Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! There was another Republican debate last night. It was on CNBC, but I just couldn’t stand to watch. Luckily, Andrew Sullivan live blogged it at the Daily Beast. Sullivan isn’t too happy with the Republican choices:

9.51 pm. At this point, I have begun to really lose it watching this crew. There are only two faintly plausible, credible presidents up there, both Mormons. The rest is beyond an embarrassment, and at this moment in history, the sheer paucity of that talent is alarming. Did anyone up there give you confidence he or she could actually lead the world countering this metastasizing debt and unemployment crisis? At best, there were noises about removing burdensome regulation on businesses and a simpler tax code. But who up there could actually bring that about?

Two other things: Romney’s claim that Democrats hate profitable companies. It’s an absurd statement on its face, but as a comment on reality, it’s surreal. Profits are at record levels. If lack of profits is the reason for our employment crisis, there would be no crisis. Second: the boos for questioning a man in power who is credibly accused of sexual harassment and has settled such cases in the past is a sign of real contempt for women in such a situation. Both reveal to me a party hat has completely lost its way.

I’m beginning to wonder if these debates are helping Obama more than his own primary debates did in 2007 and 2008. Next to these doofuses, he seems reassuring. The losers of this debate: Perry and Cain. The winners? Gingrich and Obama.

Earlier, Sullivan wrote Rick Perry’s epitaph:

9.18 pm. Perry collapses. Cannot remember a list of three federal government departments he wants to abolish past the first two. Seriously. And then he says “oops.” He has all but disappeared inside his suit in this debate and is now basically done. And notice the casualness with which he intends to abolish whole government departments. Has he thought through the consequences? Or is he just a bad performance artist?

Watch it:

I’m so glad I didn’t watch!

Actually, I really don’t watch much TV, so I totally missed out on the new nationwide emergency alert test at 2PM yesterday. The Washington Post is very concerned that people like me will miss a real alert if one ever happens. They want an emergency alert system for the internet and phones.

FEMA launched a national alert system for phones in May, called PLAN, that reaches some smartphones on some national providers. The program sends out free text messages about emergency situations. However, only about 50 percent of Americans own smartphones and the program has not fully been adopted across the country.

As for Internet alerts, they work mainly on an opt-in basis. FEMA has an iPad and Android app and Twitter and Facebook accounts. However, this system of requiring Americans to actively seek out FEMA differs dramatically from the PLAN system or the Emergency Alert System. The alert system pushes messages out to Americans whether they want them or not. FEMA works with cable providers to get the word out.

It would be interesting to see the agency undertaking something similar in partnerships with major Internet companies. Could it be possible for the Google logo to turn into an alert message? Or for Twitter’s promoted ads — which appear in user timelines — to be a message from FEMA?

It may not be that long in the future for a truly integrated nationwide alert system. FEMA is working on an Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) that will employ all communication devices.

Ugh. I’d almost rather miss the warning of a nuclear attack or whatever FEMA wants to alert me to. I doubt if I’d be able to do anything to get out of the way of a nuke or a terrorist attack.

We’re hearing more about the Super Committee as the days tick down to the deadline. Supposedly, they’re supposed to figure out $1.2 trillion in cuts by Thanksgiving. Reuters has a gossipy piece on the committee’s secret inner workings: Inside Room 200, home of the “super committee”

Deep beneath the Capitol is a red-carpeted room that recently reverberated to the sound of Democrats and Republicans singing together, and then to their angry exchanges over how to fix the U.S. budget.

Welcome to Congress’s “super committee” room….

“At this point, the most serious adult conversations going in Congress are at the super committee,” a senior aide said.

“Members are driven by a sense that this is a very precarious time in U.S. history that beckons a solution,” the aide said. “But at the same time, members wrestle with political loyalties that they can’t divorce themselves from.”

Democrats are pushing to cut the deficit by up to $3 trillion over 10 years, much higher than the super committee’s target, with a mix of spending cuts and new tax revenues. But Republicans deeply oppose raising taxes, warning of job losses and damage to an already fragile economic recovery.

Read the article if you’re interested in which committee members are making friends and hanging out together. {shudder}

Whiny old Mitch McConnell claims the White House wants the super committee to fail.

After leaving the Republicans’ weekly policy luncheon, McConnell was asked about Senator Charles Schumer’s prediction yesterday that the Super Committee would likely fail to strike an agreement on a plan to cut $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion from the deficit over the next 10 years “because our Republican colleagues have said no net revenues.”

Responding today, McConnell said Schumer (D-NY), the Democrats’ primary messenger, is indicative of how Democrats and the White House want this committee to fail.

“It’s pretty clear when Chuck Schumer speaks, he’s speaking from the most partisan Democratic position,” McConnell said today. “And it does raise your suspicion that the folks down at the White House are pulling for failure. Because you see, if the Joint Committee succeeds, it steps on the story line that they’ve been peddling, which is that you can’t do anything with the Republicans in Congress.”

McConnell said the six Republicans on the 12-member committee from the House and Senate want an outcome and “do not believe failure is an option.”

Because of course McConnell and his pals aren’t the least bit partisan, and all they want is what is best for the country. /snark

Meanwhile, President Obama is getting the hell out of Dodge and leaving Congress to its own devices.

The so-called super committee will be busy with final negotiations while President Obama travels to Hawaii, Australia and Indonesia and the White House says President Obama will be getting updates on what is happening.

He likely won’t be receiving extra briefings, but the latest on the super committee meetings will be a part of his regular updates he gets while he is traveling.

Obama is going to Hawaii first for the APEC summit, then Australia for a re-scheduled trip from last year, and then Bali, Indonesia for the East Asia Summit. He leaves Friday for the week-long trip that will have a heavy emphasis on jobs and national security, which the White house says fits right into the president’s number priority – jobs.

The NYT has an op-ed by John Quiggin called Euro Crisis’s Enabler: The Central Bank. Quiggin blames ECB policies for the Eurocrisis.

Far from struggling to manage a “one size fits all” monetary policy, the bank has pursued a “one size fits nobody” policy of monetary contraction, at a time when no European economy is growing strongly. With great reluctance, the bank has agreed to support the markets for European sovereign debt through purchases of government bonds. But, unlike the policy of quantitative easing pursued by the Federal Reserve — in which the United States’ central bank amassed Treasury securities to push down long-term interest rates — the European Central Bank has insisted on “sterilizing,” or neutralizing, its purchases of government bonds by selling the securities to private-sector banks. Such a policy cannot be sustained on a scale sufficient to stabilize financial markets.

This is part of a broader problem: the European Central Bank’s conception of its own role. The bank was established in 1998, at a time when memories of the inflationary surge of the 1970s and 1980s were still fresh. It was therefore given a mandate that focused primarily on inflation, and has interpreted that mandate very narrowly.

Unlike any previous central bank in history, the bank has disclaimed any responsibility for the European financial system it effectively controls, or even for the viability of the euro as a currency. Instead, it has focused almost entirely on the formal objective of keeping inflation rates to a 2 percent target.

Quggin says that the new head of the ECB, Mario Draghi must

announce that the central bank will stand behind the sovereign debt of euro zone members, if necessary at the expense of the 2 percent inflation target. This would give governments the financial resources they needed to recapitalize banks. Since the crisis is largely one of confidence, it is likely that bond markets would stabilize without the need for large-scale bond purchases, once there was a credible commitment to intervene where necessary.

Coach Joe Paterno and President Graham B. Spanier are gone from Penn State.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Graham B. Spanier, one of the longest-serving and highest-paid university presidents in the nation, who has helped raise the academic profile of Penn State during his tenure, stepped down Wednesday night in the wake of a sexual-abuse scandal involving a prominent former assistant football coach and the university’s failure to act to halt further harm.

Spanier’s departure came as the university’s Board of Trustees also ended the 84-year-old Joe Paterno’s career, denying him his wish to finish out the season, his 46th as the head football coach and his 62nd over all at the school.

The defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will take over as interim head coach.

The university’s most senior officials were clearly seeking to halt the humiliating damage caused by the arrest last Saturday of the former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, a man who had been a key part of a legendary football program, but who prosecutors have said was a serial pedophile, one who was allowed to add victims over the years in part because the university he had served was either unable or unwilling to stop him.

Here’s a piece by addiction expert Stanton Peele about the link between “disregard for societal constraints and college sports.” Reacting to the Penn State scandal, Peele writes:

Do I really mean college sports teams encourage sexual abuse of children? Not exactly. What I mean is, college sports are so dominant at American universities that even the most heinous sex crimes will be covered over rather than being allowed to disturb the giant university-sports complex. This is perhaps especially evident at Penn State, where 84-year-old Paterno has side-stepped all criticisms during his career, and proceeded to rack up the all-time leading victory total for a major college football coach. This has “established him,” according to the Times, “as one of the nation’s most revered leaders.”

This same man declined to report Sandusky directly to police and thus permitted him—as did other university officials—to continue to use the school facilities for “chicken-hawking” (a technical term for seducing children) for 15 years! Pennsylvania officals were disbelieving that their great university could allow such a state of affairs for so long. In the words of the Times, these officials felt that while Paterno may not have committed a crime, he “might well have failed a moral test for what to do when confronted with such a disturbing allegation involving a child not even in his teens. No one at the university alerted the police or pursued the matter to determine the well-being of the child involved.”

Ahh, but the greater glory of Penn State sports was preserved!

That’s it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today?