Monday, January 31, 2011

White House Announces "Start Up" Initiative for Would Small Businesses

White House to Launch “Startup America” Initiative
Administration and Private Sector Campaigns will promote entrepreneurship and innovation

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama laid out a plan for winning the future by out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building the rest of the world.  This week, the White House will hold a number of events to focus on innovation, and how we can create the jobs and industries of the future by investing in the creativity and imagination of the American people.

Today, the White House will launch “Startup America,” a national campaign to help America achieve these goals by promoting high-growth entrepreneurship across the country with new initiatives to help encourage private sector investment in job-creating startups and small firms, accelerate research, and address barriers to success for entrepreneurs and small businesses. 

President Obama said, “Entrepreneurs embody the promise of America: the belief that if you have a good idea and are willing to work hard and see it through, you can succeed in this country. And in fulfilling this promise, entrepreneurs also play a critical role in expanding our economy and creating jobs. That’s why we're launching Startup America, a national campaign to help win the future by knocking down barriers in the path of men and women in every corner of this country hoping to take a chance, follow a dream, and start a business.”
At an event at 11:00 am ET on Monday at the White House, Gary Locke, Secretary of the Department of Commerce; Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of the Department of Energy; Karen Mills, Administrator of the Small Business Administration; Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council; Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and a number of America’s top entrepreneurs and business leaders will hold an event to launch the program. 

President Obama continued, “Startup America also represents a historic partnership with business leaders, investors, universities, foundations, and non-profits, and we're urging others to join them in this effort. For entrepreneurs speak to what's best about America, and in their drive and innovative spirit -- in their willingness to take a risk on a bold idea -- we can see the future. We can see how America will compete and win in the 21st century global economy.”

Answering the President’s call to action to invest in job-creating startups, leaders in the private sector will launch the “Startup America Partnership,” an independent and private-sector led campaign to mobilize private sector commitments.  Steve Case, co-founder of AOL and Chairman of the Case Foundation, will chair the Partnership, and Carl Schramm, President and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation will be a founding board member.  Case and Schramm, along with entrepreneurs from across the country, will join administration officials at the event.

As a part of the White House’s “Startup America” initiative, the administration will announce new initiatives and incentives to encourage the private sector to invest in new startups:

  • The President’s new budget will propose making permanent the elimination of capital gains taxes on key investments in small businesses, which was passed as a temporary provision in 2010 as part of the Small Business Jobs Act the President signed in September.  The budget will also propose expanding the New Markets Tax Credit to encourage private sector investment in startups and small businesses operating in lower-income communities.

  • The Small Business Administration (SBA) will direct $2 billion in existing guarantee authority over the next 5 years to match private sector investment funding for startups and small firms in underserved communities, as well as seed and early-stage investing in firms with high growth potential, through its Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program.

  • Together SBA and the Department of Energy will boost high-quality mentorship for cleantech startups, while the Veterans Administration is launching new training programs for Veterans who want to start new businesses.

  • The Department of Commerce will expand the i6 Challenge to help foster the commercialization of clean technologies, and are finalizing a plan to allow entrepreneurs to request faster review of their patents, an initiative that should lower patent pendency times overall and speed the deployment of new ideas to the marketplace.

Some examples of the private sector and philanthropic commitments that will be announced alongside the launch of the “Startup America Partnership,” the private sector initiative, are below:
  • Expand startup accelerators that provide seed funding and intensive mentorship, allowing the Astia network to serve twice as many women entrepreneurs, the MassChallenge competition to extend its national reach from Boston’s Innovation District, and the new TechStars Network to boost the success rate of 6,000 entrepreneurs in 15 regions, including Miami, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, Nashville, and New Orleans. 

  • Scale up programs that prepare K-12 and college students to start their own companies, such as the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, Blackstone LaunchPad, Junior Achievement, National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, the Virtual Incubation Network for America’s Community Colleges, and the Artists & Instigators Practicum.

  • Increase corporate investment and support for startups from companies such as Intel, HP, IBM, Facebook, and others.

  • Foster innovation and entrepreneurship in states and regions such as Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and New Orleans, building on the success of models such as JumpStart America and the Deshpande Foundation’s innovation centers.

A full fact sheet is available HERE.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sarah "Pinocchio" Palin Tries More Dishonest Damage Control

Sarah Palin made a decision a long time ago to strongly ally herself with gun owning middle America, and has included comments in her speeches, press release pictures, and even her website that involve guns. She has exhibited a pattern of behavior that closely associates her with guns, as exampled in this picture:

It was Sarah Palin who said after the passing of the Health Care Reform Act:
"It's not a time to retreat, it's time to reload."
She caught flack for this inflammatory comment, defending her statement by saying she was misunderstood:

 "Palin urged the media not to read any incitement into that other than re-dedication to the upset of the D.C. political establishment that's still celebrating the healthcare bill's first signing."

It was Sarah Palin's website that had this map on it:

Now that one of the people on this list has suffered an assassination attempt after vocally complaining about being a marked target, Team Palin has announced that these are not cross-hairs on the map, they are "surveyor's symbols". Through my experience this latest spin of the facts seems nothing less than the elaboration of a bad liar. I am hardly alone in that thought.

I have two questions:

1. If these were "surveyor's marks" on Palin's map, why wasn't that made clear prior to the shooting when Congresswoman Giffords complained about this map on national television?

2. Would surveyor's marks change the fact that these people were targeted?

It does not seem that this gunman in the Tucson Shootings was motivated by Palin's rhetoric. I'm confident there are others out there that Palin's message could motivate into violence. I am glad to see Palin has conceded the point enough to have pulled the offensive map from her website.

Maybe someone told Palin that she shouldn't show weakness now at a time when she is being attacked from all sides over her rhetoric, and that she needs to continue defending her talking points. To me it seems all her recent actions have done is make her look both insensitive and dishonest.  Insensitive, because she could have spent her time talking about the victims, their families, or the pain America is in over this tragedy, but instead she used  the majority of her time to talk about herself and how she felt attacked. Regardless of whether she was being unfairly attacked she should have known this is a time true leaders would show concern and compassion unconcerned for themselves.

Palin seems dishonest because not even her most ardent supporters are willing to defend her map as innocuous. I say dishonest because even she on her twitter account had this to say about the map in question:

"Remember months ago 'bullseye' icon used 2 target the 20 Obamacare-lovin' incumbent seats?..."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sarah Palin Commits Political Suicide

Sarah Palin is famous for some of the one line zingers written for her by others, like "How's that Hopey, Changey thing workin' out for ya?" spoken by her while at the first ever National Tea Party Convention. Her response to criticism always seems unapologetic and smarmy, as if meant to diminish points made that question her. Often in the past this seems successful enough to cloud whatever issue is brought up against her.

I don't believe this method of argument will work to fend off accusations that her "call to arms" could incite tragedies like the Tucson Shooting.

In questioning whether Palin's rhetoric incites violence people need to review the facts, beginning with her first call to arms. I, like many, was deeply distressed when I heard her comment after the Health Care Reform Bill passed:

"It's not a time to retreat. It's a time to reload."

The suggestion of violence by calling her supporters to arms against her political opponents seems self evident to most, including Palin it seems, who issued this clarification:

"Palin urged the media not to read any incitement into that other than re-dedication to the upset of the D.C. political establishment that's still celebrating the healthcare bill's first signing."

Almost prophetically, Gabrielle Giffords, the Congresswoman who now struggles for her life after falling victim to a crazed gunman had this to say (link is to YouTube video) about Palin's call to reload:

“Sarah Palin has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district and when people do that, they’ve gotta realize there are consequences to that action.”
 Further evidence of just how intimidating Palin's rhetoric can be shows in this map from Palin's website:

Team Palin must have seen the error of posting this map. Although Palin remains unapologetic, this map is no longer part of her website.

In her address of the Tucson Shooting, Palin used the term "Blood Libel", which is a reference to the false accusations made for centuries against Jews, often to malign them as child killers who coveted the blood of Christian children. It is unclear if she was not aware of the historical reference, or if she meant to use it to signify her complaint that she somehow is a victim too. How chilling.

I believe Palin's stick to your guns approach to criticism is going to amount to political suicide now that people have heard what both her and President Obama have had to say in the same matter. People can see for themselves what true leadership looks like in Obama, whose voice at times quaked with emotional intensity. While Palin shamelessly used her time to try and vilify her critics, our president used his speech to bring us together, rallying us around the heroism done by both survivors and fallen alike, calling us to be active participants in the change we wish to see by finding the hero within us all.

We are, after all, the sum of our actions and intentions. If we remain silent about things that matter then we are paving the road to Hell as our path for the future. I am nobody special, but I will speak my mind and defend what I believe. Through my love for God, my country, and my fellow human beings I start each day with an effort to do my small part, hoping that others will do the same.

Sarah Palin, there are times when one should not conduct business as usual; now is such a time. The fact that you did not already know this when responding to the Tucson Shootings proves to me you do not have the wisdom to lead. Please don't divide our great nation further with any more similar mistakes.

UPDATE: Interestingly, the pictures of the Narnia Ice Queen and Sarah Palin's Hit list both vanished from this article without explanation. If this is a matter of censorship from the shadows they will have a tough time keeping them down now that I have noticed! ;)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Live, Love, and Learn: President Obama Addresses the Tucson Shooting Memorial Service

Live, Love, and Learn: President Obama Addresses the Tucson Shooting Memorial Service

President Obama Addresses the Tucson Shooting Memorial Service

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
At a Memorial Service for the Victims of the Shooting in Tucson, Arizona
University of Arizona, McKale Memorial Center
Tucson, Arizona
January 12, 2011

As Prepared for Delivery—

To the families of those we’ve lost; to all who called them friends; to the students of this university, the public servants gathered tonight, and the people of Tucson and Arizona:  I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow.

There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts.  But know this: the hopes of a nation are here tonight.  We mourn with you for the fallen.  We join you in your grief.  And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy pull through.

As Scripture tells us:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

On Saturday morning, Gabby, her staff, and many of her constituents gathered outside a supermarket to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and free speech.  They were fulfilling a central tenet of the democracy envisioned by our founders – representatives of the people answering to their constituents, so as to carry their concerns to our nation’s capital.  Gabby called it “Congress on Your Corner” – just an updated version of government of and by and for the people.

That is the quintessentially American scene that was shattered by a gunman’s bullets.  And the six people who lost their lives on Saturday – they too represented what is best in America.

Judge John Roll served our legal system for nearly 40 years.  A graduate of this university and its law school, Judge Roll was recommended for the federal bench by John McCain twenty years ago, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, and rose to become Arizona’s chief federal judge.  His colleagues described him as the hardest-working judge within the Ninth Circuit.  He was on his way back from attending Mass, as he did every day, when he decided to stop by and say hi to his Representative.  John is survived by his loving wife, Maureen, his three sons, and his five grandchildren.

George and Dorothy Morris – “Dot” to her friends – were high school sweethearts who got married and had two daughters.  They did everything together, traveling the open road in their RV, enjoying what their friends called a 50-year honeymoon.  Saturday morning, they went by the Safeway to hear what their Congresswoman had to say.  When gunfire rang out, George, a former Marine, instinctively tried to shield his wife.  Both were shot.  Dot passed away.

A New Jersey native, Phyllis Schneck retired to Tucson to beat the snow. But in the summer, she would return East, where her world revolved around her 3 children, 7 grandchildren, and 2 year-old great-granddaughter.  A gifted quilter, she’d often work under her favorite tree, or sometimes sew aprons with the logos of the Jets and the Giants to give out at the church where she volunteered.  A Republican, she took a liking to Gabby, and wanted to get to know her better.

Dorwan and Mavy Stoddard grew up in Tucson together – about seventy years ago. They moved apart and started their own respective families, but after both were widowed they found their way back here, to, as one of Mavy’s daughters put it, “be boyfriend and girlfriend again.” When they weren’t out on the road in their motor home, you could find them just up the road, helping folks in need at the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ.  A retired construction worker, Dorwan spent his spare time fixing up the church along with their dog, Tux.  His final act of selflessness was to dive on top of his wife, sacrificing his life for hers.

Everything Gabe Zimmerman did, he did with passion – but his true passion was people.  As Gabby’s outreach director, he made the cares of thousands of her constituents his own, seeing to it that seniors got the Medicare benefits they had earned, that veterans got the medals and care they deserved, that government was working for ordinary folks.  He died doing what he loved – talking with people and seeing how he could help.  Gabe is survived by his parents, Ross and Emily, his brother, Ben, and his fiancĂ©e, Kelly, who he planned to marry next year.

And then there is nine year-old Christina Taylor Green.  Christina was an A student, a dancer, a gymnast, and a swimmer.  She often proclaimed that she wanted to be the first woman to play in the major leagues, and as the only girl on her Little League team, no one put it past her.  She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age, and would remind her mother, “We are so blessed.  We have the best life.”  And she’d pay those blessings back by participating in a charity that helped children who were less fortunate.

Our hearts are broken by their sudden passing.  Our hearts are broken – and yet, our hearts also have reason for fullness.

Our hearts are full of hope and thanks for the 13 Americans who survived the shooting, including the congresswoman many of them went to see on Saturday.  I have just come from the University Medical Center, just a mile from here, where our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak.  And I can tell you this – she knows we’re here and she knows we love her and she knows that we will be rooting for her throughout what will be a difficult journey.

And our hearts are full of gratitude for those who saved others.  We are grateful for Daniel Hernandez, a volunteer in Gabby’s office who ran through the chaos to minister to his boss, tending to her wounds to keep her alive.  We are grateful for the men who tackled the gunman as he stopped to reload.  We are grateful for a petite 61 year-old, Patricia Maisch, who wrestled away the killer’s ammunition, undoubtedly saving some lives.  And we are grateful for the doctors and nurses and emergency medics who worked wonders to heal those who’d been hurt.

These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle.  They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength.  Heroism is here, all around us, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, just waiting to be summoned – as it was on Saturday morning.

Their actions, their selflessness, also pose a challenge to each of us.  It raises the question of what, beyond the prayers and expressions of concern, is required of us going forward.  How can we honor the fallen?  How can we be true to their memory?

You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations – to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless.  Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems.  Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding.  In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.”  Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack.  None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.

So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy.  We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.

But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another.  As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility.  Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose someone in our family – especially if the loss is unexpected.  We’re shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward.  We reflect on the past.   Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder.  Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us?  Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in awhile but every single day?

So sudden loss causes us to look backward – but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us.  We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives.  Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order.  We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.

That process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions – that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires.  For those who were harmed, those who were killed – they are part of our family, an American family 300 million strong.  We may not have known them personally, but we surely see ourselves in them.  In George and Dot, in Dorwan and Mavy, we sense the abiding love we have for our own husbands, our own wives, our own life partners.  Phyllis – she’s our mom or grandma; Gabe our brother or son.  In Judge Roll, we recognize not only a man who prized his family and doing his job well, but also a man who embodied America’s fidelity to the law.  In Gabby, we see a reflection of our public spiritedness, that desire to participate in that sometimes frustrating, sometimes contentious, but always necessary and never-ending process to form a more perfect union.

And in Christina…in Christina we see all of our children.  So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic.

So deserving of our love.

And so deserving of our good example.  If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost.  Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.

The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives – to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents.  And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.  It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.

I believe we can be better.  Those who died here, those who saved lives here – they help me believe.  We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.  I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.

That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed.  Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future.  She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful.  She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model.  She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want us to live up to her expectations.  I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it.  All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.

Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called “Faces of Hope.”  On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child’s life.  “I hope you help those in need,” read one.  “I hope you know all of the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart.  I hope you jump in rain puddles.”

If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today.  And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.

May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in restful and eternal peace.  May He love and watch over the survivors.  And may He bless the United States of America.