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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Coming Fiscal Train Wreck

Stockman book cc cc
David Stockman, the former budget director under President Ronald Reagan, says the economy will not improve until the United States rethinks its habits of borrowing, spending and money printing. His new book, “The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America,” argues that Washington has enabled Wall Street to fuel financial bubbles and alter the markets, all while crushing middle class families.

"Heroes" of fiscal integrity include Herbert Hoover (balanced budget), Dwight Eisenhower (cut defense spending, balanced budget), and Bill Clinton (balanced budget). "Villains" include Franklin Roosevelt (devalued dollar, took gold from $20 to $35 an oz), JFK (tax cuts), LBJ (guns and butter), Nixon (went off the gold standard altogether), Reagan (tax cuts, high defense spending, high deficits), and Bush II (cut taxes, high defense spending, two major wars, Medicare Drug program, huge deficits). Barack Obama is clearly in the latter category (fiscal stimulus - mostly tax cuts, payroll tax cuts, made Bush tax cuts permanent - except for 2%, high defense spending, wars in Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, bailout of banks, medical entitlement - Affordable Care Act).

America is committed to it's "welfare" state and it's "warfare" state. Also it is committed to printing huge amounts of money to pay for them. Entitlements are growing not declining. We are spending trillions of dollars on a huge war machine (and surveillance machine) with no enemy of any stature in sight. The "Great Depression" of 2008 was a lie.  Wall Street could have suffered the results of its reckless speculation without any affect on the economy. Instead trillions of dollars were spent to bail out Wall Street. Despite years of zero rate interest and money printing by the Fed since the turn of the century, the American economy has not grown and new jobs have not been created. 

With the politics of money in Washington, the defense of entitlements and defense spending, and the influence of lobbyists for those who profit from our "crony" capitalism, there will be no honest effort for fiscal integrity and a balanced budget. There will be recurring crisis like the present one over the debt limit. Eventually there will be no recourse but higher taxes and lower spending. We are looking at a future of fiscal austerity and dollar deflation.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The US of ALEC

Back in December 1958, retired candy manufacturer Robert Welch, Jr. invited a small group of well-heeled, politically reactionary associates to join him in Indianapolis for a couple of days. Welch's gathering wound up creating the John Birch Society, which would quickly become a byword for hard-right "Communists-under-every-bed" hysteria. It was the Birch Society that first advanced the theory that water fluoridation was in fact, a Communist plot, and that both President Dwight Eisenhower and then-Secretary of State John Foster Dulles were "knowing and active agents" of the Fred_Koch_225px Soviet Union. The Birch Society also stood for limited government, mass privatization, a Constitutional Republic, and personal freedom.
One of Welch's chief financial backers was a man by the name of Fred Koch (pronounced "Coke"), founder of Koch Industries, which today is the second largest privately held corporation (after Cargill) in the United States. Fred Koch (1900-1967) who, despite being an unswerving anti-Communist earned his initial millions building the Soviet oil industry, firmly believed that the National Educational Association was a communist group and that public-school books were filled with "communist propaganda." His paranoia extended to all unions, Dwight Eisenhower and what he called the "pro-Communist" Supreme Court.
Although Fred Koch died 45 years ago, his ideas live on in his sons Charles and David; they frequently refer to President Barack Obama as a "hard-core Socialist" who Charles-and-david-kochis "scary." And, like their father before them, they are firmly convinced that schools and prisons should be privatized; that all labor unions should be put out of business; that taxes should be somewhere between very, very low and non-existent; that government at any level has no business enacting regulations of any kind; that left to its own unfettered devices, the free market can solve virtually any problem; and that the Federal Government's only role is national defense -- underwritten by a robust private-sector, federally-subsidized defense industry.
Where Fred Koch merely attempted to actualize his paranoiac political Weltanschuung by underwriting the John Birch Society (which has experienced a bit of a renaissance in the past few years), his sons have found their vehicle in something called "ALEC" -- which stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council." ALEC's self-description is as innocent and innocuous as the Grange or Rotary International: "ALEC is the nation's largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership organization of state legislators." However, lurking just a millimicron beneath the surface, ALEC is far, far more; it is likely the most formidable threat to Democracy and the vox populi in our nation's history. Now, before this last statement is dismissed as the paranoiac rantings of some far-left loony (which I can assure you I am not), please know that proof of this assertion comes from . . . ALEC itself.
Founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich, who also founded the Heritage Foundation, ALECs members include more than 2,000 conservative state legislators from all 50 states. At its most recent "States and Nation Policy Summit," held shortly after the American_Legislative_Exchange_Council November 2010 elections, speakers included Texas Governor Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Far more important than the 2,000 legislators who claim membership, ALEC has a host of "elite task forces" made up lawmakers and corporate representatives whose job it is to create legislative templates for the various state legislatures. Theses "legislative templates" cover issues ranging from education to health policy, and from the environment to union affairs. According the The Nation's John Nichols, "ALEC's model legislation reflects long-term goals: down-sizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account."
Without realizing it, most readers of this blog are already cognizant of some of ALEC's most egregious legislative proposals. Ever wonder where so many state senators and representatives got the idea that in order to address their state's economic doldrums they had to legislate against unions? Why is it that in every Republican-controlled legislature (which obviously includes the U.S. House of Representatives) that faced with shortfalls in revenues, these legislative bodies almost universally choose cuts to public employment or services over progressive tax increases as a solution? Or how about all the legislatures that enacted measures to privatize everything from the Department of Motor Vehicles and prisons to schools and environmental services? Or institute so-called "tort reform?" How about the hundreds of bills -- most with identical wording -- meant to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare")? Then too, where did so many state legislatures come up with the idea to enact measures making it harder for college students, seniors and low-income citizens to vote?
The answer to all of these -- and many more -- questions is the same: ALEC. In the worldview of ALEC's corporate directors and benefactors, Government's single contribution to the public is security. Outside of this function, it should be demonized, starved or privatized. According to University of Wisconsin professor Joel Rogers, who is an expert on ALEC, "Any force in civil society, especially labor, that contests the right of business to grab all social surplus for itself, and to treat people like roadkill and the earth like a sewer, should be crushed."
For years, ALEC had been operating behind a vast curtain of anonymity. Consider that one of the first measuresthat then-Texas Governor George W. Bush signed was an ALEC model bill giving corporations immunity for penalties "if they tell regulators about their own violation of environmental rules." (This bill was specifically pushed by the Koch brothers, who make billions from oil, coal and gas.) The link between ALEC and the Koch brothers goes well beyond money: Koch Industry's top lobbyist was once ALEC's chairman. As noted by Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy (and publisher of "ALEC Exposed"), "ALEC and the Kochs often pursue parallel tracks. Just as ALEC 'educates' legislators, Koch funding has helped 'tutor' hundreds of judges with all-expenses-paid junkets at fancy resorts, where they learn about the 'free market' impact of their rulings. . . . Koch Industries sits as an 'equal' board member with state legislators, influencing bills that serve as a wish list for its financial or ideological interests."
Up until very recently, the details of ALEC's model bills have been available only to the group's 2,000 legislative and approximately 300 corporate members. However, thanks to a leak emanating from ALEC's Spring Task Force meeting in Cincinnati, more than 800 documents "representing decades of model legislation" are now available online at alecexposed.org. These documents provide, in the haunting words of Bob Edgar of Common Cause, ". . . proof positive of the depth and scope of the corporate reach into our democratic processes. [Of how] dozens of corporations are investing millions of dollars a year to write business-friendly legislation that is being made into law in statehouses coast to coast, with no regard for the public interest."
I urge you to look at the Center for Media and Democracy website which contains proof of the shocking reality that is ALEC. The documents paint a picture, tell a story, that will hopefully make your blood boil, cause you to get off the couch, and take this country back from the Kochs, Weyrichs, and so-called "smart-ALECs" of the world.
For the last time I checked, this was still the United States of America, not the United States of ALEC.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Obama's Campaign of Assassination

In Dirty Wars, Jeremy Scahill takes us inside America’s new covert wars.

 Dirty Wars: The World Is A Battlefield 

Jack Goldsmith, former Bush administration lawyer,asserted that "perhaps the most remarkable surprise of his presidency" was that "Obama continued almost all of his predecessor's counterterrorism policies".

Obama and his team created a system "where people are being killed, you don't know what the evidence is, and you have no way to redress the situation" said former CIA case officer Phil Giraldi. "It's not that there are not terrorists out there, and every once in a while one is going to have to be killed for one good reason or another, but I want to see the good reason. I don't want someone in the White House telling me, 'You'll have to trust me.' We've had too much of that."

On September 30, 2011, Anwar Awlaki and Samir Khan, both American citizens, were assassinated by drone strike in northern Yemen. On October 14, 2011, Abdulrahman Awlaki, also an American citizen and 16 years old, was assassinated by drone strike in southern Yemen. No evidence or reasons for these killings of American citizens were ever given. They were never indicted or charged with any crime.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I had a terrible weekend.

Just one day after we celebrated our nation's principles of independence and freedom, Scott Walker signed a bill that restricts the ability of women and their doctors to make private medical decisions. 
And you know, I have to say, this is déjà vu all over again: Walker thought he could sneak this signing through on a holiday weekend -- just like he did when he signed a bill that repealed pay equity protections for women.
It’s clearer than ever that Scott Walker doesn't value women as equal partners. 
Luckily organizers and volunteers all across the state are already talking with Wisconsinites about Walker’s terrible budget and doing the kind of targeted one-on-one voter contact that will hold him accountable for his shameless attack on women's rights.  
Scott Walker is marching full speed ahead with his radical War on Women, but we're not waiting until the next election to fight back. We've had boots on the ground in critical regions across the state for months, because we can't afford an off day when it comes to unseating this Governor, much less an "off year." 
As part of our 72 County Strategy to win in 2014, we've invested more resources than ever before at this point on the calendar. And because of the work of Democrats like you, we're already seeing the returns on our investment. Impressive wins by progressive candidates in the spring elections have rolled into ongoing canvasses and voter outreach to make sure the voters who will decide the direction of our state next year hear about the consequences of Governor Walker's agenda on their family's lives not just at election time -- but on an ongoing basis. 
Chip in $6 or whatever you can for the next six months and bring the fight to Scott Walker for the rest of the year:
With your continued support, I know we'll defeat Scott Walker and restore women's rights in Wisconsin.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A New Education Debate By Isaiah J. Poole

You may have seen stories about the poor quality of Washington, D.C.’s public schools. You probably have also heard about how Michelle Rhee was brought from near-obscurity to take over the city’s schools, overnight becoming a national symbol of dramatic education “reform.”
What you may not have heard is that after years of high-stakes testing and mass teacher firings along with school closings and reorganizations by Rhee and her successor and protégé, Kaya Henderson, many D.C. public schools are no better. In some cases, they’re worse.
That should give us all pause as we jump to change local and national education policies based on catchphrases that mask decisions that will do lasting harm to our children.

The Washington Post reported in June that test scores declined at 10 of the 18 schools that were reorganized under Rhee and Henderson between 2008 and 2010. Test scores are up in only six of those schools — two others have since closed. That’s a pretty poor record. As even Henderson conceded: “We have not always done reconstitution well.”

Track records like this one are fueling rising anger around the country over so-called reforms that offer lofty promises to justify the disruption of neighborhood schools, upended curriculums driven by standardized tests, widespread privatization, reduced budgets, and personnel policies that leave teachers feeling under siege, demoralized, and devalued.

The Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” initiative, intended to encourage a “common core” curriculum buttressed by testing and teacher “accountability” measures, is galvanizing opposition from both the right and the left.

An Education Declaration to Rebuild America,” backed by a group of about 50 largely progressive education experts and academics, is the latest effort to bring some common sense to an often-fraught debate. It was released by the Education Opportunity Network, a new organization created through a partnership between the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign and the Institute for America’s Future, where I work. It has garnered support from more than 20,000 citizen endorsers.
The so-called education reform agenda, the declaration says, “imposes top-down standards and punitive high-stakes testing while ignoring the supports students need to thrive and achieve.”
The alternative, the declaration suggests, would — among other things — declare that public education is and always should be a public good, with both adequate public support and public accountability.

A child’s access to a good public education shouldn’t be determined by which side of the tracks the child lives on or the parent’s ability to work the system. Teachers should be treated as valued professionals, not as disposable widgets in a soulless machine. And the profession should be designed to attract our best and brightest.

National responsibility should complement local control. And reform should be “supports-based” rather than “standards-based,” focused on providing “every student with the opportunities and resources needed to achieve high standards.”

One of the successfully reconstituted D.C. schools might offer a partial glimpse at what this education declaration has in mind.

According to the The Washington Post, Scott Cartland was brought in to be the principal of a “chaotic and broken” Wheatley Education Campus in a low-income section of the city in 2008. Among other things, he poured resources into mental health and social workers and connected troubled youth with a community health organization. Teachers worked more closely with parents. One result: Reading and math proficiency scores at the school doubled.
A series of protests and grassroots organizing drives in Florida, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington state — just to name a few — amount to a demand for a new debate over education policy.
Consider the Education Declaration to Rebuild America a reset button that calls on our leaders to stop swinging the wrecking ball at public schools. It’s time to focus on what the children who attend public schools really need to succeed.
This article was published at NationofChange at: http://www.nationofchange.org/new-education-debate-1371996355. All rights are reserved.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Decline to Sign Petition

Anti-choice extremist groups in Michigan through a coordinated effort will soon start circulating petitions with the goal of banning private insurance providers from supplying health insurance plans that cover abortion. Women who decide to have abortion coverage would be required to purchase a separate abortion rider.

This radical initiative would provide no exceptions for rape, incest, or women's health. Less than 3 percent of Michigan's citizens could become the architects of this law by providing 258,088 signatures gathered over 180 days. Once the Michigan Legislature receives the completed petitions, this body will have 40 days to approve them and then the initiative becomes law.

Recently, the Republican-dominated Legislature and Right to Life of Michigan failed to bring this legislation to fruition. However, this alternative strategy makes their objective much more achievable. This extreme, anti-women's health initiative needs to be defeated. Michiganders have it within their power to defeat this invasive and outrageous proposal by simply declining to sign the petitions. A victory for anti-choice extremist groups and legislators will strike another blow to women's self-determination.

Jill Farber-Bramson
West Bloomfield

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Effects of the Sequester

Painful cuts. When it became evident that the sequester would commence on March 1, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner asserted, “I got 98 percent of what I want.” Although Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives offered several sequester replacement bills, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor expressed that he couldn't think of anything that Republicans would be willing to do in order to reach a deal to prevent sequestration from taking effect. Republican lawmakers at that time appeared to be downright giddy about the sequester. One GOP legislator referred to sequestration as “the first significant tea party victory” in D.C. Another indicated that the cuts are “a home run for America.” Because of the Republican Party's mischaracterization of the sequester, many Americans have opted to simply ignore it. But now the reality of the sequester's effects are becoming too painful to ignore. Numerous states are experiencing federal budget cuts, including a $22 million decrease in funding for primary and secondary education, as well as a $20.3 million reduction in educational services for children with disabilities. Many jobs for teachers and aides are at risk. Some 70,000 fewer children across the country will be served by Head Start which responds to the early educational, developmental and nutritional needs of primarily poor children. A number of senior citizens will find it more difficult to meet their nutritional requirements because Meals on Wheels is on the chopping block. Individuals seeking domestic violence services will find a dramatic decrease in assistance. In addition, tuition aid for students in the military has stopped. As if these cuts aren't painful enough, on April 1, cancer clinics nationwide started turning away thousands of Medicare patients because chemotherapy medicine is so costly and makes it impossible for these clinics to remain financially solvent. Now Republican legislators are trying to blame the president for sequestration's cuts to the airline industry which have resulted in a reduction in air traffic controllers. Furthermore, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, recently reported to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the sequester's cuts hinder the intelligence community's capacity to thoroughly investigate plots against the U.S. Once again, the Republicans have chosen party over country, resulting in suffering for millions of Americans. Jill Farber-Bramson West Bloomfield

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Right Way to Fix Medicare

Congress and the President are trying to "fix" Medicare by cutting benefits to Seniors or raising the Medicare eligibility age. This book explains that Medicare needs to be fixed by cutting payments to insurers, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and other companies which make huge profits from it.

Medicare Meltdown: How Wall Street and Washington are Ruining Medicare and How to Fix It

 Medicare is known as an entitlement for the nation’s seniors. It is also the largest entitlement-based program for any business sector in the US economy. Its beneficiaries include hospitals, doctors, drug companies, device manufacturers, Wall Street investment banks, private equity firms, hedge funds, and others that rely on the $600 billion that Medicare spends a year.

Watch the author on Book TV

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

America in Vietnam


Americans have long been taught that events such as the notorious My Lai massacre were isolated incidents in the Vietnam War, carried out by "a few bad apples." But as award-winning journalist and historian Nick Turse demonstrates in this groundbreaking investigation, violence against Vietnamese noncombatants was not at all exceptional during the conflict. Rather, it was pervasive and systematic, the predictable consequence of orders to "kill anything that moves."

Drawing on more than a decade of research in secret Pentagon files and extensive interviews with American veterans and Vietnamese survivors, Turse reveals for the first time how official policies resulted in millions of innocent civilians killed and wounded. In shocking detail, he lays out the workings of a military machine that made crimes in almost every major American combat unit all but inevitable. Kill Anything That Moves takes us from archives filled with Washington's long-suppressed war crime investigations to the rural Vietnamese hamlets that bore the brunt of the war; from boot camps where young American soldiers learned to hate all Vietnamese to bloodthirsty campaigns like Operation Speedy Express, in which a general obsessed with body counts led soldiers to commit what one participant called "a My Lai a month."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Snyder's Tax Cuts

Millions of Michigan's middle-class workers and families paid the price today for Gov. Snyder's nearly $2 billion in tax cuts for corporate CEOs. Instead of asking them to pay their fair share, Gov. Snyder increased middle class taxes by 25% to help pay for an 80% tax break for corporate CEOs.

Sign the petition to tell Gov. Snyder to stop the tax increases on the middle class - http://goo.gl/5kQ23.

It started with a new tax on pensions for retirees and a tax hike for low-income workers. Next, on the chopping block, Snyder and Republicans increased taxes on college students, the unemployed, and homeowners to pay for giveaways to corporate CEOs. You can share your story at https://www.facebook.com/michigandems.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Support Planned Parenthood

Please join us for a special luncheon with
Cecile Richards
President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Friday, April 12, 2013 • 12:15 pm
Maggiano’s Little Italy
2089 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy, Michigan

Individual Tickets: $100 | Host Ticket: $500*
Cecile Richards
* Host ticket includes lunch for two and underwrites student tickets.
Scholarship tickets are available for students and young professionals. Call 517.482.1080 x 2 or email us.
Listed as one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” Cecile Richards has been President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America since 2006. She is a widely sought-after speaker on reproductive justice, a frequent guest on CNN and MSNBC, and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.
Get Tickets

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan

PO Box 15041, Lansing, MI 48901 | MiPlannedParenthood.org
Contributions are not deductible for federal tax purposes.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Impressions of Gaza

Even a single night in jail is enough to give a taste of what it means to be under the total control of some external force. And it hardly takes more than a day in Gaza to begin to appreciate what it must be like to try to survive in the world’s largest open-air prison, where a million and a half people, in the most densely populated area of the world, are constantly subject to random and often savage terror and arbitrary punishment, with no purpose other than to humiliate and degrade, and with the further goal of ensuring that Palestinian hopes for a decent future will be crushed and that the overwhelming global support for a diplomatic settlement that will grant these rights will be nullified.

My initial impression, after a visit of several days, was amazement, not only at the ability to go on with life, but also at the vibrancy and vitality among young people, particularly at the university, where I spent much of my time at an international conference. But there too one can detect signs that the pressure may become too hard to bear. Reports indicate that among young men there is simmering frustration, recognition that under the US-Israeli occupation the future holds nothing for them. There is only so much that caged animals can endure, and there may be an eruption, perhaps taking ugly forms — offering an opportunity for Israeli and western apologists to self-righteously condemn the people who are culturally backward, as Mitt Romney insightfully explained.

Gaza has the look of a typical third world society, with pockets of wealth surrounded by hideous poverty. It is not, however, “undeveloped.” Rather it is “de-developed,” and very systematically so, to borrow the terms of Sara Roy, the leading academic specialist on Gaza. The Gaza Strip could have become a prosperous Mediterranean region, with rich agriculture and a flourishing fishing industry, marvelous beaches and, as discovered a decade ago, good prospects for extensive natural gas supplies within its territorial waters.

The favorable prospects were aborted in 1948, when the Strip had to absorb a flood of Palestinian refugees who fled in terror or were forcefully expelled from what became Israel, in some cases expelled months after the formal cease-fire.

Sitting in a hotel near the shore, one can hear the machine gun fire of Israeli gunboats driving fishermen out of Gaza’s territorial waters and towards shore, so they are compelled to fish in waters that are heavily polluted because of US-Israeli refusal to allow reconstruction of the sewage and power systems that they destroyed.

 In the Khan Yunis hospital, the director, who is also chief of surgery, describes with anger and passion how even medicines are lacking for relief of suffering patients, as well as simple surgical equipment, leaving doctors helpless and patients in agony. Personal stories add vivid texture to the general disgust one feels at the obscenity of the harsh occupation. One example is the testimony of a young woman who despaired that her father, who would have been proud that she was the first woman in the refugee camp to gain an advanced degree, had “passed away after 6 months of fighting cancer aged 60 years. Israeli occupation denied him a permit to go to Israeli hospitals for treatment. I had to suspend my study, work and life and go to set next to his bed. We all sat including my brother the physician and my sister the pharmacist, all powerless and hopeless watching his suffering. He died during the inhumane blockade of Gaza in summer 2006 with very little access to health service. I think feeling powerless and hopeless is the most killing feeling that human can ever have. It kills the spirit and breaks the heart. You can fight occupation but you cannot fight your feeling of being powerless. You can't even dissolve that feeling.”

Noam Chomsky, November 4, 2012

Complete article: http://chomsky.info/articles/

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rally on Monday Mar 18, Cobo Hall

This Monday, March 18th, Governor Snyder will take the stage at COBO Hall to reassure his friends that his policies have turned around Michigan's economic situation.  At this event, he will paint a picture of Michigan that is very different than what we have all experienced in the last 3 years.

Our allies at We are Michigan are organizing a rally to tell the truth about our economy in Michigan, and talk about how harmful Governor Snyder's policies have been for our middle class in Michigan.

Please join us on Monday March 18th, at 8am at Cobo Hall, for a rally in support of the middle class and in opposition to Governor Snyder, Right to Work, Education Cuts, Taxes on the Middle Class, and giveaways to Governor Snyder's contributors.

If you are interested in attending this event, or getting more information, please RSVP at this link:

Please forward along this email and flyer to your activist networks, we'd love to have a big turnout at COBO on Monday.  With your help, we can take back Michigan in 2014!
 Kevin Hrit<kevin@michigandems.com>

Candidates Needed!

During my campaign to become Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, I talked about the need to retake Michigan and make it the great state that we all know and love.  I said it many times during the campaign, and I truly believe it, a better Michigan starts at the ballot box.

We will not be able to change the direction our state is going without allies in elected positions up and down the ballot.  We need to have strong Democratic voices at every level of government, from local school boards to the highest offices in Lansing and Washington, D.C.

I believe in the politics of addition, and that means adding hundreds of new Democratic elected officials at the federal, state, and local level. We need folks like you across the state to step up and run for office.

Please sign up if you are interested in running for office

Once you fill out the form, our political organizing team will reach out to you in the next month or two to talk about options for you and about candidate trainings in your area.
Join me and let’s get Michigan back on track.

Thank you,
Lon Johnson

Monday, March 4, 2013


We hate to use the word "conspiracy" when it comes to the US government. We think of our government as open, fair, free, and responsive to its citizens. However there are times where  the thought of "conspiracy" cannot be avoided.

JFK Assassination: Us "older" citizens remember it vividly. I was in my freshman year of college, shocked when I heard the words "the president has been shot". With my dorm mates, I watched television for days on end wondering exactly what had happened. How did a single shooter, at such a distance, get off so many shots and cause so much damage? How could Lee Harvey Oswald be killed in the middle of a police station, without telling his motivation, his preparations, whether anyone had assisted him? Did the Warren Commission search for and examine all of the evidence, or did they just ratify the consensus opinion of a single shooter with no assistance?

Who had the motivation to kill JFK? The mob certainly. No other attorney general before or since has gone after organized crime like Robert Kennedy did. That ended when JFK was killed. Also Jack Ruby who killed Oswald had close connections to the mob. People in the military or the CIA may have also had motivation. They may have been angry JFK refused to provide air cover for the "Bay of Pigs" in 1961. They may also have thought JFK showed weakness when he capitulated to the Russians in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. At any rate I still find it hard to believe that a single individual like Oswald could have carried out the assassination.

9/11: All of us remember 9/11. We were horrified not because a plane had hit the World Trade Center, but that after the second plane struck, we knew it was a planned attack. The images of the attack are seared in our memories, as well as the descriptions of the other two planes which were hijacked and destroyed. We accepted readily the description of the "Muslim" attack on our country. We were attacked because they "hate our freedoms" said Bush. The 9/11 Commission blamed the US intelligence community for allowing the attacks, although many in the intelligence community deny it.

Since 9/11, many have examined the events of that day and were left with questions like:

Why wasn't there an attempt by the US Air Force to shoot down the hijacked airliners?

Why are there no video recordings of the attack on the Pentagon? Certainly the surveillance around the Pentagon must be extensive.

Why did the Secret Service allow Bush to complete his elementary school visit, apparently unconcerned about his safety or that of the schoolchildren?

Why hasn't a single person been fired, penalized, or reprimanded for the gross incompetence we witnessed that day?

Why were none of the flight recorders found at the World Trade Center?

Where is all the plane wreckage? There was none at the crash site in Pennsylvania. There was none visible at the Pentagon.

Why did the World Trade Center buildings collapse like they did? The buildings collapsed like it was a controlled demolition.

Why wasn't there a full analysis of the wreckage of the World Trade Center buildings to determine why they collapsed?

 Why did the second building collapse before the first one, which had been burning for 20 minutes longer.

Why did World Trade Center Building 7 collapse even though it was not hit by an airplane?

If there was a conspiracy, who did it? First only the government or a portion of the government could do this, it was too big for anybody else. And if they did it, what was the motivation? Look at what has happened since 9/11: Extensive surveillance of US citizens (The Patriot Act, FISA, NSA wiretapping and spying), Greater powers for the government to interrogate, detain, and kill US and other citizens (renditions, torture, Guantanamo, military tribunals, NDAA, drone strikes), the US in a constant state of war (Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran). There was an attempt of a fascist coup against FDR in the 30's in retaliation against the New Deal, but I don't think it even compares to this.

For more on 9/11 see: http://www.911myths.com and http://www.911research.com

Sheldon Wolberg 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Free Trade: The Selling Out of America

In the last presidential campaign, both candidates made a point of saying they would add more jobs, especially manufacturing jobs. But in the last three decades, both parties and all presidents have supported "Free Trade" agreements which have decimated American manufacturing. These agreements enable American companies to send manufacturing to other countries where there are low wages, no unions, and little or no environmental protection.  These companies then bring the manufactured goods back to this country duty free.

These agreements are:

NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement - Mexico, Canada)  1994, Clinton

PNTR (Permanent Normal Trade Relations) China, 2000, Clinton

 Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) 2004, Bush

United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement (FTA), 2004, Bush

United States - Morocco  FTA, 2004, Bush

United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, 2004, Bush

United States-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), 2005, Bush

United States-Bahrain FTA, 2006, Bush

United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (PTPA), 2006, Bush

United States-Oman FTA, 2009, Bush

 United States-Jordan Free Trade Agreement 2010, Obama

US-Korea Trade Agreement,  2011, Obama

US-Panama Trade Agreement,  2011, Obama

 US-Columbia Trade Agreement,  2011, Obama

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, (Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States)  in negotiation, Obama

A United States - Israel FTA was initialized in 1985.

See:  http://www.ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements

Thursday, February 14, 2013

We Are Entitled!

Overnight, 40000 people became citizen supporters of Congressmen Alan Grayson and Mark Takano's letter against cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits. 
(You can also sign on as a citizen supporter here.) Thanks!

Tonight, when the president said the rich must pay their fair share, Democrats gave a standing ovation. Republicans were silent.
Republicans are demanding cuts to Social Security benefits. Tomorrow, Alan Grayson will give them an easy answer: No.
In the morning, Grayson will ask his congressional colleagues to join him on a letter saying, "we will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits."
Just yesterday, the White House press secretary called cutting Social Security benefits "a technical change" that "is possible as part of a big deal." (Unfortunately, in a speech that was fantastic on many issues like jobs and guns, the president left the door open to these benefit cuts.) 
But the Tea Party is so crazy that Speaker John Boehner needs Democratic votes to pass any deal. That means Grayson's letter is crucial.
If enough congressional Democrats sign Grayson's letter, Social Security benefits will be firmly off the table.
We're proud to be working with Democracy for America, MoveOn, CREDO Action, Rebuild The Dream, Working Families Party, and Social Security Works on this campaign.
Thanks for being a bold progressive.
-- Adam Green, Stephanie Taylor, Michael Snook, Karissa Gerhke, and the PCCC team
P.S. If you hear the wonky words "Chained CPI," that means cutting cost-of-living adjustments that grandparents and veterans need. The average Social Security beneficiary retiring at 65 would lose $28,004 of income over the next 30 years -- the equivalent of two full years of benefits. Help Grayson fight back.

Monday, February 11, 2013

More on the Schools

Dear friends and supporters of Michigan public education,
As many of you may know, I am proud to serve as President of the State Board of Education, a panel that was joined this year by two new Democrats: Michelle Fecteau and Lupe Ramos-Montigny. It is very gratifying to work with Michelle and Lupe and the rest of my colleagues on the Board as we confront troubling times for public education here in Michigan.

Last year ended with a very destructive lame duck session marked by Lansing Republicans sticking a pencil in the eye of hard-working teachers, nurses, and fellow union members with so-called "right to work" legislation. However, with your help, we managed to fight off a damaging right-wing education agenda -- for now.

During lame duck, Tea Party Republicans had planned to move House Bill 5923, authored by voucher proponent Richard McLellan, which would have created a “Wild West” of new school creation. The bill proposed unlimited online, charters, and for-profit schools with no quality control, sapping resources and likely destroying existing schools. Bills for an Education Achievement Authority (EAA) to turn around the worst-performing schools in the state were also loaded up with enablers of this new education marketplace. A proposal to finance this new school market with a voucher-like program where the foundation grant follows any and all student choices was floated by McLellan’s Oxford Foundation and was likely to be a major part of Gov. Rick Snyder's State of the State and budget message.

Fortunately, we all worked to call out these moves for what they were: "a recipe for an educational system meltdown."

House Bill 5923 never saw the light of day. Local parents, teachers, school and community members contacted their legislators, and even Republican lawmakers began to express doubts about the plan's potential damage to public education. Snyder walked back McLellan and the voucher-style school finance proposals.

But as we all remember, Snyder said "right to work" wasn't on his agenda, and then it was. So we have to remain active and vigilant in fighting for our kids' schools.

We must be prepared to respond when Snyder and Lansing Republicans introduce their new education "reform" proposals. We must insist on and participate in a vigorous debate. And we must make sure that whatever proposal moves forward, it focuses on helping, not hurting, public education.

To help to ensure a full public debate, the State Board of Education is convening public education forums across the state.
  • Friday, March 1, 7:30 a.m. - Doyle Center, 7273 Wing Lake Rd., Bloomfield Hills
Women Officials Network (WON) Breakfast
Program featuring John Austin and State Board Vice President and WON President Casandra Ulbrich
Tickets can be purchased at www.womenofficialsnetwork.org or by emailing Pam Hansen
If you can't make it to this event, please stay engaged. We will be scheduling more events in the near future. You can reach me via email at john.c.austin.mi@gmail.com.
Or you can follow me on Twitter at @JohnCAustin.

Let’s refocus Michigan’s agenda from dismantling public schools to better supporting them and our hard-working teachers and staff that run them. It’s what the public wants as well.

John Austin
President, State Board of Education
Director, Michigan Economic Center

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Where is the Transparency?

Government Protects Criminals by Attacking Whistleblowers

Government Prosecutes and Harasses those Who Expose Criminal Wrongdoing

It’s now obvious to everyone that – even though criminal fraud dominates Wall Street – the Obama administration refuses to prosecute white collar crime.

Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton each prosecuted financial crime more aggressively than Barack Obama.

Of course, the lack of a fair and even-handed legal system destroys prosperity and leads to the breakdown of society.

National security claims are also used to keep financial fraud secret (and people who protest runaway criminality by the big banks are targeted as terrorists).  And when those in the private sector blow the whistle on potential crimes, they are targeted also.

But it’s not like the government isn’t aggressively using the legal system … it’s just using it to silence the truth.

Specifically, the Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined.

Government employees also goes out of their way to smear whistleblowers, threaten reporters who discuss whistleblower information and harass honest analysts.

Government Protects Criminals by Attacking Whistleblowers

Government Prosecutes and Harasses those Who Expose Criminal Wrongdoing

It’s now obvious to everyone that – even though criminal fraud dominates Wall Street – the Obama administration refuses to prosecute white collar crime.

Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton each prosecuted financial crime more aggressively than Barack Obama.

Of course, the lack of a fair and even-handed legal system destroys prosperity and leads to the breakdown of society.

National security claims are also used to keep financial fraud secret (and people who protest runaway criminality by the big banks are targeted as terrorists). And when those in the private sector blow the whistle on potential crimes, they are targeted also.

But it’s not like the government isn’t aggressively using the legal system … it’s just using it to silence the truth.

Specifically, the Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined.

Government employees also goes out of their way to smear whistleblowers, threaten reporters who discuss whistleblower information and harass honest analysts.


Rick Snyder is failing Michigan

Gov. Rick Snyder has said his goal is to make Michigan a “top 10 state.” Under the spell of Snyder’s relentless positive spinning, you might think Michigan is a top 10 state. The facts are far from it. If you look at the economic statistics, they show that Michigan’s recovery is stalled compared to the rest of the nation.
And Snyder’s agenda of favoring corporations over middle-class families isn't helping Michigan's economic situation.
Snyder loves to note that Michigan’s unemployment rate has rebounded from its worst in the country ranking in 2009. So what’s Michigan’s unemployment ranking today? 45th. And guess what? We were ranked 41st just 12 months ago. That's right -- we've actually regressed compared to other states during Snyder's administration.
It's time for some facts to counter Snyder's spin machine.

Check out our new website, MichiganDashboard.com, now:

Michigan Dashboard Website

Please -- help us spread the word by sharing the website with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter!

Finally some good news for the poor

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder backs expanding Medicaid to Michigan’s uninsured in US health plan

By Associated Press, Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 3:40 PM

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday became the sixth Republican governor to back the extension of Medicaid coverage under the Obama administration’s health care overhaul, setting the stage for a potential fight with members of his own party who control the Legislature.

“It’s a win for all,” Snyder said at a Lansing hospital the day before he proposes his next state budget. Snyder was flanked by doctors, nurses and health officials who support the expansion of taxpayer-funded health insurance to about 470,000 Michigan residents.

“This is saving money and improving lives,” he said of the expansion when asked about the GOP’s opposition to President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. “This improves lives at an individual level, where these people can hopefully have a great opportunity to have employment. ... It’s a tremendous gain at the individual and family level.”

Snyder said the chance to cover nearly half of the state’s uninsured is “huge,” adding that he is comfortable the health care system can handle the extra caseload.

The federal health care law gives states the option to accept the expansion, refuse it or postpone a decision. But there are benefits for states that choose to expand Medicaid. The federal government will pick up the entire cost in the first three years and 90 percent over the long haul.

In 30 states led by Republican governors, six governors have now called for enlarging Medicaid. Ohio’s John Kasich earlier this week reiterated his opposition to what he called “Obamacare” and the requirement that people have health insurance but said expansion makes sense for Ohio. But Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett said Tuesday he will not pursue an expansion, at least for now, echoing complaints of other Republican governors about the cost, inflexibility and inefficiency of Medicaid. Snyder is expected to run into resistance from some Republican lawmakers opposed to the health law. Hospitals, doctors and others in favor of Medicaid expansion joined Snyder at his announcement. He said Medicaid expansion would save the state $200 million a year initially because more people who now receive mental health services and medical care from state-funded programs will instead be covered with federal money. He called for setting aside $100 million a year of those savings so Michigan can kick in for new enrollees down the line. He said the expansion would effectively cost Michigan nothing until 2035.

This is the second time in less than 18 months that Snyder has bucked some in his own party on a major health care question. His call to implement a state-run online marketplace where the uninsured can get taxpayer-subsidized private coverage died in the GOP-controlled Legislature. Michigan now is on the path toward a partnership exchange controlled primarily by the federal government. By expanding Medicaid in 2014, Michigan could add about 470,000 people to a program that already serves about one in five state residents. Three years of full federal funding for newly eligible enrollees are available from 2014 through 2016, gradually phasing down to 90 percent in 2020 and after. The match rate for existing Medicaid participants is 66 percent. To qualify, household income must be below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $15,000 for an individual.  

Conservatives are concerned deficit-burdened Washington will renege on the 90-percent deal and also have a philosophical resistance to expanding government programs, particularly one as large as Medicaid. Rep. Joe Haveman, a Holland Republican who chairs the House Appropriations Committee said Synder’s proposal deserves a closer look but Republicans have questions. “The federal government has a long history of promising support for long-term government programs and then coming up well short when the time comes to honor their commitment,” Haveman said in a statement. “We are going to do what’s best for the people we serve and do our homework on this proposal before committing one way or the other. Michigan residents deserve that.”

No Means No!

Michigan Democratic Party

Lansing Republicans have introduced a bill that would require Michigan women seeking an abortion to be subjected to a transvaginal ultrasound.

Remember when Lisa Brown said this?

Rep. Lisa Brown:

And then we did this?

Eve Ensler and Michigan lawmakers perform

Still Lansing Republicans have continued their War on Women. So the question is, what will Rick Snyder do? Are transvaginal ultrasounds "on the agenda" for Snyder?

Here's what Rick Snyder said when asked if he would sign legislation restricting a woman's right to choose:

Rick Snyder:

We can't trust Snyder to stand up for women's rights.

Call his office NOW and ask him to denounce this bill: 517.335.7858.

Help us defeat him in 2014!

Contribute today!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Rally against the NDAA

You need to know...!
TOMORROW! The NDAA Lawsuit team hopes you all will be there standing in solidarity with us to flood the courthouse, and the streets. Please remember that all of this freedom fighting is funded solely by our core team, and the kind donations that you extend to us. We could use every contribution, no matter how small! THANK YOU and hope to see you there Weds morning! DONATIONS PAGE HERE: http://wp.me/P2NVdB-g Or if you are uncomfortable with PayPal, you can mail a check to: StopNDAA
c/o Robert Wilhelm
6635 N. Baltimore AVE, STE 230
Portland, OR 97203

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Washington DC Climate Rally Feb 17

9:48pm Jan 30
Bus from Detroit to DC Climate Forward Rally

In coordination with 350.org, Sierra Club, and PlanIt4Planet we are organizing buses to bring demonstrators from Detroit to Washington, DC, on February 17th for the Forward on Climate Rally – the largest climate rally in American history. 2013 must be the year of climate solutions and the President of the United States must refuse to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and lead the way Forward on Climate.

Go here http://forwardonclimatedetroitbus.eventbrite.com/ to reserve a spot on one of the buses leaving from the Detroit area or to support scholarships to help students and low income individuals attend.

Buses will leave from a location (TBD) at 10PM on Saturday February 16th from the Detroit area. The rally begins at 12 noon on Sunday, and buses will depart Washington DC late that evening and arrive back around the Detroit area at 4PM. We will email you with information about departure locations.

To reserve a place on a bus, folks must submit a payment of $85.00 for regular tickets, $45.00 for low income and student tickets, and some full scholarships available based on donations received by going here: http://forwardonclimatedetroitbus.eventbrite.com/

Payment is due by February 4th at the latest. No refunds available.

Questions email PlanIt4planet@gmail.com or call 313-444-8428
Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. -Albert Einstein

Jarret Schlaff
(313) 444-8428

Election Rigging in Michigan

Friends and fellow Democrats,
Some of you have probably heard about a proposal by Michigan Republicans -- and Republicans in blue states across the country -- to change the way our state’s Electoral College votes are decided.
Lansing Republicans have tried to justify their proposal under the guise of fairness, but the bill’s sponsor admitted they didn't undertake the scheme last session because they thought Mitt Romney still could win Michigan. This isn’t about fairness -- it’s about politics.
The Republicans have now lost six consecutive presidential elections here in Michigan. After considering their record of futility, they have given up trying to win. They can’t win, so now they’re trying to rig the game.

We believe the effort to gerrymander the Electoral College is nothing less than election-rigging, plain and simple.

Unfortunately, this election-rigging scheme is just another chapter in the neverending story of Republican corruption here in Lansing. Remember -- Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger is still under investigation by a grand jury for his attempt to rig a House election in Grand Rapids last year.
While some Republicans appear to be wavering in their support for this proposal, we must keep up the pressure. After all, we’ve heard the “not on our agenda” line before.

Contact your state representative and senator today. Ask them to stand up for democracy and stand against this Electoral College rigging scheme.

In Virginia, thousands of concerned citizens took action and contacted their legislators about a similar proposal there. They were able to stop the bill -- at least for now.
We can do the same thing here in Michigan.

Contact your legislators now.

Working together, we can stop this.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

GOP Moves to Rig the Next Election

Dear Robert,
Last week, we warned you about the Republican Plan (see below) to rig the Electoral College to win the presidential election in 2016.
And now they've already started to move this plan forward in Virginia! This past Tuesday, Virginia SB 723 passed out of the Senate Elections and Campaigns Subcommittee, and got one step closer to becoming reality.
SB 723 would allocate electoral votes by congressional district, and reward two statewide electors to the candidate who wins the most districts statewide. Had this bill been enacted last year, Mitt Romney would have received 9 of Virginia’s 13 electors, despite losing the state’s popular vote!
It's clear that the Republicans have decided that if they can't win over the majority of voters, they’ll just change the rules to rig the results -- and we have to let them know that they can’t away with such an overt power grab.
Thanks for all that you do,
Ben Betz, Online Strategy Manager
From: Ben Betz, People For the American Way
Date: Saturday, January 19, 2013
Re: GOP Moves to Rig the Next Election
every vote counts
Make SURE Every Vote Counts -- Speak Out to Stop the Right's New Scheme to Rig Elections!
sign the petition
Dear Robert,
Imagine that when President Obama won Ohio in 2012, instead of getting all the state’s electoral votes, he only got six of them, while Mitt Romney, who lost, got 12 … that each candidate was awarded electoral votes based on how many congressional districts they won in the state. Now, imagine this didn’t happen just in Ohio, but also in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and other “blue states” that right now happen to have state governments completely controlled by Republicans.
This isn’t just some thought experiment. It’s the latest Republican scheme to rig America’s elections in their favor, and it could work … unless we can create a public backlash against it.
Actions like this petition will help create the necessary backlash that will send these proposals down in flames in states like Pennsylvania, where a bill has already been introduced, and others like Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan, where lawmakers are discussing it.
We’ll use the petition to lobby lawmakers in the states and make sure the media is giving attention to how unpopular this vote rigging scheme is.
If the scheme is enacted, the will of the people would mean nothing in those states. And, nationally, the playing field would be dramatically shifted towards Republican presidential candidates. That’s because one of the results of the Tea Party wave election of 2010 was that right-wing Republicans controlled the redistricting process in these states, and congressional districts there were gerrymandered within an inch of their lives, ensuring more “safe” Republican districts. It’s the same reason that Republicans maintained a healthy majority in the House of Representatives in 2012 despite losing the congressional popular vote nationally to Democrats by 1.4 million votes -- more than a whole percentage point.
In states like Ohio, where Republicans have a super majority in the legislature, they have the power to move this affront to democracy through unilaterally, bulldozing any opposition!
The head of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, supports the scheme, and it’s gaining traction amongst GOP state lawmakers. We need to stop this NOW, before it gets too far!
Another similar idea being floated by Republicans in these states is electoral vote apportionment based on percentage of vote, instead of by congressional district. This could theoretically be a fair system, but only if EVERY state did it. With only blue, Democratic-leaning states splitting their electoral votes and definitively red, Republican states remaining winner-take-all, the national field would still shift dramatically to the Republicans favor -- and AWAY from the will of the people. To put it bluntly:election rigged.
Thank you for helping to save our democracy by protecting the voice of the voter -- the American Way.
-- Ben Betz, Online Strategy Manager