Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Timeline of Lies

Check it out! Mother Jones has a new timeline about the history of the Iraq War that answers the question: What did our leaders know and when did they know it?

Lie by Lie: Chronicle of a War Foretold: August 1990 to March 2003

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

See Dick Run

Thanks to Rolfe in comments for bringing this to my attention. Enjoy!

Check It Out!

The Detroit News (aka The DeVos News) has a great weblog that I encourage you to check out. I'll warn you in advance that it leans to the far right for the most part, but a few brave liberal bloggers hang in there and do a great job of unspinning the spin.

Libby Spencer is one of my favorites. She's been there from the beginning and gets more than her fair share of nasty comments, which tells me she's doing a great job! Anyway, here's a sample of her work:
The Republican nightmare - a Democratic November sweep:

Deb Price at the Detroit News points out, if the Democratic Party wins big in November, it will change the face of Congress. There will be a lot more African-Americans in charge. For one, Michigan's own John Conyers would head up the Judiciary Committtee.

The thought of a black man holding the President accountable for his actions, has the White Republicans in a tizzy.
I'll bet it does, especially since Black Americans are far more likely to say certain issues, most tied to personal finances, are "very important" to them personally than are whites. (Click the link and check out the sidebar source.)

A newcomer to the weblog is Christine Barry, who happens to hail from Michigan, has her own blog, and knows local politics inside and out. If her first post is any indication of what's to come, the DeVos campaign is definitely in a tizzy - she ripped him up one side and down the other!
Bah! Dick’s Big Fat Honda Lie

Why is Dick DeVos constantly in my face with all these lies about Granholm & Honda?

Lie, the first: “In Michigan, we're tearing down auto plants” … Bah! Hyundai, Nissan, Ford, GM, and Mitsubishi/Daimler Chrysler have invested in research, development, design, and manufacturing facilities throughout Michigan.

Lie, the second: “Indiana’s Governor pursued Honda for over a year” … Bah! Indiana pursued Honda and other Japanese companies for over 20 years by maintaining a trade office there. (Even Indiana's Governor Daniels said “The ties between Indiana and Japan are decades old”.) Ohio has also had a trade office in Japan for over a decade. Michigan used to have one … but Governor John Engler closed our office there in order to give us a tax cut. (yep, that’s the same Gov who left us with $3 billion deficit)

Lie, the third: “Gov. Granholm was blindsided, only got interested at the 11th hour.” … Bah! Granholm met with Honda in 2005, nearly a year before Honda made their announcement. Her team met with them again in 2006.
You get the idea. Go read her post to see what other lies she calls him on and then click on the links that back up her claims. After $14 million dollars and months of campaigning from DeVos, Christine sums him up in a nutshell:
Lies about the Governor, lies about the economy, lies about the media, lies about the auto industry in Michigan.

Come on, Dick. Treat me to an honest face sometime.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Calling Dr. Phil for the GOP

Oh-oh, the values party is having trouble behind closed doors, and some within their ranks may soon be headed for a breakup. Ron Chusid @ Liberal Values points to one example of discord from a journalist at the New York Times:
Frank Tierney has written about yet another group, South Park Refugees. Andrew Sullivan previously labeled them South Park Republicans, however they no longer look like they plan to vote Republican. [...]

It turns out that the creators of the show are actually libertarians, and not the type of libertarian who goes along with the GOP:
"We're the long-suffering, battered spouse in a dysfunctional political marriage of convenience,"” said Nick Gillespie, the editor in chief of Reason. "Most of the libertarians I know have given up on the G.O.P. The odds that we'’ll stick around for the midterm election are about as good as the odds that Rick Santorum will join the Village People."” [emphasis mine]
In the past the Republicans received support from libertarians who were fooled into believing their rhetoric supporting small government, freedom, and the free market. Once they took power, however, Republicans have become the party of big government, a more authoritarian government, and corporate welfare instead of capitalism. Increasingly libertarians are considering voting for Democrats or staying home rather than voting Republican. This includes many of the people the Republicans thought were South Park Republicans.
It's not just the voters who are disillusioned. David Broder said incumbents are starting to see their marriage with the GOP in a different light too.
For all of them, service in this Congress has turned out to be a handicap rather than a benefit to their chances of advancement. The reason was explained in blunt terms by the Republican governor of one of the states where a congressman of his party is struggling for statewide office. "What has this Congress done that anyone should applaud?" he asked scornfully. "Nothing on immigration, nothing on health care, nothing on energy -- and nothing on the war. They deserve a good kick in the pants, and that's what they're going to get."
It certainly doesn't help when some GOP family members run around making racist comments or accusing others of having lost their minds. And to make matters worse, some EX-family members are even admitting they lied for the White House. Geesh! Didn't Karl tell you people not to air the family's dirty laundry in public? (That's okay though - Karl's not worried. The Republicans just picked up Tom Cruise for their team.)

I would have said the party had a chance to reconcile their differences a couple of months back, but the situation has now gone from bad to worse. Republicans are now supporting Democrats. (No, not Lieberman.)
GRAND RAPIDS - A Republicans for Granholm committee, a big-tent grass roots effort, supporting the re-election of Governor Jennifer Granholm, was announced today during a 4-city press briefing tour by Chairman Gil Ziegler, a former Republican Candidate for U.S. Congress.

"I am a Republican, and will continue to be one,"” Ziegler said. "“But after careful and thoughtful consideration, I have concluded that the best course for our State of Michigan is to re-elect Governor Granholm."

"As an automotive supplier, no one needs to tell me that Michigan has taken some hard hits in its manufacturing economy,"” Ziegler said. "“But Governor Granholm has strategies in place to bring us through this difficult period, with a stronger and more diverse economy in the future."

Ziegler pointed to Governor Granholm'’s "“21st Century Jobs Fund" as one example, an innovative investment strategy which won bipartisan support from the Michigan Legislature. He also cited the Governor's grappling with a state budget which she balanced without raising income or corporate taxes. He also noted that Granholm has signed 59 tax cuts into law.

"This was a hard decision,"” said Ziegler. "“I'’m going to disappoint some people in the Republican party. But, those are the extremists in the party who want to block stem-cell research and who turned out of office a good man like Congressman Joe Schwarz (MI-R 7th district)."”[all emphasis mine]
It doesn't surprise me that people are starting to push back against the far right, but it does surprise me it took them so long. Sadly, as Ziegler points out, their reluctance to speak up sooner hurt some good people, but it also cost them something even more valuable - trust. Once you've squandered that trust it's hard to earn it back - just ask someone who's been in an abusive relationship.

UPDATE: The Impolitic had something to add to this list of unhappy Republicans.
First Bush lost the WalMart women. That's a heavy blow for the GOP. But now it seems, he's also lost the Beauty Parlor moms.
As you might expect, the war is a big issue with these moms:
At Natalie's Beauty Shoppe, they talk about Katrina, about Roe v. Wade, about religion, but the conversation always comes back to Iraq. These Vietnam-era moms are now worried about their grandchildren. And then my mother said something I hadn't heard before:

"If they had sons, this would be different."

My mom's a little old-fashioned and still thinks of the armed forces as male. But it's true that when it come to close combat, America's boys take the brunt of it. And between George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, there are seven children, six of them daughters.

Monday, August 28, 2006

About That Single State Recession

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was in Michigan over the weekend to attend the state Republican convention. He also brought a commitment of $750,000 from the Republican Governor's Association for issue ads aimed at showing voters how poorly the state has fared under Democratic leadership.
"Michigan is undergoing a single-state recession," Romney said. "This initial commitment is being made by the RGA in order to talk about creating jobs and other important issues facing the people of Michigan.
This is the same propaganda the DeVos campaign has been circulating:
Michigan's worst-in-the-nation economy is headed even further in the wrong direction. ... Meanwhile, the rest of the nation is creating millions of new jobs, encouraging strong investment and helping businesses to expand.
Actually, the rest of the nation is NOT doing that well under Republican rule:
Monthly job growth since August 2003 is 50% lower than the average of President Clinton's entire term. Since August 2003, job growth has averaged 160,000 per month. During Clinton's eight years in office job growth averaged 236,000 per month.

Real wages have fallen since August 2003. The average worker's real wages were twenty cents lower in June 2006 than they were in August 2003.
And what about that single state recession they keep talking about? Our neighbors to the south aren't doing any better - and they have a Republican governor!

Ohio No. 1 -- in job losses
The 217,000 jobs that vanished from all of Ohio's goods-producing industries between 1997 and last year -- along with their $9.3 billion in average annual wages -- were the biggest losses of any state in the nation. The state's 15.7 percent decline in total average annual wages also ranked Ohio dead last.

Job losses aren't the only measure of Ohio's economic woes.

The state's gross state product generated by its goods-producing industries -- manufacturing, construction, farming, mining and other natural resources -- fell by nearly $9 billion from 1997 to 2004, again the biggest drop of any state.

The rest of the state's economy -- the service-providing industries -- did manage to grow, but well below the national average and not enough to keep up with Ohio's growing work force. [...]

Worse yet, the new jobs paid considerably less than those lost. The average annual pay for goods-producing jobs was more than $46,000 last year, compared to $35,000 for service-sector workers.
The loss of those manufacturing jobs has a serious effect on the middle-class according to Alan Tonelson, a researcher with the United States Business & Industry Council, a Washington-based advocacy group representing medium and small manufacturers.
"Manufacturing is the only sector that has had large-scale success in taking someone with average skills and schooling and providing them with a salary that will allow them to live middle-class lives," said Tonelson, who wrote the book, Race to the Bottom: Why a Worldwide Worker Surplus and Uncontrolled Free Trade are Sinking American Living Standards.

"Those jobs help support much of the economy."
Unfortunately, Tonelson believes the full effect of the Ford and GM cuts have not started to be felt yet in Ohio. He thinks the state will be very hard hit by them.

Change takes time, especially in a state where the economy is heavily tied to one industry, as it is in Michigan. However, Granholm's job plan is succeeding in creating and retaining jobs, and other people are beginning to take notice.
In truth, parts of Michigan are doing well, including this area in the northwest corner of the Lower Peninsula, where more and more executives from Chicago and other big cities are living and working via Internet and cellphone, while enjoying the lakes and golf courses in their backyards. Ann Arbor and other university towns are also thriving, and some high-tech is beginning to arrive in the state, lured by new business incentives pushed by the governor.
Check it out yourself. The MEDC has a detailed list of jobs created across the entire state - not just the northwest corner of the Lower Peninsula.

In the end, the truth is what really matters to people, and Michigan's GOP has been less than truthful about Michigan's problems and who should bear the blame. Charles Ballard, professor of economics at Michigan State University, put the argument in its proper light:
"If Dick DeVos had been elected four years ago, the Michigan economy would look very much as it does now," Ballard said. "The percentage of the economy that's in manufacturing has been declining for half a century. That's not a blip, that's a trend. And if you're in a state like Michigan, which is much more involved in manufacturing than the average state, that's going to cause problems for you."
UPDATE: I guess great minds do think alike! Zack @ Pohlitics had this to say about Michigan's single state recession: It's basically a load of crap.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A West Coast Opinion of DeVos

Make that a west coast of Michigan opinion from Lew Scannon, who didn't hold back in his criticism of Dick DeVos.
The number one reason the automakers are hurting is a direct result of outsourcing, something that candidate DeVos has supported through donations to The Mackinac Center,the Acton Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Hudson Institute, all major foundations advocating outsourcing of American jobs.

Look at it this way: If a large corporation lays off 1500 American workers and outsources their jobs, the ripple effect across the economy is detrimental. 1500 people on lay-off aren't going to buy 1500 new cars, houses, furniture, or appliances. That means less orders for those, which means the manufacturers have to lay off people. Not only that, but the community suffers as well. Grocery stores don't sell as many groceries, bar and restaurant business slows, people forgo seeing the doctor because they can no longer afford it, so cuts have to be made in these fields as well. Now, the original company that outsourced the jobs finds it orders down, so it has to lay-off more workers, beginning the whole downward spiral again. [...]

DeVos likes to talk about leadership, and how our state needs a leader, neglecting to mention that he cut 1400 jobs as President of Amway, a company that has invested over $100 million in China over the past five years. So much for someone investing in Michigan's future. The only future DeVos cares about is his own.
What kinds of jobs has DeVos created here in Michigan? According to Lew...
Since leaving Amway, the only jobs DeVos has created, besides the time Betsy paid some people to protest outside Fountain Street Church while Michael Moore was inside giving a free speech, have been in the field of PAC's.

DeVos's pet project is getting public funding for private schools, either through vouchers or tax cuts. If he was really concerned about Michigan's future, he would put an effort into making our public schools better by putting tax money into, not taking it away from them.
What does Lew think about DeVos and the GOP?
Face it, if DeVos were really honest, he'd mention his connections to Bush and Tom Delay (who held a conference on DeVos's yacht), but he doesn't want voters to know the real Dick. Dick is a Republican, the same people who have been running the legislature for years. Granholm is not a unitary executive, she can only sign bills passed by the legislature. She inherited a budget deficit from John "Fat Boy" Engler, who in turn inherited a budget surplus from his predecessor Jim Blanchard. But the problem is not the politicians, it's the greedy bastards like Dick DeVos who have sacrificed Michigan's labor force so they can attain more wealth...
Lew also worked at Amway headquarters at one time. Click here to read about the "heckuva job" Amway did honoring the first anniversary of 9/11.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Seven Stages of Sex

I bet that title got your attention, right? I don't know if this true or not, but my sister-in-law claims that on a recent Oprah show Dr. Phil defined the seven stages (or kinds) of sex as follows:
  1. The 1st kind of sex is called: Smurf Sex. This kind of sex happens when you first meet someone and you both have sex until you are blue in the face.

  2. The 2nd kind of sex is called: Kitchen Sex. This is when you have been with your partner for a short time and you are so horny you will have sex anywhere, even in the kitchen.

  3. The 3rd kind of sex is called: Bedroom Sex. This is when you have been with your partner for a long time. Your sex has gotten routine and you usually have sex only in your bedroom.

  4. The 4th kind of sex is called: Hallway Sex. This is when you have been with your partner for too long. When you pass each other in the hallway, you both say "screw you."

  5. The 5th kind of sex is called: Religious Sex, which means you get Nun in the morning, Nun in the afternoon and Nun at night.

  6. The 6th kind is called Courtroom Sex. This is when you cannot stand your spouse any more. He/she takes you to court and screws you right in front of everyone.

  7. And last, but not least, the 7th kind of sex is called: Social Security Sex. You get a little each month, but not enough to live on.
My husband wondered why "Pity Sex" and "7-11 Sex" didn't make the list. (I'll leave it up to you to define those!)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Answer to the $64,000 Question

The mailman brought my water bill today and I almost fainted when I saw the total, but then I remembered I wasn't the only one with problems. Last week, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson called the disconnect between the Bush administration's upbeat economic news and the public's downbeat attitude "the sixty-four thousand dollar question." He couldn't understand why consumer confidence was down.

Hmmm...(finger tapping...tap...tap...tap), maybe, just maybe, Clinton's former Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, has the answer:
[...] median annual household incomes have dropped, in real terms, from about $46,000 in the year 2000 to $45,000 today. Yet if American households had been sharing in the growing economy the Administration is so eager to tout, median household income today would be on the way to $64,000. Rarely before in history has the American economy grown so nicely without most Americans sharing in the growth. Corporate profits are fatter than they've been in years. What corporations aren't using for investment they're awarding to their top executives or distributing to their shareholders. [...]

Supply-side economics, meaning big tax cuts for the very wealthy, used to be called trickle-down economics on the assumption that some of the gains would be felt by average people. But in this economy nothing has been trickling down. The real sixty-four thousand dollar question is why the White House is puzzled that most Americans are so downbeat. [emphasis mine]
Leave it to a Democrat to come up with the answer!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sharing the Links

Here are a couple of links I thought might interest you. The first one is from LiberIL View:
These bumper stickers were compiled by Jerry Paull, a former Methodist minister in Lakeside, Ohio who writes: "The following actual bumper stickers are now on cars. I didn't write any of them. I'm only the messenger. If they make you laugh, good. If they make you cry, good."





LiberIL posted almost 40 bumper stickers, so click the link and enjoy the rest.

Finally, there's a rumor going around that Dick DeVos dropped out of the gubernatorial campaign. Click here to learn about Michigan's fate.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Reality From My Middle-Class Perspective

Stephen Colbert might have had Lieberman, Santorum and Bush in mind when he said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias." Consider the following from Tom Paine:
The day before the Connecticut primary, Joe Lieberman was getting down with the folks in a restaurant in Southington, a small town near Hartford. As the American Prospect reported, a longtime state employee named Paola Roy told Lieberman she felt the middle class has been forgotten by the federal government. Lieberman responded that he shared her concerns, and for good reason: "“I came out of the middle class," he said, "and, being a senator, I haven'’t gone much beyond the middle class." [emphasis mine]
What? Is Lieberman delusional? As the article points out, Lieberman and his wife made $366,084 in 2005, which places them securely in the top 1 percent of U.S. households, and they have financial assets (excluding their homes) somewhere between $465,000 and $1.9 million. That doesn't sound middle class to me. Moving along...
Then there's Rick Santorum. In a New York Times profile last year, Santorum moped about the difficulty of supporting his large family on his senatorial salary of $162,100:

"We live paycheck to paycheck, absolutely," he says. Does he have money set aside for college? "No. None. I always tell my kids: 'Work hard. We'll take out loans. Whatever.'"

In fact, continued Santorum, his parents "send a check every now and then. They realize things are a little tighter for us."

According to Santorum's 2005 financial disclosure documents, his parents recently did more then send a check: They gave him two condominiums near Penn State. And while his children may be sad about their lack of a college fund, hopefully they take solace in the fact their family now owns five condominiums total as investments - each valued between $100,000 and $250,000.
I guess those five condos solve the college tuition dilemma, huh? Santorum is probably worrying for nothing. After all, President Bush had this to say about the economy on Monday:
"If I were a candidate ... I'd say, 'Look at what the economy has done. It's strong. We've created a lot of jobs. ... I'd be telling people that the Democrats will raise your taxes. That's what they said. I'd be reminding people that tax cuts have worked in terms of stimulating the economy."
On the other, reality shows a totally different picture. Consider these facts from Robert Kuttner:
The system is now essentially rigged so that workers' productivity can rise, but workers' incomes can't. A study prepared last month for Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee and released by Representative Barney Frank of Newton showed that since 2002 annual productivity growth has averaged more than 3 percent, while real wage increases have been under half of 1 percent. Corporate profits, meanwhile, have risen from 8.5 percent to 14.4 percent of national income.

Whenever wages show signs of rising with productivity, the Federal Reserve whacks them back down. It shows no such concern about corporate profits being excessive. Until this month, when the Federal Reserve announced a "pause" in rate hikes, our central bank had hiked interest rates 17 times since June 2004, citing fears of inflation, mainly in rising labor costs. But note the sleight of hand. If workers' wages are lagging well behind workers' increased productivity, then rising wages are not a source of inflation. [Emphasis mine.] The rising "total labor costs" include pensions and health insurance. Doesn't that benefit workers? In fact, the increase in recent employer contributions to pension plans is mainly to make up for the corporate looting of plans during the 1990s. ... The replenishing of fund shortfalls in recent years is not a source of true worker compensation -- and it can hardly be burdensome given the huge increase in net corporate profits.

The hike in employer health insurance costs, likewise, is not a true benefit for workers. It reflects a health system out of control, and excessive charges and profits by health maintenance organizations and drug companies. Actual health insurance benefits to workers are being cut back... Corporations generally are hiking the employee share of premiums, and plans are increasing deductibles and copayments.
The situation is even worse for blacks. A look at U.S. Census data shows that not only is the income gap still widening, but African-Americans are faring worse under Bush than they were under President Clinton.

And what about all those jobs that Bush bragged his administration created? Here's another dose of reality:
Monthly job growth since August 2003 is 50% lower than the average of President Clinton's entire term. Since August 2003, job growth has averaged 160,000 per month. During Clinton'’s eight years in office job growth averaged 236,000 per month.

Real wages have fallen since August 2003. The average worker'’s real wages were twenty cents lower in June 2006 than they were in August 2003.
The scenario looking ahead isn't any better according to USA Today: "Employees can expect raises next year that are only slightly better than years past, and much of the gains will be eaten up by inflation."

That's just great, well at least we still have the housing market to depend on, right? Wrong. The housing market is starting to set off a few alarms too. Economists are starting to call home sales ugly, and the slowdown in the once-sizzling housing market is spreading, "with 28 states and the District of Columbia reporting spring sales declines, led by big drops in former boom areas of Arizona, Florida and California. Nationally, sales were down 7 percent in the April-June quarter this year compared with the same period in 2005, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday in its latest state-by-state look at housing conditions around the country."

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this: [...] as yet another fiscally irresponsible and reckless session of Congress winds down, we find ourselves confronting a half-trillion dollar war (so far); a massive, multibillion dollar Gulf Coast rebuilding effort; a looming energy crisis; a $260 billion deficit and an $8.5 trillion national debt.

Or this: Stagflation is making a comeback.

I'm sorry, but I have to say this. The reality from my middle-class perspective is that Bush and his fellow Republican's have very little to brag about - and I'm being liberal when I say that.

Monday, August 21, 2006

DeVos' Nose Continues to Grow

I swear, DeVos is going to end up with a nose longer than Pinocchio's by election day. He's been called on the rug twice before by the Lansing State Journal and the Detroit Free Press for misrepresenting them and twisting their words, and his latest attack ad quickly brought responses from the media and bloggers that pointed out his blatant lies.

In spite of being soundly slapped down, the ads continue to air across Michigan. One point DeVos continues to push is that Granholm never went to Japan to meet with Honda officials when they were in their early stages of considering where to build their new plant. Well, Dick, pictures don't lie, and the Granholm team has the pictures to back up their words.
On July 29th, 2005, Governor Granholm traveled to Honda Motor Company's headquarters in Tokyo, Japan and gave her Michigan sales pitch to Hiroyuki Yoshino, Honda's Director and Advisor, and Hiroshi Oshima, the head of Honda's Corporate Communications. During her 2005 Japan jobs mission, she met with representatives of 150 Japanese automotive, biotech, and human sciences companies, landing firm commitments from 10 companies that are investing $116 million in Michigan.

In the past four years, she has convinced almost every other major automotive company -- including Nissan, GM, Ford, Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Toyota -- to make significant investments in Michigan. Unlike the previous administration (which did not court Honda and in fact stood by as the company built infrastructure and plants in other states), Governor Granholm made a strong pitch.
How do you explain that, Dick? You've refused to take a position on issue after issue, and now you're being called on the carpet again for lying. Call this woman's intuition, but it seems to me you don't really have anything of substance to offer voters.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Just Michigan

Here's a treasure trove of information to keep you informed on some of the issues and people here in Michigan. The first batch of links all relate to the $1.9 billion Single Business Tax cut our Republican legislators recently passed without a plan to replace the revenue:

From Michigan Liberal, "Interesting phenomenon I noticed in today's papers: across Michigan, Republican legislators who rammed through a $1.9 billion business tax cut (without saying how they plan to pay for it) are whining that Governor Granholm line-item vetoed their pork barrel projects. Here's a few I've uncovered so far..."

Editorials have been extremely critical of their actions:

Muskegon Chronicle: Tell voters where $1.9 billion will come from.

Add the Jackson Citizen-Patriot to the list of Bush-endorsing newspapers crying foul over the Legislature's unfunded, "pay later" $1.9 billion business tax cut...

Along with the Ann Arbor News, Saginaw News, and Kalamazoo Gazette who all blast the $1.9 billion business tax cut.

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services added their 2 cents too.
[They] revised the outlook to negative and affirmed its 'AA' rating on Michigan's GO bonds. The revised outlook reflects the Legislature's recent repeal of the state's single business tax, effective Jan. 1, 2008. The repeal of the $1.9 billion tax creates a structural imbalance for fiscal 2008 that exceeds any one-year imbalance that the state faced during the prior recession.
Okay, so our legislature isn't too bright when it comes to finances, at least we can depend on them to safeguard our voting rights - or maybe not.

The voter registration you currently hold...may be cancelled.

Ohhh, that doesn't sound good, and neither does this: Muskegon Chronicle takes note of SOS postcards.
Trust us when we will tell you not to take for granted your voting status for the upcoming and exciting gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, and state and local races this fall.
Moving along to the governor's race, DeVos has been in the media quite a bit too:

Media takes note of DeVos mudslinging in Honda attack ad.

Tim Skubick: Enough excuses from DeVos.

DeVos Crashes Coast Guard Festival, and the Grand Haven Tribune was not amused:
We believe that DeVos' appearance at the parade was inappropriate. He should have found another time to visit our city.

The festival should be void of politics. We're honoring the men and women of the Coast Guard - not people seeking political office.
DeVos might have confused the Coast Guard parade with those mercenaries who work for his brother-in-law, Erik Prince: DeVos Sponsors Field Trip to Blackwater HQ

Geesh! All this mudslinging and deceit makes my head spin. Thank heavens for the Truth Squad. Right now it features a detailed, factual response to DeVos' latest ad, which blatantly lies about Honda's decision to invest in Indiana to attack the Governor.

Okay, it's time to move onto something else; politics is giving me a headache. These next links contain information that could end up on Jeopardy someday:

In spite of some reports, the news isn't all doom and gloom: Census: Michiganders hate to leave.
Ken Darga, Michigan's state demographer, said that contrary to popular belief, the young, college-education population isn't leaving the state in larger numbers than other states. Michigan has the lowest out-migration of any state for those 25-34, he said.
Exxon raked in $10 billion in profits in the 3rd quarter of 2005. The entire state of Michigan has an annual budget of $9 billion. (Click the link to read about priorities in our country.)

Finally, click on this link and learn how to spread this information around. 5 Ways To Promote Your Liberal Blog. The truth is depending on you.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Corporate Culture of Fear

I thought I'd share some information I came across this week concerning two of my favorite (cough-cough) companies. I'll start with Wal-Mart first. Jonathan Tasini at Working Life posted this earlier in the week:
You almost want to say "duh" after reading the front-page story in today's New York Times about the Democrats catching the anti-Wal-Mart wave. Here are the two key paragraphs:
The focus on Wal-Mart is part of a broader strategy of addressing what Democrats say is general economic anxiety and a growing sense that economic gains of recent years have not benefited the middle class or the working poor.

Their alliance with the anti-Wal-Mart campaign dovetails with their emphasis in Washington on raising the minimum wage and doing more to make health insurance affordable. It also suggests they will go into the midterm Congressional elections this fall and the 2008 presidential race striking a populist tone.
Don't you love the weak-knees of the Times reporters who can only say "a growing sense" that working people have been screwed by the economy. Those are simply facts, which should have been laid out in the article.
If the NY Times needs help finding those facts, Tasini's blog is a good place to start. Here's a bit of information he recently posted that bolsters why working people have a growing sense of concern:
[...]Last year, the Economic Policy Institute showed that productivity has grown almost three times faster than wages since 2001. During that time, 70 percent of the nation's income growth has gone straight into corporate coffers as profits -— presumably to continue to finance staggering pay and benefits for executives - a complete reversal from the previous seven business cycles when 77 percent of the overall income growth went to wages.

My friend Joel Rogers, director of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, made a stunning calculation: Had wages tracked productivity as they have over the past 30 years, "median family income in the U.S. would be about $20,000 higher today than it is." Check this out: Taking into account productivity, the minimum wage should be $19.12 -— which would make it almost 50 percent above today'’s median wage (not to mention the pathetic $5.15 current minimum wage). Rogers concludes: "“It'’s fair to say that most American workers today are making substantially less than the (historically, productivity-normed) wage of the economy's worst-off workers of a generation ago."
Wal-Mart is the perfect example of corporate excess at the expense of their employees, although they make it sound like they're doing Americans a favor by providing them jobs. How about Wal-Mart (and every other corporation out there) thanking Americans for their efforts and hard work with decent wages and benefits? Instead, Wal-Mart (and other corporations) have succeeded in keeping profits up and wages down through a "culture of fear" as Steven @ Gracious Rants puts it:
...Wal-mart has gotten out of control. Maybe it was always that way, it has been since I've been inside. Something tells me though, that it all started going downhill when Sam died.

I could tell you stories of how some people who do exactly what I do, get paid 1/2 my hourly wage, simply because of the store that they are in. Or how they have created a culture of fear within their facilities while at the same time telling the rest of America how great of a company Wal-mart is to work for. [...]

The fact of the matter is that if you are a wal-mart employee, wal-mart and wal-mart alone is in control of your career. I could go in tomorrow to find that I've been fired for a watermelon that I busted 3 weeks ago, even if it was documented and done by the book (especially if my profit-sharing was near 100% vestation), I've seen it happen to others DOZENS of times. The "book" was written by the company, and they did a damn good job at writing it. Wal-mart needs union representation and I honestly doubt that, without governmental help, there will be enough "associates" step up to the plate. Not for the "fear" but "knowing" that they will lose their jobs.
For Steven's sake, I hope he hasn't jeopardized his job by speaking up because he speaks the truth. Corporations have used "fear" to justify cutting wages and benefits for quite a while now, and they've done a darn good job. They have us so traumatized and worried that we might lose our jobs that we keep giving up more and more. Meanwhile, profits continue to climb along with executive compensation.

That brings me to my second favorite corporation - Northwest Airlines. I find their management just as offensive as Wal-Mart's. What kind of help do they offer the 60 ground workers who face layoffs next week, and the 1,000+ ramp workers, customer service agents and baggage handlers at nearly 70 airports who will lose their jobs this fall? A booklet with a section called 101 Ways to Save Money (.pdf file) that offered tips such as "Don't be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash," and "Move to a less expensive place to live." I'm sure those compassionate and thoughtful suggestions helped them feel better about losing their jobs.

On the flip side, one local journalist, Brian Dickerson, had similar money-saving suggestions for salaried NWA executives, most of whom also are contending with smaller paychecks. These were my favorites:
Have you recently reduced the hours of your housekeeper or gardener? Hiring an unemployed baggage handler or bankrupt flight attendant to perform household tasks for a fraction of the minimum wage can be a win-win for you and less fortunate members of the NWA family.

Energy-smart appliances pay. Over the course of a year, a cappuccino or espresso maker equipped with automatic shutoff can save savvy homeowners enough money to pay for another premium cable channel.

Forgot about that half-drunk bottle of pinot noir you put in the refrigerator last week? Consider donating it to an hourly colleague celebrating a wedding anniversary -- and take a charitable write-off for the whole bottle!
Now that's what I call real sacrifice.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

K Street Jobs for Democrats

I have mixed emotions about this news from the Washington Post:
Washington lobbying firms, trade associations and corporate offices are moving to hire more well-connected Democrats in response to rising prospects that the opposition party will wrest control of at least one chamber of Congress from Republicans in the November elections.

[...]in recent months, many of Washington's top lobbyists said in interviews that their decision-making has been altered by an emerging consensus among election experts that the Democrats will boost their numbers in the House and the Senate in the midterm elections Nov. 7 and have a strong shot of winning a majority in the House.

As a result, the job market for Democrats has expanded, and the K Street Project -- shorthand for efforts by Republican lawmakers and lobbyists to pressure corporations and trade groups to hire GOP lobbyists only -- has faded away.

Regaining seats and restoring balance to government would be a good thing. However, the whole reason lobbyists exist is because they need someone - Republican, Democrat, Independent, it doesn't matter who - to influence Washington lawmakers on their behalf. Will Democrat lobbyists be different from Tom DeLay, Cunningham and that bunch - or will they serve Big Money interests over those of the majority of Americans? Only time will tell.

Top Democrats have been calling for honest leadership and accountability, and they announced the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, a comprehensive government reform plan aimed at cleaning up and protecting the government from the Republican culture of corruption and quid pro quo politics. These are goals most Americans favor. The Democrats would be wise to remember that going forward. It's not enough to just talk the talk, they'd better be prepared to walk the walk too. The people will be watching.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Dark Side of Privatization

This is a glimpse of the dark side of privatization:
Meet Lloyd Martell, MDOC prisoner No. 335246. He will die soon of colon cancer that could have been contained had prison doctors treated it 18 months ago.

Martell, 41, a Detroit auto mechanic, caught a small-time case in 2004 -- fleeing from Redford police after they tried to pull him over for a broken rear window. Martell has a history of petty crimes and took off because he had a suspended driver's license. After police arrested him, Martell got one to four years. It turned into a veritable death sentence.

In December 2004, Martell had what he believed was a hemorrhoid lanced in prison. Medical records show it was actually a cancerous polyp. Martell said Dr. Jerome Wisneski, who works for Correctional Medical Services, told him he would be fine.

"He said it was a clean cut," Martell, in a wheelchair with a colostomy bag on his stomach, told me two weeks ago inside the Charles Egeler Center in Jackson. "He said it was all contained in the tumor and I didn't have anything to worry about."

By October of last year, Martell was bleeding from the rectum and unable to walk. He was sent to Foote Hospital in Jackson, which contracts with CMS for specialty services. Doctors told him he had terminal cancer.

An oncology report from Foote in November is damning: "Lloyd Martell is a 40-year-old inmate whose history dates back to December of 2004 when he underwent resection of a polyp that, in fact, did have evidence of adenocarcinoma, but no further intervention was made."

A request for a medical parole, supported by physicians, in December stated that Martell had roughly 20 months to live. Even if broke, Martell could have walked into the emergency room of Detroit Receiving Hospital, or practically any hospital, and gotten better care for his cancer. In prison, he didn't have that choice, and now he's going to die.
With help from family and the media, Martell was released on Tuesday so he could go home to die, a fate he didn't deserve. Unfortunately, Martell is not the only victim of medical neglect while in prison according to the Free Press.
[...]Yet the quality of prison health care seems to have gotten worse since 2000, when the state contracted with Correctional Medical Services Inc. for primary care physicians and other services. It should be getting better. The Michigan Department of Corrections has been under a federal consent decree since 1985 to improve medical care and other conditions at prisons in Jackson.

"The medical neglect seems worse, not better," Patricia Streeter of Ann Arbor, an attorney for the prisoners in the Hadix case, told me. "CMS has not adequately supervised its doctors or made timely specialist referrals, and MDOC appears unwilling or unable to see that it does."

Medical records, court documents and rulings, and interviews with inmates and advocates show a pattern of misdiagnosis, delayed or denied treatment, withheld pain medication and inadequate accommodations for people with disabilities.
This problem is not limited to Michigan. CMS has prison and jail health care contracts in 26 states, with 80 employees in Michigan. State officials say CMS has saved the state nearly $10 million, and they contracted with them for primary care mostly because it could not retain physician employees. However, CMS gets $65 million a year from Michigan taxpayers. Where is the accountability? Taxpayers don't send people to prison to die at the hands of negligent companies.

There needs to be accountability. Our state failed to provide oversight under Republican and Democratic administrations, and CMS itself has been less than transparent - for good reason.
Correctional Medical Services is not merely the nation's largest provider of prison medicine; it is also the nation'’s cheapest provider, a perfect convergence of big business and low budgets. But unlike the traditional HMO, whose risk of a malpractice suit is real, and is felt, and is reflected to at least some degree in the quality of medical care, companies such as CMS have little or no reason to protect themselves. Most juries are reluctant to decide in favor of a convict, and those juries that do favor the convict are often reluctant to award money. Cost-benefit analysis takes on special, human overtones behind bars.

Perhaps even more significantly, private companies such as CMS feel no responsibility, and have no legal obligation, to account to the public for what goes on inside their facilities. So, while CMS receives about $550 million of taxpayer money each year, the company chooses not to provide any accounting of how that money is spent or even how much of it is spent-----and how much unspent, to be pocketed as profit.
In addition to providing poor health care on the taxpayer's dime, CMS is also a union-buster.
According to a June 2000 Associated Press story in the Detroit News, the United Auto Workers Union, which represents doctors, physician's assistants and nurse practitioners employed by the Michigan Department of Corrections, "sued over Michigan's privatizing health care for prison inmates, claiming prisoner health could suffer if the state expands its contract with the for-profit provider scrutinized in several states."
That's an added bonus that must have delighted many right-wingers even though the UAW's concerns proved to be deadly accurate, but providing the best service is not one of the Right's goals. Their goal is to outsource tax dollars to private companies who only care about one thing - the bottom line. So what if somebody dies in the process.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

DeVos and Bush Still Best Friends

It's no secret that across the country Republicans are trying to distance themselves from Bush in an effort to convince the public they're somehow different from the failure-in-chief. Steve Smith, a political scientist and congressional expert at Washington University in St. Louis, puts it like this:
"All these guys are trying to seem like reasonable, moderate guys who are not the scary conservatives who their opponents will make them out to be," Smith added. "But they all have very conservative records and support for the president that will make it difficult for them to duck this."
That doesn't stop them from trying though. In fact, Michigan's GOP recently redesigned the banner across their website and removed Bush's picture. The new design might fool some people, but Ken Mehlman, Republican National Committee chairman, disputed the notion that there is much room between candidates and the president, noting the large number of fundraising events Bush, Laura Bush and Vice President Cheney have been asked to attend for GOP candidates. By the RNC's latest count, Bush has done 50 events for Republicans this cycle, raising more than $160 million.

DeVos doesn't need help in the fundraising department since he's bankrolling his own campaign, but he and his family have been top contributors to Republican candidates, including President Bush, and more than 440 conservative organizations promoting free market ideologies and conservative religious causes. All that Amway money adds credence to what Steve Smith said about these candidates (in this case, DeVos) all having very conservative records and support for the president - and judging from this picture, DeVos and Bush still appear to be pretty tight.

Speaking of Amway money, Michigan Caucus recently reported on the close relationship between the pyramid plan and Michigan's GOP:
Amway announces the completion of its purchase of the Michigan Republican Party. The price was not disclosed. The MRP will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Amway and will continue to elect its own board and chairman with approval of the majority shareholders, the DeVos and Van Andel families.

The MRP will change its name to the Michigan Republican Party of Amway.
I love the snazzy new logo. It fits them. I just have one question: If DeVos wins, will Michigan henceforth be known as "MichigAMWAY?"

Friday, August 11, 2006

Governor's Race Attracts "Letters to the Editor"

The governor's race is starting to attract a fair number of "letters to the editor" across the state. This first one (courtesy of Pohlitics) is from the Grand Rapids Press:
Governorship can't be bought

Can DeVos buy the governorship? I don't know. By spending huge amounts of his own money ($13 million in 12 months) that is clearly what he is trying to do despite anything he says to the contrary ("DeVos outspends governor 10 to 1," Press, July 29).

He is blatantly trying to buy it. Not with fresh ideas but with very clever sales pitch. He sounds good on TV but can he really deliver the goods like Granholm has? Michigan is very lucky to have her.

She has given her all to protect Michigan workers and jobs. She has literally gone everywhere, anywhere, at any time to create new industries in our state. Throughout all of it, she has kept her grace, integrity and character intact. She is a winner.

Fortunately for DeVos, if he buys the office in November, he will not inherit the kind of economic mess Granholm did from the previous red ink Republican.

He clearly plans to plunge the state into debt as fast as possible by cutting the Single Business Tax immediately without fully replacing it. . That is not a plan for long term success.

Having Google come to Ann Arbor as envisioned under Granholm's 21st Century Jobs Plan clearly works for our great state. She's just getting started. I am looking forward to what she will do with four more years. Let's give them to her.

Should DeVos succeed in buying the governorship, here's one gentleman's vision of Michigan in the future from the Daily Mining Gazette:
It`s Nov. 8, 2006, and Dick DeVos, the multi-millionaire soon to be billionaire, has won the Michigan governorship. He has convinced us that by eliminating the single business tax he will turn Michigan`s economy around.

This is the same man who invested 200 million dollars in Amway China and eliminated 1,400 jobs in Michigan. I guess he can't guarantee you a lifetime job in Michigan. But if you want to relocate, he can offer you good employment while you are with his company.

I guess it's not called Amway anymore, but I wonder if they use the same methods of recruitment and incentives? If you worked for Amway you would get a commission for every person (one is born every minute) you recruited to sell Amway to others, that person would get a commission recruiting someone else to sell and so on down the line. This multi-level marketing scheme reminds me of what the Pharaohs used to build in Egypt.

I remember reading what George W. Bush said about how he was going to change the role of the military. If DeVos changes Michigan`s economy the way Bush has changed the military our state could end up in a disastrous situation like our country is in now in the Middle East.

Amen, Mr. Faucher.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Mercenary Jackpot for DeVos Relative

All that money the DeVos family donates to the Republican Party is starting to pay off, especially for brother-in-law Eric Prince, the right-wing Christian founder of Blackwater USA. Here's the latest from Jeremy Scahill at The Nation [all emphasis added]:
While the Bush Administration calls for the immediate disbanding of what it has labeled "private" and "illegal" militias in Lebanon and Iraq, it is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into its own global private mercenary army tasked with protecting US officials and institutions overseas. The secretive program, which spans at least twenty-seven countries, has been an incredible jackpot for one heavily Republican-connected firm in particular: Blackwater USA. Government records recently obtained by The Nation reveal that the Bush Administration has paid Blackwater more than $320 million since June 2004 to provide "diplomatic security" services globally. The massive contract is the largest known to have been awarded to Blackwater to date and reveals how the Administration has elevated a once-fledgling security firm into a major profiteer in the "war on terror." [...]

A heavily redacted 2005 government audit of Blackwater's WPPS [Worldwide Personal Protective Service] contract proposal, obtained by The Nation, reveals that Blackwater included profit in its overhead and its total costs, which would result "not only in a duplication of profit but a pyramiding of profit since in effect Blackwater is applying profit to profit." The audit also found that the company tried to inflate its profits by representing different Blackwater divisions as wholly separate companies.

The WPPS contract awarded in 2004 was divided among a handful of companies, among them DynCorp and Triple Canopy. Blackwater was originally slated to be paid $229.5 million for five years, according to a State Department contract list. Yet as of June 30, just two years into the program, it had been paid a total of $321,715,794. When confronted with this apparent $100 million discrepancy, the State Department could not readily explain it. Blackwater's two years of WPPS earnings exceed many estimates of the company's total government contracts, which the Virginian-Pilot recently put at $290 million combined since 2000. Six years ago the government paid Blackwater less than $250,000. [...]

While the WPPS program and the broader use of private security contractors is not new, it has escalated dramatically under the Bush Administration. According to the most recent Government Accountability Office report, some 48,000 private soldiers, working for 181 private military firms, are deployed in Iraq alone. Blackwater, now one of the most prominent and successful companies providing soldiers in Iraq, was relatively unknown until March 31, 2004, when four of its contractors were ambushed and killed in Falluja [see Scahill, "Blood Is Thicker Than Blackwater," May 8]. In the days and weeks that followed, company executives hired ultra-connected lobbyists and were welcomed by powerful government officials as heroes, allowing the firm to solidify its role in the Bush Administration's foreign policy apparatus. [...]
This just goes to show you that huge sums of money can buy prominence and success - at the expense of taxpayers who get the shaft. No wonder Dick DeVos is in favor of privatizing public services here in Michigan. He wants in on some of those "pyramiding profits" too.

British Police Thwart Terror Plot

I'll let the Carpetbagger speak for me on today's news out of London.
Will Bunch had the exact same reaction I did in response to today's news.
Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Most of the big victories in "the war on terror" have been racked up by cops, not by soldiers. Why, it's almost as if terrorism is a law-enforcement problem -— and less of a threat when it's handled well in that fashion.
London's police commissioner said the arrests of 21 people came about after a months-long investigation. That's good police work - and they didn't have to kill any innocent civilians in the process. On the flip side, their success makes the failures of the Bush administration's "war on terror" look even worse.

Update: An anonymous commenter on Ameriblog summed it best:
so the british authorities stop a terror plot and that means that republicans in the u.s. are winning the war on terror?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The George & Condi Show

Hat-tip to Mike Bogle for this new version of the famous "Who's on first" skit between Abbott and Costello.
George: Condi! Nice to see you. What's happening?

Condi: Sir, I have the report here about the new leader of China.

George: Great. Lay it on me.

Condi: Hu is the new leader of China.

George: That's what I want to know.

Condi: That's what I'm telling you.

George: That's what I'm asking you. Who is the new leader of China?

Condi: Yes.

George: I mean the fellow's name.

Condi: Hu.

George: The guy in China.

Condi: Hu.

George: The new leader of China.

Condi: Hu.

George: The main man in China!

Condi: Hu is leading China.

George: Now whaddya' asking me for?

Condi: I'm telling you, Hu is leading China.

George: Well, I'm asking you. Who is leading China?

Condi: That's the man's name.

George: That's who's name?

Condi: Yes.

George: Will you, or will you not, tell me the name of the new leader of China?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir? Yassir Arafat is in China? I thought he's dead in the Middle East.

Condi: That's correct.

George: Then who is in China?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir is in China?

Condi: No, sir.

George: Then who is?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir?

Condi: No, sir.

George: Look Condi. I need to know the name of the new leader of China. Get me the Secretary General of the U.N. on the phone.

Condi: Kofi?

George: No, thanks.

Condi: You want Kofi?

George: No.

Condi: You don't want Kofi.

George: No. But now that you mention it, I could use a glass of milk. And then get me the U.N.

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Not Yassir! The guy at the U.N.

Condi: Kofi?

George: Milk! Will you please make the call?

Condi: And call who?

George: Who is the guy at the U.N?

Condi: Hu is the guy in China

George: Will you stay out of China?!

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: And stay out of the Middle East! Just get me the guy at the U.N.

Condi: Kofi.

George: All right! With cream and two sugars.
Suggestion: Condi should consider recommending this new medication to the prez.

Corporate Three-Card Monte

Ben Stein is puzzled.
We have all heard corporate executives say that American workers are paid too much; that our industries cannot compete with foreign makers because our labor costs are so high that if we used American union labor, we would see profits evaporate.

And yet, hourly wages in this country, adjusted for inflation, are below what they were in 1972 (when my pal, Richard Nixon, was president) by a substantial amount. But to hear corporate leaders tell it, this is still far too high to allow competition with foreign entities.

Now, you would think that if this high-priced American labor were in fact pressing corporate backs to the wall, profits would be stagnant or falling. But in fact, in the last several years -— and especially the last few quarters - corporate profits as a percentage of sales were the highest they have been since 1965 -— roughly 9.6 percent before tax and roughly 7.4 percent after tax.

In total, profits are by far the highest they have ever been, running at a rate of very roughly $1.38 trillion in the first quarter of 2006. As a percentage of gross domestic product, profits are also the highest they have been since the statistics began being kept in 1959 -— roughly 12.7 percent. [Emphasis added.]

Don't get me wrong. I like profits, a lot. They are what the capitalist society is all about. But why are we outsourcing, why are we moving our work overseas, if our corporations are so profitable? And if our corporate world is so profitable, how come so little of the growth goes to workers' wages? How come -— as an average number -— basically none of the growth goes to the ordinary worker's wages? I am not saying this to encourage strikes. I am genuinely puzzled about it.

Could it be that just the threat of moving jobs overseas (very few have in fact actually been moved as yet) keeps labor cowed? [Emphasis added.] Is the vast labor force of Asia and the Third World in fact something like "“the reserve army of the unemployed"” that Karl Marx described in his critique of capitalism?
Stein brings up some good points and asks some interesting questions, which leads me to wonder about something too: If profits are the highest they have been since statistics began being kept in 1959, then why are corporations taking government money to pad their bottom lines?
In a sophisticated version of the street corner "“three-card monte" hustle, many employers are taking government money that was supposed to be used for retiree health care and putting it in their corporate pockets. [...]

So while employers are crying about health care costs, many of them are taking taxpayer money that was clearly marked to help pay for retiree health plans and shifting it around to cushion their bottom lines instead and leaving workers and retirees empty-handed. [Emphasis added.]

The Labor Research Association (LRA) looked at several corporate surveys and found widespread use of subsidies provided under the Medicare Modernization Act and the final Medicare Part D regulations released in January 2005 for large employers to discourage them from eliminating private prescription coverage for retired workers. [Emphasis added.] At the same time, a huge majority of the private-sector employers surveyed by the global business consultant Watson Wyatt Worldwide are planning to cut their retiree medical plans for current and future retirees over the next five years. [...]

It gets worse! Another survey from Towers Perrin shows 82 percent of private-sector companies receiving the federal subsidy have used it to lower their costs, while only 14 percent have used it to either reduce retirees'’ costs or shared the cost savings with retirees. [Emphasis added.] For example, IBM in its 2005 annual report estimated it would receive a $400 million subsidy during the six-year period beginning in 2006. Yet, in the first week of 2006, IBM, along with Sears, Verizon Communications and more than 67 other companies, froze or closed their defined-benefit plans to newly hired workers.
One thing is perfectly clear and not puzzling at all - the American worker is the real loser all the way around.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Keep It Real, Republicans

This Pittsburgh-Post Gazette editorial did a great job of cutting to the chase. [Emphasis added.]
Keep it real/The minimum wage has no link to the estate tax

[...] In the end, the vote defeating the bill in the Senate meant that nobody got anything -- no raise in the minimum wage, no cut in the estate tax and none of the other provisions either. All of the fruit in the basket will now rot on the ground, though Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist vows to bring the unholy package back after the congressional vacation.

What should have been done instead? The minimum wage and the estate tax, at least, should have been separate, up-or-down votes, as the Democratic minority demanded. The name of the game for those in the House and the Senate, 468 of whose seats will be up for election in November, needs to be accountability. Did a lawmaker vote for or against raising the minimum wage, for or against cutting the estate tax? If the omnibus bill had passed, would voters have been able to figure out where their representatives stood on the individual measures?

Thursday's dismal performance was unfortunately typical of the Republicans who control Congress and, taken as a whole, was a reasonable argument for voting out incumbents of either party who would back the cynical linkage of unrelated proposals that deserve separate votes.
A separate up-or-down vote is the last thing Republicans wanted. That would have forced them to show their constituents how they really feel about the working poor.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Put Your Hands Together for Senate Dems

I have to applaud Senate Democrats for blocking the minimum wage double-cross legislation last night; legislation that would have raised the minimum wage, but only by also providing estate tax reform benefiting the ultra-rich. Frist and friends used every trick in the book trying to gain enough votes, but in the end it went down 56-42. Sen. Durbin of Illinois said, "this trifecta is a high-stakes gamble with America'’s future...the worst special-interest bill I have seen in my time in Congress."” Republicans accused Democrats of choosing partisanship over policy and said they were stalling the measure to allow them to attack the record of the Republican-led Congress.
"It is an excuse to make it a do-nothing Congress," Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, said. "“And we are turning our back on the middle-class and poor people in this country who depend on the minimum wage and death-tax relief."
Sorry, Senator, but this IS a do-nothing Congress, and the Republicans turned their backs on the middle-class and poor people shortly after Bush took office and started stacking the National Labor Relations Board with anti-union board members. The same board responsible for eliminating or curtailing worker's rights to join a union.

So, what's the big deal? How does that affect average working class Americans? Ron Gettelfinger (president of the UAW) has an eye-opening editorial in the Detroit News that spells it out. [All emphasis added.]
What if they held an election -- and nobody counted the votes?

When you hear about powerful officials who impound ballots and refuse to count votes to avoid losing an election, it brings to mind autocratic, one-party regimes like Myanmar, Belarus or China.

But workers right here in Michigan are being stripped of their democratic rights by autocratic executives -- with a helping hand from political appointees of the Bush administration.

In 2002, a group of nurses at Oakwood Heritage Hospital in Taylor decided they wanted to join the United Auto Workers. They followed all the rules, and gathered petition signatures from their co-workers. The pro-union nurses got enough signatures to schedule an election, which took place on March 8 and 9, 2002.

Since then, the nurses' votes have never been counted. Soon after the election, hospital executives filed "objections." They claim every nurse at Heritage -- every single one! -- is a supervisor and therefore ineligible to vote and ineligible to form a union.

If every nurse at Heritage is a supervisor, then who's taking care of the patients? Only a satirist can make sense of this absurd idea -- and Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert recently did exactly that. [Check it out here.]

Hospitals are trying to save nurses the "hassle" of collective bargaining, Colbert explains. As "supervisors," they can get all kinds of perks -- like new name badges and business cards (but no pensions or health insurance.)

Heritage executives claim that all nurses are supervisors because they exercise "independent judgment" when they take turns serving as charge nurse, serving as lead nurse on the ward for a particular shift. That standard could affect millions of workers in hundreds of occupations, including team leaders in manufacturing, skilled trades workers, newspaper reporters, port workers and many others.

The result would be to drastically reduce the number of Americans who have the right to free collective bargaining.

The case of the never-counted ballots at Heritage Hospital has been joined with two similar cases, involving nurses in Minnesota and team leaders at a door and window manufacturing plant in Mississippi. The National Labor Relations Board has determined that these cases will set policy for more than 60 cases where the status of "supervisory" employees is in dispute.

This is the same labor board, unfortunately, that has overturned precedents to take away bargaining rights from disabled workers, temp workers and teaching assistants. Board members are supposed to protect workers' rights and ensure a level playing field between labor and management. Instead, the Bush appointees seem to think "workplace rights" means management has the right to do whatever it wants in the workplace. [...]

Anybody who goes to work every day and earns a paycheck should have the right to join with his or her co-workers to form a union. And nobody should have to wait more than four years to find out the result of a free election.
This is YOUR Republican Party in action, Senator Hutchison, and they were turning their backs on the middle-class and poor people in this country long before the phony minimum wage bill came up for a vote. (Not to mention playing fast and loose with elections.)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sorry, Mr. DeVos

Memo to the DeVos campaign: You might want to consider a different strategy...
We're Sorry, Mr. DeVos

You get the feeling this video from Dick DeVos to his supporters was born out of a campaign strategists' idea that, hey, he's an executive, he's a great motivator. Let's let him rally out troops.

To our ears, he sounds like the coach of a World Cub soccer team before penalty kicks.


"I know many of you have stepped up. But some of you have not."

"For us to be successful, there is no room for error. It's certainly not going to be a walk in the party."

"We definitely don't have this thing in the bag."

"If we aren'’t pushing the envelope every day, we just can't win."
Platitudes? Who's writing his material? Dubya?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Check out this link where the Disembodied Head of Dick Devos brags that "his house is a hell of a lot bigger than your rathole." He's not kidding. According to this info provided by Dick's Head...
Property tax records show candidate DeVos' main home in Ada Township near Grand Rapids, a multistory brick house with a gabled roof set off from neighbors by a gated fence is valued at $2.6 million.

The sprawling 16,000-square-foot mansion sits on 16.8 acres of rolling, wooded land near the Thornapple River.

[...] Amenities at the DeVos homestead include an indoor underground swimming pool, a tennis court with a $22,000 lighting system, a wine room, a billiards room, seven fireplaces, a Jacuzzi, eight bathrooms, five bedrooms and a four-car garage connected to the main house by a covered walkway.

[...]Property records also show DeVos owns side-by-side homes on Lake Macatawa in Holland worth $1.9 million. It's part of the DeVos family compound there. This is where he can moor his boats, including a 70-foot fiberglass inboard pleasure craft, a 23-foot fiberglass outboard boat, a 48-foot sailboat and seven personal watercraft, according to state records.

In addition, Dick and Betsy DeVos have a summer place overlooking Lake Michigan near upscale Harbor Springs. The wood frame cottage and guest house on 5.9 acres with 335 feet of waterfront are valued at $2.45 million, according to tax records. The couple also has other land holdings in the state, including a breathtaking stretch of beach along Lake Michigan near Arcadia.

Outside Michigan, the family has a home in Vero Beach, Fla., and partial interest in a home in Colorado ski country.
Okay, so maybe my humble abode is a rathole compared to his home/homes, but I bet my car is better than his. Oh, wait a minute. I just scanned a little further down that link and noticed this:
When DeVos wants to get somewhere in a hurry, he can climb aboard any of the three aircraft he owns: a Cessna Citation III, a twin-engine jet that seats six; a Cessna Caravan, a single-engine transport plane that seats nine; or a Cirrus SR-22, a single-engine airplane that seats four.
Okay, so he has some pretty impressive wheels (wings), but he inherited that money from his daddy's legal pyramid scheme, which Notre Dame Law Professor G. Robert Blakely stated "is run in a manner that is parallel to that of major organized crime groups, in particular the Mafia."

So, Dick's Head, I may not have mansions and jet airplanes, but at least I never exploited someone for personal gain. In my book, that's priceless.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Marriage Made in Heaven?

After reading this, I have to assume Detroit's own, Kid Rock, didn't marry Pamela Lee for her brains:
Asked how she's coping with her nerves before the big event, she replied: "I have two words for you: champagne."
Okay, then maybe it was her flair for fashion.
Anderson wore a thin veil and white string bikini for the nuptials, then switched to a red bikini for the partying.
Yeah, that must be it, her fashion sense swept Kid off his feet.

No More Rolling Rock in Latrobe

It's so hot here in Michigan I feel like Homer Simpson. The only thing on my mind today is beer - a nice cold one in a tall frosty glass - and I'm usually a devout wine drinker. For some reason though, there's nothing like a cold beer on a hot day. I prefer a light one, but I have been known to grab a bottle of Rolling Rock from my hubby from time to time. He's from western Pennsylvania and so is Rolling Rock, or at least it used to be.
Known for its distinctive green bottle and quality pledge with a mysterious "33" at the end, Rolling Rock has been brewed in Latrobe since 1939. But Belgium's InBev USA, which owned Rolling Rock and Latrobe Brewing, sold Rolling Rock to Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. for $82 million in May. Anheuser-Busch plans to brew the beer in New Jersey beginning in August.
This marks the end of an era for Latrobe. The bottling plant where Rolling Rock has been brewed nearly 70 years officially closed yesterday. More than 200 jobs are in limbo, and so is the loyalty of those beer drinkers left with a bitter taste in their mouths.
Latrobe residents considered the beer and the town an equation -- one a pale, 12-ounce distillation of the other. Middle-class, easy-to-love, with enough quirks for character: The definition fit both the place and the brew. [...]

Mr. Erney, in the human resources department at Latrobe Brewing Co., guessed roughly 90 percent of Rolling Rock drinkers in Latrobe will now switch brands. Among plant workers, the percentage might be even higher. At a Friday goodbye picnic, 45 outgoing salaried workers reached their hands into the stuffed coolers. Nobody drank Rolling Rock.
This is so emblematic of how employer-employee relationships have evolved in our country. Their is no sense of loyalty or appreciation for all the years of hard work that people give companies. It's all about making as much money as possible for the shareholders, CEO, top executives and board of directors. The worker gets discarded like an empty beer can tossed carelessly out the window.

I feel for you Latrobe, and I feel for the workers who face an uncertain future. I'll think of you tonight as I sit on my porch and drink a cold one in your honor. Don't worry, it won't be Rolling Rock (or anything else from the Anheuser-Busch family for that matter).

[Click here for an explanation of why that mysterious #33 is on the Rolling Rock bottle.]