Friday, February 23, 2007

Hillary Clinton

So, I just attended an event with Hillary Clinton. Interesting. When I walked over to the building, the motorcade was already parked outside. Police, large SUVs, quiet men in black jackets, just like in the movies. When I got inside it was *packed*. I actually got lucky and managed to get in before they closed the the doors due to overcrowding. The announcement of one of the VC technicians to keep the aisles clear and there is overflow room in one of the adjoining tech talk areas didn't convince many people to leave. We just squeezed togehther a bit more...
There were easily over a thousand people in the room.

I didn't expect Clinton to have the views she presented today on the environment and energy. As with so many polititians she's extremely convincing when in the same room and on stage. She doesn't sound fake, rather genuinely interested in making things happen.

Changing the energy policy to promote clean, green technologies, pulling all levels of government together, from federal to state down to the local level to move in the same direction: 10 years from now, she wants the country be well on the way to energy independence from fossil fuels without wrecking the economy along the way. Interestingly, she used California as the prime example what to do. While the per-capita use of energy has increased by 50% in other parts of the US, it has stayed flat in California. She attributes that to California's insistence on sticking with their state-wide incentive programs and pollution limits when the Reagan administration was dismantling whatever such programs existed on the federal level in the early 80's.

She told a nice story about how she vividly remembers after the Russians shot Sputnik into space, all Americans pulled together to create something amazing, the space program, which grew into DARPA, one of the sponsors of the Internet. Her teacher told the students, "kids the president wants you to study math and sience". She believed at the time Eisenhower actually called her teacher to tell them that. Kinda cute story. She used that as a starting point to talk about how she wants Americans to pull together and rid America from its dependence on fossil fuels, move to clean, green energy, bio-fuels, and fight global warming. She's crossing her fingers for Al Gore that he wins the Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth". This was a great section of the talk. She came accross very strong and believable.

When asked about the mess in Iraq, she called it "the height of irresponsibility" that President Bush might leave the Iraq war to his successor to sort out. "This is his war. He needs to clean it up. But if he continues to go the way he's going, I don't expect him to." She strongly advocates pulling troops out of the sectarian civil war that is now engulfing the country, and setting up a regional conference involving all neighbors, including Syria and Iran, to make sure they do their part to stabilize the country. She has a very active role in the senate to reign in Bush's war and "force him to do the right thing. To at least send in troops with all the supplies and material they need to be able to fight this war".
One interesting remark was about how silly it is not to talk to your enemies. Throughout the cold war, both republican and democratic presidents talked to the Russians, to learn, to get intelligence and to understand. "you don't make peace with your friends, you don't have to. In order to make peace you have to talk to the people with different views, with ideas that are the exact opposite of yours."

By the way, it will be interesting to see how she's going to pull people to her side who claim she is unelectable next year. She went through pains to paint herself as an inclusive person, that brings people together, using her home state New York (with a blue New York city, and a very red upstate New York) as example. I'd be curious to know how much of the 68% of New Yorkers that reelecred her last year, actually live in upstate New York.

Clinton made several remarks about universal health-care and how electronic record keeping can lower the costs substantially. I'm a little ambivalent about this, seeing how easy it is to abuse that kind of data and how often backup tapes get lost, laptops stolen, and knowing how many providers and companies allow confidential employee or patient data to travel around on standard laptops in the open. Extending electronic record keeping to local doctors who definitely don't have the resources locally to do a job right, that even banks screw up occasionally, makes me shiver. Her presentation on this topic was a bit ... thin.
The general idea of moving away from the company sponsored health plan system, towards something that many european countries have already developed, sounds like a good idea to me, though.

Finally, she was talking about how important education is. How education starts with the parents. In the family. Then extends out to schools. I'm a big believer in getting parents involved in school. If you know what's going on and are aware, it's much easier to help your children to be successful. Clinton's specific ideas on this topic (while it appears close to her heart) didn't excite me, though. "Make school hours more flexible, because they are inconvenient for working parents. Give kids online access to advanced courses, potentially not offered at their school."
Eh, I don't know, call me old-fashioned, but I think bringing excellent teachers into schools, recognize what they do every day, and paying them a decent salary would go a long way, along with giving them the tools and means to be the most effective. This won't happen overnight even in the most favorable environments, but you have to start somewhere.

Overall, a high-profile politician with charisma, and some decent ideas. Seeing Barack Obama next would be great. Maybe they pull this off some time this year.

No comments: