Shortlog - a log of everyday things



So, my epic post from yesterday refers to the 2010 State of the Union, not the 2011 one. Epic fail, Drew, epic fail. I'll be reviewing the transcript (but not the video, since the white house has decided that it'd rather post the video to youtube than host the .mp4 for download (scratch that, there's a download link on youtube (the first time I've seen such a thing - apparently they do this for public domain videos))) (update: 1.3GB .mp4 here) and hopefully critiquing the more recent words. I'd like to point out that most of my critique from yesterday still stands.

Education: statement about the Jews having figured it out still holds.

"We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world." Yeah; pity that we only do the first of those.

"We need to take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government." Yes! Please, nation, take responsibility. Reform things more efficient and spend less.

"This is our generation's Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven't seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -- (applause) -- an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people." Hey, there's that clean energy technology bit again. Same caveats still apply - fund the research until it can pay for itself over its lifetime. Only then subsidize deployment. All right. Hey, this next quote also sounds good. "We're telling America's scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we'll fund the Apollo projects of our time." Sounds like good research to me.

"So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America's electricity will come from clean energy sources." Eh. 2035 is kinda far away. We put a man on the moon within a decade; at a glance, this is not as ambitious as it should be. Someone who knows energy, please correct me.

On education: "That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It's family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done." Yes. I'd love for the public to care like that. Keep at it.

"And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that's more flexible and focused on what's best for our kids." Yes, please! Get rid of No Child Left Behind; it's a program that fails our best and brightest, who in turn are the ones who create businesses and jobs and breakthroughs.

"And this year, I ask Congress to go further, and make permanent our tuition tax credit -- worth $10,000 for four years of college. It's the right thing to do." Okay, education is my soft spot. You can just about ask for a blank check for schools, and I'll sign my name on the line. That said, I'm not sure that tax credits are the right way to implement this, though. Schools, as much as I love them, are frightfully inefficient beasts, full of bureaucracy and excessive layers of management (at least, the UC system is). I wonder if we could afford students the same level of benefit by making the schools more efficient with their funds. Maybe I just don't understand because I've been fully funded to attend school all my life.

Another probably controversial question: will a society consisting entirely of college graduates be sustainable? Or will we have a similar situation as we do now, except the person ringing up your fast food order will have a BS instead of a GED? I'd love to see some data or a study suggesting either way; I've really got no clue. I'd love for everyone to be that well-educated, but I also need a reality check.

On illegal immigrants: step 1 must be adequately securing our borders. Unless you have fully secured your borders, offering amnesty is simply incenting more illegal aliens to get here faster, so they can be part of the next amnesty grant. Call me cold, but this should apply to the children, too. Children have always suffered and will always suffer for their parents' indiscretions. Sadly, this situation is no different.

On infrastructure: yep, same as last year. I'm curious as to how we'll be doing the bit with private industry. For example, in the Dallas Fort-Worth area in Texas, there are a number of toll roads. These were funded with taxpayer dollars, but are privately owned (some, ultimately by overseas corporations) and will likely never pass into American hands. Should such crucial infrastructure be owned and operated by foreigners? Should we be giving these tax credits to foreigners? If the goal is making competitive infrastructure with the rest of the world, I think the answer here is no. So again we'll have to be careful how this is implemented. The devil's always in the details.

"Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail." Splendid. I was always disappointed that we didn't have railcars like Japan, China, Korea, and Europe. Those things are sweet.

The next remark was flippant, but hit me like a sack of bricks. "This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying -- without the pat-down." (emphasis mine). Whoa. Either 1) we're going to need good security for these newfangled expensive rail systems that we want all these people to use, 2) we don't actually need the invasive pat-downs from the TSA, or 3) both. In any case, this remark is completely off-base. I find the fact that the President is making light of the erosion of my freedom to not be groped when I travel about the country very alarming. Very alarming indeed. This is not a perk, and it should not be a motivator for developing new rail systems. I'd like them to stand on their own merits, thanks.

On Internet access: by all means, fund it, but make sure the public is getting what it's paying for. That means strong assurances of Net Neutrality, the cornerstone of the Internet's equalizing power. Net Neutrality has been the de facto standard for many years, and thanks to the geniuses behind TCP, it's in everyone's interests to reduce congestion, and proportional-share allocation already works. Without Net Neutrality, big companies will be able to edge out small startups. If it weren't for Net Neutrality, we wouldn't have Google, Facebook, or Twitter, because they would not have been able to grow and compete on a net dominated by large anticompetitive companies. The FCC decision does not provide adequate Net Neutrality provisions for wireless carriers. Increasingly, our young and poorer demographics use their cell phones as their only source of Internet access. Failure to provide Net Neutrality will ultimately prove an unfair disadvantage to these peoples in the digital world. I do wish Obama had mentioned the importance of Net Neutrality in promoting innovation - it ties in so well with the rest of his platform.

On simplifying the tax code: great idea. We'll have to see how that plays out.

On regulations: very diplomatically handled.

On health care: everything I said yesterday still stands. "What I'm not willing to do -- what I'm not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a preexisting condition." Again: someone's gotta pay for it, and we already spend more than every other nation in the world per capita on healthcare. And whereas the healthcare bill was presented as reducing our deficit, it has yet to deliver on that promise.

"Now, the final critical step in winning the future is to make sure we aren't buried under a mountain of debt." Ah, finally, the deficit question. He proposes the spending freeze, Gates agrees we can do without some of our military funding, still only accounts for tiny portion of our expenditures. "Now, most of the cuts and savings I've proposed only address annual domestic spending, which represents a little more than 12 percent of our budget. To make further progress, we have to stop pretending that cutting this kind of spending alone will be enough. It won't." Damn right it won't. Let's hear the rest. "...the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it -- in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes." Again, agreed.

"To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations." Ugh. No. We should get rid of the program entirely, and stop playing musical chairs with the debt. It is not the government's place to provide for the elderly. "We must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans' guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market." do you propose we cut costs, again?

On transparency in government: yes, put all that stuff on the Internet. And more. And stop playing silly games classifying documents that don't need to be classified. And keep up with the FOIAs. And quit claiming "state secrets" to cover up things that the citizenry won't agree with. Thanks.

Blah blah blah terr'ism. Shouldn't have been in all these countries to begin with; it's about time we got out of there.

And the rest was meant to be inspiring, but didn't really work on me.

So, in review: an awful lot of the same things. Education, science, and development. Some shenanigans about spending and the deficit. And then closing with inspirational remarks. Sounds like a recipe.


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Jonathan K | 2011-01-26T22:51:05.925786

What is entertaining is that I read your post and didn't realise, so either I also read the wrong State of the Union, or the messages from this year's were not all that different from last years...

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Drew Fisher | 2011-01-26T22:59:26.150079

Okay, I finally finished my writeup for this year's State of the Union. As you noted, they were indeed surprisingly similar.

It's really quite hilarious that my housemate Andrew and I managed to have a 10-15 minute debate over the State of the Union last night, and neither of us realized that we were talking about completely different speeches. When I told him today, he laughed to the point of incapacitation. It was pretty great.

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Jeff Jensen | 2011-01-27T12:03:16.855044

Regarding the Energy... I sat in on a seminar with some puffed up folks from GE. They maintain a statistic on wind and solar energy, that I find difficult to believe but necessary. To support our current energy needs, we would need to build 1 2MW wind turbine every 36 seconds... You and I both know that's not feasible. On the other hand, it must be taken into equal consideration that the growing dependency on electrical power will increase dramatically, raising the bar for clean energy output. From this basis, the GE spokesmembers predicted about an 18-20 yr. timeframe. hope that helps. -Jeff

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Drew Fisher | 2011-01-27T12:20:50.677501

@Jeff: Wow, that's a frightening statistic. We've got a long way to go - heck, the Department of Energy was founded in the 70's in response to the oil crisis. We seem to still be pretty dependent on oil, but on the upside, Steven Chu and the DOE seem pretty keen on changing that fact.