Friday, March 31, 2006

Hot Tigers prospect heading to Whitecaps

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Detroit Tigers contemplated throughout spring training whether to send teenage slugging sensation Cameron Maybin to the West Michigan Whitecaps to begin his professional career.

The parent club made it official Thursday.

Maybin, 18, is scheduled to make his minor-league debut with the Whitecaps when the Class A affiliate opens the 2006 Midwest League season at home Thursday.

He was the Tigers' first-round pick (10th overall) out of T.C. Roberson High School in Arden, N.C., during last summer's amateur draft. He agreed to a $2.65-million signing bonus after a long negotiating period that prevented him from making his debut until this spring.

The Tigers say Maybin, who has been compared to former major-league sluggers Joe Carter and Andre Dawson, is mature enough to make his pro debut in a full-season league. He will celebrate his 19th birthday Tuesday.

The plan calls for Maybin to be the starting center fielder for the Whitecaps and hit in the No. 3 spot in the batting order, manager Matt Walbeck said.

It's the first time in the 10-year affiliation with the Tigers that West Michigan will be the starting point for a heralded first-round high school draft pick.

The Tigers sent previous No. 1 picks Jeff Weaver (1998), Eric Munson (1999), Matt Wheatland (2000), Kenny Baugh (2001) and Scott Moore (2002) to the Whitecaps, but only Moore spent a full season in West Michigan.

The Tigers were expected to finalize the Whitecaps' roster today.

Baseballbaseballbaseballbaseball...can't wait.
Corporate profits surge to 40-year high
But...but...but...I heard business needs a tax cut! And they will turn around and invest in jobs, right?

Apparently not, according to this story.

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. corporate profits have increased 21.3% in the past year and now account for the largest share of national income in 40 years, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

Strong productivity gains and subdued wage growth boosted before-tax profits to 11.6% of national income in the fourth quarter of 2005, the biggest share since the summer of 1966.

For all of 2005, before-tax profits totaled $1.35 trillion, up from $1.16 trillion in 2004 and just $767 billion in 2001.

Meanwhile, the share of national income going to wage and salary workers has fallen to 56.9%. Except for a brief period in 1997, that's the lowest share for labor income since 1966.

"It's a big puzzle," said Josh Bivens, an economist for the Economic Policy Institute. "If this is a knowledge economy, how come the brains aren't being compensated? Instead, the owners of physical capital are getting the rewards."

Despite the flood of cash coming in the door, corporations are investing comparatively little in expanding their operations. Capital spending has been below average, especially considering the strength of the economy, the level of profits and the special tax breaks given to boost investment.

In the fourth quarter, business fixed investment increased just 4.5%. In the past year, investment has risen 6.8%. The growth rate has been falling for the past four quarters.

Some economists are counting on the corporate sector to pick up their investments in the coming year, to replace the economic stimulus that will be lost as the housing market cools.

Profits have been so high because almost all of the benefits from productivity improvements are flowing to the owners of capital rather than to the workers.

While profits are up 21.3% in the past year, labor compensation is up just 5.5%. After adjusting for inflation, population growth and taxes, real disposable per capita incomes are up just 0.5% in the past year.

Business is taking the money and putting it in their pocket. But I'm sure it will trickle down any second now....any second now...any second now...

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Michigan Republicans vote to jump off cliff, take whole state with them
Looks like Lansing has been infected with a big case of "stupid" today. Must be the spring air- they have now officially taken leave of their senses.

The state House gave final approval to a bill Thursday eliminating Michigan's Single Business Tax by Oct. 2007.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm has said she would veto the bill because it does not replace the $1.9 billion raised by the SBT, leaving a huge hole in the state budget.

Republicans argued that eliminating the SBT outright would force the Legislature and governor to create a new, more fair business tax to replace it.

The measure passed on a 67-39 vote, with about 10 Democrats joining majority Republicans.

Shame on those Democrats, whoever they are.
"Folks, it's time for us to lead; it's time for us to do the work," said House Speaker Craig DeRoche, adding that Granholm hasn't yet offered an acceptable replacement.

HAHAHA! Anytime you're ready, Craig. Go to it.

Nah, Craig would rather gamble with your health, safety and wallet.

This prompted a stern release from Granholm-

LANSING – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today charged that Republican lawmakers have made clear today that their intention is to raise taxes on families and gut education, health care, and public safety in order to provide tax breaks to big business. She pledged to veto House Bill 5743, because it will raise taxes on ordinary citizens and require deep cuts in vital programs.

“I, along with both Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature, want to provide incentives for business to create jobs,” said Granholm. “But I will not raise taxes on families or gut education health care, and public safety to give tax breaks to big business.”

Granholm said it would have been easy to reach a compromise if Republicans had accepted Democratic amendments that would have prevented a tax shift and prevented massive cuts in vital services. But Republicans voted against or blocked these amendments, revealing their true intentions.

Republicans have made their intentions clear: They intend to raise taxes for Michigan families by $800 or gut education, health care, and public safety in order to finance a tax cut for business,” Granholm said.

More than a year ago, Granholm offered Michigan businesses a fair and responsible plan for cutting taxes without shifting the burden of paying for essential government services to our families.

“Our plan was revenue neutral and would not raise taxes on Michigan families nor force draconian cuts in education, health care, and public safety,” Granholm said. “The differences between us are striking"

Once again we have another bill that was just begging for a veto- and she will give it to them. I would love to see her take it outside and jump up and down on it, light it on fire, or something. Would make for a great video clip.
BREAKING NEWS: It's final: Affirmative action issue on November ballot
We got ourselves a big voter turnout ballot issue now.

The proposal to ban the use of race and gender in hiring and admissions by government and public universities will go before voters November 7 under an order issued Thursday by the Michigan Supreme Court.

The court declined a request by opponents of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative to overturn a decision from the state Court of Appeals that ordered the Board of State Canvassers to certify petitions promoting the measure.

The brief order did not address the claims of fraud made by opponents against petition circulators, who gathered more than a half million signatures in support of the proposal.

The contentious issue to ban the use of affirmative action programs that use race and gender preferences was prompted by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2003 that approved their limited use by the University of Michigan.

Jennifer Gratz, a former Westland resident, who was one of the lead plaintiffs in the case against U-M, will lead the campaign with help from California businessman Ward Connerly, who has directed the movement nationally.

Opponents of the proposal include a virtual who’s who of Michigan religious, business, labor and public institutions. Early polling on the issue showed broad support, but one recent poll suggested state voters may be evenly split.

David Waymire, spokesman for the opposition group One United Michigan, said the court’s ruling was not a surprise.

Waymire said he believes petition circulators deceived voters about the affirmative action proposal, but that under Michigan law such deception is not prohibited. Michigan courts have generally found that the signers of petitions are presumed to have read and understood what a petition says.

Um...we might want to look into changing that.
House adopts compromise on graduation requirements
If I had been forced to take Algebra II, I never would have graduated. I'm glad to see some flexibility allowed for kids who are wired like me- Honors English student (believe it or not!), but totally clueless when it comes to math, especially Algebra. In college placement tests a few years ago, I scored 97% in English and only 3% in math. Yes, I'm that bad.

Problem with this whole thing is they need to start in elementary school.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- High school students likely will have to take two years of a foreign language to graduate, but that requirement will be phased in after parts of a new mandatory high school curriculum take effect.

A conference committee on Wednesday hammered out a compromise version of the new high school graduation requirements that would first affect students graduating in 2011 -- today's seventh-graders.

The Legislature already had agreed that students should be required to take four credits each of math and English, three each in science and social studies, and one each in physical education and the arts.

Two credits of foreign language would be required of graduates under the deal reached Wednesday, but would first affect students graduating in 2016.

The full House adopted the conference committee report by a 97-9 vote late Wednesday. The Senate must also approve the compromise before it would head to Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who endorses the deal.

Lawmakers said there is plenty of flexibility built into the legislation, crafted from differing bills previously passed by the House and Senate.

Some credits could be satisfied at the middle-school level, for instance, and earlier in the case of foreign language. Students could switch from the mandatory curriculum to more personalized plans in certain cases.

Under the compromise, Algebra II will be part of the new math requirements. The proposal reached in conference committee would allow districts to spread the class over a two-year period, if necessary, and to build in other ways for students to satisfy the requirement.

Granholm had criticized bills that allowed students to switch to a more individualized plan and avoid mandatory requirements if they can make that choice in their sophomore or junior years. She wants that choice left to their senior year.

The compromise reached by the House and Senate committee does not specify a grade level when students can switch or test out of requirements.

Have to disagree with the Guv on this one. By my senior year I was so incredibly bored and frustrated- it's a wonder I didn't quit, but, all I had to do was show up. I did absolutely nothing my senior year in the way of schoolwork, and still managed to get out of there with a diploma.

Sometimes I wonder what might have been if my education had been more tailored towards my strengths; a career in art, music, writing, etc., instead of trying to force a round peg into a square hole all the time. Maybe I would have been interested enough to continue my education instead of running screaming from academia.

This is striking me is a personal way because I was just out to my high school recently. My old school has been torn down and a new one built in it's place, so, it was a bit foreign to me. But the driveways and parking lots were the same, and it brought back a powerful feeling of nostalgia (and revulsion). A big sign proclaimed "This is a smoke-free campus", so immediately I lit up a cigarette. In a bit of serendipity, "Smoking in the Boys Room" came on the radio. No joke. It was almost surreal.

Good luck kids. I hope this doesn't cause our dropout rate to escalate.
Abramoff gets 6 years for fraud
White collar crime does pay.

MIAMI (Reuters) - Jack Abramoff, the disgraced lobbyist at the heart of a Washington influence-peddling scandal that has rattled top Republicans, was sentenced to nearly six years in prison on Wednesday for fraud in the purchase of a Florida casino cruise line.

Abramoff, who is cooperating in a federal investigation into whether Washington politicians gave his clients favorable treatment in exchange for campaign contributions, Super Bowl tickets and other illegal gifts, was also ordered to pay restitution of $21.7 million, together with a co-defendant.

U.S. District Judge Paul Huck handed Abramoff and the co-defendant, New York businessman Adam Kidan, sentences of five years and 10 months in prison. They will be on probation for three years after their release.

Abramoff pleaded guilty in a Miami federal court in January to conspiracy and wire fraud charges, acknowledging he faked documents to get a $60 million loan to buy the SunCruz fleet of gambling ships in 2000.

Abramoff has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges in Washington, and federal investigators are examining his links to a number of politicians, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas and Republican Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio. DeLay and Ney have denied any wrongdoing.

Huck postponed the start of the prison terms for at least 90 days to allow Abramoff and Kidan to continue to help prosecutors in the corruption probe.

"I have every reason to believe both of these defendants will continue to cooperate," Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence LaVecchio said.

Turns out Dick DeVos knows Jack. From the MDP-

LANSING–In light of Jack Abramoff’s sentencing to nearly six years in prison for fraud, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer today revealed that Abramoff has long been an ally to GOP gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos. Business Week and the Associated Press reported in 1999 that Abramoff was “first to sign up” for a meeting with GOP House conservatives hosted by DeVos on the Amway yacht. Brewer demanded that DeVos abide by his own words on accountability and release the photographs of him and Abramoff at that event and from other meetings they had.

“The public needs to know Dick DeVos has had meetings with criminally corrupt GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. They probably swapped soft money corruption stories. DeVos’ personal relationship with Abramoff adds to the ethical baggage that DeVos brings to the race for governor- huge soft money contributions, hidden tax breaks for Amway and now dealings with a criminal like Abramoff,” said Brewer. “DeVos should release all the photos of him and Abramoff so that the public can judge their relationship for themselves."

Abramoff attended the meeting of GOP conservatives called the “Potomac River Cruise” hosted by Dick DeVos on the Amway yacht Enterprise in the summer of 1999. Abramoff was the first person to sign up for DeVos’ meeting. Indicted Rep. Tom DeLay, another leader along with DeVos and Abramoff of the GOP culture of corruption, also attended the meeting.

I figured there had to be a point where these two met. Dick and the Bugman were swapping money back and forth around that time.

I'd love to see more money trails here- perhaps as Jack spills the beans in DC more of the puzzle will come together.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Zumaya adds new curve to his arsenal
Spring, and my thoughts are turning to baseball. If I stick with "all politicians all the time" I might just go mad (or, madder, as the case may be).

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Joel Zumaya's role is new. So is his curveball.

"Last year I tried to guide my curve," he said. "Now I try to throw it as hard as I throw my fastball. It's been successful."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland has seen that curve, not to mention Zumaya's fastball, which rages from 98 to 101 m.p.h. Leyland didn't have a spot for Zumaya in the rotation, but he had to have him on the team.

So Zumaya, in these final few weeks of spring training, is making the conversion from starter to reliever. He'll lurk in the bullpen when the season opens Monday at Kansas City -- a potential contrast to Kenny Rogers, the left-handed stylist who will start the game. Zumaya's curve might be faster than Rogers' fastball.

Zumaya knows that like almost every other pitcher, he needs a second pitch, no matter how hard he throws. Big league hitters can hit any human's fastball if they know it's coming. That's why the curve is crucial.

"You can't go out there and just have one pitch," Zumaya said.

But a 98-m.p.h. fastball is a good first pitch to have. A fastball at that speed can look even faster to a hitter, Houston Astros catcher and former Tiger Brad Ausmus said.

"Going from 93 to 98 m.p.h. is a much bigger jump than going from 88 to 93," Ausmus said. "The reason is a hitter sees a lot of fastballs in the 88 to 93 range, so they become accustomed to them.

"When you jump up to 98-100 m.p.h., only a handful throw that hard. So your eyes and reflexes aren't accustomed to reacting to that extra five miles per hour."

I'm going to add the Tigers to my menu now that some of the Whitecaps I know are starting to reach the show.

Joel Zumaya has got the smoke. I question the wisdom of turning him into a reliever just to "have him on the team"; seems that you might be destroying what could have been a very successful starter, ala Zambrano.

Joel pitched for the Whitecaps in '03- unfortunately I wasn't taking pictures yet (didn't have a camera that year), so I don't have any old pics of him.

This kid can throw. He stood out then, I think he will stand out now. He used to get a bit rattled when hitters started tagging his fastball- with new pitches and some control on his emotions he will be unbeatable.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Mich. Gov. Signs Minimum Wage Increase
Hot off the national wire.

LANSING, Mich. - Workers earning the minimum wage in Michigan will get a raise in October under legislation signed Tuesday by Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The minimum rate will climb from $5.15 an hour to $6.95 an hour, then to $7.15 an hour in July 2007 and to $7.40 an hour in July 2008.

Michigan's current hourly minimum rate matches the federal minimum wage. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia set minimum wages higher than the federal minimum, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Michigan's Republican-dominated Legislature passed the minimum wage increase this month after it became evident that a petition drive to put the issue before voters in November was likely to succeed.

The petition measure, dropped after lawmakers approved the increase, would have put the increase in the state constitution, making it harder to change. It also would have tied future increases to the inflation rate.

Yea for us!
Granholm Urges Republican Leadership to Protect Michigan Families
I don't think "fair use" rules apply to government publications, so I'm going to publish the whole statement.

LANSING – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today sent letters to the Republican leadership, calling on them to protect vital services and families before giving final approval to legislation that will accelerate the repeal of Michigan’s Single Business Tax (SBT).

“So far, the Legislature has chosen the easy route and voted to repeal an unpopular tax. You have only done half the job,” Granholm wrote in letters to Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema and Speaker Craig DeRoche. “I call on you to finish the job. Pass legislation now that fully protects vital services like education, health care, and public safety and that also guarantees that businesses will pay their fair share of taxes without forcing Michigan families and citizens to shoulder new tax burdens.”

House Bill 5743 would eliminate the Single Business Tax on December 31, 2007.

The Governor says the bill includes no effective mechanism to protect Michigan residents from the massive cuts in education, health care, and public safety that will result from elimination of the SBT. The tax generates nearly $2 billion each year to support those and other important services for Michigan citizens.

Granholm also said the nonbinding enacting sections of the bill are legally ineffective and leave Michigan’s working families exposed and unprotected from being forced to pay new and higher taxes currently paid by businesses.

“I will not sign House Bill 5743 in its current form,” Granholm wrote. “House Bill 5743 can be amended to guarantee Michigan families and citizens needed and effective protection. Amend the bill to include such safeguards, and I will sign the bill.”

Consider the gauntlet thrown. Will Republicans by responsible? Or will they prove that this is just an election year game to them afterall?
Against All Odds: A challenger for Dick

Louis Boven, 46, a chiropractor from Holland, has decided to join the race for the Republican nomination for governor. That may be a foolhardy decision- but before you dismiss him entirely, let's give the guy a little credit for doing what he thinks is right. It's a courage that is sorely missing from politics these days.

Dick DeVos advised the Republican Party of Michigan that he would be running for governor in early June 2005. At that time, two other names were in the ring- and they both vowed to stay in the race.

State Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, said she has no plans to abandon her campaign for governor.

"Maybe one advantage that I have here is my gender as a woman," said Cassis, 61, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee. "I'm not backing out. I have a record of achievement and will go toe-to-toe with anyone."

State Rep. John Hoogendyk, R-Kalamazoo, said he remains in the race and is not intimidated by the DeVos fortune.

"They say money is the mother's milk of politics and certainly I don't have the personal wealth he does. But this is a campaign about issues and who can articulate the issues and solutions for the people of Michigan," said Hoogendyk, 49.

"For right now, it's full steam ahead."

By mid September, both candidates had changed their tune. The choice for Michigan Republicans was taken away.

Hoogendyk was out by the end of August.

"Dick DeVos is a man of integrity," Hoogendyk said in a statement released over the weekend. "He has a track record of leadership in business and a history of leadership in working to improve education in our state."

Cassis followed a couple of weeks later.

"I am ending my campaign and will work for Dick DeVos to advance the Republican agenda to create jobs for our state," Cassis said. "He has an excellent organization. It's polished, and he's very energized and committed."

What happened? Were they intimidated by the DeVos money and power? Did they bow to pressure from the MI GOP?

Who knows. They were gone. "Full steam ahead" stopped dead in the space of a few months. They didn't even try.

Enter Louis Boven. The Grand Rapids Press ran his story last Thursday, but, for whatever reason, they decided not to put it on mlive. No one else in the state has picked it up as far as I know.

HOLLAND -- Maybe it's his competitive spirit.

In his younger days, Louis Boven took part in one of the longest rope pulls in Hope College's history. "Two hours and 50 minutes," he said it took him and his teammates to prevail in the annual event. "It has to do with a desire to perform and to get the job done."

Maybe it's his connection to the little guy.

"I'm just a common person," he said. "I picked blueberries and pulled weeds when I was a kid, had a paper route to buy my bicycles and mini-bikes."

Whatever else is propelling him, Boven, a 46-year old Holland chiropractor, certainly doesn't have the money, the name recognition or political background that would make him a natural choice to challenge presumed nominee and Amway heir Dick DeVos in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

But that's what he's planning to do. He says he's the grassroots alternative that some Republicans are seeking. He said he has traveled 25,000 miles with his wife, Mary Jo, over the past year talking to Michigan voters, coming away with the feeling that many in the GOP want another choice.

"There are a lot of Republicans that feel like the choice has been handed to them," he said.

Boven is a chiropractor and small businessman; he employs seven part time workers and contracts three independent workers. Although he has never run for office, or participated in party politics, he has thought about running for governor for the past decade.

"I don't want people to think I'm delusional," he said. "I know what the animal is out there and what the machine is. But I'm counting on the conscience of the people."

Boven is up against a campaign machine that could spend tens of millions of dollars and has the backing of the entire Republican party structure.

But Boven is undaunted.

"We can't go toe to toe," he said. "But I've been in competition with many things I do. I measure my opposition, figure out their strengths and weaknesses."

DeVos' "most obvious" weakness, Boven said, is his rearing as heir to the Amway fortune.

"It's not his fault -- nothing against the life DeVos has lived -- but it's hard to have lived with that much money to really address the needs of the common laborer, the common businessman," he said.

"A lot of times, when you've been at the top, you tend to dictate what you think the people need instead of understanding the people's needs."

(Source Citation: "Long odds don't deter chiropractor's race against DeVos; Holland Republican 'counting on the conscience of the people' in gubernatorial bid.(State)." The Grand Rapids Press (Grand Rapids, MI) (March 23, 2006): B4. InfoTrac Custom Newspapers. Thomson Gale.)

The DeVos money speaks for the Michigan Republicans. They never had a choice in the matter. Sometimes I wonder what moderate Republicans think as they watch their party get highjacked by the extremists. The only Republicans I still know, upper middle class, extremely religious folks that don't want their religion mixed up in government (very wise), made a telling comment to me a few months ago when I asked if they supported DeVos.

I'm paraphrasing- but they said, "Why is it only the extremely rich can run for office?"

This is a perception that isn't entirely true. Granholm came from solid middle-class roots. But, that is the conventional wisdom nowadays, whether it's true or not. People see the big bucks being blown on campaigns- will this dissuade qualified candidates in the future from even attempting a run at office?

I thought for sure that they would be supporting DeVos. They both were big Bush supporters.

I was wrong. They don't support Dick, and I sensed they were disappointed in the Republicans for taking the matter out of their hands. They generally are unhappy with the direction of the Republican Party, but feel powerless to do anything about it.

I wonder if a majority of Republicans feel that way.

We might never hear from Louis again. The media certainly isn't helping him.

But I, for one, tip my hat to the guy. That is the kind of spirit that we need on BOTH sides on the aisle; people who are willing to do the right thing and speak their mind, no matter what the odds are. 

Monday, March 27, 2006

Hitting the Trifecta:

Today this blog received hits from the state of Michigan, the U.S. House (Ehlers) AND the U.S. Senate (Levin).

Is there some kind of prize for that? Besides a trip to Gitmo? ;-)
BRIAN DICKERSON: Working to make your tax system more unfair
These guys are like the machine in Terminator. They have one single purpose. This is all they do.

Kyle Reese:"Listen. And understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead."

Luckily Brian Dickerson takes them to task in this article. The more the media speaks out against this nonsense, the better off we will be.

Until the sequel.

A dozen Republican state legislators want to cut Michigan's income tax, and if I were a more sensible fellow, I wouldn't squander a single drop of printer's ink on their Looney-Tunes scheme.

There's little danger, after all, that the grandstanding group led by state Rep. Shelly Taub, R-Bloomfield Hills, will get anywhere with its goofy plan, which would slash Michigan's personal income tax rate from its current level of 3.9% to 3.5%.

The proposed tax cut is a harmless bit of hokum designed to convince Michiganders who don't know much about our state's upper class-coddling tax system that Taub & Co. are looking out for them. It's the quintessential contribution of lawmakers who bear no responsibility for actual governance, the sort of nonsense you can get away with only if you know that more responsible people in both parties will never let it happen.

But the proposal to cut income taxes (at a time when the GOP-led Legislature has already voted to blow a $2-billion hole in the state budget) is so irresponsible, so unworkable and so cynically disingenuous that we should not let it disappear into the political ether without exposing those responsible for it as the charlatans they are.

Think Brian is a little pissed? Here is why-

In revealing her income tax cut proposal late last week, Taub told Michigan Information and Research Service that it was designed to help the "little people" who are struggling to stay afloat in Michigan.

But an income tax cut would be much more valuable to the upper-tax-bracket denizens of Taub's district, which encompasses the little people of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills and Franklin, among others.

Of the 43 states that impose income taxes, 37 maintain a system of graduated marginal tax rates, with higher rates reserved for those with the highest incomes. Michigan is among just a half-dozen states that tax families who earn $50,000 a year and those who earn $500,000 a year at the same rate.

The income tax cut Taub and her colleagues propose would save a family at the low end of that range about $200 a year -- a pittance compared to the $2,000 a family with taxable income of half a million would save.

So while the tax cut Taub proposes would put a few more dollars in the pockets of the "little people" she professes to be worried about, its main impact would be to shift a greater percentage of Michigan's total tax burden from high-income taxpayers to their lower-income neighbors. (Assuming, that is, that Taub and her colleagues had a way to pay for it.)

If that's your idea of tax relief, there's some tropical beachfront in the UP I'd like to sell you.

Dickerson says this will never get through. After last week's amazing display of irresponsibility, I'm not so sure.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

No Blogging, No Cry:

Yeah, yeah, yeah... I didn't blog anything today. Sometimes I got nuttin' to say.

See ya tomorrow.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Rinck has eyes on Congress
Looks like Vern has a challenger.

GRAND RAPIDS -- Jim Rinck believes his reputation as an outspoken and sometimes abrasive member of the Grand Rapids Board of Education will help him be an effective fighter in a new arena: Congress.

Rinck, 48, said Friday he will enter the Democratic primary for the U.S. House of Representatives seat Republican Vern Ehlers has held for 12 years.

Rinck said he has great respect for Ehlers, 72, who is completing his sixth term. But he said it's time for someone new who will fight for residents of the Third District, which includes most of Kent County and all of Barry and Ionia counties.

"Our congressman is the smartest person in the district, and we might be the only place in the country that can say that," Rinck said. "But he falls somewhat short on the charisma meter. And it might take a somewhat less intelligent -- although much noisier -- person to get some things done for this district."

Ehlers plans to announce next month whether he'll seek re-election. But he said he is enjoying his chairmanship of the House Administration Committee and hopes to be named head of the Science and Technology Committee and the Aviation Subcommittee.

Levy believes Ehlers will be vulnerable this year because voters are unhappy with the Bush administration, and said Ehlers has done nothing to distance himself from Bush as the president's popularity has dipped to its lowest level.

"This is a Watergate kind of year," she said. "Vern talks a good game, but he has supported the president and all of his policies."

Let's turn the heat up on "Rubber Stamp" Vern. Sounds like a plan.

I actually like Vern (I have never voted for him though), but as far as I'm concerned he is one of the many who have enabled Bush- so, out he goes. Sorry Vern.
Bush shuns Patriot Act requirement
Might as well just dismiss the Congress. Seriously. If Bush is going to continuously proclaim himself above the law, and they don't bother to investigate and hold him accountable, well...what are they there for? To pass out the checks?


WASHINGTON -- When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers.

The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates.

Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it ''a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ''signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would ''impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties."

Bush wrote: ''The executive branch shall construe the provisions . . . that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch . . . in a manner consistent with the president's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information . . . "

The statement represented the latest in a string of high-profile instances in which Bush has cited his constitutional authority to bypass a law.

After The New York Times disclosed in December that Bush had authorized the military to conduct electronic surveillance of Americans' international phone calls and e-mails without obtaining warrants, as required by law, Bush said his wartime powers gave him the right to ignore the warrant law.

And when Congress passed a law forbidding the torture of any detainee in US custody, Bush signed the bill but issued a signing statement declaring that he could bypass the law if he believed using harsh interrogation techniques was necessary to protect national security.

Past presidents occasionally used such signing statements to describe their interpretations of laws, but Bush has expanded the practice. He has also been more assertive in claiming the authority to override provisions he thinks intrude on his power, legal scholars said.

Bush's expansive claims of the power to bypass laws have provoked increased grumbling in Congress. Members of both parties have pointed out that the Constitution gives the legislative branch the power to write the laws and the executive branch the duty to ''faithfully execute" them.

Increased grumblings? The President has effectively done away with the 4th amendment of the Constitution and there are "increased grumblings"? He ignores the LAW on his own whim and there are "increased grumblings"?

Guess we got ourselves a King.
Minimum wage campaign is over
Somewhere Ken Sikkema is smiling.

Sponsors pulled the plug Friday on a petition drive to raise Michigan's minimum wage. Gov. Jennifer Granholm is expected to sign into law Tuesday an even higher minimum wage than the campaign had sought.

A campaign to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $6.85 an hour is no longer needed because the Republican-controlled Legislature approved a $6.95-an-hour base wage, said John Freeman, director of the Michigan Needs a Raise petition drive.

The new minimum wage approved by lawmakers will rise again, to $7.15 an hour in 2007 and $7.40 an hour in 2008.

The petition drive, led by the state Democratic Party and Michigan AFL-CIO, had hoped to collect 318,000 valid signatures to place its minimum-wage plan on the ballot.

Unlike the Legislature's bill, the ballot proposal would have locked the minimum wage into the state constitution, along with an annual cost-of-living increase.

Republicans and political experts said the ballot-issue campaign was an attempt to boost Democratic turnout for the November election, when voters will choose a governor, U.S. senator, attorney general and secretary of state.

Polls have shown 80% of Michigan voters support raising the minimum wage.

For years, Republican lawmakers and their business allies suppressed Democratic efforts to raise the minimum wage, claiming it would cost jobs. But rather than anger voters by opposing a popular issue, the GOP relented and passed its plan earlier this month.

Let's suppose that the nightmare scenario happens- DeVos rigs the voting machines gets in, Repubs hold a majority in the Legislature. Dick fails to produce jobs, says "Michigan workers make too much money".

What do you think happens then?

I do not trust these guys.

Friday, March 24, 2006

It's All About Me:
On the "Mystery DevelopmentTM"

(Holy shit! Apparently this blog was mentioned on urbanplanet and the hits went through the roof! I'm bumping this post up and I want to state- I KNOW NOTHING. All I know is what Channel 8 has been telling us.)

From yesterday-

It has been suggested to me by people wiser than I that we are being "played" here, and to tell you the truth, I'm getting quite bored with it. I'm fickle that way.

So, until something definitive is announced, I'm done posting about it.

Once again, I will plug Channel 8's coverage- go here for all the up-to-date info.

Thanks for stopping by!
Michigan Senate votes to take away powers of elections board
The fruits of divisive politics and politically driven ballot proposals. Is it even possible to find an impartial review of these things? Any reason we can't kick it to the judicial branch?

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- The Michigan Senate passed legislation Thursday stripping powers from the state elections board, a backlash against Democratic members who've been criticized for the way they handled an anti-affirmative action ballot measure.

The Republican-led Senate voted along party lines to send the legislative package to the House, which has already approved some of the bills. Democrats opposed the legislation.

The proposal would shift responsibility for putting ballot issues before Michigan voters from the Board of State Canvassers to full-time secretary of state staff.

The four-member canvassers board has two Democrats and two Republicans, causing partisan splits in recent years over controversial ballot issues such as gay marriage and affirmative action.

Last year, the Democratic board members initially refused to comply with a court order to place a constitutional amendment banning some affirmative action programs on this November's ballot, citing concerns that signature gatherers misrepresented the proposal to minorities and others.

Sen. Buzz Thomas, D-Detroit, said the bills were a "partisan attempt to create an election-year wedge issue," and added that full-time secretary of state staff report to Republican Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.

But Republican Sen. Alan Cropsey, a DeWitt Republican and sponsor of the legislation, denied a partisan motivation for the bills.

"This is an issue of, 'Are you going to let people speak, are you going to let people vote?"' he said.

Quite frankly I'd like to see a ballot proposal that says something to the effect of, "There shall be no ballot proposals that seek to deny civil rights or benefits to a specific group of citizens".

The fact that we can vote on who gets "benefits" or "rights" and who doesn't is absurd.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Buyer delays purchase of key mystery development property
Ruh roh.

The purchase of a key piece of property in the Grand Rapids mystery development project has not occurred yet. The sale was anticipated to take place Thursday afternoon, but the buyer of the land did not show up to the meeting.

Mark London had been renovating the building since August 2005. He is still planning to open his nude strip club and adult toy store in May.

Officials are not expecting a signing of the sale today. The buyer asked London's agent for more time but London said no. So, the property is currently not sold.

Looks like we get the strip club after all...
Republicans vote to gut state budget
This is a purely partisan move, reckless fiscal irresponsibility on the part of a group of people who have the audacity to call themselves "conservatives".

LANSING -- A highly-partisan Senate vote on Wednesday virtually sealed the early demise of the state's main business tax, creating a $1.9-billion budget hole lawmakers will have to fill.

The Single Business Tax had been set to expire in 2009. If the House approves minor Senate changes, legislation ending it Dec. 31, 2007, will go to Gov. Jennifer Granholm. She promised a veto.

Republicans jammed the bill through, arguing that dramatic action is needed to get rid of a tax that penalizes job creation. "This tax will never go away unless you end it and require the governor and Legislature to come up with a replacement," said Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming.

"Abolishing the Single Business Tax without a replacement is like quitting your job without finding another one ... irresponsible," countered Sen. Michael Switalski, D-Roseville.

Wednesday's 21-17 vote followed party lines, except Republican Sen. Shirley Johnson of Troy joined Democrats opposing the bill. Johnson heads the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Republicans in our state legislature are not working for the good of all the citizens... they are working for Republican business interests only. And just like their counterparts in Washington, they shut out all attempts at compromise, assuring that Democrats, and those citizens who elected them to be their representation, have no voice in the decision.

Granholm restated her commitment while expressing disappointment that the Republican-led state Senate refused to support Democratic amendments to a bill eliminating the SBT, which would have guaranteed a revenue neutral plan that included no tax increase on families and no cuts in vital services. Granholm said she would sign a bill to eliminate the SBT if it contained such guarantees.

"Republicans made clear today that they intend to raise taxes for Michigan families by $800 or gut education, health care, and public safety in order to finance a tax cut for business," Granholm said. "It's disappointing that Senate Republicans chose not to protect Michigan families and the services they need."

Granholm noted that more than a year ago, she offered Michigan businesses a fair and responsible plan for cutting taxes without shifting the burden of paying for essential government services to our families.

"Our plan was revenue neutral and would not raise taxes on Michigan families nor force draconian cuts in education, health care, and public safety," Granholm said. "The vote today made clear the differences between us."

Yes, it did. Democrats are for fiscal sanity and responsibility. Republicans are the bull in the china shop. Granholm is more than willing to work with these people; they insist on causing a crisis.

This is yet another example of Republicans not working with the Governor and their own colleagues to form consensus on important matters. (See: the transit bill, the welfare bill, the small business tax cuts, on and on...) Pure partisan political maneuvers, ones that affect the lives and well-being of thousands of citizens. They could care less that vulnerable people might end up being hurt.

Makes anything that Mark Brewer does seem pretty tame, doesn't it?

EDIT- Apparently I got some of the legalese wrong on the bill I cited, so I took that out- but my point still stands. Republicans SUCK.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More Trash Wackiness:

On Jan. 24th, a Tuesday afternoon, someone stole my trash. It was out on the curb, waiting for pick-up the next morning. Between the hours of 2:30 and 4:00 PM- someone took it.

I called the cops, fearing fall-out from identity theft. They would not take a report. So, I let it go, and hoped nothing would come from it. Nothing did. So far.

Last night, it happened again. This time they came up on my front porch to take it.

The cops still will not take a report.

Now, I have nothing they would want to steal. I have no money. They will find out that I smoke too much and have hungry cats. That's about it.

But, I am dismayed at the fact that the authorities won't take a simple report. I don't expect them to find it. I don't expect them to open a case and try and figure it out. I do expect them to keep track of these things so they can warn the community that this stuff is happening.

The cops were helpful, suggesting I alert Social Security and get a copy of my credit report (which I might do pretty soon). They were polite. I don't want to disparage them in any way. They are just following the rules.

I'm suggesting that the rules need to be changed. Maybe I'll write Jerry Kooiman. ;-)
From the E-Mail Bag: Russ Feingold on the Daily Show

Just wanted to make sure you knew that Russ will be appearing on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" tonight. The show will be on at 10:00 pm Central (11:00 Eastern) and rebroadcast two hours later, as well as tomorrow at 7:00 pm Central. Hope you can tune in to see Russ!


George Aldrich
Progressive Patriots Fund
New hope for Greenville: Hundreds of jobs on the way
Too bad the SBT is such a "jobs killer", huh, Dick?

The Senator's office released news that United Solar Ovonic LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. will build a new, high-tech manufacturing facility in Greenville.

“ECD is one of the leading U.S. companies developing technologies to make the U.S. less dependent on foreign oil,” Levin said in a press release. “I'm delighted that they are expanding their operations by building a new facility in Greenville, where they will find a highly skilled workforce and receptive business environment. I commend Governor Granholm's leadership in forging this partnership between United Solar Ovonic, the Greenville community, and the State of Michigan.”

Greenville City Manager George Bosanic talked with WZZM 13 News Tuesday night, “The press release you received has number of 563 jobs and that is true, but there's much more than that that will be revealed tomorrow."

Wednesday, Governor Granholm will announce United Solar Ovonic, a company based in Auburn Hills, will expand and build a new facility in Greenville's industrial park.

Bosanic said, “I feel a sense of relief because we've been working on this for three months now and fought very, very hard in competition with another state."

That state is South Carolina but City Hall is revealing little more than that, saying only that Greenville won, in part, because of its highly skilled workforce.

Cry louder, Dick, West Michigan isn't hearing you.

According to an article in last night's GR Press, the Grand Rapids region has added 8,900 new jobs to the area between Jan. of 2005 and Jan. 2006.

Trucking, along with public utilities and retail and wholesale stores, generated the biggest payroll growth in the Grand Rapids region last year, adding 2,000 jobs. It also was the largest sector, with 76,100 workers, according to a report by the Michigan Department of Labor &Economic Growth.

The fastest-growing sector, by percentage, was leisure and hospitality, adding 1,700 jobs for a 5.6 percent increase. Those 32,300 jobs are in hotels, restaurants, bars, arts, recreation and entertainment.

Telephone calls to several boat and watercraft stores Monday were deferred because sales people were too busy, an indication of the boost in leisure and transportation industries.

Manufacturing, long a stalwart of the regional economy, was flat year to year, unchanged at 74,100 jobs.

In the Michigan jobs report, the only loser over the past year in the Grand Rapids region was the construction and mining category, down 200 jobs to 16,900.

Seasonal layoffs in construction, retail sales and employment services led the job loss column, raising the unemployment rate in the Grand Rapids-Wyoming area by 0.3 percent to 5.6 percent, or 1,200 new unemployed.

I'm kind of perplexed by the construction loss. Seems there is stuff going up all over the place.

"I like living in the state of Michigan but not in a state of denial."- Dick DeVos 3/20/06

Well, Dick, come and join us in reality. I think the leadership we have is doing just fine. After all, how many jobs have you created in the last four years since you left Alticor, hmmmm?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

City lists Mystery Development property
Here's your new and improved Mystery DevelopmentTM post, now fortified with even MORE mystery!

The Grand Rapids City Commission approved the listing of the city-owned 15.8 acre parcel of riverfront property situated in the heart of downtown. The property, 201 Market Avenue, is listed for $35 million.

In a statement released this morning, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell said, “We’re ecstatic over the possibilities that exist with the development of this site.”

Currently, a number of municipal facilities such as Streets & Sanitation and Parks & Recreation are located at 201 Market. Those facilities will be relocated using the proceeds from the sale of the property and the brownfield tax increment, and would take at least a year from the date of the sale’s closing.

“Our downtown area is undergoing unprecedented growth right now,” said Grand Rapids Economic Development Director Susan Shannon, “ and the development of this site, along with what’s happening on Michigan Hill will provide further evidence that Grand Rapids is recreating itself and positioning itself for the new economy.”

But wait! There's doubt a brewin' amongst other land owners in the area, and time is running out!

There's still no word on when developers will reveal the details surrounding the secret development, but a deal on one piece of the puzzle, which is supposed to be finalized near week's end, could tell us a lot about whether the project is a go or not.

It's the old Sennet Steel building on Market Street. It's supposed to become a large strip club and retail store for adult items. It's also located in what several sources have told would be a large chunk of property needed for the secret project.

"Depending on what goes on between now and Thursday will depend on whether we open or not," says Mark London, the owner of the proposed adult complex.

London made a deal with representatives of the developer on March 9. It’s a 15-day option to buy the property, and an additional $20,000 a day to cover the added cost of construction while London waits to find out if in fact the developer will exercise the option.

But that 15-day option is up Thursday. And London hasn't heard from developers since the day he signed the option.

"The cost goes up for them daily. I just can't imagine they'd pay extra money if they planned on closing," says London.

Will they buy before Thursday? Will the strip club still be opened? Will Channel 8 develop its own theme music for this story?

Stay tuned!
Republicans, Democrats disagree on effect of minimum wage drive
Did Republicans screw up the language on their bait-and-switch bill?

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Exactly how much more money workers will get under a minimum wage increase could be a question headed for the courts.

One set of increases that begins taking effect in October already has passed the Legislature and is headed to Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who's expected to sign it.

A competing proposal that would tie future minimum wage increases to the inflation rate, raise wages for employees who make tips and first hike the minimum wage in January could be on the November ballot.

Republicans and Democrats disagree over which measure would trump the other.

The bill on Granholm's desk raises the $5.15 hourly minimum wage to $6.95 in October, $7.15 in July 2007 and $7.40 in July 2008. It also contains language saying that the proposed constitutional amendment, if passed by voters, overrides any wage hikes written in the legislation.

Here is the specific language on the bill-

Notwithstanding subsection (1), if a ballot proposal that establishes a minimum wage is approved by the majority of electors voting on the question at the general election on November 7, 2006, the minimum wage shall be as established in the ballot proposal.

Here is the petition language in the ballot proposal-


Because the bill language says "shall be established in the ballot proposal", doesn't it automatically defer to the language that says that the state may raise the wage?

The proposal is "establishing" that a higher rate may be set by the state government. The bill is "establishing" that the proposal would set the rate. Because the proposal does take into account a state government raise- it seems like that would trump the bill. The bill language defers to the proposal, yes?

Not in Sikkema's world.

"He who plays the last trump card wins," said Ari Adler, spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema of Wyoming. "If you vote for the ballot initiative in November, you are voting to lower the minimum wage in Michigan."

Democrats and unions, however, argue their ballot measure sets a floor, not a ceiling. They note that it includes wording that says the state can establish wages exceeding rates proposed in the petition.

It also says the measure cannot "diminish" any statutory rights of employees, which state Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer said includes the $1.80 an hour increase workers are set to get in October.

"People get the higher wage," he said. "This (ballot measure) is a floor. The Legislature can always go above it."

When the minimum wage hits $7.40 in 2008, annual inflationary increases in the constitutional amendment can kick in, Brewer said.

But Adler responded that if the ballot proposal is approved, it is as if the wage hikes in the legislation never existed, because the bill specifically mentions the constitutional amendment.

And that amendment specifically mentions state raises. I think we win this one due to the language, but I'm not a lawyer- so you tell me.
Wyoming lifts Sunday ban on booze
Par-tay. Can you feel the decadence flowing now, kids? Can dancing be far behind?

Beginning April 1st in the City of Wyoming, you can walk into a restaurant on a Sunday and buy alcohol by the glass. Monday night councilmembers debated and discussed the measure, then amended the Sunday alcohol ordinance four votes to two.

The ordinance does not allow for alcohol carryout or sales at local bars and taverns. The lifting of the ban only pertains to Wyoming restaurants.

Back in Grand Rapids, the fight against Immorality (with a capital "I") goes on. Or not.

So tonight we're going to party like it's 1959.

GRAND RAPIDS -- To Judy Rose, it doesn't matter if a strip club is coming to her neighborhood or not -- she still wants a city ordinance to govern what happens inside such establishments.

"The fact remains that all of those businesses need to be regulated," said Rose, president of the Black Hills Citizens for a Better Community.

As city commissioners prepare for a hearing Tuesday on an ordinance to restrict activities in all adult-oriented businesses, the future of the club that started her campaign is in doubt.

Mark London, the strip club owner who planned to open "Showgirls Galleria" near Rose's neighborhood, announced March 9 he may sell his building at 234 Market Ave. SW to the developer of a yet-to-be-disclosed downtown project.

If his buyer follows through on an option before it expires at midnight Thursday, London said, he has no plans to open another club in the city. If the option expires, he hopes to open "Showgirls" by May 1.

Either way, London said he will sue the city if commissioners adopt the ordinance, because it also would affect Sensations, his other strip club, near Centerpointe Mall.

"I would have no choice but to fight the ordinance," he said. "This is a pretty draconian ordinance; it's pretty severe, and I don't think it can pass constitutional muster."

As a matter of fact- a case such as this was just shot down in Federal Court. The city of Southgate passed a "no nudity" ordinance, the Feds ruled against it, and the city had to pay.

SOUTHGATE -- City attorneys are negotiating attorney fees with the owner of a Downriver juice and coffee bar after a federal judge struck down Southgate's ordinance that banned public nudity this month, allowing the bar to again feature naked female dancers.

Edward Zelenak, city attorney for Southgate, said the city didn't plan to appeal Taylor's ruling and was discussing with attorneys for John Hamilton, the owner of Henry the Eighth's South, how much the city would have to pay. In federal court, the prevailing party in a lawsuit is typically entitled to attorneys' fees.

Ending a five-year legal battle, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor on Feb. 13 struck down an ordinance that had effectively barred Henry the Eighth's South in Southgate from featuring nude women.

I believe the Southgate ordinance was stricter than the one that GR is proposing. We will allow nudity in plays.
Taylor noted in her opinion that the club is just two blocks from a church. Her 15-page opinion found that the ordinance "is overbroad because it chills possible future protected conduct (i.e. nudity in plays or other high culture entertainment) and must fail for that reason."

Anyone want to try and define what is "high culture" and what isn't? Hmmm? Maybe London can have strippers perform "Cats", or something. This is not a place we want to go.

Another disturbing note in this article- the question of the funding for any kind of lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Rose said she received a $7,000 pledge Friday that put her fund over the $100,000 mark. However, she said she has only $1,298 in the bank and declined to identify any of her donors.

"We're just spending a lot of time in prayer and asking God to make them sensitive to keeping Grand Rapids a clean, moral city," she said.

Before commissioners adopt the ordinance, Heartwell said, he wants an "ironclad agreement" that guarantees the city will have access to Rose's legal defense fund.

"I would want to see those pledges converted to real cash when we need it," he said.

Say what? She doesn't have proof positive that she has the bucks that she says she does? Is it buried in the backyard? What kind of bullshit is that?

I'd love to know the total amount spent on the Detroit case. It took five years and I'll bet it cost more than 100 grand.

I hope my city isn't stupid enough to try to fight this. Big waste of money that we don't have. And if Heartwell is going for some "ironclad agreement", he better check with the lawyers on the legality of that. I wonder how that could be enforceable- would we then have to sue this woman when she doesn't come up with the money, costing us even more money?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Granholm agrees to abortion regulation
A stealth bill that changes nothing, really. It does not require doctors to do ultrasound, which is what the RtL people were shooting for, but gives women the option of viewing them if the doctor has done one already.

Option being the key word here.

LANSING -- Gov. Jennifer Granholm will sign into law a bill requiring Michigan abortion providers to give a pregnant woman the option of viewing ultrasound images of her fetus before performing an abortion, according to her spokeswoman.

It would mark the first time Granholm has agreed with the Legislature's anti-abortion majority on a measure to regulate the procedure. The bill, which moved quietly through the Legislature, is an expansion of the state's so-called informed consent law.

Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said Sunday that the governor would sign the bill, which an abortion-rights advocate said is an effort to create a barrier to abortion. Boyd said the legislation was developed in cooperation with abortion-rights organizations and won't change current practice.

The law would require physicians who take ultrasound images before performing an abortion to give his or her patient the opportunity to view an active ultrasound of the fetus, and to offer the patient a still image taken from the ultrasound.

It expands a 1993 law that required abortion providers to give a pregnant woman the option of receiving medical information about a developing fetus at least 24 hours before an abortion could be performed.

The ultrasound amendment attracted little attention and only token resistance in the Legislature. The state House approved a final version of the bill March 8 on a vote of 84-21; it passed the Senate unanimously last week.

State Sen. Gilda Jacobs, D-Huntington Woods, said Friday that she thinks the legislation was designed to place Granholm in a politically awkward position in an election year. But Jacobs said the final product does not unduly restrict abortion rights and "is not a very big deal."

But the media is making it a "very big deal". The Free Press has this as the lead story, and it also appears on my local TV web sites.

As long as doctors aren't forced into doing them, and as long as women aren't forced into viewing them, I don't see where this is a problem. Could be a smart political move- giving the RtL people a hollow victory and at the same time actually stopping them from their drive to make ultrasounds mandatory.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Peter Luke: Why not act on SBT ASAP?
Once again Peter Luke points out the obvious- a fact I totally missed before. I might have to change my tag line up above.

This is the GR Press title for Luke's column- and he's right.

Republicans pretend to be eager about scrapping the state's main business tax, which they say is crippling the state's economy.

But they aren't really.

Both pending legislation and the petition drive engineered by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson wouldn't eliminate the tax until the Dec. 31, 2007 -- 21 long months from now.

Apparently, what Republicans call an economic emergency in Michigan can be addressed at the Legislature's leisure. Why call 911 for an ambulance when there's a bicycle in the garage?

If Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Democratic lawmakers were political poker players, they'd call the GOP's bluff and agree to scrap the Single Business Tax. But only if the tax goes out of business much sooner, say on Oct. 1.

Well, I wouldn't go that far. Too dangerous to vulnerable citizens. And given the even-more-hostile-than-it-already-is climate of an election year, bad decisions might be made.

BUT, he is right on on this next point.

What everyone agrees on is how much the tax brings in, about $1.9 billion annually, and what it pays for: one-fourth of the state's discretionary budget for state aid to universities, prison operations and health care for the poor, primarily nursing home care for the disabled and elderly.

An Oct. 1 expiration of the SBT would force lawmakers to take their work seriously this summer and craft an alternative that would improve the state's business climate and protect vital services.

But it's ridiculous to call the SBT a job-killer and then take much of the election year off so well-heeled incumbents can campaign for another term. If opponents of the tax say a repeal would create jobs, why should that job creation wait until 2008?

Maybe they don't really believe the essential structure of the SBT is all that bad for the state's job climate. Or worse, maybe they don't want to admit to voters that they lack the creativity and political skill to overhaul it.

I think it's the latter.

They had, what, 12 years under Engler to do something about this horrible, awful, terrible state-killing tax and they totally ignored it? But now it's this big rush to do away with it?

Doesn't make sense.

And I see they are taking cues from the leadership in Washington on fiscal policy. That ought to scare the hell out of everyone.

They don't appear to be up to the task. Last week, while lawmakers were voicing support to get rid of a tax that by itself pays for all the state aid to universities and community colleges, they were adding $29 million to the higher education budget recommended by Granholm.

So they want to cut taxes AND increase spending. Now there's a demonstration of fiscal competence.

Hey man, nice shot.

Back to the "urgency" issue -here's Craig DeRoche a few short days ago-

"The time to act is now," House Speaker Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, said before Thursday's vote. "We can't afford to wait another minute."

And here's Dick from the same article-
"Michigan needs to change and we can start by getting rid of this tax and putting our state back to work," DeVos said.

Right now! Gotta do it right now! Snap our fingers and the jobs will come pouring in...uh...21 months from now.

Right. More "magical thinking" from the Republicans.

Some businesses are starting to become wary of the issue, realizing that they might be stuck with the bill.

But manufacturers who bear the greatest SBT burden are reluctant to support the repeal if lawmakers are unwilling to spread that burden more equally across other business sectors, including financial and professional business services.

Granholm proposed that approach last year as a means of lowering taxes for the Big Three automakers and other manufacturers. Republicans rejected that approach as a tax increase.

"Somebody's going to have to pay more, no matter what the (SBT) replacement is," said Chuck Hadden, a lobbyist for the Michigan Manufacturers Association. He said businesses backing the repeal "should be careful what you wish for."

Ken Sikkema gives us a clue, although I don't think he realized it. Or, maybe he did.
Wary of Democratic charges that the GOP intends to shift the tax burden from businesses to individual taxpayers, both the House and Senate will be on record opposing increases in the income and sales tax.

"That's why we are taking any tax increases on individuals off the table during this discussion," Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, said Thursday.

Yes. During this discussion. The bill will come after, when it's too late.

That's the new Republican "fiscal responsibility" talking. Spend now, pay later. Lie about what it might cost. State emphatically that they are "right", when they have no real proof.

Stick the taxpayers when things go wrong.

True fiscal conservatives would do well to run far away from this proposal. Get the work done before you make the jump. This sense of urgency is just a smoke-screen, election-year distraction from the fact that they have no solid plan for fiscal sanity.
Rumsfeld: leaving Iraq like giving Nazis Germany
Don then broke into the chorus of "They're Coming to Take Me Away" and had to be restrained.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Leaving Iraq now would be like handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a column published on Sunday, the third anniversary of the start of the Iraq war.

"Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis," he wrote in an essay in The Washington Post.

Rumsfeld said "the terrorists" were trying to fuel sectarian tensions to spark a civil war, but they must be "watching with fear" the progress in the country over the past three years.

In London, former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said on Sunday that Iraq is in a civil war and is nearing the point of no return when the sectarian violence will spill over throughout the Middle East.

"It is unfortunate that we are in civil war. We are losing each day, as an average, 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is," he told BBC television.

Rumsfeld's view was that the Iraqi insurgency was failing.

"The terrorists seem to recognize that they are losing in Iraq. I believe that history will show that to be the case," he wrote.

I'm afraid Godwin's Law now applies to Don. Thanks for playing!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Anti-War Protests Planned Across the World
The rest of the world "gets it".

SYDNEY, Australia - An anti-war rally in Australia kicked off what was expected to be a wave of global protests on Saturday, as campaigners marked the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq with a demand that coalition troops pull out.

Around 500 protesters marched through central Sydney, chanting "End the war now and "Troops out of Iraq." Many campaigners waved placards branding President Bush the "World's No. 1 Terrorist" or expressing concerns that Iran could be the next country to face invasion.

"Hands off Iran," read several placards carried by protesters.

Opposition to the war is still evident in Australia, which has some 1,300 troops in and around Iraq. Visiting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was heckled by campaigners in Sydney this week, who said she had "blood on her hands."

In Tokyo, about 2,000 people rallied in a downtown park, carrying signs saying "Stop the Occupation" as they listened to a series of anti-war speeches, said Takeshiko Tsukushi, a member of World Peace Now, which helped plan the rally. Tokyo police were unable to immediately confirm the number in attendance.

In London, Scotland Yard police headquarters said streets around Piccadilly Circus in the heart of the shopping and theater district would be closed as up to 100,000 people planned to march through the capital. Britain has about 8,000 troops in Iraq.

Demonstrations "Against the Occupation of Iraq" were planned Saturday in several Spanish cities, including Madrid and Barcelona.

In South Korea, which has the third-largest contingent of foreign troops in Iraq after the U.S. and Britain, up to 3,000 demonstrators were expected to gather Sunday at the main train station in the capital Seoul. In Malaysia's largest city, Kuala Lumpur, a rally was planned outside the U.S. Embassy on Sunday, as part of the international anti-Iraq war movement.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Absentee Dick: Business Before Service

Front-paged at MichiganLiberal.

The website "What You Don't Know About Dick" cites a '93 Chicago Tribune story announcing Dick's resignation from the State Board of Education.

Dick DeVos, recently named to succeed his father as president of Amway Corp., has announced his resignation from the State Board of Education. The Grand Rapids Republican told the board Wednesday that he was "unwilling to try to do two jobs halfway well."

Daddy DeVos had a heart attack, Dick was named to take over Amway. Dick decided his priorities were with the company and not his public service.

Well, OK. We will give him a pass. This time. At least he did the honorable thing by stepping down when he realized it was too much to do, right? I mean, these guys meet, what, once a month? Dick just didn't have the time.

Alright. Go then.

Except, he then turned around and did it again.

DeVos was named to the eight member Grand Valley State University Board of Control by John Engler in 1995. GVSU members meet at least five times a year, with additional meetings when needed.

Dick proceeded to put his own interests in front of his service to the board. From a GR press article dated Sept. 29, 2000 (not on the web)-

DeVos, who was appointed to the board in 1995, has the poorest attendance of any of the current board members.

In fact, DeVos has not attended a board meeting since June 1999, just before Kids First! Yes! -- a pro-voucher organization he co-chairs -- was launched.

He has missed 13 of 24 meetings, dating to his first meeting in February 1996.

At the most-recent meeting, Sept. 11, when President Arend Lubbers announced his retirement, DeVos voted by phone through a conference call. He was at Bethel Pentecostal Church, 834 Lake Drive SE, promoting vouchers the day before.

Source Citation: "Dick DeVos lags in attending GVSU board meetings; The Amway president has missed 13 of 24 meetings since 1996, and has not been at a meeting in more than a year.(City & Region)." The Grand Rapids Press (Grand Rapids, MI) (Sept 29, 2000)

You could say that Dick "phoned it in" when it came to his presence on the board.

GVSU begged Dick to stay when Dick wanted to quit to push his voucher proposal and tend to business at Amway.

Lubbers issued an unsolicited statement after learning The Press was reviewing board attendance. In the release, Lubbers said DeVos approached him about leaving the board because of scheduling conflicts.

But Dick had other things to do. In fact, he was a member of over 20 boards at the time.

DeVos has been kept busy the past 18 months with vouchers and his company. He was not at a GVSU board meeting April 26, the day before The Press reported Amway was preparing to announce its second wave of job cuts in two weeks. DeVos was not at the June 9 meeting either, three weeks after Amway announced it was cutting 900 jobs in West Michigan.

According to the Web site for Restoring the Dream, an organization he leads, DeVos is a member of nearly 20 boards in addition to GVSU's.

(same source as above)

Dick's a busy guy. Something had to give.

This prompted a scathing editorial from the GR Press, a publication usually loath to criticize the big sugar daddies of the GR area. Titled "Show up or move on", dated Oct. 4 2000-(also not on the web)

Coming to work is a minimal job requirement, as a seasoned businessman such as Dick DeVos would know. Yet the Amway president has missed more than half the Grand Valley State University Board of Control meetings held since his appointment to the board in 1996. The school deserves more than absentee governance, even from a very busy man.

No doubt, Mr. DeVos has pressing commitments. His business has gone through a major transition in the last year, facing challenges as it lays off employees.

As the point man for school vouchers in Michigan, Mr. DeVos has been crossing the state at a frenetic pace. That's fine. But he is still one of eight GVSU board members and is expected to be present for votes and discussion, especially as the board goes through its own major transition in seeking a successor to retiring President Arend D. Lubbers.


He should again reassess his commitments and decide whether or not he can be an active participant in the GVSU board. Mr. DeVos would not stand for such a shoddy attendance record in his private business. He should hold himself to the same standard in his public responsibilities.

Source Citation: "Show up or move on.(Editorial)(Editorial)." The Grand Rapids Press (Grand Rapids, MI) (Oct 4, 2000)

Which leads us to the question of Dick's interest in public service now.

Will Dick put his own priorities in front of the priorities of the state? Will he be leaving Windquest? (which, depending on what story you are reading, is a "closet organizer manufacturing company" or a "holdings management company", take your pick) Or will Windquest take his attention away as Amway once did?

Will Dick "phone in" his performance as Governor when his many other interests, or perhaps, national ambitions, divide his attention?

Can we trust a man who has proven that he puts public service on the back burner when business calls?

I think not. Michigan needs someone who has their full attention on the best interests of all the people, not just the select few that appeal to a Governor's personal ambitions.

That someone is Jennifer Granholm. The choice is obvious.
Why I Like Debbie: Amendments from Stabenow... the Senate Budget orgy that was held yesterday. Perusing the Senate Roll Call page, I noticed a little something about Democratic amendments. It seems that a good portion of them actually proposed paying for the motions that they proposed.

Imagine that. Paying the bills. What a novel concept.

Debbie has been taking a lot of shit lately, even in the "liberal" circles, so I wanted to point out something good. Here's her amendments- even though Republicans rejected them, because, well... I don't know. I guess they hate veterans and seniors or something.

Stabenow Amdt No. 3164; To establish a reserve fund to allow for deficit-neutral legislation that would provide seniors with a prescription drug benefit option that is affordable, user-friendly, and administered directly by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Stabenow Amdt No. 3141; To provide an assured stream of funding for veteran's health care that will take into account the annual changes in the veteran's population and inflation to be paid for by restoring the pre-2001 top rate for income over $1 million, closing corporate tax loopholes and delaying tax cuts for the wealthy.

Stabenow Amdt. No. 3056; To provide $5 billion for our emergency responders so that they can field effective and reliable interoperable communications equipment to respond to natural disasters, terrorist attacks and the public safety needs of America's communities and fully offset this by closing tax loopholes and collecting more from the tax gap.

Cheers for Debbie.
Think Progress - Right-Wing Blocks Funding For Port Security, Disaster Preparedness
House Republicans show they are "tough on spending" by blocking programs that might actually protect us.

Moments ago, the House of Representatives narrowly defeated an amendment proposed by Rep. Martin Sabo (D-MN) that would have provided $1.25 billion in desperately needed funding for port security and disaster preparedness. The Sabo amendment included:

– $300 million to enable U.S. customs agents to inspect high-risk containers at all 140 overseas ports that ship directly to the United States. Current funding only allows U.S. customs agents to operate at 43 of these ports.

– $400 million to place radiation monitors at all U.S. ports of entry. Currently, less than half of U.S. ports have radiation monitors.

– $300 million to provide backup emergency communications equipment for the Gulf Coast.

Meanwhile, the Bush budget – which most of the members who voted against this bill will likely support – contains an increase of $1.7 billion for missile defense, a program that doesn’t even work.

Meanwhile, in the Senate-
Lieberman Amdt No. 3034; To protect the American people from terrorist attacks by providing $8 billion in additional funds for homeland security government-wide, by restoring cuts to vital first responder programs in the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, by providing an additional $1.2 billion for first responders, $1.7 billion for the Coast Guard and port security, $150 million for chemical security, $1 billion for rail and transit security, $456 million for FEMA, $1 billion for health preparedness programs, and $752 million for aviation security.

REJECTED by Republicans.

Menendez Amdt. No. 3054; To provide an additional $965 million to make our ports more secure by increasing port security grants, increasing inspections, improving existing programs, and increasing research and development, and to fully offset this additional funding by closing tax loopholes.

REJECTED by Republicans.

Stabenow Amdt. No. 3056; To provide $5 billion for our emergency responders so that they can field effective and reliable interoperable communications equipment to respond to natural disasters, terrorist attacks and the public safety needs of America's communities and fully offset this by closing tax loopholes and collecting more from the tax gap.

REJECTED by Republicans.

Since all of these amendments were offered up by Democrats, I can draw no other conclusion except that this was done on a purely partisan basis.

GOP- Party before country. Everytime.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

It's All About Me:

For all those DeVos fans who wish to post comments here- starting out your musings by calling me names will only send you to instant deletion. Funny how the trolls start with a personal attack and then expect you to listen to their insane theories, like you will just take their abuse and then seriously consider what they have to say. Hilarious.

Save your keystrokes and rantings about "communism" or whatever for another blog.

And really now, "communism" is such a tired old charge, isn't it? Have you no new slander in your arsenal for little 'ol librul me?

Just goes to show you, Republicans really have no imagination or new ideas. They don't even have any new flames!

I'm bored and disgusted all at the same time.
Congress Raises Debt Cap, Fourth Increase Under Bush
Time to drop the notion that Repubs are "fiscallly responsible". They have proven themselves anything but.

March 16 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Congress approved a $781 billion increase in the federal government's debt limit, the fourth time lawmakers have raised the cap since President George W. Bush took office.

The Senate voted 52-48 to increase the legal limit on federal borrowing to $8.97 trillion, up from $8.18 trillion. The House approved the measure last year, meaning the legislation now goes to the president for his signature.

The increase was approved about 30 minutes after the Treasury postponed the scheduled announcement of the sale of three-month and six-month Treasury bills. Treasury Secretary John Snow warned Congress in increasingly dire terms that the government couldn't continue to pay its bills, and risked defaulting on its obligations, without an immediate increase in the debt ceiling.

The government will spend $217 billion on interest on the debt this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. By contrast, federal spending for the Department of Education is $83 billion.

Wheeeee! By the way, all Democrats and three Pubs voted against this. Makes me wonder what would've happened had it not passed. I probably don't want to know.

Anyway- turning to Republicans at the state level- here's a great editorial that appeared in the Flint Journal.

If Republican lawmakers vote to eliminate the state's main business tax without simultaneously replacing the lost revenue, they should immediately give up their pay and benefits.

That's the least such an irresponsible act would call for, as it would be akin to a child failing to do his chores, yet expecting an allowance.

Republicans know the state can't afford to dump $1.9 billion annually from state coffers - the amount the Single Business Tax brings in - without releasing inmates from prison, throwing elderly people out of nursing homes and jacking up college tuition. But these concerns are secondary to the politics the GOP wants to play, both to make life difficult for a Democratic governor in an election year and to satisfy certain constituencies.

Granted, the SBT is a bad tax that hurts the state's business climate, but this is a problem serious adults can fix without jeopardizing vital state programs. Regrettably, Republicans aren't up to this. Bankrupt of any good ideas, they've passed a bill out of a House committee that would repeal the SBT at the end of 2007. The full House may OK it this week and send it to the Senate.

These manufactured dramatics put the state's well-being at risk and result from the simple fact that GOP lawmakers aren't up to the job. Why, then, should they expect to be paid?

Republicans can't be trusted with your money.
(Missouri) House rejects spending for birth control
Via AMERICAblog comes this tale of the GOP and their Right to Life fanatic base now going after contraception.

Let me see if I'm following this- no abortion, no contraception, no money for the health and well-being of these unwanted children after they are born.

Sounds like a plan for third-world poverty conditions right here in America.

As it turns out, they openly admit this is about punishing women for having sex.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - An attempt to resume state spending on birth control got shot down Wednesday by House members who argued it would have amounted to an endorsement of promiscuous lifestyles.

Missouri stopped providing money for family planning and certain women's health services when Republicans gained control of both chambers of the Legislature in 2003.

But a Democratic lawmaker, in a little-noticed committee amendment, had successfully inserted language into the proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 that would have allowed part of the $9.2 million intended for "core public health functions" to go to contraception provided through public health clinics.

The House voted 96-59 to delete the funding for contraception and infertility treatments after Rep. Susan Phillips told lawmakers that anti-abortion groups such as Missouri Right to Life were opposed to the spending.

"If you hand out contraception to single women, we're saying promiscuity is OK as a state, and I am not in support of that," Phillips, R-Kansas City, said in an interview.

Others, including some lawmakers who described themselves as "pro-life," said it was illogical for anti-abortion lawmakers to deny money for contraception to low-income people who use public health clinics.

"It's going to have the opposite effect of what the intention is, which will be more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions," said Rep. Kate Meiners, D-Kansas City.

The other alternative is for low-income women to give birth to more children, which is only likely to drive up the state's costs to provide services to them, said Democratic Rep. Melba Curls, also of Kansas City.

Missouri Right to Life said it was concerned with the contraception language because it was loosely written and could have included emergency contraception - often referred to as the morning-after pill.

The Missouri Catholic Conference also opposed the birth control funding.
"State taxpayers should not be required to subsidize activities they believe are immoral or unethical, relating to contraceptives or abortions," said Larry Weber, executive director of the state Catholic Conference.

Wow, if only I could pick and choose which "activities" my tax dollars should fund. I've got a whole list of "immoral and unethical" things that I would like to withdraw my money from- the first being any sort of support for people and institutions who would force others to live by their religious beliefs.

I have had it with the Catholics.