Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Houston Janitors Have Much to be Thankful For

Here's an update about the Houston janitors I mentioned earlier this week from the New York Times:
Houston’s major cleaning companies and the union representing 5,300 janitors there announced a tentative contract yesterday that ends a monthlong strike, raises the workers’ hourly wages by nearly 50 percent over two years and provides them health coverage.

Under the three-year deal, the first for the janitors since they unionized last year, their pay, which now averages $5.25 an hour, will increase to $6.25 on Jan. 1, 2007; to $7.25 on Jan. 1, 2008; and to $7.75 on Jan. 1, 2009.

Further, the employers agreed to increase a janitor’s typical shift to six hours a day, from four. Many of the janitors had said they were being given too few hours of work to support their families. [...]

In addition to the increase in pay, the agreement calls for the janitors to begin receiving individual health coverage, with the workers paying $20 a month in premiums toward it. Family health coverage will become available beginning Jan. 1, 2009, and will cost the workers $175 a month.

The accord also provides for many janitors to have paid days off for the first time. They are to receive six paid holidays and will be able to accrue paid vacation time.
I'm happy for the janitors. They'll still be earning poverty level wages, but they took a stand and gained some ground. Good for them.

Bush's Memoirs

Enjoy! When George writes his memoirs.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Liberty and Justice for All - No Exceptions

The City of Lansing is considering a proposed human rights ordinance that would, among other things, prohibit harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and student and marital status. The ordinance is not asking for special rights for people. It's only asking that the law be applied equally to all people when it comes to housing, work, etc.

That should be a no-brainer in my opinion, but that's not how the American Family Association of Michigan sees it. They want the ordinance defeated and here's part of a letter they're circulating that shows how they plan to frame their attack:
Dear AFA-Michigan supporter,

Please stand with us by contacting the Lansing City Council today to urge that council members defeat a discriminatory and dangerous ordinance granting special “rights” to individuals who engage in homosexual behavior or cross-dressing.
How Christian of them. Sadly, they appear to have supporters. Lansing's City Council opened their chambers to public comments on Monday and here's a real gem from one citizen opposed to the ordinance:
Robert Riley, 73, said he stood against the proposal because homosexuals were "sick people" who didn't deserve "special treatment."

"What they need is help from a psychiatrist," said Riley of Lansing. "If this passes, I might have to move."
Too bad Riley didn't listen to these words of wisdom from one of Michigan's young people who also attended that meeting:
Maggie Lowden, a junior at Holt High School, said she was for the ordinance as she pointed out the words of the Pledge of Allegiance.

"It says 'liberty and justice for all,'" she said. "If we want to change it, we should add the footnote 'as long as we declare them acceptable.'"
Ms. Lowden sounds wise beyond her years, and she definitely sounds loving and caring - attributes I would never use to describe the American Family Association. Their hateful attacks against homosexuals are based on the belief that homosexuality is a choice. Well, what if they're wrong? That's a question being posed by a Baptist minister:
What if Christian leaders are wrong about homosexuality? I suppose, much as a newspaper maintains its credibility by setting the record straight, church leaders would need to do the same:

Correction: Despite what you might have read, heard or been taught throughout your churchgoing life, homosexuality is, in fact, determined at birth and is not to be condemned by God's followers.

Based on a few recent headlines, we won't be seeing that admission anytime soon. [...] All this brings me back to the question: What if we're wrong?

Religion's only real commodity, after all, is its moral authority. Lose that, and we lose our credibility. Lose credibility, and we might as well close up shop.

It's happened to Christianity before, most famously when we dug in our heels over Galileo's challenge to the biblical view that the Earth, rather than the sun, was at the center of our solar system. You know the story. Galileo was persecuted for what turned out to be incontrovertibly true. For many, especially in the scientific community, Christianity never recovered.

This time, Christianity is in danger of squandering its moral authority by continuing its pattern of discrimination against gays and lesbians in the face of mounting scientific evidence that sexual orientation has little or nothing to do with choice. To the contrary, whether sexual orientation arises as a result of the mother's hormones or the child's brain structure or DNA, it is almost certainly an accident of birth. The point is this: Without choice, there can be no moral culpability.

[...]Watching the growing conflict between medical science and religion over homosexuality is like watching a train wreck from a distance. You can see it coming for miles and sense the inevitable conclusion, but you're powerless to stop it.
When science proves homosexuality is an accident of birth (and I believe they will prove it), will the AFA offer their apology and embrace the people they've attacked for years - the same people who are the sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, etc., of families who love them in spite of their differences?

We may be powerless to stop the science/religion wreck, but we're not powerless to stop discrimination. I hope Lansing passes that ordinance because, as the young H.S. student said, "liberty and justice for all" - there is no footnote, "as long as we declare them acceptable."

Related articles:
Lansing City Council - A (possible) Step in the Right Direction
American Family Association (AFA) of Michigan Goes After Lansing "Human Rights" Ordinance

Monday, November 20, 2006

Good News/Bad News for Working Americans

There's good news and bad news for working Americans. The middle-class gained another voice according to Libby @ The Impolitic - Democratic senator elect Jim Webb has an op-ed at the WSJ about the growing class divide in this country.
America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.
Libby concludes, "Webb has hope the working class has found their voice and won't sit still any longer for flat wages and health care costs that have risen 73% in the last six years. We can only hope he's right."

I think Webb is right and that the working class has found their voice; however, corporate America isn't going to roll over and play dead. They're going to use their money, influence and the court system to get what they want. Consider this story from Working Life about striking Texas janitors.
Houston janitors and supporters, who blocked a downtown intersection in an act of peaceful civil disobedience, were held on $888,888 bond each yesterday, according to the SEIU. In contrast, bail for a Harris County man accused of killing another man in a bar fight was set at $30,000. The janitors are striking for a living wage and affordable health insurance.
A total of 44 janitors were arrested and held on a combined $39.1 million bond. They were charged with non-violent civil disobedience - Class B misdemeanors! How does the court justify that bond?

The janitors are striking because they want a raise from the $5.30 an hour they currently earn to $8.50 (and increased hours too) so they make enough to afford health insurance that ranges from $300 to $1,000 a month. This isn't an unreasonable demand, and the article points out that janitors in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and other cities already make more than $10 an hour, have health insurance and work full-time. Houston workers are paid an average of $20 a day, with no health insurance for part-time work.

The bail was eventually reduced to $1,000 according to an update at Alternet, but a message was sent by the Houston police who kept the protestors in jail under brutal conditions. The guards told them: "This is what you get for protesting. [...] "Who gives a shit about janitors making 5 dollars an hour?" Welcome to "Third World" America.

Incidentally, the workers are striking five national cleaning firms. The strikers turned their attention to the building's landlords since they hire the cleaning firms that negotiate and set rates for janitors' wages and benefits. One of these landlords is oil giant Chevron. They have the power to help settle the strike by directing the cleaning contractors they hire to provide higher wages and health insurance to all workers. Chevron also has the money: In just one second, Chevron makes 70 times more than the entire annual earnings of all 5,300 Houston janitors.

So far, Chevron has failed to step up to the plate and help the janitors, which doesn't surprise me. As Jim Webb said, "A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation's most fortunate."

Friday, November 17, 2006

What's The Big Deal About PS3?

The media has been consumed for days about the release of Sony's PlayStation 3. There have been stories about gamers lined up by the thousands outside of stores, and in Connecticut a man was shot outside a Wal-Mart while waiting for the video game machine. The whole spectacle makes me shake my head in wonder, and I'm not the only one. I receive an e-mail meditation from Lutheran Pastor Kerry Nelson in Texas every morning and he questioned the craziness too:
All I know is that people were lined up at midnight last night at Best Buys all over town waiting for the release of a new game system. And I make a judgment about that - some are parents who want their kids to have the very newest and very best and Christmas is just around the corner, and some are young adults who spend way too many hours playing video games, and all of this is a commentary on our priorities and our lives.

At a time when 35,000,000 people in the United States live below the poverty line, when we have soldiers risking their lives on a daily basis in a war that people continue to question, we have lines of people waiting all night to buy video games. Something is just not right with that picture. [...]

Back in the days of the Roman empire, they had the great idea of keeping the masses quiet and controllable by making sure that they have plenty of two things - bread and circuses. Feed 'em and distract 'em and they will stay out of the way.

Feed their bodies and numb their minds. Has anything changed?

Draw your own conclusion.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

College Students Left Behind

Bush and his fellow Republicans talk big about the importance of getting a college education, but they don't back it up with money according to the EPI:
The College Board reported that Pell grants, one of the largest sources of federal help for low-income college students, have not kept up with college prices. [...] Pell Grants now cover only about a third of the average costs at a four-year public school, compared with 42% in 2001-02 and 57% in 1985-86. [...] Meanwhile, college costs (average published tuition, fees, and room and board (TFRB) charges) at four-year public colleges are up by about 25% from five years ago.

As a result, students are increasingly turning to loans to finance their post-secondary education. However, the helpfulness of government loans has also been declining. Subsidized loans under the Stafford Loan program declined from 69% of student borrowing in 1995-96 to 55% in 2005-06. On the other hand, the percentage of student loans borrowed through banks and other private institutions has significantly increased. These loans, which often carry higher interest rates and can be difficult to acquire for poor and minority students, constituted only 4% of student borrowing in 1995-96, but they account for up to 20% of all student loans in 2005-06.
I guess education takes a backseat to the war in Iraq that could end up costing $1 trillion dollars or plans to build a virtual fence along the U.S. border - a plan that could end up costing $30 billion.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Trade and offshoring important issues in election

HT: Voice of Mordor
Yesterday Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) voted for the badly flawed trade bill with Vietnam written by lobbyists.

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI) voted against this idiocy.
I guess Dave Camp didn't see Public Citizen's analysis of the election - or maybe he doesn't care what voters think.
From Florida to Hawaii and parts in between, pro-fair trade challengers Tuesday beat anti-fair trade incumbents, according to an analysis of the 2006 midterm results conducted by Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division. [...]

“This election changed the composition of Congress on trade to more closely represent U.S. public opinion. Congress needs a system for negotiating U.S. trade agreements – with a steering wheel and emergency brakes on negotiators – that delivers on the public’s expectations for a new trade policy that wins for American workers and farmers and does not harm the environment or food safety,”said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division.

Trade and offshoring were wedge issues actively used in 115 campaigns nationwide with 25 paid campaign ads run on trade and offshoring. Election exit polls conducted by CNN and The New York Times revealed that Americans’ anxiety about the economy and job security trumped Iraq war concerns.
Camp and other business friendly Republicans might want to rethink their positions on trade if they're serious about working with Democrats and answering voter's issues.
As Democrats prepare to take control of Congress, incoming leaders are planning to insert labor and environmental protections into pending trade treaties and to demand that the Bush administration adopt similar measures in future pacts it negotiates, congressional aides and government officials said yesterday. [...]

The shift on trade policy is a reaction to more than a dozen years of efforts by the Bush and Clinton administrations to boost trade by opening foreign markets to U.S. goods while allowing greater access to imports from China, Latin America and elsewhere.

The U.S. mood mirrors a world trend, as people on every shore grapple with the challenges of globalization. In Eastern Europe, former communists are returning to power, riding electoral discontent over the loss of jobs. South Korean farmers are protesting the prospect of imported U.S. rice if a free-trade deal is struck. From Ohio to Montana, incoming Democrats made trade an issue in the campaign, accusing Republicans of selling out American workers to corporate interests, and vowing to oppose further trade liberalization.

"For 20 years, we've been told, 'Don't worry, there's going to be a more sophisticated economy, an economy based on knowledge and information,'" said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, which represents U.S. factories, including textile mills in Southern states that have been ravaged by competition from China. "Manufacturing? Well, we can supposedly let that go, because we're going to get something better. Well, we've been waiting, and now we're making less money, and workers are told they have to give up health benefits and pensions and wondering, 'How am I going to make it?'"
The results of the election showed voter discontent and disenchantment over jobs moving overseas. How much clearer can voters be? If politicians want to hold onto their seats, they'd be wise to remember that or risk losing their jobs.

Related links:
Election pushes globalization to forefront
Vietnam Trade Bill Fails in U.S. Before Bush Visit
House defeats bill on Vietnam trade

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Economy Was an Issue on Election Day

Here's a study that contradicts the GOP talking heads that claim the economy is great everywhere except Michigan. The study was conducted on election night among union members by Hart Research Associates, one of the nation's leading survey research firms.
In exit polls taken across America on Election Day, respondents were asked about the importance of various issues and considerations in determining their votes. Among those who voted Democratic, three issues stood as the keys, all at a roughly equal level of importance: Iraq, corruption and scandals in Washington and the economy. [emphasis added]

Among the total electorate, 39 percent of voters said the economy was an extremely important issue for them in this election. These voters broke solidly for the Democrats—voting for a Democratic candidate in House races by a margin of 59 percent to 39 percent.

Similarly, 41 percent described the issue of corruption and ethics to be extremely important—with these voters also breaking 59 percent to 39 percent for the Democrats. Thirty-five percent of voters said the war in Iraq was extremely important in shaping their vote; this group split 60 percent to 40 percent in favor of the Democrats.
Republicans kept telling us the economy was strong, the stock market was doing great and jobs were plentiful across the nation (except for Michigan, of course). Why weren't voters convinced?
Polling conducted before the election shows the employment rate is not a good measure of Americans’ real confidence in the economy. A significant majority believe (rightly so) that the new jobs we added to the economy are not as good as the jobs we have lost, both in terms of pay and benefit. In polling conducted for the AFL-CIO, most Americans say that even if you get a good education and are willing to work hard, it is hard to find a job in today’s economy that is both secure and good paying.

The key number from the national exit polling is that only 31 percent of voters feel they and their families are able to get ahead financially in the current economy; the rest report that they are just keeping up or falling behind. The Republicans won handily in the election among the minority who feel they are doing well economically, but they suffered major losses among the majority of voters who don’t feel they are benefiting from Bush-onomics.
It's not just the present that has voters concerned. They're also worried about what the future holds for the next generation.
Just one in three voters said they expect life to be better for the next generation, while 40 percent said things for the next generation will be worse than they are today. Those who worry that the next generation will be worse off voted decisively for change on Election Day—siding with the Democrats over the Republicans by 66 percent to 32 percent.
So, what do working families across America expect from the new Congress? They want them to take action on a working families' agenda that includes protecting workers' wages and benefits in cases of corporate bankruptcies, requiring Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices, reforming trade agreements to protect workers' rights, raising the minimum wage and expanding health coverage.

Are you listening, Democrats? The voters delivered for you, now it's time for you to deliver for the voters - on all three issues.

New Company Policies

Dilbert must have been the inspiration behind this memo:
Company Policy: Effective Immediately

Dress Code: It is advised that you come to work dressed according to your salary. If we see you wearing Prada shoes and carrying a Gucci bag, we assume you are doing well financially and therefore do not need a raise. If you dress poorly, you need to learn to manage your money better so that you buy nicer clothes, and therefore you do not need a raise. If you dress just right, you are right where you need to be and therefore you do not need a raise.

Sick Days: We will no longer accept a doctor's statement as proof of sickness. If you are able to go to the doctor, you are able to come to work.

Personal Days: Each employee will receive 104 personal days a year. They are called Saturday & Sunday.

Bereavement Leave: This is no excuse for missing work. There is nothing you can do for dead friends, relatives or co-workers. Every effort should be made to have non-employees attend to the arrangements. In rare cases where employee involvement is necessary, the funeral should be scheduled in the late afternoon. We will be glad to allow you to work through your lunch hour and subsequently leave one hour early.

Toilet Use: Entirely too much time is being spent in the toilet. There is now a strict three-minute time limit in the stalls. At the end of three minutes, an alarm will sound, the toilet paper roll will retract, the stall door will open, and a picture will be taken. After your second offense, your picture will be posted on the company bulletin board under the "Chronic Offenders category." Anyone caught smiling in the picture will be sanctioned under the company's mental health policy.

Lunch Break: Skinny people get 30 minutes for lunch, as they need to eat more, so that they can look healthy. Normal size people get 15 minutes for lunch to get a balanced meal to maintain their average figure. Chubby people get 5 minutes for lunch, because that's all the time needed to drink a Slim-Fast.

Thank you for your loyalty to our company. We are here to provide a positive employment experience. Therefore, all questions, comments, concerns, complaints, frustrations, irritations, aggravations, insinuations, allegations, accusations, contemplations, consternation and input should be directed elsewhere.

The Management Team

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Automotive Musings

After repeated snubs, the president finally consented to meet with Detroit's automakers next week. Several topics are on the agenda according to the press.
Health care: Perhaps the single greatest threat to the automakers' finances, health care adds $900 to $1,400 to the cost of every vehicle GM, Ford and Chrysler make. [...]

Trade and currency: A chronic complaint of the domestic automakers -- the unfair advantage of a weak Japanese yen -- has grown in Detroit's executive suites as Toyota, Honda and Nissan rack up impressive profits.

Energy: [...] The Detroit automakers pledged earlier this year to double the number of vehicles they build annually that can run on 85% ethanol fuel, and have pushed for more incentives to spread E85 fueling stations.
Automakers are not opposed to unreasonable increases in fuel economy according to the DetNews, but "the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards have failed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, encourage mass transit or increase conservation. Drivers have responded to each improvement in fuel economy by driving bigger cars and trucks and driving them farther than ever before."

I'm hopeful something good will come out of this meeting with respect to health care, trade and currency issues, but I'm less optimistic about energy and the environment. CAFE standards are just one piece of the puzzle. As Eric Baerren says:
To the extent that environmental laws have been ignored or treated -- in the least -- as an annoyance or -- at most -- as an obstacle the last six years, some of the real damage has gone on behind the scenes ... appointments of industry hacks to watchdog positions, lax enforcement of laws on the books, politicizing science..., ruining our national parks, and just plain not wanting to spend the money.
And consumers haven't helped the problem either. We're a fickle bunch, as the results of those CAFE standards show. Increase the fuel economy and we drive more or buy bigger vehicles. Government, business and consumers all have to be on the same page if we truly want to clean up the environment and reduce our dependency on oil.

Consumers are finding more environmentally friendly choices in the marketplace though. Black Bear Speaks has a post about this cool car:
American Electric Vehicle Company in Ferndale, Michigan, will soon begin selling an all-electric car dubbed the "Kurrent" for $9,800 (with a $3,000 federal tax rebate). The car costs about 1-cent per mile to drive, compared to 14- to 16-cents per mile for an SUV.
And the DetNews recently reported the following:
General Motors Corp. is likely to unveil a prototype plug-in hybrid at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit as part of its company-wide focus on "electrifying" the car, GM officials said Thursday.

The advanced technology vehicle would have an extended driving range on battery power alone and would also have a diesel or gasoline engine that could power the car when the battery was low.
Of course, there are other vehicles out there, but I think we should all consider this sage advice:
Signing off on Thursday night's cable show, satirist Stephen Colbert read from a sheet of paper, as if to make a public-service announcement for someone who left his or her headlights on: "If anyone here is driving a black Ford Explorer ... thank you for buying American."
Hmm... Colbert advocates buying American and Consumer Reports touts, "The quality of [American] cars has improved dramatically." I have to admit I didn't need convincing though. My husband and I have always bought American-made vehicles. We believe in supporting the industries that helped build this country.

Besides, as General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz recently said: Foreign automakers that build cars in the United States help the economy, "but it's not the same as a fully integrated American auto company that retains the intellectual property in the United States, has primarily American shareholders... so the wealth gets reinvested in the U.S."

That additional wealth could go a long way toward developing alternative fuel vehicles here in this country.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lessenberry on Nancy Pelosi

Once again, Jack Lessenberry says what the MSM should have been saying right along. This time he's talking about Nancy Pelosi:
For weeks, desperate Republicans have bleated that they needed to keep control of the House of Representatives to save the nation from having Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House. They've done their damnedest to demonize her as a scary, shrill, far-left bitch from hell.

To my mild amazement, this character assassination has gone virtually unchallenged by the sleepwalking national media. In fact, you'd think the media should be going nuts touting Pelosi, the Democrats' first-ever female congressional leader, especially if she is going to be speaker.

Pelosi is clearly smart and savvy; she'd have to be, to get to the top in the male-dominated world of Washington. Not to mention that she is reasonably attractive, always a plus in a world dominated by television.

Don't be surprised if she actually proves to be far more politically skilled than expected, doesn't try to nationalize our toothbrushes, and develops a following of her own. She is, after all, an Italian-American grandmother still on her first marriage, with no track record of e-mails to young boys.
It is curious that the Republicans don't recognize a person with real values, intelligence and integrity when they see one, isn't it? Lessenberry calls it a curious bit of sexism (I agree) or maybe it has something to do with the fact that she makes their man look bad.
Speaking of which, something nearly as mysterious is why the Democrats — and the irreverent media — didn't do more to satirize the current speaker. The embarrassing Dennis Hastert is a grossly fat man who walks like he is determined to prove that man really did evolve from the ape, and that he himself isn't too sure about whether he supports the transition. Barely articulate, shuffling and dim, Hastert has been the weakest speaker in at least a century.

There is a reason for that; he was never meant to be the real speaker at all. Hastert was merely supposed to be the errand boy and front man for Tom DeLay. Once Darth Vader was indicted and had to resign, Hastert was rudderless, taking what clues he could from the Bush White House.

The man who played House speaker on TV clearly didn't have a clue what to do when he was warned one of his tribe was salivating over teenage boys. One might almost wonder if it evoked nostalgic memories of Hastert's days as a high school wrestling coach. Someday, if we are lucky, and the planet isn't destroyed first, and if there is still fresh air and water, your children may ask you what the hell was wrong with the American people in the Bush era. [emphasis added]
If you figure out an answer to that question, you can write Jack Lessenberry at

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

How Will Inequality Change Under Democrats?

On Monday, San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President Janet Yellen said U.S. income inequality had risen to such a level that "there are signs that (it) is intensifying resistance to globalization, impairing social cohesion, and could, ultimately, undermine American democracy."
In language rare for a central bank official, Yellen suggested that high priority be given to improving education, tax credits and other aspects of the social safety net, despite the cost in dollars and possible impact on economic efficiency, according to the text of her lecture at the University of California, Irvine.

"Inequality has risen to the point that it seems to me worthwhile for the U.S. to seriously consider taking the risk of making our economy more rewarding for more of the people," Yellen said. [...]

Yellen said inequality is higher in the USA than in other industrial nations and the safety net less generous.
How might that inequality change now that voters have delivered the House (and hopefully the Senate) into Democrats hands?

USA Today believes Democratic leaders in the House will make reducing college costs a top priorty.

The economic experts at CNN Money predict that in the next two years the Democrats are unlikely to make any major tax moves that would increase taxes or otherwise unravel President Bush's tax cuts because there will be an emphasis on pragmatism (and they also believe that President Bush would just veto any repeal of his tax cuts). However, they do think Congress will pass AMT relief for 2007, and "a number of promised tax break extenders excluded from the tax relief bill passed this spring. Key among them are the research and development credit for businesses, a deduction for college tuition and a welfare-to-work credit."

There is one group of people who shouldn't look for any help though - the wealthy - and in particular Dick DeVos and the other 18 families who fought to eliminate the estate tax. Here's what they should expect:
Repeal of the estate tax, a top priority of the Bush administration, doesn't stand a chance with Democrats in control of the House. But the prospects for legislation that would limit the tax to the super-wealthy are much improved, tax analysts say.
Ouch! It appears that DeVos and his wealthy Republican friends lost more than just the election yesterday.

What Can't $40 Million Buy?

The governorship of Michigan! Incumbent Gov. Jennifer Granholm won reelection last night over her opponent Dick DeVos. Congratulations to Granholm, Stabenow and the numerous other Democrats who won. (The final tally isn't in yet, but it looks like Granholm won by about 14% over DeVos who spent $35 million of his own money on the election.)

I stayed up very late last night watching election returns so I'm on automatic pilot this morning, but I wanted to make a couple of comments about the election. First, DeVos based most of his campaign on Michigan's dismal economy, blaming it entirely on Granholm and insisting we were in a single state recession. Voters didn't buy that argument and could see for themselves what was happening across the nation. In fact, CNN reported that the economy nearly tied Iraq as the reason voters across the country came out to vote.

Michigan voters don't live in a bubble. We all have family and friends in other states struggling just like we are to hold onto the American Dream. So, in spite of all the ads and robocalls, we knew who was really to blame for our economy - Bush and his fellow Republicans.

Finally, I think the fact that the DeVos family is one of the largest contributors to the Republican Party turned voters off. From abortion and stem cells to welfare and the minimum wage, DeVos was in lockstep with Bush and the GOP. Yesterday's election showed what Americans think about Bush and his party - and Michigan showed DeVos what we think about him.

It's too bad he didn't spend his $35 million on something that would have really helped the citizens of Michigan instead of all those robocalls and commercials.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Read This - Then Get Out and Vote!

Need a reason to vote? Michigan Caucus sums it up nice and neat:
We're asking you to vote out of spite. That's right, we don't generally give a shit about all the altruistic crap, we're just looking to stuff it up the noses of the liars who been running this country since they installed Bush as their titular head, er, president, and are looking to install a quack "businessman" as the governor of this once progressive state.

Vote because "they" are the assholes and you're not.
Update: If you're still trying to decide how to vote, Eric @ Among the Trees does an excellent job of discussing the ballot and his choices. I thought he did a particularly good job of explaining why he voted for Granholm and not DeVos:
[...] Dick DeVos scares the living daylights out of me. It's not just that he supports cutting revenue without letting us know how he'd pay for crucial government services. It isn't his ties to rightwing Christian organizations devoted to unsecularizing the public square. It isn't his yawning ignorance of science, or his belief that Intelligent Design belongs in the science classroom. It's not that his administration would be an environmental disaster.

It's his Amway past. He made his money from people swindled over the American Dream.
Eric had more to say so click the link to read the rest, and check out his posts from earlier today too for updated information.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Two Guys and Bush Talk to Voters

Joe and Jim are in South Philly with a cardboard cutout of George W. Bush to give voters an opportunity to tell the president what they think.

No wonder the president looked a little stiff. He spent the day listening to comments like this:
President Bush, I don’t want my son growing up in the world you’re creating.

[HT: AFL-CIO Blog]

Extremism Splits Michigan Republicans

There's a far-right insurgency taking place in Michigan according to Hans Johnson at In These Times and it's being nurtured by Dick & Betsy DeVos, Mike Cox, Gary Glenn and Tim Walberg - Michigan's own version of the Taliban.
Middle America Confronts Its Own Taliban - Extremism Splits Michigan Republicans

One decade ago, in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, Michigan took a critical look at the extremists in its midst. The Michigan Militia, to which bomber Tim McVeigh and accessory Terry Nichols had connections, threatened in 1994 to launch a statewide antigay ballot measure, led by adherent George Matousek. But scrutiny followed, the measure fizzled and the militia fell apart. Matousek—who bragged of his large stash of guns as well as his membership in the John Birch Society, the racist Christian Identity movement and the Republican Party—passed away in late October near Bay City. Now another group of extremists with an ominous track record and no plan for economic development is seeking legitimacy and power.

The state is struggling to renew its economy after several manufacturing hits in the Bush years. To stop the exodus of talented, fair-minded professionals from the state, leaders at every level, especially Republicans, must take a clear look at what’s happening to their state and its image. They should approach defeating religious extremists as both a moral and community imperative and as an economic development issue.

Indeed, Michigan Republicans have a choice. They can confront the Taliban in their ranks and show them the door, or they can look on as Democrats tie them to scapegoating and stagnation, turn them out of office, and take the lead in keeping educated young people and entrepreneurs in the state. [all emphasis added]
Tomorrow's election will determine more than our next governor - it will also determine whether or not the extremists gain even more control. God help us if that happens.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Two Guys on Bush, CEOs, Offshoring & Life Inside the Limo

Straight-talking Joe and Jim wonder: Who does George Bush represent, and what's so American about CEOs sending jobs overseas and taking away workers' overtime?

Who's leading the way in corporate greed? The nation’s CEO-in-chief, of course...George W. Bush.

Or, as Jim says in describing Bush: He never met a CEO he didn’t like.

After all, says Jim: Life is beautiful inside the limo.

[HT: AFL-CIO blog]

Granholm takes 3 to 1 endorsement lead over DeVos

From what I can see, Gov. Granholm is leading her opponent Dick DeVos 3 to 1 in newspaper endorsements. The Alpena News, Petoskey News Review, Grand Haven Tribune, Port Huron Times-Herald and Central Michigan Life all endorsed Governor Granholm yesterday.
Granholm is the best choice...The DeVos campaign has been more about public relations than it has been about issues and specific answers...- The Grand Haven Tribune

Granholm can lead state to better times... As tempting as it may be to replace her, Michigan needs a leader who can speak to more than just business concerns. The state's turnaround must be inclusive - and Granholm stands a better chance of ensuring the state's poor and low-income residents won't bear an inordinate amount of the sacrifice. - Port Huron Times-Herald [emphasis added]

Granholm right choice for governor...Gov. Jennifer Granholm has been good to Northeast Michigan in general and Alpena in particular, and because of that, she receives our endorsement in re-election efforts. - The Alpena News

Choose Granholm: But the reality is it’s not Granholm’s fault. Michigan’s dependence on the dwindling automotive industry has crippled the state’s economy. Plants have shut down; thousands have lost work. In response, Granholm has created a Jobs Fund initiative which will pour more than $2 billion into new sectors including alternative energy and the life sciences. Granholm also inherited a state with a $4 billion deficit and has had to work during her first term to pull ahead. Starting over is not what our state needs. Voters will be investing in the future of Michigan by voting to re-elect Granholm. - Central Michigan Life
It's not just newspapers either. Dozens and dozens of organizations have thrown their endorsements her way too (see the list below). I know some people don't put much stock in endorsements, but when editorial boards and organizations are predominately throwing their support behind Granholm that tells me something - Granholm is the right choice for Michigan.

Michigan Education Association
MI Assoc. of Police Organizations
Detroit Police Officers Association
The Detroit Lieutenants and Sergeants Association
MI State Police Troopers Assoc.
The State Police Command Officers Association
MI Police Labor Council
MI State Police Command Officers Assoc.
Warren Police Officers Assoc.
The Flint Police Officers Association
Triangle Pride PAC
AFT (Formerly the Michigan Federation of Teachers & School Related Personel)
Clean Water Action
Building Trades Council
Int'l Union of Operating Engineers
MI Credit Union League
MI Professional Firefighters Assoc.
MI Regional Council of Carpenters PAC
MI State Building Trades
MI Teamsters
SEIU Michigan State Council
United Auto Workers (UAW)
United Food And Commercial Workers
MI Corrections Org.
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union
Change to Win
Detroit Federation of Teachers
MI Agri-Business Assoc.
The Black Slate
Polish Citizens for Equality (PACE)
Truth Lutheran Church
Sierra Club
International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324
Greater Detroit and Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council
Laborers' International Assoc. of North America
MI Machinists
MI Laborers Assoc.
MI State Employees Assoc.
Plumbers & Pipefitters Assoc.
UFCW Local 878
UFCW Local 951
Unite Here
Sierra Club
Macomb County Elected Officials
MI Nurses Association
National Women's Political Caucus
Midland Gladwin Central Labor Council AFL-CIO
Michigan Concrete Paving Association
MI Equality PAC
Muslim Community PAC

Don't let anyone kick sand on your right to participate in the democratic process.

The election will soon be in our hands and there are plenty of reasons to worry. Christine Barry tells us Republican Vote Fraud Has Already Started and Michigan’s Voting Equipment Can Be Hacked in Minutes, but please, don't let that prevent you from exercising your right to vote.

Here's what you need to know according to UAW President Ron Gettelfinger:
[...] there's no reason to let anyone deny you your right to vote. There are many ways to ensure that you exercise your fundamental right to cast a ballot for the candidates of your choice on Election Day.

A new federal law, the Help America Vote Act of 2004, guarantees a provisional ballot to voters whose names do not appear on the registration rolls. So even if an election worker claims that you are not eligible to vote, you have the right to cast a ballot. If it is later determined that you are eligible, your vote will be counted.

In Michigan, you are not required to provide identification to vote, unless you are a first-time voter who registered by mail and did not provide verification of your identity when you registered. In that case, numerous forms of photo or non-photo ID are acceptable, including a driver's license, a student ID or even a recent utility bill.

Your voting rights include:

# The right to vote free from harassment. No one can harass or intimidate you while you are voting. For example, there is no reason for anyone to ask you about child support, debts or any other matter in a polling place.

The election officials at your polling station are obligated to protect you from harassment. If there's a problem, voters can call a nationwide Election Protection Lawyer Hotline, (866) OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683), to report harassment and other election abuses.

# Sample ballot or endorsement card. You have the right to carry voting materials into the polling booth.

# Right to vote when polls close. If you are in line when the polls officially close, you have the right to vote.

# Right to take your time. Don't be rushed by others in line or poll workers.

# Right to correct mistakes. If you think you've made a mistake before casting a ballot on paper or on an electronic touch-screen machine, you can ask for help and a new ballot.

# Right to assistance. A disability or the inability to read or write does not prevent an American from voting. You may have a person of your choosing -- in Michigan, not an employer or union agent -- help you cast a ballot. You also have the right to see a sample ballot and be instructed on the voting process.
We have to be especially vigilant in dense urban areas according to blogger Blognonmous, and we need to be proactive:
And where will these shenanigans hit the hardest? In dense urban areas where higher voter volumes are handled at each precinct. Unfortunately for us, these are also the districts where Democrats are strongest and where the GOP can benefit most from dampening turnout.

So what do we have to do? Remain vigilant and document, Document, DOCUMENT!!! It's not enough to provide anecdotal evidence of election fraud. We need the proof! So carry a camera with you to the polls and photograph your ballot, the screen, whatever. And, if you experience a screwup, DOCUMENT IT!!! Write down what happened, get photographs. Don't let election workers intimidate you.
Take this advice and information and share it with everyone you know, because, as Ron Gettelfinger says:
Rights, it has been said, are like muscles: They work best when exercised. Don't let anyone kick sand on your right to participate in the democratic process.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

What Has Bush Done for Working People?

Joe and Jim are fired up again! Remember that measly $300 check Bush sent us the first year? Yeah, right. How much did that help your family?

Come to think about it, what have any Republicans done for working people?

Before you vote next Tuesday, check out the AFL-CIO’s Congressional Voting Record site to see how often (or not) your representatives and senators voted for working family issues.

The 2006 Student Mock Election

Sorry this is last minute, but I heard from Andrew McFarlane @ Absolute Michigan that his site will be webcasting the student mock election live from Leland School from 9 AM until noon. Leland is also the state site and will be tabulating all the results for all of the Michigan student mock elections. The webcast will also be replayed several times at over the next week or so.

Andrew's daughter is a student at Leland and he says the kids are very proud and excited of how the school looks and what they have been able to set up there. Andy believes that the passion for democracy and citizenship is kindled at a young age and that these mock elections provide fantastic fuel to start that fire.

I agree, Andy. I can remember participating in a mock election when I was young (Margaret Chase Smith was on the ballot, so that tells you how old I am) and it taught me how important it is to read up on the issues and candidates before voting.

Click here to see young democracy in action and show your support.

Michigan Daily: Go With Granholm

From the Daily: Go with Granholm
While Michigan certainly could stand for serious changes, it would be a terrible mistake to assume that the current situation would improve under DeVos's leadership. Indeed, governors have relatively little influence over the performance of a state's economy, particularly in the short term. No matter who wins next Tuesday, the unpleasant reality is that the decay of Michigan's manufacturing base will likely continue.

Although Granholm has often lacked political courage during the past four years, DeVos's extremely conservative social views and unsound plans for running the state represent a dangerous model for change - one Michigan voters should reject.

DeVos would like voters to see him as a successful businessman with the ability and experience to whip Michigan's economy back into shape. While DeVos's large fortune might lend some credence to his claim of business prowess, the pseudo-pyramid scheme business model behind Amway isn't terribly relevant to running a state government. DeVos hopes residents will assume business leadership is wholly transferable to political leadership - perhaps because he has no real experience in government. DeVos sat on the state Board of Education for two years of an eight-year term before resigning, and he quit his seat on the board of Grand Valley State University in 2000 after missing 16 of 27 meetings.[...]

DeVos is simply the wrong man for the job, and the Daily endorses JENNIFER GRANHOLM for governor.
By the way, DeVos has a long history of being a quitter. Check out his resume.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Outsourcing Our Energy Future

Those on the right won't consider the outsourcing of Vice-President Gore to Britain as a loss, but he symbolizes how our country is throwing away its energy future according to Tom Engelhardt:
Do you get the feeling that every project the United States might once have undertaken is now either outsourced or simply handed over to others elsewhere on the planet? GM and Ford, for instance, took the SUV money and ran, handing over the market in fuel-efficient cars, and part of our economic future, to Japanese and other foreign automakers. Now, it turns out that the federal government has done both of those companies one better.

In a front-page piece in Monday's New York Times, "Budgets Falling in Race to Fight Global Warming," Andrew C. Revkin points out that, as the global energy crisis revved up, American dependence on foreign oil imports grew, and military research of all sorts rose by 260 percent, "annual federal spending for all energy research and development… is less than half what it was a quarter-century ago. It has sunk to $3 billion a year in the current budget from an inflation-adjusted peak of $7.7 billion in 1979."

Practically speaking, what that means is: From solar power to wind power, the US is ceding a lucrative energy future to other countries. Whatever breakthroughs might be achieved in alternative fuel development are ever less likely to happen here.
Just one more example of a lost opportunity Bush and friends squandered. Just one more example of how our country is losing it's edge. This is so frustrating because (according to Revkin) Thomas Edison discussed alternative fuels back in 1931:
Many scientists say the only real long-term prospect for significantly substituting for fossil fuels is a breakthrough in harvesting solar power. This has been understood since the days of Thomas Edison. In a conversation with Henry Ford and the tire tycoon Harvey Firestone in 1931, shortly before Edison died, he said: "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that."
It seems that greater "brains" than Edison decided it was better to get every last dollar out of oil before turning our attention elsewhere.

The 10 Types of Republicans

Hat-tip to Tom Paine for this gem: The Dipshit Doodlebug Institute takes an in-depth look at the Republican Party and breaks it down into 10 distinct types.

Hmm...DeVos could be Mr. Moneybags (or maybe Mr. Bibleton or Mr. Log Cabin) and I've certainly run across my share of Numbnuts and Contrarians.