Thursday, June 28, 2012

Obamacare Ruled Not a Four-Letter-Word. Damn!

Today was the day Chief Justice Roberts creeped out the Republicans by doing the unthinkable:  He figured out a way to square the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with the constitution and gave it his okay (if not exactly his blessing).  Such a donnybrook!  The Dems couldn't believe it, but the Republicans couldn't believe it even more. 

I won't be explaining the whole thing here, not because I can't (I really can't), but because every person with a keyboard has already weighed in on what it all means.  But even though I didn't know exactly what was going on, I was on top of it all, even before the pundits on TV.  At the very moment the decision came down, the supersmart bunch at SCOTUSblog were live-blogging from inside the courtroom, sending out the minute-by-minute news as it happened, ticker-tape style, and I have to tell you, I got goosebumps!  Because there I was, in the loop, watching those guys on MSNBC having to wait until Pete Williams came outside to tell them what had gone on inside--which, ha!  I already knew!  (Click here for SCOTUSblog's simple explanation of what happened at the Supreme Court today.  It'll explain everything.  At least for today.)

Yes, it was quite a day  The decision came down around 10:15 AM or thereabouts, and within minutes the screws began to come loose.

Both Fox and CNN jumped the gun and told their viewers Obamacare had been declared unconstitutional.





Petitions to impeach Chief Justice Roberts appeared and people came out of nowhere to sign the things.  One petition got 124 signatures before it shut down, for reasons known only to the petitioners.  Another one was at 28 signatures by 9 PM (including the ubiquitous Seemore Butts of Geneva, Il.), hoping for 1000 names by whenever.

Matthew Davis, a former GOP spokesman in Michigan wrote an email right after the decision that moved swiftly through the blogosphere,   The Koch-fueled Mackinac Center published it on their CAPCON page (Michigan Capitol Confidential), along with some straight reporting that gave no indication of where they stand when it comes to (cough, gag, retch) Obamacare.
A Lansing-based civil rights attorney who has held positions with the Michigan Republican Party and Department of Corrections, questioned in a widely distributed email today whether armed rebellion was justified over the Supreme Court ruling upholding Obamacare.

Matthew Davis sent the email moments after the Supreme Court ruling to numerous new media outlets and limited government activists with the headline: “Is Armed Rebellion Now Justified?”
He stressed that he wasn't calling for armed rebellion but added his own personal note to the email, saying, “… here’s my response. And yes, I mean it.”

He said he was writing with an "eye toward asking at what point the Republic is in peril."
“There are times government has to do things to get what it wants and holds a gun to your head," Davis said. "I’m saying at some point, we have to ask the question when do we turn that gun around and say no and resist.

"Was the American Revolution justified?”

Davis said the key word was “justified,” adding that a peaceful resolution toward changing the law is the goal. He said rebellion often is the end result of people who get backed against a wall and wondered when that might occur when it comes to the Obamacare ruling.
Michael Savage offered up the reason Roberts voted the way he did:  It was his epilepsy medication.  Yeah.  That's the ticket.

In the Twitterverse,  a rash of tweets went viral, much to the consternation of the original tweeters who swear they never, ever, ever tweeted that if Obamacare wasn't overturned they were moving to Canada!

And that was just today.

Friday, June 22, 2012

What is a Contract if it's not a Contract? Or Even if it Is?

So after many, many months of glorying in his efforts to break public worker contracts in his great state of Michigan (formerly our great state of Michigan), Governor Ricky has decided that it's not okay to break a contract when it's a contract Governor Ricky doesn't want to break.

Governor Ricky is in the bridge-building business these days. (Real bridge-building, not the kind that builds bridges of understanding or cooperation.  Do NOT accuse him of such a thing!)

We already have a bridge in Detroit that takes us to Windsor, which is in that other country we don't like to talk about anymore because they seem to have their shit together when it comes to taking care of their own.  The bridge in Detroit is called the Ambassador Bridge, and, except for a time after 9/11, when we got a little crazy with stopping and searching, traffic flows regularly if not always speedily across it.  It's privately owned, which should thrill the Guv no end, but apparently there's something in it for him if another bridge is built a couple of miles south of the Ambassador that will take us to a spot a couple of miles south of where we already disembark on the Canadian side.  (Ed. note: Completely forgot to mention the tunnel that connects Detroit and Windsor, not far from the Ambassador Bridge. Detroiters and Windsorites already have two choices for border crossing.  The need for a third one is a mystery to all but the principals pushing this thing.)

It looks like Canada will be paying nearly the entire billion dollar cost (with some help from our dreaded, unneeded Federal government--that's us--for the plaza and approaches on our side),  so I don't quite get what's in it for Governor Ricky, but I know in my heart of hearts he and his cronies are going to benefit somehow from what's being touted as a "public/private venture".  

The ambitious project will provide jobs in our area and the steel used to build the bridge will come from both Canadian and American plants.  Not a bad thing at all.  But. . .
Map rendering:  Montreal Gazette
What brings me to this is Tuesday's story in the Detroit Free Press.  There are thousands of folks in Michigan (over 400,000 petition signers so far) who think this sort of undertaking requires approval by voters, and they want it on November's ballot.  Gov. R. says the deal can't be undone now because (chew on this for a while, public and even private employees) contracts have been signed.
Gov. Rick Snyder believes that even without special wording, a constitutional amendment passed by voters in November could not undo a contract signed in June, his spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said Monday.
"Like any other contract or agreement, it's intended to be binding and not impaired by other actions," Wurfel said.
Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun opposes the public span and is circulating petitions to get a proposal to amend the Michigan Constitution on the Nov. 6 ballot that would require a statewide vote on the new bridge.
In an interview last week, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said the state constitution "protects contracts from being amended after the fact from a standpoint of the retroactivity aspect of the proposal that they intend to put on the ballot."
Oy and gag and stop already!

Aren't these the same people who decided teacher contracts were about as obsolete as the unions that came up with them in the first place?  Aren't these the same people toying with doing away with public education--and their confounded public employee unions--and thus their contracts, with aid and comfort from ALEC, the Koch brothers and our own home-grown nemesis, the Mackinac Center? (Answer: Yes, they are.  The very same who also came up with the radical notion of taking over whole cities and towns--and thus their contracts as a sure-fire way to make their wishes come true. And also too, came up with heaping mounds of funds to do it.)

From the AP via the Huffington Post ("Gov Rick Snyder signs Teacher Tenure Law, Links Student Performance"):
Personnel issues related to layoffs and employee discipline no longer will be subject to contract negotiations, and teachers can be dismissed for any reason that's not "arbitrary or capricious." They previously could be discharged or demoted only for "reasonable and just cause." State superintendent Mike Flanagan has said the language should have been left unchanged to protect teachers' rights to due process.

 Here's the thing about contracts:  The assumption by both signing parties is that once the contract is signed, something important and lasting has taken place.  By consensual agreement, the signed contract is binding until one of three things happens:  It expires, the contracted job is successfully completed, or both parties agree to review and revise it. (the latter happens often these days with labor unions, where concessions almost always come from the workers and almost never from the employers.  If someone knows of a reverse story, I would love to hear about it.  It would be a 21st Century first for me.)

The idea of binding contracts is apparently old school and is losing favor all across the wide and mighty land.  The new thinking is that a contract is only good until the party with the most power breaks it. My new thinking is that that's not a contract, it's a bloody scam.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Vagina Comicals

In the petty police state of Michigan (used to be Michigan, My Michigan; now it isn't) two state reps got a time out yesterday for talking naughty during a pre-vote session on some fancy new man-made anti-abortion bills. These two elected representatives of the people were told they could not speak for an entire day because they "ignored the rules of decorum" and got a little huffy with the menfolks. (It probably won't surprise you, given what you may already know about our once great state, but both of them were Democrats and both of them were women.) 

One of them, Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield,  actually used the word "vagina" in a sentence on the House floor. She spoke for a few minutes about her own Jewish faith and how it understands the legitimacy of medically necessary abortions. She ended by saying, "Finally, Mr. Speaker,
I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but 'no' means 'no.'"

Oh. My. God.  That word.  That nasty, wasty word:

VAGINA

[vuh-jahy-nuh] 
noun, plural va·gi·nas, va·gi·nae [-nee] . 1. Anatomy, Zoology .
a.
the passage leading from the uterus to the vulva in certain female mammals. Compare oviduct.
 Yesterday's Detroit News reported (with a straight face--at least in public):
Brown's comment prompted a rebuke Thursday by House Republicans, who wouldn't allow her to voice her opinion on a school employee retirement bill.
"What she said was offensive," said Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville. "It was so offensive, I don't even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company."
 Lisa Brown responded:  “If I can’t say the word vagina, why are we legislating vaginas?”


On that same day, Wednesday, Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, wickedly suggested that if the gentlemen of the Republican persuasion want to dictate how a woman uses her body by putting up a draconian bill limiting existing abortion laws, she would introduce an amendment to the bill requiring that all men seeking vasectomies in Michigan provide proof that the procedure was necessary due to a medical emergency or that the man's life was in danger.

"If we truly want to make sure children are born, we would regulate vasectomies," Byrum told reporters Thursday.

(The law passed, anyway, 70-39 with a Republican majority--minus the proposed 20-week abortion ban, which will be taken up at a later date.  It passed in spite of over 10,000 protest signatures, which were apparently invisible to the Republicans and thus weren't recognized.  It goes to the Republican majority senate in September.  Some are calling this anti-abortion bill "the nation's worst."  The specifics are here.  You be the judge.)

Photo courtesy Eclectablog.  More on the story here.
 Yesterday was the last day the legislature was in session before summer recess.  Numerous bills were discussed before voting, it being the last day and all, but neither Brown nor Byrum were allowed to speak on the floor.   These two elected representatives of the people (I repeat) were not allowed to voice their opinions on the House floor because of a few legitimate words spoken in legitimate discussion the day before:
Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger (R), said the women “will not be recognized to speak on the House floor today after being gaveled down for their comments and actions yesterday that failed to maintain the decorum of the House of Representatives.” 
So.  You want to see what the end of democracy looks like?  Outside of an apocalyptic, dystopian blockbuster at the movies, that is?  Take a gander at my state.  It's a thrill a minute.  "Nineteen Eighty-Four", with regular but not necessarily satisfying doses of comic relief.

It's Pure Michigan with a rotten core in Lansing and we have until November to throw the bums out.  In the meantime, women of our state, how about we make "Vagina!" our new "Towanda!"  Can't hurt.  Might even help.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wisconsin, Don't Despair. It's not You, it's Them

As much as we all sorely wished that the recall effort in Wisconsin would succeed, I don't know many people who were actually shocked when it failed on Tuesday.  The odds against winning were formidable. The recallers gathered thousands more signatures that they would ever need and it looked like that fact alone might carry them along to success, but Big Money fought the recall, turning the image of valued public employees into thoughtless money-grabbers at a time when belts had to be tightened.  They portrayed Scott Walker as a tough, savvy, pro-business leader who was willing to take on the union-heavy public institutions responsible for dragging the state down.  That was the story, and the voters bought it.

In Wisconsin, the recall effort was an actual election, pitting Governor Walker against his 2010 gubernatorial opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who seemed like a nice guy with a compelling promise to bring fair, honest governance back to that state, but who, in the end, couldn't make the case broadly enough.

 The word on the street the morning after the election was that voters thought recalls should be used against more egregious actions by a sitting governor.  Killing the chances at collective bargaining for all public workers apparently didn't fit the bill.  The word on the street was that nobody cares about unions anyway, and good riddance to them.

The word on the street was that Wisconsin is and always has been an unpredictable state and this was a colossal waste of money and effort, no matter how many signatures were gathered and no matter how worthy the message.  (Not much mention of the tens of millions of dollars Walker's buddies threw into the race to keep his regime going.)

Michigan Rising, an organization working to gather signatures for Governor Rick Snyder's recall,  announced yesterday that they are calling off the recall challenge.  An effort to gather enough signatures fell embarrassingly short, and the loss in Wisconsin became reason enough to end it. 

We know now that recalls aren't the best way to protest.  The fact that only two governors in our country's entire history have ever been recalled, and that Scott Walker was only the third to ever have been challenged says something about the chances for success.  The chances were pretty much nil from the start.

We liberal activists are getting used to failure, and getting used to failure is not a healthy thing.  It's demoralizing and it's way too easy in the aftermath to just give up. It isn't that our hearts aren't in it, or that we don't take the fight seriously.  It's that we've never run into such concerted, committed opposition before, and we don't have a clue about how to handle it.  We're fighting a vast faction with a mighty war chest bent on taking over this country by making our own government work against us. 

The proof is out there, practically in neon lights, that Republican governors of many of our states have signed up for the takeover.  They follow an agenda set out for them by Right Wing organizations fully capable of fighting the battle for the states all the way to the end, and they're determined not to stop there. They've forced nearly every single Republican politician to sign a pledge never to raise taxes or their funding will dry up as quick as dung in the desert sun .  It's the Grover Norquist plan and even though Grover Norquist has no real credentials, he is the front-running Republican rule-maker and nobody in his party ever seems to wonder who died and made him king.

The diabolically clever part of the "never raise taxes" plan is that it can be used to effectively kill any program the Republicans are against.   Any social program, any essential safety net, can die an unnatural death by defunding, underfunding or outright abolishing, thanks to the new rules set in place by the likes of Norquist, ALEC, the Koch cabal, the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, and various Tea Party newbies in the House who have promised to shed real red blood if necessary in order to honor the edicts of the monied Right Wing.

As David Horsey wrote in today's LA Times,
Occupy Wall Street enthusiasts can camp out on the sidewalk and conduct their exquisitely egalitarian group discussions. Anarchists can gleefully smash windows at Bank of America and Starbucks. Union members can set up phone banks and carry picket signs. But as long as elections are there to be bought, a handful of billionaires will have a far louder voice in who runs the country than all the activists on the left combined.

As a country, we've dug ourselves into a hole so deep daylight is but a distant dream.  The news from Wisconsin is not good but it can't be the end.  We liberals and progressives can win this thing if we work together and build our own formidable counteracting factions.  (See Bernie Sanders.)  It's our only chance and we can only get it done if we set aside our differences and work together with one goal in mind:  That saving our country is a cause worth fighting for.

There is a truly frightening enemy out there and it isn't us.  Not any of us.



Friday, June 1, 2012

Help! Michigan has Fallen and it Can't Get Up!

It shouldn't be news to anyone that Michigan is under siege.  There is a whole contingency out there trying to get the word out, including Chris Savage at Eclectablog, Eric B. at Michigan Liberal, and Rachel Maddow, who calls the takeover of Michigan, "epic" and "The greatest story never told."

Who's doing the takeover?  None but our own government. Our own elected government.  That's right.  We didn't just get taken over by the dark forces because we let our guard down at the gates.  No, the majority of registered voters in our state apparently all took leave of their senses at the same time and voted them in.  They (as opposed to me and a bunch of other people who tried like hell to keep it from happening) gave complete control of our beautiful state over to a Republican majority.   They own the executive branch, the judicial branch, the senate and, while they might have slightly less than the 2/3rds vote needed to pass bills in the house, they've bypassed that requirement nicely by not allowing a roll call vote and capping it off by pretending not to see all those raised hands on the Democrats' side of the aisle when a show-of-hands vote is cast.

Now, if this Republican majority somehow took leave of their own teapartisan senses and decided, out of the blue, to be fair minded and actually represent the needs of all people in our state, this might not be a problem.  But you know and I know and that blank wall over there knows, that's pure pipedreamism.  As we've discovered--much to our dismay--horror movies have nothing on the state of the state of Michigan these days.

We have an enhanced Emergency Manager law in our state that gives Governerd Snyder (Former president of Gateway, Inc.) unprecedented control to take over any municipality showing signs of going under water budgetarily.  He has decreed that he can declare a financial emergency and appoint an emergency financial manager who can then abolish any sign of a duly elected government and take the town over.

 So some good citizens in our fair state started a petition drive to get that unprecedented Emergency Financial Manager law watered down to a point where it was actually an Emergency Financial Manager law again and not a license to steal whole towns.  (Note:  It's not the EFM law that's unprecedented, it's the scope.  Snyder's predecessor, Dem Gov. Jennifer Granholm put the law into effect, apparently not thinking ahead to the day when some pseudo-governor-of-Nottingham might come along and tweak the law just enough to take over entire towns by relegating their chosen leaders to duties such as coffee-pouring and the taking of minutes at meetings the Emergency Financial Manager calls in order to remind them just how useless they are.)

Those good petition-drive citizens were so successful, they gathered over 200,000 signatures--40,000 more than they actually needed.  Boy, did that make those Republicans mad!  So they did something unprecedented, even for them:  They declared the font size on the petitions wrong, wrong, WRONG!   

Sources: Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility/Stand Up for Democracy

No, I'm not kidding.  Despite the protestations of the petition printer, who knows his fonts and says unequivocally they're 14 pt and legal, the petitions were thrown out and--surprise!  The EFM issue will not be on November's ballot. 

Well, we're disappointed and it's in the courts now.  (In the Michigan courts, however, where snowballs' chances in Hell have far better success rates than current Democrats.)

But all is not doom and gloom in Michigan these days.  Former Republican gubernatorial and presidential candidate Thaddeus (Thad) McCotter, a man not normally known for his ability to give Democrats the giggles, gave us reason to laugh so heartily last week we're still snickering even whilst fighting that damned EFM law.

A bunch of Thad's guys went out collecting signatures for his House seat re-election and when they came back and told him it was all done, he had no reason to believe they were either incredible boobs on par with those guys in "Dumb and Dumber" or they were bloody saboteurs.  They didn't just try to get away with duplicate signatures, they actually photocopied petitions and used them over and over.  As if no one would notice


.So here's what's happening:
A formal review by the Bureau of Elections revealed various discrepancies in the petition filing, including duplicate signatures and the appearance of altered petitions.
McCotter released a statement on Thursday afternoon that read: “I thank the Michigan Secretary of State & Attorney General for commencing the criminal investigation of petitions I requested Tuesday; will assist as they see fit.”
Gisgie Gendreau, spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office, said 243 signatures out of 1,833 were valid. “There appears to be some election law violations involved,” Gendreau said earlier this week.
As a result, the secretary of state’s office informed McCotter, R-Livonia, Friday that he lacked enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. McCotter declared Tuesday morning he is running as a write-in candidate for the 11th District of the House of Representatives.
The four-time winner of a House seat can't even gather 1,000 legitimate signatures in a district the size of a small country gerrymandered to his distinct advantage?  Oh, jeez!  I can't breathe!

There is a potential dark side to this, in that the guy who wants to win McCotter's seat on the Republican side is an avowed Tea Party Libertarian and might just win (and it could be that McCotter could survive a write-in), but give us Democrats a few minutes to engage in a few guffaws here.  Please. Lord knows it's a rare happening in these parts.

(For the record, the front-running Democrat vying for McCotter's 11th District seat is Canton physician Syed Taj. Nice man. Read about him here.)

**I'm going to end this some time soon, I promise, but I can't stop without mentioning Pete Hoekstra's latest attention-getter:  He's running for Senate once again against Debbie Stabenow and he apparently got the word (probably from Donald Trump) that the Obama birther issue must not die.

Watch video here at C&L

Pete the Perennial Politician is pushing for a National Birther Office, where all future presidential candidates must go to prove without a shadow of a doubt that they're actual U.S CITIZENS!!  (Good thing Pete doesn't want to run for president.  He was born in THE NETHERLANDS!!)

And so it goes in Michigan, Pure Michigan.  Pity about that underside.

**Addendum:  Heard from Chris Savage at Eclectablog and he tells me it's not exactly a done deal that the repeal of the Emergency Manager act won't be on November's ballot.  It's in the courts right now, so stay tuned.  Also, I should have remembered that they took the word "Financial" out of "Emergency Financial Manager" so now they're just "Emergency Managers".  (Better to give them even more powers, which they obviously need in order to take over completely.)
Thank you, Chris.

***Addendum II:  6/2/12.  Thaddeus McCotter decides to end his campaign altogether.  Would be good news except for that Tea Party guy lurking in the wings, waiting to take his place.