Today is the final day of Nancy Pelosi’s tenure as Speaker of the House. Couldn’t you just feel it in the air? Links…

• The same Republicans bellyaching for the past few years about not being allowed to offer amendments to legislation won’t allow amendments on the health care repeal bill. It’s a two-page bill that basically says “repeal what we did before,” and you can’t really win these hypocrisy arguments, but I would hope that Democrats at least pick up on a Republican gambit from the recent past and put a motion to recommit together. Although I do have to admit that Boehner’s office was at least amusingly pugnacious about the repeal bill.

• Eric Cantor wants to offer a bill a week to show a commitment to cutting spending, but if they’re all as lame as a 5% cut to lawmaker staff budgets, which would save a whopping $35 million out of a budget measured in trillions, then I don’t think many people will give a damn.

• How can you call this a major reshuffling of the White House staff when you acknowledge in the article that “nearly all of [the open positions] are likely to go to officials already at work in the West Wing or to former campaign loyalists”?

• The war on public employees continues, with legislation at the state level to curb the influence of unions. That’s what this is all about, using public unions as a model to silence the organizing hopes of the private sector unions, with the actual culprits of the crisis – Wall Street and their allies – getting off scot-free. Marshall Auerback has more.

• Roger Hickey couldn’t get this op-ed on Obama and Social Security printed in the Washington Post, probably because it criticized two of their op-ed stalwarts. WaPo probably won’t print the correct take on the retirement age, either.

• Actually, we do need a manufacturing policy coordinator in the White House, and Ron Bloom is about as good a choice as can be expected for that position.

• A new round of diplomacy in North Korea, as the mood softens there.

• Texas was held up as a miracle of low taxes and low regulation, but their huge budget deficit – a consequence of last year being an out-year of a two-year budget cycle – shows that they’re just like everyone else in this Great Recession.

• Hilda Solis has a long climb on mining safety.

• Any peace deal in Afghanistan should be seen as good news, but I fear that extremism is growing and not weakening in that part of the world.

• Revolving door watch: Kit Bond moves to K Street, Patrick Murphy at least avoids that but joins a Philly-area law firm to defend white-collar clients “with key interests in regulatory changes.”

• Judy Miller tries desperately to spin her way out of her criticism of Julian Assange. I’m surprised she didn’t close with “We were proved fucking right.”

Marvin Ammori on Wikileaks is provocative, not always correct in my view, but worth a read.

• This profile of Mitch McConnell should be entered as exhibit A on why we need to change the Senate rules. McConnell has basically turned the Senate into a large exhibition for watching paint dry.

• Is Goldman Sachs avoiding regulatory oversight on their Facebook special purpose vehicle?

• I’m no Michael Gerson fan but he’s dead on about Michael Vick, criminal justice and second chances, IMO.

• Antonin Scalia cannot stand individual rights, that’s the real point here.

• I thought we already knew that the toppling of the Saddam statue in Iraq was a massive psyop, but this week’s New Yorker cements that.

• Turns out the microfinance industry in India has started to lead to mass suicides, as people cannot pay back the loans given out by a new breed of profit-maximizing microlenders. This is the most horrifying story you’ll read all day.

• I heard a plausible explanation for all those blackbirds dying in Arkansas – New Year’s fireworks leading to some negative consequences – but how, then, to explain the 500 more dead birds a few hundred miles away in Louisiana?

• Speaking of birds, Saudi Arabia accused one of being an Israeli Mossad agent.

• I still use RSS almost exclusively, and I don’t think it’s going anywhere in the face of Twitter. As someone says in the comments, Twitter is like the radio, RSS is the backstop that nothing can get through.

Millions of dollars in homeland security strategy reduced to rubble in fifteen seconds. “Build the danged fence,” indeed.

Bye Bye RichRod. Whatever else happens, today is a great day. Take Denard with you, by the way.