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September 22, 2016

The Trump Stand-in Audition Tapes

The Clinton campaigned apparently auditioned a bunch of celebrities to stand in for Trump as she practices debating him. I somehow managed to get the transcripts of their auditions. They include, perhaps surprisingly, Louis CK, Bryan Cranston, Quentin Tarantino, and some others.

You can read the full transcripts here.

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August 3, 2016

How Paul Ryan can save his legacy…and our democracy (a fantasy)

Crowd chants : Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!…

Hillary Clinton: Thank you. Thank you all so much. It’s wonderful to be here. And before I speak, I want to let you know that this is a very special day. Before I talk, I’m going to bring out a guest you’re not expecting, who will make history. And how you greet him will help shape that history So, I ask you to greet this guest with open hearts and open minds, and embrace him for the courage and true patriotism he’s going to show you this morning. Ladies and gentlemen, please warmly welcome … Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Paul Ryan.

Paul Ryan enters to shocked applause. Shakes Clinton’s hand and goes to lectern

Paul Ryan: I bet you did not see that coming. Tell you the truth, neither did I.

Good morning. Madam Secretary,…

For the rest, click here

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April 22, 2015

HillaryHusseinClinton.com

I registered HillaryHusseinClinton.com to keep it out of the hands of those who do not support her. For $13, why not?

I suppose I should have registered BarackRodhamObama.com just for the sake of symmetry.

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April 16, 2015

Hillary in the uncanny valley

As a strategist for nine successful presidential campaigns and a selectman’s race in an Indianapolis (not the Indianapolis), I’d like to offer Hillary Clinton some free advice:

Get yourself out of the uncanny valley. When you try to be sincere and folksy you get just close enough that it’s a bit uncomfortable to watch.

Say what you will about Clinton’s campaign announcement, you have to admit that the tiny vignettes were effective.

Did you doubt that they were real people? Nope. Were they charming? Yup. Would you like to see more of them, including giving the fish kid his own sitcom where he teaches life lessons to the gay engaged couple and to the woman who’s about to retire? I’m already setting my Tivo!

What was the one moment of ickiness? Clinton bringing the whole scene to a screeching halt with her announcement “I’m getting ready to do something too.” The delivery was poor and the idea itself clanged against the first minute and a half of the video: ordinary folks talk about what they’re doing, and Hillary Clinton equates that with running for president. “We’re not so different, you and I: we both do things.”

Unfortunately, these issues of personality and performance count far more than they should. So, if we want Hillary Clinton to be president (and I do), then she needs to not be “warm and approachable.” When she tries, it just doesn’t work for her.

Ms. Clinton, I have no doubt that you are a delightful person when out of the public eye. But after more than twenty years of experience, we ought to conclude that in the public eye you’re socially awkward. Fine! Lots of us are. (You know someone who’s not? Your husband. Try to avoid standing next to him.)

So, how about if you embrace that awkwardness? Let it work for you. Be a bit shy. Bumble visibly. Get angry at heartless questions, like ones that act as if you were somehow personally responsible for the murder of your friend, Ambassador Chris Stevens. When not giving a speech, stop giving the internalized version of that speech; talking points are for See ‘n’ Say toys.

But recognize that when you do speak from the heart in public, it’s still always going to sound stilted and a bit uncomfortable. Acknowledge that. Make a joke. If you can’t be comfortable with yourself, at least be comfortable with that lack of comfort. You’re super-competent and will be the best-prepared president in decades, so it’s ok for you to have a personality flaw.

Because that’s what you really have in common with the rest of us.

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September 16, 2012

Elizabeth Warren FTW!

At last Elizabeth Warren, the Warrior of the Middle Class, has opened up a 6-point lead on the Truck Drivin’ Triangulator Scott Brown. That lead increases if you look only at registered voters.

We are thus one poll closer to the dream Clinton-Warren 2016 ticket.

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February 16, 2011

In praise of what Secretary Clinton did not say about Wikileaks

Especially when a prepared talk is being given in the midst of a difficult controversy, most of what matters is in what is not said. For that reason, I think Secretary Clinton’s speech on Net Freedom yesterday was actually quite encouraging about the State Department’s attitude toward Wikileaks. In this I seem to differ with many of my friends and colleagues. (See, for example, this thread from the Berkman mailing list. See also Mathew Ingram. Ethan Zuckerman posts his overall reaction, plus a brilliant draft speech he’d suggested Clinton deliver. Yochai Benkler has posted a draft of a paper [pdf] that — with Yochai’s accustomed astounding command of facts, law, argument, and moral insight — assails the claimed grounds for prosecuting Wikileaks) [Disclosure: I am a Franklin Fellow at the State Dept., attached to the group that works on the internal use of social media. This is a non-paying fellowship, and I feel no obligation to make nice, although I’m human.]

Secretary Clinton spent a substantial portion of her talk discussing Wikileaks.

The Internet’s strong culture of transparency derives from its power to make information of all kinds available instantly. But in addition to being a public space, the Internet is also a channel for private conversations. For that to continue, there must be protection for confidential communication online.

Think of all the ways in which people and organizations rely on confidential communication to do their jobs. Businesses hold confidential conversations when they’re developing new products, to stay ahead of their competitors. Journalists keep the details of some sources confidential, to protect them from retribution.

And governments also rely on confidential communication—online as well as offline. The existence of connection technologies may make it harder to maintain confidentiality, but it does not change the need for it.

Government confidentiality has been a topic of debate during the past few months because of Wikileaks. It’s been a false debate in many ways. Fundamentally, the Wikileaks incident began with an act of theft. Government documents were stolen, just the same as if they had been smuggled out in a briefcase.

Some have suggested that this act was justified, because governments have a responsibility to conduct all of their work out in the open, in the full view of their citizens.

I disagree. The United States could neither provide for our citizens’ security nor promote the cause of human rights and democracy around the world if we had to make public every step of our most sensitive operations.

Confidential communication gives our government the opportunity to do work that could not be done otherwise. Consider our work with former Soviet states to secure loose nuclear material. By keeping the details confidential, we make it less likely that terrorists will find the nuclear material and steal it.

Or consider the content of the documents that Wikileaks made public. Without commenting on the authenticity of any particular documents, we can observe that many of the cables released by Wikileaks relate to human rights work carried out around the world. Our diplomats closely collaborate with activists, journalists, and citizens to challenge the misdeeds of oppressive governments. It’s dangerous work. By publishing the diplomatic cables, Wikileaks exposed people to even greater risk.

For operations like these, confidentiality is essential, especially in the Internet age, when dangerous information can be sent around the world with the click of a keystroke.

Of course, governments also have a duty to be transparent. We govern with the consent of the people, and that consent must be informed to be meaningful. So we must be judicious about when we close off our work to the public and review our standards frequently to make sure they are rigorous. In the United States, we have laws to ensure that the government makes its work open to the people. The Obama Administration has also launched unprecedented initiatives to put government data online, encourage citizen participation, and generally increase the openness of government.

The U.S. government’s ability to protect America — to secure the liberties of our people — and to support the rights and freedoms of others around the world depends on maintaining a balance between what’s public and what should remain out of the public domain. The scale will always be tipped in favor of openness. But tipping the scale over completely serves no one’s interests—and the public’s least of all.

Let me be clear. I said that we would have denounced Wikileaks if it had been executed by smuggling papers in a briefcase. The fact that Wikileaks used the Internet is not the reason we criticized it. Wikileaks does not challenge our commitment to Internet freedom.

One final word on this matter. There were reports in the days following the leak that the U.S. government intervened to coerce private companies to deny service to Wikileaks. This is not the case. Some politicians and pundits publicly called for companies to dissociate from Wikileaks, while others criticized them for doing so. Public officials are part of our country’s public debates, but there is a line between expressing views and coercing conduct. But any business decisions that private companies may have taken to enforce their own policies regarding Wikileaks was not at the direction or the suggestion of the Obama Administration.

Now, one way to read this is to imagine what you wish Clinton had said, or what you would have said if given the opportunity. That certainly has its uses. But it’s essentially a daydream, for it acts as if high-visibility political speeches occur outside of political consequences and negotiations. (Ethan’s imagining, noted above, was within a pragmatic context, attempting to provide a vision for the talk.) If instead we take this speech as the result of a political struggle, then we have to hear not just the daydream, but the nightmare: Forces within the government must have been urging Clinton to take a hard line against Wikileaks and to use Wikileaks as a justification for constraining the Internet. When you consider all that Clinton does not say about Wikileaks, this speech is actually, in my view, quite encouraging. Indeed, in saying that “It’s been a false debate in many ways,” she does not narrow the criticism to the media’s participation; we are left to assume that she is also scolding elements of the government.

You say “Pshaw!” to the idea that this is a pretty enlightened speech? I understand that reaction, since this address is coming from a government that has reacted overall quite poorly to the Wikileaks leaks. (See especially Yochai Benkler’s comments in the Berkman thread and his comprehensive article.)( But that’s exactly why we ought to view the speech as a sign of hope that at least some elements of the government are catching on to what the Net is about, what it’s for, and what it can and cannot do. (“What the Net can and cannot do” is, from my point of view, pretty much the theme of the entire speech, which by itself is encouraging.)

Here’s an example of what I mean by reading the speech in light of what it does not say. Secretary Clinton does say that the Wikileaks incident “began with an act of theft.” But, she is careful not to say that Wikileaks was the thief. Instead, she refers to Wikileaks as making the documents public, as releasing them, and as publishing them. You can imagine the pressure on her to characterize Wikileaks as the source of the documents — as the thief — rather than as the recipient and publisher of them. (She does slip in an ambiguous phrase: “we would have denounced Wikileaks if it had been executed by smuggling papers in a briefcase.”)

Overall, I read the Wikileaks section of the speech as a refusal to blame the Internet, and as a refusal to issue threats against Wikileaks (and against the next Wikileaks-like site). True, Secretary Clinton “condemns” the leaks, but given the range of options for a Secretary of State, what else would you expect? That she would condone the indiscriminate leaking of confidential information? It’s confidential. Of course she’s going to condemn leaks, and in no uncertain terms.

The question is what follows from that condemnation. What followed were not threats against Wikileaks, not a clamping down on State Department security to ensure that “this never happens again,”not a retreat from Clinton’s emphasis on building a “need to share culture” within State, and not support for new policies that would put “reasonable” controls on the Internet to “ensure” that such “illegal acts” never recur, for “a free Internet does not mean a lawless Internet.” (All items in quotes are phrases I’ve made up but that I can imagine some in the government insisting be inserted.) The only statement about policies to address such leaks says that the Obama Administration did not “coerce” private companies to act to shut down (or shut off) Wikileaks; the clear implication is that the government should not engage in such coercion.

Now, we can imagine our own preferred words coming out of Secretary Clinton’s mouth, and we certainly can and should compare her statements with the actual behavior of State and the government overall. There was room for her to have gone further; I would have liked it better if she had, as per Yochai’s suggestion, acknowledged that State initially over-reacted in some chilling ways. But, in the context of the political debate, I think Secretary Clinton’s remarks on Wikileaks are encouraging, and her explicit rejection of limiting Internet freedom because sometimes leaks happen is hopeful.

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January 24, 2010

Freedom to Connect

On an etymological note, I believe there’s good reason to believe that the phrase “freedom to connect” that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used in her speech on Internet Freedom ultimately came from David Isenberg. It might, of course, simply be an independent coinage, but David has run a conference by that name for several years, and lots of people now connected to the Obama administration either have attended, or know David or people who have attended. For example, in 2008, Alec Ross was on a panel. Alec is the State Department’s Senior Advisor for Innovation and reports to Sect’y Clinton. I would imagine that Alec was involved in Sect’y Clinton’s Internet Freedom event and the drafting of the speech.

With my usual prescience, I gave a talk at one of the Freedom to Connect conferences saying that “right to connect” would be a better phrase because rights imply corresponding duties. That is, if we have the freedom to connect, then the government can’t stop us. But, if we have the right to connect, then the government has a duty to help us connect, by (for example) making sure we all have access to the Internet. As it turns out, David’s sense of the workable phrase — the one that would catch on — was miles ahead of mine.


Meanwhile, in support of my resolution to be an even bigger a-hole, here’s a link to an interview immediately after Hillary Clinton’s speech, in which I manage to confuse FDR’s Four Freedom’s with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and possibly with the Four Teletubbies. (Also, for the record, the video labels me as a Harvard Professor. I’m not. I’m a “senior researcher” at the Berkman Center; being a professor is a much bigger deal. And while I’m speaking for the record, I am not a philosopher either. That, too, is a far bigger deal than the sort of writing I do.)

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January 23, 2010

Chris DiBona and Chris Messina on Hillary Clinton’s Internet Freedom Address

I interviewed these two Googly Chrisses at Secretary Clinton’s address. The video is a little over 9 mins, but it’s IMPORTANT TO NOTE that there is a crucial disclaimer 53 seconds in…

Most of the discussion is about the problem of local belief systems and the desire to enforce some global values.

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January 21, 2010

Hillary Clinton’s Internet policy speech

First, my overall reaction to Hillary Clinton’s speech: It’s thrilling that a Secretary of State would claim “freedom to connect” as a basic human right. That’s a very big stake in the ground. Likewise, it’s sort of amazing that the State Department is funding the development of tools to help users circumvent government restrictions on access. On the negative side, it’s distressing (but not surprising) that the Secretary of State should come out against anonymity so we can track down copyright infringers. Of course, in response to a question she said that we have to strike a balance so that the anonymity of dissenters is protected even as the anonymity of file sharers is betrayed. I just don’t know how you do that. [THE NEXT DAY: I fixed a couple of typos in that paragraph.]

What follows are the notes I took during the presentation itself. They are, as always, rough livebloggage. Here’s a transcript of her prepared remarks.

I’m at the Newseum where Hillary Clinton is about to give a speech about Internet freedom. The venue is filled: an auditorium that seats a few hundred. HRC enters. (Joe Lieberman is smiling in the front row, damn his eyes.)


Her topic: How freedom applies to the Net. She thanks Richard Lugar and Joe “The Weasel” Lieberman for sponsoring some act that promotes Internet freedom. [I don’t know what she’s referring to, but somehow I bet I don’t like it.] She takes a moment to note the gravity of the situation in Haiti. Communications networks have played a crucial role in our relief efforts, she says. The State Dept. immediately set up the “text Haiti” program that has raised $25M.


The Internet is forming a new “nervous system,” she says. Information has never been more free, she says. The U.S. believes that open access to info enables citizens to hold their gov’ts accountability, increase innovation, etc. But the same tools are used to work against freedoms. The same networks that organize people for freedom also enable Al Qaeda to spew hatred, she says. The same tech can be used to suppress dissent. Chinese, Tunisia and Uzbekistan have stepped up their assault on Internet freedom, she says. We stand for a single Internet, open to all. [“Single Internet” is code for “Boo, China!” but should also be code for “Yay Net Neutrality!”] This is based on our belief in free speech. We need to synchronize our technological progress with our principles.


The users of the Net ought to be assured certain basic freedoms:


Freedom of expression. She hearkens back to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Net is this generation’s icon. Instead of a wall, it stands for connection. Some countries [=China] have expunged search results and have imprisoned people for non-violent expressions of beliefs. This violates the Declaration of Human Rights. Viral videos and blog posts are the samizdat of our day. E.g., Iran.


Then she exempts terrorist beliefs. And, in the next sentence, exempts those transmitting “stolen intellectual property.” And, she says, we must not allow anonymity to protect them. [What the what??]


HRC says she likes freedom of worship and the Net ought not to be censored on those grounds.


The Net can be used to advanced struggling economies. The Net and mobile phones can do for economic growth what the Green Rev did for agriculture. “Information networks have become a great leveler.” We should use them to lift people out of poverty.


But: Bad people use the Net for bad purposes. Terrorists, sexual predators, totalitarian gov’ts, child porn, slave trade. We need our networks to be secure, especially from evil organizations. We need more tools to allow law enforcement agencies to cooperate across boundaries. “Countries or individuals that engage in cyberattacks” should face consequences. We need to protect the “cyber information commons.” [Cool phrase to hear a Sect’y of State utter]


We should all have a freedom to a connect: To connect to the Internet, Web sites, or one another. It is like the freedom to assemble.


We can use the Net to help ensure Net freedoms.

How to apply this in practice:


The U.S. is ready to spend what we need to in order to advance these freedoms.


We need 21st Century statecraft, as they say at the State Dept.


We’re including Net freedom in what we’re proposing to the UN Human Rights Council.


We are funding groups to make sure that Net tools get to people who need them to so they can be used in rights-challenged countries. We are committed to providing tools and training to people in countries where the Net is under political censorship. Announcement: Partnerships to provide tools to empower citizens. Also, an innovation contest. She talks about a State group that has been working on this, including in Mexico and Pakistan.


“Information freedom” is not just good policy, but it’s a universal value and good for business.


She calls on China to look into the violations that caused Google to threaten to withdraw. Countries that censor risk “walling themselves off” from progreess.


Will we live with one Internet, one body of knowledge, one community? Or will what you see depend on what your censors let you? Asymmetric access to info leads to global instability.


Consumers want to rely that their Internet providers are giving them open, uncensored access. Those who lose that confidence will lose customers. [Unless there are monopolies.] We need to be confident that what we do on the NEt won’t be used against us. [Hence we need anonymity.] We are reinvigorating the Internet Freedom Task Force. The private sector has a shared responsibility to safeguard Internet freedom.


HRC also likes the Global Network Initiative, a consortium that establishes mechanisms sfor transparency and accountability. The State Dept. is having a conference next month.


Q: But we need anonymity to enable free speech in repressive regimes.
A: We have to strike a balance.


Q: But business is in it for the money.
A: Open Net is in the long term interest of business.


A: If a gov’t disaagrees with what a blogger is saying, get into the discussion.


A: We are expanding our outreach to Muslim youth.


[Now there’s a panel discussion, but I’m not going to live blog it.]

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January 14, 2010

Internet policy, domestic and international

Even as the FCC is holding hearings about the value of an open Internet, Secretary Hillary Clinton is preparing a “major policy address on Internet Freedom” to be delivered on Jan. 21.

Maybe her statement will provide some framing the FCC could use — it’d be awkward if our international Internet policy were more progressive than our domestic policy…not to mention Google’s international policy.

I’m excited about this. I think and hope it will set a stake in the ground, if only an aspirational one. (Plus, I’m going to be in the audience for the address!)

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