Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Message from Rusty Rueff - Tech4Obama

Rusty Rueff has been helping the Obama campaign working with Jim Green (@JimGreenT4O) on the Technology for Obama group.  Yesterday he shared the message below with some of us, and with his permission, I repost it here -- I think it speaks volumes to what the election is about, and has some ideas of things people can do. 
  -Jim Hendler
   Computer Scientists for Obama

Many of you know that on August 16, 2011 I was asked to step into the lay leadership role for a new Obama for America campaign group called Technology for Obama (T4O).  Little did I know that 15 months later I would be here with only a few days left knowing that on November 6th I would end that day with tears in my eyes, regardless of who wins.  This effort, working alongside Jim Green as the National Staff Director for T4O has truly been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. 

I don’t need to tell you that the choice in this election is as stark and as clear as any choice we have ever had in our lifetime. The approaches are just different and when I look as holistically as I personally can (beyond one issue at a time), I truly believe that Governor Romney’s approach is a U-Turn for America and I am doing my best to not let that happen. To give you some sense of what that means please read on:

I have given as many hours as I have been physically able and yes I am tired but still invigorated. I  came to the conclusion with Patti that we had to go big with personal financial support both to the campaign and to cover expenses flying and traveling all across the country for T4O events (yes, I did get the miles J). I had to take a hiatus about political conversations with some friends who just can’t understand my position but still respect and love me.  I have withstood real ridicule from those who think they are friends but aren’t really because you just don’t talk to friends like that.  I have let down quite a bit of people who were counting on me for other efforts like their companies, their boards and their very important causes that I support but I just didn’t have enough time for everything to be #1 on the list (thank you and you know who you are and I really appreciate your patience and understanding. I’ll be back).  And, I have pulled Patti through this whole wringer and she has had to hear too many hours of me walking around the house acting as if I was the one debating or behind the lectern on the campaign stump (she likes to remind me that it isn’t me who is running for office).

From the beginning this election was going to be close, but as I sit here writing this, it’s too close for my comfort and it’s been quite a while since I haven’t woken up in the middle of the night in worry that this election could slip from us.

And so we come to the end and I now need to ask for your help (and for some a little bit more) and please know that I ask this humbly and in all earnestness.

First, one last contribution to the campaign still matters.  Daily the campaign is looking at their finances to see what we can still do send staff and organizers into battleground states to go door-to-door.  Organizers don’t magically just show up.  So, even the smallest contribution now goes 100% into the on the ground efforts.  Anything you can do now will make a difference.  At the end of the day on October 31st the campaign will look to see how we did this month and make decisions on how much they can do in the last 5 days.  So, we need to make a push here by 10/31. You can contribute here:

Secondly, we all know someone who lives in one of the Battleground States.  Stop what you are doing today and take a minute to write an email, send them a Facebook message, tweet them, or pick up the phone and be sure that they are going to vote and encourage them to vote early!  If they are on the fence on who to vote for, then tell them why you support the President!

So that’s it, last request. Thank you for listening and reading.

Thank you for the support you have shown this campaign and me.  It is truly appreciated.

Now, let’s go win with this and keep America moving FORWARD!


Monday, October 29, 2012

Please Read Peter Norvig's Presidential FAQ

Today's entry a bit short as I wait to see if my lights will stay on, so let me pass the buck to Peter Norvig, research director at Google and one of the top computer scientists I know.  Peter has created a great FAQ on the election, the state of the country and on why he is backing President Obama.
His FAQ is at please go check it out.
  -Jim Hendler
  For Computer Scientists for Obama
  Like us on Facebook "Computer Scientists for Obama"
  Follow Peter Norvig on Google+

P.S. Today's irony was Governor Christie of New Jersey thanking Obama for approving early state of emergency so FEMA could be brought in sooner.  Christie has been a leader of Romney's campaign, which earlier said FEMA should be eliminated, and now is backing off a bit, saying it should be left to the States (earlier he said disaster relief should be privatized) -

Sunday, October 14, 2012

How do the candidates compare on Technical issues? Their own words

The New York Technology Meetup sent a request to both campaigns asking:

We are writing on behalf of our over 27,000 members and the rapidly growing New York technology community to ask for you to explain to our members how your policies as President would benefit the growth of New York start-up community and other start up entrepreneurs who are using 21st century tools to build 21st century businesses.

The Internet and information technologies have created a renaissance in startup innovation in New York City that now rivals Silicon Valley as a hub for economic growth. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers have been inspired to become entrepreneurs, starting new companies and creating thousands of new jobs. Opportunities in the use of technology are also providing professionals in many of New York City’s traditional industries like publishing, media, advertising, and financial services the opportunity to enhance their skills and sometimes start new careers all while participating in the 21st century global economy.

The complete letters from both campaigns can be read at

The Romney letter reads close to his Web site's primary campaign points.  He says we must control illegal immigration, lower taxes, reduce regulation, confront China on trade, and expand parental choice for education (which I assume means vouchers to private schools).  He also argues that we should be giving teachers results-based rewards instead of tenure - which I don't agree with but admit there is some support for among the tech community.

He does say, with respect to basic research:

 President Obama‘s misguided attempts to play the role
of venture capitalist, pick winners and losers, and spend tens
of billions of dollars on politically-prioritized investments have been
a disaster for the American taxpayer. Yet at the same time, we must
never forget that the United States has moved forward in astonishing
ways thanks to national investment in basic research and advanced

which sounds reasonable, although he then follows it up with

As president. I will focus government resources on
research programs that advance the development of knowledge, and on
technologies with widespread application and potential to serve as the
foundation for private sector innovation and commercialization.

where that latter part sure seems to me to be the same as what he criticizes the President for -- he says we should have technologies that create private sector innovation and commercialization -- isn't that the "play the role of venture capitalist" that he is against in the previous paragraph??

Governor Romney doesn't mention the Internet or information technologies at all.

President Obama, on the other hand, sends a letter that more clearly answers the actual question -- what are the keys to the innovation economy. 

Specifically adressing the issue of Internet policy he reiterates the point made in the Democratic platform that the Internet must be kept open -- he says:

I signed patent reform into law to help American entrepreneurs bring
inventions to market sooner, leading to new businesses, jobs and
industries. But that also depends on a regulatory system that supports
our homegrown innovations. That’s why I’ll continue to stand by you to
protect the openness of the Intemet while still enforcing intellectual
property rights.

He also talks about government support for open government data (my key issue and I think a home-run answer)

Across your government, we’ve used technology to bridge the offline
and online divide to empower citizens and build a more participatory
democracy. On my first day in office I created the position of U.S.
Chief Technology Officer so we can pursue new open data initiatives to
unleash unprecedented volumes of government data related to energy,
education, international development, public safety and other areas.
We’re unlocking our resources to fuel new products, companies and
industries and connect the next generation of entrepreneurs to freely
available government data, while rigorously protecting and respecting
privacy rights. And we recently announced the first class of
“Presidential Innovation Fellows,” talented private sector innovators
who will spend six months in Washington partnering up with the
govemment’s top innovators to meet straightforward goals: improve the
lives of the American people, save taxpayer dollars and fuel job
creation across the country.

He concludes his letter

That is the legacy of Edison and Bell. That is the story of Google and
Twitter. That is what landed NASA’s Curiosity on Mars, reminding us
that our preeminence — not just in space. but here on Earth — depends
on investing wisely in the innovation, technology, and basic research
that has always made the United States the envy of the world.

So for those of you still not sure whether you are going to go out and vote -- read these and think about who you want to be in the White House, and appointing Supreme Court Justices, when the issues of new neutrality, so-called online piracy (the rebirth of SOPA is already underway), and decisions about budget-cutting in government research funding. 

I think the differences between the two candidates on issues of interest to the computing and information innovation communities is clear.

Remember the important thing is to vote!!

 -Jim Hendler
Computer Scientists for Obama
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