2008 - %3, August

The Pit of My Stomach

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 9:53 PM EDT

THE PIT OF MY STOMACH....Democrats sure are a bunch of nervous nellies, aren't they? And hey — I admit that I've gotten up a couple of times this week with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach too. Obama's poll lead is shrinking. The convention has been sort of a fizzle so far. The media is obsessed with the hundred or so PUMA dead enders screaming in the streets of Denver. And John McCain's campaign of junior high school character assassination seems to be working pretty well.

But look. There's a reason I blog with my fingers, not with the pit of my stomach, and the fundamentals of the race really haven't changed that much. After four weeks of nonstop attacks from the McCain machine Obama is still a couple of points ahead in the polls with plenty of time left until election day. He hasn't raised as much money as he'd hoped, but he's still outraising McCain by a sizeable margin. Over the course of the campaign I think Joe Biden is going to be a surprisingly strong asset. In order to avoid a complete implosion in Congress the GOP is going to be forced to spend a ton of money it doesn't have on Senate and House races. I continue to believe that Obama will start running a much tougher and more focused campaign after Labor Day. His ground operation is going to be superlative (something that doesn't show up in the polls). And Obama is still, regardless of how McCain's troupe of gleeful attack poodles spins it, a charismatic and appealing candidate almost oozing with good sense and good judgment.

And call me a goggle-eyed optimist (no, really, go ahead), but I still think that at some point the press is going to tire of McCain's schtick. His slime is so patent, his pandering is so obvious, his lack of seriousness is so palpable, and his attacks are so transparent, that it just has to eventually get through to them. I'm well aware that history isn't on my side here, but still I hope. These folks have to have a little pride, don't they?

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MoJo Video: Meet Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com at the DNC

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 9:46 PM EDT

Nate Silver invented PECOTA, a system that predicts the future performance of baseball players that's used by teams and baseball geeks alike. Now he's turned his attention to political forecasting, and he's found he's pretty good at that, too. Silver's site, FiveThirtyEight.com (named after the number of electors in the electoral college), relies on polls, demographics, and statistical analysis to predict who is going to win the 2008 Presidential election. I sat down with him for a quick chat yesterday at the Democratic National Convention; watch the video here. [Nate's on the right.]

How Obama Could Capture Hillary Voters: Answer the Obvious

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 9:05 PM EDT

Below is a guest blog entry by economist and MoJo author Nomi Prins:

Hillary Clinton's speech has been duly dissected. Bill's will be, too. But the DNC question still lingering for the PUMAs is: Why didn't Obama choose Clinton as his running mate? Dems would be naïve to suggest such people just 'get over it,' Hillary's verbal push not withstanding.

Love it or hate it, it's a valid question, particularly for the women who did and do identify with her. And it's a question that Obama needs to at least acknowledge, if not address.

Why? Because in the absence of a resounding statement from Camp Obama, the bloviosphere has filled in the gap with excuses like these: She's too divisive, he couldn't deal with Bill, the Clintons are too powerful, she wouldn't have wanted it anyway.

Whatever. A strong person campaigning for the most powerful office in the world should be able to answer difficult questions head on. With swing state voters, can Obama really afford to play the Hillary card so close to the vest?

The Vicious Cycle

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 6:28 PM EDT

THE VICIOUS CYCLE....Matt Yglesias on how we deal with the rest of the world:

Part of the perverse logic of conservative foreign policy founded on a bizarre combination of hysteria and hubris is that there's this kind of quicksand phenomenon where the worse things get, the more you need to keep flailing.

Boy howdy, ain't that the truth. Over and over, we see years of bad foreign policy meander along fitfully and then, suddenly, explode into a crisis of some kind that was probably avoidable. But by then, it's too late. Once the crisis erupts, national honor is at stake and it's too late to do the right thing because nobody (including me!) likes to back down under pressure. So the only acceptable option is to stand tough and ratchet up the tension.

The Bush administration is certainly the acknowledged master of this vicious cycle: we've seen it with North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and now Russia. We could have engaged earlier with North Korea; we could have avoided war with Iraq; we could have accepted Iranian overtures to talk in 2003; we could have kept up diplomatic relations with Syria; we could have accepted democratic reforms in Pakistan; and we could have treated Russia as a serious negotiating partner. This would hardly have avoided all the problems in the world, but it would have helped avoid some of them.

This isn't meant to justify bad behavior from other countries, no matter how hard conservatives try to paint it that way. It's just to point out that smart leaders, regardless of ideology, can't be naive; they need to understand the real world and conduct their foreign policy without closing their eyes to the likely consequences of their actions. But the American public, like a lot of other publics, never sees this. All they see is the eventual crisis, and when the crisis hits they want a leader who doesn't back down. One who's tough. "Toughness" may have been part of the very attitude that helped create the crisis in the first place, but few people make the connection. They just want a response.

John McCain, of course, shows every sign of wanting to take over exactly where the Bush administration leaves off: mishandling foreign affairs until crisis after crisis hits, and then insisting that national honor demands that we respond to each crisis as bellicosely as possible. And that sells. It sells for John McCain the same way that it sells for Vladimir Putin.

Is Barack Obama a guy who can sell the American public on a different vision of how to handle foreign affairs? I sure hope so. But I'm not holding my breath yet.

Biden at Work

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 5:51 PM EDT

A couple accounts have come out that illustrate how Joe Biden works and thinks. I think they provide a pretty interesting look into the mind of the man who may become vice president. Here's one from a former U.S. ambassador to Romania:

In the aftermath of NATO's success in stopping ethnic cleaning in Kosovo, Cabinet members and Members of Congress stopped in Bucharest to thank the Romanians for their support of NATO and get a feel for where the Balkan region was going in its aftermath.
Unlike some of the other visitors whose approach was helpful but remarkably relaxed, Biden was a whirlwind of inquiry, analysis and commentary from the time he landed at Otopeni airport.
On the 20-minute drive into the city, he quizzed me on Romanian attitudes, the status of various government leaders and the inside story on Romania's foreign policy toward Slobodan Milosevic, who was still in power next door in Yugoslavia. Because Biden has known all the major Romanian leaders since the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, the questions were Ph.D. level, not Romania 101. That was remarkable in itself since he is no specialist on Romania; he could do the same, landing in dozens of nations around the world.

There's a lot more there; check it out. And here's a very long interview Biden did with Josh Marshall in 2004 — the section below pertains to a visit Biden had with Muammar Qaddafi after Libya gave up its WMD programs. Biden emerges as a fascinating character — tough, vulgar, down-to-earth, and an expert practitioner of hard-nosed diplomacy.

Lying

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 5:50 PM EDT

LYING....I swear, it's like watching Anakin Skywalker turn into Darth Vader in Star Wars. It's not as if McCain hasn't always been brazenly opportunistic, but the depth of his flat-out lying is becoming pathological. Jake Tapper calls him on it here. Will the rest of the press follow?

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Hillary Clinton Releases Her Delegates

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 5:29 PM EDT

Her name and Obama's will be in the roll call vote, meaning that Clinton's delegates will be able to vote for whomever they choose. Her words to them:

"I come here today to release you as my delegates.... What that means is that both Senator Obama's name and mine will be put into nomination this afternoon. I have spoken to many of you who have expressed your questions about what you should do. Many of you feel a responsibility to represent your voters. Others of you want the chance to vote what's in your heart. Still others will be voting for Senator Obama because they want to demonstrate their commitment to the party and the nominee. So I am not telling you what to do."
"I signed my ballot this morning for Senator Obama."
"What is important to come out of today is that we nominate Senator Barack Obama and Joe Biden for the president and vice president of the United States."

Brian Schweitzer, Everyone's New Favorite

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 3:56 PM EDT

A number of other people shared my enthusiasm for Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and his speech last night, so I thought I'd post the sucker in full. Check it out if you missed it.

Turtles Saved By New Hooks

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 3:41 PM EDT

553px-Chelonia_mydas_in_Kona_Hawaii_2008.jpg Here's the recipe for saving sea turtles from drowning in the longline fishery. Switch out the classic J hooks for circular hooks. Add a little training and the tools to release turtles accidentally hooked.

A new report by the World Wildlife Fund and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) finds the new hooks dramatically reduce the bycatch of marine turtles without impacting fishing activity. They analyzed 4 years of data from 8 Eastern Pacific countries: Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. They found up to 89% reductions in the marine turtle bycatch per thousand hooks, and that 95% of all turtles caught in longline fishing were recovered alive. Circle hooks performed as well as J hooks in the catch rates of tuna, billfishes and sharks fishery.

Okay, well the tuna, billfishes, and sharks fisheries compose a whole other thorny issue. One as deserving of solutions as the sea turtles. The big fish of the sea are in superserious trouble and also need a reprieve from the hooks, like, right this second. . .

Eros Gravis Ea

Wed Aug. 27, 2008 3:25 PM EDT
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