Tag Archives: Barack Obama

John Bolton Goes Nuclear

John Bolton had an interesting op-ed in the New York Times, today, decrying the ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, also known as the New START Treaty.  For those of you who forget who John Bolton is, he’s the brilliant international strategist who said that the United Nations should be eliminated . . . right before becoming the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.  He also has the world’s coolest mustache.  (No, seriously.  That’s not a jab.  I really, really love that moustache.)

So the article is titled “Why Rush to Cut Nukes?”  And immediately I’m thinking this would be some fun dissertation on the security that nuclear warheads provide.  For the record, I disagree with the sentiment, but also recognize the historical veracity of the claim and find the argument quite fascinating.  However, his sole argument against nuclear disarmament, whose brevity cannot be overstated, is that Russia still has quite a bit more than the United States.  He ignores that America’s nuclear weapons are stronger and far more numerous than we could reasonably use, but that’s not an especially damning omission.

No, that would be his arguments against the Senate’s “resolution of ratification” adopted by the Foreign Relations Committee.  Evidently, “the Obama administration’s main strategy is likely to emphasize . . . that resolution, which supposedly addresses concerns about missile defense and modernization of the nuclear arsenal.

“The Foreign Relations Committee’s resolution contains various ‘conditions,’ ‘understandings’ and ‘declarations’ holding that New Start doesn’t ‘impose any limitations on the deployment of missile defenses’ or dilute Congress’s aspiration to defend the nation from missile attack. A second understanding exempts conventional weapons systems with a global reach. A third affirms Congress’s commitment to the safety and reliability of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.”

The problem, according to John Bolton, is that this doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.  The language is what the language is, and these are “mere policy statements that attempt to influence future treaty interpretation.”

Fair enough, except, in the next paragraph, he tells us that the President’s “understandings and interpretations of treaties typically have (and should) predominate.”

Got that?  So we shouldn’t enact the treaty because the interpretations which Obama has endorsed don’t mean anything, and Obama is free to act upon the treaty in whatever way he chooses.  Evidently, the interpretations he endorses are different from those he, you know, endorses.  I believe in the world of international diplomacy they call that the “Pants on Fire Colloquy”.  Of course, Bolton could be saying that, constitutionally, Obama can’t do what he wants when it means ensuring adequate national defense, but he’s given free reign over all the stuff he wants to do to weaken it.  Glad to know.

As an interesting side-bar, the Senate and the President can’t interpret a treaty anyway they want (except when they can), but Bolton is evidently free to do so.  He contends, “Its preamble accepts an unspecified ‘interrelationship’ between nuclear weapons and defensive systems.  Politically, even if not in treaty language, the Russians get what they want:  no significant United States efforts on missile defense.”

Nice.

By the way, another reason to be fearful of New START’s long term effect on the country’s defense capabilities?  “[A future] President can, after all, completely withdraw from a treaty on his own.”  Not sure how that proves his case, but I guess if he’s willing to throw me a bone I might as well take it.

Oh, and evidently the Continental Congress of 1789 specifically warned us against nuclear non-proliferation.

To be fair, he thinks the treaty could be amended to make it palatable; but first it needs to eliminate restrictions on nuclear launching devices and Congress should approve the development of additional nuclear warheads.

However, in its current state, this piece of legislation is a travesty of international diplomacy (something which I think we can assume he is very, very familiar with), and “the Senate should heed the will of the voters and either reject the treaty or amend it so that it doesn’t weaken our national defense.”  Which is fair.  I don’t know about you, but if I heard one more political campaign rant about New START last October I was going to have a fit.

What a complete tool.

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Progressive is Pragmatic, Not Punishment

There has been a lot of talk about taxes lately, as in a desperate attempt to regain control in the election John McCain is accusing of Barack Obama of raising taxes on the middle class while simultaneously claiming that his tax cuts on the middle class, which he insists won’t exist, paid for by rolling back tax hikes of the Bush administration, which he was originally against, are some form of socialism.

Of course, the American tax system has been a progressive tax system since the passage of the 16th Amendment in 1913. There were two income taxes prior to that, during the Civil War and the 1880’s, which had flat rates. However, both of those taxes were only levied on the wealthiest of individuals in America, and therefore still adhered to the principle of the progressive tax which claims that those who make the most should shoulder the largest burden.

The historical battle between America and communist/socialist governments has made throwing around the terms “communist” and “socialist” very attractive. But I don’t know anybody in this country who is completely against any government program which dabbles in socialist ideology. I would have very little respect, and suspect very, very few Americans would oppose this view, of those who wanted to eliminate some of our programs which are quite socialist in operation, such as Social Security, Medicare, the postal service, the military, or Major League Baseball. But I digress . . .

There are two prevailing arguments against any sort of tax increase on the wealthy. The first is that the rich already pay far more than their fair share. You hear all sorts of statistics like “the wealthiest six Americans pay more in taxes than the rest of the US population, the crew of the Starship Enterprise, and every Chinese person since the beginning of time combined.” The part they leave out is that they make much more money than everybody else. So I set out to find some statistics which compare income distribution with tax burden. And I stumbled upon a very cool Excel spreadsheet (if there was ever a such thing) made up by the Congressional Budget Office. Check it out here. Unfortunately, it evidently takes two years to come up with this data (as a government employee, I should not have been as surprised as I was), because the most recent data was compiled in December 2007, but is only through 2005. Still, more recent data would actually prove my point better, because Bush helped push through another tax cut on the wealthy in 2006, as one of the Republican Congress’s last actions.

Instead of spouting a mountain of numbers, I decided to create some graphical evidence that our tax system is merely progressive and not some punishment for making money (click on the graphs to see a larger, more legible size):

I stumbled on another interesting little tidbit. Since the other popular argument among the right is that decreasing taxes for the rich increases wealth for all individuals, al la trickle down (I prefer the term “voodoo,” originated by someone whom I’m sure was ultra-liberal) economics, I decided to see how damaging increasing tax rates on the wealthiest individuals was for their earning power. Turns out, it’s not much damaging at all. In fact, their pre-tax income follows their tax rate much more proportionally than inversely:

And mean tax rates vs. mean income follows the same trend:

So it looks like demand side economics isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Of course, I’m not advocating for WWI tax rates, when the richest were taxed at about 70%. But it would appear that rolling back Bush’s tax cuts on the wealthiest while providing breaks for those who can least afford their taxes would hardly be the fatal mistake some would imply it would be.

Many argue for the flat tax as a way to eliminate the “redistribution of wealth.” But since we currently have a progressive tax system, doing so successfully could only result in one of two outcomes: either tax rates on the lower and middle classes would sharply increase, with the increase most severe on those making the least amount of money; or a drastic cut in government spending, inevitably targeting the most drastic cuts in programs designed to support the poorest individuals. Either way, it would also be a massive redistribution of wealth, this time from those most incapable of affording it to those who need it the least.

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Palin’s Fiscal Hypocrisy

As (hopefully) everybody in America knows, McCain picked Alaskan governor Sarah Palin as his Vice President nominee.

I really did not think this was coming.  Word had been skewed about the political lair for a while, and over two months ago I wrote a response to a comment about why Palin would not be a very successful VP pick.  Which I stand by.

People asked me how I felt about Biden.  Excited I was not, but neither was I disappointed.  He is a safe pick, one that will help Obama in a general election in several ways, and who won’t convince any Obama supporters to defect to McCain.  I was going to write a post about the man, but didn’t.  Work has been busy lately, and they expect me to keep up at the expense of my blog.  Horrible.

But I am very excited about Governor Palin.  She’s given us more dirt in the last week than McCain and Obama have all summer.  As an Obama supporter, it’s hard to imagine a better McCain Veep pick to help achieve the goal of an Obama Presidency.

After watching highlights of the Democrat and Republican Conventions (the Cubs have been playing a lot of night games lately), I’m certain of two things.

  1. If I hear the term “red meat” one more time I’m going to start systematically incorporating pundit carcass into the actual material.
  2. Palin is a liar.

I don’t want to rehash on stuff that’s been said for a week.  So I won’t get into the vetting process that didn’t, or the irony of Palin’s pregnant daughter, or the ethics investigation which could conceivable recommend her impeachment less than a week before the election.

Though I have to point out that Palin named her children Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, and Trig.  Can you really trust this person’s judgment??

There’s not much material to pick through, as Palin has only had one real speech enter the national conscience, and that was Wednesday night.  But she spent a considerable amount of her time speaking of her grand accomplishments enacting fiscal responsibility in Alaska, which should work well in the party of fiscal responsibility.  Even though the U.S. Government reports Republican administrations seem to be the only ones which increase the national deficit, Bush’s tax “cuts” didn’t do anything for most people but were targeted towards the wealthiest individuals (linked figure taken from this story), and Obama intends to decrease taxes for most Americans.

And even though Palin wasn’t nearly so responsible.

First, she has talked in great lengths about killing the so-called “Bridge to Nowhere.”  Sounds good – it was turned into a symbol of government waste and McCain has used it on more than one occasion to show how bad earmarks are.

Problem is Palin was not only hesitant to cancel it, she supported it in the first place.  In a questionnaire by The Anchorage Times she said she supported using state funds to build the Gavina Island bridge.  Tonight she said she told the nation “I told Congress, thanks but no thanks on that bridge to nowhere.”  But a year ago she said, “Despite the work of our congressional delegation, we are about $329 million short of full funding for the bridge project, and it’s clear that Congress has little interest in spending any more money on a bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina Island.”  And she didn’t exactly tell the government “no thanks” on the money they were willing to spend, anyway, but rather spent half of it on other road projects before officially axing the bridge project.

In related news, it turns out that the pipe line she droned on about her Governorship created hasn’t actually been created yet.  It’s still in the planning stages.  And by “planning stages” I mean still awaiting approval from the people who are actually going to build the thing.  But if she works real hard, it’s estimated to come online sometime around the year 2020.  So worry not; McCain/Palin has energy assistance on the way – you just have to wait about twelve years.  No big deal.

She also got things a little fuzzy when she said she enacted massive budget cuts which brought the Alaskan budget to more responsible levels while creating a budget surplus.  This is not exactly accurate – Alaska had a budget surplus in 2006 (she was elected in November 2006 so you do the math).  The reason for the surplus?  Not budget cuts, but oil.  Oil taxes, royalties, and fees account for at least 80% of the state’s revenue.  This makes sense, since it’s the leading oil producer in the nation and its next best export is tundra.  Of course, it should be noted that gas prices in Alaska are the highest in the country, which could say something about McCain’s plan to drill to lower gas prices.

Oh, the surplus was also due to federal government spending, since Palin asked for more federal money to Alaska in earmarks per capita than any other state in the union.  Of course, Palin claims to be against these earmarks.  She just doesn’t mind asking for them, spending all the money before saying “no thanks,” and then taking credit for the surpluses they helped achieve.

And not only was Alaska’s surplus not due to Palin’s budget cuts, but Alaska’s 2007 capital budget was one of the largest in the state’s history, and the $6.6 billion operations budget escaped veto-free as the largest Alaska had ever had – despite a promise to cut $150 million from it.  But she had a good excuse; there’s not enough time between her becoming Governor and the passage of the budget.  So let me get this straight:  when she’s in Alaska she didn’t have enough time to adequately cut the budget, but when she’s in Minnesota she’s a shining example of how to do so?

Though to be fair, she did cut money from the capital budget in 2007 and 2008.  Programs that were cut included housing for homeless and runaway youths, grants to schools and nonprofit organizations, a learning center, a library, and a government transparency program (seems kind of counter to McCain’s government transparency arguments).  She also cut spending on youth sports, but allowed full funding for sport fishing hatcheries.  Probably because sport fishing brings money into the state, but youth sports only bring money into individual schools.

My two favorite program cuts?  A 20% cut in funding to help support teenage moms, and a 62% cut in special needs education funding.

So she may not be completely honest, but she seems to be winning major points for hypocrisy.

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Drilling is Not the Solution

The public outcry over $4 a gallon gas (and rising) has spurned somewhat of a college industry among the press in the woes and perils of high energy costs. The latest news is that unsigned bands will have to cancel national tours due to the high fuel costs. Heartbreaking, I know.

Actually, despite my sarcasm my second dream job was rock star. I found out I couldn’t throw 90 mph, so that ended my first, and then I found out that most rock stars spend years living on cheap beer and sand, which ended my second. So I support small bands and wish them the best. (I still think of you, Julie!! Hope Portland’s better than BFE, IL.)

And raised energy prices are nothing to disregard so lightly. After all, Hillary Clinton “heard from some folks” that things are getting rough. So both candidates are starting to showcase their plans for relief. For example, they both support closing loopholes which allow oil company speculations to drive prices up. Some are saying Obama is merely following McCain’s lead on this (thanks, liber.rhetoricae), but it’s good that both candidates agree.

However, McCain has taken the extra step to try and end the 26-year moratorium on drilling off the U.S. coastlines, a plan that is even having a hard time convincing many coastline Republicans.

I think many people along the coastlines are having a “not in my backyard” type reaction. We get that a lot in central Illinois when companies want to start building wind turbines. But in this case I have to agree wholeheartedly with those who oppose it. It’s just not a smart, responsible way to deal with the fuel costs.

First, the Senate has already turned down such a measure, by a 56-42 vote. This is a plan championed by Bush, which means (fair or not) it’s not going to get a lot of air play in a Democrat-controlled Congress before January. So far from offering immediate help, it won’t even be approved for at least seven more months.

Further, though both Obama and McCain agree that at least part of the gas price problem is a lack of oil supply, even Bush admits that it will take years, as long as a full decade, for drilling to start pumping more oil into the U.S. economy, and hence years before any sort of relief at the pump.

When you couple this long time line with the increase in demand that will continue due to higher oil consumption from large countries such as China and Brazil, this is a plan that will bear no fruit for the average American consumer.

McCain has voted against such a measure before, and as little as three weeks ago stated that such actions “would take years to develop, [and] would only postpone or temporarily relieve our dependency on fossil fuels.” This change of heart seems to be little more than the same political posturing used to champion the ill-advised gas tax cut.

(To his credit, he continues to express opposition to drilling in ANWR.)

The truth is, the time and resources spent drilling for oil in our coastline could be much better spent developing ways to alleviate our dependency upon oil, which is going to be the only way we can ultimately provide permanent relief from high gas prices. Ten years is along time to wait for help at the gas pump, but it’s also a long time to incorporate solar power, or find new ways to reclaim all the lost energy involved in driving a car, or establish a hydrogen infrastructure to power fuel cell or liquid hydrogen vehicles, or increase electric engines which run on American made energy using coal, natural gas, solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, or nuclear energy, or even something really cool that we haven’t even thought up of yet.

Working to expand the energy matrix, and not just our oil supply, also has an added benefit – it provides relief not just from the gas station but the electric company. Focusing our solutions on providing more oil does us no favors when the price of energy required to power our homes is also increasing. I must admit, McCain seems legitimately interested in helping expand our nation’s ability to provide cheap, clean, renewable energy. But framing the energy debate on the price of gasoline only limits the nation’s sense of expediency in accomplishing this goal by suggesting the problem is not the status quo, but rather our capabilities in sustaining it.

Many people are complaining that Obama’s opposition to this drilling is merely representative of a larger “can’t do” ideology of the Democrat party, if not liberal thought as a whole. Obama has an extensive policy of things we can do to help provide cheaper energy – at the pump and at the home. In fact, focusing our attention on increasing the oil supply is actually much more of a “can’t do” policy – we can’t increase fuel efficiency to levels already demanded in much of the world, can’t increase it in a financially viable manner, can’t create automobiles or technologies which rid us of our dependency on oil to begin with.

We can, we must, and it’s time that we do. For Julie’s sake.

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The Two Ironies of Public Funding; How the Electoral Map Favors Obama

The big news over the last couple of days is Obama opting out of public funding for the Presidential Election. (Not Michelle Obama’s dress. I can’t believe this stuff gets on the air.) McCain has claimed this is evidence that Obama “is just another typical politician,” which is ironic because he’s the first to opt out of public funding since the system was established in 1972. By definition, that makes him atypical.

In fact, the biggest reason why Obama has opted out of the public funding is due to his unique ability to raise large sums of money from small donors. Truth is, there is absolutely nothing “typical” about this decision.

Of course, that is merely a point of irony, and not what McCain was referring to at all when he stated this is just an example of political expediency. Obama had famously stated that he would accept public funding if the Republican candidate and he could work out a reasonable system for doing so. But since he no longer needs to do so, McCain argues, he is going against his word and taking the path which will allow him the most money to spend come September and October.

Still, the decision to opt out of funding has few objective detractors in and of itself. And if the system is as broken as Obama believes it is, this decision may provide him with the perfect opportunity to scrap it and begin anew. Former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough presents the perfect illustration of the real issue the press has with Obama: opting out was the right decision, but he’s using the wrong explanation to justify it. Earlier this morning, he said the appropriate explanation would be to just say that due to the millions of small donors online, things have changed to a degree he just couldn’t have imagined a year ago. Dan Rather agreed, saying the reason why he did not do so is because politics at the top is like “dancing like you’re barefoot on August asphalt.”

You have to love Dan Rather.

Finally, Wednesday Quinnipiac University released an interesting poll which showed Obama ahead of McCain in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The margin was all below ten points so, while they were all above the margin of error, the data’s not entirely useful this far from the election. However, it has to be comforting for Obama.

But the interesting data was not the leads in these three states, but the impact that Clinton has, or more to the point has not had, on the general election. In these three points, Obama leads McCain among women . . . by ten to twenty-three points. What’s more, when asked if Obama should put Hillary Clinton on the ticket, Democrats in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania say yes by margins of 57-33, 58-31, and 60-31 percent, respectively. However, independents in these two states oppose the idea by wide margins: 46-37, 47-31, and 49-36 percent, respectively. And the biggest Republican support she gets for the Veep nod in any state is 20%, in Pennsylvania.

So it would be safe to say the fact that Obama is not Hillary Clinton is not going to cause McCain to carry those states. But perhaps more importantly, it would actually be a detriment to him to put Hillary on the ticket.

If Obama carries all three states, it’s going to be virtually impossible for McCain to win. Quinnipiac seems to be generous to Obama in Florida. Realclearpolitics.com has an average polling line of +5% for McCain. And I’ll be honest; I don’t see Obama winning Florida. I didn’t think Kerry could win it, and I don’t think Clinton could have won it. It would certainly make things easier if Obama can grab it somehow, but I’m more than willing to concede it to McCain. However, the average line for Obama in Ohio is +5.3%, while in Pennsylvania it’s 7.3%. Ohio has 20 electoral votes, and Bush won that in 2004. If Kerry had carried Ohio he would have won. So hanging on to these two states means he doesn’t have to win Florida.

But looking deeper into realclearpolitics.com’s website reveals something even more interesting, and exciting for the Obama fan. It may not come down to Ohio after all. They list the battleground states for 2008 as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Virginia, Missouri, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. Of these states, the only ones McCain currently have a polling lead in are Michigan and Florida. Obama and McCain are tied in New Mexico and Nevada, though several others are virtual ties (leads of less than 2%). This includes Michigan, New Hampshire, Virginia, Missouri, and Colorado.

So let’s say that the map stays the same from 2004 to 2008 with the exception of these states and Iowa, which very narrowly went to Bush but Obama is currently leading. And let’s give Florida, New Mexico, and Nevada to McCain, let him keep Michigan, and throw Colorado and Virginia to him for good measure. Under this scenario, Obama would win the election by accruing 273 electoral votes.

And if the leads all hold up and McCain takes New Mexico and Nevada? Then Obama

wins easily, 295 – 243. With ten electoral votes up for grabs in those two states, Obama could win over 300 electoral votes.

In fact, if he wins any two out of the seven “tied” states he would win the election. More interesting, though, is if he wins only Michigan he could lose all the others and still get to 270. Of course, this is all predicated upon him winning Ohio and Pennsylvania. So the big trifecta for Obama is Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Win those three, and it’s in the bag. Win two of those, and it would be virtually impossible for McCain to win. McCain has to win two of those three in order to have a legitimate chance of winning the election (though at that point it’s unlikely he would lose).

With that in mind, I would not be willing to say at this time that any single state is going to determine the election. However, if it’s close, and certainly if McCain wins, I predict it will all come down to Michigan.

You heard it here first.

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Washington’s New Eco-Agenda

Yahoo reports that “EcoGeeks get all the girls.” And from Clinton to Kennedy, Condit to Livingston, Tobias to Foley, (and who can forget Larry Craig?) there’s no doubt that nobody does sex quite like Washington. Which is probably why they are finally starting to take environmental issues seriously, with three major pieces of eco-legislation on the agenda.

The first two bills approaching Congress deal with the issuance of tax credits and federal subsidies designed to encourage production and distribution of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal. These two bills are H.R. 6049: Energy and Tax Extenders Act of 2008; and H.R. 5351: Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008. H.R. 6049 would extend current tax breaks on companies producing renewable energy sources through 2009, while H.R. 5351 evidently creates them. Both of these have passed the House of Representatives. H.R. 5351 was added to the new housing bill, H.R. 3221, as an amendment by the Senate, and this bill was passed by both the House and the Senate. The two chambers’ differences have yet to be resolved, but the primary difference between the bill passed by the House and the amendment added to the housing bill in the Senate is whether $18 billion in tax breaks aimed at oil companies would be eliminated to pay for the tax relief for renewable energy.

The Energy and Tax Extenders Act of 2008 is a $54 billion package which extends current tax breaks for wind energy until the end of 2009, solar energy through the end of 2014, and biomass, geothermal, landfill gas, and other technologies through the end of 2011. These tax breaks are essential to secure our energy independence and ensure a sustainable ecology for the long-term health of humanity. It also has a significant economic impact; elimination of these tax breaks could cause a $20 billion cut in energy research and development, costing over 116,000 American jobs. These jobs are not only important now, but are a precursor for permanent infrastructure employment opportunities, improving the standard of living within the United States by simultaneously strengthening our economy and lowering the cost of living.

As with most pro-environment policies, this bill will not only increase the “green” on the land, but also the green in your pocket.

This is an extremely important bill to pass Congress for a variety of reasons. As time is allowed to drag before we take alternative forms of energy seriously, we will only weaken our power and influence in the world while raising energy costs at home. I urge you to contact your Senator to ask him to pass this legislation. You may find your Senator’s contact information here. There are many people in Congress who may be tempted to vote against this bill for strictly political reasons. It is important to remember that this time of the political calendar is one which a constituent has the most power. Congressmen do not want to upset the people who they are asking to vote them back into office, and many feel it is too close to Election Day for people to forget it.

If you wish, you may also sign the We Campaign’s online petition. Normally I do not sign such petitions, as they are usually about meaningless. However, the We Campaign is made up of a wide range of political activists – they are responsible for the commercials with Pat Robertson and Jesse Jackson – so it does hold more weight then most other websites with similar petitions. However, I feel obligated to warn you that signing the petition will put you on the We Campaign’s mailing list. This is not like being on a typical campaign’s mailing list where you get three emails every day with “important” information you don’t care about. I am a member and I can assure you that the emails are few. It is a good way to stay abreast with current environmental issues, if that sort of thing sounds appeasing. So I do recommend signing the petition and receiving their emails and don’t want to scare anybody away from it, but I also want to be upfront and let you know there’s no way of signing it without signing up for the list. (Of course, you could always sign it and then send them an email requesting to be removed from the list . . . )

The third bill approaching Congress is the long-awaited debate on providing federal standards to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. This is in the form of S. 2191: America’s Climate Security Act of 2007, announced by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and John Warner (R-Virginia). This bill is getting a lot of heat (no pun intended) from both sides of the issue because one side thinks it’s too expensive and the other thinks it doesn’t go far enough.

The crux of the bill is to cap greenhouse emissions at 2005 levels, and then start reducing gasses by 2% annually begining in 2012, creating a 20% reduction by 2020 and 70% reduction by 2050. This sounds very good. I like this. Could do better and I would prefer faster cuts, but I understand that industry has a legitimate gripe about cutting things too fast and some compromise is necessary.

The bill would also provide “transition assistance” to help deal with raising costs as a result of the expenses necessary to accomplish these cuts. This assistance would come in two forms: $350 billion to aide lower- and middle-income consumers and $500 billion to help offset the costs for companies and industries of modernizing their facilities to comply with the legislation.

This bill would also, by definition, increase the use of renewable and emission-friendly energy sources such as solar, wind, and nuclear.

However, the brunt of these cuts would come in the form of a cap-and-trade policy designed to encourage industry and private power plants to decrease their emissions. I have written about the positives of cap-and-trade before, so I won’t dive into too much detail about their relative merits. Suffice to say, these policies can be enacted and enforced responsibly and be very effective, though they can just as easily be meaningless, particularly if not enforced. If operated according to plan, this cap-and-trade system could move $5 trillion into federal coffers to help accomplish the reduction goals. This will undoubtedly raise many eyebrows amongst the “small government” crowd; even the New York Times is calling it “one of the biggest programs of redistribution of American wealth in history.” There are people who will claim this is just another reason to take the power away from the individual and place it in the hands of “big brother,” and any corrective actions should and must be conducted solely by and within the marketplace.

The truth is that if the market place was inclined to act responsibly to fix the global warming issue then it would have been done a long, long time ago. Some might argue that the market would prefer to act in a way which would be more environmentally friendly, but are unable to do so due to the financial burdens. Fine. But then the government needs to act to allow the market to become more environmentally friendly.

Either way, the health of our environment, the conditions which we leave our only habitat to our children, and the long-term economic and military stability of our nation are far too important to sacrifice in some theoretical discussion with Adam Smith. Our country’s greatest environmental accomplishments happened in the 1970’s, when the Environmental Protection Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act, Community Right-to-Know Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (Superfund) were all passed . . . and we had a Republican President in office. This is not and should not be a partisan issue. This is an issue which demands respect from all sides, as well as compromise. It’s far too important to be lost in the idealistic bickering of extremist thought; whether the arguments rendered be of market corrections or humanity’s ability to influence global climate change.

To that end, while it may appear difficult to impossible for this bill to pass, there are several indicators that such a bill will be passed in the near future. First, despite heavy complaints from some industry, many in the market actually want the federal government to pass greenhouse emission legislation. This is not so much a result of some moral prerogative as much as one of financial necessity. Many in industry fear that if the federal government does not pass emission standards quickly, state governments will become more likely to do so. This sets up several dilemmas. First, it is more efficient for a company to deal with a single standard then to adjust business practices for the differing standards in place in several states. Secondly, there is a fear that states will enact more stringent legislation than the federal government would be willing to, causing an increase cost burden on the industry. Third, states are not likely to provide such large relief plans to the industries affected by the legislation. And fourth (though probably not finally), many in industry are concerned that a state will place unduly high air quality standards and then penalize a company for operating a facility in a neighboring state for pollutants crossing state lines, setting up long and expensive legal battles.

I’m sure that many who control industry would prefer such a law for the law’s sake. However, absent that I really don’t care what the motivations for support of such a law are – the bill will have the same effect regardless of whether it’s approved for economic or altruistic purposes.

Another reason to be hopeful of such a bill forthcoming shortly is the policy of both Presidential candidates. Obama and McCain have both stated they will place an emphasis on creating some environmental controls to decrease global warming and increase energy independence in their next terms. Further, both have expressed an approval of cap-and-trade policy to accomplish reduction in greenhouse gasses. While neither seem as reliable on the subject as, say, Al Gore, they both seem much more sincere about their efforts than George Bush (or John Kerry for that matter). And as “green-living” becomes more and more popular and visible, and as more people understand the economic, as well as the environmental, benefits of more eco-conscious policies and lifestyles, the public push for such legislation will only increase.

It would be great if this bill passed Congress without amendments diluting its ability to positively affect the environment, as well as our economy. If not, hopefully Congress will use the debate to formulate a bill which will pass without rendering it useless in our fight against climate change.

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McCain’s Iran Ignorance: Updated

Late last night (technically early this morning) I wrote that McCain doesn’t even know who runs Iran. The point I was trying to make was that he (and Bush, for that matter) are trying to scare Americans into a Cold War-type fear of Iran using their eccentric (and crazy) President, Mahmoud Ahmanidejad. Of course, Ahmanidejad doesn’t actually run the country; he doesn’t even have control over the country’s nuclear or foreign policy. Iran’s Supreme Leader, currently Ayatolla Ali Khamenei, is named by the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran as the highest ranking official, and dictates the country’s policies in these two areas. To be honest, I didn’t actually think McCain was unaware that President Ahmanidejad held a mostly ceremonial post, but was using a high-visibility official most Americans thoroughly despise as a way to garner support for his viewpoint. Pretty bad, that one would lie about such things in order to slant public opinion. And since he made the claim, I thought the tongue in cheek comment of “how can we expect McCain to appropriately deal with the leadership of Iran when he doesn’t even know whom the leadership is?” was legitimate.

Well, it turns out that I was wrong. Not that it was a low blow, but that McCain apparently doesn’t know who Iran’s real leader is. In fact, when confronted with this information, he not only admitted he was unaware that Ahmanidejad was not the de facto leader of the country, but even denied that Ayatolla Khamenei held that post.

Now, lest you think John McCain might be better informed on such matters than I, you don’t have to take my word for it. The CIA lists the “Chief of State” as Khamenei. According to, you know, our own government, evidently he is appointed to a life term by the “Assembly of Experts,” has control over the appointment of “more sensitive ministries” in the Cabinet, and appoints many of the members of the Executive Branches’ three oversight committee. Oh, and he also determines the country’s foreign and military policy (did I mention that?)

Time Magazine’s Joe Klein, a member of the Council of Foreign Relations (so what would he know, anyway?), broached the subject to McCain because it turns out, in contrast to the Senator’s statements, Barack Obama didn’t actually ever say he was going to engage in formal discussions with Ahmanidejad. McCain objected to this correction, at which time Klein promptly informed him that he had said meeting with the leaders of the country may be appropriate, but not necessarily Ahmanidejad himself. McCain laughed, and alerted us to the (incorrect) fact that Ahmanidejad is the leader. And when Klein said that he “might be mistaken,” McCain’s response was “he’s the person that comes to the United Nations and declares his country’s policy . . .”

Of course, the President of the United States very seldomly goes to the United Nations to declare our policies. Currently, the person who does that job is Zalmay Mamozy Khalizad. So by McCain’s logic, Mr. Khalizad, and not George W. Bush, is the leader of the United States. (Boy, if the people who don’t like Obama because they think he’s Muslim ever find out about that . . .)

But the fact that he speaks in front of the U.N. was not the only evidence McCain brought out to support his position. He reinforce the accuracy of his claim by stating “I think if you asked any average American who the leader of Iran is, I think they’d know.” So evidently countries half way around the world determine who their leader is based upon public opinion in the United States. Now, six out of ten 18-24 year olds in the United States can’t even find Iraq on the map, so these countries may want to think twice before picking their leaders based upon what Joe Sixpack in Biloxi thinks.

Of course, 68% of Americans think that the war in Iraq was a bad idea, and the same margin thinks we should either withdraw all or some of our troops in Iraq, so I’m guessing a McCain speech detailing a shift in policy regarding the war will be forthcoming very shortly.

Senators are weighing in on the feud between Obama and McCain. Take these two partisan comments, one by a Republican Senator and one by a former Democrat Senator, and try to guess which one made which.

First: “I’m very upset with John with some of the things he’s been saying. And I can’t get into the psychoanalysis of it. But I believe that John is smarter than some of the things he is saying. He is, he understands it more. John is a man who reads a lot, he’s been around the world. I want him to get above that and maybe when he gets into the general election, and becomes the general election candidate he will have a higher-level discourse on these things.”

Second: “There are of course times when it makes sense to engage in tough diplomacy with hostile governments. Yet what Mr. Obama has proposed is not selective engagement, but a blanket policy of meeting personally as President, without preconditions, in his first year in office, with the leaders of the most vicious, anti-American regimes on the planet.”

I’ll give you a hint – you’re wrong. The first statement was made by the Senator of Nebraska Chuck Hagel, a Republican. The second was made by the Senator from Connecticut and former Democrat Vice President candidate Joe Lieberman. Lieberman, in case you forgot, was the one who clued McCain in that Iran wasn’t providing weapons to al Qaeda because, to put it bluntly, Iran hates them. (Also, his claim that Obama has “a blanket policy of meeting personally as President” is incorrect. He stated that the Obama White House would meet with leaders, not necessarily Obama personally. I’m quite certain that’s not even logistically possible.) The good news for Democrats is Lieberman might end up being on the McCain ticket.

Finally, an interesting story came across the wire today that two superdelegates were bribed into endorsing Clinton with a one million dollar contribution to their organization, Young Democrats. They declined the, um, “offer.” Man, she can’t even buy votes these days.

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