David Schussler

With so little known about candidate Barack Obama here’s a little insight provided by Science Debate 2008, a neutral organization with stupendous credentials as a questioning agency. It will be interesting to read the responses to the same questions that were asked of John McCain. I have provided my own insights with regard to Obama’s responses.

Science Debate 2008
The Story
In November, 2007, a small group of six citizens – two screenwriters, a physicist, a marine biologist, a philosopher and a science journalist – began working to restore science and innovation to America’s political dialogue. They called themselves Science Debate 2008, and they called for a presidential debate on science. The call tapped a wellspring of concern over the state of American science.
Within weeks, more than 38,000 scientists, engineers, and other concerned Americans signed on, including nearly every major American science organization, dozens of Nobel laureates, elected officials and business leaders, and the presidents of over 100 major American universities. See who here. Among other things, these signers submitted over 3,400 questions they want the candidates for President to answer about science and the future of America.

Here are 14 Questions and Excerpts From Barack Obama’s Answers With Insights by David Schussler

1. Innovation. Science and technology have been responsible for half of the growth of the American economy since WWII. But several recent reports question America’s continued leadership in these vital areas. What policies will you support to ensure that America remains the world leader in innovation?

Obama – “My administration will increase funding for basic research in physical and life sciences, mathematics, and engineering at a rate that would double basic research budgets over the next decade.”

davidschussler – Where will this money come from?

Obama – “We will increase support for high-risk, high-payoff research portfolios at our science agencies.”

davidschussler – $$$$$$? And…who will make these decisions? Congress?

Obama – “My proposals for providing broadband Internet connections for all Americans across the country will help ensure that more students are able to bolster their STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematic) achievement. As president, I will launch a Service Scholarship program that pays undergraduate or graduate teaching education costs for those who commit to teaching in a high-need school.”

davidschussler – Again how will this be paid for and what about all of the other technology students who are necessary to make things work like welders, electricians, plumbers etc., etc. Are they chopped liver? Talk about creating an elitist science community. With the global warming and pandemic threats, scientists are already wielding a club over those who choose to remain uneducated about it.

Obama – “my administration will make the R&D tax credit permanent.”

davidschussler – The IRS defines R&D expenditures as those “incident to the development or improvement of a product,” including the costs and attorney’s fees associated with obtaining a patent. The IRS definition of “product” includes formulas, inventions, patent, pilot models, processes and techniques. It is fairly nebulous and up to the review of whom? http://www.themoneyalert.com/RandDTaxCredit.html The fact is that private industry R&D accounts for about two thirds of the national expenditures for all R&D which is where the investment should be since private industry and the public benefit the most from it (without a large burden on tax collection). The tax credit should be reviewed regularly to make sure that it is being used for purposes that advance the good of the people.

2. Climate Change. The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on the following measures that have been proposed to address global climate change—a cap-and-trade system, a carbon tax, increased fuel-economy standards, or research? Are there other policies you would support?

Obama – “Specifically, I will implement a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary: 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. I will start reducing emissions immediately by establishing strong annual reduction targets with an intermediate goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. A cap- and-trade program draws on the power of the marketplace to reduce emissions in a cost- effective and flexible way. I will require all pollution credits to be auctioned.”

davidschussler – http://www.bloggernews.net/14931 Carbon Credits have and will have large government beaurocracy and private brokers skimming our money and usurping what is already a bad idea since it will ultimately affect our nation’s productivity and make us less competitive with the non-conforming rest of the industrialized world. Who will police our industries? Furthermore who will police the industries of other nations? The world cannot even police the proliferation of nuclear weapons today with any integrity. What a nightmare this would be. Maybe I should just start training now to be a carbon offset trader. I could claim to be doing well for my nation and humanity while delivering credits with a smile and laughing all the way to the bank.

3. Energy. Many policymakers and scientists say energy security and sustainability are major problems facing the United States this century. What policies would you support to meet demand for energy while ensuring an economically and environmentally sustainable future?

Obama – “ First, I have proposed programs that, taken together, will increase federal investment in the clean energy research, development, and deployment to $150 billion over ten years.”

davidschussler – Where’s the money going to come from? What about private industry investment? It is already happening. Industry is racing to invent and implement new technologies because it is to their best interests to be the first to get something going with the entire world as the market.

Obama – “ Increasing new building efficiency by 50 percent and existing building efficiency by 25 percent over the next decade, and taking other steps that will reduce the energy intensity of our economy 50 percent by 2030;”
“Ensuring that regulations and incentives in all federal agencies support the national energy and environmental goals in ways that encourage innovation and ingenuity.”
“I will also encourage communities around the nation to design and build sustainable communities that cut energy use with walkable community designs and expanded investment in mass transit.”

davidschussler – All I can see here is a huge federal beaurocracy with energy efficiency police invading every part of our lives. God forbid someone should like to live in the beautiful countryside a commute away from all of the congestion, build a little cabin and have a nice wood fire. They would be breaking all kinds of rules that jealous urban citizens would want enforced.
Where is using natural gas, clean coal, and drilling for and refining clean oil? By “reducing the energy intensity of our economy 50 percent by 2030” does that mean that China and India will have inherited all of our industry by then? Surely they will not be on the same tack as Obama’s America for the next 22 years.

4. Education. A comparison of 15-year-olds in 30 wealthy nations found that average science scores among U.S. students ranked 17th, while average U.S. math scores ranked 24th. What role do you think the federal government should play in preparing K-12 students for the science and technology driven 21st Century?

Obama – “I will make sure that through the new $4,000 American Opportunity Tax Credit, they will have access to affordable higher education that will provide them with the science fluency they need to be leaders in STEM fields and across broad sectors of our society.”

davidschussler – First “where’s the money going to come from? Second, what about all of the other than science students? Do they not deserve the same educational break? It is an elitist attitude that only wants to reward teachers and scientists with scholarship. The people that feed and clothe us; the people that haul our trash and build our roads and houses all deserve the same opportunity to learn their trades and prosper in our society.

5. National Security. Science and technology are at the core of national security like never before. What is your view of how science and technology can best be used to ensure national security and where should we put our focus?

Obama – This year, I was encouraged to see the Department of Defense (DoD) requested a sharp increase in the basic research budget for breakthrough technologies.

davidschussler – Thanks to President Bush

Obama – “Finally, we will act to reverse the erosion of the U.S. manufacturing base – which could jeopardize our technical superiority.”

davidschussler – Like …. Carbon offset credits, Cap and Trade, failure to drill for oil now, failure to release construction restraints on new refineries, failure to enact trade agreements, increasing corporate taxes, taxing oil windfalls, and “Ensuring that regulations and incentives in all federal agencies support the national energy and environmental goals in ways that encourage innovation and ingenuity,” what about productivity?.

6. Pandemics and Biosecurity. Some estimates suggest that if H5N1 Avian Flu becomes a pandemic it could kill more than 300 million people. In an era of constant and rapid international travel, what steps should the United States take to protect our population from global pandemics or deliberate biological attacks?

Obama – “Overseas, I will launch a Shared Security Partnership that invests $5 billion over 3 years to forge an international intelligence and law enforcement infrastructure to take down terrorist networks”

davidschussler – Another large government beaurocracy and…where’s the money to come from?

Obama – “I have pledged to invest $10 billion per year over the next 5 years in electronic health information systems to not only improve routine health care, but also ensure that these systems will give health officials the crucial information they need to deploy resources and save lives in an emergency.”

davidschussler – $$$$$… Putting all of our records on a national record accessible to any doctor or nurse at any time would make us all extremely vulnerable to mistaken entries into our records, deletions, and even access by terrorists or others who would want to harm us. It would certainly help some situations but it would put us all in jeopardy as it contributes to an already invasive “Big Brother” government. Another step toward socialized medicine.

Obama – “Unfortunately, the Bush administration has failed to take full advantage of the Bioshield initiative”.

davidschussler – Bioshield is a Bush presidential directive which has affectively been in use since April, 2004 http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2004pres/20040428.html

7. Genetics research. The field of genetics has the potential to improve human health and nutrition, but many people are concerned about the effects of genetic modification both in humans and in agriculture. What is the right policy balance between the benefits of genetic advances and their potential risks?

Obama – “The progress that has occurred in genetics over the past half century has been remarkable”

davidschussler – For a nation that Obama constantly claims is weak and deficient in the sciences, this is a remarkable statement, also confusing. Now this has it’s pros and cons because here we are changing our agricultural profile with our “intelligent design” as we unbalance what would normally be considered natural evolution ( Darwinian survival of the fittest). Example; on one hand some of us are concerned about the destruction of the rain forests as others are genetically creating new trees to replace our forests that may have detrimental effects on our ecology.
As I say, there are many pros and cons to genetic intervention in the natural processes. Ex.
Article – ‘Pharm’ Factories of the Future
“Plants may become miniature “factories” for pharmaceuticals through genetic engineering. Scientists are growing plants that produce antibodies to help fight cancer, heart disease and tooth decay. And researchers are experimenting with growing fruits and vegetables that contain vaccines for measles, hepatitis B, Norwalk virus, diarrhea, cholera and more.”
“These edible vaccines could be pureed into an applesauce-like consistency and fed to children and adults alike. They could be produced in larger quantities and at less expense than current vaccines, although they will have to be grown and handled under strict conditions imposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aimed at ensuring that they do not inadvertently enter the food supply” see more at http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2003/603_food.html

Obama – “I also recognize that the power of modern genetics has raised important ethical, legal, and social issues that require careful study.”

davidschussler – That from a man who supports embryonic stem cell use and would allow late term abortions and live birth terminations in some instances. What a politician. He sounds confused doesn’t he?

Obama – I have been a long-time supporter of the recently passed Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act

davidschussler – An act which Bush signed into action in 2008.
Read – Ecological Arguments against Genetic Engineering http://www.biology.duke.edu/bio217/2001/ssm2/against.html

8. Stem cells. Stem cell research advocates say it may successfully lead to treatments for many chronic diseases and injuries, saving lives, but opponents argue that using embryos as a source for stem cells destroys human life. What is your position on government regulation and funding of stem cell research?

Obama – “I believe that the restrictions that President Bush has placed on funding of human embryonic stem cell research have handcuffed our scientists and hindered our ability to compete with other nations. As president, I will lift the current administration’s ban on federal funding of research on embryonic stem cell lines created after August 9, 2001 through executive order, and I will ensure that all research on stem cells is conducted ethically and with rigorous oversight.” …“I am also aware that there have been suggestions that human stem cells of various types, derived from sources other than embryos, make the use of embryonic stem cells unnecessary. I don’t agree.”

davidschussler – Who is Barack Obama to disagree? Is he studied in genetics and or stem cells? “To date, current research on embryonic stem cells has resulted in no promising results. Ironically, a leading pro-ESCR advocate is the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, but ESCR research has failed in fighting this disease…. In stark contrast to the failures of embryonic stem cell research, the future looks very promising for treatment with adult stem cells.” Read – http://www.lifeissues.org/cloningstemcell/bradsarticle.html http://www.i-sis.org.uk/stemcells2.php

9. Ocean Health. Scientists estimate that some 75 percent of the world’s fisheries are in serious decline and habitats around the world like coral reefs are seriously threatened. What steps, if any, should the United States take during your presidency to protect ocean health?

Obama – Global climate change could have catastrophic effects on ocean ecologies. Protection of the oceans is one of the many reasons I have developed an ambitious plan to reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases 80 percent below 1990 by 2050.

davidschussler – Sounds like he didn’t understand the question. Greenhouse gasses, global warming, ocean warming, by all scientific estimates and evaluations are affected very, very, very little by human activity compared to the natural evolution of our planet. Besides the occurrences of volcanoes and other global natural occurances, industrial activity like oil production in Siberia, new Indian factories, the Russians sinking ships in the Black Sea, China’s irresponsible industrial activities, are the types of polluting activities that are affecting the ocean habitats. The United States has become a good steward of its waters including the management of fish and their environment (unlike other nations that do not adhere to maritime rules)Even our oil industry is to be commended. The US Navy is embarked on daily missions that help others protect their waters with the Africa Partnership Station http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=32899 Obama needs to get up to speed on this.

10. Water. Thirty-nine states expect some level of water shortage over the next decade, and scientific studies suggest that a majority of our water resources are at risk. What policies would you support to meet demand for water resources?

davidschussler – No comment

11. Space. The study of Earth from space can yield important information about climate change; focus on the cosmos can advance our understanding of the universe; and manned space travel can help us inspire new generations of youth to go into science. Can we afford all of them? How would you prioritize space in your administration?

davidschussler – No comment

12. Scientific Integrity. Many government scientists report political interference in their job. Is it acceptable for elected officials to hold back or alter scientific reports if they conflict with their own views, and how will you balance scientific information with politics and personal beliefs in your decision-making?

Obama – “ I will restore the basic principle that government decisions should be based on the best- available, scientifically-valid evidence and not on the ideological predispositions of agency officials or political appointees.”

davidschussler – …(Obama)“I am also aware that there have been suggestions that human stem cells of various types, derived from sources other than embryos, make the use of embryonic stem cells unnecessary. I don’t agree.” Well, so much for “ideological predispositions!” (Obama)“I have already established an impressive team of science advisors, including several Nobel Laureates, who are helping me to shape a robust science agenda for my administration.” Well, so much for the “ideological predispositions of agency officials or political appointees”.

13. Research. For many years, Congress has recognized the importance of science and engineering research to realizing our national goals. Given that the next Congress will likely face spending constraints, what priority would you give to investment in basic research in upcoming budgets?

Obama – “As president, I will increase funding for basic research in physical and life sciences, mathematics, and engineering at a rate that would double basic research budgets over the next decade.”

davidschussler – Show me the money!

14. Health. Americans are increasingly concerned with the cost, quality and availability of health care. How do you see science, research and technology contributing to improved health and quality of life?

Obama – It’s wrong that America’s health care system works better for insurance and drug companies than it does for average Americans, who face skyrocketing health care costs. My plan makes health care more secure and affordable by strengthening employer-based coverage, protecting patients’ ability to choose their own doctors, and saving families $2,500 dollars by requiring insurance companies to cover prevention and limiting excessive insurance company charges. My plan covers everybody by requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, providing tax credits to small businesses and working families, and covering all uninsured children.

davidschussler – I have heard this at least ten times without any facts or confirmation of how this “plan” is to be financed. The nebulous $2500 savings that I sure would like to receive (I’ve got a ton of medical bills) is related to what? How does it work? What does it do exactly? Nobody knows.

davidschussler – My Dad taught me that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but you can sure tweak it and oil it and make it work better. Just like buying an inferior new tool to replace an old quality one that works well with care, change for the sake of change, shaking up our government agencies without substantial purpose makes no sense. Eliminating many entitlement programs and non-incentive taxes could save us a lot of money while a lot of what Obama proposes looks very expensive and with no means of financing. There is no doubt that our government is not working well, but it isn’t broke, it needs good leadership and fresh ideas. We are moving pretty fast as a nation but we have to remember that technology may take great leaps but behavior has a slow, iterative rate of change”

“The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”
-Albert Einstein

You can read the entire Obama response here http://www.sciencedebate2008.com/www/index.php?id=40

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