Thursday, January 28, 2010

The State of the Union

I am gullible. I admit it. It's taken me years to realize that people often say things they don't mean. Sometimes they say things they mean at the moment and they change their minds. I honestly didn't get it. I thought when you make the effort to form words and put them out there, you meant it. But then my dad was the guy who thought if you dated a woman for more than six months you had to get engaged. I guess irrational connections are genetic. That disclaimer is necessary before I proceed.

I used to listen to Bill Clinton's speeches with awe. I didn't dislike him as a president, thought he was bright and competent, but I didn't trust him. Yet every time he spoke he won me over all over again. I'd shake my head afterwards, trying to break the spell. This is THAT guy, I'd remind myself. He's skilled at saying the right thing.

George Bush Jr. was easy. He believed what he was saying. I always believed HE believed what he said. The problem was I seldom agreed with him. His VP was quite another story - I've never seen a more sinister person than Dick Cheney and I'm convinced he not only lied with conviction but with malice.

Where does that put our new president, on the scale of credibility to the gullible?
He scored well last night. I have never sensed mendacity with this president. I believe he is just as convinced of the truth of what he says as GW was. And I agree with him.

I hope his first year in office has taught him that he must lead, and not lead by consensus. This highly partisan Congress will not achieve consensus. His call to both sides to create a new atmosphere fell on deaf ears. If he didn't expect that, he should have.

I believe the issues he highlighted - the economy, jobs, financial reform, middle class tax breaks, clean energy - are the right ones.

I could not disagree more with his inclusion of nuclear energy and that myth, "clean coal", as part of the country's new energy plan. Nuclear energy has yet to be made practical. It is not practical to have a technology that creates a waste byproduct that cannot be safely destroyed. If we build more plants, we create more nuclear waste. Are we going to clean out a state and designate it a nuclear waste dump?
Until we solve the disposal issue, nuclear power is a non-starter.

Clean coal? There is no such thing. I've looked for it. There is no supporting, independent evidence that the technology exists.

Coal, gas, oil, they're short term answers and I wouldn't invest a dime in any of them. Why put money into your Edsel when the bullet train is available? Solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower...these technologies exist and can be made even more efficient. What if our roofing material was covered with solar cells? What if each home had its own wind turbine? What if each new drinking well for each new home had a companion geothermal well? What if landscaping included a geothermal field?

Education is an issue dear to my heart. My kids are struggling to get through college despite their 4.0 averages. I can't pay their tuition. I pay the interest on loans, I pay hundreds of dollars for books every semester. In a world where a college degree is now a minimum job requirement, this is wrong. The president's limits on loan payments and an imposition of a time limit makes sense. And colleges have to be held accountable; how can they justify tuition that equals the cost of a luxury car each year?

I'm glad the president admitted he's made mistakes. He has. I hope he's learned from them. And I hope he starts flexing the muscle needed to get his agenda passed.

1 comment:

ArtSparker said...

Well, as you might suspect, I liked it. He just seemed like the grownup in the room to me (of course, standing next to the pep-boy Biden might have helped). As regards clean coal, I've been in conversation with some folks making carbon-neutral gasifiers fueled with biomass. The byproduct of the energy created is biochar, which can be put in the soil to help retain water and make the ground more fertile. I don't how this would translate on the large scale. But, this is the only thing I've seen along those lines.