The White House doesn't owe you shit.
They set up this petition system to expand the illusion that somehow the system is working for its constituents. It is not, and it was not designed to. The system makes decisions so you don't have to. It's better this way.
The fact of the matter is that these prosecutors were doing their job, which is to apply as much pressure as needed to achieve a negotiated prison term (a win), and they did it a little too well for our comfort. The White House will not speak against these actions because these actions benefit the White House in the vast majority of cases.
If you want things to change, change the system. Lobby against the CFAA. Lobby for rules to enforce ethical use of prosecutorial discretion. Protest. Volunteer for candidates that oppose these practices. Don't think that clicking a "Like" button is going to change anything, because if the White House petition system actually changed anything, it wouldn't exist.
If you want to change the system, don't ask the system to change. Change it yourself.
The White House does in fact owe a response to the petition. That's the deal they set up themselves. They owe it to the people to live up to it.
Getting the law (or even policies on prosecutorial practices) changed to prevent another such incident is a VERY HARD task. Taking small steps toward that task is NOT "meaningless".
The victory to be celebrated here is NOT that the problem has been solved. It is not even that the White House now has to help work to solve the problem. The victory to be celebrated here is that the White House actually has to say something. (And they DO have to... if not, then the press coverage will increase until reporters demand an answer on their own. Heck, refusing to comment would be GREAT for our cause.)
Do you have any idea how difficult it is to make the White House at least make a statement about your issue? It is something powerful lawmakers and world-spanning corporations often find themselves unable to accomplish.
Now, that's not much: the White House's response may consist of meaningless blather. But it is not nothing: the White House has been forced to respond. And it helps to increase the momentum toward taking some kind of REAL action.
The petitions at WhiteHouse.org don't fix problems, but when something is NOT being discussed by lawmakers, this kind of thing can help get that conversation started. Belittling it isn't helping.
No, the media coverage will the same as it has always been since Obama announced his candidacy: fawning adoration, mixed with just enough mild skepticism to create the impression amongst themselves and others that they really do perform some sort of journalistic function and that what we see in the media really is "news" and not just propaganda.
Poke a Mainstream Media "reporter" deep enough and you'll always touch MSNBC.
I assume this is a joke, particularly the NYT. And I'm not seeing ABC, CBS, NBC (owned by GE, which has gotten massive "green energy" subsidies from Obama), PBS, the former Current TV, not to mention almost every newspaper in the US, anywhere in your list. Kinda lopsided, huh?
As for the foreign media organs, the BBC, al-Jazeera, and RT are all famously anti-American. Obama still manages to get much better press that any Republican. They hate America and they like Obama. Odd.
I don't want to belittle the petition, but it makes it look like change is being afected, while in actual fact, it is nothing more than managing PR for the whitehouse.
Given that absurd amounts of discretionary power have been placed in the hands of civil servants, and that this power is not likely to be removed anytime soon, the root of the matter is this:
Will future civil servants temper their actions because they don't want to find their names in the middle of another shitstorm like this?
It's a psychological question. It's personal.
Now she is extraordinarily unlikely to ever hold elected office. I know that I -- a committed Democrat -- will cheerfully send money to any opponent in a primary and even an odious Republican in a general election running against her. The local tech scene is full of people who feel the same and can organize the state's most productive industry.
One US attorney on the verge of greatness has seen the career consequences of serious misbehavior. We can only hope more will see them because the nation's prosecutorial culture is nasty, vicious, anti-democratic, brutal, and out of control.
0 - http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/01/30/1183402/-As-Gov-Pat...
I would agree with this statement if you changed it to read 'temper their actions against well connected individuals'. I'm still unsure if this is a net gain.
The first comment so totally missed the point that it curved around and nearly smacked the author on the head.
As you can see, the petition reached over twice the required amount(and when it reached 25k, there was a discussion about raising the required amount to 100k). The site's been criticized several times now, because of this reason.
I personally think they should add a tab for petitions that reached the requirement, so that these petitions aren't lost, which would make it easier for people to see which petitions still require an answer.
Now, they've said that they are swamped with petitions and so have increased the threshold to 100,000. That's not an impossible number, it just requires a broader base of participation - more than say, just the readership of HN and Reddit.
I realize this petition system is widely seen as a gimmick, but it's a public gimmick. As the WH fails to properly respond per its own rules, the independent (and perhaps, foreign, but probably not mass-) media can easily write obnoxious stories calling them out.
As for the other calls to action: certainly.
Is there some reason we should trust the Obama administration to follow through on its promises? They have repeatedly failed or only half-kept their promises. Like most of America's high-ranking major party politicians, Obama and his administration will say whatever they need to say in order to get votes, and will then turn around and do whatever their wealthy corporate sponsors demand.
"As the WH fails to properly respond per its own rules, the independent (and perhaps, foreign, but probably not mass-) media can easily write obnoxious stories calling them out."
The media outlets that actually matter are too busy promoting the illusion that the Democrats are a liberal party and that Obama is a liberal president to bother with such things.
Better than focussing more attention on behind the scenes corporate lobbying at least.
If the administration wants to engage in dialogue with the people, they should do so -- without lying, without avoiding tough questions, without trying to divert our attention to irrelevant distractions.
Their "word" is that 100,000 people sign an online petition, and some junior staffer writes an official response restating the administration's position. So in exchange for 100,000 people getting their slacktivism on and having a false sense of accomplishment, the White House gives up maybe an hour of time from their staff. It effectively reduces their accountability to the public by encouraging this false sense of accomplishment.
Not nearly enough, but I don't think anyone's argument is that "all we need to do is get one or two prosecutors fired and then we're done." The only question is, what's next?
Of course, that means organizing hundreds of thousands of people and convincing them to put their lives and livelihoods on the line.
They could even use prosecutorial discretion to ignore the federal offenses committed purely out of civil disobedience.
Also, you can't say what Aaron would or would not have done in response to the still-in-negotiation plea bargaining that was happening in his case. He could have chosen a plea bargain, or he could have chosen to go to trial, but he took a far more tragic third option.
P.S. Felony convictions are not a lifetime employment ban, especially for "white-collar" felonies.
The government learned from the civil rights movement. They learned how to avoid it. Hitting people with a fire hose or burning a cross makes the targets righteous and sympathetic and makes the stupid Klansmen look like stupid Klansmen. Hitting people with a federal felony prosecution makes the targets powerless and penniless and lets the prosecutors paint themselves as the heroes doing battle with nefarious criminals.
Otherwise, we'd have to say Aaron Swartz was not entirely rational when he killed himself.
If I had to guess, he wasn't weighing it against the plea bargain, he had already decided not to take the plea bargain on principle and was weighing it against the cost of taking charity and bankrupting all his friends and family to fight it and even after all that still possibly losing and going to prison for multiple years. In other words, taking the plea would have had the additional cost to his integrity, which even in this day and age still means a lot to some people.
I don't know if I would go so far as to say that the decision was rational (and I know the suicide prevention people hate it when people talk about stuff like this), but I can see the road he took to get there. Being human isn't always rational and we have to make policies under the understanding that people will have feelings and principles rather than making all decisions as rational automatons.
>Would that it were--we'd save a fortune on federal prisoners by executing them all!
No we wouldn't. It costs more to execute someone than imprison them because of the cost of all the appeals and safeguards we have for death penalty cases.
But even though you're kidding, I think it raises a pretty reasonable point: Why do we even have prisons at all, other than as detention facilities for pending death penalty cases? If someone commits a sufficiently serious crime (or re-offends sufficiently many times), put them to death. If their crime was less serious than that, make them pay back their ill gotten gains, subject them to a fine or make them do community service 20 hours a week for however many hours or years. What good does it do to imprison someone if you ever intend to let them back out again? Prison costs the state money, it takes the convicts out of the economy and makes them parasites, and when they get out they have no skills and no job history which is one of the many reasons the recidivism rate is so high. Prison is a profoundly broken institution. I think there is a very strong argument for just getting rid of it as a method of punishment.
That's a great insight.
I would point out that prison is still an acceptable in-between for community service and death. E.g. what happens if the convict simply doesn't show up for their community service?
Depriving someone of their own free use of their time is a powerful motivational tool (just ask anyone who's ever had to "hurry up and wait" in the military).
However any possible positive effect you would get from prison, either for rehabilitation or non-recurrence, would be had within the first year, two at the most.
Any prison sentence beyond that and you have to wonder what the marginal additional value is (I would think none).
I'm not sure if you're entirely serious about the death penalty for sufficiently serious crimes, but the normal argument is that even if that were acceptable in theory, that it's been proven not implementable in practice, and we'd rather optimize for not accidentally putting something to death who is innocent.
This itself could be fleshed out further though... governments all the times do things (or don't do things) that may indirectly lead to fatalities later on. Things as simple as redirecting a road away from a cliff face to prevent people from driving over the edge at night can save lives, but we as a population generally accept that there is an economic reality that government can't pay to completely prevent all foreseeable accidents. So could you argue from there that if we already let people drive off of cliffs because it's cheaper, that we could let government accidentally execute innocents if it had a net positive outcome?
I don't know... even I'm pretty leery of that logic. Personally if I were to be fradulently convicted I'd rather a lifetime of prison than to be put to death (assuming I could still read, program, etc.)
It's possible he rejected the plea bargain out of hand, though Thoreau, Gandhi, King, and Mandela would all question the assumption that going to prison diminishes the integrity of someone with a noble cause. If he thinks his integrity was better preserved by hanging himself in his apartment and leaving his body there for his girlfriend to discover, he wasn't really thinking clearly at all, was he?
I wasn't aware that his activism had anything to do with the Federal justice system per se.
Either way, they don't have the option of simply shooting you on a whim (except insofar as anyone could theoretically decide to do that) or locking you away for years either (a jury is also required for this).
For that matter, what arbitrating body is responsible for deciding what is and is not a "valid" act of protest?
In this case I feel some sort of real response is deserved even if I think it is highly unlikely that they can or will do anything as serious as firing people.
I am not expecting a response that pleases me. We nevertheless deserve what they have agreed to give.
There, I saved you all the anguish and the time wasted writing up Forbes articles on how we deserve a "response" from the White House. Now what?
Also, nobody thinks the response is the end game...
Reminds me the saying "If voting made a difference, it would be illegal".
> If you want to change the system, don't ask the system to change. Change it yourself.
I'm a fan of Bucky too.
One of my favorite quotes, and completely true in this situation.
Back away from the keyboard for a second. Take a deep breath. Get out there and work for change until you are exhausted.
Don't ask any system a question you already know the answer to. It will break your heart.