Manic Monday Markup 2/27/2012…

We took the week off last week other than the Take Down…late as it is, but packed!
…And the World:
It’s a political tussle Down Under as the former Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Labor Party tried to throw his successor on the barbie.  Kevin Rudd, who led Labor to victory in 2007, was deposed and replaced by Julia Gillard in 2010, who became Australia’s first woman Prime Minister.  Labor lost the majority in the snap elections following Gillard’s coup, but retained power with the help of the Green Party.  Gillard made a deal with the Greens to push a carbon tax, which is unpopular (although misunderstood).  Rudd, who challenged Gillard’s leadership in part due to her low poll numbers, was trounced in the leadership elections held today.  Ironically, the political drama may have done as much as policy to harm Labor and Gillard’s numbers.  Although he pledged full support to Gillard to allow Labor to govern, there are grave concerns the row could weaken the party over the next year as it prepares for the 2013 elections.  Others say Liberals’ New Coalition Party and its leader, Tony Abbott, should be worried.  In the meantime, Gillard will need to reshuffle her cabinet to replace among others, Rudd, who was Foreign Minister until this month and likely hopes for calm within her party for now.
Germany approves the Greek bailout, a critical step to calming the continent’s tempestuous credit markets.  However, it may have exacted a political cost on German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Guardian takes a look at the political career of Vladimir Putin who is expected to win Sunday’s election.  From his decision to run again for President to the largest protests to rock post-Soviet Russia, the article describes the sense that Putin may be in the twilight of his political career despite another term as Russia’s president.

The Feds:

If you are reading this, it is probably already Primary Day in Arizona and Michigan for Republicans.  While Arizona is not thought to be competitive as Mitt Romney had invested heavily in the state and before the Santorum surge momentum, Michigan, Romney’s home state suddenly became endangered.  Polls have fluctuated between our former governor and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and either one could win tomorrow’s primary.  NPR has reports from both the Romney and Santorum campaigns on the last day of the race in Michigan.

As Maryland joined the ranks of states enabling Marriage Equality, although not before 2013, New Hampshire may be poised to roll back its historic establishment of equal rights for gays and lesbians.  Republicans in the State House have more than enough votes to pass the measure, but they must overcome a veto by Democratic Governor John Lynch who signed the bill establishing marriage equality.  They may succeed, but other efforts undertaken by the hard-right legislature have failed to overcome Lynch’s veto.  Polls in the Granite State support gay marriage and complicating matters further is the 9th Circuits move to invalidate California’s gay marriage ban.  That ruling stated that there must be a compelling state interest to reinstate a gay marriage ban (as opposed to keeping in place an existing one).  That case is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Darrell Issa, who convened the all-men panel on women’s health “religious liberty” admitted that his made-for-TV whupping of the president was not his best performance.  Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Malony had Issa at “Where are the Women?”

The State of Things:

Really?  Former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy, the son of Senator Edward M. Kennedy asked Scott Brown to stop invoking his father in ads defending Brown’s position on the Blunt Amendment.  The Blunt Amendment, you will remember, would allow any employer or insurance the right to deny ANY medical care in an employee health care plan for ANY reason of moral conscience.  Moral conscience is not defined.  Brown essentially told Kennedy that he knows what the late senator would do.  The admonition from Patrick Kennedy came after a pair of dueling Ed-Op, one from Brown and one from his likely Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren.  Hint!  Brown has either published a dictionary with an alternate definition of the words involved or he’s lying.  Adrian Walker goes further and calls it “sleazy.”
Brown’s team also unearthed a 1997 bill filed by Edward Kennedy in the Senate and Patrick Kennedy in the House that Brown claims proves his point on Kennedy’s position.  Alas, this is not true.  The 1997 legislation Brown referenced a bill that outlined patience rights to information from their insurer.  Rob Rizzuto at the Springfield Republican, talks to a Kennedy staffers and experts to deconstruct Brown’s argument, revealing it to be another effort to dissemble on the issue.  Key quote, the bill was “an info-enhancing, not an access-denying, provision.”

By any measure, Brown must be trying to raise money out of state from conservative circles over this.  The politics in Massachusetts are simply not that good for Brown.  The evidence?  Stephen Lynch, among the state’s most socially conservative Congressmen, backs President Barack Obama’s compromise after criticizing the original rule.  Lynch represents deeply blue-collar areas of Boston and the city’s southern suburbs.

A bit of non-Western Mass non-birth control news.  Youth in politics!  Alex Pratt, a Senior at Littleton High School, is running for the School Committee.  Pratt is well known to the Massachusetts online activist left for his work on behalf of bullied students and has been active in his school’s student government.  Pratt wants to use his experience as a student in the system to maintain quality education despite financial pressures.  Recognition of Pratt’s candidacy may seem random, but it is incredibly critical that young people become more involved in politics.  Pratt has a deep history in politics already, but perhaps more like may get more involved in their own community and provide more of the much-need perspective of younger citizens.  Locally, young politicians include Springfield Ward 2 Councilor Mike Fenton, 25, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, 23 and Longmeadow School Committeeman Michael Clark, 22.

City Slickers:

Deliberations are underway in the trial of former Springfield Police Officer Jeffrey Asher.  Asher is accused of police brutality against Melvin Jones III.  The case burst onto the scene after a video of the alleged attack was posted to Youtube and remains a flashpoint in police-minority relations in the city.

A home rule petition long sought by at-large Counilor Tim Rooke could yield million in revenue for the city.  The law, if signed by the governor would allow the city to use equipment it owns to capture the license plates of excise tax delinquents and impound offending car to force payment.

Twitter Chatter:

Today we take this late-night tweet from the New York Times Fivethirtyeight blog, curated by Nate Silver for a quick slice of the situation in the polls in Michigan.  The purpose of highlighting this tweet is to emphasize several things.  First of all, it points out the closeness of this race which should have been a giveaway to one-time native son Mitt Romney.  It also show how concisely a tweet can sum up the story of Romney’s imploding inevitability.  Whether Mitt Romney wins tomorrow or not, in a way it is sort of ironic that a man who slayed dragons like Rick Perry and used his SuperPAC’s millions to crush Newt Gingrich, could be cowed by somebody like Rick Santorum who a year ago nobody would have fathomed had a chance.  All in 140 characters…or less!

Tardy Tuesday Takedown 2/21/12…

Happy Belated Presidents Day!

…And the World:

Could Europe’s nightmare be over?  Well, we have asked that question before, but a definite shift in tone from both European finance ministers and the press suggest that this fix for Greece may be the one that holds.  Finally!  Europe agreed to a second Greek bailout, which also included a haircut or loss on return on the part of Greece’s private debt holders.  Greece still needs to implement further austerity measures and must consent to a permanent presence from the EU, IMF European Central Bank among others.  There are other concerns as well.  Greece’s economy and people have been battered by recession and austerity.  Moreover, many private debt holders still need persuading.  The country will need some serious investment and growth to reach the deal’s hope of keeping Greece’s debt to GDP ratio below 120%, a still very high number for the small country.  A failure to meet even that high target could push the country into default anyway five years down the road.

As Russia’s Vladimir Putin, still widely seen as the inevitable winner of this year’s presidential election, continues to be buffeted by public criticism and scorn.  The one-time President and once again candidate has gone to extreme lengths to stay popular, but after last year’s Parliamentary elections were fraught with corruption and vote-rigging, Russians took the streets in huge numbers.  One man who has risen to challenge Putin is Mikhail Prokhorov, a wealthy financier.  His campaign is catching fire in a Russia that longs for fresh leadership after a decades of Putin.

In Yemen, voters went to the polls and formally repudiated the rule of their former president of 33 years, of Ali Abdullah Saleh.  Yemen has endured a particularly painful Arab Spring as skirmishes with guerrilla fighters in the Middle East’s poorest country combined with a brutal crackdown by Saleh’s regime.  Excluding Syria, Yemen has probably endured the most violent and chaotic transformation of the Arab world.

The Feds:

The United States Supreme Court has dove into affirmative action once more.  A case from Texas challenging the University of Texas’s consideration (it is not an overriding factor, it seems) of race in admissions is being challenged by an applicant who failed to gain admission and went to the University of Louisiana itself.  There is currently a majority on the court that could strike down affirmative action in admissions and Justice Elena Kagan is recused.  However, the case has its “idiosyncrasies” that could limit its impact and the student alleging discrimination could be bounced out of court for lack of standing.  The decision will not be rendered until next term beginning in October, however.
Labor groups can claim some small victories across the country.  In Arizona, Colorado and Pennsylvania, anti-worker legislation has been turned back.  Colorado’s right-to-work legislation was never at any real risk of passage and Pennsylvania’s prevailing wage law seems to have scared off supporters.  Arizona’s law is the most significant as it would have ended collective bargaining entirely for government employees making even Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker seem reasonable.  The legislature has frozen movement of the Arizona bill, which is supported by the state’s often-the-villain Governor Jan Brewer after firefighters and police turned up the pressure on lawmakers.

Oh, and a super-conservative sheriff in Arizona (not Arpaio) with ties to Western Mass was outed as gay after he threatened to deport his boyfriend if he revealed their relationship.  No, really.  A supporter of Mitt Romney’s he has resigned from Mitt’s Arizona campaign, but is enduring in his race for Congress.  Really!

An interesting analysis of the US Senate race to succeed Joe Leiberman in our neighbor to the South, Connecticut.  Congressman Chris Murphy is leading his fellow Democrats in the race for the nomination in money and support, but he has been carefully avoiding using the term “inevitable.”  Murphy has the benefit of seeing the excellent national show playing in the media right now about the risks of inevitability called.  It’s called Mitt Romney.  However, it must be noted that Murphy is admirably the antithesis of the intellectual pretzel that is Willard M. Romney.
One more federal story about the outsized power of the uber-rich in today’s politics.  Rachel Maddow has an excellent rundown of the influence of billionaires finacning of campaigns includingFrank VanderSloot, a Romney backer.  The original report on VanderSloot is from Glenn Greenwald, who goes into further detail about how it appears VanderSloot silences his political enemies.  We’ll leave it up them to explain more since the impression from these report is that VanderSloot’s lawyers are on speed dial.

The State of Things:

The Boston Globe has a nice profile of Attorney General Martha Coakley two years after her devastating loss to Scott Brown in 2010 special election to succeed the late Ted Kennedy.  The article notes her own embarrassment at losing the seat, but also underlines her decision to get up off the mat and do a job both on the campaign trail for reelection as AG and in advocacy of Bay Staters.  Pictures of her career, here.  Notably, after last week’s Suffolk Poll, she could be poised for a comeback on the national stage or maybe for Governor in 2014.

In senate news, Scott Brown’s support for the Blunt Amendment continues to be a risk for him.  While he appears to be matching a national Republican strategy to use the issue to attack Obama’s “big government” pushing church around, the media seem to have rejected that notion even when they go beyond birth control.  Most media reports note the Blunt Amendment’s text will allow ANY medical care to be denied for impossibly quantifiable reasons of moral opposition.  The Republican article linked above shows the electoral dangers Brown faces with this position, though it could get him more funds raised, although since it is a given he’ll outspend Elizabeth Warren, the extra money may not make a difference.  Over the weekend, the Boston Globe also highlighted divisions among Republicans on the issue.
Also, the Valley Advocate’s Maureen Turner writes up the kickoff of Andrea Nuciforo‘s campaign for the nomination in the 1st Massachusetts Congressional district.  He is challenging Cong. Richard Neal.  The campaign comes after much speculation of what redistricting would leave for Western Mass politicians.

City Slickers:

Ward 8 Councilor John Lysak is proposing multiple family dwellings pay a higher property tax rate arguing that such buildings are an investment and not a home.  In Springfield, business and residential properties pay separate rates an option that city chooses to exercise under state law.  Not all communities elect to do so and instead have one rate, although most urban communities in the state do so.  The proposal is opposed by area realtors like the Sears family and would require a statewide law.  It could not be passed as a home rule petition exclusive to Springfield.

The Springfield City Council’s General Government Committee will be holding a hearing this Thursday on changes to strengthen the city’s residency ordinance.
New England Public Radio reports that Springfield’s community organizers are trying to boost the city’s voter turnout after one of the most abysmal turnouts in the city’s history.

Twitter Chatter:

Today we have finally done it.  Yes!  We have awarded our tweet prize to Scott Brown.  It really was inevitable in some way.  This tweet comes from Brown’s campaign arm and features an adorable baby whose parent (we assume) is signing the petition to get Brown onto the ballot in September (for the primary, however pro forma).  However, this is not an exercise in pointing out children lucky/unlucky enough to have Scott Brown supporters as parents because Brown is sharing this week’s tweet prize with a frequent winner of this prize.  Pay close attention to the bumper sticker on the child’s bum.  Now look at the text of the tweet.  “What do you think the little guy is thinking?”

Well, the Boston Phoenix’s David Bernstein, the Tweetsmith of Massachusetts Politics, perhaps nailed the inherent irony of this photograph.  While not as crass as our “Dump what’s Brown” answer to the tweet, Bernstein nevertheless hit on the same theme.  In a tweet unlisted here, Bernstein writes, “that’s a dangerous photo caption contest, Senator.”  Clarifying that he was referring not to some more basic biological need on the baby’s mind, Bernstein pointed out the juxtaposition of the bumper sticker on the baby’s bottom.

Manic Monday Markup 2/13/2012…

…And the World:
Against the din of violent protests, the Greek Parliament passed the latest round of austerity measures to secure a critical second bailout from the European Union.  The measure passed with 199 well above a majority, but below the number of seats the two governing parties hold in the coalition caretaker government.  The defecting members were expelled from their party.  However, the approval of the new bailout funds, necessary to prevent a Greek default in March, will not come until the first of the month.  As a result, Greeks will remain on the edge of default until that time.  New elections are planned for April and the party most likely to win, which voted for the austerity yesterday, has promised to renegotiate part of the agreement.  Whatever happens, Greece will need some pro-growth measures and/or stimulus very soon or it will never become solvent.

The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousaf Raza Gilani, was indicted by the country’s Supreme Court for not pursuing corruption charges against the President, Asif Ali Zardari.  The Prime Minister’s indictment comes at a time when relations with United States are at their nadir, but also against the background of Pakistan’s historically poor history of civilian control over military and intelligence agencies.  Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto, is accused of corrupt practices during one of his wife’s terms as Prime Minister, and Gilani’s failure to pursue the charged with Swiss authorities precipitated the indictment.  With elections planned for February, the indictment could push Pakistan and its uneasy democracy to new elections later this year.

The Feds:

President Barack Obama unveiled his last budget before standing for reelection this Fall.  Obama’s budget has been praised and condemned by many for its “populist” measures.  The budget taxes the wealthy and includes measures to improve infrastructure and education.  A deficit of less than $1 trillion is projected, the first since the bad economy took a hacksaw to government revenues and activated automatic spending for relief programs like unemployment and food stamps.  As Republicans complain about Obama’s budget, the President has resoundingly rejected any effort to voucherize Medicare, which was a key component of House Republican Budget Chief Paul Ryan’s budget proposal last year and is expected to be again this year.  The higher taxes in the budget also serve as a useful way to highlight Mitt Romney’s shockingly low tax rate for the campaign ahead.

After last week’s furor, contraceptives are here to stay, but so too, it seems, the battle over them.  While Catholic bishops opposition was expected, Republicans, too, seem to believe that this matter is still about religious liberty, even though religious institutions have been “liberated” under the President’s reasonable, new rule which shifts the contraceptives burden to insurers.  Republicans fight on to remove any coverage for something that offends an employer’s beliefs, which defies any reasonable notion of employment given that it is the employee who is earning the benefit.  It is not a gift from the employer.

Washington State’s governor Christine Gregoire signed a law that would make her state the seventh to grant marriage equality to gays and lesbians in that state.  That bill will take effect pending a waiting period for opponents to gather signatures to put the measure on the ballot, which they promise to do.  The passage of the bill comes after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned California’s prohibition of gay marriage on the grounds that the state failed to articulate a reason to abolish that right.  However, marriage equality remains under threat elsewhere in the country, particularly New Hampshire, where allegedly small government Republicans stand poised to repeal that state’s gay marriage law.  The governor, John Lynch, promises a veto.

The State of Things:
Paul Tuthill at Northeastern Public Radio reports that retiring Amherst-based US Congressman John Olver will endorse Congressman Richard Neal in Pittsfield.  Olver’s district was largely chopped up between Neal and Congressman Jim McGovern.  For the most part, Olver’s district in western Hampden County and Berkshire was given to Neal’s new district.  Pictures from the event, here.

The Boston Globe Editorial Board blasted Lt. Gov. Tim Murray for playing along with the cozy corruption that typifies many Bay State cities.  The editorial comes after new allegations that Murray built a state organization and raised money with the help of Chelsea’s housing authority chief.  The problem was that that official was under-reporting his grossly outsized salary.  The editorial pointed to politicians like, they allege, Murray, who let the corruption go on due to a resign about how politics in the state work, effecting enabling the corruption to endure.
Any rational human being would think that Scott Brown would sign onto the President’s compromise over the contraceptives issue or at least do nothing.  No.  In fact, Scott Brown, likely banking on gathering the Catholic vote on this issue (or kissing up to Mass Citizens for Life), is signing onto the personal conscience objection bill that would allow an employer to decline to cover ANY procedure they object to.  From birth control for Catholics or blood transfusions for Jehovah’s Witnesses, employers could impose their religious beliefs on their employees via health insurance.  While this may pick up a few of the Ray Flynn (read male Catholic, who probably would vote for Brown anyway) votes in South Boston, it could be his death warrant among middle to upper class women in Suburban Boston that will likely decide this election.

Must read: David Bernstein’s breakdown of Mitt Romney’s bizarre emulation of Charlie Baker’s campaign for governor.  If you’re not sure, yes, Baker lost to Deval Patrick in 2010.

City Slickers:

Mostly minutiae before the Springfield City Council tonight as lots of housekeeping piled up since their last meeting a month ago.

However, the issue of pushing the MCAS tests back a month remains hot.  The Council passed the home rule petition tonight and it now awaits Mayor Sarno’s signature to get to the State House.  The Republican story is here, but you can read our assessment, including comments from the state officials here.

Sorta a regional issue, but we’ll give it a pass since the Springfield City Council voted on a resolution urging the Department of Defense to keep the C-5 planes at Westover Reserve Base.  The Republican has a story on the economic impact of the base.

Twitter Chatter:

Some tweets about the budget.  The first is from President Obama’s communications director, Dan Pfeiffer, mocking Republican reaction to the president’s budget, but in a way doing the GOP’s position an odd justice.  Indeed, the Republican response has been near-unanimous disapproval of the President’s budget, however, the biggest part is a complaint about the higher taxes on the wealthy.  They prefer to lower taxes for the “job creators” further, but at the expense of everything else, including as mentioned above, Medicare.
By comparison, Ezra Klein, who while a liberal, is really too wonky to be accused of partisan fudging of the facts.  However, he points out another GOP hypocrisy.  Namely, that the GOP attacks the president’s budget to raising the debt to GDP ratio, but that Cong. Paul Ryan’s budget also raises the debt to GDP ratio.  Except for Cong. Ron Paul, no Republican has produced a budget that would end the deficit immediately (it is worth noting that if the deficit disappeared solely through cuts, it would throw the nation immediately into recession and create a new deficit).  They would all need to borrow more to get to the balance point, although even there they are as guilty of gimmicks as Republican claim the president is.


Manic Monday Markup 2/6/2012…

…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.

The Feds:

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.

City Slickers:

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.

Twitter Chatter:

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.”