The [Monday] Papers
"Getting 'real information' to people on the World Wide Web is 13-year-old Aaron Swartz's job," the Tribune reported in June 2000.
"He's tired of all the banner ads, the sponsorships and other miscellaneous 'junk' hogging the screens.
"'That's not what the Internet was made for. It was based on open standards and freedom, not ads,' said Swartz of Highland Park, the youngest of 10 finalists in the annual Arsdigita Foundation Teen Web Site Contest."
Swartz went on to be a key developer of RSS web content syndication, a co-founder of Reddit and a leading activist for the freedom of information, but despite his global status as a computer prodigy and Internet thought leader, he never appeared again in the Tribune until Sunday's report of his suicide.
Swartz never appeared in the Sun-Times until its (AP-assisted) suicide report.
Neither does he show up in the archives of the Reader nor Crain's.
And yet, Swartz was one of the most influential people to come out of this area in a lifetime.
"I remember when we all went to a talk by Barbara Ehrenreich at the Newberry Library in Chicago - the Internet tells me it was 2006 - and he spent any down time in the activity around him doing this weird thing on his cell phone, fingers flying," local author and journalist Rick Perlstein writes for The Nation.
"Which added up to two memories: one, of a soul squeezing meaning out of every last second of his life. And two, of the first time I saw a person send e-mail from a machine he kept in his pocket! Afterward, at a restaurant, I remember him patiently but exuberantly explaining to Barbara Ehrenreich what RSS was ('a computer code that provided a format for delivering regularly changing Web content': yes, he thought of that), what Reddit was, why it mattered, etc."
Swartz suffered from depression (and a host of other mysterious illnesses).
"You feel as if streaks of pain are running through your head, you thrash your body, you search for some escape but find none," he wrote in 2007.
"The economist Richard Layard, after advocating that the goal of public policy should be to maximize happiness, set out to learn what the greatest impediment to happiness was today. His conclusion: depression. Depression causes nearly half of all disability, it affects one in six, and explains more current unhappiness than poverty. And (important for public policy) Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy has a short-term success rate of 50%.
"Sadly, depression (like other mental illnesses, especially addiction) is not seen as 'real' enough to deserve the investment and awareness of conditions like breast cancer (1 in 8) or AIDS (1 in 150).
His family, friends and admirers say the U.S. government has blood on its hands for aggressively prosecuting him for downloading millions of subscription-only journal articles through an opening in MIT's computer network.
"Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy," his family says in a statement. "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."
For ongoing coverage (and catching up on background), this Boing Boing post with its attendant links is a good place to start.
"Aaron's funeral will be held on Tuesday, January 15 at Central Avenue Synagogue, 874 Central Avenue, Highland Park, Illinois 60035," the family has announced. "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."
See also: How Aaron Swartz Helped Save My Ass.
In other news . . .
United Airlines' Tax Dodge
"But the jet fuel never gets anywhere near Sycamore, which is 100 miles west of Chicago.
"It goes to O'Hare, and that upsets the Regional Transit Authority, which says it is out at least $96 million in lost sales taxes as a result of the actions of United and another company, American Airlines.
"The RTA plans to file suit Monday against United and the city of Sycamore, contending United operates a 'sham' office in the DeKalb County town in order to avoid higher sales taxes in Cook County."
See also: The item Sycamore Tree from this 2011 column.
United Center's Tax Dodge
"There are no comparable Cook County properties against which it can be measured, leaving plenty of mystery as to its true market value, and, therefore, what its owners ought to pay into public coffers.
"But a new report commissioned by the Chicago Teachers Union sheds a little light on just how sweet of a deal they get. The report asserts that the arena's owners have unfairly saved nearly $30 million in property taxes during the past decade."
The Weekend In Chicago Rock
QT: The Universe Isn't Everything
The Weekend Desk Report
And you can always catch up on Weekend Desk Reports and Papers columns going all the way back to the beginning right here.
The Beachwood Tip Line: Real.
Posted on January 14, 2013
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