...And the World:
Following the anticipated resignation of Naoto Kan as Japan's Prime Minister, the governing Democratic Party has selected Yoshihiko Noda to lead their party and by extension become Japan's new prime minister. Kan was criticized in the wake of the March Earthquake and Tsunami that battered Japan's northeast and set off a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Kan's resignation had been expected for several months, but the incoming PM faces formidable challenges both from the aftermath of the earthquake and the island nation's economy.
Hurricane Irene came barreling into the Northeast late Saturday and early Sunday. The damage, though bad, could have been far worse. Widespread inland flooding appears to be the biggest problem so far. Millions are without power as trees fell on power lines. Trees that normally could have withstood the high winds lost their grip with the earth due to saturated soil conditions. New York City, which anticipated outright disaster, was spared major damage and its transit system was up and running today. Airlines are also getting back on their feet, but Amtrak remains out of service north of Philadelphia. As of 3:15 PM this includes service along the Springfield line to New Haven.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) who voted for war, Bush tax cuts, Medicare Part D and more without demanding requisite cuts elsewhere in the budget remains adamant about cutting elsewhere in the budget to fund disaster relief from Irene. Immediate disaster relief has not been hindered by Cantor's extortion, but FEMA has had to transfer money intended for Joplin, Mo. relief efforts on a temporary basis. Additionally, with the federal fiscal year near its end, how cuts at this point for more immediate relief remain unclear, without potentially poaching from next fiscal year. Virtually all credible economists have said cuts that come too soon will harm the economy. Incidentally, Mineral, Va, a town in Cantor's district, was the epicenter of last week's Earthquake.
The State of Things:
Flooding continues to keep roads closed throughout the Commonwealth, particularly in Western Massachusetts, which sustained the brunt of the flooding damage. Portions of I-91 and US-5 in Hampshire and Franklin counties remain closed. However, all, but a few pockets of US-20 near Westfield is open. Bridges in Shelburne Falls remains closed as engineers check their structural integrity. Water damage is rampant throughout the region.
This video from Shelburne Falls shows the high water and a building getting washed away.
And this video shows how high and swollen the Connecticut River has become as a result of all the rain and moisture. In the past few years, the Army Corp of Engineers mandated that Springfield, West Springfield and Chicopee, among others engage in an expensive plan to build and support levees and dikes along the river. Decried then, those levees are at least partly responsible for less flooding in those cities today.
Winner of the Crazy Khazei story? Alan Khazei. The founder of City Year and candidate for the Democratic US Senate nomination got more press than he could possibly buy at this stage in the game. Bad news for him? Elizabeth Warren was also in @Crazykhazei's cross hairs. See more below in Twitter Chatter.
Next Monday, Springfield Mayoral candidates School Committeewoman Antonette Pepe, Mayor Domenic Sarno and City Council President Jose Tosado will face off ahead of the September primary, which will narrow the field down to two challengers who will face off in November.
Mayor Domenic Sarno appears poised to refuse a fairer furlough system for city employees unless he get back half of the cuts the City Council made to this year's budget. It is unclear, however, who has more leverage. The City Council still needs to approve balance transfers from the city's reserve accounts to balance the budget and find money for an increase in hotel taxes the council has signaled it will not approve for this budget. Hanging over all of this is cost of disaster recovery from the June 1st tornado, which could top $13 million in un-reimbursed costs to the city.
You have probably have already heard about the @CrazyKhazei nonsense perpetrated by media strategist Eric Fehrnstrom, a close campaign aide to Senator Scott Brown. Long story short, the longtime Mass GOP political strategist and former Romney Communications Director developed a parody account of Massachusetts Senate candidate Alan Khazei. The mildly humorous, but just as often vaguely sexist and homophobic tweets, were connected to Fehrnstrom when he accidentally tweeted from his personal Twitter handle, @ericferhn when he should have done it on @CrazyKhazei. This was uncovered by a Blue Mass Group poster, user ID Chrismatth and Kevin Frack, communications director for the Democratic Party of Massachusetts. The twitter handle has since been shut down, but its tweets were archived at Blue Mass Group. Brown released a vapid statement that contained no apology, but a promise this would not be allowed again, even as he dismissed it as juvenile. However, Brown made no mention of the fact that another campaign aide had registered crazykhazei.com back in January, suggesting broader planning in smearing Khazei.
The entire affair stunk of dirty tricks and the very same negative campaigning (pointed out by Greta van Susteren) the Brown camp has accused its opponents of for months, starting with the League of Women Voters' ad over Clean Air. The Boston Globe has a great roundup of the CrazyKhazei nonsense, which highlights Brown's hypocrisy. Methinks Brown doth protest too much!
Is it #HurricaneIrene or #Irene? If you were watching Bay State impact it may be #MAIrene. The Berkshire Daily Eagle, may have it right, though.