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Matt Stoller’s beautiful tribute of Aaron Swartz

“As we think about what happened to Aaron, we need to recognize that it was not just prosecutorial overreach that killed him. That’s too easy, because that implies it’s one bad apple. We know that’s not true. What killed him was corruption. Corruption isn’t just people profiting from betraying the public interest. It’s also people being punished for upholding the public interest. In our institutions of power, when you do the right thing and challenge abusive power, you end up destroying a job prospect, an economic opportunity, a political or social connection, or an opportunity for media. Or if you are truly dangerous and brilliantly subversive, as Aaron was, you are bankrupted and destroyed. There’s a reason whistleblowers get fired. There’s a reason Bradley Manning is in jail. There’s a reason the only CIA official who has gone to jail for torture is the person – John Kiriako – who told the world it was going on. There’s a reason those who destroyed the financial system “dine at the White House”, as Lawrence Lessig put it. There’s a reason former Senator Russ Feingold is a college professor whereas former Senator Chris Dodd is now a multi-millionaire. 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.”

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Senator John Kerry speaking at the Third Annual Three Towns & Two Cities Breakfast, 4/12/08.

Senator John Kerry speaking at the Third Annual Three Towns & Two Cities Breakfast, 4/12/08.
Image: Nancy Weinberg.

Today, the Senate conducted a Commerce Committee hearing about the future of the Internet. It’s important for the committee to hear from us! Kerry has asked for our input. I saw my Senator at the “Third Annual Three Towns & Two Cities Breakfast” up in Newburyport a week or so ago. His challenger, Ed O’Reilly was one of the invited speakers, so he had an incentive to come out and speak with us. He spoke for about half an hour and then took another half hour of questions from the floor. Although some important issues were brought up (voting machine problems, impeachment, etc), unfortunately, Net Neutrality NEVER CAME UP and Kerry did not think to speak about it. I wish that our elected officials would do a better job of coordinating their activities to give their constituencies opportunities for input into these issues before the last minute. Kerry missed a great opportunity! (Looking at his past fundraising and actions regarding Media, it’s easy to understand his ambivalence at being too outspoken on these issues. This is one of the places where issues of money in politics overlaps media issues.) To give Kerry credit, he has recently been getting more vocal about these issues:

Kerry to FCC: We Weren’t Bluffing

Kerry Challenges Martin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ironically, everyone is able to wait until the last minute by utilizing the Internet as the main notification tool! This is an apt example of something that might be lost in future without an open internet. The company selling you internet service might be able to (legally) censor what information comes your way. There have already been some battles over content control and censorship by Verizon, Comcast and others. (Also see Senate Committee Tackles Net Neutrality Today, from Infoworld 4/22/08)

Many of us take the openness of the internet for granted. If it were not for the internet, I’m not sure in how much worse shape this country would be (can it be worse? The economy in a meltdown, our civil liberties eroded, infrastructure crumbling…) all of the grassroots organizing, fundraising, dissemination of information, would be much more difficult. We must work to keep “Net Neutrality” – the openness and evenhandedness of the internet. As Comcast and other large corporations have demonstrated (Homeless? Comcast Will Pay to Attend FCC Hearings & John Kerry: They Took Your Seat), they want to carve up the internet more and more, controlling speed, innovation (or lack thereof), content, access and keep an iron grip so they can make even more billions $$$.

Comcast pays seat-fillers to keep public out of Feb. FCC Net-Neutrality Hearing

There was a second FCC hearing last week- April 17th- on Internet “Net Neutrality” at Stanford, which was quickly scheduled after the embarrassing fiasco of a hearing in Cambridge in February. Stanford Law Professor (and founder of the Center for Internet and Society) Lawrence Lessing spoke eloquently on the need to maintain a free and open internet. I recommend that you watch the videos of the hearing. Not surprisingly, the big telecommunication companies (Comcast, Verizon, etc) boycotted the event. The big companies are always looking for ways to charge more, for example for faster speed and extra features, and control more – not to mention the blocking that they’ve already been caught doing. This would squelch innovation and true competition. The big companies would become “gatekeepers” much as the big companies owning the rest of the media -like radio and TV- are gatekeepers blocking access for those who don’t support their agendas. Lessig also gave testimony at today’s Senate Hearing.

Besides today’s Senate hearing, a bipartisan group of five Congresspeople introduced legislation March 14, 2008 to overturn the recent December FCC ruling allowing even more cross-media consolidation, and there is a Senate Resolution of Disapproval S.J. Res. 28 as well. The ACLU has also written a letter to the Senate about the resolution.

[Update from FreePress.net: Today (4/24/08), the Senate Commerce Committee passed a “resolution of disapproval” that would veto the Federal Communications Commission’s latest attempt to dismantle longstanding media ownership limits. Last December, the FCC voted to remove the longstanding “newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership” ban that prohibits one company from owning a broadcast station and the major daily newspaper in the same market. The ruling still must pass muster in the federal court that reversed the FCC’s previous attempt to lift media ownership limits in 2003.

But the Senate is intervening right away. The resolution of disapproval (Senate Joint Resolution 28), introduced by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) in early March, serves as a “legislative veto.” If passed by Congress and signed by the president, it would nullify the FCC’s new rules.

Today’s vote follows news that Murdoch’s News Corp. is close to completing a $580 million deal to purchase the Long Island daily Newsday from Tribune Company. News Corp. already controls the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, and two TV stations in the New York market — and the new deal would violate longstanding media ownership limits.

The legislation has 25 bipartisan co-sponsors including Commerce Committee ChairmanDaniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Vice Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Sens. John Kerry(D-Mass.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

The Senate had 60 legislative days to pass the resolution from the time Congress was notified about the rule in late February. Last month, a House version of the resolution — which is not limited by the legislative shot clock — was introduced by Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Dave Reichert (R-Wash.).

Permitting further media consolidation goes against the core values the agency was created to protect,” said Joseph Torres, government relations manager of Free Press. “The FCC did not heed the overwhelming public opposition to its decision. The Senate appears to be listening.”]

I am extremely uncomfortable with the idea that my ability to speak my mind to whoever wants to hear is a matter of corporate grace rather than constitutional right, and I suspect other Americans will feel equally uncomfortable if the FCC abandons its responsibilities and fails to act.”

 

For more information, articles, video and actions you can take, check out:

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