A Silicon Valley Paradox
September 9, 2019
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” – Charles Dickens
“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” – Charles Dickens
A Tale of Two Cities: It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times
California is the wealthiest, most progressive state in America. By almost every economic measure, the San Francisco Bay Area is outperforming the rest of the country. Its economy is growing at twice the rate of the US at large. Collectively, the GDP for the region’s nine counties, including Santa Clara, San Francisco and Oakland, is $748 billion — larger than Switzerland’s or Saudi Arabia’s. Yet despite generating so much wealth, by factoring in the cost of living, California also has the highest proportion of residents living in poverty.
San Jose has a job growth rate double the national average. But the booming economy has created another statistic — unprecedented homelessness. In the past five years, San Jose has built only one unit of housing for every six jobs it’s created.
Fewer housing units means more competition, rising rents and eventual economic eviction. In 2018 only 28 percent of families making $100,000 a year could afford the median rental amount in Bay Area neighborhoods. There was not a single enclave where a family with two parents working full-time making $15 an hour could afford the median rent.
Last November San Jose voters rejected a small property-tax increase that would have funded the construction of affordable housing. Two weeks later the city opened the small parking lot of a community center so homeless families living in their vehicles would have a safe place to park overnight. San Diego, East Palo Alto, and LA have all opened safe parking lots this year, and Mountain View and San Francisco should follow soon.
Daily Pnut is teaming up with Austin Meyer, a videographer, to tell a compelling personal story related to homelessness in San Francisco that will challenge stereotypes that people have of the homeless. If anyone knows of someone we should get in touch with, or a particular story that the world should know about, we’d love to hear. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help Us Trump, You’re Our Only Hope If Everyone Else Says No
- Thousands of protesters singing the Star Spangled Banner marched to the US consulate in Hong Kong over the weekend, calling on President Trump to support their struggle for democracy and “liberate” the territory.
- Protesters shouted “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” and “Resist Beijing, liberate Hong Kong” before handing over petitions at the consulate.
- Their pleas are unlikely to move a leader who has repeatedly shown he cares little for democratic principles. Trump previously called the protests “riots” that were a matter for China to deal with, and suggested Beijing should “humanely” settle the problem in Hong Kong before a trade deal is reached with Washington. (Guardian)
Postpone The Meeting, Postpone The War’s End
- US negotiators involved in months-long talks with the Taliban had tentatively arrived at a peace deal for Afghanistan when President Trump blew up negotiations with a series of tweets on Saturday. Trump said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and major Taliban leaders were set to meet with him at Camp David on Sunday, but he canceled the negotiations after learning about a Taliban attack that killed 12 people.
- A spokesman for the insurgents said the group had not been notified of the cancellation, and only learned of it through the media. Trump has disrupted peace talks twice despite repeatedly saying he wants to end the war that has dragged on nearly 20 years.
- On August 29, Trump told Fox News Radio that he was planning to wind down troop numbers in Afghanistan to 8,600 for now, something that outraged Taliban officials who said they were negotiating for a full, not partial, withdrawal of foreign forces, in exchange for promises that they would not allow the country to become a base for global terrorism. (NPR)
Maybe They Should Have Done A Little Research First
- The director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s influential Media Lab, Joi Ito, resigned Saturday after new reports from the New Yorker and the New York Times said that internal emails showed Ito and others had worked to hide millions of dollars in donations and other assistance from admitted child sex offender Jeffery Epstein.
- A former development associate at the lab told the New Yorker that when Epstein visited the lab in 2015, accompanied by two young female “assistants,” Ito made sure the meeting was private and that Epstein’s name was kept off his public calendar.
- MIT’s president called the allegations “deeply disturbing” and “extremely serious” and pledged that a “prominent law firm” would conduct “an immediate, thorough and independent investigation” for the university. (Guardian)
Too Much Green On Trump’s Green
- A previously unknown probe into US military expenditures at and around Trump property in Scotland was reported by Politico on Friday. The House Oversight Committee has been trying since last spring to investigate why Air National Guard crews on routine military flights to and from the Middle East were refueling at an airport close to President Trump’s Turnberry resort outside Glasgow, instead of the customary military bases in Germany or Spain where fuel is much cheaper.
- The stops also included overnight stays. According to a letter the panel sent the Pentagon last June, since October 2017 the military has spent $11 million of taxpayer money on fuel at Prestwick Airport. Both the airport and the Trump property had been suffering financially — Prestwick was almost bankrupt and Turnberry reported a $4.5 million loss in 2017.
- Revenue went up at Turnberry by $3.1 million in 2018. The constitution strictly prohibits a president from benefiting financially, other than his salary, while in office. So far the Defense Department has failed to produce a single document requested by the committee. (Politico, NBCNews)
- Checking In at Trump Hotels, for Kinship (and Maybe Some Sway): To ethics lawyers, the most extraordinary aspect of the daily merging of President Trump’s official duties and his commercial interests is that it has now become almost routine. (NYT $)
The DMV Somehow Gets Worse
- Departments of Motor Vehicles in states around the country are selling drivers’ personal information to thousands of businesses, including private investigators, insurance and tow companies. Multiple states have made tens of millions of dollars a year selling this data.
- The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), a law written in the 1990s, legalizes the sale of personal data to licensed private eyes, but the licensing process varies from state to state, and some states allow investigators to operate without a license. The director of Safety Net at the National Network to End Domestic Violence says: “The selling of personally identifying information to third parties is … specifically a safety issue for survivors of abuse, including domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and trafficking.”
- One skiptracer, who uses various tools and techniques to track down vehicles for repossession, said “with Texas having no repo license and minimum standards, convicted felons can and do access professional databases.” (Vice)
- ‘Burner’ phones aren’t just for criminals. Here’s why you should have one (USA Today)
- Why It’s So Hard for Young People to Date Offline: Meet-cutes are hard when nobody wants to talk to strangers. (Atlantic. $) And Don’t Trust Facebook With Your Love Life: Happiness, brought to you by the company that gave you the Cambridge Analytica Scandal™! (NYT, $)
- It might seem like it’s always sunny at Stanford but Stanford is in the news for all the wrong reasons: How to Major in Unicorn: Many of the freshmen now arriving in Palo Alto came to raise capital and drop out. A cynic’s guide to killing it at Stanford. (NY Mag) and You Know Emily Doe’s Story. Now Learn Her Name. (NYT, $)
- For more reading: all the unused links from today’s edition
“The most important thing in life is to stop saying ‘I wish’ and start saying ‘I will.’ Consider nothing impossible, then treat possibilities as probabilities.” – Charles Dickens
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