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.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Is this a promo pic for the "Rigas and Randy" show?

State House candidate Angela Rigas is certainly an attractive candidate but who's that with her in this photo, her grandpa?
No, that's the infamous Trucker Randy Bishop, a two-time felon, also known within the GOP as an "oaf" and a "bully."
Why would Rigas want to hob-nob with this guy? Here's the only reason I can think of:
Now that Bishop's talk-radio show has been cancelled and his former co-host, Doug Sedenquist, is heading to prison, maybe there's a deal in the works. Maybe the broadcast will return with two fun tea partiers hosting a show called "Rigas and Randy." What do you think?
If so, Angela should expect the show to take some time off during the Christmas season -- Randy's got that Santa thing down pat. I wonder if he'll have to compete with accidental congressman Kerry Bentivolio -- after Bentivolio loses his primary election -- for Jolly Old Elf gigs.

House candidate's cash breaks Michigan records

By Chad Selweski
@cbsnewsman on Twitter

Pete Lucido, a Shelby Township Republican, has waged an unprecedented campaign for state House, plowing $150,000 of his own money into his bid for a victory in the Aug. 5 GOP primary in north Macomb’s 36th District.
Political observers say that Lucido’s degree of self-funding is unheard of in a Michigan primary for one of the 110 state House seats. The prominent defense attorney may have also broken state records for spending, $245,000, in his two-man GOP race against Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot.
According to campaign finance reports filed with the state, Grot, a veteran political activist, raised nearly $100,000 and spent $76,000 in a particularly nasty race that has featured numerous political mailings on both sides that attack the opponent on a very personal level. Fingers point in both directions.

Bill Ballenger, the dean of Michigan political analysts, said the total amount raised and spent by the two candidates, plus Lucido’s personal contribution, may have raised the bar.
“I would say both of those are records but I can’t say definitively,” said Ballenger, founder of the Inside Michigan Politics newsletter. “For a candidate in a partisan primary to spend $150,000 of his own money, I’d be stunned if anyone has ever come close to that.”

A first-time candidate, Lucido said he was forced to put together a $250,000 campaign war chest and spend extraordinary amounts of money to counter nasty campaign flyers sent by two political action committees, or PACs, that are pro-Grot.
“Look what I’m up against with these PACs. I think it’s now nine pieces they have put out that are full of a web of lies,” he said. “I … am trying to ward off evil.”
Longtime political observer and former campaign consultant Joe Munem of Sterling Heights said Lucido and Grot have shifted Michigan House races into a higher gear with a combined $350,000 in fundraising for a primary.
“That’s a number that just left me stunned. This is gargantuan,” Munem said. “If you split that by two, that’s $175,000 apiece. It’s an unheard-of number.”

A veteran political operative, Grot has predicted for months that he would be outspent by a wide margin, with Lucido waging a $300,000 campaign to win the open seat in the 36th District – consisting of Washington Township, Romeo, Bruce Township and most of Shelby Township. The Shelby clerk has repeatedly complained that Lucido "is trying to buy this election."
Outgoing GOP incumbent Rep. Pete Lund, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election, has remained neutral in the furious battle for his seat. The winner of the GOP primary in the heavily Republican district is almost assured of victory in November. The lone Democratic contender is perennial candidate Robert Murphy of Romeo.
In the past, hotly contested primary races for state representative might see a candidate spend $50,000. While Grot did not announce his intentions to run until late March, Lucido started gearing up early, in August 2013, and had mapped out a long-term campaign strategy within a month. By November, he had already loaned his campaign $50,000, according to his campaign finance report.

Those reports only reflect money raised and spent through July 20, not including the last-minute flurry of campaigning that is likely coming by Election Day on Aug. 5.
In addition, it’s still possible that Lucido funneled up to $285,000 of his own money into the campaign while still catching up with all of his bills, many of which consist of advertising purchases with local weekly newspapers.
After he turned in his paperwork, Lucido filed a “late contribution report” with the state, a routine matter. But in this case, the late report was a $150,000 donation by Lucido to his election effort.
The Lucido report is complicated by a confusing mix of personal loans and donations to his campaign, including one $50,000 allocation on May 28 that was listed as both a loan and a donation.

Lucido, 55, said the bottom line is that he personally put forward $150,000 in his high-stakes bid to win the House seat. He said he's not aware of, nor particularly interested in, claims that he has broken state campaign finance records. Lucido noted that has assisted more than 50 charities over the course of his legal career and he never considered backing away for financial reasons from the barrage that Grot sent his way.

“All I can say is that it costs a lot of money, and it requires a lot of mailings, to set the record straight,” he said. “I’ve been blessed with a lot of good things that happened to me, and my family has been blessed with good things. I’m not going to put my toes into the sand. I’m going to stand up for my issues and for the families of Macomb County.” 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Courser: Charter schools group a front for 'homosexual agenda'

Todd Courser, the infamous tea party preacher from Lapeer, is entangled in another fight inside the Michigan Republican Party as he pursues a state House seat in the August primary.
Courser has locked horns with the Great Lakes Education Project, one of the leading forces behind Michigan’s charter school movement, over a rather petty issue dealing with campaign laws.
In response to the GLEP complaint filed against him with the Secretary of State’s Office, Courser has let loose. He has called the GLEP an anti-conservative cabal and claimed they are “advancing the homosexual agenda in Michigan” and “advancing the Obama takeover of education in Michigan.”

In a Facebook post earlier this week, Courser, a Bible thumper who earlier this year seemingly distinguished between good Libertarian homosexuals verses "establishment" homosexuals in the GOP, posted: A video of a GLEP leader’s same-sex marriage ceremony , comparing it to a “graphic,” horrific film. He also attacked one of his three GOP opponents, Jan Peabody, who has the backing of the GLEP and “liberal billionaires” – whatever that means.  

Here is what Courser wrote:

I am standing against the liberal takeover of America! 
If you say you are standing against the liberal takeover of America then can you really be partnering with liberals to get elected?

WARNING!!! This video is graphic after about 50 seconds! My suggestion is that you don't watch it; the picture is enough. The video depicts the gay wedding of the Greg McNeilly, the Chief Strategist of GLEP, the group, behind all that smear mail against me and in support of Peabody. If you claim to be the most conservative candidate and have the backing of one of liberal gay rights activists, liberal billionaires, and special interests, can you really be all that committed to conservatism?

Great Lakes Education Project is the front group that is advancing both the homosexual agenda in Michigan and also advancing the Obama takeover of Education in Michigan through Common Core. And they are 100% behind Peabody and 100% behind all the mistruths, deception and lies that you have been receiving in your mailbox. Do your homework and don’t be fooled! 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Where have all the candidates gone?

Voters heading to the polls on Aug. 5 for the primary election are in for a shock.
Where have all the candidates gone?

All across the county, incumbents are running unopposed and few races among the challengers are contested. These are not elections. These are coronations.
For a mix of reasons, fewer and fewer people are willing to run for office, particularly women. That means the political parties have increasing difficulty recruiting candidates. And that means the voters don’t have much to choose from.
The quandary this year starts at the top of the ballot. Rick Snyder and Mark Schauer running unopposed in the gubernatorial primary. Gary Peters and Terri Lynn Land getting a free ride in the primaries for an open U.S. Senate seat. When was the last time that happened?

Further down the ballot the story is the same. In Macomb County, little or no competition is offered for Congress, state Senate, state House and the county Board of Commissioners.
How bad is it? If you are a Democrat living in St. Clair Shores or Macomb Township, the ballot offers not one contested race. The same is true for Democrats in Chesterfield Township, Shelby Township, the southern half of Sterling Heights and much of Clinton Township.
On the Republican primary ballots, the three candidates running for the GOP county executive nomination –David Novak, Randell Shafer and Erin Stahl – comprise the one key contest. Beyond that, most Republican candidates will win their race by default.
In fact, no Republican election in the entire county for state Senate, state House or county board consists of more than two candidates.

The political pros who manage campaigns explain that running for office has become much more expensive, and candidates must be willing and able to take time off work (in some cases, several weeks) for exhausting days knocking on voters’ doors. For many, the prospect of seeking election for commissioner became less attractive when county board districts doubled in size in 2010.
If you throw your hat into the ring, expect it to get stomped. Chances are quite good that during the months of campaigning, a candidate will experience harsh criticism – or worse – from voters, from opponents, and especially from the opponents’ supporters and volunteers.
Beyond that, the legislative districts are now gerrymandered so thoroughly that many races are considered futile, unless a potential candidate wants to challenge an incumbent in a primary.

Term limits also loom as a major factor in races for the state Legislature. The mindset of many who brush aside attempts to convince them to run is, “Why should I take on an incumbent when, in four years, there will be an open seat?”
One final factor that has led to this skewed version of democracy is the growing public disdain for politics and the way lawmakers, especially those in Congress, are held in such low regard.
Some who might have run for office 10 or 20 years ago now see politics as a dirty business without any rewards. They observe the hyper-partisanship in Lansing and Washington and want no part of it.

New research suggests that this dilemma will only get worse, as the Millenial generation is particularly disinterested in a career in politics. Even if it’s just for one day.
The Bipartisan Policy Center recently reported that a survey of college students revealed this: If the students were given a choice of professions, just for a day, all at the same pay – mayor, business owner, teacher or salesperson – only 10 percent would choose mayor.
The BPC report also found that the number of Americans who have served on a school board has dropped by 90 percent compared to 1932.

That certainly rings true in Macomb County. After the school board filing deadline passed last Tuesday for the upcoming November elections, four districts came up short – more board seats than candidates to fill them. As a result, board members will be selected in Van Dyke, Armada, Richmond and South Lake based on a small number of write-in votes.
In the Van Dyke (south Warren) district, two spots are on the ballot, including an open seat. Yet, only one candidate, incumbent Steven Nielson, filed for office.
An identical situation arose in 2011 when four county districts could not round up enough contestants for a true competition.
This year, the list of candidates running on the non-partisan portion of the November ballot shows that in seven districts those who filed are all running unopposed, so the elections there are, in effect, already over.

Across Michigan, political commentators have warned voters for several years that the only way to make their vote count is to cast a ballot in the primary elections.
Because of the gerrymandered district lines, most winners in primaries will breeze to re-election in November. That makes the primary the only game in town.
But now we have a doubly troubling scenario playing out. The only game in town is lacking enough players. It’s almost as if the 2014 elections were decided back in April when the filing deadline for partisan offices arrived.

Just as Little League baseball teams in days gone by would sometimes forfeit a game due to a lack of players, voters, through no fault of their own, are forfeiting their right to choose candidates to represent them in office.
If there is no selection, is it really an election?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Miller calls on Obama to stop ‘barbaric slaughter’ of Iraqi Christians by ISIS

Congresswoman Candy Miller, vice chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, said today that the Obama administration and the international community should come to the aid of the Chaldeans and other Christians living in the area north of Baghdad who have been forced from their homes in Mosul by the militants associated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
Here is what the BBC is reporting:
"Christian families are on their way to Dohuk and Irbil," in the neighbouring autonomous region of Kurdistan, Patriarch Louis Sako told the AFP news agency.
"For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians," he said.
The patriarch, one of the most senior Christian clerics in Iraq, said militants had been seen tagging Christian houses with the letter N for "Nassarah", a term used for Christians in the Koran.

Here’s the statement by Miller, a Harrison Township Republican: 

For nearly two millennia, Christians have been living and worshiping across Iraq, but these ancient communities are now suffering a near genocide at the hands of the Islamic extremist group ISIS.  Christians in Mosul, Iraq, were threatened by ISIS and offered three options: convert to Islam, pay a religious tax, or die by the sword. 
As a result, most have been forced to flee, with all of their possessions stolen by the terrorists. Many have been forced to convert against their will, and others have been outright slaughtered by these barbarians. Such actions cannot be allowed to stand, and it is long past time for the world community and the Obama administration to provide the promised help to the Iraqi Christian community. 

The Kurds in northern Iraq are to be commended for stepping up and providing some measure of support and security for fleeing Iraqi Christians, but they need assistance.  The administration needs to step up and help the Kurds and leaders of the Iraqi Christian community. The administration must also forcefully advocate for the creation of a new province in the Iraqi Nineveh Plane which can serve as a safe haven for Iraqi Christians working hand-in-hand with the Kurds. 
The Iraqi Christians have not taken up arms against any group and have only hoped to live in peace in a region where they have been for nearly two thousand years.  Promise after promise has been made to provide them security, and each time those promises have not been kept.  It is time to keep those promises.

Levin calls for U.S. military aid to Ukraine

Congressman Sandy Levin on Thursday called for U.S. military aid and training -- on a level equal to what the U.S. supplies to NATO allies -- for Ukrainian armed forces as they continue to battle with pro-Russian separatist rebels.
Levin and two fellow House members introduced [H.R. 5190] , legislation that authorizes the president to work with Ukrainian leaders to assess that country’s military, intelligence and security needs and to provide direct U.S. assistance.
The bipartisan bill was unveiled by Levin, together with fellow Congressional Ukrainian Caucus Co-chairs Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA) and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH).
The aid, according to Levin, would be designed to neutralize the military-support advantage that separatist rebels enjoy due to their shadowy connections with the Russian military. Beyond the shoot down of Malaysian flight MH17 and the targeting of Ukrainian military aircraft, the bill’s supporters say the rebels are fostering violence and instability across that country. 
The legislation, which received little attention in Washington, also calls on President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to increase military cooperation between the U.S. Armed Forces and the armed forces of Ukraine. The NATO-level assistance would be temporary, until the rebels abandon their effort to separate eastern Ukraine and integrate that territory into Russia.
Here is what the three lawmakers said:

Levin, a Royal Oak Democrat who represents most of Macomb County: “With the overwhelming evidence that Russia is supplying the separatists with weapons, including the anti-aircraft missile that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, we want to make it clear that the United States stands with the people of Ukraine. We will help the Ukrainian people defend themselves from Russian efforts to destabilize Ukraine.”

Rep. Gerlach: “The evidence released by U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence authorities shows without a doubt that rebel separatists and hired thugs, armed with superior Russian technology and weapons, continue to foment havoc and instability. The bipartisan legislation we introduced today is another important step towards reaffirming the United States’ commitment to helping our Ukrainian allies develop as a fully democratic nation.”

Rep. Kaptur: “Our bill calls to designate Ukraine as a major non-NATO ally, in order to temporarily provide vital resources and the security NATO offers to member states. Additionally, this bill expands military-to-military training and cooperation, specifically increasing the current tempo of military exercises and training efforts. The world has witnessed the destabilization of Ukraine for months and this most recent atrocity further illustrates (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s blatant refusal to use his influence to quell the instability and violence.”

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Obamacare helps 10 million; rebates are $332 million

While the courts can't seem to reach consensus on Obamacare, the reformed health care system keeps posting some big numbers. 
A new study estimates that more than 10 million adults gained health insurance by midyear as the coverage expansion under President Barack Obama's law took hold in much of the country. A special enrollment period continues through mid-November. 

Meanwhile, Affordable Care Act figures released this morning by the Obama administration show that insurance companies across the nation will rebate a combined $332 million to 6.8 million consumers who are, for the most part, covered by employer-based health care benefits.
Those rebate checks are due to the ACA's 80/20 provision.
For individual and small group plans a minimum of 80 percent of premiums must be spent directly on medical care. If a company exceeds 20 percent on overhead, marketing, advertising and profits, it must rebate to its customers an amount that puts them in line with the 80/20 rule. For a large group plan, the standard is 85/15.
As for the study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that the share of Americans ages 18 to 64 without insurance dropped by a little more than 5 percentage points.
States that embraced the Obamacare Medicaid expansion saw significant coverage gains among low-income uninsured people. About half the states have expanded their Medicaid coverage.
The ACA offers subsidized private insurance for low- and middle-income people who don't have access to coverage through their jobs.
The Associated Press reported that the latest study results are in line with findings by Gallup polling and with estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

Over at the Department of Health and Human Services, officials announced that the deterrence effect of the 80/20 rule has made a huge difference. As insurers rein in premium costs,  HHS said $3.8 billion was saved up front on premium costs across the nation.
For consumers who bought individual and family policies, rebates may come as a check in the mail, a reimbursement to a bank account or a direct reduction in future premiums. If the insurance came through the workplace, the employer must provide the refund in one of those ways or use it in another way that directly benefits employees, the law says.

ISIS takes hold: Here's what a jihadist-led city looks like

The New York Times ran a revealing piece on Wednesday about Raqqa, a city in northern Syria that has become the capital for the brutal militant group known as ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).
ISIS, which refers to itself as simply the Islamic State, took hold of Raqqa and the surrounding province – an area with a population of about 1 million people –  in February and no one, not Bashar al-Assad’s forces or any other militias, have the military might to force them out.
It’s all still a bit of an experiment but, according to the Times, here’s what a jihadist-led city looks like:

“An aid worker who travels to Raqqa said the ranks of ISIS were filled with volatile young men, many of them foreigners more interested in violence than governance. To keep things running, it has paid or threatened skilled workers to remain in their posts while putting loyalist supervisors over them to ensure compliance with Islamic rules.
“… Through strategic management and brute force, the group … has begun imposing its vision of a state that blends its fundamentalist interpretation of Islam with the practicalities of governance.
“… In the city of Raqqa, traffic police officers keep intersections clear, crime is rare, and tax collectors issue receipts. But statues like the landmark lions in Al Rasheed Park have been destroyed because they were considered blasphemous. Public spaces like Al Amasy Square, where young men and women once hung out and flirted in the evenings, have been walled off with heavy metal fences topped with the black flags of ISIS. People accused of stealing have lost their hands in public amputations.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Salute to Malaysian airline victims creates pride and pain among Mich. Dutch

I suspect that much of Michigan's Dutch community is feeling pain and pride today as tens of thousands of people in the Netherlands have respectfully lined the route of the caravan of 40 hearses carrying the first of the dead from Flight MH17 to arrive back in the Netherlands.
For the Dutch, a famously reserved people, the showing of quiet, yet emotional mourning for the dead -- just the first of many to be flown home -- was quite extraordinary. The demonstrations of empathy along the roads and highways reminded me of the amazing outpouring in the U.S. when the train carrying Robert Kennedy's casket across many miles in 1968 similarly was greeted with many thousands of the grieving along the railroad tracks.

But these Dutch victims of the shameless, pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine were just average people. None of them was a Kennedy, or a potential U.S. president. And in such a small country, the show of kinship in Holland was a national statement.
In a strange way, it made me ponder an America where death due to a war-torn world has become almost trivial. All those coffins coming back to Dover over the past 13 years from Iraq and Afghanistan at some point became routine. 
Maybe the Dutch have a message for us about embracing each victim of a militarized mid-section of the globe, about pausing, taking a breath and respecting the loss of each of our American brothers.               

AP, Daily News fall for Brooklyn Bridge parody story

The Washington Post revealed that the New York Daily News and the Associated Press both fell for an online parody group's claim that they placed those mysterious white flags atop the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Daily News reported that a “pro-cycling group” had taken responsibility for having removed American flags atop the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge and replaced them with white flags. That “pro-cycling group,” the story reported, was the Bicycle Lobby, which had tweeted: “Earlier today we hoisted two white flags to signal our complete surrender of the Brooklyn Bridge bicycle path to pedestrians.”
The corrected version of the story was a little different: “A parody group, the Bicycle Lobby, joked that it hung the white flags to signal surrender of the bridge’s bicycle path to pedestrians.” 
At the AP, when they realized they had made the same mistake (it's been a bad week for the Associated Press), they sent this alert to editors across the nation and across the globe: “The Associated Press has withdrawn its story about bike path advocates taking responsibility for the appearance of two mysterious white flags on the Brooklyn Bridge. The claim of responsibility has not been verified. A corrected version will be published imminently.”
Meanwhile, the Post noted that the folks at Bicycle Lobby had a lot of fun with their undeserved status as a potent force in the everyday news cycle.
Here's a tweet they sent:
Stop us if you've heard this one before. How many Daily News reporters does it take to not fact-check a story?

And here's another:

If you believe we're for real, we have a bridge in Brooklyn we'd like to sell you.

And just to rub it in, they pointed out that their Twitter page (featuring a bicycle in a lobby) is quite straightfoward in describing their social media role:

To be fair, we don't reveal we're a parody account until the second line of our profile.

Levin: Stop overseas corporate tax loopholes

In a brief Op-Ed column written for the New York Times website earlier this week, Congressman Sandy Levin made the case for eliminating corporate tax loopholes known as “inversions.”
Levin, a Royal Oak Democrat who represents most of Macomb County, has been a leader in this fight. Inversions, which sometimes amount to little more than a corporation setting up a new address at an overseas post office box, are widely criticized as ethically questionable. Yet, Congress has not acted to restrict or eliminate them.

Here’s a portion of Levin’s column:
“It is neither unusual nor surprising that companies seek to lower their taxes. But in recent years, a growing number of big corporations have taken that effort to the extreme by reincorporating overseas in order to reduce or entirely avoid paying their fair share of U.S. taxes. The practice, known as a corporate inversion, involves buying a foreign corporation and setting up the combined company’s tax address overseas – even as it maintains its headquarters in the United States.
“The wave of corporate inversions – 14 reported this year alone – threatens to undermine the U.S. tax base and our economy, placing a greater share of the burden on other companies and American taxpayers. It underscores why Americans are losing confidence in our tax system, with the majority saying it isn’t fair. Ordinary Americans can’t move their address overseas to avoid paying taxes.
“Companies that reincorporate overseas will no doubt continue to benefit from being headquartered in the United States, with our robust financial markets, protection of intellectual property rights, support of research and development, stable communities and wealth of educated workers.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Poverty report shows state taking another step toward 'Michissippi' status

Some political observers have warned for years that the state's frayed social safety net is transforming the Great Lakes State into "Michissippi."
The latest Kids Count report gives credence to that critique as Michigan slips down toward the same levels as the poor Southern states. 
The story below, published in today's Oakland Press and Macomb Daily, offers disturbing stats that demonstrate why kids today are not doing very well -- in many, many ways.

The number of children in poverty jumped 39 percent from 1990-2012 in Michigan, a nationwide kids’ well-being advocacy report shows.
And among southeastern Michigan counties, Oakland ranks the lowest in the rate of child poverty as of 2012, with 14.3 percent. Macomb County has 17.9 percent of children living in poverty, while Wayne has 38.9 percent and Washtenaw has 15.4 percent.
Michigan is ranked 32nd among the 50 states in the overall well-being of children, according to The Annie E. Casey Foundation — a Baltimore, Md.-based philanthropy group that puts out the annual Kids Count report with the Michigan League for Public Policy, or MLPP.
The state’s overall ranking is down one slot from last year, said Judy Putnam, communications director for the MLPP. It is also in the bottom quarter in the nation for education in 38th, with 69 percent of fourth graders not proficient readers in 2013, worsening from 68 percent in 2005.
“We’re moving in the wrong direction, and what’s more troubling is that when you look at our Great Lakes neighbors, we’re not doing well,” said Putnam. “This puts us in the bottom quarter in the U.S. for education.”
In 2013, 22.7 percent of fourth graders in Oakland County were not performing up to their reading level, compared to 40.9 percent who weren’t reading well in Wayne County, 29.5 percent in Macomb and 22.8 percent in Washtenaw.
The study, which ranks 16 indicators of well-being in four categories — economic well-being, education, health and family and community — showed that along with children living in poverty, the percentage of children living in high-poverty areas went from 13 percent in 1990 to 16 in 2008-2012.

For the full version of the story, click here.

Here's a detailed explanation of today's court ruling that could kill Obamacare

The court ruling handed down this morning at the District of Columbia federal appeals court could wipe out insurance subsidies in up to 36 states. That could destroy the entire Obamacare system, at least in the short run, because 87 percent of recipients are receiving some kind of subsidy.

Over at Vox.com, they have a detailed explanation of the case. 
Here's a little piece of that analysis:
"Halbig v. Burwell is arguably the Affordable Care Act's greatest existential threat since the Supreme Court case decided in 2012.
"(Today), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a ruling against the federal government, which threatens health insurance subsidies in over30 states.
"Without subsidies, health reform could fall apart. That makes this court case a bigger deal than GOP efforts to repeal Obamacare. There have been over 40 repeal votes since the law was passed, but they've always been toothless: even if repeal made it through Congress, President Obama promised to veto any legislation that dismantled his signature legislation.
"But this court case is out of Congress's hands — and out of President Obama's, too."

Three weeks before election, Macomb candidate dies

Joe Peters, Jr., a Warren candidate for county commissioner on the Aug. 5 primary election ballot, died unexpectedly over the weekend at his ice cream shop in St. Clair Shores.
Peters, 55, was found at about 6:30 p.m. Saturday lying on the floor of the Dairy Boy location he owns on Harper Avenue. Police say no foul play is suspected. Peters’ death leaves Joseph Kozar as the lone GOP primary candidate in District 1 (western Warren) in the county’s hottest race for 13 Board of Commissioners seats.
With just three weeks until the election, Roger Cardamone, Macomb County chief elections clerk, said it’s too late for Peters’ name to be removed from the August ballot but his death will not disrupt the election process.
“Under state law, no votes for him will be tallied. There is another candidate on the ballot for the Republican Party so they will still have a nominee,” Cardamone said. “Any absentee voter who voted for Mr. Peters can go to their city clerk’s office, have their ballot declared a ‘spoiled ballot,’ and ask for a replacement ballot.”
Peters, an outspoken critic of City Hall for several years, ran unsuccessfully for Warren City Council in 2007 and 2011 and for the Dist. 1 county board seat in 2012 as a Democrat. The 2011 contest, which he narrowly lost, was an especially nasty race, even by the standards of the politically-charged city.
In addition to the ice cream shop on Harper, Peters owned Dairy Boy locations on 10 Mile in Eastpointe and on Gratiot Road in Marysville.
“He was in absolute, perfect health,” said Dean Berry a friend and political ally. “He was very involved with the people in the neighborhoods (of the ice cream shops),” sponsoring baseball and youth soccer teams.
Results from an autopsy conducted over the weekend will not be available for up to six weeks, according to the Macomb County Medical Examiner’s Office. St. Clair Shores police said they believe the death was “health-related or accidental.”
Peters is survived by his wife of 33 years, Cathy; three daughters; a son; and seven grandchildren. Visitation is scheduled for Wednesday from 1 to 9 p.m. at the A.H. Peters Funeral Home, 32000 Schoenherr at Masonic (13 1/2 Mile), Warren.
Peters is the second county board candidate to die this year prior to the elections. On June 2, according to county officials, Mark Czerwinski, a GOP contender in District 10 (Harrison Township and a portion of St. Clair Shores), passed away.
That left Steve Marino as the lone Republican candidate on the August ballot.
Macomb Daily Staff Writer Norb Franz contributed to this report. For more information on the Peters’ funeral arrangements, go online to Ahpeters.com.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Liberals leary of Hillary, pity Obama

The Netroots Nation conclave held in Detroit over the weekend failed to produce much news, though the true-blue liberal left made it clear that they love Sen. Elizabeth Warren and they pity President Obama.
According to Politico’s 
account of the gathering at Cobo Center, Warren, the populist Massachusetts Democrat, created all the buzz as the focus was largely on domestic issues and 2016, not the 2014 mid-term elections or any of the overseas turmoil that has U.S. foreign policy tied up in knots.
This is the crowd that thinks Hillary Clinton is too conservative, and they want an alternative for the next presidential run – if not Warren, some other worthy standardbearer of the left.

Here’s some of Politico’s other observations:
“… Interviews with several attendees suggest it’s not a lost cause for Clinton. If she distances herself from big business, highlights her support for labor — a point that came up several times here, given the big union representation at the conference — and demonstrates she cares about the struggles of ordinary Americans, she could go a long way with this group. What it really comes down to, activists say, is a shift in what Clinton emphasizes.

“… As one national Democrat with close ties to the grassroots put it, activists are ‘venting’ while they can, even if they ultimately rally behind Clinton. ‘No one, especially Democrats, no one likes a frontrunner’ — at least not at this stage.”

The Netroots loved Obama “during his nomination fight ahead of the 2008 election, but many of these activists have grown disillusioned at seeing the White House fail to produce much of the change they felt they’d been promised.
“Nonetheless, many said Obama has done what he could given the gridlock in Washington. ‘He’s doing all right, he could be doing better,’ summed up Antonio Leonard, 26. ‘But with this Congress, you can’t get anything done.’”

It’s important to note that Netroots Nation goes a long way toward demolishing the right’s insistence that the media has a distinct liberal bias. For hardcore liberals, this conference is the biggest event of the year. Yet, it annually attracts relatively little media coverage. That was the case this year, beyond Joe Biden’s speech to the group.
In fact, key conservative conferences, such as CPAC, tend to attract far more attention from that Main Stream Media than Netroots could ever hope for.

While the skewed view of right-wingers makes them say strange things, such as the tea party represents the mainstream American electorate or that the GOP has not moved to the right, the Democrats seem to have a more realistic view of the political landscape.
At the same time that Republican officials pander to the tea party, elected Democrats, particularly presidential candidates, rarely attend the Netroots confab because they don’t want to be tagged as a left-winger. Even if their heart tugs them in that direction, they know the fringe when they see it.

In an interview over the weekend, retired congressman Barney Frank, a loyal liberal Democrat from Massachusetts, expressed his affinity with the Netroots crowd. But, he added, the Netroots Nation is not representative of America – or even the Democratic Party.
“If they were, I would have run for president 20 years ago,” he said with a laugh.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

World falling to pieces, and media on fast-forward

After such a tumultuous week, it would be natural to presume that the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine and the Israeli invasion of Gaza will have major implications across the globe for a long time to come.
Unfortunately, that’s probably not accurate.
In this world of fast-moving news cycles and flavor-of-the-week politics this, too, shall pass.

The bloody separatist movement in eastern Ukraine dominated the news several weeks ago, and then it was gone, and now it’s back again in a very big way. But it’s not hard to imagine that it will be gone again soon.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict periodically flares up in an ugly way, then it dies down, and then the media moves on.
These two stories deserve in-depth coverage and analysis but today’s form of journalism, particularly on TV and radio, doesn’t have the time or the space to engage in such things.
Last week, the big story was the border crisis created by migrant Central American kids. Before that it was Lois Lerner’s lost IRS emails. Before that it was the ISIS jihadists taking control of a large swath of Iraq.

Rewind a little further and we had the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap with the Taliban. Prior to that it was the VA health care scandal. Going backward, next it was the kidnapped Nigerian school girls. A couple of times it was Benghazi. And, of course, if you go all the way back to mid-May (yes, all of this in just two months) the big news was pro-Russian forces wreaking havoc in Ukraine.
If you want to reach back to March, the hot story was the presumed crash of a Malaysian airliner with all aboard apparently dead.

Liberal and conservative commentators express concern about this scattershot approach to the news and how politicians manipulate the situation.
“Such is the attention-deficit disorder that has come to affect our politics,” wrote Dana Milbank of The Washington Post last week. “Those Nigerian schoolgirls are still missing. The situation in Iraq is every bit as grim as it was when Washington was paying attention, and perhaps more so. Ukraine is still volatile and veterans still aren’t getting the level of service they deserve. But now we care only about whether Obama’s failure to visit the border was his ‘Katrina moment’…”

The column by Milbank, a liberal pundit who appears regularly on MSNBC, was juxtaposed with a column by John Stossel, a conservative/libertarian who hosts a Fox Business Network show, on an intriguing Macomb Daily editorial page last Tuesday.
Stossel noted that the media tends to miss the slowly developing news stories because reporters are moving so fast, hopping from one tragic story to the next across the country and across the globe. CNN’s Anderson Cooper has become the poster boy for this kind of drifter journalism.
However, the slow stories are the most important stories, Stossel explained. The world today is a place where people are healthier, better fed, better educated, less impoverished. Deaths and disease are down sharply.

“Science that lengthens lives, innovation that enhances them, increased tolerance and fewer deaths in wars are great news. But, day by day, reporters barely cover that. Where would we point our cameras?” Stossel wrote. “The news is biased not just because reporters are politically biased but because most good news happens gradually.”
Of course, social media has played a major role, pushing the news cycle into fast-forward mode. On Twitter – and especially for those who use the Tweetdeck format — a story that is 6 minutes old is old. Within hours of the news that the Malaysian plane was shot out of the sky, social media and talk-radio were filled with claims that it was President Obama’s fault. No facts, just opinions.

In the face of this past week’s two dramatic events, will any action be taken, will the right questions be asked?
As the Israeli Defense Forces pummel large sections of the Gaza Strip, what will it take to get Hamas to come to the table for short-term (and long-term) peace negotiations? How much of a complicating factor is Egypt’s apparent inability to play the honest broker?
Regarding Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, should we return to the post-9/11 move toward putting missile interceptors on jetliners? Is the U.S. making sufficient strides toward keeping surface-to-air missiles out of the hands of radical terror groups?
When will the leaders in the Netherlands, which suffered the majority of deaths in the shoot down, speak out forcefully and can they convince Europe to impose sanctions on Russia? And do we need new international no-fly-zone rules and the creation of internationally accepted standards for handling a crash site?

With Washington adrift and a do-nothing Congress creating a vacuum, too often pertinent questions are not asked and the inside-the-Beltway media hoard settles for pack journalism.
For months, the Hamas forces in Gaza were shooting rockets into Israel before the tanks rolled in. The separatist rebels in Ukraine entrenched near the Russian border had already used sophisticated surface-to-air missiles to shoot down four Ukrainian military planes, including two last week.
Yet, the media took little notice. They were busy covering the story of the week.

More thoughtful journalism ahead of time may have changed the entire political discussion. But when you’re dealing with time, there is no rewind.