However, we are careful to intervene less in controversial stories about YC or YC startups. That's the first thing PG told me about moderation and the thing he has emphasized most. So I'm going to suspend the usual rules and leave this one untouched for now. If it falls in rank, it will be purely because of user flags, and if that changes for any reason, I'll edit this comment.
Edit: s/heated political discussion/heated discussion/
Edit 2: Enough users have been flagging this post to auto-kill it. I've unkilled it four times so far and will try to keep doing so, though I can't promise how quickly. (Flagging rarely kills a post—usually it at most lowers its rank—but in cases where flags overwhelm upvotes, it can.)
I'd love to think you're serious, but there were three fucking posts---almost all identical---about Syrian chemical weapons on the front page this morning. All of a sudden, now that it's about YC, you're saying, "oh, we usually penalise this."
I at least have respect for the fact you didn't remove this thread, but still, I'd prefer it if you got off your political high horse when it makes YC look bad.
You can't conclude anything solid about HN moderation from the state of the front page at a given moment, because we're not always looking at it. When you see duplicates and other things on the front page that appear to contradict normal moderation practice, the likeliest explanation is that we just haven't seen it yet. Indeed, a lot of stuff gets flagged by users before we ever get to it. By the time I looked at HN this morning, there certainly weren't three Syria stories on the front page. I think I may have flagged one of them. I'd need specific links to be able to say more.
Edit: I intended to write more here, but I have to go out now. Please send questions or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shark jumping doesn't even begin to address this. This is a new class of fuckup -- "when YC became a political party fundraiser" is the new shark-jump.
YC is a private business. Their management is entitled to participate in the political process in any way they choose. If YC's voting interest is OK with an in-kind contribution, that's their right too.
The idea that you'd find this kind of thing shocking is a little surprising, since it's very much the norm across all political parties.
If you'd like to pivot to a discussion of libertarian politics, I'd observe that there are companies that not only play host to libertarian political activist organizations, but also directly and aggressively lobby in favor of their favored policy objectives.
To pull from last Friday's xkcd, it's really the ultimate concession in an argument: you're saying that the most compelling thing you can say about this activity is that it's not literally illegal.
Lots of people are saying they shouldn't be doing this. I don't see anybody saying they don't have the right to do it anyway.
I'm against YC being explicitly R, D, or L (or C, or G, or whatever), as it's 1) different than a normal company 2) a company I have a somewhat closer tie to than as a customer, but less close than a place I work for or own.
Wouldn't that be good?
I think that's quite likely the worst scenario. I can't imagine the reverse happening, that being in a room with Obama turn Sam and YC into toeing the Democratic party-line.
The strange concoction of libertarianism, progressivism and contrarianism that you see in YC, HN and even generally in silicon valley will remain. Because that's who we all are.
(and, on the R side, it's the stupid Hastert Rule; a majority of the House supports even comprehensive immigration reform, but not a majority of the majority party. A discharge petition and immunity from retribution seems like the only solution to that.)
IP reform doesn't seem particularly partisan to me, but I don't know about the politics on that issue. It does scare me if it becomes one party's issue that the other party will oppose it just to oppose it.
Surveillance/privacy clearly crosses party lines; it's most correlated with tenure (DiFi, etc. are pro-NSA; younger D and R candidates are generally anti-NSA, with some awesome exceptions like Wyden.)
The real outcome of this will be $150-200k or so for DNC, which will presumably mostly be used on upcoming house/senate campaigns. It's a drop in the bucket with superpacs, but fewer strings attached to it.
So the question, in my view (as someone who probably agrees with you on most political things), is what is especially different now that Sam is co-hosting this at YC.
In terms of strategy, given that you have goals X, Y and Z, what's the best way to accomplish them? I've been a (l)ibertarian as long as I can remember, and while I have succeeded in changing the minds of some "mainstream" friends on particular issues, the unfortunate fact is the ideology isn't natural to most people.
We're going to have to make compromises and move all parties to support more of the things we want.
If this was an ordinary DNC fundraiser I would be more concerned, but the president is the guest of honor. I.e. there is more than money at play. Connections that can be made. Things can be done. When judges and bureaucrats are appointed, they can be people we'd like a bit more.
And if there was one person that you'd want on stage with the smallest chance to alter Obama's thinking, wouldn't it be sama?
It can be the norm across all political parties while also being seen as distasteful among YC's fans and aspirants (if not participants).
From what I gathered, raising money for is the simplest form of lobbying, and Y-Combinator feel they need that access to smooth transition from its alumni proving a business makes money to making it squarely legal. I’m not sure why the DNC rather than RNC or another party; I believe you can’t have both. It might be because it seems unlikely the RNC to win the next election either in San Francisco city-hall, or in California, or even at the Federal level.
In either case, I wouldn’t expect Y Combinator not to have appreciated the sensitivity of their decision off the bat.
I don't understand why politics can't be a tool to achieving those ends. Especially when the DNC is aligned with the startup community on many of the key political issues, like founder immigration reform, that can affect all of us.
Here's a thought experiment: Republicans are also aligned with startup interests: low taxes, low corporate liability, weakened labor laws, that can affect all of us.
The Republicans have been actively, intentionally sabotaging the economy that sustains YC's growth for years now, since the very beginning of Obama's term. YC's success is tied to the success of the American economy in general, as well as other big-picture things that are easy to forget (like having a planet to keep a headquarters on, for example, or not having that headquarters engulfed by nuclear bombs). Republicans do stuff every day to make terrible outcomes for the country and the world more likely.
Democrats have lots of problems and make lots of mistakes. But American politics is zero-sum. Take power away from Democrats and it will be given to Republicans. We should all be doing whatever we can to prevent that from happening, while also advocating for positive changes within the democratic party.
Until the Republican party loses all real power, ceases to exist or radically changes, Y Combinator (like all American enterprises) is more at risk than it should be.
If you're skeptical that this stuff really matters, think about how different the economy, and thus the start up world, could have been if Bush had never been president, or if Obama had had bad-faith-filibuster-proof majorities throughout his terms.
We live in a highly-charged partisan debate about all sorts of tech issues -- issues which both parties are, sadly, at odds with what's best for the nation.
I don't understand why YC would 1) choose to help one party or the other, 2) choose to piss off members of the other major party, and 3) politicize their mission. I thought they were there to help folks make stuff that people wanted. What part of that has to do with one party or the other?
Here's hoping we're missing some important detail. This just doesn't make sense to somebody watching from afar.
You know, traditionally if you want the president to come by and pat you on the back so you can take your victory lap, you also bring in some schmucks from the other party. That way you get the press and don't look like partisan robots. Maybe this is in the plan? (but why?)
Another reason you shouldn't take this personally is that I know I make lots of mistakes. It's alarming how often the last candidate to make it over the threshold for consideration ends up being one that I vote for. That means there are surely other good candidates that fall just below the threshold and that I miss even considering.
I'm trying to get better at this, but the hard limit on the number of candidates means it's practically certain that candidates I rejected will go on to become successful office holders. If you do, I'd appreciate it if you'd send me an email telling me about it; I want to learn from my mistakes.
there's plenty i think obama has done badly, but i think he's done a lot of good things too. and for the political issues i care most about (all related to startups, pretty much) i think he is likely to help the most. of course, everyone is welcome to disagree with me on this, and many yc community members do.
YC is not obligated to be non-partisan of course. The only way to take the non-partisan line would be to allow Republicans the chance to do the same, libertards, etc. You could do so, and they probably wouldn't raise any money, or have much impact - throw a party and no one comes, kind of problem. 90% of employee donations for major tech firms are to democrats, and my read is that you'd have to be almost willfully clueless about the bay area to not realize how heavily democratic SV is.
Question - is this the first time YC has hosted a political event at its offices?
If so, I wonder if this is one of the early signs of change now that PG is letting go of the reins. I always suspected that a guy who could write something like "What You Can't Say" wasn't a kool-aid drinking, party-line kind of guy.
This is one of those distinctions that are likely to be lost on a lot of people.
That said, like others have written, this kind of thing is probably what it takes to have some influence, unless Obama has taken to reading snark-filled threads about the NSA on reddit.
Including the politicians. The distinction is for show, the message is clear.
Don't you think the big-ass "Y Combinator" on the front page of the invitation blurs the lines?
Not least, the press.
So we have what happened.
How about this scenario instead? An announcement that due to all the serious issues in technology affecting startups, YC is going to donate its facilities to both political parties to hold fundraisers and get to know the people their policies are influencing. The first one is upcoming on yadda yadda yadda Then add some small print about how one of the corporate officers has to endorse any proposed event.*
Then you can all get together and give money to one bunch, never let the other bunch show up, and still get to look like heroes. Instead, we get this brouhaha.
Doesn't look too optimal from a PR standpoint.
*Note that this would only work for one or two election cycles until the gig was up. But still, it'd look a heckuva lot better than what we have now.
Guess it's his call.
So to be clear, you would have rather had this at your apartment and are declaring yourself to be a supporter of the DNC?
Sam Altman, you need not pay close attention because you'd need to be blind to miss the impending shitstorm on social media. I hope you remembered to bring lube.
It's funny you say that because it was the Democrats who clung on to SOPA even after all the public outcry  (which was spearheaded by the tech/startup community).
That, combined with all the NSA mayhem and drone strikes, makes me wonder what the heck they were thinking.
Since the DNC holds political sway, and is the most likely to pass a law or start proceedings against your business it's best to make friends with them.
It's like police in Mexico, the smart people pay off the first cop they see before they end up having to pay off the entire precinct.
The reality is that the way companies like Uber and AirBNB will thrive is by paying off the DNC so that suddenly city council is restricting opportunities to minorities (by not letting them sublet / drive cabs) rather than a AirBNB / Uber restricting opportunities for minorities by under cutting cabs / hotels.
You want to pay these assholes upfront.
Why the democrats? On social (think Mozilla and Eich) and science/tech issues (the evangelicals), they're far more in tune with Bay Area techies than republicans.
If you doubt this, I will give you a tour of Crazytown (aka Toronto) where Rob Ford has made track gauges a political issue. 1435 mm? You're a liberal! 1495mm? You're a conservative!
Heinlein once said something to the effect that politics was like digestion. The end-product is as unpleasant, but it's no less vital to your continued well being.
It's especially odd that geeks have a hard time understanding "the deeply political nature of the world." Because they're constantly playing tribal politics around languages/environments/static-vs-dynamic typing...
This is terribly condescending, similar to saying that vegetarians have a hard time understanding food. The status quo is not the system, it's just one implementation of it.
A system is just one implementation -- and the status quo is the one implementation we have.
That's not to say that it can't be improved or that their aren't better alternatives -- but the idea that the status quo is not the system is deeply wrong.
That's not an argument to play politics. That's an argument as to why the system is fundamentally flawed.
Then humans are fundamentally flawed. So are all social animals. To borrow a phrase: Politics is the worst paradigm within which sentients can settle disputes while minimizing suffering -- except all of the others.
What are the alternatives to politics? Doesn't human rights come out of politics in which individuals have a small but significant agency which can be aggregated to create collective agencies of vast power?
Maybe there is a far more rational way of organizing groups of sentients completely apart from politics, and political social animals are regarded as an atavistic scourge in the galaxy. This is why the aliens don't talk to us. They can't trust us, but since we're sentient as individuals, they can't ethically kill us either. Perhaps this is the solution to the Fermi paradox.
I'm sick of businesses endorsing people or party via fundraiser. Support an idea, not a person. Let the voter decide the person.
Great job, HN. Great job.
The idea is we need to get past crap like this, not play along with it.
To be a separate donor on political views alright, but to subscribe your company behind it, jeez.
echo "127.0.0.1 news.ycombinator.com" >> /etc/hosts
No more money is going to be raised for the DNC than would have happened anyway. On the plus side, the President will hear from the startup community as well as the tech establishment.
I can't see any huge real negative here (and I'm a fairly extreme libertarian). Hosting or even donating to a political campaign doesn't mean you support everything they do. In fact, you often see powerful people donating to multiple, opposing parties and candidates .. it's just the only way to have influence over the issues that affect your interests.
This has little to do with money, and a lot to do with influence (on both sides). Startups are a big thing now, YC is a big thing in startups and Obama/the DNC likely saw value in connecting with this new group of influential people.
Similarly, for Sam/YC, it's an opportunity to move things along on issues that matter.
I'm pointing out that the proffered reason they changed venue was to accommodate more people, and thus raise more money. As a matter of fact, no other reason was offered, in particular none of the ones you advance. Unless you have insider knowledge or seen a different announcement?
In DC the message seems to be that the most important thing is who you know. You want to be an insider. In practice this seems to work much as in LA. There's an A List and you want to be on it or close to those who are. The only difference is how the A List is selected. And even that is not that different.
That's simply how Washington works .. influence is their currency.
This looks like YC is playing host to the president of the United States, who happens to be a Democrat.
Edit: As Sam said, it's even less dramatic: They're not even hosting, they're just lending the space.
Plenty of apolitical institutions with space do the same thing. (Museums, botanical gardens, etc).
In another year they may do it again with a president who happens to be a Republican, or Lizardman, etc, etc.
While the tickets do amount to donations, I think it's an error to see this as an endorsement of anybody on YC's part. In a few years they could just as well do the same thing with the RNC and a different president.
This is a political fundraising visit. If it were a visit by the President of the United States in an official capacity to talk about issues, I would be ecstatic that it was happening at YC, regardless of the President's party. The difference is the trip is being paid by the DNC, from political funds; an official visit is paid by the taxpayer.
Maybe I've been influenced by working in government facilities where any political lobbying or support is completely banned, but this seems exceedingly inappropriate.
I felt equally bad when another investor went off the deep end on anti-gun politics.
The issue isn't the specific policy viewpoints. It's using a commercial or other relationship to try to pressure for politics.
"sf.citi" was supposed to be focused on pro-business SF local politics, which is sort of reasonable. Gun control is literally orthogonal to technology.
The following will probably mark me as persona non grata with some people at YC.
I find American politics abhorrent, including both parties. The president's policies have been and are abhorrent, too. Further, the notion that one would pay tens of thousands of dollars for such an event is profoundly disgusting. Part of what is wrong with politics in this country is that kind of money.
As for those who claim that it's politics as usual, that one must play along -- when did conformity become justification?
They just shouldn't be related, much less running fundraisers. Even if it's just the space.
I don't want to have to hunt down incubators that donate to the RNC or Libertarian party just to keep my hard work from helping people I strongly disagree with on nearly every issue(DNC.)
This doesn't eliminate opportunities, but creates them -- funding a conservative incubator now becomes a potentially viable business plan.
YC is not just any old office space. Holding the event here allows the DNC, and the president, to claim support from this community.
It is a smart political move for the fundraisers. It is also a valuable contribution from YC leadership to the DNC.
Unless there is equal time given to equally important elected officials from other parties, YC can now be branded as a partisan group. You are no longer above the fray.
My read is that YC is being used as a space, and is not giving YC funds. If this were direct to a candidate, I don't even think it would be allowed unless that candidate paid market rate for the space (or the host did and declared it as a donation). I'm not sure what the rules are for committees rather than candidates.
Imagine if the feds had a nice small social network of the elite in tech and those who aspire or like to become techies, and if they had access to all their clicks, comments affiliations etc.
Better investment than that huge data centre in Mormon-land.
EDIT: If the event winds up being a 2 hour barrage of questions about the NSA, it might be redeemed.
Do you actually think the DNC or the President's staff would allow that to happen? This isn't a dig at the Democrats, either--I can't imagine the RNC allowing a fundraiser dinner to become a town hall meeting to grill the President on a controversial issue.