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Feckless transit

The Allegheny Institute has no use for the new contract between transit workers and the Port Authority. It doesn't think the contract will save money on wages, health care, pensions or outsourcing and says, "The spin will be that this contract deals with the legacy cost issue, but it is hard to see that very much progress was made."

Even worse, according to AI, the authority and transit workers agreed to "walk arm-in-arm" to support "national health care" -- anathema to the conservative institute, which also observes: "No word on what the parties will do for world peace or poor academic performance in urban school districts."

Pittsburgh and the Ponzi man

Chris Briem at Null Space doubts that anybody really knows yet how much money was blown by Ponzi-scheme accusee Bernard Madoff, but he puts in perspective the widely used figure of $50 billion.

"How big is $50 billion? The entire gross regional product ... of the entire Pittsburgh region is about $110 billion annually. So this guy supposedly defrauded people out of almost half the entire output of all of us for the year. Or, put another way, all 2.5 million or so of us toiled away for, say, five months just to have it frittered away by this one guy."

The P.U.-litzer Prizes

... for stinkiest media comments in 2008, offered by Norman Solomon and Jeff Cohen at, include:

"Hot For Obama Prize: MSNBC's Chris Matthews. This award sparked fierce competition, but the cinch came on the day Barack Obama swept the Potomac Primary ... when Chris Matthews spoke of "the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama's speech. My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often.' "

"Beyond Parody Prize: Fox News. In August, a teaser for the 'O'Reilly Factor' program said: 'Obama bombarded by personal attacks. Are they legit? Ann Coulter comments.' "

Caroline comes out

Blogs, magazines, newspapers et al are ablaze with debate over whether Caroline Kennedy is qualified to be a U.S. senator for New York.

Pro: She's a Kennedy! (which means she'd start with clout and would have savvy mentors). She's got a sterling educational background (Harvard and Columbia), and has dealt with real-world public policy issues by serving on a number of charitable boards and as CEO of strategic partnerships for New York City schools. (Example: Michael Carmichael,

Con: She's lived in a secluded celebrity bubble most of her life, resides on the exclusive Upper East Side of Manhattan, has served for various organizations mainly as a fundraiser and has no experience with real people or the rough and tumble of political life. (Example: Richard Bradley,

W's whitewash

Matthew Yglesias at The American Prospect puzzles over President George W. Bush's "regrets" over the Iraq War:

"... Bush and his administration misled the country while making the case for war with Iraq and, remarkably, are still trying to mislead people about it. In a Dec. 1 interview ... Bush said that 'the biggest regret' of his presidency was 'the intelligence failure in Iraq.' "

"In other words, his biggest regret wasn't regret over anything he did but rather regret over something that was done to him, a vague 'intelligence failure' rather than a misguided decision to invade another country."

Drafting teachers

Malcolm Gladwell's piece in the New Yorker on the difficulty of predicting who will be a good teacher ought to shake up school systems across the country.

Just as professional football scouts find it impossible to predict which college players will do well in the NFL, so, too, do professional educators find it impossible to predict who will be a good teacher, no matter their credentials or personalities.

Mr. Gladwell's recommendation: Just as in pro sports, districts should draft several teachers for each position, then wash out the ones who can't rise to the occasion after a couple of years, while paying a lot more to those who can.


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