Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Second to Last Call

My Obama post will be finished before Super Tuesday/Fat Tuesday, I promise it. School > blogging, but this is important, and I want to do it right. Hopefully it'll be up in the morning on Sunday.

In the meantime, Nora linked me to a fantastic post by the author of one of my favorite webcomics. It's worth a read, and just to sample at it (beyond Nora's wonderfully concise post), I present the quote below:

"Obama has shown a real commitment to open government. When putting together tech policy (to take an example close to home for xkcd) others might have gone to industry lobbyists. Obama went to Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons (under which xkcd is published) and longtime white knight in the struggle with a broken system over internet and copyright policy. Lessig was impressed by Obama’s commitment to open systems — for example, his support of machine-readable government information standards that allow citizens’ groups to monitor what our government is up to. Right now, the only group that can effectively police the government is the government itself, and as a result, it’s corrupt to the core. Through these excellent and long-overdue measures, Obama is working to fight this corruption."

This perhaps explains why my analysis of Obama's ethics policy sounded so much to me like Lawrence Lessig. More importantly, why it sounds brilliant and doable. So, give the links a look before Sunday, and I should have my final review ready and useful by Super Tuesday

Sunday, January 20, 2008

"...ain't gonna study war no more"

In church today we sang one of my favorite hymns, a classic that is the second song I can recall knowing (the first being "Help!" by the Beatles). It's "Gonna Lay Down My Sword and Shield", and it has as a popular refrain the line I've used to title this post. It's a great song, a beautifully simple song about a soldier giving up the military life, giving up that burden (on one's soul, perhaps?), and working towards friendship with a wide variety of people, across all nationalities. It's a good song, a powerful song, and it has served for me as something of a touchstone, a point of familiarity, and my first entry into the large church, the whole hymn singing deal. (Lyrics here, and the UU hymnal replaces "try on my starry crown down by the riverside" with "shake hands around the world, ev'ry where I roam").

Today I found myself as moved as I ever have been by the song, and in the paradoxical situation of being one who studies war. A lot. And enjoys it.

I'm up hypocrite creek, as it were. Except, I'm pretty sure I'm not studying war in the context of the song's soldier. The soldier studies war as how to fight, as how to make his body and his weapons preserve his life and end that of his foe. The soldier's study of war is the study of kill and don't be killed, a concentrated course in ending individual human lives. At least, that's how the song implies it, and there is some truth to that.

That's not how I study war. I am a rather different sort of student, an academic about it, if I may assume that label. My focus is never on the direct killing of people (though awareness of that fact is a central part), but rather on the exercise of weapons and soldiers to prevent killing, to halt conflict, and to work in a way where the abuses of coercive power (as all military power is coercive power) ultimately amount to a world guided by the precepts of nonviolence and with a strong underpinning of justice. That's an over-reaching statement. I believe in international force, in the "shake hands around the world" method of dealing with the existence and the reality of war and armed conflict, and the hope that international means, such as the United Nations Peacekeepers, may help steer a world towards less conflict. I believe that no soldier should be burdened by the immorality of being forced to kill against his will, but I temper that with belief in small volunteer armies and drafted forces, so that avoidance of that burden helps dissuade countries from going to war. And I believe that weapons should be set down, kept but allowed to rust a bit, as with my stands on nuclear policy, arguing against the actual use of nuclear weaponry, provided that the weapons exist and their presence is alone enough to dissuade war.

But I'm going to keep studying war. Not entirely as preventive means, and not entirely limited by ideals and moral imperatives, but with an eye towards the amount of scholarship built around the precepts of Just War, the lesser jihad's allowance of "fighting against those who oppress you", and still unclear role of an international military. It's a conceit to keep this up, and its a big conceit, and its one of the very few fields that has the deaths of people not only as a consequence but as both a means and an end. It is a tricky arena, and one where disconnect from the reality of what is being studied is something close to fatal. And it's wholly contrary to the topic of the sermon, the examples and the power of nonviolence expressed. And it's inappropriate for the occasion, for the commemoration of the work and the power of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

But here it is, the confrontation of an inherent hypocrisy, and hopefully a reminder of the greater moral imperative underlying what I'm trying to do. It's easy to forget that war is more than toy soldiers, and it's vital to see the role of social justice in philosophies behind the military, philosophies that struggle with problems of reality, and the failings of ideal states and stances. We're lost if we're stuck at either end of that spectrum.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tsarist Russia in Color!

In my Russian history class today, the professor showed some photographs in color from between 1907 to 1915. It was incredible.

There is the conscious knowledge that the past was in color, and then there is the reality of it. This picture was the first one shown, and it struck me as reminiscent of towns in the western US that are not quite ghost towns, but are largely unchanged from their time. The towns did not fade to that state, they have just remained that way. Fascinating.
This is another one the professor showed, and for all intents and purposes this is a photograph of a medieval town. The dilapidation, the smallness and the density and the centrality of the church, all of this is incredible, and feels like it should be rendered in wood blocks or cinematic sepia. To see it with the same pallet as one sees the world today is (edit:I originally left this blank. I'm still searching for the right adjective, since "awesome" has lost all significance).

The whole site is great, and worth checking out. I heartily recommend this, and not just for the historical significance, but because the professor lit up at the sight of these photos, photos he has shown to many a class before, and photographs he still minds wonder in. Historians have a great giddiness to them when the past comes alive, and these pictures achieve that effect better than most anything. Enjoy.

(For those explanation minded, the whole process is detailed, and the photographs are a bit of a conceit. Originally, the images were taken and projected through filters. Digital technology is used to make the composite images, which aims at replicating the effect of the productions. I'll still treat the end result as true to life, since the images are powerful for exactly that reason. This is a world photographed in color before the world was photographed in color. Still incredible.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Some local triva

I'm still on a temporary break from national political coverage, though I promise I will get to both Obama and Edwards before the month is over (and maybe Biden and Dobb, post-campaign). Instead, I'd like to direct you to the blog of Albuquerque High's underground newspaper. I've blogged about them before, and this time I believe they've actually managed to both put out an issue and provide fitting social commentary. For a wonderfully satirical look into the inanity of high school (and the relatively recent issue of armed security guards), head on over.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Hello People from iMinister!

Since iMinister has a much larger readership than I can claim, I figured an introduction would be good. I blog about my Unitarian Universalist experience sometimes, and I like to think I am guided by UU values in my observations and analysis of other issues. The other issues are the core of this blog, however, and so I will not be providing a UU analysis of political candidates or nuclear policy, but it is a background I have that finds its way into the rest of my life. So, if you've come for political dissections, nuclear pondering, or speculations about education, this is a site that should be comfortable. If you have come looking for specific UU issues, many other sites would be better suited towards your wanderings, though my UU stuff is linked by the tag, and it may be worth your time.

Most importantly, thank you for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy the blog!

Mike Gravel

This is post six in my candidate analysis series, which is now going to be Democrat-oriented until the New Mexico Democratic Caucus is over. I'm covering Mike Gravel, not because it's particularly timely, but because his issues page is rather slight, and I wanted an easy follow-up to Hillary Clinton. This is not to outright discredit Mike Gravel's candidacy (though he is not yet on the ballot in New Mexico), but it does mean that I will most likely be back later this week with more elaborate posts concerning Barack Obama and John Edwards.

Mike Gravel through the lens of Kelsey Atherton


The War in Iraq - His positions are concise, but he still makes some nice points. He mentions the obscene number of Iraqi dead, which is an unprecedented in my survey so far of candidate issues pages. He calls for a "complete withdrawal from Iraq in 120 days", which one can assume he intends to have start after his election, though the wording is unclear. He mentions the hardship caused by the war that the soldier death toll doesn't cover, and most interestingly, he calls for a full US corporate withdrawal, trusting Iraqi companies to rebuild Iraq. It is interesting stuff, but it's all surface level, flashy statements without exposition. It fits a senate campaign, where broad views are stated, and then details fleshed out later. It seems half-assed for a presidential campaign.

The National Initiative for Democracy - This initially appears as a throwaway one-line statement, but the statement links here, and this page is worth reading. The national initiative for democracy intends to make it easier for citizens, as a whole, to propose and pass legislation, at all levels of civic organization. This is thought out and interesting, and the initiative exists without Mike Gravel's support, so the plan exists as an independent entity to be debated of it's own merit. It's huge and populist and is a radical restructuring of US legislative policies, and I am somewhat inclined towards the idea. It's also the kind of idea that needs more national press, legislative support, and a national movement to be put in place. Take note of the idea, but it seems an impossible thing for a president to get passed.

Iran and Syria - The extent of this section is the following quote: "Senator Gravel opposes a military confrontation with Iran and Syria and advocates a diplomatic solution to the current situation". There are also links, to youtube videos and a thoughtful editorial about US-Iranian relations. The editorial is worth a read, as it's well put together and addresses the problem of political necessity nicely - yes, we can disagree with Ahmadinjehad, and yes, he is fundamentally wrong about several issues, but he is also a world leader, and a world leader who we as a nation cannot afford to be in conflict with. Moralizing against Iran hurts diplomacy and makes war look far more likely than, say, cooperative work against Al-Qaeda. The editorial is really good, but it's an editorial, and not a plan, or a series of foreign policy goals, both of which I expect from presidential candidates.

Global Warming/Climate Change - He calls for carbon tax and an end to deforestation, acknowledges global warming as real and threatening, and says that the United States must work with other nations to fight global warming. Very good stuff, but mostly opinion, and while none of it is disagreeable, nothing is outstanding, either.

Progressive Taxes - a Fair Tax - He wants to abolish the IRS. And then institute an entirely new system of taxes. That is the reasonable part of his proposition, which reads like the kind of thing a 19-year-old libertarian blogger would hammer out, post as a shiny manifesto, and then distribute via anonymous mailings. While the ideas inherent in the plan are interesting, the formatting is off, like a typewritten and xeroxed one-page zine from the 1980s. Very weird, but we here at the internet take the weird at face value, and so I will admit the plan has a sort of appeal to it. The huge changes comes from abolishing the income tax, and having a national sales tax pick up the burden. Suddenly, everything would cost at least 25% more, but with no income taxed in any other way, taxes will only be paid when goods or services are purchased, letting those who buy less pay less taxes. Were I to start a new nation, I would take this into consideration as a tax scheme, but the potential for everything to go wrong is great, and I worry that reform would stop with "depriving the government of income" and never make it to "instituting new tax law".

Healthcare - this is linked to his tax plan, as everything he proposes that needs federal money will be, and so Mike Gravel proposes a universal healthcare plan that is fully funded by new tax code. Since I think the new tax code is many degrees of unfeasible, I can't count on any legislation that derives all it's value from such a shaky foundation.

Reproductive Rights - Very good stuff, including both the vital "...a woman's right to choose if and when...", and "...comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education, including accurate information about contraception...". No wrong marks, but little more that is solid. There is a mention of specialized healthcare being provided, but its put in as a good idea, and not as a developed plan.

Immigration - A standard "let's protect the border and make it easier to have both guest workers and legal immigrants" line is here, and I am a little impressed that such a line could have fallen into a standardized mold, but apparently it has. The really meat of this section is an attack on NAFTA, which is a favored far-left entree these days, but doesn't really address what positive action will be done. Yes, the legislation caused serious problems, and it is good to acknowledge them (and bonus points for acknowledging how it has hurt Mexico), but please, tell me what you will do about it, with clearer wording than "a discussion" and "reform".

LGBT Rights - Further differentiating himself from Richardson (whose section is titled GLBT Rights), Mike Gravel manages to ddress the same issues in a bland way, without any innovation or grandstanding. He supports rights, doesn't believe they should be restricted, and thinks that expanding LGBT rights to that of full citizens (you know, the kind that can get married) is a good idea. It is good to have the section, and it is good to acknowledge these issues, but it's lacking when compared to Richardson, and Richardson is not a particularly eloquent person.

Social Security - Change the fund from money paid by worker now for current retirees to money held by the government on behalf of individual citizens for their later use, and to pass on to their heirs. This plan doesn't agree with his tax reform ideas (no money pulled out of income, no government tracking of income), so the idea of the government holding money on behalf of 300,000,000+ individuals, which seems unlikely but doable at the moment, becomes an impossibility.

Education - There is no substance at all to this section, and pot-shots at No Child Left behind are really, really petty. He does attack the legislation for its inherent flaws, which compensates for the lame attack a bit, but it doesn't include any ideas for change. That isn't exactly true; lots of ideas for change are discussed, but no actual plan is ever mentioned. I trust that he would find a competent education secretary, and that he would have an openness to reform, but I don't see any impetus or any inspiration.

Veteran's Affairs - This is the first place I've seen a blatant lie (that I am aware of); Mike Gravel says he is the only military veteran in the race, and I hope he means the only Democrat veteran, as John McCain certainly has veteran status as an integral part of his personal and political identity. Moving towards his plan, he believes in fully funding the VA to do more than it currently can, and in allowing for more individualized care for veterans. The funding, I assume, will come from the proposed tax reform.

The War on Drugs - Here Mike Gravel makes a radical statement, calling for an end to the War on Drugs, an end to prohibition, and a combined platform of federal regulation of hard drugs with decriminalization of soft drugs. It's a very bold statement, and one with lots of support from some disciplines of social science, and it seeks to address both the problems of drug abuse and swelling US prisons. A bold statement, and interesting statement, but no more follow-through leaves this section, like so many of his, lacking.

Net Neutrality - Richardson being the only other candidate to have addressed this issue by name so far, it's exciting to see this section again. The internet needs to be in a free and neutral state to work effectively, and Gravel acknowledges that. Acknowledgment is enough here - the immediate threats have all been dealt with, and having a president aware of the importance of a free internet is all that can be asked for right now.

Human Rights - "Senator Gravel is adamantly opposed to torture, indefinite detention, and the deprivation of lawyers/speedy trials. He opposes the Military Commissions Act, flagrant ignorance of the Geneva convention, and Guantanamo." Clearly stated support of human rights is good. A line or two about "appointing judges who respect the sanctity of international law/human rights" would have been good, as those two sentences, while solid sentences, are rather empty.



My impression of Mike Gravel is can best be summarized in two words: he's redundant. Dennis Kucinich seems to be the inspiring far-left candidate, who neatly combines all reasonable far-left stands. Mike Gravel seems to me to be fated as an also-ran, possessing neither electability or fanatical supporters. Gravel's ideas are radical, truly radical, and they place him much further to the left than even Kucinich, but they are also kind of wrapped up in how far-out they are, leaving the careful thought and deliberate action (that should be the meat of politics) missing. His opinions overlap with Dennis Kucinich (whose similar ideas are better thought-out) when they don't overlap with Bill Richardson (who is far more moderate on most everything, and seems more electable). The radical departures are interesting, but complete tax reform, a new legislative mechanism, and decriminalization of drugs are all destabilizing mechanisms, and would require moderations and tempering to even be introduced to congress - if written under a Mike Gravel presidency, they would be so altered by the time he was able to sign them into law that I can only imagine he'd veto his own bills.

Mike Gravel would not make a great president. More than anyone else, he would be a lame duck upon election, a victim to a legislature that could all work around his obstinacy. He isn't even really a feasible running mate, and i am hard pressed to find a secretary seat that would suit his talents well. Perhaps, in twenty years, some of his ideas may be more reasonable, but for now, he seems to be in the running to be in the running, and the idea of his winning cannot have occurred to him as a genuine possibility. If it had, he might have put some effort into it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Hillary Clinton

Here is post five in my candidate analysis series, which is now going to be Democrat-oriented until the New Mexico Democratic Caucus is over (post's 1-4 available in a .doc file; interested? comment with your email). I'm covering Hillary Clinton, who I have a prior bias against, and who is (without any research) my least favorite candidate under the banner of Democrat. My commentary will come from the issues page of her site.

Before anything, I'd like to discuss naming. Political names are tricky, and the temptation is to go the easiest route, and find the media-friendly term. This is troubling when a name can be hijacked, as (in my memory) most recently occurred in the 2006 race between Patrica Madrid and Heather Wilson. Wilson's campaign decided that Madrid should first be Patricia and then Patsy, and it was an awful bit of branding, but it was unavoidable. Hillary Clinton has found herself in a similar spot, with her first name becoming something of a profanity among the far right, and her last name already attached to both a presidential legacy and a slew of litanies and connotations. It is my understanding that the Clinton campaign has chosen to reclaim "Hillary", and the prominent signage seems to indicate that this is an effective branding technique. In this post I will refer to Hillary Clinton as Hillary, not out of malice or a societal naming construct, but because that is the identifier her campaign has chosen to use.

This is not to say I am not biased against Hillary Clinton; I have a prior bias, and would like to state it before delving. Hillary Clinton has been in office since 2001, and has the media coverage and clout that would have allowed her to be a vocal critic of any number of policies authored in the last year. She has the name recognition, party support, and loyal following to allow her to be openly critical with little fear of losing her seat. Far as I can tell, she has squandered all of this, and instead has played center-center, deviating left only rarely, and has squandered her position and influence so that she can be palatable to voters of all stripes in a presidential election. There is so much good she hasn't done that it is hard for me to not hold this against her merit as a presidential candidate.

Still, we need to know whether she is worthy of support now, and so I will endeavor to examine her stands on issues as the are now. So, with the benefit of the doubt

Hillary Clinton through the lens of Kelsey Atherton


Strengthening the Middle Class - The Clinton's have always struck me as business-minded, and Hillary's plans here fit that mold. She wants tax cuts for the middle class, stronger unions and domestic trade protection, and fiscally responsible government. This is characteristic of the center-center left, and it doesn't, in and of itself, contain a recipe for prosperity. That is provided by "Harnessing the power of innovation" through both new energy technology and expanded broadband networks, perhaps a second dot-com boom. It's sound, if such a new golden age of technology can be forged, but but it seems to me to be catering to a specific set of voters - not an insignificant set, certainly, and the middle class will die before its votes stop mattering the most, but her policies here ignore the rest of the US. Strengthening the middle class must come at the expense of everyone else, it seems, and that is rough, unless its coupled with enlarging the middle class.
There's more here, and the site has a clean presentation, with bullet-point links and simple stated goals. Her rhetoric bothers me, talking about what the Bush Administration has done for the past 6 1/2 years, with little mention of what her voting record says about how she resisted those policies, how she stood up for her constituencies and how she defended the American people from such ravaging. Also, her promise to "Restore the basic bargain. Hillary will restore the basic bargain that if Americans work hard and take responsibility, government will do its part to make sure they have the tools to get ahead." seems empty. It sure does sound good, but it is devoid of meaning, and has no inherent worth in and of itself. A "how" here would have given the statement value.

Providing Affordable and Accessible Healthcare - The page is simple and patronizing, glossing over everything unless you're persistent decide to look at the plan summary. It seem to me to be a poor move to separate goals and plan, but the page looks as though its stated goal is to reassure voters that Hillary know what she's doing, that it will all be okay, and that you can just trust her. That's scary. Equally scary is painfully simple phrases, such as "And like other things that you buy,...", "because their computer model says you're not worth it" and "Hillary would give tax credits". The last statement is particularly troubling, given its replacement of "The federal government under Hillary Clinton" or ""The Second Clinton Administration" with "Hillary". Presidents don't have that power, they aren't dictators, and while they can help insure that desired bills get passed, they can't hand out tax credits. The page is disappointing, especially given that national health care is one of Hillary's stated goals, one that may even have idealism behind it. She mentions the success of healthcare plans she introduced in Arkansas, and then leads to the link about her actual plan.
Her plan itself reads better than the stated goals of the plan. Patronizing lingers, when using the term "Menu" to describe the healthcare plan, but on the whole this seems interesting. It opens medicare to more of the uninsured, offers tax credits to small business, presents an array of options (with a bureaucracy already in place) for healthcare choice, and on the muddled whole it sounds decent enough. A little merging of government and business, or perhaps a contractor model, but it seems okay. The big problem, as with any healthcare plan, is funding, and she intends to undo some of the Bush tax cuts, but the money gained there is to be spent on tax credits for middle and lower class folk. The main affordability of the plan hinges on how much wasteful spending can be cut, and how much money modernizing healthcare will save.
It's a sort of universal healthcare, if you want the idea implemented but don't want to do away with insurance companies, private health care practices, and the whole complex arrangement that the free market has already worked out, with the consent of government. The innovation seems to be in the presentation of healthcare options, through a unified governmental list, and being handed a comprehensive menu, with a price scale, just doesn't feel like universal healthcare should.

Note: Lissa pointed this out, and it's a huge point that I overlooked: Hillary Clinton's health care plan puts every option through employers, helping employers provide healthcare for their employees, making having a job a prerequisite for health insurance, and ignoring the huge gap (and, say, moral incentive) of providing healthcare for those without jobs.

Ending the War in Iraq - She opens this section with an attack on Bush's failure to bring the troops home, and her calls for him to do just that. She concludes her intro with the claim that if Bush doesn't pull the troops out, she will. And she says "Hillary has been fighting every day in the Senate to force the president to change course", which leads me to question what starting point for that fight has been omitted. She moves from this, leaving little room to wonder what she hasn't done, and instead presents us with what she will do. her plan is a three-step process, calling for first the forming of a sound military plan to begin the withdrawal of US troops with 60 days of her inauguration. This is justified as US involvement in a civil war isn't helping anything. Her next step is to channel money into the bodies that are de facto governing Iraq, whether they be governmental or not, and support a UN appointee to broker the peace. This is channeling money to all sides in the civil war she is removing US troops from, and leaving the United Nations to take the fall. The third part of her strategy consists of convening a meeting of all neighboring nations, as well as other key countries (I'll read this as Russia, China, and the EU, probably) to help the civil war factions negotiate a truce, and to then channel money into reconstructing Iraq.
None of this policy feels sound, and it is all jeopardized by her last statement: "Hillary will not lose sight of our very real strategic interests in the region. She would devote the resources we need to fight terrorism and will order specialized units to engage in narrow and targeted operations against al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in the region." Read "very real strategic resources in the region" as "staging ground for a confrontation with Iran", and that's scary. Treat the "resources we need to fight terrorism" as "forces engaged in a police action", and nothing is solved by withdrawal. Give special forces free reign, and you're setting the stage for a second Gulf of Tonkin. This is just bad.
I support getting the troops home, I support the withdrawal from Iraq and the required diplomacy among countries in the region. I'm all for rebuilding Iraq. I am very worried about pulling out troops and sending money in. It isn't humanitarian to say "let the civil war play itself out", but it sure makes more sense than "lets back all sides, hope they talk peace, and keep some military resources around, just in case". The UN official seems like an appointee for blame, and for all her plans similarity to Richardson's, she leaves out the big selling point. Richardson wants "the creation of a multilateral, UN-led Muslim peacekeeping force"; Hillary keeps some US military force in the region and creates a negotiating council. It isn't sound, and it plays all the wrong aspects of the debate - troops home without anything to fill the void, strategic military resources in the region without a clear goal, money without a planning focus, and an international forum without any power to execute its decisions. It's a compromise position, but a terribly failed one.

Promoting energy Independence and Fighting Global Warming - The center-left's big huge specialty is working with business towards social good, and while it isn't as immediately effective as the far left's seizure of businesses, and while it isn't as pro-free-market as perspectives on the right tend to be, it's a powerful tool, and it is perhaps the bluntest guiding of the free market for the common good that is allowable. I bring this up because four-fifths of Hillary Clinton's plan concerns deals between government and business, or a convergence of penalties and incentives, that will affect the costs of business so that green building, living, and working are all more feasible. It's a masterpiece of planning the possible, and so I have no doubt that most if not all of what she intends to implement here is doable. It places the goals for change far off, in 2030 and 2050 predominantly, and it has very interesting phrases, including the term "green collar workers" and a line about companies self-assessing "financial risks due to climate change". The plan is an okay one, but I wonder how much of it would have an impact, and I wonder if asking the American consumer to change (which she isn't doing) would be worth a mention in a plan that clearly intends to make the American manufacturer rework its business model.

Fulfilling Our Promise to Veterans - Our Promise to veterans is, apparently, a bevy of discounts (from housing to education), preferential job placement (both governmental and federal contractor), job training for a post-military career (including non-profits and construction) and aid with transitioning to civilian life (an expanded GI Bill), and some programs that address problems concerning problems that have hit veterans in the past (one-time missed rent forgiveness, subsidies, and eviction protection, all designed to combat veteran homelessness). There is also a good deal about veteran healthcare, which ties into her universal healthcare for the employed, and she mentions the figure of 1.8 million uninsured veterans, which is rather staggering. This is all very good, but most of it, especially the expanded number of people working for the VA to fast-track new veterans claims, seems to do little to address the concerns of veterans from many prior wars. It's a very bold step forward, quite comprehensive (if a bit costly), but it does little if anything to help veterans already down and out.

Supporting Parents and Caring for Children - Education is a big concern of mine, and youth rights are also hugely important to me. Hillary loses all credibility for caring for the well-being of youth with "Protecting children against violence and sexual content in the media and studying the impact of electronic media on children's cognitive, social, and physical development." It sounds good, and lots of people don't like the violence and sexuality in most forms of media, but it is the nanny state and it's a huge violation of both individual choice and parental responsibility. It's doable because children and teenagers have a subset of the rights of full citizens, and so they are easy to legislate against. But this is censorship, and censorship has little place in a free and open society. Certainly, kids shouldn't be coerced into watching or playing games or shows that make them uncomfortable, but they also shouldn't be denied the opportunity to find games enjoyable, or seek out developmentally appropriate media. This may mean mistakes, and some damage, but so long as games or mother media are fairly labeled, and an informed decision can be reached, then the government can step out of individual consumption habits, and let children be children, and deal with the exploration that is part of childhood. The government shouldn't decide what is appropriate for children - parents have that responsibility, and government intrusion is welcome only so long as it helps people make informed decisions; removing the decision making ability from consumers is wrong and harmful.

Moving on, she provides a bullet-point list of goals, and then links to more detailed and fleshed out plans. She believes in improving and not scrapping No Child Left Behind, and she makes a valid point worth repeating - "
This law represented a promise -- more resources for schools in exchange for more accountability -- and that promise has not been kept." The law also called for unreasonable actions, and had such a flawed system of standards that it can be seen as a slow-moving effort to cripple public school, and direct students elsewhere, and I'm not one to believe the law on the whole is that malicious, but it has certainly not been to the benefit of anyone to have that law in place. The goals are nice, though, and worth keeping in mind. Her bullet points include lots of incentives for employed parents to be able to take time off for children, which fits nicely into her overall scheme of governmental help to the employed, and few if any handouts for those who aren't. Not the most endearing thing for housewives, but it's both pro-business and pro-family, which makes it novel, if not necessarily good. Providing training for new parents is interesting, and sounds like a really good idea - again, it can be an encroachment on individual rights if handled poorly, but if left as an optional affair, it is promising.

Her more elaborate plans are more interesting and more comprehensive, and some tackle issues not addressed in the simple bullet point list. Looking at the connection between disengagement in middle school dropout rates, and criminal recidivism (as well as absentee fathering) is a remarkable acknowledgment of social sciences, and is a good move towards looking at factors beyond the individual as influences on individual behavior. This plan is incredible, and it's so far the best piece of legislation I've seen her offer forth. The problem is that it is legislation, and is entirely the kind of program she could have initiated in her many years in the Senate. In fact, she could still do so; if this legislation isn't introduced by anyone in the first '09 congressional session, I'll be terribly disappointed.

Restoring America's Standing in the World - I'll open with a quote, because the quote is so good it just makes me feel a bit warm inside reading it. "
And to keep our country safe, we need to start engaging our enemies again. During the Cold War, with missiles pointed at us, we never stopped talking to the Soviet Union. That didn't mean we agreed with them or approved of them. But it did mean we came to understand them -- and that was crucial to confronting the threats they posed."
She's the first candidate I've seen mention Israel, and she does so by condemning those organization opposed to Israel for their anti-antisemitism. Not a fault, really, but it certainly doesn't treat Hamas or Palestine as worth talking to. She also mentions Northern Ireland and Darfur, which are good things to be concerned about, but she has little substance, other than expressing support for Ireland through business connections and support for ending the violence in Darfur through petition's to the Bush administration. There is little here that describes what she will do, and not much talking about what she has already done. Since foreign policy is my biggest issue, I delved further. Her AIDS plan fits the rest of her platform, in that it has a heavy emphasis on the domestic with the rest of the world as a secondary concern. Domestically, "Hillary will end the Bush administration's abstinence-only prevention policy, and instead, fund evidence-based HIV/AIDS prevention programs including, but not limited to, abstinence education as part of a comprehensive prevention message." This is good policy, but it would be nice to see the phrase "condom distribution", as that is what is required to show a serious commitment to effective help, and not just moralizing and prescribing pills to the infected. It's an electable stance, but it seems awfully empty.
Her "Security and Opportunity" link leads to the full text of her article in Foreign Affairs. It's an impressive piece, but something I am presently unable to summarize. It is reassuring to know that she has more to say about foreign policy than she fits into five paragraphs, but it is equally disappointing to know that she doesn't feel some middle ground of information is worth offering; we are to either skim or delve, and the concise is almost meaningless while the thorough is targeted towards such a select group that it becomes inaccessible.
Hillary Clinton's foreign policy would be painfully weak if it were not so deliberately secondary to her domestic concerns; given that she believes the internal and the economic is more important than interacting with the rest of the world, it's not hard to see her just delegating away this responsibility to a more foreign-policy minded individual, such as, say, Bill Richardson. Foreign Policy isn't what Hillary is about, and it's almost hard for me to say that it isn't what she has to be about, but she doesn't.

A Champion for Women - Hillary's record is strong here, and with vital support for both Plan B and Roe v Wade, she only manages to top herself with "[requiring] health insurance companies to cover contraception, and provides a dedicated funding stream for age-appropriate, medically accurate, comprehensive sex education". It's all very, very good, and her opening paragraphs about fighting the wage disparity don't hurt. there are no flaws here that I can see, but that doesn't mean they don't exist - feel free to point them out, if you feel I've gravely overlooking anything.

Comprehensive Government Reform - This section opens with more voice, much more of a personal feel to it than any page has previously had. It's almost as though it is borrowing it's opening text from a speech, and a good one, too. She gives a quick summary of her fundamental view of government, which is that it exists as a partner in bettering the nation, and not as a deterrent or as the sole actor. She does lots more with bullet-point summaries of her positions, which are hard to dissect. This is okay, since one of the points is the US Public Service Academy, and institution she ants to create that would house my dream job. She also wants "to restore scientific integrity to government decision-making", which is something I find impossible to disagree with. She hits upon lots of other issues, and uses this as page as a platform to attack the Bush Administration's policies, which is not a disagreeable thing to do, but no one seems to be running as Bush's successor, so it is more choir-preaching than drawing sharp contrasts. The only really scary part of all this is cutting 500,000 government contractor jobs; it would perhaps be less scary if I lived in a city that had more than 450,000 people. At any rate its a huge amount of people to unemploy, and hopefully her economic reforms will provide these people with a safe landing.

Strengthening Our Democracy - Paper trails are good, election day as a national holiday is good. Prosecuting who distribute deliberately inaccurate information about voter eligibility is good. Same-day registration is iffy, and "eliminating long lines" sounds good, but seems like something a president can't affect. Moving past her election reform bullet points, Hillary talks about civil rights, mentions her congressional action (!!!) and the role she helped play in trying to prevent unfavorable judges being appointed. She also mentions a statue that was placed in the capitol as part of a bill she passed, which is good but also seems like petty tokenization and doesn't do it for me for what I want from a national leader.

Reforming Our Immigration System - This section is scarily empty, a wasteland of afterthought. Hillary mentions bills she's helped pass, and has a very convoluted bit about how families are important, how American jobs are important, and about how border security is important, with no attempt really to reconcile any of these claims, and no sidebar links to detailed plans. Since there is little thought put into this section there is little to analyze; her four points cover aid for legal immigrants, bills to help legal immigrants learn English, ways to help unify immigrant families, and most troubling, "a path to citizenship through military service or higher education for children who were brought to the U.S. by their parents" that seems to me like a denial of citizenship (where no obstacle had previously existed) in exchange for an indentured servitude, of sorts. This plan in non-threatening but also doesn't actually address any problems, and while her site says "When Hillary is president, comprehensive immigration reform will be a top priority", I can't imagine it being anything but a lie.

An Innovative Agenda -
A better dissection of her plan, by an actual qualified professor, can be found here. Not being highly qualified, I'll only make say this - She talks about the internet on her website like she's explaining it to an octogenarian on the campaign trail. Needless to say, this doesn't help.



Hillary Clinton is, more than any other person running, the status quo candidate. She does not endorse everything that has come before, and is savvy enough to state her objections to the current administrations flaws, but she sees what has been done as flawed and not failed. The substance of a Clinton Administration would be outwardly similar to that of the Bush Administration - it's pro-business policy, with no serious changes in education and no real plan addressing immigration. Lots of what Hillary worked for that didn't get passed in her past seven years in office would be addressed by her presidency, but very little of it strikes me as remarkable, as a direct departure from the past seven years.

The above is an oversimplification, and it doesn't take into account such integral issues as, say, foreign policy. A Clinton administration would be much calmer, much less militant, and much less directed in the arena of international affairs, and that step is a radical departure from the Bush Doctrine. Diplomacy would be focused on trade and economic stability, and all foreign policy will ultimately reflect a desire for US economic prosperity. Her campaign isn't "the economy, stupid" in name, but that is what it argues in fact. her proposed plans offer a great deal towards everyone who works together for this nations prosperity. Universal Healthcare for the employed, veterans to productive members of society, immigrants to veterans and then to productive members of society, it all fits into a well-oiled economy orchestrated by the government. Some rights and some ideals will fall out in such a merger of capital and civic spirit, and with the government doing it's best to make sure that everyone is gainfully employed, it makes sense that the government will have a stake in parenting, and it's fortunate that she combines parental interference with being pro-choice; it is good to know that some rights are still off limits.

I don't want a candidate who sees the presidency as inwardly looking, and I don't want a president who feels that foreign policy isn't worth explaining to interested voters. I don't want an experienced candidate who is unwilling to admit mistakes, and I don't want someone who is so ingrained in the political process that it becomes hard to distinguish her resistance to the president from silent complicity. Hillary Clinton is not as bad as all that, but she comes close, and it is her saving grace that I am a minority among voters, and that my views are far enough removed to place me outside the crowd of people worth pandering to. Hillary Clinton isn't my candidate, and she knows it - she is the candidate for the Center-Center-Left, and that's a strong indication for success. I just wish that her policy struck me as more profound than the simple political spectrum classification.