ThinkFast: March 9, 2011

The latest Bloomberg National poll finds that the vast majority of Americans oppose a government shutdown and cuts to education, Medicare, and other social programs. Nearly “8 in 10 people say Republicans and Democrats should reach a compromise on a plan to reduce the federal budget deficit to keep the government running.”

Federal Reserve Board nominee Peter Diamond, who won the Nobel Prize in economics, faced “continued opposition from Republicans” to confirm him yesterday. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said “Diamond is an old-fashioned big government Keynesian,” and that “while the Nobel is a major honor, it does not mean one is qualified for every conceivable position.”

House Democrats on a key subcommittee failed to derail a Republican bill that would overturn the E.P.A.’s finding that greenhouse gases pose a threat to public health and the environment. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) spoke harshly of the GOP’s “allergy to science and scientists” and said they were waiting “until all the Arctic ice has melted and hell has frozen over, whichever comes first.”

Japanese Americans spurred by memories of World War II internment camps are speaking out against the upcoming Muslim radicalization hearings being held by Rep. Peter King (R-NY). “We just feel very strongly that it does kind of point back to the time when just because we were of Japanese ancestry, people looked upon us with hate and terror,” one man told the Washington Post.

Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) released emails yesterday showing “he’s willing to give on some points of his union bargaining bill to break the Capitol standoff and bring Senate Democrats back from Illinois.” The changes Walker suggested in the e-mails would not be made in the budget-repair bill “but in later legislation” and “wouldn’t affect provisions in the bill ending union bargaining over health and pension benefits.”

Idaho’s state “legislature on Tuesday passed a bill restricting collective bargaining rights for the state’s unionized teachers.” The bill will limit collective bargaining to “salary and benefits only, and could not be used to negotiate course loads, class sizes and other working conditions.”

The Senate will vote today on Republicans’ House-passed spending cuts, even though it has zero chance of passing as not a single Democrat has signed on, and some Republicans are uncomfortable with the steepness of the cuts. Democrats have been pushing for a vote on the House bill in order to put Republicans on record about whether they support the draconian cuts.

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi said in an interview broadcast on Turkey’s state-run news channel yesterday that Libya will fight Western nations if they seek to enforce a no-fly zone. “If they take such a decision it will be useful for Libya, because the Libyan people will see the truth, that what they want is to take control of Libya and to steal their oil,” Qaddafi said.

Gen. David Petraeus said yesterday that U.S. and NATO forces have made strides in Afghanistan’s southern provinces and have been able to halt or reverse Taliban gains near Kabul, and even in north and west Afghanistan. In an interview, Petraeus “made his case for an improving overall picture” in the country.

And finally: Between spending battles in Congress and a deteriorating situation in the Middle East, President Obama has had a tough week, but he already got one major challenge out of the way — a parent-teacher conference for daughter Sasha. The first couple visited the Sidwell Friends School in the suburbs of D.C. early Monday morning for the meeting, and seemed pleased when they left.

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