A Few Quick Takes on Obama’s State of the Union Address

President Barack Obama, official portrait

President Obama gave his annual State of the Union Address tonight.

There were no surprises in the speech. Most of what the President said has been in the news for a long time now. In fact, several of his major proposals, such as gun control, have been the subject of presidential speeches or press conferences in the past few weeks.

I agree with some of his ideas and disagree with others. Quite a bit of the speech was filler of one sort or the other, either introducing people who the president felt would exemplify the need for his proposals, or in just illustrating and explaining what he wanted.

I’ve attempted to boil it down to a few quick takes to make it easier to see where he wants to take the country. We’ve already discussed several of these proposals quite a bit here on Public Catholic. I expect that we will go over some of them in even greater depth in the future.

In the meantime, here are my quick takes on the President’s speech. If you think I left out something important, feel free to bring it up in the comments section.

Jobs, Taxes and Wages

1. … we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful … we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.

2. I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children.

3. Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families.

4. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.

The Deficit, Health Care & Energy

1. Reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.

2. Save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected. 

3. My Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water

Climate Change

1. We must do more to combat climate change. 

2. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.

Home Ownership

Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Take a vote, and send me that bill.

Education

1. Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. 

2. I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.

Immigration

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.

al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Cyber Terrorism

1. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

2. Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.

3. America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.

International Trade Agreements 

1. We intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership.

2. We will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union.

The Military and Defense Spending

1. We will maintain the best military in the world.

2. We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight.

3. We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat.

Long Voting Lines

When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. 

Gun Control 

1. Background checks

2. New laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.

3. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets.

Robert Ballard Claims He’s Found Evidence for Noah’s Flood

The guy who found the Titanic wants to find Noah’s flood.

Stories about Robert Ballard’s search for proof of the Biblical flood that put Noah in his ark were all the rage back in early December.

I ignored them then because I had other things on my mind. The reason I got interested now is that I’ve just finished reading the Noah and his flood story in the Bible.

I try to read through the Bible on a regular basis. I’ve looked at those “read through the Bible” reading schedules that you find on various websites and even in the backs of some Bibles themselves. But that is way too complicated for me.

I usually pick up a Bible and just start reading at the first and keep going until I read “May the spirit of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.” I change the translation almost every time I read. I find it interesting to compare the way the different translations handle the text. This year, I’m reading one of those one year Bibles called My Daily Catholic Bible.

I read about Sodom and Gomorrah last night, and a few days before that, I re-read the story of Noah and his ark. That made Robert Ballard’s new quest to find the flood swim into focus for me.

Mr Ballard theorizes that the flood resulted from a confluence of events. The main event he points to is the sudden release of huge amounts of water when the ice melted at the end of the last ice age.

It’s difficult for us today to imagine what the world was like during the ice age. Huge parts of what we now know as temperate areas were under hundreds of feet of ice. The way things usually happen in nature is that there is a trickle and then a gush and finally things just give way suddenly in a flood or an explosion or a collapse. Fires smolder, volcanoes smoke and floods send off rivulets. Then, they burst through in a conflagration or flood.

Mr Ballard is basing his flood theory on this kind of sudden giving away, coupled with topography that led to a huge rise of waters in one area of the world. This was a flood where, in his words, “the waters came up and stayed up.”

He thinks he’s found such an area. He’s used underwater exploration to find a lost civilization from that time which he says underscores his theory.

It’s a tantalizing idea.

Is he right?

All I can say is that Robert Ballard’s track record requires us to consider what he says and think about it. He’s done the undoable and found the unfindable too many times to ignore him out of hand.

An ABC News article about Robert Ballard’s search for Noah’s flood reads in part:

Evidence Noah’s Biblical Flood

Happened,Says Robert Ballard

This ark, located an hour south of Amsterdam, is a replica of Noah’s Biblical boat. Underwater archaeologist Robert Ballard is in Turkey, looking for evidence that the Great Flood happened. (ABC News)

ABC News By JENNA MILLMAN, BRYAN TAYLOR and LAUREN EFFRON (@LEffron831)

The story of Noah’s Ark and the Great Flood is one of the most famous from the Bible, and now an acclaimed underwater archaeologist thinks he has found proof that the biblical flood was actually based on real events.

In an interview with Christiane Amanpour for ABC News, Robert Ballard, one of the world’s best-known underwater archaeologists, talked about his findings. His team is probing the depths of the Black Sea off the coast of Turkey in search of traces of an ancient civilization hidden underwater since the time of Noah.

Ballard’s track record for finding the impossible is well known. In 1985, using a robotic submersible equipped with remote-controlled cameras, Ballard and his crew hunted down the world’s most famous shipwreck, the Titanic.

Now Ballard is using even more advanced robotic technology to travel farther back in time. He is on a marine archeological mission that might support the story of Noah. He said some 12,000 years ago, much of the world was covered in ice.

“Where I live in Connecticut was ice a mile above my house, all the way back to the North Pole, about 15 million kilometers, that’s a big ice cube,” he said. “But then it started to melt. We’re talking about the floods of our living history.”

The water from the melting glaciers began to rush toward the world’s oceans, Ballard said, causing floods all around the world.

“The questions is, was there a mother of all floods,” Ballard said.

(Read more here.)


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