Lots going on!
…And the World:
In South Africa, the African National Congress, the ruling party since free and fair election began with the fall of Apartheid, celebrated one hundred years of existence yesterday. However, the party, which holds the presidency and lopsided majorities in both houses of the legislature, reaches this centennial with a cloud over its head. Promises for a better life for blacks have fallen short and wealth remains concentrated in the hands of whites while, according to the New York Times, scandals and corruption have turned off the black middle classes. While the celebration put up a face of unity, the ANC has shown fissures over time. Nelson Mandela, 93, the Noble Peace Laureate could not attend due health reasons.
Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne wants a quick vote on Scottish independence to come sooner rather than later, in a possible effort to discourage a vote for independence. While the Scottish National Party, which controls the Scottish Parliament in Ediburgh is not in favor of full independence, it does want more powers devolved from the National Parliament in London. It would like to see that vote several years from now. The Prime Minister David Cameron appears to want an all or nothing vote on independence within 18 months. It is a gamble, but the theory goes that by giving Scots a choice to receive more local control, but nevertheless maintain union in some way, the SNP wins. An independence or not option forecloses any such victory for the SNP. True independence is not widly favored in Scotland. Also problematic is the fact that an independent or merely freer Scotland could harm the Labour party, that traditionally draws important support from Scotland. The way the Cameron government has announced its plans for a referendum has irked both Labour and their own governing coalition Liberal Democrats.
If you thought Congress was dysfunctional apparently the Knesset in Israel has problems of its own. An MK from the right-wing Yisrael Beitineu Party threw the contents of a glass at a Labour MK during a heated debate over whether to fire a principal for taking students to a human rights march in Tel Aviv. The Knesset is led by the Center-right Likud party, but govern with Yisrael Beitenu, which like some factions in the GOP controlled House, enjoys its own host of fanatical characters who often drives the body further right than more rational rightists would permit. This comes at a time of increased attacks on Palestinians and Israeli military forces by militant Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
Cong. Gabrielle Giffords returned to her native Tuscon to mark the one year anniversary of the attack that killed six and wounded nineteen including herself. The Congresswoman, who has made a remarkable, though incomplete, recovery led the ceremony by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance slowly, but defiantly holding up her incapacitated right hand over her heart with the help of her left hand.
William Daley, the President’s Chief of Staff is resigning after a tumultuous year as President Obama’s right hand aide. He had been brought on in an effort to smooth over the president’s stormy relationship with the business community, but is largely seen to have not really succeeded on that front. He had been working with diminished responsibilities since the fall after an effort for a grand bargain during the debt negotiations failed. He will be replaced by Budget Director Jacob Lew.
Indiana Democrats returned to the floor for the first time since the new legislative session began, but made no promises to remain through the week and allow passage of Right to Work bill. The bill is a top priority for Governor Mitch Daniels, but would likely cripple labor in this red, but otherwise union friendly state. Right to work prohibits contracts that require workers to pay union dues, and the result is, not surprisingly, weaker or no unions as workers can get the benefits of negotiation at no cost to them. Under federal law, nobody can be forced to join a union, only pay the necessary costs of negotiations. Supporters also argue that more and better paying jobs exist in right to work states, but experts disagree with that notion. Weighted for cost of living, wages are in fact lower in right to work state, which are most common in the South and Midwest. Democrats in Indiana have used the state’s 2/3 quorum requirement to stall the process and want, at minimum, more hearings across the state before permitting passage. A legislator walk-out last year delayed further debate on the subject until now. A similar bill in New Hampshire was vetoed by Democratic governor John Lynch, but several Republicans have joined Democrats in sustaining the veto in the New Hampshire House.
Oh, and Mitt Romney likes to fire people. His quote is kind of out of context, but he’s been doing that to President Obama for a while now and now wants to be treated as he himself does not treat others.
The State of Things:
Senator Scott Brown had a record fundraising haul in the fourth quarter, raising $3.2 million since the start of October. That brings his yearly total to $8.5 million and his cash on hand to $12 million. Elizabeth Warren, the presumptive Democratic nominee has not released fundraising numbers yet.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren has eliminated any concern that she is at all like Martha Coakley, almost deliberately doing what Coakely allegedly did not like to do. Shake hands at Fenway Park…in the cold. Warren was at the stadium for the Frozen Fenway College games. Here’s another photograph from outside with fans. (h/t Mother Jones)
Meanwhile, the saga over Lt. Gov. Tim Murray’s car crash goes on. Most recently, he emailed supporters saying that the falsh rumors that have dogged him since (including claims of intoxication) were false. Murray wrecked a state car while driving to survey storm damage last year. Murray now believes that he nodded off when the vehicle crashed. The car’s “black box” recorded a 108 mph speed. A fair degree of forensic evidence does seem to support Murray, who is widely seen as a leading contender for the 2014 gubernatorial race. However, the worse thing for Murray may be those rushing to his defense. Ladies and gentlemen, former Springfield mayor Michael Albano (h/t to Dorchester Reporter writer Gintautas Dumcius).
Well that was fast! Not even council president for a week and at-large Councilor Jimmy Ferrera has not only egg on his face, but a whole breakfast. Over the weekend the Republican printed a story in which Ferrera denied his appointments to council committees were vindictive. He appointed Ward 2 & 7 Councilors Mike Fenton and Tim Allen to only one committee each. Fenton’s appointment was to a special animal control committee making him the first in recent city history to receive no appointments to a standing council committee as we reported yesterday. Maureen Turner rightly calls Ferrera’s actions an “insult” to Fenton & Allen’s constituents and notes his petty retribution toward two of the council’s more engaged members does nothing for the city. Bill Dusty says Ferrera even messed up his effort to stick it to his enemies.
The meeting tonight will focus on new abatements for city taxpayers and revisions to the city’s residency ordinance. Councilors hope to work with the mayor to strengthen the city’s requirement that city employees live in the city, which after modification by the Finance Control Board has become effectively useless with numerous waivers being granted on a near-constant basis.
Friendly’s emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy today, but another 37 stores did not. Two of the company’s Springfield stores, one at Five Town Plaza on Cooley Street and one on Page Boulevard closed after new leases could not be negotiated with landlords. The Holyoke Mall and Longmeadow Shops stores also closed for the same reasons.
Twitter has long been a haven for parody accounts of public officials. They are a chance to lambast officials either out of fun, out of righteous indignation or out of juvenile spite. Springfield, with its political apparatus possessing little interest in social media, has not had many, but a newcomer on the scene has change this. Many groaned when new broke that at-large Councilor Jimmy Ferrera became Council President, but after some pretty awful quotes in the weekend story linked above, it became clear that those fears were justified.
Somebody, identify unknown (it is not us, we wish we had been that clever) has formed their own Ferrera parody Twitter handle, @JFerreraquotes. The handle includes real quotes from Ferrera, updates and also parody statements very similar to actual Ferrera statements. When we found this handle, we began following it, which provoked this tweet spoofing Ferrera’s stated reason for shafting some councilors with committee assignments. Based on the premise of this tweet’s logic, we expect to be on easy street once the person behind this account is “elected.”