First the good news: 90-year-old West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd has been ousted from the chairmanship of the all-powerful Senate Appropriations committee, which gave him his own set of keys to the U.S. Treasury. Now the bad news: Byrd will be replaced by another geriatric, 84-year-old Hawaii Sen. Dan Inouye, whose been a worthy understudy in the art of pork-barrel pillaging.
Little changes, in short, except for matters of style. "Rather than give big speeches on the Senate floor or in committee hearings like his predecessor, the senior Hawaiian senator will strike a lot more deals in the backrooms," reports The Hill. And I'm not sure that's an improvement.
At least with Byrd, who fancies himself a historian, the banditry was accompanied by rambling, 10-hour discourses on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire (with the part about bread and circuses adroitly sanitized, lest the audience see any parallels). Inouye, though an old-school senator and a gentlemen, doesn't even bother entertaining you while he's picking your pockets.