December 18, 2008

Secession We Can Believe In
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Thomas Naylor, a retired Duke economics professor, ascended the podium at an anti-war rally at Johnson State College in Johnson, Vermont, shortly before the U.S. invaded Iraq. His speech was filled with the usual leftist rhetoric about the evils of the Bush administration. His solution, however, was far from traditional. It was an idea that he had been developing for about ten years, but had never spoken about in public. “They were shocked, bug-eyed,” he tells me, reflecting on the speech.

Lahood And Solis: Second Round Picks
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Almost all of Barack Obama’s cabinet members have been outstanding. You can quarrel with Hilary Clinton’s foreign policy views or Tom Vilsack’s position on organic food or New York Fed Chief Tim Geithner’s proximity to Wall Street, but you can’t quarrel with their qualifications for the job. And Obama has managed to pull together a cabinet that represents the full spectrum of his majority coalition without a hint of tokenism. Who better than Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to run Homeland Security or Dr. Steven Chu as energy secretary?

Some Thoughts On Obama's Sec Pick
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What to make of Obama’s pick for SEC chair, Mary Shapiro? She wasn't exactly a dark horse, but the good money was on former SEC Commissioner Harvey Goldschmid and former Treasury Undersecretary Gary Gensler. But Shapiro has some particular qualifications. First, her selection is good evidence that the administration is serious about combining the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Shapiro has served on both--including as CFTC chair--and thus brings both broad experience and a lack of territorial loyalty to one or the other.

December 17, 2008

Trickled Down
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WASHINGTON--Three analysts were recently invited to the U.S. State Department to share some thoughts with the diplomats who serve in the Western Hemisphere. Surprisingly, all of us were mostly in agreement on the impact the current economic crisis will have on the region. Despite the warnings, Latin Americans were largely unaware of the implications of the U.S. financial meltdown and the recession until only a few weeks ago. They believed that the times when the U.S. sneezed and the region would catch a cold were gone. What an illusion.

Could Be Lahood
12:00 AM

Chicago Tribune's The Swamp, the WSJ, and other sources are reporting that retiring Illinois Congressman Ray LaHood might be tapped as Obama's transportation secretary:  LaHood, a long-time staff aide to the affable then-House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.) who took his boss's seat when Michel retired, was elected along with a tide of Republicans led by Newt Gingrich. But he did not follow the same highly partisan path that characterized the class elected with him. Among those LaHood maintained a friendly relationship with over the years is White House chief of staff- designate Rep.

How To Explain A Fixed Election
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Today's front page New York Times story on Russian voting monitors sent to Belarus to rubber-stamp the recent parliamentary "election" in that country is predictably depressing. The president of Belarus, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, is a Putin ally; Lukashenko's supporters managed to win every seat in the 110-member Parliament. The piece follows one of the Russian monitors, Kholnazar Makhmadaliyev, as he travels around Belarus. There is nothing too surprising about the story, although this Twilight Zone-ish, hilariously paradoxical dismissal of fraud claims was amusing: Mr.

December 16, 2008

State of Disgrace
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Even in the era of Jack Abramoff and Ted Stevens, Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich’s alleged crimes--selling the president-elect’s Senate seat, trying to force the firing of Chicago Tribune staff--seemed over the top. Yet, as we’ve been reminded over the last week, Blagojevich is hardly an outlier in Illinois politics.

Back So Soon?
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For anybody familiar with Eliot Spitzer’s writings and speeches, the ex-governor’s 1,100-word debut of his new Slate column on December 3 was pure Spitzerese: dry, dense, logical, pedagogic.

12:00 AM

Did you know Chris Matthews was from Philadelphia? I’ll bet you did. Even those who can’t quite place the MSNBC star’s accent would have a hard time remaining ignorant of his roots in the Keystone State. For years, Matthews’ books and columns and endless gusts of airtime have featured his reminiscences of growing up in the City of Brotherly Love--a sepia-toned place of ruler-wielding Catholic-school nuns, hard-working blue-collar dads, and burly, unglamorous pols like the former mayor and current governor, Edward G.

Heaven Sent
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WASHINGTON--Normally, we might be talking about President-elect Barack Obama's Monday news conference on energy and the environment. But, no. Thanks to the Democratic governor with a wire-brush mop of hair, a crude mouth and what's alleged to be an inclination to put his state government up for sale, the political world's interest has drifted elsewhere. Rod Blagojevich has been a godsend for Republicans who have been looking on helplessly as Obama's approval ratings climb into the stratosphere.