Posts from Politics

Trapped In A System 

A book that has really stayed with me since I read it is The Prize, the story of the attempt to reform the Newark public school system.

And there is a particular scene in that book that really sums it up for me.

The author is at an anti-charter school protest and meets a woman who had spent that morning trying to get her son into a new charter school that had opened in Newark. The author asks the woman how it is possible that on the same day she would spend the morning trying to get her son into a charter school and the afternoon at an anti-charter protest.

The woman explains that most of her family are employed in good paying union jobs in the district schools and that the growth of charters is a threat to those jobs.

As I read that story I was struck by how rational the woman was acting. She was helping to preserve a system that provided an economic foundation for her family and at the same time opting her son out of it. 

In some ways that story is a microcosm of what is happening in the economy right now. Many people in the US (and around the world) are employed by (and trapped in) a system that no longer works very well. And although they realize the system is broken, they fight to support it because it underpins their economic security.

My partner Albert argues for a universal basic income to replace the old and broken system so we as a society can free ourselves from outdated approaches that don’t work anymore and move to adopt new and better systems. 

I think it is worth a shot to be honest.

Reason For Reform

Like all impassioned political debates, there is a reason to be on both sides of the immigration divide.

If you are against immigration, you are likely afraid of what these new people might bring to the US. They could bring lower cost labor and cause you to lose your job. They could bring crime or worse. They could bring additional votes that would cause your political party to lose more of its power and weight.

But if you are for immigration, you are excited about what these new people will bring.

And I am most decidedly on the pro-immigration side, even though I understand the anti-immigration arguments.

The reasons I want to reform our immigration laws have mostly to do with opportunity, innovation, and our economy.

Let’s look at NY State.

Immigrants now account for 23 percent of all residents of New York State. More strikingly, they make up more than a quarter of all STEM workers. A third of all entrepreneurs in the state are immigrants and their businesses alone employ just shy of 500,000 people. And this is only the private companies. New York is additionally home to 55 large Fortune 500 companies, more than half of which were started by immigrants or their children.

Since the earliest days of the US, immigrants have been coming to our country and building things, often businesses that employ our citizens.

The tech sector is pro-immigration because it benefits from immigration and because it was created, at least in part, by immigrants. Unlike some sectors of our society, tech has not forgotten where it came from.

If you too have reasons to support pro-immigration reform, then you might want to participate in a “day of action” today called Reason For Reform.

The Partnership for a New American Economy’s (NAE) Reason for Reform campaign is a way to put a face on our current immigration system which is badly in need of reform.  NAE is gathering stories and videos in every single congressional district across the country showing how immigration benefits the local community and why reform is so necessary.  They’re getting business leaders, farmers, entrepreneurs, students, faith leaders, and others to record their #ReasonForReform on cell phones or computers, which will then be sent to members of Congress and shared through social media.

If this is for you, visit Reason For Reform to tell Congress and America what immigration means to you. And you can check out what’s going on in your state here.

Video Of The Week: Khizr Khan’s Speech

The most moving and powerful speech I saw in the past two weeks, which have been full of speeches, was Khizr Khan’s speech on Thursday night.

Of course it was political and an attack on Donald Trump. But on this issue, religious and ethnic tolerance, Trump deserves the attack. And Khizr did it wonderfully.

The Candidates’ Tech Agenda

Hillary Clinton laid out her tech agenda yesterday. You can see it here. I like much of it, particularly the emphasis on getting our kids the skills they need to be competitive in the 21st century. I am so with her on that.

I googled Donald Trump tech agenda and found nothing substantive. I would encourage the Trump campaign to do something similar so the tech sector can see what these two candidates think the nation’s tech agenda should be for the next eight years.

We have so many important issues that are centered in technology that face our country:

  • cybersecurity
  • privacy
  • STEM education
  • broadband policy
  • wireless broadband policy
  • open internet
  • data rights
  • patent policy
  • copyright policy
  • immigration policy

Those are just some of the big ones in my view.

Hillary told us where she stands on most of them yesterday.

I would like to know where Trump stands on them too.

Tech:NYC

Yesterday was the launch of a new organization in NYC that I have been working on since last fall. This new organization is called Tech:NYC and will be led by Julie Samuels. It will be co-chaired by Tim Armstrong and me.

For years the tech sector has been represented in the city and state and with local civic organizations by a loose and informal group of well known entrepreneurs, CEOs, VCs, and engaged members of the tech sector. I have been one of them.

Lately, as the tech sector has grown in importance in the local economy, this approach has become unsustainable. The same small group of people keep showing up at meeting after meeting.

We need a formal mechanism that allows the entire tech sector to be engaged with local government and civic organizations and we need to get the right people to the right meetings instead of the same small group meeting after meeting.

Tim and I explained all of this in a blog post that aired yesterday on Tech:NYC’s website.

Tech:NYC will be member supported. We would like every tech company, large and small, to join and be represented and engaged. Membership details are here and startups with less than 20 employees can join for free.

If you run a company in NYC, we hope you will sign your company up to be a member of Tech:NYC. If you work at a company in NYC, we hope you will encourage your leaders to join Tech:NYC.

The “Losing Jobs To China” Discussion

I am bothered by the ongoing discussion about how the US has allowed China (and other lower cost countries) take our manufacturing jobs. That is true, of course. But it does not address the larger context which is that manufacturing is becoming more and more automated and many of these jobs will not exist at all anywhere in a few more decades.

We are now well into a transition from an industrial economy to an information economy. It seems to me that part of that transition was the move of industrial jobs to lower and lower cost regions in an ongoing march to reduce costs. But that march may end with massive automation and very little labor in the manufacturing process. That means that these low cost regions that “stole our jobs” will also lose these jobs eventually.

The US and a number of other countries around the world are building new information based economies. That is the long term winning strategy.

So while we can critique our leaders (business and political) for giving up on the manufacturing sector a bit too early, I think the US has largely played this game correctly and will be much better off than the parts of the world that have taken the low cost manufacturing jobs from us.

But we don’t hear any of our political leaders explaining this. I wish they would.

Voting

It’s primary day in NYC today. I got up early and voted.

My daughter sent me this photo. She voted too.

I Voted

Walking around NYC this morning, I saw a lot of people wearing those stickers.

I like the idea of showing pride in an act of civic responsibility.

We can complain about the options, the rhetoric, the process, the corrupt system, and we should work to change all of that. Voting is a good way to do that.

Conversation with General Keith Alexander

I follow Emily Chang’s Studio 1.0 podcast on SoundCloud. It’s very good.

She recently sat down with Former NSA Director General Keith Alexander to discuss privacy vs. security and why there needs to be more collaboration between Washington and Silicon Valley in the on-going encryption debate.

I enjoyed the conversation and you may too.

Trump Clinton 

In my “2016 Predictions” post I wrote:

Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee and he will attack the tech sector for its support of immigrant labor. As a result the tech sector will line up behind Hillary Clinton who will be elected the first woman President.

Neither Trump nor Clinton is a done deal yet but its looking more and more likely by the day.

And in the most recent Republican debate Trump went after Marco Rubio for his support of H1B visas which are critical to the tech sector in the US.

 Trump is wrong about H1Bs and pretty much everything else that comes out of his mouth. But it looks like this prediction has some legs right now.

Privacy Absolutism

The Gotham Gal has been pushing me to write this post for a few weeks. Privately with family, friends, and business colleagues, I have been saying that I believe the tech industry’s position on end to end encryption, locking everything down, securing our devices, and making it so only we can unlock them is the wrong path. I touched on this issue last month but that was more of a “what do you all think” kind of post.

I very much like what the President said in Austin late last week. To quote:

Before smartphones were invented, and to this day, if there is probable cause to think that you have abducted a child or you are engaging in a terrorist plot or you are guilty of some serious crime, law enforcement can appear at your doorstep and say we have a warrant to search your home, and they can go into your bedroom and rifle through your underwear to see if there’s any evidence of wrongdoing,” he said. “And we agree on that, because we recognize that just like all of our other rights … that there are going to be some constraints we impose so we are safe, secure and can live in a civilized society.

I do not think that because we now have the technology to lock things down (strong encryption) and because the industry that develops and maintains all of this technology has a strong libertarian bent that we should just abandon the framework that has worked in our society for hundreds of years. If society thinks someone is doing something wrong, and if law enforcement can get a warrant, there should be a mechanism to get access to our devices.

I would love to see the tech sector work to figure out a smart way to address this issue. My partner Albert has suggested an approach on his blog. There are some interesting approaches that are already being used in cold storage of bitcoin that could be applied to this situation.

But my meta point here is that I am saddened by the tech sector’s absolutist approach to this issue. The more interesting and fruitful approach would be to think about the most elegant solutions and build them. Because, as the President warned in Austin last week,

I am confident this is something we can solve, but we’re going to need the tech community, software designers, people who care deeply about this stuff, to help us solve it. If everybody goes to their respective corners … what you’ll find is that after something really bad happens, the politics of this will swing, and it will become sloppy and rushed and it will go through Congress in ways that have not been thought through, and then you really will have dangers to our civil liberties.