Saturday, December 31, 2011

Let's all sing Handel's Messiah! Corporations! Corporations!

Handel's Messiah is one of the great holiday traditions. We can't let the holiday season pass without an updated version of the classic. This version extols the real saviors of our era -- corporations! They must be singing Hallelujah as the political season approaches and the gift of Citizens United begins to really give them what they want -- total economic domination and the political power that comes with it.

Enjoy! (And remember, it's satire.)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Blank Slate Governor Filling in Some Spots

Let's face it. Michigan voters didn't know much about Republican Rick Snyder when he was elected governor. He didn't reveal much about what his political views were, relying on commercials about being a nerd. The result was that people projected their own hopes for what they wanted him to be onto essentially a blank slate.

Take for example, his views on gays. People took a Snyder comment about gay marriage and expanded that to believe that he was a "moderate."

As the months have gone on, Snyder has signed legislation that would warm the heart of any conservative -- virtually stripping people of their right to vote for local elected officials, gutting funding for local schools, slashing funding for public universities, eliminating taxes for businesses and shifting the burden to the elderly.

But the legislation that finally brought Snyder into focus for a lot of people was his signing the bill banning governments from giving benefits to domestic partners of their employees. In effect, Snyder was willing to tell the world that gay people are not welcome here.

Detroit Free Press columnist Brian Dickerson wrote that the "good governor" had sided with the bigots in signing the legislation. Dickerson understated the matter. If Snyder had signed legislation banning domestic partner benefits for interracial couples, would anyone have doubted that he was a racist? If he had signed legislation banning domestic partner benefits for Christians married to Muslims, would anyone have doubted that he was a religious bigot?

How many pieces of similar legislation does Snyder have to sign before people recognize that Snyder didn't just side with the bigots against gays. He is one.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Is Rogers Looking Out for You? Certainly Not

Time flies, but it seems like just a few weeks ago that Rep. Mike Rogers was giving speeches decrying the "uncertainty" that small business owners must deal with due to something or other President Obama's administration has done. Was it too many federal regulations, the traditional boogey-man of the Republican Party? Or maybe it was uncertainty of whether taxes would go up, which they haven't under Obama.

Whatever it was that was causing the "uncertainty," Rogers was certain that "uncertainty" was what is holding the economy back from recovery. And he was certain that Obama was behind the "uncertainty."

Thanks to Rogers and his fellow Tea Party Republicans in the U.S. House, business owners big and small, working people, people on unemployment, and bealth care providers who treat Medicare patients are all facing a whole lot of real uncertainty, as opposed to the kind dreamed up by Rogers.

The source of the uncertainty now is the Republican House's refusal to go along with a tax cut for working people that was already passed by the Senate. The two-month extension of the payroll tax cut was included in a bill that also includes an extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed and heads off a big cut in reimbursement rates for health care providers under the Medicare program. Although 39 Republicans in the Senate voted for it, the Tea Party Republicans in the House are refusing to even bring it up for a vote. Instead, they pulled a parliamentary maneuver designed to put the measure into conference committee. And now they've gone home.

Did Rogers and the Tea Party Republicans create more uncertainty for business owners who don't know how much to withhold in their employees' wages? Did they create more uncertainty for health care providers, for people on unemployment, for workers who don't know whether they will lose $1,000 out of their paychecks next year?

I'm certain they did.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rogers Defends Health Insurers that Waste Half of Premiums

Who in their right mind would defend bloated bureaucracy and overhead so high it eats up almost 50 percent of every dollar taken in? Why, Rep. Mike Rogers, of course.

The Brighton Republican is lining up to defend health insurance companies selling policies to Michigan residents that spend as little as 52 cents of every premium dollar on health care to policy holders.

The Detroit Free Press, in an article Tuesday, reported that Michigan had tried to wiggle out of a provision in the health care reform act that says insurers must spend 80 cents out of every premium dollar on health care. Only 20 cents can be spent on administration, including multi-million-dollar salaries to their CEOs.

Rick Snyder's administration wanted to phase in the rule, claiming it was so hard to meet that the companies might stop doing business in Michigan. But the Obama administration rejected Michigan's bid for an exemption from the 80-20 rule, saying there are many carriers selling individual policies who meet the rule and that the insurance market would remain stable and competitive.

Rogers, rather than standing up for his constituents who buy health insurance, jumped to defend insurance companies. He didn't explain why it was a good deal for his constituents that up to 48 cents out of every premium dollar they paid is wasted on something besides medical care. But he said it would be bad if companies that suck up money in that way decided to stop selling policies in the state.

According to the Free Press:

"Insurers and their subsidies falling short of spending 80 cents on care, based on 2010 data, were Golden Rule Insurance (United Healthcare), spending 60% of each dollar on care; Time Insurance (Assurant), 65%; Aetna, 70%; Humana, 70%; and World Insurance (American Enterprise) 52%."

How hard is it to meet the 80-20 rule? Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan manages to spend 93 percent of each premium dollar on medical care and just 7 percent on administration. For the federal government's Medicare program, the figures are more like 98 percent and 2 percent.

Under the law, companies that spend more than 20 percent of premiums on administration owe rebates to their customers starting in August. The newspaper reported that "rebates owed to customers would be Golden Rule, $10 million; Time, $5.3 million; Aetna, $1.7 million; Humana, $1.3 million; Priority Health $200,000, and MEGA at $2.6 million."

When those checks come in the mail, thanks to health care reform, I hope they include a notice that Mike Rogers thinks consumers don't deserve them.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Another Way to Protest Lowe's Caving in to Bigotry

About 100 brave souls stood up to religious bigotry this weekend with a protest outside a Lowe's Home Improvement Store after it caved in to a far-right "Christian" group and pulled its advertising from a show about Muslims in America.

Lowe's deserves to hear from Americans who understand the nation's history of religious tolerance and are appalled by the company's decision to back out of advertising on TLC's "All-American Muslims" show. The company needs to know that there is an economic price to be paid for bigotry.

Here's another way besides protesting outside the store to make the point.

Take your shopping list and go to Lowe's. Fill up your cart with the light bulbs, Christmas decorations, new flash light, whatever is on your list.

Then, instead of heading to the checkout lane, head to the customer service counter, and ask to speak to a manager. Tell the manager you plan to purchase these items, but because of Lowe's anti-Muslim bigotry, you won't be buying them at Lowe's. Leave them in the cart, take your list, and find someplace else to buy them.

Translate the company's bigotry into dollars and cents and maybe the company will get the message.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Rally to Save the American Dream from the Grinch!

A Grinch tried to bring down the spirits of some hard-working Michiganders, but watch what happened!

This was organized by We are the People Michigan, and held on the rainy afternoon of December 14.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Republicans prepare to Deliver Another Slap in the Face to Democracy

Since the 2010 election, Michigan Republicans have been intend on showing the public they know what's best for them, regardless of what the people have voted for in the past.

The Medical Marijuana initiative that passed in 2008? Attorney General Bill Schuette has been doing his best to dismantle it with court challenges.

The stem cell research initiative that passed in 2008? The Republican-controlled Legislature has imposed burdensome reporting requirements to try to stifle that job-creating, life-saving research.

The right to vote in local elections? Gone, or soon to be, in Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Pontiac, Flint, and Detroit.

And the latest afront to democracy and the rule of law is in Oakland County. Oakland County followed the same law that all the rest of Michigan's 83 counties did in drawing new districts for electing county commissioners. The clerk, treasurer, prosecutor, and heads of the county Democratic and Republican parties met and devised new boundaries for electing the county commissioners. It wasn't a problem for Oakland County before, but this time, a majority of that group was Democratic. Republicans didn't like the plan and challenged it in court, but the Michigan Court of Appeals said it met the legal guidelines and upheld it.

Not satisfied that the rules were followed, Republicans have decided to change the rules. A measure in the Legislature would allow the Oakland County Commission -- and only that county commission -- to draw their own boundaries. Republicans like that approach because they control the county commission, 15-10.

Lawmakers aren't even following their own rules in trying to change the rules for Oakland County. The Senate is skipping committee meetings to ram it through the Legislature before the holiday recess.

Republican abuse of power seems to know no boundaries.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Are Livingston Republicans Signing on to 'Picking Winners and Losers'?

I wonder if the Tea Party Republicans know what their elected officials in Livingston County are up to regarding the Ann Arbor SPARK contract.

Livingston County officials seemed to be trying to sneak the $1 million, three-year deal in the backdoor when nobody was looking by holding closed door meetings to have it explained to them. After that was exposed, the deal has been slowed down enough so that people can at least ask a few questions. Not that the answers from the economic development corporation with strong ties to Republican Rick Snyder have been very illuminating.

But the power point presentation made to Livingston County government officials suggests that grants and loans to private businesses are part of the deal. When Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm did it with the film industry, Republicans attacked it as "picking winners and losers."

But it looks like that is some of what Ann Arbor SPARK does. The power point presentation, no longer available on the Livingston Press and Argus website, says that its services for start-up businesses include "microloans" and "pre-seed investments."

In 2010, Ann Arbor SPARK says it awarded "12 pre-seed investments and 30 microloans" to start-ups. Between 2006 and 2010, Ann Arbor Spark reported it made 54 pre-seed investments in 52 companies, at an average of $225,000 per company, and it made 48 microloans to 46 companies, averaging $39,000 per company.

Ann Arbor SPARK's power point presentation didn't explain where that money came from, but since private business is only kicking in $60,000 of the $335,880 a year that Ann Arbor SPARK wants from Livingston County, the question should be asked whether taxpayer funds will be going to private companies or whether there is another source of funds for these "pre-seed investments" and "microloans."

In other words, will Livingston County be picking winners and losers with our tax dollars? Given that Republicans hated that idea so much when Granholm did it, it's pretty remarkable that no Republicans are putting up a fuss over that possibility.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

With a Wink and a Nod, Republicans Defend Emergency Manager Law

Republican Rick Snyder is falling all over himself to reassure Detroiters that race has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that his administration has taken over or is about to take over the goverments of cities home to half the minorities in the state -- Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Flint, Ecorse, and possibly soon, Detroit.

His latest attempt is the interview with Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley in Sunday's paper.

Some Tea Party Republicans may not have motives that are so pure. People who attended a town hall meeting in March in Fowlerville says that Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, reassured the audience that the law was meant to apply to the "Detroits" of the state. Those who were there say that Rogers winked when he said "Detroits," which is dog-whistle speech for "minorities" in the ears of many people in Michigan.

So you can believe Snyder that taking away the elected governments of so many minority-dominated cities is absolutely pure coincidence. Or you can make sure you sign a petition repealing the draconian emergency manager law. For more information, visit Michigan Forward, the group circulating petitions to repeal PA4, the emergency manager law, for a list of petition-signing sites.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

War is over if you want it-flyer Detroit Area Peace with Justice

Flyer from Detroit Area Peace with Justice:  War is over if you want it!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Don't Let the Grinch Steal the American Dream!

Tis the season to be on the lookout for the Grinch. Not the holiday season, but any time when the Michigan Legislature is in session considering bills that will steal the American Dream.

The Grinch already has taken millions from K-12 education, from higher education, and from needy families. The Grinch has raised taxes on our senior citizens, in order to give a tax break to business, chipping away at the American Dream of a secure retirement. The Grinch is trying to take away rights of workers, especially teachers who want to be able to negotiate for fair wages and decent class sizes.

We Are the People is organizing a rally to ask Santa to restore those cuts. Come and help show your opposition to the Grinch, at a special Holiday Rally to Save the American Dream. Come Wednesday, Dec. 14, at 4 p.m., to the Mill Pond Gazebo in downtown Brighton. For more information, ontact Debby Buckland, organizer for We Are The People, at 810-599-2128 or

Monday, December 5, 2011

Debt Ceiling Debacle Really Did Hurt

Right after the contentious debate over raising the debt ceiling last summer, I had the feeling that the recklessness of that debate had helped slam the brakes on the recovery underway in the U.S. economy. I know I personally felt less confidence about the direction of our nation, given the willingness, even eagerness, of so many Republicans to gamble with our nation's financial stability for the sake of politics.

Now there's a little bit of evidence to back up how I felt. In a column in the Sunday Detroit Free Press, Tom Walsh wrote of the impact the debate had on hiring in the view of Carl Camden, the CEO of Kelly Services.

Hiring of temporary workers was up 10 percent in the first half of 2011 compared to the previous year. But then came the debt ceiling debate an the Standard and Poor's downgrade of the U.S. credit rating. By August, the growth had melted away.

Walsh quoted Camden as saying:

"'That's the time of year when Kelly's part-time hiring usually goes into a cyclical upswing. It had been true for 60 years, but this time it was not true,' Camden told (Walsh). 'We moved sideways instead of seeing a cyclical boost. A lot of employment momentum was lost.'"

Walsh didn't blame Republicans directly, referring to partisan squabbling. But Camden makes it pretty clear what he meant.

"It wasn't the debate itself, it was the tone of the debate," Camden said. "People actually believed they might do something crazy, or crazed -- like saying it's OK for the U.S. government to default on its debt."

It wasn't President Obama or Democrats advocating a default on the debt. It was the party that supposedly knows so much about the economy that was engaging in the "crazed" talk about defaulting. Maybe people like Camden will have that in the back of their minds when the 2012 campaign heats up.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Payroll Tax Cut is Classic 1 Percent Over 99 Percent

Mike Rogers' Republican Party just can't help itself. Right now, they seem to be doing everything they possibly can to help millionaires and billionaires instead of working people. And they aren't even hiding it anymore.

That's clear from the debate over extending President Obama's payroll tax cut, which expires at the end of this year. The tax cut has saved working families an average of $1,000 a year. With the economy slowly recovering, now is not the time to take money out of the pockets of working people.

President Obama has proposed extending the current 2 percent payroll tax cut and increasing it 3.2 percent. That would mean up to $1,500 a year in the pockets of working families, giving a further boost to the economy.

Rather than add to the deficit, President Obama would pay for the tax cut with a surtax on the wealthiest sliver of Americans. You can click here to find out what the tax plan means for you.

So far, Republicans in the Senate have voted against the payroll tax cut in order to protect the 1 percent richest Americans. Let's hope Mike Rogers gets his chance to vote on the payroll tax cut for his constituents in the 8th Congressional District, even if it means Congress is still in session on New Year's Eve.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Snyder Out of Options on Detroit? Hardly

Pity poor Rick Snyder. According to the Detroit Free Press, the poor governor has no good options when it comes to the city of Detroit. Why, he is just going to be forced to name an emergency manager and he just can't help it.

Leave aside that he didn't have to push for the draconian law in the first place. Let's go right to the point that he and his fellow Republicans have helped create the budget deficit that is the cause of the city's financial problem.

The State of Michigan owes the city of Detroit $220 million in revenue sharing, enough to eliminate the city's structural deficit. That's according to another article in the Detroit Free Press. And if the Legislature claims it doesn't have the money, it could still help by allowing the city to raise its income taxes by $155 million, reversing a decline in income tax rates put in place a decade ago.

Why aren't those options for Snyder? Why isn't he pushing the Legislature to allow Detroit to raise its income tax and collect the money it needs to run the city? Why isn't Snyder asking the Legislature to pay the revenue sharing that is owed to the city of Detroit? The Free Press's crack Lansing staff didn't bother to pose those questions to Bing's staff, instead going with the "there aren't any other options" line that casts the governor in a sympathetic light.

It's hard not to conclude that the Snyder administration is helping push the city of Detroit into bankruptcy by withholding state aid and authority to raise taxes. The Free Press buries this information in a separate story, separating Snyder from options that aren't being used. This way, the focus is being kept on the so-called greedy unions who can be blamed for not giving more and more concessions that will result in fewer firefighters, fewer police officers, and more corporations taking over city services and milking them for profit.

That emergency manager law needs to be repealed so games like this stop.

Monday, November 21, 2011

You Couldn't Write a Better Script for Failure

Do Republicans want to bring the film industry and its jobs to Michigan?

Looking at their plan to require legislative approval for the tax credits for each movie, I wonder.

The proposed legislation would replace former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm's program that allowed qualified film projects to receive refundable tax credits of up to 42 percent of the cost of the projects. Instead of a maximum of 42 percent, the legislation would have maximum credits ranging from 25 percent to 32 percent, depending on the type of expenditure, according to the Livingston Press and Argus.

The problem I have is not so much with the reduced percentages, although it's strange that wages for the crew is reimbursed at the lowest level. If the object is jobs, it seems like that would merit a higher reimbursement rate. Even so, my biggest concern is with the notion that instead of being administered by a state film office, the tax credits would be voted on as an appropriation for each film by the Legislature. That process has multiple pitfalls. In fact, if you wanted to script the failure of the process, I don't think you could write a better one than what is in the Republican bill.

Great film projects surface on their own timetable, not the Legislature's. The legislative process is a cumbersome, time-consuming one. What happens if a filmmaker seeks a tax credit at a time when the Legislature is off on one of its many recesses? Won't a film office in a competing state be able to authorize tax credits before our lawmakers can get back from their summer vacations?

Will this process favor large corporations, who can afford expensive lobbyists, over start-up companies who can't? Some small Michigan companies are doing great work in the film industry, but they could wind up being shut out in favor of large, well-established studios with political muscle.

Might it mean campaign contributions from those corporate PACs will find their way into the campaign coffers of lawmakers who support Film A over Film B? Will lawmakers try to oppose some sort of values litmus test on the films that are awarded tax credits? What sort of disputes will that lead to that can delay or even kill a proposed appropriation? How is that "business friendly"? What filmmaker will want to bother when they can go elsewhere?

The film industry can be a valuable industry that will provide high-paying, long-term jobs for Michigan's creative and talented work force, especially if post-production studios have a chance to establish themselves. But I fear the legislative approval process for films is unworkable, and maybe even designed to fail.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Joe Hune Near Top of the List in Taking Lobbyist Meals

One thing is for sure. Republican Joe Hune isn't going hungry in Lansing doing his job as state senator.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Hune is third on the list of lawmakers taking free meals from lobbyists. The $1,903 in free meals puts him behind only Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville ($2,985) and Rep. Frank Foster ($2,814), both Republicans. Seven of the top ten free eaters were Republicans and three were Democrats.

You can bet those meals weren't paid for by local TEA Party members. I wonder how they feel knowing their guy Hune is sitting down for one free meal after another while a lobbyist for corporate interests bends his ear about how to vote on bills before the Legislature. It's not that the meals buy the vote of Hune or any other lawmaker. It's that the meals give those lobbyists special access to lawmakers that the average voter doesn't have.

According to the Free Press, the biggest spenders on free meals for lawmakers were multi-client lobbyist firms. No labor union was in the top five in free food buyers.

Hune makes enough on his legislative salary to split the tab at these meals.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Former Livingston County GOP Chair Makes News

The former chair of the Livingston County Republican Party is making headlines, but not in a good way.

Allan Filip, who was chair of the local party during the 2008 election, was hired as director of external affairs by Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson last December. But now the Michigan Democratic Party says Filip was caught on taxpayer time hiring people to collect signatures to recall Democratic lawmakers. MDP Chair Mark Brewer has filed a complaint over the matter.

Filip says he left the Secretary of State's Office before coordinating the recall signature effort.

Even if that's true, shouldn't there be some sort of "cooling off period" between the time someone leaves the Secretary of State's office, which oversees Michigan elections, and the time the ex-employee takes a partisan job? This situation seems as bad as the revolving door between government and lobbyists. It just doesn't look right.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Here's a Quote for Stabenow Campaign to Tuck Away

U.s. Sen. Debbie Stabenow doesn't know who her Republican opponent will be in her 2012 re-election contest. But if its Clark Durant, here's a quote Democrats need to file away for future use.

In an interview with the Grand Rapids Press, Durant was asked about the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

"In regards to the Occupy Wall Street movement, Durant said the protesters should 'go find a job.' In regards to the wealth gap the movement decries, Durant said, 'I think it should be wider.'"

That's right. Durant wants more income inequality. Having the 400 richest families in America owning more wealth than the bottom 60 percent isn't a problem in Durant's eyes. Less upward mobility for American youth? Just what the doctor ordered as far as Durant is concerned.

Should be a campaign ad in there somewhere.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Where Were the People in GOP Debate?

Something was missing in last week's Republican presidential debate. It took me awhile to notice it, what with Perry's 53-second brain freeze and the drama over the sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain.

That "something" was the main thing that matters in all these debates and the general election itself -- people.

I can recall few instancfes in which a candidate talked about a real person he or she had met while campaigning, someone who told them a story about his or her life that the audience could relate to or that illustrated the impact of the policies these candidates support or oppose. This debate should have been full of such stories. After all, it was supposed to be about the economy and jobs, and we are in need of more jobs. But the closest anyone came to talking about real people was Newt Gingrich talking about Henry Ford.

There are a number of possibilities. Perhaps these candidates are doing very little actual campaigning of the kind that candidates used to do in Iowa and New Hampshire and instead are spending their time in private fund-raising, media interviews, and speeches to special interest groups. They may be running a version of a "virtual campaign" in which they never really have to talk to voters so they don't have any examples of how voters are suffering.

Or it may be that the Republicans' positions -- against government actually doing anything to help people and in favor of dismantling regulations that protect people -- just doesn't lend itself to telling stories about how those policies would impact real people. At least not stories that most voters would want to hear.

Who's going to tell a story about a 1 percenter who can't redecorate a yacht if the government raises his taxes? Not a real sob story?

Who's going to tell a story about a doughnut shop owner who's mad about "government" regulations after food inspectors found rat feces in the flour?

The truth is policies Republicans favor hurt the average person so much that it is hard to illustrate them with stories that convey the idea that the candidates care about us. This will be a much bigger problem in the general election. If President Obama illustrates his policies with stories about people he met in Ohio or Michigan or Pennsylvania, he'll be connecting with voters while the GOP candidate praises the virtues of the "free market." Free markets don't vote. People do.

Friday, November 11, 2011

It Wasn't Just 'Let DETROIT Go Bankrupt'

Democrats are letting the contenders for the Republican presidential nomination off the hook on the issue of rescuing the American auto industry. Ironically, they're doing so by using Mitt Romney's own words against him.

Romney's "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" opinion piece at the time of the auto industry rescue seems devastating, and in many ways it is. Bringing it up is especially effective here in Michigan, of course.

But why should the rest of the nation really care about Detroit and Michigan's troubles, when they have troubles of their own? By implying that the rescue was only for Detroit, or jobs in Michigan, Democrats let voters in the rest of the country forget about auto industry jobs around the nation -- in assembly plants, dealerships, and auto suppliers.

They also let people forget that not only Chrysler and General Motors would have disappeared, but so would the suppliers that furnished parts to Ford. Ford's survival would have been in jeopardy at that point, too. So even though Ford did not need a rescue itself, it needed a rescue for Chrysler and General Motors in order to stay in business. This point was made at the time, but it seems to have been lost.

Democrats need to remind voters of the broad national impact of Romney's foolish plan, not narrow it to one region.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Perry Gaffe Distracts from Failures of Other Candidates

Texas Gov. Rick Perry finally overshadowed all the other contenders for the Republican nomination for president. Just not in the way he would have preferred.

Perry's huge stumble ranks as the most embarrassing moment I've seen in a debate at that level. It was as bad as Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's inability to even read her notes in a 2010 debate, but the stakes were much higher for Perry Wednesday night. His inability to name the three government agencies he would eliminate was particularly embarrassing because the one he couldn't come up with just happens to be the one that regulates the largest industry in his state -- the Department of Energy.

Perry's flop is a shame because it takes the spotlight off all too many other failures by the other candidates -- for instance, their insistence on attacking the rescue of the auto industry by holding on to the fairy tale belief that private equity markets could somehow have handled the matter at a moment when the nation's financial markets were crippled.

And Herman Cain's ridiculous defense against sexual harassment allegations -- hey, there are only four accusers and thousands of women who say I never touched them. Then he shows his high regard for women in general by calling former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi a "princess."

Then there was Newt Gingrich pretending to be a historian, lauding the business genius of Henry Ford when it's commonly known that when Ford started out he was terrible at handling the business details, as opposed to the mechanics of building the vehicle.

The Perry moment will go down in history, but the other moments won't do much for the campaigns of the remaining candidates.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

So Many Reasons to Celebrate!

Election Day gave Democrats around the country many reasons to celebrate. Let's list them, just to savor the moment a little longer.

1. The crushing defeat of Republican John Kasich's bill to strip the rights of public employee unions in Ohio.

2. The sound thrashing by voters of Mississippi's proposal to declare a fertilized egg to be a "person," not only outlawing all abortions but potentially preventing the use of many forms of birth control as well as invitro-fertilization.

3. The recall of Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce, the author of the state's anti-immigrant law that allows police to demand papers from anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally.

4. The rejection by Maine voters of a Republican-passed bill to do-away with same-day voter registration, a tradition in the state for 38 years.

5. And in Michigan, the recall of Republican Rep. Paul Scott. The Genesee County lawmaker and chair of the House Education Committee was a staunch supporter of Republican Rick Snyder's anti-public school, anti-teacher, anti-middle class agenda.

Democrats didn't win everything on Tuesday, but they won a lot. Snyder, who campaigned for Scott, lost big. Is the recall enough to force him to reconsider the radical Republican policies lawmakers are pushing? I doubt it. But the wins may be enough to energize Democratic voters, who learned again the lesson of 2008. When Democrats vote, Democrats win. When they don't, we get stuff like the Ohio union-stripping bill, taxes on pensions, and attacks on the middle class. Let's remember that in 2012.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Taking a Hammer or Chisel to Workers' Rights

The full frontal assault on working people's rights to form unions and have a say in their wages and working conditions is poised to go down to defeat in Ohio on Tuesday (Nov. 8, 2011), according to polling in advance of the vote. If the union-busting measure does go down to defeat, it will be a tribute to the hard-work of union people all over the state.

Meanwhile, the undermining of the middle class continues apace in Michigan. Republicans in the Legislature have used less of Ohio Gov. John Kasich's sledgehammer and more of a chisel to take apart laws guaranteeing workers' dignity.

The state is undermining public employee unions by outsourcing jobs, even if it jeopardizes services being delivered and could end up meaning taxpayers have to pay more by providing food stamps and other benefits to the new low-paid workers.

The Legislature passed and Republican Rick Snyder signed bills attacking teachers' rights to have unions, as well. In the guise of tenure "reform," school districts don't have to go by seniority in laying off personnel. Who will be the first laid off now? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out it most likely will be union leaders who will be the first to go.

Bigger battles lie ahead, for sure. And at some point Republicans may bring out the sledgehammer after all.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Why Didn't Snyder Figure This Out Earlier?

Millionaire Rick Snyder really has forgotten how real people live, hasn't he?

How else can you explain his administration's decision to throw people off food stamps if they own vehicles worth $15,000?

Apparently, it never occurred to Snyder that people on food stamps don't just sit home. They go to job interviews, job training, even to work. They take their kids to school and doctor's appointments. They need a car to do that. And they may have a fairly decent car if they suddenly lost a job. Or the family may have two cars, not an uncommon situation in the state that put the world on wheels. And together they may be worth more than $15,000.

Snyder's administration has finally reconsidered the policy. Now, food stamp recipients will be able to exempt one vehicle from the $15,000 limit so that a family can keep two cars and can get where they need to go.

So why couldn't somebody as supposedly bright as Snyder is figure this out before? Why couldn't he figure out that it might be counter-productive to getting people off welfare if forced them to get rid of every tool they might need to get to work?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Former GOP Chair's Comments Shows Need for Obama's Jobs Bill

Sometimes your political opponents make your case for you. That's certainly true of former Livingston County Republican Party chairman Mike Murphy's comments about the state of public safety.

In an article in the Livingston Press and Argus on Tuesday (Nov. 1, 2011), Murphy complained that the county does not have enough deputies on the road to answer many emergencies. It won't get better "until people decide they want to pay to have more deputies out there."

And as his boss, fellow Republican and county Sheriff Bob Bezotte said about the lack of officers and its impact on public safety, "It's important to me, but it doesn't seem to be important to the bean counters up town because they've cut us so much."

The "bean counters" would be the all-Republican Livingston County Commissioners, whose budgets have resulted in the loss of 18 officers from the sheriff's department in recent years. And who, with Murphy's help, have bragged about having the lowest property tax rate in the state.

But Murphy doesn't seem too happy with the services that his very own "lowest property tax rate" politics produce. Perhaps if his leadership, and that of the county commission, had been different, the county might not be facing a situation in which suspected drunk drivers are not pursued because no deputies are available. Voters don't just "decide they want to pay more" taxes. Sometimes leaders need to explain to them why it is necessary, but local Republicans will never do that.

Nevertheless, Murphy's comments are useful because they help make the case for President Obama's American Jobs Act. The measure, which Republicans reject, would provide $5 billion nationally so that financially-strapped communities could keep firefighters and police on the job.

If local Republicans can't come up with the money to keep us safe, maybe they could ask Rep. Mike Rogers to vote for the American Jobs Act so that drunk drivers don't roam free any longer in Livingston County. Mike Murphy probably would like to have some of that money to hire more deputies.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rogers Standing Up for Medicare? Hardly

Is Mike Rogers having second thoughts about that vote for the Paul Ryan budget? That would be the budget that killed Medicare as we know it.

Judging from the volume of mail being sent to Livingston County voters regarding Medicare, you have to wonder. In the last few weeks, a group called the Partnership to Protect Medicare, based in Washington, D.C., has been filling mailboxes with expensive direct mail pieces claiming that the 8th District Republican has been "standing up for our seniors by preserving Medicare Part B" and other such nonsense.

Of course, Rogers did exactly the opposite when he voted for the Ryan budget earlier this year. He voted to turn Medicare into a voucher program that would drive up the cost of medical care for seniors by taking away their guaranteed coverage under the Medicare program and forcing them to buy coverage on the open market.

It's unclear what vote Rogers may have cast to protect Medicare, but the saturation mailings are helping to disguise his vote for the Ryan budget. By insisting over and over again that Rogers somehow stood up for Medicare, his supporters, whoever they actually are, are muddying the issue in voters minds so that they won't realize he voted exactly the opposite way.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Maybe Rick Snyder Can Back This Occupy Wall Street Demand Now

Republican Rick Snyder may not have much in common with the Occupy Wall Street protestors but after his fellow Republicans defeated his plan to build a new bridge across the Detroit River he might want to re-think that.

Outside the Occupy Ann Arbor encampment recently there has been a sign that reads, "Get $ Out of Politics." After the piles of cash that were spent by opponents of the proposed bridge, Snyder might agree with that sentiment.

Livingston County residents received multiple mailings asking Republican Sen. Joe Hune to vote against the bridge, and they had to endure countless television commercials, paid for by the owner of the private Ambassador Bridge, as well. Americans for Prosperity even posted fake eviction notices on homes in the vicinity of the proposed new bridge to scare people into opposing it. Backers of the bridge had nothing similar.

Construction of the bridge would have meant jobs for Michigan workers and was backed by businesses as well. Ford Motor Co. has complained that delays at Matty Moroun's privately-owned Ambassador Bridge cost it hundreds of dollars per car. But because Moroun is a billionaire, he will maintain his stranglehold on bridge traffic, at least for now. His money makes the un-elected Moroun more powerful than the governor.

Time to get money out of politics, for sure.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Honor Our Veterans on Friday, Nov. 4

Livingston County Democrats will honor our veterans and raise money for a project helping those serving now with a special program on Friday, Nov 4.

The party will show the film, Our Vietnam Generation, made by nine-time Michigan Emmy winner Keith Famie and featuring veterans from Livingston County as well as elsewhere in Michigan.

The event will be at party headquarters, 10321 Grand River Road, Suite 600 of the Fonda Place office park in Brighton. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., the movie starts at 7 p.m., and recognition of veterans and light refreshments will follow.

Veterans will be admitted free. Suggested donation for others is $10 for one and $15 for two, with all proceeds benefiting Mikie's Minutes, a program to buy phone calling cards for service members.

This is a great chance to show veterans that we appreciate their service. Call (810) 229-4212 or email for more information.

See you there!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Is County's Economic Development Director Getting the Heave-Ho?

You know something is wrong when people start talking about your replacement even though you don't have any plans to leave.

That's what is happening with Fred Dillingham, executive director of the Economic Development Council. Dillingham has held that post since 1997 and has no plans to retire. But all of a sudden, the Livingston County Commission is talking about who will replace him when he retires.

The all-Republican county commission already has its eyes on having an Ann Arbor group, Ann Arbor SPARK, take over the job of marketing Livingston County. Now, why would Livingston County want a group from another, more urban county to take over economic development for us? Did I mention that the group is tied in with Republican Rick Snyder?

And did I mention that Dillingham was less than enthusiastic earlier this year when Snyder ditched all of the state's economic development incentives in favor of cutting taxes for businesses by $1.7 billion?

Here's what Dillingham said last spring:

"Dillingham said the county's manufacturing base could face a 'double whammy' with Snyder's corporate income tax and the governor's call to end all business-tax incentives. Dillingham previously said tax incentives are responsible for several manufacturing companies setting up shop in the county."

Could that be the reason Dillingham will be feeling some of Rick Snyder's shared sacrifice and Livingston County will have its economic development efforts farmed out to another county?

Friday, September 2, 2011

How About Some Football This Weekend?

College football kicks off this weekend for the University of Michigan and Michigan State and you can get in on the action even if you can't afford a ticket.

Join other Democrats at Livingston County Democratic Party headquarters to watch the action in high definition on the big screen. The games are:

Friday, September 2 - kickoff 7:30pm: Michigan State vs. Youngstown State.

Saturday, September 3 - kickoff 3:30pm: University of Michigan vs. Western Michigan.

Admission is free but donations are welcome. We will have snacks and soda, and please feel free to bring some to contribute.

Our office is at 10321 Grand River Road, Suite 600, Brighton.

Go Team!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Social Security, Medicare Under Attack

Republicans in Washington are out to gut Social Security and Medicare, but Michigan residents aren't about to stand by and let it happen.

The Michigan Alliance to Strengthen Social Security and Medicare will shine a light on Republican plans with a special forum on Sept. 16 in Detroit. Called "Are You Really Covered?" the event will feature Janet E. Witt, Grassroots Manager of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

The forum will examine how safe Social Security and Medeicare benefits are in the face of Republican attacks on the program. It will look into options of the "Super Committee" created by the debt-ceiling compromise and how those might threaten Social Security and Medicare. The central question of the forum is "Will Congress balance the budget on the backs of retirees and workers and give more tax breaks to the wealthy?"

Invited speakers include Sen. Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Reps. John Conyers and Hansen Clarke of Michigan, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, and Max Richtman, executive director of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

The event, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., will be at the Sacred Heart Church activities building, 3451 Rivard St., in Detroit, located at the Mack Avenue exit of I-75, across from McDonalds.

Suggested donation to cover expenses is $5.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More of Snyder's 'Shared Sacrifice' for School Head

Rick Snyder has delivered yet another lesson in what his "shared sacrifice" looks like with the hiring of the head of the statewide district for low performing schools.

The superintendent, John Covington, could earn up to $1.5 million over the next four years, according to the Detroit Free Press.

This level of pay, of course, is necessary to attract top talent, according to the governor's spokesperson.

Teachers across the state, meanwhile, are taking pay cuts and being forced to pay more for their health insurance, another form of a pay cut. Snyder isn't worried about whether top talent is attracted into the teaching positions, only into the jobs at the top.

So again, it's sacrifice for the people who do the work so that the people at the top can share in the savings. That's shared sacrifice.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Big Government Orders People to Leave Homes!

Oh, no. It's finally happened. Big government is forcing people out of their homes!

Oh, the horrors of it. It's the stuff of stories usually only seen in futuristic novels that someone like Orson Welles would dream up. But it's happening, right now.

On the Eastern seaboard, millions of people have been ordered out of their homes. Sure, there's a hurricane bearing down on them, but shouldn't it be up to the people themselves whether to leave? I mean, if somebody wants to stay in their home and watch the roof blown off or the storm surge sweep the building off its foundations, isn't that their constitutional right, even if they keep their young children there, too? Isn't that what Libertarians like Ron Paul are arguing when they say the government shouldn't criminalize street drugs or operate FEMA? Figure out on your own where Hurricane Irene is going to strike and how high the water will be. After all, everybody has the same skills as a meterologist, right?

New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie, however, was doing a pretty good imitation of an intrusive big government official, telling people to "get the hell off the beach" as the hurricane approached.

Natural disasters are one of those instances when Republican hatred of government action meets a reality check.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

No Jobs, But Poor Can Get Day Care Subsidies

you really have to wonder what is going on the brain of Rick Snyder. Apparently, being a millionaire divorces someone so completely from reality that they say really stupid things, or they hire people to do it for them.

Such is the case with the news that Snyder was expected to sign a bill that kicks 11,000 poor people off welfare in the middle of a weak economic recovery because Snyder thinks four years is enough.

Says Snyder's Department of Human Services spokeswoman, Sheryl Thompson, there's nothing to worry about. The poor people can still get food stamps and day care subsidies. Food stamps won't pay the rent, but the state makes up for that by providing two months of rental assistance. Two whole months. Why, everything will be fine by then.

They'll also get day care subsidies. But those don't pay the rent either, and people without jobs may have little use for day care.

Oh, but the department has an answer for that. The people being kicked off welfare will get "intensive aid" in looking for work. Guess the Snyder administration hasn't checked what has happened to the unemployment rate since it gave business $1.7 billion in tax cuts to create jobs. The jobless rate went up.

But Thompson says, "We will be providing every tool necessary" to enter the work force, except of course, an actual job. If they had so many tools to help these people find work, why haven't they been employing them since they took office in January?

She added that that "Michigan can no longer afford to provide lifetime assistance."

Federal law has a five-year cap for benefits. That's hardly a lifetime.

But being Snyder's DHS spokeswoman doesn't require facts, just meaningless sound bites.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Livingston Dems' Movie Will Rebut Gas Industry Ad Campaign

The natural gas industry has been busy on the airwaves for awhile with commercials extolling the safety of "fracking" as a method of drilling for natural gas.

But people interested in the environmental impacts of "fracking" have a chance to get another view at the next Livingston County Democrats' movie night and ice cream social at party headquarters, 10321 Grand River Road, Suite 600, Brighton.

The party will show the documentary film "Gasland" about fracking and natural gas drilling on Friday, Sept. 9. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the movie at 7 p.m., followed by the ice cream social. Suggested donation is $10 per person or $15 for two. You do not need to be a party member to attend.

Call (810) 229-4212 or email for more information.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Recall Rick Now Has Hotline

Want to know where to go to sign a petition recalling Rick Snyder as governor?

The Recall Rick folks are making it easier to find out with a new hotline. Just call
1-855-SO-FIRED to find out the location nearest you.

The Recall Rick volunteers have gotten none of the respect that the media poured all over the extremist right-wing groups now dominating the Republican Party. Lansing media representatives on Off the Record over the weekend smugly dismissed the effort, saying that it was an utter failure. They seemed to be unaware that the recall signature collection is continuing, aiming now at a February election rather than a November one. But the recall effort is alive and well, thanks to the tireless work of real grass-roots volunteers.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

So Where Are the Ideas for Helping Children Learn?

Bill Rogers wants everybody to know that he's been working through his summer vacation. That's good, since as a state lawmaker he's paid to work year round.

He's been working hard on making sure students learn more so that they'll be prepared for all the jobs that Rick Snyder said he would create in Michigan by slashing school funding by $470 per student and giving huge tax breaks to corporations.

So after weeks of work, listening to testimony from school officials, Bill Rogers and his bipartisan working group of lawmakers thinks it would be a great idea if all school districts in the state used the same software for accounting and payroll.

Thank Heavens! This unaddressed scandal has been haunting parents throughout Michigan for years now. The nerve of school officials to select software for schools here in Livingston County that isn't the same as the software used in the UP. I feel so much better now that I know lawmakers will tell all the school districts which software to use because they are such experts on that sort of thing. What a relief that we don't have big goverment telling us what to do because that's sure not what we voted for last November. Was it?

Friday, August 19, 2011

If You Don't Need Democracy, Why Do You Need Courts?

Is there any limit to the power that Rick Snyder wants to grab? If there is, we haven't reached it yet.

It was bad enough that Snyder rammed through the Legislature a bill taking away the right of people living in financially troubled areas to elect their own representatives, the Emergency Manager Law. That law is now the subject of a petition drive seeking to halt its implementation until the public has a chance to vote on it.

But it also is the subject of a court challenge brought by public employees. Ordinarily, such lawsuits are heard in circuit courts, the losing party appeals to the Court of Appeals, and then the losing party asks the Michigan Supreme Court to hear an appeal from that ruling. But all that takes time and who wants to waste time on court cases and appeals, especially when you know there will be press coverage laying out the problems with the law? On top of that, there is the chance you will lose the case or the appeal and that would look bad for the governor.

Why not just short-circuit all that and ask the Michigan Supreme Court to decide the case itself, skipping all the bad publicity which would let the public know what the law really does? Especially when the Supreme Court has a Republican majority that you know in advance will decide the case the way you want?

So for the second time in his not even eight months in office, Snyder has used a special provision in the Michigan Constitution and asked the high court to address the issues in the case.

The provision has been in the constitution since 1967 and has only been used by governors 26 times, and two of them have come under Snyder -- two dozen times in 44 years, and now twice in less than eight monnths, the first being his unpopular tax on pensions. But Snyder thinks any challenge to any law he supports is of such importance that we have to dispense with due process.

Snyder's contempt for the messy aspects of democracy -- elected government, court battles, and who knows what next -- apparently has no bounds.

Yet people who claim to be so frightened about unlimited government on the national level have no problems with Snyder, who uses the constitution to manipulate the public's ability to scrutinize the laws he supports.

The Michigan Supreme Court should reject this power grab. If it doesn't, future goverors will use the power with the same reckless abandon as Snyder to avoid bad publicity and public scrutiny of their actions.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

10,000 Jobs Created in Michigan, But Not by Rick

Michigan Messenger has reported that 10,000 jobs were created in Michigan, but Rick Snyder's $1.7 billion tax cut for businesses had nothing to do with it.

Instead, it was Gov. Jennifer Granholm's spending on the Pure Michigan ad campaign that did the trick.

A study commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association found out-of-state leisure travel jumped 21 percent in 2010, the second year of the Pure Michigan national advertising campaign. THe $6.4 billion in spending allowed the travel industry to add 10,000 jobs.

The study also found that in the first year of the national advertising campaign, spending by out-of-state visitors brought $138 billion into the state's coffers. That was more than three times what the state spent on the program.

Pretty good rate of return.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Some Nerve!

The folks at Standard & Poors have some nerve.

It was they who gave AAA ratings to the junk mortgages that home lenders were handing out like candy a few years ago, precipitating a financial crisis that caused the world economy to collapse, and with it federal tax revenues.

So now they tell the federal government they are downgrading the federal government's credit rating from AAA to AA+, even though the federal government reached an agreement to avoid default on its obligations.

What makes them experts all of a sudden?

A lower credit rating means higher interest rates paid by the federal government, i.e. taxpayers, on the money it borrows. And who will be the beneficiaries of those higher interest rates? Wall Street investors, of course.

Nothing like having people coming and going.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Livingston Dems Plan Movie Night. Ice Cream Social

It's time for another movie night and ice cream social, sponsored by the Livingston County Democrats!

Join local Democrats at party headquarters (10321 Grand River Road, Suite 600, Brighton) on Friday, Aug. 12, for a viewing of Made in Dagenham, a film about a successful 1968 strike over equal pay at a Ford plant outside London.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with the movie starting at 7 p.m. An ice cream social -- featuring all your favorite toppings -- will follow. This is a great time to discuss current events with other Democrats.

Suggested donation for the ice cream social is $10 per person or $15 for two.

Call (810)229-4212 or email for more information.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Help on Homes Should be Closer to Home

A Livingston County family received media attention last week after picketing the sheriff's sale of their home, which they say was wrongly foreclosed upon due to a bank error.

In reporting on the story, the newspaper contacted a Flint-area organization, Metro Community Development, for comment on the consumer side of the matter. The article noted that Metro Community Development recently helped the owners of a Pinckney home fight foreclosure.

With 1 out of every 215 homes in the county in foreclosure during June, it's too bad people in Livingston County have to rely on an out-of-county organization to fight foreclosures. Shouldn't there be help closer to home with a local agency dedicated to keeping homes from foreclosure, protecting our tax base and home values?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

And Don't Forget Their Pensions Are Taxed Now

Senior citizens in Michigan are struggling with poverty, with one-third of them "economically insecure."

That's according to a report from Wayne State University's Institute of Gerontology published Thursday (July 21, 2011) in the Detroit Free Press.

The study found that the median income for those hosueholds with someone 65 and older is $32,392. Matching that with an index that measures the costs of items essential to the elderly, such as health care premiums and prescription drug copayments, the report found many seniors struggling.

Unmentioned, of course, is that on top of all their other bills, many of those seniors now will pay higher taxes, thanks to Rick Snyder's taxes on pensions that paid for tax cuts for businesses. During the debate on that pension tax this spring, the focus was on senior citizens living the good life with fat, untaxed pensions.

Where was this report when we needed it?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Peace Rally Coming to Livingston County Next Month

Peace. We're all for it. Let's do somethinga about it.

We can -- on Aug. 2 at a Peace Rally being planned at the Brighton Mill Pond.

The event is sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Brighton, Pax Christi, and Moveable Peace, a group walking 10 miles a day to Lansing in the cause of creating a state Peace and Justice Commission.

Neil Woodward, Michigan's Troubador, will sing at the rally, scheduled for roughly noon to 3 p.m. An exact schedule will be available later.

For more informatiion, contact Julie Bohnhorst, 586-924-3303.

See you there!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Livingston Dems: County Should Look Into Foreclosure Lawsuits

A pair of Livingston County's neighbors are suing two mortgage giants for not paying millions of dollars in taxes for homes they foreclosed on. Shouldn't Livingston County join in?

Livingston County Democrats think so and on Wednesday, county chair Jordan Genso urged the county commission to look into joining the lawsuits brought by Oakland County and Ingham County against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

With money tight, governments ought to be looking at any potential source of revenue. And that's what officials in Ingham and Oakland have done.

In June Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner sued mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in federal court, alleging that the lenders failed to pay real estate transfer taxes to the county when they recorded documents with the county Register of Deeds.

The county portion of property transfer taxes is $1.10 per $1,000 of a property’s value. The state portion of the transfer tax is $7.50 per $1,000. Oakland County officials have estimated the two lenders owe the state and county $12 million for unpaid transfer taxes.

Ingham County Register of Deeds Curtis Hertel Jr. filed a similar lawsuit naming not only Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac but also Bank of America, BAC Home Loans Servicing, Wells Fargo Bank, Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, and two Michigan law firms, Trott & Trott and Orlans Associates.

That suit, filed in Ingham County Circuit Court, names the entities besides Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac because Hertel believes that the companies might have assigned mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac right before a foreclosure in order to avoid paying the transfer taxes.

Hertel also said millions of dollars could be owed to the county and the state.
Genso asked the county commission to look into how much Livingston County might have lost in transfer taxes unpaid by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and report that figure to the public, along with its decision on whether or not to join the lawsuits, by August 31.

Money recovered from the lawsuit could be used to start foreclosure prevention and assistance programs in Livingston County, Genso said.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hune Sacrificing Children to Tax Ideology, Cigarette Companies

Republican Joe Hune has given himself a pretty narrow job description, and his proposal to encourage smoking and then cut health care is the latest example of it.

As he said in the Livingston Press and Argus, "'I wasn't elected to protect what's in government coffers. I was elected to protect what's in the pocketbook of my constituents and the people I serve.'"

What about protecting children from harm? Isn't that part of the job description of a state senator in Michigan? Not for Hune.

Hune wants to cut the state's $2 a pack cigarette tax in half, which will drastically increase smoking, especially among young people. The tobacco industry's own documents show that cigarette use among young people is highly sensitive to price.

Researchers who examined those internal documents concluded: "These documents clearly support the findings from academic and other research that demonstrate that price is a key determinant of overall cigarette smoking, that price increases lead to significant reductions in overall smoking, increases in smoking cessation, and reductions in smoking prevalence, with relatively large effects on young people." In other words, the lower the price, the more young people smoke or start smoking. The higher the price, the fewer who start.

So Hune's proposal to cut taxes and lower prices will lead to more smoking, especially among young people who might otherwise never start because of the cost.

And once they are smokers and begin to experience the health problems associated with smoking? Hune will make it harder for them to get health care by cutting eligibility for Medicaid.

Hune's response is that if smoking is so bad, it should be banned -- a totally unworkable proposal and he knows it. If Hune is worried about cigarette smuggling now, how much worse would it get with a ban on cigarettes?

Hune says he is protecting the pocketbooks of "my constituents and the people I serve." Joe Camel may not be a constituent, but that's who Hune is serving.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Little More Juice for the Recall Rick Campaign

The popular liberal blog Daily Kos appears to be throwing its considerable weight behind the Recall Rick campaign, according to an email to supporters on Friday (July 8, 2011).

The email, from Chris Bowers, campaign director at Daily Kos, says Daily Kos is paying for a field organizing firm to work with the 4,000 grassroots volunteers and 80 county captains leading the Recall Rick effort.

"Field Works will be with us for the rest of the campaign, and Daily Kos is picking up the tab," Bowers' email said. By late afternoon, nothing had been posted on the Daily Kos site regarding that development, however.

The Michigan Education Association has recently joined the recall effort and has set up an action page for its members to get involved.

The recall effort is holding a statewide recall petition signing event Saturday, according to the email.

You can follow recall events on Facebook or at

Denby Taking Post's Criticism to Heart?

In her second term in the Michigan House, Republican Rep. Cindy Denby seems to be following the advice of her opponent, Democratic challenger Garry Post.

In his 2010 campaign, Post pointed out that Denby had sponsored only seven bills during two years in office, despite having campaigned on the claim that she was knowledgeable about the ways of Lansing because she had served as chief of staff for then-Rep. Joe Hune. Denby's seven-bill output placed her third from the bottom among House members.

This term, Denby already had churned out 13 bills -- nearly double the number of ideas she came up with during the previous two years. Some are retreads, re-introductions of bills she submitted the previous terms. Those include four bills designed to clean up the toxic Special Assessment District crisis she helped create in Livingston County while supervisor for Handy Township.

During the campaign, Denby maintained that she concentrated on constituent service so bill introductions did not reflect her full effort on the job. Constituent service is important, but leaders need to come up with ideas, too, not just unsnarl bureaucratic issues.

Maybe Denby decided Post's criticism has some merit. Maybe not. But for some reason, she decidied to step it up a notch.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Join Livingston Dems for Movie Night on Friday!

So you think you understand the 2008 financial crisis that brought the nation's economy to its knees. Or maybe you're a little fuzzy on the details.

Either way, here's a chance to get the inside scoop on the disaster. Livingston County Democrats are hosting a movie night featuring an award-winning film on the financial crisis on Friday (July 8, 2011). The film is worth a second viewing even if you were able to see it in the theater.

An ice cream social will follow, featuring ice cream with all your favorite toppings.

The event begins at 7 p.m. at party headquarters, 10321 Grand River Road, Suite 600, Brighton. Suggested donation is $10 per person or $15 for a couple.

Call (810) 229-4212 or email for more information.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Would Tri-Corner Hats Help?

The effort to recall Rick Snyder doesn't get much respect from the news media.The Detroit Free Press finally did a story on the grassroots effort, which mainly was dismissive of the campaign.

With the campaign half over, the amount of ink Michigan media have devoted to the campaign is a fraction of that spilled over the tea bagger groups in the last two years.

I'm beginning to think that any grassroots group needs costumes -- knee breeches and tri-corner hats with tea bags stapled to the brim -- in order to get attention. And racist photos of the president probably would help, too.

But the Recall Rick campaign can't show photos of the harm Snyder already has done to our state -- the deep cuts to education at a time when the school aid fund has a half billion dollar surplus, higher taxes for senior citizens and the poor to pay for $1.7 billion in tax cuts to businesses without any promise of jobs, ending tax credit for the film industry that really were creating jobs that are now disappearing. They just don't make good visuals.

The Recall Rick volunteers are ignoring the skeptics and steadily gathering signatures.

If you haven't signed yet, you'll have a chance to sign Wednesday at the Fowlerville Farmers Market, which is open from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Have You Signed Yet?

Thre's only a little more than a month to go in the drive to collect enough signatures to recall Riok Snyder. Have you signed yet?

The grassroots campaign has had volunteers at events throughout the county so far this summer and will have people at the Howell Farmers' Market Sunday (July 3, 2011).

The group is aiming to collect 800,000 signatures by Aug. 5. It can use more volunteers in the effort and will provide training. Visit the website, to sign up to volunteer or get more information about signing events. And the Livingston County group has its own Facebook page.

The polls have shown Michigan residents aren't happy about Snyder's cuts to schools and his raising taxes on senior citizens and poor people in order to cut taxes for businesses. This is the chance to do something besides be unhappy.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Time to Do Something for Environment

Can you spare an hour or two for the environment?

Livingston County Democrats will take part in the Michigan Department of Transportation's quarterly roadside cleanup on Sunday, July 10. Volunteers will pick up trash along a two-mile stretch of M-59.

Volunteers will meet at 8 a.m. in the parking lot of Ironwood Golf Club, 6900 East Highland Road, Howell. The party will provide safety vests, bags, and sticks for picking up litter. Please wear sturdy shoes and bring work gloves.

Afterwards, volunteers go to breakfast together so it's a great way to get to know other Democrats, too!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Putting Themselves First--Again

Michigan Republicans are putting their narrow political concerns ahead of everybody else, especially schoolchildren, again.

Rick Snyder has already signed a budget that cuts $470 from the funding for each student statewide -- some $564 million a year. And it did this at a time when the state school aid fund has millions of dollars in surplus and is growing.

But Republicans continue to insist that the state has no more money to spend on educating the next generation of nurses, doctors, teachers, lawyers, and CEOs.

But there is money laying in plain sight -- the tax money that Republicans are planning on spending to hold a presidential primary in 2012. The Michigan Democratic Party has already decided to hold a caucus -- at its own expense -- on May 5 in lieu of asking taxpayers to pay for a special primary election.

Rep. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids, made the point that the money should go to schools in a statewide push by Michigan Democrats earlier this week criticizing the deep cuts to education.

But Republicans, who are so eager to cut funds for school children and to raise taxes on senior citizens and poor people, won't give up the tax-payer funded primary.

It seems like if people really want smaller government, cutting an unnecessary political perk for the Republican Party would be a good place to start.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Join Livingston Dems for Brighton Holiday Parade

Everybody loves a parade, especially on the 4th of July!

Livingston County Democrats will walk in the city of Brighton's 4th of July parade on Monday, July 4. The party's float, featuring the mechanical donkey, "Chicago," will lead party members in the parade.

The parade floats will line up around the Brighton Education and Community Center at Main and Church Streets. Look for the Demcorats' float on Spencer Street behind the BECC building or ask parade organizers in the information booth in the parking lot at the BECC building for the location of the Livingston County Democrats' float.

The parade begins at 10 a.m. but we will begin assembling at 9:30 a.m. Please show your patriotic colors by wearing a blue or white shirt. We will have candy to distribute to children along the route.

The Brighton parade is a long tradition in the community and participating is a great way for Democrats to show our strength to the community. Children love to participate, too, either by riding in strollers or handing out candy along the route.

If you'd like more information on participating in the Brighton parade, call party headquarters at (810) 229-4212 or email

See you there!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Start of a Trend?

Brighton appears to be one of the first communities in Michigan to lose jobs due to Rick Snyder's plan to "reinvent" Michigan.

Fronius USA, a solar company with its American headquarters in Brighton, says it is moving to Indiana due to tax incentives, where it plans to create 512 jobs by 2016. The state of Indiana said its offer of $4.25 million in tax credits and other incentives prompted the move.

Snyder is getting rid of incentives and instead cut business taxes by $1.7 billion by dumping the taxes on senior citizens and the poor. But even though Fronius, as a limited liability corporation, would not owe income taxes in Michigan under the new law, it's not enough to keep the company in Michigan.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is trying to figure out exactly what happened and why, which doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence in Snyder's operation.

Brighton isn't the only city to lose jobs due to Snyder's "reinvention" of Michigan. According to the Detroit News, Spartan Motors Inc. is moving some its operations from Michigan to Indiana, too.

Let's hope this is not the start of a trend.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Livingston Dems Push Rogers to Probe Spy Attempt on U of M Prof

Allegations that the CIA may have been spying illegally on someone right next door have prompted Livingston County Democrats to call for an investigation into the matter.

The party's executive committee on Thursday urged U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers to have the House Intelligence Committee look into whether George W. Bush's White House pressured the CIA to spy illegally on Juan Cole, a history professor at the University of Michigan. The resolution was prompted by reports in The New York Times and the Detroit Free Press that came from a retired CIA counter-terrorism official who said the White House wanted to dig up dirt on Cole to discredit him because he was critical of the Iraq War. Federal law bars the CIA from spying on an American citizen while in this country.

Cole teaches history at the University of Michigan with an emphasis on the relationship between the Muslim world and the West. In 2002 he began his Informed Comment blog for commenting on Middle Eastern and American politics. He also has appeared many times on television and been interviewed by the press.

The U.S. Senate's Intelligence Committee has agreed to look into whether Cole was spied upon, but Rogers has only said that it was up to the Justice Department to handle it.

This matter hits pretty close to home. Ann Arbor is only 25 miles from Mike Rogers' hometown. Many of his constituents go to school or work in Ann Arbor. Shouldn't he be worried about illegal spying taking place in his own backyard?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cynical 'It Won't Change Anything' Attitude Hurts Redistricting Transparency

The Republican-dominated Legislature is rushing to approve a plan to draw new political boundary lines that will help determine who represents Michigan residents for the next decade. The rush means few people have had a chance to look at the map in any detail much less comment on it.

For something as crucial as the integrity of democractic representation, the process needs to be slowed down. But in the face of Democratic complaints, the Livingston Press and Argus is basically saying, "Sit down and shut up."

Says the editorial, "But the Democrats are barking up the wrong tree when they argue that the maps should tour the state for the summer to get public input before a final vote this fall. It's a nice idea, but other than giving partisans a chance for a forum, it won't change anything. Republicans are going to adopt the maps because they favor Republicans."

For an entity that depends on government transparency in order to do its job, that's an amazing statement. In effect, it's saying, "Why should we care what any government does? We don't have a vote and can't change it so just forget about it."

The editorial assumes there is no public interest at stake here aside from whatever the Republicans or Democrats want. It doesn't have to be that way. Years ago, I knew a newspaper colunmnist in another state who closely examined the redistricting plan put forward by the Republican Party. He demonstrated that it under-represented urban voters and over-represented rural voters. He wrote column after column about the unfairness and then challenged the author of the plan to a series of debates around the state. In the end, the plan was defeated and one that was fairer to a majority of voters in the state -- who lived in cities -- was adopted.

He didn't just throw up his hands and say, "Politics is politics and all you whiners shut up." He actually examined the proposal for fairness to voters and then did something about it. But he's dead now. I hope good journalism as it relates to redistricting hasn't died, too.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tax Cuts Still Not Enough for Business?

Apparently, a $1.7 billion tax cut for business isn't enough. Michigan "stinks" as a place to do business.

That's according to the Detroit Free Press on Sunday.

The newspaper says Michigan needs to be "more hospitable" to business.

What exactly does that mean? The columnist doesn't say. Should we assume he means right-to-work-for-less legislation? Does he mean ending all regulation of business? Getting rid of worker-safety requirements?

The article mentions Michigan's strong public universities as attractive to business, but Rick Snyder and the Republicans have already slashed funding to those institutions. Tuition increases to replace some of the lost state funds will make it harder for many students to attend and graduate, giving the state a smaller pool of college grads available for hiring. Is that attractive to business?

A little more specficity would be nice, but the columnist's problem may be that he won't know what it is that makes Michigan a better place to do business until Snyder tells him. You can bet whatever Snyder proposes that he claims will make Michigan's business climate more "hospitable" is what the columnist will support. That's one of the problems with business columnists. They end up as cheerleaders for whatever business leaders demand.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Rogers Shouldn't Sweep Spying Allegations Under the Rug

News that George Bush and the CIA were up to no good is hardly shocking, but this time the news hits pretty close to home -- just down the road in Ann Arbor.

The Bush administration twice asked the CIA to spy on University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole, a critic of the Iraq War, in order to dicredit his criticism, according to a former CIA official.

Had the CIA actually spied on Cole, that would have been illegal since federal law since the days of Watergate has prohibited the CIA from spying on American citizens.

Cole writes an extremely well-informed blog on the Middle East, titled Informed Comment. He is fluent in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu, and lived in parts of the Muslim world for 10 years. He has appeared on numerous network and cable television shows as a commentator and has written books on the Middle East, including Engaging the Muslim World.

But he ran afoul of the Bush administration for daring to criticize the Iraq War.

Since the allegations of the White House trying to use the CIA to spy on American citizens are a crime, Cole believes, rightly so, that Congress should investigate. He has called on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to look into the allegations.

And guess who heads the House Intelligence Committee -- Rep. Mike Rogers. And guess who says he isn't interested in looking into the allegations -- Rep. Mike Rogers.

Rogers needs to reconsider that. Rogers talks a lot about keeping Americans safe. He needs to make sure that American citizens are safe from our own government. Rogers must change his mind and look into whether the CIA did in fact spy on Cole, whether they spied on anyone else, whether the White House received such information and what they did with it.

Rogers has a special obligation to carry out such an investigation, given that Cole is a Michigan resident. Some of Rogers' own constituents may well have studied under him.

For the sake of his own state, Rogers shouldn't sweep this under the rug.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Case of Misplaced Priorities?

If you search on the internet for "heroin deaths in Livingston County" you will get 43,400 results and learn that deaths from heroin overdoses in Livingston County may well set a record this year if the current rate continues -- 13 so far in 2011.

If you search on the internet for "marijuana deaths in Livingston County, you will get this message, "No results found for 'marijuana deaths in livingston county.'"

So which drug do elected officials spend their time worrying about? Marijuana, of course, specifically medical marijuana. Brighton is the latest local government to debate ordinances to control medical marijuana dispensaries -- establishments that are legal ever since Michigan voters approved a ballot issue authorizing medical marijuana in the state.

And Livingston County Prosecuting Attorney David Morse is so worried about medical marijuana that is going after a dispensary because he thinks they are in technical violation of the medical marijuana law.

Perhaps more of the energy being spent on medical marijuana would be better spent on the drug that is killing people instead of the drug that is legally helping sick people.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Snyder's Private School Shows the Rich Really Are Different

No wonder Rick Snyder has trouble understanding what goes on in Michigan public schools.

According to Michigan Messenger, Snyder's own child goes to a private school that spends $20,000 a year on each student -- and doesn't think it's enough, even as Snyder has slashed $470 per student from Michigan public schools.

Snyder can send his kid to a private school if he wants to. As a multi-millionaire, he can afford the best education money can buy. He must think education is important. For his kid. But why doesn't he think it's important for all Michigan children?

His spokesperson's comments about the disparity in funding were non-responsive, claiming the cuts were necessary because of a lack of revenue, when we all know the school aid fund has a half billion dollar surplus and the state general fund is taking in hundreds of millions more than anticipated. The spokesperson had the nerve to say that schools should be "focusing on the growth of students." Exactly how they will do that even less money while the school Snyder's child attends can't get by on $20,000 a year, well, she didn't say.

I wonder how this news might have impacted the debate over school cuts had it come out a month ago.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Far-Right Propaganda Creeping into News Stories

One of the tactics the far-right has used for years is to repeat the same phrases so often that they eventually acquire a negative connotation. We know that happened with the word "liberal," but there is a host of others, including referring to the Democratic Party as "the Democrat Party," a grammatically incorrect construction.

Some of the phrases become so familiar to far-right extremists that they carry special meaning that others don't immediately pick up on, referred to as "dog whistle" politics. Sometimes, people have heard them so often that they start to use them even if they don't agree with the coded message.

One of the words that has become burdened with negative meanings is "government." Far-right extremists use it instead of "public," as in "government schools" instead of "public schools."

Americans For Prosperity, for example, has tried to smear the prospect of a public bridge over the Detroit River between Michigan and Canada by calling it a "government" bridge.

And now the Detroit Free Press's Dawson Bell appears to have joined in, referring to the bridge proposed by the state of Michigan and the Canadian government as a "government-sponsored bridge" rather than a public bridge.

It's a subtle difference, but an important one. The Free Press should let opponents of the publicly-owned bridge pay for their own propaganda, rather than spread it for them.

Monday, June 13, 2011

'Oz' Turnout a Peek at What Snyder Threw Away

A lost opportunity. That's what I thought when I read about the thousands who turned out in Pontiac over the weekend for a chance at a job as an extra in the movie Oz.

The movie just got in under the wire, being approved for Michigan's film incentive program before Rick Snyder axed it because it doesn't fit with his ideology of ending taxes for every business in hopes one of them will create a job someday, but hey, no promises.

Snyder threw away a lot when he ended the program, or gutted it so that the movie industry cannot rely on it. He threw away a chance to continue creating a brand new industry for the state that would counterbalance the auto industry; a way to keep young people in the state who have special talents; a way to create a new image for the state instead of the old, out-dated Rust Belt image. The change was just starting to take hold with the location of studios here that would provide steady jobs through post-production work as well as filming, but Snyder pulled the rug out from under them.

It wasn't financial. The state now has millions of dollars pouring into the treasury that it wasn't planning on and can clearly afford the incentives.

So what were they thinking when they decided to throw away this chance to build a new industry? Was it strictly ideological -- the unfounded belief that government shouldn't have any role in helping industries thrive, even though it clearly does that all the time?

Or was it strictly political? Do Republicans hate Hollywood that much because of its tendency to support Democratic candidates? Do they hate the fact that many of the long-term jobs would be unionized?

Whatever it was -- ideological or political -- it was foolish beyond belief.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hune Having a Failure to Communicate

Joe Hune is in hot water again.

The Republican state senator already was in the spotlight for refusing to take a position on building a public bridge to Canada to ease commercial traffic between businesses in Michigan and across the border.

Now he's in trouble for writing in the Fowlerville News and Views that the Legislature increased funding for local schools by $200 per pupil -- when in fact they really cut it by $470 per pupil.

Hune told the Livingston Press and Argus, "I'm not trying to lie and deceive."

Really? What would he call it when he tries to make a silk purse into a sow's ear in the eyes of the public? Isn't he trying to obfuscate the truth when he says he should have said the Legislature provided $200 more per student than what Rick Snyder asked for? Why would that have been better? It doesn't tell the public how schools are faring compared to the current situation, only how they would do compared to a hypothetical.

It's hard to see where Hune goes from here. He gets in trouble when he doesn't say something and then gets in trouble when he does say something. Maybe it's not the message, but the messenger that's the problem.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Putting Sex Scandals in Context

There are lots of experts on the Middle East who are trotted out on cable television shows, but one of the best comes from right here in Michigan -- Juan Cole, professor at the University of Michigan.

Cole, author of Engaging the Muslim World, is always insightful and isn't called upon by cable television nearly enough. His Informed Comment blog is a must-read for people interested in international affairs.

This week, he provided a perspective on American political sex scandals that I haven't seen elsewhere. I highly recommend his highly readable blog, titled "Our News and Their News."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sticking His Nose Into Other People's Business

You have to wonder how Howell public school teachers are feeling right now.

They just voted to not only freeze their pay but take home fewer dollars by paying more for their health insurance, all while agreeing to take on more work.

And for their sacrifices, they've gotten nothing but criticism.

First, three of the seven members of the school board voted against the contract because the cuts weren't deep enough.

And then, a board member from a neighboring district shows up to criticize the contract with the teachers. John Conely, a member of the board for Brighton Area Schools, thought he should stick his nose into Howell's business by pushing the Republican agenda of attacking Howell's health insurance carrier. Statewide, Republicans love to attack the carrier because it is related to the Michigan Education Association.

But he didn't stop there. He went on to accuse Howell teachers of "strong-arming" the public into not attending board meetings -- with absolutely no evidence to back him up. And he criticized Howell board members who had family members who were teachers.

And he didn't just come to one Howell board meeting. He came to two of them and made similar remarks.

Being lectured by Conely didn't sit well with Howell board members, given that his district is in deficit and theirs isn't.

But it probably didn't sit too well with Howell teachers, either. They have to be wondering -- where does this guy get off? Conely's comments make it harder for teachers and other public employees to agree to concessions. If you know you're going to get beat up no matter whether you take concessions or not, why bother? You might as well fight harder to hang onto what you've got if this is the thanks you get.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Getting a Dose of His Own Medicine

A year ago, Joe Hune was the toast of the far right. In his campaign for the state Senate, he threw around words like "big government" and "debt" at campaign events like they were candy for kids at a 4th of July parade.

Now, Hune is refusing to take a stand on whether the state of Michigan should build a bridge to Canada, opposed by the owners of a private span who want to keep their lucrative monopoly. As a result, opponents of the new bridge are attacking Hune in the same style of rhetoric he used to win his seat.

In a mailing to Hune's constituents, Americans for Prosperity-Michigan warns that the new bridge means "$500 million of NEW FOREIGN DEBT for Michigan" and "Bigger Government and More Bureaucracy." It warns that "taxpayers get stuck with the bill!" if the bridge is built.

This is the same group, by the way, that put up fake-eviction notices on properties in Detroit to scare people into opposing the new bridge.

The group urges Hune's constituents to call him "and tell him that Michigan doesn't need foreign debt."

The bridge has Hune in a tough spot. He wants to stay cozy with the tea-bagger crowd and the Koch Brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity, but his Republican governor Rich Snyder wants the bridge and Hune doesn't want to publicly challenge Snyder. So for now, he's trying to sit on the fence, hoping that Democrats will provide enough votes, along with a few GOP ones, to pass Snyder's priority for the Republicans.

It's a pleasure to see Hune in such a spot. And the mailing, with its inflammatory rhetoric so reminiscent of Hune's own just a year ago, is a great way to make him swallow a taste of his own medicine.