The War on “Happy Holidays”

War on Christmas? Really? What the heck is it with conservatives and their outrage that people dare to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”? That’s what I say. This year, Hanukkah is December 20-28. Kwanzaa is December 26. I have lots of friends who are Jewish and a bunch that celebrate Kwanzaa as well. I even have some solidly atheist friends who still celebrate this as a holiday season. There are plenty of people from all walks of life celebrating this holiday season and I wish them all a joyous greeting when I say “Happy Holidays!”

This really struck home for me during the Republican debate this week.…

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Michigan Republicans vote to turn down federal money to create statewide health exchange

Republicans got very, very busy in the short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. One of the things House Republicans did was to vote to turn down federal funds for creating a statewide health exchange to help make health care insurance available to all Michiganders.

In an action with major implications for health reform in Michigan, the state House has voted to turn down — at least for now — nearly $10 million in federal funds to create a statewide health exchange by 2014 to sell more affordable, standardized health insurance to consumers and small businesses.

The action, considered a victory for opponents of federal health reforms, means Michigan “runs the risk of falling behind other states” planning the health exchanges, said Steve Hilfinger, director of Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Insurance Regulation.

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66 elected Democrats send letter to Snyder decrying Emergency Manager law

Not only are Senators Stabenow & Levin asking Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to reconsider his imposition of Emergency Managers on cities around the state, 66 elected officials, all Democrats, have sent a letter of their own (pdf).

Although we come to this matter from a variety of differing perspectives and ideologies, we all share in the belief that applications of the Emergency Manager Law have the potential to irreparably and irreversibly undermine both voting and collective bargaining rights in our State. Democracy is the cornerstone of our Nation and the fundamental principle upon which all of our other rights and liberties are premised.…
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The new official First Family portrait

Now this is a fine-looking First Family:

The photo was taken by White House super-photographer Pete Souza. The last one was taken by photographer Annie Leibovitz two years ago.

My, my, those two kids are growing like weeds. They’re going to be a couple of very beautiful women, just like their mom.

So proud.

[From the White House blog]

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Senators Stabenow and Levin urge Rick Snyder to reconsider Emergency Manager law

In a letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin are urging the governor to reconsider the Emergency Manager law, citing constitutional concerns and its divisive nature.

December 14, 2011

Govemor Rick Snyder
P.O. Box 3001i
Lansing, Michigan 48909

Dear Governor Snyder,
We are writing to express our concern regarding the state’s Emergency Financial Manager law. We are deeply concerned about how this law is igniting tensions in our local communities and dividing our state.

Michigan’s strength is its diversity. Throughout our state’s history we have thrived when we work together to solve problems, This law runs counter to this cooperative spirit and is sending the wrong message to the rest of the country about what our state stands for.

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Friday night fun: Yoga with a cat

I’m in Ithaca, New York this weekend and tired from a 9-hour drive so instead of my usual Eclectablather, I offer you this amazing video.

She’s really, really good at Sun Salutations. So’s the lady.…

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Michigan Republicans pass bill to ensure cities under Emergency Mgrs remain under state control

In the increasingly likely event that Michigan Forward and Stand Up For Democracy secure enough petition signatures for the referendum to repeal Public Act 4, the law immediately goes on hold. This leaves the question “what now?” Will the previous law go back into effect or, because PA 4 replaced that law, will there simply be no law allowing for Emergency Managers for nearly-bankrupt cities?

Yesterday, in what they are calling a move to allow for a “soft landing” for cities and school districts after the departure of an Emergency Manger (EM), Senate Republicans passed SB 865. As I have written before, this bill has the following features:

The bill would create a new act to do the following, with respect to a local government (a municipal government or a school district) for which an emergency manager had been appointed under the Local Government and School District Financial Accountability Act:
  • Authorize the Governor to remove the local government from receivership or appoint a receivership transition advisory board, if the local government’s financial emergency had been rectified.
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Jonathan Mahler publishes important piece about Benton Harbor

For most of the summer, Jonathan Mahler has been working on an article for the New York Times Magazine about Benton Harbor. At one point, my wife and I met him there over pizza and beers to give him a bit of our perspective, primarily as outside observers unhappy with the new powers granted the city’s Emergency Manager Joe Harris.

The piece will be published this weekend in print form and is now available online. It is titled “Now That the Factories Are Closed, It’s Tee Time in Benton Harbor, Mich.”

I think it is a very well-researched and well-written piece.…

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