Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Time to End One-Party Rule?

The Livingston Press and Argus has new information on the political swamp that the Republicans running Hamburg Township have created.

Someone left a package of letters on the door step of the newspaper editor's home.

I get the feeling that it's hard for the newspaper to sort out what is going on there. With all the township boards in the county, plus the county commission, it must be very difficult to the Press and Argus to provide any sort of meaningful coverage of them.

Makes you wonder what is going on in a lot of these townships, with no one really watching.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Vote for Health Care Today!

Make your voice heard today (April 28, 2008)!

The Detroit News is running an on-line poll on health care.

Vote "Yes" to show your support for a state ballot issue requiring the Legislature to ensure access to health care.

Don't Miss 'Activist' Piece in Press and Argus

The Livingston Press and Argus had a great piece over the weekend from Sue Kelly with the Sierra Club here in Michigan.

Kelly defends the role of activists in a free society, writing:

"The reality is that the activists are as fundamental to this democratic machine as the soldiers, the corporations, and the powerful leaders are. An incalculable debt is owed to those who wear the uniform of our country, protecting our way of life with great honor and sacrifice. We all need to be aware of how delicate democracy is, how willingly some will forgo justice and the health of our families to increase their bottom line. Sadly, those in power will always characterize the people who challenge the powerful and their profits as radical, uninformed and unpatriotic."

Something to think about this summer as you decide whether to play golf or knock on doors for a Democratic candidate.

Look Who's Cleaning Up!

Many thanks to those Democrats who turned out on Sunday (April 27, 2008) to help with the roadside cleanup along Michigan Highway 59!

The thousands of volunteers like these Democrats save the state of Michigan $1 million in litter pick-up costs with their efforts, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Public Radio Political Analyst Coming to Howell

Jack Lessenberry, the well-known senior political analyst for Michigan Public Radio, will speak in Howell next month about the fall election.

Lessenberry will discuss, "Michigan and the Election: Are Any Surprises in Store?" during his appearance Thursday, May 8, at the Howell Opera House, 123 W. Grand River. The 7 p.m. event will include a chance to ask questions of Lessenberry.

The event, which is open to the public, is sponsored by Voter's Voice, a nonpartisan organization that sponsors forums to educate Livingston County residents, and
Community Unitarians Universalists of Brighton.

Admission is free, but donations to cover the cost will be gladly accepted.

Lessenberry is well-known for his interviews of Michigan leaders on politics, business, education, and other topics. He is a contributing editor and columnist for the Metro Times, The Traverse City Record Eagle, The Toledo Blade, and has been a consultant for many other newspapers. He has also provided political analysis for local television and radio stations and is a professor of journalism at Wayne State University.

Previously, he worked as a foreign correspondent and executive national editor of the Detroit News. His writing has appeared in such national publications as Vanity Fair, Esquire, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe.

For more information, contact Jim Swonk at swonk@sbcglobal.net or Marilyn Hysen at thysen@provide.net.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Levin Wants Answers on Military Pundits

Was the Pentagon using TV pundits to spread its propaganda about how well the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are going?

That's what The New York Times claims in a story on Sunday (April 20, 2008).

Now Michigan Sen. Carl Levin wants some answers. Levin has written the Pentagon demanding answers to what looks like an attempt by the military to unfairly influence the information Americans get about the war they're paying for.

"While the media clearly have their own shortfalls for paying people to provide 'independent' analysis when they have such real and apparent conflicts, that doesn't excuse the Department's behavior in giving both special treatment and valuable access to analysts who provide commentary in favor of DoD's strategy, while not offereing similar access to some other analysts and cutting off access to others who didn’t deliver as expected," Levin wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The Times' story indicates that military analysts hired by television networks to give unvarnished views to the American public on the wars are actually beholden to companies that profit from continuing the war. Furthermore, they are given special privileges by the Pentagon, such as special briefings, access to classified information, and trips to Iraq. Sometimes, these special briefings even include officials who have influence over contracts that are awarded.

In exchange, the TV pundits -- retired miliary officials -- are expected to provide favorable comments in their TV appearances. Those who don't are cut off from the privileges.

Levin's intervention merited the attention of The Times in editions for Saturday (April 26, 2008), as well as media watchdog sites such as Media Matters.

After Levin's letter, the Pentagon announced it was suspending the briefings.

But that shouldn't be enough for Levin. He needs to get to the bottom of what was going on, as he usually does.

Set the Alarm, Get Some Exercise Sunday!

The forecast is for 60-degree temperatures on Sunday (April 27, 2008) so why not set the alarm, get up a little early, and get some exercise while helping out your community?

Sunday is the date for the spring roadside cleanup. Livingston County Democrats will be meeting at 8 a.m. in the parking lot in front of the clubhouse at the Ironwood Golf Course, 6902 E. Highland Road (M-59), Howell, Michigan.

Coordinators Paul and Pat Perosak will be there to pass out highway safety vests and rubbish bags.

All across Michigan this month, some 27,000 people will be volunteering their time to spruce up the state's roadsides, picking up the trash that has accumulated there over the winter, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Each year, volunteers like Paul and Pat save the state more than $1 million in litter removal costs.

At the Livingston Democrats' 25th annual Winans Dinner, Paul and Pat (above) were honored for their service in leading this clean-up for many years. How about lending a hand this year?

Friday, April 25, 2008

So Who REALLY Supports the Troops?

Over half the members of Congress have signed on as co-sponsors of a new G.I.-bill for our troops who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Guess who hasn't.

John McCain. And Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan's 8th Congressional District.

The measure will return to the original intent of the World War II-era G.I. Bill, covering the full cost of a college education rather than only 60 to 70 percent. It is being pushed by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, as well as other major veterans organizations.

But McCain and Rogers are not on the list of sponsors, although both Democrats Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow are.

Isn't this a no-brainer? Shouldn't we be thanking our troops, many of whom are serving two or three tours of duty, with a G.I. Bill equivalent to the one that many of their grandfathers took advantage of? The $2 billion pricetag surely cannot be the reason. We spend that in a week in Iraq.

More and more we are hearing calls for bipartisanship. Certainly support for our returning veterans is one thing Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree on.

You can visit the IAVA page and send an email to Rogers telling him to put our money where his mouth is on supporting the troops.

Thank a vet for your freedom. Send him or her to college.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Here's Something Michigan Could Beat Iowa At

Earlier this year, Michigan was in a dither because Iowa's caucuses were first in the nation and everybody was just sure that meant Michigan and everybody else would be irrelevant in the presidential nominating process. We all know how that has worked out.

But there is something Michigan could beat Iowa at if the state's lawmakers would put their minds to it.

Generating wind power.

Right now, Iowa claims to be third in the nation in wind-generated electricity (behind California and Texas.) A later ranking puts them fourth, with Minnesota having sneaked in ahead of them.

Michigan is 30th.

According to the state's Department of Natural Resources, Iowa has three major commercial windfarms and plans for a fourth, as well as installations at institutions such as schools.

And the state is only the 10th windiest place in the country.

Come on, Michigan. Are we going to let ourselves be outdone by Iowa again? Let's get busy building wind farms and ... What's that you say, Governor Granholm and the Democrats have suggested that? And Republicans in the Senate blocked the proposal?

Looks like Iowa wins again.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Alexander: Small Towns Can Make the Difference

Hot races in Michigan's 7th and 9th Congressional Districts are generating a lot of chatter in the blogosphere, but let's not forget the Michigan 8th District seat, currently held by Republican Mike Rogers of Brighton.

It's winnable for Democrats, says Bob Alexander, candidate for the Democratic nomination for the seat.

In non-presidential election years, Rogers' support drops by about one-fourth -- from 207,000 votes in 2004 compared to 157,000 in 2006 and 156,000 in 2002. If the top of the Democratic ticket runs strongly in Michigan this fall, that could negate much of Rogers' presidential-year bounce.

But to make sure he gets every bit of the anticipated Democratic bounce this year, Alexander says he wants to knock on as many doors as possible in the small towns in Michigan's 8th Congressional District. He and his supporters have been canvassing door-to-door in communities like St. John's and Williamston.

That's the scenario that Alexander laid out Saturday (April 19, 2008) at the Livingston County Democrats' 25th annual Winans Dinner.

It's a logical strategy for a campaign on a tight-budget -- people power, person-to-person contact.

(Above, Bob Alexander makes a point to Irene Cahill, Livingston County Democrat, at the party's 25th annual Winans Dinner.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gettelfinger on Video

Did you miss UAW President Ron Gettelfinger Saturday night at Livingston County Democrats' 25th annual Winans Dinner?

The Livingston Press and Argus has a few video snippets up from our videotape of the event available here.

Livingston Democrats will have the full video up in a few days.

Gettelfinger: Joining Union Is Not Enough

Anyone would expect UAW President Ron Gettelfinger to talk about the importance of being a union member. But when he spoke to the Livingston County Democrats' Winans Dinner on Saturday (April 19, 2008) he told unions members not to stop there.

He spent the earlier part of his day attending his 11th District Democratic Convention, where he was elected an uncommitted delegate to the Democratic National Convention, even though Michigan's delegates remain barred from being there.

"To me, it's like going to a union meeting," Gettelfinger told the crowd at the Hamburg VFA Hall, adding that's because Democrats and union members both are interesting in "reaching out and taking care of people in need."

"We have a lot of the same philosophies. We value each other," he said.

"I love being a Democrat. I love being a union person," he said. "It's wonderful to see people come out on a Saturday night to functions like this and help the party grow."

Gettelfinger thanked people like Bob Alexander, who is running for the Democratic nomination for the 8th Congressional seat, and Donna Anderson, who is running for the Democratic nomination for the 66th District in the Michigan House, for taking on the grueling task of running for office.

"It's so important that people get involved. I thought I'd come in here and there'd be three of us. But you can see something's happening out here," he said.

But Gettelfinger challenged the audience to do more.

"It's important for all of us, not to stand up here and give a talk and leave. That's not what it's about. It's about being willing to go out (and work). What's more important than registering another voter? What's more important than talking to a voter about the issues?" he said.

Gettelfinger dismissed suggestions that unions tell members how to vote. "We want to let people know what the issues are and then if they want to vote against themselves, they can do it," he said.

While some union members might be concerned about moral issues, Gettelfinger said moral issues should not stop with matters such as sexuality. Homeless veterans, people without jobs, and seniors needing prescription drugs are all moral issues, he pointed out.

And he said people should remember to vote the full ballot, not just the top of the ticket, because races such as the Michigan Supreme Court are critically important for working people, too.

"We're going to win. Yes we are. We're going to win," he said. "There's no greater equalizer than the voting booth. There's power in that voting booth, only if you use it."

(Above, Ron Gettelfinger talks to UAW retiree JoAnn Murphy and others at the 25th annual Winans Dinner.)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Gettelfinger's Message: Everybody Is Just As Important As the Next Person

Ron Gettelfinger, who rose from the assembly line to the head of his union, has never forgotten where he came from.

That was obvious Saturday (April 19, 2008) when Gettelfinger spoke to Livingston County Democrats at the 25th annual Winans Dinner.

"Everybody is just as important as the next person," Gettelfinger told the more than 150 people at the event at the Hamburg VFW Hall, in Michigan's Livingston County.

Based on his behavior, Gettelfinger believes it. The president of the UAW arrived for the 6 p.m. event, stayed the entire evening, and mingled freely with everyone in the crowd, working his way from table to table to shake hands with anyone who wanted to visit with him. Above, he introduces his wife, Judy, to guests at one table.

And after downing his dinner, he sat for a lengthy interview with reporters.

Then in a rousing keynote speech, Gettelfinger laid out his belief in the fundamental equality of all human beings.

When the United Auto Workers lobbies for measures such as an increase in the minimum wage, it's not UAW members who benefit, he said, since its members make more than that. Millions of non-represented workers benefit. And improvements in worker safety laws benefit all people, not just union members, he said.

"We're proud of who we are and what we stand for," the UAW president said.

Recently, he said, a fellow union employee told him of stopping to fill up for gas at a gas pump and noticed the total left on the pump from the previous customer -- $1.79. "That's a world a lot of people don't see," he said.

Gettelfinger also justified the union's support for single payer, universal health care that covers everybody.

"Why shouldn't the person who comes to my home and picks up my garbage have the same health care as a CEO? Their life is just as important," Gettelfinger said.

Concern over UAW retiree benefits is what prompted the UAW to want to take over administering health benefits for Delphi Automotive Systems workers in 2005, he said, noting that employers have figured out how to declare bankruptcy, move operations overseas, rake in millions of profits, and walk away from their obligations to past employees.

In its 2007 contracts with automakers, the union also agreed to administer health care, and Gettelfinger promised, "You don't have to worry about your health care ... There will be health care for every retiree who is retired today and into the next 80years. We're confident of that."

Gettelfinger stressed that the UAW values the auto industry and wants to see it survive because of its importance as an economic engine. As a result, he said the union had made many recent sacrifices in order to preserve jobs.

Yet he said those sacrifices seem to go unnoticed by news reporters who focus on "greedy unions" while ignoring excessive executive compensation.

While Gettelfinger mentioned the head of American Axle, who made $258 million between 1997 and 2007 and now "wants workers to work for nothing," he made it clear that the problem is broader than that. In 1976, the average chief executive officer's salary was 36 times the average worker's salary. In 1993, it was 131 times as great. But by 2005, the average CEO was making 369 times the average worker's pay.

"Why is somebody not talking about that?" he asked. "It does make my blood boil when I see what these executives are rewarding themselves with based on the performance of their workers."

Gettelfinger said he was willing to take criticism in the media for bringing up those issues.

But he got little criticism from Saturday's audience, which interrupted him several times with applause.

Stay tuned for more posts on other themes in Gettelfinger's talk

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Oh, What a Night!

Oh, What a Night!

Only the words of the Frankie Vallie classic capture the rush I felt last night at the Livingston County Democratic Party 25th annual Winans' Dinner.

We had a great crowd. No more jokes about Livingston County Democrats meeting in phone booths, please.

And we had a tremendous speaker -- UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, who let everybody know that he, the UAW, and the Democratic Party care about all working people, not just union members.

Several news organizations turned out to cover Gettelfinger, as shown by the news conference captured in the accompanying photo.

We'll have more coverage to come, but in the meantime, you can catch traditional media's coverage.

The Ann Arbor News stressed on-going strike negotiations. Local Michigan television did the same.

And so did The Associated Press coverage, which showed up many places:

International Herald Tribune.
Minnneapolis Star-Tribune.
San Francisco Chronicle.
Lexington Herald Leader.
Boston Herald.
Toledo Blade.
Yahoo News.

Gettelfinger had a lot more to talk about than local strikes. That's why we can't depend on just traditional media to find out about Democratic politics. Check back for more soon!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hightower, Goodman Speaking in Lansing

A pair of high-powered speakers will speak in Lansing next month for the 2nd annual Michigan Policy Summit.

Former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, a populist firebrand, and Amy Goodman, a crusading journalist if there ever was one, will speak at the event May 10.

I have heard both speakers and each one alone is dynamic and inspiring. But both on the same program? Wow!

Goodman's radio show "Democracy Now!" consistently breaks stories that the rest of the media has ignored.

Hightower is full of wit and wisdom, as shown by the title of his latest book, Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go with the Flow.

The summit will focus on education, health care, and the environment.

Get inspired, get energized, get registered for the summit.

Here's a link.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What's the Dalai Lama Got to Do with Michigan?

The Dalai Lama is coming to Ann Arbor this weekend. Why should that concern anyone in Michigan or Livingston County? Isn't this just a matter of interest to those left-wing radicals down in Washtenaw County?

Michigan Liberal for Wednesday (April 16, 2008) touts the Dalai Lama as bringing a message of uplift to our state in a time of economic suffering. And its link to Our Michigan has the details on the visit, highlighting the possiblity of protests by pro-Chinese demonstrators who want to make sure the controversy over Tibet does not ruin China's chance to showcase its progress during the summer Olympics.

But the presence of the Dalai Lama is about a lot more than whether China gets embarrassed this summer and whether we get to watch this world-wide sporting event this summer.

Actually, the presence of the Dalai Lama is really about human rights -- and jobs in Michigan. And the two go together.

The Dalai Lama is a symbol of non-violent resistance in the face of one of the most brutal, long-running repressions by a modern nation -- the repression of Tibet by the government of China. And Tibet is a symbol of what our nation's trade policies help fund.

Every time we buy a piece of clothing, a toy -- or an auto part -- from China, we help fund the massive Chinese military presence that has led to decades of abuse, torture, religious restrictions, forced sterilizations, and forced relocations that are the lot of everyday Tibetans.

These are the same trade policies that put Michigan residents out of work when their jobs are transferred to political prisoners in Tibet.

If you doubt that, watch this video filmed secretly by a Tibetan refugee who returned to Tibet with a hidden camera. Mere possession of the camera would have earned him a prison sentence had he been caught -- which should be a tip-off that the Chinese have something to hide.

What happens in Tibet, doesn't stay in Tibet. It comes to Michigan, and affects us all.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tickets for Gettelfinger Going Fast -- Don't Get Left Out!

Only a few tickets remain for the Livingston County Democratic Party's fund-raiser with UAW President Ron Gettelfinger this Saturday (April 19, 2008).

This is an event that you won't want to miss. Not only did Gettelfinger negotiate labor contracts with the Big 3 auto companies, but he also has been in the thick of negotiations over the fate of Michigan's delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

Besides Gettelfinger, other honored guests at the 25th annual Winans Dinner include state Sen. Hansen Clarke of Detroit, state Rep. Anna Wheeler Smith of Salem and Bob Alexander, candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House in the 8th Congressional District.

The event begins at 6 p.m., with dinner at 7 p.m., at the VFW Hall in Hamburg, 8891 Spicer Road. (See the livcodemocrats.org website for a map.) Tickets are $60 a person, or free for monthly pledgers.

Call 810-229-4212 or email livcodems@sbcuc.net today to reserve your seat. This event may sell out so don't delay!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Foreclosure Crisis Just Help for Greedy Homeowners?

As lawmakers in Washington begin to address the home mortgage foreclosure crisis, the writer of a letter to the editor of the Livingston Press and Argus complains that federal assistance in such a crisis amounts to helping people who made foolish decisions.

No prudent person would agree to a mortgage with an interest rate of 11 percent, he claims. Such people don't deserve help because they were not as frugal as he is, the writer insists.

So why should the nation help out people -- like many of those here in Michigan -- caught in this foreclosure crisis?

Republican senators apparently have decided they should help out average people because it's hard to justify not doing so after the Bush administration bailed out Bear Stearns.

Besides the sheer hypocrisy of helping rich corporations and not little people, there are other good reasons.

Despite the letter-writer's self-righteousness, a lot of people got into this mess through no fault of their own. Mortgage companies did not always fully disclose what would happen to adjustable rate mortgages in the future, for example.

Or people may have thought they could refinance their adjustable rate mortgages to something lower, as homeowners have been doing for years, only to find out that the mortgage crisis has made refinancing more difficult.

Or they may have lost their jobs, had unexpected medical bills not covered by insurance, or gotten a divorce. In such cases, hanging onto a house that is worth much less than what is owed on the mortgage is difficult when the payments become unmanageable.

Perhaps the homeowners should have foreseen that prices would drop. But when the real estate agent and lender are telling the buyer the deal is a good one, a less sophisticated buyer is likely to trust their judgment. After all, they're the experts, aren't they?

Furthermore, the home mortgage foreclosure crisis is not like a broken leg that affects only the person attached to the leg. It's more like a virulent virus that spreads easily on the wind, sickening those not even close to the carrier.

According to The New York Times:

"Roughly 4.2 million mortgages were either past due or in foreclosure at the end of last year, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. An additional three million borrowers may default in the near future."

The ripple effects of a crisis that widespread can swamp a lot of other people who think they are secure.

The value of all homes in an area affected by the home mortage foreclosure crisis drops. Neighborhoods with many foreclosed homes begin to experience blight. People who are not facing foreclosure but need to sell their homes in order to move to another job have difficulty finding buyers with so many competing, cheaper properties on the market.

Builders pull back on constructing new homes, so employment in construction and related fields drops. People who are not buying new homes also are not buying new appliances, new carpeting, and new furniture, so spending in those areas is affected.

Those not selling their homes find their homes worth less so they are less able to borrow against them through home equity loans to make improvements or for other reasons. So spending on construction and materials drops even more.

In other words, a mortgage foreclosure crisis of this magnitude has the potential to drag the entire economy into a recession.

That's not good for anybody -- not even people who smugly congratulate themselves on not having had the bad luck to buy a house at the wrong time.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

March Stats Still on the Upswing -- Is GOP Chair Helping?

All that wintery weather that kept Michigan residents indoors last month had one bright spot -- it gave people more time to check out our posts on Living Blue.

Total visits to our site during the month of March were up 15.63 percent, but that's deceiving since February has only 29 days compared to March's 31. More accurate is the per day average, which was still up a healthy 8.17 percent.

New visits were up 3.93 percent, while unique visitors were up 18.83 percent. And they came to us from 19 countries and territories, led by the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Australia.

Of the United States' portion, 39 states sent visitors our way. Michigan was tops, reporting a 22.31 percent increase in visitors. Arizona, California, New York, and Florida rounded out the top five states in total visitors.

Among our top traffic sources are searches on Google and our friends at Michigan Liberal.

The Google searches are particularly interesting. People often search for the words "Livingston County Democrats Michigan" to find us.

But some people have a tendency to find us by searching for the name "Allan Filip."

Why would people come to us by searching for the name of the Livingston County Republican Party chair?

Allan, are you googling yourself?

Local Dems Cleaning Up in April

Livingston Democrats want to clean up the county! Or at least a portion of it along M-59.

Democrats will turn out for the semi-annual roadside cleanup on Sunday, April 27, for two to three hours of litter pickup.

Volunteers interested in helping should meet in the parking lot in front of the clubhouse at the Ironwood Golf Course, 6902 E. Highland Road (M-59), Howell, Michigan, at 8 a.m.

Coordinators Paul and Pat Perosak will be there to pass out highway safety vests and rubbish bags.

"Many hands make light work," says Pat.

For more information, call 810-229-4212 or email livcodems@sbcuc.net.