Barack Obama wants a National CTO

I am just watching US Senator Barack Obama speaking at Google about his bid to become the next US president [1]. He has announced plans for allowing greater citizen oversight of the government including having all government data in open file formats (a great idea – the Australian Bureau of Statistics has a large amount of data online in Excel format). But his most significant item so far is to have a National CTO (Chief Technology Officer). It’s an idea that seems totally obvious now that I’ve heard it and leaves me wondering why I never thought of it before!

Barack understand technology, wants a functioning democracy, and gets a +5 Insightful from me for the CTO idea!

He also announced a plan to double federal funding for basic scientific research as part of a measure to make the US more competitive with other countries. He mentioned the US standing in the world as a problem (it’s the first mention of this that I’ve heard from anyone in the US government) and notes this as an issue which limits the ability of the US to save lives in regions such as the Darfur. He also claims that there is no clash of civilisations and cites his experience living in a Muslim country as helping to build bridges.

When discussing his reasons for running he said that he believes that he can bring his country together to solve problems better than other candidates. That’s the type of thing you often hear and ignore in political campaigns. It is often difficult to believe that someone wants to be famous and powerful for anything other than the most selfish reasons. But Barack gives me the strong impression that he is genuine.

He stated a plan to shut down Guantanamo bay (presumably just the prison and torture aspect – I’m guessing that he is not intending to close the military base) and to stop “rendition” (sending prisoners to other countries to be tortured).

His plans for education are innovative, as part of educating young children (0-3 years old) he stated an aim to teach parents to read so that they can read to their children! It’s sensible and obvious once you have heard it, but no-one seems to have publicised that idea before. He announced that he will increase teachers’ salaries.

He describes the US as having an “empathy deficit“, it’s obvious to almost everyone outside the US but not something that many people in the US realise.

He wants decisions to be based on facts and is determined to use facts when dealing with health insurance companies.

I just wish that we had some politicians like him in Australia. In terms of policy the Greens politicians would agree with him, but the combination of great policies, insight, and excellent delivery seems a lot better than any of the options in Australia.

Update: Changed the post (including the permalink) to have the correct spelling of Barack. Mental note – double check the spelling of everything in the permalink.

7 comments to Barack Obama wants a National CTO

  • “it’s the first mention of this that I’ve heard from anyone in the US government”

    Except, of course, he’s not in the US government… And if he keeps talking sense, won’t ever be :-(

    They only elect corrupt white murdering madmen, sorry.

  • etbe

    Toby: He is a senator from Illinois, that counts as being in the US government.

  • Actually, that’s an interesting point. In a system like the US’s, where the executive is separate from the parliament, who is classed as the government? The party with control of the executive, or the party with control of the parliament?

    I won’t go into my contempt for a system where people like Donald Rumsfeld can get power without ever having been elected to the position that he was in…

  • etbe

    Paul: In the Westminster system (as used in Australia) the cabinet is composed of people who have been elected to parliament and who are then chosen (by arbitrary and secret criteria) by the party which wins a majority.

    So for any given cabinet position in Australia the person who gets it was elected to Parliament by their local constituents and then received the cabinet position mostly by being liked by the PM.

    The fact that Donald Rumsfeld was never voted for by anyone doesn’t make his appointment much less democratic than someone from a Labour “safe seat” in the current Australian cabinet.

    According to the above page the US Federal government is comprised of the executive branch (the President), the legislative branch (congress and the senate), and the judicial branch (the Supreme Court).

    Bush’s opinion of the rest of the world is well known (we either blindly obey him or we are considered the enemy). The Supreme Court judges don’t tend to comment on such things, and I am not aware of any representative in the US congress or Senate who has said such things other than Barack Obama. Please let me know if you have any evidence to the contrary.

  • Yes, I understand how the systems work. But I disagree with you that it’s not much less democratic; it is much, much less democratic. At least, under a Westminster system, a minister is chosen from a pool of people who were effectively approved by the public.

    As an example, take someone who is truely despised by most of the public. A good example is probably Sol Trujillo, the CEO of Telstra. If he were an Australian citizen, he would have no hope in hell of ever becoming a minister, simply because he is so unpopular, he would be incapable of winning a seat.

    In the US, however, this would be no obstacle to him. In fact, given some of the people who have been in the executive in the past and present, his unpopularity would probably be looked upon favourably.

  • etbe

    Paul: If Sol was given a “safe” Liberal seat then it would probably be possible to get him elected even now. Before he became so unpopular he would easily have got elected.

    Note that Donald Rumsfeld lost his job when he became too unpopular.

  • I think that it would be pretty difficult for Sol even in a safe seat. That said, at least it would give a group of voters a chance to approve him, something that no-one ever had a chance to do with Rumsfeld.

    Actually, I can think of one situation where someone really unpopular could be parachuted into the ministry – via a Senate resignation. I’ve never been too keen on the way Senate vacancies are filled between elections in Australia (ie, the party who held the seat nominates someone).

    It really should go to a statewide by-election.