the cops instantly before any thinking is done.” They changed their minds after the fact.

    I think, in this instance, the analogy is more like seeing someone in your house with a flashlight; calling the cops to report a burglar; finding out it’s one of your kids’ friends who you gave a key to; and then the prosecution insisting on sending the kid to prison for a decade or so.

    Len: The pirates will stand behind anyone they think will keep the ad dollars flowing, just like the NRA stands behind lawful gun owners who really think some firearms regulation would be a good idea. I will no more support lumping in Aaron Swartz with the pirates than I would support lumping in a guy who hunts with the Sandy Hook shooter.

  10. Fentex says:

    As I understand it Aaron Swartz did no harm and no victim sought to have him prosecuted.

    So again I think Jon is conflating issues – the vandalism and anti-socialism of Lulzsec with harmless activism by Swartz.

    I bet Jon is proud of many activists from his youth who trespassed and performed many acts of civil disobedience in pursuit of increased civil rights while I would expect disdaining those who murdered for causes.

    And now he conflates any kind of action that might be considered trespass with extremely harmful criminality. Aaron Swartz, as I understand it, was acting in protest of the locking up of public assets in private hands by gathering freely available copies of academic journals for easier dissemination – he cluttered a network briefly but not sufficiently to anger it’s owners enough to seek his prosecution.

    That is not equivalent to brigands attacking Frontlines online assets seeking to destroy Frontlines opportunity to execute it’s own business.

    Is activism and protest improper because it involves computers and networks?

  11. Fentex says:

    This thing with Aaron Swartz is bigger than issues of online proprietary, it’s revealing of a much more dangerous threat to U.S citizens – the overreaching activities and pernicious inlfuence of plea-bargaining in the U.S justice system.

    From my vantage it looks like a slow slide into autocracy where the fate of the peasants is the whim of the rulers. You have a star chamber that decides who of you it will murder at it’s own discretion and aspirants to government who use peoples fates as bargaining chips in their self promotion.

    Aaron Swartz got some attention for his popularity as a promoter of equal and free access to public resources but his bullying wasn’t overly different to that of many youths caught with drugs or other minor malfeasance.

  12. len says:

    “I suspect they followed corporate protocol in the U.S…”

    “his bullying wasn’t overly different to that of many youths caught with drugs or other minor malfeasance”

    First the corporations are the enemies of the good, then youth excuses crime. Again, I hear it, I’m sympathetic, but really, those are issue begging. Let’s not talk about mental health because that might distract us from the guns. Meanwhile the guns will still be there and sick people will still get them.

    Bullshit. The same bullshit we’ve gotten from the web cabal, what you call protocol, for two decades now.

    This isn’t about making Aaron into a bad guy. This is questioning those who want to take a confused guy, a depressed guy, a brilliant guy who tried to do good things in bad ways while encouraged by older guys who should have known better that provided the defense for very bad guys who are doing very bad things to good people.

  13. len says:

    A side discussion but the Cracked contributor gave it valid thought. Not PG, BTW.


  14. JTMcPhee says:

    Fentex, you got it, or at least a part of it. Not only is there that wonderful prosecutorial discretion in applying “the law” that’s “on the books,” there’s the other whole part in the writing of those “laws,” which most folks here have this stupid idea is some magical repository of Goodness and Wisdom and the foundation of All That Is True And Just. Another part is that “the law” has long been subject to regulatory capture and flat-out venality, such that a lot of things that a dispassionate citizenry, unburdened by the leftovers of Puritanism, might not want to see criminalized or even proscribed or regulated. Like gay marriage, marijuana use, stuff like that. Here the Prison Industrialists cooperate with “law enforcement” and hypocritical politicians to stack up both offenses and penalties in the name of profit, distorting the culture in a big way. Among another large bunch of crap. Like the whole bit with the Wall Street casino, no penalties, no retribution, no restitution, nothing but a whole lot more of the same, every picosecond of every moment of every day.

    Let alone the general ignorance of all the hidden law that’s behind the Constitution, statutes and regulations, all the “interpretive memoranda” and “opinions of counsel” and a whole lot more. Stuff like this: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/may/08/opinion/oe-feingold8 But when I was doing enforcement at the EPA, I got to see a lot of the other stuff that “moderates” and “modulates” the, er, Surface Law. Folks would oughta know a little bit more about the “system” they trust to care for their lives, families and futures. Because there is so much resilience and a kind of rustic health in the human population, we’ve survived so far. Seems to me that most of the “slack” that has been tolerable, whether enfironmental, “economic,” political and social, has been worn and sucked out of the system. and now we’re entertaining ourselves with UFC and Youtubes and wars of choice. And “Jerrr-ry! Jerrr-ry!”

  15. Hugo St. Victor says:

    It’s raw to imagine someone, perhaps not going to jail for it, but at least to suffer “fees, fines and forfeitures” in penalty of stealing another’s Art. The fabled force of law and discretion of the Bench do seem necessary in these instances. We’re dealing with wholesale theft of our culture-in-the-making, our culture-in-its-crib, our culture-going-forward, our grandchildren’s klepto-patrimony. I don’t want to bequeath that.

  16. Fentex says:

    From that linke…

    But as the administration allows a glimpse of this secret law — and it is law — we are left wondering what other laws it is still keeping under lock and key.

    It isn’t law really. If it’s secret it can’t be a law, just as evidence that isn’t seen cannot be evidence (a word that literally means ‘that which is seen’).

    This is a purpose of juries, to see ensure that defendants are not improperly prosecuted. It’s why they have the authority to nullify laws that they cannot countenance enforcing.

    And it’s why authority is widely trying to undermine and avoid scrutiny by jury by using brutal threats to elicit plea bargains and write laws that remove jury trials from the process.

    As I said earlier, this is autocracy re-establishing itself.

  17. Hugo St. Victor says:

    So? I hope not. Admittedly, it’s happened. Oh, please, not again.

  18. Hugo St. Victor says:

    It’s getting silly, is what it is. Silly and beside the point.

  19. len says:

    This is Lessig’s strategy as outlined at Demand Progress. Everyone is responsible except those who made a virtue out of criminal acts and left the kid to face the legal system like a mother with a bomb strapped to her chest. And they are recruiting fresh martyrs.

    We spent Tuesday burying and mourning our friend Aaron. We’re sad, we’re
    tired, we’re frustrated — and we’re angry at a system that let this
    happen to Aaron. Now we want to set upon honoring his life’s work and
    helping to make sure that such a travesty is never repeated.

    We and Aaron’s friends and family have been in touch with lawmakers to ask
    for help, and several of them — who’ve worked with Aaron and Demand
    Progress on SOPA and other issues — are beginning to take action. We’re
    asking them to help rein in a criminal justice system run amok.
    Authorities are encouraged to bring frivolous charges and hold decades of
    jail time over the heads of people who are accused of committing
    victimless crimes.

    Click here to join us in demanding justice for Aaron and help make sure
    this never happens to anybody else.

    1) Representative Zoe Lofgren has introduced what’s been named “Aaron’s
    Law.” It would fix a key part of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA),
    which is one of the statutes under which Aaron was indicted. We need to
    pass Aaron’s Law AND further amend the CFAA.

    The CFAA makes violations of a website’s terms of service agreement or
    user agreement — that fine print you never read before you check the box
    next to it — a FELONY, potentially punishable by many years in prison.
    That’s how over-broad this dangerous statute is, and one way it lets
    showboating prosecutors file charges against people who’ve done nothing

    Aaron’s Law would decriminalize violating these agreements: They’re
    essentially contracts, and as with other contracts, disputes about them
    should be settled in civil courts rather than in out of control criminal
    trials under threat of decades of prison time.

    As currently written, Aaron’s Law alone wouldn’t have saved Aaron — there
    is still more to do to make sure that victimless computer activities are
    not charged as felonies — but this is a solid start that we can pass now
    and it’s a law he wanted to change. Then we’ll keep pushing forward.

    Click here to join us in demanding justice for our friend Aaron Swartz.

    2) Additionally, we asked Congressman Darrell Issa — who controls the
    powerful Oversight Committee — to open an investigation into
    prosecutorial misconduct in Aaron’s case.

    Amazingly, he’s already responded and is sending an investigator to the
    office of the U.S. Attorney who was pressing charges against Aaron.

    We want the inquiry to proceed, and to be broadened to include a more
    thorough investigation into rampant over-prosecution of alleged crimes
    with no victims — as in the case of what Aaron was accused of. And we
    want those who abused their power to be held to account.

    We loved Aaron — so many people loved Aaron — and his death is tragic.
    We and others who were close to him are overwhelmed by the outpouring of
    support, and the calls for justice. Thank you for joining us in that

  20. len says:

    This is the prosecuting attorney’s response:


    As a parent and a sister, I can only imagine the pain felt by the family and friends of Aaron Swartz, and I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy to everyone who knew and loved this young man. I know that there is little I can say to abate the anger felt by those who believe that this office’s prosecution of Mr. Swartz was unwarranted and somehow led to the tragic result of him taking his own life.

    I must, however, make clear that this office’s conduct was appropriate in bringing and handling this case. The career prosecutors handling this matter took on the difficult task of enforcing a law they had taken an oath to uphold, and did so reasonably. The prosecutors recognized that there was no evidence against Mr. Swartz indicating that he committed his acts for personal financial gain, and they recognized that his conduct – while a violation of the law – did not warrant the severe punishments authorized by Congress and called for by the Sentencing Guidelines in appropriate cases. That is why in the discussions with his counsel about a resolution of the case this office sought an appropriate sentence that matched the alleged conduct – a sentence that we would recommend to the judge of six months in a low security setting. While at the same time, his defense counsel would have been free to recommend a sentence of probation. Ultimately, any sentence imposed would have been up to the judge. At no time did this office ever seek – or ever tell Mr. Swartz’s attorneys that it intended to seek – maximum penalties under the law.

    As federal prosecutors, our mission includes protecting the use of computers and the Internet by enforcing the law as fairly and responsibly as possible. We strive to do our best to fulfill this mission every day.

  21. JTMcPhee says:

    At the risk of clouding the issue even further… well, I was going to put up several links to Yves Smith’s (and her contributors’) observations, seemingly well documented, about another kind, and another much higher order of magnitude, of theft or crime of property (and life), that really has hurt maybe billions of people for the enormous benefit of a very very few, but hey, as many who blog are wont to insist, you are supposed to stay narrowly within the confines of the issue under discussion. As it varies, on its way through time.

    The observations I refer broadly to are the ones about the abject failure of those “dedicated career federal prosecutors” to go about “enforcing the law as fairly and responsibly as possible.” Last I checked, other than Bernie “I messed with the Mob” Madoff and a few other way-underlings, none of the shits who run the Big Casino have faced charges, let alone paid a Piper or a plugged nickel, for stealing by counterfeiting and other enormous means something on the order of $3 trillion or maybe a whole lot more, depending on which pundit or economist you ask. And are still placing the same bets at the same rate, payable not by party or counter-party but by the labor and wealth of all us Little People, us Muppets, us Dumb Money.

    One would really like to be a fly on the wall in the plea-bargaining discussions the writer referred to (which used to not be subjects for public comment and revelation, as I recall) and then to buzz upstairs to listen in on how the “mission”-driven federal prosecutors addressed their consciences and their oaths to support, defend and uphold the law, hidden or otherwise, in their deals with the people who hold all the cards, load the dice, tilt the table and put a thumb on the wheels of commerce to make them stop on winning numbers that they, of course, have staked out.

    Or maybe, in our new age of compartmentalization of all parts of government to avoid anyone being ultimately answerable for anything bad, it’s just that the SEC and FBI and other worthies just have not gotten around to producing their litigation referrals yet, so hey, the lawyers can’t be blamed for not enforcing the law, now can they? As the statues of limitations run?

    As a former federal enforcement attorney who saw a bit of how the whole prosecutorial function was carried out back in the 70s and 80s, may I aver that anyone who thinks it’s all fairness and justice is blinder than the lady with the sword and scales. http://quipro.blogspot.com/2006/04/what-does-qpdjs-stand-for.html “Ultimately, any sentence imposed would have been up to the judge.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TuLBa-rgBk

    In the meantime, may the person with the best PR spin gain the support and trust of the rest of us. Okay, that’s enough.

  22. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Then, maybe we Yanks have got the problem of over generalizing from the particular. You know, the Socio-statistical taboo, mistaking an anecdote (singular) for pertinent data (plural). Those of you in study of Communications sink your teeth into this all the time, because it’s Semiotics: Which the sign, which the signifier, which the signified; which the symbol and which the symbolized? Perhaps modern media have managed to invent a new category of logical fallacy. I don’t know.

    Maybe there’s even a glitch–an unwelcome metaphysical component, unmissed yet missing–that constitutes a critical gap or missing widget within our sterile Symbolic Systems that encompass mathematics, cybernetics, modern signal communications, Logic itself nowadays. Not something, personally, on which I’d wish to dine out, but a prospective gravy train for some I’m sure. One foresees many a housed thesis and dissertation in it.

    What I do see, have seen for some years, is a mounting tendency to craft public policy and legislation and jurisprudence on the bloody tailshirt of an isolated, single incident. So let me assume the hoary liberal position that in our tripartite system the proper venue for this is the Judiciary. The judges best–not to say well, but merely best–adjudicate which singular cases are general. Dred Scott, Gideon, Miranda, Ellsberg, Roe, etc. Better or worse, these instances were judged generalizable. The erstwhile Press, compost of the Greek Mythic “Media”, often were I’m viscerally discomfited by the sight of

  23. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Then, maybe we Yanks have got the problem of over generalizing from the particular. You know, the Socio-statistical taboo, mistaking an anecdote (singular) for pertinent data (plural). Those of you in study of Communications sink your teeth into this all the time, because it’s Semiotics: Which the sign, which the signifier, which the signified; which the symbol and which the symbolized? Perhaps modern media have managed to invent a new category of logical fallacy. I don’t know.

    Maybe there’s even a glitch–an unwelcome metaphysical component, unmissed yet missing–that constitutes a critical gap or missing widget within our sterile Symbolic Systems that encompass mathematics, cybernetics, modern signal communications, Logic itself nowadays. Not something, personally, on which I’d wish to dine out, but a prospective gravy train for some I’m sure. One foresees many a housed thesis and dissertation in it.

    What I do see, have seen for some years, is a mounting tendency to craft public policy and legislation and jurisprudence on the bloody tailshirt of an isolated, single incident. So let me assume the hoary liberal position that in our tripartite system the proper venue for this is the Judiciary. The judges best–not to say well, but merely best–adjudicate which singular cases are general. Dred Scott, Gideon, Miranda, Ellsberg, Roe, etc. Better or worse, these instances were judged generalizable. The erstwhile Press, compost of the Greek Mythic “Media”, often were critical in the process of transforming a headline into case law, statutory law, administrative procedure.

    But nowadays I’m viscerally discomfited by the sight of elected legislators and elected executives–at all three levels of governance–and unelected “media” personalities playing politics at a particular funeral. Please understand that I welcome public discussion as well as the scrutiny of the Academy, which remains a robust estate and foundation. It’s just that the rest to me is increasingly theatrical buffoonery and I’m tired of the sets, the costumes, the silly props, the stock lines. Somnambulant bids signifying nothing. Salt in our wounds and sand in our gears.

    Maybe some of you have been right all along in saying that the justice system and even the Constitution are dead letters walking. I’ve been trying to bracket my own stuff enough to don those specs. But still I look to the Judicial Branch, and here’s why. From the quasi-regicidal Dawn of the Republic, when one tripartite branch has been weak the other two have been strong in some sort of half-mystical compensation of the weakness. Sometimes even two are weak and the remaining one comes to rescue of our honor and our collective interest. And sometimes the Judicial Branch has been the Bozo and the bully. But not now.

    Now, today, two branches of the federal government again are in eclipse. That leaves the circuit courts of appeal and our U.S. Supreme Court. They’re the stewards at this point. We’ll see what the high court does in May and June. (I’ve outgrown the tendency to politically profile those Nine ad hominem). Important individual cases of national import should be sent along the path of review before not only juridical but also judicial eyes. My churchfolk, as other’s do, routinely pray for the President, the Congress, the troops. I’ve asked our Rector please to ask for prayer also for our judges. It seems to have come down to that. Or up to it.

  24. Rick Turner says:

    Were the articles/papers/monographs etc., copyright protected? And if so, who owned the copyrights? If it was MIT, it seems to me that only the aggrieved party should be able to prosecute, and in this case it would be a civil action… And they chose not to prosecute. Who is the harmed party in this case?

  25. len says:

    The articles were copyright and owned by MIT AFAIK. It was government funded research I believe. There is a film of Swartz walking in wearing a motorcycle helment, hooking up to the servers and taking the monographs for distribution. There may be other incidents. He was the Abbie Hoffman of the hactivist/free the information cabal. Lessig said he didn’t agree with his methods. Everyone loved the guy. So he is the perfect martyr.

    I sympathize with the family and his friends. I refuse to go along with the martyrdom. The over the top attacks on the prosecutor are too over the top. He would have done a few months or been put on probation.

    It seems to me the copyleft crew, Lessig, Doctorow and the rest don’t want anyone to look past the alledged bullying. No one is supposed to question them or their motives, only get angry that he killed himself and blame the Big Bads whoever and wherever they are. We can write long diatribes, go on about the unbalanced justice system, how it didn’t prosecute wall street. It will all be true.

    And he will be just as guilty. However pure his motives, he did the crime and would serve some time. That is and always has been the way civil disobedience works. That’s the price but the hacktivists aren’t willing to pay it and those bastards who are cheering them on (Yeah, Lessig and Cory, you sons a bitches) demand progress but I don’t see them doing time. They are above all of that.

    And finally, what Jon said was how do we have a civil conversation about copyright law when the mobs keep hammering them? I watched the MIT video with Jon, T-Bone and just how badly they can be treated when confronting these people. It is a mob and it is being driven by low emotions for whatever cause. A kid is dead. This is bullshit. It must stop. If anyone in the legal profession is ever to take Lessig or Cory or the rest of them seriously again, they better get in front of this with something other than a pitchfork and damm fast because whatever the injustices are, encouraging the hacktivists explicitly or by omission is creating the fog of moral uncertainty behind which some very bad people are doing bad things.

    If they want to honor Swartz, it is time to put the pitchforks down and start talking to people like Taplin and Burnett with some respect because they ARE the people who can help get change, not the mobs. The mob can defeat SOPA but they cannot get agreement in the entertainment community about the right way to make real change happen.

    Get to it before another kid gets hurt or anyone has to go to jail. Attacking the justice system is stupid. Ortiz and her crew did their job. It sucks but there it is. If we want this to change, it is time, past time for civil conversation and it has to be among the real stakeholders of which the copyleft crowd simply aren’t credible. Not anymore.

  26. len says:

    West Point study on potential violence from right wing extremists:


    A women at work said of President Obama, “I thought someone would shoot him by now. I don’t know why that hasn’t happened.” And she meant it. There is a substantial number of otherwise sane people who believe an assassination will vindicate their world view, the “serves him right” crowd. Scary as hell.

    Then there are the extremists in the web mobs, people who believe their acts of civil disobedience are fully justified by the extremes of corporate excess and judicial impotence in the face of the magnitude of crimes committed and so far unprosecuted on Wall Street. Now they have a martyr and they are calling for heads on pikes. And if they don’t get them they are willing to keep hacking and just as the Weathermen emerged out of the civil rights movement, lulzsec emerged from the hacktivists. More will come as the fury driven by the reaction to Swartz’s suicide seethes.

    The civil conversation seems far off, but that is still the best chance for damping these disparate sources of rage are beginning to converge like wildfires in different parts of a forest set by different strikes of lightning into one monster inferno.

    In 1969, we began to pray for rain.

  27. Rick Turner says:

    Well, Len, “It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall…”

  28. JTMcPhee says:

    Seems a common thread might be teased out of all the wildfires you note.

    There’s a kind of axis, an armature if you want to invoke the craft movement thing. The colors and surface details of each separate madness seem to differentiate them, but it feels to me like the engrams that sum up to building a head of steam and leading off a torch-lit march, all are pretty much the same flavor. Loyalty to some tribal sense, aggravation and aggrievement, excitement, unremediable abuse, trampling on those “basic human rights,” I’m sure there are others, and I don’t doubt that a lot of smarter folks than me have studied and pondered and maybe even glimpsed the underlying form and reality and some possible ways to redirect the mob. There are good reasons why a lot of people are building a giant mad about organized looting of the planet and the stuff of their lives. The people doing the looting just keep grabbing for ever more, warping the structures of “government” and “economy” to increase their take. There never has been a good end to that seemingly inevitable form of organization.

    Lynching is one pole, what goes on in our wars these days is another (http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175639/). And where the structures that let people live Ordinary Lives collapse or are forced down on them, the firebrands who make up the many bits of warrior chic that are doing stuff like warring on Bashar “The Crusher” Assad and his family and troops, come out to play. Adding to the oppression, at new foci.

    Does it help to note that disparate-seeming conflicts may have some common elements that might illuminate some ways to avoid escalation and mayhem? We all are wired to choose up sides, if we have any interest in the matter. Seems to me there will always be a detonator, a martyr, whose end-of-life can be turned by manipulative creatures into some “cause celebre” or other, and “extremists” on a hair trigger to start doing destructive stuff, Clockwork Orange meets the union guys who broke the heads of suburban brats breaking a few windows in Manhattan. It’s a matter of dumb luck and chaos which way things go. And a few people are busy in all these events, trying to foment a “civil conversation.” Blessed are the frustrated, ineffectual, persistent peacemakers…

    I personally still have this residual hope that people will develop a spiritual compass that steers them away from the abyss. We celebrate “difference,” our own at least, but don’t tolerate it in others. and we build these psychic charges, modulated by the functional limitations of the ol’ limbic system, that just have to bleed off with a giant “snap.”

  29. Mark Morris says:

    Here is a link to an interesting article by the expert witness on Aaron’s side of US vs Swartz:

    “Aaron Swartz Died Innocent — Here Is the Evidence”
    by Alex Stamos — Artemis Internet


  30. len says:

    From the cited article:

    Aaron did not “hack” the JSTOR website for all reasonable definitions of “hack”.”

    Why did he enter the closet and attach the laptop after being repeatedly denied access through normal means? He was not “inconsiderate”; he was committed to taking the materials by means which had become successively more invasive.

    Whether or not the indictment turns on a narrowed definition of hacking, he was clearly trying to bypass the administrators and obtain the articles.

    There was little to zero chance he was facing the reality of 35 years (hyped to 50 years at CNet).

    All here are saddened by his suicide. But again, if one intends to take the strategy of civil disobedience, it is better one be prepared for the consequences of jail time and able to use that time wisely. This is what has been done by others who used that strategy to effect social change. If Lessig and others intend to follow this case to a conclusion, they will have to answer for creating the fog of moral uncertainty in front of which unprepared if brilliant young commit acts which lead to prosecution and behind which organized criminals commit real and harmful acts, and between which are gathered mobs of people who are lost in that fog but dangerous and destructive.

  31. Fentex says:

    There was little to zero chance he was facing the reality of 35 years (hyped to 50 years at CNet).

    I think it’s sad that someone can find it all acceptable for the force of authority to make such threats and not mean it, to treat the law, it’s enforcements, and the threat of state violence and incarceration as no more serious than a car advert.

    As if citizens are supposed to treat the majesty of law as an untrusted conniving negotiation under which they parley with thugs about exactly how they may live.

    It is a creed for peasants.

    I think these abuses of authority are serious, quite separate form how rediculous I think people are over finding anything that annoys them which involves computers is somehow elevated to fictionally frightening.

    Swartz violated terms of service to sidestep a slow interface and go directly to a source of data, apparently for purposes involving protesting the sealing of public wealth in private vaults. Perhaps this is something an aggrevied party who’s service he abused ought be able to sue him over but it is nothing that should garner the attention of federal law enforcement.

    It was tantamount to parking for too long in a loading zone and blocking some scheduled deliveries for a while. And for that some argue it was okay for him to be threatened with a life in jail and bankrupting legal fees and no one should care that this can happen.

    There is a disconnect from reality in this attitude and all because it happened using computers and a network.

  32. Mark Morris says:

    Thanks Fentex for presenting this case much more eloquently than I can.

    I just want to rant–I am an emotional person and not an intellectual like most of the posters here.
    Bluntly, the little people are tired of getting robbed by the people who were born into, or fought, kicked and scratched their way into the upper class. Stealing something from someone who has created it is wrong. But this society is rigged for the benefit of you who have been born into or fought, kicked and scratched your way into affluence or power . The rest of us are tired of working and not getting a reasonable share of the profit of our work. I am tired of the limousine liberal who is happy to talk up liberal causes but when it comes to his own or his friends pocketbooks, won’t put his money where his mouth is.
    I really think that only Fentex and JTM understand what it is going to take to birth this new society or civilisation you are going on about Jon. You don’t seem to get that you are the Establishment. You are working to keep the Establishment viable. The spiritual/metaphysical crowd already figured out what real change is all about 40 years ago.
    Again, I don’t like seeing creators robbed. But the gatekeepers are robbing us just so they can stay wealthy and/or powerful.

  33. len says:

    There are those who are able to have expression and lead decent lives without the need for the fame or the wealth, and they are happy. There are those that by hard work, talent and perserverance able to achieve that and great wealth. They deserve the acclaim and the fortunes. Many of those whom you label “limousine liberals” have sought out a civil conversation with the copyleft and the web cabal only to be met by mobs who cannot reason and do not care to concede that they can be wrong about these people. Go watch the MIT video with Taplin and Burnett. These are good men. They are accomplished men. They don’t have to do this because their achievements are rewarded. Callie Khouri took issue with “limousine liberal” and she doesn’t have to do anything except keep Nashville on the charts, yet all of them have stepped forward for the conversation.

    What have you got?

    This isn’t about Aaron. This is about you. For whom do you really speak? Are you content creators being ripped off by the Upper Class or are you being ripped off by the piracy mobs? The creatives are. Go to The Trichordist for facts. Unless of course, facts don’t work for you, and then go on being emotional about this.

    At the beginning of the building of the web, there was a saying among the builders with regards to conversations about building it: if you don’t code, you don’t count.

    And I believe that is how the content community should regard you. A civil conversation about copyrights and piracy is needed, but you don’t represent anything but your own emotions, so in fact, you are not a part of that conversation. Otherwise, show me where you are being ripped off and maybe you can join those who need that conversation but have no use at all for the mobs. Otherwise, you don’t count.

  34. Hugo St. Victor says:

    ….an admirable knitwork of aphorisms amounting to what, exactly? A: we’re losing our actual culture because our Culture War is joined reactively, responsively, defensively. Take the War to its aggressors, please. Doing otherwise we’re pissing Patrimony as we speak. Even if we lose, insomuch as we fight the next ones win to the extent we fight hard. Noble-sounding, but it’s true and you all know it. Even show it. Who did you suppose might be the “Conservatives” of the future you all have presumed, and conserving of WHAT? We’re all on the same side. I say “they” are frickin’ doomed and that this is no echo bubble of Jon’s making. Not where it’s at, where it’s going. Away from prospective behavioral or thought police and rather toward overstepping them eventually.

  35. Hugo St. Victor says:

    “…a creed for peasants.”

    Please mull. That grasps my heart-pump… . . . .. .

  36. Fentex says:

    We’re losing our actual culture because our Culture War is joined reactively, responsively, defensively.

    I don’t think anyone’s losing culture in capitalist countries anymore than they’ve always been dragged along by what makes money. Same as it ever was.

    …a creed for peasants.

    I expect I was recalling this quote I find deliciously succint from William Pitt…

    Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

  37. JTMcPhee says:

    How’s the new job going? Hope your health is stabilized and all else is going well for you.

    As to skin in the game (If you don’t code, you don’t count), or being skinned, Jon has posted, several times, the charts showing where the wealth created by labor has gone over the past three generations. And there’s been lots of discussion here about how the Bankstas have screwed over the most of us, how the “401k” thing has been a fee-generating fraud on most of us (if I recalm you indicated skill and fortuity have replenished your savings — glad of it). Nothing new there, it seems to be part of the human condition. Please don’t mix emotional and intellectual investment in a position in the copyleft mess, which like the politics of Iraq and Afghanistan and many other places will eventually be sorted out into a new order by time and pain and the efforts of those who are willing to give in order to get or who hold the new reins of power with, is it annoyance?, at the perceptions of people like Mark.

    Like most of us, I was a bystander as the net and the web were being created, the initial conditions for that universe set, the “code” that produces the politics put in place, seeing dimly that the whole thing would become a commercialized take eventually, whether you’re Bill Gates with his kind of predation, or Kim Dotcomm with his, or all the identity thievers and other perasites, coupled with loss of privacy and opportunities for “government” as in State Security to improve their hand in the Great Game.

    As I recall, there were people in France, middle-class folks of the day, who wanted that civil conversation in the runup to July 1789. “Limousine liberals” may not be the appropriate epithet, and just attract more anger from those skilled folks who you say want that civil conversation. But you got a Mob that increasingly has a focus on how they are being fucked over by the people whose skills include concentrating wealth by stealth and fraud and regulatory capture and iTechsales. And you have the usual intransigience of the Kleptocracy/Oligarchy/Whateverocracy when it comes to any positive, stabilizing change that involves the tiniest diminution of their “share” of all that wealth. Wealth that was “earned” (or is it AMASSED) just HOW again? by birth or tax policy or being the coders of the Market, or fortuity (with in some cases a lot of inspiration and hard work, of course, but then the guys who brought us the A-bomb and the Industrial Revolution had “inspiration and hard work” to prate about, who cares about Cesium and Iodine and the enormous machinery of fear and op-re-pression and the whole militarization and combustification of the planet, not the Krups or Lockheed Martin C-suite-ers). Cunning is not the same as wisdom, at least of the type that might keep the species alive.

    Let us all recognize the class we belong to, what our stated and covert interests really are, the reality that ALL of us, almost, do not give a shit about the “deluge” that our interests and behaviors are bringing. As long as we and those we hold dear (sometimes that is so patently limited to “ourselves,” ask Kim Dotcomm and Gates how that works) are comfortable and pleased and increasingly so.

    I don’t think activation of the mechanisms to engage in a “civil conversation,” attempted to be moderated in some exercise of Goodness by some of the maybe wiser members of the Third Estate, is even possible. So the next step usually is for the civil-speakers to line up with the powers that be, and the Mob to keep piling up its grievances and demanding MORE! just like the folks at the top of the current steep pyramid.

    Any of the elements of this timeline look remotely similar to what we’re seeing here and there in the world today? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_French_Revolution Not that the pieces that make up what we call history ever repeat, exactly…

  38. len says:

    Except for blowing the ending of the Bocelli piece twice this morning (film at 11), I’m fine, JTMc. Thanks for asking. I’ve a job now where we sign paper swearing to not talk about the job and so it goes. I’m fine with that. Keeps me from boring you with it. :)

    What we learned in the early web years (those of us who actually learned something) was the danger of overgeneralizing in discussions where the solution was technical or the politics were purely local. Godwin’s Law and it’s ilk were made up to keep us from pleading for consensus through emotional appeals when it was obvious a mob had assembled and were demanding political rights in a design discussion. Stay logical, testable and provable. The reason we as a nation both technically and socially are so screwed up is because we lust for the kill in the debate. We’re slapping gators, not draining the swamp.

    Are there upper class thieves? Yes. And lower class thieves. This is why civil disobedience carries a reward and a taint. “Give us Barabbas” they said.

    So we can talk a long time about all the unfairness or we can try as Aaron did by means sure to get him in trouble to change it. Or we can learn as we do when we mature that slower means may be surer as long as the stakeholders, the real stakeholders are in the negotiation. This was the solution to the problems of web standards: “getting the right people in the room” as Tim Bray would say, then having a larger group of interested parties who were also stakeholders to consult when negotiations reached an impasse. It simply doesn’t work to have an untutored chorus or … useful idiots.

    For all the sadness and the deliberate use of his end to sell us on the ideas of copyleft, Aaron died for nothing. It wasn’t going to work. The people who have to be there to change the very specific issues regarding IP weren’t in that server room. They weren’t going to be at his trial. The fog can thicken by using digital forensics to muddy the semantics, but even then, the pattern is clear. He was going around the system, he was refusing to acknowledge the warnings, he was pursuing his own agenda that he shared with Lessig, Doctorow, Berners-Lee and the rest. And that is tragic. Lessig is beside himself with grief reading his blog, and somehow, I don’t care. He refuses to see that what they are doing isn’t really working for what they want to achieve but it provably is creating a fog of moral uncertainty behind which bad guys are doing bad things to good people.

    We can quote patterns, epithets, make up stories, result to allusions and allegations, but if the copyright issues and the issues of overreach in prosecution are conflated, not a damm thing is going to change. Until the people who earn their living and finance the creation of information get in the room with the professional and unemotional legislators, nothing will change for the good. We’ll have more epic threads, more incidents maybe even more suicides (God forbid), but until the right people get in the room, it will not change.

    We’ll have more victims.

    The bullshit has to stop. Let them demand progress to their own hollow echo chambers. But my advice to Jon, Henry and the rest is to quit giving them the time of day and instead find the people in the administration who have the will and the capacity to make good law and then pass it. And if that is not enough for the cabals, let them rot in jail. It will give them time to write more treatises for free. Whoever those evil rich people are who are trampling on free information, they aren’t the people I’ve come to know on this blog. These ARE the good guys. These ARE the right people.

  39. Mark Morris says:

    I just watched the MIT video and realize that I have not thoroughly studied all sides of this issue.
    I agree completely with everything that T-Bone and Jon said in that discussion.
    The artists are being robbed by everybody else.
    So, if you are looking at this Jon and T-Bone, I apologize for lumping you in with people who are doing real harm. I am sorry that I allowed my feelings to get in the way of a reasoned analysis or reaction to comments on this blog.

  40. Mark Morris says:

    Thanks for the slap in the face and the education, Len. From your posts on this blog you seem like a real decent fellow. But I think that the “you don’t code, you don’t count” idea is just techie hubris. To me, that is saying to someone “we don’t care about your wants and needs, just take what we give you and like it. We know better than you even though you are the one who has to use it.” I also have freedom of speech and supposedly people are allowed to express themselves.

    You and your ilk do all the hard work, create the rules and the tech that runs it all. The rest of us consumers just use it all up, take what we are given because we don’t really produce anything useful and are quite ungrateful for it.
    Yes, that is snark. But it is what I felt in response to your response to my post.

    You are right, I don’t count–the only thing I have accomplished is staying alive and keeping my head above water.

    I don’t count because I don’t count to the people with money, energy, ambition, brains and the emotional clarity to become rulemakers. But there are millions of people like me out here. There are also tens of millions of people who don’t think about any of this stuff and don’t care about any of this stuff. And continue to act and react from the worldview that was handed down to them by their parents, teachers and other authority figures in their lives. For the last 15 years, I have been attempting to really understand the way this country runs. I still react emotionally over much of it.
    But in reality I do count, because eventually the mob does not stay eternally quiet. The bearded guy in the audience at the end of the MIT video made it clear. When the mob finds out that the gatekeepers are stealing their “personal creative produce,” maybe they will wake up like I have woken up.

    I was wrong about Jon and T-Bone. It was a knee jerk reaction based on that dreaded emotionalism, based on a working class background in a somewhat dysfunctional family.
    My class resentment sometimes gets in the way of realizing that wealthy and accomplished people are just that–people.

    But I was angry and disturbed that a kid kills himself and the response did not seem tremendously sympathetic to me. Years ago, I was clinically depressed to an almost suicidal point. It is a horrible place to be and very difficult to get out of. I did not know this kid or anything about him, but I sympathized because I know what it is like to be where he was to some degree.

    And saying that if one engages in civil disobedience, one has to be prepared to accept the punishment is a peasant mentality. The civil disobedient is saying that the system is wrong and unjust. So, why is he at fault? Because he is assaulting the power structure. In further regards to that, if one reads enough, one understands that white collar criminals get away with almost bringing down the entire economy and they get away with it. So, everyone else in society sees this and perhaps thinks “I gonna get mine without paying for it.”

    These copyleft people seem to not be afraid and distrustful of their fellow citizens, and to think that their fellow citizens can behave in a respectful and responsible manner when it comes to livelihood and so forth. To me, that is a positive and constructive way to view life. We see the results in the real world and there is still pain and suffering. But I would also say that the people who run the system are getting too authoritarian and the little folks are still to weak and emotionally immature to create a society based on this mutual trust, cooperation and taking care of one another. And of course, too many thieves.

  41. len says:

    And saying that if one engages in civil disobedience, one has to be prepared to accept the punishment is a peasant mentality.

    The acceptance of the jail time is the proof that the activist believes in their position. The whole idea is to get the attention to the cause because if it were not so, civil disobedience would not be necessary. But you have to be willing. That’s the point.

    Martin Luther King left Georgia for Birmingham because the Georgia sheriff was a wily one who knew how to defuse the protests so they seldom incurred violence or press. He marched with them then scattered him. Civil disobedience by it’s nature requires press. That’s the point. It doesn’t require a suicide. It doesn’t require people to get badly hurt.

    It isn’t that I am not sympathetic. I feel Aaron’s death down to my bones. I don’t want it to be for nothing. If there is to be a change, it may be time to find out who really can get in that negotiation room and make a difference. That’s all. Before there is another Aaron.

    Jon and T-Bone and their allies are some of the first reasoned voices to come from the entertainment community with the stature and credibility to get that press without the need for civil disobedience. They have thought hard. They have sought out other opinions even from the copyleft cabals. They are working the problem. Let’s hope others see this and do the same.

  42. Fentex says:

    And saying that if one engages in civil disobedience, one has to be prepared to accept the punishment is a peasant mentality.

    The acceptance of the jail time is the proof that the activist believes in their position.

    Quite right, that the resistance incurs a cost is part of the process. But that isn’t the issue with Swartz – the problem with his case is that an action violating MIT terms of service was used by Federal authorities for no possible reason connected to any damage he might (but MIT seems satisfied didn’t) cause.

    Whether he was aiming to commit an act of civil disobedience is beside the point of the response he received – even if he had been stealing some documents we all agree he’d be in the wrong to thieve it wouldn’t make the federal prosecutor right for treating him like a serial killer.

    And their reasons for doing that ought concern people – there’s both the preposterous attitude that using computers puts all miscreants beyond the pale, and the more incidious attitude that the lives of citizens are play things of the political empowered and ambitious.

  43. len says:

    it wouldn’t make the federal prosecutor right for treating him like a serial killer. And their reasons for doing that ought concern people…

    Six months and probation is the sentence for a bar fight, Fen. It is also possible that his defenders are exaggerating. The State of MA said they will investigate. We’ll see but I do think the “bullying” allegations don’t match the evidence so far.

    Congress decided what the penalties would be. They should be reassessed. I won’t hold my breath; there really are bigger problems right now.

    Also, we will be paying a price for Assange, Lulzsec and Anonymous for some time to come. Anyone who didn’t think the authorities would push back was horribly naive. Aaron’s defenders may also want to consider that when they cheer on kids doing this, it is like cheering them into a game of chicken on an ocean cliff.

    Meanwhile, since you are a kiwi, giving any thought to protesting against Kim Dotcomm? As in, it seems the web loves to debate American policy issues but takes umbrage when America debates non-American policy issues? He’s in New Zealand because he’s comfortable doing business there.

  44. Fentex says:

    Meanwhile, since you are a kiwi, giving any thought to protesting against Kim Dotcomm?

    Why would I? Those who believe he’s infringing on their legal rights have recourse.

    I am irritated that our police broke several laws in their eagerness to please U.S authorities and I think they ought be held to account for that, but not irritated by the idea of properly constituted requests for cooperation to be followed.

    He’s in New Zealand because he’s comfortable doing business there.

    Why wouldn’t someone be? We are according to several studies the easiest country in the world to do business in, the most economically free and least corrupt. A fortune made overseas goes further here and the weathers generally pleasant. It’s very unlikely anyone’s going to shoot you and our police work more by consent rather than as an occupation force.

    If I like living here why would I be surprised someone else does?

    And all beside the point of how MegaUpload was shut down. Adequate legal provision existed to pursue him and sidestepping the law is not something to be admired or supported.

    His new venture, a file locker with client side encryption, is not new or novel and is going to be par for the course all around soon – increasingly authoritarian reactions to the Internet are going to compel people to encrypt everything client side.

  45. len says:

    Thought that might be the answer. From the artists (who are not that authoritarian but may at some point start shooting…)


  46. JTMcPhee says:

    Folks here are obviously very, very serious about copycratocracy. len’s linked video has the kind of images that are really, very, very serious. Lots of artists know lots of code and the tricks of the lulzsectrade. Most of us are afraid of the big bad terrahists getting nukular weapons ‘n stuff. Young and old and unhappy and angry artists might, in their minds justifiably, do some of the WMD stuff that’s possible via our new and enormous and un-framed and unrestrainable and unlimited mutual vulnerability.

    The Serious Artistic People are attending to one part of the set of issues that kleptocracy and the Netvoid presents. I guess this thread is not about other parts of what is being done to us — is it ok for Google and the data-miners, public and private, to get rich off hoovering up all that information about us, creating funny-munny wealth by selling pieces of our bodies and souls like the African Bushmen believed National Geographic photographers were doing by “taking” their pictures? If you give a blood sample, or have an amputation or other removal surgery, your DNA from that and many sources goes into the Market. Same with “HIPAA-protected” shit like this, which is one tiny minuscule bit of what’s done moment to moment: http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/patients-sue-walgreens-making-money-their-data

    The price we pay for the benefits we get? What are those, again? On-line porn and the other kind, war simulations? The chance to be spotlighted by some state-security beam? The “right” to participate in spaces like this?

    Artists ought to be paid for their work. But they stick their avatars in The Market, where Money is, and they are just another set of players, who have to find a way to instill enough fear of some kind of enforcement or retribution, just like banks and credit card issuers and car dealers and lawyers and all the rest, to claim their share.

    As just a puny little nurse, a slave in yet another system that concentrates wealth by stealing the labor of love of a whole lot of people, paying less and less for more and more work, shedding liabilities on us, f__king over the sick and weak by forcing us to provide inadequate care (no nurse can safely and adequately “care for” 35 people in a skilled-nursing facility, or 10 or 12 patients on a med-surg floor), I wonder what I and my little set are supposed to do. FL is a right-to-work-hahahaha state, and unions are shall we say actively discouraged. And we are just one little set of the mass of humans who are being preyed on. Ever stand and watch what happens in a McDonald’s, behind the counter? or in those sweatshops full of people sporting the epicanthic fold?

    There’s a structure out there, that results in Dotcoms and Kochs and other filth. You are on the hunt for a fix for yourselves, and are wise and competent beyond my dilettantism. And that of a whole lot of other people.

    God bless you if you get those competent and attentive legislators in a room somewhere and talk your sense into them. In the meantime, since enforcement is, as far as I can see, the key to the whole problem (there is no right without a remedy, and never has been or will be) I wonder how The Government will go about enforcing the laws you want crafted to protect your interests. Maybe there needs to be recourse to those Insurance Companies, those “government-like organizations,” that Papola and them Liberterrariums tell us is their desired endpoint. http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/11/journey-into-a-libertarian-future-part-i-%E2%80%93the-vision.html

    For the un-connected and un-innovative, which is most every living human except for a tiny minority, it sure seems like life is just going to get worser and worser.

    But that, after all, is the nature of The Market, isn’t it?

  47. Fentex says:



    I saw some discussion on that, with people arguing over how valid it and the replies to it are.

    It isn’t relevant to the issues that concern me which I’m addressing here – whether Dotcom broke any reasonable laws that exist or might be enacted to curtail copyright violations is beside the point of authority being required to follow laws as well.

    This is related to why I repeat complaints about the conflation of issues. That Kim Dotcom may have made a business of enabling copytheft, that Aaron Swartz may have breached MIT’s terms of service, that Lulzsec may have vandalised a friend of Jons online business, that Anon may vandalise websites, that many may make vapid arguments about what artists and investors in them ought do are not all one and the same thing and certainly do not in any part or as a whole justify the abandonment of due process or wholesale destruction of broader civil rights.

  48. Hugo St. Victor says:

    “Anyone who didn’t think the authorities wouldn’t push back”…

    I’ll describe the mythical speculative animals after you name your “authorities”.

    OK with you?

  49. len says:

    The State of Massachusetts (Swartz) and the United States Army (Manning) and the State Department (Assange): say US Department of Justice (in summation).

    Have at.

  50. Jon,

    Thank you for posting this. The only way to counteract “the mob” is by more people talking about the other side of the story. Then we will be less afraid. Then maybe journalists who cover this scene will not self-censor out of fear of being shunned by aggregators.

  51. len says:

    As expected, the mob of misinformers will attack.


    There is little in the way of reasoned investigative journalism focused on this case. It is left to the issue police and the misdirection machine to shape the conversation.

  52. JTMcPhee says:

    Systems theory, information theory, gossip, Second Law of Thermodynamics and Fourth Law of Robotics. http://www.theonion.com/2056-06-22/opinion/1/ The Answer is in there somewhere.

  53. len says:

    It’s a mob. Organized. And going after Ortiz. They demand progress. It’s time to demand rationality.

    Tens of thousands of people have used the White House’s petition site to
    demand that President Obama fire Aaron Swartz’s prosecutor Carmen Ortiz —
    easily surpassing the 25,000 signature threshold that’s supposed to
    guarantee a response.

    Aaron died more than two weeks ago, but the White House still hasn’t even
    issued a statement.

    We’ve been waiting far too long. Help us demand answers from the White
    House. It’s enough already: They need to respond to our calls and fire

    [2]Just click here to tell the White House to stop stonewalling and fire

    There’s actually some good news to report: The House Oversight Committee
    has responded to our requests and is calling for a briefing on Aaron’s
    prosecution from the Department of Justice.

    That’s because what happened to Aaron looks far more like a persecution
    than a prosecution: Ortiz wanted him to serve upwards of 35 years in
    federal prison for downloading too many ACADEMIC ARTICLES.

    We’ve demanded answers, Congress is demanding answers. It’s time for the
    White House to stop ignoring us.

    [3]Click here to tell the White House to stop stonewalling and fire Ortiz

    And please urge your friends to join our calls:

    [4][fb] If you’re already on Facebook, [5]click here to share with your
    [6][fb] If you’re already on Twitter, click here to tweet about the
    campaign: [7]Tweet

    -Demand Progress

  54. Fentex says:

    It’s a mob.



    …are at odds with each other.

    The ‘mob’ is feared because it is not organized and not rational.

    A group of people organizing protest through petitions and demonstrations and writing campaigns to demand accountability is not a ‘mob’.

  55. len says:

    An irrational mob organized well to commit irrational acts is all too common.

    They aren’t demanding accountability. They are demanding that Obama fire Ortiz because her staff prosecuted a case under existing law and the accused committed suicide. If DoJ is briefed on the case and it is determined that the State of Massachusetts acted within the legal framework within the norms of the professional actions taken, then the petitions and demonstrations stop? That is when we find out if it is mob rule or just well-organized noise.

    I don’t think anyone is afraid.

  56. Hugo St. Victor says:

    But frankly as much as I respect you all, I don’t get what you mean. (1) Generalizing popularly from the anecdotal particular, from the singular to the general. We tried justifying that, to no avail. (2) We asked who were the powers involved, and got an enumeration of the four specific authorities involved, redundant subsidiaries of Power ipso facto. Then, (3) came the inquiry as to impersonal, structural and possibly therefore systemic logic devouring persons. And that’s what lays me low more than the the story of the lonely suicide of any confused and overmatched quasi-criminaloid ever could do.

    It’s in JTM’s recitation of a kind of UN declaration of rights in the age of cyborgs. I mean, what is that? That text. Are we negotiating with robots? Is it therefore a turf treaty? Are we thereby lording over them, or trying to fetter them? Are we boasting, or are we afraid? That text is like a Poe story in that the more you read it the eerier and more discouraging–the more totally frightening–it gets.

    I just don’t want len nor anyone to take this little text with its little commentary as anything like an intention to assail Systems Analysis, because I don’t think that anyone here is interested in our Culture’s shooting itself in the brain. Intentionally. But when I read, reread, close-read “The Second Law of Thermodynamics and the Fourth Law of Robotics”, it just creeps me out how the architectects of this bizarre assemblage of Archaism Scared in Pregnancy by Neologism might have thought (a) that anybody in the nerve centers of developed countries would take this weirdness seriously for very long; and (b) that the authors did that shit for pseudo-professional advancement, for stasis of status or for pay increase, pretending all along that they were not describing either themselves as the robots or as the robots’ bootlickers. Such brilliant boasting points, those shiny new robots scrubbing the suburban driveway next door. …The robot then into the home, as pop humans, like pup canines, are merely housed.

  57. len says:

    WSJ opines.


    Maybe it is just American paranoia, Hugo, the growing sense since 1947 that conspiracies are every where, things going on that we don’t know. The kids are hooked on the hero mythology that enables them to excuse themselves as long as it can be insanely profitable at the same time; thus, they are both enobled and well-off. Which is exactly the trap the Hippies fell into when they became the Yuppies. Unfortunately, they haven’t prepared themselves for the very real consequences of civil disobedience when the systems push back as they always have. A failure of education or a culture of technically enabled but not very bright technopoops?

  58. Fentex says:

    They aren’t demanding accountability. They are demanding that Obama fire Ortiz because her staff prosecuted a case under existing law and the accused committed suicide.

    Also known as accountability for the decisions she made, and one, among others, of the consequences.

    If DoJ is briefed on the case and it is determined that the State of Massachusetts acted within the legal framework within the norms of the professional actions taken, then the petitions and demonstrations stop?

    Why should they? Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right. That’s rather the point – I personally support demonstrations against law used a cudgel for the purpose of glorifying prosecutors using their discretion to advance their political careers.

    Being given a vote every so often does not oblige a citizen to quietly accept every injustice individuals with an office commit, neither through poor law making or inconsiderate decisions taken.

  59. len says:

    Lusting for blood, fen? That is vigilantism. We can go over all the published particulars but so far they seem to be coming from one side only. There is far too much of that kind of “high tech lynching” going on already. You seem to have a problem with democracy in action when it doesn’t suit your interpretation of events to which you are not a witness.

    Before recommending a sentence, it’s good to have all the facts. I want to know what is in the briefing to the DoJ.

  60. len says:

    On the other hand, it is an interesting question: at what point does a civil rights movement become a lynch mob?

    The Campaign to End Corporate Personhood and Demand Real Democracy

    Building movements that speak truth to power

    Last week, the nation celebrated the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. We at Move to Amend draw many useful lessons from the successful campaign led by King and other heroic patriots to fight for civil rights for all Americans.

    They understood there are two ways to make change:

    *Negotiate with power, or
    *Build a grassroots movement to take on the power structure and force them to react to you

    The Civil Rights leaders chose to build a movement for change. In fact, every amendment to expand human rights has required building a similar movement, and our growing democracy movement is no different.

    From the beginning Move to Amend decided not to waste time trying to convince members of Congress they should amend the Constitution to reject money as political speech and abolish inherent human rights for corporations.

    We?re not interested in negotiating with power; we will force them to meet our demands through grassroots organizing and movement building.

  61. Fentex says:

    at what point does a civil rights movement become a lynch mob?

    My point in this thread has been that to some it seems, I think erroneously, to include if they do it over computer networks.

  62. len says:

    Which is the claim that doing it over computer networks makes it a victimless crime.

    Specious at best.

  63. Fentex says:

    Which is the claim that doing it over computer networks makes it a victimless crime.

    I make no such claim.

    I am objecting to the conflating of any undesirable thing done online with all other undesirable things done online.

    I feel such lazy thought processes are as foolishly undifferentiating as any prejudice or bigotry that lumps a class together thoughtlessly.

    It leads to poor decisions, bad laws and stifling restrictions on individual freedoms.

  64. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Len, we needn’t rerun the link on Aaron, nor claim that in running the AP wire the WSJ thereby opined. The Journal offers no opinion. I’ve been a member of AP for years, and can read the attractive and forgotten wires for myself. And you republished a story I’d read repeatedly and expressly so. If you feel the young man was surreptitiously offed then say so. I’m all ears, and I agree that such things have happened frequently. Also I agree with your diagnosis of Hippiemania becoming Yuppiemonia. I’d add only that Cowardice, Vanity and Greed exacerbated, after the Turn of 1973 brought, not by any means and end of the IndoChinese bloodletting but and end to the U.S. Draft and the eligibility of 18 year-olds to vote. The Yuppie Sperm and the Hippie Egg met 40 years ago this month. Only a few good eggs like you remain from then. I’ve been so encouraged in seeing really earnest, aware young eggs coming along, and thank God that our system, our Complex, hasn’t killed off more of them mortally or spiritually. Clearly you feel the same way. I don’t really relish seeing public education drawn into it, but won’t dodge the charge. I feel that we’re child-protectors and benefactors at heart, a bit too high on power and money to remember it . Educational Yuppies if you like. Mea culpa on that front.

  65. len says:

    It’s the first time I’ve seen that article, Hugo. It was posted as part of the continuous drumbeat of people who believe if they can bring down Ortiz somehow they will vindicate Aaron. It’s just another high tech silly valley lynching because one of theirs did something they can’t fathom and they can’t admit how involved they are in.

    Try this: the precipice we are on. On one side, the tragic sad death of a true believer who was willing to take the risks, lost his fortune and faced humiliation. On the far other side, the Kim Dotcomm, Russian mafia and Mexican drug lords who hide behind the copyleft movement ripping off culture as cynically as anyone can. In the middle are people trying to figure out a way to have this marvelous technology and not put the movie makers, musicians and others into a permanent underclass. What has changed and it goes unnoticed in all the fever are the stakeholders like Jon Taplin and T-Bone Burnett trying to have a civil conversation about IP. I don’t think they should be ignored while the fevered keep pursuing a “we will force you” campaign. It doesn’t have to go down like that. If everyone really wants to honor Aaron and make a difference, it’s time for the stakeholders to meet and work this out. It can be done. It has to be or otherwise like the movements of the 60s that eventually turned into psychopathy as the extremes dominated them just as they are now dominating our politics, our government, our lives. We don’t have to go down that road. Part of fixing the economy, a small part (and it really is small) is to stop the IP bleeding.

    Otherwise, let me take a lead on jon’s next post where once again the south is filled with militaristic rednecks and he and Alex believe if they can put their favorite whipping boys front and center, everyone won’t notice they are using the same dumb as rocks tactics as the republicans who whip on the “liberals”. What a crock of shit. Really guys, are you that stupid?

    Down the road from me is the factory that makes the boosters that put the satellites in orbit that keep those round apple whizzies on the air. Across the street is the company that makes most of the components for the digital backbones. There is a lot more than MIC work here and elsewhere. So get a clue: if any of you really want to turn this economy around, you better get to work doing something besides slagging on the rest of the United States. We are.

  66. JTMcPhee says:


    “We don’t have to go down that road.”

    Thanks, I guess, for the “Dutch uncle” advice.

    I’m just a no-count off in an end-of-life corner, but it seems to me that it’s all local — and personal. We got interest groups, including your own, contending for the rights or wisdom or propriety of whatever it is they benefit from. It’s complicated. There’s energy and resources available, and it sure seems to me as a fading participant that there’s no central “rightness,” toward which all that is happening is moving. “Grow up and get a life” is all well and good when your personal life is in a domain that’s growing and steady. Who steals what is about who can — as old Muad’dib observed, the power to destroy a thing is the power to control a thing. There’s no “god-emperor” to put things in train. And human thinking seems inevitably to run to the kinds of “ethics” and ethos you excoriate. None of us are much different from any of the rest of us — some inchoate process, however, leads to the deposition of gold and rubidium in small and large lodes and veins, and some of us are better than others, and fortunate, to get “more” of what’s valued for what it does to our pleasure centers.

    “Civil conversation?” What creators understandably want, based on expectations as old as “economy” and “civilization,” is their daily bread, and a little more to get some caviar to spread on it. Other creators have made a structure that facilitates the purloining of what the creators deem as value that they own. You gonna get Fatcomm to sit down and bargain with you? I recall that back in the punch-card day, some dude maybe at estern Electric figured how to rip off MILLIONS (real money back then) in switch gear and stuff, by creating bogus purchase orders, manipulating the filling via the nascent “computer inventory and sales systems,” then erase the transactions by pulling cards and wipiing a few meters of tape. And while I was in the Army in ’69, an “outside expert” contractor setting up the computerized payroll system at Ft. Hood stole millions the same archaic punchcard way, and was not prosecuted but got a big paycheck. That’s still going on, from what I read, all through our increasingly complex digital physiology. So for various reasons, “reputation” among them, a lot of “creators” found and find it “advisable” to bribe the guys to show how it’s done, with money big enough to satisfy their personal lusts, and stop that particular hemorrhage. Derivatives and bank fakery are another expression. For the Jews among us, for all of us, there’s the ancient concepts of realistic views of human behavior, simplified to the management of “yetzer tov” and “yetzer ra.” http://www.jewfaq.org/human.htm

    Good luck to the creators, for their sakes because they are in my personal “friend” column, may they prevail in achieving a set of rules, enforceable ones, that protect their interest. Success there might even portend the possibility that there’s the chance of an actual manifestation of what most people feel is necessary, “law and order,” to come out of the randomness and innovation and “creativity” of the techsplosion. On the other hand, every single one of us has a dose of “yetzer ra” in us, and given the opportunity and temptation, we’ll steal, by stealth or by gun or its equivalent, energy and resources that others could use to feed their babies. And reading about the Koch brothers in Fortune, or Papola’s stuff, or Mill or Hegel or whoever, come up with really cogent, seemingly persuasive arguments for why they personally are entitled to dump externalities and get, you know, “MORE!”

    There’s always recourse to an expression of what everyone recognizes as that “righteous anger” thing… May nothing but advantage and good things come your way, as long as it doesn’t involve any diminution of my Social Security and veteran’s disability.

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