The Jaker

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

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Monday, July 31, 2006
Could it be more obvious?
Could there be any clearer statement about who each of the political parties cares about than the bill that passed the House last week?

The Democrats wanted a minimum wage hike.

The Republicans would only allow it with dramatic cuts on the estate tax for estates over $10 million.
posted by CB @ 12:02 PM   0 comments
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Former Republican Congressman says we need a Democratic House

"the Republican House leadership has been so unalterably corrupted by power and money that reasonable Republicans should support Democrats against DeLay-type Republican incumbents in 2006"
posted by CB @ 2:34 PM   0 comments
Friday, July 28, 2006
Bush & Rumsfeld's War: The Soldiers' Reviews are In
And they're not good.

"It sucks. Honestly, it just feels like we're driving around waiting to get blown up. That's the most honest answer I could give you." - Spec. Tim Ivey, 28, San Antonio, a former backup fullback for Baylor University.

"No one wants to be here, you know, no one is truly enthused about what we do." - Sgt. Christopher Dugger, squad leader.

"They say we're here and we've given them freedom, but really what is that? You know, what is freedom? You've got kids here who can't go to school. You've got people here who don't have jobs anymore. You've got people here who don't have power. You know, so yeah, they've got freedom now, but when they didn't have freedom, everybody had a job.
At this point, it seems like the war on drugs in America. It's like this never-ending battle, like, we find one IED, if we do find it before it hits us, so what? You know it's just like if the cops make a big bust, next week the next higher-up puts more back out there." - Spec. David Fulcher, 22, Lynchburg, Va., medic.

Next time perhaps the head honchos will think twice before inflicting this scenario on people who didn't ask for it.
posted by CB @ 1:57 PM   0 comments
Did Landis's Boozing get him Busted?
Over at the Freakonomics blog, they have a post saying that it may have been Floyd Landis's drinking the night before Stage 17 ("two beers and at least four shots of whiskey") that resulted in his next day test failure. The WSJ cites studies saying "alcohol consumption can increase the ratio between testosterone and epitestosterone, which occur naturally in the body. Mr. Landis failed the test because it showed an elevated ratio between the two."

So maybe it was the drown-your-sorrows night (Landis had an awful stage 16) that has come back to haunt him.
posted by CB @ 10:43 AM   0 comments
Thursday, July 27, 2006
My favorite Podcasts
My history with Podcasts is a bit of a roller coaster. Connected as I am to so many news sources (RSS feeds are great), I first heard of this Podcast phenomenon probably two years ago, when there were only about 20 of them. I listed to the "original" Podcast (Adam Curry, of MTV fame) about twice before being bored with it, and continued to subscribe to one other, Grape Radio, for some time, though almost never listened to it (and don't today).

And that's how it was with me for over a year. The Podcasts were on my iPod, but I didn't use it that much because I preferred to read magazines while traveling from place to place, including while walking to work (make sure to look up at intersections).

Then about a year ago my eyes started to get bad and I started to think, with no scientific evidence, that perhaps the reading while walking was hurting my eyes (focusing on one very close thing while the world whizzed by in my perifery vision).

So I decided to check in on Podcast world again and see if there was anything new and interesting. Lo and behold, there is! So I present you with my list of favorite podcasts that I listen to today. Most of them are radio shows or articles that I don't have time to read. It can be stressful to stay on top of them, but I feel like the learning experience is immense.

The Jaker's favorite Podcasts, in order of preference:

1. NPR Story of the Day
2. Slate Daily Podcast
3. World Soccer Weekly
4. NYTimes Worldview
5. NPR World Story of the Day
6. Barack Obama weekly Podcast
7. NPR Business Story of the Day
posted by CB @ 12:09 PM   0 comments
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Edwards to benefit from new primary schedule?
That's Markos's opinion over at DailyKos. Adding Nevada (big union state) in between Iowa and New Hampshire, and then South Carolina (next door to home) right after New Hampshire, both play into John Edwards's hands in 2008.

Read the post at DailyKos.
posted by CB @ 2:43 PM   0 comments
Friday, July 21, 2006
Presidential Odds Update
Hillary Clinton 5:3.
Mark Warner 5:1. I'm swapping Mark Warner with Al Gore today, moving Warner into second, for what I think is the first time. One of the reasons is this Slate article, which chronicles the success he's having in selling himself in Iowa.
John Edwards 5:1. A WaPo article recently. The buzz remains.
Al Gore 11:2. I recently upped Gore from 7:1 to 4:1, and today I'm taking him back half that distance, to 11:2. The buzz from the movie was great, but it hasn't translated into the full-scale "remember when Al beat Bush?" hype that I thought we might see. It hasn't totally fizzled either. It's somewhere in the middle. Hence the swap with Warner.
Russ Feingold 10:1
Evan Bayh 10:1. Bayh is starting to attempt to break out of the middle of the pack, with speeches in Iowa and DC outlining the thrust of his candidacy (he'll be speaking for the middle class, in stark contrast with John Edwards's focus on the lower class.
Bill Richardson 11:1
Wes Clark 13:1
John Kerry 14:1
Barack Obama 14:1
Joe Biden 15:1
Tom Daschle 20:1. Possibly going to see him speak in NYC next week. I'll report back thereafter.
Tom Vilsack 24:1
Chris Dodd 25:1
Mike Bloomberg 33:1
Dick Gephardt 35:1
Bill Bradley 38:1
Brian Schweitzer 50:1
Bill Nelson 50:1
Howard Dean 75:1
Janet Napolitano 100:1

John McCain 2:1
Rudy Giuliani 5:1. I'm improving his odds from 7:1 to 5:1, in light of the poll I discussed a couple days ago. I think it's significant, though I still think Giuliani's too moderate for today's GOP.
George Allen 9:1
Newt Gingrich 10:1. I know not many agree, but I think there's a chance for Gingrich to sneak in the back door and win this nomination. He can definitely bring back old-conservative credibility to those Republicans shocked by where Bush has taken the party. All three above him have problems. So does Gingrich, obviously, but I think there's maybe a 10% chance it works out for him. So I'm improving his odds from 12:1 to 10:1.
Mitt Romney 15:1
George Pataki 16:1
Chuck Hagel 17:1. You have to come down this far in the list to find someone without a real problem characteristic in the race. Is Chuck going to run?
Condoleezza Rice 18:1
Bill Frist 18:1. His position on stem cells (for them, against Bush) is the first positive thing towards his Presidential run in months. But it's not moving him up any in my odds.
Mike Huckabee 20:1
Sam Brownback 20:1
Jeb Bush 24:1
Colin Powell 35:1
Tom Ridge 35:1
Bill Owens 40:1
Haley Barbour 40:1
Mike Bloomberg 60:1
Dick Cheney 125:1
Christie Todd Whitman 150:1

posted by CB @ 4:20 PM   0 comments
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Howard Dean gets it exactly right
In a letter to email list subscribers today, Howard Dean said the following about Bush's stem-cell bill veto:

The bill he vetoed wasn't a sweeping change -- it was a small, practical measure that would have made a big difference for medical research based on sound science. But the consequences are sweeping: the proposed law would have allowed research on excess embryos generated during processes like fertility treatments -- embryos that would otherwise simply be discarded.
If George Bush truly believed his rhetoric about stem cells, he would do something about the processes that create the excess embryos in the first place. But he won't. They will continue to go unused (his spokesman limply calls it a "tragedy"), and cures will continue to be beyond our reach.

(Emphasis mine)

This is exactly the hypocrisy of the Bush position on this issue, and we can't let him get away with it. If it is the discarding of potential human life he abhors, then he should be speaking out against the modern method of fertility treatment.

To read the full email, click on "Link" below.

Today George Bush chose political posturing over human life, denying hope to millions of Americans, their families and loved ones who are affected by debilitating diseases.

He used his first-ever veto to stop the discovery of new cures for diseases like juvenile diabetes, leukemia, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and many others. More than 70% of Americans from every walk of life -- whether in the faith community, the science lab, the hospital or at the bedside of a sick relative -- and majorities in both chambers of Congress disagree, but that didn't stop him.

The bill he vetoed wasn't a sweeping change -- it was a small, practical measure that would have made a big difference for medical research based on sound science. But the consequences are sweeping: the proposed law would have allowed research on excess embryos generated during processes like fertility treatments -- embryos that would otherwise simply be discarded.

Now is the time to speak out. Send a message to your representatives letting them know that you support cure discovery now:

If George Bush truly believed his rhetoric about stem cells, he would do something about the processes that create the excess embryos in the first place. But he won't. They will continue to go unused (his spokesman limply calls it a "tragedy"), and cures will continue to be beyond our reach.

Bush may not be willing to choose cure discovery over his right-wing base, but the vast majority of Americans support cure research.

Even after his veto, Democrats in Congress will continue to keep the pressure on to get more votes. If Republicans refuse to join the cause and override Bush's veto, it will have to be decided at the ballot box in November. Democrats will continue to fight to keep this hope for the discovery of new cures alive.

The Congress and the rest of the country are paying attention right now, and we have to seize this moment to build the coalition of support for cure discovery. Please add your name to the list of supporters and we'll send your message to your representatives:

As a medical doctor, I'm offended at the political meddling in potentially life-saving research. All of our families could be touched by hope found through stem cell research: from juvenile diabetes to Alzheimer's, it offers the opportunity for new cures. Yet this important research has been dwindling because of restrictions put in place by Bush five years ago.

That's half a decade we have lost. How much longer will those suffering and their families have to wait?

People can disagree in good faith on this issue, but Bush's extraordinary action doesn't meet that threshold -- it smacks of political calculation. The opportunity to save lives of people with debilitating diseases, and to reduce suffering for them and their families, requires that a president respect the will of the people and the Congress.

Join the cause supporting cure discovery:

History will judge this veto as a sad political calculation.

Just a few votes stand in the way. With your support we'll get them -- either now, or in the new Democratic Congress you elect in November.

When we do, we will restore hope through life-saving research and cure discovery.

Thank you.

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.
posted by CB @ 9:37 AM   0 comments
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
New Gallup poll on Presidential "acceptability"
This poll is very interesting. Rather than ask for someone's favorite for the nomination, this poll asked about each candidate whether they would be viewed as an "acceptable" or "not acceptable" nominee for the party. The results are interesting.

For Republicans, McCain's unacceptable numbers are quite high. Giuliani is, somewhat surprisingly, in much better shape. Do most Republicans not yet know of his moderate views on things like gay marriage?

For Democrats, while Hillary leads significantly in the choose-your-favorite polls, she is basically tied with John Edwards and Al Gore for acceptability, which means either of those two guys could be the go-to for all the anti-Hillary people. Mark Warner had a surprisingly high unacceptability number, as did Russ Feingold.

These results will find their way into my odds when I release an update on Friday.
posted by CB @ 11:55 AM   0 comments
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
After 5 years, we may finally have an independent legislative branch again
Tomorrow may mark the day when George W. Bush issues his first veto, over 5 years into his presidency. It will be on a bill permitting federally funded stem cell research, on embryos that would otherwise be thrown out at fertility clinics.

This has many implications, among them:
1. The extent to which the Republican Congress for the first 5 years simply took orders from the White House on what issues it should pursue rather than doing their actual job.
2. The depths to which support for George Bush has fallen... that Republican senators are finally willing to stand up to him on something important to their constituents.
3. That GWB remains intellectually disengaged, ardently idealogical, and backward-focused in his approach to government.
4. How this plays out politically in November remains an interesting question... the majority will be unhappy with Bush, and Republicans will appear somewhat divided on the question, but certain at-risk Republicans will be able to point to this as a way in which they are not a 'rubber-stamp' for the White House.
posted by CB @ 4:53 PM   0 comments
Monday, July 17, 2006
Another lesson from France: don't bitch about gas prices
For 3 days in the Loire Valley (after 5 in Paris, where my wife and I didn't take the metro once, and a cab only once because of time constraints), I rented a typical tiny European car to drive from town to town.

The car I'm sure gets great gas mileage, which is a good thing, because when I was filling it up prior to returning it, I added just under a half tank of gas, which cost me 31 Euros, or approximately $39!

That means filling up that little car from empty would cost $80!

No wonder they have such good train systems in Europe. And pollute less. And don't have to go to war in the Middle East to protect their lifestyle.

P.S. On this last point, I've just begun reading Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma", which makes a compelling argument in the first hundred pages that most of our food system is dependent on fossil fuels (which goes into the fertilizer that grows the midwest corn that's in so much of our food in some form or another). So not only do we drive our dependence on the middle east, but we eat it too.
posted by CB @ 2:56 PM   1 comments
Heady Days
A week in France allowed me about 20 minutes of CNN International per day, and those minutes were about as packed with major news as I could have imagined. First was the buildup and aftermath of the world cup final, it was the train bombing in Mumbai, then the escalating mess in Gaza/Israel/Lebanon.

The World Cup: we watched it in an Asian-themed bar eating sushi and spring rolls (somewhat unauthentic Parisian setting, but the TVs were huge and plentiful and the place was filled with real Frenchies). It was an exciting game, that France probably should have won (hate that Italian defensive catenaccio style). The French in the bar, and in the streets afterward, actually loved Zidane for the head-butt; they started chanting his name (perhaps because they knew it was the last time they'd ever get to do so). And they really were not all that bothered by losing the match. They were still waving flags and celebrating in the streets after the match. I guess they didn't really expect this old team to get this far.

The train bombing: obviously has implications for the global financial market. For the last couple of years, "India" has been the solution of nearly every problem for large finance companies... a way to save money, a way to find technical English-speaking talent, etc. etc. Now we are forced to face the downside of having a lot of our basic work done in India: it's not the United States! It's not nearly as safe as we are here, and gives our economy another vulnerability factor. Pictures of the men back hanging out of the trains the next day were amazing.

Israel: I'm glad I'm not Ehud Olmert. Is there any harder job in the world today?
posted by CB @ 11:09 AM   0 comments
Friday, July 07, 2006
Blog vacation
I'll be on vacation next week. The blog will return Monday, July 17.
posted by CB @ 11:03 AM   0 comments
Thursday, July 06, 2006
NY Court of Appeals Overturns Gay Marriage Ruling
The NY Court of Appeals ruled that the state constitution does not guarantee a right of same-sex marriage, and suggested that the state legislature should take up this issue and decide it in that arena, rather than in the judicial system. NYTimes story.

It's a blow for the movement, which celebrated the earlier ruling, that I blogged about here in Feb 2005.

... in NY the Supreme Court is the trial-level court. Up higher is the apellate division and then the Court of Appeals (the top state level court). Hopefully they all uphold the ruling.

Now it's up to the legislature. Mayor Bloomberg, a gay marriage supporter, has said that if the Court overturns the ruling, he would go to Albany and encourage the legislature to pass a law. Let's hold him to it.
posted by CB @ 10:42 AM   0 comments

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