Wednesday, February 01, 2006

SOTU Blogging 

I watched the State of the Union for the first time since the run-up to the Iraq war. It was a pretty lame speech, all things considered. Even Fred Barnes only thought it was "more than adequate." The most striking thing to me was the continuation of the War on Straw. (For an early victories in the War on Straw, see here, here and here; for the huge victory Bush had last night in said war, see here.)

Also, via Brad DeLong, we get, really, the definitive word on Bush's SOTU:
The main reason why I didn't watch the speech to hear what Bush would say about science policy is that it doesn't matter what he says. This administration doesn't do policy, they do politics. If Bush says something in a speech, it's because they think it will sound good in a speech, period. That doesn't mean there's a concrete proposal in the works-- if the line in he speech is poorly received, odds are it will disappear without a trace. And even if the line sounds good, that doesn't mean there will be any follow-through-- ask the people of New York, Afghanistan, Iraq, and New Orleans about that.

So, yeah, "double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years" sounds great. So does "If we reverse the polarity on the flux capacitor, we can generate an infinite amount of free energy, and a pony." I'll believe it when I see the pony.
Now, Max has the best, real commentary on the speech I've found:

The president said if the U.S. left Iraq, it would be taken over by Al Queda. Not the Shi'a or the Saddamists. If he doesn't really believe this, he's a flaming liar; if he does, he's a bloomin idiot. We report, you decide.

I was struck by the effort to force democracy (equals elections) and peace into one box. Hamas won an election, so now for some reason they are obliged to make peace with Israel. Free elections in Egypt would allow the emergence of liberal, secular forces. Oh really? Instead of the fundies? Like in Iran?

I thought Tim Kaine did fine, though I was waiting for his left eyebrow to go flying away. "I'm free!" it would cry in a tiny, fuzzy voice. He punted on the war, but there's no unified Democratic position of the war, so there wasn't much else he could do.

I'm tired of the competence meme. Doesn't anybody remember Michael Dukakis? "What matters is not ideology, but competence." Anybody can claim to be competent ex ante and shift blame ex post. The MaxSpeak Competence Theorem states that both parties are more or less equally competent to govern; what matters is their ideology. By ideology I mean broad principles for governing. People who think they have transcended ideology are in the grip of . . . ideology. They just may not be aware of which ideology.

The oil addiction thing was funny. No doubt somebody could switch on the wayback machine and find Republicans heaping scorn on anyone who bemoaned the nation's dependence on petroleum. I was hoping he would get into methane production, wherein the Nation could harness the mighty wind of Bovino-Americans. Overall I liked this part, even though he still can't pronounce "nuclear."

I've already commented on the jobs thing. I'm glad GB made the standard clear: U.S. performance is great because it's better than Europe and Japan.

Where was the big health care blitz? A sentence or two about Health Savings Accounts, also known as Yet Another Tax Cut, also known as a second IRA for healthy, well-off people.

Commissions. Hey kids, let's put on a commission! Remember those movies? A Baby Boom Commission, or BBC for short. There was the Greenspan Commission in the '80s; they fixed Social Security for all time. I sat through the proceedings of the Bob Kerrey/Danforth Commission on Entitlements in the 90s. Clinton had a Social Security/Entitlements Commission. GB had a Social Security Commission and a Tax Reform Commission. Maybe we need a commission to study commissions.

That was a lot of ctrl-c/ctrl-v.
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