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.

Plastic Bags at Sea

Danny Westneat at the Seattle Times writes that plastic bags are a tiny fraction of sea trash.

Although the mayor’s press release on the proposed plastic bag fees notes that plastic bags are particularly harmful to marine life as compared with paper bags, the big push is because the bags take up 4% of our landfill.

In other words, Westneat is building up a nice straw man and then knocking it down. It seems like the Seattle Times really doesn’t like the proposed fees. They’ve charged the fees will hurt the poor, and now this. It won’t hurt the poor. The city will be giving out free re-usable bags. The charge will get people to change their behavior. Because of that, they will not be paying this fee enough to hurt them. People respond to economic incentives. This is a conservative way to address a problem. It uses the market and the laws of supply and demand to achieve a needed end.

So get smarter, Seattle Times.

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.

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.