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Tom Still: Milwaukee needs to grow tech economy
 10.13.17

MADISON — It’s easy to forget, especially if you live there, that the Madison area has a lot going on when it comes to competing in the knowledge-based economy.

Recent reminders were: The descent of thousands of customers on Epic Systems, the electronic health-records giant that commands the lion’s share of the U.S. market; the techie theme at the annual meeting of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce; a UW-Madison campus session on how the $2.6-billion Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation will spark more entrepreneurial activity; and a spate of news about company breakthroughs, grants and investments.

That’s pretty much within a week or so. Community leaders in other cities, including many cities much larger, wish they could see that much momentum in a month.

One such community is Milwaukee, where the seeds of a tech-based economy still need a fair amount of tending.

That was the overall message at a recent meeting of the Public Policy Forum of Milwaukee, where the 104-year-old independent “think tank” raised the curtain on a report that examined how southeast Wisconsin is performing when it comes to building a knowledge-based economy.

The report concluded the four-county metro region has made progress in strengthening its pool of educated workers and in adding scientists, engineers and other tech workers. However, the region continues to struggle compared to similar-sized metropolitan areas when other indicators are measured.

“Our analysis finds that our region has been losing more businesses than it’s creating, and that we’re lagging peer cities when it comes to entrepreneurship and capital formation,” said Joe Peterangelo, the report’s lead author. “These discouraging trends are countered, however, by a growing number of college graduates and an increased number of science and technology workers in our regional workforce.”

The report on “Cultivating Innovation” looked at 20 indicators related to building a knowledge-based workforce, transferring ideas to the marketplace, creating businesses and encouraging entrepreneurs, and attracting the financial resources needed to help companies grow. It compared southeast Wisconsin to other regions. Some key findings:

Educational attainment is rising and the region’s workforce ranks high among its peers. That’s due in large part to the presence of more than 20 colleges and universities in the region or a short drive away.

Between 2004 and 2014, more businesses closed in the four-county region than were opened. “In addition,” the report noted, “metro Milwaukee’s rate of business survival does not appear to make up for the sluggish pace of business creation.”

Federal grants and federally guaranteed loans for business startups, expansions and research activities have declined at a faster rate in Milwaukee than nationally.

Milwaukee underperforms almost all peer regions in attracting venture capital. That finding is supported by a separate Tech Council report, “The Wisconsin Portfolio,” which tracked 136 angel and venture capital deals statewide in 2016. Of 136 such deals, 80 were in the Madison area (58.4 percent of the total) versus 38 in southeast Wisconsin (27.7 percent).

During a panel discussion on the report, I noted the region’s progress but added it needs “three Cs” to grow: Culture, capital and connectivity. In some cities, the culture of entrepreneurism is deeply rooted and capital is drawn to the best ideas, technology and teams. Stronger connections between industry, academia, government and entrepreneurs themselves help create that chemistry.

It didn’t take long for the discussion to get around to the Foxconn Technology Group and its now-revealed plans to build a massive liquid crystal display plant in Racine County’s town of Mount Pleasant.

While the study didn’t analyze the Foxconn factor directly, Peterangelo noted the company’s presence can’t help but boost startup and supply chain activity – so long as the region continues to work on its other challenges.

Milwaukee isn’t Madison and shouldn’t try to be, given its very different history, culture and industrial foundations. However, it’s important that Milwaukee continues to blaze its own path, as the Wisconsin economy still depends in large part on a healthy southeast corner.


Columnists
Ann McFeatters: Power-hungry Trump can't get enough
 Keith O'Donnell
 10.13.17

WASHINGTON — Let’s consider abuse of power.

Long after NFL players began taking a knee during the pre-game national anthem to protest racial inequality, Donald Trump decided he could use the movement to cement his political base and change the conversation from his lack of a prompt response to devastation in Puerto Rico.

Trump then argued such protests were an unpatriotic affront to the flag, the military and the country. Never mind the constitutional guarantee of free speech. He called for a boycott of the NFL. He told team owners to discipline genuflecting players.

Trump’s effrontery outraged team owners. Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, took a knee with his players at their next game.

Then Trump ordered Mike Pence, his vice president and a former governor of Indiana, to leave a Colts-49ers game in Indianapolis if anyone took a knee. Several players did. Pence, total toadie, immediately left the game, costing taxpayers $250,000 by flying from California to Indiana and back to California. (Also, the game was a salute to Peyton Manning, former Colts quarterback.)

Trump threatened to use federal tax laws to penalize the NFL’s central office if players continue protesting racial inequality. The White House backed down from that bald misuse of power. Trump was “just making a point.”

But Jones now says Cowboys who “disrespect the flag” won’t play. “If you do not honor and stand for the flag in the way that a lot of our fans feel that you should ... then you won’t play,” Jones said. The owners are considering a “rule” to ban silent protests during the anthem.

Then this week, NBC reported that at a July Pentagon meeting Trump blithely suggested increasing the nation’s nuclear arsenal tenfold. “I want more,” three officials said he demanded. Trump didn’t understand that this would violate international treaties, would be impossibly costly ($30 trillion or more) and is totally unnecessary, according to the military.

Humiliated, Trump suggested it might be appropriate to take away NBC’s broadcast license (it doesn’t need a license; individual stations have licenses). Dictatorships around the globe are sitting up, taking notice of Trump’s assault on a free press.

After the July meeting, NBC reported, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron,” which Tillerson has not denied. Trump reacted by saying he’s smarter than Tillerson and said Senate committees should investigate NBC and other news networks.

Trump has told more than 1,000 documented lies since taking office. But he keeps calling fact-based reports he doesn’t like “fake news.” His supporters love it.

Then, when movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was outed by news magazines for many allegations of sexual assault and harassment, Trump said he is not surprised. We’re not surprised Trump knows about abuse. Trump was caught on an open microphone boasting about grabbing and kissing women and getting away with it because he’s a star. Suddenly, a lot of women came forward to accuse Trump of sexual harassment. Trump reacted by publicly demeaning them, threatening to sue each one.

Weinstein’s and Trump’s illegal behavior is flagrant, illegal abuse of power. Voters in 2016 did not care and elected Trump anyway. Weinstein has been ousted from his own company.

Currently, Trump has been taunting North Korea’s unstable dictator as “Rocket Man,” withdrawing from international climate and trade agreements, and scorning the Iran nuclear deal that five other nations agree is stopping Iran’s efforts to build nuclear weapons.

Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who is not running for re-election, said Trump is getting dangerously close to starting World War III. Trump’s reaction was to denounce and belittle the man he once considered as his vice president or secretary of state. Corker is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Disgusted but unintimidated, Corker compared the White House to a day care center whose attendants were late to work.)

Speaking of North Korea, Trump said, “My attitude is the one that matters.”

Two-thirds of Americans are disheartened by Trump. His response is to distract and pump up his die-hard supporters by appeals to their worst instincts, including, again and again, racism.

Trump’s refusal to learn what he doesn’t know is alarming. So is the idea that Corker, privy to the nation’s secrets, worries Trump could start a war, the ultimate distraction and abuse of power.


Columnists
Doyle McManus: A best-case scenario for the Iran deal
 Keith O'Donnell
 10.13.17

President Donald Trump plans to demand this week that the international agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear programs be revised to make it stronger. He’ll claim that Iran isn’t complying with the 2015 pact, which he has called “the worst deal ever negotiated.” His language will be Trumpian and tough, intended to show that he’s keeping his campaign promise to “rip the deal up.” But Trump isn’t ripping it up. Instead, he’s climbing down — slowly, awkwardly, reluctantly — from a position that made no sense.

In formal terms, Trump is refusing to “certify” that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal, which requires Tehran to reduce its holdings of enriched uranium and allow international inspectors into its facilities.

But Iran is, in fact, complying with the agreement, as even U.S. officials acknowledge. The main U.S. complaint is that Iran has violated the “spirit” of the deal by engaging in non-nuclear activities, including missile research, which the agreement doesn’t cover.

Even more awkwardly, Trump’s closest aides want the deal to remain in force. Last week, Defense Secretary James Mattis told a Senate hearing that it’s in the national interest to keep the agreement alive.

The reason is simple: Whatever its flaws, the deal has stopped Iran from building a nuclear weapon for at least 10 years.

If the United States walks away from the agreement, Iran’s supreme leader would be free to restart uranium enrichment — and most other countries would blame Trump, not Iran.

Trump aides have therefore quietly asked Congress not to reimpose nuclear sanctions on Iran. And instead of dismantling the deal, Mattis and other advisors have given Trump an alternative: Try to fix it.

They’ve listed changes they’d like to see, including more intrusive inspections and longer “sunset” provisions. (The current deal lifts the ceiling on low-enriched uranium and allows almost unrestricted enrichment beginning in 2030.)

They also want new limits on Iran’s ballistic missile effort and international action against pro-Iranian forces in Iraq, Syria and other countries.

Trump aides have floated the idea of demanding a formal “renegotiation” of the 2015 deal, in keeping with language Trump occasionally used during the campaign. But renegotiation isn’t going to happen. All the other countries in the agreement — including U.S. allies Britain, France and Germany — have said it’s not feasible.

Instead, French President Emmanuel Macron has offered what some officials call a “third way”: new negotiations to extend the nuclear deal’s sunset provisions and impose new limits on Iran’s missile development, plus joint Western action against pro-Iranian proxy forces in the Middle East.

Those are ideas with broad support in Europe as well as Washington.

Trump and his aides are actually right when they say the 2015 pact should be strengthened. Even the Obama administration officials who negotiated the deal acknowledge that it didn’t settle every U.S. concern.

Here’s a best-case scenario: After Trump announces his decision, Congress, instead of demanding new sanctions, endorses negotiations to improve the deal, perhaps with additional sanctions authority to give the president more leverage. Trump appoints a tough, high-powered special envoy to pursue negotiations; someone like Dennis Ross, who worked on the Middle East for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Clinton.

Once talks are under way, President Trump can announce that he’s accomplished the moral equivalent of renegotiation, and declare at least partial victory.

That would put the U.S. confrontation with Iran in a category with other Trump foreign policy positions that turned out to contain more bluster than action: his threats to walk away from U.S. obligations to NATO, for example, and his promise to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (which, in Trump’s mind, is another “worst deal ever negotiated”).

There are plenty of ways that benign outcome could be derailed.

Republicans in Congress could bow to pressure from hard-liners and impose new nuclear sanctions (although that looks unlikely; even Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a noted hawk, has agreed to hold off).

Other countries could balk. Trump is deeply unpopular in Europe. Even Russia’s Vladimir Putin may not be in the mood to help an American president who has turned out to be an unreliable friend.

Any negotiations to extend the deal will be multinational, and they’ll require compromise — two words that rarely apply to Trump’s bluster-based diplomacy.

The president will grow impatient. He’ll still have to report to Congress every 90 days. He’ll still have the authority to reimpose sanctions any time he wants. (He doesn’t need Congress’ approval for that, even now.)

But the administration’s internal debates have brought Trump to an unexpected and unwanted conclusion, that ending the nuclear agreement is not in the national interest.

He won’t admit it. He’ll continue to denounce the deal. But he’s not walking away from it — and that gives nuclear diplomacy with Iran another chance to survive.


Calendar
TODAY IN HISTORY
 10.13.16

In A.D. 54, Roman Emperor Claudius I died, poisoned apparently at the behest of his wife, Agrippina.

In 1775, the United States Navy had its origins as the Continental Congress ordered the construction of a naval fleet.

In 1792, the cornerstone of the executive mansion, later known as the White House, was laid during a ceremony in the District of Columbia.

In 1843, the Jewish organization B’nai B’rith was founded in New York City.

In 1932, President Herbert Hoover and Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes laid the cornerstone for the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington.

In 1944, during World War II, American troops entered Aachen, Germany.

In 1957, CBS-TV broadcast “The Edsel Show,” a one-hour live special starring Bing Crosby designed to promote the new, ill-fated Ford automobile. It was the first special to use videotape technology to delay the broadcast to the West Coast.

In 1962, Edward Albee’s four-character drama “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” opened on Broadway.

In 1966, actor-singer-dancer Clifton Webb, 76, died in Los Angeles.

In 1972, a Uruguayan chartered flight carrying 45 people crashed in the Andes; survivors resorted to feeding off the remains of some of the dead in order to stay alive until they were rescued more than two months later.

In 1981, voters in Egypt participated in a referendum to elect Vice President Hosni Mubarak the new president, one week after the assassination of Anwar Sadat.

In 1999, the Senate rejected the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, with 48 senators voting in favor and 51 against, far short of the 67 needed for ratification. In Boulder, Colo., the JonBenet Ramsey grand jury was dismissed after 13 months of work with prosecutors saying there wasn’t enough evidence to charge anyone in the 6-year-old beauty queen’s 1996 slaying.

In 2010, rescuers in Chile using a missile-like escape capsule pulled 33 men one by one to fresh air and freedom 69 days after they were trapped in a collapsed mine a half-mile underground.