• Today's official transition announcements: Mary Schapiro for chairwoman of the SEC, Gary Gensler for chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Dan Tarullo for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board. Transition buzz: Hilda Solis for Labor secretary, physicist John Holdren for science adviser, William White for Naval secretary, Admiral Dennis Blair for director of National Intelligence, marine biologist Jane Lubchenco for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Zeke Emanuel, Rahm's brother, as senior counselor at the White House Office of Management and Budget on health policy, working closely with HHS-designate Tom Daschle.
  • The emerging non-outraged/baffled thesis as to why Barack Obama is having Rick Warren lead the inaugural invocation is that it's politically savvy. Tim takes down one representative sample, this Damon Linker defense of the pick, but the least thoughtful part is where Linker submits that "it is in Obama's interest (and the Democrats') to peel as many moderate evangelicals away from the GOP as he can," as if this is some sort of vital swing demographic in the making. Leaving aside what a "moderate evangelical" is (do they believe life begins at conception, for instance?) it's instructive to remember who these people vote for. According to the CNN 2008 election exit poll, protestants went for McCain 54-45 and white evangelicals/born again by around 3-1 while comprising at most about a quarter of the sample. Given this reality, would "peeling away" a few moderates even make a difference?
  • The Economist's Democracy in America blog breaks down "the Obama Congress, district by district," and the results are interesting. "[T]he current Democratic majority is the most stable in decades" and that's even before the Dem-friendly maps gets codified following the 2010 census. Also, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that 56 percent of Americans think Democrats will do a better job handling the main challenges the nation faces over the next few years compared to just 23 percent for Republicans. Clearly, more evidence of our center-right nation.
  • Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown has a novel solution to Illinois' Blagojevich problem: "Just how much money do you think it would take to persuade Blagojevich to get the bleep out of the way? I'm serious. ... Would a year's salary do the trick? Probably not, but he'd have to give it serious thought. Two years' salary? Might be too generous, but it would be better than if he somehow remained governor for the next two years and we had to pay him anyway."
  • Speaking of governors filling Senate vacancies, Nolan McCarty crunches the numbers since the passage of the 17th Amendment (which mandated that senators be popularly elected) and finds that appointments were far more frequent in the in the '10s-'60s than they are today, probably because folks simply live longer now and don't die in office as often. But also the expectations for the appointee have changed as well: "Back in the day when most appointed senators were placeholders and caretakers, granting this power to a governor seemed okay. Now that the norm is that appointed senators are expected to run for reelection and hold the seat, the practice creates more opportunities for corruption and conflicts of interest than we really ought to tolerate."
  • The evidence keeps mounting that Karl Rove is angling for a career as a professional comedian. Speaking to Reader's Digest, Rove observed that "less obvious is how to create a White House where forceful debate can take place. Plain speaking, straight talk, and dissent must be encouraged, with participants thoroughly prepared, ideas offered with deference for opposing views, and colleagues not subjected to self-serving leaks. The power of the Oval Office can cower critics and silence disagreement; the Chief Executive must labor hard to make it a place of debate and vigorous debate."
  • Eric Kleefeld makes the case that when the dust finally settles Al Franken will probably win the Minnesota Senate race, in a decision that could come as early as tomorrow when the canvassing board certifies the results.

--Mori Dinauer