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The lesson of the defeat in California of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's referendum
revolution is this: The American people will not forever be fooled. The
negative message of the Republican right has lost its power to terrorize voters.

Top oil execs were asked numerous questions at a Senate hearing on
spectacular profits earned in the wake of tropical storms. But they had
no real answers about how to ease the burden on ordinary Americans.

Last night was a grand defeat for George W. Bush--and the shrinking Terminator out in California. Let's celebrate Democrats winning governorships in New Jersey and Virginia--an especially heavy loss for Bush, who made a last-minute campaign stop to prop up the slash-and-smear campaign of GOP candidate Kilgore. But even while celebrating, take a moment to consider that every election cycle brings news of record-breaking, stratospheric campaign spending.

This year is no different. The mudbath--better known as the NJ Governor's race--was the most expensive in the state's history. By the time, the raw and negative ads stopped running, Jon Corzine and Doug Forrester had spent some $72 million. In our own city, Mayor Bloomberg pumped roughly $70 million of his own money into beating his weak and decent Democratic opponent Freddy Ferrer. (Anyone reading this blog is welcome to calculate how much was spent per NYC voter.) The real winner in these races isn't the voter subjected to hundreds of ugly, negative campaign ads; it's the local TV stations raking in the dough.

So, is it time to retreat into cynicism about our money-drenched electoral system? As I've written about in this space, the country has seen some "sweet victories" in these last few years when it comes to "clean money" reforms, particularly in Arizona and Maine and, more recently in our own tri-state region--in Connecticut. There's also the long view, shared with me on election night by Nick Nyhart, executive director of Public Campaign, an invaluable organization committed to ending the corruption of our system. There's no question that this will be a long and winding fight. But read on for some reflections, a measure of hope, and some good analysis from Nyhart:

Stewart Simonson is a former Amtrak corporate attorney
with zero medical experience. So why is he in charge of emergency
health and bioterrorism in the federal government?

The last time Democrats elected a new president who had not been a governor was in 1960, when U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy was the party's nominee and the narrow victor of a contest with Republican Richard Nixon. And two of the four Republican presidents since then were present or former governors, as well. So it makes at least a measure of sense to argue that the place to prospect for a 2008 Democratic nominee is in the states rather than Washington.

And, after Tuesday's election in Virginia, Democrats have a new statehouse star. No, it's not Tim Kaine, the Democrat who won a surprisingly easy victory over Republican Jerry Kilgore in the only southern state to hold a gubernatorial contest this fall. What matters as regards national politics is the fact that Kaine will be replacing a fellow Democrat, Mark Warner.

Warner has been boomed as a presidential prospect for some time now, and even before Tuesday's voting there were strong indications that the moderate Virginian was taking steps to enter the race for the party's 2008 nomination.

As Democrats gloat over two gubernatorial wins and the defeat in
California of Gov. Arnold's intiatives, the GOP approaches off-year
elections weighed down by Bush's baggage.

Democrats celebrate electoral victories in Virginia, New Jersey and
California, they shouldn't waste time gloating. They need to find
effective candidates like Tim Kaine and Jon Corzine who will build

In politics--as the sophisticated analysts say--it is better to win than lose. So Democrats can be happy about their triumphs in New Jersey and Virginia, wh...

Five years into an Administration of sniggering mendacity, George Bush apparently feels his staff needs a mandatory refresher course on ethics--a response with the too-little too-late feel of FEMA's to Hurricane Katrina. Harriet Miers's office will conduct the seminars. Out of a bipartisan concern that the White House's counsel will not have a strong grasp of the subject, I offer these Cliff Notes on the history of moral theory.

THE CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE: Immanuel Kant argued that all moral laws had to be absolute and unconditional and exert their authority in all circumstances. In Kantian terms, it was wrong to leak the name of a covert CIA agent, because if everyone did it, there would be no more covert CIA agents, and then who would we have to invent slam dunk evidence of Iraqi WMDs or torture suspected al-Qaeda members to death?

UTILITARIANISM: John Stuart Mill based his ethical system on the principle of "the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people." Under this formulation, lying to the grand jury is bad, because it makes Patrick Fitzgerald unhappy, and when he's unhappy people end up in jail. And jail is not a happy place, Scooter.

Nation online readers write back on Senate Democrats, lobbyist
Jack Abramoff and WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes.

What motivated director Robert Greenwald to spend a year on a documentary detailing Wal-Mart's impact on American life, culture and commerce?

As hundreds of riots rock the cities and towns of France, the government imposed a curfew Tuesday and the French tried to make sense of the random attacks and acts of arson erupting all over the country. France has not seen such "civil unrest" since 1968, when students occupied the Sorbonne and spilled out into the Latin Quarter to push for university reform and protest the liberal establishment. The students launched nationwide labor strikes, and hundreds of students and police officers were hospitalized.

Who is Diego Maradona, and how did a former
Argentinian soccer star become the nemesis of an American President?

A newly declassified Defense Intelligence Agency document discrediting reports of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq disproves the Bush Administration's claim that they went to war using the best available intelligence.

The latest polls from Vermont show that U.S. Representative Bernie Sanders, the only independent member of the House, has a dramatic lead in the race for that state's open U.S. Senate seat. In a race where the Democrats are expected to fall back and allow the Sanders a clean shot at the seat, a WCAX-TV/Research 2000 poll, released last week, found the congressman to be leading the likely Republican nominee, millionaire Rich Tarrant, by a margin of 64 percent to 16 percent of Vermonters who were surveyed.

Those numbers will not come as much of a surprise to anyone who has spent time in Vermont, where Sanders' three decades of political independence and straight-talk about economic issues have earned him the admiration even of those who do not always agree with his progressive populism. But Sanders' strong position is a source of frustration for inside-the-Beltway Republican operatives and their network of henchmen.

Aside from impending indictments, few things frighten the political hacks who run the White House more than the thought of Sanders, who has served with great success as an independent member of the House since 1991, entering the Senate and developing an even greater national profile. Unlike the Democrats who have such a hard time appealing across lines of party and ideology on fundamental economic issues, Sanders is something of a genius when it comes to building broad coalitions – as illustrated by his big wins in Vermont regions that generally vote Republican.

As the Senate opens hearings this week calling energy execs to
account for their windfall profits on gasoline and natural gas, the
question must be asked: Is this price-gouging or just good
old-fashioned capitalism?

Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel takes on the role of publisher and
general partner at the magazine, and Victor Navasky becomes publisher
emeritus and a member of the magazine's editorial board.

George Bush had a tough time of it last weekend in Argentina.

Mass demonstrations of opposition to the President's trade and economic policies greeted his every move. And even inside the cloistered gathering rooms of luxury hotel where the the Summit of the Americas was convened, Bush was the odd man out. Leaders of Latin American countries, many of them elected because of their explicit opposition to the American President's approach, made it clear that Bush will have a hard time establishing a hemispheric Free Trade Area of the Americans that his campaign contributors so desperately seek.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

If one needed more reason to criticize the Washington Post's decision to withhold information, at the government's request, about the CIA's network of prisons in Eastern Europe for suspected Al Qaeda terrorists, read Jane Mayer's horrifying article in this week's New Yorker. In "A Deadly Interrogation," Mayer reports on the death by torture of an Iraqi terrorist suspect in the custody of the CIA. Jamadi died while being interrogated at Abu Ghraib by a CIA officer and a translator. His head had been covered by a plastic bag and he was shackled in a crucifixion-like pose that inhibited his ability to breathe. According to forensic pathologists interviewed by Mayer, Jamadi died of asphyxiation. But in a subsequent internal investigation, US government authorities classified his death as a homicide. Nevertheless, the CIA investigator has not been charged with a crime, and continues to work for the agency. Mayer reports he has been under investigation by the Justice Department for more than a year. (The CIA has reportedly been implicated in at least four deaths of detainees, and has referred eight potentially criminal cases to the Justice Department, Mayer reports. Yet, as she notes, the government has so far brought charges against only one-level contract employee.) It is a fantasy to believe that the architects of these cruel, inhuman interrogation techniques will be held accountable by an Administration whose key figures, especially "The Vice President for Torture," are so deeply implicated in the policies that led to the metastasizing use of torture.

What should not be overlooked is the historic significance of the Washington Post's decision. "This is probably the most important newspaper capitulation since the New York Times yielded to John F. Kennedy's call for them to not run the full story of planning for the Bay of Pigs," Peter Kornbluh, National Security Archive senior analyst, told Columbia Journalism Daily. "By withholding the country names, the Post is directly enabling the rendition, secret detention, and torture of prisoners at these locations to continue. That is a ghastly responsibility."

(In the interest of full disclosure, a reminder about The Nation's role in the reporting on CIA plans for the Bay of Pigs. When the New York Times acceded to Kennedy Administration requests to suppress its story, The Nation went ahead and alerted the country, in an article published on November 19, 1960, to an impending invasion. For this, the magazine was vilified. The New Republic, by the way, also suppressed its story about CIA plans for the invasion--at Kennedy's request.)

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Argentine soccer hero Diego
Maradona led thousands in a massive rebuke of George W. Bush, his trade
policies and his neoconservative agenda at the Summit of the Americas in
Mar del Plata Argentina. Despite some sporadic violence, the protest
focused on developing indigenous alternatives to US-led trade
initiatives policies.

Republican candidates in Virginia do a lot of posturing on being tough on crime--but behind their self-righteous political ads, there is a hidden history of racism, questionable funding and sexual misconduct.

WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes has just come out of the closet. But why
didn't anyone care?

Vice President Dick Cheney has had very little to say about the indictment of his former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, and even less to say about aspects of the investigation that have touched on his own actions before and after the invasion of Iraq. Now, three key Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives want to give the vice president an opportunity to clear the air.

Recalling that Cheney's former boss, then-President Gerald Ford, testified before the House after his controversial pardon of former President Richard Nixon in 1974, Representatives John Conyers Jr., the Michigan Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee; Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the Government Reform Committee; and Maurice Hinchey, the New York Democrat who has been one of the most outspoken critics of the administration's misuse of intelligence during the period before the Iraq War began, have asked the vice president to "make yourself available to appear before Congress to explain the details and reasons for your office's involvement -- and your personal involvement - in the disclosure of Valerie Wilson's identity as a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative."

The letter, sent to Cheney on Thursday, two days after Democratic Leader Harry Reid forced the Senate into closed session to discuss investigations of efforts by the administration to inflate intelligence assessments of the threat posed by Iraq, offers the latest signal that Congressional Democrats are determined to hold key players in the administration, particularly Cheney, to account.

A hard-hitting documentary, an embarrassing leaked memo on healthcare
and abandonment by customers who don't like its politics. It's
getting harder these days for Wal-Mart to put on a happy public face.