Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Millions Without Health Care, Billions Wasted in Iraq

More straight talk from two guys: Millions of Americans Without Health Care. Billions of Dollars Wasted on Iraq

Says Jim:
Halliburton is getting rich, big Dick Cheney is getting rich. He loves it. He was the CEO of Halliburton. How can they justify $6 billion a month for a war and no health care at home?
Joe agrees:
…[millions of] people without health care is a disgrace.
But the two guys aren’t just chewing the fat. They plan to do something about the situation working families are facing. Speaking of the politicians who got this country into such a mess, Jim says:
They’re gonna find out Nov. 7, they’re not gonna be there anymore.
[HT: AFL-CIO blog]

Monday, October 30, 2006

Two Guys on Jobs & Outsourcing

At last, working America has its own political commentators—no fancy hairdos, no spin-doctoring, just a good reality slap from the heart of the middle class. [HT: AFL-CIO blog]

Two guys on Bush's trickle down economy

UPDATE: I believe one reason blogs are so popular is because average people get a chance to express themselves - no agenda, no political spin, no ad agency soundbites - just sincere, heartfelt words. The video above is a good example of that and so is this post I came across on Christine Barry's blog. The words are those of a person who calls himself "One Voice of Dissent."
My impression of republicans has always been the same. Dont vote for them unless you want war and you want to see the corporations profits soar while the working man gets the shaft. I’ve been called every name in the book by republicans because I worked my ass off for 35 years in a union shop.

I’ve been called a communist, a socialist and marxist, and dirty low down Anti-American son-of -a -bitch because I worked for a living. People accused me of not having to work because I was in a union.

But, for 35 years, my desk was the dashboard of a dump truck, my pens and pencils were picks and shovels, and my greatest automated tool was jackhammer bustiig up concrete and digging up blacktop. That was my spring, summer snd fall fun, in the winter, I plowed snow, spread salt and cinder stood in the back of trucks and flung shovels full of salt into intersections so people could "walk" & "dont walk".
Click the link and read the rest of the post, and then ask yourself why we let the Republicans do this to us. Maybe the answer is that we don't respect ourselves enough. Maybe it's time to say enough is enough.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Granholm Gains Impressive Endorsements

The endorsements for Granholm keep rolling in, which has to make Dick DeVos unhappy. He's spent $35 million of his own fortune so far trying to become governor. Here's a list of the major newspaper endorsements through today:

DETROIT FREE PRESS - Our Choice: Granholm
Gov. JENNIFER GRANHOLM is the best candidate to lead the state through this difficult transition. The Detroit Free Press endorses Democrat Granholm for a second four-year term. She is a dynamic leader who is pushing Michigan in all the right directions against formidable economic and political forces.
LANSING STATE JOURNAL - Granholm's Positive Approach Beats DeVos' Vague Plans

SAGINAW NEWS - Jennifer Granholm for Governor
So when it comes to deciding Tuesday, Nov. 7, between Republican Dick DeVos and Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the choice for us is simple -- if not easy...Michigan's challenge -- and Saginaw's challenge -- demands a long-term strategy that helps the state move from its century-old emphasis on the auto industry as an economic engine. That kind of change takes time, and Granholm has started Michigan down a more promising path.
Muskegon Chronicle - Granholm for a second term as our governor
We want a real fighter for our state, and in GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM, we've got one. Only Granholm stands between DeVos and Republicans so far to the right on the political spectrum that they would drown state government in a sea of program cuts -- which they are too cowardly to identify before the election.

Granholm has the heart of a fighter. She readily appeared before our editorial board to take on the tough questions any candidate must face in a close election.

DeVos, on the other hand, refused to meet with us.
The Traverse City Record-Eagle: Granholm makes strides in face of soured economy
Maybe she's just being polite. But it is an absolute mystery why GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM has not responded to the non-stop jobs, jobs, jobs mantra from challenger Dick DeVos with a simple truth: She is not the president of General Motors, Ford Motor Co. or Chrysler Corp.

The blame for Michigan's economic free-fall over the past five years lies squarely on the Big Three and other manufacturing firms and the realities of the new global economy. [...]

What Michigan voters should worry about now is how to pump new life into our auto-wrecked economy. What DeVos has offered so far is downright scary.[...]

If DeVos has a road map for turning the economy, he hasn't spelled it out beyond gutting state revenues. That's enough to say "no."
The Battle Creek Enquirer: Granholm is the best choice -
There is no quick and simple solution to regain the thousands of jobs that have been lost, but we think Michigan's governor has laid the groundwork for a recovery that will help diversify the state's economy and, ultimately, make it stronger. It won't happen overnight, however; it will require a sustained commitment, and that is why we endorse Democrat Jennifer Granholm for re-election.
Kalamazoo Gazette: We choose Granholm
[...] the Kalamazoo Gazette is recommending voters return Gov. Granholm to office for a second and final four-year term. Gov. Granholm has faced down a considerable amount of adversity in the last four years, and has done it with aplomb. She has the experience and the smarts. She is pragmatic and not an intractable ideologue. On Nov. 7, send her back to Lansing to finish the job.
Bay City Times: Let's get 'er done, guv: We choose Jennifer Granholm
A governor, alone, cannot stop the disintegration of our state's manufacturing might. No matter his or her brain power or brawn, no single leader can restore the 340,000 jobs that Michigan has lost since 2000. Only by working together can Michigan's government and business leaders arrest the Great Lake State's slide into economic obscurity. And haul it back to prosperity.

Gov. Granholm in her first four years in office has proven that she can get that job done.
Ann Arbor News - Granholm is best choice, but needs to improve - DeVos hasn't offered better recovery plan
[...] here's the bottom-line question: Who is best suited to lead Michigan for the next four years?

Though we're not thrilled with either candidate, our answer is Granholm, and we endorse her re-election.

Granholm also got our endorsement in 2002, and took office after 12 years of Republican leadership under former Gov. John Engler. Since then she has worked with a Republican-controlled state Legislature and has shown some of the qualities we'd hoped to see - a more inclusive approach to governance, a willingness to restructure inefficient bureaucracy and a moderate stance on most issues, including stem-cell research, environmental protection and public safety. [...]

DeVos, unfortunately, has provided few details about what he would do differently. A businessman, he may have a strong understanding of how the state could better deal with long-term issues such as improving the business climate, but he has not presented a compelling reason to succeed Granholm.
The Ludington Daily News: In Our View: Granholm for Governor
The Ludington News Daily has endorsed Governor Granholm, stating that her economic plan is right for the state, and that DeVos's ideas just don't add up...

The near collapse of the Big Three is not the fault of the Legislature nor the governor. It’s in part the fault of the Big Three for failing to adapt to a global economy, work together with their unions to comply with that increased competition and changing consumer desires, and now the state — including Granholm and the Legislature — is doing its best to recover from those corporate failings.
In addition to newspapers, dozens and dozens of organizations and community leaders across Michigan have endorsed the reelection of Governor Granholm. This is all good news for Granholm, but the bottom line is this: She needs more than endorsements and support - she needs our votes on Nov. 7.

UPDATE: I owe an apology to my local paper, The Flint Journal. They also endorsed Granholm saying "she presents the better option," and "Dick DeVos, we fear, would take us in the wrong direction."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Bush Is Unlike Any President Before Him

Brent Budowsky says it better than I ever could:
The sick thing about George W. Bush is that unlike any President who has ever come before him he has injected vomit, hate, and slander into the heart of our democracy and has put under attack the very character of the American people.

What George W. Bush has done, is nothing less than a direct attack on the very notion that America is a melting pot, he strikes at the core of who we are as a country, and he demeans the soul of what we stand for as a people. [...]

Make Americans the enemies of each other, is what he does, and fear the world around you, is what he says.

If it helps to win, make fun of Parkinsons disease, ridicule the widows of 9-11, bring more prejudice and bigotry to the land, demean the Purple Heart to attack your enemies even if they were awarded medals for valor, and in truth, if they were awarded medals for valor, that is a reason to attack them some more in this sick new brand of partisanship that has poisoned our politics.

Even when the Republican Congress commits child abuse against underage pages, cover it up, protect the guilty, attack your enemies and endanger the children and hope the American people have so lowered their standards that they get away, even, with this.
[emphasis added]

Bring fear to the land.

Bring anger to our politics.

Bring division to our communities.

Bring more bigotry to our nation and rub it raw, and use it harshly, and do anything to win.

This is nothing more than a direct attack on the character of our country, this is nothing less than an attempt to lower the standards of the character of our people.
Read the rest of Brent's post and see what you can to do help stop it - and then vote a straight Democratic ticket in November.

GOP: Carnival of Ugly

Desperate people do desperate things according to the WaPo:
On the brink of what could be a power-shifting election, it is kitchen-sink time: Desperate candidates are throwing everything. While negative campaigning is a tradition in American politics, this year's version in many races has an eccentric shade, filled with allegations of moral bankruptcy and sexual perversion. [...]

"When the news is bad, the ads tend to be negative," said Shanto Iyengar, a Stanford professor who studies political advertising. "And the more negative the ad, the more likely it is to get free media coverage. So there's a big incentive to go to the extremes."

The result has been a carnival of ugly, especially on the GOP side, where operatives are trying to counter what polls show is a hostile political environment by casting opponents as fatally flawed characters. The National Republican Campaign Committee is spending more than 90 percent of its advertising budget on negative ads, according to GOP operatives, and the rest of the party seems to be following suit. [emphasis added]
And they call themselves the values party?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Vote NO on Proposal 2

I received a newsletter from State Senator Deb Cherry that's a great resource tool for anyone seeking information on the five ballot proposals we'll be voting on in November. She also makes the information available online [pdf file] for anyone who's interested. I'll try to post information on all five proposals between now and then if I get time, but I did want to mention Proposal 2 today. Here's the official ballot proposal language with the pros and cons from Sen. Cherry's newletter:

The proposed constitutional amendment would:

Ban public institutions from using affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, education or contracting purposes. Public institutions affected by the proposal include state government, local governments, public colleges and universities, community colleges and school districts.

Prohibit public institutions from discriminating against groups or individuals due to their gender, ethnicity, race, color or national origin. (A separate provision of the state constitution already prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin.)

People Voting YES Argue That:
It is needed so that applicants for public employment, contracts and higher education opportunities would be judged on their individual merit, not on their race or gender. This is the pathway to a colorblind society where everyone competes on a level playing field. Affirmative action programs would not be banned in all circumstances because socio-economic and geographic factors would still be considered when determining public hiring and admission procedures.

People Voting NO Argue That:
This changes our Constitution to outlaw affirmative action for women and minorities in Michigan. This would result in fewer opportunities for women and minorities and would roll back many of the gains that they have achieved. Affirmative action programs attempt to address the unfair disadvantage that minorities and women face in our society. This proposal would ban programs and policies that increase diversity in our public workplaces and educational institutions, which benefit all people in our state.
I can't believe Michigan is even voting on something like this. I'd like to say we live in a society where the playing field is level, but we don't - and the hateful ads being pushed by the Republican Party in Tennesse are proof of that. They wouldn't be spending the money to air those ads if they thought race didn't matter.

The Republicans have also elevated cronyism to new levels, which kind of puts a damper on the theory that "applicants for public employment, contracts and higher education opportunities would be judged on their individual merit." Donations, connections and favors mean more to them than education, experience and competence.

Besides the issues of race and ethnicity, Zack @ Pohlitics points to this article in the Detroit News that says Proposal 2 would hurt women:
The proposal, a deftly written constitutional amendment that sounds as if Thomas Jefferson himself might have conceived it, will wipe out many outreach programs for women and minorities. It could also wipe out programs to recruit men for women-dominated fields like nursing. [...]
I can't tell you how to vote - I'm voting NO - but I ask you to consider this information from the Metro Times:
Imagine an affirmative action program that could really affect the racial divide. We rebuilt Europe after World War II, didn't we? How about a program on par with the Marshall Plan?

The cost, of course, would be enormous, maybe something like $100 billion over a span of 30 years. That kind of investment could benefit millions who otherwise wouldn't go to college, land good jobs and buy homes. Hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs might be able to realize their business plans. That kind of spending could create a middle class of a kind never seen before. New suburbs would have to sprout up to accommodate all that buying power.

But as Dave Chappelle might say, oh, snap! — we did have a program just like that. It was called the GI Bill. No one called it an affirmative action program, but as a practical matter it was; it's just that the beneficiaries were disproportionately white and male.
The GI Bill was unpopular and almost failed to pass according to the US Department of Veteran's Affairs website:
The Servicemembers' Readjustment Act of 1944—commonly known as the GI Bill of Rights—nearly stalled in Congress as members of the House and Senate debated provisions of the controversial bill.

Some shunned the idea of paying unemployed veterans $20 a week because they thought it diminished their incentive to look for work. Others questioned the concept of sending battle-hardened veterans to colleges and universities, a privilege then reserved for the rich.
Of course, the bill did pass, and millions of veterans have gone to college, bought homes, landed good jobs and enjoyed a larger share of the American Dream because of the program. We've always moved ahead as a nation to help each other and there's no reason to stop now. Vote NO on Proposal 2.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Dr. Phil and DeVos?

The independent weekly Metro Times has an article about Dick DeVos and Dr. Phil McGraw (yep, Oprah's Dr. Phil) that I found interesting. Apparently, Dr. Phil was accused of being part of a scam involving fraudulent diet products manufactured by Amway. There was a class action lawsuit and a multimillion-dollar settlement too. Read on for the details:
The Shape Up! diet supplements Dr. Phil helped promote and peddle — his chrome-domed visage was featured on the packages — were pushed with the claim that the products contained "scientifically researched levels of ingredients that can help you change your behavior to take control of your weight."

The suit against Dr. Phil and the company that actually sold the products, CSA Nutraceuticals of Irving, Texas, alleged fraud and claimed that there was no credible scientific evidence that these products had any effect on a person's behavior.

Here's how scientific the whole thing was: Purchasers of Shape Up! products (How Dr. Phil, don't you think? The commanding tone, the exclamation point!) determined which supplements were right for them by identifying their body types — pear-shaped people took one formula, while those who looked more like apples took another. How could you not believe in a product like that?

News accounts of the $10.5 million settlement didn't mention Amway — the controversial company co-founded by the candidate's father in 1958 — or the umbrella company, Alticor, which Dick created in 2000 when he was running the show there in Ada. Coverage of the class-action lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles, focused mostly on the role played by the bombastic Dr. Phil — who has denied any wrongdoing connected to his promotion of a now-discontinued line of dietary supplements.

What caught some eyes (including those of the tipster who clued us in to all this) were the terms of the settlement: Pears and apples foolish enough to buy Dr. Phil's line could opt to receive Nutrilite vitamins in lieu of cash. Those supplements, it turns out, are manufactured by Amway and its sister company, Quixtar.


The answer to that guttural query can be found not in news accounts (at least not any that we saw) but rather the settlement agreement posted on the Web site shapeupsettlement.com. There, it's revealed that neither Dr. Phil nor CSA were the ones ordered to shell out, but rather Amway parent company Alticor.

According to that document, Alticor will provide $4.5 million in cash and $6 million in Nutrilite products to disgruntled users of Shape Up! The product was taken off the market in 2004. [...]

DeVos had resigned as president of Alticor less than a year before Shape Up! hit stores. One source familiar with the case says that, considering the size of the deal — worth an estimated $20 million or more to the Michigan-based company — and the lead time required to put something like that together, it's almost certain DeVos would have had to have signed off on it before leaving the company. Devos' handlers didn't return a call seeking comment.
Of course they didn't return the call. DeVos is running around telling people Michigan needs a businessman running things. News like this might tarnish his image, although Amway and the DeVos family are no strangers to lawsuits and criticism:
But there are also many ardent haters of the company. For a particularly chilling account of the culture of Amway — the culture that spawned our dear Dick — News Hits recommends Merchants of Deception by Eric Scheibeler, a former big-time Amway distributor. You can download the book directly from the Web at merchantsofdeception.com.

If you go to that site, after reading a litany of allegations concerning Amway and its associated companies, you will find this question posed by Scheibeler: "Is this the same leadership that the people of the State of Michigan are now to trust?"
One thing is certain, we can trust DeVos to act like a hypocrite, which brings me to this article, also from the Metro Times, about the American Family Association’s boycott of Ford Motor Co. for supporting homosexuals.
So, what’s this have to do with Dick? Turns out his wife Betsy DeVos, the former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, is vice president of the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. That foundation, launched by Betsy’s late father (who made a fortune in the auto parts business), gave the AFA $5,000 in 2004, according to the most recent records on file with the IRS.

So, a family-run foundation that has the wife of a gubernatorial candidate in a key position is helping fund a group that is boycotting one of Michigan’s leading employers at a time when that same candidate has made the dire condition of the state’s economy the focus of his campaign.

Sean Kosofsky, director of the political arm of the Detroit-based Triangle Foundation, a gay advocacy group, is outraged by the hypocrisy and dumbfounded that this hasn’t become more of an issue in the campaign.

If this were Daniel Mulhern, husband of Gov. Granholm, contributing to a boycott of a major employer in this state, says Kosofsky, the Republicans — and the media — would be merciless in their hammering.

"If this was Dan Mulhern’s family helping fund a boycott of Ford," says Kosofsky, "Granholm would be toast."
[emphasis added]
Toast? They would have crucified her. DeVos can run around touting his leadership skills all he wants, but the bottom line is that it's his name associated with discrimination, lawsuits, pyramid schemes and boycotts. How can that be good for Michigan?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

This is What the Republicans Don't Want to Talk About

Michigan's Iraq casualties now number more than 100 as this map so graphically indicates. All those lives lost for what? Lies.

The public wants our troops home and the president claims he has a "timeline for Iraq," but this rhetoric is not accompanied by any change in strategy. The Bush administration has not imposed any consequences and there's been no mention of a drawdown of troops.

In the meantime, the war and all these senseless casualties are taking a backseat to campaigning. Here in Michigan, Dick DeVos keeps steering the discussion to jobs and the economy because he wants to deflect attention away from the fact that his brother-in-law Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater USA, a private security firm currently working in Iraq, is a war profiteer, and DeVos and his family are major supporters of Republican causes. Contrast that with Gov. Granholm who has worked [pdf file] to protect our soldiers' pay, ensure jobs for veterans, protect the parental rights of service women and men, and provide financial assistance to families of soldiers suffering financial hardships.

No, DeVos and the Republicans don't want to discuss the Iraq war because then the public might hear something like this:

An Iraq vet's thoughts on 100 dead Michigan troops.
Supporting the troops is not having a yellow-magnet ribbon on your car. It’s calling your congressman and complaining to them about why they decided to cut VA or TRICARE benefits for Soldiers. It’s making sure that they only go to war because it’s absolutely necessary, and when they do you complain to everyone if they aren’t given the resources to do the job! It’s taking care of the vets when they get home, and making sure they don’t end up broke and homeless. As of this writing over 500 OEF and OIF vets are homeless. Where is the outrage over this? Where are Hannity and Limbaugh, telling our Government to get their shit together and do something to help them? The only conclusion I can come up with is that they just don’t care. While they say “support our troops” they really mean “use our troops as an excuse to further our agenda.”

Supporting the troops is NOT about defending a political stance or an ideology.
Click on the link and read the entire post. This is reality. This is what the Republicans have done to our country and our children.

Update: Several veterans left notable comments at the link above that deserve your attention too.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Not So "Great" State of Indiana

Another NYT article contradicts DeVos' statement that the rest of the country is doing "great" except for Michigan.
Indiana, so heavily Republican that it has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, has become an unexpected battleground in this year’s Congressional elections. [...]

What is happening here in the Crossroads of America? [...]

Voters seem focused on larger matters. From the hills of New Albany near the Kentucky border to the gray streets of Mishawaka near the Michigan border, scores of voters in the three districts said in interviews that they were uneasy about Iraq, illegal immigration, the economy and the cost of health care. [...]

Second District

Representative Chris Chocola, a Republican, and the Democrat, Joe Donnelly, a lawyer and businessman, are in a race that was never supposed to be so close, though the district has elected Democrats in the past.

The economy and immigration loom as large as Iraq in this blue-collar district. Many auto-parts plants have closed or been cut back. Workers are nervous, and some say that Mr. Chocola does not understand their predicament because he is independently wealthy.

Plant workers blame Washington for higher gasoline prices, which hurt demand for automobiles; for spending money on Iraq that could be spent at home; and for failing, as they see it, to stop illegal immigrants from taking jobs in nonunion shops. [...]

“Billions of dollars go to China, they’re taking away our jobs, and they call it free trade,” said Richard Rittenhouse Jr., leaning against a friend’s pickup after their shift at the AM General Hummer H2 plant in Elkhart.

Illegal immigrants, whose numbers are relatively small in Indiana, but are concentrated in some areas, are “working hard and cheap” in nonunion plants Mr. Rittenhouse said, while union jobs are trimmed.
Plant closings and cut backs, concerns about the high cost of health care, and uneasiness about the economy. It appears that Michigan isn't the only state feeling the pain.

Blah, blah, blah...

I've been feeling kind of blah lately, which is partly due to the weather and partly due to political fatigue. Honestly, I will be happy when the election is over. I am sick of the mind-numbing commercials and intrusive robocalls that I've had to develop defensive strategies to avoid. Answering machines and remotes are wonderful inventions, but I'd like to see legislation that limits campaigning to 30 days prior to the election.

It's been particularly bad here in Michigan (DeVos started campaigning and running commercials last February), which might explain the picture below that was taken near the old Tiger Stadium (ht: Michigan Liberal).

Other similarly altered billboards have been spotted around Detroit. I think the person responsible for this has a point - any person who would inflict nine months of campaigning on the public can't be too nice.

On a side note, there are several issues DeVos brought into the campaign that many of us see as hateful and un-Christian. Christine Barry covers five of those issues in this post, but here's one example of just how little compassion and understanding DeVos has about issues that touch people's daily lives
A gay child - I wouldn't wish DeVos on any gay person, but I wouldn't mind him dealing with some angst in this area. Would the DeVos money stop flowing to the gay bashing groups? Would he ease up on his social conservative agenda? Would he allow his Republican friends to use his child as a political wedge? Would he finally get it?
Go read the rest of Christine's post. We know DeVos has grand plans to help big business, but for the most part he leaves the rest of us behind.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

How Does DeVos Explain This?

DeVos continues to claim that 49 other states are doing great. Meanwhile, the NY Times is reporting that alarm bells are going off for the GOP in red state Ohio, and it's all because of the way Bush is handling the economy. [emphasis added]
[T]he bellwether state of Ohio appears to have become hostile terrain for Republicans this year, with voters there overwhelmingly saying Democrats are more likely to help create jobs and concluding by a wide margin that Republicans in the state are more prone to political corruption than are Democrats, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. [...]

Sixty-five percent of those surveyed rated the state’s economy as bad; only 34 percent said it was good.

Only a third of Ohio voters approve of the job Mr. Bush is doing as president or the way he is handling the economy, and they seem poised to take their discontent out on Republican candidates up and down the ballot. [...]

“In Ohio we’ve seen nothing but our manufacturing jobs cease to exist,” said one poll respondent, David Stuck, 59, of Miami Township, who said he had voted twice for Mr. Bush. Mr. Stuck, a Republican, blamed inaction at the federal level for the evaporation of jobs in Ohio and said he planned to vote for the Democratic candidate for United States Senate, Sherrod Brown, over the incumbent, Mike DeWine, a Republican.

“Call it a protest,” Mr. Stuck said in a follow-up interview. “I haven’t seen anything done in the last six years. To be honest, I’m truly thinking about voting Democratic across the board because I’m tired of Bush.”

Twenty-eight percent of those polled said an adult in their household had been out of work and looking for a job in the past 12 months, and 44 percent of them said they were worried that someone in their family would be out of work in the coming year.

James Reed, 50, a self-described independent voter from Ashtabula, said in a follow-up interview that Mr. Taft, who is not running for re-election, “has sold us down the road as far as jobs are concerned.” Mr. Reed, a disabled chemical plant worker, said trade restrictions were needed to prevent American jobs from being shipped overseas, a view shared by 69 percent of Ohioans surveyed.
DeVos is wrong. The rest of the country is not doing great - at least not the middle-class - and that explains why more and more people are ready to vote Democratic across the board. The Republicans had their chance and they blew it. Forgive me for using a cliche, but their rich friends and corporate buddies got the gold mine and the rest of us got the shaft.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I'm Not Buying What DeVos is Selling

I only saw a couple minutes of the final debate between Granholm and DeVos the other night and I noted DeVos' stage prop right away - his eyeglasses. What was that all about? I assume someone told him they would make him look more intelligent, but I think words are more important than appearances, and what I heard didn't impress me too much. DeVos continues to repeat the same mantra over and over again:
[...]49 other states are doing great. 49 other states are moving forward. 49 other states are adding jobs. And yet, Michigan is the only one lagging behind.
Really? Dick might want to put those glasses back on and read this news:
Ohio pushed President George W. Bush's reelection over the top in 2004, but in congressional elections next month economic hardship in the rust belt could turn the tide against incumbents from Bush's Republican Party. [...]

But the manufacturing heartland is still feeling the lingering effects of a recession in 2001 and reeling from the loss of thousands of jobs to factories in China, India and Mexico.

While the nation's unemployment rate is at a five-year-low of 4.6 percent, joblessness is 5.7 percent in Ohio, 7.1 percent in Michigan and 5.3 percent in Indiana. Together, the three states have lost nearly half a million jobs in six years. [...]

John Gordon, 54, is a 10-year veteran at the plant who makes $16.58 an hour. He voted for Bush in 2004, but now he wants change.

The 25 cent raise he got last year didn't keep up with inflation, he said. His health insurance premiums have doubled in recent years, while coverage has shrunk.

"I just got a bill for $300, and our plan pays $72," he said. "George Bush wants to do away with overtime compensation, while everyone else, big oil, gets their handout."
Here's some more "great" news about conditions in Ohio and across the country: [emphasis added]
[...]The announcement this month by diesel engine maker Cummins Inc. that 600 to 800 jobs would be created at its once-decimated Columbus plant drew two U.S. congressmen and the state governor, Republicans all, to celebrate the success of drawing new jobs to their district.

"We still have challenges, but there are more people working today in America than ever before ... and it's good news," said Rep. Mike Sodrel, who is trailing Democrat Baron Hill in polls for the November 7 election, when control of Congress is at stake.

That there are more Americans working now than ever before is not really much of an accomplishment -- there are more Americans, period, due to population growth -- but in the rust-belt states of middle America, any job growth in an election year is reason to revel.

Indiana's unemployment rate has climbed from 3.0 percent six years ago to 5.3 percent, well above the 4.6 percent national average. While job growth in the state has outpaced neighbors Ohio and Michigan, there are still 21,400 fewer jobs there than in 2000, before Republican President George W. Bush won the White House.
Moving further west, the story is similar:
Not only has the median income of Kansas and Missouri dropped an average of 12 percent over the last six years, the cost of state-supported higher education has increased some 50 percent. More specifically, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and Education Department, and the state departments of higher education, the median income in Kansas dropped over 10 percent while tuition increased 59 percent. In Missouri, average income dropped nearly 15 percent and tuition at the state’s universities increased 51 percent.
Of course, having that college education isn't the ticket to upward mobility it used to be:
The recently released 2006 Economic Report of the President reported that earnings for workers with college degrees declined between 2000 and 2004.
In fact, the middle-class is feeling the squeeze across the country:
But through September, the growth in hourly wages was flat or negative for 27 of the previous 29 months, according to Labor Department data. Wages for blue-collar and nonmanagerial workers - 80 percent of the work force - are growing at a 3.9 percent annual rate, the Labor Department reported in September. Consumer-price inflation, however, is rising at the same rate. That means prices are rising as fast as wages.

Workers are barely keeping up. Health care, wages and energy prices are consumers' top three economic concerns, according to a Gallup poll in September.

"That has to do with things like stagnant wages, fears of jobs being outsourced, income security. These are on people's minds, particularly in lower- and middle-income areas," said Dennis Jacobe, chief economist in Charlotte, N.C., for Gallup.
Nope, I'm not buying what DeVos is selling. There's no denying Michigan is struggling, but 49 other states are NOT "doing great" like he's trying to convince us. Of course, DeVos is a billionaire, and his world is different from ours, but just because Wall Street workers took home nearly $300,000 on average last year that doesn't mean the rest of America is doing well.

Related reading:

The Undeclared War on America's Middle Class
Working America: Less isn't more
Worker's Are Ready for a Change
About That Single State Recession
More on the Single State Recession Myth


While the media continues to fixate on Foley and the page scandal, and Karl Rove and the GOP drool over the prospect of having $100 million to spend on key House and Senate races between now and the election, our president continues his assault on civil liberties. What more is there to say about this development? P. M. Carpenter said it all:
This is not a commentary. It is an obituary.

The United States, age 230, passed away yesterday following a short bout of internal complications.

Well, “passed away” isn't quite the term for it. It was murdered – cynically cut down in what should have been its prime; assassinated by fear, slayed by ignorance, silenced by contempt, butchered by congressional cowardice and whacked by a venomous president. Rasputin himself died at the hands of fewer conspirators.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Big Business Fighting China's Labor Law

This is an interesting post from Jonathan Tasini:
Since the spring, there has been a debate within China--ignored by the mainstream media in the U.S. and much of the world--about a new labor law in China. [...] As The New York Times reports:
China is planning to adopt a new law that seeks to crack down on sweatshops and protect workers' rights by giving labor unions real power for the first time since it introduced market forces in the 1980's.
This is fairly extraordinary, as is the response of multinational corporations:
The move, which underscores the government's growing concern about the widening income gap and threats of social unrest, is setting off a battle with American and other foreign corporations that have lobbied against it by hinting that they may build fewer factories here. [...]
Up until now, China did its bidding for U.S. corporations. As the AFL-CIO's petition to the U.S. Trade Representative pointed out, China artificially suppresses wages by anywhere from 47 to 85 percent of what they should be. In the Chinese labor system, people work twelve- to eighteen-hour days with no days of rest, earning meager wages, in factories full of chemical toxins and hazardous machines, and suffer sickness and death at the highest rates in world history.

But, this new labor code may begin to force wages up.

Which is driving corporations up the wall. Today, Global Labor Strategies is releasing a startling report. [pdf file] The report reveals that:
US-based global corporations like Wal-Mart, Google, UPS, Microsoft, Nike, AT&T, and Intel, acting through US business organizations like the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai and the US-China Business Council, are actively lobbying against the new legislation. They are also threatening that foreign corporations will withdraw from China if it is passed.
Opposition to the labor code is being led by three major organizations representing foreign corporations operating in China: The American Chamber of Commerce, the US-China Business Council, and the European Union Chamber of Commerce.

I'm skeptical of China's motives because it is a communist country and they never showed much concern for their workers before, but I have to give them credit for addressing the widening income gap - even though it is partly motivated by concern for the stability of Chinese society. China faces work actions, protests and strikes nearly everyday and the government fears that the widespread unrest could threaten its rule.

I should be surprised that big business is trying to fight these changes but I'm not. They're proving to be the liars I always suspected they were. They fed us the idea that globalization would raise living standards around the world, but when it comes time to put their money where their mouths are they cry foul, hire lobbyists and start throwing threats around.

Additional reading about corporations that do business in China:
DeVos and Amway Soft on China Trade Enforcement
Official Union in China Says All Wal-Marts Are Organized, yet not a single Wal-Mart store in the U.S. is unionized.
U.S. Corporations Work to Prevent Chinese Workers' Rights
Corporations, China and Unions

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I Don't Want a Governor Who Works for the GOP

We have three new Michigan bloggers on the scene. Among the Trees is hosted by Eric Baerren (former editor of the Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun). I always liked Eric's editorials because he remained true to himself when he voiced his opinions and didn't worry about taking the popular stance. I think his blog will evolve along the same lines based on this recent post where Eric questioned the wisdom behind cutting taxes in order to create jobs (a position promoted by DeVos and his supporters):
Beckmann ends his attack on the governor suggesting that if we don't buy DeVos' argument that we're just stupid. [...]

Right, and here's a question ... if cutting taxes leads to economic growth, then why are we today losing jobs after a decade of tax cutting by a Republican governor? [emphasis added]
Great question, Eric, and the answer is that cutting taxes doesn't lead to job creation, but that's a little detail DeVos and certain columnists hope us "rationally ignorant" voters won't notice.

Because it's important to educate ourselves on the issues, Liberal Lucy decided to start a blog - Liberal, Loud and Proud.

Lucy said she's not just another ranter (hmmm...do I ever rant), but her blog "is about living what I believe, sharing/educating those who care, and being a proud citizen of an incredible state." Lucy's been a regular contributor over at Michigan Liberal and she's eager to help educate us on the details. In fact, between now and election day, Lucy plans on sharing one fact everyday on why Amway Guy is bad for Michigan. And for every reason she gives to not vote for Dick, she's going to give one on why Governor Granholm is the hardest working, most compassionate and dedicated governor in the country. Check in with Lucy everyday and learn!

That brings me to Nirmal, who moved and has a new name - Capital Viewpoint. Nirmal's previous blog was Who Got the Gravy where he had a great series of posts on Amway and DeVos that I recommend everyone read:

Amway Exposed, Part One: The Profitability of Amway

"Amway Exposed, Part Two: The "Tools" Scam

Amway Exposed, Part Three: Dick DeVos Doesn't Believe in Workers' Rights

Amway Exposed, Part Four: Amway and Free Speech

Why bother reading about Amway and DeVos? I've mentioned this before, but it's worth repeating this comment from Zack at Pohlitics that sums it up well:
When you get down to brass tacks, the whole Amway universe works like this: wealthy elites exploit the poor with the false hope of achieving the "American dream" in order to enrich themselves.
DeVos asks us to trust him, but he keeps on writing check after check to lobbyists, special interest PACs and Republicans. I'm sorry, but I want a governor who works for me - not the Republican Party.

(Go read the new blogs on the block!)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Just 52,000 Votes Would Have Helped

Libby @ The Impolitic asked: Where was this YouTuber in 04? Could have made a difference.

That a very astute observation, Libby. According to the AFL-CIO blog:
Easily forgotten is how close 15 of the Republicans’ victories were in 1994. Had Democrats in key districts won a combined 52,000 more votes, there would have been no “Speaker Gingrich.”

Don't ever think your vote isn't important. As the post above says, it's likely there will be many close races this November too, and "the outcome of these races will determine the political environment for the 2008 presidential election and years to come."

Sen. Levin: Credit Card Rates and Fees

Sen. Levin sent me this e-mail today that I felt was important to share. [emphasis added]
I thought you might be interested in the findings of a recent report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) that discloses excessive credit card fees, unfair interest rates, and disclosure problems. I asked GAO to look into this matter and issue a report on its findings to help shine a light on these practices that ought to be stopped. I believe this issue is a matter of simple fairness because so many American families depend on credit cards for everyday needs.

The report found several unfair or confusing credit card practices that take advantage of consumers. One abusive practice in which some credit card companies engage is charging interest on the full balance of debt incurred by a cardholder regardless of whether the cardholder has repaid a portion of that debt on time. For example, if a cardholder starts a cycle with a zero balance, charges $500 on his or her credit card, and makes a payment of $450 by the due date, some credit card companies charge interest on the full $500 instead of the $50 that is owed. That means even if a consumer pays 90 percent of his or her debt, he or she is still charged interest on the full 100 percent, not the remaining 10 percent. Compounding this problem is the fact that many consumers are unaware of these charges until they appear on their bill.

The report also found that credit card holders are subject to late fees that are higher than ever before. GAO reported that the average penalty in 2005 for making a late payment was $34. That's a 115 percent increase from the average late fee of $13 in 1995. The highest late fee was $39 per occurrence. That's a steep fee that can take a real bite out of a family's budget.

GAO also reported a number of hidden fees that are not disclosed in the materials provided to cardholders, such as charging families a $15 fee to pay their credit card bill over the phone before the late fee kicks in. It seems wrong to charge money to pay a bill. Additionally, GAO found that current fee disclosures are difficult to understand, bury important information, and often fail to convey to cardholders when late fees would be charged and what actions could result in penalty interest rates.

While consumers should make smart choices and do their best to avoid excessive debt, credit card companies should not exploit vulnerable consumers by imposing unnecessary and costly fees that can make it almost impossible for many to pay down their debt in a reasonable time. I plan to introduce legislation in the Senate to ban the abusive practices exposed in the GAO report and to protect consumers who seek to pay off their debts in good faith.

Further details on the GAO report, as well as a link to the report itself, can be found on my website at [http://www.levin.senate.gov/newsroom/release.cfm?id=264552]. In addition, you may be interested in a recent article published in The Washington Post on this issue, which can be found at [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/11/AR2006101101850.html].

Carl Levin
Another finding from the GAO recommends that federal regulators force the credit card industry to put key information in easy-to-understand English. The study revealed that while half of American adults read at or below an eighth-grade level, most disclosures were written at a high school level.

There's no denying that some people abuse or misuse credit, but many others find themselves turning to credit cards in order to pay for medical bills, utilities or food. Hitting consumers with unfair interest rates and fees is unfair no matter how you look at it. Thank you Sen. Levin for watching out for us at a time when most politicians in Washington serve the interests of big business.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

How Much Have Bush's Tax Cuts Cost Michiganders?

How much have Bush’s tax cuts cost YOU? The AFL-CIO blog points to the answer:
We know Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy are bad—a $70 billion tax cut for the rich this year alone.

Now, Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) has released a state-by-state breakdown that shows the combination of special tax breaks for capital gains and dividends, reductions in personal income tax rates, estate tax cuts and an array of corporate tax loopholes and summarizes their effects on state residents at different income levels.

CTJ notes two key findings:

First, the tax breaks enacted since 2001 are heavily skewed toward the very wealthiest few. Second, because the tax cuts are being paid for with borrowed money, the cost of paying the added national debt more than wipes out any benefits from the tax cuts for 99 percent of residents in each state. Only the best-off one percent are net winners from the President’s fiscal policies. [emphasis added]
How does Michigan fare? [pdf file]
Over the 2001-2010 period, the wealthiest one percent of Michiganders, who have an average income of $891,400 in 2006, will receive 29.6 percent of the tax cuts.

The total 10-year average tax cut for this wealthiest group is $364,853, an average of $36,485 per year.

In contrast, the poorest 60 percent will get only 19.5 percent of the tax cuts, with an average annual tax cut over the 10 years of only $405.
Unless you're in that top one percent, don't spend your tax cut cause there's more bad news:
For 99 percent of Michiganders, the Bush tax cuts are much smaller than the share of the increased national debt they’ll have to pay off. Only the wealthiest one percent are net winners. [emphasis added]

For the wealthiest one percent of Michigan residents, the tax cuts they’ve received from 2001 through 2006 outweigh their share of the added debt accumulated over the past six years by an average of $21,253 per family member. They have received an average tax cut of $61,932 per family member, which exceeds their added debt burden of $40,679 per person by $21,253.

But for the other 99 percent of Michigan residents, their share of the added debt accumulated from 2001 through 2006 outweighs their tax cuts by an average of $7,153 per person. [emphasis added] They have received an average tax break of $2,597 per person over the six year period, but their added debt burden averages $9,749 per person.
Click here to see how your state fared and then share CTJ’s report with as many voters as you can reach. Citizens need to know the truth about those tax cuts and vote accordingly. A vote for the Republican Party and those people who support Bush's policies (here in Michigan that means DeVos) is a vote against your own self-interest.

Follow this link to get the answer to another question: George Bush- Financial Genius or Classic Dunderhead?

Still think Bush is an economic savant? Try reading this: Bushonomics: Deficit City

Finally, if economics leaves you as confused and befuddled as GWB, let the Mayor of Simpleton simplify it for you. (Scroll halfway down and read The Waitress and the Lawyer A One-Act Play.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Granholm Zings DeVos

The award for best one-liner from last night's debate goes to Gov. Granholm:
Michigan needs a Governor who stands up to George Bush, not one who writes the President a 7-figure campaign check.
That pretty much defines DeVos. I've written about his ties to the Bush administration here and here, and others have taken note too. In fact, here's a recent letter to the editor that points out just how cozy DeVos and the GOP have been.
I recently read that Dick DeVos wants to get tough on lobbyists, if elected. I find that very interesting, considering his past association with lobbyists. Dick and Betsy DeVos held a huge fundraiser in 2004 on one of the family yachts. The guest list included lobbyist extraordinaire Jack Abramoff and indicted Congressman Tom DeLay.

The DeVos family gave more than $600,000 to the Bush re-election campaign and contributed often to DeLay and his PAC. I wonder if the reason DeVos won't disclose his tax returns like other candidates is he doesn't want the public to see the money trail.

Please consider voting again for Gov. Granholm, the one that really cares about Michigan.

Dotty Dilsaver/Battle Creek
DeVos doesn't want to be governor because he cares about the citizens of Michigan. DeVos only cares about his own agenda and that of the GOP - an agenda that favors big business at the expense of working class Americans.

Read the facts behind the claims DeVos made during the second debate here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dubya and Dick=Twins

The latest political ad from the MDP sure has people talking. It's called "Twins" and shows how there is no difference between DeVos and President Bush as they morph together on the screen. It's the best campaign ad I've seen all year.

Quicktime and Windows Media versions are here.

Of course, not everyone liked the ad. Dick's Disembodied Head was insulted. He claims Dick Devos and George W. Bush are easy to tell apart. You won't convince me of that, especially after reading this post from Wizard Kitten that reports Levin is critical of DeVos on China trade.

I have a feeling Levin is critical of Bush too. Democrats claim the Bush administration's China trade policy has been missing in action for sometime now.

That's great for companies like Amway and the DeVos family, but as Wizard Kitten points out:
Amway has made billions in China. One wonders- where is all that money? Dick certainly hasn't brought it back here.

Monday, October 09, 2006

I'm Voting a Straight Democratic Ticket

This chart indicates why so many wealthy businessmen like DeVos contribute so generously to Republicans and lobbyists. The Republicans like to say they're working for the middle-class and care about the issues important to us, but years of Republican rule show their policies benefit the rich more than working class Americans. [Source: Economic Policy Institute]

According to the AFL-CIO blog:
Since 1970, the productivity of our workers in this county has skyrocketed, and the richest has made themselves millionaires thousands of times over because of it. [...]

But has the working class been rewarded for their massive contribution to this enormous economic expansion? No, workers’ wages haven’t even kept up with rising prices. While the average CEO pay has gone up more than 700 percent, more people than ever before are living in poverty in America. [...]

America is full of the most innovative, creative, driven people whose collective accomplishments are awesome. So what are we spending our visions and passion on? Are we working on bringing up the living standard of all of society and giving everyone a chance to lead productive, secure lives? No, the powerful in this country are wasting our collective resources on making it possible for the tiny fraction of the richest people to get even richer and to allow Big Business to exploit the labor of workers. [emphasis added]

We are less than a month away from the election, when America’s voters will decide if we want to stay with the same anti-working family, pro-war majority in power in Congress, or if we will put the people in Washington who will take their power and use it to make a real commitment to improve wages, education, safety and health care for everyone.
I've split my ticket in the past and voted for Republicans and third party candidates I felt I could trust, but this time around I'm voting a straight Democratic ticket. The Republican Party had their chance and they blew it. I literally cannot "afford" to let them govern anymore.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Olbermann's Special Comment About Lying

More strong words from Keith Olbermann:
The president doesn’t just hear what he wants.

He hears things that only he can hear.
Shouldn't the leadership in Washington be setting the president straight on the difference between terrorists and critics instead of a news anchor?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

DeVos Coverup Exposed

The Alterra/DeVos story continues to grow legs in Michigan thanks to Daddy DeVos. Here's the lastest MDP press release:
Rich DeVos: Dick DeVos Knew About Alterra’s Abuse

LANSING- Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer pointed to an article by Rob Kirkbride in today’s Grand Rapids Press today that disproves GOP gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos’ claim that he only “recently” learned of the abuse of seniors at the DeVos controlled Alterra nursing homes. The Press reported that “Richard DeVos said Wednesday his son, Dick, and the rest of the family were given only a short briefing about problems at the former Alterra Healthcare Corp. nursing home chain.”

Kirkbride also reported that “Richard DeVos said [Alterra Board Chairman Jerry] Tubergen talked to the RDV Corp. board about Alterra and told the family he would ‘take care of it.’” The Board of Directors of RDV Corporation is composed Dick DeVos and his siblings and their spouses. (pp. 20-22 of RDV Altco LLP's June 12, 2000 Schedule 13D SEC Filing).

“DeVos’ father’s statement is a smoking gun proving that Dick DeVos knew about the abuse at Alterra when it was occurring in 2000-02 and lied about his knowledge in the debate. The DeVos campaign has been engaging in a cover-up of DeVos’ knowledge of the abuse,” Brewer said. “DeVos lied because Alterra covered up the abuse every step of the way. DeVos does not want people to know that he and his closest friends and family did nothing when many seniors were being abused.”

There are other instances of the DeVos campaign lying to the public about Alterra.

* DeVos flip-flopped on the amount that he invested, saying that he owned $20 million worth and then saying he owned $9 million worth.
* DeVos denied that Jerry Tubergen had control, but Tubergen was Chairman and led the search for Alterra’s President and CEO according the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Tubergen also appointed Alterra’s President according to Business Wire.
* DeVos’ campaign said there were no “special provisions” given to those in the DeVos investment, but the Detroit News reports “Brewer also provided a copy of Alterra bylaws that spelled out how DeVos and his group could hire top company officials, control the company budget and make decisions about corporate operations.”

This isn't the first time Daddy DeVos contradicted his son. Earlier in the campaign, Dick ran around claiming he should be elected because he turned Grand Rapids around. When DeVos Sr. was asked to comment about his son's claim, he just chuckled and called that "a little political license." Hmm...is that the same thing as telling a little white lie?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

New blog: God's Politics

I like Jim Wallis' new blog, God's Politics. In his September archives (scroll halfway down the page), Wallis posts a series of dialogues with former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed on the question: "What should values voters value most?" Interesting reading. They agree that people of faith should address the central moral issues in the public arena, but they disagree on what those issues are and how they should be addressed.

Concerning Rep. Foley and the Congressional pages, Wallis puts the discussion in its proper context and says he is outraged but not surprised.
But the roots of this crisis go far deeper than partisanship. As Diana Butler Bass wrote earlier this week: "…we know that sin is not the exclusive possession of any political party. The darkness that stalks us is neither Republican nor Democratic. It is part of the human condition."

We need political leaders – of both parties – who believe in the importance of integrity, of humility, of honesty, and a commitment to the common good – and a willingness to challenge their own party’s desire for power at the expense of moral principle. And we need a pledge by all of us to make fundamental changes in our culture and support political leaders who will work for those changes.
Last, but not least: What a Low-Income Mother Told Me About Abortion
Recently, I met a woman who told me an amazing story. ...she told me that her daughter was graduating from Harvard and how proud she was.

But then she added, "I was a low-income mom at the time. And if I hadn't got food stamps and health care, I would have aborted that child. I would have aborted my daughter. And now she's graduating from Harvard. I want you to tell people that if they want to prevent abortions, they need to support low-income women like me." She looked me straight in the eyes and was very clear in what she had to say to me. She had a message and wanted me to share it. So I am.

Two new and potentially significant efforts have finally emerged in the Congress, aimed at practically and dramatically reducing the abortion rate in America. The measures proposed could make a real difference in changing the circumstances that make abortions more likely, rather than the usual political practice of using the issue as a litmus test--on both the right and the left - with nothing ever really happening to prevent more abortions.

At the request of the bill's sponsors, I made the following supportive statement:

“Sojourners/Call to Renewal applauds the recent introduction of two pieces of legislation in the House of Representatives aimed at dramatically reducing abortions in this country. We hope these two bills (the Abortion Reduction Act and the Pregnant Women Support Act) will help deepen the national conversation and lead to concrete action.”
The Kaiser Network has the specifics:
Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), who opposes abortion rights, earlier this month introduced a bill that aims to reduce the number of abortions by establishing health care- and child care-related programs to support pregnant women. The measure -- called the Pregnant Women Support Act -- is modeled after Democrats for Life of America's "95-10 Initiative," which aims to reduce the U.S. abortion rate by 95% over the next 10 years.

Another bill (HR 6067) -- which also was introduced last month by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who opposes abortion rights, and abortion-rights supporter Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) -- is modeled in part on the 95-10 Initiative. Ryan and DeLauro's bill would require states to cover contraceptives for women with incomes of up to 200% of the federal poverty level, establish grants for sex education programs and require programs with a focus on abstinence to include thorough instruction on contraceptives. The measure, which includes 20 initiatives, also would increase funding for health care for low-income women with children, provide no-cost visits from nurses to teens and women who have given birth for the first time, expand a tax credit for adoption and fund child care services for parents in college (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 9/20).
The bills have their share of critics because one faction wants to fund contraception and the other doesn't, which means the argument is no longer about abortion as a form of birth control - the argument is about contraception. Critics insist that contraception will backfire and lead to more pregnancies according to this Washington Post article, but studies contradict that argument.
As the Youngstown diocese puts it, "Promotion of contraception leads to more extra-marital sexual intercourse, which leads to more unwanted pregnancies, which leads to more abortions." [...]

Less contraception, less sex, more women choosing life. So, the abortion rate among these women went down, right? Wrong. The decline in contraception overwhelmed the decline in sexual activity, resulting in a higher rate of unintended pregnancy. And the increase in unintended pregnancy overwhelmed the increase in women choosing to have the baby, resulting in more abortions. From an antiabortion standpoint, trading contraception for "choosing life" was a net loss.
This legislation is encouraging. As Wallis said, "the measures proposed could make a real difference in changing the circumstances that make abortions more likely," and these bills are also endorsed by pro-choice and pro-life members. They may not be everyone's idea of a "perfect" solution, but if we truly care about the sanctity of life in this country we need to find some common ground and start somewhere.

Lessenberry on Torture

Yet another brave American is stepping forward and speaking the truth a la Keith Olbermann. Metro Times columnist Jack Lessenberry weighs in on torture, the Bush administration, and those of us who complacently sit on the sidelines and say nothing.
Last week, in a move that should have all Americans who still care about freedom screaming as loud as they can, Congress passed a bill that essentially gives the president's bully boys the right to torture suspects.

They just can't call it that. Oh, and we can't legally rape our victims. Of course, since detainees have no automatic right to counsel, it isn't clear how anyone would find out they were being raped, unless we have another batch of enlisted men stupid enough to take pictures of themselves in the act. [...]

[Bush] is trampling on the rights this nation always has stood for, and we are sitting here like cattle, each placidly chewing our cud until they come to load us on the truck. [...]

So while I still can, let me tell you what I really think. I believe the Bush administration is a far bigger threat to America's rights and freedoms, and the peace of the world, than any silly gang of terrorists.

I think the essence of America is guaranteeing a free trial and assuming that anyone is innocent until proven guilty — even if they are aliens, even if they are fanatic radical Muslims in other lands, even if they are Republican congressmen who want to molest little boys.

I think that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have killed far more people and have done far more damage to our nation than al-Qaeda has. I think that our nation and the world would be immeasurably better off if Bush and Cheney were in Abu Ghraib, or Guantanamo, than it is with them making our nation's policies.

And I believe Bush and Cheney's actions are deeply un-American.
I agree, but do Americans really care or listen? What more will it take before we call for accountability?

I'm not really sure we can save ourselves after reading about Rep. Mark Foley and the GOP's attempts to spin the story when they should have been acting swiftly and decisively to protect our children. We should be outraged by their actions. Even among convicts there is a pecking order, and pedophiles are at the bottom of the list. Our children are sacred and Americans have every right to expect our government to protect them. However, as Lessenberry points out:
Yet now we learn that the House leadership had known about these e-mails, some of them anyway, for almost a year. Nevertheless, they allowed Foley to remain head of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children.

That alone ought to be enough to bring down the government in any civilized country, no matter how weak and muddled the opposition might be.
We're not as civilized as we think we are if we can't put our precious children above politics.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Senior Abuse at DeVos Controlled Alterra

The first debate between Granholm and DeVos took place last night and it pretty much went the way I expected it to - Granholm was aggressive and articulate and easily dominated the debate. Several columnists criticized Granholm for being too aggressive, but I thought she set the right tone. (It's interesting that Bush can get away with acting and speaking aggressively - "bring it on" - but when a woman does it she gets criticized.) Anyway, there were no big surprises in last night's debate except for one:
In Monday night’s debate, Granholm, a Democrat, said DeVos had failed to disclose his investment in Alterra Health Care, a Milwaukee-based firm that went bankrupt in 2003 amid charges of patient neglect and abuse. She said DeVos had owned 12 million share of Alterra’s stock. [emphasis added]

DeVos responded that he had owned less than 1% of Alterra’s shares and that he didn’t disclose it because his disclosure statement dealt with investments he currently holds. He also said he became aware of Alterra’s problems with patient care “just recently.”
Really? That pretty much contradicts the latest press release from the Michigan Democratic Party and whistleblower Kathy Recco:
LANSING- Today Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer was joined by whistleblower Kathy Recco to discuss the abuse of seniors at Alterra assisted living centers while Alterra was controlled by a group of investors led by GOP gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos.

DeVos hypocritically said in unveiling his Senior Citizen plan, "Our seniors deserve to be treated with honor and dignity because they continue to make significant contributions to our great state. We must do more to give back. We must ensure the services we have for seniors are both affordable and of high quality. And above all else, we must do a better job of protecting our most vulnerable citizens." (Dick DeVos, Senior Citizen Plan, 9/21/2006) (emphasis added)

“I am here today to tell the story of 6 devastated families at the hands of a huge corporation called Alterra, families whose loved ones could have been protected with a $7.00 an hour employee by Alterra, a corporation that Mr. DeVos was very much a part of,” said Ms. Recco. “Mr. DeVos should have made sure his Alterra did the right thing. He did not.”

“Dick DeVos had the responsibility to care for vulnerable senior citizens at Alterra,” Brewer said. “The abuse that residents suffered at Alterra homes completely contradicts his political campaign rhetoric professing concern for them.”

In May, 2000 Dick DeVos led a group of investors made up almost entirely of family members and business allies which took control of Alterra in return for a nearly $200 million investment. They installed Jerry Tubergen, a longtime DeVos employee who runs the family’s investment firm RDV Corp, as Chairman of the Alterra Board of Directors and put other directors on the Alterra board. Tubergen and those DeVos directors had veto power over any significant management decision, such as the election of the Chairman of the Board, Alterra’s operating and capital budgets, employment of a President and other top executives, borrowing, capital expenditures and many others.

“There can be no doubt that from May, 2000 until Alterra went bankrupt in January, 2003 DeVos controlled Alterra through Tubergen and his other hand-picked directors,” Brewer said. “He must be held accountable for the terrible abuse many seniors suffered in Alterra facilities. Anyone who would allow such abuse to occur is unfit to be governor.”
The Free Press expands on this information even further:
From at least 1999, before the DeVos investment, on through the years the family held their investment, Alterra was the subject of multiple complaints, lawsuits, and investigations in Michigan and other states stemming from patient neglect and possible physical and sexual abuse in some of its facilities.

On Monday night, he [DeVos] said he learned of the problems “just recently.” Alterra’s problems, and those of the entire assisted-living industry, were the subject of widespread media coverage.

Time magazine did a major story dealing with Alterra in 2001, and USA Today did an extensive investigation of Alterra in 2004.
I don't buy it. How can DeVos claim he just recently heard about Alterra's problems when they existed prior to his investment in the company and the media was widely reporting on them? Nobody plunks nearly $200 million dollars down without first doing some checking, especially someone like DeVos who claims his business background makes him the perfect candidate for governor. No wonder DeVos refuses to release his income tax returns. How many other questionable holdings is he trying to keep from the citizens of Michigan?

Click here [pdf file] for a USA Today article and several other stories regarding abuses at Alterra centers.

Update: Matt @ Michigan Liberal has an excellent post on this subject that I encourage you to read: Why the nursing home thing is a BIG deal

Monday, October 02, 2006

Good News, Bad News and Torture

Good news from Libby @ The Impolitic, who also blogs at the Detroit News, about a judge who's not afraid of the White House..
The White House's warrantless wiretaps may cease next week. U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, laid down the law and said the administration has one week to get an appeal court ruling or they have to stop the program.
Now comes the bad news: Republican Torture Laws Will Live in History

Or try reading this "must read post" from Jessie Olson (ex-military): Why are YOU allowing our children to be TORTURED? YES, YOU!

And this one: This Is What Waterboarding Looks Like

Finally, here's a list of the traitorous Senators who voted yes on torture. Twelve of them are Democrats, including Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who is up for reelection this year. Her vote was a huge disappointment to me, and I even considered not casting a vote for Senator come November, but then I read something Rep. John Conyers said:
As the minority party, we were always going to lose to the Bush Torture Bill. And there were always going to be those who vote with Republicans on this issue.

But keep one thing in mind. Although these votes have come to pass, don't forget that, in a Democratic majority, these issues would never have even come to a vote. [...]

If we can take back the majority, the Democratic leadership will never have a vote on approving torture, spying on our citizens, or suspending habeus corpus.

As you lament our present predicament, keep this in mind.
Good point. If we can take back the majority, we might also end the war in Iraq sooner and bring our soldiers home, or we might also reverse the damage the Republicans have done to our rights here at home. Without a Democratic majority, things will stay the same - and probably get worse because the Republicans still want to repeal the estate tax and privatize social security, and the Christian right still expects this administration to make all abortions illegal. With those unfulfilled Republican goals in mind, I decided I'll still vote for Debbie Stabenow based on her record.

From Christine Barry, here are some issues Stabenow opposed: The Federal Marriage Amendment, banning gay adoptions, ending affirmative action, publicly funding private schools, ANWR drilling, CAFTA, confirmation of Alito and Roberts, repealing the estate tax, and the war in Iraq.

And here are some issues Stabenow supported: The Kyoto protocols, funding public education, raising the minimum wage, and saving Social Security.

Stabenow also voted no on reauthorizing the Patroit Act, wrote the first federal ban on drilling for oil and gas in the Great Lakes, and she strongly supports reproductive freedom and efforts to promote family planning domestically and internationally.

So, as much as I detest torture, I also care about issues that have the potential to harm millions of senior citizens, gays, working Americans, and children - and also the environment. I don't know why torture wasn't equally important to Stabenow, but she has a strong record of concern and compassion on these other issues that the Republicans don't, and I have to look at the big picture. With that in mind, I will be voting to re-elect Stabenow in November.