I found myself at an unlikely venue the other night – a high-school basketball game. Though never a sports spectator, I was there to watch the high school dance team perform. Watching the game was, well, my ‘pre-game show’. The first game had strong teams, fairly matched, and the visitors maintained a leading spread by 3-5 points. Sometime around the half-time point, the tables turned. Our team began to lead. Not by much but 2-3 points. Consistently.
It didn’t take much to see why – the opposing team was committing more fouls and our team was using the resulting free throws effectively. This continued to the fourth period and, with a few minutes left in the game, an edict came from the visitors’ coach – ‘no more fouls’. Fouls ceased, game returned to normal, and after two overtimes, the visitors won.
The integrity of the game, once restored, allowed the stronger players to perform, and their team to win.
I was watching a political volley of such fouls today from Kellyanne Conway on “This week with George Stephanopoulos”. She remained consistently belligerent in trying to defend and cover up statements of suspect truth. Seasoned journalists and panelists on a subsequent debate remained baffled by the strategy. Like Ms. Conway, they wanted the conversation and debate to rise above reality TV yet were encumbered by the responsibility to report on the facts and call out the lies when obvious.
It was the following sentence that made me connect the current politics to the basketball game –
Now we’re in a position where every time Sean Spicer takes the podium or the president says something, they don’t need to just be fact-checked, you have to presume that they’re not telling the truth.
-Stephanie Cutter, panelist with Stephanopoulos, 1/22/2017
Think about this for a second – when the pattern of bending or ignoring the truth becomes the new normal, then the only final conclusion is that NOTHING stated by the President or his official spokesperson is trustworthy. Just like every offensive or defensive strategy of the basketball game is supposed to be suspect for a foul first, strategy second.
I hope the President’s office can shake the contemporary moniker of “liar in chief”, lest the White House be reduced to a sorry farce.
This off today’s news stories – FCC poised to changes in net neutrality policy
The lobbies, supporters and the FCC continue to make the debate around net neutrality more complex than it really is. Through the various gyrations, the lobby for media and internet companies has figured out that by removing the immediate costs to us end users, they can take us out of the debate. They’re right – most people you speak with don’t really give a damn about this issue because it won’t cost them a dime…. yet.
I have a simple analogy that I’m sure I’ve heard someplace but can’t recall to properly credit – how would you like the public highways to provide priority to those who can afford to pay for high speed driving privilege down the left lane. If the left lane gets filled up, the middle lane becomes available to the payor, continually squeezing the ‘public’ to the right lane, shoulder, and ultimately off the road. It really is that simple in networking terms also.
If you’d like to read my reasoning why – read further. If not, think about your commute this morning and imagine the above scenario.
The news out of FCC this morning hints at rules allowing a Netflix or Apple to pay for better, faster connections to the Internet for better delivery of video. The way it actually happens in Internet hardware is that, in addition to a fatter pipe to the Internet, Netflix is provided a higher Quality of Service that gives a priority to its traffic, through networking gear, over others’ on the pipe. Our corporate networks implement such a priority where telephone traffic is generally given higher priority than someone browsing social networks. Extend this analogy for a moment –
You are entering a freeway and the on-ramp checks your license plate. The freeway computer recognizes that you are a standard driver, checks current traffic, and gives you access and you start driving merrily. A convoy of trucks enters the highway and they happen to pay 10 bucks a truck. Their priority is, therefore, set higher and the highway computer moves your car off any lanes needed by the trucks until they have passed. On the Internet today, it is reality that lanes are so busy that the entity using it as a public infrastructure will be moved off-road (network term: squelched).
We enjoy Netflix, Amazon VOD, Hulu, Youtube, Vimeo, and many other services because the Internet was setup as a public utility without being called one. No one entity had more rights over the other. It isn’t a libertarian concept to seek to keep it that way. Just like our public highways, our common airspace, our electric supply, phone lines, and access to fire department or police, our Internet needs to remain a public utility, devoid of favoritism.
Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Youtube, Vimeo were all startups once. And there will be startups again. Will they get squelched because NBC and Comcast chose to pay for higher QoS and eliminate the potential for competition. Bet your bottom $ they will.
Your senators and representatives need to hear. Your newspaper needs to hear. And ultimately, people fighting this fight need support. Head on over to Freepress and the EFF. Join their work, support their work, and more importantly, spread the word about their work. They’ve made it as simple as a button click.
A common refrain heard during our social media outbursts is what the founding fathers wrote, intended, contemplated and spoke. For some resorting to the refrain, it must be an easy way out – to deflect to those whose words we hold dear but are afraid to read. For others, resorting to the refrain might be tough, knowing that everything we hold as our own guiding principles is countered by the very words written by the founders.
I love traveling to Washington DC. During the many years working as a government contractor, and recently, heading to DC as a part of a lobby effort for one thing or another I hold dear. Throw in the two family vacations to the nation’s capital, I probably have 30-40 trips down. On most, I’ve tried to follow a routine – dinner around Dupont or Adams Morgan, brisk walk toward the White House, then Lincoln Memorial via the Vietnam War Memorial, the Korean memorial, Roosevelt then Jefferson, and finally the World War II memorial before heading back to the hotel. It takes about four hours and, when performed alone, stands for a meditative time. Having done it dozens of times, I can comfortably say that I love the time. The title to this post is the last line from episode 100 of the West Wing. The President, faced with an uprising in the middle east is grappling with the severity of the American response. The words are the last five words from a recently dead President, who gives his ‘successor’ counsel from the grave. The two Presidents, past and present, are of differing politics and beliefs, of acrimony and hatred, but somehow find guidance in the words of another President from a few years ago.he two family vacations to the nation’s capital, I probably have 30-40 trips down. On most, I’ve tried to follow a routine – dinner around Dupont or Adams Morgan, brisk walk toward the White House, then Lincoln Memorial via the Vietnam War Memorial, the Korean memorial, Roosevelt then Jefferson, and finally the World War II memorial before heading back to the hotel. It takes about four hours and, when performed alone, stands for a meditative time. Having done it dozens of times, I can comfortably say that I love the time.
If you have access to the West Wing episodes, go watch episode 100. You won’t need the pre or the post stories to jump in. And if you’re in DC, walk up the steps of Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, around the Roosevelt and Korean war memorials, down and up the Vietnam war and connect with the words written in granite. Forget for a moment your affinity to Fox, CNN or NPR. And before jumping to ‘the founding fathers’ excuse, reflect on the words.
Reality may surprise you.
I just wrapped up a very full day meeting in Washington with several Senators and their staff on the issues surrounding patent reform. This day was coordinated by the Application Developers Alliance, an advocacy group I connected with in December around the time of the House vote on the Innovation Act (House Bill 3309).
Before I go further, political correctness stalwarts as well as trolls themselves are calling for the name trolls be dropped and Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs) be used instead. I will use the term troll instead… it is not only the industry standard name, it also labels these entities accurately.
Imagine receiving a letter like –
Dear CEO – you owe us $1000 per employee at your company for each networked scanner that emails scanned documents and one or more of your employees potentially uses that feature.
Dear Kevin – we noticed that when you picked up groceries for your mom and sister during your recent shopping trip, and delivered them on your way home, you violated our patent on efficient routing for purposes of grocery delivery between retailer and one or more consumers. You owe us $1200 per delivery point for this violation.
Does either sound ridiculous? Yet, one is real and the other… well… the other could become real. In the case of the former ‘letter’, a trolling entity has divided the US into territories where patent attorneys are actively sending demand letters to businesses using scanner to email function. Each letter demands the $1000 compensation. It has ticked off enough complaints and confusion in the business world that state attorneys generals have been called into action.
In a remarkable move, 42 Attorneys General have urged Congress to take action and to provide the Attorneys General to utilize the powers granted to them in assisting the citizens in their states and territories. This letter generated significant buzz during our visit and was largely being seen as a positive action toward patent reform.
Fast forward back to today – and what brought me here to DC. Meetings today covered members of the press, a dozen senators, a number of legislative staffers from senators’ offices, and two representatives from national VC firms – Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures and Jason Mendelson of the Foundry Group.
Trolls aren’t a headache JUST for large technology firms. They are beginning to affect everyday businesses through measures that can best be described as extortion. Send vague letters to businesses large and small claiming that the business is infringing on a patent. Given them a short window to respond with payment or the penalty will go up. If the business chooses to litigate, the ‘fines’ will go higher and potentially private and personal information extracted through discovery of the company’s systems, mobile devices, phones, etc. This is a national problem that affects all of us and household names in my own state – Kum & Go, Bettrlife, Kinze Manufacturing,Iowa Bankers Association, HyVee and more have gone on record documenting their problems with trolls.
It was good to have two very large VC firms and a relatively small angel group represented in DC by our group of three. As Iowans we have an unusually significant sway – whether it is in the first in nation status in the caucuses to having two very senior senators who are respected universally. Senator Grassley’s position as a ranking member of the Judiciary committee makes him particularly powerful in this realm. Those who have read this know that I’ve spoken with him and his staff in the past about immigration issues and found him receptive – even though party politics (and the 2012) election rocked that boat past his control.
Patent reform has taken the form of a 325-91 support in approving the House bill (H.R. 3309) in December 2013. The bill, also called the Innovation Act, immediately received support from the White House . The companion Senate bill (S.1720) was introduced in December and is currently being studied by the Judiciary committee while other bills make their way around the Senate. Our direct request today was for the Senate to move forward toward passage of patent reform in the senate that can pave the way to conference that will resolve the difference between the House and Senate bills before the President can sign it into law.
The key provisions we asked for are –
Clear identification of who is suing (who has the financial interest in the claim)
Clear identification of why the claim is being brought – specifically which portion of the company’s patent is being infringed
Clear identification of how the infringement happened – specifically what did the infringer do wrong
A fee-shifting provision (about who pays what)
Potential for pre-litigation review of a business-process patent through an expansion of the covered business method statute
I reached out to several attorneys in Des Moines who are know for their work in intellectual property, including patents. Several who represent small, innovation focused companies, warn of a chill that could befall such small companies due to the need for paying winner’s attorney’s fees, as they fear that large companies could simply bury the small company under legal costs. Similarly, members of the software community who have business process patents are naturally against provisions that could expand a review of a previously issued patent. I feel that the innovation community is at a greater risk of being attacked by trolls who are using old patents from now defunct companies. These patents, issued in huge quantities after their 1996 allowance, and bought up during the dot-com crash, now are utilized by entities that exist solely to litigate.
Though we haven’t seen this in the Iowa investment community, Jason and Brad both talked at length about how the companies they see closely tend to come into the trolls sights right about the time they receive serious funding or exhibit commercial viability and success. Companies are actively being formed to go acquire patents from companies in bankruptcy for the sole purpose of litigating with that portfolio.
The meetings at Senators’ offices proved very detailed. There was hardly any fluff in the 20-30 minutes we had with each senator, and the Senators and staff did an equal amount of talking and asking. Since we didn’t need to push an agenda with senators who are already on board with patent reform, we offered help and the meetings entered meaningful discussion about ideas, alternatives, and potential solutions. Today, there are the Leahy-Lee (S 1720) and Cornyn-Grassley (S 1013) bills that represent the Senate position and the underlying conversations. Sen Schumer adds teeth to the Leahy-Lee bill via Schumer (Senate 866).
I am a huge fan of the Cornyn-Grassley bill as it clearly covers most of my desired outcomes. Passed independently, either the Leahy or the Cornyn-Grassley bill would resolve a lot. If Leahy-Lee-Cornyn-Grassley-Schumer got married into a single bill, our work today would be very productive.
I left DC with that hope, and plan to remain engaged with the Iowa Senators. The fitting end to the day was flying along side with Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and being able to thank him on his action on this issue.
This article appeared in January 19, 2014 issue of the Des Moines Register’s Business section. It is encapsulated here and the original article is here to discuss my opinion on the recent Net Neutrality ruling by the DC Court of Appeals. ————————————————————————————————————————————————————-
Like many homes, Internet services enter mine via cable connected to a Mediacom box. It’s the same cable that provides me with telephone and video service.
But these services’ similarities, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals, ends there. Even though many of us use the Internet to communicate through text messages, email, Facebook, etc., the court says it is an information service and telephone and video services are communications services.
The distinction is important because Tuesday the court struck down FCC regulation of the Internet on the grounds that the regulatory body cannot control information services.
The D.C. court’s action now opens the way for an Internet provider to selectively block content from whomever they choose. If Mediacom doesn’t like the broadcast network ABC providing access to free streaming shows from the network’s website, they can simply not provide consent (try streaming the recent “Modern Family” episode from ABC, if you’d like to try today). The great firewall of China has come to the U.S., and here it will be controlled by AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Mediacom.
Our government, using the intelligence of lobbyists while checking its own at the door, chose to narrow the definition of communication service in the early 2000s, and despite promises, didn’t fully define the Internet as a communication service during the past five years. The largely impotent Congress, despite constant communication from the masses, remained mired in its own battles. It neither gave the FCC direction to define the Internet as a communication service, nor did it require its chairpersons to act.
You, the readers of this newspaper, still have a little power to act. Our six representatives to Congress need to be reminded by all of you to keep the Internet free of corporate interests. The president needs to be reminded that his promise to reverse the previous administration’s mistake is still not fulfilled. And organizations fighting for your open and free access need your support — monetary and through the power of signatures on the petitions.
The organizations needing your support are the Electronic Frontier Foundation and FreePress.net
So, the Des Moines Register published a view about corporate personhood. The SCOTUS may rule on Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby and allow Hobby Lobby can exercise its religious rights. As ludicrous as I find this claim, I wonder about the resulting lawsuits because…
1. if corporations have personhood, what is the corporation’s sex?
2. if the sex is female, and the corporation creates a subsidiary, does it have maternity rights to no longer fulfil its corporate duties?
3. if one corporation is male and it wants to merge with another male corporation, can it do so in states that don’t permit same-sex marriage?
4. since euthanasia of humans is not permitted, can you no longer take a dying corporation off life support (go from Chap 11 bankruptcy to Chap 7 ABC)?
5. since you can’t own a person, would all public corporations now need to become private as shareholders could no longer be permitted?
6. since polygamy is illegal, a corporation could only merge with one other corporation
7. could a human merge with a corporation and upon his death, transfer his assets to his spouse tax-free in an inheritance?
8. if a foreign corporation merged with a US corporation, could the US corporation move overseas and avoid paying any US taxes?
9. since a corporation can license mirror images of its children (franchises), is human cloning then also permissible?
10. the whole corporate tax debate would be moot, as the individual tax tables would apply to corporations?
11. all corporate taxes would need to be filed on a calendar year basis
12. would a corporation inherit its founder’s race making Google Russian-American and Apple a Syrian-Polish company?
Aren’t there more loopholes in this personhood debate?
I do not intend for this to be a legal debate or religious diatribe. It is but a feeble attempt at satire on a cold wintry night
This article appeared in December 1, 2013 issue of the Des Moines Register’s Business section. It is encapsulated here and the original article is here to discuss my opinion on open records/FOIA as they relate to government contracts and the innovation economy.
The massive debacle that is Obamacare’s website launch is the latest example of what happens when you shut out the innovation economy from government contracts.
As the largest buyer in the country, the U.S. government spends amounts as mundane as a few hundred dollars for goods to hundreds of millions in technology for its various agencies. The services are procured using requests for proposals, or RFPs, multiple award master contracts and, in many cases, no-bid contracts.
These are meant to inject transparency and equal footing for service providers. But they do not.
As a former government contractor, one of the greatest challenges was even finding RFPs to respond to. In the world of public sharing of information, federal, state and even local governments hide behind a labyrinth of systems when they file their requests. Registration systems pre-screen vendors and respondents while creating bond and insurance requirements only a chosen few can meet. This filters out the innovation economy.
It is no surprise that innovation centers of the U.S. aren’t home to government contractors. Innovators don’t have, or don’t spend time developing, lobbyists who simultaneously act as salespeople. Innovators are usually first to market with new ideas and products and are, thus, not often able to provide three or more customer references for people who have used the products.
While Obamacare’s website is the latest technology solution to fall victim to a lack of innovative solutions, it’s certainly not the first. Between 2000 and 2005, the FBI spent $170 million on an ultimately abandoned software application that ended up being “incomplete, inadequate” and “unusable under real-world conditions,” according to a Washington Post report. The job was done by an American defense contractor.
We must demand more public access to how our dollars are being spent and give innovators a chance to help.
Almost as old as the United States of America itself, this particular portion of the Bill of Rights known as the fourth amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. It states –
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
As many who are vigilant against the activities of the US Government and its intelligence network have pointed out since late 2001, the police state is growing in its clandestine watches against its citizens. It took the audacious acts of Edward Snowden in the early 2013 to actually wake a few more Americans to the issue. Though a bit more familiar, we remain woefully clueless and apathetic about our eroding privacy. And the Government continues to expand its reach.
Unsurprisingly, there is a neighbor of the fourth amendment under a similar onslaught. Though I happen to fall on a different side of the debate, I find it admirable that the proponents of gun ownership have attached themselves so tightly to the second amendment which, according to the text, merely states –
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed
Though its various words and phrases are perpetually in question, the second amendment is seen nationally as sacred and not to be infringed upon. It is considered sacrosanct enough to be attributed to the founding fathers who must have intended American’s to always have the right to bear arms. Yet, we forget that the fourth amendment too is a creation of the same founding fathers (introduced by James Madison and announced by Thomas Jefferson).
What is obviously lacking isn’t patriotism or some sense of right or wrong. What I believe is lacking is the mean marketing machine that is the benefactor of the second amendment (and incidentally the beneficiary). If the NRA didn’t exist, would the general public alone be able to protect its right to bear arms?
Many of us in the tech world expressed outrage, chagrin, and outright anger at Snowden’s revelations. We teamed up against SOPA and PIPA (and for a short time, won), we rallied against ACPA, immigration laws etc., but always went back to our keyboards, expecting our lives to remain normal and untouched by the bureaucrats. How wrong we were. We need an organization, national in scope, mean in execution, persistent and tenacious. We need an NRA like entity to protect the citizenry from unlawful search and seizure, illegal and warrantless data collection by the NSA, and the propaganda unleashed by Congress and its minions daily.
It turns out that we do have such an organization that is equipped to do many of these things but needs every ‘gun owner’ to join the battle – that is anyone utilizing a computer, a smartphone, a telephone, or a tablet to support the EFF. Follow its writings, its protests, and its campaigns to get to Congress. Support it with your cold hard cash so it can fund the fight, Distribute its links on social media. NSA spying isn’t all the EFF monitors, but the simple history and timeline will get you on your journey.
Join the EFF here.
I was asked this question recently on a visit to DC by Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS). Senator Moran is an outspoken supporter of skilled immigration and the author of the Startup Act 2.0 and I met him at the Kauffman Foundation’s State of Entrepreneurship launch event. Sharing the presence of immigrants at many critical junctures of our State’s launch, and our continued presence and inflow into the State’s economic drivers – our businesses – made the case to him and he shared a few anecdotes from Kansas. Returning from DC, I had the opportunity to submit an editorial to the Des Moines Register with two leaders of our community – Lori Chesser of Davis Brown Law Firm and Jay Byers of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. The editorial lays out many of the important items for our cities and State and is duplicated below.
Seize the day. That is our recommendation to Iowans — including our congressional delegation — regarding immigration reform.
Our outdated system has long hobbled economic growth nationwide, but nowhere more than in Iowa. Immigration reform is a critical element in building a strong economy and a vibrant culture both now and in the future.
Iowa’s economic success depends largely on our ability to enhance international connectivity to compete in the global marketplace. This includes increasing exports, facilitating foreign direct investment, and attracting top talent.
But the current system impedes growth on all fronts. Potential trading partners cannot visit the U.S. — or establish branch offices — because of restrictive visa policies. Potential investors are stymied by lack of visas or overly restrictive interpretations of the few visas categories available. Talented students educated at Iowa’s universities — including coveted “STEM” graduates — leave because of a random H-1B visa “cap” and painfully long waiting lines for legal residence.
Entrepreneurship is another key element of a healthy economy, and immigrants have proved to be highly entrepreneurial. A recent study by the National Foundation for American Policy found that almost half of the top 50 venture-backed U.S. companies had at least one immigrant founder. An immigrant-founded venture-backed company creates, on average, 150 jobs.
Again, our current immigration system has few options for company founders, leaving this resource largely untapped. Meanwhile, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and Chile have all created programs to attract immigrant entrepreneurs.
Iowa is also an agricultural leader, responsible for the safe production of food both in the U.S. and around the globe. Reliable estimates indicate that 75 percent of the agricultural workers in the United States are immigrants — most of which are not authorized to work. The main reason is that the current system does not allow for non-seasonal temporary labor.
This restriction also hampers processing and service industries, which often cannot find reliable workers because of the preference for — and accessibility of — post-secondary education. But a robust economy is only one measure of success. Surveys of students and young professionals show that quality of life, including diverse cultural, food and entertainment options, are important to their decisions about where to live and raise a family.
Immigrants — including German, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Mexican and Laotian — are Iowa’s cultural heritage. Immigrants — including Burmese, Iraqi, Sudanese, Bosnian, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, Liberian and many others — are our cultural future.
Recent announcements by both President Obama and a bipartisan group of senators, along with the bipartisan introduction of the Immigration Innovation (Isquared) Act, and a day of thoughtful hearings on immigration reform in the U.S. House of Representatives last month encourage the hope that real change could happen.
To secure a bright future for Iowa, we must make it happen. The right immigration reform will spur economic growth, create jobs and foster a cultural richness that has made America what it is today. Iowans particularly will benefit from these changes. Let’s seize the day.
I guess I was wrong in guessing it would take Congress forever to get anywhere with Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Senator Harry Reid has introduced S.1 in the Senate, where it was read and sent to the Judiciary Committee for review. The official bill isn’t visible on Thomas.gov yet, but the text per The Oh Law Firm states – S. 1
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.: This Act may be cited as the “Immigration Reform that Works for America’s Future Act”. SEC. 2. SENSE OF THE SENATE: It is the sense of the Senate that Congress should–
(1) create a roadmap for immigrants who are here without legal status to earn citizenship, provided they pay taxes, complete a background check, learn English, and show a commitment to America;
(2) allow students who came to America as children to earn citizenship by attending college or joining the Armed Forces;
(3) protect the sustainability of the American agricultural industry, including the dairy industry, with a stable and legal agricultural workforce;
(4) encourage those who seek to invest in the United States and create American jobs;
(5) permit and encourage individuals who earn an advanced degree from one of our world-class universities to remain in the United States, rather than using that education to work for our international competitors;
(6) fulfill and strengthen our Nation’s commitments regarding security along our borders and at our ports of entry;
(7) strengthen our Nation’s historic humanitarian tradition of welcoming asylum seekers and refugees and improve existing policies that support immigrant victims of crime and domestic violence;
(8) create an effective electronic verification system and strengthen enforcement to prevent employers from hiring people here illegally;
(9) implement a rational legal immigration system that promotes job creation by converting the current flow of illegal immigrants into the United States into a more manageable, controlled, and legal process for admitting immigrants while, at the same time, safeguarding the jobs, rights, and wages of American workers; and
(10) adopt practical and fair immigration reforms to help ensure that all families are able to be together.
So, Items 1, 2, 3, and 8 address illegal immigration, #6 is a hattip to southern border states, 4, 5, 9 and 10 address legal, highly skilled immigrants and #7 is humanitarian.
The bill’s sponsor and co-sponsors are all democrats, so I am both frustrated at the likelihood of bickering (hoping I’m wrong again) and the likely death of the STEM Jobs Act.