Random nerd stuff

Loading...

Monday, December 25, 2006

Drunk Driving: The gift cons keep giving liberal bloggers

http:////journals.democraticunderground.com/top10/272 Taking a semi break from my break, I finally managed to pull away from the holiday good times to read the top ten cons idiots from this past Monday and I had to post this, if you have already read the list when it was fresh be prepare for a flashback if you haven't you will enjoy this. If you can stomach the opinion section of the Detroit "News" you notice the cartoon entitled "Mallard Fillmore" by Bruce Tinsley Fillmore is supposed to be the conservative answer to "Doomsbury" the problem for Millard Fillmore is that he's not funny and he repeats the same crap you read in political chatrooms by right wing bullies. Someone needs to tell Mr. Tinsley if you're going to stand on a soapbox make sure your blood alcohol level isn't 0.14. Bruce Tinsley Bruce who? You know. Bruce Tinsley Still not ringing any bells? Let me help you out. Bruce Tinsley is the guy who writes the terribly unfunny comservative comic strip "Mallard Fillmore" which, somewhat unbelievably, appears in almost 400 American newspapers.If you're wondering why he doesn't look too happy in the photo above, it's because Mr. Tinsley was arrested last week in Columbus, Indiana, on drunk driving charges - his second such arrest in four months. The photo was taken by Bartholomew County's finest when Tinsley's blood-alcohol level was allegedly 0.14 (nearly twice the legal limit in Indiana).So it's another fine mess that some drunk-ass conservative moralizer has gotten himself into. What a surprise.Mind you, I have discovered that slapping Mr. Tinsley's mugshot at the end of Mallard Fillmore makes it a lot more entertaining.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Back in 07

Hey everyone in Michigan liberal blogsphere, I've been slacking for the past couple weeks not because there's nothing going on in the state and the country I've been relaxing from final weeks over at Oakland U. , having my girlfriend home during the holiday break and on top of older laptop it makes updating during the break tough. But believe me I'll be up and running next month.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A change do you good?

http://freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061212/NEWS99/61212034 Group calls for changes to Michigan constitution By CHRIS CHRISTOFFFREE PRESS STAFF WRITER December 12, 2006 Michigan’s constitution should be revised to lengthen term limits for state elected officials, give the governor power to appoint Supreme Court justices and university trustees and forbid non-Michigan residents from collecting petition signatures for ballot proposals. Those are among 63 recommendations by a self-appointed, volunteer group that’s calling for a constitutional convention to rewrite the 1963 constitution. The group, Citizens for Michigan, calls for maximum 12-year terms for legislators, the governor, attorney general and secretary of state. Currently, they can serve a maximum eight years except for the state House, where six years is the limit. Others recommendations in the study include allowing cities to raise local taxes to fix roads, and a statewide tax to pay strictly for building or renovating school facilities. The complete report can be read at http://www.citizens4mi.wordpress.com/ <http://www.citizens4mi.wordpress.com/>. “We’re not dictating anything to anybody,” said former attorney general Frank Kelley, a member of the Citizens for Michigan, which has met quietly for three years and which includes former legislators, legal experts, business people and lobbyists.Rather, he said, the study is meant to promote good public policy, and to give the governor, Legislature and the public time to consider possible constitutional changes before 2010. That’s the next year the constitution requires a public vote to decide whether to hold a constitutional convention.“This is an attempt to get a discussion started,” said John Axe, chairman of the group and an expert in municipal finance and an instructor at the Wayne State University School of Law.

One more for the race: Dodd joins the race

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061213/ap_on_el_pr/dodd2008 Sen. Dodd to decide on joining 2008 race By BETH FOUHY, Associated Press WriterTue Dec 12, 9:29 PM ET Sen. Chris Dodd said Tuesday he plans to have "a conversation with the mirror" over the Christmas holidays to decide whether he'll join a growing field of Democratic presidential contenders. But Dodd, a 25-year Senate veteran, added, "If I had to make a decision in the next thirty seconds, I'd say, 'Let's go.'" In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, the 62-year-old Dodd called himself a dark horse in a crowded field dominated by New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Neither Clinton nor Obama has announced they will seek the presidency, but both lead every national poll of Democratic contenders. Yet with the early nominating contests still 13 months away, the Connecticut senator insisted he still has a chance to break through. "People don't want to be told this race is over, or that it's down to a couple of people and everyone else is wasting their time," he said. And while not mentioning Obama — the field's charismatic newcomer — by name, Dodd said, "the idea that someone could come to this race and bring little or no experience and still connect is going to be hard." Dodd is little known outside Washington and his home state, despite a long Senate career and a two year stint as chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1995-96, where he traveled the country raising money for candidates. He frames his relative anonymity as an advantage, calling himself "a fresh face with experience" who understands voters' concerns. "Before they make a decision about a cluster of issues, people what to know if you're paying attention to them," Dodd said. "Do you know who I am? Are you listening to me?" A first-time presidential candidate, Dodd said he would run to improve the world for his young daughters, ages 5 and 2. He's spent much of the last year traveling to states with early nominating contests, including Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, and says he's received favorable attention from voters. He plans to stress domestic issues in the race, including education, health care, and rebuilding the nation's manufacturing base. Dodd voted in favor of the 2002 resolution authorizing military invasion in Iraq, a vote he now calls "a mistake." He leaves Friday for a weeklong tour of several countries in the Middle East, including Iraq. And while he doesn't believe the Iraq conflict will be the central issue in the 2008 presidential contest, he said it was no time to elect a leader untested in foreign affairs. "This is a time where international relations are going to be a big deal, and having something to say rather than 'I'll be a quick learner.' There's no time for training wheels on this stuff," Dodd said. As incoming chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Dodd has broad support in the financial arena which could prove lucrative to him as a candidate. He hinted his fundraising was going well and that people would be "surprised" by his campaign finance report early next year. Dodd had about $1.8 million in his campaign account at the end of September. By contrast, Clinton has about $14.4 million to spend.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Impact of police being sent to Iraq felt on street

Impact of police being sent to Iraq felt on street - USATODAY.com Impact of police being sent to Iraq felt on street By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY WASHINGTON — The deployment of thousands of police officers to Iraq, Afghanistan and other military reserve posts is costing local law enforcement agencies up to $1.2 billion per year, according to a new analysis of Justice Department data. The review, prepared for a law enforcement trade journal by Justice Department statistician Matthew Hickman, found that the number of military call-ups is outstripping the pace of new hires at a time when agencies are struggling to find new recruits, and as crime is ticking upward after several years of historically low crime rates. AFTER DUTY: Reserve troops face job woes The problem is particularly acute in small police agencies, which often have struggled to fill gaps in patrol coverage left by cops who have been called to military duty, according to Hickman's analysis, just published in Police Chief magazine. "This is a serious problem since (police executives) cannot place quotas on the number of reservists in their agencies," according to the analysis, which said that about 2.2% of the estimated 683,600 full-time police officers, sheriff's deputies and state troopers across the nation are in the military reserves. For his analysis, Hickman reviewed personnel in 3,000 of the nearly 16,000 police agencies across the nation for a 12-month period that ended June 30, 2003. The findings then were projected across all of the agencies as estimates of continuing annual costs to local law enforcement. Hickman estimated that 11,380 law enforcement officers were called for military reserve service from all agencies during the time period studied, compared with gains of about 2,600 new hires. At least 23% of all police agencies had officers called for reserve duty during that time, according to Hickman. There is no official count of how many reservists are police officers, but Hickman says the trends in military call-ups and police hiring appear to have been consistent since the period he examined. Police chiefs say overtime paid to other officers to fill patrol shift gaps accounted for the bulk of the deployment costs. Hickman's analysis does not directly link the reservist call-ups to recent increases in violent crime in many cities. However, police chiefs such as Houston's Harold Hurtt say the impact of call-ups is being felt on the street — even in large departments such as his that are able to absorb losses in officers more easily than smaller police agencies. "Everybody understands the necessity to do their part for the country," says Hurtt, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, a group of about 60 police agencies in the USA and Canada. "But this responsibility is having a noticeable impact on our ability to provide basic services. A lot of these (reservists) were people who answer calls for service." Hurtt says many of the 25-30 Houston cops called to military duty have been notified that their service likely will be extended beyond a year. The numbers represent a tiny portion of the city's 4,800-officer force, but the call-ups have come as the department is trying to fill hundreds of vacancies caused by the retirements of 700 officers in the past two years, Hurtt says. Police staffing is a particularly urgent issue in Houston, which took in about 200,000 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina last year. Hurtt says the surge in population contributed to a jump in violent crime, including a 20% increase in homicides this year. This year, the U.S. government gave Houston about $20 million to help pay police overtime and other costs related to the influx of Katrina evacuees. Reservist call-ups have had more impact on smaller police agencies. In Pottsville, Pa., Police Chief Joseph Murton says the department lost three of its 28 officers to prolonged reserve duty during the past three years. The deployments, which will require two of the officers to serve two years each, triggered a department-wide restructuring of patrol shifts and undisclosed overtime costs to cover the manpower shortfall. "We understand the value of freedom; we support the service they are providing our country," Murton says. "But it has been difficult. This has affected everybody in the department." Murton says his community of about 16,500 residents, 100 miles north of Philadelphia, was making do with a decreasing police force before military call-ups. A tightening local budget has forced Pottsville's police department to cut its number of patrol officers from 35 to 28 during the past several years, Murton says. "If I'm a manufacturing company, I can go to a temp service to fill slots I'm losing to call-ups," he says. "You can't do that in law enforcement. Our employees are required to undergo 22 weeks of training. The average employer doesn't have to face that."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Buh bye GOP

GOP's Capitol control winds down - Yahoo! News GOP's Capitol control winds down By DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press Writer 41 minutes ago It has not been a pretty sight on Capitol Hill in the waning hours of Republican control. Once-powerful lawmakers have been shown the door at their own offices, forced to crowd in a basement or other nooks to finish their work, if not their careers. The usual backslapping has given way to back pats as colleagues try to comfort losers who will soon be going home. Historic hallways are jammed with desks, leather sofas, chairs, lamps, metal file cabinets and cardboard file boxes, part of a massive office shuffle that will continue when the lame-duck Congress finishes, probably Friday. Rubbermaid trash bins holding office garbage bear signs saying "Do Not Remove." Happy Democrats are trying not to gloat too much, although their giddiness is not always well concealed. Witness Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record), the Senate Democrats' campaign chief, strolling onto the floor with a gleeful call to a colleague and both fists pumped in the air. Their time will come in January, when Democrats take control and settle into comfier digs. To the victors go the suites, or at least the sweetest spaces, with some exceptions. Republicans who will be back in January are adjusting to life in the minority, a rude shock for many who were part of the rising class of 1994 and have only known what it is like to be on top. Ruder still, of course, is the adjustment by dozens to personal defeat and the uncertainty of life after Washington, the place they disparaged in campaigns but enjoyed for its power and perks. Defeated Sen. Mike DeWine (news, bio, voting record), R-Ohio, bore arguably the longest face in the Senate when members returned for their first vote since the election. With his characteristic pile of folders under one arm, DeWine entered the chamber through the center doors and headed down the aisle. His gait slowed, then stopped, as he looked into the well. All around him, colleagues were giving sympathetic pats to the backs of others turned out of office — George Allen of Virginia and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania among them. As if carrying the weight of all the defeated, DeWine paused in midaisle. Someone put an arm around him. DeWine looked down and shook his head. "There is no question that when an elected official loses an election, no matter what the circumstances were or no matter how difficult the district is, there is some kind of feeling of rejection," said former GOP Rep. Bill Frenzel of Minnesota. "In some cases it's quite strong. In some cases they rise above it fairly quickly." The reverberations go beyond lawmakers and encompass staff. In elevators, they whisper about job searches. Around Capitol Hill, quick seating can be found at lunch spots that are ordinarily packed — the buzz of routine now diminished, to return in the new year. Democrats picked up more than 30 seats in the House and Senate, knocking off committee chairmen and congressional veterans and newcomers alike. Other members gave up their seats to run for governor or the Senate, or because under GOP-imposed term limits they could not have continued to serve as a committee chairman even if Republicans had retained control. Thanks to the election, the Senate will have a new candy man or woman next year. The defeated Santorum was keeper of the desk that is traditionally the source of sweets for senators coming into the chamber. He stocked it with Hershey chocolates from his state as well as jellybeans and candy corn. Come the new year, the Democratic rise to power will be reflected in the agenda. Right now, it is most evident in the office shuffle. About 180 offices in the House will be moved over 21 days, with workers — some on staff, others brought in from the outside — laboring six days a week and aiming to swap 10 offices a day. The goal is to finish by Christmas. Congress reconvenes Jan. 4. Election losses make new offices available every two years. First dibs on that space went to House members with designs on more spacious settings and according to their seniority. Newly elected members chose offices by lottery on Nov. 17. A similar seniority system is at work in the Senate, where the shuffle is expected to spill over into January. Some of the best real estate in the House is going to the speaker. The incoming speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California, is breaking with longstanding tradition by moving herself and staff into plush offices that her predecessor, Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., occupied. The Capitol suite includes a balcony with grand views of the National Mall and the monuments to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Over the years, previous Democratic leaders were content in offices that faced the Supreme Court, leaving the Mall vista for Republican leaders past and present. But the view of the court has been overtaken by a construction zone. Those leaving because of defeat or retirement worked from temporary quarters in the Rayburn office building or found other space, such as in committee staff offices. Retiring Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, lost his longtime office in Rayburn even while trying to finish work on a tax extension bill that was the main obstacle to bringing the 109th Congress to an end. That frustration aside, Thomas was finishing on a high note. On Wednesday, red, white and blue balloons bobbed around the room where he held his last monthly meeting with committee members, and chocolate frosted cake was served. It was his 65th birthday.

House GOP wants to vote on fetal "pain"

House GOP to vote on 'fetal pain' bill - USATODAY.com House GOP to vote on 'fetal pain' bill WASHINGTON (AP) — The last days of Republican congressional rule are shaping up to be symbolic and brief, with GOP leaders hawking an abortion restriction with no chance of becoming law, loading up tax breaks with unrelated matters and dumping an unfinished budget on Democrats. "It's appropriate that the do-nothing Congress is ending by doing nothing," said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the next House majority leader. That's not exactly true. Congress on Tuesday sent President Bush legislation to spend $38 million to preserve the notorious internment camps where the government kept Japanese-Americans behind barbed wire during World War II — a stark reminder of how the United States turned on some of its citizens in a time of fear. And the Senate passed a bill to improve the government's preparedness and performance standards in the event of a pandemic or biological attack. Meanwhile, House and Senate negotiators were working out final details on a package of tax breaks, many which expired at the beginning of the year, aimed at helping middle class taxpayers and businesses. But Republicans about to lose their thrones are doing nothing not blessed by President Bush before the 109th Congress shuts down after a final, four-day work week. Late Tuesday, Republicans killed a $4.8 billion drought relief package under threat of a presidential veto. They are punting nine unfinished spending bills until next year, forcing newly minted Democrats to untangle next year's federal budget. And the House postponed a showdown vote on opening 8 million more acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling, worried about achieving the two-thirds supermajority needed to pass the measure under special rules. But those same rules did not hold House GOP leaders back from setting a vote Wednesday on a bill to limit fetal pain during late-term abortions, a measure GOP leaders shied away from offering before the November midterm elections and which stands no chance of passing the Senate even under GOP control. Proponents, however, said bringing it up has educational and symbolic value. Sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., the bill would require abortion providers to tell women seeking abortions after 20 weeks of gestation that such a process will cause the fetus pain, a statement that some scientists dispute. The woman would then be required to either accept or reject fetal anesthesia in writing. Bringing up the bill is a final jab at Democrats who have professed to favor informed consent laws, according to the measure's sponsors. Smith also said its very floor debate, short though it would be under special rules, has educational value to anyone who might hear it. And Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., a possible presidential contender, has said he would try to bring it up in the Senate this week if the measure gets the required two-thirds majority House rules require. Since any senator can halt legislation, any such move by Brownback would be almost guaranteed to be blocked by abortion rights senators. Still, Smith's bill isn't as controversial as it sounds. NARAL-Pro Choice America, an abortion rights group, doesn't oppose it. And House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was not planning a floor speech on the bill. In other congressional action: •House and Senate negotiators were working out final details on a package of tax breaks, many which expired at the beginning of the year, aimed at helping middle class taxpayers and businesses. The provisions include deductions for research and development initiatives and for higher education costs. There are also tax breaks for teachers who personally buy classroom supplies and state and local sales tax deductions for taxpayers in states with no state income tax. The tax measure enjoys wide bipartisan support, a reason that lawmakers were considering combining it with other more difficult bills. Among the additions could be the bill to expand offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, trade benefits for developing countries and a bill to prevent cuts in Medicare payments to physicians. •The House was poised to pass a temporary spending bill for 13 Cabinet departments whose budgets are long overdue. The measure will keep domestic agencies on autopilot at or just below current levels through Feb. 15. The action would kick decisions on more than $460 billion in unfinished budget business to incoming Democratic leaders, subtracting from the new majority's time for their own agenda. It's likely that Democrats will jam all of the unfinished budget work into a mammoth "omnibus" spending bill. Republicans "forfeit any right to complain about any action that we are forced to take on appropriations bills next year to clean up their chaotic mess," said Rep. David Obey, D-Wis. I wonder why are the Republicans doing their damnest to get this bill passed? I can see the GOP still being pissed about getting their butts kicked so they decided to take a dump in the punch bowl.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

My view on the 06 elections

I had to add my two cents on last month election for one I'm pretty amazed on the outcome nationally I knew the Dems will win the house and come within striking distance of the Republicans in the senate but I didn't see this sweeping out of the GOP you saw last month. Almost every Republican incumbent was knocked out of office, every Democrat office holder held on to their seat. Now taking a look at the state level I have to admit I thought the Amway Dick would make the race a lot closer, not because he had this ground swell of support I knew he didn't have but the amount of money he dumped in the race. He out spent Granholm 40 million to Granholm what 12 to 14 million dollars she had despite the money he spent, and right wing rags like the Detroit News echoing his talking points daily Granholm beat Dick "Amway" DeVos by 14 points. And for the senate race between Debbie Stabenow and Mike Bouchard I knew Bouchard chances of un seating Stabenow were slim and none once he got the nod over Keith Bulter in early August. The best word that would sum up the race Bouchard ran was multiple personalities in his first couple of ads he ranted and rave about the waste in Washington nevermind at the time his party ran Washington for six years. Then he remembers which political party he's a part of and start attacking Stabenow and in the closing days of the race he had ads paid by the RNC that didn't make any sense one ad they fired against Debbie was she haven't done anything in her six years anyone with common sense would know yeah Debbie hasn't done anything because she had a right wing Republican majority to deal with and the last ad the weekend before the election when the RNC attacks themselves. The only downsize of the election was Uncle Ward, Simple Jennifer Gratz and her right wing sugar daddies managed to get prop 2 passed. I have mixed feelings about it one hand I felt people that voted yes thought they was voting to save affirmative action because of the yes on 2 signs and of course there were people that voted yes because they're a bunch of racists ass people. And if you're a right winger thinking this election was a one time thing guess what cupcake it's not. You have an new Republican president ticket putting distance between them and the Bush White House and you're going to many Republicans up for re-election ducking and dodging Bush. Could you image the Republicans having their convention where they act like the last six years didn't happen? That's what Bush has done to the Republican party he turned off moderates, he turned off true Republicans and he turned the Republicans into a regional party where the south is their only strong hold.

Audit: FEMA continues to squander millions in Katrina aid

Audit: FEMA continues to squander millions in Katrina aid - USATODAY.com Audit: FEMA continues to squander millions in Katrina aidUpdated 12/6/2006 10:27 AM ET WASHINGTON (AP) — One year after Katrina, the government is still squandering tens of millions of dollars in wasted disaster aid, including $17 million in bogus rental payments to people who had already received free trailers and apartments, federal investigators said Wednesday. At the same time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has recovered less than 1% of the $1 billion it wasted on fraudulent hurricane assistance after the August 2005 storm, highlighting a need for stronger controls the next time a major hurricane strikes. ON DEADLINE: Link to the government report and your comments The report by the Government Accountability Office paints a picture of an agency still struggling — at substantial taxpayer expense — to find the balance between distributing quick aid to those in need while guarding against substantial abuse. Last week, a federal judge in Washington ordered the Bush administration to resume housing payments for thousands of people displaced by Katrina, criticizing FEMA for a convoluted application process. FEMA is appealing that ruling. The GAO audit found that numerous aid applicants received duplicate rental aid, with FEMA in one case providing free apartments to 10 people in Plano, Texas, while sending them $46,000 to cover out-of-pocket housing expenses. Another $20 million was wasted on thousands of individuals who claimed the same property damage from both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. FEMA also paid at least $3 million to more than 500 ineligible foreign students in the stricken Gulf Coast, the report said. "Ineffective preventive controls have resulted in substantial fraudulent and improper payments," said GAO investigator Gregory Kutz. "The additional examples of potentially fraudulent and improper payments in our testimony today show that our estimate of $1 billion in improper and/or fraudulent payments is likely understated." Responding to the audit, FEMA spokesman Pat Philbin said the agency has sought to eliminate waste in the past year by upgrading the registration process to prevent duplicate payments and strengthening the process for verifying names and addresses. "FEMA continues to focus our rebuilding efforts to greatly improve our reliability, accuracy and response in providing aid to disaster victims," Philbin said. "The agency will consider and evaluate any new findings that can assist in improving our processes and procedures." Among the audit's findings: •Fraud detection is inadequate. Even though GAO found at least $1 billion in disaster aid waste, FEMA has identified about $290 million in improper payments and recouped just $7 million. •Control procedures remain weak. FEMA was unable to locate dozens of laptops, printers and other items that federal employees purchased with government-issued credit cards for Katrina disaster work. In one case, FEMA purchased 20 flat-bottom boats, but could not find two of them and lacked titles to any of them. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who requested the report, said she is hopeful that her legislation seeking to empower FEMA by giving director David Paulison direct access to the president in a crisis might offer some relief. Still, FEMA must do more to revamp its disaster aid procedures, said Collins, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee. "The American people are generous and willingly open their hearts and their wallets to the victims of disasters," she said. "But they expect that their tax dollars will be spent carefully to help storm victims, not be lost to a hurricane of waste, fraud and abuse." Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., who will become committee chairman when Democrats take control of the Senate in January, said the panel will continue to closely watch FEMA so that it improves its practices. "The record is clear that, going forward, FEMA has much work to do before we can be confident that it is providing assistance to those who are eligible and who need it, while denying it to those who do not," he said.

$4,000 grant for students is almost a done deal

$4,000 grant for students is almost a done deal 4,000 grant for students is almost a done deal House lame ducks are final hurdle in Granholm's plan BY CHRIS CHRISTOFFFREE PRESS LANSING BUREAU CHIEF December 6, 2006 Gov. Jennifer Granholm's plan to increase the Michigan Merit Award scholarship to $4,000 for students who complete at least two years of college cleared a big hurdle Tuesday and was headed for final approval in the state House. The bigger scholarship would be available to high school seniors who will graduate in 2007. The plan, which Granholm called the most important issue before lawmakers, could be snagged in political deal-making as the lame-duck Legislature wraps up its final days before Dec. 31. After that, the bill would have to be re-introduced. But its near-unanimous approval Tuesday by the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee signaled its likely passage. The bill has already passed the Senate. House Speaker Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, said there could be a House vote on the bill this week, but said it's not a done deal yet. "There are some kinks and bugs we're concerned about," DeRoche said. He added, "We're examining it in the context of everything we intend to act on in the next five days." During her re-election campaign this year, Granholm called repeatedly for revamping the scholarship, saying it would help propel Michigan's economy with more college graduates. The plan would increase, from a maximum of $3,000 to $4,000, the Michigan Merit Award scholarship to help students attend any Michigan university or community college or technical training school. The full $4,000 would be paid only to students who complete either two years of a four-year degree program, or earn a two-year associates degree at a community college. The first $2,000 would be given during the first two years. Granholm has said that paying half of the scholarship after two years of college will discourage students from dropping out. The scholarship would also be available to students who don't score well on the state high school graduation test but who maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average in college. Currently, the Merit Award goes only to those who pass the high school MEAP test, which is soon to be replaced by a four-part state test. About half of high school students do not receive the scholarship, Granholm said Tuesday. Like the current Merit Award scholarship, the new grant program would be funded by money from the state's 1999 court settlement with tobacco companies over the ill effects of smoking. One legislative analysis showed that the new plan will cost the state $64 million a year more than the current plan within three years. Rep. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township, is a member of the House committee that approved Granholm's plan. He said that as a father with four children in college, he understands the significance of a $4,000 grant for students. He said the state could easily cover the extra cost. "That's a walk in the park," he said. At Seaholm High School in Birmingham on Tuesday, Granholm touted her plan to about 300 students, parents and teachers, noting that community colleges prepare students for skilled service jobs that can't be outsourced to other countries, such as nursing and auto mechanics. Only one-third of Michigan's adults have college degrees, Granholm said. She said increasing that percentage is key to attracting high-tech jobs. Chuck Wilbur, Granholm's chief education adviser, said the revised scholarship will send a message that young people need at least two years of college for economic success. "I don't think there's any question it will get more people into college and more will earn a degree," Wilbur said.

Panel: Bush Iraq "plan" isn't working

Panel: Bush Iraq policy 'not working' - Yahoo! News Panel: Bush Iraq policy 'not working' By ANNE PLUMMER FLAHERTY and DAVID ESPO, Associated Press Writers 16 minutes ago President Bush's policy in Iraq "is not working," a high-level commission said Wednesday in a blunt, bleak assessment that urged the administration to embrace diplomacy to stabilize the country and allow withdrawal of most combat troops by early 2008. After nearly four years of war and the deaths of more than 2,900 U.S. troops, the situation is "grave and deteriorating" and the United States' ability "to influence events within Iraq is diminishing," the commission warned. It recommended the U.S. reduce "political, military or economic support" for Iraq if the government in Baghdad cannot make substantial progress toward providing for its own security. The report said Bush should put aside misgivings and engage Syria, Iran and the leaders of insurgent forces in negotiations on Iraq's future, and urged him to revive efforts at a broader Middle East peace. Barring a significant change, it warned of a "slide toward chaos." On the highly emotional issue of troop withdrawals, the commission warned against either a precipitous pullback or an open-ended commitment to a large deployment. "Military priorities must change," the report said, toward a goal of training, equipping and advising Iraqi forces. "We should seek to complete the training and equipping mission by the end of the first quarter of 2008." The report intensifies pressure on Bush to change direction, but he is under no obligation to follow its recommendations. Still to come are options being developed in separate studies by the Pentagon, the State Department and the National Security Council. Bush could pick and choose among the proposals of all the reports. The White House says he will make decisions within weeks.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Detroit eyes Supreme Court cases

Detroit eyes Supreme Court cases Detroit eyes Supreme Court cases Activists fear return to inequality in schools December 4, 2006 BY CHASTITY PRATT FREE PRESS EDUCATION WRITER Activists, teachers and union members left Detroit for Washington, D.C., on Sunday to rally against two cases involving segregation in public schools that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear today. The cases involve parents in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., who say their children didn't get into the public schools of their choice because they are white. Those making the trek to Washington say they fear that if these parents win their cases, the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., which outlawed segregation in public schools, will be reversed, leading to more segregation and inequality nationwide. Michelle Gibson, a parent and organizer with the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said people in her group already fear the repercussions of last month's vote to end affirmative-action programs in Michigan's government contracts, hiring and higher education admissions. About 55 of them plan to rally and march at the Supreme Court and the Lincoln Memorial to support efforts toward desegregation. "What they're doing is trying to reverse Brown v. Board of Education, and if they do that, we go back to separate but unequal schools," Gibson said of the lawsuits. "It's necessary to uphold Brown." The Center for American Progress, a think tank based in Washington, released a report last week stating that minority students perform better in integrated schools. In the Seattle case, a high school student sought to attend a school that used race as a tie-breaker when too many students applied -- a system that ensured that the student population reflected the city's racial makeup. In Jefferson County, Ky., the school district established an enrollment plan in 2001 to ensure that schools would continue to be diverse after a judge dissolved a 30-year-old, court-ordered desegregation plan. The Supreme Court's nine justices are being asked to rule that programs using students' race as a factor in assigning them to a school violate the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equality. It will be the first time the court weighs in on racial policies since Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito joined the court. Both are former government lawyers who have not favored government-sponsored race-based policies. Alito's stance will be significant because he replaced retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. In 2003, her vote in the affirmative-action lawsuit involving the University of Michigan ensured that colleges attempting to achieve a diverse student body could consider an applicant's race. The Bush administration filed a court brief that supports the parents in the cases, stating that "the solution to addressing racial imbalance in communities ... is not to adopt race-conscious measures." Heather Miller, an organizer with the civil rights group By Any Means Necessary, said five buses of about 250 people -- mostly high school students -- left for Washington on Sunday night. "We have a unique perspective in Detroit, because we are living in the most segregated area in the country and we see the future of a Supreme Court ruling in favor of these," she said. "In the spirit of the 1950s and '60s, we're going to march through the streets and demand equality."

Bolton resigns from U.N.

Bush accepts Bolton's U.N. resignation - Yahoo! News Bush accepts Bolton's U.N. resignation By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House CorrespondentMon Dec 4, 11:48 AM ET Unable to win Senate confirmation, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton will step down when his temporary appointment expires within weeks, the White House said Monday. Bolton's nomination has languished in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for more than a year, blocked by Democrats and several Republicans. Sen. Lincoln Chafee (news, bio, voting record), a moderate Republican who lost in the midterm elections Nov. 7 that swept Democrats to power in both houses of Congress, was adamantly opposed to Bolton. Critics have questioned Bolton's brusque style and whether he could be an effective public servant who could help bring reform to the U.N. President Bush, in a statement, said he was "deeply disappointed that a handful of United States senators prevented Ambassador Bolton from receiving the up or down vote he deserved in the Senate." "They chose to obstruct his confirmation, even though he enjoys majority support in the Senate, and even though their tactics will disrupt our diplomatic work at a sensitive and important time," Bush said. "This stubborn obstructionism ill serves our country, and discourages men and women of talent from serving their nation." Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, said Bolton's departure could be a turning point for the administration. "With the Middle East on the verge of chaos and the nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea increasing, we need a United Nations ambassador who has the full support of Congress and can help rally the international community to tackle the serious threats we face," Kerry said. He said it was an opportunity for Bush to nominate an ambassador "who enjoys the support necessary to unite our country and the world and who can put results ahead of ideology." Bush gave Bolton the job temporarily in August 2005, while Congress was in recess. Under that process, the appointment expires when Congress formally adjourns, no later than early January. The White House resubmitted Bolton's nomination last month. But with Democrats capturing control of the next Congress, his chances of winning confirmation appeared slight. The incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, said he saw "no point in considering Mr. Bolton's nomination again." While Bush could not give Bolton another recess appointment, the White House was believed to be exploring other ways of keeping him in the job, perhaps by giving him a title other than ambassador. But Bolton informed the White House he intended to leave when his current appointment expires, White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said. Bush planned to meet with Bolton and his wife later Monday in the Oval Office. Bush said he accepted Bolton's decision with deep regret. "He served his country with extraordinary dedication and skill, assembling coalitions that addressed some of the most consequential issues facing the international community," the president said. "During his tenure, he articulately advocated the positions and values of the United States and advanced the expansion of democracy and liberty. "Ambassador Bolton led the successful negotiations that resulted in unanimous Security Council resolutions regarding North Korea's military and nuclear activities. He built consensus among our allies on the need for Iran to suspend the enrichment and reprocessing of uranium," Bush added. "His efforts to promote the cause of peace in Darfur resulted in a peacekeeping commitment by the United Nations. He made the case for United Nations reform because he cares about the institution, and wants it to become more credible and effective." Bolton, who pushed strongly for U.N. reform, has had strained relations with many in the U.N. Secretariat, led by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and has repeatedly called for all top U.N. officials to leave when Annan steps down as U.N. chief on Dec. 31 and is replaced by Ban Ki-moon. "I think Ambassador Bolton did the job he was expected to do," Annan said Monday morning when asked about Bolton's resignation. "He came at a time when we had lots of tough issues from reform to issues on Iran and North Korea. I think as a representative of the U.S, government, he pressed ahead with the instructions he had been given and tried to work as effectively as he could." As late as last month, Bush, through his top aides, said he would not relent in his defense of Bolton, despite unwavering opposition from Democrats who view Bolton as too combative for international diplomacy. In a letter to Bush, dated last Friday, Bolton offered no reason for his decision. "After careful consideration, I have concluded that my service in your administration should end when the current recess appoint expires," Bolton wrote.

Bush: worst ever?

He's The Worst Ever - washingtonpost.com He's The Worst Ever erBy Eric FonerSunday, December 3, 2006; Ever since 1948, when Harvard professor Arthur Schlesinger Sr. asked 55 historians to rank U.S. presidents on a scale from "great" to "failure," such polls have been a favorite pastime for those of us who study the American past. Changes in presidential rankings reflect shifts in how we view history. When the first poll was taken, the Reconstruction era that followed the Civil War was regarded as a time of corruption and misgovernment caused by granting black men the right to vote. As a result, President Andrew Johnson, a fervent white supremacist who opposed efforts to extend basic rights to former slaves, was rated "near great." Today, by contrast, scholars consider Reconstruction a flawed but noble attempt to build an interracial democracy from the ashes of slavery -- and Johnson a flat failure. More often, however, the rankings display a remarkable year-to-year uniformity. Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt always figure in the "great" category. Most presidents are ranked "average" or, to put it less charitably, mediocre. Johnson, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Richard M. Nixon occupy the bottom rung, and now President Bush is a leading contender to join them. A look at history, as well as Bush's policies, explains why. At a time of national crisis, Pierce and Buchanan, who served in the eight years preceding the Civil War, and Johnson, who followed it, were simply not up to the job. Stubborn, narrow-minded, unwilling to listen to criticism or to consider alternatives to disastrous mistakes, they surrounded themselves with sycophants and shaped their policies to appeal to retrogressive political forces (in that era, pro-slavery and racist ideologues). Even after being repudiated in the midterm elections of 1854, 1858 and 1866, respectively, they ignored major currents of public opinion and clung to flawed policies. Bush's presidency certainly brings theirs to mind. Harding and Coolidge are best remembered for the corruption of their years in office (1921-23 and 1923-29, respectively) and for channeling money and favors to big business. They slashed income and corporate taxes and supported employers' campaigns to eliminate unions. Members of their administrations received kickbacks and bribes from lobbyists and businessmen. "Never before, here or anywhere else," declared the Wall Street Journal, "has a government been so completely fused with business." The Journal could hardly have anticipated the even worse cronyism, corruption and pro-business bias of the Bush administration. Despite some notable accomplishments in domestic and foreign policy, Nixon is mostly associated today with disdain for the Constitution and abuse of presidential power. Obsessed with secrecy and media leaks, he viewed every critic as a threat to national security and illegally spied on U.S. citizens. Nixon considered himself above the law. Bush has taken this disdain for law even further. He has sought to strip people accused of crimes of rights that date as far back as the Magna Carta in Anglo-American jurisprudence: trial by impartial jury, access to lawyers and knowledge of evidence against them. In dozens of statements when signing legislation, he has asserted the right to ignore the parts of laws with which he disagrees. His administration has adopted policies regarding the treatment of prisoners of war that have disgraced the nation and alienated virtually the entire world. Usually, during wartime, the Supreme Court has refrained from passing judgment on presidential actions related to national defense. The court's unprecedented rebukes of Bush's policies on detainees indicate how far the administration has strayed from the rule of law. One other president bears comparison to Bush: James K. Polk. Some historians admire him, in part because he made their job easier by keeping a detailed diary during his administration, which spanned the years of the Mexican-American War. But Polk should be remembered primarily for launching that unprovoked attack on Mexico and seizing one-third of its territory for the United States. Lincoln, then a member of Congress from Illinois, condemned Polk for misleading Congress and the public about the cause of the war -- an alleged Mexican incursion into the United States. Accepting the president's right to attack another country "whenever he shall deem it necessary," Lincoln observed, would make it impossible to "fix any limit" to his power to make war. Today, one wishes that the country had heeded Lincoln's warning. Historians are loath to predict the future. It is impossible to say with certainty how Bush will be ranked in, say, 2050. But somehow, in his first six years in office he has managed to combine the lapses of leadership, misguided policies and abuse of power of his failed predecessors. I think there is no alternative but to rank him as the worst president in U.S. history.