The mainstreaming of crazy

By Phil Plait | September 8, 2009 11:37 am

Perhaps you’ve heard all the uproar about President Obama’s speech today. A group of folks is very concerned about a speech of his today, because he’s talking to schoolkids. And hey, didn’t Hitler talk to kids…?

Obama- adults are talking

That’s about as good as their logic gets. I wish I were kidding. Read the transcript of Obama’s speech, and see if you can find the alarming parts where he calls for the formation of Brown Shirts, or the extermination of a group of humans, or the invasion of Poland. I must have missed it, instead seeing things like where he says,

Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.

I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.

I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.

I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

Call the Allies! Load the B-29s!

Seriously, read this whole speech. It’s inspiring, wonderful, and designed to inspire kids to stay in school, accept the responsibility of the education, learn things, and then go and do good for the world.

Of course, there is a lunatic fringe in this country who will go ballistic about Obama no matter what he does; these are the ones saying the speech is indoctrinating children into accepting his socialist health care plan that will mutilate puppies and convert our elderly into Soylent Green. These people may be rabid racists, or simply mentally unbalanced, but we know for a rock solid fact that these people are utterly, completely wrong. Whatever you want to call them, it’s clear they are so far from the norm of the American people that they can’t even see the horizon from where they are. Simply reading the speech transcript shows that simply and clearly. But it’s also a fact that this subset of the population will always be with us.

But you know what? That doesn’t mean we have to give them a voice in the mainstream press. They have a right to their speech, but that doesn’t obligate anyone to pay attention to them, especially on the platform of national TV. I’m looking you right in the eye, Fox News. Not only do you give these people — factually wrong and provably so — a voice, you reiterate their comments and use your own voice to back them up.

This sort of thing mainstreams a view that is charitably called crazy. Again, I urge you to read Obama’s actual speech. It’s awesome, and something every kid should see and hear.

Yet because "news" media like Fox have aired so much invective from the wildly fringe reality-polluting community, even mainstream folks are arguing that Obama’s speech is evil. I saw a news report yesterday about an elementary school in North Carolina where they didn’t air the speech because so many parents complained. I can’t help but wonder what they would would have said if George Bush had made this same speech. Of course, Bush never would have said something like:

You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

And maybe if he had said those words, the people I’m talking about would’ve complained anyway. Critical thinking skills? Ha!

If I sound angry, then, yeah, I am. I’m tired of ignorance held up as inspiration, where vicious anti-intellectualism is considered a positive trait, and where uninformed opinion is displayed as fact.

It’s killing any real debate in this country, where the system of government depends utterly on a well-informed public. When rampant idiocy is presented as reasonable discourse without any rebuttal, then we all suffer.

What we need are government officials not afraid to talk like Barney Frank did to such a voice of lunacy. To reiterate, crackpots have a right to air their diseased notions, just as we have the right to tear those ideas to shred when they do. More than that, the news media have a responsibility to do so.

Let me leave you with this revolutionary and dangerous notion from President Obama:

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

I would add that we all need to not be afraid to speak out against nonsense and to call out willful ignorance when we see it.

Never give up. Never back down against evil. Never tire, because this struggle will be eternal.

Remember:

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Politics

Comments (376)

  1. fos

    I’m fortunate. I didn’t have to watch his propaganda. I’m a science teacher, not a socialist.

  2. I read the entire text of the speech, and the only thing that I could see that may offend the conservatives is that he is encouraging children to learn, be smart, and try to improveAmerica. It’s hard to be a bigot, racist, creationist, what have you if you actually get an education and apply it. Think that may be it?

    I personally insisted that my daughter be made to sit down and listen to the speech, even if other kids were getting out of it.

    EDIT TO ADD: I gotta call Poe on fos. Srsly! That was incredibly ignorant! http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/photo.php?pid=51577728&id=8618897&ref=mf

  3. Utakata

    As a socialist and a skeptic…I think some of the stuff he said is great. But it wasn’t propaganda or socialism.

  4. Phil. Very, very well-said.

    I too was shocked by the bizarre response to Obama’s speech, and it seems to be the loony few who think with the logic of: Socialized medical = Socialism = Communism = Obama is communist = It’s okay to bring guns to communist medicine rallies.

    I have no clue why Fox is giving these idiots a soapbox. But then again, it is Fox.

    Still, very sad.

  5. Bigfoot

    As a moderate who stands somewhere between the big 2 parties on most issues, I think the protesters of this speech are revealing nothing but a stunning flash of hypocrisy, unless they were out there protesting past Republican presidential addresses-to-students.

    I have never had an objection to a once-a-year presidential address to the students from any president. Those who are ignorant enough to call this an attempt at indocrination, even the before-the-edit version of the address and lesson kit, are likely many of the same that believed the whole health care death panel FUD.

    Along with our celebrated freedoms are the freedoms to remain ignorant, practice blind faith that directly contradicts factual evidence (and to indocrinate minors with same disbelief in factual evidence), and just plain act stupid. Sadly, it’s these liberties that many of our fellow citizens are so good at practicing, often with a sense of self-righteous anger at those who prefer rational thought.

    Oh well.

  6. I wonder how a person could teach science and not understand that socialism is way better than whatever it is we have now.

    I guess it just goes to show you don’t actually have to learn from what you teach.

  7. Dan I.

    Phil, you are gonna get flamed like no man’s business on this one. I agree wholeheartedly but man, get ready to hunker down for the impending $#%^ storm.

  8. Kevin Hales

    The problem is we are skeptics. When elected politician says “the Government’s here to help”, we are skeptical.

    We have gov’t officials who don’t pay their taxes. We have gov’t officials who are bribing ethics panels while under investigation for ethics violations, we have gov’t officials selling offices, we have gov’t officials giving no-bid contracts to their friends.

    I don’t want my kids anywhere near those kind of people. I don’t care how inspirational the message, it is irretrievably tainted.

  9. sisu

    Most news reporting tilts toward reinforcing the interests of the media’s corporate ownership.

    http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/international_security_bt/102.php

  10. Noah

    What you can’t see in the transcript was the spinning wheel that hypnotized our nation’s children. After this aired I called my children at school and when the teacher answered and said “they are taking a test”! Now Obama won’t even let me talk to my children because of his socialist agenda with public education. Public education is bad, the government gets to decide which children to teach and it destroys competition in the marketplace.

  11. JohnW

    Oh, from the title, I thought this post was going to be about messed up it is that Obama had a 9/11 Truther in a high position in his administration. My bad!

  12. Phil,

    Great post. I saw this issue on my local news today about how some schools in Massachusetts were recording the speech to be played later, all because parents complained about indoctrination and whatnot. Yes, “take responsibility for yourself and your education” is such a bad message. :roll:

  13. John Keller

    Actually, when George Bush made a similar speech, the Democrats in Congress complained about it too, and these were not some lunatic fringe but elected officials. Your “facts” are not right

    Personally, I thought it was a good speech and it focused on the correct things.

  14. Kevin Hales (#8): You are not a skeptic. You are a cynic. There’s a difference. Painting this speech with the same brush dipped in Blogojevitch is cynical, not skeptical.

  15. JohnW (#11): Not bad, but ultimately = fail for trollishnes and offtopic nonsense. 2 out of 10.

  16. I read the speech and watched the live webcast.
    It was well done.

  17. When wingnut [self-censored] have a claim that’s ludicrous on its face, it isn’t a “controversy”. It’s an attempted news hijacking. It would be nice if the fourth estate treated it as such. (No, I’m holding my breathe for no longer than you are on that count.)

  18. Patrick

    Phil -

    When you push BS like puppy mutilation and soylent green with your normally acidic style, you are as bad as the people you are dissing.

    As always, love,
    Patrick.

  19. YOU KNOW WHO ASKED FOR HELP? HITLER!

    Oh wait, he didn’t.

  20. BJN

    There’s a heaping helping of crypto racism behind much of this lunacy, sad to say.

  21. RationalZen

    Two things I thought that should have been worded differently:

    1) The part that said kids weren’t going to find success by rapping or playing basketball.

    If you don’t want kids to become stereotypes, don’t pigeon hole them. Easily could have been worded as musician, or athlete, but Obama (more likely his speech writer) chose a more specific stereotype to speak to individually.

    2) The part about Obama saying he was working to get the kids books, computers etc.

    Too far past the propaganda line for me. Next time I or my company donates computers to the lab anonymously, will the kids start to think the new PC was because of Obama’s work? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, it didn’t need to be in there. He should have trumped up the roles the teachers and families play, get the children’s support system closer to home rather than enforcing an idea that these kids are falsely relying on the president for services that are not really even related to him.

  22. Anti-evidence Scientist

    You can’t be a scientist and call this vanilla speech “propaganda”. What you are is a lying impostor. Coming to the conclusion that something is propaganda is not an opinion but a provable fact or non-fact. And the scientist is a slave to evidence and believing that things are provable. Thus you are full of it.

  23. Cheyenne

    Both sides play these stupid games. Today it’s the far right, yesterday it was the far left.

    “But when President George H.W. Bush delivered a similar speech on October 1, 1991, from Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington DC, the controversy was just beginning. Democrats, then the majority party in Congress, not only denounced Bush’s speech — they also ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate its production and later summoned top Bush administration officials to Capitol Hill for an extensive hearing on the issue.” – Washington Examiner

    I hope Obama can inspire some students to work hard and stay in school. And I’m very glad this speech was tweaked after receiving some criticism – it is a much better one now.

  24. When the GOP is talking about death panels, satirizing it with eating nutritious babies or making soylent green from grandma is perfectly appropriate.

  25. Anti-evidence Scientist

    BTW that was meant for the first response, who claims to be a scientist.

  26. Mina

    The argument I heard was that ideas like fighting poverty, homelessness, investing in alternative energy and protecting the environment are not agreed on universally across the US and that because Obama says that they should be priorities of government (?) is subtle propaganda.

    What I hear in his speech is that children should grow up to be ABLE to do those things with no commentary on HOW. It is the conserva-crazies who made the assumption he is making any statement on government involvement. I would be stunned to hear anyone argue we should not do those things as a function of SOCIETY which is different.

    Man, I’m so tired of stupid

  27. Anti-evidence Scientist

    Criticizing the speech for being too political is a legitimate criticism. That doesn’t hold up but it’s a reasonable line of argument. Claiming that this is “propaganda” without citing anything and before the speech is even delivered is basically the exact same method used to sell invading Iraq.

  28. ARJ

    Besides “ignorance” and “anti-intellectualism” there’s still deep-seated prejudice at work as old as the hills. And then there’s the all-out greed of those who will use the naive and easily-manipulated toward their own ends. As Michael Moore would say, “I want my country back,” but I’m not so pollyanish as to think I can get it back in the current environment… very sad.

  29. Jeff Rizzo

    Heaven forbid that someone in a position of authority, who *gasp* may even be a role model for some kids, should address the nation’s schoolchildren and tell them that they bear responsibility for their own lives and fates. Socialism!

  30. Well said, Phil. This is an absolute embarassment that anyone could construe Obama’s speech as anything but inspirational and motivational. What is controversial about messages like “stay in school” & “work hard”? I’m not getting it. Or are people just couching their racism on anything they can?

  31. JohnW

    I may fail for trollishness, but this reminds me so much of your political posts during the election: “Look at all of their crazies over there! Pay no attention to ours!”

  32. I wish we had such an eloquent and inspirational leader here in Canada. But after reading this I think you folks need him more.

  33. Kevin Hales,

    As Phil points out, you’re talking about cynicism, not skepticism. Even putting that aside, however, the Presidency is a position of moral leadership as well as governmental leadership. Like it or not, people look up to the President of the United States and will sometimes listen to him before they listen to others closer to them (parents, teachers, etc). If he can convince kids to work a bit harder in those classes and not drop out of school banking their entire future on their garage band making them a gazillion dollars, then the speech was worth it.

    The fun part, as I see it, are comments from people who claimed Obama was trying to indoctrinate socialist views in their kids backtracking now. Now they are claiming that the speech was completely rewritten. He dropped (they claim) the socialist indoctrination after they protested and thus they can claim success. No proof exists for a previous “Be A Socialist” draft, but why should they let facts get in the way of a perfectly good rant?

  34. John Keller: The Democrats in Congress complained that Bush was using taxpayer money to fund a publicity campaign. The same complaint is justifiable here–but that’s not what they’re saying. I don’t think Democrats kept their kids home that day for fear that they would be brainwashed.

    And I don’t think the message that sends–”You don’t have to listen to people you disagree with”–is helping any.

  35. Loved this. Brilliant. Thank you. :)

  36. @4 Ian O’Neill “the loony few who think with the logic of: Socialized medical = Socialism = Communism = Obama is communist”

    Bingo. I’m nominally a socialist, but that’s okay I’m from Europe where ‘socialist’ isn’t considered an insult. What I am not is anything vaguely resembling a communist because I understand something that the loons in America don’t (and I am specifically addressing the far-right lunatics): Communism is a completely different philosophy to socialism. The only way they are even vaguely related is that they both address workers rights. Either this is something that the American far-right genuinely do not understand – in which case they are woefully un-educated in basic politics – or they are liars.

    Obama is no socialist. From a European perspective, Obama is right-wing Conservative, but at least on the sane end of right-wing Conservative.

  37. Eric C.

    With all fairness to those Conservatives who were freaked out, they were freaked out BEFORE the speech became available to the general public. Taking into consideration the lack of information on the content of the speech, and Obama’s track record, it’s not surprising that some people were a little nervous.

    I am a Conservative (not Republican) with two children in public schools. I was concerned enough to read the text of the speech, but not concerned enough to raise my concerns with school officials or keep my kids home today. My concerns were laid to rest by reading the speech.

    If the speech had been questionable, I would likely have let my children go to school and view the presentation regardless. It would have served as a good (as Obama likes to call it) “teaching moment.” Armed with the information of what they had consumed that day in the classroom, I could have sat them down and addressed the parts of the speech that I deemed inappropriate.

    In short, while I agree that some people went a bit off the deep end, no one who’s been paying attention for the last 7+ months could really blame them for being concerned. Their execution of that concern, however, left much to be desired.

  38. Chip

    I thought it was a strong speech. I liked how he mentioned some occupations and then a few more and more while emphasizing that all these careers are achievable by staying in school.

    I also liked it when he mentioned “critical thinking”. Republicans hate it when people discover “critical thinking” and pursue reality.

  39. I see this as a split. Those who blindly accept that Obama is wrong and protest and those that blindly accept that Obama is right and complain.

    Then there’s that tiny tiny minority that actually take the time to read, watch, listen, and think for themselves.

    Thank you for this post Phil.

    I’m a middle-of-the-road person when it comes to politics. I hate Obama’s health plan not because it spells death to the elderly, but because there’s so much the government wants to do that will only make things worse, not better.

    I’m a fan of this speech by Obama because it truly is inspiring. I’d love to see more good things like this come out of his administration.

    I didn’t vote for Obama, but I don’t want to see him fail as a president because then we all lose. That doesn’t mean I support all he does, but I support what I see that he’s doing that will benefit the country.

    I’d LOVE to see a new party emerge and fracture this bi-partisan system into something will actually work for change instead of just getting on soap boxes and making speeches.

  40. Zimbug

    I agree with everything you say about Fox, but the hype over this manufactured controversy was given time on all the networks. I am amazed when I see news reports with parents crying because there kids will have listen to that “commie fascist”. They are just following the Limbaugh’s and Beck’s of the world who only care about destroying any opposing view and don’t give a damn about facts.

    After the speech I was scanning the cable networks to see their reaction. It was mostly positive. Even on Fox they were mostly positive about the message, although their take was that the working hard message were conservative values. Guess what, working hard is not conservative or liberal, but a value of people who are successful. I loved watching on CNN where they were interviewing some crackpot who was trying to say the speech was illegal because it involved a lesson plan that required students to divulge personal information about what their goals are. The host asked him what is illegal about asking kids what they want to be when the grow up. He had no answer.

  41. llewelly

    FEH. Obama’s speech was terrifically boring, and 100% stereotypical of Presidents’ speeches to schoolchildren. The most any school child got out of it was a nap, and the worst any of them got out of was being forced to stay awake through the whole thing. In other words, it was Obama’s worst speech. I never would have thought he could be so boring.

  42. JT

    When you push BS like puppy mutilation and soylent green with your normally acidic style, you are as bad as the people you are dissing.

    err…. what?

    A person who parodies a group by imitating their ridiculous arguments is just as bad as the people who take those wacky arguments seriously?

    Sorry, but no.

  43. Sapien

    I thought it was an excellent speech. Very inspirational and right on target.

    I believe we are capable of having the best schools in the world but I’m not sure we do. Also, I didn’t care for the God stuff at the end but overall I give him an A+.

    I understand that you are angry Phil, but just for clarity, are you suggesting that anyone opposed to the health care plan is a rabid racist or mentally unbalanced? That’s going a little too far for my taste. I for one would like everyone to have the best possible health care at a reasonable price. If I am not persuaded yet that the best way to accomplish that is through the current plan, how does that make me racist?

    Respectfully

  44. I swear these people honestly think Obama is magic. They have a far higher opinion of Obama than almost every liberal I know. They say:

    1) Here we are 7 whole months after the stimulus was put in place, why isnt the economy back where it was?

    2) If he speaks to my children he is going to indoctrinate them!

    No one thinks, even obama himself, that the stimulus would have brought about a full recovery a mere 7 months after it was enacted. Already we see that we are on the road to recovery with gains in almost every economic indicator (hardly out of it yet), but suffering is low. No hoovervilles, no riots, no loss of public utilities, GM saved, most bank institutions saved and many of them already paid back the loan. And yet we hear “stimulus failed!” or “socialism!”

    Now we hear that Obama, with one single speech, a speech every president has given to school kids since Kennedy (never mind what bush was doing on 9/11, was he directly indoctrinating the lil’uns?), he can indoctrinate “our children”. Really? Your parental, church, and community influence is so small that one single speech by the president can hypnotize the kids to be liberal zombies?

    Pathetic.

  45. When you push BS like puppy mutilation and soylent green with your normally acidic style, you are as bad as the people you are dissing.

    Erm, why? Maybe you didn’t notice that some of the loons on the right *did* claim that Obama was setting up death panels to advice the elderly to commit suicide. Soylent Green and Puppy mutilation are very mild parodies of what some of these people have been publicly saying at some of the more bizarre Town Hall meetings. Furthermore, given that these same people have used this perverse logic to claim that Obama’s health-insurance policy is directly equivalent to the mass-murder of “undesirables” under Hitler’s Germany, “puppy mutilation” actually pales in comparisson.

  46. John

    You missed the point of a lot of the protests. Some parents do not like Obama’s policies, so they do not want their children exposed to him. It is America right? It should be their choice. I personally saw nothing wrong with his speech except the following:

    “You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free.”

    Nothing evil hidden there, just the logic is off. You cannot make things more fair unless you make people less free (socialism). You can’t make people more free without making things less fair (capitalism). Is there a happy medium? Probably not actually. Some people are not willing to give the government more control of anything. Me being one of them. I have seen the great job they have done running every government program into the ground. Would you let a bankrupt company control your healthcare. Perhaps if your thinking is a little slow. I currently pay thousands of dollars in social security a year. I am 25 and will never be given a cent from social security. Why isn’t this being talked about anymore. Better yet, why is the government still stealing the money out of my paycheck. I could be investing that money for my retirement.

    I would also like to address the statements about the media only covering what they feel like. No matter how you do it, you are no longer a news agency if you do not report the news. I noticed every slander story about Bush was on all the news channels (and Palin). I find it odd how FOX is the only one that will report a bad story about Obama now. FOX had no problem running the same stories about Bush that other networks did. Can I assume Discover Magazine is pushing a liberal agenda? I believe I got this magazine to read about scientific news, not the political opinions of such an obviously biased author. News channels need to report facts. I could care less about any of their opinions. It takes a weak mind to believe whatever anyone tells them. Stop being lazy and learn for yourself.

  47. rob

    “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” –Thomas Jefferson

    more importantly, the tree of liberty needs to be constantly fertilized with the education of our youth.

  48. Well said, Phil. I’ve been asking myself the same question; but as a Canadian, I don’t really get the idea of criticizing the idea of speaking to schoolkids. After all, didn’t Reagan do it?

    But based on my concept of the American right, they don’t care for reality. After all, reality has a well-known liberal bias.

  49. @TechSkeptic

    one single speech by the president can hypnotize the kids to be liberal zombies?

    No, no, no. Socialist zombies. Sheesh!

  50. Darwinian

    Stop beating on that straw man, Phil. That’s also part of the problem here.

    The mainstream conservative objection to the original content was the supplementary assignment suggesting students write a letter to themselves about how they can “help the President”. I objected to this language on two grounds. First, I respect the office of President but I loyally oppose this President both on values and policy direction, and I do not want my children to feel pressure from the bully pulpit (amplified by natural childhood hero-worship) to support him in either area. Second, I view the President as a public servant and believe it is his calling to help the American people, not the other way around.

    It was a poor choice of wording and to their credit, the Obama Administration sensibly changed it to “achieve their short-term and long-term education goals.” When I read his speech yesterday, I was pleased to see that he not only spoke plainly about hard work and perseverance but also made the inspirational connection between individual achievement and serving America and your fellow man. I had no objection to my children hearing the speech at that point and told them so.

  51. Eric the Read

    As far as I can tell, the vast majority of the controversy centered not around the President giving a speech per se, but rather on the lesson plans the White House originally distributed, which included asking kids to write a letter to themselves about how they could help the President achieve his goals, and distributing them later to hold the children accountable to their letters. That is going too far, and to their credit the White House did fix this in a later revision of the materials.

  52. Cheyenne

    @Techydad – The speech wasn’t completely re-written. But it was changed after criticism came out. In the original there was a supplemental “lesson plan” from the Department of Education that essentially encouraged students to write to the President to help him “any way they can”. The speech today suggests they write letters outlining their educational goals. I think that was a smart change on the part of the White House.

    BA – “The mainstreaming of evil”? Um, just a wee bit over the top don’t you think? People that criticize a speech (I do love me my free speech round here!) are “Mainstreaming Evil”? If you want I can provide some examples of true evil on this planet. I’m just saying, you seem to be a bit too stoked over this rather mundane affair. Dropping the “Evil” bomb just lessens its potency when it’s actually needed in the future.

  53. AndymanEC

    I just read an interesting piece on Pandagon that I think hits the nail on the head.

    http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/why_the_paranoia_isnt_completely_off_base/

    The crazies aren’t freaking out because they actually think that Obama will indoctrinate their kids – they’re worried that their kids will hear the president, unaltered by Fox, and come to realize that he’s not a demon, that he’s not a raving socialist, and that he’s not a racist. Basically they’re afraid that kids will see how normal and rational (and in this speech, *boring*) he is. They don’t want their kids to realize just how much of a straw man they’ve set up, and just how deep the lies go.

    You can’t make a conclusion without the whole picture. By exposing kids to something other than the demonizing rhetoric, the wingnuts are afraid their kids will start thinking rather than blindly obeying.

    Of course, I think this just applies to the leadership and the more rational members of that wing. There are, of course, the sheep that actually believe the Obama is the antichrist, simply because that’s what important-sounding people have told them.

  54. Christina

    I feel like most people are missing the point. Whether you think the speech was good or bad, inspirational or dangerous, you’re making that judgment (I hope) based on the fact that you read or saw the speech yourself. The parents who cry, “Don’t let him near my kids!” don’t seem to trust their kids’ ability to think for themselves. If they have younger kids who may be more impressionable, then they either don’t want to take the time to sit down and discuss politics and propaganda with them or they don’t know how. That’s a failure of parenting. Kids are always going to be exposed to ideas that are dangerous (particularly because the definition of danger depends on each parent’s point of view). Every time a kid turns on the TV, goes online, listens to another person explain an idea, opens a book – they are exposed to ideas, many of which we as parents may not like. What is our plan? To keep kids locked away, to censor the world from them? Obviously that’s not going to happen.

    We should be focusing on how to teach our kids to think for themselves. Whether you agreed or disagreed with the speech, the speech was a teachable moment. It was a chance for you to sit down with your kids and say, What did you think? What did you like or dislike? Why did you feel that way? And then, whatever their views and whatever your views, you could challenge them to imagine a different perspective. If they liked the speech, why might others have disliked it? And vice versa.

    There is no such thing as objectivity. We all have views and experiences and ideas that make us biased observers. The best we can do is teach our kids to ask questions and try, as much as possible, to think for themselves before letting others make up their minds for them. It’s the only way they’ll be truly independent in a media saturated world.

  55. pontoppi

    What’s next? That any address by the president to the nation shall be broadcast on cable late at night right after the end of the softporn programming? That parents who let their kid listen to a government speech, or one by the opposition, should be reported to the social services? I just don’t understand why it is suddenly bad for children to be exposed to politicians in a democracy. Aren’t they supposed to grow up to become responsible voters?

  56. Holy HALEAKALA!

    BA
    I know you don’t post on Politics too often, but I am so thankful that the skeptical community has come forward somewhat cautiously and belatedly to start calling BS on whackaloons that are just trashing our national dialogue. The uncritical media that is content to report it as he said/ she said for the sake of balance, creates a false equivalence that is just disgusting.

    Thanks for the post

  57. Michael S

    “I’m fortunate. I didn’t have to watch his propaganda. I’m a science teacher, not a socialist.”

    This is so fundementally stupid on so many levels. Is this at a school that teaches evolution?

    The most terrifying part of the speech for right wingers: ” critical thinking skills”.

  58. Keith (the first one)

    It seemed like a very good speech. I’ve said before that the US finally has a president capable of moving the country forward. But it seems that each time he attempts it, some idiots shout very loud to send your country to the dark ages.

    I agree most with Phil’s critisism of the media. We’re getting that in the UK too now. Unqualified idiots’ opinions should not be presented as equal to qualified experts, no matter how loud they shout.

  59. I thought the speech was well written and can only hope that it falls on fertile ground.
    Speaking of loonies – Please be careful of future film reviews. It makes me nervous to see Armageddon leap off your comment page:)

  60. Zucchi

    Schoolchildren should listen to every speech the President makes (no matter who’s President) and analyze it in Civics class. (What? No budget for Civics class? Never mind.)

  61. I think the Right Wing is so crazy that, if Obama were to say somehow manage to resurrect Chuck Norris’ movie career, Fox News would start calling Chuck Norris a “communist/fascist.”

  62. vanderleun

    I don’t think you should worry so much Phil. It’s plain you are a very, very good person. And besides, you have all these people to look out for your interests and continue to build truth and justice in America.

    1. Richard Holbrooke — Afghanistan Czar
    2. Jeffrey Crowley — AIDS Czar
    3. Ed Montgomery — Auto Recovery Czar
    4. Alan Bersin — Border Czar
    5. David J. Hayes — California Water Czar
    6. Ron Bloom — Car Czar (moved to Manufacturing Czar today)
    7. Dennis Ross — Central Region Czar
    8. Todd Stern — Climate Czar
    9. Lynn Rosenthal — Domestic Violence Czar
    10. Gil Kerlikowske — Drug Czar
    11. Paul Volcker — Economic Czar
    12. Carol Browner — Energy and Environment Czar
    13. Joshua DuBois — Faith Based Czar
    14. Jeffrey Zients — Government Performance Czar
    15. Cameron Davis — Great Lakes Czar
    16. Van Jones — Green Jobs Czar (resigned)
    17. Daniel Fried — Guantanamo Closure Czar
    18. Nancy-Ann DeParle — Health Czar
    19. Vivek Kundra — Information Czar
    20. Dennis Blair — Intelligence Czar
    21. Ron Bloom — Manufacturing Czar
    22. George Mitchell — Mideast Peace Czar
    23. Kenneth R. Feinberg — Pay Czar
    24. Cass R. Sunstein — Regulatory Czar
    25. John Holdren — Science Czar
    26. Earl Devaney — Stimulus Accountability Czar
    27. J. Scott Gration — Sudan Czar
    28. Herb Allison — TARP Czar
    29. Aneesh Chopra — Technology Czar
    30. John Brennan — Terrorism Czar
    31. Adolfo Carrion Jr. — Urban Affairs Czar
    32. Ashton Carter — Weapons Czar
    33. Gary Samore — WMD Policy Czar

    Every single person here has you interests at heart and can be depended upon to make your dreams come true.

  63. Gary

    The greater issue is should politicians be able to insert themselves into the classroom? When Reagan and Bush Sr. did this, the NEA and Democrats were up in arms about it. In fact, Democrats in congress held an investigation and hearings into the almost $30,000 spent by Bush for what they deemed a “media event”.

    The problem with Obama, or Bush or Reagan being able to address every school in America is that is increases the politicization of education. Most people are quite happy to politicize schools so long as it is their politics that is being advanced. Like Obama? Then it is cool to have Obama speak to kids. Like Bush? Then it is good if he speaks to kids.

    The problem is, once you introduce education to the winner take all environment of politics, you wind up with stuff you never intended or agreed with. You might not like creationism in schools, but that is a direct result of allowing the curriculum to be developed by bureaucrats.

    You can’t pass laws that only apply to things you like. If you establish the precedent of letting a president address every student in the country, then you can’t complain when someone you don’t like takes control of the Presidency and addresses students in a way you don’t like. Would it really be shocking if the next Republican president takes the opportunity to do the same thing Obama did, but also address creationism, abortion and teen abstinence? I have a feeling those on the left would react the same way as those on the right (and they did just that when Bush and Reagan did it).

    The fact is, the speech was meaningless. You are correct, no kid is going to become indoctrinated because of the speech. In fact, no kid out there is going to even remember what he said in a week. It was nothing more than time taken out of classroom instruction. Obama was able to use it as a grandstanding vehicle to make himself look like he cares about education, without actually doing anything.

    The danger isn’t with addressing a single classroom, or speaking at a single graduation ceremony, it is the notion that a political leader can address ALL students, all over the country. It is a power that comes from nowhere (the federal government doesn’t run school systems), can be of no real benefit, but can have major harm down the road.

    Be it Reagan, Bush or Obama, the president shouldn’t be acting as guidance-councilor-in-chief.

  64. “I can’t help but wonder what they would would have said if George Bush had made this same speech.”

    When George H. W. Bush gave a very similar speech the Democrats (who controlled Congress at the time) ordered a GAO investigation into the legality of spending $26k on it. Neither party is a stranger to idiocy.

  65. vanderleun

    So, as you can see, everything is under control.

  66. John C. Randolph

    What the man had to say is beside the point. The issue is, should the president have the prerogative to command the audience of all the kids in the country (or anyone else, for that matter?) I say no.

    We have a bad habit in this country of treating the head of one of three co-equal branches of our federal government as if he were in charge of the country, and that we owe him some kind of duty of obedience. This is not a country that needs a leader, this is a country of free men and women, and the holder of the oval office is not above any of us.

    -jcr

  67. vanderlunn:

    The first “Czar” in America was created by Nixon, and every President since has appointed ones to the pre-existing Czars, and/or created a few new ones. I’m no big fan of the word either, but your argument holds no water.

    Unless of course you think Nixon, Reagen, and the Bushes were all Commies.

  68. #59 Keith (the first one), when you said,

    the US finally has a president capable of moving the country forward

    I almost read the US finally has a president capable of thinking! :D

  69. RL

    As was pointed out earlier, early versions of what Obama was going to say included “homework” assignments that included having students write to Obama describing ways that they can help him achieve his agenda. I think that did cross the line regardless of who is president. Notably, this was changed after the outcry about this speech broke out. And this is done in the context of having organizations like the NEA organize artists to push for Obama’s domestic agenda and other similar actions. So while I don’t agree with the extent of the alarm that many critics had, I also can see how this could be viewed as an end around parents to speak to their children.

    And I think that drawing an equivalence between this and evil is silly. This event and the reactions proceeding up to it do have a history that you and other commentors are ignoring and I think that you are acting the same way as those you complain about. You are complaining about something without knowing all of the facts and racheting up the rhetoric.

  70. As Joe Nickell said this past weekend at Dragon Con, “You have to be nice, until it is time to NOT be nice!”

    Great job Phil! I am glad to know you.

  71. Pete

    @veritas
    Reagan and Bush senior both addressed the nation’s schools, and I believe there was no scaremongering – the controvesry over Bush’s speech appears to have been over it being partisan and paid for by money forbidden for political leaning causes

    I recall no claims of indoctrination form either of those earlier incidents

  72. @63 Vanderleun

    Which has what, precisely, to do with Phil’s post?

  73. Gary

    Good post, Phil. The best thing to do to oppose these wingnuts is to speak against them The answer to hate speech is more speech. What the right is trying to do is create a climate of fear. They are under the illusion that they determine the definition of “American values” and they think they will set the tone for debate in this country.

    They wanted the town meetings to be their forum. Instead those of us who support a national health plan and believe that health care is a right have turned out too. Polls show a solid majority of American support a health care plan with a public option.

    The right wing needs to know they will not make anybody shut up.

    Here is a link about the need for a single payer health plan.
    http://cthealth.server101.com/the_case_for_universal_health_care_in_the_united_states.htm

    The U.S. can eaisly afford a cradle to grave health care system for all citizens especially if we stop pouring trillions of dollars into that five sided stink hole in D.C. called the Pentagon.

  74. Re Cheyenne, #21:

    First, the quoted article ( link – http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/When-Bush-spoke-to-students-Democrats-investigated-held-hearings-57694347.html ) does not give any links which can be checked.

    Knowing the Examiner’s far-right leanings, I am very suspicious of these claims and do not they should be accepted as fact without further investigation. (This is true of news articles in general, but especially of right-wing claims given the Right’s track record with facts.)

    Here is Bush’s speech, for comparison: http://bushlibrary.tamu.edu/research/public_papers.php?id=3450&year=1991&month=10

    Second, how do you know Obama’s speech was “tweaked”? My understanding of the sequence of events is: (1) Obama announces plan to speak to kids; (2) Uproar from the Right; (3) Obama gives speech as announced. At what point was there an “earlier version” of the speech? Where is the text which “receiv[ed] some criticism”?

    Third, an official investigation is a far cry from the seemingly grassroots revulsion at the idea of the president addressing schoolchildren, and the assumption that he would use the opportunity to propagandize when he has so far had no history of anything remotely along those lines (I’m not sure the same could be said of Bush Sr.).

    I find it rather difficult to believe that the two events are even remotely comparable — or that the Examiner is accurately reporting the earlier one.

  75. lucylee

    To Fos: I too am a science teacher and I find your comment incredibly ignorant. Would not want my grandchild in your class. Did you read any of the Science and Society Chapters in the textbooks you use or do you skip over those sections?

  76. tacitus

    @44: I call BS on the far-right’s whines about Obama’s “Czars”. First the term “czar” is an invention of the press, so for the far-right to complain about the number of ‘czars’ is simply complaining about something that the media invented, nothing the president has done.

    Second, when you look at the so-called ‘czars’ you will find that the majority of them are either regular appointments within the administration (something any president would have done), special envoys to deal with specific foreign trouble spots (how many did Bush have, without complaint?) or special appointments to oversee specific domestic programs the administration put in place (when you institute a program you darn well better have someone in charge).

    Whining about czars is one of the most ridiculous and idiotic things the right-wing is doing. That it comes mainly from loons like Glenn Beck should come as no surprise to anyone.

  77. What is so wrong about socialism? People who do well helping out those that aren’t doing well. If the right wing acted more christ-like (love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek, feed the hungry, aid the sick), rather than trying to force belief of his mystical powers on the rest of us, then the world would be a better place.

  78. I heard from a close conservative family member that the speech might be some sort of indoctrination. I thought it was silly; the other person didn’t. Nevertheless, we both thought that schoolchildren should listen to the speech of the American President. Why shouldn’t children listen to what their President says? Then they are informed and can debate and discuss what he said with teachers and parents.

    Keeping kids home from this, imo, is just plain silly. And as I said, my conservative family member was fine with children hearing the speech. Not all conservatives (or liberals or moderates) are alike.

    I really liked the speech. I haven’t been able to see the video of it, but what I read was wonderful. I hope kids take it to heart.

  79. tacitus

    The text for Saint Ronald Reagan’s speech to school children is floating around the internets, and it’s nothing more than a list of bullet points detailing how great the policies of the Reagan administration were for the country.

    Can you just imagine the hysteria if Obama had done something even close to that. As always, when the right complains that they are only doing what the left did to them, there is simply no truth to the whinging.

  80. The mainstream conservative objection to the original content was the supplementary assignment suggesting students write a letter to themselves about how they can “help the President”…. I view the President as a public servant and believe it is his calling to help the American people, not the other way around.

    So you’re saying mainstream conservatives are enormous hypocrites. After all, they just spent the last eight years calling people like me traitors for not supporting President Bush’s policies. It was conservatives pushing the ludicrous idea that the POTUS is Commander in Chief of America and therefore must be obeyed.

    How very short-sighted of them.

  81. @RationalZen, #20:

    “1) The part that said kids weren’t going to find success by rapping or playing basketball. If you don’t want kids to become stereotypes, don’t pigeon hole them. Easily could have been worded as musician, or athlete, but Obama (more likely his speech writer) chose a more specific stereotype to speak to individually.

    Granted, I’m reading the transcript, which may differ from the actual speech, but what is actually said is that children are unlikely to find runaway, easy success in these careers. It doesn’t say they can’t or won’t succeed in doing these things, or that it’s not desirable to do so (you could argue that it’s implied, though), just that the odds are slim, and seeking these things out is not a good alternative to working hard in school. Also, you left out the third item mentioned in the speech, “reality TV stars.” Perhaps because this can’t be so easily pigeon-holed into matters of race and stereotype?

    @Kevin Hales, #8:

    When you assume a conclusion before even examining the evidence (in this case, the text of the speech), you are no longer a skeptic. You are as closed-minded as the very people you oppose.

    Yes, I’m being a bit deliberatively provocative in my wording, but it’s something of a sore point with me. So, mea culpa.

    In general:

    The sensationalization of the media of late has not only gone completely overboard, but it’s also extremely irresponsible. I feel sure that airing the crazies brings in spectacular ratings. The problem is, however, that news media are, regardless of what they claim, always tacitly speaking ex cathedra. We trust the TV. If they treat something completely ludicrous as theoretically plausible, well, maybe it is (or so the thought process goes). What’s even worse is when they persist in presenting claims, points of view, or ideas that are easily, demonstrably false (e.g., birthers, “death panels,” etc.) in order to keep the ratings up. It’s not only irresponsible, it’s borderline reprehensible.

  82. Christina

    Gary #64 and JCR #67 – While I disagree with some of your points, you do raise interesting ideas about the danger of treating the president (or any authority figure) as infallible. Partisans on both sides of the issue are guilty of this, and it’s a dangerous trend.

    Still, Gary, I think you’re being naive if you think education can ever escape being politicized. The very idea of education is to pass certain types of knowledge down to the next generation (and to leave other ideas out). Education is inherently political because it determines how we organize ourselves as a society and who has power.

    And JCR, while I agree that the executive branch has, over the course of the 20th and early 21st century, become far too strong, the Constitution never made the three branches “co-equal.” The Supreme Court was always the weakest of the three. The major change has been that the legislative branch, which was meant to be strong with the House’s power of the purse and Congress’s ability to declare war, has abdicated a great deal of its power, in part because of the growing complexity of our society. I think we have to face the fact that James Madison’s arguments about the strengths of big republics hold true only up to a certain point. We are simply too large a society now to approach a republic in the same way the founders did. That’s not to say that our current system is the right or best system – but I think we have to be careful not to be nostalgic when thinking about the Constitution and the founding of the republic.

  83. John Keller @13 — they didn’t complain about the message, or call Bush a fascist, or suggest that it was an attempt at brainwashing. They said Bush only did it because it was an election year, and that he wasted education funds on doing so as a photo-op. False equivalency FTL!!!

    Edit: oops. Maybe I should refresh the page before commenting. This has been open in a tab for almost four hours.

  84. Richard

    Those mentioning Democratic outcry over Bush’s address to schools should actually look into the content of his speech. It was brazenly political, outlining his education plan at the outset of his reelection campaign.

  85. Kirk

    Some posters should be clear when they talk about “early versions of the speech” and conflate it with the supplemental lesson plans that were going to be posted in relation to it. So far, there is no indication that Obama’s speech was edited in any significant fashion in response to the specious arguments made against it. The language used in the lesson plans was changed, however. The White House changed the language that was similar to what President George H.W. Bush used in his speech to schools, when he asked students to write him ideas on how they could help. The lesson plan language related to Obama’s speech was made more general.

    But it may not be accurate at this point to say that the speech itself, the actual message that was going to kids, was changed in response to the wignut braying.

  86. John

    SciFi auteur: Richard K. Morgan – TH1RTE3N. Read it to find out where the near future might be with the crazies in charge.

  87. Mark Wilcox

    Obama can speak whenever he wants, but the listeners shouldn’t be forced to listen to him speak. He can choose to speak tonight, tomorrow or every day for all I care. But 99.999% of the time I don’t want to hear him or any other president (I was as livid on Bush’s carrier landing as I was to this Obama speech).

    This speech was entirely political driven, will largely be used in political campaigns. Sure his speech was probably rather bland. But that’s because the truth – “I was successful because I wasn’t in public US schools because I got lucky with a private school scholarship. And I love public schools so much, I chose to send my girls to a school most people in the US can’t afford. But otherwise kids, stay in school and work hard.” Would probably not been what he wanted to use in a campaign.

  88. I think the hysteria that this “controversy” provoked would be comical were it no so serious. The Republicans seem to be violently upset whenever they find themselves in agreement with Obama. “Children should work hard, stay in school, and get good jobs to help out country? Why, that would lead to socialism, at least, if Obama says it.” Thus we see the basic hypocrisy of saying that our enemies vices are our own virtues.

  89. Quiet Desperation

    And hey, didn’t Hitler talk to kids…? That’s about as good as their logic gets.

    Er… that’s not how I’ve read it. There was mainly kerfuffle over the post-speech learning materials. Something about kids asking themselves how they can “serve” the president which, I have to admit, sounds odd, but the idea that politicians are public servants has been dead for a long time, so I shrugged it off as just more of the same old same old.

    Mind you, I do NOT support the opposition to this speech, but you seem to be tossing out a Godwin flavored strawman there. I’m sure some uber-Republicans somewhere out there invoked Hitler, but that didn’t seem to be the mainstream. Never forget how the media amplifies the fringes. I also admit I haven’t really followed this one all that much due to a terminal lack of giving a d4MN.

    The same thing happened with the health care debate. The media focused on the loons, and all the reasoned and valid disagreement with the current health care bill (of which there is plenty) was utterly lost in the crazy storm.

    The speech itself was fine, I guess. I really lack enthusiasm these days. I voted for Obama and had high hopes, but… meh…

    The problem is we are skeptics. When elected politician says “the Government’s here to help”, we are skeptical.

    Not nearly enough, IMHO. Too many skeptics I run into are raving ideologues. There is too much of what I call binary skepticism: 0% skeptical about things that lie within their ideological domain and 100% skeptical about anything outside that set. They rightly pick on fundamentalists and conspiracy nuts and Jesus appearing on toast, but they can’t see that they are partaking in the same nonsense on a different level WRT their chosen political Party.

    I have found it an order of magnitude easier to turn people away from, say, Sylvia Browne than to make them accept even a small criticism of their political Party.

    BTW, I consider Phil generally fair on these things even if I disagree once in a while (as above).

  90. I saw a news report yesterday about an elementary school in North Carolina where they didn’t air the speech because so many parents complained.

    Also in Tucson: http://www(dot)tucsonweekly(dot)com/TheRange/archives/2009/09/05/why-cant-my-granddaughter-see-the-president

    What we need are government officials not afraid to talk like Barney Frank did to such a voice of lunacy.

    Or, if the screamers shut up and listen, like what happened with Senator Al Franken:
    http://www(dot)youtube(dot)com/watch?v=SCNs7Zpqo98

    @TechyDad:
    He dropped (they claim) the socialist indoctrination after they protested and thus they can claim success. No proof exists for a previous “Be A Socialist” draft, but why should they let facts get in the way of a perfectly good rant?

    I expect Orly Taitz (Kenyan Birth Certificate hoaxer) to have a ‘copy of the original speech’ online soon

    33. rob Says:

    “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” –Thomas Jefferson

    more importantly, the tree of liberty needs to be constantly fertilized with the education of our youth.

    * Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. Education & free discussion are the antidotes of both.
    o Letter to John Adams (1 August 1816)

    43. Arkle Says:

    I think the Right Wing is so crazy that, if Obama were to say somehow manage to resurrect Chuck Norris’ movie career, Fox News would start calling Chuck Norris a “communist/fascist.”

    Norris is apparently a ‘birther’:
    http://www(dot)creators(dot)com/conservative/chuck-norris/what-obama-and-my-wife-have-in-common.html

    J/P=?

  91. Jesse

    Yeah, I don’t understand all the noise.

    It was a great speech. Go education, Go USA. He even gave some God shout outs at the end. Good stuff!

  92. John

    (76. Woozle) It was the homework assignment that was changed from its previous version.

  93. pat

    Hell, I don’t even *have* kids and I didn’t want him speaking to kids without knowing what the speech contained. I read it this morning and found nothing untoward in it.

    Obama and his policies frighten me but this little speech was pretty innocuous.

    I remember the same uproar from the other side when Bush wanted to speak to the school children. Phil, take the high road and explain your position without the name calling next time, ‘k? Racist? Really? Tsk.

  94. @Vanderleun

    Czars is a Right Wing Bogeyman word for “Advisors”

    Though I’m sure you knew that because you are aware of all internet traditions.

    http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/2008/06/thanks-to-911-shes-outraged-by.html#583745

  95. John

    (78. tacitus) I don’t want any appointed positions that are not approved by congress. Regardless of who our president is.

  96. tacitus

    What is so wrong about socialism? People who do well helping out those that aren’t doing well. If the right wing acted more christ-like (love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek, feed the hungry, aid the sick), rather than trying to force belief of his mystical powers on the rest of us, then the world would be a better place.

    That is the key to the failure of right-wing policies towards the poor and needy. The US already has the weakest social safety net amongst the wealthy nations. Imagine if the right-wing had had its way over the last 50 years and there was no Medicare, no Medicaid, no social security, no unemployment benefit, no minimum wage?

    Of course for the deluded right-winger and hardcore libertarians this would be utopia, but the reality is that there would be a massive underclass of people whose only access to the essentials they need would be at the whim of the charity of the rich and powerful. And as we have seen many times in history, that charity never comes close to counteracting the exploitation and neglect that the vast majority of those who have the wealth and power (yes, including those who “believe the bible”) force upon the less fortunate.

  97. As a Former Marine, and an Independent, I think the whole thing reeks of pure politics.

    What in the world has happened to the respect we used to give to the office of the President of the United States. Regardless of political leanings, we should all remember that the Office is bigger than the man that occupies it.

    I felt the same way for the previous 8 years too. It always upset me the way many news outlets would refer to President Bush as “Mr. Bush” while giving every other elected official their duly elected title.

    Finally, it would be a great thing if MORE politicians and government representatives communicated directly with schools. Kids need to be exposed to government if we expect them to grow into voting citizens.

    The parents that pulled their kids out or complained to schools did so based on emotional reasons, not reason.

  98. DrFlimmer

    I don’t know what goes through the mind of some people! But I think I have an idea what goes through your mind, Phil. And it is good!

    This is another story where a European like me sadly shakes his head and wonders what strange things can happen in this world….

    This is such a moment when I think of this beautiful phrase: “Oh Herr, lass Gehirn regnen!”
    (A one-to-one translation, but most likely awful english, could be: “Oh Lord, let brain rain!”)

  99. Phil, I’ve been staring at this article for a bit feeling more than a bit unsettled by it and trying hard to put a finger on why. I don’t disagree with you that the President’s speech is a good message for kids. I don’t disagree that there is a radical right fringe that demonizes the President and his ideas to an absurd and often libelous degree. And those people deserve to have their comments shredded and mocked. Fine. We agree a lot.

    But you title this article “The Mainstreaming of Evil” and to me this seems to be pushing your argument aside in favor of demonizing those who disagree with the President. You are painting with a really broad brush here. And it disturbs me because I do frequently disagree with the President on his policies. And I also disagreed quite frequently with the previous president and the previous… and well most of them really. Politics are far more nuanced than left or right. And when you talk about them in those sorts of polar opposite degrees, you cheapen your own argument. People are not evil for disagreeing with the President. It should be encouraged so that we don’t find ourselves blindly following the President on some poorly thought out course of action.

    If you really want to improve political discourse in this country, start with your own. Don’t throw insults around that can be easily construed to mean more people than you mean. Actually, just don’t throw insults around. You’re a better writer than that. Use reason and rationality to dismiss those you disagree with, not flame tinged comments. I love reading this blog because of the endlessly fascinating science stuff that you dispense with giddy enthusiasm. But when you dip into the political scene, I start to not want to read anymore. Please don’t stoop to the level of people who make their points with hateful words. You are better than that.

    If you love what the President is doing, say so and back it up with your reasoning on that. You don’t need to crawl down in the sewer with the folks on the fringe. You only cheapen your own comments that way, allowing them to fire back with more bilge. Stay classy my friend.

  100. juryjone

    I posted the speech on my Facebook page this morning and the first two comments were “Yeah, but that probably wasn’t his original speech” and “you’ve got to read between the lines”.

    Force-fitting the facts to an imagined conspiracy is too damn easy…

  101. Obama’s speech is wonderful. It is a shame the right have gone as far off the deep end as they have. It’s like there is no end to their craziness.

  102. Brian Schlosser

    @ Jason Thibeault #85: To add to that, the “Democrats” of 1988 are not exactly the same as the ones today. Politicians come and go (and talk of Michaelangelo).

    And besides, “Group X was wrong when it did something to Group Y, so now they can’t say anything when group Y does the same thing!” is a weak excuse for logic. Two wrongs make a right? Isn’t that something most people learn is wrong in grade school?

  103. tacitus

    I don’t want any appointed positions that are not approved by congress. Regardless of who our president is.

    Well, that would be one way to bring all government activity to screeching halt. Do you know how many administrators there are in the government? Only the chief administrators are reviewed by Congress — i.e. those who are responsible for making policy. If you did more than that then hundreds of appointments would have to be reviewed, which given that any single Senator can put an indefinite anonymous hold on, would be completely unworkable.

    Nobody whined about Congress not reviewing all administrators and special envoys for Bush’s administration, so don’t give us that BS that this is a bipartisan push for more accountability. It’s simply a Glenn Beck-inspired hissy fit and nothing more.

  104. Quiet Desperation

    The sensationalization of the media of late has not only gone completely overboard, but it’s also extremely irresponsible. I feel sure that airing the crazies brings in spectacular ratings.

    I had a tiny epiphany about this several years ago. :-) I call it “The Death Of The Follow-Up Question”

    Journalists almost never ask follow-up questions anymore. Whether it’s a guy showing up at a health care town hall meeting with aluminum foil wrapped around various body parts, or the Senator from State X, journalists ask a question, the interviewee gives a nonsensical or vague or newspeak answer, and the reporter just accepts it and moves on.

    It’s a desire to be impartial that goes too far. It suggests the old adage of keeping an open mind, but not so open your brain falls out. I think they feel like that can’t question any of the answers the subject gives because it might make them seem judgmental. We need the era of the bulldog jouirnalist back, with cynical b******s using investigative journalism like a shotgun, and pursuing it like it’s a divine calling.

    Did anyone here ever read the “Transmetropolitan” graphic novels by Warren Ellis? The journalist character, Spider Jerusalem, is exactly what this world needs right now. With politicians, he advocates a form of journalism called monstering which, in his own words is, “The art of abusing people. Of ambushing them with questions, following them with questions, hounding them with questions, driving them to their ****ing graves with questions.”

  105. I listened to some r-wing radio today and the implication was that if the speech turned out to NOT include the formation of a brown-shirt brigade it was only because of the diligence of talk-radio and FOXnews.

    Sad.

    There is a PROFOUND cognitive dissonance in the minds of people who maintain that Obama can simultaneously be an Atheist, a radical pro-separatist-Christian, and a secret Muslim.

    Likewise there is PROFOUND cognitive dissonance with people who simultaneously hold the ideas that Obama’s healthcare plan will fail because the government is inept – yet we are all endangered because through a single speech Obama will be able to raise a student-army of salivating socialist drones.

    When a person holds these conflicting ideas so easily it says a lot about the value of those ideas. These are not deeply thought out arguments. These are mnemonic totems, almost like spells that can be tossed out to try and do damage to a perceived enemy, in this case Obama.

    And once again I go back to Dungeons & Dragons for advice: when you encounter a suspected illusion the easiest solution is to disbelieve.

    How do we combat ignorance and superstition? If there were a simple answer to that question it wouldn’t be so prevalent in the 21st century would it?

    Hopefully Obama will be a good president – but I will now engage my own mantra: How can I believe the opposition if they lazily resort to lies as their first argument? Answer? I can’t.

  106. Anything that encourages less government involvement is a good thing. The speech was well written and inspiring. I didn’t vote for Obama either. The speech is what it is though; a call to action for our children. I read nothing that even remotely suggested socialism. It focused on individuals getting their crap together and getting it done.

    Frankly, both sides (the fringe people) could just fall off the face of the Earth for all I care. Anything that is extreme isn’t a good thing for very long.

    Lastly, on socialism, I’m not against helping our fellow man. The problem arises when one has to be brought down against their will so that another can be brought up. If you cheated and gambled to earn your money then I’m fine with you being brought down. If you worked your tail off your whole life, then I have a problem.

    I’d like to think that’s what the speech addresses. Don’t depend on others to take care of you. It’s a bad idea. You ultimately should dictate what goes on in your life. It is by the choices you make that determine where you end up.

    Again, good speech.

  107. John

    Does anyone remember the last 8 years? Almost everyone on here is a hypocrite. Things are always fine when you party is in power, but just wait because one day…

    a republican will have control of your healthcare
    a republican will have control of some of our largest banks
    a republican will have control of the American Auto Industry
    a republican will have control of CAPP and Trade
    a republican will be speaking directly to your children

    and our children will be living in an entirely bankrupt country…

    I’d be weary of any additional power any president seeks. Even if you agree with the president now, they will not be in office in nine years.

  108. darth dakyne

    your president is your highest elected offical to be the voice of the place you live to 6 billion other people and you can’t let him talk to kids????????
    pure retardation is all I can say, and THOSE PARENTS WILLFULLY PULLING THEIR KIDS OUT OF THE SPEECHES??? seriously you need to check into a hospital you’ve just wronged your child in so many ways that the content of the speech shouldn’t have even mattered, you’ve taught your children a valuable lesson (on top of the many,many, so far) that i am sure you can be proud of them when they are in jail and are able to not drop the soap.

    stupidity DOES breed stupidity
    yet I was pretty much appalled at the sterilization of people back in the 1900s who werent fit to raise kids in society or some BS
    but now…..I’m kinda thinking that americans should look into it again

  109. Mel N

    “I’m tired of ignorance held up as inspiration, where vicious anti-intellectualism is considered a positive trait, and where uninformed opinion is displayed as fact.”

    Well said. Some times I need a break from being vigilant but everywhere I turn this anti-intellectualism rears it’s ugly head.

    There was nothing wrong with the speech. It’s partisan politics mixed with unmasked hatred of the President due to several well talked about reasons. Fox News and the other ilk give the crazies way too much time on air and in the case of those tea parties way too much credit, acknowledgment, help and time. I keep coming back here to gain some sanity.

  110. John

    (105. tacitus) I guess I can expect no comments from you when the next republican appoints a couple dozens czars? I doubt it…

  111. Alexei

    I assume you were equally annoyed at the Democrat and media demagoguery when H. W. Bush did a similar thing.

    That’s politics, man. It’s been that way since there’s been a USA. You’re fooling yourself if you think the political discourse in our country has ever been enlightened or informed. Intellectual discussion with an informed public is the last thing ANY politician wants.

  112. DudeThatIsSoFdUp

    Manufacturing controversy as a political strategy – you have to admire the Republican party strategists – they are anything but dumb.

    These bogus “controversies” are being pushed out there, one after another (socialist / birther / guns / internment camps / rich paying mortgages for the poor / nationalization of economy / etc etc), and it’s being done as a conscious strategy, and it’s not stupid.

    It feeds a credulous media who loves nothing better than a “he said / she said” shouting match. Does anyone really wonder why Jerry Springer gets better ratings that “Frontline”? Does anyone really think that the media care about “truth”?

    The talking points are over-the-top, targeted at instilling fear in the ill-informed public, feeding on what they don’t know, and inducing a “caution” response. “Whoa – I heard on the radio that Obama’s really a secret socialist! Is that true? I don’t know, but it sure makes me more suspicious of him… I’d never want to be known as supporting a socialist!”

    The collective public internalizes this shouting and confusion, and it manifests itself as Doubt. That Doubt by the (voting) public forces your opponent into a defensive posture, stunned by the sheer inanity of what they’re confronted with. They have to spend their time and energy defending the obvious, instead of working towards accomplishing the task at hand.

    And if your goal is to obstruct, delay, and divert, it works like a charm. Just look at how many calories are being burned in this blog, of all places.

    So who’s stupid? The Republicans, who are succeeding at thwarting the will of the majority of Americans who voted for Obama and the Democrats? Or the Dems, who are constantly stuck with “deer in the headlights” looks pasted on their faces?

  113. Doug

    As a soon-to-be parent, I figured it was a good idea to follow this and see how I would/should react.

    I completely understand why some parents were concerned — I would be outraged by any politician trying to promote an agenda in a speech to school children. Any mention of party party or bill (even education-related) should be off the table. Had any politician been outrageous enough to try it, they would receive a nasty-gram from me right away.

    Would I have kept my son at home? Of course not! He needs to be intelligent enough to listen to what people say and make his own decisions. Maybe an interesting discussion would follow at home ….

    The same theory applies to other controversial topics — evolution, sex ed, etc. The school will probably teach things that I disagree with — parental guidance will make so much more of an impact than shielding from truth and reason.

    By the way, this goes for both side of any argument — abstinence-only parents should be able to cope with an education system that hands out condoms, while full-disclosure parents can teach what is left out.

    Personally, I think that the more information you give a child, the better off they will be.

  114. Lots of people here, very little thought. Plenty of “OMG EVERYWEUN BAD” screeds, though.

    Seriously, he’s just a President, not the Reincarnation of Satan on Earth. Let’s stop panicking, and stop trying to turn this into a brawl, and discuss this like reasonable people.

  115. Greg

    I Read the speech yesterday.I found that it wasn’t a bad speech but a little dull and boring.The conservatives will pick out the fact that the people he referenced Jazmin Perez, Andoni Schultz, Shantell Steve are all minorities. This seems to be a political revolt more than the fact of Obama’s prewritten jargon from one of his speech writers.The argument is this, some will say that He’s not My President! The same was said by the opposition when Bush was President.
    Watch old episodes of Saturday Night live on all of the skits against the Republican Party.
    Now that the Democrats are in control, the media is not making the jokes about this administration as they did the last are they?
    The Speech is not the issue as much as the fight between party lines.
    Let us be truthful, the largest part of the anger will and always remains the agenda of one side vs. the agenda of the other.
    Beware of the wrath that they will incur by their choice to be in the bunker with either side!

  116. Adam

    To those saying kids won’t remember this speech, I have to disagree.

    He spoke to them as adults. He treated them with respect. He spoke directly to them. He didn’t pander or talk down to them at all. This is how kids want to be treated. As adults, given responsibility, expected to perform. People in general perform how they are expected to perform. You can see that across societies and ages. He is setting an expectation that many simply haven’t had set for them. He showed that he is deeply concerned and actually cares about them and what they do with their lives. No, it won’t inspire everyone to be better. It doesn’t have to. It just has to inspire enough people to try harder. We have a ridiculously high drop out rate in this country stemming largely from the “quicker and easier” path that is perceived by so many. That quicker and easier path is actually much harder. It is over quicker and leaves you high and dry with nothing to fall back on.

    The only path to true success is hard work. I can’t even begin to count the number of people that we as humans consider great who have said this. Hard work and diligence are what pay off in the end. That seems to have been forgotten by our society and this speech flew squarely in the face of such thinking. Some of the people that we think of as heroes or great successes failed time and time again and worked harder than they maybe thought they could. They fought for every inch of what they have. They earned it. It was not given to them.

    Some have said that this is overstepping the bounds of the President and getting in the way of the parents. Parents have had the ability to tell their children these same things since time began. They have had the ability to actually punish their children for failure to behave and do what they are supposed to. Lately our drop-out rates have skyrocketed. The performance of our school children has suffered and plummeted. When the individual choices of parents begin to affect the country as a whole, then the President has every right to step in and demand a certain level of personal responsibility. It’s called national pride. Patriotism even. When the quality and numbers of our graduates falls, so does our productivity and creativity as a nation. We stop leading the world in fields and become a follower, dependent on others.

    What President Obama said has been needed for quite some time. I hope he follows it with more things like this. I hope teachers and students and parents alike begin to expect more from themselves and each other.

    How anyone could say that this speech was a bad thing is beyond me. I can’t even begin to fathom the mental thought process that leads to such a conclusion. The only thing it could be is utter and total disregard for the safety, well-being and future happiness of our children and the nation as a whole.

  117. Shrike

    Clap, clap. Bravo. I love the quote

    “I’m tired of ignorance held up as inspiration, where vicious anti-intellectualism is considered a positive trait, and where uninformed opinion is displayed as fact.”

    Maybe I should put that to wikiquote under your name.

  118. Nomen Publicus

    Fox News appears to be shouting “Fire” in the theatre when there is no fire. I don’t see why they should be immune from the consequences.

    From little I have seen, Fox News appears to be operated by a bunch of self-righteous, ignorant, biased, bigoted, lying, racist bastards and if they were hit by a small comet it would be no great loss to the planet (it might even raise the average IQ by a couple of points.)

    Sorry I have to be so restrained but this is a public forum…

  119. Gwenny

    @fos comment 1 Math teachers like you are why I home schooled.

  120. it was my understanding that someone heard he was going to politicize his talk by asking kids to help him pass health care. Which is silly and if it ever was in there the speech writers probably took it out very quickly.

    As a conservative. I have no problem with what he said to those students. He’s the president and he’s acting like it. I don’t really know of any one personally, even from the hard core right who has said the speech was bad. This is an empty calorie story for both teams.

  121. David

    I have some concerns about this. Not about the content of the speech, most of what you posted is commendable, but with the fact that the President feels the need to address all the children of America. It isn’t the President’s job to teach my children anything. Small government advocacy is a legitimate position and hardly worthy of being called evil. Sure, some people will cry foul over anything a black Democrat president says, but it doesn’t follow that all criticism should be ignored. Calling the opposition the “lunatic fringe”, “rabid racist”, or “mentally unbalanced” doesn’t advance your ideas.

  122. John C. Randolph

    “We are simply too large a society now to approach a republic in the same way the founders did. ”

    Sorry, I don’t buy that. Morality doesn’t change with multiplication, and the principles of limited government that we wrote into the constitution are MORE important the larger the country gets. This country was founded by separating from a colonial power, and we certainly didn’t set out to recreate ourselves as the second British empire.

    -jcr

  123. tacitus

    I guess I can expect no comments from you when the next republican appoints a couple dozens czars? I doubt it…

    What on earth gives you that idea? Was it the last eight years when I didn’t complain once that Bush appointed administrators and special envoys without Congressional approval? I may have strongly disapproved of some of his picks, but I never questioned his right to do so, nor that he needed to do so in order for his administration to function (as misguided as it was).

    Yet again, we have another false equivalence. Complaining about who is selected is not the same as complaining about a process that all presidents have been doing for decades.

    And let me ask you. How many times did you object to Bush appointing “czars” in the last eight years?

  124. vbead

    Here here, well said!

  125. It’s all BS. Parents who claim they wanted to read it before their kids heard it are digging for excuses. It’s nothing but a glorified wedge issue to further their agenda of fear.

    Hell, I would have been happy to hear one gripe about it costing tax payer money.
    Many of us knew about his speech since it was a CAMPAIGN PROMISE and it was shown on CSPAN of all channels so the students that did watch it would first and foremost have the mental capacity to think for themselves. If NOT then that is a COLOSAL PARENTING FAILURE and not a fault of Obama.

    Like these parents even know what goes on at school.. talk about being naive.. if parents knew they would have been kissing obama’s ass and bitching no one said this earlier.

  126. Lawrence

    I am extremely ticked at the fact that the Republican Party is being run into the ground by people that aren’t even elected officials – the Bill O’Reilly’s, Rushs, and Hannity’s of the world, who are getting paid to generate controversy and pander to the lowest common denominator in the name of ratings.

    Seriously, the Party left me, I didn’t leave the Party.

  127. Greg in Austin

    As always, love your blog, Phil.

    There’s something wrong with the President’s speech to schoolkids, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I may need to digest it a little longer.

    I don’t have children of my own, but I do have lots of nephews and nieces and friends with kids, so I need to talk to them to get their perspective.

    I don’t recall in any of my 12 years of grade school ever once getting out of a regular class to watch a speech from the President. (There were 4 while I was in school.) There’s something about stopping class and forcing all the children to listen to a politician. I mean, we don’t stop class to make the kids listen to the Governor, or a Senator, or the local Mayor, and those folks have more influence on the daily lives of most Americans than the President. The closest thing I can remember was Arnold Schwarzenegger and… someone… Regan perhaps(?) telling kids to be more physically active. ;)

    Maybe we should have all children in every grade listen to a government official once a week. Then, perhaps, it would become routine, and less likely to cause this kind of controversy.

    I respect the decisions of those parents who pulled their children out of school, and those school districts who listened to the parents and chose not to show the speech. That kind of freedom is what makes America so great. If you don’t want to listen to the President talk, you don’t have to, and you certainly have the right to choose if your children listen or not.

    Finally, don’t we have a process for getting information into the educational system? Unless it was a national crisis or emergency, shouldn’t this type of speech go thru the National Department of Education? Shouldn’t then the State Board of Education review the material, to determine if it was appropriate? Or are speeches like this already allowed in the normal scheme of things?

    8)

  128. tacitus

    Sorry, I don’t buy that. Morality doesn’t change with multiplication, and the principles of limited government that we wrote into the constitution are MORE important the larger the country gets. This country was founded by separating from a colonial power, and we certainly didn’t set out to recreate ourselves as the second British empire.

    You can’t govern a country based solely on morality, but even if you could, the moral values of Americans certainly have changed over the last two hundred years anyway. Slavery is no longer tolerated, nor is the execution of minors, nor the persecution and prosecution of gays, nor the legal interference of what goes on in anyone’s bedroom between consenting adults, and so on.

    It is absolutely true that American society is far larger and far more complex than it was 200 years ago. There are tens of thousands of institutions, businesses, social mores, and technologies around today that were inconceivable by those who created the Constitution. When a 1790′s yokel creates a midden heap, it’s not a big deal. When a 1990′s corporation dumps toxic waste into a river basin it’s a region-wide disaster. When a 1790′s scam artist bilks a few dozen locals of a couple of silver dollars each, then that’s unfortunate, but when a 1990′s corporation brings the nation’s most populace state to its knees through unscrupulous practices, it hurts millions of people.

    The only way to keep things in check these days is for the government to oversee and regulate the market. Sure, it’s always going to be imperfect, but it’s simply ridiculous to imagine things would be better without any oversight at all because a particular (minority) interpretation of a 200 year-old document says it cannot interfere.

  129. John

    (123. tacitus) I’ve disagreed with all czar positions since the new deal. All government appointed heads of agencies should be vetted in my opinion.

  130. John

    (127. tacitus) Everything you listed is considered state rights in the constitution. This was to limit federal power. All the changes you mentioned would have taken place without the help of the federal government. It already was if you look at the North.

  131. Minnie

    OMG! What a lot of much ado about nothing! I always knew Americans were weird – you have all sure proved it!

  132. Phil, Thank you for writing this. What is interesting to note is that the parents (and non-parents) who complained about President Obama speaking to our children hadn’t even read or heard the words of his speech yet!!?? I simply don’t understand how someone can oppose something they know nothing about! And, I agree, since when is it a bad thing for our President to talk to our children? I love it! It makes them feel a part of the United States of America – “United, we stand”…whatever happened to that sentiment? It makes them feel important. Who wouldn’t want that?

    This sentence of yours struck me as well:

    “I’m tired of ignorance held up as inspiration, where vicious anti-intellectualism is considered a positive trait, and where uninformed opinion is displayed as fact.” Hear! Hear!! I’m with you!

    I am so sick of the news media. They all (some to a much more greater extent) are intent on sensationalizing rumor and commenting on it than actually reporting FACTS. I don’t see how they can call themselves News when they aren’t reporting news; they are misinterpreting (or interpreting) rumors as fact and projecting what will happen, not what HAS happened. They seem more intent on dividing us as a nation and stirring up trouble then actually reporting the news. Where does this type of “reporting” get us? I’m all for freedom of speech as well but why give ignorant people the headlines and encourage their lies?

    I would tell President Obama what I’ve told my son for years about bullies: there is something the bullies admire and envy in or about you that makes them pick on you. And, there is something about themselves that they don’t like, so they strike out in the hopes to bring you down to where they are. So, take their misguided words and actions as compliments but also stand up for yourself. In doing so, you may end up turning a bully into a friend, helping him/her to become more than they ever hoped to be. And you will be proud of yourself for not letting them hurt you and refusing to stoop to their level.

  133. michael s

    Ha, someone in the comments called Democrats in Congress “far left.” That li’l piece of hyperbole always makes me giggle.

    Phil, well done as usual man, and your mention of Soylent Green was SPOT ON, man, spot on. Don’t let the apologists give you any of their bunk.

  134. Susan

    I think the content of the speech would certainly have been different if there had not been such a public reaction. After all, the teaching aid that was to accompany the speech had already been leaked and asked the ominous question that referred to what the children might do for the President. Come on, when do we begin to work for the President? Oh right, eventually the government will be paying me to do nothing so I guess I will be working for the President at some point. It pays to be a little wary of what is being said in his comments recently. He certainly has found it necessary to remind us many, many times in his recent speeches that he is the President. Why does he need to remind us that he is in charge? Why would he ask what our children could do for the President? My antennae raise when I hear comments like this. It makes me think that there is something else to be said or that I need to read between the lines for some underlying meaning. I am not paranoid or nutty, just cautious. My freedom is far to precious and valuable for me not to be.

  135. Steve

    North Carolina? There are public schools right here in Colorado doing the same thing. The elementary school my wife works at in Highlands Ranch is choosing not to air the speech for fear it might offend some parents. And I guarantee you they’re not the only ones. I second every sentiment you have expressed here, Phil. I too am tired of the cowardice. There comes a time when you just have to nut up and call a spade a spade.

  136. Jawa

    Sadly, I enjoy reading the BA for hope and wonder about the awesome that is the Universe. I have been reading the BA for along time. I hate that political mess has to be brought in to this site at all. Please include more great astronomical information and education to the site and leave the political shenanigans for the evening news.

  137. .. doh.. double comment..

  138. Mike

    You’re being dishonest, Phil (and you know it). Concerns were expressed before the text of the speech was made available. Now, you can criticize the objectors for not trusting Obama if you want, but you can not say, “Look! Look at this innocuous speech! How could anybody object to this?”

  139. drow

    what about the kids who will be building rockets to go to mars and beyond?
    no love for them. sniff.

    seriously. it was a good speech, the sort of thing every kid on earth should hear sometime in their lives.
    if not from the potus, then from their own bloody parents.

  140. sophia8

    Quiet Desperation:

    Did anyone here ever read the “Transmetropolitan” graphic novels by Warren Ellis? The journalist character, Spider Jerusalem, is exactly what this world needs right now. With politicians, he advocates a form of journalism called monstering which, in his own words is, “The art of abusing people. Of ambushing them with questions, following them with questions, hounding them with questions, driving them to their ****ing graves with questions.”

    He’s perhaps not quite Spider Jerusalem, but would Jeremy Paxman do?

  141. ad

    Roll on the Obama Love Army (OLA).

  142. @Vanderleun

    Delegation is somehow immoral? I don’t get it. Even if the title “Czar” was a formal imposition, it comes from “Caesar”. If you know anything about Roman history (Especially from the period of Diocletian onward), the usage of this word to denote delegation of authority is historically apt, and even if it wasn’t- what’s wrong with it exactly? Or are “caesar salads” destined to become “freedom salads” and “liberty greens”?

    ——————————————————————————-

    I’m on record as not being crazy about this president for a variety of reasons. I voted for him with some serious reservations. (He’s too right leaning for my taste) When it comes to the president’s speech to school kids, I thought it was banal and commonplace. There’s nothing particularly inspired about it, though it’s a good message- don’t get me wrong. Obama isn’t as eloquent as he gets credit for, it’s merely a function of following Bush.

    When it comes to “helping the president” there was nothing wrong with that either. It allows kids to get creative about how they’re going to assist in their local community- it’s tied to the contents of the speech itself. Children don’t operate in the same political context we do unless parents are indoctrinating them. The way they see such a request is different and is in a narrower context.

    Meanwhile, if you’re worried about presidential hero-worship do something about those godawful history books. Geez, Woodrow Wilson may have brought into play the idea of self-determination, but he was a racist who probably is responsible for getting us into Vietnam and kicked Blacks out of White House staff positions. What does your kid’s history book say about the man? Don’t know you say? Yeah, then just admit you never really cared about how your kids are being indoctrinated until you decided to go with the zeitgeist on this one.

  143. Maria

    If that speech is communist socialist speech……………OMG my Mom is a socialist/communist!!! She told me to be responsible for my actions and that I was responsible for my own future…… oh dear I never knew my Devoutly Catholic mother was so evil…..

  144. Adam

    Thank you for a well crafted (as expected) rational reply to these folks. I’ve been amazed at the uproar here in Texas. One mother was quoted as saying she didn’t want her daughter hearing the speech because Obama was giving it to make himself look “super great”. SO WHAT. No matter what your political beliefs, he is trying to do the right thing and encourage our children. There’s no brainwashing, no hidden agenda, no political motives.

    Idiots.

  145. And yet, sadly, when the other side’s lunatic fringe showed the same irrational and insane bias against everything Bush did, no one got as angry as they do now. Funny, that.

    While I do agree that it’s crazy for someone to be up in the air about the President essentially telling children to try harder and stay in school, it’s easy to forget that while the far-right nutbags are hogging the media these days, we just got over eight years of the far-left nutbags bashing Bush at every chance that presented itself. Either one seems just as irrational and stupid to me.

  146. PhilB

    “If I sound angry, then, yeah, I am. I’m tired of ignorance held up as inspiration, where vicious anti-intellectualism is considered a positive trait, and where uninformed opinion is displayed as fact. ”

    It’s been the furor over this speech that truly finally pushed me to this point last week.

    Chef @147, I suspect confirmation bias on your part. Sure the left-wing does have it’s share of nut-bags they didn’t get the kind of media attention that the teabaggers are getting. I seem to remember the media giving Bush II a free pass when it came to the Iraqi invasion.

  147. Leander

    “…and where uninformed opinion is displayed as fact.”

    Like that time you claimed astronomers don’t see UFOs with the confidence of a someone who had grasp of, uh, the facts ? No, I’m not gonna let this go, because I hate uninformed opinions as much as you do – your astronomers-and-UFOs-argument was uninformed crap to begin with, and still – after refinement – is a simplistic pile of BS, pardon me. So far you haven’t really responded to the criticism pointing out why that is so. You know, I’d really appreciate if you could lay bare all the data and reports and their statistical analyses – well, all the information – that went into your opinion…errh, argument based on fact. Sorry for hijacking another post though. But…oh well.

    “Never give up. Never back down against evil. Never tire, because this struggle will be eternal.”

    Woah, when was I drugged and dragged from my desk to sunday school ? But yeah, that last sentence strikes me as much as uninformed opinion as anything else. Does it count as such though if it is your opinion about something that you can’t even have information about ? I wonder…

  148. Utakata

    …I just wanted to add, that I sincerely felt this is one BA’s best entries. And speared the issues really well. This is coming from a stated moderate…who seems to have a very deep and advanced understanding of the politics that’s an envy of many of us on left…including myself. I’m not sure I could of said it any better.

    …incase your wondering, my comment I’m adding too is way up on #3. :(

  149. Damon

    “And yet, sadly, when the other side’s lunatic fringe showed the same irrational and insane bias against everything Bush did, no one got as angry as they do now. Funny, that.”

    That’s because Bush was a bumbling, ridiculous drunk with delusions of grandeur. Obama is a Harvard-educated statesmen and Constitutional lawyer. Funny, that.

    The only reason the left got so rowdy is because we were tired, after four years of abuse and corruption, of being ignored, tazed, pepper-sprayed and dragged out of rallies for asking questions. We literally had no choice but to play dirty, and it worked: by his second term, Bush was president in name only, with a 20% approval rating showing that no one really took him seriously any more than a child fears an abusive, alcoholic dad. That’s not real leadership.

    It’s doesn’t take courage to stand on top of the smoldering ruins of the twin towers and order other people into battle. It does take true courage to be a black man running for president and win. Obama didn’t have campaign contributions or daddy’s fat-cat oil moguls to back him up. Therefore, fundamentally, Obama’s campaign was more justified than the joke that was the last eight years before he even got elected.

    Consider yourself educated.

  150. Aline

    Not much to add except, Soylent Green — now that was a good movie!

  151. I agree that the word “evil” in the title was not the best choice; so I changed it. Many of the people involved may not have the intent of doing evil, even if the outcome of their words manages the same thing.

  152. Glenn

    @141.

    I don’t understand your point. How is it dishonest to point out the speech is innocuous after it was released? Are you saying the speech was “watered down” after “concerns” were “expressed”? On what basis do you make this assumption?

    I use quotes “liberally” because the hype before the speech was nothing but over-reactive, bigoted tripe. It’s win/win for the right wing. If the speech were in any way “socialist” the right-wing loonies could say “See! Told You!”. If it was innocuous, yes, bland and devoid of political leanings they could say “See! Our vigilance against socialism made them water down the speech!!!”

    I suppose the idea that the President really isn’t a godless commie liberal and all along just wanted to encourage kids to work hard and keep learning, never crosses the minds of the extreme-right.

  153. #141, Mike:
    It may be true that concerns were raised before the release of the transcript, but, I wonder how many of those who were screaming bloody murder actually read the transcript and changed their minds? Judging by some of the rants in these posts, not many.

    I read the transcript and thought it was an inspiring talk. Shouldn’t a leader inspire his nation to greater things, especially the leaders of tomorrow?

    I wish our leaders in Canada could follow this example..

  154. greg

    It’s times like these that I curse natural selection for not working fast enough.

    Enough of the pandering to morons, they need to be roadkill and earn all the ridicule that comes with that status.

    Not everyone has an opinion worthy of printing or being heard. These times prove it.

  155. Larry

    The American government — which we once called our government — has been taken over by Wall Street, the mega-corporations and the super-rich. They are the ones who decide our fate. It is this group of powerful elites, the people President Franklin D. Roosevelt called “economic royalists,” who choose our elected officials — indeed, our very form of government. Both Democrats and Republicans dance to the tune of their corporate masters. In America, corporations do not control the government. In America, corporations are the government.

    This was never more obvious than with the Wall Street bailout, whereby the very corporations that caused the collapse of our economy were rewarded with taxpayer dollars. So arrogant, so smug were they that, without a moment’s hesitation, they took our money — yours and mine — to pay their executives multimillion-dollar bonuses, something they continue doing to this very day. They have no shame. They don’t care what you and I think about them. Henry Kissinger refers to us as “useless eaters.”

    But, you say, we have elected a candidate of change. To which I respond: Do these words of President Obama sound like change?

    “A culture of irresponsibility took root, from Wall Street to Washington to Main Street.”
    There it is. Right there. We are Main Street. We must, according to our president, share the blame. He went on to say: “And a regulatory regime basically crafted in the wake of a 20th-century economic crisis — the Great Depression — was overwhelmed by the speed, scope and sophistication of a 21st-century global economy.”

    This is nonsense.

    The reason Wall Street was able to game the system the way it did — knowing that they would become rich at the expense of the American people (oh, yes, they most certainly knew that) — was because the financial elite had bribed our legislators to roll back the protections enacted after the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

    Congress gutted the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial lending banks from investment banks, and passed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which allowed for self-regulation with no oversight. The Securities and Exchange Commission subsequently revised its rules to allow for even less oversight — and we’ve all seen how well that worked out. To date, no serious legislation has been offered by the Obama administration to correct these problems.

    Instead, Obama wants to increase the oversight power of the Federal Reserve. Never mind that it already had significant oversight power before our most recent economic meltdown, yet failed to take action. Never mind that the Fed is not a government agency but a cartel of private bankers that cannot be held accountable by Washington. Whatever the Fed does with these supposed new oversight powers will be behind closed doors.

    Obama’s failure to act sends one message loud and clear: He cannot stand up to the powerful Wall Street interests that supplied the bulk of his campaign money for the 2008 election. Nor, for that matter, can Congress, for much the same reason.

    Consider what multibillionaire banker David Rockefeller wrote in his 2002 memoirs:
    “Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure — one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it.”

    Read Rockefeller’s words again. He actually admits to working against the “best interests of the United States.”

    Need more? Here’s what Rockefeller said in 1994 at a U.N. dinner: “We are on the verge of a global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis, and the nations will accept the New World Order.” They’re gaming us. Our country has been stolen from us.

    Journalist Matt Taibbi, writing in Rolling Stone, notes that esteemed economist John Kenneth Galbraith laid the 1929 crash at the feet of banking giant Goldman Sachs. Taibbi goes on to say that Goldman Sachs has been behind every other economic downturn as well, including the most recent one. As if that wasn’t enough, Goldman Sachs even had a hand in pushing gas prices up to $4 a gallon.

    The problem with bankers is longstanding. Here’s what one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, had to say about them:
    “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation, and then by deflation, the banks and the corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their father’s conquered.”

    We all know that the first American Revolution officially began in 1776, with the Declaration of Independence. Less well known is that the single strongest motivating factor for revolution was the colonists’ attempt to free themselves from the Bank of England. But how many of you know about the second revolution, referred to by historians as Shays’ Rebellion? It took place in 1786-87, and once again the banks were the cause. This time they were putting the screws to America’s farmers.
    Daniel Shays was a farmer in western Massachusetts. Like many other farmers of the day, he was being driven into bankruptcy by the banks’ predatory lending practices. (Sound familiar?) Rallying other farmers to his side, Shays led his rebels in an attack on the courts and the local armory. The rebellion itself failed, but a message had been sent: The bankers (and the politicians who supported them) ultimately backed off. As Thomas Jefferson famously quipped in regard to the insurrection: “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

    Perhaps it’s time to consider that option once again.

    I’m calling for a national strike, one designed to close the country down for a day. The intent? Real campaign-finance reform and strong restrictions on lobbying. Because nothing will change until we take corporate money out of politics. Nothing will improve until our politicians are once again answerable to their constituents, not the rich and powerful.

    Let’s set a date. No one goes to work. No one buys anything. And if that isn’t effective — if the politicians ignore us — we do it again. And again. And again.

    The real war is not between the left and the right. It is between the average American and the ruling class. If we come together on this single issue, everything else will resolve itself. It’s time we took back our government from those who would make us their slaves.

  156. Damon

    Great post, Phil.

    These idiots deserve to be ridiculed. Even blindly. So they will know how it feels.

  157. sheep #128739821

    All hail the New World Order!

  158. dubwise

    Let’s not have a government sponsored healthcare system because it’s a socialist program. While we’re at it let’s get rid of the Police Dept, Fire Dept, US Mail, Military, Social Security and Medicare ’cause they’re all socialist programs!

    Looks like the entire conservative/Republican camp is completely run by the crazies now.

  159. Mark

    What I find most ironic is that the a speech about personal responsibility *for children* prompted a reaction from adults which showed that they were more in need of such a lesson than the kids…

  160. TW

    I have no problem with a President giving a speech to schoolkids. I even would say I encourage it…

    But to say that the brouhaha was simply about a speech is dishonest.

    The problem myself, and a lot of others had was the whole ‘lesson plan’ that originally went along with the speech.

  161. Christopher

    Sadly, most of the people freaked out by the right-wing talking heads don’t (or can’t) read web pages, either because they don’t have computers or because they can’t even read. Hell, theyz can barely unnerstan what tha Beck and Hannity whin they git goin, y’know!

  162. Blizno

    There are too many responses to this message for me to search through to make sure that I’m not repeating something somebody else already said.
    I’ll say it even though it may be repetitive.

    The Republican party took a huge death-blow by forcing, legally or otherwise, G. W. Bush to two terms of office. G. W. Bush showed very clearly to the entire world what the Republican party, or at least those factions within the Republican party who are willing to commit any crime, no matter how vile, to steal and then hold power, really represent.
    The GW Bush Republican party is the party of endless lies, of proud torture, of relentless greed, of treason.

    GW Bush showed so clearly what the Republican party desires and represents that the Republican party has been shoved back into the shadows.
    The Republicans in charge are fighting for the very life of their disgraced party and they will stop at nothing to damage any who oppose them.

    Every single word spoken by any Republican must first be studied for its intent to cause harm to everybody who is not of the Republican party. The Republican party has sunk far below truth or reality. They care only for survival and no lie is beneath them.

    As for their latest attack against the President of the United States of America for his encouraging US school children to study hard, work hard and make up their own minds…
    For shame, Republican party, for shame! Slink back into the depths and leave the running of this great nation to those who care for its citizens!

  163. Matt

    The problem isn’t with the content of the President’s speech and never was. George Bush (both), Reagan, and many other have made similar speeches aimed at students. The speech isn’t, and wasn’t, the problem.

    The problem is the hysterical, Pro-Obama love fest the media engages in almost constantly. Average citizens wouldn’t have cared, or likely even known, about President Obama’s speech had the media not trumpeted it as the second coming. Some schools had the *entire school* sit down and watch this speech, made lesson plans, talked it up. When does this happen for a conservative President. About half past never, that’s when.

    Well *of course* the opposition party and people who didn’t vote for the President are going to get their panties in a wad over it. If this speech had received the sort of non-coverage that a conservative President would have received, there wouldn’t have been an issue. But when the trumpets rang out for all the peoples of the land to Heed His Mighty Word, then, predictably, the other side got bent out of shape.

  164. Jane

    Phil, you’re an inspiration. I agree wholeheartedly, especially with this bit: “If I sound angry, then, yeah, I am. I’m tired of ignorance held up as inspiration, where vicious anti-intellectualism is considered a positive trait, and where uninformed opinion is displayed as fact.”

  165. Radwaste

    “I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.”

    Unpleasant question time:

    1) Why do you think it is government’s responsibility to set “high standards”?

    2) How is that working so far?

    3) What makes you think government can do better than it presently does in any given field? It is my experience that because “government” acts in accordance with regulations, when the proper form is filled out, then any problem that remains is yours. I work for a DOE contractor on regulatory-level procedures for handling nuclear waste, and I can show you how indifference and blatant gaps in situation awareness produce costly errors.

    4) How many of you read the Constitution? You’re allowing the President to claim actions which are the explicit duty of Congress.

    5) Why are so many people accepting the “two wrongs” fallacy? Is it just because “your guy” is in charge now? Can that really make you abandon the sort of examination you would make if you were just buying lunch?

    These questions do not care who is President. If you want the perfect gauge of whether what you’re hearing is hype, just imagine another President saying it and that your guy never existed.

    Science works very well in examining the validity of any idea. If you cannot show the process behind how an idea is expressed, you can assign no credit for the question!

  166. Alan

    What does this article have to do with astronomy, or science itself for that matter?

  167. plawler

    Sure… but what about the “real” speech before the White House staff edited it? You can read it here. You will be shocked (and awed). ;o)
    http://www.theawl.com/2009/09/barack-obamas-back-to-school-speech

  168. El Cid

    Next time Obama needs to give a speech on how evolution is our best scientific understanding of how life arose and propagated and diversified across the planet.

    That should calm the nut squads down.

  169. john

    Perhaps the reason it wasn’t propaganda laden is because the right wing raised a fuss.

  170. Annie

    To everyone who is saying the problem was the “lesson plan” and not the speech:

    Sorry, but that doesn’t fly either. I think — and I suspect Phil and others here would also think — that that is absolutely *just* as ridiculous as objecting to the speech.

    Here’s a little logic for you:
    1. The President wanted to make a speech to schoolchildren
    2. The speech would, if shown, necessarily take some classroom time. Therefore, the administration also wanted to include lesson plan materials so that the content could be turned into both a civics lesson as well as a media consumption/critical literacy/verbal skills lesson. Yeah, verbal skills — in my day those were considered a fairly basic part of the 3 Rs.
    3. Part of critical reading/listening skills involves thinking about how you would or would not apply certain statements or messages to your own worldview.

    And so, given that the speech was about asking children to HELP THEMSELVES, the question that would have asked students how they would “help Obama” was actually asking them how they were going to help themselves. It was going to ask them how the message of the speech could be applied in their own life. And the answer is supposed to be by staying in school, by taking on personal responsibility, and by thinking about specific ways to apply that to their own lives — maybe studying harder for next week’s spelling test, maybe something bigger.

    If you object to that, I’m not going to agree with you just because you’re fine with the content of the speech.

  171. Alex

    I think the author shows his ignorance by pretending that Fox News is the only channel with a political bias. Pretty much all the major network news shows are based in either NYC or Washington DC, two of the more liberal cities in the country. Even if it were not intentional, there is still going to be a skewed perspective relative to the country as a whole (the part that doesn’t live on the east or west coast). Most of the other news outlets (most notably CNN and MSNBC) find the one crazy right winger in the crowd and try to make it out as though all conservatives are racist, creationists, and/or greedy tycoons. Throw in the fact that the conservative position is built on the ideology of personal responsibility, and the headlines “Teen mother cannot attend college, should have thought before having sex” or “Majority of country lives beyond their means, need to stop buying iPhones and taking expensive vacations” just aren’t the story people want to buy. People want to have someone else to blame for their mistakes, and the major news outlets make money by delivering someone to them. I’m generally right of center fiscally, and somewhere in the middle socially, and I couldn’t care less about the address Obama is giving to students (although the “help the President” letter would have been a bit much). However, I was raised in a small town, live in a major city, graduated with honors from one of the top universities in the country, believe in God and evolution, and recently joined Mensa. But for some reason, the left-leaning media seems determined to stereotype me as an ignorant redneck because I don’t believe that we can spend our way out of the hole we are in, or that socialized medicine is likely to lead to an decrease in the trade deficit or national debt (in which case it is immaterial to our long term economic recovery, and should be tabled until we figure out how to pay for it and everything else we have put on our national credit card).

  172. David

    You realize of course that all the stuff about Brown Shirts and Poland was cut out of the speech, due to the complaints of our patriotic Republicans and Fox news. He also had to take out the part where he admits to eating babies. And the phrase “All you dumb white crackers”. So all that was left was “Stay in school”.

    Bush Sr. spoke to school kids, too, and it was pretty innocuous, but the Democrats didn’t like it, after the fact. Reagan spoke to kids as well, and as far as I know, nobody cared that he ate babies or called white people “crackers”. But again, that was Reagan.

  173. works it

    Stay in school, get good grades, go to college, get a good job, so the government can collect more taxes, so they have more money to bomb helpless countries and kill innocent people.

    This is just an attempt to keep the sheep factory operating at full capacity.

  174. I’m glad at least that UFO believers can weigh in on this.

    There are always nutcases and extremists on both sides. But I’m always impressed that the people most convinced that government is incompetent and useless are also the ones who believe it is capable of conspiracies worthy of Ernst Stavros Blofeld. And I think the argument here is not that opponents of Obama shouldn’t be heard, but that it is the most baseless charges and the most dull-witted and paranoid opponents who are being given the most air time because they are the most ENTERTAINING and news is now so profit-driven (thanks, capitalism!) that nothing that doesn’t “sizzle” gets considered for airplay by anyone but NPR.

  175. Well, you’ve managed to push all the buttons two days in a row. What do you have in mind for tomorrow?

  176. Paul Claessen

    Speaking of Hitler and the Obama ‘school’ speech:

    http://tr.im/yczW

  177. Anael

    The reason why I oppose President Obama’s speech is that he might be establishing a precedent for future presidents. You might like the speech he gave today but the next president might not have a message that we Skeptics/Scientists agree should be preach to students.

  178. Zuben

    Are these people the same ones that believe in astrology, Elvis lives, and Alien UFOs
    or do we have an entirely new contingent?
    I could see some of this in years past from being scared over the Cold War drills. Nobody thought twice about those or communist witch hunting. And this was accepted in schools.
    This speech today was not designed to scare the kids, indoctrinate them – just encourage them to learn.
    Zuben

  179. Brandon

    Phil, I agree, I too am angry. Unfortunately I’m also frightened because these fringe fools are getting through to some people who don’t know any better. You know what really irks me is that the tantrum the far left keeps throwing almost makes me want to never vote republican ever again, but that would make me a partisan moron, which is the dilemma I face.

    I found Obama’s speech inspirational as a soon to be College student. The whole thing a call for personal glory and responsibility, becoming great for yourself. But at the same time it is a reminder that in essence our greatness reflects upon this great country we live in.

    Obama IS my president, even though I could not vote in this last election I feel for the first time in some long time that THIS man is MY leader and I respect him greatly. He may not be perfect but he is trying to change things that need to be changed, which is more than I can say for other recent president’s who would dare to say that the jury is still out on a thing like evolution or halting other possibly great scientific endeavors.

  180. I'd rather be fishin'

    The leader of the most powerful nation on Earth is encouraging children to learn and then to use that knowldege to improve their country and the planet. Wow, obviously he’s a dangerous radical and can’t be a real American. How about impeaching the fascist/nazi/commie/socialist and sending him to Canada. Man, we need an educated, intelligent well-spoken politician up here, even if you guys don’t.

    @166
    “I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.”

    Unpleasant question time:
    1) Why do you think it is government’s responsibility to set “high standards”?
    2) How is that working so far?
    3) What makes you think government can do better than it presently does in any given field?

    Answers:
    1) I’m no expert, but I’m sure the Constitution or some act of Congress or state legislature says so. Notice Mr. Obama didn’t say what level of government: Federal, state or county. For public education to be truly effective, a minimum standard must be met by all schools in a jurisdiction, otherwise some students will be short-changed. He didn’t claim actions set aside for Congress, he trying to get people involved: ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’ surely applies to education too.

    2) If it isn’t working, it is the duty of citizens and parents in a democratic state to hold the government accountable and change it.

    3) Then the parents and taxpayers better get off their hands and exercise their rights and duties. If not the government, then who? Churches ran schools for hundreds of years, why not again?

    p.s. When on holiday in the US I couldn’t figure out where Mr. Obama was placed on the political continuum by Beck and the rest of the Fox ‘News’ people. They seemed to flip-flop on the issue. Either that or I misunderstood their rants while they were foaming at the mouth.

  181. Remember, when Reagan spoke to schoolchildren, he actually SPOKE ABOUT SPECIFIC POLITICS.

    Reagan told students, “We also find that more countries than ever before are following America’s revolutionary economic message of free enterprise, low taxes, and open world trade. These days, whenever I see foreign leaders, they tell me about their plans for reducing taxes, and other economic reforms that they are using, copying what we have done here in our country.”

    In other words, it’s another example of IOKIYAR (It’s OK If You’re A Republican).

    But Obama speaking about working hard and staying in school? Now that’s something for conservatives to show that Obama Derangement Syndrome is far beyond the Clinton Derangement Syndrome.

  182. Granted, I didn’t read all 170 comments preceding this one. So, I may be repeating another person but, in response to the first comment. What kind of idiot scientist reaches a conclusion after purposefully declining to examine the veracity of ANY evidence?

    Must be Christian “Science”.

  183. OpenYourEyes

    I think it’s great that he is going out there and actually attempting to do something. Not going on vacations every month like our last president. NO I don’t agree with all that he does, and on certain topics I won’t defend him. I consider myself an Idependant.

    But really? are people that pissed off about his speech? He is inspiring a generation to go out there and try. Just like He is inspiring adults to go back to school, and to advance themselves. Sure part of it may be for us to be able to make more money to be able to pay off the massive debt we will have, but at the same time he is trying to get us to strive for more. Not just settle. Too many people settle on life and everything they do. Hence the obesity rate in the US. If he inspires people to get out there and achieve a higher level then what they are currently at who knows what could happen.

    I’m tired of everyone talking negatively towards EVERYTHING he says and does. I’m not being biased, I hated it when everyone was against everything Bush was doing. It’s blind ignorance. There are too many people in this country that are liberal or conservative, they eat, sleep, and breath it. It comes to a point where they are blind and just following the leader. I think each person should look at each issue and actually research the pros and cons of what is going on. Instead of the, “I agree with that because it’s what liberals/conservatives support” sure in researching on topics you may end up always taking the “liberal side” or “conservative side” but at least you did the research and are aware that you are not blindly agreeing or disagreeing with something because you are supposed to.

    @Gwenny – It’s parents like you who shelter their kids from reality and the world, then wonder why their kids have social, amongst other, problems.
    “121. Gwenny Says:
    September 8th, 2009 at 1:54 pm
    @fos comment 1 Math teachers like you are why I home schooled.”

  184. Brian

    > and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.

    Aha! Clearly, Obama has a pro-Nintendo, anti-Xbox bias here! WHEN WILL THIS COUNTRY OPEN ITS EYES?!?!

  185. Blizno

    “166. Radwaste Says:
    September 8th, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    “I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’tgetting the opportunities they deserve.”Unpleasant question time:
    1) Why do you think it is government’s responsibility to set “high standards”?”

    Whose responsibility is it to set standards for public schools? Why…it’s the government’s responsibility!
    How dare the government set “high standards” ?!

    “2) How is that working so far?”

    Not nearly well enough. Much hard work and inspiration will be needed to to make public education live up to its goals. Can you help?

    “3) What makes you think government can do better than it presently does in any given field? It is my experience that because “government” acts in accordance with regulations, when the proper form is filled out, then any problem that remains is yours. I work for a DOE contractor on regulatory-level procedures for handling nuclear waste, and I can show you how indifference and blatant gaps in situation awareness produce costly errors.”

    And your solution is…? Put religious organizations in charge? Let the Super-Wealthy have total control like they did during the W years?
    Government is clumsy and wasteful. It’s also the only organization that we citizens have any chance to influence unless we control vast wealth (I don’t, do you?).

    “4) How many of you read the Constitution? You’re allowing the President to claim actions which are the explicit duty of Congress.”

    Sorry…which actions did the President claim? I only heard him encouraging students to stand up for themselves and claim personal responsibility for their futures.

    “5) Why are so many people accepting the “two wrongs” fallacy? Is it just because “your guy” is in charge now? Can that really make you abandon the sort of examination you would make if you were just buying lunch?
    These questions do not care who is President. If you want the perfect gauge of whether what you’re hearing is hype, just imagine another President saying it and that your guy never existed.”

    The last time I heard any President make such demands of US citizens was when I heard, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask…what can you do for your country.”
    We are measuring with accurate gage. Obama’s speech is free of hype. It is an inspirational speech given by a national leader who cares about his nation and its young people. Why are you not inspired? Do you object to Obama’s insisting that students think for themselves?

  186. Ernest Hua

    #46 “John” says …

    “Nothing evil hidden there, just the logic is off. You cannot make things more fair unless you make people less free (socialism). You can’t make people more free without making things less fair (capitalism).”

    I suspect it is you who is missing some logic here:

    “Fair” could refer to “equal result”, as you are insisting, or …

    … it could easily refer to “equal opportunity” or “equal process” or “equal access to recourse”.

    Any of these other subtle differences could be better associated with capitalism (over socialism). Therefore, “fair” is not necessarily the definition you insisted on, and it does not necessarily conflict with American ideals.

    Ern

  187. If Obama made a speech in support of oxygen, at least 10% of the nation would suffocate themselves in protest. Probably more…

  188. Ernest Hua

    #67. “John C. Randolph” says …

    “We have a bad habit in this country of treating the head of one of three co-equal branches of our federal government as if he were in charge of the country, and that we owe him some kind of duty of obedience.”

    Did you raise the same complaint when previous POTUS’s spoke directly to school children?

    It is a lot easier to consider this kind of complaint as reasonable if it was raised under presidents of all political stripes. If it was not, then you cannot blame the rest of us for wondering if you are just fishing for some minor technicality to oppose the current president no matter what he does.

    Ern

  189. Andy

    We should remember that ALL voices are equal in a DEMOCRACY. That means the “crazies” too. I do not belive Obama is evil. He simply represents a political point of view that I do not agree with. As parents, we need to be teaching our children the concepts the President pointed out. It’s OUR JOB to make sure our children get the most out of the education we can afford to give them. The problem is, we have an entire generation that has been raised to believe they are ENTITLED to the blessings that come from the hard work and perserverence the President spoke of. If the parents of our nation had done thier job as parents, there would have been no need for the President to spend his time telling OUR children about RESPONSIBILITY.

    That’s the real outrage.

  190. Bob Steadfast

    There are a lot of those on the far right who will criticize Obama for his speech, but wouldn’t criticize Bush or Reagan for doing the same. Those people are hypocrites plain and simple.

    There are also those of us who believe in the principle of a limited government and a land of free women and men. These people criticize the way our nation treats the president as “the leader of the free world” or “Commander and Chief of America”. Those people don’t have a problem with the President’s message. These people have a problem that the President is interjecting himself into their day-to-day life.

    Unfortunately, calm and rational discourse of the role of government and principles of liberty are lost in these types of “debates”. Most of the time they resort to name calling and other highly unscientific forms of argumentation.

  191. 06. Quiet Desperation Says:
    Did anyone here ever read the “Transmetropolitan” graphic novels by Warren Ellis? The journalist character, Spider Jerusalem, is exactly what this world needs right now. With politicians, he advocates a form of journalism called monstering which, in his own words is, “The art of abusing people. Of ambushing them with questions, following them with questions, hounding them with questions, driving them to their ****ing graves with questions.”

    I have the full ‘trade paperback’ run, and I know where they are… now, there’s something that would be appropriate to read (okay re-re-re…)

    107. doctoratlantis Says:

    I listened to some r-wing radio today

    My condolences.. you feeling ok now?

    Likewise there is PROFOUND cognitive dissonance with people who simultaneously hold the ideas that Obama’s healthcare plan will fail because the government is inept – yet we are all endangered because through a single speech Obama will be able to raise a student-army of salivating socialist drones.

    Also, there is the same group saying ‘the public option will force for-profit healthcare [insurers] out of business’.
    Like the Immigration Idiot comment I created years ago: “Them lazy Mexicans are coming across the border and taking jobs from Hard Working Americans”.

    115. Doug Says:
    Would I have kept my son at home? Of course not! He needs to be intelligent enough to listen to what people say and make his own decisions. Maybe an interesting discussion would follow at home ….

    Kind of a ‘vaccination against stupid’? [worked for me]

    46. John Says:
    Nothing evil hidden there, just the logic is off. You cannot make things more fair unless you make people less free (socialism). You can’t make people more free without making things less fair (capitalism).

    Jim Quinn.. The War Room with Quinn and Rose
    reference: http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200909080008

    see also: 191. Ernest Hua

    J/P=?

  192. ASimpleDad

    So Obama having on his staff someone who signed on to the truely paranoid truther movement = ok with the left, but parents who get upset (prior to Obama releasing the text of it) over a politician having all of the children in the country set down to hear their dear leaders speech, well, they are just paranoid. Lame. Totally lame. At least the parents are trying to look out for their kids. What are those on the left standing up for a man who made such ridiculous comments looking out for? Discover magazine, consider yourself canceled in this household for allowing such a week attack to be boosted by your name :)

  193. knobody

    “It’s killing any real debate in this country, where the system of government depends utterly on a well-informed public.”

    odd. when i took high school and college history i was taught that your system of government was designed specifically to be able to function in the absence of a well-informed public. that’s why we live in a democratic republic, not a democracy. not that it functions the way it was designed, but that’s another debate entirely.

    Larian: and this is a bad thing how? i’m thinking this pro-oxygen speech should happen soon. i wonder if obama is free tomorrow…

  194. John C. Randolph

    “you cannot blame the rest of us for wondering if you are just fishing for some minor technicality to oppose the current president no matter what he does.”

    Guess again. I oppose the current president because he is continuing the very same policies as the previous president, only more so. Face it, the guy you voted for is just Mitt Romney with a better-sounding script in the teleprompter.

    -jcr

  195. Will J

    Ok, again, I want to re-iterate that while some right-winged nutties are calling the speech itself indoctrination, most have an issue with what the other part of the announcement was. When the speech was announced, Obama said he would also ask students to write a letter to the white house with ideas of how they could help the president. This hit the news, took a lot of heat (arguably justifiably, I have no idea), and was changed to a question on how the kids could push for a better education.

    I’m not agreeing with critics of this, but I feel people leave out the letter aspect and it deserves attention to understand why they are so riled up to begin with.

  196. John C. Randolph

    “The only way to keep things in check these days is for the government to oversee and regulate the market. ”

    Why don’t you tell me all about how the SEC protected the public from Enron and Bernie Madoff? Oh, wait: they didn’t. In fact, the presence of the SEC gave investors a false sense of security, so they didn’t bother with due diligence. Is anyone at the SEC going to suffer any consequences at all for their abject failure? Don’t hold your breath.

    -jcr

  197. Dwatney

    Comparing Obama to Hitler is a sign of how bad things have become in the education department. I mean, really! The first day in Opposition 101, you learn to compare Democrats to Communists and Republicans to Nazis! How hard is that to keep straight???

  198. Sam

    The speech was harmless, however, a well timed event, to garner support from teetering supporters, with the balance tilting his way(his stratigist hope) with Congress reconvening to vote on the healthcare overhaul. I urge all readers to read the constitution. It is not a perfect document, but as near perfect as can be if you wish to be free. When any president strays from the guidelines, an alarm should be sounded by the free press. Those who would crush critisism, rational debate, silence opinions openly or underhandedly should have a strong light(free press) upon their methods so the free people can stop the censorship, and judge for or against, without the tainting of radicals opposed to ideas or opinions they may not agree with. I consider racist organized groups pressuring corporations with indimidations and threats just what that light needs to shine upon. Gauge what you take for granted in the freedoms you now enjoy, then study other countries forms of governments. People from all over the world WANT to come here. The presidents father for one. I believe alot of the people you may deem “crazy”, just may really appreciate their country and don’t won’t to be a part of some grand, push it thru NOW legislation, before wise, careful consideration to the future ramificaitons the action taken, will rusult in, as not to alter a darn good country.

  199. What school did you hear about in NC? Any idea? My wife’s a teacher here in NC, and her school, sadly, didn’t show the speech. She received an email that they would play it later for students who received permission from their parents.

    Permission. From. Their. Parents. To watch the president of the united states speak on how they should stay in school and work hard. It makes my brain so very sad – and her school is one of the more progressive, as is her principal. I imagine the faculties of the other schools were teaching poo-throwing today.

  200. Mike

    These idiots deserve to be ridiculed. Even blindly.

    OUCH! That one’s going to leave a mark.

  201. vanderleun

    Well, George, the last I looked school districts were very local forms of government. Exercising that choice may well be something limited to that school. Other anecdotes flying around today concern those schools and districts where listening was mandatory. I know that for some getting permission from parents may seem like an alien concept but some areas still seem to like it, just as other areas seem to like requiring no permission from parents. One thing you can be sure of, the poo-throwing is going on much further up the ladder than in mere schools. I regret that your brain is sad and recommend Prozac to overcome this condition.

    As for the rest, I’d like to thank our host for bringing all of us some extra special and really bad astronomy here today.

  202. vanderleun

    Hey, I just looked around and this bit of Bad Astronomy is certainly number one with a bullet in terms of comments. It’s even beating out wanting to see Agora and feeling huffy about Blogging Heads.

  203. timmy

    The message he delivered is not a point of contention. I do not care for ANYBODY having the ability to address the school system at large. Phil, what would you have said if it were someone else and you did not agree with them?

  204. Julius McHup

    After reading this post, I got rather angry and vowed to never read anything of yours again. So I closed my browser, turned off my computer, and sat down to finish Death From the Skies, only realizing 15 minutes later what I had done. Damn you Phil, you’re just too good at this.

  205. vanderleun

    Phil, I imagine, would still say that the sanctity of the Presidency trumps all unless your first name begins with a G.

    But even if that is not the case, I think those that oppose the president speaking to the children have gotten it all wrong. (Yes, I have changed my position on this.) Upon reflecting on Phil’s position and others here as well, I have changed my mind.

    I have come to realize that what is deeply wrong with this country is that so far we have not heard and seen enough of President Obama.

    I now think we need to see more. Much more. We need to have a morning message from the President every day on all cable news channel. Indeed, we need to have it broadcast on all TV channels, especially ESPN and other places where citizens dodge their need to know the truth. We need to see his message in the lead in to Good Morning America and Fox and Friends both without fear or favoritism.

    Weather Channel too.

    We need to have Barack Obama’s message, whatever it might be on whatever day, delivered to all of us on the front page of whatever newspaper we are still reading.

    We need to have it as the lead-in to NPR’s Morning Edition. We need to have his message replace the bumper music at the top of Rush Limbaugh’s show.

    In short, we cannot have enough of listening to the President tell us what he’s thinking and what the right way to think about what he’s thinking is.

    We need to hear his words and see his face every day. Every single day.

    I am in ernest about this. I will even pay higher taxes to make this so. We need, in the most urgent and important way, to see and him him All. The. Time.

    I hope the address to Congress and a grateful nation is only the beginning of this program of all Obama all the time.

  206. Ernest Hua

    #165 Blizno says …

    “… those factions within the Republican party who are willing to commit any crime, no matter how vile, to steal and then hold power, really represent. The GW Bush Republican party is the party of endless lies, of proud torture, of relentless greed, of treason.”

    Dude! Calm down! This is the sort of hyperbole that the wing nuts are using.

    The Republican party, as a whole, made some huge political mistakes, but the biggest, by far, is to trust Karl Rove, whose only intent (by hook or by crook) is to elect and re-elect GWB. Now, I’m not saying there wasn’t any shenanigans in 2000 or 2004, but let’s be realistic:

    One thing you can count on about the GOP (up until now) is heavy-handed party discipline, and Rove/Cheney had no trouble keeping the party in line, which meant that they can get their short term agenda through.

    The whole point is to prop up some illusion of a great leader. It is just not as blatant and in-your-face as North Korea, but the game is the same. The idealistic purpose having loyal opposition within the party was to keep the lunatics from going off the deep end without embarassing public visibility.

    But you all know what happened next. Cheney and his cronies completely undermined the checks and balances within the systems that rule the branches, so dumb sh.t ideas that should never have seen the light of day, did, in fact, get green lighted.

    Let’s face it …

    If Iraq was over and done in 1 year, and we pulled out … even if it was left a complete mess, would Bush be so tarnished?

    If Katrina damage was contained, and massive forces were deployed to rescue every man/woman/child/puppy in New Orleans … even if the city was left to drown, would Bush be so villified?

    Doubtful. It is not the policies, but the poor execution and mismanagement that really killed Bush. You liberals might think you knew Bush and the GOP was evil, but you be wrong.

    Bush is just incompetent. Carter was dumped for the very same reason. Bush lucked out with the 2nd term because Rove/Cheney knew how to play the game.

    Ern

  207. Wynn Ray

    This was a cogent and non-vitriolic analysis.
    I am an educator, and George Bush had his “no child left behind” speech, we objected not to the speech, but to the lack of funding from the Feds despite this being a federally mandated program, he didn’t fund it.
    We in the education field now refer to it as “every child left behind” as that is what it has achieved.
    The only reason “W” passed his college classes with C’s was because his dad was head of the CIA at the time, not some one to oppose.
    I voted for Obama, and find that I’m more in support of him now, than during the election.
    And before anyone calls me a liberal wimp; I spent 12 years serving in the military: Army Infantry; Captain, I qualified expert with every weapons system I fired, I’ve studied and practiced martial arts for 35 years, I own guns (yes more than one), and voted republican as much as democrat until “W” showed up.

  208. Free Man

    I have watched more news from every side in the last two years than I ever thought I would as a child. I am not a “Republican”,a “Democrat” or an “Independent”. I am me. I think it is very sad that a nation founded by great minds has degenerated to become so full of snot nosed,name calling children who also happen to be middle aged. What happened to free thinkers? Are you really calling each other names? Really? I was always taught to search out the facts on my own because EVERYONE wants something from you. It doesn’t matter what political office or affiliation they have. It doesn’t matter that they work for FOX or CNN or MSNBC or even Discover magazine. What is really happening is they want your money and even your labor to push their own agenda. If it is not ok to call people names in grade school it is not ok for adults in the public forum. What really is happening right now and you are all doing it yourselves is, a TOTAL lack of respect for other people and their beliefs. What part of belligerent name calling did you think would be a soothing salve for our nations wounds? I understand it works well for starting bar fights. The absolute arrogance on both sides of the political arena is vomit inducing to any real free thinker. I am supposed to believe that both sides fully understand the perspectives of their counterparts and also have reached omniscience? So their really can be no correct view if it isn’t your own? I think that we have become a bunch of spoiled brats that wouldn’t understand respect for our fellow man if he saved our lives. I personally can find no greater cause for shame than to be a free nation of men and women who are not respectful of the of the others dignity. A great lot of unruly children. If you cannot respect,you will receive none in return!

  209. Charles

    (for all the people thinking im one of those idiots or insane people i have a 3.5+ gpa)i am a student and i watched the speech along with about 30 other kids in the class. I have never liked Obama or anything he does. I think one point of his speech was to draw controversy about the speech so that he could pass the health care reform behind the public’s view. I think Fox is a news station that shows the other side of the argument instead of what the majority of Americans think is “right”. I think Obama needs to stop screwing around with the public and either get things done and stop bankrupting the future generations or quit.

  210. PeteC

    TechSkeptic (44) said : “I swear these people honestly think Obama is magic”.

    As an interested observer from across the pond, I have to say that was one thing that always made me smile in the last few years.

    Everything was Bill Clinton’s fault. It didn’t matter how many years he was out of office, apparently everything he did was build of diamond and adamantium.

    After six years of controlling all three of the USA’s branches of government and a further two controlling two of them, it was still, apparently, impossible to move out from under this man’s shadow. We’re not talking about a situation inherited with a nation undertaking two foreign wars during a massive recession, either. We’re talking about the quiet time back when GWB first took office.

    I always thought: Bill Clinton must be one heck of a man, and one hell of a president. If he could implement policies and procedures that couldn’t be stopped in two whole terms of office, most of it with complete control, then he was by far the most able politician, administrator, president and, if you opposed him, capable insane living-under-the-volcano-in-a-secret-undersea-base supervillain ever.

    As for now, I suspect the current US right wing is simply going for public appearance rather than reality. If Obama and the Democrats can be kept constantly reacting rather than acting and have to appear on television to defend themselves, no matter how absurd the claims are, the overall impression and emotional context produced will be of dynamic, righteous Republicans moving forward and pushing back the weak, constantly-apologising and trying to explain themselves Democrats. People like a winner and will often tend to back the person they think most likely to win; and after a few years no-one will remember that the controversies were all fantasyland lunacy, they will just remember that there were lots of controversies and Obama and the Democrats never seemed to attack back, so they must have realised they were in the wrong and the other side must be clean. In the end, constant repetition can make something into generally accepted truth – look at how the word “liberal”, once a badge of pride, is now something no politician wants to be described as – apparently believing in “favoring or permitting freedom of action, esp. with respect to matters of personal belief or expression” is now a dirty secret belief not to be openly held.

  211. Jon

    I totally agree with this article. I’m afraid though that more people are loosing their minds. With hate radio + Fox “news” it’s like a complete drag on any conversation I have here in Texas. Seriously, there is almost not a single topic that does not get turned into a political rant.

  212. JD

    There’s a reason only 6% of scientists identify themselves as Republicans. The GOP has become nothing but a fringe party of backwards uneducated lunatics. They no longer matter, they’ve become determined to go down in history as a bunch of radical psychos.

  213. Norm W.

    Phil,
    I wouldn’t have changed Evil to Crazy. I think we can say that >99% of the people spewing this nonsense are religious zealots of some sort who believe in the idea of evil and also I think, know that at some level, that what they are are saying and doing is wrong or that it does have malicious intent.
    Don’t let up for an instant!
    Sometimes you have to dumb things down a little to get the idea across and live with the fact that what you just said isn’t exactly correct.

  214. Chief Thunder

    c-c-combo breaker!

  215. As an independent, all the B.S. the left and right pull is much more obvious to me, since I have no vested interest in either side winning. After all, they tend to screw us from the left, and 4 or 8 years later screw us from the right. No matter who is in office, we get screwed. The only difference is the position. Bush haters were screaming how bad Bush is, and trying to scandalize everything they could. Now its the Obama haters turn. I am not impressed.

    My opinion on the whole thing is: “Anyone calling for censorship of political thought in a democracy by claiming the message is anti-democratic, is being anti-democratic.”

    As far as Obama tainting our young kids minds… TV, media, violent video games and the public school system already do that. More diverse points of view is the answer, not less. Censorship of political thought is NOT the answer, I don’t care what age they are. Obama says one thing, their teachers say another, and their parents say another. I think that is probably healthy. If you censor Obama, why not the teachers or parents or the TV or the internet? I mean, my God, they might actually learn something and learn there are different points of view. I’m being sarcastic, but comparing Obama to Hitler as some people did is a bit much, and Hitler had censorship on his side, Obama does not. So you really can’t compare. Let the man speak. And he did, and not surprisingly, what he said was totally appropriate.

  216. PJE

    @Larian #192

    “If Obama made a speech in support of oxygen, at least 10% of the nation would suffocate themselves in protest. Probably more…”

    I recall an old Seinfled episode … “That’s GOLD, Jerry, Gold!!”

    WEll done Larian! Hilarious

    Pete

  217. Grego

    192. Larian LeQuella Says:

    “If Obama made a speech in support of oxygen, at least 10% of the nation would suffocate themselves in protest. Probably more…”

    If so, I’ll start writing it for him….

    Awesome rant, Phil! I’ll be quoting bits of this.

  218. vanderleun

    “If Obama made a speech condemning carbon dioxide, at least 10% of the nation would hold their breath.”

  219. Daffy

    Wow, I got as far as post #1, and yet again wept for my country. Did IQs drop dramatically over the last few months?

  220. kurt

    I don’t know what Phil is talking about. I watch FOXNEWS and not one person had a problem with the speech not does any other conservative.
    What they did have a problem with is the dept. of education along with the obama cult of personality passing out lesson plans to schools across the country spreading politics and obama talking points in the classroom including “how can you help the president achieve his goals” etc etc. you know typical obama glorification.

    this is what i had a problem with.
    get your facts straight phil

  221. Steve Morrison

    Here is Ronald Reagan’s address to schoolchildren; thanks to the blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars, and specifically to commenter Michael Heath, for locating it.

  222. Charles

    While we’re all reading his speech and laughing at how dumb these people are, they’ve already moved on the next fake outrage.

  223. Daffy

    “Obama Cult of Personality.”

    Jesus.

  224. treeman

    When I read the speech before it was spoken, I thought it was wonderful. And it should surprise no one that OBama carried it well.

    But that does not mean the opposition had no reason to be wary

    When the speech was ORIGINALLY announced all sorts of things came into play.

    A pledge to be of service to Obama was videotaped and played to captive students on many schools.

    Workshops were created that made students find ways to “Help Obama” They wer not entirely politically neutral either …

    No what would YOU honestly feel like, if a politically charged atmosphere GW Bush did the same thing?

    Let’s also not forget that Bush senior made a similar speech to students, and that the Democrat congressmen tried to find all sorts of things wrong with it including launching an ivenstigation into its expense and possible illegal propaganda value to the republicans. Hypocrisy anyone?

    If Obama was so right, WHY was the pledge withdrawn and the workshops changed to something less politically obvious?

    As far as I am concerned, the oversight was warranted. Politicians try to get away with as much as they can and it takes an opposition to keep them honest.

    Now I don’t know how much the original speech was changed in tone to avoid political criticism. We will never know and I don’t care enough to file a FOI demand to find out. Still, don’t be surprised if it originally contained something more political than a mere stay-in-school speech.

    All I know is that I liked the final results. :)

  225. Daffy

    PeteC,

    Your comments are right on. Now that Obama is in, whenever I mention Bush, neocons say, “Why are you talking about Bush? Obama is in now!” And yet, up until the end of his SECOND TERM Bush was still blaming Clinton for everything. Those old enough will recall that Reagan did the EXACT same thing with Carter.

    Republicans control everything for years, and all our problems are Obama’s fault. Rush Limbaugh was referring to the “Obama Recession” before the man even took office! Republicans have proven over and over again that their country is nothing; their Party is EVERYTHING. Either that or they are all retarded; I could go either way.

  226. As a non-socialist, I found his speech critical, well written, and inspirational. It’s not about socialism, it’s about inspiring kids. I swear Obama could save puppies from a burning building and still get flak from the right. Fox News is just as shameful for airing that crap. I don’t believe that Obama is even socialist anyway, it’s just a label the right have assigned him to put fear into their sheeple followers who don’t even know what socialism is.

  227. jetdriver

    Thank you Phil for writing so eloquently what has been intensely annoying me for the past few days.
    @192: LMAO but I only laugh because it is true…sadly.

  228. jetdriver

    Thank you Phil for writing so eloquently what has been intensely annoying me for the past few days.
    @192: LMAO but I only laugh because it is true…sadly.

  229. Calton Bolick

    I see at #63 that vanderleun — hey, Gerard, are you still aware of all Internet traditions? — is floating that crap about “czars”, a term invented by Richard Nixon, implemented by Republicans ever since. Suddenly it’s a bad thing?

  230. Bruce

    Oh, Fox News is just terrible. It’s much better to watch that psycho Keith Olberman. He makes the anti-vaxers seem well-adjusted.

    Phil, it looks likes the liberal media has brainwashed you too. Enjoy the Kool-Aid.

  231. vanderleun

    We all stand in awe of Bolick’s deep and penetrating historical knowledge. Indeed, whenever I see a factoid previously forgotten but recently learned and flung forth I always say, with Amadeus, “Pure Bolick.”

  232. vanderleun

    Only when our shared urban landscape looks like this:

    http://americandigest.org/allobamaallthetime.jpg

    will I be happy.

  233. @Vanderleun

    …and yet, you can’t address what about Czars is so damned objectionable in the first place. Which leads me to believe that you just put it up there to have people scratch their heads over it.

  234. ScottB

    I find it hilarious that so many Americans consider the Democracts to be a “left” or “ultra-left” party. They aren’t. Compared to actual leftist parties in the rest of the world, the Democrats are profoundly centrist, even slightly right of it. You don’t have a “left” party in the USA, you just have “less right” and “profoundly nutso carpet chewing rabid ultra-right”.

  235. Keep in mind that the rampant fervor, raging well before the speech actually occurred, was over what many feared that Obama *would* say to the schoolchildren. Given that Obama had plenty of time to modify his speech after the fervor was well underway (and in fact did at least modify the DOE-provided president-centric lesson plans and sample activities), citing the final speech content as proof that there had been nothing to worry about all along is very simple-mindedly fallacious — albeit very much like many political arguments used to sway lazy-minded people these days.

    Note that I’m not suggesting that the uproar was appropriate. Personally, I’m having a lot of trouble trusting Obama at all, these days, but that doesn’t mean that I’m ready to jump up and down and condemn him for something that he *might* do or say. I tend to prefer to wait until after he actually does something inappropriate (and Obama and Congress are providing plenty of fodder for that already, but that’s another subject).

    The speech that Obama ended up delivering to the schoolkids seemed quite reasonable (as did Bush Sr’s similar speech to schoolkids back in 1991 — in response to which, BTW, Congressional Democrats freaked out and launched an expensive investigation into Bush’s modest use of funds to do so). This only ended up making the scream-first-see-what-happens-later objectors look rather foolish.

    Not that there is any shortage of foolishness in American politics, these days…

  236. Boots

    Unlike adults, who can tune into a speech or not as the whim strikes them, America’s schoolchildren MUST attend school, it’s the law. Mandatory viewing of political speech during the mandatory public school day is just a bit off-putting to some parents. The contempt the bad astronomers on this blog feel for middle class parents who take an interest in their children’s education is amazing.

    Last month’s controversy involved the White House asking adults to turn in other adults who spread “fishy” comments about the health care bill. Good thing the children weren’t asked to report which children fell asleep during the speech.

  237. DS

    A: Critical Thinking skills, but he had to make sure to cram in a “God Bless Americia”?
    B: Critical Thinking skills from someone who does not know what the leader of the church that he attends talks about?
    C: What he had, was a failure to communicate. What SHOULD have the right wingers believed that he was going to talk about before the speech was released? His speeches/interviews lately seem to have the tone of “I’m right, and here’s why you’re wrong”.

  238. Quiet Desperation

    There is a PROFOUND cognitive dissonance in the minds of people who maintain that Obama can simultaneously be an Atheist, a radical pro-separatist-Christian, and a secret Muslim.

    Not to defend the woos who believe the above things, but this post is a good example of the problem in this country (world, even). Do you have any specific people in mind here? Or are you, as I suspect, attacking a group modeled as a single mentality?

    While the Democrats are generally pro abortion, there are some pro-life Democrats. Following your approach, I could say there is a PROFOUND cognitive dissonance in the minds of people who maintain that abortion is both good and bad.

    You can’t take a collection of views from a group of people and ascribe them all to every individual in that group. That makes no sense.

    I find it hilarious that so many Americans consider the Democracts to be a “left” or “ultra-left” party. They aren’t. Compared to actual leftist parties in the rest of the world, the Democrats are profoundly centrist, even slightly right of it. You don’t have a “left” party in the USA, you just have “less right” and “profoundly nutso carpet chewing rabid ultra-right”.

    Can we declare a moratorium on this sort of comment? Yes, you are very left wing in Europe. Have a cookie. We know because posters from the EU post nearly the exact same comment every hour in every economic discussion thread on every message board in the Known Universe. Please stop being tiresome. Thank you. The USA is a center right nation. We’re fairly leftist compared to some fascist dictatorships. So what? Pragmatically, you need to discuss a nation’s policies against its internal median, not a global one.

    I tease, but, seriously, please stop. EU = Way to the Left of USA. We know. This is not news. I also have family all over Europe, and I get first hand accounts of just how NOT happy things are there, but that’s another thread.

  239. Justin

    …with that Xbox.

    Oh, no… The PS3ers will be none too pleased about that, Obama!

    But in all seriousness, this speech occurred, more or less, how I thought it would occur, with him relaying basic common sense. It’s just amazing to see that this be in such short supply with these conservative ignoramus’…

  240. Mr Republican – you think that your government is too inept to run a social health-care programme but you are content to entrust it with the an arsenal of weapons capable of destroying the universe. Be afraid, very afraid.

  241. bric

    I have now officially given up trying to understand Americans.

  242. Quiet Desperation

    As an independent, all the B.S. the left and right pull is much more obvious to me, since I have no vested interest in either side winning.

    Depressing, isn’t it? In the early days of GWBush I once defended his taking on the Social Security system. I wasn’t quite on the same page as him as to how it should be reformed, but I said *something* needs to be done. Fix it. Replace it. Whatever. I gave some suggestions I had read about in other sources. Of course I was attacked as a Limbaugh loving “Republitard” and right-wing nutcase and blah blah blah. At no point were my suggestions addressed or discussed.

    On another thread on the same site I said if I were in charge, abortions would be available free of charge in shopping mall kiosks, no questions asked, to anyone of any age. Some who read my other comment said I was lying because it was utterly impossible for me to support Bush on SS reform and be pro-abortion at the same time. In their ideological nanoverse, someone like me is merely a myth if not a complete impossibility. There are only Pure Right “Republitards” and Pure Left “Dumbocrats.”

    Maybe I’ll start the Unicorn Party. :-)

  243. MattyG

    Everything in this speech is being dissected individually when it should be read as a whole. Even if parents don’t agree with the presidents party, shouldn’t a student be informed and have the ability to hear from the person running his or her country? Obama isn’t here just to be the face of American politics, he is also a form of inspiration(as he should be.) I refuse to believe that he is scheming to take down America in a socialist movement. This is one of the most conservative countries in the world. I voted for change and am waiting for more.

  244. smart capable man

    Poor America, how dare your leader attempt to inspire children. Bunch of whingers – never satisfied with anything. You are an insatiable vagina, flick the bean.

  245. Oberon

    Brainwashed??? Oh, come ON. Anyone descended from some of those vocal boobs is unlikely to have such an organ to wash.

  246. Quiet Desperation

    I have now officially given up trying to understand Americans.

    Do we care?

    Which Americans, by the way? You know we’re one of the most diverse populations in the world, right? Some of them are going to have a different opinion than you on certain matters. Sorry about that, but that’s, you know, life.

    We’re not a homogeneous uniblock of goodthink, marching to and from our proletariat domocubes as Fearless Leader makes the trains run on time. Maybe you need to widen your view a bit. Take all those wonderful differences into account instead of trying to blur them into something oversimplified.

  247. Quiet Desperation

    Mr Republican – you think that your government is too inept to run a social health-care programme but you are content to entrust it with the an arsenal of weapons capable of destroying the universe.

    Well, be fair. It *is* a lot easier to blow things up than cure cancer. ;-)

    Then again most cancer cures are basically “KILL THE TUMOR! KILL IT! ATTACK!” while trying to minimize collateral damage. :-D We might be on to something here.

    And we can destroy the *universe*? DARPA finally got that Fall Vacuum Collapser bomb working, huh? :-) Maybe they can test it before the LHC gets back online and obliterates us with a strange matter storm. The Race To Destroy The Universe! Woo hoo!

  248. Reasoning Chimp

    Aye fos, are you really a science teacher? If so, I would think you would be a socialist by default. If you understand the universal concept of balance, yin and yang, ie. law of diffusion, matter/anti-matter, etc., you would understand that the middle of any spectrum is the best since it achieves balance. The spectrum at hand is pure Laissez-faire capitalism on one end, which lends itself to a Brave New World social structure, and Leninist communism on the other, which pretty much does the same. Marxist socialism, the middle, is the most stable in the long run, and the most ethically sound.
    Sorry for the long comment y’all, I guess I should have kept it short, should have just stated that fos’s post alluded that he/she is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. An emotional reactionary bible-nut xenophobe posing as a science teacher. Baaa baaa! You probably skip over evolutionary theory and tell your students that the earth is flat and that Galileo was an ‘evil doer’.

  249. Travis

    Everyone keeps saying that the “real” problem was with the lesson plan that was supposed to accompany it. In what alternate reality do you need to live to have found any problems with that lesson plan?

    I mean, let us suppose, for a moment, that you are a horrible sociopath, and therefore oppose health care reform, and you’ve raised your kids to be great little monstrous versions of your own despicable self; wouldn’t this lesson plan idea to write a letter be a great opportunity for your kid to write about how they would “correct” Obama’s agendas? You know, institute a “don’t help anyone, anywhere, ever” and “kill all the homosexuals” type of agenda.

    Or are you, in fact, afraid your own kids might see your intellectually bankrupt and morally repugnant ideas for what they are?

  250. Troy

    This reminds me of the slow news days before the 2001 terrorist attacks that gave us Gary Condit/Chandra Levy day after day (later found to be completely innocent). So I guess watch out, something big is probably coming. In particular I was baffled by a lady on the news SOBBING that this is her kids and she was worried about them hearing the speech. She is the kind of helicopter parent that force their kids to wear a bicycle helmet while they toddle about their driveway. Of course the helmet is half way up over their head so if they did have an accident it likely would be completely useless. Anyway, if Obama inspires even a few kids to work harder in school what a great thing this would be. Education is often difficult and the actual payoff is years away and kids do need to be reminded what it is all about.

  251. I’m still trying to understand the thinking that’s at work when people assume the president is going to indoctrinate the kids. Why are people making the leap to assume that this is step towards tyranny? How is that not paranoia? Don’t tell me it’s the same on the left, people watched GWB defy the constitution, openly. Obama is talking to school children. (Though I am concerned about how many Bush administration policies he’s been preserving. If anything Obama only moves us towards totalitarianism by leaving those be, or continuing practices like waterboarding etc.)

    Do we not recognize crazy when we see it anymore? People are unhinged. If you disagree with Obama, fine. I expect that. It makes sense to me that there will be people who think he’s an awful president. I don’t think he’s terrible, I think he’ll be as mediocre as just about any other American president in the past 30-ish years. I do find him lacking: I oppose numerous policies he’s enacted I’m against in part or in full- this is especially true for the approach taken with the banks, which strikes me as short-sighted. I’m even *gasp* not entirely on board with the current incarnation of the healthcare bill (which is why I want to talk about it calmly, so I can have these issues addressed). NONE of this provides sufficient reason to go on a tear about:

    A. His secret Muslim-ness (He accidentally bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia! No Muslim would make that mistake- bowing is a gesture reserved for worship. Arab royalty is shown respect by standing until the royalty is seated and not turning one’s back to the sovereign. My dealings with Arab royalty have fortunately been limited, which is good because I find them all to be corrupt despots- but I digress.)

    B. SOCIALISM!!! I have discovered, to my genuine surprise, that a large number of Americans don’t actually know what socialism is. Beyond the initial shock, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since I’ve seen what passes for a history textbook in the American school system. (Seriously- check out some of the GCSE stuff from the UK and compare.) Socialism is a far cry from Obama’s policies thus far. Bank bailouts are a major strike against socialistic tendencies. If anything it brings him into corporatism, which runs you more towards fascism. (No. It doesn’t make him a Nazi either)

    C. Cult of Personality. Another case of people not learning from history. When Obama tries to make himself look good, that’s called PR. When people like him, go nuts over him, that’s called popularity. No one is being forced to air news favorable to him. Meanwhile it’s clear half the country really hates the man. A cult of personality involves a significant financial, social, or vital loss when someone doesn’t go along with the personality, or opposes him (death being the worst things to afflict a dissenter). That’s simply not happening, and no, ridicule doesn’t count as penalty for going against a dictator. Claiming that Obama has a cult of personality and that you’re being ridiculed and dismissed diminishes the real, actual, honest-to-goodness victims of such dictators.

    By all means: disapprove, disagree, protest, have debate! PLEASE DO! However, can we please focus on areas of productive discussion- please. Pretty please? For the sanity of this nation? I remember Limbaugh still had a career during the Clinton administration and it didn’t involve paranoid allegations of totalitarianism. Well, maybe it did, but if I remember correctly it wasn’t the foundation of every criticism hurled at the man.

  252. Adrian Coles

    As a Brit, I haven’t had the pleasure of watching this speech, but I have read it.Unfortunately here in the UK there is the big understanding that if anyone makes a bold move those who in general oppose them will rip in to them for the sake of ripping in to them. I guess thats what’s happening for you guys. The usual political BS.Why can’t common sense and the common good prevail? The world over too! Unfortunately we’ll never get this sort of speech, but after reading it, I was inspired. You have a good man there in the US in Obama, (admittedly that opinion comes from across the pond and we don’t see as much of what goes on as you do). From what we can see, you are better off than in the last 8 years. Now if only we could poach him… Anyone think he might want to become a brit? We have proper sausages and pies! :D

  253. Steven

    It may sound like a good speech at first… But when you play it BACKWARDS!!! It is telling kids to make deals with Satan….

    Or maybe wear aprons while painting…

    Or something…..

  254. Gonzo

    This isn’t about Obama, or his policies. It’s mostly about race. Apparently the irony of their position is lost on those who accuse Obama of being fascist.

    Your points are cogent and well-said Phil, as always. You did forget one thing, these people are terribly dangerous to the Republic. More so than most people realize I fear, when they do, it will be too late.

  255. alcareru

    bravo Phil, well said.

  256. Nigel Depledge

    JohnW (31) said:

    I may fail for trollishness,

    Wrong, you are now a successful troll. Does that make you proud?

    but this reminds me so much of your political posts during the election: “Look at all of their crazies over there! Pay no attention to ours!”

    No. Either cite actual examples (with factual references to back up what you claim) or go away. Based on Phil’s criticisms of Palin and McCain, perhaps you’d care to cite some instances where the Democrats were anti-science but which Phil ignored.

    If you can show that Phil is wrong by using, y’know, evidence, then I am sure he will either retract his wrong statements or correct his errors. If you can’t demonstrate that he is wrong, then maybe you should consider the possibility that you are merely whining because his viewpoint disagrees with yours.

  257. Vincent

    Sometimes America seems just too crazy, too slapstick and too terrifying to be real. Thank God I live in England; there are just as many bizarre and underhand people, but they are labelled, correctly, as kooks, at least in political circles. (We have admittedly less of a good track record in pseudo-scienctists in the mainstream media.)

    I worry for all the skeptics, rationalists, athiests, humanists and, to be honest, apparently sane people still battling stupidity in America. Sometimes I do feel that it’s hopeless. But then I think; how much worse would it be without you guys?

    Bravo, Phil.

  258. Stargazer

    Lunatic fringe? I wish. The ignorant, the unlettered and the mentally deficient are quite numerous, and more and more of them are coming out of the idiot closet. Somehow, they believe being a paranoid fool and an ignorant idiot is cause to feel great pride.

    I don’t believe it’s a fringe group, not anymore.

  259. Nigel Depledge

    John (46) said:

    Would you let a bankrupt company control your healthcare.

    Would you let a profit-only-focussed company run yours? Oh, wait. You do.

    I live in the UK, and the NHS does not get everything right, but it does a hell of a lot of good for a hell of a lot of people with some very tight budgets.

    Given how many Americans whine about “Big Pharma”, I’m perpetually surprised that they do not also whine about the companies that operate most of the healthcare services.

    Perhaps if your thinking is a little slow.

    Right back atcha.

    I currently pay thousands of dollars in social security a year. I am 25 and will never be given a cent from social security.

    Why? Are you planning to emigrate soon?

    If you are not, how can you possibly know now that you will never need social security? Are you prescient?

    Why isn’t this being talked about anymore. Better yet, why is the government still stealing the money out of my paycheck. I could be investing that money for my retirement.

    So, do you believe that you do not need the armed forces? That you do not need the various bits of infrastructure for which your tax dollars pay? That you do not need the FDA? The EPA? FEMA? Etc.

    Sure, you could be investing that for your retirement, but the government is investing it now for the benefit of everyone.

    I would also like to address the statements about the media only covering what they feel like.

    It’s not a question of what they cover, it’s how they cover it.

    No matter how you do it, you are no longer a news agency if you do not report the news. I noticed every slander story about Bush was on all the news channels (and Palin).

    It ain’t slander if it’s true.

    I find it odd how FOX is the only one that will report a bad story about Obama now.

    In this case, Obama has done nothing bad. The hysteria that greeted the speech’s first draft is unjustifiable. All news agencies should concentrate first on fact (especially if it can be independently corroborated) and only second on opinion. But they should be clear to distinguish the two. Sadly, there are all too few news agencies worldwide that believe as I do. I guess I would be a lousy news editor, because I care more for truth than for advertising revenue.

    FOX had no problem running the same stories about Bush that other networks did. Can I assume Discover Magazine is pushing a liberal agenda?

    Oh, come on, can you picture anyone pushing their own agenda on Phil?

    I believe I got this magazine to read about scientific news, not the political opinions of such an obviously biased author. News channels need to report facts. I could care less about any of their opinions. It takes a weak mind to believe whatever anyone tells them. Stop being lazy and learn for yourself.

    Given that the item here is about education (which, in case you had not noticed, has been under attack in the USA from right-wing religious fundies for over 10 years) I reckon it’s a fair topic for Phil to cover. Additionally, given that it’s his blog, he can post about whatever he chooses.

    In this case, the fact is that many people have claimed content for Obama’s speech that they have made up, and have ignited hysterical responses as a result.

  260. David

    Good article. It’s sad but I can’t actually tell if some of these posters are being joking / sarcastic or if they are actually stating their opinions. The fact that I have to wonder tells me quite a lot about the far Republican right.

    Seriously, where are the normal Republicans, you know the people who can agree to disagree about things but without resorting to common insults, insinuation and downright lies?

    “I’m tired of ignorance held up as inspiration, where vicious anti-intellectualism is considered a positive trait, and where uninformed opinion is displayed as fact. ” – me too. In fact that statement accurately describes the broad traits of Nazi Germany. The far right need to look in the mirror before opening their mouths.

  261. First, I’ll say that I will NOT read 254 messages.

    Okay, so someone tell me what is so wrong with socialism? Allow me to throw a definition of socialism on the table:

    so⋅cial⋅ism –noun
    1. a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

    The word socialism, in your country has been equated with communism. This goes back to the days of the USSR, yeah you remember those evil “commies” that threatened to end your way of life and shackle all of you in commie chains. You got so used to the misrepresentation of socialism as communism (a completely different theory of social structure) that the stigma has stuck.

    Even if Obama was promoting socialist ideals, THEY ARE GOOD FOR YOU, not bad. It really angers me when this cloud of stupid drifts in every time republicans, conservatives and ignorant people want to stop something that protects the average citizen. It pisses me off even more knowing that they succeed every time, causing people to suffer the same chains of your country’s form of destructive capitalism. People still end up paying far too much to simply survive, then far too much should an accident happen or you catch a disease and end up in the hospital.

    Want to know the really stupid thing about all this? Absolutely no one bothers to look up the definition before they start throwing the word “socialism” around, as if it’s some satanic cult. Socialism is a STRAWMAN ARGUMENT!

    Don’t believe me? Think I’m a crazy Canadian? Do your research where it needs to be done.

  262. jm

    I’ve read through some of theese comments. My only addition, and maybe it’s been said already, If you don’t trust your kids to listen to other points of view and critically think for themselves, you ain’t educating them for the real world.
    I had my three children sit at the computer after school and listen to his whole speech and let them have their say afterwords.
    Their eyes did not glaze over in follower fever and they did not get up this morning robotically ready to give their all for the “homeland” (a term Bush coined which I find facist by the way).

  263. Anti-Roen

    @Roen-You’re not very bright. A “social organization that advocates vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole” is not good for us.

    The very definition constructs a ruling class that dole out whatever capital, land, etc deemed fit for us common folk. Either you’re an elite that believes or stupid. You’re dangerous; I hope no one listens to you.

  264. Conservative

    Wow. So anyone who disagrees with the President’s positions is an ignorant, racist Nazi? Nice. I disagree with the President on most of his issues. I still refer to him as President Obama and insist that my family does, too, out of respect for the office he was elected to by a vote of the people. I’m not required to like it, and I’m not required to be quiet about the fact I don’t like it. I’m also Catholic. Yes… sort of the twin evils (Conservative and Catholic) that those commenting here love to pillory. I believe in education and I believe in personal responsibility… which, incidentally, is why I oppose socialism, which determines that the “ownership and control of capital, land, etc.” according to the upset Canadian in #256, rests with the community as a whole. My personal effort means nothing… who will be representing the needs of the community? Some form of government. However, the President’s speech (in it’s final form) is a stirring call for students to stay in school and take responsibility for their decisions. I found NOTHING offensive in the final form of the speech and encouraged my children to pay attention. It’s possible to oppose most of the President’s policies but still see value in his speech or in other initiatives he undertakes. The generalizations in the comments here, and in the original blog post, are mind-boggling. Let’s generalize the other way for a moment: I suppose all of you who support President Obama presumably did NOT support President Bush’s policies. Shall I just call all of you ignorant, bleeding heart, welfare-loving, wife-beating, blue coller union suck-ups with no ability to think for yourselves? No? Because only a few of his supporters are actually like that? hmmm….

  265. llewelly

    The word socialism, in your country has been equated with communism. This goes back to the days of the USSR, yeah you remember those evil “commies” that threatened to end your way of life and shackle all of you in commie chains.

    Doncha know “USSR” stood for Ugly Stalinist Socialist Republic? And they were THE Evil Empire, and they worshipped the Devil. And so by definition YOU are a Stalinist and you worship the Devil. No surprise since you come from Soviet Canuckistan anyway. If good ol’ Ronnie Reagan was still alive, he’d begin bombing in 5 minutes!

  266. llewelly

    This reminds me of the slow news days before the 2001 terrorist attacks that gave us Gary Condit/Chandra Levy day after day (later found to be completely innocent). So I guess watch out, something big is probably coming.

    Possibly the excitement over the speech for the students will cause Obama’s Labor day speech at the AFL-CIO event to be ignored. If so, that would be a pity, as that’s actually a good speech.

  267. Metre

    @Roen 256

    Two of my favorite quotes:

    “The trouble with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money” – Margaret Thatcher

    “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” – Winston Churchill

    Remember, America is the land of equal opportunities, not the land of equal sharing. He or she who takes the risks and puts in the work should reap the benefits.

  268. Roen

    @Metre:
    Either you don’t understand the definition or are creating your own strawman. Either way the argument is lost on you. Sorry.

  269. Darlene

    I have read several posts saying that if a person is a conservative he or she is uneducated and is not a part of the mainstream. Wow! I did not realize that. Considering the fact that I am one of those horrifying conservatives. I agree, Obama’s speech was very well said and that what he said was necessary and relevant to what is going on in the schools today. A 30% dropout rate (yes, this backward conservative actually knew that!) is outrageous and something needs to be done to thwart this trend. I appreciate his focus on education and his willingness to speak to the students. That being said, I must disagree with those of you who believe that anyone who is a Republican or a conservative is ignorant and uneducated. I am not uneducated, nor am I ignorant. I listen to other stations besides Fox News, although Fox does tell it like it is…even if you disagree. I read and I formulate my own opinions. Therefore, I know…even if you do not, that when President George H.W. Bush made a similar speech to school children in 1991, the same types of protests and public outcry happened, only that time it came from the so-called “mainstream” side. So, do not tell me that this type of behavior only comes from the conservatives. It does not. Check your history, it happens on both sides. By the way…I and my husband are conservative…we both have graduate degrees and our children are also highly educated, so lay off the ignorance debate and do your own homework.

  270. H

    Here’s why he want’s kids to stay in school: http://www.spinninglobe.net/againstschool.htm

  271. “But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying. ”

    There is a certain wisdom here. A tried and true measure of the typical American both past and present is spoken. However, the fact that it is coming from a President currently pushing socialized healthcare after taking over 2 major Car manufacturers with his Bailout and running an administration of those who consider themselves above the law, not to mention planning to pay for it all with money borrowed from China [to whom we are already massively indebted] makes the wisdom moot.

    You cannot preach to someone what you yourself do not practice. And that is why, if I’d even been offered the choice, my daughter would not have sat through his speech. That and the fact that she doesn’t need to hear it from the president to know what Mom says is what she needs to be doing. But hey! I’m just a Libertarian. What do I know?

  272. Jim Shaver

    I’m late to the game, but count one more vote in complete agreement with your assessment of this issue, Phil.

  273. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    The first scientist is entitled to his bigoted beliefs. He just shouldn’t place them on a science page until they can be proven.

  274. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Most Republicans would rather have their children water boarding in Hawaii with Dick Chaney than going to school on President Obama’s recommendation.

  275. There was a very easy tactic the schools could have used for dealing with parents who protested, and that was to give the parents the opportunity to pre-screen the speech and thus confirm that it didn’t have any radical politics in it before it was shown to their children.

    Any educators who were nervous about it could have pre-screened it too.

    There was no particular reason to insist that it be a live telecast or nothing.

  276. Robert

    The idea that the “lunatic fringe” should not have a voice in the mainstream media is more than a little disturbing. I agree that Fox has a lot of stupid people saying a lot of crazy things. However if they have the resources to put themselves on national TV They have every right to be there. I hope you see that the idea that lunatics should not get a mainstream spotlight is very dangerous. And don’t tell me that Fox is to blame for all the hatred and stupidity we’re seeing from a few conservatives right now. Morons will be morons regardless what show they watch on TV.

  277. ianor

    I agree with Metre’s comments.

    The problem, Roen, is that what typically begins as “vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole,” in practice ends up as vesting that ownership and control in the government, which, as history shows, cannot be trusted.

    I would think that rather than relying on the government to keep their promises and fix everything (because we all know how good their track record is for that), we should evaluate our own practices and see what we can change to improve things. That requires personal responsibility.

    America has a pretty good history of her citizenry owning up to that responsibility. The greatness of a nation is determined by the greatness of her people. Not by the greatness of her government. If the people are great, that will be reflected in the government, and vice versa.

    History has shown time and time again, that government has two sides: One that renders services to the people it governs, and the other that behaves like a business – serving its own ends in a fight to survive like any other business out there.

    So be careful what you put your trust in, because in many ways, Uncle Sam behaves the same way that so many of the corporate giants do – sequestering as much power and money to itself as it thinks it can get away with, under any guise it can manage to stay popular.

    Anyway, I liked Obama’s speech – I thought it taught good principles of personal responsibility for the most part. It wasn’t perfect, but so little out there is.

    Just remember, your own success ultimately depends on you.

  278. Lisa

    Most local schools elected to leave the decision up to the parents; students were not forced to watch the speech, they were allowed to opt out if their parents wished. Except at several schools in a neighboring county where it was not shown because school officials decided to record it and review it later. If officials decided if it *could* be included in lesson plans, it is up to each individual teacher’s discretion whether it will be shown in class, and they must notify parents first and give them the option of removing their children from the classroom.

    Best part: The news outlet reporting the story said the superintendent is choosing to “air on the side of caution.” WTG education!

  279. snakehandler

    All of this philosophical rhetoric is fun and healthy, but while your debate rages an amazing number of schools (and even some entire counties!) across the country folded like a house of cards after a few vocal objections and refused to give their students the opportunity to observe the presidential plea to stay in school and achieve something. Those of you who dismiss the radical fringe as ineffective ‘wingnuts’ are way behind the curve and are not paying attention. The evidence is clear on their effectiveness and dangerous potential.
    The good news is that the students who didn’t get the message will be easy to identify as the ones needing remedial assistance, but at the expense of the rest of us.

  280. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    General motors is currently building factories in China after closing them down here.

  281. PhilB

    Vincent @253

    Vincent, I’m with you there. It’s becoming increasingly tempting to just leave the states, move to Scotland, buy a pub and at least be able to enjoy decent beer.

  282. wow this thread attracted alot of comments but the state of poitics these days just brings out the best in people. phil i too argree with you assesment, good job

  283. Colin

    Yes Fox news does tell it like it is, when like it is, is blatant lying.

  284. Joe

    Photo ops. Photo ops. Photo ops.

    Meanwhile the U.S. is in a depression, fighting 2 wars, trying to get health care reformed.

    Does Obama plan on doing any actual work while he’s President?

  285. Ian Patrick

    Among the comments flaming Phil, and the position of which he stands, I have yet to read one that follows a logical path toward a reasoned conclusion.

  286. mikey9a

    You’re a fan…. I get it. You represent the other side to me. It seems like no one can speak without hyperbole anymore. Everybody needs to use dramatic images to prove their point.

    Firstly,

    The presidents speech was neither damaging to our kids nor that inspiring either.

    Secondly,

    Take it easy buddy….the other side feels the exact same about the Left and the media as you do about the Right and the media.

    Thirdly,

    I think that the Left and the Right should “get bent!” The rest of us want to just see this country progress, see our families safe and see our fellow citizens taken care of. If only there was a Government that would take these three ideals into every policy meeting we might actually get somewhere.

  287. Karen

    Creepy Discover guy like “lesson plans’ that tells kids what they can do to help their leader? EEWWWW. Sorry, you got it wrong about the speech. The administration, especially the loser who is running Department of Education (Why would we chose the guy in charge of the 3rd worst school system in the country, which had the most school kids molested or abused by teachres and the most killed by violence!!), backed off once they were caught. The concerted media effort — the GE/MSNBC/NBC cabal, tingling at each Obama speech. Where is the encouragement for students to question their government? To call their elected officials on bailing out the UAW?

    When Discover Magazine gets into the business of spewing government talking points and telling students to shut up, listen and don’t dare question, you know that the NY Times censors and propaganda tools are close to follow.

  288. Daffy

    One of the more amazing things to me is that there are still people whining about the “Liberal Media.” What “Liberal Media?” There have not been any genuinely liberal media for decades…not since Reagan deregulated broadcasting and almost all outlets were swallowed up by a handful of global corporations.

    Of course, to Republicans, anyone who does not sell their soul to the Party is a flaming liberal.

    And, btw, sheep, the word media is plural. And liberal is NOT a pejorative.

  289. Quiet Desperation

    I’m still trying to understand the thinking that’s at work when people assume the president is going to indoctrinate the kids.

    ZOMG! OBAMER GOT TEH MIND CONTROLS!!!!

    Ah, LOLCats, is there nothing you cannot explain? :-)

    It’s becoming increasingly tempting to just leave the states, move to Scotland, buy a pub and at least be able to enjoy decent beer.

    I know an increasing number of people who are planning retirement outside of the USA, me included. I was thinking about Belize so I don’t have to learn a new language (Yes, I’m lazy). English is the official language there, what with them only becoming independent from Britain in 1964, although picking up some Kriol might be useful. Might take up scuba diving in retirement around the Belize Barrier Reef. Government is a British parliamentary system and seems stable.

    Also: the *lowest* population density in all of Central America. I’m a bit of a misanthrope, you see. ;-)

    but the state of politics these days just brings out the best in people.

    (massive spit take)

    The *best*? Did you forget the sarcasm tag?

  290. Val

    I’m curious to see what these parents thought that Obama was going to say in his speech. I doubt anyone with half a brain would think he’d say anything that could damage or brainwash their children, or that it would be that simple to do even if he was trying. Do you honestly believe you’re a bad enough parent that you can’t unteach whatever he might have said to them? A ten minute video to a child is forgettable. You will spend your whole life teaching them, but you’re afraid that speech about health care and socialism will undo all of that?

    Just because I refuse to believe anyone is crazy enough to push their own political beliefs onto a child so forcefully that even the option of hearing another side is banned, I’m just going to assume these people do it to spite the president. Believing they have the moral high ground is what gets their motor going, I suppose.

  291. John C. Randolph

    “General motors is currently building factories in China after closing them down here.”

    If only we had a sane tax system, that didn’t make it financially advantageous to manufacture elsewhere.

    -jcr

  292. vanderleun

    “And, btw, sheep, the word media is plural. And liberal is NOT a pejorative.”

    Really? Why then has there been such a panting heat to replace “liberal” with “progressive?”

    Seems like a rebranding to me.

  293. mrboris

    This was not the original speech, the original speech did not mainly focus on staying in school. It was rewritten because of the outrage.

  294. 213. Free Man Says:

    I was always taught to search out the facts on my own because EVERYONE wants something from you. It doesn’t matter what political office or affiliation they have.

    When I was on BBSes (Pre-Internet) and started ‘debating’ online, I tried to maintain an intellectual style, basically using references and reason. In one case, there were two of us working together, I as the dispassionate person using information, the other person doing the ‘flaming’ emotional style. I was generally ignored in favor of the ‘flaming’.
    I still tend to use a lot of quotations and links when I post on political and religious subjects, and often watch the threads die when no one can rebut the information – or else we get classic ad hominem attacks in response. So, I may throw in a few simple insults just to ‘depressurize’ the emotions.
    As for DIY information, that’s one of the gripes I have with specifically Bill O’Reilly, and the title of one of his books “Who’s Looking Out For You?”.. the Conservative (not Neocon) answer is “ME!”
    Check out people like Barry Goldwater or William F. Buckley on that.

    247. bric Says:

    I have now officially given up trying to understand Americans.

    Check out a book titled “Idiot America”, it goes through the whole ‘evolution’ of how the extremes became mainstream.
    Also response to Vincent @ 263

    J/P=?

  295. Roger

    I came here to learn and left disappointed.
    The only thing I take away from this visit is of no real value to me.
    I am an individual, not a conservative liberal republican democrat.
    There are things I agree with, and disagree with in each of these labels.
    To stand around in groups patting each others backs while pointing fingers at the other group is childish.
    I am ignorant and I make mistakes.
    That is the reason I wish to learn, to better myself.
    Author, please take time to read this statement.

    DISCOVER’s mission is to enable readers to lead richer lives, through better understanding of themselves, their world and their universe.

    Please help me to understand how this statement applies to your article?
    I will return to read your response.
    Thank you for your time and consideration.

  296. Daffy

    vaderleun,

    The word “liberal” has—or had—a proud tradition in American politics. That it has successfully been turned into a pejorative by right wing fanatics is sad; it is also something I, for one, will continue to resist.

    Another example of this nonsense is Rush Limbaugh’s refusal to use the term “Democratic Party.” He replaces it with “Democrat Party,” as if that says something important about the Democrats. It doesn’t; it merely shows him to be the semi-literate buffoon he is. That millions of Republicans hang on his every ignorant word, again, speaks volumes about them, and says nothing at all about Democrats.

  297. Daffy

    “DISCOVER’s mission is to enable readers to lead richer lives, through better understanding of themselves, their world and their universe.

    Please help me to understand how this statement applies to your article?”

    It’s very simple: critical thinking.

  298. Mike

    I have gotten one thing from this blog. I discovered universetoday.com, where they discuss science.

  299. Lawrence

    350. Roger – you do realize that this is a Blog, right? Written by an individual & is based on his own opinions. There are plenty of Science articles here, if you care to read them – lots of cool stuff too.

  300. abbasmurf

    Quiet Desperation, I’m totally with you on Belize.

    JCR, do you seriously want us to operate like the Chinese? Do you really want all of the pollution, corruption, and poverty that are intrinsic to that economy? I sure as hell don’t.

  301. Gary

    I like the part where he encourages kids to take personal responsibility while he is working furiously to limit personal responsibility for health care, retirement savings, etc. Somebody in a former administration once said, “watch what we do, not what we say.” It still applies…

  302. Bob

    It’s just politics folks.

    When Bush spoke to students, Democrats investigated, held hearings
    By: BYRON YORK

    The controversy over President Obama’s speech to the nation’s schoolchildren will likely be over shortly after Obama speaks today at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. But when President George H.W. Bush delivered a similar speech on October 1, 1991, from Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington DC, the controversy was just beginning. Democrats, then the majority party in Congress, not only denounced Bush’s speech — they also ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate its production and later summoned top Bush administration officials to Capitol Hill for an extensive hearing on the issue.
    Unlike the Obama speech, in 1991 most of the controversy came after, not before, the president’s school appearance. The day after Bush spoke, the Washington Post published a front-page story suggesting the speech was carefully staged for the president’s political benefit. “The White House turned a Northwest Washington junior high classroom into a television studio and its students into props,” the Post reported.
    With the Post article in hand, Democrats pounced. “The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students,” said Richard Gephardt, then the House Majority Leader. “And the president should be doing more about education than saying, ‘Lights, camera, action.’”
    Democrats did not stop with words. Rep. William Ford, then chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate the cost and legality of Bush’s appearance. On October 17, 1991, Ford summoned then-Education Secretary Lamar Alexander and other top Bush administration officials to testify at a hearing devoted to the speech. “The hearing this morning is to really examine the expenditure of $26,750 of the Department of Education funds to produce and televise an appearance by President Bush at Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington, DC,” Ford began. “As the chairman of the committee charged with the authorization and implementation of education programs, I am very much interested in the justification, rationale for giving the White House scarce education funds to produce a media event.”
    Unfortunately for Ford, the General Accounting Office concluded that the Bush administration had not acted improperly. “The speech itself and the use of the department’s funds to support it, including the cost of the production contract, appear to be legal,” the GAO wrote in a letter to Chairman Ford. “The speech also does not appear to have violated the restrictions on the use of appropriations for publicity and propaganda.”
    That didn’t stop Democratic allies from taking their own shots at Bush. The National Education Association denounced the speech, saying it “cannot endorse a president who spends $26,000 of taxpayers’ money on a staged media event at Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington, D.C. — while cutting school lunch funds for our neediest youngsters.”
    Lost in all the denouncing and investigating was the fact that Bush’s speech itself, like Obama’s today, was entirely unremarkable. “Block out the kids who think it’s not cool to be smart,” the president told students. “If someone goofs off today, are they cool? Are they still cool years from now, when they’re stuck in a dead end job. Don’t let peer pressure stand between you and your dreams.

  303. Rod

    fos Says: “I’m fortunate. I didn’t have to watch his propaganda. I’m a science teacher, not a socialist.”
    Hey FOS..Put your aluminum foil hat back on and put your bubble wrap suit on. (You’ll get better FUAX news reception that way)

    The right has gone nuts…they’re trying so hard to maintain their credibility…and it’s so sad that all they’ve become is a bunch of Rush Nuts….and can’t think for themselves…only quote (without verifying) what some other idiot said.

  304. vanderleun

    Well, Daffy, I’d say that “liberal” lost it’s heroic tone not because of Republicans but because of the unremitting work of the increasingly strident liberals to attach every crummy little thought and program they could come up with to the word until they themselves dishonored it.

    As for Limbaugh’s use of Democrat, I’d suggest that he uses it because he knows it just gets the liberals’ (now self-degraded into “progressives”) goat. As we can see clearly from the fact you raise an otherwise trivial issue.

    Why the yearning to always be labeled “Democratic” when you’re just another Democrat. We’re all “democratic” in this Republic.

  305. vanderleun

    In answer to: Please help me to understand how this statement applies to your article?”

    Daffy says, “It’s very simple: critical thinking.”

    Oh, piffle. It’s political posturing to convince all and sundry what a good, good person Phil is. Nothing more. That it’s seen and called out as preening political posturing is what sets off a thread of this length.

    That said, I want to underscore my agreement with Phil that we need to see MUCH MORE OBAMA. We need to see and hear him every day. We cannot have ENOUGH of Obama. I want him piped into the schools and the workplace all the time and in all media. I am in ernest.

  306. Watch_out!_a_speech!

    To all the protesters, people scared of poor not having to bleed payments for private health care and education, and other mental right bums:

    If you make your pants feel humid and get sick of rage when you hear something that starts with “Social”…then you’re going nowhere, TM Registered brand dollar people.

    You don’t make market place stocks with education or health, that’s just inhumane, as you are.

  307. Jameson

    I personally can’t stand Obama or his administration. For that matter, I can’t stand any politician.

    But how in the name of God can a person possibly be offended by someone who is trying to ecourage their children to learn and work hard? Where is the “propaganda” in this? The only thing that I feel a little ticked off at is that this is simply another President trying to put the people of America in his pocket. But like I care. It sure as hell didn’t work. But besides that, there is no bit of his speech that was intended to cause harm. If this wasn’t Obama saying this, then you would have no complaints at all.

    By the way, I’m 17. Part of this, I really think, is that the “old” people out there are so set in their ways that they can’t pull their heads out of their asses.

  308. Daffy

    “Oh, piffle. It’s political posturing to convince all and sundry what a good, good person Phil is. Nothing more. That it’s seen and called out as preening political posturing is what sets off a thread of this length.

    That said, I want to underscore my agreement with Phil that we need to see MUCH MORE OBAMA. We need to see and hear him every day. We cannot have ENOUGH of Obama. I want him piped into the schools and the workplace all the time and in all media. I am in ernest.”

    You just proved my point. No one, NO ONE is proposing we see and hear Obama all the time. That is just more Republican, paranoid fantasizing. If you would use your critical thinking skills, rather than parrot what you are spoon fed by right wing commentators, you would know that. Bush addressed school children…why didn’t THAT bother you?

    You would think if Obama and the Democrats are so utterly evil, if would not be necessary to invent things about them; you would think the truth would serve. That the truth does NOT serve, and lies have to be continually invented, I am forced to assume the Democrats must be pretty darn good.

    Oh, and from now on I shall refer to the Rebulican Party as the “Repo Party.” I am sure, you being above such things, that won’t bother you one bit. Right?

    And for the record, I am neither Repo or Democrat.

  309. Patrick

    I gotta tell ya Phil, I think you are dangerously crazy as well. Regardless of administration, Federal, State and Local spending on education has gone up. And results have gone down. This is not a matter of opinion. It’s measurable fact.

    We’re spending $10k per student per year. http://www.edweek.org/rc/articles/2009/01/21/sow0121.h27.html

    Yet we’re 24th in the world in performance. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/04/AR2007120400730.html (I believe only the Swiss outspend us)

    If you look at per dollar return on SAT scores it gets worse but I can’t find the data set right now.

    You’ve got kids. I’ve met them. When the words government and education pop up together how can you care about the SPEECH? Fine, it’s a good speech. But arguing about the speech is like standing inside of a burning house debating the cleanliness of the windows.

    Complete PISA 2006 data here: http://www.oecd.org/document/2/0,3343,en_32252351_32236191_39718850_1_1_1_1,00.html#tables_figures_dbase

  310. Chip

    Many intelligent people read this blog and website and since most such readers are articulate they express their support or criticism, praise or blame, in long or clever posts while arguing back and forth whenever a political issue is addressed by Phil.

    When it comes to the often condescending posts by those on the far right, what I tend to see, behind their veiled or blatant tirades is an veneer of softened and revisionist excuses for the irrational likes of Limbaugh, Beck or Fox News commentators. Often behind rightwing posters hemming and hawing are various justifications for completely rejecting any thought, statement, proposal or program put forth by President Obama. And often far behind all the tirades is either racism, ingrained hatred of Democrats, brainwashed beliefs in years of conservative disinformation about liberals, or a combination of all three.

    There are also otherwise intelligent people who post here who, through many strawman arguments, still reject the evidence of climate change, and their dead-end justifications are piled high above the simple fact that Al Gore first brought the subject to the awareness of the general public. They’ve been taught to hate Al Gore by Rush Limbaugh so they seek gentle intellectual justifications for Limbaugh’s loutish slobbering.

    We’ve had nearly a decade of backward, irrational Bush Neo-Con government leaving in its wake many disillusioned people. Obama has the unenviable position of putting forth programs that attempt to repair the damage while simultaneously moving the country forward. The simple fact is, his message to school kids was splendid and the naysayers are fools. A true conservative would agree with the liberals on this and move on.

  311. Dave P

    What part of the president’s job description includes “encourage the schoolchildren”? That’s the main problem here.

    When schools are required to spend so many hours per year instructing kids, it’s incredibly irresponsible and egoistic for ANY president to interrupt.

  312. Roger

    Lawrence, I do realize this is a blog, but I thought it was a science/astronomy blog.
    Not political rhetoric.
    I have read many of the Science articles here, and this is exactly why I posed my question to the author.

    Thank you for your opinion Daffy.
    My question was addressed to the author of this article.
    If the author of this article had used critical thinking instead of thinking critically,
    you wouldn’t be reading this.

    I will await the author’s response.
    Thank you for your input.
    I always openly welcome any civil discourse.

  313. Daffy

    What part of the president’s job description includes “encourage the schoolchildren”? That’s the main problem here.

    When schools are required to spend so many hours per year instructing kids, it’s incredibly irresponsible and egoistic for ANY president to interrupt.”

    What part forbids it? Or are you suggesting, “Anything not compulsory is forbidden”?

    And did you say this when Bush Jr. or Sr. did it?

  314. Mike

    Roger – Try universetoday.com. That’s, apparently, where he gets most of his good stuff.

  315. josh

    i think everyone is missing the real question here: is it the responsibility of the POTUS to address what any decent parent should be addressing with their children at home? have we really gone so far that it falls on the president to tell our kids to study? i feel bad for Mr Obama. the fact that he had to even deal with the need to address basic life principles to school kids is indicitive of the failure of the american family to turn off their tvs and pcs and talk about life with their kids. its starts at home and this is why the conservatives are up in arms: because this very speech has merely served to highlight their shortcomings in holding up the very platform they stand on. lets get over this bickering anyway. its worthless. the POTUS has said his peace and we must all respect that and move on. this is America and we all have freedom of speech so let Fox rant on and the President say what he will.

  316. John C. Randolph

    “JCR, do you seriously want us to operate like the Chinese?”

    Wow, you really stretched for that one. No, I don’t want our government to beat the crap out of environmental protestors the way that the Red Dynasty does. Want to try a bit more stuffing in your straw man next time? That one was incredibly flimsy.

    -jcr

  317. ScottW

    #325, Josh: Obama didn’t have to deal with the issue. He chose to.

    Your comment has a tone that you believe the folks in the White House saw some impending crisis around the corner, and HAD to ACT NOW!

    Most presidents in the past have done this same thing – addressed the school kids of this country, encouraged them to study, stay in school, be good folks. They’re Presidents of the USA, for FSM’s sake! Part of the job is to rah-rah and inspire people.

    People keep bringing up when Bush Jr. did this – and the Democrats in Congress called for an investigation – and hold that up as “more of the same”. No, it’s not. This was a completely different situation.

    This was not a small group of elected officials – perhaps wrongly – calling for the expenditure of funds on a speech to be looked into. This was folks encouraging others to stick their collective fingers in their collective ears and collectively chant “la la la I CAN’T HEAR YOUR INDOCTRINATION JIBBA-JABBA”. This was folks saying “The office of the President is not to be respected or trusted” – the same folks who a few years ago were saying “The office of the President is sacrosanct and if you do not respect it, move to another country”.

    The only difference now is WHO is in that office – what party he is a member of – and, I fear, the color of that man’s skin.

  318. Skeej

    Look, if you can’t appreciate the concern of many good people then you aren’t paying attention. There is something in this for you, but you are missing it. Calling people crazy isnt going to get you there.

  319. vanderleun

    “Critical thinking…” Ah yes Daffy, Camile Paglia had something interesting to say about that today:

    “The top schools, from the Ivy League on down, promote “critical thinking,” which sounds good but is in fact just a style of rote regurgitation of hackneyed approved terms (“racism, sexism, homophobia”) when confronted with any social issue. The Democratic brain has been marinating so long in those clichés that it’s positively pickled. ”

    And, by the way, did I say I was a Republican. I think not.

  320. vanderleun

    “have we really gone so far that it falls on the president to tell our kids to study? ”

    No, it does not fall upon him to do so, but it makes him feel good and look good to do so. And, in a time of increasing legislative failure and stagnation, it makes many who support him feel good. What could possibly go wrong?

  321. mariana

    To steal a quote and modify it to the circumstance….

    Obama could walk on water, and the fringe would claim, “Obama can’t swim”. :-)

  322. vanderleun

    Chip says, “When it comes to the often condescending posts by those on the far right, what I tend to see…”

    And then goes on to spin out: “various justifications for completely rejecting any thought, statement, proposal or program… behind all the tirades is either racism, ingrained hatred of Democrats, brainwashed beliefs …. dead-end justifications gentle intellectual … loutish slobbering” etc and so forth.

    Wanna try that again?

  323. vanderleun

    Still, I would like to thank our genial host for making this thread available so that I can add to my already gigantic collection of examples of a new political trait: Obama Arrangement Syndrome –” the tendency to make excuses for our new President.”

    As someone else has phrased it, “The syndrome requires that people interpret or ignore events in a manner that reinforces their preconceived, and rigid, notions about Obama.”

    This is especially critical now that the program has hit a bit of a rough patch.

  324. Roen

    328. @Skeej
    We fail to see the concern because there is no concern to see.

  325. Jody

    “I’m tired of ignorance held up as inspiration, where vicious anti-intellectualism is considered a positive trait, and where uninformed opinion is displayed as fact.”

    Amen brother!
    I’ve been going off about people like this for months. The address from our president was the last straw for me and I was just simply humiliated & disgusted to be an American. I have not yet had the time to read all the comments…however, it doesn’t matter what side you’re on, you don’t need common sense to realize the behavior of the opposition is completely barbaric and unacceptable!

  326. Daffy

    Vanderleun: “And, by the way, did I say I was a Republican. I think not.”

    You mean “Repo.” No, you did not.

  327. Chip

    332. vanderleun Says: “…Wanna try that again?”

    No need too. We won. You lost the first time you spun a Limbaugh lie through excuses, reinterpretations or false justifications. I did not address my comments to anyone in particular, but I’m not surprised by a weak reply in a quote-mined style. Regardless of politics or party, apparently you recognized yourself when I wrote “the far right”.

  328. Roger

    Thanks for your reply Mike.
    I visit universetoday.com often.
    Its a very good site.

    I try to stay up to date on Scientific matters.
    I love Science.
    I have *never* posted a reply or opinion on a ‘science’ web site before today.
    I read them all. All that I can find. I read and read. I am a voracious reader.
    After reading the articles I always enjoy reading the comments.
    Often the comments will link or lead to other fascinating things that I have yet to discover.

    That is not the case today.
    At the top right side of the page is written ‘About Bad Astronomy’, and under that it states;
    ‘Phil Plait, the creator of Bad Astronomy…..He is a skeptic, and fights misuses of science as well as praising the wonder of real science.’

    Well thats what I am doing today, fighting the misuse of science.
    Where it says ‘Bad Astronomy’, I didn’t realize I was supposed to take that literally.
    This is not Science.

    That is not an opinion, it is fact, as you have witnessed yourself.
    Using Science we try to discover new things and work together to solve problems.
    Not create them.
    So I am forced to call this man out.
    I assume his parent company has editors that must approve published articles.
    I bring this to your attention as well.

    Critical thinking means that we read and listen carefully,
    making sure to understand and search for evidence for the claims made.
    I will return later, hopefully the author will answer my question.

  329. vanderleun

    Nope. Wrong again, Chip. Don’t they teach the dangers of unwarranted assumptions in your science class?

  330. Thank you, Phil. You said it just right. I linked to this blog from my web page. I could not have said it better.

  331. @ Roger et al

    Funny how people don’t complain about Phil’s non-science posts when he’s gushing over The Doctor (sorry Phil- you do gush a little) but the moment he makes a political statement he’s somehow transgressing his identity as a blogger. Ludicrous. Admit that you’re not butthurt he expressed a strong opinion but simply that it differs from your own. It’s a blog, not a search query for articles. Hence the “blogs” in the URL. Blogging is a medium that gives the writer wide topical latitude. Hell, writing in newspapers gives a writer wide topical latitude. You’re arguing with the state of the medium, rather than something peculiar to Phil.

    Disagree with Phil if you want you want, but get over it.

  332. 337. Chip Says:

    332. vanderleun Says: “…Wanna try that again?”

    No need too. We won. You lost the first time you spun a Limbaugh lie through excuses, reinterpretations or false justifications. I did not address my comments to anyone in particular, but I’m not surprised by a weak reply in a quote-mined style. Regardless of politics or party, apparently you recognized yourself when I wrote “the far right”.

    This reminds me of a long-ago on a BBS when two sides were calling each other ‘bigot’ IIRC. I posted to ALL the definition of Bigot from a dictionary, and got flamed ONLY by the “far right”, so I saved the original post and responses, then posted them all and pointed out which side was flaming me. That led to this “Rule of (neo)Conservative Correctness: 14) always take everything personally.

    J/P=?

  333. Robert Clarkson

    Socialism might lift the States out of the quagmire that it is now in! What with health and education the rest of the world looks on in wonderment.

  334. Can I say something else:

    People are pointing to hearings about Bush’s speech to kids. Putting context aside for the moment (specifically the issue was his speech’s funding etc.) Let’s assume Bush made an innocuous speech and liberals got all revved up over it.

    So? If it was wrong then, it’s wrong now. It’s not as if stupidity is excusable just because your ideological opponents were once stupid in the exact same way. If anything, it should deter you from being that particular kind of stupid. Riiiiiiiight?

    I mean, you can’t point out liberal hypocrisy if you’re being hypocritical at the same time. It’s a singularity of stupid!

  335. [...]
    321. Dave P Says:
    September 9th, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    What part of the president’s job description includes “encourage the schoolchildren”? That’s the main problem here.
    [...]

    How, in the name of all that is in this universe, can this possibly be a problem? I can imagine many children respecting the leader of their country enough to heed good words of encouragement to excel. I can see children on the verge of quitting school to deal drugs on the street stop for a moment and consider those words and maybe, just maybe, change their minds and tough it out. And you decide that it’s a problem? The only problem here are those who think like you do. I can tell you that the children do NOT need YOU.

    Now it’s time to read more of Phil’s blogs…

  336. Ian

    There’s actually a very simple answer to why there’s so much “furor” over this in the GoP camp: Political opportunism. I read the transcript for Obama’s speech, and I didn’t see a single sentence that could be portrayed as “socialism” or “injecting a liberal agenda” into schools. yet that was the criticism of it even before the speech has been delivered. What this manufactured uproar means to me is that the GOP is becoming desperate in regards to the health care battle. They are trying to further polarize the country and unify their constituents against Obama, even if they have to use innuendo and scare tactics rather then logic to do it. Essentially they are using all the tricks in the book they can get away with. The fact that they can take a simple thing like this without any socialist content what so ever and manage to get people angry about “Obama’s socialism” is really quite awe inspiring to me. I certainly never would have thought it was possible, but then again I suppose some people are just desperate for any excuse at all to vent their anger against Obama..even if theres no real good reason to do so.

  337. r€nato

    It’s a good thing the Obama school speech protesters didn’t find out our secret plan to have ACORN come around after the speech and register all the kids to vote as Democrats, after Obama used his wily negro charms to brainwash them into being socialists.

  338. Sethanon

    I think that it is about time that the USA caught up with the rest of the world education wise.

    As an Australian I applaude Obama for delivering this speech, so I really don’t understand why people are screaming about socialist policies and indoctrination of the kids???

    Hmmm oh well thank god it’s not my country

  339. @Ian #346

    You might have a point there. The Republicans are still playing campaign politics. Throughout 2008, from the selection of Sarah Palin to the withdrawal of McCain from the debate, the GOP’s main strategy was to undermine Obama’s momentum, more than trying to win votes. As far as they were concerned, they had the votes, they just needed to keep them from “turning”. To some extent they were right. They were on the defensive. This is very much the same. Message control from the GOP seems to focus on slowing down Obama’s progress in many ways. It’s not so much an offensive strategy, where the Republicans try to propose competing solutions, but simply try to undermine the current party’s progress. Even where agendas do align, compromise is not politically expedient. They could have easily learned this strategy from the Democrats, who frequently engaged in their own form of this strategy. (For the liberals in the audience- remember how frustrating it was that the Democrats never seemed to do anything, even when it seemed they had the upper hand in reaching a compromise?)

    This is actually a principal weakness of the two-party system. Opposition coalitions don’t play politics as a zero-sum game as much. Unfortunately reasonable people in this country like to be “reasonable” and eschew the creation of a middling third party. Notice I didn’t say they’re guilty of not joining a third party. Most third parties on offer in this country represent extreme views that make it difficult for Americans to participate. The two biggest camps are Libertarians and the Green Party, and between the two of them, there’s not much room for the average American.

    I like the Green Party a lot in terms of some of their agenda, but then they make a bizarre anti-science turn for the sake of “the environment”. The scare-quotes are because they’re not concerned with tackling those issues in a realistic evidence-based way. With all the restrictions they want to place on the economy and environmental practices, there’s really no practical way to sustain either the economy or the environment. They expect magic. The Libertarians are also living in a dream-world where racism doesn’t pose significant economic hurdles, economic externalities do not exist, and people operate rationally in the marketplace all the time. I agree with Libertarianism in the sense of shrinking the role played by a national government, but then they take it too far and expect even state government to be essentially non-existent.

    A majority of people in either of these parties are indicative of the reasons most Americans find them repellent: They have no sense of compromise or moderation. If their agenda is not completely achieved, then it seems no single part of it can function, and they promise what’s basically Utopia. When their Utopian vision fails in any way, it’s always because of incomplete implementation. Yet they readily lay full claim to partial success.

    To a certain extent the current parties fall prey to these weaknesses, but they’re entrenched. If you want a third party, it has to transcend these weakness. It has to be fundamentally better than these current third parties. This hypothetical party I call a “fourth party”, simply because it would exist as an alternative to the less satisfying alternatives. The first viable (permanent) third party in America must be conservative in sentiment, but progressive in action. I like to think of it as being full of reformed hippies in suits, and philanthropic retired business moguls wearing Hawaiian shirts. Compassion tempered by experience, and cupidity directed by idealism.

    Apparently, I’ve digressed significantly. Sorry.

  340. Roger

    @ The Chemist
    I don’t know about other people, I can only speak for myself.
    I did a quick search for ‘The Doctor’ reference you mentioned.
    I am a fan of the series. Tom Baker being my favorite Doctor.
    I used the science behind the concept of a sonic screwdriver to make these about 30 years ago.
    http://img43.imageshack.us/img43/6189/sonicscrewdriver.jpg
    This is the only one I have left, and it is unfinished. (Its about 10 years old)
    They are solid bolts with nylock nuts, The bottle is real and uncut. no trickery involved.
    Doctor Who often made me think about Science in a different way.

    Ludicrous?
    I don’t find anything amusing in what has been communicated on my part, or the author.
    I will admit I’m not ‘butthurt’ by his strongly expressed political statement/opinion.
    For all you know my political opinion and his may be the same.
    I thought this was a science web site, I am sorry for my confusion.
    I came here for science and have learned from my mistake.
    I will take extra care to avoid this science ‘blog’ henceforth.
    Please excuse me.

  341. R Goldsbury

    Really appreciate your article.
    Glad to see some common sense speaking up.
    Let’s hope your indignation will inspire other reasonable people to speak out as well.

  342. greg9001

    Hey Phil

    Are you playing the psychic game that you are trying to de funk?

    Did it ever accrue to you that he change his speech because of what these people were saying?

    hide sight is awsome! Isn’t it ?

  343. ScottB

    @Quiet Desperation #244

    Nice to leap to an unsubstantiated conclusion, but amazingly enough I am neither European or from Europe. But I can see why you’d think that after all because everyone knows leftists only live in Europe….

  344. fred edison

    Ignorance. Paranoia. Bias. Manipulation. I suspect there is racism mixed in that’s disguised as patriotism. For those reasons they complained about Obama’s motivational speech to the youth of America. It’s sad and disappointing to see such a response when the intention and message of his talk was clearly positive. This country needs a shot in the arm of common sense and reason.

  345. I’m amused. Been watching this all day. It is remarkable the number of people who condescend to accept that the “final” speech was “okay” but….

    I believe the first draft of the Gettysburg Address had some Marxist rhetoric in it (he borrowed heavily from the Communist Manifesto) but thankfully the speech as delivered is the version we remember. :roll:

  346. QD, Belize is the other* place you can swim with whale sharks. Another reason to go.
    Your welcome.

    *Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia – Awesome experience. Second only to swimming with Humpbacks in Tonga.

  347. HidariMak

    It seems that Fox News is one of the most biased and least accurate of the major US cable news networks, with CNN being overall amongst the most reliable, and MSNBC somewhere in between. And last I heard, Fox News was the most popular of the US cable news networks, with CNN considerably down the list, and MSNBC somewhere in between.

    My entire career life has been spent dealing with the general public, which is a large part of the reason why I’ve come to believe that an alarmingly large number of the general public are idiots. And the TV ratings too often seems to back that up. So correcting idiocy will likely be as challenging as it is important to do so.

  348. Mike

    @The Chemist – Of course he can say what he wants (though Discover may have something to say about that, assuming they’re paying the freight). But for those of us that are just looking for the science, without the rants (from either Phil or the commenters who look so much like the people they imagine are on the other side), there are better places to keep current on astronomy. Though I am appreciative of Phil for leading me to them.

  349. RationalZen

    @Jason (83)

    You said, “Granted, I’m reading the transcript, which may differ from the actual speech, but what is actually said is that children are unlikely to find runaway, easy success in these careers.”

    That was exactly my point, his words were chosen poorly. He could have said, music or professional athletes, but he said rapping and basketball. He didn’t say country music and bull riding, punk rock and skateboarding, or mariachi and soccer, he (or his speech writer) chose those deliberately for the transcript.

    The point of his message was not lost on me, I just was noting the words were chosen poorly for an address that was meant to be pointed at all children.

  350. alfaniner

    One good thing about having a foolish first comment. At least it can be guaranteed that everyone will read it.

  351. I ran out of gas at comment #272.

    @ Conservative

    > Wow. So anyone who disagrees with the President’s positions
    > is an ignorant, racist Nazi?

    Nowhere in Phil’s post does he include the words “conservative” or “Republican”. Nowhere does he say anything about “everyone who disagrees with the speech” or “everyone who disagrees with the President”. He uses a specific term, lunatic fringe, to talk about “a group of folks”.

    He describes the lunatic fringe specifically as, “these are the ones saying the speech is indoctrinating children into accepting his socialist health care plan that will mutilate puppies and convert our elderly into Soylent Green.”

    Phil’s obviously a Leftie, of course. But he’s *clearly* not attacking “everyone who is right of center” here, he’s attacking people who lack critical thinking skills. Yes, he’s choosing to frame the conversation by talking specifically about people who lack critical thinking skills who happen to oppose the Democratic President… but let’s be clear.

    People who lack critical thinking skills cannot be properly called conservative *or* liberal… because they don’t understand either political philosophy. They may self-identify with either group, of course. They may rant and rave about people who self-identify with the opposing group. But they have no political position themselves, because they don’t understand why it is that they believe what they believe.

    They’re whackaloons or nutbars or whatever term you choose to apply to them.

    Phil has, in fact, challenged “leftie” lunatic fringe people on the blog, in many cases. A high percentage of the antivax crowd are affluent liberals, Phil heaps scorn on them just as much he’s heaping scorn on the lunatic fringe in this post.

    This isn’t about Conservatives all being crazy. It’s about crazy people getting air time.

  352. Marge

    I wonder why you point to Fox News when they are the only network to bring up the corruption of ACORN and the wasting our tax dollars on that corrupt organization. Because the media is in the tank for Obama and any organization or person affiliated with Obama gets a pass. (Like ACORN) Only Fox News has reported it. The others are silent. My cousins live in Baltimore and avoid registering to vote with ACORN. You know why, if you REGISTER REPUBLICAN they throw away the application. It never gets to the register’s office. If you register DEMOCRAT it gets there.

    Could you please show us the link of evidence you have on this lunatic fringe, a subset that you describe. I’m waiting.

  353. Tim Kuzniar

    RE: the lunatic fringe — all I have is this:

    When people say foolish things, they need to be told they are being foolish. They will disreagrd you and continue with what they were saying — but at least the truth is where it needs to be.

    Thanks, Phil, for putting the truth where it needs to be..!

  354. AJsDaddie

    Just to provide a little counterpoint. Let me just pick one reaction:

    “Ignorance. Paranoia. Bias. Manipulation. I suspect there is racism mixed in that’s disguised as patriotism. For those reasons they complained about Obama’s motivational speech to the youth of America. It’s sad and disappointing to see such a response when the intention and message of his talk was clearly positive. This country needs a shot in the arm of common sense and reason.”

    When I first found out about this speech, I was concerned at the fact that this President was planning to speak to my child without me present. It’s got nothing to do with race, and I find that tired old canard to be a waste of time. I was concerned because — get ready for it! — I don’t TRUST our President.

    See, here’s the thing. If my child wants to watch a TV program, I will vet it first. But I will be extra diligent with shows from the Cartoon Network because they have proven to me to occasionally be a bit over the line. That is, I can’t trust them to be things I want my child to be exposed to.

    That being said, there are shows on Cartoon Network that I don’t mind my son seeing. Heck, my wife happens to love Secret Saturdays, so go figure :) .

    You might say I’m a whacko for not trusting the President, but too many actions the man has taken, from his bizarre appointments to his foreign statements that seem to be apologizing for America to his inarguable bent for BIG, BIGGER, BIGGEST Government, make me question his motives and his philosophy, and so without seeing the text of the speech (and after seeing some things in the suggested curriculum that I thought were questionable), I was not comfortable with having this person talk to my child. That’s my prerogative whether he’s the President of the United States or the principle at my school.

    That being said, once the text of the speech was available I was entirely mollified, and I think it was one of the more positive messages to come out of the White House this term.

    So, in my opinion labeling me a racist because I was worried before the speech is just as ignorant as blathering on about a “socialist conspiracy” after reading the text.

    Just my half a nickel, rounded down

  355. Natalie

    Another interpretation of the above picture could be, “Be quiet. I will only listen to American citizens who agree with me – the rest of you don’t have a valid opinion.”

  356. John_in_Oz

    As far as I can tell, the difference between America’s left and America’s right is in which eminent English thinker they choose to be ignorant of, misrepresent, and oppose with nonsense arguments.
    The American left is as willfully ignorant and dishonest about the insights of Adam Smith as the American Right is about Charles Darwin.
    And both sides prefer to rationalise their stances rather than rationally discuss issues, and attack straw-men caricatures of their opponents’ positions.
    It’s a shame I can’t comment on the particular issue you raise in ‘the mainstreaming of crazy’, as you didn’t link to any instance of it, and not living in your country, I haven’t seen it. I did read a particular assertion about ‘what Obama was going to say (that got changed)’, and I rebuked that particular person for gullibility and factlessness. But I can’t comment on it’s mainstreaming because I haven’t seen it and you provided no evidence for it.
    Of course Google is my friend, and I did find some humour sites, but I’m sure that’s not what you meant by ‘mainstreaming’.

  357. John Doe

    So some parents in some remote part of the US didn’t want their kids to listen to the President’s speech. BIG DEAL, do you know how unpopular the President’s administration is these days? Geithner, Summers, Bernanke? Do these names ring a bell? More names, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, AIG?

    Ok…

    Dear author, your commentary is soooooo biased, and distant from scientific neutrality. It’s filled with emotions, it sounds like the radical leftist answer to the radical traditionalist.

    Don’t talk about “logic” or “ignorance”, please, these words in political debates are very much like using the old fashioned “Nazi”, “racist”, you’ve lost the debate already (if there was any, in the first place, what a pseudo scandal).

    I have no idea who you are, and I can tell you one thing. There must be a reason for you to be writing on some gossip magazine like Discover, instead of advancing research in science.

    Talk about “propagandist”, you can’t be serious!

  358. John Doe

    Selfish gene > Following one’s own interest
    Hypocrisy > Claiming to be follow other people’s interest

    A ‘moral crime’ has been committed, let’s follow the ‘money’, aka the interest.

    1) More traffic on Discover > Money
    2) Political activism > Money
    3) More funds for science > Money

    All comes down to the paycheck. Your interest is simple, encourage people to spend money to support you and your family – selfish gene = survival instinct -, pretending to have the public’s best interest in mind.

    Please, cut off the crap and go back to your telescope.

  359. Is there a “hypocrisy gene”?

    Who knew.

    How odd that everyone for whom it is dominant is a Democrat.

  360. Buried as inaccurate; Conservatives arent pissed that Obama is speaking to children, theyre pissed that some schools are handing out materials that ask questions like "How did Obama inspire you?" and "What can you do to help the President?".

  361. Steve

    “Whatever you want to call them, it’s clear they are so far from the norm of the American people that they can’t even see the horizon from where they are. Simply reading the speech transcript shows that simply and clearly.”

    I’m curious. If this is actually true and these people are “far from he norm”…
    Then who elected Bush…. TWICE?

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