Sunday, August 30, 2009

Conservative Death Wishes for Obama

Sen. Ted Kennedy, the brother of two assassinated political leaders, was always a marked man -- the target of every kook who wanted to be known for getting the last Kennedy brother.

So as we mourn his death due to natural causes, it's appropriate to note that the torch of being a marked man has been passed to a new generation -- specifically, to President Obama.

With sickening frequency, opponents of President Obama are suggesting that he should die or that they would like to shoot him.

For example:

The pastor of a man who brought an assault rifle to an Obama appearance in Phoenix, Arizona, prayed the day before the event that Obama would die and go to hell.

A Republican gubernatorial candidate in Idaho has joked about getting a license to hunt Obama.

And then there was the man who held up a "Death to Obama, Death to Michelle and her two stupid kids" sign at a town hall meeting.

And a Democratic lawmaker received a fax with a picture of Obama made up as the Joker with the words "Death to all Marxists, Foreign and Domestic."

Let's not forget the armed protester who showed up outside an Obama event with the sign referencing Thomas Jefferson's quote about the "tree of liberty" needing to be watered with the blood of tyrants.

Or the man carrying a knife who made it past security into an Obama town hall meeting and was found to have a loaded gun in his vehicle.

With so much public talk linking death and Obama, it's no wonder that the Secret Service is dealing with 30 death threats a day against the president's life.

The Idaho congressman may think it's just sarcasm to joke about getting a license to hunt Obama, but the danger is that this constant linkage of Obama and death will come to be seen as a call to action by some kook. With multiple authority figures, including a politician and a preacher, endorsing Obama's death, somebody may decide to be the hero who does what others are calling for. Add in the lunatic claim that Obama is not a legitimate president because he supposedly wasn't born in Hawaii, and there is even further "justification" for some nut case who thinks he's a real "patriot" to take action.

The Secret Service does a better job than they did in the 1960s, but even they make mistakes. And if the kooks can't get to Obama, there are plenty of members of Congress who would be easy targets, especially with commentators like Glenn Beck acting out an assassination of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Political assassination is not funny. Conservatives are playing with fire and we could all get burned.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cash for Clunkers Doing What It Was Supposed To

There's been a lot of Republican griping about the Cash for Clunkers program. The complaints are downright ridiculous -- that the cost of used cars was going to be driven up, for example. As if getting rid of 700,000 cars in a nation that sells from 10 million to 15 million cars every year would make much difference. Or that used car parts would increase in cost, as if junk yards were not full of decades of car parts. Or that people who bought them can't afford the new car payments. As if credit weren't so tight now that even good risks have trouble qualifying.

The Detroit Free Press for Saturday (August 29, 2009) has a brief round-up of the impacts of the program.

One of the complaints has been that the program only moved up sales that were going to occur later. But of my three relatives who bought cars, none was planning to until the cash for clunkers came along. Someday they were going to have to buy a new car for a child or for themselves, but they weren't thinking, "Oh, we'll do it in November or next spring." But when cash for clunkers came along, they acted, and put money into the economy.

One relative told me the sales person said he had been in the car business for 15 years and in his best month he had earned $10,000. But in the last month, he had earned $49,000. He'll probably spend a chunk of that money at local restaurants and businesses.

And that's what we need right now. Not more Republican griping.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Republicans Must Hate This

Backers of a movie production studio broke ground in Allen Parkon Thursday (August 27, 2009), just as Michigan Republicans press to kill the tax cuts that made it possible.

I guess timing really is everything.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Remembering Ted Kennedy

Only a few Americans ever met Ted Kennedy, but millions of us know him well. As a member of a famous political famiily, his life story has been told and re-told along with that of his brothers in magazine articles, books, and documentaries. The public always had a huge appetite for everything Kennedy. It wasn't just that they were a powerful political family. It was that their humanity always showed through. Their marriages, deaths, divorces, the things we all endure in our own lives, were always carried out on a public stage. They were America's first and longest running reality show. Everybody could relate.

The weekend's television lineup will probably be heavy with tributes and recaps of Kennedy's life, as it should be, and some of that will probably rehash the Kennedy glamour.

But I hope what comes through are some of the ways Kennedy touched our lives with his political accomplishments -- fighting for civil rights, raising the minimum wage, transforming high school and college athletics by opening the door to women under Title IX, S-Chip to provide health care for children, creating Meals on Wheels, fighting for Medicare and Medicaid.

Ted Kennedy could have done whatever he wanted with his life. Lucky for us that he chose public service.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Imagine v3.0

Imagine for a moment that you are in the top 1% of the population in terms of wealth. You make $10 million a year in income and bonuses. Most likely, you are very business-wise. You know what decisions will maximize your wealth, and you act accordingly.

Healthcare reform starts to get mentioned, and it appears that your taxes may increase as a result. Nothing huge, maybe only 1% higher. From 35% to 36%. This is still far lower than when Reagan was President (the highest tax bracket paid at least 50% from 1981-1986), but it is a slight increase from the tax policy since 2003 (although still lower than taxes from 1993-2002, when our economic growth was strong).

So you make $10 million a year. That 1% tax increase is $100,000. What do you do? Do you say “alright, I’d prefer not to, but I can afford the extra $100,000 in taxes”, or instead do you think “I have to find some way to prevent this tax increase”?

Going on the assumption that you are business-minded, you’re going to take the decision which makes most sense to your bottom line. So if the alternative to paying that $100,000 in taxes is to contribute $50,000 to a lobbyist group to pressure members of Congress to eliminate the tax increase, it is something you would consider. If you realize that other wealthy individuals are also considering this option, then the probability that the lobbyist succeeds will skyrocket if all of you contribute. Using simple game theory, it is easy to see that the wealthy are better off by each of them contributing a fraction of the potential tax increase to influence Congress and prevent reform.

If that means healthcare reform fails, and millions of citizens are still left uninsured, and millions more can’t afford the insurance they have, well then so be it. You’re wealthy. You have great health insurance.

But imagine how the families who are struggling feel.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

'Bucks for Bungalows' Still Going Strong

The successful 'Cash for Clunkers' may have ended today, but there is another similar government program that is doing quite well, and still going strong. It is the tax credit of up to $8,000 for 1st-time homebuyers.

This program was instituted to give "1st-time homebuyers", which includes anyone that hasn't owned a home in the past three years, an additional incentive to buy in this down economy. It is a tax credit (not a deduction, so you get the entire amount back when you do your taxes) for 10% of the home's purchase price, up to $8,000. It applies to any home bought after January 1st, 2009, and any home purchase that closes before December 1st, 2009.

During the first several months of the program, there wasn't an immediate response. But since the beginning of summer, the program has become very popular, and is helping the market turn around.

I've done some research, looking at all homes that have sold in Livingston County for under $150,000 (since that is the price ceiling for most 1st-time buyers). The initial three months of the year had stats very similar to the last three months of 2008. But the past three months have shown significant results.

I'm not going to go into most of the numbers, since the real estate market is cyclical, and summer is usually more active than winter. But there is an important aspect to the market that has changed and can not be explained by the cycle. This is the make-up of the sales: the percentage of total sales that are foreclosures, private-owned, or short sales.

(Short sales are when a private owner sells a home for less than they owe, and the bank forgives the remainder of the mortgage)

When the program began, bank-owned homes dominated the market. There weren't many sales, but the homes that were selling were foreclosures. In fact, during the first three months of the year, only 7.5% of homes that sold were private-owned, non-short sale. That is about 1 in 13.

But the market is turning. Over the past three months, not only have there been significantly more sales, but 19.3% of the sales were private-owned. That is 1 in 5.

What does that mean? Well, for the buyers, it means they are buying homes in better condition, as foreclosures tend to need much more work. For sellers, it means they are more likely able to sell without hurting their credit. But for everyone, it indicates the bottom of the market.

Two other indicators of this are: the average price per square foot (which has begun to slowly rise); and the selling price as a percentage of asking price (which also is rising, so homes are selling closer to their list price).

This blog post is not adequate to fully describe how the market has changed this summer, but I suggest you ask any real estate agent you know, and they will tell you about the increased competition for these homes. I've written several offers that were higher than asking price, only to have another buyer offer more.

This doesn't mean every market has turned, as the homes $200,000+ haven't begun to see these same effects. But the turn has to start at the bottom and work it's way up, which is where we are now. And we have the government to thank for this.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Huge Health Insurance Hikes Sign Reform Is Needed

What kind of world do we live in where a 22 percent increase in health care premiums is thought to be a good thing?

One where companies have the audacity to ask for a 56 percent increase and then "settle" for 22 percent.

The recent Blue Cross-Blue Shield rate hike is a sign of everything that is wrong with our health insurance system. This supposedly non-profit company is sitting on billions of dollars in reserves which it collected from subscribers for the purpose of paying their medical bills. Yet it wants an obscenely huge increase in premiums from them.

The Livingston Press and Argus calls this rate hike a "huge win" and boasts that it will "save" Blue Cross subscribers $160 million, without ever mentioning how much the increase is going to cost them.

If scaling back a 56 percent increase to a 22 percent increase "saves" people $160 million, doesn't that mean the 22 percent increase is still going to cost people upwards of $100 million? And shouldn't that be mentioned?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bloom is Off Rose of Rogers' Freshman Caucus

Back in March, veteran political commentator Tim Skubick was all gaga over the freshman caucus in the Michigan House being co-chaired by Livingston's Republican Rep. Bill Rogers. Skubick even had Rogers on his weekly television show, during which Rogers managed to say absolutely nothing about what the caucus might do.

Skubick revisited the freshman caucus in a recent column and he is no longer impressed.

So far, he said, they've done nothing more than go bowling together.

Great leadership there, Bill.

Check out more thoughts on this here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Health Care Opponents Out-Organized

Not all the town halls on health care are being dominated by those who want to keep our system of runaway health care costs and insurance companies that can refuse to pay your claims.

The Jackson Citizen-Patriot has a report on a town hall Thursday (August 12, 2009) held by Democratic Rep. Mark Schauer. And the Battle Creek Enquirer covered it as well.

Of course there were comparisons of Obama to Hitler.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bill Rogers Shuts Public Out of His Meeting

Republican Bill Rogers is having a legislative meeting in Livingston County on job creation, but he probably doesn't want you to come.

Rogers sent out an email this week about the House Republican Jobs Taskforce meeting on Friday, August 21, at 9 a.m. at the Livingston Educational Service Agency (LESA)
Main Conference Room, at 1425 W. Grand River Ave. in Howell.

But the email stresses that the task force only wants to hear from local business owners. The invitation reads, "If you own a business and would like to join the House Republican Taskforce next Friday to share your thoughts, opinions, and suggestions on how to create more jobs here in Michigan," then you may contact Rogers.

Thinking about starting a business? Stay home. You don't count. Rogers and his Republican buddies don't want to hear from you, even though you might have some legitimate suggestions about how to make starting a business easier in Michigan.

What are the Republicans afraid of?

Join Us at Howell Melon Festival!

Coloring, capitols, and health care. Those are just some of the things that will be going on at the Livingston County Democrats' booth at the Howell Melon Festival Saturday and Sunday (August 14-15.)

Stop by our booth to take part in one of our contests -- a coloring contest for children ages 6 and under, a name the presidents contest for ages 7-11, a name the state capitols contest for ages 12 and up, and a health care quiz for adults.

We'll also have buttons, tee-shirts, and literature on issues such as health care available.

Our booth is located at the corner of Clinton and Walnut streets in downtown Howell.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Game-Changer for the Auto Industry

General Motors has been working on its Chevy Volt for a long time, but I remained skeptical that a company that sold Hummers was all that committed to energy efficiency.

But the news on Tuesday (August 11, 2009) that the Volt can go 230 miles on a gallon of gas was eye-popping. Kind of makes the Toyota Prius look like a gas hog.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rep. Stupak (D) Ignoring the Church/State Separation

No reason we can't point out when someone in our own party is wrong.

U.S. Rep Bart Stupak of Michigan's 1st District (the U.P. and northern section of the L.P.) has introduced a bill that will give government land free-of-charge to a private, religious school. The Michigan Messenger- an independent source for Michigan news -has the story here:

With the democrats in power, it is even more important that we keep our own elected officials in check. Like the article says, the bill will probably never be voted on, but instead it could get attached as an amendment to another bill without controversy.

Life After Newspapers for Former P&A Editor

In case you have wondered what has happened to all the laid-off journalists in our area, here's an update on one.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Letter Sent 8-8-09 to Rep Mike Rogers on Health Care

Dear Rep. Rogers,
I have linked you to a very good article that answers the arguments that you have put forward to stop the Obama Health Care Plan with the Public Option. Your false representation that the government would come between a patient and his/her doctor, I already know isn't true. My husband who is on Medicare gets to choose his own doctor. Why are we in the US spending more on health care in this country and our outcomes for health for our population are not better than those in other industrialized countries who spend significantly less?
Please read the attached article and respond to my concerns that you do not have your Michigan constituents health as a priority, rather it seems that you are more interested in "business as usual."
I read this on Truthdig and thought you would find it interesting.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=The Me-First, Screw-Everyone-Else Crowd
Thanks to the Khaki Pants Offensive in the Great American Health Care and Tax War, finally, there’s no pretense. Finally, the Me-First, Screw-Everyone-Else Crowd’s ugliest traits are there for all to behold.
Copyright © 2009 Truthdig, L.L.C. All rights reserved.=-=-=-=-=-=-=This is a one-time mailing from Truthdig, ( on behalf of the sender.Please report any misuse to

Come Hear Jobs with Justice Speaker Thursday

People who work for a living deserve fairness. Democrats firmly believe that. And on Thursday (August 13, 2009) Livingston County Democrats will host a special talk on justice for workers.

William Bryce, an Organizer for Southeast Michigan Jobs with Justice, will speak at 7p.m. at party headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600, Brighton, about the coalition's efforts to defend workers' rights at work and to fight for health care reform, corporate accountability, and other social justice issues. You can read more about Jobs with Justice here.

This event is sponsored by the Livingston County Democrats' union relations committee chaired by Greg Stoey and is open to all. There is no charge, but please bring an item for the Gleaners Community Food Bank if you are able.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Biden Boosts Batteries and Michigan, but Tea-Baggers Absent

Vice President Biden gave a boost to Michigan Wednesday (August 5, 2009) when he announced grants to Michigan auto-makers and other companies to help them reserach and build the batteries that will power America's cars of the future.

A crowd of about 45 people turned out to welcome the vice president as he arrived at NextEnergy in Detroit, showing their support for the administration's policies on health care and clean energy. But an expected crowd of "tea-baggers" failed to materialize.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Buying Local AND Going Green

Democrats in the Michigan House are helping the state Legislature take a step to keep the state green and to keep more of our green in the state.

They have pushed both the House and the Senate to buy recycled paper from a Michigan company and to switch to vegetable dyes for printing.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Diner Observations

This week I happened to have a late breakfast at a local diner. It was well-past the morning rush so it wasn't crowded. But the distribution of the crowd was still interesting.

Half the restaurant is reserved for smokers, half for non-smokers. On the smokers' side, one booth was occupied but nobody was smoking. On the non-smokers' side, six boothes were occupied.

On Sunday, the restaurant is all non-smoking.

Maybe this place is unique in Michigan, but I doubt it. Instead, I suspect it's a good illustration of why a smoking ban would help restaurants, not hurt them.