Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Snowy Brook:

These snow pictures were taken back in January- I just haven't done a lot with them until now.
Downtown project could bring unprecedented construction
More clues.

The speculation over a possible multi-billion dollar development in downtown Grand Rapids has been the talk of West Michigan for nearly a week.

No one will say exactly what the development might be, but we wondered what kind of facility could be built for one or two billion dollars.

We looked around the area and it was easy to find new construction.

Oops. Rick just admitted the economy around here isn't as bad as it seems. He goes on to take a look at some other recent area projects, first off the new Marriott downtown.

It's an ambitious project that will bring 24 floors of hotel rooms downtown, it's price tag is $100 million.

The Van Andel Arena cost about $65 million while the DeVos Place convention center more than $210 million.

Chump change. Let's look around the country.
In Atlanta a new state of the art aquarium recently opened, it's cost was $200 million.

Closer to home, Ford Field in Detroit cost $350 million.

The Mall of America in Minnesota in today's dollars could be as much as one billion.

The proposed Freedom Tower to replace the World Trade Center in New York will cost an estimated $1.5 to $2 billion.

The already opened Wynn Resort and Casino in Las Vegas reportedly cost $2.7 billion to build.

The "Mall of America" sits on 80 acres- this spot is only 30. It doesn't make sense to put something like that downtown due to parking issues- a 'burb would be a better spot, unless you are going to build a very tall "Mall" and park people around it.

Someone from Channel 8 hit my blog in the middle of the night a couple of times, they were using the search words "David Minkin" and "Time Warner". Very interesting guys. Keep digging, but not here. I'm riffing off of you.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Bush Ratings At All-Time Low
Wow. We're getting down into Nixon territory now.

(CBS) The latest CBS News poll finds President Bush's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, while pessimism about the Iraq war has risen to a new high.

Americans are also overwhelmingly opposed to the Bush-backed deal giving a Dubai-owned company operational control over six major U.S. ports. Seven in 10 Americans, including 58 percent of Republicans, say they're opposed to the agreement.

The troubling results for the Bush administration come amid reminders about the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina and negative assessments of how the government and the president have handled it for six months.

In a separate poll, two out of three Americans said they do not think President Bush has responded adequately to the needs of Katrina victims. Only 32 percent approve of the way President Bush is responding to those needs, a drop of 12 points from last September’s poll, taken just two weeks after the storm made landfall.
Coulter cancels visit with local GOP
Awwww. I'm so disappointed.

GRAND RAPIDS -- Ann Coulter, the firebrand conservative commentator, is backing out of her Grand Rapids appearance, Kent County Republican officials said Monday morning.

Coulter, who was secured in late January as the keynote speaker for the Kent County Republican Party's March 16 Lincoln Day Dinner, had to pull out because she was double booked with another event at Florida State University, said Brian Pierce, the party's executive director, who handled the Kent County GOP's booking.

More than 1,000 tickets were sold for the event, and those ticket holders will be given the chance to obtain a refund if they want, said Karl Hascall, Kent County party co-chair.

Coulter's appearance had come under fire from political opponents, but Hascall said he was doubtful that had anything to do with her cancellation.

"If people want to think that, that's fine, but I don't think she's afraid of any heat," he said.

Coulter has two booking agencies, one for college appearances and the other for other events, Pierce said.

"She double booked," Pierce said. "We asked her to cancel her commitment at Florida State and she said no."

Wonder if FSU is paying her more...
Hey Kids! It's the "Balance the State Budget" Game! Fun for all ages!

I got thrown out of office. They didn't like it when I raised corporate and estate taxes to pay for health care. Oops. (Actually, the first time I tried it I got the support of three Senators. Interesting.)

I didn't do all the things necessary to play to win- but it was fun to raise all the expenditures and cut all the taxes, leaving us a deficit of -$248 million. I call it the "Bush Plan for Michigan".
Column: Delineating a political divide won't be easy
Peter Luke brings up a point that I hadn't really thought about before- DeVos is running against the Republican Michigan legislature. As much as I like to throw stones at those guys, maybe it's time to look at where they have cooperated and/or shaped legislation. Heh heh.

In trying to define himself as a distinct alternative to Jennifer Granholm, Republican Dick DeVos will first have to crack the mutual aid society formed between Democrat Granholm and GOP lawmakers.

Both the incumbent governor and the Republicans who run the House and Senate have one common goal in 2006: Getting re-elected.

So if it all goes to form, marginally improving tax receipts will allow both sides to agree on a continuation budget that provides spending increases for schools without the fee and tax hikes required in the past.

Riddle me this- how is it our tax receipts have increased when the economy is supposedly so horrible? Rising property values alone?
DeVos' first TV ad implies that Lansing is driven by partisan division that is thwarting help for manufacturing and investment in life sciences and other advanced technologies. But Republican lawmakers and Granholm this year will run for new terms proclaiming that they already have cut taxes for manufacturers and set up $1 billion in new financing for research in those new technologies.

DeVos said in his ad that "it's time to pull together, get things done." Republican legislators could argue that that is precisely what they have been doing.

Now, DeVos and the GOP could claim that even more would get done with one party in control of everything. That Michigan could move into a "new (Republican-led) direction." Though DeVos deserves time to fill in the details of what he would do, Republicans have been pretty vague as to the direction they would move unfettered by a Democratic governor.

And look what happened in Washington when we let the Republicans run everything. That statement alone sends shivers through my spine. You know exactly what the Republicans would do if left to their own devices. I don't need to spell it out. There is a reason they are "vague". They just don't dare tell you what they would do because they would never get elected. Quite simply- they lie. And they hurt people.
In response to the first Democratic governor in a dozen years, Republicans have either rejected what Granholm has proposed or, more often, claimed co-authorship of what they do like or rewritten what they don't.

DeVos' ad contains gloomy images of shuttered plants and vacated shop floors. What have Republican lawmakers by themselves proposed to change that? Well, not much. They don't like the Single Business Tax. But when the ball was in their court to rewrite it last year after rejecting the overhaul plan Granholm served up, the GOP whiffed.

Conservative economists say the personal property tax on business is arguably worse than the SBT. Yet lawmakers haven't found a way to seriously address that tax. Deep cuts in that levy would gut the public school funding they are so fond of.

You think Dickie is done with his vouchers? Think again. He spent a lot of money and time on that- it will be back.

The state budget Granholm proposed on Feb. 9 will likely be approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the Fourth of July. It should be the smoothest process since Granholm took office.

In making his case for change to Michigan voters, DeVos is promising to bring practical business-based solutions to Lansing -- the implication being that Lansing has no clue.

Granholm will beg to differ. And though Republican loyalty would seem to prevent it, so too could the GOP-run Legislature.

Practical business solutions. Nowadays that means cut benefits, cut staff, cut pay, outsource whatever you can. Give yourself a big bonus.

Is that what we want for Michigan?
Army to pay KBR for most disputed Iraq costs: NYT - Yahoo! News
Cha-ching! Actually, this title is wrong. It should say, "Taxpayers to pay KBR for most disputed Iraq costs".

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Army has decided to reimburse a Halliburton Co. subsidiary for nearly all of the $263 million in disputed costs over a contract to deliver fuel and repair oil equipment in Iraq, the New York Times reported on Monday.

Citing Army officials, the Times said the military had decided to pay Halliburton engineering and construction unit Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) all but $10 million of the costs which Pentagon auditors had identified as potentially inflated or unsupported by documentation.

The disputed costs reported by the Times were part of a $2.4 billion no-bid contract in Iraq. Army officials said that while some actions by KBR had driven up costs, the company had done as well as could be expected under the chaotic conditions of war, according to the Times report.

Under the type of contract awarded to KBR, "the contractor is not required to perform perfectly to be entitled to reimbursement," Rhonda James, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was quoted in the report as saying.

Halliburton said in January that audits on potential overcharges for KBR's dining services and fuel supply costs had been wrapped up in 2005, resulting in additional income from fees. The company did not specify how much income it had received.

In total, KBR has reported about $15.4 billion in revenues from its operations in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in 2003.

So what's a few hundred million? Not much. Cut the check. I'm sure there are some seniors that will give up their health care for the war effort.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Pretty Michigan:

Prolific Actor Darren McGavin Dies at 83 - Yahoo! News
Yes, I know, Don Knotts died this weekend, too. Although I remember Don and laughed at his comedy, Mayberry was a bit before my time. A bigger impact on me was the series, "Kolchak: The Night Stalker".

McGavin, 83, died Saturday of natural causes at a Los Angeles-area hospital with his family at his side, said his son Bogart McGavin.

McGavin also had leading roles in TV's "Riverboat" and cult favorite "Kolchak: The Night Stalker." Among his memorable portrayals was Gen. George Patton in the 1979 TV biography "Ike."

He lacked the prominence in films he enjoyed in television, but he registered strongly in featured roles such as the young artist in Venice in "Summertime," David Lean's 1955 film with Katharine Hepburn and Rosanno Brazzi; Frank Sinatra's crafty drug supplier in "The Man with the Golden Arm" (1955); Jerry Lewis's parole officer in "The Delicate Delinquent" (1957); and the gambler in 1984's "The Natural." He also starred alongside Don Knotts, who died Friday night, in the 1976 family comedy "No Deposit, No Return."

Kolchak was my introduction to horror. I can still see the scene from an episode called "Zombie", where he is sewing together the zombie's lips after he filled the mouth full of salt...and the zombie's eyes pop open... good stuff.

The Night Stalker is also said to be the precursor to another of my favorite shows, "The X-Files".

Though network and cable television have grown bolder and gorier in the three-plus decades since The Night Stalker's heyday, the series continues to be hailed as a seminal influence by such modern entertainment masters as Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files. Carter has often acknowledged the influence of Kolchak on The X-Files, and paid homage to that legacy by casting Darren McGavin in a two-time guest role as retired FBI Special Agent Arthur Dales — the first agent assigned to what later became the bureau's X-Files office.
GOP working on solution to ports deal - Feb 25, 2006
Mom's already trying to welch on the bet. Now she's claiming the deal has to go through, I just said that the Republicans would cave in to WH pressure and change their tune. And that's exactly what they are doing.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Republicans in Congress are crafting a solution under which the controversial deal allowing a state-owned Arab company to run some terminals at six U.S. ports could move forward.

The agreement would first have to pass a 45-day investigation focusing on the national security implications of the deal, several sources linked to the talks said.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee is encouraging DP World to ask a government review panel to kick-start the investigations, which is the best way to convince lawmakers the transaction won't jeopardize national security, a Frist aide said.

Frist's originally stance left a bit of wiggle room, and now he's wiggling pretty good.

BTW, this involves more than just "six ports".

The deal has been stalled amid bipartisan concerns over security. But if it goes through, DP World will operate 11 of the 43 terminals in the six ports: two of 14 in Baltimore, Maryland; one of five in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; one of three in Miami, Florida; two of five in New Orleans, Louisiana; four of 12 in Houston, Texas; and one of four in Newark, New Jersey, according to the Department of Homeland Security news release.

P&O also has service operations in 17 other cities, including New York, according to its Web site, which refers to the company as "the largest independent stevedore and terminal operator on the U.S. East and Gulf coasts with operations in most ports from Maine to Texas."

According to a dispatcher at the Dix-Fairway terminal in Corpus Christi, Texas -- one of the cities where P&O operates -- such services include container repair, cargo storage and stevedoring, which is the loading and unloading of cargo.

Here's a disturbing little passage the Kos kids found-
Port facility operators have a major security responsibility, and one that could be exploited by terrorists if they infiltrate the company, said Joe Muldoon III. Muldoon is an attorney representing Eller & Co., a port facility operator in Florida partnered with M&O in Miami. Eller opposes the Dubai takeover for security reasons.

"The Coast Guard oversees security, and they have the authority to inspect containers if they want and they can look at manifests, but they are really dependent on facility operators to carry out security issues," Muldoon said.

The Marine Transportation Security Act of 2002 requires vessels and port facilities to conduct vulnerability assessments and develop security plans including passenger, vehicle and baggage screening procedures; security patrols; establishing restricted areas; personnel identification procedures; access control measures; and/or installation of surveillance equipment.

Under the same law, port facility operators may have access to Coast Guard security incident response plans -- that is, they would know how the Coast Guard plans to counter and respond to terrorist attacks.

Funny thing is- only a small percentage of containers are searched anyway right now. I don't know why we are all running around screaming about this- there is stuff coming in by the boxcar loads that is not getting checked. Does it really make a difference who runs the joint?
The security of port terminal operations is a key concern. More than 7 million cargo containers come through 361 American ports annually, half of the containers through New York-New Jersey, Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif. Only a small percentage are physically searched and just 37 percent currently screened for radiation, an indication of an attempt to smuggle in nuclear material that could be used for a "dirty bomb."

There ya go. Under half are screened for radiation.

If you think Bush is "keeping us safe" now, before this port deal, I've got a bridge in northern Michigan I'd like to offer you.

But I'm more than happy to watch the GOP hoist itself on it's own petard. The first step to changing all of this is getting these bastards out of power, and this deal, should it go through on the GOP's insistence, might be the straw that finally breaks the camel's back.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Military jet apparently shoos off plane — Feds investigate breach of no-fly zone
So you're flying along in your plane... when all of a sudden a military jet flies up beside you...swoops to your left...swoops to your right...and then they SHOOT something in the air...who pays the dry cleaning bills?

A Brighton Township man said he watched as a military jet fired three flares to ward off a small private plane that apparently strayed into the temporary no-fly zone set up for President George Bush's visit to Michigan Monday.

Eric Pankowski said he witnessed the military plane veer to the left of a smaller plane, then to its right, then shoot the three flares in the sky over his home at Old U.S. 23 and Taylor Road, near Lakes Elementary School.

The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed it was investigating a violation of the 30-mile no-fly zone set up for the president's visit. Bush was in Auburn Hills on Monday, where he outlined energy proposals he believes will help wean the country off foreign oil. The visit was part of Bush's weeklong tour of the country to promote his energy initiatives.
But an FAA official could not say where the air security breach under investigation had occurred.

However, a portion of Brighton Township would have fallen within the 30-mile-radius restricted zone typically set up for presidential visits.

Bet that pilot checks the FAA reports from now on.
Pending deals could bring hundreds of jobs to Greenville
What was that again about the SBT being such a job killer, driving companies away? Refresh my memory...

24 Hour News 8 has learned three, possibly four, deals are close to becoming reality.

Greenville City Manager George Bosanic has confirmed negotiations are in the works, bringing new businesses and hundreds of jobs back to Greenville.

"We are blessed with a 200-acre industrial park," said Bosanic. "I have actually three or four companies that are right now negotiating with the city of Greenville and with the state of Michigan on locating in that park. And collectively that means hundreds of jobs to this community, which is very fortunate. We're very fortunate to have this opportunity."

The city says it is working with over 30 companies also showing interest in locating at existing sites or the industrial park. Already, over the past few months, Bosanic tells us Greenville has landed eight new companies employing 460 workers.

Target 8 Investigators worked the phones and spoke with leaders at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Mike Shore of the MEDC tells us, "The governor has put a priority on Greenville. Several deals are out there and nothing has been nailed down."

If negotiations go well, more jobs could be on the way, said Bosanic. "We're very confident that we're going to be making some announcements here very shortly."

And what of the petition to get the SBT killed at the ballot box? I mean, it's such a horrible thing that business should be lining up to take on this fight, right?

Ooops, guess not.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson's fight to end the state's Single Business Tax will continue for at least another week.

He missed his first self-imposed deadline Tuesday to raise $800,000 he said he needs to begin a petition drive that would force the Legislature to vote on the issue.

After 12 days of fund-raising, Patterson had firm commitments for $350,000 and verbal pledges for $100,000 more.

Patterson has been working with National Petition Management, a California-based company. Company officials said March 1 is the last date that they realistically could start a petition drive. If the pledges don't come in, "My drop dead date is Wednesday morning. We'll decide then whether to fish or cut bait," Patterson said.

Well, if Patterson doesn't succeed, there's always those whackjobs in the legislature who are willing to take up the cause.

A group of anti-tax lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday to repeal the state's main business tax in 2007, providing a potential shortcut for Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who is contemplating a petition drive aimed at the same result.

The bill would eliminate the Single Business Tax -- and about $1.9 billion in revenue it generates -- on Sept. 30, 2007.

The SBT is scheduled to expire at the end of 2009, but Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the Legislature have been unable to agree on an alternative tax plan. Granholm said she opposes reform that does not provide for replacement revenue.

Republicans are hell-bent on destroying the quality of life in this state. Quite frankly, this bill is a big waste of time if it doesn't provide for an alternative- you know it will get vetoed in a heartbeat.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Developers of mystery project staying mum
TV8 is teasing the hell out of us. A few other clues this web story doesn't mention- these are people who have not invested before in (I believe she said West) Michigan, and it is not a casino.

24 Hour News 8 has uncovered new information on one of the best-kept secrets in the city of Grand Rapids.

The plan to build a huge development on the banks of the Grand River is very close to being a done deal.

We now know the mystery man who is trying to buy property along the riverfront for the major project.

His name is David Minkin, a lawyer from Atlanta, Georgia. He is considered to be one of the leading real estate attorneys in the country. He represents developers of hotels, shopping centers, office and residential complexes.

There are reportedly 30-acres that they are trying to acquire.

The US-131 S-Curve, Wealthy Street, the Grand River, and Grandville Avenue surround the land.

Property owners tell 24 Hour News 8 they were told the development could mean $1 billion to $2 billion and generate 10,000 jobs. While they don't know exactly what the project is, they were told it involves entertainment, there is only one other like it, and that there is a better than 50-percent chance it will be built on the banks of the river.

They are calling it the single largest investment in the city's downtown.

The American Family Association doesn't run any theme parks, do they?

Nah, too cold for a theme park here.

10,000 jobs? Where in the hell are they all going to park?
Ohio lawmaker to propose ban on GOP adoption
My new hero.

AKRON, Ohio - If an Ohio lawmaker's proposal becomes state law, Republicans would be barred from being adoptive parents.

State Sen. Robert Hagan sent out e-mails to fellow lawmakers late Wednesday night, stating that he intends to "introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents." The e-mail ended with a request for co-sponsorship.

On Thursday, the Youngstown Democrat said he had not yet found a co-sponsor.

Hagan said his "tongue was planted firmly in cheek" when he drafted the proposed legislation. However, Hagan said that the point he is trying to make is nonetheless very serious.

Hagan said his legislation was written in response to a bill introduced in the Ohio House this month by state Rep. Ron Hood, R-Ashville, that is aimed at prohibiting gay adoption.

"We need to see what we are doing," said Hagan, who called Hood's proposed bill blatantly discriminatory and extremely divisive. Hagan called Hood and the eight other conservative House Republicans who backed the anti-gay adoption bill "homophobic."

Hood's bill, which does not have support of House leadership, seeks to ban children from being placed for adoption or foster care in homes where the prospective parent or a roommate is homosexual, bisexual or transgender.

To further lampoon Hood's bill, Hagan wrote in his mock proposal that "credible research" shows that adopted children raised in Republican households are more at risk for developing "emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities."

However, Hagan admitted that he has no scientific evidence to support the above claims.

Just as "Hood had no scientific evidence" to back his assertion that having gay parents was detrimental to children, Hagan said.

Thank you, Mr. Hagan. Finally we see some creative action to address the bigotry the gay community is facing this election year. First it was gay "marriage", now it's gay adoption. If they succeed at that, what's next?
CNN.com - Ports company will delay takeover - Feb 24, 2006
But if we delay the takeover we are HELPING the terrorists!

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Dubai Ports World has agreed to postpone its plans to take over management of six U.S. ports after the proposal ignited harsh bipartisan criticism on Capitol Hill.

"We need to understand the concerns of the people in the U.S. who are worried about this transaction and make sure they are addressed to the benefit of all parties," said Ted Bilkey, the company's chief operating officer, in a statement released Thursday night.

According to the statement, DP World will delay taking over management of the U.S. ports "while it engages in further consultations with the Bush administration and, as appropriate, congressional leadership and relevant port authorities to address concerns over future security arrangements."

The announcement came on the heels of comments from the second in command at the Pentagon, who said Thursday that people who publicly oppose allowing a Middle Eastern company to take over management of some U.S. ports could be threatening national security.

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England told the Senate Armed Services Committee that blocking the deal could ostracize one of the United States' few Arab allies.

"The terrorists want our nation to become distrustful," England said. "They want us to become paranoid and isolationist, and my view is we cannot allow this to happen. It needs to be just the opposite."

We'd like to welcome Tom DeLay and Bill Frist to the "you're with us or you're with the terrorists" club. How does it feel, boys? We shall have NO dissent from you!

Mom is going to owe me a dinner.

Republican leaders in both the House and Senate have demanded that Bush delay the deal so it can be scrutinized, and Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, accused the White House of taking "a casual approach" to its review.

Levin also said the president's threat to veto legislation that would interfere with the deal demonstrates that the White House is "out of touch" with the public's concerns.

"It also demonstrates presidential disdain for outside views in general and congressional views in particular," Levin said.

I saw some clips of Carl- he was pretty hot under the collar. He usually doesn't get like that. But it turns out once again that the WH is ignoring laws that it doesn't like, and that ticked Carl off a bit.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee angrily accused the Bush administration Thursday of ignoring the law by refusing to extend an investigation of a United Arab Emirates company's takeover of significant U.S. port operations.

Clashing with a Treasury Department official on a mission to calm a political uproar, Sen. Carl Levin said the law has language specifically requiring a longer review than the one that an interagency committee conducted, if a business deal could affect national security.

"Is there not one agency in this government that believes this takeover could affect the national security of the United States?" the Michigan Democrat asked at a committee briefing. Chairman John Warner, R-Va., in a very unusual procedure on Capitol Hill, allowed reporters to question the administration witnesses.

The Treasury official, Deputy Secretary Robert Kimmitt, and officials from other agencies said a multiagency group spent three months reviewing the port deal and said that all concerns about security were satisfied.

"We're not aware of a single national security concern raised recently that was not part of" the three-month review, Kimmitt said.

Levin insisted that the law that established the multiagency panel specifically said that any such review should be lengthened by 45 days if it could have an impact on national security.

Just hours before the hearing, President Bush declared that "people don't need to worry about security" in the deal.

Levin, raising his voice at the briefing, told Kimmitt, "If you want the law changed, come to Congress and change it, but don't ignore it."

Kimmitt responded: "We didn't ignore the law. Concerns were raised. They were resolved."

Warner then jumped in to assure Levin that he would ask Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to prepare a memorandum on the administration's interpretation of the law.

Ahhh, The WH gets to "interpret" the law for us. Again.

Better watch out Carl. You're going to end up on a no-fly list.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Arab Company, White House Had Secret Deal - Yahoo! News
And this surprises you?

WASHINGTON - Under a secretive agreement with the Bush administration, a company in the United Arab Emirates promised to cooperate with U.S. investigations as a condition of its takeover of operations at six major American ports, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The U.S. government chose not to impose other, routine restrictions.

In approving the $6.8 billion purchase, the administration chose not to require state-owned Dubai Ports World to keep copies of its business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to orders by American courts. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate requests by the government.

Outside legal experts said such obligations are routinely attached to U.S. approvals of foreign sales in other industries.

Don't be silly. If we had access to their business records, we might expect them to pay taxes, or something.

Dubai Ports agreed to give up records on demand about "foreign operational direction" of its business at the U.S. ports, according to the documents. Those records broadly include details about the design, maintenance or operation of ports and equipment. It also pledged to continue participating in programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials.

"They're not lax but they're not draconian," said James Lewis, a former U.S. official who worked on such agreements. If White House officials negotiating the deal had predicted the firestorm of criticism over it, "they might have made them sound harder."

But they probably wouldn't have enforced the provisions, anyway.

Rep. Peter King of New York, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the conditions are evidence the Bush administration was concerned about security. "There is a very serious question as to why the records are not going to be maintained on American soil subject to American jurisdiction," King said.

Another critic, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., added: "These new revelations ask more questions than they answer."

Dubai Port's top American executive, chief operating officer Edward H. Bilkey, said he will work in Washington to persuade skeptical lawmakers they should endorse the deal; several Senate oversight hearings already are scheduled.

Oh great, the Senate to the rescue with more hearings! Those have certainly been effective. Might as well start changing the names on the ports right now and move in.

Under the deal, the government asked Dubai Ports to operate American seaports with existing U.S. managers "to the extent possible." The company promised to take "all reasonable steps" to assist the Homeland Security Department.

It said Dubai Ports must retain paperwork "in the normal course of business" but did not specify a time period or require corporate records to be housed in the United States. Outside experts said stricter provisions are routine in other industries.

Foreign communications companies with American customers are commonly required to store business records in the United States. A senior U.S. official said the Bush administration considers shipping manifests less sensitive. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the agreement.

So, who deems whether a "step" is reasonable when it comes to assisting Homeland Security? And it's curious that we have "no-fly" lists and secret domestic surveillance, but this administration doesn't care about the tons of unchecked crap that gets shipped in everyday?

Not only does the deal sound like a security disaster waiting to happen, we won't even have access to their records to find out if they are evading taxes. Or a ship's manifest after it blows up. Smart move there, boys.

It's all about the money, honey.

One thing that gives me pause- Tom DeLay is against this. I hate to be on the side of the Bugman. And Bill Frist, too. Makes me feel all icky and dirty.

Damn you, George Bush.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Correction to Dick's Ad:

Seems he forgot to tell us something.
Bush Unaware of Ports Deal Before Approval - Yahoo! News
What didn't the President know, and when didn't he know it?

WASHINGTON - President Bush was unaware of the pending sale of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports to a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates until the deal already had been approved by his administration, the White House said Wednesday.

Defending the deal anew, the administration also said that it should have briefed Congress sooner about the transaction, which has triggered a major political backlash among both Republicans and Democrats.

Bush on Tuesday brushed aside objections by leaders in the Senate and House that the $6.8 billion sale could raise risks of terrorism at American ports. In a forceful defense of his administration's earlier approval of the deal, he pledged to veto any bill Congress might approve to block the agreement involving the sale of a British company to the Arab firm.

Bush faces a rebellion from leaders of his own party, as well as from Democrats, about the deal that would put Dubai Ports in charge of major shipping operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

While Bush has adamantly defended the deal, the White House acknowledged that he did not know about it until recently.
"He became aware of it over the last several days," McClellan said. Asked if Bush did not know about it until it was a done deal, McClellan said, "That's correct." He said the matter did not rise to the presidential level, but went through a congressionally-mandated review process and was determined not to pose a national security threat.

This begs the question: What ELSE does George claim to "not know about"? Is our President entirely clueless about the workings of his own administration, or is he going to use this excuse to cover his ass on a whole range of things?
$93,000 pledged to fight nude club
The city coffers are drained. We can't afford parks, festivals, city employees. The mayor is asking for a revenue increase. But a group of self-appointed busy bodies want to spend my tax money fighting what is sure to be a losing battle because they are prudes.

GRAND RAPIDS -- When Judy Rose asked the city to oppose an adult-oriented business in the Black Hills neighborhood, Mayor George Heartwell asked her to back it up with money for the fight.

Rose, head of the Southwest Side neighborhood, was to announce today she can do that.

Joined by self-proclaimed "smut-buster" Dar VanderArk of Grand Rapids-based Michigan Decency Action Council, Rose said she has pledges of $93,000 from area business owners for the fight to regulate a proposed nude night club and adult retail store in her neighborhood.

The city says it needs $100,000 in a legal fund before it would pass any ordinance regulating adult-oriented businesses.

She was to make the announcement today at a press conference at Adelante High School, backed by VanderArk and residents concerned about the proposed club at 234 Market Ave. SW, owned by Mark London.

London was not impressed.

"You get these loons out there on certain issues like abortion, affirmative action, my business, and there is no calming these nuts down," he said. "They'll do a petition or try to raise money. They don't believe in the laws. But America is for everybody, and it bothers me when people want to exclude different groups. This is constitutionally protected free speech."

The city has been through this before.

When the Velvet Touch Adult Bookstore opened in 2001 on 28th Street SE, Grand Rapids engaged in and lost a four-year legal battle to close its doors. The city had to pay $125,000 in attorney fees.

This isn't a fight to close it's doors, only to regulate certain behaviors. The club will still exist, so, what's the point here?

According to the ordinance, nudity is prohibited, semi-nudity is allowed if employees remain six feet from patrons, and physical contact is prohibited. Adult book stores with peep shows cannot have doors blocking vision.

"No one is saying you can't go in and look; it takes away the illicit activity that goes on. It's also a public health and safety issue," VanderArk said.

So the titty bars are OK if you just "look". Gotcha.

Also involved in this fight are the fun folks at the American Family Association. From WZZM13-

However, in a letter to Mayor Heartwell, the "American Family
Association of Michigan" volunteered to pay for and represent the city in court.

City Commissioner Rick Tormala says the city must represent itself, "It's gonna be our name on there when he sues us for liability purposes it's gonna have to be our legal staff our there defending. We certainly will take any support we can get financial or otherwise but the strategy is gonna have to be okay by our city attorney and backed by the will of this commission."

Seeing as how this piece of property is in the "mysterious development area", this all might be a futile exercise anyway- for now. I'm sure London will try to find another spot. If we are going to be this big convention town, places like this are going to exist.

I'm not thrilled with the exploitation of nude women (or men for that matter). Seems a bit juvenile to me. But different strokes, ya know- I don't give a damn what people want to do. Obviously the audience is there, the performers are willing and make damn good livings doing this, so why not? If you don't like 'em, don't go. Stay out of other people's lives and choices.

Don't spend my tax money on a futile fight, and then turn around and cut more city services.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Mysterious downtown land deal could be 'great thing'
This is one big piece of real estate. Here's a map-

What in the world could it be?

GRAND RAPIDS -- It is a downtown development deal so delicious the mayor had to sign an agreement requiring he button his lip in order to get a taste of the details.

Just what is "it?"

It is "big," "significant" and "a great thing," according to those briefed on the project.

For now, "it" is mostly a mystery.

Here's what is known:

An out-of-town developer has spent more than a year trying to option acres of properties at the southern end of downtown for a project Mayor George Heartwell said could reshape an easily overlooked portion of the city.

"I have enough information to know that, if he can pull this off, it will be a very, very significant project for Grand Rapids," said Heartwell, who last year agreed to keep mum about the project until the developer goes public.

Who is the developer? That's unclear, although commercial real estate agents Deborah Shurlow and Bill Bowling, of Grubb &Ellis Paramount, are helping tie up properties, according to those who have been approached by the agents.

The area in question is roughly bordered by Grandville Avenue SW on the east, the Grand River on the west, the U.S. 131 S-curve to the north and Wealthy Street SW to the south.

Heartwell said the confidentiality agreement prohibits him from speaking, despite the possibility the project could encompass the city-owned Public Works yard along the Grand River. The city recently issued a "request for interest" to those who may have concepts for developing its 19 acres.

Joel Langlois, who owns The Intersection nightclub at 133 Grandville Ave. SW, would not comment about the status of his property.

"All I've heard is that there is something big happening and it's going to be a great thing for Grand Rapids and a great thing for Michigan," Langlois said. "But everybody that knows anything seems to be bound by some great level of security."

Seriously, what could need that amount of land? And why the need for such secrecy?
Bush: Arab Co. Port Deal Should Proceed - Yahoo! News
Shhh! Listen! Hear that? That's the sound of Bush's approval rating dropping another ten points...

WASHINGTON - President Bush said Tuesday that a deal allowing an Arab company to take over six major U.S. seaports should go forward and that he would veto any congressional effort to stop it.

The Senate's Republican leader had promised just such an effort a few hours earlier.

"After careful review by our government, I believe the transaction ought to go forward," Bush told reporters who had traveled with him on Air Force One to Washington. "I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great British company. I am trying to conduct foreign policy now by saying to the people of the world, `We'll treat you fairly.'"

Bush took the rare step of calling reporters to his conference room on the plane after returning from a speech in Colorado, addressing a controversy that is becoming a major headache for the White House. He said the seaports arrangement had been extensively examined by the administration and was "a legitimate deal that will not jeopardize the security of the country."

Earlier, Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist urged the administration to reconsider its decision to allow the transaction, under which a British company that has been running six U.S. ports would be acquired by Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates. Frist said he'd introduce a bill to delay the deal if the administration doesn't do so on its own.

"The decision to finalize this deal should be put on hold until the administration conducts a more extensive review of this matter," said Frist. "If the administration cannot delay this process, I plan on introducing legislation to ensure that the deal is placed on hold until this decision gets a more thorough review."

Frist, who spoke to reporters in Long Beach, Calif., where he was on a fact-finding tour on port security and immigration issues, said he doesn't oppose foreign ownership, "but my main concern is national security."

Two Republican governors, New York's George Pataki and Maryland's Robert Ehrlich, voiced their own doubts a day earlier, as have other members of Congress.

But Bush, who has yet to issue a bill in more than five years in office, said sternly he would not back down.

"They ought to listen to what I have to say about this. They'll look at the facts and understand the consequences of what they're going to do," he said. "But if they pass a law, I'll deal with it with a veto."

You do that, Georgie-boy. You go ahead and veto. You just hung your own party out to dry. Sure glad I'm not running for re-election under the Bush banner. Heh heh.

Worst. President. Ever.
US removing documents from public access: report - Yahoo! News
Into the memory hole they go...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence agencies have been secretly removing from public access at the National Archives thousands of historical documents that were available for years, The New York Times reported on Monday.

The restoration of classified status to more than 55,000 previously declassified pages began in 1999, when the CIA and five other agencies objected to what they saw as a hasty release of sensitive information after a 1995 declassification order signed by President Bill Clinton, the Times said on its Web site.

The secret program accelerated after the Bush administration took office and especially after the September 11 attacks, according to archives records, the paper said.

It came to light after intelligence historian Matthew Aid noticed dozens of documents he had copied years ago had been withdrawn from the archives' open shelves, the Times said.

Under existing guidelines, government documents are supposed to be declassified after 25 years unless there is a particular reason to keep them secret.

Some historians say the program is removing material that can do no conceivable harm to national security and note that some of the documents have been published by the government, the Times said.

Critics say it is part of a marked trend toward greater secrecy under the Bush administration, which has increased the pace of classifying documents, slowed declassification and discouraged the release of some material under the Freedom of Information Act, the paper said.

You should see my copy of "1984". It is a Signet 50 cent paperback published in 1960, pages brown with age and loose from the binding, the spine held together with brown tape. The cover art is sooooo late 50's, right down to the style of clothes they wear- updated, I guess, from the original 1949 first editions. On the back the words shout out a sales pitch as only they did back then for monster flicks and other spooky things-

"Unbelievable? You'll feel differently after you've read this best-selling novel of forbidden love and terror in a world many of us may live to see!"

I've been meaning to replace this copy with a new one before I start losing pages, but there is something about this warning from the past, the brown fragile paper describing what we are moving towards at this very moment, that I have held off buying another. It seems like a "forbidden" book somehow. An "unbook", perhaps.

Orwell couldn't envision the technology we have to make his nightmare come true- but it's here. It might be a good thing that he didn't live to see this. He probably would have gone insane.
GOP Governors Threaten to Block Port Deal - Yahoo! News
A little something I've noticed from the "liberal media" lately as George's approval numbers go sliding down the slope- any Republicans that distance themselves from this administration get top ink. This story is sitting at No. 1 right now on the AP wire.

Robert Menendez and Hillary Clinton, who proposed legislation in the Senate that would block this deal, get a whole one sentence in this story. And interestingly enough, they throw in a word of support for the deal from Jimmy Carter.

The message I get from this story about this very unpopular idea is that: a)Republicans are blocking it b) Democratic efforts don't matter and c)throw Jimmy Carter to the wolves.

WASHINGTON - Two Republican governors are threatening legal action to block an Arab company from taking over operations in major U.S. ports and some GOP lawmakers say the deal should be closely examined.

In the uneasy climate after the Sept 11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration decision to allow the transaction is threatening to develop a major political headache for the White House.

New York Gov. George Pataki and Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich on Monday voiced doubts about the acquisition of a British company that has been running six U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates.

The British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., runs major commercial operations at ports in Baltimore, Miami, New Jersey, New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia.

Both governors indicated they may try to cancel lease arrangements at ports in their states because of the DP World takeover.

"Ensuring the security of New York's port operations is paramount and I am very concerned with the purchase of Peninsular & Oriental Steam by Dubai Ports World," Pataki said in a news release. "I have directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to explore all legal options that may be available to them."

Ehrlich, concerned about security at the Port of Baltimore, said Monday he was "very troubled" that Maryland officials got no advance notice before the Bush administration approved the Arab company's takeover of the operations at the six ports.

It goes on to mention two Republican Senators statements before they even get to the Menendez/Clinton legislation.

Anywhooo- I hope they get this blocked. It seems like a really bad idea. As one person at Kos put it- "I can see the hearings now, with Condi Rice saying, 'No one could have anticipated the terrorists infilitrating the Dubai Ports World company'"

It looks like the "Be Very Afraid" campaign the Bush administration lives by is now backfiring in their face.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Detroit cops call attack hate crime
The product of the bigotry currently being perpetrated by the Radical RightTM. And what does the Michigan Legislature do? The answer down below.

He lies in a coma, a bullet wound over his right eyebrow.

There's a second hole on the left side of the back of his head, where the bullet exited.

Doctors tell his family that the state he's in now -- his only movement a slight fluttering of his eyelids -- might be permanent.

And the reason police say someone shot 31-year-old Salvagio Vonatti? Because he was walking to a Detroit bar known to cater to gay men.

Detroit police spokesman James Tate said Williams and another man approached Vonatti of Windsor who was meeting friends at the bar about midnight. The bar's parking lot was full, police said, so Vonatti parked around the corner on Clayburn.

The two males walked up to Vonatti and, according to a witness, "made a comment to the victim pertaining to sexual preference," Tate said. Then Williams allegedly pulled out a handgun and fired several shots.

Vonatti was struck once in the head. Police found him lying on the street, unresponsive, Tate said.

Shootings outside gay bars aren't very common, said Sean Kosofsky of the Detroit-based Triangle Foundation, a civil rights organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

The Triangle Foundation is helping to raise money to help offset Vonatti's growing medical costs. One fund-raiser, cohosted by DaimlerChrysler, where Vonatti worked as an engineer, was Thursday night in Windsor. The Metropolitan Community Church of Windsor also is accepting donations.

Here in Michigan, we have a fund that helps victims of crime, but only if they don't support gay rights, apparently. Perhaps we should have a questionnaire for all the victims, too. Republicans are looking into the funding for the Triangle Foundation, after all, we can't give any money to gay groups. Prop 2 and all. They might use it to get married or something, just as soon as they leave the hospital. From MichiganLiberal-

Republican state lawmakers are questioning why money to help crime victims was awarded to a gay rights group. The Triangle Foundation advocates for same-sex marriage, and other gay causes. But its mission also includes working with people who've been attacked because they are gay, lesbian, or trans-sexual. State Senator Tony Stamas chairs a budget subcommittee. Stamas says his committee will look into why the Triangle Foundation was one of the recipients of money from the state's crime victims fund. The fund is financed by a fee charged to people convicted of crimes. A spokesman for the Triangle Foundation says the organization deserves the money because it works with victims of hate crimes, not because it works for gay rights. A House budget panel is also planning a hearing.

Republicans are hell-bent on denying EVERYTHING to gays and lesbians. Gee, I thought they only wanted to... *cough*... "protect marriage".

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Lansing State Journal: Dems focus on worker wages
Wish I could have been there...but I don't trust my poor old car with long distances, especially on the coldest day of the year. It would be nice to see a traveling roadshow from the Dems- NOT pay-to-play fundraisers, free events that the whole public can attend. It would be a stark difference from the Republicans, I believe.

Michigan Democrats on Saturday heard from a host of candidates and rallied in favor of raising the minimum wage and defeating an anti-affirmative action ballot proposal.

The mid-February meeting was the earliest state convention Democrats have ever held in an election year.

"We're just trying to give people the information they need to be effective foot soldiers," Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer said of the more than 1,000 Democratic activists at who attended the Lansing Center event.

Both Stabenow and Granholm told the crowd that Republicans in Washington are turning their backs on the auto industry and on making sure workers earn good wages and get the health benefits and pensions they've been promised.

"The middle class is under assault every day by this president and the Republican Congress," Stabenow said. "They don't get that pensions aren't a luxury. People have earned those benefits and they deserve to get them.

"What is happening to Michigan is a wake-up call to the rest of America."

Republicans, meanwhile, put out a release saying Democrats had destroyed a state GOP jobs clock sign showing Michigan was losing a job every 20 minutes. The release added that Republican Party workers were threatened as they stood near the sign outside the center where Democrats were meeting.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. We don't need to encourage the Republican culture of professional victimhood. Good God, they will be whining about this for days.

Laugh at them, point out how they LIE about the numbers, but don't threaten and vandalize. That's their tactic. They are the bullies, not us. Of course, given their propensity for lying, I wonder if this really went down the way they say it did. Somebody probably gave them a dirty look and they went running for their Mommies, cowards that they are.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Carlos Zambrano - Chicago Cubs - Photos - MLB - Yahoo! Sports
Holy Cow!

Or, no holy cow for Carlos this offseason. Dude is SKINNY (for him, anyway).

Check it out.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Dick's "Space For Rent" Building:

This is the building from Dick's ad- it's the old Sligh Furniture building on Century St. in GR. Sligh was big in the 20's, went out of business in '32, re-opened in '33 out in Holland and still operates today.

Next time you see this building in Dick's ad, remember there are 5, count 'em 5, bustling businesses on the ground floor- 3 antique stores, 1 furniture painting store and a graphics company. Up above is storage space; both Steelcase and Lacks have areas up there.

Not so forlorn after all, is it?
WZZM 13 Grand Rapids - State trooper force may fall to '60s level
What do we do about this? I know! Let's cut taxes some more!

Because of cutbacks and attrition, the number of Michigan State Police patrol officers could fall below 1,000 next year for the first time since the 1960s, a union president warned.

In her fiscal 2007 budget plan, Gov. Jennifer Granholm did not propose adding more recruits to the force, which now has about 1,050 troopers and sergeants who patrol Michigan. There were 1,033 in 1970.

Matt Wesaw, president of the Michigan State Police Troopers Association, said without reinforcements, trooper levels could dip below 1,000 by the time the next budget year ends on Sept. 30, 2007.

State Sen. Cameron Brown, R-Sturgis, who oversees the state police budget in the Senate, said securing the estimated $10 million to train the next class of recruits will be difficult given the competition for scarce funds - and that concerns him.

"There are some very logical assumptions that this low level doesn't adequately meet the public-safety demands of the 21st century," he told Booth Newspapers.

Let's cut funding down to nothing and then bitch when government isn't effective!

Seriously, how hard is it to figure this out?
Sen.: White House Agrees to Spy Law Change - Yahoo! News
Um...if this was all "legal" in the first place as this administration claims, why would we have to fix the law?

WASHINGTON - Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts said he has worked out an agreement with the White House to change U.S. law regarding the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program and provide more information about it to Congress.

Without offering specifics, Roberts said the agreement with the White House provides "a fix" to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and offers more briefings to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The deal comes as the committee was set to have a meeting Thursday about whether to open an investigation into the hotly disputed program. Roberts indicated the deal may eliminate the need for such an inquiry. Democrats have been demanding an investigation but some Republicans don't want to tangle the panel in a testy election-year probe.

"Whether or not an investigation is the right thing to do at this particular time, I am not sure," Roberts told reporters while heading into the meeting.

Earlier in the day, White House spokesman Scott McClellan hinted at a "good discussion going on" with lawmakers and praised in particular "some good ideas" presented by Sen. Mike DeWine (news, bio, voting record). The Ohio Republican has suggested the FISA law be changed to accommodate the NSA program.

However, McClellan left the impression that any deal would not allow for significant changes. He said the White House continued to maintain that Bush does not need Congress' approval to authorize the warrantless eavesdropping and that the president would resist any legislation that might compromise the program.

"There's kind of a high bar to overcome," McClellan said. "We think there's some good ideas, but we have not seen actual legislation."

Republicans selling us down the river once again. Making "deals" with the WH. Deals with the devil is more like it.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Freaky Weather Today:

Freezing thunder rain is the best way I can describe it. It is DARK outside and there is thunder and lightning overhead, and hail/rain hitting my windows.

If (when) this freezes over, we are in for some trouble. Hope I don't lose power. If I don't post, you will know what happened.
WZZM 13 Grand Rapids - Governor Will Investigate Case of Murdered Boy
Remember this story the next time you hear a Republican say "more tax cuts".

Lansing - Governor Jennifer Granholm pledged today to thoroughly investigate how a seven-year-old boy beaten to death last summer was left with an adoptive family despite repeated reports of abuse.

Ricky Holland's adoptive parents are in jail charged with open counts of murder. They have pleaded not guilty and face a preliminary examination February 28.

Granholm says the child protective services section has been understaffed since the late 1990s.

She plans to hire 51 additional caseworkers in the budget year that starts October 1 and says she won't sign budget bills unless the money is there to hire them.

She adds that the Republican-led Legislature has turned down her past requests for more caseworkers.

I'm glad she is investigating. I'll bet that she will find an over-worked, over-loaded caseworker and a department with very little resources to do anything about these situations.

The Detroit News ran an article with the title "Adopted boy's death shows how state fails kids". How is it that they do not make the connection to the cuts in revenue? How do they think that government can function when all they want to do is cut the money? Do they think this all comes for free? The GR press did the same thing with the Sago mine disaster, calling for more "government oversite" after the fact.

Up until someone dies, Republicans demand tax cuts. After someone dies, Republicans demand more "government". And then they refuse to fund it. It's enough to make your head explode.
ABC News: Pitchers and Catchers Report to Camp
Somewhere in Arizona today, guys in Cub uniforms will be doing baseball stuff. Spring begins again.

It's time for the words baseball fans couldn't wait to hear: pitchers and catchers. Just 112 days after the Chicago White Sox completed their World Series sweep of the Houston Astros, spring training began Wednesday when pitchers and catchers reported to a half-dozen of the 30 major league training camps in Florida and Arizona.

Workouts started Thursday, and the Minnesota Twins will become the final team to report Sunday. Position players are due in next week, and before you know it will come the April 3 opener, when Cleveland visits the White Sox.

There will be an interesting twist this year, with the spring split by the first World Baseball Classic, a 16-team tournament from March 3-20 in which players will be on national teams instead of major league clubs.

But for now, teams were settling in.

Sammy Sosa, however, was not at spring training. The 37-year-old outfielder, just 12 homers shy of becoming the fifth player to reach 600, rejected an offer from the Washington Nationals and is likely to retire. The former Chicago Cubs star batted .221 with 14 homers and 45 RBIs last year in his only season with the Baltimore Orioles.

Bye, bye Sammy.
Cheney Says He Has Power to Declassify Info - Yahoo! News
The executive branch has the power to out undercover CIA agents for political gain? We ought to look into changing that.

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney says he has the power to declassify government secrets, raising the possibility that he authorized his former chief of staff to pass along sensitive prewar data on Iraq to reporters.

Cheney coupled his statement in a TV interview Wednesday with an endorsement of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, his ex-aide. Libby is under indictment on charges of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI about disclosing the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame.

"Scooter is entitled to the presumption of innocence," Cheney told Fox News Channel. "He is a great guy. I worked with him for a long time. I have tremendous regard for him. I may well be called as a witness at some point in the case, and it is therefore inappropriate for me to comment on any facet of the case."

In a recent court filing, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald revealed Libby's assertions to a grand jury that superiors had authorized him to spread sensitive information from a National Intelligence Estimate. The administration used the NIE assessment on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction as part of its justification for going to war.

At the time of Libby's contacts with reporters in June and July 2003, the administration, including Cheney, who was among the war's most ardent proponents, faced growing criticism.

No weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, and Bush supporters were anxious to show that the White House had relied on prewar intelligence projecting a strong threat from such weapons.

Fitzgerald did not specify which superiors Libby may have been referring to when he testified that higher-ups had authorized him to spread sensitive information.

But in the interview, Cheney said an executive order gives him, and President Bush, power to declassify information.

"I have certainly advocated declassification. I have participated in declassification decisions," Cheney said. Asked for details, he said, "I don't want to get into that. There's an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously it focuses first and foremost on the president, but also includes the vice president."

Wow. They used to call that TREASON. But with BushCo., anything goes as long as it suits their purposes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

WOODTV.com & WOOD TV8 - Job numbers still being argued over in gubernatorial campaign
The Michigan GOP was WRONG about the numbers when they put up their little "job clock"? What a surprise.

LANSING, Mich.-Michigan Republican Chairman Saul Anuzis says he's willing to cut in half the number of jobs he says have been lost since Democrat Jennifer Granholm became governor.

So he's willing to correct a mistake that gives the public false information? Mighty big of him. What a guy.
By the G-O-P's reckoning, the state has lost more than 160-thousand jobs. But a check with the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site shows the number of nonfarm payroll jobs lost is only 83-thousand.

The B-L-S figures from its household survey show the state gained 99-thousand jobs over the three years, a number Granholm cited in her State of the State address.

Either is correct, depending on what someone is trying to measure.

Well, alrighty then. That settles that.
WZZM13.com - DeVos Prepares to Launch TV Ad Campaign for Governor
And so it begins...

Grand Rapids - The race for governor takes a step forward Thursday.

The campaign for Republican Dick DeVos will begin airing new TV commercials, and that includes the purchase of advertising time here on WZZM 13.

DeVos has not formally declared his candidacy, but candidates have until the middle of May to file for the August 8th primary.

WZZM 13 News tried to reach Governor Granholm's campaign office for comment, but have not yet received a response.

I'll let you know what I see...if I see them.
Congressional Probe of NSA Spying Is in Doubt
Congress is Bush's bitch once again.

Congress appeared ready to launch an investigation into the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program last week, but an all-out White House lobbying campaign has dramatically slowed the effort and may kill it, key Republican and Democratic sources said yesterday.

The Senate intelligence committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a Democratic-sponsored motion to start an inquiry into the recently revealed program in which the National Security Agency eavesdrops on an undisclosed number of phone calls and e-mails involving U.S. residents without obtaining warrants from a secret court. Two committee Democrats said the panel -- made up of eight Republicans and seven Democrats -- was clearly leaning in favor of the motion last week but now is closely divided and possibly inclined against it.

They attributed the shift to last week's closed briefings given by top administration officials to the full House and Senate intelligence committees, and to private appeals to wavering GOP senators by officials, including Vice President Cheney. "It's been a full-court press," said a top Senate Republican aide who asked to speak only on background -- as did several others for this story -- because of the classified nature of the intelligence committees' work.

Lawmakers cite senators such as Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) to illustrate the administration's success in cooling congressional zeal for an investigation. On Dec. 20, she was among two Republicans and two Democrats who signed a letter expressing "our profound concern about recent revelations that the United States Government may have engaged in domestic electronic surveillance without appropriate legal authority." The letter urged the Senate's intelligence and judiciary committees to "jointly undertake an inquiry into the facts and law surrounding these allegations."

So, the President violating the law and American's 4th amendment rights, that can wait. They have more important things to do like... GET the GAYS!

Frist pledges marriage ban vote in Senate
Yes, turns out that gay people once again are the big threat to America.

Funny how they are only a threat during election years.

WASHINGTON -- The Senate is planning on a vote this year for a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage.

Sen. Bill Frist, R-Cat Killer., has announced that he expects to hold a vote in June on the measure, which would prevent states from allowing gay marriages. While the bill is unlikely to get the two-thirds majority needed to be approved, it will be an important test for lawmakers on gay rights before the midterm elections in November. Senators will be forced to go on the record about their support for gay marriage, which could help Republican candidates in conservative states.

"Today, the institution of marriage is under attack," Frist said in a speech Friday to the Conservative Political Action Committee Conference. The content of the speech was first disclosed Monday.

The marriage amendment has resurfaced several times in recent years, often in the months before a federal election. The Senate voted on a procedural motion to consider the ban in 2004, and 48 senators supported the measure.

Let's recap- President lying and breaking the law, not a big deal. Persecuting a peaceful, law-abiding, taxpaying minority- the utmost importance.

These people are scum. I want them all thrown out of office.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

WZZM 13 Grand Rapids - GM Investing Millions in Michigan
Good news for a change.

PONTIAC - General Motors plans to hire almost 300 workers and invest 545 million dollars in five Michigan plants.

A spokesman for the world's largest automaker says 163 million of that will go to GM's Pontiac Assembly Center, which makes the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. Production of the next generation of those vehicles is scheduled to begin later this year.

In addition, the company plans to hire 280 people at the Pontiac plant - all workers who are currently employed at G-M plants or who had lost their jobs. G-M has several thousand workers in a jobs bank who get most of their pay and benefits even when they're not working.

The news is good for Michigan, which has lost an estimated 130-thousand auto manufacturing jobs in the last five years. Still, the investment is dwarfed by the struggling G-M's restructuring plan, which calls for cutting 30-thousand jobs nationally by 2008.
Granholm: 'There's no silver bullet' for reviving state - 02/14/06 - The Detroit News
Damn, she's good. Long range plans that build our future.

Nice interview- go read. Here's an excerpt on the tax issue- of course the News is all for just eliminating it with no thought to the consequences. Once again I want to point out that Jennifer is willing to work with these people if they can be responsible about spreading the tax burden fairly. I get the impression that Republicans would happily shift the burden to the people and let business get off scott-free.

Q . Looking out 10 years at the kind of Michigan economy you want to see, would your tax plan get us there?

A . I've done that. And my plan wasn't adopted. I need a Legislature that works with me.(Bingo. It's just that simple.)

Q . Aside from the single Business Tax, what specifically has the Legislature blocked in your economic recovery program?

A . They haven't done the Merit scholarship or the curriculum yet. I'm hopeful that they will. On the diversification (investment fund) effort, they have done that.

Taxes are the toughest. I'm not opposed to cutting taxes. But taxes are not the only answer to a state's economic development. I've signed into law and we have $1.7 billion less tax revenue due to tax cuts than we did during the most robust time of our history recently, which was in 1999. We have cut and cut and cut. And you would think that with all that tax cutting we would be growing jobs at the fastest clip around.

Some of that maybe has to do with the Single Business Tax structure. But it has to do with the fact that we're the domestic auto capital of the world, and we've lost jobs because we're competing with countries that are paying 50 cents an hour.

Q . What specifically do you want as part of an economic stimulus policy that the Legislature hasn't given you?

A . I would like to lower the rate (of the Single Business Tax). Call it something else. Get rid of the SBT.

Q . Have you put an elimination proposal on the table?

A . I have told them repeatedly: I don't care what you call it, but what we should have is a tax system that treats taxpayers fairly, business taxpayers as well as others. That means lowering the rate, flattening the base. That means that all of those darn loopholes that have appeared over time that end up costing more for those who are paying, those have got to be eliminated too.

Q . So do you support what Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson is proposing -- a ballot initiative to eliminate the Single Business Tax?

A . And? And? What's the next part of that? You can drop one shoe. What's the second (one)?

Q . Under your plan, the Single Business Tax would still be there as a value-added tax.

A . I'd be happy to move away from a value-added tax, but we have been bumping up against this constitutional spending limit for years and year and years. We are now $5.8 billion below the Headlee limit as a state because of the tax cuts and because of the economy. I say that as an example of how we have attempted to make government smaller, to make the business climate competitive. So if Brooks is willing to work with me on something, I'd be happy to do it.

But right now that proposal stands sort of on the same footing as the K-16 proposal (for guaranteed school and university funding), which is: Here's the solution but no way to pay for it.

Q . So the Legislature is stopping you from lowering the rate and flattening the tax?

A . That's what we proposed last year and that's what they ran away from it because it had loophole closings. There are all sorts of bizarre loopholes.

Q . If the two parties can't agree on the business tax in Michigan, then shouldn't the voters eliminate it? That certainly would force the two parties to come up with an alternative and break the gridlock.

A . I wouldn't assume there has to necessarily be gridlock. This is an election year, which is the most difficult of times to get an agreement on something as sensitive as a tax cut. But if people were willing in good faith to remove it from the political process and work quietly on a solution that really was a rational solution....

And because it is an election year, I can almost guarantee you that anything that smacks of cooperation will be frowned upon by the big money (hint hint -you know who) donors of the Republican Party.

They will put their own interests above the best interests of Michigan every time.

We need a Democratic controlled legislature. Now. Then we will see progress.

The Detroit Free Press has an interview also, not as combative, and they let her talk a bit more about her plan. Also worth a read.
AP Wire | 02/12/2006 | Alternative energy bills proliferate in Legislature
My first blog entry this morning was a story from the south, reported by a local Michigan TV channel. It's only fitting that this story about Michigan is reported by the Miami Herald. Go figure. But, I digress...

This ran in the Press last night, back by the obituaries of course- anything that smacks of cooperation or progress for the state takes a backseat here in DeVos land.

It's an important story, one that will pull our fat out of the fire, so to speak...

LANSING, Mich. - With gasoline prices routinely topping $2 a gallon and home heating bills soaring, it's trendier than ever to talk about alternative energy sources.

It even creeps into discussion at the state Capitol.

Both Democrats and Republicans have introduced a flurry of bills aimed at energy conservation or reducing dependence on imported oil. Some of the proposed legislation seeks to boost Michigan's economy in the process.

Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm raised awareness of the issue in last month's State of the State address. She said Michigan, home of the automobile, had a "patriotic duty to be the state that ends our nation's dependence on foreign oil."

Michigan universities have been plugging away at alternative energy sources for years. Students at the University of Michigan, for example, enter solar car competitions. Michigan State University is a leader in developing energy and other products from the state's farm crops.

Granholm said that, in the months ahead, a statewide partnership will be formed among the alternative energy research and development institutions in Michigan. The alliance could build off a new $1 billion investment fund that encourages business growth in four areas - alternative energy; life sciences; homeland security; and advanced automotive, manufacturing and materials.

Democrats and Republicans alike say they were encouraged by Granholm's alternative energy pitch. But they say the state needs to develop a more organized, long-range plan sooner rather than later.

Gee, if we had just followed Jimmy Carter's lead 30 years ago, this wouldn't be such a problem now, would it.

Oh well, I'm glad to see some action happening, and glad to see everyone excited and working together. This is the future, and we are poised to be out in the lead...bless Granholm for having the vision to start the ball rolling.
WZZM13 GRAND RAPIDS- New Play Puts Strom Thurmond in "Limbo"
Channel 13's website comes up with some real wacky stuff sometimes. Kudos to them- their web content is head and shoulders above Channel 8.

This one gave me a big laugh this morning.

(Columbia) - A new play is asking a provocative question: will Strom Thurmond go to heaven or hell?

Thurmond died in June of 2003 at the age of 100, capping one of the most high-profile political careers in South Carolina history. During his years of public service, he became governor, ran for president, and had the longest tenure ever in the United States Senate.

Now though, his life is being put on trial in a production performed at Columbia's Trustus Theatre called 'Strom in Limbo'.

The premise of the performance is that Thurmond has just died and is now on trial to determine if he's going to heaven or hell. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the presiding judge.

The play touches on the controversial aspects of Thurmond's life, including his pro-segregation stance in his early political career, which included his 1948 run for president as a 'Dixiecrat'. In later years, Thurmond said he supported equal rights for all.

Throughout the play, the audience hears testimony from a series of people with whom Thurmond crossed paths during his life.

'Strom in Limbo' actors say it's a show worth seeing whether you like Thurmond or not.

For added entertainment, Trustus Theatre will put a ballot box out as people are leaving to let them decide which way Thurmond should go.

Trustus is in South Carolina, so it's doubtful that anyone from West Michigan would end up seeing this, but still...funny stuff.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Thousands would die if US attacked Iran: study - Yahoo! News
You have been warned. Remember these words the next time the babbling heads on the right entertain thoughts of a military strike on Iran.

LONDON (Reuters) - Thousands of military personnel and hundreds of civilians would be killed if the United States launched an air strike on Iran to prevent it developing nuclear arms, a British think tank said in a report released on Monday.

The report by the Oxford Research Group said any bombing of Iran by U.S. forces, or by their Israeli allies, would have to be part of a surprise attack that would inevitably catch many Iranians unprotected and could eventually lead to a lengthy confrontation involving many other countries in the region.

An attack could lead to the closure of the Gulf at the Straits of Hormuz and would probably have a substantial impact on oil prices, as well as spurring new attacks by Muslim radicals on Western interests, the report said.

"A U.S. military attack on Iranian nuclear infrastructure would be the start of a protracted military confrontation that would probably involve Iraq, Israel and Lebanon as well as the United States and Iran, with the possibility of west Gulf States being involved as well," it said.

The report said an attack by the United States or Israel on Iran would probably spur Tehran to work as rapidly as possible toward developing a nuclear military option.

It said U.S. forces, already tied down in Iraq, would have a limited number of military options when dealing with Iran and would have to rely almost entirely on the air force and navy.

Any attack would almost certainly unify Iran and bolster the government in Tehran, and mean that any future U.S. relationship with Iran would have to be based on violence, the report said.

A military response to the crisis would be a "particularly dangerous option and should not be considered further," the report concluded.

Remember this. It could be the start of WWIII.
mlive.com: NewsFlash - Poll: Granholm leads DeVos in Michigan governor's race
Looks like the Detroit News made a "convenient" typo in the story I posted yesterday. As of this morning they haven't corrected it. Not surprising though- I've found the News to be more biased to the right than the GR Press- and that's saying something.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - With about nine months before voters go to the polls, Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm continues to lead likely challenger Republican Dick DeVos, according to a recent poll.

The poll conducted by Lansing-based EPIC/MRA showed Granholm with 53 percent, DeVos with 36 percent and 11 percent undecided, pollster Ed Sarpolus said Sunday. The survey of 600 likely Michigan voters was conducted Jan. 15-25 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Ten point error, no mention of the "undecideds". Pretty sloppy reporting- from now on I'd better verify their numbers with other sources.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Pennsylvania man accused of terrorist plot: report - Yahoo! News
Something about this story didn't sit right with me when I heard it last night...

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Federal investigators have accused a Pennsylvania man of trying to conspire with al-Qaeda to blow up major U.S. oil and gas pipelines and wreck the economy, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Sunday.

The FBI says Michael Curtis Reynolds, 47, of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. attempted to provide material aid to al-Qaeda to disrupt the federal government, to change its foreign policy, and to turn the public against the war in Iraq, the newspaper said.

Reynolds, who is unemployed, was drawn into an FBI sting operation in Idaho two months ago in which he meet with a purported al-Qaeda operative who was really a Montana judge who monitors extremist Muslim Web sites looking for potential terrorist activity, according to the report.

At that meeting, Reynolds expected to receive $40,000 to finance a plot to blow up sections of the Transcontinental Pipeline which carries natural gas from the U.S. Gulf Coast to New York City via Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

I got the impression that this judge does this for fun in her spare time. My question- how come the FEDERAL government isn't monitoring extremist Muslim web sites??? How did she notice this and they didn't?

Something to think about.
Cheney accidently shoots man - U.S. News - MSNBC.com
Holy shit!

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and injured a man during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, his spokeswoman said Sunday.

Harry Whittington, 78, was “alert and doing fine” after Cheney sprayed Whittington with shotgun pellets on Saturday at the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas, said property owner Katharine Armstrong.

Armstrong said Cheney turned to shoot a bird and accidentally hit Whittington. She said Whittington was taken to Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital by ambulance.

Was he drunk at the time?
Granholm isn't blamed for job woes - 02/12/06 - The Detroit News
Good, but the gap between her and Dick is getting smaller.

LANSING -- Michigan remains in the economic doldrums with high unemployment and waves of bad news from Detroit automakers, but its residents don't seem to hold that against Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Granholm, who in November will seek a second four-year term as governor, gets a positive job rating from 55 percent of Michigan adults, according to a poll conducted by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 and EPIC/MRA.

In a head-to-head matchup with presumptive Republican nominee Dick DeVos, Granholm holds a 53-46 lead among the 600 adults surveyed statewide from Jan. 15-25. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The poll numbers were taken before the governor's annual State of the State address.

Interestingly, a majority -- 55 percent -- of survey respondents said the state was "on the wrong track," while 30 percent said it was aimed in the "right direction." And about half -- 49 percent -- said Michigan's economy has gotten worse over the past several months, compared with 41 percent who said it remained the same and 7 percent who said it has improved.

"People in Michigan, by a 2-to-1 margin, blame President Bush rather than the governor for Michigan's economic problems," said Ed Sarpolus, who conducted the poll. "While her job approval ratings are up from being below 50 percent in August through October, they are not at the 60 percent level she once had."

An ominous quote-
John Truscott, spokesman for west Michigan businessman DeVos, said it's far too early to pay close attention to polling data.

"I bet 60 to 70 percent of the people in Michigan have no idea of who Dick DeVos is at this time," Truscott said. "A week or two of TV advertising, and your name identification shoots up 30 or 40 points.

"No plan" Dick is going to run a smear campaign like you have never seen. I hope Michigan isn't stupid enough to fall for it. I also hope that the Democrats go on offense for a change- sitting back and just answering their false charges, ala John Kerry, will not do. Time to play hardball, kids.