Saturday, July 15, 2006

In Other News

After four straight Israel posts here, and several more (not including pointers) at The Moderate Voice, I feel its time to mix things up. I'd like to say it's because I feel an obligation to inform you about other happenings, but honestly, it's primarily because I need the break. So, without further ado, here are the major (blog and otherwise) events that have occurred over the last few days.

The Voting Rights Act was renewed. Though a majority of Republicans voted for "poison-pill" amendments that would have killed the bill before it reached the floor (a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats defeated those amendments), once the bill itself was up for renewal, only 33 GOP Representatives had the courage to, in the words of Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), defy "political correctness" and vote to repeal the right to vote. It's so rare to see folks stand up for Jim Crow these days.

Minnesota Law Professor Jim Chen has started his own blog. I know of Professor Chen only due to his (in)famous "Unloving" article. This is very unfair to Professor Chen, both because I came at his article from the side he was critiquing, and because Chen specifically wrote in the article that this piece was outside his area of focus and scholarly expertise. So it's not really fair to judge him from that. The blog itself looks pretty neat--though I'm wondering how long it takes Chen to stop writing as if his posts were 1000 word law review articles.

House Majority Leader John Boehner is raising K street contributions at a record pace. Whose stunned to hear that the GOP commitment to cleaning up lobbying was just a flash in the pan?

Political analyst Charlie Cook has 14 Republican House seats listed as "toss-ups", with zero Democratic seats so labeled. Democrats need 15 seats to take back the House.

The UN unanimously votes to condemn North Korea for its missile launch. That makes 50% of the country's they tried to condemn this weekend one's that are actually, you know, doing something wrong.

Feministe riffs off the new, err, "modest" swimwear lines that were previously profiled in the Washington Post. The best way I can describe them is that they'd be very revealing for a burqa.

Kevin Drum tries to explain why so many liberal blogs don't like to blog on Israel.

A sex workers convention shares its meeting space with a quilting convention. Apparently they won some converts to the cause.

Friday, July 14, 2006

In For a Penny...

Oddly enough, the folks at The Volokh Conspiracy have had some of the most indispensable commentary on the Israel/Lebanon situation. It's not odd because the VC normally is poor (they're consistently top-notch), only that a blog focusing primarily on American law wouldn't be the first source I'd guess for information on a foreign conflict.

Anyway, Ilya Somin argues that at this stage, Israel has to go balls-out against Hezbollah in Lebanon.
According to most experts, the democratically elected Lebanese government lacks the firepower to take on the much better armed Hezbollah forces. However, if the Israelis can do enough damage to Hezobollah, the terrorist group might be sufficiently weakened to enable the government to disarm it and take control of the Lebanese-Israeli border in the aftermath of an Israeli attack. Although the anti-Hezbollah Lebanese probably have little love for the Israelis, the Christians and moderate Muslims who control the government are unlikely to use the border as a staging ground for rocket attacks into Israel, as Hezbollah has been doing. Indeed, many Lebanese factions, particularly various Christian and Druze groups, have cooperated with the Israelis in the past when it was in their interest to do so.

Hopefully, this scenario, or something like it is the Israeli objective. The worst outcome would be for the Israelis to stop after inflicting only minor damage on Hezbollah. This would subject Israel to international condemnation and increase Hezbollah's prestige for "standing up" to Israel, while producing few benefits for either Israelis or Lebanese. Obviously, a full-fledged campaign to crush Hezbollah would lead to greater casualties in the short run than a more "proportionate" retaliation. But it is likely to save numerous lives in the long run on both sides of the border. It could also help the Lebanese to consolidate their still-fragile democracy by eliminating the most serious domestic threat to it.

Saying Hezbollah is not a dominant force in Lebanese politics is somewhat redundant, as Lebanon is so fractured that the only thing all the groups share is that they are hated by all the others. Still, it does seem possible that the weakening of Hezbollah by Israeli forces could give the Lebanese government the edge it needs to put down the terrorists once and for all. And certainly, after the events of the last few days they need no more incentive to do it!

Meanwhile, David Bernstein provides a much needed clarification of what Israel is and is not hitting in Lebanese territory. Quoting from the Israeli paper Ha'aretz (a highly respected center-left publication):
The Israel Air Force focused its attacks in Lebanon on Thursday against long-range Iranian Fajr 3 and 4 missiles, and succeeded in hitting some that were hidden in camouflaged bunkers. The missiles have a range that can reach Haifa and possibly Hadera.... The most significant strategic target attacked thus far has been the Beirut airport. While the strikes against runways have shut down operations, none of the radar or control towers were hit. This allows the airport to continue to control international flights over its airspace. Similarly, the main ports have not been hit, and with the exception of Hezbollah's broadcasting station, no other targets in Beirut were attacked. The air force has concentrated its attacks against Hezbollah's military installations. The main Shi'ite neighborhoods in the capital, the power plant, and transformers also have not been targeted."

Good to know. Saying "airport" was always too vague, but it's good to know the facts. Also, it's the fact that Israel has these high-tech, top-of-the-line equipment that allows it to conduct strikes with such precision. Nobody's perfect, and I'm sure they've missed some targets and made some mistakes. But in general, it is nothing short of amazing that they could avoid hitting the main airport infrastructure while still putting the runways out of commission.

A Modest Proposal

"If Israel proves to be 10 percent better ethically than the rest of the world, it will be 'a light unto the nations.' If it proves to be 25% better, it will bring the Messiah. If it is 50% better, it will be dead." --Irving Greenberg

One of the truly aggravating things about those criticizing Israel for it's recent actions is that there is been virtually no effort to articulate what would be a reasonable response for Israel in this case. Matthew tried to argue that Israel should enter into negotiations with Lebanon, a country with which it has been in a technical state of war with since Israel's inception, has no diplomatic relations with, and, oh yeah, has two ministers and over 20 parliamentarians who are members of Hezbollah. Aside from that--shall I call it fanciful?--suggestion, there has been no counter proposal whatsoever.

So, based on the critiques I've heard so far, I offer the following proposal of my own for an Israeli response. I admit it won't be ideal (nor is the current one), but I am curious if the critics of Israel would find it preferable (not "just" but perhaps "less unjust") to the current set of tactics.

Basically, it runs like this. Israel cease all of its current military operations in Lebanon, and will instead just lob unguided, untargeted missiles randomly into Lebanese territory. This is clearly superior to what they're doing now, where they are running precisely targeted strikes at significant pieces of infrastructure. Hitting important targets, obviously, raises the civilian casualties, because Hezbollah has made a policy of mixing its military equipment and facilities into civilian areas (the goal being to maximize civilian casualties and then turn that into a PR victory. But that could never work...). Presumably, randomly firing off rockets can also cause civilian casualties, but since they could land anywhere (from a busy city street to an unpopulated meadow), the odds are strong that the total death toll and damage will be smaller. And of course, these types of rockets (Qassams and Katayushas, presumably) have far smaller destructive capabilities than conventional Israeli arms, so that also cuts in favor of the "reduced damage" hypothesis. Furthermore, many of Israel's stated goals ("sending a message", for example, or having a deterrent effect) would be served equally as well by random shelling compared to the status quo. And even if not "as well", the fact that Israel can pursue this tact with reduced civilian casualties mandates that they take it, even if it means significantly reduced military efficacy.

The disadvantages to this have already been shown to be irrelevant. Israel would no longer be targeting specific sites of military value (such as airports or military bases or Hezbollah outposts). The corollary, of course, is that Israel could no longer leaflet the targeted areas warning civilians to leave, minimizing the casualties, because they have no idea where the rockets are going to land anymore. But since Israel has gained no points for trying to actually target locations of military significance (indeed, has been criticized since these locales have had a large civilian presence), this is really a small loss compared to the large civilian gain. It would also bear very little connection to getting back the missing soldiers, compared to targeting transportation hubs so that they can't be smuggled out. But as the comments in the previous posts have made clear, the lives of these two men (and their dignity, since they're likely to face torture) is of small utilitarian consequence compared to the civilian damage Israel would be doing (indeed, it's "ethnocentric" to think otherwise!). All told, under the commentary I've received from my previous posts, it would be qualitatively better for Israel to randomly sow terror throughout Lebanon haphazardly, than it is for Israel to actually try and wage its attacks within the laws of war. And since we've had very stringent standards of anything less than perfect being immoral, we can conclude that Israel is not just unwise, but inarguably evil for not pursuing this course.


Stepping back into reality for the moment. I have become more and more convinced that there is literally no feasible response by Israel to the current crisis that would be acceptable to a large chunk of the world community. This is not a determination you want me or they to make. It's not that I don't see a moral difference between a targeted military strike and carpet-bombing the entirety of Southern Lebanon. It's just that I'm not convinced the critics do, and if they're going to denounce Israel with equal shrillness regardless of what it does, frustration builds to the breaking point, and it becomes that much easier to disregard even the sane voices advising caution.

In the through-the-looking-glass world we live in, otherwise smart, intelligent people advocate standards of morality which prefer indiscriminate shelling to targeted strikes on targets of military importance (no, they don't say it directly, but it is clearly implicit in the standards they give. And I have yet to see my friend Matt's blog have a decidated "Hezbollah: WTF?" post, or Iran, or Syria). I refuse to abide by those standards.

For the record, should we keep up on this kick of proportionate response meaning body equals body: 12 million people died in the Holocaust. In the conflict that brewed, in part, to save them, an additional 50 million people died, including 25 million civilians. Is that in proportion? Are we to say that World War II was unjust? Or perhaps when confronted with radical evil, with bona fide war, we might have to adjust our standards--not to act inhumanely, but to recognize that civilian casualties are an inevitability of war, and that forcing Israel to constantly be its own Sudetenland is not a strategy, not an option, and not permissible.

Tragic But Necessary

In the midst of pursuing an interesting angle on Iran, David Bernstein reveals a critical fact: Israel's justification for hitting Lebanese transportation hubs (the airport, highway systems, and the port blockade). The first is a simple war strategy issue: keep Hezbollah from being resupplied by its Iranian and Syrian backers. The second, though, I think is the kicker--to stop Hezbollah from moving the captive Israeli soldiers out of Lebanon, to Syria or Iran. Even if you don't believe that the first is time-critical, and Israel should have negotiated first (which I still think is a rather sick moral obligation--they have to let their enemies stock up arms for as long as it takes to pursue likely futile negotiations), the second one is obviously something that has to be acted on immediately. For one, Hezbollah's negotiating position improves tremendously if they get their prisoners out of Lebanon. For two, this is a tried-and-true tactic of Hezbollah--the Israeli prisoners they take have a disturbing tendency to get moved to Iran and "disappear" there. Waiting even a few days would likely insure the death of these men, probably in Iranian torture chambers. Israel was perfectly justified in hitting these targets immediately under any rational standard.

Even still, it's worth noting that Israel held off on hitting Beirut (aside from the airport) until after Hezbollah rockets hit the major Israeli city of Haifa. It's a mistake to act as if the only act of violence committed by Hezbollah was the kidnapping. They've launched hundreds of rockets over the border, targeting major Israeli cities (and, since Israel does not combine its military and civilian infrastructure, these are not legitimate military targets). All too often, these attacks are simply ignored, as if a constant hail of rocket attacks is something Israel should just be forced to bear and can never legitimately respond to. For too many, the "neutral baseline" of this conflict is a constant barrage of low-level Arab and/or Palestinian terror.

It's unfortunate that, in military conflicts, there are going to be civilian casualties. It is also considered unavoidable. It's particularly problematic when the civilians in question had little to no role in precipitating or otherwise endorsing the instigating event that caused the conflict in the first-place. Such was the case in, for example, the Pacific Campaign of World War II (what did the islanders do wrong?), or the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan (al-Qaeda was not the same as the Taliban, and the Taliban didn't have the support of the majority of the population, anyway), or really any situation where the actor in control of a region is one that is foreign or otherwise not democratically elected. Nevertheless, this can not be a bar to waging legal acts of war in response to naked provocation. So long as Israel takes all reasonable precautions to limit civilian casualties in its campaign, the fact that there are some cannot be disqualifying, anymore than civilian casualties in Okinawa or Saipan or Kabul would be.

As usual, the Washington Post coverage of this calamity (including Lebanon's response has been stellar. Their editorial this morning is also must reading.

UPDATE: It's also worth noting that, unless I'm mistaken, Lebanon does not recognize Israel and the two countries have no formal diplomatic relations. Another fact that would put a crimp in negotiating. The fact that the two countries are still in a formal state of war makes it difficult to demand that Israel trust the Lebanese military to give effective assistance in any hostage retrival operation.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Israel Snaps

What is starting to look a full-fledged war between (at least) Israel and Lebanon has been provoking some of my friends to ask me, in no uncertain terms: "WTF"?

I admit that the escalating Israeli response in Gaza in the wake of the Shalit kidnapping was beginning to give me pause. It seemed a bit too furious, too extreme, compared to how Israel normally responds to such provocations. And the civilian casualty rate was beginning to rise at an alarming rate. This was when I first began to articulate my "snapped" hypothesis. Israel finally lost its temper with being forced to make constant concessions for no apparent change in its security or in Palestinian willingness to compromise. Basically, they unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, and the Hamas response was "hurray--more space to launch rockets from." The Lebanon war is an extension of this--Israel has withdrawn from Lebanese territory for years, yet there has been no noticable reduction in Hezbollah rocket strikes in northern Israel. The kidnapping of Israeli soldiers up there was the last straw.

Yossi Klein Halevi is calling this "the next Israeli war." Part of me is inclined to cheer. Not because I like war, but because the ambigiousness of this half-guerilla war between a state and a quasi-state is maddening. Wars have rules, which can be applied to the combatants. Kidnapping a soldier is, actually, a legitimate war act, but only if you treat him consistent with international law (rather than having them simply "disappear"). But of course, it is a war act, fully warranting a total military reprisal. This is one of the reasons I supported unilateral withdrawal. The hope, of course, is that with a state Palestinians would finally prevail upon themselves to make peace. But, barring that, Israel could say: "Okay, you're a state now, with all the responsibilties that entails. That means if you attack us, it's an act of war, and we're going to act accordingly. Consider yourself warned." As Halevi puts it:
For the Israeli right, this is the moment of "We told you so." The fact that the kidnappings and missile attacks have come from southern Lebanon and Gaza--precisely the areas from which Israel has unilaterally withdrawn--is proof, for right-wingers, of the bankruptcy of unilateralism. Yet the right has always misunderstood the meaning of unilateral withdrawal. Those of us who have supported unilateralism didn't expect a quiet border in return for our withdrawal but simply the creation of a border from which we could more vigorously defend ourselves, with greater domestic consensus and international understanding. The anticipated outcome, then, wasn't an illusory peace but a more effective way to fight the war. The question wasn't whether Hamas or Hezbollah would forswear aggression but whether Israel would act with appropriate vigor to their continued aggression.

So I do believe that this response is justified. I am torn as to whether it is wise or advisable. I do think it might be an over-reaction, perhaps not in the long-term interests of the state, possibly disproportionate to the crime that occured. But what am I to say? As David Bernstein points out, imagine how France would respond if a neighboring country started kidnapping its soldiers and lobbing missiles across the border. American relations with Mexico would take a definitive turn for the worse if our neighbors began shelling El Paso.

This is the essential paradox of being an Israel supporter. It is so difficult to hold the line between what is just and what is wise. Because of the torrent of critiques asserted that Israel is fundamentally unjust, a "colonial" state, where Olmert = Hitler, we feel compelled to be vigorous in our defense, and we'd rather die than make common cause with those who think the existence of a Jewish state is a grave affront to the international order. We close ranks because the type of people who are saying "what Israel is doing is wrong" tend to phrase it as a proof of Israel's immorality, not of it's human fallability. I want to be able to say that Israel's actions are a poor but still justified decision, but there is no way to say that without giving fodder to those who would rather see the state not exist at all.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


PrawfsBlawg contributor Paul Horwitz blogs on a very interesting LA Times column about hair. Specifically, Black (African-American) hair. The gist of it is that the traits of Black hair (nappy, kinky) mean that certain hairstyles (braids, dreadlocks) are far easier than traditionally "White" hairstyles. Almost definitely not coincidentally, these hairstyles often are prohibited under corporate dress and grooming policies.

In general, a corporate policy targeting such "voluntary" aspects of racial identity is not subject to a Title VII challenge. This isn't due to anything actually written in the statute, but rather is a "judicially constructed definition" of Title VII's limits [Camille Gear Rich, Performing Racial and Ethnic Identity: Discrimination By Proxy and the Future of Title VII, 79 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1134, 1138 (2004)]. There are excellent arguments to be made that this is a bad (descriptively and normatively) interpretation of Title VII, and that it should be interpreted to include sociological traits that are linked to certain races (the one's Horwitz cites to, and with which I strongly concur, are found in Kenji Yoshino's Covering, about which I blogged here).

Anyway, the kink (no pun intended) that is brought up in the article and Horwitz's commentary is that some of the institutions which are hostile to these Black hairstyles are in fact Black institutions (such as Hampton University and Black Enterprise magazine). Horwitz wonders:
But does the fact that the regulations she cites (aside from the egregious example of the Louisiana sheriff) come from black institutions complicate the picture? Does it suggest that "corporate" appearance norms are just that -- collective norms emerging from workplace culture, norms that may be objectionable but can't simply be reductively described as stemming from the callousness of a white majority? Or, as one of our commenters, John Kang, has suggested, does it suggest that even black communities can internalize a form of "white" aesthetics? Or is the answer still more complicated than either of those descriptions?

Unfortunately, Professor Kang's article is not yet available online, but my own opinion I suspect would be a modified version of his.

Imagine, say, an elite law firm that has a young African-American associate who wears his hair in dreadlocks. The partner in charge tells him that this hairstyle has to change. In doing so, he explains that it's not he who has the problem with it, that if it were up to him he would allow the styling, and even that he recognizes that this is an unfair burden that falls disproportionately on the firm's young Black associates. But, he says, it's likely that this sort of hair will be off-putting or give a bad impression to the type of clients they have and are trying to attract--older, white, corporate executives.

It is easy to extrapolate this to a Black institution, whose hypothetical words might argue either that (in the case of the magazine) that we need to be taken seriously by white advertisers, or financiers, or banks, or other magazines, and having a bunch of employees in dreads makes that task more difficult; or (in the case of the college) that the student's are going to be graduating into a world where many people unfairly make assumptions based on certain appearances, and we want to break you out of the habit now before you get hurt in the real world.

This understanding tags the cause of anti-African-American-hairstyles neither in "the callousness of a white majority," nor in "black communities...internaliz[ing] a form of 'white' aesthetics." It is, to be sure, a manifestation of White privilege, but in a more depersonalized form that does not depend on any individual actor simply demonstrating callousness or racism.

Indeed, I think this is an important observation to make. Much of what today preserves racial hierarchy (in the sense of providing privileges to Whites and disadvantaging Blacks) does not stem from simple racism and malice. Noting that a given policy entrenches racial hierarchy is not the same thing as saying that the persons who follow a certain policy are racists or virtual Klan members. Rather, racism perpetuates itself by institutions, cultural norms, and feedback loops which allow it to remain pervasive even as most individuals consciously condemn it. When we split off the tasks of "fighting racism" from "fighting racists", recognizing that the former won't always include the latter, then we can perhaps make some progress against the reflexive defensiveness many White people have towards the allegations that there still is racism in American society today.

More Immigration Insanity

Following up on the last post, the state of Colorado brings out more Republican's for whom immigration brings out their psychotic side. The Rocky Mountain state just passed one of the toughest anti-immigrant laws in the nation (in fact, Lou Dobbs noted it with approval in the same article dedicated to degrading the testimony of Peter Pace in the name of defending him). Among other things, the bill deprives illegal immigrants of most non-critical governmental services. But the bill is a compromise, and one of the compromises is that children under the age of 18 are exempt. Some Republicans are aghast:
But Rep. Debbie Stafford, R-Aurora, said at the caucus that she was upset that the bill exempted children under 18.

"We're helping create the next generation of terrorists," she said.

Umm...what? I thought the tactic of appending "terrorism" to every conservative policy proposal had long since jumped the shark, but apparently some GOP lawmakers haven't gotten the memo.

So. Making sure children don't die because they can't get healthcare = training terrorists.

Welcome to the twilight zone.

H/T: Kevin Drum

Poor Peter Pace

Poor Peter Pace. Yesterday, the top military officer in America gave stirring and moving testimony on the subject of immigration. Pace, whose parents were Italian immigrants, stressed the opportunities America gave them that are not available anywhere else. And he noted that the first marine he lost in combat--in the Vietnam war--was an immigrant. Pace was so overcome with emotion that he broke down in tears, unable to talk for about a minute during the hearing.

The natural conclusion is that this is an issue that General Pace feels very passionate about, and clearly one in which he is willing to defend vigorously the dignity of immigrants--many of whom are serving America in combat today. The unnatural conclusion, forwarded by CNN's Lou Dobbs, is that Pace's own testimony is an "insult" to Pace for which he deserves "an apology."

Dobbs, frankly, is going insane. He calls for the GOP and President Bush to rise "above politics", as if they are courting the famously powerful and fickle illegal immigrant voting bloc. Or perhaps they're courting the (non-sarcastically) powerful Latino voting bloc--but if they feel comradery with their undocumented brethren, maybe Mr. Dobbs shouldn't be so quick to dismiss "blur[ring] the line between legal and illegal immigration" as "unforgivable."

But regardless of that, I am gratified to hear General Pace present his views and his story. Even if it can't persuade those, like Dobbs, past the point of reason, perhaps it will have an impact on those who believe that one of America's greatest warriors might have a legitimate opinion on the subject. And there's nothing to apologize about that.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Truth Hurts

Fernando Teson blogs on his new book, RATIONAL CHOICE AND POLITICAL DELIBERATION: A THEORY OF DISCOURSE FAILURE (Cambridge U.P., August 2006). It's one of those things that makes me sick--not because I think it's wrong, but because I fear it's right. Professor Teson explains the thesis about why encouraging deliberation won't create better political outcomes:
The public will not deliberate in accordance with truth-sensitive principles; on the contrary, the public will err in accordance with definite patterns. The idea is that acquiring reliable knowledge about social theory (economics, pol sci, etc) is very costly to the average citizen, so he will rely on theories by default that are mostly false (for example: "we need to protect our industry against foreign competition", "higher crime results from lenient courts", etc, etc). The public, in short, is rationally ignorant. Reliable social science is hard because it is opaque and complex. Folk knowledge is easy to apprehend because it is vivid. Knowing this, politicians and others use, for electoral purposes, a rhetoric that feeds into these false theories. As a result, public deliberation does not bring us closer to the truth. On the contrary, deliberation increases error. We call this phenomenon discourse failure.

In comments, PrawfsBlawg's "resident deliberativist", Ethan Leib, argues that this is a rehash of the old "the people are too incompetent to govern" argument. I think that he's right that this problem may be partially rectifiable at an institutional level (or at least that we have to try), but in general I'm not optimistic.

I've hit on these themes before, most notably in my post attacking the concept of "persuasiveness" equaling "strong rhetoric" in debate, or my post of no-confidence in democracy. In general, I like the idea of "deliberative democracy," as long as "deliberative" has some depth to it--where "rational ignorance" no longer counts as deliberation. Engagement is the key. Unfortunately, I don't see much hope for salvation, and Professor Teson's argument about "rational ignorance" helps explain why.

The Woman Behind The Scenes

In a discussion on why there are comparitively fewer female Supreme Court law clerks, Ann Althouse queries the following:
On the behaviorial point, which we're discussing in the comments, let me speculate about why women might act and feel very different about being a law clerk. I'm much older than those who are doing clerkships now, but for me, being a clerk is too much like being a secretary. A guy may like the feeling of being someone's right hand man. You can say right hand woman, but it's not a normal phrase. Being a close, subordinate assistant resonates with a long line of inferior positions offered to women.

So that's my speculation: clerking doesn't seem so strikingly advantageous to a woman the way it does to a man. We may want do it because we've been told this is the best path to start your career, but something inside says I don't like the look of myself in that position.

I have no striking insight to add. The only reason this grabbed me, though, is because of my current position as President/Coach of the Carleton debate team. I have zero organizational skills whatsoever, so I said out the outset that my role would be limited to actually coaching--as in, this case is good or this rebuttal needs work. The administrative stuff is being run by a friend of mine. She's responsible for, among other things, getting people registered for tournaments, planning trips, making sure people meet on time, that sort of thing. Her official title is "administrator" or something like that, but in casual parlance I like to refer to her as my "second-in-command," "lieutenant," or "whip." Are those acceptable gender-neutral substitutes for "right-hand man" (which, as a lefty, I don't like anyway)?

Wait For It

Consider me on the record that I think the Democrats will take back neither the House nor the Senate in 2006. There is just too much ground to make up. I think they will make significant gains, to be sure, but I think they will end up just short in both.

However, it's 2008 where they really stand a chance to clean up. Kos has the run-down of races in 2006 and 2008, and the latter looks really good for the boys in blue. For 2006:
Tier one

1. Pennsylvania
2. Montana
3. Missouri
4. Ohio
5. Rhode Island

Tier two

6. Virginia
7. Tennessee

Tier three

8. Arizona
9. Nevada

We'd need to sweep the Tier ones and pick something else up to take back the Senate, as well as hold our vulnerable seats (Minnesota, Washington, and, I hate to say it, Maryland). I think the sweep is doable, but getting it, and holding all three and winning a tier-two or three race is pushing our luck. So I predict a 51-49 GOP lead in the Senate after 2006.

But then look at the 2008 map. 2008 is when all the senators who won in 2002 are up for re-election. '02 was a blockbuster GOP year, thanks to fear-mongoring before Iraq. But the upshot is you have a bunch of vulnerable seats (and prospective retirements) in 2008:

Stevens (R) will be 85, and constantly threatens retirement. An open seat might be possible.


Allard (R), who won a tight race in 2002, will face a tough challenger in Rep. Mark Udall.


Chambliss (R) won in 2002 by morphing war hero Max Cleland into Osama Bin Laden. People want revenge.


Roberts (R) should be safe, if he doesn't retire, but massive rifts in the Kansas GOP have given new blood to the state's Democratic Party. Will bear watching.


McConnel (R) has an iron grip on his state's Republican Party. Of course, that party is now mired in myriad scandals and faces serious losses in 2007. Will that stench hurt McConnel?


Coleman (R) will get challenged by local-boy-done-good Al Franken.


There's lots of talk that Cochran (R) will retire, setting off a battle between Rep. Pickering (R) and former Attorney General Moore (D). And the smart money in that showdown would be with Moore.

New Hampshire

Freshman Sen. Sununu (R) will be looking for reelection in a state that is trending heavily into the Blue column.

New Mexico

Domenici (R), 76, will have to run in this trending Blue state.

North Carolina

Freshman Sen. Liddy Dole (R) will face her first reelection. North Carolina Dems are on the rise with the insane growth of the liberal-leaning Research Triangle. The state's changing demographics are in our favor.


Smith (R) is increasingly out of touch with his ever bluer state.

South Dakota

Johnson (D) will likely be the GOP's top and only serious target.

West Virginia

If Rockefeller (D) runs for reelection, this will be a safe seat. If not, then it'll be a tough hold.


Warner (R) will be 81, and there's lots of talk that he will retire.

I think we can flip Colorado, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Oregon, with South Dakota being the toughest hold (I think Rockefeller will run for re-election). Depending on how Webb does this cycle, Virginia could be an outside shot, and Alaska, Georgia, and New Mexico all could go if there are sufficient Democratic coat-tails at the top of the ticket. Assuming both that my 2006 predictions are right and that none of the 2008 long-shot scenarios plays out and that West Virginia goes GOP, that's still enough to put the Democrats on top in the Senate, 51-49. And they could do significantly better.

Elsewhere, Kos does raise a legitimate point when he asks why the primary challenge to Chafee by Laffey in Rhode Island isn't getting the same press attention, talk about a small-tent party, and otherwise tsk-ing from the center as the Lamont/Lieberman race.