Archive | October 5, 2012

Michigan Ballot Proposals 2012: How I’m Going to Vote, and How You Should, Too

This year’s Michigan ballot sports a whopping 6 ballot proposals. As a public service, I’m going to run through them, tell you how I’m going to vote (barring new information) and explain why.

1. The Emergency Manager Law – NO – Too many unknowns. To much potential for abuse. Clearly, some communities in Michigan need a lot of help but the new EM law is nothing more than a back door to privatizing public institutions and marginalizing public unions. Vote NO.

(Note: I’ve done a lot of soul searching on this topic It’s worth looking at the discussion in the comments below.)

2. Constitutional Amendment Regarding Collective Bargaining – YES – There really isn’t much argument here. Unions are a good thing. I’m not excited about this: “Laws may be enacted to prohibit public employees from striking” but codifying the right to unionize is something that absolutely belongs in the Michigan State Constitution.

3. Standards for Renewable Energy – YES – Honestly, I don’t think this one will pass, but it’s a good idea. 25% of Michigan’s energy will be required to come from renewable energy sources, and utilities can only raise rates 1% to facilitate compliance. Extensions can be given, so that, even if it passes, utilities can drag their feet ad infinitum, but it’s the best we can get. Michigan needs a renewable energy future not just because it’s a good idea, but because Michigan needs industry and Michigan needs jobs.

DTE and Consumers Energy are putting a lot of money into convincing Michigan voters to vote no on this. Don’t be fooled by ads from CARE for Michigan. They really don’t care at all about Michigan.

4. Constitutional Amendment to Establish the Michigan Quality Home Care Council and Provide Collective Bargaining for In-Home Care Workers – YES –The Michigan Quality Home Care Council was created under Granholm in 2004 to provide collective bargaining representation and act as a regulatory body for home care workers. They would perform backgroun checks on workers and monitor them to make sure that standards were followed. The workers came to be considered State employees, but when Snyder came in, Republicans defunded the Council, the union sued and won a temporary injunction that will expire in 2013 when the Council’s contract runs out. Now, this initiative seeks to create a new council and restore bargaining rights.

Republicans hate it, which to me, makes it a good idea. Even if you don’t understand the details, that should be enough to convince you. The Council provides a needed service and establishes standards for a rapidly aging population.

5. A Proposal to Amend the State Constitution to Limit the Enactment of New Taxes By State Government – NO, MY GOD F**K NO If this passes, the state can’t raise taxes without a 2/3’s majority vote in BOTH the State House and the State Senate. This is short sighted Tea Party posturing as its worst.

Given an emergency, the State must reserve the right to raise revenues if need be. In today’s political climate, does anyone seriously believe that 2/3’s agreement on anything is remotely possible?

When GM finally goes under, and Michiganders are lining up to either get fed or find a job, the State better have the power to balance out some of that lost income revenue. We don’t need to wait for self interested State Congress members to learn how to get along. Simple majorities and regular elections are fine.

Turns out this gem is brought to you by Matty Maroun. If this passes, then the tax breaks that keep fat cats like Matty even richer will be impossible to take away. This seemingly small proposal cedes all taxation power to a small minority of people, namely Matty and people like him that worked hard to make sure their money wouldn’t go back to the State.

If this proposal passes, nearly all the loopholes and tax breaks, which let the rich keep their money and invest it elsewhere, stay in forever. It’s worth noting that Mississippi has a similar law, and we know how things work down there (at least I do). Even Republicans, Gov. Snyder and a host of business groups are against this one. In fact, the only people that seem to be for this are Matty himself, and the most right of right wing Tea Party groups.

Michigan can do better than this.

6. Constitutional Amendment Regarding Construction of International Bridges and Tunnels – NO NO NO NO- Brought to you and paid for by Matty Maroun, the 85 year old billionaire and owner of the Ambassador bridge who want to retain his dangerous private monopoly on one of the most important international crossings in the world.

Now, this is just one example of how disgusting and cash rotten American politics have gotten. Matty is flush with cash, and can buy just about everything he could ever want in the perhaps 2 years he has left on this earth. The only person this proposal would benefit were it it to pass is Matty himself.

The State of Michigan, the United States and Canada deserve a publicly owned international crossing, not a creaking pit for a money hungry bridge troll.

“Breast Cancer Awareness”: Haven’t We Had Enough?

Breast Cancer Mortality Over Time

I am positive that I’ll risk the ire of all around me (and forgive the cynical tone of this post), but can we say that we’ve had entirely enough of “Breast Cancer Awareness?” Is all of this “awareness” translating into reduced breast cancer incidence or mortality? According to the graph to the left, breast cancer mortality has been declining since the early 80’s, well before the Pink Ribbon started. In fact, breast cancer incidence and mortality among African American women has remained flat since the early 90’s DESPITE multi-billion dollar commercial campaigns.

Breast cancer is serious. I don’t think anyone could argue against that well established fact. However, other types of cancer are equally serious. There are more cases of and more deaths due to lung cancer every year than breast cancer, but I have yet to see “Lung Cancer Awareness Month” nor to see NFL football players and supermodels taking up anti-smoking campaigns (Update: Lung Cancer Awareness Month is November. That I never knew this, but was well aware that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is October should speak loads to the disconnect of Pink Ribbon campaigns.)

The distribution of research funding for breast cancer as compared with other types of cancer is nearly indefensible. Funding for breast cancer was higher in 2011 than both colorectal and lung cancer COMBINED, despite vastly lower incidence and mortality. In fact, there were nearly four times as many deaths from lung cancer than breast cancer in 2011. Granted, lung cancer and colorectal cancer incidence has been dropping for some time.

Of course, this is an image issue. Women with breast cancer, however, are seen as victims, where people with lung cancer (smoking) and colon cancer (hamburgers) are seen as somehow deserving of their fate. It’s worth noting that people do not contract breast cancer as a result of the aggressive and barely regulated marketing of known cancer causing substances with the aim of earning mass profits for stock holders in major global companies.

If you have one, check your retirement portfolio. A good number of you are depending on smokers to fund you in your old age, most of whom are on the bottom rung on the US income ladder. A lot of you willingly enable the predatory tactics of arguably the most unethical of all business models (you might notice that defense equities are in there as well).

The images of breast cancer are misleading. Despite mass media campaigns picturing young healthy women as the prime targets of breast cancer, the average age at first diagnosis is 61 years of age. Unlike some other cancers, most women who contract breast cancer survive the disease. Contrary to the ads, African-Americans are at higher risk for the disease than white women.

Images of low class homeless people smoking $7 a pack cigarettes are not nearly as appealing, of course. I think that Americans would be hesitant to buy lung colored rubber wristbands and iPad covers. Besides, could well meaning college age girls get behind a poster that featured a crusty guy smoking Pall Malls in a trailer park?

The aggressive marketing and egregious profit making surrounding breast cancer is yet another example of the disconnect between the public’s perception of disease and health related issues and reality. Personally, I tire of “awareness.” Advocates of public health have more to do than merely make people “aware.” (Is there anyone in the US who isn’t yet “aware” of breast cancer?) I can’t help by believe that the focus on breast cancer “awareness” plays right into the hands of those who would have us flatly ignore more serious killers such as tobacco induced lung cancer.

Public health comrades: Get with it. At this point, breast cancer is suffering from diminishing returns. We pump more and more resources, both financial and informational, and barely make a dent into current trends of incidence and mortality. Meanwhile, more serious issues which afflict the most vulnerable of populations languish.

You guys are free to tear me apart if you like. Forunately, I’m not alone.

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