Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thursday MI PoliLinks

Yup. The always creative Curmudgeon has come up with a spicy name for the daily posting of internet links: MI PoliLinks.
Of course this has absolutely nothing to do with the weekly Michigan PoliCast, a half-hour chat involving the Curmudgeon and two great ladies, Amy Kerr Hardin and Christine Barry. Purely coincidental.

No explanation needed
Another Aramark Mess: Raw Meat for Dinner

Governor Rick Snyder stands behind his decision to privatize prison food services, turning it over to the Philadelphia-based company Aramark. You see, Rick Snyder is a businessman, and he knows the private sector always does things better and more efficiently because government is inherently wasteful and evil and all that. Their laser-sharp focus on making big profits means they will spare no expense in doing the job right.
Except, time and time again, Aramark screws up.
Tonight's entree: undercooked chicken
The latest revelation: a fired Aramark prison food worker has filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, stating she was canned for complaining about phony record-keeping practices and poor kitchen health and food safety standards.
She specifically claims that she was forced to serve meat that was raw or undercooked.
A company spokesperson told the Detroit Free Press the allegations are "another example in the long-running series of manufactured attacks against our company."

Snyder Shell Game Exposed

Yah, we've heard all the charges and counter-charges on funding for K-12 education in the state. Michigan Public Radio got to the bottom of the story with someone who, for years, was trusted by everyone in the Michigan House of Representatives to tell it straight: retired House Fiscal Agency Director Mitch Bean.
And Mitch says all the shuffling and rewriting of line items has allowed the Governor to basically hide cuts in support for K-12 classrooms that amounts to around $1-billion a year ... more than half of what was lost in the Snyder business tax cut.
Snyder is a CPA and, apparently, a really good one. Good CPAs can both reveal and hide the truth about finances (just ask any Hollywood star whose profit-participation in a movie never materialized thanks to accounting gimmicks).
You can listen to the interview here.

David Trott: Merchant of Misery

Lawyer David Trott made multiple millions of dollars evicting people from their homes. Working on behalf of oftentimes crooked, moral-free banks, Trott processed evictions. Sometimes he did it by cutting corners or forging signatures or misplacing critical paperwork, but he got the job done.
Now this protector of banks wants to represent the people he victimized ... and the other good souls of southern Oakland County ... in the U.S. Congress. Bobby McKenzie is making sure the voters know about the ethics, morals and priorities of his millionaire opponent with a stunning TV ad.

Mike Bishop: Bought and Paid For

Jack Lessenberry pulls no punches in recounting the history of former state Senate GOP Leader Mike Bishop, who fought tooth-and-nail against a new international bridge linking Detroit and Windsor. Virtually everybody who isn't on Ambassador Bridge billionaire Matty Maroun's payroll has supported the new bridge (how many times to the automakers, UAW, Detroit Chamber, AFL-CIO and Rick Snyder agree on a major issue?).
The Bridge Billionaire is good at writing checks if it
helps him get his way
The problem is that Bishop, as a senator and beyond, has been on the Maroun payroll through the legalized bribery of big-time campaign contributions.
Bishop, you may recall, was the obstructionist who triggered two shutdowns of state government to make a point. He didn't like Jennifer Granholm's budget proposals to tide Michigan over during the state recession and Bishop wanted to make that point. Both times, after a brief shutdown, Bishop finally was willing to build a compromise with the Governor.
Just what we need in Congress: an ideologue who can be bought with campaign contributions, and who thinks shutting down the government is a great bargaining tool.

Mike Bishop: Fabricator of Half-Truths and Lies

The Michigan Truth Squad has issued a "Foul" for Bishop's TV ad in the congressional campaign, taking issue with everything Bishop claims in the 30-seconds ... both the nice things about his own alleged accomplishments, and his attacks on Democrat Eric Schertzing:
If Truth Squad could create the category, "incredibly extreme warning," it would do so for nearly every statement in this video. This ad almost brilliantly straddles the line between eye-rolling warning and slam-dunk foul.
Most of the ad, the Truth Squad says, is overstated hyperbole. And the claim that Schertzing tripled his own staff is an out-and-out lie: it was an increase approved by the Ingham County Commission before Schertzing took office.

Upton Has Some 'Splainin to Do

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Whirlpool) has been threatening donors to the MayDay PAC, which is running TV ads blasting him because
Fred Upton has failed to hold oil companies like BP and Enbridge accountable when they spilled massive amounts of oil in the Gulf and in the Kalamazoo River, instead leaving taxpayers to pay for the clean up. At the same time, Upton owns as much as 250 thousand dollars in BP and Exxon stock and he’s taken over one-point-six million dollars in campaign money from big polluters like oil and gas companies.
Upton voted to give tax breaks to companies that ship American jobs overseas to countries like China and India. He also supports unfair trade laws like NAFTA that have sent thousands of Michigan jobs overseas.
Upton puts himself and his wealthy donors ahead of regular folks in southwest Michigan. Upton voted to protect perks for himself like taxpayer-funded health care for life, first class airfare, and he voted to give himself and the rest of Congress pay raises even though Congress isn’t getting the job done. He even voted to exempt Congressional insiders from insider trading laws, so his political friends can get rich quick from their work in Congress.
Upton voted to slash Medicare benefits in order to pay for tax cuts for the millionaires who fund his campaign. He voted to replace Medicare with a voucher that would not fully cover medical costs and force seniors to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket to insurance companies, a huge gift to the insurance companies that fund his campaign.
Fred Upton is best known as
Kate's uncle ... and for inheriting
millions as a Whirlpool heir
Upton (and staffers) reportedly have been calling executives of Silicon Valley tech companies to whine about their contributions of MayDay PAC. Since he chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee has a lot of clout, the those calls would seem to be, uh, illegal or at least in violation of House Rules.
Now, the American Democracy Legal Fund is calling for a full investigation. In a letter to the Staff Director of the Office of Congressional Ethics Ethics, the ADLF says:
These calls appear to violate House rules. As you know, the House Ethics Manual states that members and staff are "not to take or withhold any official action on the basis of campaign contributions or support of the involved individuals or their partisan affiliation." Members and staff are also "prohibited from threatening punitive action on the basis of such considerations."
It shouldn't matter what party is in power when it comes to the running of elections. 
Fair elections are fundamental to our democracy. Elections should be all about allowing ALL citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote without intimidation, and without unnecessary impediments to discourage them. Politicians should not have the power to meddle with that fundamental right.
Chris Christie, the ethically challenged Governor of one of the more corrupt states ... and chairman of the Republican Governors Association ... feels otherwise. He vetoed legislation which would have allowed early voting in New Jersey, he is critical of same-day registration, and he manipulated last year's Senate special election (at great cost to the taxpayers) to make it easier for him to win reelection. 
Christie asked the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington on Tuesday:
“Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist? Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?”
Implicit in Christie's question is the supposition that governors should meddle in the administration of elections for the benefit of Republicans. Sadly, this is the mindset that allowed George W. Bush to "win" in Florida (and thus become President) in 2000 and, according to critics, allowed a Republican administration to manipulate Ohio voting precincts in 2004 to allow Bush's reelection.
Michigan has a history of elections relatively free of overt political manipulation. Even our Voter I.D. law, which is totally unnecessary since it fixes a problem that never existed, is relatively liberal when compared to other states (you can vote with an I.D. by simply signing an affidavit attesting to your identity).
Yet Michigan still doesn't have early voting, nor "no-reason" absentee voting. When Terri Lynn Land was Secretary of State, she attempted to purge up to 800,000 voters from the registration lists. Her efforts were rebuffed (in part) by a federal court.
Elections need to be taken away from elected politicians. A presidential election shouldn't be supervised by a state official who doubles as campaign chair for one of the candidates (e.g. Florida 2000, Kathleen Harris; Ohio 2004, Ken Blackwell). And Congress needs to enact laws requiring basic standards for voting in federal elections relating to:
  • registration requirements
  • absent-voter requirements
  • early voting options
  • safeguards to prevent long lines at polling places
  • uniform procedures for audits and recounts
  • readability standards for physical ballots
  • certification of vote-counting equipment
If we lose faith in the honesty of our elections, we lose our democracy. It's that simple.

Fighting Corporate Tax Dodging

They make their profits in the United States, then move the profits to another country to avoid paying taxes. These companies are O.K. with using the services of the government to train their employees, provide them with protection, build roads, bridges and sewers, and even protect their stuff from Somali pirates when it's being shipped. They just don't want to help pay the bills.
If you or I did it as individuals, we'd have the IRS all over us and might even end up in jail for tax evasion. Multi-national corporations get away with it because they have the lobbying/political clout to get special treatment in the tax code.
State Representative Andy Schor (D-Lansing) has introduced House Bill 5920 to would prohibit the allowance of a loan, grant, incentive or other economic assistance to a business that has undergone a tax inversion within the previous 10 years. Tax inversion means that a business has relocated its corporate headquarters to a lower tax country while maintaining its material operations in the United States.
“Tax inversion is nothing more than dodging taxes, and we should not provide economic development incentives to any company that would practice this,” Schor said. 
“Abuse of the system is something we shouldn’t stand for in Michigan, especially as our economy starts to get on its feet. Financial assistance in Michigan should be reserved for companies that pay taxes in Michigan, assuring appropriate state and local services can be provided. This proactive legislation will ensure that bad actors in the business community are not rewarded with financial advantages over businesses that are paying their taxes and helping provide education, public safety and services in Michigan.”
One recent prominent example of tax inversion is Burger King, which is in talks to buy Tim Hortons and will result in moving their headquarters out of the United States to a lower tax country. U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has spoken out against tax inversion since the Burger King deal was announced in August, pushing for reforms at the federal level. He has sponsored legislation, but that has not yet been taken up by Congress.
While Schor doesn't mention it, there is some irony in the fact that one of the largest Burger King franchise owners in Michigan is a company co-owned by Michigan Republican Party Chair Bobby Schostak.  (The Schostak restaurant empire also helps explain why the Michigan GOP has fought efforts to raise the minimum wage.)

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