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July 20, 2011

Please Support Aaron Swartz

You may have seen that Aaron Swartz was arrested yesterday and charged with illegally downloading huge amounts of academic articles from JSTOR. (Really.) The charges include felonies and carry a maximum of 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

While I have always condemned Swartz for the bizarre and counterproductive way he spells his name, he's just 24 and already one of the most creative activists in the U.S. It's impossible to believe that's not why the Justice Department has gone berserk.

Please support him in every way possible. You can start by signing this petition and telling everyone you know about this. If you can, also donate to Demand Progress, the organization Swartz founded.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at July 20, 2011 02:02 PM

How is the Obama Administration any different from Neo-Fascist bush?

Still going after pointless "criminals" and supporting trying Guantanamo inmates.

Posted by: HSweeney at July 20, 2011 02:42 PM

Man. How long will it take Jstor to put back all the stuff that was stolen?

Posted by: will shetterly at July 20, 2011 03:52 PM

I guess the Justice dept has nothing better to do than to harass a 24 yr old and arrest him or keep another young man in solitary confinement. When is it going to use its manpower to prosecute the torturers? But no, that is not its job.... look forward and not back!!


Posted by: Rupa Shah at July 20, 2011 03:57 PM

Uh, that was my idea of a joke. I did see this: "The charges are made all the more senseless by the fact that the alleged victim has settled any claims against Aaron, explained they've suffered no loss or damage, and asked the government not to prosecute."

Posted by: will shetterly at July 20, 2011 03:57 PM

@ will shetterly at July 20, 2011 03:57 PM
I would like to think of ONE THING that comes to mind instantly that the govt has done SENSIBLY!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at July 20, 2011 04:03 PM

Between this; the horrific treatment of Bradley Manning and other whistleblower prosecutions; Jeremy Scahill's revelations that, yes, Virginia, we are still operating secret CIA torture sites in Somalia (and probably elsewhere); wars of whim, as Walt called Libya; the volte face on promises not to go after medical marijuana if legalized by the states; the attempt to cover up the FBI's total botching of the anthrax case (to put it kindly); the attacks on Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid; the free hand-outs to the banksters; and, and, and, and.... I'm actually a bit surprised that Obama has turned out to be worse than my most dire predictions, which were pretty dire.

Of course I'm just a troll, so you shouldn't listen to me, according to one of your regular commentators. On the other hand, that commentator is no one of consequence, so perhaps I should just ignore him.

Posted by: Rojo at July 20, 2011 04:21 PM

There's of course a large number of other things I could add to my list, but it seems to me there hasn't been enough discussion of the horrific precedent that has been set by the Petreaus (sp?) Panetta shuffle for the consolidation of extra-legal drone bombing/assassination/extraordinary rendition/torture tactics across the military/intelligence apparatus, so I'd like to add that as well.

Posted by: Rojo at July 20, 2011 04:32 PM

"course I'm just a troll,"

I just read that thread, Rojo. I think to some extent you and No One were talking past each other. Much of it seemed to be about semantics rather than substance--how to define what is or is not a liberal. On alternate days of the week I switch back and forth between your two points of view--on the one hand (your view), if many or most liberals enthusiastically support Obama then that is what liberalism is, and on the other hand (No One's view) I think one can still identify a set of principles that a liberal Democrat is supposed to believe in even if many tend to abandon them in practice. To settle the argument you could call these things Liberalism A and Liberalism B, or else use more descriptive terms. (But then the argument would probably restart).

Posted by: Donald Johnson at July 20, 2011 05:03 PM

Here is Prof Foner, a Historian I respect and admire, talking about Evolution of Liberalism...


Posted by: Rupa Shah at July 20, 2011 05:11 PM

I just reread the NYT article about Swartz (which really is a criminal way to spell that name), and it strikes me that he is probably as Jon suggests being singled out for his activism, but that he is also a victim of our absurd intellectual property regime (which of course he was fighting against). The only harm to anyone that he allegedly caused was crashing a few servers, inadvertently. Yet he's being accused of theft on a grand scale.

We seriously need to figure out a new model for compensating the people that actually create intellectual/artistic/scientific goods to a reasonable level, as well as necessary, and the key word is "necessary," intermediaries and support workers (roadies need to get paid too!) and excise with a vengeance the corporate and other parasites that get in between just to suck up profit.

Given the way that technology allows for the very cheap reproduction of information now, this really shouldn't be so hard.

It seems to me that the goal should be to find ways to bring content creators and content consumers into the most direct contact possible and I'm quite heartened by some of the experiments going on in music in relation to these issues. I'm not sure how this would translate into scholarly articles, say, but perhaps some scholar will look into it.

Posted by: Rojo at July 20, 2011 05:11 PM

Thanks Donald for that. I actually thought about suggesting to him that we were talking past each other, but he was so damn uncivil, right off the bat, that I was dissuaded. I got pretty uncivil myself, I'll admit.

I do think that I'm correct in stating that liberals have always supported capitalism, or at least not supported efforts to abolish it, which to my mind is supporting it. I may have over-stated my case (a bit) when it came to war-mongering, but I'll still point to the historical record of liberal politicians and think I'm on pretty solid ground there.

Anyway, I'm not a lying, lye-ey pants troll, or however he or she wanted to have it, I hope the rest of you realize.

And thanks Rupa for the Foner link, I respect Foner as well and will go read that.

I hope that y'all realize that just because I have my disagreements with liberalism doesn't mean that I think that all liberals are evil scumbags (the ones currently in power definitely are). But, I'm definitely not a liberal. And contra No One of Consequence, you'd be hard pressed to find any anarchist that also considers him/herself a liberal.

Posted by: Rojo at July 20, 2011 05:21 PM

My parents are liberals, btw. And I love them.

Posted by: Rojo at July 20, 2011 05:25 PM

Although my uncle is a raging social conservative, and I love him too, so perhaps that negates the point I meant to make above.

Posted by: Rojo at July 20, 2011 05:50 PM

...he was so damn uncivil, right off the bat, that I was dissuaded. I got pretty uncivil myself, I'll admit.

Which is exactly why I moderate for civility on my own blog: when you flame, you get flames (and while it's true you could have ignored the attack, you shouldn't have had to in the first place).

BTW, in terms of that discussion (and since I seemed to be on the other side from you based on what I'd said), I'd largely agree with you that liberals are what liberals do. And there's no contradiction there; obviously there are limits to what we'd call a liberal, but a person can be liberal on many issues while still cheering for drone strikes, assassinations, invasions and the rest. I'd still say there's a Platonic definition of "liberal", but the judgment as to when someone goes from being a war-cheering, free trade-loving liberal to a conservative is largely about semantics.

And that's what I meant about using "liberal" ironically--because despite the fact that ostensible liberals have their liberal traits, they're often a disaster otherwise, as Phil Ochs pointed out decades ago.

Posted by: John Caruso at July 20, 2011 05:53 PM

Hey John, big ups for the Ochs reference. I'm a huge fan (and I consider him a liberal).

I think what has gone unstated in my assertion of "liberal is what liberal does" is an almost Marxist understanding of political movements. So, to me, when I'm calling something liberal now, I'm looking at the trajectory of the parties that fly under the banner of American liberalism in the context of the, as the Marxists would say, "objective" political realities. So, as I've stated in not very clear terms in earlier comments in this debate, now that there is no vigorous working class rebellion against capitalism, liberalism as a social-political force is not compelled to seek safety valves in order to ameliorate the conditions of the working class. This is not to say that there are not many sincere individuals that consider themselves liberals (or are in fact members of the working class, as the vast majority of us are) who do indeed care about the working class, equality, etc., but it's an understanding of how the political forces of societies work.

I'm a bit in my cups at the moment (I work strange hours), so apologies if that's not clear.

Posted by: Rojo at July 20, 2011 06:15 PM

It was Lenny Bruce, peace be upon him, who said, "I'm a liberal, and I've got the cancelled checks to prove it."

Me too.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at July 20, 2011 07:03 PM

Speaking of checks, one is in the mail from me to

Demand Progress

P.O. Box 380981

Cambridge, MA 02238

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at July 20, 2011 07:11 PM

Ah, But to touch the sweet, delicious, robust breast of a TSA Agent would bring arrest with sumptuous satisfaction. Downloading PUBLISHED articles, not so much. I signed.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 21, 2011 12:27 AM

Did I read that correctly? JSTOR isn't pressing charges?

Posted by: Amandasaurus at July 21, 2011 01:27 AM

Okay, to answer my own question:
"'It’s even more strange because JSTOR has settled any claims against Aaron, explained they’ve suffered no loss or damage, and asked the government not to prosecute,' Segal added."

Posted by: Amandasaurus at July 21, 2011 01:31 AM

Um, calling MLK pro-capitalist was pretty insulting to a lot of people, not just his person (he's dead, so I'm not as sensitive to that), as well as using liberal to lump him and thousands, pushing millions, of people who literally died for -- among other things -- my own personal political well-being is more than a dick move. Doing it to assert some kind of juvenile, literally undefined ideological purity is stunningly obnoxious.

It even parrots a racist tactic actually used in the Sixties and before: if you were for equal rights or {insert liberal value here}, you were a communist. Eventually, accusing black activists of being communist became self-proving enough that it became yet another racial slur.

We can see how it's logically inconsistent even within the thread, since I know anarchists who see their belief system as a liberal one. Oh, look, now I have the magic power of Adam and can define things however I want without using actual facts as a touchstone as well.

But, seriously, you can't arrogantly insult entire social movements and individuals both, deliberately ignore posts, and then claim victimization with any degree of intellectual honesty.

Speaking of a lack of intellectual honesty, Mr. Swartz is being politically targeted by his persecutors.

Posted by: Amandasaurus at July 21, 2011 01:27 AM

Did I read that correctly? JSTOR isn't pressing charges?

Not only that, but JSTOR asked to government not to press charges and claimed no harm was done -- and then the government issued a statement claiming, bald-facedly, that harm was indeed done.

The administration will happily use any pretext to do persecute and I believe the admin. couldn't care less about the laws that exist. The law is a full-on game now and shall be used to attack political enemies under any circumstances possible, so laws, both good and bad, are now weapons. Mr. Swartz is now the target of a pretty nasty pogrom. It started with brown people who were the wrong religion (silly brown people, get it right!) but that turned out to be the specific case of a general policy; Obama's looking to make examples of Nonstandard Citizen and activist alike.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at July 21, 2011 02:57 AM

As sad as stories like this are, I have reachedf apoint to which I meerely shake my head, and then go out to my garden.

I cannot, it seems, do a damn thing about the now fascist state that was once a democracy that I loved.

But like Herman Hesse once did, I can toil away with the bees and butterflies overhead and try to keep my mind straight.

(Though I will see if there is a stray dollar or two to help this yng man's defense.)

Posted by: Elise Mattu at July 22, 2011 03:30 PM

Ack, comment was cut off.

The goal here is fear. That's why the laws don't matter. They need to make you scared. If the laws don't fit, they'll just destroy your career with the prosecution and then rip the big charges off the table at that last minute and hit you with a bullshit fine. This isn't legal practice, it's a fucking carny trick.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at July 26, 2011 07:55 PM

(I fully expected this sort of thing from Obama because I expected it from Bush and I expected Obama to take the powers that Bush left him and increase them; what I didn't expect was the degree of slavishness from some circles, to Obama, once The Bad Things Started. That's what I get for having a hint of belief in the human spirit.)

And, um, be careful not to complain about all these arrests, either -- that will get you arrested.

Mr. Swartz is, unfortunately, in very distinguished company. Kinda his own fault, though. If he wanted to stay on the right side of the law, he should have picked a different line of work.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at July 26, 2011 07:56 PM