Ah. I see that Herman Cain has revised and expanded his remarks the other day about the nature of China's nuclear arsenal:

Maybe I misspoke. What I meant was China does not have the size of the nuclear capability that we have. They do have a nuclear capability. I was talking about their total nuclear capability. So that's what I meant by that.

Roger that. This is why I'm annoyed at Judy Woodruff for not following up on Cain's original statement in her interview on Monday. She didn't have to be confrontational about it. Just a flat, non-leading followup would have been fine. Something like this:

What exactly do you mean when you say China is "trying to develop" nuclear capability?

At that point, Cain either says something that makes it clear he knows China has nukes and he's actually talking about something else, or else Cain says something along the lines of "Well, I've seen reports in the news media that China would like to develop nuclear weapons, and that's something we can't allow."

Instead, she did nothing, and that gave Cain plenty of time to invent a cover story and then retail it to a friendly interviewer. What a wasted opportunity.

Things move fast in the eurozone. Here's the latest bullet-point summary from the Guardian as of an hour ago:

  • The plan for a referendum on Greece's membership of the eurozone has been cancelled. Prime minister admits to cabinet that it cannot go ahead.
  • There is now growing acceptance that a National Unity government may need to be created. But it is unclear if the New Democracy opposition will agree.
  • UK admits that it may have to pay more into the IMF to support financial recovery. David Cameron says it's the right thing to do
  • Finance minister Evangelos Venizelos forces PM's hand in early morning speech. Eurozone membership too important, he said
  • European Central Bank cuts interest rates. Mario Draghi lowers borrowing costs to 1.25%

Well, that whole referendum thing didn't last long, did it? What's unclear to me is what Prime Minister George Papandreou's original goal was. Option A: He wanted to use the threat of a referendum — and a possible No vote — as leverage to get a better deal out of Germany and France. Option B: He wanted to use the referendum as a way of forcing his own citizens — and his political rivals — to come firmly to grips with the cost of rejecting the deal on offer from France and Germany.

I sort of assumed originally that Option A was his motivation, but in the end it looks like maybe it was really Option B. Papandreou had spent months negotiating this deal and felt like it was the best Greece was going to get. But riots in the streets were continuing, his own party was rebelling, and the opposition was licking its chops at the possibility of the government falling. So he wanted to force everyone's hand with something dramatic. The referendum, it turns out, was probably his version of a come-to-Jesus moment. Do you really want the government to fall? Do you really want to reject the deal and (probably) exit the euro and leave the European Union? The answer, it turns out, is that everyone blinked. Maybe the deal isn't so bad after all. Maybe a government of national unity isn't a such bad idea either.

Anyway, that's the latest. Stay tuned.

(And keep in mind that even if Greece now accepts its fate and takes the deal, there's still plenty of skepticism that the deal is enough to save the eurozone. The fat lady hasn't sung yet.)

Via Steve Benen, here's a fascinating little poll result. It's from Suffolk University, and it's limited to registered voters in Florida, but it's still the first time I've ever seen this question polled:

Do you think the Republicans are intentionally stalling efforts to jumpstart the economy to insure that Barack Obama is not re-elected?

Results are below. What's interesting isn't just that half of all voters think the answer is yes, it's the breakdown: A quarter of all Republicans and a third of all conservatives also think the answer is yes. In other words, this isn't just a liberal conspiracy theory. Even a lot of conservatives recognize what's going on. I wouldn't make too much of a single state poll, but those numbers are high enough that they might represent a glimmering recognition of something that's only been Beltway chatter up to now. If even their own supporters start to believe that they're deliberately tanking the economy for partisan gain, it could spell trouble for Republicans.1 It would be interesting to see further polling on this question at a national level.

1Assuming, of course, that conservatives who understand what's going on actually disapprove of this. If they hate Obama enough, they might think it's actually a fine and dandy strategy.

The Washington Post tells us today that several dozen Republican members of Congress have decided to brave the wrath of Grover Norquist:

A group of 40 House Republicans for the first time Wednesday encouraged Congress’s deficit reduction committee to explore new revenue as part of a broad deal that would make a major dent in the nation’s debt, joining 60 Democrats in a rare bipartisan effort to urge the “supercommittee” to reach a big deal that could also include entitlement cuts.

....Among those who signed were several dozen Republicans who had previously signed a pledge promising they would not support a net tax increase....Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-Ohio) said if he had a nickel for every one of the Republicans who said they supported the letter’s goal but feared how Norquist would react, “I’d be rich and retired, and we’d have 200 signatures on the letter.”

LaTourette, a close ally of House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), said the new coalition was a sign that Republican leaders are now willing to unite with Democrats on a grand bargain that would address both revenue and entitlements, even if it meant leaving behind some of the GOP’s hardline voices.

Even after all these years, I continue to marvel at the bizarre stranglehold that Norquist has on the Republican Party. Sure, LaTourette is exaggerating for effect, but if there are even a hundred Republicans who are tired of Norquist's schtick, why don't they band together to tell him to go to hell? His power depends on being able to pick off individual congressmen who stray from the oath, but he can't pick off a hundred at a time. One small show of collective action and they'd be free of him.

I conclude from this that LaTourette is being duped. Lots of Republicans tell him privately that they'd support him if it weren't for Norquist's baneful influence, but it's just a snow job. They really don't support him at all, and Norquist is just a convenient foil to hide behind. That may not be true for all of them, but I'll bet it's true for most. After all, collective action is what national political parties are all about. It isn't really all that hard to come up with if its members are truly serious about something.

The LA Times reports on the upcoming sale of the Dodgers:

The winning bidder is expected to pay owner Frank McCourt in excess of $1 billion for the team, its stadium and the surrounding parking lots....All summer and into the fall, McCourt — who purchased the Dodgers for $421 million in 2004 — sought to maintain control of his team by taking it into bankruptcy.

Amazing. That's an appreciation of about 12% per year for a team that McCourt has all but ruined and a business that he and his wife have looted of hundreds of millions of dollars. It's something to keep in mind when owners of sports teams weep about how much money they're losing — usually when they're begging for government subsidies or badmouthing greedy players. But businesses that are truly losing money don't usually see their market caps increase by 12% a year, do they?

From Ben Bernanke, at a press conference today:

We are trying to do our best to support economic growth and job creation. It would be helpful if we could get assistance from some other parts of the government to work with us to help create more jobs.

Bernanke's comments about Congress and its budget-cutting mania keep getting more pointed every time he speaks. It's not likely to do him any good, of course, but at the rate he's going I predict that sometime around April of next year he's just going to give up and say something like, "Will you guys stop griping about the damn budget, get off your butts, and build a few effin bridges instead? Jesus." I have helpfully illustrated this progression below with quotes helpfully compiled by Steve Benen.

Aaron Carroll is unimpressed by a Politico piece suggesting that getting rid of the hated individual mandate might take some of the steam out of opposition to the healthcare reform law:

Here’s what I think. Support for the law likely closely tracks support for a political party....I have yet to see any convincing data that show there’s a significant portion of America that loves the ACA, but hates the mandate. I see no politicians running on a platform of removing the mandate, but leaving the rest of the law intact. I see no reason to believe that dropping the mandate will do anything to increase support for the President, the Democrats, or the ACA.

Roger that. Opposition to ACA is as much down to cultural markers as it is to substantive objections to what the law does. On the other hand, I'm not sure the chart on the right makes quite the point Aaron implies. What it shows is that if the mandate is overturned, premiums will go up for everyone who does buy health insurance. In theory, that's a point in favor of the mandate: it keeps average premium costs lower. In reality, it means that if the mandate is overturned, opponents will simply have one more rock to throw at ACA. They said premiums would be affordable, but look! They're out of control! The only answer is to repeal the whole law.

Which is more or less what Aaron thinks opponents will say regardless of any actual facts or evidence. And he's right.

Atrios has a complaint:

It's time to do away with the term "technocratic." It creates a category of policies which are The Right Thing To Do, yet the rightness of the policies aren't tested against anything. They aren't tested against democracy (messy pesky voters!) or results (the economy sucks, technocrats, and this is your doing). But merely say the word and we've conjured up images of very sensible highly educated wonky people doing the right thing, even as they destroy the world.

All of that technocratic management has achieved wonders and now messy politics is daring to intrude. Technocrats are doing their best to destroy the world. Intervene, politics, intervene!

Maybe this is just me, but I'd say the word "technocrat" now has mostly negative connotations, conjuring up visions of Robert McNamara more than, say, Jean Monnet. Mitt Romney and Jimmy Carter are widely viewed as technocrats, and not as a compliment. It suggests little men in gray suits scurrying around and staring at their computer printouts without regard to the actual people behind the policies they propose.

It's true, I think, that it also suggests a kind of person who's not influenced by the corruption of politics and has no partisan axe to grind, so in that sense it's positive. But overall, I'd guess that very few people in public life would actually want to be called technocrats these days. It says "out of touch" at least as much as it does "empirical and data driven."

Yes? No? Tell me in comments if you generally have positive or negative feelings when you hear that someone is "primarily a technocrat" or some such.

Andrew Sullivan points to this jaw-dropping exchange on PBS two days ago:

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you view China as a potential military threat to the United States?

HERMAN CAIN: I do view China as a potential military threat to the United States....They've indicated that they're trying to develop nuclear capability and they want to develop more aircraft carriers like we have. So yes, we have to consider them a military threat.

I know, I know, who cares? Herman Cain is a clown. But that's not why I'm posting this. What I want to know is this: How on earth can a presidential candidate sit down for an interview with Judy Woodruff, spout a howler about China "trying to develop" nuclear weapons, and not get a followup question to suss out whether he has any idea that China has had nuclear capability for nearly half a century? Did Woodruff really not consider that worth drilling into a little bit?

Suzy Khimm points us to a new Pew report outlining the continuing cost of long-term unemployment during the recession. Both unemployment and long-term unemployment get worse among the least educated, and long-term unemployment gets worse with age. "The data show that once they lose their jobs, older workers are the most likely to remain out of work for a year or longer. In the third quarter of 2011, more than 43 percent of unemployed workers older than 55 had been out of work for at least a year."

In other words, although raw levels of unemployment are lower among older workers, if you do lose your job when you're in your 40s or above, there's a very good chance you're going to stay unemployed for at least a year. That's the price we're paying for our political unwillingness to do anything serious to cut the recession short.