Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 10, 2008

Just Hold On

It seems that Sen. Arlen Specter doesn’t want to be rushed on the Marc Holder pardon. Politico reports that Specter took to the Senate floor to hold up the train:

Sen. Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, has just thrown a wrench into the Eric Holder hearings planned for early January, saying Holder’s involvement in the Marc Rich pardon is a “red flag” and a “very serious matter.”

Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) has been pushing for an early January hearing so that Holder could quickly be confirmed at Barack Obama’s attorney general and be in his office by the Jan. 20 inauguration.

But Specter is already applying the brakes, indicating that Republicans are going to make a big deal out of Holder at the hearing. Specter said he sees no way in which the Holder hearings could happen before Jan. 26. Specter said he still needs to see thousands of pages of background documents and Holder’s FBI background check.

“There are questions that need to be addressed,” Specter said in a Senate floor speech. Specter, a former prosecutor himself, said he was troubled that Holder did not stand up to President Clinton on the pardon of Rich, who was a fugitive living abroad at the time of the pardon. “To run counter to the views of the [law enforcement] professionals is a red flag,” Specter said. “We’re looking at a very, very serious matter.”

Specter isn’t yet opposing the nomination, just insisting the facts be explored. This is, I think, is the correct approach. Specter is no right-wing partisan, but he is a former prosecutor with a strong sense of propriety. As I (and others ranging from Richard Cohen to the Wall Street Journal editors) have argued, there is ample reason to take a long look and ask the hard questions. Did Holder engage in unethical behavior for personal or political purposes? Was he candid when Congress investigated in 2001?

The real question is: why aren’t more Democrats who claim to “speak truth to power” and complain about the “politization of the Justice Department” equally concerned or curious? Given the events this week in Illinois, you would think their ethical antennae would be on alert.

It seems that Sen. Arlen Specter doesn’t want to be rushed on the Marc Holder pardon. Politico reports that Specter took to the Senate floor to hold up the train:

Sen. Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, has just thrown a wrench into the Eric Holder hearings planned for early January, saying Holder’s involvement in the Marc Rich pardon is a “red flag” and a “very serious matter.”

Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) has been pushing for an early January hearing so that Holder could quickly be confirmed at Barack Obama’s attorney general and be in his office by the Jan. 20 inauguration.

But Specter is already applying the brakes, indicating that Republicans are going to make a big deal out of Holder at the hearing. Specter said he sees no way in which the Holder hearings could happen before Jan. 26. Specter said he still needs to see thousands of pages of background documents and Holder’s FBI background check.

“There are questions that need to be addressed,” Specter said in a Senate floor speech. Specter, a former prosecutor himself, said he was troubled that Holder did not stand up to President Clinton on the pardon of Rich, who was a fugitive living abroad at the time of the pardon. “To run counter to the views of the [law enforcement] professionals is a red flag,” Specter said. “We’re looking at a very, very serious matter.”

Specter isn’t yet opposing the nomination, just insisting the facts be explored. This is, I think, is the correct approach. Specter is no right-wing partisan, but he is a former prosecutor with a strong sense of propriety. As I (and others ranging from Richard Cohen to the Wall Street Journal editors) have argued, there is ample reason to take a long look and ask the hard questions. Did Holder engage in unethical behavior for personal or political purposes? Was he candid when Congress investigated in 2001?

The real question is: why aren’t more Democrats who claim to “speak truth to power” and complain about the “politization of the Justice Department” equally concerned or curious? Given the events this week in Illinois, you would think their ethical antennae would be on alert.

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Commentary of the Day

nocubsno, on Daniel Halper:

The NYT’s political writing is starting to rival Lysenkoist “genetics.” And even worse, it’s wholesome to the point of being insipid as it ignores the blood sport of politics.

Blago’s sin, from the Chicago point of view, was that he departed from the Chicago Way and thereby posed a threat to the Chicago Way. Politics in Chicago is not only affiliated with organized crime, they share the same MO. It’s about loyalty and taking care of your people, not feeding at the trough like a pig and gorging yourself. That’s the way it’s done and it’s good business, because the pigs abuse the system, offend their friends, and otherwise attract too much attention and threaten to wreak a good thing for everybody. Think of John Gotti.

Blago and Blago-ism had gotten out of hand and he had to go. That’s why he went and why it’s unlikely they’ll ever get Daley (he plays the game right and has loyal friends who won’t give him up). It’s also why it was in Obama’s interest to help get rid of Blago and pull back on the throttle of the Chicago system with “reform” – that Emil Jones, one of the most notoriously corrupt Illinois politicos, suddenly found Jesus on reform says it all. Everyone had already gotten all they were going to get out Blago and he was out of control, shaking down his friends, and ready to take everyone else down with him.

Obama’s infrastructure extravaganza looks a little different when you think of sending semis full of hundred dollar bills to guys like Blago. Of course, as another NYT writer would remind us, the real sin of that project is not its great potential for corruption, waste, and cronyism, but the likelihood that guys like Blago will go in for tacky 30′s style architecture and the sort of post-war urban planning that offends the sensibilities.

nocubsno, on Daniel Halper:

The NYT’s political writing is starting to rival Lysenkoist “genetics.” And even worse, it’s wholesome to the point of being insipid as it ignores the blood sport of politics.

Blago’s sin, from the Chicago point of view, was that he departed from the Chicago Way and thereby posed a threat to the Chicago Way. Politics in Chicago is not only affiliated with organized crime, they share the same MO. It’s about loyalty and taking care of your people, not feeding at the trough like a pig and gorging yourself. That’s the way it’s done and it’s good business, because the pigs abuse the system, offend their friends, and otherwise attract too much attention and threaten to wreak a good thing for everybody. Think of John Gotti.

Blago and Blago-ism had gotten out of hand and he had to go. That’s why he went and why it’s unlikely they’ll ever get Daley (he plays the game right and has loyal friends who won’t give him up). It’s also why it was in Obama’s interest to help get rid of Blago and pull back on the throttle of the Chicago system with “reform” – that Emil Jones, one of the most notoriously corrupt Illinois politicos, suddenly found Jesus on reform says it all. Everyone had already gotten all they were going to get out Blago and he was out of control, shaking down his friends, and ready to take everyone else down with him.

Obama’s infrastructure extravaganza looks a little different when you think of sending semis full of hundred dollar bills to guys like Blago. Of course, as another NYT writer would remind us, the real sin of that project is not its great potential for corruption, waste, and cronyism, but the likelihood that guys like Blago will go in for tacky 30′s style architecture and the sort of post-war urban planning that offends the sensibilities.

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It’s Not Getting Better

Day #2 of Blago-gate isn’t going so well for the Obama transition team. ABC News and many others picked up on yet another dodge of “What did the transition team know, and when did they know it?” The RNC is of course turning up the heat, demanding more “transparency” — a call echoed by the Chicago Sun-Times veteran reporter Lynn Sweet some other MSM reporters. The Obama team is said to be “huddling” to consider its response. Indeed.

This is the dilemma that faces all administrations when a bad news story unfolds — how much candor, how much hiding behind “an investigation is ongoing,” and how much tolerance for a news story that is chewing up valuable goodwill and attention. Step #1 was finally – albeit through a spokesman – calling for Blago to resign — because he’s no longer effective, you see.

But even the New Politics and the aura of Obama can’t repeal a basic rule of political news: if you don’t set the narrative, others will. So they should come up with an accounting of who said what to whom, refrain from any further “misspeaking” and be prepared to throw overboard former allies who might have gotten too close to the Blago Senate seat shopping spree. Otherwise, Obama’s honeymoon will be brief.

Day #2 of Blago-gate isn’t going so well for the Obama transition team. ABC News and many others picked up on yet another dodge of “What did the transition team know, and when did they know it?” The RNC is of course turning up the heat, demanding more “transparency” — a call echoed by the Chicago Sun-Times veteran reporter Lynn Sweet some other MSM reporters. The Obama team is said to be “huddling” to consider its response. Indeed.

This is the dilemma that faces all administrations when a bad news story unfolds — how much candor, how much hiding behind “an investigation is ongoing,” and how much tolerance for a news story that is chewing up valuable goodwill and attention. Step #1 was finally – albeit through a spokesman – calling for Blago to resign — because he’s no longer effective, you see.

But even the New Politics and the aura of Obama can’t repeal a basic rule of political news: if you don’t set the narrative, others will. So they should come up with an accounting of who said what to whom, refrain from any further “misspeaking” and be prepared to throw overboard former allies who might have gotten too close to the Blago Senate seat shopping spree. Otherwise, Obama’s honeymoon will be brief.

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Good Talk

An interview with Barack Obama appears in today’s Los Angeles Times. But after a read-through, I’m left wondering if the word interview has not been stretched up to and beyond its limits. Consider this remarkable litany of nothings:

Though world events and economic winds have made his agenda all the more challenging, Obama kept close counsel on how he plans to move forward.

He would not commit to specific plans on matters as varied as free trade, unionization and illegal immigration. Instead, he said, his nominees and advisors are studying the issues and will report back with recommendations.

Asked if he would support the extension of the fence between the U.S.-Mexico border, Obama deferred to his nominee for the Homeland Security Department, Janet Napolitano.

In similar fashion, he sidestepped questions about whether he would move quickly on promises to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement or push the so-called card-check law that would make it easier for unions to organize.

“My economic team is going to put together a package on trade and on worker issues,” he said. “That will be presented to me. I don’t want to anticipate right now what sequences will be on these issues.”

Likewise, he offered no hints about future Cabinet appointments, but voiced strong support for Eric H. Holder Jr., his nominee for attorney general, by batting away concerns about Holder’s role in the controversial pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich at the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency.

I guess he’ll get back to us on . . . everything.

An interview with Barack Obama appears in today’s Los Angeles Times. But after a read-through, I’m left wondering if the word interview has not been stretched up to and beyond its limits. Consider this remarkable litany of nothings:

Though world events and economic winds have made his agenda all the more challenging, Obama kept close counsel on how he plans to move forward.

He would not commit to specific plans on matters as varied as free trade, unionization and illegal immigration. Instead, he said, his nominees and advisors are studying the issues and will report back with recommendations.

Asked if he would support the extension of the fence between the U.S.-Mexico border, Obama deferred to his nominee for the Homeland Security Department, Janet Napolitano.

In similar fashion, he sidestepped questions about whether he would move quickly on promises to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement or push the so-called card-check law that would make it easier for unions to organize.

“My economic team is going to put together a package on trade and on worker issues,” he said. “That will be presented to me. I don’t want to anticipate right now what sequences will be on these issues.”

Likewise, he offered no hints about future Cabinet appointments, but voiced strong support for Eric H. Holder Jr., his nominee for attorney general, by batting away concerns about Holder’s role in the controversial pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich at the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency.

I guess he’ll get back to us on . . . everything.

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Crazy or Corrupt?

Like others, I wondered after reading the criminal complaint whether Gov. Blagojevich isn’t just plain crazy. He thinks he’s going to spruce up his image and run for President in 2016. He thinks he’s going to get the Chicago Tribune to fire a columnist who suggested he deserved  impeachment. He thinks he’s going to get the President-elect to give him a huge job “in exchange” for a Senate seat. This is wacky stuff — as if he was caught in a 1950′s time warp, or a bad “B” movie. No one, even in Chicago, goes quite this far.

And were the people around him — his chief of staff and Advisors A and B, not to mention Andy Stern — similarly addled or were they playing along and humoring a lunatic? It seems peculiar that no one apparently said, “Oh, c’mon Governor. Barack Obama isn’t giving you anything.” Perhaps there was such a voice of sanity, and we’ll hear it at trial.

Although I’m appalled, I’m more intrigued by the mendacity, bordering on insanity. How does some one function in a high office with such a loose grip on reality? And yes, Barack Obama did have some relationship with him, so it would be interesting to know if he ever perceived the governor of his state as a bit delusional. He did support him for governor twice, but perhaps he was duped too and didn’t pick up on Blago’s personal and mental failings.

The story will come out soon enough. But the most fascinating part is yet to be told — how someone this unhinged gets to be governor and gets re-elected without anyone blowing the whistle.

Like others, I wondered after reading the criminal complaint whether Gov. Blagojevich isn’t just plain crazy. He thinks he’s going to spruce up his image and run for President in 2016. He thinks he’s going to get the Chicago Tribune to fire a columnist who suggested he deserved  impeachment. He thinks he’s going to get the President-elect to give him a huge job “in exchange” for a Senate seat. This is wacky stuff — as if he was caught in a 1950′s time warp, or a bad “B” movie. No one, even in Chicago, goes quite this far.

And were the people around him — his chief of staff and Advisors A and B, not to mention Andy Stern — similarly addled or were they playing along and humoring a lunatic? It seems peculiar that no one apparently said, “Oh, c’mon Governor. Barack Obama isn’t giving you anything.” Perhaps there was such a voice of sanity, and we’ll hear it at trial.

Although I’m appalled, I’m more intrigued by the mendacity, bordering on insanity. How does some one function in a high office with such a loose grip on reality? And yes, Barack Obama did have some relationship with him, so it would be interesting to know if he ever perceived the governor of his state as a bit delusional. He did support him for governor twice, but perhaps he was duped too and didn’t pick up on Blago’s personal and mental failings.

The story will come out soon enough. But the most fascinating part is yet to be told — how someone this unhinged gets to be governor and gets re-elected without anyone blowing the whistle.

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He’s Almost There

Barack Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs said Rod Blagojevich should resign. “The president-elect agrees with Lieutenant Governor (Pat) Quinn and many others that under the current circumstances it is difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois,” he said.

For a master contortionist like Obama, that statement affords a world of wiggle-room. In the extremely unlikely event he’s pinned down by a reporter who wants a first-hand declaration, Obama has several commitment-free options. First, he can say, “You’ve heard Robert Gibbs on this matter and I don’ think it would be helpful to muddy up the issue at this time with further statements from me. Let’s see how the situation unfolds.” Second, he can try, “Robert Gibbs said what he believed my position to be, but ultimately I’m the only one who speaks for me and I’d caution against trying to put other’s words in my, or anyone else’s mouth. The real issue here is sadness and disappoint in government at the state level. And I don’t want to get caught up in a who-said-what kind of distraction.” Remember, during the campaign he separated himself from his advisor’s comments in order to preserve his position-free position on NAFTA. Third, he can say, “I wholeheartedly agree with Robert Gibbs that the current predicament would make it very hard for Governor Blagojevich to continue to be an effective public servant.” That’s more an assessment than a prescription, and it keeps the vagueness alive.

Obama could really defy our previous understanding of his M.O., and unequivocally state in simple terms, “I call on Governor Blagojevich to resign at this time.” If he did, it may very well constitute the first concrete position of the Obama years.

Barack Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs said Rod Blagojevich should resign. “The president-elect agrees with Lieutenant Governor (Pat) Quinn and many others that under the current circumstances it is difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois,” he said.

For a master contortionist like Obama, that statement affords a world of wiggle-room. In the extremely unlikely event he’s pinned down by a reporter who wants a first-hand declaration, Obama has several commitment-free options. First, he can say, “You’ve heard Robert Gibbs on this matter and I don’ think it would be helpful to muddy up the issue at this time with further statements from me. Let’s see how the situation unfolds.” Second, he can try, “Robert Gibbs said what he believed my position to be, but ultimately I’m the only one who speaks for me and I’d caution against trying to put other’s words in my, or anyone else’s mouth. The real issue here is sadness and disappoint in government at the state level. And I don’t want to get caught up in a who-said-what kind of distraction.” Remember, during the campaign he separated himself from his advisor’s comments in order to preserve his position-free position on NAFTA. Third, he can say, “I wholeheartedly agree with Robert Gibbs that the current predicament would make it very hard for Governor Blagojevich to continue to be an effective public servant.” That’s more an assessment than a prescription, and it keeps the vagueness alive.

Obama could really defy our previous understanding of his M.O., and unequivocally state in simple terms, “I call on Governor Blagojevich to resign at this time.” If he did, it may very well constitute the first concrete position of the Obama years.

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Zero Interest

At yesterday’s auction of U.S. Treasury obligations, investors agreed to accept a zero yield on $30 billion of four-week securities.  Demand was such that the government could have sold four times that amount of no-interest debt.  Said one analyst quoted in the New York Times, “The last time this happened was the Great Depression.”

Forget sunny assessments of the economy.  Ladies and gentlemen, we are headed for the worst downturn of our lives.  When people accept a zero yield, they are saying alternative investments will lose their value.  And while people feel that way, capital will not flow to business.  And until money goes to business, there can be no recovery.

There is, of course, another message here.  Investors believe in the government of the United States.  So here’s another thing to forget: Fareed Zakaria-type notions of “post-Americanism” and a “tectonic power shift” toward the East.  Yes, America will be affected by the global depression that is coming, but other nations will be affected more.  We are the power of last resort in the international system, and we will emerge from this global crisis stronger.

Will we be as dominant as we were immediately after the Second World War? Undoubtedly not.  But we probably will end up stronger than we were after the end of the Cold War.  Welcome, my friends, to the Second American Century.

At yesterday’s auction of U.S. Treasury obligations, investors agreed to accept a zero yield on $30 billion of four-week securities.  Demand was such that the government could have sold four times that amount of no-interest debt.  Said one analyst quoted in the New York Times, “The last time this happened was the Great Depression.”

Forget sunny assessments of the economy.  Ladies and gentlemen, we are headed for the worst downturn of our lives.  When people accept a zero yield, they are saying alternative investments will lose their value.  And while people feel that way, capital will not flow to business.  And until money goes to business, there can be no recovery.

There is, of course, another message here.  Investors believe in the government of the United States.  So here’s another thing to forget: Fareed Zakaria-type notions of “post-Americanism” and a “tectonic power shift” toward the East.  Yes, America will be affected by the global depression that is coming, but other nations will be affected more.  We are the power of last resort in the international system, and we will emerge from this global crisis stronger.

Will we be as dominant as we were immediately after the Second World War? Undoubtedly not.  But we probably will end up stronger than we were after the end of the Cold War.  Welcome, my friends, to the Second American Century.

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Meanwhile, Back on Earth

Here’s a bailout we should welcome:

Some rich countries are planning a “great escape” from promises to fight climate change as recession bites and a deadline nears to agree a new treaty, China’s climate ambassador Yu Qingtai told Reuters on Wednesday.

“The only conclusion many people like me are drawing is that some (rich) countries are preparing for the great escape from Copenhagen,” Yu said in an interview. His comments underlined concerns that U.N.-led climate global negotiations in Poznan, Poland, are treading water as many delegates and observers question the chance of agreeing a comprehensive treaty as planned in Copenhagen next year.

It’s time to stop treading water and get out of the pool altogether. We’re simultaneously entering an open-ended cooling period and an open-ended economic downturn. No one’s interested in allocating precious funds to make sure our cold planet doesn’t come to a boil. (Well, no one except our delusional Capitol Hill Democrats, who are certain to burden the newly propped-up auto industry with unnecessary CO2-reduction requirements.)

After an endless election season of myth and fantasy, it feels as if we’re finally entering the season of long-awaited truths. The Iraq War will not end, Guantanamo will not be immediately shuttered, detainee interrogations will continue to be harsh, Iran is not open to persuasion through dialogue, winning in Afghanistan is not a simple matter of redeploying troops from Iraq, Barack Obama was delivered out of a sleazy political machine, and climate change isn’t a real issue. Forget about Obama not being the person you thought he was; it’s the world itself that’s failed to conform to election season renderings.

Here’s a bailout we should welcome:

Some rich countries are planning a “great escape” from promises to fight climate change as recession bites and a deadline nears to agree a new treaty, China’s climate ambassador Yu Qingtai told Reuters on Wednesday.

“The only conclusion many people like me are drawing is that some (rich) countries are preparing for the great escape from Copenhagen,” Yu said in an interview. His comments underlined concerns that U.N.-led climate global negotiations in Poznan, Poland, are treading water as many delegates and observers question the chance of agreeing a comprehensive treaty as planned in Copenhagen next year.

It’s time to stop treading water and get out of the pool altogether. We’re simultaneously entering an open-ended cooling period and an open-ended economic downturn. No one’s interested in allocating precious funds to make sure our cold planet doesn’t come to a boil. (Well, no one except our delusional Capitol Hill Democrats, who are certain to burden the newly propped-up auto industry with unnecessary CO2-reduction requirements.)

After an endless election season of myth and fantasy, it feels as if we’re finally entering the season of long-awaited truths. The Iraq War will not end, Guantanamo will not be immediately shuttered, detainee interrogations will continue to be harsh, Iran is not open to persuasion through dialogue, winning in Afghanistan is not a simple matter of redeploying troops from Iraq, Barack Obama was delivered out of a sleazy political machine, and climate change isn’t a real issue. Forget about Obama not being the person you thought he was; it’s the world itself that’s failed to conform to election season renderings.

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Re: We Don’t Get Bilbao?

Yesterday, David Brooks bemoaned the lack of artistry and “vision” in the upcoming multi-billion-dollar Obama administration infrastructure program. Brooks noted that it’s not likely to be art or to bring “communities together.” But today we hear a little about what it will be. According to Robert Poole, who waded through the U.S. mayors’ wish list of over 11,000 projects, we’re getting $73B worth of tennis courts, dog parks and skating rinks. He explains:

The country does indeed need to invest in critical infrastructure. We have a backlog of deferred maintenance on both highways and bridges. According to Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report, 24% of U.S. bridges were reported structurally deficient or functionally obsolete in 2006. At the current rate of repair it will take 62 years for those bridges to be brought up to date. But it won’t take six decades to fix them because the government doesn’t have the money; it will take that long because our political leaders don’t prioritize. Too often they choose ribbon-cutting ceremonies at sports complexes over repairing bridges.

He suggests many of the important things — road repair, for example — can be done privately and paid for by tolls. But in the end you have to make choices. He suggests:

It was very nice of the country’s mayors to hand taxpayers a wish list worth $73 billion. But before taxpayers give them a dime, let’s see the mayors rank those 11,391 goodies — I mean “infrastructure” projects — based on effectiveness and potential return on investment for taxpayers.

That’s a lovely thought, but unlikely to occur for two reasons. First, we’re told this stimulus plan has to be done fast, fast, fast — no time to wait. And like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, Congress will go scampering off with little idea of what’s to be done or how to do it. We have to spend fast, remember, to “create” all those jobs. Second, what’s the point of building things if politicians don’t get credit? Seriously, that’s the motive for politicians –to do things that voters remember so they’ll be returned to office. It’s hard to remember the extra lane in the highway, but very easy to remember who brought the tennis courts to town (because the mayor’s name is on a sign out front).

“Infrastructure” sounds great in theory, but the chances we’ll get the things we really need are slim. Welcome to the New Politics. Sort of like the old politics, but more expensive.

Yesterday, David Brooks bemoaned the lack of artistry and “vision” in the upcoming multi-billion-dollar Obama administration infrastructure program. Brooks noted that it’s not likely to be art or to bring “communities together.” But today we hear a little about what it will be. According to Robert Poole, who waded through the U.S. mayors’ wish list of over 11,000 projects, we’re getting $73B worth of tennis courts, dog parks and skating rinks. He explains:

The country does indeed need to invest in critical infrastructure. We have a backlog of deferred maintenance on both highways and bridges. According to Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report, 24% of U.S. bridges were reported structurally deficient or functionally obsolete in 2006. At the current rate of repair it will take 62 years for those bridges to be brought up to date. But it won’t take six decades to fix them because the government doesn’t have the money; it will take that long because our political leaders don’t prioritize. Too often they choose ribbon-cutting ceremonies at sports complexes over repairing bridges.

He suggests many of the important things — road repair, for example — can be done privately and paid for by tolls. But in the end you have to make choices. He suggests:

It was very nice of the country’s mayors to hand taxpayers a wish list worth $73 billion. But before taxpayers give them a dime, let’s see the mayors rank those 11,391 goodies — I mean “infrastructure” projects — based on effectiveness and potential return on investment for taxpayers.

That’s a lovely thought, but unlikely to occur for two reasons. First, we’re told this stimulus plan has to be done fast, fast, fast — no time to wait. And like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, Congress will go scampering off with little idea of what’s to be done or how to do it. We have to spend fast, remember, to “create” all those jobs. Second, what’s the point of building things if politicians don’t get credit? Seriously, that’s the motive for politicians –to do things that voters remember so they’ll be returned to office. It’s hard to remember the extra lane in the highway, but very easy to remember who brought the tennis courts to town (because the mayor’s name is on a sign out front).

“Infrastructure” sounds great in theory, but the chances we’ll get the things we really need are slim. Welcome to the New Politics. Sort of like the old politics, but more expensive.

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Who Loses?

Aside from the criminal defendants and the Illinois Democratic Party, who are the big losers in Blago-gate? Really anyone who wants to get away with something or get something they don’t really deserve. I’d put in that category: Al Franken, Charlie Rangel, Caroline Kennedy and Eric Holder. No one now has the stomach for even a hint slick dealing or nefarious politics — at least for awhile. Those listed above, and others, may be handicapped in achieving their political aspirations.

Is Majority Leader Harry Reid going to hang up the Senate to overturn an election and seat Franken? Nope. Is Charlie Rangel going to be able to cling to the chairmanship of Ways and Means as the scandals dribble out, one by one? Not if Nancy Pelosi has her way. Unqualified Caroline Kennedy wants to use the Kennedy name to leapfrog over a dozen more qualified candidates? Not unless Gov. Paterson wants grief. And will Democrats boldly step forward to defend Holder’s behavior in the Marc Rich pardon as “business as usual”? Not so much.

This doesn’t mean that some or all of these people won’t ultimately get what they want. But it will be harder, as it should be. Blago-gate is a reminder of what egregious corruption looks like. So the media and public are now on alert for big and small acts of nepotism, law-breaking, and strong arming. It would be nice if they always had that level of concern. But for now we should enjoy a rare moment during which politicians will try to be on their best behavior.

Aside from the criminal defendants and the Illinois Democratic Party, who are the big losers in Blago-gate? Really anyone who wants to get away with something or get something they don’t really deserve. I’d put in that category: Al Franken, Charlie Rangel, Caroline Kennedy and Eric Holder. No one now has the stomach for even a hint slick dealing or nefarious politics — at least for awhile. Those listed above, and others, may be handicapped in achieving their political aspirations.

Is Majority Leader Harry Reid going to hang up the Senate to overturn an election and seat Franken? Nope. Is Charlie Rangel going to be able to cling to the chairmanship of Ways and Means as the scandals dribble out, one by one? Not if Nancy Pelosi has her way. Unqualified Caroline Kennedy wants to use the Kennedy name to leapfrog over a dozen more qualified candidates? Not unless Gov. Paterson wants grief. And will Democrats boldly step forward to defend Holder’s behavior in the Marc Rich pardon as “business as usual”? Not so much.

This doesn’t mean that some or all of these people won’t ultimately get what they want. But it will be harder, as it should be. Blago-gate is a reminder of what egregious corruption looks like. So the media and public are now on alert for big and small acts of nepotism, law-breaking, and strong arming. It would be nice if they always had that level of concern. But for now we should enjoy a rare moment during which politicians will try to be on their best behavior.

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Helping America’s Students

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, is administered every four years and compares the mathematics and science knowledge and skills of American fourth- and eighth-graders to the performance of their peers in other countries (in 2007, thirty-six countries or educational jurisdictions participated at grade four, while 48 participated at grade eight).

The results included some encouraging news, some not-so-great news, and some troubling news.

The good news first: American fourth and eighth grade students made solid achievement gains in math in recent years (since 1995, for example, the average score among fourth-graders has jumped 11 points, to 529.) And two states, Massachusetts and Minnesota, showed stunning progress. In eighth grade science, for example, Massachusetts students, on average, scored higher than or equal to students in all countries but Singapore and Taiwan. And in Minnesota, which has worked to improve its math curriculum, the proportion of fourth-grade students performing at the advanced level jumped from 9 percent in 1995 to 18 percent in 2007, a near-record nine-point gain. The reason for the math gains are due to the renewed (federal) focus on math education in recent years. No Child Left Behind deserves credit for requiring schools to administer annual math tests and demanding higher standards and achievement. The above data reflect the fruits of these efforts.

The not-so-great news: U.S. students are doing no better on an international science exam than they were in the mid-1990s. Students in Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong outperformed U.S. fourth-graders in science. In fact, as Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute points out, American students actually lost ground in fourth grade science, seeing their scores slip three points over the past decade while seven countries (including Singapore, Hong Kong, and England) made double-digit gains. The U.S. fourth-grade students tested in science had an average score of 539 on a 1,000-point scale, higher than their peers in 25 countries.

In eighth grade, Singapore topped the list, with an average score of 567. Students in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, England, Hungary and Russia were among those earning higher marks than their U.S. counterparts. The average score in the United States was 520.

The most troubling news: on average, the aggregate results showed several Asian countries increasing their dominance over America. That is particularly problematic in an increasingly global economy.
“It was good to see that the United States has made some progress in math, but I was surprised by the magnitude of the gap between us and the highest performing Asian countries, and that should cause us some concern,” Ina V. S. Mullis, co-director of the International Study Center at Boston College, which directs the tests, told the New York Times. “It’s an extraordinary tribute to their school systems that those countries have nearly half of all students performing at the advanced level.”

The obvious lesson to draw from all this is that we need to build on our gains in math education and bolster science education. How we do this isn’t a mystery; according to a Washington Post story:

The benefits of tough standards and a focus on foundational skills were reflected in test score gains in Minnesota, according to William Schmidt, a Michigan State University professor who worked with Minnesota education officials. In 1995, before the state implemented math standards based on international benchmarks, Minnesota fourth-graders trailed peers across the country. But in the 2007 TIMSS testing, Minnesota outpaced the nation and trailed only Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan. “It says, ‘America you can do it, and the way to do it is to have coherent, focused and rigorous standards,’ ” Schmidt said.

It’s been said that you can prove the possible by the actual. We have examples of what works in the states, as well as lessons we can draw on from other nations. It will require high standards, accountability, competition (private and public school choice), and increasing the number (and pay) of well-prepared teachers, among other things.

Petrilli puts it this way:

The lesson is that what gets tested gets taught. Under the No Child Left Behind act, and state accountability systems before that, elementary schools have been held accountable for boosting performance in math and reading. There is evidence that American elementary schools are spending less time teaching science, and this is showing up in the international testing data.

Progress will also require a lessening of the power and influence of the teachers’ unions, and especially the National Education Association, which continues to be the largest obstacle to comprehensive reform. One of the tests of President-elect Obama is whether he will side with education reformers or the guardians of the status quo.

As is so often the case in life, we know what is required of us; it is simply a matter of whether we can summon the will to excellence.

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, is administered every four years and compares the mathematics and science knowledge and skills of American fourth- and eighth-graders to the performance of their peers in other countries (in 2007, thirty-six countries or educational jurisdictions participated at grade four, while 48 participated at grade eight).

The results included some encouraging news, some not-so-great news, and some troubling news.

The good news first: American fourth and eighth grade students made solid achievement gains in math in recent years (since 1995, for example, the average score among fourth-graders has jumped 11 points, to 529.) And two states, Massachusetts and Minnesota, showed stunning progress. In eighth grade science, for example, Massachusetts students, on average, scored higher than or equal to students in all countries but Singapore and Taiwan. And in Minnesota, which has worked to improve its math curriculum, the proportion of fourth-grade students performing at the advanced level jumped from 9 percent in 1995 to 18 percent in 2007, a near-record nine-point gain. The reason for the math gains are due to the renewed (federal) focus on math education in recent years. No Child Left Behind deserves credit for requiring schools to administer annual math tests and demanding higher standards and achievement. The above data reflect the fruits of these efforts.

The not-so-great news: U.S. students are doing no better on an international science exam than they were in the mid-1990s. Students in Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong outperformed U.S. fourth-graders in science. In fact, as Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute points out, American students actually lost ground in fourth grade science, seeing their scores slip three points over the past decade while seven countries (including Singapore, Hong Kong, and England) made double-digit gains. The U.S. fourth-grade students tested in science had an average score of 539 on a 1,000-point scale, higher than their peers in 25 countries.

In eighth grade, Singapore topped the list, with an average score of 567. Students in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, England, Hungary and Russia were among those earning higher marks than their U.S. counterparts. The average score in the United States was 520.

The most troubling news: on average, the aggregate results showed several Asian countries increasing their dominance over America. That is particularly problematic in an increasingly global economy.
“It was good to see that the United States has made some progress in math, but I was surprised by the magnitude of the gap between us and the highest performing Asian countries, and that should cause us some concern,” Ina V. S. Mullis, co-director of the International Study Center at Boston College, which directs the tests, told the New York Times. “It’s an extraordinary tribute to their school systems that those countries have nearly half of all students performing at the advanced level.”

The obvious lesson to draw from all this is that we need to build on our gains in math education and bolster science education. How we do this isn’t a mystery; according to a Washington Post story:

The benefits of tough standards and a focus on foundational skills were reflected in test score gains in Minnesota, according to William Schmidt, a Michigan State University professor who worked with Minnesota education officials. In 1995, before the state implemented math standards based on international benchmarks, Minnesota fourth-graders trailed peers across the country. But in the 2007 TIMSS testing, Minnesota outpaced the nation and trailed only Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan. “It says, ‘America you can do it, and the way to do it is to have coherent, focused and rigorous standards,’ ” Schmidt said.

It’s been said that you can prove the possible by the actual. We have examples of what works in the states, as well as lessons we can draw on from other nations. It will require high standards, accountability, competition (private and public school choice), and increasing the number (and pay) of well-prepared teachers, among other things.

Petrilli puts it this way:

The lesson is that what gets tested gets taught. Under the No Child Left Behind act, and state accountability systems before that, elementary schools have been held accountable for boosting performance in math and reading. There is evidence that American elementary schools are spending less time teaching science, and this is showing up in the international testing data.

Progress will also require a lessening of the power and influence of the teachers’ unions, and especially the National Education Association, which continues to be the largest obstacle to comprehensive reform. One of the tests of President-elect Obama is whether he will side with education reformers or the guardians of the status quo.

As is so often the case in life, we know what is required of us; it is simply a matter of whether we can summon the will to excellence.

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Par for the Course

President-elect Obama’s uninformative response yesterday (“I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening.”) when pressed on Blago-gate isn’t getting good reviews. Jake Tapper is parsing it and listing the unanswered questions. He concludes that more needs to be disclosed:

And that would mean that in order to truly be transparent, the American people need to find out as much as possible, as soon as possible, about what role anyone Team Obama played in any of the various shenanigans Gov. Blagojevich is accused of committing — or any others we don’t yet know about.

And John Dickerson at Slate isn’t pleased either:

So we’re left with vagueness. Why does it matter? It always matters when a politician won’t say the simple thing. Maybe it matters a little more with Obama, who can answer the dickens out of a question when he wants to. There’s evidence that Obama wanted Valerie Jarrett to take his seat—the governor sure seemed to think the president-elect wanted that. Suddenly, in the middle of the process, Obama stopped wanting that. Why?

The most intriguing part of Obama’s answer was the adjustment at the end from “we were not” to “I was not” –as if he wasn’t quite sure whether all those encompassed by “we” really were in the dark.

This, plus the failure to call for Blagojevich to resign, should come as no surprise. Obama isn’t know for his sharp and decisive handling of inner circle issues. Remember the atrocious initial response to the James Johnson controversy during the campaign? Recall the slow motion toss of Reverend Wright under the proverbial bus? And Jim Geraghty reminds us of the less than candid handling of the flap over Austen Goolsbee’s conversations with Canadian officials. Quite aside from personnel, Obama doesn’t leap into the breach on policy crises either. ( How long did he take to formulate a position on AIG? On the invasion of Georgia?) And of course, even when entirely appropriate, he’s not one to show indignation or anger (which disturbed critics of his performance yesterday) because he prefers to operate above the fray. His temperament is so superb, you see.

We’ll see if the President-elect regroups and comes out with a clearer explanation of what everyone knew and when. Time will tell whether he can muster up some anger and a call for Blagojevich to resign. If he doesn’t, he’s likely to upset his most loyal supporters — the MSM.

President-elect Obama’s uninformative response yesterday (“I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening.”) when pressed on Blago-gate isn’t getting good reviews. Jake Tapper is parsing it and listing the unanswered questions. He concludes that more needs to be disclosed:

And that would mean that in order to truly be transparent, the American people need to find out as much as possible, as soon as possible, about what role anyone Team Obama played in any of the various shenanigans Gov. Blagojevich is accused of committing — or any others we don’t yet know about.

And John Dickerson at Slate isn’t pleased either:

So we’re left with vagueness. Why does it matter? It always matters when a politician won’t say the simple thing. Maybe it matters a little more with Obama, who can answer the dickens out of a question when he wants to. There’s evidence that Obama wanted Valerie Jarrett to take his seat—the governor sure seemed to think the president-elect wanted that. Suddenly, in the middle of the process, Obama stopped wanting that. Why?

The most intriguing part of Obama’s answer was the adjustment at the end from “we were not” to “I was not” –as if he wasn’t quite sure whether all those encompassed by “we” really were in the dark.

This, plus the failure to call for Blagojevich to resign, should come as no surprise. Obama isn’t know for his sharp and decisive handling of inner circle issues. Remember the atrocious initial response to the James Johnson controversy during the campaign? Recall the slow motion toss of Reverend Wright under the proverbial bus? And Jim Geraghty reminds us of the less than candid handling of the flap over Austen Goolsbee’s conversations with Canadian officials. Quite aside from personnel, Obama doesn’t leap into the breach on policy crises either. ( How long did he take to formulate a position on AIG? On the invasion of Georgia?) And of course, even when entirely appropriate, he’s not one to show indignation or anger (which disturbed critics of his performance yesterday) because he prefers to operate above the fray. His temperament is so superb, you see.

We’ll see if the President-elect regroups and comes out with a clearer explanation of what everyone knew and when. Time will tell whether he can muster up some anger and a call for Blagojevich to resign. If he doesn’t, he’s likely to upset his most loyal supporters — the MSM.

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And He Was Prepared With Hugs and Flowers

Jimmy Carter rebuffed by Hezbollah. There’s always al Qaeda.

Jimmy Carter rebuffed by Hezbollah. There’s always al Qaeda.

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Timing Is Everything

Republicans are getting ready for a fight on “card check” — the measure that would dispense with secret ballots in union elections and then allow a government mediator to set wages and  working terms and conditions if the parties couldn’t make a deal in thirty days. It’s the sort of fight that will engage the conservative base and put wavering Republicans including Sen. Arlen Specter on the hot seat.

Republicans got a couple of lucky breaks on this one. First, the auto bailout played out before our eyes. More Americans than one would have thought possible now understand how a union can price a business out of existence and then, even in the face of bankruptcy, be unwilling to step up to the plate to save their own members’ jobs. You can almost see the ad now: “What Big Labor did to the auto industry, they will do to the entire American economy.”

Then, in the Blagojevich scandal, we have Andy Stern of the SEIU discussing who could be tapped for U.S. Senator. We’ll have to see if the story ended there, but even if Stern did nothing more, it was a timely reminder of the closenes and co-dependent relationship between Big Labor and the Democratic Party.

In the face of all this we’ll have the biggest fight in a generation over the power and influence of Big Labor. Is New Politics just forking over favors to the guys who helped throw the guys out? It sure would seem that way if the to-do list for the first year includes giving Big Labor card check – their long-hoped-for prize, which would be a mega-boost to organizing. That, by the way, would fill the union coffers with more dues and in turn bolster the campaign kitty of many Democratic politicians.

It will be an interesting fight if, despite these developments, the Obama administration decides to use its political capital on the card check. Perhaps these events will embolden the Obama team to tell their labor allies that “It’s just not a good time.” It really isn’t — unless you’re itching for a knock-down-drag-out-stop-the-Senate-in-its-tracks sort of donnybrook that will make immigration reform look like a walk in the park.

Republicans are getting ready for a fight on “card check” — the measure that would dispense with secret ballots in union elections and then allow a government mediator to set wages and  working terms and conditions if the parties couldn’t make a deal in thirty days. It’s the sort of fight that will engage the conservative base and put wavering Republicans including Sen. Arlen Specter on the hot seat.

Republicans got a couple of lucky breaks on this one. First, the auto bailout played out before our eyes. More Americans than one would have thought possible now understand how a union can price a business out of existence and then, even in the face of bankruptcy, be unwilling to step up to the plate to save their own members’ jobs. You can almost see the ad now: “What Big Labor did to the auto industry, they will do to the entire American economy.”

Then, in the Blagojevich scandal, we have Andy Stern of the SEIU discussing who could be tapped for U.S. Senator. We’ll have to see if the story ended there, but even if Stern did nothing more, it was a timely reminder of the closenes and co-dependent relationship between Big Labor and the Democratic Party.

In the face of all this we’ll have the biggest fight in a generation over the power and influence of Big Labor. Is New Politics just forking over favors to the guys who helped throw the guys out? It sure would seem that way if the to-do list for the first year includes giving Big Labor card check – their long-hoped-for prize, which would be a mega-boost to organizing. That, by the way, would fill the union coffers with more dues and in turn bolster the campaign kitty of many Democratic politicians.

It will be an interesting fight if, despite these developments, the Obama administration decides to use its political capital on the card check. Perhaps these events will embolden the Obama team to tell their labor allies that “It’s just not a good time.” It really isn’t — unless you’re itching for a knock-down-drag-out-stop-the-Senate-in-its-tracks sort of donnybrook that will make immigration reform look like a walk in the park.

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Obama’s Heroism

Jen and Abe have been all over Governor Blagojevich’s corruption, but they missed the primary reason the feds were able to catch this sleazy politico–luckily, the New York Times picks up the slack. The fine people of Illinois can thank Barack Obama, and a key (better: revelatory) telephone call he made, for the justice that’s finally being served in the prairie state:

In a sequence of events that neatly captures the contradictions of Barack Obama’s rise through Illinois politics, a phone call he made three months ago to urge passage of a state ethics bill indirectly contributed to the downfall of a fellow Democrat he twice supported, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.

Mr. Obama placed the call to his political mentor, Emil Jones Jr., president of the Illinois Senate. Mr. Jones was a critic of the legislation, which sought to curb the influence of money in politics, as was Mr. Blagojevich, who had vetoed it. But after the call from Mr. Obama, the Senate overrode the veto, prompting the governor to press state contractors for campaign contributions before the law’s restrictions could take effect on Jan. 1, prosecutors say.

Tipped off to Mr. Blagojevich’s efforts, federal agents obtained wiretaps for his phones and eventually overheard what they say was scheming by the governor to profit from his appointment of a successor to the United States Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Obama.

Additionally, in case anyone doubted it, Obama’s “relationship with Mr. Blagojevich [has] always [been] defined more by political proximity than by personal chemistry.” Phew, glad that’s cleared up. In a way, it’s too bad Obama was elected; who, now, will be able to bestow upon the former-Senator the Presidential Medal of Freedom?

Jen and Abe have been all over Governor Blagojevich’s corruption, but they missed the primary reason the feds were able to catch this sleazy politico–luckily, the New York Times picks up the slack. The fine people of Illinois can thank Barack Obama, and a key (better: revelatory) telephone call he made, for the justice that’s finally being served in the prairie state:

In a sequence of events that neatly captures the contradictions of Barack Obama’s rise through Illinois politics, a phone call he made three months ago to urge passage of a state ethics bill indirectly contributed to the downfall of a fellow Democrat he twice supported, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.

Mr. Obama placed the call to his political mentor, Emil Jones Jr., president of the Illinois Senate. Mr. Jones was a critic of the legislation, which sought to curb the influence of money in politics, as was Mr. Blagojevich, who had vetoed it. But after the call from Mr. Obama, the Senate overrode the veto, prompting the governor to press state contractors for campaign contributions before the law’s restrictions could take effect on Jan. 1, prosecutors say.

Tipped off to Mr. Blagojevich’s efforts, federal agents obtained wiretaps for his phones and eventually overheard what they say was scheming by the governor to profit from his appointment of a successor to the United States Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Obama.

Additionally, in case anyone doubted it, Obama’s “relationship with Mr. Blagojevich [has] always [been] defined more by political proximity than by personal chemistry.” Phew, glad that’s cleared up. In a way, it’s too bad Obama was elected; who, now, will be able to bestow upon the former-Senator the Presidential Medal of Freedom?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Economists Susan Woodward of UCLA and Robert Hall of MIT aren’t buying the idea of a second WPA project for a second Great Depression. They explain that “timing may be a problem . . . Complicated projects take time to ramp up to high spending and employment levels. . . . All of these proposals for stimulating state and local spending suffer from a common problem—they will end up generating employment for highly specialized businesses and workers, rather than stimulating economic activity more broadly. A large-scale infrastructure program will drive up the profits of the limited number of firms.” Good to know.

Amity Shlaes looks at mega-infrastructure building projects in Japan and finds they didn’t do much to bolster employment or growth there. What’s the lesson? “It is wrong to assume that construction will guarantee a two-fer for the economy — shining structures and redemptive growth. The private sector is often better than politicians at guessing what the market needs. And infrastructure projects demand so much political energy that there’s too little energy left over for everything else. Congress might want to remember all this as it debates infrastructure funding in the coming months. An edifice complex seems more likely to petrify a country than to move it forward.”

Michael Steele gets a big name endorsement(Bill Bennett) for the RNC Chair. Ken Blackwell gets his own (Steve Forbes). Do these matter? You’d have to ask the 168 people who vote.

No UAW “haricut,” no bailout? Sounds good to me.

Mickey Kaus sums up: “If the taxpayers are going to foot the bill, then the goal has to be a successful industry in the long run–not a Congressional fix designed to protect the UAW from what it would face in a normal bankruptcy. That means rewritten contracts. If the UAW members didn’t want that, they shouldn’t have let their firms go broke–that is, they should have made the concessions they’re making now, and more, years ago, when it would have made the difference.”

It is easy to see why the Democrats want the bailout — to save the UAW and run a “green company” — but why does President Bush? It must be “legacy” time.

RNC Chair Mike Duncan, running to keep his spot, joins the pile-on in questioning President-elect’s response to the Gov. Blagojevich scandal.

He’s not alone: “John Cornyn, the incoming Senate Republican campaign chairman, wants Democrats and labor union officials to detail any contact they’ve had with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who’s facing federal corruption charges. ”

While everyone was focused on Tuesday’s bombshell out of Illinois, Charlie Rangel got more bad news : “The ethics panel issued a statement Tuesday saying it had voted to expand an already far-ranging probe into the New York Democrat to examine whether he protected an oil drilling company from a big tax bill when the head of that company pledged a $1 million donation to a college center named after the congressman. The move means the Rangel inquiry will likely stretch well past early January, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had previously said she expected the matter to be resolved.”

Remember when The Page was filled with references to “Land of Lincolner”? No more. Obama is from Hawaii, don’t you know?

Economists Susan Woodward of UCLA and Robert Hall of MIT aren’t buying the idea of a second WPA project for a second Great Depression. They explain that “timing may be a problem . . . Complicated projects take time to ramp up to high spending and employment levels. . . . All of these proposals for stimulating state and local spending suffer from a common problem—they will end up generating employment for highly specialized businesses and workers, rather than stimulating economic activity more broadly. A large-scale infrastructure program will drive up the profits of the limited number of firms.” Good to know.

Amity Shlaes looks at mega-infrastructure building projects in Japan and finds they didn’t do much to bolster employment or growth there. What’s the lesson? “It is wrong to assume that construction will guarantee a two-fer for the economy — shining structures and redemptive growth. The private sector is often better than politicians at guessing what the market needs. And infrastructure projects demand so much political energy that there’s too little energy left over for everything else. Congress might want to remember all this as it debates infrastructure funding in the coming months. An edifice complex seems more likely to petrify a country than to move it forward.”

Michael Steele gets a big name endorsement(Bill Bennett) for the RNC Chair. Ken Blackwell gets his own (Steve Forbes). Do these matter? You’d have to ask the 168 people who vote.

No UAW “haricut,” no bailout? Sounds good to me.

Mickey Kaus sums up: “If the taxpayers are going to foot the bill, then the goal has to be a successful industry in the long run–not a Congressional fix designed to protect the UAW from what it would face in a normal bankruptcy. That means rewritten contracts. If the UAW members didn’t want that, they shouldn’t have let their firms go broke–that is, they should have made the concessions they’re making now, and more, years ago, when it would have made the difference.”

It is easy to see why the Democrats want the bailout — to save the UAW and run a “green company” — but why does President Bush? It must be “legacy” time.

RNC Chair Mike Duncan, running to keep his spot, joins the pile-on in questioning President-elect’s response to the Gov. Blagojevich scandal.

He’s not alone: “John Cornyn, the incoming Senate Republican campaign chairman, wants Democrats and labor union officials to detail any contact they’ve had with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who’s facing federal corruption charges. ”

While everyone was focused on Tuesday’s bombshell out of Illinois, Charlie Rangel got more bad news : “The ethics panel issued a statement Tuesday saying it had voted to expand an already far-ranging probe into the New York Democrat to examine whether he protected an oil drilling company from a big tax bill when the head of that company pledged a $1 million donation to a college center named after the congressman. The move means the Rangel inquiry will likely stretch well past early January, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had previously said she expected the matter to be resolved.”

Remember when The Page was filled with references to “Land of Lincolner”? No more. Obama is from Hawaii, don’t you know?

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