Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 27, 2009

GOOD TIME FOR A SCIENCE SPEECH.... Coincidentally, President Obama was scheduled to deliver a speech at the National Academy of Sciences this morning anyway. Given the headlines, the timing worked out nicely.

President Obama said on Monday that the growing number of cases of swine flu in the United States and abroad was "not a cause for alarm," but he sought to assure Americans that the government was taking precautions to prepare for the prospect of a global health pandemic.

"We are closely monitoring the emerging cases of swine flu in the United States," Mr. Obama said, speaking at the National Academy of Sciences. "This is obviously the cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert, but it's not a cause for alarm." [...]

Mr. Obama said the swine flu outbreak underscored the need for a larger investment in scientific research in the United States. He said science should not be seen as a luxury, but rather as a key element of the nation's security.

"Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment and our quality of life than it has ever been before," Mr. Obama said. "If there was ever a day that reminded us of our shared stake in science and research, it is today."

Quite right. In fact, Obama was able to put the current concerns in the larger context, and make a very compelling case for a renewed and robust investment in scientific research. Alex Koppelman reported:

The solution Obama has in mind is an unprecedented level of investment in the sciences -- more, even, than the country spent during the Space Race. "A half century ago, this nation made a commitment to lead the world in scientific and technological innovation... That was the high water mark of America's investment in research and development. Since then our investments have steadily declined as a share of our national income -- our GDP. As a result, other countries are now beginning to pull ahead in the pursuit of this generation's great discoveries," he said.

"I believe it is not in our American character to follow -- but to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. I am here today to set this goal: we will devote more than three percent of our GDP to research and development... This represents the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history."

It's possible my expectations were decimated by the Bush years, but I can't think of a modern president who speaks as often and as enthusiastically about science as Obama. Given the circumstances, it's extremely encouraging.

Steve Benen 11:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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Comments

Big Science will naturally welcome this promise of more money. What is really needed though is more government money spent on Intelligent Design.

Posted by: Al on April 27, 2009 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

So, how about those republicans, namely Rove, Susan Collins and spector who snickered about Obamas funding to prepare for a flu pandemic, they, on behalf of the repubs had it removed from the stimulus bill, wonder what they say now?

Posted by: JS on April 27, 2009 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Obama's public reiterations of the importance of science are crucial if only to counterbalance the incredible amount of ink and airwaves lavished on all things faith-based.
People need to think of science, and not just take innovation for granted, every time new diseases appear, when they can buy a pollution free car or eliminate their electric bills or video-conference for free. These things do not happen through prayer, and the faithful should be as aware of this as the rest of us.

Posted by: richard greenslade on April 27, 2009 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Obama got a hearty laugh from the audience when he stated "I want to be sure that facts are driving scientific decisions, not the other way around." He didn't say it to be funny, but the audience was able to think of so many examples from the last 8 years that I'm sure that the moment was truly cathartic.

Posted by: BH on April 27, 2009 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Monkey flu, now swine flu. People do love to panic, don't they?

Posted by: jen f on April 27, 2009 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Fake AL, that was very lame. There is no need to spend govt. money on intellient design; it's all right there in Genesis in the KJV!

Posted by: in vino veritas on April 27, 2009 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

"If there was ever a day that reminded us of our shared stake in science and research, it is today."

I'm sure we'll hear from Fox News that Obama is politicizing swine flu.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on April 27, 2009 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sure we'll hear from Fox News that Obama is politicizing swine flu.

No doubt, if they don't find some way to blame it all on Hillary Clinton first.

Posted by: electrolite on April 27, 2009 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

How long has it been since a president visited the NAS?

Posted by: CFG in IL on April 27, 2009 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

And yet with the outbreak of swine flu, the extreme right R's have been holding up the confirmation of Kathleen Sebelius, pointless because she will be confirmed. Time to call Harry Reid and tell him to get her confirmation vote done NOW.

Posted by: Me on April 27, 2009 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Monkey flu, now swine flu. People do love to panic, don't they?

Coming up next: Can shark attacks cause a flu pandemic?

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on April 27, 2009 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Also, Republicans like moderate-darling Susan Collins bragged out voting against "pork" (NPI) spending on swine flu etc. preparedness, now are trying to backpedal. REM per "GREAT MOMENTS IN POLITICAL FORESIGHT.."

Posted by: Neil B ♣ on April 27, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

And yet with the outbreak of swine flu, the extreme right R's have been holding up the confirmation of Kathleen Sebelius, pointless because she will be confirmed. Time to call Harry Reid and tell him to get her confirmation vote done NOW.

The lack of of someone at HHS was acutally a FOX taling point this weekend. One that was picked up CNN. It was being spun as a failure of Obama to fill his cabinete. No mention was made by either that Sebelius was nominated MONTHS ago and her nomination held up by Republicans.

Got to love that 'liberal' news media

Posted by: thorin-1 on April 27, 2009 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

How long til some Rethug or corporate mouthpiece says we can't expect to solve problems by just throwing money at them?
Or will enough corporations be profiting from this to offset that response?

Posted by: smartalek on April 27, 2009 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

It was being spun as a failure of Obama to fill his cabinete.
~~~

Oh, sure, it is Obama's fault... because he dared to nominate someone that the R's don't like.

Gaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!! Someone please save us from this insanity!!!

Posted by: Me on April 27, 2009 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Here's something to think about: the death rate in Mexico right now stands at 6%. This is double the fatality rate of the 1918 Spanish influenza. If this is indeed "the big one" people have been concerned about, and if the death rate remains at around this level, a friend of mine who's good with math analysis points out we could be looking at 300-400 million fatalities worldwide if it turns into a pandemic on the level of the 1918 event.

Posted by: TCinLA on April 27, 2009 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you *JESUS* that sane people are once again in charge! The mind boggles pondering the numerous ways that the GWB admin might have effed this up completely.

Posted by: Disputo on April 27, 2009 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

What is so magnetic about the phrase swine flu? It's just a new strain of flu. They are constantly bubbling up from pigs, birds, humans, and anything else we come in contact with. But everybody seems to enjoy saying "swine flu" with a kind of special satisfaction. It's weird!

Posted by: SqueakyRat on April 27, 2009 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

CFG asked:
How long has it been since a president visited the NAS?

The last visit was a joint appearance of Bill Clinton and Al Gore to kick off Y2K preparedness. I remember because they had the dogs sniffing all our cars as we arrived at work that morning and we were invited to be in the audience. Clinton and Gore loved the NAS.

SIGH I'm no longer an employee -- my program's funding was slashed in retribution for the NAS president's support of NASA's James Hansen. Bush never ever set foot on Academy property let alone Dick Cheney.

I sure hope Obama offers up more than a good speech -- the NAS has struggled to survive with Bush starving the NAS of government funding and the private endowment money having taken a bath in the stock market.

Posted by: Hokieannie on April 27, 2009 at 9:40 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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