...And the World:
The leader of one of the world's most closed regime, Kim Jong-il, died. The bizarre dictator of North Korea, with whom the United Nations and its southern neighbor are technically still at war, died of a heart attack Saturday. While the fact that it took until today for intelligence agencies in South Korea, China and the United States is considered a failure, the biggest concern is how stable the Korean peninsula will remain. Kim's son, Kim Jong-un, is his successor, but his standing in the autocratic regime unknown with other media sources saying he is simply unprepared for the trials that North Korea faces. Clips from North Korean state television showed sobbing news announcers in stark contrast to feelings in the free speech-allowed South.
Tomorrow Mariano Rajoy will be sworn in as the Prime Minister of Spain tomorrow as his country faces the brunt of Europe spiraling debt crisis. In an address to the Spanish parliament today he promised to cut sixteen billion euros, possibly more, to help get the country's deficit down. While Spain has relatively low debt its economy has strained to grow and suffers from more than 20% unemployment which makes it difficult for markets to trust Spain to control its debt. Still, Spain has been perhaps unfairly punished by markets in comparison to Greece or Ireland's fiscal failings.
House Speaker John Boehner voiced surprising opposition to the deal Senate leaders cut on Friday to extend the payroll tax for two months yesterday on Meet the Press. Republicans were expected to vote tonight to reject the Senate bill and then appoint a conference committee to force the Senate to negotiate a package. However, late-breaking news this evening has the GOP controlled House would vote tomorrow. The delay is proof that Republican House leaders fear Democrats could vote en masse to support the measure and secure passage with the help of Republican defections. Democrats would only need about twenty-six Republicans, perhaps fearing the electoral consequences, to pass the bill. To keep that from happening, Republicans will simply keep the measure off the floor.
AT&T announced it was ending its bid to acquire European-owned T Mobile wireless. The deal had been opposed by both the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission. There was great concern that if AT&T bought the smaller wireless company the United States would face an effective duopoly of AT&T and Verizon Wireless. While the company decried the government's opposition, the move it likely to be praised by consumer groups.
Pressure mounts on Lowe's Home Improvement stores for caving to the pressure of a nothing hate group in Florida to pull ads form the TLC show All American Muslim. Since the chain pulled it has attracted considerable criticism including from Cong. Chris Murphy of Connecticut who is running for the open senate seat of our neighbor to the south. Since Murphy made his comments and implored the chain to be "better than this" approval of bigotry, his Facebook wall has been bombarded with angry "supporters" of Lowes relying on, at best, spurious evidence of malevolence inherent in all Muslims. In closing his speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, Murphy said,
"This is America. And while we’ve never been perfect in living up to our founding ideals, we’ve gotten pretty good at calling out bigotry when we see it, and stamping it out before its mark becomes indelible. This can be one of those moments."
The State of Things:
Last week area legislators and Gov. Patrick's Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey released millions in relief money to Springfield and other area communities to cope with the costs of the June 1 tornado. Moneys were appropriated for tornado relief earlier this year while Davey's department fronted cash to communities to repair road infrastructure damaged by the storm. The DOT will be reimbursed by federal highway authorities after all disaster paperwork is complete.
As casinos move forward in Massachusetts, State Treasurer Steve Grossman offers some interesting words and a desire to get this process, since it is now a done deal right and not merely the same tacked on effort that characterizes other states' implementation of casino gambling.
Longtime congressional aide Kevin Kennedy becomes Springfield new Economic Development Director. Check out our post on the appointment, but in the interest of not being totally self-absorbed here is NEPR's report.
The Council held its last meeting of the year and Council President Jose Tosado bid farewell...for now anyway. Grant money was also accepted and next year's officers informally selected.
The Springfield Intruder notes, correctly, that Mayor Domenic Sarno's spin on this year's tax rates belies that fact that many tax payers will see a tax increase and tax rate reductions from last year have been effectively reversed. The city raised tax rates for businesses and residents to provide the necessary revenue called for from property tax revenue in the budget. Last Friday's tax setting meeting at the council was heavily criticized for its time and overly expeditious posture.
Not much time left for this terribly late Manic Monday. The absurdity of House Republican actions on the Payroll Tax and the real impact it will have on people is best summed up by House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi. This crisis is manufactured. While a temporary measure is not ideal, it allows political leaders to cool off before figuring out how to pay the rest of the year's tax cut extension. The Republicans already said they wanted a bunch of poison pills in their tax cut extension. Washington needs a time out, but not one that hurts real people in the meantime.