Sunday, April 30, 2006

Thank You Stephen Colbert.

Go add your thanks to Stephen for last night's smackdown on Bush.

For Marybeth:

Who would have been 43 today- your spirit lives on in me.

With every post I write, I remember you. I'm trying my best to
carry on the fight that means so much to you, to us. I think you would be proud.

I miss you so much.

I think I'll have a Springsteen fest today and remember my friend-

The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey, that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again, I just can't face myself alone again
Don't run back inside, darling, you know just what I'm here for
So you're scared and you're thinking that maybe we ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty but, hey, you're alright
Oh, and that's alright with me

You can hide 'neath your covers and study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets
Well now, I ain't no hero, that's understood
All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey, what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
Well, the night's busting open, these two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back, heaven's waiting on down the tracks

Oh oh, come take my hand
We're riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road
Oh, Thunder Road, oh, Thunder Road
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey, I know it's late, we can make it if we run
Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road
Sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road

Well, I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk
And my car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door's open but the ride ain't free
And I know you're lonely for words that I ain't spoken
But tonight we'll be free, all the promises'll be broken

There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines rolling on
But when you get to the porch, they're gone on the wind
So Mary, climb in
It's a town full of losers, I'm pulling out of here to win
Bush challenges hundreds of laws
Holy crap. Seven pages on how King George routinely ignores the law at his own whim.

WASHINGTON -- President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

Former administration officials contend that just because Bush reserves the right to disobey a law does not mean he is not enforcing it: In many cases, he is simply asserting his belief that a certain requirement encroaches on presidential power.

But with the disclosure of Bush's domestic spying program, in which he ignored a law requiring warrants to tap the phones of Americans, many legal specialists say Bush is hardly reluctant to bypass laws he believes he has the constitutional authority to override.

Far more than any predecessor, Bush has been aggressive about declaring his right to ignore vast swaths of laws -- many of which he says infringe on power he believes the Constitution assigns to him alone as the head of the executive branch or the commander in chief of the military.

Many legal scholars say they believe that Bush's theory about his own powers goes too far and that he is seizing for himself some of the law-making role of Congress and the Constitution-interpreting role of the courts.

Can we please IMPEACH this son of a bitch?
Colbert Lampoons Bush at White House Correspondents Dinner-- President Does Not Seem Amused
A bit too much "truthiness". WTG Stephen.

WASHINGTON A blistering comedy “tribute” to President Bush by Comedy Central’s faux talk show host Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondent Dinner Saturday night left George and Laura Bush unsmiling at its close.

Earlier, the president had delivered his talk to the 2700 attendees, including many celebrities and top officials, with the help of a Bush impersonator.

Colbert, who spoke in the guise of his talk show character, who ostensibly supports the president strongly, urged the Bush to ignore his low approval ratings, saying they were based on reality, “and reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

He attacked those in the press who claim that the shake-up at the White House was merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. “This administration is soaring, not sinking,” he said. “They are re-arranging the deck chairs--on the Hindenburg.”

Colbert also made biting cracks about missing WMDs, “photo ops” on aircraft carriers and at hurricane disasters, and Vice President Cheney shooting people in the face.
Observing that Bush sticks to his principles, he said, "When the president decides something on Monday, he still believes it on Wednesday - no matter what happened Tuesday."

Also lampooning the press, Colbert complained that he was “surrounded by the liberal media who are destroying this country, except for Fox News. Fox believes in presenting both sides—the president’s side and the vice president’s side." He also reflected on the good old days, when the media was still swallowing the WMD story.

Addressing the reporters, he said, "You should spend more time with your families, write that novel you've always wanted to write. You know, the one about the fearless reporter who stands up to the administration. You know-- fiction."

As Colbert walked from the podium, when it was over, the president and First Lady gave him quick nods, unsmiling, and left immediately.

E&P's Joe Strupp, in the crowd, observed that quite a few sitting near him looked a little uncomfortable at times, perhaps feeling the material was a little too biting--or too much speaking "truthiness" to power.

Asked by E&P after it was over if he thought he'd been too harsh, Colbert said, "Not at all." Was he trying to make a point politically or just get laughs? "Just for laughs," he said. He said he did not pull any material for being too strong, just for time reasons.

C&L has the video- I believe this is only the second half. I want to see the whole thing.

Colbert will also be on 60 minutes tonight.

Guy is a genius.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

BRIAN DICKERSON: Craven candidates vie for gasoholics' favor
Er...he's right.

The contest for the votes of Michigan gas addicts is officially under way.

Start your engines, boys and girls! And may the most shameless champion of economic illiteracy win!

In the Democratic corner, incumbent Gov. Jennifer Granholm has asked voters to fight soaring fuel prices by urging the federal government to cap oil industry profits (at an obscenity threshold to be specified later).

In the Republican corner, challenger Dick DeVos proposes to stop collecting the sales tax on gas whenever its price tops $1.95 a gallon, a move that would reduce state revenues by $285 million a year as long as gas prices hover near the $3-a-gallon mark.

If Granholm gets her way, the federal government would get more of the money Michiganders pay for gasoline.

If DeVos prevails, the state government would get less.

But if you believe either of their proposals will reduce the price of oil, I've got a switchgrass-powered Hummer I'd like to sell you.

If the hokum Michigan's gubernatorial gladiators are peddling came with no serious side effects, we could toss a coin to decide which of their ineffectual placebos to swallow. Or we could choose sides on partisan grounds that have nothing to do with the price of gas, with Democrats who want to stick it to oil executives lining up behind a windfall profits tax and Republicans who want to stick it to welfare recipients opting for a sales tax exemption. (You know -- the way we settle every other public policy issue in Michigan.)

But neither candidate's prescription for lower oil prices would be merely ineffectual. In fact, both would exacerbate the supply-demand imbalance that even those with a smattering of economic understanding (or political candor) know is at the root of soaring gas prices.

President George W. Bush has correctly diagnosed what headline writers call the gas crisis as a substance abuse problem. DeVos proposes to treat that addiction by making Michigan's hydrocarbon fix less expensive; Granholm wants the federal government to take a bigger share of the suppliers' profits.

Neither strategy, needless to say, will do a thing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil -- a crisis with even bigger implications for our national security than for our pocketbooks.

Brian goes on to talk about public transit- I think this would be a perfect opportunity to tout ALTERNATIVE ENERGY. Now, now, now.

I know that we can't just drop our oil habit, but we can start making faster steps to get out of this trap. Dancing around with taxes and rebates and cutting oil company profits won't solve anything in the long run. We need to get off this juice and get on the other juice, whether it be sugar or corn I don't care. Just DO IT.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Calling Out the MDP

Something has been bugging me for awhile, and now I just gotta say it, in hopes that either someone can tell me I'm wrong or take what I say and apply it. I wrote this diary on 4/25 and immediately paused on publishing it; self-confidence is not my strong suit. I had other reasons also.

I had taken a "speak no evil" position on Democrats. Sometimes I want to kick their ass for them, but I figured they knew what they were doing, there was a plan, there was a strategy, I just wasn't seeing it. I'm not part of the machine in any way, shape or form. I'm a "Good Dog Democrat"; if I'm a good dog and vote for them they will throw me a bone eventually, but basically I am on the outside of the mainstream of modern "normal" life, whatever that is. Perhaps that gives me a different perspective; maybe it throws me totally off base, I don't know.

This morning Tim Skubick validated some of my feelings with an editorial complaining about both candidate's campaign tactics.

There were a couple of things I felt he got wrong. First off, the Grand Valley issue is mischaracterized- Dick quit that one to pursue his voucher plan, not because of Daddy's health problems- he jumbles the two times "Dick quit" together.

He also has ignored Saul, Dick and the MI GOP's attacks on Granholm (what was that expense account accusation all about anyway?) and focuses solely on Mark Brewer and the Democrats, calling them "Granholm's henchmen" and lumping them in with her campaign. Maybe they are those things, but if you look strictly at her campaign (and by this I mean her website, because, what else is there to look at?), you won't find any mention of DeVos. So, who is doing more "attacking" here, Tim?

Anyway, there is one glaring point Skubick wrote that jumped out at me-

So the bottom line here is simple. All the Democratic mud-slinging was not enough to bury Engler on Election Day in 1990. Heads up, Granholm team. A successful campaign must include reasons to vote for your candidate, not just reasons to vote against the other guy.

To that I would say- "Heads up, MDP". The "Granholm team" does have positive stories about the Guv everyday, we just don't see them because the MDP is getting the press on the negative and not featuring the positive news that is out there. (and I partly blame the media for that, too)

The MDP is caught in the game called "Chase the Lie", and, as I said in the other day, it basically goes like this-

Republicans lie. We spend all our time refuting the lie with long stories, links, and proof that they are not telling the truth- and by that time it's too late. The lie is out there, it becomes part of the fabric of thought amongst those who aren't really paying attention (Michigan is a "high tax" state- when the reality is that we are somewhere in the middle), and by the time we knock it down, they have already spoken the next lie. Round and round we go, never getting the chance to get to our message. Its part of the reason Democrats cannot define themselves- we are too busy chasing the misdeeds of the Republicans.

Markos from Daily Kos hit it right on the head also the other day-

People ARE seeing that Republicans can't govern. There's no way around that. What they AREN'T seeing is how Democrats will be any different. How they offer change.

The GOP WILL motivate its voters come November. They'll rail on abortion and gays and scary brown people crossing the southern border and how Democrats want to take their Bibles away. And their core supporters will turn out. And Democrats, unless they realize that they need to inspire, will find those huge gains will fail to materialize.

Markos was talking about the DC Democrats, but this translates to our state, too, as Tim pointed out. We need to give people a reason to vote for Democrats, and for Granholm, not just against DeVos and the Republicans. I hope the MDP continues with their great work on the Republican lies, but I want to see them accentuating the positive things that make us Democrats in the first place.

Let's look at the Michigan Democratic Party website for an example.

First of all, I want to commend the people at the MDP for the work they have done refuting DeVos' misleading commercials. It has been excellent. But what they are missing, in my opinion, is a chance to highlight how the Democrats would be different, the things we can do (and Granholm is doing) to fix the problems that confront our state. They did do this on the "Grand Change" ad rebuttal- and that was exactly what I'm talking about here. Let's see more of that!

Here is a rundown of what I see as of the morning of 4/25/06. (I want to note the date because their content does change frequently)

Home page- a picture of two Republicans and the announcement of the new ad on the SBT. Yesterday morning it was a picture of DeVos. To put it simply- you don't go to the web site for Coke and immediately see a picture of a can of Pepsi. In the advertising class I took, that would have gotten me an "F". I realize that political parties aren't commercial products, but I believe the same principles apply. When you take into consideration that people sometimes don't (or can't) read the accompanying text, you have already ceded the visual ground to the competition. Mix it up a bit. When doing pictures, put pictures of your guys up there, too.

Down below- two stories about DeVos, one on Levin. Congratulations to go Carl and all, but does that really need to be a featured story on the home page?

Compare with the MI GOP "Home" page (no, I'm not linking to it. You have Google if you are so inclined)- they have a big 'ol picture of "Mr. 32%" featured prominently (You go, Republicans! Ride that horse! But still- he is their horse. They win a certain percentage, around 32% apparently, with that visual), followed by a couple of stories that take a shot at Granholm, a shot at Stabenow, and a shot at the head of the Dept. of Corrections. BUT, down below- there are pictures of Cox, Land, and links to the State House and Senate. Over on the left- prominent links to "talking points" and activism. To sum it up- there are the attack stories, but there are also links that tell you who the Republicans are. (and boy, could I have a field day tearing apart the "I am a Republican because..." section. Some of those points are laugh out loud funny when you consider what they have done while in power. Future diary maybe.)

But I don't really want to talk about them; I was just drawing a comparison on the home page visual. They "mix it up".

On to the MDP "News" page- and this one bothers me the most. The name "DeVos" is mentioned in headlines 23 times. Granholm? 0. Think about that for a minute. Your incumbent Governor, in an election year, has no headlines on the "News" page. What is up with that? Same with Stabenow- nothing. We've got Brewer going to the DNC convention, the accolades for Carl, and the next story about Democrats is the Canadian trash story. Look folks, the imported trash story is an issue, to be sure, but it's way, way, WAY down there on the list of important issues. To be blunt- most people do NOT care about this in the face of rising energy prices and health care issues and job issues. Nobody is sitting at home wringing their hands because trash is coming into Michigan, they are worried about paying their bills.

The "News" page has no news on Granholm's accomplishments on the jobs front (and there have been quite a few lately, they don't get much press unless you happen to live in the town where they are occurring)-, which is the main Republican attack point. Want to knock down that attack? Start featuring those stories prominently. I'm finding them- just this morning it was announced that the deal Granholm made for UniSolar in Greenville is already expanding. This was Jennifer's victory; not only does it bring jobs to Michigan, it also addresses the need for alternative energy and how we can be poised to take the lead in that regard. Two birds, one stone.

(You too, Granholm for Governor. I shouldn't have to dig through the archives to find the stories on Surefil, United Solar Ovonic, Marisa Industries, highway projects, etc., etc. These stories should be divided by issue and not by date, and get them readily accessible with buttons by category. That way, when people are looking for releases on "Jobs" or "Health Care", they don't have to scroll through a bunch of stuff that gets in the way.)

Now I'm going to harp on the "blog" thing one last time. I was greatly disturbed to hear that "there was a group of experienced bloggers that offered to do it for free" and the MDP shot them down. Get a clue, people. "Blog" is the hottest thing going right now. Dick has a blog. The MI GOP has a blog. My weatherman has a blog (and it's a good one, too). You can control the message on blogs. Do what Saul does and don't let anyone post comments if you are worried about content. But just DO IT. Call the "news" page a "blog". You look absolutely out of touch without it at this point.

I know the MDP is looking for a web person- but quite frankly they have been looking for a long time now. Tick, tick, tick, people. It's almost May. You are wasting valuable time and web space when you don't address these issues I have outlined. I would like to see a two-pronged attack; you can knock down the Republicans as you are highlighting the Democratic difference. You can still point out the glaring DeVos/Pub weaknesses- Skubick again-

And while on the subject of those DeVos ads, it's truly amazing that viewers have apparently been sucked in. The spots tell us very little about what he would do if he was actually elected. He even had the audacity the other day to suggest he might not release a lot of his plans until after the election.

All we really know from his commercials is that he knows how to put his blazer on and take it off. He knows how to schmooze with his former employees and he walks at a pretty good clip ... and, oh yeah, he sure smiles a lot.

Heck, if that doesn't qualify him for the governorship, what does?

They don't have a plan other than to cut taxes and drown government. What you are seeing in Washington is exactly what you will see here, and they are not going to tell you about it because they know they can't win on that stance. Granholm does have a plan on jobs, health care, education, energy... all of it. Draw a comparison.

The most important thing, to me, is to get a solid Democratic stance on the issues out there. We win on the issues. Articulate it. Tell us the talking points. Tell us who you are.

An "Anybody But Dick" campaign isn't going to cut it. You have an attractive, intelligent, articulate candidate who has the right ideas- start selling those ideas and that candidate, please. The consequences of not doing that are going to be dire.

And that's all I got to say about that.
Greenville preparing for Uni-Solar expansion
Thank you Jennifer Granholm. (If you recall, it was her work that landed this deal.)

24 Hour News 8 has learned Uni-Solar, the company many believe is Greenville's economic savior, will need to expand beyond its initial plan.

One month ago, Uni-Solar announced it was expanding its operations to Greenville, selecting the Montcalm County location over a site in South Carolina. Since then, the worldwide demand for Uni-Solar's solar shingles has exploded. The Detroit-based company told us it is doing its best to keep up with orders.

With that in mind, we've learned Greenville has offered Uni-Solar more land for future expansion.

Uni-Solar broke ground on Phase 1 last week, but already world demand means it may need to grow faster than expected.

Uni-Solar currently plans to build six manufacturing plants by 2010 at Greenville's Industrial Park. The first 200,000-square foot facility will be operational by next summer. A campus of solar panel production will then be constructed on 95 acres of land.

He told us the European market for solar shingles is red-hot. Governments there are providing cash incentives for retrofitting residential rooftops. The revolutionary technology is providing enough energy for lighting, heating and cooling come rain or shine.

That's because the Europeans have their shit together and are going to stop chasing that almighty barrel of oil.

This is the future, the future that America better start looking at and taking seriously. Or we can keep playing this game that we are playing- destroying the environment, squabbling over petty taxes, chasing our tails as the world's demand for oil just continues to grow and supplies become scarce and prices continue to rise.

Your choice, America.
Grand Rapids: Keep it a Secret
$82,000 for this?

GR's new logo.

Grand Rapids has a new identity - a secret that it wants everyone to know.

The Grand Rapids Downtown Alliance has chosen "Keep It A Secret" as the new brand identity to communicate the spirit and vitality which can be found in the heart of the city. The slogan is also intended to differentiate downtown Grand Rapids from competing areas.

The new identity is aimed at helping businesses, retailers, hotels, restaurants and museums to draw new customers to downtown Grand Rapids.

Alrighty then.
With a fast start, the Whitecaps roll

SS Mike Hollimon looks at a strike.

COMSTOCK PARK – Eleven batters came to the plate in bottom of the first as the Whitecaps pounded out nine hits and six runs to force starter Trey Shields from the game in an 8-4 win over Kane County.

West Michigan added single runs in the second and third innings and led 8-2 after four. Every player in the West Michigan line up had a hit by the third inning. Eight of the nine starters had at least one hit in the first.

Cameron Maybin started the scoring with an RBI double. Jeramy Laster capped the rally with a two-run single West Michigan pushed a run across without a hit or an error in the second.

Dusty Ryan delivered a bases loaded walk against reliever Joe Piekarz who issued five free passes in two innings on the hill. Ryan Roberson singled home the eighth Whitecaps run in the third.

Burke Badenhop threw seven innings for the Whitecaps to earn the victory, despite allowing 10 hits and three runs.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Senate Panel Recommends Abolishing FEMA
Because giving a government agency a new acronym solves everything.

WASHINGTON - Hurricane Katrina's latest fatality should be FEMA, the nation's disaster response agency, a Senate inquiry concluded in calling for a government overhaul to avoid future failures like those the devastating storm exposed.

Eighty-six recommendations by the bipartisan panel indicate the United States is still woefully unprepared for a storm of Katrina's scope with the start of the hurricane season little more than a month away.

Though the proposed changes do not place blame on any official or government agency, Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., will offer "additional views" to the panel's findings in a statement accusing President Bush of failing "to provide critical leadership when it was most needed."

"The United States was, and is, ill-prepared to respond to a catastrophic event of the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina," said the recommendations. "Catastrophic events are, by their nature, difficult to imagine and to adequately plan for, and the existing plans and training proved inadequate in Katrina."

Yes, Joe. Hurricanes are difficult to imagine since they only hit the United States, what, once or twice a year? Might want to check into that earthquake thing in California also. I know it's difficult to imagine that, too, but it's been known to happen from time to time.

The recommendations conclude that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is crippled beyond repair by years of poor leadership and inadequate funding. They call for a new agency — the National Preparedness and Response Authority — to plan and carry out relief missions for domestic disasters.

Unlike now, the authority would communicate directly with the president during major crises, and any dramatic cuts to budget or staffing levels would have to be approved by Congress. But it would remain within the Homeland Security Department and would continue receiving resources from the department.

Communicate directly with Bush? Boy, I feel better already.
MI House OKs ethics-related insurance bills
Sick? Better check that morality clause in your insurance and make sure you weren't doing something that your provider "disapproves" of.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Insurance companies and HMOs would not have to provide health care benefits that conflict with the organization's moral or religious mission under legislation passed Wednesday by the state House.

The bill's passage was cheered by Right to Life of Michigan supporters, who were in the House chamber's balcony as the bills passed. The group was having a "legislative day" at the Capitol.

The legislation now goes to the Senate.

The House passed the bills by a 68-38 vote, with some Democrats joining the Republican majority in supporting the legislation.

Seems we have some "Lieberman Democrats" in the House.

Insurers could opt not to cover certain drugs or procedures if their objections are reflected in a mission statement or articles of incorporation. Insurers would be required to provide only those benefits already agreed to in a contract or other written policy.

Bet they are busy rewriting those policies as I type. Do we really want to put more power in the hands of the insurance companies to deny claims? Ever had to fight for them to pay a claim? I have, back when I had insurance. It's not fun.

Opponents of the legislation say it could weaken consumers' health care benefits, particularly women's access to birth control and other procedures related to reproduction such as abortion.

The legislation could become a more prominent factor if more religious-affiliated groups decide to self-insure or start HMOs in the future. Democrats said that could raise questions, for example, about how medical coverage for smoking-related illnesses would be covered by religious organizations that are opposed to smoking.

My guess is that these insurance companies will find a whole bunch of things they are opposed to besides smoking and women's reproductive choices. Let's see, right off hand there's drinking, obesity, any sort of sexual problem, children born out of wedlock, and if you're gay, well, just forget it. Don't even bother walking in the door.

Bottom line- more people left uncovered, who then will go to emergency rooms for expensive care, which in turn will drive up insurance rates for all, which will force more people to drop coverage because they can't afford it... and the cycle goes on. (see post below this one- I feel like a broken record)

More bad legislation from the MI House, which is obviously controlled by extreme right wing forces in this state. They don't serve the citizens of Michigan as a whole- they serve only the special interest groups. That should be pretty apparent by now.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Percentage of Uninsured Americans Rising
The spiral continues.

NEW YORK - The percentage of working-age Americans with moderate to middle incomes who lacked health insurance for at least part of the year rose to 41 percent in 2005, a dramatic increase from the 28 percent in 2001 without coverage, a study released on Wednesday found.

Moreover, more than half of the uninsured adults said they were having problems paying their medical bills or had incurred debt to cover their expenses, according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based private, health care policy foundation. The study of 4,350 adults also found that people without insurance were more likely to forgo recommended health screenings such as mammograms than those with coverage, and were less likely to have a regular doctor than their insured counterparts.

The report paints a bleak health care picture for the uninsured. "It represents an explosion of the insurance crisis into those with moderate incomes," said Sara Collins, a senior program officer at the Commonwealth Fund.

Collins said the study also illustrates how more employers are dropping coverage or are offering plans that are just too expensive for many people.

About 45.8 million Americans did not have health insurance in 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

New York City, the most populous city in America, has 8 million people as of 2004. So, we are talking over five (and 1/2) NYC's here. Just wanted to throw in some perspective.

The percentage of individuals earning less than $20,000 a year without insurance rose to 53 percent, up from 49 percent in 2001. Overall, the percentage of people without insurance rose to 28 percent in 2005 from 24 percent in 2001.

The study also found that 59 percent of uninsured with chronic conditions such as asthma or diabetes either skipped a dose of their medicine or went without it because it was too expensive.

Collins said those statistics are significant because giving up medicines typically leads to more expensive health problems later. Treating people in expensive settings such emergency rooms places a financial burden on the health care system, she added.

Which raises the cost of insurance, which pushes more people into being uninsured, which pushes them to emergency rooms for expensive treatment, which raises the cost of insurance again... are we seeing a pattern here?

HCA Inc. hoisted a red flag on Tuesday, when the the nation's largest for-profit hospital operator said its earnings fell 8.5 percent in the first quarter after an increase in the uninsured admissions cut into revenue gains. Uninsured admissions rose 13 percent during the quarter, and the company said its provision for "doubtful accounts" rose to $852 million from $683 million a year earlier.

No problem. All these folks who don't have the money for insurance as it is can start "Health Savings Accounts", right?
Granholm: Work together to reduce abortion numbers
Nice to see the Guv take a strong stand on choice. It would be so easy to run away from emotionally charged issues like this- but here she is, out in front, fighting to protect women's rights.

Michigan residents need to work together to reduce abortions rather than battling over whether to outlaw them, Gov. Jennifer Granholm told abortion-rights supporters and anti-abortion protesters at a Capitol rally Tuesday.

Granholm said the ideal number of abortions is zero and that education and access to birth control can help. But she said she'll continue to support women's decisions to make choices for themselves.

"We want to be the state where the battle is won to reduce unintended pregnancies," Granholm told cheering supporters.

"We want to be the state where the battle is won for policies that make abortion safe, legal and rare."

About 250 people gathered at the Capitol for the Michigan March for Choice. Perhaps 50 in the crowd were opponents of abortion, many of them members of a Students for Life group.

Granholm's speech was her first to an abortion-rights rally since she became governor in 2003, although she has attended events by the abortion-rights fundraising group EMILY's List.

Spokeswoman Liz Boyd said the governor hasn't been invited to many such events, but she said the issue has become elevated with recent appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court that have fueled speculation that the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion might be overturned.

The state recently received a federal waiver to use Medicaid money to provide family planning services for about 200,000 women without insurance. The state also has a "Talk Early, Talk Often" program designed to help parents teach their children about sex and pregnancy prevention.

Granholm also called for passage of so-called contraception legislation equity.

"Insurance companies should not cover Viagra if they don't cover the Pill, too," she said.

The Lansing State Journal also provided this fact- More than 26,000 induced abortions were reported in Michigan in 2004, the most recently available statistics. That's down 11 percent from 2003 and 46 percent since the peak year of 1987.

Good to see the numbers dropping- and the common sense answer to keep those numbers dropping is access to (cheap) contraception and education.

One disturbing sidenote: In the Detroit News story on this rally, the very last sentence of the article contained this-

The state House on Wednesday could vote on separate legislation that would let insurers and HMOs refuse to provide a health care benefit based on ethical, moral or religious grounds.

I had heard about this before, but didn't realize that the legislation was up for a vote here.

Do we really want to give insurance companies, who already fight claims tooth and nail, more power to deny services?

More to come later on this, I'm sure.
Grand Rapids approves adult entertainment ordinance
Apparently the city commission is for sale- come up with the cash and you, too, can have an ordinance passed, and drag the city into an expensive first amendment lawsuit.

GRAND RAPIDS - Grand Rapids has a new city ordinance to regulate nude and topless dancing. By a vote of six to one Tuesday night the adult business ordinance was passed by the city commissioners. But their decision is already stirring more controversy. Strip club owner Mark London tells WZZM 13 he will file a lawsuit against the city in the next 30 days. It's a move the city expected and one they intend to fight with donated money.

The Black Hills Neighborhood Association raised $100,000 to pay for the lawsuit, that's why Mayor Heartwell says he pushed for the ordinance, "If it were not for that I never would have brought this ordinance before this commission we can't afford a $100,000 lawsuit."

But what if the lawsuit goes over $100,000 dollars? Who makes up the difference? City commissioner Rick Tormala is concerned, ”I tried to get that answer tonight what are you gonna do when the $100,000 runs out?" Mayor Heartwell is convinced it won't go over that amount.

The case is being handled by the same attorney who handled the Velvet Touch lawsuit several years ago. That lawsuit cost the city more than $200,000 and it's why Mayor Heartwell says the city says it won't be paying for the now impending one, "I said we are not going to pass this ordinance and defend it using taxpayer resources we've been there and we're not going there again."

But what if despite all assurances, the lawsuit does cost more? Judy Rose with the Black Hills Neighborhood Association says not to worry, "I think the donors that we've gone to would give more."

You think? But you don't know?

I would like to see a list of those donors, I would also like to see proof that the money is there. I would also like to see a signed legal paper holding these people accountable. And, if the money isn't there three years from now in the middle of the court battle, are we just going to drop it right in the middle? Isn't the city on the hook for this if the Morality Police don't come up with the money?

And this time, all the bar owners will be in on the fight, not just the Velvet Touch. These guys will be a united force with a bunch of cash to carry this all the way to the top if necessary.

Oh, and by the way- the city just slashed it's budget again, fees are going up and people are going to lose their jobs, including cops and firefighters.

Kimball wants to institute a number of new fees, from charging for false fire alarms to adding another 25 cents to what you pay for garbage bag and tag fees.

In all, 43 positions will be eliminated from the city payroll, some through attrition, some through layoffs.

Fire and police forces, the most expensive part of the budget, won't see cuts as drastic this year compared to the past.

Not "as drastic", but we will see cuts to vital services.

Resources to fight strip clubs? No problem. Cops and firefighters? Buh- bye.

This is fucked up.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Bush Eases Environmental Rules on Gasoline
Bush administration in a crisis- 1) ignore it 2) destroy something 3) cronies collect big profits.

WASHINGTON - President Bush on Tuesday ordered a temporary suspension of environmental rules for gasoline, making it easier for refiners to meet demand and possibly dampen prices at the pump. He also halted for the summer the purchase of crude oil for the government's emergency reserve.

What do you bet "temporary" becomes "permanent"? Who cares if we can't breathe the air, as long as gas is a few cents cheaper, huh?

The moves came as political pressure intensified on Bush to do something about gasoline prices that are expected to stay high throughout the summer.

Bush said the nation's strategic petroleum reserve had enough fuel to guard against any major supply disruption over the next few months.

"So, by deferring deposits until the fall, we'll leave a little more oil on the market. Every little bit helps," he said.

Wholesale gasoline futures prices for June delivery dropped 8 cents a gallon to $2.10 on the New York Mercantile Exchange immediately upon Bush's remarks.

Easing the environment rules will allow refiners greater flexibility in providing oil supplies since they will not have to use certain additives such as ethanol to meet clean air standards. The suspension of oil purchases for the federal emergency oil reserve is likely to have only modest impact since relative little extra oil will be involved.

The high cost at the pump has turned into a major political issue, with Democrats and Republicans blaming each other for a problem that is largely out of Congress' control. Republicans are worried that voters paying more than $3 per gallon would punish the party in power. Democrats want to make that happen.

Put it on the list- and yes, this is partly Bush's fault because of all the tough talk with the Iranians making speculators nervous and driving up the price.
Michigan pulling itself out of slump
This story focuses mostly on GR and growth on the west, northwest and southeast areas of the state, but still- it's a nice headline to see.

And it seems to me I remember the early 80's being like this, too, where the running CW in this area was that "half of Detroit is moving over here".

EDIT: 7:50 PM- WZZM failed to tell me this morning that this was a USA TODAY story. Link here.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The first JW Marriott luxury hotel in the Midwest and an art museum are under construction.

Developers are turning abandoned factories into luxury lofts and restaurants. Imposing medical centers are rising in a neighborhood called "Health Hill." Michigan State University, based in East Lansing about an hour to the east, plans to move its medical school here.

This growth and development frenzy is happening in an old furniture manufacturing center in a state that has had so many dismal economic developments in recent years it could have been dubbed the grim-news state.

Detroit, Michigan's most populous city, has shrunk by more than 50,000 people this decade to about 900,000. Its biggest industry, automobiles, has been battered by global competition.

But fresh county population estimates from the Census Bureau show modest turnarounds in several other parts of the state. Sixty of Michigan's 83 counties have grown this decade, and 19 had population gains of at least 5%.

"It's an industrial state in significant transition," says Keith Schneider, deputy director of the Michigan Land Use Institute.

So far, the gains have been concentrated in three regions:

•West. Counties including the cities of Muskegon, Holland, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo are seeing modest to robust growth. A highway extension south of Grand Rapids, home of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, has opened neighboring counties to commuters. The Grand Rapids area is attracting medical investment and professionals.

"They're attractive, quality-of-life places and have a somewhat more diverse economic base," says John Austin, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and vice president of the Michigan State Board of Education. "It's close to Chicago."

•Southeast. Washtenaw County, home of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan, is a center of research and development and biotech activity. It's a place "where there are educated people, where knowledge works," Austin says.

•Northwest. Traverse City and counties on the shores of Lake Michigan are benefiting from tourists and retirees moving in. Beaches and other natural attractions are luring entrepreneurs and executives who can work anywhere because of wealth and technology.

The words "single state recession" ring a bit hollow in the face of this, don't they?
Daily Kos: The GOP: The Party of Greed and Bleed
I know I have been highlighting the writing at Kos a lot lately, but this one was too good to pass up. Pure poetry. Here are some excellent passages- go read the whole thing.

Money and war, war and money. The mantra of the modern Republican Party.

I've come to the reluctant conclusion that every single decision - not just a vast majority of decisions, but every single one -- made in the past six years by the ruling GOP leads back to these twin motivators, with war secondary in the service of obscene accumulations of wealth by a small coterie of cronies, criminals and corporatists.

Funny, isn't it, how times change? Once upon a time, Christians considered avarice a sin. Now they consider serving as ignorant foot soldiers in the army of a few self-selected Gekkos a sign of grace. Jesus, had he a grave, would certainly be rolling over in it now, watching middle and working-class Americans - and the rest of the world - being bled with the help of his followers so that the top's illimitable greed is fed.

We are bled at the gas pump. We are bled at the workplace. We are even bled in our homes as heating oil prices soar while energy companies reap the greatest profit in human history and object to paying their fair share of taxes on it.


Democrats in this election year need to ask Americans: Why would you put a party in charge of government that wants to abolish it, that views it as only capable of evil? Transpose this nonsense into any other realm and contemplate the resultant absurdity: Imagine hiring a symphony conductor who loathes orchestras, or assigning literacy tutoring to someone who believes the written word should be abolished. What would be the end result? Surely similar to what we have now: a ruling party that refuses to take responsibility for the failure of the end result.


The economic and social failures of this ruling class - its inability to ... well ... rule competently - are shifted to the victims of their corrupt and impracticable ideology. It's our fault that working hard and playing by the rules no longer buys a house in the suburbs or gets us health coverage or buys our children a decent education. We got greedy and lazy, not them, and our rumblings of discontent earn us labels as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic." As such, it's perfectly okay to use the government to invade our bedrooms, our doctor's offices, our reproductive systems, our phone lines, our Internet connections, even our deathbeds - and then lie about it and evade even anemic attempts to find out what the hell is going on. All secrecy is legitimatised for government, while the citizens retain no zone of privacy at all.

Democrats, take heed. It's time to talk straight to the American people. The modern Republican Party can best be summed up as devoted to lying and spying while others do the dying.

All in the service of greed and bleed, of money and war.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Who's your demagogue?

The Detroit News, sometime this morning-

One thing you can always count on, as soon as the price of a gallon of gasoline nears $3, Democrats will start demagoguing.

Democratic senators are tramping all over the country demanding that President George W. Bush do something -- price controls, profit taxes, etc. -- about the sharp increase in oil prices, which have sent gasoline costs soaring. As always, the implication is that because the president was once in the oil business, he is in cahoots with his old buddies.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm joined the chorus by urging Michigan residents to sign an online petition against price gouging and profiteering.

Reuters, this afternoon-

Republican congressional leaders on Monday urged the Bush administration to investigate whether oil companies are overcharging consumers at the gasoline pump and if speculators are pushing up fuel prices.


Republicans fear they could lose the Senate and House of Representatives in this November's congressional elections if voters retaliate against them for the high fuel prices.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert wrote President George W. Bush and asked him to direct the U.S. Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on any potential profiteering.

Sometimes the jokes just write themselves.

Ghosts in the Machines:

Not only was Blogger down for a good 18 hrs., Comcast e-mail is not working right now.

Arrrgghhh. Damn computers.
Michigan seeks to draw out-of-state visitors with ad dollars
We need a song!

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Michigan plans to send advertising dollars to other states in hopes of bringing even more tourist dollars back.

An agreement reached last week between Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Republican legislative leaders sets aside $7.5 million this year and the same amount in 2007 to market Michigan to out-of-state travelers.

A study released last month by the Tourism Center at Michigan State University predicted the number of travelers in Michigan will grow 1 percent to 2 percent this year, and tourism spending will rise 4 percent to 5 percent.

The study said a wild card in the tourism forecast was the price of gasoline, which has increased by roughly 30 cents a gallon since the report was released.

The tourism industry contributes $17.5 billion to Michigan's economy annually, accounting for 193,000 jobs and generating $971 million in state tax revenues, according to Travel Michigan.

I used to hear Michigan ads on Chicago radio when I was driving down there. It would be nice to see ads on some national cable stations like TBS or CNN.
Splendid Maddux improves to 4-0
Let's hear it for 40! Go get 'em Mad Dog!

ST. LOUIS -- So far, 40 is pretty special for Greg Maddux.

The veteran right-hander improved to 4-0, winning his 322nd career game, and lowered his ERA to a National League-leading 0.99 as the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-3, on Sunday to avoid a sweep.

"Anytime you can come to St. Louis and get a win, it's a good day," Maddux said.

Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run homer, Jacque Jones added a solo shot and Todd Walker drove in three runs to back Maddux (4-0), who gave most of the bullpen a much-needed day off and stopped a two-game losing streak.

This is the first time in his career that Maddux has won each of his first four starts. Not bad for a pitcher who turned 40 on April 14. He opened the 2000 season 4-0 with Atlanta, but achieved that record after six starts. He downplayed the feat.

"We've been scoring a lot of runs, too, so that helps," Maddux said. "Guys swung the bats well. Ramy got the big hit and put us ahead. Defense and runs goes a long way."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Michigan's "Send us your best shot!" Guidelines
Here's a cool idea- although there goes my dream job. If you just have Michigan residents send in pictures, you don't need to pay anyone to go take them! Right? ;-) Oh well...

Still, a great way for us rookie photogs to participate. I wonder what kind of response this will generate- a lot of people aren't going to know how to get their shots under 500k and still look good- only those who have played around with web display and picture manipulation will get it. Maybe there are more of those people than I think, who knows.

I think I'll dig through my stuff and send them some shots.

Submit your digital images for display on the portal for the "Michigan Album".

The State of Michigan is seeking photographs to be featured on the State's portal,

We have established the following rules for the submission of images.

Image Requirements for the Digital Photo

Must be a Michigan image and appropriate for display on our state portal.
Image may be black and white or color.
The image display size must be between 640 x 480 pixels and 320 x 240 pixels.
The file must be 72 dpi, high quality, JPG or PNG file
The file size not to exceed 500 kb


Do not submit images taken by someone else. You must be the sole owner of the copyright of any digital image submitted. By your submission, you acknowledge that you are the author and copyright holder of the photo.

By your submission, you are giving the staff permission to use the image on the suite of sites.

An album for all submitted images will be available. Each accepted image will be displayed and captioned with details provided for the image as well as a credit for the photographer.

What makes an image eligible?

Michigan places, things, people, or experiences are perfect subjects. Subject matter must be suitable for publication on the State portal and must be appropriate for viewing by the general public. retains the right to determine what will constitute inappropriate content.

Use of Pictures for Featured Photo on

All images submitted will be considered. Only pictures deemed acceptable and selected by the State of Michigan Portal staff will be displayed on

Release Forms, Photo Subject Restrictions

If the photograph is of a person or persons, the photographer affirms the person(s) photographed has(have) given their permission to be included in the photograph and for the photograph to be displayed on the State Portal home page without any fee or other form of compensation and, further, provide written proof of such consent.

Pretty standard stock photo guidelines. Gotta watch out on taking pictures of people- the reason I don't do a lot of "people" shots is that you must have a release form or you can get sued. (The baseball shots I take and display can fall under the category of "journalism", I believe. I do know that I cannot sell them without consent of the Whitecaps and probably the Detroit Tigers. But publishing them here? They would be stupid to complain because it is free advertisng.)

The state should probably provide a link to a legal form that people can download and print- I think I'll stick with nature, myself.
Daily Kos: Class War: It's Time
Bonddad is an excellent economic wonk at Kos. Here is a nice complilation of facts and figures that show how Republican policies have hurt the middle class in the last few years. (Follow the main link above if you want more links to these statistics.)


Although Bush loves to talk about his jobs numbers, his record stinks. The Bush's compound annual growth rate in establishment employment is .6%, the lowest of the last 40 years. In addition, the jobs market has lost 2.8 million manufacturing jobs and 550,000 information service jobs - jobs that helped to create and sustain a middle class. The top ten areas of job growth for 2003-2005 pay $9000 less than the top ten areas of job loss during 2001-2003.

More importantly, the jobs market is slowly resembling a barbell, with low-paying and high-paying jobs and little in between.


In January 2001, non-supervisory wages - which represent the wages of 80% of the workforce - were $14.28. These wages were $16.49 in March 2006 for an increase of 15.47%. Over the same time, the nation's inflation index increased from 175.1 to 199.8, for an increase of 14.10%. That means the average person has seen their pay increase 1.37% in 5 years or a compound annual growth rate of .26%. I don't know about you - but that would thrill me to no end.

According to the Census Bureau, median national income was unchanged from 2002-2004. According to the same report, the poverty rate increased each year for the last 4 years.

It's not as though corporations don't have the money to give bigger wages. According to the Federal Reserve's Flow of Funds, undistributed corporate profits were 192 billion in 2001 and 418 billion in the third quarter of 2005. Corporate profits now account for the largest percentage of national income in the last 40 years.


This is a huge expense that is increasing and taking a larger percentage of income. According to Kaiser Health the average annual payment for a single person is $3695 and a family is $9950. According to the Census Bureau, median household income in 2004 was $44,389, making average premiums for a single family 8.32% of annual income for a single person and 22.41% for a family. Employer and employee typically share this expense. However, as companies look to increase profits, expect them to continually increase employees' contribution to health care.

According to the same Kaiser Health report, health insurance premiums have increased between 2 and 5 times faster than inflation for the last 5 years.

The total number of the uninsured has increased from 40.9 million in 2001 to 45.5 million in 2005.

Of the people who don't have insurance, 70% state the primary reason is cost.


Suppose you want to improve your chances of getting a better job by going to college. The chances are you will graduate with a ton of debt, which will prevent you from bettering your financial position.

The average one-year cost of instructional expenses at state school in 1999-2000 was $11,917. Educational costs have increased since this report.

Students are increasing their debt load to pay for college. A 2003 Nellie Mae report titled College on Credit, documented that the average amount of debt in 2002 for an undergraduate degree was $18,900 while the median amount was $16,500. Payments on these figures comprised an average of 9% of after-college income and a median of 6% of after-college income.

Graduate school loans are a larger burden. The average total debt was $91,000 for law and medical students, and their payment comprised 18% of their income. The average debt for business degrees was $39,500 and their payments comprised 8% of income. The same numbers for education degrees was $32,200 and 11% respectively.

The primary reason for this increased use of debt to finance education is states have decreased their funding for state schools. Between 1988 and 1998, the average annual state-sponsored school tuition increase was 4.1%. Over the same period, state appropriations -- which comprise 33.4% of total state school revenues -- decreased 1% annually. As a result, tuition as a percentage of total state school revenue increased from 22.7% to 31.1% from 1988 - 1998. In other words, the cost of state education is falling more and more on students as opposed to the state governments.

I would add the rising energy costs to this also- just this morning there was a story about how gas prices are affecting the poor, although from the amount of traffic I saw on the streets and highways between Detroit, Brighton, Lansing and Grand Rapids on my whirlwind tour yesterday, you would think they were giving the stuff away. The high prices aren't stopping the Escalade owners from roaring down I-96 at 90 miles an hour- but eventually this will hurt the economy.

Keep rattling that saber at Iran, Georgie.

Recent government and industry data show that America's consumption of gasoline is not rising as rapidly as it was this time last year, and analysts say families living on fixed or modest incomes usually are the first to cut back. If prices continue to rise, other demographic groups expected to trim their gasoline consumption are young adults, who tend to have less pocket change than their elders, and people living in rural parts of Texas and Wyoming, where long drives are a routine part of life.

Wachovia Corp. economist Jason Schenker said he expects the most price-sensitive Americans to continue cutting back on gasoline where they can, and that their spending on other goods is also likely taper off. However, this should only be felt at the margins of total economic growth, which will remain steady at about 3.5 percent in 2006, he said, because employment and wages are rising.

"What happens in those lower quintiles is not indicative of what happens in aggregate," Schenker said.

Yeah, who cares about the "lower quintiles" anyway, huh? But as evidenced above, wages aren't growing for most people.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation's largest retailer, warned earlier this week that it expected reduced sales throughout 2006 from its least wealthy customers, and the company highlighted its strategy to market more higher-end goods to maintain growth.

Wal-Mart will become a luxury store. There's an idea. Get everyone hooked on those low low prices, drive the Mom and Pops out of business, and then make a switch to higher end stuff. Heh.

Of course, for many families it is their wallets, not their fuel tanks, that are in real danger of running on empty.

The effect of rising gasoline prices shouldn't be viewed in isolation, said Carol Clements, chair of the National Fuels Fund Network, which provides emergency financial assistance to poor families that cannot pay their electricity or home-heating bills. "All of these energy costs are having a compounding effect," she said. "We're seeing more people bumped from middle and working class to low-income and poverty situations."

Down the road we go...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Daily Kos: November
I wanted to highlight these words from Markos because they reflect my "creeping malaise" (that's a Pink Floyd reference, for all you kiddies out there) lately. I'll snap out of it soon, I know I will. I hope. Will the Democrats?

Democrats in DC think that keeping their mouths shut and letting the country see the GOP debacle in all its glory will earn them dramatic gains. The corrosive consultants whisper in their ears that taking a strong stance will only earn them enemies, galvanize partisan Democrats to turn out. So they remain in relative silence. Heck, even admonishing Dems like Russ Feingold who have the temerity to speak out against the disaster in DC.

But silence doesn't motivate. People ARE seeing that Republicans can't govern. There's no way around that. What they AREN'T seeing is how Democrats will be any different. How they offer change.

The GOP WILL motivate its voters come November. They'll rail on abortion and gays and scary brown people crossing the southern border and how Democrats want to take their Bibles away. And their core supporters will turn out. And Democrats, unless they realize that they need to inspire, will find those huge gains will fail to materialize.

You cannot have leadership without offending someone. Someone once said you could measure Bobby Kennedy's greatness by the number of enemies he had. George Bush and Karl Rove know this, and they don't care who they offend as they seek to inspire and motivate their core supporters.

DC Democrats are afraid to lead. They're afraid to inspire. They're afraid to offend. They're afraid to clearly state their core principles. They're simply afraid.

And that better change soon.

I think it might, but every time I think that Dems have a strategy play going (Alito, censure), I am proven wrong. And I find myself growing vaguely resentful of the Dems on the national level- but that could be because I am projecting my own desires about "leadership" onto them. I assign the values I would like to see. I think we all do it. When they don't articulate who they are and what they stand for, you tend to do it for them in your mind, and that can only lead to disappointment when they don't follow through.

Markos is right about the motivation. It seems we are stuck in perpetual "angst", and can't break out of it. Or maybe that's just me.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Sign Now to Lower Gas Prices!
Interesting thing about this petition is that it is being done through the Governor's Office on the state website.

Got me to thinking (uh oh) about interactive issue polls- problem with them is the "freeping" that might take place. You would have to rig it so only Michigan residents could vote, and they could only vote once. Wouldn't it be fun to give instant feedback to the legislature?

No way that Bush or Big Oil will listen to us on this petition, but what the heck- I wasn't doing anything anyway.

Michigan drivers are again facing the reality of $3-per-gallon gas - it’s time for President Bush and leaders in Washington to stop watching and start protecting us from the skyrocketing cost of gasoline! It's just not right that big oil companies should be allowed to hold customers hostage to outrageously expensive gas; they rake in billions in record-setting profits while consumers are left with no option but to pay ever-increasing prices.

Consider these facts:

The average price for unleaded gasoline is 64 cents higher than the same time last year.

ExxonMobil reported a $36.1 billion in profit, making it the largest corporation in the world and larger than the next four companies on the Forbes 500 list combined.

Oil prices have increased 240 percent since George Bush’s inauguration in January 2001.

Nearly eight months ago, I and a group of other concerned Governors urged the President to take action to bring down the sky-high prices of gasoline at America's gas pumps. We urged the President to bring the price of gas down for consumers by capping oil profits and using federal anti-trust laws to prosecute any companies pocketing extra profits in the wake of disasters like Hurricane Katrina. We also asked Congress to investigate energy profiteering and pass legislation requiring oil companies to refund excess oil profits to consumers.

"The check is in the mail!"

Sign here to beg and plead for your life lower gas prices. It can't hurt.
US 131 project back on docket
Everyone happy now?

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY -- For many traveling through southwest Michigan, business nearly creeps to a halt along U.S. 131 in the town of Constantine.

Friday, Governor Granholm and a group of lawmakers will announce plans to spend $31 million in state funds for infrastructure improvements on a 17 mile stretch of U.S. 131 from the Indiana border to north of Three Rivers, including a bypass around Constantine.

State Representative Rick Shaffer says he's more than pleased with the new announcement. "The beauty of today's decision is that it's back on the five year plan," Shaffer said.

Late last year MDOT placed a "no build" order on the very same project. MDOT, saying then, there wasn't enough traffic flow to warrant spending taxpayer dollars on improvements.

Shaffer says public outcry in favor of the project fueled the change. "Individuals wrote letters, organizations, elected officials, and their voices were heard today," he said.

Those voices apparently carry all the way to Wayland where General RV relocated, anticipating growth.

"The expansion of 131, the tourism, and the access for going from the southern part of Michigan, or the northern part of Indiana, to northern Michigan, is just going to make it that much more inviting for customers to travel, and the opportunity for customers to stop at our stores and drive in sales," said General RV sales manager Bruce TerVeen.

And we will get our mass transit study, too... although good luck getting anything through East Grand Rapids. They are going to pitch a fit if you talk about ripping up their roads and putting in tracks.

GRAND RAPIDS -- The same legislation that approved the US 131 expansion in southwest Michigan will also finance a study to look at whether or not Grand Rapids needs some mass transit lines.

One line would go between Ford International Airport and downtown Grand Rapids. The other would run along Division Avenue from downtown to Cutlerville.

$14 million in federal money will allow local leaders to study and design a rapid transit system.

"Transit is an important part of economic development. It's a part of job creation, and employers are asking for safe and effective transportation for employees to get to work and back," said State Representative Jerry Kooiman (R) of Grand Rapids.

The federal money also helps keep Amtrak running, specifically the Pere Marquette line from Chicago to Grand Rapids.

Good, good, good... all good.

See how easy that was? Kind of makes the legislature's last attempt to deny the Detroit area this same opportunity seem rather foolish now, doesn't it?

Yeah, I thought so.
Cubs' Lee sidelined with broken hand

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee is expected to be sidelined for up to three months after breaking his right hand, the team announced on Thursday.

The National League batting champion sustained the break on Wednesday when he collided with Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal during the seventh inning of the Cubs 5-4 win over Los Angeles.

Lee, who signed a five-year $65 million contract extension with the Cubs earlier this month, is expected to be in cast for six weeks.

"Obviously, he's going to be out a while and he's a good player," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry told "I'm sure he's devastated today because he's a total team guy who's integral to what we want to accomplish.

He's devastated? I want to jump off my roof.


OK, we can get through this. Surprise me, Mabry.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Oil hits new high above $74 on supply fears
Ruh roh. Better get some gas today.

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil jumped to a fresh record high above $74 a barrel on Thursday after a steep drop in U.S. gasoline inventories fueled fears of tight summer supplies at a time of growing anxiety over Iran's exports.

The United States government on Wednesday reported a larger-than-expected drop in gasoline inventories of over 5 million barrels, adding to concern created by the shutdown of almost a quarter of Nigeria's oil output and the row over Iran's nuclear program.

Oil prices have nearly tripled since 2002 and analysts see few signs of the rally coming to a halt as levels push closer to 1980 inflation-adjusted peak of $82 a barrel, setting alarm bells ringing in consuming nations.
From the E-Mail Bag: Granholm, Democratic Legislators Introduce Bills to Strengthen Openness, Accountability in Government
Can't find this in the news-

LANSING – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm and Democratic legislators today announced the introduction of an eight-bill package that will strengthen ethics laws and require state elected `officials and candidates to disclose financial interests for the first time.

“Michigan citizens deserve to know where their elected officials are making their money,” said Granholm. “This legislation will ensure that elected officials are truly serving the people of Michigan, not themselves or special interests.”

The Center for Public Integrity has consistently ranked Michigan among the worst in the nation for its public financial disclosure laws. The need for increased financial disclosure and comprehensive ethics reform has been cited by the Michigan Law Revision Commission. In addition, many laws in Michigan don’t apply to all state elected officials in the same way, creating different standards for different officials.

“There is no reason voters should have to be in the dark about who is paying legislators and their families and where conflicts of interest exist,” said State Representative Steve Tobocman (D-Detroit). “Given the national ethics scandals in Washington, D.C. and other state capitols, Michigan legislators should join the 47 other states and federal officials in requiring disclosure of their outside income.”

The Democratic package requires annual disclosure of financial interests by state elected officials and candidates to protect against conflicts of interest. This disclosure requirement mirrors those already required for federal officials. Each election year, candidates for governor would be required to disclose their federal tax returns for the three prior years. In addition, the package creates a new Ethics Act for Executive Branch Officials and a new Legislative Ethics Act. These new acts extend comprehensive ethics standards and conflict of interest regulations to all elected and appointed officials within the executive branch and all members of the Legislature.

“The public deserves to know that their elected officials are working for them, not for the highest bidder,” said Senator Mark Schauer (D-Battle Creek). “These bills will reinforce the line between politics and policy-making.”

“It is critical that public officials disclose their personal information so taxpayers know they are working for them,” said Granholm. “This comprehensive package will help ensure that Michigan voters have accurate, honest information on which to judge candidates and elected officials and that elected officials can be held accountable when they fail to uphold the public’s trust.”

I'm sure the Republicans will get right to work on this... ;-)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Rolling Stone : The Worst President in History?
What a lovely cover story from Rolling Stone.

George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace. Barring a cataclysmic event on the order of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, after which the public might rally around the White House once again, there seems to be little the administration can do to avoid being ranked on the lowest tier of U.S. presidents. And that may be the best-case scenario. Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history.

You'll get no argument from me.
Check out the video:

From Russ Feingold's Progressive Patriots Fund. Good stuff.
Bush press secretary quits, Rove ends policy role
What will we do without Scottie? This story actually buries the lead- Rove leaving is much more important than McClellan.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - White House press secretary Scott McClellan announced his resignation on Wednesday and political adviser Karl Rove gave up his policy role in a shake-up of President George W. Bush's senior aides.

The moves were part of an effort by new White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, who started his job last weekend, to help Bush rebound from sagging poll numbers and bolster American confidence in his leadership.

"I have given it my all, sir," McClellan told Bush outside the White House before a group of reporters.

One of a group of Texans brought to the White House by Bush, McClellan said he would stay on over the next two or three weeks to allow time for a transition to his successor, who has not yet been named.

Administration officials said Rove would give up his policy development duties in order to focus more on political affairs, as Republicans try to hang on to control of both houses of Congress in the November mid-term elections.

Rove, another Texas insider, has been keeping a low profile while still remaining under investigation in a special prosecutor's probe into the leak of a CIA officer's identity in 2003.

Giving up to help with the election? Didn't DeLay say something like that? Or giving up because he will be indicted soon?

Seems like he's sneaking out under the blanket of Scott's departure. Time will tell. Where are you, Mr. Fitzgerald?
High gas prices create interest in alternative fuels
"The difference between reporting and editorializing", or, "Why I stay away from Rick Albin and live a happier life".

Yes, I know, I'm being a little hard on Rick. Hey, someone has to do it. Yes, I know, I am biased. But then again, so is he.

Watch how this story becomes an "election issue" rather than a "consumer issue". How do I know they did that? Because when I went to look for this story at the time it broke, they had a piece from Patrick Center, the consumer reporter, up on their website. That was pulled down in short time.

Stick Granholm in the mix, and here comes Rick to find the negative.

Four short paragraphs in, he asks a question. I thought the reporter's job was to answer the questions. Rick asks so many questions in this piece, I believe it was designed to create doubt about the whole issue.

But is ethanol an efficient replacement for petroleum-based gas, and will enough people be able to use it to make a difference?

Well, answer the question, Rick. Channel 13 did (their answer, courtesy of the Free Press, is over 4 million cars on the road right now). They also had a link to a list of cars that can use this product.

Already Rick is creating doubt by using the words "efficient" and "will enough people"- implying that it might not be efficient and not so many folks can use it. It took me two clicks to find a possible answer to that question.

Moving on- he jumps right to Granholm. Is this a campaign statement from Jennifer, or a statement of fact? I think it's a little of both. I doubt she can utter a word at this point without it being construed as a campaign statement- but, damn, this is a beautiful thing for our state. Why shouldn't we be the ones to take the lead on this issue?

"We are going to be the alternative energy of the world. ... We are the state that put the world on wheels. We will be the state that breaks the United States' dependence on foreign oil."

With those words, Governor Granholm made it clear she likes the idea of building ethanol plants and helping GM get back to profitability. That means jobs, and in an election year, or any other year, that's good news.

But will it work?

Here, he turns it personal to Granholm ("she likes") and ties it to the election, and, by ending it in a question, creates doubt.

Will it work? Gee Rick, you are the reporter here. You tell me. But instead, one sentence later, Rick asks another question designed to confuse.

The E-85, as it is called, will only burn in vehicles specifically designed to take it.

GM says it will make more of these vehicles, but will you buy them?

I dunno, Rick. Why don't you tell me how many GM cars can use this technology? Once again, Channel 13 did.
GM, which has more than 1.5 million flexible-fuel vehicles on the road, began running television and newspaper ads this year touting E85.

Is that good or bad, sales-wise? I have no clue. Apparently Rick doesn't either. Rick then follows with another negative statement.
As for buying the fuel, Mejier will put E-85 in a number of their gas stations. But if your vehicle can't use the fuel, then it won't impact you.

You can't use it, so, who cares, right? And that stuff about the environment and dependence of foreign oil- bah, non-issue if you won't immediately benefit from this.

Still, the governor, GM and the folks promoting ethanol like the plan.

"The issue of the environment, the issue of national security, and the issue of the economics, we feel it's a superior alternative," according to Russell Youngdahl Jr., the CEO of Clean Fuel America.

It is true that burning 85 percent ethanol automatically reduces dependence on foreign oil. But how efficient is it to produce ethanol, and will production and transportation cost slow the availability of the alternative?

Again, Rick, you tell me. Start with a positive, but create doubt in the very next sentence.

Are you saying that because it isn't readily available quite yet, we should just abandon it? Because the cost might be higher at first to start on this direction, perhaps it isn't worth it and we should, what, just forget about it and continue to be a slave to the whims of OPEC?

Bet it cost a bunch of money to lay oil and gas pipelines, too, but that didn't stop them did it?

John C. Taylor from the Seidman School of Business at Grand Valley State University says it could.

"An ethanol pipeline system would have to be dedicated specifically to ethanol, specifically designed for ethanol-makes a very expensive proposition. But it does take- various studies I've seen suggest it takes about as much energy to produce ethanol as you get out of the ethanol," he told 24 Hour News 8.

Right now. Wait until oil hits $100 a barrel, then we can have a conversation about cost, eh?

Rick then ends with a slew of questions, at least they are semi-positive ones- watch for the talking point.

Will it be the next big thing here in Michigan? Will it be enough to rescue a state's economy, a major manufacturer and our pocketbooks?

That's a lot to ask of a little ear of corn, but almost everyone 24 Hour News 8 talked to Tuesday said it may be a start.

No, Rick, it is a start. And the bit about "rescue the state's economy" is a straight Pub talking point. "Rescue" is a bit dramatic, don't you think?

If you only watched Channel 8's coverage of this story, you were left with the doubt and questions. Can I use it now? Is it too expensive to make? Is it just a campaign issue? No focus on the positive aspects at all.

I don't see how anyone could deny that we need to get the hell away from our dependence on foreign oil. We should have started a long time ago. And I don't see how anyone can deny that this is a plus plus for Michigan- we grow the corn, we make the cars, we are building the refineries.

Maybe I am a little hard on Rick and Channel 8. But when I compare and contrast with the reporting on 13- I find 13 chock full 'o information, and 8 has nothing but confusing questions.

13 went on to do a story about the only station around here that carries ethanol- and finds they can't keep up with the demand.

With each increase in the price of regular unleaded gas, the manager of at Green Islands Renewable Fuel Center in Greenville says sales of E-85 fuel go up.

"Demand is growing," says Green Island's manager Jill Blair. "We're getting phone calls left and right.

"It's so much cheaper," says Green Island's customer Dave Waffle. "It's only $2.44 for E-85 versus %2.79, $2.80, $2.89 some places for regular fuel."

"We've seen anywhere from $.20 to $.60 a gallon difference from conventional no lead," says Blair. "That definitely gets everybody's attention and brings them in."

Automakers are producing more flexible fuel vehicles and refineries are under construction to meet the growing demand.

13 also had a piece about the construction of the refineries going on right now here in Michigan. I can't link to it because they don't do "teleprompter news" like 8 does- but it's on their video section.

They provide reporting of the news, not "questions" about the news. They also have balance- bringing up some of the current negative aspects of ethanol, lower fuel efficiency and lack of widespread availability, but those are problems that can and should and will be fixed with time.

OK, I'll stay away from Rick from now on. It's obvious that his stories will be one big editorial from here 'til November. And beyond. After all, 2008 is now on the horizon.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Meijer to sell ethanol blend - Fuel due soon at 20 locations
Corn power, baby! That's what we're talkin' about!

E85, which some view as automotive fuel of the future, will soon be available at about 20 Meijer stores in Michigan.

Meijer Inc. and General Motors Corp. announced today, with Gov. Jennifer Granholm, plans to make the ethanol-gasoline blend E85 available at Meijer filling stations.

More than 4 million flexible-fuel vehicles on the road are capable of burning E85 or gasoline or a combination of the two. However, most owners fill up with regular gasoline because of a shortage of filling stations offering the fuel.

Only five stations in Michigan sell E85, a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, reports the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.

Some owners don't even realize that their vehicle is capable of running on E85.

Advocates of E85 tout the fuel as a made-in-America alternative to imported oil that also cuts dirty tailpipe emissions, boosts performance and helps farmers. Ethanol is a grain alcohol produced from crops like corn and soy.

Michigan is one of the nation's leading producers of corn, growing more than 257 million bushels a year.

The state has one ethanol plant in Caro that makes 45 million gallons a year, but four plants are due within two years. They will produce more than 200 million gallons of ethanol combined annually.

Me want one. Pretty soon, everyone will want one.
Over the hill? Says who? Maddux rolls
What an unexpected and pleasant surprise Maddox has been.

LOS ANGELES -- Having celebrated his 40th birthday on Friday, Greg Maddux wanted to make a point that he's still King of the Hill, not over it. Not that he admitted to any special significance in his first start as a 40-year-old.

"Age is just a number," said Maddux. "I heard Julio Franco say it a million times. I used to laugh at him, but now I know what he means."

Staked to a one-run lead on Todd Walker's first-inning home run, the 100th of his career, off Dodgers starter Brett Tomko, Maddux had the Dodgers feeling like they were facing the 28-year old Cy Young Award winner of 1994 in the Cubs' 4-1 win in the series opener. The three wins in his first three games is his best start since 1994.

So glad we picked him up- when (if) Prior and Wood come back, we will have quite the pitching staff. Just have to get Z on track, too, and we will have the best rotation in the bigs.
US to urge other world powers to act against Iran
Act on everything but the oil. Gee, wonder why?

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The United States will press other major world powers on Tuesday to consider what it called targeted sanctions against Iran as an April 30 U.N. deadline loomed for Tehran over its nuclear program.

World crude oil prices topped $70 a barrel on Monday, the highest level for nearly eight months, as Iran's pursuit of its nuclear program heightened market fears Washington might take military action against the oil-producing Islamic Republic.

But U.S. talk of laying the groundwork for possible force is widely expected to be dismissed when the U.N. Security Council's five veto-wielding permanent members -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia -- meet together with Germany.

Russia and China strongly oppose sanctions or the use of force. Apart from the United States, the others -- including close U.S. ally Britain -- oppose military action.

The United States, which already has a broad range of sanctions on Iran, said it wanted the Security Council to be ready to take strong diplomatic action, including so-called targeted measures such as a freeze on assets and visa curbs.

"We're kind of sanctioned out at this point. We're down to pistachios and rugs," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington.

The United States says it is not looking at restrictions on Iran's oil and gas sectors on grounds that it is does not want to create hardship for the Iranian people. Iran is the world's fourth-biggest oil exporter.

But freezing assets and curbing visas doesn't ceate hardship for the Iranian people?

Translation: We don't want to create hardship for the Chinese, who make all of our cheap plastic shit using their big oil contracts with the Iranians. Therefore, we dodge any real responsibility and continue to beat the war drum, which will drive up the price of crude, therefore creating more record profits for the oil industry. See how that works?

Can't wait for those second-quarter profit statements to come out.

EDIT 7:00 AM: This just in- oil hit $72 a barrel today, a record high and is now "nearing the inflation-adjusted peaks of over $80 hit in 1980, the year after the Iranian revolution". Pretty soon $3 a gallon will look cheap.