Everything is impossibly complicated

Archive for January, 2013

Wall Street’s President

On the one hand, President Obama’s Justice Department charged Aaron Swartz with 13 felonies possibly resulting in over 30 years in prison for downloading articles (many of which were in the public domain). On the other, his head of the Justice Department’s criminal enforcement division, Lanny Breuer, publicly stated that one of the things he considers when deciding whether to go after financial corporations is how much harm the charges will do to the corporation or the individuals responsible. In his own words,

We are frequently on the receiving end of presentations from defense counsel, CEOs, and economists who argue that the collateral consequences of an indictment would be devastating for their client…In reaching every charging decision, we must take into account the effect of an indictment on innocent employees and shareholders…

Yes, they’re concerned about the “devastating consequences” on the accused person when he’s the head of a financial company, especially because of what might happen to the “shareholders” if he’s charged, but they couldn’t care less about the “devastating consequences” of charging a 26-year-old free Internet pioneer with 13 felonies and 30 years in prison.

The Republicans (and Libertarians) get a lot of flack for being corporate-friendly. Yet President Obama is clearly just as deeply in the pockets of the major American corporations.


Land of the Safe and Home of the Secure

The Atlantic has a disturbing story that shows how razor-thin the margins of our liberty have become.

In summary: Robert Fleming is a 70-year-old glider pilot in South Carolina. One afternoon he took off from an airport that is a hub for a lot of light aircraft like the one he was flying. On his way back to the airport he circled over a nuclear plant that was only two miles from the airport–which is not illegal. There are no markers on either the land or the FAA’s flight map indicating a “no-fly” zone.

When he landed, he was arrested by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and held for questioning overnight. Reportedly, local officials had even discussed shooting his glider down. A US citizen, flying over US airspace and doing nothing illegal, was in danger of being shot down by his own government.

The really depressing thing about all this is that it doesn’t have to be this way. If more people would vociferously complain to Congress about this sort of behavior by the Executive Branch, I have no doubt that they would act to curtail it. But as long as we silently tolerate it, it will only get worse.


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