Saturday, January 19, 2013

Brace Yourselves For Unintended Ironies In Aaron Swartz Affair

Thought it was galling enough to see a life pointlessly destroyed in the name of morality by the U.S. Government, with U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz functioning as the spear point of power in this case? And then having to listen to the same Ortiz extol the professionalism and dedication of her junior Javerts?

Then wait! There's more!

The Somali puppet “president” Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was in Washington, D.C. January 17th to stand next to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the two of them made nice, bloviating on with the usual gush about progress, democracy, community of nations, etc. etc. One thing Mohamud said struck me. It was this, in answer to a question:

Somalia –  United States is a role model country for the democracy, for the freedom of people, for the development of human capital. And this model we are going to pursue, of course, as the rest of the world. “[sic]. (1)

Well don't copy it too closely, pal, or you'll have to destroy some “human capital” too, as happened with Aaron Swartz (and millions of others who lack employment opportunities, are poorly educated, and the smaller number singled out for active persecution).

Something about the U.S. power system is always producing unintended ironies.

By the way, Somalia ranks as one of the most corrupt governments in the world, along with North Korea, according to Transparency International. So take it from them, human potential means a lot to them!

And here's another one, although this could also be filed under “double standards” or “twisted priorities.”

Remember Massey “Energy,” the erstwhile criminal coal company that caused a mine explosion which killed 40 of its miners in 2010? (Some other corporation subsequently found the foul Massey so tempting it bought it.) Now one of its former managers has pleaded out to “conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Government.” Want to guess his sentence? 35 years, maybe? Nooo.

21 months. For helping to kill 40 people. But hey, he's cooperating with the Feds! (Too bad Aaron didn't have anyone he could have handed up to the Feds. Maybe he could have burned some members of Anonymous, like FBI puppet “Sabu” (Hector Xavier Monsegur) did, or help crucify a leaker, like amoral defective being Adrian Lamo did to Bradley Manning. Check your ethics and morality at the door, all who enter the Federal maw! Helps to not have any to begin with, I suppose.) Footnote (2)

A bit more information has dribbled out about Swartz case. A belated Wall Street Journal editorial [1/18/13] says U.S. Persecutor- excuse me, prosecutor- Carmen Ortiz demanded that Swartz plead guilty to all 13 felonies she slammed him with to get that cushy six month prison stretch. Which would have killed most of his employment prospects, but hey, he probably could have gotten a job in a car wash or something.

The ultra-reactionary WSJ, while deeming it unfair to blame Ortiz for Aaron's suicide, nevertheless rapped her for abuse of prosecutorial discretion. The WSJ also took the occasion to slam Swartz's ideological inclinations and the “information wants to be free” movement generally.

But this is hardly the first suicide prompted by U.S. Government persecution or harassment. Ernest Hemingway was apparently driven to suicide at least in part by FBI harassment, a fact that has only recently been “discovered.” (It was well known to Hemingway himself, however. One of his “friends” recently wrote a mea culpa in which he confessed to dismissing Hemingway as paranoid at the time.) And there was a vicious Federal narc who later went to work for the CIA testing drugs on unwitting “subjects” who captured a drug dealer who killed himself to avoid prison. In “retirement,” this thug prowled the beaches hunting for marijuana smokers.

Part of the requirement for maintaining the illusion of “freedom” and “democracy” and the dominance of an ideological system that perpetuates false consciousness on a massive scale is the constant work of destroying and preventing connections like these from being made. The forest must constantly be obfuscated by a focus not even on a tree, but on a leaf on a tree. (And preferably something to do with celebrities- i.e. something insignificant.)

Here's an example of the deliberate destruction of connections: the “Iranian hostage crisis” is something that the bourgeois commentariat is constantly circling back to, like a dog sniffing its own shit. I've heard it mentioned several times on the radio in just the past week. (NPR, BBC, among others.) But they never ever mention what precipitated the taking of the “hostages,” the fact that the U.S. allowed the Shah into the U.S. You'd think that would be an important fact. That fact, by putting things in actual context, of course creates an entirely different picture. Namely reality. Apparently we aren't even supposed to think “Why did the Iranians do that?” It's just because they mindlessly hate “us,” is what the indoctrinators want people to think. Of course, if you started pulling on that string, you'd have to go back to the 1953 CIA-MI6 coup that destroyed Iranian democracy and put in place a vicious tyrant (with a CIA-created and mentored secret police SAVAK, with a hideous record of torture and murder) that earned for Iran a ranking by Amnesty International as the worst regime for human rights in the world. 250,000 Iranians died at the hands of the Shah's regime until his overthrow in 1979.

That's not an endorsement of what followed. Since the SAVAK, under the tutelage of its CIA mentors, did such a good job of extirpating any and all possible sources of social organization, the only social force left in Iranian society was organized religion. So now it's a repressive theocracy. (It didn't immediately become that, but did in short order.)

So the Great Democracy Defender destroys democracy, and in the process of creating a “friendly” nation, sows the seeds of an “enemy regime.” An unintended irony? You decide.

But definitely a crime against humanity. A big one. So I guess we'd have to call what was done to Aaron Swartz just a small crime against humanity, relatively speaking.

Everything's relative, right?

[For the despicable actions of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy around the issues raised by the persecution of Aaron Swartz, see "The Most Dangerous Person in the U.S. Congress."]

1) I heard Mohamud say this on the radio, which ran just that brief snippet of his remarks, apparently finding those words very significant. There's a transcript at a State Department website with the ironic (unintentional, of course) URL (URL is computerese for Uniform Resource Locator, in case you were curious. It's the address of the particular webpage. Most websites consist of multiple webpages, of course. The main page is the homepage.)

(2) The executive, Gary May, was a practitioner of Massey's routine practice of systematically violating safety rules and covering them up by disabling methane monitors and other safety equipment, entering false data into safety logs, warning workers of “surprise” mine “safety” administration inspections, and so on. The explosion resulted from the chronic failure of Massey to control coal dust, as (officially) required by regulations (which are mostly unenforced, and thus nominal) and permitting broken water sprays, which enabled a spark to ignite the aforementioned methane gas which Massey habitually allowed to build up to dangerous, “banned” (pro forma banned) levels, which triggered an explosion of the coal dust which Massey obdurately allowed to accumulate to dangerous levels in its usual manner of operations. Incorrigible corporations like Massey should be declared criminal enterprises, disbanded, their assets auctioned off by the government, and their executives imprisoned. But that doesn't happen. The government DOES use the RICO statutes to persecute political activists it doesn't like, however. And it uses “forfeiture” laws to steal assets of people who haven't been convicted or even charged with anything- people who cannot afford to contest the thefts. You should check out the weekly published lists of “Asset Forfeitures” (i.e. U.S. thefts) and see that they're mostly small amounts of cash, cars, and whatnot.

Of course, the Federal Government, operating under a laissez-faire capitalist ideology that is fundamentally hostile to regulation of business, was completely lax for decades in enforcing and inspecting mines. And Congress deliberately made the mine inspection agency feeble. And under the rules, Massey could also endlessly haggle and appeal any citation. And the rare penalties were laughably small fines. And Massey was a non-union company, a key factor in why Massey was worst of the worst among coal mining outfits. And the ex-Chairman and CEO Donald Leon "Deranged Don" Blankenship  is a raving fascist. (Read some of his rants if you don't believe me. He's a red-baiting bastard. His reaction to his own murderous crimes was delivering fascistic attacks on regulators and critics as commies.)

And he got even filthier rich from selling Massey after the mine massacre.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Obama Regime Creates Another Martyr

No, not yet another jihadist martyr. Those are a dime a dozen, The U.S. senses no consequences from that.

An American martyr. (No, not Anwar al-Awlaki, or his 16 year old son, or Samir Khan, blown to kingdom come by drones in Yemen in separate assassinations.)

Aaron Swartz, a computer genius, a child coding prodigy (involved in the creation of RSS at age 14), was driven to suicide by the prospect of 35 years in prison under draconian U.S. criminal law, plus a million dollar fine for good measure. [Free Speech Radio News says he was facing over 50 years.] He was alleged to be guilty of “computer crimes,” After two years of stress induced by the U.S. government, he hung himself.

Swartz was indicted on 13 Federal criminal counts- via the usual U.S. prosecutor procedure of turning one act into numerous “crimes.” (One way they multiply the charges is by counting everything as double- one for doing it, and one for “conspiring” to do it, although that shouldn't have applied in this case, since you need at least two people for a “conspiracy,” even if one of them is a government agent and creator of the “conspiracy.”)

The heinous act that Swartz did, worthy of 35 years in the slammer (he was 26 years old, so the U.S. Government was looking to steal the rest of his youth and most of his middle age) was sneak a computer into a closet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.- an important node of the military industrial imperialist complex that provides scientific support for violent and repressive technology) and hook it up to M.I.T.'s network in order to download scientific papers hoarded by a company called JSTOR. JSTOR at the time charged for access to the documents. MIT had paid access to JSTOR's database. Swartz thought the information should be freely available. [One of his reasons for believing this is that because of the exorbitant prices charges by information-hoarding companies, scientists in the Third World are cut off from needed information to participate fully in the scientific process. The U.S. media has ignored that angle in its predictable misreporting of this sorry and tragic episode.]

Swartz's death stands as an example of several common and fundamental things about America: 1) it's extreme repressiveness, and 2) its waste of human potential. Even if he hadn't killed himself, as a dangerous “computer criminal” and Svengali in the eyes of the U.S., a la Kevin Mitnick, he would have been banned from computer use in prison.

Basically Swartz was facing 35 years for trespassing at M.I.T. and downloading data. The “victim” of the “theft,” JSTOR, was not interested in pressing charges, in fact M.I.T. instigated the prosecution. JSTOR settled with Swartz in June, 2011, with no claim of civil liability or interest in criminal prosecution. Swartz returned the “stolen” data at that time.

In justifying this draconian persecution, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz self-righteously fulminated that “stealing is stealing.” (Who ever heard of prosecuting someone for “stealing” from someone who refuses to press- or even bring- charges?) Of course, when you actually steal from someone- take a physical object, or money, for example- you deprive that person of what is stolen. JSTOR of course still had all its data. Downloading something merely copies it. Calling that “theft” would be as if I had a photocopy of your driver's license and someone said I “stole” your license. There may be good reasons not to allow me to do that, but I didn't “steal” it.

Now that Ortiz has hounded Swartz to death, she refuses to back down one inch, insisting that she and her myrmidons behaved “honorably.” (So did the Waffen-SS, by their own lights. And all the butcher fascist military juntas of Latin America. I think someone else should be the judge of your “honor,” Ortiz.) But Ortiz did offer insincere “condolences.” That's purely political, like a vending machine flashing the message “thank you for your patronage,” mechanical and emotionless and totally calculated.

[Oh, by the way, see what a great difference “diversity” makes? Ortiz is a Hispanic AND a woman- she's doubly “diverse.”

Do names like Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, Madeleine “Killing 500,000 Iraqi children with sanctions was worth it” Albright, Janet “The Butcher of Waco” Reno, etc. ring any bells? How about Clarence Thomas, Herman Cain, Marco Rubio, Ileano Ross-Leitinen? Do not judge a book by its superficial cover.

It's the most brain-dead identity politics that equates female or “minority” with “progressive” or “Good Guy,” or even “liberal.”]

But I digress...

Of course this is all about defense of property- namely the property of corporations that “own” intellectual “property.” i.e. ideas.

It used to be that ideas came under civil copyright law. And even now, if someone steals my writing, the FBI and DO”J” isn't going to investigate and prosecute them under the recent laws that criminalize copyright infringement. This is all about defense of big business and its profits.

The new repressive computer “crime” laws are part of a counterattack against people violating what big corporations believe are their prerogatives in the Internet Age.

Ortiz's loathsome husband, an IBM executive named Tom Dolan, attacked Aaron's parents for not mentioning an alleged plea bargain his wife tried to extort their son into accepting, a 6 month prison term. He finds it “truly incredible” that they blame his wife for Aaron's suicide instead of Aaron's own stupidity for not taking the Great Deal Ortiz supposedly offered. (She also coldly offered to lock him up pre-trial so he wouldn't kill himself, when his lawyer told her he was suicidal a year ago. That would have done wonders for his mental health, and for his ability to prepare a defense. Cute move, Ortiz.)

Guess Aaron should have taken that offer! (If in fact it was actually on the table.) Especially since it's virtually impossible to be acquitted at trial in Federal courts unless one is charged with a “white collar” crime. People need to get away from stupid attitudes like “seeking justice” in the frame-up factory that is the U.S. legal system, a meat grinder of human beings, or seeking “exoneration” from the system, or trying to “clear their names.” Stop caring what stinking “respectable” people think. This system is illegitimate. Stop caring about their opinions, their judgments! “Oh, I'll have a conviction on my record!” Consider it an honor to be important enough to those creeps to be one of their targets. People need to become psychologically independent of the ideological system, to free their minds.You need to think of the government and its agents as your enemies.

More outrageously, the Government continued the persecution even though JSTORE
announced it was making the “stolen” material freely available, a few days before Swartz's suicide. That's an ironic kicker worthy of a great novel by Charles Dickens, or Victor Hugo. A remorseless, pitiless system that irrationally persecutes without mercy.

But of course that's “irrelevant.” Just as it was irrelevant that the Federal oil lease auction spoiled by Tim deChristopher bidding in it was later cancelled entirely by the Government. He still sits in the slammer doing a two year sentence for daring to interfere. (Wonder why they didn't just ignore his bids, or have a security guard escort him out?)

The issue here is messing around with the U.S. Power structure. It is a remorseless, merciless system. If you don't believe me, I can point you to millions of dead people around the world- indeed millions incinerated alive in U.S. wars in Vietnam, Japan, Germany. And millions forced to live under U.S.-imposed fascist military dictatorships (fewer of those around now, no thanks to the U.S.).
Maybe someday people will make some obvious connections between “domestic” and “foreign” “policy.” Policy is such an anticeptic, anodyne euphemism for terrible realities.

Turns out there are Americans of a socioeconomic and status class who care about Swartz . Unlike the millions locked up in American prisons for outrageously long sentences, the people who care about Swartz 's fate have some influence in American society. The brilliant politician Obama didn't see that. Not that he was directly involved. He merely sets the tone and the priorities for the machinery that he and the medieval-minded Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.* (a Clinton regime retread, like so many Obama regime apparatchiks, brought back to do more evil). So the oh-so-politically-agile Obama regime screwed up this time. The question is, if Swartz had been sentenced to a long prison term for being a petty miscreant, what would the reaction have been then, from those now aroused by his death? Why does it take death to rile people up? Leonard Peltier is rotting in prison- where is the outrage over that? We are all living under hideously punitive laws- lots and lots of them, not just the Swartz was targeted under- with viciously draconian penalties. The problem isn't just the so-called Computer Fraud and Abuse act, with its breathtakingly absurd penalties. See,.e.g. “drug” laws. See 60 NEW Federal death penalty laws Bill Clinton enacted- how come no one ever brings that up? For that matter, how come no one ever speaks of Clinton's murders, not just the massacre at Waco, but in Haiti when he overthrew Aristede the first time, or the thousands of deaths resulting from his bombing the only pharmaceutical factory in Sudan as soon as it was completed, fraudulently calling it an Al-Qaeda chemical warfare plant!

And speaking of computer fraud and abuse, the U.S. Government thinks it's fine to “steal” this essay as it travels from my computer to a blog or email account, and to you, and store it in NSA supercomputers and run it through programs that sift all that “stolen” data. Of course, unlike with Aaron Swartz, their intentions are malign.

Yes, the suicide of Swartz is a tragedy. One of millions, really. His persecution was just part and parcel of the “normal” operations of the system we exist within. Oddly, people manage to believe the Big Lie that we live in “freedom” under a “democracy.” If only it were so. It will never be as long as the current system exists. Looking at things narrowly, through the prism of one's pet “issue,” will never resolve anything. Only millions of people united in a common movement can do that. And that requires stepping back and seeing the big picture. Each discrete issue, each individual tragedy, is connected to that big picture, to that larger reality in which it is embedded. One has to understand reality to begin to change it.

*Holder infamously (it should be infamous, at any rate) instructed a law school student audience that “due process doesn't mean judicial process.” (His emphasis.) It means a bunch of executive branch assassins secretly deciding who to kill, and ordering their deaths. There was no visible outcry or even refutation in the bourgeois media over this outrageous assertion. If the victim has no chance to challenge the “findings,” indeed even to know that there are “proceedings” against him, that is the exact antithesis of due process. Not to mention the absence of an ostensibly neutral third party- a judge- to hear the Government's (or King's) arguments, and the accused having a chance to respond to the accusations. So Obama in this area has the power of Kings prior to the Magna Carta, 500 years ago.

Of course, increasingly in the U.S., even when an issue of state repression is allowed into a court, the “evidence” is kept secret from the victim and his/her lawyers. We are truly in the Dark Ages in the U.S.

[For the despicable actions of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy around the issues raised by the persecution of Aaron Swartz, see "The Most Dangerous Person in the U.S. Congress."]

Thursday, January 10, 2013

With Chavez Dying, Obama "National Security Team" Preparing to Gloat

Of course, they'll do it in private. But we'll get glimpses of it, in artfully couched terms, in such ruling class rags as the New York Times and Washington Post. The Obama "team" (just another clique of imperialists) will be high-fiveing each other in the Situation Room and so on.

With the cult of Chavez, we see once again the problem with "systems" based on an individual. They're too vulnerable to being as mortal as their namesakes. That can be a good thing- think Hitler and Nazism. And in the case of Hugo Chavez and Venezuela, the flaws and pitfalls of the system mirror those of Cuba and Castro- a person with an overweening ego and unrealistically exaggerated sense of their own good judgment making all the decisions. What saved Chavez was oil, and its high price for much of his rule. Too bad more wasn't invested in modernizing their oil industry.

On the plus side, much was done for the poor. And not just in tangible physical benefits. Raising the class consciousness of the poor and uniting and rallying them is a plus. Hopefully they will realize they don't need Chavez.

And perhaps someday we will discover if the CIA gave him that cancer.