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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/15/13

No, Facebook is Really Not Your "Friend"

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by Dartagnan
The wonders a concerned billionaire can work in a mere month!

It seems like only yesterday (March, exactly) that the Facebook wunderkind was hosting fundraisers for Chris Christie and musing about dipping his toes into the warm, inviting political waters to which all billionaires are drawn, if only by their consciences and an acute understanding of their own importance.   To bring his convictions to fruition, Mark  Zuckerberg formed a "group" of equally concerned billionaires including Dropbox's Drew Houston and Linkedin co-founder Reid Hoffman. Here's their status as of a month and a half ago:

The group has made no public statements, but a person familiar with their discussions confirmed they've sought advice from a bipartisan team of political strategists including Joe Lockhart, a former Clinton White House press secretary who worked for a year at Facebook, and national Republican consultants Jon Lerner and Rob Jesmer.

With its specific nature and tax status still to be determined,  it's unclear if the group would lobby lawmakers, support candidates or campaign to mobilize public opinion -- or all three. But with an initial budget reported at $50 million, the group could wield significant clout. The person familiar with the effort said it will focus on issues that affect the U.S. economy over the long term, including immigration, education reform and scientific research.

"Immigration, education reform, and scientific research?"  Sounds pretty noble.  Zuckerberg himself penned an opinion piece in the Washington Post extolling the virtues of the "knowledge economy" (presumably a place where we're all sustained by a diet of unvarnished... knowledge) in which he announced the formation of this "political advocacy group."  

Mark Zuckerberg at the 37th G8 Summit in Deauville 037
Mark Zuckerberg at the 37th G8 Summit in Deauville 037
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Guillaume Paumier, Author: Guillaume Paumier)
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Mark Zuckerberg at the 37th G8 Summit in Deauville 037 by Wikipedia

Look on his works thus far, Ye Mighty, and despair:


Mark Zuckerberg is being unfriended by progressives angered by television ads from his political advocacy group that praise lawmakers for supporting the expansion of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Apparently Zuckerberg's concern for "issues that affect the economy over the long term" doesn't extend to the potential extinction of life on the planet. While Zuckerberg himself has donated substantial amounts, for example, towards Newark New Jersey's public school system, it seems evident that this initiative is about just one thing: securing H-1B Visas so he and his techie pals can hire more foreign workers to boost their bottom lines:
Visa reform is particularly important for these tech titans because immigrants have played such an important role in Silicon Valley. "Immigrants are far more likely than natives to study science and engineering and more likely to produce innovations in the form of patents," University of California economist Gordon Hanson wrote in a 2011 study. "Expanding the supply of immigration visas for high-skilled workers increases patenting activity in science and engineering, particularly in U.S. high-tech firms."
Because, Facebook is sooo important.  We surely need another patent to facilitate the process of married guys trolling for old girlfriends.

Here is the ad he bankrolled for Lindsey Graham.  It lauds Graham's support of the Keystone XL project and trashes President Obama, and the Affordable Health Care Act in particular.  It's being fronted by a group that calls itself "Americans for a Conservative Direction," so you wouldn't know it was paid for (and its content approved) by Zuckerberg and his billionaire cronies:

Here's another one, this from another group bankrolled by Zuckerberg and Co., that calls itself "Council for American Job Growth." It's an ad for Mark Begich lauding his efforts to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

As Think Progress notes:

The group's forceful advocacy for expanded drilling and pipeline construction is surprising given Zuckerberg's public statements about the purpose of the group. In an introductory column, Zuckerberg said that the group would be dedicated to "building the knowledge economy," which he contrasts to "the economy of the last century" primarily based on natural resources." Zuckerberg adds, "there are only so many oil fields, and there is only so much wealth that can be created from them for society."
But apparently Zuckerberg and his backers are ready, willing and able to squeeze out those very last drops for the sake of getting their foreign workers admitted to the U.S:
The political group,, doesn't explicitly support fossil fuels. It was set up by a slew of techies, including Bill Gates and LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman, to push for immigration reform. So the support for Keystone XL and Arctic drilling may just be Machiavellian tit-for-tat, funding pro-fossil fuels politicians in exchange for immigration reform votes.

Except the "Machiavellian tit-for-tat" is not "tit for tat" at all. Promoting the Keystone Tar Sands sludge transport line and Arctic drilling isn't really a "trade-off" for the rest of us.  These are issues that have an impact substantially outweighing the needs of  Zuckerberg's corporation.  If there is a "trade-off" here it's the future of our grandchildren for the sake of this budding plutocrat's balance sheet.  Zuckerberg's group isn't simply donating money to these politicians. They are actively generating the content for these ads.

This isn't a Diary about immigration or H-1B visas. Here is a good Diary about H-1B Visas (and their alleged "necessity" in a country facing high levels of unemployment and underemployment). Nor is this a Diary about Facebook's shape-shifting privacy policies or their marketing practices.  There's plenty to discuss there.  But when this guy cloaks (because there's really no other word) his personal ambitions in some faux-jerking Ken Burns documentary-nostalgia for the role of immigrants in our society, well that's just patently offensive:

For Zuckerberg, as for so many Americans, immigration is also a personal issue. "My great-grandparents came through Ellis Island," he wrote. "My grandfathers were a mailman and a police officer. My parents are doctors. I started a company. None of this could have happened without a welcoming immigration policy, a great education system and the world's leading scientific community that created the Internet."

Spare us the rags-to-riches.  Very, very few of us aren't descendants of immigrants. That fact doesn't confer on us the right to sell out the environment and future generations just to fatten our wallets.'If you want step into politics and influence the votes of politicians, by all means do so.  You'll be in good company with the Sheldon Adelsons, the Richard Scaifes, the Charles and David Kochs.  But please don't try to sell us a line of bullshit about your high-minded intentions for the sake of your "brand."

Here is what told Think Progress:

" is committed to showing support for elected officials who promote the policy changes needed to build the knowledge economy. Maintaining two separate entities, Americans for a Conservative Direction & the Council for American Job Growth, to support elected officials across the political spectrum -- separately -- means that we can more effectively communicate with targeted audiences of their constituents."
That is corporate-speak for "talking out of both sides of your mouth."

To reiterate the basics about Keystone XL, here is a statement from the New York Times:

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