Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out With the Old

One last time to my favorite local breakfast nook for '08. The trip served a purpose; having recently jumped off the Motorola bridge and diving into the world of the BlackBerry, I needed to test the wireless capabilities on tethering to the laptop, and this is one place that I had had limited or non-existent access before. So, off I went with a goal in mind (besides the food), and I'm happy to report that it works just like I thought it would. Could surf the 'net using the phone as a modem, just like all the other wired geeks in our modern day world, and I sat and marveled at all the technology under my fingertips.

Wow, this IS fun, I thought. And on the heels of that, as I looked around the place, I thought, my, how things have changed.

Back in 'da day, you would walk in, grab a newspaper, order your breakfast, get that cup of coffee, and light that cigarette while you read your paper and waited for your food. That small restaurant was divided into "smoking" and "non-smoking" sections, and what a complete and total joke THAT was, but no one really cared all that much back then. If they did, they just didn't go there, and those folks were a very distinct minority. At that point, the "non-smoking" section was the smaller of the two, rather cute and quaint and usually not very populated.

That restaurant that I speak of is under new ownership and totally non-smoking now. The old owners had opened a new place down the road many years ago, a place that has two separate rooms (but still share the same air), and I had followed them and their food when they went. I sat at that counter today, reading the news on the computer, and yes, drinking that coffee and smoking that cigarette with all the other (paying big taxes in the state of Michigan) lepers in the smoking section, and the first story that hit me in the eye was this-

A smoking ban in one Colorado city led to a dramatic drop in heart attack hospitalizations, according to a new study that is considered the best and longest-term research to show such a link.

The rate of hospitalized cases dropped 41 percent three years after the ban of workplace smoking in Pueblo, Colo., took effect. There was no such drop in two neighboring areas, and researchers believe it's a clear sign the ban was responsible.

The study suggests that secondhand smoke may be a terrible and under-recognized cause of heart attack deaths in this country, said one of its authors, Terry Pechacek of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I cringed with guilt. The addict that lives in my brain is resigned to the fact that this is the way we need to go. While I would still like to see exceptions for certain businesses (no, not the casinos, but tobacco shops and cigar bars), the evidence is overwhelming that this stuff kills. Probably going to kill me someday. That is my problem - but it shouldn't be the problem of the people sitting across the way, in the "non-smoking" section.

They are smoking, whether they like it or not, and I can't justify that. Maybe the restaurant can, but I struggle with it. I don't want to subject people to this poison.

I don't mind waiting. I don't mind going outside. It actually helps me cut down when I can't smoke. I do have a time limit before I will start climbing the walls from withdrawal though; airports and other public modes of transport (I'm thinking train stops) should let you go outside if you want. That is where I get a little peeved at "bans", when I'm trapped. But for the rest of the world, I have no problem with a ban. Our previous Legislature obviously did, and that is a shame.

We will see a ban here in Michigan eventually. I hope that it doesn't have to come in the form of a ballot proposal. That seems like an incredible waste of money when the legiscritters could just make it happen, like it has in the rest of the civilized nation.

And as every cell in my body screams out for "my best friend" in nicotine, I realize that eventually we are going to have to part.

I'm going to make a serious attempt to cut down this year to pay for the phone. I'm smart enough to know that I can't quit cold turkey; I've tried that before and it sent me into junkie sweats and nausea like you wouldn't believe. Can't take the drugs out of the fear of tipping into a full-blown depression; anything that blocks "pleasure centers" in my head have the potential to be very dangerous and might kill me quicker than the heart attack that is waiting to happen down the road. Plus, I don't really want to quit, and, having quit all the other "fun" stuff in my life, I know that wanting to is one of the biggest factors in the battle. I'm not there yet.

Things have changed, things are changing, and maybe someday I will want to change for good as well. I finished that cigarette as I bounced around the internet on the laptop, and played with the little phone that got me there. The food finally arrived.

And then a thought hit me. I smiled, and for old times sake, I put all the toys away - and grabbed a newspaper. Pretty soon that will be obsolete at the counter as well as that cigarette, and someday they both will be a memory of the last day of 2008.

A Long December

Sunday, December 28, 2008

NFL Week 17

Kansas City at Cincinnati
St. Louis at Atlanta
New England at Buffalo
Detroit at Green Bay
Tennessee at Indianapolis
Jacksonville at Baltimore
Chicago at Houston
Oakland at Tampa Bay
Cleveland at Pittsburgh
NY Giants at Minnesota
Carolina at New Orleans
Dallas at Philadelphia
Miami at NY Jets

Seattle at Arizona
Denver at San Diego
Washington at San Francisco

11-5. 164-92.

Last year - 166-90. You have to chuckle.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Show Me the Money: $25 Billion for Michigan?

Don't look now, but there are a bunch of politicians walking around with eyes as big as saucers as they think about spending all that Obama stimulus money. Even though VP-elect Biden proclaims that this won't contain "earmarks" - this is the Unites States Congress we are talking about here, and you have to wonder how they intend to stop the impending figurative fistfights that are going to break out as lawmakers scramble to grab the cash for their struggling states. Charles Ballard, an economist at Michigan State University, estimates that Michigan could receive $25 billion over the next two years, a figure that probably is making some people in Lansing literally tingle at the possibilities contained in that amount.

Send in the professionals. As the past eight years has shown us, no one can spend money like the Republicans, so let's cheer on the Michigan delegation as they enter the ring. Take it away, Candice!

Already, U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township -- one of the state's two members on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee -- is lobbying to create a distribution formula that would benefit Michigan.

She is urging transportation committee Chairman James Oberstar, a key player in designing the transportation part of the stimulus bill, to not allocate money to states based on the traditional highway formula, under which Michigan is a donor state.

Instead, Miller is pushing to have money allocated to states based on economic hardship, such as unemployment and home foreclosure rates.

"If we really are going to have economic stimulus, then it makes most sense to distribute more of the money to states like Michigan that have been hardest hit," said Miller, who has also talked to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit.

Yes! Yes, it does! And Pete Hoekstra is going to help!

U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, who expects the state to get "a couple hundred million dollars" for roads and bridges alone, said the stimulus bill "really potentially becomes a bailout for the entire state."

So, we already have the money-grabbers on our side. The state is making their lists and checking them twice - and boy oh boy, doesn't $25 billion sound like just the ticket to put a solid base underneath our very shaky state finances. Not only can we begin some much-needed infrastructure projects that will put people to work immediately, we can invest in education, worker training, fill the budget hole, clean up the Lakes, and the biggee that no one really talks about - funding for rapidly growing Medicaid rolls. Whether the "conservatives" like it or not, we are slowly but surely moving towards socialized medicine as employers dump both employees and insurance coverage alike, and people turn to the state for health care needs.

Enrollment in the health plan for the needy is now at 1.6 million residents, after increasing by an average of about 43,000 new people a month during fiscal year 2008. Medicaid gobbles up about one-quarter of the state's general fund.

Based on the figure of up to $70 billion being talked about in the stimulus proposal to help states deal with Medicaid, Michigan's portion could be from $1.2 billion to $2.4 billion, state officials estimate.

Not only will that ease the burden on hospitals struggling with the growing uninsured patient/unpaid debt problem, it will lessen the pressure on climbing insurance rates and create (and retain) jobs in a field that is going to continue to see growth as the population ages.

But I digress. That is just one area where this stimulus will come in very handy, and as everyone knows, it is greatly needed in other areas as well. The state will have the immediate projects ready; the faster they move this money, the quicker we can stop the bleeding and start the healing.

"We are making a list of 'shovel-ready' projects," said Leslie Fritz, spokeswoman for the state budget office.

"We are inventorying everything, not knowing how the money is going to come, in what amount or format. If the first wave of funding comes, and it's for education infrastructure, for example, we know exactly what we've got both at the K-12 level and the community college level ready to roll. So we can move that money as quickly as possible."

The less time spent fighting over it is probably good as well. Would hate to see this get tied-up in endless debates as the pols dash for their districts share of the cash and squabble about how this should be spent. It would be great if President Obama could move his hand directly from the Lincoln Bible to the pen that will sign the package right there on the podium. It won't happen like that, of course, but soon after...

“We’re getting awful close,” Biden said in Washington today before meeting with some of President-elect Barack Obama’s top economic advisers. “We’re all on the same page.”

Think of this as water on the parched earth. It may not grow an instant crop, but we can adequately prepare for growth in the future, if we play our cards right. That will depend on common sense and wisdom from our current crop of lawmakers - wish them luck as they make the sudden shift from poverty to riches, especially here in Michigan. It's going to be a headrush for them to have all this money to play with.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Down in Splendour on Christmas Eve

Been in a Fits mood today. Have a Merry Xmas!

Granholm's List of Accomplishments 2008

Granholm 5364

Last year when I wrote about this, I was attacked. Sitting here with a head full of Vicodin, an arm in a cast, and battling with my usual full-blown seasonal-affected disorder, I didn't quite know how to respond. Panic set me off on a basic primal instinct fight-or-flight thought pattern: I got dressed, found my coat, and was two seconds away from going to the emergency room to have the cast cut off my arm so I would be free to fight.

Christmas Eve, and I was in hell. Sweat broke out over my body, and I paced the floor. I'm not sure what intervened to calm me down. Maybe it was the thought of permanent damage to my hand and wrist if I lost the cast in this condition, because chances are, in that state I would have done something bad to it accidentally if it were free to move around. The bone had not yet begun to knit, and any jarring to it probably would have dictated surgery to fix it. At some point, common sense entered my racing head and told me to knock this shit off, this reaction was not rational. I read up on cast claustrophobia, took some deep breaths, looked at some pretty pictures, and then decided on the "flight" response. I popped another pain killer and finally knocked myself out.

I was thinking of blowing this off this year - understandably - but the list of accomplishments we have achieved should not be ignored. And, I am one helluva lot stronger after all the beatings. It's to the point where it doesn't phase me that much anymore - and in the face of what is coming up for 2009, I really don't have the time for "teh stupid", so I'm going to ignore it as best as I can from now on.

Adversity does serve a purpose.

2006 was draining. 2007 was really draining. 2008?

As the self-described toughest year of her administration comes to an end, Governor Jennifer Granholm said Monday that the state had to be "relentless" and "obsessive" in its efforts to restructure the economy, and that despite all the struggles Michigan will be all right in time.

"We're a tough state, a tough people, we'll be all right," Granholm said as she concluded her year-end press conference.

Yeah we will. It's just going to take some time, and the will to fight through the tough times to come in '09. You ready? It's going to get pretty bad. With the auto restructuring, we are looking to lose anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 jobs next year. The dominos have already been set in motion. Tax revenues are down, cuts will have to be made, the right is gearing up to blame this all on the Democrats, and we are going to need all hands on deck to maintain the quality of life and the plans already in place that will position us for job growth in the future.

Looking back at the State of the State Address from last January, we got a lot done, the bills that will bring the alternative energy jobs here being the most important, IMO. The credit crisis may slow things down a bit - but the demand is still there. Just recently we landed Global Wind Systems to build turbines, and according to Peter Luke, it was the RPS that did it. Just last night there was a story about BP Alternative Energy looking to build wind farms over here on the west side to take advantage of the winds off of Lake Michigan.

The jobs are coming. And if Obama is serious about the 25 x 25 and the investment in alternative energy/national stimulus plan, we might be better off than we think. The doom criers are going to cry their doom (and sometimes that will be me, too) but underneath, always, always, keep that hope alive.

Here is the list from the state of what we managed to achieve in this "toughest year".

1. Diversifying the economy to create a job for every worker.

- Proposed, fought for, and signed into law energy legislation, mandating that 10 percent of the state's energy come from renewable sources, helping create new energy jobs.

- The governor's Centers of Energy Excellence are further accelerating new energy job creation by connecting six growing companies involved in advanced battery and alternative fuel development with research universities and government.

- Created and retained more than 105,000 jobs in 2008, including more than 60 percent in the targeted sectors of alternative energy, advanced manufacturing, life sciences and homeland security.

- In 2007, the governor created the Defense Contract Coordination Center (DC3) through the 21st Century Jobs Fund to increase federal government contracting opportunities for Michigan companies. In just one year, DC3 exceeded its goal of more than doubling the contracts won - $755 million in contracts that will help create nearly 6,000 new jobs.

- At the governor's insistence, the Legislature passed new incentives to ensure that Michigan is the center of U.S. efforts to develop batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles, which are currently only manufactured overseas.

- The governor's No Worker Left Behind initiative has helped more than 50,000 displaced workers prepare for new careers by enrolling in training in just over one year.

- Michigan's film and movie-making economic development program, the most aggressive in the nation, increased motion picture production. To date, the state has received 215 proposals and approved 71 projects, which will add more than $430 million to the state's economy.

- Granholm continued her "go anywhere and do anything" commitment to bring jobs to Michigan, traveling to Japan, Israel and Jordan in 2008. To date, the governor's seven international jobs missions have resulted in 43 companies announcing more than $955 million in new investment and more than 10,700 jobs created and retained.

2. Providing a quality education for every child.

- Governor Granholm proposed and won funding for the 21st Century Schools Fund to help school districts replace large high schools with low academic achievement and high dropout rates, with small high schools that use relationships, discipline and relevance to help at-risk kids achieve.

- Four more revolutionary new "early college" high schools will open this year, giving students the opportunity to prepare for careers in health care. These four schools will join the six early college high schools which opened last year, creating relevancy for students looking for hands-on experience.

- Despite severe budgetary challenges, Granholm was able to push spending for K-12 education to an all-time high.

- The governor also proposed and secured additional funding for early childhood education, giving 2,800 additional four-year-olds access to quality preschool.

- Granholm will soon sign legislation she proposed to help other communities create Kalamazoo Promise-like scholarship opportunities.

3. Making health care affordable and accessible for every family.

- In 2008, Governor Granholm continued her fight to make health care affordable and accessible to every citizen. Medicaid caseloads increased by an average of 43,000 per month over the course of fiscal year 2008. Despite the economic challenges of this rising demand, no citizen was refused state-sponsored health care this year.

- The Granholm administration's commitment to provide seniors the care they need in their own homes continues to expand care options and save money. In 2008, more than 500 citizens were transitioned from nursing homes to community living. Since 2003, Michigan has reduced nursing home use by 1.1 million days, saving more than $100 million annually.

- The governor proposed and received additional funding for the Michigan Nursing Corps which is already training more than 100 nurse educators and clinical instructors to meet rising demand. Since 2004, administration efforts to address the nursing shortage have helped add more than 9,300 nurses in Michigan.

4. Protecting our families and our quality of life.

- Governor Granholm signed the Great Lakes Compact to set standards for sustainable water use and to prevent large scale withdrawals and diversions outside our region. The compact, which has been ratified by Congress and signed by President Bush, makes Michigan a world leader in the scientific management of water.

- The Department of Corrections expanded the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative (MPRI) to reduce recidivism in our prisons. The program was expanded to all 83 counties in 2008 and has reduced the recidivism rate by one third.

- As gas prices spiked to more than $4 per gallon, Michigan Department of Agriculture inspectors worked harder to ensure that motorists received the quantity and the quality of gasoline they expected. Thanks to their hard work, 92 percent of gas pump meters now comply with state regulations, up from 79 percent just four years ago.

- Granholm's Cities of Promise initiative continued to revitalize Michigan's urban centers this year, including the Blight Elimination Program which exceeded its goal of eliminating more than 1,500 blighted properties in 2008.

- The Michigan State Police and Department of Corrections continued their efforts to track down fugitives and sex offenders not in compliance with the law. Through ongoing Project SAFE Streets and Operation Verify sweeps, 810 fugitives and 270 sex offenders were arrested in 2008.

Thanks go out to the governor and the Legislature for working through the adversity and getting these points accomplished. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas, and my best wishes to all for the New Year - and I sincerely mean that.

Here's to 2009. Let's look to the bright side.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Who Are You, and What Have You Done With Mike Bishop?

Remember just last month when Mike stomped his feet and proclaimed that the Senate wouldn't do any work besides make budget cuts?

"We want to get the job done and get out of town before the mischief-making begins," Bishop said.

Must be that Senator Bishop was visited by the Ghost of Elections Yet to Come, and decided that the record of the Fightin' 94th Legislature wasn't looking too hot as far as accomplishments go, because they done went and passed a slew of stuff while we were busy sweating out the existence of the auto industry.

Big thanks go to the folks at Gongwer for the following set of numbers -

If it seemed like the 94th Legislature's lame duck session was quite busy, including a final marathon 25-hour session, that's because lawmakers completed almost as much work on each other's bills over the past 10 or so session days as they have the rest of the year.

Gongwer News Service analyzed bill activity over the past year and broke it down action based on pre and post-Election Day work.

For the months of November and December, the House was voting in session for 11 days, while the Senate was voting in session for 10 days. Over the course of the year, both chambers have convened session for more than 70 days.

Between the day after the election and the last day of session, the House voted on 117 Senate-originating bills, while the Senate voted on 120 House-originating bills.

However between January and the election, the House voted on 153 Senate-originating bills, while the Senate voted on 143 House-originating bills.

So, what in the world happened to change his mind?

Whatever it was, this citizen is grateful they decided to stay and get some stuff done. While they did leave some important, major issues up in the air (smoking ban, road funding), they also did some really good things (Promise Zone legislation, battery credits, Cobo, light rail) that they deserve to be applauded for.

Thank you, 94th. Have a good Christmas. My best to those that are moving on - and a big welcome to those that are coming in next year.

In other words, nice to meet you Representative Elsenheimer. Hope you enjoy your stay. We intend to make it a pleasant one. Ask Craig, he will tell you all about it.

Heh heh.

Monday, December 22, 2008

This Explains Everything

Well, not everything, but a lot.

This is also on track to be the cloudiest month EVER! We’ve had only 6 hours and 43 min. of sunshine this whole month. That’s 3.5% of possible sunshine. The cloudiest month ever in GRR was Nov. 1992 with 5.1% of possible sunshine.

No wonder...

Where is Richard Shelby When You Need Him?

While Rick Wagoner, UAW retirees, the state of Michigan, and the rest of the backbone of American manufacturing are saying "thank you" to Washington for not pulling the trigger and killing us after the credit crisis took us hostage, the people that perpetrated the original crime get to give the taxpayer the big "F-U" as they spend their billions.

Senator Shelby, would you care to comment on the audacity of the banking system here?

It's something any bank would demand to know before handing out a loan: Where's the money going?

But after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation's largest banks say they can't track exactly how they're spending the money or they simply refuse to discuss it.

"We've lent some of it. We've not lent some of it. We've not given any accounting of, 'Here's how we're doing it,'" said Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money. "We have not disclosed that to the public. We're declining to."

The AP had four simple questions for 21 banks that received over $1 billion dollars: How much spent, what did you spend it on, what are your savings, and what is the plan going forward. With $350 billion still out there waiting to be had, it seems like they might want to prove themselves worthy of the taxpayer's next round of Wall Street bailouts, right?


Nearly every bank AP questioned -- including Citibank and Bank of America, two of the largest recipients of bailout money -- responded with generic public relations statements explaining that the money was being used to strengthen balance sheets and continue making loans to ease the credit crisis.

Nice in theory - but some banks couldn't even tell you where the money went, so how would they know?

Most just said, "No. We won't tell you."

"We're choosing not to disclose that," said Kevin Heine, spokesman for Bank of New York Mellon, which received about $3 billion.

Others said the money couldn't be tracked. Bob Denham, a spokesman for North Carolina-based BB&T Corp., said the bailout money "doesn't have its own bucket." But he said taxpayer money wasn't used in the bank's recent purchase of a Florida insurance company. Asked how he could be sure, since the money wasn't being tracked, Denham said the bank would have made that deal regardless.

Others, such as Morgan Stanley spokeswoman Carissa Ramirez, offered to discuss the matter with reporters on condition of anonymity. When AP refused, Ramirez sent an e-mail saying: "We are going to decline to comment on your story."

Most banks wouldn't say why they were keeping the details secret.

"We're not sharing any other details. We're just not at this time," said Wendy Walker, a spokeswoman for Dallas-based Comerica Inc., which received $2.25 billion from the government.

Heine, the New York Mellon Corp. spokesman who said he wouldn't share spending specifics, added: "I just would prefer if you wouldn't say that we're not going to discuss those details."

Wonder why our friends from the South are so quiet about this. It seems that Corker should be calling a special session to hold these people accountable for their actions and arrogance. Then again, he probably would blame the hourly wages of bank tellers as being the problem here, and demand that they all become temps and sacrifice their hourly wages and any health care they might have.

Yeah. That would fix everything.

Friday, December 19, 2008

While You Were Sleeping

Because some the best laws written in this state always come from sleep-deprived legislators and their staff (like the MBT surcharge!) - the 94th version of the Michigan Legislature pulled yet another all-nighter last night, and apparently is still working as I write this. Quite the way to run the railroad, eh Senator Bishop? Refuse to work all year, and then do everything in a last-minute rush - and people wonder why we end up with some of the screwiest laws in the nation.

A short recap of the good, the bad, and the undone:

  • Fresh off the wires - Cobo expansion has passed the House. Someone wake up Brooks. It's off to the Senate as we speak. (Update 11:04 am - we have a deal.)
  • The smoking ban will be left undone, as will the Blue Cross bills, and funding for the roads. "It's too hard!" proclaimed the Senate Republicans, as millions in federal matching funds were on the line. That can probably be rectified when the adults (?) take over in Washington.
  • Tax credits for advanced battery technology. Very good thing, passed 94-0 in the House and 31-3 in the Senate. This should make Michigan the epicenter of development for electric/hybrid vehicles. That is the hope, anyway.
  • Crackdown on out-of-state can redemptions. Big problem in the border counties that is costing us money. Good first step, until the smugglers find a way around it.

    Some other highlights from the AP:

    WINE SALES: The Legislature gave final approval to a bill designed to bar in-state wine drinkers from getting shipments straight from stores. A federal judge in September ruled unconstitutional a state law allowing Michigan retailers to deliver wine to residents, but prohibiting out-of-state retailers from doing likewise.

    CHILD SAFETY: Bills that would more clearly define and provide penalties for leaving a child unattended in a vehicle for potentially unsafe periods were sent to Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

    DRUNKEN DRIVING: Some motorists convicted of drunken driving would have to use an ignition interlock device aimed at cutting down on repeat offenses under legislation headed to Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

    DETROIT LIGHT RAIL: Legislation aimed at helping create a light-rail system in Detroit was headed to Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

    CEMETERIES: Bills that would strengthen the requirements and monitoring of cemetery trust funds were sent to Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

    We will have to wait and sort out the carnage later, as they are still working at this hour. Maybe sometime we should have a serious discussion about the hazards behind writing law in the dead-of-night by a bunch of people who only want to get away to their vacation and/or retirement.

    Wonderful UPDATE 11:32: It's a miracle - they approved the Promise Zone legislation that will allow communities to set up college tuition programs with private donations -

    The legislation passed Friday is modeled somewhat after the Kalamazoo Promise, which guarantees free college tuition to graduates of Kalamazoo Public Schools. Similar versions passed both the House and Senate, and the differences are expected to be resolved.
  • Bush Approves Auto Loans

    No "managed bankruptcy" - but the ridiculous demands of the Senate Republicans on autoworkers are included. For now.

    The Bush administration will offer General Motors and Chrysler loans totaling $17.4 billion in return for strict conditions mirroring those proposed by Senate Republicans last week.

    Those terms include not only the conditions agreed to by congressional Democrats, but new limits sought on the UAW contracts including matching wage and benefits of foreign automakers with U.S. plants by the end of next year.

    The money will come from the $700-billion bailout of the financial industry and the first loan of $13.4 billion will be available immediately, with a second amount of $4 billion available in February assuming the Obama administration draws down the second half of the bailout funds.

    Aren't you glad we elected Bob Corker leader of the Senate?

    The targets draw from the proposal made by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., including requiring a two-thirds cut in debt, the UAW wage conditions and eliminating the jobs bank. In addition, GM and Chrysler will be required to make new agreements with dealers and suppliers by March 31.

    Senate Republicans made labor the target, and it worked. They admit to the "shot across the bow".

    Now ask yourself - who will be next?

    Take the money, smile and say "thank you". And pray to God that this isn't the way the United States Senate is going to be run next year.

    Thursday, December 18, 2008

    Got Hope?

    Very hard to find it right now. On the near horizon all you can see is a tidal wave that will destroy our state budget and threaten everything that we fought so hard to protect, and, when you realize that the only thing that can save us in the short term is George W. Bush, it starts to feel like we are living in a version of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" as told by Stephen King. Some really scary stuff being uttered out there; unemployment shooting up, tax revenue down, and Republicans still insisting that we "dig faster!" as a way out of our problems. Not good.

    Through all the darkness, there are still glimmers of hope, believe it or not. Some wise person once said, "There is always hope in crisis", so, you just gotta go look for it, and cling to it with all your might.

    Found some hope this morning in the form of Donald Grimes, economic forecaster with the University of Michigan. IF we can save some semblance of the auto industry, and IF St. Obama can stuff our stockings next year with an aggressive national stimulus plan, our future here in Michigan will be very bright indeed. How? By continuing down the path we had already set out on, because as it turns out, it really is working.

    Michigan Business Review: Do you see any hopeful sectors for Michigan? You have previously talked about health care as strength in particular in Oakland County.

    Grimes:There's an amazing number of hopeful sectors actually in Michigan. As part of the study with the Research Seminar for Quantitative Economics that I was involved in, I believe we found 280 private-sector industries that between 2002 and 2007 actually grew faster in terms of employment growth in Michigan than they did nationally. That's a staggering number I never would have expected. Health care was one of the aggregate industry groups. There was also some that were in medical product manufacturing, pharmaceutical product manufacturing, agricultural and foodstuff manufacturing. It was in a wide variety of industries. Even semiconductors in Michigan were doing better than they were nationally.

    One down-side - these industries don't pay as well as the ones that are contracting, and the loss of auto jobs still threatens to overwhelm everything. But eventually, consumer demand will build, the gates will open up, and we will be positioned to benefit from it all.

    MBR: Obama has talked about spending some of the stimulus on alternative and renewable energies. Gov. Jennifer Granholm traveled to Washington recently to pitch spending some of it in Michigan. How much would that help?

    Grimes:It would help in the short term sort of a little bit, not to offset the tremendous job losses that are going to come from auto sales being down, but it'll help a little bit in creating jobs in the near term. But in the long term it'll make for a more prosperous future. The key is to keep your eye on the ball of what you're going to look like in five years, 10 years, 20 years down the road. A lot of this infrastructure that President-elect Obama is talking about is a great idea.

    MBR: In previous recessions, Michigan, led by Detroit, tends to slip into recession before the rest of the country but also emerge earlier. Is that likely to happen this time?

    Grimes: We never got out of the 2001 recession, so we never emerged in 2003 or '04. Historically that's always been the case up until 2003. What tends to happen is there's this pent-up demand for consumer durables or factories for investment product. So when you come out of a recession that pent-up demand really boosts Detroit, which makes both a lot of consumer durables, like cars, but also we are a big center for investment in factories, machinery that goes into factories. So to the extent that there's this pent-up demand that's met as we're coming out of the recession, we would benefit. But that's assuming that the Detroit Three survive and then turn around in 2010, '11 and come up with a product mix that's very appealing to the consumer.

    You could quibble about the use of the word "recession" here - we basically ended up treading water until the past couple of years - but during the time from 2002-07 we have been adding those new industries that will eventually pay off. The "five year" projection was only erroneous in time frame; the credit crisis/auto sales downturn has delayed our recovery for now, but we are going in the right direction.

    There is no doubt that 2009 is going to be a very rough year. The auto industry will not look the same after this is done, and neither will this state, but with a few lucky breaks we all will survive and be better off for the restructuring. The only question now is whether or not Bush will screw up this last little piece of his legacy and set us back even further time-wise, but even if he does - there is always hope in the darkness.

    Right now, it's all we have left, so nurture it as best you can. Even Stephen King stories tend to end on a positive note - you just have to get through all the screaming first.

    NFL Week 16

    Indianapolis at Jacksonville
    Baltimore at Dallas
    New Orleans at Detroit

    Cincinnati at Cleveland
    Miami at Kansas City
    Pittsburgh at Tennessee

    San Diego at Tampa Bay
    San Francisco at St. Louis
    Arizona at New England
    Houston at Oakland
    NY Jets at Seattle
    Buffalo at Denver

    Atlanta at Minnesota
    Philadelphia at Washington
    Carolina at NY Giants

    Green Bay at Chicago

    6-10. Man, that was BAD. 153-87.

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Alternative Energy Jobs Coming to Michigan - Hemlock Announces Expansion

    I don't know about you, but I don't like the idea of having our state's future in George Bush's hands right now. While I'm hopeful that something will be done to help the automakers, I'm well aware of the fact that the last group of people George "liberated" are now throwing things at him.

    We also have found ourselves on the short end of Republican lies about labor and the public's willingness to believe them. Apparently no one has learned the lesson yet - if a Republican's lips are moving, they are lying. You can count on it. On yesterday's Meet the Press, Mitt Romney still babbles the now debunked myth about the UAW and their wages, and calls for the Republican prescription once again - take money away from workers, cut taxes for business, and yet somehow still increase spending, proving once again that "conservatives" are anything but responsible when it comes to the economy. Why anyone still considers Mitt Romney an "authority" on anything is beyond me, but for whatever reason, they do, and they invite him to be on TV to repeat the same nonsense over and over.

    Republicans have nothing new to offer. Live it, learn it, now let's move forward and never, ever put ourselves in this position again. How do we do that in Michigan? We diversify this economy as fast as we possibly can - and at this point, the best way to do that is to look at the areas that are growing and get involved in them. So, on this cold and blustery winter day, with the auto industry ax hanging over our head, a long-awaited announcement shows this state one way out of our dilemma.

    I have been waiting since last January for this:

    Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. today, for the second consecutive year, announced up to a $1 billion expansion at its Saginaw County manufacturing complex, promising 300 full-time positions and the potential of drawing job-producing solar companies to mid-Michigan.

    Hemlock Semiconductor is owned by Bay County based Dow Corning Corp. and two Japanese companies. Dow Corning was to announce construction of a new manufacturing facility of its own at the Saginaw site today.

    Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm was to attend a press conference today at Saginaw Valley State University, where company officials gave details on the most recent part of $2.5 billion in investments at its Saginaw site in the past five years.

    We give them the tax and energy cost breaks (we have no choice on that for now), we get the jobs and investment, and most important of all, we can change the perception that we are a "one economy" state. The Saginaw Valley can be the next Silicon Valley when it comes to alternative energy development, drawing more companies to the area.

    First come the jobs, and the jobs that support the jobs:

    HSC's plans in Thomas Township will bring total employment to more than 1,500 workers when the latest expansion finishes in 2011, Erpelding said. At least 800 to 1,200 construction workers will stay on the site until the work is finished.

    Clarksville could get 500 new jobs and up to 900 total in future expansions. The project will employ 1,000 construction workers there for five to seven years. Every manufacturing job, researchers have determined, adds at least 3.5 workers in the service or retail sector.

    Eventually more will follow:

    All told, the company that first opened in Saginaw County in 1961 could supply 60 percent of the global demand for the product when its plans are complete, Homan said. And company leaders expect more growth.

    The Saginaw Valley has evolved into a hotbed of solar growth.

    Dow Corning opened a Solar Solutions Application Center in Freeland for research and development in solar cell technology. Buyers from all over the world come to the center for demonstrations of what local engineers and scientists can do to make solar collector materials more efficient.

    Evergreen Solar Inc., of Marboro, Mass., is constructing a $55 million silicon wafer technology plant in Midland.

    Dow Chemical Co. is making progress on a building and its equipment for a $53.3 million integrated photovoltaics center at its Michigan Operations complex in Midland. The research and development operation will determine whether Dow can profitably manufacture construction materials, shingles and siding for example, that include solar cells to capture sunlight and convert it to useable energy.

    And then we don't have to listen to Mitt Romney ever again.

    Won't that be nice?

    Nothing beats the Republican lie like success. Time for Michigan to fight back against those who want to pigeonhole us - and this is the way we can do it.

    More on the Hemlock expansion from the state release.

    Sunday, December 14, 2008

    NFL Week 15

    New Orleans 24 at Chicago 27 (OT) (oops)
    Washington at Cincinnati
    Tampa Bay at Atlanta
    Tennessee at Houston

    Detroit at Indianapolis
    San Diego at Kansas City
    Green Bay at Jacksonville
    Buffalo at NY Jets
    San Francisco at Miami
    Seattle at St. Louis

    Minnesota at Arizona
    Denver at Carolina
    New England at Oakland

    Pittsburgh at Baltimore
    NY Giants at Dallas

    Cleveland at Philadelphia

    8-8. 147-77.

    Friday, December 12, 2008

    Treasury, WH Willing to Consider Use of TARP Funds for Automakers

    From Bloomberg, hat tip to Kathy-

    The U.S. Treasury said it is willing to provide financing to American automakers after the Senate yesterday failed to approve a rescue for the beleaguered companies.

    "Because Congress failed to act, we will stand ready to prevent an imminent failure until Congress reconvenes and acts to address the long-term viability of the industry," Treasury spokeswoman Brookly McLaughlin said in an e-mailed statement.

    Our hero, George W. Bush.

    HAHAHAHA! (Edit 2:25 PM - Now that the nitrous has worn off, this doesn't seem as funny as it did.)

    And from First Read at MSNBC - an important point.

    By the way, it’s amazing how McConnell was able to run circles around Reid. Sure, the numbers are closer now than they will be in a month. And, sure, it’s always easier to be minority leader than majority leader. But McConnell is proving to be a pretty smart minority leader, while Reid continues to get frustrated again. And the lesson the Senate GOP caucus is going to learn from this fight is that by sticking together, they can hold up Obama's agenda.

    Time to get tough, Democrats, or we will have Michigan writ large as the Republicans use obstruction in the name of partisan politics alone. Bishop is probably asking for an autographed picture of Bob Corker as we speak.

    Gibraltar Trade Center Cancels Bunning Appearance Over Auto Vote

    Looks like former Tiger and current Senator Jim Bunning won't be taking any money from Michigan residents at this time. Sorry baseball fans.

    Gibraltar Trade Center has canceled an appearance by Republican Senator Jim Bunning in the Detroit area this weekend.

    Bunning represents Kentucky, voted against the auto bailout. He is also a former Tiger pitcher, and member of the Hall of Fame. He was scheduled to sign autographs at Gibraltar Trade Center in Taylor.

    Senator Bunning was too busy to talk to the press, but the GTC's Jim Koester had this to say:

    Mr. Koester said, “Being a business owner in Michigan for over 30 years, I simply cannot support anyone who, in my opinion, votes against the economic well being of our great state.” Mr. Koester went on to say, “The contract between us and Mr. Bunning was signed well in advance of the auto vote.”

    Gibraltar Trade Center has supported local vendors and entrepreneurs who want to start or expand their business in Michigan for over 30 years.

    WXYZ in Detroit then went on to point out that Bunning has had an "undistinguished career" and "was named one of the Senate's five least effective members" in a Time survey from 2006.


    GM to Slash Production in the First Quarter of '09

    The dominos are falling. Next, you will see auto parts suppliers laying off workers due to lack of demand, the people that supply the auto parts suppliers laying off due to lack of demand... and on down the line we go, until this reaches into every part of the American economy that you can think of.

    General Motors Corp., which is involved in a last-ditch effort to garner federal funds to help it survive through January, confirmed this morning that it is slashing approximately 250,000 units of production in the first quarter by shutting down most North American assembly plants for about 30% of the first quarter.

    GM spokesman would not say which plants have been affected, but said the company would likely make an announcement later today.

    The 250,000 units of production include 60,000 units of car and truck production already cut last week.

    Workers at GM’s Kansas City, Kan., car plant and its Spring Hill, Tenn., crossover plant this morning said they were notified this morning that they will be down from the holidays through Feb. 9.

    And it's not just GM - Honda is cutting production as well.

    Also today, Honda Motor Co. announced it is reducing production by another 119,000 vehicles for its fiscal year ending March 31, bringing expected production for the fiscal year to 1.3 million units.

    This is going to happen whether the Big Three gets their loans or not.

    We are in some major trouble here, and this will affect Michigan more than any other state in the nation. Fasten your seatbelts, no pun intended, because we are in for a very bumpy ride.

    Granholm Press Conference

    Governor is bummed at a few selected senators and their treatment of working people...

    Granholm expressed outrage at what she called the “shocking” opposition by U.S. senators to the proposed $14 billion rescue plan that failed approval late Thursday night. She said those senators—which included both Republicans and Democrats—showed a shocking insensitivity toward people employed by the US automotive industry in Michigan and around the country. She said the clock is ticking, and the automakers are drowning.

    ...but still she knows that, in the end, "Michigan will be alright".

    She asks that, if you can, invest in stock in Ford or GM.(Edit: Oops - forgot Chrysler isn't public. Ford is looking good to me, but she won't play favorites), or, go buy a new car and help support our automakers. The state is going to accelerate their purchases of new American cars for the fleet and have it done by Dec. 31st.

    Plus, we have a special guest appearance from Lt. Gov. John Cherry, who would like to remind the nation of the times that Michigan residents have opened their hearts and wallets and have given to others that needed help.

    Word tonight is that the WH will step up here and help out with the TARP funds; no word yet on the size of that help or the conditions that it will carry. Knowing George... well, never mind. Let's be grateful for now, and get ready to face the future, whatever that may bring.

    Thursday, December 11, 2008

    Wingnut Trifecta: Stand Up to Bush, Destroy the Unions or Saddle Obama With Economic Catastrophe

    How cynical can I be? Apparently not cynical enough, because even I can't believe what is unfolding before my eyes here. From the looks of it, the Republicans at the federal level are still hell-bent on playing wingnut politics - making moves that would appeal to the far right in some desperate attempt to shore up what's left of their rapidly dwindling base. First, they ignore the pleas of George Bush...

    With President George W. Bush's influence waning in the final weeks of his unpopular administration, "no one cares what the White House thinks," a senior Republican aide said.

    ... because he is a convenient scapegoat for their losses and/or behavior of the past eight years. If they blame him, they are in the clear, right? Under the bus he goes. That will make the "base" happy, allowing them to deny any responsibility for their support of the man and his disastrous policies.

    Next, they insist on busting the UAW before they will give out a measly $14 billion in loans. Keep in mind this is the party that had no problem running up the deficit to record levels when they were in charge. Now they see a golden opportunity for political payback, as witnessed in this article from Todd Spangler at the Freep...

    Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky represent states where foreign automakers have significant operations and the UAW has less sway than in Michigan or Ohio. Each also has been the target of considerable political support from the automakers' union flowing to Democrats who have opposed the senators in elections.

    Complicating matters for the union -- which has been lobbying hard for passage of the rescue plan -- is that it threw its political weight behind many of the Democratic opponents who managed to beat Republican incumbents last month. Now those same defeated GOP senators are being asked to save the domestic auto industry from ruination before giving up their seats.

    And they intend on making the rank-and-file pay the price, which will weaken the unions, and maybe even support for the Democrats, if workers perceive them as bowing to Republican demands that takes money out of their pocket and threatens their homes and families. Long shot on the culpability, but it's worth a try a this point, right?

    Nifty trick. It's either that, or throw the country into further economic chaos, which would tie the hands of the incoming president rather nicely, don't you think? The unemployment numbers are rapidly accelerating, the word "deflation" is being tossed about, and no one can tell me that these guys cannot read the writing on the wall as to what would happen if millions more Americans joined the unemployment line within the next six months.

    The "nasty" U.S. recession will tighten its grip next year as unemployment rises and weak home and stock prices imperil consumers, finance firms and debt-laden businesses, a UCLA Anderson Forecast report released on Thursday said.

    Additionally, a sustained retreat in prices for goods and services is a very real possibility that would further drag on the economy, according to the forecasting unit's report.

    "Where only last quarter we were worried about inflation, we are now worried about its very rare opposite: deflation," the report said. Falling prices would cut demand and discourage employers from hiring.

    And if they succeed with all of the above, it might just embolden them to try and stop any sort of stimulus that the Obama administration proposes. Keeping the economy and the American worker in a position of desperation for as long as they can might serve to enhance their chances in 2010, and eventually 2012. If Obama can't deliver the "change" he promised...

    Please tell me I'm wrong about all of this. I don't like being this paranoid, but I can't help but fall back on the track record of the past eight years. I don't think the Republicans have learned the lesson yet, and will do anything to keep serving themselves and their "party first" mentality. The American people have never factored into that equation, unless you are fodder for their gain.

    If not, you deserve a wage cut, obviously.

    MSU Awarded $550-Million Nuclear Physics Project

    Some excellent news for MSU and our state. Our representation in Washington deserves a pat on the back here, too.

    Michigan State University will be home to a $550 million federal nuclear physics facility, beating out a prestigious national laboratory for the one-of-a-kind project that promises to boost the state's economy and the university's prestige.

    The U.S. Department of Energy announced today that MSU is its choice for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, or FRIB, the biggest nuclear physics upgrade ever at the university and one that will solidify its spot as a world leader in rare isotope research, leaders say.

    World leader! Yes! Besides prestige, lots of money and jobs come with this as well.

    Gaining the cutting-edge research facility is welcome news for the state's beleaguered economy. The facility would create $1 billion in economic activity in Michigan and 400 new jobs over a decade, as well as $187 million in taxes over 20 years, according to economist Patrick Anderson.

    Michigan lawmakers were overjoyed at the decision, the product of years of lobbying.

    "A massive effort to highlight Michigan State University's unique capability paid off for MSU, Michigan, and the nation," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit. "At a moment in our history when Michigan needs signs of hope, today's decision by the Department of Energy to build the Facility on Rare Isotope Beams at MSU fills the bill. It is the best news for Michigan in a long time."

    One caveat.

    Congress still needs to approve funds annually for the project.

    Uh oh. Let's hope that doesn't become an issue.

    Congratulations, everyone!

    US Senate Republicans Walk Away From Auto Deal

    Since they can't take out the UAW, they are going to take down the American economy.

    Senate Republicans rejected Democratic proposals on a compromise auto bailout Thursday night, leaving little hope that the Senate would approve a rescue package General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC say are vital to their survival.

    Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., had been leading GOP negotiations on the $14 billion rescue. After hours of talks, the negotiators broke while Corker took what had been agreed to so far to his Republican colleagues, who apparently rejected the deal as failing to extract enough concessions from the United Auto Workers union.

    Take the vote, Harry. We want the names of the ones responsible. They might come in handy. Or would you like to accept responsibility for this failure?

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could still seek votes Friday on Democratic proposals. But with any legislation requiring 60 votes to pass, significant Republican support would be needed, and there was little optimism for passage.

    With GM and Chrysler each in apparent danger of collapse within weeks, their only chance of survival may be the Bush administration, which could tap the remains of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout package, something the White House has rejected for weeks. About $15 billion remains in the fund.

    Say what? I thought there was still $350B. Did I miss something?

    The wingnuts are already spinning this as being the fault of the UAW - congratulations Democrats. Not only have you seriously pissed off a major voting bloc, you gave the Republicans the cover to justify their actions. We didn't hand you guys sweeping victories in November to have Bob Corker call the shots.

    This is not "change", it's more of the same - and that is unacceptable.

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    Watch the Budget Cuts Announcement Live

    Hat tip to the Lansing State Journal for providing this technology.

    Because you really wanted to see Craig DeRoche one last time, didn't you??

    Executive Order 2008-21 includes:

    • $40 million in program and policy cuts, including closure of one state prison, one prison camp and the Adrian Training Facility for youth offenders;

    • $10 million in administrative cuts;

    • $29 million in restricted revenue reductions;

    • $52 million in savings from lower-than-expected caseloads.

    Emerson urged lawmakers to take quick action on the executive order cuts to protect the state’s financial health and the financial well-being of Michigan’s families. He also cautioned that additional cuts will likely be needed this year to address on-going economic challenges.

    Once again DHS takes it on the chin - and that's a shame. Fortunately they are looking at corrections reductions. One of the prisons that will be closed is the Deerfield Facility in Ionia, which is just east of Grand Rapids. Already the local news is bemoaning the loss of jobs and money to the community.

    All I can say to that is - talk to the Pink Pig. You can't have endless tax cuts and expect to keep receiving from the government. Remember that the next time some Republican keeps crying for "more cuts" - it means reduced revenue and jobs for your city.

    The schools and cities were spared this time, next time they probably won't be so lucky.

    Brooks Patterson Backs "Raising Fees" for Transportation Funding

    You know darn well that if Governor Granholm or the House Democrats had suggested that we procure "funding from the citizens" so we could enhance our quality of life in this state, the voices on the right would suddenly develop a case of the vapors, run around proclaiming that everyone would be forced to leave the state before the government takes all their money, and would subject us to so much wailing and gnashing of the teeth that we would all have to buy earplugs to drown out the hysteria lest we go mad from all the pseudo-suffering.

    But when Brooks Patterson does it, it's called an "investment". See how that works?

    In a statement, Patterson cited legislation expected to be drafted and based on a Transportation Funding Task Force study and a Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association proposal. Under the plan, registration fees would rise and a percentage tax on the wholesale price of fuel would replace the per gallon tax for gas and diesel.

    According to the proposal, investment in the state's transportation infrastructure would cost drivers an average of $12 per month in additional user fees but would save them about $1,000 annually --$250 in improved safety; $300 in vehicle maintenance costs; $450 in personal income.

    Not only that, but it would create "$3 billion annual investment in Michigan's transportation infrastructure, 126,000 jobs, and yield $15 billion to $18 billion in other economic benefits". All for $12 a month. Pay a little, get a lot. Where have I heard that philosophy before...

    Brooks is correct. We need to do this. But if he doesn't get endless blog posts or tweets about how he wants to "raise taxes", a visit from the giant Pink Pig, or the refusal of Mike Bishop to do any work, well, certain members of a certain party are once again breaking the Hypocrisy Meter in this state, and we certainly can't afford to go buy a new one.

    I'll be waiting for the howls of outrage...

    House Passes Auto Loans 237-170

    It's all on you now, Harry. And maybe the Bush administration should just stay out at this point - they aren't helping things.

    Senate Republicans said Wednesday there weren't enough votes to pass a $14 billion bailout compromise deal brokered between Congressional Democrats and the White House to rescue General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC from imminent collapse.

    "I think there's less than a handful of votes (in the Senate Republican caucus)," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., after leaving a lunch meeting in which Vice President Dick Cheney and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten to tout the compromise. "I think they had less support when they left then when they came in."

    Will Republicans throw the country into a depression? Stay tuned...

    Tuesday, December 09, 2008

    Quid Pro Quo on the Automaker Loan?

    Perhaps this was just badly written, but a brief blurb from the AP about the timing on the vote made me do a double take -

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that Congress could act on an auto bailout as early as the end of the day.

    Reid, D-Nev., said a final agreement with the White House on help for the Detroit Three could come "within an hour or so," and hinges on only a couple of outstanding issues. He predicted the package could be finished by late Tuesday or Wednesday.

    The timing, Reid said, in part because lawmakers are still waiting on the White House to decide whether to request the second half of a $700 billion Wall Street bailout fund. "That decision has not been made yet," he said.

    Meaning, what, exactly? Does WH approval hinge on Wall Street getting the rest of their slush fund? Is Reid holding the auto loans out as leverage? Are three million American jobs being used as a bargaining chip?

    More to be revealed later. Or not. Maybe we really don't want to know.

    Just get it done.

    Republicans Insist on Wage Cuts, Threaten Filibuster of Auto Aid

    They don't care if this risks throwing the country into a depression or compromises our national security, they want working people to sacrifice wages and benefits.

    Um, didn't we just have an election about this attitude problem of theirs?

    But Senate Republicans, who were brought into the negotiations Tuesday, had sharper criticism for the draft released Monday. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the industry’s predicament came from “decades of complicity between management and labor” and that the draft failed to force necessary cuts.

    McConnell’s criticisms mirrored those of Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who has said the automakers and the UAW need to commit to steep cuts in return for aid, namely immediately cutting UAW wages to those at foreign automakers’ plants and accepting half of the health- care trust fund payments in stock.


    Corker has said he would vote against the bill, and a spokesman for Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said he would place a hold on any rescue plan, which can be overcome with 60 votes.

    “I think that not only myself but several of us will be looking at possibly blocking this package,” Ensign told CNBC.

    New poll shows that the American people are starting to realize the importance of saving the auto industry, and support the loans 46-42.

    Question now is: Will the Democrats stand up to this sort of behavior, and call it out for what it is? If they don't, we might be in for a long four years of Republicans refusing to do anything that will help the American people. The idea of bipartisan cooperation is nice and all, but it does take two to play, and it looks as if these guys are still stuck in the “my way or the highway” mode.

    I've seen this movie before. You have too.

    Monday, December 08, 2008

    Entire State of Michigan Considers Sit-In

    DETROIT (AP) - Pointing to the massive outpouring of support for Chicago workers who are staging a sit-in in at the factory that has so far refused to make good on their promises to their employees, the entire state of Michigan is making tentative plans to conduct their own sit-in to demand that leadership in Congress stop bad-mouthing the state's main industry and deliver on their election promises to help American workers.

    "We delivered in a big way for Democrats in November on the promise that they would bring change and stand up for people. Now, they put us at risk of losing over 200,000 jobs in Michigan because they are afraid of Richard Shelby", said one organizer, who wished to remain anonymous out of fear that his wife would find out what he was up to.

    Another Michigan citizen called for the leadership in Congress to step down, given the fact that the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi have not been able to counter the most unpopular president this country has ever had. Even after the voters delivered sweeping victories in 2006 and 2008, Democratic leadership has been unwilling to thwart the destructive policies of the Bush administration or stand up to obstructionist Republicans in the United States Senate.

    "I think Reid and Pelosi have to move on. If you're really going to restructure this, you've got to bring in a new team to do this. This is leadership to nowhere. This is a down payment on many capitulations to come. ... these leaders have basically failed, or are failing."

    Another pointed to the actions taken by governments in nearly every other country across the globe to help their auto manufacturers and workers.

    "They help their industries and people without the fuss we go through. No wonder they kick our butt when it comes to quality of life".

    One Michigan citizen took a cue from the state's Legislature, where Senate Republicans have declared that they just want to make cuts to the budget and "get out of town" for the year.

    "Mike Bishop said that he wouldn't work until his issues were addressed. Why should we?"

    Organizers of the sit-in are waiting for the final word from Congress before moving ahead with their plans. Another idea under discussion is to take the sit-in to Alabama. With the Michigan weather taking an unseasonably cold turn in early December, some have suggested that the whole state move to Mobile and enjoy the winter on the Gulf of Mexico.

    "We could go down there, immediately file for unemployment, and then head for the beach. They receive more than their share of federal funding, and the state taxpayers have been willing to subsidize foreign automakers, who are also planning shutdowns and layoffs. After all their bragging about how well they are doing, we come to find out that Alabama is looking to raise unemployment taxes on businesses in 2010, and we better be there to take advantage of that."

    The Reverend Jesse Jackson was on his way to the state this morning to deliver food and encourage the statewide sit-in.

    "These workers deserve their wages, deserve fair notice, deserve health security," Jackson said. "This may be the beginning of long struggle of Michigan resistance finally."

    Government officials in Lansing had no comment on the planned action this morning, although one mentioned off the record that if the entire state moved, it would "make budget cuts a lot easier to do".

    Friday, December 05, 2008

    Deal Reached on Auto Aid

    Because somehow a smaller loan/bailout won't upset the American people (?), ladies and gentlemen, let's give it up and give a big round of applause to your United States Congress! Wooo-hoo!

    * confetti and balloons drop from the sky *

    Democratic leaders and the White House reached a deal to provide billions of dollars in relief to the ailing U.S. auto industry, a senior congressional aide told Reuters on Friday.

    The package, which Democratic leaders hope to win passage of next week and send to President George W. Bush, totals between $15 billion and $17 billion, the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    This is happening with the thought that it will get them through until Obama takes over and can deal with the mess. Lucky him. But beggars can't be choosers, and we should be grateful that Congress has decided to actually try and do something here. Fingers crossed it will be enough.

    Auto Hearings Day 2

    House hearings are underway. I just got back from a wild ride on the lake-effect snow covered roads of West Michigan, where salting will be a luxury this year, and I'm not sure if my nerves can take watching the critters debate whether or not they should throw America into a depression. Fortunately Comcast has spared me the decision - the C-SPAN reception is currently being crossed with a local radio station, and I can't hear the testimony over the Xmas music. Yes, I could watch the live stream from C-SPAN on the computer, but I think I'll wait and get the round-up later. Maybe they will surprise me.

    Today's "dramatic, grim and shocking" news that employers shed "533,000 jobs in November, the most in 34 years, catapulting the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent" underscores the need for Congress to DO SOMETHING about this, but according to Barney Frank, they lack the will (courage) to agree to a plan.

    Despite the urgency of the automakers' appeals and the prodding of congressional Democratic leaders, bailout fatigue was widespread on Capitol Hill and many lawmakers remained unconvinced they should support yet another rescue by taxpayers.

    "We're looking at a death sentence" for the auto companies, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., the Senate Banking Committee chairman, said Thursday. And while he pledged to try to help the Big Three, he added: "I'm not a miracle worker and no one here is."

    No, Senator, you are not, but you are there to make the tough decisions. The "American people" might not like the idea of loaning money to the Big Three, but you can bet they would like another Great Depression even less. And you can threaten the Bush administration all you want...

    Auto state lawmakers are threatening to block the administration from accessing the second half of the financial rescue fund unless it comes to the aid of the Big Three.

    ... but they have already shown that they don't give a damn what happens. Quite frankly, if you deny the opportunity to save millions of jobs, and then turn around and hand the banking industry the other $350 billion of a bailout that so far has had no oversight at all, well, makes you wonder what the American people will say to that after the economy totally collapses around them.

    The Freep has a great editorial today that they addressed and sent to Congress. While the News has taken this opportunity to once again complain about their pet issues of "labor and taxes" and point the finger at state government, in reality there isn't much state government can do about this one this time. The Free Press correctly puts this on a national scale, where it should be. Three million jobs are at stake, and this will affect every state in the nation.

    You don't want all this blood on your hands. No one could.

    Because the losses from an auto industry failure are about more than dry statistics. Every job associated with the industry is a family, a home, a college education, a cancer treatment or a secure retirement. Every one of those jobs is about someone making a living doing work that's vital to the nation's economic interests.

    No one knows more than the people of Michigan how precious those jobs are, or how fragile they've become in a cutthroat global economy where so many countries prop up their own auto industries.

    Know that the people of Michigan, and especially those who toil for the automakers, are as angry as anyone over the string of misjudgments, failures and bad decisions that contributed to the industry's woes. No one here is enthused about the idea of extending government money to a private industry with so many self-inflicted wounds. But the automakers deserve credit for real gains, including products on par with their world rivals and plants that operate among the best in the business.

    The credit crunch has brought about the current crisis. It would be a shame if Congress chose to do nothing to alleviate it, letting the country slide further down this dark economic hole while destroying our manufacturing capability for good measure.

    Check out the live blog at the News (they are good for something), or the live blog at the Freep for blow-by-blow commentary - or add your comments below.

    I've got to go salt the sidewalk before I end up with another broken arm. ;-)

    Thursday, December 04, 2008

    Dillon Calls Out Bishop's Obstruction

    Awww-right Andy! You made my day!

    Speaker Andy Dillon had this to say about Bishop taking an "early vacation"-

    Senate Leader Mike Bishop is taking a myopic and dangerous view of the work that needs to be done to move Michigan forward. Under the terms laid out by Senator Bishop, the Senate will be at a stand-still for the next two weeks while waiting to act on the Governor's executive order budget cuts. His stated intention to vote only on those executive orders will cripple progress in Michigan, a dangerous pattern that he has set over the past two years.

    The Senate has repeatedly stonewalled on efforts to build a stronger Michigan. He has refused to act on plans passed by the House that will help end the foreclosure crisis, decrease auto insurance rates and require companies to hire Michigan workers when they get tax incentives from the state. Additionally, he has refused to act on cost-cutting measures such as ending free lifetime health care benefits for lawmakers and cutting legislator pay.

    House Democrats are committed to staying in Lansing to enact real reforms that will fix Michigan's budget for the long term and stave off the looming $400 million deficit. In addition, we are fighting for the people of Michigan to resolve the many challenges we are facing as a state.

    House Democrats are focused on putting a stop to the foreclosure crisis that is devastating our communities. We are committed to working out a plan for Cobo Hall to ensure the auto show stays in Detroit; developing a light-rail system for Detroit that will increase investment and spur economic growth; and enacting Corrections reforms that will significantly reduce the cost burden on our taxpayers. House Democrats are fighting every day to get our economy back on track and create more good-paying jobs for our workers.

    Michigan has many obstacles to overcome right now. Our Legislature doesn't have the luxury of focusing on one issue at a time.

    Hey House Dems. Sure would love to see a list of all the legislation that is currently being held up in the Senate. Know what? I bet the press would like to see it too.

    Why don't you provide that to them, so they can show the people of Michigan all the things that Senator Bishop refuses to take care of.

    Good job Speaker Dillon. Let's make some noise about this.

    Bishop Refuses to Work

    Well. Isn't this lovely. If you ever wonder why nothing gets done in Lansing, once again the attitude displayed by Senator Bishop should spell it out clearly.

    The Michigan Legislature's top Republican says his chamber won't vote on other issues until Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm submits a plan to deal with a pending state budget problem.

    Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop says the Senate would reconvene next Wednesday to deal with the governor's executive order.

    There you go, citizens of Michigan - your Republican leadership in action. Or, non-action, as the case may be.


    Auto Hearings Underway

    The future of your state, being debated on the Hill as I type. Watch the live stream from C-SPAN if you have the stomach.

    Impressions so far:

    Dodd : Can't we use the TARP program? No, seriously, can't the Treasury do this? They can, can't they? They just don't want to. Yeah. That's the ticket. This needs to be kicked back to the White House, because Congress doesn't want to be unpopular.

    Shelby : My mind is already made up and I have no intention of being reasonable. (this causes me to yell naughty words at my television. I've been told this is a family blog so I won't repeat them here)

    Bennett : I have more substance in my questions than Shelby. Just ignore him.

    Johnson : So good to see him again, even if he is mondo conservative.

    Reed : Asking technical questions about regulation. Here is where watching Congress gets boring.

    Dodaro (GAO) : I can't believe you guys don't get this yet.

    Crapo : Asking when people will get off their duff and start buying cars again. Someone needs to direct that question at Paulson and ask when the banks will start lending the billions they have received so far.

    Schumer : Argues against bankruptcy, points out job loss will hurt already ailing economy. Looking for accountability for money, which makes me wonder why they haven't jumped on accountability for the banking industry yet.

    The Detroit News is rocking this hearing on their live blog - but they have eight people doing it, so there is no way I can keep up with that. They aren't as funny as me, but they certainly are more mature.

    The Freep is attempting a live blog as well, but they are a little slower at updates so far.

    Governor Granholm had a great interview with NPR yesterday as to what this all means to Michigan and to the country. Give it a listen - can't really add much more than that. She knocks down all the questions with ease.

    I'm still having a hard time believing that this Congress would seriously consider saddling the incoming Obama administration with the loss of 2-3 million jobs. It seems beyond belief - and that is why I believe that, in the end, these guys are going to get the money, and I need to hold back my fire on Reid and Pelosi. For now. No promises about the future.

    NFL Week 14

    Oakland at San Diego
    Atlanta at New Orleans
    Philadelphia at NY Giants
    Jacksonville at Chicago
    Minnesota at Detroit

    Houston at Green Bay
    Cleveland at Tennessee
    Cincinnati at Indianapolis
    Kansas City at Denver

    Miami at Buffalo
    New England at Seattle

    NY Jets at San Francisco
    Dallas at Pittsburgh
    St. Louis at Arizona
    Washington at Baltimore
    Tampa Bay at Carolina

    13-3. Much better. 139-69.

    Wednesday, December 03, 2008

    The North Shall Rise Again

    I don't know about you, but I'm getting more than a little tired of the "leaders" in the South arguing against any kind of stimulus or help for states that have had to go begging for the past eight years while the Bush administration raided the Treasury for their rich friends. Funny how these Republicans are NOW waving the red flag about "debt" and talking about personal responsibility and throwing all sorts of stuff against the wall...

    In this video, while Governor Granholm and Governor Ritter talk realistically about the problems states are seeing due to the Bush Recession, Republican Governor Sanford of South Carolina tries to dodge the issue by fishing for all the red herrings he can find. What in the world does "scale of the global economy" have to do with anything? "Trash" the value of the dollar? NOW he cares about that? Did he speak out against it before when the Republicans were running up the tab? Maybe he did, I don't know, but here he cries about bailing out states such as California, claiming that the people of South Carolina will somehow abandon personal responsibility on spending if we go and do that...

    Why should taxpayers across this country go and bail out a state that has grown at a far faster rate, and has provided much more in the way of benefits, than even the federal government? What it means is, the next go-around, the people in South Carolina say "I shouldn't try to hold the line or be circumspect in spending because the government will bail us out".

    OK. Fair enough. Gov. Sanford claims that South Carolina can "go it alone". Once again, let's turn to the Tax Foundation...

    South Carolina taxpayers receive more federal funding per dollar of federal taxes paid than the average state. Per dollar of federal tax collected in 2005, South Carolina citizens received approximately $1.35 in the way of federal spending. This ranks the state 16th highest nationally and represents a slight rise from 1995, when South Carolina received $1.20 per dollar of taxes in federal spending, ranking it 18th highest nationally.

    Well, lookee there. If that is the way that the good Governor from South Carolina wants to play the game, perhaps he can rustle up all that extra federal money his state has received and send it on back to DC. Get together with Senator Shelby, and cut the check. Set that example for the citizens of your states, guys - we wouldn't want them to think you are getting a free ride on another state's taxpayer dollar or anything like that.

    Better yet, just send it to us here in Michigan. Looks like we have received the short end of the stick for quite some time now, our population needs receiving well below what we are due...

    The CRC concludes: “If Michigan had received the same proportion of all federal payments to states as the proportion of its population to total U.S. population, an additional $14 billion in direct payments would have been made to Michigan recipients in 2007. If Michigan had received the same proportion of all direct payments, loans, and insurance as its percent of the total population, an additional $48 billion in value would have flowed to this state.” That’s $62 billion. The auto industry wants only $25 billion, and certainly not all of that would come to Michigan.

    Imagine what we could do with $62 billion dollars. We could loan some to the automakers, take care of our budget issues, maybe even fix up the roads a bit... I just hope we wouldn't be as selfish when it comes to helping out others as our neighbors in the South have been recently.

    Tuesday, December 02, 2008

    Granholm Being Vetted for Labor? (Updated)

    Rumors abound in the rumor mill; I was rooting for Energy myself.

    This is the first report of actual vetting (that I know of) of Granholm for a cabinet position. From the WSJ, in a story about Mary Beth Maxwell-

    But Maxwell faces one big hurdle: star power. Given the wattage of Hillary Rodham Clinton at State, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano at Homeland Security, New York Fed President Timothy Geithner at Treasury, and Robert Gates continuing on as secretary of defense, many union leaders believe they need someone of more stature, such as a governor, even if that governor doesn’t have the liberal and activist credentials of Maxwell. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius are being vetted for the job, along with Maxwell.

    Energy. En-er-gy. But whatever makes everyone happy is cool with me.

    UPDATE: Well, maybe not. I hear that the Republicans are all in a tizzy about this, so I thought that I would publish the update as well-

    But the Democratic governor told reporters in a conference call Tuesday she's "not aware" that she's being vetted for any position in the Obama administration.

    Doesn't matter what happens, the MI-GOP still doesn't have a thing to offer to society, so they will continue to freak out about Granholm. You would think the last two elections would have taught them a lesson...

    Put Down the Scissors, Senator Bishop

    Cuts were at the top of Mike's agenda for this lame-duck session. The current budget shortfall just filled him with glee, thinking that here was the big chance to take it out on some workin' folks...

    Bishop said Monday that cost-cutting should include cutting wages for employees of the corrections department.

    ... maybe even some students, if need be...

    He said cutting funds to public schools would be a last resort, but added, “Nothing is off the table.”

    That wasn't entirely true though. There was one area off the table.

    The House and Senate overwhelmingly voted last December to make legislators work longer before having most of their health premiums picked up by taxpayers.

    Neither chamber passed the same version, however, so the old system remains in place. And lawmakers seem content to let the issue die rather than deal with it when they return in early December.

    The lack of urgency leaves the impression that legislators weren't serious about the issue and instead used it as a ploy to assuage angry taxpayers in tough budget times.

    So, no cuts for them, just cuts for you. You could see the twinkle in his eye as he contemplated who would feel the steel of the knife, but wait... what's that? The voice of sanity and reason? Yes! Yes it is! Dastardly Mike is being foiled by Barack Obama, who is coming to the rescue of Michigan and other states that are facing the devastating consequences of the Bush Recession!

    No specific numbers were discussed during the meeting, Granholm said, but she added Obama indicated the stimulus package "will happen" and states are likely to get relief for Medicaid costs and help with job-creating state infrastructure projects as soon as January.

    She said the dollar amount to Michigan "will be significant" and that promise of relief will temper the executive order budget cuts she will announce later this month. State fiscal analysts have estimated the federal help will amount to at least $400 million and could be more than $650 million.

    "It will lessen the need right now to do immediate, drastic cuts," Granholm said.

    Projections that the cuts coming this month will be in the $400 million range likely won't happen, she said.

    "We are not seeing the revenue reductions we otherwise would have been expecting," the governor said. "We do not want to force these cuts on programs that help people... when we know we're getting relief."

    Curses! And he would have gotten away with it too, had it not been for those meddling Democrats!

    Poor Mike. Might actually have to do some constructive work now. Or, he might just call it a year and leave town since he won't get what he wants.

    Maybe it's better that way.