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It seems to us . . . A major bailout, minor political parties, what's in a title and a topsy-turvy world

HASTE MAKES WASTE: Here's the best argument to be made that the House should have acted Monday to pass the $700 billion bailout bill: The extra week gave Congress time to lard the package with targeted special benefits.

As, for example, the elimination of excise taxes on wooden arrows for children, tax breaks for Hollywood studios that shoot films in the United States and help for rum-makers in the Virgin Islands. To be fair, there are worthwhile incentives for general purposes like alternative energy research and pollution abatement -- but what in the name of bribes for votes are they doing in this bill?

Oh, well -- at least they didn't have a month to work on it.

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ALPHABET SOUP: OK, we're giving away a secret here: The Buffalo News will not be endorsing a third-party candidate for president this year. Surprised?

Didn't think so. But while we ponder John McCain and Barack Obama, we do think you should know there are a spate of alternatives on the ballot this year. Some are familiar -- Ralph Nader on the Peace and Freedom Party line, for example, and Bob Barr on the Libertarian line, maybe even Cynthia McKinney for the Green Party. Others, not so much.

For the record, Roger Calero is on the Socialist Workers Party line although, born in Nicaragua, he is constitutionally ineligible to be president. Calero was convicted in 1988 of a felony drug sale, and then went bad by becoming a newspaperman. And Gloria la Riva is making her eighth run for the Oval Office for the Party for Socialism and Liberation. There are at least nine even more minor parties in this race, too, although not in New York State -- and, in the case of the U.S. Pacifist Party, nowhere else either, so far. It's a jungle out there.

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SAY WHAT?: From Wednesday's editions, here's a sentence we never expected to see outside a sports story from Pittsburgh: "A spokesman for the pirates said the shootout report was false."

A spokesman for the pirates? The thugs who hijacked a freighter off Somalia have a spokesman? Hmmm. What has the world come to?

Then again, there is a "Speaker of the House" . . .

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THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS: Policy junkies were treated last month to an explainable but bizarre moment in Washington in which save-the-planet Democrats were pushing for an offshore drilling plan over the opposition of energy-extraction Republicans, while an oil industry president was threatening veto.

Meanwhile, while Wall Street-related state tax revenues are tanking and the governor is picking dates for yet another emergency spending-cut Legislature session, Albany started mailing out tax rebate checks to New Yorkers.

What a state. What a country.

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