The truth, the whole truth, but perhaps not the literal truth

By Sean Carroll | February 2, 2006 11:22 am

Would it surprise you to learn that, when George W. Bush in his State of the Union Address presented a goal of cutting down on our imports of oil from the Middle East by 75%, his advisors had to explain the next day that this wasn’t meant to be the literal truth? Turns out that we import about 20% of our oil from the Middle East, and that region has the most abundant and easily accessible supplies, so that even if alternative fuels displace an amount equivalent to 75% of our imports from the Middle East, those will really be the last to go. (We import about 60% of our oil all told, so reducing all imports by 75% is not on the agenda.) Apparently some of our oil-producing allies in the region took him seriously — just like they did last year after the Second Inaugural Address gave them the mistaken impression that we had something against repressive dictatorships. They need to understand that these speeches are not about the ordinary “literal” truth that scientists are so fond of, but a larger, purpose-serving truth in which our President specializes.

Toles - Bush and Science Would it surprise you to learn that, when George W. Bush in his State of the Union Address proposed a multibillion dollar initiative to strengthen education and research in math and science, two-thirds of the money is actually not in the form of funding, but rather tax breaks for businesses? In fact, tax breaks that already exist, but are renewed annually, and Bush would simply like to make permanent?

What’s that? You wouldn’t be surprised? You hopeless cynic. Next you’ll be wondering how our President can be a rancher if he doesn’t know how to ride a horse.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics, Science and Politics
  • Elliot

    When Daddy (and friends) buy you an election by leaning on the SCOTUS to give you the presidency because to do otherwise would abridge your (God given?) right to be president, you probably get the idea you can get away with just about anything.

  • spyder

    Bush proposes to spend $5.9 billion in fiscal 2007 on a plan the White House has dubbed the ‘American Competitiveness Initiative.’ “With incentives far more generous and predictable than the credit offered in the U.S., foreign countries are aggressively pursuing the vital research and development work that has traditionally been performed here at home,” said Dorothy Coleman, vice president for tax and economic policy at the National Association of Manufacturers.

    $5.9 billion of which $3.8 billion goes to US corporations in tax breaks. US corporations that outsource to increase profits; US corporations that bury the hidden accounting maneuvers to pay their top executives and shred pensions for their employees; the US corporations that simply don’t put money into research and development; and we are all supposed to believe that the corporations represented by the National Association of Manufacturers are going to hire thousands upon thousands of US citizens to perform high paid R&D????

  • PLato

    As a cynic of “oil capitalism” I couldn’t help but think of a song. I would of course like to think oil reserves are protected, and that as a addict, I’d have a steady supply? :) okay, that might not be a good example….we shouldn’t encourage such things in face of stress:)


    While it is a revival of sorts, it is not the kind I would have thought, any atheist might glorify? :)

    Seriously, if you watch Jarhead, what were those soldiers thinking?

  • Zero

    Sean, Joanne, Mark, Clifford, et al.: How about a little gratitude for the American taxpayers, who (via their elected representatives) generously agree to divert some of their hard-earned dollars to pay for your grants, so you can do the research that you enjoy? Okay, it may not be quite as much money as you’d want. But do you think that acting like spoiled children will help your case? Come on, guys. We all like what we do, and think that it is important (if only to ourselves). But while slow-roll inflation and BAO are nice, it’s not as if you’re curing cancer here. The outrage is a little over the top. Time to recouple to reality.


    PS: Eliot: I have some tin foil left over from lunch. Would you like to construct a hat out of it, so as to neutralize the Bush administration’s mind control rays?

  • Sean

    Zero, do the lies not bother you at all? How can you respond to a post about our chief executive’s nearly pathological aversion to the truth by suggesting that we should be expressing our gratitude?

    Of course, as a devoted CV reader, you know quite well that we do express our gratitude, in all sincerity. At which point we are taken to task for stealing the hard-earned private property of our fellow citizens. Can’t win, I guess.

  • Uncle Al

    Next you’ll be wondering how our President can be a rancher if he doesn’t know how to ride a horse.

    Perhaps Bush the Lesser rides an all terrain vehicle powered by fermented algae. More likely it would be a Mercedes-Benz with an extra large engine, no emissions controls (National Security), and a lusty appetite for high-test.

    Bush the Lesser is a Christ-besotted rich man’s idiot son whose passage is lubricated by “character.” One might demur that President Reagan was no better in any category (except perhaps breeding). Reagan shook the world adn elevated America. Bush is shaking out our wallets while killing our children and assassinating the future.

    Homo sapiens is slow and weak. It has no slashing claws or crushing jaws. It has no robust hide. It cannot run, climb a tree, or swim worth a farthing. Homo sapiens has, at least 1% of its population has, a brain of surpassing power and the ability to transform dross matter into physical (engineering) and intellectual (computers) prostheses of astounding capability. Homo sapiens can think in mathematical abstractions and reduce what is worthy to science, technology, and K-Mart specials. The Protestant Reformation and capitalism fomented a deist State worshipping empirical reality.

    Bush the Lesser and his personal god vigorously condemn all of that. Singularities approach: Retirement infinite appetites of Baby Boomers by 2015 with no population backwash to be taxed. The end of easy petroleum no later than 2050 and probably by 2030. Science does not fix society-crumbling problems, it renders them irrelevant: The Industrial Revolution vs. cottage manufacture, whale oil to petroleum; medicine, polymers, nuclear energy. The United States has Officially turned its back on all that. Denied its brain, Homo sapiens dies like Musca domestica.

    Test of faith. Remember how well the last Russian tsar faired putting all his faith in God’s good will, and Russia in turn. Have you been searched under threat by uniformed police at an airport lately? Was it in the USSR or the USA?

  • Elliot


    Bush is asking for 70 billion for Iraq war today.

    Don’t need any tin-foil. Your frail attempt to charactize my statement as “on the fringe” is unfortunately contradicted by the facts of the case.


  • A condensed matter theorist


    I think the point here is that our president is leading the tax payer to believe incorrectly that he actually wants to increase spending on science and education by three times the amount that he intends. That is, he is taking advantage of the goodwill of the public, who apparently are generously willing to pay a larger share of their tax dollars for basic research and education, to push through permanent tax cuts for big business that will likely never translate into more science or education.

    As a scientist, this makes me sad of course. But as a tax payer, it makes me angry.

    In fact, it turns out that our blog hosts are all American tax payers, too. Seems to me that they can be upset about how their tax dollars are spent if they want.

  • George

    .. whoa Sean, now I am dismayed, not as much that Bush was totally deceptive – which attests to how accustomed to this I must be – but…

    A professor at Harvard – an institution I assume has rigorous requirements – claims Bush is a genius based on his SotU…

    I am losing faith in everything…

  • George

    To Zero,

    the investment of federal funding for research is the no doubt the best spent portion of the federal budget (right at the top in importance with the care and feeding of the sick an hungry.)

  • Erich J. Knight

    I’ve sent GB and the Energy Secretary, the following post, What do you think of Aneutronic’s viability?

    I thought you may be interested in the new technology I high light to deal with this largest problem of them all, Climate Change, Energy and Space propulsion.

    There are three companies pursuing hydrogen-boron plasma toroid fusion, a form of aneutronic fusion , Paul Koloc, Prometheus II, Eric Lerner, Focus Fusion and Clint Seward of Electron Power Systems . A resent DOD review of EPS technology reads as follows:

    “MIT considers these plasmas a revolutionary breakthrough, with Delphi’s
    chief scientist and senior manager for advanced technology both agreeing
    that EST/SPT physics are repeatable and theoretically explainable. MIT and
    EPS have jointly authored numerous professional papers describing their
    work. (Delphi is a $33B company, the spun off Delco Division of General

    Vincent Page (a technology officer at GE!!) gave a presentation at the 05 6th symposium on current trends in international fusion research , which high lights the need to fully fund three different approaches to P-B11 fusion (Below Is an excerpt).
    He quotes costs and time to development of P-B11 Fusion as tens of million $, and years verses the many decades and ten Billion plus $ projected for ITER and other “Big” science efforts:

    “for larger plant sizes
    Time to small-scale Cost to achieve net if the small-scale
    Concept Description net energy production energy concept works:
    Koloc Spherical Plasma: 10 years(time frame), $25 million (cost), 80%(chance of success)
    Field Reversed Configuration: 8 years $75 million 60%
    Plasma Focus: 6 years $18 million 80%

    Desirable Fusion Reactor Qualities
    • Research & development is also needed in
    the area of computing power.
    • Many fusion researchers of necessity still
    use MHD theory to validate their designs.
    • MHD theory assumes perfect diamagnetism
    and perfect conductance.
    • These qualities may not always exist in the
    real world, particularly during continuous operation.
    • More computing power is needed to allow use of a more realistic validation theory
    such as the Vlasov equations.
    • ORNL is in the process of adding some impressive computing power.
    • Researchers now need to develop more realistic validation methods up to the
    limits of the available computing power.
    • Governments need to fund these efforts.”

    I feel in light of the recent findings of neutrons, x-rays, and gamma rays in lightening (Dwyer’s paper: )
    ,that these threads need to be brought together in an article.

    You may see my efforts with my “A New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy” article:

    which got published on Sci-Scoop and the Open Source Energy Network but rejected on Slashdot. The New Energy News will soon run an article on these companies efforts toward aneutronic fusion.

    About a year ago, I came across EPS while researching nano-tech and efficient home design. I started a correspondence Clint Seward, Eric Learner, and Paul Kolac, sending them science news links which I felt were either supportive or contradictory to their work. I also asked them to critique each other’s approaches. I have posted these emails to numerous physics and science forums. Discussion groups, science journalists, and other academics, trying to foster discussion, attention, and hopefully some concessus on the validity of these proposed technologies.
    My efforts have born some fruit. Clint and Joe Dwyer at FIT have been in consultation on Clint’s current charge transport theory for cloud to ground lightening.
    I have had several replies from editors, producers, and journalists expressing interest. From organizations as varied as PBS, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, New Energy News, the Guardian (U.K), and the San Francisco Chronicle. However, none of this professional interest has resulted in a story yet.

    I have been responding to all of the articles that filter in via my Google alerts on “fusion power”. The most recent was the “Happy News” article by Kris Metaverso.…ependently.htm

    This post is a plea to the science writers among you to craft a story covering aneutronic fusion, the P-B11 efforts, Eric’s Billion degree temperatures and x-ray source project, Clint’s lightening theories, and DOD review, and Paul’s review by GE.

    The minimal cost and time frame for even the possibility of this leap forward seems criminal not to pursue. If you read my Manhattan article, you may have noticed that I am not a writer. I am a landscape designer and technology gadfly wondering why this technology has never been put in the public eye.
    My hope is that someone, more skilled, would step up to give a shout out about these technologies. Please contact me for copies of my correspondence with the principles, interesting replies and criticisms from physics discussion forums and academic physicists who have replied to my queries.

    Thanks for any help

    Erich J. Knight

  • http://1034:Incorrectkeyfilefortableusers;trytorepairit sisyphus

    While sitting in my optometrist’s waiting room I browsed a (large print) copy of Readers Digest. According to RD in 5 years 90% of the world’s scientists and engineers will reside in Asia. Is this possible? If so, we’d better hope that when Asia gains ascendancy ( in what – 20 yrs? 15 yrs? 2 yrs??) they’ll be as kind and gentle with us as we’ve always been with them.

  • Pingback: The Corpus Callosum()

  • wab

    All the political blah-blah aside, the 14% increase in the DOE Office of science budget request for FY07 is a big turn around for science after a decade of flat-flat (read decreasing) budgets for the physical sciences. I for one see real wheat among the chaff.

  • Sam Gralla

    Bush doesn’t know how to ride a horse?? That’s it, I’m sick of this guy. Impeach him.

  • PLato

    Maybe Tony can show him how?:)

  • Aristotle

    Tony Smith a bit of a cowboy string theorist, eh? At least he doesn’t hide under someone else’s name, Plato.

  • PLato

    I try to be respectful of our hosts here, but I think it worth reminding, that you are fortunate to be able to comment here, while some of us are not so lucking, on that not even wrong blog.

    I understand our host desire to protect colleques, and the valuation of science, but if you are going to hold a positon as forthcoming, then you have to spell out why such resistance was put up for the sake of layman thinking.

    We don’t want to be walking a mindfield while we are learning?

    But to the point, my IP address has not changed, on either two sites, nor has yours, while you choose different names. One of the “admin perks” is that you can know, and I have already shown ways around that, which I choose not to do.

    If you are ever are close to nature and the horses, it is a respectful one that you would stand beside such an animal and see how insignificant you are while you are tossed like a toy.

    Nature has a nice way of teaching us these things, pack hearding, who protects and who doesn’t whilst we engage the “higher minds” of science. Our evolution, is still there physically while we deal with abstract spaces.

    I have watched Tony’s progress for a number of years now.:)

  • Johan Richter

    As long as the US reduces its oil imports it should not matter which oil they stop importing. If the Middle Eastern nations decided to stop importing it would not be that hard to find another supplier for your reduced needs.


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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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