*Hedges on U.S. Democracy
*India, Guns and Bling
*Davy Jones Hated "Head"
*Blueeseed's Offshore Start-ups
It's easy to tell if the robocall you got from Elections Canada is a fake. Elections Canada doesn't call voters. So if you got a call from someone claiming to be from Elections Canada you've been duped. But voters sure are calling Elections Canada: 31,000 Canadians have contacted the agency since the robocall story broke.
Robocalls, automated political messages- sometimes disguised dirty tricks- are under investigation right now on both sides of the border.
But why should political parties be the only ones making them? A new service lets voters send robo-calls right back at the politicians.
Also: find out why Davy Jones hated The Monkees only feature film, guns are India's new bling, and Chris Hedges calls out American democracy.
And let's begin with a story that takes us 12 miles off the coast of Silicon Valley in International Waters.
Twelve miles off the coast of California there's a vessel that looks like a cruise ship that never moves. Ferries arrive three times a day from the mainland, maybe the occasional helicopter.
On board there's an indoor soccer field, a rock climbing wall and a thousand people from all over the globe - China, Croatia, Kazahkstan -- who are absolutely convinced they're the next Steve Jobs.
As luxurious as the vessel appears, this is not a ship of leisure. The cabins are work units, and the guests are there to build businesses.
The vessel is an offshore incubator, a place where an idea for a start-up is developed, scaled and, in the best cases, moved inland to Silicon Valley.
It's a campus for entrepreneurs who, if they need to talk to an accountant or lawyer can consult with the professionals provided onboard.
In fact there's only a couple things a guest might need that can't be supplied by the ship: an American passport or a work visa.
As of today this ship full of foreigners doesn't exist. But the people who are promoting it are actively shopping for their boat.
They say Silicon Valley is hungry for talent and there's no shortage of ideas on the international market, but because of immigration law it's very hard for the U.S. to harness those ideas and reap the benefits of new jobs.
The company is called Blueseed and the CEO is the son of Cuban-American immigrants, 27-year-old Max Marty.
When Marty was an MBA student at the University of Miami, he was president of the entrepreneur club and he was in contact with students from all over the world: China, India, Europe and South America.
He remembers an Argentinean guy, he told me, who wanted to take his tech start-up to Silicon Valley and a Chinese woman with an idea for a chocolate boutique.
They were innovators and they were ready to go. If not for U.S. immigration law, Max figures they could have walked out of school with their degrees and built their companies, hiring people and attracting investors.
That's not what happened. "None were given a chance to start a company," says Max.
There's no such thing as an entrepreneur visa in the U.S. There is, sort of, in Canada, a federally-sponsored, provincially-run nominee program, but the red tape and the high net-worth rules can make it prohibitive for a young person with not much more than a bright idea.
The options for the people Marty knew at the University of Miami were limited: find a sponsor to hire you and work for them while applying for a work visa. Or leave.
"The immigration policies that have been put in place decades ago are now outdated," Marty told me this week on Day 6.
"These entrepreneurs would love to be here in Silicon Valley if only they could get the work visas necessary to come and start companies. There's no channel for them to do that."
That's where Blueseed floats a solution: a ship just outside the legal jurisdiction of the U.S.
Imagine you're a foreigner with an intriguing idea. Blueseed has you placed minutes away from Silicon Valley. You can meet with investors, other developers, and set up your internal organization.
Blueseed would charge you rent while onboard and would likely also negotiate a stake in your company.
Once your company outgrows the incubator, it can be moved onshore using existing rules -- a satellite office, the investor visa program (assuming you have enough capital), or by getting someone in the U.S. to incorporate and bring you and other directors in as a "temporary foreign worker" in a specialty occupation.
I asked Max if he was sure Blueseed was legal.
"It's entirely legal. We've had some pretty good reception," he says, "from people in the federal government to the state and local levels saying this is awesome, it's exactly the sort of innovation we need to shine a spotlight on this problem. "
Still, emotions run high when immigration policy is discussed in the U.S, and Blueseed is no exception.
It doesn't see itself as trying to create an offshore free-trade zone or sweat shop, but the critics have been out in force.
When Wired magazine profiled the company in December, some readers found Blueseed sinister, essentially saying: what if the idea catches on?
"So the slave ships of old have gone hi-tech?" wrote one commenter. "Lovely... I would want to be captively working for on an isolated ship away from the protections of the law. Golly, where do I sign up?"
Said another: "This is yet another greed driven excuse to bypass workplace and immigration law at the expense of shore-side economies and workforces. There are plenty of unemployed Americans willing to work for fair wages, not slave wages and as innovative as this idea is, it's a slap in the face to the middle class.
"Going to this extent to get cheap labor is as appalling as it is insulting to the American worker who can see right through this abhorrent BS."
One of the initial investors in Blueseed is Peter Thiel, a tech entrepreneur and co-founder of Pay-Pal, and he understands why some people are wary.
"I think people should never underestimate how far we (as a country) are from any sort of rational equilibrium or reasonable policies -- and therefore we also should not underestimate how there may be some opportunities for initiatives such as Blueseed, regardless of how strange they may appear on the surface."
Still, creating a floating island of foreign tech-heads seems like a radical solution. Why not just try to change U.S. law?
Marty says there are some groups trying to do that but the proposed legislation seems to be stuck in Congress and lacking support. "And I frankly think it doesn't go far enough. We need to be trying multiple different tracks."
I asked him if there wasn't something absurd about Blueseed - the idea of floating human beings outside an arbitrary line in the ocean because of some regulation that would appear to hobble the growth of a vital American industry.
It seems like something out of science fiction. Does it mean America has become dystopian?
His answer was careful. "I wouldn't say the U.S. is a dystopian society so much as a place that has strayed from the idea of what it is supposed to be."
Marty reminds me Blueseed will be off the coast of California, not South Korea or Singapore or Tokyo, but a fast ferry ride from Silicon Valley. It's because that's where his future clients will want to be.
"Silicon Valley is still a beacon," he says.
We announced the winners of our Oscar Pool this week. Thirty of you got the right answers, congrats to the five who won the draw. I wanted to see if anyone was wrong in all categories, but we weighed that against any potential humiliation. We figured you've had enough if you watched the broadcast.
We're back next week. Welcome to our new listeners in Buffalo and Baton Rouge. And have a great weekend.
Brent Bambury @CBCDay6
(photo credits: Images of concet vessels and Max Marty courtesy of Blueseed.)