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Manic Monday Markup 6/30/14…

The Feds:

We begin today in Washington, where the United States Supreme Court issued narrow, but highly charged rulings on contraception and the fate of public employee unions. In the Harris v. Quinn case, the Court questioned long-standing precedent that allows state prohibition against union free riders, but did not overrule that precedent. Specifically, what the Court called partial state employees, which it deemed personal care attendants are, could not be compelled to pay dues to the unions bargaining on their behalf. It appears to queue up a case that could strike down such laws for public employees entirely. In the meantime, it undermines the bargaining power of the employees in the Harris case.

Meanwhile, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby the Court also ruled that a closely held corporation could deny contraception coverage to its employees through health insurance plans. The ruling was not based on the constitution, however, but rather the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, limiting its application only to the federal government. The ju-jitsu Samuel Alito employed here was called out by Ruth Bader Ginsburg who authored the dissent. The ruling could imperil progress on LGBT rights, too, despite Anthony Kennedy’s concurrence. The rulings come at a time of apparently low confidence in the Court.

…And the World:

In the territory held by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the jihadist organization, empowered by the disaffected Sunni minority of Iraq have declared an “Islamic State” and caliphate to which it calls on all Muslims to recognize. Meanwhile, Russia is selling jets to Iraq.

Following last week’s guilty verdict for Andy Coulson, the former New of the World editor and communications director for Prime Minister David Cameron faces a retrial for the remaining charges. Meanwhile, the Murdoch empire tries to put the scandal behind it.

Israeli media is reporting that the three Israeli teens kidnapped in the West Bank have been found dead. The Israeli army confirms.

The Feds (cont’d):

Paul Waldman writing at the Plum Line says the Hobby Lobby case show it is time to ditch the employer based health insurance system.

Elizabeth Warren was in Kentucky to campaign for Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat running against Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Globe is calling it a test of Democrats’ efforts to apply Warren’s populism and message to the South.

A New York court has ruled that towns may ban fracking within their borders.

President Obama is expected nominate former Proctor and Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as Veterans Affairs Secretary.

The State of Things:

North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright says his city is broke and that a Proposition 2 ½ override will be needed to keep the city solvent and/or avoid major cuts. The city’s finances were exasperated by the closure of North Adams Regional Medical Center. Alcombright compared his city to Detroit, but the Department of Revenue, which oversees municipal finances says they will not permit Bay State localities to go bankrupt.

Massachusetts House and Senate leaders have reached a deal on the budget. The vote is expected on the very eve of the new fiscal year.

The Republican tallies up the legal bills Ludlow Rep. Thomas Petrolati has racked up since the probation scandal blew up in 2010. The final number is $200 grand. Good background on his career and a bit on the scandal too.

Antiabortion activists rallied on the Boston Common following last week’s Supreme Court decision striking the commonwealth’s buffer zone law for abortion providers.

The Fourth Estatements:

The Reminder’s Mike Dobbs opines on the negative impact of the purchase of WGGB, both an ABC & a FOX affiliate, by Meredith Corporation, which owns the city’s CBS affiliate, WSHM.

City Slickers:

MassMutual is creating an investment fund for entrepreneurs in the city.

Former Springfield Police Officer Jeffrey Asher will have one more chance to overturn his conviction for assault as his appeal goes up to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

More progress, it seems, after the gas explosion in Downtown Springfield.

Twitter Chatter:

The decisions today from the Supreme Court, though narrow, are incredibly disappointing. In part because they are strained readings of law that appear to suit a specific purpose. Elena Kagan, in her dissent in the Harris case, rightly noted failures on the part of Alito to follow the Supreme Court’s own precedent on striking down precedent. However, there is another dimension to this that is worth exploring and one tweet gets that right. Today we award the tweet prize to Connecticut’s junior US Senator Chris Murphy. As Republicans accuse President Obama of power grabs, Murphy rightly turns the same on the very Supreme Court that Republicans say backs them up. Murphy rightly notes that the cases today and the Voting Rights Act cases are, in effect, power grabs from Congress and the state legislatures. It is true that the judiciary’s role is to guard against overreach, but to do so they must follow their own rules. In the cases decided today and Murphy cites, the Court’s legal reasoning seems to depart from both legalities and reason the Court itself used to hold dear.

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Manic Monday Markup 6/23/14…

…And the World:

We begin today in Iraq, where US Secertary of State John Kerry is calling for Iraq to unite to defeat ISIS, which has overrun much of the north and west of the country. The New York Times reports that efforts to have the Iraqi army repel the surging forces are unlikely to succeed even as President Obama sends military advisers to train and counsel the army. Kerry also said ISIS’ pace could prompt the US government to act before Baghdad gets its act together. Iran opposes US action, of course.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, the last of Syria’s declared chemical weapons have been removed—asterisk. Egypt jails al-Jazeera journalists despite international outcry. And the Times of Israel wonders if the military operations in response to the kidnapping of  three Israeli teens is hurting the Palestinian Authority more than Hamas, whom Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blames.

Big turnout in Hong Kong election.

The Polish Foreign Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski was caught saying some less than flattering things to say about British Prime Minister David Cameron, namely the Euroskepticism Cameron has been peddling. Sikorski does not have many nice things to say about the US either.

Ceasefire talks are poised begin in Eastern Ukraine, but Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending mixed signals.

 The Feds:

The flood of children trying to cross the border, mistakenly believing they would qualify as DREAMers, has led the administration to send a surge of immigration staff to the border to humanely address the situation. Of course Texas GOP are grandstanding. As always Greg Sargent does a good job highlighting the GOP’s true conundrum.

Tomorrow Mississippi will decide whether to keep longtime Senator Thad Cochran as their Republican nominee or turf him for Chris McDaniel. Oh, and remember how McDaniel supporters were arrested, now we are even with a Cochran staffer now in the slammer.

Former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz almost came out of retirement to run for a Bristol state senate seat. Instead a former Chris Murphy staffer will run for it.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti reaches into San Francisco for a new transportation czar.

The long-awaited opening of the Washington Metro’s newest line has at long last been scheduled. Visit consumerist paradise Tyson’s Corner on your next trip to DC via Metro starting July 26!

The State of Things:

The Massachusetts legislature is poised to pass a bill that will tighten the disclosure requirements for SuperPACs and other independent spenders during election. It will also double the contribution limit…starting next year.

For those of our readers living under a rock on Friday, Eric Lesser has been cleared by the State Ballot Law Commission to be on the Ballot.

Shira Schoenberg catches up with the gubernatorial also-rans that failed to clear the Democrats Convention in Worcester a week ago Saturday.

David Bernstein warns the underdogs, Bay Staters are not paying attention during the summer so beware.

The Fourth Estatements:

Maureen Turner, the inimitable often political scribe at the Valley Advocate will be leaving the alternative weekly for position as the Communications Coordinatioor at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst. WMassP&I wishes Maureen the very best and thanks her deeply for her contribution to the Valley’s conversation while at the Advocate. An impressive record of the Pioneer Valley exists because of the great work she has done there.

City Slickers:

Mayor Domenic Sarno renews his call to end refugee placements in Springfield. The Boston Globe smacks Sarno around for his position. Ron Chimelis defends him.

Catch up on the open House races in Springfield this election cycle including the races to fill Cheryl Coakley-Rivera and Sean Curran’s seats

Two more union contracts have been added to the agenda of the Springfield City Council’s hearings meeting tonight. The rest of tonight’s meeting is just permits.

The Springfield Roman Catholic Diocese gets a new bishop.

Twitter Chatter:

There simply was not enough time to do the subject justice, but conveniently, the angst of the primary in Mississippi juxtaposed against the better feelings the GOP has for November was compressed into a tweet. Today we award the tweet prize to Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionnee who aptly captures how this battle for the GOP’s soul in the Magnolia State show its deeper problems.

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Manic Monday Markup 6/16/14…

…And the World:

We begin today in Iraq, where Sunni militiamen and ISIS have taken another town and killed Shia Muslims there. Numerous reports suggest that airstrikes may very well happen. There is also talk of a special forces contingent. Perhaps more intriguingly, the US and Iran may work together to diffuse the crisis and help the Shia-led central government keep the Sunni and ISIS from making further advances.

Also in the Middle East, the Palestinian Authority has condemned the kidnapping of three Israeli teens. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has gone as far to say the unity government with Hamas will be void if the group was involved in the kidnapping, which it may well be. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke for the first time in weeks.

Scotland will vote in September on whether to secede from the United Kingdom. The first draft of a constitution to run the would-be country is underway.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he is open to a cease-fire with the militants in the country’s east, but first he seeks to secure the border with Russia. Meanwhile, the Russian gas company has shut off deliveries to Ukraine and Russians debate the impact of the whole crisis.

Afghanistan voted in the second round of its presidential election, but new allegations of fraud from the front runner in the race could jeopardize any hope for a smooth transition.

The Feds:

President Barack Obama has announced he will issue an executive order to prohibit federal contractors from discrimination against LGBT employees. The measure came as the House of Representatives refused to take up the Senate-passed Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would have applied to all employers. House Republicans falsely claimed the law was unnecessary as federal law already protects LGBT employees. It does not. Only a handful of states protect such employees under their own laws. Unlike a similar action for federal employees under Bill Clinton, the GOP is silent on this.

The US Supreme Court affirms straw purchases of guns are illegal, if the ultimately owner of the gun is legally permitted to own a weapon.

Connecticut Labor politics as the Republican actually appears before the Nutmeg State’s AFLCIO convention and calls for a Wisconsin moment. But he didn’t mean gutting labor rights, just the end of one party rule…like Wisconsin? Where the GOP forced through union-busting legislation under one party rule? Anyway, elsewhere, despite their differences, the AFT endorsed incumbent Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy.

The State of Things:

David Bernstein has a summary of the events at the weekend’s Democratic convention in Worcester. Steve Grossman topped governor, but Don Berwick had a strong third behind Martha Coakley. Juliette Kayyem and Joe Avellone are out for governor. James Arena-DeRosa is out for lieutenant governor. Warren Tolman won a majority of delegate votes, but only a narrow win over newcomer Maura Healey. There is a whole lot of speculation and commentary and we will try to provide some of that in the weeks ahead. Blue Mass Group also has some winners and losers too.

The candidates are already on the trail!

The latest on the race to replace Senator Gale Candaras. Sprinfield City Councilor Tim Allen had good news back home, but not as much in Boston. Several of Allen’s colleagues endorsed his bid for Senate on Thursday. However, the next day at the State Ballot Law Commission hearing for his challenge to Eric Lesser’s eligibility in that race, Lesser’s attorney raked Allen over the coals.

In the OTHER Senate race that includes Agawam, Easthampton, Holyoke and Westfield, Democrats Patrick Leahy and Christopher Hopewell debate tonight.

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse’s settlement with former City Solicitor Heather Egan continues to draw jeers from councilors.

Budget negotiators in the House and Senate on Beacon Hill are still working to reconcile differences between the two chambers’ budgets.

The Fourth Estatements:

Nearly a week later, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s defeat is not quite fresh enough for the markup, but fortune smile as David Carr, The New York Times’ media reporter wrote about how the beltway journalism establishment blew the call on that race.

City Slickers:

In shocking, MGM got its license to build a casino in Springfield, but really it all lies in the Supreme Judicial Court’s hands now. Although casino opponents registered their objections.

Mike Dobbs chimes in with a column saying that people need to make up their minds about the casino one way or another because it appears to be overshadowing allegedly unrelated done-deal economic development projects. That could apply to the developers too who need to commit regardless of the casino’s ultimate fate.

Mayor Domenic Sarno’s budget passes unscathed on a 11-0 vote (although some of the transfers to fund it passed with a dissenting vote or two).

Twitter Chatter:

Between Iraq, the Mass Dems convention and Springfield own news on MGM and the budget, it can be hard to pick a winner. Today, we are going simple. Greg Sargent at the Washington Post, linked to above, notes how sixteen years ago Bill Clinton’s action in the fight for equality drew opposition from nearly all of the GOP caucus. Today? Almost nothing! The GOP still insists on being the party of the past and not expanding this protection to all employees, but their silence here shows that being against basic human rights for all people, regardless of their orientation, is now a liability. Today we award the tweet prize to Sargent for this pithy reminder of how we have advance for the better as a country.