Finding Gold in Silicon Valley
November 5, 2019
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”
“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”
– William Faulkner
Protest Wars Episode 4: A New Hope
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists still see the United States as democracy’s greatest defender. The protesters have had public displays of solidarity from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress. Now activists are pinning their hopes on the White House, calling on President Trump to take a tougher stance against Beijing.
Supportive bipartisan legislation is working its way through Congress. The “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” would allow the US to impose economic sanctions and a travel ban on Hong Kong officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses. One young protester told reporters: “We hope this bill will pass. It’s our hope for winning this war.”
But former State Department and National Security Council official Ryan Hass has a reality check for activists. “I worry that the protesters in Hong Kong risk misinterpreting American sympathy and support of their cause for expectation that the United States will shield them from Beijing’s heavy hand.”
Hass is right, because whether the US takes greater action hinges on a man who is unpredictable — who rarely, if ever, mentions human rights and democracy. Trump is a transactional president, illustrated by his offer to China’s President Xi Jinping last June to stay quiet on Hong Kong as long as progress was being made on trade talks.
“Strong American support for the peaceful protesters is not enough to override president Trump’s transactional instincts,” Hass said. “He does not look at Hong Kong through a values-based lens. And as long as he remains president, this outlook will limit America’s responses to developments in Hong Kong.”
You Put The U In Pollution
- The most polluted city in the world is Delhi, and the toxic environment has taken a toll on almost all the Indian city’s 20 million residents. Last weekend the air pollution reached catastrophic levels; a public health emergency that is still in effect was declared.
- Thousands of women who had gathered in the waters of Delhi’s Yamuna River on the city’s most polluted day in three years, to mark the ancient Hindu festival of Chhath Puja, had to immerse themselves in the river’s thick, foaming toxic waste, while inhaling air so thick with smog that it went off the pollution charts.
- Residents are infuriated at authorities in the federal government and state governments of Delhi and neighboring Punjab and Haryana for their impotent and uncoordinated response to the crisis. The campaign director for Help Delhi Breathe said the governments were “all passing the buck and blaming each other while we have to live in this disgusting layer of smog.” (Guardian)
Everybody’s Working Because Of The Three Day Weekend
- Japanese employees are known to work some of the longest hours in the world. A 2017 survey suggested nearly a quarter of Japanese companies had employees working more than 80 hours overtime a month, often unpaid.
- But in the summer of 2019, Microsoft Japan tried an experiment it called Work Life Choice Challenge. Offices were closed every Friday in August and full-time staff were given “special leave” without losing any pay. Meetings were restricted to a maximum of 30 minutes and online discussions were encouraged as an alternative to face-to-face meetings.
- The company reported the four day work week experiment resulted in a 40 percent boost in sales. Not all employers are on board with the four day work week. Jack Ma, co-founder of Chinese online shopping giant Alibaba, has championed 12-hour working days, six days a week. (BBC)
Planting The Seeds Of Corruption
- The EU’s farm subsidies program pays out $65 million annually that is intended to support farmers around the continent and keep rural communities alive. But an investigation by the New York Times, conducted in nine countries for most of 2019, uncovered a subsidy system that is deliberately secretive, undermines the EUs environmental goals, and is rife with corruption and self-dealing.
- Across Hungary and much of Central and Eastern Europe, the bulk of subsidies go to the well-connected and powerful few, and subsidies have underwritten mafia-style land grabs in Slovakia and Bulgaria. Governments in many of those states are led by right-wing populists who have wide latitude in how the subsidies, funded by taxpayers across Europe, are distributed.
- The prime minister of the Czech Republic, for example, collected millions of dollars in subsidies last year alone. (NYT)
Wealth Rises In The Valley
- Billionaires keep getting richer and income inequality continues to grow. The decade-long bull market has meant tech leaders who control the stock of their massive corporations keep getting fantastically wealthier.
- Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame has added $20 billion to his net worth in 2019. Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates’ No. 2 at Microsoft, was one of the world’s richest people already, but in 2019 he became twice as rich as he was at the beginning of 2017.
- Amazon’s Jeff Bezos lost a little in 2019 when he got divorced — $35 billion to be exact — but he’s still the world’s richest person. The phenomenon of astronomical wealth has caused a conundrum very few people in the entire world could appreciate — what should billionaires do with all that money while they’re alive, and what should happen to it after they’re gone? (Vox)
- How tech billionaires do Halloween
Additional World News
- In A Remote Arctic Outpost, Norway Keeps Watch On Russia’s Military Buildup
- Police find 41 migrants alive in refrigerated truck in Greece
- Berlin bans performers posing as US soldiers at Checkpoint Charlie
- Saudi Aramco, World’s Most Profitable Company, Will Make First Public Offering
- The Korean Secret to Happiness and Success: With “nunchi,” all you need is your eyes, your ears and a quiet mind.
Becoming President is Not a Popularity Contest
- In a national polling average, President Trump trails Democratic candidate Joe Biden by nine points. But a New York Times/Siena College poll of 3,766 registered voters from October 13 to 26 shows the president remains highly competitive in the battleground states likeliest to decide his re-election.
- In 2016 Trump lost the popular vote by almost three million votes, but won the Electoral College to become president by sweeping Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina. And in those six states, the poll shows Trump trailing Biden by an average of two points among registered voters — that’s within the margin of error.
- Both Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College. Election data analyzed by researchers shows that in close presidential races in the modern age, the Electoral College gives Republicans a massive advantage over Democrats. (NYT, Slate)
The Most Anti-Democracy Company in the World, Inc. dba Facebook
- After Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook would not fact-check politicians ads on the platform, Hillary Clinton said he “should pay a price” for damaging democracy.
- “The stakes are enormous,” the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate said, speaking in New York at a screening of The Great Hack, a Netflix documentary about the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
- Clinton cited the threat to upcoming elections in both the US and UK as she criticized Facebook’s decision to allow politicians to lie in the ads they posted on the platform. Clinton said it was inevitable that false information on Facebook would have an impact on elections “because propaganda works.” (Guardian)
- We have watched The Great Hack and heavily recommend this documentary
- The Great Hack Trailer
Take A Deep Breath And Cross Your Fingers
- A million Americans a year are cited for drunk driving. When a driver is stopped on suspicion of drunk driving, the officer will likely ask him to take a breathalyzer test. If the driver refuses, he’s probably hauled off to jail right then and there.
- The little machines that measure the concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream are the bedrock of the criminal justice system — they are also notoriously unreliable. A New York Times investigation found that the devices ensconced in virtually every police station in America generate skewed results with alarming frequency, even though they are marketed as precise to the third decimal place.
- Judges in Massachusetts and New Jersey have thrown out more than 30,000 breath tests in the past 12 months alone. (NYT)
- The Happy, Healthy Capitalists of Switzerland: Forget Scandinavia. Switzerland is richer and yet has a surprisingly equal wealth distribution.
- Blue spaces: why time spent near water is the secret of happiness
- Oklahoma is releasing 462 inmates in the largest single-day commutation in US history: The state’s Republican leaders are forging ahead with criminal justice reform
- The Strange, Sad Story of the Ken Doll’s Crotch
- Tiny Brains Don’t Stop These Birds From Having a Complex Society: Scientists discovered that vulturine guineafowl live in multilevel societies reminiscent of our own.
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”- William Faulkner
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU