RIP Aaron Swartz: A Victim of Federal "Justice"

In memory of the late Aaron Swartz. May the federal prosecutorial overreach never be forgotten.

"Swartz didn't face prison until feds took over case, report says
The late Internet activist was facing a stern warning from local prosecutors. But then the U.S. Attorney's office, run by Carmen Ortiz, chose to make an example of Aaron Swartz, a new report says.

by Declan McCullagh
@declanm January 25, 2013 1:14 PM PST"

"...State prosecutors who investigated the late Aaron Swartz had planned to let him off with a stern warning, but federal prosecutor Carmen Ortiz took over and chose to make an example of the Internet activist, according to a report in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

Middlesex County's district attorney had planned no jail time, "with Swartz duly admonished and then returned to civil society to continue his pioneering electronic work in a less legally questionable manner," the report (alternate link) said. "Tragedy intervened when Ortiz's office took over the case to send 'a message.'"

The report is likely to fuel an online campaign against Ortiz, who has been criticized for threatening the 26-year-old with decades in prison for allegedly downloading a large quantity of academic papers."

"...the sweeping nature of federal computer crime laws allowed Ortiz and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann, who wanted a high-profile computer crime conviction, to pursue felony charges. Heymann threatened the free-culture activist with over 30 years in prison as recently as the week before he killed himself."


Creative US Government Solutions to Funding Shortfalls

"Law Lets I.R.S. Seize Accounts on Suspicion, No Crime Required
By SHAILA DEWAN OCT. 25, 2014"

"...Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up."


You know your country is in deep trouble when Canadian citizens are warned about traveling through it:

American shakedown: Police won't charge you, but they'll grab your money

U.S. police are operating a co-ordinated scheme to seize as much of the public’s cash as they can

By Neil Macdonald, CBC News Posted: Sep 11, 2014 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Sep 11, 2014 5:00 AM ET"

"...It usually starts on the road somewhere. An officer pulls you over for some minor infraction — changing lanes without proper signalling, following the car ahead too closely, straddling lanes. The offence is irrelevant.

Then the police officer wants to chat, asking questions about where you’re going, or where you came from, and why. He’ll peer into your car, then perhaps ask permission to search it, citing the need for vigilance against terrorist weaponry or drugs.

What he’s really looking for, though, is money.

And if you were foolish (or intimidated) enough to have consented to the search, and you’re carrying any significant amount of cash, you are now likely to lose it.

The officer will probably produce a waiver, saying that if you just sign over the money then the whole matter will just disappear, and you’ll be able to go on your way.

Refuse to sign it, and he may take the cash anyway, proclaiming it the probable proceeds of drugs or some other crime."







California Bans Centerfire Rifles with Detachable Magazines

"California lawmakers pass expanded semi-automatic weapons ban"



Center-fire rifles with detachable magazine are being reclassified as "assault weapons" and will fall under existing laws banning the sale of such firearms.

Citizens in possession of center-fire rifles capable of accepting a detachable magazine will have to pay to register their "assault weapon". Only center-fire rifles incapable of ever having more than 10 rounds of ammunition loaded are exempt.

Since the sale of "assault weapons" is already illegal in California, this would effectively ban future sales of all center-fire rifles capable of accepting a detachable magazine.

In the "If everybody knows this, why are they still asking for more H1Bs?" category...


"Why Companies Aren't Getting the Employees They Need
The conventional wisdom is that our education system is failing our economy. But our companies deserve a lot of the blame themselves.


Everybody's heard the complaints about recruiting lately.

Even with unemployment hovering around 9%, companies are grousing that they can't find skilled workers, and filling a job can take months of hunting."

Employers are quick to lay blame. Schools aren't giving kids the right kind of training. The government isn't letting in enough high-skill immigrants. The list goes on and on.

But I believe that the real culprits are the employers themselves.

With an abundance of workers to choose from, employers are demanding more of job candidates than ever before. They want prospective workers to be able to fill a role right away, without any training or ramp-up time.

In other words, to get a job, you have to have that job already. It's a Catch-22 situation for workers—and it's hurting companies and the economy."

Excess (Imported) Supply and Phantom Demand


"KASTE: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wages for computer programmers have stagnated. In fact, between 2001 and 2011, the mean hourly wage didn't even keep up with inflation. It's still less than $40. Microsoft says there have been some healthy increases recently - not reflected in the government numbers. But for critics of the system, it's apparent that the H1-B visas work as a kind of pressure-release valve on pay. Matloff also thinks the visas let companies avoid hiring older programmers.

MATLOFF: You can be an exact fit, but if you're 35, you're probably not going to even get a phone call. And meanwhile, the company is going to tell the press that there's just not any qualified people."

"BRUCE MORRISON: You hire the alien first, and then you manipulate the regulatory system to prove that you can't find an American.

KASTE: Bruce Morrison shaped the H1-B system as chairman of the House Immigration Committee two decades ago. Now, as an immigration lawyer and a lobbyist, he says employers have become too fond of the temporary foreign workers.

MORRISON: One factor is that if people are here on H1-Bs, they are less demanding than Americans who have choices about where they might work."

Fourth Amendment? What Fourth Amendment?

FYI - by the 100 mile logic, San Diego falls squarely within the Fourth Amendment does-not-apply-here zone, as does Seattle (if you find the closest border line with Canada at the Strait of Juan de Fuca).


"DHS Watchdog OKs ‘Suspicionless’ Seizure of Electronic Devices Along Border

The Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights watchdog has concluded that travelers along the nation’s borders may have their electronics seized and the contents of those devices examined for any reason whatsoever — all in the name of national security."

"The President George W. Bush administration first announced the suspicionless, electronics search rules in 2008. The President Barack Obama administration followed up with virtually the same rules a year later. Between 2008 and 2010, 6,500 persons had their electronic devices searched along the U.S. border, according to DHS data.

According to legal precedent, the Fourth Amendment — the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures — does not apply along the border. By the way, the government contends the Fourth-Amendment-Free Zone stretches 100 miles inland from the nation’s actual border."

Rumbles from the Fifth Estate


"To begin with, there has been a serious injustice in the Swartz case, and that alone compels accountability. Prosecutors are vested with the extraordinary power to investigate, prosecute, bankrupt, and use the power of the state to imprison people for decades. They have the corresponding obligation to exercise judgment and restraint in how that power is used. When they fail to do so, lives are ruined - or ended.

The US has become a society in which political and financial elites systematically evade accountability for their bad acts, no matter how destructive. Those who torture, illegally eavesdrop, commit systemic financial fraud, even launder money for designated terrorists and drug dealers are all protected from criminal liability, while those who are powerless - or especially, as in Swartz's case, those who challenge power - are mercilessly punished for trivial transgressions. All one has to do to see that this is true is to contrast the incredible leniency given by Ortiz's office to large companies and executives accused of serious crimes with the indescribably excessive pursuit of Swartz."


"...There’s a reason DOJ officials do not go after bankers who illegally foreclose, and then get jobs as partners in white collar criminal defense. There’s a reason no one has been held accountable for decisions leading to the financial crisis, or the war in Iraq. This reason is the modern ethic in American society that defines success as climbing up the ladder, consequences be damned. Corrupt self-interest, when it goes systemwide, demands that it protect rentiers from people like Aaron, that it intimidate, co-opt, humiliate, fire, destroy, and/or bankrupt those who stand for justice."

Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely


"Open democracy advocate and internet pioneer Aaron Swartz was found dead Friday in an apparent suicide, flooding the digital spectrum with an outpouring of grief. He was 26 years old.

Swartz spent the last two years fighting federal hacking charges. In July 2011, prosecutor Scott Garland working under U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, a politician with her eye on the governor's mansion, charged Swartz with four counts of felony misconduct -- charges that were deemed outrageous by internet experts who understood the case, and wholly unnecessary by the parties Swartz was accused of wronging.

Swartz repeatedly sought to reduce the charges to a level below felony status, but prosecutors pressed on, adding additional charges so that by September 2012 Swartz faced 13 felony counts and up to half a century in prison."

"Ortiz's office declined to comment for this article. Late on Saturday, Swartz's family issued a statement mourning the loss of their loved one's "curiosity, creativity" and "commitment to social justice." They also put some of the blame for Swartz's death on federal prosecutors.

""Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy," the statement reads. "It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney's office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims."

That sentiment was echoed by Harvard University Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig, a friend of Swartz, wrote a withering blog post attacking the Department of Justice for its misplaced zeal:

"We need a better sense of justice, and shame. For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior," Lessig wrote. "[Aaron] was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying.""

While Rome Burns...


"Congress edges closer to 'fiscal cliff' deal but can't close it

By Lisa Mascaro and Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau
December 30, 2012, 9:27 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill inched toward a compromise to avert part of the so-called fiscal cliff but remained unable to close a deal as each side struggled with internal tensions as well as the remaining gap between them.

Lawmakers have been trying to beat a deadline of midnight Monday, when tax rates are scheduled to go up for the vast majority of Americans. But they could continue chasing a deal for days — even until the new Congress is sworn in at noon Thursday. After that, the political dynamics could shift with the entrance of new members.

If Congress fails to act, the combination of new taxes and sharp cuts in defense spending and domestic programs, which also would take effect with the new year, could tip the economy back into recession, economists have warned."


"Student loan debt nears $1 trillion: Is it the new subprime?

By JILL SCHLESINGER / MONEYWATCH/ November 28, 2012, 10:02 AM

(MoneyWatch) Since the recession, Americans have vastly reduced the amount of debt they maintain, with one glaring exception: Student loans. Outstanding student loan debt now stands at $956 billion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit. Student debt increased by 4.6 percent in the third quarter from the previous quarter -- when annualized, that's almost a 20 percent rate of increase.

Additionally, more student loan borrowers are falling behind on their payments, with the percent of student loan balances 90+ days delinquent increasing to 11 percent this quarter. This rate is now higher than the "serious delinquency" rate for credit card debt for the first time."

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