Monday, August 20, 2007

Fool me once...

... shame on you.

Dubya is hoping we'll believe that Iraq is on the road to recovery and that Iran is the new best place to fight the Global War on Terror.
Don't get fooled again!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Melons R Us

As you know, the Howell Melon Fest is this weekend! The Livingston County Democrats have an entry in the parade and a booth in the Community Lane area up by the Courthouse. Show that the LivCo Dems are "alive and kicking" by helping out with any or all of the following:

*** The parade steps off at noon; please meet us at the Metropolitan Title Company parking lot (622 East Grand River) by 11:30 a.m., and wear red, white or blue.

***If you have a truck or SUV and can help us tow the float, please call asap (229-4478).

*** The booth will be open Saturday and Sunday, with campaign lit, balloons and more.

If you're interested, contact Kelly for more details.

We DEFINITELY out-paraded the Republicans on July 4th -- let's do it again this weekend!

Gone but not forgotten

Wonder who will serve as Special Prosecutor?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Did They Even Take Bids?

It happened so fast. Forty good-paying jobs with benefits vanished Monday night when the Howell school board voted 6-0 to get rid of its custodians. With another 6-0 vote, the board hired a private company to do the job, supposedly at lower cost.

Grand Rapids Building Services Inc. got the contract, according to the Livingston Press & Argus story. But the story doesn't say if there were other companies considered. Did the board take bids at some point in the past? If so, was Grand Rapids Building Services Inc. the low bidder? If the board didn't take bids, why didn't it? Apparently, the board thought it was fair that Howell custodians had to compete with a private company but the private company didn't have to compete with other private companies.

The company is in the business of busting school district custodial unions all across the state. The Press & Argus didn't make much of an effort to find out how the company does in other districts, but the Midland newspaper had this interesting tidbit: "Turnover is higher than MPS (Midland Public Schools): 10 to 15 percent for full-time GRBS staff compared with 5 to 7 percent for the district."

How great can service be with that kind of turn over?

In presentations to other school boards, company vice president Karin Wysocki has made a point of saying that the company hires local people. Sounds like it is constantly hiring to keep filling the vacancies.

A comforting thought for parents of Howell school children, I'm sure.

Monday, August 13, 2007

He's Still Turning!

I just finished posting The Worm Turns and got up for that all-important coffee refill. I sat back down at my computer to find that today's Lansing State Journal is showcasing Mr. Rogers' latest Maybe/MaybeNot pronouncement with this headline:

This article contains such gems as

We've got to figure out, have we made any headway at all on the political front, that I don't know," he said. "But I think, militarily, they have been able to turn the corner."
Rogers has generally supported the war effort, but has been critical of the Bush administration over the past year. He called President Bush's surge in troops a mistake, but did not vote against it.
My personal fave:
Asked whether he still believed the decision to invade Iraq was correct, Rogers said there was no point in looking backward.
So here's the question for Mr. Rogers: do you sleep well at night because you (A) have no spine, (B) have no conscience, or (C) all of the above?

The Worm Turns

You may have seen the reprint of Bob Alexander's Lansing State Journal op-ed over at Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood (if you haven't, do check it out). It's a calm, reasonable op-ed that provides a much-needed reminder of Rogers' flip-flop on Iraq.

Five years ago Rogers returned from a Middle East trip and surprisingly announced that he no longer favored a military attack on Iraq (Ann Arbor News, Sept. 6, 2002). Rogers said information from Israeli and Saudi intelligence officers and others caused him to reassess his position.

Rogers' objections to military action then are still true:George Bush hasn't made a case for military action.

He was not sure a military action is in the best interests of the United States. We ought to pursue inspections.

He was not convinced that Iraq has the capability to deliver weapons of mass destruction.

What will happen after a fall of the Hussein government .. how it will it affect stability in the Middle East?

Mike definitely drank the Bush Kool-Aid on this one. But he wasn't alone:

Political Wire started off this morning's news roundup with a flashback of Dick Cheney's 1994 C-SPAN interview, in which Cheney said that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would result in a quagmire.

He [Cheney] even asks, "How many additional dead Americans is Saddam Hussein worth?" and answers himself saying, "Not very many."

So what happened? How did cautious, realistic views of U.S. involvement in Iraq morph into a 21st century equivalent of the Salem Witch Trials?

There's an antidote for this particularly noxious Kool-Aid: it's called the 2008 elections. Unfortunately, it will come too late for more than 3,000 U.S. service members who lost their lives in this war.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

It's not just me...

As some of you know, I'm a transplanted New Englander. Moving to Michigan a little over two years ago brought a lot of changes to my life. Some of them have been pretty nice, like people who smile and say "good morning" even though they don't know you, and streets with actual signage and left turn lanes. Gorgeous beaches, incredible bakeries, deer wandering through the yard and college football teams that actually win also make the list.

Some of the changes haven't been so good, though: I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen my U.S. Representative in person. This includes parades --not the best venue for constituent Q&A. Coming from a tradition of Town Meeting and having served as a local elected official, this is definitely not what I'm used to.

It's not just Mike Rogers who carefully doles out appearances. Every few months, his office proudly informs the local paper that the staff "will be available" to meet with Livingston County constituents. His spokeswoman is more like a text-woman, since her answers to local reporters seem to be exclusively in written form.

I thought it was just me (a/k/a The Cranky Yankee), but when I read Marilyn Charger's letter in today's Press & Argus I knew I wasn't alone.

Since President George W. Bush reminds us frequently this is a democracy, and a democracy is defined as government by the people through their elected representatives, this is my chance to see the situation in Washington as seen by my congressman. Phone calls to his Lansing and his Washington offices revealed he has no public meetings scheduled for the month of August nor anytime soon — or far.

I could schedule a private meeting or meet with his aide. I've met with his aide several times. I want a public meeting where others can hear his answers to my questions and I can hear his answers to other people's questions. I want to hear, along with him, the concerns and priorities of others. Am I asking too much for the $165,200 per year he makes?

Amen, Marilyn!

Get Ready for Melon Fest!

On the surface, next weekend's Howell Melon Festival is about a fruit the size of a soccer ball, but for Livingston County Democrats, it's more than that.

The Howell Melon Festival, on Saturday and Sunday (August 18-19, 2007) is about showing voters in the county that we are an important force in county politics.

So join us in marching in the parade in downtown Howell on Saturday. The parade steps off at noon, and we will be gathering at the Livingston Democrats' booth on the lawn of the Livingston County Courthouse between 11:15 and 11:30 a.m. and then heading to the parade staging area.

We also need volunteers to staff our booth, which will include face-painting and balloons for children. Please call 810-229-4212 or email us at We need workers from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

P.S. Wonder if Rep. Mike Rogers will show up for this parade, after skipping the Brighton 4th of July parade. Has he even been seen in the district since his divorce announcement?

Isn't This Treason? Not When a Republican Does It

Remember when conservatives made noises about prosecuting The New York Times for treason for reporting on George Bush's program to spy on Americans without warrants?

Will the same sort of furor be raised against Michigan Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra for leaking state secrets?

ABC News reports:

"In an opinion article published in the New York Post Thursday, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., reported the top-secret budget for human spying had decreased -- the type of detail normally kept under wraps for national security reasons.

"'The 2008 Intelligence Authorization bill cut human-intelligence programs," Hoekstra wrote in the piece, in which he also criticized 'leaks to the news media.'

"Formerly the chairman of the intelligence committee, Hoekstra is now its highest ranking Republican. In its recent budget authorizations, that committee kept from public view all figures and most discussion of spending on such classified items as human spying. Hoekstra's apparent slip was first noted on the liberal Web site, Raw Story."

"Apparent slip"? How about "hypocritcal move"?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Deficit Falling, But Remember When We Had a Surplus?

The Bush Administration will be full of itself the next few days, crowing about the decline in the budget deficit so far this year to $157.3 billion, compared to $239.6 billion a year ago.

It would be good news, were it not for the fact that George Bush inherited a budget surplus from the president Republicans love to hate.

The AP reported the budget figures in a story Saturday (August 11, 2007) carried in the Lansing State Journal.

The story notes that spending was higher this year than last, and it says that Bush
"has called on the Democratic-controlled Congress to show some restraint in its spending."

Excuse me, but who signed all those spending bills into law? And which party was in control of Congress up until January?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Bush Tackles Zombie Threat!

We live in times when you have to laugh or you're cry.

So here's a little political satire on (via Juan Cole's Informed Comment blog.

The video, which has logged more than 62,000 views on, is a take on George Bush's penchant for keeping the American people in a constant state of fear.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Put the Blame Where It Belongs for Tuition Hikes, Part II

College tuition hikes are the subject of another opinion piece in the Livingston Press & Argus and once again the newspaper can't find the right place to put the blame.

Last week, the newspaper tried to pin the blame solely on Gov. Jennifer Granholm in an editorial that neglected to mention Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop's role in refusing to pass a state budget.

On Wednesday (August 8, 2007), the newspaper was at it again with an opinion piece about a college student's two summer jobs.

The writer complains that Granholm is proposing using $37 million in federal funds and $40 million in state funds to help laid-off workers get retrained, under her proposed "No Worker Left Behind" program.

The writer complained that laid-off workers were being favored over his daughter, saying, "They have been employed, and presumably saving some money. They get unemployment compensation. And many get some retraining as a part of their severance."

They also have families to support, mortgages to pay, groceries to buy, and medical bills to worry about, as well as potentially kids in college themselves. But the writer failed to mention that.

Instead, he complains that the "government" (i.e. Granholm) is favoring laid-off workers over college students.

In pinning the blame for tuition hikes on Granholm and the anonymous government, the writer repeats the Press & Argus pattern of refusing to mention any Republican role in the tuition hikes -- the refusal of Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop to get to work on a realistic budget that meets the state's needs, for example.

Bishop shows little sympathy for universities' plight, as this Associated Press article, shows. The article quotes Bishop as saying in a statement last week that schools "need to pitch in and make sacrifices as the rest of the state is being asked to do."

Yet Bishop always seems to be left out of Press & Argus editorials. I think the "R" is missing on all the keyboards over there.

Visit to Vacationing Rogers Rescheduled

If you couldn't make it to Lansing on Tuesday (August 7, 2007) to welcome back the vacationing Mike Rogers, don't despair. The event has been re-scheduled for Wednesday (August 8, 2007) due to inclement weather.

Details of the event, organized by Iraq Summer, are here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Dems Slash Earmarks, But Don't Get Credit

Has anyone seen a headline reporting that Democrats have cut in half the amount of spending designated for specific projects desired by individual lawmakers?

Probably not, but that doesn't mean it hasn't happened.

The New York Times on Sunday (August 5, 2007) featured a lengthy piece on earmarks, which had skyrocketed under Republican control of Congress when lawmakers were allowed to request money for projects anonymously.

The Times article noted that rules under the new Democratic majority now require lawmakers to have their names attached to earmarks, and it insinuated that has made earmarks more popular. The lead paragraph, for example, reads, "If the idea was to shame lawmakers into restraint, it did not work."

Far down in the story, in the 7th paragraph, the newspaper notes, "To be sure, the Democratic totals are less than half the record set by Republicans when they controlled Congress in 2005, but they are far higher than the levels just 10 years ago."

A 50 percent reduction, yet the newspaper claims there has been no restraint?

Perhaps not wishing to be outdone by The Times, the Livingston Press & Argus reports that Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, is fighting valiantly to kill other people's earmarks.

In an article in the edition for Tuesday (August 7, 2007), the newspaper claims that earmarks "have soared in number — and controversy — in recent years."

Did the Press & Argus merely take that from an AP story? Perhaps, but it nevertheless is misleading. Earmarks soared under Republicans -- and were slashed in half under Democrats this year.

Penny-Pincher Republican Behind Bridge Collapse?

The first paragraph of an article in The New York Times for Tuesday (August 7, 2007)should serve as Tim Pawlenty's political obituary:

"In the past two years, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota twice vetoed legislation to raise the state’s gas tax to pay for transportation needs."

In the second paragraph, The Times reports that Pawlenty, a Republican, is now "open" to the idea of a gas tax hike.

That's too late for the grieving families of the dead. BTW, Pawlenty described himself in his campaign literature as "solidly pro-life." Just not if it means raising taxes to protect the public.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Welcome Back, Mike!

Rep. Mike Rogers is coming back to Michigan after a hard session in our nation's Capitol voting against health care for children and in support of the war in Iraq.

Organizers of the Iraq Summer campaign plan to welcome Rogers home for the August recess with a rally at noon on Tuesday (August 7, 2007) at Rogers' Lansing office, 1327 E. Michigan Avenue.

Field organizer Mike Webb says the idea is to make Rogers "feel the heat" for his position in favor of the escalation of troops in Iraq.

Webb says the group wants to make the point that while American troops continue to be shot at, the Iraqi government is going on vacation instead of getting to work hammering out the compromises necessary to meet major milestones for moving Iraq forward.

Volunteers are asked to wear Hawaiian shirts and sunglasses, conjuring up the idea of vacationing lawmakers.

Military Moms for Peace is a co-sponsor of the event.

One-Stop Source for Political Video Features Stabenow

Political videos, whether produced by professionals or captured by average people on their cell phones, have already proven their ability to to transform politics. Remember ex-Sen. George Allen's moment in the spotlight?

People used to have to search out these videos on youtube for themselves, but now a political filmmaker has started a website that is attempting to gather political videos in one spot. Robert Greenwald, of Brave New Films, has started a website devoted to political video that allows people to upload the political footage that they have shot. From campaign videos to the latest crazy comment by right-wing talking heads, the website is both informative and entertaining. Don't miss the Jon Stewart bits on Dick Cheney, for example. And there are some Ann Coulter videos, too, as well as plenty of examples of Fox News attacks on Democratic candidates and issues.

A Michigan lawmaker even makes the site. Sen. Debbie Stabenow delivers an anti-war speech at a July 17 rally outside the Capitol.

You can watch it here:

The website has an action component, as well, encouraging people to share the videos with others, upload their own, to host screenings of films, and otherwise get involved.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Bigger They Are, the Harder They Fall

In the year since Democrats took control of Congress, Rep. Mike Rogers' political fortunes have taken a tumble while those of Democrats in Michigan's congressional delegation have skyrocketed.

The Brighton Republican ranks as the 274th most powerful member of the U.S. House, based on power rankings compiled by the website In 2006, when his party was in control, Rogers ranked 37th in the chamber. notes that Rogers has advanced no legislation this session.

The shift in control has put Michigan's Democratic senators in the opposite situation from Rogers. Sen. Carl Levin ranks as the 8th most powerful senator, up from 29 in the last session. Sen. Debbie Stabenow's power rating skyrocketed 50 positions, from 92nd last session to 42nd this session.

Long-serving Detroit Democrat Rep. John Dingell ranks 8th in the House. It's a mark of his influence that even when Republicans were in control, Dingell still was 89th in power in the chamber.

Dingell's colleague, Detroit Democrat Rep. John Conyers, ranks 40th in the chamber, up from 210.

The power rankings are based on such things as committee assignments, seniority on committees, success in getting bills passed through committee or through the chamber, shaping bills through amendments, and indirect influence wielded by newspaper interviews, appearance on television interview shows, and so on.

They are imperfect measures but they drive home one point -- voters in the 8th District will be short-changing themselves if they send the Republican Rogers back to Congress again in 2008 with Democrats likely to retain control of Congress.

Rogers' ego must have taken quite a bruising with his drop from 37th to 274th. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Howell Philosophy: Sack Workers, Get a Raise

How to administrators in the Howell Public Schools merit a pay raise in a time of tight budgets? By getting rid of custodial workers, it appears.

In an article in the edition for Sunday (August 5, 2007), The Livingston Press & Argus quotes Board President Phil Westmoreland as saying the board's compensation commission has met to consider pay raises for the district's six top administrators.

Recommendations are likely in September, a month after the board considers various options for privatizing custodial services at the schools that supposedly could save up to $500,000.

Is it just me, or does this look like a Robin Hood in Reverse scheme -- cut the jobs of people at the bottom in order to give raises to people at the top?

Friday, August 3, 2007

Troubled Bridges Over Michigan Waters?

Yet another reason not to wasting billions of dollars in Iraq every month.

The Livingston Press & Argus noted in an article published Friday (Aug. 3, 2007) that between a quarter and a third of bridges in Livingston County have structural or functional deficiencies. The article does not spell out the difference or note how many are serious. Does a functional deficiency mean traffic justifies a four-lane bridge, but the existing bridge is only two lanes? That's far different from a bridge that's in danger of collapsing, but the article has no explanation of the difference and it's hard to be sure what it means.

As far as bridges on the state road system (as opposed to local roads) Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration has significantly increased spending on bridge repairs. According to the state's five-year transportation plan, the state will spend $1.3 billion on road and bridge improvements each year, up from just $890 million in 1997 under Republican John Engler, who never met a state program he didn't want to strangle for funds.

Of the $6.37 billion the state will spend over the next five years on roads and bridges, about $3.9 billion comes from the federal government.

Imagine how many people Michigan could put to work on roads and bridges with some of those billions from Iraq.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

It's a Date!

Don't forget about Friday night's Dinner and a Movie, co-hosted by the Livingston County Dems and Americans Against Escalation in Iraq.

WHEN: Friday, August 3rd at 7:00 p.m.

WHAT: A screening of Robert Greenwald's "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers." The suggested donation is $10 per person or $15 for a couple, and $5 for students. Attendees are asked to bring a covered dish for the potluck dinner. The movie will be screened following the potluck. Anyone needing transportation may call party headquarters, 810-229-4212.

WHERE: The LCDP Brighton office, 10321 East Grand River, Suite 600 (on Grand River just east of Old U.S. 23)

A 30-year veteran of Hollywood, Robert Greenwald has won acclaim for his documentaries, including " Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism" and "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices." Earlier this year, Greenwald was invited to testify before the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, where he discussed the role of private contractors in the torture and abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Greenwald had intended to show four minutes of the film, but Republican committee members insisted that the clip not be shown.


Although the film was designed primarily to be shown in grassroots screenings rather than in movie theaters, reviewers have praised it. The New York Times said that Greenwald had compiled "... a horrifying catalog of greed, corruption and incompetence among private contractors in Iraq," and called the film's revelations "shocking."

The Los Angeles Times wrote:

Like Greenwald's previous films, ' Iraq for Sale' is made from a progressive political point of view but spends considerable time talking to regular people who likely voted Republican. And this time he's focused on one of those issues that might unite viewers across all political spectra: unconscionable war profiteering coupled with catastrophic decisions by major American companies.

TV Guide awarded it three and a half stars (out of four) while calling it "carefully researched" and "crucial to fully understanding the Iraqi/American enterprise."

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Put the Blame Where it Belongs for Tuition Hikes

Anyone with students in college knows that Michigan universities are imposing higher taxes on students and their parents, in the form of big tuition hikes. The universities' actions come after the Legislature has taken several weeks off this summer instead of working on the state budget.

So who is getting the blame for the tuition hikes? Not the lolly-gagging Legislature, specifically the Republican-run state Senate where the hold-up is. In the Livingston Press & Argus for Wednesday (Aug. 1, 2007), an editorial is trying to pin the blame on Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The editorial claims that Granholm hasn't shown enough "outrage" over the tuition increases. The newspaper fails to mention the refusal of Senate Republican Leader Mike Bishop to deal with the budget, and with tax increases that are likely needed in order to stave off the tuition increases. The only mention of the Legislature is a perfunctory one in the last paragraph, which reads, "We only wish that our governor, our lawmakers and our university officials were equally as outraged."

The editorial might have done some good had it pointed out exactly where the bottle neck is, but the Livingston Press & Argus is mighty shy when it comes to pointing fingers at Republican-obstructionism. Republicans want to look like they're against tax increases, while forcing universities to do the dirty work of raising taxes (in the form of higher tuition) for them.

The editorial could have urged people to call Bishop's office and tell him to get moving on the state budget. His office phone is 517-373-2417. You can send an email from his office web-page.

Show your outrage. Impress the Press & Argus.

Keep the Lakes Great

Sad but true: last week, the Michigan Supreme Court said that Michigan citizens don't have the standing to challenge Nestle corporation's "right" to keep taking water out of our lakes.

Great Lakes Guy had an informative post on The New (Water) Economy, comparing Michigan and Wisconsin approaches to water conservation and economic development.

Then I saw this 'toon and it got me thinking...

Being an transplanted Northeasterner, I'm still so impressed by Michigan's amazing lakes (both Great and small), forested areas, open spaces, etc. I'm less impressed by the fact that our state doesn't do too much to keep things green. We don't even have something as simple as annual car inspections -- keep our air cleaner and our roads safer, not to mention a little extra $$ for a state that could certainly use it. Back home, it's $35.00 per vehicle once a year.

Worth a thought!