12 Jul 2011

Lizz Winstead kicks off her WTF tour to support Planned Parenthood in Michigan – Delicious eye candy within!

All photos by Anne C. Savage. Please do not use without permission. For more photos, click any image.

Lizz Winstead kicked off her “Planned Parenthood, I Am Here For You!” tour (aka, the “WTF” (What’s the Fuss?) tour) in Pontiac, Michigan on Saturday and I was privileged to be there to cover it. Lizz Winstead is the co-creator of the Daily Show and co-founder of Air America radio. Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s her name — “Lizz Winstead Co-creator Of The Daily Show And Co-founder of Air America” — because that’s how she is always introduced.

After Saturday night, I think she should be renamed:

“Lizz Winstead, Heroic Supporter Of Planned Parenthood”

The purpose of the tour is to bring attention to Planned Parenthood and the efforts by those on the right who will stop at nothing to prevent them from helping women across the country. Lizz said she had intended start the tour in Wisconsin — Madison and Milwaukee first — because that state is at the epicenter of the right’s drive to strip away the rights of women and unions. Unfortunately, because Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin has had to spend all of its money on litigation, attempting to keep their doors open so that they can continue to provide reproductive health services to women, they literally didn’t have the resources to bring Lizz there. (Hopefully that will be rectified before she’s done touring. HINT, HINT to any potential Wisconsin benefactors that might be reading this.)

My wife, Anne and I were invited to attend the first show of the WTF tour because Anne had snapped a shot at a Planned Parenthood rally in Ann Arbor earlier this year that is now being used to help promote the tour nationally.

The photo that started it all for us

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29 Jun 2011

An eloquent takedown of Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law from a TEA PARTY candidate

A while back, I wrote a piece for A2Politico.com in which I took the Michigan Democratic Party to task for, among other things, not supporting the efforts stop Public Act 4 (or, as I call it, the “Financial Martial Law Act”). Subsequent to that article, I contacted the Michigan Republican Party and several leaders of tea party groups around the state. Considering their support of smaller government and less government intrusion into the lives of our citizens, the consistent stance from them should have been a wholesale condemnation of P.A. 4.

Not surprisingly, the Michigan Republican Party never responded. I say I’m not surprised because their silence on this issue is nothing short of pure hypocrisy — a position that is hard to defend. They are constantly talking about local control and the rights of local governments to determine their own fate. Yet, when a law is passed that allows the state to strip away this control, dismiss elected officials, and replace them with a single appointed individual, they are hypocritically silent. In fact, there are plenty of Republicans on the record as supporting P.A. 4, including all of those in our state legislature that voted FOR it.

The tea party groups have been similarly quiet and, to some extent, this is even more hypocritical because smaller government and local control/responsibility are one of the main tea party tenets. I received only a single response to my inquiry. It was from former Michigan Senate candidate Todd J. Griffee from St. Joseph. He sent me a copy of a letter to the editor that he had drafted.

His letter is one of the most cogent and clear repudiations of the Financial Martial Law Act that I have seen. It is entirely consistent with the ideals of the tea party as I understand them. While I would probably disagree with Mr. Griffee on most things political, I am very impressed with his position. This is the kind of consistency that is missing from other tea party groups and, of course, the Michigan Republican Party, as well.

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23 Jun 2011

Mich. GOP House Speaker Bolger running scared from recall effort, sics lawyers on disabled recall petition filer

How do you know when you have a Republican on the run? When they are so frightened of being recalled that they use every legal harassment technique in the book. And, right now, Representative Jase Bolger, the Speaker of the House from Michigan’s 63rd District, is running very scared. So scared, in fact, that he’s not above siccing his lawyer on a young disabled woman exercising her right to petition her government.

Autumn Smith filed recall paperwork against Jase Bolger in May of this year. She quickly amended the language and resubmitted it and there was a clarity hearing on May 25th. You can view the video of that hearing HERE. Around the 5:30 mark, Autumn makes charges of conflict of interest on the commission. Later in the video, around 25:35, the Calhoun County Treasurer loses her shit and proceeds to explain why it’s perfectly okay for her to be a political contributor to Speaker Bolger and Representative Nofs and still sit on the clarity hearing commission. The commission holds Autumn to a strict 5 minute speaking limit but allows Bolger’s attorney to speak for nearly 15 minutes.

After they denied the petition language she first submitted, Autumn submitted six additional versions. The hearing for those is a clown show of epic proportions. The commission seems confused by having to consider more than one version and doesn’t understand that, if more than one were approved, Autumn would simply choose one and discard the others. You can see the videos for this hearing HERE and HERE.

Two of Autumn’s petition language submissions were eventually accepted. Access to the videos was obtained only after Autumn threatened to file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. She would have made her own video but the County moved the venue to the courthouse where video and audio taping are not allowed. They then had the audacity to demand $500 payment for a transcript. Autumn eventually prevailed against the legal headwind

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22 Jun 2011

Major lawsuit attacks Michigan’s Financial Martial Law Act as unconstitutional

I have a piece up at A2Politico.com that reveals the breaking news that 28 Michigan residents along with the Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice and the Center for Constitutional Rights have filed a lawsuit in Michigan challenging the constitutionality of Public Act 4, the so-call “Financial Martial Law Act” recently passed by Republicans.

The defendents in the complaint are none other than Governor Rick Snyder and State Treasurer Andy Dillon.

Here are the main points of the complaint (a link to the complaint can be found in the A2Politico article):

1. This lawsuit arises from violations of Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights under the Constitution of the State of Michigan of 1963.

2. The Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act, Act No. 4, Public Acts of 2011, MCL §§ 141.1501 et. seq. (the Act) effectively establishes a new form of local government within the State of Michigan. The new form of government allows Michigan cities, villages, townships, and other forms of municipal corporations to be ruled by one unelected official and that this official’s orders, appointments, expenditures, and other decisions are not reviewable by local elected officials or local voters.

3. On its face and in practice, the Act violates the rights of local voters by delegating law-making power and the power to adopt local acts to unelected emergency managers, by suspending the rights of local electors to establish charters and to elect local officials, and by imposing substantial new costs and expenses upon local municipalities without providing new revenue.

4. The Act thereby violates Art. I, § 17, Art. I, § 23, Art. III, § 2, Art. IV, §§ 1 & 29, Art. VII, §§ 21, 22, & 34, and Art. IX, § 29 of the Michigan Constitution.

The complaint goes on to state five explicit ways in which the Financial Martial Law Act violates the Michigan Constitution. Unlike most lawsuits I have read, this one is fairly easy to read and follow and is eminently interesting. It lays out its case in (mostly) plain language—methodically and compellingly.

This move is a part of a two-pronged approach, running in conjunction with Michigan Forward’s petition drive to get the repeal of the Financial Martial Law Act on the 2012 ballot.

When I asked the Executive Director of the Sugar Law Center, Tova Perlmutter, why her group had taken this step when Michigan Forward was already moving forward with its referendum, she replied, “In social change movements, all viable strategies have to be pursued in tandem, and they compliment and inform each other. So the hope is that the litigation will help to educate Michigan voters about the blatant unconstitutionality of the emergency manager law, which will then hopefully help the repeal effort.”

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07 Jun 2011

UPDATED: Here’s Something You’ll Never See: The Female Version of “Weinergate”

There are only a very small handful of Democratic politicians who have really disappointed me to the point of anger in my life. The first was Bill Clinton. This was a man who had the potential to do so very much to help promote Democratic ideals and policies. Yet, at the pinnacle of his power, he engaged in sexual dalliances, got busted, and completely wasted any chance he had to take things to the next level.

Next up is John Edwards. Edwards, though I didn’t support him in the 2008 Democratic primary, was a man I respected. He really seemed to care for the American “underclass”. When he spoke of “Two Americas”, it resonated with me and gave me hope that he would help provide leadership that could bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. And then he cheated on his cancer-striken wife and lied about it for years, allegedly using campaign funds to pay for the coverup.

And, now, this week Anthony Weiner joins Edwards and Clinton. Weiner is a man that embodies so many of the things I adore about the Progressive movement. He’s spot-on with his politics, is eloquent, has a great sense of humor and seemed to be on roll pushing back against Republicans.

And then he fucking tweeted pictures of his junk to young women. Seriously, dude, what the fuck? Why on earth did you ever in a million years think anything good could come of something like that? You said you did it as a joke. Congressman, you are a man with tremendous power. When you do something like that, you are using your power in a sexual situation and that, in my book, is very, very close to sexual harassment. I don’t give a damn if the girl in question is okay with it, you are using power in a sexual way and nearly rape*.

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28 May 2011

Cutting Out The “Bad Part” Of the Plum – The Exploitation Of Benton Harbor

When I think of Benton Harbor these days, I think of a ripe, juicy plum, hanging in the sunshine, ready to be plucked off the tree. But Benton Harbor is a plum with a “bad spot” in the minds of some. A bit of rotten fruit that needs to be cut off and discarded. Once that’s done, those that would enjoy the sweetness of that plum can do so unencumbered by anything unpleasant.

In this analogy, of course, the plum pickers are the developers and corporate interests in Benton Harbor and the “bad spots” are the parts of town they don’t like. The run-down neighborhoods. The low-rent hotels. The poor people. The unspoiled, unexploited natural areas.

Benton Harbor is a juicy plum, indeed, though. It sits on a prime piece of Michigan real estate where a large river empties into the beautiful Lake Michigan. Lots of undeveloped land and brownfield parcels, waiting to be exploited by developers and builders. If only it weren’t for those pesky bad spots, Benton Harbor would be their dream city.

But, the bad spots on the Benton Harbor plum present these groups with some opportunities, too. The presence of the bad spots helps lower the worth of this prime real estate. In fact, if you could cut out the current inhabitants and owners of the bad spots, you could have yourself some damn fine land to develop for nickels on the dollar.

And that’s exactly what is happening by degrees in Benton Harbor.

About ten years ago, the Cornerstone Alliance was born, a partnership of banks, developers and area businesses, assembled together to turn Benton Harbor and the surrounding area into a business-owners paradise. From their webpage:

Cornerstone Alliance is a 501(c)(3) investor driven economic development organization committed to improving the economic wealth of our community. The mission of Cornerstone Alliance is to generate economic growth and promote civic development in Michigan’s Great Southwest. All funding to Cornerstone Alliance is voluntary. We rely on generous donations from businesses, individuals, and units of government to achieve the goals set forth in our Strategic Plan. Traditionally, funding from the private sector constitutes approximately 92% of our overall funding base, with Whirlpool Foundation matching-within reason-whatever is raised by these community donations

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23 May 2011

6,000+ Union Members Rally To Protest MI. Gov. Rick Snyder, Detroit Newspapers Write Exactly Zero Words About It

I wish this headline were bogus. It’s not.

Yesterday, over 6,000 people, mostly teachers and their supporters, rallied on the lawn of the Michigan State Capitol building to protest Governor Rick Snyder’s cuts to education, used to fund an 86% tax cut for corporations.

This is what it looked like (click pictures for a bigger version):

The major media outlets in Michigan seem to think this was not “news”.

On Sunday, the day after the rally, the Lansing State Journal‘s webpage had an article three page scrolls down. Their headline was the East Lansing art festival.

The Detroit News did not have an article about it on their website’s front page. In fact, they did not appear to have an article about the rally at all. Their big news: Bob Seger, aging has-been rocker, had his last show at the Palace in Detroit (which isn’t in Detroit.)

The Detroit Free Press did not have a front page article on their website, either. They did have an article about the Rapture that didn’t occur and how “many in Michigan believe world will end one day”. I couldn’t find reference to the rally anywhere on their website. Maybe they missed the article in their own newspaper that talked about the scheduled rally…?

Finally, I purchased a copy of the Sunday paper put out jointly by the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. Not a single word about the rally was printed. Not. One. Word.

The two biggest newspapers in Michigan did not report a single word about a rally with over 6,000 people in attendance on the front lawn of the Capitol building. They did, however, have a picture of some tea partyers from Wisconsin on the Opinion page.

Tea partyers show up in a cluster of 15 people and a dozen reporters are there to cover it. Union members, in a stunning display of unity, show up by the thousands and the two largest newspapers in Michigan don’t cover it. It is astonishing that event this large and this important went completely ignored by the News and Free Press.

We are being miserably failed by our media and our society is the worse for it. “Liberal media”, my ass.

Cross-posted from Eclectablog.

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18 May 2011

If You Don’t Support The Recall Of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Then What Is Your Plan?

I’ve gotten a fair amount of pushback on my support of the effort to recall Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. My blog pointing out how the Michigan Democratic Party isn’t supporting the effort prompted a front page response from Eric B. at Michigan Liberal titled “Circular Firing Squad: “Ready! Aim! …”

We have met the enemy and he is us. Or, if you prefer, the real villain in the new budget and EFM law is Mark Brewer and the Democratic Party infrastructure.

Joe D., I think, offered on Tony Trupiano’s show last Friday, a fairly logical answer to the cage rattling question of why Mark Brewer and the Michigan Democratic Party shouldn’t get involved in this, which is that the involvement of Mark Brewer or the MDP takes away any ability of organizers of benevolent overlord Rick Michigan’s recall and the recall of any of his allies in the Legislature to claim it a grassroots effort. In that case, it ceases to look like a citizen-driven effort and really a hit campaign carried out by one of the political parties*.

I have no great love for Mark Brewer or the Michigan Democratic Party. In fact, I really don’t care. But, I am fairly certain that even if you disagree with whether that is a good thing or makes success more possible, that it’s at least a reasonable explanation and not some reason to include Mark Brewer in a list of people against whom you’ve sworn a blood oath.

~SNIP~

I’m not interested in recalling benevolent overlord Rick Michigan, so the problem here is not that I won’t man up and do the work myself.

Clearly Eric isn’t a regular reader of Eclectablog or he would have known that having the MDP in my sites is hardly common. In fact, I have been shouting about Rick Snyder and the Michigan Republicans to the high heavens. I’m not one for political friendly fire, in fact, and, in the past, I have been one of the loudest critics of people castigating President Obama and the Democrats. However, that was during election season. In my opinion, if you are going to effect change in your party, the time to do it is between elections, not in the middle of the primary campaign. I can think of no time better than now to ask what the hell the Michigan Dems are doing and why they are sitting on the sidelines when one of the epic right vs. left fights is happening right in their own state.

Eric also clearly didn’t read the part of my blog where I gave a short list of things that the MDP could do to help without spending precious resources or even being seen as central to the effort. And, please, give me a break. Mark Brewer and the MDP are never going to be seen as taking over a grassroots effort. They don’t even acknowledge it.

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17 May 2011

It’s “Unamerican” To Want To End Corporate Welfare For Big Oil & Gas

The profits being made by Big Oil & Gas companies right now aren’t just big. They aren’t just eye-popping. They are historical. I mean, hello, momma, look at this:

In fact, in the past decade, the top five Big Oil & Gas companies have made almost $1 TRILLION in profits.

Pretty impressive, really, particularly in light of the fact that Americans are complaining so bitterly about the high price of gas right now. But, even more impressive in light of the fact that the U.S. government continues to give subsidies to this industry. With these immense profits rolling in, the American taxpayers are providing even more cash for the coffers of these companies.

Republicans, in the meantime, are doing all they can to push through legislation to make them even more profitable by greasing the skids to oil development in sensitive areas in the USA and by making it easier to get deepwater drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico. Why not, right? It’s not like something terribly, terribly wrong could ever happen to a deepwater oil well in the Gulf.

This is a completely absurd approach to lowering gas prices. Oil is a commodity. Any additional oil that is produced, no matter WHERE it is produced, goes into the commodities market. Unless there is a HUGE increase in the amount on that market, it will have no discernible impact on oil prices at all. In fact, if we make it cheaper to produce by giving subsidies and loosening regulations, it simply increases oil company profits without having any noticeable impact on the price of gas whatsoever. Just because it was produced here doesn’t mean it will sell here or that it will be sold cheaper here. It won’t.

Look at this chart from a couple of years ago. It shows very clearly just how much of an impact domestic oil production will have just on domestic oil consumption. The impact on global consumption and, therefore, commodity pricing, is even more infinitesimal.

Well, lately, Democrats have been (pardon me while I faint) actually talking about killing these subsidies. Even the President himself is getting out in front of this issue. For some unknown reason, they think that giving giant subsidies to wildly profitable companies when we’re facing historic budget deficits is wrong. I know, I know, what has gotten into the these lawmakers?

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11 May 2011

The difference between Wisconsin and Michigan

Many parallels have been drawn between what is transpiring in Wisconsin and Michigan in terms of Republicans Gone Wild and the trampling of the rights of voters, union members and any other group Republicans have in their crosshairs. And there are parallels. Certainly the law that Republicans were able to get signed into law stripping away the rights of public employee unions is echoed by the Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) law in Michigan which gives the EFMs immense powers with regard to modifying or canceling contracts, including those with unions. And many of the bills up for a vote in Michigan are focused on diminishing the rights and abilities of public employee unions such as teachers.

But one chief area where the two states are different is in the support recall efforts are getting from their state Democratic Parties.

Let’s start out with some visual proof. Here’s Democratic Party of Wisconsin website’s main page:

Clear. Unambiguous. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin supports the recall effort of Scott Walker. You can even buy a bumpersticker from them, raising money for the party. Not only that, they support the recall efforts of the eight Republican State Senators that are underway, as well.

Now, let’s take a look at Michigan Democratic Party’s website:

This is a distinctly different “anti-Republican Governor” webpage. There is a reason for that: the Michigan Democratic Party is not supporting the Rick Snyder recall effort. On statewide conference calls and in personal appearances, state Party Chair Mark Brewer has made it clear that the MDP will not be supporting this effort. The MDP believes that it is an effort unlikely to succeed and, as such, would be a waste of precious resources which may, in the end, demoralize Democratic activists and voters.

But it doesn’t stop there. There are at least eight other Republicans being targeted for recall. While Brewer and MDP have been giving some verbal support to local organizers working on these recall efforts, the MDP itself has, so far, chosen to stay above the fray. I have spoken to recall organizers and they confirm that the state Party is offering no tangible support. There isn’t even a mention of it anywhere on the MDP website.

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