What kind of nation do we want in 2025? Will we be able to educate our children, provide health coverage, generate good jobs and economic security, and protect public health and safety?
Will we collect enough revenues to carry out the functions of government that you believe in, or will deficits be the driving force for cuts in services?
You can be part of a national forum allowing people all over the country to weigh in on these choices.
AmericaSpeaks: Our Budget, Our Economy will engage the American public in an unprecedented national discussion about our federal budget. Thousands of Americans reflecting the demographic, geographic and political diversity of our nation will come together on June 26, 2010 for a National Town Meeting connected via satellite video, webcast, and interactive technologies to weigh-in on the difficult choices involved with putting our federal budget on a sustainable path.
These discussions will occur in 19 or 20 cities across the country. Participants will spend about 6 hours on Saturday, June 26 deliberating about how to reduce the deficit in 2025 through some combination of increased revenue and/or reduced spending. By the end of the day, the choices made by the groups in each city will be tallied into a report that will be provided to the President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The AmericaSpeaks project is likely to receive a lot of public attention. It would be quite unfortunate if a disproportionate share of the participants are open only to making cuts in programs. That's why we are hoping you will sign up to attend.
The Coalition on Human Needs and Every Child Matters believe that while it is good economic policy for the nation to have a substantial deficit now to help us emerge from the severe recession, over the next decades steps must be taken to stabilize the deficit and the national debt. Since we are such a wealthy nation, we believe that more revenues can be raised from fair sources to ensure that Americans can be secure from infancy to retirement. Careful decisions about spending should also be part of our nation's long-term plan, with savings from ineffectual or misguided military or other programs and investments in our human resources to build our economic competitiveness. Not to mention helping all Americans to sustain life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We have a lot of confidence that you or your friends and colleagues would bring this balanced view to the AmericaSpeaks town meetings. For more information about AmericaSpeaks and to sign up: http://usabudgetdiscussion.
So please sign up if you live in one of these cities, and forward this to others who might be interested. Thanks for considering this!
Des Moines, IA
Grand Forks, ND
Overland Park, KS
Los Angeles, CA
San Jose, CA
Nursing home caregivers from across the state converged on Harrisburg today to ask their Senators, "Whose side are you on? Gas companies, or our state's seniors?"
The members of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania are urging the Senate to close corporate tax loopholes and enact a severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction, before drastic cuts to the nursing home care in this year's state budget. Pennsylvania spends close to $2 Billion in Medicaid funds to provide nursing home care to the elderly.
"If you cut the Medicaid dollars coming to our nursing home, then veterans and other seniors will be left without the care they need. It?s time to make big oil companies who make money in our state pay their fair share,? said Michelle Stewart, a certified nursing assistant who works in a Montgomery County nursing home.
About 200 caregivers and other union members marched through the streets around the Capitol carrying giant, green dollar signs and a huge black cloth representing the oil and gas spills that could threaten our environment and economy. They also tried to deliver an invoice for unpaid taxes to the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association and the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania, but there was no answer at their offices.
?I?ve flown over some of these wells with my boyfriend and I?ve seen the amount of water used to break the rock and release the gas. I?ve read about the chemicals mixed with the water and I wonder where it will end up,? said Kathy Shaner, a certified nursing assistant from Washington County, PA. ?The residents I care for are not getting rich from all the gas in their county, but they could benefit if these big corporations paid their fair share.?
On May 28, Royal Dutch Shell agreed to acquire Marshall, PA-based East Resources Inc. for $4.7 billion. And last December, Exxon Mobil Corp. announced a $41 billion acquisition of XTO Energy Inc., including its extensive Marcellus Shale holdings.
"Unless Pennsylvania begins collecting revenue from big corporations that profit in Pennsylvania, we?re on the road to a $1.1 billion budget deficit over the next 2 years,? said Kevin Hefty, Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. ?Senators, when we ask whose side you are on, the choice is clear: be on the side of our local communities, working families, and seniors who need long term care.?
Last week, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (www.pennbpc.org) launched an online ticker showing the tax dollars lost by not enacting a severance tax on drilling in the Marcellus Shale. At the time of the rally, the ticker showed Pennsylvania had missed out on $55,756,000 that could have been used to help fill in the revenue gap in the budget.
The rally today is part of a larger campaign by SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania and other labor unions to ensure that a state budget that doesn't cut essential services is passed before the June 30th deadline.
For more information, visit www.closetheloopholes.org.
Physicians for Human Rights has released a 27-page report which clearly documents what we already know: The Bush Administration tortured detainees. The more startling conclusion is this: The Bush Administration experimented on those detainees in order to refine, define and justify their torture regimen.
Nothing like setting the bar, jumping over it, then defining that bar for everyone else as some sort of standard. Yet that's exactly what they did. Among the specific experiments:
Documenting effects of sleep deprivation on prisoners
For example, one current and three former CIA officials said some videotapes showed Zubaydah being sleep deprived for more than two weeks. Contractors hired by the CIA studied how he responded psychologically and physically to being kept awake for that amount of time. By looking at videotapes, they concluded that after the 11th consecutive day of being kept awake Zubaydah started to "severely break down." So, the torture memo signed by former OLC head Jay Bybee concluded that 11 days of sleep deprivation was legal and did not meet the definition of torture.
PHR's analysis on sleep deprivation concluded, based on a review of documents, that "government lawyers used observational data collected by health professionals from varying applications of sleep deprivation to inform legal evaluations regarding the risk of inflicting certain levels of harm on the detainee, and to shape policy that would guide further application of the technique."
Monitoring and reporting specific data with regard to different waterboarding techniques.
From the report:
OMS health professionals were directed by their superiors at CIA to collect information on, and apply their findings to the application of waterboarding. That knowledge appears explicitly intended to be used to ?best inform future medical judgments,? or to develop generalizable knowledge about new procedures for applying the technique of waterboarding.
Here's what we knew about waterboarding before the experiments:
A rigid guide to the medically approved use of the waterboard in essentially healthy individuals is not possible, as safety will depend on how the water is applied and the specific response each time it is used. The following general guidelines are based on very limited knowledge, drawn from very few subjects whose experience and response was quite varied.
So the CIA and Bush Administration stepped up and said, "Well hey-ho, let's just see if we can study that a little and come up with some standards for torturing detainees. If we kill a few, who cares?"
Subsequently, in 2005 the "combined techniques" memo was released, which stated the following:
We understand that these limitations have been established with extensive input from OMS, based on experience to date with this technique and OMS?s professional judgment that use of the waterboard on a healthy individual subject to these limitations would be ?medically acceptable.'
The plan went like this: Choose techniques where experimentation had not been conducted, where experience was varied, and document what happens. Use that documentation to justify the procedure as something other than torture. If they can go for 11 days without sleep before having a complete breakdown, then set the limit at 11 days and tell the American and international public no torture occurred. If you can pour saline up their nose for 10 minutes while blindfolded and helpless without the prisoner having a complete break with reality, but 11 minutes is the break point (on average) then hey, stick with 10 minutes.
In other words, use torture to justify torture, which is what this report concludes.
"Waterboarding 2.0" was the product of the CIA?s developing and field-testing an intentionally harmful practice using systematic medical monitoring and the application of subsequent generalizable knowledge.
Similar experiments, data gathering and modification to techniques were done to calibrate what an "acceptable level of pain" might be before it rose to the level of torture.
Intentional infliction of pain on detainees in order to determine "an acceptable level". I've had a toothache all weekend. I don't find the level of pain to be acceptable at all. Yet, the Cheney/Bush regime thought it perfectly moral and ethical to turn up the pain inflictors to determine when they would cross some magical 'threshold'.
From the 2005 OLC memo:
Other than the waterboard, the specific techniques under consideration in this memorandum ? including sleep deprivation ? have been applied to more than 25 detainees. See [redacted] Fax at 1-3. No apparent increase in susceptibility to severe pain has been observed either when techniques are used sequentially or when they are used simultaneously ? for example, when an insult slap is simultaneously combined with water dousing or a kneeling stress position, or when wall standing is simultaneously combined with an abdominal slap and water dousing. Nor does experience show that, even apart from changes in susceptibility to pain, combinations of these techniques cause the techniques to operate differently so as to cause severe pain. OMS doctors and psychologists, moreover, confirm that they expect that the techniques, when combined as described in the Background Paper and in the April 22 [redacted] Fax, would not operate in a different manner from the way they do individually, so as to cause severe pain.
It seems to me this clearly states that a)experiments were conducted with various combinations of humiliating, painful, frightening techniques; and, b)they were conducted with the express goal of stretching existing torture definitions farther out.
Why, why, why?
PHR concludes there were three reasons for the experiments:
PHR further concludes that crimes have been committed; specifically:
This one is really chilling. In 2006, amended language was tacked onto the Military Commissions Act amending the WCA to weaken the Geneva conventions by specifying a prohibition on "biological experiments." The Geneva Conventions specify "physical mutilation or scientific experiments of ANY KIND."
There are nine recommendations at the end of the report. They call for investigations by Congress, the DOJ and the military. They also call for an executive order from the President to suspend any secret human subject research which may be going on, whether it relates to detainees or not. There are recommendations for the states and the UN as well, but the bottom line is this: If we do not, as a nation, commit to respect human rights and dignity, even of those we call enemy, we are weaker, more vulnerable, and lack moral standing to lead.
There is one more recommendation I'd make. Since Dick Cheney and George W. Bush have both freely confessed to embrace the torture and experimentation of and on detainees, they should be willing to stand trial for those choices in a public court of law, and be prepared to accept the consequences, too.
For months, reports have abounded here that the Afghan mercenaries who escort American and other NATO convoys through the badlands have been bribing Taliban insurgents to let them pass.
Then came a series of events last month that suggested all-out collusion with the insurgents.
After a pair of bloody confrontations with Afghan civilians, two of the biggest private security companies ? Watan Risk Management and Compass Security ? were banned from escorting NATO convoys on the highway between Kabul and Kandahar.
During an interview today with FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe on ABC’s Top Line, host Karen Travers noted that the cover of his upcoming book — Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto — says ?lower taxes plus less government equals more freedom.” Travers then asked, “How does that less government sentiment square with this massive government effort down there in the Gulf to contain the spill?”
In response, Kibbe was able to kill two birds with one stone: deflect criticism from BP and his own personal philosophy by saying that he expects government to act “when there is a natural disaster?:
KIBBE: Well I think if you look at what?s happened down there, it’s a sad story of government incompetence as well as negligence on the part of BP. And I think what you have to look at is when there is a natural disaster like this we do expect our government to do some things and to do them well. And the whole point of limited government is you want the government to be competent at those few things that we need it to do and this is an example where the government was asleep at the switch and there’s a series of regulations that led to deep drilling as opposed to more economical and safer options.
Watch it (starting at 4:00):
Of course, natural disasters are uncontrollable events such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Tens of millions of gallons of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico due to an oil company’s negilgence and misconduct does not qualify. In fact, just last year, BP opposed stricter safety and environmental rules proposed by the U.S. Minerals Management Service. A BP executive tried to fight off the new regulations on Capitol Hill, saying that drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) has been shown to be ?both safe and protective of the environment.”
Even though Kibbe lobbed the obligatory “negligence” charge at BP, what he didn’t explain is that he might have an interest in deflecting blame away from the oil giant. As ThinkProgress reported last month, FreedomWorks worked with BP to build grassroots support for opening up large sections of both the East and West coasts to new oil drilling. BP listed the group as part its “significant grassroots supporters” on a PowerPoint slide at a presentation by the BP-funded front group ?Consumer Energy Alliance” at a conference in 2007.
Tom Schaller's already done a preview of four (MT, NV, ND and SD) of the twelve states having elections tomorrow, and this post will cover four more: primaries in CA, IA and SC, and the Democratic U.S. Senate runoff in AR.
The first three states originally featured high-profile statewide barnburners that have cooled off a bit as candidates have built prohibitive leads, but as the carnival barkers say just before closing time, there's still plenty to see.
In California, the authoritative Field Poll (tops, BTW, in Nate's new pollster ratings) confirmed what observers already knew: Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina have blown open once-tense Republican gubernatorial and Senate primaries.
Whitman's up 51-25 over Steve Poizner, after allowing him to get uncomfortably close in a couple of May polls. As you may have heard, this primary has featured unprecedented levels of spending (a total of $110 million), with Whitman spending over $70 million of her own money and Poizner chipping in $24 million. It appears that Whitman's powerfully redundant TV ads attacking Poizner as "just another liberal Sacramento politician" have trumped Poizner's attacks on her for unsavory associations with Goldman Sachs and for her failure to support Arizona's immigration law (his almost exclusive message down the stretch). Counter-intuitively, given Poizner's "true conservative" persona, Whitman's lead (according to Field) is above-average among those who "identify a lot" with the Tea Party Movement and among "strongly conservative" voters.
Poizner's challege, however, did force Whitman to abandon the technocratic, centrist tone of her early positive ads, and she's lost some serious ground to Democrat Jerry Brown in recent general election polls, particularly among independents and Latinos.
While Fiorina hasn't spent anything like Whitman's vast amounts of lucre, she did put $5.5 million of her own money into a late ad blitz, just as early front-runner Tom Campbell ran into money problems. She also seems to have benefitted from a shift among conservative voters reacting to independent advertising against Campbell, and abandoning Tea Partyish Chuck DeVore as nonviable. Field currently has Fiorina up over Campbell 37-22 (with Devore at 19), but her lead among early voters (over half the total) grows to 20%.
Like Whitman, Fiorina has suffered an erosion in general election standing during the primary battle; pollster.com's latest average has her trailing Barbara Boxer 46-39. Also like Whitman, Fiorina has baggage from her corporate career. And unlike Whitman, she's saddled with very conservative positions on abortion and on the Arizona immigration law--perilous in a state where Republicans need a decent Latino vote to win--which she endorsed (like the other two major GOP Senate candidates).
There are a host of competitive down-ballot races in California, including a Democratic LG contest featuring San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom and LA city councilwoman Janice Hahn, a member of a powerful LA political family; and a Republican LG race between appointed incumbent Abel Maldonado--who supplied a key vote for a Schwarzenegger-backed budget deal that enraged conservatives--and conservative stalwart Sam Aanestad. Notable among several competitive congressional primaries are a battle to succeed retiring GOP Rep. George Radanovich featuring ex-congressman Richard Pombo, conservative former Fresno mayor Jim Patterson, and the incumbent's favorite, Jeff Denham; and another challenge to Blue Dog Democratic Rep. Jane Harman by 2006 candidate Marcy Winograd, in which Harman is the consensus favorite.
And this year there is just one California ballot initiative with national implications: Prop 14, which would create a Louisiana-style "jungle primary" system, essentially abolishing party primaries. The initiative campaign, which has commanded sizable pluralities in scattered polling, is being financed in part by Arnold Schwarzenegger's PAC, with support from the Chamber of Commerce and other corporate figures; the underfunded opposition mainly comes from Democratic and union groups, along with supporters of minor parties who would lose their general election ballot lines.
California turnout is expected to be anemic, with about half the total vote being cast early by mail.
Iowa's primaries frequently have future presidential implications, and that's been the case in the state's marquee 2010 primary, the Republican contest to oppose vulnerable Democratic incumbent governor Chet Culver. The frontrunner from the get-go has been former four-term Gov. Terry Branstad, an establishment figure with close ties to Mitt Romney. But in a state where social conservatives have been radicalized by a court decision legalizing same-sex marriages, challenger Bob Vander Plaats, who chaired Mike Huckabee's successful 2008 caucus bid, was thought to have a decent chance at an upset, particularly given longstanding unhappiness with Branstand in the Christian Right. A late development was the surprise endorsement (quite possibly unsolicited) of Branstad by Sarah Palin, which seemed to take the wind out of the sails of Vander Plaats' campaign. And over the weekend, the influential Des Moines Register poll showed Branstad holding a 2-1 lead over Vander Plaats.
In the Democratic Senate primary to choose a candidate for an uphill slog against Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Democratic veteran Roxanne Conlin is expected to cruise to an easy win over two opponents.
The most interesting House primary is in central Iowa's 3d District, where Republicans have long targeted veteran Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell. The national campaign committee is backing Jim Gibbons, a former wrestling coach at Iowa State (high school and college wrestling is a very big deal in Iowa) who is being challenged by a prominent state senator, Brad Zaun, and a tea party activist, Dave Funk. With four more candidates in the field, this primary could trigger Iowa's unusual provision allowing a party convention to choose the nominee if no primary candidate wins more than 35% of the vote.
South Carolina's Republican gubernatorial primary has been dominated lately by a nasty and confusing series of events in which state legislator Nikki Haley, a Mark Sanford protege and a favorite of conservative bloggers around the country, has been accused by two local political consultants (one associated with rival candidate Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, the other being a former Sanford and Haley staffer) of having brief extramarital affairs with them. Absent any real evidence of these affairs, the allegations have convinced Haley backers (prominently including Sarah Palin and CNN/RedState pundit Erick Erickson) that it's all a cooked-up effort to beat Haley by a "good ol' boys" network of SC pols.
If so, it's not working so far, with the latest PPP poll showing Haley leading the four-major-candidate field with 43%, within possible striking distance of the 50% that would win the nomination without a runoff. The poll shows that a majority of likely primary voters don't believe the sexual allegations against Haley. But--perhaps reflecting Haley's own vow to fold her campaign or even resign as governor if the allegations prove to be true--42% of respondents think she should drop out if she did have an extramarital affair. With one of her accusers, blogger/consultant Will Folks, constantly hinting he will eventually produce definitive evidence of an affair, this possibility is, fairly or not, lurking in the background of the contest. Most recently, the Haley saga has morphed from sex to ethnicity, with Haley's own state senator, a Bauer ally named Jake Knotts, referring to her (and to President Obama) as a "raghead." (Haley is a second-generation Indian-American who converted a number of years ago from her Sikh heritage to evangelical Christianity).
The Haley saga has soaked up much of the oxygen in the race, largely neutering the financial advantage of her three rivals. PPP shows congressman Gresham Barrett, who has a strong regional base in the Upcountry area of northwestern SC, running second to Haley with 23% of the vote; Barrett's main problem has been a vote for TARP. Early frontrunner Henry McMaster, SC's Attorney General, is running third at 16%, while Bauer, whose already high unfavorable ratings have clearly been boosted by his alleged complicity in the "smears" against Haley, is running fourth at 12%.
Meanwhile, state representative Vincent Sheheen has used a big financial advantage and an upbeat campaign to overtake early frontrunner Jim Rex (the state school superintendent) for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, which may have more value than originally thought given the chaos and nastiness of the GOP race. A third candidate, however, state senator Robert Ford, could definitely force a runoff, in part because he's the only African-American in a primary where African-Americans could represent close to half the vote.
The downballot race in SC that's drawing the most attention is a Tea Party-fed challenge to incumbent GOP Rep. Bob Inglis (another conservative congressman who voted for TARP) by Spartanburg County prosecutor Trey Gowdy. At a minimum, it looks like Gowdy will knock Ingles into a runoff.
Finally, Arkansas' runoff election between Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov Bill Halter is tomorrow, and while precedent and general atmospherics favor the challenger, it will all come down to a turnout battle. The one independent public poll, by R2K/DKos, showed Halter up narrowly (49-45), but the poll showed Halter with a huge lead among African-Americans which doesn't seem to accord with what happened in the primary. Certainly unions have stayed the course impressively with Halter, with SEIU and a labor-backed coalition called Working America spending an estimated $1.7 million for the runoff. But Halter's prospects will probably depend on his ability to turn out the vote in southern Arkansas, where he ran up big margins against Lincoln in the primary.
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So, did you hear? The Bidens had a barbecue beach party over the weekend! (Squeal!)
Of course, you weren't there. And I wasn't there. No, no, no. It was a very special party.
But Ed Henry from CNN was there! Mrs. Biden hid behind him during a water balloon fight! And then she tried to shoot Henry with a water gun! It was a blast!
The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder was there too! Rahm Emmanuel sprayed him with a Super Soaker! (Squeal!)
Wolf Blitzer was there! With an official dateline and (CNN) after his unbylined "report" that made it look all official and everything! But good old Ed Henry caught Wolfie grinning ear to ear with a fellow CNN'er, kids and squirt guns! What a hoot!
Yeah, that's right, the David Sanger whom the New York Times has tasked with explaining to the rest of us (those who don't get asked to Biden beach parties!) the administration's stand on - and Joe Biden's speeches about! -- nuclear weapons! So cool! I bet he'll get down really soon to tough questions and hard-hitting critical analysis about all this shit that can blow the world up. I mean, right after he sneaks up on the Biden grandkids and ….
Oh, hell. This is just too awful to continue.
Sad thing is, they don't see a problem with it. Really. To which Glenn Greenwald thankfully unleashes his inner hound:
I personally don't think that these types of interactions "violate journalistic ethics" because I don't think such a thing exists for them. Rather, all of this just helpfully reveals what our nation's leading "journalists" really are: desperate worshipers of political power who are far more eager to be part of it and to serve it than to act as adversarial checks against it -- and who, in fact, are Royal Court Spokespeople regardless of which monarch is ruling. That's why they're invited into the heart of Versailles to frolic with the King's most trusted aides: it's their reward for loyal service as Court courtiers. Just marvel at the self-abasing joy in which Ed Henry wallows by virtue of getting to play water sports with Emanuel and the Bidens. He sounds like a gushing pre-adolescent who just met his favorite boy band idol and got his water gun signed.
Forget (if you can, ever) the giddy, undignified, shameful tone of it all. Concentrate on this: These "professionals" are the ones standing in for us, for citizens, to ask the hard questions, to dig behind the scenes, to not take what's said at face value, to find out what the most powerful people in the world are doing in our names, with our money. It is their job to be skeptical and, frankly, obnoxious from time to time on our behalf. They are supposed to make themselves persistent and occasionally unpleasant. Yet here they are, on display in all their glory: licking hands, wiggling in delight, wagging their tails. Darting around with squirt guns with the White House chief of staff. Yukking it up with the vice president and his grandkids as they duck water balloons. I.F. Stone would be vomiting in the rose bushes if he were tied up, dragged to the scene, had his eyes propped open with toothpicks and was forced to witness it.
It was atrocious when they were having sleepovers with John McCain. And it's morally bankrupt when they're doing it with "our guys" too -- the ones we on this site worked our asses off to elect.
I'd say, Make it stop! but it won't. Not even as old models of journalism come crashing around their privileged, self-satisfied heads. They're a class totally unworthy of the First Amendment protections the Founders created for them. America deserves so much better.
Even as the war in Afghanistan becomes America's Longest War, there is an end in sight.[...]
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07 June 2010 - Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he would be launching a criminal investigation into the activities of BP that led to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But can we trust an AG who worked at one of the biggest corporate[...]
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According to the final Mason-Dixon poll of Nevada's Republican Senate primary, tea party candidate Sharron Angle has opened up a sizeable lead over her competitors, former front-runner Sue Lowden and businessman Danny Tarkanian. The Mason-Dixon poll has Angle at 32%, Tarkanian at 24%, and Lowden at 23%. The numbers are very similar to our poll last week, which put Angle at 34%, Lowden at 25%, and Tarkanian at 24%.
The Mason-Dixon poll shows Reid leading Lowden by a 42%-41% margin, though he trails Angle 44%-41% and Tarkanian 46%-39%. Our poll also showed a close race, though it had Reid up by 4 over Lowden and Tarkanian and up by 6 over Angle.
This race was once Sue Lowden's to lose, and through her abject political incompetence (Chickens for Checkups!) she seems to have lost it. Amazingly, however, Angle may ultimately prove that she's an even worse candidate than Lowden.
As Markos wrote a couple of weeks ago, Angle is "Rand Paul's female doppelganger." She's so far to the right that she supports policies like eliminating Social Security, and her extreme dogmatism seems nearly certain to give Harry Reid a new lease on life -- and it will begin tomorrow evening, after the polls close.