Thursday, February 2, 2012

Reflections on the State of the Union Address

note: I wrote the following article for a local paper, The Monadnock Shopper News, where it appeared in a column that focuses on environmental issues. A 600 word limit forces me to keep things short and touch on just a few points. And while I certainly voted for Obama in 2008 and will certainly vote for him again this year, I certainly do not agree with everything he does. This is what makes Democrats their own worst enemy--the inability to walk in lockstep, a talent their colleagues across the aisle seem to do so ably on so many issues. I sometimes wonder if their whip literally uses a whip to get the votes he needs. Anyway, here are a few thoughts:

Reflections on the State of the Union

Another year, another long speech full of way too many standing ovations. Seriously, why can’t they ask people to hold their applause until the end? Or better yet, mandate that all standing ovations be replaced with a lusty round of ‘Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!’ which is then immediately followed by the throwing of caps in the air. This would not only limit the number of silly ovations but also bring ‘Huzzah!’ back into fashion, which is long overdue by my reckoning.

I looked over the article I wrote after last year’s speech and the first thing that jumped out at me was the emphasis on high-speed rail. Thank goodness that dead horse didn’t rear its ugly head again. The laughter in the room would have been embarrassing.  Also somewhat laughable is President Obama’s definition of clean energy, which seems to include things like natural gas and—wait for it—‘clean’ coal. This is akin to saying a low-fat cupcake is good for you. Sure, it’s better for you than a regular cupcake, but it isn’t doing you any favors in the healthy body department. Natural gas and ‘clean’ coal may be better for the environment than other fossil fuels, but Mother Earth is not writing them a thank you note any time soon.

The most effective part of the speech was when Obama ridiculed tax subsidies for oil companies and championed renewable energy sources. Last year, he noted that the oil companies were doing just fine on their own. This year, he offered up this well-worded phrase: ‘We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising.’ Ah, those are the types of lines I wait for. Too bad they are buried in a speech full of other stuff not nearly as quote-worthy.

It seems I am in good company when I react favorably to the above sentiment.  David Roberts, in an article on, notes that in a poll gauging reactions of viewers to last night’s speech, Obama’s passage about ending oil subsidies and competing with China and Germany as producers of solar and wind technology was received almost as favorably as when he mentioned the death of Osama bin Laden. That is pretty favorable, and quite telling. It tells me that Americans are ready to embrace renewable energy and stop corporate welfare for the oil giants. We want to be able to compete in a fast growing market and not have to play catch-up to China. People want to buy solar panels made in the United States and want the government to help make that happen. Above all, it tells me that Americans can see through the rhetoric that flies around Washington like snowballs on a schoolyard. We can see where the future lies and, speaking of lies, we are not swallowing the lies that come oozing from the poison pens of corporate lobbyists and the corrupt politicians these lobbyists have much too much influence over.

So thank you, my fellow Americans, for being clear-eyed and open-minded. Let us also be full-throated, so that our voices and opinions may be heard and ultimately, heeded.

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