Sunday, January 28, 2007

Rogers on the War

Kyle Melinn had a nice article in the Lansing City Pulse this week about Rep. Mike Rogers' shifting position on the Iraq War. Let's take a look...

An AP/AOL News poll released this week showed only 31 percent are standing behind President George W. Bush’s suggested “troop surge” in Iraq. It’s a stunning change from just five years ago, when 68 percent of Americans thought the country was on the right track, a healthy majority gung-ho about Bush’s pending Iraqi invasion.

The tune is changing in Congress, as well. Lawmakers are no longer rolling over and cutting the president a blank check for whatever he believes is necessary in Iraq. The November elections and subsequent leadership change probably had a lot to do with that. And Rogers appears to be changing along with them.

Ooh, this should be good. Maybe I missed something in the news cycle. Maybe Mike Rogers finally came around on the Iraq debacle, and stated his opposition to the escalation!

Well, maybe I shouldn't get too excited just yet.

Consider these three quotes from Rogers, a Brighton Republican whose district includes Lansing:
• “(Iraqi insurgents and al Qaeda) have well established themselves to murder Christians, Jews, Muslims, women, children; they’ll behead you, they’ll shoot you, they’ll blow you up. They don’t care … Let’s come home in defeat? That’s no standard for victory!”
• “The debate now is, ‘How do we win?’ Under what circumstances do our troops come home?”
• “America’s military men and women who sacrificed so much must know that the new way forward in Iraq is a plan in which the military mission and the rules of engagement are clearly defined, and specific benchmarks are outlined for Iraqis to take over so our troops can come home.”

The final quote lacked any reference to “winning.” In its place is the word “benchmark.” The focus shifted from the theoretical “victory” in Iraq, whatever that could look like, to simply making sure more American soldiers come home, and not with American flags draped over them.

Would it be fair to say, then, that Rogers is tempering his opinions on Iraq?

Tempering his opinions on Iraq? Maybe. I guess I'm just not seeing any remarkable shift in the tone of Mike Rogers' rhetoric about the war.

I'm sure there's more to come though. I'm sure the Congressman from Michigan's 8th District had something meaningful to say for himself about the troop escalation, right?

Well, not exactly...

Rogers’ press secretary, Sylvia Warner, says no. “His opinions are based on a number of things, but largely on the knowledge he has gained while traveling on classified trips in Iraq and in classified briefings in the Intelligence Committee. The only change is that he is saying more publicly now some of the things he has been privately pressing the Administration on for many months.”

Yeah, when things get tough, Mr. Rogers sends his press secretary to explain his position on "the defining struggle of our time" to his constituents. That's dedication, folks.

But to be fair, as Ms. Warner explains, Mike Rogers has been "pressing the Administration" in private for months. And let me tell ya, Rep. Rogers must be one persuasive fellow, because President Bush obviously took every bit of advice from the Iraq Study Group, right?

Weeeellll... not so much.

At least Mike Rogers seems to be coming around though.

But even if Rogers is having a metamorphosis on the subject, isn’t that OK? Even if you supported the Iraqi war in the first place and “victory” was the end objective, haven’t we already won? Weapons of mass destruction don’t seem to exist. The crazy dictator is six feet under. A democracy, of sorts, is operating in Iraq.

Of course it's okay for Mike Rogers to have a "metamorphosis" on the Iraq war. Better late than never, I always say.

Still, it would be nice if Mr. Rogers could catch up with his colleague in the Senate, Chuck Hagel, who has said of the troop surge,

"This is a dangerously wrong-headed strategy that will drive America deeper into an unwinnable swamp at a great cost. It is wrong to place American troops into the middle of Iraq's civil war," Hagel said in a statement. "The president's strategy will cost more American lives; sink us deeper into the bog of Iraq making it more difficult to get out; cost billions of dollars more; further strain an American military that has already reached its breaking point; further diminish America's standing in the Middle East; and continue to allow the Iraqis to walk away from their responsibilities."

"We cannot escape the reality that there will be no military solution in Iraq," Hagel said. "More American troops, treasure and casualties will not change this reality."

I won't hold my breath waiting for that kind of passionate opposition to the Iraq war from Mike Rogers. Even if he ever completed this "metamorphosis" on the war though, I'm sure Rogers would announce it to his constituents through his press secretary, Sylvia Warner.

I would just remind the Congressman...

There comes a time when changing your mind is no longer about the pride of ultimately being proven right. It’s about saving yourself from looking even more foolish.

Apparently, this is not a concern for Mike Rogers.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Rogers again sides with big oil and big business

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers voted against the majority of the Democrats First 100 Hours agenda and voted for big business and oil companies.

As the Democrats accomplish what they promised leading up to the November election that helped them gain control of the House and Senate, The Livingston County Daily Press and Argus summed up Rogers votes. He voted for two of the six historic proposals by the Democrats, and the obvious question is if he voted for two of them why didn’t he introduced them in the six years his party was in control of the House?

The most disturbing thing to me in the article was Rogers could not be bothered to talk about his votes to the newspaper. Apparently, being in the minority had not required him to be accountable. The case could be made he is in Iraq or overseas and not as accessible, but when he was in Iraq, Rogers said he called home for an undercover CIA agent. Now that the election is over, Rogers can again ignore the voters in the 8th Congressional District. The last election was the first time he was ever accessible to the voters since he was elected by just 111 votes in 2000.

Rogers spokeswoman Sylvia Warner said the congressman was not available for an interview on the proposals, but provided responses to written questions instead.

She provides 90 percent of his actual quotes anyway, so it’s not much of a stretch for her to write them out. Rogers voted for finally implementing the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission to protect the country from terrorist attacks. What took so long, and why didn’t the Republicans take this up? He also voted to cut the interest rate on federal student loans.

Rogers voted no on increasing the minimum wage, approving federal funding for stem cell research and allowing negotiating and buying prescription drugs in bulk to get lower costs. Rogers ignores the success the Veterans Administration has had in using their huge buying power to get low prices by buying in volume. Many senior citizens groups have endorsed the plan, such as AARP, but apparently they do not give as much in campaign contributions as huge pharmaceutical companies.

Rogers also voted against ending taxpayer-funded subsidies for Big Oil and creating a Strategic Energy and Renewables Reserve. He claimed the record and obscene profits the oil companies received last year were not enough reason for them to invest some of that record profit into research for alternative fuels, and, apparently, the only way they will do that is if we give them the money.

Rogers submitted answer – allegedly written by him – is “You need all three so that we don't send more money to (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad and (Venezuelan leader Hugo) Chavez," Rogers wrote?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Rogers Stands Up for Big Oil

Yesterday, the House passed a bill that would require Big Oil to pay more in royalties and roll back tax credits – about $14 billion over the next ten years. With bipartisan support, the bill passed 264-163. The funds raised from the repealed taxes and additional royalities would go to fund research for renewable energy sources.

Guess who voted against it? Today’s Boston Globe has the answer:

Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican, said the bill would require U.S.
consumers to import more oil from U.S. nations like Iran and Venezuela, which
are both OPEC members and foes of U.S. policy.

"If you care about our children, stop sending the money to (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad and (Venezuelan President Hugo) Chavez," Rogers said.

Would someone please explain just how funding renewable energy sources will help oil dictators? While you're at it, explain why Mike Rogers thinks it's OK for oil companies to continue to make record profits at a time when our deficit is in the trillions.

Well, you probably can't. It's kinda inexplicable... until you remember that Rogers has taken $171,450 from oil and gas industries, and that he voted against cracking down on price gouging by oil and gas industries (HR 3402, Vote#500, 9/28/05). Oh, yes, and he voted for the 2005 GOP energy bill that gave the $14 billion in tax breaks and royalties to Big Oil (HR6, Vote #351 7/28/05).

Guess he's just looking out for his friends...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Rogers votes NO on medicare prescription drug bill

This is a few days late, but still worth posting.

Here's the legislative summary for H.R. 4:

Current law, established under the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act of 2003, specifically prohibits the HHS Secretary from lobbying drug companies to lower prices, opting instead to rely on market forces to make these medicines affordable.

H.R. 4, in its most basic description, requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies in hopes of lowering drug prices for Medicare Part D beneficiaries.

It also requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to submit a report every six months to the Committees on Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Oversight and Government Reform in the House and the Committee on Finance in the Senate on whether and to what extent negotiations have lowered the price of drugs for Medicare Part D beneficiaries.

Making sure Medicare Part D beneficiaries receive fair prices from pharmaceutical companies for their prescriptions makes a lot of sense, right? Mike Rogers doesn't think so. He voted no on H.R. 4 last week, along with Candice Miller, Joe Knollenberg, Tim Walberg and the rest of the republicans in Michigan's congressional delegation.

Of course, this should come as no surprise to voters living in the 8th district, since Mike Rogers has taken $263,857 from Health Professionals and $120,560 from Pharmaceutical companies throughout his career.

As we've noted before, Mike Rogers says he works "for you", but that's clearly not the case. By voting no on a bill like H.R. 4, Mike Rogers has proven once again that he is beholden to big money interests (like the pharmaceutical companies) that helped put him in office.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Rogers votes NO on stem cell research

Stem cells were on the agenda in the House today, and H.R. 3 passed by a margin of 253-174. CNN has the lowdown:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Democratic-controlled House Thursday passed a bill bolstering embryonic stem cell research that advocates say shows promise for numerous medical cures.

Scientists still say, however, that embryonic stem cells so far are backed by the most promising evidence that one day they might be used to grow replacements for damaged tissue, such as new insulin-producing cells for diabetics or new nerve connections to restore movement after spinal injury.

The legislation would lift Bush's 2001 ban on federal dollars spent on deriving new stem cells from fertilized embryos. Bush's veto of the bill last year was the first veto of his presidency.

Embryonic stem cells are able to morph into any of the more than 220 cell types that make up the human body. Bush on August 9, 2001, restricted government funding to research using only the embryonic stem cell lines then in existence, groups of stem cells kept alive and propagating in lab dishes.

But those 21 stem cell lines have many problems, and researchers say 300 newer lines, culled from fertility clinic leftovers otherwise destined to be thrown away, are considered better suited for implantation into sick Americans.

So, stem cells could save lives... lives of human beings who are already, you know, alive. Sounds like a great idea, right? Well, not to Mike Rogers. He voted NO on H.R. 3 today.

Mr. Rogers consistently gets perfect marks from the National Right to Life committee, which opposes embryonic stem cell research, so it's not a big shock that he would vote against such a bill.

Of course, Mike Rogers wasn't elected to congress to represent the National Right to Life committee, he was elected to represent voters in the 8th district.

National polls have consistently shown strong public support for stem cell research (as high as 74%), so it's a safe bet that there is similar support here in the 8th district. Once again, Mike Rogers has proved that he doesn't represent the values of his constituents.

Tiptoe Through the Troop Surge

Congressman Mike Rogers has plunged into the Brave New World of the 110th Congress. According to The Buzz in Monday's Press & Argus, the New and Improved Mike is blissfully bipartisan (Nancy Pelosi as Speaker is an "historic achievement"). On today's P&A front page, we find that Rogers balks at troop 'surge'

Gee, even the Press and Argus knows that "surge" is just a shorter & more
tasteful way of spelling "escalation."

In the early part of the Democratic majority’s Hundred Hour legislative push, Rogers is artfully reading the political tea leaves and moving away from his lockstep unity with Bush on Iraq policy. He has "concerns" that a troop increase won't have the "desired outcome"

"America's military men and women who have sacrificed so much must know that the new way forward in Iraq is a plan in which the military mission and the rules of engagement are clearly defined, and specific benchmarks are outlined for Iraqis to take over so our troops can come home."

Fair enough -- but three years and 3,000 deaths later we're still waiting for that clearly defined mission and those specific benchmarks.

One can only hope that Rogers' "concern" will surge to the point that he develops a backbone and stands up to the President on this sad and wasteful war.

Rogers votes NO on minimum wage increase

Here's the legislative summary of the minimum wage bill, H.R. 2:

Currently, the federal minimum wage sits at $5.15 per hour. H.R. 2 raises the federal minimum wage to $7.25 per hour over 26 months. Sixty days after the President signs the bill into law, the federal minimum wage will rise to $5.85. A year following, the federal minimum wage will rise to $6.55. A year following that, the federal minimum wage will rise to $7.25. There are twenty-one states that have their state minimum wage below this level, and will be forced to comply with the new dollar amount.

For some history about the minimum wage, check out this Wikipedia entry.

America's minimum wage had its highest purchasing value ever in 1968, "when it was $1.60/hour ($9.12 in 2005 dollars)." Of course, we all know that the minimum wage hasn't had that much value in a long time -- the rate has been stuck at $5.15 since 1997, the longest stretch without an increase.

So, who will a minimum wage increase help?

Our research shows that 5.6 million low-wage workers have earnings that place them in the affected range and thus would directly benefit from the increase. These workers are mostly adults (70 percent are 20 or older; half are 26 or up). About 40 percent of them work full time, and a similar share work more than 20 hours per week.

While many are not officially poor, their incomes typically place them within the bottom two-fifths of the income scale (less than $36,000).

Helping millions of American workers earn more money to support their families sounds like a good thing, right? Well, Mike Rogers doesn't think so. He voted no on H.R. 2 yesterday afternoon.

The State of Michigan already voted to increase the minimum wage last year (up to $7.40/hr by July 2008), but yesterday's vote clearly shows that Mike Rogers thinks this was a bad idea.

Mike Rogers says he works "for you", but if he truly valued the work of his constituents, he would've voted to support an increase in the federal minimum wage.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Column gives blog a shout out

Thank you to Livingston County Daily Press and Argus political reporter Dan Meisler for a shout out to our blog today in an opinion column on the Iraq fiasco.

There seems to be no middle ground on which to hash out the issues — only high-pitched rhetoric bordering on the paranoid.
Take, for example, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers' recent appearance at a funeral for Andrew Daul, a Brighton soldier killed in Iraq. As reported in this newspaper, Rogers, a Republican from Brighton, read aloud from a letter written by the mayor of an Iraqi town.
"Their sacrifice was not in vain," Rogers read from the letter. "Let the world be proud of their sacrifice for humanity."
Sounds harmless enough to me, but in the hands of our local liberal bloggers, it's further proof that Rogers has politicized the war (as if that hasn't happened already). See for their criticism.
They seem to think that praising the sacrifice of a dead soldier is political. What was Rogers supposed to say? "Gee, now that I think about it, the war was a bad idea and your son's death was unnecessary. Oops." Maybe that would have pleased them.
From reading his comments, it sounds to me like Rogers' speech was appropriate.

Sorry Dan, but I respectfully disagree with you. The full quote that appeared in the Dec. 31 edition of the newspaper was this; “Andrew Daul helped Iraqis while serving in that country. Because of soldiers like him, Rogers said, Iraqis would talk about the greatness of the U.S. soldier, and he read a letter from a mayor of an Iraqi town liberated by U.S. soldiers.”

What could he have said? He could have talked about his bravery in answering the call of his country, his willingness to serve and his dedication to his fellow soldiers. I would have talked about the extraordinary courage that makes a man so young get up every morning knowing the dangers that await him and strap on combat gear and patrol the streets when the risks are so great, and he does this day after day for at least a year. Instead, he chose to continue to try and spin this mess as a war of liberation, but the fact is Rogers has been nothing but a cheerleader for both bush and this fiasco.

The column goes on to say, So where would those bad old bloggers get the idea that Rogers would politicize Iraq?
Perhaps some of his past comments, like one from the floor of the House, equating anti-war politicians with the insurgents in Iraq. Or maybe this one, from an interview with the Press & Argus on the Iraq Study Group's report: "This has been a two-front war ... at home, we've been trying to win people's support for our efforts."

Here’s some more reasons I believe he politicized the funeral that Dan did not have space to mention that came from his own newspaper. “The involvement and support of U.S. efforts in Iraq now will pay off down the road in bringing stability to the region, according to U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton. (P and A 8/29/2003)

(On the 9/11 Commission Report) "They could not find a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9_11 attacks," he said. "The task of this commission, even though it became highly political, was to look at one event." Rogers said many media reports have distorted the commission's finding by saying it is more far-reaching than it actually is. Rogers said, that the FBI agents he talked to on a recent visit to Iraq have found al-Qaida training manuals and other materials many times when they apprehended bomb-makers in Iraq.
"They found it laughable there was any debate" about the connection, he said.
Rogers added that intelligence from the Department of Defense, FBI, CIA and other agencies indicated contact between Iraqi agents and al-Qaida going back years, in the Sudan, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"The overwhelming information indicates there in fact was" a connection between Iraq and al-Qaida.” (P and A 6/18/04)

We make progress everyday," in response to a statement by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), a Marine veteran, that the U.S. is not making progress in Iraq. Rogers asserted that only terrorists and "some politicians" wanted the U.S. to withdraw troops from Iraq. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch 6/16/2006)

Again, Rogers should be commended for taking the time to pay his respects as a U.S. Congressman because we know no one from this Administration ever will, but his decision to politicize the funeral was a bad idea. Dan’s also correct when he says there is “no middle ground on which to hash out the issues,” but I say the fault lies primarily on the right. If anyone suggests anything but “stay the course - what ever that is – you are called a traitor and a terrorist. I have been debating the Iraq fiasco with one of our two wingnut blogers in Livingston County, and you cannot even get them to acknowledge that there were no WMDs and that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. The biggest obstacle to overcome is one that they cling to that the Iraq fiasco is the reason we have not had a terrorist attack in the five years since 9/11/2001, ignoring the fact there have been only two terrorist attacks in our country’s 216 year history.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Rogers politicizes soldier’s funeral

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers chose the funeral of a Brighton solider killed in action to politicize the Iraq fiasco and to continue pushing his defense of the President’s failed policy in Iraq.

Army Spc. Andrew P. Daul, 21, became the 8th of nine soldiers with Livingston County ties killed in Iraq, and the second in the span of just one week. Rogers spoke at his funeral, and anyone would be honored to have a U.S. Congressman to speak at their son’s funeral. Rogers deserves credit for taking the time to attend the funeral and pay his respects to a true hero, but there is no excuse for politicizing it. This is what Rogers said at the funeral, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

Not only did he help his fellow soldiers, but Rogers said Andrew Daul helped Iraqis while serving in that country. Because of soldiers like him, Rogers said, Iraqis would talk about the greatness of the U.S. soldier, and he read a letter from a mayor of an Iraqi town liberated by U.S. soldiers.

"Their sacrifice was not in vain," Rogers read aloud from the mayor's letter. "Let the world be proud of their sacrifice for humanity."

Monday, January 1, 2007

A Candidate for the New Year?

Happy 2007!

As the first post of this New Year, it's only fitting that we talk about a fresh start.

Candidates - start your engines.

Mr. Rogers is decidedly bad for our Neighborhood. Who can we look to really represent our interests? There's been talk about various people who have been positioning themselves for a run against Mr. Rogers next year (2008).

We'd like them to step outside and introduce themselves. It's always good to get to know your neighbors. Whether it's a cup of sugar or a vote, we always do our best to help each other out.

Stay tuned to the Neighborhood.