LAST WEEK WAS a perfectly lousy one for the citizens of the state of Michigan, who were repeatedly victimized by the Republicans that control state government — at all levels.
If you are a woman, or if you care about honesty, democracy or fairness of any kind, the Michigan Legislature voted to give you a Christmas kick in the teeth — and a bag of shit.
There was a time, not all that long ago, when you could count on some members of the GOP to remember their progressive roots, especially in social justice issues. Not anymore.
It doesn’t mean, of course, that Democrats are our saviors. Plenty of them are mealy-mouthed, venial, subject to being bought off, and, at all levels, not very smart.
But the GOP assholes running this state are ramming laws and policies through the legislature whose effects on people will be authentically evil. They’ve been at this, of course, for years: we’ve already got right-to-work; tens of thousands of children cut off from cash assistance for life; cuts to education at all levels; and countless other atrocities.
Then last week, as I predicted, the legislature passed a law that prevents insurance companies from offering insurance that covers abortions, even in the case of rape and incest.
If you want “rape insurance,” or protection in case you have a health-threatening pregnancy, you will have to buy a special supplemental rider, and you won’t be able to get it after something bad happens to you.
This is, of course, monstrously unjust, but Speaker of the House Jase Bolger couldn’t care less. Nor could most of the other sleek, complacent men in the legislature.
Some Democrats acted as if their colleagues had minds that could be opened, if facts were presented to them in honest debate. State Rep. Collene Lamonte told her fellow lawmakers that she had to have an emergency procedure years ago when she was three months pregnant and began hemorrhaging.
The procedure that possibly saved her life, and certainly saved her ability to have children in the future, was automatically covered by insurance then. This bill would take that away.
“Had this law been in place, I would have been denied this life-saving procedure, that protected my ability to have children,” she told them, her voice breaking with emotion.
Her testimony had absolutely no impact on the legislators, a majority of whom are deep in the pockets of the fanatic anti-abortion lobby, Right to Life of Michigan. Actually, they want Right to Life to keep stuffing their pockets with campaign contributions.
However, it’s worse than that: Those who voted for this law voted to spit on democracy itself. That’s because legislation that would have outlawed automatic insurance coverage of abortion was already approved for next year’s ballot.
The people – us – would have had a chance to vote on whether they wanted this or not. But the anti-abortion fanatics do not trust the voters (or give a shit what they want). They let the lawmakers know this and the Legislators voted as Right to Life of Michigan told them to vote.
Otherwise, well, they might have had to face primary opponents funded lavishly by Right to Life. (Screw the people!)
The next thing your lawmakers did was even more anti-democratic. They gleefully passed a campaign finance law designed to allow the rich to not only control our elections, but to do it in secret. Senate Bill 661 does two bad things:
First, it doubles the amount of money citizens can give to a candidate for office, to $6,800, for someone running statewide. That means even more reasons for your local politicians to kiss the rings of the rich.
But that’s not the really terrible thing it does. The worst part is this: For years, Michigan has allowed so-called “issue-oriented ads” to run without the sponsors being required to reveal where the money comes from.
You can keep who is paying for your ads secret, as long as you don’t tell someone to vote for a candidate. Legally, you could get millions from the Russian Communist Party and funnel it into an organization called I Love My Mommy.
I Love My Mommy could then spend millions for broadcast ads smearing Rick Snyder, implying that he was a Communist Muslim born in Kenya who hates Jesus, etc., etc.
All you have to reveal is that the ad was “paid for by I Love My Mommy.” Does that sound absurd? It isn’t.
Three-quarters of the money spent on our state Supreme Court races is so-called “dark” money. Half of all the spending on other statewide races in 2010 was secret and undisclosed — a percentage that continues to go up exponentially.
This is so manifestly unfair that Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, herself a conservative Republican, said last month she was thinking about requiring disclosure. Republicans in Lansing squealed like the stuck pigs they are and immediately moved to legally prevent her from doing so.
They passed the bill, but Gov. Rick Snyder has — as of press time on Monday — not yet signed it. Rich Robinson, head of the non-partisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network, noted that this is a defining moral and ethical test for the governor.
Indeed, when Snyder ran for office, he promised to stand for transparency and accountability. If he meant it, if there was anything to his promise to govern ethically, he’ll have to veto this bill.
Plagiarism at the Oakland Press
NORMALLY, PLAGIARISM IS a firing offense in journalism. Except, that is, if you are Glenn Gilbert, the executive editor of the Pontiac-based Oakland Press. Last week, he got caught doing it himself.
What’s worse, he copied the work of one of his former interns, Zack Colman, now a reporter at the Washington Examiner. Jennifer Peebles, managing editor/digital of the Examiner, revealed in a published story that Gilbert copied large sections of a piece Colman did on the wind energy tax.
Not paraphrased, but copied it word for word.
This was first reported on the prestigious Poynter Institute website. According to the managing editor, when Peebles called Gilbert to confront him about ripping off her reporter, he refused to apologize and said, “I thought you’d be flattered.”
Eventually he did e-mail a sort of mealy-mouthed apology, saying: “Our intention was not to slight the Examiner’s contribution and we regret any inappropriate attribution.”
Don’t you love that royal “Our?” Gilbert is, however, unlikely to be mistaken for the Queen of England in journalistic circles.
Glenn Gilbert was brought to town by the frequently bankrupt Journal-Register Company seven years ago, then proceeded to dismantle an excellent news operation built by two fine former editors, Bill Thomas and Garry Gilbert (no relation).
Gilbert-the-lesser fired three of the paper’s top editors, people who each had been there for more than 30 years, and has helped send the newspaper on a downward spiral far deeper than its peer publications. Fortunately, he is apparently going to retire.
And while it may be true that Glenn Gilbert has never made any positive contributions to journalism, we should keep an open mind about his plagiarism. After all, he may have been only trying to clumsily come up with a new way for newspaper companies to cut expenses: Steal from other newspapers.
My recommendation (I almost said “Our,” but I have no pretense to royalty) is that newspapers instead reprint works already in the public domain. Starting with Homer’s Odyssey. At any rate, it ends better than the odyssey of Gilbert-the-minor’s minor career.