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.
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 MoveOn.org 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.
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.