The lack of "earmarks" in the rescue bill is interesting for several reasons. The most astounding thing of all is that politicians are actually bragging about it.
The reason people hated the earmarks in the Bush years was that they were a sign of corrupt, out-of-control pork barrel spending of his administration. There was a great deal of agitation, and people hated Bush all the more for earmarks passed by Congress.
The rescue bill is the largest pork project in the history of the solar system. The outcry against earmarks started as an outcry against out-of-control pork-barrel spending. Earmarks were simply symbolic of what was wrong.
The outcry against earmarks devolved into a buzzword. As the left has an iron clad grip on the press and schools, one need simply change the process of spending so that it is not labeled "earmark" and politicians can live on without so much as a token nod to the cause that spawned the anti-earmark anger.
The earmark problem was actually quite interesting. An earmark is government spending directly by Congress that bypasses the administration.
One would only see an explosion of earmarks when there is an administration that this trying to clamp down on out of control spending. One should not expect to see earmarks with a president who is a spend thrift, as an administration looking to dramatically increase the size of the Federal government would want to bring all spending into the administration.
Obama seems to have scored big with the earmark feint. It might backfire. To historians, it might show that the Bush administration was trying to cut spending, and that Congress was the source of much of the economic malfeasance.