Super Instant State of the Union Reaction Post GO!

Eh, it was fine. Obama said a bunch of stuff that I find generally reasonable and unobjectionable, and cast it in such a way to imply that it could be done in a manner that would satisfy both Democrats and Republicans, and everyone in the chamber seemed to be on good behavior still, so, yeah. “Comfortably boring” is probably how I would describe it, and in fact just did. But you know, I don’t actually mind the idea of a comfortably boring government getting some basic stuff done.

Your thoughts?

(For those of you who missed it: the full text of the address)

107 Comments on “Super Instant State of the Union Reaction Post GO!”

  1. I wish I could believe the Republican response here was anything but doublespeak. “Limited government” == more government for military spending, more government to stomp down on immigrants, more government to hunt down pot smokers, more government to police bedrooms, etc.

    Also: One thing the Republican response is missing in bashing Obama’s economic record: since he took office, the Dow is up 50%. (8000 to 12000.) Not that I care about that necessarily.

    Wow. CBS News Poll just came out. 92% approval for the speech’s proposals. Pre-speech 54% to post-speech 80+% view that economic plans are good. Interesting jumps.

  2. Decent enough speech, nothing earth shattering but did seem to be a bit less adversarial than the past which is a good thing.

    Republican response is similarly not interesting though he does not seem to be doing as badly as some in the past. I am actually more interested in the Tea Party response. When I say interested though, I mean in a ‘OMFG, I wish I had not bought the tickets from the carnival dwarf at the front of the tent to see this..’ interesting. (PS. I think that it is a HUGE mistake for there to be two responses. The Tea Party base won’t think so, but if Bachmann is her characteristc self, I believe the negativity is going to be poorly received my everyone else and it will be guilt my association.

  3. I think Obama is a great speaker. Had he been controversial people would complain about rhetoric and partisanship. As neutral as it seems, tomorrow Glenn Beck will resume his long standing metaphor of Obama to Hitler.

  4. Chris:

    “but if Bachmann is her characteristc self, I believe the negativity is going to be poorly received my everyone else and it will be guilt my association.”

    Bachmann could say something perfectly reasonable and her crazy unblinking stare would give the impression she wishes to gut puppies. She’s not the person I would have chosen as a messenger, basically.

  5. Mostly unobjectionable stuff, plenty of platitudes and a few magic pony moments (cutting al spending, even defense? Sure, pull the other one) but overall, standard SOTU.

    I posted my own rebuttal on my blog. It’s more ranty but not as delusional as I’m sure the GOP rebuttal will be.

  6. I found it interesting how many of his smaller comments, even the jokes, were actually very targeted. The salmon comment, for instance, was funny because it’s incredibly, frustratingly true; that hit home for the Pacific Northwest, whether the collar is blue, white, or pink.

    I also I.D.’d shout-outs to coal country and the TVA zone. I think this will go over very well w/ people outside the Beltway and blogosphere, more than the professional pundits–e.g. “values” voters and quite a few of the GOP’s target demographic. This is a speech that the rest of my family will like, not just me. The media response seems to be “bored, now,” in contrast.

  7. John,

    Kind of the standard problem with Tea Party, all tactics and no strategy when it comes to politics. It served them well as an opening move but it ultimately is going to kill them over the long term. Republican Party has always been better strategists politically speaking than the Dems and I can’t believe that they are happy that this happening…it gives an opening to attack that famed party discipline that the Reps are known. There hands were tied though in that they could not put her back in the box without hurting their standing with the TP.

  8. I’m getting ready for Bachmann to tell us her demand for the country is for us to surrender Dorothy.

  9. Yeah, well I think its a problem that there weren’t MORE Religious references. This Country was founded on GOD, Gold and Glory. I’m sick of America entertaining your right to Bash our Religious foundation. Please, go somewhere else where you belong and fit in a little bit better.

  10. Nah, Simon, trust me…all the SOTU speeches sound like this. Most Americans at some level believe that this nation is special so we tend to respond to calls such as these and it is how we work stuff out. Some nations prefer their political theater to play out with nice size riots and massarces of different ethnic/religious minorities, we prefer this method.

  11. Did they already cut the White House speechwriters down to 2 college interns? Worst. Metaphors. Ever.

  12. I wish the government of my country would try being comfortably boring, even just for a little while, but sadly they are still in phase of government which believes in substituting activity for actual achievement.

  13. @William Actually, imperialism was founded on God, Gold and Glory. America was founded by people who were mostly deist (or atheist). It’s right there in the first amendment.

  14. Actually, we’re not going to have a general discussion on God, etc in this thread, seeing as it’s about the State of the Union address. Please heed this warning.

  15. This speech actually offered a more specific glimpse into the President’s agenda for the remainder of his term than is typical of these things. It was a nice speech, and I agree with you that it was not earth-shaking. The pushing for unity and calling on people to pull together, together with the focus on what we have achieved when we did all pull together, was very nice.

    In terms of the audience, having all of the children Congress sit together, rather than divvying themselves up by home room, was delightful. For once, when the standing ovations happened, it was not obvious that ~half of the room stayed seated. I wonder how much this affected popular acceptance of the speech?

  16. Maybe it’s a sign of how jaded and cynical I’ve become, but I haven’t watched a SoTU since 2004. After digging back into history, I’m convinced that the modern SoTU is basically our much less classy – and much less entertaining – knockoff of the British State Opening of Parliament. (They have their legislature slam the door in the face of the Queen’s representative. Best part of the whole thing.) I’ll read the SoTU transcripts tomorrow, FWIW, but I think the entire thing is both a farce and a kidney punch to the concept of separation of powers. (Why are the Supreme Court justices and Joint Chiefs supposed to attend a political speech?) Were I president, I would do what every president between Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson did and just send a message to Congress.

  17. MasterThief:

    I wonder what would happen if a president’s State of the Union address was just a note that read, “Dudes: Everything’s just fine.”

  18. The Sputnik analogy really bothers me, even though I’m all for a commercial space program in addition to NASA.

    My brother in law got my six year old son a set of Nasa toy rockets for his birthday and told him what all the names were and the history and everything. Well, a couple of days later the Soyuz rocket takes off, and naturally we’re watching it, and William gets all excited because he thinks he recognizes the Saturn V.

    While there’s no question that private industry can build a safer, more economical launch platform than any government, that was still a sad moment for me, and I think for the country. We’ve fucked things up pretty badly when we have to pay Russia to lift our astronauts into orbit.

    So when the President chooses this particular analogy to define current state of events it really puzzles me.

  19. I wonder how much this affected popular acceptance of the speech?

    Who knows? I suspect that if you already think President X. is the anti-Christ, and his party are a pack of arse-kissing fools a standing O doesn’t mean a thing. Ditto if you think the other party have all the taste and style of an airport titty bar,

  20. Rep Bachmann’s response was certainly not too my taste. Adversarial, glossing over history and the use of the imagery and some of the loaded language in her speech transitions was way too transparent. Once again, her base eats that stuff up but the majority of Americans that are tea-partiers will not be amused (that is if they are aware of the speech). The GOP picked Rep Ryan to deliver the message because they knew the tone that the response needed to have, they can’t be happy about the second speech.

  21. Given that the senate failed to adopt rules reform I highly doubt that anything that isn’t a corporate giveaway (something both parties can agree on) is likely to pass in the next two years. Ultimately the president can’t pass any legislation on his own and has shown minimal interest in pushing his agenda in tandem with the house or the senate. We can expect crazy bills to repeatedly get sent up from the house to the senate where they will die and very little of any merit (regardless of your political bent) come out of the senate.

  22. @ Scalzi #25: What I hope would happen: Legislative: “@Executive: Cool. We’re leaving early tonight. We’ll let you know if there’s bills to sign. Later! #sotu2050”

    What would probably happen: 15 minutes of opposition grandstanding about the President being “out of touch with America.” Le sigh.

  23. @Simon,

    Not really. The America of the 19th Century is not the America of the 21st Century and while as a matter of history, I think that the treatment of native Americans by the USA of the time was absolutely deplorable and could we go back in time knowing what we know now, I would hope that we could expand to the sea in a more humanistic fashion. However, in the same way that I don’t pass judgement on modern day Japan or Germany government and citizens because of what occured 60 years ago….or the South US for what occured in 1860, I don’t pass judgement on the US for what occured back then. Make what amends you can realistically make at this point in history and move on.

  24. Fair enough John.

    My original point was not to knock America, but rather to point out that the STOTU is listened to by people the world over. I think America is a great country, and a very powerful country. The STOTU is an opportunity for the American President to send a message, globally, as well as domestically. Domestically, I applaud what Pres. Obama said. Globally it was lacking in leadership with its highly competitive, “WE will win message.” Er…, win what?

  25. Simon,

    Every SOTU address I have heard is relatively similiar in tone, the audience has never reallly been the world. The President has three audiences he is targeting of any given address, 1) Voters (both his base and independents), 2) The opposition Party, and 3) His own party. Insofar as international issues sometimes are in the forefront (post 9/11, during WWII, etc), everything is focused on domestic messaging and all other concerns trump. When the President wants to address the ‘world’, he typically does it from the White House in order to convey the gravitas of the USA as well as serve as the principal face of the United States to the world at large instead of the SOTU where he is sharing the stage with the Speaker and VP standing right behind him. Additionally, right now in the US, there is enormous anxiety amount US competitiveness (sp?) with the world as well as the economic recovery and Presidents don’t typically do well by talking about things other than what is forefront in the nation’s mind. I will allow that the an outside observer, it may seem all rather martial and exclusionary, but I would not really worry about it because at it’s core, the President’s mesaging is not at all disimiliar to what you hear other heads of state saying to their own populations.

  26. As Constance says, from a writing standpoint it was very well-crafted. My current Learning Goal is figuring out how to make good tags. Good political speeches are good training for that.

    I never watch the responses to these things.

    I like the shout-out to Internet gadgetry. I love the mention of (paraphrase) “downloading a floor plan of a burning building to a firefighter’s handheld device”. THAT’s the sort of thing we should have now, and I’m always surprised when I find out we don’t. I want to live in the present that Hard SF tells me I should be living in. But scientists don’t rule the world (yet).

  27. @9 Constance,

    The salmon joke fell flat for me since there are very good reasons for different government agencies dealing with salmon as catch in-river is overwhelmingly personal use and pelagic catch is overwhelmingly commercial. At least that’s how it is in The Far North.

  28. his joke about the ‘pat downs’ was appalling. i am sure all the sexual assault survivors who have had to re-live their nightmares when flying since november are highly amused. sorry mr. president until you respect the 4th amendment and stop sexually assaulting children and adults, as well as irradiating us, do not care much what you have to say. and don’t insult my intelligence. TSA is already working on destroying 4th amendment for trains as well and sexually assaulting there too

  29. @Todd(40)

    Pretty big stretch to compare the security measures to sexual assaults and Federal Courts when confronted with this and similar questions have determined that the searches are legal and reasonable ( If you have concerns about the scanning machine, than go for the pat-down and if that doesn’t work for you, than don’t fly. I disagree with the enhanced security procedures as practiced, but more out of concern for lost tourist and airline revenue, lack of effectiveness (targeted searches – i.e. profiling, is more effective as far as security is concerned), safety (rather not have people bunched up god forbid there is a terrorist attack), etc and not on the grounds of the fourth amendment. But lets not equate the Federal Government with rapists, molesters and the Catholic Clergy for crying out loud.

    P.S. I found the joke amusing and before anyone sics the pope on me, I am Catholic. I am sure he knows where I live.

    P.P.S John, I went off topic for second time this evening. My apologies.

  30. Maybe it’s because I read hte speech instead of listening to it, but I actually saw a lot of specifics – “We are putting Apollo levels of funding into alternative energy and other innovation” and “we’re going to quit subsidizing oil companies because they’re doing just fine on their own” look pretty huge to me – assuming Congress approves them.

    On the flip side, I’m not convinced his administration gets the credit for ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but I suppose the buck stops there for good things as well as bad ones.

  31. Chris at #28:
    Rep Bachmann’s response was certainly not too my taste. Adversarial, glossing over history and the use of the imagery and some of the loaded language in her speech transitions was way too transparent.

    Not only that, but a lot of her points crossed the line from ‘biased distortion’ to blatantly dishonest… Of course, as you pointed out her chosen demographic eats that sort of thing up.

  32. Just woke up. The Tea Party had a response? I barely stayed awake for the Republican response, and most folks I chatted with yesterday had no intention of listening to the speech at all.

    Of course, I work mostly with teenagers and young adults. “The President is speaking tonight? I gotta work, game, do homework,etc…” You get the idea.

  33. It is pretty common for a president to reposition himself and make gestures to the other side when his party loses alot of congressional seats. Clinton did it in 1994 and Bush did it in 2006. I am willing to bet if you go back to the 1800s you will see the same things.

    Obama doesn’t have the votes to do what he really wants to do, so he wants to get things done that he thinks are realistic. I generally think the State of the Union is not worth watching. It is all BS. President says a whole lot of nothing. Political pandering with the applause.

    After it is over, his party says he is a genious and the opposition party hates everything. A month from now, no one will remember the speech.

  34. I don’t understand why the Tea Party have their own response. Didn’t they all run as Republicans? So, why did the Republicans get two responses to the SOTU.

  35. I generally ignore the opposition response to the State of the Union address. And to be honest, it’s disingenuous to even have one. The Constitution requires the President to send an annual message to Congress. He doesn’t even have to give it as a speech. In fact, until the Wilson Administration, only Washington and Adams did. It does not require an opposition response, nor does it even suggest one.

    Not only is there no requirement for an opposition response, there is no Constitutional basis for it. It doesn’t matter which party is in opposition. Networks simply need to start ignoring it. Certainly, the opposition is free to respond, but really, if your party’s response is being given by Michelle Bachmann, who apparently has the magical ability to know what’s in the Constitution without having actually read it, it’s time to change the channel. During the Bush Administration, when the Democrats sent up Harry Reid, I was already flipping over to History to watch reruns of Ice Road Truckers and Life After People. (One year, they showed the episode where vines grew all over a major landmark and made it collapse after 200 years. Right up there with the South Park where Kenny dies.)

    Fortunately, TBS airs Family Guy reruns these days. Giggity.

  36. > State of the Union address was just a note that read, “Dudes: Everything’s just fine.”

    YES! This would work for me just fine, thanks.

  37. I believe it wasn’t until sometime in the early 20th century that the State of the Union summation became a speech. Before that it was a written document sent to Congress without a lot of fanfare.

  38. I think that Congress it as it’s least harmful when completely gridlocked, and all this lack of political insanity is threatening to break the gridlock, which could be very harmful to the American people.

  39. Who’s going to believe the claims that Obama is an ultra-liberal? He’s not even a moderate!

    Keep the foreign wars and freeze domestic spending as a way to improve the federal economy? (forgetting that states will need to increase spending).

  40. #46 (Chuck Wahl): Basically, Rep. Bachmann decided to have her own “response” last night and the GOP Leadership lacked the…uh…”intestinal fortitude” to wrestle her down to the floor and duct-tape her mouth shut for fear of offending the extreme Right-wing Tea Partiers that they rely on for votes these days while trying to look somewhat reasonable to the other 3/4’s of the Party.

    I was surprised that Palin didn’t think of it first.

  41. I had heard that the fool (Obama) was going to hold a political rally last night on national TV. I watched a natgeo special instead. Far more substance.
    I have a hard time watching someone speak who I do not respect.

  42. @MasterThief: So, you’re saying we should invent our own silly rituals? Because I can get behind that: I’m envisioning a ceremony where the US President must be sworn in again, and if for whatever reason this doesn’t happen, we get returned to British rule, because it’s about time for another “Prisoner of Zenda” remake.

  43. Ok here’s the thing I’m Canadian and to be 100% honest not really interested in American politics. I did catch some of the SOTU and the most entertaining part for me was watching the 2 guys sitting behind Obama. Biden had a never ending smirk like he was trying to hard to look like he was paying attention. The guy on the left (sorry don’t know his name or position) looked like he wanted to be ANYWHERE but there he wasn’t even trying to look like he was paying attention or doesn’t care. Or am I reading too much in to it??

    As a Canadian was there anything in the SOTU that I should raise an eyebrow at??

  44. @ Penny: No, nothing for you to worry about. . .other than that little bit about everthing bad is all Canada’s fault. Of course. . . .:)

  45. >Dudes: Everything’s just fine.

    I don’t think this would be a politically correct remark, it would have to be something along the lines of “Dudes and dudettes: Everything is just fine.”

    Just saying

  46. @Penny, #57:

    Not really. In substance, it’s much like the Queen’s Speech at the Opening of Parliament. Less pomp and ceremony, for better or worse (I think the bells & whistles that go with the Queen’s Speech are quite entertaining, but that’s just me), and the President (and his writers) write the speech, not the Cabinet, but the text is mostly a general wave at the direction that the President would like the Congress to go over the next year. The POTUS doesn’t have any sort of actual power over the issues he addresses; since Johnson gave the first prime time SOTU, it’s become much more a way of communicating the President’s agenda to the public, half “how’s my driving?” and half stump speech.

  47. @#53 by YoYo: That could be why I have some trouble watching the responses. Man gave a decent speech at a time in which he was required by charter to do so.

    @Penny: Dude on the right is the new Speaker of the House. The Vice President is the President of the Senate in our Constitution which is why he sits to the one side.To be honest I thought the Speaker looked a little drunk.

  48. I didn’t watch it, was more worried about the weather. While Rep. Bachmann’s speech seems idiotic, I do see some benefit to splitting the Tea-Partiers from the rest of the Republican party. In a more perfect world it would see both major parties moving closer to the center in order to separate themselves from people who choose not to employ critical thinking and base their political views on rants delivered by those who are at best shading the truth.

  49. You may wish to inform Jim C. Hines that your tweet seems to have crashed his site.

    I get “Error establishing a database connection” even when trying to access

    I am not on Twitter, or I’d try to let him know myself.

  50. I heard this morning that Faux News chose to spend part of their post-speech analysis time covering Bill Clinton hugging Monica Lewinski. Can anyone confirm?

    If so: Seriously?

  51. Greg,

    While I apprecitate your provision of my US RDA of scatology, could you be a bit more specific? There are a lot of loads out there.

  52. Craig Ranapia @ 27 — I travel frequently and I’ve not yet seen that type of bar located in an airport. Can you provide some specific airports that have such? On a side note, do you think the dancers have to go through a TSA pat-down on their way to the bar?

    YoYo @ 53 — I must admit that your trolltastic posts get me to bite. So congratulations on that. But frankly, I have a hard time responding seriously to the posts of someone whose entire content can be reduced to, “I dislike the President and I want to insult him.” Dude, you’ve made your point (several times). Repitition does little to advance your cause, whatever it may be.

  53. @eviljwinter: Although not constitutionally mandated, I think it’s healthy in a democracy to broadcast the other side of the story. I wish, though, that the response was held a day later, so that the person could actually have enough time to prepare a substantative critique. The current format doesn’t allow for a good response.

    @YoYo: When Bush was president, I watched some of his SOTU speeches, despite not having much respect for the guy. You can respect the office without necessarily respecting the occupant. Honestly, I don’t see why you criticize Obama for doing his job.

    @Penny, I agree Speaker Boehner looked really bored. I think I would hate having to sit behind the president, where you are constantly on display in the background.

  54. To be more specific as to why it was a complete load of shit, I refer to Nate Silver of 538 fame.

    Nate described the speech as: smart, safe, centrist, vague, and optimistic

    he then points out how optimistic it is to go “three-quarters of the way toward declaring victory over the recession while about 14 million Americans remain out of work”, and why Obama would do that.

    Answer: To work on his reelection campaign.

    Obama’s speech was essentially empty. Or as Nate called it, safe, centrist, and vague.

    On developing energy, and whetehr we should pursue solar, wind, coal, natual gas, or
    biofuel, Obama’s response: Lets do all of them.

    That is NOT the answer of a leader who wants to lead a nation to teh right answer.
    That is the answer of a man who wants as many votes as possible by not pissing off anyone.

    The entire speech was nothing but “We are all correct” and “there are no wrong answers”
    and every other thing he could say that would tell the most right wing nut job and the most
    progressive voter in the nation, “hey, I’m on your side.”

    This isn’t the “bipartisan means lets roll up our sleeves and get something done”, kind of speech,
    this was a “bipartisan means I want everyone to vote for me”, kind of speech.

    Meaningless. Vague. Safe.

    In other words, a complete load of shit.

  55. I’m down with the next SOTU being limited to a single Tweet.

    I can’t get as worked up about the malpractice thing as some of my colleagues; really, lawyer- bashing is sort of a gimme, and gets more political points than “We’d like medical professionals to stop fucking up.”

  56. Greg,

    I get the chance to say this to you so seldom that I thought I’d jump on it:

    I completely agree.

  57. Why do they always suggest “High Speed Rail” like it will be a magic economic cure-all?

    We already have an energy efficient, widely available POPULAR means for people in far flung cities to connect for vital face to face business meetings with a minimum of travel time and fossil fuel expenditure.

    It’s called telecommuting and Video Conferencing via the internet. So why not “We need to free up funds for innovation by encouraging more telecommuting?” Heck, if more people telecommuted, they could live out here in the middle and have a higher standard of living for less money! CONGRESS could telecommute except for major votes, and actually have to hang around their districts and see constituents instead of Lobbyists!

    But no. It’s always “High Speed Rail.” It’s like they’re stuck in “Tommorrow Land” and can’t see that the ‘future’ went in a totally different direction than their cherished plans…..

  58. Deirdre Mundy @ 72 — I disagree. Not that I think *** HIGH SPEED RAIL *** is a panacea to all economic and social ills, because obviously it isn’t. But telecommuting and video conferencing aren’t necessarily the best alternatives either.

    People need to be in contact with other people. Whether a business meeting or a family reunion, people want to see and hear, and touch and smell and taste. Not just see and hear. That’s also true for politicians and others who rely on building relationships to advance their agendas.

    Also: See The Last Mimsy for a take on what happens when people don’t come into contact with people. And IIRC Asimov did a bit with that issue in one of the Lije Bailey novels. I know too many people whose main contact with other people is via the internet; I’m not in favor of anything that facilitates remote relationships.

    Also: vacation travel. Unless we go full Total Recall, you’ll want to be at your vacation location, not just watch the video of the pretty scenery.

    Sure, video conferencing offers an alternative to short-duration meetings. And telecommuting works for a percentage of those in the workforce. But they’re not for everybody and not for all situations. And it’s not a great substitute for mass transport, as I see it.

    Building high speed rail, on the other hand, arguably offers a better alternative to widening the existing highways, puts people to work (including both highly skilled and manual workforce individuals), and might potentially help out the manufacturing industry. All good things worthy of consideration, in my view.

    So yeah, I’m okay with the President’s words on this initiative.

  59. How is it a better alternative to highways? We HAVE highways. And fairly cheap airfares. (Cheaper than Amtrak.) How is it efficient to build a ginormous high speed rail network to connect the all the major cities? And to run trains on routes already serviced by fairly cheap airplanes?

    And how will high speed rail help with family reunions? Are you really telling me Podunkville MO will have it’s own stop? And that there will be a direct conection to Onehorse Tennessee?

    High speed rail won’t make vacations easier or more affordable. It won’t replace the airplane. Outside the Eastern Megalopolis, it will be an expensive luxury good, for the people who don’t want to travel with the Hoi Polloi on Southwest and Jet Blue.

    Not worthy of a Govt. Solution, IMO. We’d be better off just doing the necessary infrastructure upgrades on our FREIGHT lines.

    And High Speed rail in, for example, the Boston-DC corridor, is going to be mostly about business travel. Teleconferencing would be more efficient. (Less travel time. Less time lost from regular work. Easy to record and replay for absent/forgetful participants.) And telecommuters DO get a lot of personal interaction– it just tends to be more with friends, family and neighbors. (Because by giving up those 3 hours a day sitting in traffic, they gain three hours to go out around town!)

    Telecommuting doesn’t REPLACE social interaction–but it makes interactions with those you only need to WORK with more efficient so that you can spend more time on people you actually ENJOY.

  60. The thing that would have helped improve the speech would require Obama to point out things that are wrong. Doing this would offend people who support whatever it is he just said was wrong. But if he pointed out why it was wrong, pointed to a direction he thought was right, and led people to that position, he would have shown some principles and some leadership.

    For example, in the speech, Obama talks about Al Queda and the Taliban as if they’re the same. They’re not. Al Queda attacked us on 9/11. We went into Afghanistan to go after Al Queda. Al Queda is not in Afghanistan any longer. They’ve fled over into Pakistan. So with no Al Queda in Afghanistan, we had to invent some reason to stay there. So we declared that the war was against Al Queda and the Taliban. But the Taliban have shown no interest in attacking America, only an interest in attacking people who invade and occupy their country. Certainly they want to expand their influence in Afghanistan, but so does every other warlord over there. i.e. the Northern Alliance. The “central government” is supported by the US, but it might very well win the award for the most corrupt and most ineffectual government on the planet. The main reason we support it is because they let us be in their nation and they do mostly what we tell them to do. If the Taliban or most any other randomly selected group were suddenly made the world-recognized government of afghanistan, they’d all tell the US to get stuffed and get the hell otu of their country.

    He starts out his speech saying this: “The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that’s a good thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us apart as a nation.” That’s a cowards speech. Rather than call the Tea Party on their violence, he acts as if saying “I’m going to kill you” is a healthy part of the democratic process. He could have explained why “I’m goign to kill you” is not healthy, and explained what healthy debate does look like, and then lead the nation there, but that would piss off the TeaParty, and he apparently doesn’t want to spend the next two years dodging their bullets. So he takes the cowards way. The violence of the TeaParty is not “a good thing” and it is not part of a “robust democracy”. It’s thuggery. But Obama took the coward’s path.

    “Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all” Gutless. There is no such thing as clean coal. Coward.

    He spent paragraphs talking abotu education. And it was vague and nonspecific enough that it qualified as little more than the verbal equivalent of kissing babies. Who doesn’t want good education for our children? But there was very little specific in there that mentioned how he would do it. As soon as he said anythingspecific, the Republicans would call him “socialist” and the TeaParty would slash his tires and shoot out some windows in teh White House as part of their “robust democracy” program.

    Another bit from teh speech: “To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I’ve ordered a review of government regulations. When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them. (Applause.) But I will not hesitate to create or enforce common-sense safeguards to protect the American people. (Applause.)”

    It is at this point, that I feel the need to point people to the great relativist fallacy known as “if by whiskey“. Embrace both sides as if they’re both right. Leave yourself an out for anything you don’t support. Vague. Meaningless. Useless. But perfect for political speeches.

    “Still, I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year — medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.” Complete and utter bullshit.

    “And we saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: The United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.” The corruption of the twenty year dictator was known by the US for some time. The US Embassy sent cables from 2006 – 2009 reporting the corruption of the Tunisian dictator. Last year, Obama asked Congress to approve a $282 million sale of 12 “excess” Sirkorsky military helicopters to Tunisia, and the dictator he now celebrates as thrown out by “democratic aspirations”.

  61. A reminder to all and sundry that posts with three or more links in them automatically get sent to the moderation queue. If this happens to you, don’t panic; I’ll see it eventually.

  62. @Deirdre Mundy

    And yet somehow, high-speed rail travel is quite popular in Europe and Japan.

    There are corridors that make sense and those that don’t, which is why no one is proposing to connect every single major American city, and no one says it has to replace highway and airplane travel entirely in order to be a success.

  63. Re Telecommuting and high speed rail…

    I’ve had the technical capability to telecommute to most workplaces for about 17 years now; a graduate program I was at in 1992 invited me back in 1994 to help assess the state of the art of net-based education, which had been part of my graduate team thesis project. We had off the shelf examples of all the needed tech at that point.

    Despite that, I have worked in an office, onsite, for 90% plus of that time; most of the telecommuting has been sick days worked from home, though I am now doing a project from the SF Bay Area for a customer in Southern California (from an office 22 miles from my house, other than sick days worked from home). Actually being in a room with people and talking to them, smalltalk and body language and all, is a huge advantage. Existing telepresence modality isn’t cutting it.

    Getting down to Southern California for the first five in-person months of the project down there required quite a bit of Southwest Airlines, plus a few trips down I5 in my own car when I got tired of the rental car lottery in Burbank.

    The high speed rail lines proposed for California would have been pretty convenient. As it was, I considered taking the Amtrak Coast Starlight, though that never actually happened.

    Most people don’t need to be there in person. The times I had to be there? Couldn’t have done it another way….

  64. I guess I’m with #46… Even if the TP wanted to do their own response, why did the networks bother to carry it? They have no party representation – their adherents in Congress are Republicans. So, fine, give the response if you want, but for the networks to treat it as on par with the actual Republican response makes me highly suspicious of the networks’ outlook on things.

  65. Deirdre Mundy @ 74,

    I’m not going to derail the thread by getting into a protracted debate with you. We disagree; so be it. I will offer a couple of last points for your consideration.

    You appear to be dismissing the high speed rail initiative because it’s not a perfect solution. You’re right. But it’s a better solution than many. Let me elaborate.

    You say we have highways. As somebody who commutes on I-405 five or six days a week, as somebody who spent too many hours on I-495 circling the nation’s capital, as somebody who just drove I-15 from LA to Las Vegas, I beg to differ. Highways and freeways and tollroads are clogged with too many commuters. (Some of whom, I agree, could telecommute. But they aren’t for some reason. See GWH @ 78.) The funds for ongoing maintenance and repairs are not there, and funds for enhancements and improvements aren’t there either. Our current highway system is almost at the end of its useful life, as far as I can tell. We need something better.

    You say we have cheap airplanes. That may be true but, as somebody who has flown almost a million miles over the last 10 years, I try to avoid using them whenever possible. Even the best trip is, shall we say, excruciatingly painful. Just ask Scalzi. If you removed the federal subsidies of the airlines, I wonder how “cheap” that mode of transportation would really be? In any case, if you give me a viable alternative to TSA pat-downs, long lines to get into the security theater, random “ground stops” and other miscellaneous delays, then I am so there. And I bet others will be there as well.

    You say that high speed rails aren’t worthy of a government solution. You do realize that both the federal highway system and the aviation industry are, to a large extent, government solutions? Unless you want to return to the age of the Robber Barons, there aren’t very many options for mass transit that don’t involve a government assist or twenty-two.

    That’s it for me. See you on the bullet train.

    I’m looking for alternatives to the status quo. Not perfect solutions, just incremental improvements. And if said improvements help to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, then that’s just icing on the cake.

  66. He was proposing putting (was it 98%?) of the population on High Speed Rail. Not going to work.

    Europe and Japan are more compact. Much like the California coastal corridor and the East Coast Megalopolis.

    But High speed for the whole country? Insanely unaffordable. There’s a reason why short-hop-airplanes have replaced trains. They’re more efficient.especially since, if demand changes, it’s a lot easier to modify flight paths than train tracks.

    This is a case where ‘cool’ and ‘efficient’ are in direct conflict. We’re in a recession. The feds shouldn’t be pushing for cool. They should be pushing for…. I dunno… making sure Social Security isn’t bankrupt?

    Oh wait. Too late. Better go with cool.

    (Honestly, I think the problem is that the sort of person who can succeed in national politics is not the sort who can actually craft or implement sound policy…..)

  67. RE: the POTUS support for high speed rail. Rail has a number of things going for it. It is more fuel efficient than most of our currently popular means of transporting goods. Upgrading our rail infrastructure would put many skilled and unskilled workers back to work (you could also say that about almost any infrastructure repairs project, so YMMV). Travel by train could provide a needed alternative to air and car transportation.

    Compared to other trips cross country, Amtrak is faster than car and more pleasant than air. Unfortunately, where I live, trains are not viable, or I would definitely be using them for my travel needs.

    Telecommuting, like many other proposals, is a good alternative but not a cureall.

  68. 80% high-speed rail in 25 years
    98% high-speed wireless in 5 years.

    Doubt either is going to happen.

  69. Oh, a few more issues with rail that would need solutions:
    1. If people actually traveled by rail, it would be a terrorist target. So same obnoxious searches you get on planes. (Remember the Madrid?)

    2. Because trains are MORE hub-based and harder to reroute than planes, major weather events would have an even BIGGER effect on ease of travel.

    3. Increased fatalities– trains crash more than planes do, and since more people can fit on a train, each crash/derailment can hurt more than an airline accident. Also as part of my job, I read old newspapers from the golden age of trains. Even in this sparsely populated county, AT LEAST 3 PEOPLE A WEEK were being killed by trains. The High speed rail would have to have a very expensive under/overpass system to avoid a huge uptick in fatalities from people trying to beat the train. (Yes, people who race trains are STUPID. But planes don’t have the same problem, and since most traffic fatalities DON’T occur on interstates but trains would have to run through downtowns to effectively eliminate cars, not sure how we resolve this.)

    Also, airports and roads were massive giovt. expenditures, but we had miney back then. Now we’re broke. So we can’t AFFORD a new massive project like this!

    Good point on the internet too– we’re an hour from Chicago and there are vast swathes of our county where the only option is dial-up. Even fast internet needs a certain minimum population density!

    (And this is why Japan and Europe can pull these things off. They’re WAY more densely populated than the US!)

  70. Deirdre, You make a lot of good points, but you are missing the most important one.

    The political proponents of high-speed rail in the U.S. are pushing it not because it makes sense economically, but because it is a bonanza of graft and corruption.

    I’m not talking about the people who would honestly like to help the environment by utilizing a “cleaner” method of transportation. Sadly, they won’t listen to any of the rational reasons why this system won’t work for our country, but critical thinking is not as important to them as “doing the right thing” even when it is nonsensical.

  71. It’s called telecommuting and Video Conferencing via the internet. So why not “We need to free up funds for innovation by encouraging more telecommuting?”

    Because the problem holding up telecommuting isn’t a technical problem. It’s a people problem. Like, how do I manage a team of people when all of them are always workign from home? For the last ten or fifteen years or so of my working career, the companies I’ve worked at have had the technical capability to allow telecommutting. None of them allowed it except as an alternative for calling in sick and for checking overnight simulations from home.

    Maybe if there were a government plan that rewarded companies with tax breaks for every hour their employees telecommute, then companies might get over that “hump” and learn how to manage a bunch of people telecommuting.

    As it is, it seems ingrained in management mentality that you have to physically keep an eye on people to manage them, make sure they’re working, and get them to be productive.

    As for what this country can adn cannot afford, all you have to do is stop one of the two stupid, senseless, pointless costly wars that we’re waging, and you could probably pay for it. If you stopped both stupid, senseless, pointless, costly wars, not only would you save the immediate money we’re wasting on it, but you would also save all the additional money currently being spent on the “fortress america” mentality because if we stop invading countries in stupid, senseless, pointless, costly wars, and then killing untold (classified really) numbers of innocent civilians, we wouldn’t be generating the next generation of terrorists to attack us.

    Instead, we still keep hearing people humming “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb… Bomb, Bomb Iran!”.

  72. 1. If people actually traveled by rail, it would be a terrorist target. So same obnoxious searches you get on planes.

    Unless you are arguing that we should dismantle air travel because it too is a terrorist target, I don’t get your point.

    2. Because trains are MORE hub-based and harder to reroute than planes, major weather events would have an even BIGGER effect on ease of travel.

    When the weather forces planes into Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), FAA rules require that takeoff are at least two minutes apart. They do this so that the odds of you being close to a plane you cant see in the soup is reduced. Normal weather (visual flight rules or VFR) might see planes take off 15 seconds apart.

    THere would be no such requirement for rails. You know exactly where you are at all times because you’re on the ground. Simple mile marker posts would be all you need to locate your train and let the next train know its OK to start moving. Up in the air, in a cloud, things get a bit more fuzzy as to your position.

    The other big issue around weather and flying is icing. Ice on your wing kills. They have a bunch of things they can do to try to melt it and keep it from forming, but it’s not perfect, it’s still a concern, it slows down flights, and cannot be avoided.

    Again, with rail, there is no such issue that I know of with ice. Certainly, tracks would have to be plowed of snow. but I don’t think that’s quite the same delaying factor as 2-minute-separation-between-takeoffs or ice-on-the-wing issues.

    I do not see rails being nearly as affected by weather as airplanes.

    3. Increased fatalities– trains crash more than planes do, and since more people can fit on a train,

    I’d like to see a mile-per-mile comparison of that. Maybe someone has accumulated some numbers about high speed rails in Europe or Japan versus airplane statistics?

    Also as part of my job, I read old newspapers from the golden age of trains. Even in this sparsely populated county, AT LEAST 3 PEOPLE A WEEK were being killed by trains.

    You realize that there are more trains moving around now then there were during the “golden age of trains”, right? The big problem with beat-the-train deaths is ungated crossings, which I think all crossing during the golden age were ungated.

  73. Many crossings are STILL ungated. And people die even at gated crossings. (Yes, it’s a STUPID factor issue. But we live in a train-heavy area… it’s still an issue.)

    Also, current westaward routes tend to run through heavy snow belts.. And snow/ice ARE a problem for trains– you just notice less b/c it’s mostly freight-related delays at this point. But it’s in the news out here (NW Indiana) a fair bit.

    As for TSA +trains, I was just pointing out that the people who say “I’d love High Speed Rail b/c it would be so much more convenient and pleasant than flight! No TSA” tend to forget that, if it became popular, a lot of the same inconveniences would apply.


    Managing telecommuters— The thing is, it would be EASIER to manage telecommuters. Less “office cliques” and “He said/she said”, more judging people on what the accomplish.

    Who CARES what they’re doing, as long as the work gets done? But yes, that’s a “HR people stuck in a box” problem.

    And, if we finished these wars, I’m sure something else would come up. And there’s still the SS debacle. And the fact that, really, for the middle class and lower middle class, a car is superior to rail. (Leave when you want. Bring as much luggage as you want. Stop whenever you want. Go between destinations that would never have a direct route by rail. )

    And, in terms of cost of living, there are some real beenfits to a more dispersed transit system. Real estate is a lot cheaper out in the boonies, you can have room for a garden and for kids to run……

    Coastal centers, sure, But a line from LA to NY? Never gonna work…..

  74. Oh, wanted to say— it appears that during the “Golden Age”, while there might have been fewer trains, there were a lot more TRACKS running every which way. Which is what would happen if we went the “Connect everywhere by rail” route. A lot of the train crossings of the golden age are no longer actual crossings… basically dead track.

  75. Many crossings are STILL ungated. And people die even at gated crossings

    THis is a fear-based argument. Lets look at some real statistics, shall we?

    the number of crossing collisions for 2009 was 1,880 for the entire United States.

    That is way way way WAY less then your “in this sparsely populated county, AT LEAST 3 PEOPLE A WEEK were being killed by trains.”

    Three people a week, for just one county, multiplied by 52 weeks gives 150 a year. multiplied by 3000 counties in the US (according to wikipedia), that’s half a million people killed a year by trying to beat the train. If I take your ALL CAPS ZOMG STATISTIC, and extend it to nation wide statistics, that’s the sort of massive ballpark number one might come up with.

    My point was that your ALL CAPS ZOMG STATISTIC wasn’t really relevant to whether a high speed rail makes sense.

    Your fear-based argument doesn’t really prove anything about high speed trains either.

    About the only thing that one can really gather from your posts is that you really, really, really, do not want the US to build a high speed rail system. I don’t know why. I don’t know if it makes a difference why. The point is the reasons you’ve given thus far against a high speed rail system aren’t objective. Statistics from the golden age of railroads isn’t really applicable to high speed rail systems today. Trains are not affected by weather anywhere near as much as planes are (trains may be afected by snow and ice. but Planes are affected by snow, ice, and clouds and rain.) As for being terrorist targets, sure, but trains would be a target like any large gathering of people. Aircraft aren’t just a large group of people in a tin can. They can also be hijacked and repuposed as flying bombs. Trains can’t be flown into some random building the hijacker decides is the center of evil in the world.

    The terrorist attraction to a train will be more like the attractino they might have to something like the superbowl. You can kill a lot of people at teh superbowl, but you cant fly it into the pentagon.

  76. Managing telecommuters— The thing is, it would be EASIER to manage telecommuters. Less “office cliques” and “He said/she said”, more judging people on what the accomplish. Who CARES what they’re doing, as long as the work gets done? But yes, that’s a “HR people stuck in a box” problem.

    Allow me to introduce you to a relevant episode of xkcd

  77. *waiting for the Mallet to punt the high-speed rail discussion into next week*

    Sorry about the derail (no pun intended).

  78. Office managers hate the idea of telecommuting because the first thing it does is do away with the need for at least 50% of office managers. Most of them spend their days on make work projects as it is, and manufacturing issues that require their presence. Also management jobs attract people that are, frankly, control freaks. Office managers love (micro-)managing because it gives them a nice ego boost. If they can’t physically see people responding to their diktats, or if they think people will not show them the respect they think they are due, then it will be dismissed as unworkable. This is why telecommuting will never be a widespread phenomena.

  79. I can’t help but think the new moderate tone the President is taking has less to do with the state of the union and more with the state of his re-election. The fed is printing $75 BILLION per month. Does that sound reasonable or sane to any citizen on any side of any issue? If the Tea Party has taught us anything its that citizens need to stop fighting over Left/Right and Repub/Dem and recognize that we have a political upper class composed of millionaires who speak out of every orifice to stay in power. I thought his Salmon comment about the needless complexity of gov amusing considering the vast size of the Healthcare bill that virtually no-one who voted on it actually read.

  80. TheMadLibrarian:

    Indeed, I’m wondering where the high-speed rail discussion is going, now that it’s left the station of Being Relevant to the State of the Union Address.

  81. Lol, I guess I actually need to listen to the State of the Union, this bit about trains seems really interesting.

  82. kurt: If the Tea Party has taught us anything its that citizens need to stop fighting

    I love the smell of irony in the morning….
    smells like….

  83. At risk of Malletization, I just did a coffee-take at the idea that “have people communicate with each other online, instead of in person” will reduce drama, eliminate office politics and cliques and get rid of he-said/she-said arguments. We’ve all been on the Internet longer than five minutes, right?

    Regarding SOTU, I’m not sure what people were expecting other than the usual we get in every SOTU, regardless of party: vague assurances that things are getting better, sweeping policy suggestions, the other side disagreeing with everything because things would be totally better if THEY were in power, etc. Perhaps a Constitutional amendment requiring SOTU to be delivered in the form of a Bob Fosse-style musical number? I’m okay with that, as long as there is a strict prohibition on any member of Congress appearing in a spangled chorus-girl outfit.

  84. Mythago #99: Yeah, I just about choked on my ice tea on that one too.

    Likewise as to the content of the SOTU. Except I would pay EXTRA if all members of Congress were REQUIRED to attend (and participate) in spangled chorus-girl outfits.

    I thought Obama’s delivery was somehat flat at best. He’s a great orator on occasion, but this wasn’t one of those occasions.

  85. Mythago– I guess I was envisioning a utopia where people were judged only on the quality of their output. Sigh…I guess I’ll just have to dream on.

    Greg– Ok, I’ve thought about it some more, and realized you’re right— High Speed rail may not be as safe as planes, but it’s probably safer than cars/buses/bicyclists.

    And I think it COULD work in the NE, MAYBE in CA. NY to Chicago? Possibly, but that starts to get sketchy.

    So, who are you seeing as the primary benificiaries of High Speed Rail? Who gains? I’m assuming it would still be more expensive than air travel, since even the LOW speed stuff is more expensive than air travel. And air travel is more expensive than driving once you have a few kids.

    Time wise, if it’s on dedicated tracks, it may be pretty good… but if it’s not, the max speed is 120. Which is only 40 miles more per hour than the Chinatown bus (very cheap!) can hit on most major midwestern routes.

    I guess my main objection is this. If we were starting from scratch and trying to decide whether to build HS rail, interstates or airports, we might be able to make a fiscal case for the rail.

    BUT our country is broke. Social Security is Broke. China is about to go broke. So, building a shiny new transit system of the future just doesn’t make sense.

    When you’ve just been laid off, using the charge card to buy a new mazzarati when the old camry is adequate DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. People do it, but it’s dumb.

    We need to get back into the black. When we have a surplus, sure, we can consider bullet trains and organic dinners for all and whatnot. But for now? We’re hemoraging cash. And it’s important to remember that by the time we’re NOT hemorraging cash, there may be better options requiring LESS of a major infrastructure change. (For instance, the new supersonic jets that could fly over cities as well as oceans!)

  86. Deirdre Mundy,

    You know, I think that’s twice you mentioned that the USA is “broke.” No, it isn’t. Stop saying that. Social Security is not broke. China is not about to go broke. You have no support for those assertions and they are demonstrably wrong.

    Clearly macroeconomics is not your thing. That’s cool, I don’t mean any disrespect. But just accept for a brief moment that your statements are essentially hyperbole and not grounded in reality. If you think they are, then post some links.

    Also, building new infrastructure does not have to be a one-way express train to the money pit. For example, putting people to work generates income, and that income is taxed. (Social Security being one of those taxes on income.) Giving people an income let’s them buy things, which generates income for businesses that sell things. And that business income is taxed. And those business employ people and pay them salaries, which is taxed. And so on and so forth.

    Now I usually wince when Democratic politicians call for making “investments” (which the Republican politicians call “spending”), but in this case there is some basis in reality for that point of view. Put enough people to work, and many (but obviously not all) fiscal problems cease being huge problems.

    I think the President gets that point, and I hope you do as well.

  87. We need to get back into the black. When we have a surplus, sure, we can consider bullet trains

    The thing about depressions and recessions is that pretty much everyone (everyone who isn’t dogmatically opposed to the idea of a government solution that is) will tell you that the way to get out of a depression is to have the government spend money that puts people to work. It is sort of like greasing the wheels fo the economy to get it going again.

    That was the point of the high speed rail system. It would put people to work. And it had the added advantage that it wasn’t moving a pile of dirt from A to B, then moving from B to A. The government would spend money for high speed rail on the calculation that the money they spent would be worth the high speed rail the country ends up with PLUS the improvement to the economy that injecting money/jobs into the economy would have.

    If we must wait (as you assert) until we have a surplus before the government can spend money to stimulate teh economy, and we can’t have a surplus until the economy has already recovered, then we’re in a catch 22.

    If you don’t think government spending can stimulate an economy out of a depression, then just say that as the reason you oppose high speed rail. Fear mongering about non-existent safety concerns about high speed rail is NOT the way to oppose high speed rail, especially if the root cause for your opposition is that you oppose government stimulus.

  88. We’re hemoraging cash.

    I don’t know what that means, exactly, so here is a picture of a rabbit with a pancake on its head.

    Usually, that’s the sort of statement invoked by conservatives when they don’t like spending money on social programs but a statement that they are oddly silent on when they want to spend a trillion dollars on a pointless, stupid, nonsensical war. For example.

    ANd just to make sure this post is pointing to something directly about the SOTU speech, a large portion of the speech was directed at stimulus spending to get us out of the depression we’re in. If you invoke “we’re hemorraging cash” as an indirect way of sayign you oppose government stimulus spending to get a country out of a depression, perhaps if you just came out and said “I oppose government stimulus spending” then that would clarify your position as it relates to a large portion of teh SOTU speech.

  89. Deirdre:

    MagLev isn’t the metaphorical equivalent of buying a masereti, it’s the equivalent of buying a truck while you’re in debt so you can do construction work. If you don’t buy the truck then you won’t get out of debt.

  90. @ mythago and Deirdre Mundy – The attitude that the entire Tea Party movement is a either this or that is precisely how and why we got into the problem we’re in. The charge “they” are all racist or crazy isn’t based in fact and a tactic used by Left/Right/GOP/Donkey to marginalize a movement that has no central leadership that can be co-opted and used by them. However, don’t let me get in the way of the steam train of your own biases. You can certainly buy into Left/Right/GOP/Donkey line and shout down the Tea Party as all that is wrong with the world. But their message that smaller government, less spending, more accountability sentiment is a logical mind set for the issues we need to deal with.

  91. @ mythago – Forgot to add, you seemed to have quoted me out of context. My point was that the Tea Party line is that the professional political class is the issue and that we should stop fighting amongst ourselves in the service of old ideologies (R & D) that have been failing us for generations.

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