Mar 31, 2010

Whitmer Launches Petition to Condemn Violence in Health Care Debate

With all the hate and violence directed at Democrats and whipped up by so-called Republican leaders, State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, launched a petition today on her website to condemn the recent violent threats and behavior by fanatics opposing the passage of national health care reform legislation.

“This has nothing to do with supporting or opposing health care reform or being a Democrat or a Republican—it’s about standing up against hateful behavior that threatens political discourse in our country,” she said “I encourage citizens to sign this petition and stand up together against these violent actions that only divide our nation and our state.”

Last week, Whitmer offered a Senate Resolution to condemn these activities as news broke of hateful and threatening behavior against lawmakers, including cutting the gas line at the home of a legislator’s family, making death threats and violent phone calls, and shouting malicious verbal insults. Several Democratic Congressmen were spit on and subjected to racist and homophobic insults as they prepared to vote on the Health Care Reform bill last week.

She plans on introducing a resolution condemning the behavior as soon as the Legislature comes back from its two-week Easter break on April 13. It will be interesting to see who supports it, if the Senate Republicans even allow a vote in it. Hopefully, it will compel Republicans to do the right thing.

Proposed diversity group will give hatemongers something to rally them

There may be something forming in Howell Public Schools that may divert the HPS school board member and head teabagger Wendy Day from her petition drive to deny life-saving health care insurance to millions of Michigan residents.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus is reporting that a small group of administrators, teachers and students is forming a diversity group at Howell High School with the mission of promoting diversity within the district.

Apparently, they participated in a U.S. Department of Justice diversity program last fall.“The group's goal is for the entire district — and its image to those outside the county — to become focused on an environment that respects all people, regardless of race,ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and other differences that traditionally separate people.”

That decision to include “sexual orientation” may draw the attention of Day and other like-minded bigots.

Apparently, “the U.S. Department of Justice and Howell Public Schools came together this school year in response to an April incident in which two students were suspended for using school computers to create an Internet hate group” on Facebook. The group “included 30-plus members, most of whom were Howell High School students. The group's Web page displayed racial slurs and a picture of the Confederate flag.”

Livingston County has a history of intolerance and racism, primarily because former Klan Grand Dragon Robert E. Miles lived in Cohoctah Township, just outside of Howell, until he died in 1992. That perceived racism has been reinforced with things like the appearance of hatemongers like Ann Coulter and the popularity of Astroturf “tea parties” in the county.

It was diversity that plagued the county with Day and brought her to prominence. Day is a founding member of a defunct anti-gay hate group called the LOVE (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) PAC that sprang up in the spring of 2006 in response to a diversity flag they mistakenly claimed was a gay pride flag that “promotes and endorses homosexuality.” The so-called “LOVE group claims it wanted to bring traditional values back to the schools, but their traditional values turned out to be code words for intolerance, discrimination and fear.

The group bit off more than it could chew when it tried unsuccessfully to ban books, but it did get Day elected to the school board.

It remains to be seen if this will draw the same attention as the diversity flag.

Mar 30, 2010

Coverage of petition drive illustrates how conservative the corporate media has become

The coverage from my local newspaper of the preview of the kickoff of a petition drive to stop 32 million Americans with no health care insurance from getting it and placing a constitutional amendment on the ballot to exempt Michigan from the historic health insurance reform has been slanted to favor the teabaggers, but the coverage of the actual political rally was even more slanted.

The paper claims 200 people showed up at the “tea party Monday night at the Howell Freshman Campus cafeteria. Whether it’s 150 or 200, it’s certainly not much considering how conservative Livingston County is, this is supposed to be a statewide effort and all the free promotion it got. There is no doubt the corporate media is conservative.

As a former reporter, it was often the headline that got me in trouble, and it’s the copy editors that usually write them. That may be the case in today’s edition of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

At the top of the page above the fold on the front page is a bold headline above three separate stories that says, “Animosity over health care grows.” Under that bold headline are three separate stories with smaller headlines:
“About 200 show up at meeting to learn about opting-out amendment.”
“Brick Smashes GOP office in Howell area.”
“Proposals in Senate call for right to choose.”

All three are inaccurate, and the vandalism at the GOP “Fix it” office has nothing to do with animosity. The name of the office is accurate. After all, they broke it, they should fix it.

I have written a lot about the petition drive, but what really struck me last night was the fact that law already allows states to opt out.

The constitutional amendment that was rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate gives you less options and choices for health care.

The story at the GOP office in Genoa Township really bothered me. It gives the false impression that the vandalism had something to do with health care. There is no proof of that. I live no more than two miles from this office, but I have never been able to see it since they opened it in November as I drive by Grand River Avenue.

It’s kind of funny that the announcement came from the state party. According to the article, “A brick hurled through the window of the Michigan Republican Party’s office in Howell(sic) has the words ”Long Live the USA” and “God Bless the USA” scrawled on it,according to Livingston County Sheriff’s investigators.”

The first point is the Sheriff’s office should not be in investigating it, and it should be handled by the Michigan State Police. Livingston County Undersheriff Mike Murphy is also the chair of the Livingston County Republican Party.

The article says “Both Democratic and Republican officials nationally have reported threats of violence in the wake of passage of national health care reform bills. Venable’s news release cites recent vandalism at the campaign office of House Republican Whip Congressman Eric Cantor and the Albemarle County, Va., Republican Party headquarters.”

That is simply not true. The police have said the shot fired near Cantor’s office was just a random shot, and it had nothing to do with him denying access to health care for 32 million people. He lied. So-called Republican leaders have not only ginned up the violence with their rhetoric, but they refuse to speak out against it. Democratic leaders have not incited people to violence.

One thing I heard last night at the “tea party” and at others was “we want our country back.” I never heard that back in the early part of this decade when Republicans controlled all three branches of the federal government and all three branches of Michigan government. We wanted control back, and we got it because government was being ran so badly. But no one had our country, and no one has it now. It kind of makes you wonder what they mean, but when you consider teabaggers are now being called the tea klan, then you begin to understand who they want it back from.

Mar 29, 2010

HC petition drive kickoff turns out to be another Republican tea party

The kickoff of a petition drive Monday night to stop 32 million Americans with no health care insurance from getting it and place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to exempt Michigan from the historic health insurance reform law signed into law by President Obama last week was little more than a “tea party.”

Howell School Board member and head teabagger Wendy Day led the event at the Howell Freshman Campus cafeteria, and it was little more than the typical rhetoric bashing Democrats and the president we have seen at the racist, Astroturf “tea parties.“ the only thing missing was the racist signs.

“Some people say Obama broke his oath of office to protect the Constitution,” Day said. “This is a peaceful way for people to express their frustration.”

Day is the treasurer of the ballot committee called "Michigan Citizens for Healthcare Freedom.”

Constitutional Amendments require the valid signatures of registered voters equal to 10 percent of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for governor in the last election, and that comes out to the signatures of 380,126 registered voters just to place it on the ballot. They have to turn those signatures into the Secretary of State no later than July 5.

“This petition has been legally vetted by the Goldwater Institute,” Day said. “It has been preliminary approved by the (Michigan State) Board of Canvassers.”

I doubt that statement is true, and the board has not approved the language. Every signature should be challenged on that basis alone.

I missed the first hour of the partisan campaign event because I had to work, and I was only able to catch the last 45 minutes. Day took questions from the approximately 150 people, but most of it was just the usual rhetoric and lies we have heard in the past. Day said the best place to get signatures was at Republican events, like a “tea party.”

“Go to one tea party; go to two,” she said.” We can get plenty of signatures. The tea party express is coming through.”

If you needed any more proof that this was a partisan Republican event, you just needed to see the Republican politicians in attendance. Most of them are running for office, and I lost respect for some I once had respect for, despite our political differences.

Those I personally saw were Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, - who is running for U.S. Congress in the seat vacated by “Twitter” Pete Hoekstra and who introduced the amendment under discussion that was rejected in the Republican controlled Senate - Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton; Rep. Cindy Denby, R-Fowlerville; former Republican House Speaker Rick Johnson, R-Leroy; and Senate candidate Joe Hune; and of course some guy from the rightwing think tank Mackinac Center.

Like I said in past posts, this clearly violates the school district’s policy on allowing district facilities to be used for partisan political events. I talked to HPS Assistant Superintendent Rick Terries - who authorized the event - is really skirting the policy. He said if the petition drive was successful, it would be a political meeting, but somehow getting there is not. In other words, launching the petition drive is not political, but it’s only political if the petition drive is successful.

It makes no sense.

This masquerade has little chance of succeeding, but that does not mean we should not fight it. We have spent a year fighting to reform the broken system, so what’s three more months.

Despite attempt at spin Michigan Militia is a hate group

You would have to be living under a rock not to have heard about the raid on a militia group called Hutaree in a rural township outside of Adrian in Lenawee County.

The ultra-right wing religious group planned to kill police officers, “who they view as the enemy of their militia-style group,” according to a story in the Adrian Daily Telegram. When I heard the news I was not at all surprised. I worked as a reporter in Lenawee County for about three years in the mid-1990s. I can tell you it was ground zero for anti-government militia groups, and there was a government conspiracy behind every single corner.

I visited the church of alleged Adrian minister Rick Strawcutter, and I’m not at all surprised that there is a religious hate group in the Adrian area. What has been most interesting has been the reaction of the Michigan Militia on the TV news programs. They may not be involved in this particular plot, but make no mistake about it: the Michigan Militia is an anti-government hate group with the same general mission as the group that just got busted.

The Militia has tried to be a mainstream group in the past, but they are really trying harder now after the Oklahoma City bombing sent them scurrying underground. In fact, my first face-to-face meeting with them came in an attempt to mainstream themselves.

I covered a meeting on Gulf War Syndrome for the Telegram, and it turned out to be another militia government conspiracy, according to them. It was disgusting how they used real veterans groups that actually care about vets to push their agenda and try to mainstream their conspiracy theories.

The latest attempt at trying to mainstream a hate group occurred earlier this month. Bridgewater Township Supervisor Jolea Mull sought help from militia members this year to search for missing township residents. What was this woman thinking?

Once a hate group always a hate group, and no attempt to mainstream them will change that. Why didn’t Ms. Mull ask the Civil Air Patrol, the Boy Scouts or the National Guard,the real militia, for help in searching for a missing person. They are trained to do that. I have been a member of two of those groups, and they are well equipped to look for a missing person.

The Civil Air Patrol is the all-volunteer, official civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force with both senior members and cadets from age 12-21, and CAP flies 95 percent of the nation’s search and rescue missions. They are also very familiar with ground searches,and they have chaptes all over, including a very good aquadron in Livingston County.

Teabaggers trying to spin partisan event as nonpartisan

Apparently, Howell Public School Board member and head teabagger Wendy Day’s ballot group is aware it’s violating school district rules by holding a petition drive kick-off event tonight at a school district facility.

The latest promo that appeared in the local newspaper is now calling it a “townhall meeting.” That or the newspaper is helping them because the ballot group, called "Michigan Citizens for Healthcare Freedom,” is still calling it a petition kickoff on its web site. A better name would be Freedom From Life-Saving Care. This is, by the way, is the third straight day the promo for this event has appeared either in the newspaper or its web site, yet it lets the person who authorized my tax dollars to support a political position many people do not support off the hook.

The so-called “Michigan Citizens for Healthcare Freedom” is planning a petition drive kickoff for 6:30 p.m. tonight, Monday, March 29 at the Howell Freshman Campus cafeteria - 1400 W. Grand River Ave. 48843- to exempt Michigan from the historic health insurance reform law signed into law by President Obama last week and place the constitutional amendment on the ballot.

School District policy prohibits district facilities and equipment from being used for political purposes, and this is clearly a partisan political rally. HPS Assistant Superintendent Rick Terries authorized the event because he says it is considered an “informational meeting.” The problem with that logic is that it’s information for launching a petition drive, or, in other words, it’s a one-sided political event.

I have already called and complained, but have got no answer. Call Mr. Terries at (517)548-6357 to respectfully lodge your complaint over tax dollars being used to advocate for a political position.

Mar 28, 2010

Stop teabaggers from denying Michiganders access to life-saving health care

Apparently, Livingston County is going to be “ground zero” or teabag central for the petition drive to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to try and deny thousands of Michigan residents access to life-saving health care.

A ballot group called “Michigan Citizens for Healthcare Freedom” is planning a petition drive kickoff for 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 29 at the Howell Freshman Campus cafeteria - 1400 W. Grand River Ave. 48843- to exempt Michigan from the historic health insurance reform law signed into law by President Obama last week.

The group is led Howell Public School Board member and teabagger Wendy Day. An article in today’s Livingston County Daily Press & Argus is little more than a promo for the event, and I’m sorry I suggested it to my former colleague. It’s ironic that just a few feet away from where Day voted to strip health care from more than 30 Howell school bus drivers she wants to rally people to deny it to thousands of Michigan residents.

This partisan political rally clearly violates district policy about using district facilities and events for political purposes, and this is a partisan political rally. The reporter never got an answer from Assistant Superintendent Rick Terres on why this is not a political rally advocating for a position. There is no way it can be “considered an informational meeting, which isn't prohibited in the district's building-use policy, according to the article.

Where is the other side if it’s an “informational meeting?”

“A prior district policy prohibited political campaigning in district buildings, though Day's event doesn't fall in that category, Terres said.
That policy was revised in 2008 to allow candidate forums for local, state and national political races. The change was made after a Daily Press & Argus candidate forum scheduled at a district building was canceled by district officials, Terres said.”

Again, this is a political rally, and it is not in any way a political forum. Now, if a representative from both sides of the issue held a debate, then it would meet the criteria for a forum or informational meeting. Clearly, it doesn’t. It’s a partisan political rally, and I don’t want my tax dollars as a homeowner in the HPS district to be used to try and kill something that is needed so much.

So, if you’re not doing anything Monday evening, please attend to show your support for the 32 million people who will receive health care coverage under this bill. If you can’t make it, call the person who made the decision to allow taxpayers funds to support a partisan position. Call Associate Superintendent Richard Terres at (517) 548-6357 to lodge a complaint.

Mar 26, 2010

Hate ginned up by GOP incites violence

No one who has witnessed one of the misnamed, Astroturf “tea parties” over the last year can be surprised at the death threats and attacks we are seeing on the offices of Democratic lawmakers who voted for the historic health insurance reform bill last week.

Hell, you just needed to see how they disrupted the townhall meetings on health insurance reform last summer to see what was coming.

I said way back in April of last year that the anti-government rhetoric going on now is eerily similar to what I saw in the mid-1990s with the Michigan Militia that only died down with the indictment of Timothy McVeigh for the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, and like the cockroaches they are, the rightwing extremists dove for cover like somebody turned out the lights when McVeigh’s association with the Militia came out. Now, some of these same people are back, and they have been joined by other extremist groups, fired up by Republican leaders. Those so-called GOP leaders that have not tried to fire them up for political gain, have been silent on speaking out against it and condemning it.

A propane gas line at the Virginia home of the brother of Rep. Thomas Perriello, D-VA, was cut; whose address was targeted by teabagger group angry at the congressman’s vote for the health insurance bill, the address was mistaken for the Congressman’s home. An envelope containing white powder and a threatening letter was delivered to the office of Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York, who has been an outspoken proponent of health care insurance reform efforts.

Here in Michigan where eight of Michigan’s 15 members of Congress voted for the historic bill, some have been the object of threats and intimidation. According to the AP, the Michigan State Police have increased patrols around the home of U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, who has received obscene and threatening phone calls and faxes.

Now, Reps. Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, and Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, are the targets of repeated threats. State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, spoke out about the threats and intimidation on the Senate floor on Thursday.

“And now there are reports of death threats, cutting gas lines, delivering a coffin to the front yard of one lawmaker, and even threats to kill the children of Democratic lawmakers who supported the bill,” she said. “I think we can all agree; Gosh, I hope we can all agree that this has gotten way out of hand, as the rhetoric and rancor is turning into violent action.”

She was especially upset over the silence of so-called Republican leaders who ginned up the rhetoric, and then denied they had.

“In my view, perhaps the worst offense is that people in leadership positions are silent, and astonishingly, in some cases, it appears that they are actually encouraging this horrifying behavior,” Whitmer said. “None of us should take lightly this dangerous trend. We, as leaders, as legislators should condemn behavior like this—Democrats and Republicans alike. If we don’t quell this now, it will surely foment, and as a society, we will all pay as the election tensions rise.”

She plans on introducing a resolution condemning the behavior as soon as the Legislature comes back from it’s two-week Easter break. It will be interesting to see who supports it, if the Senate Republicans even allow a vote in it.

“Please join me in condemning this activity,” she said. “I have a resolution condemning that behavior, and I hope you will consider adding your name to it. “

Mar 25, 2010

Teabaggers led by school board member kickoff petition drive, again

Teabaggers led by Howell School Board member Wendy Day are launching a petition drive to stop 32 million Americans with no health care insurance from getting it and violating Howell Public School policy in the process.

Subscription only MIRS is reporting Day and a ballot committee called “Michigan Citizens for Healthcare Freedom” is planning a petition drive kickoff for 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Howell Freshman Campus cafeteria to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to exempt Michigan from the historic health insurance reform law signed into law by President Obama last week.

This is the same amendment the Senate Republicans tried to pass on March 16, but it fell two votes short of the two-thirds majority it needed to get on the ballot. It’s also the same petition drive extreme rightwing Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, launched on March 22 outside William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. Apparently, teabaggers like kickoffs.

Like McMillin, Day has not had much success in petition drives. Day took the unusual step of launching a recall attempt against three of the four Howell Public School Board members who voted to fire the Superintendent. That attempt against her fellow board members failed miserably.

It’s ironic that the petition drive is taking place at the Freshman Campus, 1400 W. Grand River Ave. It also houses both the district’s administrative offices and board office. District policy bars facilities and equipment from being used for political campaigns. That was illustrated in April 2007 when the district canceled a forum for school board candidates, and cited the district policy that states, “District facilities and equipment shall not be used or made available for political campaigns.”

That was simply a nonpartisan forum so voters could hear from candidates, and this petition drive is extremely partisan.

Constitutional Amendments require the valid signatures of registered voters equal to 10 percent of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for governor in the last election, and that comes out to the signatures of 380,126 registered voters just to place it on the ballot. The Michigan State Board of Canvassers must first approve the ballot language before any signatures are collected. Once language is approved, the required signatures must be collected in six months and there can be no more than 90 days between the first and last signature. Any signatures collected before the board of canvassers are invalid, and that, to my knowledge has not happened.

However, the ballot committee, “Michigan Citizens for Healthcare Freedom,” was filed with the Michigan Secretary of State on March 22, and Day is listed as the treasurer.

MIRS reported “Day said the Michigan Citizens for Healthcare Freedom is in the process of rallying liberty groups across the state to pass around petitions for this effort.”

Cox is called out on his attempt to gain political points

Michigan Attorney General and Republican Gubernatorial Candidate ‘Manoogian’ Mike Cox is being called out by the Governor on his blatant political move to join the lawsuit with 12 other Republican AG’s to challenge the constitutionally of the health care insurance reform bill signed into law by the President on Tuesday.

I’m not an attorney, but the Michigan Constitution does not say much abut the AG’s duties, other than its part of the executive branch of government. And, as such, the AG represents the governor and the people.

He’s certainly not speaking for the governor who supports the law, and he’s certainly not acting fro the citizens of Michigan who overwhelmingly voted for the President who was clear about his plan to reform the broken health care insurance system.

The Governor – a former AG - sent Cox a letter that specifically directs him to "intervene in the Florida litigation on behalf of the governor, the state of Michigan, and the Michigan Department of Community Health to uphold the recently enacted federal health care legislation and to protect and preserve the important protections afforded to our state and its citizens by the new law."

The letter went on further to say, "Your statutory authority does not, however, override the superior constitutional authority vested in the governor to determine the position to be taken by the executive branch of state government and certainly does not authorize you, as attorney general, to unilaterally, and without consultation, to determine and declare the policy position of the state of Michigan.”

The simple fact is the move was just to curry favor with the extreme teaqbaggers who control the Republican Party as Cox tries to win the primary election for Governor and has to play to the extreme base to get elected. The law is clearly constitutional.

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

And legal commentators, including conservative scholars, are therefore uniformly saying that any lawsuit to stop it will undoubtedly fail. And in any event, the legislation only "compels" coverage in the sense that it places a tax on non-insured individuals. Is the federal government "compelling" me to buy a house, since as a renter I don't get the mortgage tax breaks? Is it "preventing" me from buying alcohol because it has a tax on alcohol? The conservatives are asking the judiciary to interfere in the political process, which they constantly claim to be against.

Mar 24, 2010

Right-wingers twist a champion’s words and hope people are stupid

Republicans and those on the right are hoping people are stupid.

U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, has been fighting for health care insurance reform since he was elected to Congress in 1955, as did his father before him. He appeared on rightwing radio station WJR on the show hosted by Paul W. Smith, who on occasion subs for rightwing hatemonger and soon-to-Costa Rica native Rush Limbaugh.
In that long and partisan interview, Dingell was responding to a loaded question on why it will take so long to cover 32 million of the 50 million Americans who are uninsured, and he made the mistake of using three unfortunate words that the right took out of context. Already it has made it around the rightwing media and blogsphere like a shot.

Those words: “control the people.”

Now, anyone with half a brain knows that he meant it will take until 2014 to properly administer the program and pay for it, but rightwing, anti-government types that see a conspiracy around every corner are hoping you will take their word for it.

Don’t because, as usual, they are lying.

Listen to it yourself, and you will see they are full of hot air, among other things.

Update: The next day Congressman Dingell clarified his comments on a show hosted by right-winger Frank Beckman, and said he was talking about the people administering the program.

Republican have to make up lies to smear Stupak

The right-wing smears against U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, are going non-stop after he did the right thing and voted for much-needed health insurance reform.

His stand on abortion was a little confusing because federal funds have long been barred from paying for abortions for a number of years, and this bill did not change that. Still, he held out for an executive order President Obama will sign today reaffirming that fact before he voted yes. Now, right-wingers are calling him a traitor.

But make no mistake about it; it’s because he did the right thing and voted for the bill, not his anti-choice stand on abortion that he is being smeared.

The Republicans are now using long-established procedures to claim the votes of Democrats were bought. Even if that were true, in the end the money would have gone to better the public good, in sharp contrast to scandals like Cunningham and Abramoff where the money went in their and their crony’s pockets.

The latest smear against Stupak is that he voted for the bill in exchange for three airports in his district receiving federal grant money. The only problem with that lie is that Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded grants in 47 states -- including one in Minority Leader John Boehner's district -- as part of a decades-old airport improvement program.

In fact, many of the most vocal opponents of the bill are receiving the same grants. Eleven airports in Rep. Don Young’s, R-Al, district received grants totaling more $56 million in FAA grants. Also receiving the grants were Mike Pence, R- Columbus; Steve King, R-NY; and Michele Bachmann, R-batshit crazy.

Stupak already had a primary opponent because he held out so long on the health insurance bill in Connie Saltonstall, a businesswoman and former county commissioner from Charlevoix. But he now has a Republican opponent in some guy named Dan Benishek from Crystal Falls who has never ran for office before.

His web site only has a place to donate money, nothing else, and that appears to be what his campaign is all about. He is getting offers of out of state money on rightwing blogs.

Mar 23, 2010

Light up a child’s Easter with ‘Dress an Angel’ program

“In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it, You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.”

Dressing up has been an Easter tradition for many years, at least according to Irving Berlin, but in Michigan’s tough economy with wages down, many families will not be able to buy that Easter bonnet and dress and nice suit for their children. The Blue Tigers Committee of the Livingston County Democrats is stepping up to lend a hand with the“Dress an Angel” program with the Salvation Army to benefit needy children.

The Blue Tigers are asking that if you have some nice, new or gently used dress clothes hanging in your closet, please consider donating them this week to the "Dress an Angel" program. If your children or grandchildren are older and like to shop for children, please pick up some nice dress clothes to brighten a child’s day.

As well as clean used dressy clothes for children of all ages, children can also use accessories such as purses, socks and shoes as well. You can drop them off at the Livingston County Dems' office by Saturday, March 27, with a note stating they are for "Dress an Angel."

Our office is located at 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600 of the Fonda Place office park in Brighton. The office will be open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. today through Thursday, March 25. Or call (810) 229-4212 or email to make other arrangements. If you have questions or need to make special arrangements for drop off, please contact Pam Green, coordinator of Blue Tiger Democrats, at

Mar 22, 2010

Republicans get even more desperate in their attempt to deny people health care

Apparently, Republicans in Michigan are not happy that 32 million Americans with no health care insurance will now have it, health insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny people coverage because of preexisting condition, the federal budget deficit will be cut by $138 billion over the next decade, seniors on Medicare will pay less for their prescription drugs and young adults will be able to remain on their families' insurance plans until age 26, and they are launching a petition drive to kill the historic health insurance reform bill passed on Sunday.

The Detroit News is reporting that rightwing and teabagger state Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, is helping launch a petition drive to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot designed to exempt Michigan from the historic health insurance reform law. McMillin did not have much luck with the last petition drive he was involved with the failed recall attempt in 2007, and this one will fail, too.

This is the same political stunt the Senate Republicans tried week that failed to get enough votes.

McMillin announced the petition drive outside William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak today. Ironically, hospital officials made it a point to say they do not support the petition effort and support health insurance reform. Constitutional Amendments require the valid signatures of registered voters equal to 10 percent of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for governor in the last election, and that comes out to the signatures of 380,126 registered voters just to place it on the ballot.

I watched the publicity stunt on WDIV TV news, and they were already collecting signatures. Those signatures do not count. The Michigan State Board of Canvassers must first approve the ballot language before any signatures are approved. Once language is approved, the required signatures must be collected in six months and there can be no more than 90 days between the first and last signature.

Even if they collect enough signatures and it won at the ballot box, it’s unconstitutional. It violates Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, known as the supremacy clause.

In a move that is even more pure, election politics and pandering to the fringe teabaggers that have become the Republican Party, Michigan Republican Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidate “Manoogian” Mike Cox plans to file a legal challenge to the health insurance reform law’s constitutionality, contending that it violates the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

To help fight off this misinformation campaign, make a contribution to Progress Michigan. They have identified a donor who will put up a dollar to match every dollar you give up to $10,000 to help in the fight to protect the health care reform we all fought so hard to achieve.

New assault on workplace smoking ban launched

The Michigan workplace smoking ban that will ban smoking in bars and restaurants will not go into effect until May 1, but there is already an attempt to weaken the law.

Apparently, there is a petition drive underway to exempt American Legion posts and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts from the ban because they are private clubs, and those organizing the petition drive are trying to play on patriotism to duck the ban that protects the majority of people who do not smoke from deadly secondhand smoke.

“Army veteran Mike Stapleton said clubs where those who fought to defend the freedoms of this nation gather should be exempt from the state’s smoking ban,” according to an AP report that appeared in the Grand Rapids Press.
“It’s wrong for lawmakers to tell us private clubs what to do,” said Stapleton, 61, who served in the Vietnam and Desert Storm wars.”

I could not disagree more. I am also a Desert Storm veteran, and I think veterans should follow the laws just like other citizens.

The fact is deadly secondhand smoke kills, and many veterans simply cannot go into their local VFW or Legion post because of smoking. People from Livingston County will recall the old Legion Post 141 at the corner of Grand River and M-59 that was torn down and replaced with a beautiful new club. Just the smell of smoke was so bad there that many people could not come in even when the club was empty.

Even military leaders have recognized the harmful effects of smoking, both first and secondhand smoke. My military career reflects that. Like most teens, I tried smoking, but I had quit by the time I joined the Navy.

One of the things I remember from boot camp was being woken up at 3 am. to my company commander angry because he claimed he found a cigarette butt in the head. That led him to confiscate every single cigarette and lighter from us. He would then hand them out one at a time when he granted the company a smoke break.

For the rest of boot camp that smoke break was the carrot and the stick. If we did well, we got a smoke break. If we didn’t, no smoke break. So, three or four times a day we would all pour into a small lounge attached to our barracks - smokers and non-smokers alike - and some 40 guys would choke down as many cigarettes as they could in 5 minutes. Since I was practically smoking anyway, I became a smoker, and for the next 20 years I was a heavy smoker.

Once I got to my first ship, there were few places you could not smoke, with the
exception of your rack and during General Quarters because ventilation was turned off in case of a NBC attack. The cheapest place in the world to buy cigarettes was on a U.S. Navy ship at sea because you did not pay local, state and federal taxes. The point is there was a culture of smoking.

But over the years that began to change. First, you could not smoke in the berthing compartment, and then in your work space. Finally, in 1989, the ship I was on, barred smoking inside, and you had to go outside on the weather deck to smoke. That was a few years ago, and I’m sure more restrictions have been placed on smoking since then, especially after the Surgeon General’s report.

I hope this pro-smoking effort fails, and the legislation respects the will of the people.The sacrifices veterans have made for this country should be respected, and their health should be protected.

Passage of historic health insurance reform bill is victory for Americans

After decades of trying, stretching back almost a century, the U.S. House made history and passed the historic health care insurance reform Sunday night.

A major progressive victory was achieved that will rein in the worst insurance abuses and expand health care to 32 million Americans. The real winners will be the American people where getting sick is no longer a ticket to bankruptcy.

Like most people, I was glued to C-Span and MSNBC - with the exception of the dramatic MSU basketball game and for my wife to watch to “Desperate Housewives.”

There were some great floor speeches, and none were more inspiring than that of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She will go down in history as one of the Greatest Speakers in history for this accomplishment.

“This legislation will take its place in history beside the passage of Social Security and Medicare,” she said. “It will end the days of being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. It will help seniors finally afford their lifesaving prescription drugs by closing the donut hole in Medicare.”

It was accomplished, of course, with nothing but Democratic votes. That $1.4 million a day the insurance lobby was spending to spread lies and misinformation and kill the bill will now be spent to unseat those brave Democrats who did the right thing.

“For me, this wasn't about politics - it was about doing what's right for the people I represent,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek. “Doing what's right isn't always easy, but I didn't run for Congress to walk away from a tough fight.”

Perhaps the most courageous stand was that taken by U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, who realized federal law already barred federal tax dollars being spent on abortion and not only voted for the bill, he spoke for it when Republicans introduced an abortion resolution using language Stupak wrote. One of the classless teabagger Republicans called him a “baby killer” on the floor. He has not been identified, but Republicans know who he is.

The best result of health care insurance reform is that Rush Limbaugh will now be leaving the country.

Mar 19, 2010

‘Katie’s bill’ signed into law

LANSING – Family and friends of Katie Viger gathered in Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s ceremonial office in the Capitol on Thursday to watch her sign Senate Bill 1172 into law that will be known as "Katie’s Law.”

State Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, sponsored the bill that will allow the Department of Community Health (DCH to issue honorary nursing licenses to those with advanced illnesses. The story of Katie Viger caught the imagination of the nation. She 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. Her lifelong dream was to have her license. She received it just a few days before she passed away when it became clear the bill would have no problem passing.

“This was a rare opportunity to truly grant the wish of a citizen and it was a great honor to acknowledge her hard work and present Ms. Viger with the license,” Basham said. “I’d like to thank the Department of Community Health, Senator Patterson and the countless others involved for helping make this happen.”

Katie’s first nursing instructor, Cathy Wakefield, initiated the grassroots campaign to help her receive her license, including starting a Facebook group and encouraging people to contact their legislators. When Wakefield contacted Basham about Katie’s hope to receive her license, he got involved and worked with the DCH to expedite the process. He also introduced legislation to help address similar situations in the future.

Those joining Basham for the bill signing included Katie’s parents, Joe and Cathy Viger, her brother Mark and his fiancée Kathryn Triebel, and her grandparents, Thomas and Mildred Viger and Catherine Burke; Wakefield, DCH Director Janet Olszewski and Melanie Brim and Brenda Lawson from the Department of Community Health; Joyce Young, Henry Ford Health Systems’ Chief Nurse Executive; Rep. Ed Clemente, D-Lincoln Park, and Rep. Andrew Kandrevas, D-Southgate.

Mar 18, 2010

The CBO says health care bill will cut the budget deficit and cover the uninsured

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its preliminary analysis on the compromise health insurance reform bill today, and it shows simply that Republicans and teabaggers have been lying for an entire year.

Here’s what the CBO says the bill does:
It cuts the deficit: It cuts the deficit by $130 billion in the first 10 years (2010 - 2019), and it cuts the deficit by $1.2 trillion in the second 10 years.

It reduces annual growth in Medicare expenditures by 1.4 percentage points per year-while improving benefits and lowering costs for seniors. It also extends Medicare's solvency by at least nine years. It expands health insurance coverage to 32 million Americans Helps guarantee that 95 percent of Americans will be covered. It is fully paid for - costs $940 billion over a decade. (Americans spend nearly $2.5 trillion each year on health care now and nearly two-thirds of the bill's cost is paid for by reducing health care costs).

More importantly, here’s what it will do for the residents of the 8th Congressional District. Despite those benefits, you can rest assure of two things: the lies from Republicans will continue, and U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers will vote against it.

+ Improve coverage for 505,000 residents with health insurance.
+ Give tax credits and other assistance to up to 150,000 families and 15,100 small businesses to help them afford coverage.
+ Improve Medicare for 90,000 beneficiaries, including closing the donut hole.
+ Extend coverage to 20,000 uninsured residents.
+ Guarantee that 8,100 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.
+ Protect 1,700 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs.
+ Allow 63,000 young adults to obtain coverage on their parents' insurance plans.
+ Provide millions of dollars in new funding for 10 community health centers.
+ Reduce the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and other health care providers by $29 million annually.

Senate Republicans try to score cheap political points with ‘meatout’ resolution

LANSING – With the State of Michigan facing a budget deficit and vital services for people who are hurting through no fault of their own being cut, Senate Republicans managed to take time out of a Senate session on Wednesday to pass a meaningless resolution with no teeth to protest a promulgation that has no teeth and carries no weight.

A proclamation issued by Governor Jennifer Granholm calling Saturday a "meatout" day in the state and encouraging people not to eat meat that day as part of a healthy diet drew protests from agriculture and hunting advocates that was way out of proportion. This is no different than those the Governor has issued supporting Michigan wine and egg farmers.

This is a national effort, and according to their website, “ Meatout is an international observance helping individuals evolve to a wholesome, compassionate diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains. The purpose is to expose the public to the joys and benefits of a plant-based diet, while promoting the availability and selection alternatives to meat and dairy in mainstream grocery stores, restaurants, and catering operations.”

Wednesday was also Agriculture Day in the Capitol where the Michigan Farm Bureau and farmers display home-grown fruits and vegetables in the Capitol and lobby their Representatives. Apparently, Senate Republicans think fruits, vegetables and grains are not grown in Michigan. The fact is it’s hard to know where your meat came from, but that’s not the case for fruits, vegetables and grains.

But Senate Republicans took the opportunity to score some cheap political points in an election year. During the Senate session, every Senator is allowed to make a short speech on any subject they choose, and it’s usually at the end of session. On Wednesday it was moved to the middle of the session, and three straight Republican Senators got up and railed at the Governor’s promulgation. Not much different was said between the three, but it’s their right to make a fool of themselves.

That led Sen. Liz Brater, D-Ann Arbor to interject some sanity following the three rants.

“So, basically, what that proclamation does is not, I don’t think, try to harm any meat producers, but it encourages farmers who are producers of vegetables, fruits, and grains, of which there are many, many in this state promoting good health and reducing the risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic diseases which take the lives of approximately 1.3 million Americans each day,” she said.

Brater also pointed out that the same proclamation has been offered by governors in many other states, including the cattle producing state of Texas and Alaska when Sarah Palin was the Governor. Then Brater actually read the promulgation:

“Whereas, March signifies a national celebration of the importance of agriculture in the United States as it provides almost everything we eat, use, and wear on a daily basis; and to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by Michigan’s farmers and the agriculture sector; and

Whereas, Michigan’s farmers provide consumers with not only food and fiber, but also biofuels and other sources of renewable energy, which are essential to life; and
Whereas, Michigan’s food and agriculture industry, our state’s second-largest economic driver, contributes over $71.3 billion to our state’s economy each year; and
Whereas, Michigan’s agricultural industry provides a variety of wholesome and healthy products including but not limited to beef, dairy, field crops, fruits, horticulture products, pork, poultry, sheep, and vegetables; and
Whereas, Michigan’s agricultural economy expanded at a great rate of more than five times faster than the rate of the general economy; and
Whereas, I urge all Michiganians to join me in recognizing the importance of our agricultural industry, from farm to fork, and to help celebrate this day with meals made with a variety of local Michigan ingredients, including but not limited to meat, vegetables, and dairy products; and
Whereas, The first day of spring has been traditionally designated National Agriculture Day since 1973;
Now, Therefore, be it Resolved, That I, Jennifer M. Granholm, governor of the state of Michigan, do hereby proclaim March 20, 2010, Michigan Agriculture Day, and encourage people throughout the state of Michigan to partake in the abundance of Michigan’s agricultural commodities.”

That led to another ridiculous comment by Sen. Alan Sanborn, R-Richmond.
“Let’s just all go over to the Governor’s mansion and have tofu and seaweed,” he said. “Great Americans eat red meat. Great Michiganders eat meat grown in Michigan.”

And great Michiganders also eat fruits, vegetables and grains that we know are grown in Michigan.

The timing for statements was unusual, until Sen. Wayne Kuipers , R-Holland, introduced Senate Resolution 129. that would “urge the Governor to rescind her proclamation making March 20, 2010, Michigan Meatout Day.”

That resolution passed by a vote of 25-12. Sen. Gilda Jacobs, D-Hunntington Woods, summed up the debate over the resolution best.

“I wish we would spend this much time on finding funding for education,” she said.

Newspapers jumped all over the harmless promulgation, and some of the reaction was just ridiculous. The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus had a front page story.

In the story, Don Miller, butcher at Great Lakes Butcher Supply in Oceola Township, said one day will hurt his business. “Encouraging Michiganders not to eat meat — even if just for one day — constitutes a boycott,” the paper said.

But Judy Daubenmier, head of the Livingston County Democratic Party and a Catholic, had the best response when she said Catholics do not eat meat on Fridays.

“Aren’t they losing business on Friday? What’s the difference,” Daubenmier said.
“Don’t we grow fruits and vegetables in Michigan as well?”

One butcher even had the audacity to say eating meat was healthy. He said “implications that meat is unhealthy are irresponsible, “To imply that meat is unhealthful is uneducated, kind of reckless.”

Then maybe your doctor is full of crap when he tells you to cut down on red meat, and you should go to your butcher instead of a doctor for a check-up. The fact is taking an occasional break from eating meat is healthy.

Mar 17, 2010

Cloud still hangs over ‘Manoogian’ Mike Cox

The trouble continues for the ethically challenged Michigan Republican Gubernatorial candidate “Manoogian” Mike Cox.

Subscription only MIRS is reporting that former Detroit area trash king Anthony Soave’s personal PAC has contributed more than $42,000 to Cox since 2005.

Soave has a shady past; “including unproven allegations that he had links to organized crime. Soave's City Management was once the largest trash hauling and landfill company in Michigan. In 1998, he sold it to Waste Management for a reported $750 million. Soave is now CEO of Soave Enterprises, one of the nation's largest private holding companies with annual revenues of $1.6 billion a year. The company has real estate holdings, scrap yards, recycling facilities, landfills, beer distributorships, car dealerships, construction companies and taxi fleets.”

According to an article published by the Traverse City Record Eagle on Oct. 15, 2006, “Soave had been investigated by the FBI, Michigan State Police, and New Jersey State Police. He has been indicted just once, in 1971, on federal gambling conspiracy charges, along with several known gamblers and bookies. The case was later dismissed after a judge tossed out wiretap evidence. Past allegations that Soave made loans to members of Detroit organized crime families and in 1999, described the loans to The Detroit News as money he'd given to his old neighborhood when they were down on their luck.”

But Soave has close ties to disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, as does Cox who obstructed an investigation linked to Kilpatrick and the never-proven 2002 Manoogian Mansion stripper party and murder of dancer Tamara Greene.

Detroit area TV stations have reported that Soave flew Kilpatrick around in his company jets - including a trip to Tallahassee and back after Kilpatrick's text message scandal broke. Along with the flights, Detroit area TV station WXYZ speculated that Soave or entities connected with him paid for Kilpatrick's publicized 2007 family vacation at the Ritz-Carlton Resort in Naples, Florida, including a nearly $10,000 hotel bill.

Despite his best attempts at killing the case, the Greene case continues to haunt Cox.

MIRS is also reporting that on Monday the Capitol was abuzz with the news that “a former assistant to Cox was deposed in the Tamara Greene civil case. Three Detroit-area TV stations reported that Brooke Jordan, whose maiden name was Brooke Liszak when she worked as an assistant AG in the special litigation division of Cox's office from 2004 to 2006, was disposed by the plaintiffs' attorney in the civil case. MIRS reported that Liszak married one of Cox's former drivers and the couple moved to Arizona so he could pursue a career in law enforcement.”

Mar 16, 2010

Senate Republicans play election politics with health care reform

Even though the state budget is facing a shortfall and Michigan residents are hurting and need help, that didn’t stop Senate Republicans from flagrantly playing election politics on the Senate floor today.

The Senate took up Senate Joint Resolution K today, a proposed constitutional amendment designed to exempt Michigan from the health insurance reform bill moving through Congress.

It would “Prohibit a Federal law or rule from compelling any person, employer or health care provider to participate in any health care system,” and it is clearly aimed at the current health insurance reform bill being reconciled in Washington, D.C. and playing to the Republican base that has taken an extreme right turn.

The amendment required a two-thirds majority to go before the voters, and it only got 24 of the 26 required votes. Every single Republican voted for it, and two Democrats crossed over to vote yes.

Sen. Gilda Jacobs, D-Huntington Woods, called the Republicans out for playing politics with federal law, and she said it was unconscionable when we are facing major problems and the Senate has not yet addressed the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Individual Market Reform package of bills.
“This joint resolution feeds into the fear-mongering that is paralyzing Congress and the Legislature here in Michigan,“ she said. “The irony of all this, as we hear the debate that says the state should be taking care of things themselves, we are not doing that.”

The resolution was introduced by Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, who is running for U.S. Congress in the seat vacated by “Twitter” Pete Hoekstra, who is running for Governor. At least three other Republicans are considering a run for the seat, and because he has a tough primary, he is playing to the base with this ridiculous resolution.

Senate Minority Leader Mike Prusi, D-Ishpeming, recognized that.

“I also further believe that underlying this joint resolution was a lot of cynical politics, and I find it sad that we would use such a critical issue that affects nearly every one of the people we represent here to advance in an election year; cynical politics of fear” he said.

Obviously, the Supreme Court has spoken the state’s rights issue long ago, and this could have some serious negative effects on the state.

“I think one of the further un-discussed ramifications of this may have been what it could cost the state of Michigan if we are making this statement and trying to contravene what is going on in Washington,” Prusi said. “That's the potential withholding of Medicaid payments, SCHIP payments and other health care dollars that flow from Washington to the states.”

Another example of Republicans trying to circumvent the will of the voters

The all-Republican Green Oak Township Board of Trustees is the latest example of how Republicans hate the democratic process.

Republicans hate elections, union elections or otherwise, and the Livingston County Daily Press and Argus is reporting GOT “want at least three months to figure out how Michigan's voter-approved medical marijuana law fits into township zoning rules.”

“On Wednesday, the township Board of Trustees will consider a 90-day moratorium on the "sale, growth or dispensation" of approved medicinal marijuana use. The moratorium would allow time for township planning officials to determine how to incorporate medical marijuana use into the township zoning ordinance, said Supervisor Mark St. Charles.”

The good news is that Greg Francisco, president and founder of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, told the newspaper that “local boards and councils don't have the right to even suspend approved medical marijuana use. He said zoning laws don't apply because the program doesn't involve any type of business.” He plans to target the board.

Voters approved marijuana for medical use in November of 2008. It seems a little strange that 16 months later the township now needs three more months, and it’s unclear what it needs three months for.

This is similar to the Senate Republicans trying to circumvent the will of the voters and regulate the program out of existence.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is hearing testimony on Senate Bills 616-618 that 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 if the bills become state law.

The bloody rhetoric and lies from the right intensifies as vote on health care reform

As the House vote nears that will reconcile the House passed version and the Senate passed version of the health care insurance reform bill, the bloody rhetoric and lies from the right are getting even worse, if that’s possible.

The $1.4 million a day the health insurance lobby is spending to protect their record profits is money well spent. We are hearing words from Republicans like Jihad, Holocaust and disaster just to name a few. The latest talking point is that Americans don’t want the bill, and Democrats are “cramming it down the American’s throats.”

That’s simply not true, but there is no doubt that after a year of constant lies and misinformation from the right, it’s clear that some people have turned against it. They have watered it down so much that even liberals don’t like it. But when you ask people if they support certain elements of the bill, like barring insurance companies from denying coverage because of a pre-exiting condition or it will cover 30 million of the 50 million people with no coverage will be covered, they support it.

For the past year 70 percent of the Americans have said they want a public option, but in a misguided effort to make it bipartisan and get it passed, that element has been dropped.One Republican talking point that came out of the President’s townhall with Legislators was “scrap the bill and start with a clean sheet of paper.”

If that happens health care reform is dead, and we will have to go back to holding bake sales and spaghetti dinners to pay the medical bills of those people who actually have health insurance coverage and made the mistake of actually getting sick and needing to use the health care insurance they have paid for.

If we start over after passing a bill through the House and Senate, health care insurance reform is dead, and Republicans know it. After all, they want it to be the President’s Waterloo so they can recapture power. This has nothing to do with covering the 50 million Americans with no coverage, the huge cost of health care and addressing the number one source of bankruptcy among those people with health care insurance, it’s about the Republicans getting power back.

One thing that has really come out during this debate is how if a Republicans does something, it’s OK, but it’s the end of the world if a Democrat does it.

President Bill Clinton was vilified and loathed because Republicans claimed he governed by the polls, and he did not make a single decision without checking the polls. Now, they loved George Bush because they claimed he made gut decisions and didn’t care what the polls said.

Now, if the false talking point were true that the majority of Americans don’t want this bill to pass, then why would they want President Obama to follow the alleged Clinton model and not the alleged Bush model?

The bottom line is this bill is far from perfect, but it is a good start that will reduce the budget deficit, and work will continue on better health care reform. If the bills die, health care that we have been trying to reform since President Teddy Roosevelt is dead for at least the next seven years.

Mar 15, 2010

The 2010 Spirit of Millie Jeffrey Award Dinner on tap

The deadline for buying tickets to the 2010 Spirit of Millie Jeffrey Award Dinner is Wednesday for the dinner set for March 21,

The annual award and fundraising dinner is sponsored by The Justice Caucus and honors the life of Millie Jeffrey, a progressive grassroots leader. The dinner will be held at the Courtyard by Marriott. 3205 Boardwalk Dr. in Ann Arbor, beginning with a reception and book signing with the keynote speaker, Governor Madeleine M. Kunin at 6 p.m.

The following progressive activists will be recognized with the Millie Jeffrey award that reflects their commitment and work for economic and social justice: Elizabeth Bunn, the secretary-treasurer of the UAW — the highest post held by a woman in the union's history; Maryion T. Lee; Ethel Schwartz and Ron Scott. The dinner will also see a new award for the first time: the Millie Jeffrey Rising Star Award. That award will be given to Sarah Juster, an Ann Arbor high school student who has shown exceptional leadership in the fight against genocide and to provide relief to the refugees of Darfur.

The MC for the night is Michael McGuinness, the chair of the Oakland County Democratic Party. The dinner begins at 7 p.m. and the keynote address by Kunin begins at 8 p.m.

Kunin has an impressive resume. She was born in Zürich to a Jewish family, and moved to the U.S. as a child. Kunin received her bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts, a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a master's degree from the University of Vermont. She was first elected as a Vermont State Representative, serving as the Minority Whip of the House. In 1978 she was elected to the first of two terms as the Lieutenant Governor of Vermont. In 1984 she was elected to the first of three terms as governor. She is the first woman in U.S. history to be elected governor three times. She was also the Deputy Secretary of Education from 1993 until 1997 in the Clinton Administration, and following that she became the ambassador to her native Switzerland, as well as to Liechtenstein. She is the author of
“Pearls, Politics, and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead” and “Living a Political Life.”

The Justice Caucus mission is to promote the cause of progressive democracy within the Democratic Party, in government and in the legal profession. The fund-raiser pays for such things as Camp Millie. Camp Millie is a 2-day weekend intensive training program designed to give Democratic activists the tools for effective progressive political action in your community based on Camp Wellstone.

Local Strategy and Candidate meeting set

The Livingston County Democratic Party is holding its first Strategy and Candidate
meeting tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday March 16 at party headquarters, 10321 E. Grand
River, Suite 600, Brighton.

The meeting will focus on an overview of campaign planning and fundraising, as well as the voter statistics for all races. Part of the meeting will be devoted to a report on the party’s research on the issues and some ideas for campaign strategy.

All of the elected offices in the county are held by Republicans, with the exception of a couple of township board offices in the southern part of the county. But party officials are taking heart because the county is becoming more moderate and the Democratic vote is improving.

One of the main goals of the party is to field a candidate in every race, and to take a seat on the nine-member, all-Republican Board of Commissioners. There has not been a Democrat on the board since 1996. The goal is to make them accountable to voters and defend their dismal record over the last two years. Resources will be focused on the more vulnerable seats

The filling deadline is for the August primary is May 11. The Commissioners earn
$15,053 a year and have full health care benefits. Nominating petitions require 20-50
signature or a $100 filing fee.

Call (810) 229-4212 for more information, or if you are interested in becoming a

Mar 14, 2010

New blog keeps an eye on Bishop’s dismal record on environmental issues

The Michigan League of Conservation Voters (LCV) launched a new blog last week, the
first in a series of targeted accountability blogs, each supported by a field operation.

The first blog, called MI Eye on Bishop, highlights Senate Majority Leader Mike
, R-Rochester, dismal record on environmental issues.

“Many politicians declare their intent to move Michigan into a new energy economy, but their actions often contradict their words,” said Michigan LCV Executive Director Lisa Wozniak. “Michigan LCV is here to hold them accountable.”

Bishop, a Republican candidate for Michigan Attorney General, has the power to shape the legislative agenda in Lansing, which makes him a key player in determining the legislative priorities the state pursues. That was the primary reason the LCV created the blog.

“In the coming months, we encourage Michigan’s citizens to follow our updates, and the other to-be-announced targets, and remind each lawmaker how important it is to Michigan citizens that we attract clean energy jobs while protecting human health and the natural resources that define our state,” said Michigan LCV Deputy Director Kerry Duggan. “Constituents have the right to know when their elected leaders are making empty promises.”

The 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.

Mar 12, 2010

Local teabagger appear on Off the Record

One of my favorite TV shows turned into an episode of “The Twilight Zone” today with the appearance of tea-bagger, book-burner and anti-gay hatemonger Wendy Day.

Day appeared as a guest on the long-running weekly Michigan PBS political show "Off the Record.” The show must be scraping the bottom of the barrel for guests. Day craves the spotlight more than anything else, and although the show has a small audience with political junkies like me, it was just more exposure for the divisive Howell School Board member.

Host and long-time Capitol Correspondent Tim Skubick usually asks tough questions, but Day got nothing but softballs. Day has a long history of supporting rightwing hate and extremist groups that gained her national attention, but she really took advantage of the racist anti-government Astroturf “tea party” movement that sprang up last year that attracted some extremist right wing groups to get even more attention.

With health care reform so close to becoming a reality, a couple of rightwing extremist Washington, D.C. lobbying firms helped organize the “tea parties” and spread the more that $1.4 million a day the insurance companies are spending to defeat it.

She is billing herself as the president of another misnamed “tea party” group called “Common Sense in Government.” It apparently follows the Bush Administration’s practice of naming things the opposite of what they really do, like the Clean Skies Initiative, the Healthy Forest Initiative and No Child Left Behind.

Apparently, Day wants to re-fight the American Civil War and turn back the clock with the “state’s rights” farce that the southern states used in order to maintain the institution of slavery.

“Our beef is government has too much focus and control over the individual lives of Americans, and that the federal government has more power than they are supposed to,” she said. “What you are looking at is a state’s rights issue.”

The only half way hard question was asked by panelist Chris Christoff from the Detroit Free Press’s Lansing Bureau, who asked her how large the state budget was, and she had no idea.

“If it’s in the phone book, government should probably not do it,” Day answered.

For someone who says they want the federal government to adhere to the U.S. Constitution, Day’s support for a part-time U.S. Congress is even more hare-brained.

She claims her teabag group is bipartisan, and her group is currently behind robo calls against Democrats. Day also said her hate group plans to form a political action committee (PAC); no doubt funded with the massive amounts of cash from the insurance industry, former U.S. House Majority Leader and rightwing Republican Dick Armey’s Freedom Works and the Washington, D.C.-based rightwing think tank Americans for Prosperity.

Michigan GOP either hopes the electorate is stupid or they are stupid

Is the Michigan Republican Party and their mouthpiece really that stupid, or are they just hoping that Michigan voters are stupid?

They are obviously worried about Democratic Secretary of State candidate Jocelyn Benson, and Republican false smears against Benson are picking up. They put out a press release on Wednesday taking her to task for being endorsed by Democracy for America, the nation's largest progressive political action community founded by respected Gov. Howard Dean in 2004. The announcement cited her role as a “national leader” in election administration. She served as the Democratic National Committee's Election Protection Field Director in 2004.

Obviously, the Wayne State University professor’s impressive resume has the GOP scared.

Michigan GOP director of communications Jennifer Hoff had this ridiculous and misinformed quote: “Apparently Jocelyn Benson thinks this is a Democrat popularity contest,” she said.

Is she serous? Of course it is, and someone who works for state party knows that. The nomination for SOS comes from the party’s state convention and is voted on by party members, elected officials and precinct delegates on the convention floor. These are the people who do much more than just vote in elections, they are very involved in the party and politics. There is no primary election for SOS and Attorney General.

Of course it’s a Democrat popularity contest, and the three-way race for the Republican nomination is also a Republican popularity contest. That changes once the nomination is secured, but Benson is being challenged for the nomination by Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey.

Then there is this ludicrous quote from Hoff:
“Highlighting her national record won’t help her. Benson’s radical activities during the 2004 Presidential election are not the type of politics Michigan residents respect.”

Her “radical activities?” And what would those be? Simple, catching Republicans on their attempt to disenfranchise voters by the use of foreclosure lists to challenge eligible voters. Wow, no wonder they are so angry. Then Hoff pulls out the Coup de grace: she “held a fundraiser with an ACORN endorsed and Communist Party-affiliated official.”

Now, who was that complaining about a “popularity contest?” Talk about pandering to the base. Mentioning ACORN - the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now – is like a dog whistle to the Republican base. Despite repeated smears, attacks and outright frame ups, ACORN’s crime continues to be nothing more than trying to make a better life for the poor and empowering them.

As for the “ACORN endorsed and Communist Party-affiliated official” false smear, that is the second time they have used that lie. They appear to be following the GOP strategy of if you tell a lie often enough people will start to believe it. I debunked that smear once before, but I guess I will have to do it every single time they try that disgusting lie.

They are talking about Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. He is a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), a major party in Minnesota. The party was created in 1944 when the Minnesota Democratic Party and the Farmer-Labor Party merged. Former Vice-President Hubert Humphrey was instrumental in this merger. The party boasts some of the most respected liberals in the country, including Humphrey, Vice-President Walter Mondale, Sen. Eugene McCarthy and Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Republicans and their allies continue to attack unions and the Democratic process

Why do Republicans hate the Democratic process and the working class so much?

Republicans can’t stop workers from legally joining a union by a majority vote, they can’t overturn it in court, so they are now trying the legislative route.

The rightwing, anti-union think tank the Mackinac Center and its newly formed Legal Foundation has been attacking 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 Mackinac Center, and their allies in the conservative media and in the Senate GOP caucus, think it’s somehow illegal for a group of workers to vote to form a union.

The Mackinac Center filed a lawsuit claming that because not everybody voted, the election is somehow invalid. That’s like saying elections are invalid simply because there is not a 100 percent turnout. The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected ridiculous claim, so while the case is under appeal, they turned to the Legislature where the anti-union Republicans were very receptive.

Sen. Mark Jansen, R-Grand Rapids, introduced Senate Bills 1178 and 1179 on Feb. 25, and they were referred to the Senate Families and Human Services Committee he chairs. SB 1178 would prohibit taking compulsory union dues from caregiver subsidies, and SB 1179 would prohibit the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) from recognizing a bargaining unit consisting of individuals who are not public employees. Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, introduced SB 1173 at the same time that almost mirrors SB 1179. That bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Valde Garcia, R-Howell.

Howell radio station WHMI carried a story on SB 1173 today with the headline, “Garcia Backs Legislation To Change Forced Unionization.” That’s like me saying I was forced to recognize George Bush as president even though I didn’t vote for him. A proper election was held to unionize, and the majority vote to unionize.

His co-sponsorship of SB 1173 is a little surprising when you consider he also co-sponsored SB 731 that would create the Michigan Quality Community Care Council. The Mackinac Center falsely claims it will strengthen the union. Among the things the bi-partisan 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.

The fact is the unionization of home-based childcare workers reflects the new realities of the workplace. It stems from policy decisions made in the 1990s requiring persons receiving welfare to work or get work training. That meant their children needed care which helped lead to the growth of home-based care. But until the union was established, those workers had no voice is being able to express their concerns about the system and operations.

Republicans are against any thing that gives workers a voice.

Mar 10, 2010

‘Katie’s Bill’ clears major hurdle

LANSING -- Senate Bill 1172 – known as “Katie’s Bill” – passed the last hurdle to becoming law when the House unanimously passed the bill with 107 votes Wednesday and sent on to the Governor for her signature.

The bill will allow the Department of Community Health (DCH) to issue an honorary nursing license, in consultation with the nursing board, to an individual who has met all of the requirements of being licensed but who is unable to take the examination due to advanced illness. The bill is named for 23-year-old Katie Viger of Trenton who passed away on Feb. 18 from an aggressive form of brain cancer.
She 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. Her lifelong dream was to have her license. She received it just a few days before she passed away when it became clear the bill would have no problem passing.

Urged on by her instructor Cathy Wakefield, Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, introduced the bill, and it received widespread, grassroots support thanks to the actions of Katie’s friends, family and many supporters. The bill was passed unanimously out of the House Health Policy Committee on Tuesday, and it was passed by the full House today.

The middle class and poor pay more in taxes than the richest 1 percent in Michigan

It will come as no surprise to most people that the middle class in Michigan pays the most in federal and state taxes, and the richest 1 percent pays the least.

That was conformed by a recent report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy called “Who Pays? A distributional analysis of tax systems in all 50 states.” The report says middle income families – those making $15,000 to $32,000 annual pay and on average $23,300 annually – pay 9.9 percent in taxes. The top 1 percent of earners – those earning above $365,000 a year – pay just 6.4 percent.

Even the poorest in the state – those making less than $15,000 annually and on average $8,700 a year – pay 8.9 percent in taxes. To illustrate how regressive and unfair the sales tax is in Michigan, the poorest in the state pay the highest percentage of taxes of any income bracket in sales tax, and that tax is the highest percentage of any tax at 7.2 parent.

That’s why some groups like the Michigan League for Human Services (MLHS) is urging the sales tax to be extended to services, which are used more frequently by higher-income households.

The MLHS is also advocating a move to a graduated income tax to make the tax structure fairer. Michigan is only one of seven states with a flat income tax. The League is also advocating a review of Michigan’s overly generous tax exempts for pensions and to close loopholes on tax expenditures that no longer serve a useful public purpose as a way to balance the state budget and make the tax structure fairer.