Thursday, November 30, 2006

Great Moments in News
You could be a reporter for many years, I'm guessing, without even supposing you might be called on to write a story that can be summed up with a sentence like this one:
Judd said Apgar told deputies he was smoking crack-cocaine at the adjacent park, but it was unclear why he was naked or why he was attacked by the alligator.
But then there's always a first time. I know many of us have smoked crack in the park, naked. And we've been attacked by alligators. But at the same time?? These are strange days indeed. (via boingboing)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Global Warming and the Supreme Court [UPDATED]
The Court heard arguments this morning in Massachussetts v. EPA, in which several states are claiming the EPA should be regulating carbon dioxide emissions. *If* the Court decides the states even have standing to bring this suit. Then they will get to the business of whether CO2 counts as a pollutant. That should get interesting. I'm hoping they won't just punt over the standing issue. Lucky for us, the transcripts are available quickly these days. So we may be able to read the argument as early as this afternoon. I'll post highlights if so.

SCOTUSblog has a nice preview:
Because there may be no more challenging environmental and energy issue now than global climate change, this case has been viewed widely as a breakthrough opportunity to force a significant and immediate response by a federal government that has seemed to critics to be unpersuaded that global warming is a genuine threat. But, as briefing in the case was completed, it also became a potentially historic case on the use of judicial power to compel the political branches to deal with a phenomenon that affects the entire globe.
But whose fault is this really? George Bush's. As a candidate in 2000, W promised to require lower carbon emissions as President, a pledge he broke as soon as he took office, leaving Christine Todd Whitman (then head of his EPA) out to dry after she negotiated an international agreement, not knowing her boss would bow to the oil industry and back out of his promise.

I don't know how to deal with the issue of standing - it's too complicated for my wee brain. But I know this: in passing the Clean Air Act, Congress intended to require the EPA to regulate pollutants.
The Administrator shall by regulation prescribe (and from time to time revise) in accordance with the provisions of this section, standards applicable to the emission of any air pollutant from any class or classes of new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines, which in his judgment cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.
[UPDATE: Short version of SCOTUSBlog's analysis: it's all about Kennedy. The transcript of the argument is here (pdf). I haven't had a chance to read it yet. If you do, put your thoughts in the comments.]

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Boston Celtics: Lowering the Bar
The good news is the Celtics are in first place in the Atlantic Division! The bad news is...well you can see the bad news for yourself.
Trouble Getting Their Story Straight
Today's Presidential Press Conference (my emphasis):
Q Mr. President, thank you, sir. What is the difference between what we're seeing now in Iraq and civil war? And do you worry that calling it a civil war would make it difficult to argue that we're fighting the central front of the war on terror there?

PRESIDENT BUSH: You know, the plans of Mr. Zarqawi was to foment sectarian violence. That's what he said he wanted to do. The Samarra bombing that took place last winter was intended to create sectarian violence, and it has. The recent bombings were to perpetuate the sectarian violence. In other words, we've been in this phase for a while. And the fundamental objective is to work with the Iraqis to create conditions so that the vast majority of the people will be able to see that there's a peaceful way forward.

The bombings that took place recently was a part of a pattern that has been going on for about nine months.
Yesterday's White House Press Briefing
National Security Advisor Steven Hadley:
As we've said, you know, the goal for Iraq remains the same: A democratic Iraq that is able to govern itself, defend itself, sustain itself and is an ally in the war on terror. But we're clearly in a new phase, characterized by this increasing sectarian violence. That requires us, obviously, to adapt to that new phase and these two leaders need to be talking about how to do that and what steps Iraq needs to take and how we can support them.
If you've been watching the news lately you know that Iraq is getting worse and worse, by the day. It's horrific and tragic. Watch Michael Ware on CNN (really, you should watch it) describe what it's like in Baghdad right now. Bizarrely, all we can muster here is an argument over whether or not it qualifies as a civil war, as if we have a plan one way or the other. Even Jimmy Carter (who doesn't, by the way, consider it a civil war) thinks we "can't save them from themselves" in reference to the Iraqis. Sad sad sad.

Monday, November 27, 2006

In Memory . . .
Thanksgiving Day marks the second anniversary of the tragic death of friend from Boston College Law School, Arthur Harris. Dying a few months before graduation, the school gave Arthur something he had worked tirelessly to accomplish -- his law degree. Attached is a link to the BC Law news release about him. He was a champion for peace and civil rights. He hated useless discussions and chatter -- he wanted action. He truly comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. As we remember him, he would want you to take action -- any action -- march, write, speak out. Armchair idealists were of little use to Arthur Harris -- Esq.
What have you been listening to, reading, watching?

Beatles and iTunes?
Are Apple and Apple about to kiss and make up? It sure sounds like it.

Over the weekend, Walter asked me if I knew about a novel about a magician who doesn't speak English, or pretends he can't speak English, or something like that. I can't remember the details but he was looking for the name of the book. Anyone got any ideas? Walter can maybe add more details, if he has them, in the comments.

Also, while I'm at it - who's got suggestions for all of our Christmas lists? What's on yours?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Followers of the militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took over state-run television Saturday to denounce the Iraqi government, label Sunnis "terrorists" and issue what appeared to many viewers as a call to arms.
Militia leaders told supporters Saturday to prepare for a fresh wave of incursions into Sunni neighborhoods that would begin as soon as the curfew ends Monday, according to Sadr City residents.
"I got four phone calls from friends telling me to change the channel to Iraqiya and see what's happening," said Mohamed Othman, 27, a Sunni resident of Ameriya, one of the districts mentioned in the program. "I think this is an official declaration of civil war against Sunnis. They're going to push us to join al-Qaida to protect ourselves."
Thanks alot W, Rummy, Condoleezza, Colin, Dick.

Biggest. foreign-policy. screwup. ever. How do they live with themselves?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The new House speaker has the right attitude and a good plan. Kevin Drum has the details.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

We Eliminated Hunger in America!!
Woohoo!!! No, wait...

Sad News
Robert Altman died.
This is What a Reasonable, Humble, Religious Person Sounds Like
Many of you know Buzz Thomas--he's a Baptist and formerly worked for the Baptist Joint Committee, where I also blog. He has a book coming out in March, and an op-ed in yesterday's USAToday that addresses the current religious venom toward same-sex couples. Yeah, I know, they would say it's not venom it's love. But we know what it sounds like.
It's happened to Christianity before, most famously when we dug in our heels over Galileo's challenge to the biblical view that the Earth, rather than the sun, was at the center of our solar system. You know the story. Galileo was persecuted for what turned out to be incontrovertibly true. For many, especially in the scientific community, Christianity never recovered.

This time, Christianity is in danger of squandering its moral authority by continuing its pattern of discrimination against gays and lesbians in the face of mounting scientific evidence that sexual orientation has little or nothing to do with choice. To the contrary, whether sexual orientation arises as a result of the mother's hormones or the child's brain structure or DNA, it is almost certainly an accident of birth. The point is this: Without choice, there can be no moral culpability.
As a former "the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it" kind of guy, I am sympathetic with any Christian who accepts the Bible at face value. But here's the catch. Leviticus is filled with laws imposing the death penalty for everything from eating catfish to sassing your parents. If you accept one as the absolute, unequivocal word of God, you must accept them all.
Some of his arguments are better than others but the whole thing is good and wouldn't it be nice to hear that kind of sermon in a Sunday morning Baptist service? (J.R.--I know you're reading this...I know you do use the pulpit to say some things I agree with, but if you want to start the trend of dismantling the Leviticus and Romans anti-gay "arguments" during a sermon, I'll be there on the front row...)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Been out of town - that's why no posting since Wednesday. What have you been reading, listening to, watching? I need some new music so show me some love here. Also, anyone see the Will Ferrell/Emma Thompson movie yet?

Here's One Thing We Won't Be Reading
Publication of the OJ Simpson book has been scrapped thanks to public outrage. Still makes you wonder what they were thinking to begin with.

What's up with Kramer?
Anyone want to comment on the Michael Richards incident?
(posted by Stevie T)

Weekend Box Office
1. Happy Feet
2. Casino Royale
3. Borat
4. The Santa Clause 3
5. Flushed Away

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Just Get the Flu Already
I wonder what it takes to get a re-call? New instructions say to "be careful" taking Tamiflu because of some possible side-effects that can be really nasty...

The NPR report I heard had an expert saying the FDA found it "peculiar" that people on Tamiflu were "becoming suicidal and jumping out of windows" since that's not really one of the effects of the flu. How am I supposed to be careful about that? If it happens just once, that's pretty bad right? There are things I can imagine jumping out of a window to avoid, but the flu isn't one of them.

Shouldn't the new instructions say: don't take Tamiflu?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Are We Stuck With Blue?
I think I mentioned this once a while back--but the red-state/blue-state divide has not always been associated as Republicans/Democrats. When Clinton ran against Dole, red states denoted Clinton wins, and against Reagan, Carter was blue. Did election networks pick colors arbitrarily? No. Since 1976, the color has alternated the incumbent party. So, Clinton's re-election in 1996 it was time for the incumbent to be red. In 2000, the incumbent needed to be blue, which is why Gore states were colored blue and Bush red. In 2004, the incumbent needed to be red, so Bush stayed red. And for 8 years we've developed a habit of speaking of Republican states as red. Problem is, in 2008, the incumbent party is slated to go back to blue. Will networks go along with it? If so, what will the conservative site do?

Personally I think we should change. The red-state/blue-state thing is annoying as hell. Plus, doesn't the color red have certain connotations (power among them) that we shouldn't want to associate permanently with the GOP?
Lieberman and the Ghosts of Republican Past
At one time, I was fairly ambivalent about the determined effort to run Joe Lieberman out of the Senate--considered him a committed Democrat who was just wrong on the war. I learned to dislike and distrust him more and more as the campaign progressed. And now it's looking more and more like KennyB is right: after the initial pledge to stay with the Democrats, Joe is open to the idea of switching parties (via Kos). Conventional wisdom is that he won't do it because 2008 offers more Democratic pickup chances than Republican, assuring that even if Lieberman grants a Republican majority in 2006, he will find himself irrelevant and back in the minority 2 years later. Frankly I'm not sure I see that same lopsided forecast when I look at the list, but even more important, I just wouldn't put anything past him at this point. He may switch just to be a jerk.

And in other news, the GOP seems poised to name Strom Thurmond honorary caucus chairman. Or, they might as well be.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What have you been listening to, reading, watching?

National Novel Writing Month
Anyone participating in national novel writing month? If so, you're attempting to finish a novel in November. That's writing one, not reading one. 50,000 words. At they are interviewing some writers on their novel-writing. I'm not going to write a novel. But I'm not opposed to reading one. Here's my question for the day. What's the newest novel you've read that you would recommend? And what's a favorite oldie you loved that the rest of us may not know about?

Hilarious. Disturbing. Sometimes I'm not sure it was right that I was laughing. If you've seen the movie, and want to know what's real and what's not, read this (don't read it if you haven't seen it yet!)

Weekend Box Office
1. Borat
2. The Santa Clause 3
3. Flushed Away
4. Stranger than Fiction
5. Saw III

Anyone see the Will Ferrell movie (Stranger than Fiction) yet? Preview looks good.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

What's the best, most important change to hit the Congress once Democrats take over? It could be Pat Leahy taking over Senate Judiciary once again, which should help keep the worst judges from getting through. It could be Henry Waxman who will head the Government Reform Committee, which has oversight jurisdiction on nearly everything the government does. Waxman said the most difficult thing about his new post (which he's held before) will be to "pick and choose" which governmental abuses to investigate.

But I'd like to vote for the Senate Environment Committee, which has been chaired by James Inhofe, who calls global warming "a hoax." Now, Barbara Boxer will take control.
Boxer said she intends to introduce legislation to curb greenhouse gases, strengthen environmental laws regarding public health and hold oversight hearings on federal plans to clean up Superfund sites across the country.

On global warming, Boxer said she would model federal legislation after a California law signed this summer by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. That law imposes the first statewide cap on greenhouse gases and seeks to cut California's emissions by 25 percent, dropping them to 1990 levels by 2020.

"Some of the practical solutions are in the California approach," Boxer said.

A top environmental aide at the White House signaled Thursday that the administration would work with her.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Can't Stand Prosperity
Of course, 3 days after winning a historic election, Democrats are ready to start bickering. Howard Dean ran for DNC chair on a platform of a 50-state strategy, he started the process of turning Democrats back into a national, instead of regional party--he won that election and delivered on his promise and Democrats won back the House and the Senate. So, now James Carville wants to replace him...with Harold Ford. What a mistake. I don't mind the conservatism of Ford when he's running to represent a state like Tennessee, but as the leader of the Party? Give me a break...hopefully he's too smart for that. Apart from that, Dean clearly deserves to keep his post, no matter how you measure performance.
What on Earth would motivate Tom Vilsack to run for President? Is he running for VP? Does he think he could win Iowa and then run the table a la Kerry? If so, he's crazy, right? I don't understand what motivates these people that have obviously no chance. Is it just because when they were first getting into politics they thought "I could be President some day" and now figure they have to run, just to see what it's like? Am I missing some essential Vilsack qualities?

As far as I'm concerned we can add him on to the heap that includes Dodd, Bayh, Kerry on the Dem side, and Duncan Hunter, Sam Brownback, Bill Frist on the GOP side. None of these guys seem to have points to make, like Dean's longshot run which started out more about advocating a point of view more than actually trying to win. What's the motivation? Won't anyone tell them the truth? I mean, seriously, what is going through Chris Dodd's brain that makes him think he has the slightest chance of being nominated?

Hilary, Edwards, maybe even Feingold as a super-longshot, Obama, Gore, and even Biden, these people have decisions to make. Do the others just have kiss-ass staffs? Or is the ego really that big? Is it that tough to get perspective?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Few Election Leftovers
Harold Ford won 31 (out of 95) TN counties. Kerry only won 17 in 2004.

Minnesota elected Congress' first muslim. Keith Ellison is a pro-choice, pro-gay-rights Democrat.

Shocker. There are vote count questions in Florida. In Katherine Harris' old seat. 18,000 people voted without casting a vote in the House race. 15,000 more than last time. Democrat Christine Jennings lost that pickup opportunity by less than 400 votes.

In OH-15, incumbent Pryce leads by less than 3,000 but 20,000 votes are still to be counted. Kilroy hasn't conceded yet. That's good news for me. I put that race high on my confidence list and am looking the idiot for it. Hopefully absentees and provisionals can turn this one upside-down.

Patrick Murphy has won in PA-08. That makes Dems +28 so far by my count. 9 or 10 are still out there.

My vote for biggest winner of the night: David Axelrod.

South Dakota voted down the severe anti-abortion law. Oregon and California defeated parental notification measures. Missouri approved expansion of stem cell research. Arizona defeated a gay-marriage ban because it was so extreme. Yeah there was some bad ballot news as well, but why focus on that this week.

Hope: You know which group of people increased their turnout the most over the last mid-term? Overall turnout was basically 40%, same as in 2002 (up slightly). But voters under 30 were up considerably.
What Can Be Accomplished?
In addition to being a reliable roadblock against frightening legislation and judges, it would be nice if the new Democratic Congress was able to, you know, get something worthwhile and helpful done, positively. Plus, you would think Bush might become anxious to leave a legacy beyond just a failed war, and might be willing to cooperate.

Hopes/Predictions/Requests? It's one thing to profess core beliefs and policy positions in campaigns. It's another to survey reality and actually make governing decisions. I am confident the minimum wage will finally be increased, and soon. What else can and should they try to get done relating to important problems we face? Can we make headway on environment/energy concerns? Will we be closer to out of Iraq this time next year? Will health coverage be expanded or measures to cut medical costs implemented? Will any large-scale fixes, big programs, be attempted? Or will we just chip away, Clinton-style?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Here's a decent way to start the new day: Rumsfeld is out.

No doubt this move was planned for some time, but Bush didn't want to push him out before the elections and look like he agreed with his war critics. So, our Defense Secretary, with a delusional view of the world, a flawed idea of what our military should be, and how we should fight, a tragic lack of planning beyond "shock and awe", and a blatant disregard for human rights and basic civil liberties, we kept him for political reasons. Thanks alot, W.

But this new arrangement, holding the House and, I feel certain, the Senate, is starting to feel quite nice. Have you ever watched a boxing match between 2 guys with a big mismatch in height? And the tall one, if he's fast enough, can reach out and punch the smaller whenever he wants, but the shorter can't get in close enough to land anything? For me, today feels like--in the battle for progress, and to fight our country's fanatically conservative forces--we've finally got arms that can reach, for the first time in 12 years.

Feel good.
Ain't it sweet, my friends?

update: sweeter still - Tester's declared the winner, Rummy's resigning -

Hey, a huge thanks to Don for his work yesterday - he gave us a checklist and kept us updated into the night as the blue wave swept across the land. Feel free to share any thoughts you have this morning as we bask in the beautiful (if slightly unfinished) afterglow.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


In Tennessee, Ford did a great job and kept it awfully close... ...he won Davidson and Shelby with over 60% of the vote in each--amazing--that's more than Kerry or Bredesen won those counties with. He only lost Chattanooga by 7 pts. Knox by 13. Not really sure how he lost...all the suburb counties added up I suppose.

MSNBC says Santorum goes down.
Mike Dewine goes down. That was easy.
Menendez holds!
Cardin holds the MD seat!
Chafee goes down! I was wrong about that one.
McCaskill beats Talent!!
Tester holds on. Mr. Burns is done!
Webb wins by a whisker in VA! Senate turns Democrat!

Ellsworth beats inc. Hostettler in IN-08.
Northup (KY) goes down.
Chocola (IN) goes down.
Bass (NH) is toast.
Buh-Bye Weldon (PA).
Shuler wins!
Giffords wins in AZ-08. That's a pickup.
Dems win Mark Foley's seat FL-16.
Nancy Johnson (CT-05) loses.
Clay Shaw loses. Kenny was right.
Wife-beater Sweeney (NY) loses.
Sodrel (IN) goes down.
Space wins OH-18.
Mistress-strangler Sherwood sent packing.
Arcuri wins in NY.
Melissa Hart loses PA-04
Bigot JD Hayworth goes down in AZ.
Jim Ryun loses in Kansas.
Dems pickup IA-01
Dems pickup WI-08
Walz beats Gutknecht in MN-01
Nick Lampson wins Tom Delay's old seat.
Perlmutter wins in CO-07
John Hall wins in NY!!
Woohoo! I didn't even notice Carol Shea-Porter wins in NH-01.
Leach loses in Iowa.
Pombo (CA) goes down...
Murphy wins PA-08
Final Thoughts
I'll be posting results in a single post as I find them here. Refresh to get what I've got.

I have to say that I would like to believe the heavy turnout is part of a huge throw-the-bums-out wave. But honestly it doesn't feel like that. I think as we approach Presidential numbers, we get Presidential results. In a place like TN where the GOP has out-performed Presidential polls by 5-6 pts that doesn't bode well for us. On the other hand, who knows. Plus, when was the last time my feelings were right? One thing's for sure: there is a direct relationship between money spent and turnout. Huge money was spent this cycle, and the turnout reflects that. One other thing's for sure - the polls weren't prepared for this and I would be shocked if they're all that accurate. Just don't know which ways they will be wrong. Oh, and one other thing's for sure: we're kicking George Allen's butt. That guy is so much history.
Congress-Watching Guide plus My Predictions
I made up a 2-page guide (word doc) for watching the congressional races. Starting with the few somewhat vulnerable Dem seats and a place to check "held" or "lost" then 63 interesting seats held by Republicans, organized by poll closing time (times are Eastern). In the candidate name space I put the incumbent, so we'll be hoping to hear that those GOP incumbents have lost. We need a gain of 15 seats to take the House and 6 to take the Senate.

I'm predicting we win 22 seats in the House. That's may be conservative, but I think the race has tightened.

In the Senate I have many hopes and many fears. The fearful scenario goes like this: the Chafee machine holds onto the RI seat, incumbents Burns and Talent squeak by and worst of all Steele continues his charge to grab a pickup for the Repubs in MD. Then, we're looking at gaining only 1 or 2 seats depending on VA.

But I'm feeling hopeful. So the official predictions go like this: Dems pickup OH and PA of course, plus trounce Allen in VA (we will never have to hear from him again). Amendment 2 works in McCaskill's favor as she gets by Talent this time and Tester's early vote makes a Burns comeback impossible. That's 5 pickups. Rhode Island and Maryland go down to the wire, but against us. And I don't think Ford can quite get over the hump, but it will be close in TN. Net Dem gain: +4. If we catch a couple breaks in MD and RI, the Senate turns blue. And no way would Lieberman blow that. Asshole or not.
Bellweather Early Races
(Don't forget, the predictions thread is below--get your picks in now!)

Sometime today I'll post a helpful checklist you can use to follow the House and Senate races, but before I get to that, there are a couple of races in the Northeast that should tell us early on what kind of night it will be.

NH-02 In New Hampshire, incumbent Republican Charlie Bass won by 20 pts. in 2004 but is in a neck-and-neck race with Paul Hodes. Bass' poll numbers are consistently under 50%. This is a race generally considered in the second tier of Democratic pickup opportunities, the kind we will count on to win back the House. If the challenger Hodes pulls off the win (he seems to have a slight lead in polls), it is a sign that almost certainly the House is going Democratic. If he doesn't, it may mean that pollsters have overestimated the Democrats' wave.

RI-Sen--The Rhode Island Senate race really frightens me. This and the Maryland race really could ruin the Democratic push to takeover the Senate, a task that will take many things going right. Whitehouse (D) has had a significant lead until the last week, when incumbent Chafee came on strong. I remember in the Republican primary there was hope that Chafee would be picked off by a more conservative foe. That guy, Steve Laffey, was claiming on election day that all his precinct numbers came through adn went just according to plan--he thought he was going to win. But Chafee beat him solidly. Apparently the Chafee machine can get out the vote when it needs to. He won't have to beat the polls by much to win this race and keep the Democrats from winning back the Senate. A Chafee loss doesn't assure Dems will win the Senate - far from it - but a Chafee win would stomp Democratic Senate hopes early in the night.

When I have a chance I'll post about important races to watch in the middle of the country, and then in the West.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Amendments to Watch
(note: predictions thread is below. Go put your 2 cents in. Fabulous prizes await. No, not really)

There are lots of election-type posts I'd like to make if I have time, so check back in often over the next 24 hours. One thing I'll be watching tomorrow night is a handful of state ballot initiatives of interest you may or may not have heard about.

Missouri--Amendment 2 is a stem cell research initiative that has dominated the state's debate and the Senate race. Generally, the public is for stem cell research, but in a close midterm election that will hinge on turnout, this has galvanized the pro-life, christian conservative forces as much or more than Bush in 2004 did. Pits Michael J. Fox vs. a handful of St. Louis sports heroes who have come out against.

South Dakota--To me this is fascinating. The SD legislature and Governor combined to pass shocking anti-abortion legislation, and women were having none of it. A grassroots effort to rescind the bill has resulted in this ballot initiative (#6) that actually - in a conservative place like SD - has a chance to pass. You can go too far, apparently, in limiting women's rights. Maybe someone else can explain to me how this bill is even allowed, given Roe v. Wade, but will be interesting to see if the people reject it in either case. On top of that, SD will vote on a gay marriage amendment that would prohibit gay couples from ever receiving rights or benefits substantially similar to married couples. That goes so far that a recent poll actually had SD voters rejecting it. Would be nice.

Colorado--Referendum 1 would extend civil rights to same-sex couples. It's expected to pass. No, really.

We'll see how these go. Check back often tomorrow night during results and I'll try to keep up with the numbers.
I went to hear Obama speak with Harold Ford yesterday - a great event and he's a great speaker--very thoughtful, tells a longer story then he probably needs to but he and Ford both represent something important, if difficult to define, about the future of American politics. In a roundabout way, I think what I'm sensing there, and excited about, is that 2006 elections will mark the beginning of the end of the religious right as a powerful cohesive force. I really believe that. But, I digress.

Obama quoted one of my favorite sayings of Dr. King, that the arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice (yeah yeah i had to edit this to come at least close to the actual quote). And there is one element of this election that has been under-estimated in importance as the Democrats are poised to re-take the House of Representatives--a historic additional victory that finally brings many of the struggles of the past to fruition. African-Americans will not just have a voice in the 06-07 Congress. They will have a gavel to go with it. When the Democrats take over, much has been made of Nancy Pelosi becoming the first woman Speaker of the House, but here's something else. John Conyers will lead the House Judiciary Committee. Charles Wrangel will head the Ways and Means Committee. Bennie Thompson should head the Homeland Security Committee. Many believe Alcee Hastings will chair the Intelligence Committee. Juanita Millender-McDonald is first in line to chair the House Administration Committee. Shelia Jackson-Lee will chair the Border Security subcommittee in the House Judiciary committee. Eddie Bernice Johnson will chair the Water and Environiment subcommittee of the Transportation Committee. Major Owens will chair the Workforce Protections subcommittee of the Education and the Workforce Committee. Bobby Scott will chair the Crime, terrorism and Homeland Security subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee.

That's 5 major committees that will likely be led by black Americans, Democrats who have paid their dues, waded through the years and years of experience it takes to gain the seniority needed. Do you know what the Republican chairmen of the current Congress look like? 21 white men out of 21. The next House will have a woman speaker and a woman (Louise Slaughter) will head the important Rules Committee. A gay (proudly, not closeted-hypocritical) man will chair the Finance Services Committee. A Hispanic woman (Nydia Valasquez) will chair the Small Business Committee. And those 5 African-American Committee chairpersons, 2 more than have ever served in that capacity for a session in the history of the country combined.

Whatever else happens - assuming the House changes hands - Democrats will surely be looking to the future for a new generation of leadership, but at the same time, what will also be realized is this further victory of the Civil Rights movement, many years in the making. Minority voices won't just be compelling our country's leadership, but will become our leadership in Congress.
Prediction Time
It's time for your predictions. I'll put mine out later today. Use this thread for yours. How many seats will Dems pick up in the House? Predict the major Senate races. Biggest upset? Any other predictions? Will some races be close enough to warrant re-counts or late-night TV watching? I'm getting so used to that happening now I expect it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Polls and Dirty Tricks
I'm forgoing Media Monday this week, with the election 1 day away. Here's what's on my mind falling asleep on Sunday night: new USAToday polling shows Ford within 3, Menendez and Tester up big, Allen back in front and Whitehouse barely holding off a Chafee charge in RI whiel McCaskill opens up a little lead in MO. The last Rasmussen poll will also apparently show Ford inside the margin of error. Shockingly there are still about 6-10% in each Senate race that claim to be undecided. Watch Ford's closing campaign ad here. I haven't seen it on TV yet but hoping it plays all over tomorrow.

But also I read that the national Republicans are up to shameful dirty tricks
in close House races--robocalling independent/swing voters dozens of times purporting to be the Democratic candidate, hoping to turn people off so much they'll choose the GOP candidate instead. Sadly, it works. How they look themselves in the mirror I'll never know. We could hope it gets enough press tomorrow to have a backlash effect on Tuesday. But when do we ever get that lucky?

What's on your mind?
Nov. 7 plans
I admit, I'm superstitious and even cautious optimism in the past has ended up deepening my agony on past election nights, so I am not "measuring the drapes" in anticipation of this Tuesday's results. (BTW, you don't measure drapes, you measure the window - the GOP doesn't even have a plan for window dressing.)

However, I'm curious what plans you all have for election day - poll watching, volunteering some way - and election night - watching returns on TV alone, watching political blogs, gathering with others to share in the thrill of victory / agony of defeat?

Seems like we should plan to gather here virtually at some point in the proceedings - anybody wanna?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Article 19er Needs Help
Jenifer writes in to say that she is entering a contest at DC's fabulous Hawk 'n Dove. Pick the winners! The races that are involved in the contest are as follows - she's looking for input from us, even though - best as I can tell - we've never been right about any of this stuff before.

Here's the twist - list your picks in order of confidence (most to least). The races and pollster links are included:
Iowa--Culver (D) v. Nussle (R)
Maryland--O'Malley (D) v. Ehrlich (R)
Rhode Island--Fogarty (D) v. Carcieri (R)

Maryland--Cardin (D) v. Steele (R)
Missouri--McCaskill (D) v. Talent (R)
Montana--Tester (D) v. Burns (R)
New Jersey--Menendez (D) v. Kean, Jr. (R)
Ohio--Brown (D) v. Dewine (R)
Pennsylvania--Casey (D) v. Santorum (R)
Rhode Island--Whitehouse (D) v. Chafee (R)
Tennessee--Ford (D) v. Corker (R)
Virginia--Webb (D) v. Allen (R)

Connecticut 02--Courtney (D) v. Simmons (R)
Connecticut--Farrell (D) v. Shays (R)
Florida--Klein (D) v. Shaw (R)
Indiana--Donnelly (D) v. Chocola (R)
Indiana--Ellsworth (D) v. Hostetter (R)
Indiana--Hill (D) v. Sodrel (R)
Kentucky--Lucas (D) v. Davis (R)
North Carolina--Shuler (D) v. Taylor (R)
Ohio--Kilroy (D) v. Pryce (R)
Pennsylvania--Murphy (D) v. Gerlach (R)
Pennsylvania--Sestak (D) v. Weldon (R)
Pennsylvania--Murphy (D) v. Fitzpatrick (R)

Put your picks in order of confidence in the comments and maybe Jenifer and SteveP will get a free meal at the Hawk!

Friday, November 03, 2006

What's the world coming to - UPDATE
Ted Haggard now admits he bought meth but didn't use it, and received massages from a gay escort. No clarification yet if those were massages or "massages," stay tuned to see whether there's a happy ending here.
Weird Holidays: An Article 19 Poll
As you may or may not know, today is National Sandwich Day. As I was just gearing up for a sandwich question to ask, I learn that it's also National Cliche Day.

So in the comments I'd like to ask you for your best sandwich memories--alltime favorite, or most interesting, whatever. But please, express as much of your comment in cliche as possible. We want to be respectful of all holidays here.
More Ford
It's hard to know what to believe anymore in the Ford race. I didn't think the Zogby 10-pt. Corker lead sounded right at all. But the new poll Ford and the DSCC are pushing - taken over the last 2 days showing a Ford lead of 46-40 - that doesn't exactly pass the smell test either, starting with the fact that there's no way 14% are still undecided. And a conversation last night relayed 3rd, or maybe 4th-hand account from campaign HQ that precinct-by-precinct early vote turnout has them pessimistic.

Still these are crazy times and crazier headlines and so who knows. If you had told me this week would bring the resignation of the head of the National Association of Evangelicals for taking drugs and paying for 3-years worth of sex with a male prostitute, I probably would have given Ford a better chance than that. Next, they will tell us we're running out of fish. Yeah, right.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Know Your Republican Scoundrels
My personal favorite is Rep. Don Sherwood, whose campaign slogan seems to be "I did not abuse my mistress." That's not really what you want up front in your bio is it? How are you supposed to keep track of all the other Republicans convicted, charged, indicted, under investigation? Here's a list. The Washington Post has a more detailed run-down. And here's a great ad, in which someone offers $100 to anyone who can read the list of Republican offenders in one breath.
Ask and You Shall Receive
In the comments to the polls thread below, Wilson asks about the turnout in Williamson County, TN. Williamson is a heavily GOP county just south of Nashville. How GOP is it? In 2004, Bush won there 72-28. And it's no small place. In that election, only 5 counties (out of 95) cast more votes than Williamson. So one of the things we would hope is that the turnout in Williamson County is down this year. Luckily, the TN Election Commission releases this information every day in a handy-dandy chart. The news is good and bad.

We're hearing how high early turnout is compared to the last time we had a mid-term election (2002), the year we elected a Democratic Governor.

In 2002, Williamson accounted for 3.1% of the early and absentee vote in all of TN. In 2004 that number was upped to 4.1%. So far this year (with only 1 day left in early voting) Williamson accounts for 3.1% of the early vote. So, yes its totals are up, but they are up across the state. Williamson hasn't increased its share of early vote influence over what it had in 2002 and is down a good bit from its 2004 influence. And in general the model is fairly stable and consistent with 2002 on a county-by-county basis (that doesn't tell us which precincts are turning out most but it's something) with a couple exceptions: Ford's Shelby County is up (16.5% of the state so far this year; 13.1% in 2002; 14.3% in '04) and Corker's Hamilton County is up (3.8% in '02; 4% in '04; and 4.5% so far in '06). Republican Knox County is also down. (7.8% now; 9.1 in '02; 9.7 in '04).

So, how does the big picture look?
Here's one way of comparing turnout: In 2004 the 8 counties that gave Bush the largest vote margins *in the early and absentee vote* amounted to 27.25% of the total early/absentee vote state-wide. Remarkably, the 8 counties that gave Kerry his largest margin also added up to 27.25% of the state-wide early/absentee vote. So far in 2006, those 8 Bush counties only count for 23.82% of the early/absentee vote; and Kerry's 8 counties add up to 28.12% of the state-wide turnout. On that evidence alone, it looks like turnout slightly favors Democratic-leaning counties over Republican. But, to be fair, that comparison looked better 3 days ago than it does today, so the day-by-day trend is not positive.

Another comparison: in 2002 the 8 counties that gave Democratic governor Bredesen his largest vote margins (he only won by 2 points state-wide so his is the model we have to more closely hope for here) amounted to 28.49% of the early/absentee vote and Republican Van Hillary's strongest 8 counties made up 21.43% of the state-wide total. So far in the 2006 early vote/absentee count, those 8 Bredesen counties amount to 32.1% of the early vote, while the same 8 Van Hillary counties count for only 20.3%, a slight decline. So strong Bredesent counties are having an even stronger influence. Strong Van Hillary counties a slightly weaker one.

This still doesn't tell us a ton. But it does say that in turnout we're at least not out of it. If Shelby weren't getting out, and Knox and Williamson were surging there'd be no chance at all. The worst news is that the last few days have seen Knox and Williamson gaining. This comparison looked better early in the week.
What's the World Coming To?
It's getting to where - if you're the evangelical leader of tens of thousands of rabidly anti-gay, conservative, Republican-loving church-goers - you can't even take drugs with your gay hooker lover anymore without being labeled some kind of miscreant. What gives? What's the fun in being a mega-church pastor and national religious leader with direct access to the President if you can't be a raging hypocrite on the side? With an environment like this, how is an anti-gay, anti-drug religious zealot supposed to get high and have gay sex these days? What's with all the tattling and, you know, reporting?

AmericaBlog has more.
Polls. Sigh.[UPDATED]
The newest Reuters poll has Ford down 10. I don't really understand it. There's also a Rasmussen poll that shows him down only 2. It's just hard to believe a Democratic/anti-Republican wave could rush over America and skip right over Tennessee. He's run a great campaign, a dynamic personality. It doesn't make much sense.

I think the race is surely closer than 10, but if he's really up 4 or 5, Corker can't be beaten by some small turnout swings here and there. Looking more and more like we have to scratch TN off the list, but we'll see.

The good news is that the rest of the Reuters polls look good for Dems, who hold leads in enough states to take back the Senate. The bad news is that some of those are quite close, including Montana which we've been counting on and is now down to a 1-point lead. Missouri s also quite close but McCaskill has the lead. And Webb holds the slightest of leads in VA. All of those have to come through for Dems to retake the Senate, assuming Ford just can't get over the hump here. A 3-seat gain in the Senate seems assured. 3 are teetering but we lead. Then there's Ford who seems to be backsliding. 6 wins are needed to take the Senate. (KennyB thinks we need 7 due to the turncoat-Lieberman factor)

[UPDATE: We may be able to add Arizona into the possible list. Democrats seem to think so. I think the reasoning sounds a little shaky, but whatever.]
America Speaks: We're Not Falling For Your Crap
Here's hoping that the people who answer polls like this last pre-election NYTimes/CBS survey are also planning to go to the polls on Tuesday. Here are some of my favorite numbers:
--29: the % of Americans who approve of the way Bush is handling the war in Iraq.
--70: the % who believe Bush does not have a plan to end the war.
--80: % who believe Bush's latest shift in rhetoric was just a bunch of wordplay signifying nothing.
--52: the % of "likely voters" who say the will vote for Democrats
--34: the % who say they will vote for Republicans (yep that's the biggest Democratic advantage in that question since they started asking it in this poll.)
--34: the % who want the new Congress to deal with the Iraq War first. The next highest vote-getter, immigration, is at 8%.
--56: unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party (36 fav.)
--40: unfavorable opinion of the Democratic Party (49 fav.)
--67: the % who believe our efforts to achieve stability in Iraq are going somewhat or very badly. (that's an all-time high)

All in all - Americans are the ones staying the course this election season: it's time for a change. 5 days from an election, that's about as much as we can hope for. Some numbers, bad as they are, are trending back toward Bush and Republicans. But so slightly, and from such an abysmal depth that it should give them little optimism.

Not wanting to look too far ahead, but should Democrats win the House and the Senate (still a longshot I think), they should be warned: there is pressure to perform. The poll asks what respondents "expect" should Democrats take over Congress. What they/we expect is for troop levels to decrease in Iraq, for the minimum wage to be increased, for health care/prescription drug costs to at least stabilize if not decrease.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ok. Now We're Done With That Nonsense.
On to the election and the real issues. And as Doug points out, you want to talk disrespecting the troops? How about this story,as framed by Andrew Sullivan?
In a showdown for control of Baghdad, the Iraqi prime minister took orders from Moqtada al-Sadr, and instructed the U.S. military to withdraw from Sadr City. The American forces were trying both to stabilize the city but also to find a missing American serviceman. He is still missing.
The U.S. military does not have a tradition of abandoning its own soldiers to foreign militias, or of taking orders from foreign governments. No commander-in-chief who actually walks the walk, rather than swaggering the swagger, would acquiesce to such a thing. The soldier appears to be of Iraqi descent who is married to an Iraqi woman. Who authorized abandoning him to the enemy? Who is really giving the orders to the U.S. military in Iraq? These are real questions about honor and sacrifice and a war that is now careening out of any control. They are not phony questions drummed up by a partisan media machine to appeal to emotions to maintain power.
Here's hoping the White House briefing tomorrow can get through the Kerry questions with enough time left over to try and explain that.
The Kerry Flap
Vent here.