Feb 26, 2010

Michigan International Speedway (MIS) goes smokefree

Michigan’s new workplace smoking ban goes into effect on May 1, and Michigan International Speedway (MIS) in Brooklyn is also going smokefree.

Racetrack officials announced on Wednesday that all grandstand seating, mezzanines, concession and restroom buildings, suites and chalets at the popular racetrack will be smokefree in 2010. Smokers may choose to smoke in open-air areas behind the grandstands, in the New Holland Fan Plaza and in campgrounds.

“Not only are we adhering to the law, but we are addressing a growing number of concerns from our race fans who do not smoke,” said MIS President Roger Curtis in a press release announcing the change. “Race fans who smoke, can still do so in approved areas.”

The ban will be in effect by the first race on June 11.

Signs will be posted throughout the grandstands, reminding fans of non-smoking areas. Anyone who does not adhere to the new smoke-free policy will be subject to fines by state and county enforcement officials who are on site during race weekends.

“MIS ushers and security will monitor the grandstand seats, and we fully expect our fans to police each other,” Curtis said. “We will have a number of avenues in place for fans to notify us, including our text messaging service as well as notifying security, if someone around them is smoking in the grandstands or suites.”

The two-mile oval in scenic Irish Hills generates more than $400 million in total economic activity every year.

SOS directs her criticism for blocking voting measures to the wrong side of the Capitol

Republican Secretary of State Terri Land, according to subscription only Gongwer, “blasted the Legislature on Wednesday for focusing almost exclusively on budget issues and not acting on other pressing issues.”

"My frustration is the same as every other organizations; the unions and everyone else,” she told Gongwer. “Nobody is getting any legislation passed. It's very frustrating.”

She said she would like to see action on proposals she has made for real-time campaign finance reporting, but there is no legislation pending. She told the other subscription service covering Lansing, MIRS, that before she leaves office at the end of the year, she would like to see legislation creating a two-week early voting window and no-reason absentee voting and a bill creating electronic vehicle tabs passed.

The fact is the Democratically-controlled House has approved early voting and no reason absentee voting, but the Republican-controlled Senate refuses to act on them. The House also approved bills allowing 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote, but the Senate also refuses to move on it, too.

It seems Ms. Land’s needs to address her criticism to her side of the aisle and to the Senate side of the Capitol. Republicans have blocked every single attempt to make it easier and more convenient to vote and increase voter turnout.

In fact, two of the three Republican candidates for Secretary of State are members of that obstructionist Senate, and are against every attempt to make voting convenient.

Feb 25, 2010

Blanchard and Engler appear on the same stage for the first time in 20 years

LIVONIA - Political junkies expecting to see fireworks when two former Michigan governors and political foes appeared on the same stage together for the first time in 20 years were disappointed, but they were treated to their opinions on a wide range of subjects, from the state of affairs in Lansing to calling for building the planned public-private Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) between Detroit and Canada.

Former Democratic Governor Jim Blanchard and Republican John Engler headlined the 15th Annual Fundraising Dinner for the Michigan Political Leadership Program (MPLP) on Thursday night, appearing together for the first time since Engle unseated the incumbent Blanchard in 1990.

Since 1992, the nonpartisan MPLP recruits, trains, and inspires 24 unique leaders from across the state every year to prepare them for effective governance. The dinner serves as the major fundraiser for the program, and this was the largest turnout in the 15 years the dinner has been put on featuring a well known Republican and Democrat.

"You all think this is going to be like the Michigan International Speedway; you're just waiting for the crash,” Engler joked.

Each man gave a short speech, and they jointly took questions from the audience. Despite a tough campaign in 1990, both men get along well and were gracious. In fact, they both agree on the DRIC bridge.

Blanchard served as the Ambassador to Canada from 1993-1996, and he said Canada supplies more oil to the U.S. than any other country and accounts for billons of dollars of trade a year. He said the DRIC bridge is vital to keeping that important trade route open. Plus, it will prove 10,000 jobs.

“This is something we can do right now,” he said. “It’s supported by a who’s, who, including Brooks Patterson, John Engler and the Detroit Chamber of Commerce.”

Engler agreed.

“We need to get this bridge built,” he said. “We need to get the (Michigan) Senate working on this.”

Blanchard gave a very optimistic speech, saying Michigan will rebound from the worst recession since the Great Depression.

“I said this two years ago at the Michigan Political History Society dinner and I’ll say it here: our state is too great and our people our too resilient to be held down for long,” he said. “The only question is when and how we will recover.”

Engler is the president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, and he said any recovery has to include manufacturing. He also said manufacturing accounts for $1.6 trillion a year in the U.S.

“You hear this all the time; that we don’t make anything in this country anymore,” Engler said. “Our political leaders and future leaders need to know we are still the largest manufacturer in the world.”

The Q & A section was wide ranging, and Engler cleared up the rumor that he was moving back to Michigan to run for the U.S. Senate against Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-East Lansing. His triplet daughters are now high school freshman, and he said he was not running.

“I have a house full of drama,” he said. “I don’t think I would want to ramp it up even more.”

When asked what piece of advice they have for turning Michigan around, Blanchard produced a copy of the 20-page report of the bipartisan Emergency Financial Advisory Panel he chaired with former Republican Governor Bill Milliken that says a combination of cuts in spending and creating a modern tax structure that abandons the focus on the economic system of the 20th century will address the shortfall and combat the immediate shortfalls and position us to thrive in the future.

The two former governors also weighed in on the current race for Michigan Governor. Neither is currently endorsing a candidate, but Blanchard he would have endorsed his former Treasurer Bob Bowman, who was in the race briefly.

“I think the Democrats have an opportunity more than people think,” he said. “But there’s no doubt it will be uphill.”

Engler said he likes the chances of Republicans to take back the governor’s mansion.

“If a Republican can’t win this year, a Republican can never win here in Michigan,” he said.

Republicans display more hypocrisy on health care

The hypocrisy of Republicans never ceases to amaze me.

They are against anything President Obama proposes, even if they were previously for it, and in some cases it’s in their party platform. One perfect example is the talk of reconciliation to finally get health care done.

According to Republicans, reconciliation is the worst thing that could ever happen, unless, of course, it’s Republicans doing it.

Reconciliation is a legislative process in the U.S. Senate intended to allow consideration of a contentious budget bill without the threat of filibuster. Introduced in 1974, reconciliation limits debate and amendment, and therefore favors the majority party. But it has not only been used for budget bills, and it has been extended to include bills that effect appropriations.

In fact, Congress used reconciliation to enact Bush’s three major tax cuts for the rich, each of which substantially increased the deficit.

Here is the kicker; Republicans actually used it 16 times out of 22 times that it's been done since 1980.

In addition to passing the Bush tax cuts, it has been used recently to pass the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 and the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007.

If people think the cost of health care insurance does not have an effect on the budget and the economy they are simply not paying attention. One major cause of the loss of market share of the Big 3 and the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs is the high cost of providing health care insurance to employees. Foreign governments are helping foreign auto companies compete by providing health care for employees or help with health care. That burden adds thousands of dollars too the cost of a U.S. auto.

A story that appeared in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus today drove that point home, and it reported that Howell automotive supplier, Alpha Technology Corp., is moving its manufacturing operations and 150 jobs to Mexico.

“The official said the company cannot compete with labor costs in Mexico, especially after the Howell operation's health-care costs increased by 21 percent this year.”

Debbie Harper of Howell, who will lose her job after working for Alpha Technology for more than 32 years, said “many plant workers were shocked by the news and had hoped the company’s financial situation would improve after union employees made concessions last year. She said workers took cuts in benefits and agreed to pay more for health care.”

The simple fact is we can never compete with Mexico, nor should we try, with labor costs. People want to live and work in the U.S. for the quality of life, and companies want an educated workforce.

Anyone who thinks health care does not need reform is not paying attention.

Insurance giant WellPoint recently announced a 39 percent rate spike by its California outlet, Anthem Blue Cross. But WellPoint posted a 700 percent increase in profits in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to the same time period the previous year. The firm was paying 39 of its executives more than $1 million a year and spent $27 million on ritzy junkets, like the one in Scottsdale, Ariz., that cost more than $3 million.

Feb 24, 2010

Bill to enact ‘Katie Viger's law’ introduced today

The bill that allowed the Department of Community Health (DCH) to issue an honorary nursing degree to 23-year-old Katie Viger of Trenton just as few days before she passed away last week was formally introduced in the Senate today.

Senate Bill 1172 was introduced by Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, and it has strong bi-partisan support with 33 of the 38 Senators co-sponsoring the bill. The bill will allow the DCH department, in consultation with the nursing board, to issue an honorary license to an individual, living or deceased, who has met all of the requirements of being licensed but who is unable to take the examination due to advanced illness. When signed into law by the Governor, it will be known as “Katie Viger's law.”

It appears the bill will go directly to the Senate floor instead of going to a committee for a hearing, but it has to lay over five days under the Senate rules before it can be taken up.

Katie Viger graduated from the competitive nursing program at Henry Ford Community College in May of last year, but in August she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, just days before she was to take her exam to receive her nursing license. She passed away on Feb. 18. The DCH agreed to issue the honorary license on Feb. 13 because it had such bipartisan support and certain to become law.

Feb 23, 2010

Schools compete for the honor of having a U.S. President for a commencement speaker

At the beginning of the school year, President Obama encouraged students across the country to take responsibility for their education, study hard and graduate from high school, and now he wants to see the results.

To that end, he is launching the “2010 Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge” that invites the nation's public high schools to compete for the opportunity to welcome the President as their commencement speaker for the class of 2010.

This challenge is designed to recognize public high schools with effective strategies for reducing the number of high school dropouts, promoting college and career readiness, and encouraging college enrollment in support of meeting the President's goal of producing the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

In order to participate in the competition, schools will be required to submit an online application consisting of four short essay questions that demonstrate how the school successfully prepares students for high school graduation and college and career success. The deadline to submit applications is March 15, 2010.

The application’s four essay questions focus on demonstrating how the school is helping prepare students to meet the President’s 2020 goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. Applications will be judged based on the school’s performance and dedication to providing students an excellent education that will prepare them to graduate ready for college and career choices. Each question must be answered in full to qualify and data that substantiates each answer is strongly encouraged.

In addition to the required essay responses, applicants are invited to submit the following optional supplemental materials:

•A video -- no more than 2 minutes in length -- showing the school’s culture and character and highlighting how it is a model of educational success for other high schools around the country.
•Supplemental data on key indicators such as attendance, student achievement, graduation rates and where available, college enrollment rates. This data may be presented in the form of tables, graphs or spreadsheets and should be used to help the school make the most compelling arguments possible.

Applications must be completed by students and submitted by a high school’s principal using the Commencement Challenge Application. Each school may submit only one application. Following the application deadline, six finalists will be selected by the White House and Department of Education. These schools will then be featured on the White House website and the public will have an opportunity to vote for the three schools they think best meet the President’s goal. The President will select a national winner from these three finalists and visit the winning high school to deliver the commencement address to the class of 2010.

The next Michigan AG will pay a visit to Livingston County

The next Michigan Attorney General, Richard Bernstein, will pay a visit to Livingston County on Thursday, Feb. 25.

Bernstein, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Attorney General, and Dennis Denno, who is seeking one of two Democratic nominations for Michigan State University board of trustees, both will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday at the monthly meeting of the Livingston County Democratic Party executive committee. The meeting is open to all.

Bernstein, an attorney with the Sam Bernstein Law Firm in Farmington Hills, is chair of the Wayne State University board of governors. His practice focuses on complicated issues of public policy, often fighting for the rights of the underrepresented.

Denno is chief of staff for Michigan Senate Democratic Floor Leader Buzz Thomas, D-Detroit. He has been active in Democratic politics and various Arab-American causes his entire adult life. Denno has a bachelor's degree from Michigan State and is a lifetime member of the Michigan State Alumni Association.

Nominations for Attorney General, Secretary of State, and the university boards will be voted on at the Michigan Democratic Party's August convention. The party, however, will endorse candidates for secretary of state and attorney general at an April 17 endorsement convention. The meeting will take place at the party headquarters, 10321 East Grand River Ave. Suite 600 in the Fonda Office Park, 48116.

Feb 22, 2010

The 2009 National Environmental Scorecard released today

Seven members of the Michigan Congressional delegation have perfect environmental voting record, based on the 2009 National Environmental Scorecard released today by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and the national League of Conservations Voters.

For the past 30 years, the National Environmental Scorecard issued by LCV has been the nationally accepted yardstick used to rate members of Congress on environmental, public health and energy issues, and this is the first scorecard for the 111th Congress

“We applaud those members of the Michigan delegation who fought in 2009 to bring clean energy jobs to the state and reduce our national dependence on foreign oil, such as Senators Levin and Stabenow and Representatives Kildee, Schauer, Peters, (Levin) and Kilpatrick” said Michigan LCV’s Executive Director Lisa Wozniak, in a press release. “The 2009 Scorecard clearly exposes some members of our delegation as putting corporate polluters and other special interests ahead of a cleaner, more secure energy future for Michigan.”

The 2009 Scorecard includes 11 Senate and 13 House votes dominated by clean energy and climate but also encompassing other environmental issues such as public lands, water and wildlife conservation. In Michigan, five House members and both senators earned a perfect 100 percent score in 2009, while one House member, Congressman Pete Hoekstra, received an abysmal 7 percent. The average House score in 2009 for Michigan was 67 percent and the average Senate score was 100 percent.

Representatives Stupak, Kildee, Schauer, Peters, Levin, Kilpatrick, Conyers and Dingell voted for the landmark American Clean Energy and Security Act, which would help bring more than 53,000 clean energy jobs to Michigan.

Carl Levin (D-MI) 100%
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) 100%

Bart Stupak (D-01) 93%
Pete Hoekstra (R-02) 7%
Vern Ehlers (R-03) 50%
Dave Camp (R-04) 21%
Dale E. Kildee (D-05) 100%
Fred Upton (R-06) 36%
Mark Schauer (D-07) 100%
Mike Rogers (R-08) 21%
Gary Peters (D-09) 100%
Candice Miller (R-10) 50%
Thaddeus McCotter (R-11) 36%
Sandy Levin (D-12) 100%
Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-13) 100%
John Conyers, Jr. (D-14) 93%
John D. Dingell (D-15) 93%

Michigan League of Conservation Voters is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to passing strong environmental laws, electing environmental champions, and holding lawmakers accountable for their actions

Teabaggers trying to make a hero out of domestic terrorist

When I heard the news that domestic terrorist and murderer Joseph Stack crashed his small plane into an IRS office building in Austin, Texas last week I knew that teabaggers and the anti-government militia - really the same people - would make him out to be some kind of hero. They didn’t disappoint.

Already, fan Facebook fan and tribute groups are popping up in his honor. Facebook management is shutting down these groups trying to glorify a murderous terrorist, but they keep popping up like the cockroaches they are.

CBS news is reporting some of the comments posted in the Facebook pages, like this idiot:
"Finally an American man took a stand against our tyrannical government that no longer follows the Constitution," wrote Emily Walters of Louisville, Ky.

This is not much different that the 9/11 terrorists, and even more like the Oklahoma City domestic terrorist. The only difference is that the super-heated, anti-government crap in the mid-1990s led Timothy McVeigh to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma, and the loss of innocent life sent the anti-government cockroaches running for cover only to re-emerge with the election of President Barack Obama.

But Stack’s terrorist attack is just firing up the anti-government teabaggers and their militia allies instead of sending it back underground.

This guy may just be a mentally disturbed guy who hates the IRS and no other government agency, but whatever he is, he’s no hero.

Like I said back in the mid-1990’s when I worked in Lenawee County where the militia was very active, the government you hate is simply your neighbor, the man or woman who coaches your Little League team or is a deacon at your church.

The real hero is Vernon Hunter, a 61-year-old IRS collection agent and a Vietnam veteran who was murdered by Stack.

Feb 19, 2010

Young woman’s story that touched people's hearts passes away

In a story that touched the hart of people all over Michigan and the nation, 23-year-old Katie Viger of Trenton passed away in her home on Thursday less than a week after she received her honorary nursing degree, her lifelong dream.

She graduated from the competitive nursing program Henry Ford Community College in May of last year, but in August she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, just days before she was to take her exam to receive her nursing license. Friends and supporters pushed for the Department of Community Health to grant Katie her honorary nursing license, and it quickly gained steam with a Facebook group of more than 5,000 people.

The problem was the DCH had no authority to issue such a license. After being contacted by family and friends, Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, sponsored legislation to allow the DCH to issue a license when a person has completed all the required course work but is not able to take the exam because of serious illness or event. It will be called “Katie’s Law.”

DCH issued the license because the legislation is pending but has bipartisan support, and Basham presented the license to her family on Friday, Feb. 12. The bill will be introduced Tuesday, and it is expected to be taken up quickly.

Relive the 1990 gubernatorial campaign at MPLP fundraising events

Two old political rivals will appear on stage for perhaps the first time in almost 20 years when former Michigan Governors Jim Blanchard and John Engler headline the 15th Annual Fundraising Dinner for the Michigan Political Leadership Program (MPLP) Thursday, Feb. 25 and the 8th Annual West Michigan Breakfast on Friday, Feb. 26.

Since 1992, the nonpartisan MPLP recruits, trains, and inspires 24 unique leaders from across the state every year to prepare them for effective governance. The unique 10-month weekend program incorporates practical politics, public policy analysis and process, personal leadership development and effective governance. More than 400 MPLP graduates have put the skills and relationships acquired through the program to work in their communities as candidates for office, as government officials or as citizen activists.

Each year the dinner and breakfast features two of the biggest names in politics, one from each side of the political spectrum. Past featured speakers have included former Vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro and conservative publisher Bill Kristol and Republican political media consultant Mike Murphy and former Tennessee Democratic U.S. Congressman Harold Ford, Jr.

Then Republican state Sen. John Engler wiped out a big lead in 1990 to unseat incumbent Democratic Gov. Jim Blanchard - who was running for his third term - in 1990 to win the first of three terms. Engler is the president of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and rumor has it he plans to move back to Michigan for a possible U.S. Senate run.

After losing his re-election bid, Blanchard served as Ambassador to Canada during the Clinton Administration and is a partner in a Washington D.C. law firm.

“Our keynote speakers are two governors with 20 years of state leadership experience,” said Douglas Roberts, former Michigan Treasurer under Engler, who directs MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research which administers MPLP. “They are also two Michigan State University graduates who now serve on a national stage. It will be a pleasure to welcome them to the MPLP stage.”

The 2009 MPLP Fellows represent a broad range of professions and occupations. They include:

• Laurie Arora, of Grosse Pointe Park, owner of Politically Smart, L.L.C., consulting.
• Eric Bacyinski, of Plymouth, who serves as Deputy Clerk for Plymouth Township.
•Jill Brandana, of Taylor, City Council Chairperson Pro-Tem.
• Michael Callton, a Nashville chiropractor and state House candidate.
•Deborah Davis, of Detroit, a researcher and grants writer.
•Michael Delaney, of Ann Arbor, a venture capital professional at DTE Energy.
•Jane Drake, of Fremont, coordinator for the Community Coordinating Council of Muskegon County.
•Gregory Egnatowski, of Riverview, a legislative aide.
•Brian Elder, a Bay City attorney.
•Roger Elkins, Evart City Manager.
•Kimberly Emmons, Republican Executive Committee member, 4th District, and candidate for state House.
•Terry Hood-Campion, of Macomb Township, U.S. Census Bureau partnership specialist.
•William Ivan, of Lansing, a communications specialist, originally from Midland.
•Robert Macomber, of Grand Ledge, a communications, fundraising and campaign management consultant with Sterling Corporation.
•Frederick Maher, a Livonia health care analyst.
•Mia McNeil, a Lansing attorney and a lobbyist with Kelley Cawthorne.
•Kathleen Moore, of Battle Creek, human resource assistant at Community Action.
•Andrew Mutavdzija, of Lansing, a state House legislative director.
•Amanda Roggenbuck, of Unionville, an attorney and owner of Amanda L. Roggenbuck and Associates, PLLC.
•Ericka Savage, of Southfield, a legislative chief of staff.
•Heather Spielmaker, of Charlotte, director of the Center for Ethics, Service, and Professionalism at Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
•Demetria Taylor, of Southfield, executive controller of the Westin Southfield Hotel.
•Capt. Casey Viegelahn, of the U.S. Marine Corps.
•Mark Vroman, of Ionia, a firefighter/paramedic.

For more information and to purchase tickets online, go to the web site or call 517-353-0891.

Anti-union activist files appeal in witch-hunt against Howell teachers

Anti-union activist Chet Zarko appealed last month’s ruling of the Michigan Court of Appeals ruling involving the Howell Public School E-mail case last Friday.

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. The Oakland County Republican was on a fishing expedition to embarrass teacher unions, and he claimed the emails were sent on district computers during staff time, and were used to lobby the public during contract negotiations. He hit pay dirt with Howell, with the help of teabagger and Howell School Board member Wendy Day before an injunction was issued stopping Zarko from receive any more of the 5,500 emails.

The three-judge panel ruled last month that the issue is one that must be resolved by the Legislature, and they called upon the Legislature to address it. The Court of Appeals also concluded 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.

Although Howell Public Schools and the School Board were the original defendants in the case filed by the HEA, they have said they will not spend any more tax money on Zarko’s personal witch-hunt and publicity seeking venture.

Zarko filed his appeal bankrolled by Washington, D.C. based National Right to Work Foundation, a union-busting “non-profit,” on Feb. 12. He is being represented by the union-busting group’s attorney and Southfield attorney Arthur Siegal.

If you need any more proof that this is nothing but an anti-union witch-hunt, you night ask why no press or media group is involved or filed a brief in support of Zarko’s position. Where is the Michigan Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Press Club or the National Newspaper Association?

The appeal is asking the Court of Appeals to reconsider its opinion because it “was based on incorrect information and went beyond the question before the court.”

The teacher’s union contends that they are not subject to FOIA because they do not meet the scope of FOIA in that they do not affect the performance of a public body.

When the Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on Jan. 5., the school district, the original defendant, said that even emails sent from and to personal lap top computers by teachers would be subject to FOIA if they used the district Wi-Fi under current rules. Zarko is claiming that is factually and legally incorrect, and that is what the Court of Appeals based their decision on.

Most likely the Court of Appeals will reject the appeal, and the Michigan Supreme Court will have the option of hearing the appeal.

Feb 18, 2010

Traffic study confirms need for DRIC bridge

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) released required traffic information yesterday from a study prepared at the request of the Michigan Legislature that reaffirms the need for an additional border crossing in the Detroit-Windsor corridor despite the current economic downturn.

One of the claims Ambassador Bridge owner and GOP benefactor Matty Moroun in trying to keep his monopoly on the busiest border crossing in North America and fight the planned public-private Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) is that a second bridge is not needed because bridge traffic has slowed down. He makes this claim despite illegally beginning to build a second span right next to the current 80-year old bridge.

The investment-grade study was conducted by Wilbur Smith Associates, and the Average weekday traffic (AWT) projections for 2035 contained in the DRIC investment-grade traffic study are less than 10 percent different from the traffic projections in the December 2008 DRIC Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

"This new study not only confirms the importance of the existing international crossing but also reaffirms the need for a new crossing in the Detroit-Windsor corridor within the next five to 10 years in order to support trade between the United States and Canada," said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle, in a press release. "Now is the time to begin a project that will put 10,000 Michigan citizens to work and add more than 30,000 associated jobs during construction, while retaining another 25,000 jobs in our state for the long-term."

Submitting an investment-grade traffic study to the Michigan Legislature is one of two requirements of Public Act 116 of 2009. The Michigan Legislature also instructed MDOT to solicit responses from the private sector to gauge interest in joining a public-private partnership to construct the DRIC bridge, plaza, and related infrastructure, which MDOT did on Jan. 27 with responses due to MDOT March 17. All information will be submitted to the Michigan Legislature by May 1.

Senate Republicans have pulled out all the stops to help Moroun keep his monopoly, going so far as to threaten arrest and to hold up the Transportation Budget to get their way. Although the DRIC bridge has the support of both the U.S. and Canadian governments and leading Republicans, Moroun’s bought and paid for politicians will put up a fight on May 1.

Feb 17, 2010

Rightwing newspaper ignores the facts to fawn over GOP candidate

The continued rightwing stand of the management and editorial board of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus continues to amaze me.

After two straight days of trashing the Democratic Gubernatorial candidates, today Rich Perlberg and company are singing the praises of long-shot Republicans Gubernatorial candidate, Sen. Tom George, R-Kalamazoo, with an editorial called “Senator running for gov. deserves seat at policy table.”

“People such as George, who have seen the inside of both operating rooms and legislative chambers, are well-positioned to suggest meaningful changes. Regardless of the outcome of this year's race, there needs to be a way to get him a seat at the policy table.”

Well, considering George is the chair of the Senate Health Policy Committee and his party controls the Senate, he has more than a seat at the table, he has the head seat.

The editorial grudgingly acknowledges George is a long-shot, but it praises him without acknowledging his actions or doing a single bit of research on George. The editorial also says, “The four other announced Republican candidates have leads over him in both name recognition and campaign funds.”

That is not for a lack of trying on the part of Republicans. He has in the past given the GOP response to the Governor’s State of the State address, and he toured the state in 2008 speaking out against the successful Ballot Proposal 2 that allowed embryonic stem cell research.
He lost that battle, so he is currently trying to circumvent the will of the voters, and he has introduced and guided through his committee a package of bills – Senate bills 647-652 - that place so many restrictions on stem cells research that it will effectively kill it.

George, like all Republicans, is anti-worker, but it appears the newspaper supports that stance. Last year George introduced a resolution that urged “the Governor to work with the Civil Service Commission to require that state employees either work on President's Day or take the day off as an unpaid holiday.” The good news is that there were enough level heads in the Senate to defeat it.

But looking at the P & A’s online poll on Tuesday, we perhaps we see why the editorial board is fawning over George and ignoring the facts. The poll asks, “Yesterday, state employees had the day off for President's Day. Did you notice?”

Feb 16, 2010

Rightwing newspaper continues to trash Michigan Democratic Gubernatorial candidates

We know one thing for certain, the conservative Livingston County Daily Press & Argus will not endorse the Democratic candidate for Michigan Governor in November whoever it is.

For the second straight day the rightwing editorial page has taken shots at the Democratic candidates for governor. On Monday it said Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero its second shot at him in less than two weeks – should not run because he was just reelected as Mayor, and today it gleefully editorialized on the decision of former state Treasure Bob Bowman to drop out of the race.

Monday’s editorial came from the Lansing State Journal, another newspaper in the corporate change, but since it ran in the P & A it’s obviously their position, too.

Monday’s editorial on President's Day was titled “Lansing mayor should stick to the job he has.” Now, some city residents might have a right to grumble about that, but the situation has change significantly since he was elected a few months ago. The decision by Democratic front-runner Lt. Governor John Cherry to drop out of the race last month change the dynamic.

The editorial takes the Mayor to task for saying he had no intention for running for Governor, and that was true then, saying “When Virg Bernero ran for the mayor of Lansing last year, most voters didn't expect him to run for the governor a year later - partly because he promised them he wouldn't do that.”

The charge seems even more ridiculous when you consider every single Republican gubernatorial currently holds elective office but one. Take Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, for instance. The former state Senator left that office in 1999 before his term ended to take the vacant Sheriff position, and he was elected to the post himself to serve until 2013. But that did not stop him from running for U.S. Senate in 2006 when U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-East Lansing, kicked his ass. Where was the Gannett chain editorializing that he should not run because he made a commitment to the residents of Oakland County then?

Now, he’s running for Governor. When can we expect that editorial from the P & A?

Today’s snarky editorial was titled “GOP hopes must be rising as more Dems sit out race.” In the same edition that the news that Bowman dropped out of the race ran, over a holiday weekend, they have an editorial prepared already.

The insulting lead is, “Will the Democrats have anyone left to run for governor this fall?” The answer is yes, and we have the best candidate from both parties, and his name is Virg Bernero.

It goes on to say, “That leaves two announced candidates for the Democrats, state Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith, D-Salem Township, and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. Neither appears ready to mount a strong statewide campaign.”

More misinformed crap from an editorial board that did not even know state Sen. Hansen Clarke, D-Detroit, had dropped out of the race. The fact is Bernero has already mounted “a strong statewide campaign.”

Obviously, the newspaper has abandoned all pretenses of being neutral, fair and nonpartisan.

Feb 15, 2010

Newspaper carrying water for rightwing think tank

The rightwing think tank the “Mackinac Center for Public Policy” began a bi-monthly newspaper called “Capitol Confidential” back in 2008, and it now appears it has a new daily newspaper called the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

In its mad dash to the right, the Press & Argus has been carrying water for the rightwing think tank, and today the paper helped the Mackinac Center out on its mission to kill the successful and award-winning Pure Michigan ad campaign to increase tourism in the state.

In a bleak economy, tourism has been one of the bright spots, and that has been borne out by the success of the Pure Michigan ads. In fact, in September the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association released a survey of its members showing 72.9 percent had seen an increase in out-of-state visitors coming to their facilities over the summer compared to the summer of 2008.

A study conducted by the respected Toronto-based Longwoods International has demonstrated that the Pure Michigan campaign has helped significantly boost tourism spending in the state.

“According toe the newspaper, “preliminary results of the study were made available just after the governor's address, the full study will not be available for a month,” and the Mackinac Center is basically calling them a liar by saying they cannot verify the data.

Not only have the ads won awards, they have the support on both sides of the aisle. According to subscription only Gongwers, Republican “Attorney General Mike Cox, one of the favorites to become the next governor, has said the ad campaign has worked. Even Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi,” supports it.

The Advertising campaign for the winter has already been canceled, and the fall ads are also in danger. House Bill 5017 would assess a $2.50 fee on cars rented near airports to fund the ad campaign. That’s what the Mackinac Center and its ally the Press & Argus are fighting.

Cheney cops to being a war criminal

Why does anyone care what former Vice-President Dick Cheney has to say about terrorism?

He was on ABC News this weekend accusing the Obama Administration of being soft on terrorism. Someone needs to remind him that the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, at least on U.S. soil, occurred on his watch.

What’s more, he admitted he was a war criminal by saying he condoned and was “a big supporter” of water boarding, and there is no doubt its torture.

Why is he not in jail?

Feb 12, 2010

Teabagger convention launches a thousand conspiracy theories

The media was focused on Sarah Palin at the big, expensive tea party convention in Nashville last weekend, but apparently, her ridiculous attacks on President Obama and the Democrats were mild compared to some other disgusting attacks from tea baggers.

Supposedly, the teabagger movement is all about bipartisan anger at big government and out of control spending, but that’s simply not the case. As I have said before, this is all too familiar to the anti-government rhetoric I saw in the mid-1990s when I went to work as a reporter in Lenawee County after being out of Michigan for a number of years serving in the military.

This militia movement is back, and we are seeing the same old anti-government, “New World Order” rhetoric and government conspiracies around every corner. The only thing these two eras have in common is that there is a Democratic President. This has always been a fringe group, but as the Republican Party veers ever farther to the right, the Militia, white supremacists and other, anti-government, rightwing hate groups are becoming mainstream.

Jonathan Kay, a conservative columnist, attended the convention as a participant, and even he was shocked at the anti-government rhetoric and conspiracy theories he saw.

“It has become clear to me that the movement is dominated by people whose vision of the government is conspiratorial and dangerously detached from reality,” Kay wrote. “It's more John Birch than John Adams.”

“Steve Malloy, author of Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Ruin Your Life, kicked off the first full day of conference proceedings by warning that Obama and his minions are conspiring to control every aspect of Americans' lives—the colors of their cars, the kind of toilet paper they use, how much time they spend in the shower, the temperature of their homes—all under the guise of U.N. greenhouse-gas-reduction schemes. "Obama isn't a U.S. socialist," Malloy thundered. "He's an international socialist. He envisions a one-world government."

There was “Texas radio host Alex Jones, whose documentary, The Obama Deception, claims Obama's candidacy was a plot by the leaders of the New World Order to "con the American people into accepting global slavery.” There’s that New World Order BS again.

There’s “Judge” Roy Moore, who is a darling of the right for, as an Alabama Supreme Court Justice, refused the orders of a Federal judge to take down a display of the Ten Commandments, in violation of the Constitution. In Nashville, “Moore warned, among other things, of "a U.N. guard stationed in every house.”

Then we have the most disgusting and racist remarks by former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colorado, who wants to go back to the deep south of the 1960s when African-Americans were barred from voting by a number of ways, including a literacy test. He called President Barack Obama a "committed Socialist idealogue" who was elected because "we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote."

The most disturbing thing is people actually cheered those remarks. So much for the alleged progress in race relations.

Republicans continue to push lies about the underwear bomber case

Republicans continue to disrespect the U.S. Justice system, and it took a comedian and the host of a fake TV news show to put them in their place.

Since last fall Republicans have been whining about holding the trial for the accused mastermind of the September 11 attacks in New York City where the crime occurred, and recently they have been trying to paint the Obama Administration as soft on terrorism in its handing of the Underpants bomber, who tried to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit Metro Airport on Christmas Day.

Like the Bush Administration who tried more than 300 suspected terrorists in federal court, according to the Bush Justice Department, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria will also be tried in federal court. His case is almost exactly like that of the Shoe Bomber, Richard Reed.

On December 22, 2001 he tried to blow up a U.S. airline flight with a bomb hidden in his shoe, and he was also subdued by passengers, just like the underwear bomber. Three days later he was charged in U.S. federal court at Boston in a criminal complaint. Reid pled guilty to all eight criminal counts on October 4, 2002, and on January 31, 2003, he was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole with three life sentences to be served consecutively. During the sentencing hearing Reid stated that he was an enemy of the United States and in league with Al-Qaeda. He is serving his sentences at a Supermax prison in Colorado.

Now, Republicans are complaining because Abdulmutallab was read his Miranda rights like the law requires of all criminal suspects and just like Reid was. On Tuesday, perennial Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich appeared on the Daily Show with John Stewart to push his latest book where he called the Obama Administration “radical” for reading Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights. When Stewart pointed out that the same thing happened with Reid, Gingrich told an outright lie, saying it was OK because Reid was an American citizen.

That’s simply not true; he’s a British citizen.

When Gingrich asked Stewart what he thought of holding the 9/11 terror trials in New York, Stewart - who lives just blocks from the Twin Towers and did so on September 11, 2001- hit it out of the park.

“I would be happy and I would be proud of New Yorker’s ability to handle whatever inconvenience to show off our resilience and our lack of fear in the face of these idiots,” he said. “I would be delighted.”

No one could have said it better. Stewart has said many times that these guys are simply idiots from the bottom of the barrel, yet we treat them like X-Men with supernatural powers. The fact is they are nothing but common criminals and thugs who should be treated just like muggers, rapists and murderers are. They should not be given any special status as “enemy combatants” or holy warriors. They are criminals and should be given every protection under the law and thrown in prison when convicted.

We have the best, the most just and most humane criminal justice system in the world, and I have no idea why Republicans think so little of it. If we give in to the fear and treat them differently, then the terrorists have won. Hell, that’s their very mission.

Republicans have claimed Abdulmutallab stopped talking when he was read his rights, but that’s another rightwing lie. He has spilled his guts, with the help of his family, and he has given up plenty of intelligence. It’s sad that people like “Twitter” Pete Hoekstra and U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Macomb County, want to torture him. Not only is it against the law and morally wrong, you get unreliable information.

Feb 11, 2010

Business leaders back ‘two penny Jenny’ plan

Remember back in 2007 when Gov. Granholm proposed 2-percent sales tax on services as part of a plan to make-up a $3 billon shortfall, and Republicans went berserk and tagged her with the derogatory nickname, “Two-Penny Jenny?”

Well, it turns out she was right, and it was the best thing to do. Does that mean we can expect an apology from Republicans? Not likely.

Since September a group of so-called business leaders that tend to be the Republicans constituency known as “Business Leaders for Michigan” have been shopping around Lansing something known as the “Michigan Turnaround Plan.”

Business Leaders for Michigan is an organization “dedicated to making Michigan a "Top Ten" state for job and economic growth. The organization is composed exclusively of the chairpersons, chief executives or most senior executives of the state’s largest job providers.”

Part of their three-step 2010 Legislative Agenda includes adopting a 5.5 percent sales tax on services, reduce the sales tax we already pay on goods to the same 5.5 percent, eliminate the Michigan Business Tax surcharge (MBT) and reduce MBT gross receipts tax rate from .8 percent to .5 percent.

The Governor released her 2011 Executive Budget today, and one of the proposals is very similar to the CEO plan. This is directly from the press release:

“The proposal, which modernizes the tax structure to more adequately align with a 21st century economy, lowers the existing sales and use tax rates from 6 percent to 5.5 percent, expands the base of the sales and use taxes to include other services, eliminates the Michigan Business Tax (MBT) surcharge over two years, and reduces the gross receipts portion of the MBT over two years.”

That should be easy for the Republicans to get behind, as well as eliminate the “Two-Penny Jenny” references. Somehow, I doubt neither will happen.

The Governor wants the budget passed that takes effect on Oct. 1 done by July 1.

The Business Leaders for Michigan plan has some good stuff, but almost all of it benefits them at the cost of public employees. There is, of course, no sacrifice on their part.

Feb 10, 2010

Grassroots support for ‘Katie’s law” is growing

Sometimes the wheels of government move slowly, but a lot of people in Michigan are urging them to move faster for 23-year-old Katie Viger of Trenton.

The recent graduate of the Henry Ford Community College nursing program is in hospice care suffering from an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma, but her biggest regret is not receiving her nursing degree. Her many supporters have been calling, writing and emailing the Michigan Legislature to make that happen.

She graduated from the competitive nursing program that has a three-year waiting list in May of last year, but in August she was diagnosed with cancer, just days before she was to take her exam to receive her nursing license.

Cathy Wakefield, her instructor at Henry Ford Community College, has stood by Katie during the ordeal, even helping organizing a fundraiser to help with paying for the mostly experimental treatment. As Katie’s condition worsened, Wakefield sprang into action to help her accomplish her lifelong dream, becoming a licensed nurse. What she found out was that the Michigan Department of Community Health does not have the statutory authority to issue an honorary nursing license.

Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, is sponsoring legislation to allow the DCH to do so when a person has completed all the required course work but is not able to take the exam because of serious illness or event. It will be called “Katie’s Law.”

A Facebook group has been formed to gather support for the effort, and in the short amount of time it has been up it has gained more than 3,182 members, with the help of a couple of newspaper articles.

The problem now is getting it through the Legislature. A priority bill request has been submitted to the Legislative Service Bureau (LSB), the nonpartisan legislative agency charged with putting a plain language bill request into legal language. Once the bill is introduced, it can go directly to the Senate floor if no committee hearings are required, and in the Senate that is a common occurrence, but not a general rule in the larger House.

The bill must be approved in both the Senate and the House and signed by the Governor before it becomes law. However, the Facebook group is urging people to ask their Senator or Representative to co-sponsor the bill and do what ever they can to expedite the process, and that appears to be happening.

Republicans root against American technology and know how

LANSING – The recent snow storm has led to a rash of ridiculous right-wing jokes about global warming from global warming deniers, like Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-OK, who is making a dig deal out of his family building an igloo on the National Mall and calling it “Al Gore’s New Home.”

They should look up the difference between weather and climate, as well as that climate change means just that. It will lead to unstable and unusual weather occurrences and more severe weather, exactly what we are seeing. Scientists have been warning for decades that global warming would increase the severity of winter storms, and those in Washington, D.C. are seeing that.

But the reaction yesterday from a certain Michigan Senator, who shall remain nameless to protect me, on the Senate floor was perhaps the most outrageous. He was gleefully talking about the wind turbines in Minnesota freezing in place. Rightwing blogs and other climate change deniers have also been all over this.

“Oops, so much for electricity in Anoka, Chaska, and other communities in that part of Minnesota,” he said. “Eleven wind turbines frozen in place. Oops, so much for wind turbines versus coal-based electric generation. It all has to do with a media mandate. Renewable Portfolio Standard? Oops, no electricity.”


You will recall that a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) mandates that a certain amount of power be generated by a renewable source. There are lots of new energy sources out there, but they are all, at least for now, more expensive than pollution-filled fossil fuels. The purpose of an RPS is to create a demand for alternative fuel sources. In 2008 the Michigan Legislator adopted an RPS mandating that 7 percent of a power company's supply to consumers is generated from renewable fuel sources by 2015. It was so ridiculously low as to make it almost useless.

I’m just amazed at the short-sightedness of climate change deniers, despite the majority of the world’s scientists in agreement that global warming is occurring.

Even if they want to hang on to that debunked belief, what good will come from continuing to spew pollution into the air and water?

How about national security? We invaded a sovereign country over oil, and for the U.S. to remain a world power, we will need reliable fuel sources. Fossil fuels will disappear soon, or they will be too expensive to get out of the ground. Why let a Third World country with oil reserves hold us hostage?

I’m also appalled that a Michigan Senator thinks so little of American technology and know-how that he cheers for its failure. We put a man on the moon more than 40 years ago, but a Senator thinks we don’t have the technology to make the U.S. energy independent?

This is also a new industry. I guess he believes the Wright Brothers should have given up on powered flight because it only lasted for only 12 seconds? Or that we should have given up on the space program when the Apollo 1 spacecraft caught fire and burned, killing the crew of three during a training exercise on the launch pad in 1967? That’s a lot more serious than a wind turbine freezing, but the future of alternative is even more important to the long-term health of the U.S. than putting a man on the moon.

The only regret I have is that the majority of wind turbines are being made in China and not the U.S., which may surpass us as a superpower based on their work and research on alternative and renewable fuel sources.

Wear a white shirt to work to honor worker dignity

Wear a white shirt to work tomorrow to both honor the contribution labor unions have made to society by creating the middle class and celebrate the end of the historic 1937 sit-down strike at General Motor's production complex in Flint that led to the United Auto Workers (UAW) recognition as the sole bargaining agent for GM workers.

Thursday, Feb. 11 will mark the anniversary of that historic day that led to the creation of the middle class. More than 60 years ago, workers had to endure tear gas, clubs and an assault by police to win their dignity, but even today the unions and workers are still under assault. The tactics are much more subtle than the outright attacks and violence used by the robber barons, but the only real difference is that the Republicans today are using sneaker methods and lies to try and bust the unions and kill the middle class.

The tradition of wearing a white shirt on Feb. 11 began in 1948 when Bert Christensen, a member of the UAW Local 598 Educational Committee, came up with the ideas of White Shirt Day to mark the end of the historic sit-down strike. He wanted workers to wear the white-collar attire traditionally worn by managers to show the company that blue-collars were just as important as management.

Feb 9, 2010

Ambassador Bridge Company’s power to bully demolished

Ambassador Bridge owner and GOP sugar daddy Matty Moroun's plans to build a second span next to the 80-year-old bridge without a single permit were demolished last week 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, according to the Detroit News.

Moroun, a Grosse Pointe billionaire and Republican benefactor, wants to maintain his monopoly of an international border crossing, and he has begun building a second span right next to the current one. Michigan House and Senate Democrats have supported the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC)study that wants to build a new public-private bridge about a mile from the current Ambassador Bridge, but Senate Republicans, led by Alan Cropsey, are carrying water for Moroun’s plan to build a second, private for-profit Ambassador Bridge and keep his monopoly intact.

Some Michigan officials were concerned that the Ambassador Bridge Company was dragging their feet on the $170 million Gateway Project to endanger the project to kill the DRIC bridge. The Gateway Project addressed long term congestion mitigation issues and provides direct access improvements between the Ambassador Bridge, I-75 and I-96. The project will also reconstruct I-96 and I-75, accommodate traffic for a potential future second span of the Ambassador Bridge, and access to the Mexicantown International Welcome Center.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) had ongoing issues over contractual obligations with the Bridge Company, and the state could have been in danger of having to pay back the federal funds for the project if they failed to meet the original "Purpose and Need" of the project. That led to dueling lawsuits that were settled Friday,

The Bridge Company built a new duty free shop with a gas station that wiped out 23rd Street that it vacated without permission. The bridge company has a history of heavy-handed tactics, like taking Riverside Park and 23rd street because it claims an old act of Congress designated it an instrument of the federal government because it controlled traffic on an international crossing. That power to bully may also be in jeopardy.

According to the Detroit News, “
Moroun received another setback on Friday when 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.”

It’s unclear why a state court would have a say over a federal function, but you have to consider how pro-business and anti-consumer the court was then.

Just another example of the conservative media bias

I have come to expect biased and misinformed editorials from the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus lately, and they did not disappoint today with one called ”Democrats must deliver some viable candidates for gov.”

This just continues the rightward veer of the paper's management and editorial board. The editorial could just as easily be called”Republicans must deliver some viable candidates for gov.”

The fact is that with the entry of Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero into the race yesterday, we have an immediate front-runner. If you don’t believe that, you just need to take a look at how quick the GOP attacks came after he announced. The editorial, of course, downplays his candidacy, saying, “…but he's at best a long shot. Virtually no one outside Lansing knows who he is. And not all of the Lansing folks think kindly of him, since they believe he promised not to seek another office when he ran for mayor last year.”

That’s just wishful thinking on the newspaper’s part. 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. You don’t get elected to the Senate without some people knowing who you are. He is the only candidate on both sides of the aisle who has had to balance a municipal budget on what Lansing sent him, and he knows the process in the Legislature.

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.

If you think people don’t know who he is, I suggest the paper look up the youtube videos where Bernero appeared on every single major national news show to talk about the plight of the Big 3. He has as much name recognition as every single Republican candidate, with the possible exception of Manoogian Mike Cox, and that’s not really a good thing for Cox.

The editorial also says “Another state senator, Hansen Clarke from Detroit, jumped in after Cherry withdrew, but it's difficult to see Clarke putting together the machinery needed to mount a serious statewide campaign.”

They need to pay more attention to what’s going on in Lansing because he dropped put of the race almost a month ago.
The editorial also said “State Sen. Alma Wheeler Smith from nearby Salem Township long ago announced her candidacy and even proposed a far-reaching tax reform plan to balance the budget. But few, including her own party, give her the time of day.”

Where are they getting this crap? She is the chair of the Appropriations sub-committee that sets the budgets for the Department of Corrections; which, unfortunately, is one of the state’s biggest budgets. That certainly qualifies as giving her the time of day.”

Feb 8, 2010

Listen to the Generals on the ground and kill don’t ask, don’t tell

Remember not too long ago when anyone who talked about strategy in the war in Afghanistan or the unnecessary war in Iraq, the Republicans response was to “listen to the Generals on the ground.”

But they are ignoring their own advice when it comes to the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy prohibiting gays from serving openly in the military. The Senate Armed Services Committee took testimony last week on the issue, and military commanders and civilians from Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said they supported President Obama's decision to do away with the ridiculous and outdated policy.

"I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy that forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens," Mullen said. "For me, personally, it comes down to integrity -- theirs as individuals and ours as an institution."

We have become accustomed to the hysteria on anything having to do with gays from the right and Republicans, and the hysteria and hypocrisy coming from Republicans did not disappoint.

Former Navy pilot Sen. John McCain‘s reaction was stunning.

In October of 2006 he had this to say on the don‘t ask, policy: "The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, 'Senator, we ought to change the policy,' then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it," McCain said to an audience of Iowa State University students.

That day came last week, but McCain flip-flopped. In response, McCain declared himself "disappointed" in the testimony, according to the Washington Post. "At this moment of immense hardship for our armed services, we should not be seeking to overturn the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy," he said bluntly, before describing it as "imperfect but effective."

Obliviously he’s facing a primary election, and he has to veer to the right.

The criticism from the Republicans on the committee is just ridiculous. I have heard them saying the military is not the place “for a social experiment.” That’s sounds like the reaction on July 26, 1948, when President Harry S. Truman issued a then-controversial executive order that called for "equality of treatment for all persons in the armed services, without regard to race, color, religion or national origin."

I spent 20 years in the Navy, and for anyone to say there are not gays in the military is stupid or they have their head in the sand. It is working fine in the armed services of some of biggest allies, like Australia, Great Britain and Norway, and it will work fine here.

The military has survived and thrived with women in traditional combat roles, and the military will not skip a beat when it does the right thing and repeals “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

I don’t know they will accomplish getting rid of that discriminatory policy, but to quote a famous sales pitch, just do it.

Newspaper gives itself a pat on the back for promoting racist hatemonger

Only in the office of the general manager of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus would you give someone a pat on the back for bringing in rightwing hatemonger Ann Coulter to speak.

But that’s the case, and the Press & Argus editorialized on Friday that Clearly University “deserves applause” for bringing in Coulter to speak back in October of 2007 - sponsored, coincidently by the paper - for its annul Livingston Economic Club speakers series. The business college paid the queen of hate $30,000 plus expenses for a 90-minuytge hate, filled tirade, and it touched of months of protests in conservative Livingston County.

The Livingston 2001 Diversity Council denounced her appearance, and a Cleary board member even resigned in protest.

The mission of the economic club is “to enrich the Livingston County community by hosting speakers who can share a broad spectrum of social, political, intellectual and cultural experiences.” But they continue to bring in right-wingers, with a few actual business people and a journalist. Not much of a “broad spectrum.”

Past speakers have included Clinton-hater Dick Morris, Faux “news” commentator John Stossel and alleged terrorist expert Steve Emerson. Basically, the Faux “news” lineup.

The editorial is really a promo for the 2010 speaker series, and the rightwing parade continues. Plans are to bring in another rightwing hatemonger, rightwing radio host Michael Reagan. Among the many vile and hate-filled rants from Reagan include calling for the murder of supporters of the 9/11 Truth Movement. He seems to follow the rightwing career path of the more hateful and disgusting things you say, the more money you make.

I don’t know if they’re paying $30,000 in this kind of economy like they paid Coulter, or does Reagan have to say more hateful things to reach the income bracket Coulter has reached?

To blunt criticism of bloggers like me, they are bringing in Elizabeth Edwards, wife of two-time Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. In fact, she has written a book about her fight against cancer and her husband’s betrayal and infidelity. I have a lot of respect for her, but if I were cynical and with all the news about Edwards fathering a child and alleged spousal abuse, I might think her appearance is timed just to embarrass Democrats.

But knowing how fair and balanced Cleary and the newspaper are, that’s impossible.

Feb 5, 2010

Every picture tells a story don’t it

Progress Michigan did an excellent job documenting what a tea party is really about at the last “music and meander” during the State of the State address on the Capitol lawn on Wednesday. A picture is worth a thousand words, and the video really tells you how misinformed tea baggers really are.

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

Newspaper enables partisan attack on bipartisan bill

Although I didn’t think it was possible, the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus has veered even farther to the right and gotten even more anti-union.

Over the last month or so, they have championed the cause of the rightwing think tank the Mackinac Center and its newly formed Legal Foundation; running stories and an editorial bashing the Child Care Providers Together Michigan union, a joint venture between United Auto Workers (UAW) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The paper and the Mackinac Center think it’s somehow illegal for a group of workers to vote to form a union.

As I have said on numerous occasions, there is nothing more Democratic in the workplace than a union, and the vote to form the union was 5,900 to 475. They are both, apparently, angry that the Michigan Court of Appeals has rejected their claim that because not everybody voted, the election is somehow invalid. Under their logic, only elections that have a 100 percent turnout should be certified.

Knowing how aggressively the newspaper’s management pursued any attempts at unionizing this paper like their fellow journalists were successfully able to do at the Observer and Eccentric part of the chain, this position is not at all surprising.

What’s really surprising is that the paper almost ignores what’s going on in Lansing, but it is all over any union-bashing story.

Now, the newspaper is again doing the bidding of the Mackinac Center and going after home health care workers who chose to unionize. The government saves millions of dollars keeping seniors out of expensive nursing homes and allowing them to spend their final days in their own homes, but they want to deny the people caring for them a decent wage and health benefits and training.

A story in Thursday’s edition featured Senate Bill 731 that would create the Michigan Quality Community Care Council. The Mackinac Center claims it will strengthen the union. That’s simply not true. The workers have already voted for a union, and the bill sets standards.

Among the things the bill would do is to form the Michigan Quality Community Care Council, and the council would be responsible for working to preserve consumer selection and self-direction of providers. According to the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency, the council would also:

-- Provide support to providers through a variety of methods aimed at encouraging competence, achieving quality services for consumers, and improving provider retention through improved job satisfaction.
-- Protect the confidential status of information relating to consumers.
-- Assist consumers in deciding whom to employ to provide personal assistance services, how those services would be provided, and how long the employed provider would render them.
-- Develop recruitment and retention programs to expand the pool of available, qualified providers.
-- Provide or facilitate provider training and otherwise assist providers through the dissemination of information that assisted them to be successful in rendering personal assistance services to consumers.
-- Facilitate and coordinate advanced training for providers.

That sounds like pretty evil stuff.

The Senate votes on some 3,000 things a year, yet the paper is all over the anti-union stuff and ignores most of the rest. Why?

I have seen editorials in this newspaper on how the Legislature needs to stop partisan bickering and get things done and address the state's problems. SB 731 is one of those examples of bipartisanship. It is co-sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats. In fact, it’s con-sponsored by some of the most conservative and liberal members of the Senate.

It is sponsored by conservative Republican Sen. Jason Allen, R-Traverse City, the chair of the Committee on Senior Citizens and Veterans Affairs. It is co-sponsored by conservatives like Sen. Valde Garcia, R-Howell, and Sen. Bruce Patterson, R-Canton; as well as by some of the most liberal members of the Senate; like Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, and Sen. Gilda Jacobs, D-Huntington Woods.

Perhaps the funniest part of the article is where it claims “While these professionals are crucial, a deal through the state that unionized them — and a bill that would strengthen it — is creating ire among some taxpayers.”

Well, it turns out those taxpayers are the Mackinac Center and a teabagger group headed up by Wendy Day, a founder of the defunct anti-gay hate group known as LOVE (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) and a book-burner.

The teabagger group has a new name, calling itself “Common Sense in Government.” It follows the Bush Administration’s practice of calling something the exact opposite of what it real is, like the Clean Skies initiative or the Healthy Forests initiative.

The paper says the teabaggers are pushing robo-calls in the sponsors and co-sponsor's districts “urging constituents to protest the bill.” It’s unclear who is paying for those calls, but I’m sure it’s no grassroots effort.

Feb 4, 2010

Tebow Super Bowl ad illustrates double standard

Can someone tell me how CBS can air the anti-gay hate group Focus on the Family’s Super Bowl ad featuring University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, but it refused to sell ad time to MoveOn and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals during the Super Bowl in 2004 because the network claimed it did not accept advocacy advertising?

The ad features Tebow‘s mother talking about how she ignored her doctor’s advice to abort a potential problem pregnancy and carried Tebow to term. I’m not really sure what the ad is really about, other than its anti-abortion. I certainly hope it’s not about telling women to ignore the medical advice of their doctors.

Planned Parenthood has an ad on YouTube featuring former Minnesota Viking Sean James and Olympic gold medalist Al Joyner in response to the Tebow ad where James and Joyner state in the video that they "respect Ms. Tebow's decision" not to have an abortion when she was pregnant with her son Tim, but they are also "working toward the day where... every woman's decision about her health and her family will be respected." In other words, do not take the choice away from other women. Planned Parenthood does not have the deep pockets like Focus on the Family because they use their money to provide health care services to poor and low income women, so it will not be aired during the Super Bowl.

In fact, I’m willing to bet Planned Parenthood has prevented more abortions that Focus on the Family ever has.

This is pure politics. For example, Jay Riemersma, one of four Republican congressional candidates running in the 2nd District, will host a rally Sunday in support Tebow. What support that is, I’m not really sure. Perhaps because women’s groups are trying to convince CBS not to air it, but this is just a chance to out conservative his GOP opponents and rally support for him.

GOP attack on police officers and firefighters continues

LANSING -- The Senate Republicans continue to target police officers and firefighters with their union-busting bills disguised as government reform at the second hearing of the newly-formed Senate Reform and Restructuring Committee on Wednesday.

The union-bashing and anti-public employee political theatre calls for constitutional amendments 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 Senate Bill 1072 that that would amend PA 312 of 1969 that allows compulsory arbitration of labor disputes for municipal police and fire departments because they cannot strike was again the focus of the hearing.

Last week the Michigan Municipal League (MML) that represents city and village officials testified, along with municipal officials from city council members to township board members, blaming PA 312 for layoffs and bankruptcies instead of falling property values and reduced revenue sharing. The MML not only wants to amend PA 312, they want to do away with it completely.

Wednesday police officers and firefighters got their turn, and they debunked the claims of the MML with actual facts. The union members were neutral on SB 1072, but they wanted to set the record straight on PA 312.

David Hiller, a national vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the director of public safety for Grosse Pointe Park, said PA 312 has been great for both sides. He said police and fire unions can only negotiate pay, benefits and working conditions, and for the first three years after PA 312 was enacted more than half of the cases in arbitration were for non-economic issues.

“Prior to PA 312, we had nothing,” he said. “It was either take it or leave it.”

He said arbitration was rarely used and is still rare, and the municipality wins almost 80 percent of the cases that go to arbitration. Hiller said of the more than 1,500 unions eligible for arbitration, from 1998-2008 an average of only 20 cases a year went to arbitration.

Hiller said why fix something that’s not broken, but he also said the unions were not against improving it.

“It eliminates strikes and impasses,” Hiller said. “It equalizes things on both sides of the table.”

Opponents of PA 312 claim the arbitrators are not allowed to look at a municipality’s ability to pay when rendering a decision. That’s simply not true; they are well aware of the finances, not only that, but both sides are allowed to submit any kind of evidence or documents to make their claim.

“It was not so many years ago that when times were good they (municipalities) did not want ability to pay to be considered at arbitration,” said Terrence Chesney, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union.

Chesney said PA 312 is just being a scapegoat, and the number of arbitration cases prove that.

“It makes no sense to come running to the Legislature every year to say it needs changing,” he said. “I don’t buy into that, and the record shows that.”

Police and fire retirement expenses is levied as a special property tax in the City of Taylor, and many city officials have blamed PA 312 and arbitration for the high cost of pensions, but newly elected Mayor Jeff Lamarand, a former Council member, said the excessive generosity of the previous Mayor and not PA 312 was the cause. He was the only municipal official to not blame PA 312 for budget problems.

The committee took testimony of PA 312 for two hours, and they did not take a vote on any bills.