To understand how we get there, we first need to understand how we got here.

President Obama’s remarks at Georgetown University on the economy, April 14, 2009.

It has now been twelve weeks since my administration began. And I think even our critics would agree that at the very least, we’ve been busy. In just under three months, we have responded to an extraordinary set of economic challenges with extraordinary action – action that has been unprecedented in both its scale and its speed.

I know that some have accused us of taking on too much at once. Others believe we haven’t done enough. And many Americans are simply wondering how all of our different programs and policies fit together in a single, overarching strategy that will move this economy from recession to recovery and ultimately to prosperity.

So today, I want to step back for a moment and explain our strategy as clearly as I can. I want to talk about what we’ve done, why we’ve done it, and what we have left to do. I want to update you on the progress we’ve made, and be honest about the pitfalls that may lie ahead.

And most of all, I want every American to know that each action we take and each policy we pursue is driven by a larger vision of America’s future – a future where sustained economic growth creates good jobs and rising incomes; a future where prosperity is fueled not by excessive debt, reckless speculation, and fleeing profit, but is instead built by skilled, productive workers; by sound investments that will spread opportunity at home and allow this nation to lead the world in the technologies, innovations, and discoveries that will shape the 21st century. That is the America I see. That is the future I know we can have.

To understand how we get there, we first need to understand how we got here.

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US to lift federal embryonic stem cell funding ban?

Welcome news from Reuters: the White House has announced that the US President is to sign an executive order on Monday on the subject of stem cell research.

In view of Mr Obama’s stated opinions on the matter, most sources are speculating that he is to lift the federal ban on funding of embryonic stem cell research on new lines, which was imposed by President George W. Bush.

On this assumption, Bloomberg reports that scientists and health advocates are excited and predicting that the action will accelerate the pace of essential medical research.

I’d prefer to wait until Monday before I start celebrating, but the ban on funding is an international disgrace and it is imperative that it be lifted, and obviously the Obama administration is painfully aware of the years wasted by the previous science-hating administration.

Getting an error fixed on the main page of Conservapedia

Conservapedia is an alternative to Wikipedia set up by conservative educator and activist Andrew Schlafly in late 2006, after Schlafly experienced difficulties editing Wikipedia from a conservative viewpoint.  Schlafly says Wikipedia is full of errors (I agree) and that it censors the conservative viewpoint.  A few weeks ago I had some interactions with the Conservapedia administrators, summarized here, after an inflammatory article was placed into Conservapedia by a vandal or parodist.

Like Wikipedia, Conservapedia has a main page that introduces the encyclopedia.  Like Wikipedia, Conservapedia carries news on its front page.  Like Wikipedia, Conservapedia protects the main page content, meaning that you need special privileges to edit it.

How does Conservapedia handle serious errors of fact?  There has been some talk in the news media about Conservapedia’s authoritarian and heavy-handed spproach to those who disagree with the opinions of Andrew Schlafly, but how does Conservapedia handle a simple error of fact?

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Obama, McCain and the “shy conservatives”

The comfortable leads for Obama/Biden recorded by every national poll in the 2008 election in the past month could be giving a misleading view of the intentions of the voters, for a variety of reasons. Continue reading

Catholics tackle the abortion issue

Roman Catholics form a large proportion of voters in the United States, around 25 per cent.  They’ve seldom been considered a particularly monolithic voting block, however.  A report in the Washington Post on October 8, 2008, highlights a new poll that examines the attitudes of older and younger Catholics to traditional Catholic hot buttons associated with the so-called “culture wars”,

The teaching of the Roman Catholic church on contraception and abortion is particularly draconian: they are both forbidden, and in this election the American church hierarchy has gone out of its way to discourage any Catholic from voting Democrat because of the Democrat “pro-choice” policies on abortion.

But attitudes towards abortion in the Catholic church are changing, if the opinions of younger Catholics in a poll from Public Religion Research is correct.  Half of all Catholics disagree with their church and say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.  In younger Catholics (18-34) this rises to 60 per cent.

This comes at a time when, according to a report released by Pew Forums, most Americans are becoming wary of church involvement in politics.

Another factor of interest is the recent intellectual dissent within conservative Catholicism itself, when Douglas Kmiec, a well respected conservative legal scholar, endorsed Obama for the Presidency. Elsewhere, Kmiec argues that the battle to ban abortion has been lost, but Obama’s health policies will lead to a reduction in abortions. This hasn’t made him popular with the Catholic clergy, but there is clear evidence that the laity have become practised at such nuanced judgements for some time, despite the single-issue exhortations of the bishops.

Away from the soundbites and the headlines and the simplistic “child-murder” slogans of the anti-abortionist core, Catholics continue to exercise their judgement in balancing issues of faith with more practical matters of how the world’s most powerful republic is to be governed.  Each new generation is more liberal than the last.

Credit where it’s due: John McCain has consistently advocated for embryonic stem cell research has reported on a grossly inaccurate claim by the Obama campaign the Mr Obama’s Republican opponent in the Presidential election, 2008, has “has stood in the way–he’s opposed stem cell research.”  In fact, McCain has consistently supported moves in the Senata to provide funding for embryonic stem cell research.

McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, has said that she opposes embryonic stem cell research where there are alternatives such as adult stem cells.  Their party calls for a blanket ban on the embryonic stem cell research, going considerably further than the Bush government.

Very straightforward: Obama’s responses to Nature on an evolution and stem cell questions

PZ Myers reports on Nature’s election 2008 edition,  He is understandably very proud of Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s response to a question on evolution:

I believe in evolution, and I support the strong consensus of the scientific community that evolution is scientifically validated. I do not believe it is helpful to our students to cloud discussions of science with non-scientific theories like intelligent design that are not subject to experimental scrutiny.

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