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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Embracing Change: A Useful Analogy

As I continue to explore my run for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota with the Independence Party, I have endured my fair share of criticism from people who question the relevance of my work in the field of nanotechnology to my run for the senate.

Mike Treder of the Center of Responsible Nanotechnology has a good post on his blog that helps explain why my experience may be exactly what we need in the U.S. Senate. He highlights a quote from the recently released Millenium Report which states: "Many people still do not appreciate how fast science and technology (S&T) will change over the next 25 years, and given this rapid development along several different fronts, the possibility of technology growing beyond human control must now be taken seriously ..."

The report is exactly right: few people have any idea how fast things are changing. One way, however, I have successfully gotten people to think about the future is to the cite a quote from the federal government's first report on nanotechnology. It stated: "Because of nanotechnology we will see more change in the next 25 years than we saw in the last 100 years." To make this point more relevant, I then take my listeners back to 1905. In 1905, I tell them:

-- There were only 144 miles of paved road in America;
-- Only 8000 automobiles;
-- 40% of the American population lived or worked on farms;
-- Less than 5% of the population had even a high school education; and
-- Life expectancy was only 47.

My point is that we have seen radical change in the last 100 years and now, due to nanotechnology -- and other technologies, we can expect to see a comparable amount of change in the next generation!

This means that by 2030, the world will be as different from today ... as today is from 1905! It is impossible to imagine what exactly our world will look like but I am confident it'll be a good one ... provided we have leaders with the foresight and wisdom to embrace technology appropriately.

I am not arrogant enough to claim that I yet possess the wisdom but I do know that unlike my Republican and Democratic opponents that I am at least thinking about these issues and trying to prepare society today for the inevitable change that is coming tomorrow.

Jack Uldrich

Monday, June 27, 2005

Listen to Our Military Leaders ... or Get Out

In today’s Wall Street Journal, General Barry McCaffrey has a commentary entitled “Failure isn’t an option.” In it, he rightly points out that “the American people are losing faith in the statements of our Defense Department leadership.” One reason for that, I would argue, is because the top civilian leaders in the department have consistently refused to listen to our military leaders.

Lest everyone forget, in the spring of 2003, General Eric Shinseki, then Chief of Staff of the Army, was asked by the Senate Armed Forces Committee how many troops would be needed to keep the peace after war. Shinseki forthrightly replied “Something on the order of several hundred thousand.” Paul Wolfowitz, then Deputy Defense Secretary, derided Shinseki’s estimate as “wildly off the mark.” Wolfowitz was supported by Rumsfeld, and Shinseki was quietly – albeit controversially – retired shortly thereafter. In light of McCaffrey’s plea for an additional 80,000 army personnel and 25,000 Marines, it now appears that it was Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld who were “wildly off the mark.”

Until our civilian leaders in the Defense Department acknowledge the magnitude and complexity of the conflict in Iraq and then have the courage to honestly tell the American public what it will take to get the job done, our faith in their optimistic estimates will continue to erode.

I don't support the war in Iraq. I believe it is "the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time" and, as senator, I will oppose it. However, I wish my opponents -- if they are to continue to favor the war -- would at least have the courage to tell the public what it will really take to get the job done. By their refusal to do, they are actually putting the lives of our troops over in Iraq in greater jeopardy. At the present time, our forces are too thinly spread out to offer proper protection to their fellow soldiers.

My point is this: If my opponents are unwilling to call for more troops (an intellectually honest position), then they should admit the alternative ... it is time to get out. The one thing that will not work is the status quo.

Jack Uldrich

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Standing on Principle: Why I’m Opposed to the “Flag Burning Amendment”

Almost 18 years ago as a young naval officer, I took the following oath: “Í do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same …”

It was an oath I took very seriously then, and it is one I feel even more strongly about today. And it is for that reason that I am fundamentally opposed to the “Flag burning” amendment that just passed the House of Representatives.

Over the past 200 years, the Constitution has been amended only 27 times and -- with the exception of one amendment that has since been repealed – every amendment has reaffirmed and expanded freedoms. The flag burning amendment is the first to go in the opposite direction and restrict freedoms! This is un-American.

I love America because it is one of the few countries in the world that not only allows minority, dissenting and unpopular voices to be heard, it actually goes out of its way to protect them! And when I swore to uphold the Constitution, it was this principle that I was swearing to protect. I was not swearing to simply protect a symbol.

The pride and honor I feel when I see the U.S. flag is not with the flag per se, it is the principle for which it stands -- freedom. And one of those freedoms – as offensive as I or others may personally find it -- is the right to burn the flag.

America is so much better than this cheap amendment, and as a United States Senator I will never support it and will actively work against it.

Jack Uldrich

Sunday, June 19, 2005

A Culture of Cooperation

A few weeks ago fourteen senators fashioned a compromise that preserved the right of the U.S. Senate to filibuster judicial nominees. Since that time I have been asked on a few occasions where I stand on the issue.

The short answer is that I would have sided with the 14 senators who negotiated the compromise. I would have done so because I believe it is vital that the rights of the minority be protected in this country -- and often the filibuster is the only method for protecting and preserving those rights.

That being said, I think that leaders in both the Democratic and Republican parties have been guilty of abusing this right in the past. Specifically, I believe that in recent years a number of competent judges have been held hostage by extreme elements in both parties and been unfairly denied a vote on their appointment.

The fact is that most of the judges nominated by both President Clinton and, more recently by President Bush, have been thoughtful interpreters of the law and the vast majority of these individuals deserve to “have their day in court” by having an up-or-down vote in the U.S. Senate.

The bottom-line is that the U.S. Senate has the power to regulate itself in matters such as these. It does not need to resort to extreme measures like the “nuclear option” -- disavowing all filibusters on judicial nominations. What it needs is a strong dose of common sense and it must work to restore a culture of cooperation in the U.S. Senate; and as the first elected Independence Party senator that is precisely what I intend to do.

Jack Uldrich

Friday, June 17, 2005

Time to Think -- and Act -- Big

In 1801, President Jefferson invested $15 million to acquire the Louisiana Territory. The act doubled the size of America and put this country on track to become a global superpower.

In 1865, President Lincoln created the land grant college system. Over the next century, those colleges graduated nearly 75 percent of this country's engineers.

During World War II, President Roosevelt created the GI bill. And after the war, President Eisenhower created the inter-state highway system.

In every case, the initial investments were expensive but, today, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who would say they haven't more then repaid themselves.

Why then do today's political leaders find it so hard to make big strategic investments? I don't know, but as a U.S. Senator I will not be afraid to do so.

Two areas where I will definitely intend to act are in the areas of energy and education -- specifically math and science.

First, energy. It boggles the mind why America isn't aggressively pursuing the development of new, clean alternatives energies like hybrid technology, wind power, solar cells and hydrogen. I have said it before and I'll say until I'm blue in the face: this is a win-win-win situation. Win #1: We lessen our reliance oon foreign fossl fuels. Win #2: We create new jobs here in America. Win #3: We begin addressing the leading causes of global warming. The time to act is now!

Second is education. Within the next decade, China and India will graduate 90 percent of the world's scientists. This is unaceeptable. Science and technology are what will drive future economic competitiveness. It is unacceptable for America to simply sit on the sideline and cede progress to foreign countries. We need to encourage more students to go into math and science and if that means making a sizeable investment in terms of the number of academic scholarships this coutnry provides -- so be it.

I remain a deficit hawk but I will never use that as an excuse not to make big strategic invetsments which I know to be in this country's best interests. It is a lesson that past leaders, including Jefferson, Linclon, FDR and Eisenhower, knew well.

Related Links:
Thinking Outside the Barrel

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Challenging the Myths of Iraq

Forty-three years ago today, on June 11, 1962, President John F. Kennedy addressed the graduating class of the Yale University. In his speech he said:

For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie--deliberate, contrived and dishonest--but the myth--persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

At this moment in our country’s history, it is appropriate—indeed, necessary—to reflect on the wisdom of his words. Recently, the secret “Downing Street memo” has proven what many Americans long suspected and what a few former Bush administration insiders (Dick Clarke and Paul O’Neill) have been publicly saying: President Bush—contrary to pronouncements to the American public suggesting otherwise—“had made up his mind to take military action” against Iraq as early as July 2002 and then worked to make sure “the intelligence and facts were being fixed” around this controversial policy.

The president’s “deliberate, contrived and dishonest” comments about his desire to wage war deserve to be treated as “a great enemy of truth” by both Congress and the American public. However, it is not enough to simply hold President Bush accountable for his blatant disregard for the truth. We, as citizens, must also take to heart the second part of President Kennedy’s prescient advice and challenge the many myths that still shroud our policy in Iraq because they are just as insidious—if not more so—than the president’s deliberate lies.

Two myths are especially troubling. The first is that we sought to overthrow Saddam Hussein to establish a democracy in Iraq. The second is that this war is making the world and America a safer place.

To the first myth, I will accept that America is now struggling to establish a democracy in Iraq (and would go even further and acknowledge that we have a responsibility to help the Iraqi people achieve a viable form of self government); but it is sheer hypocrisy to retroactively state that it was our intention all along to establish a democracy. No amount of public posturing, patriotic speech-making or partisan spinning can free us from the fact that we invaded Iraq on the false grounds that Saddam Hussein harbored weapons of mass destruction.

We now know that he did not. Let us have the courage to admit it. Contrary to the opinion of some, our willingness to take a critical look at ourselves and our motives does not make us weaker, it makes us stronger.

Also, the fact that we have fought just and honorable wars in the past and “made the world safe for democracy” does not mean that this war can be made to fit within those same noble notions. As Kennedy reminds us, too “often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears.” The current war in Iraq is not comparable to World War II and it is disingenuous for supporters to suggest otherwise.

The second myth is even more dangerous and will undoubtedly cause a deal of “discomfort” among many supporters of the war who refuse to be shaken from the “comfort of their opinion” and it is the myth that this war is making the world and America more secure.

It is not.

Every time we kill an innocent man, woman or child or falsely imprison one, we gravely wound our future security by fostering an environment that breeds new enemies. And every dollar we spend prosecuting the war in Iraq is another dollar not invested in creating a brighter, more secure future for our own citizens.

Just imagine if instead of spending $200 billion to fight this unnecessary war, Bush had invested a fraction of that money to develop home-grown alternative fuels and instituted a bold energy policy to wean ourselves off of our costly addiction to foreign oil and help extricate ourselves from having to maintain such a large military presence in the Middle East.

Alternatively, imagine for a comparable investment how much more secure our ports, cities, nuclear power plants and food supplies would be from the very real dangers of a possible chemical or biological terrorist attack. Or, better still, imagine how much stronger we would be if the same amount of time, money and human capital we are now spending in Iraq were dedicated to improving our own education, health care and our transportation systems.

To paraphrase another wonderful quote from President Kennedy, it is time for all of us to start asking “what we can do for our country.” And as he reminded us more than four decades ago in his speech at Yale, one simple way we can do that is by challenging our own “comfort of opinion”—as well as those of leaders—and start engaging in the “discomfort of thought” about our current policy in Iraq.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Insidious link between corporate interests and climate change

If you have ever wondered why we need campaign finance reform, I encourage you to read this article from yesterday's New York Times. The White House's policy on global climate change is being set by a former lobbyist from the American Petroleum Institute! It is yet another example of how corporate interests are taking precedence over the long-term interests of America -- and, in this case, the world.

This is disturbing on a number of fronts. First, the financial interests (i.e. profits) of the gas and oil industry are clearly at odds with trying to control carbon emissions. Secondly, the lobbyist has no training or background in science ... and, therefore, it is rather easy to conclude that he is simply basing his policy on the economic interests of the oil industry and not on science! Issues as serious as global climate change need to determined by science and fact ... not the short-term profits of oil executives.

A few years ago, 68 Nobel Lauruates signed a letter to President Bush stating that global change was a real and serious issue. More recently, the science academies of 11 countries -- including the U.S. -- have stated "the scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action."

So let's start taking action! As your next senator, I promise to not only work diligently to promote renewable energies and reduce the emissions that are contributing to global climate change, I also promise not take money from any corporate or special interest groups.

Related Links:
Just say no ... to Archer Daniel Midlands

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Just say no ... to Archers Daniels Midland

In today's Minneapolis Star Tribune there was a well-reasoned editorial arguing that subsidies to farmers should be capped at $250,000. I encourage you to read it here. As a U.S. Senator from Minnesota, I would support this legislation and would so for a couple of reasons.

First, over 70% of all farm subsidies go to large, corporate farms. There is no reason why we should be doing this ... this is corporate welfare and I am vehemently opposed to giving money to the likes of ADM and Cargill --- especailly when this country has a $400 billion deficit!

Secondly, while I would devote a great deal of the savings from this proposal to deficit reduction; I would also earmark a portion of it to spur rural development. I sincerely believe we need to be encouraging our small farmers to look beyond crop subsidies and start looking instead to the new emerging areas of wind development and biomass as additional sources of revenue and economic development. By promoting wind power, biomass and other innovative programs we can help strengthen and diversify rural Minnesota.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Courage to Chart New Courses

Two hundred years ago this month as Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery made their way up the Missouri River, they came “to the entrance of a very considerable river.” According to all their intelligence, the river wasn’t supposed to be there. In a great understatement, Lewis noted in his journal that this fact “astonishes us a little.”

He then added “[a]n interesting question was now to be determined; which of these was the Missouri.” It was more than an interesting question. It was a question fraught with danger and it had to be correctly answered if the Corps of Discovery were to successfully cross the Rocky Mountains and reach the Pacific before winter set in. A wrong decision would have jeopardized the entire expedition.

Lewis and Clark quickly dispatched two small parties down each river in an attempt to discern which was the true Missouri. The groups returned with inconclusive evidence. Every member of the Corps—with the exceptions of the two captains who remained open-minded—felt the north fork was the Missouri. Their reasoning was simple. Up to that point the Missouri had been slow, brown and muddy and because the waters of the north fork matched these characteristics, they assumed it was the continuation of the same river.

The group’s thinking was the equivalent of someone today (particularly today’s politicians) saying that the future is going to look like the past and therefore the surest path to success is to continue along the most similar-looking route.

After traveling down the separate forks themselves, Lewis and Clark concluded otherwise. At some point in the future they reasoned, the river must run faster, colder and clearer because of melting snows from the mountains. As such, they declared the south fork to be the true Missouri.

Their controversial decision was met with wide-spread opposition. In fact, the expedition’s most skilled boatmen and best navigator “declared it as his opinion that the [north] fork was the true genuine Missouri and could be no other.”

To Lewis and Clark’s immense credit, they stuck to their conviction and, after discussing their rationale with their team, ordered everyone down the south fork. It proved to be the right decision.

On the bicentennial of this event, it is fitting to recall the episode not just because of its historical significance to the mission’s success, but because of its relevance for today’s leaders.

As modern advances in information technology, biotechnology and nanotechnology continue their relentless—almost exponential—advances and the forces of globalization continue unabated, even the most established businesses will be presented with an increasing number of new “forks” that challenge old assumptions and represent new paradigms.

Many knowledgeable people will dismiss the notion that the future will be radically different today and confidently declared it can “be no other” way. But, like Lewis and Clark, it is the job of today’s leaders to think differently about the future, challenge conventional wisdom, and have the courage to move their organizations in bold new directions. As a candidate for the United States Senate, I intend to do exactly that.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Thinking Outside the Barrel

A few weeks ago, Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, co-authored an excellent editorial in the Washington Post with Jonathan Lash, the president of the World Resources Institute. The piece was entitled "The Courage to Develop Clean Energy." I encourage you to read it here.

Essentially what the article said was that America has the brainpower to develop new solar and wind technology and that the commercial marketplace is now moving "green technologies ... into black," but what is missing is political leadership. The authors went on to say "our failure to close the deal on clean power is as puzzling as it is nonpartisan."

They are absolutely right! America can -- and must -- do better. It is the proverbial win-win situation. By promoting clean, sustainable alternative energies not only will America reduce carbon dioxide emission and thus help alleviate one of the main causes of global climate change, we will also benefit economically.

If we fail to act, we will cede leadership to Germany, China and other countries. Today, Germany employs over 40,000 workers manufacturing wind turbines. There is no reason why Minnesota -- which is one of the richest wind resource region in the country -- couldn't employ a similar number of people. (I encourage you to take a look at this "wind resource" map.) But we need leaders with the vision to see -- and then realize -- this potential.

Solar technology is another wonderful opportunity. Solar cells are continuing to become more efficient and lighter. In fact, a few companies are promising flexible solar cells (which can be laid over a home's roof) by 2007. It is not difficult for me to imagine an America in which every home and business has such solar cells installed on their roofs and we radically reduce our need for both coal and nuclear energy!

What we need, however, is vision and the political will to follow through to achieve such a vision.

One of the reasons I am running for the U.S. Senate is provide that vision -- and the political will. The bottom-line is this: we need more leaders who can "think outside the barrel."

P.S. I will be addressing the opportunities of fuel cell technologies in a separate post.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Words into Action

Over the course of the next few months as I continue to actively explore a candidacy for the United States Senate, I want to engage the citizens of Minnesota in a serious discussion about the future direction of this country. To that end, I have developed this blog in the hopes that average citizens can not only read my views on a variety of issues, but also share their thoughts, ideas and concerns on these—or any other—topics with me.

Ideally, I want to have a constructive dialogue—one which embraces a diversity of opinions and is free of unconstructive criticism—and leaves me better informed about how and what people are thinking about the most pressing issues of the day; and provides you a clearer understanding of how I am thinking about, learning about and attempting to deal with these complex issues.

To get things started, I want to share with you why I am contemplating a bid for the U.S. Senate. The best way I can do this is to share with you some of my favor quotes. They come from a diverse group of individuals including Albert Einstein, Margaret Mead, John F. Kennedy, Gandhi and Alan Kay, and are listed below in no particular order:

We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”
--Gandhi

We need men who can dream of things that never were.”
--President John F. Kennedy

The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”
--Albert Einstein

Never doubt that a small deeply committed group of individuals can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that has.”
--Margaret Mead

The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
--Alan Kay

The two common themes which tie the quotes together are a compelling commitment to the future and the need for individuals to recognize that they have a role (and, I would argue, a responsibility) in creating that future.

For the past three years, since I have left the Ventura Administration, I have written a series of books. Two have been on nanotechnology: The Next Big Thing is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business and Investing In Nanotechnology – which is due out in early 2006; and two have been on the topic of leadership: Into the Unknown: Leadership Lessons from Lewis and Clark’s Daring Westward Adventure and Soldier, Statesman, Peacemaker: Leadership Lessons from George C. Marshall.

The two topics – nanotechnology and leadership – may strike some as odd or incongruent, but in my mind they are perfectly compatible. As a result of my understanding of nanotechnology, I can envision a future of almost unlimited possibilities. I can see an era where ubiquitous, state-of-the-art education; universal, high-quality health care; and cheap, clean, sustainable energy are not simply pipe-dreams, they are very real possibilities.

To achieve these goals, however, we need leadership – real leadership. The change that is being hoisted upon society by the forces of nanotechnology, biotechnology, the mapping of the human genome, and, more broadly, globalization, are very real. We can either harness these forces to create a better society or we can close our eyes and pretend they don’t exist or, alternatively, hope they’ll go away.

The latter two options are, of course, not solutions at all. Therefore, I am of the very strong opinion that we don’t have any alternative but to engage society in a discussion about our future. The bottom-line is this: we can either allow others to create our future or we can create it ourselves.

I choose the latter. And because I have not yet heard any of the other candidates for U.S. Senate talk in any meaningful way about how they intend to create this better future, the time is fast approaching when I have to put my “money where my mouth is.” Said another way, it is time for me to put my words and beliefs into action, and one way I can do that is by running for – and winning – a seat in the U.S. Senate.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Please encourage others to visit the site and post their thoughts and ideas as well (I intend to update the blog on a regular basis). The first step to creating this new future is to engage others in a meaningful dialogue about how we can create it.