Monday, January 21, 2013

Inauguration Day

I heard a strange noise in the next room, thought Jesus had returned, and started to ready myself not to be raptured, only to realize it was just the inauguration on the TV.

"MLK Injustice Index 2013"  "MLK's vehement condemnations of US militarism are more relevant than ever"

"Lupe Fiasco Did Exactly What You'd Expect Lupe Fiasco To Do At An Inauguration Concert And He Got Thrown Off The Stage For It":
"Limbaugh is a racist/ Glenn Beck is a racist/ Gaza Strip was getting bombed, Obama didn't say shit/ That's why I didn't vote for him, next one either"
Americans pride themselves on their freewheeling entrepreneurism, supposedly the engine of American economic dominance:  "How the Legal System Failed Aaron Swartz—And Us":
"Swartz must be compared to two other eccentric geniuses, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who, in the nineteen-seventies, committed crimes similar to, but more economically damaging than, Swartz’s. Those two men hacked A.T. & T.’s telephone system to make free long-distance calls, and actually sold the illegal devices (blue boxes) to make cash. Their mentor, John Draper, did go to jail for a few months (where he wrote one of the world’s first word processors), but Jobs and Wozniak were never prosecuted. Instead, they got bored of phreaking and built a computer. The great ones almost always operate at the edge.

That was then. In our age, armed with laws passed in the nineteen-eighties and meant for serious criminals, the federal prosecutor Carmen Ortiz approved a felony indictment that originally demanded up to thirty-five years in prison. Worse still, her legal authority to take down Swartz was shaky. Just last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a similar prosecution. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, a prominent conservative, refused to read the law in a way that would make a criminal of “everyone who uses a computer in violation of computer use restrictions—which may well include everyone who uses a computer.” Ortiz and her lawyers relied on that reading to target one of our best and brightest.

It’s one thing to stretch the law to stop a criminal syndicate or terrorist organization. It’s quite another when prosecuting a reckless young man. The prosecutors forgot that, as public officials, their job isn’t to try and win at all costs but to use the awesome power of criminal law to protect the public from actual harm. Ortiz has not commented on the case. But, had she been in charge when Jobs and Wozniak were breaking the laws, we might never have had Apple computers. It was at this moment that our legal system and our society utterly failed.

Defenders of the prosecution seem to think that anyone charged with a felony must somehow deserve punishment. That idea can only be sustained without actual exposure to the legal system. Yes, most of the time prosecutors do chase actual wrongdoers, but today our criminal laws are so expansive that most people of any vigor and spirit can be found to violate them in some way. Basically, under American law, anyone interesting is a felon. The prosecutors, not the law, decide who deserves punishment.

Today, prosecutors feel they have license to treat leakers of information like crime lords or terrorists. In an age when our frontiers are digital, the criminal system threatens something intangible but incredibly valuable. It threatens youthful vigor, difference in outlook, the freedom to break some rules and not be condemned or ruined for the rest of your life. Swartz was a passionate eccentric who could have been one of the great innovators and creators of our future. Now we will never know."
"Brookings' Bruce Riedel urges intensified US support for Saudi despots":
"The fact that one can have a memo like Riedel's so clearly explaining US policy to support the worst tyrannies that serve its interests, sitting right next to endless US pro-war rhetoric about the urgency of fighting for freedom and democracy, is an outstanding testament to that myth-making."
"The Real Reel News"
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