Monday, August 31, 2009

Senator Hansen Clarke Brings the Heat on HAL

A little back story first: As you may remember, in an effort to streamline government and save some money, Governor Granholm issued an executive order to split up the Dept. Of History, Arts and Libraries and move those services to state departments where their respective needs could be better serviced. When you look at the breakdown, it makes sense to have, for example, libraries come under education, or arts as a part of economic development, etc and so on. It eliminates the duplication that occurs in paperwork and personnel, and seeing as how the big call to "reform" has taken hold of everyone's vocabulary, this is one way to "reform" and slim down the government.

Certain groups were upset and have protested loudly, of course, no one is really thrilled with the idea - but the question always comes down to, "where do we get the money to pay for this department?" And that is always met with silence. Anyway...

Protests aside, the governor has this authority, and she used it. The Senate Republicans, sensing a publicity stunt in the making, voted last week to ignore the executive order and move HAL to the Sect. of State. Yes, the same Senate Republicans, who run around crying for "reform", who are insisting that we make devastating cuts to almost everything that we hold near and dear in this state, somehow are finding the will to save this department alone - which is funny because "the arts" are usually something that the right wing wants eliminated from government spending. Ask the Mac Center.

What the Senate Republicans won't tell you about is how deeply they cut funding for the libraries as well, even as they cry their crocodile tears about this department. Senator Hansen Clarke did tell us in this must-see video. What I would give to have every Democrat have this kind of passion...

Text from the journals, and he is yelling at this point. Clarke is an artist, so he knows the value of "the arts", and his visits to the library are what encouraged him to go back to school, and got him where he is today. He calls out the Republican hypocrisy in no uncertain terms.

But yet, this is what pissed me off, and you know I respect everyone in this chamber, but to have the majority leadership of this Senate talk about the benefits of the synergies of keeping all these entities together, let me tell you, the people of Michigan, what these synergies have gotten us. The arts, which are so important to so many of us, the funding has been decimated because of this body. The largest library system in this state that benefited all of southeastern Michigan had all of its state funding—all of it—stripped by this body. How dare you say that the synergies of this current department are here to help preserve the libraries when you destroyed all of the state funding for the Detroit Public Library—how dare you. You know why the Detroit Public Library was allowed to be defunded—because the people who were hurt by it were poor, ghetto kids. They did not have family members who come up here on buses. They were not able to hire multiclient lobbyists to come here and say, “Let’s keep our library system.” Why is the library system important to Detroit? At the time, this body cut the funding for the Detroit Public Library.

Gretchen Whitmer also expressed dismay at the Republican behavior on this issue, and, in light of Mike Bishop's statement last week that the governor "needs to read the Constitution", it's worth a mention that this stunt Republicans pulled is unconstitutional.

I have three final thoughts. First, the law is pretty clear. The constitutional authority of the executive is clear. Governor Granholm has this authority. It is legal. As a conclusion, we must uphold the action even if we don’t personally agree with it. And for the record, I don’t. I totally disagree with the Governor on this, but I take my oath to uphold the Constitution seriously, and so I am going to vote “no” on these bills.

Second, pursuant to my oath of office as well as my duty as an officer of the court, I’m just appalled to see politics cavalierly trumping the law today.

And, third, I would like my comments printed in the Journal as my “no” vote explanation on each and every bill in this impressive, unconstitutional, bipartisan package.

And Senator Clark-Coleman also speaks to Republican funding cuts.

It has been presented to us that moving this department intact to the Secretary of State would somehow be in the best interests of the History, Arts, and Libraries communities. I am sorry I cannot be as eloquent in my words as my colleague from the 1st District. However, I must say, this body can better demonstrate its commitment to those communities through its funding actions. For example, the Governor recommended funding state aid to libraries at $10 million for ’10. This body reduced that funding by 25 percent. As the HAL budget was being debated, I offered an amendment to restore funding to the Governor’s recommendation of $10 million, which was defeated by many of the very same people who are proponents—so-called—of rejecting the Governor’s executive order today, under the guise that this is somehow best for Michigan’s History, Arts, and Libraries interests.

Moving the pieces of HAL to the Secretary of the State, or anywhere else in state government, is an empty gesture without adequate funding. To say that you are acting in the best interests of these communities is disingenuous given your recent budgetary actions.

If the Senate Republicans really cared about libraries and "Michigan's heritage", they would find a way to maintain it. Instead, they make these cuts to the arts and libraries, and then turn around and waste all of our time and taxpayer money with frivolous and hypocritical actions such as this. It's very obvious they have no intention of "reforming government" at all, they simply want to obstruct any kind of progress that they can, before they run out the door to take yet another week off.

The Big Money Behind the Teabaggers Launches Anti-Tax Ads in Michigan

The astroturfers who have the crazies all riled up with their lies about health care are pulling out the bucks to run anti-tax ads in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing against any sort tax increase, because God forbid you should pay an extra penny on a bottle of beer to save early childhood education.

Americans for Prosperity started a limited $50,000 commercial buy in Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids markets. The 30-second spot shows Granholm making a promise during her 2008 State of the State address not to raise taxes followed by people-on-the-street interviews urging the governor to keep that promise and closing with: "Tell your legislator to help the governor keep her promise and vote no on her proposed tax increases."

Little reminder on just who the "Americans For Prosperity" are comes to us from SourceWatch:

AFP was one of the lead organizations behind the Tax Day Tea Party protests April 15, 2009. Its Director is Art Pope, an ex-legislator who has been called "The Knight of the Right" and "North Carolina's Karl Rove."

In mid 2009, Americans for Prosperity launched an advertising and advocacy campaign opposing U.S. health care reform named Patients United Now.

You can go read how they have championed the interests of the tobacco companies and big oil at the link, but for our purposes let's take a look at what they have done for the recent health care reform debate:

Along with The 912 Project, Americans for Prosperity is one of the conservative groups involved in organizing "town hall protests" and "recess rallies" where participants oppose health care reform by rambunctiously shouting down members of Congress while they are holding public meetings to inform the public about the proposals. AFP started a group called "Patients First" to oppose health care. Patients First conducts bus tours around the country to create opposition to health care reform. Americans for Prosperity/Patients First visit cities and speaks to rally people and encourage them to oppose health care reform by bringing up frightening prospect like "death orders" and "death sentences." Speakers typically liken Democratically-proposed health care reform to the regimes of Mugabe, Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot. The speaker typically repeats the discredited conservative idea that Democratic health care reform will mandate physician-assisted suicide or death for older members of society. "Adolf Hitler issued six million end of life orders -- he called his program the final solution. I kind of wonder what we're going to call ours," one speaker said. The speaker further advises audience to "go to offices of members of Congress and put the fear of god in them."

They are using the same sort of tactic in the commercials, featuring "people on the street" who are going to lose their homes and jobs if we slap a tiny tax on their Faygo. Disingenuous at best, flat-out lies at the worst. Is this the kind of group that deserves a seat at the table when it comes to either health care reform or our state budget issues?

Granholm has already said that she won't shoot for any general tax increases - a stance she took some heat for when she uttered it a long time ago, but, given the behavior of Democrats as a whole when it comes to standing up against the lies and fighting for the things that are important to our quality of life, you start to understand why she said it. Liz Boyd reiterates that very same fact.

"The governor has said all along that she does not support a general tax increase and there is no will for a general tax increase. So this is singing to the choir."

In the end, it all comes down to what the House Democrats are willing to vote for, are willing to fight for. Let's hope they have the strength to stand up to the teabaggers and the big money lobbyists, and all the money spent for these ads goes for nothing.

Garcia Safe

Garcia Safe

From yesterday's double-header, Avisail Garcia slides in safe at home in the 'Caps 4-0 win.

One of these days I will get around to processing all my baseball pics, I promise.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Granholm Sends State Workers 30-Day Layoff Notice

This. This is why I'm grumpy about the House going off and doing other things and leaving the budget hanging. (see post below this one)

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has given state employee unions a required 30-day notice of layoffs in case a budget deal is not reached by Oct. 1.

The layoff notices were sent to the unions Friday.

Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd says the governor does not expect a government shutdown and plans to have a budget in place on time.

Rumor has it the House will be addressing "potential" budget solutions next week in caucuses.

The Senate has adjourned until after Labor Day. What's another week of vacation when you've already taken most of the summer off?

Dillon Unveils the Michigan Health Benefits Program

My first thought was, "On a Friday afternoon?"

My second thought was, "Where is your goddamn budget plan? What are you guys willing to fight for?"

With the Senate Republicans threatening education, health care, revenue sharing and whatever else they can possibly destroy, cuts that are going to hurt this state and its citizens bad, with college kids having to come up with money they don't have because of the mere threat of cuts to their scholarships, pulling this out now just seems incredibly self-serving.

But hey, that's what Lansing is all about, isn't it?

I'm not in a very good mood today.

The Michigan Health Benefits Program would offer a menu of health coverage plans to local school district, cities, counties and others. They each would choose which plans to offer their employees, and then bargain with employee unions the amount of deductibles, co-pays and coverage of dependents.

The entire program would be paid for through a single fund, under the state treasurer with money from premiums charged to all public employers.

The state employer would negotiate with insurance companies and other health service companies to craft benefits and set costs. Dillon has said the program will use more than one insurer to offer a range of insurance plans. The cost of the program would be based in part on health insurance costs of private sector employees, and public workers in other states.

Dillon has set up a special committee to gather input on the plan. Rep. Pam Byrnes says it will take "months" to develop the legislation. And yes, after contracts run out, groups will be required to join the statewide plan, and negotiate with the state. Imagine the bueacracy behind something like that.

A copy of the draft legislation can be found here. Tear it up, all you lawyer types out there.

And look! It's got "death panels!"

The statewide health plan could also require “clinical advocates” to review medical diagnoses and treatments – an overview Dillon has said will save millions of dollars in waste.

Gawd, I'm mean.

Might be a different story if I would see any sign that the House Democrats are going to stand up and fight on this budget. Maybe that's coming, I don't know, but any attempts to tie this to our current problem, which you know the media is going to do, is nuts. "Savings" would come years down the road, if at all.

* grumble *

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cassis Claims Parody Film "Threatening", Demands It Be Taken Down

What? A Senate Republican that can't take criticism resorts to censorship? Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Nancy Cassis got all offended by a video that was made about her trying to kill our film incentives, and as of noon is no longer available at YouTube or

Lathrup Village actor-director Billy Whitehouse says State Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, has demanded he take town a satirical video he posted to YouTube that portrays a group of would-be film workers kidnapping "Senator D'Cease."

"Senator Nancy Cassis has demanded that I immediately take down the political satire video that I wrote poking fun at her. Apparently, the Senator went so far as to complain to law enforcement authorities and alleged that the video is 'threatening.' Nothing could be further from the truth," Whitehouse wrote on his Facebook wall, per Bill Shea of Crain's Detroit.

The video sounds like a laugh riot rather than "threatening". Check out the description:

In the film, an actress portraying "the Governator" Granholm decides against paying a ransom to free Senator D'Cease, saying "I feel like the whole state of Michigan, and the film industry, are being held hostage as she rants on. Let's give her a taste of her own medicine."


Senator D'Cease's kidnappers eventually release her, explaining that, "She's painted herself into a corner. She's term limited. And she'll never work in this state again."

And from Crain's:

OK, Mr. Whitehouse e-mailed me a copy of the video with working sound this morning. Um, how to put it best ... think of low-grade political ribbing delivered with the same theatrical chops as a high school ensemble doing a PSA and you have it nailed. The "Governor G" character doesn't, in fact, think the senator is worth anything, and the film guys let her go because she's term-limited and won't be able to work again. How any right-thinking adult could possibly find this threatening instead of silly is beyond me. Expect critics to level charges at Cassis of cheap political thuggery and bullying in an attempt to quash free speech, even if that speech is the ancient American artform of political insult.

Well, if the shoe fits, and censorship has proven to be the standard operating procedure of the Senate Republicans time and time again, then yeah, it's bullying and political thuggery. That's how they roll.

UPDATE: It's back up. "Come to Michigan, bring your own actors".

If Push Comes to Shove, the Michigan Legislature Would Own A Shutdown

There is a way to avoid taking Michigan to a government shutdown when it comes to dealing with our budget crisis... at least, I think that was what Governor Granholm was trying to say when she wasn't busy inadvertently provoking a constitutional crisis. A "what if" question on the budget deadline started innocently enough (or Albin is taking Skubick lessons, one or the other) during a press conference yesterday, and the governor's answer, speaking technically only, was that the difference between 2007 and this year is simply one of cash flow.

The governor went on to say that a repeat of the 2007 shutdown is not necessary because this year the state's been thrown a lifeline from the federal government in the form of stimulus funds.

"Technically, we could have a budget for this year. The difficult decisions now are focused on what happens next year when the stimulus dollars go away, so we will not have to shut down in the same way that we had to in 2007."

The governor went on to say, in response to a reporter's question, that she believes she can spend the stimulus money by issuing an executive order.

And that got Mike Bishop all huffy and puffy and hot under the collar, and in the process of being Big Man On Campus, he claims that only the Legislature can be responsible for spending. That is correct, but only because it hasn't been tested in a crisis.

"It's a one-line statement in Article 9, Section 17 that specifically says the Treasury shall make no payment unless they receive an appropriation from the Legislature, and she can't circumvent the Legislature and circumvent the Constitution."

OK, Senator Bishop. You got it. The Legislature would own any shutdown that occurs from failure to appropriate funding for the government. Thank you for finally admitting that it is ultimately your responsibility.

But, it's debatable whether or not a governor could in effect seize assets to keep the government running as a public safety issue. The beautiful thing about having gone through this same thing in 2007 is that these questions have all come up before, and the answer then was, no one is really sure what would happen if the governor decided to proclaim a "state of emergency", a very drastic action that I really doubt she would attempt. From 2007:

While Granholm insists she would not allow the Legislature to force a shutdown by inaction, she also declined to say how she would prevent closing up the state and officials say its unclear whether the governors emergency powers would authorize her to spend money without legislative OK.

It would be one great big constitutional mess, so let's just back away from it right now, OK? The governor's office did back away from it when questioned later, but Bishop's defensiveness in his zeal to be the tough guy was an indication that he just wants to take this to a fight. Granholm was only indicating that there is a cash flow to the coffers from the stimulus, even if it could only be applied to specific areas of spending as outlined by Congress, but the fact that Bishop automatically said "No!" to possible avoidance of a shutdown shows that he has no intention of finding compromise here.

Chatter in the Lansing rags has "Republicans" (meaning Bishop) accusing Granholm of wanting a shutdown. The response?

"It is utterly preposterous to say that I want to shut down government - utterly preposterous."

Perhaps it is time to remind those with short memories just who it was that said a shutdown in 2007 would have been a good thing. Hint: it wasn't the governor. Oct 7th, 2007:

Still, in hindsight, Bishop said he wonders whether it might have been better for Michigan to raise the stakes by allowing the government shutdown to proceed.

In the final hours before the midnight Sunday deadline arrived, Bishop said many of his Republican colleagues were concerned a shutdown would cause irreparable harm to the state's reputation -- nationally and internationally -- branding Michigan as dysfunctional.

"If all I was representing was myself I probably would have leaned in that direction," Bishop said.

Something to keep in mind. Maybe next time Bishop accuses the governor on motive, some smart reporter will remind him of that statement. As we get closer to the deadline, I know I will use it frequently.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rest in Peace Senator Kennedy

From his family:

"Edward M. Kennedy -- the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply -- died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port. We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it's hard to imagine any of them without him." -- Statement from the Kennedy family.

One year ago yesterday, Senator Ted Kennedy took the stage at the DNC and the place went wild. It was one of the most thrilling and inspiring moments of the convention.

One year later, we mourn his passing, and we vow to continue his fight.

Thank you for your service to our country Senator. You will be deeply missed.

The Cassis Legacy: Discouraging Job Creation in Michigan

When you consider the indications that the Legislature probably won't move any major reform legislation during 2010 because it will be an "election year" (and follow that with the sad thought that we can probably just start writing off all the even-numbered years from now on), term-limited Senator Nancy Cassis is now writing what looks to be the end of her career in state government. If that is the case, let the record show that during the worst national recession since the Great Depression, she actively discouraged our state from diversifying its economy and bringing in new jobs by not only stalling legislation on the very successful MEGA business tax credits, all her talk of "capping" the film industry is driving away that business as well.

Already, industry insiders say, the state has lost hundreds of millions in film spending to other states since talk of cutting or scrapping the credit surfaced late last year, a charge led by Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, chairwoman of the State Finance Committee. Others warn that cutting the credit could push business away from Michigan's fledgling industry simply because there hasn't been enough time to build a sufficient infrastructure -- studios and such -- capable of supporting long-term business.

Legislative proposals, "even if unsupported, cause talk and rumors that cost Michigan a number of productions and jobs," said Jeff Spilman, managing partner of Ferndale's S3 Entertainment Group, which has worked to bring a number of feature film and television series projects to the state.

"We had to go to L.A., put on a really big dog-and-pony show to let Hollywood know that there's no legs to this legislation. Even with that, you still see the state losing production after production."

How many jobs will Cassis cost us before this is over? The meter is now running, unfortunately we won't ever know an accurate job loss figure, but Spilman offers up at least three films that he knows about.

There's no way to tally just how many productions or jobs have been lost because of Lansing-based political talk. But anecdotally, film executives say dozens of projects that were once considered for Michigan are going to other states where incentives are less lucrative, but not facing debate.

Spilman, for example, says he saw three feature-length films go to Georgia last year, after the drum beat began to reevaluate the incentives. Those films could have had an economic impact on the state worth tens of millions of dollars, Spilman said.

Want concrete proof and a big name to illustrate this phenomena? Take a look at Pennsylvania, now offering us a sneak preview of what Michigan might be facing when it comes to our budget battle slated for September. Their harrowing story is an all-too familiar one: Senate Republicans refuse to raise revenue, Democrats won't vote for devastating cuts, Ed Rendell is probably tearing what's left of his hair out, and the state is now two months past their July 1st budget deadline with no end to the stalemate in sight.

Come see who is leaving Pennsylvania because of this over the flip...

M. Night Shyamalan likes to shoot in the Philadelphia area, and that brings the region some impressive dollar figures as well as jobs when he does. Now, he's taking that money and those jobs to Canada due to the "uncertainty" on the state's film tax credits.

With uncertainty about whether Pennsylvania's film tax credit will be authorized in the state budget - now in Day 56 of limbo - the supernatural thriller (which Shyamalan wrote and is producing) has relocated production to Toronto.

Though the filmmaker has shot eight of his nine features in the Philadelphia region - for an estimated economic impact of $375 million, according to the local film office - his backers couldn't wait any longer for legislators to approve the incentive that brings filmmaking and jobs to the state.

He's not alone. Other productions are leaving the state as well.

One such film is Destination Home, a movie about a wealthy family that faces adversity during the economic downturn. "We were scheduled to begin shooting Sept. 16," producer Justin Moore Lewy said yesterday.

"We would like to shoot in Philadelphia. But a combination of the tax credit in jeopardy and union negotiations have left us in limbo." The production is scouting locations in Georgia, Louisiana and Toronto, where tax credits are assured.

This will happen to Michigan as well, already is, according to the industry people. You can thank the Senate Republicans for every bit of it.

What's even more tragic is that Nancy Cassis makes Bobby Jindal look like a genius. He signed a package of bills in early July that will position Louisiana to take advantage of all this Republican created "uncertainty" going on in the Midwest.

Governor Jindal said, “These tax incentives are critical tools to give Louisiana a bright economic future. By signing these bills, we’re ensuring that we not only have the ability to remain economically competitive, but that we can continue to move our state forward by making Louisiana the greatest place in the world to find a great paying job and raise a family.”

HB 898 by Rep. Cameron Henry is a Governor’s package bill that increases the film production tax credit from 25 percent to 30 percent and eliminates the phase-down of the tax credit program. Current phase out schedule for the film production credit (currently at 25 percent) is 20 percent on July 1, 2010, and then 15 percent on July 1, 2012.

Georgia, the other big name in film production right now, also offers 30% on their tax credits. The rumor is that Granholm has put 30% on the table for Michigan (now at 42%), which might be a fair trade-off, but we probably should stay a bit above the others until we have the infrastructure in place to keep the business here.

In a real head-spinning move, Cassis wants to use the cuts the Senate Republicans have already made to education as an excuse of why they need to make cuts on film credits. The logic, it burns.

"The fact that we're talking about reducing spending on education is a major problem," Cassis said. "It's not a core part of government to spend on producers."

The "major problem" on education, as you may recall, is the Senate itself. They are the ones who have elminated the Promise Scholarship and slashed per-pupil K-12 funding, rather than do what's right and invest in our state's young people.

Perhaps we should add that one to the Cassis legacy as well then. Diversification, job creation, education - she wants to destroy them all. Someone go get that ready for the Wiki page so we remember just who it was that held this state down when it needed a lift up.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Michigan Senate Republicans Just Say "No!" To Help For The Unemployed

Who out there is surprised by this? I mean, c'mon. These are the "All Business Interests All The Time Except When It Helps The Governor" Michigan Senate Republicans we are talking about here, and this issue is no exception. Helping "the people", especially those that are struggling, never, ever, fits into the equation, does it? Heck, "struggling people" are the ones they come after first when it comes to budget cuts! So what makes anyone think they will lift a finger to help them now?

$138 million in stimulus funds. Laying there on the table for the taking. All we have to do is extend unemployment benefits to part-timers and those in job training, something a civilized state should do anyway. House Democrats, who passed this legislation back in May, went on a full-court, statewide press today to urge the Republicans to act.

They have the numbers to back up the urgency.

The Democrats pressed their case at press conferences across the state, citing figures from the state Department of Labor and Economic Growth that show 18,630 workers are expected to exhaust their unemployment benefits this week.

The state expects 99,059 unemployed workers to run out of benefits by the first week in January, including 25,689 in Wayne County, 10,884 in Oakland County, and 10,158 in Macomb County.

"It's really pretty horrific," said Dan Farough, spokesman for the House Democrats and Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township. "This will hit local communities hard if we don't get something passed."

The first of two House bills would provide up to an additional 26 weeks of benefits to individuals in declining industries that exhaust regular benefits but are enrolled in a program to prepare for entry into a high-demand occupation. The second bill would allow jobless people to work part-time while collecting unemployment benefits.

What happens to all these people when their benefits run out? Chances are they will hit the state in other ways, putting a severe strain on an already severely strained budget. Mucho applause to the Dems - they need to do this more often. Consider this a warm-up for September, when it will be time to point out all the other things that the Republicans want to do for our citizens.

The Senate Republicans, under the direction of the Glenn Beck lovin' Michigan Chamber of Commerce of course, just say "No!" to helping the unemployed (and their hard hit communities) out. Watch Matt Marsden speak for the entire Senate (wrong), and watch that wording closely. "Ultimately" is an interesting choice here.

"The Senate's not interested in taking one-time money from the federal government that (is) ultimately going to raise taxes on businesses," Marsden said. "It's the opposite (of what should be done) to get people back to work.

The MCoC claims that these measures have to be permanent, and go into the usual threats about business blah, blah, blah... House Democrats disagree, and correctly point out exactly where this money will go - right back into the businesses of Michigan in the form of instant spending. Not like the unemployed are socking it away somewhere.

Rep. Mark Meadows, D-East Lansing, said there is nothing to prevent Michigan lawmakers from ending the program in two or three years.

"Every dollar of the $138 million (in federal recovery funds) will go directly back into the Michigan economy and support small businesses and large businesses across the state," Meadows said.

Thank God for Gongwer, who gives us an extended Marsden quote tonight on this disagreement about the legal language of the Recovery Act. Once again, he tips his hand and gives it all away. It appears that the original legislation cannot contain a sunset provision, but that states are allowed to make changes in the future if they decide it's necessary.

States are banned from putting a sunset in the measures currently before lawmakers, which would expand eligibility to people receiving worker training, those working part-time or those refusing to take a part-time job. Mr. Meadows said the Legislature could revisit the issue when the stimulus is set to run out.

The reply to that fact?

But Matt Marsden, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester), said, "That's not how we do things."

"We". A direct admission that this about the collective ego of the Senate Republicans, and has nothing to do with whether or not this has to be a "permanent" measure.

Nearly 100,000 people need to remember who turned down the help that would keep a roof over their head and food on their table, and why the Republicans did it. A nice little commercial someday, maybe in the Fall of 2010, should do the trick. Don't you think?

Grand Rapids Healthcare Rally: The Media Deceives, and Why My Teabaggers Are Better Than Yours

Do you think the public option mantra has caught on yet?

Public Option

Around 100 people total turned out for this event today. I'm getting the impression that it was thrown together last minute by the OFA as a response to the Tea Party event that drew "dozens" yesterday to downtown Grand Rapids. Apparently, the OFA is planning on matching these demonstrations when and where they can find them. Good to see.

Media coverage was spotty at best, misleading at worst. The GR Press skipped yesterday's event, but was here today, and basically gets the attendance count and story right. Both GR TV stations came out yesterday, only WZZM showed up today - and their coverage was the perfect example of how some media will try to play these events as 50-50, when nothing could be further from the truth.

Here is the WZZM write up entitled "Proponents and opponents divide Michigan Street in Health Care Debate".

Either way, the debate setting told the story better than words. Proponents and opponents of Obama's health care reform were separated by Michigan Street.

One on the north side, one on the south side of the medical mile.

"What do we want? Public option! When do we want it? Now!," screamed members of Organizing for America.

Those in the group mostly support the President's plan to provide universal health care.

"The current system is out of whack because you've got all the insurance companies jackin' up the prices," says Kent County Commissioner Paul Mayhue.

Opposition came from West Michigan's Tea Party.

"Talk to the people in Canada," says Lynn Kehoe of Grand Rapids. "Canada has been broke for years with their nationalized health care."

No head count whatsoever in this story, just this back-and-forth he-said she-said description. They had a camera crew there, but as of 9:30PM - no video up on the site. The event was at 2PM.

Below is the "debate setting that told the story better than words". The pro-reform crowd: the GR Press says around 70, I have a picture where I counted at least 83. It was hard to get them in one close shot because they were wrapped around the corner...

Reform Full

The anti-government crowd across the street - the Press said 20, and that is about right.

Teabaggers Full

Was this WZZM story some sort of attempt at "fair and balanced" that actually distorted the whole event? At this point - obviously yes. If they do add video later, that might give a different impression, but by the text you get the idea that it was an even affair. It definitely was not.

Now, the teabaggers were down there yesterday, "dozens" of them in a county with a population of 605,000, so that probably depressed the turn out for today. The organization boasts 400 members according to WOOD. Hardly a show of popular opinion, and if accurately described you would call them "fringe" - but they garner media attention that the original Bush protesters could only dream of.

Another reason to go to your local events if you can, and report back on what you see. Take pictures, make videos, whatever - you never know when it might be needed to show what really happened.

Oh, and why are West Michigan baggers the best baggers around?

They have their own t-shirts!

Matching T Teabaggers

Beat that, America!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Billionaires For Wealthcare

Join the Billionaires for Wealthcare today - because there is nothing funnier than goofing on the wingnuts.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Big GOP Names Endorse Schuette Over Bishop For AG

Wow, Senator Bishop. Sucks to be you. This list is pretty impressive. From MIRS:

Former Court of Appeals Judge Bill SCHUETTE today rolled out a number of endorsements in his quest to be the next Republican nominee for Attorney General, leading some in the Schuette camp to declare the race "about over."

Among those giving Schuette the nod were former U.S. Sen. Spencer ABRAHAM, former Michigan Republican Party (MRP) Chair Saul ANUZIS, former National Committeeman Chuck YOB, former Ambassador Peter SECCHIA, 2006 gubernatorial nominee Dick DeVOS and former MRP Chair Betsy DeVOS.

Add John Engler to that list (endorsed way back in May), along with a bunch of local Pub chairs that I don't really feel like looking up again. Bishop has his work cut out for him, although he has been the comeback kid before.

History shows, however, that Bishop does surprisingly well in caucus/convention-like settings when he decides to turn it on, which he hasn't done, yet. He won the University of Michigan race in the '90s when nobody gave him a chance. He won the Majority Leader race when all the talk in Lansing a year out was that it was between Sen. Jason ALLEN (R-Traverse City) and Sen. Wayne KUIPERS (R-Holland).

Yeah, well, this time we are talking about some of the biggest names in the Wingnut Hemisphere, and they carry their big Wingnut Checkbooks and considerable political pressure with them. You almost feel sorry for the guy.


Problem with this is that it might cause Bishop to stoop to some drastic tactics when it comes to dealing with the budget, just to try and win back the affection of the party faithful. He took a lot of heat in '07 for "allowing" the tax votes... would he shut down the government this time just to show how "tough" he is?

Let's hope not.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Ever-Changing Rationale of Nancy Cassis

Nancy Cassis smiled for the Freep today and promised that there will be an agreement on the MEGA tax credit legislation within the next month so her district can benefit from the redevelopment of the Ford Wixom plant.

“This could be a model for other mothballed auto plants in Michigan, in the country,” Cassis said. “It really speaks to the green, renewable energy platform the governor has talked about.”

Well, that is certainly great news. Glad to hear that Cassis is on board with the governor's agenda. Granholm told Walt Sorg this morning that the MEDC has over 60 projects in the pipeline, and we certainly need to keep those companies and their potential jobs coming to our state, don't we? Sure we do.

Unless they are small businesses. THAT was Nancy's problem, silly rabbit - she doesn't want credits going to those small businesses that don't create a significant number of jobs.

Cassis has criticized Granholm for doling out tax credits to smaller companies that create few jobs. Granholm has said there already are rules so that firms that do not produce jobs do not get tax credits.

Cassis said the Wixom project is the kind of large-scale redevelopment with high-paying jobs for which state tax credits ought to be reserved.

But when it comes to the film credits though, Cassis will admit she likes the big studio projects, but she is still against the incentives because she wants breaks to go to - wait for it - small businesses.

Cassis says the incentives aren't having as much impact as proponents contend. But she is a fan of using tax incentives to lure more
long-term investment by the film industry -- including proposals for studios in Allen Park and Pontiac.

But, she argues, the incentives have only made some Hollywood types wealthier when small businesses aren't getting breaks.

And they certainly won't now if Cassis wants to put a limit on those who can get MEGA credits.

You can sort of understand what Cassis is getting at here, but it's amazing the lengths Republicans will go to so they can continue to rationalize their simplistic "more tax cuts" philosophy.

Are We There Yet?

As someone who started an Excel chart on the Michigan unemployment rate and then watched in horror as it surged when the recession really kicked in last fall, I almost felt like dancing around the room when the July numbers came out today and it actually ticked downward. It's only a slight decrease, but the fact that it wasn't another jump seems to be cause for celebration.

Michigan’s hard-hit labor markets caught a small break during July as the state’s unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percentage point to 15%, marking the first monthly rate decline since June 2008.

“The Michigan jobless rate stabilized a bit in July, as hiring occurred in hotels and the nursing and residential care industry,” said Rick Waclawek, director of the state Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth’s Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives.

Some economists have held out hope that the government’s cash for clunkers auto incentives may boost employment in manufacturing in coming months.

Something already has boosted manufacturing numbers back to where they were in May; we went from 455.3, to 435.6 in June, back up to 453.8 (data rounded to the nearest hundred). I don't think that those numbers reflect the Cash for Clunkers program yet, but that will give us a further boost as the auto manufacturers are ramping up production to replace dwindling inventory on the hot models. Here's the word from GM yesterday:

General Motors Co said on Tuesday it is increasing production in North America for the second half of 2009 after a surge in sales ignited by the U.S. government's "Cash for Clunkers" incentives program.

The No. 1 U.S. carmaker said it would build 60,000 more vehicles than planned for the third and fourth quarters by increasing overtime and adding shifts at several North American assembly plants.

The move will bring about 1,350 hourly workers in the United States and Canada back to assembly lines, GM said.

With the actions, GM now plans to produce 535,000 vehicles in the third quarter, and build at least 20 percent more vehicles in the fourth quarter than the third.

Ford announced they are boosting production 26% for the fourth quarter, and Chrysler along with the Japanese automakers have indicated they will boost production as well. That means jobs in the all-important auto parts sector - and we lead the country in auto parts employment. Companies that were on the brink of shutting down for good might just make it through this after all, thanks to the Clunkers program. Say thank you to the nice President and the Congressional Democrats for that.

Erich Merkle, our go-to auto industry guy here in GR, seems to think that even when the Clunkers deal ends (and they are now predicting Labor Day on that), sales will remain strong.

“The recession is over,” said Erich Merkle, president of consulting firm Autoconomy in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “I think we’re going to get a bit of a drop-off as cash-for-clunkers runs its course, but I believe it will hand off to an economy that’s much stronger.”

Man, I hope he is right. Unfortunately we are still very dependent on the auto industry, and at this point its revival is key to our fortunes as we continue to work to diversify the state's economy.

Economists are still predicting that the national unemployment rate is going to continue to go up, and we do mirror trends in the national rate (sorry all you "one state" wonders out there, but that's the truth), so who knows if this is bottom for us yet. Probably not. But seeing that the steep slide has at least halted, with indications of better manufacturing numbers ahead, it makes me want to breathe a sigh of relief. If only for today.

Monday, August 17, 2009

New Study Shows State Workers Earn Less, Pay More For Benefits Than Private Sector Employees

Respected name, too. Charles Ballard, economist at MSU, was commissioned for this study by the SEIU before Andy Dillon's plan to pool state employee benefits made the press. It doesn't "refute data in Dillon’s (House Fiscal Agency) report", but it does point out that state employees certainly gave at the office during this past decade, and that the tales of excessive pay and benefits are an "urban legend". This has actually been brought up before during the last budget go-around, but once the myth gets cemented in public opinion, it becomes almost impossible to change.

The statistic that was striking was the fact the Michigan has around the same population that we did at the beginning of the decade - and the state has cut nearly 20% of its workforce, "saving" $3.7 billion (and overworking the remaining employees), and most of that savings is in wages. It shows that we have reduced government, and the people who are pushing for more and more simply want the whole thing "drowned in the bathtub", for lack of a better description.

The DNews has a concise summary of the highlights of the study:

• State employees earn less than their private sector counterparts, on average, in each of eight different categories of comparable educational attainment. State employees with bachelor's degrees earn about 72 cents for every dollar a private sector worker with a bachelor's degree earns. State workers with master's degrees earn 62 cents to the dollar.

• State employees saw a 2.4 percent cut in wages in 2008-09, and health benefits co-pays also went up, with the monthly cost for family coverage more than doubling. The increase meant state employees paid higher-than-average costs.

• Michigan's state employee workforce shrank by 11,000, or 18.1 percent, between 2001-08. In 2001, 62,057 people worked for the state; by 2008, that number dwindled to 50,799. The state workforce was at its peak 1980, with around 70,000 employees.

• Altogether, the state employees' cuts have saved Michigan $3.7 billion, with savings of $3.3 billion in wages, $143 million in pension costs and $300 million in health costs.

The Freep has a the story as well, along with a link to the full report.

Speaker Dillon is supposed to introduce his reform legislation this week, and the experts will certainly put it through the shredder then. Tim Melton has been his attack dog on this issue, and he brought up an interesting point to MIRS last week - although it sounds like he went a little overboard in his zeal to defend the Speaker's plan, for it begs the counterpoint as well.

Rep. Tim MELTON (D-Auburn Hills) said the unions here are engaging in "predictable" behavior in denouncing the proposed state-operated health care system and the alleged damage it would inflict on public employees.

Melton said he wonders how they can react when there are no specifics and there is no bill.

"It's a knee jerk reaction (and) just to dismiss it without seeing the details" is not a good idea, he argued.

Well, it's a "knee-jerk reaction" to support it then as well. Wait for the legal language, and then we can go back to taking sides - because you know that is exactly what is going to happen.

By the way, were you guys planning on releasing your budget plan anytime soon? Inquiring minds want to know. Since everyone has admitted this will have no bearing on the current budget crisis, might want to think about what should be the priority at this time.

Republican Refusal to Move MEGA Credit Legislation Will Cost Michigan New Jobs

This issue was raised almost one month ago, right after the last announcement that the MEGA credits issued for July would create and/or retain nearly 15,000 jobs for Michigan, but as of yet the Senate Republicans still have not moved to expand the cap on these credits. Now, it appears we are going to lose the possibility of creating new jobs and encouraging companies to expand here because some in the Senate prefer to cling to obstruction rather than provide help for our state. And, there is the little matter of the Legislature taking almost two months of the summer off for vacation as well, but hey, what's the rush? Those unemployed folks can wait a little longer, can't they?

The CEO of the economic development group Ann Arbor Spark Michael Finney can now point to two companies that are waiting for an answer from MEDC to start their business plans - and by the way, one may be enticed to go elsewhere because of this delay.

“Businesses don’t wait for the calendar,” Finney said. “When they have an opportunity to move forward, they move forward. So we could potentially lose some if we don’t get this resolved within the next few weeks.”

Finney said one of the companies considering an expansion is an alternative energy research-and-development company, and the other is an information technology firm. One of the companies is considering competing sites in Texas and California, he said.

Nancy Cassis, the one who is holding the keys to this very important economic development tool, was unavailable to comment last week. Vacation comes first.

State Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, chairs the Senate Finance Committee, which is considering a bill to sign off on additional credits. Cassis was traveling this past week and could not be reached for comment.

Cassis is the puppet of the Mackinac Center extremists, who have constantly criticized the credits and wants to eliminate this development tool, even though that would destroy Michigan's ability to compete with the many other states that offer such incentives. Ideological purity is more important than creating jobs for these people, even if it costs us major players such as GE, GM, or Google. Cassis and the Mac Center question the validity of estimated figures - even though the credits don't kick in until the jobs are actually created. No jobs, no credits, sounds reasonable and fair - but "fair" never matters to those who insist on the "my way or the highway" approach, does it? Greg Main of MEDC is more than willing to supply the information they want, but points out that they are not accepting the reality of how this program works.

“I get a little frustrated when I see some of the comments that are made, because I think that this is a very good program,” Main said. “It has led to a lot of investment in Michigan that we wouldn’t have otherwise have had. Are there cases where companies don’t do what they say they’re going to do? Sure there are. But in that case we don’t pay anything out.”

Main said critics of the MEGA tax credit strategy don’t understand that the state isn’t doling out dollars until the company meets certain hiring goals. Companies receive tax relief in stages as they hire workers.

“The reality is the amount of the credit is always tied to the number of jobs that are created and the value of the income taxes that will be generated by those employees,” Main said. “If there is no job created, then there is no benefit paid out because there is no tax revenue. It is a self-funded, pay-for-performance program.”

That doesn't matter to people like Nancy Cassis or Michael LaFaive of the Mackinac Center though. It's not a question of "understanding" the program, it's a matter of public deception for the purpose of pushing their ideology. It's much easier just to just claim that these businesses are simply lying about their plans, and then fall back to the same old Bush Republican demand of "more tax cuts". Sound familiar?

But LaFaive questioned whether companies are telling the truth about their expansion plans.

“They can’t prove the companies weren’t going to come here anyway,” he said. “It would be better if you gave every business in Michigan a tax cut and not the favored few.”

Tell ya what, Mr. LaFaive. Why don't you just show up at the next MEGA meeting and start screaming "liar!" at all these businesses that are looking to invest in our state and give our people jobs. Seems to be the new standard plan of action for the right wing extremists who have no intention of listening to reason, and the Mackinac Center and their pet legislators certainly fit in this category.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I'll See Your Angry Mob And Raise You An Angry Skubick

Due to the threat made by the Senate Republicans to eliminate the Michigan Promise Scholarship, some colleges are now charging students that money up front for the fall semester just in case they can't get it later from the state. And, for a refreshing change, the people who made this action necessary are given credit where credit is due.

Putans is among thousands of state students who qualified for up to $4,000 from the Michigan Promise scholarship -- targeted to be eliminated by the state Senate to help cover the state's $1 billion budget hole.

Lawmakers have until October to wrangle over budget, but at least three large state universities are telling students they need to cover the amount of the scholarships until the Legislature decides whether the program survives.

Say it once again, spell it if you have to. Senate. That's S-E-N-A-T-E. They are the ones who want to eliminate this funding for college students and their families, causing some of them to have to come up with some major coin to get into classes that are going to start very soon.

Everyone got that? Sen-ate. Senate Republicans, if you want to be precise.

And when it comes to the latest "wrangling" over the budget, and maybe a chance to stop this from happening, those same Senate Republicans are washing their hands of the whole affair. They consider their job done, they made the cuts, too bad for you, someone else will have to step up and take responsibility for making sure that Michigan's students get the education they need to compete in this economy. Rumors abound about some "revenue enhancements" and tax credit reductions being proposed by the governor to address the budget deficit, and late last week, Gongwer asked for reaction from legislative leaders. In a statement that I'm going to call "The Miracle on the Grand" (Or, "The I'm Running For Governor Now", which is probably more accurate), Andy Dillon made it clear he won't have a repeat of the Republican fiasco of '07 that caused the shutdown.

On Thursday, Senate Republican spokesperson Matt Marsden said the caucus is open to discussing tax changes, but not general tax increases, and that the House would have to act first on any such measure.

In a response statement Friday, House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) said: "They made the same demand in 2007 and also dictated what was acceptable which led to the disastrous Michigan Business Tax surcharge that is hurting businesses across the state. Any budget solution is going to have to be worked in a bipartisan way and both chambers - including the State Senate - are going to have to shoulder responsibility, not just seek ways to avoid them."

But Mr. Marsden dismissed the comment as "more typical Dillon rhetoric." He said unlike the House, the Senate has passed budget bills that are balanced and that available revenues could support.

"We're out there with what our proposal is, like it or not," he said.

Me-ow. Case closed, college kids. But then Marsden proceeded to dig the hole deeper, like he usually does.

Further, Mr. Marsden criticized Mr. Dillon's reference to the 2007 budget shutdown.

"Senator Bishop has spent the last month and a half candidly talking to the press about the errors of 2007 and wanting to avoid a repeat," he said.

Hmmmm. What was Bishop's latest quote to the press about solving the budget crisis? Seems to me he said something just recently about this. Wait, I think I have it here somewhere... oh yeah, here it is again.

"If she's going to rely on a proposal that includes tax increases she needs to let the public know that so that we can speak out, and if we turn into an 'angry mob,' so be it.

Yes. I see it now. Marsden is right. Mike Bishop is certainly taking steps to avoid the "errors of '07", and making this process a lot easier for everyone involved by toning down the rhetoric, isn't he? But wait - what if that "angry mob" is composed of the college kids who just lost their scholarships? Uh oh. Bet Mike didn't think about that possibility.

Here's the problem with all of that though. The "angry mob" shtick is rapidly running out of its 15 minutes of fame. Pretty soon, the media and the public will be bored with the fringe screamers who are co-opting this latest media storm to complain about their pet issues, they will move on to something else as more and more people turn away (and tune out) from the nonsense. Republicans have probably ruined "protesting" for us, just like they ruin everything that they touch. Figures.

Lansing will still be stuck with the state media though, and it's starting to sound like they are none too thrilled about having to go through another budget battle. Angry mobs eventually dissipate, but we will have Tim Skubick to keep us engaged as to what is going on in Biddle City. And he's not happy with any of you right now. For funsies, let's just see what he says about Mike Bishop in his latest post:

Senator Bishop, it’s time to stop negotiating out of both sides of your mouth. For public consumption you demand that the budget be balanced with cuts and no new taxes, yet quietly behind the scenes you’ve given the green light to your minions to negotiate a possible revenue raising deal with the governor. Which is it? For once, stand up and be counted.

To be fair, Skubick goes off on Speaker Dillon and Governor Granholm as well. Along with the freshmen who came to Lansing to change the world, and then found they couldn't - a perfect example of how the media will build you up with great expectations, and then tear you down again. You're all on the list now. And, listening to Rick Albin talk about this last night, it sounds like he isn't particularly enchanted with the thought of more late nights in Lansing this fall, either. Call it a hunch.

For long-lasting impressions and control of the spin, I'll take the guys with the microphones over the angry mobs any day. They might not always get it right or go into complete detail, but they are going to set the tone for what comes next - and that has big implications for those of you down there who are looking at your future career aspirations.

Better get this solved with some rational compromising, the sooner the better. Something tells me that due to what happened in '07, people are paying closer attention and taking notes this time around. One brief shutdown is forgivable. Two is a pattern. And the media probably won't let anyone forget that.

Congressman Schauer Addresses The Crowd

UPDATE 8/14: Replaced with slideshow this morning, or you can jump to the detail set here. Original picture is right at the beginning, but after that it goes in chronological order and includes some shots from the telephone town hall at the end. One thing I noticed as I was going through the pictures - after Schauer spoke, the supporters started to scatter. The opponents mingled in with the supporters that were left in front of the office doors, so you had a mixed message of signs going later in the rally.

Here is something that the media won't point out - a number of the opponents held signs that had to do with abortion. One shot has three anti-abortion signs in it. And, as I was milling about the crowd, I saw one guy with an embroidered Right to Life shirt, a "uniform" of sorts. So, for all the complaining about union organization (there was that too, but this was basically the Obama organization in general. These were the campaign volunteers running the support protest, and they are good at what they do) one has to wonder how deep the Right to Life people are involved in the anti-reform movement. Remove that single issue, and the opponent's numbers would have taken a big hit - and they weren't that strong to begin with. That is something else the reports I've seen on this so far have ignored. They want to play it like it was 50/50, and there's no way that is true, by any stretch of the imagination.


This picture needed to stand alone. Congressman Schauer came out to address the cheering crowd of supporters - and they loved it!

They are still out there cheering and chanting, cars honking as they go by. There are a few opponents here - but they are definitely outnumbered by the people who support rational health care reform.

Thanks to all who turned out!

A Scene From the Health Care Rally in Jackson


Hundreds here already to show support for Congressman Schauer and health care reform - this is a small sample of what's going on. The chants have started, "What do we want? Health care! When do we want it? Now!" They are circling the front of Schauer's door, and they have taken all four corners of a very, very busy intersection.

Opponents are scattered here and there, but they are vastly outnumbered at this point.

I'm doing this from the sidewalk out back - and that won't fly for long without juice, so I'll bring you some more pictures and updates later!

GM Announces First U.S. Lithium-Ion Battery Manufacturing Plant Will Be in Michigan

When VP Biden visited NextEnergy in Detroit to announce that Michigan would receive the bulk of advanced battery grants from the stimulus/recovery act, Fritz Henderson wandered around in the crowd afterward, giving interviews to the press and chatting with people. Reaching the point of heat exhaustion and dehydration, my mind flashed on a scene of just what I might say to Fritz given the chance at that moment.

"SC2! 35 mpg! I'm getting 35 mpg highway, and you... you... you killed it! Now I'll never be able to get a new one! What in the world were you thinking with the Ion, huh? What is wrong with you people anyway?"

But then I got a drink of water and settled down, and realized that GM has learned from the error of their previous ways, and they are really trying to get it right this time. Not only have they announced that they are going to build some small cars at the Orion plant (saving jobs that might have been lost), they are announcing today that they are going to build the battery pack for the Chevy Volt at a plant in Brownstown Township. Crain's spilled the beans a few weeks ago, and it has been confirmed this morning at a press conference at the future site.

More than 100 advanced technology jobs will be created, packaging the battery cells that will power the Chevrolet Volt and other electric vehicles in GM's lineup.

Company officials and politicians gathered here Thursday morning, in an almost-empty 160,000-square-foot warehouse in an industrial park 14 miles southwest of Detroit to confirm this as the location of the plant.

The facility will be part of a wholly owned subsidiary of GM called GM Subsystem Manufacturing LLC.

This is where GM workers will weld together T-shaped packs for the lithium ion batteries that will come from LG Chem in South Korea. Eventually LG Chem's U.S. subsidiary, Compact Power Inc., also will build cells in the U.S.

Until the Brownstown facility is operational, Compact Power has been providing battery packs for the prototype Volts GM has been building for testing.

GM will initially employ 100 people and invest $43 million in the plant, they are getting $105.9 million in grants, and this will be the "first lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant in the U.S." That is something to be proud of, no matter what the Detroit News says.

The Volt is a really sharp car. I saw it up close for the first time at the Biden event; it looks comfortable, sporty, but yet roomy enough for passengers (something that is an issue with my SC2), and now that they have announced it could possibly get 230 mpg (!)...

General Motors Corp. said Tuesday its Chevrolet Volt rechargeable electric car should get 230 miles per gallon (98 kilometers per liter) of gasoline in city driving, more than four times the current champion, the Toyota Prius.

The Volt is powered by an electric motor and a battery pack with a 40-mile (65-kilometer) range. After that, a small internal combustion engine kicks in to generate electricity for a total range of 300 miles (480 kilometers). The battery pack can be recharged from a standard home outlet.

GM is marketing the 230-mile (370-kilometer) figure following early tests using draft guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for calculating the mileage of extended range electric vehicles.

... it will be a game changer. It would be the first car to rate in the triple digits for EPA mileage. And, if we can build the Volt and GM's other small cars here along with the battery packs? That means jobs, jobs, jobs for Michigan.

So, wish GM all the best. It's great that they are choosing to do this here in the state. As the price of this technology falls with production and refinement of the manufacturing process, we just might have a big winner on our hands.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rally to Support Health Care Reform Today at Congressman Schauer's Jackson Office

Just a reminder to come out today and rally for health care reform, and to thank Congressman Schauer for his support on this issue.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 13, 2009 @ 3:30 P.M.
Congressman Mark Schauer's District Office
800 West Ganson
Jackson, MI 49202

Schauer is holding an invitation only meeting this morning in Eaton Rapids, as well as a public telephone conference call tonight to address health care issues, but since the wingnuts hadn't received their marching orders yet when Congressman Schauer held five public events in July...

“We continue to reach out through town halls and a myriad of other formats,” Pohl said, including Congress on Your Corner events, as well as a public health care forum in July in Tecumseh. The Tecumseh forum was one of five Schauer held in the district.

... they are seizing on today's event to demonstrate that they... can't read, or something. Funny how they couldn't be bothered to show up before the screaming started, isn't it?

Tim Walberg, sensing an opportunity for a publicity stunt, has announced that he will be holding town hall meetings to pass out directions to your local emergency room. When this issue was put before the former Congressman during the last election...

After being asked by a member of the audience how people who cannot afford food could be expected to purchase health care, Walberg said:

"Right now everybody in the United States has some health care, maybe even the emergency room."

And he went on to clarify himself when the audience disagreed:

"Everyone can walk in an emergency room and receive basic health care."

... that was his answer. Doubtful that much has changed, but like Mike Bishop before him, Walberg is going to take advantage of a frightened and angry group of people for his own personal gain.

Another note: Main Street Alliance, a coalition of small business owners with organizations in 15 states, is releasing an ad to support Congress members who are working for reform. Here is the version that thanks Schauer for his efforts.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Glenn Beck to be a Keynote Speaker at Michigan Chamber of Commerce Event

From tonight's Gongwer comes the news that right wing entertainers are the direction the Michigan Chamber of Commerce wants to take when it comes to discussing the serious issues that affect the Michigan business community. Oh boy.

Controversial conservative radio and television commentator Glenn Beck will be one of the keynote speakers at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce's annual "Future Forum," scheduled for Tuesday, September 15 at Michigan State University's Kellogg Center. Mr. Beck is the slated evening speaker at the event. Opening the day's program is Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Maybe Beck is being held up as an example of how not to be. Major corporate advertisers are abandoning his program, seemingly on a daily basis, now that Beck has embraced the full crazy.

Some of the nation's biggest advertisers are distancing themselves from Fox News host Glenn Beck after he called President Obama a racist during a July 28 broadcast.

Geico announced yesterday, that it has pulled its ads from Fox News Channel's "The Glenn Beck Program.", which is owned by LexisNexis, has also vowed not to advertise during the program, per Color of Change. The African-American online political organization has been spurring advertisers to stop supporting the show.

Additionally, Procter & Gamble, Progressive Insurance and SC Johnson all said their ad placements during the broadcast were made in error and that they would be correcting the mistake moving forward, per Color of Change.

The controversy stemmed from Beck's comment that President Obama is a "racist" with "a deep-seated hatred for white people."

Time to start questioning whether the MCoC really has Michigan businesses best interests in mind here. Do its members want to be associated with this cable news shock jock who is currently driving business away?

Bishop Proud Of The "Angry Mob"

It's already been established that these "mobs" are being driven to display extreme anger and are threatening violence due to the lies about health care reform that are being repeated by the likes of extremist fear mongers like Beck, Limbaugh, and the big money right wing lobbyists that want to protect the profits of the insurance industry.

Mike Bishop likes it that people are scared with lies, though. He thinks that is a good thing, and he is "proud" of the mobs that are uncivil and shout down other people. He feeds on their anger and fear.

He also thinks it's a good thing to issue vague threats against the office of the governor of this state. So much so, he repeats the "warning" again today in an e-mail to his supporters.

In an email sent out to supporters, Bishop said he is “proud” of the mobs and even went as far as to threaten to sic them on Governor Granholm. Bishop said in the email, “I also warned the Governor…that these same citizens are likely to be just as upset with her.”

Wonder why that would be. After all, it is Mike Bishop and the Senate Republicans who want to cut the Michigan Promise Scholarship, cut all the other college aid too, cut early childhood education along with K-12 funding, cut health care funding, cut your local cops and firefighters, cut the film incentives... cut just about everything that is good for your state. It's all on them. Even Bishop's spokesperson says that the Senate Republicans will be "demonized" for the cuts they want to make to early childhood education. And where is the money for the MSP that the Republicans promised?

So, it seems that maybe the anger is a bit misdirected here. Perhaps it should be focused on those greedy individuals who want to destroy our quality of life, and then turn around and blame other people for their actions. Perhaps it should be focused on those who make threats against elected officials. As much as I despise what this guy stands for, I would never condone threats of violence against him. Then again, I have class, and Bishop obviously is lacking in that department.

Perhaps it's time to remind Mike Bishop that we threw the lying Bush Republican bullies out of office with the election of '08. He epitomizes everything that the public wanted to "change".

Or maybe we should just let him keep running his mouth. Somewhere out there, Bill Schuette is smiling.

Is Your Refrigerator a "Clunker"? Recycle Now and Get a Rebate

Best thing here - they will come and pick them up. If you've ever tried to move one of these things any kind of distance, you know how hard that is. So, if you are in the market for a new refrigerator or freezer, and don't want to go through the hassle of trying to sell or move your old used one, keep this program in mind. Help the environment, and get a little cash at the same time. The state energy bills passed last year are requiring the utilities to reduce energy usage, and getting these old appliances out of circulation is one way to do that.

As part of a state law passed last year, utilities have adopted programs to pick up old refrigerators and freezers, haul them away and give the customers a rebate ranging from $25 to $50. That way, the inefficient energy hogs are removed from the electricity grid, moving utilities closer to reducing electricity use by 5.5% by 2015.

Since starting its program in late June, DTE Energy has picked up more than 1,000 refrigerators and freezers and given customers $50 rebates.

The appliances are stacked four high at JACO Environmental in Livonia, which has been contracted by the state's three large utilities -- DTE, Consumers Energy and Lansing Board of Water and Light -- and 20 municipal utilities to pick up and recycle the appliances.

"It means that our customers will be saving money, and we'll be getting those old refrigerators recycled," said DTE spokesman Scott Simons.

DTE has a few requirements: the appliance must be clean and in working condition, size between 10 cu ft to 30 cu ft, you must be a Detroit Edison customer, and someone 18 or older must be present to sign for it at pick up. Call 866-796-0512 to schedule a pick up or if you have further questions. They are also taking room air conditioners and dehumidifiers and offering a $20 rebate as well.

Consumers is offering $30 bucks on the old fridges, and for 2009, they are only picking up in Flint, Saginaw, Jackson, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. They will expand to all their customers statewide in 2010. Same conditions above apply; they must be at least 10 cu ft in size, clean and working, and you are allowed two units per residence per calendar year. Call 877-270-3519 to schedule a pick up.

Not a customer of either of these two? Call your utility and see if they have anything going.

I didn't see a time limit on this, so it's not like you have to rush out immediately to take advantage of the program. Just something to tuck away for future reference for when you get a new refrigerator.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Man at Dingell Meeting Fueled by Conservative Lobbyist Betsy McCaughey's Lies

Glad to see that someone followed up on this story - kudos go out to Bill McGraw at the Freep, who took the time to learn more about the man who screamed at John Dingell over health care reform at the Congressman's town hall meeting last week, a scene which spawned the video that has been picked up and played on news outlets nationwide.

For those who think this is a "grassroots" anger that is being displayed across the country, here is yet more proof that the anger may very well be organic in some cases, but that anger is being created and fueled by deliberate misinformation and flat-out lies that are being repeated and amplified by Republicans and the right wing media.

Who set this gentleman off? None other than Betsy McCaughey, and her now debunked op-ed in the NY Post.

Sola said he became concerned about the legislation after reading a July 24 article in the New York Post. Written by Betsy McCaughey, the former Republic lieutenant governor of New York, the story warns the Democrats' bill would put decisions about care into the hands of bureaucrats and force doctors to follow computerized care guidelines. Sola worries what would happen to his son.

The Freep story does not explain who Betsy McCaughey is, unfortunately. McCaughey is a Republican former Lt. Gov. of New York, a fellow at the free market conservative think tank called the Hudson Institute, on the Board of Directors at Cantel Medical Corp - and she is the person who is credited with spreading misinformation about the Clinton health plan back in the 90s, so much so that it sunk the idea. By the time her lies were exposed, the plan was dead.

In McCaughey's case, the equivalent of weapons of mass destruction was the original Clinton Health Reform plan. In 1994 she wrote a cover story in the New Republic "revealing" a number of hidden dangers in the Clinton plan that less careful analysts had somehow missed. Unfortunately for McCaughey, most of what she wrote was false. Unfortunately for the Clintons, most of what she claimed was echoed uncritically and became part of the conventional wisdom of why the bill couldn't pass.

After the jump, a passage from my 1995 Atlantic article "A Triumph of Misinformation" about McCaughey's article and its effects. More on this topic in my 1996 book Breaking the News -- and especially about why sloppy press coverage did as much to thwart health-care reform under the Clintons as it did to bring on the Iraq war under Cheney and Bush.

And now, she's at it again. Her information this time around is also proving to be false - but do you think that the Republicans or the right wing media pundits are going to take the time to correct this misinformation for the "angry" public? Let's take the "euthanasia for seniors" claim that is making the right wing talking points for one example.

In no way would these sessions be designed to encourage patients to end their lives, said Jim Dau, national spokeman for AARP, a group that represents people over 50 that has lobbied in support of the advanced planning provision.

McCaughey's comments are "not just wrong, they are cruel," said Dau. "We want to make sure people are making the right decision. If some one wants to take every life-saving measure, that's their call. Others will decide it's not worth going through this trauma just for themselves and their families, and that's their decision, too."

Both Keyserling and Dau were particularly troubled that McCaughey insisted — three times, to be exact — that the sessions would be mandatory, which they are not.

For his part, Keyserling said he and outside counsel read the language carefully to make sure that was not the case.

This woman has been debunked time and time again on her numerous health care "errors", but that will not stop those who seek to kill health care reform from giving her the microphone and promoting her lies as fact, and make no mistake - it's all designed to drive fear and anger in the public.

It's too bad that the Freep doesn't tell you the rest of the story, that this man has been deliberately mislead by those with a right wing agenda, and those lies caused him to scream at a respected Congressman and disrupt the conversation for all involved.

When will THAT be the story?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Speaker Dillon, Say Hello to Reality. Or Karma. Take Your Pick.

What goes around, comes around, or so they say.

The Michigan media, who fell all over themselves praising Dillon's plan to pool state employee health benefits, are now waking up to the fact that the Speaker doesn't actually have the plan committed to paper, and even if he did, he probably can't get the House Democrats to go along with it anyway. It was, at best, a theory that actually may some merit, but political and fiscal reality dictates that you have to have your details in place and the support lined up behind you before you announce such a sweeping vision, especially one that goes against the grain of both party principle and your major campaign donors such as the MEA.

If you don't have all your ducks in a row, the press will build you up, not bothering to check for such things as "facts" first, and then tear you right down again. And you can't count on other Democrats to go charging into the abyss with you, either.

Dillon hatched his plan on his own, without dealing in the Democratic caucus he leads or working with Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the state party leader. He did it without having a specific bill written or even a detailed white paper to explain how this would all work. And he did it by going first to the media -- the Free Press, in particular -- and letting his colleagues read about it later.

Oops. One House Democrat who supported Dillon for Speaker is now having second thoughts.

"Andy is normally very thoughtful," he said. "But he didn't bring any of the stakeholders to the table. And this thing will drive a real wedge between people. Meanwhile, he has got time to do press conferences but not to draft a bill or bring everyone together to figure out how this might work. His approach just sucks."

No doubt, Dillon had good reason to keep this idea from some Democrats before he announced it. He couldn't afford for the unions to get a head start in their opposition. And there are some members of the caucus who just won't ever come around to such a radical idea.

But by freezing out nearly all of his own caucus, and dropping his idea without a specific bill, he allowed himself, and his leadership, to become the issue. House members are questioning whether this is about Dillon floating a trial balloon for governor or positioning himself for some other office by upstaging other Democrats.

Sounds very familiar. Now, play the tape forward and watch as other House Democrats will run and hide (or even worse make anonymous quotes to the press), or go their own way and do their own thing. This next idea from George Cushingberry didn't make the traditional media, but it bubbled up in the Lansing rags, and leave it to MIRS to find the spin that will cause the Democrats trouble. He is floating his own health care plan, one that covers the entire populace, and he claims it will save the state $2 billion over an "unspecified period of time".

It's not on paper. He admits that it might be slowing down a budget agreement. He thinks the Senate Republicans are his friends. And like Speaker Dillon, his timing couldn't be worse.

The House Appropriations Chair also said he was probably responsible, to some extent, for slowing down budget talks because he was trying to work out a major reform in healthcare.

"It would save us $2 billion," Cushingberry said. "We'd take the $546 million, eliminate the grants and use it directly for fees for service. The way we're doing it right now is back-ass."

Cushingberry said that he is working with a pair of GOP Senators, Sen. Tom GEORGE (R-Texas Twp.) and Sen. Roger KAHN (R-Saginaw) on aspects of the idea.

That's just a couple of examples of how the center cannot hold, the caucus has started to scatter, and once again this gives Mike Bishop a chance to indulge in his favorite obsession, that is driving a wedge between the governor and the House.

“Having been in Andy Dillon’s shoes for a long time and taken the bullet on different things over the years, and being frustrated that we can’t look at tangible, real solutions that represent real reforms to structural problems, I feel for Andy because he has been under the thumb of the governor, and he has been in a position that he can’t be vocal about those kind of reforms,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop of Rochester told The Oakland Press editorial board.

Really, Mike? Please point out the "tangible" and "real" here, because there is nothing on paper that you can either vote for or prove as "savings" at this point, and the only reason Republicans are interested in this is they see it as their chance to bust the unions and split the Democrats at the same time. After all, a guy that hints that the "angry mob" is coming for you if Republican extremists don't get their way cannot be serious about any sort rational reform, can he?

Dillon is now approaching the unions for input on including collective bargaining in an attempt to sell and/or save the plan. On the very slim to none chance that he can get the unions on board with this, does anyone actually think that the Senate Republicans will go along with legislation that gives the Democrats a huge reform victory and protects the unions at the same time?

If so, there is a bridge over the Straits of Mackinac for sale at a very attractive price. Inquire within.

Better yet, let's go over the lesson of 2007 once more, shall we? Speaker Dillon thinks Mike Bishop is his friend, mouths Republican talking points with him all throughout the spring, disses Governor Granholm on the 2% plan. Bishop throws up roadblock after roadblock on both the '07 shortfall, the SBT replacement, and the '08 budget, running his big mouth to the press every step of the way, and Dillon doesn't say a word until Bishop's lie about their agreement starts to become an issue for the House. Bishop then stabs Dillon and the Democrats right in the back as he put Republican Party before state, which resulted in the government shut-down, a hasty tax on some services that had to be repealed, and the now infamous MBT surcharge that eventually replaced that.

What makes Speaker Dillon seem to think that something like that won't happen again? He, perhaps naively, still thinks that bipartisanship is possible.

Dillon says he wants to forge a long-term, bipartisan solution to Michigan’s chronic financial problems while investing in education and other services needed to help resurrect the economy. And he says many of the key decisions must be in the next few months, before lawmakers get sidetracked by an unusually busy 2010 election season.

“This town’s on fire,” Dillon said of Lansing. “We should put the fire out, not be worrying about who’s the next governor. The future of the state is in our hands right now. And that’s my focus.”

Too late, Andy. The game is already well under way, and anything you say or do is going to be used against you from here on out.

It's been said the Granholm didn't line up the House Democrats before she floated the 2% tax idea, but at least she had the presentation and the paperwork to back up her claims. It's also been said that Dillon did support it, and then backed out. While those of us who supported the plan may have been hoping for a bit of schadenfreude to visit the House Democrats, the taste of it now is actually quite bitter, as history appears to be repeating itself.

There is economic theory, and there is political reality, and the Speaker needs to figure out how to both navigate and marry the two together, something that always seems to elude the Democrats as a whole. Unfortunately, he is going to run out of time before he figures it out - and that is exactly what the Republicans have in mind.