Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Oreo Cookies and Common Sense

Every unit of government in America decides each year what the priorities are by passing a budget and every year reporters get so confused they have a hard time explaining budgets to the public. All of us activist Dems have known for some time now that our national priorities are way out of whack, but how do you explain that in simple terms.

If you helped to build an ice cream company called Ben and Jerry's maybe you do it with Oreo cookies. If you haven't seen Ben Cohen's explanation of our national budget done with Oreo cookies, you need to check this out. Even economic dunderheads will get this and it's a great way to explain our nation's mess to kids too. Check out this link:

IMHO it is brilliant.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Open Letter to Nancy Pelosi

Rep. Pelosi,

I’m writing because even though you have pledged to clean up the corruption and ethics of the House, your colleagues elected a man to lead them who is ranked as the #1 recipient of money from special interests, Rep. Hoyer.

This makes me wonder if we are going to see “politics as usual” with the Democratic congress we worked so hard to elect. Although Hoyer was not your choice (at least as reported in the press), Rep. Murtha, who you did support, was not a great deal better: he is ranked at #18 in terms of taking money from special interests.

Is anyone paying attention to the influence of special interests on the new Democratic leaders? It is money, and the quest for more money, from special interests that is one of the chief causes of corruption among the Republican-led Congress. I would hate to see the same thing happen to a Democratic-led Congress that will soon be under your watch.

The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil. The Republicans never understood this: I hope the Democrats will.

Your quest to clean up Congress must include the bribes, excuse me, the “contributions“ that special interests make to influence the votes of every member of Congress. Campaign finance reform must be a part of the long-term solution to reducing corruption in the political process.

I wish you all the best in your efforts to reduce corruption in Congress. It is long overdue.

(also posted at

Friday, November 17, 2006

Blue Tiger Democrats AP article

The Lansing bureau of the AP has published an article today about the Michigan chapter of the Blue Tiger Democrats. Read the article here

The article not only talks about what Blue Tiger Dems is about, but gives a quick run down of two projects the Michigan chapter has undertaken. The focus of Blue Tiger is to serve as a conduit between those who need help and the organizations and agencies that are available and qualified to provide the help.

You can find out more about Blue Tiger Democrats by visiting their website at:

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Levin to lead Senate investigation of rendition abuses

The Guardian has the scoop:

Abuses carried out under the CIA's secret programme of extraordinary rendition are to be investigated by one of the Senate's most powerful committees, it emerged today.

The new chairman of the Senate armed services committee, the Democratic senator Carl Levin, revealed that he was "not comfortable" with the rendition system and said it was making the US less secure.


Asked whether he would investigate the renditions programme, including the secret prisons and missing detainees, Mr Levin replied: "Yes. Yes, yes and yes."


Amnesty International has described extraordinary renditions as a policy of "disappearances" and welcomed Mr Levin's announcement.

"It is long overdue," an Amnesty spokeswoman said. "Many aspects of the US war on terror are of concern and are questionable. There is a need for greater transparency and we need to know who has been taken and where."


Mr Levin made his comments as he was outlining the priorities of the committee after the Democrats' gain in last week's midterm elections. The first order of business would be to change the direction of Iraq policy, he said.

Good going for Michigan’s longest-serving US Senator in history, whom TIME Magazine named one of America’s 10 Best Senators. Now if only we can get Debbie on board…

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sister Marie Reminds Us of Another Battle for Peace and Justice

She speaks softly and walks gently in our world - she sits in the back when she comes to our meetings and every time there is a peace rally or another call for justice, Sister Marie Kopin is there. Need another table for the yard sale? Sister Marie is there. Need another place to put a Granholm sign or No on 2 sign? Sister Marie is there. Peace rally? She is there. Another injustice in our community? She is there.

Now Sister Marie is heading off to Georgia to help to right another wrong. While many give lip service to the fight for peace and justice, Sister Marie lives it and we love her for it. Many of us are aware of the School of the Americas at Fort Benning in Georgia because efforts to close the SOA have been going on for 15 years. Each November another prayer vigil and demonstration is held to bring attention to one of our nation’s longstanding violations of human rights. The SOA is where our country teaches in our names the art of torture and techniques for dealing with insurgents. Right-wing military regimes in Central and South America have used the techniques for decades to “disappear” the opposition, many of whom were religious missionaries seeking to help the poor.

Torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanomo are nothing new. But our toleration for human rights abuses by our government in our names is wavering. Along with all the other policy changes needed with our new Democratic Congress, an end to torture and teaching it at the SOA should be high on the priority list. If we want to restore international trust in our country, eliminating torture as national policy would be a good start.

Sen. Stabenow can redeem herself from that horrendous vote of hers on the torture bill, by championing the cause. Sister Marie will quietly and prayerfully protest for all of us along with thousands of others at Fort Benning this weekend. Her name will also, likely be added to another FBI list too. It is one thing to protect us from terrorists and quite another to spy on our gentlest of friends. Let us put an end to ALL of the Bush family outrages. Enough is enough. Peace be with you, Sister Marie.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

What the Democrats Must Do For America

After the historic Democratic blowout last week, it might be easy to sit back and enjoy the intra-party fighting that will inevitably occur on the Republican side, as well as the knowledge that this one election may begin to turn around the decline of the Democratic party that dates back to Vietnam. This would be a mistake. We won't get back our lost ground and bring independents and disaffected Republicans into our party unless we prove to the American people that we are serious and capable of getting things done in a reasonable, non-extremist fashion. The Democratic Party should commit itself to the following goals:

1. An Exit Strategy from Iraq.
President Bush is still Commander-in-Chief, but Congress can certainly pressure him to adopt new goals on a faster timetable. There is obviously no consensus among either party about how to get out of Iraq and without sending the country into anarchy, but new tactics, both military and political, must be considered. Whether it be a partition of the county into three separate states (one Sunni, one Shia, another Kurd), simply setting a (non-public) date and gradually withdrawing, or even temporarily increasing troop strength in an out-and-out effort to secure Bahgdad, new policies must be taken. To paraphrase what FDR said, if the current policies are not working, it is logical and indeed necessary to try something.

2. Affordable Healthcare for all Americans.
It is absolutely obscene that in the richest and most powerful nation in the world some people must choose between food and medical treatment. Many my age (20-somethings) will not get health insurance for sometime unless they are very lucky and get an excellent job right out of college. Parents with sick children often cannot afford the medical care that they need, and our senior citizens must take bus rides into Canada in order to get prescription drugs they can afford. Yes, it will probably require an increase in taxes (or at least a rolling back the Bush tax cut), but given the choice between less taxes or better health, I'll take my health, and I have a feeling most Americans would too.

3. Encourage Corporate Responsibility.
The current Republican administration sees itself as free-market capitalists, but in reality, a corporate welfare state has emerged. The government now actively pursues policies in favor of big companies and conglomerates, bailing them out (with our tax dollars) even when they are doing poorly because people will not buy their products or services. We also need to encourage locally owned small business from disappearing.

4. Election Reform
As the last two Presidential elections have shown, there are major, major problems with the U.S. electoral system. Some would require a Constitutional amendment, others would not. It's high time that Congress acted to ensure the voting rights of all Americans.

5. Appeal to the Country's Highest Hopes, Not its Deepest Fears
For six years, the President and his pals have used fear to scare America into voting for them. Our greatest leaders have always shown Americans a healthy optinism. If Democrats can show a positive and realistic alternative to Republicans, we will not only get our programs through, but will give the country what it may need most -- hope and a sense of direction.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Justice Is Not Revenge

Now that we can finally pry the fingers of the corporate robber barons from around our necks some of our Democratic leaders are beginning to sound conciliatory just because Rummy is gone.

But we old fashioned rank and file Democrats didn't work our butts off to elect Democrats just to make nice with Republicans who treated us like dirt just a few weeks ago and that includes George Bush.

Although I don't believe George Bush should get the same treatment as Saddam Hussein, we do expect our new majority to right the wrongs, expose the graft, punish the guilty and tax the hell out of the rich and pass it back to the rest of us. A solid, not a wimpy increase in the minimum wage is a minium we will expect and rolling back the tax cuts for the rich. Jailing the war profiteers and seizing their ill-begotten gains and handcuffing their accomplices is not revenge.

It is justice and we will expect no less from the leaders we worked hard to elect. A national health care program for ALL Americans should also be a high priority. Get 'er Done!! If that Texas village idiot wants to veto it, let him. If Republicans want to uphold that veto, let them. We expect you to fight for the people, because we fought for you.

It's not revenge, it's justice we want.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

An Elder Speaks

Writing as one of the “elders” that Rob mentioned (I didn’t think I would live long enough to consider myself to be an elder), I welcome you, Rob, and other “young’uns” to a country where Democrats are back in charge after a long hiatus.

What you will soon discover (in case you don’t know it already) is that Democrats have their idiots, idealogues, and kooks. Fortunately, they are a very small minority unlike the Republicans, who seem to have those kind of folk in abundance, one of whom lives in the White House.

You will also discover that many Democrats are as religious as their Republican counterparts, but that they tend to live their values rather than talking about them. It was Democrats, after all, who brought us Social Security and numerous programs for social welfare and social justice. True, some Republicans joined Democrats in fighting for these programs, but it seems that most of those good folk died or moved to another planet about twelve years ago when Newt and his buddies created a Contract that was not worth the paper it was printed on. Do you know the term “a bill of goods?”

Historically, Democrats have been known to play the underhanded political games just like their Republican opponents. But this elder hopes that maybe, just maybe, this time we Democrats will have learned the lesson that brought Republicans down: in America, government is the servant of the people, not their master. George Bush has never understood that being in a position of power is a responsibility, not a gift. He is an employee, not a trust-fund baby in charge of Daddy’s company.

So, Rob, welcome to a new world of shining possibilities and enormous responsibilities. As we “elders” go toddling off into the sunset (not!), we’re relying on you to use your energy, imagination, and idealism to keep the dream alive. Of course, we’re hoping to be around long enough to give you some of the benefits of our enormous wisdom, even though you’ll probably ignore it, just like we ignored our elders.

So, welcome. Now, can you tell me where I’ve left my glasses and car keys? I just laid them down...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Eve of Victory

Democrats never win.

My friends and I are in our twenties. Since becoming active in the party over the last six years, we have rarely seen it win. We've only witnessed the dismantling that started in 1994. Indeed, nearly every candidate and proposal I've voted for has been defeated. Most of the candidates I've worked for have lost. We see ourselves as a weak party, not a strong, ruling majority. Because all we've seen is Democratic defeats.

Our world might turn upside-down tonight.

The Elders in the party don't understand this. They already picture the Democratic Party as strong. They witnessed the heyday of the party, controlling the U.S. House for forty years. Forty years--that seems like a lifetime. Indeed, nearly twice our lifetimes. For us young bucks, dealing with Republican rule for the last six years has seemed like a lifetime. But Democrats in power for forty years? Democrats? That's unimaginable. The point is that older Democrats can comprehend a strong, ruling Democratic Party. They saw it firsthand.

We never have. It's not part of our self-image. That might have to change.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Voting Resources

I should have posted this several weeks ago, but better late than never.

"The biggest argument against democracy is a five minute discussion with the average voter." -Winston Churchill

Inform yourself. These sites provide information on candidates, ballot proposals, the issues, and voting procedures.

Project Vote Smart
Research your candidates at this site, including:
  • Biographical Information
  • Campaign Finances (find out who's paying for their campaign)
  • Issue Stances from NPAT Survey (some candidates are too weak to make their stances known)
  • Interest Group Ratings (certain interest groups rate the candidates)
  • Voting Records
  • Public Statements
Research the issues at this site. I haven't checked it out too much, but it claims to be "the friendly, smart antidote to partisanship and spin. A multi-partisan organization - with conservatives, liberals and everything in between - cJ promotes open, fact-based dialogue both online and off."

Vote411 (from the League of Women Voters)
Information on election procedures, candidates, and ballot proposals. The League is a well-respected organization.

Michigan Voter Information Center
Michigan voters can see if they're registered, find their polling location, preview their ballot, etc.

Share this information with interested friends, family, and colleagues.

"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." -Winston Churchill

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Forget the Polls : Keep on Working

There has been a lot of talk about the Democrats making a clean sweep this November. Many pundits have compared this election to 1994, when the Republicans captured the House and Senate from Democratic control. Here's a look at the most recent New York Times--CBS News Poll, Oct. 27-31, 2006,

The good news: In general, voters say they'll vote for the Democrats, and there's a negative feeling toward the current members of Congress.

"If the 2006 election for U.S. House of Representatives were being held today, would you vote for the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate in your district?"

Republican: 34%
Democratic: 52%

Republican: 46%
Democratic: 41%

"Do you think most members of Congress have done a good enough job to deserve re-election, or do you think it's time to give new people a chance?"

Deserve re-election: 16%
Time for new people: 70%

Deserve re-election: 11%
Time for new people: 82%

No doubt, these numbers are in the Democrats' favor. Here's the bad news: Most voters like their own member of Congress and think he/she deserves re-election.

"Do you think the representative in Congress from your district has performed his or her job well enough to deserve re-election, or do you think it's time to give a new person a chance?"

Deserves re-election: 46%
Time for new person: 44%

Deserves re-election: 37%
Time for new person: 53%

"How about the Representative in Congress from your district? Do you approve or disapprove of the way your Representative is handling his or her job?"

Approve: 58%
Disapprove: 26%

Approve: 56%
Disapprove: 33%

Why? It's the "They're All Crooks Except My Guy" phenomenon. People complain that Congress is just a bunch of crooks--except for their own member. They see their member down at the supermarket on weekends and in church, he shook their hands at the last Fourth of July festival, etc. Voters think he's a nice, normal guy--even though his votes in Congress might be hurting average Americans.

The same Times poll shows that self-identified "Independents" are breaking for the Democrats 2-to-1 when it comes to voting for Congress:

Republican candidate: 23%
Democratic candidate: 50%
Undecided: 26%

One problem is that independents might not turn out for a mid-term election. Let's hope they show up.

The biggest obstacle to Democrats--and the will of the American people--is gerrymandering. Politicians redrew the district lines in 2000, and they designed them to make it difficult for incumbents to lose. Thus, there are fewer competitive seats than in 1994. They crafted districts that were more polarized: Republican districts became more Republican, and Democratic districts became more Democratic. In the Michigan U.S. House races, none were competitive in 2004. The span between the winner and loser was more than 10 percent in each of those races. So even if Democrats earn 10 percent more votes than in 2004, it won't make a difference. The wave simply has to be that much bigger to overcome the district lines.

Here's the point. Voters are mad at Republicans and ready to vote for Democrats. Dems are going to do very good this year. This election, however, is not the same as 1994. It's not certain they'll take over either the House or Senate. Politicians have built a lot of safeguards to prevent incumbents from losing. Victory is within our reach, but it's not guaranteed.

The moral of the lesson? We still have a lot of work to do. No matter what the polls say, we need to work as hard as possible to ensure the Democrats win both the House, Senate, and the governorships.Thus, during these last few days, we need to get off our butts. If you're already off your butt, stay off your butt. Get your inactive friends off their butts. With that, we'll kick the Republican butts.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Not just Jenny, Amos, Carmella, and Debbie: Other statewide candidates

Nancy White and Kathy White share more in common with each other than just surnames.

Both are professors - Nancy at CMU, Kathy at Wayne State - and voters in Isabella County will have the opportunity to vote for both of them on Tuesday.

Every two years, voters throughout the state elect two people to the U-M Board of Regents, MSU Board of Trustees, Wayne State Board of Governors, state Board of Education, and state Supreme Court. The top two vote-getters each serve eight-year terms.

U-M Board of of Regents: Democrats hold a 5-3 majority. US Army Major and Wayne State University law professor Kathy White was first elected to the U-M Board in 1998. Our other candidate for Regent, Julia Darlow, also has superb qualifications, having served as the first female president of the Michigan Bar, and as a member of the Marygrove College Board of Trustees, among many other qualifications. Republican incumbent David Brandon, meanwhile, is Dick DeVos’s campaign manager.

MSU Board of Trustees: The incumbents, Dave Porteous and Dee Cook, are both Republicans. The GOP has a 5-3 majority on this board; however, if Democrats Faylene Owen (wife of former East Lansing Mayor and 1998 gubernatorial candidate Larry Owen) and George Perles (the former MSU football coach and athletic director) knock off the incumbents, the Democrats will win control.

WSU Board of Trustees: Democrats have a chance to build on their nice 6-2 advantage on this board, especially with Republican incumbent Elizabeth Hardy stepping down. Incumbent Democrat and attorney Eugene Driker was appointed to the board in December 2002 by John Engler. An advocate for women, healthcare, and affirmative action, Debbie Dingell (the wife of the most senior member of the US House of Representatives) has extensive experience that extends from chairing Gore’s Michigan campaign to serving as Vice Chair of the General Motors Foundation.

Michigan Board of Education: The Democrats hold a 5-3 majority on this board, having lost a seat in 2004 by just a few thousand votes. Reginald Turner, a law partner with Clark Hill PC. Casandra Ulbrich works at Wayne State and has been a grassroots organizer for the Democratic Party for many years. Incumbent Republican Eileen Weiser’s husband was a US Ambassador in Bush’s first term, while the other Republican candidate, Tom McMillin, is a far-right Christian Coalition activist.

Supreme Court: Though officially a nonpartisan position, Supreme Court Justices are nominated at each party’s fall convention. Five incumbent justices are Republican nominees, while Democrats nominated two justices. Democrats have renominated Justice Michael Cavanagh, the longest-serving justice on the court. Grand Rapids attorney Jane Beckering, recently named one of the "100 Best Lawyers in America," was also nominated at the Democratic Convention. Justice Maura Corrigan is running for re-election.

So when you go to the polls Tuesday, remember three things: Vote a straight Democratic ticket; Cavanagh and Beckering for Supreme Court, and NO on Proposal 2!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bush and Iraq threaten our national security

A bipartisan group of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan came together last year to protest the government’s policies. Their latest video was made in reaction to Bush’s recent declarations that voting for Democrats would weaken our national security. Ha! Go here to view the video

Dave Camp: are you listening?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Letter to Morning Sun about Dave Camp’s accomplishments

Representative Dave Camp has been running campaign ads in this paper listing his various accomplishments (although I doubt that building a fence along our Mexican border is worth bragging about). In his humility, he had omitted his most important contributions, so I will list a few of them for him.

He has consistently voted to increase the national debt to record highs, made the rich richer while at the same time reducing funds for education, health care, programs for the poor and the elderly.

He has been a real patriot, supporting the war in Iraq that has killed countless Iraqis, killed 3000 Americans, injured or disabled 44,000 Americans, then wrapped himself in the flag as he voted to reduce veterans benefits. Along the way, he voted to limit free speech and allow spying on his constituents.

His most recent accomplishment was his vote to suspend the 800 year-old rule of habeas corpus while giving President Bush authority to torture, “interpret” the agreements of Geneva Convention, and declare any of us “unlawful enemy combatants” and imprison us without charges, or lawyers, or trials, depending on whether he’s in a bad mood or not.

Dave Camp has accomplished this in just two years. When you vote this coming Tuesday, remember these proud accomplishments. When you vote for Dave Camp, you can hold your head high because you know you have given your consent and approval for him to continue his important work.