Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Great Editorial, Zero Impact

The Livingston Press and Argus has published several editorials this spring ripping Rick Snyder's totally unnecessary cuts to education. All businesses that care about having educated employees should oppose these cuts, but newspapers have a special stake in good schools. After all, people who can't read and don't care about reading don't buy newspapers, not even for the pictures.

But last week, the newspaper took things up a notch when it criticized not just Snyder or Republicans in general, but a local Republican lawmaker -- Republican Rep. Bill Rogers. Rogers not only voted for the unnecessary and deep cuts to schools, but he offered the head-slappingly stupid remark that if schools would have "planned" for the cuts, they wouldn't have any problem.

In its editorial Friday, the newspaper called Rogers' remarks "mystifying" and "bereft of facts and logic." It went on to note that the school aid fund has a huge and growing surplus, and that if planning for expenses solved all problems, why didn't businesses just "plan" for the Michigan Business Tax which they hated so much?

The editorial closed with this zinger:

"It's almost as though Rogers is saying that school administrators should plan ahead for legislative incompetence.

"Maybe he would have a point."

The editorial was directly on target (and in line with a post on Living Blue BTW), but alas, as excellent as it was, it will have zero impact on Rogers or his cohorts Cindy Denby and Joe Hune.

Unfortunately, the newspaper has no leverage with local Republican office holders because they know no matter how poorly they perform in office and no matter how well qualified their opponents, the newspaper will always endorse them. If just once the newspaper would endorse a Democrat -- or even withhold an endorsement of the Republican candidate at election time -- Republican lawmakers might pay attention and work a little harder to represent all local residents instead of only business interests.

Nevertheless, it was a great editorial, and very true.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Gardening Advice for Rick Snyder

"Plant your peas on St. Patrick's Day and you'll harvest them on Memorial Day," my grandmother told me once.

As a farm wife, Grandma knew a thing or two about making things grow. And she meant that advice literally. I did exactly what she said a couple years and did in fact have fresh peas in late May.

Of course, Grandma -- and I -- both knew that while you could plant peas on St. Patrick's Day, you wouldn't dare do that with tomatoes or sweet corn. Different crops, different planting schedule. There's no one-size fits all when it comes to growing things.

But when it comes to growing businesses, Rick Snyder seems to think one size does fit all. His approach -- no taxes for most businesses and hope they create jobs -- is far removed from what most states are doing and what Michigan has been doing -- targeting incentives to growth industries.

Snyder won't even promise that his approach will create jobs. Even if it were to create jobs, it will do nothing to diversify Michigan's economy by making it a center for a new industry, such as wind power or the film industry.

And Snyder does not seem to care. He is perfectly content to ride the resurgence of the auto industry back to prosperity and let it go at that. If a film studio happens to locate here, that's OK with him, but he's not going to do anything to make that happen.

Why would a film studio locate here now? Because of low taxes? Businesses thrive on synergy, on a community of like-minded people in the same field. Having a critical mass of people in the same field leads to professional organizations where ideas are shared, ties with colleges and universities that train the people you need to hire, a culture that values and promotes what you do. Kind of like Silicon Valley. In the computer software field. And aren't computers supposed to be what Snyder knows a lot about?

Michigan was well on its way to developing new industries like wind energy, film, and advanced batteries until Snyder's budget pulled the rug out from under them.

The state is now back to the equivalent of planting all the crops on St. Patrick's Day and hoping something besides peas survives by Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Republicans Playing an Old Hand on Medicare

Ending Medicare by turning it into a voucher program for senior citizens that wouldn't begin to cover the cost of their health care is turning into a huge political liability for Republicans who followed Paul Ryan off a cliff.

But why is it anyone is surprised that Republicans hate Medicare?

I was reminded of how old Republican attacks on Medicare are when I was sorting through a box of old newspaper clippings, stories written during a long career as a newspaper reporter.

From one dated Oct. 25, 1995 and headlined "Stabenow to Run for Congress," come these two paragraphes:

"And she (Stabenow) said GOP-backed Medicare cuts totaling $270 billion would pay for $245 billion in tax cuts for wealthy Americans while earned income tax credits for the working poor were being eliminated.

"'Those are not my priorities and I don't think they're your priorities,' she said.'"

Stabenow was right then, as she went on to defeat Republican Rep. Dick Chrysler of Brighton for the 8th Congressional District.

Stabenow's defense of Medicare clicked with Michigan voters in 1996. Can it work again in 2012 for Stabenow against whomever the Republicans find to run against her?

Yes it can.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rogers Clueless on What He Did to Public Education

Republican Rep. Bill Rogers just stole $470 from the futures of every student in Livingston County and he doesn't even understand what he has done.

As the Livingston Press and Argus notes that the county will now have not one, but two, school districts in deficit due to the Rick Snyder-Bill Rogers budget, Rogers told school districts it was basically their own fault.

They already got a $170 per pupil cut last year so they should have planned for that and therefore it's no big deal to accept another $300 per pupil cut, Rogers told the newspaper.


Rogers was responding to the news that Pinckney Community Schools would have to lay off 26 teachers to live within the budget passed by Rogers and signed by Snyder. The school district can't offer the classes students need without those 26 teachers -- because it already cut 19 teachers last year.

How exactly would a school district plan to get by with 26 fewer teachers -- tell students they can't come to Pinckney schools? Put 100 students in a classroom? Just not teach third grade? Drop all math classes?

Pinckney is not alone. Brighton Community schools expected to be out of deficit this year, but Rogers voted to keep them in the hole with the big cuts. Fowlerville schools laid off 12 people from its classrooms.

Come on, Bill, what exactly is your solution? "Planning ahead" is not a solution. It is a meaningless phrase.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

No More Excuses -- It's Time to Hire

OK, Michiganj businesses, you got your way. Now it's time to give Michigan residents want they want -- jobs.

Rick Snyder Wednesday signed into law huge tax increases for Michigan senior citizens and the poor in order to pay for eliminating taxes on most businesses. Rick Snyder promises that will create jobs, although he won't say how many or when.

So now it's time for customers of all those tax-free Michigan businesses to demand the jobs. From now on, if you have to wait too long to be served at your local restaurant, ask to see the manager and demand he or she hire more wait staff and kitchen help with his tax savings.

Standing 15 minutes in the check-out lane at the grocery store? March to the customer service counter, ask to talk to the manager, and tell him or her you want more check out lanes opened with some of that $1.7 billion in tax cuts.

Can't find anyone to wait on you at your favorite department store? Do the same thing -- complain and demand they hire more people.

After all, they promised us jobs and we're paying for those jobs through our taxes on pensions, lost tax credits for charitable donations, cuts to the Earned Income Tax Credit, and so on.

It's time consumers get what we paid for.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dick Morris In My Living Room

Rick Snyder has taken time off from taxing poor people and old people and stealing money from local schools to tell local Republican parties in Michigan whom they should have as guest speakers.

Snyder didn't like the idea that pollster and Fox News contributor Dick Morris was going to speak at an event he was attending so somehow Morris got uninvited.

The rest of us, however, have to put up with Dick Morris not just at a fund-raising event, but in our living rooms. Morris is starring in robo-calls to Michigan voters masquerading as a presidential poll. In reality, the poll is nothing more than a gimmick to ask people to donate $200 to something called the "Presidential Coalition for America."

At the start of the call, Morris tells the listener that "solid conservatives" and "Tea Party members" like them are needed to "stop Obama." And if the listener would just donate $100 or $200, they will receive a signed copy of Morris' latest book and have their name added to a newspaper ad attacking President Obama. Then the listener is invited to name the conservative leaders best able to lead the country. No list is provided and that seems to limit the usefulness of the poll for gauging support for this cycle's GOP presidential wanna-bes. According to the coalition's website, "other" topped the list, followed by Ronald Reagan, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Donald Trump. And three of those four are now unavailable for various reasons.

But the real purpose of the "poll" is to raise money, so when someone calling herself Michelle Jenkins from the coalition came on the line, her job was to get my conservative blood boiling by attacking Obama's "socialist agenda."

Somehow, I found Jenkins' script unconvincing so when she asked for my presidential choice I said no conservative leader was capable of restoring our country and that I thought President Obama was doing an excellent job. He had taken care of Osama bin Laden, restored the auto industry and created thousands of jobs right here in Michigan, demonstrated by the fact that Chrysler was repaying its federal loans that very day.

Michelle was very quiet as I calmly laid out Obama's accomplishments and she realized she wouldn't be making a sale on this phone call.

I don't know how many other Michigan residents will have Dick Morris inflicted on them in coming weeks as he tries to unload copies of his book and raise money. But I suggest rather than hanging up, any Democrats who get such calls spend as much time as possible telling the Presidential Coalition exactly what President Obama has done for this state.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Everybody Likes a Sale

I went shopping for clothes recently and the minute I entered the store, a rack labeled "50 perfect off" caught my eye and drew me like a magnet.

It's the same when I buy groceries. Somehow the items that are on sale find their way into my cart, regardless of what was originally on my list.

Judging by the television ads touting Kroeger's sales and the newspaper circulars that arrive on Sunday, I'm not alone.

Everybody loves a sale. From time to time, stores try to buck that discounting by offering "lowest prices all the time," but somehow that never seems to last.

So I wonder how Rick Snyder's approach to selling the state of Michigan to business prospects is going to work. How can Michigan get anyone's attention with its "lowest prices all the time" approach while all the other states are offering tax credits targeting specific businesses or activities?

The reality may be starting to dawn on Snyder's administration. It has gone from promising that eliminating taxes on businesses (and shifting the burden to poor people and old people) would create jobs, to saying that they can't "quantify" how many jobs it will produce.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Biggest Phone Booth in the World

Years ago, a local newspaper in Livingston County thought it would be cute to depict the size of the Livingston County Democratic Party by photographing three of its members in a phone booth. Yeah, a phone booth, that's how long ago it was.

More proof that the analogy is out of date came Friday night at Lakelands Golf and Country Club where local Democrats packed the dining room to hear U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, and United Auto Workers Vice President Cindy Estrada.

Not only was the turh-out great, it was also an enthusiastic crowd, which buzzed with conversation all night long and gave Stabenow a standing ovation.

As I looked around the room, all I could think of was, "This is the biggest phone booth in the world."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

John Conyers Joining Line-Up at Livingston Dems' Dinner

U.S. Rep. John Conyers is joining the line-up of speakers at the Livingston County Democrats' 28th annual Winans Dinner on Friday.

The Detroit Democrat, serving his 23rd term in the House, joins U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow and UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada as speakers for the event at Lakelands Golf and Country Club in Hamburg Township.

Conyers is the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, which overseas the Department of Justice, including the FBI, and the federal courts, and has jurisdiction over matters including civil rights, consumer protection, and constitutional issues. He is one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Friday's event begins with a cocktail hour at 6 p.m., with dinner at 7 p.m. A few tickets remain at $60 and can be reserved by emailing livcodems@sbcuc.net or calling (810) 229-4212. The event includes snacks, a cash bar, dinner, and a silent auction.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Extra Billion Dollars Threatens Snyder's Agenda

People are going to have a hard time understanding how the state of Michigan can take in $1 billion more than anybody thought they would over the next two years and still be so broke that we have to slash aid to schools, universities, and local governments.

But that's the scenario that is playing out for Rick Snyder.

We don't have the final official projetions yet. That will come Monday when officials of the House, Senate, and Treasury Department arrive at a consensus on how much money the state will take in the rest of this fiscal year and the year beginning Oct. 1. But based on estimates already released by the House and Senate fiscal agencies, we know it will be a big number.

The House Fiscal Agency is projecting $910.4 million in revenue over the next two years that it didn't expect. The Senate Fiscal Agency is projecting more than $1.2 billion.

So all that business about how we have to slash school funding doesn't seem quite so necessary. Snyder's demands for slashing university funding, cutting revenue sharing, closing prisons, and on and on is going to leave the public scratching its head.

Snyder has just raised taxes on senior citizens and the poor and the state has just found $1 billion, but we can't afford to run our schools and prisons, or fix our roads and bridges?

That is going to be a tough sell. The public will sacrifice when it has to, but only when the reason for it is clear. That's no longer the case.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due -- George Bush

Conservative talking head Michelle Malkin was in Livingston County Wednesday whining that George Bush hasn't been given enough credit for things that President Obama has done.

OK. Let's give him more credit.

Let's give George Bush full credit for the economic meltdown that started in 2008 and from which the nation has had to recover during the first two years of President Obama's administration. Every single ounce of credit. Would that make Malkin happy? We'll give him credit for the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost, the near death of Michigan's auto industry, the millions of homes foreclosed on, the billions of dollars of wealth Americans lost in the values of their homes and their retirement plants, and the shrinking of not just the U.S. economy, but the entire world economy.

George Bush, I hereby promise that I will always give you 100 percent credit for that. Not "joint credit," which is what Malkin wants for the successful raid authorized by Obama that killed terrorist Osama bin Laden.

No, I will give George Bush 100 percent pure and unadulterated credit.

Feel better?

I doubt it. People like Malkin and the Bush administration minions that appeared on Sunday talk shows demanding that George Bush get credit for bin Laden's death only want credit for things that go right after they leave office. They want credit, not responsibility, which means accepting blame when things go wrong.

Here's what I mean.

Suppose information that was key to Obama's decision to launch the raid that killed bin Laden had actually been developed under Bush's administration. (It wasn't, but let's pretend that it was.) And let's pretend that President Obama authorized the raid, knowing that there was only a 55 percent chance that the information was correct. (Which there was.)

And let's say that the intelligence turned out to be wrong. It wasn't bin Laden in that compound at all. It was some Saudi prince who had the compound built as a hide-away. And instead of killing bin Laden, the Navy SEALS killed the Saudi prince and a huge international incident resulted that threatened U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia and our oil supplies.

The nation would be in crisis.President Obama would be in major trouble. But since the faulty intelligence that led to the raid was developed under Bush's administration, George Bush and members of his administration would step forward to claim "joint credit" with President Obama for the fiasco.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure they would. I'm pretty sure Malkin would come to Livingston County and demand, yes demand, that George Bush be given "joint credit" for the fiasco.

I'd pay money to see that.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Will Snyder's 'Shared Sacrifice' Soon Be Even Less Popular?

When your approval rating is 60 percent negative, you might think the only way to go is up. But in Rick Snyder's case, that may not be true. We may not have seen the bottom yet.

That's because Snyder is signalling that he wants to go ahead with slashing school and university funding and raising taxes on senior citizens and poor people, regardless of whether the state really needs to or not.

The news has received relatively little focus in the media, but Michigan officials will meet on Monday to issue an up-to-date estimate of the state's revenues for the year. Some lawmakers are suggesting the state could take in some $500 million more than expected just a few months ago.

Snyder's response? "I don't want to speculate on us having more dollars."

In other words, Snyder doesn't sound interested in backing off his "balance-the- budget-on-the-backs-of-kids-senior citizens-and-the-poor" orders to the Legislature.

According to the EPIC-MRA poll, 71 percent of likely voters in Michigan don't like Snyder's cuts to education and his pension tax.

Michigan voters are going to like those proposal a whole lot less if they find out the state has $500 million -- or even $250 million -- more than expected and that Snyder still wants to go ahead with the cuts and tax increases.

Some lawmakers who voted for the taxes this week may wish they hadn't done so, too. But it will be too late.

Snyder started the year selling "shared sacrifice" to Michigan voters, then pulled a bait and switch to "sacrifice for the poor, kids, and senior citizens." How will people react when they find out the state could be facing a surplus, on top of the $500 million surplus already in the school aid fund that Snyder won't spend on schools?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


"The Audacity of Hope" American boat with 50 Americans sets sail the third week of June for Gaza.

Why Not Keep People from Leaving in the First Place?

Rick Snyder has things bass-ackwards.

As Michigan young people leave the state and the state gets older on average, Rick Snyder thinks the state should encourage legal immigrants to come to the state.

And they should bring their advanced degrees with them.

Why? Because Michigan itself doesn't want to spend any money to help its current residents get college degrees, advanced or otherwise. It wants to cut -- no, slash -- spending on education at all levels in order to give a $1.8 billion tax cut to business.

By asking well-educated immigrants to come to Michigan, Snyder is conceding that education is good for business and job creation, but he is turning around and cutting it off at the knees here in Michigan with cuts in K-12 and higher education.

Like lots of business interests, Snyder wants the benefits of a highly educated citizenry, he just expects somebody else to pay the freight for producing a highly educated citizenry.

Snyder is sending a pretty clear message to young people that they should leave the state when he not only makes it prohibitively expensive for them to get an education in Michigan, but he does his best to eliminate one path to employment for them -- the film industry.

One $80 million film studio recently opened in Michigan only because tax credits for the project were approved by Gov. Jennifer Granholm before Snyder announced his plan to put a stop to them.

By cutting education and stifling a new industry Snyder is creating a vacuum to be backfilled by people educated elsewhere.

Wouldn't it just make more sense to educate our own people and keep them here?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Presto! Township Debt Problem Disappears!

Livingston County must be home to some real magicians. They can make millions of dollars of debt just disappear.

Last month, the all-Republican Livingston County Commission set aside $2 million to create a fund to help townships pay off bonds for water and sewer systems in subdivisions that were never finished. The county backed the bonds for the townships, who paid for the projects for developers who walked away from the projects and left the townships holding the bag.

The county is left with egg on its face as it scrambles to figure out how to salvage its credit rating if townships stop making the payments. And it may face having to pay out $200,000 to $400,000 a year in payments for Handy Township because it can't make its bond payments starting as early as next year.

But just last week, the Livingston Press and Argus reported that everything is fine with the townships' special assessment debt. In some cases, township voters have approved millages to make up the shortfall. In other words, they raised taxes to cover up county and township officials' mistakes.

So what was the point of the $2 million loan fund? None of the township officials interviewed seems to have been asked if they will make use of the county's loan fund. Did the problem magically disappear in the month between when the loan fund was set up and the time the township officials were interviewed? Or does Handy Township at least expect to borrow money from the fund? What are the terms of the loan from the fund and can Handy Township meet them?

The article's emphasis was on whether or not the state would send in emergency managers to take over any townships, not the value of the county loan fund. And it turns out the state treasurer's office has met with local officials to discuss assessment debt. What happened in those discussions? Does the treasurer's office have a plan the people don't know about?

The two stories don't add up. The county commission sets up a loan fund for townships that have debt, and townships that have the debt don't even mention whether they will use it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

To Sell Snyder's Tax Plan, Media Re-Defines 'Rich'

It's Rich Snyder's job to sell the regressive, punish-the-poor tax plan that he is foisting onto Michigan residents, but the media seems to think that has become its job.

Take Friday's editorial in the Detroit Free Press titled "The rich feel some tax pain, too, but not like the working poor."

According to the editorial, "the rich" are being forced to shoulder a larger share of the tax burden so Snyder's plan to tax senior citizens and take away the lifeline for the working poor known as the Earned Income Tax Credit is really a "progressive" tax plan. The elderly and poor just haven't noticed.

According to the editorial, tax breaks for single people with more than $75,000 a year will be eliminated that will raise $90 million a year. Personal exemptions and homestead property tax exemptions will be phased out for them. For example, according to the newspaper:

"Finally, the proposed tax regime dramatically scales back the homestead property tax credit, which is now available in full up to $73,650 in household income, phasing out at $82,650. Under the new plan, no household with an income above $50,000 would be eligible. And those whose home's taxable value exceeds $135,000 won't qualify for the credit no matter how little they earn."

So according to the Free Press, "the rich" includes people whose household income is $50,001 a year. Household income. That could be two people earning $25,000 a year, and those people are now considered "rich" by the Detroit Free Press. Now "rich" is relative. Certainly, those households making $50,000 a year are "richer" than those making $25,000 a year, but they are not rich. They are barely middle class.

What the Free Press has done is define everybody whose taxes are being raised as "rich" in order to make Snyder's scheme to end taxes for business look fair. Newspapers should let Snyder do his own dirty work.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Dinners, Golf, Drummond Island Stay All Up for Bid On Line

If you like good food, golf, concert tickets, political memorabilia, and more, there is something for you in the Silent Auction for the Livingston County Democrats' upcoming Winans Dinner fund-raiser.

The May 20 event at Lakelands Golf and Country Club in Hamburg Township will feature U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow as the guest speaker. Tickets are $50 per person through May 9, and then $60, which covers not only dinner but snacks, a cash bar, and the silent auction. Still in school? Student tickets are just $20 each.

But if you can't make the dinner, you can still have part of the fun! For the first time ever, Livingston County Democrats have put their silent auction on line. A growing list of items is available here. You can look over the list of items, with the minimum bidding requirements, and then just email your bid to winansdinner@gmail.com.

Livingston County Dems are still looking for items so if you have something to donate, call (810) 229-4212 or email livcodems@sbcuc.net.

So start shopping, Democrats! It's a great way to help a small Democratic party in Michigan get ready for 2012!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mike Rogers Wants Girls Raped by Relatives to Stay Barefoot and Pregnant

Michigan U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers has some strange family values. He doesn't think incest involving minors is rape.

That's the way he voted on HR3, the bill that redefines rape to make it harder for poor women to get an abortion.

House Republicans tried to disguise what they were doing, but their intent is clear. The bill initially contained language redefining rape as only "forcible rape." That would mean that poor women who were victims of statutory rape or incest could not obtain Medicaid funds for an abortion. How about a victim of a rapist who used a "date rape" drug? Sorry, that wasn't "forcible rape." You get to carry your rapist's baby if you are too poor to pay for an abortion.

But the public reaction against that medieval approach to women's rights was so harsh that they took that language out of the bill. And then they reinserted it in a sneaky way -- by attaching the committee report containing the same language in hopes that courts who interpret the law will take that as demonstrating what it was Congress wanted to the bill to do.

The measure also would eliminate most private insurance coverage for abortion by taking away the tax deduction for insurance premiums paid by employers. Women who use private insurance to pay for an abortion would face tax penalties. And the IRS would be expected to conduct abortion audits to determine if a woman used her private insurance to pay for an abortion that wasn't caused by rape or incest.

That's how extreme Mike Rogers is when it comes to punishing women.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chrysler Profits Good News, But ...

The news that Chrysler Group LLC turned a $116 million profit in the last quarter, delighting employees along with many observers.

But it also exposes a flaw in Rick Snyder's plan to exempt most businesses from taxes.

Chrysler is an LLC and under Snyder's plan will not pay taxes on that profit.

All along, Rick Snyder has been telling people that the 95,000 businesses that won't pay taxes are "small businesses," implying they were Mom and Pop operations with a few employees. Chrysler hardly fits that image.

Snyder's boosters in the media have bought into that song and dance. The Detroit Free Press recently declared that it didn't matter because Chrysler didn't have any profits. Two weeks after that was written, Chrysler is projecting profits this year of $500 million. Time for a re-write, maybe?

Meanwhile, $500 million in tax-free profits for Chrysler is hardly a level playing field for the state's automakers since Ford and General Motors will both pay taxes on their profits.

The issue is not just Chrysler's unfair advantage over Ford and General Motors. If Chrysler is an LLC, what other large businesses are also LLCs, with millions in soon-to-be-untaxed profits, if Snyder has his way?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Few Hours of Your Time Could Help Local Dems

If you're short on cash but still would like to help out your local Democrats, the Livingston County Democrats have a deal for you. Actually, the Michigan Challenge Balloonfest has a deal for you.

The balloonfest, held each year in Howell, is a great family-friendly festival that attracts hordes of people. Most people come by car and parking could be a nightmare if left to chance. But it's not. The balloonfest organizers line up many volunteers to direct people to parking areas, and then makes a payment of $7 an hour to an organization they name. The payments are covered by a sponsor each year.

This year's balloonfest will be held June 24, 25, and 26. If you'd like to volunteer, fill out this form and fax or send to the balloonfest organizers. Be sure to list Livingston County Democrats, 10321 Grand River Road, Suite 600, Brighton, MI 48116 as your designated organization.

It's a great way to help out even if you are short on cash.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Five Things We Have Learned About President Obama

The daring raid that resulted in the U.S. putting a bullet in the head of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden will be analyzed and re-analyzed, hashed over in newspaper columns, written about in books, studied in the military academies, and made into movies. In coming days, its political significance will be debated as well. But based on what we know right now, we have learned at least five key things about President Obama's governing style and leadership abilities.

1. President Obama is not afraid to take huge risks. Success on a mission such as this is no guarantee, no matter how precise the intelligence, how skilled the combatants, how careful the planning. Failure could have taken many forms -- many Pakistani civilians killed by accident, a leak that tipped off Pakistani military who might have fired on U.S. helicoptors, an escape by bin Laden, the shooting down of U.S. helicoptors even as they made their escape. Look at what happened to President Carter's image in 1979 after a helicoptor sent to rescue Iranian hostages crashed. Despite the high stakes, Obama was willing to take that gamble, knowing the future of his presidency, the prestige of the United States, and the lives of American military personnel were on the line. That takes guts.

2. President Obama can multi-task. Over the last several months, President Obama has participated in nine secret meetings reviewing the intelligence that made the raid possible and deciding on the exact plan for the raid. At the same time, he was negotiating over the budget, trying to prevent Republican extremists from shutting down the government, reviewing tornado damage in the southeastern United States, attending a planned shuttle launch with Tucson shooting victim U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and answering critics about his birth certificate. Yet he remained focused on this key goal without waivering from it.

3. President Obama and his administration can keep a secret. Nobody outside a handful of people had any inkling this was going on. Such secrecy was crucial to the mission's success and Obama and his people kept a really big secret for a long time, no small feat in this age of instaneous communication in a town full of journalists dedicated to ferreting out secrets.

4. President Obama is one cool customer. The president authorized this mission on Friday. On Saturday night, he went to the White House Correspondents Association dinner and cracked jokes about his birth certificate and Donald Trump's decision-making. What must have been going through the president's mind when he delivered the dig to Trump about the heavy decisions Trump makes on "Celebrity Apprentice," such as whom to fire when the steaks aren't cooked right? Those are the decisions that keep me awake at night, Obama said without a hint of irony, a day after making a decision that would bring a mass-murderer of Americans to justice at last.

5. President Obama is very patient. In 2009 President Obama made getting Osama bin Laden the nation's top national security priority. He did not bluster about it and make idle threats, but just kept the focus on a top priority. Nor did he strike back at critics who called him weak, but merely bided his time and let the professionals do their planning.

This is a set of leadership traits that has served Michiganians and all Americans well.

Monday, May 2, 2011


What a great moment to celebrate and come together as a nation!

President Obama's announcement that U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden may at last bring some closure to the families of the victims of 9/11 and give meaning to the deaths and injuries of the thousands of our members of the military since then.

And maybe, just maybe, we can all be just Americans for a little while, not Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, just Americans who are glad that justice has at last been served.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Worst All-Time Commencement Speaker?

It took a long time, but the University of Michigan finally found a worse graduation speaker than the one who addressed the College of LSA graduates the year my daughter got her undergraduate degree.

The year was 1994 and the temperature was about 35 degrees and raining when I had to sit in the Big House and listen to the author of the cartoon strip "Cathy" talk to the graduates, including many intelligent young women, about the virtues of going into the women's restroom and eating a box of donuts when something goes wrong.

No wonder my daughter ended up as a researcher into solutions for obesity, given the send-off that ding-dong gave her.

In the year's since, I've read of far more famous commencement speakers than the nitwit my daughter had to listen to. Why didn't they have him or her when Jennifer graduated, I'd fume.

But this year, U of M finally outdid the Cathy spectre when they invited Rick Snyder, the Republican governor who wants to cut the heart out of higher education so that the younger siblings of this year's graduates will end up paying more tuition from what will be a lower quality education.

Yes, there is a worse commencement speaker than that cartoon writer, and his policies are no laughing matter.

Trump Not in Same Humor League as Obama

Donald Trump didn't get a chance at the podium at the White House Correspondents Dinner Saturday night, but his mere presence in the audience spoke volumes about what kind of president he would be.

President Obama poked fun at himself and the First Lady, and they both laughed when Seth Miller of "Saturday Night Live" made jokes at their expense.

The Donald, however, was stone-faced throughout the evening as both Obama and Miller needled him. Obama praised Trump's credentials and breadth of experience, referring to a recent episode of "Celebrity Apprentice" in which Trump had to decide whom to fire when steaks weren't cooked properly. "These are the kinds of decisions that would keep me up at night," Obama said.

Trump also didn't laugh when Miller cracked that he was surprised to hear that Trump was running for president as a Republican. "I thought he was running as a joke," Miller said.

Trump got a little taste of his own medicine and it's clear he can dish it out but he can't take it. Wait until he gets into a real campaign (if he does).