The Note: "What I Want to Know Is . . . "

"Congressional aides have been told to expect virtually the same level of spending in fiscal 2006 as this year in programs unconnected to defense and homeland security. This fiscal year, those domestic programs grew at a slim eight-tenths of a percentage point, and Bush plans to be even tighter, ensuring that spending would not keep up with inflation in most domestic programs."

An interesting editorial in the Wall Street Journal:

"On the campaign trail last year, President Bush said a priority of his second term would be to 'build an ownership society, because ownership brings security, and dignity, and independence.' Sounds good to us. But the rhetoric doesn't square with news that the Administration may file an amicus brief against property owners in an upcoming Supreme Court case concerning eminent domain.

"Never mind that there's no pressing reason for the federal government to weigh in at all on the case, Kelo v. New London, since the issue before the court is a matter of state and local authority. What's more strange, given the President's ownership agenda and stated affinity for strict constructionism, is that the Bush Justice Department would consider siding with opponents of property rights."

The links to the Washington Times' veritable smorgasbord of their interview with the President of the United States: LINK; LINK; LINK; and LINK

Iraq:

Prime Minister Allawi admits that certain parts of the country -- "pockets," he called them -- will not be ready to vote on Jan 30. LINK and LINK

The inauguration:

USA Today's Mimi Hall runs through the state-of-the art security measures in place for President Bush's inauguration next week, including fighter jets, Coast Guard patrols, at least 6,000 police officers, and sensors to detect chemical, biological, and radiological attacks in the subway and elsewhere. LINK

DNC chair's race:

Perhaps Howard Dean's official entrance will prove a turning point, in that the other candidates can now step up and more aggressively debate the future ideological direction of the party.

One of the reasons the race has so far lacked a frontrunner is that beyond a few sound bites here and there, the candidates have yet to break out of the normal (somewhat tendentious) Democratic candidate's rubric, which is to talk about priorities and proposals and ignore, often at their peril, the central question on the minds of voters.

The voters here are the DNC membership, and it is to them that we look for clues about the direction of the race.

Here's what we gather.

--Howard Dean's floor may be larger than some of his opponent's believe, and there is nothing, aside from what appears to be an unquestioned conviction about the truth of alternative by his opponents, to suggest that he cannot really win the chairman's race.

--Dean, Martin Frost, and Donnie Fowler have been the most aggressive in courting members themselves.

--We gather that Simon Rosenberg and Donnie Fowler have slowly won support from more DNC members (even as second or third choices) than some of their opponents believe. We eagerly look forward to Rosenberg's 10:30 am ET conference call to learn about the "series of prominent national figures" endorsing him.

--We don't know, and no one really does, in the end, how much the netroots support will mean to the final result. Suggestions welcome.

--A Kate Michelman entrance could really shake things up, as could:

*The decision by one candidate to go negative on another.

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