Blogs

Biden at Work

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 4:51 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.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Lying

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 4:50 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?

Hillary Clinton Releases Her Delegates

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 4:29 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 2:56 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 2:41 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 2:25 PM EDT
test

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Likeability

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 1:31 PM EDT

LIKEABILITY....Dayo Olopade on Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer's speech last night:

Not only was Schweitzer's delivery emphatic and simple — his mien was entirely genuine, a reality only enhanced by his bolo tie. The governor, an irrigation specialist and practicing catholic, got the meat of these two identities across without being pedantic, speaking of a crucifix in his home and the environmental battles he fights as an executive with fluency.

....A quick Google investigation of the governor reveals an appearance at an American Prospect event in which he lays out the very case for casting him as a major face of the party in future: "[People] like what we Democrats do when we're elected — we just have to be more likeable when we're doing the things they like." And oh, was he. Beyond his endearing tics — the A-OK hand gestures, his refrences to "industry" — he got off some great jabs at McCain, and his hokey but effective pep-rally techniques were straight from the heartland.

This is something of a problem, isn't it? Yes, successful politicians all have to be likeable in one way or another (Richard Nixon is the exception who proves the rule), but this a particular kind of likeability that Dayo is talking about. It's the rural, jeans-wearing, brush-clearing, aw-shucks likeability of John McCain and George Bush and Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower. (And LBJ and Bill Clinton.) But if that's the only kind of genuinely acceptable likeability in presidential elections, then our list of electable candidates shrinks to about two or three per year.

I don't have any brilliant answer to this problem, and obviously a lot of people this year are hoping that Barack Obama's version of likeability turns out to be acceptable too. That said, I sort of wish liberals would stop buying into the Schweitzer-esque version of what's likeable and what's not. In the long run, it just kills us.

New Poverty Data Induce Clinton Nostalgia

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 1:31 PM EDT

Hillary's speech last night at the Democratic convention wasn't the only event of the day to inspire a little nostalgia for the Clinton administration. A few hours earlier, the Census Bureau released its 2007 poverty and income report, a snapshot of the nation's economic well-being. The easy takeaway message might have been this: We never had it so good as we did in Bill Clinton's second term, when unemployment was low, poverty was low, and the rising tide was lifting all boats. The Census data for 2007 confirm that all future economic progress will be measured by whether the country can get back to the prosperity of 1999. Right now, the Bush administration can't even get the economy back to where it was during the 2001 recession.

According to the Census Bureau, child poverty, which hit a record low during the Clinton years, went up in 2007, and it's significantly higher than it was in 2001 (18 percent vs. 16.5 percent). Median income for working-age adults was lower last year than it was during the recession of 2001, and more people were uninsured, too. The numbers were especially grim given that they came at the end of six years of economic expansion. The data for 2008 are likely to be much, much worse.

The happy years of the Clinton administration notwithstanding, the data make clear that the country has made scant little progress in combating poverty since 1980. The percentage of children living in poverty today is 18 percent, slightly more than it was 28 years ago. The percentage of single moms living in poverty stands at 30 percent, almost exactly what it was in 1980. And the median income for black households in 2007 was $33,916. In 1980, it was $32,876. The poverty trends haven't gone unnoticed by the political class, however, on both sides of the aisle.

Norman Angell Lives

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 12:33 PM EDT

NORMAN ANGELL LIVES....Moscow's stock market is tanking, Poland is teaming up with the U.S. on missile defense, and Russia's neighbors are newly united in opposition to their erstwhile master. Dan Drezner comments:

So, in the end, the war has resulted in losers on all sides. Georgia has obviously lost through its aggressive behavior towards the breakaway provinces. The United States and Europe [have] lost because they clearly were not able to deter Russia in Georgia. Russia has gained the humiliation of Georgia, but is has lost in terms of its ability to raise capital and coordinate among its erstwhile allies, who seem to be juuuuust a bit nervous right now.

This is pretty much where I am too. On the surface, Russia looks newly resurgent and the West looks weak and divided. But these things don't play out in weeks, they play out in years: Abkhazia and South Ossetia will eventually be footnotes to history, but the long-term consequences of Russia's aggression are only starting to be felt. Russia flatly doesn't have the military power to handle more than one Georgia or Chechnya at a time, and as tempers cool and bluster fades, this is going to become increasingly clear. This in turn means that Russia's ability to intimidate its neighbors is going to fade too, and its economy, overly dependent as it is on oil and gas, is going to sputter. In the end, its invasion of Georgia, I suspect, will turn out to be either a wash or a net negative.

McCain and Ledbetter

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 11:44 AM EDT

McCAIN AND LEDBETTER....Listening to Hillary's speech last night, Marian turned to me and asked, "Does McCain really oppose equal pay for equal work?" It was a little complicated to try and answer that while the speech was still in progress, so I just mumbled something about his voting record and turned back to the TV. Ramesh Ponnuru, however, asks the question more precisely:

Hillary Clinton on McCain: "In 2008, he still thinks it's okay when women don't earn equal pay for equal work." Right: Opposing the Lily Ledbetter Act means approving of unequal pay for women. What a disgusting comment.

John Holbo answers:

But what's disgusting about it, from a conservative perspective? She seems to be making a point of being scrupulously accurate. In this context, saying 'it's okay' amounts to saying that the thing in question is maybe a little bad, but it doesn't matter much, so you needn't — therefore shouldn't — do anything about it. As in: 'do you need a band-aid for that?' 'No, it's ok.' A sense that unequal pay for women 'is ok', in this sense, is precisely the reason one would oppose the Lily Ledbetter Act.

Right. Ledbetter worked at Goodyear Tire for years, eventually discovered that she had been the victim of persistent wage discrimination, sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and then lost her case when the Supreme Court ruled that you can only bring wage discrimination cases within 180 days of the discrimination happening. Since practically no one ever finds out about this kind of thing within 180 days, it effectively gutted Title VII completely.

Now, one of the arguments legal conservatives made at the time was that even if you thought this was a strained, absurdly narrow reading of the law, it was a reading of a law. Since Congress can change laws, it's reasonable for the court to make cautious, narrow readings in statutory cases in the knowledge that they aren't necessarily preserving ancient prejudices in amber forever. Just change the law!

Which, needless to say, the Democratic congress tried to do. But Republicans made it a cause celebre, insisted the Republic would fall if victims of wage discrimination actually had reasonable recourse in the courts, and filibustered the attempt. John McCain supported the filibuster, which means that for all practical purposes, the Title VII ban on wage discrimination is a dead letter. It might as well not be on the books.

So: does McCain think it's OK to oppose equal pay for equal work? He sure doesn't seem to mind it much. He didn't propose any changes to the Ledbetter Act or work to make it more palatable to conservatives. He just opposed it (though, as usual, he skipped the actual vote). So now, if you're the victim of wage discrimination, you essentially have no recourse. And John McCain thinks that's fine.