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.

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