Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Continuing Adventures of Big Bush and Little Bush

Meanwhile, George Herbert Walker Bush was in the United Arab Emirates, delivering what the Associated Press described as "a folksy address on leadership." He closed with a few thoughts about his son, Hold the Herbert. He did not expect the audience to express unanimous contempt for Hold the Herbert during the question-and-answer period.

"This son is not going to back away," the elder Bush said. ("His voice quivering," AP noted.) "He's not going to change his view because some poll says this or some poll says that," the elder Bush continued, "or some heartfelt comments from the lady who feels deeply in her heart about something." (I believe the former president is referring to Cindy Sheehan.) It went on: "You can't be president of the United States and conduct yourself if you're going to cut and run. This is going to work out in Iraq. I understand the anxiety. It's not easy."

And with that, the elder Bush -- oh, wait, there's more: "My son is an honest man. He is working hard for peace. It takes a lot of guts to get up and tell a father about his son in those terms when I just told you the thing that matters in my heart is my family." And: "When your son's under attack, it hurts. You're determined to be at his side and help him any way you possibly can." Besides: "How come everybody wants to come to the United States if the United States is so bad?"

A folksy address on leadership had become a nightmare. When he took questions, a woman in the audience chose to make a statement: "We do not respect your son. We do not respect what he's doing all over the world." According to the AP, "Bush appeared stunned as the audience of young business leaders whooped and whistled in approval." (Dubai "used to be safe territory for former president Bush, an oil man who brought Arab leaders together in a coalition that drove Saddam Hussein's troops out of Kuwait in 1991.")

Of course, there is a drama going on in this country called Oedipus Bush, and it probably began on July 6, 1946. More recently, Hold the Herbert vowed to win the presidency to avenge his father's defeat at the hands of Bill Clinton; upon taking office, Hold the Herbert said he didn't take advice from With the Herbert but from "a higher father," and declared Ronald Reagan to be his role model. Eventually, With the Herbert was banished from Hold the Herbert's inner circle. Word got around that With the Herbert didn't think Hold the Herbert was doing such a good job, and that he was concerned about the family legacy. (See "Oedibush," NERO FIDDLED, 12/2/05). But no sooner had Hold the Herbert conceded to a Democratic "thumping" in the 2006 midterms than familiar faces from With the Herbert's crowd suddenly appeared: Baker, Scowcroft, Gates. (See Howard Fineman's excellent article in Newsweek.) Father and son were photographed together last week, and those pictures really got around; they were hot stuff.

Everyone denies that the elder Bush is wielding any kind of power whatsoever. He stresses that he is not affiliated with his son's administration in any way. (How could anyone think such a thing?) "I have strong opinions on a lot of these things," the taller Bush said in Abu Dhabi. "But the reason I can't voice them is, if I did what you ask me to do -- tell you what advice I give my son -- that would then be flashed all over the world. If it happened to deviate one iota, one little inch, from what the president's doing or thinks he ought to be doing, it would be terrible." Of course, he's absolutely right, from a political standpoint. As if to rub salt in junior's wounds, a new CNN poll shows that six in ten Americans think the first Bush was a better president than the second one. I'll bet if they asked, they could find that at least five in ten think cheese would be a better president than the second Bush.

For outside insight, ABC offers a sparkling Rashomon of weigh-ins. Mary Matalin: "If anybody in Washington or Austin or anywhere across the inter-planetary system tells you that they know the frequency or the substance of the conversation between the father and the son, they are making it up." Maureen Dowd: "Well from the point of view of the Bush 41 team it's pretty much like the scene in Borat, where he tries to get the Kazakh wedding sack over Pamela Anderson's head and run away with her." Tony Snow: "No, this is a...this is not bringing in people willy-nilly from his presidency administration to save him. Wrong."

That the team assembled by George W. Bush is failing miserably is beyond dispute. The emergence of this old boys' club may tame the post-election anger of traditional conservatives, but I don't really think turning Iraq over to these guys is such a good idea. These are the guys who helped keep Saddam Hussein rolling in weapons of mass destruction when he was using them on Iran, which incidentally is about to go nuclear. These are also the guys who abandoned Afghanistan to the Taliban -- and I think there may be a link between the Taliban and the 9/11 attacks!

And by the way -- while our military leaders worry that we don't have enough troops for Iraq, let alone possible conflicts with Iran and North Korea, it's becoming a serious problem that we need more troops in Afghanistan, too -- because we abandoned it to the Taliban again when we invaded Iraq. U.S. and Afghan officials were quick to point out that they don't think more troops would be sent to Afghanistan, but just so you know, folks, we sure could use 'em over here. "I think it will be best at this point to wait and see what NATO is able to provide," said Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry. "There's more meetings that are taking place on the military staff. And this is very high on their agenda."

Eikenberry also mentioned that capturing Osama bin Laden "remains as much of a priority as it has since the United States of America was struck on 9/11." Wow, it's nice to know that's been a priority for so many years! And here's to many more, guys.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Courting the Right

McCain and Romney Assure the Base That They're Bigoted and Sexist

The notion that John McCain would be a formidable presidential candidate is based largely on his reputation as a centrist. But his efforts to court the right-wing base on social issues -- and thereby pin down the nomination -- are destroying that reputation, and perhaps making him a little less formidable. For example, McCain used to be one of those Republicans willing to agree that abortion should be a woman's decision; ThinkProgress reminds us that while campaigning for the nomination in 1999, McCain declared that "certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations."

But now, appearing on ABC's This Week, McCain tells George Stephanopoulos that he supports a constitutional amendment making abortion illegal, except in cases of "rape, incest and the life of the mother" (the standard trio of anti-choice concessions). McCain went on to say, "I don't think a constitutional amendment is probably going to take place, but I do believe that it's very likely or possible that the Supreme Court should -- could overturn Roe v. Wade, which would then return these decisions to the states, which I support."

"I'm a federalist," he explained, and then mentioned that he believes the issue of same-sex marriage "should be decided by the states...and I don’t believe the Supreme Court should be legislating in the way that they did on Roe v. Wade."

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney also wants the Republican nomination very badly. Historically, Romney has been closer than McCain to the extreme right, but he also has a lot to prove to them, being from Massachusetts. Yesterday, he declared his intention to ask the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to put a gay marriage ban on the 2008 ballot. This is the same Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that legalized gay marriage in 2004. Since then, says Reuters, about 8,000 gay couples have been married in the state.

An effort like Romney's just failed this year, and for the proposal to appear on the ballot, 25% of the state legislature would have to approve it, twice, once in the current legislative session and again before the 2008 election. Nobody expects this; it's not going to happen. But for Romney, it's a good opportunity to play to potential right-wing constituents all over the country. He's retiring as the Governor of Massachusetts, to be replaced by a Democrat in January. But when he starts campaigning for the presidency, he'll be able to tell the bigots and religious fanatics that he used his final days of gubernatorial power to fight against the rights of gay people.

And the sound bite is a classic. "This week," said Romney, standing on the steps of the Massachusetts Statehouse, "we will file an action before the courts calling upon the judiciary to protect the constitutional rights of our citizens." He didn't explain how, exactly, a law criminalizing same-sex marriage would protect anyone's constitutional rights -- but he wants to be the Republican candidate for president, so expect him to say many more things that make no sense at all.

Of course, before we think too much about who the next president will be, we have to impeach the one we've got. Despite the dismissive statements made by several key Democrats in the wake of Election Day, impeachment does seem to be in the air, and it is now a regular fixture of editorial writing, in a way that it wasn't before. And thanks to the always-excellent Doonesbury, an argument for impeachment recently appeared on Sunday comics pages all over America.


The Concession E-mail

You know I rarely post entire items from other places without some commentary, but you've got to read this, and it needs none. This is the concession e-mail sent to Satveer Chaudhary, who was just re-elected to the Minnesota State Senate. The e-mail was written by his Republican challenger, Rae Hart Anderson, who says she tried to call Chaudhary to concede, but couldn't get through. Satveer Chaudhary is a practicing Hindu.

"Congratulations on winning the District 50 senate race. Your phone is 'busy' doubt with good wishes!

"I've enjoyed much of this race, especially the people I've met...even you! I see your deficits--not all of them, and your potential--but not all of it. Only your Creator knows the real potential He's put in you. Get to know Him and know'll be more interesting even to you!

"The race of your life is more important than this one--and it is my sincere wish that you'll get to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He died for the sins of the world, yours and mine--and especially for those who accept His forgiveness. His kingdom will come and His will be done--on earth as it is in heaven. There's more....I love belonging to the family of God. Jesus is the way, the truth and offers His life to you and each human being. Pay attention...this is very important, Satveer. Have you noticed Jesus for some moment in time, yet???

"God commends His love to us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

"Death came upon all and was defeated by the superiority of Jesus' life and His tomb is empty. God in Christ is reconciling the world back to Himself, with offered forgiveness--this is one choice we get to make nose to nose with the living God--fear Him and you need fear no other. Become His family and know the love of God that passes knowledge. See Isaiah and the Gospel of John...good reading while waiting for fishes to bite.

"God sent not His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:17

"Jesus Christ lives in His earth family by His Spirit. He said He'd be back, and He said it first. You could invite Him to make the race of your life 'eternal'. God waits to be gracious to each person that knows they need to be forgiven. Do you? I think you do. Just ask. Christ won eternal life for you and said so. Take Him at His Word. Take some time to get acquainted with this power-filled Jesus...God with us. You could be a temple of the living God, by invitation---yours, TO GOD. :) There's nothing like belonging to Christ...not winning, not money, not's the best.

"Good wishes and better wishes...until you wish for the best!

"Rae Hart Anderson"


"Go Big But Short While Transitioning To Go Long"

The New York Times has a sobering piece today about the "cycle of revenge" taking place in Iraq. The "sectarian violence" is getting, has gotten, and probably will get, worse. "Militias come to funerals," writes Sabrina Tavernise, "and offer to carry out revenge attacks. Gunmen execute blindfolded people in full public view. Mortars are lobbed between Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods. Sometimes the killers seem to be seeking specific people who were involved in earlier attacks, but many victims lose their lives simply to even out the sectarian toll." Does this sound like a civil war to you?

Witnesses described to Tavernise the "highly personal" nature of "attacks that involve a bullet in the head far more often than a bomb." There are bodies "found with drill holes, acid burns and broken bones...dumped in sewage areas and trash pits." In the last week, more than 700 Iraqis have been murdered; more than 1,300 have died since the beginning of November. One Husham al-Madfai told the Times that the fighting between Sunnis and Shias is "deep in the history of these tribes. They call it revenge. This is in the history of the country, in the blood of the people." Not encouraging words, for anyone who believes we can stabilize Iraq before we leave.

On that point, even the Pentagon is not sure. It's all boiled down to three basic options, according to The Washington Post -- referred to by "insiders" as "Go Big" (send more troops), "Go Long" (reduce the number of troops, but stay longer), or "Go Home" (pull out now). These options are the result of a military study commissioned by General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. "Go Home," of course, is not popular at the Pentagon.

So the group that conducted this study developed a fourth, "hybrid" plan -- eloquently described by "one defense official" as "Go Big but Short While Transitioning to Go Long." (What?) Essentially, this plan calls for an increase in troop numbers, by perhaps 30,000, for a short time; there would be a mighty campaign to control and extinguish the sectarian violence. It would be a cakewalk! Once that small matter is under control, the plan goes, there would be a dramatic reduction in the U.S. presence in Iraq, perhaps to 60,000 troops. (There are now 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.)

"Go Big" is accepted at the Pentagon as a means of curbing the civil war, but it's essentially been ruled out by the study, on the grounds that there are simply not enough troops in the military. Speaking to that issue, Korean War veteran and House Representative Charles Rangel (D-New York) is once again proposing that the military draft be reinstated. Rangel has made this point before, but on the eve of a Democratic Congress, and rising public opposition to the war, he's being taken slightly more seriously. He will be the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in January.

"There's no question in my mind," Rangel says, "that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way." Rangel was instantly contradicted by administration puppets, but he's obviously right when he says that the volunteer military "disproportionately puts the burden of war on minorities and lower-income families" (as paraphrased by the Associated Press). "I don't see how anyone can support the war and not support the draft," Rangel says. "I think to do so is hypocritical."

There are some who see that this war is unwinnable, regardless of what we do from here on in -- and one of them is Henry Kissinger. Kissinger has consulted with James Baker's Iraq Study Group, and he told the BBC this weekend, "If you mean by 'military victory' an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible." On the other hand, he went on, "a dramatic collapse of Iraq -- whatever we think about how the situation was created -- would have disastrous consequences for which we would pay for many years and which would bring us back, one way or another, into the region."

And so, with the whole thing looking so heartbreaking and hopeless, some of the less practical suggestions begin to sound reasonable. Consider the plan conceived by Donna Sheehan and Paul Reffell: a worldwide simultaneous orgasm. The Global Orgasm for Peace is to take place on December 22, and everyone in the world is invited to come. ''The orgasm gives out an incredible feeling of peace during it and after it,'' Reffell told the AP. ''Your mind is like a blank. It's like a meditative state. And mass meditations have been shown to make a change.''

I get it -- Go Big, Go Long, and Go Home.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Inhofe on Global Warming: "God's Still Up There"

Yesterday, I celebrated the departure of Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) from the head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. (See "U.S. Environmental Policy Not Quite As Bad As Saudi Arabia's.") Inhofe, who once pronounced the global warming threat "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," will be succeeded in January by Barbara Boxer.

Today, ThinkProgress provides a transcript of Inhofe's appearance on Fox and Friends, in which he gives us more reasons to be thrilled that he won't be the Environment and Public Works chairman much longer.

Arguing that climate change is happening naturally (and therefore has nothing to do with our use of fossil fuels), Inhofe said, "Now look, God's still up there." That's right. This guy has been heading the Senate's preeminent environmental committee, and his view on global warming is "God's still up there." You'll let us know if that changes anytime soon, right, James? If God at some point ceases to be up there, will congressional Republicans seek an alternative scapegoat?

"If the northern hemisphere is warming up," Inhofe declared, "it’s not due to manmade gases. And that’s what these people all come to the conclusion."

INHOFE: And yet the other side, the far left, the George Soros, the Hollywood elitists, the far left environmentalists on the committee that I chair -- all of them want us to believe the science is settled and it’s not. By the way, there’s all kinds of new things. Gretchen, you’ll enjoy this. Get your violin out and get ready. They came out with a great discovery just a few weeks ago. And this came from the geophysical research letters and you know what they said? Hold on now! They said the warming is due to the sun. Isn’t that remarkable?


BRIAN: That’s a Fox News alert.

GRETCHEN: That is a Fox News alert.

It certainly is.


Some Karl Rove Confusion

Yesterday in Sydney, Kim Beazley -- Leader of the Australian Labor Party -- said to a group of reporters, "Today our thoughts and the thoughts of many, many Australians will be with Karl Rove as he goes through the very sad process of burying his beloved wife. And I just want him to know that my thoughts and the thoughts of my colleagues are very much with him today."

What Beazley meant to say was, "Today our thoughts and the thoughts of many, many Australians will be with Rove McManus." McManus, an Australian comedian and TV host, was married to actress Belinda Emmett, who died six days ago of cancer. Well, the Australian punditry went crazy. How dare Mr. Beasley confuse this beloved entertainer with that thug from the Bush administration? The mistake, according to The Age, "has given ammunition to [Beazley's] party enemies and sparked fresh speculation about his health and the leadership."

Meanwhile, here in America, Bulletin News is reporting rumors that the real Karl Rove "will leave sometime next year." According to "a key Bush advisor," Rove "represents the old style and he’s got to go if the Democrats are going to believe Bush’s talk of getting along." The advisor hinted that Rove's departure from the administration could take place in "weeks, not months." Bulletin News notes that the return to leadership of Trent Lott is "a threat to the White House and Rove, who worked against him when he battled to save his majority leader’s job after his insensitive remarks about Sen. Strom Thurmond." (Actually, they were insensitive remarks about African-Americans.)

Anyway, that's quite a rumor -- Rove and Bush breaking up! But over at, they're reporting the exact opposite story. According to whoever talked to them, Bush "has decided to keep White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove on his team for the remainder of his administration." InsightMag credits "a source" with the insight that "the president was especially concerned that Rove might write a memoir about his White House experience."

So it's not clear whether there are plans to eject Rove from the regime or not, and if he were ejected, it's not clear whether he would write a book or not. But one thing is clear to almost all of us: Karl Rove and Rove McManus are two different people.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

About Ralph Piss...

Well...I had decided that no matter what he said or did, I would not waste a pixel of this blog (or a second of your time) dealing with the antics of Mr. Ralph Piss. But I feel compelled to defend myself.

If you read NERO FIDDLED with any regularity, you know that it receives a smattering of negative comments from right-wing visitors -- which is great. Some of it's just vitriol, but on occasion, meaningful debates have sprung up here. When they have, I'd like to think that each side emerged with a better understanding of the opposing viewpoint. This has not been the case with Mr. Piss, who has lately taken to leaving strange comments here. You've probably seen some of them. Typically, he makes some vaguely derogatory remark, usually coupled with the term "Dummycrat."

In the comments section of a recent post, I denied that I was "providing a forum for Piss." I also wrote: "Look, I don't know who this Ralph Piss person is. He seems to be a crotchety right-wing blogger of tremendous ego and no real skill." Piss flew into a rage. On his own blog, Piss on America, he published a rebuttal:

"Basically, a lefty blogger named Noah Diamond helped me put this website together, because he said he wanted a diversity of opinion, or some such liberal hokum. And now I read on his disgusting Dummycrat blog that he denies he has 'provided a forum for Piss.' In fact, he says he doesn't even know me. This is the absolute height of liberal elitism and flip-flopping, and it hurt..."

He also made an audio recording of himself telling the story in more detail. If you're really interested, the audio is available on his blog.

First the confession: Ralph Piss is right, in some respects. The truth, obviously, is that I do know who he is, and yes, I did help him set up his blog, and I am hosting some of his sounds and images on the NERO FIDDLED server. I stress that I have no editorial control over what Ralph Piss says or does. I also would like it to be known that when I said I didn't know him, I was acting in accordance with his own wishes. I believe the following e-mail makes this clear:

Date: Sat, 11 Nov 2006 15:31:46 -0800 (EST)
From: "Ralph Piss" []
Subject: Thanks for your help, lefty
To: "Noah Diamond" []


Thank you for helping me with the website. It must be nice for you to be involved with something that actually has meaning. Your tutorials were very helpful and I believe I can take it from here.

If you don't mind, I would appreciate it if you would deny that we know each other, if anyone asks. I plan to court the right, not the wrong, and if people knew I was associated with you it would take all the credibility out of everything I say, if you know what I mean.

Thanks again. ONE RED STATE IN 2008!

-- Ralph Piss

So...I didn't tell the whole truth. But neither did Ralph Piss. I met him more than a year ago, at a performance of Burning Bush, which he did not care for. We had a small argument and that was all. (In his audio rant on the subject, he claims that Amanda "threatened" him "with her shoe." This did not happen.) After that night, I didn't hear much from Ralph Piss -- just the occasional incoherent e-mail, usually attacking my liberalism, but never with any real point. Apparently this year's elections lit a fire under him, because on November 8 I received the first in a series of e-mails from Piss, begging me to follow up on an offhanded offer I'd made after the show a year ago. ("It's fine to disagree with us," I said then. "You should start your own blog, to get your opinion out there, too. I could even give you some tips on how to get started.")

Piss was persistent, and I have to say I was curious about him, so I agreed to help him get into the world of blogging. I wound up doing some simple design work for his site, too, and hosting his images and audio files. I know it seems strange that I would extend these generosities to someone whose ideas I oppose, but I thought it would be a nice thing to do, in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation. I also must say, quite frankly, that I was fascinated by this obviously psychotic personality.

Anyway, that's the story. I hope that if we hear more from Mr. Piss in the future, he finds a way to engage in actual political debate, as opposed to just hurling nonsensical insults. I now return you to your regularly-scheduled NERO FIDDLED blog.

write to me

U.S. Environmental Policy Not Quite As Bad As Saudi Arabia's

Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) has been one of the worst environmental disasters of our age. As chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, he has fought every piece of legislation proposed to offset the effects of global warming. As you know, the unanimous scientific consensus is that our use of fossil fuels has had a horrific effect on our environment -- but Inhofe calls this "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." Greater than the 2000 presidential election?

Well, it's good news for everyone on Earth that when the new Congress convenes in January, Barbara Boxer will replace Inhofe as the chair of Environment and Public Works. On Tuesday, when this was announced, Boxer promised "a very long process of extensive hearings" on global warming. "I think there ought to be a global-warming bill," she said, "that looks at all the contributors to carbon-dioxide emissions." She said that her own state's recent law, requiring automakers to reduce emissions, was "an excellent role model." She also expressed an interest in reinstating the "polluter pays" fines, which have fallen by the wayside in the Bush era.

Melinda Pierce, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club, told Margaret Talev of McClatchy Newspapers that Boxer's rise is an encouraging development, but that "we have no illusions that there's going to be some comprehensive global-warming bill signed by the president." Democrats should "set an agenda and make modest gains for a time in 2009 when we have a new president." Isn't that the song we're singing these days? Everything will be fine in two years! Let's just hope Bush doesn't screw up too badly between now and then. And every day he impresses us with his ability to screw up worse than we thought.

Part of what makes the "wait two years" refrain hard to take, with respect to global warming, is that the crisis is so urgent. (Do we have time for Boxer's "very long process?") Just this week, the Climate Action Network released a bleak report on international response to the climate crisis. The study, according to the AP, "ranks 56 countries that were part of a 1992 climate treaty or that contribute at least 1 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. The countries make up 90 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions."

As it turns out, the countries doing the most to "protect against climate change" are Sweden, Britain, and Denmark. The absolute worst was Saudi Arabia. (The Saudis, like Senator Inhofe, do not believe in global warming.) Second-worst was Malaysia. Third-worst was China. Fourth-worst was the United States of America. We ranked 53rd out of 56. And in a sense, we're doing even worse than China, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia, because we are the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. This, of course, has been pointed out again and again, particularly since 1997, when the U.S. refused to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol.


Carville: Dean's Incompetence is "Rumsfeldian"

James Carville and Howard Dean don't seem to like each other. I like both of them. Surely, in terms of presentational style alone, Carville and Dean are two of the most vivid personalities to emerge from Democratic politics in the last fifteen or twenty years. Both have been lambasted by the right, more for their personalities than anything else. Carville was instrumental in getting Bill Clinton elected, and Dean rose to national prominence as one of the earliest and most vocal critics of Bush's Iraq war, but apparently there's no greater crime than having a personality. The attacks from the right seem to be all about Carville's rhetorical style and Dean's "scream" -- an innocuous moment of enthusiasm endlessly replayed out of context.

Speaking to the press yesterday, Carville got vehemently angry when Dean's name came up. He said there was "a cult" of Dean at the DNC, and that a more competent DNC chairman could have guided the Democrats to fifty House seats, not just thirty. "I think he should be held accountable," Carville said. "I would describe his leadership as Rumsfeldian in its competence." He called for Dean's resignation, and for Harold Ford to replace him.

Carville specifically attacked Dean and the DNC for not spending another $6 million on a number of "third tier" House races. But it does sound like a personal grudge, especially since the midterm election was seen as a vindication of Dean's fifty-state strategy. Of course, I agree with Carville's contention that the Democrats should have won even more seats, and by an even greater margin, but I attribute that to Republican vote fraud, not Howard Dean. Appearing on Fox News, Dean was asked about Carville's condemnation. "I have to say I get a laugh out of that one," he said, and went on to explain why "we did great." He dismissed Carville's attack as "some kind inside-the-beltway silliness."

"I think the time really has come now, now that we're in power, at least in the Congress," Dean said, "to pull together, to be unified. We've got a lot to do in two years. We have a elect a democratic president." He said he had no intention of stepping down: "I talked to Harold last night. He doesn't want the job."

The whole idea of James Carville and Howard Dean not liking one another is comically appealing, in a Celebrity Deathmatch kind of way, but I still wish they'd make up and put their heads together. A lot of people find both of them intolerably annoying, but I find them refreshingly unique, breaths of fresh air among the stuffed shirts and blowhards -- of which, let's face it, the Democratic Party has more than its share.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Racism Triumphs Again

It's decided -- Trent Lott will be the minority whip, having won, by secret ballot vote, against Lamar Alexander, 25 to 24. This is very bad news for both of the black Republicans in America. (See "A Minority Whip Who'd Whip Minorities.")

Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will succeed Bill Frist as majority -- nope! -- minority leader. Senator McConnell has some definite ideas about the kind of minority party the Republicans of the 110th Congress will be. He told the Associated Press, "We will be a robust minority, a vigorous minority, and, hopefully, a minority that is only in that condition for a couple of years."

Robust and vigorous, but just for a couple of years.


Fox News Negotiates With Terrorists

And Fox Memo Says Insurgents are "Thrilled" About the Midterms

Two interesting pieces of news about Fox News.

First of all, the Huffington Post has obtained an internal memo from Fox vice president John Moody. It was written on November 8, and the key paragraph goes a little something like this:

"The elections and Rumsfeld's resignation were a major event, but not the end of the world. The war on terror goes on without interruption...And let's be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled congress."

I hate to go out on a limb here, but gee, that Fox News is really biased.

But what makes that story fly, multiplying by a million the outrage of the Moody memo, is this story. It turns out that a number of Palestinian terror groups were paid $2 million, from a source in the U.S., for the release of Fox News employees Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig. Someone at Fox spoke to World Net Daily, and didn't confirm the story, but said it was possible. Also that the U.S. government played a role in the release of Centanni and Wiig.

The money seems to have gone to the Popular Resistance Committees, an umbrella for numerous terrorist organization based in Gaza. A representative of the group, identified in the World Net article as "the terror leader," said that the money was mostly used to buy weapons, including rockets. "We used 100 percent of the money for one precise goal -- our war against the Zionists," he explained. "Regarding the others who received the money, I can tell you one thing is very clear -- this went also to be used against the Zionists. I can't say every cent went to buy bombs, maybe it also went to pay for salaries, smuggling, buying shelter." Maybe a sandwich, a cup of coffee...haircut. But only a haircut to be used against the Zionists.

The Popular Resistance Committees are a coalition of various Palestinian terror groups, associated with Hamas and formally allied since 2000. Their collective resume of attacks is quite extensive, and includes the 2003 bombing of a U.S. convoy in Gaza; three American contractors were killed in that attack.

"This does encourage people to continue kidnappings," the "terror leader" said. He didn't share any thoughts about the prospect of a Democratic majority in the U.S. Congress, but I'm sure John Moody knows what's what.

For more, see the great John Aravosis.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Minority Whip Who'd Whip Minorities

With Santorum out of the way, Trent Lott is running for minority whip. It's easy to feel elated just at the thought that a Republican has to be the minority whip. But the thought of Trent Lott in any leadership position pretty much quells the glee. Lott was once the majority leader in the Senate, until he made some remarks at Strom Thurmond's birthday party in 2002.

"I want to say this about my state," Lott said then. "When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either." Thurmond ran for president in 1948 as a segregationist. Lott was forced to step down as majority leader, and that's how Bill Frist got the gig.

Lott seems confident that he'll be the minority whip in the 110th Congress. "We are closing in on victory," said his spokeswoman Susan Irby. I haven't heard a Republican say anything like that since November 6!


Don't Be My Giuliani

Rudolph Giuliani has filed his papers, creating the Rudy Giuliani Presidential Exploratory Committee, Inc. Now, under federal election law, Giuliani can raise money and travel and gauge support without having to formally declare candidacy and follow fundraising laws. Giuliani is, at this point, a contender; in some who-would-you-vote-for polls he does better than John McCain.

The former mayor is celebrated for his leadership following the 9/11 attacks. He did a good job during those desperate days, and he was badly needed, especially since the United States apparently had no president at the time. But the worldwide affection that was heaped on Giuliani didn't sit well with liberal New Yorkers; we remembered that right up until the attacks, this guy was the worst son-of-a-bitch mayor this great town has had in ages. You probably know his pre-9/11 greatest hits: Censoring an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, suing New York magazine for making fun of him in a bus ad, turning Times Square into a Wal-Mart.

In fact, as a satirist, I have a history with Giuliani. In 1999 I was working on a show, which was booked into a Greenwich Village cabaret called The Duplex; I cancelled the show, because the booking manager asked me to cut a song -- a masochistic country love song called "Be My Giuliani." Part of it went like this:

Be my Giuliani, baby, I'm a masochist.
If you treat me kindly I will scratch you off my list.
Be my Giuliani, baby, turn me upside-down,
Then you can screw me just as bad as Rudy's screwed this town!

Oh, sacrifice my freedom for slightly cleaner streets.
Introduce me to a cop and all the folks he beats.
That's the love I'm looking for, that double standard lie.
When I kiss you every night, I kiss New York goodbye!

Be my Giuliani, baby, I'll be good to you.
If I ever slander you just go ahead and sue.
Be my Giuliani, baby, be a renegade.
When you're finished cleaning up, we'll see the mess you've made!

Anyway, can you believe The Duplex had a problem with that?

The troubling thing about Giuliani's presidential ambitions is not that he has a chance of winning the Republican nomination. Giuliani is a Republican, but he's a New York City Republican, and like his successor Michael Bloomberg, he used to be a Democrat. He supports same-sex civil unions, stem cell research, gun control, and abortion rights. He's much too liberal for the Republican base. What's troubling is that with Giuliani in the mix as a front-runner, he becomes the cautionary tale. And the real frontrunner, John McCain -- who is less liberal than Giuliani but still too liberal for much of the right -- becomes the conservative alternative.

McCain is the guy no Democrat wants to run against. Giuliani may well be exploring a presidential campaign with one eye on the second spot. I've said for some time that our second-worst nightmare is a McCain/Giuliani Republican ticket in 2008, with our worst nightmare being a McCain/Bush ticket (Jeb, that is). As a presidential candidate, Giuliani may be too liberal for many a red-state voter, but America loves him. He's loved for his two most famous achievements -- looking like a leader in the aftermath of 9/11, and turning the cultural center of the world into a shopping mall for tourists.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Bush Proud Elections Weren't Cancelled

In his weekly radio address yesterday, Bush shared some more reflections on last week's midterms. This time, he chose to see the elections in the context of a nation at war:

"One freedom that defines our way of life is the freedom to choose our leaders at the ballot box. We saw that freedom earlier this week, when millions of Americans went to the polls to cast their votes for a new Congress. Whatever your opinion of the outcome, all Americans can take pride in the example our democracy sets for the world by holding elections even in a time of war."

Yes, we should all be very proud that even in a time of war, we didn't cancel the elections. Who knows, if we can sustain this level of pride for the next two years, maybe the 2008 elections also won't be cancelled! Bush has already promised that the Iraq war will be inherited by the next president, but it sounds like he was expecting to be annointed king before we get there.


Iraq is a Problem

So we know that the Democrats' ambitious agenda for their first hundred hours of leadership includes raising the minimum wage, lobbying reform, and the prescription drug program. But those first hundred hours will go by pretty quickly. The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman notes that "they hope to match the legislative energy of the Newt Gingrich era while avoiding at all costs the partisan pitfalls that eventually soured voters on the GOP." The Democratic base, says Weisman, is "clamoring for Democrats to repeal tax cuts skewed to the affluent, to revisit the new law authorizing military tribunals for terrorism suspects and to investigate the run-up to the Iraq invasion." But many Democrats on the Hill are reminded of the "aggressive -- and ultimately self-destructive -- stance that House Republicans took when they stormed to power in the 1994 election and later voted to impeach President Bill Clinton, only to see Clinton acquitted in the Senate." More of this be-careful-not-to-impeach-Bush talk.

But it is clear that the Democrats want to do something about Iraq. Just ask the Boston Globe, where you'll read today that the incoming Democratic leaders "are likely to move quickly to use their investigative powers as a key lever to force changes in the administration's policies on the Iraq war and domestic spying...[and] Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force." Based on "interviews with House aides," the Globe's Farah Stockman concludes that "party leaders see the investigations as a key -- and in some ways the most important -- tool for exerting pressure on the administration regarding Iraq." James Zogby of the DNC told Stockman, "Laws were broken. Will there be hearings? Yes. Will some people be indicted? They may be."

As soon as today, according to the New York Times, Democrats may introduce new legislation restoring the oversight power of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction -- an agency whose investigations "have already led to convictions of American occupation officials on bribery charges," which is probably why Bush signed it out of existence in an obscure provision slipped into an authorization bill last month. "The agency's findings," says the Times trio of Glanz, Johnston and Shanker, "have consistently undermined Bush administration claims of widespread success in the reconstruction of Iraq." For its part, the White House sent spokesman Tony Fratto into the lights. "We have a history," said Tony Fratto, "of cooperating fully with and supporting inspectors general." They sure do respect those inspectors general!

Also, John Conyers has been clear about his intention to hold hearings on Bush's domestic wiretapping program. The problem is that there's all this talk of hearings and investigations and oversight -- but even Conyers says, "The incoming speaker has said that impeachment is off the table. I am in total agreement with her on this issue: Impeachment is off the table." It's hard to take that, from a man who has spent the last four years diligently advocating impeachment, and laying the groundwork in a series of reports, explicitly pointed toward that end. But before we get too upset, let's listen to Joe Biden, who will soon head the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We have time to go back and get a more accurate record for history," Biden says. "We don't have a lot of time to try to save us in Iraq."

Oh, okay. That actually is a good point. Iraq is an emergency, and it must be dealt with, and once we get our footing there, then we can see where these investigations will lead. And since Biden didn't say, "George W. Bush and Dick Cheney will not be put in leg irons," maybe they will be.

And Iraq is an emergency, and although I know that I trust one party more than the other, and I'm glad that party will be in power, I have to admit that I just don't know what should be done about it. The Democratic priority, with regard to Iraq, is a phased redeployment of troops. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan says the redeployment must begin in four to six months. "The point of this," he told the New York Times, "is to signal to the Iraqis that the open-ended commitment is over and that they are going to have to solve their own problems."

The White House still says it will fight any timetable for troop withdrawal. John McCain says what we need is more troops in Iraq. Bush is waiting patiently for the recommendations of the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton panel, which will be finishing its White House interviews today, and speaking with Democratic leaders tomorrow. The panel will make its official recommendations by the end of 2006, and Democrats say they'll wait for that before pressing for specific withdrawals. As for Robert Gates, Bush's nominee to replace Donald Rumsfeld, Levin says, "I don't know what I'm going to do with him." Biden says, "I'm inclined to vote for him now. To put it very, very bluntly, as long as he's not there, Rumsfeld is there." (Biden, by the way, says he will run for president in 2008. Russ Feingold will not.) In another signal that troop withdrawal will be on the agenda, Nancy Pelosi has endorsed John Murtha for House Majority Leader.

In America's name, the policies of George W. Bush have made such a tragic mess of Iraq, it's hard to tell what could make something good of it. And, that being the case, maybe it's true that the best thing we can do is get some of our people out of there, to safety. But it's a foregone conclusion that we'll leave Iraq a disaster, and the current level of sectarian violence indicates that we're nowhere close to taming the ravaged nation's status as the world's new terrorist breeding ground. The only hope for a better outcome, it seems, is the idea that the Iraqis might soon be able to defend themselves without a large American presence. But opinions differ wildly, in Iraq's government and in ours, about when such a thing might take place.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki promises a cabinet shuffle in the wake of 159 more killings -- including three U.S. troops, four British troops, fifty bodies "found behind a regional electrical company" (AP), twenty-five "found scattered throughout the capital," and thirty-five men "blown apart while waiting to join Iraq's police force." Al-Maliki maintains that the Iraqi army is six months away from autonomy, and that the U.S. military should withdraw to its Iraq bases, for emergency use only. Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qadir al-Obaidi disagrees: "We are working hard to create a real army and we ask our government not to try to move too quickly because of the political pressure it feels. Our technical needs are real and that is very important, if we are to be a real force against insecurity." General Casey thinks it'll take another twelve to eighteen months.

And that's just Iraq. In Afghanistan, which we once called "the real problem," insurgent activity has increased by 400% this year. There are now more than 600 militant attacks every month, up from 130 attacks a month in 2005. A new report by the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board says that the violence "threatens to reverse some of the gains made in the recent past."

I'm glad that more of these decisions will now be made by Democrats. But I have to say, I don't envy them.


Rove's Unraveling

Karl Rove knew the Republicans were going to lose some seats, but he also knew -- he knew -- that they would keep the majority in both houses. He declared that traditional polling was obsolete, and that the only pertinent numbers were the stats on the Republican Party's epic outreach machine. "Rove placed so much faith in his figures," writes Richard Wolffe, of Newsweekke, "that after the elections, he planned to convene a panel of Republican political scientists -- to study just how wrong the polls were." Rove's hubris was infectuous. Wolffe writtes that "his confidence buoyed everyone inside the West Wing," particularly Bush, who brushed aside some of John Boehner's pre-election concerns by turning to an aide and saying, "Get me Karl. Karl has the numbers." George had absolute faith in Karl, and Karl knew the Republicans would keep the House, and he knew it right up until 11:01 pm on November 7, when he walked from the West Wing to the residence and told Bush, "We're losing the House." Bush "let out a long sigh and went to bed." The next morning, at a press conference noted for its glassy-eyed glumness, Bush cracked a joke about how he'd been "working harder in the campaign" than Rove.

By Thursday, Republicans had still not come to a consensus on who was to blame for their "thumping" (Bush), or if you prefer, their "Texas whupping" (Tom DeLay). But they weren't blaming Rove. Grover Norquist told the press, "Nobody thinks that Karl is in charge of the occupation of Iraq. I haven't heard any complaints about him. In a conference call with conservative groups no one faulted the turnout effort." Norquist went on to say that after Iraq, ethics scandals were the big problem, and that "Bob Sherwood's seat would have been overwhelmingly ours, if his mistress hadn't whined about being throttled." But then he added, "The lesson should be, don't throttle mistresses," just to make it clear that the lesson shouldn't be, Hey, mistresses, don't whine about being throttled.

Everyone made such a big deal about the oh-no-you-didn't aspect of Bush's "I obviously was working harder" crack, and the startled oooooohs that followed it, that the strangest detail has been overlooked. The question was: "And also, Mr. President, may I ask you if you have any metrics you'd be willing to share about your reading contest with Mr. Rove?" And Bush said, "I'm losing. I obviously was working harder in the campaign than he was." And everyone in the room said: "Oooooh!" And Bush said: "He's a faster reader." I don't think Karl Rove is losing it just because the Republicans lost big in 2006. I think Democratic turnout overwhelmed the election fraud trickery that was the real source of Rove's unflappable confidence. I think Karl Rove is losing it because he challenged George W. Bush to a reading contest. I believe we will next see Mr. Rove in the press room, challenging Helen Thomas to an arm wrestle.


Jeb Bush: Champion of Electoral Integrity

Starting today, the state of Florida begins "its first recount for a federal election since the botched 2000 presidential contest" (CBS News). In the state's thirteenth congressional district, "Republican Vern Buchanan beat Democrat Christine Jennings by 373 votes with 237,842 counted." But there were problems: In Sarasota County, according to the official results, sixteen percent of voters neglected to vote for anyone in the House race, but voted in every other contest. The size of the margin demanded a recount, but it seems there's really no way to do that with these darned electronic machines! If only someone had brought this up at some point. Forty percent of Americans used those machines last week. When reporters asked him about discrepancies in the Florida 13th, outgoing Governor Jeb Bush said, "This is obviously something we need to look into, and very quickly." How do you like that! Election fraud? Jeb Bush snaps into action! That will be Jeb Bush's great legacy to the state of Florida. Clean, honest accountability in the election process. Plus all the great things he's done for the environment.


Saturday, November 11, 2006


But It Could Have Been

The right wing can't stop blaming the Republicans' electoral losses on low voter turnout. They think the Democrats won because so many "values voters" stayed home. Of course, they're absolutely wrong. Today's Washington Post confirms that "white evangelical Protestants turned heavily as they did in 2004, making up roughly 24 percent of the electorate both times." John C. Green, of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, told the Post, "This is a solidly Republican voting bloc that there was reason to believe might stay home. Given the polling before the election, the amazing thing was that the Democratic swing wasn't bigger."

Say, that's true. Of course, the Democratic swing was bigger. In 2006, as it turns out, THE ELECTION WASN'T STOLEN. But lots of votes were stolen, and if the Democratic margin of victory had been smaller, a lot more Republicans might have claimed it. In the Virginia race that decided control of the Senate, Jim Webb officially won by 7,231 votes -- a much smaller margin than the 1% which by Virginia law demands a recount. But George Allen wasn't interested. He said there was no significant difference between the verification canvass and the initial count; therefore, "I do not wish to cause more litigation that would not alter the results."

It was a little surprising -- pleasantly surprising, I guess -- that it all came down to one race, and that one race didn't end up being a long legal and mathematical marathon.Brad Friedman says that "the nation dodged a significant bullet" when Allen conceded, and indeed, Virginia saw enough voter suppression, e-voting malfunctions, and possible manipulations to support Friedman's view that if Allen hadn't conceded, it would have been "another Florida 2000 crisis with the balance of Congress depending on voting machines that offer absolutely no way to recount ballots to achieve any form of accuracy or clarity in the race."

So you've got to ask: Did George Allen concede because he wanted to be gracious? Or did George Allen concede because the last thing he wanted was a careful investigation of the record? Did Jim Webb win because a miniscule majority of Virginia's voters preferred him, or did Jim Webb win because the Republican Party just didn't quite do enough to steal votes from a much larger majority?

No, THE ELECTION WASN'T STOLEN. But the chaotic, fragmented system by which we cast our votes is still broken, and it's important not to ignore this just because the Democrats have finally won control of Congress. In fact, now that this has happened, there is actually a good chance of reforming the election system into something standardized, something that works and can be verified. A red flag of our electoral disasters, since 2000, has been the refusal of Republicans to even acknowledge it as an issue. Now is the best time to bring it to the fore. Electronic voting machines must be secure and must include a paper trail, but we can go further: Election Day as a national holiday; federal law with regard to the voting rights of felons and people with the same first name as felons; and a right to vote written into the Constitution.

This time two years ago, I said that the fight for fair elections wasn't important just because my side lost. I said that I'd rather Bush win for real than Kerry win by cheating. I meant it then, and I mean it now -- election reform should be a bipartisan issue, and it would be, if Republicans didn't keep stealing votes.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

A Retirement Gift for Rumsfeld

War crimes charges to be filed Tuesday in Germany

Everyone knew that Donald Rumsfeld's days were probably numbered if the Democrats won a Congressional majority, even though Bush had sworn otherwise just before the election. But nobody seems to have anticipated that he'd resign the moment the returns came in. One wonders whose idea it was; there have been reports that Rumsfeld has already tried to resign two or three times in the last few years, but Bush wouldn't let him. One pictures Bush and Rumsfeld watching Fox News together on November 8, and Rumsfeld looking at Bush, and Bush looking at Rumsfeld, and Bush saying, "Okay. Now."

Back in 2004, an International Criminal Court lawsuit was filed in Germany on behalf of a small number of former Abu Ghraib detainees. Rumsfeld was the most conspicuous defendant named in the lawsuit, which was filed in Germany because of that country's "universal jurisdiction" law, permitting the prosecution of war crimes that take place anywhere in the world. The Bush administration, incensed, said this would cast a pall on U.S./German relations for a long, long time. Rumsfeld, doubly incensed, refused to attend a security conference in Munich, at which he was scheduled to be the keynote speaker. One day before the conference, the German prosecutor abandoned the case, on the grounds that the U.S. government would probably do something about the torture problem on its own.

But really, it would have been tough going, had the lawsuit been pursued. The Bush regime has made clear its shocking refusal to adhere to the International Criminal Court. You remember all those news conferences with Scott McClellan saying something like, "If we allow an international court to try U.S. officials, then U.S. officials are going to get tried in an international court, and that's wrong, because we're right." Sealing the matter, Bush signed the Military Commissions Act last month; it grants immunity, both ensuing and retroactive, to U.S. officials connected with detainee interrogations. But look who's not a U.S. official anymore. And look which argument about U.S. government taking care of the problem on its own turned out to be wrong.

And so, the lawsuit has returned. Its list of plaintiffs has grown to twelve -- eleven Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib and other facilities, and one Saudi held at Guantanamo. It seeks the criminal investigation and prosecution of Donald Rumsfeld, along with Alberto Gonzales, George Tenet, Cheney's chief-of-staff David Addington, and a handful of other administration and Pentagon officials. The lawsuit will be filed on Tuesday in Germany.

Mark Fallon, of the Pentagon's criminal investigation task force, told MSNBC's Bill Dedman last month, "You’re talking illegal acts here. The secretary of defense can’t change the law. One of the things that we told all our personnel was the fact that during Nuremberg, Nazi war criminals were actually tried for acts that were perpetrated by them under orders of their superiors." Former Brigadier General Janis Karpinski added a written statement to the new legal filing: "It was clear the knowledge and responsibility goes all the way to the top of the chain of command to the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ."

Rumsfeld had personally approved a torture/interrogation regimen for Mohammad al-Qahtani. He is the one Saudi plaintiff, rounded up in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 and eventually taken to Guantanamo. Al-Qahtani is also the so-called "twentieth hijacker." The story goes that he met Mohammed Atta at Orlando International Airport on August 4, 2001, but was sent back to Dubai as an illegal immigrant. The regimen Rumsfeld approved for al-Qahtani, which MSNBC's Dedman describes in his article, was eventually reported by Pentagon officers. Their concern was practical rather than humanitarian; abuse, they said, is unlikely to inspire factual testimony. Dedman writes of their disappointment "when military prosecutors told them not to worry about making a criminal case against al-Qahtani...because what had been done to him would prevent him from ever being put on trial."

Under exhaustive, humiliating, sick psychological and physical torture, al-Qahtani furnished a few details about the logistics leading up to the attacks, and also named thirty fellow detainees who he claimed had been Osama bin Laden's bodyguards. He also confirmed suspicions that not all of the 9/11 hijackers knew the nature of their assignment in advance, and expressed anger at bin Laden:

"2A0780 asked detainee if it made him mad that he killed his friends, detainee stated yes. 2A0780 asked detainee if he was glad that he didn’t die on the plane, detainee stated yes. 2A0780 asked detainee if his parents were happy that he didn’t die, detainee stated yes. 2A0780 stated 'he killed your friends,' detainee stated yes."

The fact that Mohammad al-Qahtani was brutally, inhumanly tortured still doesn't make him much of a sympathetic character. Apparently he really was complicit, if a pawn, in the 9/11 attacks, and anyone who was complicit in the 9/11 attacks should be tried and prosecuted in the International Criminal Court. And the same goes for anyone who was complicit in war crimes committed on behalf of the United States. Fortunately, Donald Rumsfeld has not been waterboarded, raped, or defecated on, so he's fair game in a courtroom. Rumsfeld isn't much of a sympathetic character either, but this can't be the way he imagined retirement. Did he ever think he'd have to resign in disgrace, after his dismissal was strongly advocated by the military itself? And then, perhaps, be put on trial for war crimes?

The columnist Georgie Anne Geyer, an old friend of Rumsfeld's, has just broken her silence about him, and wonders what happened to the guy. (They were close until July of 2002, when Geyer wrote a column opposing the impending invasion of Iraq; Rumsfeld never spoke to her again.) "It is not often that a columnist writes a personal story about a respected old friend who becomes a famous leader," Geyer writes, "...but then, it is not often that an old friend leaves behind for us...a legacy of at least 2,800 Americans dead, 20,000 maimed and wounded, at least 150,000 Iraqis dead, a foreign country destroyed, and America's position in the world decimated."

Geyer's article, "Deconstructing Don Rumsfeld," is infused with perplexed sadness about what the man has become. He "humiliated and despised the uniformed military," "refused even to consider what to do in the aftermath of the invasion," "disdained anyone who tried to tell him what Iraq was really like," "made fun of the Geneva Accords and other international treaties that our moral nation had once so reverently signed," "disdained the old principles of American institutions and promulgated new ones, all with the intention of garnering more power for himself and supporting his self-righteous convictions," and "didn't understand either his era or his challenge."

If Rumsfeld's friends miss him, then so do his enemies. Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, released an audio recording today in which he said, "I tell the lame duck, do not rush to escape as did your defense minister...stay on the battleground." Al Qaeda's message to the Bush regime: Stay the course.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

John Gibson is Still Ridiculous

In order to be a nationally-exposed right-wing commentator, apparently you have to be angry. It's been kind of remarkable, these last six years, to behold the venomous ferocity of Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, Savage, Coulter, et al. I mean, they had the majority in the House; they had the majority in the Senate; they had the White House; they got two guys on the Supreme Court -- and still they were angry! Irate! Stark-raving mad! They behaved at all times as though they were under siege, along with everything sacred (Christmas, for example). If you didn't know better, you'd never have imagined that their guys were running the show. It was part of the Karl Rove playbook -- even if you're in the majority, and even if you're calling the shots, retain the tone of a rebellious outsider. It keeps the base riled up.

Well, they're still angry, but I'm pleased to report that the Democratic victory has not made the right-wing pundits seem any less ridiculous. One glance at John Gibson's latest drivel makes clear that right-wing ridiculousness is alive and well.

Gibson -- author of The War on Christmas -- tells us that he knew the Democrats would win as soon as the Foley scandal broke, although there was "a brief moment of dancing around the campfire as John Kerry chewed on his foot." Come on. Kerry tried to make a joke and it didn't come out very well. But anyone who was really listening knew that Kerry wasn't actually saying the troops were stupid; he was saying Bush was stupid, which is, of course, true. Kerry's gaffe was unfortunate, but it would have been a non-event if the right-wing machine hadn't dragged it out over several news cycles, all based on an obvious misinterpretation of Kerry's clumsy pronouncement. John Kerry didn't chew on his foot until people like John Gibson shoved the story down America's throat for three days. So on the eve of an election, when there were more important things to be talking about, everyone had to chew on John Kerry's foot.

"The Democrats and the libs have been feasting on red meat for weeks, months, and it took its toll on the electorate," Gibson continues. "If you tell people they're losing a war long enough, they believe it, evidently." I think it was the 2,839 young Americans who died for a lie, John. I think it was the countless hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children who died for the same non-reason. I think it was the $340,000,000,000 we've blown. "As an aside," Gibson says as an aside, "it must be interesting news to our troops in Iraq that they're losing." John, I'm pretty sure it's not news to them at all. Gibson is trying to revive the tired old Cheney fallacy that to criticize the war is to denigrate the soldiers, but he's not even articulate enough to make the point.

Then Gibson gets really crazy. "Well, this is how it works here," he sighs, referring to American democracy. "The voters wanted change. They're going to get it. We don't become suicide bombers here when things go against us." And there you have it. Gibson thinks that in other countries -- i.e., not America -- when "things go against" people, they "become suicide bombers," and that explains this whole terrorism problem, folks. Gibson thinks that al Qaeda is comprised of angry citizens whose preferred candidates lost elections. It's astonishing that anyone relies on this guy for political insight, even if they watch Fox News.

Gibson warns that if the Democrats face an uphill battle in their efforts to "make things better," it's their own damn fault: "Well," he writes, "I just don't want to hear a bunch of bellyaching that it's Bush's fault, that he left them with an unfixable situation...Fine, it's over, you're elected. Now govern. And that means policies that can be explained and not just reverting to Bush-bashing when you're asked a question you can't answer." Gibson's point is clear. Maybe the disaster in Iraq was Bush's fault three days ago, but now that the midterms are over, it's Nancy Pelosi's fault!

"Good luck you guys," Gibson concludes. "And by the way, what's your plan for Iraq again?" What's yours, John? What's Bush's plan for Iraq? Does anyone know? Certainly not John Gibson. I can't believe I'm saying it, but I don't think he's even smart enough to be a right-wing pundit. He's so dense I think the only job the right has for him is President of the United States.

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The Great Work Begins

There's a dramatic moment I can't get out of my head. It's the very end of the last scene of Millennium Approaches, the first part of Tony Kushner's Angels in America. Prior Walter is in bed, staring down the barrel of disease, when an Angel crashes through his ceiling and says, "Greetings, Prophet; the Great Work begins; the Messenger has arrived!" The Great Work begins. That's the phrase that's been playing in my mind since the Democratic Party swept the midterms. It would be easy to think that now that we've got the Congress, the Great Work is over, but complacency in victory would be almost the same as defeat.

In January, we'll have a Congress more receptive to the things we care about. That means we have an increased responsibility to let them know what we elected them to do. We hired them to work for us. Now we have to make sure they do their job.

Soon-to-be Speaker Nancy Pelosi has outlined an agenda for the first hundred hours of a Democratic Congress. It includes implementing, at long last, the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission; raising the minimum wage; fixing the Medicare prescription drug program; promoting stem cell research; "cutting interest rates for student loans in half;" "rolling back the multi-billion dollar subsidies for Big Oil;" and "fighting any attempt to privatize Social Security." I guess they're going to start doing all these things in the first hundred hours. It's unlikely that four days in, they will "clean up Congress, breaking the link between lobbyists and legislation," though "no new deficit spending" should be a promise they can keep.

These are all good things, and I think Pelosi's stated priorities are sound. It's also impossible not to respect her promise yesterday to be "the speaker of the House, not the speaker of the Democrats." But there is another priority, too, and it's just as important, and Pelosi's aversion to it is distressing. "I understand their frustration," she said, of her constituents, "but impeachment of the president is off the table." No it isn't.

On The Daily Show, Howard Dean told Jon Stewart, "I know half your audience wants us to impeach the president, but it's not going to happen." Okay, then -- it was nice knowing you, and I've always liked you, but we're going to need a new DNC chairman.

Oh, maybe not. We don't really need the DNC chairman to impeach Bush. (Maybe we can do it ourselves.) What's disturbing is the recurring hint of a we-won't-impeach pledge, coming from some of the higher-ranking Democrats. Back in May, Harry Reid said, "I'm not heavily into investigations. That should be way down at the bottom of our agenda." Around the same time, Pelosi told Tim Russert, "I said we'd be having hearings on the war; we'd have hearings. But I don't see us going to a place of impeachment." And: "Investigation does not equate to impeachment. Investigation is the requirement of Congress. It is about checks and balances." And: "You never know where the facts take you...but that is not what we are about."

At the time -- and right up to Election Day -- some of the noise in the Republican Noise Machine was warning people that if the Democrats take Congress, that mad liberal Pelosi will bog us down in an impeachment vendetta! Moderate Democrats facing re-election started telling reporters that they didn't support impeachment, and didn't want to be seen as allies of whoever did. So in what appeared to be an election strategy, Pelosi started telling reporters that impeachment was not her goal at all. But even she didn't go as far as Reid, who didn't even seem to favor investigations of the Bush regime. Excuse me? What would they have to do to change your mind -- barbecue babies on the South Lawn?

Pelosi's line, "You never know where the facts take you," was acceptable. But to say you favor investigations, but are not open to the possibility of impeachment, invalidates the whole idea of investigations. Everyone -- Republican die-hards included -- knows that a credible investigation of the Bush administration will find grounds for removal from office. It's like saying you're willing to drive all the way to the Colorado River basin, but seeing the Grand Canyon is off the table.

"In the time that we have here, legislatively speaking," said Nancy Pelosi yesterday, "we're about the future." That's great, but it's a dire miscalculation to suggest that investigation and impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney is not about the future. A good society demands justice, and for Bush & Co. to commit horrendous crimes against humanity for years, and get away with it, is not justice. It sets a dangerous precedent for future administrations, and it puts the new Democratic Congress' seal of approval on the failure to heed pre-9/11 intelligence, the fabrication of pre-war intelligence, the illegal wiretapping of American citizens, the sadistic torture of military detainees, the indifference to pre-Katrina calls for improvements in the New Orleans levees, etc.

David Swanson argues, convincingly, that impeachment is not even bad politics. "In each of the nine cases in the past when one party has raised impeachment," he reminds us, "that party has benefited in the next elections. In other cases when a party has failed to press for impeachment when the grounds for it were widely known, that party has suffered. (Remember Iran Contra?)" Swanson goes on to illustrate how voters on Tuesday, by a 62% - 33% margin, "voted on national, not local, issues...By 57 - 41 percent they disapproved of Bush's handling of Iraq. They didn't give a damn about taxes or 'values' or local pork."

Winning the midterms is wonderful, and it's important, and it's historic. Pelosi is absolutely right when she says that our priorities must include desperately-needed attention to health care, the environment, education, wages -- and, of course, Iraq -- and, of course, protection from terrorism. But the country is mired in the Bush/Republican "swamp," as Pelosi herself described it, and you can't build a House on a swamp. We have great work to do, but we also have terrible work to undo. We have to do good things. We also have to correct mistakes. We need good health care, a living wage, and a good education for every American; we need compassionate foreign policy that actually discourages the spread of global terrorism. We also need George W. Bush's head on a platter.

Back to Kushner's Angel:

"A marvelous work and a wonder we undertake, an edifice awry we sink plumb and straighten, a great Lie we abolish, a great error correct, with the rule, sword, and broom of Truth!"


write to me

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Democratic Party Wins the House AND SENATE!

"As you go to the polls, remember, we're at war." -- George W. Bush

"What's changed today is the election is over, and the Democrats won." -- George W. Bush

9:12 pm:

WEBB TAKES VIRGINIA. Democratic majority in both houses of Congress! Bush: "Shows what I know." MSNBC: "Win solidifies Democratic power on Hill." More soon...

5:20 pm: The New York Times is reporting that Jim Webb has been confidently planning his transition to the Senate, and that his aides are referring to him as "Senator-elect Webb." Meanwhile, "some members of Mr. Allen’s camp suggested...that he would challenge the vote count." The complexity of Virginia's election laws means that "results of a formal recount might not be known until nearly Christmas." The current precinct-by-precinct canvass "should be completed no later than next Tuesday."

RNC chairman Ed Gillespie seems to have assured the Times, "The conclusion of the canvass will be the official result." Also, Gillespie "said he believed a count of provisional ballots and a review of the state's voting machines would turn up additional votes for Mr. Allen."

"The recount in Virginia is unlikely to resolve all potential legal issues. In Virginia 'recounts' consist of re-tabulating the votes from the existing counts to ensure that the end-of-the-day tallies were summed accurately. Virginia uses a mix of optical-scan machines and touch-screen machines, with 11 different systems in total, across more than 130 jurisdictions, amounting to more than 9,000 machines. Touch-screen machines print out full tallies after all voting is done, and unless these printouts are unclear, officials generally do not rerun the machines. With optical-scan machines, only unclear ballots are run back through the scanner.

"While all of the state's absentee ballots were already counted, election officials said today that they did not know how many voters had cast provisional ballots, which are used when a voter does not have proper identification or does not appear on a voter registration rolls.

"In Virginia, provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct are thrown away. Voting experts say if the number of provisional ballots deemed ineligible is greater than the number of ballots needed to tip the race, there may be litigation over which ballots should be eligible. In 2004, of three million total ballots, 4,609 were provisional and only 728 ended up being counted."

One of the fun things about election coverage is that the news keeps coming in, and everyone's been up all night, and the reportage starts to get a little punchy:

"A protracted recount in Virginia is a scenario that many voting experts feared, with control of Congress hinging on a razor-thin margin in one Senate race, bringing a replay of the bitter litigation of the 2000 presidential election, which resulted in a drawn-out recount and bitter litigation."

I wish George Allen would just concede already...but if Webb were trailing, I might have more patience. So we'll see.

1:12 pm: Excerpts from Bush's press conference: "Why all the glum faces?" (Nobody laughs.) "And in my first act of bipartisan cooperation...I gave [Pelosi] the names of some Republican interior decorators who can help them pick out drapes for their new offices." (Smirk, smirk, nobody laughs.) "It is clear the Democrat Party had a good night last night." (That's the Democratic Party, idiot.) "I recognize that many Americans voted last night to register their displeasure with the lack of progress being made" in Iraq.

12:55 pm: CNN, CBS, NBC, and the Associated Press are all reporting two items of note: Tester is the projected winner in Montana...and Donald Rumsfeld is going to step down!

Well, my friends, last night was a beautiful night, and though my fingers are sore from my live blogging frenzy, my heart isn't sore at all.

Here's the latest: There are still thirteen undecided House races, but the only question is how large the Democratic majority will be. It looks more and more certain that the Democratic Party will control the Senate. Some are already projecting it, and it's difficult to imagine any other outcome at this point. They're still counting in Montana, but Tester is 1,700 votes ahead, and the precinct still being counted is a Democratic stronghold, where Tester currently leads with 66% of the vote. Verification of the Montana vote could take a day or two. The margin has to be within one quarter of one percent for Burns to get a state-funded recount. It's unlikely. Webb still leads by about 8,000 votes in Virginia, with absentee ballots already counted. Verification is underway, and may also take a day or two, but again, Webb's lead looks much more likely to grow than to shrink. (Webb has already declared victory, though George Allen has yet to concede defeat.)

Basically, the only reason not to say we've won the Senate is extreme caution. The New York Times does warn that "Virginia's election laws allow an apparent loser to request a recount if a contest’s margin is less than 1 percent -- and the margin in the preliminary results of the state’s Senate election stood this morning at about one-third of 1 percent." Furthermore, in Virginia, "no request for a recount may be filed until the vote is certified, which is scheduled to happen this year on Nov. 27th. After certification, a losing candidate has 10 days to file a recount request in the state courts."

Dueling press conferences: The next Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi -- soon to become the first woman ever to hold that office, and the highest-ranking female elected official in American history -- will speak to the press at noon. Bush will speak to the press at one.

Democrats have won a majority of state legislatures. The next session of Congress, the Boston Globe points out, "will include an unprecedented number of women," plus Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), "an avowed socialist...[elected] to the Senate for the first time in history." Also, "including last night, the House has only changed parties twice in 52 years." Keith Ellison has become the first African-American elected to represent Minnesota in the House of Representatives; he is also the first Muslim ever to serve in the U.S. Congress. In local commissions and state legislatures, an unprecedented number of openly gay candidates have been elected to office, including sixty-seven winners endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

In a major victory for both women and freedom, the South Dakota aboriton ban was defeated. In Missouri, the stunning victory of Claire McCaskill was complemented by the approval of a ballot measure supporting stem cell research. An amendment banning gay marriage was defeated in Arizona -- though, in one of last night's few disappointments, gay marriage bans did pass in six other states (Idaho, Colorado, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Virginia, and South Carolina). In a silly and meaningless (but vaguely disappointing) development, Arizona seems to have voted for English as the "official language." So I guess English is now the official language of Arizona. The state bird is the cactus wren.

It was also an election rife with symbolic victories -- the unseating of Santorum, Hostettler, DeWine, and others being the most visible and the most thrilling. The Texas redistricting masterminded years ago by the now-ousted Tom DeLay made it harder for Democrats to win a majority in the House, which makes it even sweeter to learn that Democrat Nick Lampson won DeLay's old seat! Speaking to Rita Cosby on MSNBC, DeLay emerged from the shadows to say, "Well, Rita, I'd call it a Texas whupping, that's for sure."

With the Democrats in the majority, who will be the House Majority Leader? Steny Hoyer (Maryland) and Jack Murtha (Pennsylvania) have made their intentions clear.

Associated Press: "World Sees Democrats' Win as Rejection of Bush." Damn right!

More soon.

write to me

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It is STILL Still Election Day

3:48 am: The thing is, there comes a time in the life of every great patriot -- and in my life as well -- when you just can't serve your country anymore until you get some sleep. Hopefully after a few hours of good, solid daylight we'll know more about Virginia (and Montana). But wow -- until tonight, it did not seem like we'd be going to sleep waiting for the result of one (or two) race(s) to see if the Democrats won the Senate. This has been a historic night. Sure, why not?

This concludes the NERO FIDDLED Live Blogging Election 2006 Cavalcade of Thrills! Did you even know that's what this was? Well, that's what this was.

What an exciting election! What an exciting time.

3:19 am: Bad news too: NBC projects gay marriage bans in Idaho, Colorado, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Virginia, and South Carolina.

3:09 am: MSNBC: "In Virginia, Democrat Jim Webb claimed victory but led Sen. George Allen by fewer than 8,000 votes out of just more than 2.3 million cast. Several thousand votes remained to be counted later Wednesday in heavily Democratic precincts in the Washington suburbs, raising the prospect that Webb’s lead could grow, but a recount looked more and more likely. And in Montana, veteran Republican power broker Conrad Burns trailed Democrat Jon Tester, 50 percent to 47 percent, but with about a quarter of the precincts yet to report."

2:53 am:

2:41 am: Isn't this funny? We're sitting here in New York City at 2:30 in the morning, waiting patiently, eagerly, for election workers in four precincts in Virginia to let us know what's to become of America. That's what it is. Montana has tightened up a little (Tester leads by 7,428 votes; 611 of 867 precincts are in), but it should be okay. It now seems vaguely possible to get the news that the Democratic Party has the majority in both houses of Congress, and to get that news before going to sleep, and that possibility makes going to sleep impossible anyway. This is bad news, because the great silence from Virginia probably indicates, like the margin, that we're into absentee ballots. But I'm not tired. Are you?

2:16 am: CNN: Talent concedes. Webb leads Allen by 11,744 votes with 2,407 of 2,411 precincts reporting. Okay. I think the Democrats are going to win the Senate.

2:05 am: In a piping hot, super fresh Associated Press article, reassuringly titled "Bush keeps head up despite loss of House," we get a peek inside the White House this late Election Night. Bush, who is "unaccustomed to political defeat," "struck a businesslike tone" and announced his intention to call Nancy Pelosi in the morning. Nancy Pelosi, by the way, holds the highest office a woman has ever held in this country. This is heroic. She has entered history.

1:54 am: A few things:

1. CBS just called Missouri for McCaskill. If that's right, it's all about Virginia -- where state law will require a recount, plus we already know about some of Allen's Rovian dirty tricks. Regardless, in a remarkable turn of events, the Democratic Party is now...likely, perhaps, to win control of the Senate. Or at least -- the Democrats winning the Senate is no less likely than the Republicans retaining it.

2. Katie Couric is ridiculous. Someone was just making the point that many Americans have not necessarily voted for the Democrats, but against Republicans; and Katie Couric said, "Throw the bums out, but the people who are coming in might also be described as bums." What?

3. See Santorum concede!

4. In the House, the Democratic Party now enjoys a majority of eleven over the Republicans, with 32 races still undecided.

1:08 am: McCaskill is now 13,996 votes ahead of Talent. Webb is 2,726 votes ahead of Allen. Tester is 14,877 votes ahead of Burns. The inarguable truth of the situation: Of the three states the Democrats must win in order to have a majority in the Senate, they are now ahead in three.

12:31 am: Either mine eyes deceive me, or it's getting narrower and narrower in Missouri -- where at least one urban center has yet to report, along with 1,304 other precincts. Might McCaskill gain a lead on Talent, as Webb did on Allen? Now that it's past midnight, I suddenly feel like I'm talking about old vaudeville comedy teams.

Sisk and I don't have cable, but Kim Moscaritolo does, and Kim Moscaritolo says that Wolf Blitzer says that St. Louis hasn't reported yet, and Kim Moscaritolo says that Fox News says that the Missouri Republican Party is nervous because Kansas City hasn't reported yet, either. Who has reported? Kim Moscaritolo.

12:07 am:

Click to enlarge

11:57 pm: Jim Webb just took the lead in Virginia. By just under 3,000 votes. Spectacular.

11:45 pm: Virginia Senate: Allen leads Webb by fewer than 7,000 votes. If there is a recount, we will be able to say it was inevitable. In Montana, Tester leads Burns, and although there are a lot of precincts still out, a Tester victory seems imminent. But even if Webb pulls off a spectacular finish-line upset, and the Democrats do get that seat, they still won't have the majority without either Missouri or Tennessee, where the Democratic candidates are currently losing by six and three percentage points, respectively.

But as Kim Moscaritolo pointed out: Very, very recently, George Allen was one of the Rising Stars of the Republican Party; he was to casually demolish Webb and then go on to a serious run for the presidential nomination in 2008. He's now holding onto his Senate seat by -- at this exact moment -- 6,019 votes. It's still narrowing...

The South Dakota abortion ban has been DEFEATED! That whole little plan, Let's get it on the ballot so South Dakotans will vote for it so it can go to the Supreme Court so Roe can be overturned, just fell on its face. If you use Google Earth to survey South Dakota tonight, take a look, the faces on Mount Rushmore are ever so slightly smiling.

11:17 pm: CNN and others say it's over, as far as who controls the House. The Democrats do. We do. That's us, we're the Democrats. We don't have to have hearings in the basement anymore. We can investigate the crimes of the Bush regime. We have subpoena power. John Conyers is going to be the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Nancy Pelosi will be the third highest office-holder in the country, after Bush and Cheney, and if they're removed from office, she's the president. The Democrats won the House. One-party rule in America is over. Don't forget to breathe!


Yes, CNN's White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux reports that although Bush "usually goes to bed early," Tony Snow says he's expected to stay up late tonight. More as this fascinating story develops.

Enjoy this. We deserve it. Gloat. It's fun.

They're not having nearly such a good time over at the right-wing blogs. Paul at Powerline: "The good news is that Connecticut has re-elected Joe Lieberman. The bad news is that [the] sweetest Senate result to date involves a Democrat winning." And, wistfully: "So the Dems may well gain three in Indiana, as they had hoped, after all. However, Fox News says there may be a major legal challenge brewing over some sort of irregularities." There goes Fox News again with its TIN FOIL HAT!

Steyn is a good writer, but an ideological monster, so his rueful agony is even more enjoyable. It's like reading this blog two years ago, only he's wrong about everything. I respect his sense of style, though. "Right now," he sniffs, "this isn't a Dem landslide but a conventional Year Six election with an underperforming opposition party." He then illustrates his point with examples from 1938, 1958, and 1986, concluding that "by historical standards this is an excellent result for the President's party six years in. Needless to say, that's not a perspective the Dems, the media, the Europeans or the insurgents will have any time for." But he wins you over with this: "Big Republican victory! In a governor's race! In Guam. But it could be the start of a big national trend."

CBS has the Democratic Party picking up twelve House seats so far. We're almost there.

10:17 pm: In the Minnesota fifth, Keith Ellison (D) has just been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He is the first Muslim to serve in Congress.

Santorum just conceded. He vowed to do anything he could to make sure that "the people of Pennsylvania continue to be served in a seamless way." I think he was talking about the transition, but it sounds like he's asking whether Casey will represent the state as seamlessly as Santorum.

What will Santorum do, now that he's not going to be a Senator anymore? There are countless career paths he could take; these suggestions are just off the top of my head --

1. Film critic.
2. Principal of a Catholic pre-school.
3. Work with animals.

9:52 pm: Nancy Pelosi just said we were "on the brink of a Great Democratic Victory." She is about to become the first female Speaker of the House in the History of the United States!

As for the Senate -- okay, look. Very, very recently, we didn't dream of winning the Senate, so if we don't, we don't. It looks like we'll win the House.

As for the Senate -- let's assume Ford (D) loses to Corker (R) in Tennessee, and let's assume Burns (R) loses to Tester (D) in Montana. We'll still need two seats, and the only real possibilities are Missouri and Virginia. In Missouri, Talent (R) leads McCaskill (D), 94,401 to 78,767 -- but that's only 330 of 3746 precincts. In Virginia, says CBS, Allen (R) leads Webb (D) by 28,000, with only 400 precincts left to go.

But impeachment begins in the House.

9:24 pm: Numerous races have been projected and/or officially decided, and CBS has a hell of a nice dynamically-updating results page. Don't stop refreshing Daily Kos.

So far, almost all of the news is good. The Democrats have officially picked up two seats in the Senate and two in the House, with flurries of projected victories in both houses. No Democratic seats have yet been lost. CNN projects Lieberman wins in Connecticut, which is not surprising.

The Senate race in Virginia -- with 71% of precincts reporting! -- is so close that Jim Webb and George Allen are wearing the same pair of pants.

8:25 pm: CBS calls Ohio for Brown, Pennsylvania for Casey! THE END OF THE SANTORUM ERA.

Complete CBS projections, 8:25 pm:

• Democrat Bob MENENDEZ Wins New Jersey U.S. Senate Race
• Democrat John LYNCH Wins New Hampshire Governor Race
• Democrat Thomas CARPER Wins Delaware U.S. Senate Race
• Republican Olympia SNOWE Wins Maine U.S. Senate Race
• Republican Trent LOTT Wins Mississippi U.S. Senate Race
• Republican M. Jodi RELL Wins Connecticut Governor Race
• Democrat Edward KENNEDY Wins Massachusetts U.S. Senate Race
• Democrat Deval PATRICK Wins Massachusetts Governor Race
• Democrat Phil BREDESEN Wins Tennessee Governor Race
• Democrat Ed RENDELL Wins Pennsylvania Governor Race
• Democrat Bob CASEY Wins Pennsylvania U.S. Senate Race
• Democrat Bill NELSON Wins Florida U.S. Senate Race
• Democrat Robert BYRD Wins West Virginia U.S. Senate Race
• Democrat Ted STRICKLAND Wins Ohio Governor Race
• Democrat Sherrod BROWN Wins Ohio U.S. Senate Race
• Other Bernie SANDERS Wins Vermont U.S. Senate Race
• Republican Richard LUGAR Wins Indiana U.S. Senate Race

* * * * * *

MSNBC and others report that three Senate races are already decided. One of my favorite politicians, Independent Bernie Sanders (who will caucus with the Democrats) wins in Vermont, graduating from the House and becoming (I believe) the first U.S. Senator in history to describe himself as a socialist. Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) keeps his seat for a ninth term. He is 88 and has been in the Senate for 48 years, a record. Senator Dick Lugar (R-Indiana) had no problem nailing down a sixth term.

CNN says the polls have closed in Ohio. "CNN projects that Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland will win the Ohio governor's race over Republican Ken Blackwell, the Ohio secretary of state," who of course played a major role in stealing the 2004 election for Bush. He and Katherine Harris (who played the same role in Florida in 2000) are both going to lose. Kim Moscaritolo just told me, "It's poetic."

CNN "projects that an amendment to the Virginia state constitution defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman will pass. The vote bans same-sex marriage in Virginia."

CNN again: "With 15 percent of precincts reporting in Indiana's 8th Congressional District, Rep. John Hostettler trailed Democrat Brad Ellsworth 70 percent to 30 percent." Apparently Fox News, of all places, is calling it for Ellsworth.

Air America just reported that Democrat Ed Rendell has won the gubernatorial race in Pennsylvania.