President and Vice President of the United States

In Washington, the choices on the ballot are the following:

  • Barack Obama and Joe Biden – Democratic Party Nominees
  • John McCain and Sarah Palin – Republican Party Nominees
  • Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez – Independent Candidates
  • Gloria La Riva and Eugene Puryear – Socialism and Liberation Party Nominees
  • James E. Harris and Alyson Kennedy – Socialist Workers Party Nominees
  • Bob Barr and Warne A. Root – Libertarian Party Nominees
  • Chuck Baldwin and Darrell L. Castle – Constitution Party Nominees
  • Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clementa – Green Party Nominees

Normally I am pro-Nader all the way. I am one of those people who voted for him in 2000 (Washington went for Gore though). The reason I am pro-Nader is that he advocates significant reforms of the kind I approve. Namely, reforming our corporate system. It’s not that I think corporations have too much power, though they do. It’s not the money. It’s that corporations are entities unto themselves. They are accountable to no one, not even their own shareholders. If they aren’t accountable to their own owners, then they aren’t going to be accountable to the public at large. I don’t think a corporation need operate in the public interest. But if government cannot restrain them then they are anti-democratic. I also agree with Nader on pretty much every other issue out there.

Why am I not voting for him this year? In the 2004 election his campaign used massive signature fraud to get him on the ballot in Pennsylvania. Did Nader direct it? I doubt it. Did he know about it? I doubt it. But he is accountable for his organization. If he can’t get a campaign organization to follow the law, I don’t trust his ability to run the federal government. Even if I agree with all his policy choices.

La Riva and Harris advocate anti-market policies and are woefully short of executive experience. Selecting Palin was a bad idea for McCain. Puryear couldn’t get elected dog-catcher.

While I am somewhat sympathetic to Libertarian philosophy, I generally don’t like how its advocates intend to implement their program. I also tend to dislike the Libertarian fuck ’em attitude. There are ways to promote equality that have only limited effect on freedom. Libertarians generally equate freedom with equality, and it just ain’t so. In addition to all that, they decided this year to nominate Bob fucking Barr, the scourge of Bill Clinton. Throughout the 90s, Barr put his nose into other people’s bedrooms, and pursued the impeachment case against Bill Clinton under a complete pretense. It’s only been recently that he’s converted to the Libertarian cause. I’m suspicious of it. I think it’s just a way to get back in to the spotlight. (Yes, I know I shouldn’t attribute motives to politicians.)

Consitution Party, ultra right wing fucknuts. Not overtly racist at least. Believe in a rigid constitution. Nope.

Cynthia McKinney and the Green Party. I’m also generally sympathetic to the Green Party, though usually their policy proscriptions are way too hand-wavey magic happens here things. McKinney herself… my impression of her isn’t positive. More of a speecher than a doer. Her VP nominee lists as a qualification helped form and coordinate the first ever National Hip Hop Political Convention (drawing 3000 attendees). Seriously? There are thousands of people who have organized far larger conventions and gatherings, and they don’t even need to use weasel words like helped and coordinate. No.

Which brings me to the two main nominees:

First, John McCain. The man’s policy prescriptions for the most part are a disaster. Health care? Ugh. Environment? Ugh. Energy? Drill? Seriously? Then there are the things he used to be for but which he dropped to appeal to the right wing of his party: torture, taxes, etc. And then… there’s his constant use of sliming tactics: Obama hangs out with terrorists, Obama was for teaching sex to kids, etc. As Brad Delong constantly writes: dishonest and dishonorable.

Lastly, Barack Obama. I like him. A lot. I wish he was more anti-corporate. And he’s sometimes too much of a incite the fear kind of guy with regard to Israel and Iran. But I think he’ll quickly get us out of Iraq, a war that I think was just but badly prosecuted and ill-timed. He’ll shut down Guantanamo and stop the government culture of secrecy. He’ll work better with our allies. He’ll have Gore to help us on the environment. He’ll get a solid (though it could be much better) health care system in place. He’s pro-urban centers. Rural is just fine, but it doesn’t deserve the accolades and bulk of attention that Republicans give it. He’ll do more for transportation. He’s solid on gay rights except for marriage equality. All in all a really good candidate.

My vote is for Barack Obama.

Bowing out

This spring, I ran out of time before the Washington State Presidential caucuses before I could compare and post on Barack Obama vs. Hillary Clinton. I don’t intend to let that happen with the general election. I have five months to compare and contrast John McCain and Barack Obama. It’s slightly different in this case, in that I already know which one of them I prefer. However, it’s still useful to go through the exercise. So starting soon watch for posts on the issues.

But one last comment on the primary campaign. I’ve seen a lot of hate for Hillary Clinton that just doesn’t make sense. I’ve seen one or two people who have legitimate, if not well-thought-out, beefs with her. But mostly it’s people looking for reasons to hate her. The hopefully last one was the brouhaha over whether she should have conceded on Tuesday night immediately after the last two primaries.

My commentary is the same as Bob Somerby’s at The Haily Howler:

Some people wanted a concession on Tuesday. That’s fine, but historically, people don’t do that. By the way: It would be weird to spend all day Tuesday asking people to vote for you—then to show up at 8:30 PM and say, “I’m out of here—please vote for the other guy.” Whatever you think of Clinton’s speech, it would be somewhat odd to endorse on the night you ran in two primaries, trying to win. Historically, people don’t do that.

So I repeat, a lot of the anti-Hillary Clinton invective is really just that much bullshit.

Clinton vs. Obama: Iraq

When the war in Iraq started, I wasn’t particularly for it or against it. I questioned the need to rush into it, but I do believe that some credible threat would have been needed to force Saddam Husein from power. Eventually. But I do think that the Bush administration rushed into it, and botched the war badly. I’ve read of proposals by Hussein to step down which were discarded. Paul Bremer’s initial management of Iraq pretty much blew it and put us behind the 8-ball for the rest of our engagement.

Obama opposed the war from the start. Clinton voted to authorize it, but wasn’t exactly for it. My views at the time match more closely with Clinton’s, though it’s a stretch to say we agreed. I would not have voted to authorize were I a senator. But I wasn’t exactly against the war either. In retrospect though, despite not agreeing with Obama’s position that we should never go there, his position would have kept us out of this mess.

Both Clinton and Obama want to remove our troops quickly, and in a staged fashion. Obama would keep forces nearby for counter-terrorism. Clinton has said forces might be left in the country for counter-terrorism.

On how to resolve the crisis there, Clinton would convene a group of our allies to propose a solution. Obama would call a convention involving the United Nations to work out a political solution to things like an oil law. Clinton’s plan seems a bit fuzzier on it’s goals, and a little too expansive on its participation.

Overall, the nod on Iraq goes to Obama for me.

Obama vs. Clinton: Immigration

This one should be interesting. I’m not nearly so liberal on the topic as I am in other areas.

Pointing liberal, I am for sanctuary cities, providing services irrespective of immigration status (mostly, see next paragraph) such as fire departments, courts, child health care, schools, etc., and giving driver’s licenses to everyone who passes the tests. I am against English-only laws. In other words, I am liberal on the aspects of immigration that concern human rights.

Pointing conservative, I am against amnesty, against guest-worker programs, and for reducing H1-B visas. In addition, I am philosophically against “green cards” or permanent resident alien status. If folks are coming here to live permanently, they should be here on a citizenship track. Illegal immigrants should not receive welfare or unemployment benefits. In short, I am generally conservative with regard to the economic issues of immigration.

Pointing neither way, I am ambivalent on a border wall/fence. And I am for measured immigration as well as additional funding for the INS (or whatever it’s called today) for processing and handling immigration applications.

On human rights issues of immigration, Obama supports drivers licenses for immigrants, is against English-only and has a muddled position on sanctuary cities. Clinton is against rivers licenses, but matches up with Obama in other respects.

On to economic aspects of immigration. Both are for increasing H1-B visas. Both are for a guest worker program. Both are for crackdowns on employers (not the immigrants themselves) who exploit undocumented workers, though I’m not sure where that leaves them on employers who don’t exploit.

Overall, mostly a wash, with a slight nod to Obama.

Sources for this are: Barack Obama on Immigration, Hillary Clinton on Immigration, Barack Obama’s web site on immigration, and Hilary Clinton’s web site on immigration.

Clinton vs. Obama: Health Care

Both Clinton and Obama are proposing making changes in how we pay for health care. I’d love to see single-payer, but we aren’t going to get that.

The best piece of information I know of regarding their two plans is a blog entry by Paul Krugman. Both candidates propose subsidizing health insurance. Clinton would force people to sign up for insurance, though how people would be forced is not clear. Obama would not. While it is bad for freedom to force people to get health insurance, economically speaking there’s a free rider problem if you don’t. Only sick people would get insurance. Insurance costs would be way up there. Basically, mandated insurance is a tax. Without the tax, it falls apart.

One other big health care issue that I care about is stem cell research. My mother has fairly advanced ALS. She will likely die before stem cells cures could do anything for her. She also is probably against opening up funding for stem cells, as many stem cell lines are the results of abortions. I, however, am strongly in support of opening up stem cell research. I’d hate for anyone to go through my mother’s illness unnecessarily.

Both Clinton and Obama are strongly for opening up stem cell research beyond the limits imposed by the Bush administration.

One thing that has driven up health care costs is the high prices of drugs, imposed through patent monopolies. Dean Baker has proposed that we fund drug innovation differently, rather than through monopolies. I don’t know if that would work well or not, but no candidate will get on board that right now. However, we could import drugs from Canada. We could also allow medicare to negotiate drug prices, which they are currently forbidden from doing.

Both Obama and Clinton have supported these ideas.

Advantage: Clinton.

Obama vs. Clinton: Technology

Net neutrality is the term used to describe a policy where internet service providers and backbone providers may not discriminate based on content. They could charge based on volume, on bandwidth, on service levels, etc, but not on content. In addition, I’d love to see the networks opened up. For along time, DSL was governed by common carrier laws, meaning that they had to lease their lines at wholesale rates. Cable is not a common carrier, and so you could be forced to get bundled services if your internet access came that way. I don’t know the current status of DSL as a common carrier, but I know that the Bush dominated FCC isn’t fond of it. Common carrier status increases broadband use because it puts lots of smaller companies into competition. The wire-line provider doesn’t get to recoup it’s investment by bundling services, it has to charge for the connection on it’s own, essentially. It reduces the barriers to entry for their competitors.

According to C|Net’s technology voter’s guide, both Clinton and Obama support strong Net Neutrality legislation. Neither of them have said anything about common carrier status for DSL or cable. Clinton supports tax incentives to increase broadband use. Obama wants to use the Universal Service Fund to expand broadband.

In the early 1990s, the U.S. opened up patents to software. It’s not a bad idea, in and of itself. If it takes a lot of money to create some sort of new software technology, it makes sense to let the innovator have exclusive use of their invention for a period of years. The problem is that there really isn’t a lot in software that requires patent protection in order to get people to invent the software. If there are 10 companies that are fighting for it anyway, it doesn’t make sense to give the first one just over the filing line the ability to keep anyone else from using the technology for 17 years. On top of that, the Patent office does not have the ability to screen out bad patents in software. Hence, we get patent trolls: companies that get bogus patents for simple easy technology and use legal means to extract rents (look out, economic term) from others.

Obama supports reforming the Patent Office at least, though his web site doesn’t mention changing the patent law for software. Hillary Clinton does not mention patent reform on her site that I can find.

Copyright reform. One of the things that has hurt internet use is the concept of contributory negligence in copyrights. This is what allows record companies to shut down file sharing networks. Rather than sue thousands of users and hundreds of companies, there are other possible solutions that still encourage creativity. For instance, radio can play any song. And when you buy digital tapes (not that anyone does) a small piece of the price you pay goes to record companies to offset possible copying. File sharing applications and networks could charge similarly.

Neither candidate seems to have much of a position on reforming the DMCA or copyright.

Overall, slight advantage to Obama.

Clinton vs. Obama: Iran

This one should be a short comparison. Both Clinton and Obama have been vociferous in their criticism of the Iraq war. However, when it comes to something that may get us into another war, neither of them seem to have a clue.

For a number of years, the Bush administration has hyped a supposed threat of nuclear proportions from Iran. Namely that Iran is actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons with which to attack us. I’m highly skeptical. First, even if they obtain nuclear weapons, I suspect that Iran will turn out something like Pakistan, smart enough not to use them. But beyond that, I haven’t seen any evidence from groups in which I put any stock.

Nevertheless, both Clinton and Obama have used language such as every option should be on the table. I’m very worried that we make it into us vs. them by implying we might use force. This unites Iranians against us, rather than provides support for moderates. Instead, it turns moderates into militants.

Again, a wash between the two candidates.

Obama vs. Clinton: Education

Well, Super-Tuesday did not resolve the Democratic nomination. Saturday is the Democratic caucuses here in Washington State, so I better bone up on my candidates quick.

First up, education. This isn’t a pushed issue by either candidate. Here’s Hillary Clinton’s education page, and here’s Barack Obama’s education page.

Despite being a liberal, I generally like the idea of charter schools, at least in a limited fashion. Neither addresses the issue. Tha’s too bad.

Standardized testing. It’s accept dogma in liberal circles that standardized testing should be limited. Obama subscribes to this view: Obama believes teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests. Clinton doesn’t say anything on the subject. Neither candidate gets good marks from me.

Recruiting teachers. One of the things I’ve seen in the one Seattle high school I’ve been too is that some of the teachers just seem to be filling space. The best and brightest are going to other fields. Obama wants to give some incentives to go into teaching. Not sure if those incentives will do much though, since they are limited to paying off school debts. Clinton’s approach is more vague, but something along the same lines. I don’t really see this approach as sufficient. Not sure what is though.

Both want to expand access to college, but again I don’t think the problem is there. I think the biggest problem is from middle school through high school.

One approach that I think has promise that hasn’t been tested out enough is simply paying students and families to get better grades. Kids don’t really have the best judgment comparing short term fun vs. long term advancement. School is a drag. I know it was for me. $100 for every A, $25 for every passed class, something like that. Give it directly to the students. Perhaps limit it to low-performing high schools. Sure, not fair to students in other high schools, but that gives them an incentive to move to those high schools. And I’m a believer that having a culture of success around you helps. Anyway, no points to either camp for not talking about this.

End result: a wash. Ah well.