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U.S. Politics and Policy: Frustrating and Fascinating

January 19, 2006 at 12:00 pm PST

I was at a lunch last week with a leader of one of the major political parties and s/he explained the “no” votes on a particular piece of legislation thusly, (I’m paraphrasing): “The legislation was good legislation, but only marginally impactful. We wanted the members of our party to vote against it, however, because it would mean that the other party would have to get all of their members to vote for it in able for it to pass, especially those in swing-districts or less safe seats. Meaning, of course, that they would be more vulnerable in their general elections.” The focus was not on the “good legislation” but on defeating the other party and having an issue to “get them” come election time. I then read today somewhere the Senate Democratic leader was going to focus on “corruption” of the other party as the way to gain seats for his party, a la 1994 in the post-House banking era. Corruption is a big topic in Washington these days obviously because of Jack Abramoff, but rather than reacting to the news in front of their faces (both sides recently came out with Lobbying Reform Measures), how about focusing on the issues that will actually be impactful to the citizens of this nation? Healthcare anyone? Education? Broadband for every man, woman and child who wants it? No, let’s focus on lobbying reform. Politics is obviously a part of policy. It is the way the U.S. system works. What happened, however, to IDEAS?!! What happened to the OPTIMISM of President Reagan? What happened to doing what is best for the country? What happened to doing what is best for your constituents? There are good ideas out there and the good ones will hopefully rise to the top. The process, however, is a bit frustrating. Perhaps I’ve been out of DC too long and have lost perspective. Perhaps not. In related news, The Gallup Poll came out today and stated that only 27% of voters see the Congress in a favorable light. Perhaps lobbying reform (i.e. my read: not trusting themselves to throw a vote in exchange for a steak) will get them to 28%. I doubt it.

Free Weekly Technology Policy Newsletter from Cisco

January 12, 2006 at 12:00 pm PST

I just got off the phone with a colleague at another high tech company who wanted to know about Cisco’s free, weekly high tech “E-Update”, how it was created, how much time it takes to produce, etc. It made me think that I should ping this audience on its existence and encourage any interested parties to sign up for it.This is the update that we send out (generally) on a weekly basis that tracks the major technology policy stories and trends around the world. We divide it up by geography and offer it for free to whomever wants it. We currently have over 1300 subscribers -- made up primarily of Cisco employees, competitors, media, legislators and regulators (and their staffs). This is just a little service of Cisco’s government affairs group to help (easily) raise awareness of the technology policy issues that are being worked on and written about. If you want to know what Cisco thinks on these subjects you can always visit our website at www.cisco.com/gov. In the meantime, however, if you want to subscribe to our free, technology policy newsletter, please visit our E-Update Subscriber Page to subscribe. Oh, and tell your friends.

“Don’t Want No Smart People”

January 9, 2006 at 12:00 pm PST

With apologies to Randy Newman for the title I thought it was appropriate to touch on a subject that may be discussed more and more in the coming year: immigration. I was at a breakfast* with Senator George Allen (R-VA) this past week and the topic of immigration came up. I have a couple of thoughts on the issue and will attempt to relay them now:1) Are all the people that are against immigration Native Americans? Meaning: everyone’s parents/grandparents/great-grandparents, etc. in this country came from somewhere else (me: Germany, Scotland and Ireland -- with a bit of Cherokee, as well), so why are those who seem to want to build walls around the U.S. so patently against the very way that their ancestors first arrived in the ol’ U.S. of A. Sure, ILLEGAL immigration should be stemmed, but I would venture to say that some of the immigration that occurred to build this nation was not all “legal.” In other words, whatever happened to “give us your poor, your tired, your weak” etc.2) An idea has been floating around Silicon Valley for some time says, if you are foreign born and you receive an advanced degree at an accredited U.S. University your diploma should have a “green-card” or permanent resident status attached to it. Why in the world wouldn’t we want the smartest people in the world to come to the U.S., get educated and STAY and contribute to the economy? (See title above.) Those foreign-born, advanced degree earners who want to go back to their country of origin is fine too. Certainly nothing wrong with having them go home so that they can tell their fellow citizens that Americans are fine, (for the most part) hard-working people.3) Much of this issue, of course, goes to the underlying education system in the U.S. Sure, we have smart people, but if you look at the trends and our emerging global competitors, other countries are focusing on the so-called STEM majors (the innovation majors) (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) while the number of U.S. citizens majoring in these subjects continues to decline. How do we supplement this shortfall before we can get a rebirth in the interest of students going into these disciplines so that we can maintain our global innovation edge? (See #2 above).In sum, we want smart people to come get educated in the U.S. and work, live and play ™ in the U.S. and we have to recognize that this is the right policy to pursue. We also must pursue a parallel policy that focuses on the reasons that our own U.S. citizens aren’t going into the STEM disciplines and rectify it before it’s too late.*At breakfast, eggs, hash browns and bacon were served. I put Tabasco on my eggs, but much prefer Cholula sauce when available -- it is, by far, the tastiest of the hot sauces on the market. You can find it your supermarket’s hot sauce section or in your local Mexican grocery. I share this bit of wisdom because I care. : )

Sam Houston and Bill Weld: What’s the Connection?

December 8, 2005 at 12:00 pm PST

Sam Houston was born and raised in Tennessee, where he became Governor. He later moved to Texas and after serving as the first president of Texas and the first Senator of Texas, he became the first Governor of Texas -- making him the first (and last) man to serve as the governor of two states. After an illustrious career as a prosecutor, US attorney and in the Reagan Justice department, Bill Weld was elected as governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with a whopping “50.01% of the vote.” He was, however, born and raised in the state of New York, which is where he is now running for governor to replace George Pataki. So, if elected, he would be the second man in US history to serve as the governor of two different states. Governor Weld knows that it will be an uphill climb to become the governor of New York where his name recognition is not great. He was recently in Silicon Valley speaking to a small group of Silicon Valley technology representatives where he talked about his time as chief executive of Massachusetts, his success as a prosecutor and public servant, and his subsequent success in the New York financial sector focusing on education investments. He talked about the importance of education and relayed his success in Massachusetts and praised the good work that Chancellor of New York Public Schools Joel Klein is doing. He also mentioned the impressive credentials of his talented, intelligent, scientific children (who all speak Arabic and Chinese, by the by) -- so, his money (and children) are certainly where his mouth is.While New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer is the candidate to beat for the governorship, after hearing about Governor Weld’s experience and passion and plans for New York I wouldn’t count him out to join Sam Houston’s one-man club.

Susan Kennedy is a Californian First

I was pleased to hear about Governor Schwarzenegger’s appointment of Susan Kennedy as his new chief of staff. I have known Susan for several years and know that her number one affiliation is as a Californian. As a Republican in a”blue” state I am always pulling for my team when it comes to appointments and recognition, but Kennedy is a great person for this job right now. She has worked tirelessly for Californians her whole career. She knows how government works. In her recent tenure as a PUC commissioner she has been a great advocate for market-based solutions, including letting Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and broadband grow without onerous regulations. Her common-sense approach to solving problems will serve the state of California well. Additionally (and important to Cisco), she knows the value of the technology industry to the economy in California. The Governor seems to be working to remove the D’s and the R’s next to people’s names in Sacramento and wants a C (Californian) next to all names. Susan will be a great help in building that vision.Pat Clarey is also a friend and I know her to be a great manager and a great advocate for California. Her talent and drive will be missed in the horseshoe, but she will remain a great asset to our state.Pat, good luck. Susan, we look forward to working with you.