A “Sputnik” Moment” Obama Pledges to Make Tech a Priority.

President Barack Obama made technology innovation a centerpiece of his economic agenda during an address to Congress…I hope he is serious because I think the USA is “seriously” lagging behind.
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His speech compared Google and Facebook to Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers, and Obama declared that “the first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.”

In an eyebrow-raising rhetorical flourish, Obama said that America had reached its “Sputnik moment,” referring to the Soviet satellite whose 1957 launch embarrassed the United States and eventually spurred President John F. Kennedy to vow to beat the Soviets to the moon, a race the United States won.

“Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the space race,” Obama said. “We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology and especially clean-energy technology, an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet and create countless new jobs for our people.”

In order to pay for his ambitious innovation agenda, Obama said he would ask Congress to cut billions of dollars in oil-company subsidies.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own,” Obama remarked to laughter. “So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.” He said exactly what I have been thinking for years.

Energy was a key component of the speech, and Obama laid out a far-reaching 25-year plan that he said will “give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail.”

He also said that within the next five years “we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans.”

“This isn’t just about a faster internet and fewer dropped calls,” Obama said. “It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age. It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.”

At one point, Obama seemed to scold Congress for letting China and India make such competitive gains against the United States in technology innovation.
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“Just recently,” the president observed, “China became home to the world’s largest private solar research facility, and the world’s fastest computer.”
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I do realize that this road with its gleaming solar panels passes many people below poverty level but China is working to become a powerful country.

Better late than never, right?

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The President’s First Tweet

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Although social media played a significant role in the election of Barack Obama, the President has admitted that he’s never actually used Twitter.

That changed this afternoon though, as Obama “pushed the button” on a tweet for the American Red Cross, whose Twitter account and use of text messaging donations to the tune of more than $20 million has been at the center of the disaster recovery efforts in Haiti.

According to the tweet, the President and the First Lady are currently visiting the organization’s disaster operation center:

While perhaps mildly disappointing for those that still thought @BarackObama was actually tweeting with his own fingers, the tweet on behalf of the Red Cross certainly seems to send the right message as rescue efforts continue in the earthquake ravaged country.

USA Bullet Train a Reality?

President Obama unveiled his administration’s blueprint for a new national network of high-speed passenger rail lines Thursday, saying such an investment is necessary to reduce traffic congestion, cut dependence on foreign oil and improve the environment.
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Amtrack’s version of a bullet train can travel 150 mph but the tracks are so bad the highest speed it can travel is only 80 mph.

The president’s plan identifies 10 potential high-speed intercity corridors for federal funding, including California, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, the Southeast, the Gulf Coast, Pennsylvania, Florida, New York and New England.

It also highlights potential improvements in the heavily traveled Northeast Corridor running from Washington to Boston, Massachusetts.

Each of the corridors identified by the president’s report are between 100 and 600 miles long. The blueprint envisions some trains traveling at top speeds of over 150 mph.

Federal grants would also be directed toward separate individual rail projects that are deemed “ready to go,” with preliminary engineering and environmental work already completed.

“My high-speed rail proposal will lead to innovations that change the way we travel in America. We must start developing clean, energy-efficient transportation that will define our regions for centuries to come,” Obama proclaimed.

The president cited the success of high-speed rail in European countries such as France and Spain as a positive example for the United States.

The plan would be funded in part through the recently passed $787 billion stimulus plan, which includes a total of $8 billion for improvements in rail service. Obama has also proposed a separate five-year, $5 billion investment in high-speed rail as part of the administration’s suggested fiscal year 2010 budget.

“We’re going to make travel in this country leaner and a whole lot cleaner,” said Vice President Joe Biden, speaking before Obama.

The city of Chicago, Illinois, would be the hub of the proposed Midwest Regional Rail System, which would stretch to Madison, Wisconsin, in the Northwest; St. Louis, Missouri, in the South; and Detroit, Michigan, in the East.
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I will be lucky if I am still around when it hits the tracks! My business days in Tokyo were certainly made easier with the “Bullet Train.” I miss having that option.

President 2.0

Obama harnessed the grass-roots power of the Web to get elected. How will he use that power now?

Barack Obama is the first major politician who really “gets” the Internet. Obama used it to build an army. And now, that army of digital kids expects to stick around and help him govern.

Crowd-sourced online brainstorming sessions? Web sites where regular folks hash out policy ideas and vote yea or nay online?

A new government computer infrastructure that lets people get a look into the workings of Washington, including where the money flows and how decisions get made?
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“This was not just an election—this was a social movement,” says Don Tapscott, author of “Grown Up Digital,” which chronicles the lives of 20-somethings raised on computers and the Web. “I’m convinced,” Tapscott says, “that we’re in the early days of fundamental change in the nature of democracy itself.”

Call it Government 2.0. Instead of a one-way system in which government hands down laws and provides services to citizens, why not use the Internet to let citizens, corporations and civil organizations work together with elected officials to develop solutions?

GM CEO is Out!

Rick Wagoner will reportedly step down from the CEO post at embattled General Motors Corp., according to Reuters.

Mr. Wagoner, 56, is cited in the report to be leaving after eight years, and a spokesman is said to have declined to comment. But he won’t be leaving empty handed…He will leave with a severance or bonus of US$ 23 million. Why in the world since under his direction GM lost a huge percentage of its value on Wall Street and extremely high losses.

The troubled automaker has been seeking government funding to keep it from bankruptcy. The beleaguered Mr. Wagoner has been the public face of GM in its quest for funding.

I think the timing is not good though as they have only 60 days to get a plan in place to restructure…who will drive that change?

Obama Makes a Politically Incorrect Comment on Leno

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I am not sure his comment about bowling was appropriate…he said it was like the “Special Olympics”

The next four years he will have a lot of graveling to do to make up for that comment! he will have to divert (earmark) some of the $700 billion to support Special Olympics at least.