285. Obama’s MIT speech – analysis

October 24, 2009 § Leave a comment

Key segments and analysis of Obama’s MIT speech

 

I want I want to thank all of you for the warm welcome and for the work all of you are doing to generate and test new ideas that hold so much promise for our economy and for our lives.

 

Note priority. Economy. Of course we need an economy, the question is, which one?

 

 

Now, Dr. Moniz is also the Director of MIT’s Energy Initiative, called MITEI. And he and President Hockfield just showed me some of the extraordinary energy research being conducted at this institute: windows that generate electricity by directing light to solar cells; light-weight, high-power batteries that aren’t built, but are grown — that was neat stuff; engineering viruses to create — to create batteries; more efficient lighting systems that rely on nanotechnology; innovative engineering that will make it possible for offshore wind power plants to deliver electricity even when the air is still.

 

It’s the early part of the speech. Good ideas, but not systemiccally embedded. What of manufacturing and sdistribution costs, and converting solar to heat?

 

And it’s a reminder that all of you are heirs to a legacy of innovation — not just here but across America — that has improved our health and our wellbeing and helped us achieve unparalleled prosperity.

 

Standard aren’t we great speech, but, as we know, it is those achievements that have got us in the climate and financial crisis, and wars.

 

 it’s the legacy of daring men and women who put their talents and their efforts into the pursuit of discovery. And it’s the legacy of a nation that supported those intrepid few willing to take risks on an idea that might fail — but might also change the world.

 

Are we talking love of truth, love of profit, love of fame and power? This muddling up of concepts is pure political rhetoric, looking to keep everyone happy with the speech.

 

Even in the darkest of times this nation has seen, it has always sought a brighter horizon. Think about it. In the middle of the Civil War, President Lincoln designated a system of land grant colleges, including MIT, which helped open the doors of higher education to millions of people. A year — a full year before the end of World War II, President Roosevelt signed the GI Bill which helped unleash a wave of strong and broadly shared economic growth. And after the Soviet launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth, the United States went about winning the Space Race by investing in science and technology, leading not only to small steps on the moon but also to tremendous economic benefits here on Earth.

 

The payoff expected of these, land grants, GI Bill and "space race" were military and economic, in ways that created the current problems with climate. The argument here appears to be, "we did great things, and we are going to do great things." I wonder if this is to get the headline for the speech so he can deliver more critical thoughts without press attention?

 

So the truth is, we have always been about innovation, we have always been about discovery. That’s in our DNA.

 

Mixing truth, which it isn’t, innovation, which was rare and market driven, and declaring it DNA rather than character is to really muddle concepts.

 

 The truth is we also face more complex challenges than generations past.

 

Note the repeated use of "the truth is" from rhetorical level to analytic level.

 

 A medical system that holds the promise of unlocking new cures is attached to a health care system that has the potential to bankrupt families and businesses and our government.

 

There is also the problem of population gowth through medicine. That is, the solutions create the problems, not just economic, but sustainable. Too ugly to mention.

 

 A global marketplace that links the trader on Wall Street to the homeowner on Main Street to the factory worker in China — an economy in which we all share opportunity is also an economy in which we all share crisis.

 

So we share opportunity and crises but not profit or jobs. Correted by

 

We face threats to our security that seek — there are threats to our security that are based on those who would seek to exploit the very interconnectedness and openness that’s so essential to our prosperity.

 

Bu tnote that it is our security that is threatened, not our  distribution of wealth. He is trying to appeal to the wealthy, not alienate them.

 

The system of energy that powers our economy also undermines our security and endangers our planet.

 

So again security is put first, then planet. 

 

Now, while the challenges today are different, we have to draw on the same spirit of innovation that’s always been central to our success. And that’s especially true when it comes to energy. There may be plenty of room for debate as to how we transition from fossil fuels to renewable fuels — we all understand there’s no silver bullet to do it.

 

What’s missing in that paragraph?  It is clear he is making a transition to the "we must" part of the speech.  Our success was built on waves of economic and military reality: wining the civil war, the shift toward the US after Europe died in two world wars. These are not questions of policy,b ut of historical circumstance larger than under the control of any nation.

 

 There’s going to be a lot of debate about how we move from an economy that’s importing oil to one that’s exporting clean energy technology; how we harness the innovative potential on display here at MIT to create millions of new jobs; and how we will lead the world to prevent the worst consequences of climate change. There are going to be all sorts of debates, both in the laboratory and on Capitol Hill. But there’s no question that we must do all these things.

 

This looks pretty good.  The problem is, what do we need to get there and can we get it? My view is that he leaves out, at this point, the finance community and the  control of congress through money. Let’s see how the rest of the speech deals with this,

 

Countries on every corner of this Earth now recognize that energy supplies are growing scarcer, energy demands are growing larger, and rising energy use imperils the planet we will leave to future generations. And that’s why the world is now engaged in a peaceful competition to determine the technologies that will power the 21st century.

 

Is competition the way to go? What happens to the losers How will they respond? The current corporate regime concentrates wealth continuously. What would happen to that economy in the new competition?

 

 From China to India, from Japan to Germany, nations everywhere are racing to develop new ways to producing and use energy. The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy. I am convinced of that. And I want America to be that nation. It’s that simple. (Applause.)

 

That’s why the Recovery Act that we passed back in January makes the largest investment in clean energy in history, not just to help end this recession, but to lay a new foundation for lasting prosperity. The Recovery Act includes $80 billion to put tens of thousands of Americans to work developing new battery technologies for hybrid vehicles; modernizing the electric grid; making our homes and businesses more energy efficient; doubling our capacity to generate renewable electricity. These are creating private-sector jobs weatherizing homes; manufacturing cars and trucks; upgrading to smart electric meters; installing solar panels; assembling wind turbines; building new facilities and factories and laboratories all across America. And, by the way, helping to finance extraordinary research.

 

All these projects are costly in terms of energy and transportation and materials. System effects? Who does the calculations? What if they are very discouraging? Can such analysis get into the pubic debate, and acknowledged by the White House? Alos ‘tens of thousands" Watch outsourcing of those efforts. Note that we have an unemployed of 6 million or more . Does the new economy scale up for workers, or only for owners?

 

In fact, in just a few weeks, right here in Boston, workers will break ground on a new Wind Technology Testing Center, a project made possible through a $25 million Recovery Act investment as well as through the support of Massachusetts and its partners. And I want everybody to understand — Governor Patrick’s leadership and vision made this happen. He was bragging about Massachusetts on the way over here — I told him, you don’t have to be a booster, I already love the state. (Applause.) But he helped make this happen.

 

Hundreds of people will be put to work building this new testing facility, but the benefits will extend far beyond these jobs. For the first time, researchers in the United States will be able to test the world’s newest and largest wind turbine blades — blades roughly the length of a football field — and that in turn will make it possible for American businesses to develop more efficient and effective turbines, and to lead a market estimated at more than $2 trillion over the next two decades.

 

This grant follows other Recovery Act investments right here in Massachusetts that will help create clean energy jobs in this commonwealth and across the country. And this only builds on the work of your governor, who has endeavored to make Massachusetts a clean energy leader — from increasing the supply of renewable electricity, to quadrupling solar capacity, to tripling the commonwealth’s investment in energy efficiency, all of which helps to draw new jobs and new industries. (Applause.) That’s worth applause.

 

Now, even as we’re investing in technologies that exist today, we’re also investing in the science that will produce the technologies of tomorrow. The Recovery Act provides the largest single boost in scientific research in history. Let me repeat that: The Recovery Act, the stimulus bill represents the largest single boost in scientific research in history. (Applause.) An increase — that’s an increase in funding that’s already making a difference right here on this campus. And my budget also makes the research and experimentation tax credit permanent — a tax credit that spurs inn
ovation and jobs, adding $2 to the economy for every dollar that it costs.

 

And all of this must culminate in the passage of comprehensive legislation that will finally make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy in America. John Kerry is working on this legislation right now, and he’s doing a terrific job reaching out across the other side of the aisle because this should not be a partisan issue. Everybody in America should have a stake — (applause) — everybody in America should have a stake in legislation that can transform our energy system into one that’s far more efficient, far cleaner, and provide energy independence for America — making the best use of resources we have in abundance, everything from figuring out how to use the fossil fuels that inevitably we are going to be using for several decades, things like coal and oil and natural gas; figuring out how we use those as cleanly and efficiently as possible; creating safe nuclear power; sustainable — sustainably grown biofuels; and then the energy that we can harness from wind and the waves and the sun. It is a transformation that will be made as swiftly and as carefully as possible, to ensure that we are doing what it takes to grow this economy in the short, medium, and long term. And I do believe that a consensus is growing to achieve exactly that.

 

From a technical point of view do thee initiatives add up to a real lessening of the dangers of greenhouses gases? And are the impacts on income and wealth. These all require private investment, and the biggest pile of private investment is coming from the rise in the stock market. Middle class people bought into the last bubble just before it collapsed. The more knowledgeable got out, Now as the market comes back it is the profits from the last bubble driving expansion – and a new bubble, according to Reich

 

The Pentagon has declared our dependence on fossil fuels a security threat. Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are traveling the country as part of Operation Free, campaigning to end our dependence on oil — (applause) — we have a few of these folks here today, right there. (Applause.) The young people of this country — that I’ve met all across America — they understand that this is the challenge of their generation.

 

Leaders in the business community are standing with leaders in the environmental community to protect the economy and the planet we leave for our children. The House of Representatives has already passed historic legislation, due in large part to the efforts of Massachusetts’ own Ed Markey, he deserves a big round of applause. (Applause.) We’re now seeing prominent Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham joining forces with long-time leaders John Kerry on this issue, to swiftly pass a bill through the Senate as well. In fact, the Energy Committee, thanks to the work of its Chair, Senator Jeff Bingaman, has already passed key provisions of comprehensive legislation.

 

None specified, hard to critique. Is he right?

 

So we are seeing a convergence. The naysayers, the folks who would pretend that this is not an issue, they are being marginalized. But I think it’s important to understand that the closer we get, the harder the opposition will fight and the more we’ll hear from those whose interest or ideology run counter to the much needed action that we’re engaged in.

 

There are also the naysayers from the more progressive side, the folks that see private interest being served so that solutions cannot emerge that are not self-serving – increasing wealth concentration.

 

 There are those who will suggest that moving toward clean energy will destroy our economy — when it’s the system we currently have that endangers our prosperity and prevents us from creating millions of new jobs. There are going to be those who cynically claim — make cynical claims that contradict the overwhelming scientific evidence when it comes to climate change, claims whose only purpose is to defeat or delay the change that we know is necessary.

 

So we’re going to have to work on those folks. But understand there’s also another myth that we have to dispel, and this one is far more dangerous because we’re all somewhat complicit in it. It’s far more dangerous than any attack made by those who wish to stand in the way progress — and that’s the idea that there is nothing or little that we can do.

 

Should the very possibility be explored? I hear from many business leaders that they think it is too late. And I hear it from scientists and technical people.  If they are acting on that surmise, what do we do?

 

 It’s pessimism. It’s the pessimistic notion that our politics are too broken and our people too unwilling to make hard choices for us to actually deal with this energy issue that we’re facing. And implicit in this argument is the sense that somehow we’ve lost something important — that fighting American spirit, that willingness to tackle hard challenges, that determination to see those challenges to the end, that we can solve problems, that we can act collectively, that somehow that is something of the past.

 

Lots of us are right there. But the conclusion? Is there any politics that can change this? Are "interests" too powerful to yield. Historical analysis Tainter’s Collapse of Complex Societies suggests no. So, the next word is revolution. I hear it in private from people on all sides.

 

I reject that argument. I reject it because of what I’ve seen here at MIT. Because of what I have seen across America. Because of what we know we are capable of achieving when called upon to achieve it. This is the nation that harnessed electricity and the energy contained in the atom, that developed the steamboat and the modern solar cell. This is the nation that pushed westward and looked skyward. We have always sought out new frontiers and this generation is no different.

 

Those were each exploitative moves in the name of empire on the large side and private wealth on the other.

 

Today’s frontiers can’t be found on a map. They’re being explored in our classrooms and our laboratories, in our start-ups and our factories. And today’s pioneers are not traveling to some far flung place. These pioneers are all around us — the entrepreneurs and the inventors, the researchers, the engineers — helping to lead us into the future, just as they have in the past. This is the nation that has led the world for two centuries in the pursuit of discovery. This is the nation that will lead the clean energy economy of tomorrow, so long as all of us remember what we have achieved in the past and we use that to inspire us to achieve even more in the future.

 

He doesn’t say how hard this will nor that the real systems innovation of late has been financial.

 

I am confident that’s what’s happening right here at this extraordinary institution. And if you will join us in what is sure to be a difficult fight in the months and years ahead, I am confident that all of America is going to be pulling in one direction to make sure that we are the energy leader that we need to be.

 

We do need to be an energy leader. In the background is China saying we can do better if we cooperate. What strikes me is the low level of rhetoric in this speech, the few real concepts, the lack of analysis – and this is MIT! And the core word is "fight".

 

Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

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