Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Gonzales Is Challenged on Wiretaps
I'll take Potent Perjurers for $500, Alex.

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) charged yesterday that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales misled the Senate during his confirmation hearing a year ago when he appeared to try to avoid answering a question about whether the president could authorize warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens.

In a letter to the attorney general yesterday, Feingold demanded to know why Gonzales dismissed the senator's question about warrantless eavesdropping as a "hypothetical situation" during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in January 2005. At the hearing, Feingold asked Gonzales where the president's authority ends and whether Gonzales believed the president could, for example, act in contravention of existing criminal laws and spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant.

Gonzales said that it was impossible to answer such a hypothetical question but that it was "not the policy or the agenda of this president" to authorize actions that conflict with existing law. He added that he would hope to alert Congress if the president ever chose to authorize warrantless surveillance, according to a transcript of the hearing.

In fact, the president did secretly authorize the National Security Agency to begin warrantless monitoring of calls and e-mails between the United States and other nations soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The program, publicly revealed in media reports last month, was unknown to Feingold and his staff at the time Feingold questioned Gonzales, according to a staff member. Feingold's aides developed the 2005 questions based on privacy advocates' concerns about broad interpretations of executive power.

Gonzales was White House counsel at the time the program began and has since acknowledged his role in affirming the president's authority to launch the surveillance effort. Gonzales is scheduled to testify Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the program's legal rationale.

Special prosecutor, clean-up in Aisle 7! Special prosecutor to Aisle 7, please!
Exxon Mobil Posts Record Profit for 2005 - Yahoo! News

DALLAS - Exxon Mobil Corp. posted record profits for any U.S. company on Monday — $10.71 billion for the fourth quarter and $36.13 billion for the year — as the world's biggest publicly traded oil company benefited from high oil and natural-gas prices and solid demand for refined products.

The results exceeded Wall Street expectations and Exxon shares rose, but some lawmakers expressed outrage at the industry's latest profit surge, renewing calls for a windfall profits tax and increased investment in alternative fuels.

The company's earnings amounted to $1.71 per share for the October-December quarter, up 27 percent from $8.42 billion, or $1.30 per share, in the year ago quarter. The result topped the then-record quarterly profit of $9.92 billion Exxon posted in the third quarter of 2005.

Exxon's profit for the year was also the largest annual reported net income in U.S. history, according to Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst for Standard & Poor's. He said the previous high was Exxon's $25.3 billion profit in 2004.

"What do you expect when you combine record oil and gas prices and strong operations everywhere else?" said analyst Fadel Gheit at Oppenheimer & Co. "Unless prices collapse, earnings in 2006 will make 2005 look like a cake walk."

Meanwhile...let's look at your wallet...

Wages Up by Smallest Amount in Nine Years

WASHINGTON - Wages and benefits paid to civilian workers rose last year by the smallest amount in nine years, the government reported Tuesday.

The Labor Department said that employee compensation was up 3.1 percent in 2005, an increase that was slower than the 3.7 percent rise in 2004. The slowdown reflected a big drop in benefit costs — items such as health insurance and pensions — which rose by 4.5 percent last year after jumping by 6.9 percent in 2004.

The new Employment Compensation Index should ease concerns at the Federal Reserve that improving labor markets could be starting to push up wage pressures. Wages and salaries rose by 2.6 percent last year, only slightly higher than a 2.4 percent increase in 2004.

The 3.1 percent increase in total compensation for the 12 months ending in December was the smallest annual increase since a 2.9 percent rise in 1996.

Last year's increase was not enough to keep up with inflation. When inflation is considered, overall compensation fell by 0.3 percent, the first time there has been a decline since 1996, when total compensation after adjusting for inflation was down by 0.4 percent.

Ex-Postal Employee Kills Six, Then Herself - Yahoo! News
When I first heard this, I assumed it was a guy. Rather sexist of me, I know, but usually women don't do stuff like this.

GOLETA, Calif. - A female ex-postal worker opened fire at a mail processing plant, killing six people and critically wounding another before committing suicide, authorities said early Tuesday.

Deputies responding to a call of shots fired about 9:15 p.m. Monday found two people dead outside the plant.

Two wounded women were located inside and were taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. One died and the other was listed in critical condition early Tuesday with a gunshot wound to the head.

Nearly five hours later, deputies found four additional bodies, including one believed to be the female shooter, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Anderson said. The shooter, who was not identified, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, he said.
Coretta Scott King, 78, Dies - Yahoo! News
Sad day.

ATLANTA - Coretta Scott King, who turned a life shattered by her husband's assassination into one devoted to enshrining his legacy of human rights and equality, has died, former mayor Andrew Young told NBC Tuesday morning. She was 78.

Young, who was a former civil rights activist and was close to the King family, broke the news during a phone call he made to the "Today" show.

On the day that Alito will be confirmed. Weird. Do you ever feel like events are conspiring against us to hasten our slide down the regressive slope?

Monday, January 30, 2006

Michigan Democratic Party- DeVos, Amway Collaborated with Enron During CA Energy Crisis
You just know it- Dick's involved with all the heavy Repub crooks.

LANSING- Today Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer disclosed GOP gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos' questionable business ties with Enron. While DeVos was president of Amway, the company collaborated with Enron during the California energy crisis by selling Enron electricity door to door. Enron's illegal conduct has returned to the public eye, as jury selection begins today in the civil suit involving Enron founder Ken Lay and CEO Jeff Skilling for allegedly lying about their company's health while selling half a billion dollars of their own stock.

"As the Enron trial begins, it is important to examine Dick DeVos' and Amway's questionable ties to Enron during California's energy crisis," said Brewer. "DeVos must explain to the people of Michigan his dealings with Enron and prove that he and Amway did not profit from Enron's illegal manipulations of electricity sales in California."

Enron started manipulating California's electricity market a month after it was deregulated in 1998, according to internal documents and phone transcripts, reported in the San Francisco Chronicle. Enron's manipulation of California markets coincided with Amway's 140,000 California distributors peddling "Electricity by Enron" on doorsteps throughout the state. Amway took a percentage of the profit for each sale they made on behalf of Enron. Enron profited at least $1.6 billion during California's energy crisis by exploiting the state's deregulation plan. Last summer Enron agreed to a $1.52 billion settlement over its role in California's energy crisis.

"DeVos' ties to Enron and Ken Lay are just the latest example of Dick DeVos' questionable business ethics," said Brewer. "Is there any business scheme that DeVos will say 'no' to?" asked Brewer. "He made a profit on the backs of the Michigan workers he laid off and he collaborated with Enron during its rip-off of California consumers. Has Dick DeVos no shame?"

Heh heh. I'm starting to think that Brewer and the MDP have a bunch of things like this lined up, and will release them one by one as the election rolls on.

Will it get traction in the Press?
Filibuster Fails:

But thanks go out to Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow for their "no" votes to cloture.

Here's a list of the folks who sold your rights down the river.

Akaka (-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Carper (D-DE)
Conrad (D-ND)
Inouye (D-HI)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)

They may vote "no" tomorrow, but their vote was really needed today.

GOP criticizes Stabenow's support of filibuster attempt - 01/28/06 - The Detroit News
Call up Debbie. Show her some love.

WASHINGTON -- Republicans criticized Sen. Debbie Stabenow's support of an attempted Democratic filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito on Friday.

Alito was expected to get more than the 60 votes needed to cut off debate on the Senate floor Monday. A final vote on the judge was likely on Tuesday.

But some Democrats, led by Massachusetts Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, were trying to block Alito's nomination through a filibuster. They were joined by Stabenow, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Stabenow supported the filibuster because she has "serious concerns" about Alito's record, including decisions involving pensions, reproductive health, and cases where the government used excessive force against citizens, spokeswoman Angela Benander said.

"Senator Stabenow feels very strongly that Judge Alito should not be on the Supreme Court," Benander said.

Republicans accused Stabenow of getting in the way of a qualified nominee and placing more priority on her role in Democratic leadership.

"The people of Michigan expect action and progress from their representatives, not this remarkably pathetic degree of political posturing," said state GOP chairman Saul Anuzis.

The Rev. Keith Butler, one of the Republicans hoping to challenge Stabenow this year, said Democrats were unable to mar Alito's "impeccable character" and were "desperately looking for another avenue to stop a lawful process."

Stabenow said earlier this week she would vote against Alito. She said a review of his 15-year record on the federal bench caused her concern and argued the judge has been "consistently outside the mainstream."

Some Democrats have said Alito's confirmation would move the court to the right. He would replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was a swing vote on rulings involving abortion rights, affirmative action and the death penalty.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., had not reached a decision on how he would vote on an attempted filibuster, said spokeswoman Tara Andringa.

Levin said Thursday he would oppose Alito, citing concerns about the judge's ability to provide a check and balance against executive power.

What? The GOP is criticizing a Dem? Shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

Once again, those numbers are- 1-888-355-3588 or 1-888-818-6641.

Free fax to 13 Senators here. Levin is on that list. (and what the hell is up with Lautenberg? I thought for sure he would be on board...)

The media is claiming this will be a failure. The Republicans are laughing at us. Let's give them a run for their money. Sure would be fun to wipe the smirk of their smug little faces.

Never say never. And if it fails, we get back up and try again.

Make the calls. Send the faxes. At the end of the day, we can be proud that we tried to do what's right.

And when this SOB starts ruling against the people, we can remember who stood up. I have no doubt that history will be on our side.
Bills could ban protests at funerals - 01/30/06 - The Detroit News
I cringe at anything that denies "free speech", but there is a line between "free speech" and "verbal harassment". Phelps definitely crosses that line. The man and his family are nucking futs.

CHICAGO -- At least five Midwestern states are considering legislation to ban protests at funerals in response to demonstrations by the Rev. Fred Phelps and members of his Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church, who have been protesting at funerals of Iraq war casualties because they say the deaths are God's punishment for U.S. tolerance toward gays.

Though the soldiers were not gay, the protesters say the deaths, as well as Hurricane Katrina, recent mining disasters and other tragedies, are God's signs of displeasure. They also protested at the memorial service for the 12 West Virginia miners who died in the Sago Mine.

The proposed bill would keep protesters 300 feet away from any funeral or memorial service and ban demonstrations one hour before and two hours after a service.

Legislators in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Oklahoma are looking at similar bills. Proposed legislation in Indiana would keep protesters 500 feet from funerals, and make a violation a felony punishable by a three-year prison term and a $10,000 fine.

Sure to be challenged in court.
Health Workers' Choice Debated
A doctor's or pharmacist's religious beliefs may determine whether you get treated or not. That is, if you're lucky enough to have health care in the first place.

More than a dozen states are considering new laws to protect health workers who do not want to provide care that conflicts with their personal beliefs, a surge of legislation that reflects the intensifying tension between asserting individual religious values and defending patients' rights.

About half of the proposals would shield pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control and "morning-after" pills because they believe the drugs cause abortions. But many are far broader measures that would shelter a doctor, nurse, aide, technician or other employee who objects to any therapy. That might include in-vitro fertilization, physician-assisted suicide, embryonic stem cells and perhaps even providing treatment to gays and lesbians.

At least nine states are considering "right of refusal" bills that are far broader. Some would protect virtually any worker involved in health care; others would extend protection to hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities. Some would protect only workers who refuse to provide certain health services, but many would be far more expansive.

At least five of the broad bills would allow insurance companies to opt out of covering services they find objectionable for religious reasons. A sixth state, Pennsylvania, is considering a bill designed for insurers.

"These represent a major expansion of this notion of right of refusal," said Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that studies reproductive health issues and is tracking the legislation. "You're seeing it broadening to many types of workers -- even into the world of social workers -- and for any service for which you have a moral or religious belief."

So, there are religious insurance companies, too? Do we really want to give more power to denial of coverage to insurance companies?

That's not all. These laws seems to allow health care workers to pick and choose which "moral issues" they will or will not treat.

Opponents fear the laws are often so broad that they could be used to withhold health services far beyond those related to abortion and embryos.

"The so-called right-to-life movement in the United States has expanded its agenda way beyond the original focus on abortion," Uttley said. "Given the political power of religious conservatives, the impact of a whole range of patient services could be in danger."

Doctors opposed to fetal tissue research, for example, could refuse to notify parents that their child was due for a chicken pox inoculation because the vaccine was originally produced using fetal tissue cell cultures, said R. Alto Charo, a bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin.

"That physician would be immunized from medical malpractice claims and state disciplinary action," Charo said.

Advocates for end-of-life care are alarmed that the laws would allow health care workers and institutions to disregard terminally ill patients' decisions to refuse resuscitation, feeding tubes and other invasive measures.

"Patients have a right to say no to CPR, to being put on a ventilator, to getting feeding tubes," said Kathryn Tucker of Compassion and Choice, which advocates better end-of-life care and physician-assisted suicide.

Others worry that health care workers could refuse to provide sex education because they believe in abstinence instead, or deny care to gays and lesbians.

"I already get calls all the time from people who have been turned away by their doctors," said Jennifer C. Pizer of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, who is representing a California lesbian whose doctor refused her artificial insemination. "This is a very grave concern."

The list is endless really. This kind of thing might shield physicians and workers after the fact also, as in the DNR orders. Stick a tube in your dying grandma even though she had an expressed DNR order, and then claim "religious beliefs" as the reason for ignoring a patient's expressed wishes.

Perhaps patients should receive a list of everything that any doctor or health care worker will or will not perform when coming into a clinic, pharmacy or hospital. Perhaps they facilities should be required to notify the patient, and have replacement personnel available who will take care of the person's needs without judgment. If they want to carry the load of workers who refuse to do certain jobs, they can pay the added cost of having staff on who will.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

'Best days still ahead' for Grand Rapids economy
The Grand Rapids Press is the king of mixed messages. On Tuesday, this article ran in the Business section, which is actually kind of odd. Usually they stick all the good economic news back by the obituaries.

GRAND RAPIDS -- Mitch Stapley acknowledges some things look pretty bleak.

On a day when Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co. announced plans to close 14 plants and to cut up to 30,000 jobs, the state already was suffering from higher-than-average unemployment and slow personal income growth, said Stapley, chief fixed income officer of Fifth Third Asset Management, Inc.

But in West Michigan, particularly Grand Rapids, it's not time to "line up and aim for the Sixth Street Bridge and take a plunge into the Grand River," he said.

"Don't short Grand Rapids' future. Our best days are still ahead of us," Stapley told the Economic Club of Grand Rapids on Monday at Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

While the Big Three automakers of Ford, General Motors Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG are struggling, the office-furniture business with Grand Rapids-based Steelcase Inc. and Zeeland-based Herman Miller Inc. had a solid 2005 and have a positive outlook for this year.

The city's health-care boom puts Grand Rapids in a good position as baby boomers age, requiring more medical care. And tourism and agriculture also are doing well, Stapley said.

"We're going to survive 2006 much better than what's going to happen to the Flints and the Saginaws and the Detroits in the world," he said.

But this morning, on the front page, we get this-

Region's economy looks dim, profs say

West Michigan executives find few reasons to feel upbeat when it comes to the economy, according to the 2006 economic forecast Grand Valley State University researchers wrote for the annual Business Outlook, inside today's Press.

In fact, the bosses feel no better than last year.

"To some extent, pragmatic optimism has been replaced by the notion things are not likely to improve for a while," said Professor Hari Singh, who wrote the report with economist Paul Isley.

They blame higher interest rates, rising energy prices, the war on terrorism, hurricanes and weak job growth.

For a decade, the professors have taken the pulse of more than 150 of the region's top executives to measure their confidence in the local economy.

On a scale of 0 (scared to death) to 100 (absolutely confident), a confidence index of 85 or more reflected happier times in the late 1990s. But in 2005 and this year, that index flatlines at 65 percent.

Granted, I tend to take the word of the professors over the investment banker. But still, sometimes it's mind-numbing the contradictions that appear in our local paper. It's up, it's down. Times are hard, but here we are breaking ground on this, that, the other thing. Hell, the suburbs are starting to look like Chicago and Detroit with the continuous growth outward.

It's no wonder I'm so confused when trying to pin down the actually state of the economy in Michigan. ;-)
Bush uses Democrats' praise to push Alito vote - Yahoo! News
Happy now, Mr. Byrd?

One thing this tells me is the Pubs are a bit fearful- if this was such a "done deal", there would be no need to run for bipartisan cover.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Saturday quoted Democrats praising Samuel Alito in a bid to deter some in the party who want to block confirmation of the conservative appeals judge to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alito is virtually certain to be confirmed next week by the full Senate, where Republicans hold 55 of 100 seats, on a largely party-line vote. He could move the country's highest court to the right on abortion and other social issues.

Several prominent Democrats have called for a procedural roadblock called a filibuster to prevent a vote. But Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has said he and fellow Democrats lack the votes to block Alito.

Kerry, who joined fellow Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy in calling for a filibuster, returned from a trip to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland to make his case in the Senate on Friday.

Kennedy, in a letter to senators on Saturday explaining his decision to try to filibuster, said Alito's rulings on civil rights cases suggested he would side with "powerful institutions and against average citizens."

He also said he was concerned Alito might permit Bush to overreach in his use of presidential power. "We want a court that will blow the whistle when the president is out of bounds," Kennedy said.

Sixty votes are needed to end debate on Alito and move to a final vote. Republicans seem certain to reach that number with the help of as many as 10 Democrats.

Keep up the pressure. Scuttlebutt has it that voice mail and fax machines are full this weekend- try again tomorrow morning.

Those numbers again- 1-888-355-3588 or 1-888-818-6641 toll free Capitol Switchboard.

Free fax to 13 Senators here. It takes but a second. Go do it to it.
ABC Anchor Woodruff Injured in Iraq - Yahoo! News
Although I had recently switched to CBS because I was tired of ABC's bullshit, I hope Bob is OK and pulls through this.

NEW YORK - ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff and a cameraman were seriously injured Sunday in an explosion while reporting from Iraq, the network said Sunday.

Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were hit by an improvised explosive device near Taji, Iraq. They were embedded with the 4th Infantry Division and traveling with an Iraqi mechanized vehicle.
Washington State OKs Gay Civil Rights Law - Yahoo! News
Another US state joins the civilized world.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Before he died of AIDS, the state's first openly gay lawmaker asked a friend for a promise: that he would keep working on gay civil rights legislation. That was more than a decade ago. Now, the legislation Cal Anderson championed, 30 years in the making, is about to become law.

"I remember the day that Cal told me he didn't have much longer to live," said Rep. Ed Murray, a Seattle Democrat and one of four openly gay lawmakers now in the Legislature. "One of the things he asked was if I would continue work on this bill."

On Friday, the Senate passed the legislation 25-23, with a lone Republican joining Democrats in voting in favor. The House approved it 61-37, and Democratic Gov. Christine Groggier said she would sign it Tuesday.

First introduced in the 1970s, the measure adds "sexual orientation" to a state law that bans discrimination in housing, employment and insurance, making Washington the 17th state passing a law covering gays and lesbians. It is the seventh to protect transgender people.

The bill was amended by Republicans on the House floor to say that it would not modify or change state marriage laws. A Senate amendment added a caveat saying the state does not endorse "any specific belief, practice, behavior, or orientation."

But once again, somehow "religious" people are offended when other people want to live their lives in peace.

Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, who voted against the bill, said it would "trample unrelentingly" on religious viewpoints that object to gays.

"We, the state, are telling people to accept, actually to embrace, something that goes against their religious views," he said.

The bill could still be challenged. Opponents have suggested pursuing a referendum, giving voters the option to overturn the measure. They would need about 112,000 signatures to get a referendum on a November ballot.

Gregoire said she would fight any effort to undo the law.

"I will fight any initiative, any referendum that tries to take back the equality these folks and others around our great state have been given today," she said.

Good for you, Christine. Nice to see a Democrat be forceful on this issue for a change.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Bush Presses Alito's High Court Nomination - Yahoo! News
But...but...but... I thought it was a done deal. Smooth sailing. Victory lap. Easy confirmation. Nothing to see here, move along.

Why, oh why, would George have to press the issue?

Because it ain't over till it's over. Remember the Red Sox of '04.

WASHINGTON - President Bush gave Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito a broadcast boost Saturday, calling for a simple up-or-down Senate confirmation vote despite a blocking effort by some Democrats.

A final vote on whether to make the conservative federal appellate judge the nation's 110th Supreme Court justice is scheduled for Tuesday unless opponents win an uphill battle to impose a filibuster.

"The Senate has a constitutional responsibility to hold an up-or-down vote on Judge Alito's nomination," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "Throughout its 216-year history, the Senate has held an up-or-down vote on every Supreme Court nominee with majority Senate support."

I got yer up-or-down right here, King George. Harriet Miers. Next?

The president spoke as liberals led by Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, D-Mass., worked to deprive supporters of the 60 votes needed to limit debate. They faced resistance from some fellow Democrats as well as solid Republican opposition to the stalling tactic.

And that's how we win. In the past 24 hours or so, Clinton, Feinstein, Durbin, Reid, Wyden, to name a few, have switched their positions and decided to vote against cloture.

This might work. We don't know if we don't try. At least if we hold 'em through Tuesday, it makes Frist look like an ass, which is always fun.

Call your Senators. Do it today. 1-888-355-3588 or 1-888-818-6641 toll free switchboard.

Here's a link to a site that will fax a letter to key Senators. Go do it. Easy activism.

Stabenow is on board (yea Debbie!) and I bet Carl Levin will be, too. If you're reading me from a Red State and you agree that balance of power is something worth saving- make the call, please.
Mayor: GR needs tax hike
Bold move, George.
GRAND RAPIDS -- Mayor George Heartwell was to use today's "State of the City" speech to call for an increase in city taxes.

Unless the state government restores revenue-sharing funds it cut in recent years, Heartwell said the city needs to look at a tax increase or face more drastic cuts in police, fire and recreational services.

The city has cut $64 million in spending in the past four years and will have to cut another $80 million in the next five years, Heartwell said. The next city budget will require cuts of about $8.5 million, he said.

"Everyone who loves this city has been saddened to see the quality of municipal services decline," Heartwell planned to tell audience members this morning during a breakfast speech at DeVos Place.

"I will not stand by and watch our city decline for want of investment in public services and infrastructure."

Although Heartwell has floated trial balloons in recent months suggesting he might support a tax increase, today's speech was to be his strongest call yet for raising taxes.

Quality of life, people. It's important.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Salon.com | Coulter Jokes Justice Should Be Poisoned
Since Ann's coming to town, I thought I'd keep you up to date with the latest member to join Ann's hit list.

January 27,2006 | LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Conservative commentator Ann Coulter, speaking at a traditionally black college, joked that Justice John Paul Stevens should be poisoned.

Coulter had told the Philander Smith College audience Thursday that more conservative justices were needed on the Supreme Court to change the current law on abortion. Stevens is one of the court's most liberal members.

"We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee," Coulter said. "That's just a joke, for you in the media."

We need someone to put ground glass in Ann's cocaine. That's just a joke, for you in the media.
mlive.com: NewsFlash - DeVos declines to be specific on economic plan
Here's a more detailed, accurate story from Kathy Barks Hoffman, who does a great job of covering stories in Lansing. Much better than the teleprompter blurbs I get from WOOD.
LANSING, Mich. (AP)- Republican Dick DeVos said voters will see a sharp difference between him and Gov. Jennifer Granholm in this fall's election, but declined to give any details on where he actually differs from the Democratic incumbent.

DeVos told reporters after taping public television's "Off the Record" program Thursday that it was too early for him to offer specifics.

This tells me that he probably plans to run a "negative only" campaign. A candidate with plans and vision would be eager to get those ideas out in the public to see how people react. It's not about "ideas" with the Republicans, it's about power.

Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer said Granholm was debating ideas with her Democratic primary opponents at this point in the 2002 campaign, and that DeVos should be ready to say what he would do on issues important to voters, such as the economy and creating jobs.

"He's been campaigning for eight months and it's long past the time he should have a plan," Brewer said. "The governor put forth a lot of innovative proposals last night. And we hear nothing from him."

Granholm had a primary to deal with. All the other chickenshit Republican candidates dropped out when they found out Dick was going to run. They knew that he has the money to bury them, and that the machine was beholden to Betsy and her power. They were toast the second he announced.

One issue we can look at is stem cell research. Widely supported by the public, but yet denied here in Michigan by extremist anti-abortion groups.

DeVos said Granholm's speech was long on rhetoric and short on specifics, then declined to say what he would do to improve the economy or where he stood on embryonic stem cell research or raising the minimum wage.

DeVos, who opposes abortion, said he supports research done with adult stem cells but needs more time to consider whether he backs research done with embryonic stem cells, something the Catholic church opposes.

Right to Life of Michigan said Thursday in a release that Michigan law prohibits human cloning and the destruction of live human embryos, but does not prohibit research on embryonic stem cells.

Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said again Thursday that changes are needed.

"That legislation removes existing restrictions on research and deletes references to embryo in several places," she said.

Right to Life is being disingenuous on this point. You can't do research without destroying the embryos, therefore, no research. I wonder why they chose to mislead people on that. The Oakland Press reported last year on scientists leaving the state because of our laws.

ANN ARBOR - Housed in one of the nation's top medical schools and the new Life Sciences Institute, the University of Michigan's Human Embryonic Stem Cell Center is one of just three federally funded facilities of its kind in the United States. Its researchers hope one day to help pioneer new drugs or even cures for diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Yet despite the cause for optimism, and the weight and resources of one of the nation's top research institutions behind it, the program, just 2 years old, has already lost some of its top scientists to other states.

Michigan is one of eight states to explicitly limit embryonic stem cell research. Laws passed alternately in 1978 and 1999 prohibit the destruction of an embryo in research and make it a crime, punishable by a $10,000 fine, to clone a human embryo capable of becoming a human being.

State Rep. Andy Meisner, DFerndale, said polling he has solicited showed support at about 73 percent of Michigan residents, with traditionally anti-abortion Roman Catholics supporting stem cell research at 72 percent.

He has introduced legislation that would authorize stem cell research, allow therapeutic cloning while banning cloning done for reproductive purposes. Meisner says current state law is taking Michigan off the front line of an emerging life sciences field.

"We have lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs, and we have a need to diversify our economy," he said.

Yet his bill has received no consideration in the Republican-controlled Legislature. Matt Resch, spokesman for House Speaker Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, said stem cell research hasn't been an issue in the Legislature and shouldn't necessarily be thought of in terms of economic benefit.

"It's very dangerous to have money as the driving factor behind moral issues," he said. "And human cloning and embryonic stem cell research is a very divisive issue."

Seems to me only a small percentage of rabid right wingers are against this research. Roman Catholics support it by 72%. Other groups have voiced their support also.
The Michigan Manufacturers Association supported lifting the restrictions.

"The governor's push to encourage stem cell research in Michigan may be something we, as a state, need to look at to ensure we are not losing important investment and high-paying jobs in the emerging biotechnology sector to other states with more relaxed laws," MMA President and CEO John MacIlroy said in a statement.

The moderate Republican Main Street Partnership in Michigan also said it supported the governor's proposal.

"If we, as a state, wish to diversify our economy, we cannot lose the intellectual assets we have or artificially limit explorations which could make us a leader in this emerging medical field," the group's president, Susan Steiner Bolhouse, said in a statement.

Right to Life has already endorsed Dick for the 2006 primary.

Why is Dick trying to hide his views on this subject? I highly doubt that he "needs more time to consider whether he backs research done with embryonic stem cells". I think that his past support of anti-abortion groups clearly points out who Dick sides with on this issue, and now he's trying to back-pedal and obfuscate so he doesn't appear to be on the wrong side of popular opinion.

Conservatives have to hide their true agenda.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

CNN.com - Sen. Kerry calls for filibuster of Alito - Jan 26, 2006
Go get 'em John. I don't care if he's "posturing" or not, I'm glad to see him stand up.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry has decided to support a filibuster to block the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, CNN's Congressional Correspondent Ed Henry reported Thursday.

Kerry, in Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum, was marshaling support in phone calls during the day, Henry said.

He announced his decision Wednesday to a group of Democratic senators, urging they join him, Henry said. Kerry also has the support of his fellow Massachusetts senator, Democrat Edward Kennedy.

Some senior Democrats said they are worried that the move could backfire.

Republicans need 60 votes to overturn a filibuster.

Senior White House officials said the move makes the Democrats look bad, and Republicans already have enough votes to overcome any filibuster attempt.

Well, if the White House says we look bad, then I KNOW he did the right thing.
WOODTV.com & WOOD TV8 - Grand Rapids news and weather - DeVos declines to be specific on a range of issues
Sputter...cough...sputter, this from Channel 8? Wow.

LANSING, Mich. Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos today criticized Governor Granholm for being long on rhetoric and short on specifics.

But he declined to say what he would do to improve the economy or where he stood on embryonic stem cell research or raising the minimum wage.

DeVos, who opposes abortion, said during the taping of public T-V's Off the Record program that he supports research done with adult stem cells.

But he says he needs more time to consider whether he backs research done with embryonic stem cells, something the Catholic church opposes.

Dick is a major contributor to "Right to Life" campaigns- I'll let you decide what that means for "embryonic" stem cell research. Unless he wants to jettison everything he has stood for before...

And, um...Dick? You've been "running" for almost seven months now. Did you have *any* ideas? On anything? At all? Ever?

He "needs more time" to draft his economic plan. He "needs more time" to think about stem cells. But when it comes to criticizing Granholm's plans, his statement goes something like this-

"...while speaking is important, it's really action that really counts. If ever there was a time for action in Michigan, that time is now."

But his own plans can "need more time". OK. I see how this works. Already Dick is holding himself to a different standard. Kind of like with the tax return release. IOIYAR.
Granholm: State on road to recovery
Here's a link to Chris Christoff's story in the Free Press. Quickly becoming my favorite reporter. I usually don't pay attention to names on reporters, but I think I need to start-

LANSING -- Gov. Jennifer Granholm declared Wednesday that Michigan is on the brink of an economic rebound, as she sought to counter Republican critics who blame her for job losses and uplift Democrats with proposals to improve health care, education and even retirement for working families.

In her fourth State of the State address, Granholm's assessment focused on her efforts to diversify the state's economy while caring for workers and families who are suffering financially because of an unemployment rate that is among the nation's worst.

One surprise was her proposal for a state-run 401(k) savings plan aimed at employees of small businesses without retirement programs. The plan would be funded by employee payroll deductions, with no matching state money.

This idea caused a stir here, leading Channel 8's noon news and drawing a reporter to try to get the details. "I have to work it out with the IRS", (paraphrasing)says Granholm.

One interesting point that Channel 8 mentioned- most of these proposals can be done without the state legislature.

Good deal. Maybe we can get something done.

With little new revenue to launch expensive programs, Granholm combined some old ideas -- one is to revise and broaden the Merit Award Scholarship program for students -- with new, populist-sounding proposals that drew cheers from Democrats and near-silence from Republicans.

Republican leaders in the Legislature said Granholm's proposals would receive "fair and timely consideration." But their immediate response to her speech ranged from tepid to hostile.

Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, said Granholm's plan to expand health care programs for the working poor was ambitious but possibly unrealistic. Other states that have tried to expand health care coverage in recent years have "crashed and burned," he said.

So, we do nothing, Ken? Don't even try? Let 'em all die? Defeatist attitude from the majority leader. Again. Surprise. By the way Ken, apparently we don't need you guys on this one. So there.
Granholm said the state has created 327,000 jobs since she became governor in 2003 -- a figure her critics disputed. State Republicans planted an electronic sign on the Capitol lawn that shows the number of state job losses since she took office at more than 164,000. The GOP plans to follow Granholm, a Democrat, with the sign on the campaign trail.

We can plant campaign signs on the Capitol lawn? Cool. Get on that, Lansing Democrats. Here's a few ideas- number of uninsured Michigan citizens, number of jobs created by DeVos in China... I'm sure there are more. Get clever and get on offense, dammit.
WZZM 13 Grand Rapids - Governor Promises to Improve "The State of Michigan"
Helluva speech. Hit on some great populist themes: health care, education, higher wages, saving for retirement.

But she will get no help from Republicans to make Michigan a better place to live- that much was obvious. They sat on their hands for most of it, but, what else is new? When it comes to helping average citizens and the poor, that's the drill. Do nothing, and complain that nothing gets done.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Governor Jennifer Granholm promised to stay the course in her search for jobs and a better-trained work force tonight during her fourth annual State of the State address.

She also proposed several ideas she said would help Michigan workers, including access to a state-managed 401-k retirement savings plan for small business employees who otherwise wouldn't have one.

She also wants to offer health coverage for about 500-thousand low-income residents who now are uninsured, including the working poor.

She also called for raising the state minimum wage, rolling back insurance rates by 20 percent, increasing the Michigan Merit Award scholarship from 25-hundred dollars to four thousand dollars and requiring a more rigorous high school curriculum.

The speech prompted a new talking point from Dick. Someone get on that and verify the veracity.
Likely Republican candidate for Governor Dick DeVos is reacting to the Governor's speech. He acknowledged the Governor's ability to "sell" her ideas.

However, DeVos went on to say, "while speaking is important, it's really action that really counts. If ever there was a time for action in Michigan, that time is now. The simple fact is - Michigan is in a crisis right now. We are losing jobs at an alarming rate; in fact, we are losing one job every 10 minutes...."

Battle of the numbers. In the speech, Granholm claims-
Our efforts have created and retained 327,000 jobs that otherwise would have gone to some other state or more likely some other country.

And this-
There are 99,000 more people working right now than when I first took office.

I'm sure she can back those figures up. Can Dick back up his figures of a "job every ten minutes"? Will anyone ask him to?

There was a shot at businesses like Amway in the speech, businesses that have cut jobs here and invested in China. This part caught my attention.

We are blessed in Michigan with countless businesses who know what it means to be good corporate citizens. But we should not use your tax dollars to enrich the bad actors- the companies that incorporate in off-shore tax havens, violate US pension laws and international labor standards. We should ensure that your dollars go to creating jobs here in Michigan, not moving jobs overseas.

There were a few more references to China in the speech. I like to think they were directed in a subtle (and truthful) way at businessmen like Dick.

One of the items that really struck me was the call to repeal our ban on stem cell research. Our right wing legislature went dead silent on that, showing once again that they support the "culture of the blastocyst" over the people who are suffering now. This provision has cost us jobs, cost us scientists, cost the people who are afflicted with disease many years of pain and suffering. Of all the stupid reactionary shit that Republicans have foisted on the people, this is the most egregious in my eyes.

Talented researchers and businesses around the world are working right now on those cures...but we can't recruit them to Michigan to do their work because of the limits that Michigan law puts on them. When human lives are at stake, we should lead the nation in this work, not put obstacles in our own path.

There is a bill up now to remove the limits on research. I doubt it will get through. Our medical schools fall further behind. I'd love to see some figures on how it has affected the U of M.

Overall, it was a great speech, one that shows intelligence and vision. It's too bad our obstructionist legislature will fight her on every point and deny average citizens the benefits plans like these would bring. After all, they're not done with their "tax cuts" yet.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

In the background at State of State: Is Granholm to blame for economy?
Balanced article from the Press- but I think the title plays right into the Pub talking points. Michigan's future for manufacturing and loss of jobs started while Granholm was still a kid in California.

The debate over Granholm's economic stewardship will be an underlying theme of her fourth State of the State speech tonight.

Political opponents have tried to lash her to an economy that has remained stagnant for her entire tenure, while supporters say it already had begun to slide on the watch of her predecessor, John Engler. Granholm backers also blame Republicans for stymieing her job-creating agenda.

With Granholm's re-election campaign coming into fuller view, all eyes will be on the economy and whether her fortunes are tied to it, said Ed Sarpolus, pollster for EPIC/MRA.

"Right now, voters see it more as a national economy," he said. "But, she's got to show she's on the job so she's got to go after small accomplishments to show she's getting something done."

In recent polls, voters, by a 2-to-1 margin, blame President Bush rather than Granholm for the loss of jobs and the ailing economy, Sarpolus said. They also think the governor's doing a better job than the Republican Legislature by a two-to-one margin.

"The public doesn't view the Republican mantra of tax cuts as a solution because all of the tax cuts go to businesses," Sarpolus said. "The people who are benefiting from tax cuts are the same people who are laying them off, in voters' minds."

Maybe the voters are smarter than I think. If that 2-1 sentiment is true right now, let's see what they feel like after all the propaganda ads come out this year. After all, by the time the national liars were done, 75% of the people thought Saddam was connected to 9/11, remember? Watch out for the power of suggestion. How quickly we forget...

Does anyone besides me remember the bumper stickers from the 80's , "Will the last one leaving Michigan please turn out the lights?" Wish I could find one of those...

For a quick comparison, I found this stat from a hearing in 1990.

Michigan has relied on the Unemployment Insurance system to stabilize our economy through the horrific recessions in the late 50's and during the back-to-back recessions of the mid-70's and early 80's. As some of you may remember, between the years 1980 and 1983, Michigan's unemployment trust fund was required to borrow $2.6 billion when unemployment rates hit 17%.

Our new state slogan: "Michigan. It used to be a lot worse."
Trash Thieves:

Weirdness in the big city- someone stole my trash yesterday. Here's something you should know- the police will not take reports of someone stealing your trash. I found that odd in the age of identity theft.

Note to thieves- I have no money. Have fun digging through the used kitty litter and cigarette butts.
WZZM 13 Grand Rapids - Governor Prepares For State of State Address
Catch Jen tonight at 7pm. Watch Ken Sikkema makes funny faces at her behind her back.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Governor Granholm plans to focus her 2006 State of the State address tomorrow (today) on familiar themes.

She'll address ways to improve the state's economy to create more jobs and ways to strengthen education so more workers can get high-tech jobs.

She'll deliver the speech to a joint session of the House and Senate, starting at 7 p-m, in the House chamber of the State Capitol.

Senate Majority Leader Sikkema and House Speaker Craig DeRoche, both Republicans, will respond to the governor's hour-long address during a Capitol news conference following the speech.

Brian Dickerson of the Free Press has a speech prepared for Granholm. Nice to find someone with a sense of humor.

Speaker DeRoche, Majority Leader Sikkema, and the rest of you sniveling Republican finger-pointers conspiring to lay the death of American manufacturing at my doorstep:


Many of you may recall that I began last year's State of the State address by paying tribute to Republican state Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Weaver, who had just announced her intention to resign.

I don't think I have to tell you what the prospect of appointing the first Democratic state Supreme Court justice in 15 years did for my administration's fund-raising efforts in the legal community. Talk about being the most popular gal in the bar!

Yet tonight, a year later, as I scan the distinguished roster of judges who have honored me with their attendance, I am dumbstruck to see that Justice Weaver is still here. Some nonsense about promises to keep, miles to go before she sleeps, yada, yada, yada. Not that I'm bitter.

I know that some of my Republican colleagues who have expressed outward concern about the auto industry's troubles are secretly salivating at the prospect of hanging this week's plant closings around my pretty, little neck.

To them, in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation, I say: Go ahead, you hypocritical, corporate-sponsored surrender weasels: Make my day!

Remember that Republicans preside over three of the four states in which Ford announced plant closings this week. Hang this one on my administration and I'm taking a boatload of GOP governors down with me.

It's not any governor's fault the U.S. auto industry is taking on water faster than a New Orleans trailer park.

Nor, I hasten to add, is it the industry's fault. I have every confidence that American auto executives and American workers can build cars that will compete with anything Toyota has to offer.

But if Toyota wants to backstop us while the Big Three are getting their act together, my administration is prepared to offer its stockholders Ann Arbor, the Upper Peninsula, exclusive casino rights on Mackinac Island and three Michigan counties to be named later.

Meanwhile at DeVos Election Headquarters Channel 8, Rick "Mr. Impartial" Albin has Dick all lined up for his reaction. When DeVos starts in on his standard "blame the governor" rhetoric, I would hope that Rick would remind him of this statement taken from the "Principles" section of his now defunct PAC "Restoring the American Dream", a lovely group that included such moderates as Robert Bork, Haley Barbour and JC Watts. Anyway, it went a little something like this-

The government must adopt policies that encourage people to accept responsibility and become accountable for their actions. The explosion of litigation and culture of blaming others, including government, must change.

That link takes a while to load- had to dig through the web archives as the site no longer exists.

Lots of interesting tidbits on that site, I'll publish more as the situations warrant.
Study: Army Stretched to Breaking Point - Yahoo! News
Are we safer yet?

WASHINGTON - Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a "thin green line" that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon.

Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. He also suggested that the Pentagon's decision, announced in December, to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.

As evidence, Krepinevich points to the Army's 2005 recruiting slump — missing its recruiting goal for the first time since 1999 — and its decision to offer much bigger enlistment bonuses and other incentives.

It seems there are about 10,000 troops since 1994 that the Army didn't want. Highly-trained, specialized troops, at that. Scratch your head at this.

WASHINGTON - Hundreds of officers and health care professionals have been discharged in the past 10 years under the Pentagon's policy on gays, a loss that while relatively small in numbers involves troops who are expensive for the military to educate and train.

The 350 or so affected are a tiny fraction of the 1.4 million members of the uniformed services and about 3.5 percent of the more than 10,000 people discharged under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy since its inception in 1994.

But many were military school graduates or service members who went to medical school at the taxpayers' expense — troops not as easily replaced by a nation at war that is struggling to fill its enlistment quotas.

"You don't just go out on the street tomorrow and pluck someone from the general population who has an Air Force education, someone trained as a physician, someone who bleeds Air Force blue, who is willing to serve, and that you can put in Iraq tomorrow," said Beth Schissel, who graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1989 and went on to medical school.

According to figures compiled by the Pentagon and released by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, Schissel is one of 244 medical and health professionals discharged from 1994 through 2003 under the policy that allows gays and lesbians to serve as long as they abstain from homosexual activity and do not disclose their sexual orientation. Congress approved the policy in 1993.

At a time when the Army is begging for people, bigoted archaic rules still apply and cost us some of the best and brightest.

Cry not for the gays and lesbians, though. Discharge can actually be a step up in pay and working conditions.

"These discharges comprise a very small percentage of the total and should be viewed in that context," said Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Pentagon spokeswoman. She added that troops discharged under the law can continue to serve their country by becoming a private military contractor or working for other federal agencies.

That's where the big bucks are at. Gets you out of the trenches, too. And it only costs the Army another $200 million, chump change when billions are thrown about like party favors.
Early last year the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, estimated it cost the Pentagon nearly $200 million to recruit and train replacements for the nearly 9,500 troops that had to leave the military because of the policy. The losses included hundreds of highly skilled troops, including translators, between 1994 through 2003.

Opponents of the policy are backing legislation in the House sponsored by Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., that would repeal the law. But that bill — with 107 co-sponsors — is considered a longshot in the Republican-controlled House.

What, Republicans are making the Army weaker and wasting money too? Shocking.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

CHRIS CHRISTOFF: State laws do little to limit lobbyists' largesse
Too late to change anything for this year, but this is an ominous portent of what could radically influence the governor's race.

You don't have to be a political junkie to chuckle at Democrats and Republicans in Congress falling over each other to demonstrate their virtue in the wake of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, each side posing so-called reforms to cleanse any stains that may splatter them.

Prohibitions of gifts, meals and travel paid for by lobbyists. More disclosure of campaign contributions. Prohibit lobbyists from the floors of the U.S. House and Senate, or congressional gyms.

You'd think we'd see members of Congress barefoot, wearing sackcloth with shaved heads. If you can no longer call a lobbyist for a game of squash, repentance is at hand.

I'd pay good money to see members of Congress in sackcloth with shaved heads. Maybe we should make that part of the "reform". Heh.

Turning to Michigan-

Lobbyists still can pay for nice trips for legislators. In fact, lobbyists only have to report travel expenses for elected officials that exceed $675, and don't have to divulge where they went. A $600 gift would cover a weekend Up North for many Michigan families.

Elected officials don't have to report lobbyist-paid trips, meals or gifts.

Lawmakers can still leave elected office one day and start lobbying their former colleagues the next.

Not good, but the glaring problem comes with undisclosed campaign contributions and PACs.

Michigan is one of only three states that do not require state elected officials or their top appointees to disclose personal finances in order to reveal potential conflicts of interest.

Rules to expose campaign contributions have holes in them. It can be a year or more between the time lawmakers receive a large donation and the date they must disclose it. That's a lot of time for a special interest to influence public policy undercover.

Corporations cannot contribute to candidates directly, but they and anyone else can contribute with no limits to independent PACs and political parties, which, in turn, can contribute unlimited amounts to candidates.

It amounts to legal money laundering, said Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the state's premier watchdog of political contributions.

The newest twist is lawmakers who create private, nonprofit "foundations" that are little more than campaign slush funds that legally can accept corporate money and keep it hidden.

More and more I'm starting to believe that our government, national and maybe state too, is not the voice of "the people", but more the voice of big money and special interests.

And yes, I'm obviously new to this planet.

But still the unabashed words of Betsy DeVos ring in my ears. They intend to "buy" the government.

"I know a little something about soft money, as my family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party," Betsy DeVos wrote in an op-ed for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. "I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect some things in return.

And with Michigan's lax campaign and lobbyist laws, they might get away with it.
Canadians elect weak Conservative government - Yahoo! News
Not enough seats in Parliment to make radical change, but still scary that Canada would choose to vote for "better ties with Washington".

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadians elected their first Conservative government in 12 years, but gave the party a far-from-decisive mandate to push through its agenda of tax cuts, extra military spending and better ties with Washington.

The Conservatives, led by Stephen Harper, will have 124 seats in the Canadian Parliament, 30 below the 155 needed to form a majority. But they will still be 21 seats ahead of the ruling Liberals, who came across as tired, jaded and out of ideas in a two-month election race.

Opinion polls had pointed to a Conservative minority. But the number of Conservative seats was somewhat below forecasts, pointing to an unstable government unlikely to last for long.

Minority governments in Canada rarely last longer than 18 months. The outgoing minority Liberal government stayed in power for 17 months before it was defeated in November 2005 over a kickback scandal.

Unlike the Liberals, who governed with the help of the left-leaning New Democrats, the Conservatives have no natural allies in a four-party Canadian Parliament and will need to seek support from political rivals on an issue-by-issue basis.

Harper pledged to work with other parties to push through his agenda, which includes a cut in consumption taxes and a balanced budget.

The Conservatives won 36.3 percent of the popular vote and the Liberals won 30.2 percent, their second worst showing since Canada gained independence in 1867.

Harper also vows to clamp down on crime, cut waiting times for health care and improve strained relations with the United States, with whom Canada has a number of trade disputes.

He says he will allow a free vote in Parliament about whether Canada should repeal laws that allow gay marriage.

"Get those gays!" Yeah, yeah, what else is new. But as Kos points out, the left still holds the majority power in Parliment.

Another weak government with little popular mandate. The Conservatives are not natural (ideological) allies of the Bloc (who agitate for Quebec's seccession from Canada), and certainly not of the leftist NDP who made dramatic gains this election. (Combined, the Canadian left, including the Greens, drew over 52 percent of the vote. And that's not including the Bloc, which is very leftist as well.)

So any major agreement will have to be done with compromise and cooperation.

Wow, what's that like?

Monday, January 23, 2006


Just wanted to say "hello" to the visitor from ALTICOR who hit my blog on the post about DeVos and the "culture of corruption" from Sept. 30th.

Go read the story again- it tells the about money trails between DeVos and DeLay. DeLightful.
:: An Open Letter to Congress ::
John Kerry invites you to put your name in the Congressional Record. Now, these days I'm not sure that may be a wise idea, but, what the heck. They can't round us all up, can they?

Join John Kerry and add your name to the Congressional Record
An Open Letter to all Senators

I am writing to ask that you vote against Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court and work hard to convince other Senators to join you.

Judge Alito does not represent my values. He does not represent mainstream American values. I think it’s time that the United States Senate confirms once and for all that extreme ideology has no place on the highest court in the land.

This is a critical fight for the future of our country. It’s no time to sit on the sidelines. That’s why I’ve taken the time to sign this letter and pass it along to my friends and neighbors. And I hope that’s why you’ll step up to the plate and do the right thing for America: defeat Samuel Alito.

I am honored to join John Kerry by putting my name in the Congressional Record against Judge Alito. I call on you to do the same with your vote.
AlterNet: Why Hillary Won't Save Us
Molly Ivins hits the wall. If you haven't read this yet, you should.

I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.

Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone. This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to relearn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief.


What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes. The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. Who are you afraid of?

Molly, my guess is they are afraid of the big money corporate donors. Other than that, I haven't a clue. The bully rethugs would fold like a house of cards the second someone stands up to them. (see: Social Security reform)

A filibuster of Alito goes a long way towards renewing my faith, that's for sure. It might even be the turning point for Democrats now and in the future. We will see.
Halliburton Cited in Iraq Contamination - Yahoo! News
With friends like Halliburton, who needs enemies.

WASHINGTON - Water supplied to a U.S. base in Iraq was contaminated and the contractor in charge, Halliburton, failed to tell troops and civilians at the facility, according to internal documents from the company and interviews with former Halliburton officials.

Although the allegations came from Halliburton's own water quality experts, the company once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney denied there was a contamination problem at Camp Junction City, in Ramadi.

We exposed a base camp population (military and civilian) to a water source that was not treated," said a July 15, 2005, memo by William Granger, the official for Halliburton's KBR subsidiary who was in charge of water quality in Iraq and Kuwait.

"The level of contamination was roughly 2x the normal contamination of untreated water from the Euphrates River," Granger wrote in one of several documents.

The Associated Press obtained the documents from Senate Democrats who are holding a public inquiry into the allegations Monday.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who will chair the session, held a number of similar inquiries last year on contracting abuses in Iraq. He said Democrats were acting on their own because they had not been able to persuade committee chairmen in the Republican-run Senate to investigate.

The company's former water treatment expert at Camp Junction City said he discovered the problem last March, a statement confirmed by his e-mail the day after he tested the water.

While bottled water was available for drinking, the contaminated water was used for virtually everything else, including handwashing, laundry, bathing and making coffee, said water expert Ben Carter of Cedar City, Utah.

Goes well with the bad food that KBR served the troops.

This "bad food" story I linked to was from September, and also contains this water story. Why did the media choose to trumpet this now? Who knows.

Halliburton swept it under the rug, explaining, "Hey. We provided bottled water at $50 a bottle. What more do you want?"

The water expert said he told company officials at the base that they would have to notify the military. "They told me it was none of my concern and to keep my mouth shut," he said.

On at least one occasion, Carter said, he spoke to the chief military surgeon at the base, asking him whether he was aware of stomach problems afflicting people. He said the surgeon told him he would look into it.

"They brushed it under the carpet," Carter said. "I told everyone, 'Don't take showers, use bottled water."

A July 14, 2005, memo showed that Halliburton's public relations department knew of the problem.

"I don't want to turn it into a big issue right now," staff member Jennifer Dellinger wrote in the memo, "but if we end up getting some media calls I want to make sure we have all the facts so we are ready to respond."

And Republicans won't investigate. What else is new?
Steelers, Seahawks to Meet in Super Bowl - Yahoo! News
Poor Panthers. Guess I'll go back to wearing my Tampa stuff, fair weather fan that I am. I'd wear my Detroit stuff but people laugh and throw things at me.

Now it's time for the endless comparisons, stats matchups, useless trivia for the next two weeks. Bah. What will I do next weekend without any football?

Seattle's 34-14 victory over Carolina in the NFC title game is part of a 14-game run in which the only loss was the regular-season finale, when the Seahawks rested their starters for most of the game in Green Bay.

And Pittsburgh's 34-17 win in Denver was its seventh in a row — the Steelers consider every one of them a playoff game after a 7-5 start because they need every one of their six straight to end the season just to make it into the playoffs.

Pittsburgh 35, Seattle 31.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Granholm backs $1B health plan for poor - 01/22/06 - The Detroit News
Thanks go to Matt at michiganliberal.com for pointing this out- it ties in with my "quality of life" and the stingy GOP post down below.

My Governor rocks.

LANSING -- Gov. Jennifer Granholm will propose in her State of the State address Wednesday a $1 billion plan to cut in half the number of Michiganians without health insurance.

Under her so-called "Michigan Health First Partnership," some 500,000 low-income residents -- most of them working adults -- would get state-issued health care cards.

Those earning less than the federal poverty level, which is $18,850 for a family of four, would have no co-pays or deductibles. The amount recipients would have to contribute would rise along with their income. The cut-off would be double the poverty level, or $38,700 for a family of four.

Michigan would kick in about $400 million, which administration officials said the state is already paying through various programs for the uninsured, and the federal government would be expected to ante up $500 million to $600 million. The program would require no new taxes, Granholm aides said. Under the most optimistic scenario, the proposal is many months from being put in place.

Prospects for approval from the Republican-controlled Legislature in an election year are uncertain. Administration officials weren't even sure if legislative action would be required.

"If someone can come up with a proposal so people can lead a better life, we'd obviously be interested in studying the proposal," said Ari Adler, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming. Adler said Republicans in the Legislature are skeptical the money can be found to operate the program in the current budget.

"It's a great goal; we're spending this money already and I don't think it will be hard to get our arms around it," said Janet Olszewski, director of the state Department of Community Health.

The governor's health insurance expansion initiative will cover only half of the state's 1 million uninsured, Olszewski said, because that's all the state can afford now. Cards would be issued to the first eligible 500,000 who apply, she said.

"We would love to get all the way but we believe at this point we have identified a plan to get us halfway," Olszewski said.

Olszewski said the governor has already met with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Director Mike Leavitt about the program and she characterized his response as "enthusiastic." She said the state and federal governments are still working out details.

Saa-weet. If we can get the Feds on board to float some coin for this- all the better.

Republicans have no excuse for blocking something like this if we can do it without raising taxes.

I love it when Democrats play offense for a change.
KRT Wire | 01/21/2006 | Panthers' Delhomme delivers in the clutch
Are you ready for some football? Jake is.

FORT WORTH, Texas - Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme doesn't pass the initial eyeball test.

Just ask the Cowboys, who chose to stick with Quincy Carter and Chad Hutchinson over signing him as a free agent three years ago.

The modest football pedigree to go along with the Louisiana drawl and the aw-shucks demeanor just doesn't exude winner upon first inspection. Neither frankly does his regular-season play.

But get him in the playoffs and Delhomme delivers like no one in NFL history. No one. Not Troy Aikman. Not Tom Brady. Not Joe Montana. Not Bart Starr. No one, that is, as far the NFL passer rating is concerned.

In completing 98 of 157 for 1,446 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions in six playoff games, Delhomme has a postseason passer rating of 108.4, which is the best in NFL history based on a minimum of 150 attempts.

I'll take the Panthers. I'll be wearing my Panthers sweatshirt (I have more Panther clothes than any other team- love the blue) and Panthers hat and sitting on the edge of my seat cheering.

As far as Denver vs. Pittsburgh, man...that's a tough one. Did Pittsburgh use it all up on the Colts? Did Denver's win come from so many New England mistakes? Does home field matter that much? Pittsburgh, like Carolina, thrives on the road.

Including playoffs, they are 15-3 on the road the last two years. No team in the NFL has a better record than that. They are trying to become the first No. 6 seed to make the Super Bowl and the first team since the 1985 Patriots to win three road playoff games en route to the Super Bowl (Carolina also has that chance in the NFC.)

The Steelers are built for the road, with a pounding running game they use 57 percent of the time, which figures to cut down on the number of plays that need to be changed at the line and the number of overall mistakes.

They are also a team that, for whatever reason, has had trouble getting it done in the biggest games at home, with the Terrible Towels flying and the expectations soaring.

"It was kind of more of a distraction than anything; more ticket requests, a lot of people want to come and watch," receiver Hines Ward said. "With us going on the road, we really don't have to worry about that too much. We just go out there and just concentrate on football."

At the beginning of the year Kos had a football thread- I picked the Super Bowl as Pittsburgh vs. Tampa, simply because I didn't have a clue as to who would prevail in the NFC. But I figured that this might be Pittsburgh's year.

So, for that reason alone, I'll take Pittsburgh. And if they meet Carolina in the Big Game, I'm going to have a major problem picking that one. ;-)
GOP cries politics over Merit Award
Funny how they can propose to cut taxes with every other breath, never explaining how they would pay for them. When it comes to giving money to kids for college, or helping the poor keep their houses warm, suddenly the well dries up.

GRAND RAPIDS -- Patty Mienko does not care about the politics that could be behind Gov. Jennifer Granholm's plan to boost the state's college scholarship program by $1,000.

While Republican legislators wonder where the money to fund it will come from, Mienko and parents statewide welcome the move with open arms.

"How could we say no to something like that?" asked Mienko, whose daughter, Brittany, is a freshman at Union High School. "College is expensive, and every little bit would help."

Granholm is expected to renew her call for revamping the Michigan Merit Award scholarship plan in her State of the State address next week.

"How are we going to pay for this?" asked Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland. "We don't know how many students would be projected to qualify and what the financial impact would be."

Kuipers said Republican leaders discussed proposals with Granholm two months ago, but her renewed effort surprised lawmakers.

"I'm all for rewarding kids who do well, but this is a fairly substantive increase that needs to be researched before we can talk about doing it," he said.

But when it comes to tax cuts? Paying for them is not an issue. And rather than help people who are struggling with astronomical heat bills, Republicans who helped Engler drain the "rainy day" fund before he blew town decide that now is a good time to start saving money again.

The Republican-controlled chamber is looking to finish up work on a package of bills that would slice state taxes in half for 35,000 small businesses and tuck into savings $116 million left over from last year's state budget.

The legislation won approval from the Senate last week, but some Democrats in that chamber argued that the extra money should go toward helping low-income residents with higher heating bills rather than putting it into the Budget Stabilization Fund.

House Speaker Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, defended the tax cuts.

Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm has said she opposes the tax cut because lawmakers have not come up with a way to cover the lost revenue, but it's unclear whether House Democrats will vote against the legislation.

They plan to cut more. From back in December-
The governor and GOP legislative leaders deadlocked several times this year on what broader business tax cuts should look like, a fight that's expected to continue in 2006. DeRoche and Republican Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema of Wyoming insist the state must restructure and reduce its single business tax to keep jobs even if it means cutting state programs.

Seems to me that we need to strike a balance between making our tax rate competitive without taking it out on the poor. Who wants to live in a state that has multitudes of homeless, hungry and sick people? Who wants to live in a state that has no quality of life- from the public schools to the public parks, roads, cops, fire department, etc. etc., on and on.

What, exactly, would they cut that hasn't already been sliced to the bone? We have had over $4 billion in cuts and balances already, more than any other governor before.

Reverse Robin Hood politics- take from the poor to give to the rich. We continue on this course and we, too, can be a third world country. Maybe that's exactly what Republicans want, cause it sure seems like they don't give a shit about helping people.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Pitch to sell state parks stirs Lansing
Dick DeVos once served on the Mackinac board of directors and has donated "hundred of thousands of dollars" to the right-wing think tank. Let's ask Dick if he approves selling off the state parks.

With assets that range from sparkling lakes to towering sand dunes to remote hardwood forests, Michigan's state parks rank among our most prized resources.

But in these cash-strapped times, a free-market think tank is floating a novel idea: Why not sell off and "privatize" 14 state parks, including Interlochen, Newaygo and Mears near Pentwater?

Not so fast, says state Sen. Patricia Birkholz, R-Saugatuck. Birkholz considers the proposal rash and ill-founded, prompting her and a colleague to introduce bills to protect state parks from any "knee-jerk" sale.

"I don't think it's a good idea. I just don't think the helter-skelter selling of our state parks makes sense. They are an important part of our tourism economy," Birkholz said.

The plan is offered by the Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a conservative champion of smaller government and privatization. The proposal was authored by Russ Harding, a senior policy analyst for the center and former director of Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality under Gov. John Engler.

Harding argued that Michigan's park system -- now encompassing 97 sites -- has expanded into "something quite different" than that envisioned by lawmakers early in the 20th century.

"Michigan has acquired many state parks over the years that are not unique in either their natural resources or their historic value," Harding wrote.

He said the sale of those parks he identified as "good candidates for private ownership" would reap several benefits: It would raise funds, cut competition with private campgrounds, put properties back on the tax rolls and let the state focus on its "truly outstanding natural and historic sites."

Yes, the friends of Mr. DeVos would sell off Michigan's assets and take away the public's use of our beautiful parks. Better yet, turn them into housing developments.

I hope our state legislature puts a stop to this nonsense. Sounds like they might.
Frist calls Alito Democrats' "nightmare" - Yahoo! News
That's it. Filibuster his ass.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told Republican Party activists on Friday night that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito was the "worst nightmare of liberal Democrats."

Frist, a Tennessee Republican, made the remark to fellow Republicans during a private tour he gave them of the Senate chamber when the Senate was not in session.

Frist was not available for comment following his remarks.

Asked about the senator's remark, Frist spokesman Bob Stevenson said that Alito "is a thoughtful mainstream conservative jurist who is well respected by his peers, by Democrats and Republicans alike."

Stevenson added, "There are liberals, many of them represented by the outside groups, who will do anything to kill any nominee put forward by this administration."

Like Roberts? Seems to me he got through OK. So, I guess that makes you a liar.

Democrats have expressed concerns the conservative Alito would push the nation's highest court to the right in areas such as abortion rights, civil rights and presidential powers.

Frist is freely admitting that this jurist would not serve all the citizens of America, and to some he would be a "nightmare". He must be stopped if that is the case.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Md. Judge Strikes Down Gay-Marriage Ban - Yahoo! News
Good news for a change.

BALTIMORE - A judge on Friday struck down a 33-year-old Maryland law against same-sex marriage, agreeing with 19 gay men and women that it violates the state constitution's guarantee of equal rights.

"Although tradition and societal values are important, they cannot be given so much weight that they alone will justify a discriminatory statutory classification," Judge M. Brooke Murdock wrote.

The judge immediately stayed the order to give the state time to appeal.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed in 2004 by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of nine couples and a man whose partner died. It named court clerks in Baltimore city and Prince George's, St. Mary's, Dorchester and Washington counties as defendants.

The state law specifying that marriage is a union of one man and one woman was passed in 1973.

'73? Did they even have gay people in '73? * wink *

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bin Laden says new US attacks prepared - Yahoo! News
Just in time for the State of the Union address, where Bush will ask for a bunch of money for the perpetual, never-ending "war on terra"! How convenient!

DUBAI (Reuters) - Osama bin Laden warned that al Qaeda was preparing new attacks inside the United States, but said the group was open to a conditional truce with Americans, according to an audio tape attributed to him on Thursday.

"The operations are under preparation and you will see them in your houses as soon as they are complete, God willing," said the speaker on the audio tape, who sounded like bin Laden.

In the tape, broadcast by al Jazeera television, bin Laden said al Qaeda was willing to respond to public U.S. opinion in favor of withdrawing troops from Iraq.

"We have no objection to responding to this with a long term truce based on fair conditions."

Ha. There will never be any "truce" or cessation of hostilities. Without war, the Republicans are nothing but a bunch of thieves. Without war, there is no justification for the money spigot to keep flowing into bloated defense contracts. Without war, there is no need for the continuing power grab and invasion into our personal lives. They need Osama around.

On the flip side, Osama needs them to continue on with his bullshit. I fully expect him to pop back up around election time (providing he is still alive- I really thought he was dead. Maybe they have a backlog of tapes to trot out every few years)

Peas in a pod, these two are. Too bad innocents are caught in the middle.