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This is an op-ed with several authors; I’m one of them.

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    Jeff Bezos calling anyone a bully is like a Klan member accusing a neighbor of being racist. People like Bezos get where they are by being an unrepentant asshole to literally everyone except shareholders and reporters.

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      Or to talent or to managers. You don’t have to be a personal asshole, just a pushy manager.

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      The sheer brazen audacity of a man with $150,000,000,000 calling anyone a “bully” is astounding.

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        Ad hominem fallacy. Can’t downvote for “fallacy” sadly.

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        Props for risking high-paying jobs to stand up for your principles. I’m a pro-gun, pro-Constitution, pro-privacy American whose fine with justifiable, measured actions by U.S. military where actually needed with minimal blowback expected. I’ve opposed most of what U.S. military has done over past two decades. So, I’ll add my reaction to two quotes:

        ““If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” he said. “

        ““a defeat for US national security [and] patriotism”.

        That’s un-American bullshit supported by a large segment of right-leaning voters. The very design of U.S. government is to limit trust to any one branch. Relevant example is Executive branch directing military-industrial complex daily theoretically kept in check by suspicious Congress and courts. If there’s argument, ask right-leaning voters if they want liberals or Hillary Clinton to decide who to kill or not kill for 4 years straight. I bet they won’t be unconditionally supportive.

        Further, historical, heavy hitters that led the military like George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower cautioned us to keep it in check citing prior and likely outcomes of bad behavior that would hurt America. Most of those happened, too. The biggest critique coming from General Smedley Butler: a two-time awardee of Medal of Honor who confessed most wars he led were specifically for capitalist exploitation, not freedom or democracy. Or as George Carlin says: “War is rich old men protecting their wealth by sending lower and middle-class young men off to die.”

        I’ll listen to Washington, Eisenhower, and Butler about managing a military over a Bezos or Bloomberg any day. Hell, have they even shown they understand the concept of putting their lives on the line and giving up business opportunities to protect the average American? I don’t know if they have service records or what they did if they did. Hell, I’ll even count peaceful organizations or nonprofits that require full-time work at lower-than-tech pay. Although I lack that data, I do know Bezos was willing to risk killing Americans just to make himself a bit more money and personal satisfaction. Dude isn’t much better than terrorists in my book. If it was legal, such an amoral leader would probably be killing his opponents like his ilk used to.

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          Eisenhower literally coined the term military-industrial complex in his farewell address to the nation. In an earlier speech he decried the buildup of defense spending, not only in terms of economic drain but also of mental and creative output:

          Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

          Quite a departure from the turn of phrase on Ginsberg: “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.”

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            Oh yeah. Thanks for posting it. He brilliantly put defense spending into perspective by showing what we sacrifice to waste that money. The hospital comparisons show we might be wasting lives, too. I’ve used paraphrased versions of his arguments in debates with die-hard military supporters for years. It doesn’t get as far as I’d like but it always works to get them to back off a bit. Gotta force them to choose between investing in America, esp American lives, versus wasting money on useless toys.

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            History has made it plainly clear that the constitution has failed to keep military power at bay. Our complete loss of privacy is another failure. It turns out a bunch of rich slave owners make a flawed system.

            One success of the constitution is no internal wars for 150 years, which is nice.

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              Not descending into civil war periodically isn’t really unique to the US though, so it’s hard to say whether anything about that is really because of the constitution.

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                It might be worth looking into how many democracies avoid a civil war with and without a constitution. For a case study, did Australia have more civil war and/or less protection for individuals before its constitution or afterward?

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                  Australia is a bit of an odd one, since prior to the constitution it was a military-occupied colony of a country that did have a constitution.

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                    Didn’t the different constituent parts of Australia have their own mini-versions of the “constitution” of the UK?

                    The constitution of the Confederate States of America was essentially a carbon-copy of the US one, with the right to own slaves explicitly added. In all other respects both states considered themselves as heirs to the original US constitution.

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                  Which nations are you thinking of?

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                    I mean, Australia hasn’t really descended into civil war. We’ve only been a federated country in our current form for a little under 120 years but still.

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              Some historical perspective on the origins of our industry:

              • Computers and tabulating machines prior to the 20th century were mainly concerned with generating tables of numbers (mostly useful for gunnery and navigation), census-taking, and accounting (naked capitalism).
              • Analog and digital computers as we know them in the 20th century were developed and used for the first decades of their existence to do mostly military work: calculating ballistic tables, simulating physics of interest to fission, tracking and controlling anti-aircraft guns, targeting missles, and so forth.
              • The first networked computing systems in common use were for Naval ships coordinating fire control and for ground anti-aircraft and missle systems.
              • MIT via Lincoln Laboratory and Bells Labs did extensive defense work, dating back to the very founding of those institutions.
              • Integrated circuits exist so we could make better missle warheads. Huge amount of defense funding.
              • GPS exists to help deploy military units, mark artillery targets, and guide missles. The street found its own uses for these things.

              We can point to visionaries like Vannevar Bush and their pure dreams for things like augmenting human intellect with hypermedia but those same people never ceased to work for their country on horrifically powerful weapons.

              DARPA is probably one of the only reliable sources for decades-out basic research, arguably better than the NSF.

              It is not popular in our circles to discuss such things, but then truth remains: military projects have been and continue to be sources of major innovation in our industry.

              Further, there’s this bizarre political idea of globalization and open-borders I’ve often seen supported seemingly without thought by folks doing these protests.

              Globalization can and does endanger workers by allowing companies to escape what a country might consider to be reasonable regulations.

              Not all border-control and immigration enforcement is a bad thing–look no further than the experience of Ukraine in the last few years when faced with an influx of undocumented immigrants.

              Frankly, while I support the desire for Labor to organize against Capital when they see their livelihoods and morals threatened, I really do wish they could do so with a bit more of an eye towards reality and strategy. It’s like nobody learned from the Occupy protests. :(

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                I recognize all this history, believe me. What I can say, without getting into a detailed debate, is that the positions you mention are not taken thoughtlessly, and I would encourage everybody to have these conversations about what exactly right and wrong mean to the tech industry. There are certainly a lot of perspectives that deserve to be included, yours among them.

                I’ve actually been very frustrated that I don’t see these conversations happening much in the public sphere. Or rather, everybody talks about the tech industry and its moral dilemmas, but I seldom see members of the industry engaging with it, other than CEOs, who therefore wind up representing all of us by default. That really needs to change, and the sooner the better.

                I’m tempted to blame the lack of dialogue on the fact that most places where engineers come together are oriented towards technical discussion to the exclusion of politics. But that’s really not the root cause; the root cause is that, in some sense, anyone making an engineer’s salary is part of the establishment and benefits from the establishment, and that makes it a very frightening thing to question whether the establishment is good.

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                  I really appreciate your thoughtful input, and I think if everybody had your mindset then discussion would be much easier. Good for you for taking the time to contribute in this manner. Yet, I also find that there are lots of people who are intolerant of other’s perspectives if they differ from there own, which can make discussion unappetizing for people who’s primary goal at work is to get work done and not engage in public debate.

                  However, writing this comment has made me realise that if I want to help encourage a more thoughtful and nuanced debate within the industry (which I believe is vitally important), I have to be part of making it happen. I guess this involves taking the risk of people not liking me if my views differ from theirs, being honest about why I hold my own views, and open to changing them though constructive, respectful discourse and reflection.

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                    Well, indeed. :) I couldn’t have said it better.

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                    I’m tempted to blame the lack of dialogue on the fact that most places where engineers come together are oriented towards technical discussion to the exclusion of politics.

                    There’s a reason for this. Most people’s political beliefs are held at least as strongly as their religious beliefs and they are just as difficult to change. When people talk about political and religious beliefs, they like to talk about why they think their own beliefs are right and occasionally why someone else’s might be wrong. This will almost always cause friction between the participants of the conversation unless they happen to have the same beliefs or unless the participants are unusually diplomatic with each other. Since most people are not always super diplomatic when discussing strongly held beliefs, and generally have a desire to get along with the people they work with and socialize with, it’s usually better for all involved to just avoid the big three volatile topics altogether: sex, religion, and politics.

                    Of course, all of this goes out the window as soon as you login to twitter.

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                      Yes, absolutely understood. I would say that what you’re describing is that people are choosing to prioritize being part of their community over their desire to discuss political ideas. In general, I find this admirable; it takes a lot of maturity to stay off of the topic. But when our industry is at a cross-roads, I think that we have to discuss what comes next, even despite the good reasons not to.

                      This is all true in a wide variety of contexts - lobste.rs, Twitter, at work, … In the specific case of conversations at work, staying off of politics is a particularly understandable choice because it might well be necessary for continued employment. This is what I was trying to get at with my mention of benefiting from the establishment.

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                    How things were, how things are, how things should be, and how things will be are different things.

                    It’s 100% true that the modern industry was bootstrapped by military investment and funding. But we shouldn’t forget that the funding is all coming from the same gov’t, and we can choose to have the investment and funding, without having it be in the purpose of blowing people up.

                    Getting military contracts is a good tactic for a single company to get some success and revenue, and for research to fund itself. But we can also aspire to fund this research directly.

                    There’s a spectrum of “reasonable military research” here, and it’s totally not black and white. But without guiding principles it’s hard to motivate strong political causes. The tea party did not feel the need to hold back on their principles and now control all three branches of gov’t

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                      and we can choose to have the investment and funding, without having it be in the purpose of blowing people up.

                      It sounds true at first that you can separate from them. Then, looking at big picture, you can’t if you’re dependent on infrastructure, tech, and/or research designed by people fine with that for the purpose of doing that. The Net getting funded was one of those. INFOSEC was another that came from military with highest levels still classified as a munition far as I can tell. GPS was another where it’s constantly helping us find things and helping military kill things. It does both by design. The ISP’s are taking piles of money from NSA for spying on people per Snowden leaks but their opponents still pay for Internet from ISP’s. The major platforms, hardware and software, are often DOD suppliers who make money contributing to blowing people up which their buyers support indirectly. That includes Red Hat with its contributions to Linux.

                      And yet, here your comment is via lots of tech developed and/or funded by the groups blowing people up. Hard to escape given all the companies trying to get at their money. I don’t know if there’s a single vendor of MCU’s/CPU’s that doesn’t sell to war industries. All we can do is reduce the damage. Then again, DARPA and NSF do the most funding of stuff that can protect people from lots of threats. Pissing them off might hurt a lot of people depending on what you’re working on even if they might hurt others with a weaponization of it. The morality isn’t clear. I guess my compromise so far is government/military work is worth supporting if it can do more good than harm with a decent chance of good being developed outside the government.

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                      The problem is that to organize, you need to class solidarity. If your allegiance to your class comes before allegiance to your nation-state, then you cannot arbitrarily decide that some workers have more rights to work inside the borders of your nation-start than others, even if this directly impacts your well-being and even if this means driving down salaries in your country.

                      Renouncing these values means renouncing the values that should motivate you into the class struggle and give in to individualism, that is a tool to maintain the status quo.

                      Globalization is a tool of the Capital to achieve profit but fighting it now will just lead to a worse alternative. Also defining what’s possible and realistic according to what the neoliberal paradigms dictates is a tool of the Capital but you seem to deal with it pretty fine.

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                        If your allegiance to your class comes before allegiance to your nation-state, then you cannot arbitrarily decide that some workers have more rights to work inside the borders of your nation-start than others, even if this directly impacts your well-being and even if this means driving down salaries in your country.

                        I agree with your analysis here, and that is why I don’t use that ordering. I would wryly suggest that what is needed is some way of balancing class concerns in such a a way as to favor Labor with an eye towards political boundaries, but the natural English branding of such a thing–national socialism–has rather a lot of baggage.

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                        I’ll add that both INFOSEC that stops governments (more often) and Tor came out of military research. NSF, DARPA, and CIA continue to fund these types of things. Hell, such dual-use, protective projects are some of best reasons to continue funding these organizations. At least NSF and DARPA anyway.

                        Military R&D are a necessity. We can’t control whether the techs will be abused. The U.S. can’t get behind on tech. So, my compromise is we keep investing, keep the ratio toward positive stuff, and get the crooks out of top of government and military. The latter are who abuse the military tools.

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                          bizarre political idea of globalization and open-borders I’ve often seen supported seemingly without thought by folks doing these protests

                          “Globalization” is an overloaded term. The most popular, “negative” meaning is global capitalism. Protestors probably don’t support that kind of globalization. Open borders for individuals, that makes sense, I’m not sure how it’s bizzare.

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                            Open borders for individuals, that makes sense, I’m not sure how it’s bizzare.

                            Why does it make sense? What answer would you give for that example of Ukraine, where a bunch of armed individual Russians decided to make use of inadequate border control.

                            If you want to make the argument that we no longer use Westphalian sovereignty, that’s fine, but unless that’s the case a nation must have control over its borders to be considered a sovereign nation.

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                              Personally, I suppose, I’d say that we clearly need some level of border control for that specific, military purpose. I would also say that border control targeted at civilians is far more strict and intrusive than it needs to be for any policy objective I support.

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                            Sorry about the pay wall; it should work if this is the first article from the site you’ve read recently, and in an incognito window.

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                              A route around the pay wall: https://outline.com/5TP6J3

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                                @pushcx can we just set the URL to this for the submission instead?

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                                The archive link works as well.

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                                I’ve heard a lot of people claiming that CEOs tend to be psychopathic or narcissistic. A lot this lines up with those two.

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                                  I think the evidence is irrefutable in the general case if it’s a company whose CEO has to always make specific numbers go up or down instead of make ethical compromises. The Corporation is a great documentary that applies the diagnostic criteria for that condition on case studies of corporate behavior. They turn out to not only be psychopaths but like the prodigal psychopaths. That link has it in pieces to you can spread it out over time given it’s 3 hours.

                                  Here’s one of my favorite segments showing what the media is really up to. Another one involving water and a big company that illustrates how far they’ll go with influence on government.

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                                    I appreciate your support but I do want to also say, I generally discourage accusing powerful people of mental illness. It is extremely unlikely to cause any harm to the powerful people, and at the same time it does reinforce the societal idea that it’s okay to dehumanize people who have these diagnoses. Stigma kills.

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                                      I think your over simplifying it. Being vigilant about mental health protects people. The Virginia Tech shooter was diagnosed several times as a danger to himself and others. Ignoring people’s mental health issues kills.

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                                        Thank you for raising that. I do disagree. Mentally ill people are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence. This Vox article is the best overview of the available evidence that I’m familiar with, in part because it’s nice and short.

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                                    I don’t think articles with paywalls should be posted. I cannot read this article without purchasing a subscription.

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                                      There are 3 workarounds to the paywall in the comments, one of which was posted by one of the authors of the piece simultaneously with submitting it.

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                                        Feedback taken, all the same, and thank you for raising it.

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                                          Hi, sorry – didn’t see that it had already been posted across the comments. I appreciate you posting the article. It’s good content.

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                                            Not a problem, it was still good to point out. Glad you liked the article!

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                                        Nice paywall circumvention. But would have been better posted as a link in that story’s comments.