Dec 31, 2010

Pro-smoking lobby launches another misguided protest

The pro-smoking lobby refuses to accept facts, the will of the people and the law, and they have planned another ridiculous and vain “protest” set for tonight.

Another fly-by-night Facebook groups is claiming some bar owners - unnamed of course - will break the law and will allow patrons to light up after 9 p.m. tonight, New Years Eve. The pro-smoking lobby is clinging to the absolutely false claim that “60 percent of businesses”… are saying it has hurt their business and ... they're barely able to survive now.”

There has not been a single study that proves bars and restaurants are hurt by smoking bans. But that theory was reinforced here in Michigan when the Michigan Department of Treasury released a report earlier this month that found that overall sales tax collections in restaurants and bars were up 2.84 percent over last year. An increase in business not a decrease.

Not only did the smoking ban not hurt business, it increased it. But, even if it did, this is a public health issue. The fact that it helps sales is just a bonus.

The U.S. Surgeon General issued another report earlier this month on the dangers and harm of smoking and secondhand smoke, that said as little as one cigarette a day, or even just inhaling smoke from someone else's cigarette, could be enough to cause a heart attack and even death.

Not only does the smoking ban need to stay as it is, it needs to be expanded to include the gaming floor - the only exceptions to the ban - of the Detroit casinos.

So, if you see some inconsiderate idiot breaking the law, politely ask him to stop. If that doesn’t work, complain to the manager or the owner. If that doesn’t work, contact the Michigan Department of Community Health or your local health department or public health and file a formal complaint.

Bars that violate the ban face a $100 fine for the first offense and a $500 fine for subsequent violations up to the loss of their liquor license.

Dec 30, 2010

Supreme Court puts an end to FOIA witch-hunt

The Michigan Supreme Court denied an appeal today to overturn an appeals court ruling that declined to release thousands emails under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), putting an end to the three-year witch-hunt to embarrass the teacher‘s union.

Anti-union activist Chet Zarko, who passed away last summer, filed the FOIA in 2007 with the help of teabagger and former Howell School Board member Wendy Day in a fishing expedition to embarrass the teacher’s union. He claimed the emails were sent on district computers during staff time, and they were used to lobby the public during contract negotiations. The district released some emails, but an injunction was issued stopping Zarko from receive any more of the 5,500 emails.

In January the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the emails sent and received on Howell Public School computers between union members were not public record, and they concluded that under the FOIA statute the individual teacher’s personal emails were not rendered public records solely because they were captured in the email system’s digital memory.

The rightwing, anti-union think tank Mackinac Center for Public Policy, that bankrolled Zarko’s attorney, was not happy with the ruling.

“We can only hope the Michigan Supreme Court will reconsider this case when the justices reconvene in January,” said Patrick Wright of the center said in a press release. “Given the media interest in this case and how regularly citizens make use of the law, a state Supreme Court hearing is appropriate.”

I’m unaware of this alleged media interest, other than me and the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. The Court of Appeals made in clear in January that the Legislature needs to address the situation.

President Barack Obama is the most admired man in America

For the third year in a row, President Barack Obama is the most admired man in America according to a USA Today-Gallup poll.

But he does not come close to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was named the most admired woman for the ninth year in a row.

The USA Today-Gallup survey, conducted Dec. 10-12, is based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,019 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Still, perhaps we should not take too much stock in the survey because former President George W. Bush was in the top five in the men’s list and half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were in the women’s top five list.

However, it’s good to see that some people have respect for the office of President, as well as for President Obama the man. But there are still people who have an irrational hatred for Obama, like the birthers.

These insane people believe the President was not born in the U.S. and has not produced his birth certificate, despite undisputed evidence to the contrary. It seems the only way they will be satisfied is if he personally knocks on their door and presents it to them, but I doubt that will even satisfy them. It’s just amazing that people still believe this.

Now, new Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie wants to dispel conspiracy theories that the President was born elsewhere and find a way to release more information about President Barack Obama's Hawaii birth. The only problem is Abercrombie can’t release the birth certificate because Hawaii's privacy laws have long barred the release of a certified birth certificate to anyone who doesn't have a tangible interest.

That has just given birthers more ammo, and they are claming a conspiracy. This is so simple: if the President was ineligible to be the President, the conservative U.S. Supreme Court would have done said as much. After all, they had no problem making Bush President; they would have no problem unseating Obama.

Dec 29, 2010

O'Donnell calls investigation ‘politically motivated’ but falls short of calling it a ‘witch-hunt’

In a move that can surprise no one, failed U.S. Senate teabag candidate Christine O'Donnell is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for violating federal law by diverting campaign funds for personal use.

She is a professional political candidate - losing three times - with a sketchy employment history who has lied about her education and defaulted on her student loan and her mortgage. Predictably, she said the investigation is politically motivated, saying in a statement fellow Delaware native Vice-President Joe Biden was behind it.

I was hoping she would say it was a political witch-hunt, but she, for some reason, refrained from using those words.

You will recall that Kristin Murray, a former O'Donnell campaign manager, recorded a robocall to Delaware voters during the election alleging that O'Donnell was "living on campaign donations . . . while leaving her workers unpaid and piling up thousands in debt."

According to the Washington Post, “O'Donnell, who has acknowledged having financial problems, has said she used campaign funds to pay part of the rent on her townhouse because it doubled as her campaign headquarters.”

Based on that, how can there not be an investigation?

The investigation came about because of a complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The Post said “the CREW complaint to federal prosecutors cited an affidavit signed by David Keegan, a former aide to O'Donnell. He said that in 2009, O'Donnell paid two months rent out of her campaign funds, and also used the funds for meals, gas and a bowling outing.”

Appointment means SOS will not be nonpartisan

We are learning why Republican career politician and Secretary of State-Elect Ruth Johnson refused to take an Oath of Nonpartisanship during the election like Democratic candidate Jocelyn Benson did.

As my friends at Living Blue pointed out, Johnson - the state’s elections administrator - hired Hartland Township resident Allan Filip as the SOS’s “director of external affairs.” County residents will remember Filip as the former chair of the Livingston County Republican Party.

In the two years he was the chair, he was, perhaps, one of the most partisan chairs the party ever had. Under his “leadership,” he attempted to politicize nonpartisan elections, improperly tried to influence a bond issue and made a false accusation that the county Democrats carried signs depicting “hate speech” in the Melonfest parade.

That sorry performance earned him a promotion to the Michigan Republican Party in 2009 where he was named as the “director of field operations.”
It appears his role with the SOS is just one more partisan job.

Dec 28, 2010

2010 was a year of sweeping positive change

The past year was one of sweeping change that will have a positive effect on the lives of Americans for generations to come, on both a state and national level.

Those changes came even though the national Republicans were the most obstructionist in history, In fact, over the last two years; Democrats broke more filibusters than any Senate in recorded history. Here are the top stories of 2010:

1 Workplace smoking ban goes into effect
The popular and life-saving workplace-smoking ban that includes bars and restaurants went into effect on May 1 with little or no problems. Critics of the ban continued their misinformation campaign, but later in the year in December, the Michigan Department of Treasury found that overall sales tax collections in restaurants and bars were up 2.84 percent over last year, putting to rest the false talking point that the ban will hurt business.

2 Historic health care insurance reform passed
President Obama made history in March with the passage of the historic health care insurance reform bill. After decades of trying, stretching back almost a century, the U.S. House made history and a major progressive victory was achieved that will rein in the worst insurance abuses and expand health care to 32 million Americans. It was accomplished, of course, with nothing but Democratic votes. That $1.4 million a day the insurance lobby was spending to spread lies and misinformation and kill the bill was quickly diverted to unseat those brave Democrats who did the right thing.

3 Democrats blow the whistle of GOP mismanagement
In August the Livingston County Democratic Party helped break a story on the fact that several local townships may default on several local water- and sewer-assessment bonds backed by the county, and because of that county taxpayers may have to bail them out. The local newspaper ignored the story and chose more to smear the chair of the party. The county’s financial reports have failed to alert the public to the fact that townships are in danger of missing their payments for the $101 million in principal and interest backed by the county, and the party called for the all-Republican Livingston County Commission to hold a town hall meeting explaining the issue to the public. To date that has not happened.

4 DADT is dead
History was made in December when after 17 years the discriminatory and unconstitutional “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy was killed after the Senate voted 65-31 to end the Clinton-era policy banning gays from serving openly in the military. The Senate followed the lead of the House that passed the ban, and eight Republican senators joined almost the entire Senate Democratic caucus to approve the bill.

5 HPS suspends teacher
Howell Public Schools made the national spotlight again for its history of refusal to support equal rights and error on the side of protecting minority rights. In October Howell High School teacher Jay McDowell, who just happens to be the president of the Howell Education Association (HEA) that represents the teachers, was suspended for one day without pay because he sent two students to the office for disrupting his class. The incident occurred Oct. 20; the day people all over the country wore purple to support the end of anti-gay bullying that led to a rash of suicides by gay teens. Apparently, McDowell asked a student wearing a belt buckle sporting the Confederate flag to remove the symbol of racism, slavery, white supremacy and treason. The story quickly gained legs, and McDowell’s suspension has still not been settled.

6 Campaign cash kills 10,000 Michigan jobs
On the last session day of the 95th Legislature session, the entire Michigan Senate Republican caucus voted no on discharging House Bill 4961 from committee; a bill that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada to build the planned International Crossing (DRIC) bridge. The $1 million in camping cash that Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun spent in the last election cycle to ensure he keeps his monopoly at the busiest border crossing in North America was money well spent.

7 House approves bill that will build DRIC bridge
On May 27, The Michigan House finally took up and approved House Bill 4961 that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada and a private sector developer/financier to build the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge over the Detroit river between Canada and Windsor. Not a single House Republican voted with the Democrats to save and create 10,000 Michigan jobs. That makes the only people against the DRIC bridge Michigan Republicans.

8 Tax cut compromise
In December President struck a compromise with Republicans on a temporary two-year extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts, including the bailout for millionaires, in exchange for a 13-month extension of unemployment insurance benefits and a one-year payroll tax reduction for all workers. The tax cuts will balloon the budget deficit, but the lifeline for the unemployed will keep the recovery out of the Bush recession moving forward.

9 Ambassador Bridge owner loses in court
In February, Ambassador Bridge owner and GOP sugar daddy Matty Moroun suffers the first of many setbacks in court when Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentice Edwards ordered him to tear down the illegally constructed gas pumps and duty-free store built on property owned by the city of Detroit. The U.S. government filed its own lawsuit in U.S. District Court telling the bridge company to "cease and desist" referring to itself as a "federal instrumentality" in any bridge or court proceedings. Over the years, the bridge company has frequently referred to itself in this way as leverage in obtaining property belonging to the city of Detroit and to exempt it from various state and federal regulations. In May 2008, the Michigan Supreme Court voted 7-0 that because it dealt in international commerce, the Ambassador Bridge was a federal instrumentality, which gave it the right to proceed with its twin expansion project, including the construction of toll booths, pumps and duty-free shop."

10 BP oil spill
On April 20, an explosion of a giant BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico launched the worst ecological disaster in U.S. history, pumping millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. Republicans immediately began spinning out of control trying to blame it and the resulting oil spill on President Obama. Discredited Right-wing tools from Sean Hannnity to Karl Rove have been spinning hard to try and sell it as President Obama’s Katrina, despite the fact that the Obama Administration was there from day one. Apparently, this will now be Hanity’s version of “where were the buses.” The President did a remarkable job securing of a $20 billion escrow account from BP to pay for the clean up and compensate Gulf Coast residents who have lost their livelihoods and way of life. Republicans and U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the ranking Republican on the House and Commerce Committee, apologized to BP for the President making them pay for the damage they caused.

11 Outrage over community center
In August and throughout the summer right-wingers ginned up fake outrage over the proposal to build an Islamic community center close to the site of the so-called Ground Zero in lower Manhattan is, but it appears that right-wingers don’t want any mosques or community centers built anywhere. Teabaggers all over the country supported protests against plans to build mosques and even to burn Korans.

12 Election disaster
A flood of secret, unregulated corporate and foreign money that poured into elections following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last January in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case and a conservative, corporate media that helped spread misinformation helped the election pendulum swing to the right in November, giving Republicans control of the Michigan and the federal House.

Dec 23, 2010

Palin wins tough fight to be named ‘Misinformer of the Year’

In a year of stiff competition, former half-term Alaska Governor and current Faux “News” contributor Sarah Palin was chosen as “Misinformer of the Year” by the media watchdog group Media Matters.

The rightwing has had a great year misinforming, lying and spinning, and it culminated in the November elections, but Palin stood head and shoulders above the usual crowed. Past “winners” include Faux “news” madman Glenn Beck and Faux “News” hatemonger Sean Hannity.

“This year, Palin stood out for her sheer ability to dominate our national conversation and draw the attention of the entire news media to her factually challenged claims and vicious attacks. She has blurred the line completely between media figure and political activist.”

“From spreading lies about "death panels" to cropping Obama's comments about "American exceptionalism," from her comfortable perch at Fox News to her self-promoting books and reality show, Palin has truly broken new ground in misinformation.”
To show how her misinformation has taken hold, just last night I got into a “debate” with a trio of vicious right-wingers on Facebook where “death panels” and health care rationing was claimed.

Last month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that new evidence suggests the risks outweigh the benefits of Avastin for treating metastatic breast cancer, and the FDA has now begun the process of withdrawal of the popular advanced breast cancer treatment.

One right-winger used that as proof of death panels and rationing. But that’s not surprising, based on a recent study by scholars at the University of Maryland. They conducted a survey on the impact of the news business on good citizenship, and they found that viewers of Faux “news” were the most misinformed. Right-wingers prove that every day.

One reason they are so misinformed may be how Faux spins the news, and in fact they just got caught at it. Earlier this month the Fox News Washington managing editor was caught trying to slant the news in emails to staffers. It just happens it was two subjects right-wingers are the most misinformed on, health care and climate change.

Dec 22, 2010

Overall sales tax collections in restaurants and bars are up after smoking ban

Workplace smoking bans have never hurt business, and a report released Monday from the state Department of Treasury proves that, and it found that overall sales tax collections in restaurants and bars were up 2.84 percent over last year.

The workplace smoking ban that includes bars and restaurants went into effect on May 1, and despite the down economy in the country, tax receipts are up. This reflects the results from the 38 other states that have bans, and there has never been a credible study that shows a drop in business from a smoking ban. There has never been a reliable, peer-reviewed study or results that can show how less than 25 percent of the population who still smoke can have such an effect on business.

The simple fact is that this report is evidence that concerns about an alleged adverse economic impact from the popular smoking ban were exaggerated.

Now, critics of the ban that have used debunked studies in the past, like the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, and the MLBA has seized on the fact that, according to the Free Press, "sales tax collections also declined in neighborhood taverns, by 1.57 percent in 2010. “

In an economy that is just coming out of a recession with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, a 1.57 percent decrease in a small segment of the bar and restaurant industry isn’t bad. It certainly can’t, but will, be blamed on the smoking ban. However, the simple fact is that business is up in the bar and restaurant industry.

Even if bars and restaurants did not show an increase in sales because of the smoking ban, the U.S. Surgeon General report issued earlier this month that found that as little as one cigarette a day, or even just inhaling smoke from someone else's cigarette, could be enough to cause a heart attack and even death is more than enough to justify the smoking ban.

Dec 21, 2010

Mitch “puppet of the rich” McConnell named Scrooge of Year

Senate Minority Leader Mitch “Yertle the Turtle” McConnell, R-KY., was named Scrooge of Year in Jobs with Justice’s eleventh annual national contest to determine the greediest, most cold-hearted person or company of the year.

A small number of Senators, led by rightwing Mitch “puppet of the rich” McConnell, have spent this Congressional session aggressively blocking almost all legislation from passing, especially laws that would help working people, and those actions led him to take 42 percent of the thousands of votes cast. He was also responsible for the decision to block the bill to provide medical care to rescue workers who became ill as a result of breathing in toxic fumes, dust and smoke at the site of the World Trade Center attack in 2001.

“The Daily Show’s” John Stewart called McConnell out on his refusal to help dying first responders on the show by showing a clip of McConnell crying over retiring Sen. Judd Gregg, R-NH, yet he stiffs dying first responders who will not live to retire.

“We hope that by being elected national Scrooge of the Year, Senator McConnell will see the ‘Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come’ and understand the dire consequences that his actions will have for generations of Americans,” said Sarita Gupta, National Jobs with Justice Executive Director.

The Kentucky chapter of Jobs with Justice plans to deliver the Scrooge of the Year award in person to Senator McConnell’s offices in Louisville.

Those with a heart not as cold as McConnell‘s, at least this year, was runner up the Health Insurance and Pharmaceutical industry. Their single-minded focus on profits at the expense of our health won them 22 percent of the vote. Hyatt Hotels won 10 percent of the vote for attempts to eliminate quality healthcare and make the recession permanent for its employees, and for their safety record.

Other nominees included Rite Aid, Publix and Giumarra Vineyards. The contest also allowed write in votes, and popular write-in candidates were Honeywell CEO Dave Cote and Del Monte Fresh.

In addition to the national Scrooge of the Year contest, each year local Jobs with Justice coalitions across the country hold Scrooge of the Year elections to determine the most deserving greedy Scrooge in their hometowns. This year’s local winners include: Marsh Supermarkets in Indianapolis; US Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Donohue in Washington, DC, Governor Jan Brewer in Tucson; Pinnacle Entertainment in St. Louis, MO, and Rex Sinquefield in Kansas City.

Jobs with Justice is a national organization with the vision of lifting up workers’ rights and struggles as part of a larger campaign for economic and social justice and worker‘s rights.

Dec 20, 2010

Rightwing think tank thinks a tax on cigarettes is worse than smuggling

The rightwing think tank Mackinac Center for Public Policy thinks that because criminals break the law we should do away with the reason they break the law instead of increasing enforcement.

Last week the Mackinac Center released its annual report on cigarette smuggling and found, again, that Michigan has one of the highest smuggling rates in the country. According the the Mackinac Center, “Michigan’s inbound cigarette smuggling rate was 10th highest in the nation in 2009. Michigan’s smuggling rate, which was measured as a percentage of in-state cigarette consumption, represents a slight improvement over its 9th place ranking in the previous analysis, which used data from 2006. Michigan is also in the top five states in its rate of casual cross-border smuggling by its residents.”

“Lansing’s incoming legislators should be careful about looking to cigarette taxes to solve any state budget deficits,” said Michael D. LaFaive, Mackinac Center director of fiscal policy and the study’s co-author in the press release. “Few people realize the vast array of unintended consequences, such as theft and violence, inflicted on job providers, consumers, police and other innocent victims.”

So in LaFaive’s opinion, we should lower the tax instead of fighting the crime of smuggling?

It makes you wonder how much money the Mackinac Center gets from the tobacco industry. Instead of spending more money for enforcement, it wants to lower the tax. Smoking costs the state billions of dollars in health care costs, and the cigarette tax does not come near covering it.

The Mackinac Center has been a major proponent of privatization, right to work for less laws and doing away with the prevailing wage in Michigan, and all of their reports seem to reach those same conclusions time after time. It now appears to be adding lowering cigarette taxes to its causes.

The largest conservative think tank in Michigan, and one of the largest in the nation, is financed by such rightwing sources as the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation, the Jay and Betty Van Andel Foundation and the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation.

The fact is Michigan loses $127 to $140 million in tax revenue every single year through illegal cigarette smuggling that is destined for the School Aid Fund and Medicaid, yet we have only about four officers of the Michigan State Police Tobacco Smuggling Unit to cover the entire state.

Almost two years ago a Michigan company introduced a way to recoup the much needed lost tax revenue and stop the illegal activity.
Wyoming-based R.E.D. Stamp Inc. has patented and is marketing a Cigarette Tax Stamping Machine that will put a dent in smuggling and help Michigan recover 25 percent of the lost revenues and put $32 million back into Michigan’s coffers.

Getting away with cigarette smuggling is far too easy. Forging the tax stamp on the bottom of a package cigarette is fairly easy, as well of the theft of the stamp.

The fairly unsophisticated stamps are sold to Michigan’s 60-70 cigarette wholesalers in a roll of 30,000 stamps costing $60,000 that resembles a roll of paper towels. Organized crime has gotten involved by either buying them on the black market, stealing them off the UPS truck or even strong arm robbery from the truck. They are applied using heat transfer, similar to a cool iron on transfer for your t-shirt.

R.E.D. Stamp has teamed up with Authentix, a leading product authentication, to produce a system that is foolproof. The stamps can be downloaded digitally, eliminating the need and risks of shipping them to the wholesaler. The machine can transfer the stamps to the cigarette packs at a speed of 90 cartons of cigarettes a minute.

Plus, the stamps are almost impossible to forge, and it makes it easier for law enforcement to spot smuggling. The officer can use a small, handheld device that resembles the device that sets your car alarm that the officer can scan the pack with it.

It will give a simple yes or no. A larger handheld unit that reads the bar code and can tell where and when the pack was purchased and other information is also available.

Why isn’t the Mackinac Center advocating for this system instead of a lowering of a tax on a product that cues so much harm? According to their logic, we should do away with laws against robbery because thieves may be tempted to steal.

Dec 19, 2010

Senate votes to kill the discriminatory and unconstitutional Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy

After 17 years the discriminatory and unconstitutional “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy is all but history after the Senate voted 65-31 on Saturday to end the Clinton-era policy banning gays from serving openly in the military.

The Senate followed the lead of the House that passed the ban on Wednesday, and eight Republican senators joined almost the entire Senate Democratic caucus to approve the bill.

The Senate voted 63 to 33 earlier in the day to end a Republican filibuster of the bill, helping President Obama fulfill his campaign pledge to end the policy that about 70 percent of active-duty and reserve forces, 70 percent of the general public, the Secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also support repelling.

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the testimony of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was instrumental in getting the bill passed.

“Passage of this bill is a victory for our military, which can now implement this change in a deliberate, responsible way,” Levin said. “It’s a victory for our country, which has taken another step toward living up to our highest ideals. And it is a victory for thousands of brave men and women who now can serve the nation they love without having to conceal part of their identity.”

Dec 16, 2010

Republican politicians display stunning hypocrisy on health care insurance reform

Americans United for Change is calling out U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, on his hypocrisy of saying repealing the historic health care insurance reform law is his “top priority,” yet he has no problem accepting his own government-subsidized health plan.

In response to Upton’s declaration earlier this week that his “top priority will be full repeal” of the Affordable Care Act, progressive issue-advocacy group Americans United for Change challenged the incoming Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee to practice what he preaches and start by dropping his own government subsidized health plan. It only seems fair considering that repealing health reform would effectively deny thousands of Michigan families access to the same kind of quality, affordable health care choices Upton enjoys as a Member of Congress.

“You first, Congressman,” said Tom McMahon, Executive Director, Americans United for Change. “If Fred Upton insists on going down this path towards denying thousands of Michigan families access to quality, affordable health care, shouldn’t he start with his own family and forgo his government subsidized health plan?”

The Republican hypocrisy on this issue has been stunning, like that of U.S. Rep.-elect Andy Harris, R-MD. Harris, another fervent proponent of repealing the Affordable Care Act, recently made national headlines when he brazenly complained to his colleagues that his congressional health benefits weren’t kicking in soon enough for his liking. It would be funny if it weren’t so hypocritical. It has led Americans United for Change to launch a radio and Facebook ad campaign in Maryland calling on Harris to “Drop It or Stop It.”

But Upton is just one of many GOP hypocrites.

“If Congressman Upton had his way and the new health law were repealed, the insurance companies would go right back to dropping people’s coverage when they get sick, young adults under 26 would be kicked off their parents’ plans, insurance companies could go back to imposing lifetime limits on care and denying care to those with “pre-existing conditions”, and seniors would again have to fear falling into the “doughnut hole” prescription coverage gap,” McMahon said. “Why does Congressman Upton want to put the big insurance companies back in charge?”

But we also have another stunning example of hypocrisy right here in Michigan with extremist Republican Congressman-elect Tim Walberg, R-Tipton. Blogging for Michigan revealed that the Lenawee County extremist will opt out of federal health-care coverage. But Walberg, conveniently, forgets to tell you that he already receives lifetime government-subsidized health care insurance because of the 16 years in spent in the Michigan House.

Repeal of discriminatory DADT strikes a blow for enhanced military readiness and equality

The U.S. House took a major step toward equality and enhanced military readiness on Wednesday when they voted to repel the discriminatory and unconstitutional “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy.

The House approved the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010” by a vote of 250-175 that allows gays to serve openly in the military.

This is the second time the House voted to kill the ban. The measure was contained in the 2011 defense authorization bill that the House passed earlier this year. However, the Senate version of the defense authorization bill failed twice before the decision to go with a stand alone bill was reached.

The fate of repeal now lies in the Senate, where Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced S.4023, a standalone bill to repeal the ban.

U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, was one of the co-sponsors of HR 6520,as were U.S. Reps. Sander Levin, D-Southfield, and Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township. Dingell spoke in favor of the bill on the House floor.

“Just as today’s Americans shake their heads at the thought of a segregated military – and indeed society - I suspect that generations to come will do the same at the shift we made in 1994 from the outright to tacit discrimination of homosexuals in the military,” Dingell said. “Madam Speaker, our nation is engaged in conflicts in multiple theatres and we are in desperate need of troops, as well as foreign language translators, and yet because of DADT, there is a segment of the population who want to serve openly and who, for all intents and purposes, face a sign saying they “need not apply.”

Dec 15, 2010

‘Diversity Teach-In’ to support embattled teacher set for next month

A pair of Genoa Township brothers is organizing a free “Diversity Teach-In” next month in support of persecuted Howell High School teacher Jay McDowell that is open to the public.

Brothers Phil and Matt Letten are organizing the event for McDowell, who was suspended for one day without pay because he sent two students to the office for disrupting his class with anti-gay rhetoric. The incident occurred Oct. 20; the day people all over the country wore purple to support the end of anti-gay bullying that led to a rash of suicides by gay teens. Apparently, McDowell asked a student wearing a belt buckle sporting the Confederate flag to remove the symbol of racism, slavery, white supremacy and treason.

McDowell has fought the suspension and the attack against him, and the fight has gained support of people all across the country. Howell Public Schools Superintendent Ron Wilson has pulled out all the stops in attacking McDowell, who also happens to be the president of the Howell teacher’s union.

The purpose of the teach-in is to address the issues of bullying and homophobia, and it is set for 7-8:30 p.m. Jan. 6 at the Howell Opera House in downtown Howell, 123 W. Grand River.

Radio station WHMI is reporting that in addition to McDowell speaking, other speakers at event include a Flint Biology teacher who also serves as a union president; along with a recently retired school psychologist from the Lake Orion district. Also speaking will be Yvonne Schumacher-Strejcek of the Community Unitarian Universalists in Brighton – which has a history of tolerance, acceptance and community service in the county - and Rev. Dick Preston, who does campus ministry in East Lansing and hospital ministry in Lansing.

The Letten brothers also told WHMI that they also hope to have one or two individuals from the Howell school district speak at the event.

Dec 14, 2010

Activist conservative judge incorrect on health care insurance reform

Republicans like U.S. Rep Mike Rogers, R-Brighton?, are practically giddy today that 50 million Americans may not have access to health care insurance after U.S. District activist Judge Henry Hudson struck down the "individual mandate" of the historic health care insurance reform bill requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014.

People like Rogers are latching on to this ruling by the 2002 George W. Bush appointee while ignoring the two previous rulings in favor of the health care insurance reform. The U.S. Supreme Court will have the final say, and the ruling from an activist judge with ethical questions will carry no weight.

Hudson ruled on a law that a GOP political consulting firm that he has an ownership stake in worked against health care insurance reform. However, the larger issue is that legal experts know Hudson is wrong, and his ruling simply raises ethical questions. It may or may not have had an effect, but the fact remains that Federal judges are required by statute to disqualify themselves from hearing a case whenever their impartiality might reasonably be questioned.

Multiple provisions of the Constitution permit Congress to enact this reform legislation. As long ago as 1944, the Supreme Court held that the business of insurance fell within Congress’ regulatory authority under the Commerce Clause, as well as Congress’ authority to tax and spend for the general welfare. Nothing since undercuts the authority of Congress to legislate in this area. No provision of the Bill of Rights, or text found elsewhere in the Constitution, acts to prohibit Congress from enacting the healthcare reform legislation.

Legal experts are attacking Hudson's decision on the merits, citing an elementary logical flaw at the heart of his opinion, according to an article in Talking Points Memo. And that has conservative scholars -- even ones sympathetic to the idea that the mandate is unconstitutional -- prepared to see Hudson's decision thrown out.

Orin Kerr, a professor of law at George Washington University, said the Necessary and Proper Clause of the U.S. Constitution allows Congress to take steps beyond those listed in the Constitution to achieve its Constitutional ends, including the regulation of interstate commerce. Kerr says Hudson's argument wipes a key part of the Constitution out of existence.

Dec 13, 2010

Republicans again put rich ‘Bros before Heroes’

The Daily Show’s John Stewart came up with a phrase that perfectly fits Congressional Republicans fight to extend tax cuts for the richest 2 percent and the billionaire bailout by calling it “Bros before Heroes.”

That fitting phrase can used to describe the actions of the Republicans in the last two years, but is especially fitting in the last couple of weeks where the GOP has given the finger to the middle class at the expense of the national economy and the budget deficit.

However, the truth is Stewart, a New Yorker, was talking about Republicans decision to block the bill to provide medical care to rescue workers and others who became ill as a result of breathing in toxic fumes, dust and smoke at the site of the World Trade Center attack in 2001.

The New York Times reported that “in a vote largely along party lines, the Senate rejected a procedural move by Democrats to end debate on the 9/11 health bill and to bring it to a vote; 60 yes votes were needed, but the move received 57, with 42 votes against.”

In a statement, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg chastised Senate Republicans for their “wrongheaded political strategy” and called on them to allow a floor vote on the bill.

“The attacks of 9/11 were attacks on America,” he said, “and we have a collective responsibility to care for the heroes, from all 50 states, who answered the call of duty, saved lives and helped our nation recover.”

This is typical of Republicans who love to wave the flag and claim they support the troops, but they refuse to support them where it really counts. This is more of the same.

You will recall that nine years ago, people dropped everything to head to Ground Zero to search for survivors from the destroyed World Trade Center and then to recover bodies, but when those people need help, Republicans put Bros over heroes.

Dec 10, 2010

New U.S. Surgeon General report: just inhaling smoke from someone else's cigarette, could be enough to cause a heart attack and even death.

Another U.S. Surgeon General issued a report on the dangers and harm of smoking and secondhand smoke, but this one may be the most powerful ever.

New U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin issued “A Report of the Surgeon General: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease - The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease” on Thursday, and the report is the first tobacco report from Benjamin and the 30th since the landmark 1964 Surgeon General's report that first linked smoking to lung cancer. It confirmed what many other peer revived studies have shown, and the report said as little as one cigarette a day, or even just inhaling smoke from someone else's cigarette, could be enough to cause a heart attack and even death.

"The chemicals in tobacco smoke reach your lungs quickly every time you inhale, causing damage immediately," Benjamin said in a story in U.S. News & World Report. "Inhaling even the smallest amount of tobacco smoke can also damage your DNA, which can lead to cancer."

The report found that the more you're exposed to deadly cigarette smoke, the harder it is for your body to repair the damage. Smoking also weakens the immune system and makes it harder for the body to respond to treatment if a smoking-linked cancer does arise.

Some 70 of the 7,000 chemicals and compounds in cigarettes can cause cancer, while hundreds of the others are toxic, inflaming the lining of the airways and potentially leading to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a major killer in the United States. The chemicals also corrode blood vessels and increase the likelihood of blood clots, upping the risk for heart conditions.

We already know smoking is responsible for about 85 percent of lung cancers in the United States, but this report puts more emphasis on the link between smoking and the nation's no. 1 killer, heart disease.

As other studies and research have shown, the health problems caused by smoking and secondhand smoke don't stop at cancer and heart disease. Smoking cigarettes can interfere with blood-sugar control for diabetes and can help spur a range of pregnancy and birth-related problems such as miscarriage, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

With all the proof stacking up, tobacco companies are fighting back. The report found that cigarettes are also getting more addictive with newer formulations getting the nicotine more quickly and efficiently from the lungs -- where it first enters the body -- to the heart and brain. Compounds other than nicotine that are added to cigarettes also help hook people in, the report said.

Dec 9, 2010

Respected Journalist continues to shine light on shady bridge deal

Veteran journalist Jack Lessenberry has done a great job documenting Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop’s, R-Rochester, attempts to block a vote on the planned and needed Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) on behalf of Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun, but Lessenberry’s column on Wednesday called “Leadership for Sale” spells out his obstruction in very clear language.

Lessenberry said Bishop’s decision to end legislative session three weeks before the end of the year and give lawmakers another long vacation with so much work that can be done is disgraceful.

“Anyone who tried to do that could be assured that Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop would block anything decent from happening,” he wrote. “…Want a perfect example of the failure of our democracy? Look at what happened last week with the proposed new Detroit River International Crossing Bridge. Virtually every business, labor and corporate interest wants a new bridge. Canada offered to front Michigan's costs, meaning we wouldn't have to pay a dime.”

The project will create 10,000 jobs, and it has the potential to create up to 35,000 jobs.

“Anyone who knows how desperate people are, with unemployment running out for hundreds of thousands, knows how badly needed those jobs are,” Lessenberry said. “But two men were determined to prevent them from happening. Bishop, of course, but he was a mere lackey of the real bloated spider of corruption: That would be Manuel J. "Matty" Moroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, who doesn't want his monopoly threatened.
Moroun, an 83-year-old billionaire and probably Detroit's worst slumlord (just think the hulking ruin of the old Michigan Central train station) sent forth his wage slaves and minions to block the new bridge. They lied, misrepresented, improperly seized city land, and most of all, got themselves the best government that their money can buy. Most of all, they showered politicians with cash contributions.”

The Moroun family spent more than $1 million in campaign cash in the last election cycle to keep their monopoly, but now that the election is over they, and their lobbying firm - Karoub Associates, have been courting the incoming freshman legislators.

Moroun has suffered a series of setbacks in court where campaign cash has less effect, so he is trying to go around the courts. One place where has lost has been in his attempt to use the Gateway project to begin building a second bridge and a new duty free shop, despite the fact that he has not received a single permit.

Last February Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentice Edwards ordered him to tear down the illegally constructed gas pumps and duty-free store built on property owned by the city of Detroit.

The $170 million Gateway Project will address long term congestion mitigation issues and provide direct access improvements between the Ambassador Bridge, I-75 and I-96.

Last month Governor-elect Rick “Chief Executive Outsourcer” Snyder met with the so-called bipartisan Freshman Caucus. The event was held at the lobbying firm Karoub Associates and sponsored by the Detroit International Bridge Company, which owns the Ambassador Bridge and Nora Moroun, wife of bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun.

Subscription only MIRS is also reporting that Karoub has been sponsoring trips for incoming freshman to tour the site of the Gateway project.

Karoub Associates lobbyist Jim Crawford “confirmed about eight in-coming representatives and senators took the trip several weeks ago and another delegation of three or four new members will make the journey next Tuesday at 8 a.m.”

Dec 8, 2010

Scrooges and Grinches are plentiful this holiday season

There are plenty of Grinches and Scrooges this holiday season to choose from with Republicans refusing to the extend unemployment insurance to millions of Americans set to lose their lifeline that will set the U.S. recovery back so they can give more tax breaks to the richest Americans to American corporations that earned profits at the highest total since records have been kept yet still firing people and demanding wage and benefit concessions.

In Michigan, Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun could be a Scrooge after spending more than $1 million in campaign contributions to the Michigan Senate Republicans to kill competition and kill 10,000 Michigan jobs. Despite those great qualifications, they did not make the cut.

Each year, national Jobs with Justice gives an “award” to the greediest, most cold-hearted company or person of the year. Nominations for the 2010 Scrooge of the Year are in, and it's time to vote. Unfortunately, the nominations were too early to accept our recommendations.

There are, unfortunately, seven worthy candidates to win this year’s Scrooge award. However, you can also write in your own candidate, and you can vote until Dec. 20. Here are the nominees with a brief bio of each nominee.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
A small number of Senators, led by conservative Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, have spent this Congressional session aggressively blocking almost all legislation from passing. By August, an incredible 372 bills had passed the U.S. House that had not been acted upon in the Senate. Why? Because as Senate minority leader, McConnell has led the Republicans in blocking debate and threatening to filibuster legislation that would benefit working people. All 42 GOP Senators have even signed a letter pledging to block almost every bill for the rest of the year.

Express Scripts
If Express Scripts has their way, 1,000 workers in the profitable company’s Bensalem, Pa. facilities will be out of a job shortly, wondering how they'll be able to put presents under the tree in December while paying the bills in January. The company racked up profits of $1.7 billion last year while processing 449 million prescriptions – a whopping 12 percent of all prescriptions filled in the United States. Despite this enormous profitability, the company announced it plans to close its suburban Philadelphia facilities, even after workers offered to take $8 million in wage and benefit cut.

Hyatt Hotels
In city after city across North America, Hyatt Hotels – a past nominee- is leading the fight against middle-class jobs for hotel workers. In 2010, Hyatt and its billionaire ownership family, the Pritzkers, have faced a wave of demonstrations—including strikes and boycotts—by hotel workers across North America who say that Hyatt is trying to eliminate quality healthcare and make the recession permanent for its employees, despite Hyatt's increased profitability and huge cash reserves. Moreover, Hyatt housekeepers are getting hurt. At some Hyatt hotels, room attendants clean as many as 30 rooms a day, nearly double what is commonly required in the industry. In a 2010 study of hotel worker injuries from 50 U.S. hotels published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, housekeepers working at Hyatt hotels had the highest injury rate of those hotels studied.

Rite Aid
Rite Aid, the nation's third-largest retail drug chain, has become increasingly "Scrooge-like" since management went too deeply into debt to buy the Brooks and Eckerd drugstore chain three years ago. That deal -- and other management missteps -- have turned Rite Aid into the poster child for corporate greed. Despite revenues of almost $26 billion in 2010, the company has recorded losses for 12 straight quarters. Yet Rite Aid's top executives continue to pay themselves millions in annual compensation -- while demanding concessions from their hardworking and loyal employees.

For more than a year and a half, Publix has refused to join a growing list of corporations -- nine to date, including McDonald's, Subway, and Whole Foods -- who have committed to working together with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to improve wages and working conditions for the farmworkers who pick their companies' tomatoes.

Even after an historic agreement between the CIW and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange -- which represents 90 percent of all Florida tomato growers -- Publix continues to refer to the issue as a "labor dispute." It refuses to pay one more penny per pound for its tomatoes to increase workers' pay, and to support a code of conduct that will ensure basic rights for workers in the fields.

Giumarra Vineyards
Giumarra Vineyards is the nation's largest table grape grower, employing close to 2,500 grape workers. Approximately one out of every ten bunches of grapes picked in the U.S. comes from workers for a single company--Giumarra. This company has a long history of intimidating and bullying workers and violating their rights. In fact, back in 2006, a union election was thrown out by an administrative judge because of their unlawful interference. In addition, two farm workers have died of heat-related causes while laboring in Giumarra’s fields. Many of Giumarra’s workers are members of indigenous groups from Mexico. In a lawsuit filed by the former Giumarra employees who are Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, they claim they were the targets of abuse, insults, and discrimination by Giumarra supervisors just because they are indigenous.

The Health Insurance and Pharmaceutical Industry
Healthcare is big business in the United States, where more than twice as much money is spent, per capita, than in any other country. Tens of millions of Americans do not have access to adequate healthcare. Tens of thousands of Americans die each year because of that lack of access. Almost every American with private health insurance struggles to get their medical bills paid. And measurements of the quality of the U.S. healthcare system — such as life expectancy and infant mortality — are disappointing.

Meanwhile, health insurance corporations in the U.S. are raking in hundreds of billions of dollars (and paying their CEOs tens of millions of dollars) each year. Health insurance corporations are not in the business of providing healthcare; they are in the business of... being in business.

And the pharmaceutical corporations? Aren’t they our miracle workers of scientific research and development? Think again. The pharmaceutical industry — the most profitable industry that there is — spends far more of its hundreds of billions of dollars of annual revenue on lobbying, marketing and advertising than it does on developing new drugs. In fact, the pharmaceutical industry spends more than any other industry on lobbying. So it is no wonder that sixty-one percent of Medicare spending on drugs goes directly to pharmaceutical companies as profit.

Jobs with Justice is a national organization with the vision of lifting up workers’ rights and struggles as part of a larger campaign for economic and social justice and worker‘s rights.

Deal on tax cuts means compromise is not a bad word

I’m used to fighting and arguing with right-wingers and Republican, and I have no problem with that it because its’ really not that difficult. But I spent much of yesterday arguing with fellow Democrats over President Obama’s decision to strike a compromise with Republicans on a temporary two-year extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts, including the bailout for millionaires, in exchange for a 13-month extension of unemployment insurance benefits and a one-year payroll tax reduction for all workers.

It’s a given that Democrats have a big tent with room for lots of opinions and viewpoints, so we will never agree on everything. We’re not Republicans that march in lock step. But I agree with the President on one major point: that compromise is not a bad thing.

In a news conference at the White House yesterday, Obama defended the deal, and he made the point that this country and the greatest form of government was formed from reasoned debate and a compromise. Like liberals, I would love for the president to stand up to the Republicans and their decision to fight for the richest 2 percent that already controls almost 24 percent of income in this country, but people elected the President to accomplish things and make progress, not to engage in useless political fights.

“But I'm not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington,” the President said. “And I'm not willing to let our economy slip backwards just as we're pulling ourselves out of this devastating recession.”

I understand that the American people are on our side on the issues, and that they support letting the tax cuts expire for the top earners and keeping the middle class tax cuts. But, there was too much at stake for Obama not to make the deal, including millions losing their unemployment insurance that are keeping a roof over their heads at a time when the unemployment rate is near 10 percent.

I would much rather see the rich get the tax cuts for just two more years instead of getting nothing. We could have the fight and see the unemployed lose their lifeline and see the middle class get a tax hike that will stall the climb out of the Bush recession, or we get something that keeps the economy recovering, yet it increases the budget deficit. So much for the crap about Republicans being deficit hawks and caring about the deficit.

I have heard the argument that we have the majority, so we should pass what we want. The fact is Republicans will just filibuster it, and they have used that rule more than any Senate in U.S. history.

The president was sent to the White House to govern, and he has done that. He has accomplished 80 percent of what he said he would accomplish in just two short years, but many Democrats are not satisfied. Granted, some of the things are not as strong or as sweeping as we would like, like health care insurance reform, but it’s a start.

There is nothing wrong with reasoned debate leading to a workable compromise, and when things are proven to work, we expand and improve them over time. A perfect example is Social Security. It was originally intended just for widows and orphans, but it has turned out to be one of the most popular and successful government programs ever.

This is in sharp contrast to Republicans way of governing. They have said no to everything in an attempt to defeat the President, and they could care less the harm it has done or will do to the country or the economy.

That strategy worked in the last election, and the fact is people didn’t necessarily vote for Republicans in the past election, they just didn’t vote for Democrats and stayed home. They plan to continue that strategy for at least the next two years.

They are trying to run the clock out in lame duck and make sure nothing gets done. They want to make sure the President gets nothing done or accomplishes anything. They don’t care if it means a Middle East terrorist gets his hands on a loose nuclear weapon from the former Soviet Union by sitting on the START treaty on strategic offensive arms.

They are also dragging their feet on repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” even though 70 percent of the American people support killing it, 70 percent of the military rank and file support killing it and the military leadership supports killing it. Why? Because if it doesn’t get done, they can blame Obama, and he will lose his liberal base.

We already know many Democrats don’t like the tax deal, and they plan to fight it. But it appears that even some Republicans don’t like it, even though their base, the richest 2 percent, got more money to offshore, but because it will give Obama something.

U.S. Rep. Vern Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids, told the Grand Rapids Press that “he expects some in his own Republican caucus to oppose the deal because it would allow the Democrats to claim an accomplishment in lame duck.”

That bears repeating: “Because it would allow the Democrats to claim an accomplishment in lame duck.”


Dec 7, 2010

Obama forced to negotiate with the devil to keep recovery moving forward

Sometimes it’s not advisable to negotiate with the devil, but President Obama was forced to do just that over the bailout for the rich and the extension of the unemployment benefits.

It was announced yesterday that President Obama struck a deal with Republicans on a two-year extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts in exchange for a 13-month extension of unemployment insurance benefits. It’s very hard to negotiate with someone who is only concerned with making you look bad and defeating you, is not interested in governing and is only concerned with protecting the richest 2 percent, but this crappy deal may be the best we can do.

Republicans claim that they care about the budget deficit, but the tax cuts to a group that already controls almost 24 percent of income in this country will add more than $36 billon to the federal budget deficit. It was either the tax break for people who don’t need it, or a tax increase to the middle class that will surely stall the climb out of the Bush recession.

The Bush tax cut was enacted because we had a budget surplus under President Clinton, but the tax cuts that were set to expire at the end of the month not only got rid of the surplus, but it helped create a huge budget deficit. So, Republicans want to give millions more to the rich, but nothing to the middle class.

The debunked argument they use is that if we don’t extend the tax cut to the rich, they, the alleged job creators, will not hire people. However, they are ignoring the fact that corporations are already earning huge, record profits right now with the tax cut.

American businesses earned profits at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report released last month, so with the tax break and record profits they are not hiring. This is the highest total since records have been kept.

The growing gap between the richest 2 percent and everyone else is turning the United States into a banana republic. In fact, the U.S. now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana.
Unemployment benefits are pumped directly back into the economy, as those on unemployment use the money for basic necessities like housing, lights, gas for the car to look for work and food to feed their family. The loss of unemployment benefits will have a disastrous effect on Michigan, but Republicans don’t seem to care. At no time in our history have we refused to extend unemployment benefits when the unemployment rate was this high.

Republicans have demonstrated time after time that they are simply not interested in governing, and their only concern seems to be getting and keeping power; no matter who is hurt. The only people they care about protecting seem to be the richest 2 percent, and they don’t need the help.

Republicans are even refusing to act on something as important as ensuring loose nuclear weapons do not fall into the hands of a Middle East terrorist, and they continue to drag their feet on the START treaty on strategic offensive arms.

This is a crappy deal, but how do you negotiate with someone who cares so little about the middle class, the economy and will stop at nothing to make you look bad and defeat you?

The Senate and House Democrats have not signed off on the deal, and frankly, I’m not sure they should. No doubt it’s a crappy deal. But the fact is Republicans don’t care if unemployment benefits are cut off during the Christmas season, and they don’t care if taxes are raised on the middle class.

I can live with this deal. I don’t like it, but I understand how little Republicans care.

Dec 6, 2010

Moroun spends $1 million to kill DRIC

Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun spent more than a million dollars in the last election cycle to ensure he keeps his monopoly at the busiest border crossing in North America and killed the planned International Crossing (DRIC) bridge.

Last week on the last session day of the 95th Legislature session, the entire Michigan Senate Republican caucus voted no on discharging House Bill 4961 from committee; a bill that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada to build the DRIC bridge. It occurred in the very week that the post-election campaign statements were due to be released to the public, and it showed a major reason something that has such widespread bipartisan and binational support was killed.

According to the Detroit Free Press, “the Moroun family -- Matty, his wife, Nora, son Matthew and daughter-in-law Lindsey” spent more than $1 million in campaign cash.” The fact is it is probably much more because he has so many companies with different names.

“He was especially generous to candidates in the state Senate, where the DRIC proposal has been bottled up all year and finally was shelved Thursday,” the Free Press reported. “Moroun gave thousands of dollars to 19 Senate candidates, and 15 of them won. He gave at least $150,000 to political action committees dedicated to electing Republican Senate candidates.”

“Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop successfully blocked bringing a vote on the DRIC proposal to the Senate floor,” but in May he promised an up or down vote. The Moroun family has contributed nearly $400,000 this year to political action committees (PAC) and candidates controlled by Bishop that helped Senate Republicans, to Bishop's unsuccessful attorney general campaign or directly to Senate Republican candidate committees to keep the family monopoly.

The Free Press reported that “In both the House and Senate, many of the contributions came after Oct. 17, the last campaign finance deadline before the Nov. 2 election. Those donations didn't become public until Thursday, when post-election campaign finance reports were due to the Secretary of State's Office.”

The timing is suspect. Moroun made sure the contributions would not come out until after the election, and Bishop made sure the news of the generous contributions would not come out until after he had successfully blocked a vote on DRIC. Despite it only being Dec. 6, Bishop made sure the last session day was last Thursday; the shortest lame duck session in recent memory, an with plenty of unfinished business.

In fact, the last session day ran all day and all night on Thursday, and it adjourned at 3:50 a.m. on Friday morning. In other words, instead of conducting business in the light of day, he choose to keep the Senate in a marathon session until almost 4 a.m. so session would not run until after Thursday.

Dec 3, 2010

Pentagon report provides justification to kill discriminatory DADT policy

In what can be described as “we already knew that,” the Pentagon released an extensive, nine-month report this week that says allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces posed a "low risk" of disruption, and it should deal a death blow to the discriminatory and unconstitutional “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Overall, the study showed that “about 70 percent of active-duty and reserve forces saw little or no problem with ending the 17-year-old policy,” and that overwhelming 70 percent reflects about what the general public believes.

In fact, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged the Senate to pass legislation killing DADT before it adjourns this month, with Gates saying "This can be done, and should be done, without posing a serious risk to military readiness.” That’s simply a no-brainer.

Granted, the 30 percent is very vocal, and the 30 percent in the military also expressed similar false arguments, such as “I cannot rely on someone who I don't feel comfortable with, nor can they trust me," one respondent wrote in one of more than 100,000 surveys returned by service members and their spouses, and comments collected from about 72,000 unsolicited opinions from service members submitted to an Internet drop box. "A lack of trust turns into a lack of cohesion, which eventually leads to mission failure."

Another said, “I believe this is not the time for us to make huge changes in the military. We are at war and our men and women overseas do not need any more distractions. This issue should be addressed at the appropriate time. That time is not now."

I’m sure similar responses were heard back in 1948 when President Truman integrated the military, but one thing I have admired about the military is that it is the most equitable organization I have ever been a part of, and people advance simply on their demonstrated ability.

As for combat troops, among our allies serving along side our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, England and Canada allow gays to serve openly in the military. In fact, more than 25 other countries also allow gays to serve openly in the military with no problems, such as Australia, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Uruguay. Like “Mr. Conservative” Arizona Senator and Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater once said, “You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight."

A Senate panel hearing on the Pentagon report continues today, where Arizona Republican Senator John McCain continues to flip-flop on the issue and embarrass himself.

Dec 2, 2010

Moroun cash kills DRIC

LANSING -- The thousands of dollars Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun gave to the Senate Republicans paid off on Thursday when the entire GOP caucus voted no on discharging House Bill 4961 from committee; a bill that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada to build the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge.

The 11-23 vote was just to discharge the bill from the Transportation Committee that has had it for more than 7 months and has been in the works for a decade, and a majority would just have allowed it too have an up or down vote. Thursday was the last day of the 2010 Legislative session, despite it’s only the second day of December, and the bill is now dead and must be re-introduced by the new Legislature in January.

To keep their monopoly of the busiest border crossing in North America, the Moroun family has contributed nearly $400,000 this year to political action committees (PAC) and candidates controlled by Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, that helped Senate Republicans, to Bishop's unsuccessful attorney general campaign or directly to Senate Republican candidate committees to keep their monopoly.

Governor Jennifer Granholm said the move to kill 10,000 to 35,000 jobs and a project that is supported by more then 80 business and labor organizations from Grand Rapids to Detroit and Ohio to Texas representing thousands of business of all sizes and hundreds of thousands of workers who count on free flowing trade with Canada is a prime example of why Michigan needs campaign finance reform.

“Senate Republicans have bowed to special interests,” she said “They are irresponsible, discarding 10,000 jobs for Michigan workers and ignoring the needs of job providers.”

Rarely does a project have the support of both labor and the chamber of commerce, but the DRIC project does.

“It's simply incredible that they turned down a no-risk project which had support from business, labor, former Governors Engler and Blanchard and the U.S. and Canadian governments,” Granholm said.

Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, who introduced the discharge motion, said he will continue to advocate for the DRIC project.

“While I am disappointed, this certainly isn’t the end of DRIC,” Basham said. “There are incoming legislators from both sides of the aisle and in both legislative chambers already preparing to pick up where we left off. I urge Governor-elect Rick Snyder to make this a top priority because this new border crossing is critical for Michigan’s future, creating more than 10,000 much-needed jobs now while providing the necessary infrastructure to support the continued growth of our international commerce and trade.”

The Canadian government, that has offered Michigan up to $550 million to help pay for the new border crossing, is becoming very impatient, and they may ask Washington to step in; either that or a new bridge will be built in Buffalo.

Last day of Lame Duck is the last chance for thousands of Michigan jobs and the DRIC Bridge

LANSING -- it’s do or die day for the 10,000 to 35,000 Michigan jobs and a new, modern bridge between Detroit and Windsor and the busies border crossing in North America after a discharge vote on House Bill 4961 that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada to build the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge failed to materialize on Wednesday.

Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, has been trying engineer a vote to discharge the bill from committee to the Senate floor an up or down vote, but the one real attempt was postponed on Tuesday after it appeared the necessary 19 votes were not there. If the bill does not get a vote today, all the six years of work die and the process starts all over again after Jan 1 when the new Legislature comes in. This is the last day of the Lame Duck session, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, - who reneged on a promise to being the bill to a vote back in May – plans to take the rest of the month of December off.

The DRIC Bridge project is supported by more then 80 business and labor organizations from Grand Rapids to Detroit and Ohio to Texas representing thousands of business of all sizes and hundreds of thousands of workers who count on free flowing trade with Canada. It also has bipartisan support, including the support of the last three Michigan governors.

The good news is that the media is starting to realize the only opposition is the Senate Republican Caucus after Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun pumped large amounts of campaign cash to the caucus.
The last ditch effort will begin today. A vote will eliminate all the BS talk about needing more time after years of committee hearings and debate. At least one Detroit News blogger hit the nail on the head.

“Politicians and wonks on both sides of the Detroit River have considered the border crossing issue for most of the decade. Senators who haven’t yet formed an opinion, one way or another, on this issue have no business holding elected office. Infrastructure at North America’s busiest commercial border crossing is kind of a big issue for Michigan. Or it should be, anyway.”

“The binational study that produced the DRIC plan began in 2004. The House handed off DRIC to the Senate almost six months ago. Any Senator suggesting postponement on the DRIC vote because they don't want anything “jammed down their throats” is either a liar or woefully incompetent. Possibly both.”

Dec 1, 2010

Jobs lose round one in fight to bring DRIC bridge to a vote

It appears Ambassador Bridge owner and GOP sugar daddy Manuel "Matty" Moroun won round one on Tuesday when House Bill 4961 that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada to build the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge failed to be discharged from committee to the Senate floor fro an up or down vote.

Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, has been championing the effort to build the new DRIC bridge to replace and expand the aging Ambassador Bridge, but the discharge motion was withdrawn when it appears he did not have the necessary 19 votes to bring it to the floor for an up or down vote.

“The reason this issue should be discharged is this is probably one of the most single most issues we can deal with in this state to No. 1, create jobs; No. 2, protect this state and this country with homeland security; No. 3, to be able to have some redundancy when it comes to infrastructure crossing our international borders,” Basham said. “There our 26 international border crossings in this country and 24 of them are publicly-owned; the busiest border crossing in this country happens to be in Michigan, and it is privately-owned.”

Basham knows it is a long shot, but he aid he still plans to try again on Wednesday or on the last day of the lame duck on Thursday. There are 10,000 to 35,000 jobs at stake.

The discharge vote has crated massive media interest in Canada, and if the DRIC bridge is not built, no bridge will be built because the Canadians will never give Moroun a permit to land it in Canada because they do not want a multi-lane bridge with heavy trucks empting into downtown Windsor.

“This is a jobs issue, a commerce issue, an issue of trade between Michigan and its largest trading partner, Canada,” Basham said. “This is an issue that has to be dealt with it. It has to be dealt with sooner than later.”

The DRIC study began a decade ago in 2000, but the Moroun financed GOP Senate caucus still wants to delay and kill it so Moroun can keep his monopoly. There were some rumors that Governor-elect Rick Snyder may have had something to do with the decision to ask for a postponement of the vote on Tuesday, but Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, - who reneged on a promise to being the bill to a vote back in May – denied that.

"Rick Snyder has been very clear to me that he does not wish to intrude upon this Legislature," Bishop said in subscription only Gongwer.

That’s simply not true, and he was in the Capitol yesterday, and he weighed in on funding the Pure Michigan campaign and the autism bills.

Nov 30, 2010

Only under a Democrat is TSA security a violation of civil rights

One thing we have learned in the last two years is that any idea or action proposed or implemented by President Obama the right will say is awful or disastrous, even if it’s their idea.

The recent enhanced security at airports implemented by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) involving new full-body scanners and pat-downs has got Republican talking heads going crazy and screaming about the violation of civil liberties.

It’s ironic that the testing of body scanners at airports and the implementation of widespread use began during the Bush administration, but the really ironic part is we had no problem with this kind of security the many times the Bush Administration shredded the Constitution.

It was just a few years ago that any one who complained about security after 9/11 was called a traitor or a terrorist who had something to hide. Its’ also ironic that to get out of the extra security, they want us to truly violate other peoples’ civil rights and use racial profiling; something the courts have clearly said is a violation of civil rights. They want to do it even though there is no reliable profile of a terrorist.

But the Rude Pundit really said it best, so I will let him say it. This has always been a PG rated blog, but the Rude Pundit uses language that may be offensive to some people; that is, after all, why he is called the Rude Pundit. So, if you are easily offended, stop reading.

“Well, welcome to the privacy party, motherfuckers. Come on in to the constitutional protections rave. What took you so long to get here? Oh, yeah. Holding people indefinitely without charges? Who the fuck cares. Wiretapping Americans without a warrant? Oh, blow us. Torturing confessions out of innocent people? Sometimes ya gotta spill a little blood to make security stew.”

It’s clear that if this was a Republican Administration doing this, we would be told to man up. In this environment, what else can we expect? Other countries have been doing similar procedures for years. If someone has a better idea to ensure the safety of airlines, let’s hear it. I’m not crazy about it either, but I can only imagine how much screaming we will hear from the right if an airliner is brought down because of terrorism.

“Yep, all it took for some of the citizens of this country to actually make a stink about civil rights was a black president, a Democratic-controlled Department of Homeland Security, and the fear that barely-trained, underpaid airport security people will see what your Mama's tits look like in a government-ordered x-ray body scan. Or, even worse, that if you refuse having your dick or slit on display, you'll get an "enhanced pat down," as it's being called, just like the extra-special interrogation techniques used at Gitmo or a special new cereal, like corn flakes but now with nuts.”