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Link Loooove.

Saturday, September 09, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

1) No wonder they fatwa'ed his ass. Rushdie speaking truth:

I'm no friend of Tony Blair's and I consider the Middle East policies of the United States and the U.K. fatal. There are always reasons for criticism, also for outrage. But there's one thing we must all be clear about: Terrorism is not the pursuit of legitimate goals by some sort of illegitimate means. Whatever the murderers may be trying to achieve, creating a better world certainly isn't one of their goals. Instead, they are out to murder innocent people.

If the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, for example, were to be miraculously solved from one day to the next, I believe we wouldn't see any fewer attacks.
[. . .]
Q: Of course there can be no justification for terrorism. But nevertheless there are various different starting points. There is the violence of groups who are pursuing nationalist, one might say comprehensible, goals using every means at their disposal ...

A: ... and there are others like al-Qaida which have taken up the cause of destroying the West and our entire way of life. This form of terrorism wraps itself up in the wrongs of this world in order to conceal its true motives — an attack on everything that ought to be sacred to us.

It is not possible to discuss things with Osama bin Laden and his successors. You cannot conclude a peace treaty with them. They have to be fought with every available means.

2) Boy can write. Alan Stewart Carl on 9/11:

This is a time for Washingtons. For Lincolns. For Roosevelts. This is a time for leadership. So it is my deepest hope that Americans stop reflexively agreeing with “their side” and start questioning all sides. Only then can we hope to elect leaders from outside the vapid political system that so ineffectually rules us. Only then can we find the new visions for the changed world.

I fear that this is just rhetorical bullshit. I fear nothing will change. I even fear that my fears are misplaced—that the system is fine, that America is flourishing and those of us who believe otherwise are just overwrought thinkers with too much time on our hands. I fear I may be a fool.

But, then again, I don’t let my fears rule me. So I write and will continue to write in the hope that people are listening. That people stop and think and realize that we are not on the right path—and that neither left nor right has a roadmap that will work. We need change. Five years later and we still need change.

3) This is so shamelessly self-promoting it's like something I'd do.

4) This makes me happy:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Margaret Johnson might have looked like an easy target.

But when a mugger tried to grab a chain off her neck Friday, the 56-year-old Johnson, while riding in her wheelchair, pulled out her licensed .357 pistol and shot him, police said.

5) This is cool, a fantasy map of the Middle East with everyone where they should be. I doubt making these changes would involve more than, oh, say a million lives. Cool, though. And thanks to The Glittering Eye for the link.

6) I like guys who fight for causes that are not their own out of self-interest. The mighty Eteraz has this:

The women’s protection bill of Pakistan — which will dramatically reform the rape laws of Pakistan — has a chance of being passed this coming Monday. The bill is an attempt to reform the draconian rape laws of Pakistan from 1979, passed by then dictator Zia ul Haq under the auspices influence of the religious fundamentalist establishment. The laws from 1979 require that for a woman to make an allegation of rape she must produce four male witnesses. If she is unable to put forth the witnesses she herself is liable for adultery (and can be imprisoned or put to death for adultery). Absurd. In one case, a blind girl, Safia Bibi, who had been raped was convicted on charges of adultery because she could not identify her attacker.

7) Yikes. At The Moderate Voice:

One of the co-bloggers at my own blog, Liberty and Justice, Isaac Schrodinger is currently involved in the fight of his life. Even, a fight for his life.

As all of you who have read (some of) his articles will know, Isaac is very critical about radical Islam. He witnessed the results of a culture of radical Islam, he saw the effects of this ideology of hatred and ignorance, how people are forced to live, first-hand. As a result, he understands that Muslim extremists do not just pose a threat to the West, but also to every single person living in 'Muslim countries'.

As a result, it should be obvious to anyone with any basic knowledge about this subject, it is not exactly safe for him, an apostate, to live in a country in which Muslim extremists have quite some power. He came from Pakistan, was educated in Saudi Arabia, later in the United States and now lives in Canada.

8) Harold Ford is theoretically within striking range in Tennessee, but I won't start believing it till I see he's consistently up by five. Sorry, but I think when it comes to African-American candidates people bullshit the pollsters.

9) I don't know why I read this blog. I hate agents as a rule. Also editors. Writers. Including myself. Pretty much everything to do with my profession. But I check this place probably three times a day anyway. What is it, masochism?

10) Cartoon blog.

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We Don't Need No Stinkin' Planning

by Michael Reynolds

Remember when we thought he was the worst?

This is behind a registration wall, so I'll paste a big piece of it:

FORT EUSTIS -- Months before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld forbade military strategists from developing plans for securing a post-war Iraq, the retiring commander of the Army Transportation Corps said Thursday.

In fact, said Brig. Gen. Mark Scheid, Rumsfeld said "he would fire the next person" who talked about the need for a post-war plan.
Rumsfeld did replace Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff in 2003, after Shinseki told Congress that hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to secure post-war Iraq.

Scheid, who is also the commander of Fort Eustis in Newport News, made his comments in an interview with the Daily Press. He retires in about three weeks.

Scheid doesn't go so far as calling for Rumsfeld to resign. He's listened as other retired generals have done so.

"Everybody has a right to their opinion," he said. "But what good did it do?"

Scheid's comments are further confirmation of the version of events reported in "Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq," the book by New York Times reporter Michael R. Gordon and retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Bernard E. Trainor.

In 2001, Scheid was a colonel with the Central Command, the unit that oversees U.S. military operations in the Mideast.

On Sept. 10, 2001, he was selected to be the chief of logistics war plans.

On Sept. 11, 2001, he said, "life just went to hell."

That day, Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of Central Command, told his planners, including Scheid, to "get ready to go to war."

A day or two later, Rumsfeld was "telling us we were going to war in Afghanistan and to start building the war plan. We were going to go fast.

"Then, just as we were barely into Afghanistan ... Rumsfeld came and told us to get ready for Iraq."

Scheid said he remembers everyone thinking, "My gosh, we're in the middle of Afghanistan, how can we possibly be doing two at one time? How can we pull this off? It's just going to be too much."

Donald Rumsfeld. Working tirelessly to make Robert McNamara look good.

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No More Fantasy

by Michael Reynolds

The guys we didn't use at Tora Bora.

I posed it as a question: Did we just lose a war? The post went up first at Sideways Mencken then, in somewhat expanded form at Donklephant. It was picked up all over the place, including Winds of Change and Reddit. So lots of people -- some of them very smart people -- have read it.

What I expected when I wrote the piece was a hundred voices telling me no, we didn't lose, you're wrong, you've misunderstood this whole thing, and here's why. That's not what happened. I got a lot of people agreeing. I was disappointed. I was hoping I was wrong.

The contra point of view coalesced around various notions of a secret plan, a master manipulation, which would somehow translate into our having cleverly mousetrapped the Taliban in Waziristan where we could wipe it out. This is a fantasy.

Armies don't make deals with insurgents unless they're beaten. A beaten army returned to its barracks in exchange for empty promises from the tribal leaders, that's what happened here. How can I be certain they're empty promises? Because you don't make concessions to guys you just beat. And how can I be sure the Pakistani army was in fact beaten? Because the winner is the guy who still occupies the disputed territory and the loser is the guy who goes back to the barracks to watch soap operas.

A second fantasy has some people excited: body count. The thinking here is that we're killing a lot of Taliban over in Afghanistan, and a lot of Jihadis, and they're going to run out of guys. Here I have a serious question, and since many of you know more history than I do, I'd love an answer: have we ever won a war simply by depleting enemy ranks?

When we started in Afghanistan and Iraq we said we wouldn't do body counts. The reason we said we wouldn't is that the practice became a joke in Vietnam. If you believed the Vietnam era body counts we killed every Vietcong and NVA soldier ten times each and twelve times on weekends. And yet, somehow, there they were waving goodbye to the Americans as our last guys helicoptered out.

Now we're indulging in the fantasy that the Afghan enemy will run out of fighters. No. They won't. The enemy have the strategic initiative now: with sanctuary inside Pakistan they can choose the time and place of battles, commit as many or as few men as they like. That means they'll never "run out" of men.

Which brings us to the "nuke 'em all," fantasy.

I wrote a piece here and here that asked the question whether we were still prepared to fight total war. The response I got was, in effect: no, we're not. So I wrote this piece not exactly bemoaning the fact that we were no longer capable of exterminating large numbers of enemies, but recognizing that our rejection of massacre meant we were doomed to fight asymetric warfare on the enemy's terms.

Some commentors have even put forward the idea of taking harsh action against the Musharraf government. Fantasy. Musharraf is bad, but there's much worse to be found in Pakistan. It's a bit like when we let the Shah of Iran slip away and ended up with the Iranian Mullahs. Bad can get worse. And Pakistan is a nuclear power, so bad can get a whole lot worse.

So, summarizing the Afghanistan/Pakistan situation: No, it's not some brilliant masterstroke by Musharraf. No, it's not a deal the tribes will honor. No, it doesn't mean it will be all that much easier to bleed them to death. No, it's not a prelude to exterminating them all.

It's a beating, that's what it is. We just took a beating.

Now let's talk about the future. If someone can explain to me what we're doing in Afghanistan right now, I'd appreciate it. The original premise of this war, a war I supported enthusiastically, was to deny safe haven to Al Qaeda. If you'd asked me a week ago what I thought we were doing in Afghanistan I'd have said that we were keeping the Taliban out of Afghanistan and working (not very effectively) with Pakistan to squeeze the Taliban and Al Qaeda down out of the mountains.

What are we doing now? What is our plan? What do we hope to accomplish? Most importantly, how do we somehow snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? If you have an answer let me know. But please, no fantasies.

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All Fear Agenda In Flames

Friday, September 08, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

A two-fer: incompetent and liar.

June 15, 2004:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush repeated his administration's claim that Iraq was in league with al Qaeda under Saddam Hussein's rule, saying Tuesday that fugitive Islamic militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ties Saddam to the terrorist network.

"Zarqawi's the best evidence of a connection to al Qaeda affiliates and al Qaeda," Bush told reporters at the White House. "He's the person who's still killing."

U.S. intelligence officials have said al Qaeda had some links to Iraq dating back to the early 1990s, but the nature and extent of those contacts is a matter of dispute.

Critics have accused the president and other administration officials of falsely inflating the links between Iraq and al Qaeda in the months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Vice President Dick Cheney, in a speech Monday in Florida, raised eyebrows by reasserting claims that Saddam "had long-established ties with al Qaeda."

WASHINGTON - There’s no evidence Saddam Hussein had ties with al-Qaida, according to a Senate report issued Friday on prewar intelligence that Democrats say undercuts President Bush’s justification for invading Iraq.

Bush administration officials have insisted on a link between the Iraqi regime and terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Intelligence agencies, however, concluded there was none.

Republicans countered that there was little new in the report and Democrats were trying to score election-year points with it.

The declassified document released Friday by the intelligence committee also explores the role that inaccurate information supplied by the anti-Saddam exile group the Iraqi National Congress had in the march to war.

It concludes that postwar findings do not support a 2002 intelligence community report that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program, possessed biological weapons or ever developed mobile facilities for producing biological warfare agents.

The 400-page report comes at a time when Bush is emphasizing the need to prevail in Iraq to win the war on terrorism while Democrats are seeking to make that policy an issue in the midterm elections.

Whose report was this again? The Republican Senate's report.

Surely you mean, a Democrat report? No, a GOP Senate report.

So . . . Liberals? Um . . . No, conservatives.

Liberal mainstream media? Nope: right wing Senators.

Recently, of course, the President has backed away from his earlier dishonest conflation of Saddam and Al Qaeda. Why? Because he knew this report was coming.

Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) did his best to keep the lid on this report and play into the GOP's midterm "All Fear, All The Time" strategy, but two Republicans, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska joined Democrats in pushing for release of the report. Senator Roberts tried the usual Friday news dump -- releasing damaging information into the weekend's black hole of news.

Not so sure that'll work, Senator Pat.

Karl Rove is of course a brilliant political strategist. (We know because the liberal mainstream media keeps telling us so.) But his attempt to salvage the mid-terms by feeding the American people a diet of paranoia is already in flames. That agenda has been shot down by Republican senators like Mr. Hagel and Ms. Snowe who have insisted on releasing the uncomfortable truth in this case, and by Senators McCain (R-AZ), Warner (R-VA) and Lindsay (looks like a goober, sounds like a goober, and yet strangely is not a goober) Graham (R-SC) who are standing firm for American values against the entirely political attempt to stampede Congress into rubber-stamping Mr. Bush's POW and surveillance initiatives.

The Democrats seem unable to save us from Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove. Thankfully there are a handful of Republicans who put their country and its principles ahead of political expediency.

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Reading List

Thursday, September 07, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

We're on the email list of a young woman who used to read the books my wife and I wrote. She's a fan, now a soldier in Hawija, Iraq. She had a number of requests for things to ease the boredom and we'll see what we can do about some of them, but I was struck by the list of books she requested. Not surprisingly given that she used to be a fan, she's still into science fiction and fantasy. But the number one book on her list is the one shown above.

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Did We Just Lose A War?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

Did he just win?

We went into Afghanistan because that nation's government, the Taliban, was actively aiding Al Qaeda and allowing the use of their country as a safe haven for Al Qaeda. We wanted to ensure that whatever else might happen, Al Qaeda would not have a home base in which to safely house and train recruits.

But Pakistan has now surrendered (read this and this and this) portions of its to territory to the Taliban and by extension, Al Qaeda.

Here's the thing: we were able to attack Afghanistan. We cannot attack Pakistan. So long as Pakistan does not cede actual legal sovereignty to what is being derisively referred to as Talibanistan, an attack there would be an attack on Pakistan. The Musharraff government would almost certainly fall. And let's remember, Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Not theoretical, in-five-or-ten-years nukes, but actual, tested, mounted-on-missiles nukes.

The Pakistanis are trying to put out the word that the deal does not mean safe haven for Osama. But you know what? If the Sherriff says he won't ride into outlaw country that pretty much means he's not planning on arresting any outlaws.

Our goal was to deny Al Qaeda safe haven. That's why we fought the war in Afghanistan. If Al Qaeda now has found an even safer haven, then we jost lost that war.

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This Had Better Not Be True UPDATED

Tuesday, September 05, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

With friends like this...

From ABC investigative reporter Brian Ross' blog:

Osama bin Laden, America's most wanted man, will not face capture in Pakistan if he agrees to lead a "peaceful life," Pakistani officials tell ABC News.

The surprising announcement comes as Pakistani army officials announced they were pulling their troops out of the North Waziristan region as part of a "peace deal" with the Taliban.

If he is in Pakistan, bin Laden "would not be taken into custody," Major General Shaukat Sultan Khan told ABC News in a telephone interview, "as long as one is being like a peaceful citizen."

Bin Laden is believed to be hiding somewhere in the tribal areas of Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border, but U.S. officials say his precise location is unknown.

In addition to the pullout of Pakistani troops, the "peace agreement" between Pakistan and the Taliban also provides for the Pakistani army to return captured Taliban weapons and prisoners.

"What this means is that the Taliban and al Qaeda leadership have effectively carved out a sanctuary inside Pakistan," said ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, the former White House counter-terrorism director.

The agreement was signed on the same day President Bush said the United States was working with its allies "to deny terrorists the enclaves they seek to establish in ungoverned areas across the world."
If true this is simply astounding. If true it means that in effect our entire effort in Afghanistan has been a waste of time.

Let me repeat that. If this is true then we have failed in our primary effort to deny Al Qaeda a home base. If this is true we are quite simply wasting our time in Afghanistan.

We can argue Iraq back and forth, one way or the other, but Afghanistan was a clean, pure, just war. The Taliban aided Al Qaeda. In fact the Taliban and Al Qaeda were overlapping entities, each a part of the other. Our action in going into Afghanistan to take down the Taliban was absolutely, 100%, no two ways about it, justified. Al Qaeda needed killing, and the Taliban needed killing.

But if Pakistan has now effectively ceded a part of Pakistan to the Taliban/Qaeda then we are pretty close to being back at square one. Square one minus a square, actually, because now Al Qaeda has a piece of Iraq and very likely a vacation home in Somalia.

Why did we fail to get Osama? Because when he was cornered at Tora Bora we relied on indigenous troops -- men with a per capita income of two packs of cigarettes, men with a long history of disregarding stuffy rules and inconvenient promises -- to catch a wily, highly motivated millionaire. We didn't send the 10th Mountain, we sent the the locals. My guess? Osama bought his way out with an old Timex and a box of Kalashnikov ammo.

We were casualty averse and undermanned and we let Osama walk and now he is apparently keeping house with Mullah Omar in the Pakistani Ozarks with a free pass from our good friend the military dictator, nuclear-armed terror sponsor and champion nuclear proliferator, General Musharraf.

UPDATE: The Pakistanis now vehemently deny saying any such thing.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - The top Pakistani army spokesman on Wednesday vehemently denied saying in a news report that saying Osama bin Laden would not be taken into custody if he agreed to live peacefully in Pakistan.

"This is absolutely fabricated, absurd. I never said this," Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan told The Associated Press, referring to an ABC News broadcast aired hours earlier.
At the same time they have not yet apparently denied the thrust of the underlying military story, the retreat of the Pakistani army from Waziristan and the effective truce with the Taliban.

UPDATED Analysis: If the Sherriff cedes outlaw country to the outlaws it follows that he has no intention of arresting same. So if the underlying (and not yet denied as far as I can tell) story of a peace deal between the Pakistani Army and the Tribal/Taliban/Qaeda leaders to stay out of the tribal areas is true, then denials like the one above are meaningless.

In other words, I don't believe the denials. I believe one Pakistani general blurted out the truth and was then called down by his bosses for endangering US aid with his big mouth.

If the Pakistani Army has agreed to stay out of the tribal areas then yes, Osama, Al Zawahiri and Mullah Omar have found a safe haven just miles from where they were five years ago.

Dave at Glittering Eye has this take, Bill Roggio has this view.

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Screwing With The 'Bot

by Michael Reynolds

I write the words "busboy" and "Trailways" in a post and suddenly all my Google ads are about buses. I hate buses.

So let's try something different: RitzCarlton. Four Seasons. Peninsula. Patek Phillipe. Armani. Piaget. Rolls Royce. Mercedes Benz. Lexus. BMW. Bentley. Dom Perignon. Chateau Lafite.

Try that out, Google robot.

Oh, and high-priced call girl. What the hell.

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Get Your Cynicism Here

by Michael Reynolds

One of the ways you can sort of organize your thoughts for stoytelling, writing a novel let's say, is to think about the primary emotion you want to evoke in your audience. You want your readers awed, scared, moved, angry, paranoid, guilty, aroused, amused, depressed and so on. Not that you're stuck playing to a single emotion, but one will tend to predominate with other emotions are used to accentuate that core feeling.

(The kid series I'm working on right now I'm looking for "scared." The last thing I wrote I wanted "amused.")

It works much the same in politics. A good politician needs a narrative, and that narrative should evoke a primary emotion. For a long time the primary emotion of the GOP was anger. They wanted you angry. Angry at liberals, angry at the poor, angry at government, angry at minorities. Angry.

The Democratic narrative was built around guilt. You were meant to feel guilty about your prosperity, guilty about your whiteness, guilty about your maleness, guilty about your Americanness.

Anger is a much better motivator than guilt. Guilt is passive, anger is active.

But now both narratives are changing. The new Republican emotion is fear. You are particularly encouraged to be afraid of terrorists, but also to be afraid of Mexican landscapers, and afraid of science. Fear is the narrative. So for the next couple of months expect to get a heavy dose of fear.

The same government that failed to get Osama, and has spent the last three years trying hard not to utter his name, will be exploiting its own failures by evoking the emotion of fear. Be afraid: we haven't succeeded in making you safe, so vote for us.

The Democrats inherit the anger motif. They'll do all they can to make you mad: mad about Iraq, primarily, but also mad about gas prices and mad about the economy and, if they are clever, mad about being made to feel afraid.

The GOP moves their narrative from anger to fear. The Democrats go from guilt to anger. Fear and anger are both powerful emotions to evoke -- from a storytelling point of view. But the success of one narrative or another will depend to some extent on outside events. The GOP would profit from a terrorist "close call." Expect one to materialize, probably about two weeks out from the election, say third week of October.

The Dems would profit from bad news in Iraq but have no ability to influence events.

Fear vs. Anger is a wash, either one works. But the President has the power to influence real world events to support his storyline, while Nancy Pelosi does not, so advantage GOP. However, the GOP has the problem of backstory: the story to this point favors anger over fear. Gas prices are real, worries about the economy are powerful, and Iraq is a genuine fiasco. Advantage Democrats.

On balance the Dems have the better narrative but the GOP in the person of Karl Rove have the better writer. If the Dems weren't idiots I'd rather be playing their hand. I guess we'll see in a couple of months.

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Don't Get Your Hopes Up

by Michael Reynolds

Virginia Senator George Allen.

As predicted here, the Santorum Surge seems to have petered out. Races generally tighten as you approach the finish line but Rick (he who makes creep the flesh of decent people) Santorum had closed at a time when he was the only guy running ads. Even then he barely edged above 40%, which is not good when you are an incumbent Senator and neck deep in cash. The pundits love to talk about how Santorum finishes well. I don't think he'll do it this time. Bob Casey is a weak campaigner as we saw on Meet the Press, but Santorum is not achieving escape velocity.

But a bigger problem looms on the horizon for Democrats in the Senate. The usual math says Dems have to take six seats to gain control. (The Senate is 55/45 with the Veep casting the deciding vote in the event of a tie.) Six would be hard enough. Six would involve surfing a tidal wave. But my own personal suspicion is that the number is seven, not six: if Joe Lieberman wins Connecticut and the overall balance comes to 51 Dems to 49 Reps, Joe will flip to the Republicans. In fact he may flip regardless of balance.

Yes, he's said many times he'll caucus as a Dem, but I doubt it. I'm tired of hearing what a great, stand-up guy this windbag is. I think Joe is all about Joe, and he must know the Dems will shunt him aside in punishment for his disloyalty. If the Dems lose he'll be ranking member on the Senate Bait and Tackle Committee. If they win he'll be chairman. Whereas, if he flips, and especially if doing so saved the Senate for the GOP, they'd give him whatever he wanted. Perhaps his own Special Committee on Righteousness, Sanctimony and Pontification.

So I don't think the magic number is six, I'm afraid it's seven.

The possible Republican "take-aways" are sparse. GOP hope is fading in Minnesota, although it is neck-and-neck in New Jersey, and that could very easily go to the Republicans.

The possible Democratic "take-aways" appear to be Arizona (nah,) Missouri (eh,) Montana (could be,) Ohio (could be,) Pennsylvania (looks good,) Tennessee (nah,) Rhode Island (pray for Laffey to beat Chaffee in the primary,) and Virginia where that insufferable asshole George (the bully) Allen has been hurt some, but probably not enough, by his public display of assholery.

What does it all matter? Well, it might help the Democrats in 2008 if the Senate remained Republican. If the Dems take the House and Senate they'll have a full two years to demonstrate their inability to set any agenda other than Bush-bashing. Democrats would have far less opportunity to bob and weave and avoid serious issues. If they held some modicum of actual power people might start expecting them to answer questions and put forward solutions.

On the other hand, a Democratic House can amuse itself writing crowd-pleasing legislation and setting up giddy investigations without anyone taking it very seriously. They could write wondrously one-sided campaign reform legislation, for example, without any danger that it might become law. They could bring up for a vote any number of bills designed only to embarrass Republicans without any of the risk or effort involved in actual legislation. In other words: all fun, no work.

On the other hand, it's the Senate that votes on Supreme Court justices and there's some very old men and women on that court. If you could guarantee me Justice Stevens (current age: 149) wouldn't die in the next two years I'd say don't sweat the Senate, let's win the House, have some fun for two years, and focus energy and barely-suppressed rage on 2008.

Follow the polls as they develop at Pollster.com the new, and instantly indispensable site for political junkies.

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