Sunday, December 31, 2006

Where credit is due

Bush Has Quietly Tripled Aid to Africa

Is there a catch? Well, it's still important to remember that US giving -- as a portion of GDP -- is very small. But still, Bush tripled it.

The Post quotes Nii Akuetteh, executive director of Africa Action:
"First of all, much of the aid is emergency food or medical aid, rather than true development assistance. Then there are conditions that are attached where the emphasis is more on countries that open up their markets so American companies can go in and privatize things like water and electrical service or have access to certain resources."

Saturday, December 30, 2006


(headline borrowed from the title of an RNC press release issued minutes after Kerry announced Edwards as running mate in 2004. Their biggest criticism was that he was okay with civil unions. whoop-de-do).

Anyway, Edwards announced his candidacy for prez this week in New Orleans. The Washington Post's Dan Balz got an interview the next day and wrote a more comprehensive news analysis on it that's worth checking out as an overview.

Joe Klein noted that the Des Moines Register found a poll a couple months ago (this was before Obamahype) that showed Edwards as the dominant front-runner in Iowa, for what it's worth.

So where does Edwards fit in to the field position-wise? gives a run-down of all his positions, though it can be a bit hard to wade through.

Back in 2004, Stephen Zunes demonstrated that Edwards is nothing less than a foreign policy hawk. Most notably, he cites a September 2002 op-ed Edwards wrote for the Post which fully supported Bush's case for invading Iraq.

For what it's worth, Edwards has now said that his vote for troop authorization that fall was a mistake (a concession Hillary Clinton has not made, of course). And in his announcement in New Orleans, Edwards said 40,000-50,000 troops should be pulled out of Iraq.

Let's also not forget that Obama, though an early and bold critic of the Iraq war, can be a hawk too: he told the Chicago Tribune in September 2004 that the United States one day might have to launch surgical missile strikes into Iran and Pakistan to keep extremists from getting control of nuclear bombs.

Still, reading Zunes' piece makes me feel queasy about Edwards.

On the economic side, there is some better news. Edwards' anti-poverty efforts get a generally positive review from John Atlas and Peter Dreier.

The whole personal injury lawyer thing is, to me, a great positive. Sure, he did the job for the money, but the trial lawyers are people who help keep our un-regulated country at least somewhat sane. The media will sometimes criticize him for it, but it's unclear to me that in 2004 the public really had much of a problem with his job history. We'll see.

Also on the economic front, he's a big protectionist. The media hate this -- see Norman Solomon's review of the anti-Edwards press in 2004. But no matter how many times the top papers editorialize for free trade and against protectionism, voters will vote how they need to -- and in many cases, that means they will agree with Edwards on this issue.

One thing to look out for in the campaign that's coming up: how each of the top candidates responds to Bush's soon-to-be-announced plan on Iraq.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Ahh, New York

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ahh, Cambridge

Monday, December 25, 2006

jail, shmail.

Escaped Minister Says He Fled Iraqi Jail ‘the Chicago Way’

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Who wants to be a millionaire?!

Uh, err... What I meant is, Who wants to travel to Washington DC and stand out in the cold protesting the war?! (we could even bang drums).

I usually hit the Delete key pretty quickly when it comes to the UFPJ emails. And so it was the other day when there was one announcing a march to end the war -- or whatever it is -- on January 27th, in DC.

But then I was thinking about it. And then I read Richard Cohen's column from Wednesday (note: NO, I don't usually like that guy). And I was thinking, yeah, we really ought to leave Iraq.

So, if anyone cares to join me, I'm packing my bags, hopefully my drums, and heading to the capitol that weekend. We'll bring lots of warm clothes and candied ginger, of course. It'll be great.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Blood Diamond

I thought Blood Diamond was a worthwhile movie. I enjoyed seeing it, though I certainly wouldn't say it's must-see. It gives us a sort-of real-life lesson on what terrible wars the diamond industry has fueled (in this case, the civil war in Sierra Leone, which is now over). You can learn more about conflict diamonds on the website created jointly by the filmmakers, Amnesty International and Global Witness.

But the problem with the film lies in how the main character is the white guy, not the black guy, and rather than telling the story of a civil war and the people affected, it tells the story of leonardo and jeniffer.

Poking around the reviews this morning, there are many glowing ones but plenty of negative ones, too.

Read Stephen Witty's review in the Star-Ledger for a keen explanation of the problematicness of the film (that actually makes sense, unlike mine).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

sunk costs

Social psych prof Scott Plous talks to the Washington Post about how we ought to evaluate Iraq strictly based on the current situation -- not on sunk costs.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

"those chinese sons of a bitches"

So China's really messed up. They made all these promises that they'd like fix human rights in time for the 2008 Olympics, but for now, things are mostly just getting worse.

But last week China did take a step forward. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
In a sweeping liberalization of its reporting rules, China Friday suspended decades-old restrictions on foreign journalists in the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games.

The new regulations, allowing foreign reporters to travel throughout the country and to interview people without prior official permission, are clearly aimed at keeping the government's promise to the International Olympic Committee that it would allow free reporting during and before the 2008 games.

We'll see how this actually plays out.

But the best part of the CSM's coverage was where they printed a dialog, "How to Stop Illegal News Coverage", that appears in a training manual distributed to Beijing policemen learning English in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games:
P(oliceman): Excuse me, sir. Stop, please.

F(oreign journalist): Why?

P: Are you gathering news here?

F: Yes.

P: About what?

F: About Falun Gong.

P: Show me your press card and your reporter's permit.

F: Here you are.

P: What news are you permitted to cover?

F: The Olympic Games.

P: Falun Gong has nothing to do with the Games.... You should only cover the Games.

F: But I'm interested in Falun Gong.

P: It's beyond the limit of your coverage and illegal. As a foreign reporter in China you should obey China law and do nothing against your status.

F: Oh, I see. May I go now?

P: No. Come with us.

F: What for?

P: To clear up this matter.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Alliance of Wimpiness

Mark Fiore takes on Darfur. Two-minute animation. Must-see.