...And the World:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicholas announced that they had agreed to a long-term framework to contain future sovereign debt meltdowns and clear the way for greater action by the European Central Bank in an effort to stop a meltdown of Europe's economy and possibly the world's. The plan would require treaty changes that govern the European Union although Merkel and Sarkozy are prepared to go it alone with just those EU countries that use the Euro. The news broke on the same day S&P threatened a downgrade of even Germany, long-known for its tight fiscal ship.
Elsewhere, Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti released a new austerity package intended to help balance that nation's books, but thankfully it also include some measure intended to stimulate growth. The measure would raise retirement ages, reinstate property taxes and fight tax evasion a chronic problem in Italy. While Ireland, which has accepted the austerity Frankfurt, the home of the ECB, has imposed on it, seems to have also exacted a toll on its people in the process. Although a missing component of much of the sovereign debt crisis has been sufficiently leaving bankers with their bad loans, Ireland's crisis is unique in that its last government guaranteed the losses of the countries largest banks which overwhelmed the Emerald Isle's finances. While not quite the same as profligacy, the incompetence and possibly cronyism of the last Irish government is as much to blame as an overdeveloped welfare state in Ireland.
Across Europe in Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is poised to retake the Presidency in March, suffered a stinging setback in Parliamentary elections. Although his party, United Russia, will retain a majority, their totals fell back from a 2/3 control of the lower house called the Duma. Although Russian elections are widely regarded as fraught with fraud and corruption, including this one, the result is still nothing short of shocking. The meaning may be more symbolic than anything else, however. Russia's lower house is fairly weak and Putin's party still has a majority. However, whereas before the party could rejigger the constitution at will, now such measures and others will require some cooperation from the minor parties in Parliament.
With Herman Cain out of the race, following sex scandal after sex scandal, only more attention is being directed at former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. While it is mind-boggling why anybody would want Cain's endorsement, NPR reports that the two men have a long relationship that goes back to the 1990's. Cain is expected to endorse somebody and the two Georgians chummy relationship may point to Gingrich, himself a veteran of infidelity, as the lucky winner.
Occupy DC recently had a standoff of sorts, but unlike many cities which have resorted to tear gas and other militant "compliance" tactics, officials in the nation's capital successfully diffused the situation and the camp remains intact...for now. However, the writer of this column rightly chastises those protester that mocked the cops. Kudos the cops though, they maintained professionalism!
The State of Things:
Meanwhile at Occupy Boston, protesters were forbidden from bringing in a fire-proof military sized tent to correct the fire and health code violations the city claims it found at the Dewey Square camp. Protesters engaged in the "direct action" of bringing the tent to the Square only to be turned back by city officials. The event was apparently peaceful and city officials seemed unable to explain how they could complain about the safety of the camp, but prohibit efforts to correct the violations. Last week a judged issued an injunction against a surprise raid to clear the park. Protesters filed another motion this week to demand mediation. Occupy Boston is now considered the oldest camp still functioning as it once was. However, like all the camps it has problems with health and safety partly brought on by some within the camp, largely homeless, who take advantage of the camp and the general assembly's 3/4 quota for passage of resolves to institute changes needed to keep certain unsafe and raucous elements.
Holyoke mayor-elect Alex Morse is featured in a profile by WMassP&I posted yesterday.
Elizabeth Warren visited downtown Northampton today and toured local businesses with recently elected mayor David Narkewicz.
With Biomass heating up as an issue again, protesters took the fight to Gov. Deval Patrick's office at Little State House on Dwight Street Sunday. The protest was directed at the unsatisfactory approval process many opponents of the proposed Page Boulevard say state agencies undertook. The protester also appeared to diffuse or outright end a protest outside at-large councilor Kateri Walsh's Forest Park home. Originally billed as a "memorial service" to democracy, the hyperbolic event was either sparsely attended to cancelled for lack of interest. No media outlet has produced any stories on the matter. The same Republican story noted that Walsh had received hundred in contributions from the Callahan family, owners of the proposed biomass plant, and their lawyer Frank Fitzgerald two days before last month's election.
The City Council will consider some new Tax Incremental Financing proposals and an eminent domain taking tonight at the council. Watch #spfldpoli on Twitter for updates on any controversy or conflicts, etc.
Mitt Romney has always been Mitt Romney's worst enemy. However, with Mr. Slow and Steady now on the ropes against the Newtmentum, today's Think Progress tweet on the Payroll Tax Reduction (which must pass before month's end) offers a reason why GOPer's and well, all voters do not tend to trust him. Romney is a serial flip-flopper. Don't kid yourself. Gingrich is just as bad, it has just not been as historic since he has not been under nearly as much scrutiny until now. We'll wager you will only see more of this kind of stuff...against both Newt & Mitt in the coming months. God help us!