Manic Monday Markup 2/2/15…

…And the World:

We begin today in Australia, where an election in the state of Queensland has rocked the political Land Down Under. Three years after annihilating the Labor party in the state parliament, the Liberal-National (LNP)  coalition suffered a huge setback falling from 73 of 89 seats to less than 40. Due to Australia’s complicated voting system, final results are not expected for days and a hung parliament probable, but Labor’s leader in the state, Annastacia Palaszczuk seems likely to form the next government. The leader of the LNP in Queensland lost his own seat, setting off a battle for succession in the state.

On the federal level, Prime Minister Tony Abbott is feeling the pressure as his governance is partly to blame (although not exclusively) for the results in Queensland. His leadership of the Coalition seems secure for now, but in a major speech he conceded that changes in in how he and his party leads the country are needed.

In Ukraine, renewed fighting between Russian-linked rebels and the government has prompted President Barack Obama to consider selling arms to the government in Kiev. However, that is far from certain. Meanwhile, the Kremlin’s approach to the country’s economic headwinds has some scratching their heads for the lack of urgency.

In Israel, the election campaign is getting nasty with Likud trying to get a group advised by former Obama campaign staffer Jeremy Bird banned from participating in the election. Likud accused the group of being connected to the Zionist Union, but V15 is fighting back. For its part, the Zionist Union, a fusion of Labor and Hatnuah, denies the allegation and accused Likud of panic in the wake of allegations Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife took the value of bottle deposits that belonged to the state and that both engaged in profligate spending. An argument in Haaretz says V15’s activities are legal.

Elsewhere in Israeli politics, Haaretz profiles Stav Shaffir, the youngest member of the Knesset and whose activism on financial issues has made her one of Labor’s stars in the Zionist Union and a Youtube sensation.

Greece’s failure to elect a president prompted an election, but Italy has no such problems and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s success there may grant him leverage for broader reforms of the Italian state.

Egypt upholds mass death sentence for 183.

The Feds:

In England for a trade mission and likely as a presidential candidate abroad, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appeared to back parents who do not vaccinate their kids, saying their beliefs must be balanced against the government’s interest in requiring vaccinations. His office later clarified, but Christie has had anti-vaccine dalliances before.

Obama’s penultimate budget was released today. Among the details are more spending on infrastructure and allowing gay couples in non-marriage equality states to qualify for survivor benefits. Gasp, Republicans are unimpressed.

Connecticut US Senator Richard Blumenthal is on the cusp of major victory as his military suicide prevention bill nears passage.

The Los Angles Times says California AG Kamala Harris’s Senate bid was a long time coming.

The State of Things:

As Karyn Polito continues her transformation from right-wing icon to politically acceptable lieutenant governor, she wants to be Gov. Baker’s point person on municipal and women’s issues.

Senate President Stan Rosenberg’s commonwealth conversations will start this Wednesday.

We weigh in on Senator Eric Lesser’s bill to study expanded rail service between Springfield and Boston.

The Holyoke City Council will likely engage once again its new favorite pastime, Jon Lumbra-bashing, as it receives a letter from a former employee whose name still appears on a city account. Lumbra said he would correct the matter.

The Massachusetts House of Representative voted to abolish term limits for the Speaker.

While incumbent Westfield Mayor Dan Knapik is under consideration for a town manager job out east, City Council President Brian Sullivan, brother to former mayor Richard, will announce his campaign for the Whip City’s top job tomorrow.

City Slickers:

With City Hall closed, tonight’s Council meeting has again been cancelled.

Likewise city officials slated to meet with non-profits and state housing personnel over the homeless being housed in city apartments have postponed again.

Among the postponed items for the City council is Lamar’s digital billboard permit. However, they have withdrawn their request with the intent to reapply—again.

The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission is proposing a municipally-owned bike sharing program for Springfield and Holyoke.

Twitter Chatter:

In honor of the snow, we’re keeping it simple for the Tweet prize. Only essential services at City Hall today per the city’s official twitter account, our de facto winner this week.


Manic Monday Markup 1/26/15…

…And the World:

We begin today in Greece, where Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the leftist Syriza party has won yesterday’s Greek election by a commanding margin. Though insufficient to form a majority on his own, the Independent Greek party has agreed to support him and Tsipras was sworn in as Prime Minister today. Tsipras had promised a renegotiation of Greece’s  bailout.

In the immediate aftermath, the reaction of European officials who control the bailout has been mixed. Creditors want their say too. However, reports say envoys sent to Syriza and even Tsipras himself suggest he is prepared to be reasonable. So far markets have ignored the result.

A bit more on Tsipras.

In India President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi cite progress on sticking points that have held up a historic nuclear deal that is now six years old. Obama also participated in India’s Republic Day, the first US President to do so.

South Africa’s opposition leader directs traffic. No really.

Ukraine’s conflict has flared up once again.

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being pilloried for using the US Congress as a campaign prop (Bibi is of course welcome to any forum in the US, but fourteen days before his own election!?), President Reuven Rivlin, formerly of Netanyahu’s party, got a warm welcome in Brooklyn. Also Haaretz’s updates on the Israeli election.

Zambia has a new president.

Argentina insists journalists are safe there after one who was reporting on a prosecutor’s eerie death flees, which President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner now says was not a suicide.

The Feds:


With a phalanx of presidential contenders at hand, Republican inspect the goods in Iowa. We turn it over to Dave Weigel.

New York State’s political world was upended after the announcement of charges against Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Lower East Side assemblyman who has led the body for 20 years. Silver temporarily stepped aside yesterday as some Democrats like Manhattan’s party leader and Gov. Andrew Cuomo questioned whether he should keep his post as he battled corruption charges.

Los Angeles’s City Council races are heating up with redrawn lines prompting a slew of candidates. The mayor is not on the ballot this year, but half of the Council is up for election and one open seat has drawn fourteen candidates.

Elsewhere in California politics, The Los Angeles Times considers the political heft San Francisco has built over time and weighs the experience its hometown’s former mayor could bring if he leaps into the Senate race against AG Kamala Harris.

Taxi operators and ride-sharing services like Uber are gearing up for battle at the Capitol in Hartford.

Thirty year-old Cincinnati City Council, Democrat P.G. Sittenfield, takes the plunge in Ohio’s 2016 US Senate race.

The State of Things:

More snow.

ICYMI: Senate President Stan Rosenberg lays out his leadership team and doles out committee assignments.

Urban League of Springfield President Henry Thomas III resigns as chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees.

Holyoke Treasurer Jon Lumbra says his resignation will come before February 14. Elsewhere in the Paper City, former City Councilor Jorge Nieves is remembered.

David Scharfenbarg delivers a stinging reminder of Massachusetts State government’s opacity.

The Dropkick Murphys tell Scott Walker to stop “Shipping up to Boston.”

Former state Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey to lead Boston’s 2024 Olympic bid.

City Slickers:

Again, snow.

Bishop Mitchell Rozanski announces…something. Hard to decipher whether this is good news for supporters of restoring Cathedral High School to Surrey Road.

Springfield will begin to feel the impacts of MGM’s construction in March.

The Republican’s Editorial board backs Mayor Domenic Sarno over the homeless families issue, but the paper’s own reporting does not appear to back up the assertions Ed board makes.

Twitter Chatter:

So far the reaction to Sarno’s complaint about the homeless families being housed in Springfield apartments has been mixed. Even in our own editorial, there was no denying that the policy of concentrating the poor in the city is bad for them and for the city. However, the phrasing and methods of the mayor give us pause, particularly as to their effectiveness. Some back the mayor’s position, while others take issue with how the mayor has described the people involved. Today we award the tweet prize to Arise for Social Justice, a community group with a long history in the city that is not fond of Sarno’s rhetoric on this issue. It joined the Pioneer Valley Project by tweeting to elected officials in an attempt to humanize those being “dumped” on the city under the hashtag #nopersonistrash. Any one of the photo tweets would fit the bill, but we chose one subtler, that addresses the mayor directly, armed with a link and the haghtag.


Tardy Tuesday Takedown 1/20/15…

…And the World:

We begin today in Yemen, where Houthi rebels have taken the presidential palace, sounding a warning to the Western-backed president. A truce between the rebels and the government has collapsed. The New York Times tells us who the Houthis are.

The Islamic State is demanding $200 million in exchange for the release of two Japanese citizens they hold captive. Canada exchanges fire with ISIS in Iraq.

NPR provides an update ahead of Greece’s upcoming elections this month and The Times looks at the impact on tourism.

A piece in The Jerusalem Post profiles the image transformation that Labor party leader Isaac Herzog underwent from the nerdy “Bougie” to top contender for Israeli Prime Minister. Haaretz notes that the higher threshold to enter the Knessett has not brought parties together. Meanwhile, The New York Times says Israel has opened an inquiry into the conduct of last year’s Gaza war in an attempt to head off the International Criminal Court’s investigation. Israel’s reaction the ICC may be driven by election fever.  The country says it was unaware an Iranian general was in the Hezbollah convoy it attacked, which could prompt retaliation from Hezbollah.

Australia’s Prime Minister faces criticism for not taking advantage of the country’s low borrowing rates to clear out the infrastructure deficit.

British Chancellor George Osboune says Scottish MP would not be able to vote on English taxes under a post-Scottish independence proposal. Meanwhile polls show Labour losing ground to the Greens and the risk of another hung parliament (no party has a majority) grows.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says his country cannot afford to become an apartheid state by isolating its immigrant communities.

The Feds:

The State of the Union is tonight. President Barack Obama is expected to tout his  tax cuts and community college tuition break as part of a break from austerity politics and a focus on middle class issues. The GOP are calling it class warfare and will respond to the State of the Union with newly minted Senator Joni Ernst, probably by criticizing everything. If nothing else, Obama’s polling numbers are—gasp—improving! That and many of the above SOTU links via Greg Sargent.

The White House is trying to widen the audience of the State of the Union with aggressive use of digital tools like social media and Youtube.

Check out the guests the Obamas are bringing to the State of the Union, including a mom who researches climate change.

Republicans will translate in Spanish the response given by Ernst, who supports English-only legislation. Wonkette has a take on the sexism (or not) leveled at Ernst.

The New York Times profiles White House speechwriter chief Cody Keenan.

The US Supreme Court ruled today that Alabaman prison officials cannot prohibit an inmate from growing a beard consistent with his religion. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her concurrence, notes a key difference between this case and Hobby Lobby. The Court also rejected an attempt by Halliburton and its former subsidiary KBR to avoid liability as contractors for the death and injuries of soldiers. The Court heard oral arguments today on a judicial election case on campaign financing, which will probably unleash more money into elections.

Today in 2016 potpourri, Lousiana Governor Bobby Jindal sticks to comments about so-called Islamic “no-go” zones that Fox news repeatedly mentioned (and later issued a correction for). Prime Minister David Cameron condemned these claims when asked about Fox News’s repetition of them.

New York patrolman union head Patrick Lynch will face a challenge to his leadership in the upcoming union election after his combative tone following the deaths of two officers.

The State of Things:

Gov. Charlie Baker puts a number on it. The state budget deficit is $765 million, though neither he nor his budget director announced a plan to bridge it yet.

A doctor was shot before the gunman turned the gun on himself at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. The gunman appeared to be motivated by his family’s hospital bills.

WWLP reports on Holyoke on the Council’s efforts there to cut the Treasurer’s salary.

Senator Eric Lesser releases the first few bills he filed including ones on a Springfield to Boston rail study, tax credits for high-tech firms in gateway cities and two aimed at curbing both the abuse of and the fallout from prescription drug abuse. Shira Schoenberg writes about the rail study, echoed by Bostinno.

On eve of her last day as AG, Martha Coakley speaks with WBUR. Maura Healey will be sworn in as Attorney General tomorrow, as will new Treasurer Deb Goldberg and the other incumbent constitutional officers Bill Galvin and Suzanne Bump.

Speaker Robert DeLeo spent $100,000 on legal fees in 2014.

City Slickers:

Bishop Mitchell Rozanski reiterates the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield’s inability to continue supporting Catholic education, probably casting a dim outlook for the fate of Cathedral.

The City Council’s General Government Committee amended the proposed casino ethics ordinance to apply to city elected for three years instead of five as originally proposed.

It remains unclear what the next step is, but here is our take on Mayor Domenic Sarno’s condemnation of the state housing homeless families in the city.

Barowners look to lift rule that requires 1 a.m. cessation on entertainment.

Twitter Chatter:

As President Obama gives his first state of the union before an entirely Republican-controlled Congress. Had they controlled it last month, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy likely would not have been confirmed because of comments he had made about public health and gun violence. In lieu of a State of the Union subject, this week we award the tweet prize to someone who noted the connection between Murthy and the shooting at the hospital in which he worked. There is no connection other than coincidence, but in noting that Murthy worked at Brigham & Women’s, Forbes contributor Dan Diamond highlights that Murthy’s nomination was almost derailed by his opinions on gun violence. Today’s shooting probably hits home for the surgeon general.