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Drop Dropbox (drop-dropbox.com)
1990 points by PhilipA on April 10, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 1008 comments

Think about what it means to the HN culture to have a subject that normally would have been flagged out of existence as overtly political suddenly be featured front and center in the apparent belief that ideological purity is now a litmus test for who can serve on a board of directors in the startup world.

In a free society, people can unite in their business ventures even though they might be far apart in how they view the world generally. Startup culture thirty years ago had a decidedly American flavor. Today, it does not because the world is big and diverse and because entrepreneurs today who do startups come from all sorts of cultures and backgrounds. Surely, those who come from such divergent backgrounds hold differing political and religious views. Some are conservative, others liberal, still others apolitical. Some are theists, others atheists. The variations are many but one thing is certain: not all people think alike on political, religious, or social topics. These are issues that inherently will divide.

What happens, then, when people attempt to set political, social, or religious tests as criteria for who can hold important positions in a business organization? Well, it gets about as ugly as it can get, just as such tests proved ugly when used historically by, say, Christians to exclude Jews from holding important positions in society or to punish atheists for not holding to some prescribed creed.

One might say, "this is different" because we are not holding to an arbitrary creed but rather to fundamental principles that ought to govern all humanity. Well, that is precisely how those who sought to impose thought control in other eras rationalized their conduct. "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party" is a question that destroyed many careers as the blacklists proliferated back in the 1950s. That was indeed a repulsive set of events by which many innocent persons were hurt and today our national conscience wishes it could take back the damage done to them.

So why is this any different? It is easy enough to whip oneself up into a lather over Ms. Rice’s policies if one disagrees with them but what about the half of America (or whatever significant percentage) that does not. And why should this be relevant to board service?

Politics, religion, and social worldviews divide people and have no place as limiting tests in a business environment. Scolding and finger-wagging was bad enough coming from a first-grade teacher trying to promote sanctimonious values back in the 1950s. Do we really want a counterpart agenda now setting rules for who can be a founder, who can be an investor, who can be a director, who can be a CEO, or who can otherwise take a prominent role in the startup world? The answer should be an emphatic no.

Principle is more important here than a particular outcome. What happens with Ms. Rice is not the issue here. What matters is upholding the abiding principle (precious in a free society) that people can hold divergent views on such topics as politics, religion, and society without being punished for their views in a business context. People can and ought to be able to unite to form great companies without having to compare notes on how they voted in the last election or some similar matter having nothing whatever to do with whether someone can add value to the venture. This is central to startup culture. Let us not lose sight of something so basic.

Starting an unnecessary war is a big deal. Denying due process and torturing detainees is a big deal. The Patriot Act was one of the most un-American acts of Congress. Rice had a significant role in destroying the values I once thought were vitally important in claiming American exceptionalism. We can never get that back. We are now a country that starts unnecessary wars, tortures detainees and denies due process and spends vast resources on surveilling every citizen and she had a role in that. We will never be the country we once were before Rice and the Bush administration. I am proud to have always been vocally against the war, torture and the Patriot Act. I will continue to oppose the people who led these efforts and oppose anything they are involved with, staying true to my own personal values requires this.

> I am proud to have always been vocally against the war, torture and the Patriot Act. I will continue to oppose the people who led these efforts and oppose anything they are involved with, staying true to my own personal values requires this.

I hope this extends to opposing the Obama administration, which has continued and extended war, torture, and the patriot act. If the tech community dumps anyone from any party who supports these policies, that's awesome.

Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, Mark Benoiff at SalesForce, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt at Google all gave large contributions to Obama, who extended the patriot act, defended bush torture, and maintains a 'kill list' that took the life of an american citizen without trial. None of them are getting this kind of outrage.

I would love it if they were! I'd love it if we held these tech leaders accountable for the horrendous policies their supported leaders have put in place. You can't say you value your users' privacy and then give money to candidates who don't share that value, unless you say "but these other policies that he supports matter more to me" - and then fine, give us a list of what you value more than protecting my privacy. Show me where I fall on this list of yours. A president who decides he supports gave marriage when it's poitically convient is not as important to me as a president who insists on defending my privacy.

So far this looks to be partisan. I hope it isn't. To be honest, I miss having GWB as a president, because then the smart people were all outraged at the horrible stuff the president was doing. Now the president is still doing the same horrible stuff, plus some new stuff, but the smart people aren't as upset anymore.

I was fooled by Obama during his first campaign but learned quickly during his first term that he is no different. I might be a bit partisan in thinking if we had a democratic president during 9/11 we might not've gone to war with Iraq but we'll never really know.

I have simplified my life, reduced my consumption, don't own a car, grow my own food, try to avoid using Wall Street whenever possible when I do make purchases. I'm trying to create a very local life, this has allowed me to believe I'm being consistent with my core values. Oh yeah, I'm much less political than I was 10 years ago.

Removing clutter and unnecessary consumption gives you a lot more time to read and think. I am trying to minimize the waste in my life as well, and focus on local sustainable efforts. Reducing news consumption has freed up a lot of time for me. Keep voting with your money and time and hopefully we'll reach a tipping point. Good luck on your journey!

You're equating

A. a campaign donation


B. starting an unjust war that killed hundreds of thousands and destroyed a society

> I hope this extends to opposing the Obama administration, which has continued and extended war, torture, and the patriot act.

I agree people should oppose wrong-doing by both parties and not be partisan about it, but not all sins are the same and they do not all require the same response. I don't Obama and Bush are the same, unless the criteria is a binary has/not sinned (in which case all Presidents -- and you and I -- are the same).

I do agree that Obama has done many wrongs.

> I hope this extends to opposing the Obama administration, which has continued and extended war, torture, and the patriot act.

Of course it does. That's the logical conclusion. Why wouldn't it? There isn't any informed person in 2014 who is unable to realize Obama has been worse than Bush as far as torture and war go.

> Obama has been worse than Bush as far as torture and war go

Please remind me how many wars did Obama start based on fake intelligence.

Obama may not be the president the world hoped he would be, but Bush is on a whole different league. If the US is much less secure today than it was before 9/11, you can thank Bush and his cronies (Rice included) for that. That situation also severely limits what your current president can do.

Bush isn't actively dropping bombs on schoolhouses. Bush isn't actively detaining and torturing people in black sites. These are things that were pioneered by Bush and perfected by Obama.

If you hate Bush, you need to hate Obama, or you're simply an unreasonable hypocrite. This isn't up for debate.

Bush started your country down a path that has led it towards unprecedented insecurity and cost countless lives, both Americans and foreigners, and he did it on a crucial moment when he had the option to act differently. Obama is left with little choice in a lot of regards - the world - and your country - is already the wreck Bush left us with. Just leaving Iraq on day one would lead the country to a certain civil war and most likely another yet theocracy that hates the US (and this one for reason I can completely understand). Just closing Guantanamo would unravel an insane chain of resentment that most probably should have been faced rather than postponed.

I hate neither. Bush was grossly incompetent. Spectacularly incompetent. Dangerously incompetent. Again, Obama is a huge disappointment, but I suspect he, under less grim circumstances, would have been a much better president than he is now. In so many ways, his hands are tied. A president - any president - is limited in his actions to what's legally and politically possible and that severely restricts his actions. Even with his hands tied, Obama is light years ahead of his predecessor.

Totally agree.

Do you consider the drone campaigns in Yemen, Pakistan and Somilia to be wars?

How has Obama been worse about torture than Bush? AFAIK he stopped the torture programs that Bush started.

He should do more, such as prosecuting the torturers. We will see if he releases the key information in the Senate report. But I wouldn't call him worse.

Obama went back to just killing suspected terrorists, instead of torturing them.

And yet Bush is universally hated and Obama was elected to a second term. I think we are in agreement as to our feelings about this, but your snark is subtle if we are :-)

Bush was elected to a second term.

Don't worry, the smart people who are self-consistent are still upset.

One battle at a time.

Big deal as it may be, the parent comment was placing the discussion in a plane you totally missed in your response.

The type of blackballing practiced by this campaign is similar to the kind of blackballing that ousted Brendan Eich. It is also a slippery slope.

Slippery slopes are dangerous. At each step of the way, you can reason about your present decision and easily justify it. Add all the steps and the picture is suddenly not so pretty. That is where the parent comment author aimed its reasoning.

You can only reason about slippery slopes by taking the long view; seeing where the slope leads to. Your comment takes the short view.

We define the values we hold as a society through our actions and choices and that is the way it should be. I didn't necessarily agree with the Eich ousting but it shows a shift in values that I agree with.

The perpetrators of the Iraq war and the Patriot act have been able to avoid repercussions for their actions. I find this very distasteful because of my strong feelings about what these actions have done to my country. I believe it should've been obvious that the Iraq war and the Patriot act went very much against the core values of my country. I like to think I am taking the long view in that I'm hoping this reaction might influence similar decisions in the future and shape the values of this country in a way that is more consistent with where they were before the Bush administration. This can only happen if elected representatives believe there will be repercussions to making very disastrous, anti-American decisions.

Luckily we elected the polar opposite to Bush, who turned out to do things pretty much the same as Bush. Nothing that you are saying started or ended with Bush. We did similar things for a hundred years before Bush, and we are doing worse things now with Obama. The hatred of Bush and his administration is just bizarre. The Patriot act was voted for by Congress and continually extended by both R's and D's.

> Luckily we elected the polar opposite to Bush, who turned out to do things pretty much the same as Bush.

This has contributed to my belief that our current political system has failed we the people, even though it is operating exactly as intended. I was fooled by Obama's first campaign but quickly realized he's no different. I don't know what the answer is but inaction is too boring. I'm trying to reduce the amount of money I send to Wall St believing that they are behind many of the gov's ills. I'm also trying to reduce general consumption as much as possible believing that the taxes we send and lobbying by corporations pumped into the federal government are also at fault. My goal is to see a drastically reduced Wall St and federal gov without blaming R or D.

Coincidence or not, this is my first comment ever with a negative voting score. I guess downvoting is blackballing on a small scale: silence all those who have dissenting views.

I always upvote well written comments, regardless of my personal agreement with the view. I loathe this face of Hacker News I'm seeing today.

I'll upvote each and every 0 or -1 comment that is well written (as in: not a one liner, not a joke, presenting an opinion). It's my small effort towards the Hacker News I like, where quality of writing is valued instead of herd mentality.

fwiw, i upvoted your comment as I thought it was a well written response that didn't include flaming or anything of the sort. The fact that it is negative shows a sad reality.

Slippery slope is also a logical fallacy, so there's that.

it's a logical device. it is not always a logical fallacy:


Thank you for educating me, I didn't know that. However, I feel that in this case, my point still stands.

My comment only stated that responding to a long term analysis of this issue with a short term analysis is wrong because, if this is a slippery slope, it can only be detected with a long term view.

I can't see your point. Which is natural, as you haven't explained it.

My point is that your use of slippery slope was a logical fallacy. You haven't provided the analysis itself. Would you like to do that?

Was it? How? I can't read into your head. I don't know how you got to that conclusion.

Is qualifying the present situation as a slippery slope central to my argument? What if the present situation is not a slippery slope. Is my argument false? It isn't:

One comment takes a long term analysis and tries to determine if we are in a slippery slope. The reply ignores the long term view and looks at the particular situation.

Looking at the particular, short term situation is ineffective for determining if we are in a slippery slope. (this sentence is the crux of my argument)

Yeah, sorry, you don't get to just declare "fallacy!" and not explain yourself.

People aren't logical entities, so the fact that slippery-slope arguments are "logical" fallacies is completely irrelevant.

You act like someone else in her position would have done something different. Everyone hated Bush. Spending too much money, unnecessary war, over reaching surveillance. Obama will be our hope and change! Yay! Hmm, spending significantly more money, continuing unnecessary wars, and reaching significantly further into surveillance. When the war started 64% of Americans were in favor of it. Sure it turns out they didn't have a nuke, but they had already used bio weapons. While it cost way more in terms of lives and money than anyone would have liked, the world is likely a better place without Saddam Hussein.

If you want to boycott any company that has politicians on their board, that's one thing. To boycott Dropbox because of Rice is absurd. She is an incredibly smart, talented, and connected person capable of doing a good job on their board.

Incredibly smart, talented, connected and absolutely unethical person.

I am boycotting Dropbox not because Rice is on the board, but because the board voted in favor of her joining. After this I simply don't trust any high ranking official at Dropbox to be the user of their products.

You should also boycott a lot of other companies then. Pretty much anyone who has a politician connected to them. All of the big tech company leaders gave a lot of money to Obama, and I'd consider the spying on US citizens to be fairly unethical. Please stop using Google, Yahoo, and Apple products.

I do not use Apple and Yahoo products and limiting my use of Google products. So what?

Sounds like you just happen to be doing whats convenient for you. Down with Dropbox! But I still need Google so I'll keep using them but just a little. FWIW, Microsoft and IBM were also top donors for Obama.

Soooo If I can't commit fully to supporting only ethical tech companies I should either retreat to the cave or lose the right to boycott any tech products? Is that an argument that you are making? If yes, that's just ridiculous.

I'm just suggesting that the outrage in general over Condi and Dropbox is a bit hypocritical, and not really about her past actions but simply her connection to the Bush administration. You can boycott whatever you want, I just find it interesting that in most people here it is very selective. I'm boycotting this company for this reason, but not this other company that does VERY similar things.

To me it just shows that Dropbox isn't as important and has easier replacements than the other companies we are talking about. It would be impressive to convince people to stop using something that doesn't have a good alternative. It just feels a little hypocritical to be gung ho I'm boycotting this company (that I maybe didn't use that much and has 7 easy replacements) but I'm doing it because I'm all about ethics and Condi is terrible.

I am not an American and equally despise bush and obama administrations for iraq war and nsa+drone strikes, respectively. It is your partisanship bias that is showing.

And no, it's not hypocritical. The more boycotts and outrage at tech companies for ethical reasons, the better. Baby steps.

EDIT: Tbh, after thinking about it, I must clarify: No, not equally. Though I think nsa revelations will have some profound negative effects in the long term, starting a war on false premises is worse in my books.

I'm sure since you're casting the first stone you boycott these companies? If not, you should try it. It's really, really hard.

Have you ever tried living without search engines? It's tough. Have you hosted your own email? It's a hassle and emails get lost constantly.

What if I want to boycott the phone companies? Should I quit using a cell phone?

On the contrary. I'm happy to let Dropbox add a smart, talented, and connected person to their board. I'll keep using them and the others mentioned.

That's really the point though. This only shows that Dropbox is easily replaceable, and the others aren't. It doesn't show that people suddenly become more principled.

Do you want to make a wild guess as to who supplied and supported the use of "bio" weapons?

Ok, I really hate so say this, but this has hardly been the first time the US has gone into an unnecessary war. While you have also entered necessary wars, for which we, the other western countries, are truly grateful, you simply cannot say that with the Bush administration this is the first time something like this happens.

For me, an anonymous person living in the Netherlands, it feels like these things happen whenever a republican president is elected. The world expects this, goes along with it, and personally I'm afraid of what will happen when the first republican president post-Obama is elected.

Giving dr Reece this much heat is unfair and missing Grellas' very important point: just like freedom of speech is very important to a free press, freedom of political beliefs are very important in a free market.

Making this a R vs D thing is silly. Vietnam was Democrat president. Obama has extended our current wars. Most of our wars have had public support at the beginning, and lost them over time. And as you noted, we've also been instrumental in necessary wars to everyone's benefit.

Hindsight is great and all, but sometimes whether or not a war is necessary can't be seen at the outset. If Saddam had a nuke (and believe me he was certainly trying to get one even if he didn't have one yet), everyone would have considered the Iraq war to be necessary and Bush wouldn't be universally hated. Also, I find it interesting how much sentiment has changed since 2001. After 9/11 everyone was scared, and everyone wanted to find the people responsible and anyone who helped them. 13 years later nobody seems to remember that. The Iraq war was overwhelmingly supported at the beginning. Apparently people just wanted it to be over in 2 weeks.

WW2 Democrat, Korea Republican, Vietnam Democrat, Grenada and Panama Republican (if they even count), First Gulf War Republican, Kosovo Democrat, Second gulf war / Afghanistan Republican.

To me it seems that there is not clear pattern, the most I can get out of it "if there is a president, then we might go to war"

> "if there is a president, then we might go to war"

That's great. According to wikipedia, we've been in 117 wars in 238 years. I'd say you're pretty much right on there.

Truman was the president when the US stepped in to help South Korea, and he was a Democrat, not a Republican.

Good catch, for some reason I thought Ike was in power at that point.

You are correct that this shouldn't be made a R vs D thing, since that completely besides the point. I agree with all other points you

+ make (sorry I can't figure out how to edit a post on this iOS client)

Besides the civil war what others have the US started?

Whether we started them or not is mostly irrelevant. We've joined and extended plenty of wars, and given 9/11 I'd say we didn't "start" Iraq and Afghanistan out of the blue. We just didn't know exactly who we were supposed to be fighting.

According to this [1] the US has been in ~117 wars (if I counted right) in 238 years.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_Unit...

I'm sorry.... You're going to show discontent with the actions of Rice and Bush by boycotting Dropbox.

It's not that I disagree with you in terms of the consequences of the actions of the Bush government, but boycotting Dropbox is like hitting a "Like" button on Facebook to "cure cancer".

I disagree - it's a lot more powerful than that. If it becomes generally known that politicians unethical actions will limit their opportunities in the corporate world after they leave office, it produces a strong incentive to behave more ethically.

Thank you, I was trying to figure out how to say this. For far too long politicians have ignored ethical considerations when mapping out how to maximize opportunities in the private sector.

Clearly that hasn't been the case. All of the major tech companies leaders supported Obama (Google, Apple, Yahoo, etc). He extended the wars and significantly extended the spying on US citizens which is at least as bad if not worse than anything Rice did.

I think it provides incentive to not be a part of the bizarrely hated Bush administration. Since he's unlikely to be president again, it won't have any effect at all.

Yes, it's clear that it hasn't been the case in the past. That's why it's news that it's starting to happen now.

The more it happens, the more powerful it will become. Imagine Google appointed James Clapper to their board. Don't you think there would be a response?

>Yes, it's clear that it hasn't been the case in the past. That's why it's news that it's starting to happen now.

It would only be news if was consistent and applied to everyone. Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo, etc all supported Obama, and the things he's done with the NSA are at least as bad as what Rice did. Dropbox and Rice are getting fallout because of some bizarre hatred for the Bush administration and not some newfound resolve to be ethical at all times. Yes Google would have fallout for appointing Clapper. They wouldn't have any from Hilary Clinton or Joe Biden or Obama himself, which would be the real equivalents to Dropbox appointing Rice. FWIW, Google also can't appoint Keith Alexander.

So until they day we can universally hold all politicians to account, we should hold none of them to account?

I agree with you that all of these people should have their political records examined when they join corporations. Supporting this action is a starting point to have this become a more widely used tool.

I'm not saying you shouldn't, I'm just suggesting it's not news. I think this is coming from a bizarre hatred of the Bush administration in particular, and not some newfound resolve to hold individuals accountable to ethical actions. If it is simply a new action that coincidentally is starting with Condi, then great. I don't believe that to be true.

Thanks for clarifying your view. I don't see any evidence of this given that the criticism against Dr. Rice are clearly laid out, and many people have explained why they are relevant to Dropbox.

Does it? She probably thinks she behaved ethically. It sure hasn't done anything for politicians in general either.

This isn't something that has happened much yet. It will have an effect if it becomes a regular pattern.

I support your opinion, but have to mention that pre-Bush US was not any better. US was starting unnecessary wars for more than 200 years now, nothing has changed. Note though, that the same is true for almost any other country.

I think you have misconceptions about what American policy has been in the past. Remember all the US backed coups in South and Central America, accompied by mass slaughter of political opposition (e.g. Contras in Nicaragua) often by groups trained in US military schools, the extensive bombing campaigns in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia with 100k-1m lives lost, all the US backed dictators (Suharto, Irans Shah,...), to name just a few.

Thank you. You rightfully point out that her past actions remain relevant today, and that attempting to dismiss them by labeling them as "merely political viewpoints" does a great disservice to everybody.

This woman is directly and indirectly responsible for destroying hundreds of thousands of lives. That should somehow reflect on her resumé, shouldn't it?

Now she's being placed in charge of people's personal data. That's not just bad politics, it's bad ethics, and it's bad business.

Shouldn't crimes be tried in courts and not online petitions? Does a majority of users get to decide if you've done something wrong enough to disqualify you from a board? A vocal minority?

> Shouldn't crimes be tried in courts and not online petitions?

Criminal punishments are imposed by courts. Things that may arguably be crimes can also have non-criminal consequences.

> Does a majority of users get to decide if you've done something wrong enough to disqualify you from a board?

No, usually that's the existing board that has that authority.

Users, individually, get to decide if the company has done something (including, inter alia, appointing you to the board) that makes them unwilling to do business with the company.

>Shouldn't crimes be tried in courts and not online petitions?


Luckily I don't think dropbox has enough employee's for an army nor the desire to use one. I really don't think this affects Dropbox's day to day at all.

Think about what it means to the HN culture to have a subject that normally would have been flagged out of existence as overtly political suddenly be featured front and center

It means that a bunch of people who once thought they were somehow above or apart from politics find that they are not, and that the things that happen in the world constitute news of real interest to hackers. That's growth.

It's also misleading to talk about this as an issue of ideological purity. People talk about purity when the politics of the public figure in question are not extreme enough. The problem is that she helped start a war that killed rather a lot of people, none of whom are now able to lend their voices to the discussion, and those who wish to remember those people are obliged to speak on their behalf. You don't mind her politics, and that's cool. But no one's forcing me to pay Dropbox anything. So I won't anymore.

> That's growth.

Exactly right. Everything we build has a political dimension. Every dollar or euro we spend is a vote.

We have the knowledge, we have the skills, we have the power. But as long as we compartmentalize life and work, others use our talents for evil.

The HN community has always held strong beliefs about political issues, but what did we do about it?

It's time to exercise our power and ensure our money and our skills are used for worthy purposes.

> The HN community has always held strong beliefs about political issues, but what did we do about it?

The problem is that "the HN community" doesn't have unified beliefs about nearly anything. There are people who are violently for and against: higher taxes, lower taxes, affirmative action, race-neutrality, abortion choice, life, fracking, nuclear power, wind power, birds, etc. If we declared that we couldn't work together despite differing views we'd quickly find that we're each an island. There is no single "hacker news" political view. We are comprised of atheists, baptists, catholics, jews, muslims, sikhs, janes, buddhists, and nearly every other group you can think of. Some are rich, poor, and in the middle. Old young and retired. You are free to use your money however you want, but it is not the "HN community" view.

> "the HN community" doesn't have unified beliefs about nearly anything

We don't need unanimity. We don't have to agree on every issue.

But we do have incredible power, because we're the ones who know how to build things and make them work. Those who would do evil depend on us to do our part.

I won't participate. I will deploy my talents and money against wars of choice, the police state and institutional theft.

We may not all agree, but the HN community is disproportionately interested in these issues, and has the ability to do something about them.

Then we'll democratically argue and fight about it, and people will cast votes for the news they want to see, which will determine what the general "mood" of the site is.

Its the bane and blessing of all social groups. As they get larger, people get exposed to / interact with lots of viewpoints that might not have originally been part of the core. To some level this is good, as it broadens horizons and enhances discussion. At the extreme, it all becomes bland, vaguely funny photos of animals (mostly cats).

Its why community generated sub-forums / sub-reddits are kind of genius / kind of crap, as they let folks go off and sub-fracture as far as they want until the discussion matches whatever their internal worldview is. Of course, then nothing challenges their internal worldview.

Unlike Democracy in real life, people who hold different ideologies from you on a website will simply leave and start their own websites.

Real Life Democracy forces you to work with your political opponents. Website Democracy forces everyone to think the same, or leave.

Website Democracy forces everyone to think the same, or leave.

If that were true then arguments on the Internet would be rare.

True arguments and debate on the internet are rather rare. Its generally a curbstomp in a single direction towards the predominant political opinion of the specific website.

For example, you've got Huffington Post vs Dredge Report. If you've ever visited the "conservative side" of the internet, you'd recognize it as totally night-and-day compared to the side that us (typically) liberal technocrats view.

Exactly right, and there's so much mental bias that comes from swimming in your own segregated pond all the time, if you're not careful about it.

I note that you did not include "starting wars," and "torture" in your list of things we all disagree on.


Except that she was supposed to represent our values.

If there's any irony, it's that she did more harm to American values than did Sadaam.

That's growth.

So is cancer.

HN really isn't the place for political discussions. It's even in the guidlines[1].

Off-Topic: Most stories about politics, or crime, or sports, unless they're evidence of some interesting new phenomenon

OK, yeah, they're fun in a way; and I've made the mistake of participating in a few myself (largely NSA stuff). But the thing is, there are plenty of other forums for discussing politics. There's no real reason for discussing politics here unless it has a specifically technical aspect to it.

Personally, I'd like to see HN get back to a focus on technology and business, and the intersection of the two. If the front-page were nothing but stories about Erlang, D, Javascript, acquisition announcements, new tech announcements, and "Show HN: Rate my Startup" posts, that would be a Good Thing, IMO.

[1]: http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

I'll publicly state my support of your viewpoint.

All this political talk has poisoned Hacker News for me. It has been a constant onslaught. Instead of a focus on building cool stuff, Hacker News is becoming a location for internet activism.

Oh no, now you can build cool stuff and be an internet activist on HN.

Waaait a minute.. Now I get it. These sly HN activists are forcing you to go into political threads, read them and participate in the discussion and you don't have time left for reading about cool stuff. Damn these poisonous activists!

To be fair, you have a point. But, IMO, there actually is something almost "poisonous" in a sort of insidious way, about having an influx of political articles. It seems to contribute to a slow - but perceptible - overall drift in the tone/spirit of the site and the community.

It's almost like, people come here, see the front-page at a point in time, and use that to make a snap judgment about the character and tone of the site. So if random new user A comes along and the front-page is all Erlang, Javascript, Groovy, "Foo acquired Bar for $123MM" and "Google IO tickets go on sale today" and "New advance in 3D printing", etc., they will reach a certain conclusion which will - in my theory - influence their behavior and manner from then on. OTOH, if the front-page is about Condelezza Rice, minimum-wage controversy, environmental issues, etc., that same user comes in with a whole different mindset.

Or maybe more to the point, those different front-pages attract a different category of people who stick around and become regulars. In either case, you get "scope drift".

Honestly, what this reminds me of is when Slashdot took a pronounced turn towards a more openly political "flavor" and developed a much stronger leftist bias and became what people were calling "SlashKos".

What we want to say is "the front page is a zero-sum game". Every political article forces out an article on hacking and startups, and attracts the kind of people to the site who want to talk politics, not startups.

Can't you folks that want to talk politics just go somewhere else? There are tons of sites on the internet for that kind of discussion. Don't wreck one of the few that's good for tech and startups.


I felt the same way about the constant barrage of NSA threads last summer, and I can't help recalling that you've submitted a good number of such stories yourself. It's a bit hard to take your complaints about scope creep seriously under such circumstances; if those submissions were relevant, then surely so is this one on the basis of Rice's empowerment of the NSA during her tenure as National Security Adviser.

I have mixed feelings about the NSA stories. I think some of them were somewhat relevant, but maybe they weren't all relevant. Or, maybe none of them were. Maybe I thought they were at the time, and now I think I was wrong in hindsight. Truth be told, I don't remember exactly what I did and didn't submit, versus what I simply commented on. I will allow that I let myself get drawn into that discussion pretty deeply at times, and now I doubt that was a wise thing to do, for exactly this reason.

Don't get me wrong... the NSA story is absolutely important and the overall issue is something I'm passionate about. My question now (and should have been before) is "is this a good topic for HN"?

Edit: you piqued my curiosity, so I went back through my submissions for the past year or so. And yes, I did submit a few Snowden/NSA stories (I count around 10-12 depending on what you include as "Snowden/NSA related"), and some of those I would look back and say "Nah, not worthy". But by the same token, I think most people who bothered to go through my history[1] would say that a small percentage of my submission are political or clearly off-topic.

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/submitted?id=mindcrime

Every frontpage link on Condoleezza Rice is a link that could have been about technical stuff.

Heck, the only Knuth related thing to hit Hacker News front page in months is only based on some political plea he sent to Condoleezza Rice.

Were you able to read all the other stuff that was posted on HN today(at least 4 pages deep)? If yes, then sure, your experience on HN was "degraded" by these stories. I doubt that, though.

Dude, you're right now responding to me constantly. What you're doing _right now_ is the kind of political crap I'd rather not be part of.

Try out lobste.rs

It's way too easy to argue about politics on the net without any real effect--too fun, too easy, and too useless.

Try out lobste.rs

I do, and I like lobste.rs, but it's a little bit of a catch-22. Lobste.rs is more "ideologically pure" because the userbase is smaller, but that smaller userbase also means there is a lot less discussion going on at any given time. But I think we're clearly starting to see aspects of the "Eternal September" effect here, due to the user growth over the years. So what can ya do? sigh

It's way to easy to argue about politics on the net without any real effect--too fun, too easy, and too useless.

So very true. :-(

So, some of the problem--a good part, really--is that political discussion need not be furious debate and talking past each other.

An article on some sort of political theory, on some philosophy of governance, etc. can lead to useful discussion. Having more systems articles on politics is something I wouldn't mind seeing on HN at all.

But, most articles posted (I believe--haven't run a report on it) do not seem to lend themselves to that sort of thoughtful analysis.

> is that political discussion need not be furious debate and talking past each other.

No, but it's pretty much bound to wind up that way. The effort to put forth a well-considered, nuanced, reasoned point of view is an order of magnitude more than that required for a snarky one-liner about "dude, like, the US is, like, totally not a democracy and stuff". Which means that the latter out-competes the former.

The voting system should be at least a partial feedback loop against that effect, but it's obviously not perfect, especially if people view it as "agree/disagree" rather than "quality/not quality". I get the sense that reddit has historically been the former whereas HN was mostly the latter.

It's actually the opposite, historically rediquette was to upvote quality and not downvote just because you disagree. Where as HN policy is to downvote things you disagree with. The difference is just that reddit grew faster and had a broader focus. Without careful moderation HN will grow (both in users and topic types submitted) and will suffer from eternal september as well.

Ah good to know about Reddit, I never saw that phase. HN wasn't the opposite, though it seems to be getting more that way.

And Brendan Eich gave $1000 to an organization people don't approve of. A guy made a joke at a convention about dongles and got fired. A whole lot of Sci-Fi authors were prevented from publishing at Tor because they identify themselves as politically conservative.

This particular pattern has been growing over the last decade or two. The politics in question are growing more extreme and the required level of political correctness demanded is also getting more extreme. One exception does not disprove the pattern.

I won't disagree with you - more and more, people wear their politics on their sleeves and have their ears plugged to any view to which they don't agree. This isn't restricted to leftists going after conservatives, nor conservatives going after leftists. It's everywhere.

I think it's one of the side-effects of living in a society where so much information is available. In the past, we could know the politics of people in our immediate surroundings, but we also had to take our relationship into account. We might be acquainted with politics on a larger scale, but the people behind it were much more distant.

Now, we can be exposed to any and every political viewpoint out there, frequently whether we were looking for it or not. The kinds of politics we can be exposed to aren't just local and we're surrounded by a sea of strangers, all clamoring for our attention.

The natural reaction is to filter out the things we don't agree with and with so much political noise, we have to do it vehemently, just adding more noise. Or we can take another route, which is just to let someone else do the thinking for us, and there are people all too willing to step into that role.

Even though I lean left, I don't think Eich was the wrong choice for CEO. His religious beliefs didn't really have much to do with the job. I could probably work for the guy and disagree with him all the same, but it wouldn't matter - that would not be the nature of our work together.

Dr. Rice is another matter entirely. Her entire legacy under the Bush administration disgusts me. I would gladly chauffeur her to the doors of the World Court for her involvement in what I thoroughly believe are war crimes. Furthermore, her beliefs on privacy and security being subservient to the needs of the state are almost equally as disgusting to me.

I really hope Dropbox will reconsider adding her. I'm sure they can find someone else to fill their needs to work with foreign governments who is far less engaged with the state apparatus destroying our personal liberties.

This situation has nothing to do with technology. It's not some passive "I won't listen to this guy because he disagrees with me" stance. People are going out of their way to make sure people who have political opinions they disagree with can't work. All three of my examples show this. And there are many, many more examples. Academia and public education are two, just off the top of my head.

It started with conservative christians. Now that the most undesirable element is gone, the purges have expanded to anybody who isn't as extreme as the loudest member. As time goes on, the required politics have gotten more and more extreme. There's no evidence of this trend slowing down or stopping.

It means that a bunch of people who once thought they were somehow above or apart from politics find that they are not, and that the things that happen in the world constitute news of real interest to hackers. That's growth.

Unless the views that "unite" them are repulsive. If Rice's viewpoints were the polar opposite and we were all jumping on the bandwagon to boycott dropbox because they didn't support torture enough, would that be "growth"?

Of course not.

You don't like Rice's views on this issue, and want to convince people-- including the HN community-- that she was wrong on this issue, and that her views on other issues (warantless wiretaps, etc.) are dangerous for a business like dropbox. Moreover, you don't want to support dropbox now that Rice is a board member. Fine. But to claim that just because we all (or at least most of us) disagree with her views, that in and of itself means that we're "growing" as a community is genuinely dangerous-- because at some point, most of us are going to be wrong about something, and arguing on ideological merit is going to be the only thing that can "save" us. Simply saying that "we all agree, and that's growth" will just ensure that we're all wrong forever.

Your comment and the fact that it's the top-voted one are disturbing in what they imply about the moral attitudes of this community.

Everything you've so passionately stated with such deep concern can be summarized as, "Let's not persecute people in the startup world for their political beliefs."

I would agree with that statement, however it is entirely irrelevant in this case-- the first three items in that article were entirely non-political. Inciting a war on false pretenses, aiding the administration in violating the Geneva convention, and violating civil liberties via warrantless wiretap have nothing to do with Democrats vs. Republicans.

These things aren't controversial political stances, they are international crimes. People are outraged at her appointment to Dropbox because there's a large body of evidence suggesting that she's a war criminal, not because she's a Republican.

Domestically, we've somehow decided that the Iraq war is a moot point, something better left in the past. But internationally, where our former president has actually been convicted of war crimes in absentia, you can't just lamely pretend that this is just a matter of "different strokes for different folks."

It's comforting to frame this as a political issue rather than a criminal one, because the alternative is too exhausting and frightening to grapple with. Unfortunately, none of the perpetrators of these war crimes are ever likely to face charges and be tried in court. But at the very least, we can prevent these international suspects and convicted criminals from enjoying high-paying careers in the private sector.

For the record, even though I am staunchly in favor of marriage equality, I did not agree with the witch hunt surrounding Brendan Eich. That was a political issue; it should be easy for you to tell the difference.

> Your comment and the fact that it's the top-voted one are disturbing in what they imply about the moral attitudes of this community.

I can only presume a large chunk of the SV and HN commentariat would have considered the most important thing about the 50s and 60s black boycotts of segregated businesses in the US south was the "victimisation of business owners."

...but think of the corporations :)

Great, I am not the only one. I'm kind of taken aback how an optional war that was started by Ms. Rice that left 100s of thousands dead is somehow being chalked up to "free speech".

"Your comment and the fact that it's the top-voted"

I wonder if it is really top-voted.

When does something turn from "political" into "criminal"? Crimes are defined by politics - thus war criminal and international law are completely political. Similar to how someone can say "Aaron Swartz's case is not political at all, he violated criminal hacking laws!" And yet at some point, politicians decided to enact the laws that criminalized his behavior.

Similarly, someone has to set the laws for war as well, to define what a "war crime" and "false pretenses" are.

Everyone believes his or her point of view, that one specific version of war crimes is correct and above the realm of politics. Ultimately though, everything is "different strokes for different folks". Abortion? Killing unborn children, or denying women's rights?

Who has convicted any of George Bush, Condoleezza Rice, etc. for war crimes?

And who ultimately gets to decide and enforce the actions of an international court? Whoever has the biggest army. "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter". No one has a big enough army to put Americans on trial for any war (bet it Vietnam, Korea, Kosovo, Iraq)

The one thing I agree most with is that Rice's actions are far more substantial and far-reaching than Eich's. On her imaginary resume somewhere is presumably "Secretary of State" and everyone's mental bullet point of "Iraq War" - that is part of her professional career and she should be judged upon that for job fitness. As offputting or not one may consider Eich's actions (what if it were not gay marriage but some other minority position in the tech world, say pro-life or anti-marijuana legalization he had donated to?), his were pretty much completely separated from his professional career.

This isn't about taking Rice to court or trying to prosecute her for anything. It is simply "she did things we don't like, so we won't use products of the businesses she is leading". Probably because we don't have faith in those products with people we so strongly disagree with for their actions in positions of power.

Same thing with Mozilla and Eich. This isn't about someones free speech - I don't care if you are a sexist racist zoophile, until you start using power (be it capital or influence) to further those views and hurt others in the name of those beliefs. I'll have all the debates you want and consider you just fine and just thinking from a different perspective until you start doing real damage.

Here is an example: I have racist relatives, but I don't disown them for their beliefs or prejudices. I'll have all the debates and conversations with them on the topic that they want, as long as we both understand we are just engaging in debate. But the day they started donating to the KKK (or more appropriately I find out they are doing it, I can't make rational choices without complete information) I would never speak to them again and disown them, unless they apologized and admitted their wrongs and the suffering they caused. And I'd tell all my other relatives my beliefs and why I do it, and ask them to do the same.

The corollary is also that Rice (and many other figures in recent, post-WWII American wars) remain highly controversial, but the moral condemnation is not universal the way it is for certain other wars. In the SF Bay Area tech scene, there does seem to be a seriously strong consensus - and Obama is also negatively regarded when it comes to issues of continuing wars, wiretapping, etc. but generally not as strongly

No one is proposing laws about who can hold given positions. There is no free speech angle here. What's happening on HN is exactly what our system wants to happen: answer speech you don't like with more speech!

There's a lot at stake here, which is why people are reacting so forcefully. What kind of values does the SV community have? What kind of values do Y Combinator and HN have? People are coming here because HN and Y Combinator very much helped make Dropbox what it is, and if that creation is now paying and giving prestige to a person who has gravely harmed the world, for bad reasons, a lot of people will object and are objecting to that.

A free society has the right to determine what it values. I hope our community decides to value ethics and humanitarianism. One way we can express those values is to speak out against companies that help criminals launder their reputations.

> No one is proposing laws about who can hold given positions. There is no free speech angle here.

This is a total straw man. The comment you are responding to does not mention "free speech" once.

The point is: you are part of a significant, vocal group that is enjoying using its clout to blackball public figures from the tech industry over certain political views that are only held by a minority in tech. Should any of your views ever put you distinctly in the minority, you will understand why the precedent you are setting is a dangerous one.

>over certain political views

A misrepresentation.

Dropbox is being held accountable for associating with a person who has committed certain political actions that had immediate and far-reaching negative consequences on local and global scale.

So who decides when voicing your opinion is bullying or "blackballing" and when it's just exercising your free speech?

How exactly is my making the choice of whether or not to continue using a service "blackballing" someone?

It's not. Simple as that.

Straw man?

"In a free society, people can unite in their business ventures even though they might be far apart in how they view the world generally."

This is in contrast with what the author sees as the harrowing implications of user outrage about Rice: ie., an un-free society in which people cannot unite. He describes "rules" as if the mob is somehow enforcing a tyrannical reign over businesses like dropbox.

I'd say it differently: I'm part of a significant, vocal group that has strong opinions about the ethics of its members. This isn't "us against them," it's us holding ourselves to higher standards. The problem isn't that we disagree with Rice. The problem is that when given power she repeatedly took actions that harmed both the united states and the world that many other people knew at the time she shouldn't have taken.

Also "free speech" means something specific: It means the government can't make laws limiting your speech. It does not say I have to do anything to support that "right". As long as I am not violating another law (ie racial prejudice) I can fight or limit your "free speech" as much as I want.

You are confusing free speech and the First Amendment. The First Amendment protects free speech against the U.S. government, but governmental control is not the only aspect of free speech. Free speech is a larger issue.

Edit: if what you are saying were true, there wouldn't be any free speech issues in any country besides the United States.

Clearly that is not the case.

It sounds like you're saying that if there are any consequences for speech then it isn't free. This probably isn't what you really mean so please feel free to clarify your argument. I'd rather debate your real position than rip apart a strawman.

I said nothing of the sort.

What I said was free speech and the First Amendment aren't the same thing.

Are you claiming that they are? If you are, we can have a debate. If not, there's no issue here to debate.

You're correct that all you said was that free speech and the first amendment aren't the same thing. The statement that you replied to indicated that a response to your speech was not limiting your freedom of speech. I read your response as disagreeing with this statement as well as pointing out the difference between the first amendment and the broader concept of free speech. Did I misinterpret what you wrote?

Dude, you didn't "misinterpret" anything. You just made shit up.

I've found that conversations with people who do that kind of thing are almost never a productive use of my time.


I believe this is different precisely because we aren't necessarily using "political, social, or religious tests as criteria". In this case it's pretty nearly the polar opposite: we're using her past public performance in past professional roles. No one is digging into her private history, quite the opposite; people are looking into past statements that she's made to the public (at hearings, in newspaper interviews, etc.)

Rice has clearly demonstrated that she favors sharing information with the government and law enforcement if they claim that they need that information, by any means necessary. It seems both reasonable and proper that those who would prefer Dropbox to hold a stronger position on the privacy of their customers would see this as an ominous sign.

Exactly, no one is saying "If you are a Republican you shouldn't be on the DB board" they are saying "If you support warrantless wiretapping and were an accomplice in lying to the American public in order to start a war then you shouldn't be on the DB board". This isn't because of her political affiliation but because of what she did.

People are saying exactly that about Eich, Prop 8, and Mozilla though. Saying that it's a category error to equate Eich and Rice is fair. Saying that "no one is saying..." is a bit off.

Eich's documented actions, not his private views, are the primary thing that got him drummed out of Mozilla. While on a whole different level than being a participant in one of the greatest losses of life in human history, let's call it what it is.

Eich's defenders have been quick to spin this as an ideological thing, when at its core, it really isn't.

This is exactly what top parent comment was talking about.

If someone from ideological group A dislikes something from group B and calls that out, then it's "discrimination against private views", and wrong and evil and "an ideological thing".

But if someone from group B calls out group A, then it's "documented actions" which are the cause and suddenly it's absolutely okay to lock group A out of polite society on those grounds.

Lucky for group B they have this absolutely objective, unquestionable standard for discrimination and intolerance, be it "documented actions", or whatever else is convenient at the moment. Groups A' and B' over a different issue can disagree all they want, and both of those views are acceptable in polite society, but if you're in group A then, by god, that's just not okay; that's objectively wrong!

It starts simple. "Racism is objectively wrong, and holding racist views absolutely means you should be locked out of polite society." Ohkaaay.... I can't disagree with that per se (which just goes to show how deep this problem goes). Then "sexism is objectively wrong, and holding sexist views means no CEO position for you!" Well.... I suppose that's a good thing, right? "Believing in God is objectively unacceptable." Uh, guys? "Voting Republican just shouldn't be allowed." And there you go.

I'm not saying it's a slippery slope we should never step on, because I've been brainwashed by society to absolutely agree with the first step—I've been raised to think racism is objectively wrong. Society is wearing away at my views on the second position; eventually I'll have to agree with that or go the way of the dinosaurs, and I know I will go with society, because that's what people do, whether we want it or not. But this is exactly how things like "Jews just aren't human" get started. Sure, it doesn't look like that now; surely discrimination against LGBT is something we should get rid of any way we can, right?

No. Intolerance will never achieve tolerance; discrimination will never achieve non-discrimination; punishing thoughtcrime will never achieve freethinking. To think otherwise is just, well... objectively wrong.

During the Eich and Mozilla debacle, one comment that made sense to me was along the lines of "Eich may enjoy his free speech and donate his personal resource to whomever he likes. I dislike his speech and am free to immediately stop using Firefox, Thunderbird, etc."

In this case, I'm saying that "Rice may enjoy expressing her professional opinions to newspapers, etc. as part of her job function. I dislike her professional opinions and fear that she may actually believe them, thus degrading the privacy that I enjoy as provided by Dropbox. For that reason, I will stop using Dropbox, Mailbox, etc."

The only additional piece that I was trying to get across was that, with Eich, we had little insight into this thought process, motivations, etc. The only bit of information we had was the knowledge that he had donated the money and the amount (as far as I know). With Rice, on the other hand, we're talking about a position she publicly held as part of her job function; we have interviews, press releases, etc. To me, it seems a bit more reasonable to think that she may bring some of these opinions to bear in her role as a Dropbox board member.

The world as a general whole, and the United States in particular, has been moving in a more open, more inclusive direction both socially and legally for quite some time. First blacks, then women, now LGB's (and hopefully soon T's).

There is not only no evidence to suggest that ludicrous extremes like the one you posed are anywhere near happening, the evidence (at least if we're analyzing the existing pattern) points in the complete opposite direction.

But this is exactly how things like "Jews just aren't human" get started.

Stop it. This is not only unhelpful, it's pandering to a completely absurd fear.

The pattern is a bright, unmistakable line, and the massive majority of people I see complaining about it are attempting to make an excuse for bad behavior in one way or another - thinking that certain actions shouldn't have any consequences because of this irrational (or is it?) fear that they'll be next.

Sorry, we left that world behind the moment we entered the information age, and trying to haul it back is ludditism at its finest.

Actions have consequences whether or not anyone likes it.

The moment a movement to deny rights from Jews or whatever starts up with any seriousness and with any level of mainstream acceptance, I'll be right there with you asking "WTF?!" - but in the meantime, let's stop trying to compare intolerance of harmful actions to intolerance of someone based on what they are. Tolerating evil makes you at least a little complicit in it.

Not only are they not the same thing, but the motivations in play are lightyears apart.

I don't disagree with anything you said here[1]; the only problem is it completely misses the point of my comment.

> let's stop trying to compare intolerance of harmful actions to intolerance of someone based on what they are

Again, this just subscribes to the view that when group A is intolerant, that's "intolerance of someone based on what they are", or whatever the big evil thing is now; but when group B is intolerant, that's okay, because they had a rational/moral/[other brand of objective correctness] basis for that intolerance. All this amounts to is "yeah, intolerance is evil, but when I do it then it's okay". That's just ignorant. The motivations are exactly the same: you believe B so strongly that anyone who believes/expresses/does A just shouldn't be allowed to exist.

Someone truly bigoted toward LGBT individuals could just as easily say, "it's their actions which are harmful" (and in fact that argument is used by various people and organizations); which just goes to show that your position is one of true bigotry, just one which happens to be supported by the outspoken minority at the moment.

See my last statement: intolerance will never lead to tolerance. It absolutely doesn't matter whether it's group A, B, C, or Z; whether they're claiming rational, moral, religious, or political justification; whether it's intolerance of actions or beliefs or existence; whether it's systematic or occasional; whatever. Repeat after me: intolerance will never achieve tolerance; discrimination will never achieve non-discrimination; punishing thoughtcrime will never achieve freethinking.

If you truly believe that the way to tolerance is through intolerance, feel free to explain to me how that works; but in the meantime, well, in the way that society has taught me so well, I demand that you take your objectively intolerable ideas elsewhere. (See how that works?)

[1 Up until "Tolerating evil makes you at least a little complicit in it" and what comes after; because at that point it just turned into incoherent drivel/propaganda.]

I don't particularly disagree with your moral relativism. But I will point out that there are obviously axioms we can base our beliefs on (be they "harming people is bad" or "gods are good so do what they say") and we build up from them to a point were the underlying reasoning is lost and actions can be viewed as both good or bad so obviously reasonable people can hold different views. However the issue with saying we shouldn't be intolerant of intolerance is that nearly everyone agrees that we don't have the perfect world. You're asking us to break the feedback loop when we know things aren't right. Perhaps you're just arguing caution before deciding to boycott and argue for a boycott, still I would argue the action is not unreasonable and it is derived from a basis on very sound axioms.

> I will point out that there are obviously axioms we can base our beliefs on

In fact I would strongly reject moral relativism as it relates to forming one's own views and beliefs and guiding one's own actions. However, the point is we cannot use those same axioms as ideological litmus tests. In order to achieve a free and tolerant society—and it's left to question whether this goal is laudable, but within this context we must act as if it is, since that's the framework we've decided to work within—we have to allow other members of our society to have different axioms, or indeed to be moral relativists or what-have-you.

intolerance will never lead to tolerance.

Tolerating intolerance means tacit acceptance of it.

Sorry, but if you and I can't agree on this one fundamental principle, we have nothing further to discuss. You're attempting to equate two things which are inherently not.

I demand that you take your objectively intolerable ideas elsewhere. (See how that works?)

I refuse. See how that works?

>> Politics, religion, and social worldviews divide people and have no place as limiting tests in a business environment.

Of course they do.

Voting with our wallets is almost the only democratic right remaining to us lowly consumers these days. Choosing which companies to support directly impacts the sort of society we build.

>> Do we really want a counterpart agenda now setting rules for who can be a founder, who can be an investor, who can be a director, who can be a CEO, or who can otherwise take a prominent role in the startup world? The answer should be an emphatic no.

Who's setting rules? People are saying 'if you take on this person, whose views I disagree with so very fundamentally, I can no longer have any trust in your organisation meeting my needs'.

There is nothing at all wrong with this.

So you're invoking antisemitism and McCarthyism (but not quite getting to Nazism) in discussing people reacting badly to the appointment of someone widely considered a war criminal to a board position (type "condaleeza rice war" into Google and it will autocomplete for you -- handy).

"What matters is upholding the abiding principle (precious in a free society) that people can hold divergent views on such topics as politics, religion, and society without being punished for their views in a business context."

In a free society, is business the most important thing?

Ideological purity tests, references to communist witch hunts and a plea to unite? Interesting framing of this. Noticed another commenter mention you're mixing views & actions. It's like naming a fast food CEO to the Department of Health or someone who worked to undermine safety standards to OSHA. I really don't care whether it's a man or woman, black or white, republican or democrat, christian or atheist - it's about the product and the message this sends to users isn't good.

I find your line of reasoning very strange. It's also a red herring.

This is not about simply holding "different political views". In fact, the article doesn't mention political ideology (except to dismiss it as its rationale). This is about actual actions taken, some of which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, torture, and the destruction of fundamental American principles.

So, your comment, which frames it as some sort of thought-policing or ideological litmus-testing in the startup world, is entirely misleading. Instead, what you are effectively doing is taking exception to the idea that she should face any consequences for her actions.

In fact, there are many who feel that she is guilty of war crimes and should be tried as such. No matter where you come down on that issue, it is difficult to argue that it is completely unreasonable. So, as far as Ms. Rice is concerned, perhaps she should be grateful that the consequences of her actions are so thoroughly muted as to only potentially cost her a board seat.

At the end of the day, asking people to vote with their dollars as to whether they want to support a company that has a relationship with someone whose actions they find deplorable (and possibly illegal) seems completely reasonable.

Yes! Let's not fall for the false equivalence of competing ideologies. Unnecessarily killing and injuring innocents is evil, full stop.

Shunning is a healthy, grassroots, social expression of disapproval. It is right and fair that people should express their opinions via economic choices. It is not enough to vote only once every few years. You must tolerate grassroots action like this or you will help to entrench totalitarianism.

Nobody is saying there ought to be a law. They are exercising their freedom peacefully and lawfully. You should celebrate that even when you disagree.

Dropbox is free to hire Ms. Rice. Everyone else is free to shun them for it.

Dropbox news is HN fodder. The political nature of Ms. Rice's reputation does not make the topic any less relevant to HN.

You're conflating views with actions.

The linked page talks nothing about Rice's views, it talks about the way that she has used her power in this world, and what the outcomes have been.

If you're advocating that the business context should be somehow special, a place where people should be free of the consequences of their actions in other realms, I'm going to have to disagree with you.

I want a company to actively fight the government's intrusion into my data, to ensure that my rights are defended.

With this appointment, I have no faith that the Dropbox Board of Directors see their role this way.

If you want that from a company, isn't having someone who used to be deeply involved in the other side a great way to do it?

I'm not saying that's what they'll do, but we don't know either way do we?

If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and has on numerous occasions gone on Sunday morning talk shows to assert that being a duck is the only way to preserve America's place as a leader in the free world...

...it's a duck.

Political connections create multiple conflict of interests in various domains, namely providing access to power and information as long as the person in question doesn't act against those connections. It is very improbable that Rice would be working against her past political allies for democracy ideals, taking into consideration her track record.

Not when they have a history of not seeing your side of it as important in the slightest, no.

Do you really believe that that's what she'll do now that she works for Dropbox?

Let's try a similar but different example to see how this works in practice. The SEC enforces laws on Wall St. There's a revolving door between Wall St firms and the SEC. Do you believe this leads to better enforcement?

I think the most salient point in this comment is whether the story belongs on HN (or, that its presence says something about HN readers/mods).

As to the rest, people can, should, and do judge leaders in business and politics by their worldviews. That is how democracy and free speech operate. If your customers want to express their opinion about a CEO's views and the potential insecurity of their product or the immorality of things going on behind the scenes, they have every right to boycott and publicly protest. This is especially considering that HN users are a good representative sample of Dropbox users and the technically literate, while the "rest" of America are unlikely to be affected either way. In fact, protest and boycott are the ONLY powers Dropbox customers have to address the problems they see, so denying them this power by shame or nostalgia for an American Flavor is decidedly unAmerican.

To give a less politically-charged example: I refuse to eat at Jimmy-John's Sandwiches because the owner/creator is a known poacher of endangered animals. You're telling me that I should ignore that because his political view is that preserving endangered animals is less important than hunting sport, and that's irrelevant to the business. Well to me a sandwich is less important than making a statement.

On the other hand, no company should be legally prevented from willfully hiring or appointing whomever they can get. But to say that everyone should avert their eyes as long as the decisions appear ethical from the outside is ludicrous.

Corporations wield far more power today than they ever had in history. Where you spend your money likely influences the world (for better or worse) far more than who you vote for.

Some corporations care only for profit, others are concerned about the responsibilities implied by their success and influence. I want to support the later and not the former. I don't see anything unreasonable about that.

Who a company hires in a leadership role is inevitably a reflection of their values. It hints at what they will prioritize and how they will use the money I am paying them. Putting Rice on the board strongly suggests that they don't care what she believes, they only care about profit. Or, worse still, that they agree with her.

I don't want to support a corporation that is for profit alone, nor one whose values are at odds with basic human rights.

*edited for grammar and wording

Companies are not benevolent or useful for society per se. The positive or negative externalities of their actions are defined by their business models, business strategies, top management and board of directors.

If Dropbox board of directors is fine to sit in the same room with the person who was connected with patriot act, iraq war, massive surveillance and torture, I, personally, don't want to have anything in common with such board and such top management and the products they make.

One might say "This is different" because trust in US products and services and tens to hundreds of billions of dollars are at stake.

As for the "politics" of it, "Are you, or have you ever been part of the surveillance state?" is not a question about one's political views. It is more like the question in Germany "Were you a Stasi officer or informant?"

IMHO actively helping launch an unnecessary war that killed tens of thousands (a very conservative estimate) of civilians while costing hundreds of billions of dollars that could have been spent in ways that benefit the American taxpayer is much worse than supporting PRISM or working for the NSA.

I'm kind of floored that anyone in our industry would appoint a former Bushevik at all.

To be fair, the Mozilla thing was much more the "Are you now, or have you ever supported a political issue we don't agree with?" in nature. I'm not saying I agree with it, but that's the same type of question...

Eich was in a much wobblier position from the beginning, with board members resigning over his appointment, public denials about that, and eventual confirmation. That alone might have doomed him and the rest is noise.

There was no confirmation about board members resigning,


2 stepped down because they had other stuff to do, the other 1 because of something that is not prop-8 related.

John Lilly publicly confirmed he resigned rather than appoint Eich, without elaboration. I did not say the board resignations had to do with Eich's material support for Prop 8. WSJ stated all three resigned because of Eich's appointment, and none contradicted that report.

Except that question was asked by free citizens, not by a government.

Dear everyone,

I think we should not forget about this slide: http://www.extremetech.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/PRISM-...

so basically this move, in my opinion, just means that dropbox has been added to that very list and there is no point in using other providers shown as an alternative (e.g. google) or even just hope that dropbox will care more about privacy after she steps down eventually.

That's kind of my point. Rice is not getting a pushback from HN because she's Republican, or because she worked in the government under Bush or anything else. It's not about a single group.

It's what the move symbolizes. If there is someone on board who pushed for warrantless searches/taps/etc and someone who probably would be in favor of PRISM and was in favor of past other programs, then I don't want to be affiliated with that company. And Rice was a public figure who spoke about the Patriot Act, searches, doing things in the name of "national security", wars, blacklisting etc.

That makes me question the person's morals, and shakes my belief in how the company will be run if someone on the board has these kinds of morals and will be making decisions that may affect my data and my person.

".. people can hold divergent views on such topics as politics, religion, and society without being punished for their views in a business context."

I think the problem here is that it is more than just holding divergent views. Rice was a major contributor in planning/executing the Iraq War which majority of Americans have opposed in the long run. Not to mention the number of civilian casualty just because we thought they had weapons of mass destruction.

Anyone is free to hold any views they want. But their actions based on those views have consequences.

This isn't the same issue as Mozilla's Brendan Eich stepping down because he held views against gay marriage. That is a free speech issue that has 0 consequence to his capacity to contribute to a better free and open web.

Your last paragraph rings true. But this is so far removed from simply allowing a business person to contribute to businesses, in spite of their political, religious, and societal beliefs. This is a person who was instrumental to the patriot act. More than that, Dropbox, which at its core, is a decentralized store of information, now has a member of the board who was instrumental in implementing the capacity for governments to peep into information without warrant.

This goes much further than simply allowing a person to hold different beliefs than ours. This is about a person, who has implemented legislation that has taken away fundamental rights of individuals, and who is now a member of the board of a go-to app for plenty of individuals and businesses.

If we allow people who we consider morally reprehensible to practice their business without question and profit off of us, perhaps there is something flawed with the business-as-usual approach.* It is only when you take a stand against these business-as-usual mindsets that pervade our culture do things change. We can't always expect perfection by people speaking out, but if we yell and scream at people who are angry and browbeat them into complacence, the problems (Rice's awful track record) are deemed acceptable by society and are likely to repeat themselves.

*By business-as-usual, I'm referring to your statement -- that someone can freely practice business no matter what acts they've committed, or wrongs they've perpetrated on humanity.

It's not about an opinion or belonging to a certain group such as Jews, Christians or communists here.

It's about preventing people to rise to power who are in favour of crimes against humanity such as hate and suppression against certain demographics (gays) or killings of hundreds of thousands thousands of people, just as if they were in favour of other crimes against humanity such as racism, slavery or freedom of speech.

Debates on Brendan Eich and Condoleezza Rice seem to boil down three separate questions:

1) Is there any belief or action not directly related to someone's job that should disqualify them from their position?

2) If the answer to #1 is yes, does this specific issue cross that threshold?

3) Does the answer to #1 change based on their position within a company, e.g. a regular employee vs a CEO?

I've seen well-reasoned arguments for many different combinations of those opinions, and I have a lot of respect for most of the combinations I've seen, e.g.

- Even if a white separatist contributed money to a campaign to revive "separate but equal" Jim Crow legislation, we shouldn't oppose their employment if they have a history of working well with all co-workers/employees in a diverse company.

- Some political beliefs/actions would disqualify someone, but gay marriage equality is not (yet) beyond the pale, especially given the high percentage of Americans who hold the same beliefs.

- Gay marriage is indeed an issue that should reasonably factor into employment positions, but only for a select few leadership positions such as CEO due to the disproportionate power within a company held by people in those few positions.

What makes these debates problematic is people talking past each other without realizing they're debating different questions. This gets worse because each of the 3 questions I listed have many sub-categories.

Since grellas' posted about question #1, I hope people recognize that and tailor their responses to the argument he is actually making, in the spirit of "colleagues trying to reason out the truth together". Because he argued for employment to be belief-neutral, I'll summarize the three arguments I'm seeing on these threads which are relevant to that specific question:

1) Past behavior is a signal for future action, and Rice's position on the Board of Directors sends an unacceptable signal about how seriously Dropbox takes privacy. Even a person against boycotts based on political or religious beliefs has strong reason to oppose Rice's appointment to the Board.

2) Rice is a war criminal who happens to have not been prosecuted. Refusing to do business with a company who appointed a criminal who'd committed equivalently-serious-but-non-political crimes and escaped prosecution wouldn't raise any eyebrows, so why should this?

3) All people have a responsibility to discourage behaviors which are provably detrimental to the functioning of a well-ordered society. General litmus-testing of beliefs (or even actions) causes more problems than it solves, but Rice's behavior was so far over the line that we are morally obligated to marginalize her and all of her colleagues who behaved similarly during the Bush administration.

I'm not sure whether I agree with any of the above arguments, but I respect each of them, and I hope that either Hacker News figures out how to debate them civilly or that the moderators pull all stories like this off the frontpage.

> Since grellas' post was an argument about question #1, I hope people are able to recognize that and tailor their responses to the argument he is actually making, in the spirit of "colleagues trying to reason out the truth together".

I think grellas comment was tactless. He used his karma to publish a largely meta argument, ignoring the debate as well as the link and not responding to anyone else afterwards. This isn't "colleagues trying to reason out the truth together" to me. It's also indistinguishable from the type of comment you would post if you wanted to derail the more specific discussion. Often because your viewpoint lacks good arguments.

It might sound tactless because it breaks down the illusion of moral superiority that most sides in a political battle believe they have. In general, people don't like being told they may in fact be wrong, they want to believe their side is unique, superior, and the other side is committing crimes against humanity/unborn children/whatever it may be. When a huge proportion of the broader population (not necessarily HN) disagrees, in order to function as a society we need to remove these litmus tests. (The most compelling Rice-specific argument is about internet privacy vs. government surveillance, which goes beyond this - he's speaking of the "personal becoming political" in general)

It's completely relevant to the debate though and not de-railing, when it directly addresses the point of boycotting Dropbox for something political. Our society is becoming more polarized on these issues and (internet) forums of self-selecting ideologies and subgroups contribute to this. Going boycott is one weapon in an arsenal of political expression - now how often should people use it? (The next level of course is street protest, institutionalized ideology, and the extreme is fighting a war over it).

If we used a boycott at every opportunity, at every disagreement, where would we be? Would Christians, Muslims, and atheists ever do business with each other? Would pro-lifers and pro-choicers be able to open their mouths without calling each other baby murderers/misogynists? He's basically saying, draw the line closer to where the overall population is, so society can function without imploding. And we generally go about this on an everyday basis. Geographical self-segregation also tends to help. It's a moral cognitive dissonance, but one that people draw various lines for. My theory is those who have a more logical/black and white and less socially influenced conception (which may be more common in geeks) have a harder time squaring with this cognitive dissonance.

> If we used a boycott at every opportunity, at every disagreement, where would we be?

If we used a slippery slope argument at every opportunity, at every disagreement, where would we be? Would we be able to buy milk for fear of the veritable avalanche of milk we may end up buying in the future? Could we stand the idea of going to work one day under the contemplation of spending the next thousand years, every day, going to work?

Boycotts are not new. They are not novel to Eich's situation and it working is not a sign of a Brave New World in which every person boycotts every other person.

If I'm wrong, and in ten years I can't talk to you because I have a beard and you don't, please feel free to say "I told you so," but in the meantime this kind of argument is just ridiculous.

The point is not the slippery slope of "all boycotts are bad" or "boycott everything!" but rather that we've become too trigger-happy and insular in boycotting non-tech political opinions that while mainstream outside of Silicon Valley, are not inside.

The entire debate is on when a boycott is appropriate and grellas is arguing to draw the line farther than the current one that's solidifying in tech. Cynically, it just has to do with fitting in with your group politically, be it SF tech or Southern Baptist (no Planned Parenthood donations there) and the point is - what happens when you're in the moral minority? Because Rice chose to enter an SF tech company rather than a random American one, there is way more backlash.

Ultimately, the Rice situation/backlash has a far stronger business case rather than a pure political boycott, due to objections of surveillance/digital security for cloud providers (hence the entire host outside of America movement). Here I mainly focused on the meta-debate about boycotts, and I suppose grellas decided to comment on the broad pattern given the original article's major headlines about the Iraq War.

Just like war is not universally wrong, neither are boycotts - it's just the degree to which we ask whether they are justified. Vietnam, Iraq, Gulf War, Korea, they were all controversial - and not in a "0.1% of the crazy population controversial", but rather "front page of TIME, Economist, BCC" controversial

> what happens when you're in the moral minority?

in the moral minority where people in positions of power think torture is a-okay?

I think you'll find yourself shit out of luck regardless of your past choices in boycotting or not.

It does, however, have a tiny influence on the chances of actually finding yourself in this unenviable position in the future.

This is such an unbelievably good post. Bravo, and welcome to HN, if you're actually new here.

Since when was torture directly linked in religion?

I agree with you. I think grellas argument is so flawed that the only reason to make it and upvote is as distraction and current best defense while the dropbox team works on something more believable. The backlash against Rice is over her actions, not her beliefs, and has a tangible connection to matter of great concern with cloud hosting - which is government sanctioned data collection.

Let's get this straight:

> I think grellas argument is so flawed that the only reason to make it and upvote is as distraction and current best defense while the dropbox team works on something more believable.

This is some kind of conspiracy to distract HN, because... DropBox fears HN? And grellas has been hired to carry it out by commenting?

No I think people like to defend things associated with people or startup incubators they like. So in a sea of negativity they latch onto any argument in favour of the thing despite its lack of merit.

Having regularly read and appreciated grellas' comments here, I think he is responsible for some of the best and most interesting comments on this site. I have no reason to believe his reasoning is not sincere.

I actually just agree with grellas. I'm indifferent to Dropbox.

grellas' argument doesn't sit right with me either, but I disagree that his argument was tactless or intended to derail anything. When grellas writes:

> Principle is more important here than a particular outcome. What happens with Ms. Rice is not the issue here.

I get why you'd see that as trying to derail more specific discussion, and why you'd disagree with that statement in general. However, I see it as part of a good-faith argument that blocking employment based on political beliefs (or even actions) is generally harmful to society, even if we feel we have valid reasons in a specific case.

In what way is it harmful to society?

grellas makes two basic arguments in the post I replied to, which I will attempt to summarize:

1) Refusing employment based on beliefs has been historically bad, e.g. Christians refusing to hire or do business with Jews, and blacklists for suspected Communists. Such things are in fact SO bad that they outweigh any/all good that might be done by applying such filters in cases where we feel they're justified.

2) Startup culture specifically is about joining together diverse people to build great things. Even if we stipulate that filtering out business leaders with "bad" political beliefs had some benefit, there's disproportionate harm done by the startups that will not succeed because they handicapped themselves in this way.

I'm not sold on either of those arguments, though I think they both have merit.

Your first point is why I find grellas comment misleading and detracting from the real issues. Those two examples you name, as well as the examples grellas names, are not actually based on beliefs but are based on group membership (or suspected group membership). That would be wrong and I'd agree.

However, this argument is misleading because the featured article is very particular about specific actions by this person and dismissing them based on those grounds, not because Rice belongs to any particular group and attributing all properties and beliefs of that group to her. For instance, while she is responsible for war crimes and torture, we're not automatically assuming she holds the same beliefs as, say, Pol Pot.

Same goes for Brendan Eich, though donating $1k to anti-gay legislation is arguably somewhat less evil than actively supporting and authorizing the torture regime of the world's biggest military power. There's really not a lot of wiggle room there.

It harms our ability to have open and candid discussions on contentious topics.

Rice did more than just have an opinion and participated in candid discussions. She acted on her opinion.

I can have a candid discussion with people who think that any immigrant should be shot at the border. I will disagree with the person, but everyone is allowed to have what ever political belief they want. However, once they start shooting people, a line is crossed and candid discussions is no longer an option. Those action would also cause repercussions, which has nothing to do with political, religious or other form of believes.

I think it's worse that tactless; it's brainless.

Customers of a business care about who sits on the Board and exercise their right to take their business elsewhere.

The horror!

It sounds like the whimper of someone who stands to gain from a Dropbox IPO.

"There is only one boss-the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else." - Sam Walton

Yes, he can fire Board members too.


Thank you for doing a fantastic job synthesizing others' arguments. HN could benefit from more level headed comments like this on controversial threads.

What about people that can separate their personal from their business? Eich never did anything at all at Mozilla to push his point of view on gay marriage. If #1 is true, then that plays to him not doing so as well as CEO.

Rice is a different story I guess. You have to decide if you think #2 is right or not. I don't happen to think she is but I can see why people are hesitant for her to be on the board.

> What about people that can separate their personal from their business? Eich never did anything at all at Mozilla to push his point of view on gay marriage. If #1 is true, then that plays to him not doing so as well as CEO.

Right, we definitely had (at least) two different signals about how Eich would behave as CEO with respect to LGBT employees. And how he behaved in practice is arguably a much stronger signal than his political donations, especially when coupled with his statements of support for Mozilla's inclusive culture and promise to maintain it.

The strongest counterarguments I've seen go something like this:

- Eich was never previously in an executive leadership role; being CTO is important but not in the same way as CEO. So his past behavior is less of a signal than his supporters would have us believe, especially since we don't know about every interaction he's ever had with his LGBT colleagues.

- It's easy to accept that Eich had no plans to e.g. try to roll back domestic partner benefits for LGBT couples; with Mozilla's current culture, that would have zero chance of happening anyway. But given his political donations, are we 100% sure that he wouldn't be in favor of it if the culture shifted? If not, then it's reasonable to oppose him as CEO.

- Even if we expect zero policy changes driven by Eich's beliefs, as CEO he would be making decisions about people's roles within the company. It's reasonable to be concerned about how fair-minded he would be, particularly if someone felt they were being marginalized.

I'm not sold on these arguments, but I think they're sincere and I cringe every time someone categorizes them as a "witch hunt".

I think there are three very different questions to consider here:

1) Should an employee be held accountable for his/her political beliefs. (Heck no.)

2) If someone with different political beliefs than I runs a company, will I boycott it? Ex - Owner of Whole Foods is against Universal Healthcare, so I'm boycotting, though I approve of him running the company. In such a case we support our ideologies through capitalism.

3) Should someone who runs a technology company - a multi-billion, multi-national that shapes our future and impacts our daily work lives & culture - should someone who actively holds and acts upon prejudice be allowed to run such a powerful company? No.

That third one is important - and somewhat scary - to consider. We've crossed a threshold. Large technology companies - and many startups - are literally creating the future. We are shaping the world in a way that goes way beyond the capacity of companies in decades past. There is a far greater responsibility to consider.

Mozilla is a community with a corporation attached. That community (as with most communities) is built on a set of shared values, and arguably needs to be led by someone sharing those values.

Dropbox is a company who exists to enrich their shareholders, and has customers, not community members.

That's the fundamental difference here.

Don't fool yourself: they're both corporations and thus money making entities. Clearly, the difference is minor at best, since this behavior is spreading beyond the community based organizations.

Don't agree. I like to see tech companies trying to become more than the old-fashion 9-to-5 grind without morals/ethic and only interested in the money. We have enough of those ruining the world already.

I'm happy to see mozilla rise above bigotry and get Eich out and I hope similar happens to Rice.

It's one thing to have your private opinion, I'm not calling for stormfront.org to be shut down(as extrememly disgusting as it is). It's another thing to put action to your opinions in the form of taking others' rights away(prop8) or wiretapping/murder/torturing people. It's time those of us in tech stop pretending we live in a vacuum without politics and make sure we send a clear message that we are(should be) very much against discrimination based on race/gender/orientation or gross human rights violations.

They didn't rise above it. Eich stepped down. He should not have had to do that. He was CTO for many years. He was at Mozilla for many years. During that time he never tried to codify his beliefs into Mozilla corporate policy and I have zero reason to believe that he would have done so as CEO.

The difference is not minor. Mozilla wouldn't exist, or at best be a tiny husk of what it is today without the community surrounding it.

Mozilla wouldn't exist without a search bar that defaults to a search engines that pay them back a share of resulting ad revenue.

Sure. Mozilla also needs revenue of some kind to stay afloat. But unless you are making the argument that only bigots are capable of running a successful business, I'm not really sure what your point is.

... that's not my point at all

Then what is your point?

He stated it quite clear.

Someone higher in this thread said that Mozilla is not like Dropbox because it's a "community" and he came to say that Mozilla is a "money making entitiy" just as much as Dropbox.

He never said or implied anything about "only bigots being capable of running a successful business".

If we are to assume anything from what he said, is that whether the CEO is a bigot or not is beside the point.

Except those are completely different commenter's?

Are you unable to follow a simple discussion thread?

nerfhammer wrote "Mozilla wouldn't exist without a search bar that defaults to a search engines that pay them back a share of resulting ad revenue", responding to you in order to support what burntroots said (that Mozilla is also a corporation, a money making entity, etc).

So that was "his point" as well -- in support of burntroots' argument.

What's difficult to understand? And where did anybody said that "only bigots are capable of running a successful business"?

It sounds like you're not aware of how the non-profit Mozilla Foundation own the for-profit Mozilla Corporation. This is not a minor difference.

(former Mozilla employee here)

Rice is a war criminal who happens to have not been prosecuted.

That's a pretty serious claim, and more a matter of opinion. Depending on the situation, one could point such a charge at any person who was in a position of authority in a government of a nation that was fighting a war, if one were so inclined.

Shouldn't a person's status as a war criminal depend on whether they've actually been charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced?

> Shouldn't a person's status as a war criminal depend on whether they've actually been charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced?

The US doesn't recognize or allow jurisdiction by international organisations that try for war crimes, such as the ICC.

So if we're going to follow your definition, US politicians would be immune to war criminal status.

> Depending on the situation, one could point such a charge at any person who was in a position of authority in a government of a nation that was fighting a war, if one were so inclined.

Not really. It's entirely possible to wage war without committing war crimes. In fact that's part of the reason why the term even exists as defined by the Geneva Conventions and the ICC.


Regardless, the US has committed war crimes in the "War on Terror". The following link lists a couple of situations and events that have factually happened and fall under the definition.


Then there's Condoleeza Rice's role in this:


>Shouldn't a person's status as a war criminal depend on whether they've actually been charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced?

No, not really. After all most war criminals are never tried, especially if they are on the winning side.

People can have and state their opinions. It's not like recent history is that obscure for someone not to be able to come to a conclusion.

Anyone with a shred of conscience would have resigned from the Bush administration sooner than later. The war against Iraq was against international law, since it was not sanctioned by an UN resolution, regardless of the war crimes commited. Unfortunately US officials are above international law, because the US has not ratified the ICC (international criminal court) treaty.

While some of the vitriolic response to Ms. Rice's appointment to the Dropbox board stems from her political affiliations, we should take a step back to explore her resource-management and business decisions.

Personally, I know I have a lot of political mis-givings about appointing Ms. Rice, but that's not the main reason I would feel uncomfortable working under her direction in a technology company. I would probably be more concerned about her lack of fore-thought and poor decision-making. I would be concerned about my ability to trust her.

I know that I, and quite a few others in the tech community have a political bias, but even looking past that, there are many business-related reasons to feel that this is a wrong choice.

You're making a deeply political claim here that individual morality should be secondary to business interests. Which unsurprisingly is a claim that will divide people. This attitude is a shining example of the consequences of the kind of liberalism that lets capitalism run amok, i.e. valuing individualism over any individual's actual values.

You seek to unite people, but for what purpose? I have yet to see business interests or _especially_ 'startup culture' tackle the real inequities and tragedies of our time. Startup culture is good at addressing the lifestyle issues of well off technophiles, not at preventing war, or justly distributing food or housing. (I am interested to see if Watsi can do anything better than Doctors Without Borders, or if it is just more focus on individuals rather than statistically significant outcomes). We ought to be looking for ways to transcend the limitations of business practices and reassert moral claims.

Note that people asking for Eich and Rice to get out of their lives aren't asking for government intervention or any formal rules set in place. If dropbox or mozilla want to lose their massive user base and keep profitable amoral corporate clients, that's fine, we'll leave them alone. If the economy eventually bifurcates and passionate progressive people replace large swaths of infrastructure with open, democratic organizations that seek to distance themselves from the corporate tradition I think it would be an enormous boon to the species.

Are we so adrift that we can't create a strong distinction between McCarthyism/Jewish persecution and asking our leaders to be cautious to war/pro-marriage? You actually see these positions as interchangeable and arbitrary? Should we simply abandon any moral or aesthetic position and let capitalism run its course?

> ideological purity is now a litmus test for who can serve on a board of directors in the startup world.

Most of the negative comments on this thread are about her actions, not her ideological purity. The criticisms focus on her role in the Iraq War, 9/11, Katrina, not her political affiliation. Critics are outraged that the candidate hired for her decision making ability has a record of making very poor decisions that had severe deleterious effects.

>It is easy enough to whip oneself up into a lather over Ms. Rice’s policies if one disagrees with them but what about the half of America (or whatever significant percentage) that does not. And why should this be relevant to board service?

Ms. Rice has expressed support for warrantless wiretapping and mass surveillance. Many users are concerned that these views are inappropriate for someone working at a company that hosts our data.

>Politics, religion, and social worldviews divide people and have no place as limiting tests in a business environment. Scolding and finger-wagging...

Her support for mass surveillance is very relevant to Dropbox's business.

I disagree strongly with your supercilious characterization of the outrage as an example of close mindedness and bigotry. I believe that you made your post in earnest but it is hard not to see it as malicious. Your fatuous attempts to classify the outrage about the hiring of a supporter of mass surveillance, torture, and the Iraq War as similar to the oppression of minorities and the blacklisting of suspected Communists in the 1950s is so outrageous that it is offensive.

Ms. Rice is not a founder, and she is not being persecuted for her political views. She is disliked because of her actions, not her views, and your failure to distinguish between the two is troubling.

We can disagree. But she was a participant in something that I find horrible. I was one of the people she and her group fooled at the time.

Yes, indeed, I will hold it against her. Her morality is abhorrent, and it, frankly, is wrong to think that it should not have broader consequences for her living in society.

I think that if we got rid of this idea that "it's only business" or "she did what she had to do" or any of these other little slogans that allow us to dismiss antisocial behavior outside of the context in which it occurred, then we would be revoking some sort of implicit permission that so many seem to be willing to grant to people who wish to do bad things.

You have to draw the line somewhere. Instructing your minions to torture a prisoner is way, way over the line for a lot of people, myself included.

Sure, the Iraq war was a trillion dollar mistake, but that's just money. Live by the sword die by the sword and all that. A lot of Americans have a Christian upbringing, whether or not they ultimately believe in God. Torture is what Satan does -- that's the Satan, the personification of evil. This is the rock bottom of the moral scale.

Historically, its also what Christians do.

> compare notes on how they voted in the last election

This is mildly insulting. You know of course that the problem isn't who Ms Rice voted for in the last election "or some similar matter"; the matter is very dissimilar.

This downplaying of stakes isn't fooling anyone; it's unclear to me why you're even trying.

You state that the actions taken by Condoleeza Rice in the political sphere are not sufficient cause to blackball her. If contributing to launching a war of aggression and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians is not sufficient cause, what is?

Surely you don't believe Eichmann should have been judged solely on his organizational skills? My 'violation' of Godwin's here is entirely intentional. This woman commited crimes against humanity different in no way other than scale from those that were prosecuted at Nuremberg.

The economy is increasingly moving away from a market model and into a social model. This requires conformity and homogeneity since the economy is driven by morals and ethics instead of voluntary mutual benefit. This means that every world view you possess will be as important as the skills you offer.

Can you elaborate on this statement, "This means that every world view you possess will be as important as the skills you offer" Is this a trend you are citing from anecdotal information? Or is there data to show this as a trend in the macro-economy?

None of what you addresses what's really going on. This is not about politics; especially for us non-Americans. Rice is integral to warrant-less wiretapping. As such she should be kept as far away from my data as possible as she has proven she simply can't be trusted with it. This is an issue of trust, don't try to make it into a political issue.

No, it's not political, it's ethical.

I'm giving my data to a company to hold. They appoint someone who has no problem spying on my personal data and using it for their own _political_ ends, who has no strong concept of privacy? I dislike their ethical conduct. I'll be taking my data else where, thanks.

I don't inherently disagree with her politics, I disagree with the ethical clash. It's a social contract: I'll give Dropbox my data if you promise to be kind with it, and then they appoint someone who doesn't give a fuck about that concept.

I could see how you'd think this is purely political, but it isn't necessarily. Everything the post brought up is pretty antithetical to the ethics of most of Silicon Valley and startup culture in general. Sure, many Republicans might agree with her but many Republicans also think that gay people should be put to death.

Bad ethics should be called out as so, in this case I think hiding behind "politics" is a bit of a cop-out. It's not inherently liberal at all to make a case against Rice, in fact many conservatives would do the same.

The fact that the NSA simply ignored everybody finally triggered this. We now live in a different tech world.

Techies are trying to figure out how to have an actual impact that affects the people and institutions in power. And are discovering that with a bit of creativity they can upend some of this.

I, personally, think these boycotts are good things. People are voting with their money and that actually gets attention. And, it is also subject to vote; those who disagree can spend their money there and oppose the boycott.

Both capitalism and democracy at work.

Free speech is not the same as murdering civilians and torturing prisoners.

> "... Politics, religion, and social worldviews divide people and have no place as limiting tests in a business environment."

Technology is not just "business". We are building the very fabric of future civil societies. There is, in my opinion, no other area of human endeavor today that requires greater care and reflection than "technology".

The 'HN party line' that this is just "business" is socially irresponsible.

It's a bit insane for a cloud company to hire a chief government wiretapper. It sends a strong signal that Dropbox stands on the wrong side of one of the big issues of the day.

Does this line of reasoning always work though? Would you mind using Dropbox if they hired a convicted child rapist, or a white supremacist, as a member of the board and a likely spokesperson for the company?

Or is it just that you personally consider that the past actions of Ms Rice weren't a big deal, and that you don't understand why anyone would feel differently?

But holding people responsible for their questionable political views happens all the time; in 2010 Rick Sánchez was fired for calling Jon Stewart "a bigot". Once. Outside of his regular show. Were you upset then? (Maybe you were, I don't know; but it seems you should have been.)

Your language is calculated to make it sound as if it's just a difference of views. She was directly involved in mass murder, the destruction of a society and the crime of international aggression. If the Nuremberg laws were applied she'd be hanged. If it's OK to refuse felons board seats then it's certainly just to refuse war criminals.

Deceit, torture, violation of civil rights, homophobia.

These things are not about politics or religion. This is about willfully and intentionally hurting others.

Please stop representing this as being merely about the personal political or religious views of the people involved. This is about people who either have, or had the intention of inflicting very real pain on others.

Others that include our friends, our families, our neighbors. People have every right and reason to protest putting these people in these position, and it has nothing to do with political intolerance.

This has everything to do with political (in)tolerance.

There is nothing to be gained from asking a person to step down over their past political beliefs and actions, other than engendering fear and heightening mistrust among people with different points of view. It also happens to be illegal to fire employees over their beliefs in many states.

  Tolerating difference and changing minds can enact positive social change, destroying the heathens does little.

Throughout your comment you refer to "politics" as if we're talking about which cable tv host we find less annoying.

Rice was one of the architects of one of the largest human atrocities in the past 50 years.

It stopped being politics around the time that the first concentration camp was built in Iraq after the US invaded.

This isn't about a vague ideology (re: Eich). It's about ACTIONS that Condoleezza Rice, personally, has taken in the past, and using those actions to predict what she will probably do in the future. She has shown us, with her actions, that she cannot be trusted with sensitive data.

> So why is this any different?

I don't know, I guess it's that free citizens voting with their wallets is not at all similar to powerful governmental figures conducting an oppressive inquisition?

>Think about what it means to the HN culture to have a subject that normally would have been flagged out of existence as overtly political suddenly be featured front and center

We've all been learning that large technology companies cannot escape politics -- whether it's Edward Snowden's revelations or Turkey's ban on Twitter. Seeing this conversation here may have less to do with a changing Hacker News culture and more to do with a realization that technology & politics are intertwined.

That's the issue though. Libertarians often say things like "If you don't like Walmart, don't shop there," which is fine, but puts the responsibility on the consumer to know the various ideologies of the businesses they choose to support. If we want to live in a society in which this responsibility lies with the consumer, then the people who make up a company's board of directors are an important part of this decision making process.

This is different, because a person who has been caught lying to push an agenda (or be perceived to do so) is not suitable for important positions in a business organization, regardless of their political, religious, or social believes.

If this was the past CEO of Enron, no one would care about his political, religious, or social believes. He would be unsuitable because what he has done (or said as in the role of Enron CEO).

    What matters is upholding the abiding principle (precious in a free society) that people can hold divergent views on such topics as politics, religion, and society
There is a wide gap of difference between holding a specific political view, and being a part of an administration that pushed and enacted a specific political agenda that did actual harm to our country/world.

"What matters is upholding the abiding principle (precious in a free society) that people can hold divergent views on such topics as politics, religion, and society without being punished for their views in a business context."

Board Member 1: Do we really want to business with Bob? Isn't he pro-slavery? Board Member 2: Of course we do! His cotton production is the cheapest in the country!

People are increasingly incapable of living and working with people with whom they deeply disagree. Quite frankly I consider that behavior childish and immature. Unfortunately it appears that we are living in a world full of children.

I am not looking forward to the future where no one shares any opinion they may or may not have due to this type of blacklisting.

While I agree with your general sentiment, the case of Ms Rice is more substantial. She has a track record of relevant actions (not views), such as legal support of warrantless wiretapping, that have a direct relation to DropBox's core business of storing users' information.

OTOH I wonder why people are so upset about perspectives of snooping on their data stored in DropBox and its likes. If the data can be snooped on, it will be, should the powers that be decide so.

I suppose that you consider any data you store in a public cloud also public, and not expect much privacy. The only way to store data in a private way on machines you don't control is to store it encrypted, and never trust the encryption key to anyone. This is how SpiderOak works, for instance: they are incapable of disclosing any clients' data even if they badly wanted to.

Indeed, I have a large problem with giving my money to somebody with whom I hold partly responsible for the deaths and misery of hundreds of thousands. I have a large problem with giving all my data to somebody with a track record of illegal wiretapping. And I have the possibility to change this with little to no impact for myself.

Could you please elaborate on how that makes me childish? - Maybe I misread your comment.

Also I found your last sentence somewhat ironic, because yes, we live in a world were lots of people actually die from wars originated by disagreements. I'd say that's worse than tragically childish.

Except her opinions have far reaching consequences, such as killing people.

Am I not allowed to blacklist her because of that? I'm sure the people she's indirectly killed would blacklist her. No?

What I'm seeing is minorities and people who care about human rights finally getting fed up with the status quo and at least trying to get people to talk about it. I'm sorry that makes people like you feel threatened.

Right, because nothing encourages open discussion more than blacklisting everyone you disagree with.

I don't think people's hearts are in the wrong place. I think most people try to do good. I also think that the behaviors in question are trading small short term good for catastrophicly massive long term harm.

Edit: Yes, also downvote people you disagree with. This will also encourage more open discussion.

Why is it that the people in power get to act, kill, discriminate, and control... but the minorities have to discuss?

In my experience, this is because people who agree with whatever the status-quo currently is erroneously believe their views to be "apolitical" while everything else is "political." Having views or opinions that are "political" is branded as bad by those in power since it threatens their control.

Judge ideas and actions based on their merit rather than whether they line up with current trends.

Downvoting comments because of disagreement is common in this thread. If you think about it, it is consistent with blackballing.

I, for one, will upvote any well written comment I find at zero or negative values here.

I don't care if I agree with the comments or not, I don't like this face of HN. I vote comment quality, not content.

Your predicted dystopian future is laughable to anyone who is outside the sphere of "straight, white, affluent, and male." That "blacklisting" already occurs all around us... Bigots and warmongers aren't the first people to have these problems.

>People are increasingly incapable of living and working with people with whom they deeply disagree.

You mean like people that complicit with the death of thousands of people and don't get the benefit of the doubt because they were lying to everyone all along?

The older I get the more I realize that adults don't exist. The world has always been run by children pretending to be adults.

...too true :(

Grellas I think your point of view is very well. I got some conclusions from your comment and are that “this is business”, “we have to be open-minded to respect others opinions/ideas/decisions” and “we have to be empathic” even if DH wants to hire Ms Rice. I agree.

However, it has to be the other way around from DH. He is going to modify the image and the charisma of his company… and it may have negative consequences in his company (as we can see in the article and in these posts) and he will have to accept them like some people will stop using his service. If you hire someone who is going to make you lose some clients and stain your image… you better hire another one… there are plenty of people able to work in that position with a record as good as Ms Rice without all that suppose cr*p beneath them.

I think big companies shouldn’t mix with politicians with controversial records… even though they do... IMHO!

What I find more revealing that, while similar politically loaded, this topic remains untouched by the moderators.

Interfering with the "community" system is such a slippery slope and we are apparently watching another one of these revealing moments.

This seems like an "avoid the appearance of impropriety" situation. The HN mods don't want it to devolve into a political board, but killing a controversial story about the model YC company would certainly generate accusations of favoritism.

Almost. See: http://i.imgur.com/qymKtS3.png (see http://hnrankings.info/ for actual page)

Why is it ok discuss the legality of Uber or Airbnb? Aren't those political issues? We all claim that HN is not a political forum, but in the end we have a subjective standard. That standard is probably just the gut feeling of the moderators. So... if the thread is still here then it's appropriate by definition.

Regardless of driving factors (you state religion, politics) the end result is someone that advocated for warrantless taps, torture and war. It does not come down to anything other than "should a person like this have access or even advice bearing responsibilities on my data?". You're way off point here bud.

I don't think anyone should drop Drop box because they hired Ms. Rice. I do think people should drop drop box if they think that will increase the odds of their dropbix account being hoovered up by government affiliated agencies unknown.

Her track record is detestable, but there is a very salient issue that is relevant to her being a director of a data holding company: her previous authorisation of data invasion.

Whether or not you are for or against her other activities, they are irrelevant to her position as director. But taking data without warrants? That is something that is directly relevant to Dropbox's core product.

That's not a matter of 'free opinion', it's a serious warning for clients of the company, that there is a new director that is personally responsible for expanding surveillance and authorising the taking of private data without due process.

Lets Godwin this bitch right up.

Would you like Hitler on board of directors? Sure, he invaded half of Europe, Asia and Africa, then there is holocaust.

On the other hand he will guarantee mad money for your company. We are talking IBM money, Hugo Boss money, VW/Mercedes/Bosch money.

  SCREW the dead, we are rich baby!

Well put.

Couldn't agree with you more, grellas.

I've been considering moving out to SF from the Midwest, but this very thread has me reconsidering things.

I'm not interesting in being hung from a lamppost if I happen to accidentally blurt out a conservative opinion in a moment of forgetfulness.

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