Archive for August, 2011

Sen. Debra Plowman (Penobscot) Presents GOP Redistricting Plan

Posted on August 25, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Good place to relink tweets from the public hearing. Notably:

Plowman compares maps drawn in 1961 when Maine lost a seat to “ugly piece of furniture, not an antique”.

Plowman says displacement of voters not a constitutional or legal issue. Seems to me it’s a common sense issue.

Sen. Plowman: we will not be offering a consensus map.

Gerald got an interesting clip recently, where according to Plowman, most people don’t know who their Congressional representative even is:

Honestly, I think she could not be more disdainful of Maine voters if she tried. Wow.

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Statement of Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert on Congressional Redistricting Plans

Posted on August 24, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |

 

Mayor Larry Gilbert of Lewiston also attended the public hearing to voice concerns about moving Lewiston into the first Congressional district, as proposed by the Republicans.

“Under the proposal advanced by the Republican Party, I fear that Lewiston would take a back seat to the interests, needs, and wants of the wealthier and more densely populated communities to the south or on the coast, said Gilbert during his public testimony to the commission. “I firmly believe that this will be a loss for our city.”

Gilbert added, “As the largest city in the second district, our infrastructure, health care, education, social service, and cultural needs have been a priority for our members of Congress. Over that time, we’ve been represented by Democratic and Republican members of Congress.”

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Maine Author Stephen King Launches Left Leaning Radio Show

Posted on August 24, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

(Originally posted 8/24/11 on SoapBlox version of Maine Progressives Warehouse)

Clip 1 of press conference:

From Bangor Daily News:

Horror novelist and Bangor radio station owner Stephen King announced on Tuesday a new talk radio show featuring a former vice presidential candidate and a former Maine secretary of state’s communications director.”We wanted to shake things up a little bit in the market,” King said.

King, the owner of Zone Radio Corp, said WZON 103.1 FM and 620 AM will launch “The Pulse Morning Show” on Sept. 12. The show will air 6-10 a.m. on weekdays and online at http://www.zoneradio.com. The station also is expanding its news department.

Former journalist, Bangor Daily News columnist and gubernatorial candidate Pat LaMarche will be joined on the show by Don Cookson, a former reporter and communications director under Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.

The Pulse already has a Facebook page; here is the link. I for one cannot wait until September!

In the meanwhile, let me share this great moment from last spring:

Oh yeah. THAT’S the stuff!

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Maine Author Stephen King Launches Left Leaning Radio Show

Posted on August 24, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Clip 1 of press conference:

 

From Bangor Daily News:

 

Horror novelist and Bangor radio station owner Stephen King announced on Tuesday a new talk radio show featuring a former vice presidential candidate and a former Maine secretary of state’s communications director.”We wanted to shake things up a little bit in the market,” King said.

King, the owner of Zone Radio Corp, said WZON 103.1 FM and 620 AM will launch “The Pulse Morning Show” on Sept. 12. The show will air 6-10 a.m. on weekdays and online at http://www.zoneradio.com. The station also is expanding its news department.

Former journalist, Bangor Daily News columnist and gubernatorial candidate Pat LaMarche will be joined on the show by Don Cookson, a former reporter and communications director under Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.

The Pulse already has a Facebook page; here is the link. I for one cannot wait until September!

In the meanwhile, let me share this great moment from last spring:

 

 

Oh yeahthat’s the stuff!

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DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz Blasts Romney On “Corporations Are People” Remark

Posted on August 13, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Bonus: Calling Mitt Romney “Weird” is a fireable offense per Obama campaign.

 

 

DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) spoke on the same stage today and mocked the presidential candidate’s assertion. Wasserman Schultz asked the cheering crowd, “Is Exxon Mobil a person? General Electric, do they have human-like qualities?”

This was in response to this statement by Romney on the same stage a day earlier:

 

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Fed Case Against EDMC Reveals $6 to $25 Million to McKernan, Wife Sen. Olympia Snowe- in 2009 ALONE

Posted on August 10, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

(More from Bloomberg today on the EDMC story: Stripper Finds Degree Profitable for Goldman Wasn’t Worth It)

Which was devalued in 2010, down to $1 to 5 million. Bet that helped the tax forms!

More details have been released, including staggering numbers of profits for the McKernan-Snowe household from EDMC transactions.

From Lewiston Sun Journal:

 

On Monday prosecutors outlined their case in a 122-page complaint alleging that the management corporation and its affiliates paid recruiters commissions as an incentive to enroll more students. That practice violates provisions for colleges that receive government-backed loans and grants.The plaintiffs argue that the chain fostered a “boiler-room” sales culture that encouraged recruiters to enroll students who may have been unqualified to attend one of the company’s more than 100 affiliate schools. Prosecutors assert that the company’s practices led to higher student loan default rates.

McKernan isn’t named as a defendant in the suit. However, he is mentioned in the complaint and the recruiter-compensation allegations stem from his tenure as EDMC’s former chief executive officer.

McKernan, who is married to U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, was the CEO between 2003 and 2007.

He currently is EDMC’s board chairman.

The lawsuit has generated national media attention, stemming in part from an ongoing debate about the practices and efficacy of for-profit colleges. And, McKernan’s involvement has mobilized Snowe’s political opponents.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Snowe’s reported 2009 assets from EDMC were valued between $6 million and $25 million and divided among her and McKernan’s stock options and common stock holdings.

According to Snowe’s recent asset disclosure, the stock holdings were significantly reduced in 2010, valued between $1 million and $5 million.

For their part, the couple are “frustrated” and deny all allegations of illegal activity:

 

McKernan’s wife, U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, was asked about the lawsuit during a walking tour of Saco. Snowe said her husband was frustrated by the lawsuit considering the lengths it went to comply with the law.In his statement, McKernan described the safeguards that were put in place to ensure compliance.

“EDMC has been providing quality education to its students for more than 40 years and has long had a robust compliance program including procedures for employees to report violations of company policy. The company worked rigorously to ensure that the plan was properly implemented companywide, wrote and distributed detailed training manuals, and conducted training sessions on how to implement the compensation plan,” McKernan said. “It maintained an anonymous telephone hot line for employees to report policy violations, and required multiple layers of internal approval and sign-off for each employee compensation review. All of these efforts are consistent with the company’s commitment to full compliance with the law.”

*Related: Justice Department says private college company headed by Snowe’s husband violated rules

*Related: UPDATED: Fed to join lawsuit against EDMC – Sen. Snowe’s husband McKernan Chair of Board

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Wednesday Morning Reads: Open Thread

Posted on August 10, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

A few political stories of note this morning:

State investigators conclude there was no wrongdoing by Maine Green Energy Alliance.

 

A state investigation into the financial practices of the now-defunct Maine Green Energy Alliance has revealed examples of poor accounting and oversight, but no instances of missing money or inappropriate spending, according to people familiar with the probe.The findings come three months after a legislative committee asked for an examination of how the alliance spent roughly $500,000 of a $1.1 million federal grant meant to expand home energy audits and weatherization through community organizing and education.

Rep. Jon Hinck (D-Portland), who is the lead Democrat on the state’s Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee, issued the following statement:

 


“I applaud OPEGA for its evidenced based-investigation and believe there are important lessons in this report for managing future state contracts,” said Hinck, who had previewed some of the reports findings. “The report shows that Efficiency Maine moved appropriately to cancel the contract once it became aware of the performance issues. The report provides no substantiation for the unfounded accusations leveled by Republican Party Chair Charlie Webster and certain Republican lawmakers. At this point I would expect an apology for making those wild and unfounded claims.”

Governor Paul LePage calls for “cuts until it hurts” during a visit to the Maine Air National Guard’s 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor.

 

The state already faces a shortfall of $25 million identified in the $6.1 billion budget that passed in June, but the governor said it is clear to him that $25 million will not be enough.”We’ll see as we go along,” he said. “If you get to $25 [million] and there is still room and you get $50 [million] and there is still room and, if at $75 [million] it hurts, you stop.

“But if $100 [million] still seems easy, you go to $125 [million]. You go until it hurts.

“It’s just like a business,” LePage continued. “You get all the necessities done and you make sure the services are provided and you stop then.”

Despite the pending weapons charges against him, Rep. Fred Wintle (R-Garland) wants to return to the legislature. While Wintle’s attorney says his client is “better”, it will remain to be seen what comes from his September 13 court date, when the case next goes before the grand jury. There has been no released reaction yet from Speaker Nutting, who in May after Wintle’s arrest made a public statement and asked that the lawmaker be barred from the Statehouse as part of his bail conditions.

BDN is reporting that the new “Redneck Olympics” in Hebron are facing a lawsuit over its name. Organizer Harold Brooks, who got a phone call from the USOC legal offices on Monday,  states that he based the name upon “the Olympics in Greece” and therefore is exempt. But that explanation may not get him very far in court:

 

Under the U.S. Amateur Sports Act of 1978, the committee has exclusive rights to the name in the U.S.According to the Special Olympics website, the USOC gave special permission for the Special Olympics to use the word in 1971.

(Sidenote: Here is a link to a large list of festivals, fairs and events to check out this month in Maine. Personally, the Great Falls Balloon Festival in Lewiston has long been a family favorite.)

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Video Break: FL Gov Rick Scott Beats Out Paul LePage for “Worst Governor Ever”

Posted on August 9, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |

 

 
The video has actors portraying Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Ohio’s John Kasich and Maine’s Paul LePage bragging about the anti-union legislation they pushed through their legislatures and, in LePage’s case, how he even ordered the removal of a mural in his state’s labor department building because the painting was “too pro-labor.”

But Scott has them gaping in slack-jawed amazement as he brags about his anti-union legislation (requiring public employees to pay into their pensions); his rejection of federal high-speed rail money; and – his coup de grace – legislation that will “require struggling Floridians to pee into a cup in order to receive public assistance.”

Hot damn!” responds the LePage actor.

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Governor LePage Keeping National Day of Prayer Observances Private

Posted on August 6, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

From Bangor Daily News:

Gov. Paul LePage announced last month that he was supporting Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s national day of prayer and fasting.But LePage is neither attending Saturday’s event at Houston’s Reliant Stadium nor holding any public gatherings here in Maine.

“The governor just thinks tomorrow should be a time of reflection and prayer,” said Adrienne Bennett, a spokeswoman for LePage. “He had no plans to attend Gov. Perry’s event.”

In June, the governor signed a proclamation after Perry’s appeal in May to the nation’s other governors to support the event. LePage is featured on the organizer’s website, theresponseusa.com, which describes the gathering as a chance to heal the country’s political, financial and moral wounds.

“According to the Bible, the answer to a nation in such crisis is to gather in humility and repentance and ask God to intervene,” the site reads.

Here is the Governor’s released official proclamation.

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Standard and Poor’s Downgrades U.S.’s AAA Credit Rating; First Time in History

Posted on August 5, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

The S&P put out a press release this evening via the Wall Street Journal regarding their decision. Some highlights:

We have lowered our long-term sovereign credit rating on the United States of America to ‘AA+’ from ‘AAA’ and affirmed the ‘A-1+’ short-term rating.
– We have also removed both the short- and long-term ratings from CreditWatch negative.

– The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics.

– More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011.

– Since then, we have changed our view of the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy, which makes us pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government’s debt dynamics any time soon.

– The outlook on the long-term rating is negative. We could lower the long-term rating to ‘AA’ within the next two years if we see that less reduction in spending than agreed to, higher interest rates, or new fiscal pressures during the period result in a higher general government debt trajectory than we currently assume in our base case.

TORONTO (Standard & Poor’s) Aug. 5, 2011-

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said today that it lowered its long-term sovereign credit rating on the United States of America to ‘AA+’ from ‘AAA’. Standard & Poor’s also said that the outlook on the long-term rating is negative. At the same time, Standard & Poor’s affirmed its ‘A-1+’ short-term rating on the U.S. In addition, Standard & Poor’s removed both ratings from CreditWatch, where they were placed on July 14, 2011, with negative implications.

The transfer and convertibility (T&C) assessment of the U.S.-our assessment of the likelihood of official interference in the ability of U.S.-based public- and private-sector issuers to secure foreign exchange for debt service-remains ‘AAA’.

We lowered our long-term rating on the U.S. because we believe that the prolonged controversy over raising the statutory debt ceiling and the related fiscal policy debate indicate that further near-term progress containing the growth in public spending, especially on entitlements, or on reaching an agreement on raising revenues is less likely than we previously assumed and will remain a contentious and fitful process. We also believe that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration agreed to this week falls short of the amount that we believe is necessary to stabilize the general government debt burden by the middle of the decade.

Our lowering of the rating was prompted by our view on the rising public debt burden and our perception of greater policymaking uncertainty, consistent with our criteria (see “Sovereign Government Rating Methodology and Assumptions,” June 30, 2011, especially Paragraphs 36-41). Nevertheless, we view the U.S. federal government’s other economic, external, and monetary credit attributes, which form the basis for the sovereign rating, as broadly unchanged.

We have taken the ratings off CreditWatch because the Aug. 2 passage of the Budget Control Act Amendment of 2011 has removed any perceived immediate threat of payment default posed by delays to raising the government’s debt ceiling. In addition, we believe that the act provides sufficient clarity to allow us to evaluate the likely course of U.S. fiscal policy for the next few years.

The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy. Despite this year’s wide-ranging debate, in our view, the differences between political parties have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to bridge, and, as we see it, the resulting agreement fell well short of the comprehensive fiscal consolidation program that some proponents had envisaged until quite recently. Republicans and Democrats have only been able to agree to relatively modest savings on discretionary spending while delegating to the Select Committee decisions on more comprehensive measures. It appears that for now, new revenues have dropped down on the menu of policy options. In addition, the plan envisions only minor policy changes on Medicare and little change in other entitlements, the containment of which we and most other independent observers regard as key to long-term fiscal sustainability.

Our opinion is that elected officials remain wary of tackling the structural issues required to effectively address the rising U.S. public debt burden in a manner consistent with a ‘AAA’ rating and with ‘AAA’ rated sovereign peers (see Sovereign Government Rating Methodology and Assumptions,” June 30, 2011, especially Paragraphs 36-41). In our view, the difficulty in framing a consensus on fiscal policy weakens the government’s ability to manage public finances and diverts attention from the debate over how to achieve more balanced and dynamic economic growth in an era of fiscal stringency and private-sector deleveraging (ibid). A new political consensus might (or might not) emerge after the 2012 elections, but we believe that by then, the government debt burden will likely be higher, the needed medium-term fiscal adjustment potentially greater, and the inflection point on the U.S. population’s demographics and other age-related spending drivers closer at hand (see “Global Aging 2011: In The U.S., Going Gray Will Likely Cost Even More Green, Now,” June 21, 2011).

Standard & Poor’s takes no position on the mix of spending and revenue measures that Congress and the Administration might conclude is appropriate for putting the U.S.’s finances on a sustainable footing.

The act calls for as much as $2.4 trillion of reductions in expenditure growth over the 10 years through 2021. These cuts will be implemented in two steps: the $917 billion agreed to initially, followed by an additional $1.5 trillion that the newly formed Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is supposed to recommend by November 2011. The act contains no measures to raise taxes or otherwise enhance revenues, though the committee could recommend them.

The act further provides that if Congress does not enact the committee’s recommendations, cuts of $1.2 trillion will be implemented over the same time period. The reductions would mainly affect outlays for civilian discretionary spending, defense, and Medicare. We understand that this fall-back mechanism is designed to encourage Congress to embrace a more balanced mix of expenditure savings, as the committee might recommend.

We note that in a letter to Congress on Aug. 1, 2011, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated total budgetary savings under the act to be at least $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years relative to its baseline assumptions. In updating our own fiscal projections, with certain modifications outlined below, we have relied on the CBO’s latest “Alternate Fiscal Scenario” of June 2011, updated to include the CBO assumptions contained in its Aug. 1 letter to Congress. In general, the CBO’s “Alternate Fiscal Scenario” assumes a continuation of recent Congressional action overriding existing law.

We view the act’s measures as a step toward fiscal consolidation. However, this is within the framework of a legislative mechanism that leaves open the details of what is finally agreed to until the end of 2011, and Congress and the Administration could modify any agreement in the future. Even assuming that at least $2.1 trillion of the spending reductions the act envisages are implemented, we maintain our view that the U.S. net general government debt burden (all levels of government combined, excluding liquid financial assets) will likely continue to grow. Under our revised base case fiscal scenario-which we consider to be consistent with a ‘AA+’ long-term rating and a negative outlook-we now project that net general government debt would rise from an estimated 74% of GDP by the end of 2011 to 79% in 2015 and 85% by 2021. Even the projected 2015 ratio of sovereign indebtedness is high in relation to those of peer credits and, as noted, would continue to rise under the act’s revised policy settings.

Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act. Key macroeconomic assumptions in the base case scenario include trend real GDP growth of 3% and consumer price inflation near 2% annually over the decade.

Our revised upside scenario-which, other things being equal, we view as consistent with the outlook on the ‘AA+’ long-term rating being revised to stable-retains these same macroeconomic assumptions. In addition, it incorporates $950 billion of new revenues on the assumption that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for high earners lapse from 2013 onwards, as the Administration is advocating. In this scenario, we project that the net general government debt would rise from an estimated 74% of GDP by the end of 2011 to 77% in 2015 and to 78% by 2021.

Our revised downside scenario-which, other things being equal, we view as being consistent with a possible further downgrade to a ‘AA’ long-term rating-features less-favorable macroeconomic assumptions, as outlined below and also assumes that the second round of spending cuts (at least $1.2 trillion) that the act calls for does not occur. This scenario also assumes somewhat higher nominal interest rates for U.S. Treasuries. We still believe that the role of the U.S. dollar as the key reserve currency confers a government funding advantage, one that could change only slowly over time, and that Fed policy might lean toward continued loose monetary policy at a time of fiscal tightening. Nonetheless, it is possible that interest rates could rise if investors re-price relative risks. As a result, our alternate scenario factors in a 50 basis point (bp)-75 bp rise in 10-year bond yields relative to the base and upside cases from 2013 onwards. In this scenario, we project the net public debt burden would rise from 74% of GDP in 2011 to 90% in 2015 and to 101% by 2021.

Our revised scenarios also take into account the significant negative revisions to historical GDP data that the Bureau of Economic Analysis announced on July 29. From our perspective, the effect of these revisions underscores two related points when evaluating the likely debt trajectory of the U.S. government. First, the revisions show that the recent recession was deeper than previously assumed, so the GDP this year is lower than previously thought in both nominal and real terms. Consequently, the debt burden is slightly higher. Second, the revised data highlight the sub-par path of the current economic recovery when compared with rebounds following previous post-war recessions. We believe the sluggish pace of the current economic recovery could be consistent with the experiences of countries that have had financial crises in which the slow process of debt deleveraging in the private sector leads to a persistent drag on demand. As a result, our downside case scenario assumes relatively modest real trend GDP growth of 2.5% and inflation of near 1.5% annually going forward.

When comparing the U.S. to sovereigns with ‘AAA’ long-term ratings that we view as relevant peers-Canada, France, Germany, and the U.K.-we also observe, based on our base case scenarios for each, that the trajectory of the U.S.’s net public debt is diverging from the others. Including the U.S., we estimate that these five sovereigns will have net general government debt to GDP ratios this year ranging from 34% (Canada) to 80% (the U.K.), with the U.S. debt burden at 74%. By 2015, we project that their net public debt to GDP ratios will range between 30% (lowest, Canada) and 83% (highest, France), with the U.S. debt burden at 79%. However, in contrast with the U.S., we project that the net public debt burdens of these other sovereigns will begin to decline, either before or by 2015.

Standard & Poor’s transfer T&C assessment of the U.S. remains ‘AAA’. Our T&C assessment reflects our view of the likelihood of the sovereign restricting other public and private issuers’ access to foreign exchange needed to meet debt service. Although in our view the credit standing of the U.S. government has deteriorated modestly, we see little indication that official interference of this kind is entering onto the policy agenda of either Congress or the Administration. Consequently, we continue to view this risk as being highly remote.

The outlook on the long-term rating is negative. As our downside alternate fiscal scenario illustrates, a higher public debt trajectory than we currently assume could lead us to lower the long-term rating again. On the other hand, as our upside scenario highlights, if the recommendations of the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction-independently or coupled with other initiatives, such as the lapsing of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for high earners-lead to fiscal consolidation measures beyond the minimum mandated, and we believe they are likely to slow the deterioration of the government’s debt dynamics, the long-term rating could stabilize at ‘AA+’.

On Monday, we will issue separate releases concerning affected ratings in the funds, government-related entities, financial institutions, insurance, public finance, and structured finance sectors.

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