Show Me the Pony

Though the tagline promises politics in addition to physics and pop culture, I try to keep the political content to a minimum. Not because I’m particularly worried about offending anyone, but because I don’t particularly like the way I sound when I write about politics these days. I get very cranky, and even if I like the post when I put it up, a few days later I’m posting short filler entries just to move it off the front page faster, because reading it makes me cringe.

Of course, that’s only part of the reason why I didn’t watch the State of the Union address last night, despite having heard that Bush planned to say some things about science (a good thing, too, as it appears to have been about two paragraphs, both of which are quoted by Chris Mooney this morning). And the fact that I had to write today’s lecture was only a small part of the reason– I finished that early enough to sneak in an episode of The Wire before bed.

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.

8 thoughts on “Show Me the Pony

  1. I doubt that in all that pile there is really a pony.

    By the way, I watched with the sound muted. Our president is the king of smirk.

  2. Best analysis yet. Bush has given us no indication that we can trust his words on subjects like this. So there is no reason to take his proposals seriously, as good as they would be if actually implemented.

  3. I’m politically naive, and a bit disaffected. It’s all the rage, you know. Still, I have to wonder why anyone would expect any speech from any figure on such a high perch to carry any actuation potential.

    I watched and listened, too, waiting for some morsel of specificity, some genuine promise of a future manifest result. The only bright spot in the whole of the thing was the frequency with which Bush referred to one or another “American [insert some clumsy policy target] Initiative”, e.g. “American Powder Purple Pony Initiative”.

    I offer (and I’d be surprised if this hasn’t been mentioned thousands of times already) that the applicability of any speech varies inversely as the level of homogeneity of the audience. If that holds, and especially if you’re a believer of the American melting pot, you have nought but to ignore every syllable in a State of the Union Address.

    I would be very interested to here examples which refute this. And has there ever really been a President who laid out scientific goals in such speeches which were subsequently realized? JFK mentioned landing on the moon in his ’62 speech (nod to Google), but only after having preceded it in ’61 at Rice University.

  4. Re: “double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years”

    I guess we are lagging behind in some of this math and science because creationism is so difficult to learn. Some basic research in the physical sciences would certainly go a long way to making this “alternative” irrefutable and easy to learn.

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