ThinkFast: March 12, 2009

Last night at a Politico/Starbucks “Coffeehouse Conversation,” House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) did not “rule out the the idea of a second stimulus package.” Asked if “he would be willing to sit down with the White House and congressional Democrats to discuss any new emergency spending proposals,” Cantor responded, “You have to.”

Nobel-laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz said the stimulus passed by Congress this year was “too small” and “too slow.” “We need a larger and better designed stimulus,” Stiglitz said at a press conference in Geneva.

“More than 1-in-10 workers were unemployed in four U.S. states in January,” according to new Labor Department numbers that “pointed to a rapid deterioration in the job market.” Michigan’s unemployment rate was 11.6 percent, “up 4.3 percentage points from a year earlier and the highest for any state.”

Foreclosure filings rose 6 percent from January to February, RealtyTrac reports, and are up 30 percent from the same period a year ago. Considering government and industry efforts to halt foreclosures, Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac’s senior vice president, said they expected to see a decline. “So the fact that we saw an increase fell between a shock and surprise,” he said, adding, “It’s a little troubling.”


Muntadar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who gained international fame for throwing his shoes at President Bush, has been sentenced to three years in prison. Zaidi reportedly shouted “long live Iraq” as the verdict was read. His lawyers “described the sentence as ‘harsh’ and said they would appeal.”

In Pakistan, the civilian government “banned a national protest march and arrested hundreds of political workers on Wednesday, evoking for many Pakistanis the sweeping security restrictions of the military dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.” Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, “vowed to forge ahead” with the protest, which “now appears aimed at eventually toppling the Zardari government.”

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) said yesterday that deferring global actions to combat climate change because of the economy amounted to “a mutual suicide pact.” “Climate change is not governed by a recession, it’s governed by scientific facts about what’s happening to Earth. And you either accept the realities of the science or you don’t,” he said.

President Obama issued his first signing statement yesterday, “reserving a right to bypass dozens of provisions in a $410 billion government spending bill even as he signed it into law.” David M. Golove of New York University Law School “said the prerogatives invoked by Mr. Obama were relatively uncontroversial. Still, Mr. Golove said he was surprised by the scope and detail of the objections.”

Obama will appoint former assistant secretary of state for European affairs Daniel Fried as a special envoy on the Guantanamo Bay prison, “a move that underscores the importance the administration places on persuading other countries to accept detainees as part of the president’s plan to close the detention camp in a year.”


And finally: Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) has put Rush Limbaugh on notice. Since early February, Sherman has been trying to arrange a debate between the hate radio host and himself. He even sent Limbaugh a letter on Feb. 13, writing, “If you had any confidence in your position, you would agree to my request to have me on your show — where I’m sure I could demonstrate the merits of my views. You are a coward. Very truly yours, Brad Sherman.” Sherman has not yet received a response.

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