Monday, November 21, 2011

Manic Monday Markup 11/21/11...

Let's Talk Turkey:

As we approach Thanksgiving, it is crucial that we think of those who have less this holiday season, especially in the wake not one, but two devastating storms that have put incredible strain on families in Springfield and the wider Pioneer Valley.  Consider making a donation to the Western Massachusetts Food Bank or another worthy charity this holiday season.

...And the World:

In Spain voters turned out the ruling Socialist Party and replaced them with the conservative Popular Party who won 186 out of 350 seats in the lower house of Parliament.  Mariano Rajoy, the party's leader, is set to become the country's Prime Minister shortly before Christmas.  A grueling 21% unemployment rate and a volatile bond market have pummeled the Spanish economy.  In recent weeks, leading up to the vote, investors had made a run on Spanish bonds running up the interest rate the government pays to borrow even though the debt level carried by the country relative to the size of its economy is small compared to less responsible Eurozone Countries.  Although Rajoy's party is expected to enact reforms that are believed to help the economy and possible impose more austerity, markets remained despondent today and pummel stock indexes.  Some news sources ascribe the market freakout to the month long transition period before Rajoy and the PP takes office.

In Egypt, the military government that played a huge role in the peaceful transition from dictatorship is now facing accusations of the same dictatorial tactics.  Election schedules have been repeatedly pushed back and fears among both Islamist and Secular parties that the military is jockeying to maintain power beyond the election of a civilian government.  The result has been new protests in Tahrir Square and new deaths.  Today the Egyptian cabinet resigned as protests continued.

The Feds:

As expected, the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, better known as the Super Committee, will fail to meet its goal of $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years.  The result will trigger automatic cuts to the budget, largely falling on the military.  However, these cuts will not begin until 2013, which means a future Congress or even this one could still reverse them.  Republicans are trying to argue that they offered revenue.  However, much of the revenue they offered in "reform" would be eaten up to benefit the rich, who would enjoy lower tax rates, a point Greg Sargent made today.  Democrats wanted real revenue boosters before allowing entitlement reforms that would hit seniors and the poor.  In other words, the blame is not equal.

Ironically, failure of the Super Committee may be a good thing.  If the automatic cuts hold in value if not in allocation and all of the Bush tax cuts expire on January 1, 2013, much of our deficit problems will be solved assuming health care costs are reined in both for the government and private enterprise.

Elsewhere in government, a furor has blossomed (but is presently overshadowed by the Super Commitee and Thanksgiving), over public officials engaging in possible insider trading.  A report on CBS alleged that congressmen and senators were using their knowledge of the government's machinations to bolster their stock portfolio.  This is not illegal as the information is emanating from the government and not the companies being traded.  Nevertheless, several bills have been proposed, including one mandating disclosure as an enforcement mechanism, like one proposed by Sen. Scott Brown.  A much more potent alternative proposed by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand  would make the practice illegal and empower the SEC and CFTC to prosecute lawmakers for insider trades.  While no reports have arisen about any benefit Gillibrand may have realized from insider trading, the Huffington Post found evidence of financial benefits of the practice for Brown.

The State of Things:

Governor Deval Patrick signed the new Congressional district maps.

In the United States Senate race, as criticisms have rained down on Elizabeth Warren's parade for accepting contributions from out-of-state Hollywood donors like Barbra Streisand, it turns out Brown has his own out-of-state power-donors to match the original Funny Girl and then some.  While Wall Street claims to have not been thrilled with Brown, he did deliver for them on the Dodd-Frank reform legislation saving financial firms billions meant to fund a program to wind-down distressed banks.  Moreover, Wall Street is redoubling their efforts to bolster Brown out of fear of Elizabeth Warren.

It is not all roses for Elizabeth Warren, though either.  While her campaign has captured the attention of the press and the love and adoration of the left, her expectations are sky-high, not unlike Obama's say in November of 2008.  Nevertheless, she has fired up the left in the country and in Massachusetts in a way nobody else has been able to.  A New York magazine article recounts how Warren essentially apologized to a would-be volunteer for the fact the campaign was only in its infancy.  In other words, the grassroots is fired up so far ahead of the election, the campaign does not have the infrastructure to handle them like any other campaign at this point in the calendar.

Even so, our advice earlier today about heckling folks on Elizabeth Warren's Facebook wall.  Don't do it!

City Slickers:

A protest in Springfield today headed by the anti-foreclosure group Nobody Leaves led to thirteen arrests at the Bank of America at Monarch Place.  The protest itself attracted 250 according to the Republican.  Police Chief William Fitchet described the scene as orderly and implied that the protesters knew that they would be arrested, which ironically may have led to the fairly peaceful nature of the confrontation.  The protesters outside, while gnarling traffic, were also peaceful and largely left alone by police.

City Council Meeting tonight expected to have fireworks.  The Council will consider a non-binding resolution to urge the Building Commissioner to cease granting permits to Palmer Renewable Energy, the firm that wants to build a Biomass plant in East Springfield.  Legal action is expected if the city does issue building permits.  Minor revisions of the Foreclosure ordinances are set for final passage.

Twitter Chatter:

With the failure of the deficit committee, the only thing left is an official statement from the Super Committee Chairs Patty Murray and Jeb Hensarling themselves.  That statement is incoming, but may already be out by the time you read this.  They will not be making any news other than the fact that they are formally admitting defeat.  No new information is likely to be released in this statement.  Still a torrent and tweets and commentary will bombard the Internet when it happens.  It led to these tweets and the winner of the week's tweet prize from Greg Sargent at blogger at the Washington Post that captures the absurdity of the inevitable response within and without the Twitterverse.

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