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Manic Monday Markup 3/11/13…

…And the World:

We begin today in Venezuela where the nation marches forward after the death of its longtime leader, Hugo Chavez. Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s number 2, is leading the country as interim president, something the opposition questions. With elections set to replace Chavez set for April, Maduro will run for the position permanently as will Henrique Caprilos, whom Chavez beat in last year’s election. NPR looks at how Chavez’s death may affect Venezuela’s neighbors and allies, and Cuba in particular in terms of support and oil.

In Israel, coalition government talks appear to be in their final stages. Indeed, they may make history. For the first time since 1951, there will be no “ministers without portfolio,” a position, that having no real responsibilities, has been marked as a sign of corruption in Israel.  Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid had demanded they not exist if he joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. It looks like he succeeded and reduced the number of ministers in the government overall to 20 from 31. Haaretz reports in its liveblog linked above that such ministers without portfolio cost the government about 100 million New Israeli Shekels, or, using a back of the envelope calculation, about $25 million using current exchange rates. Other ministerial portfolios may be eliminated and that may pare the number of ministerial positions promised to former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s party from two to only one.

Uhuru Kenyatta has declared victory in Kenya’s presidential election. With a narrow majority of votes, Kenyatta avoided a runoff and, like his father, Kenya’s first president, will lead the East African country. However, his rival Raila Odinga alleged massive fraud. However, aware of the violence that swept the country after the last election, Odinga called for calm.  Complicating matters further, Kenyatta has been accused by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the violence after that last election.

The Feds:

Sequestration Nation continues.  While the national media was fiddling, the local media were looking at what sequestration will mean for local communities according to Talking Points Memo.  The Huffington Post went there as well compiling a video montage of the local coverage.  Meanwhile, the Washington Post also looked at the impact at Yellowstone National Park, where the park director has been pilloried for enacting Congress’s budget cut.  The gem, of course, is Wyoming’s lone congresswoman, Cynthia Lummis, who praised sequestration cuts in one breath and demonizes the Park chief in the next urging him to lobby Congress.  Isn’t she part of that thing?

From the “not getting it” to outright mendacious.  Rep. Paul Ryan, the House budget chair, will unveil his budget tomorrow.  Over the weekend, he said he still wanted to repeal Obamacare, but danced around whether or not the reductions in Medicare will be in his budget.  They will be, but this absurd.  In 2010, Republicans campaigned on Democratic “cuts” to Medicare (the cuts are actually reductions in fraud, waste and abuse, not cuts to benefits), then denied they used those cuts to balance the budget while campaigning in 2012 and seem poised to campaign against Democrats for the same cuts in 2014.  Inflammatory as this is, but doesn’t that make Ryan a pathological liar or at least portray Republicans as completely dishonest?

Christine Quinn, the speaker of the New York City Council, formally kicked off her campaign for mayor in a well-staged tour of the city Sunday.

In the Midwest a few notes on statewide races.  Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report says, no, Michigan remains very likely a safe Democratic seat despite Carl Levin’s retirement.  Next door in Ohio, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald says he is forming an exploratory committee, that is start raising money.  He seems likely to seek the Democratic nomination for governor.

The State of Things:

Former Westfield Mayor and current Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs is considering a run for governor or lieutenant governor.  The Sullivan family is a powerful Democratic family in the Whip City.  Sullivan, the article from the State House News Service notes, would have to resign from his state job after committing to Governor Deval Patrick for the last two years of the latter’s term.

On March 27, Democratic Representatives Stephen Lynch and Ed Markey, both running for their party’s nomination in the special US Senate election will be hold their first debate.  Meanwhile, David Bernstein critiques the Republican candidates’ websites running for Senate in…which state again?

Scott Brown joins law firm Nixon Peabody in their Government Relations division.  Indeed, his focus will be on…the financial industry!  He cannot lobby Congress for some time as he is a recently retired member.  However as David Bernstein points out, he can lobby Beacon Hill since the timeout period for lobbying under state law lapsed while Brown was in the US Senate after resigning from the Massachusetts Senate.

Both Alex Morse and David Narkewicz announced that they will seek reelection in Holyoke and Northampton respectively.

City Slickers:

At last week’s Council meeting an effort to amend the city’s landmark Foreclosure Ordinance was delayed.  As Northeastern Public Radio’s Paul Tuthill reports, community groups are fighting the change which came about as a proposed settlement between the banks and the city.  Rumor has it that the changes are losing support in the Council, too.

Elsewhere in Springfield held another casino hearing on the plans of Penn National and MGM.  A particular focus was put on the traffic plans for the facilities.  Also the city settles with Columbia Gas after it caused a night-after-Thanksgiving explosion rocked downtown last year.

Twitter Chatter:

A lot of good contenders for the tweet prize this week.  For a change, however, we are going with something a little different.  Republicans remains fixated on the deficit, which, while in need of attention, does not need to be addressed so coldly and intensely that it affects job growth.  Nevertheless, this is the debate we are forced into.  And yet, the Republicans cannot help to get it wrong.  Today we award the tweet prize to the GOP’s Research arm for wonky, yet rhetorical fail. In reply to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s tweet about the president’s deficit plan, the research arm questioned what happened to Obama’s promise to half the deficit by the end of his first term.  In fact, Obama got 4/5 of the way there, hardly a broken promise.  The deficit is falling both in real terms as a percent of our national GDP.  And yet, even when they have the political battle on their terms, Republicans must still skewer reality, even if by rhetorical question.