Jun 29, 2007

Ward and Hune prove once again they are out of step with the state on MBT vote

The Michigan Business Tax (MBT) that replaces the Single Business Tax (SBT) that brought in $2 billon in revenue to Michigan’s shrinking general fund budget that accounted for 25 percent of that budget passed in both the House and Senate with bipartisan support on Thursday.

However, two of the three Livingston County lawmakers voted no on Senate Bill 94, and Reps. Chris Ward and Joe Hune demonstrated once again they are out of step with the rest of the state. The MBT passed in the House 75-34. All the Democrats in the House voted for the bill, and 16 Republicans also voted for it.

It had even more support in the Republican-controlled Senate where it overwhelmingly passed 32-3. All three no votes were from Republicans. Sen. Valde Garcia, R-Howell, voted for the bill.

The bill ends months of business uncertainly that scared off investors to the state. Governor Jennifer Granholm said the new MBT would make Michigan’s business climate competitive that will attract jobs and job providers. The new structure provides tax cuts for more than seven out of ten Michigan businesses and provides tax cuts to both small businesses and Michigan’s major manufacturers. It is a fair, simple tax that will provide the same amount of revenue as the Single Business Tax it replaces, while encouraging job creation in Michigan.

The Associated Press said the agreement includes incentives that reward businesses for investing in Michigan and creating jobs, with out-of-state companies that have sales in Michigan paying more taxes. The bill could help domestic automakers and large manufacturers by lowering personal property taxes they pay on machinery and equipment by about two-thirds.

Manufacturers, especially auto manufacturers, are getting absolutely zero support and help from Washington, D.C. on free trade agreement enforcement and heath care, and the MBT will help some.

Why Ward and Hune voted no is a mystery, but Ward did make a statement on the House floor.

“This new Michigan Business Tax is a serious mistake,” he said. “It contains special carve-out treatment for certain businesses and it is more complicated than the burdensome Single Business Tax it replaces.”

I think quite a few of your fellow Republicans disagree with you, Chris.

You will recall the GOP-controlled Legislature irresponsibly voted last August to eliminate the SBT at the end of this year, two years earlier than planned, without a replacement in site. The move had immediate negative effects, and it led Standard & Poor's to lower the state's rating on general obligation bonds to "AA” costing the state more money to borrow funds for any reason. It also created uncertainty as businesses looking to relocate avoided Michigan because of the uncertainly over what the main business tax would be while Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop threw up delay after delay in reaching a replacement.

Low Power FM radio stations combat talk radio consolidation

In light of a recent report from the Center for American Progress that says conservatives have an unfair stronghold on talk radio and that a few mega corporations control almost all of the public airwaves, coupled with hatemonger Sean Hannity making the ridiculous claim that the Fairness Doctrine is trying to silence him, some proposed federal legislation may bring radio back to the local community where it belongs.

The report stated that because of consolidation five mega media corporations own more than 95 percent of the talk radio stations there is a lack of local input or understanding of the local market, and local ownership - as well as minority ownership - is almost nonexistent. That’s one reason we have almost 100 percent of WJR’s content dominated by conservative programming despite being located in a traditional blue state in one of the most liberal cities in the country.

The answer may be The Local Community Radio Act of 2007 that will free the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue more broadcast licenses to Low Power FM radio stations. According to the non-profit Media Access Project, these stations are authorized for noncommercial educational broadcasting only, and the two types operate with an effective radiated power of 100 watts with a range of about 3.5 miles or a 10 watt stations which generally reach an area with a radius of between one and two miles. For a comparison, full power FM radio stations generally operate at between 6,000 and 100,000 watts.

On June 21 bipartisan legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate that would bring hundreds of local, Low Power FM (LPFM) radio stations to cities and suburbs across the country. The Local Community Radio Act (H.R. 2808 and S. 1675) was introduced by U.S. Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., and Lee Terry, R-Neb., and Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

LPFM licenses make owning a radio station possible for churches, schools, labor unions and other community groups, and local talk and genres of music that have disappeared off the airwaves in favor of heavily regimented corporate play lists will return the free airwaves back to the public where it belongs. The Media Access project said since 2000 the FCC has awarded more than 800 LPFM licenses to church groups, schools and civil rights organizations. The bills introduced in June would authorize the FCC to license hundreds -- if not thousands -- of new LPFM stations in cities, towns and suburbs across the country.

I ran across a few examples of low power stations in my life, and they had completely opposite formats. However, they were operating without a license. Hopefully, the new law will make it easier for these kinds of local stations to get a license.

When I worked on the daily newspaper in Lenawee County I got to meet the Rev. Rick Strawcutter, who operated an anti-government pirate radio station in his church in Adrian. This was at the height of the anti-government, militia movement in the mid to early-1990s that, thankfully, died away following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The other was here in Howell where a guy operated a pirate radio station that played jazz, but the FCC shut it down.

Let’s hope the big corporations like Clear Channel will not kill this bill.

Jun 28, 2007

Bishop’s treachery reads like a bad Tom Clancy novel

It has been tough getting my head around the fast-changing budget situation in the Michigan Legislature, especially because it reads like a Tom Clancy novel. The twists and turns and double crosses come fact and furious. Veteran journalist Jack Lessenberry summed up the political games being played pretty well yesterday in his online column.

”But this also tells us that the top priority of our legislators, especially the Republicans, is not our best interests. It is not our children’s future. It is their narrow, selfish political agenda. Which in the case of Mike Bishop, apparently means running for governor.”

This is a story that has a top-secret plan, blackmail, leaking private correspondence and now we have a hostage crisis with a list of demands. The sad part is that the book is still being written, and if Bishop has his way it will have an unhappy ending for Michigan residents and will cause some grave damage to the state.

We have already seen the sharp contrast in the work ethic between the GOP-controlled Senate and the Democratic-controlled House, and we saw a perfect example of it earlier in the year when the Senate took a two-week vacation and the House stayed on to address the crisis facing our state. There was some good news today, despite the attempt at sabotage by Bishop, and a deal was finally reached on replacing the Michigan Business Tax (MBT) today. The House was in session tonight until 9:10 p.m. to get it done when it should have been done weeks ago only because Bishop was again reneging on deals and dragging his feet. Apparently the Senate was already on the two-week vacation it had to have.

Just two days ago Gov. Granholm sent a confidential letter to Bishop and other Legislative leaders on Tuesday reminding them about their agreement to
pass a comprehensive budget solution. It also asked them to cancel their two-week summer vacation plans to pass this so school boards and local governments who run their fiscal years on a July 1 to June 30 cycle can properly plan. Bishop, the Newt Gingrich of state government, said he was going on vacation anyway, holding the state government hastate.

Bishop has advocated a part-time legislature and apparently he’s doing it on his own authority. He apparently forgot about the part-time salary part.

After Bishop leaked the confidential letter, in retaliation for asking them to give up their junkets, the Senate proposed a bunch of meaningless” reforms” that do nothing to save any money, but it does go after the Republican’s biggest enemies: public school teachers, unions and the working poor. It even pushed a bill trying to further kill the middle class by trying to make Michigan a so-called “right-to-work state.”

This morning Bishop released a list of outrageous demands that the governor must meet before he will release the hostage, the state government, and this was after meeting previous Bishop demands to cut spending and reform government. After reneging on an agreement in private to raise the state income tax and expand the state sales tax, Bishop released this list of demands with absurd statements like, “State government does not have a taxing problem, it has a spending problem. Higher taxation without significant reform will only result in more bloated state government and a weakened economy.”

He can't possibly mean the state government that has fewer employees now than it did in 1973 despite having more than a million more residents. Back in February the 12-person, bipartisan Emergency Financial Advisory Panel - made up of two former governors and state budget directors, legislative leaders and longtime Lansing policy experts from both political parties - issued a common sense report that said a combination of cuts in spending and creating a modern tax structure is the only way to address the budget problems. Apparently Bishop knows better than both a Democratic and Republican former governor.

The really sad part of the demand is this statement; “Senate Republicans have no intention of obliging the governor with a vote on her tax increase proposals.” We’re not even talking about approving them he’s even obstructing a vote. An early tax proposal would have cost the average taxpayer about $1.33 a week, or a cup of coffee, but Republicans were too cheap to invest that much in our state. We are not going to cut our way out of this situation, and why would we want to?

The opening chapter of “Bishop checkmates the Michigan government” began way back in January when the governor introduced an Executive Order outlining some painful cuts in spending to balance the shortfall in the current year’s budget. The governor was the target of criticism from everybody from PTA moms to senior citizens for the necessary cuts she had proposed that met Senate Republican demands. In Funerary, the Senate Republicans rejected the budget plan without one of their own, just like they did with the Singe Business Tax.

When the GOP finally came up with a plan it was so secret that only GOP members of the Appropriations Committee were allowed to see the full proposal and were told not to write any of it down to keep it as confidential as possible to avoid any criticism over the gutless and mean-sprinted cuts they had planned. After a month of the tightest security since the Manhattan Project, the Senate Republicans launched a sneak attack by exploding the secret plan on a Thursday evening when most people had already left Lansing. The 38-page document was rushed through committee and then right to the Senate floor to be passed an hour later with no one even having the time to read it let alone understand the ramifications of the irresponsible cuts.

As Bishop’s doublespeak and double-crosses continued into the summer, we even had Republicans accusing Democrats of blackmail for simply pointing out the damage their cuts will have.

That brings us up to the latest ploy that included bad faith negotiations and releasing a confidential letter when just a few months ago when no one could get near his top-secret budget plan that was apparently a mater of national security. It’s just one more political game aimed at destroying the governor and winning the office for himself. The only problem is the damage he will cause to the state in the process.

Jun 27, 2007

Coulter Quote of the Week: Coulter pushing her crappy paperback

It was pretty easy getting an Ann Coulter quote of the week this week. She is busy making the rounds of the talk shows plugging the release of the paperback version of her latest hack piece, “Godless.” The premise of the book that only Republicans are Christians is absurd, and the recent examples of the morals and ethics of Republicans proved what utter rubbish that theory is. If Ann Coulter is a Christian then I’m the Dalai Lama.

Her most interesting appearance was on “Hardball” on MSNBC where Theresa Edwards called in and smacked her down. Mrs. Edwards asked the queen of hate to stop the personal attacks and hate speech against her husband, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, and stick to the issues. Coulter tried to spin it to look like Mrs. Edwards was trying to silence her. Of course, Coulter said no. If that happened what would Coulter talk about? That’s her whole act. If she did that she could no longer speak for the Livingston County Republicans and Cleary University. What would she say at Cleary University’s Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series?

I guess in the end asking Coulter to stop hate speech, personal attacks and character assassination is silencing her.

Without further ado here are more examples of Coulter enriching Cleary University and Livingston County and raising the level of political debate.

“So I've learned my lesson, if I'm gonna say anything about John Edwards in the future, I'll just wish he'd been killed in a terrorist assassination plot." ABC’s Good Morning America – June 25, 2007

“No, but I do think anyone named B. Hussein Obama should avoid using ‘hijack’ and ‘religion’ in the same sentence.” ---Hannity & Colmes June 26, 2007.

Jun 26, 2007

Second consecutive front-page story on Rogers divorce attempts to clean up his image

If yesterday’s front-page story in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus on the announcement that U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is divorcing from his wife of 17 years wasn’t enough coverage, today’s edition also featured a front-page story on the pending divorce.

Usually, newspapers will follow up a story that it got out the door in a hurry on a tight deadline before all the facts were known, but this story seems to focus only experts telling us not to worry that this will not hurt Rogers bright, political future. A friend recently remarked to me that the initial story looked more like obituary complete with an admiring review of his career while ignoring the hypocrisy of his previous stands on marriage and privacy.

Today’s story has well-known state political pundit Bill Ballenger, editor of the Inside Michigan Politics newsletter, assuring us that a divorce is not a political liability unless it’s a messy one. Rogers' name has been tossed around as a possible candidate for either Governor after Gov. Jennifer Granholm is term-limited or for Senator when veteran U.S. Senator Carl Levin retires. But Ballenger added, “I'm not sure he's viewed as quite as hot a commodity as he was in 2004.”

Over the years the P & A has been Rogers biggest cheerleader, and it appears this follow-up story may be an attempt to shore up Rogers political fortunes or merely a follow-up to explore facts that were not available before. Just six months ago editor and former conservative Republican House candidate Buddy Moorehouse told us “Rep. Mike Rogers, our congressman, who is destined for something much, much bigger. Mark my words.”

Allan Filip, chair of the Livingston County Republican Party, conveniently used the excuse that he didn't want to comment on the situation out of respect for the Rogers' privacy, but I’m not sure how not commenting on Rogers' political future compromises his privacy.

Matt Evans, chairman of the county Democrats, had the best take on the situation while also agreeing with Ballenger that a divorce alone is not a big deal. But he said that Rogers couldn’t escape the Republican platform of so-called family values.
"The fact of a divorce in and of itself does not carry a stigma, nor should it," Evans said. "But there's a great deal of situational ethics when it comes to family values in the Republican Party."

What really stuck me about this story was when I remembered a Rogers campaign commercial that aired last summer and fall when Rogers was locked in the tightest race since he won a squeaker over former state Sen. Dianne Byrum by a mere 111 votes in 2000. What made it even more memorable for me was that it was filmed right in my neighborhood in Howell’s West Street Park.

The commercial has a bride and groom getting married facing a minister with their backs to the camera, and Rogers is apparently the best man. Rogers turns around to face the camera and talks about the so-called “marriage penalty” in the U.S. tax code. He ends the commercial by making a joke about his wife says how it's tough being enough married to him without the “marriage penalty.”

It seems ironic that he is now making a plea “for respect for their privacy,” but it was a campaign issue and position. It’s also ironic that we have a party and a politician telling us who we can and cannot marry, but he now doesn’t want to talk about his marriage. It’s about a political party stating we must preserve the sanctity of marriage when individually they can't preserve their own marriages.

This is what he said about marriage on March 12, 2004 in the National Review:
"The marriage of a man and a woman is a sacred union and a fundamental element of building strong families and a strong nation," Rogers said.

Jun 25, 2007

Anti-workplace smoking bill gets second committee hearing

The House Commerce Committee will hear testimony today, Tuesday, on House Bill 4163, introduced by Rep. Brenda Clack, D-Flint that will ban smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants.

This is the House version of Senate Bill 109 that Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, has been trying to get passed his entire decade in the state Legislature, but he has only been able to get just one hearing on the bill and no vote in that entire time because the Republicans controlled first the House and now the Senate. Powerful lobbying groups and trade associations, like the Michigan Restaurant have convinced the Republicans not to give the bill a hearing, despite mounting evidence of the harmful effects of second-hand smoke that kills 50,000 people a year.

The Democrats now control the House, and two weeks ago Clack’s bill got a hearing in front of the Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Andy Meisner, D-Ferndale. The crowd was so large two weeks ago that a second committee room had to be set up to accommodate the overflow, and so many people wanted to testify that Meisner adjourned the hearing until Tuesday.

The hearing starts at 9 a.m., and it’s the only bill on the agenda. Democrats expect a vote to be taken to send the bill out of committee Tuesday. If you can’t make it to Lansing Tuesday to catch the hearing you can watch the hearing on House TV on the House web site. It was a very lively hearing, and it’s much better than any reality show on TV simply because it is true reality.

According to the U.S. The Surgeon General, second-hand smoke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 50,000 annually, and there is no amount of safe second-hand smoke. In addition to the 50,000 deaths caused by the more than 4,000 chemical compounds found in second hand smoke, many toxic, it also causes more than 790,000 doctor visits a year for non-fatal diseases, such as asthma, inner ear infections and other afflictions. Second-hand smoke is the single, greatest environmental hazard most people will ever face.

Rogers catches divorce bug that is decimating Livingston County lawmakers

It appears to be some kind of epidemic. U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, became the third of the four Livingston County lawmakers to file for divorce in the past seven months.

According to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, Rogers is expected to file for divorce today from his wife of 17 years, Diane Rogers. Like his Republican colleagues in Livingston County, Rogers has made family values and defense of marriage part of his campaign. He voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment last July that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. The irony is he wants to deny other people the right to marry, but he squanders what he denies other people. Divorce is, unfortunately, a part of life with a 50 percent divorce rate, and being divorced does not make you a bad person, a bad spouse or disqualify you from holding public office. But, when you and your party claim to be the party of family values then it’s news.

According to the article, neither the congressman nor his wife would comment, other than to issue the following joint statement- most likely written by Press Secretary Sylvia Warner - "After working on our marriage for years, including marriage counseling, we have decided to separate. We do so with mutual respect and a commitment to friendship in the best interests of our children. We ask for respect of our family's privacy during this difficult time. We will have no further comment on this matter."

Rogers joins fellow Republican Chris Ward, R-Brighton, who was divorced in January, and in April his home that his three children and ex-wife lived in was foreclosed.

In November of last year, just days before the General Election, State Sen. Valde Garcia, R-Howell, was granted a divorce, but the news was not released until after the election. Garcia’s misfortune had a hypocritical bent because in 2004 he co-sponsored a package of defense of marriage bills, and at the time Garcia said he wanted to "slow down" divorce rates.

The only non-divorced Livingston County lawmaker is Rep. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township, but he’s currently single and never been married. However, that will change soon, and Hune is getting married soon. Considering he only has one more year left in the House before he’s term-limited he should fare better than his colleagues.

Jun 24, 2007

Report says consolidation gives conservatives unfair advantage on talk radio

It’s pretty obvious to everyone that conservatives have an unfair monopoly on talk radio, but the media reform group the Center for American Progress just released a report that conforms that there are 10 hours of conservative talk for every one hour liberal talk, thanks, primarily, to media consolidation that has five mega companies owning almost off the 257 talk radio stations in the country.

The report says each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk—10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk. While progressive talk is making inroads on commercial stations, conservative talk continues to be pushed out over the airwaves in greater multiples of hours than progressive talk is broadcast.

Many radio stations with liberal and progressive hosts or formats are flipping or, changing their formats, despite good and even better ratings than the format they once had. This began to occur shortly after the November election where we saw the success of Democrats in taking control of both the U.S. House and Senate, and many people point to the emergence of talk radio – such as the start-up company Air America - as one reasons by getting information out on Republican misdeeds and outright incompetence. In the battleground state of Ohio, WTPG in Columbus was enjoying its highest ratings since the old days of Top 40 hits with a new progressive format, but some six months ago the station inexplicably flipped and ratings have not been as good.

Some local communities are fighting back. A progressive station in Madison, Wisc. suffered the same fate, but a grassroots effort that included petition drives, demonstrations and publicity stooped the flip. A new web site called Nonstop Radio has sprung up to help them and other flips.

The trend in conservatives dominating the radio waves is even occurring in urban areas where the population always tends to be liberal and democratic. A separate analysis of all of the news/talk stations in the top 10 radio markets reveals that 76 percent of the programming in these markets is conservative and 24 percent is progressive, although programming is more balanced in markets such as New York and Chicago.

Many experts say the reason is the repel of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 under Ronald Regan. The explosion of conservative talk radio is attributed to the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine by the Federal Communications Commission. The Fairness Doctrine was a regulation—formally implemented by the FCC in 1949, but dating back to the early days of broadcasting—that required broadcasters to devote airtime to important and controversial issues and to provide contrasting views on these issues in some form.

The report says the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine is a factor, but it’s only one reason and not the biggest. The report concludes the “gap between conservative and progressive talk radio is the result of multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system, particularly the complete breakdown of the public trustee concept of broadcast, the elimination of clear public interest requirements for broadcasting, and the relaxation of ownership rules including the requirement of local participation in management.”

“Ownership diversity is perhaps the single most important variable contributing to the structural imbalance based on the data.” A quantitative analysis of all 10,506 licensed commercial radio stations reveals that stations owned by women, minorities, or local owners are statistically less likely to air conservative hosts or shows.

In other words, ownership consolidation of all radio stations by just five major companies is the problem. There is no local ownership in local radio stations, and no local input or understanding of the local market. For example, Clear Channel owns 145 stations and 86 percent are conservative, and Citadel owns 23 stations and all of them are conservative. That lack of local control has led to the inexplicable imbalance in the urban areas, and a perfect example is our own WJR, the Great Conservative Voice of the Great Lakes.

WJR is 100 percent conservative, and all of its hosts, with the possible exception of sportswriter Mitch Albom and maybe the guy who does the Handyman show, are right-wingers. It’s no surprise that WJR is owned by Citadel. It’s a perfect example of the lack of local input or understanding of the local market. Detroit is one of the most liberal cities in America in a Blue state, yet there is no non-conservative voice on the most powerful radio station in the state. To me that’s not only unacceptable, it’s bad business and against the law for WJR to use the public’s airwaves free and ignore the political region they operate in and broadcast nothing but rightwing views.

Anyone who has ever watched Faux “News” for comic relief and to see what the other side is doing has recently seen hatemonger Sean Hanity screaming about how bringing the Fairness Doctrine back is an attempt to silence him and Rush Blowhard. I have no idea where he got that ridiculous talking point, but it is simply not true. In fact, the Center for American Progress says the Fairness Doctrine has never really been repealed.

From a regulatory perspective, the Fairness Doctrine was never formally repealed. The FCC did announce in 1987 that it would no longer enforce certain regulations under the umbrella of the Fairness Doctrine, and a 1989 a circuit court upheld the FCC decision. The Supreme Court, however, has never overruled the cases that authorized the FCC’s enforcement of the Fairness Doctrine. Many legal experts argue that the FCC has the authority to enforce it again—thus it technically would not be considered repealed.

The report does offer some recommendations to bring some fairness and balance back to the airwaves that belong to the public. “Restore local and national caps on the ownership of commercial radio stations. Ensure greater local accountability over radio licensing. Require commercial owners who fail to abide by enforceable public interest obligations to pay a fee to support public broadcasting.”

In the meantime, I will continue to listen to Air America and Stephanie Miller on my computer when I’m working, and when I’m in my car and in the right geographic position to pick them up I will listen to Ann Arbor’s WLBY 1290 and Detroit’s WDTW 1310. I suggest you do the same and support their sponsors.

Jun 22, 2007

Diversity Council continues to fight “Love” and racism with new book club

The Livingston 2001 Diversity Council’s newly formed book club will hold its second meeting at 7 p.m. July 17 at the Colorado Coffee House, 4140 E Grand River Ave. in Genoa Township, to discuss its next selection, “We are all welcome here,” by Elizabeth Berg.

The club was formed in May, and it held its first meeting at the Brighton Borders to discuss “The Color of Water,” by James McBride. The club was formed in direct response to a censorship and book banning effort by a small, but vocal group that generated some national attention and negative publicity to Livingston County.

The anti-gay hate group known as the “LOVE” PAC (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) waged a misguided attempt to censor and ban “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them,” Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison's first novel, "The Bluest Eye," an acclaimed memoir written by Richard Wright in 1945, "Black Boy " and the classic Kurt Vonnegut novel "Slaughterhouse Five” from Howell High School’s curriculum. The campaign only ended in March after the group managed to actually get the FBI and the local prosecutor to look into the matter.

The Livingston 2001 Diversity Council was formed in 1988 in response to a cross burning in the yard of a back family in Livingston County, and the group that formed to foster understanding and fight racism 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 it has sponsored a series of events aimed at fostering acceptance and understanding of other cultures, ethnic groups and races.

I really enjoyed reading the first book, “The Color of Water,” and it was amazing to marvel at the inner strength of a Jewish woman who was able to raise 12 African- American children, on her own for the most part, to see them all become college graduates and lead successful lives. She did this in a time when mixed marriages were almost unheard of and frowned upon. She herself was able to graduate from Temple University after her children were raised. I am looking forward to jumping into “We are all welcome here.”

The council would also prefer that those who plan to attend notify the council so that they may plan accordingly, but again, anyone is welcome. You can do so by email at membersite@livingstondiversity.com.

Jun 21, 2007

Livingston County again snubs anti-gay hate group

The Howell Public School Board of Education snubbed rightwing extremism by appointing a board member who has been openly critical of the anti-gay hate group known as the “Love” PAC - (Livingston Organization for Values in Education).

The board chose Dean Miller to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of long-time board member Jeanne Clum. According to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, Miller posted on various local blogs, especially the one operated by the newspaper and board member and LOVE member Wendy Day, using the screen name Puppet Watcher. He was also critical of Vicki Fyke, the leader of the hate group and the former advisor of the Livingston County Teen Age Republicans.

Miller was appointed over nine other applicants using a point system, including LOVE candidate Bill Harvey, who was rejected by voters in the school board election in May.

The “LOVE” group sprang up in the spring of 2005 in response to a diversity flag they mistakenly claimed was a gay pride flag. The group really made national headlines and brought negative attention to Livingston County last year when it launched an ill-fated attempt to ban from the Howell High School curriculum the books “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them,” Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison's first novel, "The Bluest Eye," and an acclaimed memoir written by Richard Wright in 1945, "Black Boy, " as well as the classic Kurt Vonnegut novel "Slaughterhouse Five.”

The fiasco even caused the FBI to investigate briefly before the backlash forced the group to go underground.

Miller said he will stop posting online, but he is more than welcome to post here under any name he chooses to use. It has not stopped Day from posting on her blog; although it is mostly just posting entire newspaper articles that reflect negatively on public school teachers.

Miller has also been clear in telling people he will fight the “Love” agenda, and as the last election proved, the community feels the same way.

"What it means," Miller explained, "is (cancer) gets into any system and it starts to eat it from the inside. That's what (Day) is doing. She's the LOVE member that got on the board. ... She's eating the system from the inside because she's trying to push the LOVE agenda."

Congratulations Mr. Miller.

House Bill aims to put a stop to unfair Big Brother-like practice

Big Brother made a stop in Livingston County to try and sell local human resource professionals on his highhanded policy of firing employees for engaging in a legal activity away from the job on their own time.

Howard Weyers, CEO of Okemos-based Weyco Inc., spoke to the Livingston Area Human Resources Association. He launched a tobacco-free mandate at the company in 2003, and when three of his employees could not kick the most addictive substance known to mankind, he fired them. Apparently, he gives his employees tests to check for the presence of nicotine. No word yet on if he plans to install some kind of smoke detectors in their homes to be more efficient, so that way he can nail smoking spouses and other relatives. This is just one more assault on the rights of workers.

Weyers defends his discriminatory practice by saying he takes a proactive approach to health care because it costs more to insure smokers because of the health risks associated with smoking. “Employees are also told to take biometrics and physical evaluations and, if they don't reach certain goals, they have to meet with a coach more frequently.”

This sounds exactly like the quarterly physical fitness tests I had to take when I was in the military. I don’t equate a third-party medical benefits administrator to the military, and at least the military allows the legal activity of smoking. I applaud Weyers’s efforts to promote physical fitness and healthy living, but most people use a carrot and stick approach. All I see is a big stick. Cleary, an incentive program would be much more fair.

The good news is that help is on the way to stop Weyers. Last week the House Labor Committee heard testimony on House Bill 4532, introduced by Rep. Lee Gonzales, D-Flint. The bill, known as the "Employee Privacy Protection Act,” would prohibit an employer from “taking certain adverse actions against an individual who is engaging in –or is regarded as engaging in—a lawful activity both off the employer's premises and during non-work hours,” such as smoking.

According to the Livingston County Press & Argus, Weyers said he wishes legislators would be more open to his policy, especially considering the state is contemplating a ban on smoking in restaurants. He says if everybody were to live a healthier lifestyle, overall medical costs would come down and there would be less money coming out of employees' paychecks for medical benefits.

I agree to point. The smoking ban he is referring to is Senate Bill 109, introduced by Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, that bans smoking from all workplaces, including bars and restaurants. Basham has been pushing the fight against second hand smoke that kills more 50,000 people a year for the entire decade he has been in the Legislature, but he has only gotten one hearing and no vote in that decade while the Republicans then controlled both the House and Senate. There is finally some movement in the House now that the Democrats are in the majority there on House Bill 4163, the House version introduced by Rep. Brenda Clack, D-Flint.

This is a case of the chicken and the egg. How can Weyers defend his policy when it is not even illegal to smoke in the workplace, let alone your own home? The workplace ban must come first before Weyers’s policy can even be suggested. However, any legal activity you do in the privacy of your own home should never be grounds for dismissal.

Here’s even more irony. The biggest opponent of Basham’s bill is the Michigan Restaurant Association, and that opposition is coming from its board not its members. Subscription only MIRS reported last week that Senate Republicans held a one-day, mini-retreat off-campus to talk about the current budget. I have no idea what’s wrong with the Senate Republican caucus room, but they chose to hold it off site. Guess where? With Senate Republicans sitting on Basham’s bill despite mounting evidence illustrating the health hazard of second-hand smoke and support for the bill the Senate GOP held their caucus in the Michigan Restaurant Association’s new building.

Jun 20, 2007

Coulter Quote of the Week: Coulter uplifting the political discourse…Not

Another weekly installment of Coulter hateful Quotes of the Week. With the summer here I have not spent much time looking for Coulter quotes, despite her nightly appearances on Faux. I have had better things to do than watch TV.

Last week I even spent two days knocking on doors down in my hometown of Monroe on behalf of Rep. Kate Ebli. It was hot and sweaty work, but worth it. I even knocked on the doors of two of my old high school teachers, and they are both voting Democratic. I knew I liked them for a reason.

But rest assured, we will never run out of hateful Ann Coulter quotes. There are plenty of people willing to plunk more than $30,000 to hear her hateful and racist tirades, such as Cleary University for their Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series, so she will give us plenty of more. Here is a few more of Coulter uplifting the political discourse in the country, according to Cleary President Tom Sullivan.

"When contemplating college liberals, you really regret once again that John Walker is not getting the death penalty. We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors." (January 2002, CPAC)

Phil Donahue: "I just want to make sure we got this right. Liberals hate America. They hate all religions except Islam. Liberals love Islam, hate all other religions."
Ann Coulter: "Post 9/11."
Donahue: "Well, good for you."
--Donahue, MSNBC, July 19, 2002

Jun 19, 2007

Because we’re No. 3 we try harder

We’re No. 3, we’re No. 3!
According to BlogNetNews.com/Michigan, the Conservative Media is the third most influential political blog in the state. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I’ll take the glory because it’s the money I’m not getting from operating this blog.

According to an email I received this weekend from BlogNetNews, it recently launched a new feature “that ranks which Michigan state politics and news blogs are having the most influence on the direction of conversation in the state blogosphere.”

It says its rankings come from data provided from each individual RSS feeds, data from the activity of readers on BlogNetNews.com and data about Internet traffic from third parties. “Each Sunday morning at 12:01 AM, BNN will release a new top 20 list of the blogs most powerfully shaping opinion in the Michigan blogosphere. In order to prevent bloggers from trying to game the system, BNN has kept the exact makeup of the rankings system a trade secret, but it does include, traffic, comments, links, clicks, ratings and other data.”

BNN said it tried out the concept a couple months ago in the Virginia blogosphere where the rankings met with some controversy. It says based on that and the results in Michigan it is an ongoing process. The email also said that because these are weekly rankings -- based only on seven days data -- small and new blogs can have really good showings from time to time while older, more established blogs will show their strength by staying in the top 20 from week to week.

This week I am No. 3 behind Michigan Liberal, the standard we all strive to reach and where many of also post, and behind this week’s No. 1, Our Michigan.

House Republicans now claim reality equates to blackmail

We already know the truth has a decidedly liberal bias, but now it appears so does reality.

The rightwing blogs are squeaking about alleged “blackmail,” and Macomb County GOP House members are also using the same word when told if there is not a tax increase Macomb Community College (MCC), as well as every other educational institution in the state, could see cuts in revenue from Lansing.

This is confusing to me. The Republicans want to fix the $1.8 billon hole in the state budget with spending cuts along after 15 straight years of cutting revenue, but now they are crying foul when faced with reality of those unwise tax cuts. When you tell them the reality of balancing the budget they way the Republic Party wants to with spending cuts alone they claim they are are being threatened or blackmailed. That’s a ridiculous assumption, and an absolutely long jump to an unsubstantiated conclusion.

Isn’t that what the Republic Party wants? Republicans should be ecstatic that MCC could experience cuts because that’s exactly what they want. In a recent article in the Macomb Daily, Rep. Brian Palmer, R- Bruce Township, said any attempt to use MCC funding as leverage for pro-tax votes will fail.
"There have been threats here and there, but nothing with any credibility," Palmer said. "That (an MCC cut) is blackmail, and I'd expose that for what it is."

Is he for real? This is simple math. You can’t continue to cut revenue, advocate balancing the budget with more and more spending cuts alone and not expect your pet projects to be cut. Is Palmer saying cut everywhere and everything else, but don’t cut anything in my district. The answer is obviously yes.

The price of living in a civilized society and in the greatest country in the world is the small investment we make in the form of taxes. Again, Republicans want a free ride, and they not want to pay for anything. 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. This is just one more example of that, and now they are spinning a dose of reality as a threat.

Jun 18, 2007

Organizer of speaker series stealthy defends racist speaker

In a classic case of deceptive labeling, a letter-to-the-editor appeared in today’s Livingston County Daily Press and Argus from Janet Filip of Genoa Township defending self-described ”terrorism and national security expert” and journalist Steve Emerson’s recent appearance at Cleary University's Livingston Economic Club Speaker Series last month.

Janet Filip is a little more than just a Genoa Township resident. She is the person responsible for booking the “acts” at the LEC Speaker Series and the wife of the chair of the Livingston County Republican Party. This has to be the reason the last two speakers at the series are such extreme right-wingers and moderates and liberal views are ignored despite a policy of “enrich(ing) the Livingston County community by hosting speakers who can share a broad spectrum.” In fact, they are so extreme they are racist. Emerson and hatemonger Ann Coulter – set to appear in October - do not “bring different perspectives from all different types of speakers to help enrich our community.” They do the exact opposite: they further reinforce the stereotype that Livingston County welcomes racists and bigots of all ilks.

Are you contending that because Ted. Hysen – the author of the letter Mrs. Filip is responding to - based his remarks on the article that appeared in the newspaper that Emerson was misquoted or the story was inaccurate? If so could you point out what was incorrect? The fact is Emerson’s racist views are public knowledge, and there are plenty of other sources available to make that case. Emerson claims mainstream groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (FAIR) are front groups for terrorists. The real truth is Emerson is an anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigot with an obsessive agenda against Arabs.

Emerson can say all day that he in “no way, shape, or form, believes that all Muslims are terrorists or that all Muslim organizations are fronts for terrorist activity,” but his actions are the exact opposite.

Actually, it’s people like Emerson who want to “destroy all the things we hold dear in this great country of ours.” Racial profiling and taking away civil liberties “destroy the things we hold dear in this great country of ours.”

Labeling every person from a major world religion you don’t understand as a suspected terrorist is not political correctness it’s discrimination, and it goes way beyond questioning things.

Jun 17, 2007

Unity dinner urges Monroe County Democrats to take back the White House and move forward

There was music, dancing, good food, pats on the back for a good job and pep talks for the 2008 election at the Monroe County Democratic Party's 20th annual Unity Dinner at Leroy's Hall Saturday night.
There were even jokes - some funny and some not so much - and some much-deserved criticism of the opposition.
“The worst thing about political jokes is some of them are elected as Republicans,” said Monroe County Community College Professor William McCloskey, who served as the master of ceremonies.
Debbie Dingell was the keynote speaker. She is a recognized national advocate for women and children, a member of the Democratic National Committee, a trustee at Wayne State University and a senior executive at General Motors. She is also the wife of U.S. Rep. John Dingell. She said her husband could not attend because he is in Washington, D.C. gearing up for a fight that will have a huge effect on Michigan: higher corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standards. The Democratic leadership in the House wants higher gas millage standards, and Dingell wants more time for the Big 3 to meet those higher standards.
“That’s the fight we have in Washington,” she said. “It can bankrupt the auto industry; it’s not fair to the domestic auto industry.”
Dingell said the Bog 3 automakers have spent millions of dollars - more than any other industry - in research and development. She criticized the Bush Administration for not enforcing the free trade agreements that give foreign manufacturers an unfair advantage over the Big 3. Democratic leaders say the current tax policies, unfair trade polices and lack of enforcement of trade polices by the Bush 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 and even manipulating currency to make their cars cheaper and U.S. cars more expensive.
“Domestic manufacturers have fought, and fought and fought to compete with foreign manufacturers who enjoy unfair advantages,” she said. “Our manufacturers are not just competing against foreign manufacturers, they are competing against foreign countries.”
Dingell said Bush’s decision to ignore and refuse to even meet with the Big 3 executives, the largest manufacturers in the country, has led to the loss of more than 3 million good-paying manufacturing jobs.
“It was not so long ago in the Clinton Administration that we actually added manufacturing jobs,” she said.
Dingell also praised the leaders elected in November, and urged the party to work even harder next year to solidify the gains made in November and to add even more.
“We need to make the White House blue again, and we also need to protect our local officials,” she said.
Democrats in the state House went from having a six-vote deficit to gaining a 58-52 majority following the election last November, and one of those newly elected was Rep. Kate Ebli in Monroe’s 56th District. Ebli said the House has worked hard to erase the deficit it inherited by the mismanagement of the Republicans, and the House just reached a deal for a new and improved Single Business Tax (SBT).
“It rewards those companies that invest in and create jobs in Michigan,” she said
Ebli also outlined the victories and campaign promises the House has accomplished in the short time Democrats have been in the majority, such as ethics and eliminating the drug company immunity against lawsuits.
“We sent a huge signal that Michigan is putting people ahead of huge profits for drug companies,” she said.
Ebli said she has teamed up very well with Monroe’s other Representative, Rep. Kathy Angerer, who represents the 55th District.
“It’s very unusual that you walk into a job and are able to work with someone you trust,” Ebli said. “We have that.”
Angerer could not attend because she was attending a family wedding out of town, but she was represented by her Chief-of-Staff, Eric Candella.
“Kathy understqands she can’t do the important work she is doing in Lansing without the work you did first,” he said. “Your hard work had to proceed her hard work in Lansing.”

Basham continues decade long quest to protect the public

State Sen. Ray Basham has had a long and varied career in public service, including a hitch in the U.S. Air Force, serving as an auxiliary police officer, as a union representative, a city official, a state Representative and as a Senator. For most of that public service Basham has been trying to protect the health of people from second-hand smoke.

Basham has been trying to ban smoking in the work place, including bars and restaurants, since he was first elected to the Michigan House 10 years ago, and that quest has continued on to the Senate. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, there is no safe amount of second-hand smoke, and secondhand smoke is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 50,000 people annually.

“Second-hand smoke is not a nuisance, this is a health hazard,” Basham said last week in the Senate Democratic lounge, just off the Senate floor. “This is a serial killer.”

It was while Basham was working at Ford Motor Company that he first became aware of the issue of second-hand smoke. It was also while he was at Ford that Basham became directly involved with smoking and second-hand smoke as an employee support services representative for the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 245.

“I was involved in smoking cassation and other programs with the UAW,” he said. “I had numerous complaints of second-hand smoke, and we dealt with them on a case-by-case basis.”

During Basham’s service on the Taylor City Council and Planning Commission, he noticed smoking during meetings and people ignoring no smoking signs, and smoking was even allowed in the state Capitol. Mounting evidence - such as food service workers are 50 percent more likely than the general population to develop lung cancer and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified second-hand smoke as a Group A carcinogen - drove Basham to action.

“I had colleagues that would not come into the caucus room because they had ash trays on the chairs,” he said.

Basham’s bill, Senate Bill 109 in this session, has only had one committee hearing in his 10 years in the legislature. The House version - House Bill 4163 introduced by Rep. Brenda Clack, D-Flint, - received a hearing before the House Commerce Committee last week. Basham hopes passage in the House will prompt the Senate to finally take up the issue in the face of mounting evidence pointing to the harm second-hand smoke causes.

“This is not a partisan issue,” Basham said. “This is an issue whose time has come, and we simply have a responsibility to protect the public.”

Opposition to the ban has come primarily from the Michigan Restaurant Association (MRA), and some of the opposition has come because of the false belief that bars and restaurants will lose money and business if a smoking ban is implemented. But evidence shows the exact opposite is true; that restaurants in the 30 states that have the ban have seen increased revenue, such as in New York City that saw revenue increase 8.7 percent and the creation of 6,000 restaurant jobs in just the first year after it went smokeless.

The MRA claims individual bar and restaurant owners should make the choice to go smokeless or not, and officials from the MRA say restaurants are choosing to go smokeless on their own, saying that since 1998 smoke free restaurants have increased 96 percent. But Basham said that includes fast-food restaurants and carry-out, not just sit-down restaurants.

MRA officials say it’s an issue of freedom, and the government should not regulate or dictate to business owners what kind of dinning atmosphere they will have. But Basham says that’s ridiculous because government already regulates everything from the number of parking spaces a restaurant must have to the tempature of stored meat.

“Certinally we should be allowed to regulate indoor air quality,” he said. “Smoker’s have rights, but they end when the smoke goes up someone’s nose.”

The day of the hearing was also the legislative lobby day for the MRA in Lansing. Basham said he talked to representatives from some of the largest restaurant chains in the state, such as Red Robin and Buffalo Wild Wings. He said they support the ban, and there is a clear disconnect between the MRA board and its members.

“The board should talk to its members,” he said. “Those guys are dinosaurs on the board.”

The bill, at least the House version, is expected to be taken up in committee before the legislature takes its summer break, and Basham hopes it will be voted out of committee to the House floor.

Jun 13, 2007

Coulter Quote of the Week: queen of hate makes political points with grief

Hatemonger and racist Ann Coulter’s hateful “Quote of the Week” took a brief hiatus last week because it was preempted by the Livingston County Daily Pres & Argus’ one-way Playboy interview of Coulter. But it’s back this week.

As the Oct. 1 date for the Republican Party mouthpiece to appear at Cleary University’s Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series fast approaches, all we have really learned is that barring Coulter being arrested for cannibalism or for some other heinous crime she is jailed for Coulter will speak because ticket sales are brisk.

But, without further ado here are some Coulter gems that Cleary is paying $30,000 plus travel expenses to hear:

On Princess Diana's death: "Her children knew she's sleeping with all these men. That just seems to me, it's the definition of 'not a good mother.' ... Is everyone just saying here that it's okay to ostentatiously have premarital sex in front of your children?"..."[Diana is] an ordinary and pathetic and confessional - I've never had bulimia! I've never had an affair! I've never had a divorce! So I don't think she's better than I am."---MSNBC 9/12/97

“These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis. I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much." From her book: Godless: The Church of Liberalism

Jun 12, 2007

Medical evidence overwhelmingly supports position on smoke free bars and restaurants

The crowd that jammed into the House Commerce Committee on Tuesday to hear testimony on House Bill 4163 that would ban smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants, was so large a second committee room had to be set up in the House Office Building to accommodate the overflow crowd.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Brenda Clack, D-Flint, but Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, is the driving force behind the smoking ban with Senate Bill 109. Basham said he first introduced the ban 10 years ago when he was in the Michigan House, and the measure has only received one committee hearing in those 10 years. Basham said it’s a public health issue, and second hand smoke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 50,000 annually.

“The Surgeon General has said there is no amount of safe second-hand smoke,” he said. “This is an issue that we have a responsibility to address whether we are Republicans or Democrats.”

Basham said some 30 states have enacted a smoking ban, including Tennessee just last week, and he said entire countries that have a tradition of heavy smokers have banned smoking in bars and restaurants, including Ireland, Norway and Canada. He said Ontario saved some $1.7 billon in healthcare costs in the first year. He also said Detroit is losing convention business to nearby Windsor because they are smoke free.

“We truly are the smoking mitten,” Basham said. “People should not be put at risk in the workplace.”

Opponents of smoke free bars and restaurants say people go to bars to smoke when they have a drink or have a cigarette after a meal, and a ban on smoking will hurt business. Clack said that’s nonsense, and she said business has actually increased after bars and restaurants go smoke free, especially in light of statistics that say smokers are the minority in this country. Experts say only about 25 percent of the U.S. population still smokes.

“Going smokeless creates revenue and jobs,” she said. “When New York City went smokeless, in just the first year 6,000 restaurant jobs were created and revenue increased 8.7 percent.”

Backing up Basham’s claim that second-hand smoke is a killer was one of the most knowledge people in the country on the effects of deadly second-and smoke, Dr. Ronald Davis. Davis is the Director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Henry Ford Health System, and he is the president-elect of the American Medical Association (AMA). Dr. Davis also served as director of the Center for Disease Control’s Office on Smoking and Health from 1987 to 1991.

Davis said in addition to the 50,000 deaths caused by the more than 4,000 chemical compounds found in second hand smoke, many toxic, it also causes more than 790,000 doctor visits a year for non-fatal diseases, such as asthma, inner ear infections and other afflictions. He also said second-hand smoke is the single, greatest environmental hazard most people face, and he said separate smoking and non-smoking sections in restaurants does absolutely nothing to mitigate the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.

“The battle over the evidence has been won; second-hand smoke is harmful and has been proven a health hazard,” he said. “Separate sections in restaurants are about as effective as having a chlorinated section of a swimming pool and a non-chlorinated section of the pool.”

The only people against the smoking ban were some state association: the Michigan Restaurant Association, the Michigan Food and Beverage Association, the Michigan Business and Professional Association and the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association.

Ironically, Tuesday was the annual lobby day for the Michigan Restaurant Association where members come to Lansing to host a reception and lobby their Senator and Representative. The MRA said its sole objection is that bar and restaurant owners should be able to make the choice for themselves whether to go smoke free or not, and Andy Deloney, MRA public affairs director, said since 1998 smoke free restaurants have increased 96 percent.

If that’s the case why oppose the bill?

“What we continue to believe and what we continue to support is that the member makes the choice for themselves what their dining atmosphere is like,” Deloney said.

Because so many people wanted to speak, the committee did not vote on the bill, and Committee Chair Andy Meisner, D-Ferndale, plans to take more testimony on the bill in two weeks.

Jun 11, 2007

Anti-smoking zealot’s employee Big Brother policy addressed by House Committee

In an irony of timing, a pair of bills addressing smoking will get a hearing Tuesday before two separate Michigan House committees as the person who prompted one of them is set to speak to the Livingston Area Human Resources Association at 7:30 a.m. June 20 at the Genoa Woods Executive Conference Center.

As you may recall, Howard Weyers, CEO of Okemos-based Weyco Inc., launched a tobacco-free mandate at the company in 2003, and when three of his employees could not kick the most addictive substance known to mankind, he fired them. Now, these three employees practiced the legal habit of smoking off the job during non-working hours, yet in an Orwellan twist straight of “Nineteen Eight-Four” they were still fired.

It makes you wonder what type of behavior Big Brother will try to control next, and how he will know if you are violating the new policy. I am one of the worst kind of anti-smoking crusaders, a former smoker who quit the habit more than 11 years ago, but the obvious question has to be when is an employee’s life his own? I think Weyers should reward those who quit smoking and keep healthy, fit and in shape by having them pay less for medical coverage, but if what Weyers is doing is not illegal it should be. What you do in your own home that does not hurt anyone else should be no one’s business but your own.

Help, however, is on the way, and the House Labor Committee-chaired by Rep. Fred Miller, D-Mount Clemens – will take testimony on House Bill 4532, introduced by Rep. Lee Gonzales, D-Flint, on March 27. The bill, known as the "Employee Privacy Protection Act,” would prohibit an employer from “taking certain adverse actions against an individual who is engaging in –or is regarded as engaging in—a lawful activity both off the employer's premises and during non-work hours,” such as smoking. This will outlaw high-handed decisions like the one Weyers made.

Sen. Ray Basham (D-Taylor) will be testifying before the House Commerce Committee Tuesday, chaired by Rep. Andy Meisner, D-Ferndale, on his smoke-free workplace legislation, which would ban smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants. It seems amazing that Weyers can fire people for smoking at home during non-work hours, yet there is no law in place that bars people from smoking at their public workplace. Amazing.

Basham introduced this version of his bill, Senate Bill 109 on Jan. 30. He first introduced the exact same legislation two years ago, but it died when the 2005-2006 session ended on Dec. 31. The bill has not even been able to get a hearing in committee in the Republican-controlled Senate after some three years. The House committee is actually taking testimony on the House version of the bill, HB 4163, introduced by Rep. Brenda Clack, D-Flint, on Jan. 30. Hopefully, the House version will finally make the obstructionist Senate act, but if past history is any indicator it will meet the same fate of many other bills sent to the Senate - many passed by the Republicans when they controlled the House last year - and die without ever getting a fair hearing.

Let’s hope not.

Jun 10, 2007

Ward flips from McCain campaign and flops to Thompson camp

According to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton, has backed off his previous endorsement of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, for the Republican Presidential nomination and switched his allegiance to former actor and lobbyist Fred Thompson, if he runs.

It’s not really earth shattering news for those people living outside of Livingston County, but it speaks volumes about the Republican minority floor leader. This is a pretty big flip-flop. Some nine months ago, Straight Talk America, the political action committee for the then prospective presidential candidate McCain, (R-Ariz.), announced in early September of 2006 that four state representatives from Michigan will join the organization as legislative co-chairs, including Rep. Chris Ward, who was named co-chair of the Straight Talk America Michigan Legislative Advisory Team. Ward was quoted in subscription only MIRS saying:
“Senator McCain is very popular among members of the Michigan state legislature and we look forward to working closely with him in the 2006 Elections,” said Representative Chris Ward. Representative Ward is in the GOP leadership as the House Majority Flood (sic) Leader.

That’s a heck of a flip-flop; going not only from endorsing McCain but also working for the candidate. It makes you wonder what the real reason for the change. Apparently loyalty is not a trait Ward is familiar with, and according to the P & A the decision is based on just one issue, immigration. Ward even modeled the alleged camping finance reform he was working on after the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill, only Ward’s version so favored Republicans it died in the last session. Yet Thompson voted for McCain-Feingold when he was a Senator. Ward claims his “change of heart had more to do with Thompson than with McCain.”

I once had a lot of respect for McCain, a former Navy pilot and POW in Vietnam. Actual veterans are rare in the party that claims to support the troops, and Thompson is just one more Republican politician from conservative Hollywood. I lost a lot of respect for McCain when he allowed George Bush to get away with smearing his family and military service.

I just don’t get Republican’s infatuation with Thompson. Speaking a few lines a week in the TV series “Law and Order” qualifies you to be president?

Thompson only served one and a quarter terms in the U.S. Senate representing Tennessee, and he served in the Senate some eight anonymous years from 1994 to 2002, his only elective office. He was elected to serve the remaining two years of the term of Tennessee’s favorite son, Al Gore, when he was elected Vice-President. Thompson’s longest stint at anything has been as a Washington lobbyist from 1975-1992. His lobbying efforts helped usher in the deregulation of the Savings and Loan in 1982 that led to the S & L crisis in the late 1980s that cost U.S. taxpayers more than $125 million.

He has been such an apologist for Bush’s failed polices in Iraq it’s ridiculous at a time when the rest of the GOP hopefuls are running from Bush, and Thompson even made a commercial that falsely tried to link the 9/11 attack to the occupation/civil war in Iraq. This is the man Republicans want to be president without him even being involved in a debate with the other candidates.

I guess this does away with the myth of “liberal” Hollywood, and it goes the way of the “liberal” media lie.

Jun 8, 2007

Michigan GOP should cancel subscription to Communist Party newspaper

You are probably not aware of this, but Republicans, at least some Republicans, are calling for the Governor to fire Andy Levin from his position as Deputy Director of the Department of Labor and Economic Growth for allegedly, at least according to the Republicans, calling companies and employers terrorists.

The reason you have not heard about this is because it’s not true, so no reputable mainstream media outlet is dumb among to reach the same ridiculous conclusion and pick up this non-story and you don’t read rightwing blogs. Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis put a press release last month calling for Levin to be fired, posted it on his “blog” – if something that refuses to allow comments and feedback can be called a blog - and on a blog called right Michigan that’s a cheap rip-off of the Michigan Liberal. In fact, this guy apparently has nothing else to write about because he posts the came crap about Levin everyday. This guy is so petty he recently called the governor out for taking a lunch break and spending it with her teen-age daughter on her birthday. Can you get any more petty?

The offending passage came from the May 26 edition of the “People’s Weekly World,” which is the official newspaper of the U.S. Communist Party. I don’t read it, but apparently Anuzis does. I wonder why that is? The reporter was covering Biennial AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention, and this is the offending passage, in fact the only reference to Levin in the entire story.

“Levin, who worked in the national AFL-CIO’s organizing department for 10 years, said the only way to stop the “terror campaign” that companies initiate after workers vote to form a union is to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which contains stiff penalties for such abuses.”

Can anyone please explain to me how they can reach that ridiculous conclusion from that? The dictionary defies terror as “violence or threats of violence used for intimidation or coercion.” That is exactly what companies do to keep unions out. If you don’t believe me I suggest Anuzis and the “right” Michigan kid visit the Michigan Historical Museum right there in downtown Lansing or get put of Lansing and visit the Monroe County Labor History Museum so they can read up on the Battle of the Overpass in Dearborn in May of l937, the Flint Sit-Down Strike in 1936 and the bloody battle to organize the Republic Steel plant in Monroe in 1935.

The Employee Free Choice Act tries to level the playing field that’s tilted so far in favor of the company. It would allow workers to organize a union free of an employer’s intimidation, free from fear of being fired and free from retaliation. The bill would allow employees at a worksite who want a union to simply sign a card clearly indicating support for a union. Companies pull out the stops when a union tries to organize to protect the employees. The employer is free to call mandatory meetings on company time to lie about the union, spread misinformation and makes threat when the union can only ask workers to attend organizing meetings as they speed out of the parking lot to get home, and the company also routinely fires organizers and those sympatric to unions.

What really bugs me is the people on “right” Michigan enjoyed the middle class upbringing their parents provided because of the surface and hard work of union members that created the middle class, and now they smear unions.

Anuzis apparently has a thing for Levin, the son of U.S. Rep. Sander Levin and the nephew of U.S. Sen.. Carl Levin. You may recall that Anuzis broke into and trespassed into Levin’s home last fall and with a welcome basket of Michigan products in a lame attempt to label Levin as a carpetbagger.

Levin grew up in Michigan and graduated from high school here. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts; a Masters degree from the University of Michigan’s Rackham Graduate School and a Law degree from Harvard University. He then organized union workers in Michigan before being transferred—first to Boston, then to Washington, D.C. Like many young people, he recently chose to return home to raise a family, doing exactly what the governor is trying to do: get the best and the brightest to stay in Michigan and have them come home. How does that make him a carpetbagger? While the governor is trying to stop the brain drain, we have people like Anuzis undermining the progress of the state with those kinds of stupid stunts and dirty tricks he has become known for.

Levin ran for state Senate in the 13th District in November where he narrowly lost. In January, the Governor appointed Levin as Deputy Director of the DLEG where he oversees workforce development, career education and other key programs.

Instead of firing him, I hope the governor promotes him, and he runs again for the senate in three more years.

Al Gore’s new book gets good review by panelists

Enthusiasm is building for former Vice-President Al Gore to enter the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination, and there was plenty of that enthusiasm at a panel discussion of Gore’s latest book – “Assault on Reason” – on Thursday put together by mid-Michigan draft Al Gore proponents at Schuler Books in Okemos.

The panel, consisting of Beryl Schwartz, editor and publisher of the Lansing City Pulse; Tracy Dobson, a professor at Michigan State University’s Fisheries and Wildlife Department; and Doug Kelley, the retired director of Extension and Continuing Education at the University of Michigan in Flint.

The panel had differing opinions on latest book. Schwartz said he was disappointed the book had no new ideas from Gore, but he said it served as a good reference for all of Gore’s previous positions and good ideas.

“This book, to a large extent represents, both what is good and bad about Al Gore,” he said. “He is brilliant, but as a campaigner he is a little wooden.”

Kelley disagreed with that assessment, and he said Gore’s positions are what the former U.S. Senator and Vice-President are passionate about.

“I found this a very passionate book,” he said. “He says George Bush violated the law – not that that he just lied to people – that he violated the law for the past six years.”

Dobson said there were good and bad things in the book, but she really enjoyed Gore’s take on the history of democracy and communications in the United States.

“TV has done more to damage our democracy than anything else,” she said. “Political debate has been diluted down to 30 second advocacy spots.”

The talk naturally drifted away from the book to politics and other subjects, and the panelists also talked about their personal experiences with Gore. Schwartz said he first met Gore in the early ‘80s when Gore was a Senator and Schwartz was a reporter for Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, D.C. Schwartz was offered a job as publisher of the Knoxville News Sentential in Gore’s home state, and shortly after that he accepted the job got a call from “Al’ – a former reporter himself - inviting him to lunch.

“We had a lot to talk about,” he said “He has a great sense of humor.”

Schwartz said even then he was developing a respect for Gore, but that respect was cemented when Gore appeared at a journalism panel celebrating the newspaper’s 100th anniversary that Gore had to fly to from a conference in Bermuda and back just to be there because he had made a promise to Schwartz to attend.

“I think there are a lot of people from liberals to conservatives who wish he was president today,” he said. “We would be better off today, but this book will not get him there.”

Kelley, very active in the Washtenaw Democratic Party, said he saw Gore at all six of his Michigan appearances, and he was one of the 1,000 presenters Gore personally trained last year in Nashville to present the slide show based on Gore’s Academy Award winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” Kelley said he saw a man that was far from wooden and lacking in emotions, and he saw a man who cared about people and was at ease with people from al walks of life.

Kelley has one of the largest collections of Democratic Presidential campaign memorabilia in a garage-like structure at his Ann Arbor home he calls the “archive” that he welcomes people to visit. Kelley once worked as an aide to late Democratic U. S. Senator Phil Hart, and he compares Gore favorably to Hart. Hart was a former Lieutenant Governor of Michigan, and he served in the Senate from 1959 until his untimely death in office in 1976. The Senator Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. is named for him.

“He (Hart) was as close to a saint as a politician can get,” Kelley said. “Al Gore has some of those same qualities.”

Bob Alexander, a former Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress in the 8th Congressional District, is one of the organizers of the mid-Michigan Draft Al Gore movement. The group meets every month at 7 p.m. at the Gone Wired Cafe, 2021 E. Michigan Ave. in Lansing.

For more information contract Alexander at Alexjuliea@aol.com.

Jun 6, 2007

Coulter says her hate speech is just a joke and a way to make more money

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus attempted to interview Republican mouthpiece and hatemonger Ann Coulter about the controversy surrounding her appearance at Cleary University’s Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series.

No luck. Apparently, the only way she will talk to anyone from a community so insignificant as Livingston County is if they ante up $30,000. Instead, she answered questions via email. No word on how much she charged them, and there certainly is no proof Coulter actually wrote the responses herself, other than the disgusting and snarky tone. It looks like a Playboy interview, only much shorter and less interesting. She answers serious, thoughtful questions with flip, glib answers.

I also think the newspaper is missing the point when it says the controversy over Coulter only began when she “used the word "faggot" in March when talking about Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, her previously scheduled appearance in Livingston County this fall took on a more controversial tinge.” That is untrue. It’s her body of hate, racism and prejudice that is driving the objection. Her appearance reinforces the undeserved reputation that we are racists here, and it reinforces the general perception that Livingston County is a safe haven for racists and bigots of all ilks, like Coulter.

Perhaps the real reason Cleary is not canceling her appearance is because of the ticket sales. “Cleary has already sold more than 300 tickets at $60 each, the largest number of tickets sold for a speech in the series. Sales are occurring faster than for any other speech in the series history, said Janet Filip, development director for the university and coordinator of the event” and wife of the chair of the Livingston County Republican Party.

The rest of her answers are just normal crap from Coulter. It proves the more outrageous and hateful things she says, people like Cleary President Tom Sullivan throw more money at her. I guess that blows away the thin excuse from Cleary that her appearance “enrich(s) the Livingston County community by hosting speakers who can share a broad spectrum of social, political, intellectual and cultural experiences.” Her excuse seems to be her hate speech is really just a joke, and us “poorly-dressed subversives” just don’t get it.

Wasn’t Don Imus’s remark about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team a joke?

Jun 5, 2007

Say no to amateur government

Some people, at least I am, are questioning the logic of addressing the problem of a group of people unable to get a complex and difficult task accomplished within a timely deadline addressing that problem by cutting the time they are working.

That is the logic of Republican Senators Bruce Patterson, Jud Gilbert and Tom George, who introduced a Senate Joint Resolution in February that will amend the Constitution to limit the Legislature to meet not more than 90 consecutive days. As I am writing this, I am watching the Senate Committee on Government Operations and Reform, chaired by the chief obstructionist - Mike Bishop – hold a hearing on the concept of a part-time legislature. The resolution says simply that: it doesn’t set salary rates or talk about committees where most of the real work is done.

The budget fiasco and the quest to replace the Single Business Tax (SBT) demonstrate that term limits have stripped the Legislature of experience and trust. This will make that problem even worse. I’m not sure what problem this move is trying to address.

For full disclosure, I intern in a Michigan House office, but this also gives me a bird’s eye view of the process and the workload. Seeing the workload of the member I work for and seeing her rush from appointment to appointment it seems inconvincible that she would work less hours. The demands on her time are tremendous.

The budget crisis is driving this, but the money saved is just a drop in the bucket. I’m an advocate of good government and experience, and it seems to me this will give us lots of experience, but little else. Less professional people will run for office, and the majority of Legislators will be retirees, those who are self-employed or the independently rich. Are there 148 Dick Devos in Michigan? Experience is a good thing, but we will take a hit on diversity. That also brings up the issue of conflict of interest. Can a legislator sit on the judiciary committee and try cases, can a teacher sit on the Education Committee or can an insurance salesman sit on the Insurance Committee?

Newspaper reports say Michigan is only one of four states that have a full-time legislature, but the representative of the nonpartisan Legislative Service Bureau testifying says there are nine states with full-time legislatures. That number may be high as 11, depending on what criteria is used to define full-time.

A part-time legislature also seems to violate the separation of powers. The legislative, executive and judicial are supposed to be equal branches of government. Why is no one advocating the other two branches go part-time? The Legislature is supposed to serve as an oversight protection on the executive branch, but how can a part-time legislature do that when it barely does it now?

As government, technology and everything else gets more complex everyday since we went to a professional Legislature around 1969, the power has shifted to lobbyists who are the subject matter experts. It seems to me that will only get worse with this scheme.

This will have to go on the ballot, and with the current mood of the voters, it’s a no-brainer that it will pass. It’s a mistake. This is the first of many meetings, and Bishop says he will support the concept if it does away with term limits. I support a professional legislature and lengthening term limits so that term limits gives us a high level of expertise that eliminates lawmakers from always looking to the next office but does not entrench them in office. This does not address the budget crisis or make government better, what it does is punish Legislators.

Jun 1, 2007

Positive news from conference depresses GOP

If the Pistons loss in double overtime that put them on the brink of elimination didn’t place enough of a pall over the entire state, Michigan Republicans are even more depressed to hear the news coming out of the annual Detroit Regional Chamber Conference on Mackinac Island.

Subscription only Gongwers reports “A solid majority of business executives polled by the Detroit Regional Chamber believe that Michigan's business climate will be stronger in five years.”

Sad, sad news for Michigan Republicans who are so quick and so enjoy pointing out the state’s high unemployment rate, the foreclosure rate and lowered bond rates. They, of course, ignore the fact they are primarily responsible for the bond rating, the person in the White House has lost 3 million jobs by refusing to enforce trade agreements - most of those jobs from the largest employer in the state - and the unemployment rate was at double digits under a Republican governor. That’s when I left the state to join the military, but despite the GOP constantly running my state down, I’m staying. Isn’t sad that the Republicans are pulling against Michigan and bashing it just to get back the political power they lost?

“The poll was done of 211 senior-level executives by John Bailey & Associates for the Chamber, and 74 percent believed the business climate would be improved in five years.

I think it’s patriotic to question and criticize the government, but this constant Michigan bashing is just ridiculous. It’s like telling your wife you love her, but she’s fat, ugly and lazy.

If Republicans didn't need any more bad news, Gongwers says a report released at the conference says Michigan's three largest universities outperform some of the best-known university research systems in other states.
The study looking at the university research corridor was commissioned from Pat Anderson of Anderson Economic Group. Mr. Anderson said the three universities spend a total of $6.5 billion, which amounts to 2 percent of the state's total economic activity, and together account for $1.3 billion in research and development funding.
The total quantified earnings of all the alumni of the three universities living in Michigan is more than $24 billion.
The study compared the total spent by the Michigan universities on research to universities in Massachusetts (Harvard, MIT and Tufts), North Carolina (University of North Carolina, Duke and North Carolina State) and Pennsylvania (Carnegie Mellon, University of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania State University), and Mr. Anderson said he was surprised to see that Michigan schools outspent the schools in those states.

Even more bad news for Republicans: Republican and Democratic leaders say they've reached a consensus on two tough items that have divided them in replacing the Single Business Tax.

Some Republicans even criticized Democrats for going to the conference; ignoring the fact that Republicans were there too. The biggest complainant was that the Democratic-controlled House did not hold session on Thursday to go to the conference in the face of the budget crises while the Republican-controlled Senate did. This, of course, ignored the fact that the House has held sessions on Monday where the Senate does not.

It also ignores the fact the Senate met for about 65 minutes on Thursday, and all but 10 minutes of that were spent listing to a Teddy Roosevelt look-alike give a speech he gave 100 years ago in the Senate chamber.