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Facebook Founder’s Favor Comes with Complications (nytimes.com)
93 points by augustocallejas 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 42 comments



There's a weird disconnect in this article between the reality of what Zuckerberg is trying to do and the agenda being pushed by the author.

You have this paragraph:

"The social network has been lobbying to build more housing in the region, which Silicon Valley cities, worried about traffic and preferring a commercial over residential tax base, have fought against. In East Palo Alto, Facebook has invested $18.5 million into the Catalyst Housing Fund, an affordable housing initiative; the company has set a goal to grow the fund to $75 million."

Followed by this paragraph:

"East Palo Alto’s residents have long felt disempowered against change brought by tech leaders like Mr. Zuckerberg. A 2.6-square-mile town where one-third of the school children are homeless, it has stood as a sign that Silicon Valley’s wealth might not spread to those beyond its tech campuses."

If Silicon Valley’s wealth is not being spread to those beyond its tech campuses it's not for a lack of trying.


Interesting, I didn't feel at all like there was a weird disconnect or agenda being pushed. In fact, it felt to me like a pained attempt to paint a contentious situation fairly and factually. It seems all too plausible to me that both of the following might be factually true:

• Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are putting a lot of money into the local community and feel like they are going above and beyond their obligations in that regard

• various hardships that the local community has suffered and is suffering over the recent years are directly and visibly linked to Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, and therefore they feel like Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have and are continuing to harm them, not help them

The article seemed to be taking pains not to claim that any of the following were true, or that their opposite was true:

• Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are wrong to feel that they are going above and beyond; they should instead be contributing to the local community more and/or differently

• the local community is wrong to feel that Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are doing more to help than to hurt them; in fact, they have no right or claim to getting more from, or even what they currently get from, Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg

It sounds like you think it's clear that Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are contributing plenty enough to the local community. I'd be interested in learning why you think it's so clear that they needn't be doing more or different things, in spite of the local community's reported continued hardships.


You missed the key fact here: Zuckerberg wants to do more for the community but his initiatives are being blocked by the city. I say that there is a disconnect because this is being presented by the author as a failure of Zuckerberg's rather than of the city.


The bit you quoted has Zuckerberg’s initiative being blocked by other (richer) nearby cities.


> in fact, they have no right or claim to getting more from, or even what they currently get from, Facebook

Well, can't they enact taxes if they wanted to?

Hence, gaining a right to more money from Facebook.

Personally, I don't think any level of government should be beholden to charity from cooperations. Schools, infrastructure, and other things that make up a desirable community are not free, taxes is the tool to finance them.


SV wealth is protected from taxation, see: Apple and Google and Facebook. That doesn’t scream, “helpful” or “trying to spread it around” to me.


The proper way to improve education in a community is to get involved with the existing school systems -- the schools are already there. Be wary of ideologues possessing way too much money combined with an impoverished sense of ethics (e.g., Zuckerberg) who shun existing civic institutions and go off to start their own for-profit/corporate 'schools' instead.


>The proper way to improve education in a community is to get involved with the existing school systems

That didn't work out too well when Zuckerberg tried it: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-newark-schools-p...


Note that this is an Op-Ed, not a news article. The claim that the problem with that effort was bureaucratic waste that was no fault of Zuckerberg is some heavy editorializing. Such a claim would indeed support Zuck starting his own school where he has even more control.

Other reporting tells a different story: while rising-star politicians loved seeing their names in headlines next to big numbers, the effort was catastrophically disconnected from the local community. Unlike public money, private money needed no public review, so the effort was launched like a surprise attack on the local teacher's union; the million-dollar community-engagement campaign's centerpiece public forums drew hundreds of residents who volunteered to help their local schools, who never heard back; the superintendent appointed to carry out the effort was an outsider from California who at one point got a unanimous vote of no confidence by the school advisory board (with no effect because "advisory"); that superintendent spent $3 million on an international consulting firm to develop a plan to redistribute students in the school system so that the neediest students don't end up in the worst schools like they usually do, but then couldn't answer basic questions from parents when the plan was finally revealed. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/05/19/schooled

Such a narrative would instead suggest that Zuckerberg should focus on more community engagement, rather than on consolidating more control over schools he wants to be better.


Having unaccountable billionaires with no knowledge of the field dump piles of money down (along with dictating how it should be spent) in a splashy PR stunt is a horrible way to improve public institutions.

Instead we should properly tax the billionaires, and then elect public officials who value public education, so they can figure out how to improve schools with the advice and help of all of the local stakeholders.

But a lot of the rich folks’ education initiatives (including Zuckerberg’s, probably) turn out to be more about gaming the tax code and sometimes immigration laws (with a bonus of good PR) than really helping the schools out. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/06/...

As an added bonus (more relevant to the Koch brothers than Zuckerberg perhaps), charter schools help break teachers’ unions and destroy the public education system, which has a big knock-on political benefit for Republicans who want to undercut a major base of Democratic party support.


It would be nice if the public officials actually cared about education, and weren’t using the position as a sinecure until a position with real power opens up. https://www.thebaycitybeacon.com/politics/who-are-all-these-...

I do not blame people who care wanting to work around this system.


> I do not blame people who care wanting to work around this system.

Agree.... But workarounds won't scale.


Why not?


>Instead we should properly tax the billionaires, and then elect public officials who value public education, so they can figure out how to improve schools with the advice and help of all of the local stakeholders.

So you're saying that Zuckerberg should run for president? I understand that what you are suggesting will be effective, I just don't see how that translates into something that Zuckerburg should do.

Assuming Zuckerberg is honest in his intention on his education initiatives, Fixing the tax code would be noble for someone like him, but would pit him against other billionaires and would likely be a decades long detour on his immediate goal. Secondly, I don't see how he could suddenly influence general voting populace to suddenly care about education (save for propaganda delivered via facebook (maybe unethical), or going into politics (who wants Zuck to be POTUS))?

As I understand it, you seem to be arguing that the problems are not Zuck's to solve, and therefore he shouldn't try (or his piles of money will cause more harm than good).


Good god no. Zuckerberg would be a terrible president (less narcissistic and less stupid than the current one, but perhaps just as dangerous), without the appropriate qualifications, experience, vision, talent, or track record (other than a boatload of money, which I guess in this post-Citizens-United world can substitute for anything else). The concept of having a cabal of CEO billionaires with no political or policymaking experience explicitly in charge of the US government not only leads to terrible outcomes in practice, but is un-American in principle.

Zuckerberg should focus his attention on running his business in an ethical and civically minded way (a lot of low hanging fruit here if he wants to critically examine and do something about Facebook’s sometimes negative effects on people’s lives, news media, and on civic institutions in general), and should not try to single-handedly decide the future form of public institutions.

If Zuckerberg wants to put his money to good use as a private citizen, he should donate it to a charity with a successful track record and expert leadership instead of trying to exert personal control in a field he knows nothing about or turn everything into a personal PR stunt, or he should spend his effort on lobbying against unlimited anonymous spending in political campaigns, probably the most civically corrosive recent trend in American politics.


A simple question for you. Do you think the way up the current US political ladder is more about merit or more about quid quo pro? I think there's this sort of cognitive dissonance many of us are suffering. Are you happy with your professional politicians in Washington? Do you think they're doing a good job? It seems to me that many people want change in Washington, and don't appreciate that the 'political experience' rhetoric is being pushed by DC insiders in an effort to try to strengthen their own grasp on power. 'Outsiders' pose a far greater risk to establishment politics in DC than ever before thanks almost entirely to the internet.

It's a similar story with education. Education in the US is deteriorating rapidly. And so why exactly would you want to rely on people who are experts in this system? We tend to ignore that a system is little more than the individuals that make it up. The reason US education is failing is because the individuals who we currently consider have assigned 'expert' status to, clearly do not know what they're doing.

Experience is something that should be valued, but not all experience is created equally. I have a rather worse than negative view of Zuckerberg, but I would vote for him before almost any establishment politician. Einstein referred to insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. And by that account, I think we have a national epidemic of insanity.


Yes, many professional politicians in Washington are dedicated public servants doing their best under difficult pressures. They additionally are supported by a large staff of career professionals who are largely there because they believe in the mission. Unfortunately leadership of one of the two major political parties has been working to trash basic democratic norms and public institutions, with members of that party under duress from some of their reprehensible donors.

US education is deteriorating rapidly in places where undermining it and breaking it down has been prioritized by a handful of billionaire political donors, for example recently in Kansas and Wisconsin.

The most important first step toward fixing such problems is to pull the unaccountable, unlimited, anonymous money out of politics, and replace it with proper campaign finance regulations. Next we can try to guarantee every citizen the franchise, make our voting process saner and more auditable, and work on reducing computer-driven gerrymandering.


Do you think the way up the current US political ladder is more about merit or more about quid quo pro? I think there's this sort of cognitive dissonance many of us are suffering. Are you happy with your professional politicians in Washington? Do you think they're doing a good job? It seems to me that many people want change in Washington, and don't appreciate that the 'political experience' rhetoric is being pushed by DC insiders in an effort to try to strengthen their own grasp on power.

That's the conventional argument of course. But it's pretty clear the one party wants to govern, and one wants to "strangle the beast" (that is literally the policy).

It seems to me that people want government to govern, but not waste money, and they are fine with politicians who aren't captured by interest groups.


Most all US politicians are inherently captured by special interest groups. One of the few things that works as an accurate predictor of who wins an election is money. And that money comes in the form of "donations" which leaves politicians to do the bidding of those that donate to them. They need it to get into office and then literally the first day they get into office they begin fund raising for the next run.

Neither party really wants to do anything except further their own power. Maybe one of the most clear examples of this is the TPP. It was going to be one of the biggest corporate handouts in American history, and it was being spearheaded by a democratic president who ran on a platform of trying to remove k-street influence (special interest/big donors) from politics. And while the democratic party put token opposition up, when it came time to for congress to vote away their right to amendment or debate of the TPP - they lined up and made sure he got the votes. It's all a charade.

Finally, a functional government would actually be dysfunctional. Our entire political system is built on checks and balances that means even a small voice in congress has the ability to stop actions from being carried out. The problem is we don't actually have a dysfunctional government. They are doing exactly what they're intending to do - carry out corporate and special interests with 0 hesitation, and then mostly flub about the rest of the time.


Most all US politicians are inherently captured by special interest groups. One of the few things that works as an accurate predictor of who wins an election is money. And that money comes in the form of "donations" which leaves politicians to do the bidding of those that donate to them. They need it to get into office and then literally the first day they get into office they begin fund raising for the next run

Counter example: Trump.


Right, though I'm not sure what this has to do with our discussion? The issue was on the inherent conflict of interest for individuals who make their way to the top of politics through the system - through the experience that's supposed to be valued. In many ways the product is tainted before it even 'ripens.'


Right, though I'm not sure what this has to do with our discussion?

I think your argument is a perfect summary of the conventional progressive view. I'm progressive and very sympathetic to the argument you make.

But I think there's a lot more going on in politics than this neat narrative spells out.

I pulled out the Trump thing, because it's a great example of a person who spent a lot less than his opponents but won anyway.

https://www.vox.com/2016/2/9/10941690/campaign-finance-left (which was written prior to Trump) has a lot more details on this.

To pull a quote: research on lobbying suggests that lobbyists are not the omnipotent power brokers that voters sometimes imagine them to be. Further, it suggests that insofar as they matter, they matter for reasons that are hard to regulate away.

I think campaign finance is important, but more than that I want to see progressive candidates win.

I don't think the nihilist argument that "politics is broken" is correct. Nor do I think there is anything which implies an inherent conflict of interest in politicians. A pro-NRA candidate will be supported by the NRA, and if they win they will listen to people they already know. The same with a pro-environmental issues candidate.

This isn't simply being beholden to special interests - there is a strong interdependence between the group and the candidate and it runs both ways.


(Also, someone seems to be coming through and downvoting both our posts days after this dropped off the front page. I've upvoted yours, but just be aware it is happening)


Valuing "public education" means you don't value education per se, but you value the part that maintains your party a voting base of education unions and bureaucrats.

Moving my kids from public school to a charter was the second best thing we ever did for them. The difference in the quality of their education was immense.

Breaking public school unions would be the best thing we could do for public schools. There is ZERO justification for tenure at the school teacher level.


You can already see the results in several states. It’s pretty ugly so far, and likely to only get worse. Teachers are trending less qualified and less experienced, move from district to district more, turnover is higher, everyone is more stressed out, parents and students are less satisfied and less successful, schools are still poorly maintained and supplied, more money than ever gets siphoned off by business consulting firms etc. The super-wealthy in those states get a bit of a tax cut, but nobody else really sees any advantage.

The primary way that charter schools juke their stats (to the extent they are able – often their outcomes are just objectively mediocre) is by selecting out a collection of students likely to be successful and kicking out the rest. Of course, there is a spectrum, and some charter schools (just like some regular public schools) are quite successful.

Valuing “public education” means that you value education of the broad citizenry, instead of only valuing education for your own kids and screw everyone else.


Thank you for sharing that link. I am not familiar with Russakoff's work and it looks very thought-provoking.


The proper way is what works.


That is a tautology/ syllogism. How do you know what works (and if something else would have been better)?


You try it one way.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-newark-schools-p...

If or when that fails, you try another. This is another.


There is already an East Palo Alto private prep school (East Side Prep) with a very strong track record at preparing their students for college and employment.


No, it's saying a proper way must work. If you think your approach works, please make the case for that. Keep in mind that the system whereby public school districts are funded by local taxes have a spotty record at best.

Disclaimer: Saying public schools have a spotty record isn't insulting people who work in or love public schools. Objectively, property values correlate with school quality for a reason. And high property values make quality schools more expensive, especially for the poor, but the profits are captured by landlords, not the school system or the general fund of local government. Point being, this isn't a personal, us-versus-them fight.


Facebook is more than welcome to come gentrify the city where I live. It would be a welcomed change from the influx of decrepit homes that are abandoned and/or poorly maintained.


Another example of The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics.

https://blog.jaibot.com/the-copenhagen-interpretation-of-eth...


As a free-market libertarian there is nothing worse that crony capitalism. And that's what happened here.

When the political leadership of my beloved former lunchtime basketball grounds of East Palo Alto tries to claim they didn't take the RV Park for the school, they immediately contradict themselves.

"She added that the flood-prone street would be rebuilt for the school, so the R.V.s would have had to move in any case."

And you known Chan-Zuckerman was behind it. Eminent domain should never be allowed to be used for one business, even a non-profit school, to take the property of another. It should only be used for the highest public purposes, and only with fair compensation.


Am I the only one that noticed the alliteration in the headline? I wonder if they could have made it all F-words


[flagged]


You're talking about a ~90hour work week. I have doubts that this is the case, but if it is, this is an insane work-life balance, and your experiences should not be directly translated to other people's situations. I find it incredible that you're ragging on another persons decisions, when your own decisions could quite easily be put under the microscope and shown to be unviable.

Though I find it interesting that this is the only thing you've posted here. To both boast about your own lifestyle, and to deride someone else's. Not really HN worthy behaivour tbh.


Perhaps Mr. Bonilla has extra expenses due to his grandchildren. Which he might not have directly chosen to have, but has to raise because they are family. And maybe he is unable to work 90 hour weeks. Sometimes bad things happen to people outside of their control. To me it seems very sad that the massive wealth of silicon valley has not translated to good fortune and happiness for more people in the region.


Sad, but entirely predictable. Supply side econ is just as absurd on a local level as it is on a national level.


Well the 43 year old grandfather could work 50 hours a week and make $1100.

Of course, it's sad -- mostly for the people who work so hard and have to deal with such adversities.

Living in an RV park with waste water issues isn't the solution though. I feel sorry for every human suffering, including the 25,000 children under 5 that will die today unnecessarily.

Life is brutal and I blame the big tech companies, billionaires and those creating the systems for failing to build a better world. But Mr. Bonilla's mistakes in his life are his own and only him and his wife can solve their problems. Engendering victim mentalities isn't going to change anything.


What the hell does any of that have to do with this guy getting kicked out of his RV lot so Zucks wife can build a school near her home?


This has to be a joke. Stuff like the keto bit are just too much.


I feel like Facebook is like Trump, It doesn't matter what it does, media will always attack it.




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