August 7, 2013

Silicon Valley wants its own tame black President

With Barack Obama having Wall Street's back over the last five years (i.e., virtually no prosecutions for the events leading up to 2008), it's only natural that Silicon Valley leaders have been thinking about getting their own tame black President, too: namely, Cory Booker, a former Stanford football player, whose job as mayor of Newark makes it easy for him to hit the national broadcasts out of New York City. 

I haven't paid too much attention to Booker, but he seems like a more energetic and prepossessing personality than Obama, so the notion seems plausible that in a country with a large demand for black Presidents but a small supply of plausible ones, Booker would be worth investing money in.

Booker, a Democrat, is Plutocrat Friendly. In 2012 he even attacked the Obama campaign's attacks on Mitt Romney's private equity fortune, which the Romney campaign greatly appreciated.

A never-married 44-year-old, Booker is vaguely rumored either to have a white girlfriend in Brooklyn or to be gay. (Wikipedia has up a picture of him with his arm around Oprah's Friend Gayle, who is described as Booker's "long time friend" -- Oprah, by the way, is affiliated with Waywire). So it will be interesting to see what he does on the matrimonial front.

The NYT reports:
Mr. Booker personally has obtained money for the start-up, called Waywire, from influential investors, including Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman. A year after its debut, Waywire has already endured a round of layoffs and had just 2,207 visitors in June, according to Compete, a Web-tracking service. The company says it is still under development. 

In June, I got more well over two orders of magnitude more unique visits.
Yet in a financial disclosure filed last month, Mr. Booker, 44, revealed that his stake in the company was worth $1 million to $5 million.

Woo-hoo! My 100% stake in iSteve must be worth a couple of orders of magnitude more than Booker's fractional stake, right? I mean, it's simple arithmetic. Oh ... except, I'm not Presidential Timber. Never mind.
Taken together, his other assets were worth no more than $730,000. 
That revelation, with just a week left in Mr. Booker’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate, shows how a few tech moguls and entrepreneurs, many of them also campaign donors, not only made a financial bet on the mayor’s political future but also provided the brainpower and financing to help create a company that could make him very rich. 
Waywire has also provided jobs for associates of Mr. Booker: the son of a top campaign supporter and his social media consultant, who is now on his Senate campaign staff. 
The company has a goal: making it easy to “collect, curate and share” videos from across the Web. But much about its operations and Mr. Booker’s role as chairman appears ill defined. 
Mr. Booker declined to answer questions about the details of Waywire’s finances, including what percentage of the company he currently owns. A spokesman said Mr. Booker had invested some of his own money in the company but refused to say how much. 
... The value of his shares could rise significantly, analysts say, should the company outrace competitors now puzzling over how to let users sift through the billions of Web video clips to find those that they want to watch. “Curation is the next big thing to happen to video,” said James L. McQuivey of Forrester Research.

Off topic, but I only vaguely get this whole "curation" mania. I don't recall dreaming when I was a little boy that I would grow up to be a museum curator. I was more into my Classic Comics about Frank "Bring 'Em Back Alive" Buck, a famous zookeeper who had many adventures capturing tigers and king cobras. Is "curation" like the urge to create a mix tape in order to try to inflict your musical tastes on others?
Mr. Booker has made a national reputation in seven years as the chief executive of Newark, New Jersey’s largest city and one of the country’s poorest. But his involvement in founding, financing and promoting a private business highlights the significance of his other constituency in the tech industry, which is seeking a bigger voice in national policy in Washington. ...
This spring, the widow of Steve Jobs, Laurene Powell Jobs, and the power couple Marc Andreessen and Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen held a fund-raiser for him.
And as a social media enthusiast, with more than 30,000 Twitter posts, Mr. Booker has cast himself as an ambassador between the high-tech world and his beleaguered city. His aides noted that he had leveraged his relationships to Newark’s benefit, including a pledge of $100 million to the city’s schools from Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder. 
... Ms. Ross suggested in an interview that she saw in Mr. Booker a kindred social media spirit. She said she has wondered how the civil rights movement might have been different had the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had access to Twitter. 
... There is no question, however, that Mr. Booker’s star power has brought attention: Mr. Booker impressed an audience at the South by Southwest conference in March in Austin, Tex., in which he touted Waywire as a way to empower the politically disenfranchised. Other celebrity connections have helped the company: Waywire has put Andrew Zucker, 14, the son of Jeff Zucker, president of CNN, on its advisory board and given him stock options.

Andrew Zucker is politically disenfranchised because he won't be able to vote for four more years, so it's only right and fitting that he get some stock options.


Anonymous said...

Wanderlei Silva.

Anonymous said...

Speaking fees, corporate directorships, investments in bogus business schemes - all indications that our elite are continuing to find clever and lucrative ways around anti-bribery laws.

Al Gore and Bill Clinton are each worth well over $100 million despite having not a shred of private sector experience between them prior to their political careers. The portfolios of sitting congressmen consistently outperform those of average citizens, or of even highly educated money managers.

The unraveling continues, and at a vigorous pace.

sunbeam said...

I don't think these Silicon Valley types are going to be anywhere near as successful as the Wall Street types at this kind of thing.

Or even the Chicago ones.

They just don't seem to have the ability to rig the system that other places have. They have plenty of money, but nowhere near what the Wall Streeters have. If it comes down to a megawallet battle they'll lose.

Plus while the Silicon Valley types aren't as autistic as some of their workers, they still don't seem to have what it takes to play political hardball. I'm not sure if it is a lack of gravitas, or intimidation factor or what. I just have a hard time seeing a picture of Bezos, Zuckerberg, Gates, any of them really and taking them seriously.

They'll have to find someone to carry their water, and I think they'll find all the talent spoken for.

Another thing is geography. Silicon Valley is a long way from DC. NY, all the Northeast cities are close in a way that the internet and 6 hour plane flights will never duplicate.

Also the Northeast has a much bigger population, and vested interests who align somewhat with the Wall Streeters than any Silicon Valley power base would have.

I also think that all the internal and geographical politics of places like NY, Chicago, and Boston have make you hard in a way going from Stanford to a big money startup will never teach you.

In short, Silicon Valley is a great place to go to get someone to cut you a check. Maybe even to change or save the world in some ways.

But if they try to play the game with pros, I think they are going to get a nasty surprise.

jody said...

LOL.! (with cory booker as the sock puppet)

Jeff W. said...

Sunbeam said, "But if they try to play the game with pros, I think they are going to get a nasty surprise."

Barry Ritholtz lists more than 50 pro moves here:

Thank you, Ellis Island people!

Anonymous said...

It's the whole West vs. East Coast (Northeast to be more exact). Both have different vibes of liberalism.

The West Coast is full of Silicon Valley nerd/geeks, Hollywood celebrities and Seattle semi-Canadian Asian aficionados.

The East Coast is full of UMC Washington D.C. Government/Lawyer types, ultra-rich New York Wall Street Bankers and Chicago/Boston types.

As a non-liberal, I'd rather either in the South, the Mid-West or the West. I despise the North East Coast more.

Anonymous said...


Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Chicago thugs & K Street all have the same goal -the raping & pillaging of the FUSA, specifically Sane White Gentile Males.


Anonymous said...

This is of course a joke (a non-working founder? with the choicest equity cut???) but it's four kinds of brilliant:

1) It blows past limits on political contributions. "Contribution? Oh, no, FEC Guy, that $2M was an investment! Of course, you know, sadly most VC investments fail to pay off."

2) It lets Booker say that he has private sector experience (contrast to Obama, who had never run a lemonade stand).

3) It cleanly transfers gobs of cash right now to a wide swath of minions.

4) Last and biggest... In Silicon Valley, equity is called "golden handcuffs" for a reason: the employer knows that workers are incented to play ball, typically for four years. Now a likely US Senator is in handcuffs, and oligarchs hold the key.

By giving the tame politician gobs of fake equity ("faquity"?) this scheme allows for an even bigger payoff later if he delivers: "OligCorp announces $50M Waywire acquisition!" (Of course three months later the other shoe quietly drops, "OligCorp shutters underperforming Waywire unit.")

At the same time it maintains a healthy uncertainty that will incent the pol to be a good boy. "Cory, I can 'acquire' this worthless POS for $1M or $10M or $100M. It's entirely up to me. Which would you prefer? Now get back to the Senate and justify the higher price."


Whiskey said...

But you have to ask yourself why is there this demand for Black Presidents?

It is because "Whiteness failed." That is, White guys fail against Black guys in charisma, implied violence, and dominance that even ordinary White guys copy the most illiterate and idiotic street thug.

White guys up against the idiot dominance of Black guys fail like say, a Mark Zuckerberg type getting a beat down in HS from say, Ray Lewis types. Not that Ray Lewis would ever endorse violence. We all know his deification in the NFL/ESPN is due to his lifetime study of Ghandi and Thoreau.

Truckee Man said...

How many of these affirmative action no account pretty boys are waiting around to be the next Obama? Cory Booker, Julian and Joaquin Castro, they have done nothing but accumulate fancy degrees and collect salaries from non-profits and governments. At least Julian Castro admits that affirmative action got him into school. 90+% of Stanford students scored higher than him on the SAT. And Obama, what were his scores?

Anonymous said...

Of course he's gay.

master_of_americans said...

No, no, no, curation is the urge to make a paying gig out of trying to inflict your tastes on others.

Anonymous said...

"She said she has wondered how the civil rights movement might have been different had the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had access to Twitter."

I know I ask myself that constantly, along with other weighty questions like, "What if Confucius had a Tumblr?"

ivvenalis said...

"Andrew Zucker is politically disenfranchised because he won't be able to vote for four more years, so it's only right and fitting that he get some stock options."

The Volokh Conspiracy had someone arguing for allowing children to vote a few months ago, I don't know whether the author was aware that his arguments sounded like a reductio ad absurdum attack on universal suffrage.

Charlesz Martel said...

I've always wondered about the "getting rich through speeches" thing. Say I wanted to bribe Bill Clinton in a legal untraceable fashion. I donate a million to Harvard, they keep 100,000 as their cut and pay Clinton 900,000. It's legal and practically untraceable- uncovering the books of non-profits is very hard. Read the article about how the Montgomery Advertiser tried to investigate the SPLC years ago- the non-profit structure made it almost impossible - Jim Thorpe was the guy who tried, I believe. It's practically a perfect method- have you ever even heard of anyone looking Into the source of funding for those speaker's fees?

Anonymous said...

I read that story and I laughed a lot reading it.

That Sarah Wheaton woman, as a self-hating white person, thinking Booker is somehow the equivalent of MLK and wondering how Twitter(!) would have affected the civil rights movement.

Also, Booker was neither late nor early to Twitter, he's just a prolific user like hundreds of millions of other Twitter users. How does this make him "understand" social media?

These people just throw praise on him because they think he'll wind up in the WH one day, which he will.

Booker has also come out against gun control, kinda, by refusing to demonize gun owners in the wake of Newtown.

He's also AIPAC's best friend, something the story (naturally) omits, but that the Forward does not:

A more intelligent take on his ties to the Israel lobby is here:

Basically, he pleases power a lot, which is why the power loves him. Wall St, Silicon Valley, the Israel Lobby and so on.

In 2024, he'll be a strong candidate for president.
The only thing that can bring him down is himself. He's very thin-skinned and get into long arguments on Twitter over the slightest snub.

The media love those candidates, because they tend to self-immolate during national campaigns(like presidential campaigns).

Contaminated NEET said...

Is "curation" like the urge to create a mix tape in order to try to inflict your musical tastes on others?

Hah! I don't think I've ever seen the essence of "curation" expressed so well.

Anonymous said...

There's been many complaints that there aren't enough black entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, so by helping with a start-up for this Booker guy and making him fabulously rich, I guess the Jews and Liberals of Silicon Valley have their token black tycoon in the internet industry.

countenance said...

Newark, N.J. recently named the world's most unfriendly city. So of course the next obvious thing to do is to send its mayor to the U.S. Senate and eventually make him President.