Monday, April 30, 2007

An Update, a Funny, a New Song and Blog

Things in my personal life have been in flux lately. Some incredible highs, and some others not so high. The next two weeks will be a little crazy, in part because I'm moving to a new part of Lansing, but plenty of things are happening that just keep life interesting.

I'm sitting here with the window open, a gentle cool breeze rolling in as the rain softly falls. I'm a sucker for the smell of a fresh spring rain. It reminds me that while life has its more difficult moments, there's still so many good things out there, and so much worth fighting for. So here's a mix-match of things that are making me smile today. Here's hoping they do the same for you!

1) A very funny web video by comedian Will Ferrell. A friend dropped it in my lap today and I nearly cried I laughed so hard. Be sure to check out The Landlord, but in full disclosure, the clip has a four-letter word or two and merits a PG-13 rating.

2) A cool new blog - Fight for the Future by Battle Creek City Councilman Ryan Hersha. A very smart friend of mine once remarked that every politician should have a blog so we all knew how they really felt about issues that mattered to us. With my obvious level of blogging bias, I agree. Hersha's blog is a great example of open, honest dialog on various issues affecting his district and the state, and frankly, I think this is a great example for other politicians to follow. Stop by, check it out, and take a page from Hersha's book - it just might help make our state a better place to live, learn, and play.

3) An excellent song - My life is music. A former musician, every significant moment of my life has a song associated with it. When I blog, exercise, cook, clean, work and sometimes even sleep, music is by my side. If you want a fun song, that I guarrantee 99% of you have never heard of but 100% of you will enjoy - check out Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen) (2007 Mix) by Quindon Tarver. The original version of the song was on the soundtrack of the brilliant 1996 film by Baz Lurhmann - Romeo + Juliet.
This song with great music and spoken word will make you think, smile, laugh and reflect on your days of yore. The full album is available for download on iTunes, and you can download a single of the song on Rhapsody here. Download it, listen to it, and tell me what you think!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Blackwater: The Extreme-Right Mega-Millionaire Mercenary

Since the U.S.'s invasion into Iraq and Afghanistan, many Michiganders, like many Americans, lives have changed. So many lives lost in a fight that is viewed by most of the country and world as unjust. So many families shattered, so many bright futures tragically cut short.

For one Michigan man, the War of Bush/Cheney/Haliburton Oil was his golden ticket to massive wealth and an extraordinary level of influence and menacing power. Meet Erik Prince, born and raised in Holland, Michigan, and one of the country's most dangerous men.

The Man, the Mercenary

Ted Roelof of the Grand Rapids Press has an extensive look into the reclusive Prince and a life built on ultra-conservative tenets and money.
Prince, son of Holland industrialist Edgar Prince and an ex-Navy SEAL, tapped his inherited wealth in 1996 to found a little-noticed North Carolina security firm that would become Blackwater USA.

Family connections helped. As brother to former Michigan GOP chairwoman Betsy DeVos and brother-in-law to her husband, 2006 GOP gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, Prince had access to Capitol Hill power brokers.

But his business plan did not crystallize until the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

With the U.S. decision to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, a changing military looked to the private sector to complete a variety of missions.

Blackwater was in prime position to capitalize.

Roelof's Blackwater descriptor as a "security firm" is akin to calling Wal-Mart the mom and pop corner store. According to David Isenberg with the British American Security Information Council (BASIC), Blackwater is a private military company. Isenberg should know, he has been researching and writing on private military companies since the early 1990s.

George Washington University professor of political science Deborah Avant had this to say about Prince in Roelof's piece

"Blackwater is owned by one guy, who is very rich," Avant said. "He's very connected. He's very tied to the Christian right."

Prince's entire history is seeped in the ultra-conservative agenda, from political beliefs to campaign donations, Prince has been a stalwart of the Republican money machine.

In 1992, Erik Prince and his father split politically with his sister, Betsy DeVos, who was then 5th District GOP chairwoman. They backed Pat Buchanan for president. She supported President George H.W. Bush.

As a 22-year-old senior at Hillsdale, Prince explained his decision to The (Grand Rapids) Press.

"I interned with the Bush administration for six months," he said.

"I saw a lot of things I didn't agree with -- homosexual groups being invited in, the budget agreement, the Clean Air Act, those kind of bills. I think the administration has been indifferent to a lot of conservative concerns."


At age 19, Prince made his first political contribution: A $15,000 donation to the GOP. By 2006, his total contributions had swelled to more than $235,000 -- virtually all to Republican or conservative causes.

The Questionable Company

The problem isn't Prince's money, personal political beliefs or his sister and brother-in-law, fondly known here in Michigan as Mr. and Mrs. Amway Guy. As much as I may not agree with Prince, I respect his right to believe whatever he wants and have as much money as he wants.

The real problem is with what he's turned Blackwater into, how the company is being used to our ridicule country's justice system and the careless way in which its employees are being treated.

According to BASIC's Isenberg, private military companies like Blackwater use political campaign contributions and lobbying firms to influence the government.

On the lobbying front it was reported that Washington, D.C.-based PR and lobbying firm Alexander Strategy Group is working on behalf of Blackwater USA. Though ASG recently announced it was shutting down because of its ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former House majority leader Tom DeLay, who has been indicted on money-laundering charges.
As if that's not bad enough, The Nation's Jeremy Scahill has done extensive research on Blackwater USA. Up till now, the facts have been kept quiet because they are so scary. Consider this from Scahill's August '06 report -
Government records recently obtained by The Nation reveal that the Bush Administration has paid Blackwater more than $320 million since June 2004 to provide "diplomatic security" services globally. The massive contract is the largest known to have been awarded to Blackwater to date and reveals how the Administration has elevated a once-fledgling security firm into a major profiteer in the "war on terror."


Blackwater was originally slated to be paid $229.5 million for five years, according to a State Department contract list. Yet as of June 30, just two years into the program, it had been paid a total of $321,715,794. When confronted with this apparent $100 million discrepancy, the State Department could not readily explain it. Blackwater's two years of WPPS (Worldwide Personal Protection Services, a little known State Department program) earnings exceed many estimates of the company's total government contracts, which the Virginian-Pilot recently put at $290 million combined since 2000. Six years ago the government paid Blackwater less than $250,000.

With this surmounting evidence, it seems as if Blackwater is up to its eyeballs in questionable transactions and the whole thing reeks of collusion and conspiracy.

The Sins of the Employer visit kill the Employees

Many Americans are perfectly willing to sit in their living rooms and cluck their tongues when they hear of corporate scandal and incest. For most, it's a problem within the boardroom, and even if they wanted too, what could they really do about it?

To date, according to SourceWatch, Blackwater USA has receieved no-bid government contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and post-Katrina New Orleans, all from George W. Bush's administration.

That's what was going on with Blackwater until that fateful day in Fallujah on March 31st, 2004. The world turned on their televisions and were met with a gruesome image of charred American bodies, burned and chopped up, hung in pieces to a bridge over the Euphrates River. The poor soldiers, everyone said. Jaws hit the floor when it was discovered that those poor men were not U.S. soldiers, they were Blackwater USA employees.

Even more stunning than the manner in which they died, is why they died. In a separate piece for The Nation, Scahill's Blood is Thicker than Blackwater reveals the truth.

According to former Blackwater officials, Blackwater, Regency and ESS were engaged in a classic war-profiteering scheme. Blackwater was paying its men $600 a day but billing Regency $815, according to the Raleigh News and Observer.


All this was shady enough--but the real danger for (murdered Blackwater employee Scott) Helvenston and the others lay in Blackwater's decision to cut corners to make even more money. The original contract between Blackwater/Regency and ESS, obtained by The Nation, recognized that "the current threat in the Iraqi theater of operations" would remain "consistent and dangerous," and called for a minimum of three men in each vehicle on security missions "with a minimum of two armored vehicles to support ESS movements." [Emphasis added.]

But on March 12, 2004, Blackwater and Regency signed a subcontract, which specified security provisions identical to the original except for one word: "armored." Blackwater deleted it from the contract.

"When they took that word 'armored' out, Blackwater was able to save $1.5 million in not buying armored vehicles, which they could then put in their pocket," says attorney Miles. "These men were told that they'd be operating in armored vehicles. Had they been, I sincerely believe that they'd be alive today. They were killed by insurgents literally walking up and shooting them with small-arms fire. This was not a roadside bomb, it was not any other explosive device. It was merely small-arms fire, which could have been repelled by armored vehicles."
When the facts of the case revealed themselves, the families of the murdered men were horrified. It was discovered that Scott Helveston and other Blackwater employees knew about the shortcuts and mistreatment, and attempted to bring it to Blackwater's attention. Their complaints were swept under the rug and the families would not find out about it until after that fateful day in Fallujah.

Erik Prince and Blackwater played the role of grieving employer well, until the families wanted some answers.

After the killings, Katy Helvenston joined the families of Mike Teague, Jerko Zovko and Wesley Batalona in grieving and in seeking details about the incident. Blackwater founder Erik Prince personally delivered money to some of the families for funeral expenses, and the company moved to get the men's wives and children benefits under the government's Defense Base Act...


But then things started to get strange. Blackwater held a memorial service for the men at its compound. The families were gathered in a conference room, where they thought they would be told how the men had died. The Zovko family asked Blackwater to see the "After Action Report" detailing the incident. "We were actually told," recalls Zovko's mother, Danica, "that if we wanted to see the paperwork of how my son and his co-workers were killed that we'd have to sue them."

Thus began the legal battle between Blackwater and the dead men's families. In one of its few statements on the suit, Blackwater spokesperson Chris Bertelli said, "Blackwater hopes that the honor and dignity of our fallen comrades are not diminished by the use of the legal process."

Katy Helvenston calls that "total BS in my opinion," and says that the families decided to sue only after being stonewalled, misled and lied to by the company. "Blackwater seems to understand money. That's the only thing they understand," she says. "They have no values, they have no morals. They're whores. They're the whores of war."

Prince and Blackwater do seem to understand money quite well. They hired convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's former employer, Greenberg Traurig, the influential DC law firm as their lead counsel. With their vast financial resources, Blackwater's legal team has managed to delay the case for almost 3 years now with tricky moves and one fluff motion after another.

According to another article in The Nation, in early October 2006, Blackwater dumped Greenberg Traurig and hired former Whitewater investigator Kenneth Starr to file motions in front of the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the suit.

There are undeniable benefits to having Starr, the US Solicitor General under President George H.W. Bush, represent Blackwater--a highly partisan GOP company--in front of a Supreme Court stacked with Bush appointees. Starr also has a personal connection to Blackwater. Starr and Joseph Schmitz, the general counsel and chief operating officer of Blackwater's parent company, the Prince Group, have both worked closely with the arch-conservative Washington Legal Foundation. Since 1993 Starr has served on the legal policy advisory board of the organization for which Schmitz has frequently acted as a spokesperson and attorney.

The case is in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, and a decision is being awaited. U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman (D-California) chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is holding hearings into the allegations that Blackwater purposely shorted its employees of necessary equipment.

As the country awaits the two decisions, we need to stare the grim reality of this situation of corruption, greed, and complete disregard for American lives straight in the face and change the system. The ultimate tragedy will be if we, the People, turn a blind eye and allow people like Erik Prince and corporations like Blackwater to continue to make a farce out of our brave men and women and the laws that exist to protect them.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Ability to Inspire

Every so often, I am fortunate enough to take part in a conversation that is so much more than just that - it's a stirring of emotion and memories, fuel to my inspirational fire, and a provocation to the very essence of who I am. It's a conversation so consuming, that I revel in the deliciousness of it.

Often, these conversations are completely unexpected and spring from the most unlikely of sources. It is this that provides the journey from which I collect the pieces of life to build not only who I am, but the direction in which I steer and how I proceed.

Today was one such occasion.

One of the most extraordinary points that I took away from it redefined my concept of teachers and teaching. Growing up the daughter and granddaughter of teachers, my previous concepts were pretty firmly cemented in my mind.

I had previously thought that teaching was about learning. What I realized today was that it's really about awakening a drive within.

I believe that within each of us lay infinite possibilities for who we will become and what we can do. As a community, I believe that we continually need to strive to awaken more within each of us. Think back to some of the most inspirational moments and people of your life. What was it about that moment or person that forever changed you?

While you're savoring that thought, imagine if you could pass along that moment of inspiration onto two other people, and they passed it on to two more, and so on. Imagine the possibilities to inspire your family, your friends, you community, your world. Imagine awakening a drive, a passion within someone and in that instance, becoming that mechanism for a positive change. What better a reward in life, than knowing you created change, simply by inspiring another.

I've never thought of myself as a teacher, that is, until today. Today's conversation with a wise soul taught me that we are all teachers, all with the ability to inspire and influence. The choice for each and everyone of us is whether or not we become that source to awaken a drive, a passion and literally change our world.

(Photo by 2wo from the Absolute Michigan photo pool)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Michigan Political Blogging - Today on 'Off the Record'

If you have some time today or this weekend, be sure to check out this week's edition of WKAR's Off the Record.

Senior Capitol Correspondent Tim Skubick invited myself and Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel from MichLib and The Next Hurrah) along with two bloggers from the Right on to his show to talk about the impact of political blogging in Michigan.

We had a good time, and Tim and the rest of the staff at WKAR were pretty happy with the outcome. Neither Marcy or I have seen the show yet, so while I think it went pretty well, I'll be judging right along with the rest of you. I will say that if this was a battle of the sexes, us girls gave the boys a real run for their money. :-)

OTR is available by live-stream on the WKAR website after noon today, and if you want to watch it on the ol' boob-tube, the times that it will be showing in your part of the state are available below -

Statewide Viewing

MARQUETTE WNMU Fri 5:30pmSun 1:00pm


EAST LANSING WKAR Fri 9:00pmSun 11:30pm


FLINTWFUM Sat 7:30pm


DETROIT WTVS Sun 11:30am

MT. PLEASANT WCMU Friday 9:00pmSun 12:00pm

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Story about Life, Dignity, and Dying

This morning as I read the Michigan papers online, I was forced to pause, and be consumed by a story that literally took my breath away.

The headline from the Detroit News reads: Hundreds log on to teen's blog as he battles cancer and I read it again, and again and again and I cried.

We all go through our days time and time again, set on auto-pilot doing what we need to do each day. How many times do we really stop to reflect, to really think about things?

I'm probably a lot more sensitive to stories like these because I see myself and my story so clearly in theirs. It's the reflection of what I've been through, what I've overcome and what could still happen to me, or to any of us.

It's because of my story that I sit here at this computer and share some of the deepest, most personal things that have happened to me. I believe like Miles, that by sharing my story and being honest and open about it, that my story will help others. How else can I explain my life and the fact that I'm still alive besides believing in a greater purpose than just being sick and not dying, even though all of the doctors tell me I should have, time and time again.

My journey into advocacy, politics, blogging, and now biking has always been about reaching out and sharing. For the same reasons Miles shares in this story, this world is too small and life too short not to come together as a community and grow as a community. This world is not about how you live or how I live - it is about how we live, and what we do together to change our world.

Here's to Miles, and to the millions others out there who are truly living by example for all of us.

(Cross-posted at DailyKos)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mike Rogers on Coulter: "I don't think we ought to shy away from that"

Last night, one of Michigan's most out-of-touch Congresscritters, Mike Rogers spoke with Lansing's 1320 WILS host Jack Ebling host of the show Ebling and You. While on the show, Rogers was asked about Ann Coulter's appearance before the Livingston Economic Club in October.

You can listen to the audio clip
For those who can't listen, I've provided a transcription below.

Here's where Rogers refuses to really see the problem. First Amendment Rights protecting Free Speech are extremely sacred and holy. Everyone should be able to say what they want to say. But the line is crossed when business and community economic forums are paying $30,000 to have someone spew hatred and preach intolerance and violence.

$30,000 doesn't equal Free Speech.

Hate, intolerance and violence, bought and paid for by the Livingston Economic Club, as they choose to spend the equivalent of a year's salary on Coulter, who among many, many other terrible things she's said also said this about journalists - defenders of the First Amendment -
"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."
From his comments on last night's show, one must assume that Mike Rogers fully supports Ann Coulter's message of hate, destruction, and intolerance. Leading the organization that he proudly help to found, Mike Rogers doesn't think we should "shy away" from paying and bringing Coulter and others like her.

It's one thing to let a person speak, it's a completely different thing to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for that hate speech.

Shame on you, Mr. Rogers. You surely aren't representing me or any of the thousands of others that live in your district.

Interview Transcript
Ebling: In your district, Ann Coutler is going to be making an appearance in Howell, and she's been a lighting rod for controversy and I'm curious what your view is on that.

Rogers: "Well I think it's uh, through Cleary University. I think that divergence of Opinions are really important. I think that, ah they ought to have the opportunity to say some things, even if we all disagree with some of the things we say, they ought to have the right to say it. And I think it fosters a healthier, uh debate on the issues, versus this, this notion that we've got to - if they don't say the things we exactly like and exactly agree on, we don't want to hear from them.

Ebling -I guess she's getting a $30, 000 appearance, or speaking fee, and I know what Ann Coulter makes, uh or at least part of what she makes and it'd be really nice if she could turn out and give that back to Livingston County.

Rogers - Ha well, I'd be for that! I'm sure that Cleary University would love to have some of that back as well! It's a - my understanding is it's an economic forum, uh that was started a few years ago. And one of the reasons was, and actually I started the first year, I helped get that started, was to bring in a variety of speakers who could cover issues and topics of the day, to try and get Livingston County kind of on the upswing of,uh of uh, you know, what's going on in the world, and to have this kind of a network and an economic-type club, like the Detroit club, like the Grand Rapids club, and I thought you know, that time when people approached me about the club, you know, Livingston County is ready for that, that would be a great thing, the business community there is pretty strong and wouldn't it be great to have that kind of opportunity. My argument again, sometimes that they're going to get speakers there that are not in line with where everybody is at but that, and offer some controversial ideas, and I don't think we should shy away from that. Just like when Michigan State University brings in some very, very controversial speakers who certainly aren't, certainly that I don't agree with, and I imagine a lot of the people in the area don't agree with. But I still believe it's important for them to come to an environment like that, and offer their ideas and offer their - I mean that's one of the things that made us great, we've never been really afraid to hear things we don't like.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In Tribute

A picture truly is worth a thousand words.

From Mike Ramsey, political blogger/cartoonist extraordinaire, and political cartoonist for the State News.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The $30K Question: Ann Coulter or a Job?

Update: Since posting this, I just received an email from informing me that the Livingston Economic Development Council is no longer a member of the LEC, despite being listed on the LEC's website. See below for the email text.

In Michigan, the Livingston Economic Club (LEC) is going to pay Angry Ann Coulter over $30,000 to come and speak at Cleary University this fall. Wow, with that kind of cash, business must be pretty good in Livingston County.

Too bad that's far from the case. The fact is, one of the LEC's own sponsors, the Livingston Economic Development Council is struggling to stay afloat. According to the Livingston Co. Press and Argus after having to let staff go - the agency is really hoping its donors will step up contributions to help keep the lights on.
(Livingston Co. Administrator Bob) Block said having (LEDC Director Fred) Dillingham provide economic development services is a cost-effective way for the county to attract and retain businesses.

“It’s a legitimate and meaningful activity to promote economic development within your jurisdiction,” he said.

In such a poor economy, “clearly an effort to retain the existing employee base and seek out the next generation is maybe more important,” Block added.

Bill Rogers, county board chairman and member of the EDC board, agreed.

“Right now, if anything these folks are more critical to help existing businesses stay existing, and to help bring in new businesses,” he said.
By the way, Bill Rogers is also the brother of LEC Founder and conservative MI Congressman Mike Rogers.

Businesses in Livingston aren't the only ones suffering, in the village of Pinckney (pop. 2000) scores of teachers are being offered buyouts to counter the district's $1.5 million budget deficit.

According to an employee with the Michigan Works! Livingston Service Center, the Center is seeing 1800-2000 new clients a month who are looking for a job, which is 21,600 to 24,000 people a year looking for a regular paycheck.

Livingston County, like the rest of the state, is economically suffering. So why would the Livingston Economic Council opt to spend $30,000+ to bring a hate-monger like Ann Coulter to town rather than providing a member of their community with the means for employment ? In Michigan, $30,000 is more than enough to put a roof over someone's head and food on the table.

Exactly where are the priorities of the Livingston Economic Council? On promoting hate and intolerance and bleeding their area dry or on improving the economic situation of their area? What kind of investment from the LEC do you think the residents of Livingston County would prefer - one more job, or a visit from Coulter?

*If you haven't already, please contact the LEC Founders and tell them to invest their money in jobs, not Ann Coulter. Visit yesterday's post for the list of names and contact information.

Update cont: Email from Fred Dillingham, Director of the Livingston Economic Development Council -
We were series sponsors in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Due to budget shortfalls, the EDC is not a sponsor for this year's series. The EDC did not participate in either the selection of speakers or the solicitation of sponsors for the 2007 series.
Interesting, I wonder if we'll hear from any of the other LEC Founders?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

They fire Imus, we hire Coulter - A Call To Action

In the wake of the Don Imus disaster, one would think that Corporate America would be highly sensitive to the promotion of hate speech, if not for morality's sake, for their profit's sake. For our sake, it's time to fight back and simply say 'No' to Coulter and her hate-mongering.

There's still a chance to stop Coulter's Tour of Hate and Intolerance from coming to Michigan and making a hefty $30,000 while she's at it. But we need your help! (Action Alert Below)

Unfortunately that's not true in one community in Michigan, already branded with a decades-old racist reputation and where, even today, its children are publicly being called racists just for living there.

Howell, Michigan - home of the Livingston County seat, the Michigan Ballonfest Challenge, the Howell Melon Festival, Cleary University, former KKK stronghold, a 95.97% white population and one of the next stops on Ann Coulter's tour of Hate and Intolerance.

Sadly, the Livingston Economic Club (LEC) has opted to pay Coulter $30,000 + travel expenses to preach hate and intolerance to a crowd of 200+ at Cleary University in October. Even worse, Coulter kicks off the Cleary University Founders Week Celebration. According to the Cleary Website -
Through special programs and events, Cleary University attempts to increase it awareness to the community, our alumni, faculty, staff, and current students by highlighting achievements, activities, projects, and future goals.

We at Cleary University have a strong past and proud tradition as a specialized business university and we remain committed to the enhancement of society through the many successes of our alumni and their employers.

*emphasis added*

Despite local outrage and protest over the appearance, according to the Livingston County Daily Press and Argus, the LEC has no plans to rescind the offer.

An advisory committee to the Livingston Economic Club decided recently not to rescind the offer to Coulter, said university President Tom Sullivan, despite the furor she caused by using a derogatory term for homosexuals when discussing Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards earlier this year.

Yet, the eight-member executive committee will meet on Thursday, he said, and will conduct a routine review of the economic club's speaker series.

Sullivan said the panel will be told about calls the school has received, either objecting to or supporting Coulter's appearance. The tally of those calls: 33 against Coulter and 35 in favor.

"We're not recommending to them that they take any action," Sullivan said.

He said 200 tickets have been sold.

What A Tangled Web They Weave

It must be mentioned that while it was university that booked her, the actual person (Janet Filip) responsible for booking Coulter is none other than the wife of Livingston County Republican Chairman, Alan Filip.

Another quote from a earlier Press and Argus story has the brother of ultra-conservative MI Congressman Mike Rogers, Livingston County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bill Rogers voicing his support of Coulters, but he was cautious about her now-infamous words against John Edwards.

Bill Rogers — chairman of the Livingston County Board of Commissioners and a fan of Coulter's no-holds-barred take on politics — said he was appalled by her recent remarks.

"I'd still like to hear her speak but I pretty much thought that was a classless remark. You're always curious whether (it) is a bunch of shtick for publicity or is it really her feelings," Rogers said.

Congressman Mike Rogers is a Founding Partner of the Livingston Economic Club, and a sponsor of the series.

According to OpenSecrets, another sponsor of the series, telecom giant Comcast also happens to be a major donor of Mike Rogers.

Purely coincidence, or more agenda pushing by local Republicans?

Michigan Netroots Fight Back

Since the news broke back in early March, Michigan's Liberal/Progressive Bloggers have been hard at work exposing Coulter as the hate monger that she truly is.

Hardest at work has been Livingston County's own Communications Guru. Not only has he been tracking the latest LEC follies, but he's also been keeping tabs on Angry Ann and her latest hateful diatribe of the week.

Republic of M - Gay Michigan has been tracking the events from the LGBT perspective.

Far Left Field - Left Fielder is one great progressive activist who has some great calls to action.

Christine Barry has an interesting perspective on the Imus v. Coulter debate. Of course, that's not all she's got. Her blog is chock full of Coulter insights.

Michigan Liberal is more than just a great blog, it's also the hub for all of us here in the Great Lakes State. There's a long Coulter thread.

Speak Up, Speak Out, Stop the Hate from Invading

The only way to stop Ann Coulter's tour of Intolerance and Hate from festering in Michigan is to contact the Livingston Economic Club and it's members. Remember, they need to hear from us by Thursday in order to stop this!

Please call or email each of the sponsors below, and then send an email to 10 of your friends and family members asking them to do the same. Stopping the hate and spreading a message of tolerance and acceptance begins with us.

Tom Sullivan
President, Cleary University

Pamela McConeghy
Executive Director, Greater Brighton Chamber of Commerce

Julia Liljegren
Executive Director, Hartland Area Chamber of Commerce

Pat Convery
President, Howell Area Chamber of Commerce

Fred Dillingham
Executive Director, Economic Development Council of Livingston County

Congressman Mike Rogers (MI-08)
Click to Email

Jerome Espy
Vice President -Michigan Communications, Comcast Corporation

Rich Perlburg
Executive Editor, Livingston County Daily Press and Argus

Cruise Director Report: This Week in Lansing

Welcome to Monday!

It's going to be a busy week in Michigan. Hope you can join me for one of the events below!
  • Monday evening - Join author and Michigan's First Gentleman Dan Mulhern at Schuler's Books in Eastwood Town Center as he discusses his new book Everyday Leadership - 7:30 p.m.

  • Tuesday Evening - I'm honored to have been asked to be the keynote speaker before the MSU's Student Leadership Awards Dinner. The topic? Overcoming Obstacles to Find the Leader Within - how appropriate. :-)

  • Wednesday Evening - I'm traveling over to the beautiful Albion Campus to speak before a joint meeting of the Albion County Dems/Calhoun County Democratic Party to speak on Online Activism: The Future of Michigan's Democratic Process.

  • Also on Wednesday Evening - Marcy Wheeler, perhaps Michigan's best known national blogger, Libby Trial live-blogger, and author of the new book Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the War and Out a Spy will be doing a book signing at our favorite local progressive bookstore, Everybody Reads at 7 p.m.

  • Thursday - Of course, if you're busy Wednesday, you won't want to miss Thursday's Monthly Drinking Liberally Event at our new home, Reno's East (corner of Abbott and Saginaw in East Lansing) Marcy Wheeler will be speaking about her book, about blogging, and taking your questions. I hope you can join us at 7 p.m. for good times and good spirits!

  • Friday Morning - will find me down in Detroit for the Fourth Annual Money Smart Week Kick off Breakfast, sponsored by the Detroit Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. For those of you unfamiliar with Money Smart, it's an organization who's mission is to combat financial illiteracy and provide greater education to consumers throughout the state of Michigan. I'm excited to join Senators Martha Scott and Hansen Clarke along with other noted state and local officials for this very important cause.

  • Saturday Morning - I'll be working with some of the good folks over at Mr. Rogers Watch on a Blogging 101 Workshop for the members of the Livingston County Democratic Party. Here's to a successful event!

  • Saturday Evening - I'll be joining Democrats all over the state at the Michigan Democratic Party's annual Jefferson/Jackson Dinner at Cobo Hall. This year's speaker? None other than Presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator John Edwards.

  • Sunday - As the Good Lord decreed - it's a day of rest. After this week, I think I deserve it. :-)
Here's to wishing you and yours a wonderful week. Hope to see you at an event or two!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Lansing Drinking Liberally Event - Thurs. April 19th

Lansing's Drinking Liberally has one very exciting event coming up, next Thursday - April 19th at 7pm.

Michigan author and national blogger, Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel on the blogs) will be joining us to talk about her new book

Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy

For more information about the book, check out my post that went up shortly before its release this past February.

Marcy will talk about her experience as the premier live-blogger during the U.S. Government's recent perjury case against Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby in regards to the outing of CIA spy Valerie Plame. Marcy's book was instrumental in putting the pieces together for the Libby case.

Marcy will also be selling and signing copies of her book, thanks to local progressive book store, Everybody Reads. The book will be available for only $14.95.

Join us this Thursday, April 19th at 7pm
at our new home - Reno's East
1310 Abbott Rd.
East Lansing, MI 48823

For more information, you can email Julielyn, Lansing's Drinking Liberally host, or you can join the Lansing's Drinking Liberally list-serv.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thank you, Sen. Stabenow

I got an email from a friend last night telling me he heard Sen. Debbie Stabenow mention my name on the Senate Floor. When it was clear he wasn't joking, I decided to do a little digging.

I had emailed Senator Stabenow's office about six months ago, urging her to continue to support stem cell research. My stake in this debate is a bit more selfish, as I've nearly died more times than I've care to count as a result of one of the most severe cases of Crohn's Disease ever seen by many of Michigan's doctors. In fact, for full disclosure, being so sick with Crohn's is what inspired my foray into blogging and politics in the first place. At last count, I've been hospitalized over 70 times and had 35 surgeries. Needless to say I'm lucky to be alive.

There is no known cause for Crohn's and no cure. Those of us with Crohn's are just stuck with it, subject to the medical profession's highly paid guessing. There are some who manage their disease through medicine and diet, and others like me, who must have major portions of their digestive tract removed and learn to adapt to life despite our permanent disability, as the government classifies us. Then there are others, too many, who die.

Living with Crohn's for almost 13 years now I know more about it than most doctors. I can tell you the latest medicines, treatments, theories, and the famous among us (including Dubya's younger brother) who suffer. I can also tell you that the only promising future for curing this incredibly destructive disease lies in stem cell research. My life's struggle in staying alive, staying active, and staying focused on the future and living the rest of my life with this disease also means fighting for a cure.

Day in and day out, I write on these blogs asking you to get involved in your government, making it work for you, and engaging our public servants in serving the us, the people. Today, I offer you one more piece of proof why I so firmly believe in the power of civic engagement.

From Senator Stabenow's Senate Floor Speech:
As co-chair of the Senate bipartisan Parkinson’s Caucus, I’ve received letters and calls from people all across our great nation on how important stem cell research is to them, how important this legislation, this opportunity at this time is to them and their families. I’ve met many Michigan families who deal with chronic health issues every single day.
Another bright young woman who visited my office several times is Julielyn Gibbons. For over 12 years, Julielyn has lived with Crohn’s diseases - a disease that causes intense abdominal pain. For her, stem cell research offers the promise of not only curing this life-long, debilitating disease, but also the hope of being able to live a normal life. She emailed me, ‘I want to be able to bring children into the world knowing that they won’t have to suffer as I have and that possibility best exists through stem cell research.’ S. 5, a strong bipartisan bill, is an important, in fact, a critical step forward toward giving Julielyn and Kate that hopeful future that we all want for our children.
Hopefully we will not have many more people that will be seeing their lives deteriorate or lose their lives before we are able to actually begin to do what needs to be done with this research. It’s for them and for all the families I’ve met that I will cast my vote this week: a vote for life, for hope, for a bright future. I know that the cures won’t come tomorrow, but they may never come if we do not act now.

Last night, the Senate passed the bill 63-34.

Thank you, Senator Stabenow, for fighting for me, and for all those who suffer like me. Thank you for reaffirming my faith in my government, in my state and in my country.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Legislative/Blogger Meet up: Oakland/Macomb Area

In a continued effort to connect progressive bloggers with Michigan's Democratic legislators, I'm pleased to announce yet another meet up.

Join Representatives Fred Miller (Mount Clemens), Marie Donigan (Royal Oak) and Andy Meisner (Ferndale)
This Thursday, April 12th @ 7pm
Oakland County Democratic Party office.
515 S. Lafayette Ave. Royal Oak, MI 48067

This an excellent chance for you, our netroots activists to work directly with legislators and establish some solid lines of communications. It's also an excellent opportunity for you to voice any suggestions, questions or comments and work hand in hand with some of Michigan's finest!

Rep. Marie Donigan serves on the following House Committees: Great Lakes and the Environment (Vice Chair), Ethics and Elections, Transportation, and Health Policy.

Rep. Andy Meisner serves on the following House Committees: Commerce (Chair), Education, Judiciary, New Economy and Quality of Life, and Tax Policy

Rep. Fred Miller serves on the following House Committees: Labor (Chair), Transportation, Education, Energy and Technology, and Great Lakes and Environment.

If you're able to attend, please email me so we can accommodate everyone!

Some interesting Tidbits from the MDP

For those of us who voted in the 2004 Michigan Democratic Party Presidential Caucus, it was an exciting time. For the first time we could vote on the internet for our favored candidate and for me, it made the election process all the more interesting and interactive.

As much as the net-roots community likes to complain about the pre-historic nature of the MDP, you just might be surprised to learn that Michigan was the very first state to do this internet voting. Even more impressive, we're the only state (at this point) that's going to do it again in 2008.

Here's a question - how many of you had dial-up service in 2004 versus your broadband connection today? Probably a lot of you. Despite that, a whopping 28% of the 160,000 Caucus voters in voted online. When you consider how Internet has been growing in leaps and bounds, imagine how that number will skyrocket.

As it stands now, the MDP already proposed several changes to the Delegate Selection Plan, all designed to make it a little easier for all of us to better participate. After looking it over, here's some of the changes I noticed:
  • Internet voting will be open for 7 days, as opposed to 30 days in '04
  • Voters will be able to vote in any voting location within their county. Go where it's closest.
  • You can take your utility bill, drivers license, or your MI Identification card as proof of identification. I think this is a great idea, it makes it more accessible to everyone, since we don't all have a Drivers License.
  • Choice of voting by mail, internet or in person.
Of course, if this is something we want to be available again next year, we need to let the MDP know. Right now, they are taking public comment on the Caucus Draft Selection Plan. Between now and April 28th, you can view the Plan online and then email the MDP with your comments.

While you're checking out the plan, you can also learn a little more about being a delegate, how delegates are selected, how the Convention process works, and the burning question - what's the date of the Caucus (Feb. 9th, 2008 as it stands now, but of course, that could change...)

Either way, it's your state, and your voice - make it heard!