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Manic Monday Markup 3/12/2012…

…And the World:

In Afghanistan an army sergeant allegedly killed sixteen Afghan civilians including many children in an attack that has been described as the worst war crime of the US’s ten year military involvement with the country.  The attack comes after protests riled Afghanistan following the burning of the Koran and subsequent killing of six American military personnel.  Afghan and US officials in Kabul and across the country have been bracing for a violent response from the streets as the Taliban, which had been inching toward negotiations promised retaliation.  Condemnation has come from across the world as US officials continue to investigate.  Some reports are surfacing about the sergeant’s mental health, which interestingly may explain why the Afghan response has, thus far been muted.

Elections!  After the coalition government of Slovak Prime Minister Iveta Radicova fell as part of a deal with the opposing Smer Party (which actually had a plurality in Parliament), new elections were scheduled for this weekend.  In those elections, former Prime Minister Robert Fico, leader of Smer, emerged with an absolute majority, beating his party’s success in 2006 when he first came to office and 2010 when his party secured the most seats, but lost out on forming a government to Radicova’s coalition.  Radicova had to agree to new elections after her right-wing coalition parties refused to back further efforts to support Greece with which Slovakia shares the Euro.  Fico was amenable to the rescue, but refused to offer his party’s support unless new elections were scheduled.  The squabble caused a minor freak-out for markets and likely due to pressure from all sides, Fico and Radicova agreed to new elections.  Radicova’s government seemed fairly unpopular anyway as it had engaged in an austerity program before it came into fashion in Europe writ large.  Indeed, while Fico has pledged to maintain EU deficit commitments, he has opposed putting more of that burden on rank and file Slovaks.  Complicating the election was a the revelation of corruption scandals among Slovak politics that cut across all political parties.

The Feds:
Another week another primary.  This time it could be a real three-way as Newt Gingrich finds another electorate that actually thinks the looney curmudgeon could make a good president.  Although, confirming the sanity of any who are enthralled by ANY of the Republican presidential candidates may would probably be a challenge for even the greatest of mental health experts.

Two somewhat opposing views on Mitt Romney and the press.  First some background.  Mitt Romney lies.  Not like a politician with grandiose over-the-top hyperbole.  He does that, too, but Mitt Romney and his campaign casually spew falsehoods with such regularity that it becomes less surprisingly that Romney is listed as antonym to consistency in the dictionary.  Anyway, David Bernstein at the Boston Phoenix says Mitt Romney’s act may be wearing thin with a press corp that his staff keeps away with a ten-foot pole.  In response, Greg Sargent at the Washington Post says the media is still treating it like the same campaign nonsense.  And important note for the folks at home.  That $500 billion “cut” Medicare, referenced in Sargent’s link, is not a cut.  Never was and never will be.  It is savings achieved between reduction in waste and abuse and through early detection and prevention.  Savings used to pay for the tyranny of “Obamacare” like covering health screenings for senior citizens. 
The New York Times has an interesting profile/analysis of Chief Justice John Roberts.  Essentially, Adam Liptak, the Times’ chief Supreme Court reporter argues that Roberts is likely to be on the majority side of the Health Care law case regardless of its outcome.  If the Court strikes down the law, it will likely be 5-4, but if it upholds, the law, the article suggests it will probably be at least 6-3.  The article also discusses Roberts’ apparent decision to keep the Court away from barn-burning issues (with only moderate success we might add), but that the Health Care ruling could be one of those rulings that only comes along once in a generation.
Finally, in the Feds today, Glen Greenwald’s look at the legacy of Cong. Dennis Kucinich.  Last week, Kucinich, a victim of redistricting lost his party’s nomination against fellow Democrat Marcy Kaptur.  The fight was brutal and to some extent, Kucinich may have himself to blame, in part for his predicament.  However, Greenwald defends the Ohioan for his pacifism and unimpeachable record on Civil Liberties, while knocking the so-called “serious” Democrats that are the un-Kucinich.  He further tears down several publications and liberals who were also boosters for the Iraq War.  For what it’s worth, while we have not always agreed with the one-time Cleveland Mayor and Presidential candidate, his voice will be sorely missed in Congress whether it ever was really wacky or not. 
The Justice Department blocked Texas’s voter ID law because the harm it would do to disenfranchise voters outweighs its goal to cut voter fraud.  Such fraud is nearly nonexistent, leaving the measures to appear as little more than efforts to keep Democratic leaning voters away from the polls.  Less insidious than requiring an ID itself are the onerous steps necessary to secure an ID.  Such steps may seem like nothing to any driver in the suburbs, but become considerably more difficult for the elderly or the public-transit riding poor.
The State of Things:
The Springfield Republican takes a look at the trials and tribulations of homeowners and residents in Springfield and other communities ravaged by last year’s tornadoes, trying to rebuild their homes.  The process has been grueling for some as they work with contractors and the housing courts.  However, in some parts of the city, the process has barely moved at all.  Anecdotally, this seems particularly true in the poorer areas of the city hit.
Also from David Bernstein this week, a story on Scott Brown’s success at getting the Massachusetts public to look past the policies Brown supports and instead just like him.  While there is no denying that constituent services are critical to ANY elected official’s work, it seems unfortunate that Brown would decide that he would make this election all about personality and not about the issues.  When his staff is not untangling the government for constituents he’s playing basketball with little kids so they have some fond memories before they inherent the crappy world he has helped create.  Sorry, that slipped out.  We would contest that Brown handled the Blunt Amendment thing well because polling has only yielded a muddled view from Bay Staters, who are unlikely to fall behind the national backlash against Republicans on this.  Anyway, if the election is purely about “politics” (in the broader sense of the word) Brown will probably win.  If it is about policy, he will probably lose.

City Slickers:

In exclusively Springfield tornado news, DevelopSpringfield, the public/private partnership formed to facilitate recovery in the City of Homes announced team leaders to ensure accountability.  Leaders will be equally divided among public and private sectors and given specific tasks to focus on.  The push for accountability through leaders is said to be different from prior master plans for the city that have historically gone nowhere.

Twitter Chatter:

In Wisconsin today, a judge overturned that state’s new voter ID law is unconstitutional.  Now it is important to note that that is under the Wisconsin constitution.  Still, the force and energy of the ruling and its operative language tweeted by the Nation’s Washington Editor John Nichols, speaks to the risks of voter suppression in attempting to correct the nearly non-existent threat of voter fraud.  Wisconsin’s law has been fraught with other problems including a decision by the state to try and not tell voters they could request a free ID to the lack of accessibility of some places to get the ID to documentation requirements some American citizens may be unable to meet.  Voter ID’s have been ruled constitutional by the US Supreme Court, but they cannot impose any cost to voters in keeping with Constitutional prohibitions against poll taxes.  Wisconsin officials are likely to appeal the ruling and given the circus last year with the collective bargaining law, one would be wise to not assume this ruling will stand, however important it may be.

Nichols also tweeted about the Justice Department’s decision to block the Texas voter ID act. Between the succinct capture of the Wisconsin judge ruling and for noting the critical importance of both these events, Nichols wins this week’s tweet prize.