Milwaukee

Strategist and Scourge

George F. Kennan: An American Life By John Lewis Gaddis (Penguin, 784 pp., $39.95) I. George F. Keenan, who was born in 1904 and died in 2005, and served under presidents from Calvin Coolidge to John F. Kennedy, left as deep an imprint on American geopolitics as any intellectual of the twentieth century. But the exact nature of his achievement continues to elude full or even coherent description. One reason is that most of his very long life was spent in comparative obscurity.

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What is it with Wisconsin? Just in the past year we've had the defeat of Russ Feingold, the war over Scott Walker and now...the tarring of Tommy Thompson. It's gone mostly unnoticed amidst all the drama of the Republican presidential primary, but the biggest congressional primary showdown -- 2012's answer to the 2010 battles that produced Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell and Ken Buck, among others -- is shaping up over the right to take on Iraq war veteran Tammy Baldwin for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Herb Kohl.

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Each year, Money magazine sets out to identify the “100 Best Places to Live in America.” As we noted when we reviewed the magazine’s 2009 list here, the American appetite for rankings and hometown pride drives a plethora of such lists. Reflecting America’s “small town” mythology and nostalgia, Money’s focus in both 2009 and 2011 was on small-to-medium sized communities (populations between 8,500 and 50,000) with a desirable location (within 60 miles of a major airport) and a modicum of diversity (less than 95 percent white).

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Correction: The entire premise of my inference appears to be wrong. The Badger Herald reports that a couple Wisconsin Republicans are introducing a bill to ban prank calls. The hilarious thing is that they insist this has nothing to do with the recent prank phone call to Scott Walker: Although representatives deny any connection to the recent prank call on the governor, two legislators began circulating a bill Monday that would ban making trick calls masking the caller’s true identity. Sen. Mary Lazich, R-Waukesha, and Rep.

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This played out over the holidays so I’m a bit late in coming to it, but Spanish train manufacturer Talgo is converting their new plant in Milwaukee to a maintenance facility set to employ far fewer people following the cancellation of the planned high speed rail line to Madison (and eventually to the Twin Cities) by new Gov. Scott Walker (R). Walker ran against the rail plan and expressed concerns that a federal grant of $810 million would commit the state to unaffordable maintenance costs once the route was up and running.

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Despite Governor-elect Scott Walker’s strong desire to dedicate Wisconsin’s federal high speed rail money to the state’s highway network, it will stay high speed rail money. Use-it-or-lose-it is the clear message from Washington. That may be sinking in and Walker has now stated his preference to dedicating rail money to the state’s existing service, rather than building new. Whether or not he’ll be able to do that, it is interesting to look at existing rail ridership in Wisconsin. Forthcoming Brookings analysis of Amtrak passenger trends shows fairly strong growth throughout the state.

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Which way are housing markets going? The recent national-level indicators have looked pretty bleak for housing bulls. Sales of new homes hit a record low in July. House prices in June topped their levels of a year ago but only, it seems, because of the now-expired federal homebuyer tax credits.  There’s a lively debate about whether housing prices will continue to fall, and David Leonhardt summarized the controversy nicely in his New York Times column last week. But this debate misses an important part of the story. Because housing markets are regional, not national, there may not be a single

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WASHINGTON—President Obama decided this week to raise the stakes in this fall's election by making the choice about something instead of nothing but anger. In the process, he will confront a deeply embedded media narrative that sees a Republican triumph as all but inevitable.

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Note: Here is my latest column for Kaiser Health News. When Assurant Health, a Milwaukee-based health insurance company, announced this month it was laying off 130 employees in Milwaukee and Minneapolis, it blamed the health care overhaul for its struggles -- and at least one prominent critic of reform quickly chimed in. "There are more and more Obamacare job-killing stories piling up like this one," conservative columnist Michelle Malkin wrote in an item with the headline, "The White House War on Jobs." I know a lot of smart, thoughtful health reform critics. Malkin is not one of them.

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Monday’s New York Times profiled New York City’s effort to make itself friendlier to its burgeoning senior population. The city is already home to 1 million people age 65 and over, and is projected to add another 350,000 to that total in the next two decades. The city’s efforts--which include public/private partnerships to help make businesses more senior-friendly, as well as infrastructure tweaks like longer lights to cross wide boulevards and more sidewalk benches--build from recommendations in the New York Academy of Medicine’s work, as well as the World Health Organization’s Age Friendly

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