Sunday reading – 03/11/18

The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

Time To Ditch Daylight Saving Time It’s A Killer That Doesn’t Save Energy – Sunday, March 11, is the start of daylight saving time across the country. But it might be the last time people in Florida have to switch their clocks.

The legislature there voted overwhelmingly to abolish the biannual changing of the clock, and stick with daylight saving time year round.

…The main reason for imposing daylight saving time has always been that it “saved” energy, since it would stay light an hour longer in the evening. The U.S. extended daylight saving time in 2007, as part of President Bush’s woefully misguided energy bill — which also banned traditional incandescent light bulbs — specifically because it was supposed to cut the nation’s energy consumption.

At the time, Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey said it would save consumers $4.4 billion over 15 years.

But research shows this is simply not the case. In fact, it’s just as likely that daylight saving time costs energy.

One of these studies, published by the prestigious National Bureau of Economic Research, looked at energy use in Indiana, which imposed daylight saving time statewide for the first time in 2006.

Researchers found that residential electricity use in areas of the state that adopted DST for the first time actually increased by 1%.

Worse, these nonexistent energy gains come at a terrible price in lost lives, more health problems, and lost productivity.

Studies have consistently found, for example, that there are more car crashes on the first Monday after daylight saving time goes into effect, because of sleep deprivation. One of these studies, published in the Journal of Accident Analysis and Prevention, found that springing forward causes an extra 195 auto fatalities and 171 pedestrian deaths each year. Read More > at Investor’s Business Daily

Farm leaders say California’s sanctuary status makes them a target for ICE raids – Fresno County agriculture leaders say they feel caught in the middle in the tussle between California and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions over illegal immigration.

Sessions was in Sacramento Wednesday speaking to the California Peace Officers Association, and he was clearly annoyed with what state lawmakers have done to protect undocumented immigrants.

The federal government has sued the state for what it says is interference with federal immigration authorities.

Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno, said the state’s policies have created havoc for agriculture employers and their workers. Cunha said the state’s sanctuary status has made California and its employers targets for increased scrutiny by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Several central San Joaquin Valley farm companies were audited recently, resulting in the loss of dozens of employees who did not return to work out of fear of being caught.

Cunha said he supports the effort to deport undocumented immigrants with criminal records, but those working in agriculture are not the bad guys. Read More > in The Fresno Bee

If polls say people want gun control, why doesn’t Congress just pass it? – After the recent deadly shooting at a Florida high school, many Americans are asking that question about the federal government’s firearms policy. Recent polls show that a majority of Americans support stronger gun laws – including tighter restrictions on purchasing and a ban on assault weapons – in the wake of the shooting.

Students demand that elected officials “do something,” and many adults echo that sentiment.

But policy does not always follow public opinion. Why are the public’s pleas on this and other issues ignored?

I am a pollster and a political scientist who studies gun control. I have examined the issue from different perspectives.

I have found that there are three major reasons that policy does not always follow public opinion: the structure of the U.S. government, the overlooked complexities of public opinion and the influence of voters and interest groups.

First, the United States is a republic, not a direct democracy. Citizens choose representatives who make policy decisions; citizens do not make those decisions directly. The Founders, who were not all fans of democracy and feared mob rule, established our governmental structure over 200 years ago, and those foundations remain today.

…So California and New York, the first and fourth largest states and ones that favor stricter gun laws, comprise about 18 percent of the population of the United States but only 4 percent of the senators. Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Idaho, which tend to favor gun rights, comprise about 2 percent of the population and 12 percent of the Senate. The House of Representatives, where each state is guaranteed at least one representative, also advantages lower-population states, albeit to a much lesser extent. The House is also subject to the partisan drawing of districts which has advantaged Republicans – who tend to support gun rights – since the 2010 Census.

…Second: Polling and public opinion are not as straightforward as they seem.

Focusing on only one or two poll questions can distort the public’s views regarding gun control.

Polling numbers generally show strong support for gun control measures such as universal background checks and an assault weapons ban.

Simultaneously, most Americans think that additional gun control measures won’t reduce violent crime. This is not surprising because most Americans don’t blame guns for these tragedies. Read More > at WTOP

High Speed Rail project cost jumps to $77 billion, opening delayed – The projected cost of California’s bullet train from San Francisco to Los Angeles has jumped to $77 billion and the opening date has been pushed back four years to 2033, according to a business plan released Friday.

The two-year plan presented by the California High-Speed Rail Authority is the first under new chief executive Brian Kelly, who has promised more transparency about the project’s challenges after years of cost increases and delays.

While the goal is to connect the two major cities, the new plan focuses primarily on opening track between San Francisco and the Central Valley, an agriculturally dominant, less-populated portion of inland California. That portion of track is now set to be finished by 2029, also marking a four-year delay, and significant challenges remain.

One of them is how to cross through a section of mountains – a critical segment to link Silicon Valley to the Central Valley. Rail officials are still working on how best to do that, Kelly wrote in the plan’s introduction. Read More > from the Associated Press

The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News – …Though Vosoughi and his colleagues only focus on Twitter—the study was conducted using exclusive data that the company made available to MIT—their work has implications for Facebook, YouTube, and every major social network. Any platform that regularly amplifies engaging or provocative content runs the risk of amplifying fake news along with it.

Though the study is written in the clinical language of statistics, it offers a methodical indictment of the accuracy of information that spreads on these platforms. A false story is much more likely to go viral than a real story, the authors find. A false story reaches 1,500 people six times quicker, on average, than a true story does. And while false stories outperform the truth on every subject—including business, terrorism and war, science and technology, and entertainment—fake news about politics regularly does best.

Twitter users seem almost to prefer sharing falsehoods. Even when the researchers controlled for every difference between the accounts originating rumors—like whether that person had more followers or was verified—falsehoods were still 70 percent more likely to get retweeted than accurate news.

And blame for this problem cannot be laid with our robotic brethren. From 2006 to 2016, Twitter bots amplified true stories as much as they amplified false ones, the study found. Fake news prospers, the authors write, “because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.” Read More > in The Atlantic

Geek Squad’s Relationship with FBI Is Cozier Than We Thought – After the prosecution of a California doctor revealed the FBI’s ties to a Best Buy Geek Squad computer repair facility in Kentucky, new documents released to EFF show that the relationship goes back years. The records also confirm that the FBI has paid Geek Squad employees as informants.

EFF filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit last year to learn more about how the FBI uses Geek Squad employees to flag illegal material when people pay Best Buy to repair their computers. The relationship potentially circumvents computer owners’ Fourth Amendment rights.

The documents released to EFF show that Best Buy officials have enjoyed a particularly close relationship with the agency for at least 10 years….

Other documents show that over the years of working with Geek Squad employees, FBI agents developed a process for investigating and prosecuting people who sent their devices to the Geek Squad for repairs. The documents detail a series of FBI investigations in which a Geek Squad employee would call the FBI’s Louisville field office after finding what they believed was child pornography.

The FBI agent would show up, review the images or video and determine whether they believe they are illegal content. After that, they would seize the hard drive or computer and send it to another FBI field office near where the owner of the device lived. Agents at that local FBI office would then investigate further, and in some cases try to obtain a warrant to search the device. Read More > at Electronic Frontier Foundation

MoviePass: The new face of unbridled data greed – In a presentation during the Entertainment Finance Forum last week, MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe bragged to the attendees about his company’s app saying, “We know all about you.”

“We know your home address, of course, we know the makeup of that household, the kids, the age groups, the income.” he continued. Once more, we’re reminded that every app on our phones has the potential to pool various data on us, enough to paint a remarkably accurate portrait of our life. As if to drill that point home, Lowe added: “We watch how you drive from home to the movies. We watch where you go afterwards.”

This wasn’t backstage bravado between peers, this was his keynote in front of an audience. A keynote titled, without one ounce of shame, a sliver of self-reflection, or any indication he’d ever heard the word “consent” whispered on the wind, “Data is the New Oil: How Will MoviePass Monetize It?” Read More > at Engadget

Here’s A Real Trade Abuse Trump Should Address – HERE’S A HUGELY winning issue for President Donald Trump that would deal with a gross trading abuse and simultaneously advance his goal of reducing the prices of prescription drugs: Insist that foreign buyers of American pharmaceuticals–almost without exception government agencies–pay their fair share of the research and development costs of these medicines. Currently, Americans are subsidizing overseas users of our drugs.

Here’s how that works. The average price of successfully bringing a new medicine to market in the U.S. is about $2.4 billion. The entire approval process takes some 12 years before a drug receives its final green light. The expenses include all the would-be medicines that fail to make it out of the research labs or falter during the Food & Drug Administration’s expensive, time-consuming clinical trials.

Pharmaceutical companies get 20-year patents for their drugs, which means they really have about 8 years of monopoly power (20 years for the patent minus the 12 years for clearing all the hurdles before a particular prescription can actually be sold). No wonder the initial price for a new drug is sky-high, even though the actual manufacturing cost per pill is minuscule. (Ideally, when a drug goes “off-patent,” imitators rapidly bring copies, called generics, to market, slashing the price. Unfortunately, FDA regulations have gummed up this process. New FDA head Dr. Scott Gottlieb has been removing obstacles, which is why the rate of drug approvals has more than doubled.)

When a pharmaceutical company sells a new drug overseas, buyers demand a price that’s a fraction of what American customers pay. The demand is more in line with a gangsteresque “We’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse” process than normal business bargaining. The implicit–and sometimes explicit–threat is that if a company doesn’t cave the country will allow a knockoff of the medication to be produced by another company. Read More > at Forbes

Italy Reboots – An era of Italian politics ended this week. That was not unexpected, but it is significant.

The immediate wreckage is clear. The political left collapsed, though it remains as the third force in parliament, and thus as a potential kingmaker. The center-right, wrapped up since the early 1990s in the person of Silvio Berlusconi, likewise showed that it is past its electoral expiration date and will now be overhauled by Salvini’s lot. The biggest triumph goes to the post-ideological Five Stars Movement, who would have been granted an outright majority under Italy’s previous electoral system. As it is, Five Stars competed as a single party in a coalition-based system and won over 30 percent of the vote. Contrary to its professed aversion to parliamentary alliances in its more radical earlier days, the party has declared itself essential to any governing coalition. The rise of 5 Stars in this decade is one of the most important and still-evolving stories in European politics.

A few things are less clear, starting with who will govern. No coalition hit the 40-percent threshold required to form a government. Enough has been written elsewhere about the many ways this could play out. In the meantime, Paolo Gentiloni will remain the prime minister.

…Whether or not the parvenues of Italian politics prove to have any staying power, the message sent by yet another European electorate is stark. Voters backed two major political blocs, and they supported them with conviction. As was the case with the Brexit vote, immigration became the dominant issue in the campaign’s closing weeks, while dissatisfaction with the economy was a constant throughout. Third parties at the fringes of left and right underperformed across the board despite ample media coverage. The victorious political forces have, for now, the support of the voting public. Read More > at Real Clear World

All the crazy things happening in San Francisco because of its out-of-control housing prices – People are leaving San Francisco in droves as the cost of living reaches a new high.

A recent report from real estate-site Redfin revealed that San Francisco lost more residents than any other city in the country in the last quarter of 2017. The great migration is far from over. Last month, 49% of Bay Area residents said they would consider leaving California because of the cost of living, according to a survey of 500 residents by public-relations firm Edelman.

Here are all the crazy things happening because of the Bay Area’s insane housing prices:

  • The median-priced home in San Francisco sells for $1.5 million, according to Paragon. It’s not uncommon for buyers to bid hundreds of thousands above asking and pay in all cash.
  • A million doesn’t get you much. In the ritzy Pacific Heights neighborhood, you could buy a 697-square-foot home, and in the affordable Sunset District, you get 1,115 square feet.
  • A person who wants to buy property in the city needs a household income of $303,000 to afford the 20% down payment on a $1.5 million home, according to Paragon.
  • Only about 12% of households in San Francisco can afford the median-priced home. Read More > at Business Insider

Amazon paid no US income taxes for 2017 – Thanks to a complex system of credits and deferment, Amazon won’t pay any federal income taxes after topping $5.6 billion in income in 2017. The Seattle-based online retailer will end up paying out roughly $769 million in taxes for the year, but $724 million of that will be in foreign taxes.

That’s according to an analysis of the online behemoth’s 2017 10-K form, which “provides a comprehensive overview of the company’s business and financial condition,” according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Public companies are required to submit the form every year to the SEC in addition to quarterly updates (10-Q forms) and, when announcing major events shareholders should know about, the 8-K or “current report” form.

Matthew Gardner, senior fellow at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, wrote about Amazon’s tax bill that won’t come due in a Feb. 13 blog post. Without being privy to the company’s tax return, no one can say exactly how CEO Jeff Bezos and Co. avoided what could have been more than $1.3 billion in federal taxes based solely on the annual financial report, but there is information to be gleaned. Read More > at SFGate

Los Angeles’ new ‘Mulholland moment’ for safe and adequate water: Eric Garcetti – …And as part of my “Sustainable City pLAn,” Los Angeles committed to reducing the purchase of imported water by 50 percent by 2025, and to producing 50 percent of our water locally by 2035. During the drought, Angelenos stepped up and reduced water usage by 20 percent — and we will continue to conserve. And while these goals are achievable, it is going to take a lot more than conservation to get there.

In years past, we’ve taken water from the Owens Valley, the California Delta and the Colorado River. But we cannot rely solely on 20th century engineering for our 21st century water needs — and projects like the Delta tunnels run the risk of siphoning off precious ratepayer dollars and endangering the fragile Delta ecosystem. We will never be able to solve our water needs if we have tunnel vision.

I’m often asked if we have enough water in Los Angeles for our future. And I always answer that we have plenty of water. When people learn that we discard 60 percent of our equivalent daily water use in treated wastewater into the ocean, or that 50 percent of our water usage goes to landscaping, residents understand that the issue is not whether we have enough water — but rather whether we are managing, reusing, and recycling our water efficiently.

Tapping into locally sourced water offers the key to achieving our goals. Over the next four years, we will invest approximately $600 million in the San Fernando Valley where the Groundwater Basin has the capacity to serve more than 800,000 residents per year. The North Hollywood West Treatment Wellhead, which is now under construction, will process enough water for 35,600 homes once operational in 2020. And last week, we launched a pilot project at the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant which will, by 2026, enable the facility to double its recycling capacity. Read More > in the Los Angeles Daily News

20,000 new homes by BART stations? A new California zoning bill aims to speed building – Cities reluctant to OK housing on BART’s expansive parking lots and other land owned by the rail system would be forced to allow it under a new bill unveiled this week.

Assembly Bill 2923, announced Monday over the high-pitched whirring and screeching of trains at the Concord station, would require BART to approve new standards for housing development that reflect the ambitious goals the system recently set. Local governments would have two years to update their zoning restrictions accordingly.

If a city or county fails to comply, it could lose control over projects on BART-owned land.

…“You’ll see around many BART stations acres of asphalt filled with cars during the day and empty at night,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, who is carrying the bill with Assemblyman Tim Grayson, D-Concord. “It’s a terrible use of the areas around major transportation hubs.”

In 2016, BART adopted a goal of building 20,000 of homes throughout the system by 2040 — with 7,000 units, or 35 percent, to be offered at below-market-rate. But delays, community resistance and inertia threaten to undercut that vision, the bill’s proponents say. Read More > in The Mercury News

Villaraigosa and Newsom want to build more houses in California than ever before. Experts see the candidates’ goal as an empty promise – Two of California’s leading candidates for governor say they’re going to end the housing shortage, a driver of the state’s affordability crisis.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa both have said they want developers in California to build a half million homes in a year — something that’s never happened, at least in modern history. And they want builders to do it for seven straight years, resulting in 3.5 million new homes from the time the next governor takes office through 2025.

Those numbers are so out of scale with California’s history that they might be impossible to achieve. Practical concerns, including developers lining up enough financing and construction workers to build so many homes so quickly, could stymie the effort. Meeting the goals could also require rolling back decades of popular state policies on growth, taxation and the environment, according to housing academics and economists.

Without specific plans to transform how housing gets approved in California, said Christopher Thornberg, founding partner of Los Angeles-based consulting firm Beacon Economics, Newsom and Villaraigosa’s promises are empty. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Man Who Got Famous Showing Scantily Clad Women Bouncing On Trampolines Lectures Nation On Sexual Propriety – Comedian and political activist Jimmy Kimmel, who rose to fame in the early 2000s with a show that aired footage of scantily clad women bouncing on trampolines, spent his Sunday evening lecturing Americans on sexual propriety while hosting the Oscars, sources confirmed.

“Women have to deal with harassment all the time, everywhere they go,” said the host, whose hit “Man Show” famously featured half-dressed models referred to as “juggies.”

Kimmel went on to chide Hollywood for being “clueless about women” while offering support for recent movements like “Me Too,” “Time’s Up,” and “Never Again,” apparently forgetting about his skits such as “Juggy talent show” and “Get to know your juggies” which featured heavy handed, vulgar objectification of women carried out in front of a crazed, drunken, slobbering male audience. Read More > at The Babylon Bee

A new generation of anti-gentrification radicals are on the march in Los Angeles – and around the country – The protest at Mariachi Plaza didn’t seem, at first, like a declaration of war.

In fact, the Feb. 7 event looked like the same sort of grassroots, anti-gentrification gathering that might have taken place in any big American city at any point over the past 10 years as higher-income transplants have increasingly colonized lower-income urban communities, remaking once marginalized neighborhoods in their own cold-brew-and-kombucha image.

But this one was different.

That’s because it was organized by Defend Boyle Heights, a coalition of scorched-earth young activists from the surrounding neighborhood — the heart of Mexican-American L.A. — who have rejected the old, peaceful forms of resistance (discussion, dialogue, policy proposals) and decided that the only sensible response is to attack and hopefully frighten off the sorts of art galleries, craft breweries and single-origin coffee shops that tend to pave the way for more powerful invaders: the real estate agents, developers and bankers whose arrival typically mark a neighborhood’s point of no return.

“Gentrification is not a trend for the ‘woke wide web’ or for the detached subculture of the left to consume,” they continued. “It is a vicious, protracted attack on poor and working-class people. And we are engaging in class warfare that leaves our friends, families, and neighbors, homeless, devastated, deported or dead. So get with down friends and make s*** crack.”

By “making s*** crack” — by boycotting, protesting, disrupting, threatening and shouting in the streets — Defend Boyle Heights and its allies have notched a series of surprising victories over the past two and a half years, even as the forces of gentrification continue to make inroads in the neighborhood. A gallery closed its doors after its “staff and artists were routinely trolled online and harassed in person.”… Read More > at Yahoo!

DOJ to give Oversight panel more ‘Fast and Furious’ documents – Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Wednesday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will provide documents to Congress on the Obama-era program dubbed “Fast and Furious” that allowed criminals to purchase guns in Phoenix-based gun shops in order to track them into Mexico.

The Justice Department, then run by Eric Holder, declined to provide documents on the program to Congress in 2012 and was held in contempt of Congress. Today’s decision ends six years of litigation with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) operation was discovered in 2010 after two of the guns were found at the scene of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder.

ATF lost track of more than 1,400 guns during the course of the operation, which totaled 70 percent of the number sold. Read More > in The Hill

New fossils are redefining what makes a dinosaur – …“I often get asked ‘what defines a dinosaur,’ ” says Randall Irmis, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City. Ten to 15 years ago, scientists would list perhaps half a dozen features, he says. “The only one to still talk about is having a complete hole in the hip socket.”

The abundance of recent discoveries of dinosauromorphs, a group that includes the dinosaur-like creatures that lived right before and alongside early dinosaurs, does more than call diagnostic features into question. It is shaking up long-standing ideas about the dinosaur family tree.

To Nesbitt, all this upheaval has placed an even more sacred cow on the chopping block: the uniqueness of the dinosaur.

“What is a dinosaur?” Nesbitt says. “It’s essentially arbitrary.” Read More > at Science News

Facebook asks users: should we allow men to ask children for sexual images? – Facebook has admitted it was a “mistake” to ask users whether paedophiles requesting sexual pictures from children should be allowed on its website.

On Sunday, the social network ran a survey for some users asking how they thought the company should handle grooming behaviour. “There are a wide range of topics and behaviours that appear on Facebook,” one question began. “In thinking about an ideal world where you could set Facebook’s policies, how would you handle the following: a private message in which an adult man asks a 14-year-old girl for sexual pictures.”

The options available to respondents ranged from “this content should not be allowed on Facebook, and no one should be able to see it” to “this content should be allowed on Facebook, and I would not mind seeing it”.

…In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson added: “We understand this survey refers to offensive content that is already prohibited on Facebook and that we have no intention of allowing so have stopped the survey.

“We have prohibited child grooming on Facebook since our earliest days; we have no intention of changing this and we regularly work with the police to ensure that anyone found acting in such a way is brought to justice.” Read More > in The Guardian

Which city—San Francisco or Los Angeles—do you love to hate more? – This is shaping up to be California’s question for 2018. Each of the top two contenders for governor is a former mayor of one those cities, and each embodies certain grievances about his hometown. And backers of both candidates are playing on those resentments.

Gavin Newsom, like San Francisco, is derided as too wealthy, too white, too progressive, too cerebral, too cold, and so focused on a culturally liberal agenda that you might call him out of touch. Antonio Villaraigosa, like Los Angeles, is undermined as too street, too Latino, too instinctual, too warm, and so unfocused on his economically liberal agenda that you might say he lacks a center.

…In their study, “The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies: Lessons From San Francisco and Los Angeles,” UCLA’s Michael Storper and other researchers showed that the Bay Area and Greater Los Angeles were similar in the 1970s on measures of household income, innovation, investment, education and creative jobs. But they have since diverged so that the Bay Area’s household incomes are 50 percent higher, and L.A. now lags in educational attainment and investment.

The study found that San Francisco’s open culture encouraged the exchange of ideas that drives growth, while L.A.’s top-down economy, dominated by a few key players, translated into less intellectual ferment, and too much investment in the old economy.

But this new, advanced, San Francisco Bay Area has stirred more resentment. It is too expensive for all but a few Californians to even contemplate living there. Its technology companies now reach into our intimate lives, disrupting our work and livelihoods.

…San Francisco, once a symbol of open-mindedness, now faces the slur that it is unrepresentative—too white a place to represent a diverse state, and too narrow in its thinking. Peter Thiel, the billionaire tech investor who backed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, recently complained that “Silicon Valley is a one-party state” that only tolerates liberals. And he followed up his words by telling associates he would move his residence, his company Thiel Capital, and his foundation to Los Angeles, where institutions with views similar to his—like Breitbart News—have a base.

The gubernatorial campaign has a similar framing. Antonio people will tell you how grounded and real and moderate their man is, and how stuck-up and lefty Gavin is. Gavin people will tell you how much smarter and more visionary and future-oriented their man is, and how uninspired and undisciplined Antonio is. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

Former YouTube worker alleges discrimination against white, Asian men in suit – A former YouTube recruiter is suing the company’s parent, Google, alleging YouTube discriminated against white and Asian male engineers in hiring, and perpetuated a toxic culture in its efforts to recruit more women and minorities.

The employee, Arne Wilberg, worked at Google for nine years and spent the last four as a recruiter at YouTube. He said he was fired in November 2017, after a protracted battle over YouTube’s hiring practices and culture. The suit was filed Thursday in San Mateo County Superior Court.

“For the past several years, Google has had and implemented clear and irrefutable policies, memorialized in writing and consistently implemented in practice, of systematically discriminating in favor job applicants who are Hispanic, African American, or female, and against Caucasian and Asian men,” the civil suit states.

A spokeswoman for YouTube did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A Google spokeswoman provided the Wall Street Journal a statement saying the company has “a clear policy to hire candidates based on their merit, not their identity. At the same time, we unapologetically try to find a diverse pool of qualified candidates for open roles, as this helps us hire the best people, improve our culture, and build better products.”

Wilberg alleges that in April 2017 he was told to cancel all interviews for junior and mid-level software engineering positions, except for those with applicants who were female, black or Hispanic, and to “purge entirely any applications by non-diverse employees from the hiring pipeline.” Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

California gears up for a battle over single-family zoning near transit – Taking aim at climate change, highway gridlock and soaring housing costs, a California lawmaker has ignited a red-hot debate with a proposal that would force cities to allow more apartments and condominiums to be built a short walk from train stations and bus stops.

Arguably the most radical in a series of legislative fixes for California’s crippling housing crisis, Senate Bill 827 has the potential to reshape neighborhoods up and down the state, from Berkeley to Los Angeles, by overriding single-family zoning and superceding limits on new housing near public transportation.

…The measure would allow housing developments of four to eight stories within a half mile radius of every BART station, Caltrain stop or other rail hub, and a quarter mile from bus stops with frequent service. The limit would be higher for main streets and developments near bus stops or immediately surrounding the rail stations.

A map from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission with nearly identical parameters as the bill shows large swaths of Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco and San Jose shaded where the legislation would apply.

…The proposal would not fundamentally change how cities evaluate and approve such projects. They could still reject a development if they deemed it would destroy a historical landmark or violate local demolition rules. But officials could no longer subject a proposed housing development to local height or density limits that are lower than those in the bill, or require developers to build off-street parking. Read More > in The Mercury News

Dorm Living for Professionals Comes to San Francisco – In search of reasonable rent, the middle-class backbone of San Francisco — maitre d’s, teachers, bookstore managers, lounge musicians, copywriters and merchandise planners — are engaging in an unusual experiment in communal living: They are moving into dorms.

Shared bathrooms at the end of the hall and having no individual kitchen or living room is becoming less weird for some of the city’s workers thanks to Starcity, a new development company that is expressly creating dorms for many of the non-tech population.

Starcity has already opened three properties with 36 units. It has nine more in development and a wait list of 8,000 people. The company is buying a dozen more buildings (including one-star hotels, parking garages, office buildings and old retail stores), has raised $18.9 million in venture capital and hired a team of 26 people. Starcity said it was on track to have hundreds of units open around the San Francisco Bay Area this year, and thousands by 2019.

These are not micro-units, nor are they like WeWork’s WeLive housing developments, where residents have their own small kitchens, living rooms and bathrooms but share common event space and industrial appliances for parties. These are not single-family homes that are being used as group houses. Read More > in The New York Times

The United States will dominate the oil industry for the next 5 years, International Energy Agency forecasts – Oil demand will keep expanding over the next five years, and the United States will fulfill most of the world’s growing appetite, the International Energy Agency said on Monday.

In its latest annual outlook, the IEA forecasted that strong economic growth around the world will continue to support strong oil consumption until at least 2023. Along with surging output from the U.S., rising production in Canada, Brazil and Norway will be able to meet higher demand through 2020, the energy policy adviser said.

Beyond that, however, the IEA warned that oil supply could become tight unless investment in new production rebounds from historic declines in recent years. Read More > at CNBC

Rural California wants a divorce from rich California – We’re starting to hear more about secession. Not the perennial post-election calls of losing parties to secede from a nation controlled by the opposition, but a growing movement for secession from states, with the parts of states (sometimes geographically very large parts of states) wanting to separate from the population-dense urban areas that essentially control state decision-making. Feeling ignored, put-upon, and mistreated, state secessionists want to take their fate into their own hands.

At present, there’s little prospect of adding stars to the American flag, but these movements do indicate a widespread sense of dissatisfaction among (mostly rural) populations who feel that they are governed by people in distant urban centers who know little, and care less, about their way of life. Their complaints, in many ways, sound like the complaints of Americans circa 1775.

Intrastate secession isn’t exactly new in the United States: West Virginia was once part of Virginia, for example, and Tennessee was once part of North Carolina, though that evolution was less fraught. But in recent years we’ve seen a number of states facing calls to split, from inhabitants of regions who feel effectively unrepresented.

…But short of that, is there anything Congress can do? I think so. As I argue in a recent paper, most of the state-secessionist complaints have to do with urban areas applying the heavy hand of government regulation to rural people with different needs: Overstrict environmental laws, labor laws, firearms laws and the like.

Federal law governs all of these areas, but generally allows states to regulate more strictly if they so desire. I suggest that federal law be changed to pre-empt state laws in the same area, making federal regulation not just a floor, but a ceiling by preventing states from adopting stricter rules. (In some cases, this could even be done by administrative regulation).

Some might argue that such a move infringes on states’ rights, but the federal government has traditionally stepped in to protect local minorities from being oppressed by local majorities. That’s what the Civil Rights Act did, for example. Using federal power to promote greater freedom seems in keeping with our traditions and values. Read More > at USA Today


About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Data Center Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit and Transplan
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