Jan 30, 2007

Air America back on track to change the country

In the news item of the day the alleged liberal media should be crowing about if that were actually true, Air America Radio announced yesterday in a press release it has “signed a letter of intent to sell its business to SLG Radio LLC, an entity controlled by Stephen L. Green, the founder and chairman of SL Green Realty Corp. (NYSE: SLGPRC) The sale will be accomplished pursuant to section 363 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, and is expected to close by mid-February.”

SLGreen Realty Corp. has been the most profitable office REIT in the country based on a total return to share holders, controlling 27 million square feet of commercial property largely in Manhattan and with a market cap of over $12 billion.

"Because I'm a businessman who enjoys creating and growing companies, I'm purchasing a majority ownership in Air America with the intention of making it a successful business that returns a profit,” said Stephen Green. “To assure that AAR survives and thrives, we'll do three things. First, we'll stabilize its finances. Second, we'll build on its line-up to assure the best radio talent possible, since in the long run content is king. And third, we'll extend this special brand by partnering with other platforms beyond radio to make sure that Air America's content reaches the wide audience it deserves."

"Having been involved on both sides of the microphone at Air America, I understand its huge potential as a voice for progressive patriotism,” said Mark Green. “And with the Democratic take-over of the 110th Congress and prospects in the next presidential election, it's the perfect time for Air America 2.0. If progressive values were a stock, now is the time to buy."

Air America, which does business as Piquant, LLC and is headquartered in New York City, currently produces 19 hours of original programming a day and is heard on 81 affiliates reaching 54 percent of the country. Air America affiliates reach 1.9 million listeners per week, Mon-Sun 6am-12m.

How many times did bill o and sean hatey announced the death of Air America Radio, yet they chose to ignore this story?

The network also announced that Al Franken will leave the station on Feb. 14 to consider a run for U.S. Senate in his home state of Minnesota. He will be replaced by popular fill in host and author Thom Hartmann. I hate to see him go because he’s funny and informative, but I have discovered lots of other liberal hosts that are also very good.

A great line-up would be Stephanie Miller in the morning, Ed Schultz in the afternoon and Rachel Maddow in the evening.

Jan 29, 2007

When is a PAC not a PAC

With school board elections coming up – the deadline to file is Feb. 14 – and the attempted book banning at Howell High School by the so-called “Love” PAC, I decided to look on the Secretary of State’s web site to see who has contributed to the PAC and how much. Someone recently claimed in the comments section that the so-called “love” group has 1,900 members.

However, when I went to the SOS web site I could not find the group had ever registered as a PAC. I know they endorsed in last year’s election, and they even managed to get a member elected. So why no PAC?

According to the SOS, a PAC must be registered if they attempt to affect the outcome of an election. The definition says “Michigan's Campaign Finance Act, P.A. 388 of 1976, to influence voters for or against the nomination or election of one or more candidates in Michigan or the qualification, passage or defeat of one or more ballot questions in Michigan. “

I looked up old news reports when they first sprang up, and it clearly said they were forming a Political Action Committee. This is from the March 23, 2006 Livingston County Daily Press & Argus:

Frustrated that the Howell Public Schools district has not addressed their issues, a group of parents want to push traditional values to center stage in the upcoming May 2 school board election.
This week, they announced the formation of a political action committee to do that pushing.
Paperwork was filed last week for the formation of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education Political Action Committee by members of the LOVE traditional values group.
The activity of the LOVE PAC may be something unique in the world of school board elections. Brad Banasik, legal counsel for the Michigan Association of School Boards, said he had never heard of a PAC forming in a specific school district for a school election.
"Most board elections are considered to be nonpartisan," he said. "Your PACs tend to be involved in partisan issues. You may find a PAC in something like a recall election where they form to support the board members being recalled, but for a PAC to support a group of candidates or an individual candidate, that's the first I've ever heard of it."

I’m no expert on campaign finance, so hopefully someone out there can set me straight on why I could not find a PAC registered.

Republicans put forth another irresponsible proposal

Livingston County’s Michigan Congressional delegation has again taken an irresponsible stand, and their answer to the expected $300 billon budget shortfall is less revenue and cutting taxes again.

Last summer, Sen. Valde Garcia and Reps. Chris Ward and Joe Hune took the irresponsible step of eliminating the Single Business Tax (SBT) without a replacement on the horizon. Today the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus reported the three fearless leaders are in lockstep with the ridiculous and irresponsible Republican proposal for replacing the SBT that cuts revenue by $300 million. Michigan has cut taxes continuously in both good times and bad times, and taxes have been cut 30 times since 1993. Michigan has less state government employees now than in 1973, and our population has increased by almost two million people over that same span.

If our alleged leaders think we are going to win the race to the bottom they are wrong. It will never happen. There is no way we can compete with Communist China and others that pay slave wages and provide no, or very few, services. A pair of tax studies last summer illustrated quality of life, such as good schools, cultural opportunities and low crime attract businesses, not low taxes. We are competitive in taxes with other states, and now the Republicans want to cut the essential services that attract business here.

Luckily, a group of business people, local government leaders and educational leaders who will be most effected by the cuts that will be required if the Republican proposals go forward have formed a group called Michigan Fiscal Responsibility Project. Many members said the state's business climate would be better off with a tax increase than in its current dismal state, according to a recent story in the subscription only MIRS.

"Enough is enough," said East Lansing Mayor Sam Singh. "Local governments alone have absorbed more than $2 billion in cuts. Businesses relocate because of what local governments can offer - the infrastructure and quality of workforce - and (if there are more cuts) we won't be able to support businesses and get out of an economic downturn."

At least the Republications have finally identified where they want to cut the more than $300 billon in investments from the state: schools, Medicaid and shared-revenue payments to communities

Experts said the cuts in education will hurt in both the long and short run. Not only will the state not be able to keep up with competition, but with continuous cuts to higher education, our graduates won't measure up to their competition, which isn't just national - it's global, said Mike Boulus, director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, which represents the state's public universities.

Lower reimbursements for Medicaid, which one out of seven Michigan residents rely on for health insurance, have in part led to 46 hospital closings in a handful of years, said David Finkbeiner, spokesperson for the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.
In lieu of a full shutdown many more hospitals have had to cut programs and services.

An example of what that means for one population: after the local hospital closed its labor and delivery wing expecting mothers in Manistee County now have to drive 60 to 70 miles each way to deliver a baby.

Kay Hoffman, president of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, said that there are 1,600 fewer police officers in Michigan than there were five years ago.

Garcia said lowering taxes now would generate greater revenue down the road because of the stimulating effect on the economy. "We're talking about making an investment in the future," he said.

That’s simply not true, and that’s exactly what taxes are; an investment in the future.

As studies have shown, Michigan is in the middle of the pack for tax burden, it’s very competitive with other states and services are more of a factor than taxes in keeping and attracting businesses to Michigan. But that doesn’t convince Hune.

"You can't tax yourself into prosperity," he said. You also can’t cut yourself into prosperity either.

Ward said Medicare services not mandated by the federal government, such as in-home care and certain prescription drug programs could be possible targets for reductions. Also, programs that allow prisoners to earn high school diplomas while incarcerated may be cut, he said.

He ignores, of course, the fact, that it’s much cheaper for a senior citizen to stay in their own homes with a little assistance than live out their last days in an expensive and strange nursing home. That’s not even mentioning it’s more humane to allow them to spend their days in their own homes. I’ll have to check his campaign finance report for contributions from the nursing home industry. It costs us much more in tax dollars to house and feed prisoners than giving them a basic education to help ensure they do not come back to prison once they are released.

Again, it just amazes me that Republicans want a free ride, and they refuse to invest or pay for any of the great services the government provides that they use every single day.

Jan 28, 2007

LivCo GOP Chair pushed false talking point

The Ann Arbor News, one of the many news outlets present at a fundraiser held on Jan. 20 for the Livingston County Democratic Party featuring Sen. Carl Levin, focused more on the new chair of the county party, Matt Evans.

Evans took over from long-tine chair Joe Carney on Jan. 1, and he had already been aggressively seeking quality candidates and raising money for future races.

Matt Evans, the new chairman of the Democratic Party in Livingston County, has lofty goals for his party in a county historically dominated by Republicans: "We're planning to elect candidates with the ultimate goal of getting a (Democrat) state senator or representative,'' said Evans.

The real telling thing is the response from new Livingston County Republican Chair Allan Filip, who was elected around the same time as Evans. Frankly, I don’t know why he was even asked to respond, but that’s another story. Apparently, being informed is not one of the prerequisites for being chair of the county GOP. Here’s Filip’s informed response:

Livingston County GOP Chairman Allan Filip, reached after Levin's talk for his reaction, said he found it strange that Levin was so critical of Bush's handling of the war. "Didn't (Levin) vote for the war? Yes, he did, so I guess it's a referendum on folks like (Levin) as well,'' Filip said.

Hey Al, no he didn’t. Sen. Levin was one of 23 Senators and 133 Representative voting against the so-called Iraq Resolution authorizing force to enforce the UN Resolutions. I also have to wonder why the reporter didn’t point out that simple fact. Even if Levin had voted for the resolution, does that mean he cannot support policy change after the facts and events show everyday that Bush’s Iraq policies are failing?

Is that the Republican model” You follow a policy no mater if it continues to fail and is simply not working? The fact is the people who voted for the resolution made the mistake of believing in and trusting the President. I don’t think that will happen again.

Filip said Evan's comments didn't bother him. "I guess they could criticize - that's their option as the (minority party) - but we're going to go about the business of governing and doing what's right,''

What about the Republican senators who voted for the resolution that are not backing off of support for bush’s policy for the occupation, such as Sens. Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snow, Susan Collins or John Warner?

As he has shown, he’s not going to let a few facts get in the way of a good talking point.

Jan 26, 2007

Anti-gay hate group of censors now add racists to their resume

The anti-gay hate group leading the charge to ban three books from Howell School because of what they allege is profanity and references to drugs and sex acts were called out by a couple of mainstream media reports because two of authors are black and depict the prejudice and discrimination many African-Americans face.

The so-called LOVE group - (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) – started the controversy some two months ago by trying to ban a book called “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them.” Since then, they have also tried to ban Nobel Prize author Toni Morrison's first novel, "The Bluest Eye," and an acclaimed memoir written by Richard Wright in 1945, "Black Boy." Both books address social issues of blacks in 1940s America and have been used for at least two years in an American literature class, according to the Detroit News, which first raised the discrimination issue on Jan. 24.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus picked up on the racial angle a few days later, saying “Two of the authors of books —assigned to Howell High School students — under attack by a family values group are black. Is that a coincidence, or a racial overtone that is remaining from Livingston County's days as a home to a Ku Klux Klan leader?”

Of course, the would-be-censors were quick to deny the charge. Vicki Fyke, the leader of the so-called LOVE group and the advisor for the Livingston County Teen Age Republicans, claimed she did not know the two authors were black, and she told the P & A "I don't know who the authors are, and I don't care who they are." "It's just not appropriate for children."

Would you really call high school sophomores, juniors and seniors children? She would have known the race of the authors if she had read the book.

Wendy Day, the LOVE member on the Howell Public Schools Board of Education pushing the ban, emphatically denied any racial motivation, according to the P & A.

"It's preposterous and outlandish for that to even be brought up," she said. "It's a ploy to discredit the discussion and distract from the real discussion that we should be having. I hope that people didn't fall for that."
And Day pointed out that the first book that raised concerns was the Freedom Writers Diary, "featuring a white, young, middle-class teacher."

In other words, “hey, we censor regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation." I really have no idea if this is a racial issue or not, but once again a group of small-mined zealots have reinforced this community’s reputation as a small-minded, racist community. I cannot read their minds, but I will not give them the benefit of the doubt, especially after reading an attack by one of their supporters on Sen. Barack Obama and the fact they were only formed to discriminate against gays to begin with.

At the very least they are equal opportunity censors.

Amway guy to set up pyramid scheme for MIGOP

LANSING – Hoping to cash in on the pyramid scheme that made the DeVos and Van Andel family billionaires, the Michigan Republican Party named defeated Republican gubernatorial nominee Dick DeVos – AKA the Amway guy - the Finance Campaign Committee vice chair, according to subscription only MIRS.

In that position, the Amway guy will lead the GOP’s fundraising operations through 2007, or at least until he follows his normal public job pattern and quits. The Amway guy conducted the most expensive gubernatorial campaign in Michigan history last November, raising a staggering record $42 million for his failed campaign. Of course, $35 million of that stash came out of his own deep pockets. He paid $26 for every vote, but it was not nearly enough to unseat Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Unfortunately, we may not have heard the last of the Amway guy, and his pockets may be deep enough to make another run at buying the governor’s chair in 2010.

Jan 25, 2007

Join HPS for dedication of wellness lounge: Open house will feature free food, exercise classes and healthy seminars

HOWELL – Howell Public Schools is celebrating the opening of the new Wellness Lounge and Activity Center in the Howell Area Aquatic Center from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 7 with an open house that includes a day of free healthy food, free exercise classes and free healthy educational seminars.

The cozy and welcoming lounge was made possible with a grant from the Michigan Department of Community Mental Health, the Michigan Department of Education and the hard work of dedicated staff and student volunteers. It’s the perfect place to relax and wait for your land or water exercise class to begin, or a place to cool down after a workout and talk with friends or get advice from the instructor. You can also relax and find information on healthy eating, exercise classes offered the HAAC and around the community and flip through the many magazines that promote a healthy lifestyle.

“This is part of the ongoing district wellness program to promote healthy habits and improve people’s quality of life,” said HAAC Director Saralee Bloese. “This will serve as a healthy hub for the many people of all ages who come through here every single day.”

The open house will feature free samples of the healthy snacks that are now available in the vending machines, and you can win a prize just for voting for your favorite healthy snack. The pop and other sugary drinks and snacks that were once available at the HAAC are a thing of the past.

Informational seminars are available throughout the day, including how to read and understand the nutritional information on a food label, have your body mass index (BMI) calculated by nursing students from Michigan State University and enjoy a free chair massage. At noon there will be a special historic Howell walk, sponsored by the Historic Path Walkers, with local trail master Linda Theil.

In addition to the special activities, the normal schedule of classes at the HAAC will be free all day. The schedule follows:

5:30 a.m. Splash Water Aerobics
6:30 a.m. Senior Water Aerobics
11:30 a.m. Arthritis and Special Population Water Exercise Class
4:30 p.m. Pilates Land Exercise
8:15 p.m. Pre-Natal Water Exercise Class

“We are a fitness and wellness source for every one from pre-natal and infants all the way up to senior citizens,” Bloese said. “We love to show off our facility, and I welcome everyone to come out and enjoy a day of health and wellness.”

For further information visit Howell Public Schools’ Wellness Web Page at www.howellschools.com/C5/wellness. The Howell Area Aquatics Center is located at 1224 W. Grand River Ave. on the Howell High School Campus. Call (517) 548-6355 for information.


Jan 24, 2007

Livingston County Democrats launch into cyberspace

The Livingston County Democrats are carving out a bigger niche in cyber space with the addition of a blog and a myspace site.

The Livingston County Democrats blog can be found at http://livcodemocrats.blogspot.com.

This site is a true blog, and anyone can get on it and can actually post their comments. The Livingston County Republican blog is restricted to members only, and the Michigan Republican Party blog, ran by chair Saul Anuzis, does not allow comments. Judging by the ridiculous and untrue trash posted there who can blame them.

Clearly, the last election cycle saw the power and effect of the bloggers, both nationally and locally. It helped turn the tide and helped the Democrats take control of both the U.S. House and Senate. It also helped the Michigan Democrats take control of the House for the first time in more than 12 years, and it held us win some seats we didn’t expect to win.

We are learning more and more about how to use blogs effectively with meet-ups and other tools, but using myspace effectively is a new proposition, at least for me. After going to the Livco Dems site I was surprised to find the Michigan Democrats have a myspace site as well.

The myuspacer site can be found at http://www.myspace.com/livcodemocrats.

Jan 23, 2007

The lunatic fringe tries to ban books

The lunatic fringe was out in full force last night at the Howell Public Schools Board of Education meeting trying to ban some books that are part of the English curriculum.

An anti-gay hate group called LOVE - (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) – started the controversy some two months ago by trying to ban a book called “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them.” It was approved for advanced 10th grade English class, but the group caused a flap over the book’s alleged profanity and references to drugs and sex acts.

The board was set to approve proposed curriculum adoptions, revisions and changes that apparently include the reading list for English classes, but members of the so-called LOVE group – including School Board Member Wendy Day, who is a member of LOVE and endorsed by the Livingston County Republican Party – got their “small but local minority” out to the meeting to try and disrupt it.

Now, the group is out to ban such subversive books as Slaughterhouse Five" by Kurt Vonnegut, and "Black Boy" by Richard Wright and The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison, taught in 11th grade English, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

I was unable to make the meeting because I was at another meeting, but I did see the report on the news at WLNS-TV. It was shameful, and this small group of extremists again gave Livingston County a black eye and enforced the image of the county as a small-minded, racist community.

I have sat through a lot of local government board meetings and school board meetings, but I have never seen anyone act as aggressively and out of control as one LOVE member, apparently named Ann Blaine, according to the newspaper.

She read graphic passages from one of the books describing incest and rape, then wagged her finger at the school board members as she asked, "Tell me, what is the redeeming quality of a book like that?"

At every meeting I have been to they hold “call to the public.” It is held at a podium for the speaker, and they are usually limited to speak for two minutes. But I have never seen anyone act so aggressively at a meeting as this woman. It’s amazing she was not arrested or removed. The good news is these people are the fringe minority, and the majority of the sane people at the meeting got to see what they really are and what they are really about. They are angry, frustrated narrow-minded people who resort to screaming and shouting when they do not get their way.

By far the most absurd quoted I saw on the broadcast was from LOVE leader Vicki Fyke. Unfortunately, to further ensure our young people have a narrow view of the world, Fyke is also the advisor for the Livingston County Teen Age Republicans. She said – with a straight face, mind you, “we’re not about censoring books,” she said. “We’re talking about responsibility: we’re talking about what’s appropriate for certain ages.”

She’s kidding right. Here’s the vetting process the books went through.
Before being presented to the board, all the curriculum was approved by a group of teachers from the particular school, a district wide subject-specific content committee, a districtwide curriculum and assessment committee, Farina and Superintendent Chuck Breiner.

Apparently, the so-called LOVE group’s narrow view should be substituted for that of professional educators. I don’t think so. You don’t think sex is something 10th and 11th graders have not been exposed to before?

Unfortunately, the board did not take a vote because the full board was not present, and we’ll have to go through this fringe minority group trashing the image of Howell again next month. However, there is also some good news. Apparently more people in the community are improving their reading list.

Mary Ellen Aria, owner of Aria Booksellers in downtown Howell, said engaging young people in reading is a more important concern than protecting them from profanity. Aria said her store has sold 43 copies of "Freedom Writers" since the controversy began in December. And that's been a pattern for controversial books — they sell well once people object to them.

This in sharp contrast to Day’s reading habits.

Day was the most vocal critic of the books, and made the first motion to exclude them. "We have final accountability for what happens in this school district," she said. "You don't have to read the whole book to know the merit of this."

Jan 22, 2007

Book burners set to invade HPS Board meeting

The pitchforks and torches will be out tonight at the Howell Public School Board of Education meeting as a group of book burners try and rid the high school of such classics as Slaughterhouse Five" by Kurt Vonnegut and "Black Boy" by Richard Wright.

According to Howell Radio station WHMI, the leaders of an anti-gay hate group known as LOVE (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) circulated an e-mail among the group’s supporters, including LOVE member and School Board Member Wendy Day, asking their supporters to turn out in force to oppose the approval of proposed curriculum adoptions, revisions and changes that apparently include the reading list for English classes. The group’s leader, Vicki Fyke, is reportedly also calling for the ouster of Howell Superintendent Chuck Breiner. He is one of the most respected superintendents in the state.

The book burners first came to light about three months ago with the book “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them.” It was approved for advanced 10th grade English class, but the group caused a flap over the book’s alleged profanity and references to drugs and sex acts. After a review the book – now a current major motion picture staring Hillary Swank - was reinstated. Apparently, some other classics not meet the standards of this small-minded group.

The so-called LOVE political action committee sprang up like a bad penny last year in response to a diversity flag they mistakenly labeled a gay pride flag. This hate group fielded its own candidates, and Day actually won. In fact, she was the only candidate endorsed by both the county GOP – for the first time in a nonpartisan race - and the hate group.

To further ensure our young people have a narrow view of the world, Fyke is also the advisor for the Livingston County Teen Age Republicans.

The only good that has come out of this entire fiasco is it has enhanced my reading list. If they don’t want you to read it, there must be educational value to it and worth reading. It is also demonstrating to the majority of Howell residents - the non-wings nuts - just how extreme these people really are.

Republicans still refuse to pay their fair share and invest in Michigan

Why do Republicans want a free ride, and why do they not want to pay for anything? I wish I had a dollar for every time somebody told me the Republican Party stood for offering a hand up not a hand out. But when it comes time for them to pay their fair share to help make this country the great nation and state it is their hands are firmly jammed in their pockets, and they refuse to invest a dime in our state and nation.

I have read so much on the pending $3 billon budget shortfall facing Michigan that I was reluctant throw in my 2 cents worth. But I’m currently in the middle of reading Dave Dempsey’s excellent biography of former Gov. William G. Milliken called “Michigan's Passionate Moderate,” and it seems we needs the leadership of this passionate man again. It seems moderate Republicans are still battling the conservative wing of the Republican Party today just like Milliken was when he was first elected to the Senate in 1961. After more than 40 years, conservatives apparently still want us to stay in the “nifty ‘50s.” Was there ever a time when Republicans were not about me, me, me?

Taxes are an investment in our community, and it seems like a small price to pay for living here. For us here in Livingston County, we utilize that wise taxpayer investment every morning when we get in our car and get on U.S. 23 and I-96 to drive to points north and south and east and west to get to our jobs. If, God forbid, we should have an accident on the way the police and fire will respond that are paid for by out tax investment. If we are injured the ambulance that takes us to the hospital is paid for by our tax investment. On the weekends the parks we play in are paid for and maintained by our tax investment. This tax investment touches our lives every single day, yet some of us don’t want to pay our fair share.

Michigan taxes have been cut for years in both good and bad times. There are less state government employees now than in 1973, and our population has increased by almost two million people over the past 30 years. State revenue has steadily declined since 1999. That has to stop.

At the same time that Michigan was cutting taxes, severe contractions in the state’s manufacturing base have led to both massive layoffs and reductions in industries and businesses that depend on manufacturing workers for revenue. As people lose their jobs, they pay less income tax and spend less – decreasing the state’s tax revenue. These people also often turn to the state for help in ensuring they have health care and food for themselves and their families. This combination of tax cuts and jobs loss has resulted is historically low levels of state revenue.

Gov. Granholm is attracting new companies to Michigan that will help diversify our economy instead of relying strictly on the automotive industry. Responsible companies are attracted to an area not because of low taxes, but because of good quality of life, such as good schools, good roads, low crime and cultural opportunities. We cannot cut our way out of this slow economy. Taxes are lower than they were during the booming 1990s and, Michigan’s tax burden is below the national average.

A couple of studies were commissioned last summer that proved that, including one from the former Speaker of the House. In August the respected W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research concluded that “a weak auto industry - not high taxes - are at the heart of Michigan's struggling economy, and that “Michigan has lagged behind the rest of the nation since 2000 almost entirely because of the decline of Michigan's automakers.”

The Governor has cut more from the state budget than any other Michigan governor in history. She has already cut more than $3 billion in state government spending to resolve more than $4 billion in overall budget deficits. Today, Michigan’s budget faces another shortfall of more than $3 billion.

She has called on some of the best and brightest in the state to help find some solutions to the structural problems, including respected and knowledgeable Republicans, but she’s being hammered by some misguided newspaper editorial boards for exercising leadership and bipartisanship.

The Governor’s bipartisan Emergency Financial Advisory Panel, led by Milliken and former Democratic Governor James J. Blanchard, will review the state's current financial crisis and offer recommendations on how best to avoid similar crises in the years ahead. Former Gov. John Engler would have been on the panel, but he chose to cut and run from the state’s problems when Gov. Granholm was elected in 2002. However, we do have the next best thing in Don Gilmer, Engler’s State Budget Director, and Doug Roberts, former state treasurer under Engler, on the panel.

The panel also includes some other respected Republicans, such as Paul Hillegonds, senior vice president of DTE Energy and a former Republican member of the state House of Representatives from 1979 to 1996, including a stint as the Speaker; Dan DeGrow, superintendent of St. Clair County Regional Educational Service Agency and former Republican state Senate majority leader; and John "Joe" Schwarz, former state Senator, chair of the state Senate Appropriations Committee and former U.S. Congressman.

The Governor understands that resolving these budget problems
is crucial in determining how we can grow and transform our economy. She has made tough choices to cut more than any governor before her, and she’ll make those tough choices again. However, there is little left to cut.

These are some of the things we can cut: Cut all funding for the state’s universities and community colleges and eliminate all mental health services to save $3 billion. Eliminate all health care programs for seniors, children and the poor, and we can release all 51,000 prisoners locked up in Michigan’s prisons. We can eliminate funding for local police and fire protection, end all public assistance programs including daycare and disability assistance, end worker training programs, close the state police, the courts and all Secretary of State offices, end environmental protection and land management programs, eliminate food safety monitoring, gas inspections and all arts and cultural programs to save almost $3 billion.

I would rather not. I would rather pay a little more to live here than live in a backward state.

Rogers again sides with big oil and big business

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers voted against the majority of the Democrats First 100 Hours agenda and voted for big business and oil companies.

As the Democrats accomplish what they promised leading up to the November election that helped them gain control of the House and Senate, the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus summed up Rogers votes. He voted for two of the six historic proposals by the Democrats, and the obvious question is if he voted for two of them why didn’t he introduced them in the six years his party was in control of the House?

The most disturbing thing to me in the article was Rogers could not be bothered to talk about his votes to the newspaper. Apparently, being in the minority had not required him to be accountable. The case could be made he is in Iraq or overseas and not as accessible, but when he was in Iraq, Rogers said he called home for an undercover CIA agent. Now that the election is over, Rogers can again ignore the voters in the 8th Congressional District. The last election was the first time he was ever accessible to the voters since he was elected by just 111 votes in 2000.

Rogers spokeswoman Sylvia Warner said the congressman was not available for an interview on the proposals, but provided responses to written questions instead.

She provides 90 percent of his actual quotes anyway, so it’s not much of a stretch for her to write them out. Rogers voted for finally implementing the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission to protect the country from terrorist attacks. What took so long, and why didn’t the Republicans take this up? He also voted to cut the interest rate on federal student loans.

Rogers voted no on increasing the minimum wage, approving federal funding for stem cell research and allowing negotiating and buying prescription drugs in bulk to get lower costs. Rogers ignores the success the Veterans Administration has had in using their huge buying power to get low prices by buying in volume. Many senior citizens groups have endorsed the plan, such as AARP, but apparently they do not give as much in campaign contributions as huge pharmaceutical companies.

Rogers also voted against ending taxpayer-funded subsidies for Big Oil and creating a Strategic Energy and Renewables Reserve. He claimed the record and obscene profits the oil companies received last year were not enough reason for them to invest some of that record profit into research for alternative fuels, and, apparently, the only way they will do that is if we give them the money.

Rogers submitted answer – allegedly written by him – is “You need all three so that we don't send more money to (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad and (Venezuelan leader Hugo) Chavez," Rogers wrote?

Jan 21, 2007

High school students shrug off abuse to stand up for what’s right with anti-war protest

There is hope for the future in Republican-dominated Livingston County.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus reported on an anti-war protest by a small but hardy group of students from Pinckney Community High School.

Congratulations to junior Chris Dzombak, who organized the protest in the village square in downtown Pinckney. It takes a lot of initiative for anyone to brave the cold temperatures, let alone teens that usually have better things to do than try and change things for the better on a freezing early afternoon off from school.

They also have to have some very thick skin to take the abuse from the people who blindly follow the President’s failed Iraq policies, despite mounting evidence that proves the folly of that invasion. In fact, they are getting more vicious as the tide turns and more people realize the folly of that disaster.

The protest group got some honks of support from passing motorists, but received more than its fair share of extended middle fingers and fists clenched in anger.
"It's been kind of both ways," senior Brian Corwin said.

I can only imagine the abuse these young people took for standing up for what’s right.

Jan 20, 2007

Democrats bring fiscal responsibility back to Washington, D.C.

HAMBURG TOWNSHIP – The times they are a’ changing in Washington, D.C., thanks to the take over of the U.S. House and Senate by the Democrats.
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin spoke to more than 150 people at a fundraiser Saturday at Whispering Pines Golf Course to benefit the Livingston County Democratic Party. He highlighted the work of the Democratic-controlled Congress in keeping their promises to the American people in its first 100 hours under Democratic control.
In just the first 100 hours, the Democrats managed to accomplish real legislation and reform to help the American people that the Republicans could not and would not address in more than 12 years in control.
That included finally implementing the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, increasing the minimum wage, approving federal funding for stem cell research, allowing negotiating and buying prescription drugs in bulk to get lower costs, cut the interest rate on federal student loans, end taxpayer-funded subsidies for Big Oil and create a Strategic Energy and Renewables Reserve and passed tougher new ethics rules.
“Folks, the Democrats, the Democratic Party is now the fiscally responsible party in Washington, D.C.,” Levin said.
Jobs are a major concern for Michigan residents with the problems facing the Big 3 automakers, and Levin said President Bush has completely ignored the manufacturing sector to the point that the alleged new jobs being created are not making up for the lost manufacturing jobs in both quantity and quality.
“This administration has ignored the manufacturing industry so much that we have lost 3 million jobs under this president’s watch,” he said.
Levin said he supports the diversification of the economy, but manufacturing, and especially car manufacturing, is Michigan’s largest employer.
“We know that manufacturing jobs are not the end all to end all, but, especially in this state, it has a spin-off effect,” he said.
Levin said the current tax policies, unfair trade polices and lack of enforcement of trade polices by the current administration is making it impossible for U.S. automakers to compete globally, and foreign governments are helping foreign auto companies compete by providing health care for employees, help with health care and even manipulating currency to make their cars cheaper and U.S. cars more expensive.
“U.S. car companies are not just competing against foreign car companies they are competing against foreign governments,” he said.
Levin pointed to Republican Gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos as a perfect example of the problems U.S. manufacturing companies are facing. As head of Amway, DeVos invested more than $200 million in Communist China for building plants to manufacture the company's products.
DeVos – correctly – said Chinese law says if you sell to the Chinese it must be built or manufactured in China. The U.S. government allows that, yet China has unfettered and unrestricted access to U.S. markets. That’s despite the fact they compete with slave labor wages and production, wages and benefits manipulated and controlled by a Communist Chinese regime.
The obvious question is why do we allow them unrestricted access to sell products made in China when they do not reciprocate?
“We’re crazy for allowing that,” Levin said. “We need an Administration that will fight to protect our jobs like other countries do.”

Levin says the key to a solution to the Iraq fiasco rests with the Iraqi politicians

HAMBURG TOWNSHIP – Sen. Carl Levin said next week will an historic week in the Senate when the senior body takes up the bipartisan Iraq resolution to try and stop the further escalation of the Iraq fiasco that has seen more then 3,000 U.S. Service members killed in action and cost the taxpayers more than $350 billon.
Levin, the Chair of the powerful Armed Services Committee, spoke at a fundraiser Saturday at Whispering Pines Golf Course to benefit the Livingston County Democratic Party, and more than 150 people were in attendance, as well as media from TV, radio, print and bloggers.
The Senate is expected to take up the bipartisan resolution next week that was introduced by Levin, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) that opposes President Bush’s recent decision to escalate the conflict by sending in more troops. The resolution is non-binding, and the resolution says it is not in the national interest of the U.S. to escalate further military involvement in Iraq. The Republicans, realizing the importance of the resolution, plan to try and filibuster the resolution.
“It’s a very significant resolution,” Levin said. “The president is as wrong now as he is when he went in (to Iraq).”
Levin said the only solution to the Iraq conflict is a political one, and it must be made by the Iraqi politicians themselves. He also said the Iraqis have had more than enough time to reach a political settlement, and the resolution would send a message to both the President and the Iraq government that they need to find a solution.
“We have been in Iraq longer than World War II and longer than we fought in Korea,” Levin said. “Only Iraq can do for Iraq.”
Levin said the American people can expect to see more resolutions urging an end to the Iraq situation as more and more people realize the futility of trying to achieve a military solution instead of a political resolution, and we can expect further Iraq resolutions to come from presidential hopefuls Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn). These resolutions will seek to place maximum pressure on the Iraq government to find a solution by setting a timetable to leave of 4-6 months, and placing a cap on the number of troops allowed in Iraq at 130,000.
“The secret, to me, is to not only send a message to the President that he does not have bipartisan support in the Senate, but, more importantly, it sends a message to the Iraqis that we are on the way out,” Levin said.
One anti-war supporter said the non-binding resolution means nothing to the President because he has escalated the situation in Iraq despite a clear referendum against the war in the last election in November that swept Republicans out of power in both the House and Senate. She urged cutting off funding for the war.
But Levin said he was dead set against that move for a couple of reasons. He said it will both send the wrong message to the troops in the field, and it could have the potential to harm them.
“We are against the policy, and we will fight the policy; but we will still support the troops,” he said. “And they know that.”
Levin said even though the majority of the American people realize the mistake of the Iraq fiasco, the Senate only holds a Democratic majority of one seat, and if any of these proposed resolutions fail, Bush will spin it as support for his failed policies in Iraq.
Levin said there are plans to investigate the deception and distortions that got us into Iraq, as well as the corruption and no-bid contracts and abuses of the detainees that got us into so much trouble and hurt our prestige around the world, but the priority is finding a solution to the mess in Iraq.
“These things will not be forgotten, but the primary focus is changing the direction in Iraq,” he said.

Jan 18, 2007

The power of the press rolls over GOP chair

Ah, the power of the press.
Just three days after a story appeared in the Midland Daily News where Michigan Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis claimed the state GOP did not use any of the recorded computerized "robocalls” in the last election cycle that annoyed and angered so many voters Anuzis was forced to take back that fish tale.

However, the less than honest chairman did some serious tap dancing, and he claimed he “spoke too broadly,” it was a “mistake” and “too broad of a blanket statement.” How about, I lied?

Anuzis told the whopper before a friendly audience of Republicans at the annual Fourth District Republican Roundup in Clare last week, and the vigilant Communications Team at the Michigan Democratic Party quickly picked up on it, and it sent out a press release on Jan. 17 citing links and references where Anuzis not only admitted using the calls but bragged about using them.

With MDP chair Mark Brewer armed with campaign finance reports actually showing the Michigan GOP paid for the robocalls Anuzis was forced to come clean. Good job to Communications Director Jason Moon for spotting the lie.

County convention and Levin fundraiser on tap

The Livingston County Democratic Party is holding its Spring convention Feb. 10 at the party’s headquarters at 10321 E. Grand River Suite 600, in Brighton.

Party members will elect delegates and alternates to the Michigan Democratic Party Spring State convention set for Feb. 24 at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit. The party will also elect members and alternates to the state convention committee and consider resolutions to be sent to the state convention Resolutions Committee.
Registration starts at 9:45 a.m. and the convention begins at 10 a.m.

Don’t forget the 2006 Democratic Election Victory Party featuring U.S. Sen. Carl Levin at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Whispering Pines Golf Course, 2500 Whispering Pines Dr., Pinckney.
Levin will speak on the Iraq war and the Democratic Party’s successful First 100 Hours Agenda Tickets are $55 and can be purchased at the Livingston County Democratic Office, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600, Brighton, Mi. 48116, or at the door. The event includes hors oeuvres and a cash bar. Proceeds benefit the Livingston County Democratic Party. Call (81) 229-4212 for information.

Jan 17, 2007

The Michigan Democratic Party points out Anuzis' whopper of a lie on robocalls

The Michigan Democratic Party called out Saul Anuzis, chair of the Michigan Republican Party, on the lie that the state GOP did not use any of the recorded, computerized "robocalls” in the last election cycle that annoyed and angered so many voters.

Anuzis told the whopper before a friendly audience of Republicans at annual Fourth District Republican Roundup in Clare last week, according to a Jan. 17 press release by the MDP. Unfortunately for Anuzis, there was also a reporter from the Midland Daily News in attendance at the friendly pep rally.

Now, I know he’s lying because I actually received some of the calls from them. But, of coursed, I don’t expect anyone to believe me or the party, so the MPD provided sources and links to the instances where he admitted using robocalls. I checked them out, even the MIRS example, and the quote is in a story about the Michigan Youth Correctional Facility (MYCF) in Baldwin, “In the meantime, Michigan Republican Party (MRP) Chairman Saul ANUZIS is making robo-calls into the area that slam Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM for closing the MYCF in the first place.”

It doesn’t surprise me at all that he lied, nor does it bother a whole lot. We have all come to expect that. What really caught my eye in the Midland Daily News story was a blurb that said his “Blog” “gets 300 to 500 hits a day.”

My first question is how can you call that a blog? Three’s no mechanism in place for feedback or comments, so in my book it’s not a blog. Stop calling it a blog, or allow comments.

You should be able to let people say, “hey, Communications Guru, You’re an idiot,” and believe me, running a liberal blog in Republican-dominated Livingston County I have been called that and a whole lot worse. You should be able to defend what you write, or don’t bother writing it. I try to respond to everyone who posts, no matter how vile, and I enjoy defending my position and hearing other viewpoints.

It doesn’t even bother me that much to be insulted, although I did take offense to a recent commenter on a rightwing blog where I was called a “gutless, spineless, little anti-war pussy” who is responsible for troops dying in Iraq, and he used my real name. It led to one of the most embarrassing situations in my life.

But that’s another story, and I will relate it soon when my embarrassment subsides a bit.

That’s all, folks.

Jan 16, 2007

Democratic election success threatens liberal and progressive talk radio shows

Things are the same as they always are at the Great Right Wing Voice of the Great Lakes, AKA WJR Radio, with rightwing hate, insults and the official propaganda from the White House streaming out from its 50,000 watts.

I raised the question last month why the most powerful radio station in the state and one of the most powerful in the country is using the public’s airwaves free is allowed to ignore the political region they operate in and broadcast nothing but rightwing views. I still have not got an answer, but I did get plenty of personal attacks and name-calling from our conservative friends.

As I sit here at my computer and listen to my favorite radio show - the Stephanie Miller Show because I can only listen to on the radio on Ann Arbor’s WLBY 1290 when I’m near Brighton – I wonder why in a state that's solidly in the Democratic ledger with a radio station in one of the most liberal cites in America WJR continues to cling to the rightwing hate mongers?

I have found an excellent source of information on talk radio, and it’s an excellent example of what a blog can really be. It’s called “Liberal Talk Radio.” Not only is it an excellent source of information, but it also has links to all of the liberal talk show hosts, and there are a lot of excellent ones out there.

One disturbing trend they are pointing out is that many radio stations with liberal and progressive hosts or formats are flipping or, changing their formats, especially after the election where we saw the success of Democrats in taking control of both the U.S. House and Senate, and they are doing it despite good ratings. However, there is some good news.

Grassroots efforts in Boston, Columbus, Ohio and Madison, Wi. managed to stop the flip of the liberal talk formats there. Other grassroots efforts to stop this disturbing trend now have some help with a new web site called Nonstop Radio.

The web site assist grassroots movements in keeping liberal and progressive stations and hosts on the air, helps in re-establishing them where they have been canceled, set up new liberal talk show formats in new markets or stations, act as a clearinghouse for information for activists and to distribute tips and tricks to help in the effort.

With the success and organizing ability of Democrats, liberals and progressives here in Michigan I know we can get some parity and balance on the airwaves.

Jan 15, 2007

Will the Livingston County GOP county convention be closed to the press again?

The Livingston County Republican Party will hold their county convention at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Historic Livingston County Courthouse to choose delegates and alternates for the February state convention, and this time perhaps they will actually allow the media inside to cover it.

As you may recall, the Republicans struck a blow for secrecy and government behind closed doors in smoke filled rooms - if smoking were still allowed in the courthouse - when they barred the media from its convention and slammed the door in their face back on Nov. 30 when it chose its party leadership. I asked the question then, and I will ask it again now.

“Have you ever heard of any party convention where the local newspapers were barred from a convention, be it county or state convention?” No one has yet heard of such an instance. Apparently there was, and still may be, a battle centered around the more sane and moderate elements in the party attempting to halt the more extreme elements of the party from completely taking over, and they did not want the press and the public to see that.

It remains to be seen if the convention is open to the press.

House Leadership to appear in Livingston County

As first reported over on Liberal, Loud and Proud, Michigan's Democratic leadership is coming to Livingston County to speak to Michigan’s progressive and liberal bloggers at 6 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Livingston County Democratic Headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River Suite 600 in Brighton.

Speaker of the House Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township; Majority Floor Leader Steve Tobocman, D-Detroit and Rep. Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, will be speaking about the Democratic agenda for the coming session, and of course they will be answering questions from the attendees. The event was set up for and by bloggers, but the word is no one is checking your ISP at the door.

This was an event that was originally scheduled for Dec. 7, but a lame duck session of the House that went late into that night canceled the event. However, freshman lawmaker Byrum is a new addition to the guest list.

Many Livingston County residents met her mother, former Rep. Dianne Byrum, who was just term limited out of the House after a long and productive Legislative career. As the leader of the House Democrats as the minority leader it was her hard work, vision and staying on message that was largely responsible for Democrats taking control of the House. But voters in the county will most remember her from her spirited run at the 8th U.S. Congressional district seat in 2000 against Mike Rogers. She lost by a mere 111 votes among almost 300,000 votes cast.

Thanks go out to Liberal Lucy from Liberal, Loud and Proud for arranging the event, and to Matt Evans, Chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party, for allowing his offices to be used for the event.

See you there.

Diversity Council fights to erase racism in Livingston County

Livingston County has gotten a bad name as a racist community, based on large part because Robert E. Miles, the Grand Dragon of the Michigan Klu Klux Klan, lived in rural Cohoctah Township, just outside of Howell, until his death in 1992.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, it’s worth noting and praising the one group in the county that has battled to change the county’s image with actions since its inception some 18 years ago, The Livingston 2001 Diversity Council. The group was formed in 1988 in response to a cross burning in the yard of a black family in the county, and it was initially called Livingston 2001. It was so named because the children in kindergarten when the ugly incident occurred would be graduating from high school in 2001, and hopefully, entering a world where that kind of hate and prejudice was just an ugly footnote in history,

It’s a grass roots organization made up of business people, private citizens, educators, government officials and clergy who live or work in Livingston County with the mission of making the community ever more welcoming, harmonious and prosperous for people of all races, creeds and backgrounds.

A few years ago it changed its name to reflect its mission after 2001, and jut a few weeks ago it launched a new web site. One way that the group meets its mission is by bringing in diverse groups for entertainment and the exchange of views, sponsoring special events and sponsoring groups like the Diversity Club at Howell High School.

This month the council, along with the Howell High School Diversity Club, is bringing in the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit to perform “Speak for Yourself, a candid play about race and hope at 7 p.m. Jan. 29 in the Howell High School auditorium. Diversity Council and Diversity Club leaders see the 45-minute interactive performance as a way to continue an ongoing community dialogue on diversity. Immediately after the performance, a University of Michigan faculty member will facilitate a discussion.

There are some wonderful people here in Livingston County, and it really is a great place to live. But, unfortunately, there are still some small-minded people here too. Unfortunately, they are also the people currently controlling the Republican Party right now that currently dominates the county, and its’ hard to shake that racist image when we keep having some the incidents we have had. People who do not live here and have never been here automatically think of racism when Livingston County is mentioned.

In the early 1990s Klan members staged a rally on the steps of the historical Livingston County Courthouse in downtown Howell. We had an African-American Michigan State Trooper attacked in a Brighton bar in 2002 because he was apparently dancing with a white woman, in 2005 we drew nationwide attention when a downtown Howell auction house displayed and sold Klan memorabilia in its front window at least twice, we have people trying to ban books, a few years ago when the very Diversity Club that’s sponsoring the Mosaic Youth Theatre displayed a diversity flag a group of small-minded people tried to say it as a gay pride flag, we have people picketing Victoria’s Secret and we have people trying to push Bible study in a public school. The flag controversy spawned an anti-gay hate group calling itself Livingston Organization for Values in Education (LOVE), and it managed to get one of its members elected to the school board last year.

That kind of behavior does not help our image, and we also see apologists for this kind of behavior that does not help us shake that image. For a perfect example of that you can check out Rich Perlberg’s column in the Sunday edition of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. Perlberg, the general manager, justified it all by saying other communities do it too.

There will be a lot to talk about. Livingston County, of course, has this lingering image of racism that is unfair on at least two fronts. First, we get painted with a broad brush largely because one outspoken Ku Klux Klan leader chose to live here. Second, although there is prejudice and near segregation here, we aren't really that much different than just about any other community in the state.
Or have I missed the integration that has sprung up in Midland, Milford, Monroe and Menominee?

Now, I can’t speak for Midland, Milford or Menominee, but I can speak for Monroe where I grew up. It has always been integrated. I went to school with African-American kids from elementary to high school, played on the same sports teams and lived in the same neighborhoods. Monroe has four times the black population than Livingston County does.

Jan 14, 2007

Congratulations to the students who participated in the State Finals of the We the People competition

In the Republican-dominated wilderness known as Howell in Livingston County, there are some very intelligent and motivated teens trying to overcome the image that we embrace the Klan, burn books and hate gays.

Howell High School students from teacher Mark Oglesby's senior government class took third place in the State Finals of the We the People competition at the Lansing Center on Friday.

Students are divided into teams of three to six students, and the teams demonstrate their knowledge of various areas of the U.S. Constitution before three judges made up of community leaders from across the state in a format that resembles a Congressional hearing. They are then graded on a variety of areas, such as knowledge, reasoning, presentation and participation. We the People is a nationwide program developed by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center For Civic Education. The group’s s mission is to foster the development of informed, responsible citizen participation in civic life. The actual program is based on materials developed by the center, and the program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

I have served as a judge for the local competition in the Eighth Congressional District a few times, and I was a state judge for the elementary school competition. These kids really keep you on your toes, and it's just amazing how intelligent, informed and smart they really are. I was only able to sneak over to the Lansing Center to hear one unit and cheer on my hometown students Friday, but it was as always impressive.

There were nine high schools participating in the finals, and East Grand Rapids High School was the winner, followed by East Kentwood High School and the Highlanders in third place. In the past, East Kentwood dominated the event followed by Howell.

There is supposed to be a team from each of Michigan’s 15 Congressional Districts, but unfortunately not every high school in the state participates. Hopefully, we can change that. Also participating were Coldwater High School, Dryden High School from District 10, Hudsonville High School from District Two, Marquette Senior High School, Milan High School from District 15 and Rockford High School from District Three.

Congratulations to the winners, all the students who participated, the judges who volunteered their time and the teachers for including the outstanding program in their curriculum.

Jan 13, 2007

Respected political pundit predicts even bigger losses for House Republicans in 2008

Bill Ballanger, editor and publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, predicts in his most recent newsletter that Michigan House Republicans will lose even more seats in 2008 than the net loss of six seats they suffered in November.

Now, there are lots of political pundits out there that make lots of predictions, but Ballanger is one of the most respected pundits in the state who brings some impressive credentials to the table. He was a Republican state Representative and state Senator, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare under the late President Gerald Ford and he was an unsuccessful candidate for U.S. House and U.S. Senate. I once served as a panelist for a political debate where he was the moderator, and he was very knowledgeable.

The Republicans went from controlling the House for more than a decade and wining one of the largest majorities in many years in 2002 to suffering the worst back-to-back election cycles since the early 1940s that culminated with the loss of the House in November.

Open seats are always open game, even in districts that are considered likely Republican or Democrat. The election in 2008 we will see a much larger number of open seats than 2006, and of the at least 45 open seats 28 of those are in districts now held by Republicans. Ballanger predicts House Republicans will see a net-loss of at least six more seats than the six they lost in November, and House Republicans will be reduced to the least amount of seats in some 20 years.

State Republicans tying to justify the losses say it’s just the normal cycle of politics due to external forces beyond their control that happens to both parties, but Ballanger said it’s because of the Republicans ineptitude, saying “House Republicans have little identity other than gotcha game-playing and obstructionism.”

I have also heard Republican “leaders” blaming the misguided mess in Iraq for their loss of the state House, but that’s ridiculous. I worked on a House campaign in Monroe, a so-called "battle ground area.” I made hundreds of phone calls to voters and knocked on hundreds of doors, and I never once heard anyone say they were not voting for the Republicans of Iraq. Nor did I ever hear any state Democrat use Iraq as a campaign issue.

But I did hear state Democrats talk about stopping the flow of Canadian and out-of-state trash, creating jobs, helping the many people who no longer have heath care and eliminating Michigan’s drug immunity law. Those issues resonated with voters. I sincerely hope state Republicans continue to blame Iraq and politics as usual for their woes.

Now, the Iraq mess may help Democrats with voter turnout if it’s still around in 2008 when the president is at the top of the ticket, but I hope by then the uncalled for war is just a bad memory.

Jan 11, 2007

Levin to speak at Livingston County fundraiser

BRIGHTON – U.S. Sen. Carl Levin will speak on the Iraq war and the Democratic Party’s First 100 Hours Agenda at a fund-raiser set for 12:30 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Whispering Pines Golf Course, 2500 Whispering Pines Dr., Pinckney.

The fundraiser is to help celebrate the huge historic Democratic victory across the country that gave the Democrats control of both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives and the state House, and to help the Livingston Democrats prepare for the next election cycle.

After the Democrats took control of the Senate for the first time since 2002, Levin became chair of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee. In that role, Levin is in a pivotal position to influence the war in Iraq.

This will be one of the first opportunities that many Michigan residents will have to hear Sen. Levin in person commenting on President Bush’s recent plan to send more troops to Iraq. It is an important moment in the national debate over American participation in the war, and Livingston County Democrats will not want to miss it, said Matt Evans, chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party.

Furthermore, Evans said, the national party’s 100-hour agenda that is already is moving through the U.S. House addresses important concerns that voters raised in the November election, including raising the minimum wage, congressional ethics reform and restraining earmarks that encouraged irresponsible spending. Levin will be able to shed light on how that agenda will fare in the U.S. Senate.

Levin will begin speaking at 12:30 p.m., and there will be an opportunity to ask questions. Tickets are $55 and can be purchased at the Livingston County Democratic Office, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600, Brighton, Mi. 48116. Tickets can also be purchased at the door. The event includes hors oeuvres and a cash bar. Proceeds benefit the Livingston County Democratic Party. Call (81) 229-4212 for information.

Anti-gay groups association with proposed high school ROTC program sours the proposal

A possible Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at Howell High School is off the table because of the apparent high start up costs of establishing the program, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

It was reported the startup costs for an ROTC program are between $80,000 and $100,000, and with the looming budget crunch facing the state the expense was too great. I spent 20 years in the military, and I believe the military is a fantastic place for anyone starting out in life to pick up some maturity, valuable training and perhaps the most responsibility you will ever have in your life, short of being a parent. But a few things trouble me about this program.

First, this paragraph from the article: But Vicki Fyke, a member of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education traditional values group and an active member of the county Republican Party, held out some hope that U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, may be able to help get the ROTC program started.
She said she had contacted a member of Rogers' staff to get some help with the application process and, possibly, funding.

The so-called LOVE group is nothing but an anti-gay hate group, and their association in this immediately turns me off. Will gay students be excluded?

Second, the only real info I can find on this program is from the U.S. Army’s recruiting web site. I don’t want this to be simply a tool for recruiters to find new recruits. I know recruiters have a tough job, especially now with the misguided Iraq fiasco, but I want any program to live up to its goals of instilling the values of citizenship, service to the country and community, personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment, and I don’t want the goal to be a farm system for the U.S. Army. The support or lack of support of the failed Bush policies in Iraq should have nothing to do with the decision to establish a program.

A Soldier, Sailor and Marine’s job is to serve their country and obey the orders of the Commander-in-Chief and the Congress, and it’s our job as voters and citizens to see that these brave men and women are not being placed in harm’s way needlessly.

Frankly, I’m not sure why the program would cost so much to establish. Is there full-time paid staff involved, is it taught during school hours, is there classroom instruction or is it after school? It can’t cost nearly as much as fielding an athletic team.

However, I would like to offer an alternative for the two students – but I’m sure there are many more – who expressed interest in the ROTC program. Right here in Livingston County is one of the best Civil Air Patrol squadrons in the state, the Livingston Composite Squadron.

I was once a member of the squadron – they are a composite squadron, which allows senior members and cadets – with my daughter, and I met some of the most outstanding young people I have been associated with.

The Civil Air Patrol is the all-volunteer, official civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force with both senior members and cadets from age 12-21, and CAP flies 95 percent of the nation’s search and rescue missions. CAP is a private, non-profit organization, but it follows the ranks, structures and uniforms of the Air Force.

Not only does it drill and do the same things as an ROTC program, but they help the community by actually being tasked with real SAR missions, both ground searches and airborne searches with its Cessina 172. They can also be tasked in a natural disaster or other emergency, just like the National Guard, especially since most of them are in Iraq.

In the last five years the squadron has produced two cadets of the year for the Michigan Wing that overseas the 47 squadrons spread throughout the state, and one cadet was recently appointed to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Many more go on to join the military, and the experience can earn them an extra pay grade when they enlist.
The squadron meets from 6:30 -9 p.m. every Wednesday at the Howell Armory, 725 Isbell St. in Howell.

For those young people considering joining the military, I say go for it, and you will not find a better place to begin your journey in life. But when going in to talk to a recruiter do so with your eyes open, question everything, don’t take anything at face value, get everything in writing and maybe even take your parent, guardian or someone you trust along with you.

I think perhaps the most telling part of the article is when Fyke claims Rogers offered to help with the start-up costs, which would be one of the few times we have seen a benefit to the 8th Congressional District from his representation. However, Rogers spokesperson clears up that misconception, and the only commitment from Rogers was the promise of a letter of recommendation.

Gleaners Food Bank donation coverage helps illustrate the conservative media bias

As was first reported here last week, the Livingston County Democratic Party raised more than $700 and 100 pounds of food for the Gleaners Community Food Bank distribution center in Brighton as part of an annual drive to feed the hungry. Since then a couple of things have happened. First, a late contribution put that total at $1,000, and I got hammered and called a hypocrite because last month I called out both the local newspaper and the local Republican Party over a $500 donation for Toys to Tots.

The fact that the majority party in Livingston County that holds the Congressional seat, the state Senate seat, the two state House seats, all the nine Board of Commissioner seats and control of all 16 of the township boards in the county can only raise $500 after the campaign season just a month ago where their candidate for governor spent a record $42.5 million to buy the seat seems a bit cheap to me.

Rep. Chris Ward could have given some of that more than $10,000 the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association gave to him last year alone for trying to get a bill passed for them that rips off consumers and local wineries that favors the association. He could have directed a fraction of that money to the cause.

However, what really raised my ire was the coverage the donation received. The story received front-page coverage in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus with a front-page photo and another photo on the inside jump page. This after all we hear from them is their smear campaign disguised as a political strategy called the “liberal media bias” myth.

I told commentators here that if the donation that the party I am a member of gets the same or similar coverage from the newspaper I would apologize. Luckily, that will not happen now. Here’s what we got. A mention in a sidebar to a story on the inside of the newspaper is the coverage it received.

Also, the Livingston County Democratic Party gave $700 in cash and 100 pounds of food this month. Democratic officials said the donation will become an annual event.

The constant cries of “liberal media bias” lie in an era when almost every newspaper in America is owned by a huge corporation has swung the pendulum to the right so far it’s ridiculous. This is a perfect example.

In today’s edition, the OP-ED page featured an editorial on the main story about the Gleaners food drive. Jack Berry, a county resident and co-founder of the Pet Supplies Plus pet store, organized a food drive for the food bank. It’s an admirable job by Mr. Berry. He paid for a fundraising campaign that inserted pre-addressed envelopes into the newspaper to send to the food bank.

Now, I’m sure I’m going to be called cynical, a hypocrite and lots of other names for bringing this up, but one of the biggest benefactors of that campaign is the newspaper, unless they waived the insertion fee. I don’t know if that’s the case.

Jan 10, 2007

Michigan House moves forward with the passing of the gavel to Andy Dillon

Lansing – I was one of many people lucky enough to witness an historic event today at the State Capitol when Gary Randall, the Clerk of the Michigan House of Representatives, handed the gavel over to new Speaker of the House Andy Dillon and with it Democratic Control of the House.

The Capitol was awash with the family, friends and supporters of the 110 members of the House as they took the oath of office, chose their seats on the House Floor, elected leadership and set the session days. It was really a day of celebration as the Democrats celebrated their return to power in almost a decade by virtue of their control of the House by 58-52 margin with quiet dignity and a helping hand across the aisle to their Republican colleagues.

The Redford Township Democrat pledged an end to partisan bickering, politics as usual and getting Michigan back on track in his speech on the House Floor today. With a budget deficit looming and the early expiration of the Single Business Tax (SBT) with no replacement on the horizon, Dillon plans to work hard on solutions that move Michigan forward, and toward that goal he has increased the work week of his colleagues by adding Monday session days.

Although it was a day filled with ceremony, tradition and celebration, the Democrats also got to work immediately by introducing the legislation they promised to address in the campaign and netted them the majority in the House.

Democrats introduced a bill that would end immunity for drug companies if their drugs kill or maim the people who take them, and it would repel the current ban enacted in 1996 by then Gov. John Engler designed to shield huge pharmaceutical companies from responsibility. The Democrats also addresses voter’s concerns about Canadian and out-of-state trash streaming across our borders to the tune of some 6.2 million tons of out-of-state-trash in 2005 alone, and legislation introduced would ban any landfill expansion until 2011.

The next session of the 94th Michigan House of Representatives will be Monday, Jan. 22.

Jan 9, 2007

Howell Public School reject attempted assault on the separation of church and state

Cooler heads prevailed at Howell Public Schools after a lack of interest in establishing an elective course that will study the Bible in a literary context and as history died because of a lack of support.

North Carolina-based National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools - an affiliate of The American Family Association, the most well-known anti-gay hate group in America – would have provided the curriculum after a parent proposed the high school adopt the course. The group claims the “program is concerned with education rather than indoctrination,” but its website also says it want to return the Bible to public schools in a backdoor assault on the 1st Amendment’s separation of church and state.

The district issued a press release Monday that said the course would not be established at the high school because none of the high school’s social studies teachers volunteered to bring the curriculum to a K12 departmental committee meeting. To get the ball rolling on new curriculum and new courses, a recommendation first had to come from a curriculum content area to go on to the District Curriculum Council for adoption. There was no interest in doing that. However, the issue is not completely dead, and Jeanne Farina, Associate Superintendent of Curriculum, said the curriculum is scheduled to be a topic for discussion during the next scheduled meeting of the social studies faculty in April.

A couple of groups did step up to the plate to defend against the assault on the Constitution, and they included the Michigan Atheists and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Even though the press release was issued Monday afternoon before the School Board meeting later that evening, meaning it was a dead issue until at least the spring, sources at the meeting said the school board’s resident rightwing extremist, Wendy Day, made a motion to approve the course. Luckily, her motion died for a lack of support, and it did not even reach a vote by the full board.

Day, who says Evolution is a theory, was just elected to the board last spring. She is a founding member of an anti-gay hate group called the LOVE (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) PAC that sprang up last spring in response to a diversity flag they mistakenly claim is a gay pride flag that promotes and endorses homosexuality. The so-called “LOVE group claims it wants to bring traditional values back to the schools, but traditional values are all too often are simply code words for intolerance, discrimination and fear. That appears to the case here in Livingston County as well.

Jan 8, 2007

It’s business as usual for the Republican-controlled Michigan Senate

It’s business as usual for the Republican-controlled Senate after Majority Leader, Sen. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, announced the Senate would follow the normal session schedule of meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday.

Bishop chose not to follow the lead of new Speaker of the House Andy Dillon, D-Redford, in holding hold House sessions from Monday to Thursday instead of the normal Tuesday to Thursday. With the looming budget crisis and the need to fix the mess left by the Republicans with the irresponsible early repel of the Singe Business Tax the extra session days will be needed. The Republican majority killed the tax this summer in an election ploy with no replacement in sight, and they refused the governor’s request to address the replacement in the lame duck session.

Even when Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate, the Senate served as a roadblock for legislation the public has been clamoring for, such as campaign finance reform. A package of bills pushed by Brighton Republican Chris Ward was passed in the House, and even though the bills heavily favored the Republicans, the Senate still chose not to act on them or even take them up. Ward’s bill - House Bill 6128 – would have allegedly regulated so-called "soft money,” but it especially favored Republicans. But the rest of the package would have been a small step toward more accountability with better reporting and access requirements, and it would have been better than nothing.

There has also not been much of talk about bipartisanship coming from the Senate, and it’s unclear if the Democrats will again be shut out of the legislative process in the Senate like they have in the past. Apparently, only Democrats have to practice bipartisanship.

Despite the House session not beginning until the swearing in of all the members on Wednesday, that bipartisanship has already begun. The Speaker has given both sides of the aisle the same allotment of money to each member to maintain their offices and provide office staff instead of the past practice of the majority party getting a larger allotment of money to operate their constituent services.

Iraq supporters ignore logic and mounting evidence the invasion was a mistake

After the 9/11 report, the Iraq Study Group Report and admissions by the people who plunged us into this misguided Iraq fiasco, there are still people out there who actually believe the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have something to do with Iraq and still support this insane mess.

I know it’s amazing, but it’s true. I haven’t posted much lately because I have been wasting my time debating one of our two conservative wingnut bloggers in Livingston County that the Iraq fiasco is the reason we have not had a terrorist attack in the U.S., and that we should invade Iran and Syria next. I normally prefer to write about local and state political issues that have more of an effect on my daily life, but after reading about the funeral of the ninth solider from Livingston County killed in Iraq I would say it has had a huge effect on our lives here in Michigan.

The argument is that because of Iraq, “we are fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over there,” and the only reason we have not had a terrorist attack in five long years is because of Iraq. They ignore the fact that terrorist attacks on U.S. soil are very rare, and Middle Eastern terrorists have only pulled off two such attacks in our 216-year history. That’s an average of 108 years. Talk to me in 108 years. The fact is they ignore any logical argument they disagree with, and they even ignore the men they profess to have great respect for when they say Iraq was a bad idea, like President Gerald Ford.

They ignore the fact that Iraq has created more terrorists than it has killed. It’s like the Pearl Harbor for them, and how many young men joined the U.S. Military after the attack on Pearl Harbor? A lot.

The latest surprise came from a former soldier from Pinckney, who says,
“So I ask this question: To those who say we shouldn't be in Iraq, who asked the thousands of people who died on 9-11 what they wanted? Who asked them if they wanted to die, if they were ready to serve our country?

So I ask this question: What does the Iraq mess have to do with 9/11?

I would rather celebrate them and their courage and bravery, duty and honor, than to send any kind of message that I don't support them.

I think supporting the troops means a lot more than putting a flag on their graves on Memorial Day. It means ensuring the civilian leadership that controls the military only places them in harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary, ensure they have the proper equipment, ensure they have a clear mission and they know what and how to achieve victory. None of those conditions have been met in Iraq. It also means taking care of them when they return.

Like Mr. Prescott, I am both proud and honored to be called an American, a retired member of the U. S. Armed Forces and a citizen of this great country.