Monthly Archives: March 2008

Some Props for Hillary

On leap day, Hillary Clinton did something I do not believe either McCain or Obama has done since they started their run for President:  she introduced legislation into the Senate.  And not some bill to commemorate the architect of a bridge, but real legislation that would have a concrete and meaningful impact.

This legislation, tilted “United Nations Population Fund Restoration Act of 2008” would restore U.S. funding to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).  Evidently (according to Clinton) funding was cut off by the Bush administration after they claimed that the organization used funds to promote abortions in China, something which a committee enacted by the White House itself to research the claims determined was untrue.

This is not a bill without controversy, either.  Even though the bill is really intended to provide health care to protect mothers from reproductive-system illnesses and the medical dangers accompanying having children, it will have some trouble passing into law because it allows American money to be used to provide contraceptives in areas where they are not currently available.  It’s a relatively minor part of the bill, but there are enough people in Congress who won’t vote for spending money on any birth control measure that doesn’t begin and end with abstinence that it will be a battle to get through.  So it’s not like it’s a safe, watered-down, “gimme” bill that is often used for political gain in Washington. 

Now, I have positive and negative opinions on it, and I have strong opinions on the effect global poverty has on the issue of maternal health and I could write pages upon pages putting this topic into a broader context.  But I didn’t write this post to discuss the measure.

The real point of this post was to give Hillary some credit for proposing meaningful legislation at a time when she’s running for President.  There is not much, if any, talk of this bill in the press.  And it’s not because the press is ignoring it.  Hillary has not talked about it.  I looked for information regarding the bill on her website.  It’s not located prominently anywhere.  There is a press release about it on her website, which I only know because it came up during a Google speech; it’s not listed on her “Press Releases” page.  She has four speeches posted on her site since she introduced the legislation, and it was not mentioned once in any of them.  I would bet most Hillary supporters don’t even know about it.

To be honest, I’ve never wanted a Hillary Presidency.  I always wanted a woman from the Clinton White House to be President; I was just hoping it would be Janet Reno.  And this isn’t an Obama thing, by the way; I didn’t like her well before I even heard of the guy.  (She didn’t do any favors ditching my Cubbies for the Yankees to win a Senate seat.  Talk about selling out.  I mean, the Mets maybe, but the Yankees??  Tsk, tsk.)  But the more I thought about this, the more I felt compelled to commend her.  Hillary Clinton, despite being enthroned in a battle for the White House, is taking time to introduce real “meat and potatoes” legislation.  And even though this could be a popular move among her base during a primary she’s losing with time running out, she’s not using it as a way to rally voters.  She seems to be doing this because she thinks it’s the right thing to do.  Which isn’t always the smartest thing to do in politics, but it is refreshing.



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Grasping at Straws

So let me get this straight.  When the focus of the national press was erroneous comments Barack Obama’s minister made, you could take the high road and say you didn’t have a comment about it and this shouldn’t be a central issue, but almost two weeks later when everybody’s talking about your “misstatements” now you want to bring it up?

Give me a break.

Oh, I love this Hillary quote:  “(Obama releasing his income taxes) is a good first step. Now he should release his records from being in the state senate and any other information that the public and the press need to know from his experience, because I think that, you know, we should continue to make available the information that we have.”

So is that why you haven’t released your income tax records?  Or why you haven’t released documents related to financing of the Clinton Library or the Clinton Foundation?  Or why you wouldn’t release records of your time as First Lady until a Freedom of Information Act law suit? 

Now Bill Clinton is saying that Obama wants to “disenfranchise” Michigan and Floridian voters because he knows Clinton will win them.  Want to guess how many votes Obama cast in favor of not allowing early states to be seated?  How about the total number of votes Obama cast to move up the primaries?  I’ll give you a hint; it’s the total number of votes Obama cast when both states decided not to revote.

The answer to all three, in case you’re delusional enough to actually believe Obama somehow had an active part in the “disenfranchment” of the two states, is zero.  But the logic is classic Clinton:  “Everybody would know how much voters in each state love Hillary if they stopped allowing Obama to block the vote.”

I really hope at some point in the future the Clintons at least act like they respect my intelligence.


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Hillary is Prepared to Be Commander-in-Chief. Oops! I Mispoke.

Hillary Clinton likes to talk about how the military thinks she’s the most capable to be Commander-in-Chief.  Now her campaign is being compared by a former Air Force Chief-of-Staff to one of America’s most famous defenders of homeland security:  Joe McCarthy.

USAF General Tony McPeak said Bill Clinton made comments which brought Joe McCarthy to mind when he questioned Obama’s loyalty to the country because . . .  well, Bill Clinton didn’t really say why.

Here’s his quote:  “I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country. And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics.”

What “other stuff” would that be Bill?  Stuff like the immediately preceding sentence, perhaps??  To imply that Obama somehow isn’t as loving or devoted to the US and then immediately say that Obama’s candidacy would distract people from the issues isn’t just asinine, it’s completely mind-blowing.  Thanks for making the Republicans look just a tad more right about you, Sir William.

Though I must say, I would rather be called Joe McCarthy by an USAF General than called Judas by James Carville.

Of course, Bill Clinton isn’t the issue here.  Hillary Clinton is.  And nobody can deny that she is more than capable to be Commander-in-Chief.  After all, she did things like, oh, I don’t know, visiting Bosnia when it was too dangerous for Bill Clinton to do so.

Hillary Clinton made her case for being Commander-in-Chief when she said “I certainly do remember [emphasis added] that trip to Bosnia, and as Togo said, there was a saying around the White House that if a place was too small, too poor, or too dangerous, the president couldn’t go, so send the First Lady. That’s where we went.  I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”  Sounds pretty scary.  Anybody with those kind of credentials should be a shoe-in for the White House.  Well, almost anybody.  There was just one simple problem with her story.

Other people were there.  Like Sinbad.  And Cheryl Crow.  And reporters.

Turns out her landing was nothing like that at all.  They didn’t land under sniper fire.  They didn’t cancel the greeting ceremony.  They didn’t run to their heads down to get into their vehicles.  In fact, the place was so dangerous, her and her daughter listened to a poem by an eight year-old girl.

Now, I’m fully aware that listening to poems by children can be pretty scary.  And I personally twinge a bit when I hear Cheryl Crow.  And sometimes when I hear Sinbad I laugh so much I think I’m going to die.  So I can see why she remembers things being a little tough.  So I would almost buy her story that “I went to 80 countries . . . if I said something that, you know, I say a lot of things — millions of words a day — so if I misspoke, that was just a misstatement.”  Except she “misspoke” while reading a prepared speech.  After the speech, she was asked about it again, to which she said “Everyone else was told to sit on their bulletproof vests.  And we came in, in an evasive maneuver. … There was no greeting ceremony, and we basically were told to run to our cars. Now, that is what happened.”  So this doesn’t really seem to be a “memory” problem.  It seems to be a lying problem.  And when I say “seems to be” I mean “is” and when I say “lying problem” I mean her nose just knocked the glass of whiskey off the table.  (By the way, it’s virtually impossible to say “millions of words a day.”  Assuming that “millions” means at least one million and one, she would have to say 11.5 words per second for all twenty four hours of the day without stopping for a drink of water.  So she’s not only a liar, but very bad at math.  But maybe I’m nitpicking . . .)

“I say a lot of things.”  Isn’t that what you usually hear from someone who just reneged on a deal?

When she amended her comments, she said that they had a meeting planned on the tarmac, but had to cancel that, though there was a girl reading a poem that she couldn’t ignore.  Oh, that and the dozens of military personnel she was moseying by shaking hands.

The thing is, people usually don’t forget running from sniper fire.  And they usually don’t forget trips with Cheryl Crow.  And I certainly don’t think someone prepared to be Commander-in-Chief would confuse running from sniper fire with traveling with Cheryl Crow.

No wonder the Clintons don’t think words matter.  They can’t seem to get them right.

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The Starting Rotation and Tampering with Briggs

Well, in case you noticed (and you probably didn’t) I completely blew it.  My prediction was dead wrong.  Entirely incorrect.  Not even remotely accurate.  That’s right; my preseason pick for the final two starting spots was bad.

I said Lieber and Marshall would get the spots, Dempster would end up in the bullpen, and Marquis would be out the door.  Dempster and Marquis won the two positions.  Oops.

So the rotation is Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, Rich Hill, and Jason Marquis.  Not too shabby.  Of course, Rich Hill is really the number 3 starter, but he’s going to pitch in the fourth spot to separate the two lefties.  That’s smart.

And there are options in case this whole thing goes awry.  Lieber is going to be the long man in the bullpen, and I’m sure the Cubs will hold on to him.  And Sean Marshall didn’t have a bad spring, 3.65 ERA with 9 Ks and 6 walks in 12 innings, so he could be a good call-up (or trade bait) later on.  And that’s good, because I’m still not sold on Marquis and Dempster hasn’t pitched 100 innings since 2003 and hasn’t pitched 200 innings since (gulp!) 2000.  That’s a shoulder injury waiting to happen.

In all, I’m happy that Dempster’s getting the chance to start, and Marquis has had a great spring, so things are looking good for the Cubbies’ front five.  And Wood is going to close, so at least I got that one right.

Finally, da Bears may have had a rough year, but at least they did better than the 49ers.  Turns out they tried to illegally sign Lance Briggs by talking to him before he was a free agent.  This is going to cost them a fifth round pick, and they have to swap third round picks with the Bears.

What’s worse than getting caught engaging in illegal conversations with a free-agent target?  Not being able to sign him once he hits the market.  Ouch.  That’s like getting a penalty for holding the guy who sacks the quarterback.  At that point, you just can’t do anything right.

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Obama’s Race Speech and What the Future Has in Store for Him


Reverend Wright changed everything.  Just not in the way one might expect.

I know some people are saying his defamatory comments are going to spell the end of Obama.  Some people are saying it’s going to make him “unelectable.”  Give me a break.  Something like this is always going to be the end of some candidate.  It never is.  The John McCain – Vicki Iseman scandal was going to kill McCain’s electability.  When was the last time you heard of that on the news?  Voters have notoriously short memories (which is usually a bad thing), and I don’t think anybody’s going to use what his pastor said six and a half years ago to decide their vote’s going in the McCain column.  There might be some people who are going to vote for Hillary instead of Obama due to this, but I seriously doubt it’s going to be some huge wave of support over to her side.

If you make the argument the nomination is tied now, it might make a difference.  I don’t think that’s an accurate argument; I think Obama has to really blow this, and this isn’t going to do it by itself.

These remarks aren’t even new news.  Reverend Wright is not a new figure in politics; he helped organize the Million Man March so his name’s been out there for well over a decade now.  It’s hard to figure out why it has just now been blown up.  The nearest I can figure is right before this happened the New York Times ran a story about how Obama rescinded his invite to Wright to give a speech at his nomination announcement due to remarks he had made in the past.  This probably got some reporter wondering about what comments he made, and then everybody was off to the presses.

At any rate, it’s probably better for Obama that it happened now than eight months ago, because he certainly has much more weight and can absorb something like this much more easily now.

But though I think this will blow over, and probably much more quickly than most suspect, it did change something in a very substantial way.  As a white man, I hate to say it so bluntly, but I think it’s most succinct. Barack Obama became black today.

A lot has been made of race in this election, but it hasn’t really been about race, too.  One thing that amazes me is that everybody just accepts the fact that he’s a mixed child; his father was black but his mother is white.  Even ten or fifteen years ago people might have held hope that a black man could be President, but certainly not a mixed man.  They were the “bastards of the bastards” in the American public’s eye.  Disdain for them was far more over-reaching than disdain for the average black person.  I remember.  If you were black you could be accepted in school; if you were mixed you could not.  And now it’s not even mentioned.  I think that’s an incredible sign of the progress we’ve made.

Obama was also considered to be “not black enough” to win over black support at first.  I’m not sure exactly how that works.  Nobody questioned whether Hillary was “woman enough” or Romney “Mormon enough” or McCain “grizzled enough.”  But before Barack Obama had to break the race barrier he had to prove it applied to him.

Lately the rhetoric has been amped up a little bit.  The Obama side would say it’s coming from Clinton, the Clinton side says it’s coming from Obama, and McCain swears up and down that he had no idea it was coming.  But it has been growing.

But today Barack Obama really pushed it right out in the open.  Giving a speech in response to “Reverendgate” (my term; you owe me ten bucks each time you use it), Obama for the first time sounded not like a candidate running for President, but a black candidate running for President.  He talked much more openly and candidly about the role that racial discrimination has played in American politics, life, and culture.  He talked about the anger that discrimination and it lingering effects has caused among the black population, and that this “anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table.”  He also talked about the resentment many whites feel about affirmative action and welfare or about being perceived as racist when trying to confront things like crime in black communities, and that these feelings are also kept bottled up but have “helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation.”  He also pointed out that this causes a “racial stalemate” which often times results in the roots of stalled progress for all ethnic groups being disguised in a battle for racial supremacy.

He says this about blacks and whites, but it would ring just as true for blacks and Latinos, or whites and Latinos, or Italians and Asians, or Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants, or Israelis and Pakistanis, or any two groups of people whose fights, trials, and tribulations span beyond the time of any personal memories.  These are not fights we should be having amongst ourselves, but among the histories and realities which perpetuate them.  But it’s easier to hate than to love and forgive.  That’s human nature.  Isn’t that the primary battle Jesus told us we to wage?  Not over whom should reign, but over what should reign?  Not over our actions and attitudes but over what forces will help shape our actions and attitudes?

Obama tried to say that he has a heritage and family history which makes him uniquely qualified to rise beyond these distinctions and provide people with the tools to fight those battles, and that his pastor helped provide him with this experience, as well.  He also said his pastor was all too often guilty of falling on the wrong side of the battle.  He pointed out that Reverend Wright was too willing to concede the current landscape was not conducive to the changes necessary to battle the complaints he bemoaned from the pulpit.  Even while people in his church were changing the landscape as he spoke.  One of them was even going to run for President someday.

But Obama left his diversity at the beginning of the speech.  Some people were saying this might be his “Kennedy-Catholic” speech or his “Romney-Mormon” speech.  This was his Martin Luther King speech.  And it wasn’t like the speeches he’s given before, where he heralded all the benefits of a world as King saw it.  Those could have just as easily been given by a white man.  I think Bill Clinton gave a few of those himself.

Even though King spoke to whites and black and all races and nations, you never forgot he was a black man.  I never got the feeling he dreamt of a day when blacks and whites would be one and the same.  He dreamt of a day when blacks could be black and whites could be whites and everybody was just fine with that.  And this was not yesterday’s Barack Obama talking about the role of race in America; a talk of race from an impartial observer.  This was a black man talking about the role of race in his life.  Barack Obama still has a long way to go before he can claim to be even close to the game-changer King was much longer than being elected President.  I’m not prepared to give King’s mantle to Obama, and as a white man it’s not mine to give.  But this was Obama’s attempt at playing King’s game.

I loved the speech.  I thought it was an inspiring, awe-striking speech.  It went beyond where any Obama speech had gone for me.  I thought that it was brilliant that Obama decided not to hide behind the fact that he didn’t make these comments.  But rather he decided to push them right back in our faces.  That he wasn’t going to run from the argument and change the topic again.  Because, “if we do, I can tell you that in the next election we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.”

I think he was condemning himself a little bit, for allowing the politics of the moment to interfere with this message.  He made himself into another party guilty of this trend.  I’m not sure how long he will buck it, but he made a good start today.

I’m also not sure what impact this will have on the Presidential race, either for the Democratic nomination or the general election.  I am sure that whatever effect there is, it will be from this speech and not any given by Jeremiah A. Wright.

He quoted a paragraph from his book, Dreams from My Father.  I’m going to quote it here because I think it applies much more broadly than a description about Obama’s church.  Though it was designed to show how he felt at Reverend Wright’s mass, it could have been written by me.  I’ve gotten the same feeling in a solemn Catholic mass.  I’ve gotten the same feelings outside of church.  I think it’s a universal call that all of humanity’s history has culminated in an ever-changing pallet of beauty, but also of struggle.  From a completely religious standpoint, it showcases that the lessons in the Bible aren’t always those of how to please God, but how to please humanity itself.  That our collective history can provide something better than just rules and regulations governing the best way to live our lives, but a common thread to weave the peace of all future generations out of.

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

All those people he mentioned; David, Goliath, Moses, Pharaoh, the Christians, and Exekiel; probably none of them were black.  And they certainly weren’t white.  But they are no longer defined in the context of the race they were born into.  They were us.

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Ferraro Aids Obama

Did you see Hillary Clinton’s scarf yesterday?  I don’t want to get petty here, but taaaacky.  It looked like algae hanging from a fishing pole.  She’s trying to give a speech, and I tried to focus, I really did, but all I kept seeing was this scarf.  I’ve worn pants with less fabric than that monstrosity.

Then again, I’ve never been accused of being en vogue, so . . .  Anything to keep attention off her pant-suits, at guess.  (You know what I like about Hillary’s personality?  She would think that was funny.)

Anyway, and now for something completely different:

Ironically, the remarks Geraldine Ferraro made a couple of weeks ago could end up being one of the best things for the Obama campaign in the whole election cycle.  The Clinton campaign really got beat up bad over this situation.  They tried to deflect it by saying she wasn’t on the payroll, they tried to deflect it by pointing at Samantha Power’s “monster” comments, and they tried to explain that her comments weren’t meant to be racist.  Nothing worked, Ferraro had to resign, and the Clinton campaign looked like they had brought up the race card to negatively impact Obama’s popularity (again).  The thing that made Ferraro’s remarks actually excusable is she compared Obama’s position now to her position in 1984; saying she got the same nod Obama’s getting now.  But that wasn’t focused on.  The story probably wouldn’t have lasted longer than a day or two, but Ferraro couldn’t just apologize and let it die, she had to make a crusade out of it.  And it caused the Clinton campaign to look a little racist, even though it was an unfair characterization.

And now this Reverend Wright thing comes up, and what is the Clinton campaign to do?  Nothing.  They have to sit on it and let it play out as it will play out.  I think the Clinton campaign legitimately has sympathy for Obama.  But it doesn’t really mesh with the whole “kitchen sink” strategy, does it?  If the Geraldine Ferraro story wouldn’t have occurred such a short time ago, I can guarantee the Clinton campaign would have been looking for a seemingly respectful way to rake him across the coals.

While the Clinton campaign sits on their hands McCain can’t do anything either, because he’s picking up endorsements of far-right Christian Coalition-types making all sorts of defamatory comments like Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for gay tolerance.  There have been numerous examples of white, conservative, evangelist preachers making incredibly incendiary and offensive remarks, and everybody knows it.  So even though Obama is getting hit hard from the media, he gets off easier than he probably normally would have because he doesn’t have to face off against the other campaigns.

Right now the advantage goes to Clinton and McCain.  They get to sit back and watch the fire without saying or doing anything that could be portrayed as negative.  I have no doubt there will be some conservative pundits who will bring it up later on because some are that hypocritical (can you believe Bill O’Reilly was lecturing about the Spitzer sex scandal?).  But if this goes away with the next big campaign news, as things like this tend to do, I think he can thank Ferraro for helping make it happen.


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A Comparison of the Obama and Clinton Environmental Policies

I was planning on writing two environmental blogs; one detailing Obama’s plan and one detailing Clinton’s, so people could have a good understanding of the differences.  There was just one problem:

Obama and Clinton have very similar environmental plans.  In fact, they’re almost identical, with a few notable exceptions.  They both want to achieve about the same automobile gas mileage standards over almost the same period of time (Clinton would legislate an average 55 gpm compared to Obama’s 50 gpm, but would take four more years to accomplish it) by providing various economic assistance to develop technology to achieve their goals, both would create energy matrixes which produce 25% of our electricity by renewable resources by 2025, both would modernize our power grids by incorporating a “10 Smart-Grid” program, both would create “Green Job Corps” (Obama’s words) to create “green-collar” jobs (Clinton’s words) and environmentally friendly innovation, both would reduce carbon emission by 80% by 2050, and both would use the G-8 summit to promote global environmental policy.  Further, both would spend large amounts of money and resources to increase production of bio-fuels, such as bio-diesel and ethanol.  Bio-fuels are great for the environment because the carbon released by their burning was created a short time ago, allowing the earth’s carbon cycle to adjust much more quickly and effectively to their releases.  If an ear of corn is grown, nature “knows” it’s carbon is going to be released somehow; whether it’s by decay, digestion, or energy consumption, nature “knows” it’s coming.  The problem with fossil fuels is that nature “forgets” the carbon is there (since it’s been buried underground for millions of years, or 6,000 years if you’re a creationist), and when it’s burned off the modes to reintroduce it back into the cycle are not present, resulting in an unhealthy build-up of excess carbon.  This excess is the main cause of global warming.

One major agreement which I am pleased to see is a focus on “cap and trade” policies to reduce emissions from industry.  Both plans use this as a cornerstone to decrease pollutants and both plans are more or less identical.  Cap and trade can be a very valuable tool to decrease emissions by providing economic incentives for industries to do so.  Essentially these incentives take two forms.  First, companies which invest in conservation and innovation to decrease emissions are rewarded financially by selling the emissions they are allotted but not producing, providing extra profit to the company.  Secondly, companies which do not invest in conservation or innovations to decrease emissions are penalized by being forced to purchase shares of emission allowances.  If there are no shares available or the company does not purchase any, they pay a steep fine.  Since shares are auctioned, the prices of the shares become higher as less become available, further rewarding responsible companies and further penalizing irresponsible ones.

The common complaint against this system is the obvious illusion that companies which are polluting irresponsibly are allowed to circumvent law by just purchasing more pollution rights.  However, good cap and trade policy does not allow this, because geographical areas have pollution limits.  If the city of Chicago, for example, decides that “x” tons of an air pollutant is acceptable, than it doesn’t really matter if company A produces ½x-y and company B produces ½x+y.  As long as (½x-y) + (½x+y) = x, the effects of the pollution is the same as if they both just produced ½x (obviously there are more than two companies producing the pollutants; the point is total amount of pollutants is at or below the limit deemed allowable).  Both candidates plans ensure that this is the case by requiring 100% of the pollution credits to be auctioned on the market, removing the capabilities of companies to “account” their way around the total pollution allowances for any particular geographical area.  And as time goes on, the total pollution allowance is decreased, resulting in lower amounts of air pollutants.  If the system works in this fashion and is stringently enforced, it works very, very well.

However, there are some significant differences which I would like to discuss.  This is by no means exhaustive; there are some minor differences which are interesting but not necessarily important enough to include in this already-too-long comparison.  For example, both candidates have goals to replace incandescent lights.  Obama’s plan would seem to phase out incandescent bulbs more quickly, but Clinton’s plan would seem to increase use of LEDs.  Is this difference going to save the world?  Probably not.

I will say that, from an environmentalist’s view, Obama’s plan seems to be much more complete.  While Hillary Clinton seems to focus almost solely on the role of energy in our environment, Obama lays out “EPA” solutions.  That is, he provides plans to ensure air and water that is clean and free from toxins, as well as plans to preserve our lands and natural treasures.  Though I’m sure Clinton cares about these issues, they are not mentioned in her environmental policy.  Since I am personally concerned about the environment first, and energy policy second, this is pretty important to me.

A difference in which Hillary Clinton seems to be ahead of Barack Obama is forcing all new federal buildings to be “carbon neutral” by the end of 2009.  Obama says he will force all new federal buildings to be “zero emissions” by 2025.  That is a big difference in timing; though a cynic could say the difference illustrates that achieving that goal by 2009 is not possible, I believe we have the technology to accomplish this goal if we allocate enough resources to achieve it.  However, Obama’s plan does actually have its benefits over Hillary’s.  Obama is going to increase the energy efficiency of new buildings by 40% over the next five years, and that coupled with the longer time for “zero emissions” goals is going to make the manufacture of new federal buildings much cheaper.  He’s going to use this saved money to retrofit existing buildings with energy-saving updates to decrease energy use in these buildings by 25% over the next five years and ensure 30% of the federal government’s electricity comes from renewable resources by 2020.  Hillary Clinton claims the federal government pays $5.6 billion a year to “heat, cool, and power” federal buildings, so the savings would be $1.4 billion every year.  Hillary Clinton also vows to “install cost-effective retrofits in all federal buildings within five years.”  However, she does not say whether this would begin or be completed within this time, and gives no indication as to what her goals would be in regards to energy savings over this time.  A stated goal is important; it gives an objective measure for success as well as provides a definitive destination to strive toward.

But the biggest benefit Obama’s plan has over Clinton’s is Obama goes farther by striving to achieve zero emissions in all American buildings by 2030.  To accomplish this, he is going to make a national goal of making all new buildings 50% more energy efficient and all existing buildings 25% more energy efficient with the next ten years.  Hillary Clinton makes no goals to ensure that all buildings are carbon neutral in any time frame, and does not provide any specific goals for energy efficiency over any time frame, either.  Clinton claims there are 500,000 federal buildings.  Obviously, this is a small portion of all American buildings.  Making all building in the whole country carbon neutral by 2030 is certainly a much bigger energy saver than making all new buildings carbon neutral by 2009 and helping to subjectively improve energy efficiency in existing federal buildings over the next five.

However, if I stake the claim that specifics matter more than vague promises, I must give Clinton some credit here.  Though she does not give any specific goals to increase energy efficiency for existing buildings, she gives much more specific policy goals on how to achieve it, including spending money to “weatherize” 20 million low-income homes over 8 years, creating standards for energy efficiency for types of appliances which currently do not have them, and creating a “Connie Mac” program to assist home owners with updating their homes.

Another positive aspect of Clinton’s plan is she would “require corporate disclosure of financial risks posed by global warming.”  In and of itself, this is pretty meaningless.  As I see it, the only real difference it would make is providing corporate admission that global warming is real and effecting stockholders and businesses in a tangible way.  Essentially it’s a way to win an argument against a small and ever decreasing portion of the population which still argues that decreasing the effects of global warming would cost more than its benefits would provide.  Plus, if a large portion of corporate America decides to claim there are no significant negative financial impacts it could actually help fuel the argument against improving global warming.  I don’t think that would happen, but it’s possible.  It could also minimize the already ignored impact of externalities, which are the environmental costs of an activity which do not show up in the cost of the product (such as destruction of a forest or extinction of a species of animal).

That being said, this seems like the first step in forcing companies to disclose financial statements regarding their impact on global warming.  Europe already does this; companies have to take cradle-to-grave responsibility for waste their products produce, which decreases wasteful packaging; increases conservation, reuse, and recycling programs (often paid for by the companies, since that’s cheaper than allowing consumers to throw their products away); increases manufacturing of goods made out of materials which could be conserved, reused, or recycled; and creates products which are more energy efficient.  This is a very important step in improving the environment which I feel the U.S. government must take.  Since no candidate seems to endorse the idea, at least this could begin that process by making companies provide a tangible link between business practices and the financial loss caused by harm to our environment.

The last thing which jumped right out at me is the difference in how Obama and Clinton would try to get energy companies to enact programs designed to improve energy efficiency.  Both campaigns state the obvious link between energy companies’ profits and the amount of energy used.  Clinton says she will help break this link by enacting regulatory legislation requiring energy companies to initiate or participate in energy efficiency programs and innovations.  This is good.  But Obama wants to enact policies allowing companies to make more money in the future by increasing energy efficiency then they currently make by higher energy consumption.  This is a much better plan.  It’s much easier to get companies to agree to a plan that provides real financial incentives than to ask them to take a financial hit because it’s the right thing to do.  It’d be nice if that wasn’t necessarily the case, but that’s capitalism and I see nothing wrong with forgoing punishing companies when we can  reward them financially for beginning to conduct business more responsibly.  Ultimately, it entices companies to work with the government, instead of against them, which saves precious time and money wasted waging legislative and legal battles against policies they (justifiably or unjustifiably) deem unfair.

Finally, I would love to compare the Obama, Clinton, and McCain plans on energy and the environment.  There’s just one problem.  McCain doesn’t seem to have any.  McCain’s website has a half a page “discussion” explaining he feels we have a moral obligation to be “proper caretakers of creation” but does not offer anything even resembling specifics on how to do so.  He also offers an eighty second video clip (including several seconds which shows his logo but no other visual or oral material) in which he states that he believes global warming does exist and we need to take responsible actions to confront it (again, no specifics).  Oh, and he also uses that time to say we were right not to sign the Kyoto Treaty and the U.S. should dictate the terms by which the rest of the world enacts global environmental policy.  He only uses the word “energy” twice, both in the same sentence:  “He has offered common sense approaches to limit carbon emissions by harnessing market forces that will bring advanced technologies, such as nuclear energy, to the market faster, reduce our dependence on foreign supplies of energy, and see to it that America leads in a way that ensures all nations do their rightful share.”  As Republicans go, I honestly believe he’s a forerunner on energy and the environment.  Of course, this is a party which believes “climate control” is adjusting the temperature of their air conditioner.  In fairness, he probably can’t mention responsible energy or environmental policy specifics without abandoning his base.  But we would expect more from the “Straight Talk Express,” wouldn’t we?


Filed under environment, politics