Friday, November 30, 2007

Ascribing Republican motive for breaking the budget deal

The screaming over the service taxes is loud, indeed.

Apparently Bishop and Dillon are going at it on talk radio in Detroit, and they hit the TV over here in Grand Rapids. Cropsey and Schauer went at it on Walt Sorg's show, Alan never letting Mark get a word in edgewise.

The laughable thing (if there is such a thing here) is how the Republicans are trying to hit on the fact that the House isn't in session; this comes after all the times they bugged out this year, saying they didn't need to be there if there wasn't an agreement to vote on. Dillon can have the House back in a heartbeat- making that talking point yet another diversion, but they sure are banging that drum as loud as they can.


I'm not going to lay this all out again. The service taxes came about because of the Senate Republicans. If you need the back story, just check my diaries and read back. The Senate Republicans seem intent on turning this into a negotiation to BREAK A DEAL they made in the first place - something that is getting lost in all the racket. Hello, media? Want to report that?

The question now becomes- why are they breaking this deal. What possible reason could they have for upsetting their own base? The answer comes in a tidy package from MIRS-

The answer is there are enough people on both sides of the aisle who would like to see the service tax start up.

Many Republicans are licking their chops to ride the anti-tax fervor to a November 2008 victory. They're looking at a triple threat by backing the effort of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks PATTERSON to get a repeal on the ballot and bring out the base. Many R's think the proposal will put them over the top to take back the House. And it will swing Michigan red in the presidential election.

Because that worked so well in 2006? Ohhh-kay. Carry on.

For the Democrats on holding strong- the reason is fiscal responsibility.

Meanwhile, a lot of Democrats would rather go with the devil they know a little better than the devil they don't. They feel they've got a deal already negotiated on Sept. 30 and aren't inclined to go for a bill that could blow a $380 million hole in this year's budget and will sunset before Michigan makes a full economic recovery.

Let's recap. Republicans want something to yell about next year, Democrats want to put Michigan on solid ground. That is why there is no deal.

And there is also this- seems a certain pink pig is hungry.

"It's helpful," said Drolet, the ringleader of several recall efforts against tax-supporting lawmakers statewide. "Or, let's put it this way — what happened yesterday was a tragedy for everyone except moving companies and Michigan recalls."

Reportedly, Drolet's war chest to aid in legislative recall efforts has become fuller in recent weeks as business owners reacted to the overall service tax snafu. Drolet is targeting lawmakers who voted to increase the income tax or expand the use tax to services.

Could it be that Republicans are holding up this replacement simply because they want to help drive the recalls and create a ballot issue for 2008? Given all the flipping and flopping they have done on this issue, at this point it's a fair bet.

House coming back tonight?

(UPDATE 8:30 PM: All quiet on the news front, but I can tell you that they are still in Lansing- they are hitting this blog. Maybe something will get settled tonight...)

Look! It's Friday! And here comes an agreement! Maybe!

So, disregard all speculation below (but certainly keep it in mind for future reference), this now breaking on MIRS-

In the mad scramble to find a way to stop the state's six-cent sales tax from being spread to a variety of allegedly non-essential services in roughly 12 hours, lawmakers and the executive office are exploring several possibilities this morning, including the House reversing course and calling a special session for 6 p.m.

Asked about the seriousness of lawmakers and Granholm to find an alternative to the service tax before midnight that all sides agree to, Bishop said, "We wouldn't be here with a snowstorm coming if we're not making progress."

Bishop still finds a way to whine.

Disregarding the MIRS bias - adding the words "allegedly non-essential" to the description of services and suggesting that it's the House that has to "reverse course" - perhaps this will get done after all.

But what will Brooks do next year? Won't someone think of Patterson?

I have some nice brochures of Florida. Maybe I'll send them along. (And I readily admit my bias. Deal with it.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Is it Friday yet?

Andy Dillon has learned his lesson.

Dillon said based on his experience with Senate Republicans in past budget negotiations, they would not compromise until they hit a deadline. He said the House version was Democrats' last best offer. Democrats and Republicans accused one another of walking out of negotiations Wednesday evening.

Mike Bishop was shocked! shocked I tell you! that the tables were finally turned.

"Have you ever seen anything like this? I know I haven't," Bishop said after the House vote. "For them to just bolt and go home is cowardice, especially after all the time we spent negotiating today."

Um... let me think... why, yes. Yes I have seen something like this before. Matter of fact, the Senate Democrats were so frustrated that the Republicans walked out one day in September that they actually pulled out a camera and filmed the empty chamber. So spare us the faux outrage and name-calling, OK, Mike? This is actually quite common.

A brief recap of yesterday. Late afternoon, the Senate Republicans put what MIRS said was their "final offer on the table". When the words "final offer" or "last opportunity" are used, usually you think that's it, right? Turns out Republicans weren't really serious when they said that; they considered the negotiations still open.

Republican Sen. Jud Gilbert of Algonac, a key negotiator on the service tax bill, said on the House floor: "I'm stunned. We were negotiating with them and they walked down here and did this."

They tried a bully tactic and it backfired. The House stood up for responsibility...

"We passed a proposal that was supported by the business community, one that protects funding for education, health care and public safety," Bird said. "There hasn't been a genuine willingness to compromise, and we have passed our plan."

... and they left the gape-jawed Republicans in the dust. Republicans immediately rejected being responsible, of course, and started clamoring for them to come back and play some more.

The Senate rejected the House plan along mostly partisan lines, and called for a conference committee to work out differences, possibly today. Senate Republicans sent a request to House Speaker Andy Dillon, R-Redford Township, to call the House back to an emergency session Friday to try again to replace the service tax.

Republicans are still insisting on a sunset and one-time gimmicks, which breaks the budget deal and leaves our future shaky. Why not let a future legislative body decide whether to repeal the amount? Good question, one that no one seems willing to ask.

Instead, we cue the noise machine in the form of the disingenuous Tricia Kinley, who used the word "shocking" and pointed fingers at the House (didn't know the Michigan Chamber of Commerce was a partisan outfit, did you? ha ha), and cue the rumors that the Republicans are doing this just so Brooks Patterson will have something to yell about as he starts yet another budget destructing petition drive next year. The House Democrats stood up, and the Republicans and their puppet-masters don't quite know what to do about it yet.

When you get past all the noise, the fact is that the Senate Republicans are responsible for this service tax going forward. They know what needs to be done, they refuse to do it, and more of your time and tax dollars will be wasted on their game.

But it isn't Friday yet, so we will see how loud the screaming gets in the next 48 hours. Stand tough, Speaker Dillon.

Payback? Republicans remove Schauer from committee

This hasn't hit the news yet, here is the link to the Senate Journal- Mike Bishop today removed Mark Schauer from the Campaign & Elections Oversight Committee.

This committee is headed by Michelle McManus. Just recently, McManus wrote a letter to the Detroit Free Press blaming Senator Schauer and the Democrats for killing the chances of adding the missing four back to the primary ballot.

Senator Schauer responded to Michelle's accusations, telling us what really happened and why the Senate Democrats did what they did. He ended it with this-

It's ironic that a member of a party that canceled its primary election in 2004 now portrays Republicans as advocates for increased participation. If McManus and Republicans were serious about removing roadblocks to voting, they would take action on a number of election reforms pursued by Democrats for years.

McManus is right about one thing: Michigan deserves better -- better than a Campaign and Election Oversight Committee chairperson who spends more time trying to score partisan points than pursuing reform.

And today, he finds himself booted off the committee.

Now, it could be this, it could be that Mark has been outspoken about election reform and the Republicans are embarrassed that they haven't addressed it, it could be the service tax issue, who knows with these guys.

Given the Senate Republicans proclivity to lash out at anyone who dares stand up to them, my guess is this is payback for Senator Schauer having the guts to call them out on their misbehavior. Which Republican misbehavior is still unclear. There are so many to choose from.

More to follow...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NFL Week 12 Results

Green Bay 37, Detroit 26

Dallas 34, N.Y. Jets 3

Indianapolis 31, Atlanta 13

Jacksonville 36, Buffalo 14

Cleveland 27, Houston 17

Minnesota 41, N.Y. Giants 17

New Orleans 31, Carolina 6

Oakland 20, Kansas City 17

Seattle 24, St. Louis 19

Cincinnati 35, Tennessee 6

Tampa Bay 19, Washington 13

San Francisco 37, Arizona 31 (OT)

San Diego 32, Baltimore 14

Chicago 37, Denver 34 (OT)

New England 31, Philadelphia 28

Pittsburgh 3, Miami 0



Picking Green Bay for tomorrow night, will do the rest later...

Senate Republicans still insist on breaking budget deal

UPDATE: Andy tells them to stuff it. See this comment for details.

Just another day in Lansing. Republicans obstructing. Going back on their word. But what else is new.

Republicans say the tax increase should be temporary and end in 2011, though they made an offer Wednesday to end the tax in 2012 instead. But Democrats, including Gov. Jennifer Granholm, want it to be permanent because there was an agreement to make the tax on services permanent, and they say they don't want to plunge the state back into another budget crisis down the road.

The income tax starts to sunset in 2011. But hey, why screw up only one budget year when you can screw up two, right?

And they still want to use yet another one-time fix.

The sides also disagree over the size of the surcharge and whether to replace all the $750 million that would be generated each year by the service tax. Republicans think some of the money can be replaced with extra, one-time revenue generated by switching to the MBT, but Democrats would rather that money be saved in Michigan's rainy day fund.

And according to the AP and MIRS, this is their final offer.

In a letter to House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford, Republicans who control the Senate said their new offer — which would keep some money in the rainy day fund and raise the MBT surcharge a bit — represents the "last opportunity" to avoid implementing the service tax.

I almost hate to mention this next bit of info- but check this out. They were talking of adding the Dems back to the ballot if we would just vote on extending their time in office.

According to four sources with knowledge of the discussions, key lawmakers of both parties in Lansing had discussed a deal that would have involved restoring the Democrats to the ballot and setting up a referendum on easing the state's legislative term limits. That would have required moving the primary from Jan. 15 to Jan. 29, in order to meet requirements for at least 60 days' notice before a statewide referendum.

Gee, I wonder what the outcome of that would be at this point.

Maybe some other time. Thanks for asking though.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It's all about Michelle

Did you have to work the Tuesday before Thanksgiving? Michelle McManus did, and she wasn't happy about it.

McManus was clearly tired of taking blame for the service tax and what has become months of budget emergencies. An allegation by Granholm that legislators were not tending to fiscal problems agitated her.

"I have never been in session on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I'm getting a little tired of the governor and her propaganda," she said.

The heart aches, doesn't it? Poor Michelle had to interrupt her third two-week vacation this year to be at work and fix the problem that the Senate Republicans brought about in the first place.

Of course, instead of fixing it, they just blew it all up again, reneging on the budget deal and presenting a bill that they knew wouldn't pass muster with the House or Granholm.

But hey, it's not Michelle's problem. She just goes back to blaming the governor, the typical fallback position when a Senate Republican is trying to dodge responsibility.

"I didn't come up with the service tax. I didn't vote for it. That was (Granholm's) caucus. I'm a little perturbed that she thinks it's my problem," added McManus.

Well, no, actually we have learned from MIRS that this was Valde Garcia's idea, it originated back in April, he spent the summer trying to work something out, and in the end it was a bipartisan agreement that put it in place.

Garcia said he talked with a bipartisan group of about a dozen representatives and senators leading up to the showdown in late September. During that fateful, final weekend, Garcia said there were about four members of the informal service tax caucus, though he refused to name names.

Things get dicey after that, with Garcia "taking credit for the tax going forward", and Marsden immediately trying to blame Dillon for tie-barring it to the income tax, which, of course, was necessary for any of this to work out.

Doesn't matter. It isn't Michelle's problem. Can't be bothered with such things.

McManus sure did like to spend the money though. Just check the record at Michigan Votes. But for some reason she was "baffled and frustrated" when something was cut in her district.

You can see why McManus would get a little perturbed. Here she is spending the money, and now she is being asked to find a way to pay for it! During her vacation!

Shame on you, Democrats. This fiscal responsibility stuff is getting old, don't you think?

Senate Republicans won't take up primary bill

Senate Republicans slam the door on adding those names back to the ballot- and that seems to be that, as far as the Democrats and the primary are concerned, anyway.

Ron Paul, anyone?

Senate Republicans have decided not to take up the presidential primary bill passed Monday by the House, meaning New York Sen. Hillary Clinton likely will be the only top Democratic candidate on the Jan. 15 ballot.

The Democrat-controlled House approved a measure late Monday that would permit the Secretary of State to place on the ballot the names of all Democratic candidates actively campaigning for the White House.


"This is an intra-party fight and Senate Republicans will not get involved," said Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, shortly before the Senate adjourned this morning. "We'll move forward with our primary on Jan. 15 and let the Democrats do theirs behind closed doors if that's what they want."

What will the Democrats finally decide to do? According to MIRS, that decision is coming tonight.

Take your time. We'll be here.

UPDATE: From the AP- and I'm not sure I trust anything Mike Bishop says- comes this interesting bit of information-

Bishop said some of the Democratic candidates threatened to sue if their names were restored to the ballot.

Sure would like to know the names, wouldn't you?

UPDATE 2: Now the AP says that Saturday is the drop-dead date.

Dingell blames the Edwards people. Saul blames the Edwards people and Mark Brewer. Brewer says the four made a "conscious decision" to stay off the ballot and he didn't scuttle anything, and he will abide by what the executive committee decision is, but that can change right up until the time he files Saturday with the DNC. Everything clear now?

Grand Rapids Goes Green

Today, the city of Grand Rapids hit its goal of buying 20% of its electricity from "green sources" by 2008 by becoming the biggest customer of Consumers Energy's Green Generation program.

The Press article was written before the vote, but I just watched it on TV- and the vote was unanimous. Much praise heaped on Governor Granholm for her leadership on this issue, Mayor Heartwell for setting this goal, Robert Dean for his work before he left for Lansing, the people at Consumers for their help... and on down the line. City Commissioners are very happy to be doing this.

Mayor George Heartwell said the cost of buying "green" power will be offset by conservation measures the city utilities have taken in the past year.

"Nobody is going to see their water or sewer bill increase because we are purchasing green power," Heartwell said. The city's water and sewer system serves about 67,000 customers in Grand Rapids and 11 suburbs.

This was done with the idea of urging on our legislators to adopt a renewable portfolio standard. If the second biggest city in Michigan can do it- certainly the state can, too.

Heartwell hopes the deal with Consumers Energy will set an example for state legislators, who have resisted efforts to buy 15 percent of the state's energy from renewable sources.

Grand Rapids worked out a deal with Consumers to make this economically feasible, and found ways to conserve money to offset the cost of this program.

The city negotiated a discount rate that will allow it to buy 9,234 "blocks" of green energy a month for $1.50 per block.

The city's discount rate was approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission earlier this month for large customers who agree to purchase more than 8,000 "blocks" per month.

We now will be Consumers biggest customer for Green Generation. 11,200 customers have signed up, you can too. Follow that link. Where does most of this energy come from?

Ninety-five percent of Consumers Energy's green energy comes from "biomass" generators that are fueled by methane gases from landfills, Pietryga said. The remainder comes from wind power sources.

Yes, the trash. This is energy that is produced right here in the state.

WTG Grand Rapids. So proud of my (not so) little town.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Dillon takes the tax fight to the Detroit News

It's almost enough to make a grown woman weep tears of joy. Seriously. The House Democrats have found their spine on the replacement for the service taxes, and I couldn't be happier with the tone they are taking.

Today, Andy Dillon goes beyond the simple House press release and calls out the Senate Republicans in an op-ed for the News- the place where it needs to be seen the most.

First, he points out the fiscal problem with the Senate Republican plan-

The Senate plan proposes significant changes to the Michigan Business Tax -- which was signed into law in July -- but replaces only $400 million in revenue per year, leaving a more than $300 million hole in the state budget in 2009 and 2010.

In addition, the plan has a sunset date of 2011, after which there will be a gaping hole of more than $700 million in the state budget.

This plan ignores the reality that Michigan will be in dire straits again in just a few years if it goes into effect. It shows a complete lack of foresight and planning, and is nothing more than a short-term fix that will have long-term repercussions for the people of Michigan.

And then a beautiful segue into the irresponsible nature of it all-

Interestingly enough, when the plan sunsets in 2011, 17 of 21 Republicans in the Senate will be ineligible to run for office again because of term limits. The very people who created the problem are punting it to their successors, showing a stunning display of irresponsible and partisan leadership.

This is the same mentality that led Michigan straight into the fiscal crisis that House Democrats have been trying to resolve all year long. It is unacceptable that the Senate Republicans have knocked the current budget out of balance and set Michigan up to fall into a giant black hole in 2011, when they won't be around to deal with the consequences.

Of course. Does the name John Engler ring a bell?

I'll go the Speaker one better - this is simply a continuation of the pattern that Senate Republicans have followed all year long, and that is one of delay and obstruction.

Who skipped out on meetings? Who insisted on vacations? Who tried to drive a wedge between the House and Governor Granholm? Who flat-out lied about a budget deal? Who ignored all the other legislation and issues and used the budget as an excuse? Who did everything they could to drag out this process with endless requests for continuations? The press likes to gloss over this and lump them all in the same category of ineptitude, but some people been paying attention. You can't sum it up better than this next statement- follow over the flip for the answer...

Take it away, Markos.

In his first Inaugural Address, Ronald Reagan remarked that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." While the quip has provided Republicans with a cheap slogan for two decades, the philosophy behind it is beginning to box them in. If they govern effectively, they invalidate their own antigovernment ideology. And when you elect people who believe that government won't work, you shouldn't be surprised when government stops working.

Inevitably the Republicans are going to cry "you're just being partisan!", like they somehow aren't, or something, to which I would say, "hell yes, I'm being partisan, because that is where the problem originates". We've got the record. So bring it. It's just another excuse to avoid dealing with the failure of the Republican anti-government philosophy.

And here is why I’ve yelled so much about all of this during the year- the consequences have been dire as far as public opinion goes, and I knew it was coming. Because the press ignores the obvious problem and fails to point out the nuance, this week a new poll from EPIC is going to show some horrible numbers on approval ratings for all involved. The Republicans have dragged down the entire state government with their obstruction, and I believe that is exactly what they wanted to have happen.

They need things to be bad going into the election next year. It’s all they have. They don’t know how to make government work, they don’t have any solid plans for moving our economy forward except “cut taxes”- and that hasn’t worked, it won't work, and they know it. So, they turn to simple destruction and will use that as a campaign issue. I guarantee they will point to the perceived failure in Lansing and paint the Democrats as the reason- they are already doing that. So much for the “partisan” complaint.

It’s up to the House to call them out on it, and stop this public perception NOW, before it really is too late. Dillon is off to a good start here- keep it up, Andy.

The future of this state depends on it.

GR Mayor Heartwell has a question for the GOP contenders

Or should that be pretenders? Ha ha. Ha. Not funny.

This Wednesday is the CNN/YouTube Republican debate. Those of you with strong stomachs should tune it and let us know how it goes- I'm pretty sure there is a "Scrubs" marathon on somewhere and I don't want to miss that.

Anyway, here is Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell's question for the GOP-

Hello America, my name is George Heartwell, I'm the mayor of Grand Rapids Michigan, located in the Great Lakes region. Some call it the Rust Belt because we're moving too slowly from the industrial era to the digital age. The federal Great Lakes Restoration Act would help accelerate this transition, by launching a full scale clean up of our unique waterways, putting tens of thousands of people to work in jobs like fixing sewers, restoring wetlands, and building cities equipped to compete globally. As president, would you support fully funding this plan to restore America's Great Lakes?

In 2007, Carl Levin, with a boatload of cosponsors, introduced the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act of 2007 which addresses the restoration of the Great Lakes. Even Vern Ehlers likes it!

Well, would they support it? Tune in to find out if they even answer the question.

Mayor Heartwell sat out in a canoe in the rain to film this- the least I can do is show him a little love here. :-)

Gasoline. Fire. Names back on the ballot, but...

Dragging this out because we love the excruciating pain... the House voted tonight to restore the four names back on the primary ballot, but they didn't vote for immediate effect. It now goes back to the Senate, where the issue can suck all the oxygen out of the room for one more day.

The state House on Monday voted to restore to the ballot the names of four Democratic presidential candidates who withdrew earlier from Michigan's Jan. 15 primary, but fell short on a vote putting the bill into effect in time for the election.

The Senate and House could try again Tuesday to give the bill immediate effect, but some labor groups that support candidate John Edwards are trying to block the move.

House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford, said he's confident there will enough House votes Tuesday to give the measure immediate effect if the Republican-led Senate sends the measure back after voting on it.

Tear it up. Too much hyperbole for me lately. Play nice, or I vote for Hillary just to piss you all off.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dillon to hold vote Monday on returning names to primary ballot

They might actually pull this off and make Michigan relevant in the nomination process. Unbelievable.

Now House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, says he intends to hold a vote Monday on a bill that would reinstate the names of four presidential candidates who withdrew from the state's Democratic presidential primary last month.

If the legislation passes, Michigan will be poised to realize an improbable trifecta triumph: The first large-state contest in the 2008 presidential cycle, a ballot featuring all the leading candidates in both parties and an opportunity for every registered Michigan voter to participate.

What about the election reforms that the Senate Democrats proposed? Do we get those too? No answer yet, but it looks like the House Dems want to give this a go.

But Friday, facing the prospect of a one-sided rump primary, Dillon began counting votes, and by Saturday, he had decided to put legislation restoring the dropouts' names to a vote when the House reconvenes Monday.

"I don't know where Republicans are, but it looks like there's support" in the Democratic "caucus, so I'm going to put it up on Monday," Dillon told me Saturday afternoon. "That's my plan."

It has to be done tomorrow or Tuesday. That puts the Senate Republicans on the spot if those voter reforms are in the legislation. Won't that be interesting.

But Land, who has publicly expressed doubts that election officials could meet the Dec. 1 deadline for printing primary ballots if the Democratic lineup is altered, has privately assured Democratic leaders that her team can get absentee ballots out on schedule if the Legislature finalizes the candidate list Monday or Tuesday.

And what of the DNC punishment? Well, there is this...

New Hampshire, which also violated party rules when it rescheduled its primary for Jan. 8, will ask the Democratic National Committee to waive any penalties when the DNC's rule-making body meets next week, and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Saturday that it would be hypocritical for the party to sanction Michigan if New Hampshire is forgiven.

Question is- will the voters forgive the four who pulled off? My guess is yes, for the most part. The anti-Clinton forces will have to. With Iowa so close, the others will have to make a strong showing here...

A Hail Mary as the clock runs out. Gotta admit, there’s never a dull moment with our lawmakers.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Fall at Rosedale 2

Here's another one...

Detroit Lions go green for Thanksgiving game

(This post dedicated to my Brett Favre lovin' Cheesehead Mom, who defected to the UP this year and is busy having fun today with all her Packer fan friends. Happy Thanksgiving Mom. Still hoping for an upset!)

Under the category of "every little bit helps", today's Detroit Lions game has gone green. Cool idea. Imagine if every NFL team did this, if only for one day.

The Detroit Lions say they'll take on the Green Bay Packers without warming the globe, buying a stake in a replanted rain forest in Ecuador to offset the up to 933 tons of carbon dioxide the Thanksgiving Day game is expected to generate.

The Lions will follow the standards for greenhouse gas offsets laid down by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, according to the environmental engineering company handling Thursday's "green game" at Ford Field.

Michigan-based Carbon Credit Environmental Services Inc. approached Lions vice chairman Bill Ford and family about the idea, and they jumped at the chance. They set about calculating the carbon emissions of one football game, and bought trees to counter the effect for the first "carbon neutral" NFL game.

In the case of the Lions-Packers game, that includes the about 28,260 cars that fans use to get to the game, the equivalent of a Boeing 747 load of out-of-state visitors, and the stadium's electricity, water and natural gas use.

The company calculated that the total would not exceed 933 tons of carbon dioxide.

To offset that output, the company sold the Lions a stake in its 150,000-tree "carbon sink" tree plantation in Ecuador. The trees were planted six years ago, and they are estimated to absorb 3.5 to six tons of carbon dioxide each over their lifetime.

To be safe, Carbon Credit Environmental Services sold the Lions a stake in 500 trees.

Visit CCES on the web here. Thanks go out to the Lions and Bill Ford for doing this.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

NFL Week 12

Green Bay at Detroit

NY Jets at Dallas

Indianapolis at Atlanta

New Orleans at Carolina

Tennessee at Cincinnati

Houston at Cleveland

Buffalo at Jacksonville

Oakland at Kansas City

Minnesota at NY Giants

Seattle at St. Louis

Washington at Tampa Bay

San Francisco at Arizona

Baltimore at San Diego

Denver at Chicago

Philadelphia at New England

Miami at Pittsburgh

NFL Week 11 Results

Arizona 35, Cincinnati 27

Green Bay 31, Carolina 17

Cleveland 33, Baltimore 30 (OT)

Indianapolis 13, Kansas City 10

Philadelphia 17, Miami 7

Houston 23, New Orleans 10

Minnesota 29, Oakland 22

Jacksonville 24, San Diego 17

Tampa Bay 31, Atlanta 7

N.Y. Giants 16, Detroit 10

N.Y. Jets 19, Pittsburgh 16 (OT)

Dallas 28, Washington 23

St. Louis 13, San Francisco 9

Seattle 30, Chicago 23

New England 56, Buffalo 10

Denver 34, Tennessee 20



Senate Republicans: Drug company victims not a "priority"

Did I call this right or what? All year long, Senate Republicans have used the budget as an excuse to avoid dealing with other issues- and just yesterday, they did it again. Funny how the House can take the time to work on matters that are of great concern to the citizens of Michigan, but the Senate just can't walk and chew gum at the same time, apparently. Thought they were supposed to be the "more experienced" chamber and could handle such things.

Or perhaps they just want to obstruct progress. If nothing good comes out of that chamber, then they can turn around and blame others when nothing good ever happens for the people of Michigan. Notice that pattern? Anyone?

This time, it's lack of action on the drug company immunity bill, which we mentioned just recently here. Go read for the full story. Basically, Michigan residents may miss out on the Vioxx award from Merck because of our one-of-a-kind, restrictive laws. At the time, I said "Senate Republicans will use the budget problems as an excuse". Why? Because that is what they do, time and time again.

Yesterday, Senate Democrats, with the help of Michigan Citizen Action and Progress Michigan, hit the AP with a story about the push to address this matter, and just like the talking doll with the string on its back, Matt Marsden uttered the those magic words that he feels explains why the Senate just can't find the time to help the people of this state. 

Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said the drug immunity bill isn't a priority at this time because the Senate is focused on repealing an expanded tax on services before it takes effect Dec. 1.

"Isn't a priority". It was April that I noticed that was the key phrase they would use, and here it is the end of the year, and they are still using it, and they are still using their own budget obstruction as an excuse.

I guess the next question someone should ask is: When will Michigan's citizens be a "priority" for Senate Republicans?

Find a new excuse Matt. You have turned this one into a cliché at this point.

MI Supreme Court: Primary can go forward

This is breaking right now on WOOD -

The Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to let the state's Jan. 15 presidential primary go forward, keeping alive Michigan's bid to be one of the early presidential contests.

What does this mean? A bunch of unhappy clerks.

From the Freep-

Overturning a pair of lower court rulings, a majority of the state Supreme Court Wednesday morning found the law setting the primary date and granting exclusive access to voter lists from it to the Democratic and Republican parties was not unconstitutional.

4-3 decision. Voter lists might not be unconstitutional, but it always struck me as a bad idea. Make them availble to everyone and there won't be a problem.

Will the legislature put those names back on the ballot? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

George W. Bush shows Michigan the way

Got your attention? Good.

First of all, let's talk about more ominous news coming out of the auto industry, and what that will mean for our state in the short-term future. We will get to George in a minute.

Last Friday, the U of M released its economic forecast, and the words "critical" and "diversify" figure prominently after you look at the numbers and let the reality of all that sink in.

For a state limping along from seven years of continuous job losses, the economic forecasts released Friday showed how critical it is for Michigan to diversify its economy.


Crary and her colleagues estimate Michigan will lose 76,000 jobs this year, more than triple the 24,000 lost jobs they had predicted a year ago. It will be the state's biggest employment decline since 2001.

Next year promises more of the same: another 51,000 fewer jobs. As a result, the state's unemployment rate is forecast to rise to 8.2%, the highest since the end of 1992, when the nation was in the midst of a recession.

And some more really scary numbers come from the Center for Automotive Research. Although the new UAW contracts will help retain some jobs by keeping costs competitive, when you add in the ripple effect from suppliers...

Sean McAlinden, vice president of research at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, is forecasting employment in Michigan's auto industry will decline by 242,629 jobs between now and 2009, an amount equal to 5.7% of the state's labor force. The figure includes jobs at auto suppliers and other companies dependent on the automakers.

5.7%. Huge. And Sunday, some prominent investors warned of a nasty drop in auto sales for 2008.

Three top investors in the automotive industry painted a grim picture on Sunday for the sector in 2008, with one executive predicting a possible slump in U.S. sales to levels not seen in 15 years.

"Tapped out" consumers and the mortgage crisis will put the freeze on sales, with the investors predicting that the auto makers will cut factory production rather than offer incentives for purchase this time around.

"I hope I'm wrong on 14.5 (million) to 15 (million)," Stallkamp said. "But I think the mortgage issue is going to freak people out and that will hit pretty hard in '08."

Ross called it "a sort of poverty effect from house prices going down."

The mortgage crisis is now causing worries in the auto loan business, and all of this sent GM's stock tumbling on Monday, and we have this domino effect starting to kick in, and when our state's economy is still so closely tied to the fortunes of the auto industry, well, the screaming is going to get very loud next year.

Had enough yet? Want to get away? For one obvious answer to our problems, we turn to George W. Bush, over the jump...

No, not President George W. Bush. Never him. Governor George W. Bush.

Back in 1999, it was Gov. Bush who started the ball rolling on bringing wind energy to Texas.

It was then-Governor Bush who, in 1999, signed off on a landmark provision requiring utilities to get 2,000 megawatts of their electricity from renewables by 2009, setting off the largest annual increase in wind-farm construction in U.S. history. As president, Bush has resisted calls to include a similar provision in his national energy plan. But as the economics of wind improve, even Bush's industry allies point to Texas as proof that, with just a little push from the government, renewables can compete.

And look what happened in Texas over the next few years. They now lead the nation in wind production. Big job growth, big investments. By 2006, Gov. Rick Perry was lauding a public-private investment of $10 billion dollars, talking about how they are saving the environment, and pointing to all the jobs they have created.

"I am proud of our state's commitment to renewable energy production," Perry said. "We are on the leading edge of developing renewable sources of energy and a more diversified energy economy which is key to keeping costs down."

Perry, who was joined at the announcement by executives of several companies that have committed to building wind energy infrastructure, emphasized the benefits wind energy has on the environment.

For every 1000 megawatts generated by new wind sources, Texas will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by six million tons over the next 20 years.

Perry also noted that the announcement bodes well for further growth of the Texas economy.

"Over the past three years we have added 650,000 jobs, transformed a record budget deficit into a record budget surplus, and attracted more business expansions and relocations than any state in the nation," Perry said.

Texas. Certainly we can compete with the likes of Texas, especially when it comes to manufacturing the components for this explosive growth industry. Manufacturing is what we do best, right?

As you know, this month Governor Granholm has been meeting with businesses across the state that are moving forward in the renewable and alternative energy field. One of the first stops was at K & M Fabricating in Cassopolis, a company that produces those big, heavy pieces for large wind turbines.

For a good example of how former auto workers can find new jobs, crucial in light of the numbers above, a look what they are doing at K & M holds the key.

"Anybody who is being laid off or displaced should come here," Granholm said, referring to alternative energy businesses.

"People that have worked assembly jobs, machining or fabricating in the automotive industry, ours is a lot heavier duty than that, but the basics are the same and can translate," said K&M General Manager Derek McLoughlin.

And more from K & M. They tell us that the supply can't meet demand right now.

Gary J. Galeziewski, K&M's chief financial officer, said, "A significant amount of investors are rapidly putting their money into wind farm developments around this country." Michigan so far has just one.

"Windmill manufacturers are pretty much sold out into the foreseeable future," he continued. "What's fragile is their supply chain of manufacturers. They do not have the capacity in their supply chains of companies like K&M, which can manufacture all of these components for them. That's what needs to be developed. That's what we're bullish on. We have expansion plans under construction right now to move quickly at the velocity this industry is moving at to support wind farm development."

Explosive growth. Can't keep up. And we have the potential to make it happen here; our manufacturing capabilities can and should supply the country and the world with the pieces to make this happen.

And as far as producing our own energy needs for the state, instead of importing out-of-state (and country) energy like we do now, we have those resources right under our nose. Granholm again-

"In fact, I was told this morning that in the United States right now, the U.S. as a whole produces about 14,000 megawatts of wind. Michigan has the capacity to do 14,000 MW of wind by itself. We have the capacity to be the third-most productive state for wind.

Wind energy is just one part of the equation for Michigan. Wave energy is coming into play.

Second, water. "Many businesses - and we were with some of them Friday - are now moving into the area of capturing movement from water currents," the governor said. "Any time there's movement, you can capture that and feed it into the electric grid. There are some who are manufacturing wind turbines and, at the bottom of the turbine, if the turbine is out in the water, they put devices that capture the movement of the waves, so you've got a two-fer.

And wood. Granholm mentions what they are doing in Sweden-

"They're also taking advantage of something Michigan uniquely has, and that's wood. That goes to this issue of the next generation of ethanol. Two-thirds of Michigan's land is covered by forests. We have the largest footprint of publicly-owned forest land of any state in the country. What a huge opportunity for us as we look at cellulosic ethanol, the next generation.

And waste. What could be better than taking advantage of all that Canadian trash that everyone complains about?

"In Sweden, there's a region where they're getting 80 percent of their energy from burning municipal landfills," Granholm said. "But they don't let the CO2 (carbon dioxide) go up in the air, they capture it all and put it back into heating commercial and residential businesses. (Michigan) used to be the landfill capital of North America - and we still are. I hate to say that's something unique to Michigan we could capitalize on, but it actually is.

Michigan, please pay attention. If George Bush and the state of Texas can get something like wind energy started, and Rick Perry can talk about cleaning up the air and giggle with glee at all the money and jobs that they have created, there is no reason why we should listen to the coal-burning, nay-saying, knuckle-draggers like Nolan Finley anymore. There is no reason we should continue to rely on a volatile auto industry. We have the tools, we have the environment, we have the workers, we have the research capabilities, we can create jobs and protect the environment all at the same time. And when the auto industry starts to rebound, predicted for 2009, we will have that, too.

Texas came a long way in less than a decade. No reason why Michigan can't do that as well. Of course it will take some time to get to where we want to be, but we have the answers to our problems staring us right in the face. We can take advantage of this opportunity, start to move faster towards the obvious goals of a clean energy future, or we can sit back and continue to cry about our current economic conditions and let those that would hold us back purely for political reasons dominate the conversation. Your choice.

The cynical side says that George W. Bush just wanted to make a buck for his buddies in Texas, but look at what he started.

We can do the same. And we can do it better.

The newest Senate Republican stall

(UPDATE: This diary now new and improved with the added Senate Republican bonus of one-time gimmicks! Check the comments for details!)

We are fast approaching Dec. 1st, a full two months after the budget for '08 was due, and believe it or not, Senate Republicans are still finding ways to stall this process. Good thing we didn't give them that continuation budget, huh? 

Service taxes. At first they said they wouldn't touch it. Then they said they would, and admitted they needed a full replacement. Then they changed their minds on that and started calling for cuts. They passed a delay and a repeal, but didn't pass replacement revenue. Go read this diary again for all the details, or this diary that shows they have been doing this all year. Tick, tick, tick, goes the clock, and, oh look!, we are done for the year, gotta go.

The press tries to play this off as "inexperience", but if they would look closer, they would see willful obstruction. Just try. It's there.

All the while, they blamed the Democrats for the whole thing, when it was their delays and waffling and Valde Garcia that came up with the idea in the first place and their refusal to look at a higher income tax back in the summer that forced ALL of this to come about.

Whew. That's a whole lotta obstructin' going on.

Sooooo, we come to today, and finally a Senate vote on the replacement, 12 days after the House passed one. First of all, check the framing from Dillon-

House Democrats on Monday called on Senate Republicans to pass the replacement tax plan the House approved on Nov. 8. The House had tentatively planned a session for today but called it off Monday afternoon.

"Business leaders and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in the House worked together to craft a plan that promotes economic growth while protecting essential funding for our schools, public safety and health care for our seniors," Dillon said.

Good job guys. The House Dems really stepped up this time. Looks like they have learned their lesson. So proud of them.

But then, we get the newest, latest, greatest, obstruction to progress from the Senate- * drum roll * - placing a sunset provision in the replacement, something that Granholm said she wouldn't agree to when we started down this road in the first place.

Senate GOP spokesman Matt Marsden said the Senate proposal, like the House plan, would fully replace the revenue lost by repealing the tax on services.

But unlike the House plan, the Senate proposal would make the business tax increase temporary, he said. That could be problematic because Gov. Jennifer Granholm has threatened to veto any replacement of the services tax that is not a permanent tax increase.

Not only do Senate Republicans intend on screwing things up for the current legislature, they intend on sticking it to the future legislators, who also have to deal with the sunset on the income tax. Since they couldn't blow up this budget; they will blow up some budget down the road. Just like Engler.

Why not let the future lawmakers decide if economic conditions can provide for a cut in the revenue? Gee, what fun would that be?

The House isn't coming in today, so nothing will be final until after break. You're shocked, we know. One more time they push it right to the wire, and we sit back and wonder why nothing else ever gets done.

Andy Dillon - No More Mr. Nice Guy

Wow. What in the world has gotten into Andy Dillon. You must check out the smack-down he lays on the Senate Republicans for the vote today that screws up the budget deal.

House Democrats today criticized the Republican-led State Senate for a party-line vote that gives businesses significant tax cuts at the expense of funding for education, health care and public safety, and blasts a huge hole in the budget that was passed less than one month ago.

"The Republican-led Senate broke its promise to the people of Michigan that our state would have fully funded schools, health care for seniors, and police and fire protection for our communities," said House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.). "It ignores the reality that Michigan will be in dire straits again in just a few years if this plan goes into effect. The Senate Republicans' plan is a short-term fix that will have long-term repercussions for the people of Michigan. It shows a complete lack of foresight and planning."

The House Dems release points out that they passed a replacement plan that was supported by both the Detroit and Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, and the Michigan Manufacturing Association as well.

Wait. It gets better. Just like I mentioned earlier today, the Senate also created a problem for the future. Speaker Dillon didn't like that one bit, no siree.

"Senate Republicans have set the state of Michigan up to fall into a giant black hole in 2011, when they won't be around to deal with the consequences," Dillon said. "This shows irresponsible and cowardly leadership. It also shows that Senate Republicans are willing steal from our residents and from Michigan's future to score points with a handful of businesses today. They should be ashamed of what they did today."

Think Andy might be a little ticked off?

This never flies in the House, obviously, and from MIRS we get this-

The bill seems to set up another bare-knuckle brawl between the Senate and the House and Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM's administration. The Governor has said she wanted bill that's bipartisan, revenue-neutral and permanent - and the Senate version meets none of those criteria.

Mike Bishop said in MIRS, "Senate Republicans are not obstructionists". Um, yes they are. By passing this bill, they are proving that they have no intention of solving this problem anytime soon, the problem they created in the first place.

Mad props to the Speaker for calling them out on it. That's what we like to see!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tim Walberg, Time's poster child for Republican indifference

Somewhere this morning, Mark Schauer is smiling.

This week's Time magazine asks the question: "Will Bad Mortgages Hurt the GOP?"- and holds up Tim Walberg as a prime example of conservative indifference to the mortgage crisis that is hurting so many, especially right here in Michigan.

2008 is shaping up to be a bad year for the Bush Republicans if they continue to be tone-deaf to the concerns of average people. Predatory lending practices? Not a problem, says Tim. Just a few folks hurt by that. No big deal.

Last Thursday, to the delight of Democrats, Walberg lived up to his conservative ideals - voting against a bill in the House that tightens restrictions against predatory lending. The measure, which garnered the support of 64 Republicans in passing 291-127, would force lenders to apply for licenses and require them to verify the ability of borrowers to repay loans. "I think the market always works when we let it," Walberg told TIME just before voting against the measure. "We want to make sure that we have opportunities for consumers to have safe and opportune mortgages. This bill, I think, goes away from that, puts heavy regulation in place, discourages lending practices for just very few people who've had that problem."

Time goes on to reel off a bunch of statistics about the condition of the housing market in Michigan, and then they do they practically unthinkable- they make Joe Knollenberg seem like a rational human being. Not only did Joe support the bill, he wants to see more measures put in place to protect homeowners.

"I'm not satisfied with the bill in its current form, but I am going to vote for it. I think that there are some things that could be done to further enhance and help these people."

This bill put Walberg firmly in the "extreme" camp; 64 House Republicans joined Democrats in support of cracking down on predatory lending. Tim seemingly brushes off the "10-15%" of the loans that were "fraudulent or took advantage of people" and called this measure "gotcha" politics. I guess in Tim's world it's OK to throw some folks overboard- better hope that person isn't you.

Enter Senator Mark Schauer, who Time calls a "top tier" opponent.

After Walberg's narrow victory in 2006 (a race in which he outspent his opponent by $1.2 million to $46,000), the Democrats this time have recruited a top tier opponent: State Senator Mark Shauer, who has championed the predatory lending issue in the state legislature, co-sponsoring legislation that would tighten oversight on loan officers and supports programs to help homeowners refinance their mortgages. Schauer plans on campaigning on the issue and accuses Walberg of turning his back on people in need. "The people in Michigan are struggling, and we're doing what we can to help at the state level," Schauer said. "But Washington and my opponent need to step up."

The state legislature needs to step up too- but this is yet another issue that our Republican Senate won't address, of course. Guess that puts them to the right of Joe Knollenberg.

What is Tim's response to this? Blow off the concerns, don't address the problem, and, quick!, point at the governor!

Walberg said he's not worried. "Michigan's got far more problems than just this. The economic climate with the expensive tax increases just put on by the State Legislature and the governor, the challenges with the auto industry: these are far greater concerns than this."

That is going to be one tired message by this time next year, a broken record that will prove that the Republicans have absolutely no vision or ideas for fixing the problems that face Michigan citizens. All they can do is point at Granholm. Got a hunch that answer won't satisfy the electorate.

Happy Thanksgiving, Senator Schauer. Wipe that grin off your face, OK? ;-)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mackinac Center misleading the public

Way back on January 11th of this year, I wrote a post about Mike Bishop constantly using the phrase "single state recession" to describe Michigan's economy. A financial analyst from an investment firm in Bloomfield Hills had said that, technically, we were not in a recession, so of course I jumped all over that. Not really the point of this diary, but some set-up was required here. I went on to say this-

It also begs the question: What ELSE are the Republicans exaggerating when they make economic claims such as this? The list is long, and perhaps every single one of them should be scrutinized for authenticity.

You can start with the Mackinac Center. It would be a field day.

Field day was last Friday. Turns out that someone should have been scrutinizing the Mackinac Center's claims all year long, because lo and behold, last Friday night in MIRS, we read this-

The head of the House Fiscal Agency believes that the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy was a disservice to the public during the budget process this year.

"The press they get tends to mislead the public, in my opinion," said Mitch BEAN, director of the House Fiscal Agency. "They act as if all these easy decisions can be made to cut $2 billion out of the budget when it's simply not true."

The House Fiscal Agency is non-partisan, and they "provide confidential, nonpartisan expertise to the House Appropriations Committee and all other members of the House on all legislative fiscal matters." In other words, they are pros at this sort of stuff.

Mitch Bean goes on to tear apart the Mackinac Center's claims on some of the cuts they proposed during the budget crisis- and as you know, the Mac Center is frequently cited in the press as the go-to guys for "proof" of validity on conservative fiscal philosophy.

Bad idea. Using the examples that Bean provided, that needs to come to an end, or at least the press should take a closer look at these claims of savings before printing them as gospel. For starters, the Mac Center said this-

- Saving $192 million by putting 5 percent of prisoners in privately managed prisons, generating 14 percent savings.

Flawed math, it turns out.

So [cut] $192 million by putting five percent of prisoners in privately run prisons," said Bean. "We actually have experience with a privately run prison - the Youth Correctional Facility in Baldwin that was instituted under the previous administration. The contract was cancelled because the Auditor General and both Fiscal Agencies found it wasn't saving money. In fact … it was probably costing more money."

Bean also questioned the reasoning behind the math that would lead one to discern a 14 percent savings from a transfer of five percent of prisoners.

"If you just let five percent of the prisoners out of prison, the most you could save is 5 percent. If you could shrink your staff five percent, shrink your facilities by five percent - the most you could save is five percent," he said. "The idea that you could save 14 percent by sticking five percent of your prisoners in a private facility is quite frankly pretty ridiculous."

Bean did this with four other examples in the article, pointing out that each time, the "cuts" that the Mac Center claimed were "savings" weren't saving anything at all- and in fact some were probably going to cost us more, either financially, like the example above on private prisons, or in reduced public safety, such as cutting the State Police Road Patrol and turning that money over to the county sherriffs.

One example concerning the Hay Report on school insurance reform was $230 million off the mark, and not only that, they were using old data - most schools had probably already implemented the recommendations in an attempt to cut costs.

The Hay Report itself notes that in the first year the recommended changes would cost the state $1.5 million to implement and that the maximum savings would be $192 million in the second year - not the $422 million the Mackinac Center claims.

And on prevailing wage, it is obvious the Center was grasping at absurd figures to push their anti-worker agenda.

On prevailing wage, the Mackinac Center slaps on a $150 million savings on school construction projects by state repeal of the law. Bean, an economist by training, notes that to reach $150 million in savings you'd have to assume a public school construction labor cost load of $1.5 billion. As wages are only 1/3 of the cost of construction, that means there would have to be $4.5 billion in construction going on each year to realize the savings.

Bean went on to say that this funding is done at the local level and the savings would be realized there- not for the state.

I waited over the weekend to see if this might pop up anywhere in the traditional media; of course it did not.

Question now is: will the press continue to use the Mackinac Center as a source of valid information without doing the homework behind the claims? My guess is yes. But just so you know, whenever you see them refered to as experts on fiscal policy in the papers, take the things they say with a huge grain of salt from here on out. They are distorting facts to push their agenda.

It's the Republican way.

NFL Week 11

Tampa Bay at Atlanta

Cleveland at Baltimore

N.Y. Giants at Detroit

Arizona at Cincinnati

Carolina at Green Bay

New Orleans at Houston

Kansas City at Indianapolis

San Diego at Jacksonville

Oakland at Minnesota

Miami at Philadelphia

Pittsburgh at NY Jets

Washington at Dallas

Chicago at Seattle

St. Louis at San Francisco

New England at Buffalo

Tennessee at Denver

Fall at Rosedale

Fall at Rosedale

Stopped by to say hi to Scott. Hard to believe that it has been six years next weekend.

Miss you man.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's presidential poll time in Michigan

Hide the kids.

EPIC/MRA is making an honest man out of Ed Sarpolus again, and here are your results on the latest Michigan poll of current presidential contenders. As Rick Albin says, these polls are a "snapshot in time", and your mileage may vary, or something like that.

For the Democrats- the Hillary Machine is stomping the competition.

Clinton is running away from the Democratic field -- even though she and the other Democratic candidates refuse to campaign here, because the state ran afoul of national party rules by scheduling its primary ahead of other states.

She is now is favored by 49 percent of likely Democratic primary voters in Michigan, up from 40 percent in the Sept. 1 survey. Second-place candidate Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who had 21 percent of the vote in late summer, now stands at a very distant 18 percent. And former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards is stuck in the mid teens -- despite support from union leaders.

And the breakdown by gender-

According to the survey, 60 percent of female voters prefer Clinton with Obama a distant second at 18 percent. Among men, however, Clinton's support drops to 32 percent, still tops in the field. Edwards got 21 percent support among men while Obama received support from 19 percent of the men surveyed.

And for the Republicans, the picture gets a little murky-

Giuliani is favored by 28 percent of likely GOP primary voters -- slightly better than the 25 percent support for Romney, a Michigan native whose father was the state's governor in the 1960s. Both former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and Arizona Sen. John McCain continue to stagnate. Thompson is still third, now at 13 percent, followed by McCain, at 12 percent. That's not good news for either, but it's particularly troublesome for McCain, who won Michigan's 2000 presidential primary, and had hoped to establish a beach head here.

But wait! Here comes Mike Huckabee!

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was hardly a blip -- just 3 percent -- in the News/WXYZ poll published Sept. 1. But he's tripled his support since then. And while he's still way behind the leaders, his progress is significant.

An ordained Baptist minister, Huckabee has been running strong in Iowa polls, where he is second behind Romney. Huckabee has inherited some supporters of Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who quit the presidential race and endorsed Huckabee. Furthermore, Huckabee's moderate stances on economic issues, and his social conservatism, may find an audience in Michigan.

No mention of internet darling Ron Paul.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Do-over" on MESSA?

Seems only fair. If the Senate Republicans insist on "more cuts", or continues to drag their feet on the service tax issue, or inserts a sunset on the replacement revenue, perhaps it is time to revisit the entire trade. From Gongwer-

Nearly half of the Democratic lawmakers in the House have signed on as sponsors to legislation augmenting the health care pooling reforms put in place for public school employees during the budget battle earlier this fall and the chair of the Education Committee said he plans on taking up HB 5454.

The legislation would essentially make schools with 250 or more employees, and not 100 as in current statute, open up their health care coverage for competitive bidding.

House Education Chair Rep. Tim Melton (D-Auburn Hills) said since the Senate opened the door on repealing the service tax, he's open to addressing the MESSA issue once the replacement is agreed upon. Legislators have told Gongwer News Service they're being asked to revisit the issue by teachers since the Legislature already has embraced repealing the service tax that was also part of the overall budget agreement.

Mr. Melton said there was no good statistical data showing a requirement for 100 employees was the best route to go, but there is evidence a larger group of 250 does make better policy and doesn't run into as much HIPPA compliance issues.

Seems the Senate Republicans have a problem with this.

Matt Marsden, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) said Tuesday, the school health care pooling measure was a significant reform agreed upon during budget negotiations.

"I would strongly recommend the House Democrats leave it as it is," he said.

Or... what? Matt didn't say.

A deal is a deal.

Granholm creates Michigan Climate Action Council

Executive orders are fun. From tonight's MIRS-

Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM late today announced that she's signed an executive order dealing with climate change and global warming in Michigan.

By executive order, the Governor created a Michigan Climate Action Council to develop a plan for the state to deal with climate change. The plan will provide state leaders with recommendations on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

Tomorrow Granholm travels to Wisconsin to the Midwestern Governors Association meeting where they will discuss a regional platform for "energy security and climate stewardship". They will probably have a nice lunch, too.

More on the council-

The Michigan Climate Action Council will be comprised of 35 representatives from public interest groups, environmental organizations, utilities, the manufacturing sector and other key industries, universities, and state and local government. The council will compile an inventory and forecast of greenhouse gas emissions in Michigan and produce a plan for reducing those gasses.

An interim report on policy recommendations is due by the end of next March, with a final, detailed report due by the end of next year.

Sounds like a plan- and here's another very ambitious plan-

The executive directive issued by Governor Granholm will require a 10 percent reduction in energy use by the end of 2008. As part of the directive, the state will - wherever feasible - increase use of alternative fuels in its fleet of vehicles; develop a materials management plan to ensure environmentally sound purchasing, use, reuse and recycling of materials by state departments; and ensure that new state owned or leased buildings meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. The state will also reduce its electrical energy purchases by 20 percent by 2015.

To help the state reduce its electrical consumption, Senate Republicans have been instructed to stop using lights and microphones at their press conferences; instead, it is suggested that they hold up candles and just shout at the reporters.

Matt Marsden could not be reached for comment.

Oh, wait... I'm told that last paragraph is NOT part of the executive directive.

BFM regrets the error.

State newswire story here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NFL Week 10 Results- Ack! said Bill the Cat

Buffalo 13, Miami 10

Pittsburgh 31, Cleveland 28

Denver 27, Kansas City 11

Jacksonville 28, Tennessee 13

Green Bay 34, Minnesota 0

Philadelphia 33, Washington 25

St. Louis 37, New Orleans 29

Atlanta 20, Carolina 13

Cincinnati 21, Baltimore 7

Chicago 17, Oakland 6

Dallas 31, N.Y. Giants 20

Arizona 31, Detroit 21

San Diego 23, Indianapolis 21

Seattle 24, San Francisco 0

6-8. Wow, that was bad.


Don't these people have jobs?

Congress must have declared "National Partisan Pile On Your Governor Month". Wonder if this is happening elsewhere in the country. It seems that suddenly the Michigan Republicans in Washington have found that Granholm is, indeed, the number one problem on their minds; so, they have lined up frivolous complaints in an ill-fated attempt to divert our attention from the fact that Republican policies in DC have reaped disastrous results across the land. Perhaps they think meddling in state affairs is the answer to that. Just spreading the love is all.

First up, Tim Walberg chimes in to the LSJ in a bizarre letter that was neither coherent nor relevant to any particular issue, just a general "Tax! Bad! Ugh!" cry to fans of the pink pig.

Thanks to our tax-hiking state government, we now have the highest national unemployment rate and the worst state economy in the nation.

And we managed to accomplish that in one whole month after a tax increase! You would think that six straight years of tax cuts might have had a little something to do with the situation we found ourselves in- but no, in Walberg's world, it happened just that quick! And it's all Granholm's fault!

Tim goes on to swoon over John Engler, never mentioning the fact that Big John spent all the savings in the cookie jar and set it up so we had no more cookies coming in to keep the state running after he blew town. And funny how Tim completely ignores the record deficits from Bush and the borrow and borrow some more Republicans in Washington, no, any national economic slowdown will be the fault of the Democrats because they are following Granholm's month old example of paying the bills. Guess they needed her permission or something.

He's got something called the "Tax Increase Prevention Act", probably drawn straight from Grover's fevered imagination, and look for that to go nowhere fast. Dine-and-dash Republicans have run up the tab, and now Tim wants to pass a law to prevent us from paying for it. Sure wish we could do that with our credit cards.

We hear from Candice Miller, and the return of the turtles, over the jump...
Next up we have Candice Miller, complaining about a line-item veto that cut $250 grand from the DEQ's budget for a water monitoring program in the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, Clinton River and Detroit River watershed. She called for our Legislature to return the money.

"I urge the Michigan Legislature to take whatever action necessary to restore this critical funding that was stripped by the governor's actions."

OK Candice, we'll raise taxes to pay for it. But you better clear that with Tim Walberg first.

Why the veto? Turns out they didn't spend the money they got last time.

In an e-mail, Liz Boyd, Granholm's press secretary, said no one is more concerned about protecting the Great Lakes than Gov. Granholm.

"That is one reason why this project has been funded every year since 2004," Boyd said. "But given the local agencies have failed to spend the money that was appropriated last year, this funding was not needed."

No matter. Miller wants us to spend more, now, anyway. Think this survived on Bishop's original list of cuts? I don't feel like looking it up.

And last, but certainly not least, you remember that Pete "Turtle Power" Hoesktra kicked this all off by sticking his nose in where it didn't belong, complaining that we were actually using federal funds in the way they were intended, shocker that it is, and he didn't like that one bit, no sir. The Governor rightly smacked him down, and now his constituents have joined in the fray.

U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra was on Grand Rapids' TV-8's "To the Point" last Sunday morning with a big spin that the turtle fence created no jobs. The anti-environmental West Michigan Republicans are planting every "red herring" they can preparing for the 2008 election.

The fact is, the turtle fence absolutely provided jobs for the installers and sales for the material suppliers. What Hoekstra is really upset over is that Haliburton didn't get the $318,000 to hire his Blackwater boys to stand turtle guard over the freeway.

Hoekstra finally backed down and admitted that more flexibility needs to be provided at the federal level. He introduced that legislation after he spent a month wasting our time.

"If Michigan needs greater flexibility from Washington to better prioritize its most pressing needs then I will work to provide it," said Hoekstra, R-Holland.

Maybe you should have done that in the first place, Pete.

I guess we should be grateful that our representatives are actually paying attention to our state since they have spent so much time in office ignoring us, but I'm not sure this is exactly what we had in mind.

Sign of the times

I love graffiti.

Do I approve of defacing public property? No, of course not. Costs a fortune to keep cleaning it up. And tagging for the most part is just boring; an expression of territorial pissing matches between gangs or individual taggers rather than a heartfelt feeling of pure emotion or sentiment (or the boredom of lovelorn teenagers).

Still, graffiti carries with it the signs of the times- whether they are popular musicians, songs, slang, current favored methods of altering your consciousness- or even current events. You read it, you get a picture of what is going on in the street, even if on the surface it seems rather crude and for the most part ignorant.

Jack Lessenberry doesn't know what he is missing. (By the way, Jack was talking about wingnut bloggers, if that makes you feel better). There are nuggets of truth to be found in the scribbles, a snapshot in time on the thoughts of those kids, sometimes adults, who are hanging out with a pen or knife in their hand and have nothing better to do but to write down whatever they are feeling.

Just recently, I was surprised to find this one on a picnic table in Riverside Park, located on the north side of Grand Rapids. Amidst the "JM loves BT" and "50 Cent Rulz" and "smoke more hash" (hash is back?), I noticed this-

Riverside Graffiti

The kids are alright. We just need them to stop vandalizing public property.

And we need to help them out if they are sent off to war.

Donate today.

This is a Blogging For Michigan Troop Care post.  From November 11 through November 25, 2007, Blogging For Michigan will use 100% of every dollar received in the Troop Care fund to purchase and ship items to Michigan troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Learn more about BFM Troop Care here. Click here to contribute to Troop Care.  Contributions are not tax deductible.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Michigan may miss out on Vioxx award

Why? Bad laws passed in bad times that made Michigan one-of-a-kind in the nation when it comes to holding drug manufacturers responsible for their defective products. We aren't allowed to sue. House Democrats have passed legislation to overturn this law way back in the spring- and it has stalled in the Republican Senate.

Friday, Senate Democrats called on their Republican colleagues to take action.

Senate Democrats once again today called on Senate Republican's to take up bills that provide justice to Michigan victims of dangerous drugs. Yesterday Merck, the manufacturer of the dangerous drug Vioxx, announced that it would be offering billions of dollars in a lawsuit settlement to potentially 47,000 victims around the country, but Michigan victims and their families are prevented from seeking recourse because of our state's drug immunity law.

Michigan is the only state in the nation with a law prohibiting recourse for consumers who are injured or have family members killed by a harmful drug. In February, the Michigan House of Representatives approved reform legislation that would repeal immunity for drug companies and restore consumer's rights, but the Republican-controlled Senate has refused to take up the package.

The House passed this 70-39, with 13 Republicans voting for the bill.


Senate Republicans will use the budget problems as an excuse for ignoring this and other legislation that the House somehow found the time to work on. Watch them over the flip...

The AP ran an article yesterday that pointed out how other issues are taking a back seat this year due to the budget issues, but the AP failed to mention all the time off that was taken over the summer.

The budget has sucked the oxygen out of the Capitol," says Sen. Patricia Birkholz, a Republican from Saugatuck and chairwoman of the Senate's Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee. "It's taken literally all of our working hours on many days."

Like that one time the Senate Republicans left even the budget hanging because they took off for the day? There is video of this. Why couldn't they work on it then? The cameras filmed an empty chamber with Democrats standing around ready to work, but no Republicans to be found.

Or, how about that time that Senator Schauer called them the "Do-Nothing" Senate in this video that featured charts showing how few bills they have worked on this year to that point (Aug 2nd), and also told us how they would only meet one day a week in August.

Not to mention the change in rules that kept them on a two-week vacation in July. The budget may have "taken all their working hours" on the days they were there, but then again, you have to remember they weren't there all that much over the summer.

They were opportunites to work on these things, they just didn't do it. Now attorneys for Michigan residents are waiting to hear whether or not they will be able to share the Vioxx award. They brought the suit in New Jersey due to our laws.

"We think this applies to all plaintiffs in the U.S., with no distinction to where people live," said Mark Bernstein, of the Farmington Hills-based Bernstein Law Firm.

The firm sued in New Jersey courts on behalf of 75 Michiganders who died suddenly or had heart attacks or strokes linked to the drug.

The words "we think" coming from a lawyer indicates that there is a chance that it may not apply, or perhaps Merck could appeal for Michigan residents. It would be really bad PR, but this being a major drug company...

Senate Republicans have had plenty of time to address this issue; there is a reason why they have chosen not to. Jack Lessenberry predicted as much back on Feb. 21st-

Write, call, scream at or otherwise put pressure on your friendly homegrown state senator - especially Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, a Republican from Rochester. Here's why: Naturally, Bishop is going to oppose any bill that puts people ahead of corporations.


What the Republican leadership will try to do is to bury this bill in committee and prevent it from ever coming up for a vote. Big Pharma has plenty of lobbyists who are working hard to help them do this, by the way.

And that is exactly what happened.

You could write, call or scream again now, but your window of opportunity is getting pretty small. After they get back from their current two-week vacation, they are scheduled out for the year on Dec. 6th.

Vacation more important than fixing service tax issue


It appears the state Legislature isn't ready to finish work repealing a much-criticized services tax.

Both the House and Senate canceled sessions that were tentatively set for Tuesday.

The sessions would have meant interrupting a two-week break held each November. It's still possible the House and Senate could be called back into session later in the two-week period.

They said that last summer too. Don't hold your breath on that one.

Guess fixing their mistake wasn't that important after all. Sorry, business, you will just have to wait.

Lessenberry had a good scribble on his wall today-

Balancing the state budget has turned into a remake of the Night of the Living Dead. Just when you think the last stake has been hammered through the heart of the last deficit vampire.

No. This never ends. That is just the way the Senate wants it- nothing will ever get done, and then they can complain about how bad things are. Look for this pattern to continue next year also.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

BFM Troop Care

(For those still checking in here from time to time...)

The Blogging For Michigan community is excited to announce Blogging For Michigan Troop Care.  The goal of the program is to provide support to Michigan troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From November 11 through November 25, bloggers at (BFM) will be publishing articles to raise awareness of the unique challenges faced by our troops and our veterans.  During this two week period, we are asking readers to make a contribution to the Troop Care fund.  100% of this fund will be used to purchase and ship items such as socks, hand lotion, soap, shampoo, magazines, DVDs, dried foods, etc., to Michigan troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Readers are also being asked to leave messages of support for our troops.

We are proud to say that we are joined in our efforts by Troop Care Partners such as General Motors employees and members of UAW Local 598, from Flint's GM Truck & Bus.  There are hundreds of veterans employed with GM Truck & Bus.

We are also being aided in our efforts by individuals like Shiawassee County Commissioner Jack Johnson, who will be taking contributions at his place of business and at County Commissioner meetings.

Troop Care will be shipping to Michigan units who have requested items through the website,  By using, we can be reasonably assured that the items requested by the troops will reach their intended recipients.

Click here to donate to Troop Care now.


Are you a charity?

No, we're a business under the name of BFM Media LLC, proud to do something good for our soldiers.  In addition to collecting, we are also contributing.  We hope you will join us in this effort.

Is my contribution tax deductible?

No.  It is not tax deductible.  We are sending items to service members in Iraq and Afghanistan, which means that contributions are not being used for a "charitable purpose" as defined by law.

Do you have a solicitation license?

No.  We have a letter of determination from AG that none is necessary.  You may read that letter of determination here.  (pdf format)

Will all the funds be used for the troops?

Yes. Absolutely 100% of all funds collected between November 11 and November 25, 2007, will be used to purchase and ship items to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Where are the names/contact info of soldiers coming from?, which is recommended by the National Military Family Association.  Our own blogger and Iraq Vet, djtyg, says is "the real deal."

I want to send something to the Michigan troops directly.  How can I do this?

Just visit and follow the link, "Where To Send."  On the left side, there is a drop down link labeled "view contacts sorted by" ... use the drop down list and select "where unit is from."  A second drop down list will appear.  Select "Michigan", and then "go".  Each name that appears is a link to information about that person's unit.  Click on the names to find out more about the unit and what they need.  (See the image to the right)

You will need to fill out a form to get their contact information.

I want to contribute, but I don't want to do business online.  Can I send you a check?

Absolutely!  Make checks payable to:


PO Box 62

Corunna, MI  48817

We have to receive it by November 30, in order to use it for Troop Care.

I'm not a Troop Care Partner, or a member of local 598, can I still contribute?

Yes, anyone can contribute to Troop Care by clicking here.

What is a Troop Care Partner?

Troop Care Partners are people and organizations who are collecting funds for Troop Care, or who are blogging and publicizing the Troop Care Program on BFM. 

To become a Troop Care Partner, just let us know that you want to participate!  We will get in touch with you to give you more details. 

As a Troop Care Partner, we'll give you prominent mention on the site, and make sure your name is visible throughout the two week program.  And, you'll know that you're doing something excellent for our Michigan troops!

I have a story to tell or a message of concern for the public.  Can I make it a Troop Care post?

Absolutely, if it's relevant to our troops, veterans, or their families. is a community site, and anyone can sign up for a free account and start posting diaries.  If you submit a post that is Troop Care material (and comprehensible, please), we'll put the Troop Care logo in it and tag it, 'troop care'.

If you're a new user, make sure you sign up with an email where we can reach you and verify details. Like other blogs, we occasionally "promote" the work of new writers to the front page. Your diary will get every consideration.

You can also send us your stories, at, and we can publish them for you.

We reserve the right to reject material that is not appropriate.

I have a question not answered here.

Contact us at

Enough with the FAQs!  I'm ready to contribute!

Excellent!  Our troops thank you!  Click here to donate to Troop Care now.