MA Gov. Deval Patrick Appoints Former Chief of Staff to Fill John Kerry’s Senate Seat

William "Mo" Cowan

William “Mo” Cowan

From The Hill:

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) has appointed William “Mo” Cowen, his former chief of staff, to fill former Sen. John Kerry’s (D) seat until a special election is held this summer….

“Mo’s service on the front lines in our efforts to manage through the worst economy in 80 years and build a better, stronger Commonwealth for the next generation has earned him the respect and admiration of people throughout government,” Patrick said in a statement announcing the appointment.
Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) had also pursued the seat, but his outspoken interest might have undermined his chances of winning the appointment.

Patrick will make the official announcement at 11AM this morning.

Some background on Cowan from The Boston Globe:

Cowan, 43, was first hired by Patrick as his legal counsel in 2009 and was then promoted to chief of staff in 2010. Last November, Cowan stepped down from the $144,000 a year job.

Cowan is a North Carolina native and Duke University graduate who came to Boston to attend Northeastern University Law School in the early 1990s – and never left the region. One of the city’s leading African-American lawyers, Cowan is a former partner in the politically connected law firm of Mintz Levin.

Cowan will become the first African-American to represent Massachusetts in the Senate since Edward Brooke held the seat as a Republican from 1966 to 1978….

Cowan’s selection was quickly praised by Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel for the Massachusetts Bar

Patrick and Cowan built up a strong friendship over the years, in part, because both men have risen from difficult childhoods to prominence in Boston and in the state. Patrick also served as a mentor to Cowan when both were practicing lawyers.

Much more at the link.


Wednesday Reads: Do it again…

coffee birdGood Morning

This is going to be a quick post since I did not realize that today is Wednesday.

Lindsey Graham is again showing us what it means to be an asshole, as he declares:  ‘Clinton Got Away With Murder’ On Benghazi, Will Hold Hagel Unless Panetta Testifies

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is still searching for the silver bullet, that one piece of testimony that will prove once and for all that the Obama administration lied during the aftermath of the Benghazi attack.

Appearing on Fox News last night, Graham made clear that he was unsatisfied with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s testimony last week, saying, “I haven’t forgotten about Benghazi. Hillary Clinton got away with murder, in my view.” Graham’s quest for the truth has now led him to current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

Panetta, who has not testified before Congress about the role he played during the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in the Libya city, is due to step down from his position at the Pentagon in the coming weeks. Graham now insists that Panetta would have to provide answers on what happened that night to the Armed Services Committee, on which Graham is a member. What’s more, as he told Fox News host Greta Van Sustren, Graham now intends to place a hold on Panetta’s proposed replacement, Chuck Hagel, until he gets the answers he wants.

Honestly, when will the Republicans stop these dickish ways and quit their obstructive tactics?

When I see the way some of the GOP are reacting to the proposed immigration reform, it makes me think there is an underlying desperation in their attitude. GOP Rep Says He Opposes Immigration Reform Because Latinos Are Uneducated, Will Never Support Republicans

Republican senators in the so-called Gang of 8 working to enact comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship argue that repairing the broken system would attract Latino voters to the GOP. As Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) explained during a Sunday appearance on ABC’s This Week, “We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours for a variety of reasons, and we’ve got to understand that.” In November, President Obama “won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote while Mitt Romney won 27 percent.”

But some Republicans disagree. Responding to the bipartisan framework, Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) echoed the rhetoric surrounding immigrants and Democratic voters throughout the 2012 election and suggested that Hispanics would never vote for Republicans who don’t provide them with government hand outs:

“It’s amnesty that America can’t afford,” Barletta said Monday. “We have to stop people from coming in illegally. This will be a green light for anyone who wants to come to America illegally and then be granted citizenship one day.” […]

“I hope politics is not at the root of why we’re rushing to pass a bill. Anyone who believes that they’re going to win over the Latino vote is grossly mistaken,” Barletta said. “The majority that are here illegally are low-skilled or may not even have a high school diploma. The Republican Party is not going to compete over who can give more social programs out. They will become Democrats because of the social programs they’ll depend on.”

Another right-wing PAC is in the news…Top Conservatives Run PAC That Funded White Nationalists, according to Mother Jones:

wo prominent conservative movement officials who hold leadership positions for several right-wing groups—Ron Robinson and James B. Taylor—run a political action committee that donated thousands of dollars to a white nationalist organization, according to public records. And for several years Taylor was vice president of another white nationalist organization.

Robinson and Taylor are each board members of Young America’s Foundation (YAF), which cofounded the annual Conservative Political Action Conference and runs the conservative youth group Young Americans for Freedom. (YAF owns and manages the Ronald Reagan Ranch, trains conservative journalists, and calls itself “the principal outreach organization of the Conservative Movement.”) And Robinson, YAF’s president, is on the board of two other conservative groups: Citizens United, which brought the landmark Supreme Court case of the same name, and the American Conservative Union, which operates CPAC.

With these positions, Robinson and Taylor are at the center of mainstream conservative infrastructure. But each also sits on the three-person board of America’s PAC, a far-right outfit that in 2004 gave $5,000 to the Charles Martel Society, a white nationalist group, according to the PAC’s filing with the Federal Election Commission. Taylor, YAF’s former executive director and a current board member, founded America’s PAC in 1983. Both his and Robinson’s names appear on America’s PAC letterhead before and after the donation to the Martel Society. Since 2004, America’s PAC has raised and spent over $5 million, giving donations to dozens of Republican candidates.

And what is with the name Charles Martel Society? That name came up a lot in my medieval history classes…

The Martel Society is named for Charles Martel, who stymied a Muslim invasion of Europe by winning the Battle of Tours in 734. It was founded in 2001 by William Regnery II, an heir to a conservative publishing fortune and a “prime mover and shaker in white nationalism publishing,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist extremism. The Martel Society is best known for publishing The Occidental Quarterly, which is sort of the Nature of academic racism, and its sister online publication, The Occidental Observer. The Anti-Defamation League has characterized the Quarterly as “racist” and the Observer as “anti-Semitic.” The Observer maintains an archive of stories on the topic of “Jews and the financial collapse,” and the Quarterly once awarded a $10,000 prize for books on the “group evolutionary strategies” of Jewish people. According to records America’s PAC filed with the FEC, its donation to the Martel Society was a “grant.” The Charles Martel Society did not respond to a request for comment.

I hate when these people use history in a twisted way to further their agenda.

The NRA is doing it again, they are going up against Gabby Giffords husband today, via CBS News: NRA vs. Giffords’ husband at Senate gun control hearing

Today, the debate over gun control gets its first congressional hearing since President Obama proposed sweeping reforms to help tackle escalating gun violence in the United States.

National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre and Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who survived a shot to the head two years ago during an assassination attempt that left six people dead, are among those slated to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. One congressional source tells CBS News that Giffords herself is expected to attend the hearing; she is expected to accompany her husband but is not scheduled to testify.

Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., “wants to move legislation, and he wants to do it quickly,” his spokeswoman Jessica Brady told CBSNews.com. Today’s hearing will offer a platform for a “respectful and productive conversation” about “where there is potential for success in passing legislation this year.”

Meanwhile, in Alabama, there is a hostage situation: Man shoots Alabama bus driver, holds child hostage underground

A man boarded a school bus in Alabama, police said, shot the driver, took a 6-year-old boy hostage and hours later was still holding the child in an underground bunker early Wednesday.

The incident started Tuesday afternoon and continued early Wednesday morning with authorities still desperately trying to free the young child.

Late in the evening Tuesday, the man had the child in some sort of underground bunker or storm shelter, and authorities were communicating with him through a PVC pipe, CNN affiliate WSFA reported.

“We will continue to work diligently through the night in an effort to bring closure to this incident as quickly as possible,” the Dale County Sheriff’s Department said at 11 p.m. CT.

Hours later, the hostage situation was still ongoing, WSFA reported. More than 13 hours after the ordeal had began, the child was still underground.

Sigh, I will keep you up to date on this story, the boy is still being held hostage.

Two more links, Israel Boycotts U.N. Human Rights Review, Council Awards Deferral For First Time Ever

Israel became the first nation to skip a U.N. review of its human rights record without giving a reason – and then won a precedent-setting deferral Tuesday.

The president of the U.N.’s top rights body, Polish diplomat Remigiusz Henczel, declared Israel a no-show at a meeting in Geneva and then reconvened the 47-nation Human Rights Council to decide what to do.

Israel had asked Henczel in January to postpone the review but did not provide a public explanation.

“This is a rather unique step which has never happened in the past,” said German U.N. Ambassador Hanns Heinrich Schumacher.

But after a debate, the council unanimously agreed to defer the review until its next session in October and November at the latest.

This move will set a precedent for any future request to hold up any Human Rights Council reviews…and it comes at a time when Israel’s questionable treatment of Ethiopian women is making headlines:  Israel’s Ethiopian Birth Control Story Reflects A Broader Problem

On Sunday it was reported that Israel has finally admitted to systematically depressing the fertility of the Ethiopian immigrant community (information first reported five years ago) by injecting Ethiopian-Israeli women with the long-acting birth control drug Depo-Provera without informed consent.

In some cases, women were first given the drug while still in transit camps; in other cases, it seems women were regularly injected after arriving in Israel. Some women apparently knew they were being given birth control but were told they wouldn’t be let into Israel if they didn’t agree; others report being told the shots were “inoculations.”

And as one Secretary of State is preparing to leave, her replacement finally got the go ahead from the Senate…Senate overwhelmingly backs Kerry to lead State Department 

The Senate overwhelmingly approved Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) as the next secretary of state Tuesday afternoon, with three Republican “no” votes.

The vote was 94 to 3, clearing the way for Kerry to formally take over from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday.

Clinton has given her last interview as “Madame  Secretary,” here is the transcript from ABC: Transcript: Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s ‘Nightline’ Interview on Benghazi Testimony, Stepping Down

Be sure to keep an eye on the weather today, it looks like there will be a mess of storms.  So, what are you reading about today?


Evening News Reads: Smog and Weather Open Link

Good Evening

Last week Quixote wrote a post about her observations while taking a walk in Southern California. If you missed that post, please be sure to check it out…

An orange-brown band of dust? smog? all of the above? stretching over the whole horizon. There’s a larger composite picture here that shows more of the extent. (In the foreground, you can make out the Navy Seabees target practice range. That’s Anacapa Island shrouded in the distance.)

I’ve lived here for years and never seen anything like it. Ordinary Los Angeles pollution looks like this:

It’s more purple-colored, much fainter, and bigger toward LA, petering out toward the ocean. (The picture is from an old post where I was puzzling about wind direction.)

When I mentioned it at home, I found out that Beijing had an Airpocalypse around January 12th and the next few days, an immense pollution event that drowned the city in choking dusty smog.

There was a new article published today that discusses this very thing. ‘Off-the-scale’ smog envelops Beijing and northern China

Pollution levels in Beijing soared above index limits, the US embassy said, as a dense cloud of haze shrouded large swathes of northern China.

People in the capital, some wearing masks, Tuesday battled through a second consecutive day of pollution at hazardous levels. Beijing municipal authorities warned those with respiratory difficulties to stay indoors.

It is at least the fourth time a dense cloud of haze has descended on northern China this winter, reducing visibility and causing flight delays, with even state media repeatedly expressing anger over the issue.

“The current environmental problems are worrisome,” Wang Anshun, who took over as mayor of the Chinese capital this week, was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.

The US embassy’s air quality index (AQI) reading for Beijing stood at 495 and “hazardous” at 11am, after reaching 517, or “beyond index”, at 6am.

The index rates anything over 150 as “unhealthy”, over 300 as “hazardous”, while a reading above the upper limit of 500 is regarded as “beyond index”.

Meanwhile, the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Centre gave the figure at 10am as 393, indicating the air in the capital was “severely polluted”.

The toxic air follows an extreme bout of pollution earlier this month, peaking on January 13 when state media said readings for PM 2.5, particles small enough to deeply penetrate the lungs, reached 993 micrograms per cubic metre, almost 40 times the World Health Organisation’s recommended safe limit.

On another weather related article, many of you may be in the path of this bad weather event, so keep up with the forecast in your area: Unusual January warmth triggers severe storms in US South

A very large and potent weather system is developing across the U.S. central plains today. The system will advance eastward to provide a large portion of the eastern United States a chance to see strong to severe thunderstorms Tuesday and Wednesday.

The cold front is very strong, as temperatures are nearly 20 to 30 degrees cooler behind the front. Ahead of the front, unusually warm temperatures are pushing northward with dew points in the upper 50′s and low to mid 60′s. With plenty of moisture and warm temperatures in place, thunderstorms that develop across this region will be able to use this energy as fuel to help intensify. If you live in Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, you need to be prepared for the possibility of damaging winds and isolated tornadoes Tuesday and Wednesday as this storm sweeps to the east.

The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has issued a moderate risk for severe weather for northern Louisiana, Arkansas, northwest Mississippi, and southeast Missouri. Meanwhile, a slight risk has been issued for the states surrounding the moderate area:

Categorical outlook issued for January 29, 2013. Image Credit: SPC

There is an enhanced tornado threat for Tuesday, January 29, 2013. The map below shows the probability of a tornado within 25 miles of a point. The hatched Area (black dashes) indicate a 10% or greater probability of EF2 – EF5 tornadoes within 25 miles of a point. Most of Arkansas is in a 15% hatched area, which is very high.

This new storm is a result of two air masses…

Warm air ahead of the front will help fuel the thunderstorms that develop across the Southeast Tuesday and Wednesday. Image Credit: Weatherbell

When you look at the large picture, it is pretty obvious that straight line winds will be the main threat with this system as a squall line, also called a QLCS, or Quasi linear convective system, pushes eastward. There are concerns that discrete cells could develop ahead of the front, which would be the area prone to see the strongest tornadoes. The region most likely to see supercells will be the areas within the moderate risk area today. There is plenty of wind shear, or change in wind speed or direction with height, in the atmosphere associated with this strong cold front. No doubt that as this front pushes eastward, the momentum will be transferred to the surface where winds could easily gust to 60 to 70 miles per hour. Squall lines can produce widespread damage, so everyone in the highlighted areas noted on the SPC Day 1 and 2 outlook should be weather aware as this system pushes into your area. As this line advances east, there is no doubt the severe thunderstorm watches or tornado watches will be issued in advanced to prepare people for the upcoming storms. If you live in the area where this line of storms can sweep through, you might want to bring in any loose objects that are sitting outside that could be picked up by the wind and be used as flying debris.

Keep a watch out and take care.

This is an open thread.


GOP Electoral Vote-Rigging Scheme Is Losing Steam

belushi-electoral-college

Good News

It looks like the Republican plans to change the way electoral votes are assigned in swing states may be dead in the water. This afternoon, a Virginia Senate committee voted to kill the state’s proposed bill and Republicans in Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin are expressing serious doubts about similar bills in their states.

In Virginia:

The measure appeared headed for defeat after Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) came out against it Friday, as did two GOP senators who sit on the committee that would decide the bill’s fate.

Earlier Tuesday, McDonnell said during a televised interview that he was “afraid people will ignore Virginia” if the commonwealth switched to an electoral college system that picked winners by congressional district.

The governor told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that the winner-take-all system most states use is the way to go, and that splitting up electoral votes by congressional districts is a “bad idea.”

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder isn’t bullish on the proposed changes.

In another blow to the push to replace the winner-take-all method for awarding electoral votes, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said he is “very skeptical” of a Republican proposal in his state to adopt the congressional district system for allocating the votes.

“You don’t want to change the playing field so it’s an unfair advantage to someone, and in a lot of ways we want to make sure we’re reflecting the vote of the people, and this could challenge that,” Snyder, a Republican, said today on Bloomberg Television’s “Bottom Line.”

“I don’t think this is the appropriate time to really look at it,” he said.

And the Michigan Senate majority leader has indicated the measure probably won’t be put up for a vote. Michigan Live reports:

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville is wary of a proposal to split up Michigan’s Electoral College votes by district, suggesting that such a move could diminish the state’s importance in presidential elections.

“I don’t know that it’s broken, so I don’t know if I want to fix it,” Richardville said Tuesday, becoming the first high-ranking Michigan Republican to question a bill that state Rep. Pete Lund is poised to reintroduce in the House.

“We’ll take a look at it,” Richardville said. “I’ve heard these things before, all or nothing versus splitting it up. I want to make sure that Michigan’s voice is a loud and clear voice, so I’d be a little concerned if we ended up splitting the difference.”

Other Michigan elected officials noted that presidential candidates would be less likely to campaign in the state if they knew they could win only a small number of votes in favorable districts.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker says the plan is “risky.”

Walker said Tuesday it’s an interesting idea, but not one he spends time thinking about. He says because Wisconsin is a battleground state, presidential and vice presidential candidates have an incentive to make repeated campaign stops here. He says he’s wary that changing the system could dissuade candidates from visiting.

Finally, in Ohio, several GOP leaders, including Secretary of State Jon Husted, oppose the plan.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Count Ohio’s Republican leaders out of a GOP-backed effort to end the Electoral College’s winner-take-all format in the Buckeye State and other presidential battlegrounds.
Spokesmen for Gov. John Kasich, State Senate President Keith Faber and House Speaker William G. Batchelder told The Plain Dealer this week that they are not pursuing plans to award electoral votes proportionally by congressional district.

Batchelder went a step further, saying through his communications director that he “is not supportive of such a move.” And Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, the state’s chief elections administrator, emphasized that he does not favor the plan either, despite Democratic suspicions based on reported comments that he said were taken out of context.

“Nobody in Ohio is advocating this,” Husted said in a telephone interview.

That just leaves Pennsylvania and perhaps Florida. Would those states want to discourage candidates from coming in to campaign?

It certainly looks as if the GOP electoral vote-rigging scheme is a loser.


Tuesday Mid-Morning Reads: Immigration Reform, Aaron Swartz Prosecution, and Much More

Barbara Stanwyk reading

Good Morning Everyone!!

The media talking heads are going on and on about the supposed “bi-partisan agreement” on Immigration reform. I’m not really clear on what policies have been “agreed” on, but frankly, I’ll believe it when I see it. TPM reports: Gang Of 8’s Path To Citizenship Is Still A Rocky Road.

While reformers are excited that a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants is the centerpiece of the Senate’s new bipartisan immigration deal, it’s still unclear just how accessible that path will be for the undocumented population.

Without the proper components, experts warn the Senate plan could be the beginning of a long process to bringing illegal immigrants fully into American society, one that could take not years but decades.

So what does the process involve?

Under the plan, undocumented immigrants would receive a probationary status if they pass a criminal background check, pay a fine, and pay any back taxes owed to the government. After that, they’d have to wait to apply for permanent residency – a prerequisite to citizenship – until after a series of border security measures go into effect.

None of the new border measures, which will be overseen by a commission of southwestern state officials and community leaders, appear too difficult to implement at first glance (although there are concerns as to how much power conservative state politicians would wield in the process). The big question is what comes next when 11 million newly legal immigrants apply for a green card.

According to the framework, these applicants will then be required to “go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants.” But for many of them, a clear line doesn’t actually exist at the moment. Individuals can apply for green cards through a number of categories, mostly based on having family already in the country or on their employment status, which experts say are inadequate to the task of absorbing so many immigrants at once.

Greg Sargent says that the assumption that conservative Southern governors will control the process because they will be the ones to certify that the border is secure is “not true.”

I’ve now got clarification from Senate staff working on the bill, and it turns out that the enforcement commission’s judgments will only be advisory, and are entirely nonbinding. Congress’ actions will not be dictated by what this commission concludes; neither will actions taken by the Department of Homeland Security. The citizenship process will be triggered by other means (more on this soon).

This is central to the debate. If this commission had the power to dictate when the citizenship process begins, it could endanger the entire enterprise by giving people like Jan Brewer veto power. Second, this enforcement commission is being seen as a major concession Republicans won in exchange for agreeing to grant citizenship to the 11 million.

So what did Republicans get in this deal then?

The concessions Republicans got in this deal — in exchange for agreeing to citizenship for 11 million — include beefed up border security, a new program designed to help employers verify their employees’ status, tougher checks on immigrants overstaying visas, and the need for undocumented immigrants to go to the end of the immigration line.

Meanwhile, President Obama will roll out his own, supposedly “more liberal” immigration reform plan beginning today in a speech in Las Vegas.

The Obama administration has developed its own proposals for immigration reform that are more liberal than a separate bipartisan effort in the Senate, including a quicker path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, people with knowledge of the proposals said.

President Obama is expected to provide some details of the White House plans during a Tuesday appearance in Las Vegas, where he will call for broad changes to the nation’s immigration laws. The speech will kick off a public push by the administration in support of the broadest overhaul of immigration law in nearly three decades.

Obama plans to praise the proposals laid out Monday by an eight-member Senate working group, saying they reflect the core tenets of the administration’s immigration blueprint developed in 2011, a senior administration official said.

But the president’s remarks also are likely to emphasize differences that could foreshadow roadblocks to passage in Congress at a time when both parties say there is momentum for a comprehensive deal.

Naturally, the wingnuts in the House will provide roadblocks galore for whatever plan the Senate approves. Read all about it at Politico.

mitchmconnell turtle

Politico reported yesterday on a possible collaboration between the Tea Party and Democrats in Kentucky to dump Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Big Democratic donors, local liberal activists and a left-leaning super PAC in Kentucky are telling tea partiers that they are poised to throw financial and organizational support behind a right-wing candidate should one try to defeat the powerful GOP leader in a 2014 primary fight.

The idea: Soften up McConnell and make him vulnerable in a general election in Kentucky, where Democrats still maintain a voter registration advantage. Or better yet, in their eyes: Watch Kentucky GOP primary voters nominate the 2014 version of Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock, weak candidates who may actually lose.

Interesting… Once again, I’ll believe it when I see it. Still, anything is possible. Plus McConnell is very unpopular in his home state according to the latest poll

With his re-election bid just a year away, those opposed to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell outnumber his supporters 2-1 among Kentucky voters, according to the latest Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll.

In the poll of 609 registered voters, 34 percent said they plan to vote against McConnell — while just 17 percent say they will vote to give him six more years. Forty-four percent said they will wait to see who is running against him before deciding, and 6 percent said they are not sure.

The poll, conducted by SurveyUSA, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. It comes as groups on both McConnell’s right and left seek candidates to challenge him in the primary and general elections in 2014. McConnell, the most powerful Republican in the Senate as minority leader, is seeking his sixth term.

More information is coming out

about the over-the-top prosecution that probably contributed to the suicide of genius cyber-activist Aaron Swartz. Rolling Stone reports:

Swartz’s friends and family have said they believe he was driven to his death by a justice system that hounded him needlessly over an alleged crime with no real victims. “[He was] forced by the government to spend every fiber of his being on this damnable, senseless trial,” his partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman said at the memorial, “with no guarantee that he could exonerate himself at the end of it.”

Two zealous federal prosecutors handled Swartz’s case: U.S. district attorney Carmen Ortiz and assistant attorney Stephen Heymann. In the days after his death, writers, tech experts, and many of Swartz’s friends have called out Heymann and Ortiz for prosecutorial overreach. A White House petition demanding the removal of Ortiz garnered well over 25,000 signatures, reaching the level which guarantees an eventual response from the Obama administration.

Carmen Ortiz

Carmen Ortiz

Some of Swartz’s advocates believe the prosecution sought excessive punishment to set an example in the age of Wikileaks and Anonymous.

Declan McCullough writes at CNet that when Swartz’s case was being prosecuted by the Middlesex County DA’s office, there was no thought of sending Swartz to prison for what was essential a minor, victimless crime.

State prosecutors who investigated the late Aaron Swartz had planned to let him off with a stern warning, but federal prosecutor Carmen Ortiz took over and chose to make an example of the Internet activist, according to a report in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

Middlesex County’s district attorney had planned no jail time, “with Swartz duly admonished and then returned to civil society to continue his pioneering electronic work in a less legally questionable manner,” the report (alternate link) said. “Tragedy intervened when Ortiz’s office took over the case to send ‘a message.'”

The report is likely to fuel an online campaign against Ortiz, who has been criticized for threatening the 26-year-old with decades in prison for allegedly downloading a large quantity of academic papers. An online petition asking President Obama to remove from office Ortiz — a politically ambitious prosecutor who was talked about as Massachusetts’ next governor as recently as last month.

Ortiz no longer has a political future, and other abuses of power by her office are now coming out. Read more at the link. I posted links to more damning information about Ortiz in a recent post.

The Massachusetts Lawyers’ Weekly post by Harvey Silverglate is behind a paywall, but it has been republished with permission at Media Nation.

Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz

Silverglate writes:

The ill-considered prosecution leading to the suicide of computer prodigy Aaron Swartz is the most recent in a long line of abusive prosecutions coming out of the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston, representing a disastrous culture shift. It sadly reflects what’s happened to the federal criminal courts, not only in Massachusetts but across the country….

the palpable injustices flowing regularly out of the federal criminal courts have by and large escaped the critical scrutiny of the lawyers who are in the best position to say something. And judges tend not to recognize what to outsiders are serious flaws, because the system touts itself as the best and fairest in the world.

Since the mid-1980s, a proliferation of vague and overlapping federal criminal statutes has given federal prosecutors the ability to indict, and convict, virtually anyone unfortunate enough to come within their sights. And sentencing guidelines confer yet additional power on prosecutors, who have the discretion to pick and choose from statutes covering the same behavior.

This dangerous state of affairs has resulted in countless miscarriages of justice, many of which aren’t recognized as such until long after unfairly incarcerated defendants have served “boxcar-length” sentences.

Aaron Swartz was a victim of this system run amok. He was indicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a notoriously broad statute enacted by Congress seemingly to criminalize any use of a computer to do something that could be deemed bad.

If you care about this issue, please go read the whole thing. Read Charles Pierce’s take on it here.

There have been some reports that Swartz had contacted Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and could possibly have been working with the organization, but it’s not clear what Swartz could have leaked to them. I can’t imagine Wikileaks being interested in distributing a bunch of academic journal articles that are already available to millions of people from numerous sources. Nevertheless, the Feds are so obsessed with Wikileaks and cyber-security generally that that could have led to their taking over Swartz’s case.

I have a number of other suggested reads that I’ll list  link dump style.

Bloomberg: The Fed Is More Out of It Than You Thought It Was

HuffPo: Treasury Disregarded Own Guidelines, Allowed Executive Raises At Bailed-Out GM, AIG: Report

LA Times: A third of Barnes & Noble stores may close in next decade, report says

Alex Pareene at Salon: 3 reasons to be skeptical that immigration reform will pass /

Irin Carmon at Salon: Is abortion about women?

Time: Barbara Walters Has the Chicken Pox

CBS Crimesider: JonBenet Ramsey Case: Grand jury voted to indict parents in 1999, prosecutor refused to sign

USA Today: Iran says it launched a monkey into space (Video)

NYT: The Preppers Next Door – The Doomsday Preppers of New York

ABC News: Bigfoot: Is Mysterious Screech Sasquatch? (Hey, is Bigfoot really any weirder than the Tea Party Republicans? I don’t think so.)

So….what’s on your reading and blogging list today? I look forward to clicking on your links!