Monday, February 7, 2011

History in the making

What started as concern over the growing racial divide in our region six years ago inspired Publisher Sam Logan to do what he has been doing for decades with the support of his Michigan Chronicle family.
He dived into the heart of the matter.
He wanted to inspire dialogue with leaders into prickly islues and have open, honest conversation. Mr. Logan worked with Hiram Jackson at Real Times Media and .came up with an event that would feature leaders talking about key issues and "Pancakes and Politics" was born.
That inaugural event featured two political heavyweights, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson who talked about race relations and problems associated with the notorious Eight Mile divide between city and suburbs.
The conversation lit up the standing room crowd of influential people from business and government gathered at the Detroit Athletic Club where most "Pancakes" events have been held.
"Pancakes and Politics" has grown into a signature event for the Michigan Chronicle as the four star-studded breakfast events held each spring feature a who's who of leaders from politics, education, business and media before an audience to delve into issues and inspire thought-provoking conversation.
I was honored to have been asked by Sam Logan and Hiram Jackson to help with that first "Pancakes" and have been involved with all the others. So too other journalists like Michigan Chronicle Senior Editor Bankole Thompson.
WWJ-TV CBS Detroit which has aired "Pancakes" as "Michigan Matters" specials for viewers anxious to hear what the packed audience at each of the events heard.
"With so many issues and concerns simmering across our region, there's more need than ever for Tancakes and Politics,'" said Trey Fabacher, vice president and general manager at WWJ-TV CBS Detroit and CW50 WKBD. "We're honored to be involved with Hiram Jackson and Sam Logan in this endeavor."
Dozens of Michigan's most famous and infamous political, business and educational leaders have appeared on stage before an audience to address tough issues and face probing questions from media members and the audience which is now part of the "Pancakes" ritual.
From Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Detroit Mayors Kwame Kilpatrick and Dave Bing, DTE CEO Tony Earley, Strategic Staffing Solution CEO Cindy Pasky, Henry Ford Health System President and CEO Nancy Schlichting, to Skillman Foundation President and CEO Carol Goss, dozens have graced the "Pancakes" stage.
"As long as people are talking and debating issues, there's a chance you can find solutions," Mr. Logan said at that first "Pancakes."
It has been Mr. Logan's mantra ever since.
And leaders and audience members have not been disappointed as attendees have left the events inspired, uplifted and knowing more about key issues than before they arrived.
What's up next for "Pancakes and Politics" as the Michigan Chronicle prepares to kicks off its sixth season in 2011?
Sam Logan and Hiram Jackson are keeping it under wraps for now.
But one thing you can be sure of - it will broach issues as few other events in Michigan. And it will likely raise a few eyebrows and make us think.
And that's exactly how they envisioned it.

Government crisis hits democracy score

Ireland ranks 12th of 167 countries and territories covered in the Economist Intelligence Unit's democracy index (of those countries, we adjudge 26 to be "full democracies"), but its score has fallen from 9.01 in 2008 to 8.79 in 2010. Ireland's high ranking reflects, inter alia, the highest-possible score for civil liberties--independent international surveys over decades have shown that political, press and civil liberties are among the most comprehensive and best enforced in the world. Ireland also scores well in the electoral process category, reflecting the openness and fairness of the electoral system, but misses out on a maximum score owing to a lack of transparency in the system of funding political parties. Ireland's score for political participation, although high on a global basis, is the second-lowest-scoring sub-component, owing to a comparatively low proportion of women in politics, falling levels of political party membership and a relatively high percentage of survey respondents saying that they do not follow politics.
Ireland's score in the democracy index has been pulled down in 2010 primarily because of a sharp drop in its score for government functioning. This reflects a dramatic drop in support for the ruling government, owing to its perceived culpability in causing the economic depression and prioritising of party over national politics. Intensified dissatisfaction with the prime minister, Brian Cowen, culminated in January 2011 with an attempt to unseat Mr Cowen from his position as leader of Fianna Fail, the largest party in government. Fianna Fail's popularity has fallen to 14%, putting it well behind the two main opposition parties, Fine Gael and the Labour Party, in opinion polls. We expect a coalition between Fine Gael and the Labour Party to emerge following the forthcoming election in the first quarter of 2011, but important policy differences between the two parties exist, namely on how to achieve the agreed fiscal adjustments for 2011-14. The parties in the new coalition will be more evenly matched in size than in the current government, and decision-making may be more difficult. Given the brutal austerity measures that the government will have to implement over the forecast period to achieve the fiscal targets negotiated with the EU and IMF, we expect social unrest to rise significantly in the next few years.

Health Politics, Policy and Law; Study data from M. Cacace and colleagues update understanding of health politics, policy and law

"In July 2008 Lorraine Frisina sent me a note describing a conference she and others were organizing in Bremen, Germany. The conference would bring together political scientists, economists, and other social scientists in an effort to examine and explain the deep changes that were taking place in health care systems around the industrialized world," scientists writing in the Journal of Health Politics Policy and Law report.
"She asked whether JHPPL might be interested in publishing a set of the papers that emerged from the conference. We were. The conference, held in early December 2008, brought together an extraordinary collection of health policy experts who together considered a range of theoretical approaches applied to an even larger range of health care systems. Following the conference, Lorraine and her colleague Mirella Cacace worked with Lawrence D. Brown and me to coedit this issue. Mirella and Lorraine then wrote the note below, which summarizes some of the themes presented and the papers written. It is an impressive collection," wrote M. Cacace and colleagues.
The researchers concluded: "We even added a bonus highlight: an extremely engaging back-and-forth between David Wilsford and Larry Brown on the utility of path-dependence theory in explaining health system change. Enjoy."
Cacace and colleagues published their study in the Journal of Health Politics Policy and Law (Beyond Path Dependency: Explaining Health Care System Change. Journal of Health Politics Policy and Law, 2010;35(4 Sp. Iss.):449-454).
Additional information can be obtained by contacting M. Cacace, RAND Europe Health & Health Care Team, Cambridge, UK.
The publisher of the Journal of Health Politics Policy and Law can be contacted at: Duke University Press, 905 W Main St., Ste. 18-B, Durham, NC 27701, USA.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

High hopes: Reform party flexes political muscle

Romania's national library is desperate for books - nonetheless, the complete works of Nicolae Ceausescu are headed for the pulping machine.
""Perhaps we'll keep one copy of each, somewhere," allowed Angela Popescu Bradiceni, director since 1955, with a slight sniff. ""After all, we are a library."
The dictator's numbing words were stacked in the window of every bookstore. At the national library, they filled six long rows.
Enthusiastic workmen have already carted off various translations of ""On the Way of Building Up the Multilaterally Developed Socialist Society," all 32 volumes, 700 pages each.
Had anyone ever checked out Volume 26, for example, he would have learned: ""The visit I have paid to Somalia at the invitation of President Mohammed Siad Barre has yielded highly good results." PUBLICITY PACKETS
The pile included leaflets of speeches, collected mental musings and 12-ounce publicity packets to the glory of a man who traveled the world ceaselessly to exchange fulsome toasts and pose for photos.
One collection had almost identical covers. At the left, there was Ceausescu with slicked down jet black hair and a debonair mien, a photo from 1957. At the right, there was someone else: Jimmy Carter of the United States, Brezhnev of the Soviet Union, Ethiopia's Mengistu or whichever leader he happened to be visiting.
But not all the purged books were his.
There was also ""Research in the Field of Systems and Characteristics of Macromolecules" by his wife, Elena.
""No one ever read this stuff, no one," said Virgil Tiberiu Spanu, director of acquisitions. ""Never."
The couple were ousted from power last Friday and were executed Monday. RESTRICTED ACCESS
For the librarians, destroying Ceausescu's books was sweet revenge for bibliophiles forced to hide away 10 percent of their collection under lock and key.
Ceausescu's strict laws forbade anyone without a special permit to see books about Romanian politics since World War I, or works of anyone suspected to be even a mild dissident. Books by foreigner ""radicals," such as U.S. economists, also were restricted.
Romanian and foreign researchers had to apply to a cultural council that decided whether to grant permission. Applications were referred to the secret police.
""When you applied to the council, a very secret, complex mechanism came into play," Spanu said. ""Most people did not bother, assuming they would be denied or afraid of calling attention to themselves."
Mostly, books were not bought because the library had no foreign currency. 10 TO 15 YEARS BEHIND
""We were 10 to 15 years behind the world in scientific material," Spanu said. The library's latest edition of the journal ""Chemical Abstracts" is from 1972.
Although the nearby university library lost 500,000 volumes in fires caused by fighting between Ceausescu loyalists and revolutionaries this week, all of the national library's 1.5 million books survived.
""We were lucky because we have no building of our own, and our books are in storage all over town," Bradiceni said. The offices and reading rooms are in the old stock exchange, never of much use in Communist Romania.
Now, Bradiceni said, it is time to catch up.
""Romania needs books for the spirit," she said. She looked around at at the shelves purged of Ceausescu's works. ""Now we have plenty of room."


The dominant issue in the county for much of 1989 was the county's experimental integrated human services delivery system, which meant a single caseworker would be assigned to help with all of a person's problems instead of a different caseworker for each problem area. The county has received several critical inspections on children and youth services during the program's existence. The programs ran up a $1.5 million deficit this year, part of the reason for the county's 4.9-mill tax hike.

Demis Stewart, the architect of the experimental system, said last week she would not seek reappointment as human services director and did not want the job any longer. Reports indicated incoming County Executive Gerald Seyfried did not have the necessary votes on County Council to confirm Stewart even if she was nominated. Seyfried also reportedly decided not to keep Stewart.


Long-time Police Chief Nick DiVietro retired after 28 years on the job amid reports his departure was prompted by allegations made by a police informant that DiVietro had furnished her with marijuana. DiVietro and the township supervisors vehemently denied the reports. Reports then surfaced that the township police union had asked the supervisors not to appoint DiVietro in 1990. The chief and the union have been at odds since the union was formed in the early '80s.

The Deadlock

The deadlock over the Easton Area Joint Sewer Authority voting system and budget threatened the future of Easton Sewage Treatment Plant. Although a budget was finally approved, the suburban municipalities of Forks and Palmer townships, Wilson and West Easton continue to object to a bloc vote system that gives Easton control.
The sewer authority, the city and and Pfizer Inc. were named in an lawsuit filed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency for violating federal discharge limits, and the $14 million upgrade of the sewer plant was completed. The renovations meant the release of some 500 building permits. The state Department of Environmental Resources had placed a moratorium on the permits until the sewer plant discharge was up to state and federal standards. EASTON
The lack of a permanent shelter for the city's homeless eventually led Easton officials to offer the former Raub Supply Building on Bushkill Drive to a non-profit group called Safe Harbor Easton. The homeless continue to be housed in area churches until the building is renovated. Early this year, tempers erupted over the homeless issue with homeless men setting up tents in Centre Square after the city closed a church shelter because of code violations.
Alvin L. "Skip" Fairchild Jr. was named Easton's police chief in June. The 18-year veteran succeeded William Cunningham who resigned in March. Fairchild's advocacy of a physical fitness program for officers has placed him at odds with the police union, which opposes sanctions for those who fail to make the grade.
Easton started recycling this fall, and so far participation is far greater than expected, forcing city officials to upgrade collection schedules.