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.

Friday, November 21, 2014

And Obama's next executive order will be - ?

Just a few hours before House Speaker John Boehner announced this morning that he and his Republican colleagues are suing the president over his “unilateral actions” on the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, Obama Press Secretary Josh Earnest revealed that there's more to come.
When asked on Sirius/XM's political show "POTUS" if the president is planning on any more executive orders in the near future, Earnest said: "Yes, but not one I'm prepared to announce here."
That remark must have infuriated Boehner & Co., as they're still steaming from the executive actions announced by Obama last night on immigration issues. 
The House GOP asserts in the long-awaited lawsuit against the White House that Obama made 38 revisions to the ACA without congressional approval. 
In recent days, Capitol Hill Republicans have taken to calling Obama's reign the "imperial presidency."
Obviously, the president is not listening.

Miller reaffirms: 'Merry Christmas' is just fine

Congresswoman Candice Miller has reminded fellow House members that using the phrase "Merry Christmas" when communicating with constituents is just fine.
As chair of the Franking Commission that regulates congressional mailings, Miller convinced the commission last December to allow holiday salutations such as Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.The prior rule banned such phrases, even when used in an incidental manner. 
When I assumed the chairmanship of the House’s Franking Commission, the prohibition on simple holiday greetings stood out to me as extreme and unwarranted, which is why I implemented a new common-sense policy that allows members to include incidental holiday wishes in their communications with constituents,” Miller said. 
“Now, the franking regulations allow for polite holiday greetings while still guarding taxpayers from any misuse of official funds.”
So, no War on Christmas with Miller at the helm.

Pelosi: Bush was 'absolutely great'

In case you missed it, at a Thursday press conference Nancy Pelosi offered gushing praise for former President George W. Bush. 
The House minority leader was making the case that past Republican presidents, from Eisenhower to Bush, had used their executive authority to alter the nation's immigration system.
Then she said this: “And nobody was better on immigration than George W. Bush. He was absolutely great.”
Bush's work with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy to try to get comprehensive immigration reform passed remains a black mark on his presidential legacy with many conservatives. I suspect an "absolutely great" rating from the much-despised Pelosi will further cement W's reputation with the far right as "absolutely not one of us."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

So, what's on the networks instead of the president's speech?

As the president prepares to deliver a prime time address to the American people on one of the hottest issues of the past three decades -- immigration reform -- the four broadcast networks have all declined to show Barack Obama's explanation of his controversial executive order.
Instead, CBS will air its popular comedy, "The Big Bang Theory." ABC opted for its nighttime soap opera "Grey's Anatomy."

At NBC, Obama was bumped for "The Biggest Loser: Glory Days," a show that attempts to glorify weight-loss efforts by obese people. And over at Fox, they're broadcasting a show called "Bones."Here's the description of tonight's episode:
"A  crossword-puzzle master's remains are found in an urban fracking site, but the search for the killer among his rivals reveals the deceased was suffering from a mental illness at the time of his death. Meanwhile, a pregnant Daisy gets a boost from her doula in her time of need."

I'm not sure what that all means. But I'm pretty sure that Obama's precedent-setting decision on protecting up to 5 million adults and kids from deportation will outlast that episode of Bones for many, many years.

Rep. Miller curiously silent on Obama immigration order

Rep. Candice Miller, who has never been shy about criticizing Barack Obama, has curiously decided to withhold comment on the president's forthcoming executive order until after his 8 p.m. speech.
Miller, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, has repeatedly denounced the lack of effective U.S. protections at the border with Mexico. 
At the same time, the Harrison Township Republican has loudly criticized the 2013 Senate immigration reform bill as legislation that is fattened up with numerous unnecessary expenses.
Yet, while many of her Republican colleagues derisively call Obama "emperor" and suggest that his executive order will spark noisy public protests against an "imperial presidency," the congresswoman remains silent. 
Which only raises the curiosity level to 10 as far as her post-speech reaction when she chooses to comment.

Here's the middle ground approach that would have avoided Obama Exec Order

Jon Huntsman, former Republican presidential candidate and co-founder of No Labels, a bipartisan group that features about 90 members of Congress, explained this week how the Senate in 2013 managed to craft an immigration reform bill that garnered strong support. 

In a Q&A with Lanny Davis, a former Bill Clinton adviser, Huntsman said:
"Republican senators wanted to secure our borders. Many Democrats agreed. Democrats wanted to grant legal resident status to undocumented workers who have been here for years, raised families and been good citizens, and to have a pathway to citizenship for these people some day after paying fines and working years to earn the privilege. "
"Many Republicans agreed.
"Voila — this is essentially the Senate bill that was passed on a bipartisan vote." 
Davis, writing for The Hill earlier this week, urged House Speaker John Boehner to take action to avoid President Obama's forthcoming executive order on immigration.
"Why not make this a turning point and prove that Republicans can join with Democrats and ... work together! Follow the No Labels problem-solver approach! 
"If you do, this last action of the 113th Congress will be a historical pivot from dysfunction and gridlock to a Congress that America can believe in again, and show our ability as a democracy to solve problems."
At this point, with about eight hours until the president's speech, Boehner certainly will not intervene. But what is about to happen was avoidable.

Miller's selection as committee chair(woman) stirs controversy

Candice Miller's selection as the only female among the 21 committee chairs in the House has again sparked a bit of controversy as those on the left and the right debate whether the Republican lineup represents a stodgy party utterly lacking in diversity at the top.
Over at MSNBC, Rachel Maddow pointed out that the House Administration Committee that Miller will oversee for another two years provides oversight of House operations and finances. In other words, Maddow said, the lone female chair "is in charge of the cafeteria and the bathrooms."

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise defended the nearly all-white-male lineup by, well, essentially engaging in denial. In addition to Miller, he said, the GOP members re-elected Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers as chairwoman of the Republican Conference -- a group that meets behind closed doors. 
“But if you look at this new class, especially, such a great, new, diverse group of members, with great backgrounds, too," Scalise added. 

Michael Barone, a veteran report/commentator and congressional historian of some heft, chose sarcasm to make the point that Miller is who she is. Writing for The Washington Examiner, Barone took issue with headlines in the mainstream media that said the GOP had opted for an all-male slate. 
The House Administration Committee does not handle legislation, but it is not a "trivial post," Barone intoned.
"Whatever else she may be," he wrote, "Candice Miller is not a non-person or a non-woman. Yes, I know, in the views of mainstream media, Republicans hate women, would never promote them to influential positions, look down on them, blah, blah, blah. But, hey, guys in the mainstream media: There is a woman who in the Republican House is and will be chairman of a full committee, whether you like it or not."
(Barone also offered this quirky little explanation of Miller's hometown of Harrison Township: "... just east of Mount Clemens, the county seat of the famous Macomb County, on a swampy peninsula extending out into Lake St. Clair, the tiniest and least great of the Great Lakes.)

Of course, the Republicans and their conservative allies wouldn't have such difficulty defending Miller's distinction if they had learned their lesson from 2012. Two years ago, House Speaker John Boehner noticed that the initial 19 chosen committee chairs were all males. With two relatively obscure committees to go, the GOP leadership scrambled to find a seat at the head of the table for a woman. 
They chose the Administration Committee for that spot but, when they realized that the Republican members on the panel were all men, they brought in Miller from the outside and made her the chairman -- uh, chairwoman.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Snyder, Schauer campaigns paid for less than one-fourth of $50 million ads

Thanks to many millions of dollars from outside groups, television advertising in Michigan's gubernatorial campaign totaled $47.6 million, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, ranking 2014 second behind the $54 million spent in the high-profile 2006 campaign between Gov. Jennifer Granholm and multi-millionaire Republican challenger Dick DeVos.
This year's campaign did establish a new record for spending by shadowy independent committees: $36.6 million. That is double the previous record of $18 million from the 2006 campaign.

The MCFN, a watchdog group, found that the candidates' accounted for just 23 percent of TV spending in this year's campaign. Gov. Rick Snyder's campaign spent $7.7 million and Mark Schauer's campaign spent $3.3 million.
The biggest spenders were the Democratic Governors Association, with $15.4 million supporting Schauer, and the Republican Governors Association spending $10.4 million backing Snyder.
Other top television advertisers supporting the incumbent were former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's Independence USA PAC, $2.7 million, and the Michigan Republican Party, $5.7 million.
Other outsiders aiding Schauer were the National Education Association, $1.45 million, and the AFL-CIO's Workers' Voice for Michigan, $691,000.

Levin, Miller retain key posts in new Congress

Macomb County's two representatives on Capitol Hill, Sandy Levin and Candice Miller, have retained their positions for the new Congress as top-ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee and chair of the House Administration Committee, respectively.

Levin, a Royal Oak Democrat, issued this statement after the Democratic caucus re-elected him as the ranking member:
“Serving as the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee is an immense honor, and I appreciate the support of my colleagues. This committee faces many of the challenges that need to be addressed in the right way, including strengthening – not weakening – Medicare and Social Security, trade and tax reform constructed in ways that focus on boosting our economy and creating American jobs, and efforts to help health care reform continue to expand insurance coverage and lower costs. 
"My Democratic colleagues on the committee will work with our Republican colleagues to tackle these and other vital issues in creative ways that honor the bipartisan traditions of the Ways and Means Committee and place first and foremost the interests of the American people.”

Levin also extended a gracious greeting to GOP Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who will replace Michigan's Dave Camp as committee chair when the 114th Congress convenes in January:
“I extend warm congratulations to Paul Ryan on becoming the next chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and I look forward to working with him. I have admired his determination, his interest in a broad range of issues, and the humor with which he has approached his intensive work in Congress. With our offices next door to one another, we don’t have far to go as we strive to honor the esteemed history of the committee and serve the best interests of the American people.”

Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner announced that Miller, a Harrison Township Republican, will continue to chair the Administration Committee. Though all of the chairs of the House legislative committees are white males, Miller will oversee the committee that handles the House budget and finances.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today in making the people’s House less costly and more accountable without Candice Miller,” Boehner said.  “As administration chairman, she consistently puts taxpayers first, even and especially when it means making tough calls and asking the institution to do more with less.  Chairman Miller should take much pride in what she and her team have accomplished and will accomplish on behalf of the American people.”
Miller said this: “I thank Speaker Boehner for his confidence in me and the opportunity to continue my service as the chairman of the Committee on House Administration for the 114th Congress. Over the past two years, the committee has worked to ensure that America continues to have open, free and fair elections.  

"Additionally, the committee works to improve the way the House operates by saving taxpayer dollars, and improving communication with constituents by using low-cost digital tools. Over the next two years as chairman, I look forward to continuing our oversight over House operations and facilities, as well as making certain that this House remains open and accessible to the people we are here to serve.”

This year, under Chairman Miller’s stewardship, Boehner said, the House received another clean financial audit.  
The House also continued holding the line on its own budget, putting it on track to save taxpayers $594 million

Double-whammy: Hundreds of counties hit with high poverty, high inequality

A new demographics report that tracks the combined increases in poverty and income inequality across the nation has nothing but bad news for Michigan. 
In the maps above (I apologize for the poor quality) counties with high inequality and high poverty are depicted in red; counties with high inequality and low poverty are blue; those with low inequality and high poverty are orange; and those with inequality and low poverty are green.
As the maps make clear, Michigan in 1989 was nearly all green but in the most current map with data from 2008-12 the state is looking fairly freckle-faced, with flecks of red, blue and orange.

As first reported in the Wall Street Journal, the study by demographers Mark Mather and Beth Jarosz of the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit demographic research group, found that this double-whammy of poverty and inequality is especially a Southern problem, it’s also a national one.
The authors of the study concluded this:

“In the 1980s and 1990s, income inequality and poverty intersected primarily in Appalachia, the Deep South, and parts of California and the Southwest….But during the past decade, poverty and inequality spread to new areas in Alabama, the Carolinas, Georgia, Michigan and Tennessee."
Overall, the share of high-poverty, high-inequality counties in the U.S. is growing. Counties in this category reached 37 percent in 2008-12, up from 29 percent in 1989. Conversely, the share of low-poverty, low-inequality counties dropped to 34 percent compared to 50 percent in '89.

Michigan ranks No. 2 in independent, minor party candidates

Ballot Access News, which provides a wealth of information about state election laws that favor the two major parties, recently reported that Michigan ranks No. 2 in the number of independent and minor party candidates on the ballot from 2001-2014. 
With a combined 720 candidates for state and federal offices, Michigan was second only to the 824 candidates in Texas, which (of course) is a much larger state with many more elective posts.
San Francisco-based Ballot Access News created the comparison chart by tracking candidates for president, governor, Congress, partisan statewide offices and the legislature. 
Michigan's total was higher than larger states such as California, Florida, New York and New Jersey. Most states experienced less than 300 independent and minor party candidates over that 13-year period.
Among the lowest numbers were those in North Dakota and New Mexico -- 34 each. 

Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, explains that those two states have rules that make running for office difficult for all but Democrats and Republicans.
In New Mexico, independent candidates must gather petition signatures equal to 3 percent of the state's registered voters in order to gain a spot on the statewide ballot. If such a standard existed in Michigan, a candidate would face the nearly impossible task of collecting more than 223,000 signatures.
In North Dakota, minor party candidates appear on the primary election ballot. Under the state's ballot access restrictions, candidates for the legislature can't run in November unless they receive approximately 10 to 15 percent of the total primary votes cast. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lund getting hammered over Electoral College reform plan

State Rep. Pete Lund continues to get hammered for his ham-handed attempt to alter Michigan's winner-take-all system in presidential elections.
The Shelby Township Republican's loser-gets-a-share approach toward Michigan's 16 Electoral College votes was soundly criticized by election experts at a House hearing on Monday. Academia may not phase Lund but fellow conservatives at The Detroit News are also piling on.

Dan Calabrese, a frequent blogger for the News, had this to say:

"Michigan Republicans need to do better (in presidential elections), and to stop thinking like losers. Changing a process permanently because of the way you’re performing at a given point in time almost always comes back to bite you later when the dynamics have changed and that rule change you forced way back when doesn’t help you as much as you thought it was going to.
"Not to mention the fact that politicians should not be changing the rules just to help their side win, and that’s exactly what this is."
James David Dickson, Op-Ed page editor at the News, wrote a blog post that essentially said Lund should serve as the poster child for stupid ideas if the Legislature approves the lame-duck lawmaker's plan to distribute Electoral College votes based on the margin of victory:
"All this would do is relegate Michigan further into backwater status. If winner-takes-all isn’t intriguing enough to get candidates to come to Michigan, splitting electoral votes up for anything less than a supermajority won’t entice them, either.
"... Lund needs to realize that President Barack Obama is not on the ballot in 2016. The Republicans who think they allowed a great injustice to be done to their people in allowing Obama to be elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012 ... should focus more on (trying) to get a win in 2016. Rigging the game speaks to a lack of confidence in one’s team. In terms of raw numbers, it speaks to either a lack of character (if a Democrat wins) or intelligence (if a Republican wins).

"Whether this reform is passed by a Legislature on its way out — whether this lands on Gov. Rick Snyder’s famed 'agenda' or not — will tell the real story here. If Pete Lund drives Michigan’s faint relevance in presidential elections off a cliff, his name and face should be plastered everywhere, with a simple question: 'This was the man you followed off a cliff?'"

Rep-elect Courser calls for lame-duck Speaker's ouster over gay rights

Tea party darling Todd Courser, now a state representative-elect, wasted little time going on the offensive against his Republican colleagues.
What's more, he's calling for the ouster of House Speaker Jase Bolger -- who only has about nine session days left in his reign -- if the speaker pursues a measure that would prevent discrimination against gays.
In a message to supporters over the weekend, the Lapeer Republican said GOP House members preparing for the lame-duck session "should have anticipated the lengths these RINO, Democrat-lite politicians would go to enact their statist, secular agenda."

That's a reference to the proposed amendment to the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act that would include sexual preference and gender identity among the factors that protect individuals from discrimination.
LGBT activists are not happy with the wording, which has the support of Gov. Snyder, because it does not spell out protections for the transgender population.

Courser sees things differently:

"It is an egregious offense that they are trampling on the religious liberties endowed by our creator and enshrined in our state and federal constitutions. The current 'Republican' speaker of the House, emboldened by the small fortune he has procured from LGBT activists, is pushing to bring the expansion of Elliot-Larsen to the floor for a vote, despite the objections of the majority of his caucus."
Courser's low opinion of Bolger apparently was not altered by a separate Bolger bill that would allow businesses to use their religious beliefs as justification to refuse service to same-sex couples. This “license to discriminate” bill, opponents insist, would water down some of the public accommodation protections offered in the updated version of Elliot-Larsen.

Courser is not impressed by that argument:
"If the Republican speaker continues to ignore the will of the voters and the principles of the caucus that elected him, unprecedented action must be taken!  Conservatives must call for his removal and require the immediate implementation of the 'Hastert rule.' 
"If this is unsuccessful, the caucus must turn their backs on their rogue leader and walk out, refusing to vote on any other piece of legislation during lame duck.  If the speaker wishes to pass a Democratic agenda with Democratic votes and ignore the principles of the Republican caucus that elected him, let him look out at the chamber and see his true allies -- liberals and statists seeking an agenda beholden to Big Government secularism."

With that, his email message was not complete. Courser, who takes office in January, offered a parting shot:
"... To allow the Speaker to act as a rogue champion of the liberal left would be laughable if it wasn't so obscenely offensive.  I will gladly walk arm-in-arm with any conservatives willing to show their backbone, and other relevant anatomical parts, in standing up to this abasement of our constitutional liberties."

If Courser wasn't so xenophobic and so determined to send illegal immigrants back to Mexico, I think he might have used the word "cajones" in that final sentence.

Here's the liberal lefty who may surpass Bachmann's kookiness

The ISIS beheading of U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig reminded me of the crazy conspiracy theories recently unleashed by author Naomi Wolf, who has become the Ann Coulter or Michele Bachmann of the far left.
Last month Wolf posted a series of bizarre comments on Facebook that riled many people, especially the parents of hostages beheaded by ISIS in Syria.
Vox.com summarized the insanity this way:

"Author and former Democratic political consultant Naomi Wolf published a series of Facebook posts  ... in which she questioned the veracity of the ISIS videos showing the murders and beheadings of two Americans and two Britons, strongly implying that the videos had been staged by the U.S. government and that the victims and their parents were actors.
"Wolf published a separate Facebook post ... suggesting that the U.S. was sending troops to West Africa not to assist with Ebola treatment but to bring Ebola back to the U.S. to justify a military takeover of American society. She also suggested that the Scottish independence referendum, in which Scots voted to remain in the United Kingdom, had been faked."
The Kassig execution brought to mind Wolf's despicable postings because, at one point, she singled out a photo of Kassig and indicated that he was a hostage who did not exist. In Wolf's world, this was all a plot hatched by the Pentagon.
Here's that post, which was retrieved by Vox:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Time for the voters to end rigged elections

Now that the Republicans in Lansing have abandoned a nefarious plan to manipulate Michigan’s presidential elections, it’s time for the Democrats who have expressed outrage over this scheme to concede that they have participated in a system that rigged elections for Congress and the Legislature for decades.
And it’s time for average, disillusioned voters to stop these partisan games by putting forward a ballot proposal that ends the devious process of gerrymandering legislative districts.

The Michigan electorate deserves a chance to create the same kind of independent commission that presides over the nonpartisan drawing of districts as exists in several states.
After the stunning numbers that came out of the Nov. 4 general election – with votes skewed to a ridiculous extent in favor of the Republicans – it seems clear that redistricting reform should be near the top of every voter’s list.
It’s also abundantly clear that both political parties will do everything in their considerable power to stop such an effort.
The controversial GOP plan for presidential elections, previously put forward with a breathtaking amount of hubris by Macomb County’s own Pete Lund, a state representative from Shelby Township, would have allocated Michigan’s Electoral College votes proportionately based on the election results in each congressional district. In other words, this trickery would have relied upon a map drawn by the Republicans in a hyper-partisan manner.
That move would have so bastardized the will of the people that Mitt Romney, who lost the 2102 popular vote in Michigan by a substantial margin to President Obama, would have received a majority of the state’s Electoral College votes.

Lund introduced a new plan last week that seems less partisan, though it oddly seeks to dump the standard winner-take-all approach to elections by dividing up Michigan’s 16 Electoral College votes based on the state’s margin of victory in the presidential race.
This loser-gets-a-share approach is designed to make Michigan a frequent campaign destination for those seeking the Oval Office, altering a system that dates back to 1836 by taking a chamber of commerce travel bureau approach to democracy.

At the same time, the far more egregious issue at the heart of Michigan’s brand of democracy was on full display in the general election. Though Michigan stands as a closely contested state up and down the ballot, most of the electorate lives in non-competitive districts where votes don’t count for much.
The jagged, zig-zagging districts that granted Democrats a clear advantage for many years when they were the majority in the state Capitol are now the product of Republicans in charge. Maybe the GOP is better at this game – or more ruthless – but the high-tech precision in drawing maps has produced a monstrous result.

Here was the outcome in the November election:
* The combined statewide popular vote for state House candidates gave Democrats a 51.2 percent share, but just 43 percent of House seats. As a result, a 56-54 advantage for Democrats that could have occurred in districts that were drawn in an entirely neutral manner was twisted into a 63-47 gap in favor of the GOP.
* The statewide result for state Senate gave the Republicans a 50.7 percent share of votes, but the outcome under Michigan’s gerrymandered districts saw the GOP grab 71 percent of the Senate seats, giving them a gaping split of 27-11 over the Democrats for the next four years.
* And in the elections for seats in Congress, the overall vote gave Democrats the “win” – 49.1 percent to 47.6 percent. But the doctored districts gave the Republicans the victory with a 9-5 edge in U.S. House seats.

Each of those numbers, this poisoning of our politics, is shameful.
They are the product of crimes of geography in which the politicians, whose main motivation is political power and self-preservation, are those who draw the maps. With a bit of good ol’ boy horse-trading thrown in by the party out of power, the final lines that are drawn amount to an incumbent protection plan.
As commentator George Will has said: “The voters don’t choose their representatives, the representatives choose their voters.”
The disingenuous claim by partisans on the left and on the right that a truly neutral, nonpartisan district does not and cannot exist is exactly the kind of noise that will be spread far and wide if a proposal for redistricting reform ever makes it to the ballot.
Anyone who has observed the squiggly district boundaries in North Carolina, for example, and compared them to the lines in Iowa (see map above) surely knows that an objective, nonpolitical approach toward the decennial rite of apportionment imparts a world of difference.
Iowa has emerged as the gold standard, a model of equity, for establishing fairness and objectivity in mapping out districts. In what may be the nation’s most politically charged state, Iowa has nonetheless created four congressional districts that are cleanly drawn to maximize the standards of square and compact shapes.
When the Boston Globe took a first-hand look at Iowa’s impartial approach, here is what they found: “The mapmakers are not allowed to consider previous election results, voter registration numbers, or even the addresses of the incumbent(s). … No politician – not the governor, the (state) House speaker, or Senate majority leader – is allowed to weigh in, or get a sneak preview.”
The result? Each district represents Iowa’s mix of urban and rural flavor. In addition, the Hawkeye State has some of the most competitive congressional elections in the nation.

Drawing 14 compact districts in Michigan would be more difficult given the state’s mitten shape. But California, with many more miles of jagged coastline and 53 congressional districts to work with, is among those states that successfully switched to an independent redistricting commission.
To be fair, outdated apportionment standards established by prior legislation and litigation would have to be challenged in Michigan, but other states have managed.
And, to be sure, Democrats and Republicans would demonize this approach. But what is their source of credibility on this issue? Voter dissatisfaction with incumbents hovers at record highs, yet nearly every incumbent seeking re-election at the congressional or state level won on Election Day. What does that say?
It’s also telling that in the 435-member U.S. House, a bill that would require nonpartisan districting in every state has just three supporters.

If Michigan undertakes a petition drive leading to a ballot proposal, the independents, the moderates, the ticket-splitters – and the good-government reformers – will have to lead the charge. Call it the I’m Not Going To Take It Anymore Coalition.
They will be up against those insiders who seek to protect their illegitimate distribution of power. It’s up to the voters to realize that, when these partisan practitioners slice and dice Michigan’s political landscape, it’s the people of all shapes and sizes who are left wounded.

Friday, November 14, 2014

U.S. now suffers from a one-party political system?

When it comes to what really matters, we now suffer under the domination of a de facto single-party state.
That's the view of Ted Baumann in a post-election piece he wrote for the Independent Voters Network. 
With little difficulty, Baumann argues that Republicans and Democrats in Washington have melded together into an idle machine, fueled by PAC money, that accomplishes nothing other than perpetuating a non-stop, hyper-partisan stage show designed solely to gain power and strengthen self-preservation.

Here's a portion of what he wrote:

"... Few in either party seem at all interested in reining in the influence of Wall Street on our political process or stanching the massive flow of subsidies to our “too big to fail” banks through the cheap-money policies of the Federal Reserve. Although they differ over fiscal stimulus, most elected officials in both parties quietly support the ongoing diversion of trillions of dollars to bankers through market manipulation.
"(Another) example, of course, is the broken U.S. tax code. The parties claim to have vastly different agendas when it comes to corporate taxation and individual tax rates, but both work tirelessly — often in cahoots — to protect the loopholes, giveaways, and unfair disparities that are the real problem with our tax system. Millions in PAC money is their reward.
"And of course, aside from U.S. Senator Rand Paul, you won’t hear much talk of repealing abominations such as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) from either party. Even if repeal is buried in their platforms somewhere, don’t expect to see it put to a vote, no matter who runs the House and Senate.
"The election outcome probably guarantees that the next two years in Washington will be a continuous political free-for-all aimed at electing the next president."

Time to dump the State Board of Education from the ballot

Now that we've put another election behind us, the biennial debate over the Michigan ballot carries on.
Critics have long maintained that in our state we elect way too many people to far too many government positions.
The number of posts that are subject to election is well beyond the volume in many other states. 
The argument is made every election year that voters know nearly nothing about many of the candidates on the lower third of the ballot.
(It used to be worse -- county coroners at one time faced voter scrutiny. I guess the electorate was expected to dissect the way in which autopsies were performed.)

The elective posts most often singled out are the judicial offices, particularly down at the circuit court and district court level, and the education boards. 
Some reformers believe the public would be better served by removing the politics associated with these offices and making them appointees of the governor. Just as presidents are closely scrutinized based on their nominees for Supreme Court justice, these various gubernatorial appointees would become part of a governor's resume.
The offices that are most frequently targeted for removal from the balloting process are the education boards. Why is it that the governor appoints members to the boards of 12 state universities, but the voters choose the boards at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University?

Does that make any sense, especially when the voters are thoroughly uninformed about these candidates and, frankly, may have little interest in the internal issues on a college campus, other than those related to their alma mater?
Next we have the eight-member State Board of Education, which serves in obscurity to tackle a mission that's ill-defined. 
In a column written for The Detroit News, Dennis Lennox argues that the state school board is "politically irrelevant." A columnist for our sister paper, The (Mount Pleasant) Morning Sun, Lennox points out that the state Constitution says that the members provide "leadership and general supervision ... general planning and coordinating ... for all public education, including higher education."
Who knew?
Does anyone associate the state's many education issues with the State Board of Ed, other than the panel's periodic appointment of a state school superintendent?

Here's Lennox's take on the board's existence:
"While it possesses significant constitutional authority — a legacy of the Jacksonian democracy-infused 1850 state constitution, which did away with appointed state officeholders outside of the governor in favor of electing just about every office, no matter how great or small — the political reality has long been that the governor and
Legislature control K-12 public education. As one senior GOP grandee with an extensive background in issues related to public education said, “No one considers them (the members) worth the effort.”

"What practical say the State Board of Education does have in Lansing is voiced through the superintendent, who the members hire to serve as the day-to-day head of public education.

"This makes the superintendent accountable to neither (Gov.) Snyder nor legislators, despite the fact they are the ones who take the public’s criticism.

"This creates a significant constitutional quagmire as evident in the past with the Legislature’s debates over Common Core, which were actually adopted by the State Board of Education long before most legislators ever heard mention of the national standards."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Agema agrees: rich, gay Democrats are driving force behind upgrade of Civil Rights Act

Republican National Committee member Dave Agema has once again latched onto Facebook bigotry, this time  by posting Wednesday comments by Agemite disciple Anne Phelps:

* * Attention Michigan!! * * Breaking News: Michigan Republican, Frank Foster, dropped the Elliott Larson (sic) amendment TODAY in the House.
This bill seeks to make sexual orientation, sexual identity and gender identity protected classes- the same as being Black or a woman.
It seeks to make being homosexual an "ethnicity".
Simultaneously, the Republican Speaker of the House, Jase Bolger ,dropped the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a fake protection for Religious Freedom.
Keep in mind that both Foster and Bolger are heavily financed by wealthy Democrat, homosexuals.
The Foster bill is going to the Commerce Committee and the Religious Freedom Bill will likely go to the Judiciary Committee
Beware of ANY so called Christian Conservative leader or group who tries to sell you on the false notion that this bill by Bolger will protect religious freedom.
It is a false cover.
We already have religious freedom. This Bolger bill is a form of moral surrender.
These bills work together to strip us of our religious freedom!
Also beware of Republicans who tried to tell you this was going to just away (sic) because they wanted to stop the conversation before the election.
Traitors are on all sides.
We must mobilize now!
H/T: Stacy Robinson-Swimp

Half of worst campaign ad nominees from Michigan

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post's "The Fix" blog took on the task of choosing the worst political ad of 2014 and, of the six nominees he started with, half of them have ties to the Michigan Senate race.
Two were attack ads run on behalf of Terri Lynn Land in her Senate run against Gary Peters. Another was the now-infamous
60-second spot by the College Republican National Committee that ran in several states, including Michigan. 
The Michigan version of that ad equated Rick Snyder and Mark Schauer to wedding dresses eyed by a future bride.

The Land ad titled "Really" received widespread ridicule because about half of the 30-second spot showed the Republican candidate silently drinking coffee. Messaging guru Frank Luntz and Fox News a few months ago called it the worst ad of the campaign season, at that time.
The Michigan Republican Party ad called "Gary Peters Loan Sharknado" tried to tie the Democratic congressman to some shady characters, but it relied on animation that attached a head shot of the candidate to a cartoon body that looked kind of like Fred Flintstone. Needless to say, this late October commercial -- relying upon a theme from the film "Sharknado," which was so bad that it's become a classic -- was dreadful.
Bloomberg News called it “The Worst Campaign Ad That Human Beings Actually Paid for This Year.” The folks at Iagreetosee.com suggested the campaign spot and the movie have something in common: "This ad is so bad it just might be contagious." 

Here is the list of nominees that The Fix compiled:

* Mark Begich, "Jerry Active"
* College Republican National Committee, "Say Yes to      Rick Scott"
* Wendy Davis, "Justice"
* Terri Lynn Land, "Really"
* Michigan GOP, "Gary Peters Loan Sharknado"
* NARAL, "Sweetpea"
Cillizza explains why the MIGOP batted .500 in this game of mediocrity this way:
"Michigan Republicans didn't have a very good year making ads.  The 'Sharknado' ad was an attempt to go viral that instead flopped -- the victim of terrible production values and a just plain dumb idea. ...Land's attempt to rebut the 'war on women' attack probably seemed like a good idea in the planning meeting -- 'Here's what we'll do ... you'll just sit on camera for 10 seconds and drink tea while music plays in the background!'--  but it didn't work at all. She was not even close to comfortable enough on camera to pull it off."
The Fix's choice of the winning/losing ad for worst of the year was aired by in September by Democratic Senate candidate Mark Begich of Alaska. Begich, who was officially declared the loser of that race yesterday, tried to pin his opponent, former Alaska Attorney General Danny Sullivan, with indirect responsibility for a gruesome murder and a sexual assault of a child.
Never a good idea unless you have some iron-clad proof.
Here's how Politifact judged the ad:
Begich said Sullivan approved a "light sentence" to a sex offender who is now charged with "murdering a senior couple and sexually assaulting their 2-year-old granddaughter."
(The defendant), who is awaiting trial, received a shorter sentence than he was supposed to, but the mistake that led to this sentence happened before Sullivan became attorney general. So to pin the error on Sullivan is wrong, and to suggest that he actively approved the sentence is a fabrication. 
The ad is not only inaccurate, it makes an inflammatory accusation. We rate this claim "Pants on Fire."