Dave Winer writes about his decision *not* to boycott Amazon for their behavior and decisions around the WikiLeaks embassy cables. While I’m not boycotting Amazon either (more on this below), I think Dave’s logic is flawed.
Dave states that Amazon isn’t the guarantor of anyone’s rights; that’s the role of a government, not the role of business. And to a degree that’s true: we can’t rely upon self-interested corporations to act in *our* best interests; we would be fools to expect that to be the case, no matter how much we might desire it.
However, neither can we expect governments to act in our best interests, as some of the previously released WikiLeaks documents have make clear. A government’s main motivation is self-preservation, not public service. I do choose to believe, however, that companies that we entrust with our information ought not to knuckle under to the application of a little pressure from the government without appropriate legal actions.
In the end, the question is not whether we should boycott Amazon, but whether we should be giving our business to a company that will forgo it’s service agreement with us without any legal action on the part of the government. Where is the line between Amazon’s shutting off service to WikiLeaks without any legal claim from the government and Amazon shutting down service on a site that exposes a local government’s malfeasance, merely at the request of the local authorities?
All of that said, as I said above, I am not boycotting Amazon. Here’s why:
- I am not an AWS customer – I don’t use the services that Amazon cut off from WikiLeaks.
- My participation, or lack thereof, in Amazon’s commercial activities is unlikely to be noted by Amazon, and even if it were is unlikely to make the round trip back to the portion of the organization responsible for the actions against WikiLeaks.
- Most importantly, I am not convinced that WikiLeaks deserves my actions on its behalf. As Clay Shirky has very recently noted there are reasons to suspect that WikiLeaks’ behavior is not focused on the sorts of oversight that I want to subject our government to, but is instead directed at causing damage. I strongly agree with what Shirky writes, including his confliction about WikiLeaks motivation and whether the release of the cables is a step over the line between required diplomatic secrecy and the sort of secrecy-by-default our government (including the Obama administration) has increasingly been making standard operating procedure, but until I’m less conflicted about WikiLeaks and their role and motivations I can’t take the sort of unequivocal stand that it would take for me to support a boycott of any kind.
Their findings concurred with the conclusion that the experiment had failed: The monkeys didn’t appear to react to the change in patterns.
This article exhibits two specific problems, one with the journalistic establishment and one with research overall.
The author of this piece is misrepresenting science and research, at least as a researcher who follows the scientific method would understand it, and this researcher is not only being dishonest in reporting his data, but if he believes as the journalist certainly seems to indicate that he does he isn’t following the dictates of science and research.
Here’s the crux of the matter: an experiment *only* fails if you approach it with the intent to prove a specific hypothesis. In the truest spirit of the scientific method this should never be the case – you undertake an experiment in order to form a hypothesis. If the experiment doesn’t support your conclusion then either your conclusion is incorrect, you have misinterpreted the data, or the experiment you designed isn’t testing what you thought it was. The experiment *always* does what it’s designed to do, and any failure is with the experimenter.
Why this is wrong for the researcher should, I think, be obvious – if you’re going into an experiment hoping for a particular outcome then you’re already off the rails before you even start.
Why this is wrong for the journalist is perhaps not so clear. Articles like this one set the tone for our shared expectations and assumptions about the role of research in our society. We make value decisions about research based on these assumptions, and perhaps more importantly we make funding decisions based on them as well. If we, as a culture, expect experiments to conform to predetermined expectations then we are losing out on the true value of research and experimentation, and we ourselves are creating corrupt researchers like the one the article supposes Dr. Hauser to be.
(sent to http://cori.posterous.com via email)
My wife (who no doubt will berate me for blogging about this, since it didn’t actually happen to me) had an interesting activism experience yesterday. She was leaving a store with our kids in tow starting the walk back home when across the street someone jumped out of a car and ran across the street, stuffing this flyer into her hand saying “This is for you”. The flyer related to the construction company building the new Stoughton fire house and whether or not they were safe enough to work in our community.
If you look at the thing, I think you’ll agree that these folks have something to sell; an idea they’d like us to buy into. And they’re not above using a little fear marketing to get us to believe it either. The thing is, I’d actually be inclined to do a little more research to try to find out what kind of validity there is to their claims and assertions – I’m not beyond believing that the company constructing our new fire house maybe shouldn’t be doing it.
But see, here’s the thing. No where on this document does it say who printed it or who’s handing it out. Who are these people? Do they have an interest in this company aside from concerns for the safety of the community? maybe they work for a company that lost the bid? Or maybe there’s a disgruntled ex-employee behind it all. Taken as a sum, the anonymity of the source of the flyer and the alarmist language and graphics make me pretty much have to dismiss the whole thing.
Charlie Sykes, a Milwaukee conservative talk-show host and blogger, gets it all wrong again.
As is often the case when I read Sykes, he starts with a premise that I can at least respect; in this case one that I heartily agree with, in fact:
“In case you haven’t noticed, American politics is increasingly a rich man’s (and woman’s) game.” (From Isthmus | The Daily Page – ‘Let them have yachts’)
But also as is typical, he carries his premise to exactly the wrong conclusion.
Charlie makes a good case about the dangers of plutocratic democracy:
- “However well-intentioned they might be, the mega-rich are immune from the daily anxieties of ordinary people.”
- “Legislation they pass will have little impact on their own futures, or even that of their children, who are pretty much set.”
- “So, to run for office today, a candidate must either be able to write out huge checks from his or her personal wealth, or count on massive spending by special-interest groups with their own agendas…. The result is that the average guy is increasingly left out.”
All true, Charlie, all true. And I argee, a serious problem. Parts of the solution Charlie proposes are right on target; enforcing full disclosure of campain contributions and instituting term limits both make a great deal of sense.
But the third part of Charlie’s proposed solution is to lift individual contribution caps. In other words, instead of electing folks who are “able to write out huge checks from his or her personal wealth” we end up electing folks who have friends who can write out the huge checks.
I don’t know which auto workers or small business women Sykes is talking to, but I don’t know of anyone that has to “scrabble to come up with cash for unexpected home repairs or trade family vacations for higher gas prices” who can at the same time afford to exceed the $2,300 per candidate limit that the McCain-Feingold bill (or Bi-Partisan Campaign Reform Act) imposes, let alone the $108,200 per 2 year cycle limit in the same bill. How are these folks being harmed by the limits that the BCRA imposes? Follow that up with Sykes’s typical hatchet job against progressives, liberals, and sitting Democrats (I particularly love the way dear old Charlie portrays the BCRA as being solely responsible for making the election of future politicians like Russ Feingold all but impossible, when in fact the BCRA doubled the individual contribution limits) and I think we can all see the real intent here – remove all limits so the the fairly rich can give all they want to their pet candidates.
No, indeed, the BCRA was a tiny little gesture towards making finance less important in the course of an election. It hoped to ameliorate the importance of cash money as a measurement of how free political speech might be, a goal which it hasn’t served particularly well.
Indeed, I agree with Charlie in one particular: the BCRA should be revised. But not to remove the limits. If we’re really serious about opening up elections to the non-rich why don’t we expand on the BCRA? Extend the $2,300 individual limit to a candidate’s contributions to his or her own campaign? Distribute television and radio time for free by lottery, so everyone might excercise their right to speak freely in the political forum, not just those who can afford the ad time? Fully fund every political campaign equally from the public coffers?
I refuse to donate to any political campaign because I whole-heartedly believe that money has no place in politics. No one’s voice in the public sphere should be louder because their bank account is bigger. I don’t expect that Charlie Sykes agrees with that, though.
The message from the Clinton campaign, particularly its chairman, Terry McAuliffe, has been blunt, the strategist said, “that you’re with us or against us. This isn’t one of those races that you can max out (in contributions) to all the candidates. The message from Team Hillary is: We’re ahead, we’re going to be the nominee — and we will remember who our friends are.” [emphasis mine]
smacks of influence peddling to me. And of all that’s wrong with campaign finance, only from the other side of the fence. I’m so used to thinking of the corporate money and big corporations’ attempts to curry favor as being the greatest evil of mixing money and politics, but here’s a candidate’s campaign essentially threatening past donors.
Lucky for me I don’t contribute to any of them, I guess.
Currently listening to Senator Clinton Addresses the New America Foundation’s 10 Big Ideas Conference from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Podcast.
This is going to be an interesting election cycle in our house I think. I don’t think I’d be overstepping my bounds to say that my wife is leaning towards supporting Hilary Clinton in the Democratic primary race. For my part I am undecided, but decidedly less enthusiastic about Senator Clinton, though I remain willing to be convinced. I’d like to see a woman in the White House, but I remain unconvinced that Senator Clinton is the right person for that role.
Recent discussions regarding Clinton’s position on the Iraq war in 2002 and her current explanations of her original vote have left me cold. Sunday’s New York Times article about Clinton’s recent reiteration of her position (ironically forwarded to me by my wife) leave me less than cold; Clinton’s position as portrayed in that article have convinced me more than ever that she’s the wrong candidate for the next Democratic presidency. Some choice bits, all quoted from the NYT article:
“She wants to maintain a firmness, and I think a lot of people around her hope she maintains a firmness. That’s what people will want in 2008.”
This is a statement of one “advisor,” one who falls on the non-apology side of the discussion that apparently recently took place within Clinton’s circle of advisors. Personally, I’m not sure a “firmness” is the only thing “people” will want from the next president.
As a candidate, Mrs. Clinton likes to think and formulate ideas as if she were president — her “responsibility gene,” she has called it. In that vein, she believes that a president usually deserves the benefit of the doubt from Congress on matters of executive authority.
This particular statement actually worries me even more than the overly simple “firmness.” My feeling, one I think shared by many Democrats, is that Congress has given the current house-sitter in the White House too much “benefit of the doubt.” Far more than he deserved.
“She thinks she will be president and will have to negotiate on the nation’s behalf with world leaders,” said one Clinton adviser. “She thinks we’re likely to still be in this mess in 2009, and coming onto the campaign trail and groveling and saying at every opportunity that you made a mistake doesn’t actually help you solve the problem.”
Um, no, it doesn’t help you solve the problem, but a certain amount of humility can go a long way in working with others, at least in kindergarten, and I imagine also on the world stage.
I know that Senator Clinton is targeting her election machine on November 2008 and as such is thinking not only about primary issues, but also about the issues she would face in the general election. However, it seems to me that she’s misreading the single greatest lesson of the last 6 years under George W. Bush and his cronies. That lesson is not that the war in Iraq was/is wrong, or that lying your way into war isn’t a reliable strategy for victory. The most important lesson to be learned here isn’t the Iraq debacle; its that overbearing arrogance and an unwillingness to admit your mistakes is not only unworthy of the leader of our country, but also dangerous, not just for America, but for the world at large. I can think of no way that any of us, men or women, Americans or Africans, Arabs or Jews are safer now than we were before the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, and I would argue that we’re, most of us, demonstrably less safe.
Instead of acknowledging that a presidency gone wild has put us in greater danger, and that a stronger balance between the Executive and Legislative branches would be better for us all than the run away arrogance of the current administration, instead of showing herself able to take responsibility for blindly and mistakenly following what seemed, even at the time, to be trumped-up evidence, Senator Clinton seems to be telling us that she’d act in much the same vein if she were president. If she found herself on the wrong side of a mistake while she’s in the White House, will she wield her executive authority to change course, to acknowledge the mistake and learn from it, or will she continue on, unable to admit her own fallibility? And if the latter, as she seems to be indicating, I want even less for someone with her apparently expansive opinion on executive authority to be president. While she might wield her power in much more benevolent ways than the current president, she might well plod blindly on long after it’s become clear to others that the path itself is wrong. No, for my vote, a candidate’s ability to say “I was wrong” is more important than almost anything else.
John Edwards’s candidacy interests me – I think he’s right on a lot of the issues and has a good opportunity to be a serious contender for the Democratic nomination. I’ve been subscribed to some of the feeds his site’s producing for a while, and the other day I took a look at their efforts to involve bloggers and to encourage folks to blog.
The site makes on-site blogs available for interested bloggers; simply sign up for an and they’ll provide you with a blog or “Diary” within their community. Sensible enough, as far as it goes. I also came across this information regarding starting your own blog on their “For Blogger’s” page” regarding ways to start you own blog :
Perhaps you are already a blogger on the John Edwards Blog. Maybe you already have your own diary on our site. That’s fantastic. But we encourage you to do more. You should start your own independent blog.Check it out; it’s easy and free.
Here’s what you do (remember – it’s all free):
- Go to a free blogging site. A few examples: www.blogger.com, www.typepad.com, www.wordpress.org, and follow the given instructions. It only takes a few minutes. Again, it is easy and free.
I think it’s great that they’re encouraging folks to start their own blogs and put their own voice on the web, out from under the umbrella of the John Edwards site. But right away I noticed some errors and misleading info there, so I sent them an email:
I noticed a few things that could bear a little attention on the site with respect to growing a blogging community. On the for bloggers (http://blog.johnedwards.com/bloggers) page there is an error and an “opportunity for improvement”
- Contrary to the claim that “it’s all free,” TypePad accounts are not free. The lowest cost plan is $4.95/month. Not a lot of money, I agree. But not free.
- While the WordPress.org blogging software is technically free, it requires a hosting account to host the software so that the blog is available on the web. Again, the lowest commonly available cost for hosting that I’ve seen is $4.95/month. Alternately, a WordPress.com blog is free, and requires nothing but to sign up.-- Yours; ...
The next day I got a response from David Pierucci:
Hi Cori, Thanks for writing in and thanks for the info. We are working on adding message boards to the chapter pages. Please feel free to write back with any questions or ideas that you may have. Thanks for your time. David
Nice enough, I suppose, but woefully inadequate. In fact, I get the feeling that not only do they not care that the information’s inaccurate or misleading, but that David doesn’t even understand what’s at issue. Several days later neither of those bits have been corrected. Not an outstanding way to attract bloggers to your cause, if you ask me; I had better hopes for Edwards’s “netroots” organization than that.
I was against the war to start with, but it seems to me that having, as a nation, followed George Bush to war we have a responsibility to the people of Iraq and while I want to see our troops home as soon as possible, pulling out precipitously seems to have a reasonable chance at creating an even worse situation that what we’ve created already.
That said, if the Iraqi administration is unwilling or unable to step up to the plate to ensure the success of their own government and the safety of their own people, staying even an additional day is just a matter of throwing good lives away for nothing. A firm timeline that holds the Iraqis to some meaningful benchmarks for progress in their own efforts to take over responsibility for their own security and safety seems a reasonable alternative to abrupt withdrawal.
Please, Mr. Bush. Set a deadline.
<aside>It would be nice if the Set A Deadline campaign would provide a badge of some kind that included a counter of signatories.</aside>
“Lopez Obrador, who says he was cheated out of victory, holds a ceremony to declare himself the real leader.” (Source: Mexican leftist declares himself ‘president’ – Los Angeles Times)
Now why, oh why, didn’t Al Gore think of that?
President, on brief visit, hails protestors being able to ‘say what they think’: “It’s to Indonesia’s credit that it’s a society where people are able to protest and say what they think….” (Source: Indonesia protests don’t faze Bush – Asia-Pacific – MSNBC.com)
How nice for them. Too bad when we “say what we think” in the US it’s “unamerican.”
AntiOnline thinks I’m in Australia:
(You) at h69-xxx-xxx-xxx.69-xxx.unk.tds.net (69.xxx.xxx.xxx) are located in Australia.
I believe that the irony of this statement is lost on many.
And though I am a committed Christian, I believe that everyone has the right to their own religion, be you Hindu, Jewish or Muslim. I believe there are infinite paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior.
- "Oh, they're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!
I have no desire to argue with somebody who might not even be wearing pants.
Pretty rich from somebody who might not be wearing pants himself.