Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thoughts from Health Care Discussion

The Presidential Transition Policy Team has encouraged Americans to attend Health Care discussions as part of President-elect Obama’s continuing efforts to reach out and directly involve us in our own government.

The 30 people who met last night at the American Spirit Center needed no prodding to talk about their health care experiences and what kind of system we need for the future. The discussion was more than lively and, at times, became very emotional. Attendees were mostly for universal health care but some expressed concern that such a system would take away incentives for individuals to live healthy lifestyles.

I’ve tried to capture the spirit of the discussion with some quotes that are not exact but portray the thoughts and ideas as closely as I could capture them:

I want to have the same health insurance that our senators and representatives have.

Socialized medicine will cause us to lose the best health care in the world.

Because many people do not have health insurance, our mortality rates are too high. We are 37th in the world in infant mortality.

I am fortunate because my health insurance is from an auto company. If the auto companies do not survive, I may lose my good health insurance.

I haven’t had health insurance for 12 years because I work as a contractor with GM. I am doing everything I possibly can to live as healthily as possible but I feel that I have no safety net if something should happen.

My son was able to find major medical insurance at low cost by searching and comparing different companies so insurance is available if people look for it.

It worries me that lazy people will benefit from the rest of us paying into the system.

I am in favor of HR676, the Kucinich-Conyers health care plan.

We came to talk about FOCA (Freedom of Choice Act). It will close all Catholic hospitals if this passes.

Health care is a human right.

Participants filled out surveys as requested by the Transition Team and when they have been tabulated in the next few days, we’ll post it on along with input received from those who were unable to attend.

Health care is of number one importance to all Americans including Livingston County residents. It is closely tied in with the economic conditions, the D3 crisis and domestic policies that our government needs to address immediately. You are encouraged to post your thoughts on health care here and we’ll include them in our report to the Transition Team.

Biggest Obstacle to Health Care-WAR!

Letter to Newspapers Sent on 12-30-08
Dear Fourth Estate:

I have finally figured out a local angle for this story and it occured to me after reading what is going on for the Shifa Hospital in Gaza in the e-mail below. Please read it and consider covering this angle of the tragedy that is being played out with the billions of military aid - no strings attached- the US has given Israel over the years.

Yesterday at the Cromaine Library in Hartland, I attended a Health Care Community
Discussion organized by volunteers for the Obama-Biden Transition Project. After discussing from 2pm-3:30pm and filling out the survey questions, it occured to me to mention to Pastor Fred who was there taking notes that the biggest impediment to health care not only in this country but around the world is war. I had mentioned earlier in the discussion that we could find the money for universal health care in the United States by voting to take it from the billions that are being spent by the US government on weapons of mass destruction. What we need is a model for health care that is based on actually caring for people, not one based on a business model, offering universal insurance, individual savings accounts, etc. that measures success by statistics and the bottom line. Needless to say, there wasn't a box to check on the survey that mentioned that approach. I was able to add my own box on my own survey-hope the Obama team gets to read it.
To solve the health care crisis in this country will take a discussion that deals with peoples' values-how do they want their time, money, and energy spent-in the service of helping others or just helping ourselves. The reason we don't have universal health care in this country is not because we don't have the money-it's because we don't have the will or the belief that we can help ourselves in the long run by helping others. True health and security is having friends and family and community to weather the power outages, tough economic times, and realizing that you are not alone.

In peace,

P.S. We still don't have electricity but we have the hope that DTE will find Hartland eventually! The noise from our generator is nothing compared to what the community in Gaza are experiencing (noise wise) from the F16 fighter planes dropping tons of bombs on their small strip of land. And yes, our health care is better. We plan to donate to the Palestinian Aid Society as our taxes have gone to fund the weapons being used to stop their health so I want to do something to provide health care to those who are still alive.

P.S. Maybe this address could be published for those who would like to contribute?

Sent: Tuesday, December 30, 2008 8:06 AM
Subject: FW: Support Shifa Hospital in Gaza

From: Farouq Shafie [] Sent: Tuesday, December 30, 2008 1:24 AMTo: farouq r shafieSubject: Support Shifa Hospital in Gaza

Dear Friends,Genocide is being committed in Gaza by the Israeli military in violation of international law, not to mention all sense of decency and proportion. We at the Palestine Aid Society (PAS) have been inundated with calls for action by fellow Americans of all faiths and ethnicities. We feel the pain and the hurt as we watch, with horror, the terrorized children, the dismembered bodies, the wounded crying in pain, the frustrated aid workers, all on our television screens. We also hear in disgust the support for this Israeli-conducted genocide by some of our representatives in Washington DC. At the time of this writing the number of dead has exceeded 345 and the wounded more than 1650, most of them unarmed civilians. And it seems that Israel is intent on carrying this orgy of violence for days to come, proclaiming that the people of Gaza are not Israel's enemies, but that their democratically-elected government is! The need in Gaza for immediate relief is immense. The Shifa Hospital is the major medical facility in Gaza receiving and caring for the majority of the victims and it has been inundated, especially after months of an inhumane and punitive siege that has left it short of medicine and other medical supplies. As a small gesture of solidarity with the people of Gaza and in order to help alleviate a bit of their suffering, PAS is calling on all people of good will in our community to donate what they can to a fund for Shifa Hospital. Your tax-deductible donations (100% of all monies contributed) will be transmitted by PAS to the International Red Cross with instructions to deliver them to Shifa Hospital. Please make your checks payable to PAS, earmarked to Shifa Hospital, and send it to:

Palestine Aid Society of America
P.O.Box 130572
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48113
Tax # 38-2381-291.Peace,Rabia ShafiePalestine Aid Society(734) 668-6430

Monday, December 29, 2008

Local Obama Volunteer Spolighted

Volunteers are the lifeblood of any campaign. They make possible the voter-to-voter contact that is so essential to educating voters about a candidate's views.

And in the Livingston County Democratic Party office in 2008, that was especially true. One of our volunteers -- Danielle Mann -- is featured in the Livingston Press and Argus.

You'll be hearing a lot from Danielle in the future!

Saturday, December 27, 2008


President-elect Obama and Senator Tom Daschle, nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, are asking our help in designing a health care system that provides quality and affordable health care for all Americans. Community Discussions are taking place all over the United States. Our Community Discussion will take place on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 at 7 p.m. in the VFW/American Legion Spirit Center, 10590 Grand River Road, east of Brighton, MI.

This has never happened before in my memory – that is, where a president-elect has reached out to the grassroots and asked for our experiences and what kind of health care system we feel will best serve us. What a difference in governance! President-elect Obama is not asking professional lobbyists from the health insurance industry or Big Pharma, although I’m sure their lobbyists will be working hard for their companies’ interests. He is asking the citizens to respond to him and Senator Daschle directly through these community meetings.

Every participant will be given several opportunities to make their views about health care known. A written report will be submitted online and copies will be given to everyone who supplies their e-mail or street address.

Health care is a concern for every citizen – party affiliation, income, job status or whether you have health insurance now does not matter. The existing system is in such shambles that we must we reform it now. Everyone is encouraged to participate without regard to anything but the need we all have for health care.

Please RSVP to so we can plan for your participation. Light refreshments will be served with coffee and tea service.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Peace and Joy this holiday season!

Peace and Joy to all of you this holiday season-together all things are possible!


Another GOP Idea We Won't Hear About for Awhile

Say, whatever happened to that great George Bush idea that the government should dump the Social Security program, give everybody their cash, and let them invest the money in the stock market, where they could earn much more money that their payments into Social Security do?

I haven't heard much about that idea lately.

I wonder why.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Somebody Else's Turn to Pick on Perlberg

Livingston Press and Argus publisher Rich Perlberg is getting raked over the coals on somebody else's blog for his editorial in editions for Sunday (Dec. 21, 2008) on the smoking ban which failed in the 2007-2008 legislative session which ended Friday.

Perlberg's basic argument was that since casinos weren't covered, no businesses should be covered.

Michigan Liberal isn't buying it. And neither are the commenters.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

More Bank Bailout vs. Auto Industry Loan Unfairness

While auto industry execs are working for $1 a year and giving up their corporate jets, the Associated Press, via Huffington Post, has an update on how the banks are receiving their bailout money.

So far, they have spent $1.6 billion in bonuses to top officials.

And still there's no foreclosure relief.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Make Plans to Attend Livingston's Inaugural Event

Don't have the money or the time to travel to Washington, D.C., to celebrate Barack Obama's inauguration?

Then do the next best thing -- attend Livingston County's own inaugural bash.

Obama supporters are invited to attend an inauguration celebration sponsored by the Livingston County Democrats on Friday, January 16, 2009, at the American Spirit Center, 10590 Grand River Road, east of Brighton. The event will run from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The celebration will include a buffet of hot and cold appetizers, dessert, a cash bar, dancing to the music of Crystal Clear DJ of Howell, and a special video of 2008 campaign events focused on Livingston County.

The cost is a $25 per person donation for reservations made in advance and $30 at the door. A special $10 student rate also will be available.

Call 810-229-4212 or email to reserve your spot now.

The event is open to all who want to celebrate Obama's inauguration. Membership in the Democratic Party is not required.

Brighton Ordinance Annoyingly Vague

Looks like the city of Brighton is trying to muscle in on Hamburg Township and steal some of its limelight.

That's how I interpret the city's recently passed ordinance against annoying people, as discussed in the Livingston Press and Argus for Friday (Dec. 1, 2008).

According to the newspaper, the public conduct code states that:

"It shall be unlawful for a person to engage in a course of conduct or repeatedly commit acts that alarm or seriously annoy another person and that serve no legitimate purpose."

It adds that, "It shall be unlawful for any person in the city to insult, accost, molest or otherwise annoy, either by word of mouth, sign or motions any person in any public place."

The ordinance is modeled after one in Royal Oak, Michigan.

The commenters are having a lot of fun with this on the newspaper's website. And I certainly can think of many people whom I would love to see ticketed and fined under this ordinance. Drivers who fail to use their turn signals are annoying. Drivers who engage in "road range" are annoying. Diners who take too long at their table when others are waiting are annoying. You get the picture.

But of course, I don't get to issue the tickets. The police will. And it will be their judgment that determines what is annoying.

I also can think of cases that are less frivolous. People who make repeated phone calls to a person and hang up as a form of harassment could be ticketed and that would be a good thing. It might even cover bullying activity.

But it seems like the ordinance is broader than it needs to be to cover those things and that it fails to alert the public to exactly what they must do to face getting a ticket.

Which means constitutional scholars might find it annoying.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bush Action on Autos Better Late Than Never

Having screwed up every facet of American life in the last eight years, George Bush apparently decided that the Herbert Hoover comparisons were hitting too close to home.

His approval on Friday (December 19, 2008) of a loan to the American auto industry came weeks after it should have. If Bush had acted weeks ago, Congress would not have had to waste all that time wrangling over something Republicans were never going to allow to happen.

But then American workers never would have found out what Southern Republicans really think of them.

BTW, buried in that Reuters story is the news that Toyota expects to lose money this year. My heart bleeds.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Levin: Cheney Admitted to Authorizing Torture

You'd think that trying to save the American auto industry and thousands of Michigan jobs would keep a senator so busy that he would have time for nothing else.

But if the senator is Michigan's Carl Levin, you'd be wrong.

That's because the Democratic chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee has also had time in recent days to keep an ear open to what the out-going Bush-Cheney team has been saying on their failure to America tour.

Specifically, Cheney's admission in a televised interview that he authorized water-boarding, a recognized form of torture since at least the Spanish Inquisition.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow heard the interview, too, and called in Levin for an appearance on Wednesday (Dec. 17, 2008)

The rawstory has a story and the video of Levin's appearance. Levin plans to turn over his committee's report to the Obama Justice Department and urged creation of an independent commission, which, he said, could lead to indictments.

That's Levin -- working to save the economy one day and to save America's international reputation the next.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Alabama as a Foreign Colony?

When most Americans think of colonies, they probably think of the 13 North American colonies of Great Britain that waged a revolution over "no taxation without representation" and went on to become the United States. It's a nice, little patriotic story.

But the idea of colonialism is much uglier than the way it turned out for the 18th century colonials in Boston and elsewhere on this continent. And it's about a whole lot more than just having a foreign country set up a government that its subjects don't think is fair.

Colonialism refers not just to government but to a stronger power taking over the resources of a weaker power and converting them to its own uses. Those resources are not just land, but can be the wealth, in all its forms including labor, of the people of the weaker party.

An important part of the trick to having a successful colony is for the stronger power to so dominate the weaker party that the colonials actually begin to prefer the stronger power and its values and culture to their own. The minds of the people of the weaker power have become colonized along with their land and resources.

Without too much of a stretch, one could say that is what is happening in states like Alabama. Foreign countries, in the form of auto manufacturers that are supported by foreign governments, have planted themselves in Alabama. They are extracting resources from Alabama in the form of labor for which they do not always pay a living wage (as low as $14 an hour which comes out to 137 percent of the poverty line for a family of four) and for which they are receiving massive subsidizies from the states ($3 billion at least according to some estimates). The profits from the labor return to the foreign country, rather than staying in Alabama.

And most importantly, they have persuaded residents of the state that this is a good system that they should prefer to an American one. The foreign companies have the states' U.S. senators, like Richard Shelby, actively working against American companies and on behalf of the foreign ones.

Shelby identifies more with his Japanese and German masters than with fellow Americans. That's the classic action of a colonized mind.

Blue Tiger Democrats Giving Boost to County's Needy

Amid all the doom and gloom of the nation's economic situation, Livingston County Democrats have been trying to spread a little holiday cheer.

The party has completed three separate charity programs this holiday season designed to provide food, Christmas presents, and warm clothing for needy families, Pam Green, chair of the party's Blue Tiger Committee, says.

"e recognize that the needs in our community are especially great this year because of the precarious situation with the American automobile industry so we wanted to step up our activities as much as possible," Green said.

"Our members were extremely generous, even though some of them wonder whether they themselves will have jobs for much longer and whether their pensions are sound."

Green said the party's members donated funds for clothing, toys, and gift certificates totaling $350 for a three-person family under the Salvation Army's Adopt-a-Family program.

Party members also delivered 168 pounds of non-perishable food items and $335 in cash, doubled by a matching-grant certificate, to Gleaners Food Bank’s Livingston County Distribution Center. Overall, the party’s donation will result in 2,514 meals being made available to the hungry, or enough for a family of four for seven months.

In addition, party members shopped for warm winter clothing for four families selected for assistance under the Ann Arbor News’ Warm the Children Fund.

Green said the party’s community efforts will not end with the holidays. The Blue Tiger program is the arm of the Michigan Democratic Party devoted to putting progressive values into action. The Blue Tiger was the traditional symbol of the national Democratic Party until cartoonist Thomas Nast used a donkey to represent the party in political cartoons in the 19th century.

"Many voters in the United States have come to believe that neither party really cares about them or their problems. We want to show people that Democrats care about their local communities year-in and year-out, and not just at election time," she said.

Other activities are in the works, including a monthly knitting and crocheting club to make items such as hats for soldiers and lap robes for veterans and the elderly, a collection of food and other items for pets of people who can’t afford to buy such items, and so on. In addition, donations of cash or non-perishable food items will be accepted for Gleaners at local party events throughout the year.

Anyone interested in these activities is invited to contact Pam Green at

(Above) Pam Green unloads food donated by Livingston County Democrats at the Gleaners Community Food Bank's Livingston Distribution Center on Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Not Everything Sunny for Southern Auto Companies

You know how those Southern Republicans thought taxpayer money shouldn't help out the American automobile industry because it was their own fault they were in trouble, that they just couldn't compete with those foreign companies who were doing just swell without any government help (because they don't consider hundreds of millions from state governments to be "government help)?

We here in Michigan remember that pretty well, don't we?

Well, it turns out things are not quite as sunny for those foreign automakers as the Southern Republicans are letting on.

Toyota is saying it will delay opening its $1.3 billion plant in Mississippi that was supposed to build the Prius. The reason? Falling demand. Sales of the Prius are off almost 48 percent.

Wonder if the state of Mississippi and local governments plan to ask for a refund on the $235 million they gave the foreign company to build the plant?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Boycott Alabama--Would Anybody Notice?

When I first heard about the website dedicated to boycotting anything Alabama due to Republican Sen. Richard Shelby's un-American attack on domestic auto makers in favor of foreign ones, I thought it was a great idea.

But when I went to the site, I didn't find a list of items that we're not supposed to buy.

So as a public service, I decided to compile my own list of things made in Alabama that we here in Michigan should avoid buying in order to punish Shelby.

At the top of the list, of course, is any vehicle made by one of the companies Shelby's state subsidizes. I crossed those off my shopping list years ago. Especially anything German-made. My father had the pleasure of German hospitality during World War II, which was assisted by the likes of Mercedes-Benz. So for me it's always been thanks but no thanks to one of their vehicles ever.

And as for travel in Alabama, I mean seriously, why would you?

I was fresh out of info for what else involving Alabama I could boycott so I turned to the internets where I found -- sauces. Apparently Alabama is big on hot sauces and barbecue sauces. Since I've never heard of any of the brands, this will not be a problem.

Then there are marinades and honey, again sold under brands I've never heard of. Still not a problem.

Again scouring the internets, I found a product map which shows what else Alabama produces -- cotton, corn, and hogs. Lots of 21st century cutting-edge innovation involved in those products. All are commodities -- hard to tell one ear of corn from another once its gets into the stream of commerce. So that's basically out.

Just when I had despaired of finding anything Alabama to avoid, ESPN's Bowl Mania came to my rescue.

Alabama football! I'll root against Alabama in the whatever bowl. I'll do a novena for Utah in the Sugar Bowl. I'll wear a Utes jersey and sing the Utes fight song and have a bowl party for every Ute fan I can find.

And I'll look forward to a matchup between Alabama and Michigan State or U of M someday soon.

I wish I could do more, but every little bit helps.

What's Next--Charging Admission to Board Meetings?

Hamburg Township Clerk Matt Skiba seems to be engaging in a little payback to the Livingston Press and Argus. The newspaper endorsed his opponent, fellow Republican and write-in candidate JoAnna Hardesty, the incumbent clerk who lost the GOP primary to Skiba. As a back-up, it suggested Democratic candidate Debby Buckland.

The Press and Argus also has been relentless in its coverage of Skiba -- from his financial troubles, to his attempts to pay a hefty salary to his former campaign manager and now deputy clerk, to revelations about the allegedly crude behavior of the deputy clerk.

So is it just coincidence that Skiba has decided that the news media should file Freedom of Information Act requests and pay 25 cents a page to receive informational packets for board meetings?

Sure looks like payback to me.

Skiba uses the excuse that if the public has to pay, the media should, too. But why can't this material simply be placed on-line so anyone can access it for free?

This is a typical example of how the Freedom of Information Act can be used to impede public access to information, rather than facilitate it, by putting up unnecessary roadblocks.

If Hamburg needs extra revenue, why don't they sell tickets to board meetings? Sounds like it will be the best show in town for quite awhile.

They could even take the show on the road to other townships so all county residents can get in on the fun.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Directing Friendly Fire at Michigan's Friends

The Livingston Press and Argus has a bizarre editorial in editions for Sunday (Dec. 14, 2008).

It's an attack (and a fairly juvenile one at that) on Sen. Chris Dodd, who has been working to push through a loan for the American auto industry. The writer attacks Dodd for having a full head of hair, for having divorced his first wife and then dating a couple movie stars (gee, didn't Ronald Reagan do that?).

The writer doesn't like the fact that Dodd wanted GM CEO Rick Waggoner to step down as a condition of the federal loan. But there's not a word of criticism for the Southern Republican senators who wanted to legislate 50 percent pay cuts for thousands of workers as a condition of the loan as a thinly veiled excuse to sink the loan.

Of all the people to criticize, Dodd is pretty far down the list. At least he voted for the loan.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Going the Extra Mile for Us

We in Michigan know who are friends are after the last few weeks.

Top of the list -- Sen. Carl Levin. If this were a war, he'd get the Medal of Honor for his staunch defense in public and tireless work behind the scenes on behalf of the automobile industry.

Close second -- Sen. Debbie Stabenow. A great appearance on the "Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC on Friday (December 12, 2008).

Then there's Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Lt. Gov. John Cherry, who appeared tired and worn in a news conference on Friday after all their efforts. Michigan Liberal has the video.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger starred in his news conference on Friday, also. Too bad the news media only focuses on his quote about Senate Republicans hoping for a "too-fer" -- stabbing organized labor and helping foreign countries and foreign companies. (Good grief, helping foreign companies. Is that putting country first?)
He had a lot more to say than that.

It isn't over yet, thanks to all their work.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Money Well Spent?

The Detroit Free Press has an interesting letter to the editor today (Dec. 12, 2008) about a fund-raiser that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held in Detroit in 2006.

Turns out McConnell came to the Motor City to raise money -- asking auto industry officials for $1,000 apiece for lunching with him at Opus One.

Wrote one of the poor saps who ponied up the money, "If this is his way of 'paying back' his friends from the auto industry, you gotta say: With friends like this, who needs enemies?"

Who would have thought American business leaders would lump the Republican Party in with their enemies?

I wonder how much more money auto industry execs have spent over the years supporting Republican causes, or given the rump nature of the Republican Party these days, perhaps we should say Southern causes.

How long will their memories be? Will the welcome mat be out for GOP presidential contenders in 2012 looking for cash to fuel their campaigns? Or for national GOP senatorial campaign committees in 2010?

I don't think so, but maybe I'm wrong.

Hamburg Recall Talk Already

Hamburg just went through a nasty primary, a three-way general election, and now there's talk of a recall of newly-elected Township Clerk Matt Skiba.

Skiba told the Livingston Press and Argus for a story in Friday's edition (Dec. 12, 2008) that he expects a recall petition drive to begin.

Could we let the ink drive on the Board of Canvassers' report on the election results first? Shouldn't there be a limit to how soon you can recall a just-elected official?

Democracy is a great thing, but we can have too much of a great thing.

The suggestion of a recall attempt was part of a much larger story -- the rehash of the allegedly obscene gesture made by Skiba's deputy.

Complete with video. I kid you not.

Would someone please send that video to "Countdown with Keith Olbermann"? It would be great for the "Oddball" segment.

In End, Republicans Wanted Race to Bottom in Wages

As they killed efforts late Thursday (December 11, 2008) to help the Arsenal of Democracy survive to fight another day, Senate Republicans were demanding the UAW agree to wage parity with foreign automakers.

Which foreign-owned plants did they have in mind -- the ones that pay roughly the same $29-$30 an hour as the American-owned plants, or the ones that pay $14 an hour?

As Automotive News reports, wages at foreign-owned plants are a moving target, and they are moving down and down and down.

It reports:

"There are currently pay differences even between the U.S. auto plants owned by Toyota Motor Corp. Toyota workers in Georgetown, Ky., earn $27-$30 an hour, similar to the hourly wages of UAW workers in Michigan.

"But vexed by the rise of lower-wage competitors, including Hyundai Motor Co. in Montgomery, Ala., and Nissan Motor Co. in Canton, Miss., Toyota has been on a campaign to establish new plants that can pay lower hourly rates than its more-established U.S. plants.

"Starting wages for workers at Toyota's San Antonio Tundra pickup plant, which opened in 2006, began at $15.50 an hour and are scheduled to grow to $21 an hour in 2009. And assembly workers at the company's planned Prius factory near Tupelo, Miss., are expected to earn $20 an hour when it opens in 2010. Yet Toyota's Corolla-Tacoma plant in Fremont, Calif., is a UAW-represented joint-venture with General Motors that pays national UAW rates.

"The nonunion transplants' decade-long efforts to reduce their wages further marks a reversal of their earlier practices.

"Since they first arrived here in the early 1980s, the Japanese transplants made an effort to pay workers at levels that were close to -- but just under – UAW wages.

"As a result, union organizers were repeatedly stymied in their efforts to convince well-paid nonunion workers at Honda Motor Co.'s plant in Marysville, Ohio, and at Nissan's operations in Smyrna, Tenn., that the union could help them.

"In recent years, that wage gap has widened.

"Hyundai made a point of paying less than Toyota, Honda and Nissan when it entered Alabama in 2002. Its sister company, Kia Motors Co., is now hiring workers for a new assembly plant in rural west Georgia to start at $14.90 an hour.

"The transplants are a moving competitive target.

"This summer, Nissan North America offered employee buyout to hundreds of workers at two Tennessee vehicle and engine plants.

"Nissan has not said what it plans to do with its Tennessee workforce in the future. But by reducing the headcount of more senior employees, Nissan now has the option of hiring new workers at lower starting salaries in the future.

"Last month, Honda opened a new car plant in Greensburg, Ind., where workers are starting at $14.84 an hour."

The UAW already has agreed that new hires will start at $14 an hour. Any idea what the foreign-owned plants would do if that became the widespread wage?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Copying Alabama's Business Model

Southern Republicans like Alabama Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions and Louisiana Sen. David Vitter are complaining a lot about the "business model" of American automakers.

By that, I guess they mean that they pay union wages that they contractually agreed to and they pay pensions and health care benefits to the people who worked for them for decades and which were promised to the retirees.

This is a bad idea in the eyes of the Southern Republicans. But hey, the South's idea of a "good" business model in the 19th century was slavery so let's not take their input too seriously.

They updated their idea of a "good" business model in the 20th century. Then it became taking every federal dollar they could get their hands on -- to the point that in 2005 Louisiana took in $1.78 for every dollar they paid in federal taxes (No. 4 in the nation) and Alabama took in $1.66 (No. 7 in the nation.) Michigan, home of those horrible overpaid union workers, paid in $1 and got back 92 cents, good enough for 37th in the nation in 2005, according to the Tax Foundation.

The Southern business model also includes living in hurricane-prone, make that hurricane-certain, regions. When the big storms come, those overpaid union workers in Michigan pay their taxes to put things back together again in Louisiana and the rest of the gulf coast, for which generosity they are now being repaid by Senators Shelby, Sessions, and Vitter.

The Southern business model has another feature -- taking tax dollars and handing it to foreign corporations to make cars to compete with American car companies. But don't take my word for it. Here's what Peter Karmanos, CEO of Compuware, wrote recently to Shelby:

"As it turned out, Alabama offered a stunning $253 million incentive package to Mercedes. Additionally, the state also offered to train the workers, clear and improve the site, upgrade utilities, and buy 2,500 Mercedes Benz vehicles. All told, it is estimated that the incentive package totaled anywhere from $153,000 to $220,000per created job. On top of all this, the state gave the foreign automaker a large parcel of land worth between $250 and $300 million, which was coincidentally how much the company expected to invest in building the plant."

So that's the business model that Southern states now believe in and what they want the American companies to copy. At $200,000 per job, times 2 million jobs (being conservative) that comes out to $400 billion in subsidies. Not a measly $14 billion in loans, but outright subsidies.

Yeah, let's adopt that Alabama business model.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tightening Livingston Road Budget Points Up Need for Stimulus Package

Things are about to get a lot worse for those of us who travel the roads of Livingston County -- which is just about everybody who lives here.

Our county's road budget -- already grossly inadequate -- will shrink next year by a third -- to $15.1 million, according to the Livingston Press and Argus.

The Livingston County Road Commission projects that federal funds will plunge from $5.4 million to $1.1 million next year. State funds are dwindling as the gas tax brings in less revenue due to more efficient vehicles and fewer miles being driven.

A federal stimulus package, which President-elect Barack Obama is asking for, is the only hope for keeping Livingston County from falling further and further behind. Our county already ranks 16th among Michigan's 83 counties in the miles of roads that are in poor condition.

If you think the current road budget is inadequate, make it a point to visit the Livingston County Road Commission's public hearing on its 2009 budget on Thursday (Dec. 11, 2008) to ask them to request that Livingston County's needs be addressed in the federal stimulus package. The hearing will be at 9:30 a.m. at the road commission's office, 3535 Grand Oaks Drive, Genoa Township.

We need to let our leaders in Washington and Lansing know that Livingston County has serious needs. Unfortunately, Republican Mike Rogers is out of the loop on the writing of the legislation since he is in the minority. The same with our state Reps. Cindy Denby and Bill Rogers.

This will take a bipartisan effort. Local Democrats are willing to help.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Stop the Depression Before it Starts

Ben Stein appears regularly on Fox News. That's enough to discredit him in my book.

But I have to say his column on a loan to American automakers makes more sense than most of what I have seen written from outside of Michigan.

There IS a Difference Between the Political Parties

Not everyone pays attention to politics on a daily basis. They have other concerns --family, school, jobs, and so on. Other people are just cynical about politics. There's no difference between the two parties, they say.

If Michigan people want to know if there truly is a difference between the parties, the possible vote on a loan to the auto industry is a good issue to examine.

Michigan Democratic Sen. Carl Levin has been one of the leaders. Republican Rep. Mike Rogers hasn't had much to say. What little he did say I had to force out of him.

But others in his party are actively fighting the proposal -- and threatening to filibuster it. Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby of Alabama seem to be hoping that the American auto industry goes under. If that happens, the difference between the parties will be framed in the starkest of terms -- one party stood up for American jobs, the other tried to kill them.

I wonder what the damage will be to Republicans in Michigan if (heaven forbid) the Alabama senators do succeed in sinking the auto industry loan. I don't see Mike Rogers standing up to them. I don't see Saul Anuzis talking sense to them.

Who's sticking up for you and your jobs, Michigan?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Hamburg Township Saga Continues

The names have changed, but the story hasn't.

The new all-male, all Republican Hamburg Township board is continuing the same antics as the previous board, most of whose members lost in either the August primary or the November election (or both in the case of Clerk Joanna Hardesty.)

The Livingston Press and Argus has the latest antics here.

Because the link will soon be dead, here's the gist: Clerk Matt Skiba wanted to give a big pay raise to Deputy Clerk Michael Zeglevski, but the rest of the board wouldn't go along with it. There was missing information on his resume for one thing. He doesn't have any experience in the duties of the job, which include handling Freedom of Information Act requests. And he claimed he had a professional license as a counselor but some board members said they couldn't find a record of it. And then there was this:

A Hamburg resident complained about Zeglevski that, "I've watched him making masturbating gestures. I’ve seen him lift his leg and fart on people."

You could not make that stuff up if you tried.

Hamburg, you had your chance but you bypassed Democrat Debby Buckland for township clerk. I guess she should have promised comic relief instead of competence in the job.

Why Would Anybody Pick Saul for RNC Chair?

Saul Anuzis, the chair of the Michigan Republican Party, is seeking to become head of the Republican National Committee.

Apparently he is presenting himself as an alternative to Southern candidates, using the argument that the Republican Party should expand its appeal outside of the South.

I don't know what Anuzis' chances are since a whole bunch of people are interested in that job. But it seems to me, a candidate's track record should matter.

So in case the folks at the RNC haven't done their research yet, here's what Saul accomplished in the last election in Michigan:

--He lost Michigan (for a record-breaking fifth straight time) in the presidential race by 16 percentage points.

--He lost a U.S. Senate race by 29 percentage points.

--He lost two incumbent Republican members of Congress and thus lost control of the congressional delegation, which is now Democratic by an 8-7 margin.

--He lost nine Michigan House seats, leaving his party in a 67-43 minority position come January.

--He lost all eight education board races, meaning Democrats are in control of the U of M, MSU, and State Board of Education by a 6-2 margin, and the Wayne State Board by 7-1.

--He lost the Michigan Supreme Court race by 10 points, making it the first time an incumbent justice had lost in 24 years and the first time ever that an incumbent chief justice was defeated.

--He lost no seats in the Michigan State Senate, only because nobody in that chamber was up for re-election this year.

So he certainly would be my choice. But gosh, we'll miss him here in Michigan.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Change Is Coming--Help Make It Happen!

Still having campaign withdrawal? Miss those phone call and GOTV shifts? Wish you were still eating carry-out pizza for the 5th night in a row?

Those days are behind us, but that doesn't mean the work to bring change to our country and to Livingston County is over.

Join us for the Livingston County Change is Coming! party on Saturday, Dec. 13, at 1:30 p.m. at party headquarters. We will briefly review election results for Livingston County, learn about plans for an inaugural event in Livingston County, and hear what the Obama administration needs from us.

Refreshments will be served.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ten Questions for Opponents of the Auto Industry Loan

1. How far do you think stocks will fall if 2.5 million jobs are lost with three auto industry bankruptcies?

2. Why do you call the auto industry request a "bailout" instead of a loan?

3. What will be the cost of unemployment compensation, food stamps, Medicaid, and other forms of welfare for 2.5 million people on the jobless rolls?

4. How do you feel about having the Chinese, a communist country, own one of our auto companies?

5. Why do you persist in telling the lie that autoworkers make $74 an hour when the true wage is around $29 and the difference is mostly costs for hundreds of thousands of retirees?

6. What will be the impact on the Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund if one of the auto companies goes bankrupt and how much will the federal government have to kick in to keep its promise to "guarantee" pensions?

7. How did the heads of the nation's banks get to Washington for their Congressional testimony?

8. Would you buy a car from a bankrupt company?

9. Who will build the 1 million plug-in hybrids that President-elect Barack Obama has promised -- the Chinese?

10.Are you really trying to turn this recession into a depression?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Do Something to Aid the Auto Industry

Short of buying 1 or 2 million cars yourself, the best thing you can do to help the auto industry is to make a phone call.

Call the Congressional Switchboard Toll Free (1-877-331-1223) and urge Senators Stabenow and Levin to keep up the good work. Call Rep. Mike Rogers (ask for the one from Michigan because there are two) and tell him he needs to support his constituents and keep his campaign promise to fight for jobs.

Another thing you can do is contribute to an effort by Detroit-area leaders to raise money to run radio commercials in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama to educate people about the importance of the U.S. auto industry and encourage representatives and senators from those states to support the auto industry loan.

Involved in the fund-raising are the AFL-CIO, the UAW, local mayors and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, the Detroit Chamber of Commerce, and local big wigs.

Visit their website, American Auto Industry Rocks, to make a donation or write a note in support.

Do it now!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Livingston County Needs a Stimulus Package

I stumbled across a report the order day that literally stunned me. It was called "The Worst Roads in Michigan." Oh, I thought, that'll be all about Detroit and Flint.

Boy, was I shocked to see where Livingston County was on the list -- 16th out of Michigan's 83 counties in miles of roads rated as "poor."

We are a commuter county. We depend on roads to get to our jobs in other counties, but we have some of the worst roads in the state.

A report issued earlier this fall shows that Livingston County ranks 16th among Michigan’s 83 counties in the number of miles of roads that are in poor condition. According to the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation’s report issued in October, Livingston County has 416 lane miles of roads that are rated as “poor.” That means 33 percent of our roads that are part of the federal aid system are “poor.” Livingston County’s percentage of poor roads is 50 percent higher than Wayne County’s 22 percent. And we are nearly double the percentage of poor roads compared to the city of Detroit’s 17 percent.

When you look at individual townships, the situation is even more appalling. In five of Livingston County’s 16 townships, nearly half or more of the federal aid system miles are in “poor” condition. And in Iosco Township, the figure is 96 percent. Some particular roads that carry large numbers of cars are in urgent need, such as Pettys Road in Hamburg Township. It’s clear that too much of our county is stuck in traffic jams, if not literally stuck in the mud.

This is simply unacceptable for a county that expects to see its population grow 80 percent by the year 2030.

Things aren't likely to get much better any time soon. According to a report from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, Livingston and the six other counties in Southeast Michigan have $70 billion in road maintenance and construction needs between now and 2030 and will have only $40 billion to pay for them. In other words, southeast Michigan counties on average will only have enough funding to meet 57 percent of our needs. This funding shortfall is partly due to the fact that Michigan has been among the bottom 10 states in the nation in per capita state and local road funding for more than 40 years. But it is also due to the fact that we are a donor state to the federal government. We receive back only 91 cents out of every dollar we spend in federal gas taxes.

This situation is a looming crisis for our commuter county. We need leadership to deal with it, and we need it now.

After receiving a suggestion (tip of the hat to Tom), I urged members of the Livingston County Commission, our township boards, and the Livingston County Road Commission to ask U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers to seek funding for Livingston County infrastructure needs in the stimulus package that the new Congress will begin working on when it convenes on January 3. Congressional leaders hope to have this package on President-elect Obama’s desk on the day he takes office, January 20. Therefore, speed is of the essence.

We should ask for funds to meet at least the following transportation needs:

--Funds to rehabilitate or reconstruct at least 50 miles of our “poor” roads. On average, it costs $300,000 per lane mile to rehabilitate a road and $950,000 per lane mile to reconstruct a road. Funds to rehabilitate or reconstruct 50 miles would take care of about one fourth of Livingston County’s unmet needs for the next 22 years.

--Funds to complete the study of the WALLY commuter rail line between Howell and Ann Arbor in order to relieve congestion on U.S. 23 and to avoid spending millions of dollars on widening the highway.

--Funds towards the design and construction of platforms and stations for WALLY.

We have other pressing infrastructure needs, too. We should also ask for:

--Funds for deferred maintenance of public schools.

--Funds for purchase of new buses for our local school districts.

The stimulus package is the ideal vehicle for addressing this looming crisis. The goal of the stimulus package is to put some 2.5 million people to work and to put them to work right now. And there is no better way to do that than with road construction. Every $1 of spending will create $1.50 of economic activity. That’s the jolt our businesses need. People need to be working in order to have money in their pockets to spend."

“Furthermore, The New York Times has reported that some $15 billion of the stimulus package will be for 'green' projects and certainly the WALLY commuter train would fall into that category. We should seek funding to get that project moving. And certainly many of the school projects would fall into the category of improving energy efficiency.

“These are not 'bridge to nowhere' projects. These are projects that are needed to keep our county’s infrastructure from crumbling even more.”

This is something that Democrats and Republicans can unite on. We need to stimulate our economy and we need to fix our roads. Let's work together to marry the two.

Livingston Dems' Holiday Party this Saturday

This Saturday (Dec. 6, 2008), take a break from your holiday shopping to join Livingston County Democrats and other supporters of President-elect Barack Obama for our annual holiday party.

The potluck will begin at 3 p.m. at party headquarters, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600 of the Fonda Office Park, Brighton. Bring a dish to share and beer or wine. The party will furnish a Honey-baked Ham, table-service, and non-alcoholic beverages.

There is no admission, but we will be accepting donations for either Gleaners' Food Bank or the family we are adopting through the Salvation Army.

This is a family-friendly event.

See you there!

So Much for the Liberal New York Times

Those who are still believers in the myth of the liberal media must be more than a little confused by what they are hearing and reading in the coverage of the American auto industry's request for a federal loan to help it through this credit crunch.

Take the supposedly liberal New York Times. In a piece for Tuesday (Dec. 2, 2008), writer Steven M. Davidoff lists eight "questions" about the aid, which he calls a "bailout" rather than a loan. The "answers" he provides to his questions betray a remarkable ignorance about Michigan in general and the auto industry in particular.

For example, who will really get the money, he asks ominously, adding "...if the Detroit Three now has more money to play with, will the unions try and claw it back? Does he have any clue how many concessions have been made by the UAW and how long jobs have been going away?

His next question suggests the automakers just "sell more cars." Nobody is selling cars right now. His own newspaper reported recently that foreign-made cars are piling up so fast at California ports that the companies are leasing all the available lots they can find to park them in. People without jobs do not buy cars, whether they are made here or elsewhere. Another suggestion from Davidoff is to cut union wages, overlooking the fact that the starting wage will be $14 an hour for new hires under the last contract. Except for the CEOs, he doesn't suggest cutting any other management wages. He also suggests the companies "raise more debt from assets." Ford has already mortgaged virtually everything. Another suggestion -- borrow money from Wall Street instead. Why didn't the banks just do that if it's so easy in this situation?

His underlying premise is that bankruptcy has always been inevitable for the American automobile industry. That's highly debatable. The industry is where it is because of a confluence of $4 a gallon gasoline, a credit crunch, and a recession. Any two of those three it could probably have withstood.

Davidoff also asks what makes the American automakers "so special" since they don't employ as many people as Wal-Mart. Did Wal-Mart build the tanks and planes that defeated Nazi Germany and Japan? Did Wal-Mart create the American middle class with its wages? Did Wal-Mart pull the nation out of its post-9/11 recession with its rebates and incentives for new car purchases? Does Wal-Mart impact another 200,000 American jobs with its purchases from suppliers? No, no, no, and no.

Davidoff really puts his ignorance on display when he chides Michigan for failing "to move past the automakers and build sustainable industries around what it does have — world class research universities (Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne). It needs to build jobs based on these resources and its vast, higher educated populace. Focusing on the auto industry has been a loser. And that will likely remain so. Clinging to a shrinking industry is bad for Michigan and bad for the unions."

Davidoff, you ignorant slut. Don't you know that Michigan is becoming Hollywood East, with its tax incentives to the movie industry? Don't you know that Google has an operation in Ann Arbor? Don't you know that Michigan is moving to boost alternative energy so that people can be put to work building windmills and other equipment in that field? Don't you know that Gov. Jennifer Granholm has made diversifying Michigan's economy her top priority for six years?

Then he closes with this, "Ultimately, as the airlines have shown, bankruptcy is not always liquidation. Perhaps bankruptcy is what you really need to truly restructure and sell cars people buy." Apparently, Davidoff has no clue that bankruptcy will take down the suppliers that the foreign automakers depend upon and that they, too, will be affected, possibly even shut down, by the inability to get parts for up to a year. Davidoff, a law professor who specializes in "deals," clearly does not understand manufacturing.

And The New York Times should not have anyone so ignorant of an industry commenting on its future.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bad News, Good News on Monthly Stats

When it comes to traffic on Living Blue, this month's report is a good news/bad news situation.

First the bad news. With the election over, visits to the blog in November dropped 29.19 percent compared to October. That's not surprising since there is less political news to comment on. On the plus side, time on the site spent by visitors is up 27.16 percent and the average number of pages viewed are also up 4.9 percent.

Visitors came from 35 countries and territories, from 47 U.S. states, and from 114 cities within Michigan.

Compared to November a year ago, however, total visitors are up 159 percent and pageviews are up 157.28 percent. Unique visitors are up 173.11 percent.

That's enough to keep us motivated to blog.

Obama Labor Secretary Pick: Bonior Not Interested

Huffington Post has an update Wednesday (Dec. 3, 2008) on President-elect Obama's search for a Secretary of Labor.

Former U.S. Rep. Dave Bonior says he's not interested in the post because it's time for the next generation of leaders to take over.

But according to Huffington Post, which quotes the Wall Street Journal, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm is being vetted for the post, along with two others -- labor organizer Mary Beth Maxwell and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Chris Ward -- Goat or Hero?

As Chris Ward enters his last days in office due to term limits, his six years in the Michigan House are coming under scrutiny.

After a Livingston Press and Argus editorial praising Ward's performance, the Conservative Media provides some balance.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Coming Soon to Your In-Box -- Emails from Mike Cox

I don't know Mike Cox. Mike Cox is not a friend of mine. But all of a sudden Mike Cox is in my in-box.

On Monday morning (Dec. 1, 2008), I sat down at my computer to check my email and found "The Mike Cox Report." Maybe I've been getting it for months and just never noticed it amidst all the other emails from political sources.

Anyway, I'm quite sure I never signed up for this one. The newsletter has a link to the Attorney General's web page, but there is no place on the web page to sign up for a newsletter. In fact, Cox's status as attorney general is not mentioned until the closing, which makes me think the newsletter is less about Mike Cox the Attorney General and Mike Cox the Republican candidate for governor in 2010.

Wonder who's paying for this?