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Manic Monday Markup 5/7/12…

…And the World:

Vive Hollande!  The French cast out the incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy, of the Union for a Popular Movement, in favor of the Socialist candidate Francois Hollande.  Sarkozy had been trailing for several weeks now and the first round of voting two weeks ago did not portend well for the incumbent.  In his campaign, Hollande promised to improve the economy through means other than austerity alone, which voters have begun to reject across Europe and has ravaged Europe producing almost none of the promised economic results.  The president-elect, known as “Mr. Normal” will be a striking contrast to often shamelessly jet set Sarkozy, a factor that likely worked against the latter in the polls.  Hollande, like Sarkozy, has committed to balancing the budget, but perhaps his approach will be to ease into it more carefully and with some short-term stimulus to boot.  France, like most European countries, needs considerable structural reforms that affect its deficit such that neither austerity nor stimulus is a silver bullet.  However those reforms as well as government spending cutbacks generally are best done during better economic times when the economy can take them, but also when they seem less pressing.

Hollande will have his work cut out for him convincing German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Europe must reverse course on its austerity measures and work to increase growth.  On the other hand, Merkel’s own party suffered losses in regional elections in Germany portending political troubles of her own if things do not change.

In Greece, new elections there have resulted in much a much less clear outcome.  The traditionally front line parties, New Democracy and PASOK fell from 80% of the vote collectively to around 35% as voters punished the parties for their efforts to sustain the European Union’s terms of its bailout to Greece.  The result, however, may not be a coalition government of anti-austerity parties.  Although New Democracy, which won a third of the seats under Greece’s complicated seat apportionment system, has failed to form a government only a day after new elections it is unclear whether Syriza, an anti-austerity party that came in second will do any better.  If that party and PASOK, who came in third, fail to form a government, Greece will vote again only days before it is due to cut more public spending to satisfy the terms of its creditors.

The governing Conservative Party of Great Britain also suffered electoral setbacks at the polls only weeks after that country fell back into recession.  Although the Tory’s bombastic Boris Johnson retained London’s mayoralty, Labour made gains in local councils across England, Scotland and Wales at the expense of Conservatives and their governing partner’s the Liberal Democrats.  Labour even ran well against the Scottish National Party, which is not a part of the governing coalition in London.  Although the coalition insisted it would not reverse coarse on its own austerity measures, the electoral results could further tensions between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.  The results are welcome to Labour and could offer them hope after losing the 2010 election and suffering a rather ignominious time in Opposition.

Finally, fresh elections are planned in Israel.  Following a seeming agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and coalition partner Avigdor Leiberman, who runs the Yisrael Beintinu party, new elections will be held this fall.  This is partly a strategic move on the part of Netayahu who is betting the Israeli left will remain disorganized enough to stick together and take back the Knesset from the right-wing coalition controlling the government.

The Feds:

Say it ain’t so Joe?  Over the weekend, Vice-President Joe Biden said he was “absolutely comfortable” with marriage equality for gays and lesbians.  Speaking in terms that are often used by supporters of same-sex marriage, Biden’s comments touched off fresh questions as to where President Obama stands on the issue.  Officially, according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, the president is still evolving.  The White House insisted only minutes after Biden‘s Meet the Press appearance that his views were not inconsistent with the president‘s belief that all marriages that are legal, including in the jurisdictions where marriage equality is the law, be equal.  Then Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, he too, supported same-sex marriage during an MSNBC interview.  While the president is widely expected to come out in favor of same-sex marriage no later than after November’s election, it seems plausible now that he may come out of the closet on the issue sooner than that.  With a rather harsh gay-marriage ban on the ballot and expected to pass in North Carolina tomorrow, it seems just as likely that Biden and Duncan’s comments were not entirely extemporaneous, but may suggest message testing for a POTUS announcement even as the White House scrambles to say otherwise.

Connecticut is on its way to becoming the 18th state to approve the use of medical marijuana.  The bill passed the State Senate over the weekend on a 21-13 vote with two absences.  Four Republicans and Three Democrats switched sides on what was an otherwise party-line vote.  Governor Dannel Malloy is expected to sign  the bill.  Connecticut’s move would leave New Hampshire and Massachusetts as the only states without a medical marijuana law, although one will be on the ballot this fall in the Bay State.

Longtime Indiana Senator Richard Lugar is in the fight for his life and by all indications he is on course to lose it.  In what some have billed as the last gasp of the tea party, Lugar, the incumbent Republican, faces fellow Republican Richard Mourdock the state Treasurer.  Despite the outpouring of support from the state establishment, a swarm of tiny, but biting negative stories hurt him as well as attacks from the far-right for Lugar’s sin like support nuclear arms control and President’s Obama’s nominees to the Supreme Court.  An Mourdock win would, however, also throw the general election of this race from solid Republican to a tossup and possible pickup for embattled Senate Dems.

The State of Things:

Oh, hey, remember this, when we mocked it for being news?  Well, it was staged and only became a reality after five takes.  Everyman knows fifth times a charm when the camera’s rolling.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren strikes back against Brown after a week of questions over a box she checked twenty-five years ago.

The State’s Gambling Commission is facing pressure to decline the appointment of Carl McGee as the temporary director of the Commission amid allegations of sexual misconduct with a teenager five years ago.  So far the Commission is not backing down saying they lack the capacity to launch an investigation.  The incident allegedly took place in Florida where authorities declined to prosecute although a child advocate recommended otherwise at the time.

City Slickers:

The Springfield City Council will vote today on a resolution opposing a law proposed by State Senator Stephen Brewer (D-Barre) that would institute a “Stand your ground” law in Massachusetts.  The law is similar to the Florida one at the center of the Trayvon Martin case.  These laws are largely considerable anathema to gun control advocates and the resolution is likely to pass the Council.  The proposed law is unlikely to become law anyway, however, as Governor Deval Patrick has promised a veto.

If you have not read our profile of at-large Councilor Tom Ashe, here it is for your reading pleasure.  Yes, shameless self-promotion of ourselves.  We know.

Twitter Chatter:

It seems impossible not to view this debacle over Elizabeth Warren’s heritage as part of a broader efforts by the Brown campaign and Republicans to keep the campaign as far away from policy and issues as possible.  That is why she is always Professor Warren and/or an elitist hypocrite.  It is spontaneous and often disingenuous name calling.  The word for most it, however, is “silly.”  Today the Twitter handle, @thenewdeal, wins today’s Tweet prize for calling out Brown for his strategy of goading voters into voting on nonsense while exposing his greatest weakness.: the issues.