Morning Must Reads — Greek fire burns U.S. ship of state 

New York Times — Policy Makers Seek to Calm Markets as Slide Continues
Confused trading, a typo on a sell order, several electronic safeguards intended to prevent utter calamity on Wall Street, and a whole lot of surly Greeks contributed to a day that saw the Dow Jones swing almost 1,000 points down before skittering to a close at a scant 350-point loss.
The big problem, though, is European debt, piling up at unsustainable levels and creating a real danger that one of our biggest trading partners may be on the brink of a long panic like the one that gripped U.S. markets in the fall of 2008.
Our economy is still so puny that a Euro recession could push us back down to a double-dip recession despite the financial fakery and gross debt assumption we have relied on to keep our economy gasping on.
There was great disappointment today among financiers in Europe today as central bankers there fail to emulate the U.S. Federal Reserve by buying up debt.
The Fed prints money so it has a unique opportunity to buy government debt. Sure it’s dishonest and dangerous, but it’s easy.
The European debt crisis is so bad that governments have lost the appetite for the kind of inflationary debt refinancing that the U.S. government has embraced.
The Germans are so sick of having their futures lashed to those of unserious economic intent as Greece and Portugal that they may be reaching the point that so many Americans wish their government had come to long ago: So long, suckers. Rather than putting sick institutions in the bailout ICU, what if American leaders had practiced some economic triage?
The Germans are making it very clear that the only way the Greeks and others will see a penny is by curtailing the shoddy practices of the past – riots or no riots, currency failure or no currency failure.
As they would say in Rainelle, it’s on now.
Writers Matthew Saltmarsh and Bettina Wassener report as bankers in Europe demand more fiscal profligacy, even if it is not “morally right.”
“Markets have been under pressure despite a 110 billion euro, or $139 billion, rescue package for Greece, agreed to over the weekend by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. Investors were disappointed that the European Central Bank did not discuss buying government bonds at its Thursday meeting.
‘It’s clear that whether its morally right or not, if market stabilization is our goal we need the E.C.B. to start being more unconventional,’ analysts at Deutsche Bank said in a research note Friday. ‘The E.C.B. buying unwanted European peripheral debt surely must be a serious option.’”

Washington Post — With 2 Republicans, financial overhaul bill moves toward approval
As world markets were driven into a dumpster by the bad behavior of the Greek bus driver’s union, there was something funny about the idea of 100 members of the U.S. Senate discussing a bill that Democrats promise would restore study predictability to financial markets.
Aside from being outdated and arranged to benefit the majority party’s friends on Wall Street, the legislation being proposed also looks laughably inadequate to its purported purpose. If Europe, the most regulated society in the world, cannot keep it’s act together, we are to believe that something crafted by Chris Dodd, who couldn’t manage his own career, will protect us from future problems?
But the terror of the day helped push some Republicans to get on board in order to get this fattened Christmas goose of a bill out the door because the people want them to “do something.”
Things are picking up speed as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accelerates his campaign finance push with the financial industry. The long con on finance is reaching its payoff.
“Meanwhile, lawmakers appear set to approve a measure by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to expand the Government Accountability Office’s power to audit the Federal Reserve and to compel the central bank to disclose details about the firms that received emergency aid during the financial crisis. A vote was delayed late Thursday but likely will come next week.
Sanders’s measure reflects legislation introduced by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and approved overwhelmingly by the House last year. The effort has drawn populist support from across the political spectrum.”

Times of London — David Cameron – I will form a government
The crockery must really be flying at 10 Downing Street today.
Gordon Brown’s Labour Party took a pounding in the British elections, as predicted, but the expected surge for Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats did not materialize. The “It” boy of U.K. politics wowed in debates with American-style vacuity but his party lost seats as voters in districts that had been trending their way reverted back to Labour roots.
The weak showing by the LibDems pushed Clegg into the arms of Tory leader David Cameron, whose party won big, but not big enough to govern outright.
As the final counts were still going on in Britain’s all-paper voting system, Clegg met with Cameron to start negotiations and Cameron announced that he would seek to form a government.
This puts Brown in rather a tight spot. Tradition allows him to try to hold power, but even if Clegg had come his way, Labour would not have enough seats to form a majority in the House of Commons.
On a day when Europe is still charred by the abject fiscal failures of its weakest members and the warning signs of debt doom for Britain are flashing brighter than ever, Cameron says he wants to be in charge. If Brown were sensible, he might let him have it.
Writer Phillipe Naughton tells us about the high voter intensity:
“The closing of the polls, at 10pm, was marred by chaotic scenes across the country as thousands of people were turned away from polling stations without being able to cast a vote.
Some polling stations were swamped by would-be voters; others ran out of ballot papers.”

New York Times — Latino Groups Urge Boycott of Arizona Over New Law

The leading pro-illegal immigrant group, the National Council of La Raza (“The Race”), is loving the Arizona illegal immigration law.
They technically hate the provisions of the law, but the passage of it has made muddle-headed people who instinctively want to show their evolved and compassionate natures easy prey for overheated rhetoric.
The law, which is not even in effect yet, requires police to determine the citizenship of the people they arrest or detain for other charges. If you can’t demonstrate your legal status, you stay in custody until either someone finds your ID or you are prosecuted for a misdemeanor state offense of being in violation of federal immigration laws.
But when minority groups hit the streets and start calling people Nazis, you can count on about a quarter of the country to get on their moral high horses and add their own gurgling to the bellowing of La Raza or whoever else is denouncing the racist US of A.
Sometimes the gurgling is coincidentally right. Usually it is of the misguided and self-congratulatory type common in places like Montgomery County, Md., Cambridge, Mass., and Chicago’s Hyde Park. “Aren’t we fine, tolerant folks compared to those Arizona rednecks?”
But what those folks are championing is a system that has produced an American underclass, the members of which live in, and are often exploited in, a shadow society. It demeans the rule of law and invites the violation of people’s God-given rights.
You can excuse college students of the Che Guevara t-shirt phase, but the president and many other intellectuals have fallen deep into the trap baited by a sense of false moral superiority.
The kind of simplistic name calling and onanistic outrage is helping prevent the enforcement of federal laws and discouraging Congress from doing the logical thing: securing the border and mandating existing federal laws.
Now labor unions and other liberal groups are joining the fight with La Raza to vilify Arizonans and prevent the enforcement of the law.
Writer Julia Preston tells us about a letter that must have raised a laugh in Phoenix.
“Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, sent a letter on Thursday to Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, asking her to call on the Legislature to delay the new law for one year, to give Congress time to enact an immigration overhaul. He also asked Ms. Brewer, a Republican, to help raise support among Congressional Republicans for the overhaul.
Ms. Brewer has said the state was forced to act because the federal government failed to control illegal immigration. Mr. Schumer is the main author of a proposal offered last week by Democrats, which would increase spending for border security and open a path to legal status for millions of illegal immigrants.”
Wall Street Journal — Oil Regulator Ceded Oversight to Drillers
Oil has started lapping up on the Gulf Coast as crews claim success in sealing off the source of the massive slick with a 100-ton steel and concrete box. (How many of life’s problems could be solved with one of those!) The box will fill with oil that can then be pumped into a waiting barge while teams work on a more permanent solution, which may take weeks.
The cleanup and the lawsuits have just begun and there’s good reason to think that BP may have committed a fatal mistake.
The failures at BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig 40 miles off the Louisiana Cost were twofold. First, there was an explosion of still undetermined cause. It killed 11 men and knocked the platform off its moorings. The second failure came as the platform sank into the sea. The device designed to staunch the flow of oil in the event of just such a disaster failed.
Writers Russell Gold and Stephen Power look at the bizarre regulatory agency – the Minerals Management Service – that oversees rigs like BP’s.
The MMS is primarily a revenue agency, tasked with collecting royalties from the pumping of oil, digging of coal and other extractive industries on federal lands. But it is also tasked with making sure that the rigs they collect money on operate in a safe manner for workers and the environment.
Gold and Power suggest that the desire to extract more money for a cash-starved government and to fund their own salaries has pushed officials to rely on the oil industry to self-regulate for fear of diminishing productivity.
“Another instance involves “blowout preventers,” which are critical devices meant to shut down out-of-control wells. In 1998, the MMS solicited suggestions to improve the effectiveness of the devices but didn’t heed them. It commissioned Per Holand, a Norwegian researcher, to study the reliability of the devices. In 2002, Mr. Holand recommended that blowout preventers should have two pipe-cutting devices designed to shut off a well, instead of just one, in case one didn’t work…
The MMS didn’t act on Mr. Holand’s recommendation. Mr. Holand said he wasn’t surprised: Adding a second cutter costs money, and might make the device too heavy for some older rigs to carry.

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Chris Stirewalt


Washington Examiner Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who coordinates political coverage for the newspaper and in addition to writing a twice-weekly column and
regular blog posts.

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