Dec 8, 2008

Are editorial writers totally clueless as to what's important in state?

If you need any more proof of the dire consequences of newspaper consolidation and downsizing, you just need to read the editorial in the Sunday edition of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

The editorial blasts the Michigan Legislature for daring to consider the “frivolous” workplace-smoking ban instead of addressing the state’s economy. It illustrates a glaring ignorance of how the legislative process works, even the status of the bill and it also ignores the hard work of people who have lobbied for this bill for more than a decade. It also displays ignorance of what power the state, any state, has to lift the nation out of the recession the country has been in since December 2007.

I don’t know if someone on the local editorial board wrote this, or it came from some larger Gannett newspaper - like the Lansing State Journal or the Detroit Free Press - or if it came from company HQ in McLean, Va. Regardless, somebody needs to get a capitol correspondent who understands the process. Perhaps if they do we will not get simplistic and misguided arguments like this:

“What, then, will state legislators be dealing with in Lansing this week as they try to wrap up their work in lame-duck session? Surely, they'll be wrestling with the important issues of the day, how to help those who are hurting, and how generally to get the economy back on track ... Right?”
The House plans to vote this week on whether you should be able to smoke a cigarette while you drink your beer at the local tavern. “

Here’s the thing; the news editor of the P & A should know how Lansing works because for a few years he was the Lansing correspondent for the entire Hometown Newspapers chain when the chain was locally owned, and he knows the Legislature is ran by committees.

Asking 110 House members and 38 Senators to try and negotiate anything is impossible, and that’s why the Legislature is broken down into committees of five to nine people. It’s much easier for that small group to negotiate and then make a recommendation to the full House and Senate to debate and vote on. Could you imagine the din and confusion if 110 people tried to negotiate?

There are 18 standing committees in the Senate and 24 in the House dealing with specific areas, from Agriculture to Transportation, and it’s much easier to work in small groups and present the result to the larger group to vote on. As for the budget, it’s so important that the appropriations committee is broken down into even smaller subcommittees - 16 in the Senate and 19 in the House - that deals with each state department.

What the paper seems to be advocating is that the rest of the Legislators sit by and do nothing. As for addressing the state’s unemployment problems, they have addressed numerous issues. This very newspaper has been filed with stories, photos and editorials on the film being shot at Parker High School, and that was because of the film incentive package approved by the Legislature earlier this year. Senate Democrats have also tried to address home foreclosures, but it has been blocked.

There is only so much a state can do to affect the economy because they cannot effect monetary or trade policy.

Perhaps they are advocating what Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, is doing, saying the Senate will not address any legislation until Gov. Jennifer Granholm issues her budget-cutting Executive Order. The good news is she issued the order on Friday to trim an estimated $240 million from the current budget that will allow Bishop to allow the rest of the elected Senators to do the work we hired them to do

The editorial really shows how clueless the editorial board, or whoever wrote this trash, is. The editorial also claims”

“The House plans to vote this week on whether you should be able to smoke a cigarette while you drink your beer at the local tavern. That's right, the proposal to ban smoking in all public buildings, including bars and restaurants, is expected to come back and take center stage in Lansing. Remember, the big point of debate on this bill was whether the rules should be different somehow if you have a slot machine lever in your hand at the same time you drink a beer and smoke a cigarette.”

Not true. The House has assigned its three members to a conference committee to work out the differences between the Senate passed version and the House passed version. Once and if a compromise is reached, the compromise gets an up or down vote on the respective floors. The House passed House Bill 4163 in December 2007 that exempts casinos, and the Senate passed a different version in May that had no exceptions to the ban. However, Bishop has not assigned the members of the conference committee. If this goes forward - and if it’s going to be “center stage” it’s news to me - it will only tie down six of the 148 members, and the vote will take but a few minutes.

This bill is a matter of life and death for many people, and those people have been working hard for more than a decade to get this bill passed. So the question to the editor’s ridiculous question: “C'mon. Is that really the most important thing we have to discuss right now?” The answer is hell yes. For them to ridicule such a life and death bill is irresponsible and ignorant at best.

There is no safe amount of secondhand smoke. It directly kills more than 3,600 people a year, and it contributes to the deaths of another 50,000 deaths annually.


Not Anonymous said...

Once again, there is no record of any deaths being attributed to second hand smoke in this country. An opinion paper by the Surgeon General is that. An opinion. I agree with the editorial. I think it's a shame that the the state legislature is more concerned with what people do rather than how to improve the states economy. If the state has no control over the economy, then why weren't you railing against Granholm when she was talking about the econony and us all being blown away in five years? We don't need a bunch of morons telling us what to eat, what to smoke, or not smoke or where. They can't manage their own budget so how can they be trusted to tell us what size underwear to wear?

Anonymous said...

Amen, not anonymous.

Here's the question to ponder. If you owned a company and had to entrust the future of that company with a manager, then how many of the current Legislature would you consider to be your manager? My guess is: Not many. These guys and a few gals are political stooges, most of whom are in a job that pays far greater than anything they could earn in the private sector. Many of them are nice people, but they are relatively talentless. They are pretty much driven by the lobbyists who fund them and point them in the direction to go. Republicans look to the insurance lobby and the state chamber of commerce; Dems look to organized labor and trial lawyers. Both look to the party chairmen. And then, like the puppets they are, they vote in lockstep.

These are not the people you want making decisions about how you should live your life. For better or worse, I'm better equipped to make that decision. The government that governs least, governs best.

Communications guru said...

Are you serious? I gave you the link. He said “Secondhand smoke causes…. approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths among American nonsmokers every year.”
Here’s the link, again:

Is he a liar? Do have anything to back up your opinion the Surgeon General’s opinion is wrong?

The rest of your rant is just that. If you want to debate the points, please do so. This is a public health issue that should have been addressed 10 years ago. It’s not about freedom of choice. I have also been over and over this with you or some other anonymous troll; how is the governor, any governor, responsible for the recession this country has been in since December 2007?

I don’t give a rat’s ass what you smoke, but you don’t have the right to endanger the health of nonsmokers when you do.

Communications guru said...

Here’s the question to ponder, where do you get this crap? Just off the top of my head, Speaker of the House Andy Dillon was the President of DSC Ltd., formerly McLouth Steel. He took a pay cut to serve. I know of very few people who run for public office for the money. The only one I can think of is Leon Drolet.

I notice you cannot refute any of the points.

Not Anonymous said...

The surgeon general didn't prove that there were any deaths attributed to second hand smoke. "Approximate" is not a definitive statement. Regardless of how many times you post the link, it doesn't change what's written on that link. There is no PROOF of second hand smoke deaths. If you'd really like to prove it, please provide a death certificate that says "cause of death: Second hand smoke". I didn't say that they do it for pay, although I guess "anonymous" implied it. My opinion is that they are in it for power. I do agree that it doesn't matter if they are Republican or Democrat, they have their reasons for running for office and I can't think of one person that does it for the people. In 1994 the Republicans ran the House campaign as a national election using the Contract With America. They did exactly as they said they would. They voted on all ten items within the first 100 days as promised. They didn't promise to pass them all, they promised full debate and a vote on each item. That was the last time that anyone did anything "for the people". Following the Contract With America, the Republicans did what the Democrats do. They spent money and continued to spend money. The nation may be in a recession, but the state of Michigan has been in a recession for five years. To not see that is to be blind to the truth and facts.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Dillon is a sharp cookie. But he's the exception in Lansing not the rule. A few years back, the Detroit News surveyed large class of incoming freshmen lawmakers. All but one were getting pay hikes from their previous profession...most pay hikes were significant. The only guy who took a pay cut had been working as a staffer for a congressman. Dillon is an exception.

Look at Livingston County. Did Ward, Hune or Garcia take a pay cut for their current job?

And I agree with Not Anonymous: Show me a documented death due where the proximate cause was second-hand smoke. You can't? Maybe because it doesn't exist. The surgeon general takes a theory, applies it to the general population and comes up with an "approximate number." Show me the injured party and I'll consider supporting a smoking ban in bars.

(By the way, and this is off topic for this post I'll admit, I was struck by how you say bar and restaurant workers don't have representation. But casino workers do and they would be the ones that Dems would NOT protect with a smoking ban. How odd is that?)

Communications guru said...

The Surgeon General, a medial doctor and a scientist, reached his conclusion via scientific research. In fact, the job description of the office says, "The Surgeon General serves as America's chief health educator by providing Americans the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and reduce the risk of illness and injury." I'm going to take his scientific opinion over your political one. What science do you have to back up your position?

You are anonymous, so saying ""anonymous" implied it" makes no sense.

I have been around politicians for eight years; as a reporter covering them, campaigning for them and working for them. These are good people who run because they want to change things, be a part of the solution and to serve. None, that I have met, enter for more money. Now, a small percentage of them become corrupted by the power, but a few bad apples should not spoil the whole bunch.

You're talking about the Heritage Foundation and Newt Gingrich's "contract on America." This is the same Newt Gingrich that shut down government and held public employees, including the military, hostage because he claims the President snubbed him on an airplane. I got news for you, all politicians tax and spend, that's how government works.

No, it's not the "nation may be in a recession," the nation is in a recession, and it has been in a recession since December of last year. The thing about Michigan is that when the country is in a downturn, the first thing people cut back on buying is the big ticket items, like a new car. When the state's largest employer goes into a slump and loses market share, the state feels it.

Communications guru said...

Like I told you before in another thread, I have been around politicians for eight years; as a reporter covering them, campaigning for them and working for them. These are good people who run because they want to change things, be a part of the solution and to serve. None, that I have met, enter for more money. Now, a small percentage of them may become corrupted by the power, but a few bad apples should not spoil the whole bunch.

The bottom line is this, if you want quality people, you have to pay them. If we want people like Andy Dillon, we have to pay them a high wage. Most people are willing to take a pay cut to serve, but they still have to take care of their obligations. Some lawmakers may get hefty raises from their previous job, like Ward and Hune, but we also need a cross section and a variety of people in the Legislature. We have done that; we have teachers, auto workers, executives, lawyers and two medical doctors in the Senate.

Like I also told you before in another thread, The Surgeon General, a medical doctor and a scientist, reached his conclusions via scientific research. In fact, the job description of the office says, "The Surgeon General serves as America's chief health educator by providing Americans the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and reduce the risk of illness and injury." I'm going to take his scientific opinion over your political one. What science do you have to back up your position?

Once again, you said, some time ago, there were no employee groups pushing for this. I said that may be because bartenders and waitresses are not organized, and the best way to have a powerful voice is in numbers. The thing about casinos is lawmakers are being told, probably by the casino PAC, that they will lose business and jobs if a ban is enacted because patrons will go to Native American casinos, which are not subject to the ban. It's not true, and the other 33 states and other countries that have enacted the ban have found otherwise. Also, once again, this is not a Democratic issue, and lawmakers from both parties have voted both ways.

Anonymous said...

I think we have reached some level of agreement...odd as that is...on the casino workers. You agree, I believe, that it is wrong to leave them out, but I suspect you think some ban is better than others. I, on the other hand, see this is proof that those pushing for the ban really don't care...or believe...about the second-hand smoke threat. It's political, as proven by how easily they abandon such a large employee group. We can disagree on this, of course, without bashing each other.

Of course the Surgeon General knows a lot more than me. That wasn't the question. The challenge was to provide some examples of bar and restaurant workers who have died because of second-hand smoke. If they don't exist, then it's more difficult to use public health as a justification for this infringement of individual choice.

You are wrong, I believe, about the legislators...I think most of them got a pay raise...although some of the older ones who got in after retirement might be a different story. I also disagree that their intention was to change the world. I think some like politics, some were electable, some like public service, some like the excitement, some think they are good at it, some saw a decent paycheck.

But while you praise Dillon, you contribute to the demise of the public view of Lansing by unfairly slamming Chris Ward. Ward's politics were different from yours and he beat your opponent. So you trash him. Surely people on the other side of the aisle can make similar attacks on Dillon...but what good does that do.

You and your ilk are part of the problem, McBluster.

Communications guru said...

That's a good one, anonymous troll. You say, "We can disagree on this, of course, without bashing each other." But your closing line is, "You and your ilk are part of the problem, McBluster." You can't even follow your own advice.

Of course it's political. But what is gained politically by supporting a smoking ban? We have not reached any level of agreement. Two of the richest lobbying arms are the tobacco and the casino lobby, and they are pushing for no ban. No one is abandoning anything or anyone, including casino workers. It makes no sense to do nothing simply because you can’t get everything, instead do part of it now and get the rest later. All or nothing is stupid. I will push for a complete ban, but I will take a partial ban now and then continue pushing for a complete ban after the partial ban proves a ban does not hurt business.

It's not about the "Surgeon General knows a lot more than me." It's about the Surgeon General is a scientist basing his opinion on scientific fact. Once again I will ask this question: Where is the science to back up your position?

I believe I am right about the legislators. I'm not sure what the relevance of the pay raise is. I don't care. No one goes through an election just for the money, no one. I don't think I ever said their "intention was to change the world." It was to change things, and it was to serve.

The people who are contributing "to the demise of the public view of Lansing" are people like Chris Ward. He missed more votes than any of the 148 lawmakers in 2007. This year, he is leading that race again with just one more session day left. He has missed 385 votes so far in 2008. There is no one even close. Even if the next closest person didn't show up next Thursday for the last session day of 2008, the legislature would have to vote on over a 100 bills for Ward to lose his lead. You claim they only serve for a hefty paycheck; I say otherwise. Then you say I'm unfairly slamming a guy who missed more days of work than any other lawmaker in Lansing. If they only serve for the pay like you say, then why are you not angry about him missing so much work? Here's a link to prove my point

Anonymous said...

You, and the Surgeon General, still have yet to provide the name of one death in the bar/restaurant industry caused by second-hand smoke. That suggests to me that there is no such evidence.

Also, are you in favor of capital punishment? More than 33 states have capital punishment. Or doesn't that argument work when you don't agree with it?

Communications guru said...

And you have not provided me with the scientific evidence to support your claim that secondhand smoke is harmless. I already answered you once before, but again, I do not support capital punishment.

Anonymous said...

My question is this: If Michigan should ban smoking in bars/restaurants because 33 states do it, then why shouldn't we have capital punishments since even more states have that?

I don't need to provide proof. You are the one that says that bar/restaurant workers have to be protected from the danger of second-hand smoke. I'd be more inclined to agree if you could provide stats that say they have suffered.

It was easy to find data to support the environmental threat in coal mines, for instance. If the date existed for restaurant/bars, I'm sure it would be touted. It doesn't exist.

Some people don't like smoking. Perhaps a lot. That's not a reason to tell private business how to run their place. There has to be a health hazard. You can cite a SG report that says there is a hazard, but no one can show that restaurant employees suffer greater heart/lung/cancer incidence than, say, hardware store workers.

If that's the case, then it's a matter of choice. If I don't like smoke with my food, I won't go to that restaurant.

Your failure to provide evidence supports my case.

Communications guru said...

How many times do I have to answer this question? Because capital punishment serves no purpose because it does not deter crime and an indoor smoking ban protects the health of innocent nonsmokers. In fact, it improves health. Here are a few studies that prove that.

You don't need to provide proof? Are you serious? You don’t need to provide proof to support position? Why? Why do I have to provide proof then?

The fact is food service workers appear to be 50 percent more likely than the general population to develop lung cancer, largely because many of them are exposed to secondhand smoke on the job.

I have provided scientific evidence to support my position. I am still waiting for you to provide scientific evidence to support your position. Your failure to provide evidence supports my case.

Anonymous said...

I'll check out your claim. If you referenced it before, i missed it. If this claim holds true, you've got more basis for your position than any of the bluster you've shoveled out prior to this.