Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I found a few interesting things for us to look at this morning.  I’m going to start off with the increasingly creepy role Big Pharma plays in what your doctor prescribes for you when you probably don’t need it.   Only one catch here.  You might’ve asked for it based on the constant and perpetual bombardment you get daily of Big Pharma’s ads for Life Style Drugs.  Here’s a great article from Alternet called: “Ask Your Doctor if This Big Pharma Scam Is Right for You: The Dangers of a Drugged Up America; In medicated America, the fix for every problem is just a prescription away. Except that it’s not”.

In the past three decades, America’s healthcare system has radically metamorphosed from a public service network (largely run by independent physicians and nonprofit hospitals) into a corporate profit machine–one that Dr. Arnold Relman, the renowned former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, calls the Medical-Industrial Complex. Drugmakers have been among the most ambitious, in-your-face pushers of this transmutation of medicine into just another commodity to be sold by hook or crook. In this system, the concept of “care” has been reduced to “caveat emptor,” with the shareholders’ interest in monetary gain overriding all other interests.

A fast-moving, systemic epidemic called DTC has swept across America, endangering public health, jacking up our costs, and weakening the curative connection between health professionals and patients. DTC stands for “Direct-to-Consumer” drug advertising. It’s a plague of marketing, empowering profiteering corporations to short-circuit the judgment of doctors by using all of the tricks of Madison Avenue (including lies) to convince viewers and readers that (first) they’re suffering from a particular malady, (second) the advertiser’s brand-name medicine is the very best cure, and (finally) they must go to their doctors pronto to insist on getting a prescription for that specific drug. The essence of this marketing scheme is to turn consumers into sales representatives for drug peddlers. Brilliant.

Greece might be in a better bargaining position than German Bankers would like.  Here’s an interesting article from Bloomberg called: “Greeks May Hold $510 Billion Trump Card in Renegotiation”.

“Greece has got some strong cards to persuade them to go easy on austerity,” said John Whittaker, an economist at Lancaster University Management School in England. “Everyone fears a Greek departure from the euro because they’ll lose money and lose political capital.”

European governments have poured money into Greece since its first rescue was agreed to in April 2010 in a bid to keep the country in the euro and prove that monetary union, a symbol of European post-war integration, is irrevocable.

After receipt of a 7.5 billion-euro tranche in March, Greece now owes other countries more than 80 billion euros in bailout funds. The European Financial Stability Facility said 4.2 billion euros of rescue cash will be disbursed to the nation today.

The ECB also stands to lose much if Greece walks away from its obligations. First, the central bank bought about 50 billion euros of the government’s bonds to push down yields and help the nation retain access to the capital markets.

Al Franken’s career has been a delight to follow.  He’s pressing the DOJ to explain why it’s tracking people via their cellphones. This is via The Hill.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Franken asked how often the Justice Department requests that wireless carriers turn over the location data of their customers and what legal standard the department believes should apply.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) releaseda report last month that found that local police across the country regularly gather cellphone location data, often without a warrant. The ACLU called the practice “pervasive and frequent.”

The Supreme Court ruled earlier this year in United States v. Jones that tracking a suspect’s car using a GPS device qualifies as a search under the Fourth Amendment.

Franken said that police who obtain location records from wireless carriers might be “working around” the Supreme Court’s decision.

“I was further concerned to learn that in many cases, these agencies appear to be obtaining precise records of individuals’ past and current movements from carriers without first obtaining a warrant for this information,” Franken wrote. “I think that these actions may violate the spirit if not the letter of the Jones decision.”

Franken asked Holder to explain how the Supreme Court’s decision affects the gathering of cellphone data and whether the Justice Department’s practices have changed since the ruling.

Our budget problems are not due to programs that help Low-Income Americans.  Here’s some analysis from the Center on Budget Priorities on what is driving our budget problems.

Several conservative analysts and some journalists lately have cited figures showing substantial growth in recent years in the cost of federal programs for low-income Americans.  These figures can create the mistaken impression that growth in low-income programs is a major contributor to the nation’s long-term fiscal problems.

In reality, virtually all of the recent growth in spending for means-tested programs is due to two factors:  the economic downturn and rising costs throughout the U.S. health care system, which affect costs for private-sector care as much as for Medicaid and other government health care programs.  Moreover, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections show that federal spending on means-tested programs other than health care programs will fall substantially as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP) as the economy recovers — and fall below its average level as a percent of GDP over the prior 40 years, from 1972 to 2011.  Since these programs are not rising as a percent of GDP, they do not contribute to our long-term fiscal problems.

Specifically, federal spending for mandatory (or entitlement) programs outside health care (including refundable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit) averaged 1.3 percent of GDP over the past 40 years.  This spending reached 2.0 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2011, a substantial increase.  But CBO projects that it will return to the prior 40-year average of 1.3 percent by 2020 and then remain there.

Federal spending for low-income discretionary programs is virtually certain to fall as a percent of GDP in the coming decade as well.  Under the Budget Control Act’s funding caps, non-defense discretionary spending will fall over the decade to its lowest level as a percent of GDP since 1962 (and probably earlier).

As a result, total spending for low-income programs outside health care — both mandatory and discretionary programs — is expected to fall over the coming decade to a level below its prior 40-year average.

I’m going to let you know exactly why I would never live in Nebraska again.  A nice Lincoln lady explains why gays shouldn’t be protected from bullying or severe beatings.  Be sure to pay careful attention as to why both Hillary and Judas are ‘homos’.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Euro Collapse, US Pakistan Relations Fall Further and a Royal Auction

Good Morning!

It is a Sunday after a long…long…weekend. Some of you have traveled to visit family, or some may have stayed home and had a quiet Thanksgiving.  The one thing is certain, and that is for the next six weeks, the rush to celebrate the holidays will drive many of us crazy.

I know that the same is true over in Europe this time of year, and to add misery to a crappy situation, there is serious talks and plans in the works as Europe prepares for riots in euro collapse.

As the Italian government struggled to borrow and Spain considered seeking an international bail-out, British ministers privately warned that the break-up of the euro, once almost unthinkable, is now increasingly plausible.

Diplomats are preparing to help Britons abroad through a banking collapse and even riots arising from the debt crisis.

The Treasury confirmed earlier this month that contingency planning for a collapse is now under way.

A senior minister has now revealed the extent of the Government’s concern, saying that Britain is now planning on the basis that a euro collapse is now just a matter of time.

Recent Foreign and Commonwealth Office instructions to embassies and consulates request contingency planning for extreme scenarios including rioting and social unrest.

Of course they are expecting more outbreaks of demonstrations than Greece has seen in the past recent weeks.

Diplomats have also been told to prepare to help tens of thousands of British citizens in eurozone countries with the consequences of a financial collapse that would leave them unable to access bank accounts or even withdraw cash.

I can’t help but wonder what all this will mean for our economy…

In Pakistan, things are really getting worse. Dakinikat had a post up last night about it, but I wanted to bring you up to speed on new developments. US Vows Full Probe Into Pakistan Border Incident

The Obama administration on Saturday pledged a full investigation into a NATO attack that allegedly killed 24 Pakistani troops.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in a joint statement offered their “deepest condolences” for the loss of life in the cross-border incident in Pakistan. Clinton and Panetta also said they “support fully NATO’s intention to investigate immediately.”

Secretary Clinton, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. John Allen, commander of the NATO-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, each called their Pakistani counterparts as well, the statement said.

That is some big responses to this latest incident that has made relations even more tenuous.

“In their contacts, these US diplomatic and military leaders each stressed — in addition to their sympathies and a commitment to review the circumstances of the incident — the importance of the US-Pakistani partnership, which serves the mutual interests of our people,” the statement said.

“All these leaders pledged to remain in close contact with their Pakistani counterparts going forward as we work through this challenging time,” the statement concluded.

This is going to be a big problem…it seems like with the speed of US apologies, they know this attack is going to have huge consequences. Juan Cole shared some interesting numbers yesterday. Empire by the Numbers

Number of Pakistani troops killed at checkpoint Saturday by a US helicopter raid from Afghanistan: 25

Number of NATO supply trucks allowed to cross from Pakistan to Afghanistan Saturday: 0

Number of Afghan children killed near Qandahar Wednesday by a US air strike: 6

Take a look at the rest of his post, for more numbers that will surely give you something to think about. The report about the children being killed is disturbing.

I’m going to move on to Israel, and the latest attempt to remove Bedouin people from land they have lived on since Biblical times. Israeli desert plan would uproot 30,000 Bedouin

Bulldozed by Israel more than two dozen times, a village known by Bedouin Arabs as Al-Arakib is one of many ramshackle desert communities whose names have never appeared on any official map.

If Israel’s parliament adopts proposed new legislation, it never will.

The plan to demolish more Bedouin homes in the southern Negev region and move 30,000 people to government-authorized villages connected to power and water lines has been hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “historic opportunity” to improve Bedouin lives.

But Israeli Arab leaders, who have long complained about discrimination against their community in the Jewish state, call it “ethnic cleansing,” and aim to thwart the project with protests, a general strike and appeals to the United Nations to intervene.

“I will never leave here, I intend to stay until I die,” said Abu-Madyam, 46, a farmer from al-Arakib.

He and his family of nine live in a makeshift plastic-sided shack in a cemetery near the ruins of their wooden home, razed by Israeli authorities last year.

This latest try at removing the Bedouin is being touted by Israelis as a move for their own good, but it looks more like it is in the Israelis best interest to kick the Bedu out of the Negev area in southern Israel. That area is prime real estate for military bases since it lies between Gaza and the occupied West Bank. This is why some Israelis feel the dominate population of Bedouin people in the area is a security risk.

For decades, Israeli governments have tried to attract Jewish Israelis to move to the Negev, offering mortgage and tax breaks, but the region has fewer opportunities for employment than in the heavily populated center of the country.

Only 20 percent of Israel’s Jewish population lives in the Negev, which covers more than 60 percent of the nation’s land area. Bedouin villages take up two percent of Negev land.

This month, Netanyahu sat down with Bedouin mayors at his office to urge them to accept the plan, which could take at least five years to implement at a cost of more than 1 billion shekels ($300 million) once legislation due to be introduced shortly becomes law.

“Our state is leaping toward the future and you need to be part of this future. We want to help you reach economic independence. This plan is designed to bring about development and prosperity,” Netanyahu told the Bedouin officials.

Now that condescending statement about forcing these people off their land for their own good is just ridiculous. The Bedouin know what is going on, and so do global human rights organizations. Amnesty International has this area of land as one of the highlights in their 2011 Annual Report on Human Rights. Amnesty International | Working to Protect Human Rights

Right to adequate housing – forced eviction

Inside Israel there was a marked increase in the demolition of Bedouin homes in the Negev (or Naqab) area in the south. Dozens of villages, home to tens of thousands of Bedouin who are Israeli citizens, are not formally recognized by the Israeli authorities. These villages lack basic services, and residents are under constant threat of destruction of their homes and eviction from the land.

  • The “unrecognized” Negev village of al-’Araqib, home to around 250 Bedouin, was destroyed eight times between 27 July and 23 December by the Israel Land Administration and police forces. After each demolition, villagers rebuilt makeshift shelters.

Back to the Reuters article:

Bedouin leaders in the Negev say Israel has long discriminated against their communities, denying them public funds and services, in a bid to make their inhabitants leave.

Many of them were built, the officials said, because Israel had failed in the past to offer other housing options.

In a 2008 report on Israel’s policy toward Bedouin in the Negev, Human Rights Watch said the government “appears intent on maximizing its control over Negev land and increasing the Jewish population in the area for strategic, economic and demographic reasons.”

“The state implements forced evictions, home demolitions and other punitive measures disproportionately against Bedouin as compared with actions taken regarding structures owned by Jewish Israelis that do not conform to planning law,” the New York-based group said.

One villager, Khalil Alamour, a 42-year-old schoolteacher, interviewed in the article is planning to attend a meeting with the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, that is being held later this month in Geneva. He says:

“We’ve been around for so many years, yet they treat us as little more than numbers on a map. It’s shameful,” he said.

Like most unauthorized Bedouin villages, Al-Sira is not hooked up to Israel’s electricity grid. Alamour and his neighbors have installed their own solar panels to generate electricity, supplementing the supply with power generators.

They have run their own pipes to hook up with a regional grid to provide running water for their homes.

In the ruins of al-Arakib, Abu-Madyam vowed to hang on to land which he said was once covered by lush grapevines and bought by his grandparents more than a century ago.

“I will seek justice until my last day. I don’t have any objections to Jews living here, too, but why must I give up my own rights?” he said.

Good question…what do you think?

In the Philippines, the situation is different. There is a group of people who are planning to build their own community, separate from those who are different from they are.  Philippines’ little people thinking big

People of small stature in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, have ambitions to build a new community – of small houses – on a greenfield site. It’s an unusual idea, but they are completely serious and determined to succeed.

Inspired by the books of JRR Tolkien, the Hobbit House is one of Manila’s best-known bars. There are illustrations from the Lord of the Rings on the wall, and you enter through a round wooden door, just as if you were arriving at Bilbo Baggins’ house.

But the illusion doesn’t stop there – the waiters are all under 4ft (1.2m) tall.

“Hobbit House is very unique – we only recruit little people,” says the proud manager, Pidoy Fetalino, 3ft 6in tall, who has been working at the bar for more than 30 years.

While some might question how politically correct it is, the reality is that a job at the Hobbit House is undoubtedly one of the best the staff can get.

The state does not provide much support for those who cannot find work. And with high unemployment and height restrictions…working at the Hobbit House is a good thing.

They have formed a group called the Little People’s Association of the Philippines, which meets most Saturday mornings in a ramshackle workshop at the back of a flat owned by the president, Perry Berry.

The most important item on their agenda is a radical proposal – for the entire group to move out of Manila and set up their own community.

A wealthy benefactor has donated a 6,000-square-metre (1.5-acre) piece of uncultivated land near the town of Montalban, and there they want to create a place called “Dwarf City”.

Mr Berry has a clear vision of what he wants this community to look like.

“Wow, if you can imagine it,” he says. “We’re creating a housing project designed for small people and we have to create something unique. We’re going to build houses like big mushrooms and big shoes.”

Their idea is to construct buildings tailored to their size, to represent certain themes, and they hope they will be able to earn at least part of their income through tourism.

It is interesting to compare the Bedouin and the Little People of the Philippines. The Bedu do not want to leave their home lands, they see the forced evictions as a form of ethnic cleansing. The Little People see their plan for a Drawf City as a way to build a normal life.

The little people of Manila don’t want to confine this new “Dwarf City” just to the 47 families who are current members of the association – they envisage a much bigger settlement.

“I believe that a lot of small people in other provinces have an inferiority complex, and don’t want to come out,” says Mr Berry.
“But if the existence of this community is well-known, I’m pretty sure they will come and join us. So this community will become bigger and bigger.”

Now for some US news…after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!

It’s amazing what kind of nonsense the right wing can come up with when their interests and myths are threatened.  Here’s the latest Faux News canard about Occupy.  It’s an ACORN plot!  If any one believes that, I have a few bridges across the Mississippi I’d like to sell them.  The Crescent City Connection even comes with tolls!!

How can a group that folded 19 months ago secretly conspire to bolster Occupy protests? Apparently, “sources tell” Fox News that people who used to work for ACORN have now taken on roles helping organize Occupy protests. In fact, Fox News reports that the former director of New York ACORN and his aides are now working for New York Communities for Change (NYCC), which is turn supporting demonstrations.

I’m not sure why this would be especially interesting if true — if folks who used to be involved with one group then started playing a role with another, who cares? — but as it turns out, a spokesperson for Occupy Wall Street said the NYCC isn’t playing a role in the protests anyway. But don’t worry, Fox News’ unnamed “source” said the group really is up to secret misdeeds, adding, “And yes, we’re still ACORN, there is a still a national ACORN.”

It’s safe to assume that Fox News has reliable contacts among progressive activist organizations, right? There’s bound to be plenty of former ACORN staffers and Occupy activists eager to dish to the Republicans’ cable news outlet, right?

Please. It’s really no wonder at all why Fox News’ audience ends up believing so much nonsense.

They do believe the nonsense, which makes Fox News watchers very dangerous in the voting booth.

Dems on the Super Committee are offering up Medicaid and other ‘entitlements’ in order to get tax increases from Republicans.  It didn’t work, but you have to wonder exactly what all they’re willing to put on the table.

Republicans have pressured supercommittee members to reject any deficit-reduction deal that raises taxes — including stimulus spending for the economy would almost certainly be a non-starter for most in the party.

Democrats have said from the beginning that the supercommittee should produce a “jobs plan” that includes “investments” to help the economy.

The supercommittee is charged with devising a plan that will cut at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years from annual deficits, but deep divisions exist on the panel over whether to raise taxes and cut entitlements to meet that goal.

The members met again Wednesday afternoon and Democrats were looking to see if the GOP would present an alternative path to the grand bargain.

You may recall that the grand bargain was the giveaway President Obama offered to Boehner last summer during the debt ceiling talks.  More details are available at this WAPO link.

The panel has floundered since meetings began in September. If the supercommittee fails to reach agreement to trim borrowing by at least $1.2 trillion through 2021, automatic spending cuts of an equal amount would be triggered in January 2013. These cuts would strike especially hard at the Pentagon, an outcome that Republicans are eager to avoid.

Ralph B posted this tidbit downthread last night.  Chelsea Clinton is said to be considering a congressional run.

Clinton has been approached by “the right people” in the New York Democratic Party, according to one source in Albany. While no decision has been made, Clinton is said to be “actively considering” a Congressional run from New York State in 2012.

Chelsea Clinton, 31, is the only child of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The discussions of running Chelsea Clinton for a house seat grew out of the redistricting plans currently underway in the New York State legislature in Albany.

The plan is to identify an open seat for Clinton in or around New York City where she currently resides with her husband, Marc Mezvinsky. While no specific district has been determined, New York City and Westchester are said to be the focus with New York’s 18th District considered a strong possibility. The 18th encompasses much of Westchester County, just south of where her parents have maintained a home for the past 12 years.

The Daily Beast reports that Herman Cain was delinquent in paying taxes in 2006.  Additionally, he fought paying the bill.

According to court documents obtained by The Beast, Cain and his wife, Gloria, were served in February 2008 with a tax lien totaling $8,558.46 for unpaid income taxes and penalty due for the 2006 calendar year.

Gordon said Cain had filed with the IRS and won a six-month reprieve in paying his 2006 federal taxes as he was undergoing his treatment for stage four lymphoma and believed that filing should also have bought him time with the state of Georgia. “In Georgia, a taxpayer can submit a copy of his federal extension to request an extension of state income taxes,” Gordon said.

But instead, the state sent a notice of overdue taxes in October 2007, and then proceeded with the tax lien four months later, he said.

Cain’s accountant fought the Georgia Department of Revenue on behalf of his client well into 2008 and the two sides finally settled the matter in November 2008. A court formally withdrew the state tax lien on Dec. 8, 2008, court records show.

Gordon said the campaign was researching the exact date on which Cain made the payment to extinguish the lien

Robert Reich thinks that Wall Street is still out of control.

Dodd-Frank is rife with so many loopholes and exemptions that the largest Wall Street banks – larger by far then they were before the bailout – are back to many of their old tricks.

It’s impossible to know, for example, the exposure of the Street to European banks in danger of going under. To stay afloat, Europe’s banks will be forced to sell mountains of assets – among them, derivatives originating on the Street – and may have to reneg on or delay some repayments on loans from Wall Street banks.

The Street says it’s not worried because these assets are insured. But remember AIG? The fact Morgan Stanley and other big U.S. banks are taking a beating in the market suggests investors don’t believe the Street. This itself proves financial reform hasn’t gone far enough.

If you want more evidence, consider the fancy footwork by Bank of America in recent days. Hit by a credit downgrade last month, BofA just moved its riskiest derivatives from its Merrill Lynch unit to a retail subsidiary flush with insured deposits. That unit has a higher credit rating because the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (that is, you and me and other taxpayers) are backing the deposits. Result: BofA improves its bottom line at the expense of American taxpayers.

Wasn’t this supposed to be illegal? Keeping risky assets away from insured deposits had been a key principle of U.S. regulation for decades before the repeal of Glass-Steagall.

The so-called “Volcker rule” was supposed to remedy that. But under pressure of Wall Street’s lobbyists, the rule – as officially proposed last week – has morphed into almost 300 pages of regulatory mumbo-jumbo, riddled with exemptions and loopholes.

It would have been far simpler simply to ban proprietary trading from the jump. Why should banks ever be permitted to use peoples’ bank deposits – insured by the federal government – to place risky bets on the banks’ own behalf? Bring back Glass-Steagall.

The EU announced a Debt Accord late last night which caused a rally in both Asian stocks and the Euro.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 0.9 percent to 120.25 as of 11 a.m. in Tokyo, set for the highest close since Sept. 9. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures added 0.8 percent. The 17- nation euro climbed 0.5 percent to $1.3979 and rose 0.3 percent to 106.26 yen. Treasury 10-year notes erased earlier gains. Copper, zinc and lead jumped more than 1.4 percent in London and crude climbed 1.9 percent in New York.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the euro region’s bailout fund will be leveraged by four to five times, and investors have agreed to a voluntary writedown of 50 percent on Greek debt. Sarkozy plans to call Chinese leader Hu Jintao today to discuss contributions from the Asian nation to a fund European leaders may set up to fight the crisis, a person familiar with the matter said.

The news of a deal is “certainly mildly positive news for markets,” Adarsh Sinha, head of strategy for Group of 10 foreign exchange at Bank of America, said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Hong Kong. “We have got a plan out but a lot of the details aren’t in place.”

CNN announced the details late last night.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Greek bondholders voluntarily agreed to write down the value of Greek bonds by 50%, which translates to €100 billion and will reduce the nation’s debt load to 120% from 150%.

Sarkozy said the leaders agreed to boost the firepower of the EU bailout fund, known as the European Financial Stability Facility, “by four or five fold.” He added that officials have negotiated additional funding from the International Monetary Fund.

The writedowns were one of three inter-related problems political leaders must solve to devise a comprehensive solution to Europe’s debt crisis. They must also determine how to leverage a government-backed bailout fund and stabilize the banking sector.

EU leaders had pledged to resolve these issues Wednesday at their summit in Brussels. But given the bondholders’ resistance, it was unclear until the early hours of Thursday if the leaders would be able to follow through.

Earlier, the European Council issued a statement saying heads of state had agreed to raise capital requirements for banks vulnerable to losses on euro-area government bonds.

Under the terms outlined by EU officials, banks would be required to sharply increase core capital levels to 9% to create a buffer against potential losses. The amount to be raised would be determined after accounting for declines in the value of euro-area government bonds, including debt issued by Greece.

Based on market rates in September, banks will need to raise a total of €106 billion to meet the new targets, according to the European Banking Authority.

So, that’s the headlines that have grabbed my attention today.  What’s on your blogging and reading list today?


Monday Morning Reads

Good Monday Morning! Not a day goes by without more examples of Republican stupidity. I’ve got several for you this morning. First up, Rick Perry had a talk with Donald Trump and now Governor Goodhair thinks President Obama’s birth certificate might be fake. That legend will never die. Think Progress:

In an interview with PARADE Magazine, Perry said that he recently met with Donald Trump and discussed the issue. Perry stated that he doesn’t “have a definitive answer” on whether Obama was born in the United States or “any idea” if Obama’s birth certificate is real….

Perry recently secured the endorsement of Orly Taitz, known as the “birther queen” for repeatedly filing lawsuits asserting that Obama was born outside the United States. Taitz told ThinkProgress that she believed Perry will use the birther issue to attack Obama.

From the interview:

Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
I have no reason to think otherwise.

That’s not a definitive, “Yes, I believe he”—
Well, I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate.

But you’ve seen his.
I don’t know. Have I?

You don’t believe what’s been released?
I don’t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.

And?
That came up.

And he said?
He doesn’t think it’s real.

And you said?
I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the President of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue. “

“distractive?” Is that in the dictionary?

Herman Cain is still trying to walk back his accidentally pro-choice comments on abortion. From Politico:

Herman Cain tried to clean up the running confusion over his position on abortion last night, but in the meantime opened questions about his grasp of the Constitution.

In an interview with David Brody last night, Cain said he’d sign a pro-life constitutional amendment if it crossed his desk as president.

“Yes. Yes I feel that strongly about it. If we can get the necessary support and it comes to my desk I’ll sign it,” he said. “That’s all I can do. I will sign it.”

The only problem with that statement? Presidents don’t sign constitutional amendments — they’re passed in Congress and then need to be ratified by the states, and the president plays no formal role in the process.

Is this guy the most ignorant person to ever run for president? He’s worse than Michele Bachmann.

It appears Mitt Romney is about to do another flip flop: Romney, Once a Critic, Hedges on Flat-Tax Plans

As several leading Republican presidential candidates embrace a flat tax as a core campaign position, one contender stands out in not doing so: Mitt Romney, who has a long record of criticizing such plans and famously derided Steve Forbes’s 1996 proposal as a “tax cut for fat cats.”

Lately, though, his tone has been more positive. “I love a flat tax,” he said in August.

Flat-tax plans have come and gone before, and analysts note that they have tended to lose support once they come under scrutiny. But Mr. Romney’s support of the concept of a flat tax underscores the tightrope he is walking as taxes become a larger focus of the Republican presidential race and he faces rivals’ accusations of inconsistency on the issues.

But Ron Paul wins today’s prize for Republican stupidity. He wants to get rid of student loans.

Republican presidential contender Ron Paul said Sunday he wants to end federal student loans, calling it a failed program that has put students $1 trillion in debt when there are no jobs and when the quality of education has deteriorated.

Paul unveiled a plan last week to cut $1 trillion from the federal budget that would eliminate five Cabinet departments, including education. He’s also wants young workers to be able to opt out of Social Security.

The student loan program is not part of those cuts, but Paul said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he’d kill the loan program eventually if he were president. That could put him at odds with some of his young followers, many of whom are college students.

Turning to economic issues, the Financial Times has a scary article about the possible failure of the Euro.

It is time to prepare for the unthinkable: there is now a significant probability the euro will not survive in its current form. This is not because I am predicting the failure by European leaders to agree a deal. In fact, I believe they will. My concern is not about failure to agree, but the consequences of an agreement. I am writing this column before the results of Sunday’s European summit were known. It appeared that a final agreement would not be reached until Wednesday. Under consideration has been a leveraged European financial stability facility, perhaps accompanied by new instruments from the International Monetary Fund.

A leveraged EFSF is attractive to politicians for the same reason that subprime mortgages once appeared attractive to borrowers. Leverage can have different economic functions, but in these cases it simply disguises a lack of money. The idea is to turn the EFSF into a monoline insurer for sovereign bonds. It is worth recalling that the role of those monolines during the bubble was to insure toxic credit products. They ended up as a crisis amplifier.

To be honest, the article is a bit too technical for me to follow, but maybe Dakinikat can help me if she has sufficiently recovered from her nightmarish trip to Denver. Paul Krugman says Europe’s problem is (what else?) the stupidity of austerity.

First, the grim news from Greece is, as many commentators are pointing out, a big refutation for the doctrine of “expansionary austerity.” And it’s worth pointing out that European leaders, and especially the ECB, went in for that doctrine in a big way. Look at the June 2010 monthly report of the ECB (pdf), specifically the discussion of “fiscal consolidation” on page 83 and following. Basically, the ECB pooh-poohs any notion that austerity would have major negative effects on the economy, suggests that it’s quite likely that the confidence fairy will make everything OK, and specifically says that

Determined action on the part of governments to undertake fiscal and structural reforms is necessary to preserve stability and cohesion in the euro area. A sustained commitment to consolidation, possibly including a speeding up of current plans and their delivery, is required from all governments to ensure that the time afforded by the exceptional measures is used to put public finances on a permanently sounder footing.

So the ECB was calling for austerity everywhere. Was any concern expressed about how that would affect Europe-wide growth? Was there any suggestion of expansionary monetary policy to offset such a coordinated fiscal contraction? No and no.

And now they’re shocked, shocked that the Greek economy is plunging into a hole.

Maybe Ron Paul has a solution. LOL

Fannie posted this link last night, but I thought it should be on the front page: Republicans Turn Judicial Power Into a Campaign Issue

Republican presidential candidates are issuing biting and sustained attacks on the federal courts and the role they play in American life, reflecting and stoking skepticism among conservatives about the judiciary. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas favors term limits for Supreme Court justices. Representatives Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Ron Paul of Texas say they would forbid the court from deciding cases concerning same-sex marriage. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania want to abolish the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, calling it a “rogue” court that is “consistently radical.”

Criticism of “activist judges” and of particular Supreme Court decisions has long been a staple of political campaigns. But the new attacks, coming from most of the Republican candidates, are raising broader questions about how the legal system might be reshaped if one of them is elected to the White House next year.

I’m going to end with this funny Halloween-themed satire from The New Yorker: Dear Mountain Room Parents, by Maria Semple. Here’s a bit of it, but please read the whole thing. You won’t be sorry.

Hi, everyone!

The Mountain Room is gearing up for its Day of the Dead celebration on Friday. Please send in photos of loved ones for our altar. All parents are welcome to come by on Wednesday afternoon to help us make candles and decorate skulls.

Thanks!

Emily

Hi again.

Because I’ve gotten some questions about my last e-mail, there is nothing “wrong” with Halloween. The Day of the Dead is the Mexican version, a time of remembrance. Many of you chose Little Learners because of our emphasis on global awareness. Our celebration on Friday is an example of that. The skulls we’re decorating are sugar skulls. I should have made that more clear.

Emily

Parents:

Some of you have expressed concern about your children celebrating a holiday with the word “dead” in it. I asked Eleanor’s mom, who’s a pediatrician, and here’s what she said: “Preschoolers tend to see death as temporary and reversible. Therefore, I see nothing traumatic about the Day of the Dead.” I hope this helps.

Emily

It gets funnier, so please go read the rest! Now what are you reading and blogging about today?