...And the World:
Last week the limelight was on British Prime Minister David Cameron leader of the Conservative Party for his and his government's handling of the Scottish question. This week the focus turns to Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition Labour party, whose leadership is under threat after agreeing, at least in principle, to some of the austerity measures affecting public employees. One union is openly criticizing Miliband's decision with the threat of fracturing Labour. While Miliband's remarks over the weekend were more of the substance that Labour is not in a position to promise reversing Cameron's harsh cuts should Miliband's party regain Parliament in 2015, it was read as a hard turn to the right. Labor unions in Britain supply, not surprisingly, a great deal of the Labour party's money, and a schism could threaten the party's electoral chances. Unions, for their part, fear that Miliband may be following the path of Tony Blair who often took the unions for granted while taking allegedly "centrist" positions to retain his majority in Parliament. Miliband beat his own brother, David, in 2010's Labour leadership elections with the help of the unions and the left wing of the party.
A war is brewing in the Middle East. Not Iran, but Israel. No, not with Iran! Cyber warfare has taken hold among Israel and some of its neighbors on the part of hackers. Hackers in both Israel, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere have traded claims of stolen credit cards and personal information. In the latest salvo, the Israeli Stock Exchange and leading airline El Al, were attacked.
While negotiators return tomorrow to find a means to cut Greeces debt, European leaders are becoming increasingly pessimistic that Greek leaders can enact the reforms the country needs to move forward. Unlike his Italian counterpart, technocratic Prime Minister Lucas Papademos was unable to appoint his own cabinet. As a result many reforms that have passed remain unimplemented. A Greek default in priced into the market, but only if it is orderly. A disorderly default, which could happen as soon as March, is in all likelihood not priced into markets.
Death toll rose to 11 in the Costa Concordia shipwreck off the Italian coast (via NPR).
With Mitt Romney seemingly unstoppable in his quest to become the Republican nominee, candidates are trying to throw everything they've got at him. A Santorum ad says the former Massachusetts governor is too much like Obama, while a Super PAC new the South Carolina primary calls Mitt a murderer!
Meanwhile, at the last debate Mitt Romney said the President of the United States, Barack Obama did not have a jobs plan. That's right folks! Mitt Romney says the President does not have a jobs plan. None. Zilch. Zero! Therefore it cannot exist! He never proposed one! Pay no attention to those links that clearly prove the president presented a bill and gave a speech on the American Jobs Act! (BTW, h/t to Greg Sargent at Washington Post for the link and also as the link points out Romney does not actually have a plan himself).
Oh, and Jon Huntsman got out of the race and endorsed Mitt Romney. It really doesn't change anything, but Lawrence O'Donnell, gleefully showed how Huntsman's endorsement is not particularly meaningful given how much he's slapped Romney around.
Democrats in Wisconsin have turned in over 1 million signatures in order to recall Governor Scott Walker. Organizers need 540,000 qualifying signatures to force a recall, which even Walker is resigned to at this point. While the effort began after Walker stripped public employees of any meaningful union rights, it has picked up steam as Wisconsinites have seen the damage that Walker's rule has wrought. Like a petition drive to repeal an Ohio union-stripping bill, the petitions were delivered by truck to the state agency responsible for elections. Petitions to recall four state senators were also submitted including against the Senate President who is thought to represent a blood-red district. State Democrats did not initially try to recall the President, Jeff Fitzgerald, because of his district's complexion so a local photographer living in the district launched her own grassroots effort to recall the Walker ally.
The State of Things:
Federal Prosecutors are gearing up to indict several employees of Massachusetts' Probation Department and their legislator patrons. In the Boston Globe article, (behind a pay wall), prosecutors working under Massachusetts US Attorney Carmen Ortiz are believed to be merely dotting the I's and crossing the T's, but an announcement of the indictments has yet to be scheduled. Prosecutors do not discuss ongoing investigations, but Grand Juries, which issue the indictments, often leak via the witnesses called before them.
The Senate race took an interesting turn over the weekend as Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren's campaigns agreed to discuss limiting third-party groups' ads. We first tweeted about the meeting over the weekend, but the Republican followed up with a fuller article. The back and forth started after Brown challenged Warren to denounce third-party ads, but Warren returned with a starker challenge: that the campaigns work out an enforceable agreement to banish the ads. However, many question how the candidates could actually enforce a rule on third party groups who can, post-Citizens United, spend whatever they want. Glen Johnson, Boston.com politics editor, calls it political theater and it may very well be nothing more. Still, it challenged Brown to do more than complain about negative ads without Warren giving him the political high ground by accepting his request for a denunciation of ads opposed to him.
Its that time of year again! The shaming of tax delinquents brings new calls to property owners to pay up before the city places liens on their property. Many delinquent properties this year include cites of former bars and clubs in downtown Springfield, which has experienced a sudden contraction of eateries and watering holes in the last couple of months.
An interesting development is brewing over a grant that the city council sent to committee at the urging of at-large Councilor Bud Williams last week. The grant is meant to help at-risk youth in the city's troubled neighborhoods. The program was started by the governor's office with the help of AWAKE, a local activist group in Springfield. However, AWAKE did not receive any of the grant money from the city who was given the money from the state to distribute to local groups. Because Chelan and DeJuan Brown, who run AWAKE, were supporters of Jose Tosado in last year's election, some sources say the result was one of political retribution on the part of Domenic Sarno.
In last night's debate Mitt Romney gave a stammering answer when pressed to release his tax returns. Culled from the muck of his answer last night and a clearer claim today, that may happen by April. Romney has as much admitted that he pays taxes at about a 15% rate because nearly all of his income is "investment" income and thus not eligible for the income tax. That means he pays a lower percentage of his income in taxes than most working stiffs. This may be an interesting and problematic development for the well-healed former governor, if as expected, he goes up against Obama in the Fall. In the meantime, ever Twit-witty Boston Phoenix reporter and the state's top political tweeter, David Bernstein (@dbernstein) brought together two Romney absurdities together in one tweet. Namely, his taxes and his story about hiring illegal immigrants to maintain his property in Belmont. "For Pete's Sake!" we've got to award Bernstein a tweet prize this week!