Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Livingston County Dems Executive Committee Meeting

The executive committee of the Livingston County Democratic Party meets Thursday, February 28, at 7 p.m. at party headquarters.

The agenda includes planning for our annual spring dinner, the Winans' Dinner, as well as regular reports from officers.

Come if you'd like to hear our plans for a great time and if you'd like to help out!

Party headquarters is at 10321 East Grand River, Suite 600 of the Fonda Office Park, Brighton.

Livingston County Resident Remembers Doug Fraser

Some Michigan workers remember former UAW President Doug Fraser, who died on Saturday, as a leader. But some, like this Livingston County woman and Democratic Party member, remembers him as a friend, too.

She wrote that, "My heart is sad today because our friend Doug is no longer with

"I will miss him for his dedication to the cause - not just for union workers
but for all working people.

"I will miss the twinkle in his eyes and his infectious laugh.

Doug and Winnie wintered in Palm Springs for years and occasionally we would meet them and two other couples for lunch at Melvyns' in the Ingleside Inn. I often wished that I could tape those conversations.

"He was a proud citizen of the United States of America but he never forgot
his roots in Glasgow, Scotland."

I've read about the famous sit-down strike that Fraser was involved in, which laid the foundation for union recognition and a better life for generations of autoworkers. But I never knew Fraser as a human being.

It helps to remember that the greats of yesterday were not Supermen, but people just like us who met the challenges of their times and ended up doing great things. Knowing that they were like us in many ways should encourage us to respond to our own challenges with the same courage he displayed.

Rogers' Telephone Town Hall Meeting a Hang-up

I'm not one of those people who looks at caller-ID when the phone rings to see if I want to answer it. I just drop everything and pick up the phone to see who it is.

So when the phone rang Monday (February 25, 2008) I stopped what I was doing, picked it up, and heard Rep. Mike Rogers' recorded voice inviting me to his town hall meeting on the phone. If I wanted to participate, all I had to do was press "1."

OK. I pressed "1" and waited, and waited, and waited. Nothing. Then finally, another recorded voice told me, "If you'd like to make a call, please hang up."

Yeah, Rogers, who can't be bothered to have a real town hall meeting with his constituents, has one over the phone, and then hangs up on them.

Real classy.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Why Are General Motors' Execs Trying to Shoot Themselves -- and Us -- in the Foot?

Do General Motors' executives have any clue as to what it takes to win over young buyers these days so they can begin to recoup the market share they once had and start creating jobs again?

Two things in recent weeks have convinced me that they do not. As a result, GM workers and Gov. Jennifer Granholm will continue to be blamed for the automakers' poor performance and loss of market share.

Item Number One was a visit to San Francisco. I'm pretty sure every fifth car in the city by the bay is either a Prius or a Mini-Cooper. Does GM make either one of those? I don't think so. Does GM have any desire to make anything like either one of those? We'll see how much effort it puts into bringing out the plug-in electric car it has promised, after killing an electic car a few years ago.

But GM won't do well in California -- the biggest market in the country -- until it does market those kinds of cars. Yet Governor Granholm will get the blame for jobs lost here because of the company's poor judgment.

Item Number Two was GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz's recent comment that global warming is a "crock of shit." Scientific evidence for global warming is overwhelming. When people objected to his ignorant comment, he basically said what he believed was none of their business.

"My thoughts on what has or hasn't been the cause of climate change have nothing to do with the decisions I make to advance the cause of General Motors," he wrote.

Why don't I believe that? Is it because he helped lead the company's opposition to higher fuel standards for years? Could be.

Comments like Lutz's will not play well with young people who actually want to have a world with a decent environment to grow old in. They won't help GM sell more cars in San Francisco or California -- where gas is around $3.50 a gallon. And you can't regain market share while kissing off the biggest market in the country.

Nor will Lutz's comments help GM in Washington, where Democrats control the House and Senate and probably will by even bigger -- and greener -- margins come November. So Lutz will shoot off his mouth, while GM workers and Michigan's economy pay the price.

Somebody offer this guy a buyout.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Local GOP Reveals Twisted Priorities

Michigan's unemployment rate is high, jobs are going overseas, millions of Americans are without health insurance, hundreds of thousands of people are on the brink of losing their homes, billions of dollars a day are being wasted on the war in Iraq.

So what do the Livingston County Republicans say their top priorities are in 2008?

An email to local Republicans this week(provided to me by a special friend) says:

"Republican victory means:
Winning the War on Terror
Replacing Supreme Court retirements with Constructionists
Making the Bush Tax Cuts Permanent."

That's it. Do you see anything in there about jobs, about working people, about anything that affects anyone but the richest people in America?

I sure don't. All I see is fear, packing the courts with reactionary judges, and helping the rich get richer.

The same email hints that Republicans realize those priorities are not too popular. "Republican voter turnout is needed urgently this year, and this election is of profound importance. All local Republican candidates will suffer if conservative voters stay home," said the email.

And it even hints that people may not want to give money to the top-of-the ticket, noting, "We have re-designed the membership in order to maximize local candidate support this election process." In other words, we'll spend the money locally rather than send it on to John McCain.

So if more war and more tax cuts for the rich are your priorities, you know which party is for you.

If you want jobs, health care, a better future for your kids, and an end to a wasteful, pointless war in Iraq, look to the Democrats.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wondering What Ever Happened to WALLY?

The issue of WALLY -- the Howell to Ann Arbor commuter train -- seems to have disappeared from the Livingston County Board of Commissioners' agendas in recent months after the all-Republican panel consistently dissed backers of the proposal.

Apparently, finding a cheaper way for Livingston County residents to get to work now that oil costs more than $100 a barrel is not something the commissioners like Jack LaBelle and Bill Rogers want to worry about. People should be independent, and all that.

But Democrats in Lansing haven't given up on mass transit. A report written by the House Public Transit Subcommittee includes steps to move WALLY forward. It says that this spring, WALLY will be incorporated into SEMCOG's Regional Transportation Plan. That, says the report, "is an essential step to receiving federal funding."

The report, dated January 2008, makes a good case that mass transit is important for economic development, calling mass transit "a common denominator that defines America's most successful regions." In a passage especially relevant to WALLY, the report notes that universities need mass transit because of the cost of building and maintaining parking lots and structures. The lack of mass transit also can hinder student recruitment, the report notes.

And it says that mass transit is growing across the state, despite tepid financial support. Ridership increased 8.5 percent in 2006 compared to 2005, the report said.

So whether Rogers and LaBelle like it or not, WALLY will be back. Let's hope Livingston County can finally get on board. After all, if Bill Ford Jr. can support mass transit, can't Livingston County?

McCain and the Lobbyist -- It's Not Just About Sex

So John McCain avoided the media while touring an auto plant in Wayne on Thursday (February 21, 2008).

McCain, of course, was done taking questions about his relationship with a female lobbyist that The New York Times said had become so worrisome to his staff during his 2000 presidential campaign that they took steps to break up the relationship.

At a morning news conference in Ohio, McCain already had denied any sort of improper relationship with Vicki Iseman. It looks a little as though his handlers figure that Michigan voters didn't need to hear the denials since they already have voted, while Ohio residents have not.

This is unfamiliar territory for McCain. He's always had a cozy relationship with the media, but snubbing reporters as he did Thursday may change that.

At this point, it's hard to say what the story means for McCain's future. If the media remains focused on whether there is a sexual relationship and there are no further revelations, the story probably will have limited impact.

But if the media looks at the bigger story -- the idea of Mr. Clean McCain riding around in corporate jets with a lobbyist, male or female -- it could present a very unfavorable development.

It might begin to puncture the myth of McCain as a "straight talker" and not just another politician. McCain staffers interviewed for the story said they thought his relationship with the lobbyist would undermine his campaign image as someone who shunned special interests. You bet it would have.

And it might do the same in this campaign. Barack Obama is campaigning on a platform of changing the way Washington does business. He takes no funds from political action committees. And now he can add a new line to his speeches -- about how he doesn't ride around the country on corporate jets with lobbyists like that other guy.

McCain has handed Obama a potent picture of the differences between them, if indeed those two do end up being the candidates.

But as long as the media looks at this as merely a potential sex scandal, and not as a sign of McCain hypocrisy about political reform and ties to special interests, damage to McCain's "straight talk" image will be limited.

P.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is doing his best to spin this story as only about sex. The Livingston Press and Argus, in its on-line edition on Thursday, asked Rogers about the alleged "romantic relationship." Rogers said the story was disgusting and that the newspaper had no proof McCain did anything wrong.

The newspaper totally missed the angle of the propriety of lawmakers who claim to be on the side of the people riding around in corporate jets with lobbyists.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ward Shows What a Little Compromising Can Do

Rep. Chris Ward took plenty of heat from his fellow Republicans for his courageous vote for a tax increase that helped Michigan find a way out of its budget crisis last year.

But now the Brighton Republican ought to be getting some well-deserved thanks from those same critics.

Turns out, Ward is working with Gov. Jennifer Granholm again, this time to bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional money for local schools into Livingston County,

According to the Livingston Press and Argus, Ward is trying to get the increase in state aid planned for Livingston County schools doubled -- from $108 per pupil to $216.

The increase is part of the state's commitment to close the gap between rich school districts and poor ones in Michigan that was part of the Proposal A school finance package approved by voters in the early 1990s.

The doubling of next year's increase is something that would have been impossible without that unpopular tax hike.

Sometimes, bipartisanship really does pay off. If Ward's fellow Republicans don't appreciate that, Democrats certainly do.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

For Biden, Copying Charge May Be Deja Vu

Right now, Joe Biden must be having flashbacks to the days before he dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In 1988.

Back then, Biden was a young fresh face, battling Rep. Dick Gephardt and Massachussetts Gov. Mike Dukakis along with Tennessee Sen. Al Gore and Illinois Sen. Paul Simon. Biden had a reputation as a powerful speaker.

Then one day a tape of a speech given by British politician Neil Kinnock showed up in the mail of a Des Moines political reporter. The tape showed that Biden was "borrowing" heavily from Kinnock's speeches.

It was embarrassing, and set Biden's campaign in Iowa reeling. He withdrew shortly afterward when more plagiarism charges surfaced.

I remembered the incident, which I covered as a reporter in Iowa, as soon as I heard the suggestions that Barack Obama has borrowed words from Massachussetts Gov. Deval Patrick without attributing them.

Biden may be wondering why the criticisms are rolling off Obama instead of sticking as they did to him 20 years ago. Part of the reason may be media amnesia -- its failure to point out how similar charges affected other candidates. Another reason may be that the allegations arose at different points in the candidates' campaign trajectories -- Biden's was just getting off the ground, but Obama is on a roll. He simply has too much steam for anything to stop him. Or maybe plagiarism no longer matters in the Internet age, when people cut and paste at will. (Obviously, as an instructor at the University of Michigan who has to be on guard for student plagiarism, I hope that last part isn't true.)

While supporters of Hillary Clinton are writing about the matter, Obama has treated the matter lightly, saying, "I really don't think this is too big of a deal."

But I'll bet right now Republicans are combing through both the books that Obama has written, looking for anything else that he may have borrowed. I doubt they'll find anything because Obama is an excellent writer and has no need to plagiarize.

As I tell my students at the University of Michigan, borrowing is fine -- just attribute it.

Isn't THIS Terrorism?

The start of the fall semester at the University of Michigan is a ways off for me, but over the weekend a funny thought occurred to me. Should I get a bullet-proof vest?

Mass murders at two universities -- Virginia Tech and now Northern Illinois University -- had started me thinking about classroom security and the safety of my students in the event such a tragedy occurred on my campus, in my building, or in my classroom. How would I react? Should I say something to my students on the first day of class about what they should do? About the importance of mental health services, of alerting authorities when they suspect a friend has a problem?

This issue was lingering in my mind, but it appears to have largely disappeared from the national consciousness. Michigan Messenger notes today (February 19, 2008)that Michigan State University is hosting two events -- a vigil and a discussion -- about the shooting. And the Free Press has a story about a Wayne State University professor who studies campus shootings.

But where is George Bush on this issue? What is he saying about how to prevent such shootings? Suppose the murderer at Northern Illinois had been an Arab and a Muslim instead of a white? How many times would we have heard the words "domestic terrorism" and wondered if terrorism had come to our shores? Bush would be all over the airwaves denouncing the terrorists and calling for a renewed "war on terror.
And the terror threat level would be ratcheted up to the brightest color imaginable.

Instead, we focus on what the universities should do -- how they should "respond" when an attack occurs. Instead of a national solution, we tell our schools and students, "You're on your own."

But isn't it "terrorism" when somebody shoots up a classroom? Aren't our children "terrorized" by that experience? Isn't it "terrorism" when somebody shoots up a shopping mall? Doesn't this kind of "terrorism" demand a national response? Or at least an ongoing national conversation?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Argument on Michigan Delegates Fails Logic Test

The "rules are rules" argument for not seating Michigan (and Florida) delegates at the Democratic National Convention seems at odds with another argument also reverberating around political circles -- the "we should get rid of superdelegates" argument.

In the first case, the argument goes as laid out in Daily Kos, the rules should not be broken. Therefore, Michigan delegates can't be seated. In the other case, the argument continues, rules must be broken. The party must prevent superdelegates (who have been part of the nominating process since 1982) from having a say in the nomination.

Both of these arguments, if adopted, would appear to favor Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. Hillary Clinton. But it's hard for Obama to have it both ways -- stick to the rules and bar Michigan and Florida delegates but break the rules and not count superdelegates. (See Obama's comments on superdelegates here at Talking Points Memo TV.)

Such an argument puts him in an uncomfortable position. How does he plan to carry Michigan and Florida in November after dissing our delegates? Clinton's position on the two rules cases (the opposite of Obama's) is also inconsistent but is less insulting to the state, since a majority of those who turned out for the primary did vote for her.

Former Vice President Al Gore is standing by to negotiate a way out. If he finds a solution, he deserves another Nobel Peace Prize.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Michigan Prof Makes Huffington Post

Always nice to see a colleague make good.

Scott Kurashige, from the American Culture Program at the University of Michigan, has landed a piece on Huffington Post disagreeing with some of Paul Krugman's New York Times columns about the Democratic presidential nomination race.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

'Fair Tax' a Foolish Tax

A sales tax is every conservative's favorite tax, to the extent conservatives can have a favorite tax.

A sales tax entails no paper work (except for businesses that collect it), requires relatively fewer government employees to process the returns than does an income tax, and, most important, it spares the rich from having to pay their fair share of taxes.

So it should be no surprise that the deceptively named Michigan Fair Tax Proposal is being pushed by Republicans. The ballot proposal, which was being kicked off on Wednesday (February 12, 2008), would impose a 9.75 percent tax on all goods, food, and services purchased in Michigan. Kevin Shopshire has the scary details at Michigan Messenger.

In return for paying that extremely high sales tax, Michigan residents would see other taxes wiped out -- the Michigan Business Tax, personal property tax, the 6-mill business education tax, and the Michigan income tax. Businesses doing business with each other would not pay the sales tax.

And no new taxes could be enacted without a vote of the people.

In other words, Michigan would be putting all its eggs in one basket. And it would be the same basket for the foreseeable future.

Backers of the proposal, who are closely allied with Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, try to finesse the issue of the sales tax falling heavily on the poor and middle income with a monthly "prebate."

That, however, does not solve all the problems with the regressive nature of the tax. Middle and lower income people spend a high proportion of what they make, so they are paying taxes on a big share of their income.

But rich people spend a much lower percentage of what they make. So they are being taxed on a much smaller portion of their income.

CNN Money looked at the national verison of this plan which the Houston group helping with the Michigan effort is pushing. They reported:

"So the FairTax tweaks the formula by sending a "prebate" to every American for the amount of tax they pay on spending up to the poverty line, which today is $22,400 for a couple with one kid. In effect, basic necessities are tax-free. FairTaxers propose a tax worth 23 of each $1 you spend, so a family of three earning $30,000 a year and spending that much on taxable goods would pay about 6 percent of their income in tax after the rebate. A family earning and spending $125,000, about 19 percent. (State and local taxes would be levied on top of that.)

"The rebates help make the FairTax progressive -- tax jargon for 'richer people pay more.' For the very rich, however, that's not quite the whole story. Say you earn $2 million a year. You can live pretty well spending $1 million, and as a result pay a mere 11 percent of that year's income in taxes. If the very rich pay less, that means more of the total tax burden in any year has to fall on somebody else, most likely the middle class. Reasonable people can disagree about whether this really matters -- over time, a consumption tax looks more progressive because the rich savers or their descendants eventually spend the money and get taxed. But Boortz and Linder say that all this worry about progressivity at the top is just jealous carping anyway. 'We have very few Communists left in this world, but there are some,' says the congressman."

That's right, rich people pay much less.

There are other problems, too. All services are taxed. Services like health care. Will the tax be levied on the total bill, or just the co-pay? People are having trouble paying the co-pays now. Let's add more to it.

This thing has a lot of holes in it.

Backers are starting to collect signatures now. So when they ask you, don't sign.

Archer Candidacy Something to Look Forward To

One of my pet peeves as a journalist was the tendency of reporters to start trolling the political waters for candidates for office years before the election. One particular offender in my eyes was veteran reporter Tim Skubick of Lansing, who made it a habit of asking anyone who was ever on his show, "Are you thinking of running for governor?" or "Are you thinking of running for U.S. Senate?"

The target would always say yes because just about every politician has thought about running for a higher office than the one he or she currently holds. One time, Skubick asked Dr. Jack Kevorkian if he was thinking of running for governor, and then dashed off a story, which all the reporters had to waste time chasing, saying that Kevorkian was thinking of running for governor. The problem as I saw it, was that these were just pipe dreams, not people thinking about putting together an exploratory committee and actually doing it. When asked if they were thinking about running, they just said yes and nothing else. It was fake news.

So when I saw the news that former Michigan Supreme Court justice and Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer is considering running for governor, I wondered if that fit into the same category.

But the story in the Detroit Free Press seems to have some substance. Archer says he has been approached by so many people that he has been forced to think about it.

An Archer candidacy in 2010, when Gov. Jennifer Granholm is nearing the end of her last term, would be a formidable one. Others, such as Lt. Gov. John Cherry, are also likely candidates.

It's too early to pick sides, but I would like to hear what Archer thinks he could do for Michigan.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How YOU Can Help Democrats Win in Livingston!

Livingston County Democrats are on a roll, but we need YOU to keep us moving forward!

Last week, we heard from First Gentleman Dan Mulhern about the importance of vision and energy for leaders, whether in politics or everyday life. This week, we will hear from Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean about Democrats' strategy for winning in November -- a strategy that includes YOU!

Join us Saturday (February 16, 2008) at 10 a.m. for coffee and bagels and a special DVD from the DNC on Democrats' winning strategy. We will hear Howard Dean via conference call at 11 a.m.

Remember, if you missed last week's session, this Saturday will be a good time to get updated on our plans and to sign up to be a neighborhood organizer. Handouts from last week's session will be available that explain how having volunteers in every neighborhood in Livingston County can help us win in November.

To sign up as a precinct captain or neighborhood volunteer, or to RSVP for Saturday's training, email livcodems@sbcuc.net or call (810) 229-4212.

Don't wait! Come hear how you can help laying the groundwork for victory -- right in your own neighborhood!

Senator Levin Coming to Livingston Sunday

Want to get the latest on what's happening in Washington? Then don't miss Sen. Carl Levin's visit to Livingston County on Sunday (February 17, 2008).

Levin will be honored for his distinguished service as a senator at a reception at Livingston County Democratic Party headquarters on Sunday from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tickets for the event are $25. Sponsor tickets are $125 and host tickets are $250. The proceeds benefit Senator Levin's re-election campaign.

To RSVP or for information please contact Kendra Newman at (248) 443-6846 or knewman@carllevin.com.

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

Senator Levin has been a great friend to Livingston County Democrats over the years.
Don't miss this chance to show your appreciation for that and to hear his views on the political scene, nationally and locally!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rogers Stiffs Working People

What if your boss called and asked to see you and you failed to show up? How long would you have your job?

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers in effect did that when a group of people from his district showed up for their appointment with him on Tuesday (February 5, 2008) at his office in Washington, D.C.

The group of nine constitutents were among 2,000 UAW members in town for the UAW Community Action Program meeting and had scheduled a meeting with Rogers for 3 p.m. They had already heard from both Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, who spoke to the event on Monday.

But when they showed up for their confirmed appointment with their congressional representative -- not a last-minute drop-in visit -- Rogers was nowhere to be seen.

In fact, the constituents -- who are in effect Rogers' bosses because they pay his salary and decide whether to keep him on each November -- had trouble getting their collective foot in the door.

As one member of the group said, "All of these constituents had issues that they wanted to discuss with him (Rogers) but instead we met with his Legislative Director, Mike Ward - in the hallway!"

In the hallway?

I can understand why Rogers was too busy to show up, what with having to work night and day to make sure Democrats don't do something like provide health care for poor children or some other dastardly deed.

I'll bet if the constituents had posed as health care industry lobbyists with big checks for Rogers' re-election campaign, Rogers would have shown up.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What Do Leaders Look Like? Look in the Mirror

After seven years of George W. Bush, Americans are hungry for new leadership. Michigan First Gentleman Dan Mulhern told a group of Livingston County Democrats Saturday (February 9, 2008) where to look for that new leadership.

In the mirror.

Mulhern, who is a nationally recognized expert on leadership, spoke to nearly 50 Democrats who are interested in being precinct captains for the November election.

Leadership, he said, is more than military generals, presidents, and governors. People can be leaders in their everyday lives, on the "microcosmic level" of family and community.

The principles are the same, he said. Leaders need a vision -- Where are we going? -- and they need to exude energy.

Mulhern urged the precinct captains to think about their vision in "matchbook" terms -- something short and simple that they can carry around with them and that will light a fire in people. A vision doesn't have to be big and grand, but can be simple and immediate.

He also stressed that leadership isn't something that only starts at the top and filters down, but can also radiate from one person to another, or "side to side." That, he said, can be the most powerful kind of leadership.

"You're not getting paid. (You are involved) just because you care. ... That's a very powerful thing. You should never underestimate the power of side to side leadership," Mulhern said.

Having a simple, crisp, compelling message to take door to door also is powerful, he stressed. People today are innundated with messages from the internet, cable, newspapers, advertising, and other sources that they tend to tune them out. But a simple message from a real person can be powerful, he said.

Besides having a vision, the other job of leaders is to energize people, to get them moving. "The primary task of leadership is emotional, to prime good feeling in those they lead. ... To create positive energy in people is what it's all about," Mulhern said.

One way to do that is to have leaders who pitch in themselves when work needs to be done. It may only be symbolic, but it creates a powerful memory, he said.

Mulhern also signed copies of his book, Everyday Leadership, and took questions from the audience.

Afterward, Livingston County Democratic Party leaders provided training in how to organize precincts, recruit neighborhood volunteers, and identify voters for the November election.

Anyone interested in being a precinct captain or a neighborhood volunteer may email the party at livcodems@sbcuc.net. Training will continue at 10 a.m. Saturday, February 16, with a session that includes a conference with Democratic National Party Chair Howard Dean. The training will be at Livingston County Democratic Party Headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600 of the Fonda Office Park, Brighton.

Be a leader! Sign up today!

(Above) First Gentleman Dan Mulhern signs a copy of his book Everyday Leadership, for a volunteer at Livingston County Democratic Party headquarters.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

More Federal Budget Shenanigans

Fred Kaplan offers an excellent analysis of the Bush military budget over at Slate.com.

Here's an excerpt:

It's time for our annual game: How much is really in the U.S. military budget?

As usual, it's about $200 billion more than most news stories are reporting. For the proposed fiscal year 2009 budget, which President Bush released today, the real size is not, as many news stories have reported, $515.4 billion—itself a staggering sum—but, rather, $713.1 billion.

Before deconstructing this budget, let us consider just how massive it is. Even the smaller figure of $515.4 billion—which does not include money for fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—is roughly equal to the total military budgets of all the rest of the world's nations combined. It is (adjusting for inflation) larger than any U.S. military budget since World War II.

But wait -- there's even more insanity when you look at Bush's proposals for the VA budget. From the Democratic Policy Committee report:
While the requested medical care budget is $2 billion above Fiscal Year 2007 levels, after factoring in health care inflation and increased patient utilization rates, it amounts to a mere .14 percent increase over lastyear's allocation. This minimal and inadequate increase raises real concerns about whether the proposed budget will be able to meet the demands of new enrollees or allow for vital new initiatives, including enhancements to mental health services for OIF/OEF veterans.
Among other slaps, veterans will face increased co-pays (nearly doubled for middle-income veterans) and increased enrollment fees. Revenues from these changes won't be reinvested in the VA to improve care. Instead, it will be shifted to the Treasury in a pathetic attempt to balance the budget on the backs of our veterans.

Way to support the troops, Mr. Bush!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

First Gentleman Dan Mulhern Speaking in Livingston

Are you ready for change? Do you want to make a difference in where our nation is headed?

Democrats here in Livingston County are ready to show you how to make change happen, one person at a time, with a special event this Saturday, February 9, at 9:30 a.m.

First Gentleman Dan Mulhern. husband of Governor Jennifer Granholm, will speak at a continental breakfast that kicks off our recruitment of precinct captains and volunteers for the November election.

Precinct captains are a key part of the Democratic strategy for winning in November. Yet the idea is a simple one -- a neighbor talking to neighbors.

All of us have limited time in our busy days. This event is your chance to learn how to organize your neighborhood with one or two hours of work a week. We can achieve the change we all want and celebrate victory in November at all levels of government.

The event will begin with a continental breakfast at 9:30 a.m. and will include a talk by Mr. Mulhern and training provided by staff from the Michigan Democratic Party and local Democratic Party workers. It will be held at Livingston County Democratic Party Headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600 of the Fonda Office Park, Brighton.

Please RSVP to livcodems@sbcuc.net or (810) 229-4212.

This is your chance to learn how to be part of the coming change. Don't miss it!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Rogers Rumors

A little gossip from the other side of the aisle.

A blogger named dingo reported this a while back about Michigan Republicans:

"... the GOP has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to first or second tier candidates in the state. Currently, Attorney Gen. Mike Cox, Sec. of State Terry Land, Rep. and former Sec. of State Candice Miller, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, Rep. Mike Rogers, and former gubernatorial candidate Dick Devos are all considering a run for major statewide office - most likely the Governors office in 2010. Obviously, not all of these guys can run, and win, that ONE office. Thus, perhaps one of them might want to run for Senate, where they are guaranteed the nomination, and where, if they lose but run a credible race, they might win or set themselves up for a future win in MI politics. (And neither Cox nor Land has to give up their office for a 2008 race.)"

Let's hope they all run in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary and waste a ton of money doing it.

Growing, Growing, Growing

What if you published a blog a nobody read it? It can happen, but not at Living Blue.

A comparison for the months of December and January, based on statistics from Google Analytics, shows Living Blue is off to a great start to 2008.

Helped no doubt by interest in the not-so-perfect Michigan presidential primary, visits to Living Blue were up 216 percent in January compared to the previous month. And unique visitors were up even more -- 306 percent.

Visitors to the site came from 24 countries -- including Togo. Most visitors were from the U.S., of course. Living Blue attracted readers from 41 states -- led by Michigan, but followed by New York, California, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, D.C., Texas, and Ohio.

And our Michigan visitors came from 138 cities, up from just 84 a month ago.

Many of our readers find us using search engines, but our friends at Michigan Liberal and Lefty Blogs also send many our way.

There are plenty of politics ahead in 2008 and we'll try to keep you posted.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Of Birthdays and Driver's Licenses

Today, February 3, is my birthday. And in Michigan, you know what that means. No, I'm not talking about moaning about six more weeks of winter because the Ground Hog saw his shadow yesterday. The Ground Hog never sees his shadow in Michigan on Feb. 2 because the sun never shines during the winter in Michigan so that predicator is totally worthless in our state.

No, I'm talking about renewing my driver's license. I was able to do it by mail before leaving town for a week, and when I got home my brand new license -- good until my birthday 2012 -- was waiting for me in the mailbox.

My husband retrieved the mail, opened it, and tossed the license on my desk without a word late last night. I didn't even notice it until this morning (February 3, 2008).

And that's when it hit me. A driver's license is so inconsequential, so taken-for-granted, by U.S. citizens like me that it didn't even rate a mention. Not even as exciting as receiving an entry in the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. Just a driver's license.

Yet for other people, driver's licenses are something to fight over. Americans are divided over whether undocumented immigrants should be allowed to get driver's licenses.

And in Michigan, Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land has taken such a stiff-necked position that she won't even issue licenses to people who are here legally and temporarily, but are not U.S. citizens -- such as foreign students, corporate executives, even professional athletes here on temporary visas.

I guess Land and her fellow Republican, Attorney General Mike Cox, figure it's not important to know whether such people know Michigan laws when they get behind the wheel and take to the roads with the rest of us. And what does it say to businesses from other countries that might want to open operations here that their employees could not drive -- in the home of the automobile industry!

But the American Civil Liberties Union is preparing a legal challenge to Land's position. It is looking for people who are barred from receiving licenses under the policy who would be willing to sign an affidavit and be named as a plaintiff in the suit. Other plaintiffs may be businesses whose employees are impacted by the policy.

Interested people may contact Mike Steinberg, the legal director of the ACLU
Michigan, at 313-578-6800.

Help if you can.

Running Government Like a Business

I'm not a big fan of "running government like a business." First of all, government is not a business. It's not out to make a profit or attract customers. It also often finds itself having to serve people that businesses refuse to serve -- providing health care to the poor, for example. And things that work in business don't apply at all in government -- such as using tax breaks.

But there are some things that businesses do to save money that government can also take advantage of. One of them is refinancing debt to save money when interest rates fall.

And that's what Gov. Jennifer Granholm has in mind for providing one-time money to pay for some of the initiatives in her budget -- such as job retraining and building new schools.

The Detroit Free Press has the details in an editorial for Sunday (February 3, 2008).

Taking Rogers to Task

Don't miss Kelly Raskauskas' piece in the Livingston Press and Argus for Sunday (February 3, 2008) regarding Rep. Mike Rogers and SCHIP.

Raskauskas slices through Rogers' distortions and lies one by one without getting bogged down in too many details.

Fact-checking is tedious work, but more important than ever these days.

Thanks, Kelly!