Manic Mondary Markup 12/15/14…

…And the World:

We begin today in Australia where a standoff at a café in Sydney has ended with several dead. The gunman holding upwards of 30 people hostage was an Iranian refugee and self-proclaimed “sheik.” Muslim authorities in the Land Down Under say he is nobody of any authority. The “siege” as it has been called, has been held up as an example of the danger of lone wolf attacks perpetrated by disaffected Muslim youth, but also criticized as an exercise in how to give such terrorists exactly what they want: attention. On the bright side, Australians have put forward the #illridewithyou hasghtag to show solidarity with their fellow Muslim citizens and neighbors.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a convincing victory over the weekend after calling a snap election last month two years ahead of schedule, in part to confirm his mandate for “Abenomics.” However, it remains unclear what exactly Abe wants to do with his mandate, having so far eschewed further reforms of the economy, especially as Japan faces recession and a demographic crisis. Nor is it clear Abe has much of a mandate with turnout at the lowest level since World War II.

Negotiators in Lima, Peru have agreed to a framework ahead of major climate talks in Paris next year. While significant, they have been criticized as the absoluate bare minimum countries can do and will no arrest the temperature rises of 3.6 degrees, which would lead to potentially irreversible ecological damage. But The Guardian reports India and the US will announce climate action when President Obama visits the World’s Largest Democracy next month.

Haaretz has daily updates and a page on the Israeli election slated for next March, including Likud rebuking its own leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu will also be meeting with John Kerry about the Palestinian Authority’s latest bid at the UN. Apparently Israel has its own Daily Show and/or Real Time with Bill Maher because Hatnua Party leader and former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni went there. By implication, she called Bibi “impotent,” “trash” and a “zero.” Conservative lawmakers were incensed, proving not only American conservatives who have no sense of humor. Meanwhile, the Labor Party agreed to running with Hatnua in the election.

The leak at Sony has been fodder for news organizations (see Fourth Estatements), but it may also point to international intrigue. North Korea was not happy with Sony’s new movie about an attempted assassination of Kim Jong-un.

The Scottish Labour party has elected a new leader amid concerns the national Labour party could lose seats in Scotland it would need to take over Westminster in the upcoming May general election, among his enormous tasks.

The Feds:

Emperor Palpatine Former Vice-President Dick Cheney has become the loudest and most ironic voices staunchly defending enhanced interrogation techniques torture used on those in CIA custody. Other Republicans are also continuing to criticize the report. The New York Times also profiles CIA Director John Brennan who has defended the agency if with Obama’s reluctant blessing.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam will expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act after reaching a deal with federal authorities. Interesting detail. Hospitals in the Volunteer State will cover what the feds don’t.

James Hohmann at Politico writes about the executive directors of both the Republican and Democratic Governors’ Associations going into business together.

Asian Americans making fresh push to gain a foothold in Los Angeles’ City Council.

After reelecting the man who destroyed the state’s finances, Kansas’ budget problems grow more grim.

The Senate is expected, after a longer-than-necessary delay, to confirm Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General.

The State of Things:

Really it is hard to view the Elizabeth Warren presidential speculation as anything other than Beltway fantasies. It seems plausible if Hillary Clinton does not run, but once again reporters are talking up how Warren’s passionate speech over the weekend is something that should make Clinton worried. Alex Seitz-Wald at MSNBC gets it right about Warren: she is not running, but it serves her purpose to let people think it’s possible. For what it is worth, a Warren spokesman affirmed to The Boston Globe she intended to serve out her term. Sure, this is all not airtight, but it is hardly the tea leaves of a run the Beltway wants it to be. Make no mistake, though. Warren’s speech raised her standing in the party. That doesn’t mean Clinton is in trouble or Warren will run for president.

The Boston Globe tries to divine what Charlie Baker’s makeover from 2010 suggests about how will he govern. Meanwhile his predecessor’s plans are far from certain.

The Globe also looks at what is next for the Bay State’s only outgoing Congressman this year.

Holyoke is hoping to expedite the demolition of the Essex House after last week’s partial collapse. We noted the collateral political damage from the derelict building’s self-demolition.

Worcester debates the gap between its commercial and residential tax rates.

The Fourth Estatements:

Screenwriter Aaron Sorking came to the defense of Sony Pictures after the hacker leak exposed the studio’s dirty laundry. The New York Times also writes about Sony’s efforts to rally other studios behind its cause and its request that the media stop reporting on the contents. The Times’s Executive Editor Dean Baquet offers no firm declaration of the hacked eamils’ newsworthiness. The Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, while admitting these are not at the level of Snowden documents, they do concern appropriate subjects of interest to readers.

It’s Working:

The National Labor Relations Board struck a blow for workers in two instances last week. First they overturned the Register-Guard decisions that allowed employers to prohibit use of email accounts for protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act. The AFL-CIO challenged the ruling and won. Then the Board finalized rules to avoid delays in union elections, which employers often seek–and abuse.

City Slickers:

With its middles schools in the danger zone under the state’s education laws, a public-private partnership has been formed in Springfield to take over the schools.

The Springfield City Council will vote on bonding to expedite renovations at Union Station, but it is not altogether clear how critical the expedited parts of the project are to the station’s short-term success beyond the parking garage.

Springfield’s incoming reps attended a primer on business hosted by UMass.

Twitter Chatter:

Not surprisingly, some are criticizing the #illridewithyou hashtag as unnecessarily preemptive without any Islamaphobic incident. That, of course, misses the point. Preemption in this case is essential (especially since Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s anti-ISIS efforts have been accused of being a tad discriminatory). Bringing the world together is how you counteract both the hate of individuals like the man responsible in Sydney and incidents of discrimination that may or may not rise up after. Today we award the tweet prize to two individuals who underscore this well. The first goes to Rachael Jacobs of Australia whose initial comments on Facebook were credited with starting the hashtag. Modestly declining the press attention, she tweets that anybody who embraces the sentiment of the hashtage is inspiring.

Meanwhile Chris Cuomo, a CNN anchor, knocks down the criticism of the preemptive effort rightly noting, there is nothing wrong with taking a step out to stop hate with love. To quote Inception, “positive emotion trumps negative emotion.” Indeed.


Manic Monday Markup 12/8/14…

…And the World:

We begin today in Israel, where the Knesset, in a flurry of pre-election activity, has voted to formally dissolve itself ahead of an election planned for March 17, upending rumors Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was seeking a new coalition. Last week, Bibi sacked Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, breaking up his coalition, prompting the new elections. Livni, the leader of Hatnua party, is said to be close to a deal with Labor leader Isaac Herzog to run with his party in the election. Polls indicate the joint list would outperform Netanyahu’s Likud. Who would become Prime Minister were the joint ticket to win is uncertain, but would likely be Herzog. Meanwhile, Netanyahu faces his own challenges with recently retired minister Gideon Sa’ar and MK Moshe Feiglin running against him to lead the Likud party. Meanwhile, Bibi loses a minister, too.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is feeling the heat after what has been considered a disastrous effort to play down global warming at the G20 conference in Brisbane this fall. Polls show the public is not at all satisfied with his extremely skeptical take on climate change. His own government seems to agree. After he vetoed a minister’s trip to Lima, Peru where leader will work on a major climate conference in 2015, the minister, Julie Bishop, brought the issue up at a cabinet meeting and got her trip approved over Abbott’s objection.

This week in Ebola: The Times reports on Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s ban on public rallies, which critics say is politics. Elsewhere, The Times interviews the American doctor who contracted the disease in West Africa and survived after treatment at Emory University.

Opposition members of South Africa’s parliament complain President Jacob Zuma’s African National Congress are subjugating the legislature to the president.

Former Scottish National Party Leader Alex Salmond may run for a seat in the UK parliament next year.

The Feds:

The New York Times writes a long piece on the coordination between Republican attorneys general and energy companies to undermine efforts at improving energy efficiency and combatting climate change.

Nancy Pelosi talks to The Washington Post about the path forward for her caucus in the House after the 2014 election. Bonus cameo from Sprinfield US Representative Richard Neal. But Democrats’ troubles in the House are complicated by geography. In the same vein, meditations on and an interview with Howard Dean on the 50 state strategy.

Protests have continued nationwide and in New York since a Staten Island grand jury did not indict the police officer who put Eric Garner into a chokehold. Garner subsequently died.

After Moreland Commission was shut down to investigate Albany corruption, New York lawmakers continue to shirk existing disclosure and ethics laws via loopholes.

Connecticut’s junior senator Chris Murphy is profiled in The Connecticut Post as he closed out his first two years in Congress’s upper chamber (and first time in his political career to not face election after only two years in office).

Elsewhere south of the border, leaders of the Nutmeg State’s House of Representatives line up their committee leaders for the 2015-2016 term.

The State of Things:

“Mahty” reverses himself. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh now says he is open to a pilot program for police body cameras.

Massachusetts much ballyhooed photo ID’s for EBT cards are getting a thumbs down from federal regulators who say the measure, allegedly intended to reduce fraud, is keeping qualified individuals from getting benefits.

Pay raises are unlikely to get a vote on Beacon Hill before the next session of the legislature begins.

Charlie Baker picks a former Weld official to be his top attorney in the governor’s office.

Longmeadow Town Manager Stephen Crane’s performance review has been delayed.

Holyoke officials remember William Taupier, a former mayor, who died last week.

The Fourth Estatements:

New plans for The New Republic from its owner Chris Huges has prompted a stampede of resignations and raised questions about the future of the storied publication.

WBUR discusses the launch of The Boston Globe’s new standalone business section.

City Slickers:

Congressman Richard Neal led a delegation of Springfield officials to New Haven and back—via train. The trip highlighted the improvement of service between the two cities and renovation at Union Station, which Neal also discussed in an Op-Ed. Jim Kinney at The Republican considers whether New Haven’s Union Station is a model for Springfield.

The Springfield City Council will begin the process of setting the tax rate this week. Mayor Domenic Sarno released his recommendations last week.

PVTA ridership is up.

Twitter Chatter:

As protests continue following the grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case, key differences between Staten Island and Ferguson are worth noting. Not the least of which is starkly different approaches between New York Mayor Bill deBlasio and Ferguson leaders, even as the former still has not formally condemned the grand jury decision. Today we award the tweet prize to MSNBC media personality Chris Hayes for noting another difference. Whereas St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch was pilloried for his almost clearly biased behavior, Richmond County (Staten Island) District Attorney Dan Donovan has not received nearly as much scrutiny, Hayes notes. Donovan’s approach has gotten much attention, nor have a lot of details been forthcoming. Although part of the answer may be that Donovan just put his head down and gathered evidence, rather than publicly appearing to pursue an indictment kicking and screaming. Either way, if the grand jury records are unsealed in Staten Island, we may learn more.


Manic Monday Markup 12/1/14…

…And the World:

We begin today in Iraq, where new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has dismissed 24 senior officials as his government investigates claims of 50,000 ghost soldiers in the army.

Who is Moshe Kahlon? The former Likud minister left Israeli frontline politics and is prepared to run his own political party against his ex-party and its leader Benjamin Netanyahu. While a Haaretz poll indicates Kahlon’s impact may be minimal, he could be the gravest threat to Netanyahu’s path to another term as PM. Meanwhile, Bibi himself is threatening fresh elections and claims to have the votes to force one (as opposed to asking President Rivlin to order them) amid turmoil in his government, namely Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and Hatnua’s Tzipi Livni. The rumble is, as it was, the Jewish nation-state bill, which has received criticism from Conservative Jews and Israeli political analysts.

Uruguayans return their former president to power after the incumbent threatened to scale back the country’s marijuana legalization process.

Fresh protests in Hong Kong have been broken up. One protest  leader goes on hunger strike.

After his party loses control of Victoria’s government, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott issues a mea culpa, including admission of breaking election promises. Abbott’s party, shorthanded as the Coalition, controlled traditionally Labor-friendly Victoria until the last election, but the Labor leader in Melbourne, Daniel Andrews, led his party to a romp over Denis Napthine, the Coalition premier of Victoria. It was the first time in decades a state government was voted out after only one term. The afterglow from Abbott’s mea culpa, though, does not appear to be going as well. The Guardian considers how Labor’s win will affect the PM.

Amid financial chaos, Russia tries to stabilize the plummeting ruble.

Asian political potpourri. Japan’s opposition is caught off guard by Shinzo Abe’s snap election. The ruling party is Taiwan is defeated, prompting the party’s leader to step down.

The Feds:

Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Mo. police officer at the center of the Michael Brown shooting there, has resigned. Ferguson officials says he will not be receiving any severance.

President Barack Obama announced last week he would veto a tax package that would extend tax breaks for the wealth and corporations, but not for the middle class and poor. This week, Harry Reid says a bill that does not include the middle class and poor will not pass during his dwindling days as majority leader.

Even after cutting the budget, Gov. Dannel Malloy still faces a deficit in Connecticut, according to the State Comptroller, Democrat Kevin Lembo. More budget trouble is ahead.

Efforts appear underway to move Florida’s gubernatorial cycle to coincide with the President one after moving it to the midterm year about 50 years ago. In Los Angeles, with municipal election coming next year without the benefit of a contested mayoral election (wherein turnout was still unimpressive), city officials look to get more voters to show up, perhaps by moving elections to even-numbered years.

A GOP staffer resigns after criticizing Sasha and Malia Obama.

The Mashantucket Pequot tribe faces the reality of declining gambling revenues.

The State of Things:

Governor Deval Patrick and Governor-elect Charlie Baker disagree on proposed pay raises. Meanwhile, The Boston Globe discovers Baker’s pick for Chief of Staff was not lured away from academia. He was on his way out from Northeastern anyway.

The Globe writes about Worcester’s efforts to be far more of a college town than it is. That is make it a place its 35,000 students want to live after graduation.

Holyoke Treasurer Jon Lumbra getting flack from the City Council for doing his job on nights & weekends while doing something else during the day. That criticism, while on its face fair, might be more meaningful if the Council, which would appoint Lumbra’s replacement were he to resign, could get around to appointing other officials it has a standing right to select. Lumbra seems likely to resign in January. Typical Holyoke political bellyaching. Nothing to see here, folks.

In less fraught Holyoke news, City Clerk Brenna McGee scores a grant to preserve city records.

Seth Moulton, the North Shore’s new congressman, prepares to enter Congress.

The Fourth Estatements:

Dave Weigel at Bloomberg writes about conservative efforts, particularly within the media to intimidate and silence members of the mainstream press with indirect threats and by publicizing personal information. Among the targeted are New York Times reporter Julie Bosman and Washington Post reporter (and [spoiler] current tweet prize champ) Wesley Lowery. The right’s stated reason for doing so? Revealing the location of Darren Wilson’s home, which the media did not actually do. Weigel himself has been targeted since publishing. The Times‘s public editor Margaret Sullivan also considers the right’s complaint and its response.

City Slickers:

Demolition of the former baggage building of Union Station has commenced. The renovated station and new accompanying bus wing will open in 2016.

Ward 8 Councilor Orlando Ramos says he has the votes to be Council Vice-President in 2015, marking the first time since ward representation both the President and Veep are ward councilors. Council President Michael Fenton already said he secured to votes to preside over the chamber for another year. Council veep entails no additional duties, but fills in for the president in his absence or desire to participate in debate.

Former Catholic Bishop Thomas Maguire laid to rest.

Twitter Chatter:

The media is not always right. They can be wrong both in factual terms and in how they approach and write about the news, the latter being more flawed judgment than an empirical error. With some notable exceptions, our government does not harass or intimidate journalists. Even large private companies or entities, to whom the 1st Amendment does not apply and against whom private causes of action are the only recourse, tend to avoid targeting the press. It was remarkable when Uber considered crossing this line. Even the public generally eschews targeting individuals within the media. Verbal criticism of their work is fine. The First Amendment works both ways. But targeting journalists with threats or revealing personal information that seemingly encourage the same is, in a word, reprehensible. It fosters a breakdown of civil society and could lead to somebody getting hurt. There is a far longer parade of horribles, which we shall save for another time.

Today we ward the tweet prize to Post reporter Wesley Lowery. Lowery, a former Globe scribe who is black, has been one of The Post’s point guys in Ferguson and that has unfortunately come with an unfortunate fusillade of racist tweets and emails. But that was not enough, apparently, as his critics felt the need to publish personal information about himself and his family. But this is not a sympathy award. Rather it is Lowery tweeting of Margaret Sullivan’s post, praising his colleague-competitors at the Times and condemning the targeting against them. Classy and spot-on, Wes!


Manic Monday Markup 11/24/14…

…And the World:

We begin today in Austria, where the world powers negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program have announced an extension of talks with the Persian nation until July. US Secretary of State John Kerry has said new ideas have arisen and the temporary agreement will be extended. Israel, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which long opposed a deal, appears relieved that no final pact has been reached, while Kerry promises more in the future to reassure Israel.

Meanwhile Israel’s government continues to be wracked with turmoil over its Nation State bill, which would codify the nation’s Jewish identity, namely its flag, anthem and right to citizenship. Netanyahu is said to delay movement of the bill for now, but remains determined to pass it even amid US calls for the country to maintain its commitment to democratic principles. Members of Bibi’s coalition including Hatnuah’s Tzipi Livni, the Justice Minister, and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, the Finance Minister have balked at language adopted from far right-wingers, which has been criticized as anti-Democratic and would undermine equality for Arab Israelis. Both say they will not back the bill in its current form before the Knessett, possibly prompting their dismissals from government and forcing new elections in the process.

Turkey’s President Recip Tayyip Erdogan doubts gender equality.

A Sidney Morning Herald columnist questions Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s steering of the nation’s foreign affairs vis-à-vis China and the US.

Tunisia, one of the few bright spots coming out of the Arab Spring, holds its first Presidential election since overthrowing its dictatorship in 2011. The race appears poised for a runoff.

Staying in the neighborhood, a Republican-led panel in the House of Representatives largely clears the administration of wrong-doing in Benghazi.

UK potpourri: Britain plans stronger anti-terror legislation. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said to not stand for reelection to Parliament in May’s elections.

The Feds:

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has announced his resignation. Reports in The New York Times say she was pressured, that is forced out, after criticism of his steering the Pentagon amid global crises. Former Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy is a leading candidate, but Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed has taken himself out of contention. WPRI’s Ted Nesi tells us why. Vox discusses why replacing Hagel will not solve the administration’s foreign policy problems.

A grand jury in St. Louis County, Mo. is said to have reached decision as to whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson, the Ferguson copy who shot and killed Michael Brown last summer.

Marion Barry, the former Mayor of Washington, died over the weekend. The New York Times and Washington Post reflect on his life in obituaries. Here is a look at how Barry kept rising from the political dead.

Democrats have narrowed their host cities for the 2016 Democratic National Convention to Columbus, New York (that is Brooklyn) and Philadelphia. While on the subject, The Nation considers when/if/how the Democratic party lost its soul.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, under criticism from within his part on foreign affairs as he considers a presidential bid, proposes the US formally declare war on the Islamic State. But is actually plotting to end the War on Terror?

The State of Things:

Transition watch: Charlie names his Secretary of Administration & Finance: Kristen Lapore. Elsewhere in Baker news, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse says he will be meeting with the governor-elect on the homeless in hotels.

Operation of the Mass Health Connector website this year appears much smoother than last year’s.

Holyoke Ward 4 Councilor Jossie Valentin and Springfield Ward 8 Councilor Orlando Ramos attend a national conference for Latino lawmakers.

Gov. Deval Patrick releases $42 million for the South Coast rail project which would link Fall River and New Bedford to Boston.

The Fourth Estatements:

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette has been sold again.

Erik Wemple, The Washington Post’s media reporter/critic, delves into word that network news personalities have met with Officer Wilson, but are keeping that under wraps. That leads to some criticism as to whether or not the media might be coopted by Wilson so he can sell his story.

City Slickers:

City Council Mike Fenton holds a hearing on the use of casino funds going forward in future city budget, getting some attention from the Associated Press. Paul Tuthill interviews Fenton for this at Northeastern Public Radio.

MGM’s permit has a comment period through Christmas Eve.

Cathedral High School remains top on the agenda among many in the city as supporters rallied last week. Our analysis of the situation.

Twitter Chatter:

Today was a pretty packed news day, but before the result of the St. Louis County grand jury is released, we would prefer to look at other news. The news that Secretary Hagel is leaving the Pentagon certainly prompted a host of reaction as to who will succeed him and how will that person’s confirmation process before the Senate go. However, some of the interesting commentary is about who will not go. Today we award the tweet prize to Ted Nesi, a political and business reporter at WPRI in Providence Rhode Island. Nesi notes his state’s senior US Senator has taken himself out of contention and it is not surprise. He puts it as a choice between a cushy, powerful gig in the Senate or a temporary and impossibly tough role in the Pentgon. Which would you choose?