"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Feelin' the Bern, Silicon Valley Style

I'm back with my first blog post in years to make what I hope is a novel case for supporting Bernie Sanders in the 2020 Democratic Primary. The "Silicon Valley" or "Startup" take. I've got a lot of thoughts, but I don't see a ton of people expressing the techie/entrepreneur rationale for supporting Sen. Sanders, so that's the case I'm gonna make.

Support the Startup Economy

TL;DR - no policy would create more startups in the next ten years than establishing universal health care and eliminating student debt.

The economy around startups isn't what it should be. I'm from this world, and I honestly believe in the upsides of innovation and creativity that come from entrepreneurialism. But in spite of all cool things that have been built, all the new millionaires and billionaires, and the increasingly prominent role tech plays in our culture, the startup ecosystem is unhealthy.

The data tells us that fewer new businesses are forming in the US than prior to the great recession. While VC funds hover around all-time highs, those eye-popping numbers are driven more by big pools of finance going into late-stage deals vs forming new companies. There are still plenty of great exits, but a lot of that is just mergers and acquisitions into existing Big Tech behemoths. In other words, the action is more scale and consolidation than creativity and innovation.

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2016 Reminds Me of 2004

What a gutpunch. It's shades of 2004 (more on that later), but also worse for so many reasons.

Complex systems don't fail due to a single cause. They're always running in some sort of degraded mode — there is no perfect union — and catastrophic failures have multiple vectors, often cascading. Assigning blame after the fact can easily turn into an exercise in emotional release, the desire to identify a specific "root cause." Even in hindsight, this is more often storytelling and internal politics than anything else.

Still, without retrospectives, we cannot hope to improve.

I don't think it's productive to try and blame voters, or even non-voters. Where does that really lead in a democracy? This kind of thinking is always tempting, and carries a bitter tautological truth that a democracy delivers the government people "deserve," but it must also be rejected out of hand. It is a poisonous form of fatalistic elitism, a surrender. No.

I also don't really think it's right to blame Lena Dunham, Martin Sheen, or any other celebrity figurehead, even if you think their participation was counterproductive. They're amateurs, and maybe they're annoying or insufferable or distracting, but voting is the least we can do, and they were trying.

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Falling Behind

I'm falling behind. I think maybe this is a common feeling in the age of popular social media, the sense that your friends and followers are having weightier and more meaningful experiences than you are. Maybe it's my own strain of garden variety FOMO. Or maybe it's that I haven't written a blog post in close of five months. Or both. Some combination of unexpressed thoughts — I have no mouth yet I must scream — and humility at seeing what everyone else is up to these days. People I know and love are getting married, laying in firewood, having family reunions, running for congress, wearing outrageously classy outfits, playing in symphonies, and more.

It's trite to list up all these things, but part of my sense of frisson is that a "like" button doesn't do nearly enough to express how happy I am at these events. It's not FOMO in the sense of keeping up with the Joneses, but in the sense that I really wish I could time-hop between all these difference scenes and contribute something, or at least applaud. It makes me feel sad and weirdly guilty for having my own little private (lovely awesome) weekend getaway, and not being able to share in all this other goodness that's going on.

But again, this is hardly a unique sensation. Actually, feels a lot like this blog post I wrote five years ago about how I felt I was losing my edge, but just a little more mature. Well-aged you might say:

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Free Speech, Terrible Ideas, and The Internet

The other weekend I wrote about the Trump Phenomena, and its connection to social media supplanting traditional media gatekeepers. An old colleague of mine shared it into his network on Facebook, breaking my filter bubble, and resulting in a spirited response from a Trump supporter, which was awesome:

[Outlandish Josh's] devotion to the First Amendment is really ankle deep. He likes free speech as long as the speaker agrees. Everything else, he's ok with suppressing...

What it comes down to is, "We can't rely on the establishment to silence people who don't agree with us anymore, so we'll just have to do it ourselves."

One of the things I appreciate about Trump is that he's forcing the liberal brownshirts to show their true colors.

Liberal Brownshirt! Amazing. It got me thinking about what I really mean by "stick a big fat stake into the heart of some of the most malignant political ideas that stalk the land." More to the point, how does this dialectic thing actually work, and what if anything does it have to do with free speech?

At the same time, there's also some Internet drama I'm casually following around a programming get together called LambdaConf, and whether or not a particular speaker should be invited to speak or not due to the fact that he's a foundational figure for a noxious bloom of reactionary thought known as "The Dark Enlightenment". I'll explain the details later.

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