Skip navigation
Help

Ron Paul

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /var/www/vhosts/sayforward.com/subdomains/recorder/httpdocs/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.

When Joel Spolsky, my business partner on Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange, asked me what I wanted to do after I left Stack Exchange, I distinctly remember mentioning Aaron Swartz. That's what Aaron was to us hackers: an exemplar of the noble, selfless behavior and positive action that all hackers aspire to – but very few actually achieve.

And now, tragically, Aaron is gone at the tender age of 26. He won't be achieving anything any more.

I never knew Aaron, but I knew Aaron.

Aaron-swartz-stack-overflow

Most of all, I am disappointed.

I'm deeply disappointed in myself, for not understanding just how bitterly unfair the government charges were against Aaron. Perhaps the full, grotesque details couldn't be revealed for a pending legal case. But we should have been outraged. I am gutted that I did not contribute to his defense in any way, either financially or by writing about it here. I blindly assumed he would prevail, as powerful activists on the side of fairness, openness, and freedom are fortunate enough to often do in our country. I was wrong.

I'm disappointed in our government, for going to such lengths to make an example of someone who was so obviously a positive force. Someone who actively worked to change the world for the better in everything he did, starting from the age of 12. There was no evil in this man. And yet the absurd government case against him was cited by his family as directly contributing to his death.

I'm frustrated by the idea that martyrdom works. The death of Aaron Swartz is now turning into an effective tool for change, a rallying cry, proving the perverse lesson that nobody takes an issue seriously until a great person dies for the cause. The idea that Aaron killing himself was a viable strategy, more than going on to prevail in this matter and so many more in his lifetime, makes me incredibly angry.

But also, I must admit that I am a little disappointed in Aaron. I understand that depression is a serious disease that can fell any person, however strong. But he chose the path of the activist long ago. And the path of the activist is to fight, for as long and as hard as it takes, to effect change. Aaron had powerful friends, a powerful support network, and a keen sense of moral cause that put him in the right. That's how he got that support network of powerful friends and fellow activists in the first place.

It is appropriate to write about Aaron on Martin Luther King day, because he too was a tireless activist for moral causes.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Let's be clear that the penalty in Aaron's case was grossly unfair, bordering on corrupt. I've been a part of exactly one trial, but I can't even imagine having the full resources of the US Government brought to bear against me, with extreme prejudice, for a year or more. His defense was estimated to cost millions. The idea that such an engaged citizen would be forever branded a felon – serving at least some jail time and stripped of the most fundamental citizenship right, the ability to vote – must have weighed heavily on Aaron. And Aaron was no stranger to depresson, having written about it on his blog many times, even penning a public will of sorts on his blog all the way back in 2002.

I think about ragequitting a lot.

Rage Quit, also seen as RageQuit in one word, is Internet slang commonly used to describe the act of suddenly quitting a game or chatroom after either an argument, extreme frustration, or loss of the game.

At least one user ragequits Stack Exchange every six months, because our rules are strict. Some people don't like rules, and can respond poorly when confronted by the rules of the game they choose to play. It came up often enough that we had to create even more rules to deal with it. I was forced to think about ragequitting.

I was very angry with Mark Pilgrim and _why for ragequitting the Internet, because they also took all their content offline – they got so frustrated that they took their ball and went home, so nobody else could play. How incredibly rude. Ragequitting is childish, a sign of immaturity. But it is another thing entirely to play the final move and take your own life. To declare the end of this game and all future games, the end of ragequitting itself.

I say this not as a person who wishes to judge Aaron Swartz. I say it as a fellow gamer who has also considered playing the same move quite recently. To the point that I – like Aaron himself, I am sure – was actively researching it. But the more I researched, the more I thought about it, the more it felt like what it really was: giving up. And the toll on friends and family would be unimaginably, unbearably heavy.

What happened to Aaron was not fair. Not even a little. But this is the path of the activist. The greater the injustice, the greater wrong undone when you ultimately prevail. And I am convinced, absolutely and utterly convinced, that Aaron would have prevailed. He would have gone on to do so many other great things. It is our great failing that we did not provide Aaron the support network he needed to see this. All we can do now is continue the mission he started and lobby for change to our corrupt government practices of forcing plea bargains.

It gets dark sometimes. I know it does. I'm right there with you. But do not, under any circumstances, give anyone the satisfaction of seeing you ragequit. They don't deserve it. Play other, better moves – and consider your long game.

[advertisement] Stack Overflow Careers matches the best developers (you!) with the best employers. You can search our job listings or create a profile and even let employers find you.

0
Your rating: None

Mitt Romney launched his fall campaign for the White House in a rousing Republican National Convention finale Thursday night, proclaiming America needs “jobs, lots of jobs” and promising to create 12 million of them in perilous economic times. “Now is the time to restore the promise of America,” Romney said in a prime-time speech to [...]

0
Your rating: None

SmartAboutThings writes "A quite scary talk show with former NSA employees — now whistle blowers — Thomas Drake, Kirk Wiebe, and William Binney reveals that the NSA has algorithms that go through data gathered about us and they can basically 'see into our lives.' And this seems to be going on especially since the Patriot Act has removed the statutory requirement that the government prove a surveillance target under FISA is a non-U.S. citizen and agent of a foreign power." Binney's HOPE keynote has more detail on how the NSA watches people.


Share on Google+

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

0
Your rating: None

sebastian thrunSebastian Thrun, one of the lead engineers behind Google's fringe Google[x] projects, was at the Wired Business conference in New York today.

On stage he answered a few questions about the Google[x] program at Google, which handles outlandish projects like self-driving cars and its computerized glasses project.

Here are some of the highlights:

What exactly is the new Google[X] project?

Sebastian Thrun: Google[x] in a single sentence is Google co-founder Sergey Brin's ambition to complete moonshot-type projects. (Shooting to the moon and bringing the moon to earth.)

The third project is Google Glasses. We know everyone is attached to their phones. We started saying well, that's kind of nice, but not what I want in my life. How can we think of technology as more liberating — how can we make the technology Jack Dorsey calls, "technology that goes away?" Why can't I just take a picture right on my eye so other people can see through my eyes?

So we came up with this concept of building a super lightweight computer. It's a project so far, not a product. It has a display, it has a camera, I took a picture of Charlie Rose. It has an ear-free component by using a speaker that touches your head for making a phone call. In the physical world, Google Glass is our best shot to achieve that, being hands free.

I looked at the feedback we got when we got to the public, distraction was the number one concern. We want to make a device that's there when you want it and not distract you. In addition to being a camera, we use it for when someone texts me I can read it. When I'm in the situation where I don't want to be distracted, I have the freedom to let go. And then I can go back.

The reason we went public, by the way, was to get feedback from everybody who might be our future customers. What are your concerns? We're looking very systematically into this now.

How do you build a team that will land on the moon every year?

ST: My very first conversation is, rule number one, disobey your manager. A year later my employees come back to me, every single one says, now I understand. This is the age of disruption, there's an amazing number of opportunities now. In the execution of disruption, many large companies have problems doing this.

It's hard to get out of this aura of opinions. You have a whole stack of opinions — manager, SVP, VP. I try to shield my team from opinions, give them a vision that I believe in and that they believe in, and let them do their thing. Then they come back a year later and something amazing emerges. 

Please follow SAI on Twitter and Facebook.

Join the conversation about this story »

0
Your rating: None

TRAPPED MINERS
TRAPPED MINERS: Clothing used by miners dried on a rock wall Tuesday outside the entrance of the Cabeza de Negro gold and copper mine in Yauca del Rosario, Peru. Authorities say nine miners trapped inside the mine since April 5 are being supplied with sports drinks, soup and food while emergency responders work to free them. (Martin Mejia/Associated Press)

EGG ON HER FACE
EGG ON HER FACE: An egg cracked over a Sri Lankan army officer during a game at an event to celebrate the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday. The new year, which also marks the end of the harvest season, will be celebrated on April 13 and 14. (Gemunu Amarasinghe/Associated Press)

TIGHT SPOT FOR A SWIM
TIGHT SPOT FOR A SWIM: A boy swam in a water reservoir to cool off as the temperature rose, while other children waited their turn on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday. (Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press)

CARNIVAL ATMOSPHERE
CARNIVAL ATMOSPHERE: A young girl played near a shrine in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

BAHRAIN UNREST
BAHRAIN UNREST: A Shiite Muslim covered his face from tear gas fired by riot police after a demonstration in support of jailed activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and against U.S. support of the Bahrain government. The protest also called for the cancellation of a Formula One Grand Prix race — Bahrain’s premier international event. (AFP/Getty Images)

ON THEIR WAY
ON THEIR WAY: Indian Sikh Nihang, or religious Sikh warriors, raised their swords after boarding a train in Amritsar, India, Tuesday. Thousands of Indian Sikh pilgrims are expected in Pakistan at the birthplace of the founder of the Sikh faith for the Sikh New Year. (Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images)

0
Your rating: None

I arrived in Charlotte, N.C. early on the day of the South Carolina primary and headed straight to Tommy’s Ham House in Greenville. Newt Gingrich was giving an electrifying speech inside as a crowd milled around outside. The previous week I’d covered my first presidential primary in New Hampshire, where many events were disrupted by attention seekers and protesters. Occupy Wall Street supporters came to a Mitt Romney rally and were quickly thrown out by police. At a Ron Paul event, a man with a boot on his head named Vermin Supreme made chicken noises and claimed that if he were elected president, every American would get a pony.

South Carolina was more restrained. There were no active protesters. A lone Ron Paul supporter kept a silent vigil a respectful distance away. Tommy’s Ham House continued to serve breakfast. I didn’t try their famous ham, but their hot cakes were excellent. Gingrich left in a bus with a giant portrait of his face emblazoned on the side. It started pouring and the crowd hid under signs that read, ‘Newt 2012. Rebuilding the America We Love.’

Next, Gingrich stopped at a nearby middle school serving as a voting station. He patiently shook every hand of the assembled crowd, numbering close to a hundred. There were only a few journalists, compared to New Hampshire, where the media often ringed the candidates three or four deep.

One of the last stops of the day was a Gingrich campaign gathering at a Chick-fil-A in Anderson. Like most Gingrich events, it was packed to the brim, with supporters pressing their faces against the restaurant’s windows to get a peek. Sometimes the event locations seemed arbitrary. Why a Chick-fil-A, which was founded in Georgia, instead of a locally-owned business? Another journalist speculated it was because of the widely-promoted Christian values of its founder, Truett Cathy. All the candidates were trying to woo the evangelical base, and nearly everyone at the event was caucasian.

Gingrich would beat Romney to win the South Carolina primary that evening. The victory party that night was restrained, though 1970s and 1980s rock-and-roll classics blared in the packed ballroom. There were a few brief speeches before Gingrich arrived to thank his supporters and attack Barack Obama. Most of the attendees left immediately after the speech was over. I asked where everyone was going and was told the private parties would continue deep into the night.

Peter van Agtmael is a photographer represented by Magnum. His work from Iraq won a World Press Photo award in 2007. More of his work can be seen here.

0
Your rating: None