Monday, March 26, 2012

Manic Monday Markup 3/26/2012...

...And the World:

Another Tory scandal in Britain over being too close to influence peddlers.  British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party have been caught, seemingly selling out once again.  After being caught too close to Rupert Murdoch's British newspapers (a former New International Exec worked for Cameron as a press aide), new revelations Murdoch's own Sunday Times put the PM in another sticky wicket.  In a report in the Paywall protected Times, the Conservative Party was caught offering high-profile dinners with Cameron and other higher-ups in the party for generous donors.  Cameron has distanced himself from the scandal and offered public lists of visitors to Number 10 Downing Street, his official residence and his private residence nearby.  The party official behind the access-selling has also resigned.  The new scandal has reignited debates about party funding in Great Britain and the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, has called for a independent inquiry (rather than a Conservative-run internal investigation) into the propriety of donors' access to high-level party officials.

Cameron is not the only English-speaking premier facing the heat.  After devastating losses for Labor in Queensland, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard may face an uphill fight next year when her party faces reelection next year.  Consequently, Gillard is already beginning a new offensive to change the public's perception of her.  On Saturday, Labor lost 43 seats in the Queensland State Assembly, a shocking loss since the state is usually seen as friendly to Labor.  While they had been expected to lose control of the assembly, the bleeding included traditional Labor strongholds like the City of Brisbane.  The leader of the Labor party resigned both her leadership position and her seat in Parliament following Saturday's results.

A peaceful transition comes to Africa.  In elections held yesterday, Senegal's president since 2000, Abdoulaye Wade, whose controversial run for a third term sparked outrage in this West African country, conceded to his opponent, Macky Sall.  This region of Africa is not known for the best adherence to democratic principles, although Senegal has been better than most.  Sall is a former protege of Wade, but differs greatly from the president in demeanor.  He came back from a second place finish in an earlier election round to defeat Wade in the second round held on Sunday.

The Feds:

The High Court takes on health care reform.  Today is only about whether or not the Court has any jurisdiction over the bill now due to its tax implications.  Under the Anti-Injunction Act of 1867, the Courts are not to halt a tax until it is collected, which in the Affordable Care Act's case would not be until 2014's taxes are filed in 2015.  The justices seemed unreceptive to that argument.  The justices appointed an outside attorney to argue for the delay as both the plaintiffs and the defendants in the case rejected the notion that the nineteenth century law.  Still it provided for some legal ju-jistsu for Solicitor General Donald Verrilli who argued that the penalty individuals must pay if they fail to get insurance is not a tax for the purposes of the Anti-Injunction Act, but is a prerogative of Congress's taxing power under the Constitution.

For more info about the Supreme Court case on Health Care or really any Court watching, we highly recommend  It is non-partisan (no, really!) and is staffed by experts in the Highest Court in the land.  And for a rundown of various viewpoints about the case, Greg Sargent's Morning Plum and Happy Hour roundups today has some prime links!

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking legislation to better regulate the collection of people's data that gets scooped up by Internet companies.  This occurs as efforts by Senator John Kerry and others gather steam for a similar push from within Congress.

The State of Things:

A report from the New England Center for Investigative Reporting highlights how flat lottery sales coupled with legislative raiding of the account to shore up the commonwealth's budget has left communities with less and less local aide.  Communities have lost billions in local aide over the last several years resulting in yawning budget gaps, cuts in services or hefty rises in taxes and fees.

Another third party expenditure obligates Scott Brown to write a check to a Warren approved charity.  Time to start raising eyebrows, as least preliminarily.  There are two possibilities starting to develop.  After the first non-entity of a SuperPAC was caught breaking the campaign pledge, Brown jumped to pay the fine.  Some suspected that it may have been a plant.  Now the American Petroleum Institute's latest ad is triggering the second one.  It seems possible that is evidence of further efforts by Brown's allies to polish his halo by giving him a chance to look so honorable.  By contrast, it is possible that Warren's campaign may have taken the right risk in agreeing to the pledge since it could bleed Brown's campaign little by little.  However, these ads have been relatively small and not dented much of Brown's $13 million war chest.  This one was also a twofer for Warren's campaign as it highlights Brown's past support for oil and gas subsidies that cost taxpayers $4 billion a year.

Also on the Senate campaign front, the Republican claimed in a lazy, bogus online-only Editorial that Elizabeth Warren has not spent enough time in Western Massachusetts.  Cow Excrement we declare!  Here's the proof!

Federal indictments finally come out of the US Attorney's Office in the Probation scandal.  Other than O'Brien and his deputies, nobody else is facing prosecution by the Feds...yet.  However, the wife of State Rep. Thomas Petrolati, Democrat of Ludlow, who had a Probation Job for which she was allegedly not qualified, makes an appearance in the indictment along with other legislators alluded to by their titles.

City Slickers:

Technically a county-wide story, but the job is based in Springfield so it counts, but Clerk of Courts Brian Lees's decision to not seek another six year term could set off a hell of a scramble.  Among the possible contenders are Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette, Springfield at-large Councilor Thomas Ashe and assistance clerk Magistrate Laure Gentile of Springfield.  John DaCruz of Ludlow has already announced for the race.  Also mentioned in the article is the race for Governor's Council.  Western Massachusetts-based councilor Thomas Merrigan is not running leading others to consider the position, including hardly-missed and barely unindicted former Springfield mayor Michael Albano.

Again another regional story, but it hits the urban centers the hardest and that includes Springfield.  The PVTA is facing a budget gap of its own and with no appetite for more taxes legislators are looking for a way to close it through means other than cuts as ridership has actually been ticking up in this notorious non-mass transit region of New England.

Twitter Chatter:

Okay, we admit it.  This week is kind of a cop out, but it is still pretty funny.  Reports have surfaced that Dick Cheney had a heart transplant leading this tweet from Jon Stewart at the Daily Show.  Perhaps the most disturbing thing is that it can be believed.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Take My Council, Please: Cheers & Jeers...

Monday was a day of minor victories, but also grim financial news and schizophrenic behavior at the Springfield City Council.  With three members absent, councilors debated a host of resolutions, put off several measures to committee and even took some further steps on ordinances.  Prior to the meeting, bleak numbers from financial officials cast a pall over a rare Committee of the Whole meeting of the City Council.  While digging into those numbers must wait for another time, the short version is cuts in services, increases in fees, flat wages for workers and other depressing news, absent a turnaround on state aid and property tax revenue.  

At-large Councilor Kateri Walsh, Ward 4 Councilor E. Henry Twiggs and Ward 7 Councilor Tim Allen were absent due to personal reasons.

The agenda itself was a mix of routine announcements, paper pushing and substantive policy.  Reports from utilities were accepted from the council as were financial transfers within and to the fire department.  The Fire Department's Overtime budget has come in way over budget, partly a consequence of chronic underfunding of the department over the last decade.  However, the council also approved transfer of the city's fire-training facility to the commonwealth for $2 million.  The transfer will enable Massachusetts officials to train firefighters in neighboring communities nearby rather than sending them to another facility in Stow.  The city will continue to use the Grochmal Street facility, which will be rebuilt, at no cost aside from electricity and phone service.  City officials said the proceeds from the sale will go into the city's general revenue account.

Area Fire Chiefs Showed up to Support the Transfer of
the training center to the state (WMassP&I)
Two other property transfers in the city's South End were also approved by the Council.

The city also received financial reports for this year that indicate the city will retain about $2 million in free cash at the end of the fiscal year.  The council also approved, by a 10-0 vote an authorization for a bond necessary to cap Bondi's Island.  The bond is required under state law for the owner of any landfill and as the city's primary dump faces closure by the end of this decade, the city must maintain a bond under Department of Environmental Protection rules in order to assure the facility is properly closed.  

Another bond was authorized to pay for design work for Elias Brookings School, one of the school building damaged in last year's tornado.  Ward 2 Councilor Mike Fenton questioned the use of bonds, rather than free cash or stabilization reserves, but finance officials seemed to admit the objective was to preserve stabilization.  However, officials noted that the bond may not need to be used and payment for the design work could come from another source, avoiding interest payments.  Fenton cautioned against the use of this approach in the future, but backed the measure.

Two ordinances were also before the council (with a third brought up to get its second step passage).  The two ordinances on the agenda bulked up the large crowd, which was mostly present in support of one of the resolutions before the council.  The first ordinance, sponsored by at-large Councilors Jimmy Ferrera and Tim Rooke, sought to extend to thirty days from ten, the amount of time merchandise at a pawn shop must be held before it can be resold.  Several pawn shop owners turned out in opposition to the new rule, calling it an unfair burden on business.  Ultimately, on a motion from at-large Councilor Thomas Ashe, the measure was sent to committee before any step was taken.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tardy Tuesday Takedown 3/20/12...

Our apologies for no Manic Monday! Plus we will be back this week with some new local stories including an edition of "Take My Council, Please!"

...And the World:

Last summer in what was one of many dress rehearsals for the Occupy movement that shook the world, young Israelis took the streets in opposition to a society that offered opportunities to only the few.  The results culminated in some of the largest protests in the country's history.  Now it seems, that the movement also had a positive impact on race relations in the Jewish state, which includes a sizable Arab minority, if temporarily.  Studies now show attacks on Arab Israelis by Jewish Israelis fell to the lowest level in a few years time.

It is 2012 and no, that does not just mean that it is election time in the US, it is also the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.  Among many events, the queen addressed a rare joint session of Parliament in London.  The Guardian has a decent smattering of the events and celebrations that have marked and will mark this 60th year of her rule.

Elsewhere in Britain, where the economy has seemingly ground to a halt, George Osbourne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what Britain calls its finance minister, is expected to make his seasonal budget statement.  Britain, fearing the effects of a high debt load slashed its budget when the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition took office.  However, combined with Euro-crisis unease, the austerity has frozen the British economic recovery, which incidentally lowered tax revenue and kept the deficit outside the government's targets anyway.  Now Osbourne, his fellow Tories and very likely angry Lib Dems, who have been forced to swallow cuts they would never normally support, is looking to close the gap a different way--taxing the rich.  The coalition government had planned to roll back a 50% tax rate instituted by the last Labour government, but appears to be taking it much slower especially in light of polling that shows, even among Tories, the tax is popular.

The Feds:

Speaking of budgets, Paul Ryan, the Chief Punk Chairman of the House Budget Committee, is at it again.  Except this time, he is proposing to renege on last year's debt deal and lower, LOWER, the tax rate on the rich to 25%.  There would be only two tax brackets, but it would come at a ghastly price to discretionary spending (which is actually a small part of the budget), Medicare and Medicaid.  Medicare would face virtually the same privatization and voucher scheme as in the past.  Also confounding is how the plan proposes to maintain the same revenue as under current law, while slashing tax rates.  Republicans are gambling people will care more about cutting the debt that assuring Medicare is secure.  Right.  There's nothing serious about Paul Ryan.

In Illinois Mitt Romney is expected to defeat Rick Santorum in the Republican primary, but that is not expected to end the race.  Instead, we will focus on someone else in Illinois.  Twenty-five year old Ilya Sheyman of Waukegan, Ill. is running for Congress.  Today is the Democratic primary and the former community organizer and issues director is trying to turn the recent turn in progressive energy to his side and take the nomination from the arguably safer Brad Schneider.  The district, which had been somewhat safely Republican for decades was contorted into more Democratic territory during redistricting.  If Sheyman captures the nomination tonight and then defeats Republican Robert Dold in the general, it may be a fascinating turning point for both progressive and youth politics.  This Nation piece is a little old, but sums up the stakes for the left well.

The State of Things:

'Twas a day of zingers at the annual St. Patrick's Day roast in Southie with fun for all the lads and lasses.  Well, maybe not everyone.  However, our favorite line has to go to, of course, our gal, Elizabeth Warren.  "I actually heard that Scott Brown’s barn jacket cost $600. Wow, here’s a guy who could use a consumer advocate."  That and her revealing her own magazine spread for...Consumer Reports.  Scott Brown's jokes ranged from sophomoric to edgy (DiMasi going to jail).  While some of it was funny others think the breakfast has lost its luster.  And yes, Ernie at Blue Mass Group is right, Scott Brown didn't really laugh at any of the jokes about him not told by him.

Oh, and Elizabeth Warren is back on top in a new poll.  Whew!  Oh, and apparently Bay Staters like Harvard.  Not surprising since it is actually in the State Constitution.  No lie!

Governor Deval Patrick, Treasurer Steve Grossman and Attorney General Martha Coakley jointly announced the last two picks for the state's gaming commission.  James McHugh, a former Appellate Court Judge and Bruce Stebbins, yes Springfield's own Bruce Stebbins, will round out the five member panel.  Stebbins, you may recall, served on the Springfield City Council from 2006-2010 and most recently served as the city's business development administrator.  Despite his Republican political affiliation, we can think of few better individuals from this region to adequately serve our interests on the gaming commission.

WBUR has a story on a new report about Massachusetts's susceptibility to political corruption.  Massachusetts does pretty well, scoring 10th place nationally due its campaign finance laws and redistricting, but flunked on access to public documents and budget transparency.

City Slickers:

Budget apocalypse at City Hall.  Declining property values, increased mandatory spending and flat or falling local aid from the state continues to bedevil city finances.  Layoffs, increased fees, and zero wage increases for city workers among other horribles will likely be necessary to remain in balance while weaning off reserves to balance the budget.

Elsewhere the council voted in favor of a resolution to reform the state's tax code to reverse cuts in education, local aide and infrastructure.  Of course, the City Council also voted on a resolution urging a temporary suspension of the gas tax, which would leave road repairs in the state unfunded.  Good one, folks.  More on that when we do Take My Council, Please, later this week.

And a nod to the Republican's Pete Goonan, the paper chief Springfield Political Reporter (of sorts).  After the Springfield School Committee gave initial approval to distribute free condoms to students 12 or older, Goonan was interviewed by Greta van Susteren.  Since Van Susteren's on Fox News, we can only assume that the Network will try to wedge this one (although she seemed somewhat even handed during the interview), but good for Goonan anyway on the exposure.

Twitter Chatter:

Despite the enthusiasm for Ilya Sheyman's campaign, there certainly remains a distinct possibility he may lose. However, already anticipating the need for party unity after this rather raucous primary, Sheyman (and we assume his primary opponents, too) are already thinking ahead. Rather than letting whispers and complaints dog the campaign from now until November (a long primary season, no?), Democrats in the Illinois 10th will come together. Not only is it the best thing to do to defeat the Republican, if that is your goal, but it is also mature. Ilya Sheyman who has been attacked for his youth, wins this week's tweet prize for having the right attitude, no matter what happens tonight.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Manic Monday Markup 3/12/2012...

...And the World:

In Afghanistan an army sergeant allegedly killed sixteen Afghan civilians including many children in an attack that has been described as the worst war crime of the US's ten year military involvement with the country.  The attack comes after protests riled Afghanistan following the burning of the Koran and subsequent killing of six American military personnel.  Afghan and US officials in Kabul and across the country have been bracing for a violent response from the streets as the Taliban, which had been inching toward negotiations promised retaliation.  Condemnation has come from across the world as US officials continue to investigate.  Some reports are surfacing about the sergeant's mental health, which interestingly may explain why the Afghan response has, thus far been muted.

Elections!  After the coalition government of Slovak Prime Minister Iveta Radicova fell as part of a deal with the opposing Smer Party (which actually had a plurality in Parliament), new elections were scheduled for this weekend.  In those elections, former Prime Minister Robert Fico, leader of Smer, emerged with an absolute majority, beating his party's success in 2006 when he first came to office and 2010 when his party secured the most seats, but lost out on forming a government to Radicova's coalition.  Radicova had to agree to new elections after her right-wing coalition parties refused to back further efforts to support Greece with which Slovakia shares the Euro.  Fico was amenable to the rescue, but refused to offer his party's support unless new elections were scheduled.  The squabble caused a minor freak-out for markets and likely due to pressure from all sides, Fico and Radicova agreed to new elections.  Radicova's government seemed fairly unpopular anyway as it had engaged in an austerity program before it came into fashion in Europe writ large.  Indeed, while Fico has pledged to maintain EU deficit commitments, he has opposed putting more of that burden on rank and file Slovaks.  Complicating the election was a the revelation of corruption scandals among Slovak politics that cut across all political parties.

The Feds:

Another week another primary.  This time it could be a real three-way as Newt Gingrich finds another electorate that actually thinks the looney curmudgeon could make a good president.  Although, confirming the sanity of any who are enthralled by ANY of the Republican presidential candidates may would probably be a challenge for even the greatest of mental health experts.

Two somewhat opposing views on Mitt Romney and the press.  First some background.  Mitt Romney lies.  Not like a politician with grandiose over-the-top hyperbole.  He does that, too, but Mitt Romney and his campaign casually spew falsehoods with such regularity that it becomes less surprisingly that Romney is listed as antonym to consistency in the dictionary.  Anyway, David Bernstein at the Boston Phoenix says Mitt Romney's act may be wearing thin with a press corp that his staff keeps away with a ten-foot pole.  In response, Greg Sargent at the Washington Post says the media is still treating it like the same campaign nonsense.  And important note for the folks at home.  That $500 billion "cut" Medicare, referenced in Sargent's link, is not a cut.  Never was and never will be.  It is savings achieved between reduction in waste and abuse and through early detection and prevention.  Savings used to pay for the tyranny of "Obamacare" like covering health screenings for senior citizens. 

The New York Times has an interesting profile/analysis of Chief Justice John Roberts.  Essentially, Adam Liptak, the Times' chief Supreme Court reporter argues that Roberts is likely to be on the majority side of the Health Care law case regardless of its outcome.  If the Court strikes down the law, it will likely be 5-4, but if it upholds, the law, the article suggests it will probably be at least 6-3.  The article also discusses Roberts' apparent decision to keep the Court away from barn-burning issues (with only moderate success we might add), but that the Health Care ruling could be one of those rulings that only comes along once in a generation.

Finally, in the Feds today, Glen Greenwald's look at the legacy of Cong. Dennis Kucinich.  Last week, Kucinich, a victim of redistricting lost his party's nomination against fellow Democrat Marcy Kaptur.  The fight was brutal and to some extent, Kucinich may have himself to blame, in part for his predicament.  However, Greenwald defends the Ohioan for his pacifism and unimpeachable record on Civil Liberties, while knocking the so-called "serious" Democrats that are the un-Kucinich.  He further tears down several publications and liberals who were also boosters for the Iraq War.  For what it's worth, while we have not always agreed with the one-time Cleveland Mayor and Presidential candidate, his voice will be sorely missed in Congress whether it ever was really wacky or not. 
The Justice Department blocked Texas's voter ID law because the harm it would do to disenfranchise voters outweighs its goal to cut voter fraud.  Such fraud is nearly nonexistent, leaving the measures to appear as little more than efforts to keep Democratic leaning voters away from the polls.  Less insidious than requiring an ID itself are the onerous steps necessary to secure an ID.  Such steps may seem like nothing to any driver in the suburbs, but become considerably more difficult for the elderly or the public-transit riding poor.

The State of Things:

The Springfield Republican takes a look at the trials and tribulations of homeowners and residents in Springfield and other communities ravaged by last year's tornadoes, trying to rebuild their homes.  The process has been grueling for some as they work with contractors and the housing courts.  However, in some parts of the city, the process has barely moved at all.  Anecdotally, this seems particularly true in the poorer areas of the city hit.

Also from David Bernstein this week, a story on Scott Brown's success at getting the Massachusetts public to look past the policies Brown supports and instead just like him.  While there is no denying that constituent services are critical to ANY elected official's work, it seems unfortunate that Brown would decide that he would make this election all about personality and not about the issues.  When his staff is not untangling the government for constituents he's playing basketball with little kids so they have some fond memories before they inherent the crappy world he has helped create.  Sorry, that slipped out.  We would contest that Brown handled the Blunt Amendment thing well because polling has only yielded a muddled view from Bay Staters, who are unlikely to fall behind the national backlash against Republicans on this.  Anyway, if the election is purely about "politics" (in the broader sense of the word) Brown will probably win.  If it is about policy, he will probably lose.

City Slickers:

In exclusively Springfield tornado news, DevelopSpringfield, the public/private partnership formed to facilitate recovery in the City of Homes announced team leaders to ensure accountability.  Leaders will be equally divided among public and private sectors and given specific tasks to focus on.  The push for accountability through leaders is said to be different from prior master plans for the city that have historically gone nowhere.

Twitter Chatter:

In Wisconsin today, a judge overturned that state's new voter ID law is unconstitutional.  Now it is important to note that that is under the Wisconsin constitution.  Still, the force and energy of the ruling and its operative language tweeted by the Nation's Washington Editor John Nichols, speaks to the risks of voter suppression in attempting to correct the nearly non-existent threat of voter fraud.  Wisconsin's law has been fraught with other problems including a decision by the state to try and not tell voters they could request a free ID to the lack of accessibility of some places to get the ID to documentation requirements some American citizens may be unable to meet.  Voter ID's have been ruled constitutional by the US Supreme Court, but they cannot impose any cost to voters in keeping with Constitutional prohibitions against poll taxes.  Wisconsin officials are likely to appeal the ruling and given the circus last year with the collective bargaining law, one would be wise to not assume this ruling will stand, however important it may be.

Nichols also tweeted about the Justice Department's decision to block the Texas voter ID act. Between the succinct capture of the Wisconsin judge ruling and for noting the critical importance of both these events, Nichols wins this week's tweet prize.   

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Take My Council, Please: Pushing Paper...

Every now and then the Springfield City Council assembles and does little more than ministerial duties dressed up as discretionary acts.  For example, the city cannot accept a grant or money outside of its own tax base or consistent with a general state law unless the council approves it along with the purpose of the money.  Technically, the city can reject the money or disapprove of its purpose, but seldom does the city turn away money.  Monday was one of those meetings heavy on process and light on policy or politics.  Nothing that needed a recorded vote recorded any opposition.  However, rumblings of future trouble may lie in the background.

The rules of the city council dictate the order in which items may be brought before the council for debate, but that may be set aside if no councilor objects.  Last night featured this en masses as councilors bounced from items on economic development funding to grant acceptances to ordinance revisions.

On the agenda were transfers within departments to purchase a new event tent at the Barney Estate Carriage House in Forest Park, fund an economic development position and pay for additional office supplies in the audit department.  Bracket that last one for now.

Elsewhere the council approved a block of reports on utility work for Verizon and Western Massachusetts Electric.  Grants for the Dispatch department to maintain the facility, Fire Department training, at-risk youths (seemingly not the same as the one in the AWAKE controversy), health and human services, the library and for the construction of a parking garage at Union Station.

Pat Burns, the city Comptroller and a report from the Finance Committee both offered grim pictures for the next fiscal year, but the full details will not be known for a few more weeks.  The City Council also passed the first step of an ordinance to exempt livery vehicles who operate under contract from the state.  This would not apply to "for-hire" livery vehicles like taxis and limousines.  Rather it would apply to buses and vans used by private groups to shuttle people to and from events, for example.  The bill moved to the committee on ordinances where further discussion is expected.

Councilor John Lysak (WMassP&I)
Ward 8 Councilor John Lysak also offered a resolves calling on the Massachusetts to establish a provision in the state's property tax laws to enable to the city to collect a different (read higher) rate on dwellings with four or more units.  Lysak's reasons for the measure would be to relieve some of the upward pressure on business property tax rates.  Lysak also notes that it seems ridiculous that multiple family dwellings are taxed lower residential rates while businesses, also investments pay a higher rate.  He justified the higher rate on the thinking that multiple family dwellings also consume more city services than single family residences.  

The resolution drew opposition from some councilors and the Sears family, notable political Illuminati and owners of Sears Real Estate.  The measure was referred to committee, which is itself a somewhat absurd notion since resolves carry little if any weight.  However, Lysak was resigned to the resolve's fate and stated that he was merely looking to start a conversation.  Among the more bizarre aspects of this situation is that Lysak, allegedly the Council's only known Republican, is pushing for higher taxes, sorta.  However, it has also been stated by council insiders that Lysak is, despite his party identification, is to the left of other councilors confirmed to be Democrats.

The earlier matter to transfer funding in the Audit Department came about after the acting head of that department explained that money for salaries in her department were being used to office supplies.  The transfer was quite simple, but the money came from salary positions that went unfilled.  Indeed, the acting director described herself as the only employee in the Audit Department.  While much of the council seemed nonplussed by this fact, others expressed some concern that the part of the city charged with ensuring the city is spending its money responsible has less than a skeleton crew.

The other detail that raised some flags occurred during a discussion started after Ward 7 Councilor Tim Allen suggested that the Council listen a to a report of the finance committee before taking financial measures out of order in the agenda.  By taking these measures out of order, the council often spent a great deal of time asking questions of officials that would be answered in the report.  At-large Councilor Kateri Walsh correctly noted that Allen could always object and force the agenda be maintained (unanimous consent is needed to go out of order).  At-large Councilor Tim Rooke, the chair of the Finance Committee then offered his report on finances.

What was notable about that report was its suggestion to Allen or any interested party that one attend the budget hearings held before Mayor Domenic Sarno will present his budget.  Allen and others were more interested in budget hearings with department heads rather than just finance officials.  Except, those hearings have not yet happened.  The mayors office confirmed with WMassP&I that none had happened and that none were scheduled.  Thomas Walsh, the mayor's communication director, did intimate that they would happen, but not when.  However, it has been noted that at this time last year the budget meetings had already begun and the mayor will need to present his budget by mid-May at the latest.

There is a rising concern among councilors, or at least ones given to deep contemplation of city business, that the mayor's office may limit these budget hearings.  It is at these meetings that some of the most meaningful budget changes occur in contrast to the often blunter and less surgical cuts the council makes while approving the budget.  Combined with the administration's dire warnings about the FY2013 budget, this may suggest an effort on the part of the mayor to rush the budget and force the council to either unwillingly or blithely accept a budget that may endanger the city's solvency and rainy day funds.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Manic Monday Markup 3/5/2012...

...And the World:

In an election that few saw as suspenseful, Russian Prime Minister and one-time President Vladimir Putin was elected once more to be the nation's president with nearly 64% of the vote.  Despite new allegations of electoral fraud, it seems doubtful that Putin did not grab a majority of the votes cast.  Still many say the entire process is and has been flawed for some time.  Opponents of Putin gathered for fresh demonstrations in Moscow.  Recent news reports have detailed arrests and detentions of protesters and opposition leaders.

Before coming to the United States for the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Israeli President Shimon Peres offered strong praise for President Barack Obama. The Nobel laureate said security ties between the US & Israel "are the best we've ever had."   At the AIPAC conference, President Obama announced that Peres, long-time fixture of Israeli politics who has served as the head of several ministries and as Prime Minister, will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  The award has been given to foreign leaders in the past.  Israel's president is more of a figurehead in the country's government.  Power is in the hands of the Prime Minsiter, but the role nevertheless has considerable visibility and especially so for somebody with Peres' credentials.  Peres said of the Israeli Presidency in an interview with the New York Times covering a broad range of topics, "the president is to charm."

The African National Congress, the ruling party of South Africa since the end of Apartheid, faces a new challenge after it expelled the party's youth leader Julius Malema.  Malema is thought to have been plotting a coup to upend Jacob Zuma's leadership of the party ahead of elections next year.  Zuma, who as party head also serves as the nation's president (the president is elected by Parliament which is firmly controlled by the ANC), came to power in the ANC after a similar coup with Malema's help against Thabo Mbeki in 2009.  Malema, promised supporters that the fight is not over after the expulsion which came after an appellate board upped the penalty for Malema's sowing divisions with the party.

The Feds:

Super Tuesday, tomorrow and Rick Santorum's lead in Ohio is gone, courtesy SuperPAC air raids.

Meanwhile, President Obama, hosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged restraint over Iran's nuclear ambitions.  He noted the day before in a speech to AIPAC that further sabre-rattling has only helped Iran by inflating the cost of oil ahead of the phased implementation of a new European oil embargo.  During his meeting with the Prime Minister, Obama pressed Israel to wait for sanctions to take effect before contemplating an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.  Netanyahu only reiterated his country's prerogative to defend itself.  Notably, election year politics in both the US & Israel were hovering in the background.  Republicans have attempted to paint the president as weak on Israel, an outright falsity, but one that has made the White House posture in such a way to keep often reliably Democratic Jewish vote from straying to the right.

Last week, Olympia Snowe announced she was not running for reelection to the Senate.  While the Republican field has been muted at best (only unelected Constitutional officers in the state seem to be serious contenders so far), the Democratic field appears whittled down to Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and ex-governor John Baldacci.  However, a big name from the past, former Independent Governor Angus King is expected to get into the race.  King's entry has the potential to scrub the easy flip of Snowe's seat into a nail-biter.  King, despite his "Independent" moniker, is on the left side of the political spectrum is likely to split the vote potentially giving Republicans room to hang onto the seat.  If elected, it seems likely King would caucus with the Democrats unless he did not want any organizational support backing his efforts.  However, we opined last week that it is naive to think that King, who supported President Obama in 2008, would be any more able than anybody else to heal the partisan divide.

In other New England Senate news, Connecticut Democrats vying for the seat met for a spirited "conversation" with former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and State Rep. William Tong going after frontrunner Cong. Chris Murphy.  Video available via the Norwich Bulletin's Livestream.

In California, Governor Jerry Brown is fighting for a temporary tax proposal in order to close the "ever-present" budget hole, which has bedeviled the Golden State for several years now.  After failing to get Republicans to agree to put the measure on the ballot, Gov. Brown is pursuing a referendum.  There's only one problem.  His will not be the only one on the ballot, raising fears voters may reject all of moves to raise taxes temporarily.

The State of Things:

This could go under the Feds, too, but its our Senator saying it, soooo.  John Kerry, in a speech before the New England Council, a non-partisan group, tore into Republicans for their "ideological rigidity and stupidity."  The remarks seemingly came, in part, as a response to Olympia Snowe's decision to retire.  Kerry also noted that the real source of the problem is not Senate parliamentary procedure, but those who have abused them.

A new poll confirms what other more suspect polls have only alluded to.  The Republican and Western New England University released a poll showing Scott Brown leading Elizabeth Warren 49-41.  Notably, Brown does not have a majority, which puts it in line with earlier polls and the results are within the margin of error.  Still, the results seemed odd given Brown's support for the overly broad Blunt Amendment, which failed last week in the Senate.  Additional questions raised include Brown's high preference among 18-29 year-olds and the week-long polling window, which seems odd.  The youth preference for, Brown, however, seems driven at least in part to less knowledge of Warren.

After redistricting, the hearts of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Massachusetts Congressional districts were combined leaving Cong. Richard Neal with virtually all of Hampden County, Berkshire County and the western limits of Hampshire and Franklin Counties.  Neal held a coffee hour in West Springfield to introduce himself to his new constituents on Saturday.  Meanwhile, James McGovern of Worcester, whose new district covers Amherst, Greenfield, Deerfield and Northampton, is also in the process of meeting new constituents since new districts were announced.  However, like Neal, he may have some competition for the Democratic nomination.

City Slickers:

The Springfield City Council meets tonight.  Based on the agenda as is, most of its work appears to be housekeeping.  However, new items may make it before the council and even the most piddling order or resolve can be made into the next municipal Armageddon.

However, the committee process is humming along with the General Government committee in particular looking at revamping the City's Residency Ordinance.  However, the strict penalties in a draft ordinance written by Ward 2 Councilor Mike Fenton and Ward 7 Councilor Tim Allen are drawing the ire of unions.  Moreover, there is still no consensus on what a revamped bill would look like.  At-large Councilor Tim Rooke criticizes it all as politics, itself a political statement.  A full report is here by the Valley Advocate's Maureen Turner.

Meanwhile, opponents of Biomass, including local activist Michaelann Bewsee and Jesse Lederman and others involved with Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield and Arise for Social Justice are being recognized for their efforts.  Lois Gibbs an activist who organized her community during the Love Canal disaster, presented the award given out by the Toxics Actions Center.  In both the Republican and Valley Advocate blurbs, Palmer Renewable Energy, the group behind the plant, remain committed to fighting both the City Council and Zoning Board of Appeals decisions favoring opponents.

Twitter Chatter:

Among other controversies from last week were conservative talk shown air horn Rush Limbaugh's characterization of Georgetown Law Student-turned women's health advocate Sandra Fluke as a "slut" and a "prostitute."  Now Limbaugh is not new to the "crossing the line" category of right-wing vitriol, but in this case, he may not come out unscathed.  While Limbaugh offered a weak apology over the weekend and attempted to clarify it further today, the damage is already done.  Republicans are scrambling to find a way to distance themselves without upsetting Limbaugh while advertisers are jumping like rats off a sinking ship.  The speed of the advertiser exodus has been such that for not the Twitterverse, the well-connected journalist could quickly fall an advertiser or two behind.  New York Times Media Reporter and New Media wunderkind Brian Stelter wins this week's tweet prize for well-illustrating the pace of the sponsor evacuation, which quickened even as he stepped away from his desk/laptop for a daily dose of exercise.

Friday, March 02, 2012

The Maine Event...

**UPDATED 3-3-12** This post has been updated with additional commentary and for grammatical corrections.

"You are not going to go off on a tangent about Olympia Snowe and Maine politics now," you are probably thinking, right?  Well, yes and no, but the reasons run deeper than merely dissecting a nearby, but ultimately non-Bay State community.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (wikipedia)
On Tuesday Maine Republican Senator and today's world moderate Olympia Snowe announced that she would not run for reelection.  The move sent shockwaves through Washington as Republicans, confident that the Senate would be their, suddenly confronted their likely loss of what would have been an easy win had Snowe stayed in.  The move also scrambled Maine politics as both Democratic congressmen from the state, two former governors and others consider the Senate race, while a dozen or so other politicians circled the Congressional seats of those two Democrats.

There was a time when Snowe may have been the most liberal/moderate Republican in the Senate.  Certainly after Lincoln Chafee, now Rhode Island's governor, was kicked out of office by Ocean Staters, she may have been.  Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania may have edged her out in that category, but he became a Democrat in 2009.  However, over the last few years and especially in 2011, Snowe had taken a rightward-turn that should have shocked even her longest-standing supporters.  Still, Snowe provided critical votes on the stimulus, Dodd-Frank (without demanding banks be coddled as a certain senator to be named soon) and for both of President Obama's nominees to the Supreme Court.

In a statement about her decision to retire, Snowe, 65, was confident she would win reelection (a fact most took for granted), but felt that in the short term the partisanship of Washington led her to beg off another six years in the Senate.  While media outlets were not wrong in noting her distaste for how the health care bill passed into law, it seemed hard to not see the greater partisan demons were within her party.  Between the increased pandering to tea partyism to likely incessant threats from Madman Mitch, Snowe probably had more than enough from her Republican "colleagues."

Perhaps as a demonstration of that, Snowe became the sole Republican to vote for the absurdly broad Blunt Amendment today, which if made law, would allow ANY employer to deny coverage for ANY health care for reasons of "moral conviction," an undefined term.  Ironically, her fellow Maine Republican, Susan Collins, voted for the bill, breaking that senator's record of being the most bipartisan senator of this Congress when it comes to sane votes.

Mitch McConnell, likely before creating another Horcrux
(Image of Voldemort from Wikipedia)
The radicalism of GOP votes stepped up considerably after the Democrats narrowly took back the Senate in 2006.  It is our theory that when Mitch McConnell became the leader of his caucus after Bill Frist left the Senate, he was furious that he would not be Majority Leader.  Why?  Because early on in 2005, he knew he would become Majority Leader.  Republican had just triumphed after Bush's reelection.  How could things go wrong?  Frist was going to keep his promise to serve only two terms (having first been elected in 1994) and therefore McConnell, then Senate Majority Whip would ascend.  Then George W. Bush's second term happened.  Republicans were falling left and right in 2006 including just enough senators.  McConnell's dreams were crushed.  But rather than become a cooperative Minority Leader, he became a vindictive one and pushed the Senate into becoming a parliamentary body where members are forced or threatened to remain in lockstep with leaderships.  

This kind of behavior is virtually necessary in Canada or the UK and acceptable in the House of Representatives, but never intended for the Senate as Snowe's column illustrates.  Democrats are not blameless in this regard, but it seems that McConnell took a behavior that had begun to creep into the Senate in 1980 and 1994 and used it wholesale.  Democrats, rightly or wrongly, felt they could not unilaterally disarm and fought fire with fire.  Thus the Senate of today.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Manic Monday Markup 2/27/2012...

We took the week off last week other than the Take Down...late as it is, but packed!

...And the World:

It's a political tussle Down Under as the former Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Labor Party tried to throw his successor on the barbie.  Kevin Rudd, who led Labor to victory in 2007, was deposed and replaced by Julia Gillard in 2010, who became Australia's first woman Prime Minister.  Labor lost the majority in the snap elections following Gillard's coup, but retained power with the help of the Green Party.  Gillard made a deal with the Greens to push a carbon tax, which is unpopular (although misunderstood).  Rudd, who challenged Gillard's leadership in part due to her low poll numbers, was trounced in the leadership elections held today.  Ironically, the political drama may have done as much as policy to harm Labor and Gillard's numbers.  Although he pledged full support to Gillard to allow Labor to govern, there are grave concerns the row could weaken the party over the next year as it prepares for the 2013 elections.  Others say Liberals' New Coalition Party and its leader, Tony Abbott, should be worried.  In the meantime, Gillard will need to reshuffle her cabinet to replace among others, Rudd, who was Foreign Minister until this month and likely hopes for calm within her party for now.

Germany approves the Greek bailout, a critical step to calming the continent's tempestuous credit markets.  However, it may have exacted a political cost on German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Guardian takes a look at the political career of Vladimir Putin who is expected to win Sunday's election.  From his decision to run again for President to the largest protests to rock post-Soviet Russia, the article describes the sense that Putin may be in the twilight of his political career despite another term as Russia's president.

The Feds:

If you are reading this, it is probably already Primary Day in Arizona and Michigan for Republicans.  While Arizona is not thought to be competitive as Mitt Romney had invested heavily in the state and before the Santorum surge momentum, Michigan, Romney's home state suddenly became endangered.  Polls have fluctuated between our former governor and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and either one could win tomorrow's primary.  NPR has reports from both the Romney and Santorum campaigns on the last day of the race in Michigan.

As Maryland joined the ranks of states enabling Marriage Equality, although not before 2013, New Hampshire may be poised to roll back its historic establishment of equal rights for gays and lesbians.  Republicans in the State House have more than enough votes to pass the measure, but they must overcome a veto by Democratic Governor John Lynch who signed the bill establishing marriage equality.  They may succeed, but other efforts undertaken by the hard-right legislature have failed to overcome Lynch's veto.  Polls in the Granite State support gay marriage and complicating matters further is the 9th Circuits move to invalidate California's gay marriage ban.  That ruling stated that there must be a compelling state interest to reinstate a gay marriage ban (as opposed to keeping in place an existing one).  That case is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Darrell Issa, who convened the all-men panel on women's health "religious liberty" admitted that his made-for-TV whupping of the president was not his best performance.  Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Malony had Issa at "Where are the Women?"

The State of Things:

Really?  Former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy, the son of Senator Edward M. Kennedy asked Scott Brown to stop invoking his father in ads defending Brown's position on the Blunt Amendment.  The Blunt Amendment, you will remember, would allow any employer or insurance the right to deny ANY medical care in an employee health care plan for ANY reason of moral conscience.  Moral conscience is not defined.  Brown essentially told Kennedy that he knows what the late senator would do.  The admonition from Patrick Kennedy came after a pair of dueling Ed-Op, one from Brown and one from his likely Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren.  Hint!  Brown has either published a dictionary with an alternate definition of the words involved or he's lying.  Adrian Walker goes further and calls it "sleazy."

Brown's team also unearthed a 1997 bill filed by Edward Kennedy in the Senate and Patrick Kennedy in the House that Brown claims proves his point on Kennedy's position.  Alas, this is not true.  The 1997 legislation Brown referenced a bill that outlined patience rights to information from their insurer.  Rob Rizzuto at the Springfield Republican, talks to a Kennedy staffers and experts to deconstruct Brown's argument, revealing it to be another effort to dissemble on the issue.  Key quote, the bill was "an info-enhancing, not an access-denying, provision."

By any measure, Brown must be trying to raise money out of state from conservative circles over this.  The politics in Massachusetts are simply not that good for Brown.  The evidence?  Stephen Lynch, among the state's most socially conservative Congressmen, backs President Barack Obama's compromise after criticizing the original rule.  Lynch represents deeply blue-collar areas of Boston and the city's southern suburbs.

A bit of non-Western Mass non-birth control news.  Youth in politics!  Alex Pratt, a Senior at Littleton High School, is running for the School Committee.  Pratt is well known to the Massachusetts online activist left for his work on behalf of bullied students and has been active in his school's student government.  Pratt wants to use his experience as a student in the system to maintain quality education despite financial pressures.  Recognition of Pratt's candidacy may seem random, but it is incredibly critical that young people become more involved in politics.  Pratt has a deep history in politics already, but perhaps more like may get more involved in their own community and provide more of the much-need perspective of younger citizens.  Locally, young politicians include Springfield Ward 2 Councilor Mike Fenton, 25, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, 23 and Longmeadow School Committeeman Michael Clark, 22.

City Slickers:

Deliberations are underway in the trial of former Springfield Police Officer Jeffrey Asher.  Asher is accused of police brutality against Melvin Jones III.  The case burst onto the scene after a video of the alleged attack was posted to Youtube and remains a flashpoint in police-minority relations in the city.

A home rule petition long sought by at-large Counilor Tim Rooke could yield million in revenue for the city.  The law, if signed by the governor would allow the city to use equipment it owns to capture the license plates of excise tax delinquents and impound offending car to force payment.

Twitter Chatter:

Today we take this late-night tweet from the New York Times Fivethirtyeight blog, curated by Nate Silver for a quick slice of the situation in the polls in Michigan.  The purpose of highlighting this tweet is to emphasize several things.  First of all, it points out the closeness of this race which should have been a giveaway to one-time native son Mitt Romney.  It also show how concisely a tweet can sum up the story of Romney's imploding inevitability.  Whether Mitt Romney wins tomorrow or not, in a way it is sort of ironic that a man who slayed dragons like Rick Perry and used his SuperPAC's millions to crush Newt Gingrich, could be cowed by somebody like Rick Santorum who a year ago nobody would have fathomed had a chance.  All in 140 characters...or less!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tardy Tuesday Takedown 2/21/12...

Happy Belated Presidents Day!

...And the World:

Could Europe's nightmare be over?  Well, we have asked that question before, but a definite shift in tone from both European finance ministers and the press suggest that this fix for Greece may be the one that holds.  Finally!  Europe agreed to a second Greek bailout, which also included a haircut or loss on return on the part of Greece's private debt holders.  Greece still needs to implement further austerity measures and must consent to a permanent presence from the EU, IMF European Central Bank among others.  There are other concerns as well.  Greece's economy and people have been battered by recession and austerity.  Moreover, many private debt holders still need persuading.  The country will need some serious investment and growth to reach the deal's hope of keeping Greece's debt to GDP ratio below 120%, a still very high number for the small country.  A failure to meet even that high target could push the country into default anyway five years down the road.

As Russia's Vladimir Putin, still widely seen as the inevitable winner of this year's presidential election, continues to be buffeted by public criticism and scorn.  The one-time President and once again candidate has gone to extreme lengths to stay popular, but after last year's Parliamentary elections were fraught with corruption and vote-rigging, Russians took the streets in huge numbers.  One man who has risen to challenge Putin is Mikhail Prokhorov, a wealthy financier.  His campaign is catching fire in a Russia that longs for fresh leadership after a decades of Putin.

In Yemen, voters went to the polls and formally repudiated the rule of their former president of 33 years, of Ali Abdullah Saleh.  Yemen has endured a particularly painful Arab Spring as skirmishes with guerrilla fighters in the Middle East's poorest country combined with a brutal crackdown by Saleh's regime.  Excluding Syria, Yemen has probably endured the most violent and chaotic transformation of the Arab world.

The Feds:

The United States Supreme Court has dove into affirmative action once more.  A case from Texas challenging the University of Texas's consideration (it is not an overriding factor, it seems) of race in admissions is being challenged by an applicant who failed to gain admission and went to the University of Louisiana itself.  There is currently a majority on the court that could strike down affirmative action in admissions and Justice Elena Kagan is recused.  However, the case has its "idiosyncrasies" that could limit its impact and the student alleging discrimination could be bounced out of court for lack of standing.  The decision will not be rendered until next term beginning in October, however.

Labor groups can claim some small victories across the country.  In Arizona, Colorado and Pennsylvania, anti-worker legislation has been turned back.  Colorado's right-to-work legislation was never at any real risk of passage and Pennsylvania's prevailing wage law seems to have scared off supporters.  Arizona's law is the most significant as it would have ended collective bargaining entirely for government employees making even Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker seem reasonable.  The legislature has frozen movement of the Arizona bill, which is supported by the state's often-the-villain Governor Jan Brewer after firefighters and police turned up the pressure on lawmakers.

Oh, and a super-conservative sheriff in Arizona (not Arpaio) with ties to Western Mass was outed as gay after he threatened to deport his boyfriend if he revealed their relationship.  No, really.  A supporter of Mitt Romney's he has resigned from Mitt's Arizona campaign, but is enduring in his race for Congress.  Really!

An interesting analysis of the US Senate race to succeed Joe Leiberman in our neighbor to the South, Connecticut.  Congressman Chris Murphy is leading his fellow Democrats in the race for the nomination in money and support, but he has been carefully avoiding using the term "inevitable."  Murphy has the benefit of seeing the excellent national show playing in the media right now about the risks of inevitability called.  It's called Mitt Romney.  However, it must be noted that Murphy is admirably the antithesis of the intellectual pretzel that is Willard M. Romney.

One more federal story about the outsized power of the uber-rich in today's politics.  Rachel Maddow has an excellent rundown of the influence of billionaires finacning of campaigns includingFrank VanderSloot, a Romney backer.  The original report on VanderSloot is from Glenn Greenwald, who goes into further detail about how it appears VanderSloot silences his political enemies.  We'll leave it up them to explain more since the impression from these report is that VanderSloot's lawyers are on speed dial.

The State of Things:

The Boston Globe has a nice profile of Attorney General Martha Coakley two years after her devastating loss to Scott Brown in 2010 special election to succeed the late Ted Kennedy.  The article notes her own embarrassment at losing the seat, but also underlines her decision to get up off the mat and do a job both on the campaign trail for reelection as AG and in advocacy of Bay Staters.  Pictures of her career, here.  Notably, after last week's Suffolk Poll, she could be poised for a comeback on the national stage or maybe for Governor in 2014.

In senate news, Scott Brown's support for the Blunt Amendment continues to be a risk for him.  While he appears to be matching a national Republican strategy to use the issue to attack Obama's "big government" pushing church around, the media seem to have rejected that notion even when they go beyond birth control.  Most media reports note the Blunt Amendment's text will allow ANY medical care to be denied for impossibly quantifiable reasons of moral opposition.  The Republican article linked above shows the electoral dangers Brown faces with this position, though it could get him more funds raised, although since it is a given he'll outspend Elizabeth Warren, the extra money may not make a difference.  Over the weekend, the Boston Globe also highlighted divisions among Republicans on the issue.

Also, the Valley Advocate's Maureen Turner writes up the kickoff of Andrea Nuciforo's campaign for the nomination in the 1st Massachusetts Congressional district.  He is challenging Cong. Richard Neal.  The campaign comes after much speculation of what redistricting would leave for Western Mass politicians.

City Slickers:

Ward 8 Councilor John Lysak is proposing multiple family dwellings pay a higher property tax rate arguing that such buildings are an investment and not a home.  In Springfield, business and residential properties pay separate rates an option that city chooses to exercise under state law.  Not all communities elect to do so and instead have one rate, although most urban communities in the state do so.  The proposal is opposed by area realtors like the Sears family and would require a statewide law.  It could not be passed as a home rule petition exclusive to Springfield.

The Springfield City Council's General Government Committee will be holding a hearing this Thursday on changes to strengthen the city's residency ordinance.

New England Public Radio reports that Springfield's community organizers are trying to boost the city's voter turnout after one of the most abysmal turnouts in the city's history.

Twitter Chatter:

Today we have finally done it.  Yes!  We have awarded our tweet prize to Scott Brown.  It really was inevitable in some way.  This tweet comes from Brown's campaign arm and features an adorable baby whose parent (we assume) is signing the petition to get Brown onto the ballot in September (for the primary, however pro forma).  However, this is not an exercise in pointing out children lucky/unlucky enough to have Scott Brown supporters as parents because Brown is sharing this week's tweet prize with a frequent winner of this prize.  Pay close attention to the bumper sticker on the child's bum.  Now look at the text of the tweet.  "What do you think the little guy is thinking?"

Well, the Boston Phoenix's David Bernstein, the Tweetsmith of Massachusetts Politics, perhaps nailed the inherent irony of this photograph.  While not as crass as our "Dump what's Brown" answer to the tweet, Bernstein nevertheless hit on the same theme.  In a tweet unlisted here, Bernstein writes, "that's a dangerous photo caption contest, Senator."  Clarifying that he was referring not to some more basic biological need on the baby's mind, Bernstein pointed out the juxtaposition of the bumper sticker on the baby's bottom.