Tuesday, January 31, 2006

DeVos Has Questionable Ties to Enron

Oh, oh, Dicky has some splaining to do. According to Michigan Liberal, "as the lawsuit involving former Enron pyramid scheme chairman Ken Lay gets underway in Dallas today, the Michigan Democratic Party reveals new revelations regarding Enron's connection to then-Amway pyramid scheme head Dick DeVos:
LANSING- Today Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer disclosed GOP gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos' questionable business ties with Enron. While DeVos was president of Amway, the company collaborated with Enron during the California energy crisis by selling Enron electricity door to door. Enron's illegal conduct has returned to the public eye, as jury selection begins today in the civil suit involving Enron founder Ken Lay and CEO Jeff Skilling for allegedly lying about their company's health while selling half a billion dollars of their own stock.

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

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

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

Click here to read a report from the San Francisco Chronicle and other articles relating to Enron and Amway.

Wealthy Republican to Challenge Sen. Byrd

Just what our country needs, another multimillionaire businessman in Washington. Seriously, is our nation a democracy or a plutocracy?
A multimillionaire businessman entered the GOP race to challenge Sen. Robert C. Byrd yesterday, hoping to deny the 88-year-old incumbent Democrat a record ninth term.

John Raese, 55, said he would campaign on a platform touting free enterprise and reduced regulation, among other issues. "What I'm going to run on is a rebirth of capitalism," he said.

The REBIRTH of capitalism? The last time I checked, capitalism was alive and well and kicking the crap out of our democratic process.

Interesting enough, Raese also has ties to several mainstream media outlets. His business interests include The Dominion Post of Morgantown, the West Virginia Radio Corp., which owns 15 radio stations, and the MetroNews radio network serving 56 stations. I'm sure those interests will certainly provide fair and balanced coverage during his campaign. Yeah, right.

Pre-Empting Bush's Spin

I'm starting to get dizzy ahead of tonight's SOTU address. Some political spin that is being pushed by the Administration and the corporate world: people are being squeezed by health care costs and that's why wages aren't going up.

It sounds reasonable, right? Wrong.
[As the Economic Policy Institute points out], the real problem is that escalating corporate profits are not being diverted to wage increases. As Sylvia Allegretto and Jared Bernstein write, "The evidence presented below refutes this claim. First, nearly half (47%) of the workforce do not get health coverage through their job. Second, employers' health care costs rose more slowly in 2005 than any year since 1999, in part because rising costs have led to less coverage (Gould 2005). Third, not only did wage growth slow last year, but overall compensation growth also slowed and by the third quarter, it too lagged inflation. Finally, the growth of corporate profits in recent years has solidly outpaced that of compensation as employers are trading away wage and benefit increases for higher profits."

Here's the link to read the rest of the report for yourself.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Granholm Working for Michigan

Several weeks ago, Bostonian Exile and I had a conversation going about Michigan's gubernatorial race and Exile said, "show me how Granholm is working to make Michigan competitive again." Let me start by directing him to Granholm's five-point economic plan as announced in last year's State of the State address - Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow - as the single most important initiative to put Michigan back on track. For the sake of brevity, here are the highlights:
    1. Restructure business taxes in Michigan to encourage job providers to keep jobs here.

    2. Create thousands of new jobs by accelerating $800 million in university and road upgrade projects and by creating new tools to upgrade schools, downtowns and nursing homes.

    3. Train out-of-work citizens to step into fields that need workers right now.

    4. Make college accessible to all through the proposed New Merit Scholarship program.

    5. Invest in creating thousands of jobs for tomorrow. The Jobs for Michigan Fund will allow the state to invest $2 billion in bond proceeds over the next 10 years to create thousands of good-paying jobs that can never be outsourced, that will keep our kids in Michigan and that can diversify our economy… all without raising taxes.

What exactly are the employment figures for Michigan? A recent Free Press article reported the following: "Using the household count, Granholm cites federal statistics that show a net gain of 98,600 jobs in Michigan since she took office. But the U.S. payroll survey shows a net loss of about 80,000 jobs under Granholm. Meanwhile, the Michigan Republican Party uses different U.S. labor department figures to claim that Michigan lost 160,000 jobs while Granholm has been governor." The figures vary depending on the count used, but the article also points out, "In 2004, President George W. Bush's re-election campaign alternately used the household or payroll count, depending on which showed a better picture at any given time." [Emphasis mine.]

By way of comparison, our country lost 2.6 million manufacturing jobs since March 2001 under the Bush administration. Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution states, "Though the state has been hit especially hard by the restructuring of its manufacturing sector, the crisis is not unique to Michigan but national in scope. [Emphasis mine.] The entire United States lost 13% of its manufacturing jobs since the beginning of the last recession." He also believes Granholm is on the right track - no thanks to the federal government.
Michigan's leadership is doing the right things to help the state's economy during this period of dramatic restructuring. Last year, Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposed 21st Century Jobs Fund was enacted and will invest billions in the research, development and commercialization of new technologies and industries. The governor and Legislature also agreed on $600 million in tax relief for the manufacturing sector.

Likewise, Michigan's congressional delegation has fought hard to help the state and nation retain high-quality manufacturing jobs and assist laid-off manufacturing workers. But despite such efforts, the federal government has not done its part.

The federal government helped to create today's globally competitive economy by relaxing trade restrictions through agreements such as NAFTA, while doing little to help manufacturers retain and upgrade their U.S. plants, help workers adjust to the demands of the new economy or update the ways we provide for health and retirement security.

Simply put, the federal government failed to help retain high-wage, high-productivity manufacturing.

The DetNews also recently highlighted the federal government's failure to help Michigan in an editorial stating that "Japan and China regularly lower the value of their currency by various means to gain an advantage in the U.S. market. Both countries buy up American dollars, which pushes down their own currency value and makes their exports cheaper." This currency manipulation gives the Asian automakers an advantage and "the impact on per-vehicle profits could be as much as $2,000... That's a significant obstacle and is one reason the Japanese automakers glean up to 70 percent of their profits from the U.S. market."

Michigan automakers need some help, but as the Det News pointed out, "help from Washington is unlikely. President George W. Bush, in one of his more impolitic remarks, told the Wall Street Journal last week that Detroit should not look to the government to solve its problems, but should build cars that consumers find "relevant." It was a cheap shot. But the reality, unfortunately, is that Bush and Congress have little incentive to aid Detroit's automakers. States that voted Republican in the last presidential election are full of factories bearing the names of Japanese, South Korean and German auto firms."

Another proposal Granholm put forth last week in her State of the State address calls for developing a state-run 401(K) savings plan aimed at small businesses that don't offer such plans. Susan Tompor at the Freep reports that "experts agree that small business owners could use some help -- and a state-packaged plan might be a way to do it...[and if the state pulls it off] it could make Michigan a more cutting-edge state for anybody who wants to start a small business -- or continue working at one."

DeVos has yet to come up with his own economic plan for Michigan, but "Republicans, who control both chambers of the state Legislature, see tax cuts as the magic bullet for Michigan's economic stagnation." However, Michael LaFaive, director of fiscal policy at the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy, thinks targeted tax abatements are "unfair to employers who bear their fair share of the tax burden, and he says mounting evidence proves they're not a cost-effective way to grow jobs."

Even Brian Dickerson, columnist for the DetNews, can see the drawbacks to constant tax abatements:
But the reflex to waive taxes for any employer who dangles a dozen jobs in Michigan's direction feeds the public suspicion, memorably articulated by Leona Helmsley, that "only the little people pay taxes." The profligacy with which lawmakers create exemptions suggests that corporate taxation is one of those superfluous extras, like the rust-proofing offered by some car dealers that may be dispensed with by request.

The rub, of course, is that many of the government services corporate tax revenues support aren't superfluous at all. Schools, police protection and other vital municipal services are a critical part of what makes any community a viable place to do business. Exempting a favored few from the reasonable cost of those services can only dishearten the majority who bear their fair share.

There are other examples I could give to support Granholm's accomplishments and plans to grow Michigan's economy, but it would be easier for Exile to check this link and read the reports from various media sources.

I didn't mention the adverse effects rising gasoline prices and health care had on our manufacturing either, but they can't be discounted. Neither can the fact that job creation during the Bush administration has been the lowest since World War II. Even since the 2003 tax cuts, job growth has been historically weak, growing at less than half the average rate for similar periods in comparable post-war recoveries.

Republicans can say what they want about Granholm, but considering the dismal economic accomplishments of the Bush administration - and the trickle down effect its had on manufacturing - I'd say Granholm's done a heckuva job.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Steeler Nation

This was forwarded to me from my daughter in Pittsburgh. Scott Paulsen, a Pittsburgh radio show host wrote this column on the building of the Steeler Nation.

Nation Building
January 18, 2006
Scott Paulsen

Think about this the next time someone argues that a professional sports franchise is not important to a city's identity:

In the 1980's, as the steel mills and their supporting factories shut down from Homestead to Midland, Pittsburghers, faced for the first time in their lives with the specter of unemployment, were forced to pick up their families, leave their home towns and move to more profitable parts of the country. The steelworkers were not ready for this. They had planned to stay in the 'burgh their entire lives. It was home.

Everyone I know can tell the same story about how Dad, Uncle Bob or their brother-in-law packed a U-Haul and headed down to Tampa to build houses or up to Boston for an office job or out to California to star in pornographic videos.

Alright. Maybe that last one just happened in my family. At this same time, during the early to mid-eighties, the Pittsburgh Steelers were at the peak of their popularity. Following the Super Bowl dynasty years, the power of the Steelers was strong. Every man, woman, boy and girl from parts of our states were Pittsburgh faithful, living and breathing day to day on the news of their favorite team. Then, as now, it seemed to be all anyone talked about.

Who do you think the Steelers will take in the draft this year?

Is Bradshaw done? Can you believe they won't give Franco the money - what's he doing going to Seattle?

The last memories most unemployed steel workers had of their towns had a black and gold tinge. The good times remembered all seemed to revolve, somehow, around a football game. Sneaking away from your sister's wedding reception to go downstairs to the bar and watch the game against Earl Campbell and the Oilers - going to mid night mass, still half in the bag after Pittsburgh beat Oakland - you and your grandfather, both crying at the sight of The Chief, finally holding his Vince Lombardi Trophy.

And then, the mills closed. Damn the mills. One of the unseen benefits of the collapse of the value systems our families believed in - that the mill would look after you through thick and thin - was that now, decades later, there is not a town in America where a Pittsburgher cannot feel at home. Nearly every city in the United States has a designated "Black and Gold" establishment.

From Bangor, Maine to Honolulu, Hawaii, and every town in between can be found - an oasis of Iron City, chipped ham and yinzers. It's great to know that no matter what happened in the lives of our Steel City refugees, they never forgot the things that held us together as a city - families, food, and Steelers football.

It's what we call the Steeler Nation.

You see it every football season. And when the Steelers have a great year, as they have had this season, the power of the Steeler Nation rises to show itself stronger than ever. This week, as the Pittsburgh team of Roethlisberger, Polamalu, Bettis and Porter head to Denver, the fans of Greenwood, Lambert, Bleier and Blount, the generation who followed Lloyd, Thigpen, Woodson and Kirkland will be watching from Dallas to Chicago, from an Air Force base in Minot, North Dakota, to a tent stuck in the sand near Fallujah, Iraq.

I have received more email from displaced Pittsburgh Steelers fans this week than Christmas cards this holiday season.

They're everywhere. We're everywhere. We are the Steeler Nation. And now, it's passing from one generation to the next. The children of displaced Pittsburghers, who have never lived in the Steel City, are growing up Steelers fans. When they come back to their parents' hometowns to visit the grandparents, they hope, above all, to be blessed enough to get to see the Steelers in person.

Heinz Field is their football Mecca. And if a ticket isn't available, that's okay, too. There's nothing better than sitting in Grandpa's living room, just like Dad did, eating Grandma's cooking and watching the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Just like Dad did.

So, to you, Steeler Nation, I send best wishes and a fond wave of the Terrible Towel. To Tom, who emailed from Massachusetts to say how great it was to watch the Patriots lose and the Steelers win in one glorious weekend. To Michelle, from Milwaukee, who wrote to let me know it was she who hexed Mike Vanderjagt last Sunday by chanting "boogity, boogity, boogity" and giving him the "maloik". To Jack, who will somehow pull himself away from the beach bar he tends in Hilo, Hawaii, to once again root for the black and gold in the middle of the night (his time), I say, thanks for giving power to the great Steeler Nation.

All around the NFL, the word is out that the Pittsburgh Steeler fans "travel well", meaning they will fly or drive from Pittsburgh to anywhere the Steelers play, just to see their team. The one aspect about that situation the rest of the NFL fails to grasp is that, sometimes, the Steeler Nation does not have to travel. Sometimes, we're already there. Yes, the short sighted steel mills screwed our families over.

But they did, in a completely unintended way, create something new and perhaps more powerful than an industry. They helped create a nation.

A Steeler Nation.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Vise Tightens: Where's The Outrage?

In a vein similar to this post about the vanquishing middle class, comes this news from Working Life:
The banner headline in the Financial Times (subscription required) reads: "Delphi seeks to tear up labour deals." You may remember that back in November the company's CEO Steve Miller had concocted a deal that would plunge Delphi into bankruptcy, gut the living standards of the workers (cutting wages from $26 an hour to $12.50 an hour) BUT pay executives and senior maangers hundreds of millions of dollars in severance packages and bonuses. Even some conservatives have had a dim view of Miller's plan.

Now, the FT reports that Delphi "is set to ask a bankruptcy judge to tear up its labour contract with its 33,000 US blue-collar workers as a way of stepping up pressure on trade unions to accept deep cuts."

Between CEO's and bankruptcy courts, American workers are getting hammered, and it appears that no one is listening, let alone defending us. Working Life asks the questions we should all be asking - particularly of the Democrats:
Why do we sit by and allow the bankruptcy laws to be used to bludgeon workers, particularly while executives make off with millions of dollars? Executives at these companies are essentially engaging in legalized looting--using the cloak of the law to force concessions from the average worker in order to enrich themselves.

Where is the Democratic Party? The corruption story that should really be making the front-page news every day and spark press conferences with outraged politicians performing before the cameras is these outrageous looting of companies at the expense of millions of Americans. From where I sit, the story of Jack Abramoff is nickel-and-dime stuff--though certainly part of a corrupt pattern.

The big story is how politicians from both parties aid and abet the construction of a legal system that makes it possible for a guy like Steve Miller to screw his workers and enrich himself. United Airlines executives are doing the same thing (millions of execs after workers have given $4 billion in concessions).

At a minimum, we need to change the bankruptcy laws. If a company goes into bankruptcy, if its going to demand wage cuts from its workers, executives have to be hit with the same proportional hit to their pay and benefits. And, as an aside, the law should prohibit companies from using bankruptcy to shred pensions--because pension money, after all, really belongs to workers (it is their compensation that they've deferred to a later date).

And where is the Democratic Party demanding that, as a part of any of these concession demands, companies commit to endorsing and working to enact Medicare For All? After all, rising health care costs are a major factor hitting the bottom line of many companies in distress (certainly, airline and auto companies). It's idiotic to think you can just hit workers now as a way of turning around a business if you ignore a central structural cost that can be solved with national policy.

These are the questions we should all be asking this election year. It's time for the politicians who WORK FOR US to step up to the plate and do something to protect the middle class, otherwise, they don't deserve our votes.

A Bumper Sticker For Rick Santorum

[Hat tip: Operation Yellow Elephant]
Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum, in a tight race for reelection in Novembr 2006, recently compared putting a bumper sticker on one's car to serving one's country in uniform. I am so not kidding. Santorum:

"And yet we have brave men and women who are willing to step forward because they know what's at stake. They're willing to sacrifice their lives for this great country. What I'm asking all of you tonight is not to put on a uniform. Put on a bumper sticker. Is it that much to ask? Is it that much to ask to step up and serve your country?"

Santorum wasn't talking about a "Support the Troops" sticker, he was talking about a "Rick Santorum" bumper sticker - minus a few important words. This is what he meant to say:

Rick Santorum = Culture of Corruption

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Those Oldies But Goodies

I've been enjoying a stroll down memory lane courtesy of Expatbrian's musings about music. If you're a baby boomer - or just like the oldies - click here for rock and roll, here for music from the Vietnam era, and here for music and a few other goodies from the psychedelic years.

From Motown to Janis Joplin, they're all there. Some of my favorites were the Moody Blues; Jethro Tull; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Bob Seeger; Led Zeppelin; Gordon Lightfoot; Traffic; Chicago; and too many others to mention - yet alone remember.

Vanquishing the American Dream

Jim Hightower has an outstanding commentary on what is unfolding across the country today for millions of workers. Hightower believes "what has the majority of America's working families worried, angry and in a mood to revolt is that the Powers That Be have unilaterally decided to walk away from the social contract, and in so doing, to kiss off our country's middle class." I'll post part of the rather lengthy article here, but if you read nothing else today, PLEASE click over and read the entire article. Hightower is preaching to the middle class choir with this one.
[Autoworkers] Paulks and Roys represent a common story that can be told by millions of Americans of their generation. It's the story of our country's "social contract" -- an implicit agreement between working stiffs like them and corporations like GM. This is a remarkable success story, embodying our nation's egalitarian ideals and our commitment to the common good. In practice, America's historic social contract has established within our huge, diverse and fragile society something essential: a stable middle class. While the Constitution and Bill of Rights are the legal glue of our nation, this contract is the social glue -- it binds us as one people, giving tangible evidence that "we're all in this together." Those who produced this democratic advance were not the founders back in 1776, but our parents and grandparents -- and doing so did not come easily for them.

In the 1920s and '30s, working families in industry after industry openly rebelled against the rampant corporate greed, workplace abuses and political corruption of the day. As they organized, marched, and held sit-ins and strikes, they were bludgeoned, shot and often killed by corporate bosses, Pinkerton goons, police and even the National Guard. It was a hellacious period of bloody labor war, deep social unrest and spreading political upheaval. Finally, fearing for the very survival of capitalism, corporate chieftains began to signal to union leaders that they were ready to negotiate for labor peace and a new social order.

The ensuing bargain was straightforward: Corporations would get labor, loyalty and productivity in exchange for assuring job and retirement security. From the New Deal until the mid-1980s, unions, corporations and government hammered out a series of explicit agreements, rules and laws that gave legal structure to this implicit contract. The result was a new balance of power that made ordinary people like autoworkers the first decently paid, decently treated working class in the world.

Work was still hard and demanding, but the development of our social contract meant that, for the first time, tens of millions could find the American dream within their reach. By no means would you be a millionaire, but you could buy a modest home, have health care for your family, take a vacation and not have to fear retirement -- in other words, have the work ethic fairly rewarded. Such a contract also enabled working folks like Paulk and Roy to feel positive about America's commitment to the common good, to pride themselves as being a valued part of the economy and the larger community, and to have hope for the next generation. Such feelings are more than touchy-feely niceties -- they determine whether people support the social order. This is why the feelings of workaday folks like Paulk and Roy are a crucial baromenter of America's well-being, and why today's corporate and political elite had better begin tuning in to them. "We're all worried. Everybody is worried," Paulk says of GM's workers. "There are a lot of people that are really mad. They think this is the thing that revolutions are made of." ...

Today's corporate leadership is playing with fire. The elites are so focused on enriching themselves -- knocking down the workaday majority's wages and benefits in order to grab more of the nation's wealth, for example, and getting Bush to keep piling on the tax giveaways for the rich at the expense of everyone else -- that they have become blind to the looming threat that their avarice poses to the social order and to their own well-being. Until recently, the Wal-Mart model has been taking advantage of low-skilled, low-income workers, but moving that model upward to autos, steel, high-tech, and other industries ensnares highly skilled middle-income workers. There's a big difference between holding people down and knocking them down. Middle-class working families are people who've had a slice of the American pie -- and for them to be told now that their slice will be taken from them and their children is not merely to shred the social contract and throw it in their faces, but to dissolve the social glue that holds our big, sprawling, brawling country together. It's the betrayal of the middle class. And, as Robert Paulk put it, "This is the thing that revolutions are made of." The elites who are so smugly dismissing middle-class wages and benefits as "excessive" will not be able to build walls and gates high enough to stem the tide of anger coming at them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Abramoff Medicare Connection

Tom Paine shares this information that may link Abramoff to the Medicare fiasco our seniors are currently experiencing.
Thanks to John Holbo over at Crooked Timber for unearthing a gem from Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson's new book that shows Jack Abramoff's connection to the Medicare fiasco we now have on our hands.

Holbo found this nugget in Hacker and Pierson's book, Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy:

"When the debate over prescription drug coverage picked up in the late Clinton years, the pharmaceutical lobbying group PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, pronounced “Farma”) went so far as to establish a faux grassroots organization that putatively represented the elderly: “Citizens for a Better Medicare.” Despite the lofty title, Citizens for a Better Medicare had few, if any, actual citizens on its rolls Its main activity was to spend millions of PhRMA dollars on slick ad campaigns supporting an industry-friendly drug plan. When Citizens for a Better Medicare came under fire, PhRMA switched its “grassroots” efforts over to the United Seniors Association, a conservative direct-mail organization that had cut its teeth with frightening scare letters to senior citizens. The United Seniors Association board included, among other GOP political operatives, Jack Abramoff..."

Holbo goes on to point out how such a "factoid" could be useful as Democrats seek to link the recent corruption scandals to the GOP's function as servant to powerful corporate interests. He's right, but to do this successfully, Democrats have to find a way to talk about corruption that helps voters understand that the GOP political machine stacks the deck against the interests of ordinary citizens. The ethics problems in Washington aren't just about "special interests," they're about "monied interests." So low-income senior citizens and their underfunded advocacy groups can't compete in the Medicare reform battle against the arm-twisting purchased by the pharmaceutical companies and delivered by the Republican Party.

I don't know if it will ever be possible to clean up the corruption in Washington. The connections to big business run too deep.

Steelers 56, Seahawks 3

That's my prediction for Super Bowl XL. The Steelers will pace themselves and score two touchdowns per quarter before finally extending an act of grace and allowing the Seahawks a field goal - out of pity.

Before you Seahawk fans choke on your Starbucks, let me explain why an uppity woman from Michigan has the audacity to make such an outlandish prediction. First of all, I lived in Pittsburgh for nearly 15 years and grew to love the city, my husband is from Pittsburgh, and my children were all born there. Secondly, two hometown Detroit men play for the Steelers, so that just makes it even sweeter.

Actually, the score probably won't be as lopsided as I predicted. A local sportswriter is predicting the final score will be Steelers 24, Seahawks 14. That would be acceptable. The Steelers get the win and you guys walk away with your dignity.

To get back to the hometown connection, our local papers have some great feature articles on Jerome Bettis and Larry Foote in case you'd like to read a little background about the men who haunt the Seahawks' dreams.

There is also another reason why the Steelers can't lose - its hard to find more loyal fans than Pittsburghers, and the Steelers will be playing to a Pittsburgh friendly crowd. (The Detroit area is home to thousands of transplants from southwestern Pennsylvania.)

Um, Pittsburgh fans, let me just add this one tiny bit of criticism. You might consider tempering your enthusiasm just a bit and keeping your supersitions in check. I caught this story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
When Joshua Vannoy decided to wear a Denver Broncos jersey Friday, he knew there would be some joking from diehard Steelers fans at Big Beaver Falls Area Senior High School. But he never expected to feel humiliated by his teacher during a mid-term examination and become so shaken up that he could not finish his test...

He's made a complaint to the principal against John Kelly, who teaches an honors class on ethnic relations, saying the teacher made him sit on the floor to take his test and instructed other classmates to pelt him with balled up sheets of notebook paper...

Mr. Kelly had little to say on the subject yesterday. "We won the game [Sunday] night, didn't we?" he said. "That's all I was worried about."...

Joshua said his feelings were hurt, his nerves shattered and Mr. Kelly's reaction to his John Elway No. 7 jersey was anything but humorous.

"He had a dead serious face," said Joshua. "He never laughed at all."

He said when he went to sit down at his regular desk on Friday, Mr. Kelly ordered him to "take those books off my desk. I own that desk." He placed his textbooks on the floor and then sat down at the desk.

Joshua said his teacher told him to "get out of my desk. You're sitting in my desk."

He said Mr. Kelly began sliding the desks into a circle. Then he told Joshua to sit on the floor in the center of the circle.

While Mr. Kelly passed out the tests, he dropped Joshua's test papers, scattering them on the floor so that he had to crawl around and pick them up, Joshua said.

"As I started to write my name on the papers and number them, I noticed he went to the cupboard and grabbed a handful of notebook paper and handed it to all the kids and said, 'This is part two of your test. You'll get points for this. Take the paper and ball it up with two hands and throw it at the Denver fan,' " Joshua said.

Joshua said there were "papers flying everywhere towards me. At one point, a girl refused to do it and he [Mr. Kelly] took the paper off her desk and threw it into the back of my head."

That teacher was wrong and set a bad example for his students. Win or lose, the Steelers will still be champions, and they deserve fans who act like winners instead of losers. Do you hear me, Mr. Kelly?

Clear Channel vs. Grass Roots America

Last month I blogged about Clear Channel's refusal to post a billboard critical of Wal-Mart near the retailer's Bentonville, Arkansas, headquarters. It was being funded by money raised through the organization Campaign for America's Future. My husband and I made a small donation and sent a letter of protest to Clear Channel. Apparently Clear Channel didn't back down, but I think the grass roots alternative CAF came up with is even better. Here's part of a letter they sent me:

Dear Kathy,

Last month, Clear Channel refused to allow us to post the slogan that you selected for the billboard we had reserved at Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. To curry favor with Wal-Mart, Clear Channel censored our billboard -- despite the reality that our slogan, "Wal-Mart: Killing Small Businesses One Main Street at a Time," is true. A newly released Campaign for America’s Future study concludes that Wal-Mart sucked more than $20 billion out of local economies across America this holiday season alone. [1]

Clear Channel controls its billboard, but it can’t control us. And we won’t let it stop us from exposing Wal-Mart’s devastating effects on American Main Streets. Since Clear Channel blocked our use of one billboard, we’ve created 10,000.

We’ve printed 10,000 bumper stickers that mimic the billboard’s design and message. Because of your generosity, we’ve been able to deliver most of these mini-billboards, free of charge, to community organizers across America who are leading active fights to stop Wal-Mart from building new supercenters. These organizers are already distributing the bumper stickers far and wide in their communities to help build opposition to Wal-Mart exactly where supercenters pose an immediate threat to Main Street. Wal-Mart will regret Clear Channel’s decision to censor you in Bentonville.

In addition to getting these 10,000 mini-billboards in front of the eyes that need to see them most, we’ve made them available for anyone to purchase. Please join us in challenging Wal-Mart’s Main Street destruction by displaying a bumper sticker of your own. We’ve also created a flyer that you can download, print out and post for free. Get your bumper sticker and free flyer today.


I think this is a great alternative. Instead of ONE billboard near Wal-Mart headquarters, THOUSANDS of bumper stickers and mini-billboards will be seen across the country. The Beast of Bentonville and their allies persevered, but they couldn't silence the voices of grass roots America.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Michigan's Changing Economy

The Cadillac News reports that Michigan State University economics professor Paul Menchik believes manufacturing is no longer capable of providing an economic safety net.
Historically, the area and state have weathered economic downturns on the strength of its manufacturing industry. Manufacturing may no longer be capable of providing a safety net.

“That's the fragile part of the economy,” said Michigan State University economics professor Paul Menchik.

A weak manufacturing sector is only one factor working against the economy, according to Menchik.

The influence of an aging population is a key concern.

“The number of people in prime working age is falling,” he said.

“So, we're in a situation in which the solutions to potential productivity of people in the state are falling,” Menchik said. “One wonders if we can retain our middle position (among states) of output per person.”

When it comes to consumer taxation, Menchik said Michigan has a 19th-century approach by taxing only purchases. He believes services, as well as purchases, need to be taxed. It's another issue magnified by the graying population.

“As people age, consumption focuses on service,” he said.

The Governor and state leaders are taking steps to diversify our economy, attract new business, and help new companies get off the ground. They also have a plan to "help students who make it through 2 years of college with at least a 2.5 grade-point average. The plan would revamp the Michigan Merit Scholarship to increase the money available for college-bound students to $4,000 from the current $2,500 -- with some college payments delayed two years."

Change takes time, especially in a state where manufacturing has been king for nearly a century, but there are signs of optimism, such as the recent announcement that the California-based Advanced Photonix Inc., a technology company, plans to move its headquarters to Ann Arbor, aided by a nearly $1.2 million state tax break.

Republican National Committee Mail

Hat tip to fellow blogger Libby Spencer at the Detroit News for pointing me to this post from Midwestern Progressive who received a questionnaire from the Republican National Committee. Rather than sending his answers by mail, Midwestern decided to post them online. Libby's personal favorite:

"Question 8: "Should students, teachers, principals, and administrators be held to a higher standard?"

Answer: A higher standard than who? George Bush? Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby? Rummie? Rep. Cunningham? It is laughably sad that anyone would dare to talk about standards in conjunction with this bunch."

My personal favorite:
Question 6: "Do you think Congress should focus on cutting the federal budget deficit by reducing wasteful government spending?"

Answer: What deficits? I thought President Clinton turned over budget surpluses to Team Bush and that these faithful, fiscally responsible stewards of the economy would be able to continue Clinton's policies that produced the surpluses. That did not happen? Oh, well, this calls for another round of tax cuts, then! But seriously, cut wasteful government spending? Let's start with Bush's pharma giveaways failed senior drug prescription policy and other corporate welfare programs that flourish under this administration's "leadership.

Midwestern has other great responses. Check them out for yourself, especially question #19 and his suggestion on where you might consider sending a contribution in lieu of the RNC.

Some Good News About Body Armor

Thanks go out to blogger Libby Spencer at the Detroit News for pointing me to this WaPo update on the armor situation our soldiers have been enduring.
The U.S. Army, under pressure to issue more protective gear to its soldiers in Iraq, has signed a $70 million emergency contract with a California company to rush ceramic body armor to the front lines.

The sole-source contract, with California-based Ceradyne Inc., was approved last week and announced Friday. It comes on the heels of a Pentagon study that found side armor could have saved dozens of U.S. lives in Iraq.

The armor plates will begin shipping in January and be completed by May or June. It's great that the government will finally do the right thing by our soldiers, but what a shame that it took public pressure and criticism to make this happen.

Answering a DeVos Defender

Anonymous left this comment in response to my Domino Pizza/DeVos Alliance post: “DeVos simply never said, "Michigan workers are paid too much." Try looking something like that up, instead of blindly reposting from Christine Barry. As far as "shipping jobs to china?" Check that one out too, it simply didn't happen-not one job was shipped, driven, flown, or generally moved.”

I reread the post and comments and owe anonymous a clarification. Dick DeVos did not make the comment about Michigan workers being paid too much; however, his wife, Betsy DeVos, Republican state party chairwoman, did make the comment as noted by Left Coaster.
The Republican state party chairwoman raised the issue Tuesday when she issued a press release saying high wages were partly to blame for Michigan's economic woes. "Many, if not most, of the economic problems in Michigan are a result of high wages and a tax and regulatory structure that makes this state uncompetitive," DeVos said in the prepared statement.

The point is actually moot though since Betsy DeVos speaks for the Michigan GOP and, by extension, her husband.

Moving on to the second point anonymous made about DeVos never shipping, driving, flying or moving jobs to China, let me clarify: DeVos never moved the jobs to China, he simply eliminated 1,400 jobs in Michigan and created tens of thousands of jobs in China according to current Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer.
"Dick DeVos likes to brag about his success as a businessman, but the real key to his "success" is an old formula of inherited wealth and the abuse of soft money," said Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer.

Taking advantage of the family political influence created by millions of dollars in soft money contributions to the GOP, as President of Amway DeVos sought and got federal tax breaks on Amway's China investments and favorable China trade legislation, legislation which resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of benefits for Amway, himself and his family.

"While he eliminated 1,400 Michigan jobs at Amway, DeVos has been a tireless promoter of free trade in general and with China in particular, all to benefit Amway's overseas profit-making," said Brewer. "He used the influence generated by huge soft money contributions to lobby for and get free trade legislation with China in 2000."

Another company associated with the DeVos family was also responsible for jobs being eliminated in Michigan according to former Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Butch Hollowell.
When it was announced that Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls Inc. [JCI] was sending 885 jobs to its auto visor plant in Mexico, where workers earn $2 an hour, Hollowell said, "If (DeVos' family) were so concerned about job losses, they shouldn't have sold it to JCI in the first place." The JCI operation in Holland [MI] was originally Prince Corp., founded by Betsy DeVos' father, Edgar Prince, and sold by the family in 1996 for $1.35 billion.

So, what’s the bottom line? The DeVos family used soft money to gain favorable tax breaks and trade regulations for their family and Amway, and they eliminated Michigan jobs while creating new jobs in China.

DeVos is a bad fit for Michigan workers. As Hollowell said, “DeVos still doesn't get it when it comes to the economy. "This just underscores how remote the Republican leadership is from ordinary people. ... It means the Republican Party in general just doesn't get it. The fact that we had a manufacturing economy which paid people good wages is responsible for our middle class," Hollowell said. "They allowed people to send their kids to college, make improvements on their homes, save for their retirement. That's the American dream."

Friday, January 20, 2006

Unexpected Results

This will probably be my last post till Monday. I'm attending a church retreat with my daughter this weekend and will be leaving for it this afternoon. Until then, I wanted to update you on something unusual and rather funny. Earlier in the week, I blogged about the Domino Pizza/Devos Alliance that resulted in a spirited debate between Bostonian Exile and I. In the end, I promised Exile I would be posting more about Granholm and our state in the near future.

In the meantime, I was surprised to find out that my post had been linked to a multi-level marketing blog, Quixtar BLOG, which is published by the husband of a former Quixtar IBO. For those who don't recognize the name, Quixtar is a multi-level marketing company founded in 1999 by the owners of Amway (DeVos). There is a very heated discussion going on there about the qualifications of DeVos and Granholm, but I pulled out a few to share with you.
"Great. Two extreme Christian fundamentalist that believe women should not have control of their own health decisions, homosexuals can be 'treated', public schools should be abolished for 'Christian education', and there should be a place at our table of gov't for religion -- as a mater of fact, the only seats should be those of the extreme fundamentalist beliefs. Hopefully this choice shows the colors of DeVos to the eastern side of the state -- those who are all very aware of the extreme beliefs of the Domino's founder and his executives. His choice was his conduit to tap into the 'Detroit' money, as the DeVos connections are all western Michigan money, but hopefully this connection will also shed enough light on how extreme Dick & Betsy DeVos are."

"I hope someone else wins the nomination.
Granholm v. DeVos is a battle where the ENTIRE state of MI will lose. THERE IS NO WINNER!"

"Tax cuts for the uber rich, and wipe away social programs for the most needy in our society. Oh that's right, just like the DeVos family philosophy, we are all born on equal footing and need no 'leveling', the American dream is alive and can be obtained by all. Pick yourselves up by the bootstraps and make something of yourself ! Unfortunately, I am reminded of the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who's legacy I celebrated only yesterday, when he said something about it being extremely difficult to pull yourself up by the bootstraps when you don't even have boots."

"While I am not impressed with Granholm, she is by far the lesser of two evils against DeVos or ANY person who has expressed interest in the Republican nomination. She was left with a huge mess from Gov. Engler, and has had to deal with the worst legislative bodies I have ever witnessed in Michigan. We are suffering greatly in Michigan, but I don't see Gov. Granholm being to blame for ANY of it. On the other hand, she is not the leader to pull us out of the mess either."

This is going to be an interesting election year as these comments seem to reflect. Michigan appears to be as polarized as the rest of the country. Sigh...

Have a nice weekend everyone.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Whose Kidding Whom?

I had a good chuckle when I saw this and just had to share.
Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him,
a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him,
a good guy when Cheney did business with him
and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist,
but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body,
but multinational corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy.
Providing health care to all Americans is Socialism.
HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.

Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense.
A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's cocaine conviction is none of our business.
Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness, and you need our prayers for your recovery.

You support states' rights, which mean Attorney General Gonzalez can tell states what local voter initiatives they have the right to adopt.

What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what G. W. Bush did in the '80s is irrelevant.

[Hat tip to Froth Sloth B'Gosh]

Casting Stones

I've grown used to hearing right-wingers drag Kennedy or Clinton's moral weaknesses out whenever they find themselves at a loss for intelligent words, but I thought they had more class than to drag Martin Luther King's infidelities into public. I was wrong. Motherlode at No More Apples spent Monday listening to several wingnut radio stations and noted the following:
In what almost seems to be a concerted effort, they have found it necessary, on this day set aside to honor Dr. Martin Luther King's great contributions to American civil society, to spend more time discussing his martial infidelities (which they imply trump any claims to "greatness" applied to him) and his surviving family's current squabbles than in reminding listeners of just how far we've come as a people due to his leadership.

It also strikes me as curious that the best-known philanderers, to conservatives, all seem to be Democrats or progressives: Kennedy, Clinton, King, Gary Hart, Wilbur Mills. What about Bob Packwood, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, William Randolph Hearst, Bill Cosby, Henry Hyde, Dick Morris, Newt Gingrich? And those are just the ones who come immediately to mind.

Motherlode finds the conservative obsession with sex, and their hypocrisy in condemning in one person what they cover up or brush off in another to be one of the most distasteful characteristics of the extreme right, and I have to agree. None of us is perfect, we all fight different demons, but to drag this kind of stuff out into the open all the time serves no purpose except to demean or denigrate; maybe that's the whole point since a person's lack of morals doesn't necessarily negate their accomplishments.
Here's the way I see it. If a man's (or woman's) work is inextricably linked with a certain code of behavior, their behavior is relevant in the way their work is to be judged. So Swaggart and Bakker deserve to have their contributions nullified because while they were preaching and teaching marital fidelity, they were practicing just the opposite. That's not the case with Kennedy, Clinton or King. While right wingers may insist that they were in a position of leadership that necessarily included modeling a certain type of behavior "for the children," that's a specious argument. I'm certainly not justifying cheating on one's spouse, but these men called upon Americans and government to adhere to and advance the principles embodied in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, not the Bible. Their work should be evaluated by the extent that they were able to accomplish those goals, not by some measure of personal sexual morality.

Besides, the people who resort to rehashing this stuff all the time certainly aren't setting good examples of forgiveness for our children, and do they consider the humiliation and shame they bring upon the victim's family? King preached nonviolence and love for our enemies. It's time for some of the right wingers to put down their verbal guns and practice a little love.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

This Is How Washington Honors Our Troops

What a day I've had. Sometimes I absolutely hate technology. In the good old days we only had to worry about interruptions from a single phone (without call waiting), but now we have cell phones, e-mail, fax machines, PDA's, etc. Do you think we've progressed with all this new fangled stuff? I really wonder sometimes.

Anyway, I wanted to bring this information to your attention. I've blogged before about the problems our soldiers have with their armor provided exclusively by Point Blank Armor, Inc., and a recent Pentagon study found that as many as "80 percent of the Marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to their upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor. Such armor has been available since 2003, but until recently the Pentagon largely has declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials."

Meanwhile, the soldiers serving our country have resorted to buying Pinnacle Dragon Skin Armor with their own money - at costs up to $6,000. That's no small chunk of change and it serves to emphasize how concerned the soldiers are about the adequacy of the Point Blank Armor. I doubt they'd spend that kind of money out-of-pocket otherwise.

As if that's not bad enough, our insane government got wind of what the soldiers were doing and issued this directive:
The soldiers, who are currently staging for combat operations from a secret location, reported that their commander told them if they were wearing Pinnacle Dragon Skin and were killed their beneficiaries might not receive the death benefits from their $400,000 SGLI life insurance policies. The soldiers were ordered to leave their privately purchased body armor at home or face the possibility of both losing their life insurance benefit and facing disciplinary action.

This is the way our government honors the soldiers risking their lives everyday?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Domino Pizza/DeVos Alliance

I came across this interesting bit of information at Michigan Liberal today:
Domino's Pizza Inc. CEO David Brandon will head Republican Dick DeVos' campaign to unseat Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

What bothers me about the Domino Pizza/DeVos alliance are these few lines at the very bottom of the article:
The pizza chief will be overseeing the first Republican gubernatorial campaign in two decades to have its own field staff rather than relying on the Michigan Republican Party's, said DeVos campaign manager Greg McNeilly.

"We are going to have the most mammoth political structure anyone has ever seen. And David's the head of it," McNeilly said.

The GOP is pulling out all stops to unseat Granholm, and they apparently find the Michigan GOP lacking. What bothers me is the fact that once again our political process is being tainted by money and big business. Candidates no longer get elected because they're the most qualified, but simply because they had the best campaign money and influence could buy.

It might be time for Michigan voters to consider BOYCOTTING Domino's Pizza and send the CEO a message: Big business and politics don't belong in bed together.

UPDATE: Here's some more background on David Brandon that I received from Matt over at Michigan Liberal:
Brandon also happens to be a MAJOR contributor to the Republican party, Republican candidates, and causes...including Southfield million dollar megachurch preacher Keith Butler. Last year, Brandon explored the possibility of running for the U.S. Senate himself (he decided not to). Perhaps a reason he didn't is that he'd have to take a bit of a pay cut: in 2003, Brandon reportedly received $5.8 MILLION in salary, bonuses, and other forms of compensation.

MORE: Christine Barry lists some of DeVos's fellow Amwayans, who also happen to be Abramoff associates as well:

George W. Bush
Rick Santorum
Tom DeLay
Bob Ney
Grover Norquist
Ralph Reed

This list tells me everything I need to know about DeVos and the direction he'd take Michigan: "Corruption is Us" will become the new state motto.

President Bush Outsourced

Expatbrian has breaking news regarding President Bush. Here are some of the highlights:
Congress today announced that the office of President of the United States of America will be outsourced to India as of January 20, 2006.

Mr. Bush was informed by email this morning of his termination.

Mr. Bush has been provided the outplacement services of Manpower, Inc. to help him write a resume and prepare for his upcoming job transition. According to Manpower, Mr. Bush may have difficulties in securing a new position due to limited practical work experience. A Greeter position at Wal-Mart was suggested due to Bush's extensive experience shaking hands with a phony smile.

Another possibility is Bush's re-enlistment in the Texas Air National Guard. His prior records are conspicuously vague but should he choose this option, he would likely be stationed in Waco, TX for a month, before being sent to Iraq, a country he has visited. "I've been there, I know all about Iraq," stated Mr. Bush, who gained invaluable knowledge of the country in a visit to the Baghdad Airport's terminal and gift shop.

Sources in Baghdad and Fallujah say Mr. Bush would receive a warm reception from local Iraqis. They have asked to be provided with details of his arrival so that they might arrange an appropriate welcome.

I'd like to be able to say you did a heckuva job, Georgie, but I can't. Good luck with that job search.

Monday, January 16, 2006

King's Message on Economic Inequality

Martin Luther King is most often associated with racial equality and non-violence; however, King was also very outspoken about economic inequality and poverty. John Nichols points us to a message King delivered to a bible camp in Wisconsin in 1956, where he asked his audience to ponder what the Apostle Paul would say to them.
"I understand that you have an economic system in America known as Capitalism," said King, as he read an imaginary letter from the apostle. "Through this economic system you have been able to do wonders. You have become the richest nation in the world, and you have built up the greatest system of production that history has ever known. All of this is marvelous. But Americans, there is the danger that you will misuse your Capitalism. I still contend that money can be the root of all evil. It can cause one to live a life of gross materialism. I am afraid that many among you are more concerned about making a living than making a life. You are prone to judge the success of your profession by the index of your salary and the size of the wheel base on your automobile, rather than the quality of your service to humanity."

"The misuse of Capitalism can also lead to tragic exploitation," the letter continued. "This has so often happened in your nation. They tell me that one tenth of one percent of the population controls more than forty percent of the wealth. Oh America, how often have you taken necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes. If you are to be a truly Christian nation you must solve this problem. You cannot solve the problem by turning to communism, for communism is based on an ethical relativism and a metaphysical materialism that no Christian can accept. You can work within the framework of democracy to bring about a better distribution of wealth. You can use your powerful economic resources to wipe poverty from the face of the earth. God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty. God intends for all of his children to have the basic necessities of life, and he has left in this universe "enough and to spare" for that purpose. So I call upon you to bridge the gulf between abject poverty and superfluous wealth."

In the words of John Nichols, "Today, as we mark the 77th anniversary of King's birth in an era when some Christians still attempt to use their Bible as a justification for discrimination and hatred, it is more important than ever to remember the message of an apostle that was delivered fifty years ago."

Santorum Insults Americans

You gotta hand it to Sen. Santorum; he manages to keep his name in the news for one reason or another. He might consider being a little more careful though or risk alienating the media that keeps giving him all that press. Last week, at Valley Forge Military Academy and College outside Philadelphia, Santorum went off the deep end and attacked the media for drawing the public's attention to the deaths of American servicemen and women in Iraq. According to Santorum’s logic, to focus attention on the "tragic consequences" of the war was "helping Islamic fascism win the battle."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette didn’t take kindly to Santorum’s criticism and published this response:
We would answer Sen. Santorum in two ways. First of all, the Post-Gazette's coverage of the Iraq war seeks to be as broad and as comprehensive as space permits. We write factually about the progress of the war, including full coverage of the elections there; efforts to form a democratic, inclusive government of the different Iraqi political and religious factions; and American cooperation with Iraqi police and military units that is meant to establish the level of security that will permit U.S. troops to be withdrawn.

We write about the speeches of President Bush and other members of his administration that seek to provide a positive interpretation of what is occurring in Iraq, alongside interpretative evaluation of developments there.

For Sen. Santorum to suggest that we and other American media should not report about the tragic loss of American lives -- a death toll that now stands above 2,200 -- is to sell our readers short and to suggest that they do not need to know, nor do they want to know, how many brave Americans are dying there.

It is to say that they are either immature -- fragile souls who need to be protected from such information -- or that they don't care, which everyone knows is not the case. For Sen. Santorum to cite national security and the claim that knowledge of U.S. losses might encourage America's enemies, as reasons for not telling the public the truth, is insulting to the American people.

Their response was great, but I'd like to add one more thing: American citizens need to be protected all right; we need to be protected from politicians like Santorum who seek to whitewash the atrocities of war – a war based on lies. Talk about your “tragic consequences.”

UPDATE: My favorite Aussie and expatriate, Acoustic Dad, has a response to Santorum on his website that I recommend you read. His opinion reflects mine and those of many other Americans that Santorum "is hardly indicative of somone who cherishes Democracy, honesty, integrity and ethicality. The American people don't deserve this and particularly not the families of servicepeople overseas."

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Who Said That?

I came across an interesting blog called Notable Quotables that has a scattering of quotes on contemporary politics. LaPopessa accepts submissions from the rest of the blogosphere too. In fact, in anticipation of the president's impending SOTU address this month, I submitted a relevant quote as a little reminder of what he said last year.

Too bad we can't hold him to his word.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Blog Jeopardy

It's Friday, so lets play a little game of blog jeopardy.

Category: Cartoonists. Here's the answer:

His latest cartoon is a t-shirt that says, "My Savior died and all I got was this overwhelming indifference whenever innocent Muslims are killed anywhere in the world."

What's the question? Post your guess in the comment section. I'll reveal the winner (or correct answer if no one guesses correctly) on Sunday night.

UPDATE: Hmmm, no guesses yet? That means either everyone stayed out late Friday night and slept in today or I'm the only one who likes Jeopardy type games.

Let me give you a little hint: The answer can be found at one of the sites I have listed under links in the right hand column. So, get surfing and look for that cartoon!

ANSWER: Who is Mr. Fish?

Best Idea to Come Along...

Since Sliced Bread.com

Over the last few months, ordinary Americans submitted more than 22,000 ideas to SinceSlicedBread.com — and launched an unprecedented national conversation about how to strengthen the economy and improve life for working men and women and their families. Sponsored by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the contest encouraged ordinary Americans, policy experts and economists to enter fresh ideas on how to create the kinds of jobs that allow people to raise families, obtain affordable health insurance, pay for college and save for retirement.

The judges have done their job — now it's your turn. There are 21 finalists to choose from in the first round of voting, which ends Sunday evening. Your votes will decide the winners, so cast your online ballot now:

Vote for the best ideas SinceSlicedBread.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Fire Rumsfeld

The Pentagon awarded Point Blank Armor, Inc. a $500 million dollar contract to supply our military with armor, yet 18,000 of those vests have been recalled because they did not meet ballistic test standards. Additionally, the New York Times recently revealed a secret Pentagon study that found "that as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had extra body armor." Meanwhile, David Brooks, owner of Point Blank Armor, isn't letting the inadequate armor keep him awake at night. In fact, he recently threw his daughter a $10 million dollar birthday party with some of his profits.

Someone needs to be held accountable for the inadequate armor. Well, Jonathan Tasini agrees, and points the finger at Rumsfeld.
This is the way the Administration shows its support for the troops? It's ironic that the people who can't be bothered to provide the right equipment to save the lives of hundreds of soldiers run around attacking the call for immediate withdrawal of the troops as a danger to morale. If you ask me, my guess is that the average Marine's morale might be hurt a bit more knowing he may get killed because the civilian leadership sent him to Iraq without decent armor than by the people trying to bring his ass home now--alive.

So, my campaign has launched an on-line petition to ask for the immediate firing of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Sign the petition at: www.tasinifornewyork.org/firerumsfeld

Principled Conservatives

This post from Joshua Holland on AlterNet just about says it all:
Everything you need to know about Republicans' blind obeisance to the party line is contained in this little item from the latest Pew poll:

"In August 2002, there was little party division over the issue of government monitoring of personal telephone calls and emails. Both Republicans and Democrats opposed the idea by similar margins. In fact, if anything, Republicans were less likely to see this kind of surveillance of American citizens as justifiable.

However, in the wake of the news that President Bush has authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor Americans suspected of having terrorist ties the issue has become more divisive. Today, Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats (37% vs. 18%) to say they favor allowing the government to monitor their telephone and email communications."

"Of course I'm against the government listening into the phone calls of perhaps millions of Americans without a warr - what's that? Bush did it? Er…Well, he's trying to save us from the scourge of Islamofascism, and the way I see it if you've got nothing to hide, why should you…"

After last year's election I talked to Moral Majority co-founder and right-wing icon Richard Viguerie, who told me: "conservatives are royalists in some regards. The king is the king and his is the final word." I guess he was right.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Alito Bad for Working Women

I touched on some of the reasons I'm uncomfortable with Samuel Alito's possible confirmation to the Supreme Court here, particularly in regards to Alito's tendency to support corporations over individual citizens and employees cases involving civil liberties, civil rights, and workplace rights. The more I read about his past record the more uncomfortable I feel, especially after reading Alito: A Defeat for Working Women on the Progressive Democrats of America website. Here are some of the highlights:
Alito's confirmation, if it happens, could also have profound implications for working women, only from the opposite point of view. Like the other seven men on the Court, he's never experienced sex discrimination first hand, so he doesn't see it as a problem. His record is clear - big business rules. During his 15 years on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, he compiled a stunning record of backing corporations over workers in sex and race discrimination cases. He has bragged that he is "particularly proud" of his work in opposing affirmative action, and never expressed regret for joining a militantly anti-woman club dedicated to keeping women out of Princeton.

This mindset does not bode well for female employment rights. One case that could come before the Court in the near future just happens to be the largest sex discrimination suit in history, Dukes v. Wal-Mart. Current and former female employees of the nation's largest employer are seeking class-action status to pursue pay and promotion discrimination claims. They've won in lower courts, and Wal-Mart is of course appealing. If the case reaches the Supremes a vote against the women could effectively torpedo female workplace rights for a generation.

Corporate America is already gender unbalanced, and although women now experience less discrimination in the workplace, their salaries are still much lower than those of men in comparable jobs and the glass ceiling still separates men and women at the corporate level. I don't think Alito is a good fit for America for the reasons I mentioned before - but he's definitely a bad fit for women. It took a generation of women fighting for equal rights to get where we are today. Alito's nomination could jeopardize everything.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Me, Me, Me, Me, Meme

The computer gods conspired against me today, wrecking havoc on my e-mail program. It took most of the day to restore my settings and get things back to normal, so now I'm behind on work. What better time for another meme? The Hundred Acre Personality Quiz is found here. I'm a Kanga. What are you?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Accepting the Unacceptable

I'm convinced that many Americans view politics as a game. Red vs. Blue, Us vs. Them, Conservatives vs. Liberals, etc. How else to explain that people don't seem to be worried about the abuses of power recently exhibited by President Bush? Warrantless wiretapping, a signing statment that circumvents the McCain torture amendment, the indefinite incarceration of US citizens labeled illegal combatants, and the nomination of Samuel Alito, a candidate the Boston Globe describes as a bad choice.
AT THIS moment in American history, it would be hard to find a worse Supreme Court nominee than Samuel A. Alito Jr. His ideology captures everything extremist about the Bush administration. If confirmed, Alito would serve as Bush's enabler. He would give Bush effective control of all three branches of government and the hard-right long-term dominance of the high court.

I'm worried that Alito's nomination would not only give unchecked power to the presidency, but also erode many of the rights and protections Americans have today.
...while Alito favors an almost monarchic executive, he believes the federal government has limited powers to protect the health and safety of Americans or safeguard the environment. Alito and and his compatriots in the Federalist Society are critical of the Supreme Court's holding since 1937 that Congress, under the Constitution's commerce clause, may regulate to assure everything from a safe and healthy workplace to honest financial markets.

Without oversight from Congress, there could be many more Sago mine accidents or Enron debacles down the road. Corporate America certainly has a lousy track record and can't be depended on to police itself and do the right thing. Americans depend on Congress to defend our rights against the Goliaths we can't stand up to on our own, but the Globe describes Alito as siding against individual Americans:
With the Bush administration running roughshod over individual rights, Alito has tended to support prosecutors and corporations over individual citizens and employees, in cases involving civil liberties, civil rights, workplace rights, and reproductive freedom.

Do we really want to risk Congress losing their oversight? I recently read Ayn Rand's comment on what it was like to live through the Russian Revolution. She said the most horrible thing, to her, was how fast people accepted the unacceptable.

Our democracy and our individual rights and freedoms are not a game. Our system of checks and balances has worked for more than 200 years. Americans need to think long and hard before they give the government unchecked power. Bush can't take the power from us if we speak out, but our silence and apathy give it away; and if Alito is nominated to the Supreme Court, I can't say he will hand unchecked powers to Bush, but his track record scares me and gives me reason to pause.

Debunking Bush's Economic Success

Last week Bush ran around touting how great the economy is under his administration; this week Robert Freeman sets the record straight about the veracity of Bush's statements. This is rather lengthy, but I'm posting most of it intact since I feel his remarks are that important.

Is the economy, in fact, so sound? And were Bush's tax cuts really that successful? Let's look at the facts.

In fact, the Bush recovery has been one of the weakest ever recorded. "By virtually every measure, the economy has performed worse in this business cycle than was typical of past ones," reported the Economic Policy Institute.

For example, GDP growth since the bottom of the 2001 recession has averaged 2.8%. But it grew at an average rate of 3.5% over the prior six recoveries. Or consider jobs: 1.3% more jobs under Bush versus 8.8% more during earlier upswings.

Private sector jobs, a metric one would assume to be close to a Republican's heart, fared even worse: up only .8% since 2001 versus an average of 8.6% for past recoveries. Investment? Up 3.6% as a result of Bush's policies compared to the 8.2% average for the six earlier rebounds.

Pick your measure - growth, jobs, income, investment, spending - the recovery based on the Bush tax cuts is one of the weakest ever recorded. And the reason is obvious. Bush's tax cuts have gone overwhelmingly to the very richest of Americans. Of $1.7 trillion in total cuts, $578 billion or 33% went to the top 1% of income earners according to Citizens for Tax Justice. The top 20% of income earners received 71% of all tax cuts.

If you use the tax code to shift money to millionaires, they only spend a small portion of it. The rest sits in the bank, buys a trip to Tahiti, or chases new investments in Hong Kong or Singapore. Little of it is spent. This is not class warfare as Bush likes to claim. It is an empirical statement. How many Mercedes' can you drive at one time, anyway?

On the other hand, if you give tax relief to the poor and middle class it goes right back into circulation. And fast. School clothes for the kids, a new transmission for the car, fix the roof, groceries, health care, higher gas bills-you name it, the money gets spent. This, too, is an empirical statement...

Trade deficits approaching three quarters of a trillion dollars a year? Cut taxes on the rich. They need more money. GM and Ford closing 19 factories? Cut taxes on the rich. They need more money. Intel, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM all building multi-billion-dollar plants in China? Cut taxes on the rich. They need more money.

Five airlines and the country's largest auto parts maker in bankruptcy? Cut taxes on the rich. They need more money. Three million high-wage manufacturing jobs lost in four years? 44 million Americans without health insurance? Crude oil at triple the price of only four years ago? One out of six American children raised in poverty?...

Meanwhile, the household income of average Americans has fallen five years in a row - the first time that has ever happened. At the end of 2004, it was still 3.6% below where it was when Bush took office. In wealth terms the situation is even worse. The bottom 40% of families have been wiped out. They collectively own less than 1% of the nation's wealth. Bush's solution? Cut taxes on the rich. They need more money.

The most vulnerable, the bottom 20% of Americans, have been especially hard hit. Their incomes are 8.7% below 2000 levels. 5.4 million more people are in poverty since Bush took office. Hunger has risen 43% since 1999, reports the USDA. Bush's answer? That's right. Cut taxes on the rich. They need more money.

Read the rest of it for yourself. Freeman writes much more, but the most important point he makes is this: "Those debts will have to repaid by our children. The costs of repaying them will mean their standards of living will fall, perhaps precipitously. For paying back Bush's debts will mean they cannot, at the same time, make the investments in infrastructure, education, and research and development that created past prosperity."

I'm Weak

Last One Speaks can't resist a good meme, but she doesn't like to play alone and challenged us "Detroit Bloggers" to play along. I'm weak and can't resist a challenge, so here's my contribution:

Four crying out loud

Four jobs you've had in your life: Teacher, customer service associate for major retailer, dispatcher for towing service, medical transcriptionist.

Four movies you could [and do] watch over and over: I hardly ever watch a movie over and over again, but my favorite movies include Shawshank Redemption, City of Angels, Ghost and the movie version of Annie.

Four places you've lived: Detroit, MI, Westland, MI, Baldwin, PA, Grand Blanc, MI.

Four fiction books you can't live without: To Kill A Mockingbird - Lee, A Farewell To Arms - Hemingway, The Grapes Of Wrath - Steinbeck, and any book in the Kent Family Chronicles (The Bastard, The Seekers, The Lawless, The Americans, etc.) by John Jakes.

Four non-fiction books you consider essential: Bible, The AAMT Book of Style for Medical Transcription, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Sibley's Guide to Birds.

Four TV shows you love to watch: Law and Order, CSI, Jeopardy, Boston Legal.

Four places you've been on vacation: Northern Ireland, Italy (from the northern alps down to Rome - favorite city is Florence), Presque Isle in northern Pennsylvania, and Niagara Falls.

Four websites you visit daily: Think Progress, Working Life, Tom Paine, Common Dreams

Four of your favorite foods: Pizza, chocolate, chicken, and salads.

Four places you'd rather be: Lying on the couch with a good book, Red Wings hockey game, fishing, driving through the countryside.

Four albums you can't live without: Anything by John Mellencamp, Bob Seeger, Gordon Lightfoot or the Beatles.

One question, LOS. You mentioned you were a bartender and a law office manager under previous jobs you've had. Is bartending a prerequisite for working with lawyers? (Sorry, Bostonian Exile...I just couldn't resist!)

To everyone reading this, come on, play along. It will be fun! Just post your answers in the comment section or on your blog (be sure to link here so I can find your response).

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Keeping Promises to Myself

January always inspires me to do two things: Redd up (tidy up for those not familiar with Pittsburgh slang) the loose ends I put off from last year and promise myself not to get behind this year. I can honestly say I'm right on track so far. If the other 51 weeks run as smoothly, I'll be in great shape come December 2006!

In keeping with my promise to stay current, I spent yesterday cooking
Onion Soup Gratinee
as passed along by Midwestern Progressive. My hubby and I just started diets so I used low-fat chicken stock and deglazed the onions with some leftover Chablis I had on hand. It was delicious, and a meal all by itself. Midwestern suggested serving quiche along with the gratinee, but here in metro Detroit we're trying to trim our waistlines. We're succeeding too. We're no longer the nation's fattest city - that distinction now belongs to Chicago. Sorry, Midwestern.

I also promised to share a picture of my Pee Gee Hydrangea tree with Acoustic Dad in Australia. He's been posting some great pictures of plants, flowers and creepy snakes and spiders indigenous to his area of the world, and his most recent post included a beautiful blue hydrangea. That picture warmed my Michigan soul. We had an ice storm yesterday and frigid temperatures; meanwhile, Acoustic said the temps down under are hovering around 100 degrees. My picture is from last August, but serves as a reminder that this winter weather too shall pass!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Unhappiness in the Ranks

This is good news to wake up to:

"Dissatisfied with the nation's direction, Americans are leaning toward wanting a change in which political party leads Congress — preferring that Democrats take control, an AP-Ipsos poll found. Democrats are favored over Republicans 49 percent to 36 percent."

Gee, I guess Americans finally realized that the Republican's TRUTHINESS lacked one important quality - truth.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Median Domestic Properity, Part II

I'm not convinced our economy is as rosy as Washington and Wall Street make it sound, and neither is Steven Pearlstein, business columnist for the Washington Post.
While the signals coming from the economic pundocracy may be solid green, the ones coming recently from the marketplace are flashing yellow. A middling Christmas season for retailers. A bicoastal housing boom that has already begun to abate, with an initial 10 to 15 percent drop in prices from speculative highs. A stock market that couldn't sustain a year-end rally despite record profits. A bond-market yield curve that makes it no more expensive to borrow money at a fixed rate for 30 years as for one year.

Other warning signs: A corporate sector unable to find a more profitable use for its record retained earnings than buying up its own stock or overpaying for questionable acquisitions. Hedge funds so flush with cash that they are lending money into a commercial real estate bubble, bidding up the price of gold and financing hostile takeovers. Pay packages for corporate executives and investment bankers up 30 percent in a year in which investors were lucky to eke out a 3 percent gain.

Pearlstein doesn't see us heading for a crackup, but his predictions don't soothe my middle-class household budget either.
A more likely scenario, it seems to me, is a 2006 in which the economic chickens finally come home to roost. Annual growth rates will fall from their current 3.7 percent to somewhere below 2 percent before the final quarter as government deficits are trimmed and households stop spending down their home equity. Inflation will reach 3.5 percent as key workers finally demand their fair share of productivity gains, health care and commodity prices continue to rise, higher energy costs work their way into the economy, and import prices spike in response to another steep drop in the value of the dollar. As economic growth slows, stocks will continue to drift sideways, snuffing out a nascent boom in corporate capital expenditures. Meanwhile, the long bull market in bonds will finally end as interest rates rise -- the result of heightened inflation expectations, continued monetary tightening by the Fed and a newfound reluctance of foreigners to invest their trade surpluses in dollar-denominated Treasury bonds.

Where is my "It's the economy, stupid" sign? The time seems right to dust it off and drag it out again.

GOP Senators Draw Line in Sand

According to the Boston Globe, three GOP Senators are unhappy with President Bush's assertion that his powers as commander in chief give him the authority to bypass a new law restricting the use of torture as I posted on yesterday.
John W. Warner Jr., a Virginia Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, issued a joint statement rejecting Bush's assertion that he can waive the restrictions on the use of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment against detainees to protect national security.

''We believe the president understands Congress's intent in passing, by very large majorities, legislation governing the treatment of detainees," the senators said. ''The Congress declined when asked by administration officials to include a presidential waiver of the restrictions included in our legislation. Our committee intends through strict oversight to monitor the administration's implementation of the new law."

Separately, the third primary sponsor of the detainee treatment law, Senator Lindsey O. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, told the Globe in a phone interview that he agreed with everything McCain and Warner said ''and would go a little bit further."

''I do not believe that any political figure in the country has the ability to set aside any . . . law of armed conflict that we have adopted or treaties that we have ratified," Graham said. ''If we go down that road, it will cause great problems for our troops in future conflicts because [nothing] is to prevent other nations' leaders from doing the same."

Mike at Acoustic Dad's Place may be encouraged to hear about this latest development. He commented on my earlier post that he was "concerned that by the time people...finally come to their senses it will be far too late." Well, Mike, these Senators have drawn a line in the sand and challenged the president, and I say it's about time.
David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive power issues, said the senators' statements "mean that the battle lines are drawn" for an escalating fight over the balance of power between the two branches of government.

"The president is pointing to his commander in chief power, claiming that it somehow gives him the power to dispense with the law when he's conducting war," Golove said. "The senators are saying: 'Wait a minute, we've gone over this. This is a law Congress has passed by very large margins, and you are compelled and bound to comply with it.'"

These Senators were elected to defend the Constitution from abuse of power. Let's hope they're serious about their obligations and not just giving the public a few sound bites. This election year is turning out to be important for many reasons, but the public needs to keep an eye on this situation and keep track of those politicians who work to keep the president's power in check. Otherwise, voters will have to take matters into their own hands and vote out those who side in favor of this abuse.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Bush Played McCain

This is so disheartening and infuriating all at the same time. Last week newspapers around the world reported that Bush had signed legislation proposed by Senator McCain prohibiting the torture of prisoners in US hands outside of the country. The signing was accompanied by pictures of Bush and McCain smiling and shaking hands in spite of the fact that Bush had fought to block the legislation.

Now I understand why Bush was smiling. He signed legislation he never intended to follow according to an article in today's Boston Globe.
After approving the bill last Friday, Bush issued a "signing statement" -- an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law -- declaring that he will view the interrogation limits in the context of his broader powers to protect national security. This means Bush believes he can waive the restrictions, the White House and legal specialists said.

"The executive branch shall construe [the law] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President . . . as Commander in Chief," Bush wrote, adding that this approach "will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President . . . of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks."

Bush is in essence saying laws do not apply to him; yet he is president of a nation where ALL people are bound to live within the law. Does our Constitution mean nothing to him? And what about McCain? Bush staged the whole event to make it look like he was willing to compromise and work with McCain (and Congress), when all along he never intended for the law to apply to him. He played McCain like a pawn in a chess game.
Elisa Massimino, Washington director for Human Rights Watch, called Bush's signing statement an "in-your-face affront" to both McCain and to Congress.

"The basic civics lesson that there are three co-equal branches of government that provide checks and balances on each other is being fundamentally rejected by this executive branch," she said.

"Congress is trying to flex its muscle to provide those checks [on detainee abuse], and it's being told through the signing statement that it's impotent. It's quite a radical view."

Radical is too kind. I'd label the signing statement tyrannical.