Ep. 1: 2016 Libertarian Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson

A Step Ahead: Gary Johnson

Hi everyone, this is Kish Rajan, Chief Evangelist at CALinnovates. Along with our Executive Director, Mike Montgomery, we welcome you to the new CALinnovates podcast, where we’ll be sitting down with elected officials and policy advocates, and other thought leaders, to discuss issues of critical innovation, technology and public policy matters that face California and the country. We’ll be talking to guests of all kinds and we’ll be broadcasting this regularly. We hope that you’ll join us for this important series of discussions about the future of our state and our country.

We’re so pleased this time to be joined by Libertarian party candidate for President, former New Mexico Governor, Gary Johnson.

Governor Johnson, thanks for being here, really appreciate it.

Gary Johnson: Oh thank you. Yeah.

It’s nice to see you.

Great opportunity.

Yeah. Welcome to California.


You’re one of millions that’ll visit here this year, for business or leisure travel, and many of those folks avail themselves of sharing economy services. Uber, for ride share, Airbnb, home share, and the like. Are you a user and what do you think about the tremendous growth of that new space in our economy these days?

I have said repeatedly, I think that this is the model of the future. Uber everything. Eliminating the middle man. Allowing for you as the provider of goods and services, to directly give that to the end user, eliminating the middle man, so the end user saves money and you make more money as the provider. Airbnb, in Santa Fe right now, they have restricted the use of Airbnb. My partner and I Kate, I think we have this great opportunity to rent our place out. I built my dream home north of Taos, but we have this great opportunity to rent out our place, and they’re restricting Airbnb from existing.

That’s not unusual.

It’s not unusual.

In the sharing economy generally, there’s a lot of reaction on the parts of state and local governments that have tried to hinder these models, or try to find ways to force them into their regulatory box.

Can they not see the fact, that me, that I get a little bit of extra income that I’m going to be spending in my community or paying in tax? It’s just so short sighted.

I think it’s a great point in terms of the owners of those properties to be able to continue to derive some additional income, or you know, monetizing those. But it’s also the users. I think particularly, it’s not exclusively this, but certainly younger consumers. Their perception of getting a ride or staying some place has fundamentally changed. One wonders, now in your candidacy, one wonders whether politics and policy is catching up with where the generational attitudes and cultures are headed.

Well, if I’m elected President, just count on me to use that bully pulpit to point out how good these things are and stop with the restriction. Stop with the restriction. If there are, and I am sure that there are initiatives that are going to be launched to restrict them federally.

There’s no doubt. You can count on it. At CALinnovates, we actually have a poll in the field right talking directly to millennials and to voters, and asking them about attitudes, and trying to match up where the gaps may be, and sort of where the policy conversation is headed. We’ll talk more about that for sure.

It’s exciting.

A big topic of security versus privacy. Of course, sadly, we’ve seen so many tragic events that have happened, criminal events, shootings, terrible things that have happened, and sadly, it seems that the scale of these is growing. Given how lethal these attacks are, and the opportunity to be able to potentially interdict those things to prevent them, shouldn’t the government be able to take greater action in that regard?

There is a process, and it’s due process. It’s presenting evidence to a judge and actually getting warrants to be able accomplish exactly what you’re talking about. When the NSA has the ability to collect metadata, and I am saying something here that I really have no appreciation for whatsoever, because what does metadata of 110 million Verizon users really amount to? To me, that is wrong. There has not been one shred of evidence to come forward that anything has been prevented, thwarted, or discovered as a result of this massive collection of all of our personal information.

Let me switch gears. Something that’s happened that’s been so stunning globally has been the Brexit vote, that decision by the voters. There’s a lot of dimensions to that and a lot of reasons I suppose about why that happened. One element that’s been talked a lot about is immigration and anxiety, in Britain, around greater immigration. Some would say that that’s a present conversation, certainly in the Presidential campaign here in the United States as well. Of course in California, in the Bay Area, in this thriving innovation economy, it seems that a big asset, one of the great contributors to the success here, has been that we’re a melting pot of immigrants that are contributing their talents. I’m curious as to your feelings about immigration, and the implications to the innovation economy.

Running for President of the United States, we should embrace immigration. We’re a country of immigrants. All innovation has stemmed from innovation. We should make this as easy as possible for anybody that wants to come into this country and work to be able to get a work visa. Get government out of the quota, out of establishing quotas. There’ll either be jobs or there won’t be jobs. A work visa should entail a background check. We don’t want criminals in this country, and it should include a social security card, so that applicable taxes get paid, but come on. We’re a country of immigrants, a hard working people that are coming here to this country to achieve what any American hopes to achieve.

It certainly seems again that this cuts a lot on age lines. I mentioned that we’re in the field with the poll, looking at attitudes. A lot of data in the Brexit vote, the analysis of that vote, showed very big divides between younger voters and older voters, about their feelings on immigration, multiculturalism, and technology. I wonder if you see those similar divides emerging here and what we can do to try to bridge those.

Well, yes I do, this is protectionist. We are at a crossroads in my opinion, and I don’t think we should go down the road of being protectionists. I think we’re going to find ourselves in a recession. The Brexit vote for me was a vote against the crooning capitalism of Europe, that’s the way I looked at it. It really puts in doubt any Euro based investment, for years to come, and it makes the United States really a safe haven for dollars, I think, for years to come. I’m talking now about worldwide investment and what should be viewed as the safe haven. Unless of course we screw it up by becoming isolationists ourselves.

Final question. Technology is permeating all aspects of our lives. It certainly is changing the way the political campaigns take place. It’s been some time since the first time you ran for office in New Mexico. I’m wondering if you, what have you noticed in your observations about how much campaigning has changed, how much politics has changed, because of the innovations and the advent of new technologies?

What’s exciting for me is I might get elected President. If I do, I will have spent less money than any political candidate in modern history made possible by social media.

I have to tell you, I’ve seen the latest web ad that you have that’s out on social media right now. You and your running mate, Governor Weld. I must say, it’s very creative. It’s clearly catching on because I know it’s been viewed by millions of people, so that’s certainly an indication of how quickly you can have an impact with the right kind of content online.

Right. Doesn’t cost anything other than the production and the relative production costs are very low. Anyway, it’s exciting.

Well, Libertarian candidate for President, Governor Gary Johnson. Thanks so much for being with us on INNOVATE2016 and good luck the rest of the way.

Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you very much.

Goodbye Payphones, Hello Progress

by Kish Rajan

If Clark Kent wanted to turn into Superman in California today, he’d struggle to find a phone booth. Across the entire state there are only 27,000 payphones left, down 70% from 2007.

It’s no big surprise that the payphone is going the way of the dodo bird. According to the Pew Research Center 92% of American adults own cellphones. If you’re desperate to make a call and find yourself with a dead battery, chances are good you’re going to ask a friendly stranger to borrow their cell phone before you’re going to search out a payphone.

Late last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that acknowledges the demise of the payphone. SB 1055 puts an end to the Payphone Services Committee and the Payphone Service Providers Committee Fund which was being used to, among other things, “fund programs to … educate consumers on matters related to payphones.”

Let that sink in for a second. As a state, until a few weeks ago, we were still spending money to educate people about payphones — something the vast majority of citizens don’t want or need.

That’s pretty emblematic of how the legislature works when it comes to telecom. There are lots of outdated laws and committees and funds on the books but change comes incredibly slowly.

That’s why the death of the payphone committee is a small but symbolic step.

California should turn its attention to fixing other policies that keep outdated technology tethered to our streets and our homes even when we as a population have moved on.

Read the full post on Fox and Hounds here.

Palm Springs Airport Faces Growing Pains: Modernize or Marginalize

by Mike Montgomery

Tonight, the Palm Springs City Council will make a decision about the future of the region’s airport that will move the Coachella Valley into the modern era, or leave it behind in the dusty past.

At issue is a vote to allow city staffers to consider regulations to let rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft pick up passengers at the airport. This matter should have been settled last month but instead of making a decision, the five members of the City Council kicked the can down the road, without even laying the groundwork for their staffers to begin the process of ushering in modern policies for Palm Springs International Airport (PSP).

It’s never an easy road for rideshare companies. The taxi lobby is deeply entrenched, moneyed and willing to fight for its dwindling market share rather than modernize and upgrade its offering. That fight is in conflict with consumer demand, which is clearly and quickly moving to rideshare companies.  Other major airports across the state, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose already allow Uber to pick up passengers. By keeping rideshare companies away from the airport, the City Council is turning the Palm Springs International Airport into a second-class transportation hub and marginalizing the area’s residents and tourists in the process.

Unfortunately, a cursory reading of the tealeaves indicates a disappointing outcome for rideshare companies. Currently, the City Council would likely vote against advancing this conversation. Never mind that this means rideshares can drop people off at the airport but not pick them up, a scheme that makes no sense to average people who are just looking for a ride. But such is the strength of the taxi lobby.  Common sense would lead one to believe that there is in fact no difference between allowing platform companies like Uber to drop off passengers (which is currently allowed) and pick them up, but the taxi lobby has done a phenomenal job of warding off competition and will continue doing so until the threat passes.

Taxi officials have raised the false specter of alcohol and drug testing as an excuse to keep rideshare companies away from the airport. But if you think drug and alcohol testing do anything to make rides safer, think again. Study after study has shown that these tests are wildly inaccurate, easy to manipulate, and provide no additional safety.

Similarly, the taxi industry is trying to force ridesharing to use their antiquated system of fingerprint-based background checks. Again, rideshare companies have already found more effective methods for making sure their drivers are being safe. They do comprehensive background checks, monitor rides in real-time and encourage riders to rate drivers and file complaints (again in real-time) if necessary. The taxi companies cannot offer this level of service to their customers.

But my voice doesn’t count in this vote and neither do the voices of elected officials and residents of Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, Indio, La Quinta, Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage. The only people who matter are those five members of the City Council.

Uber recently circulated a petition in Palm Springs asking residents to voice their support for the continuation of the airport discussion — 3,000 people signed in one week. A taxi-led petition to stop the furtherance of Uber pickups at the airport garnered a mere 300 signatures. It’s clear that the people of Palm Springs, and its 1.5 million airport passengers, deserve to move into the future when it comes to their transportation choices.

The City Council should reconsider its stance in favor of pro-consumer policies rather than pro-incumbent protectionism and give the people what they want: an airport offering modern services for the modern era.

Why Clinton And Trump Need To Talk About Technology At The Next Debate

Technology is central to our lives. But you wouldn’t know it by listening to the candidates.

By Kish Rajan

This week’s debate between vice presidential candidates Mike Pence and Tim Kaine was the second time we’ve seen candidates come together on the national stage to discuss the issues. For the second time, technology was basically left out of the conversation.

I guess that shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise. This year’s election, more than any other I can remember, has been more about emotion than substance. The most important issues seem to be getting pushed to the sidelines in favor of personal jabs.

But I can’t help feeling disappointed. These debates have been a real missed opportunity. Tech is quickly becoming the driver of our economy. According to the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM jobs are growing at 13% per year, faster than any other sector. Tech jobs pay some of the highest wages, and for every new tech job, 4.3 more jobs are created in other fields thanks to the multiplier effect, according to the Bay Area Council.

At the same time, tech is decimating some industries and forever changing the nature of work. As technology makes everything from buying our groceries to writing news stories easier, traditional jobs are being lost and they’re not coming back. This is something our leaders need to face head on.

In the first debate, Hillary Clinton made a glancing reference to the power of innovation to create new jobs, but it was far from enough.

There’s a lot at stake in this election. In order to help grow the technology industry and protect workers, we need to modernize tax policies, come up with new strategies for education and workforce development, increase access to capital to start new businesses and reform regulations. These issues need to become part of the conversation.

Immigration is top of mind for many tech entrepreneurs but not in the way the candidates talk about it. Silicon Valley doesn’t want to keep immigrants out; it wants to let them in. The leaders in the Bay Area want to make it easier for entrepreneurs and engineers to cross our borders so new companies can be founded and others can hire the best and the brightest, no matter what country they’re from.

Then there is the sharing economy — I call it the Personal Enterprise Economy — which is growing in leaps and bounds. Companies such as Uber, Airbnb and Task Rabbit are remaking the economy in incredibly fundamental ways. A job is no longer for life; that’s just reality. These new companies are opening up new opportunities for people who may be underemployed or who just want more flexibility to control their own work life.

That doesn’t mean we don’t need regulations here to protect both workers and consumers. The choices the government makes about those regulations will have an enormous impact on whether or not this industry and its workers thrive.

And this new, tech-driven, future of work means that we need to rethink things such as tax breaks and benefits. Obamacare was a good start in that it gave everyone the chance to get health care without having to stay beholden to a specific employer. But we need to go further. More benefits need to be portable, sticking to the worker not the employer. We need to talk about things like wage insurance and evolving our tax code to reflect the changing nature of work.

There’s also the digital divide, a serious problem that is rarely publicly discussed among elite politicians. While at the top end of the economic scale people have access to iPhones, lightning-fast broadband and the newest whiz-bang wearables, too often people at the bottom are struggling with dial-up service if they have any access to the internet at all.

In order for this lower-income group to thrive, they need to be able to have steady broadband access, not just to be able to keep in touch with loved ones and take advantage of growing entertainment opportunities. This is much-needed technology that will allow them to apply for jobs, get online training and access benefits that are increasingly going digital.

Closing this divide needs to be a priority for our government. It would be great if our next president acknowledged this and talked about ways to fix the problem.

Technology can help create new jobs and move the economy forward but it can also leave people behind in its wake. We need to be dealing with both sides of the issue.

There are two more debates on the schedule. I’ll be watching next Sunday’s town hall closely to see if the candidates talk more about technology. I hope they will. Personal insults and clever one-liners are great for reality TV. But they don’t help much when it comes to leadership.

CALinnovates Statement Regarding the FCC’s Revamped Privacy Proposal

October 7, 2016

“This version, like the first, falls woefully short in its noble goal to safeguard consumer data and increase transparency for the public. Subjecting the exact same data to different and arbitrary rules depending upon a company’s primary offering in today’s era of vertical integration does not increase consumer privacy. It is also blind to the realities of the marketplace. We need 21st Century privacy rules to govern a 21st Century data market.” said Tim Sparapani, CALinnovates’ senior policy counsel.

“Chairman Wheeler has indicated that some favored companies will be allowed to practice permissionless innovation outside the FCC’s jurisdiction while other disfavored entities must operate under the microscope despite the fact that the data is one in the same. Businesses of all types today are data companies first and foremost, whether they make software or deliver internet access – or both. And innovation can and should spring from all types of companies, ISPs included.”

“Today, Verizon owns Yahoo, AOL and Huffington Post, and the line between ISPs and edge providers has been increasingly blurred. Consumers will be no better off under this scheme than the previous one, but they may be worse off than they are today.”

“This is a referendum on innovation and an affront to consumers who expect more and demand better. No matter how Chairman Wheeler tries to spin it, his latest iteration of the FCC’s privacy proposal is nothing more than lipstick on a pig,” said Mike Montgomery, executive director of CALinnovates.

“CALinnovates encourages Chairman Wheeler to return to the drawing board to rewrite the rules one more time. Better yet, the FCC should seek further public input as well as guidance from Congress and the FTC, which has the longstanding privacy expertise the FCC lacks.”

CALinnovates is a non-partisan coalition of tech companies, founders, funders and non-profits determined to make the new economy a reality.

Statement Re: FCC’s Decision to Pull STB Plan From Meeting Agenda

“Today consumers, content creators and the larger innovation community were given a reprieve from government dictating how innovation should take place when the FCC pulled the set-top box item from the agenda. Innovative companies are already shaking up the set-top box market and don’t want or need the FCC’s help.

When more than 200 Members of Congress, Roku, Amazon and others oppose the Wheeler plan, the writing was already on the wall and it was wise of Chairman Wheeler to hit the eject button. CALinnovates stands with Congressman Tony Cardenas in requesting that the FCC release the order as it currently stands. Doing so will allow the public to comment. Keeping sunshine rules in place on this item is inappropriate and against the spirit of the APA.

The ecosystem is already headed toward an app-based solution and by potentially creating a compulsory licensing scheme, Chairman Wheeler stands in the way of progress, innovation and the promise of this new Golden Age of television.”

Why Pot Is The New Frontier For Tech Entrepreneurs

By Mike Montgomery

The cannabis industry is growing like, well, a weed. And the fact that recreational marijuana is on the California ballot in November means that we are about to see an extraordinary number of tech entrepreneurs enter this arena. According to cannabis research firm The Arcview Group, if the measure passes, the California cannabis market will grow from $2.7 billion to $6.6 billion by 2020.

Currently, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington are the only states where recreational marijuana use is legal. It’s a $5.7 billion industry (“the fastest growing industry in America,” according to Cashinbis) that is poised to take off once California hits the market.

There are plenty of hot areas for fledgling cannabis entrepreneurs. Edibles, vapors, extraction processes and growing systems, to name just a few. “If you are looking at product development, there is no standard—no one will tell you how to do it,” says Michael Devlin, co-founder and president of Db3, which makes Zoots edibles. “As the industry grows, they will ask for innovation. The winners will be those who respond to that.”

I checked in with activist Brian Caldwell, owner of Triple-C: The Original Cannabis Club, to see what areas might be ripe for budding tech entrepreneurs interested in the cannabis industry:

Mature consumer-facing software: Right now, Weedmaps and Leafly are the top two sites where cannabis consumers can look up dispensaries, find cannabis strains and read reviews. But neither is perfect and both need to mature a lot in order to be truly user friendly.

Weedmaps suffered from a lot of growing pains and has had a number of software issues. Leafly, while packed with information on specific strains and great technologically, seems to be struggling to gain traction.

Read the full article here.

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