Doctor Henry Morgentaler, who pioneered safe, legal abortion in Canada at great personal risk and cost, died today at 90. Canada is a better place for the work he did. Here's a photo of me and Morgentaler when I was 4 1/2 years old.
To his supporters, he was nothing less than a hero. "Canadian women owe Dr. Morgentaler a tremendous debt of gratitude for standing up for their lives and health at great personal sacrifice and risk," said Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation.
"He survived numerous threats on his life, a clinic bombing and aggressive protests. Yet, he was not deterred," she said.
Judy Rebick, a former head of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, worked with Morgentaler in the 1980s on the effort to legalize abortion.
"I think every women in the country has lost a major ally," she told CBC News. "He changed all of our lives by standing up against the abortion laws and eventually winning in the Supreme Court."
Morgentaler death rekindles abortion divide
Russell Brand's obituary for Margaret Thatcher is a beautiful and incisive piece of writing, and a good example of why he's not just another actor:
When I was a kid, Thatcher was the headmistress of our country. Her voice, a bellicose yawn, somehow both boring and boring – I could ignore the content but the intent drilled its way in. She became leader of the Conservatives the year I was born and prime minister when I was four. She remained in power till I was 15. I am, it's safe to say, one of Thatcher's children. How then do I feel on the day of this matriarchal mourning?
I grew up in Essex with a single mum and a go-getter Dagenham dad. I don't know if they ever voted for her, I don't know if they liked her. My dad, I suspect, did. He had enough Del Boy about him to admire her coiffured virility – but in a way Thatcher was so omnipotent; so omnipresent, so omni-everything that all opinion was redundant.
As I scan the statements of my memory bank for early deposits (it'd be a kid's memory bank account at a neurological NatWest where you're encouraged to become a greedy little capitalist with an escalating family of porcelain pigs), I see her in her hairy helmet, condescending on Nationwide, eviscerating eunuch MPs and baffled BBC fuddy duddies with her General Zodd stare and coldly condemning the IRA. And the miners. And the single mums. The dockers. The poll-tax rioters. The Brixton rioters, the Argentinians, teachers; everyone actually.
Thinking about it now, when I was a child she was just a strict woman telling everyone off and selling everything off. I didn't know what to think of this fearsome woman.
Russell Brand on Margaret Thatcher: 'I always felt sorry for her children'
(Image: Anti-Margaret Thatcher badge, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from dannybirchall's photostream)
David sez, "A quiet genius, jeweler John Paul Miller, recently passed away and a memorial service was held this past weekend in Cleveland. His jewelery is beautifully detailed and I thought the Boing Boing audience would enjoy his take [Google Image Search] on crustaceans and insects."
Yet the relative paucity of attention given to Miller during his lifetime should not belie the intrinsic importance of his spectacular achievements as a designer and maker of gold jewelry.
Decorative arts curator Stephen Harrison of the Cleveland museum, who organized the smallish but extremely important show in 2010, compared Miller to Rene Lalique and Louis Comfort Tiffany, two giants of late-19th-century decorative art in France and America, respectively.
Goldsmith John Paul Miller, a national treasure, will go down in history as one of Cleveland's greatest artists [Steven Litt/The Plain Dealer]
In a guest editorial on Naked Capitalism, Matt Stoller reminds us that Aaron Swartz's politics weren't just about digital freedom: he saw free software and open networks as instrumental to eliminating corruption and corporatism in wider society.
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 NamesOfTheDead.com, 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.
Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/01/aaron-swartzs-politics.html#kfgiaaCSrsDsAWCi.99
Aaron Swartz’s Politics
Here's a note from Aaron Swartz's family, with details about his memorial service in Chicago next week, and the charity they've nominated for donations in Aaron's name:
Our beloved brother, son, friend, and partner Aaron Swartz hanged himself on Friday in his Brooklyn apartment. We are in shock, and have not yet come to terms with his passing.
Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable—these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We’re grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world.
Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He was instrumental to the defeat of an Internet censorship bill; he fought for a more democratic, open, and accountable political system; and he helped to create, build, and preserve a dizzying range of scholarly projects that extended the scope and accessibility of human knowledge. He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place. His deeply humane writing touched minds and hearts across generations and continents. He earned the friendship of thousands and the respect and support of millions more.
Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney's office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.
Today, we grieve for the extraordinary and irreplaceable man that we have lost.
Aaron's funeral will be held on Tuesday, January 15 at Central Avenue Synagogue, 874 Central Avenue, Highland Park, Illinois 60035. Further details, including the specific time, will be posted at http://rememberaaronsw.com, along with announcements about memorial services to be held in other cities in coming weeks.
Remembrances of Aaron, as well as donations in his memory, can be submitted at http://rememberaaronsw.com
Remember Aaron Swartz
Quinn Norton, who was Aaron Swartz's lover, remembers him:
We used to have a fight about how much the internet would grieve if he died. I was right, but the last word you get in as the still living is a hollow thing, trailing off, as it does, into oblivion. I love Aaron. I loved Aaron. There are no words to can contain love, to cloth it in words is to kill it, to mummify it and hope that somewhere in the heart of a reader, they have the strength and the magic to resurrect it. I can only say I love him. That I will always love him, and that I known for years I would. Aaron was a boy, not big, who cast a shadow across the world. But for me, he will always be that person who made me love him. He was so frustrating, and we fought. But we fought like what we were: two difficult people who couldn’t escape loving each other.
My Aaron Swartz, whom I loved.
Larry Lessig's remembrance of Aaron Swartz, the young activist who took his life last night, is beautiful and angry, and expresses an important insight into the vindictive, disgusting behavior of the Department of Justice (and the complicity of MIT) in hounding Aaron:
But all this shows is that if the government proved its case, some punishment was appropriate. So what was that appropriate punishment? Was Aaron a terrorist? Or a cracker trying to profit from stolen goods? Or was this something completely different?
Early on, and to its great credit, JSTOR figured “appropriate” out: They declined to pursue their own action against Aaron, and they asked the government to drop its. MIT, to its great shame, was not as clear, and so the prosecutor had the excuse he needed to continue his war against the “criminal” who we who loved him knew as Aaron.
Here is where we need a better sense of justice, and shame. For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The “property” Aaron had “stolen,” we were told, was worth “millions of dollars” — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.
Aaron had literally done nothing in his life “to make money.” He was fortunate Reddit turned out as it did, but from his work building the RSS standard, to his work architecting Creative Commons, to his work liberating public records, to his work building a free public library, to his work supporting Change Congress/FixCongressFirst/Rootstrikers, and then Demand Progress, Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good. He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.
Prosecutor as bully
Click for ongoing posts about Aaron, his memorial service, his death, and the malicious prosecution brought by the DoJ against him
To the extent possible under law,
has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to
"RIP, Aaron Swartz."
Update: Go read Lessig: "He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you."
My friend Aaron Swartz committed suicide yesterday, Jan 11. He was 26. I got woken up with the news about an hour ago. I'm still digesting it -- I suspect I'll be digesting it for a long time -- but I thought it was important to put something public up so that we could talk about it. Aaron was a public guy.
I met Aaron when he was 14 or 15. He was working on XML stuff (he co-wrote the RSS specification when he was 14) and came to San Francisco often, and would stay with Lisa Rein, a friend of mine who was also an XML person and who took care of him and assured his parents he had adult supervision. In so many ways, he was an adult, even then, with a kind of intense, fast intellect that really made me feel like he was part and parcel of the Internet society, like he belonged in the place where your thoughts are what matter, and not who you are or how old you are.
Read the rest
Science fiction writer Kevin O'Donnell, Jr died last week; the Science Fiction Writers of America has a sweet, sad obit
for him, written by John Barnes and John E. Johnston III. Our condolences to his family and all those who loved him. (via Making Light
Zack Parsons, author and Something Awful moderator, writes,
Sean Smith was one of the four men tragically killed in the consulate
attack in Benghazi, Libya on September 11^th . He was a foreign
services officer for the State Department. He leaves behind a wife and
two young children. I knew him as “Vilerat” on the SA forums. He has
been a moderator there since 2008 and he has posted there since 2002.
He was also well-known in the EVE online gaming community.
I am trying to honor him and all of his contributions to our community
and to the world by giving his family a helping hand with their
expenses. I have started a fundraiser with the assistance of his
friend on EVE and the SA forums, and the input of his wife, Heather,
and I am trying to get the word out about it.
Farewell to Vilerat
Alan Poindexter, 50, a U.S. Navy Captain who joined NASA's astronaut corps in 1998 and made two space shuttle flights, died this weekend in a WaveRunner accident. Before his space career, "Dex" flew combat missions in Iraq, then became a test pilot. He logged more than 4,000 hours of flying time in more than 30 types of aircraft. Snip from Reuters:
Poindexter and his 22-year-old son Samuel were riding on one WaveRunner and his older son, 26-year-old Zachary, was on another, spokesman Stan Kirkland said. "They stopped and apparently Zachary did not see them stop," Kirkland said. "He struck the right rear or the right stern of their personal watercraft. His watercraft went up and apparently struck Captain Poindexter in the back. Both Captain Poindexter and Samuel were ejected."
Both sons survived. More: Space.com, Reuters. Image: Poindexter commanding the STS-131 mission.
Below, videos: Poindexter commenting on the end of the Space Shuttle program, in 2010, and on the food astronauts enjoy eating while in space. Also, a NASA TV video recorded during STS-131, and Poindexter "flying" a shuttle simulator.
Read the rest
The Telegraph's obit for Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld recounts the florid and exciting life of the aristocrat turned French resistance fighter turned UK special forces killer turned escape artist turned colonial enforcer in Indochina. In particular, La Rochefoucauld was a skilled escapologist, and ballsy as all hell about it:
Dropped into the Morvan with two British agents, including one radio operator, La Rochefoucauld teamed up with a Maquis group near Avallon led by a man who called himself The Pope. After destroying the electrical substation at Avallon, and blowing up railway tracks, La Rochefoucauld was awaiting exfiltration by the RAF when he was denounced and arrested. After a series of interrogations, he was condemned to death.
En route to his execution in Auxerre, La Rochefoucauld made a break, leaping from the back of the truck carrying him to his doom, and dodging the bullets fired by his two guards. Sprinting through the empty streets, he found himself in front of the Gestapo’s headquarters, where a chauffeur was pacing near a limousine bearing the swastika flag. Spotting the key in the ignition, La Rochefoucauld jumped in and roared off, following the Route Nationale past the prison he had left an hour earlier.
Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld
(Image: downsized, cropped thumbnail of a larger image on The Telegraph)
Andy Griffith, TV star, comedian, raconteur and comedian, has died at 86. I grew up on Mayberry, and I can sing all the words to the Andy Griffith theme (and also the Beyonce mashup). I'll miss him.
BREAKING NEWS: Friend Says Andy Griffith Has Died
Neil Gaiman's remembrance of Ray Bradbury is very sweet and paints a picture of one of the field's great mensches:
Last week, at dinner, a friend told me that when he was a boy of 11 or 12 he met Ray Bradbury. When Bradbury found out that he wanted to be a writer, he invited him to his office and spent half a day telling him the important stuff: if you want to be a writer, you have to write. Every day. Whether you feel like it or not. That you can't write one book and stop. That it's work, but the best kind of work. My friend grew up to be a writer, the kind who writes and supports himself through writing.
Ray Bradbury was the kind of person who would give half a day to a kid who wanted to be a writer when he grew up.
A man who won't forget Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury is dead. He was 91 years old. He wrote some of the most inspiring and beautiful stories I've ever read. He fought for libraries. He changed my life with a novel called Dandelion Wine, much of which I can still quote from memory. Every time I find myself wandering a city street alone at night -- every single time -- I think of his story Drink Entire. He did some stuff that disappointed me, but I never fell out of love with the art that he made. The world is much richer for the work he made, and much poorer for his passing.
From the AP obit:
“The great thing about my life is that everything I’ve done is a result of what I was when I was 12 or 13,” he said in 1982.
Bradbury’s family moved to Los Angeles in 1934. He became a movie buff and a voracious reader. “I never went to college, so I went to the library,” he explained.
He tried to write at least 1,000 words a day, and sold his first story in 1941. He submitted work to pulp magazines until he was finally accepted by such upscale publications as The New Yorker. Bradbury’s first book, a short story collection called “Dark Carnival,” was published in 1947.
He was so poor during those years that he didn’t have an office or even a telephone. “When the phone rang in the gas station right across the alley from our house, I’d run to answer it,” he said.
He wrote “Fahrenheit 451” at the UCLA library, on typewriters that rented for 10 cents a half hour. He said he carried a sack full of dimes to the library and completed the book in nine days, at a cost of $9.80.
Sci-fi master Ray Bradbury, author of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ ‘Martian Chronicles,’ dead at 91
One of the greatest days of my life was when Gardner Dozois reviewed my first professionally published story, "Craphound," and said of it that it had a "rich, Bradburian vein of nostalgia" running through it.
Update: Jenny Hart points out that Bradbury had a beautiful essay in The New Yorker last week.
(Image: Merry Christmas 2116 XVIII, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from seraphimc's photostream)