Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Granholm signs legislation to protect children

What's often lost in the DeVos campaign's whining about Granholm is that DeVos's intent to blow a $2 billion hole in the budget is just one of many issues in this campaign.

From WNEM comes this article about another, less-talked-about issue in this campaign: Protecting our families.

Governor Granholm has signed legislation strengthening penalties for sex offenders who target children. Repeat sex offenders will spend life in prison without parole under some circumstances. It's an effort to keep dangerous predators off the streets. The measure applies to those 17 or older convicted of sex crimes against victims 13 and younger.

The law also sets a minimum 25-year prison sentence for first-time offenders who attack victims under 13. Sex offenders released from prison will be tracked through global positioning system technology. The G-P-S monitoring will continue for life for those convicted of first- or second-degree sexual misconduct.

I seem to remember Granholm saying during her first campaign that she wanted to protect families and educate our kids. By signing this legislation and by adopting higher standards hfor high schools, the Governor has made good on these two central promises of her campaign.

Do you think Dick DeVos will make good on his campaign promises if he becomes governor? I doubt it. (Then again, I guess it's hard to make good on promises you don't make.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Back to the Future: 10 Years of SOS in Michigan

Friday, July 1, 2016

It’s Official- Michigan is Bankrupt!

AP: Lansing, Michigan

In an event unprecedented in American history, the Governor of Michigan, Marian Malcolm, announced today that Michigan is bankrupt and has been taken into receivership by the Federal government. She announced that all state offices would close at 12:00, noon, and could not say when, or if, they would reopen.

In the press conference following her announcement, her voice breaking with emotion, Governor Malcolm said it was the saddest day of her life. She spoke about the bipartisan efforts that she and the legislature had made to prevent this disaster, but that their hands had been tied by a constitutional amendment known as SOS. SOS, an acronym for Stop Over–Spending, had been approved by Michigan voters in 2006 as a tax-reduction amendment. The amendment had been sponsored by various out-of-state groups, and had been modeled on a similar amendment passed by Colorado voters in 1992.

When asked how a ten-year-old law could affect finances now, and that some people had said she was looking for a scapegoat for her administration’s inability to turn things around, Malcolm bristled. Sounding like the college professor she had been before entering politics, Malcolm explained that the amendment did not impose spending limits on the government, but rather limited government income from taxes. This reduced the government’s ability to maintain the educational system or social services, or set money aside in case of economic downturns such as the one that hit Michigan in 2014.

She said that what the SOS supporters did not tell Michigan voters in 2006 was that when Colorado voted for the amendment in 1992, that state was experiencing one of the highest economic growth rates in the country. In 2006, when Jennifer Granholm was governor, Michigan was reeling from a 7-billion dollar deficit that was the legacy of the Republican governor, John Engler, as a result of 32 tax cuts he and the Republican-controlled Congress had foisted on the public.

Further, she said, the SOS supporters also did not tell Michigan voters that by 2006, Colorado’s economy and social services had slipped to the point that the state could no longer afford to pay for childhood vaccinations for its youngest citizens; the state’s higher education system had faltered and tuition had jumped 21 percent, and businesses were leaving the state because the environment, social services, and “quality of life” were making them unable to recruit or retain employees. Matters had grown so bad, she said, that the Colorado legislature suspended the TABOR law for 5 years so the state could recover economically, which it eventually did, but not for almost eight years. For Michigan, the suspension would have come too late to make any difference. Governor Malcolm abruptly ended the press conference and left for a series of meetings with federal auditors.

In a related story, Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, held a press conference about Michigan’s bankruptcy, and stated he was delighted that the government of Michigan had succumbed. He said that his organization, along with several other national anti-tax organizations, had targeted Michigan in 2006 as the most vulnerable state for just such a fate. “It was only a matter of time once the taxpayers had approved the constitutional amendment,” he said. “Starving the beast has led to its eventual demise. The government of Michigan is effectively dead; now the businesses in Michigan–and the people, of course–can live free of the burden of taxes. You’ll see: in twenty years, Michigan’s economy will be completely service-oriented. Wages will be so low that jobs that are being out-sourced to other countries will flow back home to Michigan. Michigan will become a leader for cheap labor: it will be the China of the Great Lakes. God bless American enterprise.“

Whatever Happened to the Republican Doctrine of Getting the Government Off Your Back?

If Democrats ever run out of issues to disagree with Republicans over, like the war in Iraq, funding for education, Social Security, outrageous deficits and tax cuts for the rich, one basic idea that irks most Americans is having to comply with some stupid regulations where the benefit to the common good is not obvious or even necessary.

Most urban dwellers haven’t heard about NAIS because it doesn’t affect them, at least not yet. But because of the fear of terrorists and mad cow disease, a few entrepreneurs, looking to expand their product line so that millions of them would have to be purchased, have lobbied their Republican buddies to require that all farm animals would have to be registered into a huge new federal database and tagged so they could be identified in the National Animal Identification System.

It might seem reasonable for a tracking system to be able to follow a potentially diseased animal from farm to table, but that is not what will happen. Large scale producers can register just one number for a lot of animals, but Linda and her kids out on Deerfield Road who are raising a few 4-H horses for riding and show and retired Charlie who has only one egg-laying chicken out on Baseline Road will be required to buy a tag for his chicken too.

If Linda trailers the horses over to the County Fair she will have to report that within 24 hours and if Charlie’s chicken has to go the vet, that movement would have to be reported too. If the vet notices that Charlie’s chicken has no required ID tag, then under proposed regulations that are not yet final, the vet would be required to report that to the federal government.

It’s too late to stop the legislation. Our Republican-controlled Congress in its wisdom rammed the NAIS system through, but the USDA is still finalizing the regulations that are scheduled to go into effect in January 2008. No need to rush things since the manufacturers of the systems need to gear up the hardware and software they hope to make a killing on. There is even talk of privatizing the whole database system too so another Republican organization can hit the jackpot too. More information about the whole mess is available here. (click) and here (click).

Now various organizations including homesteaders who grow and eat their own food and groups of horse owners are beginning to see the problems related to the NAIS. The opposition is growing as the impact on Amish farmers and others is becoming apparent. Is it an unnecessary burden or is it intrusion into the lives of people who can cause no harm to others?

One wonders if people who keep birds as pets might also be added to the registry later as the fear of bird flu spreads and why not add cats and dogs to the registry too?

I can see it now. My dog will soon be getting his very own customized ad for Dog Chow after the private database people sell his tag number to Purina.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Decoration Day

When I was a little boy in eastern Kentucky, Decoration Day was the time when my mother would gather my sisters and me into the family car and drive us to the cemetery where several of our relatives were buried, veterans all. It was usually hot and humid, and the sun would press on us as we looked for the gravesites. My mother could never remember exactly where the graves were located, so we would park in the general vicinity of the graves and wander until we found them.

In my early years, it seemed a strange and solemn ritual, walking among the graves in the bright sunlight, my mother carrying flowers purchased at the florist whose shop was near the cemetery. Mom would be oddly quiet as she looked at the engraved names on the tombstones as she wended her way to where our relatives lay. She would occasionally wipe her eyes as she would bend to read the inscriptions, and her voice was subdued as she read. “Only nineteen. So young,” she might say. It was on these visits that I first read the words “Korea,” “Argonne,” “Battle of the Bulge,” and “Iwo Jima.”

When we would finally locate our relatives, Mom would place several flowers in the small brass urns beside the tombstone, then she would tell us about who lay there. “This is your cousin George, Uncle Pete’s son...” She said little, but we learned that wars were awful things, full of grief and loss for the families who remembered those whose lives were so quickly ended. No matter how righteous the cause, the results were the same for the dead and those who loved them.

As I grew up, the name was changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day. Fewer graves were decorated; more flags were waved and speeches were made about courage, sacrifice, and just causes. In 1971, the date was moved from being celebrated on a fixed date (May 30) to the last Monday in May in order to align it with federal 3-day weekends.
It has become less of a day of remembering and more a day of celebrating the coming of summer; a day for sales at department stores. And in towns that hold parades, it has become a time for politicians to make patriotic speeches that they hope will be remembered by voters at the next election, and for aged veterans to mumble through poetry and prayers for the dead and comfort for the living as small children scurry about watched over by distracted parents. Flags are waved, bugles play, salutes are fired, tears are shed; then life returns to normal.

Yet, in the silent cemeteries, the breezes rustle the few small flags and the wilting flowers. The dead remain, constant reminders, for those who wish to be reminded, that wars still continue. Hundreds of thousands of veterans still walk among us from wars and military actions, some of which have been nearly forgotten: Viet Nam, Bosnia, Granada, Afghanistan, The Gulf War, Somalia, and now Iraq.

Were these wars just? Were they necessary? To the dead, it matters not. The living can eulogize their sacrifice, their courage, their devotion, not because it gives the dead comfort–for they are beyond needing to be comforted, but because it makes us feel better. We can yammer about the lies and deceptions that brought about the war in Iraq, and hope that the conflict ends soon, but are we attending to the grief of the families who have lost sons or daughters? Are we attending to the emotional and psychological damage that being in a war zone causes? Or are we mostly concerned about being right?

The times have changed, and the intention of the day has been subverted for commercial and political ends. But the meaning of the day is the meaning that we choose for it. What meaning will you choose? Selah.

What Ever Happened to Newspapers That Championed The People Instead of Their Own Narrow Interests?

The editorial page of the local rag, The Morning Sun, has sunk to a new low on Sunday by publishing an editorial promoting its own economic interests without any disclaimer. At least most broadcast media will tell you when they are self-promoting, but not The Morning Sun. The editorial involved the increase just passed to give the state’s hardest working wage earners a break by increasing the minimum wage

The editorial called for state legislators to “correct” a provision that would provide some semblance of economic justice for hourly workers in the state. Using some of the same tired right wing economic fallacies that have kept minimum wages from keeping up with inflation, The Morning Sun argues that jobs will be lost if the law isn’t changed immediately.

Not only is it economic nonsense, it is a blatant lie. Increases in minimum wages and providing strong overtime provisions have kept employers from exploiting workers and actually forces employers to create more jobs. Does it cut into profits and squeeze executive salaries a bit when the lowest paid people earn more? Of course, it does, but The Morning Sun won’t tell you that.

The newspaper business has survived and thrived, at least at the top, by lobbying hard for exemptions to wage and hour laws and even child labor laws. But to assert somehow that the common good would benefit by changing the law is utter nonsense. The owners and highest paid executives at the newspaper would benefit from changing the law, but not the workers that have been exploited by the newspaper industry.

At a time when the rich and powerful get tax breaks, while the rest of us get crumbs, for a local newspaper to tout legislation that would further benefit the rich is obscene.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Veteran Remembers Lies About Wars on Memorial Day

As a veteran of the days of debacle in Viet Nam I am reminded once again on this Memorial Day weekend of the lies and deceptions that continue to get us into and allow us to stay in wars that are futile.

But those who never lived through those times find it easy not to know and they fire up their barbecues and raise their American flags and pay homage to those who gave the “ultimate sacrifice to bring freedom to another part of the world.”

How does it honor those who died to keep making the same mistakes? We got into Vietnam based on a lie. Ditto Iraq. We stayed in Vietnam longer than necessary based on more lies even after we knew it was futile. Ditto Iraq.  

An article in today’s Washington Post gives a realistic picture of the carnage that Iraq has become as Sunnis and Shites continue their civil war as the Bush administration still lies about “progress.”

Now instead of making things better, our presence is only making things worse and our foreign policy today is creating terrorists faster than we can kill them. But finally many Americans are waking up on this Memorial Day and seeing the truth for what it is even as some Democratic Party leaders are urging us to hang in there a little longer. It’s over, Joe Lieberman, and yes, you too, Carl Levin. You were wrong and your visits to Iraq inside the Green Zone were a farce.

Staying longer in Iraq isn’t going to do the Iraqis any more good than staying in Vietnam long after we knew better.

Whose son will be the last one who dies for this futile war? Will it be yours? Mine?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Good News from the Internet War, But It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over

From Josh Silver,

“Yesterday, a bipartisan majority of the House Judiciary Committee passed the ‘Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act.‘ The struggle in Congress isn't over. The full House will take up the bipartisan Judiciary bill (H.R. 5417) -- as well as the massive rewrite of the Telecom Act -- after they return in June. The Senate is also considering major legislation that currently fails to protect Net Neutrality, though a bipartisan group of Senators are lining up behind the excellent Snowe-Dorgan bill (S. 2917).“

Contact Senators Levin and Stabenow to let them know you support Net Neutrality, and ask them to vote for S.2917, the Snowe-Dorgan bill.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Zandstra may not make US Senate primary ballot

This is why the MDP wants us to sign and circulate nominating petitions each election year.

Grand Rapids-area minister Jerry Zandstra's campaign for the Republican nomination has apparently hit a snag, according to his hometown paper, The Grand Rapids Press.

In order to appear on the ballot, Zandstra needed to obtain 15,000 signatures. The Secretary of State’s office said of the signatures Zandstra turned in, only 14,922 were valid, leaving him just 78 shy of the ballot.

But that’s where it gets interesting.

Zandstra, however, alleges about 400 signatures have been misplaced by staffers
in Terri Lynn Land's office. He maintains his campaign turned in 15,710
signatures and only 15,317 were reviewed.
Now let's add some GOP infighting to the mix.

Zandstra said he believes Land's office acted appropriately, but questioned
whether state GOP leaders, including Chairman Saul Anuzis, played a role in his

"It's clear the chairman of my own party wants us to go out, to go away," he said. "The party has decided to become distinctly overt in their drive to get rid of me."


"That's unequivocally false, and we have nothing to do with Jerry Zandstra being out of the race," Anderson said. "Saul had nothing to do with this, and the fact is that (Zandstra) did not submit enough signatures.

It will be interesting to see if Zandstra is able to join Michigan's first competitive US Senate primary in ten years.

Dick DeVos: The Top Ten

Behind Dick DeVos's multi-million-dollar whine-about-Granholm ad campaign is a man whose business dealings and behind-the-scenes politicking reflect an excess of greed and contempt for working people that makes George W. Bush and John Engler look like sensible progressives.

But just what makes DeVos so bad? After all, isn’t our economy so bad that we need a wealthy businessman as governor instead of someone who has actually worked her way to where she is?

In this article, Joel Wendland gives us a rather indicting (excuse the pun) perspective of DeVos. I suggest you pass this on to everyone you know who lives in Michigan.

The entire article is good, but here are some of the highlights:

2. DeVos believes in cutting jobs. As head of Amway, Dick DeVos laid off nearly 1,400 people in Michigan between 1998 and 2000. Three years later, DeVos' company announced plans to increase investments by more than $200 million in its manufacturing and distribution facilities overseas. DeVos has helped Michigan lose 180,000 manufacturing jobs since 1999. Meanwhile companies with huge investments overseas, like DeVos,' have seen their profits grow (Detroit Free Press, Grand Rapids Business Journal).


5. DeVos despises Michigan's public schools. This is no exaggeration. DeVos was the main financial backer and chair of a failed 2000 anti-public school voucher ballot initiative in Michigan that was basically a scheme to cut funding for public education. He is a staunch advocate for privatization and in a 2002 speech to the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation declared, "When the time comes, we will bring the fight back to Michigan again." Furthermore, DeVos, while serving on the State Board of Education (before abruptly quitting after two years of an 8-year term), advocated handing over public education resources to private corporations, thereby undermining Michigan's public schools. He personally financed the Education Freedom Fund, an organization of anti-public school advocates, by lavishing hundreds of thousands of dollars on it in the 1990s. Undoubtedly DeVos' investments in K12 Inc., an educational corporation that provides materials for private schools, would see solid returns if he could successfully undermine Michigan's public schools. (Booth Newspapers, Center for
Media and Democracy, AP)


7. DeVos thinks large corporations shouldn't have to pay their fair share of Michigan's tax burden.
DeVos wants to eliminate Michigan's Single Business Tax to benefit large companies like his own and shift an additional tax burden of $800 per year onto working families.


While DeVos tries to hide his record on cutting jobs and gutting schools, it is eminently "appropriate" that the voters of Michigan and the US in general know the truth about Dick DeVos. People have called Michigan's gubernatorial race a bellwether for the 2008 presidential race. Indeed, this is our chance to stop a candidate that poses a grave danger to working people in Michigan. If this race is a sign of things to come on the national political scene, it is also our chance to make a bold statement to the country that the anti-people politics of Republicans like DeVos, DeLay, Bush, and their cronies are now done for.

SOS- This One Will Sink Us

Michigan is struggling for its economic life. So, like a drowning man, we are quick to grab onto the first rope thrown to us. So along comes a petition supporting an initiative called Stop Over Spending (SOS). SOS is a project that comes from an organization called FreedomWorks, chaired by Dick Armey, a tax-hating, big-government-hating Republican who came into power during the Reagan administration. Overall, a lovely man.

In a nutshell, the goal is to put a constitutional amendment on this fall’s ballot that limits the growth of state and local budgets. How will this be done? By linking state and local budgets to a very restrictive formula–the annual change in population plus inflation. (There is apparently no mention of who will pay for the yearly surveys of population shifts.)

On its face, this sounds like a good idea. SOS is modeled after an initiative that passed in Colorado in 1992, called the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). What the supporters of the Michigan drive will not tell you is how Colorado has fared since 1992. In that year, Colorado ranked 35th in the nation in expenditures for K-12 education. By 2001, they ranked 49th. “That’s great,” you might say. “Get the government out of the education business. Let the schools, particularly the universities, figure out how to stay in business without taxpayers subsidizing them.”

Let’s look at higher education. Who will pay the costs of higher education that the state cannot cover? Throughout Michigan, middle-class families are squeezed to fund their sons’ and daughters’ educations. In Colorado, TABOR has resulted in a 31 percent decline in higher education funding per student. Higher education in Michigan could become the prerogative of the wealthy. The middle-class would effectively be shut out because they have too much money (by Federal standards) to qualify for aid, and not enough money to cover educational expenses on their own. But that does not concern SOS: they just want to keep taxes down.

Taxes are not only about money: they represent the moral values of the State. The taxes Michigan collects are not only for support of education and numerous other necessary programs that support a state and governmental infrastructure, a sizable percentage of the money goes to care for the citizens who are unable to care for themselves due to age, health, or poverty. How has Colorado fared?
• The share of low-income children with health insurance fell to 50th in the nation.*
• The percentage of pregnant women having adequate access to prenatal care declined from 23rd to 48th in the nation.*
• The share of children receiving their full vaccinations plummeted from 24th to 50th in the nation by 2003.*

Yes, Colorado is saving on taxes, but the youngest citizens of the state, the ones from middle class and poor families, will suffer; and the educational divide between rich and poor grows bigger.
(*source: Michigan League for Human Services)

Apparently this is okay with Dick Armey and SOS. They might even profess to having high moral values. But as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Their actions say that taxes are only about money: people be damned.

The Michigan initiative of the SOS comes at a time when the state has been hit with a double-whammy: a declining economy, and a seven-billion-dollar debt brought about by a Republican governor, John Engler, who spent the last years of his administration playing a shell game with Michigan’s future while, at the same time, cutting every tax in sight. Imagine where Michigan’s economy might be now if the billions in debt and commitments did not exist. But John can thump his chest: he cut taxes.

Dick Armey and SOS want you to believe that freedom comes with no taxes and a government that exists solely to keep the trains running on time. Children, education, pregnant women, health care, veterans, the environment, these can take care of themselves, or so SOS would have us believe.

So if you are asked to sign an SOS petition, stop and remember Colorado. Stop and remember what Engler did to us. Stop and consider what it will do to Michigan. Then walk away.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Internet Wars- Part 3

The Internet is bubbling with views and messages about “Internet neutrality” that is being debated in Congress. AT&T, along with several other large telecom corporations, is pouring a million dollars a week into lobbying efforts to keep Congress from writing Internet neutrality into law. The House Commerce Committee has dropped Internet neutrality from its recommendations to Congress (providing more examples for the observation that we have the best Congress money can buy), so it will have to be re-introduced from the floor.

Still uncertain about what all of this means? Go to the following link to watch a video produced by Public Knowledge.

It is interesting to note that the biggest benefactor of dropping Internet neutrality is AT&T, the same company that gladly complied with the Bush Administration requests for their customers’ phone records. On May 5, in a Presidential Memorandum, Bush told AT&T (and the other phone companies who gave their records) that the companies were free to lie to their customers and the SEC without legal penalities. Now the Republicans are seemingly ready to allow AT&T to take over the Internet while the regulators look the other way. Does anyone see a “quid pro quo” going on here?

Bush tells AT&T- It’s Okay to Lie

On May 5, 2006, President Bush issued a Memorandum to the Director of Intelligence, John Negroponte, stating that he can authorize phone companies to lie to the public, their stockholders, and the SEC. Phone companies that handed over millions of phone records of Americans are now authorized to violate SEC security laws. So when AT&T, Verizon, and Bell South proclaim their innocence, remember, Bush said they can lie without penalty, so why should you believe them?

It is natural that he would grant others the right to lie: he has lied often and never paid the price, so he is only granting his corporate friends the same privilege. When Bush arrives at the Pearly Gates and St. Peter asks him to justify his moral lapses, it would be interesting to see if “national security” is an acceptable excuse.

What Dave Camp Doesn’t Want Us to Know

At the end of 2005, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)–another (once) independent agency that Bush and his cronies have politicized–announced plans to limit the information that companies had to provide about toxic chemicals (mercury, lead, and dioxin, among others) that they had released into their communities. After all, it is an expense for businesses to list the ways they are fouling the air, water, and food chains; besides, what communities really care or need to know?

Over the winter, 110,000 Americans submitted comments regarding the proposed change, urging Congress to step in and reject the proposed changes. Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Hilda Solis (D-CA) offered an amendment to prevent the changes. There were 231 Ayes (mostly Democrats, but also 48 Republicans) and 187 Noes (14 Democrats, and the rest Republicans). Care to guess how Dave Camp voted?

Dave (I-Can’t-Believe-Dow-Would-Do-Anything-Bad-To-The-Environment) Camp, of course, voted with the Noes.

Dave Camp has demonstrated time and again that he does not care for the health and welfare of his constituents when their concerns conflict with Dow’s. Why should he; he hasn’t lived here for sixteen years! It‘s time to bring Dave home, home to breathe the air and drink the water he has helped Dow pollute. Maybe he could take a little time to go fishing in the many lakes and streams that flow through the area. Of course he won’t want to eat anything he catches, thanks to Dow. But “catch and release” is more sportsman-like anyway.

We need to bring Dave home and send Mike Huckleberry to Congress to work on fixing the problems that Dave helped create. Maybe then Dave, and the rest of us who live here, can literally breathe a little easier.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Help Huck Move His Campaign Up a Notch

Corporate interests who could care less about we, the people, are supporting Dave Camp big time and to launch an effective campaign the people's champion, Mike Huckleberry, needs your help to raise a few bucks. Mecosta Dems are organizing a golf outing and they can use some volunteers as well as some golfers to help out.

Here's the details:
There will be a fundraiser golf event for Mike Huckleberry, candidate for 4th District Congressional seat on Saturday June 3, 2006 at 9:00 at the Katke Golf Course in Big Rapids. The cost is $50 per person for 18 holes and cart. Sandwiches at the turn. There will be contests and a raffle to help with the fundraising. Form your own CL foursome or join others. (Dress code, no tee-shirts or jeans). Some of the details are still being planned but please contact Walter Howard at and make your reservation ASAP so they can continue to plan. It’s a fun way to help out our Democratic candidate. They also need volunteers to help with the event (contests, food) so even if you don't golf you can attend. Volunteers are needed between 8:30 and 3:00. If you know any business that might want to donate prizes, please let Walter know that too.
Walter's phone number is 231-580-9596.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Is SBT so bad? A letter to the editor

While Rob was working on his masterpiece about the NSA spy program, I also wrote a letter of my own. This one dealt with the Single Business Tax and appeared in The Grand Rapids Press on Saturday, May 20th.


Dick DeVos has expressed opposition to the Single Business Tax, a tax instituted more than 30 years ago by Governor Bill Milliken, a fellow Republican and businessman.

DeVos blames the tax for Michigan's lackluster employment picture. If the SBT is as harmful as DeVos claims it is, why did Milliken support it in the first place? Why didn't Republican John Engler get rid of it completely during his 12 years as governor? And why have legislative Republicans -- many of whom are businessmen -- waited until this election year to pass a bill that moves up their repeal of it from 2009 to 2007?

Perhaps those Republicans, unlike DeVos, know that the SBT isn't as bad as DeVos makes it out to be. It seems the conservative Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council understands this; it ranked Michigan -- the only state with this tax -- as the fifth best small business environment in the United States.

DeVos also refuses to tell us in detail how he'd make up for the nearly $2 billion in lost revenue an SBT repeal would cause. He says he will wait until after the election to reveal any plan. In other words, when voters go to the polls, they won't know whether DeVos would raise other taxes, or cut funding for our schools, health care, roads and so forth.

So many questions, so little reason to support DeVos and the effort to repeal the SBT.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Stop Spying and Start Protecting

Watch out, Grandma -- you'd better skip your Sunday call to Osama bin Laden.

We learned last week that the National Security Agency, with help from Verizon, AT&T, and BellSouth, has been tracking the phone calls of "tens of millions" of Americans -- in secret, without a warrant, and without Congress's approval.

This is a waste of resources. President Bush will never stop al-Qaeda by tracking millions of innocent Americans -- grandparents, veterans, and you. Instead, he should start guarding our borders, ports, nuclear plants, and chemical facilities. According to the Homeland Security Department, only 6 percent of cargo containers are inspected. Five years after the terrorist attacks, this is not only dangerous, but treasonous.

In addition to being a waste of resources, this expansion of government power invades our privacy and tramples our freedoms. Such intrusions into our personal lives belong in the Soviet Union, not the United States.

Thankfully, Republicans and Democrats are upset. A Newsweek poll shows that 57 percent of Americans think the president has "gone too far in expanding presidential power."

And to people who say, "I've got nothing to hide": In America, we are innocent until proven guilty. These programs, however, assume that we're all guilty, and they require us to prove our innocence. This is un-American.

We must speak up now. Talk to your neighbors. Call your politicians and your phone company. Tell them to stop spying on patriotic Americans and start protecting our country, our freedoms. Because if our government continues to spy on ordinary Americans, then the terrorists have succeeded in destroying our way of life.


I wrote the above letter and sent it to several newspapers. To my surprise, it was published in the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, and Toledo Blade, among others. It must have been a slow news week.

This issue frustrates me because the threat is severe, and our leaders are failing. We are in a war--a war to protect our freedoms, our democracy, our way of life from terrorists. Yet, the president has done little to correct our weaknesses in homeland security and, instead, has curtailed the freedoms we're trying to protect.

Global Warming Film Puts the Lie to Bush/Camp Environmental Failures

George Bush, the idiot son of a former president, will no doubt go down in history as the worst president of the US and the most incompetent. We will be fortunate if he doesn’t lose another city on his watch.

But Sen. Harry Reid noted recently the Bush administration has made a number of mistakes but that "nothing is comparable to his ignoring the death of our planet."

“An Inconvenient Truth,” the Al Gore documentary on global warming is about to hit movie theaters and has had several mini premieres in LA, Washington and Cannes and it is a film worth seeing. Gore is jetsetting again to promote the film that flies in the face of Bush’s claim that global warming is bunk.

The movie trailer does an excellent job of summing up the importance of the film. Check it out here.  Our Congressman Dave Camp has consistently voted with the Bush administration, as most Republicans have, to allow the continued destruction of our planet. We need to vote this time as if our planet depends on us. It does.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Michigan Health Care Benefits Are Threatened for Some by the Extremist Right “Morals Police” Legislation Passed in the House

This article is based on an article by reporter Dawn Wolfe Gutterman from the May 4, 2006 Between the Lines newspaper.

The Republican controlled Michigan House of Representatives passed two bills on April 26 that could have a terrible impact on women’s reproductive and contraceptive rights, health care for AIDS patients, and for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, and Transgender persons.

House bills 4745 and 4746, if adopted by the senate and become law, would permit commercial health insurance companies, health maintenance organizations (HMO’s), and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan to decline to provide health care coverage for such medical conditions as AIDS, or to pay for reproductive and contraceptive services, drugs and devices for women. Coverage could also be declined for hormonal treatments required by transgender individuals, or any condition or remedy it would find objectionable basing its refusal on its own particular “morals,” “ethics,” or “religious beliefs,” as defined in its articles of incorporation, bylaws or an adopted mission statement.

Insurers would also be exempt from patient lawsuits that could result from refusal of coverage under the “morals” exemption.

Eleven Democrats joined the Republicans in passing these two bills on a 68 to 38 vote that were introduced by Rep. Scott Hummel (R-District 93).

“Clearly to me, some members of the legislature continue to be involved as morality police – I think, in this case, that it’s really dangerous and a slippery slope because now we’re entangling morals with the ability to get insurance coverage. That’s so dangerous,” said Representative Paul Condino (D- District 35).

Governor Jennifer Granholm believes that the bills would move insurance coverage in Michigan in the wrong direction at a time when the nation is struggling to expand health care coverage and access to those without it, according to her spokesperson, Heidi Watson.

ACLU staff attorney, Jay Kaplan, said in opposition to the legislation, “You would think that with all of Michigan’s pressing problems – the economy, gas prices, roads that need to be fixed, and so many young people leaving our state, that Michigan’s House of Representatives would have more pressing priorities than passing bills that would allow health insurance providers and health care corporations to deny coverage and refuse to provide services that conflict with their ‘moral’ or ‘religious’ beliefs. “

Two years ago a similar set of bills was passed in the House, but died in the state Senate.

Rep. Chris Kolb (D-District 53) in opposition to the bills said, “In many ways these are aimed at women’s reproductive freedoms, but they impact everybody’s lives, and not enough is being done and said in opposition to these kinds of legislation. They’re in the same line as the other conscientious objector bills – really turning the health care equation upside down. Instead of addressing the health care needs of the patient first, they put everybody else’s moral values first.“

These bills now go to the state Senate. Contact your state Senator by going to to reach your senator’s contact information.

Harbinger of November

Ass Kickin'

Via atrios, we hear of a Pennsylvania state senate special election that is rather interesting:

Andrew Dinniman has defeated Republican Carol Aichele to become the first Democratic state senator from Chester County in memory.

Returns were slow coming in last night, but when all the votes were talled, Dinniman was the victor, with more than 56 percent of the votes.

Could this be a harbinger of November? Well, just because we think we can see the end, doesn't mean we can sit back let it happen (see Pistons, 2006, and for more info see Red Wings, 2006).

Only by executing will this be a harbinger of the future. By working hard, and executing the plan, we will be victorious. This summer will be very important to setting the tone for the election.

Star Wars taught us a very important lesson: Never underestimate what a small band of concerned citizens can do to change the world. OK, so Margaret Meade said something similar too.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Dave Camp, the Ghost in the House

When an elected official is corrupt, that official is–we hope–eventually found out, charged with a crime, and imprisoned. We call this “Justice.“

What do we call an elected official who is intent on never making waves, follows the directions of his party without fail (apparently so no thought is necessary), and who sides with major donors even to the detriment of his constituency? Dave Camp.

The only time in recent memory that Representative Camp raised his head as a national figure was when he and several other good Republicans “reformed” the House Ethics Committee in such a way that it could never function. The public outcry of the “reform” so embarrassed the Republicans that the leadership finally threw it out and reverted to the former, ineffective rules.

Congress is rife with scandal, and every day the press reports new findings about officials who have engaged in “crony politics” (translation: Cheney, Halliburton, and Big Oil), placed themselves above the law (translation: President Bush), imprison and “disappear” citizens from the legal system (translation: President Bush), and spy on their own citizens (yes, it’s Bush again).

Other Republicans publicly express concern, alarm, dismay, or anger over much of what is happening in Congress and with the Bush Monarchy, while those who agree with what is going on at least have the temerity to defend it. Has anyone heard Representative Camp utter any word, pro or con, about what is happening?

So, how does Representative Camp stand on the issues of the day? Does he agree with, for example, the latest revelations that the government is collecting phone numbers that we call under the guise of “security?” How does he stand on warrantless surveillance? How did he vote on the latest tax cuts for the rich? Call him at 1-800-342-2455 and ask him.

Abortion: pro-life? pro-choice? pro-sanity?

Few issues have divided the nation for the past few years like the issue of abortion. However, like most heated public controversies, the real issues are lost in the onslaught of words. The Catholic church has always been against abortion and anything that, according to doctrine, interferes with "nature." The Church has been consistent about all life being respected, which meant it was not only against abortion, but the death penalty as well.

The Protestants–particularly the Fundamentalists–bought into the anti-abortion ideals that the Church has long wanted to put into public policy. It should be noted that many (but not all) fundamentalists are obsessed with sex. This, in conjunction with the male control of women, makes them ideal allies with the Church.

Islam and Christianity share the common root of Judaism, the original promulgator of the idea that it was a woman (Eve) who brought sin into the world. Therefore none of her female descendents are to be trusted. If you follow that logic, then men (the weaker sex, apparently, since we are so easily led astray by women) must be in control of women, including their wanton reproductive nature. This is one of the basic, unspoken, arguments against abortion: women should not have control of their bodies, men should.

The second argument is cloaked in the heated controversy about when life begins. Life begins at conception– any intelligent person can reach that conclusion. The real concern is when the soul comes to "life." This has been a theological issue since the dawn of Christianity. This is a real problem for a thoughtful person of faith, since 1) there is no proof that souls exist; 2) if the soul does exist, where does it exist? Does it live in the body? Is it carried in the genes? Does it enter the body of the unborn baby at some point during gestation? If that is so, where is the soul before it enters the body? Is the soul created at the time the woman's egg is fertilized? If so, is the soul a combination of mother and father, like the genes of the baby? This is all speculation, unprovable.

Whether one believes or does not believe in the idea of “soul,” it remains a matter of faith. By this I mean we put our faith in unprovable church doctrine, or we put our faith in the theory that something must be proven or it does not exist. The question for a society is whether or not to base public policy on faith or on what is present and “real” and predictable.

Those people who have a greater concern for the fetus than the life, and the quality of life, of the woman who carries that fetus, call themselves “pro-life.” Rigid pro-life advocates assume that those who support a woman's right to choose think that abortion is a good idea. Wrong. I have yet to find a pro-choice advocate who thinks abortion is a wonderful idea and the first option for a woman. Abortion is a terrible choice, but is it the worst choice in all cases? Is it the worst choice for the victim of rape or incest? Is it the worst choice if the fetus is destined to live a life of pain and suffering or being little more than a vegetable?

To my anti-abortion friends, I ask: Is it better for the mother of several living children to knowingly go through a birth that will end her life, leaving all her children motherless, than to have the abortion and save her life? This is what a woman, a doctor, did in Italy shortly before Pope John Paul died. She knew she would die of complications if she gave birth, but chose to die rather than have an abortion. Pope John Paul praised her for her decision. I wonder if her children shared in his praise.

In the final analysis, the arguments seem to boil down to the question of who has the power over a woman’s body. Does the woman, or does a society that bases its assumptions on male-dominated religious beliefs? My partner, a woman, has often stated that if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacred right. She has a point.

It is time for the combatants on both sides of the issue have a long-overdue discussion. They should recognize that abortions are awful choices, not to be entered into lightly. But the real issue is who has control over a woman’s body and reproductive decisions: society, or the individual? Should women be treated as competent adults, capable of making their own decisions, or as unruly children who have to be forced to make the right decision? Who among us can claim to know all the truth and have all the answers?

Dow, Bhopal, and Andrew Liveris

Andrew Liveris, chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical, recently gave a commencement speech for this year’s graduating class from Northwood University. From the newspaper account, it seems the speech was a typical commencement address with advice on being passionate about what you are doing and work to make the world a better place. “Work to make the world better” sounds ordinary enough until we remember who is saying it, because Mr. Liveris, as the head of Dow, is not following his own advice.

Imagine this: a major chemical plant in Midland, Michigan, explodes, and the pesticides that fill the air kill 15,000 people within hours. The vapor cloud spreads, and people in Bay City and Saginaw fall ill and a number of them die. Eventually, 800,000 people are affected. The multi-national corporation that owns the company rushes to rescue the survivors and contain the damage, but does nothing else beyond a basic clean up of surface material in the aftermath. The corporation, however, insists that it has no responsibility for the explosion, that the American subsidiary that ran the plant was somehow at fault because, after all, it was run by Americans. The denials continue for five years as the survivors pursue their case through the courts, at which time the corporation throws in the towel and settles for $450 million dollars. The survivors feel that some justice has been granted until they receive their checks: $20,000.

Meanwhile, the American government is suing the corporation to clean up the pollution. The water table in the entire northeastern section of Michigan is polluted; children are being born with deformities, mothers’ breast milk is unsafe because it contains mercury and other toxic chemicals. In desperation, the government charges the CEO of the corporation with manslaughter, but the government of the foreign nation refuses to extradite him. Seventeen years after the explosion another foreign corporation buys the first corporation, and declares that it, the new owner, has no responsibility for anything that went on earlier; that enough money has been paid in the settlement.

Strangely, several major stockholders of the new owner disagree. They ask that the corporation disclose the financial and environmental impact of the explosion so they can make up their own minds about the situation. The corporation refuses to share the information, saying that it could have a negative effect on their other American markets.

Does this sound like the scenario of a beach book? Unfortunately, it is reality. Instead of Midland, substitute Bhopal, India. The plant that exploded twenty-one years ago belonged to Union Carbide, and the current owner of Union Carbide is Dow Chemical, and the current CEO is Mr. Liveris.

Most Americans are unaware of the explosion in Bhopal, or perhaps have a vague memory of something like that happening years ago somewhere in Asia. But the suffering continues. Mr. Liveris (who, by the by, also has a warrant for his arrest issued by the Indian government) has taken the stance that “markets” (that is, money) are more important than people.

Money, apparently, is more important than the residents of Seadrift, Texas, where Dow has been dumping pollutants into Seadrift’s bay. Aquatic life is dying, particularly shrimp, and residents of the community are experiencing high incidents of cancer. One resident, Diane Wilson, a mother and fisherwoman, protested by hanging a banner declaring “Dow Responsible for Bhopal!” and chaining herself to one of Dow’s towers. She was arrested, fined $2000 and sentenced to four months in prison.

Meanwhile, Mr. Liveris is free to make commencement speeches praising passion, hard work, and a vision for a better world. His actions speak louder than his words. So what do his actions say about his true goals and corporate ethics? Profit is more important than the environment. Go for the money–people be damned.

Ideal Candidate to Run Against Alan Cropsey

What if the Democratic Party had a state senate candidate that was the exact counter to Alan Cropsey? She would be bright and articulate -- a law degree would be nice. What if that person also understood ethics and wouldn't even think of trying to get the state to pay for his church's septic system? Instead of gay bashing to score political points, what if the Democratic candidate for the 33rd State Senate District actually believed in tolerance? It would be nice too if that candidate was actually pro-choice and the kind of person that most people liked and respected.

Is that too much to hope for just a few days before the filing deadline?

Maybe not.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Granholm's Plan to Insure Everyone

"I hear you."

Via MichiganLiberal...

Gov. Jennifer Granholm has a plan to insure everyone in the state of Michigan.

When Granholm announced the proposal in January, it was designed to work through private insurers to cover 550,000, or half, of the state's uninsured non-elderly residents with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty line. That's $38,700 for a family of four and $19,140 for a single person.

But Thursday, she said the state also wants to offer plans to people making above 200 percent of the poverty level. Participants would be charged premiums and copays on a sliding scale, with lower-income residents paying nominal out-of-pocket costs.

Unlike Massachusetts, however, Michigan wouldn't require its residents to have insurance.

Granholm said she thinks Michigan residents will want to participate because the health insurance would be subsidized and affordable.

"We are providing them an offer they can't refuse," she said.

An offer they can't refuse.

This is what the voters want to hear. Health care. The Son of Amway has decided to talk about gutting the budget, with no replacement. We want to talk about health care.

We can take that right to the ballot box.

The Internet Wars, Part 2

The House Energy and Commerce Committee did as predicted: they stripped “net neutrality” from legislation concerning the Internet. If this bill is passed by Congress, it will not take long for AT&T, Comcast, and the other communication giants to become the “gatekeepers” for access to the Internet. We all know what happens when any business gains control of access to what was once free for all to use–it quickly becomes the domain of wealth and power.

If you are uncertain about what I mean, the international conglomerate of Nestlé provides a good example (and you thought they only made chocolate?). For years, Nestlé researchers have been visiting indigenous people in India and southeast Asia, watching how they use herbs and plants in healing and sustaining health. Nestlé then analyzes the flora, discovers what proteins and enzymes are most potent, and then patents them. Once the patent is in place, Nestlé then stops the farmers and healers from growing and using the plants and herbs because Nestlé holds the patent. If the people need the drugs, they have to buy them from Nestlé. Does this sound like an urban legend? It is there on the Internet from reputable sources: keywords: Nestle, patents, drugs, indigenous. Look it up…while you can.

AT&T will do the same with the Internet if they gain control of the Internet. The company will find ways to “improve” it and charge for the “improvements.” At some point, AT&T will advertise that it wants to improve Internet security. Well, we all know what happens when the fox guards the henhouse.

SBC/AT&T has already been paying for legislators to vote their way. It has come to light that Bobby Rush, the only Democrat on the committee who voted for the bill, received a million-dollar grant for the Bobby Rush Center for Community Technology (which employs his son) from SBC/AT&T. AT&T is willing to go the distance, lobbying (definition: buying and selling) to achieve its goals. The latest figure spent by business in lobbying efforts to control the Internet: 500 million. We have a lot of work to do if this is to be stopped.

Now that AT&T has bought the Energy and Commerce Committee, it will turn its attention to the rest of the Republican-controlled House where our own Dave (Rubber Stamp) Camp resides. He is running for re-election this year, and he will be listening to whoever contributes the most to his campaign fund. Care to guess whose money will be talking loudest when this bill comes to a vote?

It is easy to become cynical about this process and assume that Big Business will once again have its way. But to become cynical is to forget that while AT&T has the money, we have the votes. Even Dave Camp has to be re-elected to continue his rubber-stamping ways.

So if you want to keep the Internet free, call him, write him, send a fax, or visit his local office (all of this information is on the Internet–for now). Remind him that without our votes, he will not be able to serve–excuse me–to represent the interests of Dow, his party’s leaders, and, occasionally, the rest of his constituents. Let him know that “net neutrality” is more than just an idea, it is what keeps the Internet free and safe from the highest bidder.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

What Polling Data Are MDP Officials Looking at on Abortion?

One has to wonder what our state party officials in Lansing are smoking when they appear to be promoting an anti-abortion Democratic Party candidate to be our nominee for Michigan Attorney General.

Perhaps our state party officials have access to data that we don't have that says that Democrats can win more votes by turning against party activists who have worked for years in opposition to further restrictions on abortion. But all the data we have seen shows that a majority of Americans and even a substantial percentage of Republican Party members are still solidly in favor of legalized abortion. An April LA Times, Bloomberg nationwide poll on the subject shows 58% of Americans disapprove of The South Dakota effort to ban abortion and only 34% approve and 42% of Republicans disapprove of the ban on abortion.

Additional data on the link above also shows at most that only a third or much less approve of abortion bans depending on how the questions are asked. So where the hell are the whizzes at MDP in Lansing getting their data that shows that one of our key state positions can or should be held by an anti-abortion candidate.

Of course, we have heard that our party did pick up six spots in the Michigan House last election and four of those Democrats were anti-abortion (they say pro-life), but one wonders if we couldn't have picked up 10 seats if our party didn't sell out some of our key activists on the abortion issue. It does indeed make sense to open doors for pro-life Democrats to feel free to express their opinions and help us to understand their feelings about abortion. But most party activists in our neck of the woods feel that government has no place in making decisions on matters that should be private and personal. A small minority should not dictate public policy simply because they are more vocal. Our party may wind up shooting itself in the foot by alienating our base and our most activist Democrats. Perhaps Democrats in Isabella County are somehow different from the rest of the country and the rest of the state, but I doubt it.

Our local data and anecdotal evidence shows that local Democrats who were pro-choice could not bring themselves to vote at all in the state legislative race when the choice was between a pro-life Democrat and a pro-life Republican. We had a record turnout of Democratic Party voters in our county in 2004, but also a record number of undervotes in the 99th District House race. We see no evidence in our county that a Democratic Party candidate who is oppossed to abortion will do any better here than a pro-choice candidate.

We frankly think our state party officials need to take another look at the data or show us where our data is wrong.

Governor Granholm podcasts with the DNC

The governor talked about renewable energy and high gas prices, and how Michigan will lead us into the future with clean energy transportation.

I like it when she talks like that.

Go listen. Now.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Steve Colbert Rises to the Occasion

If you haven't seen it yet, it could be one of those comedy routines that goes down in history. Steven Colbert's appearance at the recent White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday, April 29 is making its rounds around the Internet, like few other things. It is not a short video -- more than 20 minutes in total, but it is priceless. You won't see this kind of footage even on cable.

Buzz Flash gave Steve Colbert its "Wings of Justice Award" this week for what it called an "unrelenting frontal assault on the failures, lies and propaganda of the Bush Administration."