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First POST: Clueless

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, March 30 2015


  • Responding to calls by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and other tech leaders to boycott Indiana because of new legislation permitting discrimination against gay couples, progressive blogger Melissa McEwan, founder and manager of the Shakesville group blog, argues in Model View Culture that what the state actually needs if it is to become more progressive is more, not less, investment by progressive tech leaders. She writes, as resident of the state:

    The idea that we need more pressure in order to be moved to do something is absurd. People on the precipice don’t have the luxury of principled resistance….The truth is, progressives with resources have been boycotting Indiana for decades. That’s actually why we’re in this situation. If you want to know what a boycott would really look like, what result institutional neglect will really have, this is it. This legislation—it’s the result of Indiana having been de facto boycotted for years, written off as a place unworthy of investment by people who could help.

    She adds, "It isn’t like the vast majority of people who are cheering 'Boycott Indiana!' had any plans to visit Indiana and spend money in this state, anyway. It’s just a slogan to shout at a state they perceive to be full of fat, poor, lazy, conservative, straight, cis, white people."

  • Amazon billionaire Nick Hanauer might want to study McEwan's article, as he went on a "tweetstorm" Saturday ranting (his word) at the "surreal stupidity" of Indiana's governor, calling the people of Indiana "totally clueless" about 21st century economies, bragging that "inclusive, diverse" cities like his own "kick the shit out of exclusionary places like Indiana," and urging that creative types in Indiana flee to Seattle. (Yes, he used #fleeIndiana as a hashtag.) It appears he is ignoring the research that shows that telling people they are stupid and bigoted generally doesn't get them to change their minds.

  • Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, pens an oped for Sunday's Washington Post that decries legislation like Indiana's that is being introduced in more than two dozen states, saying "These bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality." He adds, "on behalf of Apple, I'm standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation--wherever it emerges."

  • It's useful to contrast Cook's approach to Benioff and Hanauer's. Cook (who is openly gay) venerates religious belief--citing his own Baptist upbringing--and draws from within that context to argue that religion shouldn't be used as an excuse to discriminate. He promises that Apple will stay open in states like Indiana, but to never tolerate discrimination, and to fight the legislation state by state. (It's as yet unclear if that means Cook will be donating money to local groups.) Benioff is applying direct economic pressure via a boycott and calling on others to do the same, and Hanauer is urging the creative people of Indiana to flee to the coasts. Which approach do you think will be more productive?

  • One last curlicue of a point: Do any of these corporate tech leaders support free speech for their employees while on the job? Or unionization?

  • Angie's List, which is based in Indianapolis, has put a planned expansion on hold in response to Indiana's new law, reports David Badash for

  • And Yelp founder Jeremy Stoppelman has also released a statement saying that his company will not "create, maintain, or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large."

  • Bryan Sivak, Chief Technology Officer and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Department of Health and Human Services (and PDM friend), is leaving the department at the end of April. Among his accomplishments since joining the agency in 2012: the department's IDEA Lab, which has led efforts to open up government data; innovator-in-residence and entrepreneur-in-residence programs; and a revamping of the department's approach to tech procurement. Kudos Bryan!

  • More than 1/3 of America's farmland is cultivated using real-time data provided by agribusiness giant Monsanto, and as Nathan Newman of Data Justice reports, farmer organizations have banded together to help protect farmer control of their own data, which he suggested "could be a model for other groups and legislation."

  • Behind the sleek apps of the on-demand economy lies the old-fashioned land of Craigslist, reports Kevin Roose for Fusion. He builds on a study by Zen99, which found that Uber, Lyft, Instacart and Postmates alone spend $8 million a year on paid Craigslist job ads in major cities, in order to keep finding free agent workers.

  • People taking selfies at the site of the building collapse in NYC's East Village found themselves shamed across social media, report Kevin Fasick, Amber Jamieson and Rebecca Harshbarger for The New York Post.

  • Thanks for the headlines: "Flak for Slack chaps in yak app hack flap," reports The Register. (h/t Dan Gillmor)

  • Code for Pakistan, a civic nonprofit inspired by Code for America, gets profiled by Michelle Stockman for Deutsche Welle.

  • DemocracyOS is catching the attention of some party activists in Britain, Lee Williams reports for The Independent.