The tech scenes pitchfork mobs are wildly inconsistent.
I have a feeling this one hit a nerve because Condoleezza Rice is famously hated across the internet and in the press (especially on the Daily Show) and this isn't really about upholding some strong high-moral consistency that we all have.
Maybe we should boycott Amazon. Not boycotting Dropbox because we didn't do the same for Amazon doesn't get us anywhere.
Amazon is actively supporting infrastructure to an agency that supports torture. Condaleeza isn't even in power any more. It's not that you shouldn't boycott Dropbox, it's that you are probably not really doing anything as a result of not doing it when it matters. The thing that created Condaleeza is still moving full steam ahead.
That's probably true, but we have to consider the situation in the context of what's practicable in our own lives.
I have a Dropbox account, and I use Amazon's cloud service to host my sites. I will be canceling my Dropbox account as a protest, but probably will not cancel Amazon's cloud services. Why? Because I still need my paycheck, I still need to put food on my kids' plates at the end of the night -- and I do this in part with Amazon's cloud services. I have to pick and choose, and compromise along the way when I'm making my voice heard.
It's okay that sometimes some big companies get away it, and some don't. Godaddy got picked on a lot... there was a symbol attached to the Godaddy situation (a CEO who hunts elephants, and says weird things) -- in the end we won, because there was an easy narrative to follow. It wasn't perfect justice all the way, but what matters is progress was made at the end of the day -- SOPA was then beaten.
In a similar fashion, it's okay if folks decide to stick with Amazon's services, because ditching it would bring them a lot of inconvenience. We don't all have the resources and time to be ditching every service we don't like on principle -- we can pick and choose. We can pick and choose, especially, when there's momentum going on. Right now there's momentum going on with this Dropbox thing -- let it happen, this is how progress is made. Next time, a company will think twice before appointing to their board a warmonger.
edit (mostly to duaneb): to be clear, I am canceling my paid Dropbox account. Though, I think it's a good idea to cancel free Dropbox accounts in this case as well.
This is a difficult situation to balance, because what you are suggesting, from my perspective, ends up being about saying, "I will quit working here unless we quit using Vendor X!" - that will end predictably, and I have lost that fight over GoDaddy as well. At the end of a day of following such a philosophy, I have no job, the Evil Vendor(tm) still gets their money, and I have to explain to people at Next Potential Job(tm) why I don't seem to be a team player.
That said, these are important fights to fight at some level. When I was dealing with hardware, I found many of our decisions frustrating. I found it frustrating that we cared about the USD$ cost of power, and not the environmental cost of it. I found it frustrating that we turned off almost all power saving features of our hardware because they don't deliver as one would hope and tend to harm the workload in a way that may actually require more gear which is expensive, has a carbon cost to manufacture, and has a carbon cost to operate and cool. Guess what? a 2U Rackmount server that sometimes runs at 1.5Ghz for a few seconds instead of running at 2.8GHz all of the time doesn't have a significant impact on the cooling bill, and it can reasonably be expected that your cooling power budget will be roughly equal to your equipment power budget, probably higher because of infrastructure overhead.
It is difficult to find a framework in which to push these decisions because the day to day business does not center around them.
The solution is for decision makers to make them a priority, just like worker safety and other things which don't obviously contribute to the short-term bottom line. I can't spend all of my time advocating up for socially responsible decisions.
Also, Amazon may be in a difficult place wrt other contracts with the government, they may have gotten themselves somewhat entangled. Dropbox does not need Condoleeza Rice on its' board, and it's hard to envision what value she will have other than internally advocating for cooperation with the government and its' defense armature.
That is what she does.
No, you distorted parent's statement by slightly reframing the perspective when it should be read like this:
It speaks volumes about you that you are outspoken on ethical issues except when it comes to putting food on your kid's plates.
But this structure can be applied to varying degrees in varying situations. A company who keeps an unencrypted copy of all my files and welcomes, for no particularly good reason, an INCREDIBLE advocate of overreach in government surveillance, not to mention violent tactics such as torture to extract information, and an architect of today's guantanamo bay facility, onto their board is a reason to be concerned about doing business with that company.
This is a great comment. I'm going to challenge you to do something I suspect you'll be resistant to.
You admit that some times you have to sacrifice your values for a greater cause (in this case your family's well being).
I challenge you to look back on the things you believe Condoleezza Rice did wrong and think about them as though she was making the same sort of sacrifice. Does that change your opinion of her?
Where do you draw the line? A government agency leverages services to further it's agenda- should those businesses take a moral position?
That argument follows the same structure.
For what it's worth, I'm not talking about Ms. Rice here. It's the argument that bothers me. Seems shaky.
Some of us live in the real world where we have to pick our battles.
I also note that if I wanted this controversy to fade away, I would seed conversations with people who say things exactly like this.
There is no way to know for sure!
Now that is an overstatement! Please don't give them so much credit.
They are just sociopaths in pursuit of (more)power; no ideology behind them.
And of course if you do become an ascetic hermit, then you're just a crazy hippie.
Edit: FWIW, I also don't use dropbox. I use rsync and a VPS.
I've been meaning to setup encrypted backups for a while. At the moment mine are all unencrypted, but are stored on hardware under my control that I have direct physical access too.
I'd like to use a convenient offsite storage provider, but have no interest in trusting them with data. Tarsnap would be ideal if it was actually Free Software, but the current license is a deal breaker.
Already use gpg in my workflow for some documents and password management. Do you literally just tar and then gpg the result or is it something more involved? It seems that would be fairly bandwidth heavy.
I looked at it from the angle that it is basically a 1-person company. The bus factor is too high! :)
Seeing the internet mob rally behind this and Eich remind me that these are easy targets for people to pick because it doesn't require much work (internet slacktivisim at work).
It would be more enlightening if someone would research all of the board members of many well known SV companies whos names none of us know, and post all of their political donations and leanings we might not all get along with, then we can see how picky we are in our outrage. Board members of Apple and Tesla donating to groups overseas who violate human rights? How about Apple supporting Foxconn, where is the boycott in that?
Eich and Rice are just being picked because it is easy to change your Facebook picture to protest, throw together a quick .com, or if you are really motivated write a petition on whitehouse.gov to show your outrage, vs. real actual sleuthing to determine if you agree with said Big Corp.
Unfortunately the latter takes much more work and that isn't in the general interest of those of us clicking +1 to show our "outrage"...
As to 'Apple supporting Foxconn' - Apple have done more to improve working conditions at Foxconn than any other organization. If you want to boycott someone, it should be all of the other Foxconn customers who are doing nothing.
So what you're really saying is that even though this is a fairly well-optimized use of people's time and effort, it's illegitimate because people aren't sweating for it. This is HN— if you leveled a similar complaint at a CEO, startup, or corporation, you'd be criticized for implying they're lazy rather than rational.
Don't get me wrong; I don't love slacktivism, either. I suspect it has an opportunity cost. I tentatively agree that it's a proxy for more substantive protest. However, I submit that this is because people don't otherwise feel empowered. If you believe any sort of activism is low percentage, then why not choose the route that is the least amount of effort?
Would you have criticized MLK for only choosing convenient, media-visible targets for his protests? Hell, he ignored so many places, and even stayed in hotels that were segregated. What a fucking hypocrite.
Cesar Chavez? Loser: he only called for people to boycott some agricultural interests. Sure, anyone can give up grapes, but anyone who does that is worse than contemptible--they should have given up all food that's harvested in exploitative conditions!
Mother Teresa? Lame. She only helped people in India. What about people in Namibia?
Lech Walesa? He seemed so myopically focused on government in Poland. It wasn't even the worst communist country! If he were really freedom focused, he'd have left Eastern Europe to try to overthrow the Khmer Rouge.
Your criticism amounts to an incredibly lazy attempt to sidestep the issue. Condi Rice is a war criminal. Second only to Cheney, she is the person most responsible for the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of people. She broke numerous laws; authorized illegal torture; and engaged in illegal violations of Americans' rights. In a just world, she'd be brought before a jury, convicted, and put behind bars for life.
You have no right to criticize me for trying to reduce how implicated I am in one of the most evil acts of the 21st century.
And if you disagree, well, I can name a thousand other forums for you to post your comment in before you come here to Hacker News. Otherwise you're just being wildly inconsistent and deeply morally corrupt.
What is intellectually gratifying about mean-spirited sarcasm like:
> You have no right to criticize me for trying to reduce how implicated I am in one of the most evil acts of the 21st century.
> And if you disagree, well, I can name a thousand other forums for you to post your comment in before you come here to Hacker News. Otherwise you're just being wildly inconsistent and deeply morally corrupt.
Political threads make people forget how to make positive contributions and instead they compete to express the most outrage. Nobody wins from that.
For some people, unless you live in a cave and refuse all modern technology, you are not allowed to have any moral authority.
They've decided that the effort is futile, so why can't you?
That's some Jim Crow logic right there.
Or perhaps its just psychopathy:
With the second reading, a tangential concern is what drives the inconsistency. If it is purely stochastic, then I think the above saying holds ("better to be..."). If it is manipulated by unprincipled agents, then it's much more questionable.
There's also a long history in cognitive science on social trust and perceived consistency (anti-hypocrisy).
So that is why people normally vet these issues outsied of the context of SCOTUS, even on social issues. These are valid ideas irespective of people's views on any subject, IMHO.
Rice and Eich are not directly useful and their dismissal would have no effect on the protestors, so there is almost zero sacrifice. There is no sacrifice necessary on behalf of the protestors.
Dropping AWS on the other hand could be difficult and expensive for many, so protesting AWS requires either hypocrisy or sacrifice.
And yet getting them fired has the impact of dissuading similar behavior. If you're a protestor why wouldn't you go for the low-hanging no-cost some-benefit moves?
>Dropping AWS on the other hand could be difficult and expensive for many, so protesting AWS requires either hypocrisy or sacrifice.
So the protestors have prioritized lower cost moves over higher cost moves. Sounds rational.
Likewise, moderate physical exertion (read: effort and time) for a low percentage play is a more dubious proposition. There's a fixed amount of time in a day and you simply can't get more of it; you can only optimize.
I'm not saying people don't jump on bandwagons or whatever. I think outrage & anger are in some sense addictive and cyclical on their own. (Whether they are "legitimate" in any given case is orthogonal IMO.) And I'm sort of with you in spirit, as I gather you're basically criticizing slacktivism.
But if you're trying to set a bar for "real" activism, it's best to keep the above in mind, particularly when people feel otherwise disempowered.
Will history make a difference between IBM selling mainframes to Nazis to help their holocaust and Amazon selling servers to the CIA to help them assassinate people around the world and plan state coups? Maybe not quite on the same level, but pretty damn close.
To date, the closest the US government has come to prosecuting a publisher was the attempt in the Pentagon Papers case to enjoin publication; SCOTUS struck down the effort, calling prior restraint "the most serious and least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights." USG has not been anxious to go after publishers since then.
For example, State counsel Harold Koh, in a letter to Wikileaks demanding the removal of unredacted classified information, noted that the materials "were provided in violation of U.S. law ... As long as WikiLeaks holds such material, the violation of the law is ongoing." (Emph original.)
Koh did not state that WikiLeaks was violating US law, but that the person who provided the documents (Manning) had done so, and that the offense was a continuing one. He did not charge Wikileaks, or any of its members, with having broken the law, only that their source was continuing to do so.
There is no case law regarding whether USG can convict a publisher for obtaining classified material, but similar cases (e.g., Bartnicki v. Vopper) suggest that this would be difficult.
Having said that, the Obama administration has been historically aggressive in prosecuting leakers, including naming a journalist (FOX News reporter James Rosen) as an unindicted co-conspirator for receiving classified information from a State source.
If AMZN was talked into dropping Wikileaks, it wasn't because of criminal activity by the publisher; it was because of political pressure from the administration. Not the same thing.
There have been reports that a government inquiry prompted us not to serve WikiLeaks any longer. That is inaccurate.
There have also been reports that it was prompted by massive DDOS attacks. That too is inaccurate. There were indeed large-scale DDOS attacks, but they were successfully defended against.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) rents computer infrastructure on a self-service basis. AWS does not pre-screen its customers, but it does have terms of service that must be followed. WikiLeaks was not following them. There were several parts they were violating. For example, our terms of service state that “you represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content… that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity.” It’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content. Further, it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren’t putting innocent people in jeopardy. Human rights organizations have in fact written to WikiLeaks asking them to exercise caution and not release the names or identities of human rights defenders who might be persecuted by their governments.
We’ve been running AWS for over four years and have hundreds of thousands of customers storing all kinds of data on AWS. Some of this data is controversial, and that’s perfectly fine. But, when companies or people go about securing and storing large quantities of data that isn’t rightfully theirs, and publishing this data without ensuring it won’t injure others, it’s a violation of our terms of service, and folks need to go operate elsewhere.
We look forward to continuing to serve our AWS customers and are excited about several new things we have coming your way in the next few months.
— Amazon Web Services
If you read the link you'll see that Knuth himself only wrote two letters to government officials. Most people do not have time to become full time activists, so a certain degree of inconsistency seems inevitable.
Her actions are hated; she's been on the Daily Show at least once and had a pretty decent conversation with Jon Stewart.
From a pure business perspective: I just think it's a bonehead move on Dropbox's part, as other people could have brought similar value with less reputational damage.
Views on gay marriage have NOTHING to do with running Mozilla. Views on data security+privacy have EVERYTHING to do with leading Dropbox.
Point taken :)
His wisdom is clear from his quotes, but it's something else to read those essays in their entirety. Great stuff.
Rice: Dropbox's board member
I don't think "pitchfork mobs" would object to Rice merely being a customer, even if she stored documents for objectionable purposes.
That said, the many calls to boycott Amazon were perfectly reasonable too.
You can't fight them all. Choose your battles wisely.
Any fool can criticize, complain, condemn,
and most fools do. Picking your battles
is impressive and fighting them fairly
is essential. —Dale Carnegie
There's a great article by a journalist explaining this phenomenon (my google-fu is weak today). He discusses how every time he reports on "X country has done atrocity Y" he gets replies of "but why aren't you covering country Z which is also horrible?".
If the standard for being able to protest anything is that you must do full due-diligence and protest all similar things then no one would ever be able to protest anything.
She's done some pretty slimy stuff and essentially admitted to it, so that's why she's easy to target.
YES, it actually is!
The issue is that Rice is a known, singular, actual person wh was directly responsible for the war, death and corrupt profiteering by the defense industry.
Whereas, its much more difficult to connect an actual individual with something like "amazon building a data center" (Yes, you can hate on Bezos - but he did not start a war killing thousands of people on trump up pretense AND get caught actually lying about said pretense)
Condi is a war criminal.
Nobody has the energy or resources to fight all possible battles at once. All we can do is try to pick the ones that we hope will provide the most benefit, most efficiently.
In a moral argument, finding a target who's likely sensitive to moral suasion, whose audience or market is vocal, outspoken, and rights-oriented, and in which there's a reasonable chance for success. The Mozilla-Eich situation would be a case in point.
Condaleeza Rice has certainly drawn fire previously in her career -- despite Knuth's apparent support of her while at Stanford, I'm aware of others who were glad to see her move on, though perhaps not fully realizing she could do far more harm as National Security Advisor.
Has there been actual violence that I haven't seen covered in the news? All I've seen are consumers engaging in online discourse about ceasing use of a service.
I don't mind reading the contrary opinions, too, but I'd really like to read some that can explain their case without the hyperbole.
I'm sure I'll get a few downvotes, but basically the former two are plain business decisions. A lot of the people complaining about dropbox's service are either free tier customers or lower end business users.
Having Condi on board means immediate trust of huge multinational concerns likes Chevron. It doesn't matter if the people in there trust dropbox as long as the board does.
I didn't know Amazon builds the data center, I thought SAIC did, but I guess there is more than one contract. Amazon has huge experience in building data centers. They also have a govcloud. They probably bid on one of the contract offerings, and won. Well that, and some dude from the Amazon probably went golfing with some NSA dude. But it really doesn't matter, since in a way these are morally correct decisions.
Of course there is no such thing as a universal moral standard. By that standard though, you would have to boycott a lot of the tech universities in the US that get their money from DARPA contracts(a view I used to share when I was a bit younger, and still "kinda"(notreally) do).
For the record, it's important to know that I'm against both of these things, but generically speaking my argumentation speaks against what I might be morally thinking, but they're both legally correct, and from a business perspective correct.
OTOH Eich was just a personal tirade. condi, and amazon are just plain old money decisions.
Just because the mob is all pitchfork'ed and ready doesn't mean it isn't its own victim to the trap of considering the world black and white.
There really are no absolutes. We're all using machines built for us by slaves. But at least we are communicating on how this enslavement can end. Would you end the show just because you think the last 15 minutes are 'a forgone conclusion'? Hang in here for this argument, and you may discover that the world is not black and white.
Ms. Rice is hated because of the things she allowed to occur as a part of her lifestyle. She is a cog in what many consider to be a highly destructive, death machine.
High-moral consistency is one thing; on the other end of this conversation is a father, laying dying in the ditch, watching the bits of their kids fade into the dirt. Condaleeze Rice is responsible for a fuck of a lot of that.
Today, Dropbox hurt its reputation very badly, regardless how this ultimately plays out.
Her connections and knowledge of international stuffs is what Dropbox is hoping she'll bring.
If they're looking for even more funding...I don't even know. The funding game is so screwed up now. Just IPO already and let the public markets enjoy some of the upside.
Not only do they have all of your files in the clear, they know every other person using dropbox that has the same files regardless of where they got them. Deduping is also Total Document Tracking.
She surely have goldman sachs and many others in her pocket.
It is a very smart 'hire' just before an IPO. they just overlooked that the internet would not take the war and wiretap part lightly. They should have just gave her tons of shares as a investor and consultant, and not made her position that publicly.
It's important to look out after your stakeholders, but am really in awe of how they didn't seem to anticipate there would be backlash with this decision and that's what I'd call into question.
EDIT: I'm an idiot. It's "Bushendorfer".
When people go after her, I wonder, "What about Kissinger?" He was part of a lot of cold hard decisions in tough times on the world. That said, I would enjoy his counsel if I wanted to get involved in China. Similar with her, though her expertise may be more in Russia.
My (non-expert) observation is she was pushed and marginalized by the hawks. And although the war sounds bad now, the country was very much for it back then.
Granted this is about tapping specific knowledge. I would never hire someone with a morality deficit as an employee. (And maybe it would be dangerous to have one as the CEO's boss)
There are plenty of experts on subject matter that are not equivalently tainted.
side note: this is really weird meeting http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10095943/Osborne-Cl...
The parties on both sides of the Rice/Dropbox debate have good arguments:
* Ms. Rice has been a very important representative of a US administration that caused a lot of people to die in Iraq and elsewhere;
* but she is not the only one in the government of that day, and many other (non-bullied) politicians are complicit as well;
* and the current president has not shown much anti-torture sympathies either, yet him being branded a Democrat makes him much less of a target.
I believe channeling energy to make Ms. Rice leave Dropbox solves nothing. Channeling the same outrage to make the elective system into a non-money-based race, to make the politicians accountable for what they promise before elections -- that may solve something.
As a non-American, stating an opinion is about all I can help you with. Good luck!
Sometimes, the best solution for bad behavior is making it have consequences.
> promise before elections
By that logic, Bush and Rice met their promises. They didn't say they wouldn't invade anyone, they said they wouldn't do nation building.
I think NotOscarWilde is making a more general point about American politics here. There were many things Bush (and every other president in my lifetime) promised and failed to deliver on: lowering the debt, funding Pell grants, etc.
You do realize this opinion aims to punish somebody because people can't touch her using the judicial system, right?
To me, your reasoning reads as "accountability solves nothing".
Boycotting Dropbox because of Ms. Rice empowers people to bring symbolic accountability on powerful individuals who have been shielded from being held properly accountable for their actions. So many examples of individuals threatened with decades in jail for really not much, while powerful elites are shielded against being held fully accountable for their roles in infinitely worst.
I actually think this part is besides the point. The problem for me is her leading role in an administration that performed extensive and expanding illegal surveillance of Americans. A cloud storage company welcoming her on to their board makes my hair stand on end.
You're presenting a false dichotomy.
If I am concerned with how my government handles privacy, shouldn't I take it up with the government? If I am concerned with how my goverment tortures and murders people, shouldn't I take it up with the goverment?
I understand people like Ms. Rice are hard to prosecute because most of the government data that would serve as evidence are kept secret for a long time, if not forever. Isn't that just another point which you should take up with the government? Bullying some private citizen because you can't sue him through legal means seems hardly fair.
Is this how people are co-opting the term "bullied" now? To describe criticism of prominent people in public life? C'mon. Condoleeza Rice served in two presidential administrations. She is not some ingenue who accidentally stumbled into the spotlight.
That said, I am immediately investigating getting rid of dropbox.
This happens when people get power and feel confident. Perfect ideological adherence is a basic condition, hurting and damaging valuable people the order of the day .
And what makes people attackable by these liberals ? Because Obama kills babies in their sleep using robots paid by taking 50% of your paycheck. That does not seem to damage him.
And, it doesn't really matter what the answer to that question is, I'll hate people even more if I ever do find out I think.
Enjoy it while it lasts, guys. Because it won't last.
Cached copy here.
I wonder if he wrote it to Lyndon B. Johnson asking why he started the war in the first place or perhaps querying how much involvement he had in the Kennedy assassination.
Occam's razor is your friend.
>If we peremptorily strike country X, why shouldn't country X have a right to do the same to us, and to our children and grandchildren in future years?
Stopped reading since there, since it sounds like a usual blind rant and not anything to do with reality or reason. The moment conflict in Israel kicks in, many otherwise reasonable people lose common sense (it can go in either direction about the sides of the conflict IMHO). Not sure why it's so really.
Otherwise valid criticism is discredited by such cliche phrases which don't suit someone like Knuth.
FWIW I think it's because the debate over the occupation of Palestine usually devolves into name-calling and accusations of anti-semitism etc within the space of.. well minutes at best, usually. Many people flip their "froth at the mouth" bit pretty quickly under those circumstances, be they reasonable people or not.. and so we see little reasoned debate on the subject.
Both groups hypocrisy knows no bounds.
"...and that almost blindly supports Israel's increasingly unjustifiable occupation".
Let the downvotes begin.
Disclaimer: I live in Israel.
My nation did something very similar to the Native Americans more than a century ago, and it's now universally regarded as an atrocity.
Of course none of this means that suicide bombers are justified or that Israeli children are war criminals. The world is more complicated than that, as you say; whole generations of innocent Israelis have now grown up on that land, and no more deserve to be forcibly displaced than the original occupants did. But I've never heard a convincing justification as to why the occupation was morally justified in the first place, and it doesn't become more justified with time.
"[Read Zuaiter] did not try to seize the gun of a soldier as Israelis claim, an eyewitness at the scene said Tuesday. The Israeli army stated after the killing that the ''the terrorist'' (= the judge) attacked a soldier with an iron rod while crying ''Alalahu akbar''."
Also, the article shows that this kind of incident is not so 'isolated' as you say.
Disclaimer: I work with young people who left Israel.
Why is it that people who know so much about one thing feel compelled to open their big mouths about something else they clearly know so little about?
Criticizing US government officials for their excessive support of Israel is reasonable. Blanketing all of Israel's various incursions into Palestinian territory as "unjustifiable" is bad for the discussion and makes an otherwise-reasonable person look extremist.
I know few who didn't want to blow up the entire middle east after 9/11, right, wrong, or indifferent. I'm also fairly sure government was relatively in agreement about the war when it started.
Unless you hold EVERYONE in the current administration, and everyone in government in general for the past 20 years regardless of party to the same standard, stop it here.
Torture? OK. Hasn't stopped.
Stealing of information? Hasn't stopped. Didn't start with them, if you don't believe that, you're ignorant. Just obvious evidence of it starts here.
In the end, do you think that DropBox leadership didn't think about this? I hope they did, and were prepared for it.
I'm rambling a bit, but some of the anger here I guarantee won't be directed equally.