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26 Year old internet genius Aaron Swartz, founder of Reddit, was bullied into suicide by the overzealous prosecution by the U.S. attorney according to family and friends. He faced 35 years in prison for attempting to place archival academic publications, paid for by taxpayers' money, into the public domain. The JSTOR consortium that maintains the archive refused to participate in the prosecution but the U.S. Attorney's office still threw the book at Swartz. Swartz, like Bradley Manning, Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou had taken on the system on behalf of the people. Just like those people, and our own Baculum King he was made an example of for the crime of believing that he could beat the system.

Boston Wiki Meetup

In their statement, Swartz’s family slammed his prosecution.
 “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy,” reads the statement. “It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts US 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. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.”

Our copyright and patent system has metastasized into a cancer that is devouring the knowledge-based economy that brought record American prosperity in the 1990's. Firewalled information and abused patents have been used to extort economic rent from individuals and small businesses that could develop new ideas and potentially build thriving new businesses. The copyright system has been used to protect existing businesses and institutions from competition from new ones. As an independent science, environment and climate change blogger I know all too well the difficulty of gaining access to primary literature. We paid for the research. We should have access to the reports that contain the results. We cannot depend on overstretched and undereducated reporters to cover the complexities of climate science adequately in the commercial media.

Perhaps, Aaron Swartz's efforts to release academic information to the public domain were technically crimes. However, they had insignificant economic impact because most of the information was not new. Releasing the information was a matter of principle, not one of monetary benefit. The extreme punishment demanded by the U.S. Attorney was a matter of principle, too. Just as the lack of punishment of the racketeers at Goldman Sachs was a matter of principal. Order must be maintained and the system sustained.
Lawrence Lessig ripped the U.S. Attorney that bullied Swartz to death.

Early on, and to its great credit, JSTOR figured “appropriate” out: They declined to pursue their own action against Aaron, and they asked the government to drop its. MIT, to its great shame, was not as clear, and so the prosecutor had the excuse he needed to continue his war against the “criminal” who we who loved him knew as Aaron.

Here is where 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. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The “property” Aaron had “stolen,” we were told, was worth “millions of dollars” — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.

Aaron had literally done nothing in his life “to make money.” He was fortunate Reddit turned out as it did, but from his work building the RSS standard, to his work architecting Creative Commons, to his work liberating public records, to his work building a free public library, to his work supporting Change Congress/FixCongressFirst/Rootstrikers, and then Demand Progress, Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good. He 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. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.

For remember, we live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House — and where even those brought to “justice” never even have to admit any wrongdoing, let alone be labeled “felons.”

When I worked for the USNRC one of the most popular sayings in our little group of nuclear waste management safety research project managers was no good deed goes unpunished. The system depends on people following orders and giving in to corruption.

The most dangerous people to the system are people of conscience like Tim DeChristopher
 and Aaron Swartz.

Aaron's last blog post indirectly explains why he felt like he was given no way out but suicide.

Reese, one of Bruce Wayne’s employees goes on TV and threatens to reveal the identity of the Batman, but the Joker calls in and asks him to stop. “I had a vision,” he says. “Of a world without Batman. The mob ground out a little profit and the police tried to shut them down, one block at a time… and it was so… boring. I’ve had a change of heart.” He threatens to blow up a hospital unless someone kills Reese. (He has thus constructed a trolley problem: people must decide whether it’s better to let the 100 die or kill the 1.)

At the hospital, the Joker explains things to Dent:

    Do I really look like a guy with a plan, Harvey? I don’t have a plan… The mob has plans, the cops have plans. … Maroni has plans. Gordon has plans. Schemers trying to control their worlds. I’m not a schemer, I show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are.

    It’s the schemers who put you where you are. You were a schemer. You had plans. Look where it got you. … Nobody panics when the expected people get killed. Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if the plan is horrifying. If I tell the press that tomorrow a gangbanger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics. Because it’s all part of the plan. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, everybody loses their minds! Introduce a little anarchy, you upset the established order and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. And you know the thing about chaos, Harvey? … It’s fair.

This pushes Dent over the edge. He starts going after everyone responsible for killing Rachel: He starts with Weurtz, who kidnapped him. Weurtz gives up Maroni, who points to Ramirez, who helps him get Gordon’s family, who naturally gets Gordon.

Batman, meanwhile, is also crossing lines. In his attempt to find the Joker, he has turned every cell phone into a spy device. Even he admits this might be too much power for one man to have.

The Joker scares the city onto its two ferries. Once the ferries are in the middle of the water, he cuts their power and gives them both a button to blow up the other ferry, thereby constructing a prisoner’s dilemma (one boat is filled with real prisoners). The passengers discuss and vote. One of the prisoners makes a Ulysses pact and credibly commits by tossing the detonator overboard.

The Joker also took a busload of people from the hospital to the Prewitt Building where, through the window, you can see Joker’s thugs with guns holding hospital people hostage. Gordon rushes in to get the thugs, but Batman discovers the thugs are hostages and the hostages are the thugs. (The Joker is illustrating “The Market for Lemons”: if the Joker is making it easy for you to kill his henchmen, why should you believe they’re actually his henchmen?)

(Batman saves the hostages (dressed as thugs) and stops the SWAT team and takes out the thugs (dressed as hostages). Neither of the boats decides to blow up the other and Batman prevents the Joker from triggering the failsafe.)

He then goes to rescue Gordon, who is trying to stop Dent from killing his family. Dent explains his new philosophy:

    You thought we could be decent men in an indecent time. You thought we could lead by example. You thought the rules could be bent but not break…2 you were wrong. The world is cruel. And the only morality in a cruel world is chance. Unbiased. Unprejudiced. Fair.

Throughout the film, we’ve seen various desperate attempts to change the system by ignoring the usual rules: Batman originally thought he could inspire change by being a cultural exemplar, but only ended up causing a bunch of kids to get themselves hurt by dressing up as him. Dent thought he could clean up the system by pushing righteously from the inside, but ended up cutting more and more ethical corners until his own personal obsessions ended up making him a monster. The Joker had by far the most interesting plan: he hoped to out-corrupt the corrupters, to take their place and give the city “a better class of criminal”.

And the crazy thing is that it works! At the end of the movie, the Joker is alive, the gangsters and their money launderers are mostly dead, and their money has been redistributed (albeit though the deflationary method of setting it on fire). And, as we see from the beginning of the third movie, this is a fairly stable equilibrium: with politicians no longer living in fear of the gangsters, they’re free to adopt tough anti-crime policies that keep them from rising again.3

The movie concludes by emphasizing that Batman must become the villain, but as usual it never stops to notice that the Joker is actually the hero. But even though his various games only have one innocent casualty, he’s much too crazy to be a viable role model for Batman. His inspired chaos destroys the criminals, but it also terrorizes the population. Thanks to Batman, society doesn’t devolve into a self-interested war of all-against-all, as he apparently expects it to, but that doesn’t mean anyone enjoys the trials.

Thus Master Wayne is left without solutions. Out of options, it’s no wonder the series ends with his staged suicide.

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