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Obama to hit Y Combinator headquarters in Mountain View on May 8 (sfgate.com)
83 points by kqr2 on Apr 19, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 76 comments

All: to judge by the first dozen comments or so, this thread seems headed to a dismayingly low-quality place. When you post, please ensure that whatever opinion your comment expresses, it points in a thoughtful, non-reflexive direction. This leaves lots of room for whatever position you want to articulate—it just requires conscious care.

(Just in case anyone's wondering, I'm saying this purely from the HN side. I learned about this event by seeing it at #1 on the front page five minutes ago and haven't discussed it with anyone at YC.)

Edit: For the curious, the post is being weighed down entirely by user flags.

It might be constructive to create a "top 3 questions from HN to ask the President". For me they would be around political funding & the power of lobby groups, immigration reform and privacy/surveillance.

No one is going to ask him anything the least bit upsetting at an event like this.

I am wondering where all the downvotes are coming from.

They are coming because the bubble that exists around our politicians and the fawning rich upper class and idiot lower class (democrat or republican) is to put it simply, bursting.

People are getting fed up with the ideologue denigrating wealth and success and hard work, then he goes to the rich elite of the elite in silicon valley with his hand out like a common beggar.


It's disappointing that demand for tickets to have dinner with him would be so great in Silicon Valley. He really screwed the Valley with this NSA stuff, among other things, and has forever damaged the trust that the world once had in US technology companies. He has directly taken money away from any Valley business whose customers are sensitive to such issues.

I realize that the Valley leans markedly to the left, but at some point you have to take a stand against people that are messing up, even if you agree with their political ideologies.

That NSA stuff has been happening for many many years across different US governments and politicians.

Silicon Valley was happily violating user privacy at the same time. Government surveillance is wrong but I have never had a problem caused by it. I (me personally) have had problems from US companies grabbing too much of my personal data and then leaking it or misusing it, and I am not an unusual example.

The attitudes of some people around use of personal meta data and content data is baffling.

I always thought HN and YC were largely apolitical. I guess not.

It's especially disappointing that Anne Wojcicki (estranged wife of Sergey Brin) and Marissa Mayer would orchestrate this. They are lending serious tech community credibility and support to someone that deserves none of it. By hosting someone that has clearly damaged us, has not apologized for it, and seems to have every intention of continuing to do so, they are kind of betraying us.

Then again, maybe some people disagree with your premise.

It's not too surprising that a community of wealthy entrepreneurs wouldn't turn away a chance to be close to someone that powerful and influential. I do really hope one of them gives him a polite earful though. It's probably a lot different for someone in his position (and with his need to fundraise) to hear a Democratic tech millionaire point out how certain policies have wrecked the tech industry than hearing it from some in the rank-and-file.

If Obama truly believes in the populist ideals that apparently got him elected, this type of thing wouldn't be effective at all. Hopefully, in this case, those conversations do occur and he does betray all of his rhetoric about rich people being unable to influence him etc. My guess is it will be much more "You're the greatest - keep it up" type of conversations, but we'll see.

I've come to believe that, while Obama ran as an idealist, he's more of a cynic and a pragmatist at heart. But if anyone could get away with holding his attention long enough to tell him off, it would be the YC crowd. He needs their money and he needs their influence. And I have no doubt he's going to try to sell, somehow, moving tech jobs and manufacturing back to the US or something.

While we can't expect much from Obama, at least publicly, we know some of the techno-riche are reading this thread right now (or having someone do it for them) so I think they can consider themselves as having their marching orders.

... not that the rich have ever, historically, had to follow... marching orders but whatever.

This is disappointing. Marissa Mayer is probably already a lost cause, but for Sam Altman to co-host a Democratic fundraiser starring Obama shows that Y Combinator is firmly in the "establishment". How, in good conscience, can they support a president who has done nothing of substance about the NSA's abuses?

I can see this being cast as a pragmatic move--this is part of how you buy and sell influence, and YC is a big enough player now that if they can buy influence on behalf of their interests (i.e. the interests of the startups they fund) they derive a real benefit, but it's disappointing to see them participate in a corrupt system instead of trying to disrupt it.

planning to ask about surveillance issues.

I guess I just naively hoped that you'd make sure you were on the same page with someone about surveillance issues before you helped him raise large amounts of money. But maybe that's not how politics work.

> Marissa Mayer is probably already a lost cause

Yep, pretty much. She's coasted so far on buying companies, closing offices, and Alibaba value, but it's gonna get a bit harder soon.

> How, in good conscience, can they support a president who has done nothing of substance about the NSA's abuses?

Because they don't care? Obama has no problem with war or drone strikes against illegitimate targets, or deporting more "illegals" than any previous administration.

YC is playing in the big leagues now. This should be viewed as no different than Obama (or other campaigning politician) going to Google or Facebook. Such events don't fundamentally alter the organizations involved and could be a great opportunity to advance issues like the founder visa & patent reform.

Regardless what you think of Obama or his policies, it's better that the most powerful person on earth hears from startups as well as the giant corporations that already have his ear. Startups are a huge part of the real tech industry, but have been politically invisible to this point.

There is no organization today that can better represent the policy needs of small, scrappy startups than Y-Combinator.

This is great.

I think this is about image, not influence. Y combinator is much hipper than google, and makes for a much better media story.

99% of the country has never heard of YC, it's probably closer to 100% in the midterm battleground states. This clearly isn't about being 'Hip'.

They are also used to not hearing about things that become huge overnight. It will play much better in the press for him to have gone to 'some place where they make start ups' than a more faceless corporate behemoth. It's simply a better media opportunity.

I'd like to see a total cost for these trips. Last time I saw the president drive by for a fund-raiser, they closed down the entire route on the roads he was to take. At every driveway, parking lot and intersection, there were police. The motorcade stretched a couple blocks. Preparation took place weeks in advance. Add in Air Force One costs and to me these fund-raisers seems like nothing more than money laundering.

Given the hosts and the venue, the best topic to bring up could be software patent reform. This is something pg has written about in the past [0] -- I wouldn't be surprised to learn this issue is the driving reason for hosting the dinner.

[0] http://paulgraham.com/patentpledge.html

If the last Obama fundraiser visits are any guide, that'll do wonders for traffic that day.

Making a note in the calendar to WFH on May 8...

Whenever he visits Chicago, my 45-60 minute commute goes to 2+ hours (escorted motorcade from ORD to downtown with traffic blocked from on-ramps on the Kennedy/I90). Work from home if you can.

It's never too late to start biking to work if you live close enough!

Who is he fundraising for? The Democratic Party in general?

The article says it's for the DNC, so that would be the party in general. The midterm elections are coming up in the fall, and people like Nate Silver have been suggesting the Democrats are in danger of losing the senate -- I'm guessing the fundraising will be kicking into overdrive as we head into the summer.

This is a factual, neutral question. It doesn't deserve downvoting.

As other replies have pointed out, the question suggests not having read the fine article (unless the person asking the question has little understanding of United States politics, in which case it is a legitimate informational question).

If there's anything we need more of on HN, it's partisan bickering.

This whole story is worse than useless

But daniel-cussen's question wasn't that at all.

You can flag a story as off-topic if you feel strongly that nothing like it should be on HN.

Oh, I'm sure there's room for some gender sniping in here somewhere.


"The change was made because of demand for tickets to the Obama fundraiser, which benefits the Democratic National Committee, sources said."

Make sure to not schedule any meetings in mountain view on that day.

What can be done that's uniquely YC to welcome him as he does fundraising? Maybe speak about the JOBS act?

Will someone please ask him about the Princeton "The US is an Oligarchy" study and get his response on tape? Preferably while surrounded by Marissa and any other techno oligarchs that are present.

I know I'm going to be disappointed with his response, but I still want to see it.

Who is going to host him? pg or sama?

I hope he does not hit the same way he hits Yemen... :)

Look, a story which involves Obama. Time for me to shill for literally any political cause which occurs to me by pretending that I am concerned that we aren't all rejecting him more violently. Maybe we can slip in a plug for the Tea Party.

Hopefully in the middle of the massive sucking up somebody will remind him that he is massive disappointment.

Would be nice to see somebody in silicon valley stand up for principles instead of just money and a popularity contest to meet "important people".

Thoughts about the Keystone Pipeline? I know it's an election year, but really, can't we have a bit of rational decision-making for once? Punting till after the election just seems so very lame.

Seems par for his course.

Heh, just keep scrolling. You're almost at the bottom now

With something other than a drone, one hopes.

With Marissa Mayer. Don't think this has anything to do with the little people of the valley.

Wow. I clicked through solely to make this joke. I hate you for beating me to it.

Why is this news? Self promotion?

Aw, come on. I'm sure I'm not the only person who went "holy shit" when I saw this after 7 years on HN.

Ugh. A bunch of wealthy people talking about what they are "going to do", but never doing anything tangible outside their narrow self-interest? All you have to do is give politicians more money and go home to pat yourself on the back for not giving it to the Republicans. Stop the presses, you're a real progressive!

Marissa Mayer's "cozy" home could only accommodate 200 people for a presidential visit to her "upscale Palo Alto home"?

Sounds awful.

> Marissa Mayer's "cozy" home could only accommodate 200 people for a presidential visit to her "upscale Palo Alto home"?

I imagine she has a backyard.

I don't think you pay several thousand dollars to stand in a backyard... Though I could be wrong.

> I don't think you pay several thousand dollars to stand in a backyard... Though I could be wrong.

I've been to a number of high-class fundraisers/events held in back yards. It's pretty standard (obviously everything is spruced up nicely) to hold nice events in the yards of mansions.

You're not paying for the venue, you're paying for the access.

The comments in here are snarky hilarious. Love HN!

Why be interesting when you can be acerbic


He's there to raise money. If he wanted to talk to Sam Altman he'd just buy him a ticket to DC

Every time he comes to the area they put a huge [30-mile-radius, 18,000 foot tall] no-fly zone for all but commercial air traffic around him. Why inconvenience so many pilots? Is he that afraid of his people?

That happens for every president. It's a military aircraft carrying the leader of the country, probably high ranking officials and diplomats, and a lot of sensitive information. It would be ludicrous and irresponsible not to control the airspace around him.

The UK prime minister doea not have this level of bullshit surrounding him. Nor does the French president or the German chancellor. I'm pretty sure the Japanese and Canadian prime ministers don't. The Russians do.

I submit a further argument for the superiority of parliamentary over presidential systems. Less worship of politicians.

Fair enough. But how easy is it for common citizens in those countries to buy a small arsenal of weapons?

I don't know. I doubt you could get a pistol without a severe background check in any of them except maybe Canada but you can definitely do hunting or rifle shooting as a sport in all of them.

Also, the Nordic countries and Switzerland all have very, very high rates of gun ownership/possession and they don't treat tgeir heads of government like god-kings.

The threat model for the UK PM is not the same as that for the POTUS (regardless of the individuals involved).

The presidency is by FAR the most dangerous job in America. Out of 44 presidents, eight (18%) have died in office, four by assassination. The next-most dangerous job in America is logging, with a death rate of 128 per 100,000 workers per year, while the presidential assassination rate is 1,777 per 100,000 workers per year.

Given the frequency of presidential assassinations, and the extreme disruption to all Americans' lives when they do occur, it's worth spending lots of effort, money, and inconvenience to do our best to prevent them from happening.

> and the extreme disruption to all Americans' lives when they do occur,

I'm intrigued by this comment. Isn't it a case of swearing-in the VP and carrying on?

Does it trigger a new election?

Isn't the regular disruption to daily life when POTUS is in town ( even me as a UKian, when the office holder* comes here ) far, far greater than that?

* the power is in the office, not the person

I think the disruption the parent is talking about is the emotional anguish and existential soul-searching that occurs in empathetic individuals when their leader is taken from them. No, I don't think the disruption caused by traffic at all compares [1].

1: Los Angeles resident for ten years

Fallacy of measuring non-tail(logging) vs tail(presidency) data, and then using means/averages to derive a conclusion. Epistemologically meaningless; further than incorrect.

I love it when a comment fits a username so perfectly.

"Being OLD is by FAR the most dangerous health risk in America"

Well, that's not the same thing, is it?

The 4 deaths by natural causes would make POTUS the most danerous job in the US without making reference to asassignation.

So, it is the same thing.

Of course, the british monarchy has not had a fatality in office that was <not> old age since 1600.

Which makes it safer or more dangerous, depending on how you look at it.

Either way, the fatality rate is 100%.

Good grief.

This is not Obama's doing. A US President essentially travels with a 30-mile-radius 18,000 foot TFR wherever they go.

I know. I just think it is wrong

It's a reasonable precaution to take. Inconvenient for everyone else yes, but people do try to kill the American president from time to time, and those people are usually Americans.

I can't be the only one that finds it pathetic that the president needs to prostitute himself in such a way to make a few thousand dollars for a political party.

You'd think they have more important things to do - given they're running a nation and all..

Anecdote: Joe Biden visited our town recently. I'd bet the amount of money spent on flying him out here far exceeds the amount he raised at the dinner. There is a huge security apparatus that travels with them. Not just the presidential/VP jets, but a few days before he arrived a plane carrying the armored car(s), a whole ton of people in charge of security and god knows what else.

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