Feb 27, 2009

"Music and Meander" at the Capitol is a bust

LANSING -- It might have been called "Music and Meander" or "Mega Bust," but the so-called "Chicago Tea Party" protest by right-wingers on the Capitol steps at noon Friday certainly did little to change anyone's mind.

The protest was based on the over-the-top, unprofessional rant a few weeks ago by CNBC's Rick Santelli on the trading floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to protest President Obama's economic stimulus package, and it did little but illustrate right-wingers are in the minority. The majority of Americans in both parties think a spending stimulus is needed to try and reverse the crisis caused by the Bush Administration policies.

I wasted my lunch hour to hear what they had to say, and all I saw was a maximum – a generous estimation - of no more than 150 people milling about, carrying handmade signs, passing out propaganda and listening to patriotic music. I saw a few of the usual suspects, like Leon Drolet, but not much was going on.

The protest was supposed to last until 1 p.m., but I left after listening to Bruce Springsteen's song "Born in the USA." Just like Ronald Reagan in 1984, these people have no clue what the song is all about. It's like their complete misuse and lack of understanding of what the Boston Tea Parry was for and about.

The song was about the tribulations soldiers experienced in the Vietnam War, and it also protests the hardships Vietnam veterans faced upon their return from the war.

I saw the normal signs with the rightwing talking point about the alleged "socialist Democrats," but even funnier were the ones complaining about the budget deficit. Where were these people when Bush took a budget surplus and turned it into a record budget deficit with tax cuts for the richest 1 percent and spent it on an unnecessary invasion of Iraq. Just think what we could do to rebuild and stimulate our economy with the billions of dollars spent on rebuilding on Iraq and the millions that disappeared because of the lack of oversight and no-bid contracts.

They could have went to the end of the Capitol sidewalk and asked the handful of people protesting the Iraq invasion what they thought. To their credit, they have been there every Friday rain or shine in the two years I have worked in Lansing.

Because my office overlooks the Capitol, I looked out the window at about 12:50, and the "protest" was basically over. If there were any speeches they had to be between 12:30 and 12:50 p.m.

To be fair, it's nice to be with like minded people who think the way you do. I know that's one reason I like political conventions and rallies after so many years of being neutral. The good news is more people agree with the President, and the people on the Capitol steps are a small minority.

The Murphy and Ford comedy duo wow the crowd at fundraising dinner for MPLP

LIVONIA -- Republican political media consultant Mike Murphy and former Tennessee Democratic U.S. Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. charmed and entertained the audience of political standouts Thursday night at the 14th Annual Fundraising Dinner for the Michigan Political Leadership Program (MPLP) at Michigan State University.

Since 1992, the nonpartisan MPLP recruits, trains, and inspires 24 unique leaders from across the state every year to prepare them for effective governance. The unique 10-month weekend program incorporates practical politics, public policy analysis and process, personal leadership development and effective governance. More than 400 MPLP graduates have put the skills and relationships acquired through the program to work in their communities as candidates for office, as government officials or as citizen activists. Some of state’s most effective and dynamic leaders have graduated from the program, such as Ed Clemente, Craig DeRoche, Robert Dean and Ken Cockrel, Jr.

Murphy and Ford shared their views on everything from the state of their respective parties, the past election and the economic stimulus, and they also answered questions from the audience.

Murphy is a native Detroiter, and one of the GOP’s most successful media consultants. He has advised such nationally prominent Republicans as John McCain, Jeb Bush, former Governor John Engler, Tommy Thompson, Spencer Abraham, Christie Whitman, Lamar Alexander, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He now lives in Los Angeles, and he is a regular political commentator for NBC/MSNBC, often appearing with Ford. The conservative Murphy gained even more notoriety during the Presidential campaign when Murphy was recorded making unkind comments about GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin during an NBC appearance unaware that his microphone was still live.

His funny stories and one-liners were a big hit with the crowd, as was his honest but fumy assessment of his party’s current status. He said if the GOP does not modernize and court the growing minority population it will become irrelevant in the future.

“Ronald Regan would have barely won in 1980 with the demographics of today,” he said. We have to modernize.”

Ford served 10 years in the House after being elected to the seat his father held prior to his election when he was just 26 years-old. He is a fiscally conservative, Blue Dog Democrat. He has Michigan ties, graduating from the University of Michigan Law School. In fact, he was in his last semester at Michigan when he ran for Congress. Ford arranged his schedule for his last semester of law school so he would not have Monday or Friday classes, and he would be able to fly to Tennessee for an extended weekend to campaign.

He ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006, and he was nudged out by anti-Michigan and anti-U.S. automotive Republican Bob Corker. Ford was ahead in the polls, but the Tennessee GOP ran a racist ad against Ford that helped Corker pull ahead. The TV ad featured a white woman, played by an actress, talk about meeting Ford, who was unmarried at the time, at "the Playboy party."

Like the majority of Americans, Ford said he was proud of President Obama's victory, and both Murphy and Ford said it reflected well on America.

"If you had told me a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks that a man named Barack Hussein Obama would be elected president in 2008 I would have told them they were nuts," Ford said. "This country has a wonderful way of renewing itself."

Murphy said after years of smug Europeans criticizing this country's race relations, the win was gratifying for him.

"I get to tell the French and European politicians to sit down and shut up," he said.

Murphy said the results of the 2008 election really helped Obama with control of both Houses of Congress and a clear mandate.

"He is coming in with more power than any president in generations," he said.

Murphy said that obviously did not bode well for Republicans. He said Obama has so much power many Republicans have taken the strategy to just vote against him and hope things go bad. He drew big laughs with his analogy of that strategy.

"We're like eunuchs invited to a party at the Playboy mansion," he said. "We sit around and complain, and we offer detailed instructions, but it's not our party."

Murphy said that going into any national election it's important to know the mood of the country. Pollsters try to find out the mood of the country, and they ask people if they think the country is on the right or wrong track. If they say it's on the right track, TV ads are full of images of flags, dogs, kids playing and happy families, and the ads are void of any issues. But he said this campaign showed 85 percent of the voters thought the country was on the wrong track, and they were ready for change.

"This past election had the largest wrong tack numbers ever," he said.

Both men believe the economic stimulus package was necessary, but they have different views of it.

"We had to do a stimulus, but it's a sloppy one," Murphy said. "I also don't see any sacrifice from Democrats and labor leaders, and this thing is just happening too fast."

Ford was upset that some governors are trying to make political points by turning down the unemployment insurance part of the stimulus package.

"If you are doing it to make a political point to further your political career at the expense at people who are hurting the most then shame on you, and I hope you can look yourself in the mirror," he said.

The MPLP is a 10-month curriculum that includes personal leadership development, public policy process and analysis, effective governance and practical politics. Fellows develop personal skills, such as public speaking and team leadership. Bipartisan instructors and presenters from across Michigan representing both the private and public sector teach the rigorous curriculum.

"You can be a fierce partisan, but your political opponent is not your enemy," Murphy said.

Feb 25, 2009

Republicans should bring history book to protest at the Capitol

Apparently, somebody needs to give Republicans and Wall Street traders a history book.

Based on the over-the-top, unprofessional rant a few weeks ago by CNBC's Rick Santelli on the trading floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, something called the "Chicago Tea Party" is set for Friday, Feb. 27 against the economic stimulus package. It's all a little confusing, and it makes little sense. Republicans have no solution to the mess their policies plunged the country into, but they sure are trying to make a lot of noise by saying little.

Apparently, Santelli is under the mistaken belief that President Obama'a Homeowner Stability Initiative – which is not what they are protesting, I think – will give people something for nothing. What it will do is help people who need it and not give him something for nothing. Apparently, he's upset that the plan does not immediately foreclose on everybody and kick them out into the streets, and it supposedly "rewards bad behavior."

Of course, he ignored the greed, risky lending and bad behavior of the financial interests he supposedly reports on, and who actually caused the economic meltdown.

But, here in Michigan they are organizing a "tea party at noon on Friday at the Capitol in Lansing". They are asking people to bring "tea bags, protest signs and American flags." They should also bring a history book to read what the original tea party was all about.

The Boston Tea Party was to protest the Tea Act of 1763, and it was part of the discontent brought about by the Stamp Act of 1765. The Colonists were protesting "Taxation without Representation." This is just one more example of the Republicans not paying attention to the November election. The fact is the American people want the stimulus bill, and they voted for President Obama and his polices. The American people also gave Democrats control of the House and Senate for a reason, and that was to represent them.

They are represented, and somebody should tell then that on Friday.

Feb 24, 2009

CNBC's "House of Cards" set to re-air Wednesday

For anyone who thinks the foreclosure crisis is the fault of former President Jimmy Carter or irresponsible home buyers you need to watch CNBC's "House of Cards" set to re-air at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

The informative report follows the origins of the global economic crisis, with first person accounts from home buyers, mortgage brokers, investment bankers and investors – "most of whom let greed blind them, leading to the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression," according to the synopsis of the documentary.

Anyone who uses the GOP talking point that President Obama's Homeowner Stability Initiative will "pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills" needs to watch this.

In 2008, there were 3.2 million foreclosure filings in the US, according to an estimate from RealtyTrac. That’s an 81 percent increase over 2007, and this is the rhetoric coming from the right?

Capitol Spring Music Program ushers in good weather

LANSING – With temperatures in the single digits it may not seem like spring is around the corner, but in one more sure sign of spring the Capitol Facility Manager's Office just released the schedule of the 2009 Spring Music Program.

This highly popular program brings in school bands and choirs from all over the state to perform at the Capital and Capitol grounds. The program runs from March until May. Everyday at noon, choirs perform at the glass rotunda of the Capitol, and the bands perform on the steps of the Capitol. The bands don't get going until mid-April when the weather improves.

This is a great program because its gives the kids excellent exposure, and people from all over the state come to the capitol. It's also a great way to enjoy a lunch on the Capitol lawn and be entertained.

The program solicits applications from all over the state through their Representative's offices, and Livingston County is well-represented this year with seven performances.

The choir from St. Joseph's Catholic School in Howell will perform on March 31 and April 27 and the St. Joseph Orchestra performs on May 5. The Fowlerville High School Choir will perform on May 11, and the JV Choir will perform on May 19. The Choir from Brighton's Spencer Elementary School performs on May 11, and on May 18 the Choir from Brighton's Hilton Elementary School performs.

Feb 23, 2009

Action at Saturday’s MDP convention was not just on the convention floor

DETROIT -- Not all the action at Saturday’s Michigan Democratic Party Convention in Cobo Hall was on the main convention floor, and there was plenty of action in the numerous caucuses, and even at the after party at the beautifully renovated Detroit Riverside Hotel, formerly the world-famous and historic Hotel Pontchartrain.

For a political junkie like me, conventions are a little like a family reunions. It was an opportunity to see old friends and allies, and to see people I will soon be knocking on doors and making phone calls in support of. It was also nice to see Cobo Hall so busy, and the snow did not keep anybody away. In addition to the convention, the boat show and a cheerleading competition was held at Cobo at the same time.

It was also fun for me to attend with my wife for the first time, a recent convert from the dark side. We really enjoyed a few rides on the People Mover and enjoyed a great lunch in the Renaissance Center.

The day started in the Veterans Caucus where John Freeman, the Michigan State Director of Health Care for America, was working to build political support for passing national health care legislation to give all people affordable health care.

Freeman was chairman of the ballot committee last year that tried to amend the state constitution to require the Legislature to pass laws to ensure that "every Michigan resident has affordable and comprehensive health care coverage.” Freeman said past efforts, like President Clinton’s plan failed plan in 1993, failed because it was a “top-down approach” instead of a grassroots effort.

“We want to change that by putting pressure on from the grassroots,” he said. “Democrats are on board, and we need to go after the moderate Republicans.”

Conventions are also where new candidates like to announce they are running, and Freeman, a term-limited state Representative from Madison Heights, said he plans to challenge front-runner Lt. Gov. John Cherry for the Democratic nomination for the open Governor’s seat in 2010.

Candidates also use the caucuses to speak to different groups. Newly-elected MDP Chair Mark Brewer stopped by to both campaign for the chairmanship and fire up the troops.

“We can’t be complacent in 2010,” he said. “The Republicans are meeting down the road in Lansing plotting for 2010.”

One of the most crowded caucuses was the brand new Progressive Caucus. It included lots of young people and Young Democrats, as well as older activists, even an Aldi Stevenson supporter. MDP officer Steve Pontoni was elected chair of the caucus, and bylaws were adopted. The basic tenants of the caucus are pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-labor and pro-civil rights.

“Certainly we are going to disagree, but it is those values that we are embracing,” Pontoni said.

Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing - who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Attorney General in 2010 - also spoke to the caucus.

“I hate to admit the Republicans are in my district, and I couldn’t wait to get out of town,” she said.

The Republican-controlled Senate has long been a block to meaningful legislation, even when Republications controlled the House, and it’s essential that Democrats get control of the Senate to move decent legislation. Whitmer brought news that Gov. Granholm set a date for the election to replace former Democratic Sen. Mark Schauer‘s, D-Battle Creek, who was elected to congress. The filing deadline is May 12, the primary is Aug. 4, and the General Election is Nov. 3. Reps. Martin Griffin, D-Jackson, and Mike Simpson, D-Liberty Township, have been mentioned as possible candidates.

“This is an important election,” Whitmer said. “It will show if we are still fired up after the Obama landslide, or are we resting on our laurels.
“The Republicans view the Senate as the firewall, and we view it as the last bump to good, progressive legislation,” she said.

The Environmental Caucus saw both accomplishment and plenty good discussion, as plenty of lawmakers showed up, especially House members. After Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, spoke, the caucus unanimously passed a resolution against re-opening the deep-injection hazardous waste well in Romulus.

Rep. Gabe Leland, D-Detroit, was just appointed as the chair of a new House Committee, the Committee on Urban Committee, and he talked about global warming.

“If we don’t take a stab at the global warning issue in the next couple of years we will be in trouble,” he said. “The good news is we picked up nine seats in the House to help us get something accomplished.”

Freshman Rep. Timothy Bledsoe, D-Grosse Pointe, - the first Democrat to be elected from the 1st House District - said the House plans to roll out an ethics package in the next few days that will require lawmakers to disclose their income and bars the revolving door from the Legislature to lobbying.

“We’re only one of three states in the country where you don’t even know where your representative’s money is coming from,” he said. “We are only one of three states; isn’t that crazy?”

In the 8th Congressional District Caucus, Brighton’s Kathy Carney was re-elected as the chair of the district that includes Clinton, Shiawassee, Livingston, Oakland and Ingham counties, as well executive committee members and chairs and executive members of county committees.

Rep. Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, announced she is organizing an Ingham County Young Dems Chapter to compliment the Michigan State University Young Democrats and the Lansing Young Dems.

“We sure don’t want to compete with those groups, but these are the people who knock on doors and do the hard work,” she said.

The Caucus also heard from Wayne State University law Professor Jocelyn Benson, who is planning a run at Secretary of State. She is pushing the commons sense issue of no-reason absentee voting. She was impressive, but she is even more impressive after I looked her up and saw her qualifications. She will make an excellent SOS, and for the first time in many years the campaign finance law will be applied to both parties.

Benson graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College. She subsequently earned her Masters in Sociology as a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, and she received her J.D from Harvard Law School, where she was a general editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. Benson also worked as the Voting Rights Policy Coordinator for the Harvard Civil Rights Project, worked as a summer associate for voting rights and election law for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and she was an investigative journalist for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Feb 21, 2009

Michigan Democrats celebrate John Dingell and huge election victory

DETRIOT -- Michigan Democrats celebrated their decisive victory last November on Saturday in Cobo Hall at the state convention, and they also took the time to honor the longest serving U.S. Congressman in U.S. history.

On Feb. 11, U.S. Rep. John Dingell, Jr., D-Dearborn, became the longest serving Congressman in history. He was first elected on Dec. 13, 1955; succeeding his father, a New Deal Democrat elected to Congress in 1932.

The entire Michigan Congressional delegation was on the stage to at Cobo Hall to honor Dingell.

“With John Dingell, it’s not just the length of his service, it’s the quality of service year after year,” said U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit. “We Michigan Dems are very proud to call John Dingell one of our own.”

Dingell has served with 11 Presidents, and that comes out to a quarter of all Presidents in U.S. history.

“No one will ever break that record, because as each day goes by he breaks the record everyday he serves; he is the record,” said U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Flint. “America is a better place because of John Dingell.”

Dingell is one of the most productive and influential members to ever serve in the U.S. House, and he is extremely passionate about health care. He helped pass the Medicaid Act in 1965, and he is a strong advocate for universal health care.

“We have continually re-elected the dean of the House, and every working day he has led the fight for health care and justice,” Levin said. “Every session he has introduced a bill for universal health care, just like his father before him.

“He hasn’t given up the fight, and we will not give up the fight until every American has health care,” he said.

Carl Levin’s brother, U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Southfield, said the Dingell and Levin family have always been close, and the first candidate he ever campaigned for was John Dingell, Sr.

“John Dingell has never represented special interests, only interests that are special,” he said.

Not only is John Dingell the longest serving Congressman in history, the unanimous election of Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer to his seventh term keeps his record intact as the longest serving Michigan Democratic Chair since the 1950's and the senior Democratic state party chair in the country.

“We are not here just to elect a party chair, we are here to tell the rest of Michigan that help is on the way with the stimulus; we are here to tell the rest of Michigan that Gov. Jennifer Granholm is diversifying the economy,” said Sen. Buzz Thomas, D-Detroit, the chair of the convention. “We are also here to tell those knuckle head southern Senators that the auto industry will survive; we helped build America, and we will continue to build America.”

Brewer told the party faithful that Democrats won so big in November for a reason, and we need to remind them of that in 2010.

“The Republican Party is the party of the past,” Brewer said. “You just need to look at who they elected as their chair; a Bush supporter; so big he made him an ambassador.”

Feb 20, 2009

See you at the MDP Convention

Like many Michigan Democrats, I will be at Cobo Hall in Detroit on Saturday for the Michigan Democratic Party Convention.

For political junkies like me, conventions are a chance to spend a day immersed in politics and see people I campaigned with and for. After the 2008 election, it will also be a celebration and a chance to gear up to take the Michigan Senate back in 2010, keep the governorship and take back the Attorney General’s office and Secretary of State’s office after allowing the Republicans to borrow the traditional Democratic positions for a few years.

The Republicans are also holding their convention at the Lansing Center on both Friday and Saturday. But after their showing in 2008, they are crying in their beer on Michigan Avenue. On Friday their guest speakers were rightwing Republicans radio host Frank Beckmann and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. Apparently, Republicans want Michigan to look like Mississippi.

I’ve been in Mississippi: I’ll pass.

Beckmann, get this, is talking about media bias. If anyone should know about media bias he does, and there is none more biased. He is apparently talking about the Fairness Doctrine He is toeing the Republican Party line that the Fairness Doctrine will stifle right-wingers who have an unfair advantage on talk radio. No one can explain how that will happen, but they are making the ridiculous claim that it is censorship.

The fact is the Fairness Doctrine expands the debate and gives more people a voice, not stifling anyone. Also, the President said he will not enforce it.

I’m also excited because my wife is attending with me for the first time. She came over from the dark side to the light; like many Republicans did in November.

I also hope to see some of my fellow liberal bloggers there. Rumor has it that many will be at the Progressive Caucus.

See you there.

Senate Republicans rev up attack on workers

LANSING – Michigan Senate Republicans continued their anti-worker stance by approving Senate Resolution 16 on Thursday that asked the U.S. Congress to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

The resolution was introduced by Sen. Mark Jansen, R-Gaines Twp., and co-sponsored by Senators Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland and John Pappageorge, R-Troy. The resolution was approved 20-16 along party lines.

Under current U.S. law, if more than 50 percent of employees certify their desire for representation, then a union can choose to form using card check procedures by signing a card and the employer would have to recognize the bargaining unit. However, currently the employer does not have to recognize the card check petition of the majority and can veto the majority and require a secret-ballot vote overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and it does every single time. Under the proposed EFCA, an employer could only challenge a card check petition if fraud or illegal coercion was alleged. Currently, once the workers indicate they want a union, the employer calls for an election, and then the intimidation, threats of closure, threats of firing and actual firing begin.

The rise of unions coincided with the rise of the middle class, and the assault on the middle class has coincided with the attack on unions. Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, said the fall in union membership has contributed to the widening gap between the rich and poor. Basham was a past Employee Support Services Representative for the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 245 and on the bargaining committee for the local.

"As organized labor becomes less and less and people lose health care and a living wage, then again, we get the very rich and the very poor," Basham said. "A lot of countries have a very rich and a very poor population like Mexico, but when you do not allow employees to organize and peacefully assemble and to have a collective voice in a workplace, you are doing a disservice not only to those employees, but also to the middle-income folks as a group in this country."

Republicans have continued to cling to the false talking point that EFCA "does away with the secret ballot." The fact that it's not true has not stopped them from parroting it at every opportunity, and this is something we have seen with all GOP talking points. It's also ironic that now Republicans now care about the sanctity of elections.

"What on earth is Congress thinking when they take away a person’s right to vote," said Sen. Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt. "Elections by a secret ballot allow everybody to have a say in their shop."

The simple fact is that what the EFCA does is put the power of who calls for a secret ballot in the hands of the employee not management. The workers can call for a secret ballot anytime, but the employer cannot do so to use the extra time to intimidate the workers.

Senate Minority Mike Prusi, D- Ishpeming, said he has seen plenty of intimidation on the part of employers. Prusi is a former iron ore miner who has spent plenty of time at the bargaining table. He was elected to three terms as President of Local Union 4950 of the United Steelworkers of America.

"On the question on whether or not there is coercion involved, I have seen much more coercion on the part of the employer than I ever have on the part of an organizing union," Prusi said. "The employers who spend, in some cases, hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars to keep the union from their workplace would be much better served if they were to work with their employees in a collective bargaining arrangement for the betterment of the employees and the betterment of the workplace."

Unions are the most democratic organization in the workplace, and workers elect their leaders and vote for the contract. It is also a bipartisan organization, a fact not lost on Sen. John Gleason, D-Flushing. Gleason was a skilled trade millwright for 30 years and is a member of Millwright's Local 1102 and UAW Local 598.

"A Republican President said it would be foolish; President Eisenhower said, “It would be foolish to not understand what unions have offered our country," Gleason said. "I agree with that Republican President that the unions have offered us a great deal of fairness."

Feb 19, 2009

Expect GOP false attacks on Homeowner Stability Initiative

With the announcement of President Barack Obama’s plan to help millions of homeowners in danger of losing their homes with the $75 billion Homeowner Stability Initiative, we can expect the same kind of debunked Republican lies we saw used against the economic stimulus package.

Despite the lies being debunked numerous times, even Michigan Republicans like U.S. Reps Candice Miller and Mike Rogers continue to use the lies of the high speed rail line between LA and Las Vegas, money for STD prevention, money for ACORN and money for a mouse habitat in San Francisco. We will see some of the same tired, false talking points with the Homeowner Stability Initiative.

My favorite oldie but goodie is that the housing foreclosure crisis is the fault of former President Jimmy Carter. That follows the time-tested GOP strategy of if you're going to tell a lie, it might as well be a big one. That lie goes, that it was the fault of the "Community Reinvestment Act back in 1978 where lending institutions were required to start lending to people that couldn't afford to pay the loans back."

The fact is it simply addressed the practice of "redlining." Redlining is the practice of an insurance company or bank refusing to insure an auto or home based or lend money based solely on the geographic area where the person lives, provides an inferior product based on geography or at a higher price. The Community Reinvestment Act simply required banks to lend money to people previously for that reason, but the people had to be eligible for a loan in all respects.

It was greed, the lack of regulation and the sub-prime mortgages that led to the foreclosure crisis. Anyone doubting that just had to watch the recent CNBC documentary "House of Cards."

The documentary was more chilling and scarier than any horror or slasher movie, and it highlighted the collective folly that brought down Wall Street and cost millions of Americans their homes, jobs and retirement savings.

It showed how former used car and waterbed salesman were now selling mortgages instead of trainer mortgage specialists, and the goal was to get loans to as many people as possible to make money. Veteran mortgage bankers said gone were the days when a borrower had to have two year's worth of tax returns and they went to your jobs to interview you to prove income, and now you just had to "state" your income with no proof on the application.

I know a guy in Livingston County who got a mortgage to buy the lakefront home from his three siblings after their father passed away, and he didn't even have a job. Needless to say, the home their father built with his own hands was foreclosed within a year, despite refinancing at least twice.

Just remember that when the GOP misinformation, talking points and lies begin.

Feb 18, 2009

Basham releases the names of the lawmakers who did not sign the Smokefree Pledge

Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, released the names of the Legislators who signed and who did not sign the Smokefree Pledge to work to pass the workplace smoking ban, including bars and restaurants.

Even though a majority of lawmakers voted for the indoor smoking ban in the last legislative session that ended on Dec. 30, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop sabotaged the Conference Committee process. So far, only 26 of the 148 lawmakers have signed it, but with 46 new Representatives in the House and because session is less than a month old, there is no reason to be disappointed or discouraged.

“Secondhand smoke exposure continues to be a major health risk for patrons and workers alike, and a major strain on state-funded medical care later as people face health issues like asthma, emphysema and cancer,” Basham said. “It’s also good for the economy, as Michigan workers would no longer have to choose between breathing in secondhand smoke and getting a paycheck.”

It was only the public pressure that forced Bishop to allow a vote in the Senate on the ban that passed 25-12 in the Senate last May. It will be that public pressure that gets Senate Bill 114 passed.

“With the overwhelming public support of this issue and the continued findings on the negative impacts of secondhand smoke, we need to make smokefree workplaces a top priority, and I encourage my fellow lawmakers to do so,” Basham said. “People deserve to know why this issue still hasn’t been addressed, and which of their lawmakers are trying to make progress on this.”

Obviously, some lawmakers are on the list simply because of an oversight because many on the list voted for the ban last year.

Those Senators who have not signed the pledge include:
Jason Allen, Bishop, Cameron Brown, Nancy Cassis, Irma Clark-Coleman, Alan Cropsey, Valde Garcia, Tom George, Jud Gilbert, Bill Hardiman, Mark Jansen, Ron Jelinek, Roger Kahn, Wayne Kuipers, Michelle McManus, John Pappageorge, Randy Richardville, Alan Sanborn, Tony Stamas, and Gerald Van Woerkom.

State Representatives who have not signed the pledge include:
Dave Agema, Justin Amash, Kathy Angerer, Vicki Barnett, Doug Bennett, Tim Bledsoe, James Bolger, Darwin Boohee, Lisa Brown, Terry Brown, Pam Byrnes, Dianne Byrum, Brian Calley, Bill Caul, Ed Clemente, Bettie Cook-Scott, Marc Corriveau, Hugh Crawford, George Cushingberry, Kevin Daley, Cindy Denby, Larry DeShazor, Andy Dillon, Marie Donigan, Fred Durhal, Kevin Elsenheimer, John Espinoza, Doug Geiss, Bob Genetski, Lee Gonzales, Kevin Green, Vincent Gregory, Martin Griffin, Jennifer Haase, Gail Haines, Richard Hammel, Geoff Hansen, Harold Haugh, Joseph Haveman, Dave Hildenbrand, Kenneth Horn, Mike Huckleberry, Shanelle Jackson, Bert Johnson, Rick Jones, Robert Jones, Andy Kandrevas, Deb Kennedy, Marty Knollenberg, Eileen Kowall, Kenneth Kurtz, Mike Lahti, Richard LeBlanc, Gabe Leland, LaMar Lemmons, Pete Lund, James Marleau, Jeff Mayes, Gary McDowell, Tom McMillin, Mark Meadows, Arlan Meekhof, Kim Meltzer, Tim Moore, Chuck Moss, David Nathan, Judy Nerat, Paul Opsommer, Phil Pavlov, Tom Pearce, Gino Polidori, John Proos, Sarah Roberts, Tory Rocca, Bill Rogers, Roy Schmidt, Wayne Schmidt, Tonya Schuitmaker, Dan Scripps, Joel Sheltrown, Mike Simpson, Jim Slezak, Dudley Spade, Jim Stamas, Woodrow Stanley, Jon Switalski, Rashida Tlaib, Sharon Tyler, John Walsh, Jimmy Womack, and Coleman Young.

Contact your Senator and Representative and gently ask then to sign the pledge and become a member of the bicameral, bipartisan anti-smoking caucus.

Here’s the simply and short pledge just in case they don’t have it:

I , __________________________________, pledge to support a
comprehensive smoke-free workplace law to protect all Michigan workers.

______________________________________ ____________________________

signature date

Overworked Senate Republicans take the week off, but want state employees to work holidays

If you want to see some irony and gall, you just need to pay some attention to the Senate Republicans.

Just a week after Senate Republicans introduced an anti-worker resolution that would require that state employees either work on President's Day or take the day off as an unpaid holiday, it turns out that the GOP-controlled Senate is taking next week off. No one is quite sure why, and Sen. Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, - who is becoming a thorn in the side of the Republicans - wanted to know why when Republicans are saying the sky is falling they are taking a week off.

“I can’t get an answer why,” Whitmer said on Wednesday. “I have asked a number of members why the Senate would close down, not meet in session. I don’t understand. And per Nero, Rome is burning—if you haven’t been listening.”

The Democratic-controlled House is in session next week, and both the House and Senate take a spring break for two weeks in April. But no one has an explanation for the off week, and Republicans are not talking.

“Now I’ve been told: ‘Well, we really don’t have much to do, ‘” Whitmer said. “I’ve been told: ‘People need more time in their districts.’

“Well, you worked one week last month and two days in December,” she said. “Haven’t you had enough time in your districts? Isn’t it time to spend a little time here in Lansing and complete the state budget or at least get it begun?”

Granted, most lawmakers meet with constituents, work in the district and attend events in the district when not in Lansing, and they keep a full schedule and earn their pay. But there is plenty to do in Lansing. Since the 95th Legislative session began on Jan. 14, Senate sessions have rarely gone more than an hour. In fact, Wednesday’s session lasted just 45 minutes, including the statements or speeches at the end of session.

When you consider how many in the Republicans caucus are running for statewide office, it’s not surprising they are taking the time off. Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, ended the speculation on what office he is running for when he officially announced he is running for Attorney General today. He joins fellow Republicans Senator Bruce “the Bear” Patterson, R-Canton, in running for that office. There is one Republican member running for Governor and two for Secretary of State.

Sen. Bill Hardiman, R-Kentwood, offered a lame explanation for the off-week.

“I don’t plan the schedule and can’t respond to that, but there was an implication that we are not doing enough work; and we are not working when we are not in session,” he said. “Well, I do have to take exception to that.”

Feb 17, 2009

Senate Republicans offered the opportunity to be fair and help the budget shortfall

Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, called out Senate Republicans on Tuesday to put their money where their mouth is and sacrifice and makes some cuts to help make up the $1.5 billon projected budget shortfall.

Last week Sen. Tom George, R-Kalamazoo, introduced an anti-state employee resolution that urged state employees to either work on President's Day or take the day off as an unpaid holiday in light of the budget situation, and Whitmer asked George what he had sacrificed to balance the budget. Today, she gave him and Senate Republicans the opportunity to sacrifice.

She plans on introducing a resolution calling that would mandate that all Senate caucus and member offices, regardless of party, have the same overall compensation and expense levels. This proposal stands to save taxpayers $3 million by eliminating the current disparity in the budgets for Republican and Democratic Senators. Democratic offices would receive the same amount of money as Republicans.

“As we find ourselves facing yet another large budget deficit, we should be looking at every way we can cut costs and verify that taxpayer money is being spent properly,” Whitmer said. “Individual Senate Republican office budgets are almost $100,000 more than those of Senate Democrats. This proposal would take the $3 million that the
Senate Majority currently has in excess of the Minority and put it in the State’s General Fund to help turn our economy around and fund essential state services to help Michigan families.”

Under Senate rules, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop sets the budget allotment for each office, and that includes money for employees, postage, mailings and other expenses. Bishop has chosen to give Republican offices more money and benefit packages for five employees, and Democratic offices have packages for just three employees. Now, an office can also choose to use their budget from another area to hire a part-time hourly employee, but they receive no benefits. Republicans have a 21-16 lead in the Senate, with the seat vacated by Democrat Mark Schauer’s election to Congress still vacant.

When Democrats took control of the House in 2006, Speaker of the House Andy Dillon, D-Redford, gave each office, regardless of party, the same amount of office allotment and two benefit packages. Democrats enjoy a large 67-43 advantage.

Feb 16, 2009

New study says secondhand smoke may raise the risk of dementia

We already know secondhand smoke causes lung cancer, heart attacks, asthma, stroke, inner ear infections and other afflictions, but a new study just released says secondhand smoke may raise the risk of dementia or similar cognitive problems.

Do we need any more evidence to get the indoor smoking ban, including bars and restaurants, approved in Michigan? Study after study has come out on the harmful and deadly effects of secondhand smoke, but a small minority in the Michigan Legislature continues to drag their feet. Second-hand smoke is the single, greatest environmental hazard most people face.

The research was just published last week in the British Medical Journal, and it showed that people exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke faced a 44 percent increase in their risk of cognitive impairment compared with people exposed to low levels. This latest research reinforces earlier research that suggests that secondhand smoke exposure affects children's cognitive development.

Long-time smoking ban advocate Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, picked up where he left off in December with the introduction of Senate Bill 114 last month. Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, introduced the House version, House Bill 4099.

Feb 13, 2009

New RNC Chair wants to forget about the Bush years

Anyone who has seen new RNC Chair Michael Steele's frequent appearances on the Fox "News" channel know how petty, hostile and dishonest he is, so it was no surprise to see the latest email to the party faithful on the American Recovery and Investment Act.

He quotes President Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel as saying "You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what Imean (sic) by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before." I was sure it was taken it out of context, and I was right. It was hard to find the original quote because I had to wade through thousands of rightwing sites to find the correct quote. The rest of the quote is "What used to be long-term problems, be they in the health care area, energy area, education area — things ... that were long-term are now immediate and must be dealt with."

But the most amazing thing is Steele has forgotten about the last eight years. I understand how the GOP wants to forgot about the last eight years. Hell, I don't blame then, and I want to forget about them too. But he forgot how Bush used the national tragedy of 9/11 to justify almost every single policy they wanted to accomplish; from the so-called Patriot Act and torture to an unnecessary war.

He used the deaths of 3,000 people to sell an unnecessary war to the American people that led to the deaths of more than 4,000 U.S. Servicemen and Woman, and no one knows how many Iraqi civilians.

Then we get this lie from Steele, "They have taken advantage of our nation's present economic woes to ram through Congress the biggest spending bill in American history."

He forgot about the Iraq war again, and that is the "biggest spending bill in American history." When all is said and done, it will cost taxpayers more than $3 trillion. Just think what kind of stimulus that would mean to the United States economy if it was spent in the U.S. That's a far cry from the Bush lie that the Iraq oil money will pay for the war.

He then goes on to attack the President for not being bipartisan; saying: "…who talked so much about a new era of bipartisanship and cooperation on the campaign trail, didn't take long to throw that rhetoric out the window to support Nancy Pelosi's liberal spending spree."

The old proverb that "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" applies here. The President has tried to involve the Republicans in the process, but they do not want to be part of the solution. I say fine; if they want to continue to be obstructionists, that's fine with me. The American people saw through that during the last election, and that's why Democrats have the majority.

Update: Steele is carrying on the GOP culture of corruption. He is under investigation by the FBI for making more than $37,000 in improper payments to his sister's defunct company from campaigns funds from his failed 2006 Senate campaign. According to the Washington Post, campaign records indicate that $37,262 was paid to Brown Sugar Unlimited covered catering and Web services, but it came 11 months after his sister had legally dissolved the company. The charges came to light after a once-wealthy GOP fundraiser, who was finance chairman for Steele's Senate run, made the claims last year during plea negotiations with the U.S. attorney's office in Maryland after he was charged with orchestrating multimillion-dollar frauds unrelated to the campaign, according to a confidential court document.

Feb 12, 2009

Why do Senate Republicans hate state workers?

It was poetic justice when Senate Republicans’ disgusting anti-state worker resolution was roundly defeated Thursday.

Sen. Tom George, R-Kalamazoo, introduced Senate Resolution 13 that urges “the Governor to work with the Civil Service Commission to require that state employees either work on President's Day or take the day off as an unpaid holiday.” He then went on some rant that state workers in Indiana work on Presidents Day.

Sen. Liz Brater, D-Ann Arbor, pointed out that Michigan government workers are the only state employees not to get a pay raise last year, and they have made concessions twice to help balance the budget and they are paying more for their health care.

“I believe that the workers of the state of Michigan are an extremely hardworking group of people in the face of years now of downsizing state government, “she said. “The state employees who are left are doubling and tripling their personal efforts to get the job done on behalf of the citizens of the state of Michigan. To balance this budget over and over again on the backs of our hardworking state employees is unfair and quite demoralizing to these workers.”

Michigan has less state employees now than we had in 1973. This smear against state employees comes on the day the Governor introduced her fiscal year 2010 budget that has to make up a $1.5 billon shortfall. That budget includes $28 million in concessions from state employees, and the layoff of 1,500 state employees.

But Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, who represents the district where most of the state workers live, was incensed at the attack on state employees.

“Every year we ask for concessions from our state workers; they are overworked, they are under appreciated,” she said. “I ask the gentleman from Kalamazoo; what concessions have you made in the last eight years?”

Generally, resolutions are approved by a voice vote, but Democrats requested the yeas and nays and voted for a role call vote. Majority Floor Leader Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt, tried to avoid a role call vote by trying to pass it for the day, but once a role call vote is called for, it can’t be passed for the day. The resolution was soundly defeated 30-5.

The anti-worker five voting against state workers were Mike Bishop, R-Rochester; George; Mark Jansen, R-Gaines Township; Tony Stamas, R-Midland; and Nancy Cassis, R-Novi.

It’s so ironic that Republicans will do any thing to get elected, but they hate government and government employees. It’s also ironic that George and others made statements celebrating President Lincoln’s birthday, but it’s not important enough to be a national holiday for workers.

As expected Hune to run for state Senate

Although the 2010 primary election is 18 months away, campaigning has already begun. In fact, it began even before the New Year with about half of the state Senate Republican caucus running for statewide office.

Here in Livingston County, it came as no surprise that Republican Joe Hune announced Wednesday that he is running for the Senate seat in the 22nd District that will be vacated by term-limited Valde Garcia. Hune, one of the youngest state Representatives in Michigan history, was term limited last month after six years in the House. The 22nd Senate District includes the counties of Livingston, Shiawassee and the southern part of Ingham County.

He is already the favorite even before he officially announced, especially after his fellow Livingston County Representative, Chris Ward, basically decided to take the last two years of his term off. Hune has three major assets going for him: He's a really nice guy, he knocks on a lot of doors, he toes the party line and he only missed a couple of votes in six years.

But if you look at his legislative accomplishments, it's as thin as the Republican's ethics manual. Even though his party was in the majority for four of his six years, he doesn't have a lot to show for it.

Hune won his seat in 2002 in the newly created 47th District by a mere two votes in the primary election over a large field of more experienced and better known candidates.

Feb 11, 2009

Urge your state Representative and Senator to sign the pledge to ban smoking in workplaces

The deadline for Michigan’s 148 Legislators to sign the pledge that they will work on the bipartisan smokefree workplace issue has passed, but there is still time to sign it before the results are made public.

Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, has been pushing for enactment of the workplace smoking ban, including bars and restaurants, for the past 10 years, and he is forming a bicameral, bipartisan anti-smoking caucus. He also plans to share information with the public about who signs the pledge, as well as who does not, in an effort to hold the legislature accountable for protecting the health of Michigan workers in the bipartisan effort that has the support of the majority of Michigan residents and lawmakers.

“People have the right to know who is fighting for their well-being and who isn’t,” Basham said. “By implementing a Smokefree Air Caucus, lawmakers can transcend party lines and unite to show their commitment to making Michigan the next smokefree state in the United States.”

Urge your state Representative and Senator to sign the pledge ASAP.

Feb 10, 2009

Unbiased Beckman is keynote speaker at MRP state convention

If you need any more proof of the rigtwing bias of WJR-AM radio commentator Frank Beckmann, just show up at the Michigan Republican Party state convention on Feb. 20 where Beckman is the keynote speaker.

Beckman says he is a conservative, but he also claims he is not a Republican. Right, and I’m not a Democrat. He will feel right at home at the Lansing Center surrounding by his audience.

The program bills his appearance as the “ Opening session with honored guest speakers “ Frank Beckmann, Host of the Frank Beckmann - WJR-AM Radio and The Honorable Haley Barbour - Governor of Mississippi.

Last year readers of Michigan Messenger ranked Beckmann in second place among the most biased reporters, columnists and commentators in Michigan. The rightwing Republican was not happy with the results of that reader survey, but his actions since then just reinforces that ranking and the rightwing slant of WJR.

What’s even funnier is how MRP chair Saul Anuzis, or whatever he is now, describes Beckmann’s appearance on his “blog.”

“We will also have WJR's Frank Beckmann there who will discuss "what media bias?” What media bias? The media bias you display on your radio show.

Wear a white shirt on Wednesday and celebrate the end of the Flint Sit-Down Strike and the creation of the middle class

People all over Michigan and the nation will be wearing white shirts on Wednesday to mark an anniversary of a courageous and historic day that helped create the middle class and raised the standard of living of all U.S. workers.

White Shirt Day celebrates the historic 1937 sit-down strike at General Motor's production complex in Flint that led to the United Auto Workers (UAW) recognition as the sole bargaining agent for GM workers and led to the unionization of the United States automobile industry and helped create the middle class.

The strike began On December 30, 1936 when workers took control and occupied the plant. The workers fought off tear gas and an assault by police to retake the plant, and the parties finally reached agreement on February 11, 1937 that recognized the UAW as the exclusive bargaining representative for GM's employees.

White Shirt Day was first celebrated on Feb. 11, 1948 as a way to honor the men and women who participated in the 1937 sit-down strike. White shirts are worn to work on the anniversary of the end of the strike. This action was intended to send a message to management that "blue collar" workers had earned the right to the same respect as their management counterparts, according to Region 1C of the UAW.

Hoekstra gets a Beadwindow 05

I am officially giving U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, the ranking Republican member on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, a Beadwindow 05 for giving away the location of friendly personnel on an unsecured communications device.

The post over on Michigan Liberal that Hoekstra revealed a secret congressional trip to Iraq on Twitter brought me back to my Navy days where I spent 12 hours a day talking on radio telephones in the darkened Combat Information Center (CIC). A Beadwindow was a brevity code word for pointing out a breach of security on the radio with what is called Essential Elements of Friendly Information (EEFIs).

Eric over at Michigan Lib may remember this because he also worked in CIC, but he did a different job than I did. When I heard about Hoekstra's bonehead move the term Beadwindow popped into my brain immediately. Although it's been some 14 years since I used that term, I was afraid it might be classified; that is until I Googled it.

It's amazing this guy is on the Intelligence Committee. I remember how many hoops I had to jump through to get a Top Secret security clearance. I wonder how hard it was for him to get one, and, more importantly, will he keep it?

Hoekstra's people are, of course, denying it was classified, but when you signal your intended movement to a hot zone before hand, you're asking for trouble, and it's an obvious breach of security. I would consider saying "Heading to Iraq and Afghanistan weds (sic) night" an obvious breach of security.

This guy wants to be the Governor of Michigan?

Feb 9, 2009

If not the Fairness Doctrine then how about some fairness?

If you needed anymore proof of how bankrupt the Republican Party is, you just need to witness the fight over the Fairness Doctrine.

The explosion in right wing talk radio coincided with the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 under Ronald Regan by the Federal Communications Commission. The Fairness Doctrine was formally adopted as an FCC rule in 1949 requiring broadcasters to devote some of their airtime on the public airwaves to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows or editorials, according to Steve Rendall of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).

There has been some talk of bringing the Fairness Doctrine back to correct the imbalance that has 10 hours of conservative talk for every one hour of liberal talk on the air. Actually, the Fairness Doctrine was never formally repealed. The FCC did announce in 1987 that it would no longer enforce certain regulations under the umbrella of the Fairness Doctrine, and a 1989 a circuit court upheld the FCC decision. The Supreme Court, however, has never overruled the cases that authorized the FCC’s enforcement of the Fairness Doctrine.

The talk of bring back the Fairness Doctrine or actually enforcing it has led right-wingers to go berserk, and they have latched onto the false talking point that it’s a violation of free speech, unconstitutional and it contradicts the foundational principle of free speech and First Amendment rights. There is, of course, no explanation of how the Fairness Doctrine would muzzle any rightwing hatemongers.

How about instead of the Fairness Doctrine how about just some basic fairness? When liberal talk radio, which has been around less than a decade, is allowed to compete head-to-head with rightwing talk it does as well or better.

But how is it fair that the five companies that own all of the radio stations in the country have 600 stations with rightwing programming and only 60 with liberal talk? For an example of the unfairness, consider WJR radio. It has 50,000 watts that can blast its signal all over the state. Hell, I picked up Ernie Harwell doing a Tigers game late one night on the Maryland Shore while driving from Virginia to New York.

WJR is located in a blue state in one of the most liberal cities in that blue state, but there is not one progressive voice on that station. Now, they point to Mitch Albom, but I have never heard Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hanity talk about the new Lions coach. How is it fair that right-wingers can compete on a 50,000 watt powerhouse, but you can’t receive the signal from the liberal talk radio on WDTW 1310 in Detroit at all at night and a weak signal during the day?

Apparently, right-wingers are so concerned that they will actually have to compete fairly that rightwing Congressman Mike Pence and Senator Jim DeMint introduced something called the “Broadcaster Freedom Act” that would prevent the FCC from repromulgating the Fairness Doctrine. It’s kind of like Bush’s Healthy Forest Act or Clean Air Act that does the opposite of what its name implies.

The rightwing echo chamber has swung into full gear, and the rightwing, so-called “American Center for Law and Justice” has a form letter you can copy and send to your federal representative.

Although it was written almost four years ago to the day, the article by Steve Rendall is still relevant on why we need the Fairness Doctrine or some basic fairness.

Instead of being in violation of free speech and being unconstitutional, “citizen groups used the Fairness Doctrine as a tool to expand speech and debate. For instance, it prevented stations from allowing only one side to be heard on ballot measures. Over the years, it had been supported by grassroots groups across the political spectrum, including the ACLU, National Rifle Association and the right-wing Accuracy In Media.”

“The necessity for the Fairness Doctrine, according to proponents, arises from the fact that there are many fewer broadcast licenses than people who would like to have them. Unlike publishing, where the tools of the trade are in more or less endless supply, broadcasting licenses are limited by the finite number of available frequencies. Thus, as trustees of a scarce public resource, licensees accept certain public interest obligations in exchange for the exclusive use of limited public airwaves. One such obligation was the Fairness Doctrine.”

What thing that has led to the glut of rightwing radio in places where it makes absolutely no sense, like WJR, is the consolidation of radio stations. There is very little local radio, and the only way you can tell you are listening to a station in Michigan and one in California is by the commercials.

We just saw what consolidation did to Detroit sports station WDFN when it fired the local hosts in favor of syndicated programs.

That’s why we need more Low Power FM radio stations. These stations are authorized for noncommercial educational broadcasting only, and they operate with an effective radiated power of 100 watts with a range of about 3.5 miles.

The two biggest problems in radio are consolidation and an uneven playing field. This needs to be corrected, and I don’t care how it’s accomplished.

Feb 6, 2009

Democratic conventions on tap

The Livingston County Democratic Party is holding its county convention on Saturday, Feb. 7, at party headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600 of the Fonda Place Office Park, in Brighton.

Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. and business begins at 10 a.m. Coffee and bagels will be served. The party will be considering resolutions to propose for the Michigan Democratic Party State Convention on Feb. 21 and the election of delegates to serve on committees for the state convention. Livingston County has been allocated two delegates; a female delegate to the Resolutions Committee and male delegate to the Rules Committee.

The county convention is in preparation for the State Convention will take place on February 21 at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit. Registration begins at 8 a.m. In addition to the wide variety of caucuses and adopting a platform, the convention will also elect a state chair.

Mark Brewer is running unopposed for his eighth two-year term. Unlike the state GOP with constant infighting and the recent election of a new chair, Michigan Democrats have enjoyed steady, professional leadership.

Brewer is the nation's senior Democratic state party chair, and he was first elected in February of 1995. According to subscription only MIRS, During Brewer's tenure, the Democrats have not lost a presidential or U.S. Senate election in Michigan. The party is 43-for-56 in education board elections and 2-for-3 in gubernatorial elections.

See you in Detroit.

Feb 5, 2009

Sanborn channels Nikita Khrushchev

LANSING -- The Russian are Coming; the Russian are coming!

At least Sen. Alan Sanborn, R-Richmond, seems to think so. The extreme rightwing Senator has used the statement portion of the Senate session the last three days to rail against the alleged "creep of socialism" in the country, and addressing his fellow Senators as "comrades." He also used it the last three days to attack the President of the United States, the U.S. Congress and especially Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The time is normally used by the Senators to recognize a special day, event or speak about a pet project issue or bill. Sen. Martha Scott, D- Highland Park, uses the statement section to give an original and impassioned speech on her pet project, insurance reform, every single day, and she always ends it with the cry of "move my bills." A session is not complete until we hear from Sen. Scott.

What they don't do is insult each other, and the deliberative body never addresses a colleague by name, using the phrase "the Gentlemen from Howell" or "the Lady from the Second District." But Sanborn's rant was a little over the top on Thursday, even for him, and he took out his shoe and banged it on the rostrum. I though he might consider throwing it at someone considering how unbalanced the man seems to be.

But, apparently, he thought it was October 1960 and he was Nikita Khrushchev in the UN General Assembly held in New York. His boorish behavior certainly reflects that he was Khrushchev, but Sanborn was on the floor of the Michigan Senate in 2009.

His ridiculous behavior was too much for an exasperated Sen. Gilda Jacobs, D-Huntington Woods, and she appealed for respectful behavior on the floor.

"We have young people here witnessing this unusual and weird behavior," she said. "This whole thing just saddens me that we have to stoop to these theatrics."

Fireworks will follow appointment of new Circuit Court Judge

There will be a new Livingston County Circuit Court Judge in April when Judge Stanley J. Latreille retires after 26-years on the bench. But the real excitement will come over finding his replacement.

In predominantly Republican Livingston County, nonpartisan races are sometimes the most exciting, and voters must judge the candidate on their merits instead of them just having an R after their name. But that has not stopped the county GOP in its quest to do away with non-partisan elections.

The Governor fills judicial vacancies, and Gov. Jennifer Granholm will appoint a candidate to fill Latreille's seat after a candidate review period. The replacement judge will serve until the next election in 2010, and then they will have to run to fill the remainder of Latreille's term that runs through 2012.

We saw how the GOP tried to smear Livingston County District Judge Theresa Brennan as a whacked out troop-hating, pro-abortion liberal after the Governor appointed her to fill the vacant district judge seat. She has had to run for the seat twice after getting the appointment, and she won handily, defeating Jay Drick, a member of the county GOP's executive committee. Brennan has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Latreille's seat.

According to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, Brighton Attorney Mike Hatty has applied for the vacancy. I got to know Hatty when I was a reporter. He is the attorney for rural Deerfield Township, and I did a feature story on him. He is a stand up guy, and he would make an excellent judge.

Latreille will be missed. I met him at a fundraiser, and I covered a few court proceedings he presided over. What I really liked about him is he was once a reporter for the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, and he is an author. He wrote the crime novel "Perjury," and it's a very good read.

Feb 4, 2009

A tale of two churches miles apart

It’s a tale of two churches: one accepting and loving towards all people, and the other intolerant and hateful. These churches are just a few miles apart in Brighton, but they are miles apart in philosophy.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church in downtown Brighton is hosting a weekly coffeehouse-type program catering to the gay community, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. The Faith Action Network, or FAN, will kickoff with a special dinner from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Feb. 20 and on Friday evenings after that. Good for them.

Oceola Township residents Beth and Bob Duman have started up a chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), and the Livingston County chapter plans on meeting monthly for the first time beginning on Feb. 22, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. PFLAG is a national non-profit organization with over 200,000 members and supporters and over 500 affiliates in the United States that promotes the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, their families and friends.

That good news brought out intolerant people like the Rev. Richard Alberta, senior pastor of Cornerstone Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brighton Township. Cornerstone is one of the most conservative mega-churches in Livingston County.

According to the P & A, Alberta said gay and lesbian relationships, even monogamous ones, are unhealthy, and he wants them to help any of their homosexual children to change their sexual orientation. It quoted him as saying: "The most frightening thing is, they themselves have no idea. While they are doing the 'right thing,' they are actually doing the wrong thing," Alberta said. "It is abominable, according to the word of God. They're literally playing with fire."

Livingston County has a history of intolerance, especially toward gays. That intolerance spawned the anti-gay hate group called the LOVE (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) PAC that sprang up in the spring of 2006 in response to a diversity flag hung by the Howell High School Diversity Club they mistakenly claim is a gay pride flag that promotes and endorses homosexuality. The group is has been quiet after its failed attempt at book banning and its failure to get anymore of its candidates on the school board. However, this may flush them out from under their rock.

The Livingston County PFLG group’s meetings will feature guest speakers and allow parents, relatives and friends, or their children, to interact and share stories in confidence. Anyone can join, and I plan on joining. Albert’s hateful comments remind me of the movie staring “Prayers for Bobby” staring Sigourney Weaver and shot right here in Michigan.

The move is about the true story of religious suburban housewife and mother Mary Griffith who struggles to accept her young son Bobby being gay. Her intolerance causes her son to committee suicide, and it leads her to question her faith. She held the same views as Alberta, but she evolves into a leading advocate for the gay community and their families.

St. Paul’s will feature live acoustic music, games, poetry and more. For more details, call (810) 229-2821.

Ruling on Rogers campaign sign says those with money get to make their own laws

In a ruling that had to surprise no one, the Republican Secretary of State has decided not to enforce a campaign law when it benefited a Republican.

You will recall that that Judy Daubenmier, chair of the Livingston County Democratic party, field a complaint in September over a large and prominent campaign sign for U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers on public property owned by the Brighton Area Fire Authority and Genoa Township facing I-96. The sign clearly violates a law that prohibits public property from being used for a political campaign, and it gives the public the impression the municipality is endorsing that candidate. That's exactly what the administrative law judge found, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. However, the examiner also said because the township didn't own the signs somehow the law didn't apply.

The sign belongs to Brighton Republican and attorney Neal D. Nielsen. He is also the fire authority's attorney.

Nielsen donated the land and he was allowed to keep the sign as a stipulation for the donation. The ruling is saying if you have money, the law does not apply to you, or you can make your own law. Normally, one side of the sign has an American flag, and the side facing the highway bears a welcome to Livingston County sign. But, not during campaign season.

I sure hope Judy appeals this.

Feb 3, 2009

Rightwing WJR declines to carry SOS address in favor of State of Oakland County address

I will be watching Governor Granholm's State of the State address on PBS at 7 p.m. tonight, but if you are not fortunate enough to be close to a TV, try listening to it on NPR.

Amazingly, you will not be able to hear it live on Michigan's most powerful and most rightwing radio station, WJR. The great conservative voice of the Great Lakes is unbelievably carrying the state of the county address of Oakland County Executive and Republican gubernatorial candidate Brooks Patterson. Yes, you heard it right: the most powerful radio station in the state is carrying Patterson's speech on airwaves owned by the public instead of the Governor. Unbelievable. If there ever was a reason for the Fairness Doctrine I can think of no better illustration as this outrage as the reason why.

Even funnier is the station's management reason for it? Get this: Patterson had is hand up first.

It never ceases to amaze me that WJR continues to cling to its rightwing lineup despite broadcasting from a state that has been blue since 1992 and located in one of the most Democratic cities in America. Did they not see the result of the last election?

The have all the national hatemongers on the air, like Rush Windbag, Sean Haity, "Dr." Laura and Mark Levine, and the local line-up is also rightwing. Paul W. Smith subs for Windbag on occasion; I can't believe this guy is from my hometown of Monroe. Bill O'Reily wannabe Frank Beckman was voted one of the most biased reporters, columnists and commentators in Michigan.

But I almost fell out of my chair when I read the headline from Detroit News columnist Neal Rubin: "WJR: No vast right-wing conspiracy." He was correct, however, when he said "WJR-AM (760) leans so far to the right it almost topples over."

Really? If there is no conspiracy then why are there no non-rightwing voices on the station? Rubin falsely claims "Liberal equivalents have historically struggled." That’s' because they are not on as many stations as rightwing tools. When they go head-to-head liberal formats do as well or better.

The likes of Ed Schultz, Stephanie Miller, Bill Press, Randi Rhoades and Thom Hartman are very successful, and I will put them up against anyone.

Let's let WJR program director Steve Stewart how insane it is to bump the Governor for the head of just one of Michigan's 83 counties, and while you are at it, also ask him why there is no balance on WJR.

You can call them at (313) 875-4440 or toll free at (800) 859-0957; email them via their web site at http://www.wjr.net/contactus.asp or even snail mail at
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Suite 800
Detroit, MI 48202