Friday, February 29, 2008

A Challenger for Dean in the 75th

Not sure how I got on this mailing list, but it's appropriate that it landed in my "Junk e-mail" box.

Conservative Republican Dan Tietema is running against Robert Dean in the 75th District this fall, and from his announcement e-mail we can see that he is using the tried and true tactic of going on the attack first, predictable oh-so-stale and boring talking points - "Granholm! Taxes! Eeeeeeek!” - while offering nothing of substance on his own. Sound familiar? A regular Bush Republican is Mr. Tietema, you can tell already.

First, we must lament the 2006 loss of what I'm sure would have been stellar additions to the utterly worthless "cut and spend" House Republican herd.

Both Tim Doyle and Christian Meyer would have clearly made a better Representative and given Michigan a better economic outlook than where we are presently at today.


Tim Doyle reached new lows with his race-baiting fliers to the 75th in the last election, and then claimed he had nothing to so with it. Just the kind of upstanding pass-the-buck citizen we needed in Lansing, right?

And when it came to the reality of a House Republican providing a "better economic outlook" last year, are we really expected to think that either Doyle or Meyer would have been any different than this batch of fools?

Literally minutes after much of the House Republican caucus put up scores of "yes" votes in support of spending plans that were based on the $1.4 billion in tax hikes that nearly all of them voted against, House Speaker Andy DILLON (D-Redford Twp.) was asked to opine. Here the GOP members were ready to support the budgets that spent money, but weren't willing to raise the revenue needed to pay for the spending.

"That was one of the funny comments from someone in my office who said, 'It's amazing we're sitting here negotiating about how we're going to spend money when they didn't vote for any of it," Dillon said.

"Is that hypocritical?" asked Peter LUKE of Booth Newspapers.

"Yes. I think it is, to be honest with you."


Perhaps Meyer and Doyle would have been in the minority of House Republicans that wouldn't vote for the budgets that saved public safety, health care and education though, which would have put them firmly in the "draconian cuts" camp.

The 13 budgets that had cleared the Senate by 6 p.m. today were passed, on average, with 35-3 support. The 14 budgets that had cleared the House by 6 p.m. today were passed, on average, with 88-21 support.


But then again, they probably wouldn't vote for the cuts that would have been required either - none of the House Republicans would.

The Michigan House of Representatives today rejected a set of proposed Republican budget cuts that gut funding for kids and schools, senior health care, and police and firefighters at a time when Michigan needs to invest in the future and move forward.

"The Republican cuts hurt our kids, our seniors and our veterans," House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) said. "The Republican plan is a stark example of the different vision that Democrats and Republicans have for Michigan's future. Democrats believe in investing in Michigan's future, our children and schools, and in standing up for our veterans who fought for our country. Do we want to move Michigan forward or backward? This is the question before lawmakers. House Democrats want to move Michigan forward."


So, back to Mr. Dan Tietema, drying his tears over the loss of what certainly would have been another rubber stamp for DeRoche's joke of a caucus. Dan's a "business man", of course...

As a small business owner (Omni Medical Waste Inc.), I have been able to support my family and community through very hard word and dedication. I am very blessed in the amount of success that I have! been able to achieve and I am very appreciative in the support of my wife, family and God.

What gets me fired up the most is when I see folks in Lansing who seem to do everything in their power to making life even tougher on our business community and economy.


For Tietema, "fired up the most" means protecting business interests first. Dan has managed to be successful though; Lansing didn't get in his way. Wonder how he managed to do that. Just like DeVos, he wants to run on that claim that creates cognitive dissonance - business is great for him, but somehow no one else can succeed unless he gets to Lansing to straighten things out.

Matter of fact, he was so successful that he had to quit a run for Grand Rapids mayor last year because he was just too darn busy to even think of sacrificing his time for "community". From the GR Press, March 27, 2007-

Businessman Dan Tietema announced Monday he is withdrawing as a candidate for Grand Rapids mayor. "I have been experiencing larger than expected growth in business and need to explore an opportunity to expand my services throughout the Midwest," Tietema said. Tietema, 37, is owner and president of Omni Medical Waste Inc., a Wyoming firm that specializes in the management and disposal of medical waste. He also ran an unsuccessful campaign for a 3rd Ward City Commission seat in 2005.


Hmmm. He announced his run for mayor in early February, by the end of March he had dropped out. Not a well thought-out decision it appears. Maybe it was just a whim. Wonder if his "business opportunities" will come first this time around, too.

And going back to that 3rd Ward run, Dan proved that his Republican roots run deep - he's a hypocrite. Running against James White, Dan tried to level charges that White was being supported by out-of-district business interests. There as a little problem with that though... (GR Press, July 31st, 2005)

Dan Tietema, one of two challengers for White's seat, raised questions about money collected from developers who live outside the 3rd Ward.

"So whose voice is being heard first -- yours or theirs?" Tietema asked in a campaign brochure.

White, who has said the city could ease its budget crisis by selling some riverfront property, called the attacks "mean-spirited."

"I'm proud of the fact that the corporate world has supported me," said White, whose campaign has raised $10,700. His largest donation was $2,000 from a Detroit-based law firm.

Tietema reported $1,000 from Bill Bowling, chairman of Grubb & Ellis-Paramount Properties, a development firm, and Bowling's wife. They live in Middleville.

Bowling "is a very close family friend and someone who is a mentor," said Tietema, who said most of his $15,000 in campaign donations came in small amounts.


Yes, we definitely need another mean-spirited "It's OK If You're Me" Republican in office. That has worked out so well, hasn't it?

It also turns out that Tietema is a guy who just didn't give a damn a few short years ago. Couldn't be bothered to vote in local elections for the community he now wants to represent. (GR Press, July 22, 2005)

Dan Tietema, 35, also challenging White, has voted in 10 of the past 23 elections, and passed over all local elections until he cast a ballot in a Kent Intermediate School District special election in February, 2004.

"My interest in politics really started at the national scene and the state," he said. "My commitment to the city didn't get started until recently."


But Dan is a quick study, you betcha. He's here now to save the day if his business doesn't come first. All you have to do is add a bit of Anuzis and stir, and waa laa!, you got yourself another Republican who will be a puppet for extremist members of the MI GOP, just insert this talking point into the empty head-

Governor Granholm and her “tax and spend” friend, Representative Dean, have taken no accountability in the mistakes they have made. They just keep doing the same thing repeatedly. Higher taxes combined with NEW taxes DOES NOT work!


Those WORDS in CAPITAL LETTERS prove that!

Funny thing is, addressing the deficit has been in effect for all of, what, four months now? And before that we had how many years of tax cuts?

So, who wants to do the same thing "repeatedly"?

Tietema will be sharing his "plan" very soon, and my guess is that we will see more tax cuts for business interests with a heaping dose of extremist social policy (he was once endorsed by Right to Life, and has radical righty Jerry Zandstra on the top of his list of supporters in this e-mail).

In other words, more of the same from the Grand Obstructionist Party and their lockstep DeRoche Republican clones. It would be amusing if it weren’t so boring. And dangerous.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rubble



Wealthy & Ethel




Note the Eastown "E" sign in both pictures. Unfortunately I couldn't get the same angle as the picture below because that area was still closed off.



This old hot water radiator struck me- so common to these old buildings.




Radiator




They were cleaning up the mess as of 6 PM. More pics on my Flickr page.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Eastown Building Go Boom



Eastown Building




Here is a picture of the building that blew up in a gas leak explosion today. This was taken during the Street Fair last fall.




Seven people were injured when a building exploded in Eastown after DTE responded to a call about a gas leak.



Those seven people were taken to nearby hospitals, but the injuries are described as minor.



The building at 1502 Wealthy, near Szechuan Gardens, houses separate businesses: Kobos & Sense, Neil Patrick Hair Salon, a massage therapy business, a t-shirt business called Picture This, and the Pepper Moon Art Gallery.



A Grand Rapids Fire Department official told 24 Hour News 8 a DTE representative was working in the building around 2:30 p.m. "Things progressed," he said, "and he knew it was not good."



Some surrounding buildings were evacuated, and hundreds of neighborhood residents were warned to stay away. The owner of the Pita Shop, across the street from the explosion, said the scene "literally looked like hell."



This is right across the street from Yesterdog.



All gone now. Bummer.



I'd go get pics, but they are keeping people away at this point (6 PM), as they are still looking for the source of the leak. So, maybe tomorrow.

Paupers on the Potomac

(this ties in with Kathy's diary below - kinda the same, but different)

The nation's governors were in DC this past weekend for the National Governors Association Winter Meeting. They all get together, talk about their plans, swap Stupid Legislature Tricks (Oh yeah? Well, guess what mine did! Really? Mine did that last year! You got nothin' on me!), show off their enthusiastic spouses who are out there doing their own thing, break into regional groups to elect leaders and set goals... and then they descend on the White House to plead their case with an administration that is bound and determined to turn a deaf ear to our domestic needs.

States are suddenly facing some huge revenue shortfalls as the economy slows down; California's deficit alone is $16 billion. Makes our $2 billion last year look like chump change.

By NGA’s last count, 18 states must cut $14 billion to keep this year’s budgets in balance, and 18 states already know they’re running $32 billion short in the upcoming fiscal year. If the current downturn follows the path of previous recessions, 35 to 40 states could face budget cuts in 2009, NGA Executive Director Raymond Scheppach said in a Jan. 28 column for Stateline.org. That's largely because of a lag before economic effects show up in states’ revenues. Deficits are a far greater problem for states because, unlike the federal government, they must make cuts or even raise taxes to balance their budgets.


Well, we've been down the "raise taxes" road already, and to any state that is going to have to do that – have fun! The alternative of cutting budgets can't come at a worse time, especially with growing health care needs and a crumbling infrastructure affecting just about every state out there.

You get the impression that Bush would probably have them arrested for panhandling if he could. He intends to make more cuts to domestic spending; for example, Medicaid is undergoing some drastic changes that will put the burden of growing costs on state governments.

Governors of both parties strongly objected on Saturday to a half-dozen new federal Medicaid regulations that they said would shift billions of dollars in costs to the states, forcing them to consider cutbacks in services.



The rules, scheduled to take effect in the next few months, would reduce federal payments for public hospitals, teaching hospitals and services for the disabled, among others.



there's always more... denial, that is...

Some quotes from Republican governors about this problem - Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont, and a brief explanation of the changes...



“Governors strongly oppose the changes,” said Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont, a Republican who is chairman of the association’s Health and Human Services Committee. “The timing could not be worse.”


Govenor Schwarzenegger, who probably needs the help the most at this point, and a health official from Georgia...

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican, said the rule changes “would effectively end the federal government’s participation in many crucial components of the Medicaid program.”

Dr. Rhonda M. Medows, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health, said: “We understand the need for financial safeguards, but these rules, taken together, would have a tremendous adverse impact. They would undermine the health care safety net for the entire state of Georgia, reducing federal Medicaid payments for hospitals, nursing homes and school clinics.”


Response from the feds? "You're ripping us off".

Dennis G. Smith, director of the federal Center for Medicaid and State Operations, said the rules were needed to “protect the fiscal integrity of the Medicaid program.” Since 2003, he said, federal officials have persuaded 30 states to end “questionable Medicaid financing arrangements.” The purpose of such arrangements is to maximize the use of federal money while holding down the use of state and local revenue.

Although the most blatant problems have been corrected, the administration says, many states still use federal Medicaid money for purposes unrelated to Medicaid.


Michigan gets cut in the president's latest budget. Not sure if these rule changes are taken into consideration when they figured these numbers.

The White House said Michigan will get $5.5 billion in Medicaid funding in 2008, and an increase to $5.75 billion in 2009. But Dan Beatte, the director of Gov. Jennifer Granholm's Washington office, says the state actually expects $6.1 billion in the current year, meaning the president's proposal would be a net cut of $350 million.

"This budget extends our challenges and does nothing to help us advance our economic recovery goals," Beattie said, noting that 1.6 million people in Michigan, or 1 in 7 residents depend on Medicaid.


Governors will call on Congress to intervene on this issue (they will have to, obviously), and the battle will take place there.

When it comes to infrastructure, it looks like the governors will concentrate on the incoming president, putting pressure on the party platforms to make sure this is including in future considerations. Thirteen governors, including Governor Granholm, joined together to form a bipartisan coalition called "Building America's Future" that will keep this issue on the national stage.

The Building America's Future coalition will be comprised of state- and locally elected officials from around the nation and will become a repository of best practices on infrastructure funding issues. In the short-term, the coalition will work with the presidential candidates and the platform committees of the national political parties to ensure that the next president understands the enormity of the infrastructure crisis and is committed to increasing federal funding.


Gov. Ed Rendell, Schwarzenegger and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg formed this group a month ago. How big is this problem? How does a trillion dollars over the next five years sound?

Ouch. And we can't even blame George for all of that.

As a share of non-defense federal expenditures, federal infrastructure spending has steadily declined since 1966. For the past 20 years, federal spending on infrastructure has averaged just 3.5 percent to 4 percent of total non-defense expenditures. Between 1956 and 1966, infrastructure spending as a share of total non defense federal expenditures was approximately 10 percent.

Today, the American Society of Civil Engineers, or ASCE, estimates the national infrastructure needs at more than $1 trillion dollars over the next five years.


Good luck to the governors on their quest to get the feds to pay attention - best guess is they can write it off for this year, gather together in their regional groups and coalitions and get those list of demands ready for a more receptive White House next year... and whoever gets the Big Chair is looking at some mighty big bills. He or she is going to need the most luck of all - along with the American people, who are going to pay big time for Bush's irresponsible borrow-and-spend-anywhere-but-America policies.

UPDATE: George says "meh" to any infrastructure stimulus plan.

President Bush rebuffed appeals from the nation’s governors on Monday to increase spending on roads, bridges and other public works as a way to revive the economy....


329 days to go.

RPS Now... or the Buckeyes Win

We can't have that, can we?

No. Of course not. Don't be silly. But that is exactly what is going to happen if we don't get moving on this issue. You see, in Ohio, it's the Republicans who are pushing for a strong renewable portfolio standard. They also this get this tied up in utility regulation, and that might slow them down a bit, but still...

Husted and top GOP House leaders were planning to unveil new legislation today that rewrites -- and beefs up -- renewable energy provisions in the governor's comprehensive utility regulation bill, pending since last fall.

The new bill will be sponsored by State Rep. Jim McGregor, a Republican from Gahanna, who earlier introduced a bill requiring utilities to generate 22 percent of their power with wind, solar and other renewable technologies by 2020. They would have had to pay heavy fines if they did not meet a strict time table. The measure stalled, but parts of it are now expected to resurface.


Ohio has the same sort of manufacturing base that we do - and they are targeting the manufacturing and R & D jobs in alternative energy, just like we are. Mark Barbash, chief economic-development officer for the Ohio Department of Development, told the Columbus Dispatch that the state is courting "courting six foreign companies interested in opening manufacturing operations or research and development centers", and he cited a report by the American Solar Energy Society that the number of renewable energy jobs in Ohio could grow to 174,000 by the year 2030.

The big emphasis, he said, is on wind energy.

"We look particularly at wind as an incredible opportunity for 'green-collar' jobs," he said. "The state's business infrastructure is absolutely attuned to wind. Making wind turbines is kind of (like) bending metal."

That kind of work is still common in Ohio, despite manufacturing's struggles. Gov. Ted Strickland's administration wants to spur existing manufacturers to build components used to generate alternative energy.


The story goes on to give the manufacturing example of Minster Machining, a company similar to our Dowding Industries or K & M Machining, that is looking at making parts for wind turbines. Barbash also points out "state's chances of adding renewable-energy jobs will improve if Strickland's proposed advanced-energy portfolio standard becomes law", which is the same thing that every one else has said in every story that you read on RPS.

Ohio is right on our heels and poised to take those manufacturing jobs if they get out of the gate faster than we do. And this weekend, Governor Granholm gave a scary quote along those lines during a reporter roundtable at the NGA meeting. MIRS reports-

"Policy making is such a slog sometimes," said Granholm. "We've got to have people understand that every day we wait, job providers are going somewhere else. We just lost one, as a matter of fact. A turbine company took us off their list because we don't have a renewable portfolio standard."

At one point during her press roundtable, Granholm said that if a complete energy passage doesn't begin moving soon, she would encourage legislators to just move the renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) piece. The RPS she suggests, is the minimum admission fee to the renewable energy investment game.


Let's do that. Split this from PA 141. Now. Over the flip, see why... and yes, Bruce Patterson comes into play once again.

Tom Walsh at the Freep caught up with Patterson to talk about the bills before his Senate Energy and Technology Committee, and it sounds like Bruce is relishing his role as "The Decider". It also sounds like he is going to take his sweet time in making any decisions on this, and time is something that we really don't have the luxury of wasting. He talks of changes to the bills, which would slow down the process even further...

"I like to incentivize behavior rather than have mandates," he said, expressing concern that mandates could lead to higher electric rates. But he was already musing about a possible compromise. "Maybe," he said, "instead of requiring that a certain percentage of capacity be from renewables, we could have it be a percentage of actual average peak demand, which is a much lower number."

At present, Patterson said, there appears to be more consensus around a need for RPS than for the changes in PA 141 sought by the big utilities.

"It's very complex stuff, affecting consumers, auto companies, construction jobs, you name it," he said.


Yes it is complex, but the thought that and RPS would lead to higher electric rates is just another Republican talking point and an excuse for obstruction. As we have pointed out before, a study on RPS policy in the states that have already implemented certain renewable standards shows that any cost increase is modest at best, and they may even decrease costs in the long run.

With a few exceptions, the long-term rate impacts of state RPS policies are projected to be relatively modest. Only two of the 28 state RPS cost studies in our sample predict rate increases of greater than 5%, and 19 of the studies project rate increases of no greater than 1% (and six of these studies predict rate decreases). The median residential electric bill impact is +$0.38 per month. When combined with possible natural gas price reductions and corresponding gas bill savings, the overall cost impacts are even more modest, resulting in net consumer savings in at least one additional case.


Michigan Republicans need to stop using that as an excuse and get moving on this before other states eat our lunch for us. Or, perhaps it will be just like the Single Business Tax; they canned it as an election year gimmick, and that move cost us jobs and investment as they waited until almost a year had passed until it was replaced.

It would be a shame if Republicans continued to cost us jobs and money just so they could obstruct progress in an election year, wouldn't it?

The Buckeyes would probably be happy though.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Paupers on the Potomac



The nation's governors are in DC this weekend for the National Governors Association Winter Meeting. They all get together, talk about their plans, swap Stupid Legislature Tricks (Oh yeah? Well, guess what mine did! Really? Mine did that last year! You got nothin' on me!), show off their enthusiastic spouses who are out there doing their own thing, break into regional groups to elect leaders and set goals... and then they descend on the White House to plead their case with an administration that is bound and determined to turn a deaf ear to our domestic needs.



States are suddenly facing some huge revenue shortfalls as the economy slows down; California's deficit alone is $16 billion. Makes our $2 billion last year look like chump change.



By NGA’s last count, 18 states must cut $14 billion to keep this year’s budgets in balance, and 18 states already know they’re running $32 billion short in the upcoming fiscal year. If the current downturn follows the path of previous recessions, 35 to 40 states could face budget cuts in 2009, NGA Executive Director Raymond Scheppach said in a Jan. 28 column for Stateline.org. That's largely because of a lag before economic effects show up in states’ revenues. Deficits are a far greater problem for states because, unlike the federal government, they must make cuts or even raise taxes to balance their budgets.



Well, we've been down the "raise taxes" road already, and to any state that is going to have to do that – have fun! The alternative of cutting budgets can't come at a worse time, especially with growing health care needs and a crumbling infrastructure affecting just about every state out there.



You get the impression that Bush would probably have them arrested for panhandling if he could. He intends to make more cuts to domestic spending; for example, Medicaid is undergoing some drastic changes that will put the burden of growing costs on state governments.



Governors of both parties strongly objected on Saturday to a half-dozen new federal Medicaid regulations that they said would shift billions of dollars in costs to the states, forcing them to consider cutbacks in services.



The rules, scheduled to take effect in the next few months, would reduce federal payments for public hospitals, teaching hospitals and services for the disabled, among others.



Some quotes from Republican governors about this problem - Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont, and a brief explanation of the changes...



“Governors strongly oppose the changes,” said Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont, a Republican who is chairman of the association’s Health and Human Services Committee. “The timing could not be worse.”



One of the rules would ban the use of federal Medicaid money to help pay for the training of doctors, a use that has been allowed since the inception of Medicaid more than 40 years ago. Another would set new limits on Medicaid payments to hospitals and nursing homes operated by states, cities, counties and other units of government.



A third rule would limit Medicaid coverage of rehabilitation services for people with disabilities, including serious mental illnesses.



Govenor Schwarzenegger, who probably needs the help the most at this point, and a health official from Georgia...



Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican, said the rule changes “would effectively end the federal government’s participation in many crucial components of the Medicaid program.”



Dr. Rhonda M. Medows, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health, said: “We understand the need for financial safeguards, but these rules, taken together, would have a tremendous adverse impact. They would undermine the health care safety net for the entire state of Georgia, reducing federal Medicaid payments for hospitals, nursing homes and school clinics.”



Response from the feds? "You're ripping us off".



Dennis G. Smith, director of the federal Center for Medicaid and State Operations, said the rules were needed to “protect the fiscal integrity of the Medicaid program.” Since 2003, he said, federal officials have persuaded 30 states to end “questionable Medicaid financing arrangements.” The purpose of such arrangements is to maximize the use of federal money while holding down the use of state and local revenue.



Although the most blatant problems have been corrected, the administration says, many states still use federal Medicaid money for purposes unrelated to Medicaid.



Michigan gets cut in the president's latest budget. Not sure if these rule changes are taken into consideration when they figured these numbers.



The White House said Michigan will get $5.5 billion in Medicaid funding in 2008, and an increase to $5.75 billion in 2009. But Dan Beatte, the director of Gov. Jennifer Granholm's Washington office, says the state actually expects $6.1 billion in the current year, meaning the president's proposal would be a net cut of $350 million.



"This budget extends our challenges and does nothing to help us advance our economic recovery goals," Beattie said, noting that 1.6 million people in Michigan, or 1 in 7 residents depend on Medicaid.



Governors will call on Congress to intervene on this issue (they will have to, obviously), and the battle will take place there.



When it comes to infrastructure, it looks like the governors will concentrate on the incoming president, putting pressure on the party platforms to make sure this is including in future considerations. Thirteen governors, including Governor Granholm, joined together to form a bipartisan coalition called "Building America's Future" that will keep this issue on the national stage.



The Building America's Future coalition will be comprised of state- and locally elected officials from around the nation and will become a repository of best practices on infrastructure funding issues. In the short-term, the coalition will work with the presidential candidates and the platform committees of the national political parties to ensure that the next president understands the enormity of the infrastructure crisis and is committed to increasing federal funding.



Gov. Ed Rendell, Schwarzenegger and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg formed this group a month ago. How big is this problem? How does a trillion dollars over the next five years sound?



Ouch. And we can't even blame George for all of that.



As a share of non-defense federal expenditures, federal infrastructure spending has steadily declined since 1966. For the past 20 years, federal spending on infrastructure has averaged just 3.5 percent to 4 percent of total non-defense expenditures. Between 1956 and 1966, infrastructure spending as a share of total non defense federal expenditures was approximately 10 percent.



Today, the American Society of Civil Engineers, or ASCE, estimates the national infrastructure needs at more than $1 trillion dollars over the next five years.



Good luck to the governors on their quest to get the feds to pay attention - best guess is they can write it off for this year, gather together in their regional groups and coalitions and get those list of demands ready for a more receptive White House next year... and whoever gets the Big Chair is looking at some mighty big bills. He or she is going to need the most luck of all - along with the American people, who are going to pay big time for Bush's irresponsible borrow-and-spend-anywhere-but-America policies.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

OhpleaseOhpleaseOhplease...



Let this kid come to West Michigan this year.



This is Rick Porcello's first spring training here, but most certainly not his last. The Tigers selected him in the first round of last year's amateur draft and paid him handsomely because they see his golden right arm as a prized piece in their future.



Teammates have acknowledged his considerable talent. Observers have projected when his arm might be ready for the majors. Fans have dreamt about the day he takes his place beside Justin Verlander in a rotation for the ages.



The possibilities are whizzing by, at a rate that would make many grownups flinch.



While college freshmen his age ponder the big questions in life -- Cancun or Key West? -- Porcello, 19, received a major-league contract worth at least $7 million last August, but it wasn't until his first big-league camp began that he could prove he truly belonged.



We have a second-year pitching coach, so Kid Wonder might end up in Lakeland where their pitching coach is as old as dirt (seriously, been in ball 43 seasons according to their website).



Sure hope he ends up here though. Those Florida summers are brutal on the youngsters. Right?

Granholm on Face the Nation





Talk about Hillary. Talk about Michigan's primary. And then off to dinner with President Bush.



All in all, I'm kinda glad I get to watch my Star Wars DVD again tonight. That all sounds like way too much work.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

We interrupt this blog...

... to bring you this important public service announcement from Senator Mark Schauer.



Some help is on the way.

Lawmakers are on the verge of approving refinancing options for Michigan homeowners facing risk of foreclosure, Gov. Jennifer Granholm told the Kalamazoo Gazette on Wednesday.

"There's an urgency to do something for those homeowners to save their homes," said Granholm, who met with Gazette editors and reporters.

One program through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority would allow homeowners to refinance with a 30-year, fixed-rate loan at below market rates. It would be aimed at homeowners with adjustable-rate mortgages whose payments are increasing to an unaffordable level.

The other program, called the Rescue Refinance Program, would provide refinancing for homeowners who are delinquent on their mortgages and face possible foreclosures.

The programs, part of a Save the Dream initiative, are aimed at families with an income under $72,250 who have homes with a purchase price less than $216,750.


MSHDA does have tips and a hotline number you can call now for help - click the pic to find out more. Don't wait for the legiscritters.



And for all you "one state recession" wonders out there - we aren't alone. We aren't even number one. This is a national problem with huge implications for the economy everywhere, as you probably know. The latest numbers-

RealtyTrac Inc., a online tracking firm, said today the country had 2.2 million foreclosure-related filings last year, up 75 percent from the year before. More than 1 percent of all U.S. households were in some form of foreclosure, according to the report which counts default notices, auction-sale notices, and bank repossessions.

Michigan had 1.9 percent of households entering some form of foreclosure last year, or 136,205 filings involving 87,210 properties, RealtyTrac said. Its filings were up 68 percent from the year before.

...

The state trailed Nevada, with 3.4 percent of houses in a foreclosure activity, and Florida, at 2 percent.

Ohio trailed California and Florida in total filings, with 153,196 on 89,979 properties, RealtyTrac said. The filings for the Buckeye State were up 88 percent from 2006. In Ohio, 1.8 percent of the state's households were in some stage of foreclosure, or sixth highest in the nation.


We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog, already in progress.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Business As Usual

More evidence that the Republicans in the Legislature have no intention of being sane and rational human beings anytime soon.

Yesterday in the House- the Democrats had to resort to some procedural moves to drop irrelevant amendments concerning the MBT surcharge and the "partial birth" abortion act (a term that has no relevance in medical society whatsoever) so they could actually get some real work done on the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association bills, which is legislation designed to help protect citizens from the rising cost of insurance. They condensed these bills down, which allowed the amendments (which had nothing to do with insurance rates, keep in mind) to be dropped, which of course started yet another foam-at-the-mouth hissy fit from the Republicans, complete with threats of obstruction from here on out.

In other words, if the House Republicans don't get to blow up the budget and try to pass redundant and divisive election year legislation that they can then turn around and beat the Democrats on the head with, they are simply going to make life miserable for everyone involved. This is what Rep. Brian "My Way or the Highway" Palmer had say after the follies- from MIRS-

"I think this may pretty much kill this idea of bipartisanship," Palmer said. "Unfortunately, now I think you'll be seeing us putting up amendments on everything. What we've been trying to do all along is get a yes or no on whether the Speaker will allow a vote on the partial-birth abortion ban, the way he promised he would. If he'll bring it up, we'll deal with it one way. If he won't, we'll go another route. We can deal with it either way. But he won't even let us know if it's yes or no."

Palmer said the Right to Life of Michigan is ramping up its pressure on the House to take a vote on the ban.


The quote in Gongwer was even more inflammatory-

In a press release issued after the vote, Mr. Palmer said, "Politics prevailed today over what is best for the unborn. Infant children will continue to be sacrificed every day the Democrats allow this procedure to continue."


As if you can run right down to the 7-11 and find the Democrats have set up a booth to get this done or something. Utterly ridiculous statement to make.

But Greg Bird, spokesperson for House Democrats, said, "Today was about holding the insurance industry accountable and preventing dramatic rate increases on families, not about playing political games."


Apparently political games are all the Republicans have to offer us this year. As we have pointed out before, "bipartisanship" means that you will let them have their way or they will obstruct anything and everything that comes before them, and for good measure will verbally light themselves on fire to please the DeVos wing of the MRP.

So much for all the rhetoric about getting along and getting things done. Question now - will the traditional media take notice that this is going on and call it out for what it is? Or do things have to get really bad again before anyone notices and then blames the entire Legislature for what essentially is bad faith behavior on the part of the Republicans?

We have seen this movie before.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Alan Sanborn's Self-Inflicted Repetitive Stress Injury

Looks like we might have a problem with Senator Sanborn beating the solo drum of conservative self-satisfying talking points and insisting on twisting the crank of legislation that does nothing to stroke the Michigan economy into launching the rocket of our potential. Indeed, Alan seems to want to polish the knob of partisan differences in the Senate by playing in his own one-man show.

Yesterday, the Senate Republicans thought they were giving business a helping hand by preemptively shooting the moon at ergonomic standards for Michigan businesses, when in fact there was no reason to pull the wire on that yet.

Buzz Thomas goes, "What the hell, dude."

Mr. President, I agree that we must promote legislation that will bolster our state’s economy and grow business in Michigan. That’s why I rise in opposition to Senate Bill No. 843. We have heard consistently that businesses are concerned that new ergonomic standards will increase their costs, and this is a very legitimate issue for this Legislature to consider. Yet if you look at the composition of the standards commission that is considering new rules, they include representatives from the business community as well as those from organized labor, the general public, and academia. It is doubtful those in the business community will issue regulations that are ultimately harmful to the community that they serve and their own interests. Rather, it is in their best interest to encourage economics rules which will reduce injuries, increase productivity, and improve quality as a number of our major manufacturers across the state of Michigan have already done.

This legislation would put the state at odds with the federal OSHA requirements that MIOSHA standards be as effective as the federal standards and that MIOSHA promulgate rules that are substantially similar to OSHA’s within six months of a federal standards effective date. Should OSHA ultimately implement a workplace ergonomics rule in the future, this bill would prevent the state from meeting its obligations to match that new federal standard.

Quite simply, this is a bill in search of a problem. Why? Because there are no rules to completely reject at this point. There are only recommendations of a workgroup. There are no formal rules. We, in fact, have an administrative rules process in place. Members of this Legislature, the Majority Leader, and the Senator from Troy all worked on this. I served in the Administrative Rules Committee with them in 2003, where we extended the legislative opportunity to reject to any rules that were promulgated by the boards appointed by the executive branch.

So this is, in fact, an inappropriate intrusion into the administrative rules process that members of this Senate, whether they be in the House and in the Senate now, fought very vigorously to protect. I, as someone who has been a member of the Administrative Rules Committee process for a number of years, want to stand up and support that tradition that exists within the legislative body. If you, too, support that, I believe you should vote “no” as well. Again, this is a bill in search of problem and will not improve the business climate and will likely meet the same fate that it did in the last legislative session should it make it to the Governor’s desk, and that is a ready veto.


Sanborn replied with the usual Republican waxing of the goal posts - unions, trial lawyers, taxes, the governor, the government - all those favorite Republican bogeymen that supposedly are the barriers to our success. Watch Alan dance around the maypole yet one more time.

High taxes, excessive regulation, contentious collective bargaining process, and many, many more things—these all make Michigan less competitive, less attractive. California passed this. Our rules would be even more egregious because with just one complaint, you could have MIOSHA in there going through making things more difficult for you. This is something being driven by the Granholm administration. Union bosses would like to see it go through. The trial attorneys would love to use this for a way to start more and more lawsuits.

I mean, safe working places are important to us all, but by following the federal standards, the federal guidelines which you could voluntarily submit to, you could address the problem within the workplace. I urge you to support the bills. You say that perhaps there is not a draft in place; they’re up to now, on the DLEG website, draft No. 15. It proves the age-old adage: If you want to see something get screwed up, let government get involved in it.

And yes, Senator Thomas, I would rather fight than switch.


Sanborn really needs to get a grip on himself.

Repetitive stress injury costs business up to $20 billion dollars a year nationwide. (and that's an old figure) Helping business reduce the costs that come with lost productivity due to preventable injury, not to mention higher insurance rates and workman's compensation claims, is a goal that the Legislature should work on. These solo flights that might relieve Republican tension momentarily, but only build up to an unsatisfying conclusion for the rest of us, are wasting our time. Again.

In other words Senator Sanborn, stop pulling our chain and do something useful with yourself before we end up paying for your mental repetitive stress injury that will occur if you keep popping your top at every little thing that seeks to improve this state for business and workers alike. Wanker.
Dirt



Ever see it? FX original with Courtney Cox? It's the story of a Hollywood tabloid magazine and all the sleazy denizens that surround the glitz and glamour of LA. Like all the FX originals, great writing and great character development, gets you past the boundary-pushing sex, drugs, language that would be gratuitous if not done with a gritty sense of reality. Rated "Mature" for a reason. Good stuff.



Anyway, the McCain affair story is blasting all over the television this morning, and it reminded me of the show "Dirt". Sweetheart deals with lobbyists should be a concern. The fact that it takes a whispered extra-marital affair to get it noticed tells a lot of the mindset of the electorate.




Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.



Hillary's tears. (spare me.) Obama's "plagiarism". (please.) Now this. Media feeding frenzy, catch Inside Edition tonight for all the lurid details. Should McCain's hypocrisy of claiming that he is a maverick who will fight special interests while he romances the lobbyists be an indication that the man has no integrity? Yes. But it's sad that it takes sex to bring this sort of thing to light, when lobbyists rule the political scene on a daily basis, dictating policy that will touch the lives of millions, and the national media doesn't blink.



Happy to see McCain taken down a peg, don't get me wrong, because this does speak to his character. But not so happy that it takes something like this to get his character noticed in a national light, when the guy has been a dickhead all along.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Cheney to stump for Walberg

The Prince of Darkness is coming to Marshall to scare some cash out of the locals. With friends like this...

Ed Sarpolus, vice president of the Lansing-based polling firm EPIC/MRA, said Cheney is stumping for Walberg as part of a concerted Republican effort to protect two Republican congressman: Walberg in the 7th District and Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Bloomfield Township, in Michigan's 9th Congressional District.

"It sounds like they're beginning to realize that Tim's going to need some money," he said. "This is one of the seats they are watching. They can't afford to lose too many seats."

Sarpolus said Cheney "likes to hang around people who are like him," and in the Republican-heavy 7th District, Cheney's visit to Walberg's fundraiser could be a much-needed boost for the congressman's campaign.

"The point is that everybody knows what they think of Dick," he said. "No matter what they think of the vice president, they're willing to pay to see him."


I think Ed just likened Dick to the freak show at the circus. He may frighten and shock you, but people are willing to pull out some bucks just to catch a glimpse.

This is a fine and fitting endorsement for Tim Walberg, don't you think? Birds of a feather and all.

McManus wants to put the whammy on ballot initiatives

Only the insanely wealthy would be able to run citizen initiatives if this were to pass - say hello to 2008 Senate Joint Resolution K.

Introduced by Sen. Michelle McManus on February 12, 2008, to place before voters in the next general election a Constitutional amendment to require petitions for citizen initiatives to create a law, or a referendum disapproving a just-passed law, to be signed by registered voters who are residents in at least three-fourths of 110 state House districts, and who, in each of those House districts, equal at least 7 percent of the number who voted in that district in the last gubernatorial election. Under current law there is no requirement to collect signatures in a certain number of districts (the aggregate total number just has to be submitted from anywhere in the state). Also, under current law the total signature requirement for referendums is 5 percent. See also Senate Bills 1086 and 1087.


I've often thought it might be a bit too easy to amend our Constitution by ballot initiative (mostly out of disgust for the last two Prop 2s), but this seems a bit much.

And seeing how it was introduced by McManus... well, that should go without saying.
Waterboys - The Whole of the Moon






In honor of tonight's eclipse - which it looks like I might get to see as they are predicting "partially" clear skies. All depends on the direction of the wind.



I might, repeat * might *, try to get pictures - BUT - it depends on how cold it is, how my arm feels, and whether I can see it easily from the house because I don't particularly want to drive anywhere.



UPDATE 10:34 PM: No pictures (tree branch issues), but it is clear here- so I did get to see. Not as bright as the one in 2004, kind of a dull grayish orange, but still a cool thing to watch. Glad I stayed up.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Eclipse



Lunar Eclipse 2004




Still one of my favorite pictures. Looks like we will be cloudy (shocked!) tomorrow so no pictures this time. Besides, it's too damn cold.




In Michigan, the eclipse begins at 8:43 p.m. and becomes total at 10:01 p.m. Totality ends at 10:51 p.m., becoming partial again and ending entirely at 12:09 a.m. Thursday.



''There are roughly one-and-a-half total lunar eclipses a year,'' said Kevin T. Dehne, associate professor of physics at Delta College, where he also teaches astronomy. ''Sometimes there are two a year, sometimes there will be one every three years.''



The most recent total lunar eclipse visible from mid-Michigan occurred Aug. 28, 2007. The sky was cloudy and observing conditions poor. The next will take place Friday, Dec. 21, 2010.



2010. Can't imagine where I'll be then, maybe someplace warm with better lenses. ;-)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Assassing






I am the assassin, with tongue forged from eloquence

I am the assassin, providing your nemesis



On the sacrificial altar to success, my friend

Unleash a stranger from a kiss, my friend

No incantations of remorse, my friend

Unsheathe the blade within the voice, my friend

My friend, my friend, my friend




Meet Fish. Early 80's, still in the makeup, sooo dated now. Poet with the broken heart. Drunk. Learned how to cut with words. Spoke to me quite a bit when I was younger, still does, for obvious reasons. Appeals to that dark side that I haven't quite conquered. Acquired taste. "A poor man's Genesis".



From Wiki-




This song concerns character assassination, the word of the title having been an invented verb by singer/songwriter Fish, mixing the words "Assassin" (a killer) and "Sassing" (which means a one who talks disrespectfully to another). The lyrics are full of speech metaphors alluding to verbal fighting, for example, "Unsheathe the blade within the voice."



No doubt.



Listen as the syllables of slaughter cat with calm precision

Patterned frosty phrases rape your ears and sow the ice incision

Adjectives of annihilation

Bury the point beyond redemption

Venomous verbs of ruthless candour

Plagiarise assassins fervour

Apocalyptic alphabet casting spell

The creed of tempered diction




Most of Marillion's lyrics were so damn English I had to go look up their meaning (wide boys and tower blocks needed some explanation), but Fish was obviously concerned with class warfare in Thatcher's time, and girls that broke his heart. Mix all that with high octane booze and things grow pretty dark.



I remember it well. I don't know if his lyrics about his homeland have stood the test of time, but the rest of it sure has.



And what do you call assassins who accuse assassins anyway, my friend?



Indeed.

Sucks to be a Michigan Republican

Yes, we're all bummed out about the Michigan Democrats and the primary/caucus situation. It has sucked all the oxygen out of the room for months now as we argue back and forth with no solution to the situation in sight. When you put that together with the endless stories about Kwame Kilpatrick, nothing is very much fun right now as we seem to just keep spinning our wheels on the same patch of ice.

Well, time to sit up, put that smile back on your face, and remember why we still have it made in spite of all of those problems - we aren't Michigan Republicans.

Whew. Count those blessings. We got that going for us.

The Michigan Republican Party kicked off its convention here this weekend with a prayer to "deliver us from liberalism and secular humanism" and for "the election of conservative Republicans."

It's unclear whether the Almighty will be offering any aid come November, but the GOP will need some sort of help if it's to endure what is shaping up as a difficult 2008 election season.

"We're definitely on the defensive," said Michael Brown, an assistant prosecutor from Monroe and one of the 3,000 or so local activists milling around the convention floor at the Lansing Center. From those grass-roots Republicans to the top of the state party leadership, there were acknowledgements that a number of factors point to a challenging year.


From favored son Mitt dropping out, to the laughable candidacy of Jack Hoogendyk, to having to defend the undefendable records of Walberg and Knollenberg and Cliff Taylor, to the begrudging support for John McCain, who they never liked anyway, it must be so hard to be in Republican shoes this year. The heart aches as you watch them cling to the very denial that got them to where they are now, wondering why the magic phrases don't work anymore.

But, they keep trying anyway, because obviously, it's the media's fault!

There were those who criticized the media -- such as Hoogendyk, now the only declared challenger to Levin after former state lawmaker Andrew Raczkowski bowed out last week.

"The political pundits and the talking heads, they're telling us that the Republicans can't win in the fall," he said, singling out "the big shots down at the TV stations and the networks."


That's why our policies have failed; the media didn't report that they are a success! Must be it! People really want extreme right-wing ideology!

Others refuse to believe that voters will choose Democrats over the tax cuts, conservative social stances and hawkish foreign policy Republicans will offer.

"I'm not ready to give up any ground to the Democrats," said Walberg, who faces a tough challenge from state Sen. Mark Schauer. "We have a philosophy that voters will prefer. If we communicate that well, we will do well."


Endless war! Tax cuts for the rich! The government on your telephone, in your doctor's office, in your bedroom, deciding how you should live your life at every turn! After all these years of George Bush and the "conservative" agenda, it's obvious that people want more of the same, right?

Well, then why so depressed, Michigan Republicans?

Turns out one person has ruined everything for them. Find out who over the flip... but you probably can guess already, can't you?

There is one who stood in the way of all their goals, one who thwarted all of their plans, one so powerful that she has charmed media personalities like Tim Skubick and Dawson Bell and Nolan Finley into mindlessly promoting the liberal agenda, one who has been so popular that those far-left presidential candidates are now hoisting the liberal flag as high as they possibly can, and the voters, the voters!, well, they are so gullible that they have fallen under this spell, brainwashed once again!

Damn, she's good. And it started long ago...

Now as then, the media ignores the philosophy of the Democrat candidates and focuses instead on their good looks, their great speaking styles, and their ability to excite a room full of liberals.

Now as then, the mainstream media keeps telling voters how important it would be to elect a President who breaks the gender or racial barrier instead of focusing on the positions of the candidates on the issues vital to America’s economic and national security.

It is almost a carbon copy of Michigan in 2002.


2002. Because we don't want to mention 2006. 2002 was the year it all came apart for the Republicans because the voters were too stupid to realize they were being tricked.

Oh please, stick with that theme. Please. People love being told they are idiots.

In 2002, Michigan voters chose style over substance. They chose to make a statement about gender instead of voting the most qualified person into the Governor’s office.

The media and the voters decided it would be fun to have a glamorous Governor who could give a good speech, instead of a hard working Governor who would provide the leadership Michigan needed to be strong.


Damn you Tim! And all you reporters out there! And you fun lovin' silly voters! It's all your fault! You are to blame!

Besides blaming you, we have to pull off the mind-numbing mental gymnastics of total hypocrisy by blaming the one we accuse of blaming! Look at what you made us do!

It should surprise no one that all of this started when Michigan elected Jennifer Granholm Governor.

Instead of leadership and new ideas we’ve got a Governor who spends all her time blaming someone else for Michigan’s problems. It’s Bush’s fault. It’s Engler’s fault. It’s Bishop’s fault, it’s Herbert Hoover’s fault. Fellow Republicans, the reality is of course simple. It’s Jennifer Granholm’s fault.


Wait, I thought it was the media's fault. Or the voters. And do we really have to drag Herbert Hoover into this once again?

So, pity the poor Michigan Republicans. Jennifer Granholm has absolutely destroyed them. The glowing media reports and high approval ratings are testimony to this fact. There is obviously no stopping her now.

Sucks to be a Follower of the Saul. If all you had to hold onto were delusional rants, failed ideology, and bitter denial from your party's leaders, you'd be depressed too.

Check out the Freep

Seriously, go take a look. Total site redesign, more news features, and a new twist - you can have your own blog.

You can create a blog, add photo galleries and, of course, join the discussion by commenting on articles or forums. Check out Free Press Technology Writer Mike Wendland’s video instructions to walk you through the blogging process. We want to have more of YOUR news, and we’ll want to highlight it for others to see. Blogging is open to anyone, from the individual to the organization that has something to say.


Cause nothing says love like free content.

Are Dawson's days numbered?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

ch-ch-ch-changes



Slowly shaping up the blog. Pulling up and out of this depression, or trying to anyway, wondering if this has a lot to do with it...




Sunshine…well with the high clouds from our Sunday rainstorm pushing in from the southwest. On the weekend to boot! We deserve it. The first 15 days of February brought us only 10% of possible sunshine. Eleven of those days had not one single minute of sun and a 12th day had exactly one minute. Since Nov. 4 we’ve had 15% of possible sunshine, so this winter has been nearly twice as cloudy as a usual, gray Michigan winter! I wonder if anyone’s had “cabin fever” or Vitamin D deficiency?



Uh, yeah, Bill, and we are thinking about starting the "sacrifice a TV8 meteorologist to the weather gods" contest to see if we can break the cloudy pattern.



Put the BFM feed up instead of cross-posting my stuff, so if you wonder what ramblings I've written in the wide world of wacky Michigan politics, check that. Same with the JMG.



The blogroll I will fill in slowly- not going to go crazy with that because a) there are too many now, and b) I haven't been reading many blogs lately, just been sticking with the news. Better on my head, until primary season passes anyway.



Comments are turned off. When I went to this template, spam started appearing again. How they get past the Google sign-in issue, I don't know or care, I just don't feel like dealing with it. This is just a refuge for me at this point, not really meant to generate any sort of feedback. Just a goof off. So, screw it. I don't need the hassle.

Pure Michigan - "Winter Vignette"

A recent story in the Detroit News took a look at tourism in Michigan and the Pure Michigan ad campaign; who they would target, where the budget stands this year, the increased funding for next year, so forth and so on. Something that I had always wondered about-

Mickey MacWilliams, executive director of the Michigan Snow Sports Industries Association, agrees it has been an effective campaign, but laments that it hasn't included advertising focused on winter activities.

"Our feeling is the campaign is extremely compelling," she said. "However there have not been any winter ads yet. We're feeling kind of left out."


Ask and ye shall receive. (Hat tip to Rosemary's diary that made me think to go check!)



No Tim Allen, but the familiar piano/violin track with some great shots of winter fun mixed with Michigan winter facts: ranked "America's best" snowmobile destination, 3000 miles of cross-country ski trails, other things you may not know. Beautiful cinematography as usual.

This year, the budget is down a bit from last, and it appears they are going to target out-of state markets....

Travel Michigan will use this year's $10 million, down from $13.2 million last year, to broadcast all of last year's ads, as well as four new radio spots.

Although the $3.2 million budget reduction isn't debilitating, it has forced some cutbacks, Zimmerman said. Travel Michigan will not air any TV ads in Michigan this summer, and no in-state ads at all, radio or TV, in the fall, Zimmerman said. The result: 90 percent of the 2008 budget will be dedicated to out-of-state promotions, compared with 80 percent last year.


... but next year we are looking to increase it from $10 million to $60 million. Don't tell Tim, he will raise his fee. Apparently he is important to this endeavor. I mentioned him way back in July, others mention him in e-mails to Michigan.org.

The Pure Michigan campaign also includes an award-winning Web site, www.michigan.org, which officials say provides evidence that Pure Michigan is working. Hundreds of tourists have logged onto the site for information and to post e-mails saying the ad campaign convinced them to come for a visit.

"When Tim Allen's voice comes through my speakers , it takes everything I have to not go home and pack up immediately," Chris Anderson of Palatine, Ill., wrote in an e-mail last year. "My family is going on vacation in two weeks and we now plan to make a side trip to Michigan. It really is the best ad campaign I have heard.... Tim Allen was a fabulous choice!"


Number one tourism site in the country, according to Hitwise. Just short of 35,000 hits a day. Travel Industry Association of America named it the best state tourism campaign.

We have a win-nah here. Too bad we don't have more money to spend on it this year; the return is phenomenal.

Advocates of higher spending on tourism promotion cite data showing a large return on investment that would incur in the same year.

A 2006 study, conducted by Toronto-based Longwoods International and commissioned by the Motel, Hotel and Resort Association, concluded that spending $30 million annually on a broader promotional campaign could generate $1.24 billion a year in additional economic impact and more than pay for itself through $87.3 million in incremental state tax revenue.

The industry generates an estimated annual economic impact of $18.8 billion, employs more than 200,000 people and produces $1.1 billion in state tax revenue.


So until 2009- if they produce more ads and put them on the web, we will slap them up here. And watch the cable channels - if they buy some national spots on CNN and such, they will get some Michigan exposure.

Beats seeing Arnold and Maria all the time.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

For the Huckster






Love to see musicians call out Republicans who would cop their songs for the campaign trail.




The chief songwriter and founder of the band Boston has more than a feeling that he's being ripped off by Mike Huckabee. In a letter to the Republican presidential hopeful, Tom Scholz complains that Huckabee is using his 1970s smash hit song "More Than a Feeling" without his permission.



A former member of the band, Barry Goudreau, has appeared with Huckabee at campaign events, and they have played the song with Huckabee's band, Capitol Offense.



While I think it's way cool that Huckabee plays the bass (cuz us bass players need to stick together), perhaps those on the right need to check (and pay royalties) before they just grab those anthems.




In his letter, Scholz referred to Huckabee as the "straight talk candidate," but that label more often is applied to Sen. John McCain, who has had his own troubles when it comes to his musical playlist. Last week, McCain's campaign agreed to stop playing John Mellencamp's songs "Our Country" and "Pink Houses" at his rallies after the liberal rocker complained.



Does anyone else but me think "Our Country" was phoned in by Mellencamp? Song has absolutely no life to it, which, actually, made it perfect for McCain.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Battle for the Chair



So, I'm sitting in my little office right? Desk, computer, old beat-up swivel chair that is big enough to accommodate my legs if I want to cross them yoga-style on my lap, which I do often.



And I have this cat, who's real name is "Grace", but picked up the moniker of "Baby" because she was always the baby of the family (and she acts like it too), and she just HAS to either sit on my lap or be in this chair if I'm in the office. Well, she gets heavy after awhile and I put her down on the floor. A few minutes pass, she jumps back up. And gets heavy again after awhile so I put her down. Or, if I get up to get something to drink or whatever, she jumps up in the chair and s-p-r-e-a-d-s out so I can't sit down. So, I pick her up and put her in my lap, until she gets heavy again and I put her down on the floor.



Lather, rinse, repeat. This little charade goes on for months.



Finally, frustrated at having to put her down on the floor so often because it frickin' hurts my arm to lift her weight, I drag another chair into the office, put a blanket on it, put the cat on the blanket, and tell her, "this is your chair". And she's thrilled right? Purr, purr, purr, loves her chair and blanket. First few days were great, we both have our chairs, all is right in the world.



Enter cat number 2. You know where this is going, don't you. Cat number 2 is "Pumpkin" (that's Ms. Pumpkin to you), but I call her "Orange Kitty", just because I want to. Well, Orange Kitty has decided that SHE likes the chair with the blanket, and hasn't left it for two days now.



Of course, Baby is back on my lap for the moment, pretty soon I will put her down on the floor. And she will stare at Pumpkin and her chair, and then look at me like I am guilty of some sort of conspiracy, right before she jumps back up in my lap.



Guess I need a bigger office that can accommodate another chair.



And people wonder why I never wanted kids.

Senate Republicans try to blow up budget. Again.

"You really get the feeling that this is a time, as much as possible, for us to come together and work with the governor" -Nancy Cassis, Detroit Free Press story on the budget, Feb. 8

Well, that lasted * looks at watch * all of one week. Yesterday, the Senate Republicans voted on cuts to the MBT that have the potential of costing the state $850 million dollars.

Are ya feelin' the bipartisan love yet?

Changes to the Michigan Business Tax that could cost the state anywhere from $550 million to $850 million this fiscal year passed the Senate on straight party line votes on Thursday. Supporters said the four bills - SB 1038, SB 1053, SB 1054 and SB 1058 - would correct some issues under the tax that would cost businesses, but opponents said the bills were Valentine's Day gifts to business lobbyists that would force changes in the budget.

All four bills passed on 21-17 votes, Republicans voting in favor of the bills, Democrats voting against.


No way these cuts get through the House or the governor, but it sure looks good on paper to those that fund the Michigan Republican Party coffers.

Sen. Mike Prusi (D-Ishpeming) said the bills represent gifts to business lobbyists. "All the sweethearts out in the lobby got their chocolate, diamonds, furs and their exemption and exclusions," he said.

If the bills were to pass, then Ms. Granholm would have to redo the budget just announced, Mr. Prusi said.

But Sen. Nancy Cassis (R-Novi), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said since the MBT was passed last summer businesses have come to them with concerns about various issues the bills address.


So much for working with the governor. Business interests come first for the Senate Republicans, even though it's a colossal waste of time for the rest of us. Did they vote on what they were going to cut to pay for this?

Didn't think so.

State police to help out in Pontiac

Interesting case here. Local community decides they don't want to pay taxes to fund public services. Cops get laid off due to budget cuts. County and state have to step in to fill the gap in public safety. Essentially, other taxpayers are footing the bill for Pontiac's vote and while seeing decreased service themselves.

What's to stop every city, township, etc., from doing this? Will the state be expected to bail out everyone who makes this choice?

State troopers will soon deploy to Pontiac, helping patrol the city's streets and filling the manpower gaps of the critically hobbled police force.

Michigan State Police announced Thursday that, by next week, 10 troopers will assist the city with criminal investigations and road patrols in high-crime areas.

"We answer the call when there's a need from our neighbors in law enforcement," said State Police Capt. Robert Clark at a press conference Thursday at the Pontiac Police Station on Pike Street.

The announcement comes weeks after city officials ordered another round of layoffs -- 31 total, mostly from the police -- to help reduce a $6.5 million deficit. The police force, which had 170 officers a few years ago, will shrivel to 66 by next week, when another two dozen laid-off officers leave.


You want the city covered, of course, but this is coming at the expense of others. Sure, it won't cost the city anything...

Police Chief Val Gross emphasized that both the state and county's assistance would be temporary and won't cost the city any additional money because tax dollars already pay for their service.

The layoffs were Phillips' response to voters' Jan. 15 rejection of a tax increases for police and recreation, and their refusal to reduce the ranks of the Fire Department, moves that would have saved the city about $5 million.

Most of the troopers providing assistance will be pulled from daily duties of patrolling state highways and freeways around southeastern Michigan. Clark said that because they were pulled from various posts, their absence shouldn't significantly impact highway patrols.


It's not significant until it's you being carjacked, or in an accident, or whatever may befall you, while that one cop is off patrolling Pontiac.

Something to keep an eye on. Apparently this has been done before in Flint and Saginaw, and they say it's temporary (not sure what they plan to do next, except maybe take another vote), but there is precedent being set here that can have some severe consequences if this sort of thing becomes commonplace.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day



No sweeter words can be whispered in one's ear on this day-



"Pitchers and catchers report!"



All will be well again.



Off topic- cost of a broken arm (no surgery), $2100 and rising. My advice? Don't get one.

Our future rests on Bruce Patterson

Did that get your attention? Hope so. This is serious.

First, let's start with the governor running around and freaking out respected business reporters. Look what she did to Tom Walsh at the Freep-

She's always calm, carefully spoken, fastidious about avoiding showy perks and trappings of power.

That's why I was startled, during an interview in her office this week, to hear Granholm say, "I feel very Machiavellian about this," referring to her desire to bring alternative energy jobs to Michigan. According to definitions of Machiavellianism I consulted, this suggests that she might deceive or manipulate others, or use any means necessary to get those jobs.


Uh oh. Don't think we want to see that. But it might be necessary to get the Senate to move on a very important piece of the puzzle- the most important piece of the puzzle- when it comes to creating alternative energy jobs and bringing investment to Michigan.

Yes, we are back to the RPS standard, once again. Every day we that we wait to implement this, we fall further behind.

Michigan is a laggard because other states have beaten us to the punch with policy actions that make them look attractive and welcoming to inventors, entrepreneurs and giant companies that have spied alt-energy as a growth opportunity.


Enter Bruce Patterson. Recently, some movers and shakers in this industry testified before the Senate Energy and Technology Committee, and once again the need for a RPS played a prominent role. Will the Senate Republicans listen this time?

In testimony last week before state Sen. Bruce Patterson's energy policy committee, Seth Dunn, general manager of strategic marketing for Atlanta-based GE Energy, said more than $9 billion was invested last year in wind-energy facilities in the United States. Of that total, 96% went to states with renewable standards.

"We are now at a point in the industry where the presence of RPS is very important to our investment decision," Dunn said. Fred Keller, CEO of Cascade Engineering in Grand Rapids, agreed.

"Michigan has a onetime opportunity to win a leadership role in competition among many states in the renewable energy industry that is growing at over 30% a year. But it takes enlightened policy in addition to our many other assets to do so," Keller said at Patterson's hearing.


This meeting, coupled with a trip around the state to see various forms of alternative energy already in action, seems to have softened up Patterson a bit. Check Gongwer over the flip...

An agreement between the chambers on how to address renewable energy standards may be coming closer. Sen. Bruce Patterson (R-Canton) has been averse to mandating that utilities use certain percentages of renewable power, but after hearing from manufacturers of the generating equipment this week, he said he is closer to being convinced of the need for mandates.

But he said he is not quite convinced. And his nod will likely be needed for an energy package to make it to the governor's desk.

"I'm happy to do stretch goals. I'm even inclined to do an RPS," Mr. Patterson said. But he said he would still prefer a plan such as proposed by Sen. Patricia Birkholz (R-Saugatuck Twp.) (SB 1000 ) that would require the state to purchase set proportions of its power from renewable sources, with the goal of creating some initial demand and encouraging other customers to follow suit.


We do that, and more time is wasted. This is not something that we should mess around with and try to "build demand"; we need to do this right now or we will lose out as investors go to other states that are already in the game. The evidence that this will create jobs is standard conventional wisdom. The testimony has been made. What stops the Senate Republicans?

Granholm is trying to get the Legislature to put RPS on a fast track for approval and expects action by the Michigan House on a bill this month. But she's worried that things could bog down in the Senate, where the Republican majority has expressed concerns about whether electricity costs will rise. Wind power, Granholm insisted, will be as cheap or cheaper than future power from new coal-fired plants.


It's not easy to predict the cost associated with this- but experts have done a study on the states that have set an RPS. If you want a crash course on the macroeconomics of RPS standards, check it out. So many factors go into cost projections that you could spend weeks parsing the results- but here is the conclusion that they came up with.

Cost increases will be modest at best, and some state studies have suggested that this will reduce cost-

With a few exceptions, the long-term rate impacts of state RPS policies are projected to be relatively modest. Only two of the 28 state RPS cost studies in our sample predict rate increases of greater than 5%, and 19 of the studies project rate increases of no greater than 1% (and six of these studies predict rate decreases). The median residential electric bill impact is +$0.38 per month. When combined with possible natural gas price reductions and corresponding gas bill savings, the overall cost impacts are even more modest, resulting in net consumer savings in at least one additional case.


So, we create thousands of jobs, bring in billions in investment, save the $18 billion a year we already spend on out-of-state fossil fuel energy purchases, save the environment at the same time- all for a modest cost, and maybe even reduced costs down the road. Sound like a plan?

Not if you listen to Mike Bishop.

But he warned against trying to adopt legislation to set portfolio standards for the amount of energy. "The political rhetoric does not match the reality. They (supporters of renewal energy) are trying to jam portfolio standards when they know full well the technology is not there. It's a pipe dream," he said.


Not sure what reality Mike lives in- but the 28 states that they have already studied and the investments being made in those states show that this is no “pipe dream”.

Oh, one other thing to note- the people of Michigan overwhelmingly want this to happen. In a study on global warming-

Support requiring more electricity to come from renewable sources. Among Democrats, 92% support this, compared with 88% of independents and 72% of Republicans.

Various proposals, including one requiring 20% of the state's electricity come from renewables by 2020, are pending in the Legislature. Nearly half of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay up to $50 more each year for renewable energy.


Nearly half. Well, we have to work on getting them to see the benefits will far outweigh any modest costs, and eventually will even save us money. Short term benefits, long term benefits, there is no excuse that can justify dragging our feet on this issue another day.

Let's hope that Bruce sees the light and opts for a future for Michigan instead of the standard head-in-the-sand obstruction that we have grown accustomed to from the Senate Republicans.

Happy Valentine's Day, Democrats

Thought I would pass these stats along to put a smile on your face this Valentine's Day.

Both sides have broken records this year in presidential primary turnout. Democratic turnout in 13 states and the District of Columbia has surged to historic levels, as has Republican turnout in 11 states, according to the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University.

Nationwide, the Democratic vote has swamped the GOP. While 10.9 million Americans have voted in Republican primaries so far, 15.7 million - 44% more - have voted in Democratic ones.


Could be because we have a closer race, but when you consider these other numbers- it's all adding up to a Blue November.

•Fewer Americans are calling themselves Republicans. In Gallup polls this year, 52% described themselves as Democrats or independents who "lean" Democratic, compared with 39% on the Republican side. That 13-point advantage is one of the widest for either party since Gallup began taking the measure in 1991.

•Among those who are Republicans, morale is low. Eight in 10 Democrats said in a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll last weekend that they're more enthusiastic about voting this year than in previous elections, the highest percentage in either party since the question first was asked in 2000. Nearly half of Republicans said they were less enthusiastic than usual - also the highest percentage ever.

•The Democratic Party gets higher marks all around. A majority of respondents described the Democratic Party as able to bring about changes the country needs andanage the federal government effectively. A majority said the GOP was unable to do either.


And for all you congressional candidates out there?

By 55%-41%, those surveyed say they'd vote for the Democratic congressional candidate over the Republican if the election were today.


And one last thing to make your heart sing - this will be the last Valentine's Day George Bush is in office. Matter of fact, you can mark every date from here on out as the last (enter date here) Bush will be in office.

Can't think of a better present than that.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I'm No Superman



Let me relay a story about lessons learned.



Election night 2006. RenCen in Detroit. Early in the evening, before the polls closed. The crowd consisted of media gathering their creds and setting up their equipment, and a bunch of folks in their nice clothes, milling about, drinking, talking. The conversations consisted of what I’ve come to call “a reading of the resumes”; who they knew, who they blew, what they were hoping to get after this evening was over.



None of this really registered with me; I was plain exhausted after nine months of being on an emotional roller coaster, exhausted from knocking myself out on the keyboard 12 hours a day, exhausted from spending the last few days of that campaign on the edge of my seat, exhausted from the night before when I attended an amazing, awesome rally that had me so pumped I couldn’t hardly sleep… anyway, I was in a daze. It was like something out of a dream.



Eight o’clock. The polls close. I was standing in a crowd of these resume’ people, gathered around a TV that was broadcasting WDIV- and they called it instantly; a landslide for Granholm. Head rush. Did I hear right? Was this happening? It was. It was over. It was finally over.



Now, anyone that was around back then and remembers how deeply emotionally invested I was in that election can imagine how I wanted to react next. I didn’t know whether to cry, scream, dance, run down the halls yelling “WE WON”, fall face first on the floor, or what. Maybe all of the above, all at once.



But as I looked around, I stifled that emotion. What stopped me? The lack of reaction from the resume’ people. Sure, they were smiling, I know they were happy, but overall it seemed not to matter to them, really. Maybe they already knew it was in the bag, smart enough not to listen to Ed Sarpolus. I don’t know. It seemed to not be of concern to them because they were so into themselves. They went back to talking about who they knew, who they blew, and what job they were shooting for in the great political machine in Lansing.



There is nothing wrong with that of course. It’s networking, socializing, recommended by all the experts. More power to them. But for me, I was so happy when the regular people got there a little later, the people who had worked the polls, the real foot soldiers, the real fans.



The regular people. The people who believed. They weren’t there to get something for themselves; they were there because they really loved this governor, this party, the ideals it represented, the defeat of the forces of evil. They really believed in what they were doing. They laughed, they smiled, they cheered, they were loud. They were so happy.



It was only then I felt comfortable. I don't know if the resume' people ever got comfortable. They scattered in the crowd. I caught glimpses of them here and there, maybe they relaxed as the evening wore on.



Now, thanks to two wonderful women earlier in the night at the media table, who called out to me as I was walking by with my camera and gave me a press pass, I got to stand 10 feet away from a very tired Jennifer Granholm as she gave her victory speech- and the look on that woman’s face, underneath the exhaustion, was true happiness as well. I have pictures, but I don’t need them. I will never forget it. It was magic. I was so happy. I cried on the way home a couple of times, finally free to express how I felt.



Why do I tell this story?



Because that night was the epitome for me of that whole year, of this whole scene, of learning about the mindset of the people that surround “activism” and the political machine, of hiding my emotions and taking a bullet for the resume’ people so I wouldn’t cause any trouble for them- but I guess I didn’t learn my lesson.



In time, I moved on. Still, I naively trusted. I thought if I was honest about who I was, why I did what I did, and treated people with respect, “bad things” wouldn’t happen to me again. I went about my own way, and did my own thing, hooked up with some like-minded souls, found a measure of success. The resume’ people had already found theirs, so they would be happy for me, right?



I was so wrong. So, so wrong. I have finally learned that if you don’t serve the resume’ people, they will cut your throat for you. Working to put a buck in their pocket or advance their careers? They love ya, but they are sycophants. Working for the cause? We’ll take that for our own and applaud you are the surface, but underground we’ll chastise you because it wasn’t done in our name. Working to save your own life? Your fair game to be savaged. Repeatedly. Don’t try to walk away. We will keep bringing it up. And it's not your opinions that take the beating, it's who you are.



It has taken the heart out of me, and heart was all I had, and I don’t know how to get past it. And if I don’t get past it, I lose everything.



I’m painting with a broad brush, of course. There are some resume’ people who are really cool. There are some regular people who are real jerks. And a very strange confluence of events has left me feeling very alone in this world; the arm, the weather, the lack of communication, the goddamn primary… all coming down at once.



I'm totally burned out right now.



Special thanks goes out to those “regular people” who are trying to help me through this. You know who you are.



I hope I make it back.