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State of the Union January 29, 2008

Posted by gordonwatts in politics, science.
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“The United States is committed to strengthening our energy security and confronting global climate change. And the best way to meet these goals is for America to continue leading the way toward the development of cleaner and more energy-efficient technology.

To keep America competitive into the future, we must trust in the skill of our scientists and engineers and empower them to pursue the breakthroughs of tomorrow. Last year Congress passed legislation supporting the American Competitiveness Initiative, but never followed through with the funding. This funding is essential to keeping our scientific edge. So I ask Congress to double federal support for critical basic research in the physical sciences and ensure America remains the most dynamic nation on earth.”

From last night’s State of the Union text. I have no idea what these things mean — especially given Bush is a lame duck now. But he did mention the dropped funding. Some of us have been hoping that something might be connected to the stimulus package – but I also agree with the point that funding science is not the right way to make a short term cash infusion into the economy – but it is good for the long term health of the economy (as he mentions).

The word science occurred one other time in the speech, and its context must aggravate most medical researchers:

On matters of life and science, we must trust in the innovative spirit of medical researchers and empower them to discover new treatments while respecting moral boundaries. In November we witnessed a landmark achievement when scientists discovered a way to reprogram adult skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells. This breakthrough has the potential to move us beyond the divisive debates of the past by extending the frontiers of medicine without the destruction of human life.

It is hard to disagree with the statement “respecting moral boundaries”, at least in the abstract. Unfortunately, it is a codeword for all the stem cell research battles.

To put this in some context I looked back at his last three addresses. The American Presidency Project, among other things, keeps many past state of the union addresses in its archive. I looked back at 2007 – science is mentioned once, in the context of the no child left behind law. In 2006 it is mentioned in the context of education and also the proposal of the American Competitive Initiative – which includes doubling the science budget (which got killed). Code words also appear in the context of medical science. In 2005 the word science didn’t appear once. So 2006 was a banner year…

Comments»

1. Nick - January 29, 2008

It’s fascinating that he mentioned science funding but, as you mentioned, he’s a lame duck at this point and he really has the opportunity to say anything he wants to please whomever and doesn’t have to follow through. It would have been pleasant to have him mention the ILC or LHC specifically but I suppose we can’t have it all.

2. gordonwatts - January 29, 2008

Right. Perhaps he is going for his legacy?? Who knows!

3. Anonymous - January 30, 2008

Read
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/28/opinion/28weisberg.html

As well as being so apropos, it is also a beautifully and succinctly written article. Prescient too!

4. gordonwatts - January 30, 2008

Nice opinion bit. Though it makes him sound innocent of all the nastyness of the last 8 years (the stuff we like to blame Rove for) – and he has to bear some of the burden for that. It isn’t just being inept that made him leave the compassionate conservativism by the way-side.

This is also some of the reason why people who are calling for a new type of politics in Washington are a bit deluded if they think someone can bring it in with them. It will require more than that, sadly.

5. Not Even Wrong » Blog Archive » US HEP News - February 4, 2008

[…] Watts notices that in Bush’s State of the Union speech he explicitly advocated increased funding for basic […]


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