Jul 31, 2007

Supporter of no reason absentee ballot does flip-flop

One of the biggest supporters of “no reason” absentee ballots did a flip-flop and voted against it the House Ethics and Elections committee last week, apparently in the name of keeping voter turnout low.

Last week the committee voted out House Bill 4048, introduced on Jan. 22 by Rep. Martin Griffin, D-Jackson, that will allow anyone to get an absentee ballot at their local clerk’s office for no reason. Currently, there are only six reasons that the law allows people to vote absentee, including a physical disability and requires assistance when attending the polls, has religious tenets that prohibit attendance at the polls, is an election precinct inspector in another precinct, is 60 years of age or older, will be absent from home on election day or cannot attend the polls because of being in jail awaiting arraignment or trial. This bill will allow anyone to get an absentee ballot.

But Subscription only MIRS reported that Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton, “no longer supports no reason absentee voting by mail, a change that could make an
upcoming vote on the issue break down along party lines.” Ward is the House Minority Floor Leader and the former clerk in Brighton Township, and as such he is “the leading GOP caucus voice on elections and related reforms.”

"We've spent $10 million on new voting machines that catch people's mistakes so they can correct them," Ward told MIRS. "The vast majority of spoiled ballots we see now are absentee voter ballots. A lot of people who mail their ballots in never even realize they won't be counted.”

Ward seems bent on keeping voter turnout down, a move unusual for any former clerk. With voter turnout not much over 30 percent of registered voters we should be eliminating barriers that keep people from voting not throwing more up. It was Ward that introduced a resolution that asked the Michigan Supreme Court to review the poll tax law that required a picture ID card to vote. On July 18 the Supreme Court voted 5-2 to disenfranchise a large number of voters when it upheld a 1996 law passed by Republicans that requires voters to show photo identification before casting their ballots.

It seems funny that Ward would have this change of heart when you look at who is endorsing this bill. Those supporting it include The Michigan Campaign Finance Network, The Michigan Association of County Clerks, The Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks, The League of Women Voters of Michigan and the Michigan Townships Association. When Ward was the clerk in Brighton Township he was also the President of the Livingston County Association of Municipal Clerks, which is also a member of the state association that supports this bill. The problem is Ward when Ward was the president of the local clerks association he was also the chair of the Livingston County Republican Party, and that party loyalty has always outweighed any other consideration.

When Ward was the chair of the House Oversight, Elections and Ethics Committee when Republicans controlled the House, he sponsored House Bill 4569 that would allow no reason absentee voting, and it was passed 57-51 on April 19, 2005. To show how much things have not changed in Lansing in the more than two years since the bill passed the House it died in the GOP-controlled Senate when it failed to act on the bill. Apparently, the Senate acts on neither bills sent to it by Republicans or Democrats.

Ward again introduced the same bill in the current session a few months after Griffin’s Bill when he introduced HB 4508 on March 22.

There is one big difference between Ward’s bill and the bill passed out of committee. Griffin’s bill allows everyone the same right to vote absentee, but Ward’s bill only allows you to get the bill with an ID card and then you must vote the ballot right there in the clerk’s office. How privacy is protected is apparently not one of Ward’s concerns.

What really explains the difference in these two bills is who supports them. The Republican Secretary of State, of course, supported Ward’s bill, but it’s neutral on Griffin’s bill. The League of Women Voters supports both bills, but the Michigan Association of County Clerks only supports Ward’s bill in concept where it has unqualified support for Griffin’s bill.

Jul 30, 2007

Join the Livingston County Dems for an eye-opening movie and delicious dinner

The Livingston County Democratic Party is inviting everyone who cares about the country and our troops currently in harm’s way to come out and enjoy dinner at see a distributing and eye-opening movie.

The LCDP is holding its second "Movie and a Dinner" at 7 p.m. Friday at its headquarters in Brighton where the Robert Greenwald film "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers" will be shown. The price is just a $10 donation per person and $15 per couple and a dish to pass. I have been to a couple of these potluck dinners here in Livingston County and I can testify that the spread is indescribable. All the money goes to the LCDP to help keep the roof over our heads and the lights on.

The office is located at Suite 600 in the Fonda Place office park, 10321 E. Grand River Avenue, in Brighton. The zip code is 48116 for those who want to plug the address into MapQuest or Yahoo Maps. Guests are not only welcomed but encouraged, and the roomy office offers easy east/west access from the Spencer Road exit off of I-96 and for those coming from north or south you can get off on the Lee Road exit off of U.S. 23. The potluck will begin at 7 p.m. followed by the movie.

The screening is co-sponsored by Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, a group spearheading constituent action to persuade Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, and other Michigan Congressmen and women, to end their support of the civil war and occupation in Iraq. The film features individual soldiers talking about the waste of taxpayers' dollars they witnessed in Iraq due to government out-sourcing of the war to private corporations - including paying private companies $100 for doing a bag of laundry.

"This documentary should appeal to any taxpayer who is concerned about government waste and government over-spending, even if they support military action in Iraq," said Matt Evans, chair of the LCDP. "Certainly government waste is something that Democrats, independents and Republicans should all be against."

Greenwald has won numerous awards and recognition for his progressive documentaries, such as "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," and for another retail giant Wal-Mart called, "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices." But Greenwald is a 30-year veteran of Hollywood whose previous credits include, "The Burning Bed," a 1984 made-for-TV movie starring Farrah Fawcett about an abused Michigan woman from just down the road in Durant who doused her sleeping husband with gasoline and set the bed ablaze.

The first Movie and Dinner was very successful and featured Al Gore’s Academy Award-winning film "An Inconvenient Truth.” Evans said more socially relevant films for the entire family will be offered in the future, and the price will allow the entire family to enjoy dinner and a movie and at the same time make our community, out state and our country a better place to live and raise that family.

Evans said more socially relevant films for the entire family will be offered in the future, and the price will allow the entire family to enjoy dinner and a movie and at the same time make our community, out state and our country a better place to live and raise that family. We look forward to meeting and greeting our many out of town visitors and showing off our digs in supposedly GOP-dominated Livingston County, and you certainly do not have to be a member of the party to attend. If you need directions or other information just call (810) 229-4212.

Jul 28, 2007

Some lawmakers are fighting back in the war to destroy the middle class

The Republicans have declared all out war against the middle class, working men and women and the labor unions that created the middle class with so-called “right to work laws.”

The good news is both the U.S. Congress and the Michigan House are fighting to protect the fast-disappearing middle class with some new legislation. In March the U.S. House passed HR 800, the Employee Free Choice Act, that 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 will allow employees at a worksite who want a union to simply sign a card clearly indicating support for a union, stiffen penalties for employers who fire union organizers and sympathizers and it addresses companies who simply refusing to bargain in good faith.

On the state level, the House passed House Bill 4316, known as the “Worker Freedom Act” sponsored by Representative Mark Meadows, D-Lansing. The bill would prohibit employers from making workers attend mandatory meetings where employers have a captive audience to put out negative and anti-union information. The bill passed by a 56-49 vote on July 18, 2007 and is currently in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.

When workers band together for fair wages, workplace safety and protection against unfair labor practices, the pressure to break any pro-union move is intense, complete with intimidation and violence on occasion. Union organizers must meet with workers after working hours away from the plant or shop, and often the only initial contact they have with workers to make their case is when workers are speeding out of the employee parking lot and organizers try and pass a flyer or other info to the employee. Management does not have that problem.

Often, companies hire anti-union, union-busting consultants as part of expensive union –busting campaigns where workers are subjected to anti-union propaganda and mis-information at mandatory group meetings. Employees are also subjected to threats of dismissal and intimidation at mandatory, one-on-one, closed-door meetings.

According to the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency,

A study of more than 400 union representation election campaigns, found that during 92 percent of union organizing drives, employers forced their employees to attend closed-door anti-union meetings. In addition, 78 percent of employers directed supervisors to deliver anti-union messages to employees in one-on-one meetings.

This bill will prohibit that unfair practice. However, the bill has an uphill battle in the Senate, but perhaps some pressure from voters will force them to act responsibly and bring this to a vote. I’m sure a large number of Republican Senators benefited from the concessions won by unions over the years.

Jul 26, 2007

Michigan Repubs take page out of Bush playbook with anti-union legislation

Michigan Republican lawmakers are taking a page out of George W. Bush’s playbook and naming a piece of onerous and harmful legislation and giving it a nice sounding name that that evokes good feelings, but in reality it does the exact opposite of its name.

For example, Bush has saddled the country with the following legislation that does exactly the opposite of what its name implies: “The Clear Skies act,” the “Healthy Forest Initiative” and “No Child Left Behind.” Now we have House Republicans doing the same thing with House Bill 4454, introduced by Rep. Jack Hoogendyk, R-Kalamazoo, known as the “right to work law.” A better name would be the right to weaken unions, do away with collective bargaining and endanger workers act.

Unions created the middle class, gave millions of Americans and their families access to quality education, quality health care, fair wages and protection from being killed or maimed on the job.

This law fits right in with Republicans who hate to invest in the state and country and hate to do their patriotic duty and pay their fair share of taxes. Unions raised the wages of all workers, even those that do not belong to unions and did not face death and injury at the hands of company hired thugs and police acting on behalf of plant owners. Even those workers that did not pay union dues or risked everything by going on strike for better wages, benefits and working conditions. This bill will force unions to give the protections and benefits they won with hard work and determination to those workers who do not contribute to the union via union dues, enjoy the benefits won by collective bargaining by union leaders and receive the same physical protections won by the hard work and sacrifice of union members.

This bill will give management, which already holds all the cards, even more clout. A look at CEO compensation helps you realize why unions are needed now more than ever. In 1965 the average CEO was earning 24 times what the average worker was making. But in 2005, the average CEO was making 262 times what the average worker is making. The gap between the haves and have-nots is growing wider every day, and this will make it even wider.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in so called “right to work states” earn about $5,300 less, they lack health care insurance or it is extremely expensive and they receive less for Worker’s Compensation if injured on the job.

To show you how far Republicans have strayed from the principals that helped make this country strong, check out this quote from Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower:
“Only a handful of reactionaries harbor the ugly thought of breaking unions and of depriving working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice,” he said. “I have no use for those- regardless of their political party – who hold some vain and foolish dream of spinning the clock back to the days when organized labor was huddled, almost as a helpless mass.”

Apparently we have some reactionaries in the Michigan House. This is just one more salvo in the battle to destroy unions by corporations that are getting bigger and more powerful everyday.

Jul 25, 2007

Coulter Quote of the Week: the queen of hate goes underground: or to faux news

All quiet on the Ann Coulter front. Since the media blitz from the queen of hate after her latest piece of trash was published in paperback form a few weeks ago we not heard much from her. We have also not heard anything from her since she got smacked down by Theresa Edwards on “Hardball.”

Since we have not received a new shipment of Coulter hate speech, outrageous comments and stupid quotes, we will have to go to our always-full vault of Coulter's outrageous and hateful comments. If nothing else, we can always collect plenty more when she speaks for Cleary University at their Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series in Howell this fall. I guess you have to ante up $30,000 grand to hear her BS now like Cleary did.

With impeachment in the air over Shrub, I thought we would pick a couple of quotes on Coulter’s obsession with President Clinton and impeachment. It’s seems kind of ironic that it took years and more than $40 million for a right-wing hatchet man named Ken Start to finally get Clinton for engaging in a legal sex act, but there are so many things Shrub could be impeached for and hasn't.

"It's enough [to be impeached] for the president to be a pervert."---The Case Against Bill Clinton, Coulter's 1998 book.

“In this recurring nightmare of a presidency, we have a national debate about whether he "did it," even though all sentient people know he did. Otherwise there would be debates only about whether to impeach or assassinate.” “In her 1998 book on Clinton, “High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Jul 24, 2007

Passage of smoking ban from committee is victory for healthy lungs

In a victory for public health, clean air and healthy lungs, the House Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Andy Meisner, D-Ferndale, voted out a bill that will ban smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants.

The committee voted 12-4 today to approve House Bill 4163, introduced by Rep. Brenda Clack, D-Flint, and send it to the full House floor for consideration. With seven Republicans on the committee, it appears this bill has bipartisan support.

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.

This is the House version of Senate Bill 109 that was introduced by Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, and he has been pushing and introducing the legislation during his entire tenure in the state Legislature, both in the House and Senate. He said this is the first time in more than a decade that a vote of any kind was even allowed on the issue.

“I’m really excited that the committee chair actually allowed a vote,” Basham said. “This is not a partisan issue, it’s a public health issue.”

Basham said some 30 states have enacted a smoking ban, including Tennessee just last month, and he said entire countries that have a tradition of heavy smokers have banned smoking in bars and restaurants, including Ireland, Norway and Canada.

The bill moves on to the House, but Basham’s bill remains stuck in the Republican-controlled Senate in the committee for Economic Development and Regulatory Reform. It’s hoped when the House bill is sent to the Senate it will prompt some action.

“I think it will turn up the pressure on the Senate to do the right thing,” Basham said. “Again, people are dying.”

Cox and Republicans create Catch-22 and continue to hold budget hostage

Michigan Republicans, in collusion with Senate Republicans, have created a Catch-22 situation with Gov. Grnaholm’s and the House Democrats’ attempt to reform government and cut state spending with the proposal to reform sentencing guidelines.

In June chief obstructionist Sen. Mike Bishop, the Senate Majority Leader, released a list of demands the governor had to meet in order to release the hostage, state government, which included cutting spending and reforming government. It now seems kind of ironic that Republicans and Republican Attorney General Mike Cox called a press conference yesterday to protest the plan that will save money by sending fewer criminals to prison or county jails, cutting some sentences and decriminalizing some victimless crimes.

The GOP and their supporters refuse to help find new revenue to balance the budget and refuse to cut spending and prefer to call grandstanding news conferences to make political points.

A recent report by the U.S. Department of Justice found Michigan’s incarceration rates were the 2nd highest in the 12-state Midwest region, and our rate is the 11th highest in the nation, We spend more money on Michigan prisons, $1.9 million, than the $1.6 million we spend on our 13 public universities. The Citizens Research Council of Michigan said the state’s incarceration rate is 40 percent higher than those of otter states, due to longer sentences and lower parole rates. Michigan is spending millions to hold, feed and house thousands of low-risk, non-violent inmates instead of looking for inexpensive ways to ensure their success on the outside or other alternative forms of punishment.

Livingston County Sheriff Bob Bezotte, a member of the Livingston County Republican party’s executive committee, said Public safety is not state government leaders' priority, according to a story in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.
"The state is trying to fix its problem by dumping (them) on the county," Bezotte said. "As far as I'm concerned, the state government is shirking its responsibility. Public safety is not one of their priorities."

Gee, Bezotte is taking a shot at the governor. Big surprise there. It was just a few months ago that the Bezotte had to declare an overcrowding emergency at the county jail because it has been over capacity for 25 straight days, releasing prisoners who had not completed their sentences.

There was a new addition to the jail in 1996, and it operated at full capacity the very day it opened and stayed there. There was another $2 million addition in 1999 and another addition in 2001 that brought it up to the current 254-bed capacity by converting a day room to bed space. There is also talk of a new jail. In between these additions the county had to send prisoners to nearby jails at a huge cost to taxpayers. Why is Bezotte against saving tax money?

The Governor’s plan also calls for putting lower-level offenders behind bars for less time. For instance, criminals would have to steal $5,000 or more worth of property to be convicted of a felony — the current threshold is $1,000. They could get even more time behind bars, however, for crimes totaling $100,000 or more. Other offenses would have shorter maximum sentences. For example, first-, second- and third-degree fleeing and eluding would carry 10-, five- and two-year maximums, respectively, as opposed to the current 15, 10 and five years, respectively. Some drug offenders would face a maximum three-month jail term, not the potential for up to four years in prison.

Some of the laws suggested for repeal are supported by the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan. Those laws include compelling a woman to marry, which is a life offense; and cohabitation of divorced parties, a four-year felony; and dueling, a 10-year felony.

With local elected Republican elected officials track record on marriage you would think they would support repealing those laws.

The simple fact is we can save more money with alternative sentencing options, such as house arrest with monitoring sensors for non-violent criminals and actually rehabilitating law-breakers instead of housing, feeding and treating those prisoners. More money would be saved by treating people’s substance addictions instead of throwing them in jails and prisons. The money saved could help put some of the 1,600 police officers cut since the 9/11 terrorist attacks that were laid off because of the 15 straight years of tax cuts that cut revenue to local governments back on the streets.

Rep. Paul Condino, D-Southfield, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said his committee on Wednesday will take up legislation to reconstitute a state sentencing guidelines commission, which currently is inactive but used to review sentencing rules every two years. The commission would put any proposed sentencing changes in the hands of criminal justice experts rather than politicians, he said, according to an AP report.

Maybe Cox and Bezotte should take a look at the legislation in the House before commenting on it, but this is not about law enforcement it’s about politics.

Jul 23, 2007

Express your outrage over the Iraq occupation at the Brighton Mill Pond Thursday

Join the growing number of people trying to stop the needless Iraq civil war/occupation at Mill Pond in downtown Brighton at 12:15 pm Thursday as part of Americans Against Escalation in Iraq’s Iraq Summer campaign where yard signs, bumper stickers, lapel stickers and other material will be passed out.

The event will give Michigan and Livingston County voters a vehicle to voice their displeasure with one of the biggest Bush apologists and Iraq war cheerleaders, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, right in his own backyard. Rogers has continuously voted to continue Bush’s failed Iraq policies and continues to make excuses for its failure.

A video camera will record 30-second personal messages from voters expressing their outrage at Rogers continued failure to hold the administration accountable for their failed polices and support for a civil war that has killed more Livingston County soldiers and Marines than the entire 16-year history of the war in Vietnam. A compact disc filled with voters telling Rogers how they feel about the war will be presented – or at least an attempt will be made- to Rogers at the end of the summer.

The Mill Pond is located about a block south of the main four intersections of Grand River Avenue and West Main Street in the 100 block of West Main in zip code 48116, and easy access to the beautiful Mill Pond is available from the Spencer Road exit from I-96. Everyone is welcome, but organizers are asking that you please RSVP at michigan7@iraqsummer.org.

Americans Against Escalation in Iraq is a national campaign comprised of a variety groups from across the political spectrum that are committed to opposing the Bush plan to escalate the war in Iraq and to work for the responsible redeployment of American forces. It’s a loose coalition of various groups, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), MoveOn.org Political Action, VoteVets.org, Center for American Progress Action Fund, USAction, Win Without War, Campaign for America’s Future, the United States Student Association, Working Assets, Americans United for Change and Campus Progress Action.

GOP talking points focusing on Bush tax cuts expiration

We can expect to see more of the kind of letters and misinformation like the one that appeared in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus today from Jay Drick, a member of the Livingston County Republican Party's executive committee and a former Republican District Court Judge candidate, as Bush’s tax cuts for the rich are set to expire.

This propaganda piece from Drick throws figures around like 100 million Americans will pay an extra $1,716 a year in taxes a year if they expire, and, of course, there is not one reference or attribution as to where these figures came from. However, a good guess would be the state or national Republic parties

He also used the Bush catch phrase the “death tax” in place of the more accurate estate tax. This is a tax that not one single family in Livingston County will be effected by. It will affect families and people like Paris Hilton and Dick “The Amway Guy” Devos, and God knows those people need all the financial breaks they can get. In fact, more than 99 percent of estates pay no estate tax at all. A better name for the tax is the inheritance tax, and an even better name is the "Paris Hilton tax cut.”

These taxes will only affect the richest 1 percent of the taxpayers at a time when the gap between the rich and the non-rich is growing and the middle class is under assault and disappearing. According to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, making the tax cuts permanent would increase the national budget deficit and thereby add to the national debt.

“The interest payments needed to service this higher level of debt would amount to about $500 billion over the next ten years. Thus, the total cost of making these tax cuts permanent, including the related interest costs, would be $3.5 trillion over the ten-year period Once the tax cuts are fully in effect, their annual cost (not including debt service) will amount to about $400 billion per year. In 2006 terms, that amount is more than 7 times what the federal government spent last year on K-12 and vocational education and almost 10 times what it spent on hospital and medical care for veterans. In today’s terms, that amount also exceeds the combined 2006 budgets of the Departments of Education, Homeland Security, Veterans’ Affairs, State, and Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency.”
Watch for these GOP talking point inspired letters in your local newspaper today.

Jul 21, 2007

Conservative editorial board goes over the top defending war apologist

If you need any more proof of the conservative bias of the media we have the Oakland Press editorial board attacking a liberal organization for pointing out the obvious fact that the Iraq occupation and civil war are immoral.

The editorial page, where conservatives live and rule, said we “should be upset over the outrageous tactics of a group known as MoveOn.org.” after member Bruce Fealk of Rochester Hills said U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Bloomfield Hills, “should urge the U.S. Senate to "vote the right way and atone for his sins as a good Catholic boy." “

I don’t see anything outrageous, unreasonable or offensive about calling on someone’s morals and religion to speak out and try and stop an immoral war. This was a war that was sold to the American people using fear, handpicked evidence and misdirection, and it is an immoral war that has seen the U.S. use and condone torture, incidents of murder and kidnapping and widespread corruption condoned and aided by the Bush White House. Knollenberg is one of the president’s and the war’s biggest supporters and apologists.

This war goes against everything the U.S. stands for and has always made us the good guys. It has also killed more than 4,000 U.S. service members and wounded, some horribly, more than 25,000 service members. No one really knows how many Iraqi civilians have died since the conflict began, but estimates put them in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands. The United Nations estimates that 35,000 civilians were killed in Iraq during 2006 alone.

Knollenberg is for the war, but apparently against the troops and their well-being. According to the excellent Knollenberg watch blog, “Vote no on JOE,” Knollenberg voted against fully funding the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, guaranteeing them training and appropriate armor; voted to continue awarding contracts to corrupt Halliburton; and opposed expanding access to the military's TRICARE health insurance program to thousands of Reservist and National Guard members who are doing a lion’s share of the fighting and dying in Iraq.

Knollenberg has even refused to even talk or meet with groups like Americans Against Escalation in Iraq or their representatives even as more and more of his constituents join their ranks everyday.

As for the alleged religious reference, where was the Oakland Press when rightwing groups like right to life were urging the Catholic Church to refuse to give Communion to Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2002 and U.S. Sen. John Kerry in 2004 because they did not share their point of view. To me making a statement asking someone to act morally does not compare to actively trying to stop a politician you disagree with from worshiping as they have a right to.

You can also read what Mr. Fealk has to say about his statement at “Vote no on JOE.”

Jul 19, 2007

Support the troops by getting them home beginning with a canvas Saturday

If you’re looking to get out in the beautiful sunshine to get some exercise and enjoy the weather you can also do that and save our brave soldiers and Marines from dying needlessly in Iraq because of President Bush’s failed policies by joining Americans Against Escalation in Iraq in canvassing in Brighton from 2-4 p.m. Saturday (7/21).

The group is meeting at 2 p.m. behind the McGivney Law offices - 210 E Main St. -
before dispersing. That’s just about a block east of the main four in downtown Brighton – and the home of one of Bush’s and the Iraq war’s biggest cheerleaders, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers – and less than a mile west of the Spencer Road exit from I-96. The zip code is 48116 so you can type it into Google maps to get here. Canvassers will be distributing yard signs and asking Brighton residents to call their Congressman to stop supporting Bush's reckless war policy.

Just a few days ago with the GOP filibuster we saw the hypocrisy of Republican senators who continue to speak out against the civil war and occupation in Iraq, and then when it comes time to vote for actual change and put their money where their mouths are they do absolutely nothing. We saw the hypocrisy of the all-night debate over the Reed-Levin amendment, which would begin bring American troops home from Iraq in 120 days, with the eventual goal of removing all combat troops by April 30, 2008. Republicans were able to block even an up or down vote. We cannot allow them to say one thing and do another when the lives of our finest young men and women are on the line.

Please RSVP to michigan7@iraqsummer.org if you are able to attend or for any questions regarding the campaign. You don’t have to live in Brighton or even the 8th U.S. Congressional District to attend. You just need to care about justice and want to truly support the troops instead of just giving it lip service and slapping a bumper sticker on your car like Bush, Rogers and their supporters.

Americans Against Escalation in Iraq is a national campaign comprised of a variety groups from across the political spectrum that are committed to opposing the Bush plan to escalate the war in Iraq and to work for the responsible redeployment of American forces. It’s a loose coalition of various groups, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), MoveOn.org Political Action, VoteVets.org, Center for American Progress Action Fund, USAction, Win Without War, Campaign for America’s Future, the United States Student Association, Working Assets, Americans United for Change and Campus Progress Action.

Hune bill will do little but earn brownie points

In what can only be described as a Terri Schiavo-like law that will apply to just one, single company Rep. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township, introduced a bill last week that will do little but earn him some brownie points with property owners opposed to overhead transmission lines being built in Livingston County.

Hune introduced House Bill 5030 last week that will requite Novi-based International Transmission Company (ITC) to bury transmission lines that stretch more than five miles in townships with populations between 10,000 and 15,000. According to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, ITC – which owns the transmission lines once owned by Detroit Edison - plans to put 21 miles of lines on poles nearly 100 feet tall in Milford, Brighton, Hartland, Oceola and Genoa townships, and it has won approval from the Michigan Public Service Commission (MSPC). Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton, who represents Brighton, Milford, Oceola and Genoa Townships did not join in co-sponsoring the bill. Why not if it is such a good bill?

The attorneys at the nonpartisan Legislative Service Bureau that drafted the bill are very professional and know that they are doing, but a bill that singles out one company hardly seems legal. The bill’s title says it amends “certain installation requirements of international transmission company utility lines. There is also the question of if the Legislature even has jurisdiction over the independent MSPC, and if this violates the separation of powers because the MSPC is part of the executive branch of government.

The mission of the Michigan Public Service Commission is to grow Michigan's economy and enhance the quality of life of its communities by assuring safe and reliable energy, telecommunications, and transportation services at reasonable prices. The commission is composed of three members appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. It remains to be seen if the Legislature can overturn a decision by the MPSC. Most effective Legislators would use their influence behind the scenes to get a satisfactory solution, but this piece of narrow, showboating legislation demonstrates the apparent lack of influence. This bill seems more about campaigning for Hune’s next election after he is term-limited in a year that getting anything accomplished. The bill was referred to the House Energy Technology Committee.

Critics of the transmission lines argue it will lower property values, but that’s the same, familiar argument used when any new construction project is proposed that people oppose. It’s a familiar argument used by the Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) group, but actual cases of lowered property vales are as rare as snow in September.

Ward and the Republicans plot to disenfranchise voters and suppress voter turnout

Here’s a pretty simple question for Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton, and his supporters: With no voter fraud in Michigan to speak of and an anemic voter turnout of less than 30 percent for most elections, why do we want to throw up another barrier to get people out to the polls to exercise their most basic and honored right as a citizen?

On Wednesday, the Michigan Supreme Court voted 5-2 to disenfranchise a large number of voters when it upheld a 1996 law passed by Republicans that requires voters to show photo identification before casting their ballots. The Supreme Court was acting on House Resolution 199 that was sponsored by Ward in February of 2006 and co-sponsored by just about every Republican in the House that asked the “Michigan Supreme Court to issue an opinion on the constitutionality of the provisions of 2005 PA 71 that require voters to provide photo identification in order to obtain a ballot.”

Like everything else Ward, a former township clerk, touches you can bet it is solely intended to benefit the GOP and keep him and his cronies in power, and this ridiculous move does just that. Three Michigan Attorney Generals – two Democrats and one Republican – have held that this violated the Constitution. The law was struck down shortly after it was signed into law in 1995 by an opinion by former Michigan Attorney General and Eternal General Frank Kelley. Current AG Mike Cox, A Republican, held the same opinion, and Ward and then Speaker Craig DeRoche went to work to disenfranchise voters.

Generally, legislation is introduced to correct a problem, but what problems are Ward and the Republicans trying to correct? What voter fraud are they trying to correct? When was the last time you heard of voter fraud in Michigan? The answer to all of those questions is there is no problem with voter fraud in Michigan. Of course, what we do have are voter turnouts of less than 30 percent in most areas, and that’s a problem we as citizens should be addressing. This aggravates that problem, but that’s what Ward intended. Plus, that’s 30 percent of the people who actually registered to vote, not 30 percent of the population of voting age. Why are we so willing to give up the most cherished right that thousands of soldiers, Marines, sailors and airman have died to preserve. Instead, the GOP wants to depress voter turnout even more by throwing up a roadblock to voters. Not coincidentally, it’s minority and the poor who tend to vote Democratic that will be disenfranchised.

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer had it right when he said in a written statement, “These photo identification laws are nothing more than a poll tax and are part of an ongoing strategy by Michigan Republicans to disenfranchise minority and older voters. There is no problem with voter fraud or voter misrepresentation in Michigan which could justify this disenfranchisement of voters.”

We can expect to see even more voter intimidation by Republicans at the polls in urban areas and polling places with predominately minority population when and if this is implemented.

I’m no attorney, but this looks like a clear violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that was adopted in 1868 to protect the rights of freed slaves in the south that says, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”

This also raises the question that was brought out in an Aug. 2, 2006 editorial in the Detroit Free Press that asked what this does to the power of the AG’s office. Some eight years ago, “Republicans in the Legislature tried to enact a law erasing much of the authority of the state attorney general, at the time a Democrat named Jennifer Granholm. The effort died, and deservedly so, amid a political mini-tempest over taking power away from the elected lawyer of the people.”
Does this decision throw out the long-held legal principle that an attorney general's opinion has the effect of law unless challenged and overturned in court?

“Such is the fate, evidently, of attorneys general who dare to issue opinions that certain legislators don't like. Power plays such as this actually underscore the need to retain the Attorney General's Office as an independent arbiter for state and local governments. Actually, attorney general's opinions often issued on an advisory basis and sometimes suggesting a legal course to follow, keep a lot of things from becoming costly legal battles for the state or the many local governments that make inquiries. And when the opinions have been challenged in court, they have been upheld more than 90 percent of the time, which underscores the way the office, at least on opinions, hews to the law rather than to politics.
The people of Michigan elect an attorney general statewide to serve as their chief law enforcement officer, not as a lackey to the Legislature. The framers of the current state Constitution, which was enacted in 1963, even referred to the attorney general as the "watchdog" of state government, on behalf of taxpayers, consumers and public officials. “

Jul 18, 2007

Coulter Quote of the Week: Some more classics from AC for CU

This week’s quote of the week from the queen of hate is just a couple of run-of-the-mill examples of how Coulter is going to earn her $30,000 and meet Cleary University’s mission of raising the bar of public discourse in the community.

The real news is how U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers tried to reward CU for their rightwing loyalty to the tune of $2.15 million in pork and earmarks. I guess it was hoped with pork like that those $30,000 payouts to right-wingers would not be a problem. But, without further ado, here is a few examples of the gems AC will give the Republican Party faithful at Cleary University’s Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series in Howell this fall.

"Women like Pamela Harriman and Patricia Duff are basically Anna Nicole Smith from the waist down. Let's just call it for what it is. They're whores."---Salon.com 11/16/00

"Clinton is in love with the erect penis."---This Evening with Judith Regan, Fox News Channel 2/6/00

That’s your Ann: She’s all class.

Guest blogger points out Cleary and Rogers unhealthy relationship

(This is a guest post from Michael Motta that was first posted on Michigan Liberal. I agree with his basic premise of the unhealthy relationship between the Cleary University and the Livingston County GOP - and even the Gannett corporate media, but I strongly believe Clearly is a good institution that fills a needed niche in the community. But for one more example of that unhealthy relationship Mr. Motta may not be aware of, the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus endorsed Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton and a Cleary graduate, during the November election without even an endorsement interview, the only candidate not to have one.
If you look at the list of earmarks Mike Rogers was asking for Cleary to receive they don’t even make sense. For example, he asked for $325,000 “for the training of technology workers, to be done at Cleary University to provide job training opportunities for Livingston county workers.” That ignores an underutilized state partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation that does the same thing called the Livingston Regional M-TEC. The M-TEC, one of 18 in Michigan, “is a not-for-profit Technical Training Center operated by Mott Community College – a public institution - and advised by a board of local businesses and community representatives.”)

Mike Rogers Wants over $2.15 million for ClearlyNotA University
By: Michael Motta
We all know that politics aren't pretty and that the money flows right along with the greasy grimy hands. The hope is that there is still enough around of that cynical yet practical idea of the Founders that "ambition counteracts ambition" and that pluralism wins in the end.
But what happens when a single Congressional District has at least two of its largest media outlets, a private college, a county economics club and its U.S. Representative all on the same page? Well, you get a greasy gravy train.

Most of you have by now read of the Livingston Economic Club, Cleary University, and the Livingston Press & Argus co-sponsoring a lecture series that pays ridiculous amounts of money bring in such speakers as Ann Coulter ($30,000).
Many of you have also read of former Lansing State Journal publisher Leslie J. Hurst's breach of journalistic ethics (far more heinous than the state databases) regarding her fabrication of the LSJ Editorial Board's "non-endorsement" of a candidate in the 8th Congressional race last autumn. In fact the Board had voted 5-1 to endorse Marcinkowski over Rogers and others.

Some fewer of you may have added up the recent federal funding requests of Mike Rogers for Cleary University and found that they run in excess of $2.15 million. Some may realize that the student body of Cleary is likely smaller than many elementary schools, with figures I've seen ranging from the 400s to the 600s. So we're talking about three to four thousand dollars PER STUDENT that Rogers is requesting for a private school that had a right wing agenda even before Rogers started feeding it, and probably more so now that he has.

If you doubt that Cleary has a political agenda, it actually states one right in its president's greeting: "Welcome to Cleary University! I am especially proud to be affiliated with Cleary University, an institution committed to teaching the American free market economic system . . . " http://www.cleary.ed... And of course some of you may have read about the various ties between Cleary administration members and the Republican Party, such as Janet Filip, the development director for Cleary, being married to the chair of the Livingston County Republican Party.

First of all, the Federal Government has no business funding a private school, especially one that has such an obvious agenda. Cleary doesn't even save face by offering traditional conservative "Great Books" styled liberal arts programs - it flat out markets itself as a quick way to move up the corporate ladder (about halfway I imagine in most cases), shunning an actual education in the process.

Perhaps equally unnerving to Rogers wanting the Federal Government to toss millions of dollars at this "school" of three digits of students, is this whole chain or consortium of cohorts scratching each others' backs.

Let's see, the LSJ's Hurst helps Rogers by lying during his campaign, the LSJ's Gannett sister the Press & Argus co-sponsors the Coulter and friends lecture series (as its former publisher becomes publisher of the LSJ, replacing Hurst who simply moved her act to a Gannett paper in Louisiana) along with Cleary, and then Rogers wants a cool $2.15+ million for Cleary.

Doesn't all of that sound even greasier than usual?

I give credit to this blog http://liberalmedian... for some of my information, though the gentleman who runs it seems to defend Cleary much more than I do. In the face of the details it strikes me as a non sequitur to defend Cleary in the abstract.

Jul 17, 2007

County GOP gives lip service to supporting the troops

The Livingston County Republican Party is making a pitch for more free front-page publicity by collecting donated items to “ship to troops originally from Livingston County” in a token show of supporting the troops. It’s a great gesture, but if you really want to show your support for the troops get them out of the middle of a deadly civil war where whet they are targets and are fighting and dying for a success that cannot even be defined.

You will recall last December that the majority party in the county anted up a whopping $500 for Toys-For-Tots from the $42 million it spent trying to buy the governorship, and it earned them a front-page story from the so-called “liberal media.” I’m sure that’s what’s behind this effort.

A better way to show support for the troops is to support the "Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act" that will be debated tonight in the U.S. Senate. The bill has already been approved by the House, and it requires President Bush to begin troop withdrawal within 120 days, with most coming home by April 2008.

The Republicans have threatened to filibuster it to block a vote, but Senate Majority Henry Senator Reid is calling their bluff and forcing them to stay in session all night long in an old fashioned filibuster. To support the first real filibuster and all-night session in more than two years, peace supporters we'll be holding a citizen's response—a counter- filibuster—all over the country, including in nearby Milford. It will be held at 6 p.m. at 213 W Huron street, just a block west of Main Street, and it is hosted by Laural Tondreau.

This is a war based on handpicked evidence to mislead the American people. It has killed more than 4,000 U.S. service members and wounded, some horribly, more than 25,000 service members. No one really knows how many Iraqi civilians have died since the conflict began, but estimates put them in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands. The United Nations estimates that 35,000 civilians were killed in Iraq during 2006 alone. According to the Center for American Progress, the Middle East is facing its largest refugee crisis in a generation. More than 2 million Iraqis have fled Iraq and another 2 million are internally displaced.

Sectarian violence and civil war between Sunnis and Shi'a is rising. Shi’a militias and death squads are fighting Sunni extremists. The fighting has led to ethnic cleansing, the displacement of civilians on both sides, and infiltration of government security forces. Sectarian violence has remained constant despite the “surge.”

Instead of addressing this and bring the troops home, supporting them when they actually come home or even changing the failed polices that have caused this mess, we get public relations efforts from the Republicans. There is a backdoor draft with troops being involuntary extended, individuals being involuntarily recalled to active duty and multiple tours, but still all we get from the GOP is a PR effort.

I’m not really sure what the troops need. After the efforts of anti-war protestors brought to light the fact troops were sent to war without the proper equipment that oversight has been addressed, for the most part. I don’t know if troops still need lip balm, baby wipes or AA batteries. This looks exactly like the list provided by Family Readiness for the 1462nd Transportation Company in Howell when it deployed some three years ago when the conflict first began. But I urge everyone to donate the requested items even if it is a PR effort by the LIVCO reopubs.

Donations can be dropped off at the GOP’s booth at the Grandstand at the Fowlerville Fair - off Grand River Avenue in Handy Township just west of downtown Fowlerville -
during regular fair hours. Items requested include new or used DVDs (action or comedy), books, lip balm, baby wipes, AA batteries, gum, sports magazines, hard candy, Gatorade (powder form is best), cards or card games, facial cleansing cloths, cough drops and pump lotion. Items that cannot be shipped include bug spray and aerosol sprays. The donation and shipments to the troops are part of an increased community outreach program developed by Livingston County GOP Chairman Alan Filip. If you have any questions, call Filip at (810) 656-5099 or community outreach coordinator Debi Drick at (517) 819-1988.

Jul 16, 2007

Iraq war heroes honored for ultimate sacrifice

On Sunday an all-too-common-occurrence took place on the lawn of the historic Livingston County Courthouse with the addition of two more names from among the growing list of Livingston County soldiers and Marines killed in Iraq etched onto the Veterans Memorial that honors those killed in battle from World War I to the present.

In a small ceremony Sunday afternoon the names of Army Spc. Andrew Daul of Brighton Township and Army Pfc. Wilson A. Algrim of Marion Township were added to the memorial. Both men were killed late last year at age 21. Daul was killed on Dec. 19 after an IED exploded near his tank. Just four days later on Dec. 23 Algrim was one of three Michigan soldiers who were killed when an IED exploded near their vehicle during combat operations in Iraq. More than 4,000 service members have been killed in action since combat operations began in 2003, and on Friday the 150th Michigan solider was killed when Army Sgt. Allen A. Greka, 29, of Alpena, was killed.

Any death is too much to pay in this misguided civil war/occupation that has done nothing but made this country less secure, but it seems Livingston County has paid far too high a price with the deaths of nine servicemen in Iraq so far who have ties to the county.

In the entire 16 years shots were fired in anger in the Vietnam conflict only seven servicemen with Livingston County ties died in that conflict. Combat casualties began in 1959 when two U.S. military advisors were killed in an ambush and concluded with two servicemen who were killed in 1975 when their helicopter crashed during the evacuation of Saigon.

This news comes less than a week after the Iraq progress report was released that said there has not been satisfactory progress in Iraq on 10 of the 18 benchmarks set by Congress, and a recent military intelligence report concluded that al Qaeda – the people actually responsible for the 9/11 attacks - has largely restored itself to pre- 9/11 strength. Last week also saw the return of sanity to the U.S. House of Representatives when it voted 223 to 201 to bring troops home from Iraq by April of next year.

With more than 4,000 U.S. service members dead, countless thousands of civilian Iraqi deaths and a monetary cost of $10 billion a month it makers you wonder what more will it take for people like U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers to see the tragic mistake the occupation is.

The turnout at the ceremony was not as large as it should have been, but there was almost no publicity on it at all. Just a three-paragraph brief on it ran in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus that only in the print edition and only the day of the event. No other media outlets ran it that I am aware of. I certainly hope it was because the family did not want a lot of publicity because both Daul and Algrim and their families deserved recognition for their sacrifice.

The Livingston County Honor Roll

Pfc. Jason Meyer, 23, 4/17/2003
Staff Sgt. Paul J. Johnson, 29, 10/20/2003
Staff Sgt. Thomas Christensen, 42, 12/25/2003
Lance Cpl. Michael W. Hanks, 22, 11/17/2004
Lance Cpl. Andrew Kilpela, 22, 6/10/2005
Marine Maj. Gerald M. Bloomfield, 38, 11/2/2005.
Staff Sgt. Gregory McCoy, 26, 11/9/2006
Army Spc. Andrew P. Daul, 21, 12/19/2006
Army Spc. Wilson Algrim, 21, 12/23/2006

Pfc. Maurice J. Biehn, 20, 10/9/1967
Army Spc. William F. Diggs, 22, 9/15/1969
Pfc. John M. Donohue, 18, 9/16/1968
Sgt. William M. Light, 24, 4/5/1969
Pfc. James M. Loso, 23, 6/10/1967
Army Spc. Brent B. Nauss, 21, 9/2/1969
Staff Sgt. Robert V. Simons, 32, 8/15/1968

Jul 15, 2007

Enjoy a cup of coffee and a great book with The Livingston 2001 Diversity Council

The Livingston 2001 Diversity Council is inviting people to come out Tuesday evening to enjoy a cup of coffee and talk about their book club selection for this month. The Council’s newly formed book club will hold its second meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Colorado Coffee House, 4140 E Grand River Ave. in Genoa Township, to discuss “We are all welcome here,” by Elizabeth Berg.

I read the book, and I really enjoyed it. The book is about a 14-year-old girl growing up in Tupelo, Mississippi – the home of Elvis- in the Freedom of Summer of 1964. In addition to experiencing the normal trials and tribulations of puberty, her mother is a single parent who has been disabled with polio and only able to move her head since the mother was in her eight month of pregnancy. Making ends meet is a daily struggle for the small family just struggling to live a normal life.

The mother is aided in the near impossible task of raising a child with that kind of disability that requires her to be constantly hooked up to a respirator by her black caregiver that is so much more than just a caregiver. The mother, Paige, knows first hand what it feels like to be discriminated against years before the Americans with Disabilities Act was even a dream. Paige knows all too well what the black residents of Mississippi are going through, and it’s through her eyes and example that her daughter finally understands. The book is a work of fiction, but the premise is based on a real life mother and daughter the author corresponded with.

The Diversity Council book club was just formed in May in direct response to a censorship and book banning effort by a small, but vocal anti-gay hate group known as the “LOVE” PAC (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) earlier this year.

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.

To join the club or to get more information, please email at membersite@livingstondiversity.com.

'Every picture tells a story don’t it'

“Every picture tells a story don’t it?”

With apologies to Rod Stewart and the Faces, this picture sums up the Republicans commitment to Civil Rights and African-American voters. I recently had a “debate” – more like them attacking me – on a rightwing blog where the joker said Republicans truly represent the black voter better than Democrats. This is why that’s not true.

The NAACP held its 98th annual convention at Cobo Center, and on the final day all the presidential hopefuls were invited. Only one the 10 Republicans bothered.

According to the Detroit News, “Nine of the 10 Republican presidential hopefuls took a pass at attending the Detroit convention. Some in the audience said their absence was a snub, and disrespectful.” That last part is called an understatement.

Jul 14, 2007

Insurance companies threaten to flee after being forced to finally pay their fair share

The one industry that paid little tax under the old Single Business Tax (SBT) is threatening to leave the state now that the new Michigan Business Tax (MBT) is finally making them pay their fair share.

William F. Woodbury, assistant vice president and associate general counsel of Lansing-based Auto-Owners Insurance Co., had a column in the Lansing State Journal last week complaining that “this tax increase makes it more expensive to do business in Michigan and it will have a direct impact on consumers, who ultimately will pay the price for the decisions made in Lansing.” Meaning: we are going to raise your premiums so we can still rake in record profits.

According to a story in the Detroit News last month, a recent study by Missouri's insurance commissioner from 1993-98 concludes that Michigan’s auto insurance companies have been piling up huge record profits and excessive surplus funds.
AAA of Michigan was used as a focal point in the study, because most of its business is done within the state. AAA's profit more than doubled to $104.2 million last year from $50.9 million in 2002. AAA's surplus -- money set aside to pay for future claims payments -- swelled by 68 percent during that period, increasing to $1.53 billion from $915 million.

Apparently doubling its profits is not enough, and Woodbury plays his trump card: threatening to go where the tax is lower and move out of Michigan.
Make no mistake; other states are lining up to handpick Michigan's most profitable companies. Their aim is clear: They want the jobs and tax revenues that go with growing companies. Many states, like our neighbor Indiana, are looking at lowering taxes on insurance companies to lure them across the border. The MBT makes it easier for them to do that.
I say good luck with that. According to the Lansing Chamber of Commerce, insurance companies have not been paying their fair tax share for years.

Insurance companies in Michigan have long enjoyed preferential tax treatment – Michigan’s tax on insurers is the fourth lowest in the country. This legislation will create a 2 percent premiums tax that will make our tax system similar to other states and bring insurance taxation in line with the national average.

Not only that, but Michigan insurance companies have been allowed to legally discriminate against Detroit drivers and other urban drivers for years in the form of Redlining. Redlining is the practice where an insurance company refuses to insure an auto or home based solely on the geographic area where the person lives or provides an inferior product based on geography or at a higher price. Sen. Martha Scott, D-Highland Park, has been fighting the practice of charging Detroit drivers as much as 365 percent more than people in other Michigan urban areas.

It’s hard to feel sorry for insurance companies. I have been paying auto insurance premiums for some 30 years and have never had a claim. That adds up to a lot of cash in their pocket. Michigan’s no-fault insurance law even gives them an unfair advantage, in my opinion. In what business do you have a law that requires you buy their product, and we have law enforcement ensuring you do buy it? If you don’t buy it you face a heavy fine. I think there should be a law that says you have to subscribe to a newspaper to insure you know what’s going on in the world, or you should buy a gym or swimming pool membership to insure you are healthy.

It’s time other businesses and companies in Michigan stopped subsidizing insurance companies, and they are now required to pay their fair share.

Jul 13, 2007

House Republicans launch campaign events disguised as town hall meetings at taxpayer expense

House Republicans are beginning to show their frustration over being in the minority for a scant six months. A recent AP story said “A frustrated group of state House Republicans” plan to tour the state and host a series of public task force meetings.

Are they kidding? The only thing they are frustrated over is losing control of the House in November after ruling it with an iron fist for a decade. Instead of addressing the projected $1.8 million budget deficit they took a two-week vacation this month. Apparently, they spent the vacation plotting for political gain instead of addressing the state’s problems. This has to be the PR move of PR moves from a party that’s all show and no substance.

House Republicans will form panels to travel the state and talk about government restructuring, small business development, tourism, child protection and border security issues including immigration. The group's public task force meetings will begin this month.

Another obvious question is what do Republicans know about child protection, and since when is immigration a state issue? Another question is will these alleged town hall meetings follow the tradition of Bush Republicans town hall meetings where the audience is carefully screened, and if anyone exhibits any tendency of sanity and non-support of Republicans they will be rudely escorted out? Will they be put in “free speech zones” where they can’t bother anyone? Only time will tell.

This has to be the most absurd quote of the entire short article.

"Lansing is dysfunctional," House Republican Leader Craig DeRoche said in a statement. DeRoche has been critical of the Democratic-run House for inaction. Democrats gained control in the House after last November's elections.

Let’s talk about that alleged inaction. They balanced the current budget that had a deficit of $800 million, adopted the Single Business Tax (SBT) that Republicans irresponsibly ended early in a move to look good on the campaign trail, ended immunity for drug companies if their drugs kill or maim the people who take them, slowed down the glut of Canadian and out-of-state trash by banning landfills from expanding until 2011 and raised the absurdly low tipping fees and adopted some lobbying and campaign finance reform.

You also need to remember how the Republicans oppressively ruled the House when they controlled it just six months ago. They were so heavy-handed and so soured the relations between the two parties that they refused Democrats even the commons courtesy of giving Democrats a daily agenda of House actions, they completely shut out Democrats from the process, especially ones in seats they targeted.

Democrats gave the minority a voice again by bringing back actual debate on the House floor, and 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. If this crap from the Republicans keeps up the Democrats might as well treat the Republicans like the Democrats were treated when they were in the minority if they are going to be accused of it.

There’s no schedule – at least publicly – of where and when these “town hall” meetings will be held, but by guessing what these campaign events are really about, I’ll bet they will be held only in House districts where the Republicans have targeted that seat, proving this is just a PR, campaign appearance just like Bush’s staged town hall meetings at taxpayer expense. Anyone want to take that bet?

Jul 12, 2007

Editorial ignores real reason for no lobbying reform in Lansing in favor of cheap shots

An editorial on the need for lobbying reform in Lansing that ran in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus speaks more for the problem with newspaper consolidation than it does for the need for checks on lobbying.

The editorial was picked up from the Lansing State Journal, which is owned by the same company that owns the P & A. The editorial laments the need for lobbying reform and takes some easy shots at the Legislature, but it does not even mention why there has been no action addressing lobbying reform or any meaningful ethics measures. It ignored the fact that the Republicans have controlled both the state House and Senate for more than a decade, and up until five years ago the GOP also had a veto-proof edge with a Republican governor as well. Why no reform then?

The editorial does hint at the real problem with any ethics reform, but it never comes out and says what the reason is.

In late March, Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, filed Senate Bill 380, which would prohibit public officials from accepting out-of-state travel paid for by lobbyists. The bill's gone nowhere.
Earlier in March, the House actually passed an ethics measure, House Bill 4313. This bill would force ex-elected officials to wait one year before lobbying state government. It passed the House 99-6 and moved to the Senate, where it has vanished.

What’s the one thing that’s common to both of those bills? The answer is the lack of action in the Republican-controlled, obstructionist Senate. Vanished is a good word, but ignore is a better word. Even a fellow Republican can’t get a bill through that addresses lobbying. HB 4313 was introduced by Rep. Marc Corriveau, D-Northville, and passed with bipartisan support, and it has sat in the Senate since March 1 with no action. It’s also kind of ironic that the editorial mentions who introduced the Senate bill that the only action it has seen is being filed with the Senate bill clerk, but it neglects to mention the sponsor of a bill that has actually been approved.

There was actually a bill overwhelmingly approved in the last session by a vote of 104-2 on Sept. 13 in the House that would prohibit “a public officer from accepting a gift or reimbursement of out-of-state travel expenses from a person required to be registered as a lobbyist agent.” What do you think happened to that bill? You guessed it; it went where all ethics bills go to die, in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Livingston County voters will recall that this was part of an ethics and so-called "election campaign finance reform" package of five bills being pushed by Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton, then the House Majority Floor Leader. All but the bills passed, and the only one that received any opposition was the one sponsored by Ward. All five bills were then sent on to the Senate where they – you guessed it – died in the Senate. In fact, Ward’s bill only passed by five votes because it really benefits his party. Rich Robinson, Director of the non-partisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network, said in published reports in June of last year that the bill favors Republicans, but the Senate still let it die.

Obviously, the budget has taken up the lion’s share of the House’s time, but they kept some important campaign promises in the short six months they have been in control by replacing the Single Business Tax (SBT), ended immunity for drug companies if their drugs kill or maim the people who take them and slowed down the glut of Canadian and out-of-state trash by banning landfills from expanding until 2011 and raising the absurdly low tipping fees. They accomplished this while bringing actual debate back to the House floor that had been absent for many years and addressing perhaps the worst structural budget deficit in the state’s history.

The House still managed to address some ethics issues. Majority Floor Leader Steve Tobocman, D-Detroit, introduced House Bill 4285 that will require “candidates for state office or judge, state department heads and current office holders to file personal financial disclosure statements that include the names of all family members; his or her employer; the source and amount of earned income and other or her spouse; a list of assets including real and personal property, stocks, bonds; a record of transactions involving the previous items; a list of liabilities over $10,000 of the candidate or a family member; any business ownership; any trustee, director, etc. positions held by the individual in a business, union, non-profit, educational or other institution; any future employment agreement, including leave-of-absence agreements; any honoraria received by the office holder or spouse; and more.” That also received bipartisan support, winning approval 89-19 on March 15. It is now in the Senate where no action has been taken, and something tells me it will receive none in the future.

The obvious question that needs to be asked is why take up any ethics bills with the pressing budget issues when you know it will just be ignored by Mike Bishop and his cronies in the Senate? That’s the question that should have been asked and answered by the editorial, as well as why “lobbying restrictions go nowhere at the Capitol.”

Decision to embrace Coulter stains community asset

A Livingston County community asset has recently taken a beating across the state, and rightly so, for its shortsighted and awful decision to embrace and endorse the hate speech and discrimination of hatemonger Ann Coulter by paying her $30,000 for a 90 minute rant.

But the truth is Cleary University is an excellent school, and it truly is a community asset. Hopefully, the leadership at the school will come to its senses before Oct. 1 and be a leader again. One Cleary program that has greatly benefited the community is holding a breakfast next week for anyone interested in participating in the program. Leadership Livingston has inspired community leaders for 14 years, and the movers and shakers of the community are among its graduates.

Leadership Livingston was formed as a partnership in 1992 between the school and the chambers of commerce in Brighton and Howell. Its many goals include identify existing and emerging leaders and to expand the number of informed, civic-oriented volunteer leaders; to provide information on community resources; to challenge participants to increase their knowledge and become actively involved in problem-solving in the community; to develop a core of individuals who will serve the county as a source for informed, motivated project leaders and to have an immediate positive effect on the participants, their organizations, and the community.

One a week from September through May the group of about 20 diverse people from the community in the program meet to learn about a particular area of the community, such as the local judicial system, state and local government, schools and human service agencies. Where LL has had its biggest positive effect on the community has been through its required community service project.

The class is divided into small groups of four to five people, and they choose a project to benefit the community that no one in the group has a background with, In other words, a person who works in the judicial system could not work on a project to benefit juvenile delinquents. He group must work on the project outside their normal meeting time.

The project I think that has had the biggest present and future positive effect – and the one I came in very close contact with – was the project to establish a YMCA in Livingston County.

The quest to bring a YMCA to Livingston Country – the largest not-for-profit service organization in the U.S. - began in October 2000 when a group of five people from the 2000 class of Leadership Livingston chose to conduct a feasibility study to see if there was interest in establishing a YMCA here. There was a groundswell of support.

The original group from LL stayed together after the program was over and held community meetings to gauge interest in bringing a YMCA to the county in July 2001, and the support was overwhelming. In October 2001 the YMCA of the USA conducted face-to-face interviews with 45 community, business and religious leaders in the county. That also revealed overwhelming interest.

The group eventually evolved to the YMCA Founding Committee, and organizers formed several study committees and then formed a board of directors. In 2003 the board decided to affiliate with the Metro Detroit YMCA instead of forming an independent YMCA. The Livingston County Family YMCA Founders Fundraising Campaign began in January of 2006 and continues. The YMCA requires three years of programs before it will allow any fundraising for a building, and programs have been underway for the last two years at various locations, mostly at Cleary. The executive director of the Livingston County Family YMCA - Dawn Palmer-Van Camp – was a member of that LL class back in 2000 as well as a former employee at Cleary.

An informal “Prospective Applicant Breakfast” for individuals interested in participating in the 2007-08 Leadership Livingston program is being held Tuesday, July 17 from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at Cleary University in Genoa Township, 3750 Cleary Drive. Anyone interested in attending the breakfast, please RSVP to Program Director Janet Filip at 517.548.3670, ext. 2228 or via e-mail at: jfilip@cleary.edu.

Jul 11, 2007

Coulter Quote of the Week: They can’t be paying her $30,000 for her punditry skills

This is the 16th straight week of the Ann Coulter quote of the week, and we never seem to run out of quotes from the blond hatemonger sticking her foot her mouth, saying something racist and offensive or just illustrating how worthless she is.

The good news is we only have 11 more to go before queen of hate makes her appearance at Cleary University’s Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series in Howell. So just 11 more weeks before Cleary antes up $30,000 for Coulter to spew her venom for 90 minutes. This week focuses on her great skills as a political pundit because, after all, that’s why Cleary is throwing money at her for, right?

Actually, that can’t be it because as the quote shows, she has no idea what she’s talking about. To make up for that, she says the most hateful, outrageous things she can, and people like Cleary and the Livingston County Republican Party enable her and make her richer.

"My track record is pretty good on predictions."---Rivera Live 12/8/98

"I think [Whitewater]'s going to prevent the First Lady from running for Senate."---Rivera Live 3/12/99

"You want to be careful not to become just a blowhard."---Washington Post 10/16/98

Jul 10, 2007

South Carolina county GOP chair pulls an Anuzis

Spartanburg County Republican Committee Chair Rick Beltram pulled a Saul Anuzis when he tried to exclude Republican Presidential Candidate Ron Paul from all party functions in the South Carolina county, and, like Anuzis, Beltram was forced last week to extend a personal invitation to the conservative candidate.

What was Paul’s crime that he was excluded from the small, narrow tent known as the Republic Party? He dared to question the government, its foreign policy and its failed policies in the deadly occupation and civil war in Iraq. Funny, I always thought that’s what the Founding Fathers based the Constitution and government on.

According to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, Congressman Paul said at the GOP debate in Columbia this year that American intervention in foreign affairs as far back as 1953 was, in part, a catalyst for the 9/11 attacks. Again, it’s funny that any criticism of the government translates to hating and blaming America for Republicans. Saying it was a reason or contributed to it in no way means it was correct, it was the proper response or the innocent people who died in the attack asked for it. Beltram, apparently, decided to boycott Paul from any future county party events. "He can stay home," Beltram told the Herald-Journal, who for months held that this county would welcome all Republican candidates. "Well, the door's closed for him."

According to Ron Paul’s campaign blog, Paul supporters flooded Beltram’s phone lines (864-542-1992) and email inbox (rick.beltram@intedge.com) with protests, and that led Beltram to extend a personal invitation with a very condescending and snotty note. The note invited him to a question and answer forum and a meet and greet before Aug. 15 “to convince us that have incorrect information about Dr. Paul's political platform.” I have no idea why Paul has to convince or prove anything to Beltram. It seems to me Paul has plenty of supporters without Beltram’s help, and isn’t the job of any party chair at any level during a primary simply to allow members the most access to candidates and get their views out to as many party members as possible so the best candidate can be chosen by the party members?

Following the same debate in May, Anuzis said he would circulate a petition among Republican National Committee members to ban Paul from more debates. However, the response was so overwhelming negative against Anuzis trying to censor Paul that it shut down his web site and email. Published reports said “party outcry was so great that it took a visit to Detroit by RNC chairman Mike Duncan to convince Michigan Republicans that Anuzis was still cut out to be their leader.” It also led Anuzis to issue a contrite but insincere letter on his unblog.

Jul 9, 2007

Senate heads off the LSJ and publishes salary info of employees without name

The Michigan Senate is apparently not waiting around for a Freedom of Information request from the Lansing State Journal for salary information on Senate employees and has established a web site with that information, according to an unnamed source in the Senate.

Last month the LSJ posted the public information on 53,000 non-exempt public employees that includes name, title, department, county of the workplace and salary, and it caused an outcry from state employees calling it a callous invasion of privacy. The timing, just days after Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop falsely claimed state employees were overpaid and demanded the governor rescind a previously negotiated pay raise, so angered state employees that some are talking about a misguided boycott of the LSJ.

Last week the House Business Office that maintains salary information for all Legislative staff members, as well as partisan central staff, received a FOIA request from the LSJ requesting salary information. The Senate has not yet received a FOIA request, so it decided to take a proactive approach and publish the salary information but omit individual names.

The web site lists salary by job title – and it differs from Senate office to Senate office - and then by where the person works. The web page also states that Senate employees are paid a fair and competitive wage for the work they perform. Unionized state employees gave up $300 million in concessions in the last contract.

However, sources said although the Senate has not officially received a FOIA request, the web site does not prelude them from receiving one, supply salary information with the individual’s name and having the LSJ - or any newspaper or blog - publish the public information.

Jul 8, 2007

Communist China set to invade U.S. shores in renewal of Cold War

The good news is when Chrysler rolls out its $7,000 cars made in Communist China by workers working for less than a $1 an hour it will actually be marked up to $10,000 after all the safety features required for U.S. roads are added in.

It appears the communists were not able to win the Cold War because they could not keep up with our defense spending and match our amount of nuclear missiles, so they are trying to win by exporting American jobs to China. According to the Detroit Free Press, Chrysler will begin importing the cars that are priced less than half of the lowest current Chrysler product in partnership with Chery Automobile Co. The company is owned by the local government of Wuhu, located in the southeastern province of Anhui.

It’s news like this that makes it clear why under President Bush’s watch we have lost more than 3 million manufacturing jobs. 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. 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 – as the ownership of Chery illustrates - foreign governments are helping foreign auto companies compete by providing health care for employees for 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.

I fail to see how U.S. automakers can compete against a communist country - because that's exactly what they are doing - or how importing the cars here can be good for anyone. This administration continues to make it attractive for U.S. companies to offshore jobs, and there is no way we can compete against a country that pays workers less than a dollar an hour. We will never win a race to the bottom, and why would we want to?

Under free trade agreements, we should be exporting our products to sell in China, but the only thing we are exporting is our decent paying jobs. Not only is China not allowing open markets, but with some three-quarters of the population living in poverty how can they even afford to buy anything? China has unfettered and unrestricted access to U.S. markets. That’s despite the fact they compete with slave labor wages and production and 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?

It seems ironic that people like U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, is constantly speaking on his cable show and elsewhere about inferior products - especially auto parts - that are being manufactured in China that are exact look-alikes, complete with packaging and company name, that is costing U.S. manufactures as much as $250 billon a year in lost revenue, but we are now embracing them. In fact, Chery was also sued by GM Daewoo for copying that company's Chevrolet Spark. Why are we allowing this unfettered access without addressing the rip-off of American products, copyright infringement and patent infringement?

Then there is the obvious question of quality. We are getting products from China that lack the basic quality control procedures of products made in the U.S. to the point that it is endangering lives. Just last month more than 900,000 tubes of Chinese-made toothpaste containing diethylene glycol - a sweet, syrupy poison - were pulled off the shelves of U.S. stores.

Some Republicans have no problem with buying products from an enemy that just a few years ago we were calling our ideological enemy bent on destroying us. It was just some 20 years ago when former President and conservative hero Ronald Reagan called the second largest communist nation in the world an evil empire, but now we are buying cheap cars from the largest communist country because they can make them cheaper by paying workers dirt-cheap wages.

Some are saying there’s a double standard because the Democratic leadership is not speaking out against this like they did last fall when Republican Gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, as head of Amway, invested more than $200 million in Communist China for building plants to manufacture the company's products. I think they should, but I don’t see how much effect the governor of a state and a state party chairman can have on federal trade policy.

It should also be pointed out that they were pointing out the lies of a political candidate during an election. DeVos was falsely claiming that investment was creating jobs in Michigan. If Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda ran for political office making the same untrue claim then Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer would be 100 percent correct in debunking that claim. Frankly, LaSorda should stick to managing the Dodgers.

DeVos also claimed that Chinese law says if you sell to the Chinese it must be built or manufactured in China, and that only those products made in China are sold in China. The first part is true, but Brewer presented proof that DeVos lied when he said those products made in China were not sold here. That begs the question: why don’t we tell the Chinese and Chrysler if you sell to Americans it must be built or manufactured in America like the Chinese do?