Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for January, 2013

More on the Aaron Swartz story

Posted by Charles II on January 31, 2013

We previously covered the tragic story of Aaron Swartz, who was hounded to his death by a prosecution that seemed malicious and disproportionate, charging him with 13 felonies for downloading publicly-accessible files from MIT’s JSTOR account–even though JSTOR refused to say Swartz had stolen data. It is increasingly evident that the prosecution was completely wrong-headed. Scott Horton:

The flaw in Ortiz’s posture has been laid bare by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In United States v. Nosal, he dismissed the theory Ortiz used to go after Swartz, saying it would potentially criminalize “everyone who uses a computer in violation of computer use restrictions — which may well include everyone who uses a computer.” Kozinski was born and raised in Communist Romania, and knows a thing or two about totalitarian states — and he knows that prosecutorial overbreadth is their leitmotif. If conduct can be charged so broadly as to cover virtually everyone, then prosecutorial discretion effectively becomes a license to persecute anyone who stands in the state’s way. Radley Balko and Clive Crook have each focused on this concern about the Swartz case. I share the essence of their analyses.

The Ninth Circuit is California, whereas Boston is First Circuit. So an opinion by Kozinski isn’t binding on whoever would have tried the case in Massachusetts District Court. But Ortiz would have done well to consider what he said, which is (in my layman’s interpretation) computers aren’t somehow special. Just because you do something using a computer does not automatically convert what would otherwise be a civil wrong (tort) or infraction of institutional rules into espionage, treason, or some other arcane crime. If you take confidential information from your employer, it shouldn’t matter whether it was in a filing cabinet or on a computer. It’s wrong, but probably not a felony.

Maybe someday enough prosecutors and judges will understand computers to get this simple idea: there’s nothing special about them.

Posted in abuse of power, computers and software | 3 Comments »

Guatemalan dictator on trial for genocide

Posted by Charles II on January 31, 2013

From NSArchive:

Guatemala achieved a breakthrough for justice today with the opening of the landmark criminal trial of Efraín Ríos Montt, former military dictator, for genocide and crimes against humanity. Ríos Montt, along with his chief of army intelligence José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, is charged with ordering and overseeing a bloody counterinsurgency campaign during his 1982-83 regime that sought to wipe out guerrilla forces and anyone who supported them. The indictment accuses the two retired generals of responsibility for fifteen massacres in the Ixil region of the country’s northwestern Quiché department, resulting in the deaths of 1,771 unarmed men, women and children.

One of Rios Montt’s defense attorneys says that this is a “‘politucal lynching'” instigated by the current government which is “’full of ex-guerrillas.’”

Somehow I don’t think that “lynching” of the kind Rios Montt faces will be anywhere near as fatal as what happened to the 1,771 unarmed Ixils (Mayans) or the many innocent thousands more who died thanks to Rios Montt… those thousands being just a fraction of the 200,000 who died in the 36-year long dirty war run by right-wing dictators.

Posted in Latin America | Comments Off on Guatemalan dictator on trial for genocide

Invasion Of The Charter Schools

Posted by Phoenix Woman on January 31, 2013

In the name of profit, charter schools invade the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. The parents are fighting back.

Read about it here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Invasion Of The Charter Schools

Johnny Cash, One Control Advocate

Posted by Phoenix Woman on January 30, 2013

Just watch — you’ll like it:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

The Gatekeepers: interviews of six heads of Shin Bet on the future of Israel

Posted by Charles II on January 29, 2013

The director of the recent film The Gatekeepers, Dror Moreh, was interviewed by DemocracyNow. The film includes some astonishing quotes from the directors of Shin Bet, Israel’s secret police.

Moreh complained that DemocracyNow had decontextualized the quotes to portray the Palestinians as innocent victims of Israeli aggression. But even understood in context, namely that Shin Bet’s efforts are aimed not at civilians but at terrorists, the film is both powerful and relevant to the US so-called “Global War on Terror.”

Civil wars and sectarian conflicts such as Afghanistan and the intifada of Palestine cannot be understood as isolated acts of violence. Both sides have grievances. No side is innocent. Our own Revolutionary War was presaged, in part, by what would be called acts of terror today. Think Sam Adams and the Sons of Liberty. The Gatekeepers, appropriately, focuses on what the suppression of the Palestinians is doing to Israelis. In this context, there is this exchange:

AARON MATÉ: Well, we certainly aren’t here to debate the history with you, but we are trying to portray your film, and your movie has some very powerful statements that should be highlighted. You know, you have Avraham Shalom saying something like—a line like: “[We’ve become] a brutal occupation force similar to the Germans in World War II.”


AARON MATÉ: “We have become cruel, to ourselves as well, but mainly to the occupied population, using the excuse of the war against terror.”

Moreh goes on to draw the parallel between an Israeli attack that killed one terrorist (who was supposedly organizing a truce) and over a dozen innocent people and American drone attacks.

The heads of Shin Bet are unanimous in their view that the occupation is dangerous and destabilizing to Israel. Even when the attacks are targeted against terrorists, they inevitably raise questions about proportionality, about the deaths of innocents, and about the brutalization of the occupier.

By increasing the settlements, Israel is coming dangerously close to forced removal of the Palestinians, i.e. what’s called ethnic cleansing. Moreh is right:

Dror Moreh: … I think that those people who came to speak in the movie, the six heads of the security defense establishment, the Shin Bet, came because they feel that the occupation of the Palestinians in the last 45 years is something that is not good for the state of Israel and should be stopped.

The same can be said of many American occupations and interventions. Unless they resolve grievances, establish a superior living standard, and especially respect the whole community and their traditions, they will backfire–even if they are tactically brilliant and otherwise morally justifiable. This film looks to go a long way toward showing why this is so.

Posted in israel, terrorism | 1 Comment »

US claims authorization to intervene in Mali

Posted by Charles II on January 28, 2013

Robert Naiman, Just Foreign Policy:

1) The Obama Administration has apparently made a legal determination that the conflict in Mali is covered under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. Most of the reservations about whether President Obama has the legal authority to engage in military operations in Mali were resolved, the New York Times reports, after it was determined that the main targets were linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. This means that the Administration is using the same legal authority to intervene that it is using to conduct drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, which means that the Administration could conduct drone strikes in Mali under this interpretation of the 2001 AUMF.

But the degree to which President Obama wants to get involved in Mali is still an open question, the Times says….Gen. Carter Ham, the head of the Pentagon’s Africa Command, has said, “Realistically, probably the best you can get is containment and disruption so that Al Qaeda is no longer able to control territory.”

I haven’t found the NYT article and it’s behind a paywall. But if we have the right to intervene and the French are unable to actually end the conflict, what is likely to happen?

Posted in Africa, terrorism | 8 Comments »

What happens when you tolerate/aid coups

Posted by Charles II on January 28, 2013

Via Adrienne, AP’s Alberto Arce reports that Honduras is “no longer functioning” in the words of Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy. Street surveillance cameras turned off for non-payment, with threats of cutting off police radio as well. Teachers unpaid for six months. Soldiers unpaid. The Constitutional Branch of the Supreme Court not in session because it has been screwed over by the Congress, in a move so brazen even the US mentioned it (though did not condemn it).

Adrienne reports a conversation with a “local cop,” by which I assume she means a DC policeman:

He told me about the interesting couple weeks he spent in Honduras (San Pedro area, mostly) at the behest of the State Department in 2010, giving trainings in community policing. He also did the same in El Salvador and Panama on the same trip. He was mostly impressed by the Honduran police force’s lack of basic supplies—gasoline, etc. But he also noticed a total lack of internal mechanisms for accountability, and framed things in terms of corruption, using a version of that argument that “if you don’t clean things up, it’s easy for criminals to infiltrate the police”—as if criminality were not intrinsic to [Honduran] policing, and as if criminality were a permanent state of being or character trait (the NRA argument) and not something that is defined through one’s actions. Although in Honduras, of course (as well as here in the U.S., in various contexts), it is legally a state of being…He had also gone to the COBRA training facility and appeared as a guest on Frente a Frente with Renato Álvarez, where he was invited to talk about corruption and the work he was doing, cop-to-cop trainings. How did he respond to questions about human rights abuses by the Honduran police? I asked. Oh, that was the one thing that the State Department made clear—he said—I wasn’t allowed to say anything about human rights.

Posted in corruption, Honduras | 1 Comment »

News from the Vatican

Posted by Charles II on January 27, 2013

Betty Clermont has an epic post on the nature of intramural and extramural conflicts in the Vatican. While I think that reports of the Church’s demise are just a bit premature, the main thread is that there has been a lack of accountability, particularly with regard to financial transactions. Probably the most incendiary allegation has to do with suspicions of institutional involvement of l’Istituto per le Opere di Religione (the Institute for Religious Works) in transactions in which “clergy may have acted as fronts for corrupt businessmen and the Mafia.” It looks improbable that charges will be filed, but to be unable to explain multimillion dollar transactions speaks to a disregard for the niceties.

This in turn bears on whether the Vatican is involved in promoting certain politicians/positions in the EU. What does seem clear is that the hyper-hierarchical structure at the apex of the church promotes politics at the expense of true religion. I’m sure that the Church will weather all this–it’s too important to too many people to “implode”– but it is in need of renewal.

Posted in politics masquerading as religion, religion, The Vatican | 2 Comments »

Things To Watch In The Coming Weeks

Posted by Phoenix Woman on January 26, 2013

Some things to watch in the coming weeks:

— In addition to violating the state constitution as already noted, did the Virginia Senate Republicans’ coup attempt flout it in yet another manner? Paul Goldman at Blue Virginia thinks so, arguing that since the Virginia constitution states that no bill creating things like new taxes or new offices (such as state senate seats, which would happen under the re-redistricting plotted by the Virginia GOP Senate caucus) “shall be passed except by the affirmative vote of a majority of all the members elected to each house“, that means that 21 votes, not 20, were needed to pass that bill. In other words, it can’t just be a majority of all the senators present at that date and time, but a majority of all the current sitting senators, which is 21.

— The Frank Vennes trial starts February 5. Vennes is a longtime associate of Tom Petters and was a prominent donor to the Republican Party of Minnesota, so much in bed with the local GOP that Michele Bachmann tried to get him pardoned for his prior criminal convictions.

The two people who have done the true journalism concerning this case are Karl Bremer and Ken Avidor, and Karl Bremer sadly passed away earlier this month. When you read any Big Media stories about Vennes, chances will be good that much if not most of the reporting will have been lifted without attribution from either Karl or Ken.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Things To Watch In The Coming Weeks

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on January 25, 2013


Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 3 Comments »

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