Caroline Kennedy in the Senate? Gag me with a silver spoon.

America's royal family, the Kennedys. But Caroline Kennedy for the Senate? First we had to put off with Hillary Clinton, the nouveau riche of politics, suddenly becoming senator in the nation's second most populous state.

The wife of a president landed her magic carpet and Vuitton bags in a fancy suburb north of the city and was practically appointed to the Senate — when Rudy Giuliani dropped out, she got to face a candidate who was so weak that you've already forgotten his name.

Sitting somewhat obediently in our civics classes, we were told that people invented this country, at least in part, because they were tired of monarchies. Doesn't look as if we're that tired of kings and queens and princesses.

So now we're going to replace Hillary Clinton with Caroline Kennedy? And we're not even going to elect Kennedy; we're going to appoint her?

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At least Hillary Clinton went through the electoral process. However, don't tell me about Hillary's brains and savvy. She's been a mediocre senator, far less skilled at both arm-twisting and hard-won-consensus politics than the likes of Chuck Schumer, Chuck Hegel, and Chuck Grassley or battle-worthy non-Chucks like Dick Lugar, Barbara Boxer, Bob Dole (not his wife, Libby), even that schmuck Joe Lieberman — you name 'em.

Excepting a few celeb pols like Ted Kennedy (who's been busy and serious for three decades since Chappaquidick drowned his chances for the presidency), look past the Clintons and Kennedys and you'll see a better breed of American political family entering the Senate, a family whose bent comes closer to "public service" and "common good" than practically all others. (Notwithstanding Jackie Kennedy Onassis's truly noble and lasting achievement: She used her celebrity to lead the successful fight to save wondrous Grand Central Station from destruction.)

You want a political family that deserves royal-like admiration without fawning? Try the Udalls, whom I wrote about yesterday. After Stew and Mo worked their asses off in the House and Interior Department, now we have their sons Mark and Tom, who traded on more than their last names during their climb up Capitol Hill to claim Senate seats next month.

Now don't turn the Udalls into celebrities. Read about your usual celebs — including the Kennedys and Clintons — worship them and envy them if you want, be amused and/or disgusted by them, but don't elect them or appoint them to run your lives because they're celebrities. Camelot? I'll take Spamalot — without Clay Aiken, thanks. No more American idols, please.

Other items on a (relatively) slow (so far) news day ...

NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

N.Y. Daily News: 'Ticketed while giving out gifts'

Santa's naughty list just got a bit longer after an overzealous parking agent slapped him with a summons.

N.Y. Post: 'FIRETRUCK HIT HURTS 30'

A firetruck racing to a car blaze collided with a city bus as it crossed a Brooklyn intersection yesterday, cops said.

Thirty people were taken to a hospital, including six firefighters, the bus driver and a pedestrian hit by debris.

N.Y. Daily News: 'Caroline Kennedy can lock in Senate seat by saying she'll run in 2010'

N.Y. Post: 'BARBIE'S FOR THE BIRDS'

A scary new version of Barbie is taking wing. For $40 a pop, grown-up collectors of the iconic Mattel doll can have their favorite blonde, packaged in a box and viciously pecked by birds...

Times (U.K.): 'Fed stuns the world with rate cut to "virtually zero"'

US rates were cut to a historic low as America resorted to drastic action in its battle to stave off recession and deflation.

Wall Street Journal: 'Fairfield Group Forced to Confront Its Madoff Ties'

Walter Noel built the perfect global marketing machine for Bernard Madoff: Four sons-in-law with connections among the wealthy in Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, Milan, London and Geneva, who brought socialite flair and few demanding questions for Mr. Madoff.

For 19 years, the pairing worked. Mr. Noel's firm, Fairfield Greenwich Group, raked in assets from clients clamoring for access to Mr. Madoff. Fairfield, in turn, handed over that money to Mr. Madoff.

Now, the Noel clan is facing the reality that years of face-to-face meetings with Mr. Madoff as well as daily confirmation reports helped Mr. Madoff allegedly carry out a global fraud. In recent days, the Noel family has converged in New York to figure out how to explain its role to friends and investors, people familiar with the matter say.

N.Y. Post: 'SICK WORLD OF "BABY HITLER": NAZI-NAMING PARENTS IN NJ'

All he's asking for is a little tolerance, says the father of 3-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell.

N.Y. Daily News: 'N.Y. sounds off on iTax plans'

A proposed tax on online downloads isn't music to the ears of iPod-using New Yorkers. Many people who get songs off the Web gave the proposal a big thumbs down Tuesday.

N.Y. Times: 'Bush Prepares Crisis Briefings to Aid Obama'

International Herald Tribune: 'Prison for nuke engineer who took software to Iran'

Prosecutors said [Mohammad Reza] Alavi likely wanted to use the software to boost his chances for a job in the Iranian nuclear industry. Access to protected American software would have made him especially valuable, they said. ...

Alavi wanted to move back to Iran because his wife found living in the U.S. difficult. He said he took the software with him because he was proud he had helped design it. He said he showed the software only to his family, and then only for a few minutes.

Reuters: 'Madoff fraud could burn early pullouts'

Disgraced money manager Bernard Madoff's suspected $50 billion (33 billion pound) fraud scheme looks set to burn even those who pulled their investments out long before the scandal rippled into the global financial system.

Such investors may have counted themselves fortunate, withdrawing their money years ago to buy a house or to pay for a daughter's education, and may have even sighed with relief because they ended ties with Madoff long before the scandal erupted late last week.

But they, too, could face trouble, lawyers say. Because of a legal concept known as "fraudulent conveyance," they could be forced to return their profits and even some of their initial investments to help offset losses incurred by others entangled in the long-running Ponzi scheme.

Reuters: 'Iraq shoe-thrower inspires Bush-bashing Web game'

The game, which has been circulated by email, gives players 30 seconds to try to hit Bush with a brown shoe as many times as possible, with the score appearing in the top left hand corner of the screen. ...

On-target shots are met with a message of congratulations: "Shoes have successfully hit President Bush in his face. Well done!"

AP: 'NY gov proposes tax on drinks, downloaded music'

One of the proposed hikes is a so-called "iPod tax," which would tax the sale of downloaded music and other "digitally delivered entertainment services" by 4 percent.

There also would be higher taxes on gas, taxi rides, cable and satellite TV service, cigars, beer, movie and sports tickets, and health spa visits, to name a few items.

N.Y. Times: 'Fixing Interior'

Mr. Bush's Interior Department, driven largely by Vice President Dick Cheney's drill-here, drill-now energy strategy, has aggressively issued new leases and drilling permits in areas that not only deserve to be left alone but that also, even if fully exploited, would add only marginally to the nation's energy supply.

N.Y. Daily News: 'SEC: We blew it'

The SEC confessed it blew many chances to uncover Bernie Madoff's fraud.

Chicago Sun-Times: 'Who's next for Obama's basketball dream team?'

Education Secretary-designate Arne Duncan is a longtime hoops buddy of Obama's who played pro ball in Australia.

"I just want to dispel one rumor before I take questions: I did not select Arne because he's one of the best basketball players I know," Obama said to laughter Tuesday. "Although I will say that I think we are putting together the best basketball-playing Cabinet in American history."

N.Y. Times: 'Obama Team Has Forged Another Link With Clintons'

It's official. The old Clinton gang really is back together again. Answering the phones these days for the co-chairman of President-elect Barack Obama's transition, John D. Podesta, is none other than Betty Currie. ...

Since leaving the White House, Ms. Currie, 69, has shied from publicity and kept a low profile in Hollywood, Md., where she lives with her husband, Bob, and Socks, the presidential cat, which she took with her after Mr. Clinton left office. ...

U.S. News & World Report has reported that Socks, now 19, has cancer.

Washington Post: 'A Longer Race to Run'

President-elect Barack Obama is within days of completing his cabinet appointments. Although criticism persists about the appropriate number of women, southerners, Latinos, Ivy Leaguers and Clintonites, Obama is on course to finish his cabinet appointment process in record time. ...

Obama is almost certainly going to set a second record, this one for the number of nominees for lower appointees submitted in the first ten days of his administration, and possibly in his first 100 days. George W. Bush will be hard to beat¿ — he owns the record for nominations submitted to Congress in the first 100 days. But Obama's team is already hard at work lining up names for deputy secretaries, under secretaries, assistant secretaries and administrators.


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