Don’t ask me how my weekend was…

note: He deserves better than to be commemorated in the footnote of a post about my petty plumbing problems, but I did want to note the fact that, if not for the this little emergency of mine, I’d surely be posting something thoughtful tonight about the death of internet activist and political organizer Aaron Swartz. Swartz, who was one of the co-founders of Reddit, took his life on Friday. It’s unclear at this point why he chose to commit suicide at the age of 26, but many are speculating that it could have had something to do with the fact that he was facing 13 felony counts, decades in prison, and $4 million in fines for downloading 4 million academic articles from Ann Arbor’s online academic journal database JSTOR, with the intention of distributing them freely through file-sharing sites. JSTOR, for what it’s worth, has issued a statement. “The case,” says JSTOR, “is one that we ourselves had regretted being drawn into from the outset, since (our) mission is to foster widespread access to the world’s body of scholarly knowledge. At the same time, as one of the largest archives of scholarly literature in the world, we must be careful stewards of the information entrusted to us by the owners and creators of that content. To that end, Aaron returned the data he had in his possession and JSTOR settled any civil claims we might have had against him in June 2011.” But, as we know, that did not stop the the bullying by Department of Justice officials, who were pursuing Aaron much more aggressively than even those behind the financial crisis that almost destroyed our country… And, here, because I think it’s kind of beautiful, and helps explain where Swartz was coming from, is a quote from the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, which he’s thought to have authored.

…Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable … Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world… It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy… It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture…

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  1. Posted January 13, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Oh no! Oh Mark I’m so sorry! We had problems a few months ago and a lot of people recommended Michigan Power Rodding (we ended up figuring out the issue and didn’t need them). If you call them, kindly ask them what the fuck their commercials are about…the creepy kids voice at the end still haunts me and I haven’t had a TV for over a year.

  2. anonymous
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    This is the only MPR commercial that I know of.

  3. K2
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    Not nearly as good as Liquid Plumber’s “double penetration” ad campaign.

  4. Edward
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    Assuming your backup was caused by root growth in the line that carries your waste to the sewer, I’d say that this is yet another sign of global warming. I know a few people who have had problems this winter, and they say this has never happened before. Backups like this usually happen in the spring, when root networks awaken from their hibernation, and begin thriving again. Everything is different now that winter is only a few weeks long, though.

  5. Watching Ypsi
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Call Kircher,,,

  6. Anonymatt
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    Does this mean the next MPT session will be recorded there?

  7. Posted January 14, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Yes, it was tree roots. It happens every few years, as they grow in the spring. I guess we’re officially in the spring, now. This time, though, we didn’t catch it quickly. There was a day of wondering around the house, sniffing. As the dog had been sick the day before, we thought that perhaps the smell was just lingering, perhaps boosted a bit by the smell of a dirty diaper or two. I finally headed into the basement yesterday morning, though, and made the terrifying discovery.

    As for Kircher, there’s a subtle difference between his style and mine. Upon finding out about the shit, I took care of it.

  8. Posted January 14, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    And Matt is referencing the fact that our band, MPT, tends to record in basements full of raw sewage, in case the reference wasn’t clear to anyone.

  9. Posted January 14, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Our most recent record, which should actually be coming out in a few days, however, was recorded in the spotless basement of Ypsilanti’s Dreamland Theater in 2010. Not a single turd was noted. Sadly, though, as a result, our music suffered.

  10. Knox
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    We don’t have many true heroes these days. Aaron Swartz was a true hero. The world is a much darker place without him.

  11. Eel
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    The Democracy Now piece about Swartz is really good.

  12. Posted January 14, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    If you had owned a gun, this would have never happened.

  13. Eel
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    And, he was a damned cute, brilliant kid.

  14. Meta
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Matt Stoller posted something about Aaron this morning at Naked Capitalism that’s worth reading.

    …In 2009, I was working in Rep. Alan Grayson’s office as a policy advisor. We were engaged in fights around the health care bill that eventually became Obamacare, as well as a much narrower but significant fight on auditing the Federal Reserve that eventually became a provision in Dodd-Frank. Aaron came into our office to intern for a few weeks to learn about Congress and how bills were put together. He worked with me on organizing the campaign within the Financial Services Committee to pass the amendment sponsored by Ron Paul and Alan Grayson on transparency at the Fed. He helped with the website, a site dedicated to publicizing the 44,000 Americans that die every year because they don’t have health insurance. Aaron learned about Congress by just spending time there, which seems like an obvious thing to do. Many activists prefer to keep their distance from policymakers, because they are afraid of the complexity of the system and believe that it is inherently corrupting. Aaron, as with much of his endeavors, simply let his curiosity, which he saw as synonymous with brilliance, drive him.

    Aaron also spent a lot of time learning how advocacy and electoral politics works from outside of Congress. He helped found the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a group that sought to replace existing political consulting machinery in the Democratic Party. At the PCCC, he worked on stopping Ben Bernanke’s reconfirmation (the email Aaron wrote called him “Bailout Ben”), auditing the Fed and passing health care reform. I remember he sent me this video of Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, on Reddit, offering his support to Grayson’s provision. A very small piece of the victory on Fed openness belongs to Aaron.

    By the time I met and became friends with Aaron, he had already helped create RSS and co-founded and sold Reddit. He didn’t have to act with intellectual humility when confronting the political system, but he did. Rather than approach politics as so many successful entrepreneurs do, which is to say, try to meet top politicians and befriend them, Aaron sought to understand the system itself. He read political blogs, what I can only presume are gobs of history books (like Tom Ferguson’s Golden Rule, one of the most important books on politics that almost no one under 40 has read), and began talking to organizers and political advocates. He wanted, first and foremost, to know. He learned about elections, political advertising, the data behind voting, and grassroots organizing. He began understanding policy, by learning about Congressional process, its intersection with politics, and how staff and influence networks work on the Hill and through agencies. He analyzed money. He analyzed corruption….. (more)

    Aaron approached politics like he approached technology. His method was as follows – (1) Learn (2) Try (3) Gab (4) Build. He was methodical about his work, and his approach to life – this essay on procrastination will give you a good window into his mind. Aaron liked to “lean in” to difficult problems, work at them until he could break them down and solve them. He had no illusions about politics, which is why he eventually became so good at it. He didn’t disdain the political process the way so many choose to, but he also didn’t engage in flowery lazy thoughts about the glory of checks and balances. He broke politics down and systematically attempted to understand the system. Aaron learned, tried, gabbed, and then built….. (more)

    But he was driven by a desire for justice, and not just for open information. He wanted an end to the drug war, he wanted a financial system not dominated by Bob Rubin, and he wanted monetary policy run to help ordinary people. Some of his last tweets are on monetary policy, and the platinum coin option for raising the debt ceiling (which is a round-about way of preventing cuts to social welfare programs for the elderly). Aaron was a liberal who saw class and race as core driving forces in American politics. In a lovely essay on how he organized his career, he made this clear in a very charming but pointed way….. (more)

    Read more:

  15. EOS
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    10 years ago I rented a power snake from McNamara’s with a root cutting tool for about $25 for 2 hours. It was 1/2 the cost of the cheapest pro. A couple gallons of dilute copper sulfate in the main drain once a year will also limit the root growth and further problems. Sewage in the basement is never a fun time!

  16. josh
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    > Sadly, though, as a result, our music suffered.

    Jesus, it can get worse?

  17. josh
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    From Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the WWW:

    Aaron is dead.

    Wanderers in this crazy world,
    we have lost a mentor, a wise elder.

    Hackers for right, we are one down,
    we have lost one of our own.

    Nurturers, carers, listeners, feeders,
    parents all,
    we have lost a child.

    Let us all weep.


  18. Watching Ypsi
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Yes Mark, I was just throwing in some satire.
    Like i’ve said before, you seem to be a pretty good genuine guy.

  19. anonymous
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m hoping that EOS knows what he’s doing dumping copper sulfate down his drain. I know nothing about the substance, but the idea of EOS putting any kind of chemical into the ecosystem concerns me.

  20. 734
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Human waste and suicide? Where’s the Golden Globes post I was looking forward to?

  21. josh
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    EOS’s recommendation is a fairly common one and copper sulfate is relatively safe so long as you don’t bathe in it or drink it.

  22. XXX
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Don’t believe him, EOS. It’s fin to bathe in, drink, etc. Actually, I’ve heard that if you drink a lot of it, it increases virility.

  23. Elliott
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Swartz was also instrumental in the fight against SOPA and PIPA. One wonders if that’s why the government had it in for him.

    From Wikipedia.

    Swartz was significantly involved with a campaign to prevent the passing of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill that sought to monitor the Internet for copyright violations and would have made it easier for the US Government to shut down websites accused of violating copyright.

    Following the defeat of the bill, Swartz was the keynote speaker at the F2C:Freedom to Connect 2012 event in Washington DC, US on May 21, 2012. His speech was entitled “How we stopped SOPA” and he informed the audience:

    “There’s a battle going on right now, a battle to define everything that happens on the internet in terms of traditional things that the law understands.” He said that SOPA, “instead of bringing us greater freedom, would have snuffed out fundamental rights we’d always taken for granted.”

    Swartz said SOPA was killed by “the people themselves… We won this fight because everyone made themselves the hero of their own story. Everyone took it as their job to save this crucial freedom.” He was referring to a series of protests against the bill by numerous websites which were described by the Electronic Frontier Foundation as the biggest in Internet history, with over 115 thousand sites altering their webpages.

    In his speech Swartz also described how close the Bill came to passing as a “bad dream”. He added: “And it will happen again; sure, it will have another name, and maybe a different excuse, and probably do its damage in a different way, but make no mistake, the enemies of the freedom to connect have not disappeared. The fire in those politician’s eyes has not been put out. There are a lot of people, a lot of powerful people, who wanna clamp down on the Internet.”

  24. Watching Ypsi
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Come on people. You really believe this BS; that is shoved down our throats?
    Everybodyand everything, just goes round and round in circles.
    It’s so obvious. We are being SCAMMED.
    When it clicks, you will know.

  25. Elliott
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Since Swartz’s death, a White House petition to remove Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz “for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz” has gotten almost 15,000 signatures.

    Also, there’s a big hacker event taking place in a few weeks at UM. It would be cool if they acknowledged Aaron’s death by working on projects inline with his beliefs. Here’s the notice:

    “We are thrilled to announce that MHacks Hackathon will take place at the University of Michigan’s beautiful Palmer Commons on the weekend of February 1st-3rd. University students can reserve spots as hackers. And there will be an open to the public EXPO showcasing students’ hacks from 2-4PM on Sunday, February 3. Hacker and expo tickets available at:

    Hundreds of hackers across the US and Canada, especially from Big Ten and Ivy League schools have expressed interest in MHacks. We are anticipating 400+ hackers! With top-notch sponsors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Github, and Red Bull thousands in prizes, an amazing venue, and a whole host of great events planned, MHacks is set to be the Most Epic Hackathon. Ever.

    Join the conversation at We look forward to seeing you in February!”

  26. Watching Ypsi
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Fake, Fake, Fake, Fake,

  27. Dee Dee Ghost
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    “I don’t wanna go down in the basement.”

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