…And the World:
Once again the world is waiting on Greece. While the long elusive deal between Greece and its creditors appears to be gelling, it will require more austerity and reforms from Greece. The country is already facing a deep recession, skyrocketing unemployment and cuts to services. Earlier promises to cut the excessive fat and more than a little muscle from the Greek state has been slow and often stymied by the country’s squabbling political parties even as measures are approved by the Greek Parliament. Unlike in Italy, where Prime Minister Mario Monti got to appoint his own cabinet, Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos had to give government ministries to members of the political parties, who do not want to mar their political brand when they face elections later this year. The latest concession calls for the elimination of 15,000 jobs, but the Greek Constitution prohibits layoffs, which will make enacting those cuts extremely difficult. Creditors also want Greece to limit the state’s requirements on private sector wages and bonuses before agreeing to take huge losses on Greek debt with interest rates well below what Greece could get on the open market. Again the squabbling among political parties has complicated finalizing a deal.
The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate as both Britain and the United States recall their ambassadors and the US closed its embassy altogether. The closure came as violence has bubbled up into to long-quiet Damascus and attacks mount in other Syrian cities. President Bashar al-Assad has been accused of brutally repressing pro-Democracy efforts in his country to the extent that the country is teetering toward Civil War. Over the weekend, Russia and China vetoed a condemnation of Assad that called for him to step aside. The measure came to the UN Security Council after the Arab League all, but admitted their efforts to stop the violence failed. The veto has received its own wave of condemnation from governments support Security Council action.
Anti-austerity measures in Europe have claimed another government. Romania’s Prime Minister, Emil Bloc, resigned ahead of already planned elections in the Eastern European country. While Romania is better off than some of its neighbors, like Hungary which is seeing the National Airline’s planes being seized right off of foreign tarmacs, austerity measures remain deeply unpopular.
A new power-sharing arrangement between Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and Fatah, which controls the West Bank formally ends the division between the two Palestinian territories. The two regions, intended to be governed as one, split after Hamas won a majority in Palestinian elections. Gaza was eventually isolated by Israel leaving Fatah and President Mahmoud Abbas to form their own government in the West Bank. The new power-sharing agreement paves the way for new elections, but complicates the relationship with Israel as Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.
New polling from ABC/Washington news offers both encouragement and a warning to President Barack Obama ahead of the November election. It shows Obama ahead of likely Republican nominee and former governor of our own Massachusetts, Mitt Romney. A number of the details deeper in the poll provide dispiriting news for the president, but they are tempered by a recurring factoid of recent polls. The more they learn about Romney, the more they dislike him.
The Senate has passed a Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill that damages unions’ ability to organize in the transportation industry. Under current law, airline and railway workers (who are covered by a separate labor law than most workers) need only 35 percent of employees to force a unionization election. Republicans last year demanded that the law be changed so that at that election, pro-union forces would need to get a majority of all workers, not simply those that voted. The changes require fifty percent of all employees before an election is held, making the election superfluous and creating a numerically similar outcome to what Republicans demanded. The bill now awaits President Obama’s signature.
The damage done to its brand after the Susan G. Komen fund pulled funding for Planned Parenthood (then semi-reversed) is not over, yet. Additionally, The New Republic, pivoting off a 2009 Barbara Ehrenreich article, notes the philosophical hazards of Komen’s attitudes, particularly its feminist ones that may have presaged this whole fiasco.
The State of Things:
Despite some news items here and there it has been a slow news week for the Massachusetts Senate race. Nevertheless, the media machine with the help of Scott Brown’s campaign press secretary has drummed up something. First up was a report that Scott Brown’s daughter, Ayla, received $9500 to sing from her father’s campaign at an event, an entirely legal enterprise, but one that raised a few eyebrows. Ayla Brown is allowed under Federal Law to perform for free, but did not do so. Brown’s campaign said it was done so as not to make her bandmates uncomfortable, but that just made the whole thing sound cheesier. Elsewhere, Brown’s campaign attacked Warren as an elitist for her campaign tracker’s tweet about a fifteen year-old car with gull wing doors he saw in Springfield. The tweet seemed innocuous enough and is unlikely to harm Warren’s standing in Springfield or the area. However, it is being used to build up Brown’s claim that Warren, who attended far less elite schools than Brown, is an elitist. For what it’s worth, Brown’s campaign tracker lied about his identity to sneak into a Democratic fundraiser last year shortly after Warren declared and Brown’s staff has engaged in far more unflattering tweet-escapades.
Following last year’s homicide in a barbershop the City Council’s Public Safety Committee is considering an ordinance to further regulate barbers in the city. At the time of the murder and at times before, some had pointed out that some shops keep truly bizarre hours leading some to wonder if illegal activity occurred at some establishments. The committee is also looking in to a group home proposed for the McKnight neighborhood, which many complain already has its fair share.
Springfield Roman Catholic Bishop Timothy McDonnell has joined the chorus of Catholic religious leaders opposed to the federal government’s mandate to provide coverage for contraception in its employee insurance plans. The new rule issued by the Obama administration applies to church affiliated groups like colleges and hospitals that minister to all faiths, but not churches or diocesan offices. Bishops believe they may have a case in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling, but that case hinged on a church doctrine to resolve problems internally, and while broadly seen as an expansion of religious freedom may not be enough to overturn the new rule. Additionally, the church seems misguided in its efforts as although the church condemns birth control, its opposition is not of the same kind as it is relative to abortion. Abortion can be condemned regardless of who is involved, but its opposition to birth control is tied into its teachings on marriage, which obviously do not apply to non-Catholics and should in positions that minister to all people. Additionally, it is worth noting that Catholic hospitals in some states already comply, albeit begrudgingly, with a requirement that they offer some contraceptives in limited circumstances.
This week’s tweet prize was going to be a serious insightful one, but then Massachusetts Political Tweetress, @harmonywho offered some much needed political relief with a spin on some local chatter and a long-standing problem that presidential candidate Rick Santorum has had. So we award a tie!
The first tweet prize goes to State Senator Jamie Eldridge of the Acton. Long a member of the Senate more liberal wing, he has engaged in a campaign of late to push the legislature to endorse a constitutional amend to overturn the Citizens United case that brought us SuperPACs. By no means is he the only one pushing this here in Massachusetts or in other states. Indeed, a number of amendments to the constitution have been proposed in Congress, but are nowhere near 2/3 majorities in Congress needed for passage. Still, this issue and its resolution is critical for the preservation of our Democracy. It has shirked our campaign finance laws and essentially legalized bribery by way of calling money speech. For keeping this issue front and center, we recognize Eldridge and others for their efforts.
Meanwhile, @harmonywho’s tweet refers to Santorum’s longstanding Google problem. Googling Santorum’s last name will yield a one-page website with a rather disgusting definition. It was created by sex advice columnist Dan Savage in retaliation for Santorum comparing homosexual relationships to bestiality among other things. This “definition” combined with recent news reports about a possible upset by Santorum in Colorado or Minnesota who hold caucuses tomorrow. Hence, “Santorum Surprise.”