Nov 30, 2009

Come out and celebrate with the party party on Saturday

Come out this Saturday and party with the party party as the Livingston County Democratic Party celebrates the holiday season with their annual potluck dinner.

The party is set for 4 p.m. Saturday Dec. 5 at the party headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600 of the Fonda Place Office Park, Brighton 48116. All are invited. Simply bring a dish to share and a donation of cash or food for Gleaners Community Food Bank or cash for the Salvation Army Adopt-a-Family program. The party will provide table service, coffee, tea and lemonade.

Speaking from personal experience, Livingston County Democrats can really cook, and the food is fantastic. If great food, helping your community and great conversation were not enough to get you to come out, State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, will be the special guest.

Whitmer became the first Democratic candidate to announce she is running for Michigan Attorney General. She has gained a reputation and record of standing up for the consumers and the vulnerable, and she has also been a sharp critic of Senate Republicans.

I hope to see you there. Call (810) 229-4212 for more information.

Reasons for holding terrorist trial in secret continue to be debunked

It continues to amaze me that Republicans are making a political issue of holding the 9/11 terrorist attack trial in the federal justice system in New York City where the crime and the most loss of life occurred.

It simply makes no sense. The racist tea baggers are even getting involved. A couple of groups calling themselves the “Tea Party 365” and the “9/11 Never Forget Coalition” recently held a protest against it. The tea baggers are a group that hates and mistrusts the government, yet it wants the trial to be held behind closed doors and conducted by the government. That simply makes no sense.

One group that suffered a tremendous, personal loss in the 9/11 attacks wants the trial held in the U.S. courts because they want answers and want to attend the trial. The group is known as the “Jersey Girls,” a group of New Jersey widows who lost their husbands in 9/11. This group wants answers, and they want it held in open court. These women were instrumental in pushing for the creation of the September 11 commission, a bipartisan body that produced a comprehensive report on the attacks, their planning and geopolitical context. Former President Bush fought that tooth and nail.

Every issue raised by Republicans for not doing the right thing has been debunked, but they still cling to this issue. It makes you wonder what they are afraid of coming out. Perhaps they don’t want the extent that Bush authorized the torture of suspects to come out.

That simply will not happen. Of course some may come out from the suspects themselves, but the judge in the case, Judge Kaplan, issued an order that said information about "enhanced interrogation techniques that were applied" to Mr. Ghailani, "including descriptions of the techniques as applied, the duration, frequency, sequencing, and limitations of those techniques” would not he admissible.

In fact, he was very careful to ensure no classified material would be released. The Southern District of New York where the trial will be held has held such trials in the past, and officials know what they are doing.

The trial will be governed by the “Classified Information Procedures Act,” The 1980 law is simple and clear, and it not only permits, but requires, federal courts to undertake extreme measures to ensure the concealment of classified information, even including concealment from the defendant himself. Section 3 provides: "Upon motion of the United States, the court shall issue an order to protect against the disclosure of any classified information disclosed by the United States to any defendant in any criminal case in a district court of the United States." Section 9 required the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to consult with the Attorney General and Defense Secretary to develop rules to carry out the Act's requirements,

To meet that requirement, Judge Kaplan has imposed a protective order on all classified information, which may be reviewed by the defense lawyers only in a special "secure area," a room whose location has not been disclosed. It goes without saying that all attorneys in the case have security clearances.

One of the most important aspects is how the defendants in the trial are viewed. In a criminal trial they are treated like the common criminals they are, and they do not like that. In a military trial they can call themselves soldiers in a fight for freedom who were martyred.

In a trial in the U.S. system, they are given a fair trial in the most open society in the world that stand for justice and fairness, and when they are convicted, they will be treated like the convicted murders they are, not as military heroes or freedom fighters.

Nov 27, 2009

Mark Oglesby's senior government class raised the bar for civic education

Howell High School students from teacher Mark Oglesby's senior government class again won the "We the People" 8th Congressional District Competition over Mason High School to again advance to the state competition in January held in Lansing.

We the People is a nationwide program developed by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Civic Education. The group’s s mission is to foster the development of informed, responsible citizen participation in civic life. The actual program is based on materials developed by the center, and the program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

The competition is fairly simple, but the knowledge the students demonstrate is impressive. Students are divided into teams of three to six students, and the teams demonstrate their knowledge of various areas of the U.S. Constitution before three judges made up of community leaders from the community and across the state in a format that resembles a Congressional hearing. They are then graded on a variety of areas, such as knowledge, reasoning, presentation and participation.

The team finished third in the state last year as it has for the past four years. I have been lucky enough to be a judge in the past, and the knowledge these students demonstrate is impressive. I make sure I do some serous studying before I act as a judge.

Just today I happened to tune into WILS and some rightwing tool was talking about a survey and students could not even say how many justices there are on the U.S. Supreme Court. Right-wingers are trying to make the claim that public school - or “government schools” - are “dumbing down” students, and they point to an alleged poll in Oklahoma.

The host claimed - get this - that the government schools are “dumbing down” the students so they will not ask questions. This guy should take in the state competition for We the People if he believes that.

Apparently, a rightwing think tank called the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) recently commissioned a poll of 1,000 Oklahoma high school students. The poll asked 10 relatively basic political knowledge questions that were drawn from the U.S. Citizenship Test.

The claim is that only 2.8 percent of Oklahoma's high school students passed the test. When you see how easy the test is, you will see why people are questioning the results. Apparently, only 23 percent knew George Washington was the first U.S. President.

Clearly, civic education in the U.S. is lacking, but I question the results of that survey.

I would pit Mark Oglesby's senior government class against any school in the country; public or private. Congratulations to the students at HHS, and good luck in January.

Nov 25, 2009

Help with dealing with the rare obnoxious rightwing relative on Thanksgiving

Families all across the nation will sit down this Thanksgiving to a feast of turkey and pumpkin pie and to watch the Lions beat Green Bay, and we visit with family members we only see on holidays.

Although they are becoming scarcer, you may find a rare relative or friend who is still a Republican, spouting off the latest misinformation, hate and outrageous lies they have picked up from listening to the likes of Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or – God forbid – Michael Savage. There is an antidote to that hate. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is offering a free survival kit to shut them down and get back to the cranberry sauce and the Lions.

The DCC is the official campaign arm of the Democrats in the U.S. House, and they are offering the DCCC “Thanksgiving Cheat Sheet” that offers a few basic and quick answers to shut them down.

Enjoy that turkey.

Selection of Hamburg clerk does not pass the smell test

Long-time Speaker of the U.S. House Tip O'Neill coined the phrase “All politics is local,” and it has been my experience as a former community journalist that the more local the office, the more petty and quarrelsome it can be. Hamburg Township is a perfect example.

The most populace township in Livingston County has been a target rich environment for the reporter assigned to that beat, and the latest controversy is that the all-Republican board just appointed the Republican candidate for township clerk as the interim clerk, thereby making him the incumbent. Incumbents usually have a leg up in any election because people will often choose the status quo when they are unsure of the candidates.

Clearly the fix is in, and it’s not hard to understand why there is so much strife and controversy surrounding this board.

But to understand this situation you have to go back to the 2008 election. In township government there are three officers – the clerk, the supervisor and treated and four trustees. All of the incumbent officers were unseated in the August primary. Apparently, long-time clerk Joanna Hardesty was simply not going to accept that decision by voters, and she launched an unsuccessful write in campaign for the November General election.

New Clerk Matt Skiba had just taken office when a recall was launched against him by the very people running Hardesty’s campaign. It seems like he was not given much of a chance, and they even refused to allow him to appoint his own deputy and when he did the township board refused to pay him a salary.

After gaining enough signatures to get it on the ballot, voters recalled Skiba in the election earlier this month. An attempted recall of the new treasurer failed to get enough signatures to get on the ballot.

The township board then voted to hire retired auto executive Allen Carlson as the interim clerk on Nov. 6. Carlson said he had no desire to run for the clerk position when the special election is held on Feb. 23 to fill the remaining almost three years of Skiba’s term. Why not let him serve the less than three months before the election?

At the same time, because this is a special election because of a recall, there is no primary election to fill the partisan office, and the two political parties came up with their candidate in their own way before the Nov. 19 deadline. Independents had until today to file to run. The Democrats chose long-time resident Annette Koeble and the Republicans chose Jim Neilson, who is – get this – the treasurer of the campaign to recall Skiba.

However, on Nov. 20 at a special meeting held in the daytime, the board interviewed Koeble, Neilson and Patricia Hughes. The all Republican board then unanimously chose Neilson, the Republican nominee. It actually appears the GOP nomination came after the township board chose him.

But today brought more news. Neilson chose Hughes, also a Republican, as his deputy clerk, and she has already been sworn in.

This situation simply does not pass the smell test. Koeble is clearly more qualified.

Koeble has been attending township board members for the last couple of years, and she is very familiar with the issues. She served as a member of the Hamburg Township 2009 Focus group which put together the successful police and recreation millage proposals approved by voters in November.

"Throughout my career, I have tried to focus on being a member of a team. I consider myself to be a good listener, someone who is able to trouble shoot problems, and most importantly, to get the job done in a timely manner. I possess excellent organizational skills and I know how to prioritize and manage multiple tasks," she said on the Livingston County Democratic Party’s blog, Living Blue.

Koeble has been office administrator with Turner Electric Service Inc. of Dexter since 1985, where she has been responsible for accounting, payroll, personnel files, billing, liaison with banks and bonding companies, insurance matters and financial analysis.

From 1976 to 1985, Koeble held positions as office manager, estimator, and billing clerk for companies in the construction field. She also taught secondary school in the Jackson area from 1972-1974.

Koeble has a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Michigan University. She has been married to her husband, Bob Koeble, for 24 years and has lived in Hamburg Township since 1982.

But here’s the qualification that apparently disqualified Koeble despite her excellent record: She has served as treasurer of the Livingston County Democratic Party since 2007.

Nov 24, 2009

Vote for the top liberal talk show host of 2009

Like you, I love listening to liberal talk radio, when I can find it, but who are the best liberal talkers? The blog LTR: The Alternative Media Resource, is again running its annual contest to pick the top 10 liberal talk radio hosts.

The contest is pretty simple. Just go to the blog, and pick your top 10 from the list provided. The polls are open now until midnight on Christmas Eve. The results will be announced on the blog on January 1, 2010. So vote today.

Last year’s winner was Mike Malloy, followed very closely by Air America host Sam Seder and –one of my favorites – Thom Hartmann. In the early voting MSNBC and Air America host Rachel Maddow has an early big lead at 63 percent. She finished fifth last year. My favorite, Stephanie Miller, finished fourth last year, but is in sixth to date with a respectable 25 percent of the vote.

If nothing else, you will discover a great blog that does an excellent job of covering liberal talk, and it has links so you can listen to a wide variety of liberal and progressive hosts. Unfortunately, that’s the only way many of us can find quality talk radio.

Here in Michigan we live in a state that has been blue since 1992, but for some unknown reason there is only one station in mid- and Southeast Michigan that carries liberal and progressive talk on a regular basis.

We already know conservative hatemongers enjoy an unfair monopoly on talk radio, thanks, primarily, to media consolidation that has five mega companies owning almost off the 257 talk radio stations in the country. There are 10 hours of conservative talk for every one hour liberal talk. That’s not only unacceptable, but it makes no sense.

Nov 23, 2009

Another ethically challenged GOP Gubernatorial candidate

The Citizen’s watchdog group Progress Michigan sent a letter last week to the U.S. Attorney for eastern Michigan calling for the U.S. Justice Department to conduct an independent investigation of allegations that Attorney General Mike Cox and the Detroit police may have obstructed an investigation linked to former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and the 2003 murder of a Detroit stripper.

“It’s time to clear the air and have, at last, an outside, uncompromised investigation into the events leading up to and surrounding the death of Tamara Greene,” said David Holtz, executive director of Progress Michigan, in a press release. “These longstanding allegations are more than just “gum on the shoe” of Mike Cox, they’re a black eye on a state that can ill afford it.”

The Michigan State Police detectives involved in the investigation said in a deposition last month in the wrongful death civil lawsuit that they believed the DPD was destroying evidence in the case. But one investigator’s testimony also said because of actions by Cox, they were powerless to stop them. They also claimed Cox met with Kilpatrick privately off the record, and that he refused to allow the detective to interview the mayor’s wife.

Cox, a Republican candidate for Michigan governor, has told every news outlet he can that the long rumored party at the Detroit Manoogian Mansion never happened and the detectives are lying. However, he has never gone on record. That will change Dec. 11 when Cox will give a deposition in the federal lawsuit against the City of Detroit brought by Greene’s family.

However, that deposition will be sealed. Cox made the grandstand ploy of asking the judge that his deposition be made in public and his deposition unsealed. But he, as an attorney, knew the answer before he asked, or he would not have asked.

“The common-sense solution here is to have an outside organization take charge of the investigation,” . Holtz said. “With corruption being one of the Justice Department’s top investigative priorities, it seems U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg is the right man for the job.”

Cox has a history of problems with honesty, and he also has a history of only coming clean when busted. In 2005 he called a press conference to tell the state that he cheated on his wife. But it was a preemptive move because he falsely accused high profile Oakland County lawyer Geoffrey Fieger of blackmail, and he believed Fieger would rat him out.

In 2007 Cox tried to build a personal gym in his office at taxpayer expense, but he had to back off only when he got caught.

Progress Michigan’s mission is to provide a strong credible voice that holds public officials and government accountable, assists in the promotion of progressive ideas and uses state-of-the-art web based new media to creatively build grassroots support for progressive ideas.

Nov 22, 2009

Republicans question the integrity of the U.S. justice system

I am accustomed to Republicans rooting against the country just so they can regain control of something they say they hate, but I’m a little surprised at their reaction over holding the trial for the accused mastermind of the September 11 attacks in New York City.

It amazes me they have such little respect for the U.S. Justice system. The 9/11 victims were civilians and the attack occurred on U.S. soil. I can’t think of a single valid reason the trail should not be held where the heinous crime occurred. We should not give up our ideals and liberty just for some false sense of security.

We have the most open and free society in the world and no terrorist should change that, and if they do, then they win.

The claim is that the trial will make NYC a terrorist target, putting residents at risk, and that they cannot handle the security for the trial. That is simply not true. NYC will always be an attractive target for terrorists, and the NYC PD has one of the best intelligence operations in the country.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, there have been nine terrorism plots busted s in NYC, and the plotters arrested.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the NYPD is fully prepared for that trial, as well as the numerous other trials of terrorist suspects.

"We've handled high profile events, certainly high profile trials in the past, and we'll be able to do it," Kelly said.

The trial will be held in the Southern District of New York, and they have been very successful in prosecuting terrorist suspects. The staff of the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York has become very good at prosecuting terror cases over the years, and the U.S. Marshals Service Special Operations Group (SOG) has gained much experience providing security for those trials.

It was in the Southern District of New York in 1995 that Omar Abdel Rahman, AKA the Blind Sheikh, was tried for the so-called Landmarks Plot of 1993 and received a life sentence. In 1996, Abdel Basit (aka Ramzi Yousef) and two co-conspirators were also tried in the Southern District and sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the Bojinka Plot, which also included an indictment for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The attackers behind the 1998 attacks against the U.S. embassies were also prosecuted in the Southern District of New York and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Not only that, but the World Trade Center was located in the Southern District of New York.

The motto of a ship I once served on was “If freedom were easy, we wouldn’t be here.” That saying applies to this situation. The U.S. stands for liberty, freedom and justice, and no terrorist should make us back off of that or they have won. We must stand up for our commitment to law, order and justice to the world, and reaffirm that commitment for ourselves. No terrorists will change our way of life, or change our commitment to fairness and justice.

Freedom isn’t easy.

Real protector of traditional marriage wants to bar divorce

California’s Proposition 8 - misnamed the California Marriage Protection Act - took rights away from committed gay couples that the rest of us enjoy by putting discrimination into the state Constitution with this line, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

I’m at a loss as to how gays marrying is a threat to my marriage or anyone else’s marriage, or how denying a group of people a basic right “protects’ an institution with a 50 percent failure rate.

It’s funny when you look at the marriage tracks record of some of the conservative Republicans pushing so-called “traditional marriage” like Newt Gingrich with his three marriages and infidelity, or Michigan attorney General Mike Cox and his stellar record. Even Livingston County’s Legislative delegation has a less than stellar marriage record, and these people are telling us about protecting marriage?

The height of hypocrisy was Senators Larry Craig and David Vitter co-sponsoring the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution, known as the so-called “Marriage Protection Amendment” last year that denies gay couples the right that every other American enjoys, the right to marry.

The best way to protect marriage is to stop divorce, and that has led John Marcotte to take California Prop 8 a step further. He has filed a ballot initiative called "The California Marriage Protection Act." The initiative bars divorce, saying, “No party to any marriage shall be restored to the state of an unmarried person during the lifetime of the other party unless the marriage is void or voidable, as set forth in Part 2 of Division 6 of the Family.”

Now, that will protect marriage, so Republicans should be lining up to support it. In fact, Marcotte said he’s confident Proposition 8 supporters will rally behind the California Marriage Protection Act. He has established a web site with the slogan, “Till death do us part. You’re not dead yet.”

This should take off when the people who bankrolled Prop 8 start anteing up; that is if they really want to protect traditional marriage.

Nov 21, 2009

Historic health care reform bill moves forward

Good news Saturday night when the U.S. Senate voted 60-39 to allow debate on the historic health care legislation.

The majority of Americans want health care reform -since President Roosevelt, Teddy that is, yet every single Republican voted to block debate. They didn’t necessarily vote against the bill itself, they voted against even debating the bill. All the Democrats and independents did the right thing and stood up for the American people, and Republicans, again, stood up for rich insurance company CEOs.

Lie after Republican lie has been debunked, and it continued tonight. Amazing; they all voted against even debating the bill. I say, fine; then you don’t get to debate the bill.

After all, they have not offered any real plan of their own, and all they can do is say no and block real reform. All they want is the status quo.

Nov 20, 2009

Economic policy not focused on creating jobs

Detroit Free Press columnist Brian Dickerson hit the nail on the head with his column on Thursday when he said politicians’ Jobs, Jobs, Jobs mantra is just a campaign slogan for many.

It’s good news that the University of Michigan’s Research Seminar In Quantitative Economic said Thursday that the national economic recession that began at the close of 2007 ended sometime this summer, but with the high unemployment and so many people hurting, it really has not ended. In fact, they said country will endure a recovery that only slowly produces new jobs.

In his column, Dickerson interviews Professor Richard Block, the former director of Michigan State University's School of Labor and Industrial Relations and a professor there. Block makes the argument that “job creation hasn't been the focus of economic policy in this country for more than half a century -- and still isn't.”

Block went on to say, “what economic policy makers are really focused on is maximizing profits. Most are confident that higher profits will eventually yield enough jobs to put the vast majority of Americans back to work. But Block sees no reason to share such confidence as long as corporate managers, political leaders and ordinary Americans continue to view employment as a business cost, rather than a source of income vital to any sustained recovery.”

"Our economic policy is all about reducing the cost of doing business -- reducing taxes, minimizing regulations and other constraints on employers," Dickerson quotes Block as saying.

Block has some common sense suggestions for job growth, but I’m sure Republicans’ heads exploded at this suggestion: “the United States could do three things most of its European allies have been doing for decades.” If that preamble didn’t cause Republicans to dismiss him and his views, the actual suggestions surely will.

• Increase severance pay requirements for laid-off workers, making it harder for employers to slash payrolls.

That’s the first, and most times only, thing employers look at to cut costs. It's certainly not CEO compensation for the people responsible for running the company into the ground that gets cut. It makes we wonder when they get rid of these employees, who then has the money to buy the product they produce that makes the economy grow? The fact is the auto workers are the most loyal customers and buy the cars they produce.

• Require that any major economic policy initiative acquire the support of institutions authorized to represent the interests of both employers and workers, as Britain and other European manufacturing states experiencing profound dislocations like Michigan's have done.

• Strengthen the collective bargaining system, so that workers' political power is concentrated.

If the head’s of Republicans had not already exploded from the European reference, this surely will. Republicans hate unions and working people.

Nov 19, 2009

Republicans open another fly by night office in Livingston County

The Livingston County Republicans opened another temporary campaign office, but like the other previous offices under various names, this one will be soon be gone, too.

The name they are using this time is, of course, an oxymoron: “The Livingston Fix Michigan office.” The best way to fix Michigan is for Democrats to have control of both houses of the Legislature. This latest fly by night office is located in a strip mall anchored by a furniture store in Gemoa Township.

The last office was called a “Victory Center,” located in Brighton I believe - and it fled town shortly after President Obama’s historic victory.

This short-lived effort is one of 10 such “Fix Michigan offices” in the state, and they, like this one, is paid for by the Michigan Republican Party. According to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, “the office will serve both as campaign headquarters for the county and will house state Republican Party offices, as well as serve as a community center of sorts.” The director goes to say, “so far, the Howell-area office plans to offer yoga classes, scrapbooking sessions, a book club and computer training lessons for senior citizens.’

A community center? Please. This from the article: “The Fix Michigan office will likely close shortly after the 2010 election.” In other words, the “community center” will flee after the election.

In sharp contrast, the Livingston County Democratic Party has had a permanent office for some three years. The LCDP and the Blue Tiger Democrats have used the office to hold blood drives, fundraisers for community groups like LACASA and holding luncheons to honor veterans. Plus, the office is paid for entirely by the local party.

The Republicans are the majority party in Livingston County that holds the Congressional seat, the state Senate seat, the two state House seats, all the nine Board of Commissioner seats and control of all 16 of the township boards in the county, yet they have a fly by night office paid for by the state party and give very little back to the community, if anything.

The Livingston Fix Michigan office? The Livingston fly by night office would be a better name.

Report confirms the state budget is balanced on the backs of the poor and the disappearing middle class

A recently released study by the non-partisan and non-profit Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) confirmed what most people already know: that the poor and middle class pay the freight for government services.

The ITEP released a study yesterday called, “Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States” that concluded that by an overwhelming margin, most states tax their middle- and low-income families far more heavily than the wealthy. That can’t be a surprise to anyone, and yet Republicans still try to push the myth that the wealthiest 1 percent still need tax breaks.

“In the coming months, lawmakers across the nation will be forced to make difficult decisions about budget-balancing tax changes—which makes it vital to understand who is hit hardest by state and local taxes right now,” said Matthew Gardner, lead author of the study, in the press release announcing the study results. “The harsh reality is that most states require their poor and middle income taxpayers to pay the most taxes as a share of income.”

The rich, defined as those with average annual incomes of $1.1 million, typically pay about 6.4 percent toward taxes, the study said. While non-elderly residents who make less than $15,000 per year typically pay about 9 percent of their income toward taxes and those who make between $32,000 and $54,000 pay nearly 10 percent, the very rich pay about a third less.

In fact, Michigan was named part of the “Terrible Ten” as one of the states with the most regressive tax systems. We join Washington, Florida, Tennessee, South Dakota, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Alabama. According to the press release, these “Terrible Ten” states ask poor families—those in the bottom 20 of the income scale—to pay almost six times as much of their earnings in taxes as do the wealthy.

The report identifies several factors that make Michigan and these states more regressive than others:
The most regressive states generally either do not levy an income tax, or levy the tax at a flat rate. In fact, Michigan is only one of six states with a flat income tax rate.
These states typically have an especially high reliance on regressive sales and excise taxes.

These states usually do not allow targeted low-income tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit; these tax credits are especially effective in reducing state tax unfairness. Here in Michigan, Republicans want to restore the damaging cuts to education by delaying a scheduled increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Celebrate Great American Smokeout by urging lawmakers to take up the workplace smoking ban

Today is the American Cancer Society's 34th Annual Great American Smokeout, and all over the country people are giving themselves a break from the deadly habit of smoking, at least for a day.

You can further celebrate the Great American Smokeout by calling Michigan lawmakers and asking them to allow a vote on the workplace smoking ban. Michigan is one of the dirty 13 states that does not have a smoking ban in place to protect those of us who do not smoke against the effects of deadly secondhand smoke.

You can call or write your Senator or Representative directly, or you can 888-NOW-I-CAN to be transferred directly to your lawmaker's office. The toll free number is part of the Campaign for Smokefree Air’s “Act Now or Forever Hold Your Breath” grassroots campaign launched last month aimed at refocusing lawmakers’ attention back to protecting Michigan residents from the deadly impact of secondhand smoke.

The House passed House Bill 4377 in May with bipartisan support, but the Republican controlled Senate refuses to take it up, despite some 70 percent of Michigan residents supporting it.

The Great American Smokeout traditionally takes place on the third Thursday in November. The concept dates from the early '70s when Lynn Smith, publisher of the Monticello Times of Minnesota, announced the first observance and called it "D Day." The idea caught on in state after state until in 1977, it went nationwide under the sponsorship of the American Cancer Society. If past Smokeouts are any indication, as many as one-third of the nation's 46 million smokers could be taking the day off from smoking.

Nov 17, 2009

Extremist gun group wants America to go back the the lawless Wild West

It takes a certain kind of person to claim the answer to the epidemic of gun violence is more guns, but that’s the solution some 2nd Amendment zealots continue to push.

Every year in this country guns kill over 30,000 people, and 70,000 more people are shot and injured. Zealots like John Lott tried to make the false claim that that allowing adults to carry concealed weapons significantly reduces crime in America, but that myth has been debunked by peer reviewed studies.

Now, the gun lobby is using the false scare tactic that President Obama wants to “take their guns” to sell and push more guns into the system and do away with common sense gun control laws. The goal is to sell more guns at all costs.

More guns also means more accidents, like the CCW instructor who accidentally shot one of his students in the face in a class in Oakland County or the 12-year-old Homer boy who died after accidentally being shot in the head by his own father. There is also the accident at a recent gathering of gun extremists called the” Michigan Open Carry, Inc.,” when a man accidentally fired his semiautomatic handgun while attempting to unload the gun in South Haven.
Last summer one of the racist, tea baggers showed up at an appearance by President Obama with a borderline treasonous sign and with a loaded 9mm handgun in a holster strapped to the outside of his pant leg.

This has led to a push by some groups like open carry to go back to the days of the old West and gunslingers with six-guns strapped to their sides. I thought we had evolved past that, but apparently not.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus did a feature on this group’s push to advocate open carry. Apparently, it’s legal to carry a gun strapped to your side without a carrying concealed weapons (CCW) permit.

The article quotes a Melvindale resident who has a CCW, but for the past year he has chosen to carry his .45-caliber handgun “holstered on his right thigh.” I’m baffled as to why. It’s obviously not about personal protection. The only reason I can think of is to intimidate people.

This is just ridiculous. What kind of world is this where you are surrounded by people wearing firearms strapped to their side?

Criticism of President Obama reaches a new height of pettiness

Just when you thought the criticism of President Obama can’t get any more petty and ridiculous, right-wingers go out and surprise you.

The irrational hatred of the President knows no bounds, and something as simple as urging students to stay in school and achieve is suspect.

Now, the teabaggers are upset with the way President Obama greeted Japanese Emperor Akihito on the President’s Asia trip. Former weatherman and current rightwing tool Steve Doocy on “fox and friends” claimed that "dating back to the very founding of this Republic, American leaders do not bow to leaders of other countries,” and he called it “unprecedented.”

Like every other thing on the propaganda arm of the GOP, that is simply false, and the fact is several past Presidents have bowed while greeting foreign leaders.

Former President Richard Nixon bowed while meeting the Japanese Emperor in 1971 in Alaska at the first visit of a Japanese Emperor to America.

Former President Dwight Eisenhower bowed to French President Charles De Gaulle, as shown by a September 2, 1959 Associated Press photo.

The bow was apparently done incorrectly, but it was neither “unprecedented” nor a sign of weakness.

Nov 16, 2009

Former lawmaker’s excessive absences are a Republican joke

One of the minor badges of honor in Lansing is for lawmakers is to get the quote of the day in subscription only MIRS.

Last Thursday honor that went to Rep. Tory Rocca, R-Sterling Heights, and it was about somebody those of us who live here in Livingston County know well, former Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton, who was term-limited last January.

“I think I've seen you here more this session than last session,” Rocca said on the House floor referring to Ward.

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. Johnson and Ward were in town again to support legislation that would allow some county clerks to calculate the money someone would need to come up with to redeem foreclosed property.

The House passed that legislation, House Bill 5267, by a vote of 73-28 vote, and it would allow, but not require, the registers of deeds in Oakland, Macomb, and Kent counties to calculate the amount of money necessary to redeem a foreclosed property.

Ward was a Republican marked for greater things, and he served one of his three terms as the House Majority Floor Leader. When I knew him as the chair of the Livingston County Republican Party, the Brighton Clerk and even his first term in the House he was a really nice guy, but that seemed to change. His heavy-handed tactics as Majority Floor Leader soured relationships between the two parties and made bipartisanship impossible.
He did do the right thing while in the minority when he voted with the Democrats to raise the state income tax to avoid a brief government shutdown on October 2007.

Rocca, of course, was joking, but like good comedy, there is a grain of truth to it. Ward missed more votes and more days of work than any lawmaker during the 94th Legislative session that just ended on Dec. 30. I was volunteering for his opponent in the race, and my critics like to point out that I’m still bitter over that loss. They are, of course, right. If he was not going to show up for his last term why run?

The newest GOP lie on health care reform: five years in prison

Just when you think you have heard all the Republican lies about health care, they roll out another one to debunk.

The newest lie is that there is a provision in the historic Affordable Health Care for America Act passed earlier this month that - get this - where you will get five years in prison for not buying government approved insurance. Nothing could be further from the truth, but the rightwing echo chamber has picked up on it, and even local blogs like the Republican Michigander are pushing that lie.

They have used the lie of death panels, illegal aliens will be provided free health care at taxpayer’s expense or a government official will make medical decisions. Even Mike Rogers is making the false claim and scaring senior citizens who love Medicare by telling them the lie that they will lose Medicare if the bill passes. That contradicts the earlier lie by Michigan Republican Chair Ron Weiser that passage of the bill will cancel all private health insurance and put everyone on Medicare.

Which lie is it? How can Americans be on Medicare if Rogers said we will lose it? But the jail lie is the newest false talking point, but I somehow doubt it will be the last one.

The simple fact is that the penalty under the House health care reform bill for failure to purchase insurance is a tax, not jail time.

Section 501 of the House health care reform bill provides that an individual must be "covered by acceptable coverage at all times." If a person does not have acceptable health care coverage, Section 501 imposes a tax on that person "not to exceed the applicable national average premium."

Now, I understand that the larger the pool the cheaper the cost is, and that people who are not covered costs all of us, but I’m not sure I like the idea of mandating health insurance. It bothers me for auto insurance. This is something that needs to be debated with facts, not lies like jail time for not doing it.

Rightwing bloggers are claiming that the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation reported that the bill describes the penalties as follows:

• Section 7203 — misdemeanor willful failure to pay is punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.

• Section 7201 — felony willful evasion is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to five years.

There is a slight problem with that false claim: there is no Section 7203 or 7201 in the health care bill. It is in the IRS code. Non-profit and nonpartisan backs that up, and it points out it’s the maximum penalty for not paying the tax.

Fact check says, “the majority of delinquent taxes and penalties are collected through the civil process," without resort to criminal penalties. Prison terms are relatively rare. Imprisonment would require the government to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the tax evasion was "willful" and the accused had the ability to pay.”

Is there any lie the Republicans will not float to protect the huge profits of the insurance industry and keep more than 50 million of Americans without insurance coverage, millions more undercover and millions more an illness away from bankruptcy?

Republican scandals back in the headlines

Republican scandals have been absent from the headlines for the last couple of years, but a trio of Michigan Republicans have changed that.

I guess they are too busy lying about health care to continue their record of corruption, but the more obvious reason is that they are simply not in power. But last week three Republicans were charged with fraud involving a local housing development.

Facing charges are Joel Westrom, a failed GOP House candidate and the former chair of the Marquette County Democratic Party and the First Congressional District; Brian Swift, former Gov. John Engler's northern Michigan representative for seven years from 1994-2001; and Michael Gokey, Engler's deputy northern Michigan representative.

Two other businessman are charged with the GOP three in the alleged fraud, and each defendant is charged with four counts including fraud, fraudulent use of building contractor funds and conspiracy.

Guys like this give all politicians a bad name. If convicted, I hope they pay the price like former Louisiana Democratic congressman William Jefferson, who was convicted of taking bribes on 11 of 16 counts by a federal jury last week.

Westrom was elected as the First Congressional District GOP Chair in February 2007. To quote former GOP sugar daddy Dick DeVos on Mr. Westrom, “that young man is going places.” Too bad it’s jail.

Nov 12, 2009

'Twitter’ Pete commits another security breach

There’s one thing for certain: if you want to keep a secret, don’t tell it to Pete Hoekstra.

Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, has a history of loose lips. Last February “Twitter” Pete revealed a secret congressional trip to Iraq on Twitter, and the breach of security put the aircraft and the people on it in danger. Putting the words intelligence and Hoekstra together in the same sentence is an oxymoron. But the latest breach of security by “Beadwindow” Pete was a major one. He compromised a sensitive National Security Agency collection program when he blabbed to the Washington Post that Ft. Hood shooting suspect Nidal Malik Hasan had been in e-mail contact with radical Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

MSNBC host and Rhodes Scholar Rachel Maddow really did a great job calling out Twitter Pete. She has been all over his miscues. I don’t know if this guy is just stupid, he’s trying to make a name for himself to win the Michigan GOP primary for governor or his ego is so large he revels in the knowledge he knows something we don‘t.

What’s amazing it that this guy still has a security clearance. This guy wants to be the Governor of Michigan?

The Michigan Republican Teabagger Party trying to disrupt Schauer townhall meeting

The wind has gone out of the sails of the Astroturf teabaggers riled up by rightwing Washington, D.C. lobbying groups paid for by the insurance industry, but Republicans are trying to get it going again.

U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, will be in the Lansing area tomorrow for a health care townhall meeting following the historic vote on the Affordable Health Care for America Act last week.

As predicted, the Michigan Republican Teabagger Party has sent out an email blast to get the lunatic fringe that is their base to come out and disrupt the event like they did at town hall meetings of Democratic Congressman last summer. The email uses the regular false, talking point: “We need your help in PROTESTING Schauer’s "YES" vote of the radical government takeover of health care!”

Apparently, since Republican Congressman continue to duck townhall meetings, teabaggers have to disrupt ones put on by Democrats. They certainly don’t want people to hear the truth.

They are pulling out all the stops because they know the majority of Americans support health care reform, and we need to be there to show our support.

The town hall meeting will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow - Friday Nov. 13 - at the Days Inn - formerly the Best Western - 7711 W Saginaw Hwy in Delta Township, 48917.

Schauer will share information about what’s in the bill for Michigan, and he will answer questions from local residents of the 7th Congressional District. Also appearing will be Eric J. Schneidewind, President of Michigan AARP; Erin Knott, Assistant Director of Michigan Citizen Action; and Jeff Breslin, President, Michigan Nurses Association.

Come show your support for health care reform, and get there early to get a seat.

Nov 11, 2009

Scared GOP launches early false smear against SOS candidate

I am impressed with the qualifications of Wayne State University law Professor Jocelyn Benson, a Democratic candidate for Michigan Secretary of State, but I have been reluctant to support her 100 percent until I see what other Democrats enter the race. But, a screechy press release by the Michigan Republican Party (MRP) raised her stock in my eyes.

The press release took her to task for “holding a fundraiser in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Nov. 10, with ACORN-endorsed, and Communist Party U.S.A. approved Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.”

We know ACORN - the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, the nation's largest community organization of low-and moderate-income families working for social justice - is the biggest boogieman to right-wingers. They dare to empower the poor by registering them to vote, and we know how Republicans hate to see people vote because they know they are the minority party in this country. The charge is voter fraud, but that is simply not true.

Individual ACORN employees have been accused of fraudulent voter registrations, which has nothing to do with voter fraud, and that was caused by hiring people to collect voter registrations and paying them for each one. Those employees who submitted fraudulent voter registrations have been let go.

But accusing a Democrat of voter suppression and the unwarranted attacks on Ritchie are unbelievable and confusing.

“Holding a vote suppression fundraiser in Washington, D.C. seems almost fitting with all the corruption in that city,” said MRP Chief of Staff Josh Venable in the PR. “Mark Ritchie embodies everything that is un-American about our electoral process—communism and cheating. Michigan does not need the Ritchie/Benson ACRON/Communist-style politics.”

We know Republicans know all about corruption, but Communism? Perhaps Mr. Venable has not watched the news in the lat couple of days and seen all the coverage of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Communism? Please. No where in the press release does it even make a case for that false smear.

The PR claims “Benson is known for partisan electioneering. During the 2004 campaigns she developed the Democratic National Committee (DNC) vote suppression program.”

Say what?

Republicans have opposed every single move to increase voter turnout. The Michigan House has passed no reason absentee voting, allowing 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote and early voting that the current GOP SOS supports, but GOP leadership in the Senate refuses to even hold hearings or allow a vote.

I thought the communism charge may have had something to do with the fact that Ritchie is a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), a major party in Minnesota. The party was created in 1944 when the Minnesota Democratic Party and the Farmer-Labor Party merged. Former Vice-President Hubert Humphrey was instrumental in this merger. The party boasts some of the most respected liberals in the country, including Humphrey, Vice-President Walter Mondale, Sen. Eugene McCarthy and Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Obviously, the Republicans are scared, and this was the reason for this early, false smear. Benson Spokesman T.J. Bucholz had the best quote in calling out the GOP lies.

"I've watched a lot of Lions' football, so I'm used to seeing desperate plays by losing teams," Bucholz said. "You've got an actual, legitimate party that's resorting to lies in a race that's almost a year away."

Happy Veterans Day to my fellow Veterans

Happy Veterans Day to my fellow Veterans, even to Eric B. over at Michigan Liberal. The Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) said it best in its Veterans Day message. Clearly, the Democratic Party has done more for the veterans who have served after they hung up their uniform and re-entered civilian life.

A Day for Honoring Men and Women Who Fought to Protect Us and Preserve Freedom

LANSING – The Michigan Democratic Party is honoring our veterans on this Veterans Day and thanking them for their service and sacrifice.

“Today the Michigan Democratic Party joins the people of Michigan and citizens across the United States in celebrating Veterans Day by recognizing our veterans for their invaluable contribution to our country,” MDP Chair Mark Brewer said. “From the courageous men and women who fought in World War I to the young men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, Michigan Democrats and all Americans are proud and grateful for all that they do.”

“There is no greater service or sacrifice one can make for their country than to put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms we all enjoy,” continued Brewer. “We need to take the time today to thank our veterans and our troops for protecting us.”

Nov 10, 2009

The fight for fair auto insurance rates is taken up by the people

All too often, Michigan residents have to go around the obstructionist Michigan Senate to get good legislation passed, and that is the case with legislation dealing the high cost of insurance redlining.

The Michigan Board of Canvassers approved ballot language on Monday for a petition brought forward by the group Fair Affordable Insurance Rates (FAIR) that will require insurance companies to base the rate they charge you for insurance on the type of car you own and your driving record, not where you live, your credit history, education level and the type of job you have.

Consumers in Michigan pay the 12th highest auto insurances rates in the nation, but the problem in Detroit is even more acute. Drivers in Detroit pay an average of more than $5,000 a year, yet the national average annual car insurance rate is only $949.

Predictably, insurance industry representatives oppose the initiative, and they are making the usual false and hysterical claim that it will put them out of business.

Sen. Martha G. Scott, D-Highland Park, has been championing this issue for almost seven years, and in a cynical attempt to kill the bill last month, the Senate discharged it from committee without a single hearing and no notice. This Senate’s steadfast inability to act appears to have promoted the petition drive.

The also played the old standby game of pitting Detroit against the rest of the state and the suburbs, making the false claim that if Detroit drivers have to pay less, then the rest of the state will have to pay more.

The petition would require 304,000 signatures before it can go before the Legislature, which would then have 40 days to take action if approved. If they do not or disapprove of the petition, it would be added to the Nov. 2, 2010 ballot.

According to the Detroit News, Kim Bowman, the Chief of Staff for Sen. Hansen Clarke, D-Detroit, who is backing the proposal, said she did not know when the petition drive will start. State law says the language is good for 180 days, and there can be no more than 90 days between the first and last signature.

Let’s do this for Sen. Martha Scott.

Nov 9, 2009

Looking for candidates for Hamburg Township Clerk

Now that voters have recalled Hamburg Township Clerk Matt Skiba, a special election to fill the almost three years remaining of his term is set for Feb. 23.

Because it’s a special election because of a recall, there is no primary election to fill the partisan office, and the Livingston County Democratic Party is looking for a qualified candidate. The deadline for informing the Livingston County Clerk's office of the party’s candidate is 4 p.m. Nov. 19.

The party will form a five-member committee of Livingston County Democratic Party members from Hamburg Township to choose the candidate, and that committee will select the candidate at a regular meeting of the party set for 7 p.m. Nov. 12 at party headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600, in Brighton.

If you are interested in serving on the committee or running for the office, contact the party at (810) 229-4212 or Email:

Fox ‘news’ rolls out another false war

Like the false “war on Christmas” rolled out every single year by Fox “news,” the latest made up war by fox is just as false.

The rightwing media is all aflutter about the false “war on Fox ‘news’” by the Obama Administration. The problem is it’s just made up. The claim is that the White House is attacking Fox for asking tough questions of the President, but that is a typical rightwing lie.

The President chose not to appear on “Fox News Sunday” in favor of real network shows, and Chris Wallace began appearing on every single fox segment whining about it. The simple fact is that Fox is not a news source. It claims its prime time line-up is like the editorial section of the newspaper, but the fact is even the alleged news is nothing but Republican talking points.

The GOP claims MSNBC does the same thing, and that is true for its part-time line-up. However, the news is straight. Plus, we have to endure rightwing Republicans Joe Scarborough, R-Fla., for three hours.

Where is the Democrat or liberal on fox?

The fact is there is a big difference between access and choosing to decline an invitation to appear on the opposition party’s propaganda arm. The White House has not said it will not appear on fox, but they want to make it clear that when they do, they are simply appearing on the opposition network. This crap about “the White House has declared war on Fox” is ridiculous.

However, the White House has not barred any so-called fox “reporters” from asking questions at the White House press briefing, traveling with the President or denied them any of the same access real reporters enjoy. But the fox viewers have drank the Kool-aid that they are being denied access.

Oceola Township resident Betty Cole wrote in a letter to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus that, “For a sitting president to attempt to block a news station from attending a White House news conference because the White House does not like what the station has to say is unthinkable in our great United States of America.”

I could not agree more, Ms. Cole, but your letter is about eight years too late. The Obama Administration has never barred access to a fox “reporter.” Choosing not to endure their lies and misinformation is not denying access.

You will recall the Bush Administration’s real hatred and war on the press. You will remember during the campaign in 2000 Bush and Dick Cheney were caught on a hot mike calling a New York Times reporter “a major league asshole.” There was no apology, and the war continued.

Former Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino let it slip out - on fox “news,” of course - that they froze out MSNBC. Cheney has called the media un-American, and barred the New York Times from his airplane when he traveled. Bush froze out the New York Times, and in eight years he may have talked one-on-one with a NYT reporter three times, and no one made the claim about the “war on the New York Times.”

Nov 5, 2009

‘Michigan Stands for Health Care’ this Sunday in Lansing

A vote on the historic health care overhaul initiative could come as early as this weekend in the U.S. House, and the right-wingers are rolling out all the old, debunked lies, from “death panels” to it will cover illegal immigrants.

To rally the troops for this all-important bill that will help turn the country around and help cover the more than 47 million Americans without health care overage, a coalition of activists, organizations, progressive-minded groups and every MoveOn Council from across the state is sponsoring a pro-reform rally from 1-4 p.m. this Sunday on the lawn of the Capitol steps in Lansing called "Michigan Stands For Health Care.”

Come out and join dedicated, patriotic Americans to make a stand for real health care reform as Congress is set to vote on major national health care reform,. Send an unmistakable message that Michigan is sick of the status quo of our broken, existing health care delivery system.

Billionaires for Wealthcare - a grassroots network of health insurance CEOs, HMO lobbyists, talk-show hosts, and others profiting off of our broken health care system - will debate members of MoveOn Michigan during. The debate will be moderated by Dr. Mark Guerrieri.

Just seeing Billionaires for Wealthcare is worth the trip, and the weather is expected to be good. So, get there any way you can; trains, planes, automobiles, bus or car pool.

Election roundup looks bright

Thank God for Rachel Maddow.

I was not feeling too well about Tuesday’s election. But I tuned into her show on MSNBC on Wednesday, and she put it in proper perspective. Now, I’m looking forward to the election in 2010.

Despite losing governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, there are still more Democratic Governors than Republican. The northeast part of the country is even bluer than before, thanks to the race in New York’s 23rd congressional district. Not only that, it shows how much in disarray the Republican Party really is. The extremist, rightwing tea baggers are not just satisfied with hijacking the party, now they want to drive out all the sane, moderates out of the party. Hey, we have a big tent.

Here in Michigan, the news is not as bad either. I’m disappointed that Rep. Martin Griffin, D-Jackson, lost the special election for the vacant 19th District Senate seat. However, Michigan Democrats did very well in municipal elections all across Michigan on Tuesday. Mayoral and City Council candidates backed by the Michigan Democratic Party won 65 percent of their races, or 44 out of 68. Ballot questions supported by the MDP such as the Kalamazoo antidiscrimination ordinance and the Macomb County Charter passed.

But the loss in the 19th District really hurt. I personally knocked on doors, he lost by a 2-1 margin and it will be a little harder in 2010 to take back the Senate with a 22-16 GOP advantage. But, after reading some post-election reports I feel much better.

In subscription only Gongwers, Matt Miner, chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, was quoted as saying: “When Mark Schauer left, this was our number one priority.” That’s good to hear. Even though Griffin lost by a 2-1 margin, he was outspent by a 4-1 margin. The Republicans had to pay for volunteers, and if this is their best effort and number 1 priority, I feel very good about 2010. In a Republican leaning district, you had to outspend the opponents by a 4-1 margin?

That sure says a lot about the campaigning ability of Congressman Mark Schauer to win twice in that district.

It’s hard to explain how the Republicans are lying about the Michigan State Police HQ in just a sound bite, but we have almost a year to boil the truth down to a one or two sentence response. That’s their big issue.

It was gratifying for Mike’s Nofs own party to also call him out on his lie about the Cobo hall bills that saved the North American International Auto Show for Michigan. Nofs was making a victory lap in the Senate Wednesday, and, according to Gongwer, “He got a pat on the back and a handshake from his new boss, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop.”

“However, about 20 minutes earlier, in Bishop's first floor Capitol office, there was no back patting on the issue of Cobo Hall and the alleged corruption referred to in a widely seen Nofs TV commercial.”

"It is not the source of corruption," Bishop told WLNS TV-6, with Nofs standing to his left. "It is actually the one bright light in Detroit right now that we can all rally behind."

In fact, Bishop helped write some of the bills.

Sen. Tupac Hunter, D-Detroit, got it right: "If you're willing to play those types of politics, it tells me what type of legislator you'll be,” he said. “That means that you are being divisive. You are going into the old playbook of dividing the state. You are trying to gin up fears . . ."

I can’t wait until 2010.

Nov 3, 2009

Support for ending harmful term limits is building

Another brief state government shutdown has illustrated what a disaster term limits are, and a recent survey proves people are fed up with the 14-year experiment.

The latest results from Michigan State University’s State of the State Survey - conducted by the Office for Survey Research in the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR) - showed about 61 percent of Michigan residents favored lifting the 14-year lifetime limit on state House and Senate terms to allow politicians to seek office again after a four-year break in service.

The quarterly telephone survey interviewed 1,036 Michigan adults from May 18 through June 30. On a related question, nearly 54 percent of Michigan’s residents favored another change in the state’s legislative term limits – allowing all 14 years to be served in one chamber or the other or divide the 14 years between the two.

Term limits need to be returned to the voters.

Michigan voters amended the Constitution in 1992 to restrict state House members to three, two-year full terms and Senate members to two, four-year full terms for about 14 years. Previous to 1992, there were no limits on the number of House or Senate terms served.

“There are chinks in the armor of term limits,” said Charles Ballard, a respected Michigan State University professor of economics and survey director.

Respected academics and pundits, such as Wayne State University Professor Marjorie Sarbaugh-Thompson, have advocated for returning term limit power to the voters for years. Term limits has led lawmakers to worry more about their next office than good government, empowered lobbyists and given leadership posts to freshman lawmakers.

The massive cuts in the current budget can be blamed on the fact that many in the state Legislatures are more worried about building a record to run for statewide office than good government.

Sarbaugh-Thompson said term limits have not accomplished anything its backers claimed it would accomplish when it was sold to Michigan voters back in 1992.

The survey also found that 82 percent of the latest survey respondents said they favored state legislative districts drawn by an independent, nonpartisan commission instead of by the party that controls the House and Senate. The commission would be charged with drawing the lines to make elections as competitive as possible and without favoring one party or the other. Republicans gerrymandered the districts so badly that even though more people voted for Democrats in the 2006 Senate races, Republicans managed to steal a 21-17 seat advantage.

“The support for an end to gerrymandering is really overwhelming, and among all groups, including Democrats and Republicans,” Ballard said.

The Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR), a nonpartisan public policy network at MSU dedicated to connecting legislators, scholars and practitioners through survey, evaluation and applied research, policy forums and political leadership briefings.

Livingston County Democrats honor veterans

The Livingston County Democratic Party is marking Veterans Day by honoring all military veterans and their families with a special luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Saturday Nov. 7 at the party headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600, Brighton.

The soup and salad luncheon is open to all veterans of military service regardless of political party.

"We owe our veterans a great debt and this is a small attempt to recognize that," said Judy Daubenmier, chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party.

Following the luncheon, Beverly Leneski, chief of voluntary and chaplain service at the Veterans Administration hospital in Ann Arbor, will speak. The LIVCO Democrats have a long history of community service and commitment to veterans, and they will present Leneski with lap robes which party members have been making for VA patients and personal items the party has been collecting.

Reservations for the luncheon are not required but people interested in attending are encouraged to RSVP so that enough food will be available. People may call (810) 229-4212 or email to make reservations or for directions. There is no charge for the luncheon.

Veterans Day honors the country’s more than 25 million military veterans. It is celebrated every Nov. 11 that marked the end of World War I when the guns fells silent on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

Nov 2, 2009

Local Republicans not happy with all cuts state budget

Sometimes they just can’t help themselves.

I know lots of Republicans who as individuals are great people, but the Republican in them can’t stop them from engaging in the favorite GOP tactics: scare tactics. Livingston County Republican Sheriff Bob Bezotte is trying to get townships to contract with the sheriff’s department for dedicated police services, and in a letter sent to the township boards in the county he made the claim that the Brighton post of the Michigan State Police may close next year, making response times even longer.

The only problem with that is that it’s just not true, and the Post Commander debunked that lie. The use of scare tactics by even local Republicans is not surprising when you consider the Bush Administration used scare tactics to get every damaging policy they wanted. Not only that, the undersheriff is the chair of the Livingston County Republican Party and supports torture.

Bezotte said budget cuts have reduced the Sheriff's Department by 20 employees since 2005, and he said residents could be waiting six hours to seven hours for a response during busy times, like during a snow storm.

According to the Press & Argus, in his letter to townships, Bezotte said he's currently working on the 2010 budget, "and there is potential for us to lose an additional six employees."

How can anyone be surprised? The all-Republican Livingston County Board of Commissioners is more concerned about being able to allow the county party to post billboards along I-96 bragging that Livingston County has the lowest county taxes in the state.
Bezotte also claims state and county politicians are trying to "fix their budget on the backs of law enforcement." He needs to tell that to the Livingston County delegation in the state Legislature who voted for an all-cuts budget that cut 12 percent from revenue sharing that goes to local governments and refuse to consider any new revenue increases to restore some of those cuts.

I also find it interesting that townships pay the lowest amount of taxes, yet a good share of the population and development is in the townships. Many townships have stepped up and have had their own police departments for years, such as Green Oak and Hamburg.

I live in the City of Howell, and I pay higher taxes for more services. But the police I pay for are responding outside city boundaries into the townships to help the Sheriff’s Department, but the townships refuse to step up.

The most glaring refusal is from Genoa Township that borders both the cities of Brighton and Howell where Republican Supervisor Gary McCririe has refused to provide services. Genoa Township has the bulk of the commercial development and big box retail stores, like Wal-Mart, Meijers, Home Depot, Lowes, Kohls, Elder-Beerman, Staples and Office Depot. I can guarantee that the Sheriff’s Department responds to plenty of retail fraud and shoplifting calls to those locations.

County GOP imports Sam the digital converter box promoter to speak

The Livingston County Republican Party is scraping the bottom of the barrel for people to speak at its annual Reagan Dinner this week. It has tapped “Sam the digital converter box promoter” to speak.

Sam - AKA “Joe the Plumber” AKA Samuel Wurzelbacher - gained 15 minutes of national fame - believe it or not - after a chance encounter with President Obama on the campaign trail, and he was used as the McCain camping as a prop to supposedly represent the average Joe. For some inexplicable reason, his 15 minutes of fame have stretched to a year. This whole saga is filled with ironies. First, he’s not a plumber and his name is not Joe.

He says he “feels he was used as a gimmick by the McCain campaign,” yet he has cashed in on being a prop. If that were not the case he would not be speaking in front of the county GOP.

I don’t understand why anyone would plop down $50 to hear this guy spout off when they could have seen him for free in September when he appeared in Brighton at the so-called “Tea Party Express” bus tour that was nothing but a hate-filled, racist anti-Obama rally. It masqueraded as a “grassroots effort,” but it was promoted heavily by the county party, Fox “news” and rightwing Washington, D.C. lobbying groups.

It makes Sam/Joe’s appearance even more ironic, and he told the Press & Argus that he “isn’t loyal to the troubled national party.”

“In a Daily Press & Argus interview, Wurzelbacher went a step further and said he doesn't identify with today's Republican party.”

That’s a view shared by the majority of Americans, and less people identify with the Republican Party.

Here’s the ultimate irony. Rightwing extremists are not satisfied with hijacking the Republican Party and driving reasonable, moderate Republicans out of the party. They are forming some weird, third party like movement and are not supporting some Republican candidates.

That’s not a problem for me.

But Livingston County Democratic Party Chair Judy Daubenmier had the best line, saying the GOP is so bankrupt that had to search high and low to find an actual working person, and the best they could do was find was someone who plays one.

"Why didn't they get a local plumber?" she asked.

Nov 1, 2009

Griffin endorsed by The Jackson Citizen Patriot

The Jackson Citizen Patriot endorsed Rep. Martin Griffin, D-Jackson, for the vacant state Senate seat in the 19th District that includes Jackson and Calhoun Counties.

The editorial board got it right on the lies put out by Republican opponent in the constant barrage of TV commercials, saying “In contrast to the advertising against him, Griffin has always projected an image of predictable (if sometimes prickly) moderation.

The editorial board was very polite in calling the GOP opponent what he is, instead saying, “The lines of reasoning in the anti-Griffin advertising are that he is a tax-and-spend liberal, a supporter of a lavish state police headquarters and a sugar daddy for Detroit. These claims are misleading.”

I’ll be a little more direct that the newspaper; they are outright lies, and that says all you need to know about the Republican opponent.

With just two days left before the election, the Griffin campaign needs your help in the all-important get-out-the-vote effort. Call (517) 392-0800 or (269) 425-4333 to help.