Thursday, July 31, 2008

It's Not Just Me

Kent County Obama HQ poster. Lately, I've been doing what I like to call "Denver Trial Runs" - getting used to the weight of carrying the laptop and the camera around. It's not that I've found myself addicted to the spectacular "French Quarter" iced coffee at the Kava House. Oh no. I NEED to be prepared for walking around the city with all this stuff threatening to dislocate my shoulder. Yeah. That's the ticket. Endurance.

And, as it turns out, my other excuse for wandering the streets is plausible as well. You see, I simply HAD to get out of the house and get away from all of John McCain's incredibly horrible advertising. If the lying energy ad about drilling wasn't bad enough, the "Celeb" ad is so low-rent that it's practically surreal. Seriously, WTF? The guy is making Dick DeVos look like a class act, in both production and message. And this is for president. Please. (Yes, I could just turn off the TV, and I frequently do. But I can't make this delicious concoction. And carrying the laptop around the backyard just isn't the same. See Excuse 1.)

So here I am, finally getting around to yesterday's Gongwer, wondering just how in the hell I'm going to keep my sanity with three more months of this to go, and come to find out it's not just me being impatient and annoyed by "stupid" - it's the unrelenting frequency of the ads.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain is outspending Democratic rival Barack Obama in Michigan and several other battleground states, a new analysis shows of the $51.5 million spent to date nationwide by the two campaigns and supporters. Befitting the expected toss-up role the state will play, the $6 million in total spending on TV ads in Michigan ranks third among all states, trailing just Pennsylvania and Ohio, the report by the Wisconsin Advertising Project said.

This next fact was the kicker-

The Detroit and Grand Rapids media markets ranked in the top four among the top 20 markets for TV ad spending, and Lansing placed 13th.

And to think there are states where McCain hasn't even gone on the air yet. Lucky bastards.

I'm hoping that, just like DeVos, this is all way too soon and people (like me!) will develop a sort of immunity to all the negative advertising. McCain seems intent on playing all his cards right now (taxes, leadership, and today he even played the race card by accusing Obama of playing the race card. Will we see a nasty ad about that within the next few days?) and I'm starting to wonder just what it is he will have left in the tank at the end. How could he possibly go lower?

The snarkalicious (a must read) had this great quote from Republican stalwart Ben Stein that sums it all up-

Mr. McCain is running the absolute most pathetic campaign I have ever seen in my whole life. His campaign is just heartbreakingly pathetic. He is a very impressive guy. He is a brave guy, but he is running the most lackluster campaign I have ever seen in my entire life. I would have thought Bob Dole’s campaign would have set a record for poor campaigns, but this one is even worse. I mean it is shocking.”

Michigan is getting the brunt of the pathetic storm right now. I must go get some cheddar dogs from Yesterdog so I can face my TV again.

Endurance, you know.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Silly Season Officially Kicks Off in Michigan

And here you thought that campaigns were well underway. Nope. It's not the "official" start of Silly Season until someone is caught ripping down someone else's campaign signs.

Annnnnnd we're off!

A candidate in a district court judge race is accusing an opponent -- the incumbent judge -- of stealing his campaign signs.

Joseph G. Fabrizio said one of his supporters took photos of Clarkston District Judge Dana Fortinberry snatching Fabrizio's orange-and-black campaign signs from along Citation Drive, about a block from the 52-2 District Court building.

"I was stunned, I was shocked," said Fabrizio, after viewing the photos. "But here she is at 8:50 (a.m.) yanking up signs and tossing them into the weeds. She had more than 64 cases listed on her 8:30 call but instead of being on the bench, she's removing signs."

Fortinberry on Tuesday didn't deny yanking the signs.

"This is a setup. I'm the only (judicial candidate) who had permission to have signs there," she said. "I had permission (from the property owner) to take any of the others down."

Larry Barnett, the property owner, was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Has Silly Season started in your area? In addition to the Stealing of the Yard Signs, other ways to tell that Silly Season is officially here is the Spray Painting on Campaign Offices, the Removal of the Bumper Sticker from your car, and the local Professional Homophobes of America Crank Calls to your home to inform you that so-and-so associates with "teh gay" and doesn't deserve your vote.

Have a pleasant and safe Silly Season everyone. Keep one eye on your yard and your car just in case.

Middleton Steal

Middleton Steal

Long time, no blog. Been busy. Will try to do better at getting stuff up here.

Here is the Caps Cory Middleton stealing a base in last Sunday's game.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Knollenberg Significantly Underreporting Value of DC Home

Bad Joe. From Roll Call today-

Since 2003, Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) has underreported the value of his Capitol Hill townhouse by hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in his personal financial disclosure forms, an apparent violation of House rules.

On the most recent disclosure forms, Knollenberg reported the value of the property at $50,000 to $100,000, down from the $100,000 to $250,000 range he reported the year before, despite the fact that District of Columbia tax records indicate a current assessed value of $781,840.

"The Congressman has always striven to go above and beyond the required financial disclosure requirements," Knollenberg spokesman Nate Bailey said. "He has nothing to hide. It appears that his accountant has made a clerical error, and that inadvertent mistake will be corrected immediately."

Yes, it was a clerical error that went on for five years. Bailey is trying to claim that they were reporting the value of the rental unit, but couldn't explain why that value decreased last year. Members of Congress are not required to report their personal residence or mortgages on properties unless those properties generate income. At that point, the rules kick in-

The instruction manual provided by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct for filling out financial disclosure forms requires that when a property provides rental income, "the gross value of the entire property should be reported even if only part of the property (e.g. the basement of a residence) is used for rental purposes."

Seems pretty clear to me, and I'm not an accountant.

Mark Brewer had this to say-

"It looks like the sub-prime lenders weren't the only ones using shady accounting practices. Joe Knollenberg's failure to report the value of his home in Washington is just another example of the broken ethics that pass for normal behavior inside the Beltway. Congressman Knollenberg needs to explain to families who are losing their homes back in Oakland County, Michigan why he has been hiding the true value of his home in Washington, DC."

Indeed. But something tells me that Joe won't be forthcoming with an explanation for Oakland County - he will just pass the blame as usual.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tim Walberg, Gas Jockey

Tim Walberg will finally make himself useful to his constituents today - he will pump your gas at the Riverside C-Store, 240 E. Columbia Avenue in Battle Creek, starting at 1PM. Good to see him putting in an honest day's work. If you are in the area, might want to stop by and ask him a few questions.

For example, let's concede his talking point on new drilling. Just give it to him up front. The real question behind that is - what makes Walberg think that Big Oil will invest in physical operations, when currently they sink 55 percent of their money into the stock market, and only spend in the "mid-single digits" towards finding new deposits?

No one questions that Big Oil is rolling in cash. The cash the biggest oil companies bring in from running their businesses, or operating cash flow, is four times what it was in the early 1990s.

"It becomes a management decision," said Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst at Standard & Poor's. "It's not like they're going to the board and saying, 'Well, I can do one or the other or the other.' The balance sheets are flush with cash."

So what's Big Oil to do?

The companies say they are doing what they can to find more fossil fuels around the world, but the easy oil is gone. Exploring these days may mean expensive projects in thousands of feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico or costly ventures pulling petroleum from Canada's vast oil-sands deposits.

Even if we opened up new areas to drilling, there is no guarantee the oil companies would actually drill. They have shareholders that they answer to, not the consumer, and they have made it clear that is their priority. Wonder what Tim would say about that.

You also might want to ask him why he voted against lowering gas prices. A release from the reserves in the past has had an immediate effect on raising supplies, and that in turn has cooled the market. Granted, this is not a long-term solution, but it would help to curb the increasing inflationary pressures on products that are happening due to high energy costs that, coupled with the housing crisis, are curbing consumer spending in all areas and are pushing the nation's economy towards recession.

Walberg on Thursday voted against a bill that would have required the Energy Department to release 70 million of the 706 million barrels of oil stockpiled in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a network of underground caverns along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico. The 70 million barrels would have been replaced with a heavier grade oil, keeping the emergency reserve at capacity.

The bill failed, but proponents argued it would have put a bunch of oil on the market and, as a result of natural supply-and-demand logic, necessitated a lowering of gasoline prices across the country. That's how it worked with past releases in 1991, 2000 and 2005.

If there was ever a time for a strategic release, it's probably now. Why won't the Republicans help out regular people and our economy? Because they are more interested in giving Big Oil more breaks before they are ushered out of office. No other reason is plausible; the excuse from Bush about "an emergency" doesn't fly when the reserves will be replaced. Dick Durbin spells it out in no uncertain terms.

Top Senate Democrats also charge that Republicans are more interested in helping oil companies than finding solutions to high gas prices.

"Now they want to give them [the oil companies] a big, fat, sloppy smooch as they leave office by extending millions of acres for drilling across the United States and the outer continental shelf," said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate Democratic whip. "It isn't going to happen."

Ask Tim why he wants to help the oil companies rather than the consumers. Ask Tim why they won't drill in the untapped space they have now. Ask Tim why he would vote against a measure that would help ease inflationary pressures on our economy and your wallet.

And just for fun, ask Tim to "check the oil" while he's pumping your gas today. It might be good for a laugh.

Green Jobs Initiative Added to No Worker Left Behind

Despite the Senate Republicans best attempts to block job creation in the alternative energy field, gosh darn it we are going to create some jobs anyway and we will need trained people to fill them. Last Friday, in celebration of the one year anniversary of the No Worker Left Behind program, it was announced that $6 million will be set aside for the Green Jobs Initiative, a program that will train displaced workers for careers in alternative/renewable energy.

One of the great things about this, besides people getting jobs of course, is that it was picked up by the national media and energy blogs around the country - and that will help change the perception that Michigan isn't a "green" state. From MSN/AP -

Granholm plans to announce Friday in Traverse City that the No Worker Left Behind program will put more effort into preparing laid-off workers for alternative energy careers. The program overall will get a financial boost in its second year.

The governor is carving out about $6 million in the budget year that starts Oct. 1 for her Green Jobs Initiative that will promote job training in alternative energy industries including wind, solar and biofuels.

Granholm's office said that Biotech Agronomics, a Beulah company that converts wastewater sludge into usable materials for agriculture, already has hired five No Worker Left Behind graduates for such jobs.

The goal of the No Worker Left Behind program is to take workers who have lost manufacturing jobs or other positions no longer in demand and retrain them for employment in one of several high-demand fields. Workers can use the free tuition at any Michigan community college or other approved training course.

The AP reports that $177 million will be available for NWLB. Not sure where they are getting that number; the state release says around $40 million from the feds, and somehow we managed to wrangle $15 million from the state budget. 31,000 people have already entered training thanks to No Worker, 11,000 have completed training, and 9,100 are on waiting lists - it's a very popular program. The bulk of the jobs that are available now are in health care, but colleges are seeing an increased interest in energy careers. Lansing Community College graduated its first wave of alternative energy students last spring and they are filling up for fall-

Janice Marshall, Lansing Community College: "Our enrollments are up this semester, as we're preparing for fall semester several of our alternative energy courses are already full, we've opened up additional sections to meet the increasing need"

Administrators say many of those students owe their education to the state's No Worker Left Behind Program.

Janice Marshall: "We know approximately 100 students at the Lansing Community College have participated through the No Worker Left Behind program just this past semester."

Green jobs initiatives are popping up all over the country, good to see we are getting our name in the spotlight as well. Having a trained workforce will help entice alternative energy employers to the state - even when our Senate Republicans are doing everything they can to turn that business away.

Are You Bitter? Michigan Republicans Hope So

All negative, all the time. The MI-GOP wants you to feel bad about this state. They project it in everything they say, and everything they do. They want you mean, they want you angry, they want you to join their never-ending descent into the darkness.

They are counting on it to win elections. Here is the latest bit of proof that Republicans need things to be "bad" here in Michigan.

Republicans are already promising to exploit any divisions between Obama and the working-class voters who tend to decide elections in Michigan.

"This is the home of the Reagan Democrat—culturally conservative, blue-collar workers," said Saul Anuzis, the state Republican chairman. "As Barack Obama likes to refer to it, this is where a lot of bitter people live, and we like to remind people of that all the time." Obama was criticized during the primary campaign for referring to small-town voters as "bitter" in comments during a private fundraiser.

Gee, do you think that maybe they legislate accordingly as well?

Hearing on Kwame's Removal September 3rd?

Time to get this moving at a faster pace. The longer this drags on, the worse it gets.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm is accelerating her decision on whether to remove Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick from office, issuing a letter Monday saying "it is in the public interest" to do so.

"The governor has concluded that it is in the public interest to accelerate the briefing schedule in this matter and set a definite date for a hearing should one be determined necessary," wrote Kelly G. Keenan, the legal counsel to Granholm.

The hearing would be held September 3rd if it is determined that it is warranted - and it sure looks warranted from here already. It's a sad, sad day when I find myself agreeing with Nolan Finley - but enough is enough.

If it comes to his removal, I hope that all community, business, and elected leaders stand behind the decision. Stephen Henderson at the Freep said it best-

Only the delusional can believe Kilpatrick will emerge from his morass of criminal charges and suspicions to remain mayor, as if nothing had ever happened. Too much trust has been broken. Too many of his actions over the past six months -- the tirades, the self-serving accusations and, last week, the escalation to irrational and dangerous behavior -- have tossed accelerants onto his incendiary circumstances. He has gone from suspect to thug, from public problem to public menace.

So why are we still witness to this absurd, voyeuristic drama, with Kilpatrick's flailing defenses that make us shudder, or laugh, or cry about the situation? How much damage will Kilpatrick be allowed to do -- to the city's image, to the progress he once inspired, and even to himself -- before someone steps up to say: Enough! This ends, right here, right now.

The whole city needs to stand up and say "enough". Any waffling on this point only gives him excuses and enables him to continue on with his behavior. Political consequences be damned, the city and the state's well-being is much more important.

Good luck Detroit. This is not going to be easy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Senate Republicans Playing Games With Appointments

Instead of working on legislation that can help all those struggling citizens and businesses of Michigan, Senate Republicans will be spending their time tomorrow obstructing an appointment to the Liquor Control Commission.

Why? They won't say, but given their past and/or ongoing arrogant behavior, it's probably part of the partisan game of wasting everyone's time and creating problems so the administration and government itself looks bad. Remember, Republicans need government to be dysfunctional for their talking points to stick, so, dysfunctional it shall be. Gongwer tonight-

Declaring Senate Republicans are engaging in McCarthyism, the Granholm administration stepped up the confrontation over the appointment of Colleen Pobur to the Liquor Control Commission, sending a letter demanding the release of information the majority party asserts disqualifies Ms. Pobur for the post. The letter was hand-delivered the day before it is now anticipated the Senate will reject Ms. Pobur's appointment.

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) dismissed the letter from Granholm legal counsel Kelly Keenan to as a stunt. "The administration knows what our problems are" with Mr. Pobur, said Matt Marsden.

Liz Boyd, Ms. Granholm's spokesperson, said, "We wish that Sen. Bishop and the Senate Republicans would spend more time on job creation than they are on character assassination" of Ms. Pobur.

Senate Republicans and Saul Anuzis (dead giveaway as to partisan motive right there) are alleging that Pobur was fired from her job at Detroit Metro Airport by Ed McNamara; supporters have released a letter written by Ed himself that shows that isn't true. So that's not it. Other rumblings about her qualifications are supposedly being made - but no one will offer any details.

What could it be? A simple power play to keep one of their people on the commission. Apparently Republicans at one time were offering to trade a Pobur confirmation in exchange for keeping Engler appointee Republican Judy Allen on the board. They had no problem with Pobur then, but no deal was at hand. Pobur was slated to replace Virgie M. Rollins, and when the Republicans claimed they had this "confidential information" and asked the governor to withdraw her name, right before the vote she re-filed Pobur for Allen's spot instead. Whoop, there it is.

Ms. Pobur's appointment was nearly voted down last week when Ms. Granholm withdrew it and then resubmitted it. In the second resubmission, Ms. Pobur replaced Judy Allen. Republicans had at one time offered to approve Ms. Pobur in exchange for Ms. Allen, a Republican, staying on the LCC.

But that offer was rejected and following that Republicans say they had received confidential information that challenged Ms. Pobur's qualifications. They have refused to publicly release that information in detail.

Uh huh. Maybe because it doesn't exist? Because Republicans didn't get their way, they are going to damage this woman's reputation by inferring that something is wrong with her - they just aren't going to tell you what it is or who said it. Besides, they don't have to anyway. So there.

Senate Republican officials have indicated that one reason they have not released the information brought them is to protect the sources from possible retribution.

And Mr. Marsden, Mr. Bishop's spokesperson, said there is no requirement in the Constitution that a hearing be held on an appointment (in fact the Senate only restored an active advice and consent process when Ms. Granholm was elected governor. The chamber routinely allowed the appointments of former Governor John Engler to take office without comment.) and that the chamber can reject an appointment for any reason or no reason. "We can reject an appointment for having purple hair or wearing the wrong shoes," he said.

Hair and shoes. With that one statement, Marsden reveals the Senate Republican's continuing arrogance and immaturity and dishonors the entire chamber once again. They can waste your time, waste your money, ignore the real problems in Michigan, hurt someone's reputation - all because they want to play their partisan games.

And they wonder why that ballot proposal looks so good to the public...

UPDATE 7/25: No action was taken; "not enough Republicans were present". Mike Bishop went running to Mike Cox for a legal opinion...

In the request for an opinion from Mr. Cox, Mr. Bishop said that state law requires that two LCC members, one from each party, be named as hearing officers. But with Ms. Allen's departure, the commission now consists of three Democrats and one independent, so can an independent member then be a hearing officer, Mr. Bishop asked. Mr. Bishop also asked if future liquor violation hearings could even be held without a Republican member of the commission.

... and the administration released more letters of recommendation for Pobur from top business executives.

End result - this gets put on hold until 8/13.

Schauer Breaks Record, Raises $427,000 in Second Quarter

Fresh from the inbox - look who's got the Big Mo.

Today State Senator Mark Schauer (D-Battle Creek) announced that his Congressional campaign raised more than $427,000 in the second quarter, which breaks the previous fundraising record he set earlier this year for the most money raised by a Democrat in the 7th district. Combined with the last quarter when he outraised his incumbent opponent, Schauer has now brought in more than $1.33 million and has more than $928,000 cash on hand.

"The people of south central Michigan are hungry for change and ready for a leader who will fight to turn our economy around, one job at a time," said Schauer. "I'm a strong believer in the power of grassroots organizing, and this overwhelming support will help us continue building momentum as we reach out to new voters in all seven counties of the seventh district."

In this quarter alone, the campaign collected more than 1,100 total contributions, with more than 83 percent of individual contributions from donors in Michigan. With just over 100 days to go before the general election, Schauer has now raised more than Tim Walberg brought in during the entire 2006 election cycle.

Very impressive! But don't go counting chickens yet- look for Republicans to step up the attacks and the big money fundraising efforts to try to defend Walberg's seat. These numbers are sure to get their attention once again.

House Dems Put Renewable Portfolio Standard Back to 10%

Should have raised it to 25%, but given the Senate Republicans deliberate refusal to listen to every expert in this business as well as overwhelming public demand, we will have to take what we can get. From the House Dems-

The House plan approved today requires that the state gradually increase the amount of electricity that comes from renewable sources such as wind and biomass, reaching 10 percent by 2015. The Senate plan, in contrast, sets this Renewable Portfolio Standard at just 7 percent – a level that analysts agree is too low to cause renewable energy job providers to seriously consider making major investments in Michigan.

The Grand Rapids Press was the latest paper to agree that the Senate version is not acceptable.

The Republican Senate bill's 7 percent goal falls far short of what's needed. The 7 percent figure includes efficiency measures and a new power-producing procedure known as coal gasification. That makes this plan the near beer of alternative energy solutions, weaker than laws enacted in most every other state.

Michigan is badly behind the renewable curve. Every one of our midwest neighbors, with the exception of Indiana, has enacted a renewable portfolio standard. In all, 26 states have some form of an RPS -- states as politically, demographically and economically diverse as Texas and California, Oregon and Minnesota.

The Oakland Press features quotes from the experts when they called for Michigan to join "the RPS bandwagon".

James Clift, policy director with the Michigan Environmental Council, praised adoption of House Bill 5525, which would mandate that utilities get 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2015, compared to the current 4.6 percent. However, Clift was critical of Senate Bill 213, which claims to raise the standard to 7 percent but, Clift says, actually "produces nothing."

HB 5525 would put Michigan "in the middle of the pack" in terms of the 26 states that have renewable portfolio standards, while SB 213 "wouldn't even put Michigan in the game," said Hugh McDiarmid, spokesman for the environmental council.

Martin Kushler, utilities program director with the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, said the renewable portfolio standards issue has been "very strongly bipartisan in other states."

Nancy Cassis stuck her fingers in her ears and went, "la la la, I can't hear you!" and brings up foreclosures, of all things, proving that the Senate has to stoop to irrelevant points to defend their undefendable position.

"Consumers always bear the costs" when mandates are placed on businesses, Cassis said. "We're mindful of passing on such costs. It wouldn't help Michigan," she said of the House version. "The economy is in such a precarious situation. We don't need more foreclosures."

Oooookay. All the jobs and money will go to places like Pennsylvania instead, where they are just giddy about mandates, so much so they are going to build manufacturing plants there and create a boatload of jobs.

Mass Megawatts Wind Power, Inc. announced last week that the company has recently opened a manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania. The new facility will be located near numerous planned projects in Pennsylvania and New York where several hundred megawatts (MW) of wind power projects have already been developed in the recent years.

Mass Megawatts has chosen to locate a production facility in Pennsylvania because of the state's dedication and leadership in the field of renewable energy, including wind power. Pennsylvania has enough wind power potential to provide electricity for nearly 5 million homes according to Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell. Pennsylvania's green power purchase is 28% of the state government's annual electricity consumption.

That is just one example. Want another? Texas is going to invest $5 billion towards bringing wind power in the western part of the state onto the grid. Wonder how many jobs that will create. More proof? California is increasing solar power by installing panels on 150 commercial rooftops, and Southern California Edison is going to build the largest photovoltaic plant in California. Republican Governor Schwarzenegger wants to hit 33% by 2020. The civilized world moves on.

Looks like our Republicans are going to continue to stick their heads in the coal mine and throw lame excuses to the wind (no pun intended but it works) and stall on this as much as they can, costing Michigan jobs and investment by the day. Gongwer tells us that the energy bills are going to conference, and since it appears the Senate will be taking August off, votes may not come until September. By that time they probably will come up with their next lame excuse because they won't want anything "good" to happen before the election.

Place your bets.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Big Lie: McCain Credits Bush for the Drop in Oil Prices

From the You Have Got to be Kidding Me Department comes this:

Republican John McCain on Wednesday credited the recent $10-a-barrel drop in the price of oil to President Bush's lifting of a presidential ban on offshore drilling, an action he has been advocating in his presidential campaign.

Bush recently lifted the executive order banning offshore drilling that his father put in place in 1990. He also asked Congress to lift its own moratorium on oil exploration on the outer continental shelf which includes coastal waters as close as three miles from shore.

"The price of oil dropped $10 a barrel," said McCain, who argued that the psychology of lifting the ban has affected world markets.

Even the White House, usually so quick to spread The Big Lie, wouldn't bite.

The White House didn't go that far. Presidential spokeswoman Dana Perino said the price drop also could reflect diminished demand.

"I don't know if we fully deserve the credit," Perino said.

"We don't predict what happens in the market," she said. "We can't really tell. Certainly, taking that action would send a signal that at least the executive branch is serious about moving forward and increasing the supply we have in America."

Truth is, 75% of offshore reserves are open to drilling now, even though McCain and Bush want you to believe that Obama and the Democrats are stopping new domestic exploration and production.

Most of the country's estimated offshore reserves - about 75 percent - lie in areas that have been drilled for years or are being opened for exploration. Roughly 48 percent of the nation's estimated reserves, or 41 billion barrels, lie beneath the western and central Gulf of Mexico, where oil companies armed with new drilling technology are pushing into ever deeper water. Another 27 percent of the estimated reserves, or 23.6 billion barrels, are believed to lie off the north coast of Alaska, where the federal government sold oil exploration leases this spring, despite fears that the work would hurt the polar bear population.

So, are the oil companies using all those big profits to drill in areas already open to them? Of course not. That's too expensive. Much easier to make money in the stock market.

The companies insist they're trying to find new oil that might help bring down gas prices, but the money they spend on exploration is nothing compared with what they spend on stock buybacks and dividends.

It's good news for shareholders, including mutual funds and retirement plans for millions of Americans, but no help to drivers already making drastic cutbacks to offset the high cost of fuel.

The five biggest international oil companies plowed about 55 percent of the cash they made from their businesses into stock buybacks and dividends last year, up from 30 percent in 2000 and just 1 percent in 1993, according to Rice University's James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.

The percentage they spend to find new deposits of fossil fuels has remained flat for years, in the mid-single digits.

Go read the article to find out why the oil companies don't want to risk the money on new projects - "the easy oil is gone". They have shareholders to think about. So, even if you lifted all the bans on all the drilling tomorrow, there is no guarantee that you would get any oil, if you did, it would be well over a decade away, and "opening the coasts to offshore drilling would have no significant impact on oil prices before 2030". And that's according to the US Dept. of Energy. The Facts aren't stopping McCain and the Republicans from spreading the The Big Lie.

What is really disturbing is that we are falling back into this familiar pattern that we see every election: Republicans lie, Democrats run around refuting it, by that time it has lodged in the public consciousness, and the Republicans simply move on to the next lie.

Haven't we seen this movie before?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Meekhof Wants to Take Away Health Benefits, Says GVSU "Promotes Immorality

Since the "Tasers for Children" idea was a bust, Arlan Meekhof (R-Dark Ages) has turned back to the tried and true consevative values charade of protecting the world from all those immoral people who want health benefits. Grand Valley State University recently joined the U of M, MSU, Central, Northern, Eastern, and Saginaw Valley universities, as well as the City of Kalamazoo, in broadening the scope of their benefit policies in an attempt to attract and retain talented employees in light of competition from the enlightened world where people are free to live their lives as they see fit. That has Arlan hopping mad.

The best and the brightest be damned; you are all living in sin!, and we will just see what Mike Cox has to say about this. As if you didn't know already.

State Representative Arlan Meekhof called the plan "A slap in the face to Michigan taxpayers and morality."

The benefits will apply to gay partners and other live-in partners who are unrelated adults.

In attacking the school's board of trustees Meekhof released the following statement, "Not only are they increasing the university's expenses, but this institute of higher learning has chosen to use taxpayer dollars and student tuition dollars to allow and promote immorality."

Meekhof says he will request a legal opinion on the plan from Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox.

Arlan has no problem using "taxpayer dollars" in an attempt to impose his idea of morality on Grand Valley and other institutions. How dare they "allow" people to live together. Last time we checked that wasn't against the law, but if Arlan had his way, it probably would be. Meekhof's angst is directed at gay people even though he doesn't come right out and say it, but his reach is now extending into the lives of others he has deemed "immoral" as well by trying to deny their children health care.

The change also reflects demographics, with 51 percent of U.S. households headed by unmarried parents, said David Smith, director of benefits and human resources.

"It's really about recruiting and retention. We compete with other public universities that offer similar benefits," said Scott Richardson, GVSU's associate vice president for human resources. "We want (the best) to pick us."

The vote by the board at Grand Valley was 7-1, and the "nay" came from Chairwoman Lucille Taylor, wife of Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Cliff Taylor. She offered up some lame excuses and tried to obfuscate the issue. Didn't work, but she gets a cookie from the radicals that control the Republicans in this state for towing the party line.

Let's take a quick look at Meekhof's "values" and the scenarios he would deem immoral. The following cases were cited in a brief before our Supreme Court - people who needed the health care that Arlan seeks to deny.

A brief filed by a group of Michigan public universities details the role that domestic partner benefits play in recruiting and retaining faculty members. The brief also included specific cases where such benefits played a major role in helping a couple. For example, an assistant professor’s partner had a near fatal heart attack and the “life-saving, ongoing treatment” that led to his recovery would not have been possible without coverage under the university’s plan. In another case, the benefits allow the partner of an employee to stay at home and care for the two young children of the employee and parter. One of the children was born with a birth defect and can’t be in day care. In addition, the brief noted that passage of the gay marriage ban had led some professors to take jobs elsewhere, viewing the measure as a sign of hostility.

The American Association of University Professors argued in its brief that the ban on partner benefits also amounted to inappropriate state intrusion in the autonomy of universities.

Meekhof is OK with state intrusion into your life when it comes to enforcing his version of morality. He also would raise your insurance rates and taxes by forcing these people to seek care through uncovered emergency room measures, which would in turn be passed on to you through premiums or higher demands on taxpayer funded medical services. He also would deny economic growth to Michigan by forcing the creative class to leave the state in search of a place where they are accepted.

That is Meekhof's version of "values" - government mandates on morals, higher costs on essentials as a consequence, and impedeing Michigan's universities and cities the chance to compete with the rest of the country because he wants to stubbornly cling to an extremist agenda. In other words, he is the typical face of the Michigan Republican Party as it stands today; insisting on moving backward in a world that is already moving on without us.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Michigan Gains Jobs in June

Peter Luke made brief mention of this in his Sunday column, but other than that, I haven't seen it reported anywhere else that Michigan had the 2nd highest job growth in the nation in June. MIRS, believe it or not, delivered the news - with a 8.5 caveat, of course.

Here's the good news: Michigan had the second-highest employment increase from May to June of all states. But the bad news, of course, is that unemployment is stuck at 8.5 percent, the nation's highest.

Michigan added 16,700 jobs. Only Texas recorded a bigger increase with 47,700.

This comes on top of the jobs added in May. Granted, it doesn't cover the number of people looking for work, or the people that have dropped off the map entirely, but perhaps it shows we are headed in the right direction - or at least, holding our own in the face of a national economic downturn.

GR Veterans Rally to Support Obama, Denouce McCain Attack Ad

Countering a local McCain event featuring veterans, Kent County Dems brought out their own to hold a rally denouncing the new McCain attack ad and voice their support for Obama. The GR Press ran a photo of the Republican event, only fair that everyone see the photo of the Dems, right? Veteran and Kent County Commissioner Paul Mayhue read a statement, House Rep. Robert Dean was in attendance as well.

Local Democrats countered with a small gathering at Veterans Memorial Park, calculated to blunt a McCain campaign ad attacking Obama's foreign policy credentials.

A McCain ad that began airing Friday notes that Obama "hasn't been to Iraq in years" and voted "against funding our troops."

The ad states that McCain "has always supported our troops and the surge that's working," a reference to troop increases in Iraq backed by McCain.

Those in attendance included Army veteran and Democratic Kent County Commissioner Paul Mayhue and White Cloud resident Buck Geno, who served as a Marine during the Vietnam War.

Geno argued that McCain's service "does not make him more qualified for president.

"Where was he when the vets really needed him?" Geno said. "He voted against enhancing the GI bill and medical benefits for vets. And where was he went the Walter Reed scandal went down?"

Mayhue rattled off many of the votes on McCain's record when it came to "supporting the troops" - points that DJ has posted here before. He also pointed out support for the idea of drawing down in Iraq and shifting troops to Afghanistan, where Obama has called the situation "precarious and urgent".

"As a veteran who has served our country, I honor McCain's service to America," Mayhue said.

"But for (him) to suggest that Obama does not support the troops, that's dishonest."

Good to see Dems and veterans out countering these Republican rallies and unfair attacks on Obama's record - it is being noticed by the media. Not only did it hit the GR Press, WOOD will have a report tonight on the "split support" of veterans as well. Represent!

New EPIC Poll: Obama 43, McCain 41

We all know these polls don't mean much at this point in time, but what the heck, someone is paying big money to conduct them and the least we can do is have some fun. Plus, people like to make little charts and stuff, and this gives them a place to put all the dots.

WOOD puts the whole script online - very important to see how these questions are worded because sometimes it does make a difference in answers. 600 "likely voters" were asked-

In the election for President, if the election were held today, would you vote for [ROTATE] John McCain the Republican, Barack Obama the Democrat, Ralph Nader the Independent, or Bob Barr the Libertarian?

40% Vote for Barack Obama the Democrat
3% Lean toward Barack Obama
43% Total Obama

38% Vote for John McCain the Republican
3% Lean toward John McCain
41% Total McCain

2% Vote for Ralph Nader the Independent
1% Lean toward Nader
3% Total Nader

2% Vote for Bob Barr the Libertarian
0% Lean toward Barr
2% Total Barr

12% Undecided/Don't know/Refused

I like looking at the favorable/unfavorable/don't recognize numbers myself.

Bush: 35% favorable, 61% unfavorable. No surprise there. Granholm: 49% favorable, 45% unfavorable. You go governor! But wish that number were higher. Obama: This is where it gets interesting. 3%, likely voters mind you, don't recognize his name. 51%-37% are the totals , but his "very favorable" numbers are 10 pts higher than McCain. McCain holds a gerneral lead in favorables, 58%-32%.

Other questions in the poll: Levin is stomping Hoogendyk 58-32. 87% of the people don't know who Hoogendyk even is, but some will vote for him anyway. Tribalism in action.

The poll also asks the generic who will do a "better job" on various issues - Obama seems to win on all domestic issues, McCain on war, terrorism and taxes. Natch. They also ask about race and age, and that is pretty much split as to whether either of those will be a factor in a voter's final decision.

There you have it, your "snapshot in time" for July 21st, 2008.

UPDATE: After I posted this, I wandered over to the Freep where they are reporting that the Reform Michigan Government Now prop has a whopping 70% approval rate - 73% amongst Republicans. Guess that "sinister Democratic plot to take over government" spin hasn't sunk in yet - or maybe it has. ;-)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Magglio Ordonez Rehabs with West Michigan

Since I did a diary on Curtis Granderson's rehab with the Whitecaps, it's only fair that I feature Magglio Ordonez here as well. Was going to put this together yesterday, but then the politicians all went nuts and I got distracted. It was actually a close call on what to do first, because if Flickr stats are any indicator - baseball players are WAY more popular than politicians. And as far as baseball players go, few are more popular than Magglio Ordonez, at least here in Michigan.

Magglio Ordonez 7294

They announced his appearance during the afternoon game on Sunday (where I was there to see my one true love Ryne Sandberg managing the Peoria Chiefs), and knowing what was coming, I immediately went and bought a ticket for Monday's game...

The game sold out within the next 24 hours - a total of 10,592 fans made their way to 5th3rd Park to catch the reigning American League batting champion in action. They opened the gates at 3:30 so fans could watch batting practice...

Magglio Ordonez 7053

Ordonez seemed amused by it all. According to the GR Press, he doesn't like to be the "center of attention", but he was impressed with the park and the reaction of the fans. Many sported the Magglio hats - and this next family was featured in the Press article.

Ordonez Fans

Batting practice was comfortable, not everyone can get there that early, of course. Slowly the park filled up... and filled up some more.. and by the time the team had changed into their home whites and came back out to the field, they were lined up 10-15 deep on the first base line, hoping for an autograph. Maggs obliged - couldn't get to everyone of course...

Autograph Swarm

We come to game time. The roar when he was announced was stunning. It was getting hard for me to maneuver around; even though I'm buddies with the ushers out there and they let me get away with more than the casual fan, it was tough to position due to the sheer crush of people. Here is Magglio tossing the bat as he runs down to first on his only hit on the night.

Magic Bat

I couldn't get around to the other side in time to catch him making his way around the bases - a quick single followed by a quick double drove him in to score the first run in what would be a 10-2 Whitecaps victory. In his second at bat, he reached on an error, third and fourth were a fly out followed by a ground out. Still, he put good wood on the ball, and looks ready to go.

Team Congrats

The Tigers announced today he will be activated for tomorrow's game. Sure am happy that the Caps are affiliated with the Tigers - every time a Tiger comes to town, it certainly is the place to be!

More pictures available at the Magglio Ordonez Whitecaps Flickr set.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Jobs Coming, Jobs Going... and More Jobs Coming

UPDATE: Gov. Granholm and MEDC announce 6,900 new jobs, $231 million in investment from 13 companies and 5 development projects, some of which are mentioned in this post. Read the complete list here.

"Scorecard! Get yer scorecard here! Can’t tell the players without a scorecard!"

Economic news is flying fast and furious this morning in Michigan, hard to stay on top of it all - especially when you have George Bush in the background insisting that we drill for more oil! Right now!, and then cut to Senator Jim Bunning insisting to Bernard Bernanke that it would be socialism! socialism in American if we were to bail out these mortgage companies! The look on Bernanke's face was priceless. So, you can see how someone would get distracted. Apparently everyone's gone mad today in some big rush to get all these announcements out before Washington goes totally insane, like that hasn't happened already.

Anyway, back to the big announcement(s), and here is THE big one. Dow Chemical and Petrochemical Industries Co. of Kuwait will locate their new headquarters in the Detroit area, bringing hundreds of good-paying jobs and millions of dollars with them.

The headquarters, somewhere along the "I-96-I-94 corridor," would employ 800 Michigan employees within the next several years, with an average salary of $95,000, Granholm said. The investment in Michigan would be more than $100 million.

"K-Dow, which will bring hundreds of jobs to our state, would rank in the top half of the Fortune 500 if it was publicly traded, and the fact that it will be headquartered here is good news for Michigan," said Granholm, who held the news conference at her Capitol office.

Michigan beat out "strong competition" from Louisana and Texas to land the project. The new company will employ 5,000 people worldwide when all is said and done, and this is an $11 billion dollar joint venture in total. BIG company, and we got 'em.

That's the good news. Some not-so-good news coming out of GM - they are scrambling for cash, and have announced production cuts, reduction of salaried staff through early retirement offers, suspending the dividends on stock... read the whole list of actions they are taking at the Detroit News.

Employees watching on closed-circuit television monitors at GM's Renaissance Center headquarters were stoic as Wagoner spoke of the new round of drastic cost-cutting measures, which are aimed at generating $10 billion in savings and another $4 billion to $7 billion through borrowing and asset sales through the end of 2009.

More not-so-good news, Volkswagen announced they are going to Tennessee. Never thought we had a realistic shot at this anyway... but hey, we tried.

Jennifer Granholm said in a statement Tuesday that the state's highly skilled work force and an "unprecedented" incentive package were among the lures the state offered in its effort to bring the German automaker to Michigan.

But wait! There's more good news slowly leaking out on the jobs front... a lot more. Crain's reports that an announcement will be made later today about more companies that plan to build or expand in Michigan - and a few of those have already made the papers.

One company making a major expansion is Perrigo in Allegan-

Perrigo Co. plans to invest $10.5 million in its Allegan headquarters and production campus in an expansion that's projected to generate 99 new jobs within a year and 400 over five years.

Graphic Packaging in Kalamazoo announced new jobs in their expansion.

Graphic Packaging Holding Co. plans to invest $27 million to expand one of its two Kalamazoo factories. The Marietta, Ga.-based company, which merged last year with Chicago-based Altivity Packaging LLC, is expected to create 160 new jobs at its folding-carton plant as a result of the expansion, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

ForeSee Results will locate their headquarters in Ann Arbor-

ForeSee Results Inc. of Pittsfield Township is expected to be granted $3.2 million in state tax credits over seven years today for its plans to hire 275 people in southeast Michigan.

The online consumer satisfaction company said it plans to spend $6.6 million to create a North American headquarters in the state. The company is trying to expand its client base abroad, its technology offerings and the number of industries it works with, said president and chief executive officer Larry Freed.

Attwood Corporation is bringing jobs to Lowell from Texas.

The Attwood Corporation will add 50 jobs to its Lowell facility when it transfers work from Texas to Michigan.

Attwood, a company that makes marine parts and accessories, is getting a $1 million property tax credit over the next 12 years from the city of Lowell. The state of Michigan is also giving the company a $450,000 tax break.

And Northland-Marvel broke ground in Greenville to manufacture refrigeration products - with the city manager announcing more jobs on the way.

"Over the last couple of years, we've been working with a number of companies about coming to Greenville," Basonic said. "I'm very comfortable in saying that in 2008 we will announce between 800 and 1,000 news jobs for Greenville."

"It's coming, it's only going to get better from here."

Whew! Do you guys have to do this all in one day?

Although we received some bad news out of the automotive industry - the good news is that we are beating out competition to land other firms that will help diversify Michigan's economy so we don't put all our eggs in one basket again. Better to have that than ride the ups and downs of one industry alone.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Right to Work "Zones" in Michigan

Certainly it's not a series of bad decisions, or painfully slow responses to market forces, or top-heavy fat cat payrolls on the part of major corporations, or obstructionist Republican lawmakers that are intent on making things worse, that is dragging Michigan business down - it's the employees who demand to be paid a living wage so they can actually have homes to sleep in and food to eat and clothes to wear that are the problem! Business would be booming if we could just pay our employees $1 an hour, right? And you didn't need health benefits or retirement plans, either. Or good schools or parks or other "quality of life" things. Silly you. Survival of the fittest, you know. Time for you working class heroes to join the race to the bottom with your southern counterparts.

Sorry, got carried away there for a minute. This idea of creating "right to work zones" in Michigan is starting to surface in the traditional media slowly but surely, and it's time to point it out and make everyone aware of the right's latest attempt to advance the notion that it's only the unions that are destroying Michigan's ability to compete. Maybe the idea of zoning has been around for a while, I'm not sure, but it popped up in print recently over here on the west side (naturally) and it's looks as if they are working to spread it statewide.

The "It's All Detroit's Fault" West Michigan big money cabal of Secchia, the DeVos family, etc. and so on, is guaranteed to keep floating the concept of "zones" around to see if it will stick. Grand Rapids is hosting a West Michigan Regional Policy Conference in September, a gathering of who's who of conservative elite that will probably compare notes on who has been more adept at moving their labor force to temps - which begs the question of why they are so worried about "labor" in the first place. But anyway, the keynote speaker gives you a good idea of where they are going with this-

About 500 lawmakers, CEOs and other leaders are expected to converge downtown in September for what has been hailed as a long-overdue chance to put together a public policy agenda for West Michigan business.

While a keynote from Newsweek columnist George Will is part of the agenda for the 2008 Regional Policy Conference, organizers said the key to the event will be setting up a playbook of major issues to be addressed with state, local and national lawmakers.

"It's time West Michigan and our members get engaged," said Jared Rodriguez, vice president of public policy and government affairs for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. "We need lawmakers from all over the state to know West Michigan."

The topics they will address?

Among the topics on the agenda for the Sept. 18-19 event is a potential statewide right-to-work initiative and possible right-to-work zones and counties.

Such an initiative could weaken unions, but lure employers leery of Michigan by making membership optional for hourly employees at union-represented shops.

Another session will focus on lean government, which organizers said will focus on creating policies that will encourage cutting costs by merging government services.

Basically, the agenda is a familiar one, "cut government and destroy workers rights". Surprised there wasn't anything in there about "high taxes", but you can bet that it will come up sometime during the conference.

The "right to work zones" concept is spreading - today it's an editorial in Crain's Detroit Business that advances the notion, based the impending decision from Volkswagon of where they will build a new plant.

So some business boosters have suggested that Michigan should adopt right-to-work zones, just as it has created tax-advantaged enterprise zones. In those zones, employees could decide individually whether they wanted to join or financially support a union. If such a law were ever passed, it must bar such zones from raiding other parts of the state. The zones should be open to new development only, from companies that otherwise would be expanding outside of Michigan.

Clearly, other states, including Ohio and Kentucky, have successfully attracted manufacturing jobs without right-to-work laws. But Michigan is so closely identified with organized labor that it's knocked out of the running, even when attractive packages, such as Choose Michigan, are available.

It sounds radical, given the state's history as a cradle for the organized labor movement in the 1930s. But a right-to-work zone might be a bold enough idea that could transform Michigan's image to bring jobs to a state that desperately needs them.

It sounds insane, actually. Can't wait to see how they would enforce something like that and keep these zones from "raiding" other parts of the state, not to mention all the other workers rights laws they would probably be allowed to violate and the legal problems that would create - with the rest of the state expected to pick up the tab for the cost of low-wage workers with little benefits hitting public services, of course. There is no way such a system could be made "fair", but that really isn't the idea - the idea is to slowly whittle away at employment laws until they favor the employers only. And you know it.

Something to keep an eye on. If the national economy continues to fall into a recession, dragging us down with it, this idea will probably gain more traction as the right looks for opportunities to destroy the unions any way they can. Big money doesn't mind turning Michigan into the "Mississippi of the North"; as long as they don't have to pay their employees a decent wage, they will be guaranteed to enjoy a decent lifestyle - and if you're poor, it's your own damn fault.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

DTE to Invest Billions in Alternative Energy in Michigan... Maybe

There is one caveat. This morning's Freep tells the story-

DTE Energy is getting ready to spend billions of dollars on alternative energy investments in Michigan, boosting the state's efforts to become a leader in this rapidly growing market.

The parent company of the Detroit Edison and MichCon utilities plans to make about $3 billion in renewable energy investments in Michigan over the next six to seven years, said Knut Simonsen, senior vice president of DTE Energy Resources Inc.

These investments depend on the state passing a new law mandating that 10% of its electricity come from renewable energy sources. The House of Representatives and the Senate have passed their own bills toward this goal, but major differences between the two must be reconciled.

Rumor has it the energy package goes to conference this week to iron out the differences between the House and Senate. As you know, the House has already passed a 10% renewable standard, and in the dead of the night, the Senate obliterated any meaning in these bills in a move the Freep called "abysmal" and the "worst possible combination of utility bills imaginable".

Although today's Freep doesn't tell us what DTE will do if the Senate decides to obstruct progress on the RPS, they do tell us what DTE has in mind as far as investment in alternative energy. Will the Senate Republicans turn down billions in investment for our state?

The bulk of DTE's multibillion-dollar investments will be in wind power in Michigan's Thumb and on the western side of the state, Simonsen said. The utility already has acquired easements on about 40,000 acres of land in Huron County for a potential wind farm.

DTE also recently decided to begin making $15 million to $20 million a year in alternative energy investments through its venture capital fund called DTE Energy Ventures, Simonsen said.

Will the Senate Republicans turn down the potential to bring new manufacturing jobs to Michigan?

The utility has already invested in a California company that's developing low-cost solar energy panels. It did not want to disclose the company's name. But Simonsen said that if the company's efforts prove successful, production of the panels could be done in Michigan in the next few years.

And if the Senate Republicans do turn down thousands of new jobs and billions in investment, what could their excuse possibly be?

DTE wants to invest in Michigan companies...

DTE Energy Ventures is one of a few corporate venture funds in the state that's focused on alternative energy.

Simonsen took over the fund about nine months ago and is rebuilding its small investment team in Ann Arbor. The fund is looking to invest in companies that already have raised their first round of venture capital.

"To the extent we can find good Michigan opportunities, all else being equal we prefer Michigan companies," Simonsen said.

... but venture capital will go where it is wanted. The major players in California told us so months ago...

Granholm said that while VC fund managers in her first few meetings were surprised and impressed by what they heard about Michigan’s efforts, they also made it clear that they will look favorably on states with aggressive public policy initiatives favoring the growth of renewable energy sources.

... DTE Energy Ventures will be no different. If they can't find favorable conditions in Michigan, they will go elsewhere.

When Mike Bishop said his focus this year would be "jobs, jobs, jobs", little did we realize he was talking about sending jobs to other states.

Schauer Officially Kicks Off Campaign, DCCC to Contribute $1.5M for Ads

You are probably wondering to yourself, "Hey, just what has Mark Schauer been up to lately?" Well, when he isn't busy working to create jobs in Michigan, he's been out meeting with voters across the 7th Congressional District, officially kicking off his campaign this week with a tour that stretched from Battle Creek to Adrian and back again. Or something like that. He was all over the place.

Why don't we hear about it in more detail? The print media covered a few of the stops, but as Walberg Watch astutely points out, the difficulty for the Schauer campaign is that there is no one major media market that covers the 7th -

Of the 210 Designated Market Areas, there are four which cover the 7th District: Detroit, Lansing, Toledo, and Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo/Battle Creek.

The map above (click on the link to see) shows each of the different media markets, with approximate boundaries of the 7th District drawn in. It's worth noting that there is some overlap. For example, in the Lansing market, Toledo's WTOL and WTVG are "significantly viewed out-of-market broadcast stations," as are WWMT and WOOD out of Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo/Battle Creek. However, there's no one market which covers everyone in the district.

So how do you advertise in that? If you want to make sure you reach everyone everywhere, you've got to advertise in all four markets. But is it really worth it to have your ads also be playing in Muskegon, Michigan and Findlay, Ohio at the same time?

You don't have much choice. You are going to have to advertise in all four, and hope that the local TV media will spare some cameras to dispatch to your events as well. Unlike a Gary Peters ($1.1M for MI-09) that can concentrate in one media market (albeit a pricey one), Schauer has to spread it out - and we haven't even started to talk about radio, print and internet yet.

That's going to cost some serious money. Enter the DCCC, who has reserved $35 million in TV advertising time across the country, $1.5M for the race in MI-07 alone. How sweet it is!

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved nearly $35 million on television advertisements in 31 House districts in for the fall campaign, offering a sneak preview of the central campaign battlegrounds and the party’s most vulnerable incumbents.

Ads will begin airing in early September and early October, according to documentation obtained by Politico.

By reserving television time for the fall campaign early on, the DCCC gets a discounted rate on often pricey advertising buys. If a race becomes less competitive, they can get their money refunded — occasionally with a small penalty assessed — or air additional ads in the same media market.

Playing it smart with the $$ and buying early. Gotta love that. According to the AP, the Republicans are woefully short on cash to counter.

Additionally, the Democratic committee reported more than $47 million in the bank at the end of May. The Republican counterpart group had $6.7 million.

Awww, how sad. DCCC make Republicans cry. All this pre-primary action is upsetting to them.

“The DCCC’s decision to break their pledge not to pre-primary endorse is just the latest in a laundry list of Democrat broken promises this Congress,” said a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, Ken Spain.

We don't really want to get into the laundry list of broken Republican promises, do we? Well, we will, just not right now. We'll save that for the TV ads so everyone can see.

Congratulations to our Michigan candidates, and thanks go out to the DCCC for stepping up to help.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Drafting Errors May Stop Reform Michigan Government Now Ballot Proposal

I will admit, this ballot proposal was appealing to my dark side. The thought of slapping Arlan "Get those welfare mothers first" Meekhof with a pay cut was just delicious. Made me smile. Watching Saul and Bill Nowling throw a fit about "reforming government", after running around and screaming "reform government" for the past few years, was hysterical. And after all the deception and games the far right had pulled with Prop 2s the last couple of times out, this was perfect. Payback, man. Payback is such a bitch, isn't it Saul?

But, like all things that appeal to the dark side of human nature, the flaws in logic start to become apparent when you want to act out of vengeance alone. As more was revealed in a barrage of negative media, I started to grow cool to the whole idea. While there are a lot of good things in this ballot proposal, I can't get behind the secrecy involved, and the convoluted do-it-all-at-once-and-they-won't-notice enormity of the thing.

Looks like we won't have to worry about it anyway.

A review of the controversial ballot proposal to rewrite many of the political provisions of Michigan's Constitution has turned up a potentially fatal drafting error -- a reference to a section of the constitution that does not exist.

While technical and apparently inadvertent, the mistake is not unlike a drafting blunder made in 2002 by a group attempting to relax drug crime laws in Michigan. That proposal was denied a spot on the ballot by state courts because it sought to add a section to the constitution where one already existed.

Oops. That's a problem, and according to the Citizens Research Council, who is reviewing this with a fine-tooth comb, not the only one.

The mistake in the ballot proposal petition is contained in a section that prescribes how a new director of state elections would be selected. It calls for procedures "as provided for in Article II, Section 11" of the Michigan Constitution.

The problem is there is no Section 11 in either the current constitution or the proposed ballot amendment.

The mistake was discovered during a preliminary review of the 21,000-word proposal by the Citizens Research Council, a nonprofit research organization that provides independent analysis of public policy questions in Michigan.

CRC Director Earl Ryan said Thursday the mistake was one of several identified in an initial reading but could be the most troublesome for backers of the Reform Michigan proposal.

It's too bad, really - all the money and time spent on this could have been put towards an open and honest reform movement, convincing the public of its necessity, and still achieved the majority of the goals within. Granted, this has been a major distraction for the Republicans and that is always a good thing, but wouldn't it be better to get real results instead?

Maybe next time.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

25 x 25 : Obama Proposes Federal Renewable Portfolio Standard

Part of the reason I started focusing on politics at the state level was that after the election in 2004, I had given up all hope on anything good coming out of Washington for the foreseeable future. Then I discovered just how bad things were here in Michigan. Part of me had a vague understanding that Republicans were obstructing the governor at every turn - I just didn't realize how deep the rabbit hole went. After two years of watching these guys play their partisan games, now I know, oh how I know, and I find I'm starting to look towards Washington once again. Take hope where you can find it, I guess.

If we can't get the Michigan Legislature to pass a strong renewable portfolio standard - and the 10% proposed by the House Democrats is a start, but not strong enough according to some experts - then perhaps an Obama presidency will have to do it for us. From Obama's energy page-

Require 25 Percent of Renewable Electricity by 2025: Obama will establish a 25 percent federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require that 25 percent of electricity consumed in the U.S. is derived from clean, sustainable energy sources, like solar, wind and geothermal by 2025.

Looking at the Pew Center US map of renewable standards that are already in place at the state level, that figure is very realistic. Some states have already set that goal or something very close to it, others, such as Maine, are already exceeding it by a wide margin.

Renewable energy has widespread bipartisan support as well; too bad our Senate Republicans seem intent on ignoring that fact. New survey out by Kelton Research has some astonishing numbers; they focus on solar, but found support for other renewables as well.

A vast majority of Americans, across all political parties, overwhelmingly support development and funding of solar energy. Ninety-one percent of Republicans, 97 percent of Democrats and 98 percent of Independents agree that developing solar power is vital to the United States.

These and other findings were reported today in the SCHOTT Solar Barometer(TM), a nationally representative survey conducted by the independent polling firm, Kelton Research.

The survey revealed that 77 percent of Americans feel that the development of solar power, and other renewable energy sources, should be a major priority of the federal government. Independent voters felt strongest about this, compared to voters in other political parties, with 86 percent of Independents supporting the statement.

When asked which one energy source they would support if they were President, 41 percent of Americans picked solar. Solar and wind together were favored nearly 20 times more than coal (3 percent).

People want this to happen. Why doesn't our Senate listen? And quite frankly, I'm not sure what to make of the wimpy response from the House Dems. Although Dillon has said the Senate version is unacceptable as is, there seems to be entirely too much coddling of Republicans going on here.

“We are glad to see that the Senate was able to make progress in passing something, but it's not the type of progress, especially in terms of the RPS, that we would have liked to have seen,” said Greg Bird, press secretary to House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township. “We'll continue to work with the Senate and the administration to find something that I think we can all find acceptable.”

Yes, that’s nice, but I tend to like Sen. Liz Brater's version better.

"Moving to 7 percent is rather disappointing," said Sen. Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor). "It's paltry. It's exceedingly weak. Can we set our standards any lower?"

Perhaps House Dems don't want to step on toes so they can get something done on this soon, but this seems like the perfect opportunity to point out that (some) Republicans in this state are acting under the direction of, oh, let's just say it- Dick DeVos, who had this to say in a recent e-mail-

Michigan can't afford to waste time or energy chasing the latest trendy idea. We need to stay grounded on scientific fact and economic reality with a dose of Midwestern common sense. For example, we have been hearing lately that revving up the renewable energy industry is the key to turning Michigan's economy around. What I would argue is just the opposite - turning Michigan's business environment around is the key to revving up the renewable energy industry.

This is the only reason I can see why Senate Republicans would hold us back while the rest of the country moves forward. The only one. Every single piece of evidence out there points out that a strong renewable standard is the way to go.

I hope our Legislature gets this through this year, at least for a start. It would be a shame if Michigan were to lose even more time waiting out the election - and if we wait until it does become a federal standard, we lose the advantage we would have if we acted on this now.

Michigan Signs Great Lakes Compact

So, I'm putting together this blog post, smugly thinking, well, we weren't last among the Great Lakes states to sign this, feeling all proud and whatnot... and it turns out that Ed "Sneaky" Rendell beat us to the punch.

Michigan has become the last of the eight Great Lakes states to join a compact designed to protect the region's water.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed legislation approving the compact during a ceremony Wednesday at Oval Beach in the Lake Michigan town of Saugatuck. A day earlier, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell announced he had signed a ratification bill.

He did, did he? Did he do it at the beach? No. I don't think so. (Actually I haven't bothered to check)

Anyway, this is the compact that will ban diversion of Great Lakes water and requires states to regulate their own use. Passed and signed by all eight Great Lakes states, and with identical measures passed by two Canadian provinces, now the compact goes on to Congress - states don't have the authority make treaties with foreign governments. Looks like we might get this approved this year.

The Council of Great Lakes Governors spent four years negotiating the deal amid rising concern that the worldwide freshwater shortage would lead thirsty regions to tap into the lakes.

Measures seeking congressional ratification should be introduced soon, said David Naftzger, executive director of the council. Sens. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, and George Voinovich, R-Ohio, are expected to be primary sponsors.

In the House, support for the pact will be led by Rep. James Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat and chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

More than 20 members of Congress have endorsed the compact, as have Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain. The Bush administration has voiced no opposition.

Amazing. Let's get this done then.

Oh, and Ed? Time to expose you for what you are. I swore I would never use my own pictures to lampoon politicians (it's tacky), but I'm not above posting ones that you put out yourself. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Ed Rendell, Red Wings fan.

Now, don't sneak by us again. Would hate to have to steal more hockey players from you.

Read more about the history of the Great Lakes Compact here.

On a serious note - congratulations to everyone involved in making this happen. Have a feeling this is going to go down as a very important moment in history. With 95% of the country's fresh surface water, protecting the Lakes is of utmost importance to our state and our nation's health and well-being.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Obama Fights Back on Energy with New TV Ad

Get ready to rumble! Not only did we have the conference call yesterday - now we have a new ad running that answers the RNC's misleading ad on Obama's energy plan. From the YouTube description-

"Airing in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan, "New Energy" sets the record straight on energy policy and responds to false, negative attacks by John McCain and the Republican party."

(Somewhere, John Kerry must be thinking - "Why didn't I do this?")

Love the message this sends to the Republicans. Attacks will not go unanswered this time around, and be prepared to spend lots and lots of media money as this campaign will counter every move you make.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Got Vote?

Today is the last day to register for the August 5th primaries. If you aren't registered, get on down to your local county, city or township clerk's office, your local Secretary of State, or your local Department of Human Services, the Department of Community Health, or Department of Career Development. Military recruitment centers also provide voter registration services. Make sure to bring an ID.

Surprisingly enough, 95% of the voting population is already registered (good for us!), including a new batch of youngsters-

Election officials say there is a slight uptick in registrations -- particularly among younger voters excited about the presidential election -- noting that the more than 7.2 million registered voters as of last week is nearly 26,000 more than the number of voters registered in 2006. The slow growth is not surprising given that nearly 95 percent of those of voting age already are registered, a rate higher than in most states.

Voting in primaries is notoriously low, though, as Bill "Grumpy" Ballenger points out-

"The turnout will again be terrible," predicts Bill Ballenger, editor of the Inside Michigan Politics newsletter. "I preach that the primary is the most important election of the year because most legislative and county offices are decided that day since the vast majority of those offices are in districts either heavily Democratic or heavily Republican so the primary winner coasts to victory in the fall."

Want to see more progressive Democrats in the House? Primary day is the day to make that happen. Study up on your local candidates. In the Detroit area, that can be a daunting task as term limits have left the race wide open in a couple of districts.

Take the case of Rep. Virgil Smith, D-Detroit, who is completing his third and final two-year term. No fewer than 17 Democrats are battling to succeed him. Eleven Democratic candidates are vying to succeed term-limited Rep. Marsha Cheeks.

Need to know if you are already registered and who is running in your district? The Secretary of State will provide that information at the click of a mouse.

No more excuses. Can't bitch about the Legislature unless you do your homework and help decide who ends up in Lansing. THEN you can get in here and help me take them to task.

(Actually, you can get in here now and help me take them to task. I'm flexible.)

Stopping the Swiftboat : Rapid Response to RNC McCain Energy Ad

Lookit John McCain, ain't he just the environmentalist with the balanced energy plan. And that Barack Obama, he just votes with the party line.

Yesterday, the RNC kicked off Negative Ad Campaign '08! with a rather strange ad that wasn't all that hard-hitting on Obama, actually, but you have to love how McCain and the Republicans are running away from their own party line.

"Record gas prices. A climate in crisis. John McCain says solve it now with a balanced plan: Alternative energy, conservation, suspending the gas tax, and more production here at home. He's pushing his own party to face climate change. But Barack Obama? For conservation, but he just says no to lower gas taxes, no to nuclear, no to more production. No new solutions. Barack Obama: Just the party line. The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising."

Me? Republican? Nah, they're stupid and I'm pushing them to face the facts, but that Barack Obama certainly is loyal to the Democrats!

Ooooookay. Ouch... that... um... doesn't mean anything, really, except that we are supposed to think Democrats = bad. Yeah, whatever.

Obama's campaign has the rapid response team ready - today it was Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, Pennsylvania Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz and our own Governor Granholm, prepared with facts in hand to refute the claims.

Granholm, speaking for the Obama campaign, said it’s McCain who is offering less than it seems with a gas tax proposal which will cost jobs and a $300 million prize for a new generation battery to propel plug-in hybrid and electric cars of the future “a gimmick.”

“It assumes that work is not already going on in Michigan” on such a battery, said Granholm.

Meanwhile, she said Obama’s proposal to create a $150 billion fund which would pay for investment into alternative energy and other technology could be an enormous step forward in reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil.

This is just the bare bones of the conference call - give a listen to the whole thing here. Basically, the three point out how the RNC is misleading in the attack on Senator Obama's energy policy, and they talk about how Obama's energy plan would address pressing energy/jobs issues not only for their individual states, but for the country as a whole. The whole call is 36 minutes long, so it gets rather involved - but very interesting.

You can read the specifics about Senator Obama's energy plan at his website.

Great to see immediate response from the Democrats on the Republican attacks - keep it up, people.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Alternative Energy Can Return Economic Prosperity to Michigan

Great story from business writer Rick Haglund making the rounds in the Michigan media. Today's GR Press print edition, across the top of the page headline, "Auto industry set to re-energize", and right below that in smaller print, "Alternative fuels could be vehicle for economic recovery in Michigan".

Yes. Finally. It took $4 a gallon gasoline, plummeting auto sales, and rumors of a GM bankruptcy to get everyone's attention, but finally we see the media starting to pick up on the fact that not only is this a solution for our energy crisis (let's just start calling it that, shall we?) - it's an amazing economic opportunity that would bring thousands of jobs to the state of Michigan.

Not only do we have the manufacturing base and workers to provide the physical components for gathering energy from renewable sources (wind turbines, solar cell/film production), and the natural resources for new fuels (wood byproducts for cellulosic ethanol), all of which will be wanted to power homes and businesses, we have an auto industry that is turning to alternatives with increasing desperation as consumers move away from the gas guzzlers and demand energy efficiency from their cars.

Home. Business. Auto. Everything that demands energy, we can do it here. The only question left is, will we take advantage of this opportunity?

The rest of the country is pulling away from us.

"It will be extremely difficult because we're competing with 49 other states," said Brett Smith, of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. "Differentiating ourselves will be very important."

Michigan's difference could be its battered auto industry, which is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to develop vehicles that run on biofuels, electricity and hydrogen.

The sense of urgency has picked up considerably with gas prices topping $4 a gallon, new federal regulations that will boost fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, and worries about emissions contributing to climate change.

Deriving energy from wind, sun and biofuels such as ethanol -- and producing the vehicles it runs on -- could become an industry rivaling the Internet-driven boom of the 1990s, some say.

Oil hits $200 a barrel and you can bet Jimmy Carter's sweater it will be more than "some" saying it. It may have taken 31 years and the advancement of technology to get there, but it sure looks like we are getting there - and now we can't get there fast enough.

"This may be the technology that will have an impact similar to the computer industry over the next 10 years," said Don Grimes, a University of Michigan economist.

Haglund goes on to list some of the companies already doing this work in Michigan, companies that we have talked about before such as ECD (Uni-Solar), Dow, Delphi, and the just recently announced Mascoma, as well as the universities like MSU, Wayne State, and the U of M that "received $79.5 million in alternative-energy grants last year, more than other any state except California." We are attracting new growth slowly but surely, now we need to start making the bold moves that will attract the attention of investors and put us on the path to be a leader in the nation in advancing and manufacturing this technology.

We have the tools. We have the desire. The only thing stopping us now is the perception that Michigan is just not "green enough"...

Smith said one of Michigan's biggest challenges will be overcoming a perception that Detroit, given its history of fighting federal fuel-economy and emissions standards, is unfriendly toward "green" technology.

"There is a perception that Michigan is not a clean state," Smith said. "People don't look to Michigan as a leader in these technologies."

Stuck with a bunch of SUVs that will probably have to be sold for scrap metal, look for Detroit to get on board the alternative game as quick as they can. They will have to, or they will perish. And they know it. At least they had better know it by now. What more could it possibly take?

That only leaves state policy standing in the way. Haglund recently wrote that there isn't much Lansing can do when it comes to Michigan's economy - and on many levels he is probably right - but what they can do is help change the world's perception of Michigan as being "unfriendly" to a green economy. They took one small step with the Choose Michigan fund...

Hours after Mascoma's announcement, the Michigan Legislature approved an $18.75 million Choose Michigan fund that would offer loans and grants for locating here.

Gary Krause, the development corporation's director of special projects, said developing an alternative-energy industry gives Michigan a chance to boost its economic self-image.

"Despite all the doom and gloom, there is some hope here," he said. "But it's going to take bold action by everyone involved."

And one big, bold action that would announce to the world that we are ready, willing and able to be a major player in this market would be to pass a strong renewable portfolio standard that would position us to recruit companies that will be pouring investment money into the places where there is demand. A paltry 7% isn’t going to cut it, it makes us a laughing stock – and this Legislature should know that. They can make all the excuses they want about "mandates", but mandates are part of the forces driving the market, and other states are reaping that investment.

One recent example for proof - Duke Energy in North Carolina is investing $100 million to install 850 solar panels on homes, schools and businesses. Money and jobs gained - and they point to the RPS as the main catalyst. Policy they supported, by the way.

"We believe an initiative of this scope and scale will help us meet the requirement of North Carolina's new Renewable and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS)," said Keith Trent, group executive and chief strategy, policy and regulatory officer. "This program also will enable us to evaluate the role of distributed generation on our system, and gain experience in owning and operating renewable energy resources."

So, how many experts and examples and business executives and headlines will our Legislature ignore? Hope we don't have to find out the hard way.

Interestingly enough, the headline below Haglund's story in today's Press is “Lansing may face voters’ hatchet”. Maybe when the voters realize that Lansing is passing up an opportunity to change the perception of our state because certain people want to play obstruction games and stick their heads in the proverbial sand to drill for more oil while the rest of the world moves forward and gets the jobs and the money that this industry is going to bring - they will pull that lever with glee.