Sign of the times: political TechMeme headline

The headline screams “no one in tech can defend McCain.” So, who wants to take up the other side? Anyone?

I found two. John Dvorak bet me $100 that McCain would win. My producer, Rocky Barbanica, who was a software engineer for decades before switching careers, bet me another $100 that McCain would win.

Over on Twitter and FriendFeed most of the participants there, including me, are for Obama, but there are a few who are staunchly for McCain.

This is your last chance to talk politics for a while! Whew, glad to hit Wednesday and be done with all of this.

"All he talks about is politics!"

In yesterday’s post several commenters said they were unsubscribing because all I do is talk about politics.

Oh, really?

To those who say that I only write about politics or think about politics, you are absolutely wrong.

You must read my FriendFeed comments, for instance. Overwhelmingly tech.

Or see the things I’ve “Liked” (er, shared) with you. Overwhelmingly tech.

Or see all the things I share or blog about. Overwhelmingly tech.

Or see all the videos we do at Overwhelmingly tech.

Or see all my Google Shared items. Overwhelmingly tech.

Or see my event calendar. Overwhelmingly tech.

Only a very small percentage of my work has anything to do with politics.

Which makes me very happy at the unsubscribes. I’m hoping for a smart audience here, not one that throws insults based on bad data.

But if you think you’re ONLY going to get tech here, you’ll be very unhappy. You should unsubscribe now. Last time I checked this is still my +personal blog+ where I get to write about whatever I am interested in. Overwhelmingly that’ll be tech, but sometimes I’m interested in other things.

Have a good day!

I am not an American

Dave Winer wrote a post about not being a liberal.

I’m going further than Dave. I’m not an American.

I believe that those who have a different idea than I do are not only American but have a right to have a different idea than I do because of our Constitution. But what do I know, I’m not an American.
I believe that SOME wealth should be redistributed from rich people to other places to improve our society. Like paying for schools, building roads, or even helping all people get access to health care. To me that seems fair because it’s our system that enabled people to build wealth. I’m not an American.
I believe that science, technology, and education should win over religion. I’m not an American.
I believe that government should treat everyone the same, no matter who we sleep with or what our gender is or what the color of our skin. Or even what religion we are. I’m not an American.
I believe that informed citizens should vote for candidates not whether they are pro or anti-Abortion, but whether they actually are smart and whether they have enough life experiences to do the job well. I’m not an American.
When I married I married a Muslim woman. I’m not an American.
Even worse, I converted to Islam so that we could be married in an Islamic ceremony. I’m not an American.
My mom was born in Germany. We all know how much terror THEY brought on the world over the past 100 years. I’m not an American.
I believe that we should use our weapons of war far more carefully than we’ve used them in the past eight years. I’m not an American.
I believe that community organizers are cool. I’m not an American.
I believe that government should regulate industry to keep it from getting overheated, er, greedy and rapacious. I’m not an American.
I believe that anyone who watches, and worse, believes ONLY Rush Limbaugh or FOX on one side OR ONLY super-liberal media (DailyKos) on the other side isn’t an informed citizen. I’m not an American.
I believe that our borders should be more open to new immigrants because most of the people who I know had parents or grandparents who came from somewhere else and we’ve done just fine. I’m not an American.
I believe in stem cell research because those jobs will build more value than Joe the Plumber will bring to all of our lives. I’m not an American.
I believe that one R&D worker creates more jobs than one plumber does (and I note that a lot of the best researchers aren’t from the USA, even those I’ve met in Redmond or Silicon Valley). I’m not an American.
I believe that nuclear power is better than coal power. I’m not an American.
I believe that “socialist” is not an epithet (after all, President Bush nationalized our banking system) but is an economic system. When I visit Europe they seem to be doing pretty well. Speaking of which, those “socialists” have better public transportation, are now paying German homeowners to put solar panels on their houses, and have health care for every citizen. Yes, they have problems too, but hey, seems we could learn a bit from socialists. But what do I know, I’m not an American.
I believe that drilling for more oil is not a good answer to our energy problems. I’m not an American.
I believe in strong government action to keep our economy from crashing and burning. I’m not an American.

I could keep going on why I’m not an American, but you get the idea. It’s enough to make me want to move to Australia. Maybe they have the right idea! 🙂

Oh, and who is this Colin Powell dude? He doesn’t sound like an American either.

Just my thoughts after hanging out with lots of non-Americans this past week in Greensboro, North Carolina. You can tell them, can’t you? They wear Obama buttons and have Obama stickers on their cars.

I really am tired of all this stuff, aren’t you?

Front lines in the political Ground War

Front-yard campaigning in Greensboro

This morning I hung out with Congressman Brad Miller (D-NC) and State Representative Pricey Harrison. They were walking a neighborhood getting voters out in Greensboro, North Carolina, which is one of those few states that are in play in the election for President.

I write about it here to tell other bloggers that if you get this chance in the future it’s a lot better way to get to know someone and their views than if you go to Washington DC and get a 15-minute interview.

It also showed me the hard work of campaigning. Pricey won her last race (she’s running unopposed this time) she told me because she hit almost every house in her district and people hadn’t seen her opponent in years because he had such a strongly-Republican district.

As we walked through a quiet neighborhood people stopped in the street to talk with them (the neighbors recognized them from TV ads).

We talked about policies, what Congress will be like next year (his legislative aide was along for the walk too and she said that Congress is backed up and a ton of legislation will get written next year), and the effect of the Internet on campaigns. Of course we talked about the economy and about the bailout bill. He said that was a tough vote (he voted for it) but it wasn’t popular with people calling and emailing his office. Says that sometimes he needs to not listen to his constituency and do what he thinks is the right thing to do. Says that’s a key to our form of representative democracy.

On how technology affects politics, Miller told me that when he started running for office back in the early 1990s that was before the Web. He told me when the Web first came along he derided it as a toy. Said that was a mistake and now uses the Web and other technologies to get the word out (he was watching polling information coming in on blogs like Daily Kos on his Blackberry as we walked around).

We visited a few dozen houses. When people were home they said hi, handed out literature, urged them to get to the polls (which are already open in North Carolina), and answered questions.

This seemed to be the least likely thing a technology blogger like me would be doing on a Saturday morning, but even here you could see the effect of technology. We had maps printed out from a database and Pricey had information on each home. Whether they were Democratic or Republican. Of course a lot of the houses had yard signs for either McCain or Obama, so it was pretty easy to figure out who was a strong supporter already.

The mood among Democrats is confident, but nervous. Piercy and Miller talked with each other about some of their experiences with racism on this campaign cycle. Miller told me he’s encountered lots of independent voters who tell him they are “uneasy” with Barack Obama. He says that if you get to know them they’ll cop to not being sure about voting for a black man. He told me about talking with Union organizers who notice that if they have someone with a noticeably African American voice that they’ll get different results than if someone who sounds white will call.

That talk depresses me, but he noted that North Carolina will probably go to Barack Obama, which is surprising everyone because it is a state that’s been solidly Republican in the past. Greensboro is famous for the student sit-ins during the civil rights struggles. On Thursday, I got a tour of the town and stood in the separate “white” and “colored” waiting room in the train station. Just a little reminder of how far we’ve come in this country in just a generation, but this talk reminded me we still have a ways to go.

Anyway, thanks to Sue Polinsky, the founder of Converge South, who introduced me to the campaign and set this up. I have a new respect for politicians. I sure wouldn’t want to do this.

My fellow Democrats

I just visited the 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon today and the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.

Those experiences, among others, have led me to this note.

To everyone else, sorry, this is one of those times I’m going to get into politics. If you don’t like that, come back tomorrow when I’ll be at AT&T and talking about the cool technology they are showing me.


My fellow Democrats,

I keep seeing you, and the press, taking pot shots at Sarah Palin. I’ve taken a few myself, if you’ve been over on FriendFeed the past couple of weeks.

You also know that I’ve been demoralized lately and believe that John McCain and Sarah Palin have, through the changing of the framing of the imagery presented to the American people, have already won the election.

But today I’m calling on you to be better than the Republicans.

Instead of aiming at Palin’s groin, let’s aspire to be better.

This is America. When we aspire to be better than we are, we change the world.

When John Kennedy asked us to go to the moon, we did. When Martin Luther King said he has a dream we’ve made his dream happen. When Ronald Reagan told the Germans to “tear down this wall” they did.

When we try to make the world better, we often do!

It’s time, my fellow Democrats, to start living that change.

Instead of blogging about our political opponents, can you learn about one issue that you care about and blog about that?

My issue is that I’m seeing high tech jobs leaving America for a variety of reasons.

1. Our education system. Today’s CEOs say they aren’t seeing the quality of graduates that they need to make the next big scientific and technological breakthroughs. After the cameras are off I keep hearing about the better graduates in places like Israel, China, and India.
2. Our taxation and infrastructure. When I went to Israel I interviewed Gil Shwed, CEO of CheckPoint. They have offices in California and Israel. You should listen to the video because he tells how it’s easier for him to get stuff done in Israel than in California.
2b. Our infrastructure is wacked. When we’re 19th in the world in broadband and way behind even China in the use of IPTV and other technologies that can be used to wire new R&D workers together, that tells me we’ve lost leadership and that it’ll take a concerted effort to get it back.
3. Our health care costs. CEOs are telling me they are drowning in the costs of our health care system and that’s pushing jobs overseas. Not just those manufacturing jobs, either (many of the people reading my blog are geeks and can’t relate to people who work on factory lines in places like Detroit, let’s just be honest) but the jobs going overseas are our R&D jobs that pay $150,000 a year. Lose rafts of those and you see entire economies changing.
4. Our immigration policies. It used to be that our best workers and best ideas came from people who moved here from somewhere else. But in today’s America we’re angry about immigrants who come to America to take our jobs. That anger, while justified, is causing us to close down our borders to even the smartest who come here for an education and then are forced to leave to go back home. Guess what, our globalization can’t be stopped, so every job that leaves our shores is $150,000 that will never come back (and probably more, because of the trickle down effects of our economy).
5. Our anti-science and anti-technology discourse and beliefs. In the Republican America today we are seeing a debate, not about whether science should drive our national debate, but whether religion should and, let’s just be honest, religion is winning. Stem cell research is being forced off our shores. That research will still be done, albeit now it’s done over in some other country. More $150,000 jobs down the drain. Plus, will we really invest in the right energy technologies? Who is best suited to decide those? A scientist? Or someone who lives close to an energy pipeline? We need to do better and aspire to be smarter.
6. An anti-technology and anti-science stance by those who fear government. When I wrote about America getting a CTO, I was amazed at some of the pushback I got in comments. Driven by fear. An inefficient government is a good thing, quite a few said. After getting out of the Holocaust Museum today, I understand where that fear comes from, but it’s misplaced and misguided because that fear will cause policies that cause us to lose more and more of our $150,000 a year jobs.

So, my fellow Democrats, can we have a debate about what government should DO over the next four years? What, my fellow Democrats, can we do to be better than ourselves? To make the world a better place?

We have only a week or two before the debates to give Barack Obama some real, tangible things to call us to aspire to.

If he aims for the fences and calls on us to build a better world, then we have a shot November 2.

If we only aim for Palin’s knees we play into the Republican’s game and we’ll end up with more of the same for the next four years.

It’s all up to you now. Every post you make. Every conversation you have. They all add up to what will happen November 2.

Will you call on your fellow Americans to be better? Or will you point out what a wacky lady Palin is.

The more you point what a wacky lady she is, the more likely you are to help Republicans win. After all, we’re all wacky and we all love to vote for someone like us: unless someone is calling on us to be better.

So, my fellow Democrats, I hope you’ll join me in focusing totally on building a strong economy for the future for the next four weeks. That’s our only hope.

Thank you, your friend and supporter, Robert Scoble

UPDATE: Over on FriendFeed they are discussing this post and imran stated that the trillion dollar war with Iraq is also draining our resources and making it hard to compete on a global stage. Good point.

The political topic that must not be discussed in USA

No, not a 17-year-old’s sex life. That’s fair game in today’s media world, it seems. No, not abortion or whether or not a candidate considered such or will legislate against choice to use it. That’s fair game too. No, not gun ownership or support of that. That’s been discussed at length. No, not whether some candidate was a member of the PTA. That is certainly up for discussion. Certainly energy policy is. Along with service to country and whether or not one party supports the military or the battle against terror, etc.

But what’s not being discussed? How about our nation’s policies toward innovation? I’ve watched a lot of the two political conventions. I’ve heard a few words about support for technology and science — quickly are forgotten in the noise about McCain’s vice presidential pick — but I’ve heard nary a word about how we’re going to ensure that the United States continues to be a place where innovation happens. Increasingly I’m hearing from industry leaders that our innovation leadership is under major attack for a whole lot of reasons. Immigration policy. Education system quality. Taxation and regulation. And on and on.

Yet we don’t openly discuss it. We’d rather talk about some 17-year-old’s sex life or download the latest shiny object from Google. Question: how did that shiny object get here?

So, yesterday I went and talked with one of the formost experts on innovation: Judy Estrin. She’s on the board of directors of Walt Disney and FedEx. She’s written a book on the topic, Closing the Innovation Gap.

Here’s the video shot with my cell phone of our 40-minute conversation about the topic. But, remember, you must not discuss this. It’s in the unwritten rules of politics this year. Instead, head over to Memeorandum and see what you are allowed to talk about. Today’s topic: whether the press is fair when dealing with Presidential Candidates.

Oh, and don’t link to this post. We wouldn’t want it showing up on Memeorandum or Digg now, would we? After all, it’s not on the “approved” list of things to talk about in this political season.

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Who should be USA's CTO?

UPDATE: The video that caused this post is now up on FastCompanyTV.

Today I visited Larry Lessig. He’s the founder of Creative Commons. A professor of law at Stanford University. And does many other things.

He is one of those guys who is just interesting to talk to. Why? Whip smart and has a view of things that very few other people have.

On the way over to the interview I kept thinking back to our Washington DC visit. Both Republicans and Democrats told me they wish there were someone in the White House that they could talk to about tech and science issues. That seemed to support Barack Obama’s tech policy, which calls for a national CTO position.

There are two views of the CTO position and Larry laid out both views in his interview and explained why he didn’t want the job (which, personally, is the best reason to want him in the position).

View #1 is a person who could help shape our nation’s tech policies. This person would need to be a great speaker, because he or she would need to go to places like the World Economic Forum and communicate what our tech policy should be. She or he would also need to be up to date on law, since they would be talking with congress about what could or couldn’t be done and would help shape policies and laws. She or he would also need to be both trusted and accessible to the tech industry, too.

That sounds like Lessig would be a perfect candidate.

But he laid out the other view of what a national CTO should do and explained why he wouldn’t be a good choice. That view is: be a traditional CTO and get more of our government to use technology to be more efficient and transparent. Lessig is much more interested in seeing a CTO take on that role and says for that role you’d need a geek who understands the technology.

That got me thinking. If you were the next President, and you wanted to have a national CTO role, who would you put into that position?

Here’s a few names to get you thinking:

Mark Andreessen?
Dave Winer?
Joel Spolsky?
Tantek Celik?
Molly Holzschalg?
Meg Whitman?
Bill Gates?
Steve Wozniak?
Caterina Fake?

Overall, though, I still like the idea of Lessig in the White House.

Oh, and wait until you hear what he says about how he’d retard corruption in the Capitol. The interview will be up in a couple of weeks on FastCompanyTV.