Category: Government

Jan 25 2018

Whopper Neutrality – The Burger Based Version of Net Neutrality

If you are still having trouble understanding why Net Neutrality is important, Burger King has made an awesomely funny – and extremely informative – video using the Whopper as an example. It’s just brilliant.

In more serious news, the New York governor signs executive order to keep net neutrality rules after the FCC’s repeal. This follows on the heels of the Montana governor signs executive order to keep net neutrality in the state. Last year I wrote about the coming battle of states rights vs. federal rights, and this is a great example of the complexity of it.

At the same time, AT&T CEO’s net neutrality plan calls for regulation of websites. AT&T supports bans on blocking and throttling, but not paid prioritization or data cap exemptions. I think he needs to watch the Whopper video.

Apparently the GOP is working on a net neutrality bill would allow paid fast lanes and preempt state laws.  According to an article in ArsTechnica the “Open Internet Preservation Act” would ban blocking and throttling but allow ISPs to create paid fast lanes. The Republican bill would also prohibit the FCC from imposing stricter regulations on broadband providers and prohibit state governments from enacting their own net neutrality laws.

There’s that pesky states right thing again. And more whoppers.

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Jan 5 2018

Optimism In The Face Of Current Reality

Let’s start with an awesome dog taking himself sledding.

Now, let’s move on to Bill Gates opening essay in this week’s Time Magazine (he’s their first ever guest editor) titled Some good news, for once. It’s short and powerful.

He starts out with context.

“Reading the news today does not exactly leave you feeling optimistic. Hurricanes in the Americas. Horrific mass shootings. Global tensions over nuclear arms, crisis in Myanmar, bloody civil wars in Syria and Yemen. Your heart breaks for every person who is touched by these tragedies. Even for those of us lucky enough not to be directly affected, it may feel like the world is falling apart.”

And then perspective.

“But these events—as awful as they are—have happened in the context of a bigger, positive trend. On the whole, the world is getting better. This is not some naively optimistic view; it’s backed by data. Look at the number of children who die before their fifth birthday. Since 1990, that figure has been cut in half. That means 122 million children have been saved in a quarter-century, and countless families have been spared the heartbreak of losing a child.”

He creates more perspective but quickly gets to the punchline.

“So why does it feel like the world is in decline? I think it is partly the nature of news coverage. Bad news arrives as drama, while good news is incremental—and not usually deemed newsworthy. A video of a building on fire generates lots of views, but not many people would click on the headline “Fewer buildings burned down this year.” It’s human nature to zero in on threats: evolution wired us to worry about the animals that want to eat us.”

But this line nailed it for me.

“There’s also a growing gap between the bad things that still happen and our tolerance of those things. Over the centuries, violence has declined dramatically, as has our willingness to accept it. But because the improvements don’t keep pace with our expectations, it can seem like things are getting worse.”

For the past week, Amy and I have been watching the Ken Burns documentary The Vietnam War. We finished Episode 8: The History of the World last night, and as the credits rolled and CSNY’s song Ohio played, I said to Amy, “The US and the world was unbelievably fucked up in 1970. I was five and I don’t remember anything. It’s helpful perspective on today.”

I was born optimistic and always have been. I’m going to stay optimistic about our country, our society, and our world. And I’m going to keep working hard on the things I think matter.

And yes, I’m going to read Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House tomorrow.

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Oct 13 2017

Profiles on 2017 Boulder City Council Candidates

On October 19th, Engage Boulder is hosting a breakfast with me from 7:30am to 9:30am to discuss the past, present, and future of Boulder. I’ve lived and worked here since 1995 so I’ve seen, and be involved in, a lot of the evolution of our city over this period of time. I’m hoping to have a thoughtful and open conversation about a lot of the issues that are coming up around our local election. If you are interested, please join us.

Recently, the Daily Camera did an excellent series of profiles on the fourteen candidates running for the five open Boulder City Council positions. I recently endorsed five specific people: Jan Burton, Eric Budd, Jill Grano, Mark McIntyre, and Bill Rigler. Following are excellent profiles from interviews with each of them that I encourage you to read to get to know them, and their viewpoints, better.

Jan Burton: Bring smarter budgeting of time and money to Boulder

Eric Budd: Tech-savvy new urbanist wants younger voices in Boulder politics

Jill Adler Grano: Real estate pro pushes new ideas for Boulder zoning

Mark McIntyre: Boulder is changing, should continue to innovate

Bill Rigler: Lone renter on Boulder ballot says better public process within reach

Our local election, like our recent national election, has had some extreme animus creep into it. It’s not my nature to engage with what I view as irrational and ad-hominem hostility, especially when I view it as disingenuous. So, I was happy to see the Editorial by Dave Krieger, for the Daily Camera editorial board, call some of this out in a measured way. It’s worth a read, but listed are a few of the key statements.

“We came away convinced that Boulder will be in capable hands no matter which five of the 14 are elected. We think some of the fear-mongering that has already appeared in the campaign verges on the ridiculous.”

“We think today’s Boulder is a vibrant, bustling small city known nationally for the cutting-edge research of its university, federal labs and high-tech sector, but struggling to maintain its historically funky feel due to soaring property values and creeping gentrification. So we endorse forward-looking candidates seeking innovative ways to keep Boulder from becoming a gated community of wealthy white folks. We think this is what “progressive” means in the 21st century.”

“We do not share the view that Boulder is going to hell in a handbasket. There is no question it has undergone a growth spurt since the last recession, in part based on pent-up demand from that slowdown. It could have done a better job encouraging creative design of new buildings that better fit their surroundings. We have high hopes that a new planning director, in concert with a new council, may improve this process.”

“Colorado’s growth appears to be slowing, which may allow everyone to take a breath and lower the civic temperature. Boulder has too much going for it to engage in a divisive war choosing among a strong slate of City Council candidates.”

If you are game to have a calm and constructive conversation around this, please join me for breakfast on 10/19.

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Oct 3 2017

My Boulder City Council Endorsements

Amy and I have always believed in this value and importance of voting. If there was any doubt about how this can impact our society, that doubt was obliterated in the 2016 election.

Boulder has an odd-year election cycle so our local elections are happening between October 16, 2017 (ballots get mailed) and November 7, 2017 (the last day to vote). Historically, less than half of the registered voters in town have voted in our local elections. A group of us, led by Engage Boulder hope that meaningfully increases (both the registered voters and the ones who choose to vote) this year.

Having lived and worked here for almost 22 years (longer than I’ve lived anywhere else by a wide margin), I now feel like I understand the strengths and weaknesses of Boulder. I get the difference of opinions about the long-term view of the city. I think we are living in an amazing place, but we have a lot of work to do to both keep it amazing and have it continue to evolve in a healthy, productive, and successful way.

As a result, I believe that our city council election is critically important. In the past, I’ve voted but I have not been public about my endorsements, nor have I put much energy into helping the candidates I endorse get elected. This election feels different for me, partly because I’m now thinking a lot about the long-term health of Boulder, but also because I feel like the low voter turnout in past elections shows that the broader population is not necessarily being represented.

I’ve decided to endorse Jan BurtonEric BuddJill GranoMark McIntyre, and Bill Rigler.

These are the same endorsements being made by Open BoulderBetter Boulder, and Engage Boulder, three organizations that I support along with a number of other community leaders.

We have chosen to endorse these five candidates because of their commitments to bring visionary and practical strategies to:

  • Create more housing and transportation for all Boulder residents;
  • Make our streets and paths safer;
  • Meet Boulder’s carbon reduction goals;
  • Keep Boulder open for entrepreneurs and the ecosystem that encourages them;
  • Make Boulder attractive for creative people, in the arts, research, and elsewhere;
  • Maintain a balance of conservation and recreation access on our open space.

While I don’t necessarily agree with every position of each of these candidates, I strongly believe they are all smart, thoughtful, willing to engage, and capable of thinking long-term about what is good for our city and community.

Voting in Boulder is easy. If you haven’t registered to vote, please register now. And, Engage Boulder is having voter-oriented events several times a week between now and the election – get involved!

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Sep 19 2017

Engage in Boulder’s Upcoming Local Election

Boulder has local elections every odd year. That means we are having a local election this year, with mail-in balloting starting on 10/16/17 and ending on 11/7/17.

Because it’s on an odd-year cycle, turnout has historically been relatively low (under 50%). As a result, a very small number of votes can have a big impact on the election results. This is especially important for the city council election.

A number of Boulder residents, including me, have organized a new group called Engage Boulder to help get out the vote in this election cycle. Between now and 11/7/17, you’ll see a number of suggestions, events, and encouragement.

Yesterday, Engage Boulder put out a short overview on why you should vote in the local election. It also had easy links to register for the mail-in voting. The overview follows – and, if you are interested – there’s a Get Out the Vote Event 9/27 at Oskar Blues in Boulder. To learn more about the upcoming Boulder election and related events, sign up to join the Engage Boulder newsletter.


Participating in your local election is critical. It’s up to all of the citizens of Boulder to elect a slate of candidates committed to practical, analytical decision-making and a vision for the city that is open, progressive, and forward-looking. With your help, this can happen.

Why Vote in Local Elections

(And Why You Should Encourage  All Your Friends To Vote Too)

  1. Because your vote matters: We know that a few voters can drastically shift the outcome of an election. In the 2015 city council election, Jan Burton was only elected by 125 votes. Your vote can literally sway the election.

  2. Because what local government does affect you:  It decides:

    1. The safety and upkeep of our public areas.

    2. The quantity and type of local housing.

    3. The quality of trails for riding, hiking, and running.

    4. The level of support for the art, music, and entrepreneurial scene.

    5. How easy it is to get from home to work to play … and back.

    6. How easy it is to start and grow a business, or a family.

    7. And much, much more.

  3. Because it gives you the power to create change: We become the city we imagine, and how we govern ourselves has a lot to say about it. So vote on behalf of the next generation of Boulderites trying to live affordably, work hard for a worthwhile company, and enjoy a high quality of life.

  4. Because it’s easy: A few years ago Boulder started voting entirely by mail. You get the ballot around October 16. Why not take 15 minutes to fill it out? If you aren’t registered here, spend less than five minutes on the Secretary of State’s website to change that.

  5. Because you try hard to be practical and forward-looking: We want our local government to also be practical and forward-looking.

  6. Because you don’t need to spend hours researching the issues and candidates (unless you want to!):  Open BoulderBetter Boulder, and Engage Boulder have specific recommendations of who and what to vote for in the upcoming election.  If you agree with their general philosophy you may wish to leverage their research to vote their recommendations.

Mail-in ballots will be sent out on October 16th, register or check your registration online here. In 2013 and 2015 voter turnout was about 46% in Boulder. In 2016 it was 92%. We know you have it in you! Please share this email with at least five friends! 

Hope to see you at our Get Out the Vote Event 9/27 at Oskar Blues in Boulder.

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Aug 19 2017

All Human Beings Have Equal Value

Arnold Schwarzenegger says it brilliantly.

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Jun 2 2017

Two Major Supreme Court Decisions on Patents

In moments of political despair, Amy reminds me that we have three branches of government. Around issues that I care a lot about and have engaged in over the years, the Judicial Branch seems to be the most functional right now, at least from my perspective.

This was reinforced by two things this week. The first was a conversation Jason and I had with senior staffers of a non-Colorado senator. They wanted to meet with us, and the agenda was open-ended around issues that startups and investors were interested in, especially ones we have been visibly talking about such as patents, immigration, and net neutrality. Several times I asked a different version of “what can we do to engage constructively” with Congress and the answer was essentially “nothing right now.” While the conversation itself had some substance to it and I liked the people we spent time with, the message I took away was that Congress didn’t have the ability, based on the current political environment, to take any action on any of these issues.

That stood sharply against the backdrop of two decisions the Supreme Court made in the last few weeks on patents. While the first was more talked about than the second, they are both important.

The first was that the justices ruled 8-0 that patent suits can be filed only in courts located in the jurisdiction where the targeted company is incorporated. If you own real estate in Marshall, Texas, it’s time to harvest your investment. According to the article (and a Stanford Law School Journal study), “more than 40 percent of all patent lawsuits are filed in East Texas. Of those, 90 percent are brought by patent trolls.” I expect in the near term Delaware courts will be clogged with patent troll cases since so many tech companies and startups are incorporated in Delaware. Hopefully, the Delaware courts will take a much less “troll-friendly” approach to things.

The second was that the Supreme Court said companies give up their patent rights when they sell an item, in a ruling that puts new limits on businesses’ ability to prevent their products from being resold at a discount. While a little more subtle, it’s equally important since this was another classic move by a certain category of company to limit downstream competition. I love what Justice Roberts wrote.

“Extending the patent rights beyond the first sale would clog the channels of commerce, with little benefit from the extra control that the patentees retain,” Roberts wrote.

While in my ideal world Congress would proactively work to establish contemporary intellectual property rights that include patents but also extend to copyright and trademark, I have no expectation that this will happen. Besides, the amount of money spent by lobbyists for companies promoting a position that supports their business model, rather than a macro-level view of the long-term dynamics, will mean, at least in the current environment, that a thoughtful, balanced approach is unlikely.

Fortunately, we’ve got the Judicial System.

“The millstones of Justice turn exceedingly slow, but grind exceedingly fine.” – John Bannister Gibson (1780-1853)

And, for now, even though the wheels of justice turn slowly, they are turning.

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May 30 2017

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Following is a beautiful and brilliant TED talk by Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the ACLU. It’s definitely worth 12 minutes of your life to watch.

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May 26 2017

Phil Weiser For Colorado Attorney General

Over the past fifteen years, Phil Weiser and I have worked together to make Colorado a stronger, more collaborative, and more innovative entrepreneurial community. Together, we co-chaired Governor Bill Ritter’s Innovation Council, worked to launch the Startup America Partnership (when Phil worked for Obama in the White House), started Startup Colorado, brought the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network to Colorado, and helped CU become a first-class entrepreneurial university (which I discussed in a chapter in my book Startup Communities). Phil is a rare entrepreneur who can bring innovation to the government, which is just the sort of leadership we need now. I strongly encourage everyone to do what they can to help elect him as Colorado’s next Attorney General, including donating your time and money to his campaign.

Phil and I both share a background as Jews whose families came from Eastern Europe. That background, which involved a history of religious persecution, imprinted in each of us a deep appreciation for the constitutional rights and civil liberties that many Americans take for granted—the freedom of religion, the freedom of press, and a commitment to the due process of law (that is, people cannot just arbitrarily be rounded up). In Phil’s case, his mom was born in a concentration camp and came to the US when she was six. So protecting those freedoms at a time when we cannot take them for granted is a job that Phil will take seriously as Colorado’s next Attorney General, just like other State Attorneys General, who are already standing up to the Trump Administration to protect our constitutional rights.

Through hard work, his parents set up Phil for amazing opportunities, including the chance to serve as a law clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and work for President Obama in the White House. In the spirit of paying it forward, Phil’s concern and caring for others is powerful and plain to see for all of those who worked with Phil during his time as the Dean of the CU Law School. During his time as Dean, he set up a range of innovative partnerships around the State, including a program that placed recent law grads as assistant district attorneys in rural areas. As our Attorney General, I know that he will be a leader for all Coloradans. I am personally excited to work with him in how to support entrepreneurial opportunities across our State, including in more rural parts of Colorado. While that might not sound like a traditional role of a state Attorney General, when it comes to fighting for access to broadband Internet technology and building partnerships that support economic success, Phil is unique. Consider, for example, his leadership as the founding Board Secretary of the CareerWise Colorado Initiative that supports apprenticeship-based learning across the State to create opportunities for skilled jobs for those without a college degree.

To have an Attorney General with an innovative mindset will mean that the Colorado AG’s office will become an engine of policy development and new thinking on a range of issues. Take, for example, criminal justice policy where some states around the country—often with leadership from the AG’s office—are taking a hard look at whether they are getting a good return on the social investment in our criminal justice system. Today, we put more people in jail than any nation in the world. Nonetheless, we are not aggressively enough addressing alternatives to incarceration that cut down on prison sentences. We are not investing enough yet in programs that make it less likely that inmates end up back in prison after they are released, such as Defy Ventures. We continue to make bail decisions in a way that keeps people in jail who are not flight risks just because they cannot afford to pay a bail bond. To ensure Colorado a leader in moving towards a criminal justice system that keeps us safe and is smarter, we need an AG like Phil.

Finally, when Phil talks about protecting our quality of life and our environment, he is someone we can count on. The whiplash from President Obama’s commitment to fighting climate change issues to today’s situation where we have Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier as the head of the EPA, is hard to take. Closer to home, our current Attorney General joined Scott Pruitt in challenging President Obama’s leadership in this area. As our next Attorney General, Phil will be a leader on environmental protection—like Governor Hickenlooper, who created a national model for rules restricting methane emissions by working collaboratively with the oil and gas industry and environmentalists. If we fail to elect officials like Phil who will stand up for our environment, future generations will ask us how we stood by and failed to act.

A core lesson I took from Trump’s election last fall is that we must be active in supporting candidates who we believe in. It’s not often that I have an opportunity to support a leader like Phil. So when I do have that opportunity, I feel the need to make the most of it. As a consequence of a SEC rule under Dodd-Frank, I am not allowed to donate to Phil’s campaign, but I am free to use my voice to encourage others to do so.

From my long relationship working with Phil, I can assure you that it will be a great investment in Colorado’s future and will help Colorado continue to be a model for the nation. So I strongly encourage you to donate your time and money to his campaign.

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Apr 17 2017

Support Startups for Net Neutrality

The new leader of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Chairman Ajit Pai, has said he wants to roll back existing net neutrality rules that prevent big cable companies from discriminating against online companies and services. Congress is lining up behind him.

Engine Advocacy , Y Combinator, and Techstars are organizing a letter opposing these actions, signed by startups, investors, accelerators, incubators, and entrepreneurs.

Ten zillion words have been written about Net Neutrality. In 2015, the FCC put in place light touch net neutrality rules that not only prohibit certain harmful practices, but also allow the Commission to develop and enforce rules to address new forms of discrimination. It is rumored that Chairman Pai is planning to replace this system with a set of minimum voluntary commitments, which would give a green light for Internet access providers to discriminate in unforeseen ways.

Help us send a message from startups and entrepreneurs that his rumored action to undermine net neutrality is not ok.

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