Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

News & Supplemental  

Googling in the Bathtub with Grover Norquist

Grover Norquist

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained here. (The flash dri­ve includes the anti-fas­cist books avail­able on this site.)

COMMENT: In the ongo­ing series about L’Af­faire Snow­den, we have dis­cussed the fact that the col­lec­tion of meta­da­ta is rou­tine by Inter­net and cell­phone com­pa­nies, as well as retail out­lets that offer dis­count cards. (The har­vest­ing of meta­da­ta is the focal point of what the NSA does and what lies at the cen­ter of the “con­tro­ver­sy.”)

A recent post by PR Watch notes that Grover Norquist has been among the recip­i­ents of Google mon­ey.

Hav­ing opined that he want­ed to “drown” gov­ern­ment in the “bath­tub,” Norquist is a lynch­pin of the “Shut­down GOP” and the founder of the Islam­ic Free Mar­ket Insti­tute. A syn­the­sis of the GOP and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, the Insti­tute is inex­tri­ca­bly linked with the Oper­a­tion Green Quest inves­ti­ga­tion into ter­ror­ist financ­ing.

Against the back­ground of Google’s financ­ing of Norquist’s cru­sades and oth­er right-wing caus­es, one can but won­der what Google may be doing with the vast amounts of meta­da­ta they har­vest.

“The Googliza­tion of the Far Right: Why is Google Fund­ing Grover Norquist, Her­itage Action and ALEC?” by Nick Surgey; prwatch.org; 11/27/2013.

EXCERPT: Google, the tech giant sup­pos­ed­ly guid­ed by its “don’t be evil” mot­to, has been fund­ing a grow­ing list of groups advanc­ing the agen­da of the Koch broth­ers.

Orga­ni­za­tions that received “sub­stan­tial” fund­ing from Google for the first time over the past year include Grover Norquist’s Amer­i­cans for Tax Reform, the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety, the Amer­i­can Con­ser­v­a­tive Union (best known for its CPAC con­fer­ence), and the polit­i­cal arm of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion that led the charge to shut down the gov­ern­ment over the Afford­able Care Act: Her­itage Action . . . .
. . . . More than any oth­er group work­ing to repeal the Afford­able Care Act, Her­itage Action pushed for a sus­tained gov­ern­ment shut­down in the fall of 2013, tak­ing the coun­try to the brink of a poten­tial­ly cat­a­stroph­ic debt default.

Lay­ing the ground for that strat­e­gy, Her­itage Action held a nine-city “Defund Oba­macare Town Hall Tour” in August 2013, pro­vid­ing a plat­form for Texas Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz to address crowds of cheer­ing tea par­ty sup­port­ers.

For Cruz, increas­ing­ly spo­ken of as a 2016 Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, the gov­ern­ment shut­down helped raise his pro­file and build his sup­port­er — and donor — base.

Notably, Her­itage Action received $500,000 from the Koch-fund­ed and Koch-oper­a­tive staffed Free­dom Part­ners in 2012. It is not yet known how much Her­itage Action received in 2013 from sources oth­er than Google.

Per­haps sur­pris­ing­ly, Google has a his­to­ry of sup­port­ing Cruz. Via its Polit­i­cal Action Com­mit­tee – Google Inc. Net PAC – the PAC pro­vid­ed the “Ted Cruz for Sen­ate” cam­paign with a $10,000 con­tri­bu­tion in 2012. Addi­tion­al­ly, despite being five years out from the fresh­man Sen­a­tor’s next elec­tion, Google’s PAC has already made a $2,500 con­tri­bu­tion to the Cruz reelec­tion cam­paign for 2018, the largest amount that the PAC has giv­en so far to any Sen­ate can­di­date run­ning that elec­tion year accord­ing to dis­clo­sures made by Google.

Amer­i­cans for Tax Reform (ATR), the anti-gov­ern­ment group run by Repub­li­can oper­a­tive Grover Norquist, was anoth­er new recip­i­ent of fund­ing from Google in 2013. ATR is best known for its “Tax­pay­er Pro­tec­tion Pledge,” and for its fun­da­men­tal­ist attacks on any Repub­li­can who might dare to vote for any increase in tax­es. Accord­ing to the Cen­ter for Respon­sive Pol­i­tics, ATR received 85% of its fund­ing in 2012 ($26.4 mil­lion) from the ultra-par­ti­san Karl Rove-run Cross­roads GPS, anoth­er dark mon­ey group.

ATR Pres­i­dent Grover Norquist infa­mous­ly said that he wants to shrink gov­ern­ment “down to the size where we can drown it in the bath­tub.” Google’s posi­tion on the rel­a­tive size of gov­ern­ment ver­sus bath­tubs is not known, but accord­ing to a Bloomberg analy­sis of Google’s U.S. cor­po­rate fil­ings, it avoids approx­i­mate­ly $2 bil­lion dol­lars glob­al­ly in tax pay­ments each year through the use of cre­ative tax shel­ters. . . .

Discussion

12 comments for “Googling in the Bathtub with Grover Norquist”

  1. Here’s a look at one of the ini­tia­tives Google is pro­mot­ing with their sup­port of the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Com­mit­tee (Alec): Over the next year Alec is plan­ning a cam­paign for reduc­ing the incen­tives for home­own­ers to install solar pan­els. This is going to include lob­by­ing for a reduc­tion in the amounts paid to home­own­ers for the elec­tric­i­ty fed back into the grid, and it might even include charg­ing solar pan­el own­ers for the elec­tric­i­ty they pay into the grid. This, claims Alec, will get rid of the ‘freerid­er’ prob­lem of peo­ple giv­ing elec­tric­i­ty to the grid with­out pay­ing for the cost of main­tain­ing that grid. “As it stands now, those direct gen­er­a­tion cus­tomers are essen­tial­ly freerid­ers on the sys­tem. They are not pay­ing for the infra­struc­ture they are using. In effect, all the oth­er non direct gen­er­a­tion cus­tomers are being penalised”. Yes, that’s actu­al­ly want the Alec rep­re­sen­ta­tive said about the peo­ple installing solar pan­els and sell­ing that elec­tric­i­ty back to the grid. And that’s just one of the many anti-clean ener­gy ini­tia­tive Alec has in mind.

    If Google’s prod­ucts relied on elec­tric­i­ty, as opposed to the free-mar­ket mag­i­cal fairy dust that cur­rent­ly pow­ers the inter­net, Google’s exec­u­tives might actu­al­ly have a rea­son to feel like hor­ri­ble peo­ple for sup­port­ing a group like this:

    ALEC calls for penal­ties on ‘freerid­er’ home­own­ers in assault on clean ener­gy
    • Doc­u­ments reveal con­ser­v­a­tive group’s anti-green agen­da
    • Strat­e­gy to charge peo­ple who install their own solar pan­els
    • Envi­ron­men­tal­ists accuse Alec of pro­tect­ing util­i­ty firms’ prof­its
    • ALEC fac­ing fund­ing cri­sis after exo­dus of big donors

    Suzanne Gold­en­berg in Wash­ing­ton and Ed Pilk­ing­ton in New York
    theguardian.com, Wednes­day 4 Decem­ber 2013 12.49 EST

    An alliance of cor­po­ra­tions and con­ser­v­a­tive activists is mobil­is­ing to penalise home­own­ers who install their own solar pan­els – cast­ing them as “freerid­ers” – in a sweep­ing new offen­sive against renew­able ener­gy, the Guardian has learned.

    Over the com­ing year, the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil (Alec) will pro­mote leg­is­la­tion with goals rang­ing from penal­is­ing indi­vid­ual home­own­ers and weak­en­ing state clean ener­gy reg­u­la­tions, to block­ing the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, which is Barack Oba­ma’s main chan­nel for cli­mate action.

    Details of Alec’s strat­e­gy to block clean ener­gy devel­op­ment at every stage – from the indi­vid­ual rooftop to the White House – are revealed as the group gath­ers for its pol­i­cy sum­mit in Wash­ing­ton this week.

    About 800 state leg­is­la­tors and busi­ness lead­ers are due to attend the three-day event, which begins on Wednes­day with appear­ances by the Wis­con­sin sen­a­tor Ron John­son and the Repub­li­can bud­get guru and fel­low Wis­con­si­nite Paul Ryan.

    Oth­er Alec speak­ers will be a lead­ing fig­ure behind the recent gov­ern­ment shut­down, US sen­a­tor Ted Cruz of Texas, and the gov­er­nors of Indi­ana and Wyoming, Mike Pence and Matt Mead.

    For 2014, Alec plans to pro­mote a suite of mod­el bills and res­o­lu­tions aimed at block­ing Barack Oba­ma from cut­ting green­house gas emis­sions, and state gov­ern­ments from pro­mot­ing the expan­sion of wind and solar pow­er through reg­u­la­tions known as Renew­able Port­fo­lio Stan­dards.

    Doc­u­ments obtained by the Guardian show the core ele­ments of its strat­e­gy began to take shape at the pre­vi­ous board meet­ing in Chica­go in August, with meet­ings of its ener­gy, envi­ron­ment and agri­cul­ture sub­com­mit­tees.

    Fur­ther details of Alec’s strat­e­gy were pro­vid­ed by John Eick, the leg­isla­tive ana­lyst for Alec’s ener­gy, envi­ron­ment and agri­cul­ture pro­gram.

    Eick told the Guardian the group would be look­ing close­ly in the com­ing year at how indi­vid­ual home­own­ers with solar pan­els are com­pen­sat­ed for feed­ing sur­plus elec­tric­i­ty back into the grid.

    “This is an issue we are going to be explor­ing,” Eick said. He said Alec want­ed to low­er the rate elec­tric­i­ty com­pa­nies pay home­own­ers for direct pow­er gen­er­a­tion – and maybe even charge home­own­ers for feed­ing pow­er into the grid.

    “As it stands now, those direct gen­er­a­tion cus­tomers are essen­tial­ly freerid­ers on the sys­tem. They are not pay­ing for the infra­struc­ture they are using. In effect, all the oth­er non direct gen­er­a­tion cus­tomers are being penalised,” he said.

    Eick dis­missed the sug­ges­tion that indi­vid­u­als who buy and install home-based solar pan­els had made such invest­ments. “How are they going to get that elec­tric­i­ty from their solar pan­el to some­body else’s house?” he said. “They should be pay­ing to dis­trib­ute the sur­plus elec­tric­i­ty.”

    In Novem­ber, Ari­zona became the first state to charge cus­tomers for installing solar pan­els. The fee, which works out to about $5 a month for the aver­age home­own­er, was far low­er than that sought by the main elec­tric­i­ty com­pa­ny, which was seek­ing to add up to $100 a month to cus­tomers’ bills.

    Gabe Elsner, direc­tor of the Ener­gy and Pol­i­cy Insti­tute, said the attack on small-scale solar was part of the larg­er Alec project to block clean ener­gy. “They are try­ing to elim­i­nate pro-solar poli­cies in the states to pro­tect util­i­ty indus­try prof­its,” he said.

    The group spon­sored at least 77 ener­gy bills in 34 states last year. The mea­sures were aimed at oppos­ing renew­able ener­gy stan­dards, push­ing through the Key­stone XL pipeline project, and bar­ring over­sight on frack­ing, accord­ing to an analy­sis by the Cen­tre for Media and Democ­ra­cy.

    Until now, the biggest tar­get in Alec’s sights were state Renew­able Port­fo­lio Stan­dards, which require elec­tric­i­ty com­pa­nies to source a share of their pow­er from wind, solar, bio­mass, or oth­er clean ener­gy. Such mea­sures are seen as crit­i­cal to reduc­ing Amer­i­ca’s use of coal and oil, and to the fight against cli­mate change. RPS are now in force in 30 states.

    In 2012, Alec draft­ed a mod­el bill push­ing for the out­right repeal of RPS.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 8, 2013, 5:54 pm
  2. Maybe Dave Eggers book “The Cir­cle” isn’t so far off after all! Now even Sci­en­tol­ogy is start­ing to not look so bad next to these cor­po­rate cults.

    Posted by Harry Clark | December 9, 2013, 5:47 pm
  3. Lar­ry Page recent­ly gave an inter­view where he dis­cussed his faith that busi­ness is the best way to build his ver­sion of a bet­ter future. It’s a faith in the pow­er of busi­ness to imple­ment the changes he wants to see. It’s also a faith that has dri­ven him to pon­der leav­ing his bil­lions to Elon Musk instead of a phil­an­thropic orga­ni­za­tion because Musk is deter­mined to start a Mars colony and Page thinks that giv­ing human­i­ty a “back­up plan” is a top pri­or­i­ty. The idea of bil­lion­aires gift­ing their for­tunes to each oth­er out of a fear that the wealth will be wast­ed on non-cor­po­rate phil­an­thropic deeds might seem like a vio­la­tion of Google’s “don’t be evil” cre­do, but keep in mind that Lar­ry’s vision for a bet­ter tomor­row seems to revolve around jet­ti­son­ing all our bil­lion­aires to Mars. Is that a bad thing?

    Busi­ness Insid­er
    Lar­ry Page: I’d Rather Leave My Bil­lions to Elon Musk Than to Char­i­ty
    By Jay Yarow
    Mar. 20, 2014, 8:22 AM

    Google CEO Lar­ry Page has an unusu­al idea about what should hap­pen to his bil­lions should he die.

    Instead of giv­ing it to a phil­an­thropic orga­ni­za­tion, he’d rather hand over his cash to Elon Musk, the founder of Tes­la, SpaceX, and Solar City.

    In a con­ver­sa­tion with Char­lie Rose at a TED con­fer­ence on Wednes­day, Page said he want­ed his mon­ey going to cap­i­tal­ists like Musk — those with big ideas for chang­ing the world — accord­ing to a report at Wired.

    He thinks Musk’s vision for going to Mars “to back up human­i­ty” is inspired. He said, “That’s a com­pa­ny, and that’s phil­an­throp­i­cal.”

    Accord­ing to some peo­ple on Twit­ter, Page even went as far as to sug­gest that every­one give their mon­ey to a cor­po­ra­tion that was try­ing to accom­plish big stuff.

    We’re not sure if he’s being lit­er­al or fig­u­ra­tive here. There are sur­pris­ing­ly few write-ups of these com­ments on the Web.

    It seems as if he’s mak­ing a larg­er point, which is that the right com­pa­ny run by the right per­son can have a major effect.

    Update: Here, via TED, is the tran­script of Page talk­ing to Rose:

    You are one of those peo­ple who believe that cor­po­ra­tions are agents of change, if they’re run well.

    I’m real­ly dis­mayed. Most peo­ple think cor­po­ra­tions are basi­cal­ly evil. They get a bad rap. And that’s some­what cor­rect, if com­pa­nies are doing the same incre­men­tal things they did 20 years ago. But that’s not real­ly what we need. Espe­cial­ly in tech, we need rev­o­lu­tion­ary change, not incre­men­tal change.

    You once said you might con­sid­er giv­ing your mon­ey to Elon Musk because you had con­fi­dence he will change the future.

    He wants to go to Mars. That’s a wor­thy goal. We have a lot of employ­ees at Google who’ve become pret­ty wealthy. You’re work­ing because you want to change the world and make it bet­ter; if the com­pa­ny you work for is wor­thy of your time, why not your mon­ey as well? We just don’t think about that. I’d like for us to help out more than we are.

    Well, at least it’s pret­ty obvi­ous that Lar­ry sees the many very seri­ous threats to our civ­i­liza­tion and the real need for a “back up” plan. Hope­ful­ly, some­day, mak­ing seri­ous invest­ments in the kinds of busi­ness­es that will pre­vent the need for that dooms­day “back up” plan will also be part of the plan.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 20, 2014, 12:47 pm
  4. Well isn’t this inter­est­ing: The Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil (ALEC), which is known for push­ing “mod­el leg­is­la­tion” with remark­able suc­cess, hap­pens to be a tax-exempt orga­ni­za­tion. It turns out that ALEC does­n’t do any lob­by­ing at all. Yep, that’s actu­al­ly what ALEC argues and it works:

    PR Watch
    Paul Weyrich’s Troi­ka Reunit­ed: ALEC Part­ners with Repub­li­can Study Com­mit­tee at Her­itage Foun­da­tion
    Post­ed by Bren­dan Fis­ch­er on Sep­tem­ber 12, 2012

    Three right-wing orga­ni­za­tions found­ed near­ly forty years ago by con­ser­v­a­tive activist Paul Weyrich are redis­cov­er­ing their shared ori­gins. The Repub­li­can Study Com­mit­tee, a cau­cus of 169 right-wing Repub­li­cans in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, is estab­lish­ing a part­ner­ship with the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil (ALEC), the con­tro­ver­sial “cor­po­rate bill mill” for state leg­is­la­tors, and their first meet­ing is sched­uled at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion head­quar­ters. Each of those three orga­ni­za­tions — the RSC, ALEC, and the Her­itage Foun­da­tion — were found­ed in 1973 by Weyrich. (Weyrich passed away in 2008.)

    “With the Inter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice review­ing ALEC’s long his­to­ry of tax fraud, and with major cor­po­ra­tions like Gen­er­al Elec­tric, Gen­er­al Motors and Coca-Cola head­ing for the exits, it’s mind-bog­gling to see the Repub­li­can Study Com­mit­tee (RSC) and its 169 mem­bers look­ing to estab­lish even infor­mal ties to ALEC,” Com­mon Cause Pres­i­dent Bob Edgar said in a state­ment.

    Next week’s meet­ing, which Roll Call reports will include at least six fed­er­al and 18 state law­mak­ers, is per­haps less sur­pris­ing giv­en the shared his­to­ry between ALEC and the RSC.
    ALEC, RSC, Her­itage Share Ori­gins

    ALEC has come under increas­ing scruti­ny in recent months as the pub­lic has become aware of its role in advanc­ing the “Stand Your Ground” law ini­tial­ly cit­ed to pro­tect Trayvon Mar­t­in’s killer, as well as vot­er sup­pres­sion bills, anti-envi­ron­men­tal and union-bust­ing poli­cies, and oth­er con­tro­ver­sial leg­is­la­tion. Amidst these con­tro­ver­sies, at least thir­ty-eight cor­po­rate mem­bers have cut ties to ALEC and sev­en­ty state leg­is­la­tors have dropped their ALEC mem­ber­ship.

    Though few Amer­i­cans were aware of ALEC until recent­ly, it was found­ed near­ly forty years ago.

    Some have traced the orga­ni­za­tion’s roots to the 1971 “Pow­ell Memo,” a let­ter from soon-to-be U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tice Lewis F. Pow­ell to the direc­tor of the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce map­ping out a game plan for cor­po­ra­tions to counter what he called a “frontal assault” on the free enter­prise sys­tem from indi­vid­u­als like Ralph Nad­er and the envi­ron­men­tal move­ment. “Busi­ness must learn the les­son ... that polit­i­cal pow­er is nec­es­sary,” Pow­ell wrote, and “that such pow­er must be assi­dous­ly [sic] cul­ti­vat­ed; and that when nec­es­sary, it must be used aggres­sive­ly and with deter­mi­na­tion.”

    Many have cred­it­ed the memo as inspir­ing the found­ing of right-wing think tanks like the Her­itage Foun­da­tion in 1973, but few have not­ed that Weyrich co-found­ed ALEC and the RSC that same year — just two years after the Pow­ell Memo was issued. Weyrich would go on to found the Free Con­gress Foun­da­tion the fol­low­ing year and in 1977 he co-found­ed the Moral Major­i­ty with Jer­ry Fal­well.

    “Next to Ronald Rea­gan, no sin­gle per­son has achieved more to advance the cause of Amer­i­can con­ser­vatism than Paul Weyrich,” con­ser­v­a­tive activist Mor­ton Black­well wrote in 2008.

    When Weyrich died in 2008, then-RSC Chair Jeb Hen­sar­ling (R‑TX) issued a state­ment say­ing, “The Her­itage Foun­da­tion, which he co-found­ed, is an intel­lec­tu­al home for all con­ser­v­a­tives. And with­out Paul, the Repub­li­can Study Com­mit­tee, which he worked to cre­ate, would not exist today. His ideas and prin­ci­ples will be car­ried on by not just the Repub­li­can Study Com­mit­tee and the Her­itage foun­da­tion, but by con­ser­v­a­tives across the coun­try that rely on the insti­tu­tions which Paul worked to estab­lish.”

    Weyrich famous­ly observed that with regard to the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment “our lever­age in the elec­tions goes up as the vot­ing pop­u­lace goes down.” Today, ALEC and the GOP are pur­su­ing his vision with a vot­er sup­pres­sion agen­da that includes strict vot­er iden­ti­fi­ca­tion bills intro­duced in 37 states across the nation since 2011, pur­port­ed­ly to crack down on phan­tom “vot­er fraud.”

    ...

    Meet­ings May Raise Legal Issues

    Regard­less of what comes from the reuni­fi­ca­tion of RSC, ALEC, and the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, the meet­ings may raise oth­er con­cerns.

    As a char­i­ty orga­nized under sec­tion 501(c)(3) of the tax code, lob­by­ing is not sup­posed to be a “sub­stan­tial part” of ALEC’s over­all activ­i­ties. Com­mon Cause and for­mer IRS offi­cial Mar­cus Owens have filed IRS com­plaints alleg­ing that ALEC is vio­lat­ing its char­i­ta­ble sta­tus by engag­ing in sub­stan­tial lob­by­ing through the pro­mo­tion and devel­op­ment of mod­el leg­is­la­tion. (A third com­plaint was filed by the Vot­ers Leg­isla­tive Trans­paren­cy Project in August). Rather than argu­ing that lob­by­ing is an insub­stan­tial part of its activ­i­ties, ALEC has told the IRS for years that it engages in “zero” lob­by­ing. But meet­ing direct­ly with mem­bers of Con­gress can­not be con­strued as any­thing but lob­by­ing, said Joe Birken­stock, a lawyer at the DC firm Caplin & Drys­dale who advis­es clients on Con­gres­sion­al ethics. “To the extent that ALEC offi­cials them­selves are at this event, they are hav­ing lob­by­ing con­tacts,” he told Roll Call. “It seems to me that it’s prob­a­bly a slam-dunk.”

    That tax-exempt non-lob­by­ing sure is effec­tive.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 2, 2014, 10:22 am
  5. Google as a new army. Of bal­loons. Once the tech­nol­o­gy is per­fect­ed the bal­loon army can then cir­cle the globe pro­vid­ed free WiFi to rur­al areas. It’s not as scary a bal­loon army as it could be, but since the bal­loons are intend­ed to offer free WiFi, and since this is Google we’re talk­ing about, it’s still a lit­tle scary:

    Pan­do Dai­ly
    Google works with “for­mer mil­i­tary oper­a­tions peo­ple” to devel­op its WiFi drone army…

    By Yasha Levine
    On June 18, 2014

    A few days ago, Wired’s Steven Levy wrote wrote about the lat­est devel­op­ments from Google’s Project Loon — an auda­cious and fright­en­ing attempt to launch a bal­loon-drone army high up in the atmos­phere.

    The plan is to cre­ate noth­ing less than a glob­al WiFi net­work, pow­ered by hun­dreds of bal­loons cir­cling the globe at an alti­tude of 60,000 ft. Google envi­sions Loon deliv­er­ing (and sur­veilling) Inter­net con­nec­tiv­i­ty to the poor, rur­al uncon­nect­ed mass­es around the world, not to men­tion fill­ing in Internet/mobile dead spots in Sil­i­con Valley’s own back­yard. Who knows, it might even com­pete with exist­ing cel­lu­lar phone ser­vices one day.

    Writes Levy:

    With the advances made over the last year, Google has a clear­er idea of how it might even­tu­al­ly make mon­ey with Loon. In addi­tion to con­nect­ing the last few bil­lion (and often cash-poor) Inter­net users, the project might serve already-con­nect­ed peo­ple with fat wal­lets by part­ner­ing with exist­ing providers to deliv­er a super-roam­ing expe­ri­ence. “It’s not lim­it­ed to rur­al areas,” Teller says. “Even in the mid­dle of Sil­i­con Val­ley you can lose con­nec­tions while dri­ving; large build­ings and hills can block the sig­nals. Bal­loons can fill in dead spots.”

    If hun­dreds of Google spy bal­loons con­stant­ly hov­er­ing over­head isn’t scary enough, Levy point­ed out that the com­pa­ny is work­ing with “for­mer mil­i­tary oper­a­tions peo­ple” in order to track down and find every downed bal­loon in order to study their fail­ures and improve the reli­a­bil­i­ty of its so far sub-per­form­ing bal­loon tech­nol­o­gy.

    I guess it’s not sur­pris­ing, giv­en Google’s his­to­ry of close col­lab­o­ra­tion with the mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al com­plex.

    But I’m curi­ous exact­ly what kind of “for­mer mil­i­tary oper­a­tions peo­ple” is Google work­ing with? What coun­try? And what mil­i­tary? Or is it pri­vate secu­ri­ty con­trac­tors like Blackwater/Academi? Or maybe the secre­tive CIA-con­nect­ed Black­bird Tech­nolo­gies, which spe­cial­izes in hi-tech track­ing and search & res­cue mis­sions and has part­nered with Google before?

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 18, 2014, 2:17 pm
  6. Look out Grover, you have com­pe­ti­tion in the ‘no tax’ pledge depart­ment and your new com­pe­ti­tion, Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty, isn’t just ask­ing for a ‘no tax’ pledge. They’re ask­ing for a ‘cut tax­es’ pledge, along with a bunch of oth­er stuff that should do won­ders for your plans on drown­ing the gov­ern­ment in the bath­tub. Sor­ry Grover, your no tax pledge is los­ing its crazy edge:

    Cam­paign Mon­i­tor
    Can­di­dates sign AFP pledge to cut tax­es, oppose Oba­macare

    By KATHLEEN RONAYNE

    Mon­i­tor staff
    Wednes­day, July 30, 2014

    More than 200 can­di­dates for state office have signed onto an Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty pledge say­ing they’ll cut tax­es, fight to pass a right to work law and oppose Med­ic­aid expan­sion.

    Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty is a polit­i­cal­ly active non-prof­it backed by the Koch Broth­ers that fights for small­er gov­ern­ment and indi­vid­ual free­doms. The state chap­ter, Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty Foun­da­tion — New Hamp­shire, held an event today to high­light can­di­dates who have signed the pledge, includ­ing Repub­li­can guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­date Andrew Hem­ing­way. His pri­ma­ry oppo­nent Walt Haven­stein also plans to sign the pledge, his cam­paign said, but could not attend today’s event due to a fundrais­er in Vir­ginia.

    The pledge was mailed out last Wednes­day and can­di­dates can still turn it in. The pledge includes five promis­es: Cut tax­es and oppose tax increas­es, cut spend­ing and the size of gov­ern­ment, pass a right to work law, oppose Oba­macare and Med­ic­aid expan­sion and to uphold the state and fed­er­al con­sti­tu­tions. A key pur­pose of the pledge is cre­at­ing account­abil­i­ty, state direc­tor Greg Moore said.

    Incum­bent Repub­li­can Sens. David Boutin of Hook­sett and Nan­cy Stiles of Hamp­ton signed a sim­i­lar pledge last year but lat­er vot­ed for Med­ic­aid expan­sion and to increase the gas tax. AFP has already sent out direct mail pieces telling vot­ers that both can­di­dates broke the pledge while in office, Moore said.

    “Those of us here today hold prin­ci­ples that do not have a Nov. 4, 2014, expi­ra­tion date,” said for­mer House Speak­er Bill O’Brien, a Mont Ver­non Repub­li­can who was named AFP New Hampshire’s Con­ser­v­a­tive of the Year in April.

    ...

    The pledge is main­ly for state can­di­dates, but it is sent to fed­er­al can­di­dates as well. U.S. Sen­ate can­di­date Bob Smith is the only fed­er­al can­di­date to sign it so far, Moore said.

    In a press release ear­li­er this week, the New Hamp­shire Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty said that Havenstein’s and Hemingway’s deci­sion to sign the pledge meant they were show­ing alle­giance to “the Tea Par­ty agen­da” and loy­al­ty to the Koch Broth­ers.

    But AFP-NH hon­orary chair­man Tom Thom­son said the pledge grew out of the no sales or income tax pledge cre­at­ed years ago his grand­fa­ther, for­mer Gov­er­nor Meldrim Thom­son.

    “This pledge orig­i­nat­ed from Gov. Thom­son, and I chose to car­ry that for­ward,” he said. “And this pledge was not writ­ten by the Koch Broth­ers. It was writ­ten by myself.”

    Ok, this inspired super pledge is only for New Hamp­shire, so it looks like Grover does­n’t need to wor­ry about a nation-wide com­pe­ti­tion with the Kochs for loy­al­ty pledges. For now.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 30, 2014, 6:44 pm
  7. Good ques­tion:

    Pan­do Dai­ly
    Um, why did Face­book just donate $10,000 to an anti-gay rights politi­cian?

    By David Holmes
    On August 15, 2014

    As Sil­i­con Val­ley tech com­pa­nies con­tin­ue to aggre­gate more pow­er and influ­ence than ever before, it’s only nat­ur­al for them to start stick­ing their noses in local and nation­al polit­i­cal cam­paigns.

    We’ve report­ed exten­sive­ly on some of the strange bed­fel­lows these part­ner­ships have cre­at­ed, from “trust-us-we’re-not-evil” Google donat­ing mon­ey to Koch-backed cli­mate change deniers, to the Elec­tron­ic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion part­ner­ing with rightwing extrem­ists who want to dis­man­tle eighty years of envi­ron­men­tal, infra­struc­tur­al, and social wel­fare pro­grams, to Mark Zuckerberg’s FWD.us bankrolling two anti-envi­ron­men­tal­ist ad cam­paigns.

    Regard­less of where you stand on these issues (well, cli­mate change is less an “issue” and more of a real­i­ty, but I digress), throw­ing mon­ey at anti-sci­ence, anti-sus­tain­abil­i­ty endeav­ors goes against the core val­ues held by some of Sil­i­con Valley’s most pow­er­ful play­ers — the tech heav­ies whose sup­port FWD.us lost in the after­math of those ads includ­ed Elon Musk, Vin­od Khosla, and David Sacks.

    But the lat­est move from Face­book might be the most alien­at­ing high-pro­file show of polit­i­cal sup­port by a tech com­pa­ny yet. Accord­ing to doc­u­ments filed with Utah’s Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor, Face­book has donat­ed $10,000 to the cam­paign of State Attor­ney Gen­er­al Sean Reyes, who recent­ly filed an appeal to chal­lenge a rul­ing that would have made gay mar­riage legal in Utah.

    In one fell swoop, Face­book has some­how found a way to piss off both the true blue lib­er­als in Sil­i­con Val­ley and the tech­no-lib­er­tar­i­ans, for whom anti-gay mar­riage leg­is­la­tion is just anoth­er exam­ple of gov­ern­ment over­reach. It’d be almost impres­sive if it weren’t so despi­ca­ble.

    For evi­dence of the tech world’s unwill­ing­ness to put up with anti-gay big­otry, look no fur­ther than what hap­pened to for­mer Mozil­la CEO Bran­don Eich. Less than two weeks after Eich was hired as CEO, he resigned in the wake of pub­lic uproar over a $1000 dona­tion he made in sup­port of California’s Propo­si­tion 8, which banned same-sex mar­riages. Grant­ed, Propo­si­tion 8, being a Cal­i­for­nia law, hit much clos­er to home to techies from the Gold­en State, and Eich, while a long­time Mozil­la vet­er­an, was brand new to the posi­tion. Nev­er­the­less, it shows what hap­pens when the leader of a sup­pos­ed­ly pro­gres­sive tech firm takes a stand against equal rights.

    So what does Face­book have to say for itself?

    A com­pa­ny spokesper­son told the Utah-based LGBTQ mag­a­zine QSalt­Lake,

    Face­book has a strong record on LGBT issues and that will not change, but we make deci­sions about which can­di­dates to sup­port based on the entire port­fo­lio of issues impor­tant to our busi­ness, not just one. A con­tri­bu­tion to a can­di­date does not mean that we agree with every pol­i­cy or posi­tion that can­di­date takes. We made this dona­tion for the same rea­son we’ve donat­ed to Attor­neys Gen­er­al on the oppo­site side of this issue – because they are com­mit­ted to fos­ter­ing inno­va­tion and an open Inter­net.

    I get it — the fight over net neu­tral­i­ty will be instru­men­tal in keep­ing the Inter­net as open to as many cre­ators and con­sumers as pos­si­ble, which is pret­ty impor­tant. But there are plen­ty of pro-open-Inter­net politi­cians, and not all of them are famous for shit­ting on the equal rights of Amer­i­can cit­i­zens.

    Not only does the dona­tion go against the val­ues of many of its Sil­i­con Val­ley peers; it also goes against Facebook’s own con­science, which on its Diver­si­ty writes writes, “We val­ue the impact that every indi­vid­ual can have. We are ded­i­cat­ed to cre­at­ing an envi­ron­ment where peo­ple can be their authen­tic selves and share their own diverse back­grounds, expe­ri­ences, per­spec­tives and ideas.”

    That is, unless those diverse indi­vid­u­als are gay and want to get mar­ried?

    ...

    Note that inter­net safe­ty and how to improve it is one of the very first issues Reyes focused on after tak­ing office. Per­haps that also had some­thing to do with the sur­pris­ing dona­tion. Or maybe Face­book just likes Reyes’s over­all polit­i­cal out­look. Who knows.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 16, 2014, 12:57 pm
  8. eBay shrugged, and just kept shrug­ging:

    Pan­do Dai­ly
    What pos­si­ble rea­son can eBay have for stand­ing by ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive cli­mate change deniers at ALEC?

    By David Holmes
    On Octo­ber 7, 2014

    The tech world’s strange love affair with ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive ALEC is unrav­el­ing.

    Over the past two months, Google, Microsoft, Face­book, Yelp, and Yahoo have dis­tanced them­selves from the Amer­i­can Exec­u­tive Leg­is­la­tion Coun­cil (ALEC), a Koch Broth­ers-backed think tank that’s pushed just about every con­tro­ver­sial right-wing leg­isla­tive ini­tia­tive you can think of. Teach­ing cli­mate change denial in schools? Check. Advo­cat­ing for Vot­er ID laws that dis­en­fran­chise minori­ties? Uh huh. A nation­al “Stand Your Ground” law? Why not?

    The break­ing point for ALEC’s sour­ing rela­tion­ship with so many high-pro­file tech firms appears to be the group’s denial of strong, wide­ly-agreed-upon evi­dence that cli­mate change is real and humans are mak­ing it worse. (ALEC recent­ly denied its, uh, denial, but ALEC’s own mod­el leg­is­la­tion direct­ly con­tra­dicts its claims of inno­cence). But despite the risks of align­ing your orga­ni­za­tion with anti-sus­tain­abil­i­ty inter­ests, there’s one high-pro­file tech firm that still hasn’t denounced the orga­ni­za­tion: eBay, along with its bil­lion­aire founder and chair­man Pierre Omid­yar.

    Today, over eighty non-prof­its includ­ing the Sier­ra Club and Green­peace signed a let­ter urg­ing eBay to end its affil­i­a­tion with ALEC. eBay, like Google and Microsoft in the past, is a mem­ber of ALEC’s Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Tech­nol­o­gy Task Force, an affil­i­a­tion that costs the com­pa­ny $5,000 a year in mem­ber­ship fees and thus rep­re­sents a direct form of finan­cial sup­port for the con­tro­ver­sial orga­ni­za­tion.

    ...

    eBay spokes­woman Abby Smith has final­ly respond­ed to the let­ter, say­ing that ALEC pro­motes issues that are “mate­r­i­al to the suc­cess of eBay Inc and our cus­tomers” and that “our team of inter­nal stake­hold­ers meets reg­u­lar­ly to assess the best approach for resolv­ing these issues.”

    But would leav­ing ALEC real­ly have a neg­a­tive impact on eBay’s busi­ness?

    Pos­si­bly. Yelp, for exam­ple, had a clear and legit­i­mate legal inter­est in align­ing itself with ALEC. The orga­ni­za­tion craft­ed mod­el leg­is­la­tion to fight SLAPP law­suits, which could be used against Yelp’s users who post bad reviews. Indeed, eBay is cur­rent­ly rely­ing on an anti-SLAPP argu­ment in a law­suit that a patent troll filed against it. But user-gen­er­at­ed con­tent, which is usu­al­ly what anti-SLAPP leg­is­la­tion pro­tects, is not as fun­da­men­tal to its busi­ness as it is to Yelp. And again, even Yelp has cut ties with ALEC.

    Anoth­er of the Task Force’s stat­ed areas of focus is “pro­mot­ing new forms of e‑commerce,” which is cer­tain­ly in eBay’s wheel­house. But Ama­zon, the largest ecom­merce site in the US, felt no need to stay aligned with ALEC past 2012. Then there’s ALEC’s and eBay’s shared sup­port of net neu­tral­i­ty. That’s the same jus­ti­fi­ca­tion Face­book made when it donat­ed $10,000 to an anti-gay politi­cian: We both sup­port a free and open Inter­net! But net neu­tral­i­ty has attract­ed sup­port among a very broad set of orga­ni­za­tions, and not all of them were just aban­doned by half a dozen of eBay’s peers.

    What about eBay’s chair­man Omid­yar? Sure­ly, this “civic-mind­ed bil­lion­aire,” who through his Omid­yar Net­work has giv­en hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars to phil­an­thropic caus­es, wouldn’t dream of align­ing him­self with an orga­ni­za­tion like ALEC — an orga­ni­za­tion for whom social and envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice plays a dis­tant sec­ond fid­dle to the Koch Broth­ers’ fun­house mir­ror ver­sion of free mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism. Or would he? As Mark Ames and Yasha Levine have report­ed, Omidyar’s pol­i­tics are dif­fi­cult, though not impos­si­ble, to suss out:

    Omid­yar Network’s phil­an­thropy reveals Omid­yar as a free-mar­ket zealot with an almost mys­ti­cal faith in the pow­er of “mar­kets” to trans­form the world, end pover­ty, and improve lives—one micro-indi­vid­ual at a time.


    And yet, the Omid­yar Net­work is also one of the lead­ing back­ers of the upcom­ing film “Mer­chants of Doubt,” which seeks to expose the “sil­ver-tongued pun­dits-for-hire” spread­ing denial cam­paigns on seri­ous pub­lic health threats like tobac­co, tox­ic chem­i­cals, and yes, cli­mate change. Con­sid­er­ing that cli­mate change denial has become the pre­dom­i­nant force draw­ing tech com­pa­nies away from ALEC, eBay’s con­tin­ued mem­ber­ship con­sti­tutes a pret­ty sig­nif­i­cant con­tra­dic­tion for Omid­yar. And let’s not for­get that for many of the third world com­mu­ni­ties the Omid­yar Net­work wants to help, dev­as­ta­tion from cli­mate change isn’t just a well-sup­port­ed fore­cast — it’s already a real­i­ty.

    Maybe eBay is too focused on its forth­com­ing Pay­Pal spin off to pay atten­tion to the out­cry over ALEC. Maybe eBay has already decid­ed to let its ALEC mem­ber­ship lapse and it sim­ply hasn’t approved the move with its share­hold­ers. In any case, com­pa­nies like Face­book learned the hard way what hap­pens when you align your­self with anti-sus­tain­abil­i­ty inter­ests that run counter to the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of your com­mu­ni­ty or indus­try. And with the tide in the tech com­mu­ni­ty clear­ly shift­ing away from ALEC and oth­er cli­mate change deniers, eBay needs to take con­trol of this nar­ra­tive before it spins out of con­trol, and peo­ple start accus­ing the com­pa­ny of club­bing baby seals and cre­at­ing the hole in the ozone lay­er.

    It might seem unlike­ly that eBay’s con­tin­ued alliance with ALEC will prompt peo­ple to start accus­ing the com­pa­ny of club­bing baby seals, but that’s most­ly due to the fact that there isn’t a big mar­ket for baby seal meat. That said, ALEC’s back­ers aren’t exact­ly friends of baby seals.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 7, 2014, 6:02 pm
  9. Here’s an arti­cle that should thrill those con­cerned about Google and Ama­zon not know­ing enough of their per­son­al infor­ma­tion: Google and Ama­zon are bat­tling for the future of per­son­al genome stor­age:

    MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review
    Google Wants to Store Your Genome

    For $25 a year, Google will keep a copy of any genome in the cloud.

    By Anto­nio Regal­a­do on Novem­ber 6, 2014

    Google is approach­ing hos­pi­tals and uni­ver­si­ties with a new pitch. Have genomes? Store them with us.

    The search giant’s first prod­uct for the DNA age is Google Genomics, a cloud com­put­ing ser­vice that it launched last March but went most­ly unno­ticed amid a bar­rage of high pro­file R&D announce­ments from Google, like one late last month about a far-fetched plan to bat­tle can­cer with nanopar­ti­cles (see “Can Google Use Nanopar­ti­cles to Search for Can­cer?”).

    Google Genomics could prove more sig­nif­i­cant than any of these moon­shots. Con­nect­ing and com­par­ing genomes by the thou­sands, and soon by the mil­lions, is what’s going to pro­pel med­ical dis­cov­er­ies for the next decade. The ques­tion of who will store the data is already a point of grow­ing com­pe­ti­tion between Ama­zon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft.

    Google began work on Google Genomics 18 months ago, meet­ing with sci­en­tists and build­ing an inter­face, or API, that lets them move DNA data into its serv­er farms and do exper­i­ments there using the same data­base tech­nol­o­gy that index­es the Web and tracks bil­lions of Inter­net users.

    “We saw biol­o­gists mov­ing from study­ing one genome at a time to study­ing mil­lions,” says David Glaz­er, the soft­ware engi­neer who led the effort and was pre­vi­ous­ly head of plat­form engi­neer­ing for Google+, the social net­work. “The oppor­tu­ni­ty is how to apply break­throughs in data tech­nol­o­gy to help with this tran­si­tion.”

    Some sci­en­tists scoff that genome data remains too com­plex for Google to help with. But oth­ers see a big shift com­ing. When Atul Butte, a bioin­for­mat­ics expert at Stan­ford heard Google present its plans this year, he remarked that he now under­stood “how trav­el agents felt when they saw Expe­dia.”

    The explo­sion of data is hap­pen­ing as labs adopt new, even faster equip­ment for decod­ing DNA. For instance, the Broad Insti­tute in Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts, said that dur­ing the month of Octo­ber it decod­ed the equiv­a­lent of one human genome every 32 min­utes. That trans­lat­ed to about 200 ter­abytes of raw data.

    This flow of data is small­er than what is rou­tine­ly han­dled by large Inter­net com­pa­nies (over two months, Broad will pro­duce the equiv­a­lent of what gets uploaded to YouTube in one day) but it exceeds any­thing biol­o­gists have dealt with. That’s now prompt­ing a wide effort to store and access data at cen­tral loca­tions, often com­mer­cial ones. The Nation­al Can­cer Insti­tute said last month that it would pay $19 mil­lion to move copies of the 2.6 petabyte Can­cer Genome Atlas into the cloud. Copies of the data, from sev­er­al thou­sand can­cer patients, will reside both at Google Genomics and in Amazon’s data cen­ters.

    The idea is to cre­ate “can­cer genome clouds” where sci­en­tists can share infor­ma­tion and quick­ly run vir­tu­al exper­i­ments as eas­i­ly as a Web search, says Sheila Reynolds, a research sci­en­tist at the Insti­tute for Sys­tems Biol­o­gy in Seat­tle. “Not every­one has the abil­i­ty to down­load a petabyte of data, or has the com­put­ing pow­er to work on it,” she says.

    Also speed­ing the move of DNA data to the cloud has been a year­long price war between Google and Ama­zon. Google says it now charges about $25 a year to store a genome, and more to do com­pu­ta­tions on it. Sci­en­tif­ic raw data rep­re­sent­ing a sin­gle person’s genome is about 100 giga­bytes in size, although a pol­ished ver­sion of a person’s genet­ic code is far small­er, less than a giga­byte. That would cost only $0.25 cents a year.

    Cloud stor­age is giv­ing a boost to star­tups like Tute Genomics, DNANexus, Sev­en Bridges, and NextCode Health. These com­pa­nies build “browsers” that hos­pi­tals and sci­en­tists can use to explore genet­ic data. “Google or Ama­zon is a back end. They are say­ing, ‘Hey, you can build a genomics com­pa­ny in our cloud,’” says Deniz Kur­al, CEO of Sev­en Bridges, which stores genome data on behalf of 1,600 researchers in Amazon’s cloud.

    The big­ger point, he says, is that med­i­cine will soon rely on a kind of glob­al Inter­net-of-DNA which doc­tors will be able to search. “Our bird’s eye view is that if I were to get lung can­cer in the future, doc­tors are going to sequence my genome and my tumor’s genome, and then query them against a data­base of 50 mil­lion oth­er genomes,” he says. “The result will be ‘Hey, here’s the drug that will work best for you.’ ”

    At Google, Glaz­er says he began work­ing on Google Genomics as it became clear that biol­o­gy was going to move from “arti­sanal to fac­to­ry-scale data pro­duc­tion.” He start­ed by teach­ing him­self genet­ics, tak­ing an online class, Intro­duc­tion to Biol­o­gy, taught by Broad’s chief, Eric Lan­der. He also got his genome sequenced and put it on Google’s cloud.

    Glaz­er wouldn’t say how large Google Genomics is or how many cus­tomers it has now, but at least 3,500 genomes from pub­lic projects are already stored on Google’s servers. He also says there’s no link, as of yet, between Google’s cloud and its more spec­u­la­tive efforts in health care, like the com­pa­ny Google start­ed this year, called Cal­i­co, to inves­ti­gate how to extend human lifes­pans. “What con­nects them is just a grow­ing real­iza­tion that tech­nol­o­gy can advance the state of the art in life sci­ences,” says Glaz­er.

    ...

    Keep in mind that, while poten­tial­ly scary, the kind of super data­bas­es Google and Ama­zon are envi­sion­ing could be of incred­i­ble val­ue to researchers and could accel­er­ate the rate of new dis­cov­er­ies.

    Also keep in mind that the attrac­tive­ness of such pri­vate ser­vices for researchers would­n’t be near­ly as attrac­tive if the US gov­ern­ment was­n’t per­pet­u­al­ly cut­ting pub­lic research funds.

    And, of course, don’t for­get that, while poten­tial­ly valu­able, the kind of super data­bas­es Google and Ama­zon are envi­sion­ing could also be incred­i­bly scary. Yikes.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 9, 2015, 9:00 am
  10. Remem­ber kids: don’t piss off the Siris of the future. Your own future might depend on it:

    The New York Times
    Bits
    Par­ents Chal­lenge Pres­i­dent to Dig Deep­er on Ed Tech

    By Natasha Singer
    Jan­u­ary 12, 2015 5:08 pm

    Edu­ca­tion tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies that have pledged not to exploit stu­dent data they col­lect for mar­ket­ing pur­pos­es wel­comed Pres­i­dent Obama’s endorse­ment on Mon­day of the industry’s effort to lim­it its use of class­room data.

    But the president’s com­ments did noth­ing to alle­vi­ate the unease of some par­ents con­cerned about poten­tial civ­il rights issues raised by the the increas­ing use of ed tech in schools, includ­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty that some pro­grams and prod­ucts might auto­mat­i­cal­ly chan­nel or cat­e­go­rize stu­dents in ways that could ulti­mate­ly be dis­crim­i­na­to­ry or detri­men­tal to their edu­ca­tion.

    In a speech on Mon­day after­noon at the Fed­er­al Trade Com­mis­sion, the pres­i­dent announced new stu­dent dig­i­tal pri­va­cy leg­is­la­tion leg­is­la­tion. The pro­posed bill would be mod­eled on a stu­dent data pri­va­cy law passed by Cal­i­for­nia last sum­mer. The Cal­i­for­nia statute pro­hibits com­pa­nies that work with schools from using the infor­ma­tion they col­lect about kinder­gart­ners through 12th graders for mar­ket­ing or adver­tis­ing pur­pos­es.

    It is unclear whether the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion would make it through Con­gress. So in addi­tion to push­ing for a new law, Mr. Oba­ma has urged ed tech com­pa­nies to sign on to a vol­un­tary indus­try pledge on stu­dent pri­va­cy in which the sign­ers agree not to sell per­son­al details they have col­lect­ed about stu­dents; not to pro­file stu­dents for none­d­u­ca­tion­al pur­pos­es; and not to use stu­dents’ details col­lect­ed through edu­ca­tion­al ser­vices to tai­lor ads to them.

    “We’re very excit­ed that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma is endors­ing the pledge and call­ing for oth­er com­pa­nies to sign it,” said Jules Polonet­sky, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Future of Pri­va­cy Forum, an indus­try-financed research group in Wash­ing­ton that helped draft the indus­try pledge. Mr. Polonetsky’s group has received financ­ing from dozens of com­pa­nies includ­ing Ama­zon, Apple, Face­book, Google and Microsoft.

    Intro­duced last Octo­ber, the pledge has now been adopt­ed by 75 com­pa­nies includ­ing orig­i­nal sign­ers like Microsoft and Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, the edu­ca­tion­al pub­lish­er.

    Apple signed last week­end on the eve of the president’s speech.

    Although Google has its own pri­va­cy pol­i­cy, the com­pa­ny, whose Google Apps for Edu­ca­tion soft­ware is used in schools nation­wide, has not joined the indus­try ini­tia­tive.

    Mr. Obama’s focus on stu­dent dig­i­tal pri­va­cy comes at a time when schools across the coun­try are increas­ing­ly adopt­ing data-dri­ven learn­ing prod­ucts — from home­work por­tals to math apps — that can quan­ti­fy and ana­lyze every­thing from the time it takes stu­dents to com­plete an assign­ment to the num­ber of times they incor­rect­ly answer long divi­sion prob­lems to the length of com­ments they post in online class­room dis­cus­sion forums. The idea behind these ed tech prod­ucts is to use data analy­sis to tai­lor lessons to the needs of each child.

    But some par­ents, edu­ca­tors, tech­nol­o­gists and edu­ca­tion pri­va­cy law schol­ars say there is lit­tle evi­dence to back up the mar­ket­ing hype over per­son­al­ized learn­ing tech­nol­o­gy. While wel­com­ing efforts to curb the use of edu­ca­tion­al data for adver­tis­ing pur­pos­es, they con­tend that nei­ther the indus­try pledge nor the Cal­i­for­nia law that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma invoked as a mod­el for fed­er­al stu­dent dig­i­tal pri­va­cy leg­is­la­tion places any mean­ing­ful require­ments on com­pa­nies regard­ing the accu­ra­cy, effi­ca­cy or fair­ness of their nov­el dig­i­tal learn­ing prod­ucts.

    “We may be serv­ing some kids well, but we may be dis­serv­ing oth­er kids in a sig­nif­i­cant way,” said Joel Rei­den­berg, a pro­fes­sor at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law in Man­hat­tan who is an expert in edu­ca­tion pri­va­cy law.

    ...

    “Although Google has its own pri­va­cy pol­i­cy, the com­pa­ny, whose Google Apps for Edu­ca­tion soft­ware is used in schools nation­wide, has not joined the indus­try ini­tia­tive.”

    Also, kids: Don’t piss off Google.

    And try to make the most of your edu­ca­tion.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 14, 2015, 8:36 pm
  11. Here’s a reminder that a grow­ing robot army isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly the scari­est item on Google’s wish list:

    Pan­do Dai­ly
    Google is help­ing to fund the group that’s try­ing to kill Oba­macare in the Supreme Court

    By Mark Ames
    On March 18, 2015

    The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion said on Mon­day that 16.4 mil­lion unin­sured peo­ple had gained health cov­er­age since major pro­vi­sions of the Afford­able Care Act began to take effect in 2010, dri­ving the largest reduc­tion in the num­ber of unin­sured in about 40 years

    — NY Times

    Accord­ing to the lat­est gov­ern­ment fig­ures, 16.4 mil­lion pre­vi­ous­ly unin­sured Amer­i­cans now ben­e­fit from health­care cov­er­age thanks to Oba­macare, includ­ing large gains for blacks and Lati­nos. Con­ser­v­a­tive crit­ics have yet to come up with a coher­ent response beyond “so what!” — how­ev­er you look at it, that’s a lot of Amer­i­cans who won’t be left bleed­ing in the dirt if they get sick.

    Still, as we know, Oba­macare is still under attack — just one pend­ing Supreme Court rul­ing away from being almost com­plete­ly dis­man­tled, a deci­sion that could put mil­lions back in the ranks of the unin­sured. What’s less well known is that the think tank push­ing for the death of Oba­macare is part­ly fund­ed by… Google.

    Ear­li­er this month, the New York Times report­ed on this “obscure think tank” — the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute (CEI) — and its cen­tral role in try­ing to kill Oba­macare:

    In the orbit of Wash­ing­ton think tanks, the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute is an obscure name with a mod­est bud­get that belies its polit­i­cal con­nec­tions to con­ser­v­a­tive titans like the Koch broth­ers.

    But the insti­tute, a lib­er­tar­i­an research group, enjoyed a com­ing-out of sorts on Wednes­day, as the law­suit that it orga­nized and bankrolled — chal­leng­ing the Afford­able Care Act — was heard by the Supreme Court. The case has the poten­tial to end fed­er­al insur­ance sub­si­dies for some 7.5 mil­lion peo­ple in 34 states.

    But, while the Times did men­tion that the CEI is large­ly bankrolled by the Koch broth­ers, it didn’t dig into some of the group’s small­er fun­ders. Fun­ders includ­ing Sil­i­con Val­ley giants like Google and Face­book. Could there be a clear­er antithe­sis to the val­ley mantra of “Don’t Be Evil” than an orga­ni­za­tion which exists to deny 7.5m peo­ple access to basic health insur­ance?

    The CEI and Google have been linked in the media before. In mid-2013, the Wash­ing­ton Postreport­ed on the CEI’s annu­al fundrais­ing din­ner for which “the biggest sin­gle donor is Google, which gave $50,000, and Face­book kicked in $25,000.” At the time, the CEI was large­ly known as one of the most aggres­sive and cyn­i­cal of the DC cli­mate change-denier front groups: “a fac­to­ry for glob­al warm­ing skep­ti­cism” as the WaPo described it. As such, the news that Google, and Face­book, were sup­port­ers was greet­ed with some­thing between shock, puz­zle­ment, and dread.

    It was still hard for a lot of peo­ple in 2013 to square a com­pa­ny like Google — with its pro­gres­sive Bay Area image, its close rela­tion­ship with the Oba­ma White House and fun­der of his and oth­er Democ­rats’ cam­paigns — with some­thing as reac­tionary and anti-sci­ence as cli­mate change denial. Why on earth were the stars of Sil­i­con Valley’s Inter­net indus­try posi­tion­ing them­selves along­side fel­low spon­sors Charles and David Koch, coal giant Mur­ray Ener­gy, Mon­san­to, tobac­co behe­moth Altria, and oth­ers?

    Cer­tain­ly Google seems to have learned that mix­ing with cli­mate change deniers isn’t a great strat­e­gy. Last year, the com­pa­ny quit the Kochs’ state lob­by­ing group ALEC because of its posi­tion oppos­ing cli­mate change sci­ence. As Eric Schmidt explained in an inter­view with NPR’s Diane Rehm:

    “Every­one under­stands cli­mate change is occur­ring and the peo­ple who oppose it are real­ly hurt­ing our chil­dren and our grand­chil­dren and mak­ing the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such peo­ple — they’re just, they’re just lit­er­al­ly lying.”

    But as CEI has moved from cli­mate change denial to health­care denial, Google appears to have stayed along for the ride. The $50,000 Google grant to the CEI is the only pay­ment that has been pub­licly item­ized. But, accord­ing to the search engine giant’s pub­lic pol­i­cy “trans­paren­cy reports” pages, Google has been fund­ing the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute for at least the past five years.

    Google is also tied into the CEI through its “Google Pol­i­cy Fel­lows” pro­gram, which has been plac­ing Google-fund­ed “fel­lows” at the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute since at least 2008. Accord­ing to the company’s descrip­tion, Google Fel­low­ships under­write sum­mer pro­grams for law stu­dents, col­lege under­grads and grad stu­dents to,

    “work at pub­lic inter­est orga­ni­za­tions at the fore­front of debates on broad­band and access pol­i­cy, con­tent reg­u­la­tion, copy­right and trade­mark reform, con­sumer pri­va­cy, open gov­ern­ment, and more.”

    The “and more” is one of the big open ques­tions when it comes to Google’s inter­est in show­er­ing a vile out­fit like the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute with so much largesse. After all, it’s hard to imag­ine an orga­ni­za­tion that stands so opposed to Google’s stat­ed prin­ci­ples.

    Few well-fund­ed DC think-tanks are as shame­less­ly and aggres­sive­ly anti-sci­ence as the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute. Going back to the ear­ly 1990s, the CEI col­lab­o­rat­ed with Big Tobac­co com­pa­nies to issue a hand­book called “Bad Sci­ence” list­ing PR strate­gies com­pa­nies can use to com­bat real sci­en­tif­ic research harm­ful to com­pa­nies that deal in tox­ic busi­ness­es — start­ing with Big Tobacco’s attempts to dis­cred­it sci­en­tif­ic research prov­ing that sec­ond-hand smoke caus­es can­cer and a host of oth­er dis­eases affect­ing babies and chil­dren.

    ...

    Beyond its long deep ties to the tobac­co and fos­sil fuels indus­tries, the CEI has been attack­ing sci­en­tists and envi­ron­men­tal­ists on behalf of the chem­i­cals and pes­ti­cides indus­try. In the mid-1990s, the CEI hired Michelle Malkin to smear the late Rachel Car­son, whose 1962 book “Silent Spring” sparked the envi­ron­men­tal move­ment. More recent­ly, the CEI nom­i­nat­ed Rush Lim­baugh for the Nobel Peace Prize for help­ing push the CEI’s “Rachel Was Wrong” cam­paign. In case you haven’t noticed, the CEI and its petrochemicals/Monsanto fun­ders aren’t very fond of Rachel Carson’s lega­cy.

    As for the CEI’s two decades of work to dis­cred­it cli­mate change sci­ence as“a the­o­ry, not a fact,” with crude PR efforts, one of its many absurd low­lights was a 2006 tele­vi­sion ad cam­paign it fund­ed, fea­tur­ing the slo­gan “C02: They call it pol­lu­tion, we call it Life!”

    The CEI’s long­time chair­man Michael Greve (recent­ly list­ed as CEI “board direc­tor”) has been the main dri­ver behind the King v Bur­well law­suit strat­e­gy. Through­out the years that Google has been invest­ing mon­ey and resources into the CEI, Greve has served as either the group’s chair­man or board direc­tor — includ­ing in 2010, when Greve presided over a right-wing legal strat­e­gy ses­sion on how to mur­der Oba­macare:

    “This bas­tard [Oba­macare] has to be killed as a mat­ter of polit­i­cal hygiene. . . . I don’t care how this is done, whether it’s dis­mem­bered, whether we dri­ve a stake through its heart, whether we tar and feath­er it and dri­ve it out of town, whether we stran­gle it.”

    There are a lot of obvi­ous things wrong with Greve’s vio­lent, cryp­to-fas­cist rhetoric (not least because the Ger­man-born Greve speaks in a vague­ly Strangelovean accent). For one thing, if Greve and the CEI win this case before the Supreme Court, experts say it will mean eight mil­lion most­ly low­er-income peo­ple los­ing health insur­ance, esti­mat­ed to an esti­mat­ed 9,800 pre­ma­ture deaths annu­al­ly. Also, this is the same Michael Greve who in the 1990s, while lead­ing the fight to desto­ry affir­ma­tive action pro­grams, said:

    ‘The only legal­ized dis­crim­i­na­tion in this coun­try is against whites and males.”

    And this leads to the oth­er prob­lem of Google invest­ing in a group chaired by Michael Greve. In the late 1980s, Greve co-found­ed a far-right race-bait­ing group called the Cen­ter for Indi­vid­ual Rights, which did more than any orga­ni­za­tion todis­man­tle affir­ma­tive action pro­grams dur­ing his tenure there. Greve’s group suc­cess­ful­ly knocked down affir­ma­tive action at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas, and led the legal defense uphold­ing California’s Prop 209, which end­ed affir­ma­tive action in Cal­i­for­nia state insti­tu­tions.

    Greve’s group also got the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the Boy Scouts anti-gay dis­crim­i­na­tion pol­i­cy, and he suc­ceed­ed in dis­man­tling por­tions of the Vio­lence Against Women Act, defend­ing a uni­ver­si­ty foot­ball play­er accused of rape and sued under the VAWA.

    Among Greve’s fun­ders back when he ran the group was the neo-Nazi “Pio­neer Fund” which bankrolls racial eugen­ics quacks who argue that blacks and Lati­nos are genet­i­cal­ly infe­ri­or — quacks like U Delaware’s Lin­da Got­tfred­son and CUNY’s Michael Levin, both defend­ed by Greve’s orga­ni­za­tion, all of them bankrolled by the Pio­neer Fund.

    In a recent blog post, the Ger­man-born Greve made a crude Holo­caust anal­o­gy com­par­ing a health indus­try group’s legal sup­port for Oba­macare to Nazi Ger­many cat­tle wag­ons and death camps used to mur­der mil­lions of Jews and oth­ers.

    Today, Greve is a pro­fes­sor at George Mason Uni­ver­si­ty Law School — which Google also funds.

    Giv­en the fact that Michael Greve was chair­man of the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute through­out near­ly all of Google’s fund­ing peri­od, and a board direc­tor since at least 2008, when Google began fund­ing CEI Google Fel­lows — and giv­en Google’s (and Sil­i­con Valley’s) noto­ri­ous diver­si­ty prob­lems — it bog­gles the mind why Google felt so lit­tle com­punc­tion get­ting into bed with such a reac­tionary group as the CEI. Even if they might claim their fund­ing is for oth­er polit­i­cal pur­pos­es — like sup­port­ing CEI tech­nol­o­gy flak Ryan Radia, who blogs at the Big Tech PR site “Tech­nol­o­gy Lib­er­a­tion Front” which bills itself as

    “the tech pol­i­cy blog ded­i­cat­ed to keep­ing politi­cians’ hands off the ‘net and every­thing else relat­ed to tech­nol­o­gy.”

    One pos­si­ble expla­na­tion is that Google doesn’t real­ize who it’s in bed with. That a com­pa­ny that boasts of hav­ing access to all the world’s data hasn’t read the CEI’s small print and so doesn’t real­ize it’s help­ing to kill Oba­macare. The prob­lem with that nar­ra­tive is that Google also funds the CATO Insti­tute, the oth­er major orga­ni­za­tion lead­ing the strate­gic war on Oba­macare (and against cli­mate change sci­ence). CATO’s lead jihadist against Oba­macare is Michael Can­non, a for­mer Sen­ate staffer to dis­graced Repub­li­can homo­phobe Lar­ry Craig. With­in days after Obama’s 2008 elec­tion vic­to­ry, Can­non laid out CATO’s strat­e­gy in a blog post, “Block­ing Obama’s Health Plan Is Key to the GOP’s Sur­vival”. This was two months before Oba­ma even took office, mind you—the Right has a crocodile’s motor-func­tion grasp of pol­i­tics, even in its low­est moments. And ever since, CATO’s Can­non has been orga­niz­ing the var­i­ous legal and polit­i­cal chal­lenges to kill Oba­macare, includ­ing play­ing a cen­tral role in the cur­rent case before the Supreme Court.

    Google began fund­ing CATO “Google Fel­lows” in 2008, the same year that CATO’s Michael Can­non launched the group’s war against Oba­macare. In 2010, Google deep­ened its ties, becom­ing an offi­cial cor­po­rate spon­sor of the CATO Insti­tute every year since. That same year, Can­non — the direc­tor of CATO’s “Health Pol­i­cy Stud­ies” — tweet­ed out a “joke” fol­low­ing reports that undoc­u­ment­ed Lati­no migrant work­ers were being exploit­ed in New Orleans in the BP oil spill clean-up effort:

    “I hear they’re very absorbent.”

    [see image]

    The medi­um is the mes­sage in every joke — and in this case, when you have a right-wing Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ist on the pay­roll of oil bil­lion­aires the Koch broth­ers, mak­ing jokes about “very absorbent” undoc­u­ment­ed Lati­no immi­grants at an oil spill . . . it’s not a joke, more like read­ing a tran­script of the Koch broth­ers’ Marie Antoinette view of the rest of human­i­ty, parot­ted by one of their wor­ship­ful court ser­vants. As Can­non him­self has admit­ted:

    “for folks at Cato . . . we wouldn’t have our jobs with­out Charles and David Koch. They are bil­lion­aires who have fund­ed the lib­er­tar­i­an move­ment. Not just the Cato Insti­tute, but oth­er groups that have — where I’ve worked and oth­ers at Cato have worked. We owe a lot to them.”

    How right he is. Not only was CATO found­ed by the Kochs (under its orig­i­nal name “The Charles Koch Foun­da­tion”), but in a lit­tle known episode in lib­er­tar­i­an his­to­ry, the Kochs also are respon­si­ble for bring­ing the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute into exis­tence. The short ver­sion: In 1984, Charles Koch dis­band­ed his flag­ship Wash­ing­ton DC lob­by group, the Coun­cil for a Com­pet­i­tive Econ­o­my (CCE), and cre­at­ed two new front groups out of its assets: Cit­i­zens for a Sound Econ­o­my, with Ron Paul as the Koch group’s first chair­man (since splin­tered into Free­dom­Works and Amer­i­cans For Pros­per­i­ty); and the small­er Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute, led by Fred Smith, who had been serv­ing as direc­tor of gov­ern­ment affairs for the Kochs’ defunct Coun­cil for a Com­pet­i­tive Econ­o­my. (This is all con­firmed by the for­mer pres­i­dent of the CCE, Richard Wilcke.)

    So few names, repeat­ed over and over. And one name at the top, the Koch broth­ers, bring­ing with them 50 years and three gen­er­a­tions of right-wing polit­i­cal invest­ments, backed by the broth­ers’ esti­mat­ed $100 bil­lion-plus per­son­al worth. This sort of pow­er, polit­i­cal net­work, expe­ri­ence, and influ­ence is not some­thing that even cash-rich Google can buy overnight.

    Even if we still give Google and Face­book the ben­e­fit of the doubt, and allow that their invest­ments in the CATO Insti­tute and the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute weren’t direct­ly moti­vat­ed by killing Oba­macare and throw­ing mil­lions of strug­gling Amer­i­cans back into the ranks of the unin­sured and pre­ma­ture­ly dying — nev­er­the­less, they are acces­sories, and very con­scious­ly so. Big Tech’s larg­er polit­i­cal goals are in align­ment with the old extrac­tion industry’s: Under­min­ing the coun­ter­vail­ing pow­er of gov­ern­ment and pub­lic pol­i­tics to weak­en its abil­i­ty to impede their grow­ing dom­i­nance over their por­tions of the econ­o­my, and to tax their obscene stores of cash.

    Google – like Face­book, like Koch Indus­tries — wants a gov­ern­ment that’s strong enough to enforce its dom­i­nant pri­vate pow­er over the econ­o­my and cit­i­zens and pro­tect its wealth, but too bro­ken and too alien­at­ed from the pub­lic to ade­quate­ly rep­re­sent the pub­lic inter­est against their dom­i­neer­ing monop­o­lis­tic pow­er. That’s pret­ty much what’s going on here in this rather fright­en­ing merg­er we’re see­ing between extrac­tion indus­try inter­ests and Big Tech inter­ests.

    Polit­i­cal­ly, the prob­lem with health care is that, even in spite of all of Obamacare’s many seri­ous flaws and cor­po­rate give­aways, the more it works in the eyes of more and more Amer­i­cans, the greater the dan­ger to the Googles, Face­books and Kochs that the pub­lic will believe again that gov­ern­ment can do good, that pub­lic inter­est pol­i­tics can change things for the bet­ter. Because if Oba­macare becomes wide­ly pop­u­lar, and that pos­i­tive idea of pol­i­tics and gov­ern­ment becomes a basic assump­tion again as it once was, then who’s to say what else the pub­lic will demand of Sil­i­con Val­ley rich­est and most pow­er­ful com­pa­nies?

    That’s right, Google is financ­ing the same folks that brought us the “CO2 is life!” ad from 2006 and are now work­ing to elim­i­nate health­care for mil­lions.

    The robot army does­n’t seem so dead­ly now, does it? At least, rel­a­tive­ly speak­ing.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 19, 2015, 7:29 pm
  12. While folks like Michael Greve, for­mer long­time chair­man of the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute (CEI) and a leader of the group push­ing the King vs Bur­well law­suit (with the CEI’s help and fund­ing), may have failed in their attempts to deprive health­care to mil­lions of low-income Amer­i­cans after the Supreme Court’s rul­ing this week, it’s worth not­ing that Greve’s CEI is going to have plen­ty of resources to con­tin­ue in its quest to com­fort the com­fort­able and crap on the poor, thanks, in part, to com­pa­nies like Google:

    Pan­do Dai­ly
    Google is help­ing to fund the group that’s try­ing to kill Oba­macare in the Supreme Court

    By Mark Ames

    March 18, 2015

    The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion said on Mon­day that 16.4 mil­lion unin­sured peo­ple had gained health cov­er­age since major pro­vi­sions of the Afford­able Care Act began to take effect in 2010, dri­ving the largest reduc­tion in the num­ber of unin­sured in about 40 years

    NY Times

    Accord­ing to the lat­est gov­ern­ment fig­ures, 16.4 mil­lion pre­vi­ous­ly unin­sured Amer­i­cans now ben­e­fit from health­care cov­er­age thanks to Oba­macare, includ­ing large gains for blacks and Lati­nos. Con­ser­v­a­tive crit­ics have yet to come up with a coher­ent response beyond “so what!” — how­ev­er you look at it, that’s a lot of Amer­i­cans who won’t be left bleed­ing in the dirt if they get sick.

    Still, as we know, Oba­macare is still under attack — just one pend­ing Supreme Court rul­ing away from being almost com­plete­ly dis­man­tled, a deci­sion that could put mil­lions back in the ranks of the unin­sured. What’s less well known is that the think tank push­ing for the death of Oba­macare is part­ly fund­ed by... Google.

    Ear­li­er this month, the New York Times report­ed on this “obscure think tank” — the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute (CEI) — and its cen­tral role in try­ing to kill Oba­macare:

    In the orbit of Wash­ing­ton think tanks, the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute is an obscure name with a mod­est bud­get that belies its polit­i­cal con­nec­tions to con­ser­v­a­tive titans like the Koch broth­ers.

    But the insti­tute, a lib­er­tar­i­an research group, enjoyed a com­ing-out of sorts on Wednes­day, as the law­suit that it orga­nized and bankrolled — chal­leng­ing the Afford­able Care Act — was heard by the Supreme Court. The case has the poten­tial to end fed­er­al insur­ance sub­si­dies for some 7.5 mil­lion peo­ple in 34 states.

    But, while the Times did men­tion that the CEI is large­ly bankrolled by the Koch broth­ers, it did­n’t dig into some of the group’s small­er fun­ders. Fun­ders includ­ing Sil­i­con Val­ley giants like Google and Face­book. Could there be a clear­er antithe­sis to the val­ley mantra of “Don’t Be Evil” than an orga­ni­za­tion which exists to deny 7.5m peo­ple access to basic health insur­ance?

    The CEI and Google have been linked in the media before. In mid-2013, the Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed on the CEI’s annu­al fundrais­ing din­ner for which “the biggest sin­gle donor is Google, which gave $50,000, and Face­book kicked in $25,000.” At the time, the CEI was large­ly known as one of the most aggres­sive and cyn­i­cal of the DC cli­mate change-denier front groups: “a fac­to­ry for glob­al warm­ing skep­ti­cism” as the WaPo described it. As such, the news that Google, and Face­book, were sup­port­ers was greet­ed with some­thing between shock, puz­zle­ment, and dread.

    ...

    Cer­tain­ly Google seems to have learned that mix­ing with cli­mate change deniers isn’t a great strat­e­gy. Last year, the com­pa­ny quit the Kochs’ state lob­by­ing group ALEC because of its posi­tion oppos­ing cli­mate change sci­ence. As Eric Schmidt explained in an inter­view with NPR’s Diane Rehm:

    “Every­one under­stands cli­mate change is occur­ring and the peo­ple who oppose it are real­ly hurt­ing our chil­dren and our grand­chil­dren and mak­ing the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such peo­ple — they’re just, they’re just lit­er­al­ly lying.”

    But as CEI has moved from cli­mate change denial to health­care denial, Google appears to have stayed along for the ride. The $50,000 Google grant to the CEI is the only pay­ment that has been pub­licly item­ized. But, accord­ing to the search engine giant’s pub­lic pol­i­cy “trans­paren­cy reports” pages, Google has been fund­ing the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute for at least the past five years..

    Google is also tied into the CEI through its “Google Pol­i­cy Fel­lows” pro­gram, which has been plac­ing Google-fund­ed “fel­lows” at the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute since at least 2008. Accord­ing to the company’s descrip­tion, Google Fel­low­ships under­write sum­mer pro­grams for law stu­dents, col­lege under­grads and grad stu­dents to,

    “work at pub­lic inter­est orga­ni­za­tions at the fore­front of debates on broad­band and access pol­i­cy, con­tent reg­u­la­tion, copy­right and trade­mark reform, con­sumer pri­va­cy, open gov­ern­ment, and more.”

    The “and more” is one of the big open ques­tions when it comes to Google’s inter­est in show­er­ing a vile out­fit like the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute with so much largesse. After all, it’s hard to imag­ine an orga­ni­za­tion that stands so opposed to Google’s stat­ed prin­ci­ples.

    Few well-fund­ed DC think-tanks are as shame­less­ly and aggres­sive­ly anti-sci­ence as the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute. Going back to the ear­ly 1990s, the CEI col­lab­o­rat­ed with Big Tobac­co com­pa­nies to issue a hand­book called “Bad Sci­ence” list­ing PR strate­gies com­pa­nies can use to com­bat real sci­en­tif­ic research harm­ful to com­pa­nies that deal in tox­ic busi­ness­es — start­ing with Big Tobacco’s attempts to dis­cred­it sci­en­tif­ic research prov­ing that sec­ond-hand smoke caus­es can­cer and a host of oth­er dis­eases affect­ing babies and chil­dren.

    Among the sug­gest­ed “MESSAGES” in the Big Tobacco/CEI book “Bad Sci­ence”:

    -Too often sci­ence is manip­u­lat­ed to ful­fill a polit­i­cal agen­da.

    -No agency is more guilty of adjust­ing sci­ence to sup­port pre­con­ceived pub­lic pol­i­cy pre­scrip­tions than the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency.

    -Pro­pos­als that seek to improve indoor air qual­i­ty by sin­gling out tobac­co smoke only enable bad sci­ence to become a poor excuse for enact­ing new laws and jeop­ar­diz­ing indi­vid­ual lib­er­ties. As the authors of “Mer­chants of Doubt” (now a doc­u­men­tary film play­ing in the­aters) describe it:

    “Bad Sci­ence was a com­pendi­um of attacks on sci­ence, pub­lished in places like the Wash­ing­ton Times, and writ­ten by staff of the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute. The arti­cles weren’t writ­ten by sci­en­tists and they did­n’t appear in peer-reviewed sci­en­tif­ic jour­nals. Rather, they appeared in media venues whose read­ers would be sym­pa­thet­ic to the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute’s lais­sez-faire ide­ol­o­gy.”

    Beyond its long deep ties to the tobac­co and fos­sil fuels indus­tries, the CEI has been attack­ing sci­en­tists and envi­ron­men­tal­ists on behalf of the chem­i­cals and pes­ti­cides indus­try. In the mid-1990s, the CEI hired Michelle Malkin to smear the late Rachel Car­son, whose 1962 book “Silent Spring” sparked the envi­ron­men­tal move­ment. More recent­ly, the CEI nom­i­nat­ed Rush Lim­baugh for the Nobel Peace Prize for help­ing push the CEI’s “Rachel Was Wrong” cam­paign. In case you haven’t noticed, the CEI and its petrochemicals/Monsanto fun­ders aren’t very fond of Rachel Carson’s lega­cy.

    As for the CEI’s two decades of work to dis­cred­it cli­mate change sci­ence as“a the­o­ry, not a fact,” with crude PR efforts, one of its many absurd low­lights was a 2006 tele­vi­sion ad cam­paign it fund­ed, fea­tur­ing the slo­gan “C02: They call it pol­lu­tion, we call it Life!”

    The CEI’s long­time chair­man Michael Greve (recent­ly list­ed as CEI “board direc­tor”) has been the main dri­ver behind the King v Bur­well law­suit strat­e­gy. Through­out the years that Google has been invest­ing mon­ey and resources into the CEI, Greve has served as either the group’s chair­man or board direc­tor — includ­ing in 2010, when Greve presided over a right-wing legal strat­e­gy ses­sion on how to mur­der Oba­macare:

    “This bas­tard [Oba­macare] has to be killed as a mat­ter of polit­i­cal hygiene. . . . I don’t care how this is done, whether it’s dis­mem­bered, whether we dri­ve a stake through its heart, whether we tar and feath­er it and dri­ve it out of town, whether we stran­gle it.”

    There are a lot of obvi­ous things wrong with Greve’s vio­lent, cryp­to-fas­cist rhetoric (not least because the Ger­man-born Greve speaks in a vague­ly Strangelovean accent). For one thing, if Greve and the CEI win this case before the Supreme Court, experts say it will mean eight mil­lion most­ly low­er-income peo­ple los­ing health insur­ance, lead­ing to an esti­mat­ed 9,800 pre­ma­ture deaths annu­al­ly. Also, this is the same Michael Greve who in the 1990s, while lead­ing the fight to desto­ry affir­ma­tive action pro­grams, said:

    ‘The only legal­ized dis­crim­i­na­tion in this coun­try is against whites and males.”

    And this leads to the oth­er prob­lem of Google invest­ing in a group chaired by Michael Greve. In the late 1980s, Greve co-found­ed a far-right race-bait­ing group called the Cen­ter for Indi­vid­ual Rights, which did more than any orga­ni­za­tion to dis­man­tle affir­ma­tive action pro­grams dur­ing his tenure there. Greve’s group suc­cess­ful­ly knocked down affir­ma­tive action at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas, and led the legal defense uphold­ing California’s Prop 209, which end­ed affir­ma­tive action in Cal­i­for­nia state insti­tu­tions.

    Greve’s group also got the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the Boy Scouts anti-gay dis­crim­i­na­tion pol­i­cy, and he suc­ceed­ed in dis­man­tling por­tions of the Vio­lence Against Women Act, defend­ing a uni­ver­si­ty foot­ball play­er accused of rape and sued under the VAWA.

    Among Greve’s fun­ders back when he ran the group was the neo-Nazi “Pio­neer Fund” which bankrolls racial eugen­ics quacks who argue that blacks and Lati­nos are genet­i­cal­ly infe­ri­or — quacks like U Delaware’s Lin­da Got­tfred­son and CUNY’s Michael Levin, both defend­ed by Greve’s orga­ni­za­tion, all of them bankrolled by the Pio­neer Fund.

    In a recent blog post, the Ger­man-born Greve made a crude Holo­caust anal­o­gy com­par­ing a health indus­try group’s legal sup­port for Oba­macare to Nazi Ger­many cat­tle wag­ons and death camps used to mur­der mil­lions of Jews and oth­ers.

    Today, Greve is a pro­fes­sor at George Mason Uni­ver­si­ty Law School — which Google also funds.

    Giv­en the fact that Michael Greve was chair­man of the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute through­out near­ly all of Google’s fund­ing peri­od, and a board direc­tor since at least 2008, when Google began fund­ing CEI Google Fel­lows — and giv­en Google’s (and Sil­i­con Valley’s) noto­ri­ous diver­si­ty prob­lems — it bog­gles the mind why Google felt so lit­tle com­punc­tion get­ting into bed with such a reac­tionary group as the CEI. Even if they might claim their fund­ing is for oth­er polit­i­cal pur­pos­es — like sup­port­ing CEI tech­nol­o­gy flak Ryan Radia, who blogs at the Big Tech PR site “Tech­nol­o­gy Lib­er­a­tion Front” which bills itself as

    “the tech pol­i­cy blog ded­i­cat­ed to keep­ing politi­cians’ hands off the ‘net and every­thing else relat­ed to tech­nol­o­gy.”

    One pos­si­ble expla­na­tion is that Google does­n’t real­ize who it’s in bed with. That a com­pa­ny that boasts of hav­ing access to all the world’s data has­n’t read the CEI’s small print and so does­n’t real­ize it’s help­ing to kill Oba­macare. The prob­lem with that nar­ra­tive is that Google also funds the CATO Insti­tute, the oth­er major orga­ni­za­tion lead­ing the strate­gic war on Oba­macare (and against cli­mate change sci­ence). CATO’s lead jihadist against Oba­macare is Michael Can­non, a for­mer Sen­ate staffer to dis­graced Repub­li­can homo­phobe Lar­ry Craig. With­in days after Obama’s 2008 elec­tion vic­to­ry, Can­non laid out CATO’s strat­e­gy in a blog post, “Block­ing Obama’s Health Plan Is Key to the GOP’s Sur­vival”. This was two months before Oba­ma even took office, mind you—the Right has a croc­o­dile’s motor-func­tion grasp of pol­i­tics, even in its low­est moments. And ever since, CATO’s Can­non has been orga­niz­ing the var­i­ous legal and polit­i­cal chal­lenges to kill Oba­macare, includ­ing play­ing a cen­tral role in the cur­rent case before the Supreme Court.

    Google began fund­ing CATO “Google Fel­lows” in 2008, the same year that CATO’s Michael Can­non launched the group’s war against Oba­macare. In 2010, Google deep­ened its ties, becom­ing an offi­cial cor­po­rate spon­sor of the CATO Insti­tute every year since. That same year, Can­non — the direc­tor of CATO’s “Health Pol­i­cy Stud­ies” — tweet­ed out a “joke” fol­low­ing reports that undoc­u­ment­ed Lati­no migrant work­ers were being exploit­ed in New Orleans in the BP oil spill clean-up effort:

    “I hear they’re very absorbent.”

    ...
    The medi­um is the mes­sage in every joke — and in this case, when you have a right-wing Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ist on the pay­roll of oil bil­lion­aires the Koch broth­ers, mak­ing jokes about “very absorbent” undoc­u­ment­ed Lati­no immi­grants at an oil spill . . . it’s not a joke, more like read­ing a tran­script of the Koch broth­ers’ Marie Antoinette view of the rest of human­i­ty, parot­ted by one of their wor­ship­ful court ser­vants. As Can­non him­self has admit­ted:

    “for folks at Cato . . . we would­n’t have our jobs with­out Charles and David Koch. They are bil­lion­aires who have fund­ed the lib­er­tar­i­an move­ment. Not just the Cato Insti­tute, but oth­er groups that have — where I’ve worked and oth­ers at Cato have worked. We owe a lot to them.”

    How right he is. Not only was CATO found­ed by the Kochs (under its orig­i­nal name “The Charles Koch Foun­da­tion”), but in a lit­tle known episode in lib­er­tar­i­an his­to­ry, the Kochs also are respon­si­ble for bring­ing the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute into exis­tence. The short ver­sion: In 1984, Charles Koch dis­band­ed his flag­ship Wash­ing­ton DC lob­by group, the Coun­cil for a Com­pet­i­tive Econ­o­my (CCE), and cre­at­ed two new front groups out of its assets: Cit­i­zens for a Sound Econ­o­my, with Ron Paul as the Koch group’s first chair­man (since splin­tered into Free­dom­Works and Amer­i­cans For Pros­per­i­ty); and the small­er Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute, led by Fred Smith, who had been serv­ing as direc­tor of gov­ern­ment affairs for the Kochs’ defunct Coun­cil for a Com­pet­i­tive Econ­o­my. (This is all con­firmed by the for­mer pres­i­dent of the CCE, Richard Wilcke.)

    So few names, repeat­ed over and over. And one name at the top, the Koch broth­ers, bring­ing with them 50 years and three gen­er­a­tions of right-wing polit­i­cal invest­ments, backed by the broth­ers’ esti­mat­ed $100 bil­lion-plus per­son­al worth. This sort of pow­er, polit­i­cal net­work, expe­ri­ence, and influ­ence is not some­thing that even cash-rich Google can buy overnight.

    Even if we still give Google and Face­book the ben­e­fit of the doubt, and allow that their invest­ments in the CATO Insti­tute and the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute weren’t direct­ly moti­vat­ed by killing Oba­macare and throw­ing mil­lions of strug­gling Amer­i­cans back into the ranks of the unin­sured and pre­ma­ture­ly dying — nev­er­the­less, they are acces­sories, and very con­scious­ly so. Big Tech’s larg­er polit­i­cal goals are in align­ment with the old extrac­tion indus­try’s: Under­min­ing the coun­ter­vail­ing pow­er of gov­ern­ment and pub­lic pol­i­tics to weak­en its abil­i­ty to impede their grow­ing dom­i­nance over their por­tions of the econ­o­my, and to tax their obscene stores of cash.

    Google – like Face­book, like Koch Indus­tries — wants a gov­ern­ment that’s strong enough to enforce its dom­i­nant pri­vate pow­er over the econ­o­my and cit­i­zens and pro­tect its wealth, but too bro­ken and too alien­at­ed from the pub­lic to ade­quate­ly rep­re­sent the pub­lic inter­est against their dom­i­neer­ing monop­o­lis­tic pow­er. That’s pret­ty much what’s going on here in this rather fright­en­ing merg­er we’re see­ing between extrac­tion indus­try inter­ests and Big Tech inter­ests.

    Polit­i­cal­ly, the prob­lem with health care is that, even in spite of all of Obamacare’s many seri­ous flaws and cor­po­rate give­aways, the more it works in the eyes of more and more Amer­i­cans, the greater the dan­ger to the Googles, Face­books and Kochs that the pub­lic will believe again that gov­ern­ment can do good, that pub­lic inter­est pol­i­tics can change things for the bet­ter. Because if Oba­macare becomes wide­ly pop­u­lar, and that pos­i­tive idea of pol­i­tics and gov­ern­ment becomes a basic assump­tion again as it once was, then who’s to say what else the pub­lic will demand of Sil­i­con Val­ley’s rich­est and most pow­er­ful com­pa­nies?

    Yes, the same group that brought us the “They call CO2 pol­lu­tion. We call it life!” ad cam­paign is the same group that was try­ing to effec­tive­ly kill the poor for polit­i­cal pur­pos­es. And Google funds it.

    “Even if we still give Google and Face­book the ben­e­fit of the doubt, and allow that their invest­ments in the CATO Insti­tute and the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute weren’t direct­ly moti­vat­ed by killing Oba­macare and throw­ing mil­lions of strug­gling Amer­i­cans back into the ranks of the unin­sured and pre­ma­ture­ly dying — nev­er­the­less, they are acces­sories, and very con­scious­ly so. Big Tech’s larg­er polit­i­cal goals are in align­ment with the old extrac­tion indus­try’s: Under­min­ing the coun­ter­vail­ing pow­er of gov­ern­ment and pub­lic pol­i­tics to weak­en its abil­i­ty to impede their grow­ing dom­i­nance over their por­tions of the econ­o­my, and to tax their obscene stores of cash.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 27, 2015, 1:23 pm

Post a comment