May 31, 2007

Thinly veiled anti-union smear campaign runs its course


Andy Warhol was correct when he said “Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes,” and we can only hope Chet Zarko’s 15 minutes are about up.

The Oakland County rightwing extremist is connected with racist and extreme causes, and his latest rightwing cause is smearing the Howell Education Association (HEA), the union representing the district’s 475 teachers. You may recall that earlier this month Zarko submitted a Freedom Information Act (FOIA) request for emails from union leaders. After receiving emails he was not supposed to receive, he made the ridiculous claim that HEA leaders have "conducted a large amount of union business on public time by using public resources for union business, specifically, the email server. But when that attack failed after the district said the union has a “recognized right" to use the server he took another tack and used the emails to cherry-pick a few sentences to claim union leaders were mean to a few members.

Wow, what a crime.

He has now stumbled onto a bigger issue. Because the emails are private and contain subject matter that should not be disclosed under the law, and the emails constitute information or records subject to attorney-client privilege, as well as personal information about students, the HEA filed suit to stop the illegal release of the emails. On May 10 Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Stanley J. Latreille gave the HEA and Howell Public Schools officials up to two weeks to review thousands of email to identify which e-mails, written by union leaders on school computers, contain verbiage "regarding politicking" so that he can review them for relapse.

Yesterday, the rightwing Detroit News editorial page editorialized that the emails should be released. Any newspaper that has Nolan Finley as its Editorial Page Editor is suspect. It calls Zarko a “political consultant and activist,” but it failed to mention his extreme rightwing stance.

“Zarko says he was searching for information on whether there had been an abuse of taxpayer resources in Howell and several other school districts on political or other issues.”

Well, he has found nothing, and he is now using the emails to simply smear the union and HEA President Doug Norton, going so far as to falsely claims Norton “doesn't like the "United States system" of elections.” I’m not sure what the internal workings of the union by the elected union leader has to do with anything, but it proves Zarko’s true intention is simply an anti-union smear campaign. Zarko has also refused to tell us who is paying for this witch-hunt.

The editorial’s position is “Private student information or sensitive teacher personnel information should be off limits. But other than that, e-mails produced and sent on the district's computers should be open to review by the public.”

I also agree Norton when he told the News earlier this month that Zarko "has an ideological bent to attack unions,” and the facts have shown that to be the case.

As a journalist, I support transparency in government, and I think they should be released, even to a person with such low motives. Zarko has shown he will take whatever he gets and takes things out of context to attack the union anyway. There is nothing we can do to prevent that, so the larger principal of open government has to apply, even for such low and despicable intentions. Let him have his 15 minutes so he can find another district's union to attack.

May 30, 2007

Coulter Quote of the Week: Speaking for the GOP, more than half of U.S. citizens hate their country


This week’s Coulter quote of the week illustrates how the queen of hate is going to enrich the community and raise the political discourse in the country and community when she speaks for 30 grand at the Cleary University’s Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series in the fall.

It further illustrates how she speaks for Republicans, no matter how hard publicly the GOP tries to distance themselves from her.

Tuesday saw a perfect example how groups like Cleary are furthering and enforcing the false image of Howell and Livingston County as a racist, intolerant community that throws down the red carpet and money at bigots of all shapes and sizes, and how others are trying to do away with that image.

From the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, students from mostly white Howell High School and a predominantly black high school near Flint have begun an exchange program with the first meeting to discuss the controversial book "The Freedom Writers Diary." Students from Cathy Capy's 10th-grade accelerated English class met with students from Hamady High School this month, and the hope is to develop a permanent relationship between the schools.

"The students want to change the image that we're a racist community and that we're intolerant," said Capy, whose assignment of "The Freedom Writers Diary" started a dispute over the sexual content of the book earlier in the school year. "They said we can't change unless we know what we need to change. They're stepping out of their comfort zone."

Here are the weekly gems of poison:
"If you don't hate Clinton and the people who labored to keep him in office, you don't love your country."---George, 7/99

"I am emboldened by my looks to say things Republican men wouldn't."---TV Guide 8/97

May 29, 2007

Rogers votes with big oil against consumers


When you fill up your car’s gas tank in the next couple of weeks, I hope you remember Mike Rogers voted, again, with big oil companies in opposing a bill that would outlaw gasoline price gouging.

U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) introduced HR 1252, the Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act, that would provide penalties for those who take unfair advantage of consumers at the pump. The legislation would penalize individuals or companies for taking "unfair advantage" or charging "unconscionably excessive" prices for gasoline and other fuels.

The bill passed the House 284-141 last week and now goes to the Senate. The bill saw 56 Republicans joining all but one Democrat in supporting the bill, including two Michigan Republicans, but Rogers joined fellow Republicans Pete Hoekstra, Vern Ehlers, Dave Camp, Fred Upton, Tim Walberg and Joe Knollenberg in voting for big oil and against the consumer.

Gasoline is near the $4 a gallon mark, and gas prices in Michigan are the highest in the nation, yet Rogers thinks record and obscene profits by oil companies are not enough.

Even without the numbers in yet for the record gas prices, oil companies are raking it in. BP Amoco enjoyed a profit increase of 117 percent between 2002 and 2004. In 2002, BP Amoco netted a hefty $8.4 billion. In 2004, this ballooned to $17 billion. Shell raked in a hefty $10 billion dollar profit in 2002, which jumped to $18 billion by 2004. In 2002, Exxon Mobil’s profit was just a measly $11.5 billion, but by 2004 that more than doubled to $25 billion.

You will remember Bush’s energy policy, put together by oil men in secret, threw money at oil companies for research, new drilling, new refineries and it even allowed them to drill on federal land without paying any royalties.

We are told the high price is because of increased demand, but oil companies are not increasing new drilling and increasing supply. Why? Because that would increase supply and drive down prices. We are told we pay more for gasoline the farther away from a refinery we are. Ironically, the ones closest to Michigan, like in Toledo, shut down for maintenance just as demand is heaviest, driving the supply down and the price up. Oil companies do not want to build any new refineries because it will increase supply and drive the price down.

With all this stacked in the favor of oil companies, why not a small protection for consumers?

May 28, 2007

Budget deal does not mean crisis is over yet



After a rare and marathon session on Friday, House Democrats avoided a shutdown of state government and avoided cuts in health care, education by eliminating most of the $800 million deficit in the current budget that ends in three months with just spending cuts and other measures.

The deal on Senate Bill 436 ensures there are no cuts to the per pupil foundation grant,
Medicaid and it avoided a government shutdown. Despite a majority of Michigan residents supporting a tax increase to avoid further cuts that have given us less state employees since 1973, there will be no tax increase for this year’s budget that ends Sept. 30. However, there is still a $300 million deficit left to find to balance the budget. Apparently, that will be done with a mix of further reforms, one-time fixes and accounting changes. Lansing insiders say the basic structure of that plan is mostly agreed upon, but the exact details are still being worked out in sessions that begin tomorrow.

They will only have two session days to get it done because the annual lobbyist orgy called the Mackinac Policy Conference begins Wednesday.

The tax cuts that have taken place every year for the last 15 years has required numerous “one-time” fixes to balance the budget over the last 5-6 years as the state’s largest employer lost market share and put a huge dent in tax revenue coming in to state coffers. Wall Street has made it pretty clear it will again look unfavorably on any more one-time fixes, and it will further lower our credit rating that will cost the state more money to borrow money for future projects. However, the good news – or bad news depending on your point of view – is there cannot possibly be anymore one-time fixes left, and lawmakers will have to find a permanent, structural fix to the annul budget problems.

The other piece of good news is the cuts will only steal $50 million from the future instead of $300 million the Senate GOP initially approved taking from the 21st Century Jobs Fund. The 21st Century Jobs Fund – part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation –was created with strong bipartisan support to stimulate and diversify our economy and create jobs. It has only been around a few months, and experts said it would take up to three years of investment to start creating jobs. This is not tax money, and it comes from the tobacco settlement money.

The crisis continues, and the Legislature has to balance next year’s budget that begins Oct. 1 that is expected to have a $1.8 billon shortfall, and a replacement of the Single Business Tax (SBT) that accounts for some $2 billon in revenue.

Clearly, we cannot cut ourselves out of this economic crisis, and tax cuts for the past 15 straight years has proven that. After House Democrats and the Governor compromised on spending cuts, it’s time for the Senate Republicans to compromise. The Senate GOP has said they will not block a vote on a tax investment; wow, really big of them. One thing that has been proposed is increasing the state income tax from 3.9 percent to 4.4 percent. That is expected to cost the average family less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day, about $1 a day.

It’s interesting to look at how the bill setting the deal, SB 436, was passed. It passed in the Senate 26-10 and the House voted 69-37 in favor.

Livingston County’s Legislative delegation voted 1-2 in favor. Sen. Valde Garcia voted for it, but the House delegation, Chris Ward and Joe Hune, voted no. Hune and Ward voted against their own party. House Republicans voted 35-14 for the bill, but Hune and Ward were not only in the overall minority but they were in the Republican minority. That vote needs some explanation.

May 25, 2007

Rogers threat stunt garners the attention he craves


With his party in the minority and Mike Rogers shuttled to the sidelines with the Democratic majority, he has found a new way to both continue his role as Bush’s biggest cheerleader and lackey by going after the biggest Republican target and getting the most recognition and attention he has ever had in his entire political life.

As you are aware, Rogers tried last week unsuccessfully to strike from an intelligence spending bill an item that would restore $23 million for the National Drug Intelligence Center, a facility in Rep. Jack Murtha's Pennsylvania district.
According to Rogers' account, the Pennsylvania Democrat – the chair of House Defense Appropriations Chairman - angrily told Rogers he should never seek earmarks of his own because "you're not going to get any, now or forever." Rogers took the unusual step and called on the full House to reprimand Murtha. Rogers introduced what is called a "privileged" resolution charging Murtha violated House ethics rules when he allegedly threatened to cut off "now and forever" any earmarks for Rogers' district. Luckily, the measure was killed.

For that ridiculous threat, Rogers made just about every newspaper in the country, he was allowed to make the weekly GOP radio address where he attacked Murtha and he was also talked about on my favorite radio show, “The Stephanie Miller Show.” The point they made is this is the way politics have been conducted for years, and he should stop being a whiny baby. I agree. One lawmaker had this to say about Rogers, “put on your long pants and grow up.” How is this an ethics violation? If you need an ethics violation you just need to hear the names Bob Nye, Duke Cunningham and Jack Abramoff.

I challenged people earlier in the week to show what “earmark” – his job – Rogers has brought back to the 8th Congressional District. I’m still waiting. People here in Livingston County complain that we are a donor county because we send more money to Washington, D.C. than we get back, but somehow Rogers has painted properly representing your district as an ethics violation. Isn’t bringing some of that money back to the district what we sent him there for? I guess that’s why he never does, but I thought that was his job?

Murtha did take the high road and apologized to Rogers, but, according to Rogers' spokesperson, he also took the low road and declined not to accept it, “Congressman Rogers does accept the apology, but he is truly hopeful that this whole episode will change the way Congress spends the American taxpayers' money." Please. If Rogers does not accept an apology and his “privileged" resolution is going nowhere, what does Rogers want? He wants to smear Murtha and score political points.

This is from Rogers radio address, “Last Friday, House Republicans discovered that a Member of Congress had hidden a wasteful earmark -- or pet pork project -- worth tens of millions of dollars into a bill designed to fund America's Intelligence operations. It comes down to a choice between spies catching terrorists or pork barrel spending in a Congressional District. We are a nation at war, and when we find wasteful spending, we must stop it. “

Really.

The “pet project" in question is the National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown. The center “continues to play an important role in assessing the drug threat, identifying the patterns of distribution and gathering information from documents to help arrest drug traffickers,” Murtha said.

So let’s see if I got this right. Rogers is criticizing Murtha for trying to keep a facility open in his district that provides jobs and helps fight terror, and Rogers has done nothing for our biggest employer and simply watches as plat after plant closes and moves jobs overseas? Great job Mike.

Is it just me or does anyone else remember being bombarded a few years ago with public service commercials saying that by buying illegal drugs you were funding terrorists and terrorism?

Apparently Bush does. President Bush said that drug users aid terrorists who get their money from global trafficking in narcotics. "If you quit drugs, you join the fight against terrorism," he said. Mr. Bush offered a new argument in the fight against drugs while signing a bill to expand a federal anti-drug program over the next five years. The administration has linked the al-Qaida network in Afghanistan to heroin trafficking. The terrorist group, led by Osama bin Laden, is suspected in the Sept. 11 attacks on America.

Has that changed?

May 23, 2007

Survey proves Muslims moderates and support America


The Detroit News is reporting that a survey of American Muslims by the Pew Research Center finds that American Muslims are generally moderate and well-assimilated, especially when compared to Muslims in Europe and the Middle East.

Believed to be the nation's first, the random-sample survey of American Muslims by the Pew Research Center documents that incomes, education levels and personal politics among American Muslims are generally in line with non-Muslim Americans.
The survey also showed American Muslims reject extremism by greater numbers than Muslims in the Middle East, South Asia or Europe. "Our tradition leaves no place and no justification for suicide bombings," said Imam Mohammed Ali Elahi, the leader of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights. That’s also in sharp contract to conservatives who claim other Muslims do not speak out against or condemn radical, fundamentalist Islam.

The survey results will come as a shock to right-wingers, like self-described ”terrorism and national security expert” Steve Emerson, who promotes racial profiling of men of Middle Eastern descent and says all Muslim groups are terrorist front groups, and hatemonger Ann Coulter. No description is necessary for her. Ironically, these two are speakers at Cleary University's Livingston Economic Club Speaker Series in the school’s apparent quest to find the most extreme right-wingers it can find.

With people like Coulter and Emerson around, it not surprising that a majority of Muslim Americans, 53 percent, say it has become more difficult to be a Muslim in the United States since the terrorist attacks, and 54 percent believe the government "singles out" Muslims for increased surveillance and monitoring.

The only drawback to the report and helps further the hate monger’s case is that 26 percent of young Muslims think suicide bombing in defense of Islam can be justified. But the violence supported by some, especially those aged 18-29, prompted an immediate reaction from Muslim leaders in Metro Detroit on Tuesday. However, only a small amount of the total Muslim population survey expressed that view. Perhaps instead of a policy of racial profiling and discrimination, actually reaching out to them, understanding and education will be a better way to change that perception.

Shortsighted Senate GOP proposal kills job creation

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus provided a perfect example of the ill-effects caused by the short-sighted decision by the Michigan Senate Republicans to try and make up the $800 million budget deficit with cuts alone by mortgaging the future and ensuring that even deeper cuts will have to be made in the future to balance the budget.

Earlier this month the Senate GOP voted to cut almost $300 million from the 21st Century Jobs Fund. The 21st Century Jobs Fund – part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation –was created with strong bipartisan support to stimulate and diversify our economy. It’s an investment to spur further investment and job creation, with an emphasis on high tech investment, instead of relying on just one industry, the automotive industry, to make our economy grow.

Senate Democratic Leader Mark Schauer of Battle Creek summed it up best when he called the decision "irresponsible and reckless. They put the state at risk and mortgage the future."

Hamburg Township entrepreneur Kyle Schwulst, with his expanding company ElectroJet Inc., has developed an emission-reducing device for a variety of small gasoline engines. Schwulst was promised roughly $1 million through the 21st Century Jobs Fund to hire additional staff and move his operation from a pole barn to 6,000 square feet of office space in Brighton.

The P & A reports a 45-day hold has been placed on all 21st Century Jobs Fund accounts, Schwulst said, while legislators hash out the program's future. He also said Indiana offers a grant, rather than loan, program similar to the 21st Century Jobs Fund that is already attracting small businesses in Michigan to the neighboring state, yet the Governor is blamed when companies move out of the state.

This is just one small company in one of Michigan’s 83 counties. I’m sure there are more companies out there that are being similarly affected. It’s time for the Republicans to start looking to the future instead of trying to make Democrats look bad and trying to get back the power they lost.

Coulter Quote of the Week: says peoples who hire her for speeches embrace her hate speech


The weekly Ann Coulter hate speech of the week has demonstrated time after time that paying her $30,000 for a speech at Cleary University's Livingston Economic Club Speaker Series means the school both embraces the queen of hate’s discriminatory views and hate speech and she apparently speaks for them. So does this week’s edition.

In light of the firing of people like Don Imus for saying far less than Coulter does every single day and every week, Coulter says people must love because groups and people like those Cleary keep throwing money at her for saying them.

I just threw in the other quote to show her great logic, and how she – to quote the LEC mission – “enriches the Livingston County community by hosting speakers who can share a broad spectrum of social, political, intellectual, and cultural experiences.”

How is calling people who disagree with you “fat, implacable welfare recipients” pass as “critical analysis and public debate,” Mr. Sullivan? How does that pass as “thought-provoking,” Mr. Sullivan? How does that raise the level of political discourse, Mr. Sullivan?

“The only people who can fire me are the American people. And, by the way, by not buying my books they're not hiring me for speeches.” The Jon Caldara Show, May 17, 2007.

“The "backbone of the Democratic Party" is a "typical fat, implacable welfare recipient"---syndicated column 10/29/99

May 22, 2007

Local GOP officials get it: why don’t Senate Republicans understand it


Perhaps the best quote I have heard that sums up the current budget mess facing us in Michigan comes from Don Gilmer, the Kalamazoo County administrator, former Republican lawmaker and a member of the newly formed Michigan Fiscal Responsibility Project when he said "Taxes are the price you pay for a civilized society” in Monday’s Detroit News. He also said in the subscription only Gongwer News service that the state could not cut itself to prosperity. I could not have said it better myself.

The coalition, consisting of local schools and governments, health care providers and others, said in a press conference Monday that the state needs a tax hike because it can no longer afford to slash essential services. Time after tine we have seen Republicans refuse to pay their fair share for essential services and they refuse to invest in the state.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm and legislative leaders are locked in prolonged negotiations to wipe out an $800 million shortfall in this year's budget and nearly $2 billion next year. It’s going to take cuts in spending, government reform and new revenue to balance the budget and keep the essential services that make the state attractive to investors. Even though the Governor and Speaker of the House Andy Dillon have compromised on spending cuts, the Republican controlled Senate, led by chief obstructionist Mike Bishop, still refuses to compromise on a tax increase.

Shortsighted Republicans are threatening to recall call anyone who uses their common sense and vote for a tax increase. This is despite the fact that Six in 10 Michigan voters believe a tax hike is necessary to alleviate the state's budget crisis, and more of those people support an expanded sales tax than an income tax hike, according to a statewide Detroit News poll on May 7.

The Governor has signed 93 tax cuts since she took office in 2002, and she has had to do this while making cuts to erase the budget deficit left in her lap from the previous Governor.
Taxes have been cut every year for the last 15 years, and there is simply nothing left to cut and still stay competitive and provide essential services. We have less state employees now then we did in 1973, despite having more than a million more residents. Dedicated child protective workers from the Department of Human Services are seeing huge increases in their caseloads, and many workers are responsible for almost a 100 at-risk families.

Yet Republicans still refuse to pay for a civilized society, refuse to invest in our state and they want to cut long term investment funds that will bring jobs and prosperity to the state for yet another one-time budget fix.

Al McGeehan, mayor of Holland and a member of the Michigan Fiscal Responsibility Project, said in Gongwers that his city is at a point where it will be forced to lay off workers with any more cuts to revenue sharing. Police and firefighters would likely be included in any cuts, he said. Since proposals to cure the 2006-07 budget have called for cuts of as much as $40 million in revenue sharing to local governments, McGeehan said Holland could lose as much as $300,000 and his city manager has warned that every $65,000 in revenue cuts means the city will have to cut a worker.

That’s even more police officers off the streets. Since September 11, 2001 when all we can talk about is being safe, protecting our borders and keeping us safe from terrorists we have 1,600 less police officers on the street, not including the layoffs caused by this round of spending cuts.

Gongwer also reported today that the Office of State Employer has issued a required notice to all state unionized workers of possible pending layoffs beginning in late June. The announcement came shortly after Standard & Poor's became the third Wall Street rating agency to downgrade Michigan's credit rating.

Despite all of this, the Republicans still refuse to compromise.

Come out and enjoy dinner and a movie and better your world


Come out Saturday night and enjoy good people, good food, good friends, watch one of the best and most eye-opening movies ever made and help the Livingston County Democratic Party increase their toe-hold in Republican-dominated Livingston County.

The LCDP is launching a new film series Saturday with the Academy-Award winning film "An Inconvenient Truth” at its headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600 in Brighton. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a potluck dinner. I have been to some of these potluck dinners, and you cannot buy food that good. The cost is just a $10 donation per person, $15 per couple and bring a dish to pass. Children under 16 are free, and organizers encourage you to bring your entire family to watch what many critics are calling the most important movie of our time.

There will be a special late night showing at 9:30 p.m. for a $3 per person donation, and popcorn will be provided.

Space is limited, so people who plan to attend are encouraged to RSVP by calling 810-229-4212. Also call the number if you need directions.

LCDP Chair Matt 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 show off our digs, and you certainly do not have to be a member of the party to attend. However, we can also sign you up if you want to join. We are located in the Fonda Place office park, just east of US 23.

May 20, 2007

Rogers uses threat MO to attack respected colleague


It appears Rep. Mike Rogers is the latest weapon in the GOP’s quest to discredit U.S. Rep John Murtha, D-PA.

The Associated Press is reporting that during a series of House votes Thursday, Murtha walked to the GOP side to confront Rogers, a former FBI agent. This month, Rogers had tried unsuccessfully to strike from an intelligence spending bill an item that would restore $23 million for the National Drug Intelligence Center, a facility in Murtha's Pennsylvania district.
According to Rogers' account, which Murtha did not dispute, the Democrat angrily told Rogers he should never seek earmarks of his own because "you're not going to get any, now or forever."
"This was clearly designed to try to intimidate me," Rogers told The Associated Press on Friday. "He said it loud enough for other people to hear."


If anyone can tell me what funding Rogers has brought back to the 8th Congressional District I would sure like to hear it. Rogers appears to be fitting into his role as the minority quite well, and after being a cheerleader for Bush’s ill-conceived Iraq fiasco, he now appears to be serving it in a new role as the attack dog.

Rogers said he planned to file a "privileged resolution" Monday that would seek a House vote on whether to reprimand Murtha.

Rogers also claims Murtha made the alleged threat in front of a lot of people, and they are all, of course, Republicans. However, as of Sunday no one has come forward to back up Rogers’ yard.

Murtha, a harsh critic of Bush’s botched Iraq policy, has long been a target of the Republicans. During the last election season an offshoot of the Smear Boat Vets for “truth” that smeared every veteran who ever earned a medal, citation or commendation in their quest to get Sen. John Kerry formed something called “boot Murtha.” It operates just like the smear vets, and it smears all veterans, a tactic taken by the Bush Administration that pays mere lip service to their “support the troops” mantra.

Murtha is a Vietnam combat veteran, and apparently they don’t like that Murtha won two Purple Hearts. Murtha is also a retired Marine Colonel.

This is not a new tactic for Rogers. A few years back, around 2002, the Rogers camp claimed a former staffer named Bill Nowling - who was working for a political consulting group called Persuasion, Inc at the time that was representing a large telecommunications, At & T, I believe- tried to blackmail Rogers. The Rogers people claim Nowling said if Rogers didn’t vote for a telecommunications bill the group’s client wanted passed there would be hundreds of the company’s employees picketing in his office the next day. Now, Nowling claims it never happened, but the Rogers people sure made a big deal out of it at the time. I am still looking for the article that ran in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

May 17, 2007

Falwell and Coulter say U.S. deserved the 9/11 terrorist attacks


The recent passing of televangelist Jerry Falwell has right-wingers falling over themselves trying to whitewash his image and make him a saint. They have a lot of work to do. This is a man who perverted Christianity for his own narrow view of the world to further his discriminatory agenda. How he is any better than fellow televangelists Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Whittington or Ted Haggard.

His repugnant views on gays puts him in league with the likes of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. Quotes like this were his stock-in-trade, and his “moral majority” was far from it. In fact, you could change Falwell’s name for Phelps and no one would be the wiser.

“AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals”

His take on 9/11 was just as ugly:
“AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals” I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"

It’s funny; Falwell blames the U.S. for 9/11, saying we caused it, but we hear nothing from the rightwing who goes off the deep end and calls people traitors, the “hate America first crowd” or cowards if anyone suggests the U.S. policy abroad is also to blame for the hatred of the U.S. But in the Republican Presidential debate earlier this week, Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul dared suggest that the U.S. policies over the past 50 years contributed to 9/11, and he was immediately blasted.

Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis is calling for his exclusion from future debates and starting a petition among Republican National Committee members to expel him.
"I think Congressman Ron Paul was way off base and doesn't represent any of the Republican party base...let alone activists," Anuzis said on his “blog.” "I don't have a problem with his libertarian views, but blaming 9-11 on us (U.S.) was over the top."

Why not let the voters decide that, Saul? But the real whitewash comes from the biggest hatemonger ever, Ann Coulter in her weekly column. It amazes me that Coulter and Falwell can call themselves Christians, especially Coulter.

No man in the last century better illustrated Jesus' warning that "All men will hate you because of me" than the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who left this world on Tuesday. Separately, no man better illustrates my warning that it doesn't pay to be nice to liberals.
Falwell was a perfected Christian. He exuded Christian love for all men, hating sin while loving sinners. This is as opposed to liberals, who just love sinners. Like Christ ministering to prostitutes, Falwell regularly left the safe confines of his church to show up in such benighted venues as CNN.


How she could write that crap with a straight face tells you a lot abut this woman. “He exuded Christian love for all men” except those he disagreed with.

Coulter agrees with Falwell that the U.S. was to blame for the 9/11 attack, so why isn’t Anuzis denouncing her, too?

“First of all, I disagreed with that statement because Falwell neglected to specifically include Teddy Kennedy and "the Reverend" Barry Lynn.”

The rest of the article is just more gay bashing, but the interesting thing is she wants to go back to the ‘50s. “There have always been gay people — even in the prelapsarian '50s that Jerry Falwell and I would like to return to, when God protected America from everything but ourselves.”

When it was OK to beat up, call them "fags” and discriminate against gays? I’ll bet African-Americans in the south who were not allowed to vote, drink from the same water fountain, go the same schools or expect police protection want to go back to that time, but Coulter’s past quotes have illustrated she wants to go back to Jim Crow.

Bishop taking on Gingrich role of shutting down the state government


The goal of any good reporter is to break down a complex story or issue into its simplest terms that’s readable and understandable to the majority of readers. The state budget is not only a big challenge to lawmakers and the governor, but it’s also a challenge to reporters and bloggers to make sense of this complex story that’s changing every day.

To break it down to its simplest terms, it seems to me that the leader of one body refuses to compromise with two other. It just seems that common sense says if two parties are in agreement then the third should be in the minority, but unfortunately, it’s not nearly that simple.

Apparently, after a busy day in Lansing Wednesday, stalled talks on the state's $700 million budget deficit. The majority Floor Leaser, Mike Bishop, has emerged as the biggest obstruction to a compromise as the House and Senate conference committee try to reach a compromise on the two budget bills.

To recap, after the governor put her plan to balance the budget out to the public, and she endured daily attacks from groups and people not wanting to see their programs cut and criteria from a reasonable proposal for a 2-penny tax that will cost the average family $1.33 a week. Bishop and the GOP-controlled Senate rejected that plan without a plan of their own in place. When they finally came up with one, they kept it so secret that only GOP members of the Appropriations Committee were allowed to see the full proposal, and even then they were told not to write any of it down to keep it as confidential and away from the public as much as possible.

A month later, Bishop sprang it on the public 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.

Since then, the public has repeatedly told us they do not want such deep cuts, and they would be willing to pay an extra tax to avoid some of the deep cuts. The Governor and Speaker of the House, Rep. Andy Dillon, have compromised on the cuts, but Bishop absolutely refuses to compromise on revenue. Perhaps he should learn the meaning of the word compromise.

On Wednesday, the Senate Republicans threw another roadblock to a compromise with the passage of SB 436 and 437 that makes even deeper cuts into money for local police, fire and other local services. The bill cut $16 million from revenue sharing with local governments and reduced a variety of Medicaid, mental health and community health programs, community college spending and a long list of other programs.

But perhaps the most painful cut that will cause the most long-range pain is the $290 million from the 21st Century Jobs Fund. The 21st Century Jobs Fund – part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation – that was created with strong bipartisan support to stimulate and diversify our economy.

Senate Democratic Leader Mark Schauer of Battle Creek summed it up best when he called the two measures "irresponsible and reckless. They put the state at risk and mortgage the future."

Just to be fair and nonpartisan, I also agree with this quote from a Senator on the other side of the aisle.

State Sen. Roger N. Kahn, a Saginaw Township Republican, said the pending Medicaid reductions are "offensive" and "illegal."
"Those who would vote for those kinds of cuts are, in my opinion, trying to extort money from hospitals and (engage in) blackmail," the cardiologist said. Then we have Sen. Tom George, R-Kalamazoo, also a doctor, blaming the governor for the bad health of Medicaid recipients and because they smoke and drink on the Senate floor.

It makes you wonder what Bishop’s motives are, and if he, for some political reason, wants state government too shut down. It seems similar to how Newt Gingrich did to the federal government.

Did the Governor snub Bishop on a flight somewhere?

May 16, 2007

Watch much delayed Purple Heart ceremony in the Capitol


Sgt. Sean Knudsen of Howell will finally formally receive the Purple Heart he not only earned on the battlefield but had to fight the Pentagon bureaucracy to get at a special ceremony 9:30 a.m. Monday May 21 in Room 352 of the Capitol Building in Lansing in front of friends, family and area veterans.

The 16-year veteran of the National Guard and Iraqi War veteran was initially denied the Purple Heart he earned when he suffered shrapnel injuries to his head, left arm and shoulder in February 2005 when his convoy in Iraq was hit by small arms fire. Despite the fact the Department of Veterans Affairs has declared Knudsen disabled due to combat injuries, his application for a Purple Heart was initially denied, as were those of many soldiers in his unit.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus reports Knudsen has said it's more than bureaucratic inefficiencies that have led to the medal denials. He suspects it's an intentional campaign to minimize the number of injuries suffered by American troops in Iraq.

The Bush Administration minimizing casualties? I find that hard to believe. For the conservatives reading this, that’s sarcasm. I hold the same belief as Sgt. Knudsen. Knudsen said officials have told him that possibly hundreds or thousands of soldiers have not been given the Purple Hearts they deserve, and he is also fighting to get the award to those fellow soldiers. He sent a letter to Gen. George Casey of the Joint Chiefs of Staff requesting all records relating to denied Purple Hearts be released to a congressional committee, and he is also preparing a letter for President George W. Bush.

If you are in Lansing Monday morning and not doing any thing stop by and see the ceremony. General Thomas Cutler of the Michigan National Guard will participate in the ceremony, pinning the Army Combat Action badge on Knudsen, as well as U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers.

Coulter Quote of the Week: Cleary and county Republicans support racial profiling


This week’s Coulter quote of the week is dedicated to Monday’s appearance of self-described ”terrorism and national security expert” and “journalist” Steve Emerson at the Cleary University's Livingston Economic Club Speaker Series.

Emerson served as an excellent opening act of racism for Coulter’s appearance at the LEC. He has been called an anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigot, and like Coulter, he supports racial profiling.

Since Coulter speaks for Livingston County Republicans, this is also dedicated to them. When Cleary President Tom Sullivan merely mentioned Coulter's name at Monday's lunch, the audience broke out into applause.

A letter-to-the-editor in today’s Livingston County Daily Press & Argus from registered Republican Joan Johnson also proves that. “I like Ann Coulter. She has a gift to say what I and many other people I know are thinking.” Well, Mrs. Johnson, this is for you and your party.

"Airports scrupulously apply the same laughably ineffective airport harassment to Suzy Chapstick as to Muslim hijackers. It is preposterous to assume every passenger is a potential crazed homicidal maniac. We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now." September 13, 2001.

“Those few abortionists were shot, or, depending on your point of view, had a procedure with a rifle performed on them. I'm not justifying it, but I do understand how it happened....The number of deaths attributed to Roe v. Wade - about 40 million aborted babies and seven abortion clinic workers; 40 million to seven is also a pretty good measure of how the political debate is going.”
Ann Coulter at the Reclaiming America for Christ Conference in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 3/3/07.

May 15, 2007

Cleary continuers to embrace and welcome rightwing extremists


Self-described ”terrorism and national security expert” and journalist Steve Emerson “enriched the community” at Cleary University's Livingston Economic Club Speaker Series Monday with his unique brand of racism by advocating racial profiling Muslims and citizens of Middle Eastern descent.

According to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, Emerson warned the audience that militant Muslims are using "strategic deception" to enter the mainstream political debate in America and advance their terrorist agenda.
But his comments drew denials and denouncement from a local Muslim group. As well they should.

Many people see Emerson as anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigot with an obsessive agenda against Arabs.

Emerson said groups with harmless-sounding names like the Benevolence International Foundation or the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, are really front groups for Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists, and CAIR was an "ideological front for terrorists and their apologists. They have defended, championed and rationalized" terrorism.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of CAIR, was not present at the speech but responded by blasting Emerson as having an anti-Islam agenda: "He has a crusader mentality. ... He's not an unbiased analyst."
"With all the scrutiny Muslim organizations have been under since 9/11, if there was even a shred of validity to the charges of Mr. Emerson, we would have been closed down a long time ago," Walid added.
He said Emerson's casting suspicion on mainstream Muslim groups "clearly increases Islamophobia."


There isn’t much difference in someone calling the Knights of Columbus an "ideological front for terrorists and their apologists” as Emerson calling CAIR the same thing.

Walid also criticized the university for not inviting anyone to debate Emerson's claims, but the university has shown their policy of “diverse speakers” means only diverse conservatives.

Emerson’s views on the Iraq civil war occupation are as ridiculous as his view on one of the world’s major religions.

In the long term, however, "I don't believe the war in Iraq provided any more of an external excuse for jihadists to attack us," he said.
Plus, he added, al-Qaida would quickly fill the vacuum if American troops were withdrawn too soon.


Is he serious? The mega giant U.S. attacked and invaded a Muslim country for no valid reason, and he believes it provided no more of an external excuse for jihadists to attack us? That is, again, ridiculous. They are fighting a civil war, but the only common enemy is the U.S. If the U.S. is gone they will turn to oust the other outsider, al-Qaida.

But Emerson is just the prelude to Cleary’s glorification of rightwing extremists, and the queen of hate, Ann Coulter, is yet to come.

But when Cleary President Tom Sullivan merely mentioned Coulter's name at Monday's lunch, the audience broke out into applause.

That must be the sound of the county Republicans condemning her outrageous statements like they have publicly in the press. Do we need anymore proof that Coulter speaks for the Republicans and Cleary University?

May 14, 2007

Livingston County Democrats set realistic goals for 2008 election


It took more than a week, but the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus finally got around to covering something from the Livingston County Democratic Party’s 24th annual Edwin B. Winans Dinner held on May 5.

Matt Evans, chairman of the county Democratic Party, said the goals of the party in 2008 are to elect a Democratic county commissioner for the first time since 1996, elect five Democratic township trustees and have 51 percent of Livingston County residents voting for Democratic Sen. Carl Levin.

Those goals don’t seen to be all that lofty, and you have to have something to shoot for. To quote another unsuccessful and long gone Detroit Lions coach, “The bar is high.” We already have four Democrats on township boards, so one more doesn’t seem like all that much. The county commission may be tough. We have had Democrats on the board before, and we came close to having quality candidates for all nine seats last November. There are many seats that never get challenged, and even if Democrats never win any of those seats we are making the commissioners responsible to the voters, for the first time ever for some. Levin getting 51 percent is not all that far out of the question either. He got 46 percent of the vote in 2002. Getting an extra 5 percent based on his record in the past six years is possible.

I like the response of the alleged brain trust of the county GOP.

Allan Filip, chairman of the Livingston County Republicans, said the Democratic aims for the next election are unrealistic. I just hope he keeps on believing that.

Filip pointed out that the county is in better financial shape than most parts of Michigan, and "I don't think it is a coincidence that our county is governed by fiscally conservative Republicans."
"I think the values of tax and spend are not Livingston County values," he concluded.


They are not Democratic values either, but hording money and giving taxpayers nothing for the taxes they do pay is not much of a value either.

Of the five counties that share a border with Livingston County four have community college systems and park systems; Livingston does not, nor does it offer residents much more than basic services. It seems if you want a post secondary education or to take in some recreation you are encouraged to leave the county.

May 13, 2007

Community leaders are finally stepping up to the plate to speak out on hate speech and discrimination


Some community leaders are finally stepping forward and saying the Livingston County community should not embrace the hate speech, discrimination and prejudice of Ann Coulter.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus is reporting the Livingston 2001 Diversity Council and Dr. Doug Edema, chief operating officer of Saint Joseph Mercy Livingston Hospital, are formally protesting Cleary University’s misguided decision to invite and pay rightwing hatemonger Ann Coulter $30,000 to speak at the school’s Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series in October. Edema said the speech by Coulter could undo the work of the community in trying to shed its reputation for racism. That’s exactly what I, and many others, have been saying, and the acceptance of Coulter just adds ammo to the argument and undeserved reputation that we are racists, and it reinforces the general perception that Livingston County is a safe haven for racists and bigots of all ilks, like Coulter.

"My perspective is this isn't going to help," Edema said. "It's going to hurt. It's going to reinforce the image that we support intolerant points of view."

Livingston 2001 Diversity Council has also approved a letter to Cleary University President Tom Sullivan protesting her appearance, which will be sent within days and signed by council President Steve Manor, who is also mayor pro tem on the Howell City Council, said diversity council vice president Candye Hinton.

Of course, Sullivan’s response to this and all the many others emails, letters and phone calls protesting Coulter’s appearance has been Coulter's appearance will go on as planned. No matter what, he’s looking at the bottom line and ticket sales.

"From my perspective, the decision was reviewed by our advisory council. We have no plans to change that invitation," he said.
He has defended the speech as promoting healthy dialogue in the community.


There is no way possible Sullivan can defend what Coulter says and does as “healthy dialogue in the community.” That’s just irresponsible, and I hope Sullivan doesn’t really mean that.

Sullivan doesn't anticipate revoking Coulter's invitation.
"Barring some circumstances I can't even envision, the decision has been made," Sullivan said.


Apparently, The only “circumstances” that will deter Sullivan and is slow ticket sales.

Since Cleary made the awful decision to pay $30,000 for hate speech, a lot of things have been said about Coulter. GOP leaders, like the husband of the person who booked Coulter, say they condemn what she says, but can someone please explain to me what the hell that means if you refuse to speak out against her. Pay her a huge sum of money and cheer and clap for her when she says those things?

I have also heard the ridiculous argument that we are trying to take away Coulter’s 1st Amendment right of free speech. I, or Cleary, are not the government, and the 1st amendment says, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” We are not doing that. Also, the Constitution does not protect hate speech or discrimination.

By paying Coulter a substantial fee to appear, Cleary University and the other sponsors are partners in the spreading of her liturgy of hate. While we fully endorse the concept that the University should be a marketplace of ideas, we maintain that racism and bigotry are not products worthy of barter in that marketplace.

A have also heard the argument that the Diversity Council only supports diversity for things it agrees with, and it is intolerant of differing views. I say we should not tolerate hate speech, prejudice and discrimination, and I am proud to say I am intolerant of intolerance.

I have also heard the absolutely ridiculous argument that I don’t have to choose to buy a ticket if I don’t like what she says. The same argument can also be made if the Klan was scheduled to speak, but no one in his right mind would give them such a platform. I see no difference between Ann Coulter and the Klan.

May 12, 2007

Ann Coulter mudslinging? Say it aint so


The leading public opinion and survey research firm, American Association for Public Opinion Research, called hatemonger Ann Coulter out on her latest lie that the firm made up a poll that recently appeared in Newsweek that showed all three Democratic Presidential candidates would handily defeat all Republican contenders.

"Ann Coulter's kill-the-messenger assessment of the Newsweek poll exceeds the bounds of professional reporting and commentary," said AAPOR president Robert P. Daves, director of polling and strategic research at the Star Tribune in a press release. "It's pure-and-simple mudslinging on her part to question the ethics of a reputable polling firm and news organization that abides by a longstanding Code of Professional Ethics and Practices. Anyone who values solid public opinion research and intelligent public discourse should be outraged and ignore Coulter's irresponsible and groundless assertion that the results were fabricated."

Mudslinging is Coulter’s stock in trade, and it apparently is what Cleary University - who is paying the hatemonger $30,000 to speak at its Livingston Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series - thinks “enrich(s) the Livingston County community by hosting speakers who can share a broad spectrum of social, political, intellectual and cultural experiences.”

Coulter's comment was made in response to a question from Geraldo Rivera; after she described the poll as "Newsweek doing more push polling for Al Qaeda," she answered his question about whether the results were made up as "yes."
She went on to say that in polls "where Republicans are actually allowed to vote," they "do a lot better," implying that the poll was not representative.

Cleary University continues to book right wing speakers who support prejudice


Cleary University continues to play lip service to the stated mission of its Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series to “enrich the community by hosting speakers who can share a broad spectrum of business, social, political, intellectual, and cultural experiences."

In the four years of the series every speaker has had a conservative bent, other than the Mayor of the biggest city in our state, and the college and their spokesperson continue to use the appearance of one non-conservative as a shield as they continue to book more and more extreme rightwing speakers. The latest is Steve Emerson, a self-described terrorism and national security expert and journalist, set to speak Monday. However, none of those occupations fit him, and many see him as an anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigot who supports racial profiling. He’s to the left of Cleary’s booked speaker in October, hatemonger Ann Coulter, but these two are just two more examples of the extremist speakers Cleary is foisting on the community.

Emerson’s bio and book claims he warned that an attack by Islamic terrorists like that of 9/11 was coming, but that’s like the weatherman predicting it will rain in Seattle. Every plot, terrorist attack or conspiracy is an Islamic terrorist plot to Emerson. For an example, Emerson also told us the Oklahoma City bombing was a Muslim terrorist attack

A day after the Oklahoma City federal building was bombed in 1995, he went on television theorizing -- wrongly -- that the culprits were Arab. Attempting "to inflict as many casualties as possible -- that is a Middle Eastern trait," he said in one interview, one of many statements his enemies call reckless and biased, according to an article in the magazine published by the nonpartisan media watchdog group, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

Here are some quotes from other people and groups on Emerson:
"He's made his life's work discrediting Arab American and Muslim groups, and his obsession makes me uncomfortable," said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.

Moreover, since the end of the cold war, Islam is increasingly described by a coterie of writers and policymakers as a new seedbed for anti-Western aggression, replacing communism. Some journalists have made a virtual industry out of this view. The most prolific is Steven Emerson, whose film 'Jihad in America,' shown recently on PBS, describes America as a training ground for Islamic terrorism. Muslims almost universally know and loathe Mr. Emerson's work, calling it biased and distorted. " The Christian Science Monitor (1/22/96)

"There's more than a little bigotry in Emerson's obsession with Muslim terrorists." (EXTRA!, July/August 1995)

The New York Times Book review said Emerson's 1991 book Terrorist was "marred by factual errors...that betray an unfamiliarity with the Middle East and a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias." (5/19/91)

The Livingston County Daily Press and Argus, a sponsor of the LEC, and the college are using the alleged plot by foreign-born Muslims to allegedly attack Fort Dix as a crutch to promote Emerson’s appearance and sell more tickets.

Emerson said, “Part of the problem with the Fort Dix incident, Emerson said, was that the FBI had to rely on a tip to jump on the case.” In other words, any and all Muslims and men of Middle Eastern descent are guilty until proven innocent, and they should be profiled. That is, of course, ignoring the fact that the number of terrorist attacks and real pots in the U.S. by “Islamic terrorists” can be counted on one hand.

Janet Filip, Cleary's director of development and alumni relations, said more tickets have already been sold for Emerson's appearance than for financial analyst Mike Jensen, who spoke as part of the series in February.
As for Emerson's appearance, Filip said, "That's timely with what just happened (Monday) with the FBI busting up the terror ring in New Jersey. It's a real topic that we should be talking about. To get his thoughts on the subject would be very important."

Filip, the wife of the chair of the Livingston County Republican Party, is responsible for booking the conservative speakers who dominate the series. Is anyone really surprised that more tickets have been sold for Emerson's appearance than for a financial analyst at a university that bills itself as a business school? Is anyone surprised that Livingston County is viewed as a racist community?

We don’t need to get Emerson’s “thoughts on the subject.” We already know that they are.

May 11, 2007

New book club will focus on understanding and diversity


After a book-banning campaign by an anti-gay hate group that focused on books by black authors writing about racism, the Livingston 2001 Diversity Council is taking the opposite tack and promoting books and tolerance by forming a book club focusing on books that challenges racial and ethnic stereotypes.

The club will meet for the first time at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday (May 15) at the Brighton Borders, 8101 Movie Drive, and the book the council has chosen for its first discussion is “The Color of Water,” by James McBride; a Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother that tells the remarkable story of Ruth McBride Jordan, the two good men she married, and the 12 good children she raised.

From late last year until March when the issue was finally put to rest, 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 culmination was “LOVE’s” attempt to put two more members on the school board along with current member Wendy Day that was thwarted by voters just last week.

To quote one of organizers of the Council’s book club, “The power of the written word... it's been used to champion justice throughout history, and we're sure this will be yet another example of how cultural discernment and thoughtful discourse can bring a community into a new paradigm.”

The Livingston 2001 Diversity Council was formed in 1988 in response to a cross burning in the yard of a back family in the 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.

The first meeting of the book club will focus on deciding what other books the club will read, what day it meet and where future meetings will be held.

Anyone who loves books, ideas and discussion is welcome to join, whether they have read the book or not. The group will be facilitated in such a way that even those who have not read the book will be able to contribute to the conversation. 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.

Judge puts breaks on anti-teacher and anti-union smear campaign


Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Stanley J. Latreille is giving the Howell Education Association (HEA) and Howell Public Schools officials up to two weeks to review thousands of email to identify which e-mails, written by union leaders on school computers, contain verbiage "regarding politicking" so that he can review them following a hearing Thursday, according to a story in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

Rightwing operative Chet Zarko of Clawson attacked the HEA, the union representing the 475 Howell Public School teachers, claiming they are abusing taxpayer-funded resources to promote union causes based on e-mails he received under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Earlier in the week Latreille signed an injunction that prevented HPS from releasing more e-mails by leaders and members of the teacher’s union after a joint circuit court petition by the school and the union until Thursday’s hearing.

Some emails were released that should not have been released before the injunction was signed. HEA President Dough Norton has said that some of the e-mails are inappropriate for disclosure under FOIA because they are private and contain subject matter that should not be disclosed under the law, and the emails constitute information or records subject to attorney-client privilege. I don’t know the scope of the FOIA request, but it makes you wonder if Zarko also has his hands on sensitive information from union leaders – who, by the way, are also teachers – to parents talking about student grades or behavior.

To be honest, I was surprised that the school district even has access to all the teacher’s emails. Perhaps the school district can be like the White House and claim they just lost the emails.

As a former journalist who supports open and transparency in government, I strongly support FOIA, but this is nothing but an attempt to smear a group of dedicated professionals and smear the union by an anti-union, rightwing zealot. I am happy that Latreille is the judge reviewing the emails for “discussion about election candidates, officials in office or ballot proposals to determine if the correspondence should be released under FOIA.” He is a former reporter, and he knows how important FOIA is.

Basically, Zarko’s smear campaign comes down to allegations that teachers are using their school email accounts for personal reasons and they allegedly passed or talked about passing out pro-HEA flyers at a parent-teacher conference in March. Zarko claims the union violated state law, and I say then file a complaint.

He has a very receptive audience in Lansing in the form of Republican Attorney General Mike Cox and Secretary of State Terry Land, and there is also a marked campaign against worker unions. Zarko’s past endeavors with the shady campaign to end affirmative action ensures him he has contacts to Cox and Land or knows other Republicans who do. The recent witch-hunt of Democratic Rep. George Cushinberry for alleged campaign violations that were thrown out of court proved that fact. I would not bet against Cox taking this case up, but the good news is there are sane judges out there.

Norton has said the union has a "recognized right" to use the district e-mail server for union business, and the district is backing that claim up. The district's attorney, Raymond Davis, said it is not against district policy for employees to use the district's server.

May 9, 2007

Quote of the week: Coulter advocates murder of U.S. President


This weekly shot of Ann Coulter wisdom focuses on joking about murdering a U.S. President and blaming a disabled Vietnam Vet for “losing” in Vietnam. So much for supporting the troops, huh Ann? If a Democrat said this they would be assailed unmercifully and called a traitor even more than they already are.

The good news is that statement got Coulter fired from MSNBC, but it got her $30,000 Cleary University’s Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series. There is some good news. The Howell-area voters took a step toward eliminating the undeserved reputation of Livingston County and Howell as a small-minded, racist community by rejecting the candidates put forth by the anti-gay hate group known as Love” PAC - (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) - for the Howell School’s Board of Education. The rejection of Coulter’s hate speech and discrimination by rejecting her as a speaker at the LEC will be one more positive step forward in eliminating that image.

But, without further ado here is this week’s pair of Coulter “gems.”

(Responding to a question from a Catholic University student about her biggest moral or ethical dilemma) “There was one time I had a shot at Clinton. I thought 'Ann, that's not going to help your career.'“
Ann Coulter at the Reclaiming America for Christ Conference in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 3/3/07.

To a disabled Vietnam vet: "People like you caused us to lose that war."---MSNBC

Where there’s smoke there is a smokescreen from rightwing operative


The unfounded accusations by rightwing operative Chet Zarko became a little more clear with a follow up article Wednesday by the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

Zarko - a self-described metro-Detroit, Michigan-based, political and marketing research consultant, focusing on conservative and “moderate” candidates and other clients – accused the Howell Education Association, the union representing the 475 Howell Public School teachers, of abusing taxpayer-funded resources to promote union causes based on e-mails he received under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

It appears where there is smoke there is nothing but smoke, or in Zarko’s case a smokescreen. According to the Press & Argus, Zarko alleges HEA leaders have "conducted a large amount of union business on public time, including trying to retain MEA (Michigan Education Association) affiliated MESSA health insurance, and using parent-teacher conferences to recruit parents (to) their side of a collective-bargaining debate."
Zarko also claims the teachers used parent-teacher conferences to "illegally lobby" in getting teachers to attend the March 12 school board meeting and advocated speaking on behalf of the teachers. He also claims that one e-mail implies the union used school resources to make copies on behalf of union business.


But further investigation by reporter Lisa Roose-Church, revels the alleged smoking gun that proves Zarko’s inflated case only says "I can make copies after school."

When asked how that statement proves improper conduct, Zarko said whether copies were made is not important. The real question, he said, is whether union members used school computers paid for with taxpayers' money for union business. Say what?

However, the union officials say they have a "recognized right" to use the district e-mail server for union business, and no one but Zarko has disputed that claim. I’m not familiar with the HPS email server, but the Michigan House of Representatives, for instance, has a portal where you can work at home from your own computer and that includes receiving and sending emails at home. This is an accepted practice everywhere.

HEA President Doug Norton said, according to the P & A, that the e-mails were "mistakenly released under FOIA" and that the district official who released the e-mails acknowledged "it was a misunderstanding that led" to the release of the documents." Livingston County 44th Circuit Court Judge Stanley J. Latreille signed an injunction Tuesday stopping any further release of emails, and a hearing has been set for 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Judicial Center, 204 S. Highlander Way in Howell.

Despite people like Zarko and the anti-teacher stance of the anti-gay hate group known as the “Love” PAC trying to sabotage the effort, the district and the HEA reached a tentative agreement yesterday after a year without a contract.

According to the Detroit News, the three-year contract addresses working conditions, salary and medical coverage for the duration of the contract. The HEA Board will consider the contract on May 14, and the full HEA membership will consider it on May 21. The School Board will consider the contract next month.

May 8, 2007

Voters show no love for “LOVE” in Howell School Board race



Voters in the Howell Public School District struck a blow for common sense, sanity, fairness and education by rejecting the candidates supported by the anti-gay hate group known as the “Love” PAC - (Livingston Organization for Values in Education).

Vicki Fyke, the leader of “Love,” said on this and other blogs that the group has some 1,900 members, and she told their members to vote for Bill Harvey and Doug Moore. However, publicly she told reporters that she does not know the candidates, fearing the backlash from the group’s ridiculous book banning quest would come back to bite them in the butt. It did.

Either, as we suspected, the 1,900 number was hugely inflated, or few of the 1,900 alleged “Love” members are registered voters because Edwin Literski and incumbent Jeannine Pratt were the winners of the two, four-year school board seats. The two ran as a slate, and although I only voted for one of them, I am relieved “Love’s” agenda is thwarted.

Literski was the top vote getter with 2,162 votes, and he led the race throughout the night. Pratt also kept her lead all night, but Harvey was within striking distance until all the votes were counted.

The final unofficial vote results from the Livingston County Clerk’s office are as follows:

X-Edwin J. Literski, 2,162 25 percent
X-Jeannine M. Pratt, 1,788 20 percent
Bill Harvey, 1,667 19.4 percent
Doug Moore, 1,657 19 percent
Dan Fondriest, 1,116 13 percent
Write-in Votes (Phil Nichols)191 2.2 percent

The results are unofficial until the Board of Canvassers certifies the election.

I am looking forward to hearing from Fyke. This is what she had to say commenting on this blog.

“Doug Moore and Bob Harvey don't need your vote, C.G. Our majority has already been instructed as who to vote for. Come back here May 9th and face the music. I'll stop by on May 9th and reveal the winning strategy.”

I’m waiting to hear that “winning strategy.”

Rightwing extremist hired gun takes shot at Howell teachers

The assault on the Howell teachers union, Howell Education Association, is getting some help from an Oakland County rightwing extremist connected with racist and extreme causes.

Chet Zarko, “a metro-Detroit, Michigan-based, political and marketing research and consulting service, focusing on conservative and moderate candidates and other clients” is accusing the HEA of abusing taxpayer-funded resources to promote union causes in a front page story in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. That description is from his web site, and there is nothing moderate about Zarko.

Zarko was the communications director for the California group headed by Ward Connerly that came to the state to push the racist Michigan Civil Rights Initiative on the November 2006 ballot that did away with affirmative action. Zarko is a dirty trickster in the tradition of Saul Anuzis, Kyle Bristow and Bill Nowling, and his most well known stunt is when he tried to goad Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer into a confrontation by sticking a video camera in his face at public meeting in October of 2005.

We have to wonder who is paying Zarko, and we see the fingerprints of the anti-gay hate group known as the LOVE” PAC (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) and specifically “LOVE” and school board member Wendy Day. Zarko first contacted Day on her blog, as far as we know. And we wonder why the teachers have no contract?

According to the article, “Zarko alleges Howell Education Association leaders have "conducted a large amount of union business on public time, including trying to retain MEA (Michigan Education Association) affiliated MESSA health-insurance, and using parent-teacher conferences to recruit parents (to) their side of a collective-bargaining debate. bases his claims on union leaders' e-mails that he received through the Freedom of Information Act. He has posted several of the e-mails on his Web log and commented about them in a press release issued Friday.”

“Doug Norton, union president, calls Zarko's claims "absolutely erroneous on all counts."
"It's obviously timed to throw mud to affect the school board election and to derail what are positive signs for bargaining," Norton said Monday. "Mr. Zarko is connected with (a) statewide campaign to attack MEA and MESSA. In fact, he and others are working to get other for-profit insurance companies in across the state."


In a further development, Genoa Township radio station WHMI is reporting a temporary restraining order has been signed by Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Stanley Latreille that prevents Howell Public Schools from releasing more e-mails by leaders and members of the teacher’s union.”

A hearing has been set for Thursday to see if more emails can be released under FOIA.

Cast a vote against hate, discrimination and censorship by voting no on “LOVE”

The polls for school board elections in Livingston County’s five school districts are open until 8 p.m. today, and this normally pedestrian election has taken on much more importance thanks to a couple of groups with an agenda.

A couple of groups with an agenda other than providing a good education to our children in a safe learning environment have emerged. The Livingston County Republican Party has attempted to make a farce of this nonpartisan race by actively recruiting candidates, training them, providing campaign volunteers and providing financial help.

But they are not the worst group. Here in the Howell Public School District we have all read, watched and heard about the anti-gay hate group known as the so-called “LOVE” PAC (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) that has given this community a black eye with its book banning quest. The leader of this group has endorsed her two candidates, so I will not tell you who to vote for, only who not to vote for.

The candidates for Howell’s two seats are Dan Fondriest, Bill Harvey, Edwin Literski, Doug Moore, incumbent Jeannine Pratt and write-in Phil Nichols.

The leader of the “Love” hate group has on this blog told me who “Love’s” candidates are, but publicly she is denying she even knows them.

“Vote for Moore and Harvey for school board, and soon we will be able to control the rulings of the Howell school board against everything that is indecent. We shall see as our majority speaks on May 8th!”
Doug Moore and Bob Harvey don't need your vote, C.G.
“Our majority has already been instructed as who to vote for. Come back here May 9th and face the music. “

I urge you to vote for anyone but Bill Harvey and Doug Moore.

May 6, 2007

LIVCO Dems celebrate annual dinner with awards


Some 100 party faithful turned out Saturday evening at the Livingston County Democratic Party’s 24th annual Edwin B. Winans Dinner at the Hamburg VFW Post to celebrate the past year that saw Democrats take control of the U.S. House and Senate, the Michigan House and retain the governorship.

As part of that annual celebration the party also hands out awards. It was a noteworthy dinner because for the first time in 13 years the event saw a new chair serving as the MC. Matt Evans replaced long-time chair Joe Carney in December, and Carney was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedicated stewardship of the growing party. Evans said the goal of the party in the next election is to elect a Democrat to the county Board of Commissioners for the first time since 1996 and take five township board seats, and he said that will be possible with the groundwork laid by Carney.

“It’s usually me who is doing the surprising, but the tables have been turned on me,” Carney said. “You are in good hands.”

The John D. Donohue Citizenship Award went to Matthew Gabriel, the webmaster for the party’s website. The award is named after the last Democrat to serve on the Livingston County Board of Commissioners, who passed away while in office in 1996. He served on the board from 1987 until his untimely death.

Mary LePiors was the winner of The Herb and Ruth Munzel Distinguished Service Award for her years of volunteer service with various organizations.

“If you looked up the word saint in the dictionary you would find her picture,” Evans said.

The award was previously called the Distinguished Service Award since 1987, but it was renamed in 2005 to honor the many years of civic involvement and service to local and statewide organizations by the Munzels.

With a new chair came a couple of new awards. The first is the Chairman’s Special Recognition Award, and the first winner of that award was Delphine Palkowski, a member of the executive committee.

Our Unsung Heroes Award went to seven people to honor the hard, grunt work they do for the party with little or no recognition.

“These are the people that do the work of stuffing envelopes, phone banking and any other task we ask of them,” Evans said. “These are unsung heroes, but they are now sung.”

Those being recognized were Judy Volk, Jan Vogel, Nancy Sauvage, Annette Taylor, Ed Palkowski, Chuck Fellows and Jerry Goode.

May 5, 2007

Clarke’s political career began with defeat of the GOP’s favorite racist and hatemonger


It was a night of irony at the Livingston County Democratic Party’s 24th annual Edwin B. Winans Dinner Saturday evening at the Hamburg VFW Post as Sen. Hansen Clarke brought his message of diversity to a county that has an undeserved reputation as a racist community because of a few misguided bigots.

The ironic part is Clarke, who has made it his life’s work to help the less advantaged and promote racial harmony, began his political career when the son of a single parent working as a school crossing guard in Detroit’s eastside ran for the student seat on the board of trustees at an Ivy League school. He decided to run for the seat because he was troubled by how few minority students there were on the Cornell University campus, and he beat another undergraduate from a rich, well-connected family. That undergraduate was named Ann Coulter.

“She was so laid back when I ran against her,” Clarke said. “I think that election changed her.”

Clarke was raised alone by his mother on Detroit's lower eastside after his father passed away when he was just 8 years old. While in the third grade, an observant teacher recognized his artistic ability that promoted him to take art classes at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and it eventually led to a scholarship to Cornell where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Clarke then graduated from Georgetown University Law School. After he received his law degree he returned to Michigan to practice law. He was elected to his first of three terms in the Michigan House in 1990. He unseated an incumbent in the Senate in 2002, and he was reelected last November. In 2005 he was a candidate for Mayor of Detroit.

Clarke’s mother was African-American and his father was an Indian and a Muslim. Clarke said he, like many people outside of Livingston County, knew of Livingston County’s reputation as a community that promotes racism and devalues diversity, but he said he felt it was important for him to come to the county to encourage the people who are trying to change the county’s reputation for the better.

“Diversity means accepting people of all persuasions,” he said. “When your economic club invites people like Ann Coulter it doesn’t help the reputation of Livingston County.”

Despite the warm reception Clarke has always received from the Livingston County Democrats he has met at various functions like the state party conventions and events in Lansing, Clarke said the county’s reputation inevitably causes him top slow down a bit when driving through Livingston County on I-96.

“This is one of the very few times I have spoken outside of Detroit,” he said. “I grew up on the lower east side, and I have always been elected out of Detroit.”

Clarke has made it his mission to represent the disadvantaged and the more vulnerable in society, and he said that is because of the influence of his mother on his life and the effect her sudden death had on his life. Clarke said she passed away while he was a freshman at Cornell, and he was so devastated he dropped out of college and returned to Detroit during a time of high unemployment to work odd, menial jobs. When he finally returned to Cornell he had lost his scholarship, and he had to work to pay his tuition. He said that has helped him understand what the people of Michigan who have lost jobs and are losing their homes are going through.

“I don’t think people realize how vulnerable we really are,” he said. “I had a great mom and a great scholarship; in just an instant I didn’t have those things anymore.”

Clarke said with all the talk of Livingston County being a place controlled by Republicans with very few Democrats he was surprised at the estimated 100 people who showed up at the dinner.

“Sen. (Valde) Garcia mockingly told me when he heard I was coming here, ‘you should have a good crowd of about 12 people,’” he said.

Bloggers gaining credibility with appearance of LL on OTR


Bloggers took a major step toward the mainstream and credibility when one of our own was included as a regular panelist on a mid-Michigan institution, “Off the Record with Tim Skubick.”

Julielyn Gibbons – AKA Liberal Lucy of Liberal, Loud and Proud – appeared as a regular panelist on the show hosted by Tim Skubick, along with Rick Albin of WOOD-TV, Stephanie Korneffel of MIRS and Bill Ballenger of Inside Michigan Politics. The show on Michigan PBS stations features various mainstream reporters that cover the legislature and state government talking about the hot political stories, and it usually features a guest.

LL appeared as a panelist as part of a show on blogging and bloggers, and a week later she joined the panel as a capitol correspondent. Hopefully, she will appear as part of the rotating panel of reporters, and it will also spur Mr. Skubick to look at other bloggers for inclusion as panelists.

The show airs on most state PBS stations, but here in mid-Michigan it can be it can be seen on WKAR in East Lansing at 11:30 p.m. Sunday. It can also be seen on line.

On a personal note, LL is a former Livingston County resident, hailing from Green Oak Township where some of our most loyal and active Democrats come from, and her parents still live there.

She has also posted a very personal and courageous story on why she started blogging and became an activist. She is asking for our help in spreading the word about Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. In doing so, she is trying to bring attention to an upcoming event, the Get Your Guts in Gear ride. Please check out her post on the subject, the event itself and spread the word.