Should We Boycott Amazon for WikiLeaks decision?

Posted in politics tagged , at 12:14 pm by cori

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:

  1. I am not an AWS customer – I don’t use the services that Amazon cut off from WikiLeaks.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.



Posted in politics at 7:07 am by cori


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.

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Currently listening to Senator Clinton Addresses the New America Foundation’s 10 Big Ideas Conference from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Podcast.


No, Hilary, we don’t want "a firmness"

Posted in politics at 4:30 pm by cori

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.


“Free” blogging tools on display at John Edwards’s site

Posted in blogging, politics at 4:11 pm by cori

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):

  1. 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.

(From: For Bloggers / John Edwards ’08 Blog)

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:

Hey all;

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.

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.   


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.


Set a Deadline

Posted in politics at 2:40 pm by cori


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>


Mexican leftist declares himself ‘president’ – Los Angeles Times

Posted in politics at 9:33 am by cori

“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?


Indonesia protests don’t faze Bush

Posted in politics at 9:15 am by cori

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.”


Freedom of Religion?!

Posted in Life, politics at 11:27 pm by cori

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.

From Daily Kos: Re-Improved Colbert transcript (via Thank You Stephen Colbert)

More goodness:

  • "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!


Update on the Post’s Domenech

Posted in politics at 8:08 am by cori

Ah, the truth surfaces; he’s a plagiarist:

Why anyone would think, in this day and age, that they can get away with something like this is beyond me. Especially when you’re as much a firebrand as Domenech is/was.

Here’s a bit of the right-wing flummery that I expect he would have produced had RedAmerica been able to continue:

“To my enemies: I take enormous solace in the fact that you spent this week bashing me, instead of America.” – from Red America Ends

So Domenech resigned. I understand thet the Post may hire another blogger to fill his place. Let’s hope that

  1. The Post vets their new candidate a little more thoroughly.
  2. They hire an opinion columnist from the left to balance the scales.


What about the rest of us?

Posted in politics at 4:44 pm by cori

New Blog: Red America

The Washington Post is now offering a platform for a conservative blogger, Bob Domenech, to

“offer a daily mix of commentary, analysis and cultural criticism”

Interesting that they don’t seem to value balance enough to offer a “Blue America” blog.

For what it’s worth, I don’t see anything wrong with Red America. Domenech himself says:

“…this is an opinion blog, and not a work of unbiased journalism…”

essentially defusing any illusion or pretense of objectivity in this forum. And that’s fine. In fact it’s great; if anything can show that Domenech doesn’t represent the majority of Americans it’s his words themselves.

But where’s the balance?

I call upon the Post to provide the same pulpit to a strong liberal voice as to Domenech’s conservative one.


2 female presidents, in Africa and South America

Posted in politics at 12:14 pm by cori

NPR : New Liberian President Sworn In

“Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was sworn in as Liberia’s first elected female president Monday.”

NPR : Chile Elects First Female President

“The first female president was elected in a runoff election in Chile Sunday.”

When the United States?


Wisconsin taking the lead

Posted in politics at 11:29 am by cori

Dan Gillmor points to the Wisconsin Technology Network‘s post regarding Governor Doyle’s signing of a law to force electronic voting machine manufaturers to open their source code. WTN’s updated their post – Assembly Bill 627 called for opening the source code, but the enacted law (pdf) places the source code in escrow, only to be seen in case of a (successful) recount petition, and then only by a representative of each party to the recount. From the bill:

“…each municipal clerk or board of election commissioners of a municipality that uses an electronic voting system for voting at an election shall provide to any person, upon request, at municipal expense, the coding for the software that the municipality uses to operate the system and to record and tally the votes cast.”

From the law:

“If a valid petition for a recount is filed … each party to the recount may designate one or more persons who are authorized to receive access to the software components that were used to record and tally the votes in the election. The board shall grant access to the software components to each designated person if, before receiving access, the person enters into a written agreement with the board that obligates the person to exercise the highest degree of reasonable care to maintain the confidentially of all proprietary information to which the person is provided access…”

This is in addition to laws already on the books requiring that electronic voting mechanisms produce paper ballots for recount, and adds to that requirement the requirement that the paper ballot be presented to the voter for verification before being stored. The law also specifically indicates that the code placed in escrow be determined to be the same code that counts the votes.

While this isn’t a complete solution to the problems inherent in electronic voting, it’s among the first and strongest steps in the right direction.