The Jaker

Mostly rational politics, with occasional rants about how a few crazy Republicans are ruining the country.


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Friday, June 30, 2006
Cast a Vote, win $1 million
I think this is a great idea.
posted by CB @ 10:03 AM   0 comments
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Obama is a different breed
Check out Andrew Sullivan's quotation and discussion of a speech by Barack Obama on giving religion-derived opinions their fair place in political discourse.

During his Senate campaign Obama, on prompting from a Chicago doctor whose religion led him to be against abortion and gay marriage, removed from his website the usual Democratic language about "right wing idealogues" against abortion, replacing it with a fair and honest description of why Obama is pro-choice.

If only more political discourse was conducted on this honest and more intellectual level, rather than boiling opinions down to bullet points.
posted by CB @ 10:58 AM   0 comments
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Scientists unanimous: Gore's movie is accurate
In case someone tries to dispute some of the science in Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth", you can point them to this article.

All 19 scientists contacted by the AP, including global warming skeptics, confirmed that the movie is virtually entirely accurate.
posted by CB @ 2:19 PM   1 comments
There it is again, my pet peeve
Please only use "literally" in a situation where something actually happened.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter:
We now know the eight teams that will contest the title: Germany, Argentina, England, Portugal, Italy, Ukraine, Brazil and France. Who do you think are favourites?Anything can happen in football. That said, past experience would suggest that the host nation enjoys a certain advantage. In fact, Klose, Frings and the rest of the Germany team seem to be literally carried along on a wave of enthusiasm.

Really? How come I haven't been able to see this magic wave on television?
posted by CB @ 1:23 PM   1 comments
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Our Senate is full of idiots
Who might soon pass a Congressional Amendment banning flag burning.

Here's the letter I just wrote to Senator Feinstein:

Dear Senator Feinstein,

I'm incredibly disappointed in your support of the Constitutional Amendment to ban flag burning. I believe it preposterous that you would agree with the Republican fear-mongerers and political gain seekers that the removal of a form of political and social expression should be enshrined in the document that set the global course for democracy, freedom, and the ability to express disappointment with one's government or nation.

I have never considered burning a flag before, but if this amendment passes, I might have to do so in protest of our congress being this backward and unintelligent.

Respectfully,
-CB
posted by CB @ 11:53 AM   0 comments
Monday, June 26, 2006
Crazy baseball manager
Check this out: http://youtube.com/watch?v=xeRnc5SOuLI&search=mikulik
posted by CB @ 11:37 AM   0 comments
Warren Buffet: Bravo
Warren Buffet is giving away $37 billion of his $44 billion fortune, and $31 of the $37 is going to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which works to improve health and education in poor countries.

I can't explain properly how incredibly impressed I am with this move.

Most people with that much money would want to start their own foundation, with their own name on the door, to ensure that they get credit in perpetuity, including after death, for anything the money does.

The work done with Buffet's money, on the other hand, will now mostly be credited to Bill Gates, since it's his name on the foundation.

To me this is an incredible, ego-less, contribution to the well-being of the world, and Buffet should be thanked for it (yes, I see the irony). The Gates Foundation is doing vital work on a huge scale. There is no better use of the money. None.
posted by CB @ 9:08 AM   1 comments
Friday, June 23, 2006
TNR on Al Gore
The New Republic, a left-center (and that's debatable these days) magazine that I subscribed to for about a year, until their incessant pro-Iraq-war stance and one-sided Israel coverage had me clenching my jaw in anger as I read, has published this article on Al Gore, written by editor Martin Peretz (he of the one-sided Israel coverage), who met Al Gore as a freshman at Harvard 41 years ago.

I'll post the full article in the body of this post (click on "Link" below), because TNR is subscription only (and somehow mine still works).

The important paragraph, as Andrew Sullivan points out, is this one:

Let me tell you a few words about the question as to whether Al Gore has changed. Actually, to me he is essentially the same young man I met in a Harvard freshman seminar 41 years ago: inquisitive, respectful of learning and scholarship, emotionally connected, committed to his friends and family, incandescently smart, believing in an order of the universe he still genuinely refers to as God. These are not easily carried into the universe of politics, where cynicism leaves little space for authenticity. But he fought against the demons of triangulation that subvert moral clarity. Al also came out whole, very whole. Yes, he was singed by the president's troubles that the oh, so facile president made for himself. Gore took the advice of some of the usual Democratic four-flusher professionals in his campaign in the year 2000. Right now, I make this assertion with complete confidence: that Gore would not, will not defer his own instincts or convictions to anyone else. Yes, he can be persuaded. But he cannot be pushed.


So let's continue to persuade.


AL GORE IN 2008.
Prime Choice
by Martin Peretz
Only at TNR Online | Post date 06.22.06
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I suspect that Al Gore will be annoyed at me for writing this article. He has never so much as hinted to me that he is or will be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. At most, he has been coy about the matter--as he was coy about it on television last Sunday. Still, I want to assure the reader that I have not written it in consultation with Gore at all. I haven't even hinted to him that I am writing it. This is written out of solidarity with those political moderates and liberals who are desperate to find a nominee about whom both their minds and spirits can be intellectually sure and psychologically fervent.

The first pragmatic reason to be for Gore, then, is that he is electable. He won once. He can win again. This is not simply a slogan; it is a serious thought. I find, moreover, that there is an undercurrent of guilt around the country about the fact that the presidency was taken from him by a vote of 5 to 4, with the 5 votes coming from Supreme Court justices who, on any other matter, would otherwise have reflexively deferred on a matter of Florida votes to the power of the Florida courts whose judgment would have resulted in Al Gore being president and not George Bush. These "strict constructionists" and "originalists" suddenly turned activists. That Bush has been such a clot as a president, such a golem magnifies Gore's stature as a thinking person with beliefs he can defend honestly and persuasively. Imagine what would be the outcome of a rematch. My guess is that if there were a poll asking voters whom they had voted for in 2000, Gore would win by a landslide. I know people who are actually ashamed of having cast their ballots for George Bush. But Gore will not be running against Bush.

Gore would first be running against or competing with Hillary Clinton, Mark Warner, Tom Vilsack, Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Russell Feingold, Wesley Clark. Now, a party that makes Howard Dean its national chairman certainly has a death wish. Maybe it can't be helped. But Hillary starts out with so many in the electorate--left, far left, right, far right, center--nearly half of the public, who despise her that it boggles the imagination how much money she has actually raised, ostensibly for her senate campaign but obviously for her higher ambitions. (This is mostly New York-California money still entranced by Bill, a phenomenon I confess not to grasp. Virtually all of this is social "big money" towards which Democrats have suddenly lost their antagonism.) Still the deep "negative" sentiment, to use a more professional term, is not very much politically motivated but it is politically volatile. She is just disliked. The phenomenon is actually volcanic. The more she shifts her ground the more shaky it is, and she has shifted her ground aplenty. Why, if Hillary were to run against Mayor Giuliani or John McCain in 2006, she'd likely lose even her "home" state of New York.

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I will not make arguments against the rest of the list. Still, some comments are in order. Mark Warner is a favorite with the big-finance Democrats who can't abide Hillary. That is certainly a bond, even a cementing bond. But their theme is that Warner was one of the founders of Nextel. Which reminds me of Ross Perot. He also founded a high-tech company. It is an excuse not a reason. I don't know much about Vilsack. And not many in the politically attuned fold do either. Maybe he'd be able to put Iowa into the Democratic column. Evan Bayh is a nice man, and sound on many issues. Sorry, he doesn't strike me as at all deep. Biden asks many questions and lets no one answer them. I supported him financially when he first ran for the U.S. Senate. He's made little of his place on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Russ Feingold may be too left-wing even for the Upper West Side of New York. Wesley Clark, well, what General MacArthur said is true: Old soldiers fade away. Even not-so-old soldiers fade away. His most enthusiastic audiences seem to be in the United Arab Emirates. TNR readers know my views on John Kerry.

Now, I disagree with Gore about Iraq ... and, frankly, I've sometimes rankled at his Iraq rhetoric. He and I talk about Iraq quite often. This may be no comfort to you. It is to me. But, on foreign and military policy generally, his record going back decades is tough-minded without being belligerent, conciliatory without being soft. I do not doubt his resolve about Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons. I doubt Bush's resolve much more. This has become by now a political calculus for him, calibrated by Karl Rove. On domestic economic matters, Gore is a free-market realist rather than a free-market fanatic. The issues he has tended to are issues on which he is truly expert.

He is not afraid of science and technology because he knows science and technology. And, yes, he did more to foster the democratization of the Internet than anyone in public life anywhere. That democratization is always and, in fact, under threat right now, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Gore would protect it from the corporate vultures.

His film, An Inconvenient Truth, and his book with the same title are smash hits. On 600 screens now and second on the Times best-seller list (also very high on Amazon and Barnes & Noble), this could be the beginning of a campaign. The movie and the book were not launched as part of a political campaign. They are an expression of his long-time passion for spreading the knowledge he wrote about in The New Republic as long ago as 1989. His message is not just for the tree-huggers. It is addressed to all serious citizens who understand that catastrophes to civilizations are not unknown to history. Gore has sounded the tocsin. Many people have heard its clarion message. This does not mean that a Gore campaign would be based solely on the perils of global warming. In any case, he says--and I believe him--this is not the launch of a political campaign. But campaign or not, it has bonded him to so many intelligent and activated citizens of all political persuasions and social strata that it may be the most brilliant campaign-launch in our time.

Let me tell you a few words about the question as to whether Al Gore has changed. Actually, to me he is essentially the same young man I met in a Harvard freshman seminar 41 years ago: inquisitive, respectful of learning and scholarship, emotionally connected, committed to his friends and family, incandescently smart, believing in an order of the universe he still genuinely refers to as God. These are not easily carried into the universe of politics, where cynicism leaves little space for authenticity. But he fought against the demons of triangulation that subvert moral clarity. Al also came out whole, very whole. Yes, he was singed by the president's troubles that the oh, so facile president made for himself. Gore took the advice of some of the usual Democratic four-flusher professionals in his campaign in the year 2000. Right now, I make this assertion with complete confidence: that Gore would not, will not defer his own instincts or convictions to anyone else. Yes, he can be persuaded. But he cannot be pushed.

I was first for Al Gore for president when he ran in the primaries in 1988. He lost to Michael Dukakis in that year's suicide of the Democratic Party, an ignominious campaign by a smug and utterly disconnected governor from the only state that had voted for George McGovern. Jesse Jackson was the celebrity candidate, with his hip-hop language that some patronizing folk will still tell you is eloquence. Had Al Gore been the nominee in 1988, he likely would have defeated George Herbert Walker Bush, and the nation would have been saved the grim experience of his unlikely and uncomprehending dynasty.
posted by CB @ 1:57 PM   0 comments
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Absolutely Not! Of Course! Maybe!
This new CNN poll about who voters would "definitely not vote for" or "definitely vote for" produced some interesting results.

Surprisingly, Al Gore gets a higher (by 1%) "definitely not" number than Hillary and Kerry - 48% Gore vs. 47% Clinton and Kerry. Are there really that many people who were as put off by Gore in 2000 as Kerry in 2004? Don't these people watch movies or Saturday Night Live?

And despite Hillary's high "no" vote, she also scored highest on the "definitely vote for" side, with 22%.

I wonder how much stock people like Gore (who are deciding whether to run) put in polls like this. Try as he might, his new message still hasn't gotten out that widely. But perhaps that will change in a few months.
posted by CB @ 1:06 PM   0 comments
Flag burning irony
Glenn Greenwald points out the sad irony if the flag burning amendment goes into law: many people will be compelled to burn one for the first time ever, in protest of political ass-kissing and absolutely atrociously stupid legislating.

ps. I'm ashamed that a Senator (Diane Feinstein) from the state I called home 9 years is supporting this.
posted by CB @ 9:34 AM   1 comments
Monday, June 19, 2006
Will I be vegetarian in 10 years?
I'm finding it more difficult every day to square my self-proclaimed progressive liberalism with being an unabashed and enthusiastic meat-eater. Some things I steer clear of for emotional or ethical reasons, including venison and lamb. Can't eat deer (perhaps the Bambi factor, though I've never seen it), and it seems cruel to eat young animals like lambs. But I didn't know until reading this that most lamb we (or you) eat is actually younger than 10-months old!

But then, it's a slippery slope, isn't it? Is it really better to eat 2 year old cow than 8 month old lamb? I don't think so.

As of now, I can't even imagine what my diet would consist of without at least chicken and turkey (my red meat consumption has decreased significantly in recent years due to health-consciousnessness). But if the day does come when I feel bad for having served (and eaten) chateaubriand at my wedding, it will perhaps signify that a serious rethink of the American diet (or at least the bleeding-heart urban liberal diet) is underway.
posted by CB @ 3:52 PM   1 comments
Where are the WMDs? NORTH KOREA!
So North Korea has a Taepong-2 test (hopefully) missle currently fueled and ready for test (hopefully) launch. Fantastic.

Andrew Sullivan makes the key point: this kind of action is what Bush could have united the country over... "a real right-left alliance in America against tyrannies with WMDs after 9/11". But Bush has blown his wad in Iraq, and we're left defenseless.
posted by CB @ 1:37 PM   0 comments
Mini 2008 Update
Washington Post on the Obama phenomenon, and speculation about a run for President in 2008.

And USNews's Washington Whispers column says the following:

We know, we know, the race for the White House is a long way off. But there is already a growing buzz on the Democratic side that there are just three worthy candidates likely to end up in a pitted primary battle starting in 19 months: New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, and one-term ex-Virginia Gov. Mark Warner. Here's the 411 from a top Democratic maven: Clinton is the, well, elephant in the room, the "uber" candidate; Warner gets the mainstream moderates; and progressive Feingold is attractive to the activists who seem to be taking over the party.
posted by CB @ 11:00 AM   0 comments
Friday, June 16, 2006
The lukewarm feelings are over
I'm officially back to hating Charles Krauthammer.
posted by CB @ 10:43 AM   0 comments
Thursday, June 15, 2006
My new favorite t-shirt


(Marc Jacobs. Proceeds to http://climateproject.org/) Posted by Picasa
posted by CB @ 11:57 PM   0 comments
Will Lieberman Lose?
For those that perhaps haven't seen this story yet: it's becoming increasingly possible that Joe Lieberman will lose in the primary of the Connecticut Senate race. Hardcore Dems have been pissed that Joe cooperates with Bush on some things, especially his support for the Iraq war. Some dems go around wearing buttons showing the warm embrace Lieberman gave Bush before the state of the union address. These people are backing Joe's challenger, a guy named Ned Lamont. The latest polls show Lamont within 9 points (from 30+ a few months ago). That, my friends, is joementum.

The interesting development here is that if Lamont wins the August 8 primary, it's quite possible that Lieberman will then run in the primary as an independent. He has refused to rule out that idea, and some supporters are preparing for it by gathering the necessary signatures before the dealine (Aug 9).

This race will also test the power of the blogosphere. The DailyKos community is fervently backing Lamont. If they pull this one out, it will be a further coop for the Howard Dean model.

It's a fascinating race, and is going to be one of the major things to watch this summer.
posted by CB @ 3:02 PM   0 comments
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Support the 50 State Strategy
I don't often respond to Howard Dean et. al.'s fundraising calls (besides being a Democracy Bond holder), but I am strongly in support of Dean's "50 State Strategy" (investing money in building a Democratic operation in every state, regardless of how red it might be), so I donated $10 be counted in support thereof. They're hoping to get 5,000 donors to agree that this is what they should be doing. If you agree, go here, and give them $1, or more:

https://www.democrats.org/page/contribute/peoplecount

Some in the party, particularly Emmanuel Rahm, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (a very smart guy, I think), believe it would be better to preserve the money until closer to November, and put it to work in the specific races where it will have the most impact toward winning back the House.

Unfortunately, that's what the Democrats have always done, and it's too short-sighted for my liking. We need to make the argument that we are ready to represent the whole country, not just liberals in swing states and districts. Progressive principals aren't just right for those few, they're right for everyone. Time we start being unafraid to say so.
posted by CB @ 4:41 PM   2 comments
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Imminent Troop Withdrawal?
Bush is in Baghdad this morning, and Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post is wondering if this might be part of a shift in strategy that would see a troop withdrawal from Iraq, which would be, as Froomkin says, an incredibly popular move in the U.S. (and, oh yes, it's an election year).

It does make some sense. The Bush trip was planned for whenever the Iraqi government finally got together, which happened last week on the same day as the Zarqawi news, with the appointment of the final two ministers. The trip, therefore, has a sort of 'mission accomplished' feel to it... here's your government, we got your biggest terrorist... best of luck!
posted by CB @ 1:34 PM   0 comments
Monday, June 12, 2006
Years of stagnation?
In the early part of this year, I was predicting a troubling economy, and a potential collapse.

Unfortunately, as the year progressed and the bull market in commodities, metals, and emerging markets (all of which I'm invested in) accelerated, I think I somewhat lost track of my long-term argument that George Bush has totally trashed our economy (accelerating deficits financed by foreign borrowing, an unstable current account balance, tax cuts, etc.).

The recent market has made me remember. And now this graph, from Barron's, is very worrying:


Could we be in for a decade or two or low growth, stagnant stog market, and recession? It's well within the realm of possibilities.
posted by CB @ 11:15 AM   0 comments
Friday, June 09, 2006
Ugh. Poking my eyes out
From a World Cup blog:
The thing that people point out is that the world will be even angrier if the US wins the World Cup, because the average American could care less


"Could care less" is perhaps my biggest pet peeve.
posted by CB @ 9:32 AM   1 comments
Thursday, June 08, 2006
World Cup
My prediction:
Brazil over Germany.

My alternate prediction:
Brazil over England.

My hope:
England over Germany

ps. nice work, Air Force.
posted by CB @ 5:38 PM   0 comments
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Kristof: Pro-Sweatshop
Nick Kristof wrote in yesterday's Times a piece entitled "In Praise of the Maligned Sweatshop", saying that we really should be encouraging companies to set up factories in the world's poorest African countries. Since it's covered under TimesSelect, I'll post the full article after the jump - click on "Link" below (thanks to LN for my tricky way of getting this free).


In Praise of the Maligned Sweatshop
Nick Kristof
June 6, 2006


Africa desperately needs Western help in the form of schools, clinics and sweatshops.

Oops, don't spill your coffee. We in the West mostly despise sweatshops as exploiters of the poor, while the poor themselves tend to see sweatshops as opportunities.

On a street here in the capital of Namibia, in the southwestern corner of Africa, I spoke to a group of young men who were trying to get hired as day laborers on construction sites.

''I come here every day,'' said Naftal Shaanika, a 20-year-old. ''I actually find work only about once a week.''

Mr. Shaanika and the other young men noted that the construction jobs were dangerous and arduous, and that they would vastly prefer steady jobs in, yes, sweatshops. Sure, sweatshop work is tedious, grueling and sometimes dangerous. But over all, sewing clothes is considerably less dangerous or arduous -- or sweaty -- than most alternatives in poor countries.

Well-meaning American university students regularly campaign against sweatshops. But instead, anyone who cares about fighting poverty should campaign in favor of sweatshops, demanding that companies set up factories in Africa. If Africa could establish a clothing export industry, that would fight poverty far more effectively than any foreign aid program.

Namibia was supposed to be a pioneer in Africa's garment industry, for it is stable, pleasant and safe, and its government has tried hard to entice foreign investors. On the edge of Windhoek are a series of low factories set up to produce garments for the American marketplace.

The biggest is the Ramatex Textile Factory, a Malaysian investment that employs 6,000 people. But the owners say they are losing money and will pull out, and other factories have stopped operating as well.

In Windhoek's Chinatown, I met Sun Zhimei, a Chinese woman who operates a small factory employing Namibians. ''I'd like to help this country, by boosting its garment industry,'' she said. But on the day I visited, her factory was deserted. ''It's cheaper to import goods all the way from China than to make them here,'' she complained.

The problem is that it's still costly to manufacture in Africa. The headaches across much of the continent include red tape, corruption, political instability, unreliable electricity and ports, and an inexperienced labor force that leads to low productivity and quality. The anti-sweatshop movement isn't a prime obstacle, but it's one more reason not to manufacture in Africa.

Imagine that a Nike vice president proposed manufacturing cheap T-shirts in Ethiopia: ''Look, boss, it would be tough to operate there, but a factory would be a godsend to one of the poorest countries in the world. And if we kept a tight eye on costs and paid 25 cents an hour, we might be able to make a go of it.''

The boss would reply: ''You're crazy! We'd be boycotted on every campus in the country.''

So companies like Nike, itself once a target of sweatshop critics, tend not to have highly labor-intensive factories in the very poorest countries, but rather more capital-intensive factories (in which machines do more of the work) in better-off nations like Malaysia or Indonesia. And the real losers are the world's poorest people.

Some of those who campaign against sweatshops respond to my arguments by noting that they aren't against factories in Africa, but only demand a ''living wage'' in them. After all, if labor costs amount to only $1 per shirt, then doubling wages would barely make a difference in the final cost.

One problem -- as the closure of the Namibian factories suggests -- is that it already isn't profitable to pay respectable salaries, and so any pressure to raise them becomes one more reason to avoid Africa altogether. Moreover, when Western companies do pay above-market wages, in places like Cambodia, local managers extort huge bribes in exchange for jobs. So the workers themselves don't get the benefit.

One of the best U.S. initiatives in Africa has been the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which allows duty-free imports from Africa -- and thus has stimulated manufacturing there. But last year, partly because of competition from China, textile and clothing imports under the initiative fell by 12 percent.

The Congo Republic's president, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, told me that he would love to have more factories. It's incredibly frustrating, he noted, to see African countries export cotton, timber and other raw materials but rarely have the chance to process them. The American initiative ''is a step in the right direction,'' he said. ''But it needs more of a push.''

One push needs to come from African countries themselves: a crackdown on corruption and red tape. But another useful step would be for American students to stop trying to ban sweatshops, and instead campaign to bring them to the most desperately poor countries.

posted by CB @ 10:24 AM   4 comments
Monday, June 05, 2006
2 George's: Bush and Wallace
George W. Bush is doing his best to become the modern-day version of George C. Wallace, the governor who stood outside the University of Alabama refusing to allow racial integration in the school.



Bush has restarted the effort to amend the Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. He even devoted his Sunday weekly radio address to the subject.

Bush's actions over the last 6 years have put him in the conversation for Worst President Ever, but I'm convinced that when we look back on this period of time, it's going to be his backward stance on this particular issue that puts the nail in coffin.
posted by CB @ 12:26 PM   1 comments


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