Two Seed editors and a blogger give real-time feedback on the President's plan for the country.

President Bush and our interpretation of a “human-animal hybrid”  Credit: Dept. of Defense photo by Tech. Sgt. Cedric H. Rudisill, U.S. Air Force.

Tuesday night, January 31, 2006,  President George W. Bush delivered his 6th State of the Union address to the assembled members of Congress, the justices of the Supreme Court and invited guests. From couches in their respective living rooms, Seed‘s web editor Christopher Mims, assistant web editor Nikhil Swaminathan and Dave Munger, blogger from “Cognitive Daily,” a member of the growing ScienceBlogs community, entered an instant messaging chat room to respond to the science component of Bush’s new agenda as he laid it out.

Below is a copy of the relevant portions of President Bush’s address with annotations to some of the more interesting exchanges between the live-chatters. (Please bear in mind that science-related content did not appear until 20 minutes into the speech, including breaks for clapping. A complete transcript of the speech is available here.) For the most part, the dialogue is preserved in its raw, unedited form:

...

To overcome dangers in our world, we must also take the offensive by encouraging economic progress, and fighting disease, and spreading hope in hopeless lands.  Isolationism would not only tie our hands in fighting enemies, it would keep us from helping our friends in desperate need.  We show compassion abroad because Americans believe in the God-given dignity and worth of a villager with HIV/AIDS, or an infant with malaria, or a refugee fleeing genocide, or a young girl sold into slavery.  We also show compassion abroad because regions overwhelmed by poverty, corruption, and despair are sources of terrorism, and organized crime, and human trafficking, and the drug trade. [See the chat]

In recent years, you and I have taken unprecedented action to fight AIDS and malaria, expand the education of girls, and reward developing nations that are moving forward with economic and political reform.  For people everywhere, the United States is a partner for a better life.  Short-changing these efforts would increase the suffering and chaos of our world, undercut our long-term security, and dull the conscience of our country.  I urge members of Congress to serve the interests of America by showing the compassion of America.

...

Keeping America competitive requires affordable health care.  (Applause.)  Our government has a responsibility to provide health care for the poor and the elderly, and we are meeting that responsibility.  (Applause.)  For all Americans—for all Americans, we must confront the rising cost of care, strengthen the doctor-patient relationship, and help people afford the insurance coverage they need. (Applause.) [See the chat]

We will make wider use of electronic records and other health information technology, to help control costs and reduce dangerous medical errors.  We will strengthen health savings accounts—making sure individuals and small business employees can buy insurance with the same advantages that people working for big businesses now get.  (Applause.)  We will do more to make this coverage portable, so workers can switch jobs without having to worry about losing their health insurance.  (Applause.)  And because lawsuits are driving many good doctors out of practice—leaving women in nearly 1,500 American counties without a single OB/GYN—I ask the Congress to pass medical liability reform this year.  (Applause.)

Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy.  And here we have a serious problem:  America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.  The best way to break this addiction is through technology.  Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources—and we are on the threshold of incredible advances. [See the chat]


So tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative—a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research—at the Department of Energy, to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas.  To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants, revolutionary solar and wind technologies, and clean, safe nuclear energy.  (Applause.)

We must also change how we power our automobiles.  We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen.  We’ll also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks, or switch grass.  Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years.  (Applause.)

Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal:  to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.  (Applause.)  By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.  (Applause.)

And to keep America competitive, one commitment is necessary above all:  We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity.  Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hardworking, ambitious people—and we’re going to keep that edge.  Tonight I announce an American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our nation’s children a firm grounding in math and science. [See the chat] (Applause.)

First, I propose to double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years.  This funding will support the work of America’s most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources.

Second, I propose to make permanent the research and development tax credit—(applause)—to encourage bolder private-sector initiatives in technology.  With more research in both the public and private sectors, we will improve our quality of life—and ensure that America will lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come.  (Applause.)

Third, we need to encourage children to take more math and science, and to make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations.  We’ve made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country.  Tonight I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science, bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms, and give early help to students who struggle with math, so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs.  If we ensure that America’s children succeed in life, they will ensure that America succeeds in the world.  (Applause.)

Preparing our nation to compete in the world is a goal that all of us can share.  I urge you to support the American Competitiveness Initiative, and together we will show the world what the American people can achieve.

America is a great force for freedom and prosperity.  Yet our greatness is not measured in power or luxuries, but by who we are and how we treat one another.  So we strive to be a compassionate, decent, hopeful society.

In recent years, America has become a more hopeful nation.  Violent crime rates have fallen to their lowest levels since the 1970s.  Welfare cases have dropped by more than half over the past decade.  Drug use among youth is down 19 percent since 2001.  There are fewer abortions in America than at any point in the last three decades, and the number of children born to teenage mothers has been falling for a dozen years in a row.  (Applause.)

These gains are evidence of a quiet transformation—a revolution of conscience, in which a rising generation is finding that a life of personal responsibility is a life of fulfillment.  Government has played a role.  Wise policies, such as welfare reform and drug education and support for abstinence and adoption have made a difference in the character of our country.  And everyone here tonight, Democrat and Republican, has a right to be proud of this record.  (Applause.)

Yet many Americans, especially parents, still have deep concerns about the direction of our culture, and the health of our most basic institutions.  They’re concerned about unethical conduct by public officials, and discouraged by activist courts that try to redefine marriage.  They worry about children in our society who need direction and love, and about fellow citizens still displaced by natural disaster, and about suffering caused by treatable diseases.

As we look at these challenges, we must never give in to the belief that America is in decline, or that our culture is doomed to unravel.  The American people know better than that.  We have proven the pessimists wrong before—and we will do it again.  (Applause.)

A hopeful society depends on courts that deliver equal justice under the law.  The Supreme Court now has two superb new members—new members on its bench:  Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito.  (Applause.)  I thank the Senate for confirming both of them.  I will continue to nominate men and women who understand that judges must be servants of the law, and not legislate from the bench. (Applause.)

Today marks the official retirement of a very special American.  For 24 years of faithful service to our nation, the United States is grateful to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.  (Applause.)

A hopeful society has institutions of science and medicine that do not cut ethical corners, and that recognize the matchless value of every life.  Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research:  human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal hybrids, and buying, selling, or patenting human embryos.  Human life is a gift from our Creator—and that gift should never be discarded, devalued or put up for sale. [See the chat]  (Applause.)

A hopeful society expects elected officials to uphold the public trust.  (Applause.)  Honorable people in both parties are working on reforms to strengthen the ethical standards of Washington—I support your efforts.  Each of us has made a pledge to be worthy of public responsibility—and that is a pledge we must never forget, never dismiss, and never betray.  (Applause.)

As we renew the promise of our institutions, let us also show the character of America in our compassion and care for one another.

A hopeful society gives special attention to children who lack direction and love.  Through the Helping America’s Youth Initiative, we are encouraging caring adults to get involved in the life of a child—and this good work is being led by our First Lady, Laura Bush.  (Applause.)  This year we will add resources to encourage young people to stay in school, so more of America’s youth can raise their sights and achieve their dreams.

A hopeful society comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of suffering and emergency—and stays at it until they’re back on their feet.  So far the federal government has committed $85 billion to the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans.  We’re removing debris and repairing highways and rebuilding stronger levees.  We’re providing business loans and housing assistance.  Yet as we meet these immediate needs, we must also address deeper challenges that existed before the storm arrived.

In New Orleans and in other places, many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country.  The answer is not only temporary relief, but schools that teach every child, and job skills that bring upward mobility, and more opportunities to own a home and start a business.  As we recover from a disaster, let us also work for the day when all Americans are protected by justice, equal in hope, and rich in opportunity.  (Applause.)

A hopeful society acts boldly to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS, which can be prevented, and treated, and defeated.  More than a million Americans live with HIV, and half of all AIDS cases occur among African Americans.  I ask Congress to reform and reauthorize the Ryan White Act, and provide new funding to states, so we end the waiting lists for AIDS medicines in America.  (Applause.)  We will also lead a nationwide effort, working closely with African American churches and faith-based groups, to deliver rapid HIV tests to millions, end the stigma of AIDS, and come closer to the day when there are no new infections in America. [See the chat]
(Applause.)

...

May God bless America.  (Applause.)

Don’t forget to take a look at our live-chatter’s post-speech wrap-up.

Originally published February 1, 2006

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