A country that loses its values, its principles, has lost its heart. A country that loses its sensible center, its common ground, has lost its mind.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Peters won't budge on oil company investment; hypocrisy charges continue

As Senate candidate Gary Peters faces a flurry of critical news reports about his personal investment in an oil industry giant, it’s worth remembering that Congressman Peters in the past repeatedly promoted clean-energy technology and berated those who supported the oil companies.
In his first congressional campaign in 2008, Peters routinely blasted his Republican opponent, then-Rep. Joe Knollenberg, as a George W. Bush ally in the House who voted to prop up “Big Oil.” 
He chastised the incumbent congressman for accepting $66,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industries and in a press release he said: “Gary Peters is committed to putting Michigan jobs and industries first, and he refuses to accept campaign contributions from Big Oil interests.”

Now, Peters is trying to fend off criticism of his $19,000 stock purchase in a French oil company that produces petcoke – the oil refinery product that the congressman has called a major threat to health and the environment.  Revelations have come forth of other cash infusions by the candidate into companies with questionable environmental track records.
As he pledges to hold onto his oil investment, among those publications raising the hypocrisy issue are: The Daily Caller, The Washington Examiner, the Washington Free Beacon, Fox News, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.
One sample headline: Democratic Senate Candidate Refuses To Sell Stock In The Thing That He Called ‘The Dirtiest Fuel’
Peters’ response has been consistent: “It’s clear that stocks that I may have in my retirement account have nothing to do with my public positions that I take.”

Beyond Peters’ May investment in Total S.A. France, the fifth-largest publicly traded international oil and gas company in the world, the firm’s American affiliate runs a large refinery in Port Arthur Texas that produces petcoke -- petroleum coke, a dusty byproduct of refining tar sands oil.
Peters emerged last year as a leading critic of petcoke after mounds of it were piled on the banks of the Detroit River by the Marathon Refinery. But the Port Arthur petcoke piles were also controversial and the company in 2013 was hit with an $8.7 million fine for violating environmental regulations.

A couple of odd things about this situation:
·   * Peters won’t budge though the amount of stock is just a small portion of his portfolio. And his most significant supporter, California billionaire Tom Steyer, whose NextGen Climate Action group is spending millions of dollars to boost the congressman’s campaign, took a very different approach. When Steyer got out of the hedge fund business and became an ardent environmentalist, he pulled out of his investments in oil and oil pipeline companies.
·   * The League for Conservation Voters, a leading environmental group in the political arena, is still contributing to Peters’ campaign even as revelations have come forward that his portfolio includes investments in companies that are associated with oil, petcoke, fracking, and coal production.

His Republican Senate opponent, Terri Lynn Land, believes the environmental issues are the reason that she is now in a statistical tie with Peters in one poll and enjoyed an uptick in her prospects from the New York Times. (Most polls show Peters with a lead.)
"With less than 50 days to go until Election Day, Congressman Gary Peters is crashing in the polls due to countless reports of his hypocrisy piling up.  Gary Peters invested thousands of dollars in petcoke that he says is polluting Michigan, despite saying he's an environmentalist,” said Heather Swift, the Land campaign spokeswoman.

As for the Peters camp, they are thoroughly frustrated that environmental issues, which were supposed to be one of the congressman’s greatest strengths and one of Land’s greatest weaknesses in this election, have become muddled.
They point out that billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, whose industrial empire was responsible for the petcoke piles on the Detroit River, are spending millions of dollars on TV ads for Land’s campaign.
“She’s trying to distract from the fact that the Koch brothers, who are responsible for piling up pet coke along the Detroit River, blowing into people’s homes, blowing into the Great Lakes, that they’ve invested $6.5 million in her campaign,” Peters said earlier this week.

Still, Peters seems to have a serious perception problem here.
To mangle together a couple of phrases, he appears to be saying “Do as I say … and don’t follow the money.”

Land flip-flops on military strikes in Syria

Largely overlooked in the Senate race pitting Republican Terri Lynn Land against Democratic Rep. Gary Peters is the apparent flip-flop by Land on the issue of military intervention in Syria.
Many congressional Republicans who shied away from -- or outright blasted -- President Obama's plans of a year ago to hit Syria with missile strikes have suddenly become gung-ho on intervening in a big way. Of course, Obama's 2013 plan represented retaliation for the Assad regime's ugly chemical weapons attack, while the current impetus is the ISIS terror group's beheading of two Americans. 
Another obvious factor: the polls that were so soundly against military strikes in 2013 are now strongly in favor of what amounts to a new war.
In Land's case, her words from almost exactly one year ago contradict what she said last week. (And it's still unclear if she would vote for U.S. funds for the Syrian rebels.)
Here are the key elements of her two statements:

President Obama has not made a compelling case to justify military intervention in the Syrian civil war, or to put the lives of our military men and women at risk.  I want to be very clear - if I were in the Senate today, I would vote ‘No’ on a resolution authorizing military intervention in Syria.
... No one has explained how intervention in Syria is vital to America’s national security interests. If this case cannot be made, the American people would clearly be better served by a President, and a Congress, focused on improving our economy here at home.

Tonight, President Obama is going to address the American people about the threat of the terrorist organization ISIS. The problem is that the President has known about this lethal threat for at least a year and is just tonight announcing a strategy. The president’s failed foreign policy and lack of leadership has allowed the influence of ISIS and other extremists to grow. We have now had two American journalists murdered by ISIS. Thousands of innocent civilians including Christians and other ethnic minorities have been killed or displaced.

The obvious problem here is that Land says the president failed to address the ISIS threat that existed more than a year ago, but one year ago she said there were no U.S. interests at stake in Syria and Obama would be better served to focus on the U.S. economy.
It sounds like Land has some explaining to do. 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ann Arbor named the most educated city in U.S.

Forbes magazine is reporting that Ann Arbor has been named the most educated city in America.
Ann Arbor placed just ahead of Raleigh and Durham, N.C., with an eclectic group also in the top 10, including Provo, Utah, Manchester, N.H., and Seattle. Boston, home of Harvard and MIT, somehow placed only 10th. One surprise was Baltimore at No. 9.
Among the 10 least educated, Beaumont, Texas, was No. 1. Two other Texas cities made the list and an astounding five of the 10 were cities in California.

Forbes is following the lead of the financial site WalletHub, which took a look at the 150 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. and ranked them according to nine categories, including percentage of adult residents with a high school diploma, associate’s degree, graduate or professional degree, or above; number of doctors per capita; percentage of workers with jobs in “computer, engineering, and sciences fields;” quality of public schools and universities; and the number of students enrolled in the top 200 universities in the U.S., per capita.
Ann Arbor topped the list not only as the city with the best educated population overall, but as the city with the highest percentage of “college-experienced adults or associate’s degree holders,” the highest percentage of bachelor’s degree holders, and the highest percentage of graduate or professional degree holders.
Beaumont ranked as the least educated city in America because it has one of the lowest percentages of bachelor’s degree holders, as well as graduate or professional degree holders, and one of the lowest numbers of doctors per capita.

Corporate America glad to see Levin go

Politico took a look at Sen. Carl Levin’s impending retirement and came up with an interesting take – corporate America will breathe a sigh of relief when the Michigan Democrat is gone.
In his watchdog role as chair of the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations, according to Politico, Levin’s list of accomplishments are substantial:
His investigation into tax shelters helped set the stage for Swiss banking giant UBS to admit it helped thousands of Americans dodge taxes and, later, Credit Suisse to plead guilty to conspiracy and pay more than $2.6 billion in fines. His financial crisis probes opened the doors for Dodd-Frank, including the so-called Volcker rule — a major change to banking hard fought by industry. He held two years of hearings on money laundering by financial services companies that helped create the evidence to support anti-money laundering provisions in the PATRIOT Act.
The “secret sauce” for Levin’s success, one political insider told Politico, is that his committee consists of probably the hardest-working staff on Capitol Hill.

Here’s how Politico described the longtime senator’s legacy:
“In corporate America, the scariest seat in Washington is the front row of a hearing room where Carl Levin holds the gavel.
“The Michigan native runs the obscure Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), wielding the panel’s unique subpoena power to shine a harsh light on the otherwise unseen financial workings of the country’s largest corporations — from Apple to JPMorgan Chase. His retirement as of January has executives exhaling.

“‘The first thing I tell people is, PSI stands for ‘pretty scary investigations,’ said Reginald Brown, vice chair of the Financial Institutions Practice Group at the law firm WilmerHale, who has represented several Levin targets. ‘There probably will be some people who will sleep easier [once he is gone].’
“After more than a dozen years at PSI, Levin is just four months and one final report from packing up mountains of investigative history and going home. That leaves the future of probes into the kind of financial wrongdoing that Levin has unearthed — from the convoluted tax maneuvers of the biggest tech companies to the dicing of mortgages in the run-up to the financial crisis — murky.”

Sunday, September 14, 2014

An amateur military strategy that just might wipe out ISIS

The A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft, also known as the Warthog

I'm no military expert or strategist but I wonder: If we employed a couple of basic tactics in addition to air bombardments in Iraq (and Syria), would destroying ISIS become much easier than it seems?
First, drop cluster bombs along the Iraq/Syrian border (such as it is) to split ISIS in two. This minefield, created from the air, would severely constrain ISIS operations. No retreating back to Syria for those militants in Iraq. No reinforcements or supplies crossing the border from ISIS' main base of operations in Syria over to Iraq.
Second, bring in the A-10s, the "tank busters" that have performed so well in Iraq in the past, to pulverize ISIS forces on the ground, piece by piece.
I suggest that approach might soften up ISIS to the point that ground troops brought in by the Iraqis, the Kurds and whatever the Syrian "moderates" can muster will be able to finish the job.

Anyone out there have any thoughts? (I'm sure the guys who fly the A-10 Warthogs out of Selfridge have something to say.)

Do we really want video to be our standard for truth?

The camera never lies.
That well-worn phrase, for decades, referred to still photos. But today, the only sure way to get the attention of Americans is to present videotape.
The 24/7 documentation of every aspect of everyone’s lives, made possible by smart phone cameras and YouTube, has created a new standard for truth.
Video decides what we believe, whether we want war or peace, a person’s guilt or innocence, or -- the subject that seems to matter most to many -- should a star running back be allowed to play football?

We’ve entered into new territory -- culturally and politically – where, until visual images surface, the subject at hand is just a hypothetical – or just hype.
The disturbing amount of distrust and doubt cast upon the so-called Mainstream Media has certainly fueled this phenomenon. We are on a path that we take at our own peril.
Videotape has played an outsized role in recent weeks in two instances: NFL player Ray Rice was caught on tape knocking his wife unconscious with a single punch, and an ISIS executioner was filmed taunting the U.S. as he beheaded two American journalists.
Those video clips dramatically changed public opinion on the NFL’s domestic violence policy, and on the need to launch military attacks on the ISIS terror group.

But should it be this way?

The leaked video of Rice inside the elevator where the attack happened showed us nothing that we didn’t already know. Yet, once it played out on everyone’s TV screens or laptops – kind of like a reality show or a cable TV drama – it was real. Then it was worthy of national outrage.
The chilling video of the beheadings in Syria showed us exactly what ISIS wants us to know: They are more brutal than any terrorist organization the U.S. has ever faced. The reaction across America was such a mix of fear and anger that U.S. foreign policy toward the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria flipped in a matter of weeks.
Pollsters express astonishment that the majority of the public did not favor American intervention against ISIS just a couple of months ago, but, after the videotaped executions appeared, nearly two-thirds now support military air strikes. In fact, one-third wants the U.S. to send combat troops back to Iraq to eliminate the ISIS threat.
Politicians follow the polls, and those polled follow YouTube and Yahoo.

Visuals often have influenced politics in the recent past – Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comment, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s drunken drug party. The criminal justice system has come to depend upon amateur camera work, with countless examples of bad guys caught on surveillance tape or bad cops caught on video by the cell phone of a bystander.
But what about all the instances where video images do not exist?
The National Football League has long treated players guilty of off-the-field crimes with kid gloves. In this twisted new NFL reality, Rice, who was initially suspended for just two games prior to the in-elevator footage, has now apparently suffered a career ending incident via videotape. Meanwhile, Ray McDonald continues playing.
A San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman, McDonald was arrested several weeks ago on suspicion of felony domestic violence after he allegedly beat up his pregnant fiancĂ©e, leaving her with “visible injuries.” McDonald played last Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys and will suit up again today against the Chicago Bears.
No tape has surfaced to stir the public’s emotions. So, McDonald goes on, unscathed.

In Syria, where civil war rages, the gruesome 2013 chemical weapons attacks by President Bashar Assad’s regime on his own people produced heart-breaking photos of dozens of bodies, including children, lined up for burial. But the middle-of-the-night attack that killed 1,400 people was not captured on video.
The news photos held little sway, and as a result the polls showed that President Obama’s plan to hit Syria with retaliatory missile strikes was highly unpopular.

In this era of Facebook and Pinterest, everybody is a photographer, and many of us snap silly photos all day long for sharing and amusement. But, at a time when photo-altering techniques are readily available, I suspect that many now view a photograph as proof of nothing.
The visceral reaction, the ability to anger and inflame the public, that is something that video can accomplish much more readily than the printed word or a photographic image.
In our obsession with celebrities and sports stars, when controversy arises, the public's reaction is: Where's the video? Pro football, perhaps our most popular form of entertainment, has ingrained in our collective psyche the notion that truth comes from the lens of a video camera.

After all, the NFL rules and outcomes on the gridiron often come down to this: “Indisputable visual evidence.” If only reality was that simple.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Campaign consultant DiSano hit with unprecedented settlement of defamation lawsuit

“These politicians are taught that if they’re running 
for office, they can say anything they want.
But that’s not how the First Amendment works. 
Politicians can and do distort an opponent’s 
record all the time, but you don’t 
try to destroy a person."

-- Attorney Al Addis

Here’s a story that may send shivers up the spines of some political consultants and candidates.

Joe Disano, a well-known Democratic campaign consultant, has agreed to a most unusual court settlement with former Macomb County commissioner Phil DiMaria to end a defamation lawsuit.
The 2012 suit was prompted by robo-calls placed by DiSano during DiMaria’s unsuccessful 2012 run for state House in the 18th District  that essentially accused the Eastpointe Democrat of perversion.  The automated calls alleged that DiMaria was luring young women into his home to take “dirty pictures” of them.

A partner at Lansing-based Main Street Strategies, DiSano initially was convinced the suit would be tossed by the courts. But two years later he is now in the embarrassing position of executing a settlement that, in addition to an undisclosed cash payment to DiMaria, requires several actions on his part.
He must create and disseminate thousands of robo-calls to the 18th District apologizing for the 2012 calls and alerting voters that the allegations against DiMaria were false. He must create and publish ads in print publications that similarly amount to an apology and a retraction. And here’s the strangest part: He must arrange for meetings with two lobbyists and make favorable comments to local media outlets if DiMaria runs for office again.

The robo-calls were loosely based on my news stories from 2002 about DiMaria’s association with a website that featured photos of nude women. But DiSano went a step further, mixing in some of the rumors flying around at the time that claimed DiMaria, whose hobby is professional photography on a part-time basis, was engaged in activities that were far from artistic.
I suspect his critics will be totally chagrined by DiMaria successfully playing the role of a victim of hardball politics.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, here is a portion of what I wrote:
The commissioner said he believes that the script of the campaign calls was based on a decade-old incident and not on recent activities. In December 2002, The Macomb Daily reported that a web page associated with DiMaria contained numerous photos of nude women.
The photos, posted on the website OneModelPlace.com, each contained DiMaria’s trademark but the commissioner said at the time that his two photography partners were responsible for the erotic material. Within hours of DiMaria being questioned by a Macomb Daily reporter, the photos were removed from the site.

DiMaria insists he did nothing wrong at the time and portrays the incident as an isolated matter. A Troy police officer at the time, his commanding officers conducted an internal investigation and found no unethical behavior, according to DiMaria.
He now insists he has never shot nude or semi-nude photos. However he posted a message on another photography website last year expressing interest in taking a class on nude photography.

In November 2011, an online “Meetup” message apparently sent by DiMaria, tagged with his standard business photo, said: “Hi David, just want you to know I am a longtime photographer and have shot nudes before, but it has been a long time. I know your class for the 27th is full but I would love to be included if there is any possibility.”
The “David” referred to in the message is a photographer from Pontiac, David Birdsong, who routinely offers workshops that feature female models and teach photographers how to shoot artistic nude photos. One of Birdsong’s websites contains almost exclusively nude and semi-nude photos of women.

Here is the news story my colleague, Jamie Cook, wrote for today’s paper about the settlement:

The Macomb Daily
A political consultant who targeted a candidate with salacious and false allegations about nude photos of young girls will publicly and personally apologize for his actions and compensate the candidate with money and consulting services.
The unprecedented, lopsided outcome in Macomb County was reached to settle a lawsuit filed by former state representative candidate Phil DiMaria against Democratic political consultant Joe DiSano and the call’s narrator, Dan Sloan. The deal was formalized earlier this summer and will be executed in the coming weeks.
DiMaria’s attorney, Al Addis, said this week the slew of requirements made upon DiSano and Sloan were necessary in light of the untruthful, damaging remarks made in a June 2012 robo-call that went to about 5,000 homes during a political campaign. DiSano wrote the script, and Sloan narrated the call.
Newspaper articles were written about the calls, too.

“This was terrible and way out of line,” Addis said. “When you start accusing people of inmoral, criminal activity with underage people, that just doesn’t fly.
“He (DiMaria) got what he was looking for – a retraction and to get his name back.”
DiMaria’s reputation suffered tremendously, Addis said.
“People he knew would see him in the grocery store and turn their back after this came out,” Addis said.
The robo-calls were sent to homes in the state House’s 18th District in Eastpointe and St. Clair Shores where DiMaria, at the time a county commissioner from Eastpointe, was running in the Democratic primary against Sarah Roberts, who has not been tied to the calls. Roberts trounced DiMaria.
The narrator said DiMaria, a part-time photographer, “takes dirty pictures in his basement” and “uses the Internet to lure young girls into nude modeling sessions at his home,” according to court documents. The call ends: “Tell Phil DiMaria you’re disgusted with his filthy hobbies. Call DiMaria at … and tell him to get the head-doctor help he really needs.”

DiSano’s wild accusations spawned from DiMaria’s association with a web page a decade early that contained numerous photos of nude women. The photos were accompanied by DiMaria’s trademark but were the responsibility of two photography partners. The photos were removed from the site after DiMaria was contacted by a Macomb Daily reporter in December 2002.
DiMaria, who was a Troy police officer at the time, said two years ago an internal investigation cleared him.
DiMaria is a photographer but says he mostly shoots sporting events and musicians.
After losing the August 2012 primary, DiMaria sued for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and tortious interference with a business relationship or expectancy, in Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens. He said the calls damaged him personally and professionally.
Judge Mark Switalski in April denied DiSano and Sloan’s attempt to have the lawsuit tossed.

In the settlement, DiSano, a partner in Lansing-based Main Street Strategies, must perform a number of tasks, Addis said. According to Addis, DiSano is required to:
• conduct a robo-call campaign in the same area where the prior calls were made and must admit they allegations were “completely wrong and utterly incorrect,” Addis said.
• pay for and create, with DiMaria’s approval, a print advertisement that will appear in two publications and retract and apologize for the claims.
• personally meet with DiMaria’s wife and apologize.
• create five political ads and provide robo-calls for DiMaria
• arrange for meetings with two lobbyists and make favorable comments to local media outlets, if DiMaria runs for office again.
• pay Dimaria a sum of money; the amount is confidential.
DiSano and his attorney, Anthony DeLuca, did not return telephone messages Thursday.

Addis said DiMaria could have taken the case to trial and possibly gained a better settlement but decided “he wanted to move on with his life.”
Because he was a public figure, DiMaria at a trial would have had to prove that not only were the allegations false, but had to show malice by the defendants – they either knew the information was false or had a reckless disregard for the truth.
The three members of the facilitation panel all agreed DiMaria had a strong case, Addis said.
Addis said the deal provides “a great lesson in politics.”

“These politicians are taught that if they’re running for office, they can say anything they want,” he said. “But that’s not how the First Amendment works. Politicians can and do distort an opponent’s record all the time, but you don’t try to destroy a person."
Addis said they don’t know who hired DiSano, but that DiMaria is sure Roberts was not involved.
“My client suspects it may have been something personal,” Addis said. “He is convinced Miss Roberts had nothing to do with it.”
DiMaria did not return a phone message.
The robo-calls came about four months after DiSano was criticized by some for sending emails and making robo-calls to nearly 50,000 Democratic voters in Michigan asking them to vote for Rick Santorum in the presidential primary to try to derail Mitt Romney.

Lucido breaks own spending record, seeks $1,000 per person at upcoming fundraiser

By Chad Selweski
@cbsnewsman on Twitter
After setting an apparent record for spending in a Michigan House primary election, Republican Pete Lucido of Shelby Township boosted his campaign spending total to $304,000 and has scheduled a fundraiser for next week where he will seek contributions of up to $1,000 per person.
A first-time candidate, Lucido is considered a shoo-in when he faces a poorly funded Democratic candidate in November who has lost several prior election attempts. But Lucido said he has no intentions of slowing down the pace of his political pursuit.

Weeks before the Aug. 5 primary vote, Lucido had already spent $250,000 on a campaign battle with Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot. At the time, political experts said that outlay was the largest amount ever spent in a two-person primary race for the state House.
Lucido’s newest campaign finance report, covering the timeframe from July 21 to Aug. 24, shows that his spending spree reached $304,785. That unprecedented amount was made possible by the $185,000 of his own money that he pumped into the campaign effort.

The report also reveals that Lucido, a prominent defense attorney, injected $50,000 of personal funds into his campaign coffers in the final days before the vote -- $15,000 on July 25, $15,000 on July 28, and $20,000 on Aug. 4.
In July, Lucido had reported spending $150,000 from his own finances. The $50,000 reported since then does not match up with the $185,000 personal total he is now claiming.
The GOP nominee also likely gained from a simultaneous burst of advertising for his law firm, with a variety of marketing efforts that featured the same Lucido logo as the one used by his campaign.

Every shopping cart at the 23 Mile Road Kroger store in Shelby Township was festooned with a placard  that used the Lucido campaign logo but advertised for his law firm.
The fundraising dinner slated by Lucido at the ornate Palazzo Grande in Shelby Township on Thursday offers tickets in five price categories: $150, $250, $350, $500 and $1,000.
Though his campaign account’s balance on Aug. 24 was about $1,900, in the heavily Republican 36th House District, that slight amount might be considered enough for the GOP nominee to defeat his Democratic opponent, Robert Murphy of Romeo.
A perennial candidate who has appeared on the ballot as a Republican, an independent and a Democrat over the years, Murphy is making his fifth run for the 36th District seat in northern Macomb County. In each of those races – 2004, 2006, 2010, 2012 and 2014 – he has claimed a finance reporting waiver, which meant that he intended to spend less than $1,000 on his campaign.
Lucido said that he is not familiar with Murphy’s background but his campaign tactics will not be tempered by his opponent.
“Why wouldn’t we have a general election fundraiser?” he said. “It’s a chance to get all my allies together and unite the front.”

The premier guest at the event will be GOP Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land. Lucido, who complained bitterly about Grot’s refusal to debate in the primary election, said he is not familiar with the heavy criticism Land has faced for dodging debates with her Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters.
“I’m not aware that she’s been accused of avoiding debates,” he said. “I’ll … ask her: ‘Are you avoiding debates and, if so, why?’”

State House candidates Pete Lucido and Robert Murphy will appear at a public forum from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday at the Washington Township Hall to discuss issues with voters in the 36th District (Washington and Bruce Townships, Romeo, and most of Shelby Township).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

U.S.-allied rebel group in Syria also engages in beheadings

This screen grab from a video shows a child,
encouraged by the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army,
helping to behead a man with a machete.

So, here we are again, 13 years later, trying to decide how to hit back with military air strikes against Middle East terrorists.
The 2001-02 struggles to understand al-Qaida’s motivations and to intelligently comprehend the difference between Sunnis, Shia and Kurds has been replaced by a much more complicated set of rules on the ground this time around.
The militant groups fighting for and against the brutal Syrian regime, if the various brigades are accounted for, number in the dozens. Motivations and agendas run the gamut.

Surely, ISIS must be destroyed. But relying upon a proxy war in a cesspool of bad actors is not the way to satisfy American interests abroad.
In Syria, we have jihadist groups -- some pro-government, some trying to end Assad's reign -- and the U.S. is supposed to cut through all of that to choose a moderate rebel group to do our fighting for us.
Two things: The “moderate” groups are labeled in such a way only in comparison to all the other jihadist groups in the Mideast; and if we had armed the rebels waging war against the monstrous Assad regime a year or two ago, chances are that most of our weapons eventually would have fallen into the hands of ISIS, just as the surrender of arms by the cowardly Iraqi forces played out earlier this summer not far from Baghdad.  
Far more disconcerting is that the American voters’ wild swing in favor of taking military action in Syria and Iraq was, according to polls, based largely on video of the unspeakable beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Here’s the reality: The main rebel group that has received covert U.S. assistance, the Syrian Free Army, which will now receive arms and training in Saudi Arabia courtesy of the Obama administration, has reportedly also beheaded people.
Back in December 2012, the watchdog group known as Human Rights Investigations revealed a despicable video in which a young boy armed with a machete, under encouragement from an FSA brigade, kicked off the bloody process of beheading of a man who was deemed loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“From watching footage from rebel media it is clear some rebels are making a special effort to bring very young, impressionable children to their sectarian, jihadi ideology,” Human Rights Organization said at the time.
“Well, apparently they aren’t content with that, and the use of a child as an executioner marks a new low,” the group commented on humanrightsorganization.org. “One can only hope that media and public opinion might dissuade the likes of Barack Obama …and (British Prime Minister) David Cameron from continuing to support these terrorists.”
Numerous other reports of atrocities led to a conclusion by the United Nations that FSA is guilty of war crimes, including kidnappings, torture and executions.

In July 2013, military.com, an American website, reported that a priest and another Christian were beheaded before a cheering crowd by FSA insurgents who said their targets aided and abetted the (Muslim) enemy, specifically Assad's military forces.
An undated video that made the Internet rounds showed two unnamed men with tied hands surrounded by a cheering crowd of dozens, just moments before their heads were cut off with a small knife. The attackers in the video then lifted a head for show, and placed it back on the body. The incident took place in the countryside of Idlib, according to media reports in the region.

In June, President Obama first proposed a $500 million plan to arm and train the moderate Syrian opposition. Now, he has upped the ante, despite a U.S. history of proxy wars gone wrong.
Perhaps the commander-in-chief should consider how devastating it would be if, in the near future, videos surface of U.S.-financed rebels beheading their enemies in a manner all too reminiscent of the shocking videotaped decapitation deaths of Sotloff and Foley.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Could Tigers baseball influence races for Senate and governor?

Miggy Cabrera
 The folks at Roll Call have produced an intriguing story that draws the link between baseball and election campaigns, particularly when the players in both of those endeavors are heading down the home stretch.

Marky Schauer
Based on information received from those who selectively buy campaign ad space on future TV broadcasts, Roll Call makes the case that baseball games are an ideal purchase if the home team is competing for a spot in the playoffs. Even better is a TV market where the home team is in the playoffs, hoping for an appearance in the World Series – all at the same time in October as political candidates are scrambling to make that one, big last push.

And the ad buyers say the one market that is a “slam dunk” (talk about mixing metaphors) is Detroit, where the Tigers are chasing Kansas City for the Central Division title and also have a shot at a Wild Card spot.

Meanwhile, Michigan has two high-profile, highly competitive races at the top of the ticket, for governor and senator, and the parties and candidates seem poised to spend many millions between now and Election Day. That means Tigers fans may see the faces of Mark Schauer, Rick Snyder, Gary Peters and Terri Lynn Land on their TV screens in the next few weeks as much as Miggy and V-Mart.
Here’s how Roll Call explains the premise:
“Televised sports make for a desirable market for political advertisers because viewers are less likely to record and fast-forward through commercials.
What’s more, the target audience watching these sports — mostly white and male — comprise one of the most reliable voting blocs in a mid-term. For Republicans, baseball viewing marks an opportunity to motivate their base. Democrats gear their baseball game ads towards improving their numbers with this demographic.”

As for the two top political contests, Roll Call labels the gubernatorial race between Schauer and Snyder as the most-watched campaign. The Senate race between Peters and Land is “on the cusp of being competitive,” but a GOP media buyer seemed skeptical that Land can remain competitive: “I don’t know if, by the time when the playoffs roll around, that race will still be on people’s radar.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

3rd UPDATE: Friend says he saw no indication of Jaye return to drunkenness

Jaye's Macomb County Jail mug shot

By Chad Selweski
@cbsnewsman on Twitter
Dave Jaye, the infamous former state senator who struggled for years with excessive drinking, was arrested on Sunday night for disorderly conduct after engaging in an apparently drunken confrontation with a jogger on the Macomb Orchard Trail in Washington Township.
According to the Macomb County Sheriff’s Department, Jaye at the time smelled of alcohol, was slurring his speech and looked “sloppy” when he was detained by deputies near Campground Road and Van Dyke. He was riding a bike with beer cans in his backpack when he had a verbal confrontation with the jogger and said: “Don’t make me come after you.”
Jaye refused to take a portable breathalyzer test so his blood-alcohol level at the time is unknown. Michigan’s disorderly person law includes provisions for evidence that a person may have been intoxicated, based on what the arresting officers witnessed.
The only member of the Michigan Senate ever to be removed from office by his colleagues, Jaye, 56, was arrested and jailed by sheriff’s deputies shortly before 10 p.m. when the frightened jogger called police. The former lawmaker was also chanting while riding on the trail but sheriff’s Lt. John Michalke refused to identify what the chant consisted of.
A longtime Jaye friend said that the controversial former lawmaker had returned to Macomb County about six weeks ago to rehabilitate the Washington Township home that he lived in during his years in the state Legislature and still owns.
Joe Munem said that Jaye had been consistently sober and had shown no signs of a relapse after struggling with drinking problems for two decades.
“I wouldn’t have thought something like this would have happened at this point in his life. I have not seen Dave drink in … 10 years,” said Munem, a former political consultant from Sterling Heights.
After his removal from the Senate in 2001 for drunken, assaultive behavior at a gas station, Jaye eventually moved to South Korea, where he taught English as a second language to adults. He has also lived in China, teaching American business customs at the university level.
More recently he established residence in Bonita Springs, Fla., where he landed a county government job handling recycling programs and grant writing.
At the time of his arrest on Sunday, which occurred after dark, police found no evidence that Jaye had physically harmed anyone, and he appeared to be uninjured despite his erratic bike riding. He was wearing camouflage shorts and a white T-shirt in addition to the black backpack.  
Jaye was formally charged on Monday in a video arraignment handled by the 42nd District Court in Romeo. The former lawmaker was granted a $1,000 personal bond and was released.
His next court date is Sept. 25 in the 42nd District Court.
Known for his vociferous, politically incorrect comments and his conservative Republican politics, Jaye’s political career began with a 2-year stint on the Macomb County Board of Commissioners in 1985-86.
He was elected to the state House in 1988 and served there for 10 years until he won a special election to replace the late state senator Doug Carl. Among the many reasons for his Senate expulsion, the most cited were his three drunken-driving convictions.
His expulsion trial in front of a Senate panel received frenzied media coverage and produce big newspaper headlines across the state.
After attracting considerable media attention for 15 years, his attempted political comeback after being expelled fell flat in a Sept. 11, 2001, special election that was completely overshadowed by the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Yet, Munem said he saw a “more mellow and mature Dave Jaye” in recent times, a man who had become more health conscious and had hopes of creating a new chapter in his life in the business world, not in politics. Munem said he has no idea what could have triggered Jaye’s behavior on Sunday.
“In my conversations with him, he’s been fairly upbeat and positive,” Munem explained. “He’s demonstrated a lot of self-confidence about what he wants to do next.”