There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory… Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea — God Bless! [sic] Keep a Big Hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

Elizabeth Warren (via jacobjoaquin)

Up next: a public hearing on employee-non compete agreements at the State House

As some of you know, I wrote a post almost two years ago taking a stand against employee non-compete agreements which are legal and enforced in my state (MA) and many others.

I was thrilled that a number of public debates and panels have take place since then on the subject. And many entrepreneurs, VCs, CEOs and employees have voiced their support in this effort to get rid of employee non-compete agreements. These efforts led to House Bill 1794 which attempts to limit the use and term of such agreements.

People have asked me how they can help. Until now, I responded by saying that we need to do this in a grassroots fashion. Blog & tweet about it. Get rid of these things in your organizations, tell your VC, tell your board, tell your employees that you don’t want these things anymore.

Right now, I’m asking that you do all of that but I’m asking for one more thing.

There will be a public hearing on this issue at the State House on Oct 7th at 10:30am. The hearing is to discuss the merits of House Bill 1794 which is an effort to reduce the employee non-compete agreements significantly.

Please show your support and attend this public hearing. If you can’t attend in person then please submit your written testimony in advance (instructions here). Also I ask that you spread the word about this hearing.

I believe this is a very important issue. Competition and innovation go hand in hand.

Update: Scott Kirsner also wrote about this hearing and includes a link to some interesting data.

Gov2.0 ≠ Two party system

We have a problem in our political system.

I realize this is an understatement to say the least. We have several issues that mess with democracy ranging from gerrymandering, campaign finance, lobbyists, lack of run off elections, education/awareness, well I could continue but I’m trying to stay positive :)

I have been following the Gov2.0 movement which Tim O’Reilley powerfully described in Forbes recently:

Yet there is an alternate model, which is much closer to the kind of government envisioned by our nation’s founders, a model in which, as Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to Joseph Cabel, “every man … feels that he is a participator in the government of affairs, not merely at an election one day in the year, but every day.” In this model, government is a convener and an enabler–ultimately, it is a vehicle for coordinating the collective action of citizens.

I love the idea that Gov2.0 can provide transparency, education, awareness and ultimately participation. I am excited about the possibilities. Thankfully, Tim is talking about something more profound than politicians using the web solely as a fund raising vehicle – (although we know how powerful grass roots funding can change an election.)

But in my mind much of this vision is limited by our current 2 party, winner takes all, electoral system. That’s why as long as I can remember we, as citizens, have been less than satisfied with Congress. Many times we are simply picking the lesser of two suboptimal candidates.

Specific example: During Obama’s speech on healthcare last week (which was mostly great) he took a shot at Republicans for funding wars we couldn’t afford. As he made the comment, Pelosi and Biden stood up smiling and gave a rousing applause. And so did most, if not all, democrats. But the problem with this is obvious: the democrats went along with the war effort. They gave Bush permission and then they funded the war again and again and again.

I thought my party (democrats) were going to end this war and bring our troops home. There was a powerful anti-war movement in this country that participated in the election of many House democrats and our President. Some of us feel let down now. What should we do about it? Vote republican in the mid-term as a payback. Huh?

There are plenty of additional examples where our elected officials let us down but it’s not clear what we should do about it. Switch parties?

I am passionate about Gov2.0 and believe it has enormous potential.

I hope that Gov2.0 provides the catalyst to move on from our current two party system to realize it’s fullest vision. It’s going to have to be grass roots if it’s going to work at all.

To end this post, I’ll leave you with Tim O’Reillys talking about Gov2.0. It’s excellent.

A Change Is Going To Come – Arcade Fire

Yesterdays ruling in California re Prop8 is heartbreaking. This is a civil rights issue. Unfortunately the legal system won’t fix this inequality right now. But equal rights is coming. It must. And if the courts won’t fix this, then it needs to be solved in the at the ballot box. That’s our duty.

The fear card is being played on us again

The fear card is being played on us again.

This time it’s fear of closing Guantanamo.

Republicans have created this as a wedge issue. And I’m not surprised. They have been clear since the beginning that they are in favor of that place.

But now my party, the democrats, led by Senator Harry Reid participated in a vote last week, 90-6, in favor of keeping it open.

The rationale: fear.

The logic goes like this: where are we going to put these suspected terrorists? We can’t put them in our prisons on US soil. That would put our country at risk?

This is such a load of crap and fear selling of the worst kind.

We have dangerous criminals in our prisons today. There hasn’t been a breakout in maximum federal prison in forever. We spend billions of US tax dollars to build such secure places.

Our leadership in the senate has let us down big time.

We need new leadership in the senate. This group isn’t getting it done.

The public school system is failing those who need it most

Lauren and I went to a lunch yesterday and met with US Senator Michael Bennet.

Senator Bennet talked about a number of things but I felt much of his passion around his desire to fix our public schools. Prior to becoming Senator he was the superintendent for the Denver Public Schools.

He had a balanced view about the blame (all of us adults, not the kids) but he first shared a few data points to make the point loud & clear. Here’s some of the things I learned.

-70% of 8th readers don’t read at their grade level

-a nine year old from a low income family is already 3 years behind their high income peers and has a 1 in 2 chance of graduating high school and 1 in 10 chance of finishing college

– 1.2M of our students drop out of high school every year. Globally we rank 20th amongst industrial nations for high school graduations. Forty years ago we were first

Great education starts with the best teachers. And we are not helping recruit and keep our best teachers either. Current salaries are beyond ridiculous for teachers. We need to fix that. Teacher unions and the administrators need to ditch their current power struggles for the old discussion and ditch sacred cows. They aren’t working. Currently half of our public school teachers quit in the first five years.

There were many more stats and facts shared but the Senator’s punchline was clear when he said, "Our public education system, as designed, does not work well enough for all children in this country, and, for our poorest children, barely works at all.“

I am fortunate that our kids live in a town where we have good public schools. And I am hardly the expert in public school matters across our nation. I learned a lot yesterday about things I knew in my gut. I need to learn more about these issues and how we can help.

I am convinced the first step is stand up and acknowledge the current model isn’t working. We can’t accept it. We can do better.

We made a campaign contribution yesterday. I think Senator Bennet is exceptionally bright and believe he’s focused on the right issues. I hope he keeps his office next year.

Sometimes when we see numbers it’s hard to put them in context.

Consider the absolute numbers of people that aren’t educated or live in poverty or don’t have adequate healthcare. The numbers can be overwhelming.

This visual presentation helps by asking what if the world was condesed to a village of 100 people. Worth watching.

(please note: the text in the beginning was meant to go fast to make a point about how confusing the numbers are without context)

That moment you realize you are in a room full of democrats

Last summer we moved to a different town outside of Boston.

Since then we are meeting lots of new people. Mostly through our kids but also getting to know the neighbors. And I joined an indoor soccer team.

Last night we went to a dinner party hosted by one of our neighbors. I didn’t know their political pusuasion and I wasn’t going to bring up politics.

But during dinner our host brought up politics. And it was clear he was a big Obama supporter and against many of the Bush policies of the past 8 years. And the other couple chimed in as well with a similar sentiment.

Don’t get me wrong. I have plenty of conservative friends. And I have friends that are way left of my politics.

But there is something nice about meeting relative strangers and happily discovering their politics. It’s more than just a breathing a sigh of a relief. It’s just a nice breath.

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(in direct contrast, I had the opposite situation last week on a train heading home from NYC. The train was packed. I was sitting in one of those Amtrak seats that was 2×2 facing each other. The two guys across from me were older, highly educated but avid supporters of Bush, Gitmo, bombing Iran, tax cuts for the rich and generally cynical about Obama. That was a tough 3 hours to take. Fortunately my Bose headphones did their job).

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