Apr 30, 2010

Enforcing the smoking ban


Thousands of Michigan residents will breather easier tomorrow May 1 when the popular workplace smoking ban, known as the Dr. Ron Davis Smokefree Air Law, goes into effect.

The more than 12 year fight will come to and end at 6 a.m. Saturday when the law goes into effect, and it will be a day of celebration. Like any new law, there will be a few glitches, and despite some misunderstanding over enforcement, they have been ironed out.

The Campaign for Smokefree Air has put out simple and clear guidelines if the law is not being followed.

“It will take a couple of months for us to reach the compliance levels we would like because this is a big social change. We would like most issues to be dealt with inside the establishment by the owners or managers. Our goal is to help local health departments and not overwhelm them with complaints.”

If you see any people not complying with the smokefree law:

1. The first thing you can do is politely ask them to stop. In most cases, people will stop smoking because it is the law.

2. If they do not, you should tell an employee or manager at the establishment. They should take care of it.

3. If you see that the business is intentionally ignoring this issue, at that point, you should let them know that it is the law and you expect them to comply or you can contact the local health department.

4. As a last resort, contact the local health department and find out about their complaint process. Beginning Saturday, for information about filing a complaint visit the Michigan Department of Community Health enforcement web site.

Local health departments will be receiving many complaints in the first month so please try to work with the establishment to deal with the issue. Once you talk to a manager, the issue should be resolved and the health department will never have to be involved. This is the desired course of action.

Blame Canada for going to bat for Michigan taxpayers


We know representatives of the Detroit International Bridge Co. will say anything and do anything to keep their monopoly and one of only two international border crossings in private hands, and company president Dan Stamper proved that when he heard the news Thursday that Michigan taxpayers will not pay anything for the planned DRIC bridge, (Detroit River International Crossing).

The Canadian government announced they would pay up to $550 million for the project's expenses on the Michigan side of the bridge. That led Stamper to this insulating quote: “Michigan Gov. (Jennifer) Granholm, who is both a Canadian and an American citizen, has offered to sell the Michigan border.” The word that comes to mind to describe that attack is bullshit. Besides, the bridge company already owns the border.

Grosse Pointe billionaire and Republican benefactor Matty Moroun wants to build a second span, but he has been thwarted because he cannot get permits from either the Canadian or U.S. government, but that has not stopped him. The U.S. and Canadian governments want to go forward with a public-private DRIC bridge between Detroit and Windsor a few miles downriver, and it has widespread support.

In fact, Moroun is already building a second bridge span right next to the current Ambassador Bridge, and they do not have one single permit; not from the City of Detroit, the state of Michigan, the federal government or the Canadian government.

Moroun and company have tried everything to stop DRIC, including attempting a recall against a state House member who opposed him, offering the state money to stop and spreading money around to politicians.

Granholm made the announcement of the Canadian offer in a surprise appearance at the House Transportation Committee on Thursday, which later reported out favorably House Bill 4961 that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada and a private sector developer/financier and create and save 10,000 Michigan jobs.

Senate Republicans have pulled out all the stops to help Moroun keep his monopoly, going so far as to threaten arrest and to hold up the Transportation Budget to get their way, and the person out front has been Senate Majority Floor Leader Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt. His anti-Canadian rants and attacks have been embarrassing and damaging, almost to the point of declaring war on our biggest trading partner and closest ally.

According to subscription only Gongwer, “When asked about the generous offer from the Canadian offer, Cropsey laughed. He said Canada never delivered on its promise to put $300 million into addressing traffic issues at the Ambassador after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”

The Ambassador Bridge crossing is the busiest border crossing in North America. More than $200 billion in trade went between the U.S. and Canada through Michigan in 2008.Canada will not want to grant permit to land the new Ambassador Bridge on the Canadian side because traffic on the Canadian side of the Ambassador empties into a city street in downtown Windsor, and trucks must go through 17 stop lights to reach the freeway. Backups can be as long as 5 miles, and Canadian officials do not want to see more traffic dumped onto city streets.

Apr 29, 2010

Health care petition drive signs up GOP donors


Political consultants Joe DiSano and Joe Munem offered more ammo for their theory that the petition drive 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 is little more than an exercise to build a mailing list of Republican supporters and contributors for the upcoming election.

The Astroturf “tea parties” are a Republican effort, and on their April 24 pod cast, the Republican and Democratic strategists connected the dots to show the petition drive is an effort to collect names and addresses the Republicans can solicit support and money from.

DiSano and Munem first floated that theory earlier this month, and in talking about the Republican primary in Michigan’s 9th Congressional district for the chance to run against U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, they again floated that theory.

Perennial candidate Andrew "Rocky" Raczkowski and Paul Welday are the Republicans in the race. DiSano and Munem made the point that Glenn Clark, the Republican Chair of the 9th Congressional District who is supposed to neutral, is working for Strategic National Consulting, a Republican political consulting firm owned by Chuck Yob.

Raczkowski is a client of Strategic National, so how can Clark be neutral? Clark is also, apparently, the chair of the Oakland County Tea Party,” what ever that is.

One things political consultants do is collect and sell to candidates lists of supporters and potential donors. That’s exactly want Clark is doing with this petition drive, and he is directly getting the names right from the petitions.

Senate Republicans fiddle while Michigan smolders


LANSING -- If anyone wants to know why bipartisanship and cooperation are hard to come by in Lansing just needs to take a look at the action on Wednesday of the Senate Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop in unilaterally rejecting appointments Gov. Jennifer Granholm made to six university boards for terms that begin the day she leaves office with no hearings.

Granholm made the bipartisan appointments on April 7, and she followed previous precedent set by former Republican Gov. John Engler in making the same type of appointments. In fact, at least one of the 14 people on the list, Doug Roberts, was one of those appointed by Engler. None of Engler’s appointees ever had to go through the advise and consent process.

Granholm laid the blame squarely where it belongs.

“Senator Bishop rejected qualified appointees to serve our state universities, making them nothing more than partisan political pawns,” Granholm said in a statement. “He chose to ignore the advice of an attorney in his own caucus and rejected sitting board members like Doug Roberts, who Republicans have confirmed in the past, just to make a partisan point.”

Republicans tried this last Thursday, but Democrats used a parliamentary procedure to thwart them. Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, made a motion to adjourn and Lt. Governor John Cherry Jr., the Senate's presiding officer, granted it - in accordance with Senate rules - over the objection of Senate Majority Floor Leader Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt.

Republicans were a little more prepared yesterday. They took a recess for an hour until Cherry left the chamber, and they then reconvened with Sen. Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, in the chair and took up the issue.

While the budget waits and people are unemployed, Republicans killed an hour until the Lt. Gov. had to go to another appointment and left the chamber. That is just sad. They again proved that petty politics and keeping power is more important than anything else.

“In addition, it shows that we are having another unproductive and self-serving day in the State Senate,” said Sen. Deb Cherry, D-Burton, “After focusing a full session day on this last week, Senate Republican leadership continues to focus on this political issue instead of addressing the bills to create jobs and help Michigan workers.”

Cherry them brought a motion consider each of the 14 appointees separately. That failed along party lines. Last Thursday, the same motion almost passed, and two Republicans sided with the Democrats while another Republican did not vote because they supported some of the 14 appointees. The effort failed 18-19. Ironically, Richardville voted with the Democrats. He must have gotten a good talking to and went along with the party line.

Only Sen. Bruce Patterson, R-Canton, voted with the Democrats for a second time. Patterson - one of only three attorneys in the Senate - said summarily rejecting the appointments appears to go against the Constitution. He is a stickler for the constitution, and he spent the weekend researching the issue, as well as discovering that Governors as far back as Republican Gov. William Miliken has used the same procedure that was rejected yesterday.

“Here we are taking action en masse, even rejecting people we’ve approved in the past,” Patterson said. “When we look at Article VIII, Section 6, it talks about the boards of control and how they are to be constituted,” Patterson. “But, again, that’s just picky,picky, picky little details.”

Senate Minority Leader Mike Prusi, D-Ishpeming, challenged anyone to "look me in the eye" and say the appointees were getting fair and equitable treatment.

“The Michigan Senate has not rejected university appointments without hearing in recent history,” Prusi said. “Over the last 20 years, no gubernatorial appointee—and that includes Governors of both political parties who have made appointments to the boards of control—has been rejected without at least giving them a hearing.”

Apr 28, 2010

Senate Republicans continue to attack unions at expense of kids

LANSING -- A hearing of the Senate Appropriations Human Services Subcommittee on Tuesday that sets the budget for the Department of Human Services proved Senate Republicans will do anything to kill unions.

Last year child care workers organized the Child Care Providers Together Michigan (CCPTM) union, a joint venture between United Auto Workers (UAW) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) certified CCPTM as the sole bargaining unit for all home-based child care providers receiving reimbursement payments from the Michigan Child Development and Care Program, and the contract calls for all in-home providers who care for Department of Human Services subsidy eligible children to pay union dues. Because of that, Sen. Bill Hardiman, R-Kentwood, chair of the appropriations committee, made it clear that at least the Senate version of the budget will be more clear for the coming year: no state funds for the Home-Based Child Care Coordinating Council.

The Michigan Quality Community Care Council, a standalone public body created by inter-local agreement under the Urban Cooperation Act of 1967, is charged with the mission of improving professional development opportunities for home based child care providers.

“I just think it’s wrong, and it’s my intention to present a budget that does not fund the Quality Community Care Council,” he said.

Rev. Larry Simmons, chair of the council, said it has provided value to child care providers and parents, and the council is a group of volunteers from around the state coming together to help a group of people who have been completely ignored for 15 years. He said child care providers have been excited about the training opportunities that have been provided through the council.

“I believe this is the most exploited workers or business owners in the state,” Simmons said. “These folks went 10 years without an increase in rates.”

I have no idea why Republicans hate the Democratic process and the working class so much. It’s hard enough to get people to sign a card to establish a union, and once they do that a further roadblock is thrown up and an election is held. A majority of home-based child care providers voted for a union, so Republicans are looking for another way to stop the union.

The rightwing, anti-union think tank the Mackinac Center and its newly formed Legal Foundation has been attacking the Child Care Providers since it was formed. They filed a lawsuit claming that because not everybody voted, the election is somehow invalid. The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected that ridiculous claim, so while the case is under appeal, they turned to the Legislature where the anti-union Republicans were very receptive by introducing some bills.

The Republicans have been pushing to make Michigan a so-called “right to work” state to kill the union and have failed. Hardiman’s action to kill this union is similar to that action.

Help Kzoo Central bring the President to their commencement


Students and lawmakers are urging people to vote for Kalamazoo Central High School in the “2010 Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge” for the honor of having President Obama as their commencement speaker for the class of 2010.

Kalamazoo Central is one of just six high schools in the nation – the only one in Michigan – selected to compete in the Race to the Top Challenge. Voting is currently taking place until Thursday, April 29, and people across the country will be voting on videos created by each of the schools.

The school’s supporters have been circulating a flier all with the “10 ways you can help” that includes getting the word out through their website, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Kalamazoo students have held rallies and even gone door to door to solicit votes.

Please go to the web site and rate their video a five.

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

In order to participate in the competition, by March 15 schools had to submit an online application consisting of four short essay questions that demonstrate how the school successfully prepares students for high school graduation and college and career success.

Republican hypocrisy trumps Main Street


The Republican hypocrisy is just absolutely stunning. That Republican hypocrisy rules on all levels of government.

On the very day U.S. Senate Republicans were skewering Goldman Sachs executives at a hearing of the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations on Tuesday and saying the financial system needed reform, Senate Republicans – for the second consecutive day – blocked Democratic efforts to overhaul the financial system and crack down on the Wall Street greed that was a major contributor to the worst recession since the Great Depression. Instead, Republicans stood up for one of their major benefactors, Wall Street, and every single Republican voted on Tuesday to block debate on the bill.

The committee hearing was chaired by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, and they are the culmination of nearly a year and a half of investigation. The freezing of financial markets and collapse of financial institutions sparked the investigation, and those factors led to millions of Americans losing their jobs, their homes and their businesses in the recession that the crisis sparked, the worst economic decline since the Great Depression.

Tuesday’s hearing explored the role of investment banks in the development of the crisis, and it focused on the activities during 2007 of Goldman Sachs, one of the oldest and most successful firms on Wall Street. Goldman documents make clear that in 2007 it was betting heavily against the housing market while it was selling investments in that market to its clients. It sold those clients high-risk mortgage-backed securities and CDOs (Collateralized debt obligations) that it wanted to get off its books in transactions that created a conflict of interest between Goldman's bottom line and its clients' interests.

Goldman Sachs executives avoided specific answers about the financial crisis and the bank’s relationship with its investors, and the frustration over their stalling and evasiveness frustrated both Republicans and Democrats on the panel. The firm reaped huge profits from the collapse of the US housing market, and Levin accused Goldman of "trying to sell a shitty deal" to investors," which is, of course, true.

The rightwing blogs and Republican noise machine were not concerned with the obscenity of those huge profits and the raping of Main Street. No, they were upset that Levin said “shitty.” Wow. Talk about hypocrisy.

While the hearing was going on, Wall Street lobbyists were roaming the halls of the Capitol spending that $1.4 million a day to make sure we never get real financial reform, and Republicans again blocked debate. They blocked debate, not the bill.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is expected to again put the matter to a vote today to see if Republicans will stand up for Wall Street or Main Street.

Apr 27, 2010

GOP goes to bat for Wall Street greed


The Republicans failed to protect the insurance companies despite the millions of dollars the health insurance lobby pumped into their coffers, so it appears they are fighting even harder to protect one of their other major benefactors, Wall Street.

Senate Republicans circled the wagons in defense of Wall Street on Monday and blocked debate on the Democratic effort to overhaul the financial system and crack down on the Wall Street greed that was a major contributor to the worst recession since the Great Depression. In a 57-41 vote, Democrats fell short of the 60 votes necessary to proceed to the Wall Street bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will have the Senate vote on a motion to reconsider the measure Tuesday and also set up a new vote on a motion to proceed to the bill for Wednesday, according to published reports.

Like what we saw during the debate for health insurance reform, Wall Street lobbyists are spending $1.4 million a day to make sure we never get real financial reform. We are also hearing the same kind of rhetoric we heard from Republicans then; things like, “scrap the bill and start over,” or “you’re moving too fast.”

The fact is the Bush administration threw money at Wall Street with zero oversight. Over the past 30 years, conservatives successfully gutted regulation and preached 'smaller government' while millions of Americans lost good jobs and Wall Street and corporate America made record profits. Wall Street invented new, more complicated ways to make money off other people’s money.

It’s unclear when the teabaggers will hit the streets to protect this blatant effort of the Republicans to protect Wall Street at the expense of the majority of middle class Americans, but I’m not holding my breath.

Apr 26, 2010

Democratic interns sweep awards

Ashley Morris, of Jackson and a former intern for state Sen. Michael Switalski, D-Roseville, is winner of the 2010 Daniel Rosenthal Legislative Intern award, administered by Michigan State University’s James Madison College and MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research in the College of Social Science.

Morris, 24, is a second-year student in MSU’s College of Law and is studying for a master's degree in human resources and industrial relations. In her nominating her, Switalski cited Morris' willingness to tackle every assignment – researching taxes and pensions and even redesigning his website and newsletter.

“If she had worked for me 10 years ago, I would probably be governor by now,” he wrote in nominating Morris.

Morris, who won a $600 cash award, has worked as an intern in Switalski’s office since last August. She earned her undergraduate degree in management at Grand Valley State University.

The Rosenthal Award was established by the family of the late Daniel Rosenthal, a Michigan State University student who died in 1977. He was one of the first to take part in MSU’s Legislative Student Intern Program.

Laura Grannemann, of Okemos, was named runner-up and winner of the Vernon Ehlers Award. The 17-year-old Okemos High School senior plans to pursue international relations and public policy after graduation this May. Grannemann was nominated by Rep. Joan Bauer, D-Lansing, who said Grannemann had worked on legislative issues and day-to-day constituent issues while an intern in her office since last September.

"I know when I work with people like Laura that our future's in great hands," Bauer said in congratulating Grannemann.

A total of 15 legislative interns were nominated for the 2010 awards.

The other nominees were:
Allison Briggs, of Holt, a political science senior at Michigan State University, also nominated by Bauer.
Jeff Caviston, of Traverse City, a political science-pre-law junior at MSU, who was nominated by Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City.
David Hoogmoed, of Ada, a Grand Valley State University student, nominated by Sen. Mark Jansen, R-Gaines Township.
Lauren Hutchinson, of Commerce Township, an American public policy sophomore at Western Michigan University, nominated by Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester.
Andrew Keller, of Dexter, a senior in MSU’s James Madison College in international relations, nominated by Rep. Dudley Spade, D-Tipton.
Weston Laabs, of Northville, a James Madison College senior in international relations, nominated by Sen. Hansen Clarke, D-Detroit.
Michael Marx, of Warren, an MSU journalism major, nominated by Rep. Harold Haugh, D-Roseville.
Jennifer McGrath, of White Lake, a graduate student in MSU’s College of Law, nominated by Sen. Gerald Van Woerkom, R-Norton Shores.
Evan Nichols, of Eaton Rapids, a student in public policy at the University of Michigan, nominated by Rep. Kate Segal, D-Battle Creek.
Alanna Powell, of Holly, a James Madison College junior at MSU also studying teacher education, nominated by Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy.
Michael Raley, of Belmont, a senior sociology and public administration student at MSU nominated by Rep. Roy Schmidt, D-Grand Rapids.
Luke Wagner, a Lansing home-schooled high school senior, nominated by Sen. Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt.
Katelyn Wilcox, of Sheridan, an MSU senior studying finance and French specializing in international business, nominated by Rep. Kevin Daley, R-Arcadia Township.

The Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR), a nonpartisan public policy network at MSU dedicated to connecting legislators, scholars and practitioners through survey, evaluation and applied research, policy forums and political leadership briefings.

The Kenyan Embassy throwing a real tea party


In a brilliant marketing move, the Kenyan government is taking advantage of the non-stop coverage of extremist Republican teabaggers in the mainstream conservative media to promote their number one export, tea.

The Kenyan Embassy in Washington, D.C. is hosting a "Real Tea Party" in the Capitol on Tuesday to promote the country's status as the world's number one exporter of tea. The invitation to dignitaries says, "The Government of Kenya, the world's #1 tea exporter, cordially invites you to a proper Kenyan Tea Party on Capitol Hill (one without a political agenda)," the invitation boasts. "Please join Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister, the Honorable Uhuru Kenyatta, at Kenya's tea tasting event, complete with food pairings and tea leaf readings."

Now, tea baggers are, of course, angry over this smart marketing move, and they claim they are being mocked and the Kenyan government knows nothing about U.S. history and tea parties. The obvious answer is neither do teabaggers.

What makes this even more ironic is that many teabaggers are so-called “birthers” who believe President Obama was actually born in Kenya - despite slam dunk evidence to the contrary - and therefore not eligible to be president.

However, Kenya is proud of the fact that the President’s biological father was born in Kenya and was a Kenyan senior governmental economist after graduating from the University of Hawaii.

Apr 25, 2010

Michael Reagan is the latest racist rightwing hatemonger to speak in Livingston County


Cleary University’s Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series has brought in some of the most vile, racist rightwing tools to speak, and they did not disappoint with hatemonger Michael Reagan set to speak next month for a cool 20 grand plus expenses.

The stated mission of the series is to “enrich the Livingston County community by hosting speakers who can share a broad spectrum of social, political, intellectual and cultural experiences,” but the bigots they have brought in do nothing but bring the political discussion to the gutter. They are also almost all right-wingers. We have seen the likes of Ann Coulter, Steve Emerson and Dick Morris. Non-right-wingers have been few and far between.

Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards, will be a speaker on Oct. 7, but her appearance was timed more to embarrass her husband after the news of his infidelity broke.

Like Emerson - who is a self-proclaimed “terrorism expert” simply for narrating a Richard Mellon Scaife-funded documentary called “Jihad in America” - Reagan is making a name for himself and getting rich for his racist, anti-Arab views, and he is following the Coulter business model of the more outrageous things you say the more you are in demand in right wing circles and the more money you make.

We can expect that lack of diversity and divisiveness to continue at Cleary. The speakers the steering committee is seeking to appear in 2011 include former Republican Arkansas Governor and Faux “news“ host Mike Huckabee; conservative hatemonger and Ann Coulter wannabe Michelle Malkin and former Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn. The balance? U.S. Winter Olympians Apolo Ohno, Julia Mancuso and Hannah Kearney. Please.

Reagan has called one of Michigan’s most successful cites, Dearborn, “Dearbornistan.” The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus took the easy way out and called Reagan “a recognized conservative firebrand” instead of the bigot that he is.

Reagan told the paper that “ the highly Muslim-populated city of Dearborn is home to many people connected to the terrorist organization Hamas, as well as actual terrorists.” He went on to say that he has no proof, but that’s his story, and he’s sticking to it.

What is even funnier - but not as funny as Reagan’s take on Gov. Jennifer Granholm - is the comments of Cleary University President Tom Sullivan, who has to be the most misinformed person in the county. He claims, “he's never heard Reagan speak.” His comments were similar to what he said when the controversy over Coulter broke when he blamed bloggers for the community being upset and a board member resiging over the decision to pay her $30,000 to spread hate.

Sullivan said “he's not "particularly bothered" by Reagan's comments because the speaker series strives to attract diverse voices that engage thought on social, political and economic issues.” Aghain, what diversity?

Reagan’s take on the Michigan economy shows he is as misinformed as Sullivan. Reagan said the “country's economic downfall started in Michigan, and that the other 49 states followed suit and "became Michigan."
"You people elected the wrong governor. It's like, 'Why don't we get the captain of the Titanic to come back and sail ships across the ocean?' " Reagan said.

So, it was the Governor who stopped buying U.S. autos and sent two of the Big 3 into bankruptcy, and it was the Governor who caused the subprime mortgage crisis that almost killed the U.S. economic system and caused the worst recession since the Great Depression? Give me a break.

Not only is Reagan a bigot, he’s an idiot.

Reagan, 65, is the adopted son of conservative hero Ronald Reagan and his first wife, actress Jane Wyman. Reagan claims “his anti-tax message is rooted in his childhood, when his father told him he couldn't get a raise in his allowance until the former president got a cut in taxes.”

Wow. What a skin flint. That was when saint Ronnie was a liberal Democrat and the head of a labor union, and it was also the year he divorced his wife.

Apr 23, 2010

The tooth fairy responds to fire at teabagger HQ


The irony of teabaggers allegedly protesting taxes and out of control government spending at the fake Astroturf “tea parties” on public property provided by taxpayers continues with the news of an electrical fire at the headquarters of the teabagger group collecting signatures to try and stop 1.3 million Michiganders from getting health care coverage and exempt Michigan from the historic health insurance reform law signed into law by President Obama last month.

Head teabagger and extremist Howell Public School Board member Wendy Day reported that an electrical fire broke out at the group’s Lansing HQ at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. She reported in an email that they immediately called 911 and grabbed everything we could and ran out of the building.

“It was quite exciting to watch four fire trucks and a dozen firefighters show up ready for action,” she wrote. “The trunks of our vehicles are now full of petitions, office supplies and even our plant.”

This email was, of course, a plea for money. Gee, I wonder who was paying for those four fire trucks and firefighters that responded so quickly? Oh yes, taxes. It’s funny, the City of Lansing plans to close a fire station because of revenue shortfalls, yet when you call 911, you expect an immediate response and you get one.

We already know the teabaggers are the extremist wing of the Republican Party, and former GOP Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich confirmed that. That’s why the Michigan Republican Party is helping with the teabaggers petition drive to stop health insurance reform. Teabaggers/Republicans have to collect the signatures of 380,126 registered voters no later than July 5 to place the measure on the ballot.

Subscription only Gongwer is reporting that another traditional GOP ally is joining the petition drive. Officials with the Michigan office of the National Federation of Independent Business said Thursday it would help collect signatures to put the proposal on the ballot. The group will pass out petitions to its members, as well as use its agents to help collect signatures.

This is an obvious disservice to its members. The law will provide tax credits for up to 109,000 Michigan small businesses to make coverage more affordable. Only 43 percent of small businesses are able to provide health care to their employees, yet they are opposing something that will help them provide for the employees they say they value.

Apr 22, 2010

Senate Republicans get outplayed in political game


LANSING -- Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop’s attempt to unilaterally reject appointments Gov. Jennifer Granholm made to six university boards for terms that begin the day she leaves office with no hearings failed Thursday with a procedure move by Democrats and some desertions by a GOP caucus that usually marches in lockstep.

Granholm made the bipartisan appointments on April 7, and she followed previous precedent set by former Republican Gov. John Engler in making the same type of appointments. The attempt to reject the appointments without the normal advise and consent hearings upset Democrats and touched off a long debate.

“Article I, Section 17 of our Constitution allows these people the right to a hearing in front of a committee to determine whether or not they are qualified to serve the appointments that the Governor has sought to make,” said Senate Minority Leader Mike Prusi, D-Ishpeming. “The Michigan Constitution does not limit the time period to which the Governor may make an appointment to the office. Because the appointment power is vested in the Governor, the timing of these appointments is within the Governor’s discretion; not just this Governor but every single Governor of the state of Michigan since we approved this Constitution back in 1964.”

The normally organized Republicans were simply outmaneuvered by the minority Democrats.

After all of the agenda had taken care of, the Senate discharged the 14 university appointments in question from the Government Operations Committee, bringing them to the floor. Then the wheels fell off the Republicans‘ bus and their carefully laid plans.

Democrats sought to vote separately on each appointment instead of voting them up or down with just one vote. Normally, those types procedural motions usually go along strictly party lines, but two Republicans sided with the Democrats while another Republican did not vote. The effort failed 18-19.

“I ask you either approve these appointments, or remove this item of business, and let’s get on with what we are supposed to be here doing, not playing partisan, political games,” Prusi said.

As the debate continued and about a dozen senators having requested to speak, Republicans tried to end the debate, but that motion failed with five Republicans breaking ranks to oppose ending debate.

Right after that vote ended, Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, made a motion to adjourn and Lt. Governor John Cherry Jr., the Senate's presiding officer, granted it - in accordance with Senate rules - over the objection of Senate Majority Floor Leader Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt.

“We can debate the process of gubernatorial appointments and equity all day, and the fairness of this action is definitely questionable, but this is not what the Senate should be focused on in the first place,” Whitmer said. “As leader of the Senate and someone vying to be the top lawyer in the state, you would think that Mike Bishop would have more respect for the state constitution, but his latest emphasis on politics over progress only continues to show how out of touch he is with the people of Michigan.”

Subscription only Gongwer reported that “ Bishop was livid at the Thursday defection,” and “Mr. Bishop left the Senate chamber without speaking to reporters.”

It’s unclear if the issue will be taken up on Tuesday, but clearly some Republicans are impressed with some of the nominees.

Here are the nominees:

FERRIS STATE
Edward Haynor
Larry Leatherwood

CENTERAL MICHIGAN
Ronald Edmonds
Kevin Kelley

WESTERN MICHIGAN
John Cakmakci
George Franklin

MICHIGAN TECH
Russell Gronevelt
Terry Woychowski

GRAND VALLEY STATE
Douglas Crim
Matthew Tomasiewicz

EASTERN MICHIGAN
Michael Hawks
Erane Washington-Kendrick

NORTHERN MICHIGAN
Larry Inman
Douglas Roberts

Republican hypocrisy is confirmed


With the news that Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, will unilaterally reject appointments Gov. Jennifer Granholm made to six university boards for terms that begin the day she leaves office you get an idea of the unprecedented crap she has had to put up with from the Senate.

Granholm made the appointments on April 7, and she followed previous precedent set by former Republican Gov. John Engler in making the same type of appointments. Engler made a number of appointments for board positions, including a number of cronies – including current and former department directors and closest advisers such as Community Health Director James Haveman, former Corrections Director Bill Martin, Treasurer Doug Roberts and legal counsel Lucille Taylor - right before he left office.

But the Senate Republicans completely neglected their duty of advise and consent during the Engler administration, and any Engler appointment was automatic. Not so with Granholm appointees, and each appointee had to go before the appropriate committee and then the full Senate for a vote.

Bishop said back on April 7 that he did not “really like the idea of this governor making appointments for the next governor,” but on Wednesday he officially affirmed that ridiculous position, and he wrote Granholm a letter to inform her of the “Republican caucus' decision to reject those appointments,” according to subscription only Gongwer. It's unclear when a vote will be held. That’s a vote, not the normal advise and consent hearings.

Not only that, but Bishop took it even farther and said that the Senate would reject any gubernatorial appointments made after September 3, as well as any appointments made prior to that date for terms that begin after September 3. Her term does not end until noon on Jan. 1. They will be rejected without a hearing.

Many of the appointees are Republicans, including Roberts, who Engler appointed to the Northern Michigan University board in the same procedure Bishop is rejecting out of hand.

The hypocrisy is just overwhelming, and Granholm press secretary Liz Boyd called them out on it.

“The governor's appointees are qualified, they have bipartisan support and they are entitled to a fair hearing on the merits that the Senate Republicans have promised from the beginning of the Granholm administration," Boyd told Gongwer. "They have assured us that they would not reject qualified candidates. ... This is about Senator Bishop using qualified appointees as partisan political pawns."

Apr 21, 2010

DRIC bridge moves forward with committee hearing on public-private partnership bill

The first step in building a public-private Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge between Detroit and Windsor will begin Thursday when the House Transportation Committee takes testimony on House Bill 4961 that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada and a private sector developer/financier and create and save thousands of Michigan jobs.

State, local and Canadian officials - along with leaders from business and labor - held a press conference last Friday to try and persuade a reluctant Legislature – most notably the Senate Republicans - to authorize the construction of a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor. The press conference - held at the Detroit Regional Chamber's headquarters - included Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the Canadian Ambassador to the United States, Chamber President Sandy Baruah, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, former Governor James Blanchard, Steve Biegun, Ford Motor Company vice president for international government affairs; Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney; Shorty Gleason, president of the Michigan Building Trades and Construction Council, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and a half-dozen legislators.

The DRIC Bridge has bipartisan support, but Senate Republicans have been doing what they can to protect the monopoly of Grosse Pointe billionaire and Republican benefactor Matty Moroun, who owns the Ambassador Bridge. Moroun has said both there is not enough traffic to warrant a second span, yet he is trying to build a second span. However, he has not been able to secure the necessary permits; not that it has stopped him from building anyway. Both Canadian and U.S. officials want to build a new, modern crossing a few miles downstream of the current Ambassador Bridge.

Despite the support of Patterson, one of the state’s leading Republicans, Senate Majority Floor Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt, continues to do everything in his power to block the DRIC bridge.
Cropsey told subscription only Gongwer that Patterson is only supporting the DRIC to win favor with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) so it will agree to widen I-75 in Oakland County, a long-sought major project there. Cropsey told Gongwer that he had no proof of such an arrangement, but "that's what's going on."

The House Transportation Committee will meet at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, April 21 in room 521 of the House Office Building in Lansing. The meeting is open to the public.

Apr 20, 2010

Hoyer is optimistic about Democratic chances in November


DETROIT -- House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland had a simple message for Michigan Democrats at the annual 2010 Jefferson Jackson Dinner Saturday night: if voters get the fact that the economy the Republicans ran into a ditch is slowly recovering and finally headed in the right direction, Democrats will do well in November.

"We need to ask them, do you want to elect a party that is turning the economy around, or do you want to vote in a party that created the worst recession since the Great Depression," Hoyer said. "Don’t let them forget that."

Hoyer said in the last month of the Bush Administration in January 2009, 779,000 jobs were lost, but the economy grew by 162,000 jobs last month. He also said don’t let voters forget Bush took a $5.6 trillion budget surplus and turned it into record deficit.

"The worst recession since the Great Depression; that’s what was on the plate for Barrack Obama and the Congress," he said. "The Republicans presided over the largest redistribution of wealth in history."

Michigan always feels any downturn in the economy first, feels it the hardest and comes out of it the slowest. Hoyer praised Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm for her work under such trying circumstances.

"Globalization hits us harder than any other state because we have so many manufacturing jobs," Granholm said. "The next person elected to this office, who ever they many be, does not have a magic wand either."

U.S. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, spoke about the pending financial reform legislation currently in the Senate that would try to prevent future economic crises by tightening government oversight of financial firms, regulate the complex derivatives market for the first time, create a new agency to protect consumers in the financial marketplace and grant the government broad new powers to seize and dismantle huge financial firms on the brink of failure if their collapse would threaten the economy.

Like the Republicans siding with insurance companies and trying to block health insurance reform, they are now protecting Wall Street, and in fact, we are hearing the same old crap from them, like "scrap the bill and start over.

"We’re going to put a cop back on the beat in Wall Street,” Levin said. “That disgusting greed put so many people out of their jobs and their homes and almost wrecked the economy, but we’re going to hold people accountable.”

Everybody on the panel had praise for U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, who has received obscene and threatening phone calls and faxes for his vote on the historic health insurance reform bill, and he has chosen not to run for reelection.

“He stood up for his principals, but he also did the right thing at a very angry time in this country,” Hoyer said. “I called him many times to ask him to run again. We need him and the country needs him, but I respect his decision.”

Apr 19, 2010

Fieger Time fires up the troops at MDP convention


DETROIT -- One important function of any political convention is to energize and fire up the troops, and super attorney Geoffrey Fieger did just that on Saturday at the first ever Michigan Democratic Party Endorsement Convention in Cobo Hall.

The 1998 Democratic Michigan Gubernatorial candidate spoke to a standing room only crowd at the Justice Caucus, and he hit on everything from the current budget situation to the Republican majority on the Michigan Supreme Court once known as the “Gang of Four.”

Fieger lost to former Governor John Engler in 1998, and the only candidate who won on the Democratic slate was current Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who won as Michigan Attorney General. Fieger said he was proud to have had a hand in selecting her as the AG candidate.

He pointed out Republicans have blamed her for all of the state’s economic troubles, despite it was the Bush Administration that ran the country into the worst recession since the Great Depression. Because Michigan has so many manufacturing jobs, Michigan feels any economic downturn, first hurts the worst and is the last state to come out of it. He asked how Granholm can be blamed for General Motors and Chrysler declaring bankruptcy.

“As you know, she walked into a deficit of $500 million that was left to her by Mr. Engler intentionally, intentionally,” he said. “She has never been able to get out from under that.”

Fieger said when the voters know the facts they will never vote for a Republican,and it’s up to the Democrats to get the facts out.

“Why anyone would vote for a Republican in this election cycle is beyond me,” he said. “It’s only possible by the complacency of the Democrats, and it’s only by the Democrats sitting on their keisters.”

He said he was amazed by the Republican gubernatorial field. He said “Twitter” Pete Hoekstra thinks the biggest issue facing Michigan is terrorism. He said Republicans always have to have a boogyman. The current one is terrorists, yet the country was not shut down and freedoms were not taken away after the Oklahoma City bombing, which occurred 15 years ago today.

“When I was a kid it was the communists; like the communists were going to invade Iowa or Montana, but the communists in China are OK,” Fieger said. “They will still take you into a stadium and shoot you in the back of the head in front of 10,000 people, but that’s OK.

“The communists in Cuba are evil, but they can’t hurt a fly, and they don’t have a nuclear weapon,” he said.

He took on the Michigan Supreme Court and especially Justice Bob “Sleepy” Young, who is up for reelection in November. He said Young was the former general counsel for AAA Insurance Co. and a friend of the Michigan chamber, and that’s why he rules for insurance companies more than 80 percent of the time.

“I, and other trial lawyers, represent the victims,” Fieger said. “We are the people’s warriors. Being a trial lawyer is more than my profession to me, I care about my clients.”

Fieger’s distaste for the Supreme Court is personal. On a radio appearance a few years ago he referred to the Michigan appellate judges as "jackasses" for overturning a $15 million medical malpractice judgment he had won. A lower court reprimand based on these comments was eventually upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court.

He also talked about his selective prosecution on campaign finance charges. In 2007, Fieger was indicted on federal charges of funneling illegal contributions to the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, and he was acquitted of all charges on June 2, 2008. He said Goldman Sachs employees were awarded for doing the same thing he was charged for, yet the Bush Administration went after him alone.

“All it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing,” he said.

Michigan can’t afford eight more years of the same old sleepy judge. Young was voted the worst justice on the Supreme Court by the magazine Michigan Lawyers Weekly, he supported drug company immunity when their drugs harm or kill and his decisions have protected polluters who despoil our waters.

“Those four justices never overturned a verdict in favor of an insurance company, and they never overturned a verdict against a criminal defendant,” Fieger said.

Apr 18, 2010

County Chair Daubenmier wins statewide Neil Stabler Award


DETROIT -- Livingston County Democratic Party Chair Judy Daubenmier was the recipient of the Michigan Democratic Party’s 2010 Neil Stabler Award at the 2010 Jefferson Jackson Dinner Saturday night.

The recipient is chosen by the Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party to honor an individual who gave unselfishly of themselves to the state party and its principals. The award is handed out at the annual Jeff-Jack Dinner in Detroit’s Cobo Hall.

Daubenmier was a reporter for The Associated Press for 20 years. She then earned a doctorate degree in history from the University of Michigan and taught classes there. She became involved with politics by contributing to the movie “Outfoxed” about the rightwing bias of Fox News Channel. She became the chair of the county party in July of 2008, and in addition to beefed up fundraising, she established the party blog, Living Blue.

“She had a fast rise to the top, but it was well deserved,” said Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer. “She’s particularly proud that Livingston County voted for Diane Marie Hathaway over Cliff Taylor in 2008.”

Daubenmier is the second Livingston County Democrat to win the statewide award. Green Oak Township resident Kathy Carney, the chair of the 8th Congressional District Democratic Committee, is also a past winner.

The award is named after Neil Staebler, one of Michigan's leading political activists. His public life was devoted to improving democratic government by increasing the participation of citizens in all aspects of public affairs. He was chairman of the Michigan state Democratic central committee, a member of the Democratic National Committee, a visiting professor at the University of Massachusetts and a U.S. Congressman. Staebler passed away in 2000.

(Photo courtsey of Danielle Mann)

Apr 17, 2010

Next AG and SOS chosen at convention


DETROIT -- Anyone who thinks organized labor no longer has any political clout should have been at the first ever Michigan Democratic Party Endorsement Convention in Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit on Saturday.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton edged out attorney and Wayne State University Trustee Richard Bernstein fro the party endorsement for Michigan Attorney General by a vote of 1634-1481 with help from the UAW. The vote went down to the wire, and Leyton did not win until the roll call of the 15 Congressional districts was complete.

“I am humbled, and I can tell you we are going to take this campaign all over Michigan,” Leyton said. “We are going to stand up for the Michigan working man.”

The vote is not binding or official until the summer state convention on Aug. 28, but the losing AG and Secretary of State candidates agreed to withdraw from the race if they do not win in order to take back the seats that have traditionally belonged to Democrats.

More than 189,000 Democrats were credentialed to cast votes on Saturday. Although Bernstein had some labor support, Leyton had much more. Immediately after the vote, Bernstein took the stage to endorse Leyton and introduced him as the next Michigan Attorney General.

“I want to say what a privilege it has been to compete with Richard Bernstein,” Leyton said. “He has been a class act all the way.”

Leyton said he wants to return the AG Consumer Protection Division to the stature it once had under former Eternal General Frank Kelley. Leyton is also a former member of the AFL-CIO.

“I will work to my last breath to see that Michigan will never be a right to work state; never,” he said.

Leyton said the first thing he will do once he is sworn into office is to drop the blatant political lawsuit that challenges the constitutionally of the health care insurance reform bill filed by current AG Republican Gubernatorial Candidate ‘Manoogian’ Mike Cox.
The race for Secretary of State was not even close, and Wayne State University law professor Jocelyn Benson won in a landslide 2,964 to 151. She has been campaigning for more than a year, and the Republicans are so scared of her that they have tried to smear her with lies.

“What a journey it has been, and it has just begun,” she said. “The General Election starts tomorrow.”

None of the Republican candidate’s credentials come close to Benson’s. She graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College. She subsequently earned her Masters in Sociology as a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, and she received her J.D from Harvard Law School, where she was a general editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. Benson also worked as the Voting Rights Policy Coordinator for the Harvard Civil Rights Project, worked as a summer associate for voting rights and election law for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and she was an investigative journalist for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Apr 16, 2010

Clarke gets first of many labor endorsements


The Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 333 announced they are supporting state Sen. Hansen Clarke, D-Detroit, in his bid to replace Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick in Michigan’s 13th District seat in the U.S. Congress.

In adaptation to the support of members, the local union’s political action committee (PAC) donated $5,000 to Clarke’s campaign fund, the maximum allowed under the law. Clarke said he was honored to receive this strong support so early in his campaign.

“This is the first in many endorsements from organized labor to come,” he said. “Other statewide labor organizations have indicated to me that their official support is forthcoming.”

Clarke will bring some much needed integrity to the seat. He will be at the Democratic State Convention at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit on Saturday April 17 from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. to greet supporters. You can find him sharp underneath the picture of former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young.

Despite lies from teabaggers taxes are at their lowest levels in 60 years

Another fake, Astroturf Republican “tea party” came and went yesterday, and instead of harping about all the wall-to-wall coverage of a fringe group by the conservative media – after all, how hard is it to find 500 Republicans in Livingston County – I thought I would take a look at who the teabaggers are really supporting and how wrong they are on their alleged number one complaint: taxes.

We keep hearing about how taxes are evil and we are overtaxed, yet taxes are at their lowest levels in 60 years, according to William Gale, co-director of the Tax Policy Center and director of the Retirement Security Project at the Brookings Institution, as reported by CBS News.

All those teabaggers paid less in taxes this year, yet they are claiming they are “overtaxed.” The fact is Democrats cut taxes by more than $800 billion, largely through the income tax credit in the stimulus and tax credits to help small-business employees get health insurance in the health bill. What’s more, Congress will push through $285 billion more in tax cuts before this session is out by extending expiring George W. Bush-era tax cuts for richest 1 percent.

Lately, faux “news” has been pushing the lie that 47 percent of American homes pay no taxes. That’s simply not true. In fact, the non-partisan and non-profit Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) confirmed that the poor and middle class pay more than the rich in taxes. It is true that 47 percent do not pay federal income tax directly. To me the real story is that faux is outraged that the guy who works two minimum wages jobs does not federal income tax, but that it has no problem that General Electric generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, but ended up not only paying no federal tax, but it got a $1.1 billion refund check from Uncle Sam.

Where is the outrage?

This is because of offshoring and setting up wholly owned subsidiaries in places like the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands that legally shelter the cash flow. They set up costs in high-tax countries and profits in low-tax countries. The argument they will make is that they do that because the U.S. has one of the highest corporate tax rates, but we also have a high standard of living. We will never compete with the tax rate of China or some other Third World country.

Most corporations make their profits from U.S. citizens, and the fact is they would not make a penny if not for the benefits they enjoy that are paid for by U.S. tax dollars. Taxes pay for the interstate highway system to move their good, the ports, the rail, the sanitation and many other things, yet, they pay little tax here.

Again, where is the outrage?

Apr 15, 2010

L. Brooks blows smoke rings in State of Oakland


Apparently, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s PR agent Bill Mullan has not seen his boss’s name in the paper lately, so the news is all atwitter that Patterson not only will not enforce the popular workplace smoking ban that takes effect in two weeks, he is going to sue the state.

Patterson has made the unfounded claim that the smoking ban is an unfunded mandate, so he will not enforce the hard won smoking ban. That is simply not the case. The enforcement protocol is complaint driven. Local health departments are responsible for inspecting food service establishments to comply with Public Act 188. Most violations would be no more than a bartender or manager asking the person who lit up to simply stop smoking. However, any complaint recorded by the health department would be logged, and a protocol would be followed. If the local department had to go out and investigate any complaint that could not be cleared up by phone, the business would be charged a fee for that investigation. If the bar or restaurant failed to pay, their liquor or food license would be at stake.

That makes it a funded mandate. Even if that were not the case, counties receive state revenue sharing. Not only that, the very function of a health department.

Call the Oakland County Health Department at (248) 858-1280 and tell them to do their job of protecting the public health.

UPDATE: Apparently, the flak Patterson received from the overwhelming number of people who support the workplace smoking ban has led him to backtrack, and he no longer plans to sue to stop the ban, the Detroit Free Press reported shortly after 3 p.m. today. However, he still has no plans to enforce the law and protect the public health.

Teabaggers protest taxes while spending tax dollars


Today is tax day, and in addition to procrastinators like me getting their federal tax returns in the mail, Republican tabaggers will be also holding fake, Astroturf “tea parties” all over the country.

April 15 has traditionally been a day to protest against taxes, but the teabagger arm of the Republican Party has used it as a campaign tool. The real irony is as they allegedly protest against taxes and government spending, they are doing it at places paid for by taxes and costing tax-payer dollars to do it. The real reason the protests are going on is because they hate President Obama and Republicans hate losing.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting that a November “tea party” featuring batshit crazy Michele Bachmann, R-Minn, Tom Price, R- Ga., Todd Akin, R-Ms, and Steve King, R- IA, cost taxpayers nearly $14,000. Bachmann and the three other lawmakers split the cost for a private company to arrange staging and a sound system, using their official congressional member allowances.

Technically, the money fell within congressional rules, so long as it was not campaign-related. However, it was clearly a partisan campaign event. That cost also does not include the cost of security, clean up and damage the teabaggers cause.

In Michigan, officials in Macomb County’s Clinton Township are upset that teabaggers lied when reserving public property for a campaign event, and they also caused damage to township property that must be repaired with tax money.

So, when you witness one of these hate fests with their racist signs and Republican elected officials as featured speakers, remember, it was the tax dollars that paid for the roads to get to the public places where they are holding the Astroturf farces.

Apr 14, 2010

HC petition language goes before board of Canvassers

The petition drive to deny 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 law will face a severe test on Friday when the Michigan State Board of Canvassers meets to approve the petition language.

The problem is the teabaggers have been collecting signatures since a round of “kickoffs” were held late last month. Collecting the signatures of 380,126 registered voters before July 5 will be tough unless they have lots of insurance lobby money to spend, but all those signatures already collected could be invalid if the board dos not approve the petitions.

The fact that the petitions have not been approved before they were circulated has led many political pundits to believe the teabggers are simply building a Republican fundraising list.

The Board of Canvassers will meet at 10 a.m.. Friday April 16 in Room 426 of the Capitol in Lansing, and the meeting is open to the public.

Apr 13, 2010

Rally will celebrate the middle class tax cut


When the Republican teabaggers rally on Thursday on the day federal income tax returns are due to throw another, fake Astroturf teabagger party to spread hate and misinformation, a group of people who understand that the role of government is to protect and empower its citizens will also be gathering in Ann Arbor to celebrate President Obama’s middle class tax cut.

The celebration will take place from 6-8 p.m. Thursday April 15 in the middle of the diag near the main entrance to the graduate library at the University of Michigan campus.

This will truly be a spontaneous grassroots gathering, unlike the teabagger rallies because the teabaggers are backed by a pair of Washington, D.C. lobbying firms financed by millions of dollars from the insurance industry and promoted by the conservative media.

Apparently, the teabaggers also plan to spread misinformation and their trademark racist signs at the same time and place.

Michigan LCV launches two more accountability blogs


The Michigan League of Conservation Voters (LCV) launched two more accountability blogs to keep track of the environmental voting records of key members of the Michigan Legislature.

The two new blogs will keep track of two of the most conservative members of the Legislature, state Representatives Paul Opsommer, R-DeWitt, and Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge.

“We’re doing what most environmental groups cannot do, which is call attention to environmental voting records,” said Executive Director Lisa Wozniak. “While both Representatives have taken strong stands on some key natural resources and public health issues, they have also cast a number of key anti-environmental votes over the last two years.”

Michigan LCV has been tracking all of Lansing’s elected officials for more than 10 years, and in each legislative session Michigan LCV publishes the Michigan Environmental Scorecard as a way to monitor performance on key issues, like the Great Lakes, children’s health and clean renewable energy. Opsommer earned a dismal 43 percent on the Michigan LCV score on the 2007-08 Michigan Environmental Scorecard.

Jones made statewide news last summer when he spread falsehoods about the just completed Michigan State Police headquarters in downtown Lansing in an effort to make it a campaign issue to attack Democrats with. He also has a dismal 43 percent score on the scorecard.

“Our message to both gentleman is simple: a mixed record such as theirs does not indicate – in any real way – a commitment to either support of a clean energy economy that will grow new jobs in Michigan or protection of our Great Lakes from a variety of threats,” said Michigan LCV Deputy Director Kerry Duggan . “In short, those whom we elect to office need to know that their votes speak louder than their words and consistency matters.”

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.

Apr 12, 2010

The smoking lamp is not lit in all authorized spaces


In a case of “I thought we were already doing this,” or “what took you so long,” the U.S.Navy is banning smoking on submarines, and the smoking lamp will be extinguished by December 31.

Vice Adm. John Donnelly, commander of Submarine Force, announced the ban last week. In the past, smoking had been confined to certain areas on the submarine. Individual submarine commanders will still be allowed to decide if crew members are permitted to smoke on deck.

“Our sailors are our most important asset to accomplishing our missions,” Donnelly said in a story in Navy Times. “Recent testing has proven that, despite our atmosphere purification technology, there are unacceptable levels of secondhand smoke in the atmosphere of a submerged submarine. The only way to eliminate risk to our non-smoking sailors is to stop smoking aboard our submarines.“

As numerous studies have shown, there is no safe amount of secondhand smoke, and there is no ventilation system yet invented that will make it safe. If the U.S. Navy cannot do it on their most expensive warships, neither can the Detroit casinos, who tried to make the case that their ventilation systems should earn them an exception to the workplace smoking ban.
Smoking was banned from inside surface ships as early as 1989 when I served on a guided missile destroyer. Hopefully, this will also help do away with the misguided petition drive by American Legion posts and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts to exempt them from the that workplace smoking ban that goes into effect on May 1 because they are private clubs.

HC petition drive is just building a Republican mailing list


There is no doubt that the petition drive to stop 32 million Americans with no health care insurance from getting it and placeing a constitutional amendment on the ballot to exempt Michigan from the historic health insurance reform law is a Republican effort to stop the President from getting a victory, and Howell School board member and head teabagger Wendy Day provided more evidence of that with an email to supporters.

Republican politicians from Mike Rogers and “Mad Thad” McCotter to Michigan Attorney General and Republican Gubernatorial Candidate ‘Manoogian’ Mike Cox and Senate candidate Joe Hune have been appearing at teabag events courting the fringe that controls the Republican Party.

Because the petition language was not approved by the Michigan State Board of Canvassers before signatures were collected, this is clearly not a serious petition drive. To place the constitutional amendment before voters in November, they must collect 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.

Political pundits like Joe DiSano and Joe Munem said because the language has not been approved, the petition drive is little more than an exercise to build a mailing list of Republican supporters for the upcoming election. Day’s email confirms that.

“The Republican Party has pledged to help us by working to collect 100,000 signatures,” Day wrote in an email. “The GOP Fix-it Centers are willing to serve as drop off locations as well as places to pick up petitions.”

Apr 9, 2010

Guess the nuclear arms quote


It’s time to play guess the quote.

Who said this:

“There is only one way safely and legitimately to reduce the cost of national security, and that is to reduce the need for it. And this we are trying to do in negotiations with the Soviet Union. We are not just discussing limits on a further increase of nuclear weapons. We seek, instead, to reduce their number. We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.”

A) A bleeding heart, peacenik liberal?
B) Conservative saint Ronald Reagan in his Second Inaugural Address on January 21, 1985?
C) President Obama on the occasion of signing then biggest nuclear arms pact in a generation?

Surprisingly, the answer is B, and not C where President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday signed the first nuclear arms pact of its kind in two decades, but the answer is conservative saint Ronald Reagan. The pact signed Thursday will shrink the limit of nuclear warheads to 1,550 per country over seven years, but the good news is that it still allows for mutual destruction several times over.

So, it’s rather surprising that the President is being criticized for reaching the historic pact by conservatives from bloggers to the rightwing think tank the Heritage Foundation. One thing I have learned over the past year is that if President Obama brought about world peace, ended world hunger, helped find a cure for cancer and put a man on Mars Republicans would still find something to criticize him for.
One Michigan blogger is bemoaning the fact that this treaty reduces the ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) fleet. The treaty limits missile forces to 800 deployed and non-deployed intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, submarine launched ballistic missile launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear weapons.

It has been 10 years since I retired from the Navy, but I’m surprised they still have SSBNs. They are a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.

The submarine’s only mission is to hide and launch its nuclear missiles when the end of the world is signaled. The submarine only surfaces long to replenish stores and change crews. It has a gold crew and blue crew that rotate every three months, but the sub is always deployed. I don’t know how much it cists to keep one deployed, but I know it’s not cheap.. How many times do we need to destroy the world?

The nine countries in the nuclear club that have nuclear weapons will, hopefully, never use them because of the mutual destruction concept, but a terrorist with a nuclear weapon will not hesitate to use it. That’s where our focus should be, and the more nuclear weapons there are, the higher the chance they will get their hands on one.

Apr 8, 2010

After intensive search ‘Manoogian’ Mike finds a lawyer to support his grandstand lawsuit


Michigan Attorney General and Republican Gubernatorial Candidate ‘Manoogian’ Mike Cox’s grandstand play to gain the votes of the extremists that control the Republican Party with his lawsuit challenging the constitutionally of the health care insurance reform bill signed into law by the President is going no where.

Multiple provisions of the Constitution permit Congress to enact this reform legislation, including the Commerce Clause, and legal experts, including conservative scholars, are therefore uniformly saying that any lawsuit to stop it will undoubtedly fail. But Cox and the 12 Republican AG’s scoured the country to find a legal scholar to back up their shaky position. After searching high and low, they found one: Randy Barnett of Georgetown University.

He has been making the rounds of media outlets all over the country trying to make the case for Cox and company. The problem is Barnett is a rightwing tool, and not one media outlet even talks about his affiliations. Jared Goldberg at A Jared Manifesto lays it out.

“He's an attorney In short, Barnett is a libertarian loon. When he was at Boston University's law school, he served as an adviser to the Federalist Society, a right wing law school organization "dedicated to reforming the current legal order" in a right wing image.
Currently, he serves as a fellow at the Cato Institute and the Goldwater Institute. In 2009, he proposed a "Bill of Federalism", a set of ten amendments to the Constitution which, in effect, would codify libertarian and conservative beliefs.”

One constant refrain we are hearing from the right on health insurance reform is that citizens have never had to purchase something as a condition of citizenship or that the government required you to buy something. If you ignore the fact that you can be ticketed by the police for not having auto insurance, there’s something called the Militia Act of 1792.

The act says:
“That every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder.”

Clearly, the government required you to purchase something with the phrase “That every citizen,” but where was the hue and cry and “tea parties?”

People pushing for unrestricted access to guns use the act to justify their position. But the citizen-militia was replaced by the Militia Act of 1903, which established the National Guard as the chief body of organized military reserves in the United States.

GOP hypocrisy trickles down to Michigan Senate Republicans


The hypocrisy of Republicans on display during the health insurance reform debate was stunning, and it now appears it is trickling down to the Michigan Senate Republicans.

Republicans were horrified that the Democrats were going to use reconciliation to get a bill passed that will reduce the budget deficit $130 billion in the first 10 years, but it was OK that former President Bush used reconciliation numerous times, including to give tax cuts to the richest 1 percent that helped create the current budget deficit. Republicans are also upset that President Obama recently bypassed the vacationing Senate and directly appointed 15 nominees that have been held up, but they forgot that Bush had already made 10 recess appointments by this point in his presidency and he made another five over the spring recess, including the disaster John Bolton.

Now, Senate Republicans are getting into the act, and they are upset that Gov. Jennifer Granholm recently made appointments to six public university boards that will take effect the day she leaves office, according to subscription only Gongwer.

"I don't really like the idea of this governor making appointments for the next governor," Gongwer reported Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop as saying. "It's not fair to the next administration, whoever that might be. I'm sure that our members are going to have that same concern about fairness."

Granholm press secretary Liz Boyd told Gongwer that the Governor has followed previous precedent in making the appointments and wants to ensure the university boards don't lack members after a new governor takes office. And what exactly is that previous precedent?

Former Republican Gov. John Engler made a number of appointments for board positions, including a number of cronies – including current and former department directors and closest advisers such as Community Health Director James Haveman, former Corrections Director Bill Martin, Treasurer Doug Roberts and legal counsel Lucille Taylor - right before he left office.

Understandably, Senate Democrats were upset, but being in the minority there was little they could do about it. According to a 2002 edition of Gongwer they called the appointments “inappropriate and said the subject was being researched.”

Engler claimed that the appointments were legal because under the constitution his term expires at noon January 1 while under statute the university board terms expire December 31, giving him a 12-hour window.

The Senate Democrats could not even speak out about it during the confirmation hearings or on the Senate floor because the Senate Republican had given up on its duty of "advise and consent" over gubernatorial appointments under Engler. In fact, the Republican-led body did not take a vote on appointees during the 12 years Engler was in office. Appointments are effective if not rejected by the Senate within 60 days.

Only after Granhom took office did the Senate resume its duty of advise and consent. The hypocrisy of Senate Republicans is stunning.

The 60 day clock is running, and it appears the Senate has until late May to decide whether to reject the appointments. Bishop told Gongwer he would refer the appointments to the Senate Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee.

Apr 7, 2010

Patterson’s mouthpiece spins the facts


Apparently, Oakland County is a little sensitive about its decision not to enforce the workplace smoking ban, and my post about that over at Blogging for Michigan (BFM) drew a response from Bill Mullan, the media and communications officer for Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.

Here is his rebuttal to my essay posted both here and at BFM.

The "Communications Guru" says it's a mystery why Oakland County will not enforce the State of Michigan's smoking ban. Trust me, the "Guru" knows. Like many who tell half-truths, the "Guru" omitted the rest of the quote that puts it all in context.
Oakland County Health Division Manager Kathy Forzley told The Detroit News that the new law amounts to an unfunded mandate. "With dwindling funding and trying economic times, implementing a new law without attached funding is very difficult," she said.

The "Guru" needs to pull out the Michigan Constitution. According to the Headlee Amendment, the smoking ban is unconstitutional because it is an unfunded mandate.

Section 29 of the Headlee Amendment says: "A new activity or service or an increase in the level of any activity or service beyond that required by existing law shall not be required by the legislature or any state agency of units of Local Government, unless a state appropriation is made and disbursed to pay the unit."

Oh, but why involve a little thing like the Michigan Constitution where public health is concerned? The "Guru" says, "Wow. Thanks for protecting the public from deadly secondhand smoke, Ms. Forzley."

In reply, I say, "Wow. Thanks for protecting the public from unconstitutional laws, Guru."

I know the state Constitution is a pesky little thing. I mean, if you're going to ignore a little item like a constitutional amendment that controls public funding - perhaps the government's most powerful tool - then I suppose you can toss aside such matters as freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the right against self-incrimination.

From a public health point of view, Oakland County Health Division agrees a smoking ban in public buildings is better. In fact, Oakland County will implement and comply with the law on our government campus in Pontiac, and any other facilities we operate.

Indeed, our county government enacted smoking restrictions in its own buildings years before the State of Michigan passed its ban into law, first in 1997, then expanded in 2006.

But if the State of Michigan wants Oakland County to enforce its ban, we're merely saying, "Put your money where your mouth is."

Here are Oakland County's numbers: We have 26 food service sanitarians that are responsible for inspecting more than 4,600 restaurants in the county. In 2008/2009, they conducted more than 17,000 inspections - that's 654 inspections per sanitarian.

When Ohio passed its smoking ban, there were 18,000 complaints against restaurants not enforcing the law its first year. Imagine if Oakland County absorbed merely 10% of that complaint load, we would have to budget for three additional inspectors just to keep up.

Taking a page out of the "Guru's" book, if you want the State of Michigan to do its job, call the Governor's office at (517) 335-6397 and tell them to uphold the Constitution to which she swore an oath when she took office.

Unlike the "Guru," I will not hide behind an anonymous blogging name. I am Bill Mullan, media and communications officer for Oakland County.


Great job, Bill, standing up for the taxpayers of Oakland County, or should I say the State of Oakland.

However the mystery remains why Oakland County would not enforce a popular state law that protects the public health that has not even gone into effect. I assume the State of Oakland County does restaurant inspections, so there is no reason it can't be handled then. Please tell me how that costs you any extra money.

The Michigan Department of Community Health and the Michigan Department of Agriculture have been meeting frequently since the law was passed in December to work out implementation and enforcement issues, and they have come up with a solid enforcement protocol.

Local health departments are responsible for inspecting food service establishments to comply with Public Act 188. Most violations would be no more than a bartender or manager asking the person who lit up to simply stop smoking. However, any complaint recorded by the health department would be logged, and a protocol would be followed. If the local department had to go out and investigate any complaint that could not be cleared up by phone, the business would be charged a fee for that investigation. If the bar or restaurant failed to pay, their liquor or food license would be at stake.

I fail to see the unfunded mandate here.

As for Mr. Mullan’s use of the Michigan Constitution to try and make his point, if you go to Article IV Section 51 of the Michigan Constitution it's pretty clear what the county’s mission should be: "The public health and general welfare of the people of the state are herby declared to matters of primary public concern.” I assume that applies to the State of Oakland County.

I don’t have the power to protect “the public from unconstitutional laws” even if that were the case, but Oakland County has the power and obligation to protect the public health from deadly secondhand smoke. They are shirking that responsibility.

It's great the State of Oakland County complies with the smoking ban in public buildings, so why will it not enforce the law in bars and restaurants?

As for my screen name, if he would have followed any of the links in the post on BFM - other than the one for the Detroit News article, it would have taken you back to my blog here where my name is at the top along with my picture. For the record, it's Kevin Shopshire. For a former research assistant at the Detroit News, that should have been pretty easy to smoke out.