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Bush Pledges $3.4 Billion for Research into Pulley, Inclined Plane
February 6, 2003
By David Albrecht

WASHINGTON - "In his State of the Union Address, President Bush issued a call for massively increased federal funding into research on two of the six simple machines first described by the Greek scientist Archimedes and other ancient scholars.

"I also want to propose increasing funding for science important to our national security," Bush said last Tuesday night. "It is vital that America, in this time of trial and war, not abandon critical high-tech research. To that end, I am proposing devoting $3.4 billion over the next ten years to fully developing and deploying two key technologies - the pulley and the inclined plane. This will decrease our dependency on imported simple machines, and will strengthen our industrial base, while creating thousands of good jobs."

The president stressed that these technologies were long-term solutions to problems of mass, motion and inertia, and would not be available immediately. But there was no mistaking his enthusiasm for their potential. "These environmentally friendly technologies offer America opportunities that we must not miss. A child born today could someday drive their SUV up a ramp - a ramp - into a parking garage! And that same child could use a simple assembly of ropes and wheels to remove the engine from that SUV - if they had to! The only byproduct would be a little sweat."

The president also proposed substantial tax breaks for individuals and small businesses investing in these new technologies.

Some critics have charged in recent years that the Bush administration has been hostile to basic scientific research. The past two years have seen substantial cuts or flat funding for the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health. Others believe that the president has stacked government advisory panels with political supporters of his administration, rather than with the best-qualified scientists available.

But Tuesday's announcement has, to some degree, stolen the thunder of Bush's critics. "It's a brilliant political move," said NPR political correspondent Cokie Roberts. "He's taken the charge that he's anti-science and anti-environment and turned it to his own advantage." Roberts then hurriedly excused herself from the House chamber, stating that she had "soiled herself" in her excitement at being in the same room as the president.

The initial congressional response was heartening, as members of both parties leaped to their feet and applauded the plan. After the speech, Republicans were generally enthusiastic, Democrats somewhat more guarded. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn). praised the Bush proposal: "This is a long-term, visionary concept, and I think it's a big step in the right direction. Someday, I hope to be able to walk into any hardware store and buy a pulley to pick up heavy things."

Others were less sanguine about the potential costs and ultimate prospects of the Bush proposal. Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harkin questioned whether this was nothing more than a pork-barrel giveaway to industry. "Besides," Harkin said, "this is really nothing new. We've already heard a lot of talk about fuel cells, which have been around since the 1960s, and we've heard a lot of talk about hybrid cars, which were first built about 100 years ago. Now the president is talking about pulleys and inclined planes. Why is his discovery of these ancient concepts suddenly significant?"

Harkin, however, had to hastily break off his remarks in the face of a Congressional Taunting. The senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee was taunted by Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe (R) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who together described him as "un-American", "unpatriotic", "liar, liar, pants on fire" and "Ol' Poopy-Butt Harkin". Inhofe then challenged Harkin to a duel.

The duel, initially scheduled for dawn on February 9th on the steps of the Capitol Building, has been tentatively rescheduled for dawn on February 20th, once hearings on the pending Energy Bill are completed. The duel will be fought with Senator Inhofe's favorite weapons, primitive hand-axes made of flint.

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