Lansing has a primary election next week

July 31, 2015 by  
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Following Lansing politics has, in the past, been more a hobby than actual work, but this year the time hasn't been there to give it any real attention. Whatevs, not my town. Next week's primary sort of snuck up on me. If it's any real consolation, I have a conflict, anyway, with Emily Dievendorf running. I've chatted more with her about Hemingway and fishing and the weird fairy ring in her yard than any of the rest of you losers, so I'm probably biased.

That said, a couple of things pop up, like the race in the third ward where the incumbent has pulled a Dennis Lennox.

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said yesterday she is looking into several possible violations of state campaign law. But the bigger issue may be an ethical one over Boles’ use of city funds to send a newsletter to select constituents in the last weeks of the campaign. 

She sent two newsletters with public funds, the first one sent to a random group of absentee ballot voters, and the second to a random group of primary day voters. The timing certainly stinks to high heaven if it's not illegal.

The second thing that pops up does so in this basic, standard piece of campaign journalism ... demonstrating why basic, standard campaign journalism is usually so utterly worthless.

As the only at-large incumbent seeking re-election, Wood has served on council since 2000. She has served on and chaired every council committee..

Ignore, for a second, the crime against grammar. Part of the joy of following Lansing city politics has always been Carol Wood's curious relationship to the English language. It pains me to say this, although there is probably not a chance in hell that she loses (the rap on her is that she does very well at delivering for her constituents), but people's tenuous grasp on language guidelines is an appropriate campaign thing. But, no one ever makes it so. Why? Probably because it's considered mean and elitist. For horrible people like me, who don't care, that's no real impediment; but voters at large should b permitted to take someone's ability to communicate coherently into account. After all, this person respresents them.


Should the Michigan Democratic Party change the name of the Jeff-Jack dinner?

July 29, 2015 by  
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The Atlantic had a story yesterday hooked on the Democratic Party in Connecticut dropping Jefferson and Jackson as the namesakes of their annual big fund raising dinner. It's for pretty obvious, straightforward reasons I think most everyone would agree. The question is whether this is something the Michigan Democratic Party will follow up by doing itself*.

The case against Jackson is also pretty much a no brainer. Despite some of the things he did as a chief administrator, he was also racist in a very big, clear way. It's a bit more muddled for Jefferson.

*--If past is any guide, they will take it up, make such an utter hash of it as to drive down voter enthusiasm in 2016, 2018 and 2020 and probably start a dumpster fire along the way.


Legal weed a ballot lock, if our ongoing experiment in the Dunning-Kruger doesn’t fuck it up first

July 27, 2015 by  
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This is good news.

ROYAL OAK, Mich. -It looks like Michigan voters will be deciding whether they want to legalize marijuana in 2016.

Nearly 40,000 signatures have been collected in just 12 days as part of a push to get the issue on the ballot. There are two ballot proposals which have seen language approved by the state board of canvassers, but only one has language drafted by the brightest minds in Lansing. And only one has the premier signature-gathering firm in the country on the ground in Michigan.

Accordng to the story, it's above 50 percent wthout anyone tryng to sell it. Anyone remember polling on medical marijuana at this stage of the game? Seems to me that was also above 50 percent, maybe even closer to 60 percent before passing by two-thirds majority (this didn't stop Bill Schuette from trying to legislate against it using his office and an attorneys general rulng and an interpretation of the marketplace that does not jibe with any interpretation held elsewhere on this planet.

There's another story bopping around today about our ongoing experiment in the Dunning-Kruger effect might take a whack at legalizing it or at least liberalizing the rules for medical marijuana dispensaries. My guess is that once they're finished with it, they'll have done such a hash job that possession of half a gram will be a capitol offense.


Money costs for defending same sex marriage bigotry could go up by a cool two million

July 27, 2015 by  
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This popped up on social media over the weekend.

Detroit — Lawyers for a Hazel Park couple who helped legalize same-sex marriage across the nation asked a federal judge Saturday to force the state to pay more than $1.9 million in legal fees.

The request puts a price-tag on the state of Michigan’s failed opposition to a landmark case that lasted more than three years. It comes almost exactly one month after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in the United States.

It doesn't quite put a price tag on the state's failed defense of the same sex marriage ban. It puts a potential partial price tag on it. It only represents a request by the plaintiffs to a judge to make the state reimburse their costs in bringing the state. That is, it represents costs above and beyond what Michigan's Finest Legal Mind squandered in taxpayer dollars in directly defending it.

It would make compelling journalism to find out exactly how much money it cost the state's taxpayer's to do that. I wish we had media outlets that claimed to be government watchdogs and that felt that this sort of work was part of their charge.


Ken Brock, RIP

July 24, 2015 by  
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Consider this an open thread of sorts. I might have met Ken Brock once, but I did it was a long, long time ago in Mark Schauer's office over lunch. Others knew him very well.

Of course the Republican Party is happy to have Donald Trump visit Michigan

July 21, 2015 by  
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Donald Trump said something inflammatory and stupid about John McCain's military service a few days back, and everyone said it was time for Donald Trump to go away. That won't happen, of course, because the kind of people who think that Donald Trump is wonderful -- based on polls, lots of uneducated white people (the Republican Party base) -- thought it was great back in 2004 to attack John Kerry's military service. They didn't just attack it, they openly ridiculed it by wearing little bandages. For some reason, Michigan's political media is weirded out by this.

Despite his controversial statements over the weekend, presidential candidate Donald Trump will still be the featured speaker at the Lincoln Day dinner put on by Genesee and Saginaw counties on Aug. 11.

“I’ve been hearing from both sides and a lot more people are excited about him coming,” said Michael Moon, chairman of the Genesee County GOP. “I don’t agree with what Mr. Trump said, but I’ll defend his right to say it.”

These are the same people who selected and have retained as their national committeeman a guy who thinks that gays connived to defraud American Airlines into extending same sex domestic partner benefits to homosexuals because they all die of AIDS by 35, who said that no Muslim has made a positive contribution to American society, and made racist remarks to a Tea Party gathering at a casino on a Native American reservation just this year. Why would slurring the military service of a guy hated by a lot of these people as too accommodating be a bridge too far?

The more important question is whether Michigan's political media has paid attention to how the party in control of the state's policy making machinery has unmoored itself from reality and common standards of decency?


That thing that happened at Netroots Nation the other night

July 20, 2015 by  
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Yesterday morning, most of us awoke to news that out at Netroots Nation a bunch of activists stormed the main event -- a candidate's forum with two people running for the Dem nomination for president -- and essentially took over the thing. The candidates were asked highly insulting and leading questions, more stuff happened and eventually Bernie Sanders got mad. It's not our usual stuff here, since this is about Michigan, even though another Michigan blogger posted something that lots of people were sharing.

The entire thing -- the takeover, the blog post, everything -- was really dumb, mostly because taking a Black Lives Matter message to a convention of political progressives is the very definition of preaching to the choir. On top of that, anyone who says they learned something genuine about the "black experience" sitting through it is every bit as self-delusional as anyone who thought the same after watching The Wire. Anyway, I posted about it to social media, conversed with some folks, and figured that was good enough.

Until Chad Selweski got ahold of it. This is his headline.

Even Bernie Sanders is not liberal enough for the Democratic left

Now, you have to forgive Chad a bit. He's a bit of a centrist bomb thrower from Macomb County. He genuinely believes that both sides are always equally guilty and that both parties are equally subject to pressure from their fringes. In the past, he's accused me of radicalism for some reason, and thinks that anyone who speaks from a clear perspective is a partisan hack ideologue. So it's not terribly surprising that he'd take Saturday night as a sign that Bernie Sanders is not liberal enough tor the Democratic left. Because to a centrist, we are all the same thing.

However, Chad, let me assure you of something. The folks on Saturday night don't speak for the "Democratic left." I know this because I hail from those corners (albeit not from the "Democratic" portion of it). These people mostly were just taken by a foolish impulse (or they could have been pro-Hillary agent provacateurs for all I know). It's not that Bernie Sanders is not liberal enough for the Democratic left. It's that a handful of activists hijacked a convention event for themselves.

And, while we're on that topic, this is one of the biggest reasons why the Netroots has lost almost all of its influence. Sorry folks, but I've watched it happen from the inside. I've never been to a Netroots Nation, but it used to be a must-attend event for everyone else. This year, someone asked who was attending on social media and the response by basically everyone was, "That's still a thing?" Saturday night was a perfect symbol for why ... a lot of misdirected rage. I also understand that it's not uncommon for speakers at the big Saturday night thing to get yelled at. When all you can do is shout, you get tuned out. Also, if guests expect rude treatment from the audience, you can expect fewer of people with any real influence to show up.

I'm hardly a person who'd tell you to sit down and shut up while the adults are talking, especially in the face of injustice. On the other hand, I saw that someone demanded from Martin O'Malley his immediate answer on what he'd do to end systemic racism in the United States. Well, that's a simple question to answer on the spot, isn't it? Why not also ask him how he'd resolve the Arab-Israeli question. And, again, this is a convention filled with (mostly) die-hard progressives. At the end of the day, activists stormed the stage in front of a crowd of the converted and excoriated two people whose careers have mostly been aligned with your message. It's stuff like this that I hold up as reasons why progressives get routinely smoked on Election Day.

P.S. One last thing. Just to revisit this weekend's Open Thread topic ... this is why Bernie Sanders isn't Barack Obama. Bernise Sanders appeal to educated white people because he shares their philosophy. Hillary Clinton appeals to minority groups because she projects concern about the meat-and-potatoes issues that concern them, like education and crime. Barack Obama was able to upend her because a) he appeared across the board and b) he had a superior strategy and organization. That activists felt comfortable humiliating Bernie Sanders is a sign that Sanders is not gaining a lot of traction in minority groups.


Some people who are running for office next year: Brian Elder and my man Jake

July 20, 2015 by  
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Got a press release last night from Brian Elder's campaign manager. He's running for the Democratic nomination for the 96th House District. I think this is a second attempt for him. Leastways, he bought me coffee once a few years back to talk about his campaign.

Also, Jake Davison, who last week on Off the Record with me, has announced that he is challenging professional loon Todd Courser for the Republican nomination in the 82nd District. Actually, that's a bit off.Courser hasn't actually announced his intentions to run for re-election. He might run for Congress beacause of course.


Bernie Sanders popularity with educated liberals will not win him the nomination

July 17, 2015 by  
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It's great that Bernie Sanders is running for the Democratic nomination. Unlike a lot of the Republicans, it's not apparent that he's out for himself and to fleece campaign donors. And, it's always great to force the Democratic Party actually left, rather than the fake left that the Beltway media says it is moving (this is actually moving right a lot more slowly than the Republican Party). But, folks, let's not go nuts.

In a recent Michigan poll, 57 percent of likely Democratic primary voters backed Clinton, compared to 25 percent for Sanders, 5 percent for Lincoln Chafee, 2 percent for Jim Webb and 1 percent for Martin O'Malley.

But the poll was actually good news for Sanders, who remains a major underdog.

No, that poll is not good news for Bernie Sanders. It just means he is getting creamed a lot less bad in Michigan than elsewhere.

Here are two additional reasons why this is not good news for Bernie Sanders: 1. Hillary Clinton is not going to repeat her mistakes of 2008, and 2. Bernie Sanders is not Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders is a lot more like Howard Dean. His candidacy will generate some headlines and some flash, and then Hillary Clinton's campaign will crush it under years of experience and money.


Harold Haugh cares not that your sleep was interrupted two weeks ago

July 14, 2015 by  
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There are a lot of terrible things about observing and writing about state politics: The crushing number of absolute phonies you meet, the mindless arguments for and against various laws, the convenitional wisdom of the political and media elite, the puffery, the unnecessary dramas, etc... Probably the worst is that oftentimes it falls into cycles that become so god awful boring that it drives a feller to drink.

I give you the evolving pattern on Michigan's liberalized fireworks law: In the run-up to July 4, tents spring up and abandoned buildings take on very temporary tenants, and we hear about the coming holiday. And by the way, the holiday is now being consumed by fireworks. We no longer talk about July 4 as Independence Day. We now talk about it in terms of, "Jesus Christ, where is the dog going to hide this year?" Then, two days before and two days after, everyone talks about the obnoxious neighbors shooting off fireworks at all hours of the night. Yes, I know, the state amended the law to stop that kind of thing so they can wash their hands of it. Out here in the real world, however, people ignore the law and the cops have other things to do at 2 a.m., like arresting drunks driving home from the bar, than go roust kids shooting off fireworks in school parking lots (or in the middle of the fucking street right outside my open window). Then, in the aftermath, the state's editorial boards all -- in unison (including the Detroit News) -- that the law needs to be changed for the sake of the pets, and the kiddos and the war veterans suffering from PTSD. To this pattern, we can probably add the follow up reportage in which Harold Haugh, who authored the new law in 2011, gives everyone the middle finger.

In an interview with Bridge, Haugh said he has no regrets about his legislation, which legalized the sale in Michigan of high-powered, high-volume fireworks previously available for purchase only across the border, in states such as Ohio and Indiana. He noted that the law achieved its three stated goals: Creating jobs, generating new tax revenue, and putting vacant buildings back to use with fireworks vendors.

Yes, the Almighty bar to measure good and bad: Has it created jobs? I'll leave it to you, dear reader, to figure out just how many of those jobs are actually full-time jobs, and how many of abandoned buildings are filled full time with fireworks stores (my guess is that it's as many as there were back in the early 90s when velvet Elvis paintings were all the parking lot vendor tent rage).

Let us pause on our way out of this sad mess to reflect on this.

The vendors who have benefited from the 2011 law assert that, while some people hate the airborne arsenals, the public overall is speaking with their dollars. Business is booming.

Actually, a very tiny minority within the public is speaking with their dollars. If the public at large were doing so, the demand for fireworks would be great enough to warrant vendors to strike their tents and set up shop in storefronts. But, you get the point, to our elected leaders if there's a buck to be made, we want that to happen even if in inconveniences everyone else.


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