Sep 30, 2008

Debate shows Livingston County House candidate is a leader


For those looking to send a leader to the Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing; instead of voting for a career bureaucrat/bookkeeper you need to take a look at Scott Lucas.

The Hamburg Township Democrat is running against Cindy Denby in the open seat in Livingston County’s 47th District. I watched Lucas square off in one of the Great Debates sponsored by the Center for Michigan and Detroit Public TV, and he clearly is a leader. The unfortunate thing is this is the first time I have seen him.

The candidate’s positions are not radically different, but Lucas, an assistant fire chief, has true leadership abilities. This is not necessarily a knock against Denby. I like and respect her, but she simply does not inspire leadership. I have been reporting on Handy Township in the Fowlerville area where she is the township supervisor for seven years, so I have seen her in action.

The televised debates, called the Great Debates, are 30-minute, fixed-format debates being taped at DPTV’s Detroit studios with a panel of journalists consisting of reporters and editors from the Detroit News and Free Press. The plan is for all of the 110 contested races to be televised, and 3-4 debates are taped weekly. They air from 3-5 p.m. every Sunday on PBS, as well as online.

This week’s debates feature Rep. Marc Corriveau and Republican Jerry Vorva in the 20th District that covers Plymouth, Northville, Canton and Wayne.
Democrat Doug Geiss and Republican Darrell McNeill square off in the open 22nd District that covers Romulus and Taylor.
Democrat Sarah Roberts and Republican Bryan Brandenburg debate in the open 24th District that covers Harrison Township, Lake Township and St. Clair Shores.
Democrat Jon Switalski and Republican Michael Wiecek battle in the open 25th District that covers Warren and Sterling Heights
Democrat Andrew Prasilowski and Republican Kim Meltzer debate in the 33rd District that covers Clinton, Macomb and Ray Townships.

We’re still waiting for the Republican challenger in Livingston County’s other House district to reschedule his debate. Republican Bill Rogers is challenging Democrat Donna Anderson in the open 66th District. The debate was to be taped and aired along with the Scott Lucas debate, but Rogers canceled the day before the debate was to be tapped.

He has not rescheduled. So far, 12 races and 24 candidates have managed to carve out the 30 minutes out of their schedule, but not Rogers.

Leading state Republican says debate over DRIC study is moot


It has been a confusing week where the party of Wall Street voted against Wall Street, so it was no surprise that a leading state Republican came out in support of the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC)study.

Michigan House and Senate Democrats have supported the DRIC study that wants to build a new public-private bridge about a mile from the current Ambassador Bridge, but Senate Republicans, led by Alan Cropsey, are carrying water for Grosse Pointe billionaire and Republican benefactor Matty Moroun’s plan to build a second, private for-profit Ambassador Bridge and keep his monopoly intact.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson has voiced his support for the DRIC study in the past, but Tuesday he joined Richard Blouse, Jr., president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, in an OP-ED in the Detroit Free Press in support of the DRIC study.

"Political infighting and special interests cannot be allowed to stop economic progress in the Detroit region."

Truer words were never spoken, especially when considering the Ambassador Bridge is the busiest commercial border crossing in all of North America, handling 20 percent more trucks than its closest competitor and almost double the commercial traffic of the next busiest crossing on the Canadian border. In all, almost 30 percent of all U.S./Canada trade and over 25 percent of the truck traffic between the U.S. and Canada passes through the Detroit-Windsor gateway. This U.S.-Canadian trade directly supports 7.1 million U.S. jobs, 221,500 Michigan jobs, and one in three Canadian jobs. More than $1 billon in trade crosses the bridge everyday.

Brooks and Blouse summed up clearly why the debate should end:
"This is really a moot debate, because the Canadian government passed a law prohibiting the proposed location of a private bridge that would dump additional traffic into downtown Windsor. Therefore, the next viable option is a public bridge, which is what DRIC is attempting to accomplish."

Cropsey is doing everything he can to help Moroun, including a threat to shut down the state government. His delaying and blocking tactics may lose the international crossing altogether.

"However, the longer the delay with DRIC, the greater the risk the bridge project will move somewhere else. Buffalo, a community that would welcome the jobs and investment from the project, is poised to build another international bridge if the DRIC process falters. Another bridge crossing between the United States and Canada is going to be built. The question has come down to location."

"This is the oldest political trick in the book by those wishing to obstruct an initiative. We cannot allow petty politics and jockeying among special interest groups to threaten the new jobs and investment in the Detroit region, an outcome that would have a negative ripple effect throughout Michigan's already troubled economy."

Sep 29, 2008

Mark Schauer picking up support in Walberg’s back yard


ADRIAN -- Name recognition and support for State Sen. Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, in his quest to unseat extremist conservative Tim Walberg in the race for U.S. House in the 7th District is increasing.

Last month I knocked on doors in Lenawee County in Tecumseh, and I found that although people were receptive to Schauer after almost two years of Walberg, not a lot had heard of him. There was a noticeable difference on Sunday when I knocked on 68 doors in Adrian.

I saw plenty of Schauer and Rep. Dudley Spade, D- Tipton, yard signs, but I did not see a single Walberg sign. I understand yard signs don’t vote, but it’s good sign. It’s even more encouraging when you consider Lenawee County is Walberg’s home county, also a resident of rural Tipton.

What I found were more people who were supporting Schauer, and many asked for yard signs. There were a few undecideds, but not many.

Walking in Adrian was a trip down memory lane for me. I did a stint as the education reporter for the Daily Telegram. The Lenawee County Democratic Party is now located a few doors down from the Telegram in what used to be the Adrian Public Schools offices. I spent a few nights there covering Adrian School Board meetings.

All this positive Schauer news has Walberg and his friends at the extreme Club for Growth worried. They will start airing their first barrage of attack ads in the 7th district. This is the same radical group that ran a vicious smear campaign against incumbent Republican Joe Schwarz two years ago. The so-called Club for Growth wants to expand unfair trade deals - which have devastated Michigan's economy - and privatize Social Security. Back in 2006, Tim Walberg told the Jackson Citizen Patriot that he was "bought and paid for" by Club for Growth - so we know whose side he's on.

Sep 26, 2008

No reason absentee voting gets OK in the Michigan House


LANSING – The Michigan House passed House Bill 4048 sponsored by Rep. Martin Griffin, D-Jackson, on Thursday with a bipartisan vote of 65-41 that will allow Michigan voters to vote with an absentee ballot for no reason.

Current Michigan law allows people to vote A/B for only six reasons: age 60 years old or older, unable to vote without assistance at the polls, expecting to be out of town on election day, in jail awaiting arraignment or trial, unable to attend the polls due to religious reasons or are appointed to work as an election inspector in a precinct outside of your precinct of residence.

Michigan will join 28 other states that allow no reason A/B voting if the bill becomes law. The bill has widespread support. Those in support of the bill include the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the Michigan Association of County Clerks, the Michigan Association of Municipal, the Michigan League of Women Voters and the Michigan Townships Association. Only the Republican Secretary of State is neutral on the bill.

It will most likely stall in the Republican controled Senate in an effort to keep voter turnout small. A recent U.S. Census survey said more than 7.5 million people said they did not vote because of “logistical reasons." Sen. Liz Brater, D-Ann Arbor, introduced the companion bill in the Senate, SB 12, but that is stalled.

Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, Livingston County's own Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton, was one of those against it. He said there were "too many loopholes and ballots are more subject to voter fraud under a no-reason absentee voting system." I have no idea what voter fraud he is talking about, but the former Brighton Township Clerk has flip-flopped on the issue. He now said he favors early voting.

In the last session he sponsored HB 4569 that was approved by the House on April 25, 2005 and sent to the Senate where all bills go to die. The bill allowed no reason A/B in person for seven days before the election.

In 2003 he introduced HB 4058 that went no where in the then GOP-controlled House. It was basically a no reason A/B bill. It proposed to change the provision that said a person may vote A/B if the voter "is not confident he or she will be available to attend the polls on election day" instead of "is absent or expects to be absent from the township or city in which he or she resides during the entire period that polls are open for voting on the day of an election."

Judge Hathaway leading in Michigan Supreme Court race


The Livingston County Democratic Party has a couple of big events, and recent news about the Michigan Supreme Court will make the burgers at Sunday's event a lot tastier.

Supreme Court nominee Judge Diane Marie Hathaway will be the guest of honor at a "Flip the Court" barbecue at party headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River Ave. In Brighton, at 4 p.m. Sunday. The friendly, local Democrats will be flipping burgers and educating voters on how to "flip the ballot," to vote the non-partisan section of the ballot, and flip the court back to fairness. A $10 donation is appreciated.

Hathaway is trying to unseat Cliff Taylor for the eight-year seat. He leads the Republican majority of activist judges known as the “Gang of Four” that has been rated the worst court in the country. It is virtually impossible to unseat a sitting Justice, but a recent poll has raised some eyebrows. A survey of 600 likely Michigan voters conducted by Marketing Resource Group (MRG) between Sept. 15-20 showed Hathaway with a slight lead over Taylor.

It also showed that 68 percent of voters are undecided, but that is not unusual for a Supreme Court race. But the surprise is that an incumbent is behind with that much more undecideds is what is unusual. Because Taylor is a shill for insurance companies and large corporations, he has a massive war chest estimated at more than $1.1 million, and we can expect him to start spending some of that blood money attacking Hathaway.

On Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. at the Whispering Pines Golf Course, 2500 Whispering Pines Drive
Pinckney, the LCDP is hosting a "Countdown to Victory" party featuring former U.S. Congressman David Bonior of Macomb County.

Bonior, a former Michigan congressman and long-time champion of the working class, will lay out the stakes for us in this election and get the party faithful fired up for the last 30 days of the campaign. During his 11 years in office, Bonior was the public face of Democratic opposition to the NAFTA, and he was known for his tenacity in opposing Rightwing Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

In addition to Bonior, the candidates for local offices - from State House to township offices – will also be there. The suggested donation of $25 per person will help us pay for the last big push, as well as cover an excellent lasagna dinner. Only limited seated will be available at the door, and the deadline for registration is Sept. 29.

For information on either event call (810) 229-4212 or email livcodems@sbcuc.net.

Sep 25, 2008

Quote of the Week: Please do not pay attention


This week's Quote of the Week goes to GOP Presidential nominee Grampy McSame, who is looking for any excuse to get out of a planned debate with Democratic nominee Barrack Obama set for Friday evening at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.

A few days ago McSame said he'll suspend his campaign and return to Washington to join talks over the Bush administration's proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street. He also said he wouldn't take part in Friday's scheduled debate unless the crisis is resolved. Obama said president's have to do more than one thing at a time, and you wonder how much effort it takes to hop on a place from DC to Tennessee to debate for 90 minutes then fly back.

Obama said he plans to be there, and there is word a deal in principle on the bailout has been reached, meaning McSame may have to go to class and get schooled.

"I always believe that ultimately, if people are paying attention, then we get good government and good leadership. And when we get lazy, as a democracy and civically start taking shortcuts, then it results in bad government and politics.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, MSNBC interview, Sep. 25, 2006


McSame and the Republicans are desperately hoping the American public is not paying attention.

GOP House front runner cancels debate at the last minute


Apparently Bill Rogers, GOP candidate for the 66th District Michigan House seat, can't find 30 minutes in his busy schedule for the voters.

Rogers and Donna Anderson, his Democratic challenger for the open seat that covers Livingston County, were set to tape a 30-minute televised debate sponsored by the Center for Michigan and Detroit Public TV. In what is being called the Great Debates, 30-minute, fixed-format debates are being taped at DPTV’s Detroit studios with a panel of journalists consisting off Nolan Finley of The Detroit News, and Ron Dzwonkowski and Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press. The plan is for all of the 110 contested races to be televised.

Last week saw three debates televised on Sunday afternoon and on the two sponsor's web sites, and four more are set this week. They are Livingston County's open 47th District featuring GOP candidate Cindy Denby and Democrat Scott Lucas, Oakland County's 37th District featuring GOP candidate Paul Welday and Democrat Vicki Barnett, Oakland County's 45th District featuring ultraconservative right-winger Tom McMillan and Democrat Randy Young and Washtenaw County's 54th District featuring perennial GOP candidate Tom Banks and Incumbent Alma Wheeler Smith.

Those debates can already be viewed online, and they will air from 3-5 p.m. Sunday on Detroit PBS.

Rogers and Anderson's debate was also supposed to air this Sunday, but Rogers apparently canceled at the last minute, according to the local newspaper. Anderson is accusing Rogers of ignoring voters and coasting on the fact that Livingston County is predominantly Republican and on his family name; he is the older brother of U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers and his mother was the director of the Greater Brighton Chamber of Commerce for many years. According to the article, Dave Manney, director of program development with Detroit Public Television, is still hopeful the debate can be rescheduled.

Sep 24, 2008

Agreement on Transportation budget averts government shutdown

LANSING -- The Conference Committee on the Michigan Department of Transportation budget reached an agreement Wednesday, averting a government shutdown and layoffs at the MDOT.

The hold up was reaching an agreement on the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study. The agreement on the conference report for House Bill 5808 that sets the budget contains language that says the DRIC study can reach its conclusion, but legislative approval would be needed after the department makes a final presentation to the Legislature on the project next year.

It seems a little weird to go this far because that was always there.

Senate Republicans are carrying water for Grosse Pointe billionaire, Republican benefactor and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun in his quest to keep his monopoly and build a second span. U.S. and Canadian officials want to build a new bridge with a private-public partnership further downriver in Detroit.

Both the House and Senate must approve the Conference Committee, and that must come today, Thursday or Oct. 2.

Sep 23, 2008

Smoking bill gets the majority of votes but not enough


LANSING – After a lively debate, House Bill 4163 that bans smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants, failed to get enough votes to be approved and sent to the governor on Tuesday, despite getting a majority of votes.

The vote was to concur with the Senate passed version of HB 4163 approved in May. It needed a majority of those 110 members elected and serving - 56 votes - to pass, but it only passed 50-49 with 10 not voting and one abstaining. The Majority Floor Leader moved to reconsider the vote and passed it for the day.

The House passed the original version back in December that included exceptions for casino gaming floors, tobacco retailers, bingo halls, horse racing tracks and so-called “cigar bars,” but the Senate passed a version with no carves outs in May after enormous pressure from constituents.

“Are we not obligated to do the best for the welfare of the people of this state,” said Rep. Brenda Clack, D-Flint, the sponsor of bill. “Many people have to walk the plank at their jobs to avoid the smoke, and they are forced to endure the smoke all day,”

The bill passed by 10 votes in December, but Detroit area lawmakers balked on Tuesday, under the mistaken belief that a smoking ban will cost Detroit casinos business to Native American casinos like Soaring Eagle in Mount Pleasant. That’s despite a report released by the Lansing research firm Public Sector Consultants Inc. called “Smokefree workplaces: The Impact of House Bill 4163 on the Restaurant and Bar Industry in Michigan.” The report concluded that "the vast majority" concluded there is no net economic impact on bars and restaurants. It also included polls showing increasing public support for bans, with support even stronger after bans have been enacted.

Clack called out Rep. Bert Johnson, the chair of the Detroit delegation in the House for not supporting the bill.

“It bothers me that the Representative from the 5th District still opposes this bill even after I held it until after the primary,” she said. “ I kept my promise.”

The opposition from Republicans was the usual rhetoric that it infringed on personal freedoms, yet no one is trying to outlaw smoking. Some of the opposition bordered on hysterical.

“I believe this is the most un-American bill in American history,” said Rep. Rick Jones, R-Oneida Township. “It will damage Detroit casinos in Detroit that pay taxes.”

One Republican Representative went so far as to say it’s unfair to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan because they can’t smoke in the private VFW hall, and that because cigarettes were included in C-rations during World War II the workplace ban was bad.

Of course, that ignored the fact that the military began going smokefree at bases, installations and ships in the early 1990s, and the Surgeon General’s warnings and evidence did not go on cigarette packs until well after the end of WWII.

But Rep. Andy Meisner, D-Ferndale, dispelled that myth by reading quotes from the newly elected national VFW commander that said as long as smoking is still permitted indoors, “no one will want to join a VFW health club … or bring their children to a VFW day care center … or log-on at a VFW Cyber CafĂ©.” Meisner also dispelled the myth that the casinos will lose money just because less than 25 percent of the population has to step outside for two minutes to have a cigarette.

“I’m standing here to tell you as the chair of the Commerce Committee to tell you that there is no loss of revenue,” he said.

Sep 22, 2008

Stem Cell forum on tap featuring Dr. Joe Schwarz on tap


Nonpartisan Livingston County Voters Voice and Community Unitarian Universalists in Brighton are sponsoring a forum on the expansion of embryonic stem cell research that is on the General Election Ballot at 7 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Brighton Performing Arts Center at Brighton High School, 7878 Brighton Rd.

In July, the Stem Cell Research Ballot Question Committee, now called Cure Michigan, filed petitions with 570,793 signatures to place the question on the ballot. On Nov. 4 voters will vote on Proposal 2 that will allow the expansion of embryonic stem cell research. Federal law allows embryonic stem cell research, but it bans federal funding of it. But Michigan has even tougher restrictions, and Michigan law makes conducting the research a felony. Rep. Andy Meisner, D-Ferndale, introduced House Bills 4616-4618 in April 2007 that lift that restriction, but the bills are stalled in the Judiciary Committee.

The proposal on the ballot will allow doctors and researchers to use leftover embryos from fertility clinics that would otherwise be discarded as medical waste, and use them instead for finding cures and saving lives.

Dr. Jack Mosher, Assistant Research Scientist at the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute, and former Republican U.S. Congressman and medical doctor
Joe Schwarz will be the presenters.

Embryonic stem cells are primitive cells that can be generated in a Petri dish after an egg is fertilized by sperm in a dish in a fertility clinic. Many scientists consider stem cell research the most promising medical technology of the 21st century. Stem cells could be used to treat or cure more than 70 diseases and conditions affecting millions of people, including diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS), spinal cord injuries, blindness, and HIV/AIDS.

The proposal has widespread support, and the only real opposition is coming from anti-choice groups like Right to Life because of false claims that it will promote human cloning and that it is destroying human life. It ignored the fact that the eggs are simply thrown away when no logger needed.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information call Voters Voice at (810) 229-7887.

The Voter's Voice is a group for independents, moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans formed in 2002 for people concerned about politics and public policy.

Sep 19, 2008

National Bush Legacy Bus tour roars into Michigan


All Michiganders have felt the Bush legacy in the form of high unemployment, the loss of manufacturing jobs, record gas prices, record home foreclosures, huge corporate bailouts and the deaths of hundreds of young people in an unnecessary invasion, and now you can see it all in one place when the National Bush Legacy Bus Tour Comes to Michigan on Saturday.

The Bush Legacy is a 45-foot, 28-ton clean bio-diesel powered museum on wheels that features several exhibits on how disastrous the Bush/conservative policies have been, and how they have weakened America's security abroad while neglecting and undermining important priorities here at home.

It is also highlighting the people who have helped Bush wrecked havoc on the county, and the bus tour will be in Battle Creek on Saturday, Sept. 20 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the backyard of Bush enabler Tim Wahlberg, where he is locked in a battle with State Sen. Mark Schauer. It will be in front of the Kellogg Arena at Michigan Ave between Macamly and N. Capital. On Monday it will be in Jackson from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 120 N. Jackson St. The museum will also be in Lansing in front of the Capitol from 2-4 p.m.

On Tuesday it will be in Bush enabler Joe Knollenberg's district from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Royal Oak Farmers Market at 11 Mile Road and Troy Street in Royal Oak. Gary Peters is neck and neck against Knollenberg.

The tour kicked off on June 24 across the street from the White House, and the National Bush Legacy Bus tour has since blanketed half the country – from New Hampshire to New Mexico – and will continue making nearly 150 stops in the hometowns of Bush’s enablers in Congress and symbolic locations like the President’s home away from home in Crawford, Texas.

It will be back in Michigan before the tour concludes on Election Day in Virginia. It will be in Kalamazoo on Oct. 21; Grand Rapids on Oct. 22 and Ann Arbor on Oct. 23.

Senate Republicans willing to shut down state government of behalf of rich contributor


Senate Republicans are so intent on carrying water for Grosse Pointe billionaire, Republican benefactor and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun in his quest to keep his monopoly that they are willing to sacrifice jobs, millions of tax dollars and a partial government shutdown to do so.

Senate Republicans are holding up the 2008-09 Department of Transportation budget because they want language in the bill that does not bind the state to enacting the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study's final recommendation, despite assurances that the new recommended crossing in the Del Ray section of Detroit cannot go forward without legislative approval.

Currently, the aging, privately owned Ambassador Bridge is the busiest commercial border crossing in all of North America, handling 20 percent more trucks than its closest competitor and almost double the commercial traffic of the next busiest crossing on the Canadian border. In all, almost 30 percent of all U.S./Canada trade and over 25 percent of the truck traffic between the U.S. and Canada passes through the Detroit-Windsor gateway. This U.S.-Canadian trade directly supports 7.1 million U.S. jobs, 221,500 Michigan jobs, and one in three Canadian jobs. More than $1 billon in trade crosses the bridge everyday.

A study conducted in partnership with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), Transport Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation identified the Del Ray on the U.S. side and the Canadian crossing is the Brighton Beach section in west-end Windsor as the best places to build a new crossing.

But the Ambassador Bridge Company that operates the Ambassador has already began the process of twining the current bridge or building a span right next to the current one. The Canadians have made it clear they don't want an international crossing in private hands, one of the few in the nation, and the location dumps the massive truck traffic into already congested downtown Windsor and it must go through 17 traffic lights to reach the interstate.

Despite this, Canadian officials are giving the bridge company's request for a permit consideration, but the company has not even submitted the proper paperwork.

The blocking action on behalf of Moroun is being led by Senate Majority Floor Leader Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt. He has tried in the past unsuccesfully to kill the DRIC study.

According to a press release by the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA), the shutdown will cost taxpayers an estimated $3.175 million, and it will include decommissioning road construction zones and the layoff of as many as 2,750 state transportation department employees. The $3.175 million cost includes $635,000 in state money spent to implement shutdown procedures and another $2.54 million in lost federal match.

Republicans, including the unofficial blog of the Michigan Republican Party, favor the shutdown and the twining of the bridge, calling it a "bridge to nowhere." Like GOP VP candidate Spiro Palin, that talking point is just as false. The real bridge to nowhere is the twin Ambassador Bridge because it will stop in the middle of the Detroit River because it cannot land on Canadian soil.

The argument also goes that a private bridge is better than a government owned one, and taxpayers would foot the bill for a new bridge when a private individual will build it for free. That ignores the fact that the most important trade barrier in the U.S. has almost no oversight, both for structural integrity and security. It also ignores the fact that the people who use the bridge pay for it from the tolls they pay to use it.

I have also heard the claim that traffic across the bridge is down, so they do not even need another span. Not true. Traffic has steadily increased. It may cycle up and down, but the trend is continually upward. If that were really the case, then why is the Ambassador Bridge Company trying to build a second span?

The Senate Republicans appear to be standing alone on this one, and perhaps they will walk the plank that will become the twin span into the Detroit River when this blows up in their face. The initial location of the new bridge has widespread support, including the Bush Administration, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, Automation Alley, the Big 3 automakers, the United Auto Workers, the Michigan Manufacturing Association, the Automotive Alliance and even some prominent Republicans like Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.

We know the Republicans will do anything to make look Democrats look bad no matter who it hurts. Just look at the last time they shut government down last year just to make Democrats look bad.

However, it looks likely the Conference Committee will reach agreement before the Oct. 1 deadline to avoid a shutdown.

Sep 17, 2008

The Great House Debates are ready to be viewed


The Center for Michigan and Detroit Public TV is airing the first of a series of televised debates between Michigan House candidates.

The first installment features six candidates squaring off in 30-minute, fixed-format debates taped at DPTV’s Detroit studios with a panel of journalists consisting off Nolan Finley of The Detroit News, and Ron Dzwonkowski and Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press.

Those ready to air online and on TV are:
DISTRICT 19 (Livonia) -- John Walsh (R) vs. Steve King (D)
DISTRICT 31 (Mount Clemens) – Fred Miller (D) vs. Daniel Tollis (R)
DISTRICT 40 (Birmingham) -- Chuck Moss (R) vs. Julie Chandler (D)

As part of The Great Debates, DPTV and the Center for Michigan have extended debate offers to the candidates in 47 contested State House races. While candidate negotiations continue, another 11 debates are set to tape on Sept. 22-23. Scheduled debates include candidates for House Districts 20, 22, 24, 33, 36, 37, 45, 47, 56 and 66.

You can view the debates now and anytime at DPTV's site at TheGreatDebatesDownload.org and at MI Vote.

They will also air on Channel 56 DPTV from 3-4:30 P.M. every Sunday afternoons beginning this Sunday. Each debate is also being given on tape or DVD to local cable access stations in each district, as well as to other PBS stations.

Sep 16, 2008

Quote of the week:Fake pig outrage



This week's Quote of the Week is dedicates to the presidential ticket of Grampy McSame and Spiro Palin and their fake outrage.

You will recall that the McSame campaign came unglued recently when future President Barack Obama said McSame's policies were the same as Bush's failed polices but with a little lipstick to dress them up, using the old cliché that you can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig. The fake outrage came immediately from the right when they accused Obama of calling Palin a pig, based on her "joke" in her acceptance speech where she said she was a hockey mom and the only difference between pit bull and a hockey mom was lipstick.

But before Grampy launches into another made up controversy, he should have checked if he had said it, because he did, at least three times. The quote of the week is when he said it about then Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's health care plan. This time, McSame was referring directly to a woman, unlike Obama who was referring to McSame.

Was McSame calling Hillary pig? I doubt it. He just needs to remember when he flips and when he flops.

It’s vaguely, not vaguely, eerily reminiscent of what they tried in 1993. I think they put some lip stick on the pig, but it’s still a pig, John McCain, talking about Hillary Clinton’s health care plan.

Hundreds rally for good health and indoor smoking ban


LANSING -- Hundreds of supporters of all ages crowded into the Capitol rotunda Tuesday to push the Michigan Legislature to pass House Bill 4163 that will ban smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants.

“We have an obligation as legislators to protect the public health, and we are going to do that,” Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, told the cheering crowd. “This is an issue I have been working on for more than 10 years.”

The House approved HB 4163 back in December and sent it to the Senate, but it contained exceptions or carves outs for casinos, tobacco retailers, bingo halls, horse racing tracks and so-called "cigar bars." After months of pressure, the Senate finally allowed a vote in May and approved an amendment introduced by Basham that had no carve outs and sent it back to the House for concurrence. A few weeks later, the House sent over a vehicle bill with the carve outs.

Basham said he has a commitment from Speaker of the House Andy Dillon to allow a vote on the clean bill, HB 4163.

“I would not be here and we would not be where we are now without the hard work of Judy Stewart and the Campaign for Smoke free Air,” Basham said.

The people at the rally lobbied state Representatives, and speculation is a vote will come before the end of September and before the Lame Duck session starts in November after the election.

“The merits of this proposal just screams out at you; it‘s not about if you can smoke, it’s about where you can smoke,” said Rep. Andy Meisner, D-Ferndale. “People around the state are literately holding their breath for us to make the change.”

Dr. Greg Holzman, Chief Medical Executive for the Michigan Department of Community Health, told the crowd secondhand smoke kills thousands of Michigan residents who do not smoke every single year.

“The scientific evidence is undisputable,” he said. “It’s no longer a scientific question, it’s a political issue.”

A pair of studies released earlier this year debunked opponents claim that a smoking ban will hurt the business of bars and restaurants.

“We have all heard it will hurt businesses,” Holzman said. “The good news is that we have been so slow in enacting a ban, we have lots of data from states that have gone smoke free. It has shown is does not hurt business and in most cases it improved it.”

GOP voter suppression efforts are full steam ahead

Republicans are pulling out all the stops in trying to pull out a victory for the ethically challenged McCain ticket here in Michigan, and that always includes their favorite tactic: voter suppression.

The Republicans know they are not the party of mainstream America or Main Street America, so the best way for them to win is to keep voter turnout low, unless they have a hot button issue like abortion or gay marriage on the ballot that brings out their base. Over the years, the GOP has become very good at voter suppression and intimidation.

The requirement to show an ID at the local polling place was a way to slow voter turnout among minority populations who tend to vote Democratic. It certainly wasn't in response to any voter fraud because there was none. But the latest GOP suppression tactic is one that is both dirty and clever.

The online newspaper/blog Michigan Messenger broke the story that the chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to challenge people and block them from voting in November as part of the state GOP’s effort to suppress the vote. That brought swift denials from the chair, the state party chair and even the official rightwing blog wrote some ridiculous parody.

The party spokesman put out a press release saying the chair was not only misquoted but the reporter, Eartha Jane Melzer, made up the quote. The press release demanded a retraction, but of course they never actually asked the MM for a retraction. The good news is publicity like that is the best antiseptic to dirty tricks like what the GOP was planning, and they are apparently backing off.

The publication and the story have received national recognition, and I even heard it mentioned on the Stephanie Miller Show last week.

The MM is standing by the story and their reporter, despite false attacks on both her and the publication's integrity. I even heard them described in a mainstream newspaper as the "liberal Michigan Messenger." Have you ever heard the Wall Street Journal described as the conservative WSJ? Me neither.

The MM is standing by the story and the reporter for good reason: she's right. I was a fellow for the MM when it started up last September and wrote for them for some nine months until my current job left me without enough time to turn out as much copy as was required.

Melzer was also there from the begining, and she has broken some big stories for the MM the mainstream media missed. Like this one. She broke the story on Sovereign Deed. The private security firm wanted to build a disaster response operation to look after rich people in northern Michigan, but Melzer broke the story that the founder lied about his military service. After that story, she received some of the same kinds of pressure then as she is now. She was right then, and she's right on the GOP suppression effort.

The Republican's answer to being caught with their hand in the cookie jar is to point out alleged voter fraud by ACORN, the nation’s largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people. This group is really hated by the Republicans. We know of the GOP's hatred of community organizers who dare to try and better their community and empower community members with their constitutionaly guaranteed right to vote, but they also registering voters, hurting the GOP voter suppression efforts.

ACORN is being accused of fraudulent voter registrations both nationally and in Michigan. First, is there any doubt knowing how political the U.S. Justice Department is that ACORN would not be a target? Second, ACORN's problem is hiring people to collect voter registrations and paying them for each one. We saw a similar situation with the fraudulent recall against Andy Dillon, but there was no intention to deceive by ACORN leadership. Plus, those fraudulent and forged signatures in the crooked effort by Leon Drolet were allowed to stand. Even without the voter ID law, a first-time voter has to show an ID to vote, so if ACORN was trying to commit voter fraud they would not get away with it at the polls.

The good news is the Department of Human Services (DHS) is stepping up ensure the people the GOP is trying to disenfranchise have the opportunity to vote. Local DHS offices in 57 counties across Michigan will host voter registration fairs to help register voters. Representatives of the League of Women Voters of Michigan, a city, township, or county clerk, or other community organizations will be at many locations to assist individuals attending the events.

Here in Livingston County, the local DHS office will hold their voter fair from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday in their offices at the East Complex, 2300 E. Grand River in Genoa Township. DHS clients and local residents will receive information on all aspects of voting, including practice casting a ballot in addition to registering to vote. The deadline for registering to vote in the November 4 General Election is October 6.

Sep 15, 2008

Free Press columnist documents more harm the Gang of Four has brought


Detroit Free Press Brian Dickerson provides one more case study on why the Republican majority of activist judges on the Michigan Supreme Court known as the “Gang of Four" needs to go.

Dickerson's Sunday column outlines the case of West Bloomfield resident Julian Wendrow who was unlawfully jailed for the alleged molestation of his teen autistic daughter. Only after the investigative work of a pair of Free Press reporters did the case get dropped and he was freed. It was nice to see the corporate media do what it was intended to do and why I became a reporter to begin with.

The Free Press published videotaped excerpts of an abusive, two-hour police interrogation of Wendrow's 13-year-old son, who has a form of autism known as Asperger's Syndrome, where he was badgered to implicate his father.

Last week, Wendrow sought justice thorough the courts where justice is supposed to be blind, and he sued a long list of officials, including Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca, Sheriff Mike Bouchard and West Bloomfield Police Chief Ronald Cronin.

To do so, Wendrow has to prove that those officials acted with reckless disregard for the plaintiff's welfare or constitutional rights because government employees are protected against lawsuits for doing their job unless they acted with reckless disregard; which evidence indicates they did in this case.

The problem is that the Gang of Four has expanded government immunity so much that government cannot be sued.

Cliff Taylor is the leader of the Gang of Four, and Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Diane Marie Hathaway is running to unseat him and restore balance to the court.

County board's decision to kill transit line demonstrates lack of foresight


A perfect example of why we need another viewpoint on the nine-member, all Republican Livingston County Board of Commissioners is their decision last week to not only not provide any money to the Washtenaw Livingston Line (WALLY) commuter rail line, but it will also not be part of the coalition that wants to form a taxing authority.

According to a report in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, board chair Bill Rogers said the county cannot afford to finance the project that aims to create a Howell-to-Ann Arbor rail link. Officials have estimated annual funding from each county ranging from $75,000-$150,000.

A move to establish a mass transit hub in Howell and Livingston County has been ongoing since the late 1990's, but there was hope this latest effort would succeed because of the strong commitment of the coalition members, gas prices above $4 a gallon and the backups experienced along U.S. 23, the north/south highway to Ann Arbor where many Livingston County residents work.

The good news is that even though the county board continues to lack any forward vision at all, the coalition members plan to go forward despite the county's refusal to get with the times. Washtenaw County Chair Jeff Irwin said establishing the line is still feasible without Livingston County's help.

Locally, the City of Howell and the Greater Brighton Chamber of Commerce are behind the project. U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, said a solid taxing authority needs to be in place before federal funds can be secured.

I have heard this project described by one rightwing blogger as a "train to nowhere." I don't consider Howell, Brighton or Ann Arbor nowhere. Perhaps we could have gotten some of the massive federal funds Alaska gets every year, like from the money for the real bridge to nowhere. The problem is Gov. and GOP VP candidate Sarah Palin, who campaigned hard for it then and now says she is against it, accepted the money anyway.

The current gas prices illustrate the need for some real mass transit in this state. Hurricane Ike helped shoot gas prices back up to as high as $4.24 a gallon in Howell. The day before the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast on Friday, there were reports that gas went as high as $5 per gallon in Lansing.

This spike came after weeks of a slow, but steady decline in gas prices that led to gas prices falling to as low as $3.69 a gallon in Howell. Now, that wasn't because of the goodness of the oil companies or because supply increased. It was because demand fell because Americans are cutting back on driving and finding alternative ways to get to work, such as car pooling.

Now, wouldn't it be nice if commuters actually had a few options besides one car and one driver? Since November I have been a member of a car pool, van pool actually. This might be a good time to give a shout out to the Michivan. I'm sure you have seen them tooling around Lansing or parked in the commuter lots scattered all over Michigan.

But the failure of the county board of commisioners to cooperate with its neighbors and help create something that will benefit the region is just one more failure to look forward and provide any type of service to its residents.

Livingston County is a bedroom community, and it was also once one of the fastest growing counties in the state. That has been because two major interstates – one east/west and one north/south – meet in Livingston County. After talking to many people, I have found that the county is a compromise of sort when people relocate. One spouse may work in Lansing and the other in the Detroit area. Then Livingston County is the compromise. With gas relatively inexpensive that commute was not much of a problem, but with gas at or near $4 a gallon Livingston County is not so attractive anymore.

Now, for the people in the county who are against growth and want to shut the door behind them that may be fine. But for school officials who need new pupils and the per-pupil foundation grant they bring to the budget it's not so good. A commuter option would help.

The board's lack of foresight will ensure we stay a bedroom community where we have to leave the county to work, to go to college or even to take in recreation.

The county has more than 180,000 people, but we don't have as much as a community college of our own. Of the five counties that border the county, all but one has a community college of its own. We only recently got a county park, and that was only after it was forced on the county with a donation via a will more than four years ago. It is not much more than a piece of property, but Washtenaw, Ingham and Oakland counties have active parks with amenities.

All five of the counties have a full-blown YMCA – on of my pet peeves, by the way – yet Livingston County has just started one but does not yet have a facility. Even much smaller Shiawassee County has one. Now, I understand that county government does not have much to do with establishing a YMCA, but it certainly illustrates our lack of identity.

Sep 14, 2008

Mid-Michigan military veterans back Schauer


State Sen. Mark Schauer picked up the endorsement of a group of mid-Michigan military veterans in his race for U.S. Congress from the 7th Congressional District.

According to the press release announcing the endorsement, “Veterans for Schauer" is a constituency group committed to electing Schauer. The group, co-chaired by Brigadier General Bob Secrist and U.S. Navy Submarine veteran Fred Strack, will reach out to current and former members of the armed forces and mobilize support for Schauer's campaign.

"When the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base was facing closure, Mark Schauer helped rally the community and worked with people like Carl Levin and Joe Schwarz to keep the base open," Secrist said. "Mark has a strong record of standing up for our men and women in uniform, and will be a powerful voice for veterans as a member of Congress."

This is in sharp contrast to his opponent, who voted against the expanded GI Bill. Apparently, Tim Wahlberg supports the war but not the troops. Perhaps his healthcare plan for returning veterans is the same one he prescribes for the 47 million Americans without healthcare: go to the ER.

"Mark understands the serious challenges facing Michigan veterans, and has a strong track record of fighting for military families," Strack said "When it comes to jobs, affordable healthcare and keeping people in their homes, veterans can count on Mark Schauer to stand up for our values.”


Sep 12, 2008

Detroit Region Aerotroplis set to take off to economic prosperity


LANSING – Most of America's great cities came about and grew up because of their proximity to transportation hubs. In the early days of the country it was seaports and rivers, later it was railroads and even later it was interstate highways.

The members of the Aerotroplis Task Force hope Detroit Metro Airport in Romulus will be a new transportation hub that will spur economic growth in Southeast Michigan. The term of Aerotroplis is a new type of urban economic development concept used to classify the economic development role of airports and aviation-driven enterprises.

"We think this is going to be one of the future economic engines," said Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, a member of the task force.

The members of the task force hope the newly dubbed Detroit Region Aerotroplis that encompasses the 60,000 acres of Metro Airport and Willow Run Airport will be the hub of aviation businesses, a transportation hub, research facilities and other business that require on time deliveries to be located 15-20 miles from the airport center. It would be built along the lines of Research Triangle Park in the Chapel Hill, NC area. More than 40 percent of the total economic value of all world goods produced are shipped by air.

The task force consists of Wayne County, Washtenaw County, Wayne County Airport Authority, the City of Belleville, Huron Charter Township, the City of Romulus, the City of Taylor, Van Buren Township, Charter Township of Ypsilanti and the City of Ypsilanti.

Representatives of the task force have testified before both the House Commerce Committee and the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.

"We are not just competing against urban areas like Chicago, New York or Los Angles, but we are competing against the Dubai's, India and China," Ficano said. "We have the chance to create a world class facility."

Other examples the task force is looking at is the UPS facility in Louisville, and the most advanced model is Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The Aerotroplis in Amsterdam has shopping centers, hotels, museums, entertainment, training centers and it is the hub for railway service throughout Europe.

"Michigan really needs to reinvent itself," said Robert Guenzel, Washntenaw County Administrator. "It could not come at a better time.
"I'm here to tell you the business community is strongly behind this," he said. "They have kicked the tires and taken a good look at this."

Not only will it create thousands of new jobs, it will also help spur the various rail and mass transit projects being talked about in Southeast Michigan. The sustainable development will spur new business, not just move businesses and jobs around.

"Detroit Metro is one of the only assets Michigan has not leveraged to our advantage," said Doug Rothwel, President of Detroit Renaissance. "We want to be a Midwest hub."

The task force has a four point plan it wants to follow that includes forming a development authority, drafting a business incentive plan, a business attraction plan and a marketing plan. The task force wants to move fast and start putting plans in place by next year. Because it's competing against projects like the $33 billion Dubai World Central project scheduled for opening later this year that will be the size of O'Hare and Heathrow airports, they want to start making the permit process for new tenant businesses.

The task force is also looking to Lansing for incentives like tax deductions, tax incentives, tax abetments, TIFAs and LDFAs. Draft legislation is already being kicked around.

Sep 11, 2008

Supporters of indoor smoking ban rally to get the ban done


LANSING -- Approval of the much anticipated indoor smoking ban, including bars and restaurants, could come as early as next week. Speaker of the House Andy Dillon, D-Redford, has indicated he will allow the full House to vote on House Bill 4163, sent over from the Senate in May.

Although there has been no action on the two bills banning smoking in the Legislature since the spring, groups like The Campaign for Smoke free Air and private citizens have been keeping the pressure on and the spotlight on the issue by writing and calling lawmakers.

In fact, the coalition has a rally planned in Lansing on Tuesday, September 16 to exert even more pressure on the House to take up HB 4163.

The rally will begin at 12:30 p.m. on the first floor rotunda of the Capitol, and among the speakers will be Sen. Ray Basham, who first sponsored the legislation banning smoking more than a decade ago. Although it is not required and everyone is welcome, they are asking people to RSVP at matt.phelan@cancer.org.

As many people are aware, the House first approved HB 4163 way back in December, and it excluded casinos, tobacco retailers, bingo halls, horse racing tracks and so-called "cigar bars" from the ban. The Senate approved the bill in May, but it was a clean bill that included no exceptions or carve outs.

However, when it was sent back to the House, many Detroit-area legislators balked, fearing the Detroit casinos would lose business and then lose jobs. They passed HB 5074 a few weeks later that had exceptions for non-Native American casinos, bingo-halls and so-called “cigar bars.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, only permitted a vote on 4163 after extensive pressure from Michigan residents, and the bill only received support because it included a total ban, thereby leveling the playing field for all bars and restaurants. He will not allow a vote on HB 5074, and it appears unlikely he would allow a second vote on HB 4163 if it were returned to the Senate with amendments that included exceptions or carve outs.

There is some speculation that Detroit-area lawmakers may be more prone to vote for the clean bill now that the primary election is over. If HB 4163 is approved in the House, it will go to the governor for signature.

Sep 10, 2008

Revived Quote of the Week feature highlights GOP VP pick


The recent open mike situation showed that right-wingers are just as appalled as the rest of the country is over the choice of the inexperienced and ethically-challenged Sarah "Spiro" Palin as the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee.

A new feature here at The Conservative Media is the Quote of the Week. This is similar to our Ann Coulter Quote of the week, but this will not always be as disgusting as those that come from the queen of hate. However, she may be featured on occasion. You never know what stupid, hateful crap will come out of her mouth.

This inaugural quote comes from conservative radio talk show host and self-styled family expert Laura Schlessinger where she talks about Grampy McSame's pandering pick of Palin as his running mate:

"I’m stunned - couldn’t the Republican Party find one competent female with adult children to run for Vice President with McCain? I realize his advisors probably didn’t want a “mature” woman, as the Democrats keep harping on his age. But really, what kind of role model is a woman whose fifth child was recently born with a serious issue, Down Syndrome, and then goes back to the job of Governor within days of the birth?
I am haunted by the family pictures of the Palins during political photo-ops, showing the eldest daughter, now pregnant with her own child, cuddling the family’s newborn."

Sep 9, 2008

Brewer squashes McCain’s false maverick claim


HOWELL -- Michigan Democrat Party Chair Mark Brewer was supposed to talk about the sweeping Reform Michigan Government Now ballot question Tuesday, but a decision by the Michigan Supreme Court to keep it off the ballot put a crimp in that.

“You all probably know by now that the Supreme Court tanked the speech he was going to give,” said retired Livingston County Circuit Court before Judge Daniel Burress, who introduced Brewer. “The court is not going to let Joe six-pack like us vote on it.”

A major topic of discussion was the state Supreme Court race between Cliff Taylor and Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Diane Marie Hathaway. Taylor leads the Republican majority of activist judges known as the “Gang of Four” that has been rated the worst court in the country.

Burress has his own view of the court, and it’s not good. He said he got a sense of the court’s disdain for the common person over a simple slip and fall case when a blind man slipped on ice and injured himself using the restroom. He said it was tossed out of court because the hazard was “preventable and obvious.”

“That’s the type pf ruling the court has used to throw cases out of court,” he said.

The comprehensive RMGN will amend the Michigan Constitution, and it will fundamentally change Michigan government. To name just a few of the many complex changes it will address, it cuts the Supreme Court Justices to five members, from seven, reduces the Court of Appeals by seven members and adds 10 circuit court judges. The House would be cut to 82 members from the current 110 and the Senate to 28 from 38 and half of the Senate seats would be decided at each election. It also cuts pay and benefits of legislators.

“We have some fine state legislators, but they are not sharing the sacrifices everyone else is making,” Brewer said. “It’s about sharing sacrifice.”

A ballot question to have a constitutional convention will automatically be on the ballot in 2010, and Brewer was asked why not wait until then. Brewer said it would take at least five years before any changes were seen, it would be too expensive and too partisan.

“We can’t wait, it’s too expensive, and too partisan,” he said.

Brewer had plenty to day about the McCain/Palin ticket.

“I really have to laugh when John McCain and Sarah Palin claim to be reformers,” he said. “He says he will fight the lobbyists, but he has Washington lobbyists running his campaign. “

He said the two have received massive amounts of money from big oil, and McCain’s claim to be a “maverick” is ridiculous.

“When he first came to Washington he was part of the Keating 5, a major scandal,” he said. “That wasn’t a very good start.”

He said Palin was vetted so badly by the McCain camp that news is breaking daily on her dismal record and questionable ethics. The most recent is she accepted per diem for travel when she worked at home.

“It’s our job to be the truth squad for the next two months,” he said.

Sep 8, 2008

Livingston County favorite sons get by with too much help from their friends


Anyone trying to beat a Rogers in Livingston County has an uphill battle on their hands.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, is running for his fifth term in the U.S. Congress after wining his first term by a less than 1 percent of the vote with a mere 111 votes in 2000 back in the days when the 8th District was actually a competitive swing district. This is the same district than produced Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, and it was her election to the Senate that opened the seat for Rogers. He is again running against Lansing resident Bob Alexander.

After Republican gerrymandering in 2002, Rogers needs little help in keeping the seat, but he is getting plenty of it anyway. So I was a little surprised to see this notice about the Greater Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce’s membership breakfast on Sept. 15. In the middle of election season, it is featuring Mike Rogers.

The blurb says he will present something called "Energy, Economy and Jobs." “Congressman Rogers will delve into his plans to help the United States develop diverse and clean sources of energy with his Energy Independence Plan, lower gas prices and share ways to bring jobs to Michigan.”

I don’t know what else we are going to hear from Rogers, other than drill here drill now. Rogers has been a extremely close alley of oilman George Bush, and anything he says beside drill, drill, drill is just rhetoric from him.

But the most glaring thing for me was: how can they allow him to give basically a campaign stump speech less than two month before the election and not extend the same courtesy to his opponent? This is even advertised on the Livingston County Republican Party’s web site.

I understand his mother was the director of the chamber for many years and the building that houses the chamber offices are named in honor of her, but there are still standards.

We need to call the chamber at (810) 227-5086 and ask for some fairness.

As you know, his older brother, Livingston County Commissioner Bill Rogers, is running for the open seat in the state House for the 66th District against Democrat Donna Anderson.

Last month the hometown Livingston County Press & Argus, long friendly to the Rogers family, did a puff piece on the Rogers family last month. The general manager of the paper has even contributed to Mike Rogers campaign. When supporters of Donna Anderson complained about the piece and not giving equal time, they were told it was not a political piece.

Now, I will agree it was a puff piece in that no tough questions were asked, but to paint it as not a political piece is disingenuous at best. None of the three are new to public office, so you have to question the timing of this article.

Then a quick check of Bill Rogers campaign finance report reveals an interesting tidbit. On July 29 there is an expenditure to the Press & Argus for $2,207 in advertising . Now, there was once a time when the best way to reach voters was through the local newspaper, and if you went through back issues from 15-20 years ago you would see lots of political advertising in the local newspaper. However, that has gone the way of kids on bicycles delivering the local newspaper.

As a support of newspapers and a former print journalist that’s a sad fact, but you cannot deny that readership has fallen off. Newspaper advertising is not the best way to reach voters anymore, unfortunately.

He spent $1,340 on the local radio station, but a mere $180 on the Ann Arbor News weekly product that covers Livingston County with an office in downtown Brighton.

It seems funny that less than a month after spending more than $2,000 with the paper, we get this puff piece.

Just asking.

State Democratic chair in Howell to talk about sweeping RMGN


Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer will be in downtown Howell at 7 p.m. Tuesday to speak about the ballot proposal called “Reform Michigan Government Now.”

He will be at the beautiful and historic Howell Opera House, 123 W. Grand River Ave. The event includes an appetizer and dessert buffet for a suggested donation of $15 per person.

The sweeping RMGN will amend the Michigan Constitution, and it will fundamentally change Michigan government. To name just a few of the many complex changes, it cuts the Supreme Court Justices to five members, from seven, reduces the Court of Appeals by seven members and adds 10 circuit court judges. The House would be cut to 82 members from the current 110 and the Senate to 28 from 38 and half of the Senate seats would be decided at each election.

New reapportionment requirements would be established, including the creation of at least four Senate and nine House swing districts in an attempt to produce more competitive elections; districts would be drawn by a nine-member commission, with six votes required to approve any plan; it would not be subject to change or repeal by voters, the legislative or executive branches and judicial review would be limited. Elections would be overseen by an autonomous nonpartisan.

Some of these things I support without question, like the some the things in the reapportionment process. Others, I am not so sure. But this is what I do know, each proposal should stand on its own and merit’s a separate ballot question and debate. Instead, we will have voters vote on something they do not understand.

This has been pushed by the Democrats, but apparently not all Democrats were aware of it or involved in the complex process. Supporters are using a few simple lines to sell it. According toe the front page of the web site: The Reform Michigan Government Now! proposal will:

“Reduce the salaries of executive branch officials, legislators and judges
End free lifetime health care for lawmakers and bring their retirement benefits in line with other state workers.”

Now, who can be against that? Well, me for one. If you want the best, smartest and most able people to represent you then you have to pay them an attractive salary. But that small blurb sells this complex proposal to people who are still upset over last year’s budget process.

It appears unlikely this will even make it on the ballot. Right-wingers are deadest against it, and they are pulling out all the tricks to stop it. That almost tempts me to vote for it.

It was sent to the Michigan Supreme Court, and that court is so politically biased to the right the proposal will surely lose there. The court would rule on arguments that the Board of State Canvassers should have an opportunity to decide on the ballot language for the proposal before the courts have a say on the issue. One of the arguments opponents of the proposed constitutional amendment is it is too complex to properly boil down to a 100-word summary. If have to agree with that.

The rumor in Lansing is many Democratic lawmakers are upset with the proposal, and they feel they are being hung out to dry and blamed for the some of the problems facing the state.

Now, for full disclosure, I work in a legislative office, but I have always been a strong supporter of representative government. This is not representative government. The rumor is many lawmakers are upset with Brewer, and some chose to skip the state convention on Saturday. Now, I have no idea if that is true or not.

But I was at the convention and I counted a total of 13 state lawmakers out of a total of 75 Democratic state lawmakers. Now, I could have missed a few, and some of the House members in close races took advantage of the beautiful Saturday weather to go door-to-door. But that would still give us a percentage around 20 percent.

I like and have enormous respect for Mr. Brewer, but I don’t understand the reason for this far reaching proposal.

We need a state Constitutional Convention to examine each of these complex issues. Now, as anyone who can tell from reading my blog, I think Republicans are out of touch, irrelevant and bankrupt of ideas. But the fact remains they probably represent more than 40 percent of Michigan residents.

Clearly, they were not at the table when these proposals were drafted. They need to be at the table. Generally, compromise, debate and give-and-take gives us better public policy.

Sep 7, 2008

Hathaway set to unseat the leader of the Republican majority of activist judges known as the ‘Gang of Four’

LANSING -- Democrats at the Michigan Democratic State Convention Saturday demonstrated democracy in action when they chose Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Diane Marie Hathaway as their Supreme Court nominee in a close floor vote.

Hathaway just edged out fellow Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Debra Thomas by some 200 votes, and she earned the right to run against incumbent Cliff Taylor. He leads the Republican majority of activist judges known as the “Gang of Four.” Groups like the Michigan Justice Caucus have made it a major goal to unseat Taylor

“It’s time to make a change on the Supreme Court,” said Sen. Buzz Thomas, the co-chair of the convention. “The future of our children and a free society depends on it.”

Despite the close defeat and the effort Thomas put into the race already, she was quick to endorse Hathaway.

“We both believe in fairness and justice,” she told the convention delegates. “Cliff Taylor has to go.”

Under Taylor’s leadership, the court has gutted consumer protection laws, watered down environmental protection laws and weakened individual rights. The doors of justice have been slammed shut in the face of ordinary citizens and swung wide open for insurance companies and corporations. No individual has won a case against an insurance company in more than a decade.

In May the University of Chicago Law School released a study that rated the Michigan Supreme Court dead last in effectiveness under Taylor’s leadership. The study cited a lack of judicial independence as the report’s most glaring finding, and it said the Court seems to be especially supportive of businesses.

Michigan Lawyers Weekly began an online poll shortly after Hathaway announced her intention to run, and lawyers of all stripes chose Hathaway overwhelmingly 91 to 9 percent.

“He is against everything Michigan stands for, except insurance companies,” Hathaway said. “If you see justice in the name, he really belongs in the hall of shame.”

It’s difficult to unseat an incumbent justice, and it has been estimated the Justice title can be worth up to a 30 percent edge in the vote. Taylor has been on the state Supreme Court since 1997, but he was appointed by Gov. John Engler to fill a vacant seat. He used that title to be elected in 1998.

Hathaway pointed out one of Taylor’s many conflicts of interest. His wife, Lucille Taylor, was Engler's legal counsel. She still does work for Republican Attorney General Mike Cox.

“Cliff Taylor is a walking conflict of interest, and he has got to go,” Hathaway said.

Hathaway grew up in Detroit as the daughter of a 30-year Detroit police officer. She was a Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor for six years, and she has been a circuit court judge since 1993.

Supreme Court races are on the nonpartisan part of the ballot, and many people do not continue on to that part of the ballot., In fact, it’s estimated there is a 37 percent drop off on that part of the ballot.

“You have not voted all the way, until you have voted Hathaway,” she said.

Sep 6, 2008

Party faithful gear up for historic election at MDP convention


LANSING -- Gov. Jennifer Granholm hit the nail on the hard when she questioned the RNC’s convention theme of “A change is going to come” when GOP Presidential nominee John McCain voted with current President George Bush more than 90 percent of the time and has been in Washington for almost three decades.

“We have John McCain out of his own mouth saying he voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time,” she said. “But there he was in Sterling Heights Friday running away from the Republicans.”

Granholm gave a signature fiery speech at the Michigan Democratic Party Convention Saturday at the Lansing Center before an excited crowd.

Granholm said the absence of George Bush, the leader of the Republican Party, and Vice-President Dick Cheney spoke volumes. McCain said he would put the country back on the road to prosperity, but at the same time wholeheartedly supporting Bush’s failed economic policies. He stole Barack Obama’s change theme because he is trying hard not be Velcroed to the failure of Bush.

“People will remember when the country was prosperous a Democrat was in the White House,” she said. “The Republicans are putting on a mask because they are trying to fool the American people.”

Granholm talked about the latest Jobs Report that showed the U.S. jobless rate jumped to a 5-year high at 6.1 percent, and the leading job losses were in the manufacturing sector, automotive and auto suppliers.

“Who gets hit by that, Michigan does,” she said.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero welcomed the Democrats to his city, and he outlined how the failed Bush policies have hurt the Capitol City.

“Cities are under siege,” he said. “Cities are canaries of our economy, and they are hurting.”

Bernero said he didn’t watch much of the RNC convention on TV, but it only took him a few minutes to know it was the same old Republicans rhetoric.

“I watched and listened, and I hear the same old thing; get government out of the way,” he said. “They got government out of the way by deregulating the financial industry that led to the foreclosure crisis. They got government out of the way for criminals by getting rid of police and killing the COPS program.”

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow talked about McCain’s chief economic advisor, the same guy responsible for deregulating the financial industry, who said the recession was a “mental recession” and we are a nation of whiners: former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm.

“Now I ask you: when you lose your job or your wages go down, are you just hallucinating.” Stabenow said. “America is not a nation of whiners, it’s a nation of workers.”

Sen. Carl Levin said the excitement, hope and inspiration generated by Barack Obama’s campaign reminds him of the first political campaign he participated in: President John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. He said reception Obama recently received by one of our best allies, Germany, demonstrated that Obama can repair our tarnished reputation around the world.

“Barack Obama is greeted by 250,000 cheering people: George Bush is greeted by violent protests,” he said. “That told a lot pf people in this country that our reputation can be won back.”

Longtime U.S. Congressman Dale Kildee introduced the Democratic Congressional candidates, including State Sen. Mark Schauer, who is opposing the most extreme member of Congress; Tim Walberg in the 7th District.

“The Club for Growth certainly got what they paid for, but the people of the 7th District did not, “ he said.

Schauer said he has unseated a Republican incumbent before. He highlighted some of Walberg’s more extreme positions, such as saying everyone has healthcare, they just have to walk into an ER; he wants to drill in the Great Lakes; he voted against Head Start and he believes Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks.

“It takes a grassroots effort to win an election,” Schauer said. “That’s how I beat an incumbent Republican who was also out of touch.”

Sep 5, 2008

Join energized Democrats at the state convention Saturday


For those of us in Michigan who did not have the privilege of attending the historic Democratic National Convention in Denver last week, we can soak up some of that energizing and inspiring ambience by attending the Michigan Democratic Party Convention Saturday at the Lansing Center.

Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. Saturday Sept. 6. Shortly after that, the caucuses begin that includes caucuses from the Arab and Chaldean Caucus to the Veteran’s Caucus. I guarantee you will not find a more diverse group, as well as fun and energized, anywhere in Michigan.

All Democrats can attend, but only precinct delegates and MDP Party members who have been a MDP member for at least 30 days can vote for the party's state Supreme Court nominee and state education board member candidates later in the day.

You can join the party there for a mere $20, and there will be plenty of happy smiling faces there to welcome you.

The nominee for Michigan Supreme Court is critical important as we try to unseat insurance shill Cliff Taylor. Taylor leads the group of Republican activist judges known as the “Gang of Four." Since then, no insurance company has lost a case, and they have not lost a case in more than a decade. The gang of four has increased government immunity, stripped consumer rights and denied justice to the regular guy. If you re not an insurance company or a corporation, you will get no justice from Cliff. The leading candidate to unset Cliff are Judge Diane Marie Hathaway and Judge Deborah Thomas.

Candidates for other boards are, for State Board of Education, Board President Kathleen Straus, D-Bloomfield Township, the longest serving board member, and Vice President John Austin, D-Ann Arbor, will also run for another term.

The leading candidates for the University of Michigan board appear to be incumbent Larry Deitch and Denise Illich. Running for the MSU trustee spots are former state Representative and Senator Dianne Byrum, Mike Murphy and Brian Massalla. The candidates for the Wayne State Board of Governors are incumbent Paul Massaron, Jackie Washington and Gary Pollard.

You will also get to hear from some great speakers, and almost every Democratic state office holder and candidate for state office will be on hand. I will be there at the registration desk. Stop by and say hello: I will be the handsome guy - self-described - wearing a patriotic football tie.

The Lansing Center is located at 333 E. Michigan Avenue in downtown right on the beautiful Grand River.

See you there.

Sep 4, 2008

Palin heaps on disgusting personal attacks that lack substance or truth


As the dust settles after the Grand Oil Party's long disgusting rant last night at the Republican National Convention, the facts are beginning to revel their stretching of the truth and outright lies.

Sarah Palin should be renamed Spiro Agnew for her attacks on the corporate media. When you do not have the issues on your side, you attack the media; and doing it for doing their job. Like Grampy McSame's campaign manager says, this election is not about the issues. Again, when you don't have the issues on your side, you attack.

I was shocked, although I should not have been, at the personal attacks and belittling of the Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden. I was also shocked at the way Palin demeaned Community Organizers. They work to help the poor, improve substandard housing and even advocate for the education of special needs children.

Calling her mean spirited seems charitable. I cannot wait for the debate between Palin and Biden. She's very good at reading a speech someone else wrote; after all, that was her brief career in TV "news." I was initially worried that after Biden kicked her butt in the debate, he would be accused of being a bully, but after her disgusting personal attacks last night, that goes out the window and the gloves should be off.

Rudy Giuliani's stand up routine was even more disgusting to watch. The ethically challenged mayor did not spare the lies. His maniacal laugh was also rather disturbing. Man, this guy's ego must be huge. The good news was we only heard the words 9/11 once from him.

The Associated Press has done a little fact checking, and maybe the conservative, corporate media is trying to make up for the poor job they did leading up to the unnecessary Iraq invasion.

Palins's claim that she did away with wasteful spending and championed to end the abuses of earmarks flies in the face of the fact she hired a lobbyist to go after earmarks when she was the mayor of a small Alaska town.

She also falsely claimed Sen. Barack Obama authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform in the Senate, ignoring, of course, his record. She also completely misrepresented his tax policy.

One the most insulting and obvious lies was from former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, claming Palin got "more votes running for mayor of the small town she served than Joe Biden got running for president of the United States."

Palin got 616 votes in the 1996 mayor's election, and got 909 in her 1999 re-election race, for a total of 1,525. Biden dropped out of the race after the Iowa caucuses, but he still got 76,165 votes in 23 states and the District of Columbia where he was on the ballot during the 2008 presidential primaries. I guess he describes to the GOP strategy if you're going to tell a lie, you might as well tell a big one.

The base may have enjoyed the disgusting performance, but I don't think the rest of Americans will appreciate it.

Sep 3, 2008

Palin’s association with a group that hates America is ignored

In what has to be the ultimate double standard, the Republican VP candidate may have been a member of a group that hates America so much it wants to break away from the U.S. Yet, there is no outrage from the Republicans.

Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Barrack Obama was practically crucified by right-wingers for not wearing a flap pin, putting his hand over his heart during the pledge and called unpatriotic and un-American. Where is the outrage over Palin’s disgusting un-American activity?

Palin may have once been a member of the Alaskan Independence Party. The AIP say they want Alaskans to get an opportunity to vote on whether or not they will remain a state, or become a commonwealth, or split off as an independent nation.

According to ABC News, Officials of the AIP said Gov. Palin was once a member, but the McCain campaign -- providing what it says is complete voter registration documentation -- says Palin has been according to official records a lifelong Republican.

Palin's husband Todd was a member of the AIP from October 1995 through July 2002, except for a few months in 2000. He is currently undeclared.

The AIP was founded by Joe Vogler in the 1970s. He has been quoted as saying, “I'm an Alaskan, not an American. I've got no use for America or her damned institutions."

"The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government. And I won't be buried under their damn flag. I'll be buried in Dawson. And when Alaska is an independent nation they can bring my bones home."

Those quotes would make Timothy McVeigh proud.

And Obama is hammered for merely sitting on a board with William Ayers. Could you imagine if Obama had even passed a guy like Vogler in the street? The faux outrage from the right would be deafening.

She is on Youtube welcoming the party to the bustling metropolis of Wasilla where they held their convention. It’s nice to see the conservative media doing its jobs and digging into Palin’s past like it did Obama’s.