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Silicon Valley A Punching Bag For Presidential Hopefuls

U.S. presidential candidates have long come to Silicon Valley to raise money

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Silicon Valley, president, candidates, politics
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg campaigns in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., August 27, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson. U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg campaigns in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., August 27, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson. U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg campaigns in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., August 27, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson. VOA

U.S. presidential candidates have long come to Silicon Valley to raise money and, with a tech company campus as a backdrop, talk about innovation and the future. But, it has now become a punching bag for them.

But this year, things are different.

The 2020 presidential candidates are contending with the so-called “tech-lash,” the populist backlash against “Big Tech” over a host of issues, including data leaks, wealth accumulation, alleged erosion of worker rights, claims of censorship of conservative voices and concerns about the proliferation of extreme speech online.

Some political hopefuls are part of the tech-lash.

Silicon Valley, president, candidates, politics
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., gestures while speaking at the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in San Francisco. More than a dozen Democratic presidential hopefuls are making… VOA

Recently, Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, joined protesters outside Uber’s headquarters arguing for a new California bill that would make contract workers, like Uber drivers, employees. Other candidates, such as Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, have also come out for the legislative measure.

Sanders has attacked technological innovations for upending local journalism and for what he calls biased policing, such as facial recognition technology. Warren says she would like to break up some of the tech giants.

“The area around these giants is referred to by venture capitalists investors as the ‘dead zone,’” Warren said during a CNN event. “You try to start up a business, you run the risk that Amazon steps in front of you or Google steps in front of you or buys you out before you get started.”

California senator

As California’s attorney general, Harris raised the issue of the lack of privacy policies on apps. So far, she has not made the tech industry a big issue in her national campaign.

But that may change.

When asked about the growth of companies such as Facebook, Harris told CNN, “There is no question in my mind that there needs to be serious regulation. … There needs to be more oversight; that has not been happening.”

Trump and Silicon Valley

President Donald Trump has led the way in puncturing tech’s one-time white hat image, hitting the industry hard on a range of issues, including allegedly censoring conservative voices online. He recently falsely claimed that Google manipulated votes.

But some candidates don’t want to mimic Trump’s style of conflict when it comes to tech.

When asked about the idea of breaking up Facebook, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said, “That sounds more like a Donald Trump kind of thing.”

He added, “We do not need a president that is going to use their own personal beliefs and tell you which companies we should break up. … We need a president that’s going to enforce antitrust laws in this country, and I will be that person.”

Silicon Valley, president, candidates, politics
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., gestures while speaking at the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in San Francisco. More than a dozen Democratic presidential hopefuls are making their… VOA

Big tech — good or bad for America?

All this negative attention puts the tech industry in a bind, unsure which potential presidential hopeful might be an ally, said Lanhee Chen, who was head of policy for Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012.

“Certainly there are still people who believe in the value of technology companies, who understand tech as an important industry, an important contributor to the economy,” Chen said. “But increasingly I think people’s views have become more nuanced. And unfortunately, for the technology companies, in many cases, more negative.”

There’s a danger, however, in attacking tech, said Donnie Fowler, a longtime Democratic consultant and now an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco.

“The Democratic presidential candidates can’t come to Silicon Valley and attack technology and innovation broadly,” Fowler said. “You can’t come here and say that everything Silicon Valley is doing is bad for the country, bad for the economy, bad for Americans. Americans don’t even believe that.”

Tech CEO, employee divide

Campaign contributions offer a snapshot of the candidates and their relationship to the tech industry.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, contributions from workers at Alphabet, the parent company of Google, or the organizations’ political action committee, were the highest contributors to Buttigieg and Warren.

In contrast, tech executives have given to Democrat moderates such as Booker and former Vice President and Democratic front-runner Joe Biden, both of whom have not made tech much of an issue, according to CNBC.

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YouTube recommendation algorithm

Max Kaehn, a Google software engineer, who has donated to Warren and other candidates, said he welcomes politicians who criticize his employer and other tech giants.

“With great power comes great responsibility and the tech companies have great power. We should get some scrutiny over it,” he said.

Some areas to look at, Kaehn said, is Amazon’s treatment of its warehouse workers, Facebook’s use of data and YouTube, which is owned by his employer, Alphabet.

“I think we should be talking about the YouTube recommendation algorithm,” he said.

While YouTube’s algorithm hasn’t come up in the Democratic presidential debates, observers say issues like these, once seen as esoteric or niche, may become front and center, reflecting the country’s ambivalence about the growing role of technology in their lives. (VOA)

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Development And Protection Of Citizens – Duties Of Elected Political Executive

In a democratic dispensation the first duties of the elected political executive governing the nation are to bring about development of all and ensure protection of citizens

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Public Safety, Development, Government, Politics, Duties, safety, executive
a policy decision of great administrative value was taken by the Centre to put the newly inducted officers of all these services together for a short 'Foundation Course.' VOA

In a democratic dispensation the first duties of the elected political executive governing the nation are to bring about development of all and ensure protection of citizens from internal and external threats. The political leadership exercises the sovereign power to this end through the bureaucratic machinery — that includes the police — headed by the officers of All India and Central Services who were recruited, trained and placed in various wings of the government to implement the policies flowing from the top. Years ago a policy decision of great administrative value was taken by the Centre to put the newly inducted officers of all these services together for a short ‘Foundation Course’ at what is now the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) at Mussoorie, before they dispersed to join the establishments of their respective services at other places for a full length specialised training.

The foundation course had the merit of letting all probationers know each other and putting them on a common grid of understanding of the great cause of national governance that they were going to share in their long years of public service ahead. It would lay the turf for an assured cooperation among them whenever they would have an occasion to work together in future to carry the mission of governance forward. It all began in 1960 the year of my joining the IPS and I could see the benefit of that participation in my own experience. A long time later when I became the Director Intelligence Bureau, I interacted with the Secretaries at the Centre and the Chief Secretaries in the states whom I had known at Mussoorie — which made the sharing of thoughts with them on matters of national importance so easy. What worked was an understanding that we were all together in serving a higher cause.

Public Safety, Development, Government, Politics, Duties
Headed by the officers of All India and Central Services who were recruited, trained and placed in various wings of the government to implement the policies flowing from the top. Wikimedia Commons

Today India is grappling with the challenge of pursuing economic growth of a nation of 1.3 billion people spread across far corners of the vast country and placed in uneven conditions of development. The officers of the Civil Services on whom falls the responsibility of implementing the development policies of the Centre are finding it easier to coordinate the efforts that cut across various ministries and institutions — somewhere because there are no psychological barriers amongst them. In the domain of development they had enough shared experience to put their heads together in a meaningful way. They had knowledge of various facets of what constitutes development — financial, agriculture, infrastructure, forestry, public health and so on. The recall of the foundation course definitely helped in all of this.

While the orientation of Civil Services to the tasks of development is adequate the national scene points to the need for an awareness programme for all Civil Services — as they advanced in their career — on the share of responsibility that would fall on them directly or indirectly, in the sphere of securing the nation and the citizens at large against threats both internal and external. Security for all is also the concern for all and should not be deemed to be something relegated completely to the care of a national security set up and the specialised agencies besides the Police. Warren Christopher, the then US Secretary of State, famously said in 1993 that ‘national security was inseparable from economic security’ and today it is known that the targets of a ‘proxy war’ include economic assets and the industrial life-line — since damaging these weakened the opponent far more effectively than an open war would do. Those handling governance at decision making levels have to have an understanding of the economic dimensions of national security.

ALSO READ: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Measures To Boost Export and Housing Sector

For all of this it becomes a requirement of the time that senior officials across the spectrum of governance — who are adept at handling development — should also be fully informed of the national security imperatives that the governance had to reckon with. A little exposure to what was the state of affairs on the national security front and the developments of strategic import happening in the world outside, in an early stage of their training might prove quite rewarding for them. In the age of knowledge that is upon us ignorance is not a bliss and an awareness of the environ in which the national government was responding to the call of both development and security would be a great asset. A short module of discussion on matters related to national security in the Foundation Course for All India and Central Services would go a long way in providing a minimal basic orientation on the subject that would remain with the senior officers for the future and contribute to a sound decision making by them in later years.

Subjects that would qualify for being included in the presentations by professionals and strategic analysts include National Security Scenario & Policy Responses, Terrorism & Maoism, Disaster Management, Dimensions of Drug Traffic and India’s National Security Set Up & Intelligence Agencies. Every functionary of the government — and even the citizens at large — ought to be aware of their responsibility towards safeguarding national security. We are in an era of covert offensives, an open external attack of the enemy is not the only threat to the nation. Our defence forces are always in a state of readiness to deal with an open warfare. In the Indian context the reality of a proxy war being conducted by a hostile neighbour underscores the importance of our counter-intelligence capabilities that security is all about. Both defence and security have to work together to produce a perfect response. Kashmir has been a testing ground for the success of Intelligence based operations of army and para military forces — the challenge being of neutralising the infiltrated terrorist without collateral damage. Those who man the senior positions in the civil side of the government can benefit from an early exposure to an orientation programme on the lines suggested above. (IANS)