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, December 19, 2014

GOP Chair Schostak says he's stepping down

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak has just announced that he is not seeking re-election to his post.

Here is his statement:

What a great year!
This year’s historic victory was made possible by the dedication and determination of our candidates, volunteers and staff, and the tremendous generosity of our donors. It was hard work and a lot of late nights for many of us, but we kept our state headed in the right direction.
This has been a long journey that started after the 2012 election. We set out to redefine the way elections are run, and won. We invested early in technology and volunteer recruitment. We ran aggressive political, fundraising and communications programs to support our candidates in every possible way. Our approach led to a record-breaking number of voter contacts and dollars raised.

We returned Governor Snyder, Secretary Johnson and Attorney General Schuette to office, and we gave them historic majorities in the State House and Senate. We retained our conservative majority on the Michigan Supreme Court, and we returned nine Republicans to the U.S. House of Representatives.
This grassroots committee is like no other in the nation, and I am humbled by the unyielding support we have received. I can’t tell you how proud I am of all that we accomplished together, the hard work and determination of our volunteers and candidates, and the groundwork we laid for 2016.
Those before me paved the road for a Michigan Republican Party that I have had the privilege to navigate these last four years.

Today, our committee is the gold standard of Republican state committees across the country and well positioned for the future. As a result, I feel now is the time to turn the mantle over to the next great leader to take this organization to the next level as I focus on helping Republicans in Michigan and across the country in new ways.
I look forward to being a part of political discussions and engagement in Michigan and beyond in the coming months and years. With our collective efforts, Michigan will continue to be led by solid conservative Republican leaders for generations to come.
Thank you again for your friendship and support as we venture ahead together to build on our most recent successes in Michigan and beyond.

Lawmaker trains kids to use AR-15s as 'weapons for Christ'

To maintain the privacy of a child, I have blurred the face
 in this photo of one of Todd Courser's sons, though the
newly elected representative posted it on both of his Facebook pages.
State Rep.-elect Todd Courser has already revealed himself as a right-wing tea party zealot, a homophobe and a bit of an extremist fundamentalist Christian, but now he has made it clear that he views himself as a survivalist, someone who would have gladly fought in that great American battle at Ruby Ridge.
As first reported by Eclectablog, Courser has posted (on both of his Facebook pages) photos of his kids holding AR-15 assault-style weapons along with a message that said he was training his boys how to fire "modern muskets."

"Funny thing is the gun is just one vital tool to train up my four children as the weapons for liberty that will impact the future both for freedom, but also for Christ," the Lapeer Republican, elected in November, wrote on Facebook. "... Trained children equipped in every aspect of the cause of freedom are the bulwark against tyranny."

Courser, who has unsuccessfully run for office several times before finally winning election in the fall, apparently wants to be a part of government solely for the reason of imploding it.

When he takes office in January, it will be interesting to see how this militia member-wannabe will be greeted in the House after espousing his paranoid survivalist point of view. Last month, Courser wrote that he will be fighting the good fight against evil within the liberal wing of the Republican Party on a "spiritual battlefield."

Here's a portion of Eclectablog's excellent reports:
"For an incoming state legislator to talk about semi-automatic AR-15 rifles as 'modern muskets' and 'weapons for liberty' is frightening. 'Training up' children to use these weapons as a 'bulwark against tyranny' suggests that Courser is advocating a violent overthrow of the very government he is now a crucial part of.
"If you follow Courser’s Facebook diatribes about our government, it’s clear that his threshold for 'tyranny' is very low and he has a long history of describing things such as the Affordable Care Act and expanding the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act as 'liberty-killing' things that strip us of our freedoms. When describing the training he is receiving as an incoming legislator, he wrote, 'I have to tell you it has all made me think about children who are subjected to radical leftist ideology and have not even the slightest notion of how they are being shaped against liberty and freedom and away from God.' Yet, Courser himself appears to be espousing the radical view that our children need to be trained with military-style weaponry so that they can use them against our own government.
"It’s one thing to petition your government to lower taxes or to pursue any of the other items on the tea party agenda. That’s democracy and it’s precious. It’s entirely another thing, however, to be advocating for the use of violence against our government to achieve your goals. When Courser talks about training up his four children to use guns 'as the weapons for liberty that will impact the future both for freedom, but also for Christ,' he has crossed a line."
The AR-15, modeled after U.S. military weapons, is the same type of menacing semi-automatic rifle used by Adam Lanza in Newtown and by other recent mass-killers.
When trying to absorb Courser's twisted/romantic version of reality, it's also important to point out that the Colonialists likely would have found an AR-15 an absolutely terrifying weapon. While this rifle can fire 30 rounds in quick succession, it's my understanding that the muskets used by our forefathers (one shot at a time) were nearly useless beyond 100 yards and, unlike the AR-15, the ammo could not tear through a human body at any distance.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mark Hackel making screen debut in independent film

Roseville makeup artist Jamie Gaspar
 prepares Mark Hackel for one of his scenes
 in the independent film “Urban Myths.”
Photo courtesy of Mirror Dog Productions
UPDATE: A video clip focusing on Hackel's performance, which is not bad, is available here.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel is known far and wide as a politician who loves to get his face in front of a camera. Now, he's putting that urge to work while off-duty.
Hackel has a supporting role in a horror movie, "Urban Myths," in which the former county sheriff plays a detective investigating paranormal activities.
This is an independent film that still needs to raise $50,000 through crowdfunding to make its way onto the screen. The writer/director is a former Macomb Township resident and the film was made in Michigan.
Here's the story:

By Mitch Hotts
The Macomb Daily
He’s been a sheriff’s deputy and an elected head of county government.
Now Mark Hackel can add acting to his resume.
The Macomb County executive has a role in “Urban Myths,” an independent film being produced by a former Macomb Township resident and made in Michigan.
“A young lady who used to work in our department contacted me to say she was making a movie and asked if I had any interest in a role as a police officer,” Hackel said. “I read the script and it seemed interesting, so I decided to do it.”
Filmed mostly near Gladwin this past summer, “Urban Myths” is the story of a group of high school seniors who head out on a spring break camping trip to check out a series of myths the had heard about. They stumble on a haunted Indian burial ground when scary paranormal activities begin to happen.
The film stars a number of B-list actors and celebrities including Courtney Gains, who was in “Memphis Belle” and “Back to the Future,” Sophie Simmons, daughter of Kiss bassist Gene Simmons, and Gregg Wayans, nephew of Keenen and Damon Wayans.
Hackel, who served as a deputy and the Macomb County sheriff before becoming the county’s first-ever executive, plays the role of Deputy Matthews in the film. It was a comfortable role for him -- he even wore his old uniform as a costume.
He received no pay.
Long known as a media-friendly government official, Hackel believes his time in front of television news cameras helped him relax when it was time to film his scenes.
“The hardest part for me was to work in front of all of the other actors who do this for a living, knowing they’d be critiquing me,” he said. “But once I got that out of my head, I knew my lines and recited them. It was pretty interesting.”
“Urban Myths” was written and directed by Kim Marie for Mirror Dog Productions. A Chippewa Valley High School graduate who studied theater at Macomb Community College before moving to Los Angeles for several years, she met Hackel while working with the Explorers program and as an area volunteer firefighter.
They kept in touch over the years and after she entered the movie industry, offered him a role in the movie. She gave his performance a passing grade.
“I wanted to go into law enforcement initially to protect and serve,” Marie said. “There are some similarities in the two fields. Like a detective, a director has to think fast on their feet. I think Mark was able to catch on.”
Marie, who now resides in Rochester, said the film is almost wrapped up, but producers are turning to crowdfunding to come up with the $50,000 needed to complete the special effects. Once the financing is complete, the film may be released by the end of 2015 or early 2016.
She also has room for product placement from local businesses if any are interested.
“We have some interest from distributors,” she said. “It would be nice to have a red-carpet premier in Macomb County.”
For information on crowdfunding, visit indiegogo.com/projects/urban-myths–2.

For more on the movie, check out urbanmythsmovie.com or youtube.com/watch?v=mt_j1o0UBp4 for a short clip.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

This popularity contest finds Hillary finishing last

Remember all the hub-bub about Hillary Clinton's cover story in People magazine last summer?
It was supposed to mark the start of the former secretary of state's charm offensive, allowing skeptical female voters to warm up to her in advance of her 2016 campaign launch.
Well, it turns out that not many People readers (low-information voters?) are ready for Hillary.
The Huffington Post reports that the Hillary issue in June was the worst-selling cover of the year for People.

According to numbers compiled by AdWeek's report on the best and worst covers of 2014, the Clinton cover was People's most unpopular, selling only 503,890 copies.
Finishing last is, I suspect, something that does not sit well with Mrs. Clinton.
By the way: The most successful cover? The Robin Williams memorial issue from August sold 1,169,800 copies. That means Hillary came up short by better than a 2-1 margin.

A pro-Windsor tax policy could boost downtown Detroit

During a trip to downtown Detroit last Sunday, Dennis Lennox, a northern Michigan conservative Republican, was impressed by the buzz in the air. The Lions game, a concert, the Campus Martius skating rink -- all had converged to create a festive atmosphere.

Except for this: No shopping bags. 

The hustle and bustle was reminiscent of a Christmastime visit to downtown Chicago or Toronto, minus the shoppers scurrying from store to store. 

In his column this week for our sister paper, The (Mount Pleasant) Morning Sun, Lennox advises those determined to revive the Motor City to look south (yes, south) to the Windsor area for an added economic boost.

Here's a portion of his piece:

"Detroit is uniquely positioned with the 177,000 or so Canadians just across the river being closer to downtown than those Michiganders living in far-flung suburbs.
"However, little can be done to target this vast market when downtown Detroit has only sports, gambling and entertainment.

"A wise idea would be to either suspend the sales tax in border areas from Black Friday to Christmas or, better yet, rebate the sales tax on purchases throughout the year by non-resident visitors."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Best way to beat Hillary: Keep Jeb in the race

Jeb Bush's sudden renaissance, culminating in today's announcement that he's officially exploring a presidential run, will certainly be met with derision by the Republican Party's far right. But those already taking aim at the former Florida governor may want to keep their powder dry.
I say, the best way for the GOP to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016 is to make sure that Jeb makes a nice, long run in the presidential primaries.

How's that?

Well, I'm convinced that a substantial portion of the American electorate would revolt if faced with an election fought between the Bushes and the Clintons. Many have had enough of this three-decade focus on two political families. So, the longer the Bush vs. Clinton prospect remains in the public eye, the more turned off average voters will become. 
I can picture countless sound bites on cable TV news showing voters expressing disgust at the idea of the two parties furthering these fading dynasties.
One prominent conservative, Brent Bozell, has referred to the possibility of a Bush vs. Clinton race in '16 as "political vomit."

But, in order to maintain a constant buzz about Clinton and Bush, Bozell and the rest of the right wing that dominates the GOP would have to play a little political softball. They could collectively marginalize Jeb without blasting him, thereby sending the message to the other Republican candidates that Bush is harmless and cannot possibly win the nomination. Though the wide open fight for the Republican nomination shapes up as a particularly nasty race, I doubt that a hands-off-Jeb strategy could backfire. Some suggest that two issues -- support for Common Core and immigration reform -- are enough to block Bush's path to the 2016 GOP convention.

Under the plan, as this slow deflation of the Bush balloon took place, the Democrats would become fully invested in Hillary as their nominee. It would be too late to pull back. The majority of voters will have made it clear they've had their fill of Bush and Clinton but only one, Hillary, would be left standing when the primary season comes to a close.
It seems so devious, which makes it so 2016. For the far right, this would be their fantasy scenario: Bush will move to the sidelines right about the time Hillary starts to stink with political vomit so badly that she won't be the female candidate, she'll be the tired, old bag-lady candidate.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Is religion a license to discriminate, or is it something worse?

Never discuss religion or politics in polite company – that’s a message which has been passed down for decades.
Well, our highly polarized political arena does not constitute polite discourse and the result is an intersection of religion and politics that has sparked a firestorm of debate, from the local level to the state Capitol.
The religious freedom bill that was passed by the state House, putting a national spotlight on Michigan, is decried by critics as a “license to discriminate” against gays. That’s a misleading assessment, though one that requires some unraveling to get at the truth.

Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, civil liberties advocates claim, a doctor or EMT could refuse treatment for a gay person, based on religious grounds. A pharmacist could cite his religious beliefs in declining to fill a prescription for birth control or HIV medication. A fundamentalist teacher could refuse to mentor the child of a same-sex couple. A Catholic county clerk might end the issuance of marriage licenses to those who have been previously divorced.
That all sounds terrible to anyone who values freedom for all above religious beliefs. House Speaker Jase Bolger, the champion of this legislation, said the “parade of horribles” laid out by his detractors fails to recognize the role of the legal system under this new set of rules.

In reality, Bolger’s law would provide a newfound weapon to wield in court. Those with demonstrable discriminatory views toward certain people – in the immediate case, those in the LGBT community – could rely upon the proposed religious freedom provisions to defend their actions.
That doesn’t mean that bigoted bakers would immediately stop making wedding cakes for gay couples. It does mean that the baker whose religion recognizes only one sexual orientation would now have a legal leg to stand on.
If their actions were challenged in court, these businesses and professionals would rely upon their “sincerely held religious beliefs” as a defense. Legal experts say that victims of discrimination would be forced to demonstrate that the government has a “compelling interest” to protect them from bias.

For the individual, that would mean spending a lot of time in court and money for lawyers.
For the rest of us, it would mean further clogging up the court system.

In Macomb County, an anti-discrimination policy that was recently passed protects gay rights in the workplace for the county’s 2,600 employees. But this ordinance also offered a religion exception. In effect, the county took a contrary approach, declaring that those “affiliated with” a religion that does not recognize gay rights cannot be blocked from using county facilities or services.
An attempt to strip the religion provision failed last week after Commissioner Jim Carabelli introduced this scenario: Is the county willing to prevent a Catholic couple from getting married at Freedom Hill County Park because their religion does not tolerate LGBT people?
“At the end of the day, that is discrimination,” said the Shelby Township Republican.
While the overall “Human Rights Policy” stands, thanks to commissioners who remained steadfast against considerable initial opposition from conservatives, the Sterling Heights City Council rescinded their LGBT protection ordinance when many of the same opponents waged a high-profile challenge.

Of course, none of these machinations would be necessary if the U.S. Supreme Court had recognized the LGBT community as a protected class within society, based on the insidious discrimination they have suffered over a long period of time. The courts have followed that path of reasoning in the past to establish protections based on gender, race and ethnicity.
Instead, the high court opened the door a crack in the so-called Hobby Lobby case, ruling that “closely held” (essentially family-owned) companies can refuse to provide their employees insurance coverage for contraception, based on the owners’ deeply held religious beliefs.

What if the next case to reach the court asserts that religious beliefs allow closely held corporations to hire or fire workers based on their sexual orientation? What if the next religion-based dispute to land on the justices’ docket is brought forward by Home Depot instead of Hobby Lobby?
At that point, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law designed to protect minority religions, will become unrecognizable. Some 20 states have adopted their own religious freedom laws as conservatives eager to blur the lines between church and state attempt to minimize the impact of the gay rights movement sweeping the nation.

All of this has an uneasy resemblance to the days when Bible-thumping preachers created a culture of intolerance.
Religion was used to justify segregation, and later to block interracial marriages. Now, those arguments seem fairly ridiculous. Someday, the public may look back on the religious freedom claims made in 2014 and consider them rather silly.
In the meantime, the issue is this: Should religious beliefs established centuries ago trump the secular morality established by a nation of laws?

If an individual citing religious grounds pressures his church not to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies at their place of worship, that’s an internal matter among the congregation. They essentially have that license to discriminate among their flock.
But when the government passes a law that opens the door to religion-based discrimination in everyday life, that becomes a sanctioned form of public prejudice. That creates a standard in which a version of Christian (or Muslim) doctrine supersedes constitutional liberties.

For those seeking freedom, their only hope is to place their confidence in a legal system that’s already under fire for perceived bias.
Under the proposed law, those battered by bigotry receive one more painful message: Have faith.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hillary has postponed presidential run

The Washington Post is reporting that Hillary Clinton and her advisers have put off a presidential candidacy announcement.
Here is how the Post's "The Fix" blog describes the situation:
"Hillary Clinton, after much debate within her inner circle, appears to have put off formally entering the 2016 presidential race until the spring of 2015.   "Hillary Rodham Clinton is considering the nitty-gritty details of how and when to organize a presidential campaign amid signs that she will postpone making her shadow campaign official until later in 2015 than expected, according to advisers and Democratic strategists," wrote WaPo's Anne Gearan and Matea Gold this week. That jibes with plenty of other reporting on the matter and seems as close to a consensus opinion as you will get when it comes to the remarkably opaque decision-making process of the former Secretary of State.
"While there are plenty of reasons that argue in favor of waiting -- legal ones in terms of how she incorporates (or doesn't) the various outside groups that have blossomed in support of her over the past few years, political ones about looking less, well, political for as long as possible -- there's also a big reason why she should at least consider announcing sooner rather than later. And it's named Elizabeth Warren. Or, at least, the energy and passion among liberals that is, at the moment, channeled through Warren.  An attempt to draft the Massachusetts Senator launched formally this week and her stern opposition to the 'CRomnibus' bill because of a provision that would ease derivative trading by corporations drew scads of national coverage."

County gets $16 million settlement for building fire

By Chad Selweski
The Macomb Daily

Nearly two years after damage from an electrical fire closed the old County Building in downtown Mount Clemens, officials have negotiated a $16 million insurance settlement to upgrade the structure so that it can reopen in 2017.
The county Board of Commissioners was told Thursday that reimbursement for millions of dollars in initial repairs and cleanup at the 13-story structure are covered under the settlement and $9.3 million in additional work will also be paid for by Travelers Property Casualty Company in 2015.
The restoration project is part of a much larger renovation plan for several county buildings, which will be financed by a $400 million municipal bond issue -- a borrowing measure that has become increasingly contentious among officials as the year comes to a close.
“We know this (negotiating) process took longer than expected,” said county Deputy Executive Mark Deldin, “but I can’t say enough about Ethan and his company for the work they did,” a reference to Ethan Gross of Globe Midwest. When settlement negotiations commenced last year, the Travelers insurance firm offered $4 million while the county’s insurance adjuster proposed $19 million.
In addition to repairs and renovations, the settlement covers costs incurred to move the county’s IT center, relocate employees, move and rent furniture, lease temporary office space, pay $14,000 in overtime pay to county workers, and perform $1 million in upgrades to bring the building up to code. Interior demolition at the shuttered facility began in recent days.
The structure suffered an electrical fire in March 2013 that substantially damaged the county’s computer mainframes, Internet connections and phone system, crippling much of county government for about a week. The 175 employees who worked in the building remain scattered across several sites in Mount Clemens.
As hundreds of members of the public who visit the building weekly were left to scramble around the city, looking for the temporary location of the office they were seeking, officials initially thought the County Building could reopen in about a year. But, with the multi-million dollar insurance settlement pending, the county executive’s office decided on an overhaul of the aging facility, which will eventually house almost exclusively offices for the county court system.
Prior to the fire, officials had already established long-term plans to modernize the County Building, an iconic structure topped by gargoyles that helps define downtown Mount Clemens.
The upcoming $432 million bond sale would finance the County Building modernization and much more.
Some $340 million would eliminate staggering debts racked up by the Board of Commissioners for decades as it promised lifetime health care to its retirees and their spouses without setting aside the necessary funds to pay for it.
About $60 million will pay for improvements at the five county buildings that dominate the downtown area. Another $37 million will finance a list of about two dozen long-needed repairs at other county facilities, including the jail, that consist of basic upgrades to roofing, plumbing, electrical units, and heating and cooling systems.
It was revealed at Thursday’s meeting of the board’s Finance Committee that delays in the bond sale, originally slated for final approval in November, will cost the county $2 million a month. So far, no board vote is scheduled for December. Once a successful vote is held, the state Department of Treasury will likely spend 30 to 45 days approving the bond issue.
A lengthy battle between the commissioners and County Executive Mark Hackel over the Martha T. Berry Medical Care Facility is at the heart of the bond sale delay. As the three-member Human Services Board moves toward taking full control of the nursing home facility, $16 million in retiree health care liabilities accumulated over many years at the medical center remain in contention.
“The question is,” Deldin said, “how much of the $16 million is the county liable for and how much of the liability falls to Martha T.?”

Report: Schostak ready to announce re-election bid as MIGOP chair

Brandon Hall of the West Michigan Politics blog is reporting that Bobby Schostak will announce at this weekend's Michigan Republican Party gathering that he will seek a third term as party chairman.
Speculation about Schostak's plan has kept GOP activists buzzing for several weeks.
Earlier, Hall created a list of eight possible contenders for the party, with possibly seven likely to back off if Schostak decided to stay on. Among those on the list were term-limited state Rep. Pete Lund of Shelby Township.

"Multiple sources tell West Michigan Politics that Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak will announce plans to seek a third term this weekend, possibly as early as (tonight)," Hall wrote. "Schostak will be in Grand Rapids for a reception at Amway Grand Plaza Friday night, and state party business Saturday morning."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The newsroom of the future is a scary (and happy) place

As newspapers create new ways of pandering to online readers who are not particularly interested in the news -- or in reading -- the newsroom of the future is emerging. And it's a scary place for those who rely on good journalism to keep them informed.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, a Gannett newspaper, recently placed an employment ad seeking a new kind of investigative reporter. According to the media criticism site Romenesko.com, the ad put a strange emphasis on wooing the 25- to 45-year-old demographic group that advertisers covet, rather than on news content.
Here's an excerpt:


All of this is quite disturbing but the phrase that really sets off the warning sirens is "advertising partner."
This sounds like the reporter and the partner will choose what stories to write -- and shape those writings -- based on what will bring in the most advertising dollars. The bottom line: "monetize" is the favorite buzzword of newspaper executives.

Last month, another glimpse of the future newsroom emerged when the Nashville Tennessean, following the path of many papers, hired a "community engagement editor." This is a trendy way to engage in happy talk with people in the community via social media. An example from Facebook posts by other engagement editors: "Hey, everybody, what are you doing this weekend? Tell us about your plans." 
In Nashville, the "only good news is real news" approach taken by this new editor, Beth Inglish, an artist not a journalist, caused concern when she wrote this on Facebook: "I really don't like news that makes me feel sick to my stomach ... and well that seems to be what our media in the U.S. likes to talk about. Why aren't we working harder to lift up the community by focusing on positive role models instead of negative ones??"
A blogger at Nashvillescene.com responded:
"Is the news that made her sick to her stomach the tough accountability piece Anita Wadhwani wrote about problems with suicides in juvenile detention facilities? That was what led the paper on Friday.
"We can't wait to see how Inglish is going to save journalism through being part of 'a new model to connect with the community.' Maybe all journalism needed was to stop hiring journalists for newsroom positions."
An anonymous reader who chimed in turned up the snark meter several notches on the blog's message board:

"Way to go, Newsroom of the Future, you have topped yourself. ... There's something fantastic and beautiful and horrifying about this. Because you basically just told every human being with eyes the following: 'Seriously, we don't give a sh-- about news now or ever again. Seriously. Stories about murder, rape, crime, lawsuits, and governmental abuse no longer are part of what we do because all that adult stuff just hurts Beth Inglish's tummy wummy. But stories about the great deals on chicken tenders at Kroger? Heck yes! GAME ON!'

"Question for Beth Inglish. How many newspapers have you ever read, like, ever? I mean, all the way through to the end and not just, like, the crossword puzzle which is, like, hard. Seriously. Take a minute and count. Use both hands if you need to. Say, how many stories have you ever written, for that matter? And how much do you know about the way government works or doesn't work? It's kinda complicated for an engagement editor like you. Do you know what a watchdog is?"

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It's Miller time again -- 3rd generation enters Macomb County politics

For Derek Miller, it’s been a whirlwind month.
On Election Day in November, he won the 28th House District seat in Warren/Center Line by a huge margin.
Last Friday, the thirty-something was sworn into office by Michigan Supreme Court Justice David Viviano.
As he prepares for his January debut at the state Capitol, Miller, a Democrat, met with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan on Monday to discuss ways Michigan can retain talent graduating from state universities.
And on Saturday, he will marry his Cousino High School sweetheart, Katie Giasone.
For a typical 31-year-old taking his first stab at politics, a rush of events such as this might prove overwhelming. But the state representative-elect is operating within his element as the third generation of elected officials from the Miller family, which has engaged in high-profile public service over the past 60 years.
Miller is the grandson of Art Miller, the first mayor of the city of Warren in 1957. His grandmother, Edna Miller, served for 28 years as the first female Macomb Clerk, succeeding her husband in that position after his death.
Derek’s father, Art Miller, Jr., served in the Michigan Senate from 1977-2003, rising to Senate Democratic Leader. In that post, the second-generation Miller in politics sponsored or steered more than 300 pieces of legislation. Miller’s father remains a presence in Lansing as the lobbyist for the city of Warren.
Derek Miller said he was the youngest of four siblings and the only one to catch the political bug. His run for office may have been inevitable.
“I remember campaigning door-to-door with my Dad as a kid. I remember handing out (Miller-emblazoned) rulers at Four Bears Water Park for my grandma,” he recalled.
As for the swearing-in ceremony held last week at the county courthouse, Justice Viviano, a prominent Republican, may have seemed like an odd choice to preside over an event for a Miller family steeped in Macomb County Democratic politics.
But the younger Miller, a county assistant prosecutor, said he developed a high level of respect for Viviano, a former Macomb County circuit judge, while appearing before him in court.
The short celebration was held in the courtroom of Viviano’s sister, Circuit Judge Kathryn Viviano. The connections between these two dynastic political families go even further -- David and Kathryn’s father, retired circuit Judge Antonio Viviano, was Edna Miller’s social studies teacher at Regina High School decades ago when it was still located in Harper Woods.
Perhaps it represents a tip of the hat to the Millers that when Derek announced in the spring his candidacy for the state House seat being vacated by term-limited Rep. Jon Switalski, no others of any significance came forward to challenge him.
The representative-elect said on Monday he hopes to stake his ground in the Legislature somewhere between Switalski, a liberal Democrat, and Switalski’s predecessor, Lesia Liss, a moderate --with a particular emphasis on bipartisanship.
“No one worked more closely with the other side of the aisle than my Dad, especially with (Republican governor) John Engler and (Republican lieutenant governor) Dick Posthumus,” he said. “In order to get things done, I know I need to work with … those guys in the GOP.”

Monday, December 8, 2014

ICYMI: Fate of Selfridge A-10s remains murky

By Chad Selweski
The Macomb Daily

The fate of the A-10 aircraft at Selfridge base in Harrison Township remains murky after a tragic “friendly fire” incident in the Middle East seemingly boosted the value of the low-flying jets while the 2015 Defense Department bill moving through Congress calls for mothballing 36 of the nation’s A-10 Thunderbolts.
The Selfridge Air Nation Guard Base, the largest military installation in the state, covers 3,600 acres and generates $825 million in economic activity for the southeast Michigan region. If Selfridge’s 24 A-10 jets were removed, the bases viability could become in question.
In Washington, the compromise House-Senate defense authorization bill that emerged Tuesday night raised the hackles of Rep. Candice Miller, a leading advocate on Capitol Hill of the close air support aircraft, who said the Air Force plan for putting three dozen A-10s on “backup status” across the nation represents a slippery slope.
While the future of the A-10s remains a relatively minor issue in a $585 billion defense bill that calls for numerous Pentagon cuts, the legislation passed on Thursday by a bipartisan margin of 300-119 in the ongoing lame duck session.

“When you talk about backup status, that means they’re going to be mothballed. It’s a code phrase for divestiture of the A-10s,” said Miller, a Harrison Township Republican. “This puts us in a weaker position.”
The Miller Amendment approved by the House last Spring called for no changes in the active status of 18 A-10s stationed at Selfridge -- reduced from 24 in recent years – and for the nearly 300 A-10s across the nation, either as Air Force aircraft or planes assigned to the Air National Guard. The Air Force says the plan could save $3.7 billion.
But the consensus version of the bill reached by House and Senate negotiators in recent days, including outgoing Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, provides a small nod to the Air Force’s plans to replace the 1970s-era A-10 with more modern aircraft.
Yet, a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan in June, in which a high-altitude B-1B bomber -- a planned replacement for the A-10 -- dropped a 500-pound bomb onto a helicopter landing zone and accidentally killed five U.S. soldiers, shifted the debate.
That tragic fratricide incident led to a sternly worded letter to outgoing Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel from an Air Force association representing battlefield air-strike target spotters. They said the manner of ongoing air strikes in Afghanistan and against ISIS in Iraq and Syria had “shaken the confidence” of the 1,300-member Tactical Air Control Party Association, which voted unanimously last month against a rapid phaseout of the A-10.

“…When under enemy fire and about to be overrun, (target spotters) look over their shoulders and pray an A-10 is there — knowing that nothing reassures and protects friendly forces and scatters and destroys enemy forces like an A-10,” wrote Charlie Keebaugh, president of the TACP.
“If the Air Force does not reverse its decision to prematurely divest the A-10, Americans will die in future conflicts due to inadequate close air support. This is a completely predictable disaster in the making …”
The A-10 affectionately known as the “Warthog,” is a “tank buster” aircraft, designed to fly low and slow over an open battlefield. For decades the Air Force has attempted to scrap the A-10 while the Army brass insist that the plane is unsurpassed at protecting troops on the ground.
The 107th Fighter Squadron at Selfridge consists of 455 Guardsmen who are A-10 pilots or engage in maintenance and operations. The unit is also comprised of 180 full time employees -- 21 serve on active-duty status and the remainder are uniformed civilian technicians.
When the military brass in 2012 attempted to put the 107th Fighter Squadron and all A-10s on the chopping block, the proposal united Macomb County’s elected officials and business community to oppose the plan. The Selfridge Base Community Council coordinated a lobbying campaign and Gov. Rick Snyder, Oakland County Prosecutor L. Brooks Patterson and then-Mayor Dave Bing of Detroit joined the cause.

Two years later, Congresswoman Miller concedes that the high-tech, long awaited – and very expensive -- F-35 fighter plan would be a good replacement for the aging A-10. But she said the Air Force leave no leeway for an extended transition that could last 20 years. Miller believes entrenched Pentagon officials and defense contractors have created an adversarial atmosphere.
“I think people are sort of pitting the A-10 vs. the F-35. That’s a red herring. It doesn’t have to be either/or,” Miller said. “The … bottom line is that if the Pentagon eliminates all the A-10s, Selfridge is not going to get F-35 replacements sometime next year, or any time soon.”