Jan 30, 2010

The President excels in rare televised Q & A with GOP House Caucus

In what some people are calling an historic event, President Obama appeared before the House Republican Caucus in Baltimore at their retreat and took questions from some of his harshest critics.

What made the event even more rare, and even more historic, was that it was televised. This is common in Great Brittan, but not in the U.S. The Republicans initially balked at televising it, but they relented. After watching it, they now regret it.

Most Americans got to watch it live, but not Faux “news“ viewers. After it became apparent how well the President was doing, they cut away to bring on critics of the President to talk about the critics of the President.

We had to sit through a filibuster speech by teabagger U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn, where she said the President was ignoring their suggestions and ideas on health care reform. She claims many Democrat leaders - someone needs to tell her we are members of the Democratic Party - were sending GOP ideas to the President. It made me wonder why she’s just trotting them out now.

Blackburn was a member of Congress when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, why didn’t she have those ideas then? Can you say hypocrisy, Marsha?

What was really refreshing was to see him speak off the cuff for an hour taking questions from Republican lawmakers. Some of the attacks of the president have been down right silly, and one of those is he uses a teleprompter for everything. If he didn’t give such inspiring speeches, I would say he just take Q & A’s all the time.

Every President since Ronald Reagan has used a teleprompter, but for some reason only Obama has been criticized for it. Just this week I saw a rightwing Michigan blog criticizing him for using it to talk to 6th graders in Virginia. The fact that the claim is just another lie will do little to slow them down, but after the President’s performance in Baltimore, non-teabaggers know better.

Jan 29, 2010

Spaghetti dinners take the place of real health care reform

News stories on a couple of recent fundraisers really illustrates the need for health care reform in this country, and it should debunk rightwing Republicans claim that health care is just fine the way it is.

Republicans have made defeating health care reform their no. 1 priority even if it wrecks the country, and they have rolled out a massive fear mongering campaign and lie after lie. Health insurance lobbyists are spending $1.4 million a day on that misinformation campaign to protect their huge profits. With more than 50 million Americans and counting without health care coverage and medical bills the number one cause of personal bankruptcy for people with health insurance, we will have to hold a lot of spaghetti dinners. As a public service for both the uninsured and those people putting on the fundraiser, I will highlight them.

The most recent benefit was held yesterday at T.G.I. Friday's in Green Oak Township for Courtney Beard, 21, who was kidnapped from the parking lot of a nearby restaurant where she worked on New Year's Day. She was held, according to the Detroit News, for 12 hours in a trailer in Antrim County by her estranged boyfriend. When police rescued Beard, she was suffering from hypothermia and underwent surgery for a stab wound to her leg at a Gaylord hospital. Although like millions of Americans, she works, but she does not have insurance.

All proceeds from the drinks sold were donated to her medical costs, as well as half the proceeds of a 50/50 drawing.

A fundraiser was held last Saturday for Michael White of Howell at 59 West Bar and Billiards in Highland Township. White, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, was left with about $500,000 in medical bills after undergoing a 16-hour surgery to reconstruct his spine after he was involved in an all-terrain vehicle accident and broke his back in several places.

Like many Americans, White had been paying for health insurance for nine years before last July, when he was laid off from his job as an electrician and lost his benefits. Luckily for him, he was called back to work, but while he was waiting for his health benefits to be reinstated, he had his accident. A fear millions of Americans have.

"He's a homeowner with these ridiculous medical bills, and are we're just trying to help him out," Jessica Hilla, a friend of White's who is hosting the benefit, told the P & A.

I have no idea how the benefit for Ms. Beard went, but the word is it went well for White; that’s good news.

Anti-union activist says he will appeal union-busting case to the Michigan Supreme Court

Anti-union activist Chet Zarko is appealing the Howell Public School E-mail case to the Michigan Supreme Court, according to radio station WHMI and his response to me.

We're all entitled to due process and the process on this issue hasn't ended, so nothing remains to be seen,” he wrote on this blog on Jan. 28. “I'm (sic) you know the answer to whether I'll appeal.”

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on Jan. 27 on the case involving a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) for some 5,500 emails sent and received on Howell Public School computers between the leaders of the Howell Education Association (HEA) and their union members were not public record and therefore subject to public disclosure.

WHMI is reporting he is being represented by the National Right to Work Foundation, a union-busting “non-profit” with the mission of “providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by abuses of compulsory unionism.” The mission of the group in this case, like Zarko’s original mission, is to bust or at least embarrass the union.

Back in the spring of 2007, Zarko in cahoots with anti-union Howell school board member Wendy Day, filed a FOIA in a fishing expedition request for the emails of union leaders on their HPS account. Zarko alleges HEA leaders have "conducted a large amount of union business on public time, including trying to retain MEA (Michigan Education Association) affiliated MESSA health-insurance, and using parent-teacher conferences to recruit parents (to) their side of a collective-bargaining debate.” Even though that was proven not to be the case, Zarko persisted in an effort just to find something embarrassing.

In October of 2008 Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Stanley Latreille determined that the e-mails written by union leaders on school computers are public record, and subject to disclosure. The HEA appealed to stop the disclosure because both the district and the union agreed that they had a “recognized right” to use the email system.

That case was appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals, and oral briefs were taken by a three-judge panel at a hearing on Jan. 5. The court issues its ruling in favor of the union on Jan. 27, saying just because the 5,500 emails were captured by the school’s servers does not mean they are public record. The ruling concluded “We believe this question is one that must be resolved by the Legislature, and we call upon the Legislature to address it, we conclude that under the FOIA statute the individual plaintiffs’ personal emails were not rendered public records solely because they were captured in the email system’s digital memory,”

This is part of Republican’s efforts to bust unions and make Michigan a “Right to Work for Less” state. Shortly after the ruling, the rightwing think tank Mackinac Center’s Legal Foundation sent out a press release saying this ruling “undermines” FOIA, but their only interest, like Zarko’s, is union busting. The rightwing think tank even filed a amicus curiae brief in the case.

During the Court of Appeals hearing on Jan. 5, HPS lawyers argued the case and Zarko sat in the back of the court room. Plus, the case is HEA Vs. “Howell Board of Education” and HPS. Zarko is listed as just a “Intervenor/Counter Plaintiff.” It’s unclear what role HPS will have in the case if it goes to the Michigan Supreme Court. I sure hope no tax dollars go to fund Zarko’s union-busting witch hunt.

Jan 28, 2010

Plenty of real straight talk in State of the Union speech

BRIGHTON -- President Obama hijacked the real “Straight Talk Express” Wednesday night in the first of eight State of the Union speeches.

Like many people, I attended a speech watching party, and I attended the party hosted by the Livingston County Democratic Party. The people in the crowded banquet room at Memories Lounge at times sat in rapt attention, cheered and laughed. The President not only delivered a great speech, but he talked off the cuff directly to the American people and Republicans, who are blocking everything in an attempt to regain power.

The president covered a wide variety of subjects, from the banking crisis to nuclear weapons. He pleaded for bipartisan action on the country’s pressing problems, but judging from the crowd shots of the Republicans and past history, their only concerns is just defeating the President at all costs.

He took banks to task for not lending to help stimulate the economy, even though they gladly took bailout money.

“Our most urgent task upon taking office was to shore up the same banks that helped cause this crisis,“ he said. “It was not easy to do. And if there's one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, and everybody in between, it's that we all hated the bank bailout. I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal.”

He also talked about his efforts that have begun to turn the economy around, and he did so with tax cuts to people who need it most and spend more.

“Now, let me repeat: We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families,” he said to thunderous applause. “We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college.”

But while he acknowledger the success of the Recovery Act, the President acknowledged how far we have to go to dig ourselves out of the worst recession since the Great Depression.

“But I realize that for every success story, there are other stories, of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from,” he said. “That is why jobs must be our number-one focus in 2010, and that's why I'm calling for a new jobs bill tonight.”

That’s something people here in Michigan are very interested in. Michigan Senate Democratic Leader Mike Prusi, D-Ishpeming, called for action today on state legislation that upholds the priorities outlined by President Obama in the last night’s speech.

“Following the President’s speech, it’s clear that certain core values resonate from the highest level of government on down to the state and even local level,” Prusi said. “Senate Democrats have placed an emphasis on these priorities and we have been fighting for Michigan’s middle class all along, and it's time to start moving legislation that can offer them real relief.”

That federal jobs bill will focus on small businesses and entrepreneurs where most of the jobs are created.

“So tonight, I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat,” he said. “I'm also proposing a new small business tax credit -– one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages.”

Despite speculation that he will back off health care reform that is choking our economy, he renewed his effort to reform health care.

“Now, let's clear a few things up,“ Obama said. “I didn't choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care because it was good politics.

“I took on health care because of the stories I've heard from Americans with preexisting conditions whose lives depend on getting coverage; patients who've been denied coverage; families –- even those with insurance -– who are just one illness away from financial ruin,” he said.

He also asked for some real bipartisanship and said Americans are sick of the constant fighting. The President acknowledge there will always be differences between the two parties, but he said the parties must get together to address the problems.

“But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day,” he said. “We can't wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side -– a belief that if you lose, I win.”

He left people with some of the inspirational words that led so many people to vote for the first time ever in 2008.

“We don't quit. I don't quit,“ he said “Let's seize this moment -- to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.”

Jan 27, 2010

Republicans go after police officers and firefighters

The first hearing of the newly formed Senate Reform and Restructuring Committee today to consider Senate Republicans so-called government reform package of bills turned out to be nothing more than two hours of union bashing.

Last week the so-called government reforms the Senate Republicans introduced were nothing more than pay cuts that will kill collective bargaining in Michigan. They are calling for a constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot in August to require government workers to take a 5 percent pay cut and pay 20 percent of their health insurance premiums. But the one that has flown under the radar and was the focus of almost all the testimony on Wednesday was Senate Bill 1072 that would amend PA 312 of 1969 that allows compulsory arbitration of labor disputes for municipal police and fire departments.

Because police officers and firefighters are essential to public safety, they are not allowed to go out on strike like other bargaining units can, so this gives them a tool in negotiating a contract. PA 312 is the foundation of collective bargaining rights for firefighters and police officers in Michigan, and since 1969 PA 312 has provided a fair and equitable process for contract disputes between firefighters and police officers and municipalities. PA 312 is intended as a last resort in negotiations, not as a bargaining tool.

But the Michigan Municipal League (MML) that represents city and village officials wants to kill it. They blame PA 312 for layoffs and bankruptcies instead of falling property values and reduced revenue sharing, and they cannot produce a single instance where it caused a municipality to go into receivership. The good news is SB 1072 does not go that far.

The bill would clarify that arbitrators must look at a city's ability to pay – something the act already does - and compare the city's other employees to police and fire officials when deciding if salary and other requests are fair. Somehow, I don’t believe a city clerical worker faces the same dangers as a police officer or firefighter.

The hearing was all one-sided, and all of the testimony was from the MML, mayors, city managers and township officials. Not a single union member, police officer or firefighter was allowed to speak.

In response to a question on how many cases of arbitration there were is the past year, the MML declined to answer, only saying they have decreased, but the official said there was no way to “measure the threat of arbitration.” When pressed for an answer by a Democratic member of the committee, the MML official admitted it was only five. That’s right; five cases are bankrupting local government.

As for the threat of arbitration, it’s no different than the threat of a strike, so if they remove PA 312, does that mean police and fire can now strike? Somehow I doubt that.

This is such a farce, and it’s just one more weapons the Republicans are wielding to kill unions, drive wages and benefits down and kill the middle class.

The committee did not take any votes, and it is expected to meet again next Wednesday morning.

The MML is right in that the number of cases of arbitration are going down, and that’s because all municipal bargaining units have sacrificed and made concessions to help balance the budget. The non-partisan Citizens Research Council says an average of only about 33 cases a year go to arbitration – about 8 percent of fire and police debarments, and of those cases, the municipalities are successful 71 percent of the time.

Court of Appeals rules against anti-union activist in favor of teachers in e-mail case

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled today on the case involving a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) for some 5,500 emails sent and received on Howell Public School computers between union members were not public record and therefore subject to public disclosure.

The three-Judge panel issued their ruling after taking oral briefs on Jan. 5, saying, “We believe this question is one that must be resolved by the Legislature, and we call upon the
Legislature to address it, we conclude that under the FOIA statute the individual plaintiffs’ personal emails were not rendered public records solely because they were captured in the email system’s digital memory.”

The case came about when rightwing blogger and anti-union activist Chet Zarko went on a fishing expedition in May of 2007 when he submitted a FOIA request in cahoots with Howell school board member Wendy Day to find dirt to embarrass the union with. He accused the HEA of abusing taxpayer-funded resources to promote union causes, but the district said the union had a recognized right to use the computers and email.

In October of 2008 Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Stanley Latreille determined that the e-mails written by union leaders on school computers are public record, and subject to disclosure. The HEA filed suit in Livingston County Circuit to stop the disclosure because both the district and the union had a “recognized right” to use the email system. Circuit Court Judge Stanley Latreille determined that they should be released, prompting the HEA to appeal.

Although the suit was against HPS, Zarko was a party to the suit. It remains to be seen if he will appeal.

Jan 26, 2010

Drolet says a little corruption is no big deal

Republican Senate candidate Leon Drolet called the corruption filled 2008 recall effort against House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford, on the level because only two signature takers were indicted for fraud.

Michael Bastianelli, 28, of Westland and Harvey Robinson, 39, of Redford were arraigned back in December in 16th District Court in Livonia on two felony counts of uttering and publishing and making false statements related to recall petitions during the Dillon recall attempt. On Friday, Bastianelli pled guilty to a felony charge of uttering and publishing. He had forged the signature of Redford's fire chief on a petition form.

Drolet - a former Republican state Representative, Macomb County Commissioner and executive director of the so-called Michigan Taxpayers Alliance (MTA) - headed up the recall effort because Dillon voted for a tax increase to avoid a state government shutdown. Drolet claims he only met Robinson once, and he also claims he had nothing to do with the fraud because he hired a company to collect signatures.

Even more incredible, he told subscription only Gongwers that he disputed criticism that “the recall effort was rife with fraud. If anything, that only two people out of 200 workers were charged vindicates the integrity of the campaign.”

Say what?

He went even farther and said the committee that sought Dillon's recall should be repaid by Bastianelli. He’s using the GOP strategy that if you’re going to tell a lie, you might as well go big.

"This was two guys out 200," Drolet told Gongwer. "No, I don't believe it does (taint the campaign) anymore than one person can go and sign the name Mickey Mouse on a petition and taint the whole petition.”

That’s the same situation with the favorite Republican boogieman, ACORN, who are under fire because a few workers collecting voter registrations forged them because they were paid for each one. But ACORN was a nationwide effort with thousands of workers. Drolet’s crooked recall took place in one single township. The claim that Drolet didn’t know anything about it is ridiculous.

He is either lying or he is a poor administrator who had no idea what was going in something he was in charge of. Considering how small an area he was in charge of that, it’s clear he knew what was going on.

Not only that, but the State Police began investigating in May 2008 after receiving 499 complaints of documented forgeries and nearly 2,000 additional suspected forgeries, indicating a widespread campaign to commit fraud. Again, for Drolet to claim he did not know what was going on is ridiculous.

There is a race for the 22nd State Senate seat

It appears Republican Joe Hune has a challenger as the heir apparent for the state Senate seat in the 22nd District.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus is reporting that former Howell Mayor Paul Rogers intends to run for the seat that covers all off Livingston County, Shiawassee County and part of Ingham County vacated by term-limited Valde Garcia, R-Howell. Rogers is not related to U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, or his brother State Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, or the P & A would have already endorsed him.

It will be a primary challenge to Hune; even though no where in the article does it mention his party affiliation. Rogers has a ton more experience than Hune even after Hune was term-limited in the House.

Rogers served as the city's mayor from 1997-2000 and has spent more than a decade on the City Council. Those positions are nonpartisan. In addition to this stint on the City Council, Rogers, according to the P & A, has held leadership roles with the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce, Howell Education Foundation and Livingston County United Way campaign. He's also been involved with the Howell Area Fire Authority, the school-to-work steering committee for the Livingston Educational Service Agency and the Livingston County. He is also a small business owner.

That’s in sharp contrast to Hune, a really nice guy who did little more than show up everyday in Lansing. He has a near perfect, if not perfect, voting record, but his list of accomplishments is very thin. That’s not always a bad thing because the party who holds the gavel will often block any legislation of someone from the opposing party they do not like, are targeting or think is a rising star; like the Republicans did to Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, and Rep. Kathy Angerer, D-Dundee.

But Hune doesn’t have that excuse because his party held the gavel for four of his six years in office.

Hune won his seat in 2002 in the newly created 47th District by a mere two votes in the primary election over a large field of more experienced and better known candidates. He was term-limited last year, and after being out of office a mere month, he announced he was running for the Senate in February of last year.

The Republicans have gerrymandered the district to make it a safer Republican seat, so the race will more than likely be over after the primary. It’s nice to see someone a little more moderate and may actually vote how he feels and not how parity leadership tells him to vote. No Democrat has yet announced they will run.

Jan 25, 2010

The liberal media promotes teabagger SOU watch party

You simply cannot buy this kind of earned media, and I’m beginning to wonder what kind of connections a Hartland Township resident and tea bagger named Wes Nakagiri has with the management of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

Last month the paper highlighted his blog, and his teabag misinformation on the health care bill, and this month they are promoting his State of the Union watching party in Hell, here in rural Livingston County. As a former reporter, I can tell you the most coveted spot in the newspaper is on the front page above the fold, and that’s because the story can be seen and most of it actually read in every single newspaper box in the county. That’s exactly where this story ran in the print edition today.

Why the fact that some tea bagger in conservative Livingston County hates President Obama and loves the huge profits insurance companies are making on health care is front page news is beyond me.

Just last month the newspaper chose to do an entire story on the fact that this guy started a blog on the fake, Astroturf tea party movement. It appears, at least on the surface, that this might actually be a grassroots effort unlike the tea parties promoted over the last year by rightwing Washington, D.C. lobbying groups, but I doubt it. However, you won’t have to pay $550 to attend like you would at the tea bagger convention. But if you must go, I hope you spend some money in Hell in Putnam Township to support a local business.

As for health care, Dateline NBC put a real face on the problem last night. It’s worth watching, especially if you believe the tea bagger lie that the government gets between doctor and patient.

If you want to watch and actually hear the first of President Obama’s eight State of the Union Addresses on Wednesday instead of carrying racist and insulting signs, I would invite you to a State of the Union watch party sponsored by the Livingston County Democratic Party. It will be held at 7 p.m. at Memories Lounge, 1840 S. Old U.S. 23, Brighton. The speech begins at 8 p.m., but come early and you can order off the menu and then watch President Obama on big screen television. I attended a debate watching party there last year, and the food and the atmosphere were fantastic.

Come out and enjoy the evening with some friendly, respectful people and support a local business.

What this proves is there is no such thing as the Liberal media.

What: State of Union Watch Party sponsored by the Livingston County Democratic Party
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday Jan. 27.
Where: Memories Lounge, 1840 S. Old U.S. 23, Brighton
Why: Watch President Obama with friends and respectful people and enjoy good food and perhaps an adult beverage.

Bank of America-subsidiary Detroit News says bank tax will hurt ecnomy

The news of an ownership change of a major newspaper drives another nail in the 30-plus year successful Republican political strategy of the liberal media.

Ownership of newspapers by a few mega-chains is not only hurting quality as the bottom line mentality rules the newspapers, but corporate ownership is also having effect on editorial policy.

The Associated Press is reporting that Affiliated Media Inc., the holding company for newspaper publisher MediaNews, filed for bankruptcy on Friday. Among MediaNews' properties is The Detroit News, which it acquired from Gannett in 2005. Bank of America will hold 80 percent of Affiliated Media Inc., meaning that the bailed out bank owns a controlling interest in one of Michigan’s largest newspapers.

There is no doubt that the mainstream media is conservative.

I wonder if it’s just a coincidence that just a few days after Bank of America acquired a controlling interest in the newspaper, it published an editorial today saying that President Obama’s proposed bank tax will hurt the economy?

Banks received millions of dollars under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) to stop them from going under because in their quest to reap more in profits they made bad loans contributing to the mortgage crisis that led to the economy’s meltdown. But now those banks are refusing to loan money to drive the recovery and giving huge bonuses to employees instead.

The president’s proposal would enact a 0.15 percent levy on bank, thrift and insurance companies with more than $50 billion in assets and would start after June 30. It would not apply to certain holdings, like customers’ insured savings, but to assets in risk-taking operations. It will be levied for 10 years, but it would remain in force longer if all losses to the bailout fund, the TARP, were not recovered after a decade. The Treasury now projects that the losses from the $700 billion loan program, which was created in October 2008, could reach $117 billion, about a third of the loss that it projected last summer According to the New York Times.

It seems pretty logical; pay back what you owe us before you give bonus to your employees and CEOs. Banks will have no problem harassing you if you owed them money.

But the Bank of America-subsidiary Detroit News thinks otherwise. What’s really funny is who they use as a source: Rightwing think tank Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Give me a break.

Jan 22, 2010

Rogers criticizes House Dems for 'politial ploy’ but ignores Senate GOP

Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, is filling his role as the minority party quite nicely, and his attack on a House Democratic plan to end so-called lifetime health care benefits for state lawmakers illustrates that.

In a story that ran in today’s edition of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, Rogers called it a "political ploy" and "the worst case of stupid politics, petty politics." But, that’s only when Democrats do it. Rogers is upset that a bill the Senate Republicans introduced, House Bill 5019, on May 28 would have eliminated the lifetime health insurance benefit, but House Democrats, who control the gavel, are going t take up a similar bill introduced by one of their members instead.

Welcome to being the minority party, Mr. Rogers. You would think his number one concern would be to get it done, but it’s not. The House Democrats plan to take up HB 4194 introduced by Rep. Dian Slavens, D-Canton, three months earlier on Feb. 5. That bill, unlike the Republican’s bill, has bipartisan support, and it was co-sponsored by Rep. Tom McMillan, R-Rochester Hills; a freshman and perhaps the most conservative Republican the House.

Under the bipartisan bill introduced by Slavens, only legislators elected before January 1, 2007 would be eligible for retiree health insurance coverage. The nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency said in its analysis of the bill that it “would provide long term savings by incrementally reducing and eventually eliminating the costs of health care benefits for members of the Legislature as the number of members in the closed system decreased over time.”

But Slavens has introduced a substitute to that bill, a very common practice on bills that have already been taken up, that goes even further and would exclude legislators serving on or after Jan. 30, 2009, from receiving the benefit. That would mean even she would lose the benefit.

What has Rogers upset is that he claims Republicans had the idea first, and that it is just a political ploy. But Rogers has been silent when earlier this week Senate Republicans unveiled their so-called reform package at a press conference that includes eliminating the benefit for lawmakers that have “not vested before January 1, 2010.” The problem there is that it would only impact future legislators, not current ones. No bills have yet been introduced based on that proposal.

Plus, the bill Rogers is pushing would have the state pay, according to the Press & Argus, “30 percent of costs after 10 years of service —a percentage that would increase 3 percent each year until 30 years of service were reached..” Considering that the most years a Senator can serve is 8 years and state Representative 6 years, it doesn’t make much sense.

I was bowled over to read the P & A editorial on Thursday that actual criticized a Rogers. The paper has a deserved reputation for being unabashed supporters of the Rogers family, especially U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers. But the editorial said “ it was disappointing this week to see Rogers fall into the partisan profile that he said he disdained when he was initially elected.”

I agree, but I was surprised not only to see the editorial, but a little confused as to why the editorial ran before the article the editorial was talking about.

I do not agree with either the Democrats or the Republicans on this issue.

It should be pointed out that the so-called lifetime health benefit is really not a lifetime health care benefit, unless they only live until 10 years after they reach age 55. It kicks in only after they are finished with their entire maximum term they can serve and it kicks in at age 55 and is in force until they reach age 65 when Medicare kicks in.

When you consider the responsibility the Legislature has, how much money they oversee and the amount of money lobbyists have to spread around, why is it we want to pay the people making our laws so little? Many mayors make more money and school principals make more that lawmakers. This will kill the notion of the citizen lawmaker, and all we will have in Lansing will be retirees and the independently wealthy. It will cut out the working class from serving that is actually close to the people. You also have to consider how much it costs to be a lawmaker. Lawmaker from the UP has to drive some 500 miles to work, one way.

In just the Democratic caucus, we have an auto worker, a miner a carpenter and a nurse. If we keep going in this direction, that will change, and we will have nothing but the independently rich and lobbyists will hold sway.

Jan 21, 2010

Attractive MagLev mass transit system is years away

The Interstate Traveler Task Force issued its report at the Capitol in Lansing on Tuesday after some 10 months, and state lawmakers on the task force recommended fast-tracking of the mass transit system from Detroit to Lansing, if they can find the money.

According to the Interstate Traveler Company from Whitmore Lake, this high tech system called a “Maglev“ system travels using high speed magnetic levitation. The “on-demand public transit network will be built along the right of way of the US Interstate Highway Systems, and any other permissible right of way.” It will be fueled by solar power and hydrogen.

According to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, Task Force chair Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Genoa Township, said "This proposal could single-handedly change Michigan's future by providing thousands of jobs, additional revenue for state and local governments, and a massive expansion of our electrical grid." He also said “the MagLev could create a "watershed moment" for Michigan, creating thousands of jobs, and should immediately be discussed in state House and Senate transportation committees.”

I agree, and that’s one reason I have always been a big supporter of mass transit. However, I’m still amazed at the Rogers flip flop. You will recall that when Rogers was the chair of the all-Republican Livingston County Board of Commissioners, they voted in September of 2008 to not only not provide any money to the Washtenaw Livingston Line (WALLY) commuter rail line, but also to not be part of the coalition that wants to form a taxing authority. Rogers was quoted as saying the county cannot afford to finance the project that aims to create a Howell-to-Ann Arbor rail link.

This is a project that has public backing and exiting infrastructure. Now, I support the Maglev system and hope it becomes a reality, but part of the problem is there is not even a prototype demonstrating how the line works. That’s in sharp contrast to WALLY that has a federal funding commitment and existing infrastructure.

Now, critics will say Rogers supports MagLev system because they are only using private investment. The fact is there is no mass transit system that does not have some form of public subsidy, and I would have no problem with using it for MagLev. In fact, the public land the system will be built on can be considered a public subsidy.

But the MagLev may not have private funding. The task force report said, “the Interstate Traveler Co. refused to or did not have answers to many of the financial questions the members asked .”

I sure hope both systems go forward, but the one thing we know for sure is that the MagLev system is a log way off in the future.

Climate change deniers have more to distort to deny a scientific fact

Global climate change deniers have some more evidence to deny the scientific fact of man-made climate change after climate scientists blew the whistle on themselves.

In a front page AP story in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus on Thursday that did not appear in the online version, errors were discovered in a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N.-affiliated body. “All the mistakes appear in a subsection that suggests glaciers in the Himalayas could melt away by the year 2035” instead of 2350, that number was apparently transposed as 2035.

The mistakes were found not by climate change deniers, but by climate scientists themselves, including one who is an IPCC co-author. “The climate panel and even the scientist who publicized the errors said they are not significant in comparison to the entire report, nor were they intentional. And they do not negate the fact that worldwide, glaciers are melting faster than ever.”

Here is the bottom line people like right-wing radio host Frank Beckman will ignore, “However, a number of scientists, including some critics of the IPCC, said the mistakes do not invalidate the main conclusion that global warming is without a doubt man-made and a threat.”

The errors were found in a half-page section of the Asia chapter in the 838 page report.

"It is a very shoddily written section," said Graham Cogley, a professor of geography and glaciers at Trent University in Peterborough, Canada, who brought the error to everyone's attention. "It wasn't copy-edited properly."

Still, Cogley said: "I'm convinced that the great bulk of the work reported in the IPCC volumes was trustworthy and is trustworthy now as it was before the detection of this mistake." The AP said “a number of scientists pointed out that at the end of the day, no one is disputing the Himalayan glaciers are shrinking.”

This mistake comes just a few months after climate change deniers jumped on 13 years of stolen personal emails to take one word out of context and ignore all the data from other agencies, like NASA, to make their case that climate change is a hoax.

Jan 20, 2010

So-called reforms are just same old attacks on state workers

Reform: “the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, unsatisfactory, etc.”

Someone needs to send Senate Republicans copy of a dictionary, and once again, their idea of reform is to cut state worker’s pay. Senate Republicans released their so-called “government reforms” on Tuesday, and the target was their favorite whipping boy, public employees.
They are calling for a constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot in August to require government workers to take a 5 percent pay cut and pay 20 percent of their health insurance premiums. But they expanded their attack to snare all levels of government employees- elected officials like the governor and legislators, state employees, local government employees, teachers and others. Even though Michigan’s economy has changed with the huge loss of manufacturing jobs, the proposal did not include a single tax reform proposal.

It would also cap administrative costs in school districts at 28 percent of the entire district budget, and the proposal also targets the poor; eliminating yet-to-be-determined optional services under Medicaid. After the last budget year eliminated dental benefits, I’m not sure what else they can eliminate. Apparently, the proposal would also eliminate collective barraging, but Republicans hate unions even more than they hate state workers.

This is just another campaign tactic from the GOP caucus where the majority are running for statewide office.

“While reforming how government does business is of critical importance, there are other issues that matter to Michigan families,” said Mike Prusi, D-Ishpeming, the Senate Democratic leader. “I encourage my colleagues from across the aisle to take action on several additional legislative issues before our chamber, including foreclosure assistance, lowering of insurance rates and Hire Michigan First. Reforms will help us in the future, these other proposals help families today.”

State workers have continued to make sacrifices to balance the state budget. In the current budget that was just passed in October that had a $1.5 billon shortfall, it included $28 million in concessions from state employees, and the layoff of 1,500 state employees. State employees have made concessions that have saved the state more than $3.7 billion since 2001.

The myth that state employees are overpaid and state government continues to grow has already been debunked. In August, respected Michigan State University professor of economics Charles Ballard issued a report that said state employees earn less than their private-sector counterparts with comparable educational attainment. It also confirmed what we already know: state government is smaller now than it was in 1973. In fact, state government is only about 80 percent of what it was at the beginning of this decade, and it’s going to get smaller.

The proposal would also eliminate so-called “lifetime health care benefits” for retired legislators who have not vested before January 1, 2010. That’s simply not true. It kicks in only after they are finished with their entire maximum term they can serve and it kicks in at age 55 and is in force until they reach age 65 when Medicare kicks in. It seems Republicans only want the independently wealthy and the retired to serve in the Legislature.

Whitmer drops out of the race for Michigan Attorney General

LANSING – In a surprising move today, State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, announced she is dropping out of the race for Michigan Attorney General, citing family.

Here is the statement she released shortly after the Senate session.

”My unwavering commitment to public service and the people of Michigan led me to seek the Democratic nomination for Attorney General. As I have traveled our state, it has become clear to me that this rigorous campaign schedule and pursuit cannot continue if I am to be the best mother I can to my six and seven year old daughters. At this critical time in their lives, my girls need their mom to be there to pick them up from school, read to them at bedtime, and help them with homework. It is with this in mind, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for the Office of Attorney General.

This decision has not come easily. We have energized a great number of people across Michigan who are looking for new, trusted leadership that will help build a stronger and safer future. In just three months, our campaign raised over $200,000 and secured the endorsement of over a hundred current and former public servants and dozens of important activists across the state. I am extremely grateful to everyone who has supported and contributed to our campaign, and have no doubt that together we would have been successful in our effort.

We deserve leaders who will put people first. I remain committed to fixing what's broken in state government and standing up for the citizens of Michigan. My pursuit of doing so as Michigan's next Attorney General may be ending, but my fight to protect consumers, reform government, and keep our families safe continues."

Senate committee attempts to circumvent the will of the voters with medical marijuana

Supporters of the popular medical marijuana law that won overwhelming voter support in November of 2008 are concerned that the Legislature is trying to regulate and effectively kill the program.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on Senate Bills 616-618 before a committee room packed with supporters of medical marijuana on Tuesday. The bills would treat medical marijuana as a schedule 2 narcotic, limit a patient's ability to get the drug and require that it be purchased from a pharmacist with a physician's prescription. Supports say the bills could end the program and circumvent the will of the voters, and that may appear to be the case.

“The voters have been very specific on this,” said Sen. Hansen Clarke, D-Detroit. “I’m asking that we don’t rehash the issue.”

That appeared to be the case with some conservative members of the committee. It led to some heated testimony that may have been better aired before the election. Many of the issues brought up were clearly settled in the election.

“So this initiative was really about liberalization of marijuana use,” said Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, the chair of the committee.

Greg Francisco, the director of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, denied that charge, and he said it has helped thousands of terminally ill patients, disabled patients and patients with chronic pain.

“This is a plant and a medicine,” he said. “I think that we should take it off all schedules and treat it like any other herb.”

The Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care (MCCC) turned in 474,752 signatures -- 304,101 were required -- for the measure to go on the ballot in February of 2008. Under Michigan election law, once the signatures were verified the initiative was sent to the Legislature, where lawmaker had three options. Within 45 days they could have enacted it with the restrictions they want now, rejected it, or done nothing, which they did, and it went on the ballot.

After the law was passed, the Department of Community Health (DCH) had 120 days to come up with rules. Since April, the DCH has issued registration cards to 10,400 users and growers after getting approval from a doctor. The cards protect people from arrest and prosecution, and caregivers with a card are able to supply up to five patients with medical marijuana. The DCH opposes the bills as written, but they did say there needs to be more clarification.

If the bills pass, it will basically put doctors and pharmacists in violation of federal law, which could kill the program. What doctor or pharmacist would put their license at risk by illegally writing a prescription and filling it. Marijuana possession is still against federal law. State governments cannot directly violate federal law by giving marijuana to patients, but states can and do refuse to arrest patients who grow their own. The Obama administration has said it will not go after states with medical marijuana laws.

Supporters were also concerned about the penalties the bills enact, making it a felony for a card holder to sell marijuana to a non-card holder. The problem is the penalty is stiffer than for someone off the street who sells it.

“It strikes me as legally unnecessary,” said Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing.

The committee did not vote on the bills.

Jan 19, 2010

Clark appears to be back in the race where he can make a difference

State Sen. Hansen Clarke, D-Detroit, appears to be back in the race he belongs in and where he can make the most difference, the race for the 13th District in Congress currently held by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Detroit.

Clarke briefly entered the Governor’s race after the Democratic front runner, Lt. Gov. John Cherry, dropped out, but apparently after concluding he did not have enough name recognition to win a state wide race, Clarke dropped out last week. But he told the Free Press he decided to get back in the race when Democratic leaders approached him about the congressional race.

Last year’s primary showed Kilpatrick was vulnerable because of the scandal that sent her son, former disgraced Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, to jail. She was almost unseated in the primary after 13 years in Congress.

Clarke is term-limited after serving three terms in the House and two terms in the Senate. His Senate District represents most of the east side of Detroit, as does the 13th Congressional District. Clarke ran for Mayor in 2005, and he has good name recognition in the district because of that. The 13th Congressional District also includes the Downriver communities of Lincoln Park, Ecorse, River Rouge and Wyandotte, and I don’t think Kilpatrick has the kind of support there that Clarke has or will have.

Clarke serves as the minority vice-chair of the Health Policy Committee and the Commerce and Tourism Committee. He also serves on the Judiciary Committee, the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee and the Government Operations and Reform Committee. He has been an outspoken champion of foreclosure protection and insurance reform, and he has spoken passionately about it on the Senate floor.

Clarke grew up from humble beginnings in a working class neighborhood on Detroit's lower east side to attend an Ivy League university and become an attorney. He was raised alone by his mother, who worked as a school crossing guard, after his father passed away when he was just 8 years old. While in the third grade, an observant teacher recognized his artistic ability that promoted him to take art classes at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and it eventually led to a scholarship to Cornell University where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

Clarke then attended Georgetown University Law School. After he received his law degree he returned to Michigan to practice law. He was elected to his first of three terms in the Michigan House in 1990.

Ambassador Bridge owner has a ‘deal’ for you

Republican billionaire benefactor and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun has found a new tactic to hang on to his monopoly as the owner of only one of two international border crossings in private hands: bribe taxpayers.

The budget crisis has hit Michigan hard, and the state could lose up to $475 million in federal aid for roads and bridges in 2011 because it lacks about $84 million in local matching funds. Federal law allows state highway departments to count private investment in certain projects as the 20 percent local match for U.S. aid, some times known as toll credits.

According to a story in the Detroit Free Press on Friday, Moroun will allow his toll credits to be used as a local match for federal aid. However, there is a catch. He will only allow the use of the credit if the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) agrees not to use that money to support competing bridge projects, which means the planned public-private bridge at a site located downriver from the current Ambassador Bridge at the site of the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) Study.

Moroun has tried a lot of things in the past to keep the monopoly on the 80-year old bridge. Just a few weeks ago he actually purchased some of the land where the new crossing would be located to either stop it or to hold taxpayers hostage for more money. In the past, he has contributed heavily to politicians to get them to do his bidding, and he has tried to get rid of those who would not and actually stood up to him.

He has made lots of money from the busiest border crossing in North America, and he aims to keep it that way at all costs.

Jan 18, 2010

The Henry Ford Museum helps celebrate MLK Day

DEARBORN -- I celebrated Martin Luther King Day the way many people in southeast Michigan did, celebrating the King legacy at the Henry Ford Museum.

The “With Liberty and Justice for All” display has an excellent history of the Civil Rights movement that is King’s real legacy, and the Henry Ford is a true Michigan gem. The actual Montgomery City bus that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white rider that brought King to prominence is at the museum. The good folks at Target made admission free, and it is becoming a tradition for me; attending the last two years.

What has also become a tradition is the lie that King was a Republican. The National Black Republican Association first floated that lie in 2006, and those that knew King debunked the lie. However, that has not stopped Republicans from trying it every MLK Day, and even this year at least two Michigan rightwing bloggers have tried it.

They point to the fact that southern Democrats - known as “Dixicrats” - supported segregation in the early 1960’s, but they fled to the Republican Party following the passage of President Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Act of 1964. King’s father, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr., was once a registered Republican, but King, Jr. never was.

The senior King was also a Baptist minister like his son, and he was the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church for four decades. He initially supported Richard Nixon in 1960 over President John F. Kennedy, but that changed shortly before Kennedy was elected.

In 1960, King, Jr. was arrested for trespassing during a sit-in and held in Georgia's Reidsville prison. Fearing for his son's life, according to the Washington Post, King Sr. appealed to then presidential candidate JFK to secure his release. When King was freed, his father vowed to deliver 10 million votes to the Democrats. That was the last time African-Americans ever voted for the GOP.

King Sr. also played a notable role in the nomination of Jimmy Carter as the Democratic candidate for President in the 1976 election. King Sr. pointed to Carter's leadership in ending the era of segregation in Georgia, and helping to repeal laws ending voting restrictions that especially disenfranchised African Americans.

King, Jr. voted for Kennedy, and he actively campaigned for Johnson four years later. In that election, King publicly denounced the Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater, who was actually a real conservative.

King was also a strong support of labor unions and working men and women, and he saw a decent wage and working conditions as a civil right. The civil rights leader was in Memphis on April 4, 1968, to lead a march of city sanitation workers protesting against low wages and poor working conditions when he was murdered.

Jan 15, 2010

Finland poised to take next step in smoking ban

Thousands of Michigan residents are anxiously looking forward to its bars and restaurants going smoke free on May 1, but 37 states and numerous foreign countries are already enjoying healthily dinning and socializing in a clean atmosphere. But Finland wants to take it even farther.

The country of more than 5 million people plans to completely abolish smoking, starting with a ban on displaying tobacco products and smoking in cars carrying minors this spring. Europe has been shifting towards an anti-smoking culture for some time now, driven by the need to reduce costs to national health care systems, but Finland is taking to the extreme.

Finland has only been smoke free since June of 2007, but the State Secretary has made it plain that these are only the first steps to get rid of tobacco once and for all. That may be possible in Finland because they do not have a tobacco industry, but some other countries are also considering it.

New Zealand’s Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Committee is hoping to make the country tobacco free by 2020. It may be a little more difficult there than in Finland because they actually grow tobacco in New Zealand.

I’m not sure I support this. If a person wants to indulge in the privacy of their own home, I guess they should be able to. Of course I wish people would just stop this unhealthy habit that is costing taxpayers millions of dollars on their own, but I hate to see smoking criminalized, like smoking marijuana. At least marijuana has a medical benefit; tobacco smoke does not.

We’ll see how this pans out.

Clarke drops out of the race for Michigan Governor in 2010

State Sen. Hansen Clarke, D-Detroit, is no longer a Democratic candidate for Michigan Governor in 2010.

He broke the news in a short statement on his Facebook page, saying “I will continue my work on cutting insurance costs, creating and saving jobs, helping families, and generating sustainable economic growth. I deeply appreciate your support! Thank you.”

He has been pushing the petition drive to put the Fair Affordable Insurance Act on the November 2010 ballot. It had earlier been speculated that the term-limited Senator may be running to unseat U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Detroit. I hope he makes that run.

Disgusting rhetoric on Haiti still coming from the leader of the Republican Party

As the death toll rises in Haiti to 50,0000 so far and the world is shocked by the video coming out of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere after the devastating earthquake, they are also shocked by the continued rhetoric coming from leader of the Republican Party Rush Limbaugh.

His hatred of President Obama is ridiculous, and it shades everything he says. Saying the only reason the president was responding to the crisis is to curry favor with the black community is, well, beyond words. International aid organizations and governments from around the globe from Communist China to Great Britain has responded with cash, supplies and people, yet Limbaugh thinks the U.S. government should not respond to an island located just s few hundreds miles south of the U.S? Is he still on OxyContin?

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund say they will provide $100 million each in emergency funding. United Nations will immediately release $10 million in assistance, while the European Union has announced $4.3 million in aid to Haiti. Brazil ordered the delivery of $10 million in assistance, as well as 14 tons of food supplies to the country. A Chinese emergency rescue team arrived in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, Thursday along with 10 tons of food, equipment and medical supplies. Japan has pledged up to $5 million in aid.

But Limbaugh said Americans should not donate to relief efforts in Haiti because they already donate to Haiti through income taxes. He also said on his radio show that he wouldn't trust that money donated to Haiti through the White House Web site would actually go to the relief effort. Where does he think it will go? Perhaps to a diamond mine in Africa?

Actually, the worst place to donate would be through the “Christian Broadcasting Network's” "700 Club” scam ran by former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson. He has a history of using disasters to raise money that he uses to further enrich himself.

The Nation Magazine reported that in 1994 he made an emotional plea on The 700 Club for cash donations to Operation Blessing to support airlifts of refugees from the Rwandan civil war to Zaire (now Congo). Reporter Bill Sizemore of “The Virginian Pilot” newspaper later discovered that Operation Blessing's planes were transporting diamond-mining equipment for the African Development Corporation, a Robertson-owned venture initiated with the cooperation of Zaire's then-dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

We are aware of his disgusting remarks where he blamed the earthquake on the Haitian people's alleged pact with Satan. Well, a well paid spokesman immediately began damage control, saying Robertson was talking about Voodoo rituals carried out before a slave rebellion against French colonists in 1791 that gained the country its independence.

You will recall he said, "They said, 'we will serve you if you will get us free from the French,'" Robertson said on his show. "True story. And so, the devil said, 'okay it's a deal.' And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other."

So, does he believe the entire country that happens to be about 80 percent Catholic made the alleged deal? He said it was a true story. How does he know? Was he there? Does he talk to the Devil?

Jan 14, 2010

Charges of carpet bagging and political operatives surround the 11th District Senate race

The race in the 11th Senate District just got a little more interesting; Capitol Newsletter MIRS is reporting that Rep. Kim Meltzer, R-Clinton Twp?, has hired John Yob’s Strategic National to run her campaign.

Yob is the youngest son of long-time Michigan National Republican Committeeman Chuck Yob, but Yob the younger already has a reputation. He served as the national chairman of the College Republicans while a student at the University of Michigan. That’s the same position some of his heroes sprang from, the kings of dirty tricks, Karl Rove and Lee Atwater.

Yob also ran Terri Land’s successful Michigan Secretary of State campaign, the most partisan SOS in Michigan history. He also served as the deputy national political director for the unsuccessful McCain presidential campaign.

It was that connection that ties Yob to one of the Republicans’ more dirty tricks. You will recall in the fall of 2008, the Michigan Messenger broke the story that Michigan Republicans planned to challenge voters at the polls whose homes are in foreclosure. Only the publicity stopped them. While other state SOS addressed the issue, Land refused to address any questions on the matter.

Ironically, Meltzer has been the point person in the House fighting any attempt to increase voter turnout and make it easier to register and to vote. I guess she knew she was running for the Senate.

But she already has her problems in the right leaning 11th Senate District in Macomb County, and she has been accused of being a carpetbagger. Apparently, Meltzer moved from Clinton Township to a rented home in Macomb Township on Oct. 31, which allows her to run in the 11th District Senate race instead of the 10th District held by term-limited Democrat Mickey Switalski.

The 11th is held by term limited Republican Alan Sanborn, the most conservative member in the Senate, and it is considered a safe Republican district. In fact, the race has drawn some real rightwing tools. In addition to Meltzer, former state Rep. Jack Brandenburg is in the race. It would be polite just to call him an extremist.

Also in the race is former state Rep. Leon Drolet. He has led the “tea parties” and a crooked recall of Speaker of the House Andy Dillon. This is a guy who has never held a job in the public sector. It remains to be seen if he will stay out of jail long enough to even run.

The recall was accomplished with fraud and deceit, out-of-state money, illegal petition gathers, cash for signatures and illegal campaign contributions. Two men have already been charged with felonies over it, and it remains to be seen if the long arm of the law will reach to the people running that fraud, like Drolet.

Jan 13, 2010

Conservative scumbags blame earthquake on victims

Aid is pouring into Haiti as one of the poorest countries tries to recover from a devastating earthquake.

Officials feared the death toll from the devastating earthquake could reach into the tens of thousands. Cargo planes with food, water, medical supplies, shelter and sniffer dogs are headed to the Caribbean island located a few hundred miles from Florida. The news is filled with horrific images of destroyed homes, injured people and dead children. But the response from some conservatives is even more disturbing than seeing dead children on TV.

After this latest rant, I don’t even believe Pat Robertson is a Christian, let alone a minister. The former Republican Presidential candidate and “Christian Broadcasting Network's” "700 Club" founder and host blamed the earthquake in Haiti on the Haitian people's alleged “pact with Satan.”

He blamed the earthquake in Haiti on the Haitian people's alleged pact with Satan.

"They said, 'we will serve you if you will get us free from the French,'" Robertson said on his show. "True story. And so, the devil said, 'okay it's a deal.' And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other."

Unbelievable. True story? Where, in his warped mind? Perhaps he forgot some 80 percent of Haitians are Catholic.

The right will use any thing to attack President Obama no mater how small or how much of a leap they have to make. The leader of the Republican Party and scumbag Rush Limbaugh said Obama would use Haiti to get closer to the “light-skinned and dark-skinned black [communities] in this country.”

Limbaugh has a history of blaming the victims, especially dark-skinned ones like he did the victims of Hurricane Katrina. He has even attacked Haiti in the past. In May when former President Bill Clinton was appointed as UN special envoy to Haiti, Limbaugh had this to say, "I'm just gonna tell you, if I was named envoy to Haiti, I'd quit government. Envoy to Haiti? You can't even pick up a prostitute down there without genuine fear of AIDS."

He would know.

Limbaugh was detained by authorities in 2006 when they found a bottle of Viagra in his bag at Palm Beach International Airport. The prescription was not in his name. He was returning from a vacation in neighboring Dominican Republic.

Governor conspires to steal spotlight from L. Brooks

Those of us who follow Michigan politics are aware of the ego of Republican Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson, but the flap over the State of the State Address is surprising.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced last week that she will give the annual State of the State address on Feb. 3, but apparently, Patterson had also scheduled his state of the county in Pontiac on the same date.

The same thing occurred last year, and both speeches were held on Feb. 3. Granholm chose that date last year to ensure it did not conflict with the President’s State of the Union. It appears that date may have been chosen again this year for that reason. The State of the State is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 2.

But Patterson’s response is really outrageous. He is accusing the Governor of trying to upstage him. He told the Detroit News she did it on purpose. After all, the world revolves around Patterson.

“I’m not going to accuse the governor of picking the same date, but to quote Bogart ‘of all the gin joints in town.’ ” Patterson said the Detroit News.

I, and the Governor's scheduler, were unaware they had to run her schedule through Patterson’s staff.

You will also recall last year that the state’s most powerful radio station, WJR in Detroit, declined to carry the State of the State address in favor of Patterson’s speech. It could be forgiven if the great conservative voice of the Great Lakes had chosen to air the Wayne County State of the County speech over the Governor because the station is actually located in Wayne County, and it’s the largest county in Michigan. The problem there and the reason why that will never happen are because Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano is a Democrat.

It makes no sense that WJR does not have a single non-conservative voice on air despite broadcasting in one of the most Democratic cities in America from a state that has been blue since 1992.

It’s unclear if they will carry Patterson’s speech instead of the Governor’s State of the State this year. Last year they had an extra incentive to carry Patterson’s speech. Less than a month earlier in January 2009, Patterson announced he was a Republican gubernatorial candidate. He has since dropped out of the race, so we shall see if they air Patterson’s speech again over the State of the State.

Jan 12, 2010

GOP rolls out fake outrage over Reid remarks

The fake Republican outrage over the stupid, private remarks by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, is sickening.

Reid referred to President Obama, then a fellow senator from Illinois, in private talks as “light-skinned” and speaking “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” in a new book on the campaign by journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Reid has both apologized to the public and personally to the President. “I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words,” Reid said in a statement. “I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African-Americans, for my improper comments.”

Obama has accepted the apology, as did African-American leaders. But that’s not enough for the Republicans, and they are calling for his resignation. The are trying to tie it to the racist remarks of former Republican Senate Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss. Lott spoke at the 100th birthday party for former Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-South Carolina, and the 1948 presidential candidate of the segregationist party.

Lott said that if Thurmond had won, “we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years.” In other words, if Thurmond had won and maintained segregation, the country would be better off, and he said we needed a segregationist as president.

Lott eventually apologized, but he resigned nearly two weeks later. However, it was not because of the remarks, it was because he was ineffective as a leader.

Jan 11, 2010

Special interest group still trying to kill workplace smoking ban with lies

In less than five months, Michigan’s bars and restaurants will be safe and smoke free after the workplace smoking bill that was signed into law last month, and people all over the state are looking forward to it with baited breath.

Not the opponents. Even though a decade-long fight that has overwhelming public support was won, they are not giving up. They have formed a Facebook group called “Amend the Michigan Smoking Ban.” So far, it has a whopping 446 members. That’s in sharp contrast to a group I am a member of called, “Michigan going smoke-free May 1st, 2010.” It has 61,766 members.

Good luck amending that law. I would like to see the lawmaker willing to introduce a bill to overturn something so popular.

Actually, I agree that we should amend the law, and hopefully that will happen soon. Proponents of clean air and public health will go after the exception for casinos.

This pro-smoking group has been floating an email trying to gain support. The first line says it all for me.

“We are not in any way funded, supported, endorsed or affiliated with the MLBA, nor the tobacco industry, any special interest, political group and/or party, whatsoever.”

That means this is just another attempt by the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA) to prop up the tobacco industry. This group formed a web site last year to highlight debunked studies that say smoking bans hurt business and cost jobs. That is simply not true, and the results from the 37 other states and numerous foreign countries with smoking bans prove they are lying. No one has explained to me how less than 25 percent of the population can have than much of an effect on the economy.

Here’s another lie, “Michiganders were not asked if we supported this law, nor do we believe the State has the right to dictate to private business owners.”

Poll after poll said the opposite, and many people wanted to start petitions to put in on the ballot because the Legislature refused to act. In fact, it was only constant pressure from constituents that forced lawmakers to do the right thing. The government not only has the right to dictate to private business owners, they have a constitutional obligation to protect the public health.

But they save the best for last, and they just outright lie. Listen to these outrageous false claims:

“Studies show that for every customer gained by smoking bans, five are lost.” Show me that study. Study after study says the opposite, and the latest was from the University of Michigan Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy last May that said it will not hurt business.

“Drunk driving increases, on average, by 13% in areas where smoking bans are introduced. As patrons stay at home longer and consume alcohol, and/or are forced to drive longer distances to seek places where they can smoke while drinking.”

Where the hell did they come up with this BS? Do they think the 22 percent who still smoke only drink to get drunk? Where are they going to drive to seek places where they can smoke while drinking? There are only 12 states that do no ban smoking in bars and retirements. Indiana is the only state in the Midwest, and they are close to doing the right thing.

Jan 10, 2010

Ambassador Bridge owner hedges his bets with land purchase

There’s not much Republican billionaire benefactor and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun will not do to keep his monopoly, but he has found a way to either keep his monopoly or cash in even if he loses the monopoly.

Moroun has been trying to build a second span right next to the current Ambassador Bridge he owns - only one of two international border crossings in the country in private hands - but the Canadian and U.S. government want to a new public-private bridge at a site located downriver from the current Ambassador Bridge. In fact, Moroun has already begun to build the bridge despite not having a single permit.

To get his way, Moroun has recruited politicians to do his bidding, and he has tried to intimidate those he can’t control. To lock up monody, he has bought property where a porition of the approach for the new government built bridge will go.

Moroun has multiple companies, and one of his companies called Central Transport has purchased 42 acres at the site of Yellow Freight truck terminal at 7701 W. Jefferson, according to the Detroit Free Press. Moroun bought the land for an undisclosed price.

The area where the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) Study, a joint project by the governments of Michigan, Ontario, the U.S. and Canada to build a bridge from Detroit's Delray area to Windsor, has chosen will now run through a portion of the property Moroun now owns.

Moroun can refuse to sell the property to stop the DRIC bridge. However, the government has the power to condemn the property under eminent domain, but he can hold the taxpayer’s hostage to jack up the price. Either way, he makes out.

Jan 8, 2010

The hypocrisy of the teabaggers takes aim at term limits for Democrats only

The hypocrisy of the teabaggers who control the Republican Party never cease to amaze me, and it makes you wonder what planet they were on the last eight years.

They are apparently on a constitutional kick, misinterpreting it and twisting it to bash the Obama administration. In my daily perusal of rightwing blogs for laughs, I ran across one claming that Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, is a “miscreant who ignores the will of the people for his political interests” because he does not observe voluntary term limits laid out in the Michigan Constitution for federal representative in Congress.

This is as ridiculous as one Michigan’s blogger's misguided tirades over Nullification earlier this week. You will recall that Nullification is a constitutional theory that gives an individual state the right to declare null and void any law passed by the United States Congress which the state deems unacceptable and unconstitutional that was rejected back in 1832 but still led to the Civil War. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, like it did for state’s trying to impose federal term limits, that the authority of the federal government comes from the people rather than the state governments.

The real funny thing is that when you prove them wrong they just delete it, and tell you, without any shame, “as the owner of this blog I am the arbitrator of what comments I deem are worth posting for whatever reason I choose.

Term limits in Michigan have been a disaster, so why would we want them on the federal level? They probably don't want term limits, but they hate any Democrat so much that they ignore the effect it will have on them or what they said yesterday.

The claim is that in Article II, Section 10 of the Michigan Constitution it says,

“No person shall be elected to office as representative in the United States House of Representatives more than three times during any twelve year period. No person shall be elected to office as senator in the United States Senate more than two times during any twenty-four year period.” “…The people of Michigan hereby state their support for the aforementioned term limits for members of the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate and instruct their public officials to use their best efforts to attain such a limit nationwide.”

The problem is it’s unconstitutional.
In May 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, that states cannot impose term limits upon their federal Representatives or Senators.” The majority opinion stated, “… state-imposed restrictions, unlike the congressionally imposed restrictions at issue in Powell, violate a third idea central to this basic principle: that the right to choose representatives belongs not to the States, but to the people.”

But the real question is why have they singled out just Carl Levin? What about Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, nine terms; Rep. Vern Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids, eight terms; Rep. “Twitter Pete” Hoekstra, R-Holland, 8 terms; Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, five terms; and finally the longest serving Republican, Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, 12 terms?

The hypocrisy from Republicans is overwhelming.

Jan 7, 2010

Stand up and be counted and get paid for counting

The 2010 census will have a huge effect on Michigan because it will determine how many Congressional seats we will have in the U.S. Congress and how many federal dollars will come to the state.

To help people better understand the importance of the 2010 census, the Livingston County Democratic Party is holding an informational seminar at 11 a.m Saturday – Jan. 9 - at the party’s headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600, Brighton.

A representative of the regional U.S. Census Bureau - Terry Campion, Partnership Specialist - will be in Brighton to speak about the 2010 census and recruit people to work on the census. The general public is invited to attend, and these are paid jobs. This is an invitation to find out how to apply for paid work as a worker in the 2010 census.

In addition to finding out about jobs, Campion also will speak about the history of the census, why certain questions are asked on the census forms, steps census officials it’s vital that every person in Michigan be counted so that the state gets its fair share in these tough economic times. There will be also be opportunities for questions. Coffee and tea will be served.

Call (810) 229-4212 for more information.

Jan 6, 2010

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero sworn in for a second term

LANSING – Mayor Virg Bernero was sworn in for his second term as Mayor of Lansing at a simple ceremony Tuesday called the “Community Works 2010 Inaugural Day of Caring.”

“We wanted to do something different,” he said. “It’s not just a celebration of a new beginning, but a celebration of the City of Lansing.”

Community groups from the Capitol Area Community Services to the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing set up information booths, and the food was a Taste of Lansing with samples from various Lansing restaurants.

Four City Council members and the city clerk were also sworn in. For the first time in the city’s history, a majority of women hold council seats.

“That may be an adjustment for some, but from where I sit I’m ready,” said Bernero, who has two daughters. “I am so excited about the new leadership coming to the 10th floor of city hall.

2009 was a tough year for Lansing with some major budget cuts, as it was for most municipalities, and it had to do more with less. Still, Bernero has leveraged over $500 million dollars in new job-creating investments in Lansing, and he helped launch the area's first regional public-private economic development initiative. The city also has some major building and redevelopment projects underway.

“I am very humbled by the way our citizens rose to the challenges,” he said. “The new year is a time for resolutions, so let’s resolve today to make 2010 a better year.”

With the withdraw of Lt. Governor John Cherry in the race for the Democratic nomination for Michigan Governor Tuesday, Bernero has become the front runner for the nomination. He has the most widespread experience of any of the candidates form either party. He has not only had to balance a municipal budget, he has legislative experience and local government experience. He knows the consequences of the budget cuts made in Lansing, and no other candidate can say that.

He served in the Michigan State Senate and State House from 2001 – 2006, and Bernero also served four terms on the Ingham County Board of Commissioners. He was also a legislative aide in both the state Senate and House.