Bay Area companies paying employees to protest Trump

While many conservative claims about paid protesters demonstrating against President Trump have been met with skepticism and dismissal — in the Bay Area — some of them might actually be getting money for being there.

Companies in the region are increasingly offering their employees paid time off to participate in protests, marches and other demonstrations as part of civic engagement policies.

“Democracy is a participatory institution; it’s not just something that takes place every four years when you have a candidate in a race,” Adam Kleinberg, CEO of San Francisco ad firm Traction, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The company gives its workers two paid “Days of Action” per year.

Furthermore, tech giants like Facebook recently allowed their employees to take a day of paid leave to participate in the May Day immigration rights demonstration in San Francisco — a rally that was largely a protest of Trump’s agenda.

“At Facebook, we’re committed to fostering an inclusive workplace where employees feel comfortable expressing their opinions and speaking up,” a spokesman explained in an emailed statement. “We support our people in recognizing International Workers’ Day and other efforts to raise awareness for safe and equitable employment conditions.”

Major tech figures like Facebook COO Sharly Sandberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and co-founder Sergey Brin have all spoken out against the president, illustrating this administration’s frosty relationship with the industry.

And even those who showed a willingness to work with the White House have faced a wave of scrutiny. For example, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from the president’s business advisory council earlier this year after facing intense backlash, seeing #DeleteUber trend at the top of Twitter over his decision to offer guidance on a job growth agenda.

The policies appear to reflect a growing discontent in the heavily liberal region that Trump presents more than just policy differences — but an existential threat to their well being and daily life.

“It’s a recognition of the fact that civic engagement is something that we should be doing not just as individuals but as a company,” Buoyant CEO William Morgan told CS Monitor about his software company’s policy. “I wanted to make it more clear that we could not be passive citizens in this world.”

While the policies aren’t new — as companies like Comcast have been offering such leave for years — they appear to be taking on new life in the Trump era.

“People were wishing that I was dropped off in an (Islamic State) territory, calling me an idiotic libtard, candy-ass, saying they hope we’ll go out of business. Really nasty stuff,” Kleinberg told the Chronicle about the backlash to the policy.

Overall, Trump’s policy proposals have been met with a particularly strong response in Silicon Valley due to his stance on issues like the controversial H-1B visa program that tech companies say they rely on to recruit top talent — but one critics say comes at the expense of American workers.

And the president’s rhetoric may be having some effect, as the number of H-1B applications dropped to under 200,000 in 2017 — a 15 percent decrease from a year earlier.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Why the American Conservative Union Declined Meeting with Zuckerberg, Facebook

WASHINGTON DC — This past weekend, a senior representative from Facebook contacted me to invite American Conservative Union to attend a meeting with Mark Zuckerberg and other conservative leaders to discuss the allegations that Facebook suppressed conservative content. We appreciate their invitation, especially since our organization and annual conference, CPAC, were specifically targeted.

However, we do not believe that the problem between Facebook and CPAC and the broader conservative community is merely a communication problem. Facebook and Mr. Zuckerberg are drawing the wrong conclusion from the negative response from conservatives. It appears that they believe they can avoid having to answer for their actions by hosting conservative luminaries at their state-of-the-art headquarters.

Facebook has a history of agitating against conservatives and conservative policies, especially when it comes to ACU’s own conference, CPAC.  The facts are:

1) Facebook staff has admitted to suppressing content about CPAC.

2) Facebook rejected ACU’s overtures for Facebook to play a meaningful role at CPAC.

3) The deck is stacked:  CPAC content egregiously underperforms on Facebook compared to Twitter and other platforms by factors of 10.

4) The Facebook Trending News Chief, Tom Stocky is a maxed-out donor to Hillary Clinton.

5) Of the 1,000 political donations from Facebook employees, 80 percent have gone to liberals.

6) Facebook holds liberal positions on important issues such as privacy, property and priests.

We will not be attending this meeting. We know one meeting cannot possibly resolve all of the above mentioned issues.

ACU would, of course, prefer to have real engagement with Facebook about whether pastors and priests can have full access to Facebook, or if we could come to terms on the FCC’s intrusive rule-making on privacy, or how we could actually protect intellectual property owners.

Facebook has harmed its credibility with conservatives, but if they want to mend the relationship, we’re happy to sit down with their experts about how they can better strike a balance between sterile algorithms choosing news content and when a human curator decides to put a finger on the scale. If Facebook wants the benefit of the doubt, they need to start with complete transparency on how decisions are made concerning its newsfeeds.

Inducing people to sign-up for a Facebook account under the potentially fraudulent assertion that the company is neutral on news content has serious repercussions. We applaud Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune’s (R-SD/ACU Life Rating: 86 percent) efforts to ask the tough questions so Facebook users can know the truth.

This is much bigger than just having a meeting with “leading conservatives,” and winning the day’s news cycle.  The Gizmodo story has exposed the rift between Facebook’s liberal perspective and the hundred million Americans who self-identify as conservative.   We hope to have substantive interactions that can begin to resolve these issues.

Can CA Survive Without Oil? Two Perspectives

Gas-Pump-blue-generic+flippedA week ago, Zocalo Public Square published an article, Imagining California Without Oil Refineries, by one of its editors, Lisa Margonelli, suggesting that Californians are embracing new technology that will lead to an oil free future. She wrote that not being gasoline consumers has become part of many Californians’ identities. Meanwhile, the California Resources Corporation (CRC), a publicly traded oil and natural gas exploration and production company, produced a website also asking Californians to imagine the state without oil. The two imaginings could not have been more apart.

The Zocalo piece spoke of the history of the environmental movement in the Golden State and the fact that younger generations are limiting consumerism and supporting a new way of living that reduces — and some day would eliminate — the need for oil. The CRC imagined a day without oil and offered a list of products that would disappear. Never mind the energy that is used to power products, petroleum is raw material used in refrigerators, dishes, smartphones, coffee makers, kayaks and more.

But it was the area of economic effects that made me take notice.

Margonelli wrote that, “Technologies as diverse as Facebook, compost bins, and electric vehicles have made many Californians see themselves as participants in building an oil-free future, without much fear of the potential downsides.”

And: “Rather than being afraid, a surprising number saw an economic upside in getting oil out: In polls, 43 percent of Californians said that cutting gasoline use would create jobs, while only 13 percent said it would kill them.”

(I might note that the PPIC poll respondents don’t always have the best information. Continually when asked, they describe prisons as getting the most money from the state budget and education near the bottom when the opposite is true.)

But accepting for the moment that there would be a rush of new jobs with technology and alternative energy what might be lost if we shut down the oil business?

The CRC made the following assertions:

The industry directly employs 184,100 Californians from diverse backgrounds and all levels of the socio-economic spectrum, which translates into $23.3 billion per year in wages and salaries for oil and natural gas jobs. It offers jobs to workers of all education levels, including truck drivers, geophysicists, chemists and machinists.

The oil and natural gas sector reflects California’s diversity. Over a quarter of the statewide industry workforce is Latino … In California, the average annual oil and natural gas industry salary of $118,032 is double the $56,590 average for other private industry jobs, according to a 2015 report by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC).

In total labor income alone, the oil industry injected $40 billion annually into the state’s economy, according to the LAEDC report. These salaries filter into the local economy through the vendors who work with the oil companies and the local businesses frequented by workers… The oil industry supported 456,000 jobs in the state, or 2.1 percent of California’s employment, and generated more than $204 billion in direct economic activity.

In addition, U.S. oil and natural gas companies pay considerably more in taxes than the average manufacturing company. According to Standard & Poor’s research, in 2013 the oil and natural gas industry paid an average effective tax rate of 40.2 percent versus 22.3 percent for other S&P 500 industries such as healthcare, retail, utilities, media and pharma.

In California, nearly $22 billion in state and local taxes collected in 2013 can be attributed to the oil industry, as well as $14.8 billion in sales and excise taxes, according to the LAEDC report, all of which help fund essential services and infrastructure that Californians rely on every day.

The issue of taxes paid by oil and gas companies plays against the future imagined in the Zocalo piece. Will the new alternative energy industries produce the same kind of revenue for the state?

The end-oil commentary concluded that a young woman was driving an electric vehicle – a Leaf—“with state and federal incentives.” (The family) “even installed solar panels that feed the Leaf, making them participants in generously funded state programs…”

You wonder if we cut out the traditional energy industries with all those jobs and the billions paid by the oil and gas industry in taxes if there will be revenue available to offer generous state funded incentives to buy solar panels and electric vehicles or pay for other budget items.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Do Californians Even Care About High Taxes?

Tax surveyIn Tuesday’s Republican debate in Milwaukee a graphic was displayed to show where Facebook activity occurred discussing taxes. The green shaded areas on the graph indicated areas and states that had Above Average chatter on taxes (whatever average is). What catches the eye is that about two-thirds of California is white — no heavy tax chatter. Included in the white area are the large metropolitan and heavily populated areas of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego and Sacramento.

Does this mean that Californians don’t care about taxes, at least to the extent that they don’t talk about taxes on Facebook as much as residents of other states?

More to the point for analysts and consultants, does this Facebook chart bode well for the many advocates who are hoping to place tax increases on next year’s ballot? Are taxes not a concern for Californians?

Certainly, the Facebook graphic is not a scientific survey. Who knows how many likely voters are spending time on Facebook to discuss taxes?

Perhaps, Californians are not as concerned about taxes because the state is flush. The Controller’s Office announced yesterday that in October the state pulled in nearly $200 million more than was expected lifting the surplus over $500 million more than anticipated by budget projections.

A budget surplus would play a role in the coming debates over tax measures on the ballot and lead voters to feel that no new taxes are necessary – at least those who discuss such things on Facebook.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Pentagon to launch cyberstrategy push in Silicon Valley

As reported by the L.A. Times:

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will unveil a new military cyberstrategy Thursday in the heart of Silicon Valley, reaching out to Facebook Inc. and other companies to help boost the nation’s digital defenses.

The two-day visit underscores a long-delayed shift in Pentagon priorities to recognizing cyberattacks on government agencies, major companies and crucial infrastructure as a major threat to U.S. national security.

Carter’s visit to Silicon Valley is the first by a Pentagon chief since the mid-1990s when the Internet was in its infancy, Wi-Fi and smartphones didn’t exist and America’s digital dominance was unquestioned. …

Chick here to read the full article

Facebook fights California privacy push

Computerworld – California is considering legislation that would tighten Facebook’s privacy practices, and the social network is not happy about it.

The bill, Social Networking Privacy Act (SB 242), would require Facebook and other social networking sites to make big changes to the way they handle users’ privacy. Industry analysts say social networks like Facebook could be wary of this move for fear that it will lead to a slippery slope of government control and privacy rules.

“Facebook has been very passive about security . They put the onus on the user to figure the security out on their own,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group. “Now it would automatically be more secure.”

Read More at ComputerWorld By Sharon Gaudin, ComputerWorld