Jul 30, 2010

Misleading labels on cigarettes can no longer be used

Tobacco companies have long used deception to market cigarettes and to continue to sell them with no restrictions for years despite undisputable scientific proof of the damage caused by smoking and secondhand smoke, but the “The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act” passed last June is making sure that will not happen again.

As of last week on July 22, cigarettes with the false and misleading labels of “light,” “low,” “mild” or similar descriptors will no longer be allowed to be distributed for sale because many smokers mistakenly believe that these products cause fewer health problems than other cigarettes.

Consumers may continue to see these products for sale in stores after July 22, but smokers should know that these products are no less harmful than any other cigarette. It will be illegal for manufacturers to introduce these products into the marketplace of the United States.

Smokers who use light cigarettes do not reduce their risk for developing smoking-related cancers and other diseases. Switching to light cigarettes does not help smokers quit, and may actually decrease the motivation to quit. No matter what they taste, smell or look like, all cigarettes are harmful to your health. There’s no such thing as a safe cigarette.

Republicans finally admitting teabaggers are strictly a GOP operation

It’s nice to see teabaggers finally admitting that the farce is just the militant arm of the Republican Party that was bought and paid for by rightwing Washington, D.C. think tanks, and not some nonpartisan, grassroots movement consisting of both Republicans and Democrats because they were angry at both political parties and big government.

The successful petition drive that collected some 60,000 signatures to give the “tea party” ballot status has led rightwing bloggers to put on their alleged investigative journalist hats on, and they have soused out that the petition drive may have ties to Democrats. If the teabaggera are a “nonpartisan, grassroots movement consisting of both Republicans and Democrats because they were angry at both political parties and big government” what does that matter?

The answer is because it isn’t. One blogger is calling it the Bullshit Tea party (BSTP), but the fact is that name fits the entire movement.

The organizers held a convention over the weekend and nominated actual candidates. Apparently, several of the affidavits of identity filed by candidates for the new party were notarized by Jason H. Bauer of Oakland County. Jason Bauer is also the name of the political director for the Oakland County Democratic Party. Not only that, some of the candidates donated to Democrats like Andy Dillon.

Some smoking gun.

But Subscription only Gongwewr is reporting at least one candidate is legitimate, Dan Davis, running for the 7th U.S. House District

“Mr. Davis was known to tea party activists and actually had been campaigning for months with the intention of running as an independent. He also has a website.
"I've typically voted Republican most of my life, but I was frustrated and thought we were getting played back and forth by both parties in this two-party system," he said Wednesday.
Mr. Davis said Tea Party Chair Mark Steffek approached him about running. He said he assumed Mr. Steffek knew of him from his independent bid. Mr. Davis said he has seen nothing to suggest The Tea Party is a Democratic conspiracy to siphon conservative voters away from Republican candidates.
And he took some digs at the Republican establishment for fuming at what they say is a Democratic conspiracy.
"They're concerned about putting their candidates in office," he said. "The Republicans have absolutely no right to my vote or any other conservatives' vote."

Clearly, teabaggers are a Republican ginned up operation, thought up and organized by the Washington, DC-based, rightwing think tank Freedom Works, chaired by former U.S. House Majority Leader and rightwing Republican Dick Armey, and the Washington, D.C.-based rightwing think tank Americans for Prosperity.
They will never be a real party because political parties stand for something, and teabaggers don’t; other than hate, racism, anti-government rhetoric and they hate the President. The only grassroots effort has been put forth by the collection of white supremacists groups, militia groups and secessionist groups.

I thought teabaggers on the ballot would drain away Republican votes and help Democrats, but I’m not so sure anymore. Most people vote straight party or for people they know. This collection of candidates will make little difference because people are seeing what a fringe crazy group teabaggers really are, and most of these candidates are unknowns.

Jul 29, 2010

Newspaper endorses conspiracy theorist over businessman

As expected, the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus endorsed former State Rep. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township, for the open 22nd District State Senate seat, but it has to be the most wishy-washy, weak endorsement I hare ever read.

The paper endorsed Hune over the Howell City Councilman and businessman Paul Rogers simply because he vowed to never, ever raise taxes under any circumstances, and the fact that he has apparently matured since he was elected to an open State House seat by two votes in 2002, making him one of the youngest ever to be elected.

“Still, Hune gets our endorsement partly because he has clearly matured since the callow young man who was elected to the state House in 2002 at the age of 21.”

I liked him better when he as “a callow young man.” He was always an extreme conservative, being named among the top 10 most conservative House members consistently by subscription only MIRS and Michigan Votes, but he was at least reasonable. However, since leaving the House in 2008 and beginning his Senate campaign, he has thrown in with the extremist fringe and sometimes racist Republican teabaggers.

The paper had to hold their nose to endorse him, and you had to read seven paragraphs down to find out that that they had endorsed him.

Hune's answer in a debate sponsored by the newspaper earlier this month that the United Nations was coming for his guns caught the paper’s editors so off guard that they saw fit to do a follow up story. Despite that outrageous comment, the paper endorsed a conspiracy theorist over an established businessman.

“Often, Hune's position is simplistic, shrill and even a little conspiratorial, such as his worry that the United Nations is poised to overturn the nation's Second Amendment protection of citizen gun ownership.”

One of Hune’s most ridiculous answers in the debate that the newspaper continues to ignore is his vote on the bipartisan package of bills aimed at attracting the film industry with incentives in March of 2008. Hune said in the debate that he would not vote for the package, but when Hune was asked why he voted for it, he tried to claim he didn’t know or understand the package included a tax rebate.

He has to be the only person in the State of Michigan that didn’t know the package include allowing production companies a 40 percent rebate on the Michigan Business Tax (MBT). He either cannot read a newspaper, didn’t watch TV news, didn’t read an analysis the bill from the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency, didn’t watch the committee hearings like I did, was asleep in the Republican caucus, was playing a video game on the House floor when the debate was going on or had an incompetent staff.

We want to send a guy back to Lansing who does not even know what he’s voting on?

We need to send someone like Green Oak Township Democrat Chuck Fellows to Lansing. He is a planning commissioner, and as such, he knows how to do his homework and knows what he’s voting on. He has the experience, knowledge and common sense to get things done.

Jul 28, 2010

GOP gubernatorial candidate using right to work for less as campaign ad

Republicans have long tried to kill labor unions and take away worker’s rights, and that is what the so-called “Right to Work” push is all about. Now, Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Bouchard is using it as a campaign strategy to cater to the fringe that controls the GOP. The problem is she is lying about it.

The fact is conservative groups and individuals from both out of state and in Michigan have been pushing right to work for less as a way to end collective bargaining, drive wages down, kill unions and kill what’s left of shrinking middle class. That’s something respect leaders have known for some 40 years.

Proponents of right to work for less claim the law would do away with the requirement that workers must be in a union to be employed at a union shop. However, federal law already protects workers who don't want to join a union to get or keep their jobs, and gives workers the right to opt out of a union. But they must still pay union dues. RTWFL would give them the option of not paying dues while still enjoying the benefits of being in a union.

Unions in RTWFL states are required by law to defend non-dues-paying members involved in a dispute or charged with a grievance at work, but even those employees do not have to contribute dues. Such a provision does not give workers more rights, but instead it weakens unions and their ability to bargain for improved benefits and working conditions, which is the real intent of RTWFL. The union, by law, must represent all workers equally.

Bouchard has been running a TV ad pushing RTWFL called “Guess,” but the Michigan Truth Squad called him out for outright lying in the ad.

Bouchard claims "Consider this: 22 states have a right-to-work law and their unemployment rate is around 8 percent. Not Michigan's. ("Michigan unemployment 13.6%" appears on the screen.)"

The fact is, According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, June unemployment in the 22 RTWFL states was 8.3 percent. The unemployment rate in the 28 states that require workers at workplaces represented by unions to pay dues was 8.6 percent. That’s a .3 difference. The state with the highest unemployment in the nation, Nevada, with unemployment of 14.2 percent, is also RTWFL state. In New Hampshire, which has union worker laws similar to Michigan, it was 5.9 percent. Not only that, the average per capita income in RTWFL states, according to the 2009 Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis data was $37,324; in the 32 other states, the average per capita income was $38,917.

Then he says, “"Guess where our jobs are going and our kids with them."

The jobs are going overseas, but the kids are not going to RTWFL states.
“Today eight of the 22 RTWFL states -- Nevada, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee -- have unemployment rates of 10 percent or above. A 2008 survey conducted by Michigan Future Inc. and the state's 15 public universities found that Michigan college graduates who leave here mostly are going to non-RTWFL states. The top five states attracting recent Michigan college graduates were, in order; Illinois, California, New York, Ohio and Texas. Only Texas among those states has a RTWFL law.

But here is most outrageous lie, calculated to get right-wingers off their butts and to vote for him.
"To get a job, workers shouldn't be forced to join unions or have money pulled from their paychecks to fund political action campaigns. That's driving business away."

“In Michigan, campaign finance laws require union members must either write a separate check for a PAC contribution, or provide written annual approval for automatic payroll deductions. It's a felony to force union members to make a contribution to union political causes. It's incorrect to say a union member has to make a political contribution to get a job. And with unionization in Michigan at a historic low of 18.8 percent, it would seem that many workers are finding a job without being "forced to join unions."

The Michigan Truth Squad is a project of the Center for Michigan, a "think-and-do tank” formed by Phil Power, the former owner and publisher of Hometown Newspapers, in 2006. The Truth Squad will promote honesty and integrity in the political campaign season.

Matty Moroun spreads cash to GOP allies

Republican billionaire benefactor and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun was busy distributing campaign cash to those willing to stand up for the billionaires and against 10,000 Michigan job and oppose the much-needed planned Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge over the Detroit River between Canada and Windsor.

In an effort to keep his monopoly on the 81-year old Ambassador Bridge, Moroun has spent lots of money on mostly Republican politicians that has earned him the loyalty like that of State Sen. Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt. In a Detroit Free Press article called “Matty Moroun spends big on politicians: Dishes donations amid bridge fight,” it reports “Moroun and his family have doled out more than $110,000 in political contributions to Michigan candidates and committees since the beginning of the year.”

The article shows Morouns spent his money on most -- but not all -- of the gubernatorial candidates from both parties, as well as a lobbyist-run committee in Lansing that in turn contributes to Republican campaigns and causes. That’s one reason why not a single Michigan House Republicans voted yes on legislation clearing the way to build the DRIC bridge and authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada and a private sector developer/financier to build the DRIC bridge, and why Senate Republicans are trying to kill it in committee.

According the Free Press, “the Morouns gave to all of the Republican gubernatorial candidates except former Gateway computers head Rick Snyder, who supports DRIC as long as Michigan taxpayers aren't on the hook. U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra -- who has since said he favors a public-private partnership to build a new span -- received four $3,400 contributions worth a total of $13,600 on May 5. Attorney General Mike Cox, who has more concerns about DRIC, received the same on June 25.”

But Mike Bouchard appears to be the new Cropsey, and he got the lion’s share of the Moroun cash.
“On top of the $10,200 he received on the last day of 2009, the Bouchard Victory Fund received $13,000 in May. And Capitol Affairs PAC, which is run by former Bouchard staffer and lobbyist Robert Kennedy, has received $35,000 from the Morouns since the middle of May. The PAC has contributed to several funds committed to electing Republicans, as well as giving about $34,000 to Bouchard's gubernatorial run and another $34,000 to a committee called Friends of Mike Bouchard -- which according to the filing is a fund for his re-election in 2012 as Oakland County sheriff.”

Most troubling, at least to me, was that the Morouns also gave “two $3,400 contributions to Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor. His rival, House Speaker Andy Dillon, didn't receive a donation. Dillon supports DRIC; Bernero opposes it.”

“Also of note, two of Lansing's most vocal opponents to DRIC received contributions:” Republican State Reps. David Agema of Grandville received $1,000, and Paul Opsommer of DeWitt got $1,500.

Jul 27, 2010

Cox again linked to Manoogian Mansion stripper party

The truth always comes out, and ethically challenged Michigan Republican Gubernatorial candidate “Manoogian” Mike Cox is finding that out.

After months and months of denials about the rumored stripper party at the Manoogian Mansion in 2002 and a murdered dancer at the party, a witness has come forward to place Cox at the party, according to Fox 2 News.

The party has become an urban legend, but there is no doubt Cox gave special treatment to convicted former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Michigan State Police Detectives said in a deposition that as Michigan Attorney General, Cox and the Detroit police may have obstructed an investigation linked to Kilpatrick and the 2003 murder of a Detroit stripper.

He threw those detectives under the bus calling them liars because they did not work in Lansing, but then his campaign ad he has a retired cop say this is just a political ploy to smear Cox. I’m at a loss as to why we should believe that retired officer and not the other two.

No doubt Cox will try to discredit and smear this witness as well
But, here’s Fox2’s report:

LIVONIA, Mich. - It's the story that haunted former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's administration -- the rumored, wild party at the Manoogian Mansion. Now, a witness has come forward with explosive testimony. He says the party did indeed happen and at least one other high ranking official was there.

"He came to us. He contacted us several months ago," said attorney Norman Yatooma. "Each time his story has had the exact same explicit detail. I believe he's telling the truth."

Yatooma says an affidavit represents an enormous break in proving an alleged cover-up. For the first time a witness on the record is saying he was at the rumored but never proven Manoogian Mansion party thrown by former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in the fall of 2002.

"He witnessed lap dances occurring for both Mike Cox, as well as for Kwame Kilpatrick. He knew Tammy Greene, so he knew that to be Tammy Greene who was providing Kwame Kilpatrick a lap dance," Yatooma said. "He says that Carlita came in, assaulted Tammy Greene. I think the word he used was that she punched her and that they collapsed on a coffee table, broke the table and that Carlita used a leg of that table to beat Tammy Greene with."

Yatooma calls this a motive for a murder cover-up by the ex-mayor since dancer Tamera Greene was shot to death in April of 2003.

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

Jul 26, 2010

Workplace smoking ban has widespread support in Michigan

Just over 75 percent of Michigan residents are in favor of the recently passed workplace smoking ban, and 88 percent thought that secondhand smoke was a serious health threat to nonsmokers, according to a statewide survey conducted by the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) Tobacco Section between March 1 and April 23.

The nine question survey assessed knowledge about secondhand smoke, knowledge of the law, support for the law, and behavior change related to the law; specifically whether participants would eat out more often if smoking was prohibited in bars and restaurants.The survey was distributed to clients receiving services at local health departments in 80 of Michigan’s 83 counties and through 8 agencies serving populations disparately affected by tobacco use, and it included 10,030 participants.

The smoking rate in Michigan is around 22 percent and falling, and that seems to be confirmed by the 25 percent who were not in favor of the law. The survey was conducted before the law went into effect on May 1, and overall, 89 percent of those surveyed reported that they would go out to eat more often or no change if smoking was prohibited in restaurants and bars. That seems to be reflected in the fact that bars and restaurants are doing well, despite the Bush recession and cries of wolf from bar owners.

However, the same survey will be conducted again next month in August, and the results of the pre- and post-law implementation surveys will be compared.

The Livingston County Department of Public Health (LCDPH) was one of the participating agencies, and they reported similar results, with less people here supporting the ban. The survey found just 63 percent favored the law, and only 79 percent know that secondhand smoke is deadly and causes a variety of diseases.

Like most places, there have been few complaints about the ban, and people are accepting it, with the exception of a few misguided people.

“The implementation of the state smoke-free air law has been relatively smooth,” said Jennifer Lavelle, Health Education Supervisor for the LCDPH. “We’ve received very few complaints so far, and businesses are complying with the requirements of the law.”

Jul 25, 2010

Big Surprise: Hune endorsed by teabaggers

Local tea baggers endorsing Joe Hune for the 22nd State Senate District is as much a surprise as cold temperatures in Michigan in December.

Apparently, Hune’s answer in a debate last week that UN black helicopters are coming for his handgun was just crazy enough to earn the endorsement of the Hartland area tea baggers called “RetakeOurGov.” The fact is they just wasn’t to take it back from Democrats.

Teabagger organizer Wes Niagara - whose 15 minutes should have been up a long time ago - told the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus that he decided to back Hune after last week’s candidate forum.

“After watching the debate, it was clear to me that Joe has the traditional mainstream values and the fiscal values which are sought after by the ‘tea party’ movement,” Nakagiri said.

Hune has turned into an extremist since he started hanging with teabaggers, so the endorsement had to come before the debate. Hune’s comment about the UN even led to a follow up story, but what should have rated a follow up was Hune’s lame answer on the movie film credits where he claimed he didn’t know the package included a tax rebate, even though just about everyone in the state knew.

For comedy relief, we have Nakagiri’s last quote:
“Not only does Joe Hune share the values of conservatives and disaffected Democrats, he demonstrated the passion and backbone to stand up for what he believes,” he said.

No Democrat I have ever met shares those extremist views, and only the fringe of the Republican Party holds those views.

It seems ironic that the tea baggers are endorsing at all. On “Off the Record,” Gene Clem, the founder of the Southwest Michigan Tea Party Patriots and one of the original members of the Michigan Tea Party Alliance, appeared on this week’s show and said tea baggers don’t endorse candidates.

Regardless, they only candidates they will endorse will be extremist Republicans.

Don’t forget to vote for Chuck Fellows, the Democratic candidate for the seat, on Tuesday.

Jul 22, 2010

Democratic leader also urges GOP to move on Hire Michigan First bills

Senate Minority Leader Mike Prusi, D-Ishpeming, was just one person battling Republicans to help those unable to find a job in the Bush recession continue to receive unemployment benefits, and the persistence paid off on Wednesday when the U.S. Senate a approved a six-month extension of unemployment benefits after weeks of Republican obstructionism.

Prusi introduced Senate Resolution 172 on July 1 urging U.S. Senate Republicans to put partisanship aside and lift their filibuster on a bill that will allow a six-month extension of unemployment benefits and Medicaid funding, but Michigan Senate Republicans even refused to allow a vote on the resolution and promptly went on a two week vacation.

“I am glad to see that two Republicans in the U.S. Senate finally allowed a vote on an extension of unemployment benefits and that it passed last night,” Prusi said. “I called on them to do so weeks ago, and it’s just a shame that more than 100,000 unemployed Michigan residents had to struggle to get by with their lifeline cut for three weeks while the Republicans played games and took vacations.”

While Senate Republicans enjoyed their vacation, 114,000 Michigan residents had their unemployment benefits run out. These workers, along with almost 300,000 additional unemployed Michigan workers, will have their benefits extended thanks to Congress’ action last night.

“Unfortunately, it isn’t much different in the State Senate, where Mike Bishop and the Senate Republicans continue to do nothing for Michigan ’s economy and our unemployed workers,” Prusi said. “We have legislation before the State Senate that would hire Michigan workers first on state-funded projects and secure $138.9 million in federal funding to extend unemployment benefits for workers in retraining programs. The Senate Republicans in Lansing need to stop obstructing our efforts to help Michigan workers.

Tobacco companies looking for younger customers and employees

Tobacco companies have long targeted children with advertising to get them hooked on nicotine to make them future customers, but U.S. law has forced them to look offshore to a lucrative, untapped and unregulated market. Now, they have found a way to find both young customers and workers.

In a new report by Human Rights Watch, child laborers as young as 10 years-old picking tobacco in fields that supply a Philip Morris factory in Kazakhstan in Central Asia have experienced such high doses of nicotine that they feel dizzy, vomit, and develop rashes on their necks and stomachs, a condition known as "green tobacco sickness.” They intake nicotine through their skin equal to 36 cigarettes a day.

Other migrant tobacco workers have only pesticide-contaminated water to drink and are forced to work without pay. Lacking easy access to potable water, for example, laborers had resorted to drinking from irrigation channels contaminated with pesticides, according to a story in the New York Times.

Of course, after Philip Morris was provided with an advance copy of the report, Phillip Morris said it agreed to sweeping changes in its purchasing policies in Kazakhstan.

Jul 21, 2010

Republican filibuster on unemployment lifeline broken

Thousands of Michigan residents looking for work in the slow economic recovery from the Bush recession will still be able to stay in their homes, keep the lights on and feed their children after the Republican filibuster was broken on Tuesday in the U.S. Senate on extending unemployment benefits for those who have exhausted their 26 weeks of benefits.

“The filibuster-breaking vote came moments after Democrat Carte Goodwin was sworn in to succeed West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, who died last month at 92. Goodwin was the crucial 60th senator needed to defeat the Republican filibuster. The Senate gallery was packed with Goodwin supporters, who broke into applause as he cast his "aye" vote,” according the Associated Press.

Every single Republican voted to stiff working people, with the exception of sane Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Republicans have used the excuse to stiff workers and try to stall the economic recovery that it will increase the budget deficit, and that they insisted any benefits be financed by cuts to programs elsewhere in budget because it will increase the budget surplus.

“Many Republicans have voted in the past for deficit-financed benefits extension — including as recently as March and twice in 2008, during the Bush administration. But now they are casting themselves as standing against out-of-control budget deficits, a stand that's popular with their core conservative supporters and the tea party activists whose support they're courting in hopes of retaking control of Congress,” according the AP.

It’s just funny that now they are crying about a deficit when it’s being used to help working people actually survive in the mess they created instead of for tax cuts for the richest 1 percent, a useless war and a bailout to Wall Street. It was the Bush tax cuts that helped turn a budget surplus into a huge deficit and sent the country to the edge of a complete economic collapse.

But we were hearing from many prominent Republicans how the unemployed are lazy and actually think people would rather collect unemployment small amount they get from unemployment than work. This was also a move to make the President look bad and stall the economic recovery.

Republicans are hoping voters have a short memory in November.

The Michigan League for Human Services (MLHS) announced that by this past Saturday Michigan would have 104,000 workers with lapsed unemployment benefits. Michigan was losing $200 million a month because of the loss of benefits. MLHS said unemployment benefits are one of the most effective economic stimulants available because jobless workers use them to pay bills and keep the dollars circulating.

Jul 20, 2010

Newspaper attacks Democratic Party for doing the job they didn’t do

Most people have no problems with a simple mistake, especially if they learn from it. But, when the same person makes the same mistake five times and an elected official elected to uphold the law covers for that person, most people lose patient.

Republican Livingston County Commissioner Carol Griffith failed to file campaign spending reports for nearly two years, but the Republican County Clerk covered for her, and the Secretary of State Terri Land let her off the hook without a fine or even a warning. But even worse, the Republican editorial board of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus saw fit to write an editorial calling campaign finance reports and falsifying legal documents “trivial.”

The editorial entitled “Dems don't help themselves by picking silly fights” takes the Livingston County Democratic Party to task for daring to bring this to light, saying, the “party doesn't help itself when it keeps picking silly fights, such as the complaint it aired last week over a trivial campaign-filing violation.”

Tell that to Rep. George Cushingberry Jr., D-Detroit, who had to have a court trial to clear himself of the same thing and Rep. LaMar Lemmons III, R-Detroit, who was found guilty for failing to file two or more campaign finance.

Griffith should have filed five reports over the last two years – a report before the August 2008 primary, a report after the August 2008 primary, a report before the November 2008 general election, a report after the 2008 general election, and an annual report for 2009. None of those reports is on file with the Livingston County Clerk’s office.

Here’s the real irony here: this violation of campaign finance law and case of special treatment never would have been discovered and would continue if the Democratic Party had not discovered it.

It was not too many years ago that newspapers, including this one, was the watchdog for government malfeasance. What it comes down to is that instead of doing their job, the newspaper attacks the Democrats for doing the job they should have been doing.

It’s time to restore some honesty and transparency to the all Republican County Board of Commissioners so violations of the law will not be shoved under the rug.

You can start by voting for Griffith’s replacement, Kelly Raskauskas, D-Genoa Township. Raskauskas holds a Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a BA cum laude in International Relations from the School of International Service at American University. Raskauskas serves as the President of the Friends of the Brighton District Library, a non-profit group that supports programming, special events and equipment for the BDL throughout the year. She is also a volunteer at the Greenhills School in Ann Arbor.

If you don’t live in Raskauskas’s district, you still have a choice. Vote for one of these qualified people.
District 2 Thomn Bell
District 3 Dane Morris
District 5 Dave Berry
District 6 Keith Tianen
District 8 Amir Baghdadchi
District 9 Barry McBride

Jul 19, 2010

Teabagger Senate candidate still clinging to myth that black helicopters are coming for his gun

Republican State Senate candidate Joe Hune’s offhand remarks about the United Nations and the 2nd Amendment in a debate last week surprised and caught so many people off guard that the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus decided to do a follow up story on that remark.

Hune and his GOP opponent for the open 22nd District seat, Howell City Councilman Paul Rogers, squared off in a debate last week sponsored by the paper. Hune was asked a follow up question as to why he thought the 2nd Amendment is more important than the 1st Amendment, and did he believe the 2nd Amendment was under attack and by whom. Hune’s reply flabbergasted the paper’s news editor and publisher.

“We have consistently heard, time and time again, that there are folks who are absolutely concerned about the United Nations nuke treaty - I believe exactly what it is - trying to essentially give some of our rights away to the UN, which is exactly the wrong place to go,” Hune said.

Hune’s belief that black helicopters are coming for his handgun is a long held anti-government, Michigan Militia belief, and Hune’s embrace of the racist and anti-government teabagger movement is showing.

That would be bad enough, but it appears that those extremist views are beginning to be held by the majority of the Republican Party that has steady moved to the right; so much so that it has fallen off the cliff and driven all moderates out of the party.

What Hune is misrepresenting and lying about is the UN Small Arms Treaty. What it basically does is combat the illicit global trade of small arms. In fact, the treaty would not hinder the right to produce, export or import arms, and it is aimed at ensuring common international import and export standards to prevent illegal trafficking. It also includes not only the illegal trade in guns but the sale of fighter planes, unmanned aerial vehicles, missiles and light weapons.

The fact is this has nothing to do with the sale or manufacture of guns in the U.S., and no President can ever ban handguns in the U.S. through the signing of an international treaty.

Chuck Fellows, the Democratic candidate for the 22nd District that includes Livingston County, Shiawassee County and a southern part of Ingham County, injected some sanity in the follow up, saying Hune is making "fear-mongering" remarks.

Fellows told the paper that he fully supports gun-ownership rights under the Second Amendment, but the proposed UN treaty has absolutely nothing to do with handguns in the U.S. Not only that, a draft treaty isn't expected to be written before 2012, and all international treaties require the approval of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate before they are considered ratified and in effect. Michigan is just coming out of the Bush recession - the worst since the Great Depression - and needs jobs right now, not false fear-mongering.

"He's bringing forth issues that really have nothing to do with the state of Michigan,” Fellows told the paper. “The state of Michigan has one major problem, and that's jobs.

Even after having a few days to think about it, Hune is sticking to that lie. He claims this is a big issue with people in the district. That may be the case with a few fringe teabaggers, but not the majority of voters. I know you have to tack right to win a primary election and play to the base, especially in predominately county like Livingston, but Hune has gone off the cliff.

Jul 18, 2010

Hansen Clarke increases his lead in the 13th Congressional District

Hard work by the Hansen Clarke for Congress campaign has put him 13 percentage points ahead of incumbent Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick for the Democratic nomination in the 13th Congressional District, according to an EPIC-MRA on July 6.

The polls shows State Sen. Hansen Clarke, D-Detroit, ahead 44 to 31 percent among likely voters in the Aug. 3 Democratic primary for the 13th Congressional District. The four other Democratic challengers got a total of 9 percent among them with no one at more than 3 percent. Clarke has increased his lead from a poll by Practical Political Consulting and Inside Michigan Politics last month that gave Clarke a 27 to 19 percent lead.
According to the Detroit Free Press, “nearly half of the poll respondents who weren’t choosing Kilpatrick cited Kilpatrick family scandals as their reason for not wanting to keep the seven-term incumbent in office” The scandals with her son, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, are well documented. “Another 15 percent said it was time for a change from Kilpatrick, who was first elected to Congress in 1996.”

The campaign got even more good news when the Free Press announced its endorsements for the primary on Sunday, and Clarke got the nod as he continues to rack up endorsements and supporters.

Jul 16, 2010

GOP Senate candidate envisions black helicopter coming for his handgun

HOWELL -- Republican candidate for the 22nd State Senate District Joe Hune has drunk so much tea lately that he thinks a black helicopter from the UN is coming for his gun.

Hune and his opponent in the Aug. 3 GOP primary, Howell City Councilman Paul Rogers, squared off in a debate Thursday night sponsored by the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. It’s tradition to play to the base in a primary election, but Hune has gone off the rails in his mad sprint to the right. He apparently is now subscribing to the philosophy of the Michigan Militia.

The seat is open because of term limits, and the winner of the Aug. 3 primary will face off against Democrat Chuck Fellows of Green Oak Township.

“There are conversations going on today at the U.N. (United Nations) to turn that (2nd Amendment) right over to the U.N,” Hune said.

Basically, Hune tried to go as far to the right as possible, by saying no to any and every possible tax increase and throwing out every single talking point and applause line that gets teabaggers fired up. Hune has been seen at many extremist “tea parties.” He calls taxes that pay for the roads, our police and fire, parks and his salary “stealing.”

“I’m a conservative; both socially and fiscally,” Hune said. “Lansing needs to rein in spending. We need to get government out of the way.”

That’s just ridiculous. The fact is tax cuts are not the solution, and if it were we would not be in the worst recession since the Great Depression. Michigan has cut taxes continuously in both good times and bad times, and taxes have been cut 30 times since 1993. Michigan has less state government employees now than it did in 1973.

Rogers, a businessman and former Howell Mayor, also played to the base, but he also said Lansing has been broken for the last 10 years. The fact is Hune was in Lansing for six years – four of those when his party controlled both the House and Senate – and has nothing to show for it and no solutions.
The debate was an unusual format, and it resembled a newspaper editorial endorsement interview. The paper’s publisher and news editor asked questions and then as many follow ups to get a straight answer. That was difficult with Hune, who stuck to his talking points and teabagger applause lines, like his response to gay marriage.

“Marriage is between a man and a woman. Period," he said. "Period; I don't need to explain further."

He stuck to that talking point even when he was asked what was a bigger threat to his marriage: no fault divorce laws or gay marriage.

Predictably, both candidates were against the historic health care insurance reform bill passed in March that will give 32 million Americans life saving health coverage and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says cuts the deficit by $130 billion in the first 10 years. However, after much discussion they conceded Americans should have access to health care, but they never defied what access meant.

Hune has bashed state workers at every opportunity, and he didn’t disappoint last night. He ignored the fact that state employees took six unpaid days off to help make up the deficit last year and we also have less state employees now than we had in 1973. State employees have made concessions that have saved the state more than $3.7 billion since 2001.

Michigan spends more for prisons than it does for higher education because Michigan’s incarceration rates were the 2nd highest in the 12-state Midwest region, and our rate is the 11th highest in the nation. Instead of addressing why that’s the case and look at reforming sentencing guidelines, Hune wants to privatize Michigan’s prisons.

“No one wants to use the word privatize,” he said.

Both candidates said they would not vote for the film incentive package passed overwhelmingly by the Legislature in March of 2008, but when Hune was asked why he voted for it, he tried to claim he didn’t know or understand the package included a tax rebate. Is he serous? He’s either lying or doesn’t read very well, but it was clear in the testimony in committee that it included a rebate. Howell has been the beneficiary of some film production, and Rogers acknowledged that.

“I don’t think I would have voted for it in its current form, but the film industry is worth having,” he said.

Both candidates tried to out conservative each other, coming out against issues that have a lot of support. But Hune clearly won that dubious honor. Hune came out against a graduated income tax despite the fact that a majority of Michigan residents support it, according to a poll by EPIC/MRA for the Detroit News, WXYZ, WOOD, WILX and WJRT television stations.

Both are against the popular workplace smoking ban passed last December. Both supported the package of bills introduced by Sen. Tom George, R-Kalamazoo, to place restrictions on stem cell research that critics have said places so many restrictions on stem cell research that it will effectively kill it. George was the chief spokesman for the opponents of Ballot Proposal 2 that will allow embryonic stem cell research and was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2008, and the bills are his way to kill it.

Hune went so far as to say the voters were full of crap, and he is so anti-choice he doesn’t think it should be allowed at all.

Jul 15, 2010

Rocker makes strange bedfellow for GOP sheriff

The Republican Party bills itself as the party of family values, but not only does it fail to support middle class families, they associate themselves with some strange people: like rightwing extremist ex-rocker Ted Nugent.

In a brief in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, “Republican gubernatorial candidate and Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard this week "joined" rock music legend Ted Nugent to call for an amendment to Michigan's Constitution to create a "legal right to hunt and fish."”

I’m not sure why we need such an amendment, and that’s just a political ploy. But why would any supposedly family values political candidate want to be associated with someone like Nugent? The answer is the money and the press. Not only that, it’s hard for Republicans to find a pop or rock artist that supports Republicans.

You will recall that in the 2008 Presidential election, the rock group Boston told former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee that he could no longer use the song “More than a feeling” as his theme song, and liberal rocker John Mellencamp told Arizona Republican Senator John McCain not to use any of his songs at events.

I guess Bouchard can use a Nugent song for his theme song. “Cat Scratch Fever,” or “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” would do nicely. After all, Nugent is quoted as saying:
"My man, Mike Bouchard, is the kind of leader and hunting buddy Michigan needs. We need a leader in truth who will continue to stand up for our guns, God and beliefs," Nugent said.

And what a guy to have as your man. Upstanding citizen Nugent could have faced statuary rape charges for sleeping with his 17-year-old Hawaiian girlfriend Pele Massa, so he talked her parents into allowing him to adopt her.

Like many Republicans, Nugent is pro-war, except when it comes for him to actually serve in combat. The famous story he has told numerous times has him stopping all forms of personal hygiene for a month and showing up for his draft board physical in pants caked with his own urine and feces, winning a deferment from serving in Vietnam. However, since Nugent has become a darling of the Republicans and appears on Faux “news” regularly, he has changed the story and now says he enrolled at Oakland Community College and got a deferment. Events say that is highly unlikely, but at a minimum it makes him a liar.

Why he has anything to do the Governor’s race or Michigan is beyond me. He voluntary left Michigan in 2004 when he moved his family to Crawford, Texas, where George Bush once owned a sprawling ranch and spent the majority of his time instead of at the White House.

I was a Nugent fan in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and I still like some of his early stuff. The irrelevant stuff he said on local Detroit radio stations was funny and rebellious, but it didn’t have the hateful, misinformed tone it does now. But I have also matured since then.

GOP and teabaggers are beside themselves that their hateful rhetoric might actually have to go before voters

Apparently, the near impossible has happened, and the teabaggers may actually establish themselves as a third political party and obtain ballot status in November. But Republicans and the alleged “leaderless” teabaggers are up in arms over it.

Apparently, Mark Steffek, from Reese in Tuscola County, who described himself as head of the party that turned in the petitions, turned in petitions on Wednesday with almost 60,000 signatures, according to the Detroit Free Press, well above the required 38,013 signatures needed to obtain ballot status.

Both the Michigan Republican Party and various teabagger groups are claming this is the work of an imposter, designed to drain votes away from the Republican candidates. The latter part of that is true; it will drain votes away from GOP candidates because the teabaggers are the violent, racist fringe of the fringe Republican Party.

They also claim this is the work of the Michigan Democratic Party. In fact, Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser said that in a statement, but that is simply not true.

You will remember when the anti-Obama teabagger farce began almost 18 months ago the claim was that it was a nonpartisan, grassroots movement consisting of both Republicans and Democrats because they were angry at both political parties and big government. Events quickly proved that not to be the case, and events left no doubt that the teabaggers wee the racist and violent arm of the Republican Party. The reaction of Weiser just confirms that.

We were also sold a bill of goods that the teabaggers were a grassroots uprising, but that was quickly debunked when it was revealed it was a creation of two Washington, D.C. think tanks and lobbying groups. Teabaggers still cling to that “grassroots” lie, claiming there is no leader and that there are just individual groups not aligned with the GOP or each other. The claim that "the tea party is a grassroots movement that belongs to everybody” is just one more lie.

But now so-called teabag leaders are claiming this cannot be a legitimate petition drive because they don’t know the people behind the petition drive. If it’s leaderless like they claim, then why is it not surprising that they may not know them. I don’t know every Democrat in the state or even in Livingston County.

I’m very surprised to see teabaggers achieve ballot statues because the teabaggers don’t stand for anything but hate, racism and anti-government rhetoric, and they are the violent wing of the Republicans Party. It would be nice for them to stand up for what they say they believe in, but they know voters will soundly reject them.

But like I said back in May when the petition drive was first news, they have a lot of roadblocks to getting real candidates on the ballot. I didn’t think it could get enough signatures, but I was wrong about that.

The hurdles to getting candidates on the ballot in November are huge. The party has to obtain a facility to hold a convention, publish a call to the convention, draw up bylaws, transmit that Information to the Secretary of State and accomplish the hundreds of details that goes along with a convention by August 3. Then it has to find actual candidates to run. Finding good candidates to run against long odds, like recruiting a good Democrat to run in a strong Republican area and a Republican in a strong Democratic area is difficult. Finding good candidates will also be imposters will be even harder.

I’m very anxious to see how this plays out. The unsuccessful teabagger petition drive to deny Michigan residents health care showed some cracks in the "tea party" and alleged teabagger leaders Joan Fabiano and Wendy Day were at each other’s throats over it.

Jul 14, 2010

A picture is worth a thousand words

With apologies to mod rocker Rod Stewart, but it is true that “Every picture tells a story, don’t it?”

This offensive and disgusting billboard in downtown Mason City, Iowa was paid for something called the “North Iowa Tea Party.” It depicts the President of the United States with photographs of Nazi leader Hitler and communist leader Lenin beneath the labels "Democrat Socialism," "National Socialism," and "Marxist Socialism."

It was roundly criticized, even by fellow teabaggers. The billboard was quickly taken down today because of that criticism, but not before the American people got a good glimpse of what the teabaggers are really like. They are beginning to realize how racist and hateful the fringe teabaggers really are.

Republican County Commissioner gets special treatment in campaign finance violation

HOWELL – In a perfect example of a double standard, Republican Livingston County Commissioner Carol Griffith failed to file campaign spending reports for nearly two years but the Republican Secretary of State Terri Land let her off the hook without a fine.

Griffith should have been fined thousands of dollars because she failed to file reports over the last two years, but instead was allowed to go back and retroactively amend her first report to show that she had spent beneath the minimum threshold for reporting, $1,000.

Griffith, who was elected in 2008 to represent District 7, filed a statement of organization for her campaign in April 2008. At that time, she did not request a waiver for reporting her campaign spending. Candidates for public office are required to file statements of the money they raised and spent before and after the primary and general election, as well as annually. But those reporting requirements are waived if a candidate expects to receive or spend $1,000 or less.

Griffith never checked the box on her statement of organization asking for the waiver. Because she did not receive the waiver, Griffith was required by law to file campaign spending reports. Judy Daubenmier, the chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party, said Griffith got special treatment, and called on her to reject the sweetheart treatment.

“Sometimes when one party has been in power too long there is a feeling that they don’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else, but the law is blind to that,” Daubenmier said. “Respect for the rule of law requires that those in charge of legislating for our county be expected to make a good faith effort to follow the law themselves.”

Land has gone to the mat in prosecuting Democrats for similar offenses. In April of 2007, Rep. George Cushingberry Jr., D-Detroit, had charges of lying about his compliance with campaign laws thrown out by an Ingham County Circuit Court Judge after a four day trial and dismissed two felony charges of perjury and one misdemeanor for failure to file reports

In December 21, 2006 former Rep. LaMar Lemmons III, R-Detroit, was found guilty for failing to file two or more campaign finance statements dating back to 2004, and he was ordered to pay fines and fees totaling $1,095.

Griffith should have filed five reports over the last two years – a report before the August 2008 primary, a report after the August 2008 primary, a report before the November 2008 general election, a report after the 2008 general election, and an annual report for 2009. None of those reports is on file with the Livingston County Clerk’s office.

The SOS office assesses fines on a per day basis for late reports, starting at $25 per day for a report that is one day late, up to a maximum of $500 for a report that is 20 days late. Fines are higher for candidates that spend more than $10,000. If Griffith were to be assessed the full fine, she would owe $2,500 in fines -- $500 for each of the five reports that have not been filed.

In addition, candidates are required to file a late contribution report if they receive a large contribution within a few days of the election. Additional fines could be levied if Griffith received such contributions and failed to report them on time.

But Land decided Griffith’s mistake was a clerical error or an oversight and said she didn’t need to pay any fine. The special treatment does not fall within the reasons for waiving a late filing fee contained in the SOS’s Candidate Manual. The manual states:

“The Department of State and the county clerks throughout the state have the authority to waive a late filing fee for reasons of incapacitating physical illness, hospitalization, accident involvement, death, incapacitation for medical reasons or other unique, unintentional factors beyond the filer’s control not stemming from a negligent act or non-action. A request for a late filing fee waiver must be accompanied by documentation that supports the reason for the request.”

Ironically, Daubenmier said, the mistake might have been discovered earlier had the all Republican county commission on which Griffith sits had a greater commitment to transparency. The county commission could require that such documents be scanned and uploaded to the county website and could furnish the county clerk with the equipment to make that possible. Then the local Democrats might have found the mistake earlier instead of noticing it after visiting the Livingston County Courthouse in Howell after the recent May 11 filing candidate deadline.

Griffith’s 2010 statement also did not request a filing waiver but she also retroactively amended that after local Democrats pointed that out to the county clerk’s office.

According to Howell radio station WHMI that reported the story, Griffith declined to comment.

Griffith is being opposed by Kelly Raskauskas, D-Genoa Township. Raskauskas holds a Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a BA cum laude in International Relations from the School of International Service at American University. Raskauskas serves as the President of the Friends of the Brighton District Library, a non-profit group that supports programming, special events and equipment for the BDL throughout the year. She is also a volunteer at the Greenhills School in Ann Arbor.

Jul 13, 2010

Russia fighting back against smoking addiction

We know that smoking and secondhand smoke kills and causes numerous diseases and afflictions, and that has led to a smoking rate of less than 22 percent in the U.S. and workplace smoking bans in 38 states.

That has led tobacco companies to market their deadly products to Third World countries and other countries with no restrictions on advertising to children. One such country is Russia, where 60 percent of Russian men smoke and the number of smokers, particularly among young women, has been growing since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, according to a story in Reuters.

But Russian officials are fighting back, and they are slapping "smoking kills" warnings on cigarette packages “in an effort to crack down on an addiction (that) kills up to 500,000 people a year and is on the rise.” “The anti-smoking message will cover no less than 30 percent of the front of a package and another warning takes half of the back. The messages range from warnings of lung cancer through wrinkles to impotence and will also come with information on the amount of nicotine and resins.”

Russia has been a lifesaver for tobacco companies, and it remains one of the top tobacco clients, “with the domestic market almost completely taken by three global players: Japan Tobacco Inc., Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco PLC.”

The Russian Parliament is fighting back with an awareness campaign, and increasing taxes on cigarettes.

McManus wants Benson to endorse her as the GOP SOS nominee

Wayne State University law Professor and the Democratic nominee for Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson issued her six priorities for comprehensive campaign finance reform today, continuing her longstanding call for legislation that promotes greater disclosure and transparency requirements.

Benson’s priorities also include more consistent and non-partisan enforcement of campaign finance violations, shareholders bill of rights, prohibiting foreign money in Michigan’s elections and eliminating potential for quid pro quo corruption.

“In the wake of the changing landscape of campaign finance requirements that followed United States Supreme Court Decision in Citizens United, our state must enact needed reforms to ensure that the voices of everyday people are not drowned out by millions of dollars of unaccountable spending by large corporations,“ she said. “Citizens need to know their elected officials work for them, and not powerful special interests.”

Benson supports a package of bills aimed at restoring accountability to the flood of secret corporate money that will pour into elections following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last January in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case that passed out of the House in the spring. It, like many other voting and campaign finance bills, was not taken up by the Republicans controlled Senate.

Ironically, one of the many GOP hopefuls for SOS among a weak field of career politicians is Sen. Michele McManus, R-Lake Leelanau, who just happens to be the chair of the Senate Campaign and Election Oversight Committee. McManus and the Republicans have stalled or voted against every single measure to make it easier to vote and to introduce transparency in campaign finance.
Her predictable response was to try ad smear Benson with a GOP boogieman: evil, despicable George Soros. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Republicans are very afraid of Benson, and very early on they launched a number of false smears against her, such as she is backed by communists and the other GOP boogieman: ACORN. ACORN’s crime has been to help poor people.

I know to Republicans a humanitarian like George Soros is evil, but that means nothing outside of a GOP primary. I’m always amazed at the GOP hatred of Soros. This is a man that if you believe in the GOP hype about their alleged “ideals” they should love and place on a pedestal like they do for Reagan.

This is a man who pulled himself up by his bootstraps. He escaped Nazi-occupied Hungary as a teen with nothing but the clothes on his back, and he managed to become a billionaire with his wits and hard work. He gives millions to charity, he helped end apartheid in South Africa by giving money for scholarships to black students there and he helped end Communism by funding dissident movements behind the iron curtain.

The GOP SOS candidate have tried everything possible to crawl out ahead of the pack. In fact, McManus and fellow Senator and GOP SOS candidate Sen. Cameron Brown, R-Sturgis, have publicly argued in committee over whose identical campaign-like bills will be taken up by committee.

Apparently, McManus has come up with a plan to separate her from the pack and try and make Benson look bad. According to the Michigan Messenger, McManus has challenged Benson to a debate.

So in effect, McManus is asking Benson to endorse her for the Republican nomination for Secretary of State. If McManus wins the GOP nomination at the convention next month, then make the offer. Until them, Benson should ignore her.

Jul 12, 2010

Fundraisers on tap this week

Campaign season is in full swing with lots of fundraisers, and I just wanted to give a shout out to some of my friends.

Livingston County Democrats had the most candidates file for the nine-member Livingston County Board of Commissioners since at least 1998, and Kelly Raskauskas is one of the most qualified. She is running in the 7th District, which includes the city of Brighton and part of Genoa Township. She has been a leader in the community, serving as president of the Friends of the Library in Brighton. She has a master's degree in public policy from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

She has a fundraiser set for 6 p.m. Thursday, July 15. To RSVP and for directions, call (734) 878-6792.

My friends at the Monroe County Democratic Party are holding a campaign kickoff at 5 p.m. this Saturday, July 17 at UAW Local 723, 281 Detroit Ave. in Monroe. For $15 you get a steak dinner and soft drinks. Tickets can be ordered online.

Come out and enjoy some great fellowship and good food, and many of the candidates will be there. Monroe’s two House seats are under attack, and Republicans are targeting the seats in the blue collar, union town.

House Majority Floor Leader Kathy Angerer, D-Dundee, is term-limited, and Bedford resident Mike Smith is running for the seat against a large field of Republicans. Rep. Kate Ebli, D-Monroe, is running against a well know Republican, and she can use your help.

We need your help, and I will see you there.

Don’t forget the fundraiser for Jim Delcamp, the Democratic candidate for the 66th h Michigan House District, that will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at the Brighton House Restaurant, 10810 Grand River Road, Brighton.

Jul 11, 2010

Newspaper puts a face on the people Senate Republicans stiffed

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus did an excellent job on Sunday putting a face on the thousands of people in Michigan losing their unemployment benefits because the U.S. Senate Republicans chose to filibuster a bill that will allow a six-month extension of unemployment benefits and Medicaid funding.

Joyce Smith is a 62 year-old Conway Township resident who has worked her entire life and never asked for any help or handouts, but she has been unable to find a job in the Bush recession - the worst recession since the Great Depression - since she was laid off from her job at a large architectural/engineering firm.

“Her unemployment benefits, which allowed her to hang onto her house and pay utilities, will end in three weeks.“ Like many people in the country, Smith doesn't have health insurance and risks losing everything she's worked hard to get in her life.

"This is going to hurt us really bad," Smith said. "This is what has kept us afloat. It's like we don't have any hope."

She gets angry thinking about senators who didn't support extending the benefits. She knows unemployment benefits are supposed to be only temporary, and she would much rather work than receive money from the government. However, she said, Michigan is in trouble.

Smith is just one of 1,572 residents who lost their unemployment benefits last month, and by end of July, 1,486 more residents will lose unemployment benefits, according toe the P & A.

Republicans are doing everything they can to stall the economic recovery, as well as to continue their war to kill the middle class.

We now hear that some Republicans think people on unemployment don’t want to work and would rather collect unemployed than work. Republicans think those who can’t find a job right now are lazy, shiftless and “welfare cheats.” That is just absurd.

Smith said it best.

"There are no jobs out there," Smith said. "These people are really in need.""I'm not freeloading, if that's what they think. Let them lose their jobs and see what they think.”

The American people got a glimpse of how much Republicans abhor the middle class and working people. U.S. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R - OH, said last week he wants to raise the retirement age to collect full Social Security benefits to age 70.

Social Security is the major source of income for most of the elderly, and nine out of 10 individuals age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits.

The solution to keeping SS solvent past 2052 is pretty simple. Payroll taxes are only withheld from US workers' paychecks on the first $97,000 of their annual incomes. Raising that cap would address the problem.

Somehow, I doubt Republicans will sign on to that solution, and it seems they would rather see people work until they die.

Jul 9, 2010

Another boycott to kill popular smoking ban launched

A boycott of the Michigan lottery by a few misguided bar owners last month failed, so they are trying it again this Saturday, July 10.

The billons of dollars the tobacco industry has spent over the years to convince smokers that they have some constitutional right to smoke and poison the majority of non-smokers with deadly secondhand smoke continues to pay off.

Just like the June 19 attempt at a boycott, a mall group of bar owners is claiming that 22 percent of the people who still smoke in Michigan is having an effect on their business, despite studies and the results of bars and restaurants that are doing a booming business after the May 1 workplace smoking ban went into effect and numerous studies and results from the 38 other states with bans.

Like last month, a few bar owners will refuse to sell Michigan Lottery games from 11 a.m. Saturday, July 10 to 2 a.m. July 11. Like last month, they have a Facebook page full of lies, and they say they will not sell “Keno, pull tabs, Lucky Lines, Daily 3 and 4, Fantasy 5, and Classic Lotto.”

Those lies have extended to the Detroit News. Why they are giving this small minority so much free, earned media is beyond me. They should sell them an ad because the majority of Michigan residents support the workplace smoking ban.

According to the Detroit News, “A group called “Protect Private Property Rights in Michigan -- Amend the Michigan Smoking Ban” is calling for a second boycott of the lottery in bars across the state to “send a message to legislators about a law they say is keeping customers away.”

Not true. Bars and restaurants are doing fine. No one can tell me how less than 22 percent can have so much of an effect on business.

It also says, “the first boycott was June 19 and was for only a few hours. This weekend's boycott is all day Saturday and Sunday just like it was on June 19. The hours are identical.

Apparently, Beverly Hills resident Steve Mace is their spokesman. You may remember him from the American Legion Post in Royal Oak where he claimed “their reading of the state bill prohibiting smoking in public areas and workplaces such as restaurants and bars does not apply to private clubs.” He was behind a petition drive to exempt veteran’s clubs from the law.

"We're not promoting cigarette use -- ban smoking on a street corner, not in an adult-only establishment," said group spokesman Steve Mace.

That is stunningly inaccurate. Of course he’s promoting cigarette use. Non-smokers drink just as much as smokers, and my experience when I was a smoker was that when I was in a bar, my smoking rate doubled, at least, but my alcohol intake stayed the same as when I quit smoking. Smoke all you want on the street corner where deadly secondhand smoke is not harming the health of the 80 percent who do not smoke.

That’s just one of many false claims by these people. Last month they claimed the ridiculous boycott would cost the state lottery “between $12 million and $18 million in sales.” After the boycott, they were very silent. Now, they told the Detroit News, an “estimated 515 establishments joined the first boycott, based on e-mail and phone requests for protest fliers, and expects nearly 600 this time.”

The numbers simply do not bear that out, and they are again caught in a lie.

In fact, Lottery spokeswoman Andi Brancato said “about 220 retailers -- 2 percent of all Michigan lottery vendors -- turned off their lottery machines June 19 and revenue losses amounted to about $125,700.” That’s a far cry from 515 retailers and $12 million. The good news is that Brancato said “bars participating in both boycotts may face suspension or revocation of their licenses.” Good.

The Facebook page announcing the event has even more lies, like the one that says, “ JOBS ARE BEING LOST. BUSINESSES ARE CUTTING HOURS!! SOME ARE ALREADY UP FOR SALE!”

Not from the smoking ban.

Then there is this lie that it will not hurt Michigan public schools:
“**The Michigan Lottery's contributions to schools are so minimal, don't buy into that line. No one really knows where the money goes and they're not saying. YOUR TAX DOLLARS PAY FOR SCHOOLS.”

Again, not true. The Michigan Lottery has contributed $15.2 billion to Michigan's educational system since 1972, including more than $600 million in 10 of the past 12 fiscal years. Almost all of the money, 95 percent to be exact, goes to fund K-12 public education, and the rest goes to overhead and the pots. Unfortunately, lottery money only makes up 5 percent of the $12.8 billon K-12 budget. The required annual report makes it very clear where the money goes.

So even if you are not a fan of the lottery or gambling, stop by on Saturday and pluck a dollar down on Keno, pull tabs, Lucky Lines, Daily 3 and 4, Fantasy 5 or Classic Lotto to help Michigan’s health and public schools. You can always give the ticket to a friend or relative.

GOP primary in 11th Senate District now includes charges of inappropriate sex talk

There are a lot of interesting primary races, but the Republican primary in the 11th Senate District is spinning out of control.

The race already has a criminal, a carpetbagger and now charges of lying, inappropriate sexual behavior and playing an imposter entered the race yesterday to make it even more interesting after a pair of reports from MIRS and Gongwer that cover the Capitol.

Squaring off in the open 11th District to replace term-limited Alan Sanborn – one of the most extremists member of the Senate – are former state Reps. Leon Drolet and Jack Brandenburg and current state Rep. Kim Meltzer.

Drolet should be in jail because of his criminal acts in the attempt to recall Speaker of the House Andy Dillon, not to mention his recent campaign violation. Meltzer has been accused of being a carpetbagger because she just rented an address in the safe Republican district, and she also hired the person known for dirty tricks. Brandenburg had escaped notice; until now.

Brandenburg, as well as Drolet served as co-chairs of the crooked Proposal 2 campaign in 2006 that banned affirmative action programs that used fraud to get on the ballot.
Jennifer Gratz, who led the 2006 ballot proposal, said that a political action committee (PAC) she is involved with had mailed flyers into the district to accuse Brandenburg of lying about his role with the so-called “Michigan Civil Rights Initiative” campaign; Brandenburg claimed he was the co-chair. Gratz, now works for the American Civil Rights Institute, the California-based group that's primary purpose is to oppose affirmative action.

According to subscription only MIRS, when Gratz was asked what led to Brandenburg to leave the campaign, she had this to say:

"We were on a conference call with me, Leon, Jack and Ward," Gratz said. "There may have been some others on the call as well, but I can't remember exactly. "Ward (Connerly) asked for help more help from Leon and Jack. Then Jack said, 'F*** Off.'"
Gratz said that as far as she knows, that parting shot was Brandenburg's final involvement with the MCRI movement.

But Brandenburg had this to day to MIRS in response. "On that conference call Ward Connerly was basically chewing Leon and I out," Brandenburg said. "Leon and I had worked our butts off for a year. We weren't getting paid anything. It was voluntary. I think Gratz was getting paid at that time, but we weren't."
"So then Connerly wanted Leon and I to come up with $50,000," Brandenburg continued. "At that point, I said that even if I had $50,000 I wouldn't give it to him. He asked me if I could come up with the money tomorrow, and I said no. But when he said 'You haven't done anything,' that's what I really didn't appreciate. I said, "Hey Ward, F*** off."

But the story was even more explosive in Gongwer, and Gratz either didn’t tell MIRS the entire story, or MIRS chose not to include the allegation.

During an interview with Gongwer about the flyer, Gratz was asked why she just didn’t call Brandenburg and ask him to stop claiming he was the co-chair. Gratz apparently told Gongwer she would never contact Brandenburg because of “an incident that she said occurred in January 2006 when Mr. Brandenburg was serving his second term in the House.” Gratz claims she received a message Booth Newspapers columnist Rick Haglund had called to interview her.

Gratz said she “returned the call, and the first couple questions were standard journalistic fare. Then, "He said, 'Can I ask you a personal question?' He said, 'How do you feel about oral sex?'" Ms. Gratz said.”

Brandenburg denies the incident ever occurred.

Drolet served as co-chair of the ballot campaign with Brandenburg, but Drolet stuck with the racist campaign. Gratz is supporting Drolet in the primary election.

Insurance companies keep their undefeated streak alive in MI Supreme Court

The rightwing Michigan Supreme Court struck a blow for justice for the downtrodden insurance companies and their record profits against the powerful poor and middle class consumers on Thursday when it ruled on a split 4-3 vote that insurers can continue to consider customers' credit scores when setting rates for auto and homeowners insurance.

In Insurance Institute of Michigan vs. Insurance Commissioner, the Republican majority on the court held that then-Office of Financial and Insurance Services Commissioner Linda Watters exceeded her authority under the insurance code to ban credit scoring through rules she issued in 2004. The “Gang of Four” helped insurance companies keep their undefeated streak alive, and insurance companies have not lost a case in the Michigan Supreme Court in 12 years.

There is no better reason to unseat Justice “Sleepy” Bob Young this November so people can get justice. It’s amazing that Young didn’t recluse himself from the case. He was the head attorney for AAA insurance for many years.

“This is a discriminatory decision by Bob Young and his Republican cronies on the Michigan Supreme Court,” said Mark Brewer, Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party. “This decision will increase premiums for drivers and drive up the cost of auto insurance coverage. Once again, Young and Republicans on the Court side with their campaign donors - the insurance companies - over Michigan consumers.”

I have no idea how your credit score, as well as your education level, zip code and even job title, determines what kind of driver you will be. Your rate should be based on your driving record and the value of your car.

The Republican’s had to twist themselves into a pretzel to please their moneyed donors to justify this discriminatory decision.

According to subscription only Gogwer, Justice Maura Corrigan, writing for the majority that included Stephen Markman, Elizabeth Weaver and Young, said “offering a discount for a good credit score is no different than one for safety devices in a vehicle.”

"Discounts for anti-lock brakes are offered because they reduce the risk of loss, and discounts for high insurance scores are offered because they reduce the risk of loss," she wrote. "The more insureds there are with anti-lock brakes, the lower the risk of overall loss. Likewise, the more insureds there are with high insurance scores, the lower the risk of overall loss."

Say what? A high credit score is the same as anti-lock breaks? That will be good to know when someone with a high credit score is speeding through a residential area and slams on the breaks to avoid hitting a kid who ran into the street.

Once again, the Republican majority on the court stiffed the consumers in favor of their insurance company masters.

Jul 8, 2010

Millions already spent on TV ads in gubernatorial campaign is chump change compared to Amway guy cash

Despite seemingly incessant political TV ads from Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidates attacking each other, television advertising is lagging far behind the pace of Michigan’s last two gubernatorial campaigns, according to Rich Robinson of the non-profit Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

In fact, five candidates and one nonprofit organization have spent $3.3 million so far, with Republicans “Manoogian” Mike Cox and Rick Snyder accounting for 79 percent of that total. Snyder’s television advertising started three months before any other candidates this year but his spending has slowed dramatically over the last month, as has his support. Since Memorial Day, Cox has outspent Snyder, $634,726 to $161,030, although Snyder has spent more overall, $1,4 million to $1,1 million.

But that’s chump change compared to what the Amway guy – AKA Republican Dick DeVos – spent in 2006 trying to by the governorship. At the end of June in 2006, DeVos had already spent $7 million despite the fact he did not have a primary opponent. The Michigan Democratic Party had spent $2.3 million for gubernatorial television advertising over the same period. The two parties spent nearly $13 million by the time of the primary election in 2006.

Among the other Republican candidates, Mike Bouchard has spent $98,000, including $48,000 in the last month. All of Bouchard’s spending has been on cable. ”Twitter” Pete Hoekstra’s television spending has been limited to $5,470, all on one Sunday in May.

The remaining advertiser on the Republican side is a group known as “Americans for Job Security.” AJS has spent $273,000, all in the Grand Rapids market, for ads attacking Hoekstra. The ads appear to be synchronized with the Cox campaign.

Local television stations pulled the AJA ads after Hoekstra's lawyers complained the ads were false and misleading. The Cox campaign has denied any connection, but with Cox’s troubles with the truth it’s pretty clear he is behind them.

On the Democratic side, Speaker of the House Andy Dillon, D-Redford, has spent $335,380. Dillon has spent $282,880 on broadcast outlets in Detroit. The remainder of his spending has been on cable. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero have not purchased television advertising.

The candidates have not filed a complete campaign finance report since year-end 2009. Their next reports are due on July 23.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts research and public education on money in Michigan politics.

Fundraiser on tap for House candidate

Supporters of Jim Delcamp are hosting a campaign kickoff and fund-raiser at 5 p.m. Monday, July 12, for his run for the 66th District seat in the state House.

The event will be at the Brighton House Restaurant, 10810 Grand River Ave. in Brighton from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Appetizers and a cash bar are included with a suggested donation of $25.

Delcamp, the author of a book called “Zero Cost Living—Exploring Extreme Frugality,” is running as the “thrift candidate,” promising to give back half his salary as a state legislator to the state and to help look for significant savings in the state budget. He also supports creation of new jobs based in biotechnology and renewable energy, as well as securing funding for public safety and schools. A Democrat, Delcamp is making his first run for office in the district which includes the City of Brighton, the Village of Milford, and the township of Milford in Oakland County and the townships of Brighton, Genoa, Green Oak, Marion, and Oceola in Livingston County.

Delcamp is a graduate of Ann Arbor Pioneer High School and from Michigan State University with a major in Urban Planning. The City of Lakeland, Florida, hired Delcamp as a city planner, where he worked until 1976. In 1980 he received a Master's Degree in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan.

In 1979 - 1980 he was the co-owner, editor, writer of the Ann Arbor magazine "The Alchemist." Delcamp wrote the article "Energy Independence for Ann Arbor" that was widely read and helped inspire a series of standing room only public meetings that the mayor characterized as “like the filming of ‘The Robe.'" Ultimately, the return of cheap energy in the mid-1980s stymied efforts to develop alternative energy.

Delcamp has worked as a community organizer in Detroit and an energy auditor for Detroit Edison and Consumers Power helping residents save money and energy throughout the Eastern half of the Lower Peninsula. Beginning in 1989 Delcamp received a contract from General Motors for his services as a Computer Aided Designer. For 12 years, he worked with G.M. engineers on diverse vehicle components such as underbody frame, interior trim, instrument panels, electrical, exterior trim.

The campaign kickoff is open to all those interested in supporting Delcamp. Anyone wishing more information may contact Delcamp at 810-844-6840 or jrdel@att.net.