McCain's Science Policy

By Phil Plait | September 22, 2008 12:48 pm

ScienceDebate2008 was set up to get the Presidential candidates talking publicly about science. They asked the candidates 14 questions about science policy; last week I analyzed Barack Obama’s answers. Now it’s time for John MCain’s. His full, detailed answers to the 14 questions can be found on the ScienceDebate2008 website. I suggest you read that before continuing on here.

Presidential candidate John McCain on science

Mind you, what follows are my opinions, based on the answers McCain gave and evidence I have gathered elsewhere. I have based my opinions on the best knowledge I have, and I encourage readers to leave rational, thoughtful comments.

On science innovation:

His lead-in to this is a little odd; he says he knows about science and tech because he was in the Navy and relied on them, but that’s a non sequitur (especially since he’s made a point of saying he doesn’t even know how to use a computer). I’ve relied on medical technology in the past, but that makes me neither a doctor nor an expert in that tech. However he does have real background in legislation in this field, so we can chalk up that Navy statement to him just once again dropping his military career into the conversation.

For science innovation, McCain gives a list of bulleted item, and they read fairly well (though vague), and in many cases are just like Obama’s points. One thing did stand out to me in this section. He said he would:

Appoint a Science and Technology Advisor within the White House to ensure that the role of science and technology in policies is fully recognized and leveraged, that policies will be based upon sound science, and that the scientific integrity of federal research is restored

That sounds good, but that also makes it sound like there isn’t one now. There is: John Marburger. Of course, Marburger is routinely ignored by Bush, but the position does exist.

On climate change:

He says the right things here, too. He acknowledges that global warming exists (hurray!) and that we are at least partly to blame (hurray!) and that we need to lower our impact (hurray!). He even lists some target goals to achieve in the next few decades. For a Republican in power in this country, that is refreshing.

However, according to Salon (which admittedly is no friend of the far right), his record on the environment is terrible, and he has made some statements about that record that don’t match the facts. That does make me wonder if McCain is actually willing to back up his answers in ScienceDebate with action. History would say otherwise; while Salon may be biased, over the past two years McCain has gone back on many of his stances that angered the far right.

On energy:

This quotation struck me:

As President, I will put the country on track to building 45 new reactors by 2030 so that we can meet our growing energy demand and reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases. Nuclear power is a proven, domestic, zero-emission source of energy and it is time to recommit to advancing our use of nuclear energy.

I support this quite strongly; nuclear tech has come a long, long way in the past few decades, and can be made safe and clean. We need nuclear power. That is not generally considered a liberal view, but then again I’m a complicated guy. I’ll note Obama said he supports the idea of nuclear power as well.

However, about solar, wind, and other sources, he said this:

In the progress of other alternative energy sources — such as wind, solar, geothermal, tide, and hydroelectric –government must be an ally but not an arbiter. In less than a generation, wind power alone could account for a fifth or more of all our electricity. And just in recent memory, solar energy has gone from a novelty to a fast-growing industry. I’ve voted against the current patchwork of tax credits for renewable power because they were temporary, and often the result of who had the best lobbyist instead of who had the best ideas. But the objective itself was right and urgent. And when I’m signing laws, instead of casting one of a hundred votes, I intend to see that objective better served. We will reform this effort so that it is fair, rational, and permanent, letting the market decide which ideas can move us toward clean and renewable energy.

That is, not to be too blunt, a crock. The market has been corrupted in recent years, so much so that our economy is on the verge of collapse. That’s what the unregulated free market has done for us. There are times when government regulation and funding are good things. Funding research into cheaper and more efficient tech would be a fine idea; some companies will do this, but enough to actually achieve the goal? It hasn’t happened yet, and without the government’s support it may not happen.

McCain says he wants the market to decide, but he also supports a taxpayer-supported $300 million prize to build a hybrid battery that can be used in a car. Which is it?

On science education:

His answer on this is pretty vague, saying we need to improve things for students, give them more opportunities, train teachers, and so on:

We must fill the pipeline to our colleges and universities with students prepared for the rigors of advanced engineering, math, science and technology degrees.

We must move aggressively to provide opportunities from elementary school on, for students to explore the sciences through laboratory experimentation, science fairs and competitions.

Well, sure. But that’s not really an answer to what we will do to improve science education, it’s an outline of a solution at best. There’s no solid detail to this.

And then, in the midst of all that, comes this strange fiat:

We must bring private corporations more directly into the process, leveraging their creativity, and experience to identify and maximize the potential of students who are interested and have the unique potential to excel in math and science.

Private corporations? What? That’s nuts! Again, I point to the way the market has behaved recently. I don’t think we should leave something as critical as educating our children in the hands of corporations. That’s insanity.

He does give some specifics:

I will devote 60 percent of Title II funding for incentive bonuses for high performing teachers to locate in the most challenging educational settings, for teachers to teach subjects like math and science, and for teachers who demonstrate student improvement.

[…]

I will allocate $250 million through a competitive grant program to support states that commit to expanding online education opportunities. States can use these funds to build virtual math and science academies to help expand the availability of AP Math, Science, and Computer Sciences courses, online tutoring support for students in traditional schools, and foreign language courses.

Speaking to the first part of that quotation, organizations already exist to do that, like Teach for America. They get teachers into places where they are needed the most, like rural and inner city locations. Funding them better would be a good start.

The second part, grant money to get states online, sounds good. However, $250 million is not a lot of money. Just developing a single online course could cost about a million dollars (I worked on just such a grant a few years ago). With overhead, infrastructure, and other costs, this money won’t last long. It’s a nice start, but I don’t know where McCain’s group came up with that number.

I’ll also add that previous statements of his make me strongly doubt his commitment to education; he recently called planetaria "foolishness". Given that planetaria are where hundreds of thousands of people across the country get their astronomy fix, his calling them foolish is itself foolish.

On stem cells:

He falls badly here:

While I support federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, I believe clear lines should be drawn that reflect a refusal to sacrifice moral values and ethical principles for the sake of scientific progress. Moreover, I believe that recent scientific breakthroughs raise the hope that one day this debate will be rendered academic. I also support funding for other research programs, including amniotic fluid and adult stem cell research which hold much scientific promise and do not involve the use of embryos. I oppose the intentional creation of human embryos for research purposes and I voted to ban the practice of “fetal farming,” making it a federal crime for researchers to use cells or fetal tissue from an embryo created for research purposes.

"Moral values"? Stem cells come from embryos that will be destroyed anyway. Is he morally against in vitro fertilization, where several embryos can be lost? This is a fundamental (haha) hypocrisy of this stance by the religious right. It’s nonsense.

And the "fetal farming" line is also pure garbage. There is no such thing as fetal farming. Never has been, either. It’s an empty statement that sounds good to the base, but is meaningless. It’s like saying you’re against evil flying monkeys that live in clouds.

Third, adult stem cells do not have anywhere near the same use as embryonic cells. Using only adult cells is like restricting astronomers to only looking at the sky from 3-4 a.m., or telling biologists they can only study invertebrates. It unreasonably limits the research that can be done, and it’s based on fallacious moral arguments.

On space:

Here, McCain hits the right notes. He acknowledges the importance of space exploration, including where it is critical for science, for studying the Earth, and where manned exploration excites and inspires us. I have no issues with anything he says here. Surprise!

He also specifically calls for the Shuttle to remain in service until Ares is ready to fly. That, I think, is a thorny issue. I am no fan of the Shuttle: it’s expensive, difficult, and dangerous. But it’s all we have. Ares wont be ready for manned flights until 2014 at the very earliest, and the Shuttle is due to retire in 2010. Extending the Shuttle four more years — at the very least — is asking for trouble, and by trouble I mean at worst losing another orbiter.

I would love to be able to simply keep flying the Shuttle until Ares flies, but it’s a lot more complicated than that! We don’t have an infinite number of engineers, launch facilities, and resources. Simply stating that we’ll extend the Shuttle program means spending a lot more money. A lot. To me, this sounds like a statement from McCain that is supposed to sound nice, but wasn’t thought through terribly well.

On freedom of scientific research:

McCain hits the right notes here as well:

Many times our research results have identified critical problems for our country. Denial of the facts will not solve any of these problems. Solutions can only come about as a result of a complete understanding of the problem. I believe policy should be based upon sound science. Good policy development will make for good politics.

I support having a science and technology advisor within the White House staff and restoring the credibility and role of OSTP as an office within the White House structure. I will work to fill early in my Administration both the position of Science Adviser and at least four assistant directors within OSTP. I am committed to asking the most qualified scientists and engineers to join not only my OSTP, but all of the key technical positions in my Administration.

"Restoring the credibility" is a key phrase; science counsel in the Bush White House is a joke… or it would be, if it weren’t so tragic. I would be very happy indeed to see that role solidified and increased.

Conclusions

McCain does get some things right, or mostly so, including what he says about space, nuclear energy, and climate change. He is grossly wrong on others, like stem cell research and some odd ideas about corporate involvement in science.

In many cases, comparing the two candidates, I think that McCain and Obama say pretty much the same thing. It’s hard to say if this is honesty from them, or whether we should chalk it up to pre-election empty promises. Both say some good things about science policy, but in the end I have to give Obama the ribbon. His comments overall tend to be more detailed and provide more information on what he will actually do. McCain’s biggest failing here — and it is indeed big — is letting far-right ideology ooze in, like letting corporations get their hands on our kids in the classroom, and all the utter nonsense he spouted about stem cell research.

I am not so foolish as to think that either Obama’s or McCain’s remarks in this debate will sway very many voters. Plus, they do tend to fall along party lines. And again, we’re in the pre-election campaign season, where the promises of a politician are as ethereal and thin as the dust between stars.

But enough of that dust dims our view of the distance. I hope that whoever wins the White House sticks to their claims made in ScienceDebate2008. At the very least we should take note of their answers, and make sure that they hear about it if they don’t.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Politics, Science

Comments (99)

  1. Lawrence

    Well, I do believe that either of the current candidates would be better than what we’ve had to deal with over the past eight years. Unfortunately, until actions start lining up with words, I’m not keeping up much hope for substantial change.

  2. And, I might add, voters should pay attention to candidates’ records and the records of their running mates in such matters as health, science, and restraint in meddling in science for political or religious reasons. Not to mention respect for the American taxpayer/voter.

  3. I’m with you for the most part, Phil. But saying the free market brought on this economic collapse is about as accurate as giving a drunk 16-year-old behind the wheel of a Corvette, filling it with rocket fuel, and blaming the result on Chevy’s poor safety features.

    First of all, the Fed has been artificially goosing the market with unnaturally low interest rates since the Clinton era. The Treasury has been inflating the money supply at LEAST 12 to 14% annually (the last two years they’re refused to divulge how much they’re printing), and the “deregulation” everybody is blaming only applied to certain “special exemption” banks and not others, which is not exactly deregulation so much as it is favoritism.

    Personally, I don’t credit either of these men with the ability to lead this country, as they show no real need to favor reality over soundbites and popular “quick-fix” solutions to complex issues.

    Ah, the glories of the two-party system. We get the best politicians money can buy.

  4. themadchemist

    The only problem I have with this is you make it sound like your opinions are homogeneous within the science community. For instance, not all scientists agree with you on Embryonic stem cells.

  5. In other words: we can’t trust what either one said, they both say approximately the same thing, but Obama had more details and McCain might be cozying up to corporations and fundagelicals.

    *sigh*

    I really wish the U.S. didn’t have this idiotic either-or political system, but any hope for viable 3rd parties has been effectively crushed with the results of the 2000 election. so now all Americans get to do is damage-control

  6. Excellent analysis. Especially your conclusion.

    And agree, we need more alternatives here. Sometimes it’s hard to really see the difference between either party, and if you look at the entire political spectrum, US politics is incredibly narrow.

  7. jasonB

    Phil

    The “non-sequitor” of being in the Navy may have to do with him being a Naval aviator. They tend to have to deal with things doing with science.

    He doesn’t e-mail on his own because of the discomfort in his arms that were broken while ejecting from his plane. His medical “treatment” (read as repeated torture) in captivity kind of sealed the deal with his injuries.

  8. Cheyenne

    It’s a good thing that both of these candidates are going on the record, with specifics, in regard to science. I really don’t see a whole lot of difference between the two- which is reassuring for whoever wins (just with the science issue I mean).

  9. Irishman

    I would love to be able to simply keep flying the Shuttle until Ares flies, but it’s a lot more complicated than that! We don’t have an infinite number of engineers, launch facilities, and resources. Simply stating that we’ll extend the Shuttle program means spending a lot more money. A lot. To me, this sounds like a statement from McCain that is supposed to sound nice, but wasn’t thought through terribly well.

    Actually, I think this comment is driven by different political realities. Apparently Russia heating up on Georgia has caused a lot of tension, specifically with Congress and the Iran non-proliferation treaty. Without that treaty, NASA cannot purchase Soyuz missions to keep ISS crewed during the interim while Shuttle is down and Ares is not up. I didn’t think anything about it until a senior manager mentioned it at a meeting and that NASA is conducting some preliminary reviews on what it will take to keep Shuttle flying that long.

    Of course if you don’t care for ISS, that simplifies matters.

  10. Metre

    “The market has been corrupted in recent years, so much so that our economy is on the verge of collapse. That’s what the unregulated free market has done for us. There are times when government regulation and funding are good things”

    Stick to science, Phil, your command of economics is not so good. The market if far from “unregulated and free”. In fact, it is government regulations and intervention into markets that is the cause of the current economic crisis. Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac are monopolies set up by the government and mandated to give high risk loans to folks who couldn’t afford them. And the “government bailout” will cost every man, woman, and child in the US $3000. When it comes to markets, we privatize profits but socialize our debts. Expect your taxes to go up – again. That’s not a free market. More regulations = more of a mess.

  11. Nemo

    Phil Plait: Soft on evil flying monkeys! — I’m John McCain and I approve this message.

  12. Reginald Selkirk

    Stem cell backers question where McCain stands
    MADISON, Wis. – Some of the nation’s top embryonic stem cell research advocates say they are growing concerned that Sen. John McCain will backtrack on his previous support for the work if elected president…

  13. Cassiopeia

    I believe Obama once said he would secure funding for atleast a few Shuttle flights more to “fill the gap” between Altair and the shuttles. Buying more Soyuz TMA flights from Roskosmos should be still top priority for NASA and the USA, as the ESA manned vehicle based on the successful Ariadne/Jules Verne design is far from complete, and the Japanese haven’t got a tested system either for ISS. The Chinese have Long March and Shenzhou, but they’re not going to sell it to the west without selling the ISS too.

  14. Reginald Selkirk

    In fact, it is government regulations and intervention into markets that is the cause of the current economic crisis.

    Wowie zowie. What color is the sky over there?

  15. Reginald Selkirk

    One thing not mentioned on the “science education” issue – McCain and Palin have both used the “teach both sides” Creationist misdirection. That is a bad thing.

  16. Mark

    It is a wonderful idea to encourage local businesses to explain to students what they can do to get a real job using math and science in their home town. For example, the insurance company my wife works for in Hartford, CT, holds annual events for gifted high school kids to help them learn more about being an actuary. Many high school teachers guidance councellors, and unfortunately math college professors have no idea what actuaries do, or that they even exist. My wife didn’t find out about being an actuary until her senior year of college-as she was a math major from a math and science academy. Students are not being told how they can use their math and science talents so they often do not pursue them. Business is the best voice to get this message to students. It is sad that you are so jaded to make such sweeping negative comments about business and its role in education when companies are already out there trying to be involved.

  17. Metre, you’re only half-right. the regulations, just like the stimulus-check, the gas-tax-holiday, the support for ethanol and a few other things, are all things that are supposed to LOOK as if the government cares, without actually caring or doing anything substantive. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are just prime examples of this: semi-capitalist entities that privatize profit but socialize risk. That’s exactly the wrong way to go. Where profit is private, so should be the risk, while organizations which exist primarily to socialize risk, have to socialize 9or better yet: conserve against future risks) the profits, too.

  18. David D.

    Here is a link that gives a bit more current info about the potential of adult stem cells:

    http://strata-sphere.com/blog/index.php/archives/4748

    To simply say that adult stem cells do not have anywhere near the usefulness as embryonic stem cells is not necessarily true and may be proven false by current and continuing research.

  19. Todd Ferguson

    @Metre

    That’s not exactly the whole truth you have going on there.

    1) While Fannie and Freddie were established by the government, but they had been publicly held and traded corporations before the government came in and took them over again.

    2) They were not operating under any such mandate; moreover, there were plenty of other banks issuing just as many dangerous mortgages. They all did it because they were making money based on how much money they lent out. In fact, the rules that Fannie operated under meant the loans they were giving were less risky than the loans that other banks were giving. The trouble started when Fannie tried to bail out some of those other banks by taking on some of the high risk loans several months back.

    3) The crisis goes far beyond Fannie and Freddie, and that part of the crisis is most certainly due to the easing of regulations, specifically through amendments snuck into bills by Sen Phil Gramm, McCain’s chief economic advisor (you know, the one who said the US is a “nation of whiners” in a “mental recession”).

    4) Those regulations that were eased were ones that were put in place in 1933 as a response to the Great Depression. They were relaxed in 1999. Only took about 9 years to totally turn the market upside down again. Maybe the GOP should have thought about _WHY_ those regulations had been put into place.

    However, I agree with you about the problems of this bailout. It is a socialist move. The people who should pay for the bailout are the one who profited from the last several years of financial excess, the executives working for AIG, Merill, Lehman, etc.

  20. and btw, Fannie Mae was never supposed to be a profit-making, private organization, to begin with.

  21. “we’re in the pre-election campaign season”

    There’s another campaign after the election?

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  22. Robbie

    Phil Plait: “The market has been corrupted in recent years, so much so that our economy is on the verge of collapse. That’s what the unregulated free market has done for us.”

    By whom has it been the corrupted? The government. Therefore, it’s not an unregulated and free market.

    And bringing up the computer thing is just shameful. It would have better been phrased “Ha ha your arms don’t work!”

    Phil Plait: “I don’t think we should leave something as critical as educating our children in the hands of corporations. That’s insanity.”

    Politicians and government agencies though are much better than corporations! The corrupting influence on children would disappear overnight!

  23. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  24. JHill

    Any chance the SpaceX Falcon(s) will be ready before the Shuttle needs to go away, and more specifically would it be smart for NASA to make use of them while waiting on Ares?

  25. robbie, the corruption in this case started with the corporations which then happily proceeded to buy politicians. like I said, corporate and political power should not be conflated. They exist to be balanced AGAINST each other.

  26. oh, and I wanted to say that I agree with what Irishman said: extending the use of the Shuttle has more to do with the growing disagreement between Russia and The U.S. than with anything scientific. risking the lives of astronauts and a lot of resources by using the Shuttle WAY past it’s expiration date just so you’re free to start a new cold war is NOT a good plan.

  27. BMcP

    The market should decide what alternative energies should be invested in and used, the general rule is if something needs to be subsidized to succeed, it is a failure. Corn based ethanol is a prime example of this. It is only profitable and affordable because it is so heavily subsidized by us. It isn’t even a good alternative fuel, its expensive, drives up food costs, polluting, and not that efficient. But because of subsidies and lobbyists, we keep funding it even though there are other, better ways to make ethanol. I fear government subsidies of future energy projects will suffer the same issue, the money will go to where the lobbyists and votes are, wither or not the alternative is good or not, or even worse.

    If the government wasn’t such in the way, we would have more alternative power, like nuclear energy, it is Washington’s fault such plants are not built.

    If an alternative energy source is profitable, someone will find a way to make it happen.

  28. “The market should decide what alternative energies should be invested in and used”

    The market is reactive, not proactive. meaning nothing will change until change is inescapable, at which point those who have enough money to change over quickly will do fine, those that don’t will suffer. It’s evolution, but with money.

    If the government wasn’t in the way, we’d be drilling left right and center, there would be no forrests left, and the fight against global warming would already be lost. We need PROACTIVE solutions, not reactive ones, and unfortunately there isn’t a non-governmental system that provides us with long-range, systemic solutions to problems which haven’t gone critical yet.

  29. arto7

    Given that: “He doesn’t e-mail on his own because of the discomfort in his arms that were broken while ejecting from his plane.” I am curious, without, I hope being disrespectful, as to what else he can’t do. I mean, to me emailing is typing. If he can’t type, is he able to write or does all his work get dictated and transcribed? I assume that he cannot drive a car but that he can at least shake hands and feed himself. That last one sounds bad but I really do wonder. This is about the third time I saw someone state that John McCain can’t email because of the abuse he suffered as a POW. So, it raises a lot of issues about what he can and cannot do and what is expected of him in his position as President if he is elected.

    This is not like the FDR days when people in the know politely looked the other way.

  30. Oh and as I understand the issue, nuclear power which is sustainable over the long-term doesn’t exist yet. Current technology uses a rather rare isotope of uranium (uranium-235), which could also run out fairly quickly if nuclear power were used extensively and intensively. Reactors which can use the ubiquitous form of uranium (uranium-238) or even thorium are still years if not decades from being commercially feasible. To my knowledge, the only Breeder reactor that produces electricity is somewhere in Russia, and is heavily subsidized

  31. Robbie

    Jadehawk: “The market is reactive, not proactive.”

    That is not true in the least. And the government always lags behind. Science and technology lead the way when unencumbered.

    Think about any problem existing today and there are engineers, scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs working on a solution to that problem right now. Very few of them are commissioned by the government to do so.

  32. mk

    You think McCain was “grossly wrong” on stem cells? Even after he said he supported federally funding its research? OK.

    I’ll tell you where I think he was “grossly wrong.” Manned space flight. In fact I think he sounds like a vulgar jingo. A rank nationalist.

    “the role of manned space flight goes well beyond the issue of scientific discovery and is reflection of national power and pride.”

    Ugh!

    He even sees fit to quote Caspar Weinberger:

    “History provides some guide to this. In 1971, when the Nixon Administration was looking at canceling the Apollo program and not approving the development of the Space Shuttle – then Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Casper Weinberger stated that such a policy: “would be confirming in some respects a belief that I fear is gaining credence at home and abroad: That our best years are behind us, that we are turning inward, reducing our defense commitments, and voluntarily starting to give up our super-power status and our desire to maintain world superiority.”

    Maintain world superiority! Lovely. And yes he thinks that mindset is relevant today! If this is the reason supporters of Moon-Mars are giving… if this is the rationale for continuing manned space flight? Count me out!

    McCain is a lunatic.

  33. I’d like to defend Mr. McCain’s desire to bring private corporations into the fold of science education. I have been involved with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) for a while, and they organize competitive robotics events for high-school students. It’s an amazing program! It’s also very very expensive, and high-school teams almost always rely on corporations for sponsorship. Even in these tough times, corporations see the benefit and will pay the price so these kids can jump-start their science and technology education. Check out the FIRST website at: http://www.usfirst.org, or my blog at rogeronfirst.blogspot.com.

    Oh, by the way, I’m voting for Senator Obama in November.

  34. TheBlackCat

    So much for McCain’s promise to increase the science budget. You would think he would at least have the decency to wait until after the election to break his campaign promises:

    http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2008/919/1

  35. Robbie

    research is one thing, marketing another. usually, things don’t get marketed until whatever they’re going to replace becomes untenable. Or government regulated. Safety-features on cars, FCC-free products, lead-free products etc. they were all developed early, but won out not in the free market but through government regulation. the free market would have maybe eventually reacted, but obviously the government was quicker. Fuel efficiency in cars is another example. the technology has existed for a long time, but car manufacturers have spent the last decade or two fighting vigorously against having to use them. and now everybody who owns a car is #$%^ed.

    and even in research, often the direction of research in for-profit domains focuses on what’s most profitable, not what’s most necessary. which is why we have pills for every ache and discomfort, but funding for extremely-long term research into finding possible drugs/treatments for serious diseases is hard to come by. it’s too risky, too long term.

  36. Ray

    art07,

    Exactly what are the physical requirements to be President? You’ll need to answer that before you can pass judgment.

  37. TWcaldwell

    The free market is the only way that other techs (wind, solar, etc) will come on line and WORK.

    The government sticking its thumb on the scales (grants, tax breaks, subsidies, etc) is why alternate energy tech is so messed up now.

    The government thumb is why you have a billionaire going on the TVwhining about wind power. He isnt concerned about the environment, or security of the nation. He is only concerned about losing his subsidies/tax breaks for supporting an unprofitable enterprise…

  38. Robbie

    Ray: “Exactly what are the physical requirements to be President? You’ll need to answer that before you can pass judgment.”

    From the Constitution: “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

  39. Ryan

    I see some others have already commented on how this is not actually a free market and so on, so I’ll skip that.

    Whenever I heard McCain and anything involving science or technology I think of one thing. Not his inability to use a computer, but rather his quote from a town hall meeting all the way back in February.

    “It’s indisputable that (autism) is on the rise amongst children, the question is what’s causing it. And we go back and forth and there’s strong evidence that indicates that it’s got to do with a preservative in vaccines.”

  40. Wow, there seem to be a number of people here who look at the mess that deregulation has wrought and have decided that more deregulation is the way to fix that. Fascinating!

    Phil, excellent analysis, but one question: as someone who has lived in the Western half of the country my whole life, I’ve seen more than my share of fights over nuclear waste disposal. While I support nuclear power in principle, I’m still concerned about this–how can we make use of this power source without creating further waste storage problems?

  41. RL

    @Jadehawk

    You may be right about the market buying politicians…
    From Bloomberg
    “Throughout his political career, Obama has gotten more than $125,000 in campaign contributions from employees and political action committees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, second only to Dodd, the Senate Banking Committee chairman, who received more than $165,000.”

  42. RL

    @mk There are many reasons to support manned spaceflight. And maintaining world superiority in flight and defense is not a bad thing. Quite the contrary. It allows the sciences and research to thrive.

  43. RL

    yup, this entire country is turning into the Corporate States of America; closely followed by the rest of the world.

  44. Daniel

    Phil I have 2 words for you…Sarah Palin.

  45. Drew

    Phil,

    Good show on reporting both sides pretty fairly, many bloggers fail to do that.

    I kind of have an issue with one point you make though, about the Shuttle.

    Specifically:
    I am no fan of the Shuttle: it’s expensive, difficult, and dangerous.
    […]
    Extending the Shuttle four more years — at the very least — is asking for trouble, and by trouble I mean at worst losing another orbiter.

    I don’t know Phil. I think we can all agree that sending people into orbit or beyond is pretty damn dangerous. I think we can also agree that having lost 2 orbiters, the shuttle does not eliminate that risk.

    But on this site : http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/list_main.html

    NASA lists 123 completed missions to date. I believe the two failed missions are counted, and to be fair they were not completed, so figure 121 missions, with 2 lost.

    That is less than a 2% failure rate, in such a dangerous environment and mission.

    I don’t think I would say the shuttle is dangerous, nor would I automatically agree that we will lose another in the four years after 2010.

    It may well be a bad idea for many reasons (I don’t know them well enough), but for the danger factor, I have to respectfully disagree.

    And I bet may astronaughts would as well. It sounds harsh but we can’t expect everyone who leaves the Earth to come home safely, when not even everyone who leaves their house makes it home from the market.

    We should admire astronaughts for (among other things) their courage to face such danger for the benefit of those of us who can’t.

  46. mk

    RL,

    Having a strong defense and being on the cutting edge of flight does not require manned space flight. Manned space flight is not required for science and research to thrive.

  47. Chris A.

    @Phil:
    I’m afraid I must correct a spelling error: It’s “non sequitur,” not “non-sequitor.”

    @RL:
    As for who is “buying” the candidates, consider the following (from opensecrets.org):

    – On Obama’s top 20 contributors list are four universities (U. of California, Harvard, U. of Chicago, and Stanford); on McCain’s there are none.

    – On McCains top 20 industry contributors list are “Oil & Gas” and “Lobbyists;” neither appear on Obama’s top 20 industry contributors.

  48. chris, that just proves that Obama is the lesser evil. I think most (libertarians excepted) would agree with you on that. that doesn’t mean he’s a good choice. he’s just the only alternative left, since the U.S. lack a decent 3rd party

  49. Grand Lunar

    In reading the statement about water shortages, what springs to mind is this; why not use excess water that builds up in Florida?

    Fresh water that normally gets flushed back out to sea could instead be piped to states that do have a water problem.

  50. tacitus

    Water is already becoming a scarce resource in Florida too. The natural water system that flows through central and southern Florida has already been heavily tapped to need the needs of farmers and the rapid growth in population encroaching from the coasts. Indeed. steps have had to be taken to protect the Everglades from drying out. There is no viable surplus of water in Florida that can be exported.

  51. DF
  52. “excess water”…? there’s no such thing as excess water. I’m thinking you might be talking about “gray water” which in many places is treated like sewage but could actually be used for a number of things were 100% clean water isn’t necessary.

  53. Thanny

    Phil may not be an economic expert, but neither, clearly are the ones criticizing him.

    Deregulation is absolutely to blame for the current mess, not regulations.

    The description given for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is pure fantasy. The only reason they didn’t collapse completely before being deprivatized is because of the regulations they had against taking high risk mortgages (the executives violated some of them, taking on more risk than they were supposed to).

    The primary problem with this economy is the glut of non-bank financial institutions in the mix, which don’t have deposits insured like banks, and (so the logic went) thusly are not regulated like banks. But the lack of regulations causes greedy executives to do stupid things like create sub-prime mortgage-backed securities that get rated AAA, subjecting the whole system to a meltdown when the housing bubble popped. So the government has to bail them out anyway. And since it’s obvious this will happen with any financial institution, they all need to be regulated, if only for their own good.

    But this reality is anathema to free-market ideologues, who don’t understand that free markets don’t do anything well but earn short-term profits, frequently at the expense of long-term financial stability (as shown both by the Great Depression, and our current mess). It’s regulated markets that produce all innovations worth having.

  54. Ken

    For the effect of liberal policies left to develop continuously for decades, literally, with liberal Democratic mayors check out how well Detroit has done as a city. Other examples are not so extreme, but not so far off either. Goverment corrucption & misuse, etc. of tax receipts is only part of the recurring story.

    Recently, the USAF & Dept of Defense (DoD) has been in the news for mishandling nuclear weapons/nuclear inventory, misconduct & mismanagement of $Billion-dollar acquisition programs (e.g. the replacement “Tanker” program), etc. DoD’s Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) has just recdently made the news for failing to look out for DoD’s interests & siding with the contractors its supposed to be overseeing. NASA, in the Sep 15, 2008 issue of Space News forgot to properly (if at all) include cost estimating requirement (Earned Value Management clauses) in the contracts. When the USAF was closing the Titan [rocket] launch program (which occurred in parallel with the final launches) they uncovered an overbilling of an estimated $175M-ish in 1998–when the Titan program expended less than $1B. That works out to about 17.5% of the USAF’s budget on a single program in a single year going, undetected, for work not performed. The only reason that ‘came to light’ was in concert with a Qui-Tam case that got thwarted at the very last moment — something NASA hasn’t even acknowledged as a risk (and its record of financial control makes the USAF’s look very rigorous by comparision…there are a number of groups quietly developing their Qui-Tam assaults there….).

    These are just the most recent & newsworthy examples.

    ….but they highlight that organizations, the military & NASA, have been failing miserably at looking out for their own interests — and when they fail at doing their own people (come members of their “clubs”), literally, may die as a result. They’ve got a much greater vested interest in doing better than they do…and they don’t do so well….

    Soooo….given that various entities within the government fail so consistently & miserably at looking out for their own interests, what makes you think they can do better for you????? In considering any response, realize that in the early thru mid-1990s the US Government’s (USG’s) human infrastructure was downsized (under the Clinton Administration) significantly. The very best/most capable & talented civil servants took early retirements, buy-outs, etc. and went to work in the private sector. What’s left is the “second string” team — which is partly why the USG’s performance gaffes [that are now making the news] occured in the first place.

    At least free-enterprise, with all its warts & flaws, does maintain some efficiencies out of dog-eat-dog competition between the players.

    The solution proven to work time & time again is NOT some either/or extremist position of all-government (extreme liberal notion) or all-commercial (extreme conservative position) but some middle-ground in which the government establishes the right inducements to effect the desired end result. Its a black art and politics (special interests, Congressional earmarks [“pork”], etc. etc.) is intrinsic. Like it or not, some compromise solution is built-into our political & economic system. It’s like a big dog on a leash. The “best” candidate will be one that understands that system and knows how to work it (like an adult that can control that big dog) so it doesn’t work him (like a child that goes where the dog leads).

  55. AFakeGuy

    I don’t believe a word McCain says. He’s nothing but a hypocrite and a liar. He has no creditability in my eyes. He also lacks good judgment. Look at his VP pick Palin, what a joke. She is nowhere near qualified for that position. He’s just using the fact that she’s a women to get votes from the Clinton supporters that don’t like Obama. He doesn’t care about the consequences his actions have on this country. He just cares about winning at all costs. McCain makes me sick.

  56. Lobo

    So Obama says this:

    “As president, I will lift the current administration’s ban on federal funding of research on embryonic stem cell lines created after August 9, 2001 through executive order, and I will ensure that all research on stem cells is conducted ethically and with rigorous oversight.”

    And McCain says this:

    “While I support federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, I believe clear lines should be drawn that reflect a refusal to sacrifice moral values and ethical principles for the sake of scientific progress.”

    And you think, Phil, there is something that drastic difference between those two?

    And if “fetal farming” doesn’t exist, then why did Obama vote to ban the practice of in 2006?

    Tsk, tsk, Phil..very sloppy, very sloppy

  57. Lobo

    “Fetus Farming Prohibition Act of 2006″ is the name of the bill that Obama voted for btw.

  58. LukeL

    Just to point out, he doesn’t know how to use a computer because he can’t lift one of his arms past horizontal and is in constant pain.

  59. George E Martin

    Jadehawk said:

    “Oh and as I understand the issue, nuclear power which is sustainable over the long-term doesn’t exist yet. Current technology uses a rather rare isotope of uranium (uranium-235), which could also run out fairly quickly if nuclear power were used extensively and intensively. Reactors which can use the ubiquitous form of uranium (uranium-238) or even thorium are still years if not decades from being commercially feasible. To my knowledge, the only Breeder reactor that produces electricity is somewhere in Russia, and is heavily subsidized”

    U235 is about 0.7% of natural uranium ore. It doesn’t take very much enrichment of the U235/U238 ratio to have a practical reactor. Also plutonium, Pu239, works just fine. In fact reactors generate Pu239. Breeder reactors enhance that.

    Jadehawk’s knowledge of breeder reactors seems to be very limited. France has been using them since 1984. Some nuclear power proponents hold up France as an example of what the US should be doing.

    George

  60. HvP

    As I understand it we currently import a greater percentage of our nuclear fuel than we do of our petroleum. And we’ve been negotiating a deal to export our nuclear waste to Russia – waste that can be used to produce nuclear weapons.

    Does this seem like a good strategy?

  61. Ah. Well, if Obama voted on a fetal farming bill as well, then he’s just ass foolish there. Since it wasn’t mentioned specifically in Obama’s answers to the science questions, I didn’t know about it. It’s not sloppy so much as not having time to hunt down every little thing.

  62. Michael Parmeley

    >>The market has been corrupted in recent years, so much so that our economy is on the verge of collapse.

    Our economy is not on the verge of collapse. Some corporations made some bad investment decisions and they had to file bankruptcy. That is the way the free-market works. What is a shame is that it looks like we (as in all of us) for some reason have to bail out these companies. Let those companies fail and then some more competent will companies will come take their place. Again that is how the free-market works.

    >> That’s what the unregulated free market has done for us.

    You have it totally backwards. Too much government interference is the problem. It is a sad state of affairs when the only 2 viable candidates for president are simply competing for who can convince America that they are less socialist than the other.

    >> There are times when government regulation and funding are good things.

    You understand that “government funding” means you, me, and everyone else is funding stuff right? I personally don’t like transferring wealth from people that have it, to people that don’t, that is called socialism. All government should do is make sure everyone has the same oppurtunity to acquire wealth (the property portion of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of property…which Jefferson changed to pursuit of happiness from Locke’s “property”)

  63. Cindy

    Did anybody else notice how often McCain used “leverage”? That’s corporate speak and I always cringe when I hear that. I was already going to vote for Obama (even though I voted for McCain in the Republican primary – that was more to keep Huckabee from getting the nomination).

    Speaking of leverage – fodder for another blog, Phil? Or am I the only one who has pet peeves against certain words being misused. ;-)

  64. For a fully comprehensive list of nuclear reactors around the World, click on my name.

  65. Ijon Tichy

    Phil wrote:

    I support this quite strongly; nuclear tech has come a long, long way in the past few decades, and can be made safe and clean. We need nuclear power. That is not generally considered a liberal view, but then again I’m a complicated guy.

    Your stance on nuclear power makes you rational, not complicated. Nuclear fission reactors are the cleanest, safest and cheapest form of energy. And I say that as a species of socialist. You know, socialists used to be very enthusiastic about science and technology. Then they lost their minds.

  66. To Thanny:

    Before you so easily dismiss those who would like to see ACTUAL deregulation, study a few non-Keynesian economists first. I highly recommend Ludwig von Mises for a starter. Or if that’s too tough, watch the speeches of the one politician who predicted not only this calamity, but the specific nature of it, time and time again: Ron Paul.

    Yes, I know, Ron Paul, that crazy guy who is always spouting nonsense, like the foolishness of an Iraq war, or the nutty idea of “blowback,” or how our economy isn’t doing as well as Clinton and Bush would’ve had you believe, or…

    And also remember, when Keynes was asked about how his economics couldn’t possibly work in the long run, he famously replied “In the long run we are all dead.” Yes, this was the thinking that led to our current system. It seems maybe the long run he cared so little for has arrived.

    Once you familiarize yourself with the Austrian school of economics, you’ll understand why so many here scoff at the idea that we have a “free market,” or that the cause of any of this is “deregulation.” When you actually understand what those really mean, you’ll realize the USA has enjoyed neither.

  67. Autumn

    @ Michael Parmely,
    “I personally don’t like transferring wealth from people that have it, to people that don’t, that is called socialism”.
    What if a poor entrepeneur has a great idea which investors wish to fund? In this case the “free market” will supposedly transfer wealth from those that have it to one who does not. Please note that this will only be effective if who? oh… the government… assures that there is sufficient regulation in place to allow the market to operate in a specified (determined by the governed-the government has the advantage as a regulator of being much more transparent and alterable than any private entity) manner. Even Adam Smith knew that the government is an indispensible part of the market. Without regulation, any new idea will be poached by entrenched market entities, and intellectual rights don’t exist.
    I have to say this on the internet now and then, but I don’t hesitate to repeat it:
    The market sets prices for goods and services arbitrarily close to the natural price of said goods and services, depending on the ability or neccessity of the market to accept costs as internal.
    That is all the “free market” does.
    The market does not encourage innovation.
    The market does not encourage competition.
    The market sets prices. That is all the market does.
    The role of the government, as Smith saw, is to compell the market to internalize costs that the actors in the market would rather ignore, thus protecting the consumer from the dictatorship of the few market actors.

    Economists, feel free to rip me to shreds, but realize that you are also spitting on the grave of Smith, whom I admire.

    PS, I’m a Market-Democratic-neo-socialist.
    Makes more sense than Big-government-Republican

  68. If McCain hasn’t got full use of his arms how is he going to be able to throw terrorists out of Air Force One?

  69. Speaking of eligibility for Pres and VP I’ve just heard that Palin only got a passport and travelled overseas for the first time in 2007. That is scandalous and outrageous. Even McCain lived overseas for some time. Obviously staying at the Hanoi Hilton isn’t exactly backpacking but at least he immersed himself in another culture for some years.

  70. @jadehawk, even thorium are still years if not decades from being commercially feasible

    I think the US, Germany, India and Russia all have Thorium capable reactors now and have had since at least the 90s. Thorium shows a lot of promise and will be good for Australia’s economy. We have much of the world’s Thorium reserves – 20%.

  71. Thanny

    Jess Mills:

    Ron Paul is your choice for economic advice?

    I’m afraid it’s beyond my ability to take you seriously. I’ll stick with Krugman, who actually knows the topic, and doesn’t have any ideological hangups about economic policy.

  72. That’s okay, Thanny. Your lack of ability to take me seriously was already assumed from your lack of understanding on the topic at hand. Along with your reading comprehension: Ron Paul was my choice if Mises was too difficult for you. But I’m sure Paul Krugman speaks in smaller words with fewer syllables.

  73. I’m assuming you meant Paul Krugman; if you meant somebody else, my apologies.

    The same Paul Krugman who stated “And even if we are now facing an unsustainable dollar overvaluation comparable to that of early 1985, those old enough recall that despite grim warnings of an impending “hard landing”, the correction of that overvaluation was almost entirely benign”?

    The same one who claimed the problem was that other countries weren’t inflating their currencies as fast as we were?

    Yes, he knows the topic far better. I must hang my head in shame now.

  74. Peter B

    I’m intrigued that several people have criticised the idea of government intervention on the grounds that it’s “privatising the profits and socialising the losses”.

    I won’t argue that this may be what is happening with Freddie and Fannie (charming names!), but I question using those grounds to criticise the intervention. In other words, you may dislike the concept of the intervention (which is fine), but what would be the alternative? Isn’t a government intervention in this situation cheaper in the long term than letting the whole system spiral in an unpredictable direction, but presumably towards a wholesale depression?

    Personally, I’d much prefer my government to spend a billion dollars preventively today than to be spending half a billion dollars a year for a decade in remedies.

    In closing, though, I realise that there is a shortcoming in the intervention – it doesn’t change the culture which allowed the debacle to arise in the first place. That change can only come from within the industry itself, and until it occurs, further problems may arise. But if nothing else, the intervention and the publicity surrounding it should remind people in the industry that the government and the public are watching them.

  75. Pieter Kok

    LukeL Says: Just to point out, he doesn’t know how to use a computer because he can’t lift one of his arms past horizontal and is in constant pain.

    Luke, did you hammer a nail in the ceiling and used it to type your comment on your laptop? There are ways to use a computer without lifting it, you know…

    Phil, if an anti-fetal farming bill comes up, the only thing you can do is to vote against it, even if fetal farming does not actually happen.

  76. David D.

    @PK–

    He could have voted “Present.”

  77. Eric H.

    Regarding corporations getting more involved in education, I don’t think that this is necessarily a bad thing.

    Already corporations provide a lot of research and education opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students. This is not only in the form of money donated to universities, but also in the form of internships and work study programs that are offered in partnership with universities. In this aspect Corporations are doing a great service.

    Regarding getting corporations involved more with K-12 education might not be so bad either. years ago when I was in High School I was heavily involved in the FIRST program at my high school from the first year it was offered until I graduated. For those of you who are unaware, FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”. It is a great program that inspires high school students about the real world applications of science and technology. For anyone who doesn’t know about this program I strongly suggest that you read up on it, and if possible support you local high school’s chapter. Anyway, one of the integral parts of this program was working with local companies. Most of the education and support (much of it financial) came from our partner companies. These companies benefited not only from the tax write off that they received but also from potentially recruiting future talented engineers. I think that our country could seriously use more programs like this one. However, I am not sure if this is what McCain had in mind when he said that we need more corporate involvement in education.

  78. Whatever they say on the campaign trail, we should not forget that it is to get votes. Obama promises the Moon. If he gets in, the Change we’ll get is the change we have left in our pockets after the Obama-Pelosi-Reid social programs kick in.

    I don’t recollect science education or research taking off like a Delta rocket under the Clinton administration, then being grounded the minute Bush got in.

    The danger that Obama and his cohorts present far outweighs anything McCain could bring to the office.

    Autumn: “PS, I’m a Market-Democratic-neo-socialist.” That explains a lot. Socialism does indeed work wonders. Look how well it’s worked in every place it’s been tried.

    Michael Parmeley understands it.

    Pieter: “Luke, did you hammer a nail in the ceiling and used it to type your comment on your laptop? There are ways to use a computer without lifting it, you know…”

    Are you being deliberately dense? We’re not talking about lifting the computer. Stephen King writes on a typewriter. Big Deal.

    And FDR was effectively crippled. He could not walk without help. But he led the coutry through the largest war we’ve ever seen.

    Do we really want the President – or even a mere president of a corporaation – wasting his time clicking away at a computer? That’s what staff is for.

    You (in Southern, “y’all”) may wish for an Obama presidency. But be careful what you wish for – you may get it. And this time, it’ll be a lot harder to recover. (We recovered from Jimy Carter, but it wasn’t easy.)

  79. PS:

    ” Why is a first term Senator pulling down almost $300,000 a year from Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Countrywide Financial, and Washington Mutual? He has not even completed his fourth year in the Senate and received a total of $1,093,329.00 from these eight companies and their employees. (all data from OpenSecrets.org). John McCain’s numbers, according to OpenSecrets.org for the period 1990-2008 (i.e., 18 years worth of data) only collected $549,584.00. In other words, Barack is receiving $273,582.25 (and 2008 is not over) per year while McCain raised a paltry $30,532.44.

    Want another shocker? Barack Obama has received more from one source–Goldman Sachs $542,252.00 – than McCain has from all of the companies combined. Who the hell is more beholden to lobbyists? And why does a junior Senator from Illinois rate this kind of dough?”

  80. Kerry Maxwell

    For those that inevitably lament the lack of a 3rd party in these discussions, what shining utopian beacon of 3 party nirvana can you suggest as a model? I need to brush up on my understanding of the Nash equilibrium. Oh, and ZZMike, what printing of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion did you get your info from?? Here’s hoping the lock on your backyard bunker malfunctions on election day.

  81. Thanny

    Jess:

    Yes, Jess, Paul Krugman knows economics, especially that related to foreign trade, much better than you do. Much, much, much better. That’s what happens when you get a PhD in the field, work in it for several years, win the Clark Medal, and then teach the topic at Princeton.

    But he calls shenanigans against your ideology, so he must just misunderstand. Even though none of the facts support your contentions.

    Just clamp your hands on your ears, recite the mantra, “La la la, I can’t hear you!”, and all those mean, nasty bits of reality will dry up and blow away in the considerable wind generated by those advocating supply-side economics.

  82. Mark Schaffer

    Hi Phil,

    How do we know the answers were indeed crafted by John McCain ( or Barack Obama) and not by surrogates? Did John see Barack Obama’s answers before turning his in or were both released at the same time?

    ZZMike,

    You forgot to include this tidbit with your tirade:
    “These tables list the top donors to these candidates in the 2008 election cycle. The organizations themselves did not donate , rather the money came from the organization’s PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.

    Because of contribution limits, organizations that bundle together many individual contributions are often among the top donors to presidential candidates. These contributions can come from the organization’s members or employees (and their families). The organization may support one candidate, or hedge its bets by supporting multiple candidates. Groups with national networks of donors – like EMILY’s List and Club for Growth – make for particularly big bundlers.”
    ZZMike, simpleton, conservative, idiot

  83. Alex J

    Couple things regarding stem cells –

    McCain still DOES support embryonic stem cell research, which is a step forward for the GOP. Most GOPs want to ban embryonic stem cell research completely, so McCain’s stance is a step forward in that direction. However, heavily regulating it is also not a very good idea either.

    Embryonic moral qualms? It depends on your definition of a life – and there really isn’t a right or wrong answer with this. You can’t mock someone for their beliefs, although discarded human embryos certainly do not seem to have the same potential to life than a normal one. However, the question is still there and legitimate –

    which leads us to “fetal farming”. You’re right, it’s never existed, we don’t have to worry about growing fetuses and using them for scientific experiments (yet), but first of all, obviously he signed the bill. Why not? I’ll bet Obama signed it too, because although the bill is shallow and the issue is transparent, it sounds good. But the legislation does raise an important question – if we allow embryonic stem cell research to go unregulated, then at what point do we start crossing moral boundaries? Can we harvest embryos solely for research purposes? Must we only rely on discarded embryos? What bout notification of the donors for use in embryonic stem cell research? There’s a lot of sticky stuff out there.

    Finally, you’re completely wrong on adult stem cells. Yes, some of them are multipotent as opposed to pluripotent but already with an hMSC you can differentiate it into three distinct tissue types – osteo, cardiac and neural. Adult stem cell research must be strengthened IN ADDITION to embryonic. The results we’re getting from adult stem cells are more immediate and quantifiable, whereas embryonic stem cells may still be a couple to a dozen years away from seeing concrete results, although the possibilities may be better.

  84. “Private corporations? What? That’s nuts! Again, I point to the way the market has behaved recently. I don’t think we should leave something as critical as educating our children in the hands of corporations. That’s insanity.”

    Hmmm, apparently the BA has never heard of private schools before.

    http://www.capenet.org/facts.html

    There are 29,000 private K-12 schools in the USA representing 23 percent of all schools. 6.1 million students attend these schools representing 11 percent of all students. Who is running these schools if not corporations? Apparently the parents who are sending their kids to these schools thought that they shouldn’t leave something as critical as their kid’s education to the government (which has been doing a poor job of it).

    I know, that’s insane, isn’t it. :)

  85. Also,

    http://ncea.org/news/SATScores2008.asp

    2008 SAT results

    Reading:
    public schools — 467
    religious schools – 532
    independent schools – 550

    Math:
    public schools — 510
    relgious schools — 531
    independent schools — 574

    Writing:
    public schools — 488
    religious schools — 529
    independent schools — 553

    Yes, I must now admit that independent schools run by those nasty, immoral corporations have been a complete disaster for education. That’s why their average SAT scores are 83, 64, and 65 points higher than for public schools in reading, math, and writing, respectively.

  86. Nice try Tom Marking, but you’re distorting what McCain said. He didn’t mention private schools there, he said, specifically, corporations.

  87. “Nice try Tom Marking, but you’re distorting what McCain said. He didn’t mention private schools there, he said, specifically, corporations.”

    The actual quotation is:

    “We must bring private corporations more directly into the process”

    He actually doesn’t specify which corporations he’s talking about. Nothing he says excludes the corporations that are running private schools. Nor does he actually specify what “process” he’s talking about. We perhaps can assume that he’s talking about public school education as being the “process” but it’s not clearly stated. It all depends on which corporations he’s talking about. He’s unclear on that point and I suspect deliberately so.

  88. education is important. yours as well. i enjoy your reflections, and i generally agree. but it’s spelled “non sequitur”.

  89. oh, i see that two other people have pointed out the latin spelling error. my apologies for the repetition.

    and shame on you for not bothering to fix the error. or is it more important to seem learned than to be learned?

  90. thomas bushnell, I don’t hover over the comments 24/7; especially when they run to nearly 100 comments long. I simply never saw this, so your last comment is overly harsh.

  91. chemistb

    I am tired of hearing the “can’t lift his arms high enough to type” as an argument for not learning how to use a computer. There are thousands of handicapped people that use computers every day! There are many, many adapted keyboards that he could use. Doesn’t the senate have an ergonomics dept? Can’t they hook him up with a solution to the typing problem?

    I see this as laziness, or fear of those ‘newfangled’ computers, or at least a lame excuse not to enter this century.

  92. JerryW

    McCain doesn’t use a computer for generational reasons: not many elderly people do.

    As for the article itself, I have no axes to grind either way and my main feeling on reading it was that McCain was just being measured against the personal views of the author. When they agreed (nuclear) McCain was good. When they disagreed, McCain was bad. Both of them left the facts feeling a little bruised…

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