Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Small Town Opinion of Dubai Port Deal

The Huron Daily Tribune is a small town paper in the thumb area of Michigan where people don't mince words or beat around the bush. If they have something to say, they just put it out there in terms everyone can understand.

The Dubai World Port deal is no exception, and Capt. Fred Davis, a freelance writer, has a few common sense words of advice for our president.
I suggest you run some of your plans past a few Thumb area residents. I bet any agricultural “expert” would tell you “Don’t get a fox to guard the hen house.” They would explain a fox may do the job for a while, but it is a known fact they have attacked the hens in the past. [...]

We the citizens of the United States of America (USA), or at least a good number of us, will not rest easy with questionable guards “watching” our major sea ports. The premise that those hired will not have knowledge of our security systems is flawed. Anyone knows if you work around something any length of time you will learn exactly how to demolish it.

As I see it, Mr. President, this is a slap in the face to those who are presently fighting and dying to protect us overseas because you distrusted Saddam. [...]

I do not believe the UAE is a group of impostors posing as our friend as some journalists claim, but I do believe a few bad apples could spoil more than just the barrel. [...]

Mr. President, I think it is about time you listen to your advisers and carefully consider the challenges being made to this proposal. You have admitted you can be wrong and had that fact proven beyond a doubt (WMD). If you won’t take good advice, why have so many advisers? This issue is not partisan, concerned “citizens” line both sides of the aisle.

I know you will be out of office in a couple of years, but don’t you feel it is your duty to leave something for our children besides a whopping debt?

Think about it, we the people are not against Muslims. We are simply against the enemy and any additional loss of American lives.
Well said, Captain.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Free Trading Republicans Choking Automakers

I was tied up with family commitments the last few days and this is the first chance I've had to spend more than a few minutes on the computer. Sadly, the status quo continues. The Bush administration continues to take aim at auto worker's jobs. Via DetroitWonk, here's the bad news:
Now, I don't want to be an alarmist sounding a warning bell to the governmental affairs teams at the US automakers or anything, but it looks like those free-trading Republicans over in the US House of Representatives want to put a crimp on the one segment of vehicles still profitable for them. That's right, the US House is looking to repeal the "Chicken Tax", the one thing that is stopping foreign-built light trucks from being imported into the United States.

Edmunds.com broke the story:
The Chicken Tax was instituted back in 1963, and was aimed at European (read VW) truckmakers. The long and the short of it is that there was a trade war going back then between the USA and Europe. The Europeans tripled the tax of chickens being imported into Europe, and the US retaliated by putting a 25% tax on any truck imported into the USA. That's how it came about, and we've lived with it ever since.

So now there is an effort afoot by the Bush administration for a free-trade agreement with Thailand that would substantially reduce this tariff, if not eliminate it. The UAW and Detroit automakers are fighting this tooth-and-nail not to let this happen. They fear that if the Chicken Tax is reduced or repealed, the US will be flooded with cheap pickups made in Thailand, and that their "truck cash cow" will disappear.

It's worth noting that American pickup trucks outsell foreign-built rivals with the help of the chicken tax. By comparison, car imports only face a 2.5 percent tariff. Pickup trucks are also very profitable for manufacturers, which explains why some politicians and the UAW are unhappy with the Bush administration. According to The Hill:
Alan Reuther, the legislative director for the United Auto Workers union, which opposes repealing the tariff in any pact with Thailand, calls the debate a "huge jobs issue."

Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio), the co-chairmen of the Senate Auto Caucus, are trying to throw a wrench into these lobbying efforts. Forty senators have signed a letter circulated by the two that urges the administration to leave the chicken tax untouched.

Backing them is the autoworkers union, which is urging House members to sign a similar letter being circulated by members of the Michigan delegation.

Voinovich and Levin said Thailand should not be given "privileged access" to critical segments of the American market.

If the tariffs are lifted and small foreign built pickups flood the market, market share will erode even more for Detroit automakers. Consumers would benefit from the cheaper imports, but at the expense of worker's jobs. So what's the answer? I think Detroit Wonk has the most reasonable and fair way of dealing with this tariff:
What Republicans in Congress and the President should be doing is looking at phasing out these restrictions as the market allows it instead of merely attempting to make wholesale changes to the tariff structure independent from the markets current situation. What they are doing currently is nothing more than the same free-marketing craze which accomplishes nothing positive to the US economy. [Emphasis mine.]

Unfortunately, Bush already made it clear he won't help the auto industry, so it's up to Levin and Voinovich to work some bipartisan magic and protect American worker's jobs.

Friday, February 24, 2006

What's The Story on Our Economy?

President Bush, SOTU address, January 2006: Our economy is healthy and vigorous... In the last two-and-a-half years, America has created 4.6 million new jobs... Even in the face of higher energy prices and natural disasters, the American people have turned in an economic performance that is the envy of the world.

As Paul Harvey would say, now for the rest of the story:

More than 25 million Americans turned to the nation's largest network of food banks, soup kitchens and shelters for meals last year, up 9 percent from 2001. Those seeking food included 9 million children and nearly 3 million senior citizens, says a report from America's Second Harvest, and 36 percent of people seeking food came from households in which at least one person had a job.

After adjusting for inflation, wages have not risen during the last three years. For low- and middle-wage workers, as well as those with a high school degree, real wages fell last year by 1%-2%.

An individual who works full-time at the current minimum wage earns about $10,700 a year — $5,390 below the 2005 poverty line for a family of three, and $8,650 below the poverty line for a family of four.

In 2005, minimum wage workers earned only 32% of the average hourly wage. Barring a minimum wage increase, we are poised to break a record in 2006 for the greatest inequality between minimum wage and average wage workers since the end of World War II.

President Bush has noted that 2 million jobs were created over the course of 2005, and that we have added 4.6 million jobs since the decline in jobs ended in May 2003. This is not evidence that the tax cuts are working. When the third round of tax cuts passed in 2003, one of the Bush administration's major selling points was the claim that the economy would create 5.5 million jobs from July 2003 through the end of 2004--almost one and a half million more jobs than would be expected in a normal recovery.

Instead, only 2.4 million jobs were created, 1.7 million less than the number we were told to expect with no tax cut. Job growth remains abnormally slow. Last year's 2 million new jobs represented a gain of only 1.5%. With normal growth, we would have created 4.6 million jobs last year.

For all the talk of expanding opportunities to the less well-off, experts note that the gap between minority and white home ownership remains unchanged from a decade ago at about 25 percentage points, and the N.Y. Times reports on the alarming rate of foreclosure among the nation's poor.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush have proposed fee hikes to the Pentagon’s health care system, TRICARE, that could deny health benefits to as many as 600,000 veterans. Under Bush's proposal, military retirees would be forced to pay higher prescription drug co-payments and annual enrollment fees. The plan would triple health care costs for retirees.

Federally based programs to help pay for higher education would take significant hits: The Perkins Loan program would be eliminated, and Pell grant funding for college students would drop by $4.6 billion.

And on, and on...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

DeVos Outsourced Ad Campaign

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos is first out of the gate with a new 60-second television ad airing across the state. DeVos' campaign manager Greg McNeilly said the ad focuses on DeVos' concern about the direction of the state economy, showing shuttered plants in Kent County. It also focuses on his vision for turning Michigan around.

Well, I have to wonder how committed DeVos really is to turning our economy around. The ad was produced by On Message Inc., a Virginia firm without any ties to Michigan that I could find. DeVos' campaign probably used the company because of their donations to various Republican candidates, but shouldn't loyalty begin at home? We have good advertising firms right here in Michigan that could have used the money his campaign spent on that ad. In fact, Chrysler's ad firm recently had to cut 200 jobs because of declining revenue.

McNeilly would not say how much the campaign is spending to air the ad, but any dollars that go out of Michigan hurt Michigan's economy. As much as the Republicans would like to blame Gov. Granholm for all of our economic problems, most citizens agree that outsourcing has played a central role in decimating our manufacturing base here in our state and across the country.

If DeVos is really serious about helping Michigan's economy - and not rewarding Republican loyalty - then he might want to consider spending his ad dollars here at home next time.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Yoopers Don't Like Bush's Budget Cuts

My family is from a remote area of Michigan in the Upper Peninsula called Keweenaw County. You can't go much further in Michigan without running into Lake Superior, and people from that area are called Yoopers (from "U.P.ers"). Because of family connections, I read the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette to keep myself abreast of local news. The area is very conservative politically, so I was surprised to read people are not too happy with one of President Bush's proposed budget cuts, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. Two different articles and an editorial were devoted to the subject in Tuesday's paper.

Cuts to the CSFP are a big deal to agencies in that area. It will make it difficult for them to continue to provide 1,100 seniors and mothers with children under 6 years old the boxed food they currently depend on in Baraga, Houghton, and Keweenaw counties. Another 1,200 people also receive emergency food assistance. To put this in perspective, the three counties have a combined population of only 47,050.

These budget cuts will also affect the Portage Health System seniors meal program, which allows seniors to buy lunch at a reduced rate. One local 89-year-old man said the cuts would not hurt him, but others would not be so fortunate. "Many elderly residents need government support for much of their daily needs," Drew said, including meals. "They're very dependent on the services they get from the government."

It's come down to this in our country and our state. Average citizens are speaking out and pleading with Bush and the Republicans to show some compassion, and even local editors are calling on the Bush administration to do what is right and just.
President Bush's 2007 budget goes a bit too far in the opposite direction in terms of curtailing one portion of the welfare system. The $2.7 trillion budget includes a plan to cut the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. This funding provides packaged food for low-income seniors and families and costs the government less than $20 per participant a month. It includes items such as canned tuna fish, peanut butter, cheese, cereal and canned fruits and vegetables. [...]

Many of these folks work, some are elderly, others are disabled, all are in need of help, sacrificing their pride so their families can eat. [...]

So how do we balance an out-of-control federal budget without cutting loose our most vulnerable citizens? As an electorate, we must make our priorities known to those who hold office - and prioritize is exactly what we must do. The United States is the wealthiest country in the world. There is no reason even one of its citizens should go hungry. [Emphasis mine.]

Most Americans would agree, but the Republican party no longer represents the values of average Americans. Their priorities put tax cuts for the rich and corporate welfare first in line behind the basic needs of people.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

37 Million Poor Hidden in the Land of Plenty

This is the result of ten years of Republican control and Republican values as reported by the British press:
"Americans have always believed that hard work will bring rewards, but vast numbers now cannot meet their bills even with two or three jobs. More than one in 10 citizens live below the poverty line, and the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening. [...]

America does have vast, wealthy suburbs, huge shopping malls and a busy middle class, but it also has vast numbers of poor, struggling to make it in a low-wage economy with minimal government help.

A shocking 37 million Americans live in poverty. That is 12.7 per cent of the population - the highest percentage in the developed world. [...]

Under President George W Bush an extra 5.4 million have slipped below the poverty line. Yet they are not a story of the unemployed or the destitute. Most have jobs. Many have two. [...]

The gap between the haves and the have-nots looms wider than ever. Faced with rising poverty rates, Bush's trillion-dollar federal budget recently raised massive amounts of defence spending for the war in Iraq and slashed billions from welfare programmes.

The Republican machine is all about winning, and dealing with poverty doesn't win elections in "compassionate" America:
During the 2004 election the only politician to address poverty directly was John Edwards, whose campaign theme was 'Two Americas'. He was derided by Republicans for doing down the country and - after John Kerry picked him as his Democratic running mate - the rhetoric softened in the heat of the campaign.

But, in fact, Edwards was right. While 45.8 million Americans lack any health insurance, the top 20 per cent of earners take over half the national income. At the same time the bottom 20 per cent took home just 3.4 per cent.

Outsiders can see the real problems, the real failings in our system, but the leadership in Washington likes to deflect attention away from their failures so they depict poor people as lazy, selfish or unmotivated.
In America, to be poor is a stigma. In a country which celebrates individuality and the goal of giving everyone an equal opportunity to make it big, those in poverty are often blamed for their own situation. Experience on the ground does little to bear that out. When people are working two jobs at a time and still failing to earn enough to feed their families, it seems impossible to call them lazy or selfish. There seems to be a failure in the system, not the poor themselves. [Emphasis mine.]

For the most part, the system IS the Republican Party, so its time to put the blame on them, where it belongs. How ironic that they call themselves the party of morals, values and religion. They don’t embrace the ideals of any religion that I know of – unless worshiping money and power obtained through corruption and deception counts.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Income Inequality Gap Widens

This will come as no surprise to most people, but according to the Economic Policy Institute we are poised to break a record in 2006 for the greatest inequality between minimum wage and average wage workers since the end of World War II.
"The minimum wage reached a peak of 56% of the average wage in 1950 and remained near 50% throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The decline in the minimum wage relative to the average wage since 1969 has resulted from continuous increases in average wages while Congress has raised the minimum wage only modestly and sporadically. In January 2006, the average hourly wage was $16.41. To reach 50% of the average wage — the level experienced in the 1950s and 1960s — the minimum wage (currently at $5.15) would need to be raised to $8.20."

We should be ashamed in this country that we're breaking that record. It's come down to a matter of fairness. Jerald Fishman, chief executive of Analog Device, just picked up a payday worth $144.7 million (that's not a typo). Compare that to the $10,712 dollars a full-time, minimum wage worker earns in one year.

If hard work is a virtue we value in this country - and we claim we do - then it's time to raise the minimum wage to a reasonable level. In addition, once the minimum wage has been raised, it should be annually adjusted to prevent future erosion. That's the only way to help curb rising inequality in the United States and provide a more adequate floor for low-wage workers.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

I Love Rock and Roll

I heard about a website this morning that intrigued me and I just had to pass this along to all you baby boomers and/or rock and roll fans.
Wolfgang's Vault is the world's most exceptional collection of poster art, vintage t-shirts, concert photos, concert tickets and other rock music memorabilia. The Vault's holdings feature the complete archives of legendary rock impresario Bill Graham, whose headliners included Johnny Cash, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Janis Joplin, Aerosmith, Jefferson Airplane, AC/DC and Phish. Here, you'll find rock posters, concert photos, remarkably preserved vintage t-shirts and more from over 17,000 concerts worldwide.

You can actually buy memorabilia online. I found a Grateful Dead poster I liked for $742 (too rich for me) and a led Zeppelin t-shirt for $41. I think I'll be able to find something for my hubby's birthday here. It's the ultimate place for that hard to buy for baby boomer on your list!!

Check out the Vault Radio link too. You can listen to selected, unaltered live music from Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Otis Redding, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, etc., for free - so get busy, and enjoy!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Harry Whittington Blogs

Work has been consuming most of my time lately, but I wanted to give you some information I heard about from the Tennessee Guerilla Women.
"Harry Whittington is blogging now, and he says: "If I had to do it all over again, I don't know if I would have been such a big fundraiser for Republicans. In fact, I might have raised some money for the Democrats."

That would have been money well spent, Harry.

While you're checking out HW's blog, check out the acerbic wit and insight at Tennessee Guerilla Women too. They describe themselves as "being about feminist and progressive politics, the only hope for the future," and their mission is fighting the radical right in Tennessee and the nation.

Amen, ladies. Amen!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Outsourcing Port Security to the UAE

I posted information yesterday about the United Arab Emirates being poised to take over significant commercial U.S. port operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia with the Bush administration's blessings. I'm surprised there hasn't been more discussion about this on the internet, but I think this story will pick up steam in the days ahead.

Glenn Reynolds said the plan didn't sound like much of a Homeland Security triumph to him, and this morning the Washington Times ran an editorial questioning the wisdom behind this move.
Some of the country's busiest ports -- New York, New Jersey, Baltimore and three others -- are about to become the property of the United Arab Emirates. Do we really want our major ports in the hands of an Arab country where al Qaeda recruits, travels and wires money?

The U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment, a Treasury Department-dominated group which reviews foreign investments, allows such purchases. The committee approved a $6.8 billion transaction between the ports' current British owners and Dubai Ports World, a government-owned United Arab Emirates firm. The United Arab Emirates was home to Marwan al-Shehhi, a September 11 hijacker; the country is a transit point for al Qaeda, including several other September 11 hijackers; al Qaeda's financing activities have involved the UAE; al Qaeda finds sympathizers there with ease, as it does in other Arab countries.

The Bush administration calls the United Arab Emirates an ally in the war on terror. But the UAE plays the same game Saudi Arabia does of quelching terrorists at home and turning a blind eye everywhere else.

It would be easy to caricature this sale: The purchase doesn't entail young Arab firebrands replacing longshoremen, nor would it displace American ownership. The storied British firm that currently owns them, the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co., probably isn't much better equipped against terrorist infiltration than Dubai Ports World. But then, the poor state of port security is precisely the point.

We should be improving port security in an age of terrorism, not outsourcing decisions to the highest bidder. The ports are thought to be the country's weakest homeland-security link, with good reason. Only a fraction of the nation's maritime cargoes are inspected.

This deal appears to be all about money. Dubai Ports World is "a business and its money is the same color as everyone else's, only it's got more of it," one banker told the Baltimore Sun. Where does the money come from? As a private company, Dubai Ports World's claim of 20 percent annual growth since 2001 is all but unverifiable, and its inner workings opaque. For all we know, Dubai Ports World is an undeclared arm of a foreign government.

The root question is this: Why should the United States have to gamble its port security on whether a subsidiary of the government of the United Arab Emirates happens to remain an antiterrorism ally?

The Committee on Foreign Investment is the wrong place for this decision to be made; it appears to be little more than a rubber stamp.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, among others, is asking tough questions about this deal. For once, we agree with him: President Bush should overrule the committee to reject this deal. If that doesn't happen, Congress should take action. The country's ports should not be owned by foreign governments; much less governments whose territories are favored by al Qaeda.

The Washington Times is right - this sale appears to be all about money - and The Cunning Realist points to the connections:
As a sidenote, the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) meets in secret and is headed by Treasury Secretary John Snow. In 2004, DP World purchased part of the American company CSX for over $1 billion. Before he became Treasury Secretary, John Snow was Chairman and CEO of CSX.

We need to be asking some serious questions simply because those who attacked us on 9/11 and the money that supported them passed through the UAE, and the hijacker who piloted American Airlines flight 175 into the south tower of the World Trade Center was a UAE citizen.

And, as the Cunning Realist, said, "What would you have said if, on September 12, 2001, I told you that five years later Bin Laden would still be free, nuclear terrorism would be a top concern, and a panel of political appointees would approve the takeover of our port operations by a UAE company?"

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What Do Free Traders Think of This?

That's the question being posed by David Sirota about this article in the Buffalo News.
A company in the United Arab Emirates is poised to take over significant operations at six American ports as part of a corporate sale, leaving a country with ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers with influence over a maritime industry considered vulnerable to terrorism.

The Bush administration considers the UAE an important ally in the fight against terrorism since the suicide hijackings and is not objecting to Dubai Ports World's purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.

The $6.8 billion sale is expected to be approved today. The British company is the fourth largest ports company in the world and its sale would affect commercial U.S. port operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

Dubai Ports World said it won approval from a secretive U.S. government panel that considers security risks of foreign companies buying or investing in American industry.

How does this fit into Homeland Security plans to secure our borders? After Sept. 11, the FBI concluded that the UAE was an important operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks against New York and Washington.
Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat whose district includes the New York port, urged the administration to consider the sale carefully.

"America's busiest ports are vital to our economy and to the international economy, and that is why they remain top terrorist targets," Schumer said. "Just as we would not outsource military operations or law enforcement duties, we should be very careful before we outsource such sensitive homeland security duties."

This is just inviting trouble. Apparently free trade and profits are more important than security and people.

UPDATE: Sen. Schumer was also on Fox Television voicing his concerns about this deal and asking if we should be outsourcing our own security.
"I think there ought to be a full and public review before this company is allowed to control security up and down the East Coast," he said. [Emphasis mine.]

"The issue is not the head of the company. I'm sure he's been checked out. But how good is their security? How good do they check on their employees? Could people infiltrate this company a lot more easily than they could infiltrate an American company?"

Why is Schumer the only one speaking out so far? Is everybody else on the Hill waiting till a WMD makes it through a port before they finally say something?

MI Democrats Stand Up for US Automakers

American automakers have been losing market share to foreign manufacturers due to unfair tariffs and taxes, yet the Bush administration has done nothing to help level the playing field. What effect does this have on American companies?
Japan has spent over 460 billion in U.S. dollars to intervene in currency markets since 1998, keeping the yen artificially low against the dollar. This reduces the cost of Japanese exports and the vehicles made by Japanese firms here in the U.S. These companies can collect their U.S. sales in overpriced dollars, while paying much of their expenses in Japan using underpriced yen. The result is an unfair cost advantage of $4,000 to $14,000 per vehicle.

The United States, meanwhile, is the most open automotive market in the world, but U.S. companies face tariffs, regulations and other trade barriers when trying to sell American-made vehicles overseas.

All Bush had to do was aggressively enforce international trade rules by filing complaints with the World Trade Organization; instead, the president remarked that the struggling U.S. automobile industry should make a more "relevant" product if they want to increase sales.

Thankfully, our Michigan Democrats found some backbone and decided to stand up to Bush according to Booth Newspapers.
Michigan Democrats are urging the Bush administration to get tough with South Korea on automobiles as officials begin negotiations to establish a free-trade agreement between the two nations.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Democratic members of the Michigan congressional delegation said Monday that the administration has ignored questionable South Korean trade practices too long and any new agreement must give U.S. auto companies a decent shot at selling vehicles in South Korea.

"If (the president) is really interested in making good on the promise to level the playing field, ... this is an opportunity to stand up for the U.S. automotive sector," said Granholm, who sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman, encouraging him to include automobile and auto parts in any agreement...

"We've got to keep the pressure on (the president), even though we can't say we've turned them around to date," said Sen. Carl Levin, who has written a letter with GOP Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio to encourage Portman to include automobiles and auto parts in the South Korean negotiations. "We hope to change them through this kind of public pressure. It is an election year and maybe they'll respond to that."

One interesting fact came to light in this article that I wasn't aware of:
Rep. John Dingell of Dearborn said that along with eliminating unfair tariffs and taxes in the trade pact, the administration should look to end a few unusual trade-blocking maneuvers used by the South Koreans.

"The (Korean) IRS will investigate you if you buy an American car," said Dingell. "Hardly fair competition. Koreans test American automobile windshields (for safety) with a hammer."

The question just begs to be asked: Why hasn't the Bush administration done something about this problem? We're talking about American manufacturers and American jobs. I realize Michigan is a blue state, but we are all one nation, and this problem touches all of us, as these figures indicate:
The Big Three, meanwhile, still employ nine out of 10 American auto workers, manufacture three out of four American-made cars and trucks and buy 80 percent of U.S.-made auto parts.

There's a problem with the claim that all the new investment in the U.S. auto industry comes from non-Big Three companies: It isn't true. Between 1980 and 2002, Ford, GM and what is now DaimlerChrysler provided 85 percent of the new investment in U.S. auto plants. That's $176 billion, compared with $27 billion from Asian and European manufacturers.

This isn't a regional issue because the Big Three employ advertising, design, engineering, manufacturing, sales and service workers all over the country. The failure of any one of these companies would be a disaster.

Let's hope it doesn't get that serious - the Bush administration has a poor track record when it comes to disasters.

The Bush & Cheney Comedy Tour

The Bush administration has certainly given us many reasons to cry, stomp our feet, or shake our heads in bewilderment, but they've also been a rich source of humor, especially the two top honchos. Could you use a laugh today? Read on.

The Impolitic reminds us of some classic Bushisms that give the president the edge as the funniest:

"The vast majority of our imports come from outside the country." - George W. Bush

"If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure." - George W. Bush

"A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls." - George W. Bush

Duh! That last one is one of my favorites. Click over to the Impolitic for more examples, and to pick your favorite.

Moving along, we come to Dick Cheney. He's always been a dour, crabby looking man in my opinion, but I think he's finally giving Bush a run for the money in the comedy department. Who would have figured? The LA Times has an entire article devoted to the vice president who has become a punch line for newspapers, blogs and comedians after he accidentally shot his hunting companion.
"Good news, ladies and gentlemen, we have finally located weapons of mass destruction…. It's Dick Cheney," David Letterman said Monday on CBS' "Late Show." "We can't get Bin Laden, but we nailed a 78-year-old attorney.

"The guy who got gunned down — he is a Republican lawyer and a big Republican donor, and fortunately the buckshot was deflected by wads of laundered cash, so he's fine," Letterman said.

"I guess the guy is going to be OK," Leno said. "When the ambulance got there, out of force of habit they put Cheney on the stretcher…. Cheney's defense is that he was aiming at a quail when he shot the guy — which means that Cheney now has the worst aim of anyone in the White House since Bill Clinton.

This is my absolute favorite though:
The public health blog Effect Measure said: "After the incident, the Vice quit for the day, as he'd bagged his limit of rich Republican contributors."

You gotta love those guys for making us laugh - when all we really feel like doing is crying.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Americans Need to Sacrifice More

Can you believe the audacity of some people? Republican Senator Tom Coburn, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, said, referring to the president, "I believe he should have a request for the American people to sacrifice. There are plenty of things to trim, and the president needs to lead on that."

I have a few choice words I could say to Coburn, but Jonathan Tasini did a great job of setting the Senator straight.
Which American people should do the sacrificing, Senator? The families of the more than 2,200 American soldiers who were killed in Iraq? The families of the soldiers who were maimed and horribly wounded and will live the rest of their lives suffering from their battle scars? And even after the president proposes cutting veterans medical care by 13 percent, you would think the ingrates would be willing to sacrifice even more, right, Senator?

Or, Senator, perhaps you were thinking about the families of workers whose wages have been stagnant, even though they've been working harder than ever and are even more productive? How about the families of the 45 millions Americans without health insurance? Or maybe the families of the United Airlines workers who gave $4 billion in concessions to try to save the company, while executives granted themselves tens of millions of dollars in stock options? Or maybe, Senator, you were referring to the thousands of workers whose pensions were dumped by companies like Delphi who enriched their executives while their companies floundered?

Oh, I see, Senator, you must have been referring to the 420,000 low-income seniors who get food assistance through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)--which the president's budget is terminating. Now, there's a group that's fat and happy. Where's their patriotic sacrifice, huh?

And it's not just the seniors who should be coughing up some more money. What about taking some dough from kids? You think the Administration's proposal to slash education and workforce development programs by $52.7 billion over five years (which include K-12 education, higher education, community college funding, and job training) is enough asking enough sacrifice from future generations? Don't be weak, Senator. There's more money to ring from those rascals.

Senator, believe me, you don't have to stop there if we're really looking for sacrifice. What about the hundreds of thousands of families, crippled by record crushing debt, who had to quickly run to bankruptcy court last October thanks to the bill that you helped pass that was a gift for the credit card companies but would make it so much harder for hard-working families to get a new start? You must be thinking, Senator, can't we squeeze just a bit more from them?

Some how, Senator, when you spoke of sacrifice, I was waiting for you to mention the very richest in our society, the people who have walked off with hundreds of billions of dollars courtesy of the Republican tax cuts--tax cuts that are bankrupting the country, causing record deficits, saddling our children and grandchildren with mind-boggling debt and mortgaging our future to foreign investors.

What do you think, Senator? You think they can spare a dime?

Rich Republicans don't believe in personal sacrifice. As one person commented, "Never ever forget that GOP stands for "Grease Our Palms, Grab Our Profits and Give Others Poverty."

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sorting Through the Spin

The outrage still continues to swirl over those controversial Danish cartoons, but I think Abi at Update America-604 does a good job of sorting through the spin and getting to the truth.

His conclusion is one many of us have been voicing for some time now: Maybe we're not so different from our Muslim brothers after all.

Mayor of Simpleton Gets No Respect

The Mayor of Simpleton wrote a letter to the Flint Journal critical of Cindy Sheehan's arrest during the SOTU address and it took them a week before they got around to publishing it.

Geez, were they so slow because they're taking lessons from FEMA and Homeland Security or are they just trying to emulate Faux News?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Homeless in Toledo

My earlier post, No Homeless at the Super Bowl, continues to receive comments and links to interesting blogs. The most recent one led to historymike's musings and Michael Brooks, who happens to be a writer and editor. He has an interesting first-person account about Major Goodlow, a homeless person. The article is part-one of a two-part series examining homelessness in Toledo, and also appears in this week's Toledo Free Press.
Major Goodlow is upfront about the reasons behind his homelessness.

“What it really comes down to is that I have a problem with disobedience,” he said. “I know that I shouldn’t be doing certain things, but I wind up doing them anyways.”

Among those disobedient behaviors was a decision years ago that Major made to try crack cocaine...

Major is 37, and just celebrated his birthday inside the Cherry Street Mission, Toledo’s oldest and busiest homeless shelter.

The shelter does more than simply provide beds and food. A spokesperson for the Mission said they try to get everyone that comes through the door to make a commitment to their rehabilitation program, and that 74% of the men who complete the program avoid falling back into homelessness after one year. Many of the men at the shelter work:
“Many people think that ‘homeless’ means ‘lazy’ or ‘bum,’ but a lot of these guys are working jobs,” he said. “They are working to get back into having their own place again.”

Moving beyond the story of Major Goodlow though, and reading the comments, is another story - a story of hate. Some "enlightened" racist actually posted this comment:

"If stating the truth means that I'm a racist, then so be it." - David Duke.

Read between the lines and you can figure out what his idea of truth is.

It's not enough that the homeless have to deal with mental illness, drug addiction and the other problems that lead to their homelessness, they also have to deal with ignorance and hate. What is it about some people that leads them to kick a man when he's down?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

DeVos Clarifies Inarticulate Position

Several days ago I wrote that DeVos would consider killing Medicaid as reported in an article by Chris Christoff, columnist for the Detroit Free Press. That post resulted in several "anonymous" comments from a person who felt DeVos's position was not being accurately interpreted. Apparently DeVos decided he needed to clarify his words since this morning's Detroit Free Press has a new column from Christoff restating DeVos's position:
But DeVos told me after my column appeared that he was only using Missouri's Medicaid strategy to illustrate a possible way to replace Michigan's Single Business Tax (SBT). In other words, just eliminate the SBT to make the state more business-friendly, and force the Legislature and governor to deal with the resulting $1.9-billion hole in the state budget.

Not wipe out Medicaid.

I misunderstood. It was my mistake. Honest, but regrettable. I should have made a better effort to make his position clear.

In Christoff's defense, DeVos is the one who needs to make his position clear at all times since HE is the candidate running for office and the one trying to sell himself to the public. Here are the words in question that DeVos clarified for Christoff:
DeVos: What I said was, that we...that there are a multitude of ways that we can resolve the issue. What we want to do...lets, as an example, what ah, do what Matt Blunt, let's look at Matt Blunt, who's the governor of Missouri did, on a totally different issue with regard to Medicare. And that was, he simply said, 'We're going to end the program,' and therefore we promoted then the discussion of how are we going to solve this. But he sent a very clear signal.
This governor, three years ago, as a candidate, said 'We're going to eliminate the single business tax.

It will be a long election season if voters need to clarify DeVos's inarticulate statements, and he'll have no one to blame but himself if he gets labeled the "great miscommunicator" a la Bush.

DeVos did state his position on Medicaid today: "I have never, nor would I ever, advocate the elimination of Medicaid," DeVos said Wednesday. "This program needs to be preserved for those who truly need it: that being the poor and vulnerable. It's a very important program for them."

It's nice to know he won't eliminate Medicaid, although he doesn't say he won't reduce it either. Medicaid consumes one of every four state tax dollars in Michigan, but provides real help to thousands of our most vulnerable citizens. So, what would DeVos do about Medicaid?
"Who knows what the situation will be a year from now?" he said. "Strategies and solutions will be developed over time. There are other program ideas being developed in other states. Other governors are looking at creative solutions."

I hope we hear some of those strategies before November. The challenge for DeVos - besides learning to articulate himself better - is to show the voter why he should be trusted. DeVos is a Republican after all - and his party has consistently slashed money for programs that hurt our most vulnerable citizens. Bush promised not to touch Medicare in his SOTU speech, and then he turned around and did the opposite.

Michigan doesn't need more "compassionate conservatism." Michigan needs a governor who can solve our problems by asking for shared sacrifice from everyone - not just those who have no voice or money to influence decisions.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Social Security Plan in New Budget

This Newsweek article by Allan Sloan highlights just how sneaky and conniving the Bush administration is.
Last year, even though Bush talked endlessly about the supposed joys of private accounts, he never proposed a specific plan to Congress and never put privatization costs in the budget. But this year, with no fanfare whatsoever, Bush stuck a big Social Security privatization plan in the federal budget proposal, which he sent to Congress on Monday.

His plan would let people set up private accounts starting in 2010 and would divert more than $700 billion of Social Security tax revenues to pay for them over the first seven years.

If this comes as a surprise to you, have no fear. You're not alone. Bush didn't pitch private Social Security accounts in his State of the Union Message last week...

Nevertheless, it's here. Unlike Bush's generalized privatization talk of last year, we're now talking detailed numbers. On page 321 of the budget proposal, you see the privatization costs: $24.182 billion in fiscal 2010, $57.429 billion in fiscal 2011 and another $630.533 billion for the five years after that, for a seven-year total of $712.144 billion.

Bush wasted millions of dollars of taxpayer money flying all over the country last year pushing privatization. What did all of this show? That Americans overwhelmingly were against privatization and wanted Social Security strengthened - not privatized.

Once again, Bush and his administration show that they can't be trusted to govern according to the will of "the people."

MDP Unveils Bush/DeVos Outsourcing Thermometer

[Hat tip: Cathleen, For My Amusement Only]

Michigan Democratic Party- MDP Unveils Bush/DeVos Outsourcing Thermometer
Today the Michigan Democratic Party unveiled its Bush/DeVos Outsourcing Thermometer. The Thermometer displays the number of U.S. jobs that have been outsourced because of President Bush's and GOP gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos' unfair trade and tax polices that promote outsourcing. Since Bush took office 203,007 U.S. jobs have been lost due to outsourcing.

"The Outsourcing Thermometer shows how President Bush's and Dick DeVos' support for outsourcing has made our economy sick by devastating our manufacturing jobs," said Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer. "The unfair trade and tax polices of Bush and DeVos have caused the problems facing the state's manufacturing jobs and their outsourcing records show that they are not the cure."

Michigan's manufacturing jobs have been especially hard hit due to Bush's and DeVos' unfair trade and tax policies. Since Bush took office, Michigan has lost one third or 180,000 of its manufacturing jobs.

President Bush and Dick DeVos have a long records of supporting polices that promote outsourcing.

In 2004, the Los Angeles Times wrote that the Bush Administration argued the outsourcing of U.S. manufacturing jobs was a "positive transformation that will enrich the U.S. economy…" N. Gregory Mankiw, Chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisors went on to say, "Outsourcing is just a new way of doing international trade."

DeVos has given thousands of dollars to groups and organizations that advocate outsourcing American jobs. DeVos' foundation, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation has given thousands to The Acton Institute, The Heritage Foundation and The Hudson Institute. All three organizations have openly advocated for or defended the practice of outsourcing.

Cathleen sums it up best: "One beautiful thing - they have started to tie King George right around Dick's neck. It's about time."

Morals and Medicine

Today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that there are measures under consideration in about 12 states to allow health-care workers to refuse care to patients based on moral reasons. In some cases health workers have objected to providing care to homosexuals.
The tension between some health-care workers' personal beliefs and patients' rights is getting plenty of attention these days. Although abortion gets most of the coverage, there are also medical professionals whose conscience or religion won't let them take part in other procedures, from drawing blood to in-vitro fertilization.

This has set off a rush on the part of many states to develop proposals to protect health-care employees who won't provide care that conflicts with whatever they believe in. But why all the coddling? Nobody forces anyone to be a health-care professional.

If employees don't like doing certain completely legal procedures, they should quit their jobs -- or employers should make the decision for them, and let them go.

Finally, some common sense. Quality health care (or any profession for that matter) cannot operate with only some of its employees willing to perform certain procedures. Health-care workers have to do their jobs like anyone else or find another line of work.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bono Speaks to the National Prayer Breakfast

Progressive Christians want our country to be governed according to biblical principles just like the religious right; however, I think progressives give more weight to the subject of poverty than those on the right. Conservatives call themselves compassionate (at least our conservative politicians do), but the majority of them act contrary to biblical teachings, as witnessed by the recent passage of a budget that results in cuts to health care, child support, and educational assistance for low-income families. At the same time, Congress is planning to provide more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

I guess that's why I was surprised to hear that President Bush asked Bono to deliver a speech to the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington last week. Bono is very explicit about religion and the role of faith, and he is also very insistent on the biblical requirements of justice and not just charity. I have to wonder if Bush and the other Congressional leaders present felt convicted by Bono's words.
Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives.

Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone.

I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill. I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff. Maybe, maybe not. But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. "If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places."

It's not a coincidence that in the scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It's not an accident. That's a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions. (You know, the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor.) 'As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me' (Matthew 25:40). As I say, good news to the poor.

Bono continues by praising the help our country has provided for AIDS relief, life-saving anti-retroviral drugs and the 8 million bed nets to protect children from malaria, but then he delivers the bad news.
From charity to justice, the good news is yet to come. There is much more to do. There's a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response.

And finally, it's not about charity after all, is it? It's about justice...

It's annoying but justice and equality are mates. Aren't they? Justice always wants to hang out with equality. And equality is a real pain.

You know, think of those Jewish sheep-herders going to meet the Pharaoh, mud on their shoes, and the Pharaoh says, "Equal?" A preposterous idea: rich and poor are equal? And they say, "Yeah, 'equal,' that's what it says here in this book. We're all made in the image of God."

And eventually the Pharaoh says, "OK, I can accept that. I can accept the Jews - but not the blacks."

"Not the women. Not the gays. Not the Irish. No way, man."

So on we go with our journey of equality.

On we go in the pursuit of justice.

We hear that call in the ONE Campaign, a growing movement of more than 2 million Americans...Left and Right together... united in the belief that where you live should no longer determine whether you live.

We hear that call even more powerfully today, as we mourn the loss of Coretta Scott King - mother of a movement for equality, one that changed the world but is only just getting started. These issues are as alive as they ever were; they just change shape and cross the seas.

Preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products while we sing the virtues of the free market...that's a justice issue. Holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents...that's a justice issue. Withholding life-saving medicines out of deference to the Office of Patents...that's a justice issue.

And while the law is what we say it is, God is not silent on the subject.

That's why I say there's the law of the land…. And then there is a higher standard. There's the law of the land, and we can hire experts to write them so they benefit us, so the laws say it's OK to protect our agriculture but it's not OK for African farmers to do the same, to earn a living?

As the laws of man are written, that's what they say.

God will not accept that.

Mine won't, at least. Will yours?

Bono is speaking about Africa and global problems of poverty and injustice - not just those problems here in our country. Here are a few more of his words, but read the entire speech for yourself - it's quite inspiring AND convicting for Moslems, Jews, Christians and all people of faith.
But the reason I am here, and the reason I keep coming back to Washington, is because this is a town that is proving it can come together on behalf of what the scriptures call the least of these.

This is not a Republican idea. It is not a Democratic idea. It is not even, with all due respect, an American idea. Nor it is unique to any one faith.

'Do to others as you would have them do to you' (Luke 6:30). Jesus says that.

'Righteousness is this: that one should...give away wealth out of love for him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for the emancipation of the captives.' The Koran says that (2.177).

Thus sayeth the Lord: 'Bring the homeless poor into the house, when you see the naked, cover him, then your light will break out like the dawn and your recovery will speedily spring fourth, then your Lord will be your rear guard.' The Jewish scripture says that. Isaiah 58 again.

That is a powerful incentive: 'The Lord will watch your back.' Sounds like a good deal to me, right now.

A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord's blessing. I was saying, you know, I have a new song, look after it…. I have a family, please look after them…. I have this crazy idea...

And this wise man said: stop.

He said, stop asking God to bless what you're doing.

Get involved in what God is doing - because it's already blessed.

Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing.

And that is what he's calling us to do.

Scott Ritter Sees War in Iran

TPM Cafe reports that Scott Ritter spoke in Sante Fe, New Mexico on Sunday night about the Iran crisis and sees war as inevitable based on a conversation he had with John Bolton's speechwriter.

Robert Dreyfuss reports the same thing:
Scott Ritter issued another warning that Iran is next, adding that he'd talked to the speechwriter for John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, who said Bolton's speech about attacking Iran is already written.

As Dreyfuss points out, an attack on Iran might seem foolish by standards that reasonable people use — "but the neocons see an attack on Iran as the next step in what Michael Ledeen calls the 'war to remake the world.'"

Monday, February 06, 2006

DeVos Considers Killing Medicaid

This is so wrong, mean-spirited and un-Christian-like. Dick DeVos, billionaire Republican nominee for governor, said he would consider killing certain aspects of Medicaid, much as the governor of Missouri did according to an article by Chris Christoff, columnist for the Detroit Free Press.
And what Missouri did was eliminate Medicaid for as many as 100,000 people, about 10% of its caseload, to save an estimated $310 million this fiscal year.

It stopped paying for so-called optional items like feeding tubes, walkers, crutches, prosthetics and physical therapy. It raised health care premiums for low-income families. It cut off Medicaid for disabled people who work part-time...

Well, besides cost savings, the Missouri plan produced media reports of hardship, like the disabled woman who wound up in a nursing home with body sores from a wheelchair because Medicaid stopped paying for her body braces.

Or the man who lost fingers to amputation, and blamed it on Medicaid cuts. Or a man who killed himself after Medicaid cut off his medication.

Granted, Medicaid costs Michigan $7.5 billion in state and federal funds, but the majority of that money covers health care for children, elderly and disabled people. As Mikevotes points out, "Why is it when the matter of social programs are brought up, Republicans talk about not wanting to just "throw money at the problem," and yet when the issue is defense or terrorism, that is all they want to do?"

Mike also points out that the Pentagon lost track of assets worth 1.3 TRILLION dollars.

Call it class warfare if you want, but I think there is something morally wrong with a person - and a country - that would consider taking health care away from its most vulnerable citizens.

One for the Thumb!

Congrats to the Steelers!! Okay, I was off by quite a bit with my prediction that the Steelers would win 56 to 3, but at least I managed to correctly choose the winner - unlike some spurious analysts.

The game was a bit of a snoozer, especially the first half, and the referees made some terrible calls, but the Seahawks made so many mistakes that they practically handed the game to the Steelers.

I enjoyed watching the commercials too. My favorites were the Budweiser ads that showed a baby Clydesdale horse trying to pull a wagon and the other one was the streaking lamb. My least favorite was the Burger King commercial with the dancing food. What was that all about?

Educating Ourselves About Homelessness

My recent post about the homeless being sheltered out of sight during the Super Bowl received several comments and links to two blogs I felt were important to mention. The first one is The Homeless Guy. This blog is maintained by a man who's lived on the streets and is trying to turn his life around. I found his posts fascinating because he provided candid answers to questions like these: How can we best help the homeless? How should we deal with panhandlers? How did he become homeless?

These were his most poignant words though, and I'm sure they reflect a truth most of us can understand at some level.
Know that homeless people have lost most of their love of self and others, and that by others showing genuine concern for them, they will begin, again, to care about themselves - a first step in the journey out of homelessness.

The second link directed me to the Homelessness Marathon blog, which was created to discuss the 9th Annual Homelessness Marathon that is set to air from Atlanta starting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, February 15th. Locally, Lansing station WLNZ - 89.7 FM will carry the broadcast. Here is a description of the marathon from their website:
The Marathon is a unique 14-hour live broadcast focusing on homelessness and poverty in America.

The Homelessness Marathon is a consciousness-raising, not a fund-raising broadcast. There are no on-air solicitations. Instead, the Marathon presents the voices of experts, takes calls from around the country and, above all, puts homeless people on the air directly so America can hear who they really are and learn about the obstacles they face.

The Homelessness Marathon regularly covers topics other broadcasts don't touch. For example, six months before Katrina hit, we aired a segment entitled, "Hurricanes and Homelessness." Some of the tough questions we'll be raising this year include, "Why is there growing friction between Katrina survivors and people who are homeless for other reasons?" and, "Has the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless sold out the very homeless people it is supposed to protect?" But the toughest question is also the simplest one, and we ask it every year: "Why are people sleeping on the streets of the richest country in the history of the world?" [Emphasis mine.]

Check both blogs out for yourself. I believe we need to educate ourselves on the problems people in our country face if we hope to find answers and provide help. For more information on homelessness here in Michigan, click here and follow the links.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

So Much for "Intelligent" Predictions

Which team loves America more? The Seahawks or the Steelers?

This may be disappointing to my family and friends in Pittsburgh - and certainly to Sen. Santorum - but Spurious George used intelligent design to come up with this answer:
Proving that intelligent design trumps monkey science every time, we have proven that the Seattle Seahawks love America more than the Pittsburgh Steelers, and thus, will win tomorrow’s game.

I almost found myself agreeing with these findings, especially with this one:
"I’d be less than honest if I didn’t mention their colors have me questioning Pittsburgh’s manhood. I mean, why black and yellow? Yellow conjures up images of being chicken; is America chicken? Hell, no!"

But then, upon closer inspection, I noticed Spurious George resides in Florida - famous for one fixed presidential election, Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris. Sorry, Spurious, but your prediction doesn't carry much weight to us blue staters who play by the rules fair and square - and use monkey science to count our votes.

The Mogul Behind One Failed Pension

I caught this story at Working Life and was dumbfounded.
Not a bad spread: 29 bedrooms, 39 bathrooms, a 164-seat theater, two bowling alleys, a restaurant-size kitchen, a 2.5 million-B.T.U. furnace, and a parking garage that could hold 200 cars. That's for one person: Ira Rennert.

But, Rennert may have to give up his palace in the Hamptons, as Mary Williams Walsh reports in today's New York Times. You see, while Rennert has been padding around his "home," the government's Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp has been saddled with a mess Rennert left when he dumped the pensions for 2,000 steelworkers who worked for his now-bankrupt WCI Steel. Too often, the PBGC has to shell out money--taxpayers money--to cover dumped pensions because there are not enough assets to recover in a bankrupt enterprise. But, luckily for the PBGC, the value of Rennert's "home" just about equals the pensions of the 2,000 workers--startling as that may be.

Let me get this straight: Rennert lives in a home with 29 bedrooms, but taxpayers are paying the bill for the dumped pension plan, and the workers who played by the rules all these years end up with much smaller pensions. I sure hope they take his home in the Hamptons, although Rennert will hardly feel the type of anxiety and financial insecurity his workers faced - he'll still own his Manhattan duplex on Park Avenue and a home in Israel.

Friday, February 03, 2006

In Pursuit of the Public Good

Acoustic Dad has a thoughtful post on the partisanship and division that permeates our culture and prevents us from resolving the threats of our time, and he asks the question, "Will a bi-partisan sense of We The People, ever truly exist?" It seems pretty hopeless at times, but I think its possible if we put aside our individual needs and come together for the public good.

Harvey J. Kaye has an editorial in the Madison Capital Times that shows where we've gone wrong and what we need to do to put our country back on track:

[As]the failure of local, state and federal governments to respond promptly to the disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi all too tragically revealed, we have ignored the most important point of the story: that the American Revolution, for all its failings and sins of omission, was fought to create a political and social order radically different from those of the monarchical and aristocratic states of the Old World.

Ironically, even as we have been enthusiastically reading about the Founders, we have been foolishly turning away from their greatest legacy: the idea that government should be dedicated to the pursuit of the public good, not the good of selected families. [Emphasis mine.]

For a generation now, while cutting taxes for the rich and welfare provisions for the neediest, we have allowed our material inequalities to intensify, our social and cultural divisions to widen, our industrial and commercial foundations to weaken, our national and local infrastructures to decay, and our capacities to prepare for and respond to threats to our national security and freedom to decline...

When in the darkest days of the Revolution, Paine wrote, "These are the times that try men's souls," he was neither lamenting nor complaining about the dangers he and his compatriots in Washington's army faced. He was issuing a call to action. And in that spirit as well as to honor the Founders, those who died on 9/11, in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, and on the Gulf Coast let us, as we undertake the labors of recovery and reconstruction, make this the time that we redeem the most profound meaning of the American Revolution. Let us reaffirm the nation's extraordinary purpose and promise. Let us renew our commitment to cultivating the public good and extending and deepening freedom, equality and democracy.

There is a saying, "A house divided cannot stand." Well, our country has become a divided house, and the partisanship and special interests are responsible for that division. It's not too late to repair the damage to our country though and set an example for the world, for as Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense: "We have it in our power to begin the world over again."

UPDATE: Libby - The Impolitic - weighed in on the the question: Will a bi-partisan sense of We The People, ever truly exist? Her post is worth the read, and so are the comments. What about the rest of you? How would you answer this question Midwestern Progressive? Blognonymous? Expatbrian? - who, by the way, has a great post on "Being an American." Or how about an opinion from the right, Bostonian Exile? I know you're on hiatus from blogging, but opinions and ideas from all sides of the political spectrum need to be heard. How about you, Kevin? You gave up your blog, but I'd be honored to let you post your answer here. You work in the political realm and have a unique perspective from both inside and outside the government.

We are one nation and one people - regardless of our political ideologies - so this is an open invitation to anyone reading this to answer the question. Leave a link to your blog or put your answer in the comment section so we can all hear your perspective.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

No Homeless at the Super Bowl

Super Bowl XL is only days away and 100,000 visitors, 3,000 journalists and tens of millions of TV viewers will soon watch the Steelers and the Seahawks compete. Detroit spent years preparing for this day; $100 million has been invested in businesses, apartments and street improvements, and somewhere around 60 businesses have relocated or opened downtown in the last three years. The city is banking on this event to boost their image and the local economy. Based on the experience of previous host cities, Super Bowl visitors could spend as much as $180 million. The total economic impact could top $300 million.

The hospitality industry is pulling out all the stops to accommodate a star-studded roster of celebrities, international dignitaries and corporate executives. Tulips jetted in from Holland. Chickens stuffed into ducks stuffed into turkeys. King crabs with 3-foot leg spans. Case upon case of Cristal champagne. The challenge to show off Detroit as a world-class city brimming with luxury and high-class amenities has vendors and party planners trucking in the finest champagnes, the choicest cuts of beef, the freshest and largest seafood.

In the midst of all this celebration and hoopla, there is one group of people visitors and viewers will not see on Sunday - the homeless. With the city's encouragement, a local homeless shelter is offering a three-day "party" over Super Bowl weekend that will provide food and a big-screen TV. Other shelters across the city also plan to expand, both by adding beds and by staying open 24 hours a day during Super Bowl week. In all, the Super Bowl likely will cost homeless service providers as much as $100,000. The NFL won't help foot the bill.

I understand why Detroit officials want to present a spit-shined image to the world, but the homeless are being treated shamefully. Officials want to hide them away temporarily, not help them, which is what they need the most. "These people are not concerned with sports," said Charles Costa, who has worked with Detroit's homeless people for more than 30 years. "They have real problems -- mental problems, drinking problems, some are alcoholics or drug addicts."

Local columnist Mitch Albom had a few words to say about the homeless too.
...the Super Bowl is the world's largest moveable feast, and you shouldn't feast without at least acknowledging -- and, hopefully, helping -- those who will never make it to your table...

But a Super Bowl isn't every day. And with the money that is circulating in our town this week -- game tickets selling for thousands, parties rumored to cost millions -- well, it's a waste of this column not to make at least one appeal on behalf of those who aren't going anywhere near Super Bowl XL...

I don't know about you, but knowing someone is eating from a garbage can this week -- while we are feasting on steak and lobster a few miles away -- doesn't sit well with me.

It is not a knock on Detroit. Detroit does as good a job as any big city. Every Super Bowl host faces this dilemma. But we have a chance to do something about it -- both Detroiters and our welcome guests. We can raise money -- we already have raised more than $57,000 in a week -- and boost our homeless services -- for numerous shelters and organizations -- beyond one fantastic football weekend.

If you can give something -- and yes, it is tax deductible -- here is a phone number: 313-993-4700. Here is a Web address: www.DRMM.org. Here is an address for checks: Detroit Rescue, Mission/S.A.Y. Detroit, 150 Stimson, Detroit 48201

This appeal for help is great, but will people's extra efforts end almost as soon as the game does? And where is the NFL in all of this? They just agreed to kick in $20 million to repair the Hurricane-battered Superdome in time for the Saints' games next season. Couldn't they spare a million or two to help the homeless?

We call ourselves a Christian nation, yet we try to hide the poor because they offend our sensibilities while we feast and party. In Luke 14:12-14, Jesus admonished a Pharisee who threw a party and only invited people who were likely to reciprocate, people who could enhance his status, or people he felt he could impress. Jesus tells the host not to invite his friends, brothers, relatives or rich neighbors when he gives a dinner party, instead he should invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.

We have it backwards in this country. Instead of hiding our poor and homeless, they should get front row seats to the game, and the assurance that once the party is over we won't turn our backs on them.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

State of the State Address

While most of the country spent today discussing last night's SOTU address, Jack Lessenberry, columnist for The Metro Times, decided to comment on Gov. Granholm's State of the State speech (from last week). Bush's speech has been analyzed to death, so I figured it might be a nice change of pace to read what Jack had to say.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm gave her latest last week, and I have to say it was extremely politically shrewd. I do not much care for the governor's style — she wants to act cute and flirty and, at the same time, be taken seriously.

That wouldn't be so bad, if she was willing to be a leader more often and take tough and necessary stands, even when those aren't all that popular. And she indeed has done that, to her credit, on education standards.

But I was curious to see what she would do in this State of the State speech...

I thought Jennifer Granholm would be trying to persuade voters to blame President Bush and Republicans, not her, for all this. Instead, she gave an uplifting speech that had a good idea or two, but was mostly notable for backing the Republican-dominated Legislature into a corner...

First, she challenged the Legislature to create the "Michigan First Health Care Plan," which would provide some basic health insurance for all 550,000 uninsured Michiganders. That would indeed be a wonderful thing.

Naturally, the governor knows perfectly well that this Legislature would enact compulsory training in atheism, give out condoms at commencement and make abortion a sacrament before it would do that.

Nor did she breathe a word of where the money for universal health care was to come from, in this state which has a grave perennial budget crisis. But in a breath she made herself the champion of all the women with babies who work for my dry cleaner, and every Wal-Mart "associate" everywhere.

Naturally, the Republicans obligingly took the bait, with House Speaker Craig DeRoche sneering that no "government-provided solution" could match anything provided by the sacred private sector. Tell that to people who have no medical coverage at all, and see how loudly they praise the hidden sector. More importantly, see if they want the candidate from Amway or Jennifer Granholm.

Jenny G's second masterstroke was calling for the state to create a new vehicle to offer 401(k) plans for workers whose employers don't provide them with pensions. The state would not contribute any funds, matching or otherwise. All it would do is administer the plan, as she said, "at minimal expense." This is something that would seem to be actually affordable and doable, and should strike a responsive chord with conservatives.

After all, for years they've been complaining that workers should start taking responsibility for their own retirement, not depend on nasssty feelthy government. This is a plan designed to warm Republicans' hearts, and please small business owners by taking some pressure off them.

This puts the leaders of the GOP-controlled Legislature over a barrel. They certainly don't want to pass anything that would make her look good. But if they just say no because she proposed it, they'll look like petty little shits to anyone who is paying attention, and this time may alienate some of their own followers.

We have a long way to go till election day and it's too early to make predictions, but Lessenberry had a little tip for those of us who like to gamble:

"John F. Kennedy was in the White House the last time a Michigan governor lost a race for a second term. Don't bet the rent money on that happening again this year."