Election aftermath: Faux Centrism, Robocalls, shady Sarasota voting machines, Minnesota Muslims, Zoroastrians and other angles

First of all: Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes was the Dude, hands down. We are poorer without his clever style and incisive work. Thanks for all the stories, Ed.

Senate Democrats Decide on Party Leaders November 14, 2006, Filed at 1:21 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Democrats picked two women for senior posts Tuesday and appointed former U.S. Capitol police chief Terrance Gainer as sergeant at arms. Their choice as majority leader, Sen. Harry Reid, said a top priority is getting a new secretary of defense confirmed.

.....The Capitol, meanwhile, buzzed with the energy of House members-to-be and senators-in-waiting attending freshman orientation.

More than 50 incoming House freshmen spent the day in meetings focused not on big legislative items or the Iraq war but rather on office logistics and ethics -- a key issue after a season of scandal that had, at least in part, led to the election of the new members.

In the Senate, a 10-person freshman class of eight Democrats, one Republican and Democratic-leaning independent Bernard Sanders of Vermont also began orientation.

Democratic Sen.-elect Jon Tester of Montana looked a little overwhelmed on his first day.

''It hasn't soaked in yet,'' he said. ''Maybe it will never soak in.''

The Capitol police weren't quite ready for Tester, a farmer with a throwback flat top haircut and fingers missing on his left hand from an old accident with a meat grinder. They asked him to empty his pockets for inspection.

''Just like at the airport, you put it all through?'' Tester asked.

The officer nodded, then recognized the newcomer and waved him through.

The Talking Head Brigades are totally convinced that a giant swath of newly elected Democrats are "social conservatives", despite the relative lack of evidence. Virginia's Senator-elect Jim Webb is the best example of someone who must be socially conservative, since he was Navy Secretary. They haven't really talked about how concerned Webb is with "economic justice," a phrase that just doesn't really appear in the DLC Centrist handbook.

More realistically, the fresh Democrats are decidedly skeptical of 'free trade' that has crushed manufacturing in places like Ohio – this was a major theme of Ohio Senator-elect Sherrod Brown's campaign platform. We are seeing plenty of evidence that the media is totally convinced this election marks some kind of concrete Centrist Block that now dominates America. Aside from Joe Lieberman's implied threat to bolt the Dems and give the Senate to Republicans, this labeling doesn't wash with the kinds of folks now going to DC.

Maybe gun control. Which was a ridiculous issue to dwell on at this late date, but now basically that's the symbolic marker signifying Senator-elect Jon Tester of Montana as a 'social conservative.' I would say it's more to do with the fact that there are about seven times as many guns as people in Montana.

(A small reflection on the history between Webb and this Gates cat coming into Defense. Will there be 'real' confirmation hearings for SecDef or just softballs?)

The perfect example of this new media narrative of 2006 == Super Centrism is the cover of TIME magazine this week, compared with the November 1994 cover when Newt Gingrich and the gang stomped in (more on the contrast). "Why the center is the new place to be" says good old weathervane Joe Klein, who never met a waffle he didn't like. Oddly, Klein did not exactly stick to this:

Yes, many of the winners tended to be moderates, but that's because this was an election, especially on the House side, waged in moderate districts. In some cases, realism meant supporting the more liberal candidate. In Ohio, Reid and Schumer made a stark decision to force the attractive if inexperienced Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett out of the race and to support Congressman Sherrod Brown, a feisty paleoliberal whose vehement protectionism matched well with Ohio's economic despearation...The common denominator wasn't liberalism or moderation but the ability to win.

OK, fair enough. Would have been nice if the magazine cover reflected that. But I lack the patience to read the whole article. Although I did shake Klein's hand in Iowa once. There was also a story about Keith Ellison in TIME, and refers to Trocadero's as "trendy." Kind of funny to hear TIME describing the Warehouse district at all, but sort of exciting.

The victory party for Minnesota's first African-American congressman, Keith Ellison, took place at a trendy nightclub in Minneapolis's downtown warehouse district. Down the block from a glitzy sex shop, Trocaderos is the kind of place where both gays and straights look to get picked up, either at the bar or on the dance floor. But on this occasion, the floor was packed with enthusiastic supporters of Ellison, who also happens to be the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress.

Not the kind of place where any self-respecting Muslim would normally be found. But on this occasion, drably dressed, bearded Muslim men rubbed shoulders with stylish women in revealing outfits, the latter drinking plenty of alcohol. Meanwhile, Muslim women wearing long, shapeless dresses and head-scarves stood around in small groups. I spoke with an elderly, bespectacled imam from Somalia who wore a large woolen shawl over his shoulders and a colorful, pointed cap, embroidered with ancient-looking but unfamiliar shapes and symbols. His limited knowledge of English did not prevent him from repeating the words "peace, peace, peace" over and over again to me.

The reason for this curious gathering is not hard to figure out. Muslim Americans in Minnesota and throughout the nation have been forging a coalition with liberals on issues like those articulated by Congressman-elect Ellison — universal health insurance, tougher environmental regulation, opposition to the Patriot Act and an immediate end to the war in Iraq.

......And now, Muslims from places like Pakistan or Egypt, who might in the past have avoided politics, see the need for allies and guides through the unfamiliar American political landscape. No wonder the Rev. Jesse Jackson and other nationally prominent blacks journeyed to Minnesota to campaign with Keith Ellison.

Still, immigrant Muslims remain devout social conservatives. And in Minneapolis in the days leading up to the celebration Tuesday night, one could hear many of them trying to reconcile their support for Ellison and other liberals on Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor ticket with their unrelenting opposition to abortion and especially homosexuality. It is clearly not easy for them to do so, but as one Muslim American leader born in Afghanistan put it, "the majority of Muslims weigh the alternatives" — and vote against President Bush and the Republicans.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether this coalition will last. But if their anger at the Bush Administration and its policies is any guide, then Muslim Americans — immigrant and African American alike — will not soon break with their new-found liberal allies. In the meantime, many non-Muslim Americans will be troubled by these developments and find in them further evidence of the widespread sentiment that Muslim Americans are not being straight with their fellow citizens, that they are hypocrites. Perhaps they are. But then non-Muslims ought to recognize that "hypocrisy" of the sort on view in Minneapolis last week is akin to the tolerance on which our pluralistic society depends. In fact, just such behavior demonstrates that Muslims are beginning to learn what we all must do to get along in America.

For that matter, we in Minnesota ought to explain to the rest of the world, especially the Middle East, that Ellison was elected from a district with the help and support of the large and established Jewish community in St. Louis Park. I suspect that Conventional Wisdom between Morocco and Qatar would be shocked to learn that those West Metro Jewish folks would select a Muslim to represent them in DC. It makes me proud to be an American.

Sibel Edmonds: Going to happen or not? I am wondering about whether such Deep Politics as the true nature of the Sibel Edmonds scandal will be exposed next year. We had almost forgotten that in October 2002, Sibel Edmonds was featured with Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes, and you can get the video clips in 4 parts: 1 2 3 4. The story mostly focuses on the incompetence of the guys in the FBI translation unit, rather than all the Turkish espionage stuff. But still interesting. Keep an eye on the Sibel Edmonds blogspot site by Lukery in case something happens. We are still going to put a special page together on the case, but not right now..... Basically I am hoping that some Congressperson with security clearance reads Sibel's secret (buried) testimony to the 9/11 Commission into the Congressional record.

Shady voting machines in Sarasota, Florida steal a Congressional race?? In the Florida congressional district formerly held by the 2000 Debacle High Witch Katherine Harris, there were serious errors with electronic voting machines. I am jacking this post from TPMmuckraker cause it's got the goods.

Update: In FL-13, Court Battle Begins As Counting Continues By Paul Kiel - November 14, 2006, 12:56 PM

Lawyers for Democratic House candidate Christine Jennings threw down the gauntlet yesterday, asking a state court to secure electronic voting machines and data used in the election.

The move would preserve the equipment in Florida's Sarasota County for scrutiny by Jennings' legal team. A hearing on the suit is scheduled for this afternoon.

It's just the first step of what is likely to be a litigious aftermath to a close and ugly election (thanks in part to the NRCC's rampant robo calling in the district). The state began a recount and audit of the election yesterday. Once the audit and second recount is completed and the results certified on November 20th, the Jennings campaign has ten days to contest the results of the election if they still show Jennings down. Before the recounting began, she was down 386 votes.

The fight will center around the district's Sarasota County, where the electronic machines did not register a vote in the Congressional race for 18,000 voters (13%) -- what's called an "undervote." That's compared to only 2.53% of voters who did not vote in the race via absentee ballots.

A study by the local paper, The Herald Tribune, found that one in three of Sarasota election officials "had general complaints from voters about having trouble getting votes to record" on the electronic machines for the Congressional race. Since 53% of voters in Sarasota County picked Jennings over the Republican Vern Buchanan, those missed votes would likely have put Jennings in front.

Kendall Coffey, a lawyer for the Jennings campaign, told me yesterday that any court challenge of the results is likely to focus on problems with the electronic machines. He said that the campaign has a wealth of "compelling testimony" from "sources that you simply can't discredit" who had trouble registering a vote for Jennings in the county. That challenge would likely come later in the month, if the recount still shows Jennings down and the state's audit does not turn up any problems. So stay tuned.

13,000 viruses on one Windows PC: A guy uncovers a giant nest of viruses. Nasty.

The Misc file: The end of education arbitrage - IE the link between property values and education funding is cracking. An ugly prospect to behold, especially from here in Minnesota where schools are not as much of a disaster as other states.

Kelley's Iran adventure: The proprietor of one of my favorite sites Agonist.org went to Iran over the election and had an interesting time. He blogged it on the San Antonio paper's site. The one about Zoroastrians was pretty cool:

Two primary impulses drove me towards Yazd. First, I wanted to see the architecture of this old Silk Road city, to walk in Marco Polo's footsteps and see what he saw. My second goal was to see, interact and talk with the last large community of Zoroastrians in Iran (and the world). The major Ateshkah (Fire Temple) of Yazd lies in the Southeast part of town. Here, surrounded by a low-rise brick wall, gardens and reflecting pool (which I was sadly unable to get a good photo from) burns a flame, which the High Priest of the Temple told us, "has been burning for one thousand four hundred years."

"First," he said, his 84-year old voice trembling, "this fire came from the fire temple at Naqsh-i-Rustam where our great Iranian kings are laid to rest."

"Then," he continued, "to Yazd province it went to Agadeh. After that it went to Ardekan and finally found its way here," he told us.

The High Priest, pointing at the furuhad (the winged symbol of Zoroaster, which some say was the first depiction of an angel) atop the building, recited the three main tenets of the Zoroastrian faith. "Each row of feathers has a meaning in our faith, equaling the three central ideas of Zoroastrianism: The first row implores us to think well. The second instructs us to act well. The third and final row compels us to talk well, never to lie. To lie, or to go against any of this commands, is to give in to evil, or Ahriman."

"What," I wondered, "was Iran like 1,500 years ago? Before the Arabs arrived? When fire temples were the center of worship and activity in every city?

"Were the high priests," I thought to myself, as the flames flickered wildly behind the thick observation glass, "as rigid in their interpretation of Zoroastrianism as they are today of Islam?"

The late history of the Sassanians points towards a high priesthood with a firm, if brittle, grip on Mediaval Persian society. It was the era of Magians supremacy, and their faith was rigid. They persecuted Christians and other sects, even the Jews, but they saved their most heated attacks for the Manicheans. Kartir, the high priest to the Sassanian king even found a place on a relief next to his king, at Naqsh-i-Rashjab, about two kilometers from Naqsh-i-Rustam.

I thought about the past and couldn't help but to wonder if there is a tenuous connection between Iran's extremist past and its extremist present? One would think it were possible. But today the Zoroastrians are not only tolerated, but celebrated to a great degree for they are Iran's original "People of the Book.'

Later that afternoon father and I went to see a "Tower a Silence.' The tower lies on top of a small barren hill on the south side of town. It's like a bug round brick well, with a diameter of approximately 50 meters. The high priests would take the body of the deceased up to the tower and lay it out for the vultures to pick clean. The Zoroastrians believe that burying the body is to pollute the earth and cremation is strictly forbidden, as the body will pollute the sacred fire. It is said that if the vultures pick the left side of the face off first the deceased goes immediately to heaven. If it is the right the deceased spends a hundred years in purgatory.

Well there you go. Zoroastrianism is pretty much a sweet and mystic Old Time religion. Anyhow...

Homeless Philadelphia guys tricked into deceiving Maryland black folks about Republican Steele: In a disgusting episode, campaign workers for some shadowy Republican-linked organization provided flyers that claimed two top Republican candidates were actually Democrats, as seen here and here. A homeless guy is furious he was paid to lie to people, and didn't even get back home to Philly to vote in time.

All hail Rahm Emanuel: Still a divisive figure, Rep. Emanuel, the leader of the DCCC, selected some Dems over others in primary races, and now has been credited as the guy that won everything. This is an exaggeration. Emanuel has been criticized for not supporting Clint Curtis, the programmer who was allegedly hired by Congressman Tom Feeney to reprogram voting machines. Curtis ran for Congress in order to raise awareness of this, but he did not get a red cent from the DCCC. Likewise, abandoned a 9/11 Truth candidate whose name I can't remember. Emanuel delivered the goods, but he also set restrictions on the ideological parameters of Democratic campaigns, although in important aspects he broadened the limits beyond idiot DLC-consultant style "centrism". This bears further examination.

Judith Miller against Blogger first amendment freedom: From the mouth of the woman who brought Iraqi Aluminum Tube fantasies into the NY Times via Chalabi's henchmen, bloggers just report rumors way too much:

"I'm worried about bloggers," she said. "(A post) starts as a rumor and within 24 hours it's repeated as fact."

While she advocates a federal shield law to protect mainstream journalists from divulging their sources, she doesn't favor extending that to bloggers who don't follow the standards and ethnics [I assume this should be ethics] of the journalism industry.

Still, she wouldn't restrict a blogger's right to publish online. She said some bloggers have been invaluable in uncovering government flaws.

"I'm glad to welcome them as long as they agree to the standards," she said.

Heinous. (via Atrios). Cram your standards in an aluminum tube and smoke it with your "defector" friends.

That's all for this post. Another coming down the pike in a little bit.

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