"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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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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Trump and the Filter Bubble

The phrase "Filter Bubble" was coined by Eli Pariser, founder of MoveOn, the first effective left wing online organization, and a man who knows a bit about how the internet can influence political thought. Pariser was most concerned with the pernicious impacts of systemic personalization (e.g. weighted Google Search results or algorithmic timelines), but I believe what Clay is referring to is the result of Social Media becoming a primary news source.

He's right. The Trump phenomena will be studied and professionalized in the same way the political establishment digested Howard Dean's use of online outreach to build grassroots support and raise small-dollar donations. The benefits of the internet aren't without hazards. This is one of them.

More and more Americans get their news from Facebook and Twitter, a trend that is going to continue to increase. What Trump is exploiting has nothing to do with pernicious personalization algorithms, but rather the fundamental result of what happens when news is curated by social network rather than newspaper editors. Once you're getting your news via what is effectively word of mouth, a few things happen:

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Talkin' Class - Difficulties and Solidarity

It's difficult to talk (write) about class. Part of the difficulty comes because it's generally a verboten subject in the ostensibly classless utopia we inhabit here in Estados Unidos. We don't have a well-oiled vocabulary to deploy, or much history to draw on in framing the discussion. But let's be honest, most of the difficulty comes from the fact that any such discussion quickly becomes one that is self-implicating and/or divisive.

Here's me trying to get around that. I've given up on trying to write the One True Blog Post with my thoughts, so in the spirit of getting back in the groove of writing and posting I'm just going to start chipping away.

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Dr. King, Alcatraz, and Civil Disobedience

At the remove of decades, and felt through the thick rubbery buffer of my white male privilege, what I admire most about Dr. King is the soaring power of his oratory.

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Weekly Exercise - New Clues, Solidarity w/Paris, Code Withdrawal

As per the previous post, I want to "get back on that bloggy horse". For now I'm going to try honoring that by publishing something every week. At the moment my head is all over the place, so it's kind of a bit of a roundup of a few disparate topics.

  1. The throwback energy of "New Clues"
  2. Responses to responses to the Charlie Hedbo attack
  3. Coping with coder withdrawal

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Thoughts on the DriesNote: Towards Drupal "Contribution Credits"

UPDATE: putting theory into practice, I'm now hiring someone at Pantheon to contribute full time.

Two weeks ago at DrupalCon Amsterdam, Dries Buytaert gave his traditional State of Drupal, or "Driesnote", presentation, outlining his thoughts on scaling open source communities. I thought it was one of his best presentations to-date: addressing a pressing concern within the community with both a philosophical outlook and some specific proposals to start a wider discussion. It's a pressing topic, and I wanted to add my own two cents before my thoughts became too stale.

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What Is To Be Done?

This is a follow-up to my previous post on Gentrification, which received quite a few thoughtful responses. Thanks to everyone for those. I really appreciate the stimulation.

So far I've ducked the question of right and wrong. My mode was one of reflection on my experience of living in places that are changing, being a part of that change. However, the themes of development and displacement have a moral dimension. People naturally go right to this; so why fight it? Let's get into it!

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Elizabeth Warren vs Hillary Clinton in 2016?

An interesting piece by Noam Scheiber in TNR about a potential challenge to Hillary Clinton by Elizabeth Warren for the democratic nomination in 2016. He's absolutely right that "inevitable candidates have a way of becoming 'evitable'", and in drawing deja-vu parallels around Clinton's potential mis-alignment with the base (if not the nation in toto) over how to handle inequality and the finance sector vis-a-vis her positions on national security (esp Iraq) in 2008. It's an interesting read.

He also does a good job of describing how Warren wields her influence, by being willing to violate some of the social norms of Capital Hill in very public settings, for instance asking regulators "when was the last time you took a bank who broke the law to trial?" (to which they had no answer). I am a fan of Warren's rhetoric and style, and pedigree as an antagonist of the neoliberal establishment.

Still, I'm skeptical that Warren will make the run, but Scheiber makes a compelling case that she's motivated enough by her belief in economic policy and what it means for working families that she'd do it even as a long shot. He notes:

Of course, any prediction of a populist revolt against the party’s top brass must grapple with the tendency of such predictions to be wrong. From the Howard Dean campaign in 2004 to the Occupy Movement in 2011, the last decade in Democratic politics has been rife with heady declarations of grassroots rebellion, only to see the insiders assert control each time. Even the one insurgency that did succeed, the Obama campaign, was quickly absorbed into the party establishment, from which Obama was never so far removed in the first place.

But concludes with a quote from an insider:

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