Thursday, January 31, 2008

Good Bye For Now, John Edwards

Former Senator John Edwards announced today that he is quitting the race for President.

Edwards never seemed to get enough traction running against the historic candidacies of a woman and black male. Much of the blame for this lies with the media. The talking heads like to blat on day after day, night after night, about the unusualness of either a black man or a woman in the Executive office. The Edwards campaign didn’t give them enough fluff because the Edwards campaign was first on the issues.

Edwards spoke day after day about “Two Americas” and about poverty and those who are left behind by the unfair economics of the United States. Most of us don’t like to hear about those who are less fortunate than we are. We feel good when we donate our unused clothing, food to Gleaners, and help in other ways to give to the poor. We don’t like to come face to face with the dirt, sickness, physical and mental pain of poverty, however, and when we are forced to see it, we often turn away. Perhaps it’s because deep within us, we are cognizant that “there but for the grace of God, go I.”

We will contribute time and effort to working on numerous charitable projects. We’ll take vacation time and work with Hurricane Katrina victims. We may even go to a foreign country and work with the poor there for several weeks. We always know, however, that our comfortable style of living is waiting for us when we choose to return home.

I think that John Edwards would encourage us to give our efforts to works of charity. I’m especially mindful of President Jimmy Carter who has set an example for us of how little money it takes to conquer some diseases that maim, blind and kill, such as guinea worm or malaria.

But John Edwards didn’t intend to stop with charity. His vision of ending poverty and sickness was a vision of social justice. What I heard (and I’m sure you’ll let me know if I’ve got it wrong) was that he was advocating systemic change in our government and our lives. He wanted to bring people in to the middle class and assure that all of us went to bed at night with our basic needs filled. A roof over our heads, food in our stomachs, a means to health care and education – in other words, a decent standard of living for all Americans to be obtained by a fair living wage. For those who cannot work, the rest of us have an obligation. It’s said that the true measure of a society is how it treats its children, its elderly, and its handicapped. This is not charity, it is justice.

It’s said that John Edwards is a hypocrite because he has a large home in North Carolina. That may be but it is not for me to judge him on what he owns. I know, however, that he has experienced poverty as have I, and that experience should not and cannot be forgotten.

Don’t go far away, John Edwards. The poor need a voice.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Was It Stalin, Goebbels or Rove?

Someone once said that if a lie is repeated often enough, it becomes the truth.

Clearly, Mike Rogers has been paying attention to this dictum. He had a guest op-ed in the Sunday Press & Argus titled, "Playing politics over SCHIP legislation."

cue the violins...

In a masterful blending of half-truths and full fictions, Rogers set up the usual SCHIP bogeymen (Illegal aliens! No oxygen for Grandma! You'll pay for Donald Trump's health care!), and takes credit for "co-authoring" legislation that was supposedly included in the SCHIP bill.

There have been any number of blogs rebutting the misinformation about SCHIP, including some here at MRN. Then Rogers goes a step beyond bashing a program to help working families. He throws in a little extra, shall we say, misinformation about the proposed economic stimulus package and the FISA bill.

Mr. Rogers' idea of stimulating the economy is making a one-time payment of a few hundred dollars to families who need real jobs. Guess he hasn't noticed that our state leads the nation in unemployment. Thankfully, Governor Granholm, Senators Stabenow and Levin, and five other members of the MI delegation are paying attention, and they're working to include extended unemployment benefits as part of the stimulus package.

Mr. Rogers is also ringing alarm bells about FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. In a nutshell, FISA allows US law enforcement and intelligence professionals to obtain warrants from special courts. FISA courts are secret; the classified evidence for a warrant is not made public to protect sources and methods. If US law enforcement or intelligence professionals are in hot pursuit, without time to request a FISA warrant, the court allows them to obtain a retroactive warrant. At no time since FISA's inception in 1978 has the court refused a warrant.

FISA does need to be updated -- communications technology has changed dramatically in the last three decades. But Rogers & Co. are arguing that FISA hampers these investigations, and we should just keep on going with the unconstitutional warrantless wiretaps that the Bush Administration holds so dear. They're also worried about providing immunity for telecom firms, who leaped to assist the administration in warrantless wiretaps. A quick peek will show that Mr. Rogers has received a nice chunk of campaign cash from telecommunications firms like AT&T and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

Last but not least, Mr. Rogers' teary plea for the Democrats to stop being so gosh-darned mean included this little gem:

As we look forward, it is crucial to end political gimmicks such as the veto override vote
The "gimmick" to which Mr. Rogers is referring is actually part of Section I, Article 7 of the United States Constitution. (The Congressional Research Service has an excellent summary of how this works.)

I'm sorry that warrants and constitutional guidelines are "gimmicky" to you, Mr. Rogers.

(cross-posted at Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Stimulus or…
More Tax Breaks for the Rich?
Crumbs for the Middle Class?
And Screw the Unemployed?

President Bush, this time abetted by a Democratic House, is once again stealing from the middle class and poor and giving more public money to himself and his rich buddies.

The same fellow who made millions off the Texas Rangers by manipulating subsidies and tax monies with the help of Daddy’s friends, is ready to raid the Treasury again.

Bush has finally realized what the citizens have known for some time – we are in a recession and possibly heading for a depression that could be worse than the sufferings of the 1930’s.Why did Bush finally wake up? Because Wall Street rang the alarm. He ignored the deficit, the draining of our lives and treasure in Iraq, the bankruptcies, the sub-prime mortgages. When his Wall Street friends, however, tell the President that he has to do something about the economy because the markets tanking, Bush finally listened.

So you and I may get something like $300-600 in rebates and we are supposed to spend it right away. This won’t take long – a couple trips to the gas station should do it. The major tax cuts, however, will go to the same people who benefited from 5 previous tax cuts. The excuse given is that this will incent the robber barons to invest in the United States and create jobs and businesses. These same people have shell companies in the Caymun Islands to avoid our taxes. What kind of fools do our politicians think we are?

Meanwhile, Bush refuses to extend unemployment benefits and food stamps. He only wants to help “workers”. His cruel, mean-spirited attitudes reflect his lack of conscience and his inability to understand that if there aren’t any jobs, “workers” will be unemployed.

The Stimulus Plan is in the Senate now. Senators are planning to add programs that help the unemployed and poor. Give them a call and encourage them to add the important benefits for the unemployed.

Oh, and while you’re talking to them, tell your Senators to support Senator Dodd who plans to filibuster the FISA bill again so that the Telcom companies will not be given immunity for wire-tapping.

Senator Debbie Stabenow – 202 224-4822

Senator Carl Levin – 202 224-6221

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Actually, I Think This Is Good News

People outside of Michigan are having a mini-fit over Sen. Hillary Clinton's statement that she wants to see the delegates from Michigan and Florida seated at the Democratic National Convention, even though the states broke party rules by moving their primaries.

Daily Kos takes a decidedly jaundiced view of the proposal, and commentators at his site are attacking Clinton. Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall accuses Clinton of trying to "muscle the party" into seating Michigan's delegates. On MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" Friday (January 25, 2008), the story angle was that it was a "Clintonian" move and somehow not quite fair.

But Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer has insisted all along that the national party's threat not to seat Michigan's delegates was an empty one and that the eventual nominee, no matter who it is, will want the state's delegates to attend.
In fact, it's the way these matters have been handled in the past.

That appears to be news to the rest of the world. Sometimes I wonder how much these national reporters really know about the nitty-gritty of how things work.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Did Michigan's Native Son Cheat in the Debate?

The Mittster is long gone from his native state, taking all his momentum with him from his victory in the Michigan presidential primary, but it's not too late to ask -- Is he a cheater?

The blog has a clip up on its site from Thursday night's GOP debate in Florida in which moderator Tim Russert is asking Republican Mitt Romney about how he would deal with the shortfall in the Social Security trust fund.

Romney apparently is wearing a "wire" that allows his handlers to communicate with him. The voice is audible on the MSNBC tape.

It's bad enough that Michigan residents have to claim Romney as a native son. Now the world knows he needs help repeating the standard GOP line -- no tax increases.

And people think Sen. Hillary Clinton is not spontaneous.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hopeful Signs?

Is there reason to hope that Republicans in the Legislature are willing to play nice with Gov. Jennifer Granholm this legislative session?

Gongwer News Service reports Thursday (January 24, 2008) that Granholm plans to stress bipartisanship in her State of the State message January 29.

This follows a private dinner, reported recently by the Detroit Free Press, at which Granholm, House Speaker Andy Dillon, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop sat down with their spouses to get to know each other in a non-political setting.

Lack of trust has been cited as one of the factors in the inability to reach a budget deal during the 2007 legislative session without having to first briefly shut down the government.

Meanwhile, Gongwer News Service (a subscription-only service) also has a note about a House Appropriations Committee meeting in which Richard McLellan, special counsel to the committee, suggested the Legislature "reassert some of its power by initiating changes to what he described as a dysfunctional government."

One thing the House could do is adopt a set of joint rules with the Senate that require action on the budget to be completed by July 1 -- rules that would require a two-thirds vote to be suspended.

At the very least, it would cut down the amount of time for game-playing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Miserable State -- Guess Who?

A budget deficit. Plunging home values. Record foreclosures. Rising unemployment. Increasing bankruptcies.

Must be Michigan, right?

No, it's not the Rust Belt, but the shiniest buckle on the Sun Belt -- Arizona.

Consider these recent headlines from the Arizona Republic and elsewhere:

Lawmakers Set to Target Deficit.

Napolitano Expands Plan to Erase Budget Shortfall.

Legislators Weigh Dire Revenue Forecasts.

Bankruptcies Rock Valley, Arizona.

New Housing Outlook, 5 Years to Recover.

Arizona Jobs Data May Portend Trouble.

Unemployment Up in County, State.

Trustee Sale Notices Are a Sign Foreclosures May Speed Up.

Arizona Real Estate Outlook Bleak -- for Now, Experts Say.

Beneath the headlines, the news is not any better. As one article noted:

"The short-term outlook for Arizona's real estate remains bleak, with experts expecting more price declines and thousands more foreclosures in 2008.
Lagging job growth and an expected slowing in population growth are adding to the state's housing woes, local economist Elliott Pollack said."

Michigan and Gov. Jennifer Granholm are not alone in dealing with economic troubles. This is a national problem that demands a national solution.

Information, Please -- What Game Is the Board Playing?

What are they thinking? That's what I want to know.

The Brighton school board, that is.

Members of the Brighton Education Association, in an article in the Livingston Press and Argus in editions for Tuesday (January 22, 2008), make a good case for being unhappy with the Brighton school board over the lack of progress in contract negotiations.

Teachers have been working without a contract since August. Negotiators for teachers thought they were close to a deal in December that included savings for the district, but in January the board came back and asked for more.

On top of the article, the newspaper included an editorial complaining about the failure to settle spring break dates so that parents could plan vacations. With no contract, the board can't set the dates.

Then the editorial notes:

"It's been working this way: The district and teachers have not been able to agree on a new pact this year, so some teachers have adopted the position of meeting only the minimum job requirements in the contract. They seem to hope that if they tick off the parents in the district enough, the parents will yell at the school board, which will then settle the teachers' contract by giving them what they want. We're disappointed that the school board has been letting the BEA get away with this."

Well, why isn't the newspaper disappointed that the school board has been treating its employees with such disregard? Why is it only the teachers' fault?

As for settling the contract by giving teachers "what they want," teachers don't want givebacks, but they were willing to accept them in December. How about a little recognition of the sacrifices teachers are willing to accept?

The news article contained no comment from the board's negotiators, who were unavailable. They should be available today. I hope there's a follow-up article in tomorrow's newspaper explaining the board's foot-dragging on the contract.

But that's probably like hoping Michigan's spring comes in February.

Monday, January 21, 2008

In Praise of Party Voters

The word "independence" has such a patriotic ring to it for Americans, it's hard to argue against it. Americans love to think of themselves as independent, doing things on their own, not needing any help, even though that does not reflect reality.

The French visitor de Tocqueville noticed that trait among Americans in the 19th century and wondered if there was enough glue in the new country's society to hold it together. He concluded that there was, largely because of the off-setting tendency of Americans to join associations.

Had de Tocqueville dropped down into 21st century America recently, he would have felt right at home. The same talk about go-it-alone Americans is still in the air, whether it's in CNN broadcaster Lou Dobb's book Independent's Day or closer to home in Mike Mallot's recent column in the Livingston Press and Argus, titled "In Praise of Independent Voters."

Both writers tend to denigrate people who identify with a particular political party. For some reason, they think identifying with a party means that people aren't thinking. Apparently, they think that party identification is like religion -- people are baptized into it as infants, raised in it, and that's it. But joining a party is a choice, based on fundamental beliefs, not a few hot-button issues that come and go. There are no party bosses ordering you to stay in the party you were "baptized" into.

Picking a party means thinking about what you believe concerning the nature of society and the role of our government in that society. Is government's only role to keep us safe from outside threats? Does it have a broader role, helping all its citizens in their pursuit of happiness?

Picking a party means settling in your own mind what terms like equality and fairness mean when applied to the nitty-gritty of government policy regarding regulation of the economy, taxation, access to good schools and health care, and tolerance of others. That means having a core set of beliefs that one can rely on when trying to decide what to do in those areas.

Picking a party also means holding your party to those core beliefs. By voting for candidates in primaries, party members make sure those who are nominated are sticking to what they believe are the parties' core beliefs. When non-party members are able to participate, they may be less concerned with the organization's core beliefs and may be making their selections based on other criteria, such as who they "like" the most.

The entry of non-party members means the candidate-picking process becomes somewhat distorted. John McCain wins Republican primaries only when independents vote for him, meaning the Republican Party could end up with a nominee that its own members do not support. Since independents don't want to participate in party work, that means Republicans will be expected to pony up the money to pay for McCain's ads and campaign staff, and to provide the volunteer labor for his get out the vote effort. Furthermore, while party members do the work for a candidate they did not pick, independents will be home by themselves "thinking" -- possibly about whether they will even vote for the candidate they helped nominate.

The process of governing also becomes somewhat distorted when voters decide they "like" a candidate from Party A for the executive branch but a candidate from Party B for the legislative branch. Because they "like" these two people with vastly different philosophies, they somehow "think" that means these two polar opposites are going to be able to work together, without sacrificing their core beliefs. Can you say "Gridlock"?

Suppose we did away with all political parties and made all the lawmakers independents. That's the logical extension of Dobbs' position. What would the Michigan Legislature look like? You thought we had chaos last year? Welcome to chaos to the n-th degree. Who would be in charge of the agenda? Who would be speaker? Who would chair the committees and decide which bills would be debated? Each of those would be up for grabs every single day, based on who the majority of lawmakers "liked" that day. Horse trading and political deal making would be multiplied exponentially from what it is today unless lawmakers sorted themselves into groups based on their fundamental beliefs. Which is what they did, a long time ago.

Now, this isn't what I "think." This is what I know. I did the hard work of thinking about what I really believe about the role of government and decided I was a Democrat. And I decided I wanted to elect people who believe the same way I do, not people that I "like" the most (whatever that means).

Then I took the further step of deciding I wanted to work in the party, helping make sure that the party hews to its core beliefs and that our country lives up to its promise. It was a tough decision. It takes a lot of time. There are things I'd rather be doing. But there aren't many that are more important.

Think about it.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Calling All Candidates!

The November election seems like a long ways off, but it's not too early to begin thinking about candidates for local offices in Livingston County.

All county commission seats, county offices, and township positions will be open in November, as well as two open legislative seats.

Livingston County Democrats will host a coffee at 1 p.m. Saturday (January 19, 2008) for anyone considering running for any of those positions. Party officials and previous candidates will be on hand to talk about what to expect when running for office and the resources that the party has available to help candidates.

The event will be at Livingston Democratic Party Headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600 in the Fonda Office Park, Brighton.

Why Michigan's Economic Troubles Are Not Granholm's Fault

Republicans, including their presidential candidates, have been having a field day blaming Gov. Jennifer Granholm for Michigan's economic troubles. But a guest opinion in the Detroit Free Press for Friday (January 18, 2008) shows why the situation is bigger than state policy:

"Do Not Doubt China's Cars Are Coming," says the guest opinion piece by David Hemmings, chief executive officer of Pacific Rim Alliances.

The headline alone is enough to send chills down the spine of any auto worker. But Hemmings has details:

"Once the Chinese automotive industry is able to build a car that can meet U.S. emissions and safety standards, they will begin shipping cars by the thousands to meet our demand for cheap, cheap, cheap! Furthermore, Chinese automakers will be eager to sell here because their high-end vehicles will not be affordable to the Chinese population, but those products will sell here at a low U.S. price point and at a much bigger profit margin."

So when Mitt Romney says he's going to fight for every job, does he mean he is going to turn off the spigot of unfair trade that lets anything made in China through our ports? And do we really believe those Chinese vehicles will meet U.S. safety standards any more than Chinese pet food and toys do?

Chinese workers need jobs. Nations need to trade. But we can be more choosey about whom we trade with and the terms for doing so, just as China is. We can insist on workers' rights and decent wages in Chinese industries that sell products here. But that's not something any Michigan governor can do alone.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Skipping States -- Not Just a Democratic Idea

Many Michigan residents complained when Democratic presidential candidates pledged not to campaign in this state after state leaders moved up its presidential primary to January 15 in violation of national party rules. And primary day coverage this week noted voter anger about Sen. Barack Obama's and former Sen. John Edwards' names not appearing on the ballot.

I've wondered how that would play out in the general election. Would Michigan voters hold that against Obama or Edwards if they appear on the presidential ticket in November.

But really, it appears Republicans have ample reason to be angry about candidates skipping their states, too. In fact, Republicans are playing hop-scotch with the primaries.

John McCain pretty much skipped Iowa to concentrate on New Hampshire. Rudy Giuliani skipped Iowa, New Hampshire, and Michigan, and now is skipping South Carolina in order to focus on Florida. Fred Thompson appears to be skipping all the states, based on his single digit performances in states so far.

Today (January 17, 2008) comes news that Mitt Romney, fresh off his win in Michigan, is skipping South Carolina in order to focus on Nevada. Just yesterday, Romney was reported to be on his way to South Carolina.

There's a whole lot of skipping going on among Republicans. For example:

--Republicans tried to skip the youtube debate.
--Republicans skipped debate on African American issues in order to concentrate on raising money.
--Republicans skipped a meeting with teachers.
--Republicans skipped a meeting with Latino leaders.
--College Republicans are skipping non-partisan voter registration drives because they're afraid the people they register will vote Democratic.
--Some Republicans skipped a forum on urban issues.

Republicans seem to be vying for an Olympic medal in skipping. But why?

First, they have less money to spend that Democrats so they can't afford to compete everywhere. Second, competing only where they are certain to do well is an attempt to grab headlines as "winners" and avoid ones as "losers." Third, their messages and personnae are frankly not popular everywhere. Romney will not do well among evangelicals in South Carolina so he wants to concentrate on Nevada, where he hopes Mormons will turn out for him. Fourth, they are so desperate for support within their own splintered party that they cannot afford the time to try to reach out to people outside the party -- such as African Americans. Fifth, their message is so offensive to huge segments of voters that they don't want to risk a public humiliation by appearing before them. Think Latinos and the GOP stance on immigration.

In other words, all the skipping going on demonstrates that Republicans are candidates incapable of uniting Americans. They are not national candidates. They are niche candidates.

Howell Learning that Stereotypes Hurt When Shoe's On the Other Foot

Some people have a difficult time putting themselves in someone else's place. They just can't empathize with others.

Think about white people who complain about African Americans being "over sensitive" to racial remarks or claim that they try to "make everything into a race thing."

Maybe we in Livingston County are getting a lesson in the impacts of stereotyping and what it means to have to prove them wrong day in and day out.

A few weeks ago, a letter to the editor complained that Howell had been "stereotyped" as a racist community because of a past that the writer believed was no longer representative of current views. (Whether Howell's past views are representative of the situation today is beside the point of this piece.)

Now comes news in the Livingston Press and Argus for Thursday (January 17, 2008) that Howell will be featured in a National Public Radio story this weekend put together by Desiree Cooper.

Howell hit Cooper's radar screen when an auction house sold Ku Klux Klan robes and memorabilia from Livingston County. The Detroit resident and Free Press columnist wrote about the sale and Howell's efforts to outgrow its past.

"'I just have a kind of a soft spot in my heart for people who are trying to rise above a negative image,'" the Press and Argus quotes her as saying.

"As she learned more about Howell, she found that many people felt unjustly stigmatized by the reputation of Robert Miles, former grand dragon of the Michigan KKK. Miles lived in Cohoctah Township, north of Howell, until his death in 1992."

Cooper's story will focus on the work of the Livingston Diversity Council and its presentation on a classic experiment that used discrimination on the basis of eye color to teach about racism.

One thing that people might take away from Cooper's focus on the community is that stereotypes die hard and while they linger, they still sting. They place an unfair burden on people for whom they are inaccurate.

So as we in Livingston County battle with others' stereotypes about us, it's a good time to examine our reliance on stereotypes of others -- be they racial, religious, class, or political stereotypes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Internet Smear Against Obama Shows Up in Press and Argus

Tuesday was a big day for political junkies -- both the Michigan presidential primary and a debate in Las Vegas among the three top contenders for the Democratic nomination.

During the course of the debate, the moderators asked Sen. Barack Obama about the persistent rumors circulating on the internet about him -- that he is a Muslim, that he took the oath of office on a copy of the Quran, and that he refuses to say the pledge of allegiance.

Obama responded to each of these smears, asserting that he does indeed say the pledge of allegiance and even leads the pledge from time to time when he is in the Senate.

So imagine my surprise (not really) when I clicked on the Livingston Press and Argus story Wednesday (January 16, 2008) about the election results and read:

"Amezquita said he doesn’t support Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., because Obama recently faced away from the U.S. flag during a performance of 'The Star-Spangled Banner.'

"'I thought, 'You’re disrespecting the flag when you’re going to be representing that,' he said. Amezquita didn’t say which candidate he finally did decide on."

What this voter is referring to is an incident at a fund-raiser in Iowa last year when Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson are pictured on a stage, with a large flag as a backdrop. Clinton and Richardson have their hands over their hearts. Obama does not.

All three of them seem to be looking at something off the stage -- perhaps at other flags. For awhile, a still photo of this circulated on the internet claiming that he was refusing to put his hand over his heart during the pledge, but of course, as this video shows, they were not reciting the pledge of allegiance at all. They were listening to the Star Spangled Banner. So the smear has been updated.

The internet site is dedicated to debunking these and other urban legends. And right now, lies about Obama are at the top of its list of "hottest urban legends."

According to, Obama does indeed place his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. And he says his grandfather taught him to place his hand over his heart while saying the pledge but to sing the national anthem. Other videos show Obama with his hand over his heart during the national anthem.

As says, the bottom line is that one should be respectful during the national anthem. And Obama was. Certainly he was more respectful than a lot of sports fans I've observed during the singing of the national anthem.

What should the Press and Argus have done? It should not have flatly reported that he faced away from "the flag" because the newspaper does not know if there were other flags that he was facing toward. A better approach would be to say that Obama "appeared to face away from the flag, according to a photo that conservative groups critical of Obama have widely circulated on the internet."

That gives context to what occurred rather than leaving the impression that Obama was intentionally showing disrespect to the flag.

The other thing the Press and Argus could do is bookmark I have a feeling it's going to come in handy over the next few months.

Livingston County -- Just Like Michigan, Only More So

Livingston County voters on Tuesday (January 15, 2008) turned out to be a lot like voters elsewhere in Michigan, only more so.

On both the Democratic and Republican side, voters gave bigger margins of victory to the winning candidates than did voters statewide.

According to figures from The New York Times, with 95 percent of precincts reporting, Sen. Hillary Clinton carried the county with 59 percent of the vote. Uncommitted, which essentially means Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards, came in with 36 percent, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich claimed 4 percent. Statewide, Clinton had 55 percent of the vote.

The uncommitted vote was much higher in Wayne County (46 percent) than in Livingston County, as African American voters apparently expressed their preference for Obama. Without a significant African American population, that didn't happen in Livingston.

(To get the figures, use the maps and place your cursor over Livingston County.)

On the Republican side, Mitt Romney claimed 45 percent, John McCain 26 percent, and Mike Huckabee 13 percent. Across Michigan, Romney had just 39 percent.

What does that tell us about Livingston County? One interpretation may be that Livingston County evangelicals did not turnout for Huckabee. Or if they did, there are a lot fewer of them than we've been led to believe.

McCain's personal appearance in the county did him little good. On television, the guy looks old. He may look even older in person. Nothing wrong with being old, but voters this year seem to want change and McCain's age is a reminder of how long he has been around Washington.

Most likely, it was Romney's promise to bring back auto industry jobs versus McCain's admission that the jobs are gone for good that helped him in Livingston County. People actually bought Romney's promise. Maybe he'll resurrect the Rambler and American Motors, the car company his dad used to run.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Little Primary Day Humor

I'm not an advocate of Democrats' screwing up the GOP primary by voting for Mitt Romney, but this is too hilarious not to share.

A Los Angeles man named Andy Cobb, who calls himself "some dude you never heard of," has done a youtube video promoting Mittmischief for today's primary and posted it on youtube. View it here.

If nothing else, it makes a great case for why Romney would be a weak candidate. But, heck, all the Republicans are weak candidates.

(A tip of the hat to Pam for sharing this.)

Momentum? Who's Got Momentum?

The blogosphere is full of chatter about whether Romney has "Mittmentum" in Michigan as voters head to the polls today (January 15, 2008). On the Democratic side, the talk is all about how big a percentage of the vote Sen. Hillary Clinton needs to come out of Michigan looking good.

On the Mittmentum issue, Talking Points Memo has a poll round up that will keep people occupied until media exit polls come out later in the day and try to scoop the real results. Actually, the media probably have some exit poll results already, but they are sworn to secrecy until the polls close. Except that somebody probably will forget that part of Michigan is in the Eastern Time Zone and part in the Central Time Zone and will release some of the results at 8 p.m. ET.

Back to TPM's poll roundup. Zogby's tracking poll is the latest poll. Here it is (with the change from the previous day's tracking poll in parentheses):

McCain 27% (+0)
Romney 26% (+2)
Huckabee 15% (+0)
Paul 8% (+0)
Thompson 5% (+0)
Giuliani 3% (-3)

TPM quotes pollster John Zogby as saying his call center made extra calls on Monday in order to look for any late movement and found Romney and McCain were virtually tied, with no change before or after 5:30 p.m.

"There just isn’t any momentum here," Zogby said.

Two other polls claim to find Mittmentum.

One is the Mitchell Interactive Poll, who finds Romney with a 6-point lead. The results (with the previous day's tracking pollin parentheses) are:

Romney 35% (+6)
McCain 29% (+2)
Huckabee 12% (+0)

American Research Group's tracking poll finds McCain losing ground and Romney gaining:

McCain 31% (-3)
Romney 30% (+3)
Huckabee 19% (+4)

Neither pollster is giving much credence to Kos' suggestion that Democrats cross over and vote for Romney to keep the GOP in-fighting going.

On the Democratic side, four of five polls in recent days find Sen. Hillary Clinton in the 56 percent range with "uncommitted" in the low 30s. The exception is Mitchell's poll, which has Clinton at 44 percent and uncommitted at 26 percent.

Mitchell claims to be the most accurate pollster in Michigan, having released a poll showing McCain leading in 2000.

Meanwhile, other pollsters are doing their best to muddy the results of the Democratic results.

Detroit News' pollster, Ed Sarpolus, claimed that: "'Ideally, Clinton needs 60 percent or more of votes to rack up a clear and convincing triumph,' said Detroit News/WXYZ pollster Ed Sarpolus. 'Even so, if she pulls in more than 50 percent she can claim the win and move on, he said.'"

That's setting the bar pretty high. I doubt many in the national media will pick up that argument and repeat it, meaning it will do little to tarnish Clinton's victory, should she win, outside of Michigan.

That gives us plenty to chew on for the next few hours.

The Boys' Club?

Today's Washington Post features an article titled: All Revved Up Over Michigan's Place in Politics: Today's Primary Is Now Secondary, And Debbie Dingell Is In Quite A State.

Thus, in the most wide-open presidential election in a generation, confusion and disillusionment reign supreme in a state already full of both. While Republican candidates devote advertising money and time to win their remaining delegates, Democratic voters have been ignored (save by Dennis Kucinich, the one candidate to break from the pledge). Edwards and Obama supporters have been told to vote "uncommitted" to support their candidates, though there's no guarantee of whom uncommitted delegates will support -- if they're even seated at the convention.
It's actually not a bad overview of the history of how our primary came to be so screwed up... but at the same time, it's one of the more sexist things I've read in quite a while.

Now, I don't think that Debbie Dingell & Co. did our state any favors by playing politics (literally!), and their arrogance borders on breathtaking.

At the same time, I was irritated to read things like this

So it's understandable when Dingell walks into the UAW hall and begins to rant.
and this
Later on she bellows, "We want them talking about our jobs! We want to see them talk about manufacturing!
oh, yeah - and this
It is apparent over the course of a week that she can speak about the primary at only one speed, no matter the venue. There's no soft beginning, no slow crescendo. You simply get Debbie Dingell, Angry or Angrier or Angriest -- a point where her voice is strong enough to destroy whole star systems.

"You tell me what kind of power it takes to have a candidate take their name off the ballot!" Dingell screams.
I haven't read anything about Carl Levin "screaming" or Mark Brewer being in "quite a state." For that matter, I haven't heard about Kucinich's incredibly nasal voice. (Though I have heard repeatedly that Hillary is "shrill.")

Do I think Debbie showed good leadership? Heck, no! But her failures (and successes) deserve to be evaluated on their merits, not on physical attributes and lazy journalistic cliches.

(cross-posted at Michigan Liberal)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Are Journalists Really Having This Discussion?

As a former journalist, I find it hard to believe that some Michigan journalists are actually considering voting in Tuesday's presidential primary.

According to the Grand Rapids Press, the issue has come up this year because you have to ask for a particular party's ballot in this primary and lists will be kept and given to the parties indicating voters' party preferences.

I'm sorry, but I don't think journalists should ever be voting in political primaries, whether party preferences are secret or open.

Political primaries are not elections. They are a short-cut, more democratic way for political parties to pick their candidates rather than going through caucuses, conventions, or smoke-filled rooms.

Should journalists feel free to participate in any of those? Of course not.

I seriously doubt any journalists participated in the Iowa caucuses. And the purpose of the Iowa caucuses is identical to the purposes of the Michigan primary. Journalistic norms are much stricter in Iowa about issues like this. Before leaving journalism in 1997, I had only voted in one primary in my life, and that was many years ago.

Things are looser here in Michigan.

This primary should not be any different from ones where voters' party preferences were kept secret.

Journalists should stay out of partisan political activity. That includes giving money to candidates, holding membership in a party, and voting in a primary, whether anybody knows about it or not.

Primary Day Check-List

Today (January 14, 2008) is the day to make your pre-primary list. Tomorrow, check it twice before you go to the polls to vote in Michigan's presidential primary.

At the top of your list should be this reminder: Decline to sign the so-called Right to Work petition. Labor leaders believe conservative groups will be gathering signatures for a ballot proposal that will drastically undermine labor unions, and therefore Michigan's standard of living as well. Despite its name, the proposal will not guarantee anyone a job, only the right to work for less.

Next, remember to bring your photo ID. Michigan is one of only nine states that requires such identification. But also remember that if you don't have one, you can sign an affidavit instead.

Third, remember not to write in a vote for any candidate. Ballots with write-in candidates will be considered spoiled and thrown out.

Fourth, carefully consider the temptation to cause trouble by voting in the Republican primary. Voting is not a game.

Fifth, feel good about yourself for exercising your civic responsibility.

Sixth, give thanks to whomever you think deserves it for your opportunity to live in a (mostly) free society.

Seventh, resolve to help elect whomever the Democrats nominate by emailing ( calling (810)229-4212) the Livingston County Democratic Party.

There's your list. Now check it twice tomorrow. And may the best candidate win.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Decision Day for Primary Undecideds?

Some time between today (January 13, 2008) and Tuesday, undecided Democrats will have to make up their minds about what to do in Michigan's less-than-perfect 2008 presidential primary.

How many "undecideds" are there? Hard to say. The Detroit Free Press-Local 4 Poll published Sunday shows Sen. Hillary Clinton leading "uncommitted" 56 percent to 30 percent. Rep. Dennis Kucinich gets 2 percent, "other" gets 2 percent, and 10 percent are undecided.

The poll has a margin of error of 4 percent either way. That means Clinton's support, as of the date the polling ended, could be as low as 52 percent and "uncommitted" as high as 34 percent.

And if the undecideds mostly break one way or another, the numbers could end up even tighter. As the national media (supposedly) learned in New Hampshire, such details are important.

(The Detroit News has similar results in its poll although the undecideds are put at only 5 percent.)

Where will the undecideds go?

To help the undecideds make up their minds, the Free Press has a handy compilation of candidates' views on the issues here.

The Livingston Press & Argus has some comments from leading Democrats in the county in a nice pre-primary round-up.

And of course as we noted in a previous post, Daily Kos has suggested that Democrats mess with the GOP primary by supporting Mitt Romney. But the Free Press poll found few people saying they would cross into the Republican primary. And none of the Livingston County leaders endorsed that.

Another option tempting Michigan Democrats might be to vote for Ron Paul. The Livingston Press & Argus has an audio clip of a county Paul supporter going on and on about how Paul supports the constitution and wants to roll back all the assaults on it perpetrated on it by the Bush administration since 9/11.

Don't be tempted by the rhetoric. The New Republic, in a piece picked up by the Huffington Post, exposes Paul's racist views as published in his newsletter, concluding:

"What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing--but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics."

Whatever undecideds -- and all other voters do -- they must remember not to attempt a write-in vote for candidates whose names aren't on the ballot -- John Edwards and Barack Obama.

Those ballots will be judged spoiled and thrown out.

As we learned in New Hampshire, peopole making up their minds at the last minute can affect the outcome.

So undecideds -- choose wisely.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Latest Great GOP Idea -- Let's Dig Another Hole for State Budget

House Republican leaders, who were of absolutely no help in solving the state budget crisis last fall, are trying their hardest to dig another hole for state finances to fall into.

House Minority Leader Craig DeRoche of Novi and Rep. Kevin Eisenheimer of Bellaire want to refund the state's surprising $353 million budget surplus. And then they want to make sure the state never has another surplus by passing a constitutional amendment to require future state surpluses to be refunded to taxpayers, too.

Never mind the unmet needs in the state, like underfunded schools.

To show how far off these guys are, the Detroit Free Press reported Friday (January 11, 2008) that:

"DeRoche accused Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration of hiding or miscalculating state spending to make the case for a tax increase last fall."

Yeah, right. The governor thought raising taxes would be such fun, what with the Senate controlled by Republicans, that she decided to manufacture a budget crisis that would consume state government's time for weeks on end, lead to a brief government shutdown, and generally make everybody look bad.

The constitutional amendment is a real farce. Could the state never accumulate any funds to cushion future economic downturns? Is that really prudent?

What are those Republicans smoking when they come up with these ideas?

Is Primary Day Pay-Back Time for Michigan Dems?

Liberal blogger Daily Kos is suggesting Michigan Democrats have a little fun in next Tuesday's presidential primary.

In a post Thursday (January 10, 2008), the Daily Kos urges Michigan Democrats to vote in the Republican primary that day for Michigan native Mitt Romney.

The reasoning is that Republican cross-over voters have meddled in the Democratic primary in the past -- helping George Wallace win in 1972 and Jesse Jackson in 1988. And they also messed up the Dems' gubernatorial primary in 1998 by voting for Geoffrey Feiger, whom Daily Kos described as a "quack."

Arguing that the Democratic presidential primary is "meaningless," the post says that Democrats can administer some pay-back to Republicans for their past primary shenanigans. But there's more.

"...(P)oor Mitt Romney, who’s suffered back-to-back losses in the last week, desperately needs to win Michigan in order to keep his campaign afloat. Bottom line, if Romney loses Michigan, he's out. If he wins, he stays in.

"And we want Romney in, because the more Republican candidates we have fighting it out, trashing each other with negative ads and spending tons of money, the better it is for us. We want Mitt to stay in the race, and to do that, we need him to win in Michigan."

Right now, the Mittster is on track for his third silver medal, according to two polls cited by Daily Kos, so he needs some help to win.

The idea may tempt some. But I don't like to treat my vote like a joke. And we can't always tell which is the best candidate to run against. In 1980, some Democrats hoped the Republicans would nominate Ronald Reagan. We all know how well that worked out.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Watch What You Sign on Primary Day

Be careful what you sign when you go to the polls for the Michigan presidential primary on Tuesday!

Conservative interest groups are likely to be at polling places gathering signatures to place an anti-worker proposal on the November election ballot. It's call "Right to Work," but union members know it's really the "Right to Work (for less)" that's being promoted. If there's any doubt about that consider the figures -- per capita income in "Right to Work for Less" states is $4,892 a year less than in states without the anti-worker legislation.

States with right to work laws also have lower rates of employer provided health insurance and higher on the job injuries and fatalities.

"Right to Work" laws do not guarantee anyone the right to work.

"Right to work (for less)" petition signature gatherers hope to obtain one-third of the signatures needed on primary election day next Tuesday (Jan. 15, 2008). We need volunteers at 43 targeted polling locations to encourage voters not to sign the petitions.

Training will be provided at 12 noon, Saturday, (Jan. 12, 2008) at the Livingston County Democratic Party office at 10321 E Grand River, Suite 600, Brighton. You’ll also receive materials to pass out.

Please volunteer to keep this anti-worker initiative off the ballot. Volunteer
shifts are AM (7am-1pm) and PM (4-8pm). The shift hours can be negotiated.

If you can help, email Penelope Ann Tsernoglous at the following information ASAP or you can call Donna Anderson at 248 719-0112 to let us know you will be attending the training:
> Name:
> Address:
> Home & Cell Phone #:
> Personal Voting Location & Precinct:
> Preferred Shift: AM or PM

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Volunteer to Help the Homeless

Helping the homeless is a cause near and dear to the hearts of many socially conscious Democrats, but those of us in Livingston County may not realize that a well-off county like our own has a problem.

In fact, Livingston County does have people who lack a place to stay. And here's our chance to do something about it.

The Livingston County Homeless Continuum of Care is sponsoring its First Annual Community Connect event on January 26 at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Brighton. The event is designed to help homeless people and others find services and resources that they need -- everything from information about housing opportunities to diapers to food to mentoring. The event will also include a lunch and music.

Volunteers are needed to greet guests the day of the event and help them find their way around the services, as well as to help serve the meal.

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but volunteers are asked to work from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. People who cannot commit to the full day are asked to work either from 8:30 a.m. to noon or from noon to 4:30 p.m.

People interested in volunteering for the event may contact Delphine Palkowski, the chair of the Livingston County Democrats' Blue Tigers Committee, at: Delphine is helping organize Democrats to volunteer for the event, which is being coordinated by a variety of Livingston County social services organiations.

Romney and Abortion -- A Family Political Problem?

Whether you're participating in Michigan's Republican presidential primary or not (and we hope you're not), you're apt to hear a lot about it in the next week.

In the wake of John McCain's repeat win in New Hampshire on Tuesday, national pundits suggested Michigan would be a battleground between McCain (who won here in 2000) and Mitt Romney, who is a native of Michigan. Local media on Wednesday (January 9, 2008) did the same.

But neither state nor national commentators are yet paying enough attention to the role of abortion in the Republican race in Michigan. They both suggest that Mike Huckabee will be somewhere behind McCain and Romney, but that may understate his strength because of his opposition to abortion.

Take a look at what the far-right is saying about the GOP candidates on abortion:

The ProLife Federation of Michigan gives Romney an "E" on the issue of opposing abortion. McCain gets a "B+." Huckabee gets an "A."

Another group, Michigan Chooses Life PAC, endorsed Huckabee in December.

But the 600-pound guerilla in Michigan's anti-abortion arena is Right to Life of Michigan. It has yet to make an endorsement, but it lists the GOP candidates' positions on abortion here. I doubt few right-to-lifers will find Romney's answer satisfying -- there's nothing about the "sanctity of life" (pre-born life, that is) and only a legalistic answer. Huckabee sounds the right note for these people. Even without an endorsement, word will get around in those circles.

So Huckabee likely will do well in Michigan and it will come as a great surprise to everybody who will go on and on about Huckabee's populism being so appealing. It won't be populism that drives any success he has in Michigan -- it will be far-right opposition to abortion.

This whole thing about Romney and abortion reminds me of the problems his former sister-in-law -- Ronna Romney, former wife of Scott Romney -- had when she ran for U.S. Senate in Michigan in 1996. Although she insisted she was opposed to abortion, there were persistent rumors about her previous support for abortion rights.

When Mitt was attacked as a flip-flopper on abortion a few years ago, Ronna rose to his defense.

Is flip-flopping on abortion a family thing with these Romneys?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Democrats Plan Coffee for Potential 2008 Candidates

BRIGHTON – The November election is still 11 months away, but Livingston County Democrats are launching a county-wide effort to recruit the best possible candidates to put before voters.

Matt Evans, chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party, said the party is sponsoring a Candidates’ Coffee to make sure all Democrats know the offices that are open and the resources that are available to help candidates this year. The event will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, January 19 at party headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600, Brighton.

“This is shaping up to be one of the best years in a long time to run as a Democrat. The top of our ticket is expected to run especially well, but voters are anxious for change up and down the ballot,” Evans said.

National polls show the electorate is inclined to vote Democratic in 2008. Rasmussen Reports, a national pollster, has found a double-digit lead for five straight months for Democrats over Republicans in its generic congressional ballot. In its telephone poll of 1,200 likely voters, Rasmussen Reports found that 46 percent of American voters say they would vote for the Democrat in their district and 36 percent would pick the Republican. The Democratic advantage is even wider among independent voters. The poll found those voters prefer Democratic candidates to Republican candidates by a 41 percent to 21 percent margin. The poll, taken December 7-9, has a margin of error of 4 percent either way.

Furthermore, Michigan’s ballot will have the popular incumbent Democrat Sen. Carl Levin leading off the ticket, Evans noted.

“Our Candidates' Coffee is your chance to chat informally about running for office in 2008 and to learn from the experiences of others,” he said.

On hand to talk about how the local party can help candidates will be local party officials, including Evans, Vice Chair Donna Anderson, Treasurer Annette Koeble, and Secretary Mary Evergreen.

A panel of previous candidates will speak briefly about the mechanics of running for office, the joys and challenges of the process, and how they made use of party resources. There also will be a question and answer session, as well as information about further training available and fund-raising possibilities, too.

Evans stressed that the party is casting a wide net for candidates, rather than turning to a handful of insiders, in part because of the large number of offices open this year.

Both Livingston County seats in the Michigan House will be filled by newcomers. The incumbents, Republican Chris Ward in the 66th District, and Republican Joe Hune in the 47th District, are term-limited.

County-wide positions to be filled are prosecuting attorney, sheriff, county clerk, treasurer, and all nine seats on the county commission. In addition, at the township level, positions to be filled include the supervisor, in all townships except Brighton Township; township clerk; township treasurer, and township trustees.

“Whether you have run for office before, already hold an office, or are thinking about running for the first time, we want you to know how the Livingston County Democratic Party can help,” Evans said.

He added that people who want to work in a campaign rather than run themselves are also welcome to attend.

Presidential Primary Primer

Okay, New Hampshire has the spotlight today (January 8, 2008), but Michigan voters get their turn next week so you have plenty of time to try to figure out what to do.

The choices, remember, boil down to voting for Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Christopher Dodd (who has dropped out of the race), former Sen. Mike Gravel, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich; voting "uncommitted," and writing in someone's name.

Remember, though, that write-ins will count only if the candidate has notified the Secretary of State's office that he or she is a candidate. And Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards have not. So your vote will be wasted and your ballot thrown out.

Turns out, though, if you make a mistake and write in a candidate's name while voting absentee, you can get another chance to do it right. According to the Free Press, election clerks are giving absentee voters a second ballot.

"Uncommitted" remains the best choice for Edwards and Obama supporters. Although the national party's official stance right now is that Michigan delegates will not be seated, the party's eventual nominee (which likely will be decided well before the national convention) will want to waive the rule and seat the people Michigan sends to the convention.

Looking for love... in Livingston County?

Well, the hard-hitting journalists at New York Magazine have done it again -- a scoop on Ann Coulter's breakup with Andrew Stein, her Democratic boyfriend.

Poor Ann. Maybe she should come back to Livingston County. There are lots of nice conservative guys here... and we hear that some of the more prominent ones are available.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Is She Against Dancing Now?

On a day when there's not much going on around the blogosphere that pertains to Michigan, I like to check out Wendy Day's blog. The Howell School Board member who doesn't send her kids to public school never disappoints.

Her latest target is dancing.

In a piece Sunday (January 6, 2007), Day is complaining about the purchase of a video game that attempts to get kids up off their behinds and moving around in hopes of reducing the obesity epidemic in this country.

Called "Dance Dance Revolution," the game consists of a mat on which kids dance. If they hit the right spots, they score points, and the highest score wins. The district bought one system to be shared by all elementary schools in the district.

Says Day, "Yes, we do have a problem with overweight kids in America. There are lots of ways to engage children in exercises that cost a lot less than the $5-7 thousand dollars this program will cost for a class set."

Okay, let's look at these "lots of ways to engage children in exercises" that would work really well in a classroom. They could do calisthetics. Kids would love that, wouldn't they? How about running in place? Can't have a treadmill, that would cost money, too. And I'm sure they would go home and run in place in their spare time.

The Howell school district is not alone in using this system. As Tne New York Times reported, other states have bought the system for each school district.

Scientific studies back up the game's effectiveness, even with obese children who generally are reluctant to participate in gym class. One study found that a little over an hour of DDR helps children lose weight.

A second study found that children doing DDR use more energy than walking on a treadmill while watching TV.

Besides that, dancing is something that people can do throughout their lives and that is fun. And it doesn't require a particular skill, the way basketball and soccer do. And it can be done indoors, regardless of the weather.

Day considers the game a "luxury." Is battling obesity a "luxury"? Obesity is a leading cause of diabetes in this country. What's the lifetime cost of caring for diabetics? And since when is the health of our children a "luxury"?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Voters' Guide to Michigan Presidential Primary

Political pundits are having a lot of fun with the Michigan Presidential Primary, now just nine days away.

Michigan Liberal had this piece a few days ago.

And the Livingston Press and Argus editorialized on the primary Sunday (January 6, 2008). The piece included this startling insight:

"For starters, the taxpayer-funded election appears to be largely conducted for the benefit of the state's two major political parties because Democratic and Republican state party chairs will get exclusive looks at the party preference of all voters."

Got news for you. Political primaries are always conducted "for the benefit of the state's two major political parties." The sole purpose of a primary is to let a political primary pick its candidate. A primary does not elect anybody to any office. It's merely a short-cut way for a political party to agree on a candidate instead of having caucuses or some other system. So by definition, a primary is for the benefit of a major political party and its members.

In the face of such wisdom emanating from the news media, the Michigan Democratic Party has issued a set of guidelines to help voters decide what they want to do come primary day.

Here's the scope from the state party:

1. Voters will vote at their regular polling places between 7 A.M. and 8 P.M.
2. Voters can vote by absentee ballot if they meet one of the requirements – out of town, age 60 or older, disability, etc.
3. The deadline to register to vote is 30 days before January 15, 2008 or December 17, 2007.
4. In order to vote at a polling place, a voter must show a photo ID or sign a statement that they do not have a photo ID with them. Absentee voters do not have to produce a photo ID.
5. Voters will be asked whether they want a Democratic or Republican ballot, and a record will be made of which ballot they take.
6. The voter’s choice of candidate will be secret as in all public elections.
7. The Democratic ballot will have 6 choices:
Hillary Clinton
Christopher Dodd
Mike Gravel
Dennis Kucinich
8. A vote for "uncommitted" is a vote to send delegates to the Democratic National Convention who are not committed or pledged to any candidate. Those delegates can vote for any candidate they choose at the Convention.
9. Supporters of Joe Biden, John Edwards, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson are urged to vote for "uncommitted" instead of writing in their candidates’ names. Write-in votes for those candidates will not be counted under state law because they did not notify the Secretary of State that they are a write-in candidate. For that reason, voters are urged not to waste their vote on a write-in. Vote "uncommitted" instead.

In an editorial for Sunday (January 6, 2007), the Detroit Free Press urged voters not to sit out the primary.

But you decide. That's democracy, as flawed as it may be.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Michigan Covers the Iowa Caucuses

After months of carping about the Iowa caucuses, the Michigan media settled down to actually cover the event and the coverage in today's media (January 4, 2007) is diverse because of the multi-media abilities made possible by the Internet. The Free Press has some interesting angles, including:

--An animated cartoon by staff cartoonist Mike Thompson. It's cute, but inaccurate. Iowa grows corn and you don't need a threshing machine for corn, only for wheat. Kansas grows wheat.

--Video from one of the caucuses, in Urbandale, Iowa. The Free Press visited the most Republican precinct in central Iowa and found a 60 percent voter turnout at the Democratic caucus. Interesting to see people willing to raise their hand in public to demonstrate their support for a candidate.

--The Detroit News mainly relied on AP coverage, including this video. It includes a segment from Barack Obama's speech.

One interpretation of the Iowa caucuses that I didn't see much of last night (except for some allusions to it in this piece by CBS News)was the "neighbor effect."

Over the years, candidates from other Midwestern states have done very well in the Iowa caucuses, on both the Democratic and Republican sides. Consider wins by Walter Mondale from Minnesota in 1984, Dick Gephardt from Missouri (followed by Paul Simon from Illinois) in 1988, plus Tom Harkin from Iowa in 1992 on the Democratic side and Bob Dole from Kansas on the Republican side in 1988 and 1996. Now we can add Barack Obama from Illinois to the list on the Democratic side.

Even Mike Huckabee on the Republican side is much more of a neighbor to Iowans than the rest of the Republican field but his religion likely influenced the outcome more so than geography.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Rescheduled Holiday Party for Livingston Dems

The holiday season may be technically over, but the holiday spirit of Livingston County Democrats lives on. We'll celebrate the holidays with a holiday party on Saturday (January 5, 2008), rescheduled from the day of the December snow storm.

Please join Livingston County Democrats from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at party headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600 of the Fonda Office Park, in Brighton, for a potluck. Bring a covered dish and donations in the form of cash, check, or canned goods for the Gleaners Food Bank. The party will furnish table service, wine, beverages, and a honey-baked ham.

Happy Holidays!

Caucuses Underway -- Here's a Place to Watch

As of this writing, the Iowa caucuses are underway. If you'd like an alternative to watching the mainstream media and want to be up to date, check out this website:

The live coverage is being orchestrated by Robert Greenwald's Brave New Films in cooperation with the Young Turks, a Los Angeles-based radio talk show host. They have a full line-up of guests for tonight (January 3, 2008), including Sam Seder from Air America and others.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Democracy -- It's Such a Bother

Mike Malott says he's staying home.

In a rant in the Livingston Press and Argus for Wednesday (January 2, 2008), Malott gripes about the fact that he has to basically declare a party preference in order to vote in Michigan's January 15th presidential primary and warns of the potential aftermath. As a protest, he's not going to vote.

"If you vote on Jan. 15, expect to get a ton of phone calls and mailings from candidates in your party in every election in the future, whether you care about it or not. You think you get a lot of phone calls from politicians now? Hold on to your hat," he says.

Oh, my. How horrible. People are going to be asked to participate in their democracy in the future. We can't have that. No, siree. We can't be interrupted while we're doing something really important like watching "American Idol."

Actually, some people probably will get fewer calls. Republicans are likely to look at the list of Democrats and scratch them off their call lists, and vice versa. Why spend scarce time and money calling people you now know belong to the other party?

Furthermore, I find it amusing that some people get all exercised about their loss of privacy in a closed primary. Too few of them are worried about the telephone companies helping the federal government illegally listen to millions of Americans' phone calls for me to believe that they take the right to privacy very seriously.

In Malott's case, it's more likely that he's staying home because the names on the Republican Party ballot are such a bunch of losers that he's embarrassed to ask for the ballot.

Another View of the Iowa Caucuses

There's been a lot of talk, mostly negative, in Michigan recently about the Iowa caucuses, spearheaded by Sen. Carl Levin's belief that Iowa is the wrong state to kick off the presidential nominating process.

Somehow, people outside of Iowa have gotten the impression that Iowa decides whom the party will nominate and no other state has a voice in the decision. Although I don't want to pick an argument with the distinguished Senator Levin, I do think it's important to point out a few things.

First of all, the Iowa caucus winner generally does not have a lock on the nomination. If they did, the Democrats would have nominated Rep. Dick Gephardt in 1988 and Sen. Tom Harkin in 1992. Neither of those things happened. Nor did Republicans nominate George H.W. Bush in 1980.

Secondly, there's no requirement that candidates campaign in Iowa in order to win the nomination. Bill Clinton skipped the Iowa caucuses in 1992 and still won the nomination. Ronald Reagan scarcely campaigned in Iowa in 1980 and ended up with the nomination anyway.

Thirdly, candidates seem to like to campaign in Iowa. It gives them a chance to fine tune their campaign organizations and their campaign skills without having a lot riding on the outcome. With only seven electoral votes, Iowa is not a make-or-break state for any candidate. Imagine if California, New York, Florida, or Texas went first. A candidate who stumbled right out of the blocks in one of those states would be fatally wounded, but there's plenty of opportunity to recover after an Iowa failure.

As The New York Times pointed out Tuesday (January 1, 2008),
"Watching these candidates, Democrats and Republicans, deliver their final speeches, take the last rounds of questions from Iowans and shake the hands of supporters one more time, it is apparent that most of them are much better at campaigning than they were a year ago.

"Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, an old Iowa caucus hand who has moved here to help out in the final days, said as much in explaining why he would be comfortable with even an inconclusive outcome. 'The experience here in Iowa,' he said, 'has been tremendous for the entire campaign.'"

Fourthly, campaigning in Iowa is done face-to-face with voters in dozens of town hall meetings, coffees in homes, or meet-and-greets in diners or union halls. That means candidates get to make their case directly to people rather than have it filtered through the media.

The caucuses are part of the culture of the state. People in Iowa are used to going out to meet the candidates and take their measure in person rather than rely on campaign ads. Maintaining one space where candidates must actually meet voters face to face seems valuable for a democracy. Candidates cannot rely on scripted performances or canned speeches to create a false personna for themselves. In these live, face-to-face events, their real personalities are likely to come out, for good or ill.

Reporters there are used to covering presidential candidates up close, one-on-one, in a way that even big-time reporters in Washington, D.C., do not have the opportunity to do. As an Iowa reporter, I covered presidential candidates dozens and dozens of times. Years later, Jesse Jackson still recognized me. The cadre of political reporters there is an experienced bunch who are on a first-name basis with national political operatives. Campaigns may not always like the coverage they get, but from the start of the process, they know whom they are dealing with and know what to expect.

The emphasis on retail politics means campaigning in Iowa is much cheaper than it would be in media-dominated campaigns in large states or in some sort of semi-national or national primary. So instead of only a few, well-heeled candidates in the field, people like Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, and Chris Dodd can mount campaigns and influence the campaign issues and discourse. In other words, having Iowa go first creates more choices for voters, not fewer.

Fifth, candidates and the party establlishment seem to trust the common sense of Iowa voters and the stability of the Iowa process. Iowa caucus goers never turned out for George Wallace, as voters in the Michigan Democratic primary did in 1972. That year, Iowa caucus goers proved they were reliably liberal -- Ed Muskie finished first and George McGovern finished second in Iowa.

And Iowa hasn't tinkered with its procedure the way other states have done. Michigan has had a caucus (2004) an open primary (1972), a closed primary (2008), a confusing caucus system (1988), and maybe some other system that I can't remember right now. Exactly what the system will be is often subject to negotation with Republicans, as in 2004 when Republicans forced a caucus on Democrats who did not want an open primary.

In contrast, both parties in Iowa are satisfied with the caucus system, which has been in place for every election except 1916, when the state tried a primary. With Iowa, candidates know exactly what sort of procedure to prepare for.

Will Iowa always go first? Who knows? Des Moines Register reporter David Yepsen offers his take on that question here. The gist of his argument is that whoever wins the White House in 2008 will likely be one of the top three finishers in Iowa and is likely to want to return to friendly territory to start the 2012 campaign.

We don't know yet what the results will be in Iowa on Thursday -- whether there will be a clear winner or a trio of candidates so close that all can claim a share of the victory. If history is any guide, we do know that Iowa will only start the nominating process and not finish it, despite the fears of caucus critics.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

One Last Look at 2007 -- Ten Top Tens

Before we toss out those 2007 calendars, let's take one last look at last year, by way of a round-up of Top Ten lists found around the blogosphere.

The Livingston Press and Argus has its list of Top 10 local news stories, with controversies in the Howell school district heading the list.

In Lansing, the State Journal couldn't muster enough events for a top 10 list, settling for a top 5 that includes Michigan State's trip to a bowl game.

The Conservative Media has a list of Top 10 Michigan political stories, topped by the shutdown of state government.

Crain's has a Top 10 of things to remember about 2007, including such things as the new UAW contract and the reopening of the Detroit Institute of Arts. (Thanks to Michigan Liberal to highlighting this.)

On the international level, blogger and University of Michigan professor Juan Cole lists the top ten challenges in foreign affairs for the U.S. in 2008.

In the world of sports, Newsweek offers a top 10 list of events in sports. Does the Appalachian State-Michigan game make the list?

On the lighter side, the New York Observer names the top ten celebrity meltdowns in 2007. How does Britney Spears not win this one?

Even Science has a Top 10 list of its favorite science stories from 2007. Two of my favorites -- your dog can recognize your face and showing videos to your baby will not necessarily make her smarter.

Huffington Post puts the focus on the environment with its top ten list of global warming stories.

CBS reports on a list of top ten quotations from 2007. George Bush didn't make the grade this year, but Jimmy Carter did, with his evaluation of the Bush presidency.

So thanks for the memories, 2007.