Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Six O'Clock News - 100% Auto Free Edition

Other things are happening. I need to remember that.

  • College education for everyone, reimbursed by state tax dollars. I absolutely love this idea - but am well aware that other budget difficulties and general tax cowardice will prevent it from happening.

    State Reps. Alma Wheeler Smith, D-Salem Township, and Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, are proposing a state tax credit that would repay families for tuition costs at any of Michigan's public universities. They also want to make preschool programs for 4-year-olds universal throughout the state.

    The programs would also provide be funded by increasing the state income tax to 5.5 percent, up from the current 4.35 percent.

    Talk to Andy. Maybe we can squeeze this in the big picture tax plan he is cooking up, but the cold hard truth is: as long as we have a Republican controlled Senate, there will be no progress coming out of the Legislature. "Michigan Sucks" is the Republican 2010 campaign slogan (ask Pete), so why would they do anything to help the state at this point?

  • A Michigan company that is hiring 250 workers to meet a growing need - Residential Home Health. They provide in-home care to those that prefer to stay in their homes rather than go to assisted living or a nursing home, and hey, who wouldn't. Look for this to be a big business as the boomers age and we run out of places to put them.

  • The Freep and the DNews are testing an "e-reader" device from Plastic Logic for delivery of the new electronic paper; will be curious to see how that goes. Regular consumer rollout is scheduled for 2010. The papers are also available on the Kindle. One thing about these readers - get the price down. They seem way too expensive for something meant to be convenient and portable (and therefore easily lost/beat up).

  • Heading down to Detroit for the Final Four? Designated school-specific bars/restaurants have been named, check this Freep story to see where you need to go.

  • The Tigers released Gary Sheffield. Great plate discipline, but too often injured, and was starting a very slow .178 for spring training, so, bye-bye. Can't afford another slow start. Don't worry about Gary though, he still gets paid $14 million for the year.

  • "We can't do our jobs," said State Rep. Mike Simpson, D-Blackman Township. Here's a clue: Don't run for office then. You knew the deal going in. I swear to God, if I hear one more legislator use "term limits" as an excuse for bad behavior and lack of effort, I'm going to... uh... yell even louder at them. Somehow. There are plenty of good arguments to use against term limits - this one doesn't win you any support. Trust me on that.

  • Comerica Bank’s chief economist Dana Johnson predicts that 2010 could be the year Michigan pulls out of its economic "depression". Sure hope he is right; a lot depends on what happens in the national economy. We are not an island, even if the state Republicans want you to think so.

  • Innovation. West Michigan based Boxed Water is Better serves water in a carton that is made from trees harvested from sustainable forests, proclaiming that it leaves a smaller carbon footprint than regular plastic bottled water. One problem: You can't recycle the cartons (yet - they are working on it). Still, it gets rave reviews on taste, and will donate "10 percent of profits to water relief campaigns and 10 percent to reforestation efforts". Cool idea - but wondering how to carry it if you are running or biking. Round cartons maybe?
  • Obama Promises Help for Michigan During Auto Crisis

    Tax benefits for purchases this year. Guarantee the warranty on your purchase. Get that credit moving so people can finance.

    And here is the big one - help for working people and our state.

    While the steps I am talking about will have an impact on all Americans, some of our fellow citizens will be affected more than any others. And so I’d like to speak directly to all those men and women who work in the auto industry or live in the countless communities that depend on it. Many of you have been going through tough times for longer than you’d care to remember. And I will not pretend the tough times are over. I cannot promise you there isn’t more pain to come. But what I can promise you is this – I will fight for you. You are the reason I am here today. I got my start fighting for working families in the shadows of a shuttered steel plant and I wake up every single day asking myself what I can do to give you and working people all across this country a fair shot at the American dream.

    When a community is struck by a natural disaster, the nation responds to put it back on its feet. While the storm that’s hit our auto towns is not a tornado or a hurricane, the damage is clear, and we must respond. That is why today, I am designating a new Director of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers to cut through red tape and ensure that the full resources of our federal government are leveraged to assist the workers, communities, and regions that rely on our auto industry. Edward Montgomery, a former Deputy Labor Secretary, has agreed to serve in this role. Together with Labor Secretary Solis and my Auto Task Force, Ed will help provide support to auto workers and their families, and open up opportunity in manufacturing communities. Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and every other state that relies on the auto industry will have a strong advocate in Ed. He will direct a comprehensive effort that will help lift up the hardest hit areas by using the unprecedented levels of funding available in our Recovery Act and throughout our government to create new manufacturing jobs and new businesses where they are needed most – in your communities. And he will also lead an effort to identify new initiatives we may need to help support your communities going forward.

    OK. We will support you if you support us. It really is that simple.

    The devil is in the details, and we will see what comes out of this next, and what "comprehensive effort" really means in practice.

    Monday, March 30, 2009

    Question for the White House: Are We Going to Change Trade Policy in 60 Days?

    Political cover. The words leave a real bad taste in your mouth. Check what the analysts in Michigan are saying this morning about the move by the Obama WH to oust Wagoner and take a hard line on the auto companies. The spin is not pretty, and so far seems to be ignoring some of the underlying problems that have put us in this position in the first place.

    Rick Haglund puts everyone's initial knee-jerk reaction right in the opening paragraph, followed by a quote from Dave Cole:

    General Motors Corp. Chairman Rick Wagoner's surprise resignation was prompted by an Obama administration looking for political cover in its unpopular bailout of Detroit's automakers, analysts say.


    "I do think they need some political cover because of the political unpopularity of the loans," David Cole, chairman of the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research said about Wagoner's apparent forced resignation by President Barack Obama's automotive task force.

    Tom Walsh draws the comparison as well; the fallout from AIG leading to the need for a scapegoat.

    Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner appeared to be caught somewhat flat-footed by the outpouring of outrage about the bonuses of AIG executives. So even though Wagoner was working for nothing this year, Wagoner is partly a victim of populist rage at the nation’s CEO class.

    It almost goes without saying that the Detroit News would use this to attack Obama, but since it's really not much different from the rest...

    Obama has been banged around the last couple of weeks because of the bonus scandal at AIG. His administration, with the help of Congress, botched the aid package to the failed insurance giant, allowing the indefensible bonuses to be paid and triggering public outrage that is increasingly focused on the White House.

    Dumping Wagoner lets Obama deflect attention away from Wall Street, where his Treasury Department is still moving through quicksand, and turn it on Detroit.

    And even those hippies at the Freep aren't happy and posit that maybe government "crossed the line" with this move, but they hit on something that is being overlooked in the hulabaloo this morning, and has long been a battle cry in this state - the lack of federal government help in trade policies and other incentives that would create a level playing field for our workers and manufacturers.

    Banks, mortgage companies and other bailout recipients aren’t being subjected to government meddling, or even much oversight. Why are GM and Chrysler being treated differently?


    Moreover, the government’s track record setting policy that affects the auto industry is atrocious. Car companies have been flogged for not producing enough small, efficient vehicles, but the government eschews a national gas tax that would keep demand for such vehicles high. The companies have been derided for exorbitant labor costs, but in too many instances, government trade policy doesn’t help them by holding other countries to decent labor standards.

    A visibly bummed-out Gov. Granholm has to deal with attack dog Matt Lauer, who has taken on the voice of those short-sighted people who question the need to save American manufacturing, and are somehow demanding instant turn around for this industry in the worst economic downturn since the Depression. She runs through all the industries that will be affected by a collapse of the auto companies; glass, steel, rubber, electronics - 3.5 million jobs altogether by some estimates, all still on the line, all will take a major hit, which in turn would ripple through an already compromised national economy.

    "And while we are investing in a loan, let's make sure we bring manufacturing back to this country. If the American taxpayers are going to be helping with a loan to finance this, well, let's create jobs here."

    Yes, let's do that. Some sort of indication from the WH that manufacturing is valued would be nice at this point, because so far the spin has created a martyr in Wagoner, and has simply exacerbated the feeling that inequality exists between the big money banking interests and the rest of us.

    It's hard to see how 60 days will make any difference - it's going to be a year at least, maybe even longer, before any tangible results are seen from these companies, or even in the national ecomony for that matter. So, why prolong the agony? Perhaps it is to force these "bondholders" to come to the table in an all or nothing gamble; labor already has made numerous concessions to achieve parity, the suppliers are hanging on by a thread as it is, who is left to pony up at this point?

    And the crucial question is, will we see some change in trade policy, and support in other areas such as health care costs, etc, from the federal government that could help bring about the success that the WH is demanding? If not, those underlying problems will still exist, and the feds are simply asking the impossible out of these companies.

    So, do we have a partner in the White House or not? Follow up moves that show there will be real help for the industry, not just loans to tide them over, will go a long way towards not only knocking down the spin that we are hearing now, but to keep American manufacturing a healthy and viable part of our national economy.

    Sunday, March 29, 2009

    Izzo: "Detroit, Here We Come!" Michigan State Makes the Final Four

    When I saw how Louisville had smoked Arizona, and MSU had to scrap it out against Kansas, I really had my doubts about this game - as did all the experts.

    The Spartans erased all doubt today by playing up, over and above a hot Cardinals team, and will be coming home to the Motor City to face Connecticut in the Final Four next Saturday. How sweet it is!

    Michigan State is going back to the Final Four -- and won't have to go far to get there.

    The Spartans dispatched Louisville, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, with a 64-52 victory Sunday afternoon in the Midwest Regional final.

    Michigan State will face another No. 1 seed, Connecticut, in the national semifinals Saturday. With a scoring spurt midway through the second half, Michigan State led, 60-47, with 3:54 remaining in the game. The Spartans survived a first half of constant Louisville full-court defensive pressure and earned a 30-27 lead at Lucas Oil Stadium.

    And in case you hadn't heard, that Final Four floor was made right here in Michigan. The floor made a tour of the state last week, starting at the manufacturer Connor Sports Flooring in Amasa in the UP, to final assembly at Ford Field last Thursday.

    The portable flooring system consists of 232 4-foot by 8-foot panels, most of which weigh 188 pounds apiece -- 21 tons total.

    It takes a crew of eight to 10 workers about three hours to assemble the court, which rests 29 inches above the football field.

    When the crew put the center-court pieces together, revealing the bold blue, black and gray design, organizing committee member Keri Gaither paused to take it all in.

    "I almost had a tear, to see the floor and scoreboard," said Gaither, athletic director at Detroit Mercy, the Final Four's host school. "I just see it all and say it's tremendous."

    The game is expected to draw 70,000 fans and bring in $30-$50 million to the local economy, and with State in the Final Four, I bet it will be closer to the latter with all the local interest.

    This has been some big fun. Let's go State!

    Weekend Update - Reading the Sunday Papers So You Don't Have To

    A round-up of some Sunday Funnies, straight from the left side of my living room couch. A note to Nolan Finley: I have never once blogged from my basement.

    ~ Mitch Albom drops a house on the Wicked Witch of the East.

    But we have to let it grow. We can't plant a flower then stomp on it. That is what Cassis is doing. Hollywood is a small town; only a few dozen people make most of the financial decisions. Trust me, they've all heard Cassis' threats. They get scared. They see Michigan as unstable. Can you blame them? We pass something last spring, and now we want to slash it?

    Because of this, Cassis -- and her cosponsors -- already have done enormous damage, even if her bill fails, which it likely will as the governor has promised a veto.

    When you add up all the things the Republicans have done concerning "business" in the past few years - killing the SBT and the uncertainty that followed, the grandstanding that led to the MBT surcharge, their continuous complaints about Michigan being a "high-tax" state when it really isn't, and now this - it's hard to understand why anyone would consider them the party that is "good for business".

    ~ Peter Luke takes a look at the whole tax credit picture - from the movie industry to the recent break passed by the House for auto suppliers - and comes to the conclusion that we need to figure out which breaks really work for us.

    According to the Michigan Department of Treasury, those credits in business, income, sales and property taxes will exceed $36 billion in the current fiscal year, nearly as much as the entire state budget. Past efforts to apply closer scrutiny as to whether all of those credits still serve their economic purpose have been opposed by interests who still benefit from them.

    But until the Legislature opens up what is commonly called the state's tax expenditure budget and makes some decisions as to what should no longer be subsidized by taxpayers, they won't have the money to spend on what the economy may require now.

    "Interests who still benefit" are the key words here.

    ~ Ron Dzwonkowski has high hopes for the freshmen in the Legislature. Apparently he missed the worthless House Republican media stunt earlier this week. If nothing changes, nothing changes...

    ~ Nolan Finley makes a case for the newspaper industry, and then takes the now very tired and stereotypical shot at "bloggers in the basement" for good measure. This is followed by many editorials on the page that promote extreme right wing opinion, which only shows you exactly how and why the "bloggers" learned their craft in the first place.

    Any journalist that continues to blame "bloggers" for the industry demise needs to take a good look in the mirror, before they destroy what is left of their profession. Your audience is leaving for a reason.

    ~ The GR Press wants legislators to disclose their finances, and notes the House passed such a bill last week. Key words: "The Senate will be guilty of craven self-protection if members there let the measure die -- the almost inevitable fate of past financial disclosure bills". Um, have you guys met Mike Bishop?

    ~ The K-zoo Gazette warns of the Conflicker computer virus.

    ~ The Flint Journal wants funding for the mental health courts. Better go talk to the people who keep insisting on "more cuts".

    ~ The Jackson Cit-Pat wants WalMart to be transparent. Good luck with that.

    ~ Both the Lansing State Journal and the Livingston Daily finally notice the looming budget battle - which just shows how much power KB Hoffman and the AP have in this state. Democrats should take note - both parties are going to take the fall in the name of "fair and balanced", even though one party is open to discussing comprehensive tax solutions, while the other just says "no" to everything and is hell-bent on destroying government. You would do well to start pointing that out.

    ~ Revealing quote, from last Friday's MIRS:

    "He's a multi-multi-millionaire. He has a lifestyle."

    -- A Michigan Republican Party (MRP) activist when asked if whether MRP Chair Ron WEISER being in Florida for the party's quarterly meeting, necessitating the meeting being held through a conference call, was an issue.

    Republican priorities, proudly on display.

    Saturday, March 28, 2009

    Earth Hour 2009

    Turn out the lights at 8:30 tonight...

    As Earth Hour cascades through time zones around the world on Saturday, March 28 at 8:30 p.m., millions of Americans across the country will be showing their support for action on climate change by voting with their light switch on this historic night.

    From intimate candlelit dinners to the darkening of the Las Vegas Strip, Americans from all walks of life will be turning out for Earth Hour, and taking action by making a global statement of concern about climate change and a renewed commitment to finding solutions to the escalating climate crisis.

    Organized by World Wildlife Fund, the world’s largest multinational conservation organization, participation in Earth Hour continues to grow dramatically in the U.S. by the hour as iconic landmarks, major cities, corporations and organizations of all sizes, schools, towns and villages unite in this global effort.

    Earth Hour organizers have commitments from nearly 300 U.S. cities and towns, with some of the nation’s most famous skylines darkening on Saturday night, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York, Salt Lake City, St. Louis, Tucson and Washington, D.C. In each of these cities, individuals, businesses and organizations are participating in activities to engage, enlighten and spread the message that together, each one of us can make a difference on this global issue. Flagship states include Arkansas, California, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.

    Check out the website for some dramatic pictures of major landmarks that went dark last year. Pretty cool.

    I usually have the lights off anyway, my world illuminated by the computer and the TV screen. Maybe I will turn them off as well, just to see if I can actually do it...

    Careful with those candles!

    UPDATE: Oh shit, just learned that Airport '75 is on.

    "There's no one left to fly the plane!"

    Maybe I'll have to cheat a little...

    Friday, March 27, 2009

    IE 8

    Installed today - so far, so good. Definitely faster than 7, and some interesting features too.

    Will let you know if bugs start coming out of the walls...

    One thing to note - it renders pages a lot like Firefox. For example, I just realized that on the Six news stuff, FF doesn't see the bullet points in front of the paragraphs. Neither does IE8. Also, the font size on the link titles on the right have grown smaller.

    (IE8 has a compatibility view tab which switches back to rendering in IE7, a nice feature to test things out)

    Efforts to Cap Film Industry in Michigan Already Scaring Away Business

    According to West Michigan Tourist Association executive director Rick Hert, the efforts to curb the film industry credits are already causing people to have second thoughts about Michigan. Thanks, Nancy!

    "It's unfortunate. It really is," he said, pointing out that Cassis was the only senator vote against the 2008 incentive law. "The film program is less than a year old. The state went from making a few million dollars per year to hundreds of millions per year."

    Because of the possible reduction in the tax credit, Hert said some production companies are already getting cold feet about shooting in Michigan.

    "We started getting calls from Los Angeles asking if we were still in the business," he said. "We're trying to build a program, an industry here."

    Let's see. It brings thousands of jobs, millions in revenue, a ton of great national publicity to a state that desperately needs all of the above, why would Republicans want that to go away? Any guesses?

    University of Michigan professor and vice chair of the Michigan Film Advisory Commission Jim Burnstein brings up another good point that is a favorite hammer of the right - keeping the kids in the state.

    "My students used to take the first bus out of here after graduating. For the first time since 1995, they believe there is a reason to stay. It's just so ill-timed. These bills are a huge mistake," he said.

    The Senate Republican defense? Tom George tries to convince us that they suddenly give a damn about health care for poor people. That's right up there with "we need to pay for tax cuts".

    "I'm not for getting rid of the tax credit," George said. "It has brought industry and business to the state. But we won't be able to provide health care to the poor while writing checks to film makers."

    Fortunately the Detroit News still has Mike Bishop's $600 million in cuts from 2007 up on the web for the world to see, so we can drop any pretense that the Republicans care about the poor pretty darn quick.

    Unless it was a threat of what is to come next. Tipping your hand a bit there, Senator George?

    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Six O'Clock News - It's A Stimulus Miracle! Edition

    ~ The Senate unanimously passed the road portion of the stimulus funding today, which brings $847 million to the plate when it comes to jobs and projects for the summer construction season. We can get started now - go! Also, rumor has it that the state could pick up an additional $150 million if other states don't get their paperwork in on time. Or whatever.

    There was a bit of a commotion out of Roger Kahn yesterday when he complained that his area didn't receive enough road stimulus $$, which brought about a response from, believe it or not... Mark Brewer! Go Mark!

    Michigan's Democratic Party entered the skirmish over who gets what projects, bashing Kahn for withholding his vote the day before when the Senate committee approved sending the stimulus bill to the full membership for the following day's session.

    Democratic leader Mark Brewer said $24 million is scheduled to go to Kahn's district.

    "Kahn's lack of support is putting thousands of local jobs at risk," Brewer said.

    Now that's what I'm talking about. No one wants to hear Republican whining about the stimulus when they wouldn't even support it in the first place, and it's very nice to see the MDP step up and help us out on that front. Keep it up!

  • ~ The Senate also approved the 10% pay cut for legislators, and that now goes to the House. Interesting to note: They did not record names on the vote. 29 voted in favor, 1 opposed, 7 did not vote. Perhaps the one opposed was Ray Basham, who had no problem standing up and saying "I'll look anybody in the eye and say I earn my pay". Senator Gretchen Whitmer tried unsuccessfully to get the Republicans to cut their staff to the same level as Democrats, which would save the state money as well. No dice. "You still haven't given up a darn thing. No nominations for `Profiles in Courage' here today," she said. Heh. The pay cuts take effect in 2011.

  • ~ Matt Marsden Funny of the Day: So, they passed a $250 million bill in the House that will speed up tax credits to auto suppliers. Here's Matt's response, from Gongwer:

    "Where are we going to find the money to pay for it?" The tax cut would have to be paid with spending cuts somewhere and the House Democrats have not proposed where those cuts would come from, he said.

    I had to reach for the Dramamine after that one.

  • ~ My favorite reporter Kathy Barks Hoffman noticed that the budget issues are "starting to feel a lot like 2007 all over again". Someone else (ahem) noticed that way back on March 9th. But, it's not like it was totally unpredictable or anything...

  • ~ President Obama has indicated that there will be help coming for the automakers. Much appreciated. Please stop wagging your finger now. I know that this isn't going to be a popular decision anywhere outside of Michigan, and it's necessary to "talk tough" to play to America, but as someone who never thought I'd end up defending these guys, I have studied and seen the progress and the sacrifice that they have already made towards improving their product and companies. They are doing their best. Besides, this is a LOAN, not a "bailout". So let's do this and move on.

  • ~ GM has announced that 7,500 workers took early retirement and will be outta there by April 1st. Since 2006, 60,000 workers have left the company. GM has enough workers on layoff to fill the 7,500 slots - but if production ramps up again, they may actually hire new workers at the lower-tier wage of about $14 per hour. Happy now, Senator Corker?

  • ~ Plymouth-Canton schools are applying for stimulus money that will help them go green, in hopes of saving up to $2 million a year on energy. Solar panels, wind turbines, and replacing Central Middle School with a new efficient building could create up to 500 jobs as well. In other stimulus energy news, the state will receive $76 million for energy efficiency efforts, ranging from anything to building audits to replacing traffic light with LEDs to transportation projects to capturing greenhouse emissions from landfills.

  • ~ Ending on a sweet note - the Kent County Humane Society has started the "Kibble Konnection", a food bank for pets in need. The first offering was a huge success, distributing food to 104 families that are struggling to keep their pets due to job or home loss. Donations of unopened food are being accepted at the shelter, and they plan to continue to do this on a monthly basis. Click the link for more info.
  • I'd Really Love to See You Tonight

    Good 70's bubblegum. This one goes out for "England Dan" Seals, who passed away from cancer at age 61 yesterday.

    Starting to freak me out a little that all these names from my youth are moving on lately...

    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    Six O'Clock News: The Last Motion Picture Show Edition

  • The movie industry has been a great thing for this state, so naturally today, the Senate Republicans, with the help of Mickey "Traitor" Switlaski who gives them bipartisan cover, have introduced legislation to cap our film industry credits. Jud Gilbert, Tom George and the Queen of Mean herself, Nancy Cassis, want to stop any sort of "success" from taking place here, so they will knock down the rebate from 42% to 35% (which I believe would tie us with Louisiana, where even Bobby Jindal is on board with keeping their incentives intact because they have made a BOATLOAD of money since they started this), and cap it at $50 million a year. They would add credits for studios, but a cap and a cut might just do us in anyway.

    Do you know what this means? Do you? Besides the fact that we might lose those studios and new jobs and kids training for the industry and publicity and all that other good stuff? This means that I have to side with Mike Bishop, and I'm really not happy about that. Not at all.

    The Senate's GOP majority leader says he isn't interested in limiting tax credits if they're stimulating the economy.

    THAT'S how stupid this idea is. With other states moving recently to increase their incentives to capture this industry, we would be nuts to send the message that we are even thinking of limiting this business. C'mon Mick, what in the hell is wrong with you lately?

  • Speaking of jobs and the lack thereof, we hit 12% unemployment in February. Ouch. Let's hope that's bottom. The national rate climbed as well, to 8.1%.

  • And, speaking of the Senate and their lack of ability to be fiscally responsible people, or possibly even sane people at this point, it comes out today that the home buyer credit they passed last week costs just a leeeetle more than they thought, and a heckuva lot more than the movie credits would ever cost us. Peter Luke is really picking up on this story, God love him.

    Price tag for the 2010 state budget lawmakers are now also drafting? More than $1.1 billion, according to Wednesday's analysis by the Senate Fiscal Agency.

    In 2011, the cost of Senate Bill 346 jumps to $1.3 billion as more homes are sold and more credits claimed. It's the single most generous tax cut in Michigan history. If the House were to pass it, which it won't, or if Gov. Jennifer Granholm were to sign it into law, which she wouldn't, three-quarters of state aid to Michigan's 15 public universities would have to be axed, for example.

    Add in the $1.2 billion in tax cuts previously approved by the Senate this year and the total soars past $2.5 billion, more than the entire cost of Michigan's prison system and state police.

    Yes, Virginia, these are the people that insisted that they would "take the lead" this year because the House had too many new members, and also insisted that they oversee the stimulus money because... well, they're just so gosh darn good at this.

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  • Fortunately the people of Michigan do know a good thing when they see it, and that is saving early for their kid's college education. The Michigan Education Trust (MET) and the Michigan Education Savings Program (MESP) have remained solid even with the stock market turbulence. MET locks down the cost of tuition, and MESP pays for all the other stuff, go read to see the details. Impressive numbers on the MESP - $1.65 billion invested in the program through more than 211,000 accounts.

  • Hmmmm, cheeseburger. The West Michigan Whitecaps have introduced a 4,800 calorie burger that has "five 1/3-pound beef patties, five slices of cheese, nearly a cup of chili and liberal doses of salsa and corn chips". Don't forget the sour cream. Click the link to see the pictures. Opening Day is April 9th!

    If they find me keeled over at the ballpark, clutching my heart with a big grin on my face, you'll know what happened. I'll haunt the Capitol in the off-season, I promise.
  • Hoekstra to Announce Run for Governor on Monday

    Call this the pre-announcement announcement.

    The Holland Republican, who has said he won't run for a 10th term in the 2nd Congressional District, said this morning on Detroit talk radio that he'll spend the day Monday making his announcement and it's reasonable to assume he will be in.

    Twitter Pete was kind enough to lay out his strategy as well, and it looks vaguely... DeVosian... Saulian... well, I'll come up with a term eventually. Whatever it is, even the campaign strategy of the Republicans is "more of the same": Let's not offer up any new ideas, let's run against Jennifer Granholm.

    Commenting on the candidacy of Democratic Lt. Gov. John Cherry, who has already said he's running, Hoekstra said: "I hope John Cherry and the Democrats run on Gov. Granholm's record ... if nothing changes, nothing changes."

    He said neither party can be blamed for the woes of the auto industry, but he said the state's chief executive should have seen the domestic auto decline coming and done more to diversify the state's economic base and to make Michigan a better place to do business.

    OK then. We also have Pete's record of supporting Bush, so, if we want to play the game of "who supported who" and running on someone else's record, I'll take Granholm over Bush any day. The governor's approval ratings might not be the greatest, but they are far better than Bush's were and the GOP Congress' are, both of which will still be in mind because we will be sure to bring them up. Especially when Hoekstra pushes Republican policy: more tax cuts, "less government" (for the wealthy and business alone, more government for you on social issues), and every other worn-out and discredited platform plank that you can think of. And the nod to "business" over "citizens" in his statement tells you that is exactly where he is going. "If nothing changes, nothing changes" is exactly right where Hoekstra and other Republicans are concerned, and they obviously have no intention of changing anytime soon. They are still playing to the extreme wingnut base alone.

    The only way Democrats blow 2010 is if they sit back and ignore the attacks on the governor and the party. If they fail to stand up and point out how Republicans in the Legislature have thwarted Democratic attempts to "diversify the economy" and move this state forward, we could be in for some trouble. You can't count on the Republicans to implode forever - and that appears to be the Democrats only strategy at this point.

    Let's hope that changes. Please. Prove me wrong. The only one with any fire in her eyes right now seems to be Gretchen Whitmer, and she can't do it all alone.

    Republican Ehlers Wants You to Benefit From the Democratic Stimulus

    Go on. Take advantage of all the (Democratic) help that Vern and other Republicans refused to give you. Ehlers sent me an e-mail this morning, touting all the (Democratic) stimulus benefits that individuals need to know about, titled "You may be eligible for stimulus benefits". Republican Vern was upfront about not voting for the (Democratic) American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and we should give him credit for his honesty, but we also need to remind people this relief is coming to you because the Democrats had the courage to try and do something about the economy.

    Here are the things that Ehlers wants you to do, with a little (Democratic) enhancement, so we can give credit where credit is due. Vern would want it that way.

    If you are employed, one (Democratic) benefit you may see soon in your paycheck is the (Democratic) Making Work Pay Tax Credit. The (Democratic) credit will appear as extra money in your paycheck, up to $400 per year for working individuals and $800 for married couples filing jointly. Individuals making more than $75,000, or married couples earning more than $150,000, will not be eligible for the credit. The law also provides (Democratic) additional assistance for those who have lost their jobs, by eliminating federal taxes on the first $2,400 in unemployment benefits received in 2009, and by providing a (Democratic) subsidy for the purchase of health care coverage, known as “COBRA”. More details are available here (.PDF).

    Democratic relief for the middle class, the unemployed, and those needing health care coverage. Sounds good. Thanks Democrats! Next?

    A (Democratic) one-time payment of $250 will be made to retirees, people with disabilities and Supplemental Security Income recipients receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration. The (Democratic) payment will also be made to veterans with disabilities receiving benefits from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries. These (Democratic) payments are expected to be sent out in May.

    Democrats helping the elderly, the disabled, those with illness, and veterans - in other words, the people who could use a break the most during tough times. That is very nice that the Democrats think of those folks, isn't it? Moving on...

    The (Democratic) stimulus includes a significant (Democratic) benefit for first-time homebuyers. First-time homebuyers who purchase a home between January 1, 2009 and November 30, 2009 are eligible for a (Democratic) refundable tax credit of up to $8,000, which does not need to be repaid unless the property is sold within 3 years of its purchase. Also, first-time homebuyers who purchased property in 2008 may be eligible for a (Democratic) tax credit of up to $7,500.

    Democrats helping people buy homes! Not only does that give people a roof over their heads, it helps the economy by moving the glut of unsold homes through the market faster, which in turn helps property values and the community, etc and so on. Great idea, Democrats! What more could we ask for?

    Car buyers also may be eligible for a (Democratic) tax credit. State and local taxes may be deducted on cars, including light trucks and SUVs, purchased from February 17, 2009 through the end of 2009.

    Democrats help Michigan! Our state will benefit the most from this (Democratic) tax credit. And, unlike the bill passed in our tax-cut crazy Legislature, it won't hurt the state budget. Win-win! This couldn't possibly get any better, can it?

    If you have children in college, or if you are a college student, the (Democratic) American Recovery and Reinvestment Act expands the Hope Scholarship Credit. The (Democratic) credit, which previously was worth up to $1,800 for students in their first and second years of college, will be increased to a maximum of $2,500, available each of the first four years of college. Also, the amount of federal Pell Grants increased $500 under the (Democratic) legislation, providing up to $5,350 in 2009 for qualified students.

    Democrats value education, knowing that is a key element of our economic recovery. Those Democrats are wicked smart, and they want you to be, too.

    We should thank Republican Vern Ehlers for pointing out all the benefits of the (Democratic) Recovery Act. It provides some much-needed help for people and the economy, as he has proved with this e-mail. It's so good in fact, it really makes you stop and question why the Republicans wouldn't vote for it, doesn't it? After all, they sure will step up and take some credit when the (Democratic) bennies are doled out. Oh well, maybe next time they will see the inconsistency in their position and vote to help out us regular people.

    Thanks again, to all the Republicans out there who are promoting the stimulus plan. We will be sure to take advantage of this (Democratic) relief.

    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    Live: Obama Press Conference on the Budget

    Hit play. From the pre-released excerpts:

    The budget I submitted to Congress will build our economic recovery on a stronger foundation, so that we do not face another crisis like this ten or twenty years from now. We invest in the renewable sources of energy that will lead to new jobs, new businesses, and less dependence on foreign oil. We invest in our schools and our teachers so that our children have the skills they need to compete with any workers in the world. We invest in reform that will bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and our government. And in this budget, we have made the tough choices necessary to cut our deficit in half by the end of my first term – even under the most pessimistic estimates.

    At the end of the day, the best way to bring our deficit down in the long run is not with a budget that continues the very same policies that have led to a narrow prosperity and massive debt. It’s with a budget that leads to broad economic growth by moving from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest.

    And how have the Republicans responded so far on creating jobs, investing in education, and bringing down the cost of health care?

    "There is little or no Republican support for this budget," McConnell said.

    And what do they propose?

    Republicans would like bigger increases in military spending, a freeze on non-defense domestic programs and tax cuts, including on the estate tax. That is a formula they used for budgets throughout former President George W. Bush's eight years in office.

    Um, no thanks. Been there, done that. Let's go with that first thing instead.

    Six O'Clock News - In Honor of George Kell Edition

  • Today's edition goes out in honor of George Kell, who passed away today at the age of 86.

    George Kell, a Hall of Fame third baseman who outdueled Ted Williams for the 1949 American League batting title and finished his career with a batting average of .306, died Tuesday morning. He was 86.

    Kell played 14 years in the American League with Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston, Chicago and Baltimore. He won the AL batting title in 1949 when he hit .34291 and Ted Williams hit .34276. Kell hit more than .300 nine times and was selected to play in 10 All-Star games.

    After his playing days, Kell was a Detroit Tigers broadcaster from 1959 to 1996.

    One amazing stat - he only struck out 13 times in 1949, the least for any batting champ. Watched many a game with George and Al back in the day; thank you both for bringing me Tiger baseball. The Freep has more here.

  • Amnesty International has criticized Michigan police for using a taser that caused the death of a 15 year old in Bay City. Have they been alerted that there are certain Michigan politicians that are pushing for less restrictions on tasers? The family of the boy is now planning a lawsuit. Terry Bankert has a diary that asks other important questions as well, give it a read.

  • Governor Granholm will not apologize to Sarah Palin for the "hot governors" crack she made at the Gridiron Dinner last Saturday, and it's really unclear as to why some idiot reporter in Michigan would ask her to do so, given the nature of the event. Besides, if anyone should seek apology, it's probably Ed Rendell - he was trying to keep his "hotness" a secret. Now the girls won't leave him alone.

  • Did the Detroit News find the new Lions logo? They are on the case, and the Freep is too, and they have the lettering pictured as well. The company selling the toy truck has since taken the picture down, so... in other Lions news, the Packers will be the Thanksgiving Day opponent, as it should be.

  • Cranberries are big, and the state is looking for 2,500 more acres to grow them here, figuring that will create up to 1,100 construction jobs to turn the land into bogs. Ocean Spray has had high demand and is looking for 6,000 more acres nationwide. in 2007, we had only 307 acres that made $2.25 million - officials believe we could hit $45 million if we can find the space. Apparently harvesting them is quite the tourist attraction as well; DeGrandchamp Farms in South Haven says over 1,000 people came out to watch last year.

  • You know times are really tough when you have to lay yourself off.

  • One forecast is predicting snow in Lower Michigan for this weekend. Argh. Someone make it stop...
  • New Pure Michigan Ads Kick Off National Tourism Campaign

    Awesome. Four new ads are out and up on YouTube today, and they are scheduled to start running on 15 cable TV channels on March 30th. "Lost and Found" has a great sentiment - the more than 100 lighthouses of Michigan cutting through the fog of everyday life and "beckoning us back to what's real and true".

    The others are great as well. Check 'em out:

    Pure Michigan - "Treasure"
    Pure Michigan - "Dancing in the Streets"
    Pure Michigan - "14 Clubs"

    While tourism is still projected to be down nationwide because of the economy, this is a great way to set us as a destination over other states for the travel $$ that will still occur, and subliminally, it helps attract businesses as well. Great quality of life on display. Now if we could just get our Republicans to stop bad-mouthing our state in the media, an ad campaign like this just might bring lots of tourists and investment. With gas prices down this year, travel might draw more people than we think.

    Pure Michigan's YouTube channel has 55 total videos up now (some are radio spots) - give it a look sometime. It's good stuff.

    Cutting State Employee Pay: A Republican Diversion From Their Own Budget Malfeasance

    First of all, let me just say that I think the issue of pay cuts for anyone, whether it be legislators, staffers, auto workers, journalists, the kid working at the Taco Bell, anyone in this time of deep recession, is a real bad idea. With consumer spending being two thirds of the American economic engine, denying that engine of oil right now is the epitome of "stupid". People who have to take pay cuts don't go out and buy cars, for example. Even legislators. You can make the argument that we need to change our ways and stop consuming so much of the world's resources, and that is very true, but you couldn't have picked a worse time to try and do that. The reason the recession is so deep is that consumer spending has stopped dead in its tracks. More pay cuts = more lost jobs at this point.

    Even with all that being said, it's still important to point out that the House GOP stunt yesterday, coupled with the Senate Republican stunt on cutting executive staff pay recently, highlights the incredible hypocrisy that goes on when it comes to Republicans defending their compensation, while insisting others must take a cut. Let's start with the House GOP, and their excuse on why they can't seem to give back any of their salary. The AP provides the pertinent point: No one in the House has made any sacrifice for this deficit problem, and sorry, but "charity" doesn't do a thing for the state budget.

    While the GOP said it would seek a 5 percent reduction in legislative office allotments and the salaries of legislative employees, no House members - either Democrat or Republican - are voluntarily giving back some of their pay to the state treasury. Granholm has been doing so, but Elsenheimer spokesman Bill Nowling said Elsenheimer gives some of his salary to charity.

    Nowling said it is procedurally difficult to return pay to the treasury.

    Really. The governor has managed to do it, why can't legislators? "It's too hard!" Is that Ken Sikkema in your pocket, or are you just lying to us again? If it indeed is "too hard", perhaps you all should resign right now. We can't have you handling complex issues like budgets and making laws if you can't do a task that more determined people have figured out - after all, besides the governor, Van Woerkon and Brown in the Senate managed to find a way.

    Which brings us to the Senate Republicans, and their insistence that the executive appointees should take a pay cut. Here's Chatty Matty Marsden, a few weeks ago, doing the diversion dance when the SOCC passed the pay cut for legislators. "Cut someone else!", was his cry.

    Bishop's spokesman, Matt Marsden, said it's time for Granholm to cut the pay of her 177 appointees in the executive office and other state departments. That, Marsden said, would save the state more money than cutting legislators' pay.


    "This is another example of the administration refusing to take an immediate step to address a $1.6-billion deficit," Marsden said.

    Yes, $1.5 million will go a heckuva long way in filling a $1.6 billion dollar hole (ahem), but tell us, Matt, why is it that your staff shouldn't be asked to take "immediate steps" to address the deficit? The sharp team at MIRS did a study and found that 72 legislative staffers would make more than legislators themselves after a lawmaker pay cut, that they asked that very question of Marsden yesterday. Here is the reply, with an added extra dose of Nowling hypocrisy as well.

    Matt MARSDEN, spokesman for the Senate majority leader, said the highest-earning legislative staffers on the Senate levels have, by and large, a lot of experience under their belts and are compensated for the experience and level of service they are doing compared to their counterparts in the private sector.

    Even though staff levels are down, Marsden noted that staff members are increasingly finding themselves filling an important experience role as term limits purge the old-timers from the Capitol.

    "In the past couple of weeks there's been a lot of salary examination going on, but let me tell you, AIG we are not in the Senate," he said.

    Many of the higher-paid staffers also have advanced levels of education, including law degrees and master's degrees, said Bill NOWLING, spokesman for the House Republicans.

    "We are professionals and we tend to make what the market pays for professionals," he said.

    But those state employees and staffers at the executive are beneath you folks in the legislature, right? They aren't educated professionals. Sure. OK. As Pete Hoekstra would say, "I don't see any inconsistency at all".

    Which brings us to the budget deficit. Both the House and the Senate Republican leadership says that this needs to be done immediately! because the deficit is increasing by the day. If that is true, why oh why are they acting to make the problem worse? Finally, finally, finally, it is starting to come out that the Senate has been playing fast and loose with the tax cuts this year, and any cries about "the budget" are pretty ridiculous when you consider the damage the Senate Republicans would do to our fiscal situation. Peter Luke mentioned it Sunday, and the AP picked up on it yesterday. It's about time.

    Republicans who control the Senate have approved more than $2 billion worth of tax cuts and credits this year but have not proposed a way to offset the revenue losses with spending cuts, drawing criticism from Democrats who say the GOP is trying to make the budget situation even worse.

    If they have cut an additional $2 billion, and we were in the hole $1.6 billion to start and probably closer to $2 billion now - that's nearly $4 billion in cuts that they will have to make out of a (roughly) $9 billion budget. You think people are complaining about the cuts Granholm made? Can't wait to see what comes out of the Senate. They might be moving those budgets this week; let's see if they take into account the additional revenue cuts they have made.

    Until then, I don't think we need to be taking any advice from the Republicans on cutting other people's pay OR the budget deficit. Until they start walking the talk, it's just a bunch of pointless diversion for the TV cameras and has no basis in fiscal reality.

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    Six O'Clock News - Here Now No News Edition

  • Lessenberry calls this the "death of democracy". Some bad news out of the newspaper industry today; the Ann Arbor News will cease publication in July and go to a web-only product. Other Michigan news news, the GR Press will cut wages and benefits, and will probably raise their home delivery price again this year, and the Bay City Times, Flint Journal and Saginaw News will go to a three day print schedule in June. On the plus side - they promise more web content and "intense" local coverage.

    I'm not one of those bloggers that cheers on the demise of the traditional media. I want them, I need them, I may still complain about them, but I'm praying they find a way to transition to profitability on the web and keep good reporters working. I think they will - the demand is definitely there, with web readership of newspaper sites growing all the time. So chill out Jack. In the end, I think that we will find that news coverage will be even better as the new model finds its niche, and between that and the bloggers, we will call it the "rebirth of democracy". Or, in other words, "we're all Big Brother now", as everyone is filming everything all the time. Wait and see.

  • No recession for the Michigan lobbyists - spending in Lugnut Land was up 6% in 2008, breaking the record that was set in '07. $34 million buys a lot of government - check the list of the top 200 tricks here.

  • Why do Michigan House Republicans suggest other people should get an immediate pay cut, when not a one of them will volunteer to cut their own pay? Also, why is it that they complain that the governor has "no urgency" on the budget deficit, when all they have suggested so far is to make that deficit worse? Is this some kind of joke? No wonder y'all lost so many seats last year. I mean, really. How mean and stupid can you be.

  • This is what I get for defending DTE and Consumers. Smack! When will I learn? Well, it would have happened anyway, with or without my help. Benefits: it will create jobs as the utilities look to improve their computer systems and upgrade electric lines.

  • A positive note from DTE - plans for 280 wind turbines in Huron County. Groundbreaking set for 2011, the construction will create 200 jobs. According to the AP, the turbines could create 4 to 4.5 percent of the company's total power when all is said and done.

  • What is creating "buzz and enthusiasm" these days in Michigan? The film industry, that's what. Here's yet another article on how Michigan workers are re-training for new careers in this high demand field. Naturally our legislature will want to bring it to a grinding halt, and yeah, I'm looking at you, Switalski and Cushingberry. You cap this right now and you just may kill a really good thing before it takes hold.

  • Stop by AJ's Music Cafe in Ferndale and support the "Assembly Line Concert" - a 10-day, 240 acts, non-stop tribute to the auto industry and workers that looks to land in the Guiness Book of World Records. Sounds like a really cool place, and it's for a great cause.

  • Sweet 16! Up next for MSU: Kansas, this Friday. Be there.
  • Obama: Renewable Energy Portion of Budget is 'Nonnegotiable'

    I love Democrats who stand up and fight. Just love 'em.

    President Barack Obama's campaign promise to explore new sources of renewable energy is one element of his budget that is nonnegotiable, say administration officials.

    While Obama is willing to work with Congress on some portions of his $3.6 trillion budget proposal, his energy plan is not subject to the standard wheeling and dealing between the administration and lawmakers, aides indicated this past weekend.

    Standing firm on his energy agenda, Obama planned to make the case Monday for a budget proposal that invests billions in research designed to reduce climate change and guarantees loans for companies that develop clean energy technologies. Obama has tied his first budget proposal as president to a renewable energy program to help the United States move toward energy independence.

    A fact sheet released today before Obama spoke to a gathering of business leaders and renewable energy entrepreneurs breaks down the details. Besides the $59 billion total in the stimulus that includes support for advanced energy research centers and battery (that's us!) and storage technology, the 10-year budget contains $75 billion for permanent tax credits for clean energy development - showing that for every dollar we invest, two comes back to the economy. We create jobs, strive for energy price stability and independence (eventually) and save the environment all at the same time. What's not to love?

    The guy intends to live up to his promises.

    "What we do expect and what we are going to stand very firm on — because this president, this vice president have made this clear — that there are these priorities that brought them to the dance here: energy reform, health care reform, education, all done in the context of a budget that cuts the deficit in half over our first term," said Jared Bernstein, economics adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.

    Of course the Republicans are crying "Doom! Doom I tell you!" and they may manage to drag a few Blue Dogs with them, but I do believe that the only people doomed by this will be the knuckle-dragging fossil fuel enthusiasts who vote to protect Big Oil and show that they don't care about our environment or creating jobs or being a world leader in this research. History will not be kind to these people.

    Democrats worry the plan inflates deficit spending; the Congressional Budget Office estimates Obama's budget would generate $9.3 trillion in red ink over the next decade. Republicans say it would impose massive tax increases, including on polluters; Washington could raise billions from companies that use unclean fuels, what GOP leaders called a carbon tax.

    Yes, that would be horrible, making those people pay the real cost of the energy we consume now. The Republicans will neglect to tell you how much of a "massive tax increase" it will be when gas goes back up over $4 a gallon, or when we have to move everyone out of the state of Florida because it is under water, but that shouldn't surprise anyone; they always fail to tell people how expensive their plans will be. At least Obama has the decency to put the cost up front - and his plan has all kinds of benefits too. Win-win for us if we play our cards right.

    Prime time news conference tomorrow night.

    Sunday, March 22, 2009

    Governor Granholm on CNN's "State of the Union"

    I'm thinking we just go ahead and give the governor her own show. Sure is nice to see Michigan issues addressed on the national level - after eight years of being ignored, we are finally getting our two cents into the conversation, and that's sweet.

    I wanted to highlight this video because the double standard between the way Wall Street is treated as compared to how the workin' people of the UAW have been treated just can't be stressed enough.

    The governor of the state with a struggling manufacturing sector and the highest unemployment rate in the nation said “it is a huge unfairness” that AIG employees were allowed to keep their bonus contracts intact while auto workers in her state and others have been asked to renegotiate their contracts in an effort to help save Chrysler and General Motors.

    “There is this impression of a complete disparity of the way people are being treated,” Granholm said. “When it comes to Wall Street . . . they can negotiate [a bailout] and they don’t have to give back. . . . The message that is received by the folks on the ground is that there is one standard for Wall Street and one standard for the average joe and that is not fair.”

    Although I think too much emphasis has been put on the AIG bonuses (as compared to the overall problem with AIG), it’s the principle of the matter here. There is also a big difference between a "loan" and a "bailout", keep pointing that out, too. I'm pretty sure the Obama administration will come through for the automakers, and I hope the word "loan" is prominently used when they do, because I really don't want to hear any more about this from Richard Shelby. Thanks in advance.

    Wind Turbines Be Popular

    When I first posted this set I thought, "Bet no one gives a damn besides me". Oh, so wrong about that - the set has become one of the most popular things I have done, with 1607 views as of this writing.

    Here it is again, the small version this time. Enjoy.

    Hoekstra Hypocrisy, Front and Center

    HuffPo highlights a WSJ article on Republicans who denounce and vote "no" on government spending, but yet turn around and tout the benefits of said spending back in their districts. Who do they pick as the pictured poster child for such hypocrisy? Our own Twitter Pete.

    Republicans railed against the Democrats' massive economic-stimulus and spending bills as fiscally irresponsible, but some GOP lawmakers are taking credit for projects in their own districts funded by the measures.

    "Washington needs to stop spending money that it doesn't have," Michigan Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra said in attacking the $410 billion omnibus-spending bill, which funds the government through September. But once it passed, he touted its benefits for his district, which stretches along Lake Michigan.

    "Safe and navigable harbors are economic engines that drive the communities that surround them," Mr. Hoekstra declared, announcing $3 million for harbor improvements.

    Hoekstra then shows the crux of the whole problem with his justification of his behavior, and it is the quintessential portrait of the self-centered arrogance (and cowardice) that Republicans have become famous for: Make someone else procure the money, use it as a weapon against them, while you enjoy the benefits of the bounty.

    A number of lawmakers disputed this, saying it isn't surprising that a bad bill would contain some good elements. Even if a spending bill is wasteful, they said, that doesn't mean items for their district can't be worthwhile.

    "Not to be rude, but it's one of the dumbest things," Mr. Hoekstra said of the notion that there is a contradiction. "The only people who are supposed to get money in an omnibus bill are the ones that vote for it?...I don't see any inconsistency at all."

    Translation: ISOKIYAR. No, Pete, you wouldn't see the inconsistency there, would you. Bush Republicans never do.

    Thieves often kid themselves that they are entitled to the fruits of someone else's hard work. Republican thieves have turned this thinking into a bona fide clinical psychological disorder.

    No Moderates Allowed

    I, for one, would like to applaud the Republicans for their party purity in thought and deed. Their ability to enforce the notion that far-right "conservatives" will be the only people accepted as candidates for office is admirable, and it's one the I whole-heartedly encourage. Keep up the good work, people!

    While most of us are still trying to figure out who he is, Rick Snyder's foray into the 2010 governor's sweepstakes has already generated quite a stir.

    Snyder, an Ann Arbor venture capitalist who served as interim CEO of Gateway Computers, announced Thursday that he would explore a run for governor as a Republican.

    Despite some GOP credentials -- donations of $15,000 to the Michigan Republican Party -- Snyder was marginalized quickly by Right Michigan blogger Nick DeLeeuw, who called him a moderate and wrote, "'Moderate' almost certainly means pro-abortion."

    Actually, the whole quote, courtesy of MIRS, was more poetic than that. Apparently this went out in an e-mail to Republican supporters.

    "'Moderate,' fair readers, is code for one thing and one thing only when it's followed by the word 'Republican'. . . weak knees on the life issue and unequivocal support for abortion-on-demand."

    Message received, loud and clear. If you aren't extreme right wing on this issue, you are weak and unequivocally support the evildoers, and we can't have that, can we? Call in damage control, and make Mr. Synder tow the official MI Republican line. Quick.

    John Yob, a West Michigan adviser to Snyder, dismissed DeLeeuw's claims.

    "Rick is, of course, pro-life, so that pretty much decimates his (DeLeeuw's) argument."

    In fact, Yob moved quickly to counter that storyline. He arranged for Jerry Zandstra, a conservative Kent County minister and president of the Pro-Life Federation of Michigan, to conduct an on-line interview with Snyder.

    Zandstra naturally asked Snyder about abortion.

    Snyder's answer: "I am a pro-life, pro-family Republican. It is unfortunate there isn't consensus on this issue, but I understand the strong emotional argument on both sides. What there must be consensus on however is a commitment on the quality of life we offer Michigan children and to future generations: A great education; good and plentiful jobs; safe and vibrant communities; and a clean environment."

    Uh oh. He forgot to mention "tax cuts, gay marriage and illegal immigrants". Looks like Rick Synder needs just a little more work, but don't worry - the party leaders will have him shaped up in no time.

    Or, they will make sure he doesn't have a chance, for there is obviously no room for moderation in today's Michigan Republican Party.

    Saturday, March 21, 2009

    Hey Paul Krugman

    For the Krugman fans out there - this is a must see. If you don't like Timothy Geithner - this is a must see as well. Funny.

    Hat tip to DKos.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    Six O'Clock News - March Madness Edition

  • March Madness starts today, with Michigan taking on Clemson in KC tonight at 7:10, and MSU facing Robert Morris at 9:50 Friday in Minneapolis. Not a huge basketball fan, but these games are always fun to watch. Good luck to our Michigan teams!

  • Heartbreak. Uni-Solar shutting for a couple of weeks due to the credit crunch and recession causing people and business to hold off on solar installations. I still expect them to take off as recovery takes hold - especially if the White House was serious about its alternative energy goals, which they are. Just hang on.

  • Better news - net metering is here! This allows you to set up your own wind/solar energy at your home or business and get credit for the excess you feed back into the system. This is THE future if we play our cards right - individual self-sustaining energy production right at the source. As the technology gets better and this takes hold, you can foresee a day when all new construction will build these right in. Retro-fitting of old homes/buildings might take some time though. Also, there is that pesky "archaic" electrical grid problem to deal with... but we will get there, slowly but surely.

  • GM is committed to the Volt, now working on second and third generation vehicles so they can eventually bring the initial $40,000 price tag down. There are 30 Chevy Cruze on the road as we speak, using the Volt battery pack as well. If muscle is more your style, the 2010 Camaro has hit dealerships - and gas mileage on those aren't all that bad. 29 mpg for the V-6, and 25 mpg for the V-8. Yummy pictures are here.

  • The Dept. of History, Arts and Libraries has launched a new site called Seeking Michigan, a collection of Michigan's history in photos, audio clips, maps and documents available online, some for the first time. A must-see for Michigan history buffs.

  • House passes road stimulus money, one West Michigan Republican, Rep. Bolger from Marshall votes "no" because he doesn't like how some of it is "prioritized" - but he's not against the stimulus, oh no. This is called hedging your bets in case it's needing for re-election in a red area later. The bill moves on to the Senate, where there are seven whole shopping session days left until Spring Break.

  • The smoking ban argument is back. Yippee. Just get it over with, alright? This is going to happen someday anyway, and the gridlock in Lansing just makes y'all look bad, and God knows you don't need any more help in that department. Which brings us to...

  • Senate Republicans passed more tax cuts. And tax credits. In other breaking news, sun rises in the east. Meanwhile, Dillon has something up his sleeve concerning the whole ball of tax wax, and it's a darn good thing because I think the Senate has got us about $3 billion in the hole at this point. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of "Lansing Gone Wild", same time, same station. Viewer discretion advised.

  • Set 'em straight, Bob! Recently the Anderson Economic Group came out with a study that showed that Michigan was 22nd in the nation when it came to business taxes based on profits alone. Not bad, but I decided to ignore it because it was based on the 2006 rates and the SBT, which is now kaput and made it all irrelevant anyway. Much wailing and garment rending ensued after from the tax freaks. Today, Bob Kleine told the Freep some truth behind current rates:

    The study cited in your March 12 editorial "Advantage Buckeyes: Ohio trumps Michigan in a key measure of business tax burdens" used 2006 data that is no longer relevant, given that both Michigan and Ohio have since revamped their respective business tax structures.


    Ohio's effective sales tax rate is 6.8%. Michigan's is 6%.

    In addition, Ohio taxes 14 business services while Michigan taxes only seven, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators.

    Finally, the Tax Foundation's State Business Tax Climate Index for 2009, which measures how tax laws affect economic performance, shows Michigan has a "more favorable" tax system for businesses. Michigan was ranked 20th in the country, ahead of every Midwestern state except Indiana. Ohio came in 47th.

    Michigan is not a high-tax state. Repeat: Michigan is not a high-tax state. Spread the word before the Republicans drive away even more business with their continuously bad-mouthing our tax climate.
  • Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Six O'Clock News - Barack O'Bama Edition

    Green fountain at the White House, courtesy of Michelle O'Bama. Let's make it a tradition.

    Now for the thing that "gets my Irish up" lately - the g-d budget.

  • Former Gov. Bill Milliken wants us to preserve Michigan's Wetland Protection Act, and keep wetlands regulation under state control. I agree. I also agree with the people who don't want to cut schools, the arts, the mental health courts, or the State Fair. Matter of fact, I'm willing to go to bat the raise the revenue to pay for these things. Is anyone else? No? Then I have more than 1.6 billion reasons why people who complain about cuts might want to start suggesting just how it is we should pay for these things. Funny how that never comes up. OK, mini-rant over. Still love ya, Gov. Milliken.

  • Speaking of paying for things, rumor of a graduated income tax proposal in Michigan bubbled up to the surface today. Governor Granholm came out in support for a graduated tax that would swap for the surcharge on the MBT - but warned of the amount that a ballot proposal would cost, and the "overwhelming support" that would be needed to get it passed. "Business groups and conservative tax advocates" would be opposed, naturally, because they are still looking for their magic free lunch.

  • And the people of Michigan are looking for that free lunch as well, stating in a couple of polls that they don't like potholes in our crummy roads, but they don't want to pay to fix them.* sigh * say, how it is that people text message and still dodge potholes? That question has been on my mind.

  • High-speed, magnetically powered from solar energy to hydrogen batteries, rail from Lansing to Detroit? Sounds awesome. And apparently private money will be used to build it, and in exchange for the right-of-way along the highway, the state would receive 50% of the profits. Two lines between Detroit to Lansing and Detroit to Ann Arbor is estimated to be $2.3 billion, and construction could begin in 2010. Go for it.

  • The state's offer of help to people who want to quit smoking had to shut down in five days after 65,000 people flooded them with requests for free products and counseling - 21,000 in the first 24 hours alone. Wow. Want to fund something? Fund that.

  • Brainwrap is right - Gary Peters does kick ass. Go read that diary. And check out the MSNBC coverage that Bruce tells us about. John Dingell and now the US Senate are getting on board the AIG bonus tax proposal as well.
  • Wind Turbines Come to Zeeland's Helder Park

    Green energy comes to Zeeland, and thanks to a couple of malfunctioning cranes on Friday, I was privileged to watch the second turbine installed in Zeeland's Helder Park on Monday. The Zeeland Board of Public Works arranged for this installation to start the township down the path of looking at alternative energy for their fuel needs. Although these two turbines won't account for a massive amount of power, the experiment is to show people that they can be part of an overall energy plan for the future.

    At full speed, they should provide enough power for 20, 22 homes," said Don Muller, the utility's electric operations manager.

    The 180,000 kilowatts the turbines will generate annually will account for about 1 percent of the BPW's electric generating capacity, he said.

    The Zeeland BPW has a 25-year lease for the site from Holland Township. The utility contracted with Entegrity Wind Systems Inc., a Canadian firm, to build the turbines for about $500,000, Muller said.

    "They've been forward-thinking and proactive in addressing energy issues," said Andrew Trapenese, director of operations for Entegrity, which has built about 140 turbines, including more than 100 in the U.S.

    According to the Press, these are 25-foot turbines mounted on a 120-foot pole. They are positioned at the end of Helder Park and don't stand much taller than the stadium-style lighting that is used to illuminate the soccer fields there. Entegrity manufactures in Canada - but these turbines will be monitored and controlled over the internet through the office in Boulder, Colorado, once they flip the switch and start them running on Wednesday. Kent Power out of Kent City handled the installation - thanks goes out to them for letting me hang out and watch, and giving me some information about how they install and how it all works afterwards. Watch the slideshow, or jump below for details...

    Blade Box

    The blades come in a box, using the crane to pick them out and help position on the head.

    Prep for Blade Installation

    Prepping the blade for installation.

    Blade Install 2

    Most all the guys (and gals) on the crew help position the blade - and yes, these are Michigan workers out of Kent City.

    Take 'Er Up

    After all three blades are installed, they arrange the straps on the head to get ready to lift...


    After pulling the top upright, they work on the wires below to get them ready to hook to the wires in the base. One guy is up on the pole at this point, standing on a platform strapped to the tower. He will be the one who hooks it all up.

    Up and Away

    Up and away!

    Hook Up

    Hooking up the wires. 6500 pounds of turbine above.


    Two guys stand on opposite sides of the turbine tower with ropes to help line up the positioning. The top is heavy enough that it stays in place once dropped, and the joints interlock. No bolts necessary. When they do drop the top, the second joint in the tower settles as well, and the whole thing drops down a few feet.

    Positioning 2

    And it's dropped in place. Pole guy climbs up at this point to take off the straps and do some finishing touches. The first finished turbine is in the background.


    Straps off, the crane pulls away, and a salute to the crew below. Troy Kent of Kent Power tells me these are "trailing blades", and they can sense where the wind is coming from and adjust accordingly, actually pointing the head away from the wind source.

    All Done

    All done!

    Flickr set here.

    Monday, March 16, 2009

    Six O'Clock News: "A Night of Fail" Starring George Bush Edition

  • Bush is back! And here we've barely had time to miss him. The Worst. President. Ever. is on the lucrative talk circuit, and the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan will be treated to a "Night of Fail" on May 28th. Condi Rice will warm-up the crowd on April 30th. Fun for all ages! Better hurry, tickets are going fast!

  • Rothbury 2009 line-up is released, and I'm sad that I have really lost touch with what's happening in music these days. Seen Dylan, was never a Deadhead, and the only name that was intriguing was Son Volt. Maybe DiFranco. The rest, I either go "meh" or "who?" Oh well, youze kids have fun. Stay away from the brown acid.

  • Got nowhere to run to, baby, nowhere to hide...

  • ... and yet, some are running here. Artists thrive on "cheap" and "pain". Trust me. They will make Detroit "cool", the sycophants and the wannabes follow, and the artists are forced to move on eventually. The cycle of life continues.

  • Senator Roger Kahn has formed a posse of Bay area legislators that plan to band together to make the grab for the cash. Interesting that this tidbit comes up first:

    One goal, Kahn said, is trying to capture part of the $787 billion federal economic stimulus money to pay up to half of the $48 million cost of a new airline passenger terminal at MBS International Airport near Freeland.

    Good thing that Kahn is on the Senate stimulus subcommittee, isn't it? Very convenient! Gotta love those Republicans who simultaneously hate government spending but somehow come up with new ways to make sure they are first in line to spend it.

  • "Political grandstanding" against business travel in personal and company aircraft is listed as one of the reasons that Battle Creek's Duncan Aviation was forced to lay off 120 Michigan workers. Thank the idiots in Congress and a vapid traditional media who like to focus on the trivial rather than look at complex financial reality as a partial reason for the downturn in this particular industry.

  • Chart of an under-funded state government, originally published in the House Fiscal Agency's analysis of the Executive Budget Recommendation for FY2009-10. Some happy reading in that one, if you have the will and patience to try and decipher it all. I just look at the (not-so) pretty pictures.

    Yes, "living beyond your means" takes on a whole new dimension when you realize that it's not government that is growing, it's revenue that is shrinking. Factor in cost of living increases over the past decade and it all spells disaster when you're trying to keep the lights on, the kids fed and educated, and the state in working order.

    Now after years of tax cuts and spending restraint, Michigan will collect just 5.5 percent of personal income in assorted state taxes and fees in fiscal 2010. (Comparing apples to apples, that 2010 percentage factors out some $6 billion in school taxes shifted from local to state coffers in the 1994 Proposal A school finance changes).

    So in funding essential services, state government in 2010 will collect a little more than half the revenue--some $14 billion--that a conservative Republican thought appropriate three decades ago. That figure takes into account the $1.7 billion in personal income and business tax hikes approved in 2007.

    Conservative Republicans of three decades ago hadn't turned lying into an art form or basic party philosophy yet. Remember this next time you here some Michigan Republican say that we need to "cut government" - tell them they already did. For extra fun, go check out the chart where it shows how the Republicans blew through the Rainy Day (Budget Stabilization) Fund.