Monday, July 31, 2006

Blackmail and Lies from the "Values" Party

Thank you to everyone who left condolences and kind thoughts upon the recent death of my grandmother. The travel was grueling (10 hours in a very cramped car each way), but we were grateful to be able to celebrate her life with family and friends and say our goodbyes.

As they say, life goes on - and so does the game playing we've come to expect from the Republicans. They really crossed over the (ethics) line though with the recent minimum wage/estate tax package. I think Congress should be prohibited from piggybacking issues together like this, and they should be forced to make the information available at least a week before it comes up for a vote. What a bunch of corrupt sneaks - and that goes for the 34 Democrats that went along with them.

Actions like this are turning people against the "values" party, and even causing people to change sides.
Former basketball star Charles Barkley says he's switched political teams from Republican to Democrat and is again talking about running for governor in his home state, possibly in 2010.

"I really believe I was put on Earth to do more than play basketball and stockpile money," said Barkley. [...] "I really want to help people improve their lives, and what's left is for me to decide how best to do that."
As you might recall, Barkley recently gave this reason for switching parties: "I was a Republican until they lost their minds." And that statement was before the GOP's recent minimum wage stunt.

Speaking of stunts, here's a little tidbit from Ol Froth:
Looks like Little Ricky Santorum was caught trying to smear Bob Casey with a false story!

The tactics of the desperate. Lie, smear, and fling mud. Little Ricky can't run on his record, because doing so is the road to defeat.
Here's the story on Little Ricky:
Picture the TV commercial, a deep voice delivering this ominous message, in a slow, deliberate cadence: "Even al-Jazeera endorsed Democrat Bobby Casey Jr. Whose side is he on, anyway?"

It's hard not to think that was partly why Republican blogs and aides to U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) sounded giddy last week as they passed around a commentary from a Web site,

"Don't ask Santorum to 'apologize,' folks. Vote Democratic," stated the commentary, which denounced the senator's July 20 speech describing the United States as fighting a war on Islamic fascism, not terror.

Santorum referenced it himself Thursday on Fox's O'Reilly Factor.

But there was one little wrinkle.

The Web site was not related to the Arabic TV network based in the Middle East - spelled al-Jazeera, no h.

The goal of al-Jazeerah, according to its Web site, is to "promote cross-cultural understanding between people all over the world." It's based in Dalton, Ga., not Qatar.

"Rick Santorum has reached a new low in gutter politics by trying to ridiculously link Bob Casey to terrorists," Casey spokesman Larry Smar said.

Santorum's spokeswoman, Virginia Davis, said it doesn't make a difference. "We thought we should share these kind of sentiments." [Emphasis added.]
It doesn't make a difference? I don't know about Santorum's values, but I was raised to believe lying is wrong. Maybe Santorum sees it differently because of the company he keeps. Michigan's own Dick DeVos was recently called on the carpet by the Detroit Freep for a commercial that misrepresented the paper and one of their columnists, and yesterday the Lansing State Journal criticized an ad that illustrates DeVos' unwillingness to play straight with voters. They go on to say, "The fact DeVos wasn't clear to begin with is telling."

Pohlitics believes that unwillingness to be straight with voters is cause for concern:
The DeVos family's Amway/Alticor money has bankrolled the extreme right-wing takeover of American politics.

[...] At the same time though, let's not forget how the Republicans in Washington, led by George Bush's army of "values voters", have turned back the clock -- or, should I say, tried and failed (so far) to turn back the clock -- on a whole host of social issues like abortion, stem cell research, gun control, gay marriage, and so on. Dick DeVos was there every step of the way, pumping those soapy Amway dollars into the campaign coffers of the Republican politicians who made it all possible.

[...]Governor Granholm really is our last line of defense against a complete takeover of Michigan's state government by the same conservative movement that has already swept over Washington.
Our country deserves better than people like Santorum and DeVos. We deserve to be governed by people with real values and real concern for people.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

To Everything There is a Season

My 94-year-old grandmother died peacefully in her sleep last night. God was merciful to take her in such a gentle manner, and I know that Grandma was prepared to meet her maker.

The funeral is out of town and I won't be back until Sunday, but I wanted to leave you with a few links I had planned on sharing. The first one is from Think Progress:
Wage stagnation, long the bane of blue-collar workers, is now hitting people with bachelor's degrees for the first time in 30 years. Earnings for workers with four-year degrees fell 5.2% from 2000 to 2004 when adjusted for inflation, according to White House economists.
From Daily Kos comes What Did You Expect, America?
Would you hire a babysitter who hates children and thinks they should be eliminated? Or who declares for years in your hearing that children are irritants who should be starved to be small, unseen and mute?

Would you hire cops who think laws are stupid and useless and should be abolished?

Would you hire a conductor for your orchestra who believes music itself an abomination?

Then why would you hire - and you did hire them, America; they are your employees, after all, not your rulers, despite their grandiose pretensions - members of a political party who think government is useless, ineffective, bloated and untrustworthy?

[...] If you put people in charge of running a project they are ideologically committed to proving a failure, it will fail.
Take a couple of minutes and read the whole thing.

Finally, the next few links relate to Amway, Dick DeVos and his ideology. Even if you don't live in Michigan, they're worth reading because the rumor is that DeVos wants to use the governorship of Michigan as a springboard to the White House. (DeVos is even further to the right than Bush.)

Amway Exposed, Part One: The Profitability of Amway

Amway Exposed, Part Two: The "Tools" Scam

Why bother reading about Amway? A comment from Pohlitics sums it up well:
When you get down to brass tacks, the whole Amway universe works like this: wealthy elites exploit the poor with the false hope of achieving the "American dream" in order to enrich themselves.

As DeVos sees things, this is simply the AMerican WAY, and it's what he envisions for our state government. DeVos and his extreme right-wing bretheren want to build a society where the underclass works tirelessly to make the rich richer, and they view government as a tool that can be wielded to make this perverse dream a reality.

I just can't imagine how anyone who knows anything about how Amway really makes its money (or doesn't stand to be enriched by a Michigan plutocracy) could cast a vote for Dick DeVos.
Finally, click on the Dateline investigation link in this post from Pohlitics and keep his words in mind:
As you watch, just remember that the guy who ran this company wants to run our state government. Be afraid.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Republican's Spread Patently False Information in Michigan

Dick DeVos and the Republican Party are trying to gain votes in Michigan by blaming our state's flagging economy on our incumbent governor, Jennifer Granholm. Their campaign talking point is being reported on in other states too, which happened to grab the attention of Kevin Murphy, a professor of economics at Oakland University and a political independent. He calls the Republican's claims "patently false." [All emphasis added.]
So on a recent morning I'm flipping through the New York Times and I come across an article entitled "Faltering Economy Obstacle for Granholm." The gist of it was that Republicans, at both the state and national levels, are attempting to pin the blame for Michigan's lackluster economy on Gov. Jennifer Granholm. It reminded me of the late '90s when Republicans, at both the state and national levels, attempted to give credit for Michigan's robust economy of the time to then-Gov. John Engler.

I shrugged it off then as politicians simply trying to take credit for good things that happen on their watch. The article in the Times, however, is no shrugging matter. If Republicans persuade enough Michigan voters that Michigan's economy is foundering because of Granholm, they could swing an election via a patently false claim.

I address this not from any political standpoint but as an economist. The basic economic question is whether a state's governor can significantly influence the economic performance of the state -- and the answer from the economics profession is no.

Government, to the extent that it can influence macroeconomic activity, does so through two channels: monetary policy (i.e., interest rates) and fiscal policy (taxing and spending). States do not engage in monetary policy.

States, of course, do set some of their own fiscal policies, setting tax rates and determining the amount they want to spend on public goods and services. But many states, including Michigan, choose to tie their own hands by requiring a balanced budget.

[...] the state's poor economy cannot be blamed on the governor. She simply does not have the fiscal or monetary policy tools at her disposal either to have caused it to tank in the first place or to yank it out of the doldrums now.
Murphy goes on to say we should blame the auto industry for our current problems. Michigan's fortunes have been tied to the auto sector for about a hundred years, an industry that is extremely sensitive to national economic conditions. When we fall into a national recession, consumers stop spending on big ticket items like autos, and that trickles down to affect us here at home.

Our national economy is recovering, but Michigan still lags behind. Why? Murphy has four possible answers:
First, the national recovery has not been very strong or very sustained. Both the federal budget deficit and the trade deficit are positively huge by historical standards. Some indicators look good, but a lot of other traditional indicators have been pretty flat.

Second, because of fears about inflation, the Federal Reserve has been engaged in a prolonged program of raising interest rates. Higher interest rates are bad news for sales of large goods such as automobiles.

Third, the auto industry is clearly undergoing major structural change. Gas prices have tripled in the last decade. Demand is shifting away from the SUVs and light trucks. The market for vehicles is more competitive than ever before, and this exerts constant downward pressure on market share for the domestic companies. As local automakers scale down, that puts a drag on our prospects for recovery.

A fourth possibility is that those who would blame the governor are simply exaggerating. Consider that Michigan's unemployment rate has averaged 7.4% over the last 45 years. The current 6% rate doesn't seem so bad. Moreover, using the same 45-year window of data, Michigan's unemployment rate has exceeded the national rate by about 25% on average. With the current U.S. rate at 4.6%, we are almost exactly where we have traditionally been relative to the nation.
DeVos spent $10 million dollars so far on television ads that exaggerate, but I haven't seen a single ad that compared Granholm's performance with that of former Republican governor Engler. There's a good reason for that:
Finally, comparing the state's employment situation at the same points of Engler's first term to Granholm's first term, one finds Engler had both higher unemployment (6.3%) and 300,000 fewer jobs (4.5 million versus 4.8 million).
By comparison, Granholm's done a great job, and she did it in spite of the fact we have a Republican controlled legislature that served their party well, but not the citizens of Michigan.

The points and statistics Murphy outlined are important for voters to consider. We shouldn't base our decision on commercials designed for the sole purpose of selling a candidate, especially commercials that give "patently false" information. As Murphy says,
I bristle at the thought, however, that the election might be hijacked by a slick campaign of disinformation. Let the election be decided on the basis of which candidate presents the stronger vision concerning issues over which the next governor really does have control.
Amen. I might add that a candidate who seeks to win by marketing "disinformation" is a wrong fit for Michigan.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Barkley Takes Aim at the GOP

Ouch, Charles Barkley fired some unkind words at the party he used to very publicly endorse:
I was a Republican until they lost their minds.
What exactly does he base his diagnosis on?
The word conservative means discriminatory practically. It's a form of political discrimination. What do the Republicans run on? Against gay marriage and for a war that makes no sense. A war that was based on faulty intelligence. That's all they ever talk about. That and immigration. Another discriminatory argument for political gain.
Barkley doesn't mince words when it comes to Democrats either.
Democrats have wasted the last two years going after this guy and two years from another election, we don't have a frontrunner or a plan.
"We?" Nice to have you on our team, Sir Charles, and your criticism is well-deserved.

Democrats do need to get a plan and start pushing issues like poverty, which has increased each year since Bush took office. This is an issue that speaks to the hearts of compassionate people like Barkley who don't like what they see happening in our country today.

Just in case Democrats need help with a talking point, Barkley has an opinion on poverty too:
My No. 1 priority is to help poor people. In this country, 90% of the money is controlled by 10% of the people, and that's not right.
I couldn't agree more. Charles Barkley understands the real definition of compassion.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bush Acted on His Personal Convictions

The Detroit News had this to say about President Bush's veto on funding for embryonic stem cell research:
The president acted on strong personal convictions in vetoing a bill that passed through Congress with solid bipartisan support. [...] But the president believes human life begins at conception, and that allowing fertility clinics to donate their surplus frozen embryos for stem cell research would be killing humans for medical experimentation.

From a moral standpoint, this was a complex decision. Embryonic stem cell research offers hope for curing a wide range of neurological and genetic ailments. Most researchers are adamant that embryonic stem cells are far superior to adult stem cells for research.

And the discarded embryos are destined to be destroyed anyway, prompting many pro-life congressmen to ask, "If they can be used to possibly save lives, why not?"

The president should have followed their reasoning and withheld his veto.
The president acted on strong personal convictions? What about acting on the will of the people? Isn't that why we call ourselves a democracy?

Bush bases his conviction on religion and the belief that human life begins at conception, but that belief is not universal among religions. People of faith see this in numerous ways, so we'll never have a definitive answer if we continue to view this through the prism of religion. (Personally, as a Christian, I view all good medical advancements as a gift from God to alleviate our suffering.)

That brings us back to our democracy. The majority of people in this country want funding for stem cell research, so the issue should be decided democratically. Instead of acting on personal principle, the president should have acted according to the will of the people. Will that make some people unhappy? Of course, but that's our system of government. We all live under majority rule and the consequences of that rule.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Where Do We Turn Now on Stem Cells?

So much for by the people and for the people. In spite of the fact that nearly 70% of Americans favor embryonic stem cell research, Bush used his first-ever veto today to stop the discovery of new cures for diseases like juvenile diabetes, Alzheimer's, leukemia and many others. His reason for the veto?
Each of these human embryos is a unique human life, with inherent dignity and matchless value. ...These boys and girls are not spare parts.
What about the boys and girls losing body parts because of his war in Iraq and Afghanistan?

And what about the dignity and matchless value of those people suffering from debilitating diseases? Gov. Granholm touched on this in a personal letter she sent to Bush. [Via For My Amusement Only]
"If our nation is serious about improving both the cost and quality of health care, we must tap the full power of modern science to combat life-threatening illnesses in an ethically responsible manner," Granholm wrote. "The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act enables our nations researchers to do just that."
Granholm earlier called on our Republican controlled Legislature to end the state's ban on embryonic stem cell research as lots of other states have done. (California recently passed a proposal allocating $3 billion to stem cell research.) Their failure to do so is costing our state money, jobs and talented scientists as they flee to other states where this is allowed.

Where does embryonic cell stem research go from here? Congress said they would try for an override veto, but without additional Republicans on board it isn't likely to pass. We could also hope for an initiative petition to get stem cells on the ballot in 2008 if the Legislature doesn't act before then - also highly unlikely.

Don't look for a change at the top to help either. Zack @ Pohlitics believes, "There is absolutely no way this will change if we make the AMWAY DICK our new governor, come November." I have to agree with that call too. DeVos is already on record as saying he opposes embryonic stem cell research.

The best chance we have is to elect a new Democratic Congress in November.

Burn This Flag

Here's a flag that should be burned according to Kevin McKague (Davison City Council member):
A note to those outside of Davison: In the courtyard between the Davison City Hall and the library is a courtyard, there are flag poles flying the flags of all 50 states, with the flags of the U.S., and the City of Davison. The city's official slogan is "The city of flags".

Something on the Municipal Center grounds has been bothering me for several years, every time I visit City Hall or during my many visits to our great library each week.

I am proud that Davison is the "City of Flags", and my children and I enjoy looking at all of the state flags in our courtyard, but I think that one flag in particular needs to be taken down.

I am referring to the flag of the state of Mississippi, which incorporates as its emblem the Confederate "Stars and Bars" in its upper-left hand corner.

I appreciate that the city has a lot of important business to which it needs to attend, but before you dismiss this concern as superficial, consider these facts:
The Confederate emblem was carried by an insurgent army, responsible for a war which caused more American deaths than any other war fought by the United States. More Americans died at the Battle of Gettysburg alone than on September 11, 2001.

The same confederate emblem is prominently carried at KKK rallies, and used by Neo-Nazis, the Aryan Nation, and other racist organizations.

Whether or not some chose to see it as an innocent symbol for polite Southern culture and history, I believe that those people are simply choosing to ignore history. It is no more an innocuous regional symbol than the WWII German swastika flag is an innocent symbol of German heritage. It is the symbol of centuries of slavery, lynchings, persecution and Jim Crow laws.

If the people of Mississippi choose to use such a historically offensive symbol on it's flag, that is certainly their prerogative. As an elected official in Davison, I believe that we should take the flag down, box it up, and send it to Governor Barbour of Mississippi, telling him that the City of Flags will have an empty flag pole in his state's honor.

Kevin McKague
Davison City Council
City of Davison, Michigan
How was this letter received by his fellow council members? Two council members quickly rejected McKague's suggestion:
Councilman James Hansen said the city shouldn't concern itself with another state's decision about what goes on its flag.

Councilman Donald Csutoras had a similar reaction.

"Kevin, you need to get a life," Csutoras said in reply to McKague's e-mail. "Call it what you think it is ... but it is their state flag and they are part of the United States of America. ..."
Davison should concern themselves with the flag precisely because Mississippi is part of the "United" States, and Csutoras is wrong to minimize the significance of the flag. As Kevin says:
...its not what I call it, its what history calls it. Too many people think of the Confederate flag as something no more immoral than a corporate logo. My discussion with the writer of this article today reminded me of the high schoolers in Grand Blanc, Michigan who were disciplined for flying the flag from their car in the school parking lot. Too many people, like those students, think of the "Stars and Bars" as nothing more than a sign of healthy rebellion. Like a rock star hanging it on-stage or a rapper wearing a particular shoe company logo. Its not the same thing. The Confederate flag was flown by traitors to our nation who fought a war responsible for more American deaths than any other war. It is flown at cross burnings and by American Nazis. Yeah, its their flag, but that doesn't mean it belongs in our community.
Well said, Kevin.

History once viewed the swastika differently too. It was a holy symbol in Hinduism and was often viewed as a symbol of good luck before the Nazi Party adopted it, and here in the U.S. the Navajo Indians made it a popular symbol for the Southwestern United States. In fact, up until 1940, Arizona state highway markers featured a right-facing swastika superimposed on an arrowhead. I have a feeling Hansen and Csutoras would feel differently about this issue if Arizona's state flag incorporated a swastika.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Public Schools Outperform Private Ones

Curiously, the GOP has been silent about this news the Education Department released last Friday. According to the NY Times:
...Children in public schools generally performed as well or better in reading and mathematics than comparable children in private schools. The exception was in eighth-grade reading, where the private school counterparts fared better.

The report, which compared fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math scores in 2003 from nearly 7,000 public schools and more than 530 private schools, found that fourth graders attending public school did significantly better in math than comparable fourth graders in private schools. Additionally, it found that students in conservative Christian schools lagged significantly behind their counterparts in public schools on eighth-grade math." [Emphasis added.]

[...] The report separated private schools by type and found that among private school students, those in Lutheran schools performed best, while those in conservative Christian schools did worst.
The best take on this comes from Black America Web, so I'll just let them speak for me [Emphasis added]:
Any other administration would have made a big deal of it: A fresh, "meticulous" study by the U.S. Education Department has found that, in reading and math, public school students are performing as well or better than private school students.

Normally, that kind of news would leave the president's people drooling and breathing heavily. They'd lunge for the phones and faxes. They'd order one of those tiresome banners with a boastful theme to hang behind the inevitable presidential speech before a carefully selected audience of well-wishers. A good report card on public education that is, for a president, like fixed potholes for a mayor; it's bringing home the bacon -- a "your tax dollars at work" achievement.

But, in this case, all is quiet at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The White House all but deep-sixed the findings by the National Center for Education Statistics, which compared reading and math progress among fourth and eighth graders from about 7,000 public schools and more than 500 private ones. Nothing, either, from Education Secretary Margaret Spellings -- who, Lord knows, is in dire need of something to brag about.

Rather than get a hullabaloo, the release of the report was banished to Friday afternoon, which, as every administration knows, is the graveyard hour because folks are focusing on summer and weekend activities. That's why firings, resignations "to spend more time with the family," indictments and economic downturns are usually announced then.

The Bushies are hoping you and I have been too busy at the barbeque grill to learn of this. For them, the findings amount to another rip in the coattails that presidents like to keep sturdy so that members of Congress from their party can ride them smoothly to reelection. Nothing hurts a presidential legacy like tattered coattails.

The GOP's base -- the rich, the redneck and the religious right -- will not be happy with the report. They prefer vouchers (public dollars for personal privilege) or at least charter schools (public sector dollars in private sector hands), and both need public schools to fail in order to justify their existence. It would raise enough dander for them to hear that public schools are doing well. But, beating private schools? Shut your mouth.

Meanwhile, U.S. public schools deserve a strong round of applause over this news. For five years now, they've struggled to stay afloat in a sea of hostility, encouraged by an administration that only talks about caring for average folks while consistently enacting policy and supporting laws that punish the poor and middle class. Its so-called No Child Left Behind law was a set-up, imposing strict new standards while low-balling funding for public schools, again to make the case for vouchers.

The survival and even success of public schools in the face of those obstacles is remarkable, but don't expect them to get any props from the Bush administration. As we know all too well from the Iraq War experience, this administration is practiced at ignoring reality and truth when it suits them, which is tragically often.

They and their friends would rather invoke their own version of reality -- a scam that has already begun. Although the officials who managed the report say it's clean as a whistle, the head of the Council for American Private Education has asserted that private schools are superior to public schools -- precisely the opposite conclusion of the study.
I know one Republican who won't be happy about this news: Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos.

According to the Grand Rapids Press, "Since 1999, DeVos, his wife, Betsy, and their immediate family have poured at least $7 million into expanding school choice -- vouchers, tuition tax credits and charter schools -- and promoting candidates who back those causes."

Friday, July 14, 2006

President Ford Left the Nation in Better Shape

Michigan's own, President Gerald Ford, celebrated a birthday this week. How is his presidency viewed after all of these years? I think Jack Lessenberry's opinion is fairly accurate and his conclusion reflects what most of us expect from a president.
History's judgment is never complete, certainly not on any president. Books re-evaluating George Washington are still being published every year. Nevertheless, as he turns 93, I think it is clear that Gerald Ford is now more highly regarded than he was when he left office, and that his standing may continue to rise.

Ford is unique in one way. He was the only man ever to reach the presidency without having been elected either president or vice-president. Ten months before he took the oath of office, he would have regarded his chances for the White House as being as remote as I would my chances of pitching for the Detroit Tigers.

What's more, he honestly never wanted to be president. His goal was to be Speaker of the House, and when it was clear that the Republicans were unlikely to take control of Congress in his working lifetime, he was getting ready to retire.

Then suddenly, vice-president Spiro Agnew was caught committing a felony and forced to resign. Ford wasn't Nixon'’s first choice to replace him, but congressional leaders firmly told him Ford was the only candidate they could get confirmed.

The new vice-president intended to get his footnote in history, and go home. But then, in early August 1974, the smoking gun tape came out, and Gerald Ford suddenly realized two things. First, Richard Nixon had been lying to him. And he'’d better get ready to assume the presidency.

For a month, the nation was in love with the first President in decades who seemed like a normal human being. But then he pardoned Richard Nixon, and the honeymoon was over. Once again, we felt betrayed. The wonder wasn't that Ford lost when he tried to win election on his own; it is that he very nearly won.

Eleven years ago I went to his home in California and interviewing President Ford. I learned two things that startled me. First, he loathed Nixon, because he had lied to him, You didn'’t do that in Gerald Ford'’s world.

More importantly, I came to the conclusion which many historians have reached, that the pardon was the right thing to do.

"I was spending 25 percent of my time on Richard Nixon. Inflation was out of control. I had to get his problems off my desk,"” he said. He opened his wallet, took out a slip of paper, and handed it to me. It was from a 1915 U.S. Supreme Court decision. "The acceptance of a pardon may be construed as an admission of guilt,"” it said, or words to that effect. He smiled. I got it.

Gerald Ford wasn't perfect. He allowed the far right to push Nelson Rockefeller off the ticket in 1976. As a congressman, he engaged in a bizarre effort to impeach U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, which went nowhere.

But Ford left the presidency and the nation in better shape than when he came into it. What more can you ask, after all, than that?
Indeed, I think that's what most Americans want too, but I also believe we want something more - the truth. I was struck by the fact that Gerald Ford loathed being lied to by Nixon, and it made me wonder what he thinks about the lies that led us to invade Iraq.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Michigan Abortion Initiative Fails

A group that wanted to make abortion illegal in Michigan failed to collect enough signatures to put the issue on the November ballot. Michigan Citizens for Life needed at least 317,757 valid signatures, but the group said they collected fewer than 300,000. Had they succeeded, the initiative could have sparked a legal challenge to the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Ironically, Right to Life of Michigan failed to support the campaign, and without their assistance the initiative failed. I found this rather puzzling until I came across this post by West Michigan Politics explaining why he felt they withheld their help:
[...]the real story is that it's not in Right to Life'’s best political interests to have its sole reason for existence taken away. After all, it does raise millions of dollars in funds and helps make a lot of lobbyists and politicians as well as ministers and activists rich and powerful.

Think about it. We'’ve elected a heckuva lot of pro-life zealots to state and national offices over the last 25 years, and what have these anti-abortion champions produced in the way of legislation to outlaw the procedure? A lot of sound and fury signifying nothing but a blatant attempt to milk votes from gullible single-issue voters! Oh, to be sure, we saw the end of Medicaid-funded abortions for low income women and laws like the 24-hour waiting period have been whittled around the edges. But there is something to the twisted logic that Right to Life and its ilk stand to lose an awful lot if abortion is outlawed. What then happens to Right to Life? What then happens to all those pro-life politicians who'’ve nailed down massive numbers of single-issue voters after winning the blessing of the Most Reverend Right to Life? It seems as though the movers and shakers behind Michigan Right to Life decided they didn't want to know. Or perhaps they realized how it could create a backlash from the majority of voters who still support keeping abortion legal that would result in a tidal wave of voter anger putting state government into the hands of the Democrats and demoralizing the troops (and donors) in the ultra-conservative movement for years.
Sadly, West Michigan makes perfect sense. Life isn't really as important to these groups as money, power and votes.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"Liberal" is Not a Four Letter Word

I've been on the receiving end of the term "liberal" quite a few times over the years, and it wasn't hurled my way as a compliment, that's for sure. It was meant to be derogatory, although my dictionary describes liberal like this:
Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
Personally, I think those are some pretty good qualities to have, but conservatives have succeeded in making "liberal" an epithet according to Paul Waldman, and it wasn't by accident. It was the result of a relentless campaign against liberalism by conservatives. Waldman also maintains liberals need to do the same thing to conservatism, and a good first step would be to never, ever again use the word with a positive connotation. He even gives us some talking points worth noting [emphasis added]:
1. Conservatism has failed. The overwhelming majority of the American public now sees the Bush administration as a failure. They failed in Iraq, they failed after Hurricane Katrina, they failed on health care, they failed to deliver rising wages, they failed on the deficit, they failed, they failed, they failed. Why? Liberals need to argue that it wasn't a product of incompetence, it was a failure of conservative governance. As Alan Wolfe put it in a recent Washington Monthly article, "Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well."

Conservatives had their chance: a Republican president, a Republican Congress, Republican-appointed courts -— in short, the perfect environment for enacting their vision with little to stand in their way -— and they failed. Should we be surprised at the level of corruption? Of course not; they don'’t think government is there to serve the people, so why shouldn'’t they raid it for whatever they can grab?

In short, progressives should start talking about the Bush administration's failures not as those of a president, but of an ideology.

2. Conservatism is the ideology of the past -— a past we don't want to return to. Liberals need to embrace the culture war, because we're winning. The story of American history is that of conservative ideas and prejudices falling away as our society grows more progressive and thus more true to our nation's founding ideals. Conservatives supported slavery, conservatives opposed women's suffrage, conservatives supported Jim Crow, conservatives opposed the 40-hour work week and the abolishment of child labor, and conservatives supported McCarthyism. In short, all the major advancements of freedom and justice in our history were pushed by liberals and opposed by conservatives, no matter the party they inhabited at the time.

Conservatism is Bill Bennett lecturing you about self-denial, then rushing off to feed his slot habit at the casino. It's James Dobson telling you that children need regular beatings to stay in line. It'’s a superannuated nun rapping you on the knuckles so you won'’t think about your dirty parts. It'’s Jerry Falwell watching "Teletubbies"” frame by frame to see if Tinky Winky is trying to turn him gay. Conservatism is everyone you never wanted to grow up to be.

3. Conservatives are cowards, and they hope you are, too. We're afraid, they shout. We're so afraid of terrorists, we have to become more like the things we hate. We're so afraid, we have to let our government sanction torture. We'’re so afraid, we have to let the government spy on us. We'’re so afraid, we have to give the president dictatorial powers. We'’re so afraid, we just want to rush to the arms of politicians who say they'’ll protect us.

Progressives need to frame their rejection of the fear campaign as an act of courage: Al-Qaida does not scare us, and we will not dismantle our democratic system because we are afraid. The America we love does not cower in fear, as the conservatives want it to.
Waldman also points out a troubling contradiction: In contemporary public opinion on nearly every issue, the progressive position is more popular, yet the number of people willing to tell a pollster they consider themselves "conservative"” still far outnumbers the number willing to say they'’re "“liberal."”

That tells me there are a lot of Americans out there who need to quit worrying about labels and join the rest of us who truly care about making our country great again - for all of us.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Deficit Reduction Spin

Another Mission "Accomplished" is how the New York Times describes the Bush administration's report that the deficit fell 30 percent this year to $296 billion. Note the apostrophes around the word "accomplished." That's because this news put into context is nothing to gloat about.

Bush is crediting increased revenue as a result of his tax cuts for the reduction, but economists aren't impressed.
Even with this year'’s bigger haul, real revenue growth during the Bush years will be abysmal, averaging about 0.3 percent per capita, versus an average of nearly 10 percent in all previous post-World War II business cycles. That might be excusable if the recent revenue improvements could reasonably be expected to continue. They cannot. Much of the increase in tax receipts is from corporate profits, high-income investors and super high-earning executives, sources that are just as unpredictable as the financial markets to which they're inevitably linked.

[...] A growing number of economists, most prominently from the Congressional Budget Office, point out that upsurges in revenue are also the result of growing income inequality in the United States, an observation that is consistent with mounting evidence of a rapidly widening gap between the rich and everyone else. As corporations and high-income Americans claim ever more of the economic pie, revenues rise, even if there'’s no increase in overall economic growth.
Celebrating a $296 billion deficit is also bizarre considering it's the fourth largest budget deficit in the nation'’s history - all under the stewardship of the Bush administration. What is the truth behind the spin? The AFL-CIO blog points to these dismal figures:
The net share of the national debt for 99 percent of Americans has jumped by more than $7,000 per person over the past six years, according to a report by Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ).

Because of the Bush administration tax cuts, the national debt has grown to $7.5 trillion - paid for with borrowed funds, such as money owed to the Social Security Trust Fund. Those who aren'’t paying for this debt are the wealthiest 1 percent, with an average income of more than $1.2 million a year. For the wealthiest 1 percent, the tax breaks outweigh the added debt burden by a net average of $30,352 per family member.

Says Alliance for Retired Americans President George Kourpias:
The tax cuts basically cost the average American over $7,000 while adding more than $30,000 to the bank accounts of those who were already rich. The fact that Republicans want to extend the tax cuts proves they only care about lining their pockets and those of their wealthy friends instead of acting with fiscal responsibility.
So, once again, good news turns out to be bad news. Why am I not surprised?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Mongo, DeVos and Hitler - Oh My!

Reading the news from the past week, I came across a story that I found very disturbing. Voice the Vote, a Detroit-based political action committee, recently ran full-page ads in the Michigan Chronicle that featured photographs of Hitler, Granholm and a swastika, and accused Democrats of taking black voters for granted. The paper has a large African-American readership. The PAC also has ties to Adolph Mongo, a political consultant, and Democrats suggested that Mongo was responsible for the ad and that he might be on the DeVos campaign payroll. However, DeVos spokesman John Truscott denied any connection:
We have not worked with Adolph and will not work with Adolph and this is a perfect example of why.
That doesn't sound very credible to me, especially since Mongo has been featured on Saul Anuzis' blog at the MI GOP, and Saul is the Republican State Chairman.

I also think the DeVos campaign is lying about the Mongo connection since he has a prior history of supporting a Republican candidate that used Adolf Hitler to smear a Democrat. In 2005, the DeVos voucher PAC, All Children Matter, contributed $157,458 to Jerry Kilgore, the Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia, and three contributions were designated as media expenses in October and November of 2005. Yet in mid-October of 2005, the Kilgore campaign ran an ad charging that his Democratic opponent opposed the death penalty for Adolf Hitler.
So just last fall DeVos money was funding vicious Republican attacks unscrupulously using Adolf Hitler to attack a Democrat. Dick DeVos (R-Amway) apparently had no problem supporting the Hitler-using candidate in Virginia.

Never condemned the ad.

Never asked for his money back.
That tells me DeVos doesn't really want to distance himself from these kinds of tactics, and it tells me what kind of a man he really is and the kind of company he keeps. The ads sound like something Karl Rove would dream up, but Saul Anuzis voices a similar mindset. Matt from Michigan Liberal relates this incident he recently witnessed:
...few weeks ago I was invited to be a representative of the Democratic side in the annual Boys' State conference at Michigan State University. Republican State Chairman Saul Anuzis was one of the speakers at the opening program, and one of the things he said there really stuck with me. He said, quoting from former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK), "There are two kinds of people, Democrats and Americans." In other words, if you are not a Republican, you are not an American.

I don't know if Saul was trying to be funny or not when he said this before a group of several hundred impressionable teenage boys. But it struck me then, as now, that this is a pretty good illustration of the kind of machine we're up against in 2006.
It's also a good illustration of DeVos' character. A person of real integrity - a person with real "values" - would distance himself from people like this and have nothing to do with them.

UPDATE: For anyone interested in reading the transcript, Matt @ Michigan Liberal questioned Republican State Chairman Saul Anuzis about his quotation mentioned above. Matt also gave this correction: " was former Reagan Interior Secretary James G. Watt - NOT former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts, as Saul originally said."

Anyway, here's Saul's response when asked why he quoted Watts:
" was in jest, and we were having fun at that conference, as I was, and I said, you know, there's two kinds of people in this country, they identified them as Democrats and Americans. And so the implication is that, you know, good Americans ought to be Republicans, and that's what we're saying.
Saul may think that's funny, but I don't - and I'm sure the thousands of American soldiers dying for our country in Iraq won't think so either. In fact, my Democratic father served in the Pacific Theatre during WWII and I know he fought for all Americans - regardless of their political affliation.

Also noteworthy is this link: Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer called attention to the Michigan Republican Party's deafening silence on the infamous Hitler ad. Brewer also personally attested to having seen The Amway Guy and Hitler-ad backer Adolph Mongo hanging out together at a recent pancake breakfast. I guess that explains the silence.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


I haven't taken an extended holiday vacation in case anyone wonders where I've been. My mother is in the hospital, so that's been taking up quite a bit of my time, and we've also had family visiting us. I guess that's Murphy's law, eh? Everything happens at once and never on schedule.

Anyway, the good news is that mom is on the mend. I'll be back as soon as my life regains a sense of normalcy.

UPDATE: My mother is out of the hospital now so I've been able to spend some time reading online. Thank you for all of your prayers and kind words. I'm hopeful mom will regain reasonably good health, but she's in her 80's and has Alzheimer's so we try not to worry about tomorrow and we thank God for having her with us today. I'm sure many of you can relate.

We've also experienced much stress because of the new Medicare D Rx plan. I'll try to get the information together and post more on it in the future, but for now I'll just tell you that my mom is spending more on her medications than she did last year - much, much more.