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Friday, July 19, 2013

Hiding from the light

MIT is trying to conceal its involvement in the Aaron Swartz affair:
Lawyers representing MIT are filing a motion to intervene in my FOIA lawsuit over thousands of pages of Secret Service documents about the late activist and coder Aaron Swartz.... MIT claims it’s afraid the release of Swartz’s file will identify the names of MIT people who helped the Secret Service and federal prosecutors pursue felony charges against Swartz for his bulk downloading of academic articles from MIT’s network in 2011.

MIT argues that those people might face threats and harassment if their names become public. But it’s worth noting that names of third parties are already redacted from documents produced under FOIA.

I’ll post MIT’s motion here once it’s filed.

I have never, in fifteen years of reporting, seen a non-governmental party argue for the right to interfere in a Freedom of Information Act release of government documents. My lawyer has been litigating FOIA for decades, and he’s never encountered it either. It’s saddening to see an academic institution set this precedent.
I find it fascinating to observe how organizations appear to be increasingly disposed to try keeping their actions against individuals hidden from the public view.  I recently received an email from the Canadian Regional Director complaining about how I'd characterized his previous communications with me:

"The membership numbers in the online directory represent our best data. We do not track membership numbers by specific dates.

"I note that you have misrepresented my answer to your last request on your blog. Failure to correct this will be considered in reviewing your response.

"As previously instructed, all further correspondence in this matter should be directed to me."


As requested, I replaced what I'd previously written with a direct quote to avoid any possibility of misrepresentation. However, note that this is what he claimed to be a misrepresentation of his answer:

"Mr. Johnson informed me that the membership numbers in the online directory represent the organization's best data and that SFWA does not track membership numbers."

Of course, if that is misrepresentation, what is one to make of the numerous, shall we say, less than entirely accurate representations contained in Mr. Johnson's report to the SFWA Board?  Will his failure to correct them also be considered by the Board?  Based on his last sentence, I fear I will likely not be hearing back from the Secretary concerning the number of members in the organization on the three dates requested, Article V, Section 5 (c) of the SFWA bylaws notwithstanding.

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50 Comments:

Blogger IM2L844 July 19, 2013 1:19 PM  

I suspect MIT's actions were at the behest of DARPA.

I suspect Mr. Johnson's actions were the result of durp-uhhh.

Anonymous Salt July 19, 2013 1:30 PM  

We definitely need a popcorn emoticon.

Anonymous kh123 July 19, 2013 1:30 PM  

Kevin Poulson, writing about the lawful release of documents from MIT, an institution that apparently has been known (or suspected) of harboring Turkish/American backdoor dealings in nuclear information.

Interesting times.

Anonymous Noah B. July 19, 2013 1:36 PM  

I was going to go to MIT, but they found out my parents were married.

Anonymous Daniel July 19, 2013 2:02 PM  

IM2L844, nice lead-off!

Anonymous Hyperphrenius July 19, 2013 2:17 PM  

I find it fascinating to observe how organizations appear to be increasingly disposed to try keeping their actions against individuals hidden from the public view.

Through the internet the public has eyes. The masses of men can see much more of reality than they used to. We no longer live in the days where powerful institutions could use their influence to keep inconvenient things out of the press. We are the press now, everyone of us with an internet connection, we can report on what we've seen, taking a story and pass it around, and make it go farther than the mainstream media would ever want to carry it. It's how people found out about the truth of the Zimmerman case when the mainstream media were trying to sell us their lies. The old ways of controlling information aren't working anymore, so of course organizations are going to try and become more secretive.

To the Swartz affair, it's a consequence of America's respect the imaginary "property" that is the copyright monopoly. Every last lie told by copyright monopolists, from the implication in the U.S. constitution that copyright monopolies "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts", to the latter-day lies that copyright is even necessary for the creation of literature, music, etc, can be demonstrated false, and always could be. MIT conspired with the bandit-barons of the US Gov to destroy the life of a man who dared to challenge the societal order that gives them power. Now they fear incurring any negative consequences as a result of their sins. They thought they could sin with impunity, and now scramble to ensure they did. Like bugs beneath a lifted rock, they scurry for cover of the grass. But even if they succeed in avoiding all justice on Earth, they should be mindful of the justice of one whom they cannot avoid, and whose mind is mindful of the sins of all men. Now would be a good time for them, as it is for all of us, and at all times, to pray.

Anonymous Phil Mann July 19, 2013 2:20 PM  

On what basis, Vox, is the "instruction" that "all further correspondence in this matter...be directed to me" even binding?

At present, you are still a member of the organization and may contact whomever you choose. If the Secretary declines to respond to a member's legitimate request for information the bylaws require him to maintain anyway, it appears they have more explaining to do than you.

But then, you can always force the matter through discovery if this gets into the "formal arena" as we sometimes like to say.

Blogger River Cocytus July 19, 2013 2:22 PM  

Hyper,

The reaction seems to be to clamp down more and more, though. I think it is the further spread of the infection of socially-mediated reality; everyone wants to reserve the right and power to make themselves and their organization appear exactly as they wish in whatever venue; this is not limited to creating contradictory appearances. To expose the contradiction is to violate this right of conceit... it is the modern using the concepts of the postmodern as tools of power: Everyone has their 'own reality', except for me and my own ideological fellow travelers: we understand what is really going on and reserve the right to conceal it, no matter how wide ranging the impact.

They can thus claim they are balancing 'privacy' and 'security' -- Their Own!

Anonymous VD July 19, 2013 2:27 PM  

On what basis, Vox, is the "instruction" that "all further correspondence in this matter...be directed to me" even binding?

The other members of the Board can use it as an excuse to not reply to me. And, for the most part, they have. But it's not actually binding in any way. I can ignore it just as I've ignored his dictate that the report he wrote was confidential.

Blogger IM2L844 July 19, 2013 2:29 PM  

IM2L844, nice lead-off!

Thanks. Even a blind squirrel...

Totally off topic, but I have an announcement.

I never thought I would see the day, but I have finally received my first "World's Greatest Grandpa" T-Shirt. I'm in the club.

Just thought ya'll should know that. ;)

Anonymous GreyS July 19, 2013 2:44 PM  

Since it's pretty clear by now that certain people are abusing their organizational power in order to bully VD, it's interesting to read Matthew Johnson today on "bearing witness to bullying":

http://mediasmarts.ca/blog/bearing-witness-bullying

Katanga, care to comment? I know you were pushing a bully narrative at the same time Johnson must have been writing this, so perhaps you can share your thoughts.

Blogger Subversive Saint July 19, 2013 2:44 PM  

Gramps

Anonymous GreyS July 19, 2013 2:50 PM  

http://zatrikion.blogspot.com/

"As a lot of people know, it's been a pretty active time for SFWA. At the moment I'm getting lots of e-mails around the @SFWAAuthors Twitter account, which is good: if you're an SFWA member (or even if you're not) and you want your voice to be heard, please e-mail me and the rest of the Board. Because the matter is still under consideration I can't really say much more about it right now, other than to say that before too long my position on it, both as a Board member and a member of SFWA, will be clearly and unambiguously stated."

Anonymous Stickwick July 19, 2013 2:50 PM  

I never thought I would see the day, but I have finally received my first "World's Greatest Grandpa" T-Shirt. I'm in the club.

Congratulations, Grandpa!

Anonymous jack July 19, 2013 2:59 PM  

Salt July 19, 2013 1:30 PM

We definitely need a popcorn emoticon.

Hey, Salt. Go over to the Market Ticker site; Denninger is all the time posting cute and in your face icons/emoticons/jpegs. I particularly love his atom bomb series and the deer chewing up something. That deer is animated. I've saved a few for that day when just nothing else will do.

Anonymous jack July 19, 2013 3:03 PM  

@ IM2L844;

Know the feeling; my granddaughter is 5 and the grandson [by sonogram] is due any day now.
I need to get him his first .22. His mom will probably have a a royal fit.

Anonymous Sir_Chancealot July 19, 2013 3:06 PM  

"The membership numbers in the online directory represent our best data. We do not track membership numbers by specific dates."

So... he is saying that SFWA bills the membership dues from the information on the website?

Anonymous 691 July 19, 2013 3:08 PM  

I suspect Johnson means that they don't keep day by day records of membership numbers, updating the list of members as some join or others leave. They might also consider those who have paid for a membership year but renounced it as still members until the term ends.

However, Article IV, Section 9 states that the term of membership is from July 1 to June 30. Hence, the secretary should be able to produce the number of members from the membership year July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013 as well as the those who have joined for the membership year July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014.

The beginning and end of the membership year falls in the interval you asked for, so despite his equivocations you should be able to get an answer.

Blogger Brad Andrews July 19, 2013 3:14 PM  

We no longer live in a society that values the rule of law. Those in charge now may like the flexibility it gives them while they seem to hold the levers of power, it is likely to really bite them when someone is in power (government, organization, etc.) that is no longer under their control.

Kind of like Democrats in Congress. They want to shut down Republicans when they are in charge, but cry to the high heavens if Republicans even hint at doing the same when the Republicans are in power.

Some tough years ahead of us.

Blogger TontoBubbaGoldstein July 19, 2013 3:21 PM  

@IM2L844

Congrats.

My parents say that if they had known how much fun grandchildren are...they would have had them first...

Blogger IM2L844 July 19, 2013 3:24 PM  

Congratulations, Grandpa!

Thanks! Granddaughter will be three in a couple of weeks, but apparently grandma thought it time to start educating her on one of the finer points of shopping...with other peoples (my) money.

Anonymous Daniel July 19, 2013 3:28 PM  

OT: Obama confesses to assaulting a latino in his youth. "Trayvon Martin could've been me 35 years ago."

Anonymous Noah B. July 19, 2013 3:33 PM  

@GreyS

Typical leftist. Matthew Johnson must be one astoundingly hypocritical asshole to write an anti-bullying essay like that after using the SFWA Board authority to defame and threaten others.

Anonymous Noah B. July 19, 2013 3:37 PM  

@Daniel

Obama also said that before he was elected to public office, he used to see women clutch their purses tighter for fear he was going to rob them.

That was way back when he was only suspected of being a thief and a criminal.

Anonymous Stickwick July 19, 2013 3:38 PM  

I need to get him his first .22. His mom will probably have a a royal fit.

Our daughter isn't even due for six months, and Daddy already bought her a .22. :^)

Blogger River Cocytus July 19, 2013 3:50 PM  

Daniel

Probably Obama was smart enough not to assault an armed guard.

I had a few fights when I was a kid, but I would never have done what TM did - who knows what weapons a stranger might be concealing.

I don't see how it's a point of pride to have beat up a Latino though. What a tool of a president we've earned ourselves.

Anonymous dh July 19, 2013 4:12 PM  

I had a few fights when I was a kid, but I would never have done what TM did - who knows what weapons a stranger might be concealing.

Well getting in a fight is essentially the same thing. You never know..

Anonymous Desiderius July 19, 2013 4:14 PM  

Brad,

"when the Republicans are in power"

The Progressives I talk to - otherwise best and brightest types under 30 - don't believe the Republicans ever will be again. For real.

Again, the administration and professoriate at Princeton University, long considered the most conservative Ivy, went 100% for Obama at the last election.

This is uncharted territory for our particular Republic.

Anonymous NateM July 19, 2013 4:31 PM  

I see the President as more the type who Took a beating from Latino boys.. if you catch my meaning

Anonymous Thomas July 19, 2013 4:41 PM  

Most of us suspect what really happened to Aaron.

Blogger tz July 19, 2013 5:39 PM  

If the secretary is basically absentee, one has to wonder about the treasurer and treasury. They should have to publish financials somewhere.

Declarations of memberships can be ephemeral, but those who join or let lapse should be trackable via the deposits of the membership fees.

Blogger Brad Andrews July 19, 2013 5:46 PM  

> The Progressives I talk to - otherwise best and brightest types under 30 - don't believe the Republicans ever will be again. For real.

They may not, but I suspect they still will, with a party that may end up more like the Democrats of today or a few years ago. The two parties may not have much between them in reality, but people like to think they don't want a 1 party state.

Anonymous Noah B. July 19, 2013 6:00 PM  

"The Progressives I talk to - otherwise best and brightest types under 30 - don't believe the Republicans ever will be again. For real."

I remember people saying the same thing about the Democrats in 2005.

Anonymous Anonymous July 19, 2013 6:33 PM  

Off topic, but Vox's doubts over the moon landing make this too good not to share:

http://legalinsurrection.com/2013/07/amazons-jeff-bezos-confirms-salvaged-engine-is-from-apollo-11/

Anonymous Desiderius July 19, 2013 6:34 PM  

People (on all sides) who remember the Cold War and weren't rooting for the other side (85% or so of the population over 35) don't want a one-party state. It's something almost all agreed was bad about the Eastern Bloc.

Those under-35 have no memory of that, and not a few of them are hard at work building their own nomenklatura stateside, with no scruples about so doing.

Anonymous Gen. Kong July 19, 2013 6:49 PM  

One interesting aspect of the Aaron Swartz affair is that a lot of the things Swartz downloaded from JSTOR are actually public domain (in the USA - whose copyright terms are their own circle of hell). One of the increasing problems we see is not only the continual expansion of IP terms, but even the appropriation of what should be the public commons by those with connections to the ruling vampire-squid oligarchy.

Anonymous Phil Mann July 19, 2013 9:20 PM  

People (on all sides) who remember the Cold War and weren't rooting for the other side (85% or so of the population over 35) don't want a one-party state...Those under-35 have no memory of that, and not a few of them are hard at work building their own nomenklatura stateside, with no scruples about so doing.

Is it those under 35, or those over 35 who do remember but don't care and even welcome it? I think your estimate of 85% is perhaps a bit high. (In my neck of the woods, Prius-driving, pot smoking, grey-haired, pony-tailed guys over 65 outnumber the kids.)

Not only has this country welcomed cultural invaders over the past 50 years, we've welcomed political ones as well, including those born here.

As a youngster growing up in the middle of the Cold War, the assumption was that the attack would come in the form of ICBMs, etc. Who would have guessed we'd just let them walk in and vote themselves into power.

Blogger tz July 19, 2013 10:25 PM  

We need moore divorces

There are a series of Game ironies along with the liberal hypocrisy, but I'll leave it to the others to comment.

Anonymous Harsh July 19, 2013 10:35 PM  

We need moore divorces

There are a series of Game ironies along with the liberal hypocrisy, but I'll leave it to the others to comment.


Is Moore going to be a good liberal and pony up 50% of his net worth or will he fight?

Anonymous The other skeptic July 19, 2013 11:23 PM  

And, SJSU discovers that the majority of its students are dumb

Anonymous Daniel July 19, 2013 11:24 PM  

Merely of Interest: A Statement of the SFWA from 1998

http://www.sfwriter.com/sfwacraz.htm

The damage done to this corporation's credibility by the constant hand-wringing, the constant cries of "who is SFWA trying to kick out this time?" and "SFWA is against media tie-ins" has been incalculable. Next time you hear that SFWA is doing something outrageous, don't believe it. In thirty-three years of effective writers' advocacy, we've never yet taken an outrageous position, and we aren't about to start. As for what positions SFWA is taking, you will hear about them here: in our official public organ, the Bulletin of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

-Robert J. Sawyer, former President of SFWA, and Founder of the now infamous Canada Region

Notably, the Bulletin is currently on hiatus, under accusations of having advocated outrageous positions.

Anonymous The other skeptic July 19, 2013 11:24 PM  

Is Moore going to be a good liberal and pony up 50% of his net worth or will he fight?

He will help his wife ditch the fat slob she is married to and help her become the strong independent woman she longs to be.

Anonymous The other skeptic July 19, 2013 11:31 PM  

Federal Marshalls behaving with restraint and respect for citizens

Anonymous Desiderius July 19, 2013 11:58 PM  

"(In my neck of the woods, Prius-driving, pot smoking, grey-haired, pony-tailed guys over 65 outnumber the kids.)"

They're trying to mimic the young in a (sadly pathetic) attempt to die before they get old. Lacking faith, in any sense, they're terrified of actually, you know, dying, so instead they do their best not to get old.

One of the ways they do this is to adopt whatever views the young happen to hold this week. And right now our young are pretty big on acting like apparatchiks. Doesn't mean that those old hipsters always wanted a one-party state.

What they have done is abdicated the power and authority that usually comes with age and robbed the young of the benefit of whatever wisdom they may have acquired along the way despite themselves.

Anonymous Desiderius July 20, 2013 12:03 AM  

"I remember people saying the same thing about the Democrats in 2005."

Oh, absolutely, and those people got their noses bloodied in 2008, and not a moment too soon. Young conservatives don't remember the Cold War any more than young Progs.

The 2012 election shenanigans deprived the snot-nosed Progs of their own comeuppance that they desperately needed. We'll all pay the price for their continued ignorance and arrogance. It will not be pretty.

Learning requires a certain degree of humility. A ruling class incapable of learning is a disaster not even waiting to happen but unfolding before our eyes.

Anonymous Phil Mann July 20, 2013 12:26 AM  

They're trying to mimic the young in a (sadly pathetic) attempt to die before they get old. Lacking faith, in any sense, they're terrified of actually, you know, dying, so instead they do their best not to get old.

It's not so much that they're trying to mimic the young. It's more that they never grew up in the first place, and are continuing to live as they did 40 years ago. Having never really acquired any wisdom, it's not surprising they have none to impart. (And, full disclosure, I'm not much younger than they are.)

Anyway, I'll agree that that the younger generation got shafted and robbed. What gives me hope is that many understand the charade and aren't buying the BS.

Anonymous Anonymous July 20, 2013 12:48 AM  

Brad Andrews wrote: **We no longer live in a society that values the rule of law. Those in charge now may like the flexibility it gives them while they seem to hold the levers of power, it is likely to really bite them when someone is in power (government, organization, etc.) that is no longer under their control.**

This is what I refer to as creating a 'Dangerous System'. It's extremely tempting to a lot of people to create a 'Dangerous System' of one sort or the other, say demanding a guilty verdict in some case in order to satisfy some currently politically correct notion of racial equality, or sanctioning the arrest and torture of various 'terrorists' without a trial, because they (might) know where a bomb is.

The problem is that nothing remains popular forever, or politically correct forever, and no group remains in power forever. However, once you create a 'Dangerous System', it generally doesn't go away, and is highly likely to be turned against you, and your interests, and the people you care about, at some point in the future. That being the case, whatever the short term benefits might be, it's best not to create a 'Dangerous System'.

Blogger IM2L844 July 20, 2013 7:19 AM  

"The membership numbers in the online directory represent our best data. We do not track membership numbers by specific dates.

"I note that you have misrepresented my answer to your last request on your blog. Failure to correct this will be considered in reviewing your response.

"As previously instructed, all further correspondence in this matter should be directed to me."


Hey, wait a minute. Didn't Mr. Johnson just get through making an effort in his petition (I think "petition" is a more accurate descriptor than "report") to explain why he is and the board should be supremely concerned with membership numbers?

This is indicative of the typical pink-shirted cake eater's purpose driven doublethink.

Whenever I encounter someone who is fond of employing "it is, but it isn't" types of concepts, it almost always turns out they are of the relativistic liberal mindset.

Are membership numbers, with regard to the timeline of this whole matter, analytically important or not? You can't have it both ways, Mr. Johnson.

Anonymous Desiderius July 20, 2013 12:54 PM  

"continuing to live as they did 40 years ago."

40 years ago the liberals had the upper hand. Now the Progs do.

"Having never really acquired any wisdom, it's not surprising they have none to impart. (And, full disclosure, I'm not much younger than they are.)"

We all naturally acquire wisdom (literally the dominance of the known over the merely thought) as we age. Ironically, the worse one lives, the more one acquires, so they've got it in spades, but in their lust for youth they allow thought to continue to dominate their minds.

Naive Theory vs. practice.

"Anyway, I'll agree that that the younger generation got shafted and robbed. What gives me hope is that many understand the charade and aren't buying the BS."

Yes, I've seen this too. And the BS has progressively gotten less plausible over time as those pushing it have lost touch with the real in their lust for their ideal.

Blogger James Dixon July 20, 2013 7:22 PM  

> You can't have it both ways, Mr. Johnson.

Oh course he can. This was a kangaroo court from the start. They'll do anything they need to do to get the desired outcome. And then Vox will have an actionable event to take to court and the real fun will start.

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