Monday, December 31, 2007

Wrapping Up a Great Year for LivingBlue!

The year 2007 was a great time to be a Democrat in Livingston County. If you've followed what has been happening here, you already know that we began the year by hosting U.S. Sen. Carl Levin at a January fund-raiser. Then we heard from State Sen. Hansen Clark of Detroit in May. Lt. Gov. John Cherry joined us for a picnic in September, and state party Chair Mark Brewer joined us in anticipating 2008 in October.

We marched in two parades, socialized at the Howell Opera House, held three movie nights, and heard a presentation on the vitally important issue of stem cell research. We sent our own cook book to the publisher and launched a blast email for keeping members informed. And on top of all that, we brought new vigor to our blog, Living Blue.

There's no doubting that last point.

Statistics from Google, which we began collecting only in October, show we had 1,228 visitors from 17 countries. Those countries include Canada, Turkey, France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, India, Fiji, Mexico, Lithuania, Slovenia, Australia, South Africa, and Costa Rica. Within the U.S., our readers have come from 36 states and the District of Columbia, including Florida, Iowa, New York, Arizona, Minnesota, Illinois, Nevada, Maryland, California, and on and on.

Within Michigan, our readership extends beyond Livingston County to 84 communities, taking in Detroit, Lansing, East Lansing, West Bloomfield, Southfield, Livonia, Dearborn, Ishpeming, and many others.

Many of our readers have come to us from our friends at Michigan Liberal.

So thanks, readers, for helping put LivingBlue on the map!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Livingston Democrat to Aid Clinton Campaign

A Livingston County Democrat has been chosen to mobilize Minnesota voters for Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Democratic nomination for president.

Debby Buckland, an active member and leader of the Livingston County Democratic Party, will be state field director for the state of Minnesota. Minnesota holds its primary on February 5, along with 21 other states.

Debby is a campaign veteran. In 2004 she worked for the Michigan Democratic Party's Coordinated Campaign helping to carry the state for John Kerry. She also has been a valuable member of the local party. She serves on the party's Finance and Strategy Committees, having organized the fall event at the Opera House in Howell as well as participating in the planning and execution of several other events throughout the year.

Hurry back, Debby. Livingston County needs you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Don't Be Fooled by 'Right to Work for Less ' Petition

By this point in life, you've learned not to judge a book by its cover; that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

All those cliches fit the so-called Right to Work ballot initiative that Republicans are expected to begin circulating at polling places on the day of Michigan's presidential primary, Tuesday, January 15, 2008.

The ballot initiative really should be called the "Right to Work for Less" proposal. It does not guarantee anyone a job, despite its alluring title. Instead, it threatens the standard of living of Michigan workers by undercutting unions, depriving them of the support of workers by requiring them to represent everybody in the bargaining unit regardless of whether they pay dues.

Once you get behind the title, though, the ballot proposal doesn't sound quite so good. According to Michigan Liberal:

"Workers in Right to Work states earn on average $6,590 less than workers in free-bargaining states. That’s the equivalent to a 17% pay cut! On average, Right to Work states have a 16% higher poverty rate and job fatality rates are also 54% higher. The average employee in a free bargaining state is 24.1% more likely to have health insurance than a worker in a Right-to-Work state. These statistics are staggering and we cannot afford to be fooled by a false slogan that is being forced on us by outside special interests. The University of Michigan Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations calls Right to Work 'a veiled assault on wage-earners.'"

Does that sound good for Michigan?

The Michigan Democratic Party plans to have volunteers at every polling site warning voters against signing the petition.

People who would like to volunteer to work at a polling site are asked to email Luke Canfora (lcanfora@miaflcio.org) at the Michigan State AFL-CIO. Volunteers will be assigned to a polling site and given training and literature.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Last Day to Register to Vote in January 15 Primary

If you are not registered to vote and want to cast a ballot in the January 15 presidential primary, today (Monday, December 17, 2007) is the last day to register.

To be eligible to vote in the primary, a voter must be 18 years old by the time of the primary, be a U.S. citizen, and be a resident of Michigan and of the township in which he or she wishes to register.

The Secretary of State's Office has the details here.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Holiday Party Postponed

Livingston County Democrats have cancelled the holiday party scheduled for today (Sunday, December 16, 2007) due to the heavy snow and windy conditions.

The event will be rescheduled.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Blabbing on Her Blog

Wendy Day doesn't get it.

The Howell school board member goes to a meeting with a group of high school students, writes about it on her blog, and then is surprised when students complained that she had violated their confidentiality.

No one told us the meetings were confidential, Day whined.

Most people with a lick of sense would know that teens would feel betrayed by such an act. Most people could figure it out on their own, especially when the teens are criticizing their fellow students for a lack of school spirit. It's not like figuring out who goes to the "Hot Topics" events would be difficult for any student who is half-interested in finding out.

I get the impression that Day and others of her ilk consider themselves superior parents, better than the rest of us who don't parade our phony Christianity around in public. After all, on her blog Day lists her occupation as "Mom."

So wouldn't you think such a great "Mom" would know that teens value their privacy? Wouldn't you think that she wouldn't need to be told that the teens to whom she is listening don't want to have what they are telling her repeated, let alone published on the Internets for everybody to read, for like forever?

Day had better stick to decorating Christmas cookies.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Twelve Days of Christmas, Rogers Style

On the first day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
A gerrymandered di-i-strict

On the second day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
Two photo ops

On the third day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
Three big checks

On the fourth day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
Four K Street pals

On the fifth day of Christmas, special interests got me off
Mark Foley’s Christmas card list

On the sixth day of Christmas, special interests took me out on
Swell Potomac cruises

On the seventh day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
Scary Pakistani pals

On the eighth day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
“No” votes on S-CHIP

On the ninth day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
Money for my CHOMP bash

On the tenth day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
Money for MIKE R PAC

On the eleventh day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
Californians to blame

On the twelfth day of Christmas, special interests gave to me
Lots of trips to Iraq

cross-posted at Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

Jingle Bells a la Mike Rogers

Dashing through DC
With a gang of lobbyists
Love that K Street cash
Forget constituents

How can I get one more
Gerrymandered term?
What fun it is to wheel and deal
And watch the voters squirm.

Oh, incumbent, incumbent
It’s really quite a scam
Voters pay, you get to play
Off in Afghanistan

Blaming all the Dems
For our country’s ills
You say no to S-CHIP
And you laugh at CAFÉ bills

You say you’re Intel Guy,
Know lots ‘bout terrorist stuff
In Pakistan, you are the man
But you don’t come home enough

Oh, incumbent, incumbent
It must have been a bummer
The NIE says Iran’s nuke-free
No photo ops there in your Hummer

Cross-posted at Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

Friday, December 7, 2007

Opposing Views Surfacing at Press and Argus

Looks like Buddy Moorehouse didn't get the last word at the Livingston Press and Argus on the appropriateness of using Native Americans for sports masacots.

Dan Meisler is wishing one and all a "PC holiday" in a column in editions for Friday (December 7, 2007) in which he says Native American mascots are a "remnant of an outmoded way of thinking."

Check out the full column here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Party, Party, Party!

Livingston County Democrats are bringing a successful year of programming to a close and to celebrate, they will gather Sunday, Dec. 16, for their annual holiday party.

The event will run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., with dinner served at 5 p.m. The party will provide ham, wine, coffee, tea, and other beverages, as well as table service. Please bring a dish to share as well as donations (in the form of cash, check, or canned goods) for Gleaners' Food Bank.

The party will be at Livingston County Democratic headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600 of Fonda Office Park, Brighton, just east of U.S. 23. For more information, please call party headquarters at (810) 229-4212.

See you there!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Amway = Security?

Dick (Mr. $26.22 per Vote)DeVos will be the keynote speaker at the Second annual Michigan Homeland Security Venture and Angel Capital Symposium, which takes place tomorrow at Cleary University.

The Press & Argus article noted that
While not an expert in homeland security, DeVos is a Grand Rapids-area businessman, president of Windquest Group and the son of one of the founders of Amway Corp.

DeVos' talk is expected to focus on the value of investment in protecting the homeland, and about Michigan's growing role in the field.

[For a much funnier take on what promises to be theater of the absurd, I tip my hat to Eric B. at Michigan Liberal for his post "How to Wage War... and Make Money!"]

Now, you probably know that Mike Rogers is never far away when there's a big, steaming serving of pork 'n' cash available. So let's count the connections:

1.) Rogers is a major supporter of Cleary University ("Semper Coulter"). For FY08, he asked for the following goodies for Cleary:

* $1,040,000 for road construction at Cleary University

* $461,000 to Cleary University for equipment upgrades & technology instruction for high school students through Cleary's partnerships with local public and charter schools

* $225,000 to construct a community recreation center on the Cleary campus

Pretty sweet for a satellite campus of a university with less than 800 students!

Both Rogers and Cleary University are founding partners of the Livingston Economic Club , which ponied up $30,000 for Ann Coulter to speak last October.

2.) Moving right along, we come to the Michigan Homeland Security Consortium. For those of you unfamiliar with the MiHSC, it's a kind of Chamber of Commerce for security companies. Mike Rogers was the keynote speaker at its kickoff meeting on September 11, 2006. The MiHSC mission:
To drive the development and growth of the Homeland Security Industry within the State of Michigan, placing it at the forefront of the State’s economic revitalization.

Fair enough. We need something to revitalize our state's economy. And yet... I always get a little queasy when folks start to talk about national security as a growth industry. Mike Rogers, for one, is an old hand at linking security and profit. In 2004, the City Pulse carried this story:

“I believe there’s a great opportunity for Michigan companies in Iraq,” Rogers told a dozen businessmen at a Michigan Manufacturers Association meeting in Lansing on Monday, May 17. “This economy has the potential to give out $600 billion a year. The Iraqis are fast becoming a consumer population. In my entire life, I’ve never seen so many satellite dishes on roofs.”

Rogers, a former FBI officer and strong supporter of the Iraq invasion, has traveled to Iraq three times since the country’s government was overthrown in April 2003. During a one-hour briefing on “Doing Business in Iraq” with Bush administration senior official William H. Lash as guest speaker, Rogers painted a glowing picture of the prospects for economic gain in this combat-scarred country. [skip]

But during a discussion prior to the business briefing, Lash and Rogers downplayed reports about rising security concerns for foreigners. “It’s just like walking in a rough neighborhood anywhere in America,” Rogers said. (5/19/04)


3.) DeVos' brother-in-law Erik Prince is the CEO of Blackwater USA, which is intimately familiar with the amazing profit opportunities offered by the security industry (see this helpful House Oversight graph of Blackwater contracts during the Bush administration).

4.) DeVos has contributed to indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's campaigns AND his legal defense fund. He also spent quite a bit of time hanging out with uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who now resides in a minimum-security federal prison after being convicted of fraud, tax evasion & conspiracy to bribe public officials. (H/T to Liberal Lucy for an earlier post that showed us the money.)

Interestingly, Mike Rogers has also spent some quality time with Messrs. DeLay and Abramoff. During the tenure of former Majority Leader DeLay, Rogers served as a hand-picked deputy whip in the Republican leadership & raised record-breaking amounts of moola as chair of the RNCC finance committee. In 2006, Rogers’ PAC, the MIKE-R Fund, made $10,000 worth of donations to DeLay's PAC. Rogers is also one of six Congressmen who accepted money from Abramoff’s PAC and refused to return it.

Isn't it nice that Dick & Mike have so many things in common?
    (cross-posted@ Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Blackwater Founder's Brother-in-Law Speaking on Homeland Security

The brother-in-law of the founder of Blackwater USA, the notorious mercenary firm whose guards are the subject of a grand jury investigation for allegedly shooting and killing civilians in Iraq, will be speaking in Livingston County Tuesday on issues regarding business opportunities in the area of homeland security, also known as patriotism for profit.

His name: former GOP gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos.

DeVos' appearance was announced in editions for Monday (December 3, 2007) of the Livingston Press and Argus. The article describes DeVos this way:

"While not an expert in homeland security, DeVos is a Grand Rapids-area businessman, president of Windquest Group and the son of one of the founders of Amway Corp."

The fact that DeVos' wife, Betsy, is the sister of Erik D. Prince, founder of Blackwater USA, was not mentioned, but it seems mighty relevant.

The head of the Michigan Homeland Security Consortium claimed that DeVos was invited because of his "business acumen." I'll bet dollars to donuts that he was invited in part because he can pass people's business cards on to his brother-in-law.

Musings on January Primary

People around the blogosphere are weighing in on what the January primary means, both for Michigan and for the national picture. Take a look at:

Juan Cole, ever astute.

Peter Luke, of Booth Newspapers.

Luke is suggesting that Michigan Democrats might skip their party's primary and vote in the Republican one, perhaps supporting Ron Paul, and thus mucking up the works as they did in 2000 with John McCain and George Bush.

I'm not suggesting that. I'm just saying that's what Luke is saying.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Racism by Any Other Name ...

Everytime I think I should spend a few bucks and subscribe to the Livingston Press & Argus, instead of reading it on line, I read something by Buddy Moorehouse, and the urge vanishes.

On Sunday (Dec. 2, 2007), it was Moorehouse's lament on the passing of the Ypsilanti High School's racist mascot, the Braves.

Moorehouse described complaints against the mascot as the work of a "just a handful of complainers making a lot of noise" and accused the district of giving in to the "silly tide of political correctness." In other words, he first marginalized the critics and then ridiculed them. So much easier than having to deal with the intellectual content of their arguments against use of Native Americans as sports mascots.

If Moorehouse thinks Native Americans are fit subjects for mascots, why aren't other racial groups suitable? Can he explain why only one of the following figures is acceptable as a sports mascot in 21st Century America?



The key part of Moorehouse's analysis of the mascot controversy lies in this paragraph:

"And, yes, I've heard all the arguments that these nicknames are offensive to American Indians. I can certainly see that a nickname like 'Redskins' is a problem, but I don't see 'Brave' as an offensive word. And what's wrong with honoring an Indian tribe by proudly wearing the tribe's name on your uniforms?"

Moorehouse's admission that "Redskins" is "a problem" is a pathetic attempt to minimize the significance of the term. It's not "a problem" -- it's vile racism. Why won't he call it that?

What's wrong with honoring an Indian tribe? Which tribe, exactly, is being honored by Ypsilanti? There is no tribe named "Braves." It is a generic term that treats all Native Americans the same, regardless of tribe, that lumps them all into one category despite vast differences among them. It essentializes them, creating the impression that because they all have similar skin tones, they are all alike. That's racism, pure and simple.

The Central Michigan Chippewa nickname, on the other hand, does honor a specific tribe. And the Saginaw Chippewa community has given its approval to use of their name. The same is true with the Florida State Seminole nickname, whose mascot is an actual historical figure, Chief Osceola, who led the Seminole resistance against the U.S. Army.

Despite Moorehouse's claim that most Sioux in North Dakota support the University of North Dakota's "Fighting Sioux" name, the tribal council of the Standing Rock Sioux has gone on record opposing the name. And he appears to have distorted the contents of the poll. Although a majority of Native Americans said they did not find the name "offensive," a majority of them still said the university should drop the name if the tribes do not want it used.

But besides the way it lumps all Native Americans together, there are other problems with the name "Braves" as it applies to Native Americans. It paints Native Americans as violent, warlike people who are to be feared. War was only one aspect of Native American life and their relationships with Euro-Americans, European governments, and the U.S. government. Remembering Native Americans as warlike helps white Americans justify the massacres that occurred as the American government pursued its expansionist policies of the 18th and 19th centuries. The names "Braves" carries a lot of ideological baggage.

Perpetuating the warlike image of Native Americans also freezes Native Americans in the past. It makes contemporary Native Americans invisible. If the only images of Native Americans that people see are those of fighting warriors of the past, they will overlook Native Americans who live among us as teachers, computer programs, carpenters, doctors, and nurses. And they'll overlook any Native American students who happen to attend Ypsilanti schools and don't fit the stereotype of "Braves."

Moorehouse says the "Braves" name is an honor, but if the people supposedly being honored don't see it that way, why persist? In the past, schools and universities persisted because they had the power to do so. And that's really what it boils down to -- power. Whites have it, others don't.

If Moorehouse wants Ypsilanti to honor a tribe, why not honor one of the biggest, most powerful tribes of all? Why not name Ypsilanti's athletic teams after white people -- "The Fighting Whities."

Actually, some students at the University of Northern Colorado did name their intramural team the "Fighting Whites" in response to a nearby school's use of "Fighting Reds," and has been selling t-shirts and bumper stickers with the name to raise money for scholarships.



I'll bet Moorehouse would feel honored to hear the opposing team's fans shout, "Beat the Whities" and to see images of "whities" hung in effigy on banners before the game. And to read sports page headlines about the "Fighting Whities" being "gunned down" by another team.

All good, clean fun.

Friday, November 30, 2007

End of the World Is Near!

If you listen to the media mouthpieces for Michigan business, life as we know it is about to come to an end. The sky if falling. The apocalypse is nigh. Martians are about to invade, Oh, the humanity!

The source of all this hand-wringing?

Starting Saturday (December 1, 2007), barring a major development, certain Michigan businesses will have to start charging a service tax.

And it is just so complicated they just don't think they can figure out how to do it.

The Detroit Free Press' story on the service tax by Dawson Bell included this claim:

"The owners of landscaping, warehousing and consulting firms said the new tax is a nightmare of complexity and confusion that would inflict huge compliance costs in addition to the tax itself. Sarah Hubbard of the Detroit Regional Chamber said Michigan business would spend nearly a billion dollars interpreting and adapting to the new tax, and many still won't know whether they are following the law."

Oh, come on. A billion dollars because you have to collect the tax on manicures but not hair cuts? This is complicated?

The Free Press also ran a list of services that are taxed. Seems pretty straight-forward to me -- hot air balloon rides, landscaping services, limo rides, that kind of stuff. Don't businesses know whether they're offering hot air balloon rides? Are there business owners out there who can't remember whether they expanded their nail salon into a limo service recently?

My reaction to the service tax has always been -- it's about time. I've lived in this state nearly 19 years and one of the strangest things about moving here was the lack of a service tax to go along with the sales tax.

I grew up with a service tax in Iowa. I guess the business people in Iowa must be a lot smarter than the people in Michigan because they seem to be able to figure out which services are covered by the tax and which are not. Pet grooming wasn't covered, but people grooming was. Legal services weren't covered, but lawn services were. They managed to figure all that out way back in the 1960s without the aid of electronic calculators or programmable cash registers.

The political lore about the passage of the service tax there is that Gov. Harold Hughes sat down with the Yellow Pages and picked out the services that he thought should be taxed. There wasn't a category for pet grooming in those days, so it didn't get covered until later.

What I like about the service tax is that it tends to fall on higher income people more so than the sales tax. Most poor people don't hire landscape services or get pedicures or take hot air balloon rides. And well-off people are not going to start installing their own landscaping to save 6 percent, believe me.

And the competitive argument I just don't get. If all businesses in the same category have to collect the tax, aren't they all on the same footing?

Change is always difficult, and independent business owners don't like to be told what to do. But the reaction and consternation seem to be all out of proportion to the inconvenience.

It's possible, of course, that Michigan business people really aren't smart enough to figure out how to collect 6 percent on the services they provide.

If that's the case, then I understand why Iowa leads off the presidential nominating process and not Michigan.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Native Americans to the Rescue on Stem Cells?

Could the presence of Native Americans in Michigan help those who support embryonic stem cell research do an end-run around Michigan's restrictive laws on the topic?

The possibility was raised at a presentation Tuesday night (November 27, 2007) by Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures held at Livingston County Democratic Headquarters. The Livingston Press and Argus provided a concise account of the event in editions for Wednesday (November 28, 2007).

Marcia Baum, executive secretary of the stem cell group, and former Congressman Joe Schwarz, a former Republican and now an independent, explained the science and politics surrounding embryonic stem cell research to a group of 33 people at the event.

Currently, federal funds cannot be used for embryonic stem cell research, but Schwarz expects the next president will sign legislation allowing that to occur. That would release about half of the National Institutes of Health's $27 billion budget for such research. California is not waiting for federal funds and has approved a $3 billion bond issue to provide research funds.

Because of a 1978 law, Michigan researchers would not be able to take advantage of the federal funds. Legislation to repeal that measure has not made it out of a House committee. In lieu of action by lawmakers, a ballot issue, with bipartisan support, is being considered for the fall of 2008.

But if groups such as Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference succeed in defeating the ballot issue, there might be an alternative.

A member of the audience Tuesday night brought up the possibility of doing embryonic stem cell research on Indian land in Michigan. Under well-established legal doctrine, Indian reservations are sovereign nations not subject to the laws of the state. An Indian community that is interested in economic development other than casinos could invite researchers to use their lands for a research lab where they could operate free of state laws, using federal funds once they become available.

"That has been brought to my attention and I think it's fascinating," Baum said.

So right-to-life fanatics have a choice -- they can oppose the ballot issue and let research move to Indian lands, where no laws will govern it unless the tribe adopts its own statute, or they can support a state law allowing embryonic stem cell research with appropriate safeguards.

Either way, the research will go forward.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Medical Research? Medical Waste?

The recent announcement of the reprogramming of human skin cells to mimic embryonic stem cells has caused much confusion. As usual, the publicity arm of the Republican Party a.k.a. Fox News is talking it up to follow the right wing position that now research is no longer needed on embryonic stem cells. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Why would a promising breakthrough in curing disease be abandoned because a new breakthrough, untested and with serious problems, has come along? Wouldn’t it make sense to pursue both research avenues?

Let’s look at examples of some diseases. Stem cell research holds promise for a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. Scientists are also researching other methods to grant relief from Alzheimer’s. We have drugs today we didn’t have ten years ago and a better understanding of Alzheimer’s. Should other research into Alzheimer’s be stopped because of the promise of a stem cell cure? I don’t think so. Every avenue of research should be open to every scientist because we don’t know where the cures lie without taking advantage of every method of research.

We’ve made great strides in cancer research and many lives have been saved because of that research. Suppose, however, that once chemotherapy was proven to kill cancerous cells, we cut off research into other treatments and causes of cancer. So we give up looking for genetic cures, radiation cures, investigating the role of pollution in air and water because we now have one treatment that seems to work. Pretty foolish, huh?

This is what the religious fundamentalists are proposing. These fundamentalists and the Republican Party know that 70% of Americans support embryonic stem cell research. This is a serious election issue for them because it could cost them the election. They mistakenly connect embryonic stem cells research with abortion. There is no relationship with abortion, which is the termination of pregnancy, since the embryos were never implanted in a womb.

Then there is the old “slippery slope” argument used by Sen. Valde Garcia, R-Marion Township. Using embryonic stem cells will lead to all kinds of abuses, he claims. I wonder why the "slippery slope" argument is never applied to war or capital punishment, which HAVE taken us to terrible abuses of human life.

Garcia does not understand how in vitro fertilization creates embryos. The embryos are created with sperm and ova from one set of parents OUTSIDE the body. More embryos may be created than a couple will use. Today, in Michigan, these become medical waste. If Garcia is really concerned about the destruction of embryos, then he should be against the in vitro fertilization clinics that create the embryos. No danger of him doing that – taking such a position would definitely raise a huge outcry.

There are serious drawbacks to skin cell stem cells. Retroviruses are used to open the cell and retroviruses can cause cancer. There are other serious hurdles for the skin cells that may take years to overcome. How well the skin cells can mimic embryonic stem cells is not yet known.

It’s important for us to understand this new science well enough to make choices whether we will support it and whether we will vote for legislators who will support it. Future cures and the future of Michigan’s high tech jobs will depend on us, the voters.

Come to the Stem Cell Research presentation on Tuesday, Nov 27, at Democratic headquarters to get the information from experts you will need to make up your mind about stem cell research. This will be your opportunity to ask important questions.

Contact information: 810-229-4212. E-mail: livcodems@sbcuc.net

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Livingston Dems' Stem Cell Panel Set for Tuesday, Nov. 27

Do you know someone who suffers from diabetes or Parkinson's disease, or has had a spinal cord injury? Are you wondering whether you'll enjoy your golden years or worried that you'll develop Alzheimer's?

Then the Livingston County Democrats have an event for you -- a panel discussion on the potential of stem cell research. Former Congressman Joe Schwarz, a Battle Creek physician, will headline the panel, co-sponsored by Livingston Democrats and Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures.

The event, which is open to the public, will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at Livingston Democrats’ headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600 of Fonda Place, Brighton.

“Stem cell research is a topic that is of vital concern to many Michigan residents,” said Donna Anderson, vice chair of the Livingston County Democrats and the organizer of the event.

“This panel is intended for anyone who has a debilitating disease, such as Parkinson’s, diabetes, or a spinal cord injury, and wonders how long they must suffer before science finds a cure. It is intended for anyone who has a friend or relative who has such a disease and hates to see them suffer. It is intended for anyone who fears they may develop a disease like Alzheimer’s and hopes science will find a way to prevent it. And finally, it is intended for people who want to see Michigan’s economy flourish and want to know if stem cell research is a way to bring research jobs to the state.”

Anderson said the presence on the panel of Schwarz, a former Republican who represented Michigan’s 7th Congressional District from 2005-2007, shows that support for stem cell research is bipartisan. Schwarz left the Republican Party and became an independent after he was defeated by conservative Republican Tim Walberg in the 2006 Republican primary.

“These diseases – Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, Huntington’s, and others – do not respect party lines. They can afflict any one of us. And that’s why polls have shown widespread support for research into stem cells,” Anderson said.

A poll by MIRS/RossmanGroup/Denno-Noor taken in April found that 65 percent of Michigan residents would support a ballot proposal to allow stem cell research. Researchers at the University of Michigan have been among the leaders in stem cell research, but some have left the state because of a 1978 state law preventing research using embryonic stem cells. The law makes Michigan one of five states with the most restrictive laws in the country.

Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures is a non-profitable charitable organization dedicated to educating the public about the stem cell research process and its potential for developing treatments and even cures for diseases.

The event will include coffee, tea, and dessert. Donations to the party will be greatly appreciated. People wishing more information may call (810) 229-4212.

NOTE: The event is on Tuesday, Nov. 27.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Just the Facts, Please

This has bugged me for awhile so it's time to say it and get it over with.

When County Commission Chair William Rogers announced his candidacy for the 66th House district, the Livingston Press & Argus all but annointed him the winner of the general election, still nearly a year away.

In its article in editions for Nov. 11. the newspaper noted, "The district is heavily Republican, so the winner of the GOP primary, scheduled for August, typically has the inside track for victory in the general election."

Why declare the race over before it's begun? Why not just give the facts? Why not just say that the incumbent, Republican Chris Ward, won re-election in 2004 with 71.1 percent of the vote and in 2006 with 65.7 percent of the vote? Then the reader can make a judgment for himself or herself about what those numbers mean.

But that would mean calling attention to a decline in the Republican share of the vote.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Livingston County Commission: Little Engine that Won't

When it comes to meeting the needs of its people, two headlines pretty much sum up the reality disconnect of the Livingston County Board of Commissioners: "Oil Prices Rise Above $94 a Barrel" and "County Wants Longer Look at Train Plan."

Yes, as oil prices skyrocket, and gas prices follow suit in our bedroom community, the Board of Commissioners continues to stall on bringing mass transit to our doorsteps. So more and more of the hard-earned dollars of Livingston County residents are going into the pockets of foreign countries instead of into the cash registers of local stores and restaurants.

For months, the commissioners have come up with one delaying tactic after another, without actually saying no to the plan for a commuter train between Livingston County and Ann Arbor. Apparently, they hope the idea of WALLY -- the Livingston and Washtenaw train -- will just go away.

The Livingston Press and Argus story in editions for Wednesday (Nov. 14, 2007) reported that the Livingston County Board of Commissioners won't contribute any money any time soon and won't support a tax increase for the service. And it wants to see a 10-year business plan before it joins the governing authority.

Commissioners like Bill Rogers and Jack LaBelle never seem to come right out and say they oppose subsidizing WALLY, but they sure seem to give that impression.
Perhaps they believe that subsidizing transportation with tax dollars violates their conservative principles. If that were true, I would expect to see a lot more toll roads in this county.

Perhaps they don't want to make people mad -- like the taxpayer who came to Tuesday's meeting and suported the proposal. And like the city of Howell and the Howell Downtown Development Authority, which both want the county to contribute to WALLY.

So instead of actually taking a position, the commissioners just delay, delay, delay in the guise of wanting more information.

Apparently, they think the idea of a train is too risky. I don't know how else to interpret LaBelle's question: "How is this thing going to work?"

Well Jack, the first car is called an engine and all the other cars are hooked to it, and the engine says, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can" and sure enough pretty soon the engine's wheels start to turn and then slowly the whole train starts to move.

Somebody needs to be the engine in this deal. Somebody needs to show some foresight and provide for the needs of our county. Somebody needs to show some leadership.

P.S. In the interests of full disclosure, I work part-time in Ann Arbor and would like to use this train to get to work. The University of Michigan has said it would subsidize train use for its employees, although I do not know if that benefit would apply to a part-time employee like me.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

True American Values

Bob Cesca has a wonderful essay in today's Huffington Post titled, "American Patriotism Crushed by Republican SUVs."

Cesca does a great job of summarizing the impacts of war, wastefulness and partisanship on the American spirit.
The actual retail price of the Bush Wars: $1.6 trillion, according to a congressional report released yesterday. And this generation of (civilian) Americans has never been asked to sacrifice a single damn thing in order to help ameliorate the cost of these historically expensive war efforts.
[skip]
Somehow, according to the most-excellent marketing strategies of Roger Ailes and Karl Rove, it's more patriotic to go around saying you're patriotic than it actually is to be patriotic. The most trenchant right-wing tools among us are proud and grateful to receive the president's unpatriotic and irresponsible rich-man welfare checks during a time of war. In fact, President Bush yesterday listed his tax cuts for the super-rich as one of his successes, while later in the day he accused the Democrats of spending like teenagers with a new credit card.
[skip]
That's rich. The president's ideologically-driven policies have bankrupted America, both financially and morally, and you and I are insane for being vocal about it?

Definitely worth a read.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Moore: Call It 'Christianized' Medicine

Health care for all Americans is not a matter of socialism, but of Christian beliefs, filmmaker Michael Moore told a standing room only crowd of Democrats in Brighton Wednesday night.

Moore, speaking by conference call, said he was taught by nuns in school while growing up in Flint that taking care of other people who are sick or poor or in need is the Christian thing to do.

"Instead of socialized medicine, we should call it Christianized medicine," said Moore, adding that the Jewish and Muslim religions have similar beliefs.

Moore spoke as part of a Democracy for America event that joined people in 288 houseparties in 46 states and the District of Columbia. People at the events watched Moore's movie Sicko and then joined in the conference call.

The event brought more than 60 people to the Livingston County Democrats' headquarters.

Sicko, which has drawn excellent reviews, explores the tragic effects of America's for-profit health insurance system, which rewards doctors for denying care to sick people, and contrasts it with health care received by people in other nations. Too often, Moore found, Americans are paying more and getting less care.

Moore boils down the issue of health care in America to the essential question -- what kind of nation are we?

In the conference call after the movie was shown, Moore said Americans' fear of having government pay for health care instead of for-profit insurance companies is tied up with Americans' fear of their own government. Even though the United States claims that it is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, Moore said, people are still taught to be afraid of government. In effect, he said, we are afraid of ourselves.

Moore also said that American doctors are becoming a demoralized group, no longer making as much money as their Canadian counterparts because of the extra staff they need to argue with insurance companies over payment for patients' care.

Moore admitted that Americans can get elective care, such as knee surgeries, after a shorter wait than Canadians. But he pointed out that's because Canada believes in treating everybody, while the American system leaves out 50 million people. And he said he would rather live in a country that lets everybody in line, and wait an extra month for elective surgery, than jump to the head of the line at the expense of others.

The event was the third movie night sponsored by Livingston Democrats this year. Previous films screened were Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and Robert Greenwald's Iraq for Sale.

The next film in the series will be another Iraq war documentary called No End in Sight.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ending Term Limits a Good Idea, but Lawmakers Really Need a Budget Deadline

The way Michigan's budget crisis was handled -- without state government having to shut down for more than a few hours due to last-minute legislative action -- is being blamed on term limits and none other than the Michigan Chamber of Commerce is behind the proposal to repeal them.

I'm skeptical.

Having well-heeled lobbyists for business propose something makes me suspicious right off the bat. When term limits were passed in 1992, some of the speculation was that inexperienced lawmakers would rely on lobbyists for advice and that lobbyists would essentially run the House and Senate, even more than they were doing already. Apparently, that hasn't happened, at least not to the extent the Chamber anticipated.

I didn't like term limits when they were passed in 1992, and I still don't like them. I'd like to see them gone entirely so that voters can decide for themselves who should go and who should stay in office.

Term limits make it difficult for the average lawmaker to learn the complicated budgeting process and bring that experience to bear on balancing the budget in financially challenging times. Lawmakers who are only around for a few years also do not have time to develop trust among themselves that can make it easier to reach solutions. And more importantly, they don't have to worry about the problems that their short-term solutions create, because they will be gone and won't have to deal with the fall-out. It will be someone else's problem.

But even after saying all that, I'm not sure that term limits alone are to blame for whatever problems people perceive in Michigan's legislative process. And the idea of docking lawmakers' pay if they don't show up for work seems even less likely to have a major impact. Other structural problems in Michigan's government play a bigger role, in my opinion, and should be part of any effort to change term limits if the proposal is to have significant impact.

One of the biggest problems is the open-ended nature of Michigan's budget process, due to our full-time Legislature. Although the legislative session begins early in the year and the governor presents an annual State of the State message in January, followed by a detailed budget proposal, lawmakers feel no pressure to act for months at a time. Governors have little power to force another branch of government to act.

This doesn't mean necessarily that lawmakers are lazy, although it can mean that. Witness the arrogance of Senate Republicans who went on vacation this summer even as state universities were begging for action on the budget.

Partly, it's human nature to put off distasteful jobs until later. When budget news is bad, there's always the hope that prospects will brighten as the year goes on. Why vote for unpopular budget cuts or tax increases early in the year that turn out to be unnecessary by year's end? You can bet lobbyists who oppose tax increases were whispering that into lawmakers' ears during the last 11 months.

Furthermore, negotiations on budget cuts take time. Who makes their final offer right off the bat when buying a car or a house? People usually dicker back and forth for a while. Imagine the amount of dickering that must go on when negotiating not just one deal, but dozens and dozens of them that go into a multi-billion-dollar budget, especially when all the deals have unpopular aspects.

Term limits, by putting inexperienced people with little trust of each other in charge of the process, makes the tendency to delay even stronger.

But to make sure the budget is finished earlier, lengthening time in office won't be enough. Any constitutional amendment that attempts to deal with the problem should include a deadline for legislative action on a balanced budget -- say July 1.

A July 1 deadline would help schools and universities plan for the year and set tuition levels. It also would ensure that a budget is in place in time to avoid a government shutdown before the Oct. 1 state fiscal year.

If fiscal conditions worsen after July 1, throwing the budget out of balance, lawmakers can always revisit the budget or the governor can take executive action.

Of course, both houses of the Legislature could enact their own rules requiring the budget to be finished earlier, but with different parties controlling each chamber that's unlikely to happen. And those rules could always be suspended by lawmakers, although that would look bad.

Another reform that should be included to avoid the problems seen this year would be to change the election of senators so that half stand for election every two years.

Under the current arrangement, no senator will be up for re-election in 2008. The entire chamber is insulated from public opinion until 2010. By then, voters will have forgotten the way the Michigan Senate impeded efforts to deal with this year's crisis. If half the senators were facing re-election next year, they might have been more anxious to get the job done for fear voters would take out their ire on them at the polls.

If public-spirited groups want to make fundamental change in Michigan's budgeting process, they need to do more than lengthen term limits or people will be disappointed with the results once again. And we certainly don't need more cynicism about public service.

Health Coverage Making You Sick? See 'Sicko' and Talk to Michael Moore

Is your health care coverage giving you headaches? Have you ever thought your health care procedures were going to be paid for by your insurance, only to have your claim come back marked "Denied"?

Michael Moore compiled thousands of such stories before making his movie "Sicko" on American health care. Reviewers have praised Moore's latest work. "Radically fierce and funny" is what the Rolling Stone reviewer called "Sicko." The New York Times' reviewer said it was ''the least controversial and most broadly appealing of Mr. Moore's movies." And also the funniest.

Now this Wednesday (November 14, 2007), you'll have a chance to see "Sicko" and to hear Michael Moore himself talk about the movie.

Livingston County Democrats are teaming up with Democracy for America to host a showing of "Sicko," along with more than 200 other groups around the country. After the showings, the groups will join in a conference call with Michael Moore.

The Livingston County event will take place at Livingston County Democrats' party headquarters, 10321 East Grand River, Brighton. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., with the movie starting at 7:15 p.m. The conference call with Moore will take place at 9:30 p.m. Coffee, tea, and desserts will be served.

Donations will be greatly appreciated.

If you'd like more information, please call party headquarters, 810-229-4212.

P.S. The Livingston Press and Argus mistakenly listed the event as planned for Tuesday, but is correcting that information in its Sunday edition. The event is Wednesday, November 14.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Recalls Slow to Materialize in Livingston

While recalls against lawmakers who voted to save our state from budget chaos are moving ahead elsewhere in the state, petitions have yet to surface in Livingston County against Republicans Rep. Chris Ward and Sen. Valde Garcia.

The Livingston Press and Argus, in an article in the edition for Tuesday (Nov. 6, 2007)quotes Michigan Taxpayers Association head Leon Drolet as saying people here are still interested in a recall but they want to find the "ideal window" of 90 days to collect the necessary signatures. And he says they want to make sure the petition language passes muster before rushing to file it.

Seems to me that the ideal 90-day window might be around the Jan. 15 Republican presidential primary, but I'm just guessing.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Caution: You Are About to Enter an Unfiltered Zone



People:
Trouble, oh we got trouble,
Right here in Hamburg Townhip!
With a capital "T"
That comes right before "U"
And that stands for Unfiltered.
We've surely got trouble!
Right here in Hamburg Township,
Right here!
Gotta figger out a way
To keep the young ones moral after school!
Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble...

My apologies to Meredith Willson, but that's what we've got folks. Trouble in Hamburg Township. We thought we were safe, but unbeknownst to us, we were "unfiltered."

All this time, the Internet, with a capital "I," has been flowing unfiltered into our library. And people have been allowed to go into the library and look at this unfiltered material. For years.

Not that it's been a real problem. Only once has a Hamburg librarian caught a patron doing something "inappropriate" at a library computer. The librarian who saw him apparently fondling himself called police, who whisked the man away.

But once was one too many times for the vigilantees on the Hamburg Board of Trustees, which decided to warn the public that the Internet is "unfiltered" at the library.

Never mind that the trustees do not control the library -- it has its own elected board and its own millage, although the township owns the building and the land on which the library sits.

Never mind that the library already has a policy in place for dealing with such situations and already has restrictions on the use of its computers.

Never mind that the unfiltered Internet that is spewing out dangerous ideas is also flowing unfiltered into thousands of homes in Hamburg Township, thanks to the cable franchise approved by the same Hamburg Board of Trustees.

The trustees, led by Trustee Pat Hohl, wasted who knows how much public money putting up this 20 square foot sign warning the public about the "unfiltered" Internet. According to the Livingston Community News, the trustees were going to say it was "unresticted," until they found out from the library board that there are 13 restrictions on Internet use.

So they went with "unfiltered," which makes it sound like a health hazard, until you get to the part about "objectionable material" possibly being visible to the general public.

So who defines what is "objectional material" -- Hohl and the rest of the trustees? And what exactly are their standards for determining that? They probably would find anything from Moveon.org or John Edwards' campaign "objectionable."

And once the trustees start finding things "objectionable" on the Internet, who says they'll stop there? What's next -- signs warning the public about "objectionable" material in the library's music collection, its newspapers, its books? I'll bet Hohl would find lots of "objectionable" material in The New York Times.

As Peg Eibler, library board vice president, put it, "To me, what they're doing is the same as book burning. It's book burning with a different media."

Having our ideas unfiltered, either by Hohl or anyone else, happens to be one of the rights guaranteed to us Americans by the Bill of Rights to our Constitution. And if you don't have a copy of the Bill of Rights, here's a link -- unfiltered -- to a copy on the Internet.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

More Democrats than They Think

Evidence that there are more Democrats in Livingston County than some people think can crop up in unusual places and at unusual times.

Like on Halloween.

I answered my door Wednesday night (Oct. 31, 2007) to the usual assortment of princess, ninjas, ghosts, and goblines and filled their opened bags and pillowcases with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and miniature Snickers.

But amidst the usual characters was a boy (I think) in a navy blue suit, white shirt, tie, a flag pin in the suit lapel, and a big rubber mask of -- Bill Clinton.

I was so glad to see him that I gave him extra Snickers.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

OOPS! Moment for Local Republicans

Diversity of opinion within the party is pretty unusual for Republicans. Perhaps that's why Livingston County Republicans had to do a quick re-write of the invitation to their Reagan Day dinner.

The invitation (received by someone I know who wants to remain anonymous) read: "Got Taxes? We know you do, and we know you’d rather not have them – not at a confiscatory rate anyway. So how do we change things? Elect Republicans. Democrats support increasing taxes – and with a few exceptions, Republicans do not. Nearly all (67) elected Democrats voted in favor of the income tax increases, while only 6 elected Republicans did, and not one Republican voted in favor of the service tax increase. The Livingston County Republican Party, and the Michigan Republican Party were not in favor of these tax increases."

"Not one Republican" voted for the service tax to prevent a shut-down of state government earlier this month? Talk about a knee-jerk response. The email was corrected the next day to say that four Republicans voted for the service tax, one of whom was Livingston's own Republican Sen. Valde Garcia.

Thanks for doing the right thing, Valde, even if your own party doesn't have the sense to appreciate it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

CHOMP-ing at the Bit

An interesting story floated into my inbox this morning. It seems that Mike “I’m too busy to talk to my constitutents” Rogers will be putting on his party togs for a big-bucks GOP fundraiser in Washington, D.C. Tonight’s CHOMP (Challengers Helping Obtain the Majority Program) bash will raise money from House Republicans and dole out the cash to GOP challengers around the country who look like they have the right stuff.

The Hill had an item about the CHOMP party, including these helpful numbers:
The event, which is set for Oct. 24 at the Capitol Hill Club, has raised between $75,000 and $100,000 per candidate in the past and is expected to raise a similar amount this time. A letter distributed to House GOPers on Tuesday asks them to contribute $2,000 from their campaign committees and $5,000 from theirleadership PACs to each of the nine candidates.

CHOMP was founded in the 2006 cycle by Rogers and Pete Sessions (TX); tonight’s event is co-chaired by Jim McCrery (LA).

Isn’t it nice that Mr. Rogers is working so hard on behalf of his fellow politicians? It’s totally understandable that he was caught up in the arrangements for tonight’s moneyfest – of course he wouldn’t have had spare time to listen to any of the 8th District voters’ concerns about the SCHIP veto. Thank heavens for the Bush talking points – they are such a time-saver for a busy party-planner! And we all know it's super-crucial to raise money, as The Politico points out.
Republicans have struggled to keep pace with House Democrats in fundraising this year after falling from power last fall. But the GOP still sees plenty of pick-up opportunities in some of those same seats they lost last year.

As evidence, the three powerhouse fundraisers included some of their former colleagues on the list of nine recipients: Jeb Bradley of New Hampshire, Melissa Hart of Pennsylvania and Jim Ryun of Kansas. The program raised more than $1.4 million during the last election cycle, and the current harvest should give some of these Republicans a financial boost heading in to 2008.

“We hope to do what we did last year,” Rogers said. “This allows us to go on offense.”

Silly me. I thought Mr. Rogers' job was to go on offense for the people of Michigan's 8th Congressional District. A quick glance at the Press & Argus front pages from this morning (County may lose out on housing aid ) and yesterday ('Katrina-like' woes loom at food bank) give a pretty clear picture of what is going on here in Livingston County. What will it take for Mike Rogers to take a break from scenery-CHOMPing on the national political stage and actually work to help us here at home?

You'd think he'd show a little appreciation... after all, us taxpayers are footing the bill for his health care...

(cross-posted at Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood )

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sacrificing for Iraq War Remains Optional

One of the things that underscores the difference between the war in Iraq and World War II is the presence of so many young people still living normal lives while their peers are off in the desert fighting, away from family, friends, jobs or school.

I was reminded of the unequal distribution of sacrifice for this war when I saw the picture of Josh Romney campaigning in Brighton on Wednesday (Oct. 17, 2007) that appeared in the Livingston Press and Argus. He's a big, strapping, healthy-looking man of 32. Yet he and his four brothers are driving a motorhome around the country trying to get their dad elected president instead of serving in Iraq.

Two months ago, Mitt Romney told a woman in Iowa that the U.S. has a volunteer army and he respects his sons' decisions not to volunteer because their work helping him get elected is important. Again, sacrifice for this war, as important as it supposedly is, remains optional.

Apparently, no one in Brighton brought up the issue of Josh Romney's non-service, but he did mention the war, saying the issues voters are worried about are "immigration, the Iraq war, health care and the economy."

The Livingston Press and Argus quoted Josh Romney also as saying, "When it comes to Iraq, he said, 'We want to get our troops home as fast as we possibly can.' However, he said it's important not to leave the country in an unstable position where it might become a 'terrorist state.'"

Not important enough, apparently, for any of the Romney sons to pitch in, as long as there are plenty of other people's kids willing to do the dirty work.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Never-ending Story

Well, you already knew that Ann "Funny Gal" Coulter doesn't limit her, um, sense of humor to political figures like John Edwards; she's perfectly happy to spread the sunshine to 9/11 widows , gays and Arabs.

Make no mistake, though -- she is a deeply religious woman. Interviewed while promoting her book Godless, she had this observation:
Although my Christianity is somewhat more explicit in this book, Christianity fuels everything I write. Being a Christian means that I am called upon to do battle against lies, injustice, cruelty, hypocrisy—you know, all the virtues in the church of liberalism. As St. Paul said, if Christ is not risen from the dead, then eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
Wow! Who knew that AC was so highly qualified to judge how truly Christian Christians are? (Especially someone who quotes St. Paul when it's actually Isaiah 22:13... but more on this in a minute.)

Lest you think her narrow-minded on the God front, she included this footnote in her book:

"Throughout this book, I often refer to Christians and Christianity because I am a Christian and I have a fairly good idea of what they believe, but the term is intended to include anyone who subscribes to the Bible of the God of Abraham, including Jews and others."

In fact, Ms. Coulter is so fully-informed about matters theological that she was able to take this concept a little step further. Earlier this week, she produced this warm, loving bit o' religious insight:

Appearing on Donny Deutsch's CNBC show, "The Big Idea," on Monday night, columnist/author Ann Coulter suggested that the U.S. would be a better place if there weren't any Jewish people and that they needed to "perfect" themselves into -- Christians.

[skip]

DEUTSCH: That isn't what I said, but you said I should not-- we should just throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians, then, or --

COULTER:
Yeah.

DEUTSCH: Really?

COULTER: Well, it's a lot easier. It's kind of a fast track.

DEUTSCH: Really?

COULTER: Yeah. You have to obey.

DEUTSCH: You can't possibly believe that.

COULTER: Yes.

DEUTSCH: You can't possibly -- you're too educated, you can't -- you're like my friend in --

COULTER: Do you know what Christianity is? We believe your religion, but you have to obey.

DEUTSCH: No, no, no, but I mean --

COULTER: We have the fast-track program.

Oh. Well, THAT clears things up! One of the world's great religions is apparently the equivalent of of Betamax, and another has powers analogous to those of the U.S. Trade Representative. Makes me feel all warm & fuzzy inside.

It may also explain AC's attribution of the "eat, drink & be merry" quote to St. Paul rather than Isaiah. Those Old Testament patriarchs were god-fearing and all that, but being Jewish they were, um, "imperfect." Yep, Ann clearly has the flexibility and iron will needed by any Public Christian to deal with all realities that doesn't conform to her standards. Plus, she's a laugh riot! Yay!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Michigan Lawmaker: Private Medicare Rips Off Seniors

A Michigan lawmaker is in the middle of the fray over private insurance companies that are ripping off senior citizens after selling them expensive policies subsidized by regular Medicare recipients.

Rep. Bart Stupak, a Democrat who represents Michigan's 1st congressional district, is head of the investigations subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He told The New York Times for a story in editions for Sunday (Oct. 7, 2007) that he had “verified countless stories of deceptive sales practices by insurance agents who prey upon the elderly and disabled to sell them expensive and inappropriate private Medicare plans.”

The plans offered to senior citizens as an alternative to Medicare are subsidized by regular Medicare recipients. Audits of the companies offering the plans have turned up thousands of instances of predatory marketing practices, refusal to pay claims, and shockingly poor service, including long waits to talk to claims representative.

Why do we put up with such treatment of our parents and grandparents, in the name of private enterprise? Is there nothing this country will not sacrifice for profit?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Anonymous Senators Strike Again

The Livingston Press and Argus has a decent column today (Oct. 7, 2007) summing up last week's appearance by comedien Ann Coulter, a competing talk on health care by Ann Arbor author Jonathan Cohn, and the Michigan Legislature's action to save the state from shutting down by passing a modest tax increase.

Author Rich Perlberg rightly criticizes Coulter for doing nothing but deliver recycled one-liners. But what did he expect? That's all she does. At least she didn't appear spaced-out and high, which she often does on many of her television appearances.

Perlberg reverted to Press and Argus form, however, when he was discussing the Legislature's marathon session last weekend. He refused to criticize specific lawmakers who happen to be Republican, instead preferring to leave the impression that it actually could be Democrats who are the culprits he is complaining about.

Specifically, Perlberg wrote: "Some senators were mad because some people were taking pictures of the voting board, which is a taxpayer-funded tally that records how taxpayer-funded lawmakers are voting on how to spend money that comes from — you guessed it — taxpayers."

"Some senators?" Which senators? Only one -- Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop. Michigan Liberal has the info here.

Why in the world does Perlberg not name the culprit? Names make the news, unless you're afraid to criticize Republicans.

P.S. Had Perlberg done a little research, he would have known that other senators, (code for Democrats) introduced a resolution changing Senate rules to bar secret votes of the kind Bishop sought by preventing pictures of the voting board.
The Conservative Media has the story here.

Things won't change if the public is unable to hold the guilty parties responsible and reward the others.

Friday, October 5, 2007

So Much More Than a Book-Burner

It's bad enough that one of the applicants for a vacancy on the Howell school board is a would-be book-burner. She also seems to think school employees are nothing more than "hired help" and that the way to help schools is to cut taxes.

Yes, I'm talking about Vicki Fyke, the founder of LOVE (Livingston Organization for Values in Education), whom the Livingston Press and Argus says in an article Friday (Oct. 5, 2007) has applied for the vacancy created by the resignation of Mary Jo Dymond.

The newspaper notes that Fyke "objected to profanity and sexual content in books assigned in an advanced English class at the high school." The books were not trash, but ones by Toni Morrison, Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Wright. And her complaint to U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Murphy III ended up absurdly triggering an FBI investigation.

But there's so much more (or less) to Fyke than that.

On a blog, The Suburban Voice, Fyke has written such gems as "Cutting taxes increases revenue" and referred to school employees as "the hired help."

And in an interview on WHMI radio March 2, Fyke complained that one of the English teachers isn't married and doesn't have any children so shouldn't be teaching books that have sexual references.

She's also pushed putting posters reading "In God We Trust" in school classrooms.

In another posting titled "You Worry Me," Fyke approvingly reprints a supposed letter from an airline pilot who says he's "worried" when he sees Arabs. "Read, absorb
and pass this on. This same concept can also be applied to other immigrant groups who
cross our borders. Hope you consider the intelligence of this pilot," wrote Fyke.

She worries me.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

No Lieutenant Governor Coverage, but Plenty of Coulter

By now, you all know that Lt. Gov. John Cherry spoke to Livingston Democrats at a picnic Sept. 23. Of course, you know that only because you read this blog, not because you read the Livingston Press and Argus.

The newspaper declined to staff the event, opting to cover a rodeo instead of the second highest elected official of the state of Michigan who would later cast the deciding votes that would end the state's budget crisis. The newspaper's rationale, apparently, was that there are more Republicans than Democrats in this county.

So that explains why when comedien Ann Coulter came to Clearly-not-a-University this week, the newspaper featured not one story, but two stories plus a photo gallery.

But it doesn't explain this. The caption to one of the photos read: "Ann Coulter spoke in support of the Republican administration at a luncheon hosted by the Livingston Economic Club at Cleary University Monday."

But when I read both of the stories about Coulter's appearance, I couldn't find any references to George W. Bush by Coulter. I saw references to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as "stupid" and to Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards as being womanish (as if there were something wrong with being like a woman.) But I didn't read any quotes from Coulter in support of "the Republican administration."

Guess the non-partisan, neutral, unbiased reporters were laughing too hard at the jokes to write down the serious stuff.

Plenty of KoolAid to Go Around

Over at FireDogLake, TRex has a post about Ann Coulter. Seems that a blog writer was attending a Manhattan party where AC showed up -- and apparently she is actually a fun party princess in real life! TRex nicely skewers those who completely abandon their political & moral principles for a brush with fame...

Which of course led me to think about the Press & Argus coverage of AC's recent Trip to Livingston. Now, I am pleased that the paper covered the Jonathan Cohn talk on the front page (I won't be nitpicky & point out that it was below the fold, shorter & a smaller headline). What dimmed my enthusiasm was the inclusion of Buddy Moorehouse's opinion piece on the front page. See, Buddy thinks that Ann Coulter is an unsung comic genius. So she really can't mean all the things she says, right? And she's really, really funny!
An economic club luncheon? At times, Monday's speech by Ann Coulter felt more like GOP Night at the Comedy Castle.

Guess this means it's OK to unleash vicious personal attacks on people. And not just people who are public figures, but folks like the 9/11 widows, gays, and Arabs. But don't feel bad -- she's really, really funny!

Bottom line? If Buddy Moorehouse & Rich Perlberg think that it's perfectly alright to post an opinion piece on the front page -- an opinion piece that isn't about the state budget, the Iraq war, the S-CHIP veto or any other issue that actually means something to the people of Livingston County -- then they need to quit whining about the mean StoryChat comments.

Wait! I get it! Ann Coulter is FAMOUS, so her venom is HILARIOUS. Carrot, Hammerooski, YokrArk & co. aren't famous, so their comments are CRUEL.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Recipes for our cookbook

Reminder: Send in your recipes for our Livingston Democrats Cook Book. We need to mail them to the publisher in time to arrive by October 10 order to sell the books for Christmas.

You can e-mail the recipes to livcodems@sbcuc.net or you send them snail mail to:

Livingston Democratic Party
10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600
Brighton, MI 48116

Give us a call with any questions.

JoAnn Murphy Donna Anderson
517 304-4499 Cell 248-719-0112
Cell

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Healthy Discourse

Ever since we heard that Princess o' Darkness Ann Coulter would be speaking at Cleary University's Livingston Economic Club luncheon, there has been a lot of discussion about how to respond. Some advocated a boycott of businesses that sponsor the LEC series. Some talked about picket lines and protests. What with one thing and another (balanced state budget, anyone?), the discussion tapered off.

Well, behind the scenes two local organizations were working to present a positive alternative to Coulter. Voter's Voice (a multiparty group that encourages civil discourse and accurate information) joined with the Community Universalist Unitarian Church to organize an evening of healthy discussion. They contacted Ann Arbor author Jonathan Cohn, and invited him to give a talk about his book, Sick, which analyzes America's employer-based health care system.

Cohn's talk was very well-received by the 150 or so folks who came out to the Howell Opera House on a dark & stormy night. Proceeds from the evening benefited the new VINA Dental Clinic, which provides much-needed dental care for low-income county residents. Over $1500 was raised for the VINA clinic in just a few hours. Great ideas, great discussion, great support for a worthy local organization. Sounds like a positive alternative to me!

Cohn spoke about the people he met while writing his book, and gave a brief overview of how our health care system came to its present state. Dr. Kelster (my better half) is a health-care provider, so I've heard a lot of this before. Given that he's been a doc for over two decades now, I'm both sad and angry that we're still hearing about hard-working families being pushed into bankruptcy because they lost their health insurance... or sitting on a gurney in a hospital hallway for 18 hours... or dying because they didn't get timely care.

It's wrong. It's wasteful. It's not what our country should be about.

I was pleased to see local reporters there. With all the hoo-ha about Coulter, it would have been easy to ignore the Cohn event. After all, Jonathan's not a tall blonde with a mile-wide mean streak and a national TV presence. He is a mild-mannered guy who has spent a lot of time researching his topic and asking useful questions.

This isn't sexy or headline-grabbing stuff. But it's a safe bet that the average American would rather have affordable health care than an hour or two of AC's snarky one-liners.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Today's the Day


Okay, so today's the day that Ann "Little Miss Sunshine" Coulter comes to Livingston County. It's also the day that LivCo citizens have an alternative to hate speech. Author Jonathan Cohn will discuss his new book, Sick, and the crisis in American health care at the beautifully renovated Howell Opera House @123 Grand River at 7 p.m. Donations suggested, and the proceeds from the talk will benefit VINA Community Dental Center, LivCo's free dental clinic for children.
Say no to hate. Say yes to an evening of ideas, and help our community at the same time.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights

On Saturday, October 13, everyone is invited to Plymouth Congregational Church, 2001 East Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48912 for the Michigan premiere of the award winning documentary, "For the Bible Tells Me So." This film reconciles homosexuality and scripture in a manner that everyone can understand. It features the faith journey of five families as they discover that the Bible does not condemn what we know as homosexuality as sin.

The event will begin at the church with a potluck dinner (please bring a dish to pass, table setting and beverages will be provided) at 6 p.m.

At 7:30 p.m. the documentary will be viewed in the sanctuary.

After the film you will have four choices of activities in which to participate: remaining in the sanctuary to discuss the film with a facilitator, join folks to make a group collage with the focus of the collage being the film's message (the collage will be hung in the Unity of Greater Lansing Church when finished), join Rev. Kent Lederer in a candlelight vigil outside of the church, or individually mediate, pray or journal.

For further information contact Nancy English at: englishn2003@yahoo.com or (517) 484-5120.

http://www.sevenstraightnights.org

Spin-tastic!

Apparently, Mike Rogers (or someone on his staff) reads this blog. After Tuesday night’s post about his attempt to block the S-CHIP bill, an interesting thing happened.

A heartwarming press release was posted on Mr. Rogers' website, in which he assures us that his opposition to the S-CHIP bill on Tuesday was a result of the nasty Democrats messing around with an otherwise swell bill. As evidence of this, Mr. Rogers trotted out the Bush talking points almost word for word. Apparently, those Blue Meanies were going to:

-- make "massive" cuts to Medicare benefits (Though he neglects to mention that the cuts will come from payments to insurance companies, not coverage for seniors.)

-- give taxpayer-funded health care to families making up to $83,000 per year (Nope. Roughly 70 percent of children who would gain coverage are in families earning half that amount, and the bill contains no requirement for setting income eligibility caps any higher than what already exists in the current law. For details, visit FactCheck.org.)

-- and provide taxpayer-funded health care for illegal aliens (This provision was not part of Tuesday’s version of the bill. In fact, the bill didn't even include benefits for children of LEGAL immigrants. The WaPo reports that House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) will push Democrats to come back at Bush with a new version that restores those benefits.)

A brief aside: Mr. Rogers has been receiving taxpayer-funded paychecks for the past couple of decades -- and very nice taxpayer-funded health insurance coverage to boot! As a result, he really has no idea of what health insurance costs an average family (especially if they have to buy an individual policy)...

Mr. Rogers said that he voted against this hideously flawed bill on Tuesday. He went on to say that he voted for the bill to extend S-CHIP funding on Wednesday... but the bill had passed 265-159 on Tuesday night and went over to the Senate the next day.

Perhaps he stood alone in a darkened room on Wednesday, recognized himself, introduced a bill to himself and voted for said bill. At least he feels better about it.

Another interesting thing
is that the Freep’s coverage of the subject has changed quite a bit. The original story by Todd Spangler came out early Tuesday evening (I got the Google news alert at 5:37 p.m.). The piece was titled Mich. congressman balks at children's insurance legislation, and it included this line:
Mike Rogers, a Brighton Republican, failed in his effort to block the legislation, at least temporarily, by noting another improper earmark – this one for ...See all stories on this topic

The next day, the story had a new title: Congress debates whether Michigan is getting a break in children’s insurance bill and Mike Rogers was mentioned zero times, as was the improper earmark.

Rogers certainly isn't shy about his opposition to earmarks -- just ask Rep. Murtha!
So why isn't Rogers sticking to his original beef? Maybe he did the math and realized that

Nice Guy Image -
NO on (vaccines for low-income kids + $$ for MI health care) =
Political Firestorm
When I contacted the Freep reporter to ask about the change, he noted that the story had indeed shifted to focus on the $1.2 billion earmark for Michigan. They didn't return to the Rogers angle because they chose not to write a story for the next day's paper. Now this does happen, especially with web versions of newspapers. But it still was a bit galling to see Rogers completely off the hook and out of the story.

Just for fun, let's review the long list of crazy knee-jerk liberal types who have publicly supported this bill. Ready?
Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas)and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), business interests, the Catholic church, the health insurance industry, children's advocates, most of the nation's governors, the AARP and the American Medical Association.
With a weaselly flip-flop on the reason for his "no" vote and his bogus claim of voting in favor of some mysterious other children's health care bill, Mr. Rogers once again has shown that he places loyalty to George Bush over serving the people of MI-08.

Cross-posted at Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Did Bush Reject Deal to Have Saddam Leave Iraq?

Disturbing news from blogger Juan Cole that the entire Iraq War could have been avoided.

Cole, a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Michigan, writes on his Informed Comment blog today (Thursday, Sept. 27, 2007) that Bush told Jose Maria Aznar of Spain that a deal brokered by Egypt before the Iraq invasion called for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq with $1 billion and some documents on weapons of mass destruction.

But Cole writes that Bush rejected the deal without attempting to negotiate, saying,
"Saddam won't change and he'll keep on playing games. The time has come to get rid of him. That's the way it is. We'll be in Baghdad by the end of March."

Cole, who simply has the best blog around regarding Iraq and the mess we've created in the Middle East, has the rest of the story.

Flexibility?


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

And the Winner Is ...

Results are in from the first Livingston County Democratic Party straw poll in the 2008 presidential campaign season and the winner is ...

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, by a landslide. Clinton won with 35.1 percent of the votes cast.

Her closest competitor was former Sen. John Edwards, with 18.9 percent. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was third with 13.6 percent.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who usually is in the top tier in national polls, finished a disappointing fourth with 10.8 percent.

Tied for 5th, each with 5.4 percent, were Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and undecided.

Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd received no votes.

Balloting was conducted with paper ballots. Every ballot was counted.

The Livingston County results are slightly different from a Sept. 5 presidential preferences poll taken by American Reseasrch Group. The Michigan results (from a sample of 600 likely primary voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, were:

Biden 2%
Clinton 43%
Dodd 1%
Edwards 14%
Gravel -
Kucinich 2%
Obama 21%
Richardson 5%
Undecided 12%

Statewide, it's Clinton, Obama, Edwards, the same top three that prevails nationally. But in Livingston County, Richardson's third place finish, pushing Obama to fourth place, was a little surprising. Obama gets more press and is from a neighboring state. Does Richardson have a stealth organizing campaign going on here, operating under the radar?

A second round of balloting might produce different results. The county party's "Anticipate '08" event October 20 at Whispering Pines would be a good time to repeat the poll.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Health Care for Poor Kids? The Terrorists Will Win!

I was sad but not surprised to read that Rep. Mike Rogers tried yet again to block reauthorization for the State Childrens' Health Insurance Program.

Apparently, ol' FBI Guy found nefarious evidence of an earmark that wasn't "properly disclosed" and tried to bring the whole thing to a halt. The improperly disclosed earmark in question? It was $30 million in funding for Tennessee hospitals that provide a large percentage of care for low-income patients. Funny, that sounds vaguely related to health care for low-income kids...

Here's the kicker -- the same bill had a provision that would do a tremendous amount for Michigan:
Speaking on the floor today, Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, says the bill
includes what amounts to a $1.2 billion earmark for health care in Michigan over 10 years’ time.

As we stand at the brink of a state government shutdown -- or draconian cuts to state services -- Rogers was willing to chuck $120 million a year over the next decade just so he could carry water for the Bush administration.

Let me repeat this:Mike Rogers tried to block a bill that would give Michigan $120 million a year for health care.

From a strictly economic perspective, health care is one of the few positive sectors in the MI economy. My better half, Dr. Kelster, noted that for every physician hired, seven direct downstream jobs are created (things like xray & lab techs, office staff, etc.).

From a less charitable perspective, you have to wonder just who it is that Mr. Rogers thinks he represents. He has time to chat with national media about the Looming Iranian Threat. He has time to write a letter urging state legislators to "hang tough" on no new taxes -- even though he's happily voted for irresponsible federal spending time and again. He's worried about counterfeit pharmaceuticals, though he hasn't done much of anything to make the genuine ones more affordable for retirees.

Yet when Rogers had a chance to get $1.2 billion for Michigan health care in a bill that has strong bipartisan support (Orrin Hatch and Joe Barton both think it's a good bill!), he decided it was more important to be a hall monitor.

The sort of happy ending? Rogers' attempt to stop the bill failed, and it passed with bipartisan support (265-159). The not-so-happy ending? Bush is threatening to veto it, and there are doubts that the House will have enough votes (290) to override the veto. I don't hold much hope for Rogers doing the right thing any time soon.