Jul 31, 2009

Right-wing whackos plan to crash parade and attack Congressman Dingell

MONROE – It appears an extremist right-wing group called the “Conservative Caucus of Monroe County” is planning to disrupt the Monroe County Fair Parade on Sunday.

This is apparently the whacko group responsible for the fake anti-Obama and anti-Democratic “Tea Parties” here in Monroe. The Grand Marshal of the parade is U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn.

The group is calling its disrespectful and illegal protest “Operation Urgent Fury,” and according to their web site the plan is“to give “Representative John Dingell a reception he won’t forget when he comes to Monroe to participate in the Monroe County Fair Parade.”

John Dingell is the longest serving Congressman in history, serving since 1955, and he is a friend to the working man, the environment and those without a voice in the political process.

At the beginning of every session of Congress since 1955, Congressman Dingell introduces the national health insurance bill, just like his father before him did. He is continuing that fight against right-wing lies and scare tactics that are in full throat today.

We need everyone to come out and support Congressmen Dingell against these extremist nut jobs. The parade starts at 1 p.m., and the Monroe County Democratic Party will meet at the corner of Jones Ave. and S. Monroe St. at 12:30 p.m. to line up for the parade.

See you there.

Misguided recall effort fails

HOWELL – Today is the deadline for the organizers of the illegitimate recall of three members of the Howell Public Schools Board of education to collect 5,000 signatures, and despite assurances since the recall began on July 14 that they were “collecting signatures in droves” and they would have no problem, it fell well short of the goal.

That speaks volumes for the good, common sense of this community. As you may know, there was a misguided effort underway to recall three of the four school board members who voted to fire Superintendent Theodore Gardella after just a year on the job last month. The Livingston County Daily Press and Argus is reporting organizers collected about 30 percent of the 5,000 signatures needed. That is not even close.

The paper also reported that they are not giving up, and they want to get it on the ballot in February when even less people vote in elections. The approved recall language is good for 180 days, but the paper failed to mention that there must be 90 days between the first and last signature. In other words they have until Oct. 14 to collect the remaining 70 percent of the required signatures.

Jones plays ‘stinky’ politics with MSP HQ

LANSING – If anyone had any doubts or needed anymore evidence that the almost complete Michigan State Police headquarters in downtown Lansing is nothing but a campaign issue for Republicans, the Lansing State Journal published a letter from Rep. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, to the House GOP caucus where he told them this can be the issue that wins back the House for Republicans and threatened them if they did vote for it.

You will recall that last month Sen. Cameron Brown, R-Sturgis, and a GOP candidate for Secretary of State, managed to attach an amendment to the state police budget that kills the money for the lease payment on a new MSP HQ, set to be completed in the next couple of months. Despite the project going through all the proper steps and bipartisan approvals, Republicans are using it as a campaign issue and making the false claim that it was political payback from the Governor to one of the developers, Joel Ferguson.

Jones called it an “inside stinky deal” despite the fact that the project was approved on a bi-partisan vote by the Joint Capital Outlay Committee in 2007, as are all state building projects that do not require specific legislation. The lease was then approved by the State Administrative Board. that consists of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, the Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Director of the Department of Transportation. The project also went through the proper public bid process.

Jones claims that the “capitol outlay committee was not told all the facts,” but offers none of the facts that were allegedly absent, or that another opponent, Brown, spoke at the meeting. Everything the Republicans do in Lansing is done for political effect, not to benefit the people of Michigan, and Jones proved that. He outlined a campaign for taking back the House in 2010 using the HQ.

“By Oct. 1 we will cut every service and every program that is state funded. Everyone will be pissed,” he wrote.
“(Rep.) Pete Lund (R-Shelby Township) and (Rep) Paul Opsommer (R-DeWitt) where (sic) right when they said there should not be one republican vote for this thing. Imagine how this vote can be used. Picture a postcard with Granholm, (Rep.) Mike Simpson (D-Jackson), and the MSP building on front. On the back it could say: "They supported lining the pockets of developers with millions of dollars while 100 state troopers got laid off." "They supported wasting your tax dollars with a boondoggle that was not needed," "Throw the crooks out! It's time for a change!"

Stating with Jones.

Never mind that it’s a complete lie, and that has never stopped politicians like Jones, who is term-limited in 2010 and looking for his next political job.

Jones also confirmed all Republicans will use it in 2010. (SOS candidate Brown) “made it part of his statewide campaign (standing up to special interests) and (GOP Oakland County Sheriff Mike) Bouchard is going to make it part of his statewide governor campaign. Bouchard invited me to attend that conference. Senator Kahn simply wanted to tell you that returning senators will use the issue and keep it alive. Reporters like Steve Wilson will not let it die.”

He also threatened his fellow Republicans that did not toe the party line and dared to do the right thing and voted for honoring the contract the state made.
“I wish to warn you that if you vote for the MSP HQ lease, you may (sic) held accountable later,” Jones wrote.

They even plan to use it against Rep. Marty Griffin, D-Jackson, running for the vacant seat in the 19th State Senate District with the primary set for next week. It’s just one more political stunt in that race used by the GOP.
“Mike Nofs is beating the hell out of Marty Griffin with it already in their early senate race,” Jones wrote.

Jones even claims the developer threatened him through a lobbyist, and he made lots of false charges about the developer, saying, “the developer openly brags on the golf course about how he owns Lansing and can get away with anything. I heard today in a coffee shop from a businessman that the developer had said he already pocketed 5 million on the deal.”

What a class act Jones is.

Jul 30, 2009

Anti-Obama “Tea Party” bus tour comes to Brighton

Enough is enough all right, but enough with the fake anti-Democratic and Anti-Obama partisan and misnamed “tea parties”

The Livingston County Republican Party, along with Faux “News” lunatic Glenn Back, is heavily promoting something called the “Tea Party Express” bus tour that will be in Brighton on Sept 8 on its way to Washington, D.C.

This latest farce is sponsored by the “Our Country Deserves Better PAC (OCDB),” and it is billing the latest manifestation of the worn out and misnamed “tea party” theme as a non-partisan protest, claming, “At each stop the tour will highlight some of the worst offenders in Congress who have voted for higher spending, higher taxes, and government intervention in the lives of American families and businesses.” However, this attack will only target Democrats and President Obama.

The PAC was formed in August 2008 by veteran Republican California political consultant Sal Russo and former GOP California Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian. The PAC’s mission is to oppose Obama and the "Democratic Congress." It boasts on its web site that "we must stand up to Barack Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress." The PAC also solicits contributions by stating, "Help us fight the Democratic Congress!"

In 2008, OCDB's sole objective was Obama's defeat. NRR reported on September 26, 2008, that OCDB's website then said "it has one objective: to defeat Obama." It also has ties to the propaganda DVD stuffed in newspapers before the election called “Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West” when it was trying to smear Obama as a secret Muslim terrorist.

The thing that is for certain is we will see plenty of “birthers,” white Supremacists, militia members and secessionists mixed in with the GOP faithful on the Millpond.

Jul 29, 2009

GOP claims government to hire G. Reaper to go visit every American when they reach age 65

The fear-mongering from Republicans on the proposed federal health care reform bill is out of control, and they now have a new talking point: assisted suicide for the elderly.

Republicans are latching on to a provision in the bill that allows an option for elderly patients who want to learn more about living wills, health care proxies and other forms of end-of-life planning to make the outrageous claim that it would mandate end-of-life counseling. Some, like U.S. Rep. Thad “Mad Thad” McCotter, R-Livonia, - known for his inflammatory and false rhetoric against Democrats – is making the ridiculous claim that the government will engage in and encourage assisted suicide.

They are pushing the nutty rumor that when a person reaches Medicare age, they will be visited by a government worker to ask them how they want to die. Unbelievable; health care reform is really a plan to kill old people? It wasn’t clear if the government employee would be required to carry a scythe.

The Rachel Maddow Show aired audio sound bites on some of these outrageous claims by Republicans, and McCotter was featured talking on a rightwing radio show bringing up the specter of Dr. Death, Jack Kevorkian.

Republican members of Congress have actually been pushing this outrageous lie from the House floor. We have heard comparisons to Hitler, Mao and now Dr. Death.

How far will they go to protect record profits for insurance companies? All I know is we haven’t got there yet.

Jul 28, 2009

Rightwing nuts known as the “birthers” go off the deep end

Although nothing will satisfy the rightwing nuts known as the “birthers,” Dr. Chiyome Fukino, the Health Director of the Hawaii State Department of Health, issued another statement on Monday that said President Obama was indeed born in Hawaii and is a U.S. citizen.

He issued a statement before the election in October 2008 that he saw the original birth certificate, and on Monday he did the same thing, according to a story in the Associated Press.

“I ... have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawaii State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen," Fukino said in a brief statement. "I have nothing further to add to this statement or my original statement issued in October 2008 over eight months ago."

In recent weeks the so-called “birthers” have gone even further off the rails, and interest has intensified. One widely circulated YouTube clip of a recent town hall meeting showed a Republican congressman getting booed for saying Obama is a citizen, and one woman flung her birth certificate sealed in a baggie over her head. I have no idea what this is supposed to symbolize.

We saw some of this insanity and veiled racism at the false, so-called “tea parties” on April 15. But the insanity is even going mainstream. Ten Republican members of Congress co-sponsored a bill that would require future presidential candidates to provide a copy of their original birth certificate. Apparently, they are making a huge to-do about the difference between a birth certificate and a “Certificate of Live Birth.”

Factcheck put that no birth certificate myth to rest in August 2008, but it has not slowed down the crazies. Apparently, they believe there is a 47-year conspiracy involving the State of Hawaii, a couple of daily newspapers and the doctor and nurses present at the President’s birth.

But like the AP article says, Congress has moved on. The U.S. House on Monday unanimously by a vote of 388-0 approved a resolution recognizing and celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hawaii becoming the 50th state. A clause was included that reads: "Whereas the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961."

I have no idea why this BS is still going on almost a year after President Obama’s historic victory, I guess some people will never accept an African American President. No one made a big deal out of the fact John McCain was not born in the U.S., and it was only brought up in retaliation because of the charges of Republicans that Obama was not a citizen.

Those of us who live here in Michigan will remember former Gov. George Romney’s brief Presidential run in 1968, even though I was only 10, but not a whole lot of publicity or fuss was raised that he could not be President if elected. He was born to American parents in Colonia Dublán, Galeana, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, and he lived there until his Mormon parents returned to the U.S. when he was five years old.

What’s the difference between Barrack Obama and George Romney? It’s pretty obvious.

Jul 27, 2009

Bitter, party of one

With 28 of the current 37 Michigan State Senators being term-limited in 2010, speculation is high on who will run.

Many people are looking at the 44 State Representatives who were term-limited last January for possible bids, and according to subscription only MIRS, two-thirds of those may run for the Senate. It’s critical that Democrats take control of the Senate because good legislation passed by the House since 2006 has died in the Senate, and the Legislature will redraw the district boundaries in 2011.

The Republicans gerrymandered the district to benefit themselves so badly that more people voted for Democratic Senate candidates in 2006, but the Republicans maintained a 21-17 edge in seats.

MIRS outlined what the 44 former State Representatives are doing and what their future plans are. The response of Livingston County’s two former state Reps are interesting.

Chris Ward, R-Brighton, was a Republican marked for greater things, and he served one of his three terms as the House Majority Floor Leader. His tenure was not a good one, and he cast one intelligent vote that basically ruined his career. He voted with the Democrats in 2007 to raise the state income tax to avoid a brief government. Many people were trying to scrub up his image for another run while ignoring things like having the worst voting record in the House in his last two terms missing more votes than anyone.

Ward, who once served as Brighton Township Clerk, is currently the deputy clerk/register of deeds for Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson, a former state Representative who served a term with Ward and was the failed Republican Lt. Governor candidate with Dick Devos in 2006. As for Ward’s plan to run for the Senate, he said he has "no plans to ever to run for Senate or anything else ever again for that matter."

Sounds a mite bitter.

Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township, is “doing consulting work” and he announced back in February that he is a candidate for the Senate seat in the 22nd District that will be vacated by term-limited Valde Garcia.

The most interesting response came from former Rep. Glenn Steil, R-Grand Rapids. He is “the director of performance improvement for Result Global, a reinvention company in Grand Rapids.” “Asked if he was planning on running for any higher office, Steil asked the reporter for $100 before he granted an interview, reiterating several times that he was serious.”

Jul 24, 2009

Editorial and letter on HPS recall attempt misses the point

The Livingston County Press & Argus has a catchy headline for its editorial blasting those fighting off the illegitimate recall of three members of the Howell Public Schools Board of education – “School board antics mirror 'Spy vs. Spy.'” But, it misses the point of what this illegitimate recall is really about and why the targets of it should be fighting it.

As you know, there is a misguided effort underway to recall three of the four school board members who voted to fire Superintendent Theodore Gardella after just a year on the job last month. Apparently, the organizers and the newspaper are making big deal out of the fact that the spouses of two of the board members targeted in the recall sat in the parking lot of the Baymont Inn on July 9 when the organizational meeting was held.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and they should be dong that. What they should have done was walk in and take a seat. In fact, they should be doing everything legally possible to fight the recall, and although they have not done that, they certainly have done nothing illegal.

Another issue causing some flack are intercepted emails between Jeannine Pratt and retired teacher and former teacher union president Doug Norton where they joke they should “infiltrate” the meeting. The only thing the recall targets are guilty of are a few ill-advised words, like war and infiltration. The fact is they should have been at that meeting.

The editorial makes light of a line by Norton where he says, that he was “bummed we didn’t have someone inside” the meeting. Then he talks about shadowing those who circulate the petitions.
“We can put this down,” he said.

Put this down?


The simple fact is, if the recall effort gets enough signatures and gets on the ballot, the fight is essentially over, and the paper should know that. School board elections traditionally have a low voter turnout, and the turnout for recalls are even less, meaning the people most motivated to vote are those ticked off. Plus, very few people will ever cast a vote to save a politician’s job, and that’s basically what elected officials at all levels are.

Opponents of this power grab need to be shadowing the people collecting signatures to ensure people get both sides of the story and to ensure they are not putting out false info.

The news editor at the P & A needs to do some research and take a look at some back issues of his own newspaper when he talks about the anti-gay hate group known as the “Love” PAC - (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) in the future.

“Some on the Howell board, including Pratt, seem to feel that the recall is an extension of LOVE — the Livingston Organization for Values in Education, a citizens’ group of undetermined size that frequently criticizes the board. Such thinking borders on paranoia, overstates the power of LOVE and disregards those folks who genuinely are angry over the way Gardella was fired.”

There is no doubt they are involved. The “LOVE” group has an extremist rightwing agenda and is very anti-union. The law allowing recalls is perhaps the most abused law on the books, and most recalls are simply a way to circumvent the election process. This one certainly is.

The editor is right when he says “LOVE” is of “undetermined size,” because they are so secretive. It probably only consists of co-founders Vicky Fyke and extreme right-winger Wendy Day, who, unfortunately, also happens to a member of the school board.

Voters soundly rejected them back in 2007 when the two-“LOVE” backed candidate were defeated by, ironically, Edwin Literski and Jeannine Pratt, who are two of the three board members targeted for recall. There may be no conspiracy, but we know a few things about this recall attempt: we have no idea who the “LOVE” members are, the ones who we know are “LOVE” member are pushing hard for it and this is just an attempt to negate the election.

The editorial ends with this tidbit, “In the last two years, this district has built a $70 million high school it can’t afford to run, fired or forced out two superintendents and been embroiled in countless public controversies.”

The fact is, two of three board members targeted were not on the board when that happened, and Day and Fyke were responsible for hounding the last Superintendent out who spent nine years here.

We already know about Day’s extreme anti-teacher and anti-union views, and that is becoming a theme in this recall attempt. In the same edition of the paper that the editorial appeared in, is an anti-union letter from Green Oak Township Republican Beverly Chiasson called “Howell district's woes rooted in past.” In it, the teacher’s union and unions in general are the enemy, and she uses false stereotypes to try and make her point.

She writes, “Why the Howell school district is such a mess:
Howell Public Schools parents are not old enough to remember or know the 40-plus-year history of Michigan public education.”

Perhaps she made a mistake and meant to say what went on in the last 40 years because public education has been around since the 19th century. In fact, The Michigan Education Association (MEA) was founded in 1852 as the Michigan State Teachers Association, becoming the Michigan Education Association in 1926.

But Ms. Chiasson quickly lays the blame at the feet of the union, writing, “When education associations (unions) began, and a school election was coming up, all those interested in running for school board were interviewed by the union leaders. If the candidates gave the right answers, the unions would publicly support them and required all school employees to vote for their choices.”
How is this any different than a political action committee interviewing a candidate and then making an endorsement and making a recommendation to its members, whether it’s the NRA, the chamber of commerce or Right to Life? It’s a legal and accepted practice.

There is no way union leaders can require “all school employees to vote for their choices.” They make a recommendation just like every other PAC and the ballot is secret.

She claims, “After an election, the union leaders would check the records to make sure every employee in the district voted. The good teachers, not wanting to rock the boat, would go along to get along.”

Voter registrations are public record, and what they are doing is what every group does: it’s called get out the vote. I have no idea why a teacher would need to be prodded to vote in an election that will have more of a direct effect on them than the Presidential election.

Then she goes after the left-wing PTA and PTO, saying “the PTAs and PTOs were school-supportive young parents used by the administration as the nucleus for promoting bond issues, millages and school board elections.”

The Parent Teacher Association has been an important part of education since 1897, and it began when two women from Washington, DC decided that the children of America needed a voice. PTO’s are simply unaffiliated PTAs, but the basic mission of both is simply to improve education for the children.

But her real criticism is reserved for the unions.
“Once upon a time, I attended a union ratification meeting long enough to hear comments like (referring to parents), “We’re baby-sitting their kids all day and they can pay for it.” I have never been able to understand the union mentality.”

The first and last sentences are the most telling. It was a union ratification meeting, meaning there is no more democratic group in the workplace than unions. Her last sentence sums up her feelings, “I have never been able to understand the union mentality.” You think?

The letter ends with what the recall is really all about:
“If the recall organizers are successful, they must be prepared to have and work for replacements for a board majority.”

Prepared? Hell, the very reason for the recall is to get a “board majority.”

Jul 23, 2009

GOP rolls out new talking point to fight health care reform

In the fight to save record profits for health insurance providers, defeat the President politically and ignore the more than 47 million Americans without health care, Republicans have come up with a new, slick talking point: The health care “Experiment.”

People are seeing through the talking point that the government will get between the patient and the doctor; especially when insurance companies routinely dictate what tests and treatment the patient can have. The latest false talking point and fear-mongering tactic the Republicans were pushing was the President’s health care reform plan would outlaw all private medical insurance and that the federal government takes over healthcare. That one, although, blatantly false, is gaming some traction.

On Tuesday, health insurance giant United Health Group Inc. reported a second quarter profit of $859 million, a 155 percent increase from the $337 million earned during the same quarter a year ago. That in despite enrollment falling off. While most companies are losing money, the for profit insurance providers are posting record profits. They are spending more than $1.4 million a day to lobby against reform, and they have Republicans fighting against real reform.

RNC Chair Michael Steele used the “experiment” talking point in almost every sentence at a recent speech on health care. The RNC is even launching TV ads using the word experiment. Steele and Republicans, who didn’t even know who provides his health care, has made defeating the President the number one goal above all else.

Granholm announces more than14,900 jobs created and retained in michigan

LANSING – It’s rather quiet in Michigan’s Capitol with most lawmakers attending the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Summit in Philadelphia, but they are getting some good information.

On the heels of a budget proposal by the House Republicans that is nothing more than a PR move they can roll out for next year’s campaign that eliminates state spending on college scholarships, cuts welfare payments and cuts K-12 education funding by $100 per pupil, an economic panel on Wednesday said cutting state spending and pink-slipping employees could make the recession worse.

According to subscription only MIRS, David Wyss of Standard and Poor's, said the country is in the longest recession since the Great Depression. David Cohen of Comcast Corp. said that the recession's pressure on state and local governments means big budget cuts, which can worsen the downturn.

The Bush recession has led to people simply not buying new cars and other large purchases causing huge jobs losses for the auto industry - Michigan’s' largest employer by far - that has caused as huge ripple effect in the state. It is against that back drop of bad news that Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced on Tuesday that the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) is helping seven companies grow in Michigan and is backing one alternative energy brownfield redevelopment project. Combined, the eight projects are expected to create 6,372 new jobs, retain 8,586 jobs and generate over $349.5 million in new investment in the state.

“Our aggressive economic strategy – combined with our competitive business climate and outstanding workforce – continues to generate new corporate investment and new expansion projects in Michigan despite a national recession,” Granholm said. “The projects announced today are the types of projects that will transform our economy and create good-paying jobs for our workers.”

The Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA) board today approved state tax credits to win the following projects for Michigan over competing states and countries:

• Magna Seating – The automotive supplier of complete seat solutions and seat mechanisms plans to invest $18 million in a multi-product facility in Highland Park. The project will create 1,414 new jobs, including 420 directly by the company. The MEDC estimates increased economic activity created by the project will create an additional 994 indirect jobs. Based on the MEDC’s recommendation, the MEGA board today approved a state tax credit valued at $4.5 million over seven years to help convince the company to locate in Michigan. The city of Highland Park is considering abatement valued at $1.5 million in support of the project.

• Attwood Corporation – The marine parts and accessories supplier plans to consolidate the MotorGuide operations based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to its headquarters in Lowell. Both companies are divisions of Mercury Marine. This will be the second business consolidation in as many years for Attwood, with the previous consolidation of its Lancaster, Texas, operations to Lowell after the company received a MEGA credit in July 2008. The company plans to invest $2 million in the project, which will create 92 new jobs, including 51 directly by the company. The MEDC estimates increased economic activity created by the project will create an additional 41 indirect jobs. Based on the MEDC’s recommendation, the MEGA board today approved a state tax credit valued at $483,026 over seven years to help convince the company to expand in Michigan over competing sites in Georgia, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Mexico. The city of Lowell is considering a 12-year abatement to support the project.http://www.attwoodmarine.com/

• AVL Powertrain Engineering Inc. – The powertrain research and development company plans to invest $2.6 million to create a hybrid and alternative fuel development center in Ann Arbor to develop powertrains for electric vehicles. The project will create 76 total jobs, including 40 directly by the company. The MEDC estimates the increased economic activity created by the project will create an additional 36 indirect jobs. Based on the MEDC’s recommendation, the MEGA board today approved a state tax credit valued at $298,559 over five years to encourage the company to expand in Michigan over a competing site in California. The city of Ann Arbor is considering an abatement to support the project. http://www.avl.com/wo/webobsession.servlet.go?app=bcms&page=view&nodeid=400012976

• Molded Materials Inc. – The 40-year-old Michigan company that designs and manufactures tooling and molded composite components for the automotive, life sciences, defense and heavy truck industries plans to invest $2.9 million to consolidate its Plymouth operations to a new facility in Saline. The project is expected to create 69 new jobs, including 29 directly by the company. The MEDC estimates the increased economic activity created by the project could also create an additional 40 indirect jobs. Based on the MEDC’s recommendation, the MEGA board today approved a state tax credit valued at $420,388 over seven years to help convince the company to expand in Michigan over a competing site in Ohio. A tax abatement is also expected from the city of Saline to help this industry grow in Michigan. http://moldedmaterials.com/home.html

• Ventral Ionia – The producer of plastics, metals and mechanical assemblies for the automotive industry plans to invest $42 million to acquire four former Meridian Automotive facilities located in Ionia, Fowlerville and two in Kentwood. The project is expected to retain 3,126 jobs, including 934 directly by the company. The MEDC estimates the increased economic activity created by the project will retain an additional 2,192 indirect jobs. Based on the MEDC’s recommendation, the MEGA board today approved a state tax credit valued at $4.6 million over six years. The cities of Ionia, Fowlerville and Kentwood plan to support the project. http://www.flex-n-gate.com/

• Quicken Loans Inc. – The nation’s largest online lender and fifth largest retail mortgage lender in the United States plans to relocate its headquarters to Detroit, consolidating its executive, management, loan production, title production and administrative functions. The company plans to invest $240 million in the project, which will create 4,019 jobs, including 1,800 directly by the company. The MEDC estimates the increased economic activity created by the project will create an additional 2,219 indirect jobs. The project also is expected to retain 4,967 jobs, including 2,200 directly at the company and an additional 2,767 indirect jobs. Based on the MEDC’s recommendation, the MEGA board today approved a state tax credit valued at $18.1 million over 12 years to help win the project for Michigan over a competing site in Ohio. The MEGA board also approved a $29.1 million retention credit over 12 years to keep jobs in Michigan. The city of Detroit is considering local incentives to support the project. https://www.quickenloans.com/

• Continental Automotive Systems Holding US Inc. – State incentives have been approved to encourage the company to expand operations in Auburn Hills. The proposed $26.9 million project, pending company approval, is expected to create up to 230 new direct jobs. The MEDC estimates the increased economic activity created by the project will create an additional 322 indirect jobs. Based on the MEDC’s recommendation, the MEGA board today approved a 10-year state tax credit valued at $14.1 million to help convince the company to create new jobs in Michigan. In addition, the MEGA board approved a 10-year state tax credit valued at $10.3 million to encourage the company to retain approximately 225 Continental jobs and 268 indirect jobs in Michigan. The city of Auburn Hills is considering an abatement to support the project.http://www.conti-online.com/generator/www/de/en/cas/cas/general/home/index_en.html

• Whitehall Township – State and local tax capture valued at $491,767 will support the redevelopment of the former Muskegon County Whitehall-Montague wastewater treatment plant. The developer will incorporate a number of activities, ranging from agriculture feedstock to cellulosic ethanol production to a recycling center and recreation areas. The energy produced at the site will be used to power the ethanol operations and other facilities on the property. The project will generate $13.3 million in new capital investment and is expected to create up to 150 new jobs.

Jul 22, 2009

Recall group calls fighting back against this intimidation attempt a conspiracy

HOWELL – The group trying to recall three of the four Howell Public School Board members for casting a vote they disagree with is seeing black helicopters and conspiracy theories because the targets of the intimidation tactic are fighting back.

As you know, there is a misguided effort underway to recall three of the four Howell Public School Board members who voted to fire Superintendent Theodore Gardella after just a year on the job last month. Apparently, the recall organizers are up in arms because the spouses of two of the board members targeted in the recall sat in the parking lot of the Baymont Inn on July 9 when the organizational meeting was held, according to a story in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

According to the story, “Members of the group leading the recall effort said they’re worried that their opponents would monitor an organizational meeting and count the number of people showing up. They believe this type of behavior could be the start of more aggressive and possibly illegal activity.” Are they for real? What illegal activity are they talking about? Fighting the false charges?

There was nothing illegal, shady or creepy about it, and they should have gone inside to the meeting. I can only speculate the reason they didn’t go inside was, perhaps, to avoid a confrontation.

Monitoring the recall is a common and accepted tactic, and they should be doing it. You will remember the recall attempt in 2007 when Republicans tried to recall Democrats who voted for the tax increase that kept Michigan’s government up and running. This, like most recalls, is nothing but raw intimidation, and this is also just an attempt to circumvent the election process.

Only the recall of Speaker of the House Andy Dillon was successful, and Leon Drolet and company had to lie and bend the law to get signatures. It made it on the ballot, but was soundly defeated by voters. The other recalls failed to get enough signatures. They fought off the recall by having people “shadow” the people collecting signatures to give the other side of the story and to stop them from telling lies.

There were a few mild confrontations involving dueling video cameras, but that was because Republicans did not like being exposed and challenged. The sane and rational people opposing this recall/intimidation attempt should do the same thing. It’s legal and an accepted tactic.

In a move I have never head of before in 12 years as a reporter covering school boards and local government, the recall group has hired a Lansing-based attorney. It’s unclear who or how he is being paid. He claims, “surveillance is often the first step of more aggressive steps that could be illegal,” and he also he said “their actions and mind-set could evolve into something more serious.” Really; Like what?

The parking lot incident, apparently, came to light because the recall group, allegedly, “intercepted” emails between a board member and Doug Norton, a retired teacher who previously served as president of the Howell teachers’ union. The recall group and extremist rightwing board member Wendy Day are using that as proof of a conspiracy between the rest of the school board members and the teachers’ union.

Day’s anti-union views – as well as her anti-government, anti-teacher and anti-pubic school views – cloud her judgment.

Day, along with her co-conspirator Vicky Fyke, are founding members of the apparently defunct anti-gay hate group known as the LOVE PAC - (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) that embarrassed the community nationally when it tried to ban Pulitzer-Prize winning books.

Day is actively participating in the recall of her colleagues; a rare event, and perhaps the first time that has ever happened The irony is that the board has been criticized in the past for not working together. When this recall fails, how do they expect to work with somebody who pulled this double-cross against them?

It may appear that the “LOVE” group is not dead, and this is their way to circumvent the election, which are what these type of recalls are deigned to do.

“LOVE” went underground following the school board election in May 2007 when voters soundly rejected the two “LOVE: backed candidates in favor of, ironically, two of the three board members being recalled.

Fyke on this very blog wrote, “I look forward to the next election when we will add two more like-minded people to the school board, and get our important changes accomplished.”

She is not waiting for the election, and this is how she plans to get “like-minded people” on the school board.

GOP fear-mongering on health care reform spins out of control

The fear-mongering and lies from the Republicans against the President’s heath care reform proposal are going full-tilt.

The Oakland County Republican Party and extremist rightwing chair David Law are sending out an email that makes the outrageously false claim that it will outlaw all private medical insurance and that the federal government take over healthcare in the U.S. To make sure you get it, the word outlaw is in all caps. Apparently, the GOP didn’t get the results of the last election where the American people said they wanted change, and that change included health care reform and access to health care for the more than 47 million Americans with no access to affordable health care.

The GOP claim is absolutely false, but that has not stopped the rightwing noise machine from pushing that false claim. The real truth is that if you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. The single payer option that I favor may make for profit health insurance providers irrelevant, but that is not in the proposal, unfortunately. What is being proposed is a public option that will increase competition, stop insurance companies from denying coverage for people with so-called existing conditions and lower heath care costs.

The lie is also being pushed that the government will get between the patient and the doctor. That is also false. But the fact is now the insurance provider is getting in between the doctor and the patient. Millions of people have had a situation where a doctor ordered a certain test or treatment, and the insurance company said no, they were not going to cover it. There is a good reason the health insurance provider lobby is spending $1.4 million a day to fight health care reform.

We simply cannot afford not to reform health care. Medical problems caused 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies filed in the U.S. in 2007, according to a study by Harvard researchers, said a story published in Business Week. And in a finding that surprised even the researchers, 78 percent of those filers had medical insurance at the start of their illness, including 60.3 percent who had private coverage.

The obstructionist Republicans have offered zero new or viable proposals to reform the high cost of heat care or a plan to cover the people who have no health care, but they are using the issue to try and take power back.

In fact, taking power back is their only concern in this fight. Screw the 47 million Americans with no access to health care, and that number is rising every day as people lose employer provided health care as they lose jobs or the company drops in order to compete globally with countries that provide universal health care.

Last week, Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina gleefully fired up the troops with this line, "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."

The focus of Republicans is to simply get Obama and snatch power back, not fixing a massive problem. It appears the strategy is to delay it as long as possible so it will lead to its death, and to use the old GOP standby strategy that if you tell a lie often enough people start to believe it.

When the President campaigned for change, he was correct, but it’s the same old stuff from Republicans.

Jul 21, 2009

Country with one of the highest smoking rates in the world goes smokefree: Michigan, continues to delay

Turkey went smoke-free last week with a ban in bars, cafes and restaurants, joining a long line of countries that have seen the light and banned smoking in workplaces, including bars and restaurants.

Turkey has one of the highest smoking rates in the world, and it ranks 10th in the world in tobacco consumption. It’s estimated that up to 48 percent of Turkish men smoke, more than double the rate in the U.S.

Bar and restaurant owners in Turkey made the same baseless claim they are trying to make in the U.S. that a ban will hurt business. There is zero proof of that, and the many places that have banned deadly secondhand smoke bear the fact out that it does not hurt business. Despite the high rate of smoking, a survey carried out by Quirk Global Strategies last month among 600 people projected that 95 percent of Turks are behind the ban.

In the United States, 37 states have a workplace smoking ban. Unfortunately, Michigan is one of the 13 states that do not protect people from the dangers of deadly secondhand smoke.

Turkey joins a long list of countries that have banned smoking in workplaces, including bars and restaurants. Those countries include Argentina, Belgium, China, Croatia, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Malaysia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Scotland, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Uganda, Wales, Uruguay and Zambia

That list does not include Australia, Canada and Germany that allows states and providences to enact individual bans, and the majority has done so.

Call Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and tell him to allow a vote on a bill to ban smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants.

Democratic Gubernatorial hopeful to speak in Livingston County

BRIGHTON – Democratic Gubernatorial hopeful Sen. Alma Wheeler Smith, D-Salem Township, will speak at a potluck dinner at the Livingston County Democratic Party headquarters - 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600, Brighton. – from 5-7 p.m. this Sunday July 26.

Smith is joining front runner Lt. Gov. John Cherry and former state Representative John Freeman in vying for the Democratic nomination for Governor.

Livingston County residents may be familiar with Smith when she served as the President of the South Lyon School Board. She has had a well-rounded career in public service. Smith graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Journalism and did advanced degree work in Political Science and Business Administration. Smith is very familiar with the Legislative process, and she served as legislative coordinator for former Michigan Sen. Lana Pollack and played a significant role in the passage of Michigan's landmark "polluter pay" law.

She has local experience as a cable commissioner, school board trustee and president, Washtenaw County Commissioner and state Senator. In 2002 Alma joined former Congressman David Bonior's campaign for governor as his choice for Lieutenant Governor.

I have been to many of the party’s pot luck functions, and the food is fantastic. Bring a dish to share and meet Rep. Smith.

Call (810) 229-4212 for more information.

Jul 20, 2009

Get your MDP gear at new store

You can now wear some attractive apparel that identifies you with a majority of people in both Michigan and the United States, courtesy of the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP).

The MDP announced its new online store, and you can show your pride at being a Democrat with your own t-shirt, hat, hoodies and tote bags. Every month the store will feature new merchandise, and it asking for your feedback on the design of new items.

Contact the store with your feedback at mdpstore@michigandems.com.

School board member calls a legit function of a union bullying

HOWELL -- School Board member Wendy Day’s hatred of the teacher’s union is clouding her judgment.

As you know, there is a misguided effort underway to recall three of the four Howell Public School Board members who voted to fire Superintendent Theodore Gardella after just a year on the job last month. The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus is reporting that the Howell Education Association that represents the district’s teacher is taking the same position of many people who believe the recall provision should not be used to circumvent the election process and is urging their members not to sign the recall petitions.

In fact, the union sent postcard to its membership recommending they do not sign the petition, and the post cards read "Do not sign a recall petition.” But Day is - get this - objecting to the postcards, calling them "a bullying tactic." How are a post card and a union engaging in what it was formed to do bullying?

Someone needs to explain to her that a recommendation is the exact function of unions and associations, to look after its members. There are hundreds of state associations in Michigan representing almost every business and group under the sun where the members pay dues to have the association lobby for them, make recommendations for them and to look out for them, such as the Michigan Association of School Boards, The Michigan Association of School Administrators or the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

One of the criticisms of the school board is that they are not working together. Here’s the irony of that charge: “Day confirmed Thursday she is actively participating in the recall efforts.” You heard that right; she is not just supporting it, she is “actively participating.” So much for working together.

Does anyone really need any more proof that this is nothing but another attempt by members of the now defunct anti-gay hate group known as the LOVE PAC - (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) to circumvent the election process?

If this were truly a legitimate recall effort then all of the four people who voted to fire Gardella would be recalled. Apparently, under election law if a majority of board members are recalled the local Intermediate School District would appoint the members. But they would still be required to stand for election at the first election.

Recalls should be reserved for people who break the law or are in violation of ethics while in office, not for a vote you disagree with. That’s what elections are for.

Jul 17, 2009

Rally to fight the practice of redlining and the high cost of auto insurance set

LANSING – Planning for a September 30 rally on the Capitol lawn to fight the practice of redlining and the high cost of auto insurance is in full swing, and Sen. Martha G. Scott, D-Highlander Park, is urging everyone upset with the high cost of auto insurance to come to the rally.

Redlining means an insurance company refuses to insure an auto or home based solely on the geographic area where the person lives, provides an inferior product based on geography and other factors or at a higher price. Detroit consumers pay an average of more than $5,000 a year for auto insurance, the highest rate in the nation. But this is not just a Detroit problem. Michigan consumers pay among the highest insurance rates in the nation.

The ridiculous cost has meant that people simply cannot afford auto insurance and forgo it, but they still have to drive to work to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. If they are caught by the police, they face a stiff fine, as well as hefty Driver Responsibility Fees. For people living paycheck to paycheck, this can be financially devastating. The high cost of insurance could be going to food, their mortgage and utilities.

“If we mandate something, we should make if affordable,” Scott said.

Scott has introduced bills for the past five years requiring auto insurance rates be based on the person’s driving record and the type and value of the car they drive. That’s just common sense, but insurance companies are basing rates on zip code, credit history, education level and even job title. Scott sponsored a rally in 2007, and more than 2,000 people from all over the state showed up from as far away as Kalamazoo to voice their displeasure over this practice.

They told horror stories of people driving similar cars with similar driving records but different zip codes paying dramatically different rates. There were even examples of similar people paying different rates because one was a salaried employee and one was an hourly employee.

For the past five years Scott has fought against this practice, but her bills have not even received a single committee hearing. Obviously, the insurance lobby is extremely powerful. She attached an amendment to a bill five years ago that was defeated, and she vowed then that she would get up during every single Senate session day and speak about this shady practice.
“This has been my passion for a long time,” she said. “People in southeast Michigan pay the highest rates in nation, and correcting that has been my mission.”

The House Insurance Committee has been taking testimony on a 12-biil package dealing with penalties for wrongfully denying customer claims. The testimony has been very emotional as people talk about paying their premiums for years, but the insurance company refusing to pay at all or delaying it for years so they can settle for a much lower cost. But the package of bills does not deal with the high cost of auto insurance or redlining.

Insurance companies make the claim that the high rates are justified because of accidents and car theft, but accidents and car theft have declined for the past 15 years. But, predictably, the rates we pay continue to climb.

A study released in 2007 concluded that Michigan auto insurance companies have been piling up big profits and excessive surplus funds, reaching record levels in 2006. The report was authored by Jay Angoff, who served as Missouri's insurance commissioner from 1993-98. He said AAA's – the largest provider in Michigan - profit more than doubled to $104.2 million in 2006 from $50.9 million in 2002.

Get to the rally anyway you can; car pool, charter a bus or use your church bus. You an also write or call Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, as well as your own state Representative and Senator, and ask him to give the bills a hearing.

Jul 16, 2009

Brown tries to rescue SOS campaign with unnecessary bills

LANSING – Sen. Cameron Brown, R-Sturgis, introduced a package of bills Wednesday to address a problem that doesn’t exist and could decrease voter turnout, but more importunately it was a feeble attempt to jump starts his flagging campaign for Michigan Secretary of State.

Legislation usually does not single out one group or individual, but Senate Bills 690-694 targets the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, better known as ACORN. ACORN is nation’s largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people dedicated to building community organizations that are committed to social and economic justice, and ACORN it accomplishes that important mission through negotiation, legislative advocacy and voter participation. “ACORN helps those who have historically been locked out become powerful players in our democratic system.” Hence, they are hated by the Republican Party and a convenient whipping boy and scapegoat for the Republicans.

Brown’s bills law are unnecessary because penalties already exist for turning in fraudulent registration forms. In fact, in 2008 Attorney General Mike Cox brought charges against a single member of ACORN for basically padding his paycheck.

Brown’s bills would prohibit groups conducting voter registration drives from establishing quotas or paying bonuses to employees based on the number of registrations collected. Brown said voters registration forms were turned in around the country for “Mickey Mouse, Jimmy Johns, and the entire starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys.” ACORN provides jobs to people and many state chapters pay them for each registration form turned in.

Brown and the Republicans conveniently ignore the fact that most state laws require the organization to submit all registration forms filled out despite being flagged as fraudulent, and in fact ACORN flagged the forms with the names Brown points out. Plus, Mickey Mouse and Jimmy John never cast a vote in 2008.

Brown and the Senate Republicans need to stop playing politics and playing to the base in order to win the GOP SOS nomination and pass real election reform they are sitting on that was approved in the House, such as no reason absentee voting, early voting, allowing 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote and allowing any clerk to verify the identity of a voter who registers by mail.

Jul 15, 2009

Former Howell HS teacher is one of the authors of new Freedom Writers Foundation book

The former Howell High School English Teacher who touched off a book banning crusade by the defunct anti-gay hate group known as the “LOVE” PAC (Livingston Organization for Values in Education), in the fall of 2006 is one of the authors of the soon-to-be-released book, “The Freedom Writers Diary, The Freedom Writers Diary Teacher's Guide.”

Cathy Capy was using the inspirational book, “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them" by Erin Gruwell in her 10th grade advanced English course when the LOVE group raised a stink about alleged profanity. It launched a censorship campaign that also included a move to ban Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison's first novel, "The Bluest Eye," an acclaimed memoir written by Richard Wright in 1945, "Black Boy " and the classic Kurt Vonnegut novel "Slaughterhouse Five.” It was ultimately unsuccessful and led to the unmasking of what the group was really about, but before the crusade died it led to national embarrassment to the community and even an FBI investigation.

Gruwell’s book highlights her experiences at Wilson High School in Long Beach, Calif. that was plagued with gang and racial violence, and she found herself trying to educate students whom many deemed "unteachable." Gruwell encouraged the students to become critical thinkers by reading such books as "The Diary of Anne Frank." Through poignant student entries and Erin’s narrative text, the book chronicles their “eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and misunderstanding.” Gruwell was portrayed by Academy Award-winning actress Hillary Swank in the movie based on the book..

The experience led to the Freedom Writers Foundation that promotes an educational philosophy that honors diversity in the classroom, and it gives students the opportunity to reach their full potential and aspire to higher education.

Capy, who now teaches at the Muskegon WayPoint Academy, participated in the foundation’s most recent project; the publication of the newest book, “Teaching Hope: Stories from the Freedom Writers Teachers.” The book is a compilation of diary entries, much like the original book that started the foundation.

The book is set to be officially released on August 18 to coincide with the release of “The Freedom Writers Diary: 10th Anniversary Edition,” but the book can be pre-ordered from Amazon.com, and the Foundation will receive a portion of the proceeds.

Capy is spending the summer promoting the book. Capy and her fellow Freedom Writer teachers will be traveling to Washington, D.C. in September to participate in the national book tour and to promote a social justice agenda and encourage Congress to adopt the Freedom Writers methods as part of educational "best practices.” She also plans to hold book signings in Livingston County and in the Grand Haven/Muskegon area where she currently teaches. Capy is trying to line up venues, but a book signing has been scheduled for 5:30-7:00 p.m. on August 19 at Barnes & Noble in Green Oak Township.

“I really appreciate any and all support you can give to this movement, as education is an issue that affects us all,” Capy said.

I can’t wait to get my signed copy.

Jul 14, 2009

Indoor pollution levels in Detroit casinos are eight times higher than outdoor air

Air quality testing (AQT) conducted in Detroit’s three casinos revealed indoor pollution levels that are eight times higher than outdoor air, debunking the claim casino operators made back in March to the House Regulatory Reform Committee that their ventilation systems should earn them an exception to the workplace smoking ban.

The Campaign for Smokefree Air (CSA) sponsored the test that took place on Saturday, April 18, 2009 using Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standards, established to effectively measure air quality for the protection of public health.. The tests measured the amount of tobacco smoke derived fine particle air pollution in each casino. Each location was measured over a 40-minute period. The fine particle indoor air pollution in the MGM, MotorCity and Greektown casinos was 92. The EPA considers air healthy to breath at levels of 15 and below.

“Results from the air quality assessments in each casino reinforce that casinos need to be included n smokefree legislation,” said Katherine Knoll, spokesperson for CSA and senior director of advocacy for the American Heart Association. “Casino workers deserve the same protection as any other employee. These workers are unfortunately exposed to high levels of air pollution on a daily basis in order to earn a paycheck.”

In 2005 and 2006, the air quality in the smoking sections of 90 bars and restaurants measured in eight Michigan cities averaged out to 147.75. The nonsmoking sections of restaurants in Detroit, Kalamazoo and Saginaw averaged out to 50.3, which is still more than three times higher than what the EPA considers healthy at 15.

In May, the House passed House Bill 4377 that would ban smoking in workplaces, including bars and restaurants, with the exception of casino floors and existing cigar bars. The bill was sent to the Senate for consideration, but Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop refuses to allow the Senate to consider the popular bill.

Rightwing blog blacks out the past eight years

How quickly they forget.
President Obama will be in Michigan today to deliver a speech at Macomb Community College's South Campus in Warren where he will unveil a major policy initiative that will help put Michigan’s auto workers back to work.

The President will announce today an initiative to invest $12 billion in community colleges nationwide over the next 10 years. According to the Associated Press, “White House officials say the move will help President Obama achieve his goal of increasing enrollment by 5 million students by 2020, bringing the total to 11 million students.” As Michigan tries to diversify its economy for the first time as the state’s largest employer, the auto industry, has lost market share to the point that two of the Big 3 have suffered bankruptcy during the national recession; community colleges have become a valuable tool.

In 2007, Gov. Granholm launched No Worker Left Behind that will enable workers to acquire the skills necessary to succeed in the fast-changing global economy of the 21st Century that is central to Michigan’s strategy for economic transformation. It provides up to two years of tuition to people who have received a layoff notice. Since it was launched, more than 61,434 displaced workers have entered training through NWLB. President Obama’s initiative will augment that program.

As you can imagine, the President is so popular that the demand for people wanting to see him is tremendous. Tickets to his appearance were given away to MCC students and faculty through a lottery, according to the Detroit News. Now, you can imagine what a relief this would be to Michigan, but the official unofficial Michigan Republican blog is ignoring that and instead focusing on who will attend the rally.

He is pushing the lie that it is a “glorified press conference in front of a sycophantic press corps and select invite-only Democratic Party big-wigs.” Where was he when Bush appearances were only handpicked supporters? Where was he when anyone who may question his appearance was put as far away as possible in a “free speech zone?” I guarantee Bush never held a lottery to give way tickets. The audiences were handpicked.

The Republicans of course, are going to hold a rally complete with signs. I can’t wait to see what kind of racist signs they think of this time.

Jul 13, 2009

ER doctor advocates for universal single payer health care

BRIGHTON -- More than 50 people sacrificed a sunny Saturday morning to jam into the Livingston County Democratic Party’s headquarters for a town hall meeting on health care reform.

With more than 46 million Americans without health care, it is a hot issue. The U.S. Senate is currently debating HR 676 that would establish a universal health insurance program.

“We should leave here with a new resolve, and be able to use the info we glean here,” said Donna Anderson, the vie-chair of the LCDP. “Don’t be afraid to call Senators from other states. Call the White House; President Obama made some promises.”

Unfortunately, the bill is in trouble. Although the majority of Americans favor a single payer, universal system like Medicare, some Republicans are fighting against it, and insurance companies are spending $1.4 million a day on lobbying Congress against it.

“There has been a lot of debate on what the bill should look like,” said Callie Fox, the Mid-Michigan Regional Manager for Sen. Debbie Stabenow. “There has to be a strong public option.”

The cost of health insurance is skyrocketing. Insurance rates have increased 73 percent since 2000, and the annual cost is almost $12,000 a year. People without health coverage fail to treat routine problems, and they grow even more serious, forcing them to Emergency Rooms, driving up the cost of health care even further.

“Health care needs to be a right, not a privilege,” Fox said. “There is always the ER, but that is by far the most expensive option.”

Robert Sisler, President of UAW Retirees Local 6000, had horror stories of people being treated in the ER when a routine check up could have caught a minor ailment and treated it before it became life-threatening.

He also had harsh words for the country’s 1,200 for profit health insurance providers where the number one goal is to avoid paying for anything. The current system is extremely wasteful, and 30 cents of every health care dollar goes toward paperwork, marketing and profit. The rules confuse patients, doctors and administrators.

“You know that when you fight for everything your policy allows, you have spent more time with clerks than the doctor,” Sisler said.

As an emergency physician at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor and president of the Washtenaw County Medical Society, Dr. James C. Mitchiner is on the front line of health care. He has been a long-time advocate for single-payer, universal heath care, and he is distressed over where the debate on HR 676 is headed.

“I am very dismayed that we are moving so fast just to get something done for political compromise,” he said. “That means we will have health care reform in name only.”

Mitchiner said people who believe single payer would never work in the U.S .just need to consider that the most popular health insurance program in the U.S., based on patient surveys, is a single-payer, government-run, tax-financed, administratively lean, non-means-tested, universal access program called Medicare. The program operates with less than 3 percent overhead compared to 15-30 percent by for profit provides.

“As an ER physician, I don’t understand why people lose their health insurance when they lose their job,” Mitchiner said. “You don’t lose your car insurance, life insurance or home insurance.”

Mitchiner debunked some of the myths and Republican talking points on health care, such as the alleged long lines and waits in Canada. Mitchiner said that is a myth, and so is the myth that people from Canada cross the border to gain access to U.S. health care. However, many Americans travel the world to get health care elsewhere. The U.S. is the only advanced country in the world that does not have universal health care. The U.S. is also ranked 37th among all countries in health system performance, according to the World Health Organization.

“The first thing to keep in mind about Canada: get this if you do not get anything else: they only spend a fraction of what we spend on health care,” Mitchiner said. “In my years as a physician I have only seen three Canadians in all that time, and one was in a car accident.”

The U.S. spends about 16 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health care, more than any other industrialized nation in the world. Canada spends about 10 percent. Mitchiner said the waits in Canada are no greater than in the U.S., and the Canadian system is simply under funded.

“Who has a longer wait than in the U.S.,” he said.” We have 46 million Americans waiting for health care. That’s a headline you will not see in Canada.”

He said the talking point that a government bureaucrat will get between a doctor and the patients is simply not true. Anyone who has had to fight an insurance company has had a bureaucrat get between the doctor and patients.

He said single payer is not “socialized medicine” because the doctors are not government employees. He also debunked the myth that single payer will hurt innovation. The fact is most of the medical breakthroughs have occurred in other countries, like heart transplants in South Africa. Plus, 90 percent of the drug research is done with tax dollars at research universities, yet the drug companies get the patent and can charge you outrageous prices for the research we paid for.

“There is absolutely no evidence innovation will be stifled,” he said. “Incredibly, most of the medical research is done with tax dollars.”

As for the cost, Mitchiner said we can’t afford not to go with single payer. He favors a phased in approach so the system is not disrupted. The Government Accountability Office has estimated that administrative savings from a single-payer system would be in excess of $200 billion annually, more than enough to cover those who are presently uninsured. Businesses that provide health care will be relieved of that burden, and they will be able to compete globally.

“We don’t need to spend one dollar more if we just prioritize what we spend on administration,” he said. “You wouldn’t have to tax health care benefits, soda pop or cigarettes.”

Latest tea bagger publicity stunt: graffiti

Only in Livingston County.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus is reporting on a Genoa Township woman who plans to change things by writing anti-government and anti-Obama graffiti on her garage door. I have a better idea: vote.

What is even more amazing is her motivation and her mission. The article claims the rightwing Republican decided to deface her garage because “The final straw occurred when the federal government bailed out insurance giant American International Group Inc. within the past year.” Perhaps someone should tell her AIG received $85 billon and the government received a 79.9 percent stake in the insurer in Sept. 16, 2008. George Bush was the president when that occurred.

She is urging other “tea baggers” to create “a grassroots movement to speak out against the Big Government Spending that our Country's current Administration has made clear it will continue.” Funny how she ignores the then record deficit Bush ran up to rebuild a country he destroyed for no real reason that be conned the country into fighting. She also ignores the Bush recession President Obama is trying to reverse by spending the money in the U.S. instead of in Iraq.

But hey, if a small minority wants to deface their homes with graffiti, be my guest. The good news is they are a small minority.

Jul 10, 2009

Misguided long shot recall effort has some new and old faces

HOWELL -- Move over Vicky Fyke, there’s a new sheriff in town trying to push you out of the spotlight for her 15 minutes of local fame.

District parent Deborah McCormick is leading an effort to recall three of the four Howell Public School Board members who voted to fire Superintendent Theodore Gardella after just a year on the job. She held a meeting at a Howell Township motel Thursday attended by 15-20 people, depending on what media source you read. Basically, she is leading a recall of board members for making a vote she disagreed with, and she’s letting one off the hook. This is a clear abuse of the intent of the recall process, in my opinion.

The recall group is pushing to get the issue on the November ballot, which means organizers need to collect about 5,000 signatures before July 31. They can’t get started until at least July 14 when the clarity hearing is held before the county Elections Commission and the language is approved as clear.

This simply will not get done, and I hope it doesn’t. Basically, if all 20 people collect signatures, they have to collect about 48 signatures a day.

You knew Fyke had to be at the meeting, and she had to be quoted. The article in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus never said if Fyke’s partner, board member Wendy Day, was at the meeting.

Fyke apparently told the paper, "We have to send a message (to the school board) that we're not going to tolerate this. I'm excited because I think we can do it." That would be the first time Fyke and Day managed to get something on their rightwing agenda.

Fyke is the co-founder with Day of the now the defunct anti-gay hate group known as the “LOVE PAC” - (Livingston Organization for Values in Education).The group was first heard from in the spring of 2006 in response to a diversity flag they mistakenly claimed was a gay pride flag that they claimed promotes and endorses homosexuality. In the fall on 2006, Day, Fyke and her group began a book banning crusade that ended with an embarrassing FBI investigation and national embarrassment.

Jul 9, 2009

MLBA rewards Sanborn for betrayal

It’s hard to find the proper words to describe my reaction when I opened the latest edition of The Michigan Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA) monthly trade magazine and read that rightwing Sen. Alan Sanborn, R-Richmond, was named The MLBA’s 2009 Legislator of the Year. A few words that came to mind immediately were disgust, shock, betrayal, double cross and payback to name just a few.

The MLBA has been a harsh critic of the workplace smoking ban; going to the point of using debunked studies and ones financed by the tobacco industry to make the false claim that the ban will cost jobs. That is simply not true, and reliable, independent studies from the data from the 37 other states and entire countries that already have the ban debunked their lie.

But, according to the article, Lance Binoniemi, executive director, of the MLBA, said “He is also a strong advocate against the proposed smoking ban which the MLBA is currently fighting.” The word I think of here is payback.

On the smoking ban, Sanborn is quoted as saying; “This is an example of government telling business what to do. As part of the free market system, people can choose whether to go where smoking is permitted or to a non-smoking hospitality business.”

Someone should ask Sanborn does that mean the employees who really need the job can go elsewhere, too. The fact is, government tells businesses what do all the time, and it's actually their job to do so. It is about the state protecting the public's health just as it does with regulations about how restaurants store, handle and prepare food. We don't leave it up to businesses to decide if they will require their employees to wash their hands before preparing customers food, what temperatures they should maintain their food at, or what procedures should be taken when handling food. We require certain regulations be followed to protect the health of the public. It is no different with secondhand smoke.

If Sanborn doesn’t like the workplace smoking ban, then he should vote against the bill – like he did – and live with how the majority of Senators voted. He didn’t do that.

You will recall that last year both the House and the Senate approved a workplace smoking ban, but each body passed a different version. That happens all the time in the Legislature, and what happens is the leader of each body appoints three people from each body to a conference committee, and the six-person committee then meets to iron out a compromise to present that compromise to their full body for an up or down vote.

In other words, the majority is telling you to find a way to get done what the majority wants. The problem is Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop is against the ban, and instead of doing what the majority wants, he sabotaged the process. He assigned two staunch opponents to the committee: Sanborn and Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt.

We should have know what the result would be when we saw who Bishop assigned, and the conference committee never even came up with a compromise to present to the full Legislature. That’s because they did not bargain in good faith, and the bill died despite the majority voting for it.

Cropsey admitted four months later that he refused to negotiate or bargain, and we just saw Sanborn’s payoff. It would be interesting to see how much cash Cropsey, Sanborn and Bishop got from the MLBA PAC.

Jul 8, 2009

All-GOP Board of Commissioners pushing back against Senate Republican unnecessary budget cuts

HOWELL – The rest of the state is finally catching on to the deep, draconian and unnecessary budget cuts Senate Republicans made just before they broke for the two-week summer vacation.

The Senate passed House Bill 4436 that sets the Department of Community Health (DCH) budget on June 24 with only Republican votes. The cuts included some $500 million in general fund cuts as well as $18 million in cuts from the Healthy Michigan Fund. This budget also includes an eight percent cut to Medicaid providers, as well as cuts to community mental health and school health programs. All of the programs save tax money in the long run.

Senate Democrats offered numerous amendments to restore much of the funding that was in the House version, but they all failed along party lines.

Apparently, the all-Republican Livingston County Board of Commissioners is pushing back, and on Monday they passed a resolution with a 7-2 vote opposing the Senate passed version of HB 4436. The bill would consolidate the state's 46 community mental health boards into 18, and the resolution calls that action illegal under the Michigan Mental Health Code.

Mac Miller, Executive Director of Community Mental Health Services of Livingston County, told the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus for a story published Wednesday that if the Senate version passes, his department will have to "kick people out" who are currently receiving services.

Miller told the newspaper that it would mean that the fastest growing county in the state would have to merge with another county, likely Washtenaw, and they “would control how Livingston County money is spent or distributed. The department provides emergency services, assessment, health and medication services, client services management, individual and group therapy and several other services to the community. It serves 1,500-2,000 clients annually.”

Livingston County’s state Congressional delegation were at Monday’s Board of Commissioners meeting to defend their votes. Sen. Valde Garcia, R-Howell, who voted for the Senate version, tried to defend the cuts by saying cuts had to be made somewhere, ignoring the fact that the House version accomplished that. He also claimed “the state is focused on creating more "efficient" government.”

Veterans Commissioner Jack LaBelle dismissed that claim, saying bigger is not always better.

Apparently, Senate Republicans are gearing up for the 2010 campaign, and the decision to deny help to thousands of mentally ill residents was simply so Senate Republicans can claim they cut spending when they are on the campaign trail.

Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, who voted against the House version, confirmed that, telling the newspaper, it was "good old-fashioned gamesmanship," then criticized the House for passing a bill that added "eight or nine" new programs that will be almost exclusively funded on stimulus money, which will dry up next year. However, he ignores the fact that the House version actually deleted 14 programs.

This is not, however, the final vote on the DCH budget. Because the House and Senate have not agreed on the same funding provisions this bill will be referred to a conference committee where the differences between the House- and Senate-passed versions will be resolved.

Jul 7, 2009

Smokefree restaurants are thriving

LANSING -- With the Senate back next week from its two week summer break, it’s hoped they will take up the workplace smoking ban that has overwhelming support of Michigan residents.

The Lansing State Journal has a story on the Lansing area restaurants that have gone smoke-free, and they blow away opponents of the ban pushing the lie that a ban will hurt business and cost jobs. Apparently, study after study that proves the other 37 states that have a smoking ban have not been hurt is not enough for opponents. They insist on unsupported observations to support their false premise, so the LSJ offers some individual observations that prove it does not hurt business.

Only one owner, according to the LSJ, said that he was seeing a reduction in his business, and he had only tried it a month. He felt that the economy was a factor in that result. He said he did it for his employees and was sticking with his decision.

The most important aspect of the workplace smoking ban is to protect the health of workers, who have a 50 percent higher rate of cancer than non-hospitality workers. This is a public health issue, but opponents are throwing every argument they can think of to try and defeat it.

The owner of DeLuca's in Lansing said she felt it was "wonderful" for business, and there are more people coming in since December.

Town hall meeting on health care reform on tap

With 1.3 million Michiganders without basic health care, the health care has become a hot issue.

The model for delivering health care coverage in this country has been through the employers for at least the last 50 years, but as more people lose jobs, employees are making more jobs part-time and many are dropping it all together in a vain effort to compete with Third World countries, we are facing a crisis. President Obama is trying to reform health care, but he is running up against private insures who will do just about anything to keep their monopoly.

The Washington Post is reporting that they are spending more than $1.4 million a day on lobbying Congress. That’s $1.4 million a day.

The Livingston County Democratic Party is sponsoring a special town hall meeting on the latest on what Congress is planning for health care reform at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, July 11 at party headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600, Brighton, located on the north side of Grand River, one-third mile east of U.S. 23.

All members of the community are invited to participate, regardless of their political affiliation or lack thereof. A representative of Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, will be present to discuss what type of public health care option she is prepared to support. Dr. James Mitchiner, of Physicians for a National Health Program, will talk about the reforms doctors would like to see. Robert Sisler, President of UAW Retirees Local 6000, will address how health care reform will affect retirees.