Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Republicans being Republicans

Laugh out loud fun from MIRS.

Republicans, so ready to throw the stones of blame for tax increases at the Governor and the Democrats, sure are happy to help spend that money. Bet they will run back to their districts and proclaim that they saved the state, too.

Andy Dillon learns that the House Republicans are, indeed, hypocrites.

Literally minutes after much of the House Republican caucus put up scores of "yes" votes in support of spending plans that were based on the $1.4 billion in tax hikes that nearly all of them voted against, House Speaker Andy DILLON (D-Redford Twp.) was asked to opine. Here the GOP members were ready to support the budgets that spent money, but weren't willing to raise the revenue needed to pay for the spending.

"That was one of the funny comments from someone in my office who said, 'It's amazing we're sitting here negotiating about how we're going to spend money when they didn't vote for any of it," Dillon said.

"Is that hypocritical?" asked Peter LUKE of Booth Newspapers.

"Yes. I think it is, to be honest with you."

Yes, you're right Andy, and welcome to the party. We've known this for quite some time now. We probably wouldn't yell as loudly as we do if they only behaved like rational, reasonable adults. Instead, they call the Governor and the Democrats names in the media, want you to ignore their own behavior in the process, but yet will be first in line to grab the cash and take the credit from the good that comes out of being fiscally responsible.

"It does get you mad that they're ready to spend, but they weren't ready to do the hard work," said Sen. Mickey SWITALSKI (D-Roseville), the Senate Democrats' lead on the Appropriations Committee. "I don't know how they justify it to themselves. I find it difficult to understand."

The 13 budgets that had cleared the Senate by 6 p.m. today were passed, on average, with 35-3 support. The 14 budgets that had cleared the House by 6 p.m. today were passed, on average, with 88-21 support.

Remember this every time that you hear a Republican trying to blame the Governor or the Democrats for taxes or spending. Let's take, say, Mike Bishop for example.

"This is the process," Bishop said. "We all voted to send over budgets with the limited revenue we have. When the Governor got through her tax increases we were operating with new targets."

Translation: We are going to accuse the Governor of robbing the store, but we sure will be ready to take the loot.

Just another day in Lansing.

White House threatens veto of TAA bill

Surprised? You really shouldn't be by now.

The White House threatened on Tuesday to veto a bill to expand federal assistance for retraining workers who have lost their jobs because of trade, but said it wanted to work with Congress to revamp the program.

As we have mentioned before, this bill has a significant impact on Michigan and its workforce- but when it comes to helping the American people, apparently the Bush administration will routinely object.

"When it comes to trade, the time has come to deal fairly and squarely with American workers -- our Middle Class," Rep. Jim McDermott, a Washington Democrat and senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement.

"That's what our TAA (Trade Adjustment Assistance) bill does, but the president simply does not get it. The president wants to stiff the American worker and he will sacrifice his trade agenda if he does," McDermott said.

There is a vote on free trade with Peru that the House Democrats will likely use as leverage to get some compromise on this bill, but as it stands, Republicans are saying "no" to the workers who have been displaced by trade.

And once again, more surprise, I know, we hear the words "reform" come up as an excuse. Please turn to page 42 in the Republican Playbook, and follow along.

Republicans say they are committed to continuing and improving the trade adjustment assistance program, but favor "cost-effective" reforms they say would encourage workers to return to work more quickly than the Democrats' plan.

As if those workers don't want to return to work. "Encourage" is probably code for "we will cut you off" if you can't find a job.

The distinctions between direction of the parties continues to be clearly defined by these actions. So it goes in Lansing, so it goes in Washington. The Democrats are trying to help people, the Republicans are going to obstruct.

But what else is new?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Is it a budget yet?

Afraid to look.

*peeks out from under the keyboard*

Nope, not yet, but close. The hold-up now appears to be the privitazation of foster care and other areas that deal with children's lives.

A few snags remained, most notably a dispute between Senate Republicans and Gov. Jennifer Granholm on privatizing foster care, adoption and juvenile justice services.

Privatization advocates say state money could be saved by contracting for some services.

Sen. Bill Hardiman, R-Kentwood, who chairs the conference committee on the human services budget, said the Senate and House are close on the issue, but the governor has not signed off on moving services from the state to private hands. House Appropriations Chairman George Cushingberry, D-Detroit, said Granholm doesn't want to cut unionized state jobs.

First of all- George, you really aren't helping things here by running to the press with this stuff. Equating veto overrides with threats and "terrorism" is pretty inflammatory, even for you. Love that feistiness, but seriously, watch the rhetoric. And to boil this down to saving union jobs neglects the concern that it hasn't been proven that privatization saves anyone money- matter of fact, you don't have to look very far to find an example of where it cost more money and children were hurt.

One of the first stories that comes up on a Google search is this bit of information from Florida dated June 2006.

TALLAHASSEE - The cost of privatizing the state's foster care system has soared in recent years and a higher percentage of children are being repeatedly abused, according to a state audit released Monday.

details over the jump...
Florida did a before and after study on privatizing their system- and look what happened.

During that time, the per child cost to taxpayers has gone up an average of 10.59 percent a year - or almost 70 percent over the six years when adjusted for inflation.

But case managers were paid less. Certified counselors started at $31,089, while their noncertified counterparts began at $29,679, less than what their state counterparts are paid.

Costs went up, pay went down, oversight was spotty, and the instances of abuse went from fewer than one in twelve to one in nine. To top it off, the Florida Legislature had to come up with an additional $20 million to fix problems.

So, there is a little more that goes into it than just "saving union jobs". 

That being said, the hope is a compromise that makes sense can be reached here- and you better have some oversight on what happens next. The lives and well-being of children are in your hands, lawmakers. 

Other budget fun- they are spending money they don't technically have. How this is legal is beyond me. From last night's MIRS-

Lacking the money to pay for the state's environmental and natural resources departments, the Legislature today moved on a pair of spending plans that assume lawmakers will approve by Jan. 15 the $26 million in fee increases needed to keep both departments from making deep cuts in their services.

The House passed the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) budget, HB 4354, this evening on a 63-46 vote. The House passed the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) budget, HB 4358, with difficulty this evening on a 56-53 vote.

Currently, the political will doesn't exist to pass a new $5 add-on to state's fishing and hunting licenses or $18 million in environmental regulation fees typically paid by the business community.

The political will is going to magically appear later? OK. Without that funding, state parks will close, people will be laid off, business will be slowed in the time it takes to get permits. We hurt the economy when we hurt the environment, and quite frankly a small add-on to hunting and fishing licenses still keeps us in line with fees in neighboring states. Not really that big of a deal. Just do it.

Dillon told the News that he thinks this will all be done today. Sure hope so. The people of this state have got to be really tired of the constant threat of shutdown by now. I know I am.

This is your job. Find the courage and get it done. Try not to hurt anyone in the process.

And let's move on already.

Budget deal reached

MIRS is reporting that we have a deal.

The biggest obstacle toward a Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 budget deal has been cleared, meaning lawmakers are prepared to wrap up the final pieces of the budget before leaving tonight.

A tentative deal that clears up on-going problems between the Legislature and the Governor's office on the placement of foster children and troubled youth to non-profit homes as opposed to state-run facilities was struck Senate and administrative sources have confirmed.

No details about that yet. The AP has a breakdown of everything that has been done so far, and they will be meeting tonight to wrap things up.


Told you they wanted to go trick-or-treating. Do I know these guys or what?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Howard Dean : "There are ways of working this out"

Good. Fix this, please.

Glimmers of hope from Howard Dean at a stop in Oakland County last night, but in reality, at this point, it seems that all of this fighting over the Michigan primary may be for naught anyway.

With Iowa moving up to January 3rd, and New Hampshire soon to follow to the 8th, the media narrative has this over and done before we can even take our shot on the 15th. If that is the case, perhaps Democrats all over the country can stop ripping each other apart and come to the acceptance that, at least this time around, Iowa and New Hampshire will once again determine our nominee, and there isn't anything we can do about that except start to heal the damage out here.

Damage has been done. Dean says he "understands the point" that Michigan and Florida are trying to make by moving their dates. Even if that is true, does he understand the fallout that is happening amongst the party faithful when candidates seemingly shun those states?

We can debate the strategy of the "rule breaking" all we want, the sad fact is you don't see the Republicans punishing the voters of either state in the way that the Democrats are. Howard calls this a "minor internal fight", but out here in the real world, you have read the comments on the blogs or perhaps talked with grassroots activists who are dispirited, deflated, and downright angry about what is going on.

It seemingly is a momentum killer. Democrats in Michigan and Florida, two very important states in the national election, will be months behind in trying to build the groundswell it takes to get people excited about working in the election and/or donating money.

Michigan, you are not alone. Florida "feels your pain" too- this past weekend, they held their Democratic convention in Orlando, and the lack of the big names is having an impact there also. Ominous rumblings from the dejected boots on the ground...

"This would be the least exciting (convention) in 30 years, the least encouraging," said a noticeably deflated, long-time Democratic conventioneer Alice Long Owens of St. Augustine, Florida.

... to polls showing that we are losing the independent vote...

The state's top elected Democrat, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, touted his recent lawsuit against "political party bosses in Washington" for putting in place rules that do not permit campaigning in Florida but do allow fund-raising.

He cited a new Quinnipiac University poll showing that 22 percent of independent voters were less likely to vote for a Democrat in November 2008 because of the candidate boycott.

"The delegate ban may be hurting our own presidential candidates," Nelson said.

And one joke hit home in a big, scary way-

Even the George Bush impersonator hired to entertain about 2,000 activists gathered at Walt Disney World's Yacht Club resort noticed the absence of candidates.

"What can it cost you, a couple hundred votes?" he joked. "And when did a couple hundred votes ever make a difference?"

Ouch. Bad memories. But a good point.

more over the flip...
Dean has been in Michigan the past few days, probably getting an earful about the primary debate, and the response in the title up above was the most positive thing he said- all the other statements coming from him and the major players in this episode seem to be a matter of passing the buck at this point. Head agitator Carl Levin had this to say-

"I'm glad he thinks there are ways to work this out," Levin said in a written statement. "We look forward to hearing what he has in mind to end New Hampshire's self-appointed dominance in this process and give other states equal access to our candidates."

Levin then punted the ultimate decision to Granholm, who, if I remember correctly, had to have her arm twisted to go along with this in the first place. She is still calling for a primary on the 15th, as is Mark Brewer, at last report. Levin is now suggesting that we should have caucuses on the 8th, the same day as New Hampshire, which only adds to the confusion.

Will any of it matter if the candidates don't show up to campaign? This "pledge" did the most damage, even though the contenders are finding subtle ways around it, such as Richardson and Kucinich appearing at the Arab-American National Leadership Conference in Dearborn over the weekend. The front-runners were scared of repercussions.

While they were granted waivers by the national Democratic Party to appear in Michigan, which has run afoul of national party rules by scheduling a Jan. 15 primary, the candidates were concerned that coming here would send the wrong message to Democrats beyond Michigan.

It shouldn't be that way, and the DNC can help with that, but chooses not to. Dean pleads ignorance on the pledge and passes he responsibility of that decision on to the campaigns. Didn't he have any influence to stop that from happening?

Dean said he wanted to impress on Michigan Democrats that the national party had no role in promoting the anti-campaigning pledge demanded by the four approved early states.

"We had no part in that, and frankly we were surprised by it," Dean said.

Asked if the candidates should be campaigning in Michigan, Dean said that was an issue for the campaigns to decide.

Maybe so, but it seems unlikely that they would have shunned the voters of Michigan and Florida all on their own. Pulling the names off the primary ballot was another blow that didn't have to happen here in Michigan- due to the law, it didn't happen in Florida. We got an extra slap in the face.

Dean and Brewer are still talking to resolve this dispute. According to the Freep, both parties have to let the SOS know by Nov. 14th the official answer.

Which brings us back to the Republicans- they are unlikely to change the date, unless the fear of Democratic tampering in their primary gets the best of them. This also throws out the idea of putting any ballot measures on the 15th- with a lack of Democratic turnout, we don't want to be deciding issues like sales taxes or term limits at that point.

All will be settled in the next few weeks; let's hope that they don't dig this hole any deeper with whatever solution they come up with.

Chances are that as the months go by and we get deeper into the election season, this will all be forgotten as we rally to support our candidates, stop "Perpetual War" Rudy, and work to toss out the rest of the Bush Republicans. But due to the lack of leadership and control coming out the DNC, we are starting from behind in two very important states, and now we have to make up for lost time.

We can, and will, as long as this gets fixed soon. Make it better, guys.

Budgets are moving as we speak...

Breaking on MIRS-

Two departmental budgets were kicked out of joint House-Senate conference committees this morning.  The two budgets are the spending plans for the Department of Labor and Economic Growth and the Department of History, Arts and Libraries, marking the first visible sign of any real movement in weeks on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 budget bills.

WOOD was still muttering the words "shutdown" as of this morning. It's hard to believe that these guys would take it to that point again unless they REALLY want to look bad, and I don't think they do.

My out-on-a-limb bet- this gets done in time to go to the printer tomorrow and be signed on Wednesday so legislators can go trick-or-treating.

Stay tuned...

Action alert: Contact Congress on the TAA program

Do you have your Congresscritter on speed dial yet? You probably should! 202-225-3121. Program that in.

TTA stands for Trade Adjustment Assistance, the program that is training displaced workers here in Michigan for new careers after their jobs have been outsourced. The vote is coming this week, and it's critical that we get the federal money to fund this operation, or it goes bye-bye.

From the Governor's office-

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm and U.S. Representative Sander Levin today urged swift congressional action to reauthorize and expand the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program so Michigan can help workers who have been impacted by the unfair trade policies of the Bush Administration.  Granholm and Levin made their remarks during a discussion with workers, community leaders, and Michigan Works! Agency officials.

"No state has been ravaged more than Michigan by unfair trade policies that have led to the outsourcing of jobs under the Bush Administration," Granholm said.  "Strengthening and expanding the TAA program is a critical component in our plan to train workers and get them into 21st century jobs," Granholm said.

The federally funded TAA program is designed to provide support and training benefits to workers displaced from their jobs because of U.S. trade policies.  Approximately 15,000 Michigan workers are currently enrolled in TAA training programs.  While TAA is supposed to help any worker whose job has been impacted by trade policies, Michigan has routinely exhausted funding and has been forced to appeal for additional monies.

Not only does this bill expand the program for workers, it provides tax credits for business too.

The TAA bill would double the funding available for workers and create a new component called TAA for Communities, which would offer a new set of tax incentives designed to encourage redevelopment of areas that have faced reductions in manufacturing employment. Qualified areas would be designated as Manufacturing Redevelopment Zones and would be able to offer low-income housing credits and tax credits to new businesses.

This is will help our state tremendously. Give a call today, that number again is 202-225-3121.

Mention SCHIP while you are at it, too. It couldn't hurt.

(Cross-posted at Kos 'cuz I felt like it)

UPDATE: The Freep has a story about this here.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Stabenow helps Michigan with specialty crop subtitle

Decided to bring this to the front page from the Blasts section- this is a historic piece of legislation that will benefit Michigan, and Senator Stabenow deserves the credit.

For the first time, the Senate Farm Bill will recognize fruits and vegetables, which make up more than half of Michigan's agricultural income.

From the Senator's office-

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) today announced that the Senate Committee on Agriculture has, for the first time, recognized the importance of fruits and vegetables by creating a new specialty crops subtitle and has approved over $3 billion to fund specialty crops provisions.

Specialty crops- the fruits, vegetables and other crops that keep America healthy- make up half of the nation's agricultural cash receipts, but have traditionally received little recognition in previous farm bills. This legislation is of particular importance to Michigan, which grows more diverse crops than any other state except California and is a national leader in the production of numerous specialty crops, including blueberries, apples, cherries, asparagus, and celery.

And that is not all this bill will do- there are provisions for alternative energy, childhood and seniors nutrition, conservation, farmers' markets, organic research, disaster relief and much more. Read the release for the whole breakdown.

more over the flip...

The Senate Farm Bill also places a high priority on alternative energy, conservation, rural development and nutrition policies. From provisions to assist in the research and production of cellulosic ethanol to loans to encourage the building of biofuel refineries, the Farm Bill will serve to assist Michigan as the state continues to emerge as a leader in alternative fuel production.

Also included are numerous provisions encouraging environmental stewardship, investing in our rural communities, and improving our nutrition programs to provide healthier alternatives to those in need. Stabenow provisions in the bill include reauthorization of a program to protect the Great Lakes by controlling soil erosion and a "Buy American" provision directing the United States Department of Agriculture to enforce current law, which states that all federal funds and all purchases for use in the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs must be from American farmers and growers.

Even those who are normally against farm subsidies are applauding this bill.

Stabenow has pushed for months for the provisions, lining up senators to back her plan to shift agriculture policy away from the traditional commodity crops -- wheat, corn, soybeans, cotton and rice -- that still get the most federal funding. She got praise on Thursday from Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that opposes most federal farm subsidies and pushed for more fruit and vegetable programs.

"Debbie Stabenow is now a key leader on agriculture policy," Cook said. "She really did carve this out and put pressure on the committee to accommodate these growers."

But trouble looms in the form of Dick Lugar.

Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the committee, plans to introduce an amendment that would sharply curtail commodity subsidies when the bill reaches the Senate floor, likely the week of Nov. 5.

First America's kids, now America's farmers. You get the impression that the Republicans just don't want to spend any money helping the people of this country at all.

If all goes well, this could be a big win for Michigan. Keep your fingers crossed.

NFL Week 8

(OPEN DATES: Arizona, Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, Seattle)

Indianapolis at Carolina

Detroit at Chicago

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

NY Giants at Miami (in London)

Philadelphia at Minnesota

Cleveland at St. Louis

Oakland at Tennessee

Buffalo at NY Jets

Houston at San Diego

Jacksonville at Tampa Bay

Washington at New England

New Orleans at San Francisco

Green Bay at Denver

Friday, October 26, 2007

Senator Mark Schauer on Firedoglake right now

Mark Schauer is liveblogging on Firedoglake from 2-4 PM.

Stop by and say "hi", maybe think of that one question that Mark can't answer right off the top of his head, just to keep him on his game. ;-)

Schauer is being endorsed by Blue America- check out the series here.

Visit the Senator's website and contribute to his ActBlue page also.

You'll be glad you did. Michigan will be glad you did, too.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cowabunga dude! Pete Hoekstra is wasting your money

Yet another grand diversion from the Republicans.

This is so stupid that I was going to ignore it at first, but Hoekstra insists on jumping up and down and drawing attention to himself, the media is eating it up, so maybe it's time to point out how Pete is wasting YOUR taxpayer dollars by keeping this issue in the forefront, bothering the Governor and MDOT officials with this "death to the turtles" crusade.

Last week, Pete took to the airwaves to complain about a 2-mile long fence that is being built on US 31. This fence will stop turtles from being squished on the highway. Three species of turtles are involved, and let's not forget the humans that swerve all over the road to avoid the turtles, too. Apparently this is a quite a problem along this stretch of highway.

"This fence is a low-cost solution when you consider the potential safety, environmental and economic impacts that could arise if the situation were allowed to continue," said Mike O'Malley, MDOT Transportation Planning manager. "MDOT is required by federal and state law to protect threatened and endangered species."

The state is kicking in a whopping 28 grand. The rest of $318,000 is federal funds and donations. In other words, not really a big deal in the grand scheme of things, especially when you consider that the war efforts are estimated to cost us $2.4 trillion dollars and the Republicans haven't even begun to pay for that yet. 

"The state has not requested greater flexibility in how to spend federal highway dollars, and Lansing bureaucrats need to begin to think more creatively in how they address our state's problems." said Hoekstra.

Wrong. That comment was last week. Pete decided he needed yet more attention, so he sent Gov. Granholm a letter this week, reiterating his complaints once again, and asking for the state to... get this... spend taxpayer money.

Thus, I am writing to request that you convene a working group to study how the State can better allocate funds from its budget.

How much will that cost us, Pete? Hoekstra said he would "volunteer" his time. How noble, seeing as how we already pay his salary. Was Pete "volunteering" his time in front of the cameras? Or writing these letters? I have seen three separate news stories on this now with Pete's mug featured - including yet another one leading off the 5 o'clock news today.

How much have you cost us already with this, Pete? Now watch him waste more dollars bothering the Governor, who has better things to do...
Granholm shot back today with a strongly worded letter.

In response to your letter yesterday regarding the state budget and an environmental mitigation project on US 31, it is unfortunate that your offer to improve federal funding flexibility is accompanied by so many factual errors and rhetorical distortions. I speak for many in the state Capitol in rejecting you offer to convene a state budget working group, and instead urge you to focus on the vast amount of unfinished federal business, including your rejection of common sense, bipartisan children's health care legislation.

Yeah. What she said.

Pete went a bit nutty about the turtles in 2005 when this first was proposed. Granholm pointed out that MDOT answered his questions then (costing us how much money?), and that federal law requires states spend a portion of federal highway funds on "non-construction purposes and expressly allows environmental mitigation to reduce wildlife mortality".

Pete was in a position to change this law back when Republicans were in the majority. Granholm asked if he attempted to do so. She probably knows the answer to that already.

Hoekstra says that the state hasn't asked for more flexibility in funding. Not true. In 2003, Granholm testified in Washington specifically asking for flexibility in using funds, and that was granted, and everyone said thank you.

As far as the "lack of creativity" on the part of the state on using funds to create jobs, Granholm had this to say-

Again, you are dead wrong. In fact, in March 2006, I notified you that my Administration would advance more than $300 million in new federal transportation funds to build ready-to-go, local transportation projects, through our innovative Local Jobs Today program. As a result, more than $495 million is being invested in local projects that are creating more than 8,000 jobs, many in communities that you represent.

Not to mention the jobs created by building the fence. There was a funny visual juxtaposition on one TV news story; Pete complaining that we could use this for "jobs", just as they showed a group of guys working on the fence.

One final comment at the end pointed to the ultimate truth.

"Your elected leaders in Lansing have not had the luxury you have had of repeatedly rubber-stamping unbalanced federal budgets. In fact, the federal budgets of the past several years have grown at an average annual rate of more than seven percent since 2002, while Michigan's general fund was lower in 2007 than it was in 2002. With all due respect, I do not believe your state budget advice would advance our state's budget or economic climates."

How does Pete respond to this? With a general non-answer, and he asks for yet more taxpayer dollars to be spent on this diversion.

Hoekstra responded Thursday and said the state needs to get creative. "Instead of saying, well, that's what the feds told us to do, then I guess we ought to go do it. It's kind of saying, if we had more flexibility, if we could do something else with that money, here's where it would go to get Michigan's economy going again."

Hoekstra also asked MDOT for information regarding studies on turtle deaths along that stretch of road, and how much that process cost taxpayers.

No, Pete, why don't you tell us how much YOUR "process" is costing taxpayers. Seems that you are sinking quite a bit of your time, staff time, and now our state officials time into frivolous complaints about something that is perfectly legitimate and even necessary.

Rumor has it that Pete is thinking of running for governor in 2010. Turtles everywhere should be on notice. Taxpayers, too. Seems Pete like to waste everyone's time and money with petty grandstanding to divert your gaze from the real issues that need attention.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

NFL Results Week 7

Buffalo 19, Baltimore 14

Detroit 23, Tampa Bay 16

Tennessee 38, Houston 36

New England 49, Miami 28

N.Y. Giants 33, San Francisco 15

New Orleans 22, Atlanta 16

Washington 21, Arizona 19

Cincinnati 38, N.Y. Jets 31

Kansas City 12, Oakland 10

Chicago 19, Philadelphia 16

Dallas 24, Minnesota 14

Seattle 33, St. Louis 6

Denver 31, Pittsburgh 28

Indianapolis 29, Jacksonville 7

8-6. Ack!

64-39 on the year.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Gore falls short for the Michigan ballot

No Al.

Supporters needed to collect 12,396 valid signatures by Tuesday but collected only around 3,000, said Bob Alexander, co-chairman of the Michigan Draft Gore group. He said in a statement that the group was able to raise only about a fifth of the $12,500 it needed to mount a full-time petition drive.

And Brewer is saying that they are sticking with a primary, so at this point, no caucus, either.

Gore backers on Tuesday urged the state Democratic Party to bow out of the presidential primary and instead hold party caucuses so Gore could be on the ballot if he gets into the race. But state Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer said that isn't going to happen.

"We're intending to use the January 15 primary to select our delegates," he said Tuesday.

Gore could still be a write-in candidate if he files with the SOS by January 4th.

Both Brewer and Anuzis think that all the delegates will be seated at the convention.

Brewer declined to speculate on whether the withdrawal of Biden, Edwards, Obama and Richardson means Clinton likely will win most of the state's 60 national convention delegates who will be allocated according to the primary results.

But he said he is not worried Michigan delegates won't get seated at their national conventions, even though the Democratic National Committee plans to strip Florida and Michigan of their delegates for scheduling primaries before Feb. 5 and the Republican National Committee wants to take away half the delegates from Michigan, New Hampshire, Florida, South Carolina and Wyoming because those states shifted their elections ahead on the GOP calendar.

What will it take to get those names back on the ballot for a primary? Is that possible?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Stem cell extremism hurts Michigan economy

Couple of articles of interest in the Detroit News in the past week that address the economic impact of our restrictive laws on stem cell research here in Michigan. Seems the scientists, the jobs and the investments are going elsewhere because we are beholden to archaic laws that other states don't have.

Michigan is losing businesses, jobs and some of its best scientists because of restrictive embryonic stem cell research laws, according to scientists and others seeking to change the research climate.

Though proponents have long touted the promise embryonic stem cells hold for people with incurable diseases, they are beginning to focus on Michigan's missed economic opportunities.

"Other states are seeing embryonic stem cell research has major economic development potential … and are moving into this area in a big way because they smell jobs," said David Waymire, a spokesman for Michigan Stem Cell Research and Cures. "One hundred years ago, a small operation run by a guy named Henry Ford spawned a vast industry. We should be careful not to tell the Henry Fords of stem cell research that Michigan is closed for business."

How much are we losing? We don't know offhand, the state hasn't conducted a study (yet), but it probably runs in the billions.

California has taken the lead nationally by passing a ballot issue that allowed the state to invest $3 billion in stem cell research over 10 years. The investment is projected to generate state revenues and health care cost savings of between $6.4 billion and $12.6 billion, according to an economic impact report by the Analysis Group Inc.

Michigan, one of five states in the nation that does not allow the development of new embryonic stem cell lines, is focused on easing legal restrictions. A hearing on three bills will be Oct. 31 before the House Judiciary Committee. The bills aim to allow embryonic stem cell research but increase penalties for human cloning, one of the fears cited by opponents of the research.

That's a bad minority to be in- other states are eating our lunch while we get left behind in the 20th century, prisoners of irrational fears of cloning and whatever crazy theory the extreme right wants to throw around this week. 

Alfred Taubman recently donated $1.4 million to Michigan Stem Cell Research & Cures, and pledged to help with a ballot proposal (by an affiliated group, Chet) should our legislators fail to act.

He hopes lawmakers will ease state laws through legislative efforts under way. But if lawmakers fail to pass the legislation, embryonic stem cell research supporters are exploring whether to ask voters in November 2008 if the law should be changed. Documents were filed this month with the state to set up a ballot campaign committee.

Taubman has an example of how money he has donated went to California because they weren't allowed to do the research here...
This is already costing us.

Taubman, who has donated $150 million over his lifetime, including $60 million to the University of Michigan, recently gave $5 million to Eva Feldman, a prominent U-M researcher of Lou Gehrig's disease. She is researching whether stem cells can counteract the destruction of nerve cells in some patients. She is using rats genetically altered with a gene present in many Lou Gehrig's patients

But because of the laws in Michigan, Feldman had to take Taubman's gift and team up with a researcher in California, a state that has invested millions in embryonic stem cell research. She and Martin Marsala, an associate professor at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine, could begin clinical trials in five years if they are successful in counteracting nerve cell destruction in Lou Gehrig's patients with stem cells.

What are the chances this passes in the Michigan House? Good question. Last November, Dillon said he would not block a vote on stem cell research when he was elected Speaker, but there is a chance that some of the more conservative Democrats might hold this up. In early January of this year, the Freep ran a story indicating that the House may be a problem.

Still, the overall balance of power in Lansing on the issues of abortion, stem cells and cloning is relatively unchanged because many Democrats don't support a change in the existing Michigan law, which prevents the destruction of human embryos for stem-cell research.

Whether this is still true or not remains to be seen. Andy Meisner has been working hard on this issue all year (check out the YouTube video from LL here). Perhaps some minds have changed by now, or perhaps Dawson Bell was wrong about that in the first place.

Conservative Democrats would be well advised to think long and hard about the vote on this issue- last year, groups like "Republicans for Granholm" formed based on the idea that the right wing was too extreme in their views, and stem cell research was one of the issues cited.

Ziegler said he disagrees with Republicans in Washington and Lansing who oppose embryonic stem cell research and who have turned many social issues into political litmus tests.

"I'm going to disappoint some people in the Republican Party. But those are the extremists in our party who want to block stem cell research and who turned out of office a good man like U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz," Ziegler said.

Pay heed, Democrats, and get on the side of your constituents on this issue. Polls show an overwhelming majority of Michigan citizens favor this research.

Even if it does make it through the House, this is one more thing that will probably die in the obstructionist Senate, and we are going to have to take it to a ballot proposal. In the meantime, business is left wondering what will be next...

It's important that Michigan change its law not only to move toward finding better treatments and cures of diseases but also to foster a more positive business environment, said James Eliason, vice president for external development for Asterand, a tissue research company in Wayne State University's TechTown.

"The current law gives a negative impression to anybody who would want to move into the state with a high-tech life sciences company," Eliason said.

"Even if they weren't intending to work on stem cells, it can send a negative message about what's the next thing they might want to outlaw."

... and some will contemplate moving out of state.

If Michigan doesn't change its laws, proponents say, other states seeking to expand life science and biotech industries will continue to court Michigan businesses such as BioFlow Industries, a Whitmore Lake start-up firm developing equipment for studying human cells.

Owner Lee Noll recently traveled to North Carolina and later this month is flying to Texas to meet with investors who want him to move his business.

Noll doesn't want to leave Michigan, but he said he might have to because his fledging company needs investors to expand into what he expects will be a $50 million venture within five years. Few Michigan investors are willing to take the risk.

This is a no-brainer all around. Alleviate human suffering, create jobs and investment, and it's a winning political issue all at the same time? What do we have to lose, except for the stigma that Michigan is controlled by extremist viewpoints?

Let's get this done.

Visit Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures for more information.

That's Hurricane Jen-ni-fer to you, Senator

Sometimes it is best to embrace the monikers that the Republicans throw at you. This is one that denotes strength and power; why would boxers or the University of Miami choose to use it as a nickname otherwise? Something to think about as you read what follows next.

We will get back to Senator Alan Sanborn and his choice of words in a minute; what we want to look at is why the Senator brought this up in relation to the SCHIP resolution, when the two had absolutely nothing to do with each other.

Yesterday at Daily Kos, one of my favorite bloggers of all time, georgia10, hit the nail right on the head in a diary entitled "Over There". It describes how Republicans everywhere are so devoid of actual ideas on issues that they have to turn to the personal attack as a deflection to hide the inadequacies of the party as a whole.

On the merits, the GOP knows full well that it has lost its audience.  Poll after poll shows that when it comes to issues, Americans overwhelmingly support the Democratic agenda.  Political survival then depends on misdirection from this fact.  At any cost.

The most common form of misdirection employed by the idea-barren Republican Party is to avoid talking about ideas altogether.  And the most common method used to accomplish this goal? Deflecting attention from the policy to the personal.

Those two paragraphs described to a T what happened in our Michigan Senate last Thursday when it came time for the Republicans to justify why they wouldn't move a resolution to urge Congress to override the SCHIP veto.

Jump over the flip to see what went down. It was a day to remember.
Senate Democrats, knowing that Congress was going to vote within hours (or even minutes at this point), wanted to move on two different resolutions that would urge Congress to override Bush's veto of SCHIP- one of their own and one that has passed with strong bipartisan support in the House. Naturally, the Republicans obstructed that from happening and put it off for "another day"- leading the Senate Democrats to object strongly (check Mark Schauer's diary) and get their protests printed in the Senate Journal.

The Democrats had the nerve- the nerve I tell you!- to point out the fallacies of the Republican argument, such as the illegal alien excuse and whatever, and the nerve to point out what we are spending for the Iraq War as opposed to the cost of this legislation.

How dare they, those Democrats speaking the truth. The predictable happened next. As Georgia said, "Knowing that they cannot emerge victoriously out of a battle of ideas, Republicans latch on to individuals instead." Getting called out on their inexcusable inaction was the cue for Senate Republicans to make this personal, starting with Sanborn's attack on the Governor.

I rise to make a statement as to the outrageous display by the Democrats with regard to House Concurrent Resolution No.51 earlier today. This state has enough economic problems since Hurricane Jenny blew through, and yet, the Democrats in this chamber would rather create a smokescreen to hide the fact that our Governor has failed to lead Michigan out of its economic woes and fix the problems that she has caused--problems like her tax increases, Michigan's nation-leading unemployment, and the administration that is currently in turmoil. The casualties in this week alone include her insurance commissioner and her chief of staff who have defected.

What on God's green earth did this diatribe have to do with SCHIP or House Concurrent Resolution No. 51?

Absolutely nothing.

He calls the Governor a name. Talks about moves in the administration. Calls the debate for health insurance for children a smokescreen for... nothing that had been mentioned, so I'm not sure where he got the idea it was a "smokescreen". It was the issue at hand. The question is, where in any of that do you see a valid reason for delaying a vote on the resolution for SCHIP?

You don't. And you won't, because next he moved on to attacking Senator Schauer.

I appreciate that our colleague from the 19th District wants to leave behind the problems of the state of Michigan, problems created largely by his own party and Hurricane Jenny, for Washington, D.C., but this is not the place to run for Congress.

At this point they cut his mike, citing a Senate rule that states thou shall not disparage thy colleagues motives for making statements, so unfortunately we don't get to read the rest of what surely was a rant that Ted Stevens would be proud of, and of course,  I bet it had nothing to do with getting children health insurance.

Nancy Cassis got into the act next- and get this, she complained that Senate Republicans were being censored.

Yes, the team that brought you the censorship of a blog and the censorship of the photographers, is shocked at the notion that their own mike might be turned off if they break the rules.

The blog wasn't breaking the rules. The photographers weren't breaking the rules. But Nancy proceeded to follow up Sanborn's previous attack with her own finger-wagging-I'm-better-than-you deflection of the issue at hand, as she too broke the Senate rules with a sad, sad attempt at a shot at both Schauer and Granholm.

What a sad, sad, sorry day. The other side of the aisle chose to use children, our children, in a political ploy, a political stunt, seemingly orchestrated by their minority leader running for Congress himself. I'm afraid the other side of the aisle, who so advocated for freedom earlier today, now is trying to censor our remarks. That is a terrible, terrible thing.

Let me say again that this filibuster for all practical purposes is used to divert attention away from their failed economic policies and those of the current sitting Governor and the fallout of their disastrous tax increases directly undermining job providers throughout our state.

Would that be the disastrous tax increases that the Senate Republicans passed, Nancy? Because we couldn't have done it without you, you know.

Cassis apparently doesn't have an ideas about how to insure children either, but my guess is she would call for more tax cuts on big business as a solution. That works for everything in Nancy's world.

Senator Mark Jansen used this occasion to decry the remarks made about President Bush. I didn't notice anyone calling Bush "Hurricane Georgie", but Jansen felt the need to defend him anyway, and to point out just how generous the feds have been with Michigan, and we should all be grateful, thank you very much.

Um, yeah. If you say so, Senator. Put in a call to Mike Leavitt when you get done, OK?

I would ask my colleagues who are going to call names to people who are leaders, maybe you ought to rethink that because we have been saved by the federal government in our budget over the last four years. Yes, we've patched; yes, we've taken out different funds from different places, but the federal government has been very helpful to Michigan and to all of us here.

As you want to pontificate about our leaders and leadership, please rethink that and call a President a President and respect that person in leadership.

Federal tax dollars, gee golly whiz fine in the Republican book. State tax dollars, pure evil. Gotcha.

And what day of ranting and raving and deflection and utter lunacy would be complete without an appearance by Alan Cropsey who had to bring up... wait for it... Hitler.

It just doesn't get any better than that.

Some of the things that were said on the floor today by the party on the other side of the aisle were particularly offensive. I can't think that our President would go in the war because he has a lust for war or words to that effect. If I recall correctly, when we entered into the war in Iraq, it was done by a congressional resolution which had tremendous bipartisan support because of the Hitler who was there in the Middle East who was threatening world security. And I think a President who stands up for our national interest and goes into war with bipartisan congressional support is looking out for out best interest. And as a father of two soldiers, I find that particularly offensive for people to say that our Commander-in-Chief has a lust for that type of thing.

But the bipartisan support for SCHIP means nothing to Alan. Only when it supports a Republican purpose is that ever meaningful. Cropsey went on the recite all the spin that had been already discredited, and by that time Senators were probably getting bored anyway. After all, once you play the Hitler card, the party is over.

Now, where in that mess did you see any Republican solution to health care for children? Fact is, they don't have one. All they have is personal attacks and distortion of the facts. That's it.

And when that choice is made to engage in the battle of ideas instead of feeding a distraction, Republicans will be unable to sell their failed policies to the American people. Because over here, away from individualized distractions, is the truth that Democratic ideas are those which are the best for our nation. Over here, where all eyes should be focused, is the truth that any claim of competence and morality by today's Republican Party is nothing more than illusion.

Back to Senator Sanborn. Actually, Hurricane Jennifer has a nice ring to it. If you proudly embrace the names that the Republicans call you in their attempt to deflect from the truth, they will have nothing left to say at all.

We won't have to worry about shutting off the mike ever again.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Granholm and Cherry endorse.... Clinton!

Whew! For a minute there I thought it would be Mike Huckabee.

Saying there is no state that needs a strong federal partner in the White House who can help rebuild the nation's economy more than Michigan, Governor Jennifer M. Granholm and Lt. Governor John D. Cherry, Jr. today endorsed Senator Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president. Michigan's top two Democrats pledged to work to secure Clinton's nomination and her ultimate election as president of the United States.

"Hillary Clinton's proposals and track record are evidence that she is clearly the candidate best prepared to lead the nation and be a champion for Michigan," Granholm and Cherry said. "From her commitment to ending the war in Iraq, to her positions on fair trade and worker training, health care for all, and alternative energy, Senator Clinton has made it clear she will be a champion for citizens and the middle class and that is why we will work to elect her president of the United States."

In announcing their endorsement, Granholm and Cherry cited Clinton's proposals and track record on a host of issues important to Michigan, including her:

· Advocacy for fair trade, a strong manufacturing sector, and enforcing the nation's trade agreements on behalf of American workers;

· Support for universal health care, which will help Michigan manufacturers compete in a global economy;

· Backing of alternative energy technologies to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

"While no state's economy has been hit harder by globalization and the Bush administration's unfair trade policies, no state stands to benefit more from the growth of new industries like alternative energy and from critical investments in training workers and improving health care," Granholm and Cherry said. "These issues will shape Michigan's future, and that is why we are endorsing Senator Clinton for president in the 2008 election."

And there you have it.

AP story here.

Previous Michigan endorsements for Clinton include: Democratic State Senate Leader Mark Schauer, State Senator Liz Brater, State Senator Gilda Jacobs, State Representative Robert Jones, and US Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Perhaps another 30 days will do the trick...

We have been having all this fun with Joe Knollenberg's bad choice in staff members and wringing our hands over the "Hillary problem", but in the back of my mind there was this bit of nagging unfinished business, kind of like the feeling you get when you leave the house and can't remember if you turned off the coffee maker.

I bet you've been wondering- hey, just what is going on with the budget issue in Lansing? You know, the one they promised to have done if they could just, please, pretty please, have another 30 days to work on it?

What's that? You wanted to forget all about Lansing for awhile? Yeah, me too. I was pretty burned out on all things legislature, but this week the Senate Republicans fired up the press releases and hopped on the blame train one more time, and the word "shutdown" has been uttered more than once in the traditional media.

Deja vu all over again?

Phil Power, president of the nonprofit Center for Michigan, said there's growing concern that lawmakers are headed toward another crisis.

"You betcha I'm worried," said ex-newspaperman Power, whose Ann Arbor-based think tank seeks "comprehensive, long-range and, in some cases, radical policy solutions to transform Michigan's business, economic, political and cultural climate."

"In order to get a sensible resolution," he said, "things need to be very different in the Legislature than they were during the first round."

Uh oh. Given the press release by Mike Bishop on Thursday, it appears that things haven't changed all that much, really.

But, there is a new twist- a shift in the rhetoric. Bishop has stopped trying to drive the perceived wedge between Granholm and the House Democrats. Jump over the flip to see...
All this year Bishop has tried to claim that he and Andy were working things out and that the Governor was irrelevant to the process; now he has changed that tactic and decides to blame the House as well.

Looks like the honeymoon is over, Andy.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, fired off a statement late Thursday afternoon saying Gov. Jennifer Granholm and House Democrats appear to be reneging on an agreement to cut spending in Human Services, Community Health and other areas.

"While some cuts to departmental budgets have been completed, there remains an unwillingness by Democrats to make the necessary cuts to the remaining departments," Bishop said. "Senate Republicans are more than ready to finish this process. The question is, will Democrats keep their word?

Ha ha ha. This coming from the guy who flat-out lied to the media about the previous agreement. If his behavior this year is any indication of the reason for the release of this statement, it usually means that something happened that he didn't like and the Democrats have the upper hand. In other words, when Mike throws a fit, things are probably going well.

Another new twist, one I have been waiting for all year, this time all three Democratic leaders got together to smack him down. Love it!

Granholm, House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, and Senate Democratic Leader Mark Schauer of Battle Creek sent a joint response.

"Unlike the Senate Republicans, who walked away from a budget agreement earlier this year, we stand united on the comprehensive solution reached to resolve the 2008 budget crisis in a way that prevented massive cuts to public safety, health care and education," it said. "Citizens would be better served if the Senate Republicans refrained from firing off disingenuous press releases and instead, continued negotiating the specific details of the agreement, which includes $433 million in cuts."

From the sounds of things, they are back to the basic argument that they have always had- the Republicans want to cut the sick and the poor people first, slash DHS down another 500 or so employees, and give juicy private contracts to their buddies. Sound familiar? It's the Republican way. Granholm and the Democrats have other ideas on savings, ones that don't hurt vulnerable people.

Here are the main points of contention, boiled down to a few sentences-

School aid: A planned 2.5 percent increase to public schools will be cut to 1 percent. Savings: $173 million.

Higher education: A 2.5 percent spending boost for community colleges and universities also will be pared to 1 percent. Savings: $26 million.

Community Health: This department's budget will be reduced by $52 million. Cuts in Medicaid eligibility, increases in co-pays and reductions in reimbursement to doctors and hospitals are among the cutbacks being discussed.

Human Services: This department budget will be trimmed by $80 million. Day care programs, public assistance, adult services and other programs are on the table.

Corrections: Prison system spending will be cut by $56 million. Much of this will be achieved by prison closings already under way.

Other departments: The budget agreement calls for 2.5 percent reductions across other state departments. Savings: $53 million

One week to go- the details of all of that will be revealed as we go on and the clock starts to run down again.

I, for one, don't want to give up watching scary movies on Halloween night for watching scary Lansing go through yet another last minute, panic-filled drama. Let's hope they get this settled so we can move on to other issues.

Or, they might just ask for another 30 days, but they do have another two week vacation coming up in November. For some reason, I can't see them giving that up just to get their job done.


NFL Week 7

OPEN DATES: Carolina, Cleveland, Green Bay, San Diego)

Baltimore at Buffalo

Tampa Bay at Detroit (tough call)

Tennessee at Houston

New England at Miami

San Francisco at NY Giants

Atlanta at New Orleans

Arizona at Washington

NY Jets at Cincinnati

Kansas City at Oakland

Chicago at Philadelphia

Minnesota at Dallas

St. Louis at Seattle

Pittsburgh at Denver

Indianapolis at Jacksonville

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

NFL Week 6 Results

Baltimore 22, St. Louis 3

Minnesota 34, Chicago 31

Cleveland 41, Miami 31

Green Bay 17, Washington 14

Jacksonville 37, Houston 17

Kansas City 27, Cincinnati 20

Philadelphia 16, N.Y. Jets 9

Tampa Bay 13, Tennessee 10

Carolina 25, Arizona 10

New England 48, Dallas 27

San Diego 28, Oakland 14

New Orleans 28, Seattle 17

N.Y. Giants 31, Atlanta 10


56-33 for the year.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

MDP releases radio ad No. 2 - "Unity"

Good deal.

Here's the text-

Ever notice, whenever tough decisions have already been made, there's always someone who sits on the sidelines, criticizing, and complaining? Take the budget crisis. Now the Republican Party is complaining, and criticizing, nd running negative ads. The same state Republican leaders who wanted to slash nearly two billion dollars from education and health care, and cut police and firefighters?  Their inaction threatened to shut down the government. So what did it take to solve the budget crisis? Strong, straightforward leadership. Governor Granholm inherited a budget deficit and a tough economy but she didn't complain.  She brought leaders from both parties together and together they hammered out a solution that balanced the budget - and it will only cost taxpayers pennies a day. Complaining never solved a problem. Leaders do. And that's why the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee is proud to have paid for this message.

Listen to it here. And just for fun, put the word "Craig" at the end of every sentence.

Love this guy's voice.

Speaking of the complaining, criticizing and negative Republican Party, it should be noted that spokesman Bill Nowling has now twice admitted that, for the Republicans, the recalls have nothing to do with you, and everything to do with trying to take back the House.

They don't even care what happens to their own members. Check out the answer to the question as to whether they would help the Republican Senators- from last night's MIRS-

The MRP was very active in its opposition to any tax increase. MRP Spokesman Bill NOWLING gave the following statement when asked if the MRP would offer any support to the three Republican senators threatened by recalls from the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance.

"We are going to be active in the Democratic recalls against Democrats to the extent that we see an opportunity to pick up and add to our seats in the House," he said.

Citizens of Michigan? Who cares! It's all about getting back the majority for Bill. Amazingly enough, he even makes Matt Marsden look good.

"The Michigan taxpayers and (recall organizer) Leon DROLET like to play politics and in this case, they're playing a dangerous game with three Republicans who stood up in order to move the legislative process forward," Marsden said.

No, Matt, it's your own party playing politics, playing this dangerous game and leaving your boss on his own to defend your people.

Must suck to be a Republican.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Voices of Reason: 8 Republicans and the party that will betray them

(Note: Think of this diary as one big blockquote. As I was pulling these quotes and putting them aside, I realized that my voice wasn't going to be necessary here.)

The eight Republican members of the House and Senate who voted for one or the other tax increases enacted this week, all of them in their final legislative terms, nearly all said term limits played little role in their decisions. In the end, they said, voting to either increase the income tax or extend the sales tax to services was the right decision to make for the good of the state.

Virtually everyone interviewed said the same thing: voting for the tax increases was "the right thing to do." - Gongwer 10/5


Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis, who had daily whipped up opposition to tax increases as part of the budget solution, on Tuesday defended recalls as a legitimate tactic against elected officials by voters who he said have a right to express their frustration. - Gongwer 10/2


Sarpolus said the Republicans have not lost their base because most people knew a tax increase of some sort was coming and GOP members just have to be honest and open with their constituents about the problem facing the state. - Gongwer 10/11


Michigan GOP Chairman Saul ANUZIS: I'm Saul Anuzis, Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. Governor Granholm and virtually every Democrat at the Capitol just passed the largest tax increase in Michigan's history. Republicans said no. If you think, as we do, that this massive job killing tax increase is wrong for Michigan, you ought to be on our side. - MIRS 10/11


Several of those interviewed also worried that the state and national Republican Party was getting too extreme and not willing to look at individual situations. - Gongwer 10/5


Jump over the flip to hear the voices of the eight people that Saul Anuzis and the Michigan Republican Party are willing to throw under the bus because they had the courage to "do the right thing". When you think about what the Republicans will do to their own people in an attempt to please the big money, out-of-state, anti-tax extremists, it kind of makes you sick inside.

Ed Gaffney (R-Grosse Pointe Farms)

He stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb … one of only two Republicans who voted green on the temporary income tax hike and after the fact Rep. Ed GAFFNEY (R-Grosse Pointe Farms) said he has "no regrets and no second thoughts."

His office has been hit with between 200 and 300 messages and much to his amazement the tally is running about 50 percent for and 50 percent against his vote.

"Usually, the very emotional folks who are against the tax respond," he said. However, on this one, "There is more support than I thought. I'm surprised."

"Sometimes you have to let the politics be damned." - MIRS 10/2


"There comes a time to suck it up and do what's right and say to hell with it,"

Mr. Gaffney said he was heartened by many people in his district who were standing up for him.

Mr. Gaffney said he worried that such an extreme anti-tax attitude would hurt the party in the long run. - Gongwer 10/5


Mr. Gaffney said he is confident of withstanding a recall, saying the voters in his district "sophisticated and intelligent. They know I had to make a tough vote and I did it so that the state would not have to shut down."  He said some people are upset about his action, but that messages he has been receiving are running about "50-50" in support and opposition.

He said he would "fight (the recall) all the way," but that he did not see any way around voting for the tax. - Gongwer 10/11


"I have faith that the people of my district will not recall me if they disagree with what I did" Gaffney said. "I think they're sophisticated enough to know that I was sent here to make tough decisions. I believe the people of my district will understand that.

"I will be leaving by next December anyway," Gaffney continued. "There are other jobs besides this one. And I'll tell you this. I don't regret the way I voted." - MIRS 10/11

Gerald Van Woerkom (R-Muskegon)

"In previous years, we have been able to solve the deficit by cuts alone," Van Woerkom was quoted as saying. "However, this year the hole was too large for a solution to be reached only with cuts. We had to use a balanced approach including cuts, additional revenue and reforms. - Muskegon Chronicle


"I still believe I did what was the right thing," he told the Daily News this morning. "I've known for months we would need income. There was no way we could cut $1.7 billion out of the budget. And, if we could, it would be dead in the House. We needed to compromise."

We have many independent voters," he said. "You have to do a lot of analyzing, walk a fine line. I think compromise works in my district. I don't get so caught up in the politics. Do something that is right for the State of Michigan.

"I'm at peace with it." - Ludington Daily News


VanWoerkom said he's concerned about the recall efforts, but the people in his district don't think he's a tax-and-spend politician. He also thought it was more prudent to increase revenue rather than approve $1.7 billion in cuts.

"I think I would have been in greater trouble with my district if we cut $1.7 billion out of the budget than creating a revenue increase," he said. - MIRS 10/11


Mr. Van Woerkom said he thought he would have voted for the income tax increase even if he were in his first term. "But the pressure would have been more," he said. As it was, "they tried to sweet talk me" into voting against the increase, but "after last year we all thought how can we cut the budget any more?" - Gongwer 10/5

Valde Garcia (R-Howell)

Mr. Garcia said Republicans had to share some blame for the state's budget situation for not being more willing years ago when it would have been easier to cut the budget.

"Bottom line this needed to be done." - Gongwer 10/5


"It really bothers me," Garcia said. "If anyone gets recalled that will stop forever anyone making a vote on principle. No one will be able to vote their conscience because they will always be afraid they'll be recalled."

"If you look at the cuts the Republicans passed, they were not real cuts. They were unrealistic," he said.

For example, if the state had gone ahead with Republican cuts, state employees would see their pay raises cut in half, 125 sheriffs deputies across the state would be laid off and three to four prisons would have to be closed, he said.

Garcia said it's frustrating that people talk about wanting bipartisan solutions and want the parties to reach a solution, but then go after them when they do.

"Now that I voted in favor of a tax hike, people want my head," he said. - MIRS 10/3


"I don't enjoy the heat. I'm still a Republican. I'm still a fiscal conservative," he said, "but I honestly believed that we needed to raise taxes." - Detroit Free Press


"I believe I did what was right for the state and made my vote knowing I was taking that chance (of being recalled)," Garcia said. "My responsibility is to govern responsibly, not to act on my personal behalf."

"There's no way we could cut $1.7 billion from the budget," Garcia said, in response to those who say cuts alone could have balanced the budget. - Ann Arbor News

Wayne Kuipers (R-Holland)

"I'm mad that that happened and I intend to fight," the Republican state senator from Holland told the Tribune in an interview Friday afternoon. "But, at the end of the day, I hope people recognize that in the totality of my work that I've had the best interest of my district in mind, and the best interest of the state in mind."

"I didn't see a way out of this situation, given where we were at, for us to get through it with no tax increase," he explained.

"The frustrating thing is, now that it's done and some people cast what ended up being fairly courageous votes, now all of a sudden there's recalls flying," he said Friday. "And people knew that was a reality. We all knew that was likely to happen. We didn't know who, but we knew it was going to happen. And so when people encourage the Legislature to have some guts and do the right thing and be courageous, and that's the reward, I think you just compound the problem in the future." - Grand Haven Tribune


Mr. Kuipers said those in the general public who called either for all cuts or for shutting government down "have never been in a position to push a red button or a green button." - Gongwer 10/5


Kuipers isn't concerned about being recalled because "my constituents know how hard I work on their behalf and I think I've represented them pretty well."

"Leon wasn't a particularly effective legislator and I think he's trying to make himself relevant now," he added. - MIRS 10/11

Patty Birkholz (R-Saugatuck)

"I feel badly that they're not willing to look at the whole picture instead of one piece of the picture. When they look at what we've done for Michigan going forward they should be pleased," said Birkholz. - WWMT TV


Republican legislators "knew it would come to this," Birkholz said about the tax increase.

Birkholz, whose district includes Allegan and Barry counties, said her mail "is running about 55 percent in support of the vote, which I think is interesting because you usually don't hear from the people who like what you do."

She said she also was worried about the impact a shutdown would have on the state's bond rating and on local government units, particularly schools. She said some school districts in her area could have gone into receivership had the state shut down for several weeks and delayed payments to schools. - Kalamazoo Gazette


(Tom George, on Birkholz) Although Birkholz represents a conservative, anti-tax stronghold, she also has served as a county and township treasurer and knew the devastating impact that large cuts in the state budget would have on local government services, George said. - Kalamazoo Gazette

Ron Jelinek (R-Three Oaks)

"I've had Republicans from both (the Senate and House) thank me, and these are people who voted 'no' on the tax bills, said Jelinek, whose district includes Cass and Van Buren counties.

Jelinek agreed that a prolonged shutdown would have been "devastating." Just laying off state employees, "think of what that would do to the economy," he said. "It'd be losing 52,000 jobs."

Jelinek said he was philosophical about the possibility recall.

"It could certainly happen," he said. "But also, I went into this with my eyes open and determined to do the right thing. I can't be bullied into doing something else." - Kalamazoo Gazette


"I'm term-limited, but that didn't play into my decision," Jelinek said. "We were looking at a shutdown. That would be much worse than the sales tax. A shutdown would cause chaos for people." - Detroit News


(Tome George, on Jelinek) George said that Jelinek felt compelled to support both tax increases as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"He felt he had an obligation to help fix the problem and not just stand on the sidelines," George said. "He was right in there, trying to find the right path and he did a very good job. He was very thoughtful, very measured and he knew we couldn't get a solution without a tax increase." - Kalamazoo Gazette

Tom George (R-Kalamazoo)

As for George's own willingness to support an income-tax increase, he had been saying for months that he would support raising taxes if the state adopted some long-term spending reforms. George said this morning, he was happy to see that the budget crisis forced some of those reforms through.

"I've been very passionate about the need for health-care reforms," George said. "And, if I was going to get those, then I need to be there in the end" with a vote for an income-tax increase. George acknowledged that he's likely to get some criticism for his tax vote.

"But I think Kalamazoo County residents are thoughtful, and they know we need to have some kind of solution," George said. - Kalamazoo Gazette


George, Kalamazoo County's senator, says he's getting more positive than negative response, both in terms of calls and e-mails to his office and in the reaction he heard Tuesday while visiting a Senior Expo in Kalamazoo.

All three said Thursday the $1.7 billion state budget gap was much too large to resolve with revenue cuts alone, and raising taxes was inevitable. - Kalamazoo Gazette


"I said I'd vote for a tax increase if the right reforms were enacted," George said. "In my district, I think voters will understand." - Detroit News


Mr. George said enacting an all-cuts solution would have hurt Western Michigan University and major cuts to revenue sharing would have forced Kalamazoo to cut police and fire protection. Those were too important to cut further, Mr. George said. - Gongwer 10/5

Chris Ward (R- Brighton)

"The government was on the verge of shutting down at that moment in time. I felt it was the right thing to do," Ward said.

"I will deal with some of the anger in the short term and hopefully in the long term people will see the wisdom of the overall compromise," he added.

Ward said he viewed the income tax increase as less of a financial blow than expanding the state sales tax to services. He said the 4.35 percent income tax rate is comparable to the 4.6 percent tax rate during former Gov. John Engler's last term.

Ward said he was inspired to break ranks with his party by Democrats who did the same on reforms to teacher retirement and on other issues.

"In the overall give-and-take, I was willing to show some courage. They were showing some courage as well," he said.

"I knew what I was stepping into," he said. "I know I did the right thing. To me, there are more important things in life than being a state representative."

"I'll just put the facts out there and let the voters decide." - Observer & Eccentric Newspapers


"This job is about more than one person and I want to leave this place as good or better than I found it", said Ward, who could lose his post as minority floor leader because he angered his GOP caucus. "People have to compromise. It's up to us to get the job done and keep the state afloat."

"Regardless of the political fallout this was the right thing to do," he said. - Detroit Free Press


Ward is term-limited and has to be concerned about his next career step. But he said he's sure he did the right thing. "I'm more worried about the job I'm elected to do right now than the next one down the road," he said. - Detroit News


Ward said he was aware of the recall threat when he voted.

"I know that I did the right thing in this situation. We were facing a constitutional crisis," he said. "The people elected both Democrats and Republicans and expected us to do the job we were elected to do, which is to balance the budget. There are more important things in life to me than being a state representative. So if that's the ultimate outcome, then so be it." - Ann Arbor News

and one last voice...

People who voted "yes" did so because they felt it was the right thing to do, ultimately. I think there were people who voted "no", who felt like they should have voted "yes", but didn't feel the courage to put their name up, but the people who voted "yes" ultimately decided that it was in the best interests of the state to do that, and I'm grateful to them for making a tough call. - Jennifer Granholm

Yeah, me too.


Chris Ward resigns as House Minority Floor Leader

Time to remind everyone the House Republicans did NOTHING to move the budget process forward. They wouldn't vote for cuts. They wouldn't vote for "reforms". They wouldn't do a damn thing.

Now they are asking Chris Ward, the one guy who would take a leadership role in negotiations while DeRoche was busy crying for the cameras and being the generally useless "leader" that he is, to step aside. From MIRS-

MIRS has learned that, in the message announcing his resignation, Ward cited a letter signed by 16 members of his caucus calling for a new leadership election for his post. Apparently, Ward was taken aback because by some of those who signed to the letter were members he had previously believed supported keeping him as floor leader.

Why are House Republicans so upset? They wanted to play politics with the final vote.

He voted yes on the income tax hike after supposedly telling his caucus that he was going to vote no. In fact, he voted yes after the voting board was closed and the 56 yes votes required for passage had been secured.

Ward's 57th yes vote will prevent those seeking recalls and future GOP candidates from being able to claim any of the Democrats cast the "deciding" vote on the tax hike. The vote also spawned a recall effort against Ward, which could cost the House Republican caucus time and money to defend.

Ward fires back over the flip...

In his resignation statement, Ward expressed empathy for his fellow caucus members who disagreed with his vote on the income tax , and then explained why he voted "yes."

"I felt strongly then and will always believe that the very poor outcome of that debate in terms of lack of reforms and the large new tax burden was due to a lack of Republican leadership in seeking to find solutions and offer difficult votes for alternatives," Ward said. "Politics is a game of give and take. Far too many of us were only willing to take so we got very little. We will have to continue to agree to disagree on this point."

Fortunately, those in the know have tagged DeRoche for what he was to this process; MIRS called him one of the "losers" in the deal the day after the vote-

Whether DeRoche was too obsessed with scoring political points by catching Democrats in bad votes (of which there were plenty) or because he thought there would be no deal in the end, his non-presence as a player was noted throughout the Capitol.

And Brian Dickerson made a whole column out of him. A must read.

But in Lansing's term-limited funhouse, DeRoche is constitutionally precluded from seeking another term. He wouldn't have a future in the House if his legislative colleagues thought he was Winston Churchill. So why should he care if they think he's being a jerk?

DeRoche, who sold insurance before he was elected to the House, has expressed interest in succeeding L. Brooks Patterson as Oakland County executive or even running for governor. Why would a politician as ambitious as that want to sully his hands with a bipartisan budget solution that's bound to leave most Michiganders angry?

No, thank you! Better to watch the state go up in flames from a safe distance, dispensing sound bites while the grown-ups fight the fire.

Thanks for your leadership, Chris, and best of luck to you in the future. You deserve better than this.

And DeRoche should go back to selling insurance and let the adults take care of the state. 

Sunday, October 14, 2007

LSJ to the Republicans: "Knock it off and get back to work"

Saul and the Michigan Republican Party can cry victim all they want, claiming that Democrats forced this budget deal upon them, but the truth is- the Republicans spent the summer on vacation, the Republicans put us over the top on a tax vote, and the Republicans are now wasting our time crying about it.

This is all wasted energy. Legislative Republicans, in particular, should focus all their energy on enacting a balanced 2008 budget and propelling the work of government reform.

Although the LSJ doesn't go as far as pointing out that the Republicans will not move on the plan to repeal those service taxes that Saul is blaming the Democrats for, they do point out that this was a bipartisan budget plan that was agreed to by majorities in both chambers and the Governor, and that is the way it goes, and, for the love of Cassis, it's time to move on and get back to work.

It's not the best plan in the world, but it's one that finally drew support from majorities in the House and Senate and the backing of Gov. Jennifer Granholm. That's how the political process works - find a deal that draws majority support or better.

Now you have Republicans running around trying to deconstruct the deal.

In arguing for the sales tax repeal, Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, told the Gongwer News Service last week: "The Democrats in the House and the governor foisted this disastrous tax situation on us."

Cassis and Republicans apparently have forgotten their bid to resolve Michigan's 2008 budget deficit without tax increases failed to garner majorities in both legislative chambers. As for any talk of being forced to accept tax deals at the last moment to avoid a government shutdown, where were those GOP lawmakers in, say, July? Oh, that's right - on vacation.

No one was going for the cuts. No one. Taxes were going to be raised, period, end of story. Even the Republican controlled Senate wouldn't vote Saul's way.

And never forget, we couldn't have done this without the help of Senate Republicans. No vote, no budget. Be sure and thank Mike Bishop for that, Saul. He could have blocked this at any time, as you know, but seem to want to conveniently forget when it serves your purpose.

Instead of all this gnashing of teeth, why don't you guys just finish the job.

Make the spending decisions. Get a 2008 budget finalized. Get attention turned to work on the 2009 budget. That's the Legislature's duty right now.

Good to see the media call them out on this.

NFL Week 6

(OPEN DATES: Buffalo, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, San Francisco)

St. Louis at Baltimore

Minnesota at Chicago

Miami at Cleveland

Washington at Green Bay

Houston at Jacksonville

Cincinnati at Kansas City

Philadelphia at NY Jets

Tennessee at Tampa Bay

Carolina at Arizona

New England at Dallas

Oakland at San Diego

New Orleans at Seattle

NY Giants at Atlanta

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Amway sues to ID bloggers

In the world of Amway, there is no such thing as free speech.

The case could be called Amway versus the Internet, or some might argue, Amway versus free speech.

The Ada Township-based multi-level marketing giant this week filed a sweeping suit in Ottawa County Circuit Court against 30 people classified as John Does for disparaging the company in blogs, online forums and YouTube videos.

The suit, filed by Quixtar, the online version of Alticor Inc.'s Amway business, asks the court for an injunction and damages of more than $25,000 against the anonymous posters.

The company is planning to ask the court to approve subpoenas of companies ranging from to YouTube to figure out who posted the materials, said spokesman Rob Zeiger.

Amway believes that this is the work of the distributors that recently took them to court, you see, so they need to round up everyone just to make sure. You got a problem with that?

The company believes the videos and other postings are part of an organized effort by former distributors, including Orrin Woodward, of Grand Blanc, under court order not to disparage the company or disclose proprietary information.

"Quixtar has attempted to identify the various defendants by reviewing the offending Web sites, blogs and videos," according to the suit.

"Due to the policies of the Internet service providers, which host the various Web sites, blogs and videos, Quixtar has been unable to identify the responsible parties."

But they will apologize if they unfairly targeted you. Maybe slip you a little coin to make it all go away.

Zeiger said the company will apologize and pay any costs incurred by any of the John Does who turn out not to be tied to Woodward and his TEAM organization of distributors.

"An individual who is expressing their own opinion, we don't have a problem with that," Zeiger said. "They're not doing anything wrong.

Don't you feel better now?

There is a reason why the DeVos family needs to be kept as far away as possible from the reins of power, and the tactics of Amway are example number one.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Must See TV: Governor Granholm on "Off the Record"

Catch it at here, Real Player required.

The Governor addresses the budget agreement, praises the leaders for getting the job done (yes, even Mike Bishop), talks about Leon Drolet and the recalls, talks about the future in regards to plans for Michigan, talks about the presidential race next year, and talks about a whole lotta other stuff that you always wanted to know. (Well, I did anyway.)

The banter between these two is fascinating because Skubick tries his best to push the Governor's buttons, and he doesn't let up. No other reporter does that in quite the way he does.

The one question that has been on my mind was asked, and it was a good example of the "Skubick Method": Will the Governor leave for an appointment in Washington?

Here, in painfully transcripted detail, is the question in its entirety.

Skubick: Will you serve out your term?

Granholm: Yes. Yes.

Skubick: Promise?

Granholm: Yes, I... Tim, we've got a huge amount on tap, we've got a huge economic plan that we are going to work, and the predicate to that was getting this fiscal house in order. There is so... Michigan's got these great bones, and we have the most aggressive economic agenda in the nation, so I want to see that through. I want to make sure that we set in motion this plan which will allow Michigan to emerge from this economic challenging period, and I can't do that if I'm leaving sometime soon. I want to stay and get that done.

Skubick: So if a Democrat is elected president, you will not go to a cabinet post.

Granholm: I am interested in doing the job here, Tim.

Skubick: I understand that, that was not a "no", though.

Granholm: Tim, I'm interested in doing the job here.. (cross talk)

Skubick: Governor, I know what you are interested in, but the question is a simple yes or no, do you want to go to Washington?

Granholm: You know, two nights ago, when I told Dan that I was coming on "Off the Record" and we were joking about how, what questions Tim Skubick would be asking, and he said, well, you know he's going to be asking about that, the future and all of that, and I said to him, you know what- I'm gonna tell Tim, like I do everybody in my circle, that I am not going to speculate about the future for him, for me, for our family, cause I've got a family here... (more cross talk)

Skubick: Now we've got a problem...

Granholm:... and that we are going to finish the job in Michigan.

Skubick: But you could finish the job in a year and a half and then you could leave...

Granholm: No, I don't think you could finish this job in a year and a half, this has got a lot... bottom line is, Tim, I'm not going to speculate about the future, some years down the road. I want to finish this job.

Skubick: Let me try once more.

Granholm: No, don't, you don't need to...

Skubick: No, I do, I have to...

Granholm: (laughs)

Skubick: The speculation is, the speculation is that you would be interested ... (Governor tries to interrupt)... just say to me, just say to me, Mr. Skubick, I don't want to go to Washington.

Granholm: I don't want to go to Washington.

Skubick: And if offered a post you will not go.

Granholm: You know, this is, you're asking me to speculate on something that will happen way down the road, (Tim tries to interrupt) I'm not interested in that, I've got family here, my kids are here, moving the whole kit and caboodle to Washington is not something I'm interested in. I'm interested in finishing this job. I'm not a quitter. I'm somebody who wants to complete this... this whole agenda that we've got to diversify Michigan's economy, and to double the number of college graduates in Michigan, to move into areas like alternative energy is very exciting to me, cause the ground is ripe for us to really plant those seeds and watch them grow, so I gotta work this plan, and I'm committed to working this plan.

Whew! There is more where that came from- the whole show is pretty much like that.

Needless to say, Tim doesn't disappoint- although sometimes his questions are borderline sexist in nature and lean toward the gossipy side.

"If the two legislative leaders in the room with you had been women, would the negotiations had been different?"

C'mon Tim, what kind of question is that? Really. Turn that scenario upside down and you would be blasted, and you know it. The Governor got a laugh out of it and handled it pretty well- but it's just kinda weird and perhaps representative of the remnants of the "old boy" network that still exists in Lansing. He also asked if Dan Mulhern has "too much influence" on key decisions. Can you imagine a reporter asking the same about Michelle Engler?

No. Of course not. But that is the gossip that still makes the rounds in this day and age- now that Granholm has gone through it, perhaps women in the future won't have to.

We can always hope.

The only other surprising thing is that the Governor likes Mike Huckabee. That really gave me the creeps, but you have to hear the context of the question.

And she regrets using the phrase "blown away".

Go watch. You'll like it.