Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

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"Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours."

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Snyder Budget Takes Trusted Resident Care Aides Away From Veterans

grhomeforveterans
Memorial Day at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans


Your patriotic Republican lawmakers in action, taking away trusted caregivers from the men and women living at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. May 19th:

One of Michigan's largest employee unions organized a group of about 60 people from the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans to converge on state Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons' meeting Thursday evening.

The group attended her regularly scheduled meeting with constituents, at Robinette's Apple Haus, to protest budget cuts that will eliminate their jobs.

The proposed cuts would come from outsourcing resident care jobs. But employees said the issue revolves around much more than just money.

"We have members there that have needs at certain times of the day, that we, as people, who have been working there all of this time know what their needs are," said Hazel Gant, who works with veterans.

Workers at veterans facilities become friends to the people that have served and sacrificed so much for our country - but that doesn't matter to Republican legislators if they can eliminate union jobs. In the final budget:

Military and Veterans Affairs:

Budget: $152.48 million, up $2.4 million

Highlights: Saves $4.2 million by privatizing 171 resident care aides at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

Snyder isn't the only Republican governor that is calling for more sacrifice from our vets; Gov. Perry in Texas targeted counselors at the Texas Veterans Commission who help disabled veterans for a 20% budget cut, Gov. Scott in Florida cut aid to homeless veterans. And so on. Those are just two that came up right away, you can probably find more if you dig a bit deeper.

U.S. House Republicans have also targeted veterans for budget cuts. The Ryan Plan - which contains massive tax cuts for the rich - hits veterans hard.

During the April budget impasse that nearly resulted in a government shutdown, House Republicans fired a warning shot at veterans by passing H.R. 1, which sought to end the Housing and Urban Development Agency's Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program (HUD-VASH). In the past three years, the HUD-VASH program has helped nearly 30,000 veterans by providing housing vouchers and assistance to help them get back on their feet. Thankfully, H.R. 1 was defeated in the Senate, but the battle isn't over.

The so-called deficit hawks are back on the warpath. House Speaker Boehner is now calling for trillions of dollars in cuts from the federal budget, as opposed to the one-hundred billion in cuts Republicans fought for in April. Not only that, but the current Republican budget blueprint, the "Ryan Plan," sets the 2012 Veterans Affairs budget at $128 billion, down $4.2 billion from the department's proposed budget. With our military currently fighting three wars, which are creating more wounded veterans every day, the Ryan budget is a slap in the face to anyone who has ever served in uniform.

The best way to honor the dead is to make sure the living are cared for. It's too bad the Republicans don't see it that way.

Bad Swan A-Risin'

reedsswan


Lovely morning for a walk around Reeds Lake before the clouds rolled back in - even ran into the mean 'ol mute swan that lives there.

Yes, he's very pretty, but believe it or not the big ones with the orange bills are an invasive species not native to Michigan, and their numbers are getting out of control. The DNR has plans to curb the population by 90% in the next 20 years, and they recently voted to stop releasing injured ones back into the wild. Mute swans run off other birds and destroy nests, they hurt the vegetation in the lakes - and they will even come after you if they feel so inclined.

They sure are nice to look at - just don't mess with them if you can avoid it.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Still The Same



In honor of Bob Seger Day.

Didn't realize they had Ovation guitars in '78. (turns out they've been around since 1966).

Enjoy.

Friday, May 27, 2011

At Your Farmers Market: Produce and Petitions

farmersmarket4896
Asparagus Forest. Michigan asparagus is so darn good that someone actually stole 250 pounds of it from a farmer up in Colfax Township. Can't stand the stuff myself.


Looking for some fresh produce while you sign a petition to recall the governor? Check out this list of events and find a location near you! Plenty on tap for this holiday weekend. In the Grand Rapids area:

Kent County Recall Rick Snyder will have volunteers at the Fulton Street Farmer's Market from 8-noon on Saturday, May 28. We will be at either end of the market, all of our volunteers will have clipboards and will be ready to take your signature.

Come sign the Recall Rick, and get some veggies and plants from local farmers at the same time.

We hope to see you there!

After three days of stories about how the Republicans screwed over the schools, the poor, the seniors and the cities in record time this year, I decided the least I can do is give the Snyder recall effort a little publicity.

Generally, I don't like recalls. I didn't like it when they tried it against Granholm (over closing one prison, remember that? How quaint that was!), I didn't like it when they tried it against Dem House members - but the smarmy faces and self-serving statements of our current crop of yahoos finally got to me today. After hearing Snyder's whiny voice bring up the past...

“It’s a new day in Michigan,” Snyder said. “We’re leaving gridlock and negativity in the past. Michigan has not been well served by the annual budget dramas that have taken government to the brink of shutdown.

... I finally snapped.

That's enough.

First of all, in 2007, it was the Republicans who dragged their feet the entire year on three separate budget issues (mid-year deficit, MBT, and regular budget work) and then ended up taking it down to the last minute - all in the name of political gain. In 2009, Mike Bishop decided he was going to just say no to everything, and in the end shut the government down on purpose. I have the documentation on all of it.

Gridlock? Negativity? Dude, I lived it, and I remember exactly which party was dishing out the gridlock and negativity, and it wasn't the Governor (that you once accused of "happy talk") and it wasn't the D side of the aisle (although they had difficulty with forward motion at times) - it was YOUR party that was hell-bent on obstruction. Republicans were the ones providing the drama, even if the media wants to forget all about that now.

So stuff it. After passing the biggest cut in K-12 history, after slashing funding for universities and including language to appease the anti-gay and anti-choice crowd, after raising taxes on the working poor and seniors to give your business pals yet another tax cut, after passing provisions that target unions, after cutting payments to disabled people, after throwing 12,600 families off of assistance immediately with no warning, after taking the clothes off of the backs of poor children...

But several lamentable provisions will stand in the Human Services budget, including eliminating the back-to-school clothing allowance for 124,000 children whose families receive some form of assistance.

The selfishness and cold, uncaring politics that drove the excising of this allowance from the budget should be long remembered by voters. There are some elements of our Legislature who do not appreciate (or maybe even understand) the distinction between austerity and cruelty.

... I've had enough of your bullshit. "Shared sacrifice" is nowhere to be found. And I'm going to go sign that petition with glee, you over-privileged schmuck.

Do I think the recall will succeed? No. They need 1-in-10 Michiganders to sign it, and I don't see that happening. They would need millions of dollars to pull something like that off. But I do see a lot of legislators being targeted - and I sure hope some of those happen. That threshold is a lot lower.

The arrogance of the Republicans has been astounding, and maybe it's time to bring the party back to reality. They are not acting with "bipartisanship" (ha - remember that promise?) and they are not acting in accordance with the wishes of the majority of our citizens. They aren't listening at all. Time for a smackdown, or, at least keep the idea in the news. Even if this does fail, it serves to remind folks that there are a lot of unhappy people out here, and maybe we get the House back in '12.

Might not be much left to save by then, but at least we can stop the bleeding.

UPDATE 5/28: Petition signed. Four people with clipboards and a line at each when I was there, so they are collecting a lot of signatures. And the conversations were intense - there are some very unhappy people out here. Education was a big topic, "trickle-down doesn't work", rich getting richer, etc. etc. and so on.

This keeps up, and we will have another wave election next year.

Solar Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels Within 5 Years? GE Thinks So

Hat tip to this diary at Kos, which led to this story at Bloomberg. Boo-yah.

Solar power may be cheaper than electricity generated by fossil fuels and nuclear reactors within three to five years because of innovations, said Mark M. Little, the global research director for General Electric Co. (GE)

“If we can get solar at 15 cents a kilowatt-hour or lower, which I’m hopeful that we will do, you’re going to have a lot of people that are going to want to have solar at home,” Little said yesterday in an interview in Bloomberg’s Washington office. The 2009 average U.S. retail rate per kilowatt-hour for electricity ranges from 6.1 cents in Wyoming to 18.1 cents in Connecticut, according to Energy Information Administration data released in April.

GE, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, announced in April that it had boosted the efficiency of thin-film solar panels to a record 12.8 percent. Improving efficiency, or the amount of sunlight converted to electricity, would help reduce the costs without relying on subsidies.

The Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecast predicts solar installations to increase 50% in 2011 as the cost of solar cells that go into the panels has dropped 21% this year. While that is probably killing the profit margin for a lot of companies, it also makes the industry less dependent on government financial incentives for new projects. Keep in mind this announcement is also GE promoting GE, as they intend to open a plant to manufacture thin-film panels in America by 2013.

Sounds good. If the big-money boys are behind this and are willing to promote the product and concept of solar for everyone, it will be easier to move Congress for energy policy to help make it happen. Perhaps it's time to take lobbying efforts directly to corporate America and cut out the middle-man here - for where they go, lawmakers are sure to follow.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

American Pie



Sometimes my little town does fun things. This is one of them.

5,000 people. One continuous take. World record.

Enjoy downtown Grand Rapids.

Anyone give Secchia a breathalyzer? (Edit: Kidding!)

More Business Tax Cuts on the Horizon

What, you thought they were done cutting taxes on business and shifting the burden to you? Don't be silly. While you are busy trying to figure out how to clothe your children and bury your dead relatives, Republicans are busy working on the next way they can lighten the load for the wealthy.

The shark never stops swimming.

But it will not be the last tax change coming. (Snyder) said he planned to address the personal property tax in the fall, but had to work with local governments to be sure the solution did not overly affect their coffers.

This is one time where the simplicity of the media works in our favor. The current CW is that business has just received a massive tax cut, and to some extent they did, but the MBT does not account for the bulk of business taxes collected in Michigan. Haglund pointed this out last October during the campaign, and it's been pretty much forgotten by now.

This year's report, based on 2009 tax data, found that property and sales taxes comprised 70.7 percent of total business tax payments by Michigan companies.

Just 11.7 percent of taxes paid by Michigan businesses came from gross receipts and corporate income taxes captured by the MBT. The rest of the business tax burden is in unemployment, licensing and other miscellaneous taxes.

Now the Republicans need a new villain, and they have one ready-made in property taxes. Strike up the band to play the same 'ol song, start rending the garments and gnashing the teeth... "If we don't cut property taxes, everyone will leeeeeave....."

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said the GOP-led Legislature could slash personal property taxes on businesses after lawmakers cut taxes on most companies last week.

‘We can’t afford to scare businesses away,” said Richardville, R-Monroe, who appeared before about 75 people at the Saginaw County Republican Party Lincoln Day luncheon Monday at the Horizons Conference Center. The issue could arise in the fall.

After a summer of golf, of course. This isn't an urgent issue. We can afford to scare them away for now. But this fall, it's going to be a major, major "job-killing" problem. Wait and see.

Can Republicans hit this well one more time? Given the short attention span of a public that is barley paying attention in the first place, the trick has worked for thirty years now - but between the tax increase on citizens, and the emergency financial manager nonsense, it's hard to see how they will justify hitting the locals again.

Not that that will stop them. They will do it anyway. And you are going to pay for it, one way or another.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

U.S. Imported Oil Dependency Drops Below 50 Percent, 1st Time Since 1997

Let's end this day with some really good news. Pay special attention to the part about the cars.

U.S. dependence on imported oil fell below 50 percent in 2010 for the first time in more than a decade, thanks in part to the weak economy and more fuel efficient vehicles, the Energy Department said on Wednesday.

The department's Energy Information Administration said it expected the moderating trend in U.S. oil-import dependency to continue through the next decade due to improvements in energy efficiency and even higher fuel economy standards.

The new data could undercut efforts by Republican lawmakers to expand offshore oil drilling to reduce oil imports, and support the position of the Obama administration and environmental groups that higher mileage requirements for cars and trucks would help cut dependence on foreign oil.

Imports of crude and petroleum products accounted for 49.3 percent of U.S. oil demand last year, down from the recent high of 60.3 percent in 2005. It also marked the first time since 1997 that America's foreign oil addiction fell under the 50 percent threshold.

Oh, and BTW? Higher fuel standards enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support, even here in the heart of auto country.

In surveys we conducted over the last year, Americans express a clear preference for much higher fuel economy standards. Just last month, for Ceres, we explored attitudes in the heart of the industrial Midwest and the headquarters of America’s auto industry — Ohio and Michigan — where we found overwhelming support for at least a 60 miles per gallon standard.

...

Voters in the Ceres polls express 4-to-1 support for a specific proposal with two elements: stronger pollution controls on automobiles and a 60 mpg fuel economy standard by 2025 for new cars, pickup trucks, minivans and SUVs. Over three-quarters in both states favor this proposal, while less than 1 in 5 oppose it.

Support is broad, deep and bipartisan, extending to those in affected industries. Some 9 in 10 Democrats join three-quarters of independents and two-thirds of Republicans in supporting this proposal.

Many assume that those who derive their living from the auto industry are as skittish about these standards as those who run car companies. Wrong. Those who live in households dependent on the automobile industry respond much like everyone else, with over two-thirds favoring the 60 mpg standard. In Michigan, 74 percent of voters in UAW households favor the strict standards, while just 26 percent oppose them.

It will be interesting to see if oil imports start to creep up again as the economy slowly picks up steam, or if our efforts at efficiency really will hold the line.

Bottom Line

The Republicans.

Who wouldn't pass $2.50 on car rentals to raise $20 million to fund Pure Michigan last year because, "no new taxes, ever!"

Have now raised taxes on Michigan citizens to the tune of $1.42 billion dollars.

Overall, it amounts to a $220 million net cut in tax revenues to state coffers, but for Michigan businesses, including some 100,000 that no longer will have to pay the repealed Michigan Business Tax, it’s a $1.65 billion cut.

The difference is being made up with $1.42 billion in additional income taxes, which includes applying the tax to pensions and other retirement income.

And people wonder why I'm insane...

Pure Michigan Pays Off in 2010

Remember how the Senate Republicans insisted that we kill off Pure Michigan?

"No one disputes the importance of Pure Michigan. But we had a massive deficit we needed to take care of," (Senate Republican spokesman Matt) Mardsen said.

Over and over again they said "no", but fortunately pressure from their own interests in the tourism industry finally prevailed, and we managed to get half the financing we needed for a campaign last year. That was put toward national cable TV slots that started last May - and look what happened next:

After three down years, travel and tourism spending in the state rose 14% last year to $17.2 billion, up from $15.1 billion in 2009 -- the biggest one-year jump in Michigan history, according to the latest annual national survey by D.K. Shifflet & Associates of McLean, Va.

Especially notable was a 21% spike in spending by out-of-state leisure visitors, quite likely linked to the cumulative impact of the state's first-ever national cable TV buys of advertising time in 2009 and 2010 for the Pure Michigan campaign.

What did that bring? Money and jobs, of course. Just like the Democrats said it would.

• Business-related travel in Michigan perked up with a 15% gain in 2010 to $4.6 billion, after plunging nearly 30% between 2006 and 2009.

• Leisure travel spending outpaced business travel by nearly a 3-1 margin, with spending by out-of-state leisure visitors surpassing that of in-state Michigan travelers for the first time. The narrow margin: $6.37 billion to $6.25 billion.

• State tax revenue from tourism grew 13% to $964 million last year, and 152,600 jobs were generated, up 10,000 from 2009.

Republicans wanted to kill our auto industry. Republicans wanted to kill our tourism industry. They were dead wrong on both counts. Something to think about as the Republican budget that slashes education funding is signed today.

Why would you ever trust these guys with your money?

15 Years Ago

... today, I turned right instead of turning left out of the ballpark - and the whole world changed. Amazing how one split decision can alter so many lives.

Happy Anniversary to me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

For the Faithful

... and my various cyber-stalkers, thanks for checking in. Busy with some other things right now, namely spending time outside and enjoying spring, and working on some different projects that are more productive than staring at this computer screen all the time. Sounds good, yes? It is.

Some short analysis for you.

  • Chrysler, yea!
  • GM, yea!
  • And more Volts too!
  • Governor Granholm, victory dance! Enjoy. Don't forget the batteries. Yours also.
  • Snyder and Michigan Republicans, boo. Congressional Republicans, bullies. SSDD.
  • Recalls. Good luck. Circular firing squad begins again. I'm out.
  • McCotter. Are you kidding me?
  • Dick Morris, ha ha!
  • Uni-Solar. Ontario. Policy. US next.
  • Joplin, thoughts and prayers.

    That's it for now. I'll be around...
  • Friday, May 20, 2011

    Go Fly A Kite

    ghkite8528


    The Great Lakes Kite Festival takes place this weekend at Grand Haven State Park; if you are in the area, it's worth taking the time to check it out. Biggest kite festival in the Midwest. It's free, park fees apply if you don't have the new Recreational Passport sticker, or if you are lucky you can find free parking on the street. Hundreds of kites are flying most of the time, and these big ones are up throughout the three-day show. They have competitions and demonstrations and of course a kite tent where you can get something to fly yourself if you like. Word of warning - if that wind is coming off the lake, it can be chilly. Be prepared for every temperature. Bring everything from shorts and t-shirts, to jeans and sweatshirts in case it's blowing straight from the west.

    Last year was pretty nice, partly sunny, warm, people were boating and swimming. This was one of those things that I shot and never put up because I never got the time to go through and get them all processed, but you get the idea. It's a nice way to kick off beach season - go if you get the chance!



    ghkite8510

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    Details, Details

    Amazing how fast you can get a budget done when no one is obstructing it, isn't it? The world will hear "school cuts reduced"! but it's a bit more complicated than that. School cuts will be reduced as long as you do what the Republicans want you to do - and that's cut school employee benefits and probably privatize services, but haven't seen details yet.

    The additional money, about $200 per student, would be added back in the budget to help districts with their retirement costs and to reward “best practices” that include service sharing and lowering employee benefit costs.

    The agreement announced Thursday still reduces the foundation allowance for K-12 from $7,316 to $6,850, $470 per pupil. But it adds back $20 million in categorical spending Snyder cut, including $13 million to reduce class sizes.

    Let school leaders chew this over and wait for their reaction. It is sure to mitigate some of the pain out there, but probably not much. The per-pupil cut is a monster that is going to cause some damage. The Democrats are crying "foul", but seriously folks, why in the world would you trust these guys to keep their word? What does it take until you learn that they don't care about what Democrats think, and as a matter of fact, will probably go the opposite way, just to hurt you and your constituents? It's starting to get embarrassing.

    As far as the rest of the budget, $255 million goes to the rainy day fund, $133 million will go to a reserve school aid fund to offset retirement liabilities. Nothing was said about cuts to Community Health, so the guess is they still intend to hurt some poor folks real bad. More details...

    Universities would see a 22 percent reduction in state aid. Schools that hold tuition increases to 7.1 percent for the next school year would see that reduction shaved to 15 percent.

    The budget restores $30 million in funding for state aid to county and municipal governments. Cities that share services and lower benefit costs would share in a $215 million “best practices” fund that replaces the $304 million in statutory revenue sharing they’re receiving in FY 2011.

    Again, bust your unions and Republicans will reward you. Might want to watch that closely; just a hunch that Republican districts/cities/townships will see more "reward" than others. Color me suspicious. Some relatively good news - brownfield/historic preservation development gets $50 million. Film credits will get $25 million, and while that is something, you can kiss the industry goodbye. With both Georgia and Louisiana keeping incentives intact, the business will go there.

    And we must throw some bones to the wingnuts, of course.

    House-passed language in the higher education budget that penalizes universities another 5 percent in state aid if they offer domestic partner benefits will be replaced with “intent” language, with no penalty, that it's the Legislature's view that they not offer them.

    Separate language requiring universities to report to the Department of Community Health their embryonic stem cell research activities will remain. Snyder’s legal counsel Wednesday said the language was unconstitutional. Asked if he would veto it, Snyder declined to say.

    We will see if Snyder will stand up to the loons, but don't hold your breath. Hopefully our universities will tell the Legislature to "stuff it", and keep doing what they do.

    Hope that someone keeps watch on who gets rewarded under this "best practices" nonsense. Not calling the Republicans corrupt or anything, oh no not me, but if it starts to look like the shoe fits...

    UPDATE: The Gongwer story on the budget contains more details, including a breakdown of spending by department. Interesting sentence on the film credits: "Snyder said the program would need to be redrafted so that it did not guarantee a 42 percent credit." Meaning that bill that was introduced to restore the credits with different terms may have legs after all.

    Cut it. Put it back. Everyone cheers. Public thanks you - and doesn't pay attention to the fine print.

    Gotta admit, they play the game well.

    Windy Thumb

    More wind energy coming to the Thumb, provided they can sell it to the Big Boys. Higher RPS anyone?

    Landowners, area residents and anybody who was interested on Wednesday night attended an open house with Juno Beach, Fla.-based NextEra Energy.

    NextEra hopes to install about 100 megawatts of wind power in the Bay-Tuscola county area, and officials from the company say the company's open houses serve as a way to begin building what could be a 30-year relationship with the community.

    Mary C. Wells, a NextEra spokeswoman, said many landowners are signed up to lease their land for the potential development but more are still needed to reach the goal of 9,000 acres.

    And, before any construction can begin, the company must reach power purchase agreements with a utility company.

    This would be a 66-turbine farm, with energy output comparable to those already running or in the process of being built in the area. Look at all the turbines over there...

    John Deere Renewables has two wind farms in the Thumb area, with 48 turbines near Ubly and 32 turbines near Elkton. Consumers Energy purchases the power generated by those wind farms.

    DTE in April announced a $225 million investment to build three wind farms on 15,000 acres in Huron and Sanilac counties, to produce about 110 megawatts of electricity annually.

    And in Gratiot County, Chicago-based Invenergy is in the early stages of expanding its four-township, 125-turbine, 30,000-acre wind farm development to five more townships — Lafayette, Emerson, North Star, Newark and Hamilton — in southern Gratiot County.

    NextEra is a major player in wind energy in the US, operating 67 projects in 16 states. Sure would be nice to welcome them into the fold - here's to hoping they can get what they need to make this work.

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    Urban Scarecrow

    urbanscarecrow


    Keeping watch at the Hillcrest Community Gardens in Grand Rapids. Hillcrest is a parcel of land where you can rent space to grow your own whatever it is you want to grow; they provide the plot and the water and you come and do your thing. They just got it set up for this season within the past few weeks, and so far this little guy is standing guard on the first few plants in the ground.

    I'll have to check back later in the year and see if he was up to the task...

    Now They Have Coattails

    * looks at watch *

    Better late than never, I guess. From the MDP:

    The economic policies of President Barack Obama and former Governor Jennifer Granholm are working. News that the state has more revenue than anticipated and a positive economic projection by University of Michigan economists demonstrates the state is and has been in economic recovery.

    “From Michigan’s growing clean energy sector to the bridge loan for the auto companies, Governor Granholm and President Obama are proving that their economic policies are having a positive effect on our recovery,” Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer said. “While we still need to create more jobs and help small businesses thrive in our changing economy, the news this week is encouraging. The seeds planted by Governor Granholm, particularly in the clean energy sector, are starting to lay the foundation for Michigan’s 21st century economy.”

    Yeah. Some of us were aware of this well over a year ago, but thanks for pitching in.

    Aspire to Brilliance

    Looking for a bit of levity to take the edge off the disturbing and yet somehow simultaneously boring political rhetoric of our day, I often turn to the dispatches from the Shady Pines Home for the Violently Senile. This is the story of Ron and Nancy's Christmas.

    Anyway, come Christmas time, Nancy decided to invite the Bushes (both 41 and 43) and the Cheneys and Karl Fucking Rove to fly in for a barbecue. I suggested this was like inviting all of the characters in “Whatever happened to Baby Jane?” into your living room, but she said that she liked to keep an eye on the latest tenants in her old house.

    Of course, once they arrived, I realized I had gotten the reference wrong. Lynne Cheney might look and behave like Bette Davis coming down from a three week whisky-and-blow bender, but the rest of them resemble nothing so much as the cast of the Tim Burton version of “Gilligan’s Island”. Nancy and I would have to fight over who gets to be Ginger, and Ronnie could give a special guest appearance as the SS Minnow – thick as a plank and leaking at the seams.

    Nancy and Ronnie and I were seated at the table in the garden when the guests arrived en masse – W wide eyed and giggling a little when he said hello to Ronnie, Lynne eyeing off the cutlery, and Dick gurgling as usual when he walked as the bile and shit and other viscous fluids redistributed themselves within his carapace. Barb and Nancy managed to shake hands without biting each other, which was a nice change.

    I had the butler hand out the special drinks which I had prepared – bright-green vodka gimlets with Grammy’s special garnishes. The cheap vodka, of course – I was scarcely going to waste Nancy’s good stuff on that lot. I was going to slip some Valium into Laura’s glass, but she had pre-anesthetized herself, so it hardly seemed worth the bother. Not much was getting past her pink haze, although she still flinched, just a tiny bit, whenever W spoke. We sat her at our end of the table and gave her a spoon to look at and she seemed quite happy.

    Go read the whole thing to find out about the special garnishes. It's quite good. I am fairly convinced this is the mischievous ghost of Michael O'Donoghue letting us know that the art of the lampoon is still alive and well, if we would only try.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    GOP's War on Women: "We Won't Go Back" Featuring Lisa Edelstein



    Just found out that Lisa Edelstein is leaving House after this year (sob), so I thought I would finally post this clip I've been saving for a while now.

    Thanks for the good work, and thanks for the good fight!

    Yea! More MEGA Tax Credits for Business!

    I'm just being a brat now.

    Feb. 17th, 2011.

    In case there was any question, Gov. Rick Snyder made it plain today: Business tax incentives as Michigan knows them will be gone.

    With elimination of the Michigan Business Tax and a new 6 percent corporate income tax in place, Snyder proposes eliminating tax credits for brownfield redevelopment, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority program, alternative energy, energy, film, renaissance zones and others.

    Except when they aren't. Budget approved, tax changes supposedly made, and here is the list for the Detroit area credits in the DNews today:

    - A $514,000 tax incentive for Summit Health Inc. to create 252 jobs over three years by locating its headquarters and a research and development center in Novi.

    -- A nearly $300,000 tax incentive over three years for Tianhai Electric North America — a subsidiary of China Auto Electrics Group Ltd. — to create 202 jobs for a world headquarters to manage its global wire harness business for non-Chinese carmakers.

    -- A $ 1 million tax credit over five years for Kenersys Americas LLC, the U.S. unit of a German wind turbine maker, which projects to create up to 160 jobs in a new sales and headquarters operation in Troy.

    Also under review are three brownfield redevelopment projects — two in Detroit and one in Warren.

    The projects, if approved, would generate nearly $187 million in new investment and create up to 911 jobs, according to an MEDC statement.

    Cool, turbine maker HQ. And a brownfield credit for Lansing:

    State officials are meeting this morning to consider more than $1.5 million in tax incentives for a downtown East Lansing project.

    The project, called St. Anne Redevelopment, includes demolishing two commercial buildings at 213-217 Ann St. and replacing them with a single, four-story residential and commercial building.

    There may be more to this MEDC MEGA release, this was just for starters. Like I said the other day, I believe business incentives will continue - I just find it amazing that this hasn't been questioned by anyone yet. The guy said they would be gone, and here they are, merrily passing out the candy like usual. But hey, if it gets us turbine makers, I'm all for it.

    Media, I know you guys are busy, but care to comment?

    New Solar Product Captures Up to 95 Percent of Light Energy

    We are witnessing the birth of an energy revolution. As this technology improves over the next few decades, innovation climbing on the back of innovation, what we are doing right now will seem quite primitive - but you will be able to tell your kids "I remember when". So smile.

    Solar is one area that holds incredible promise for the ever-increasing ability to harvest renewable energy, as evidenced by this next new discovery. Hat tip to my Dad who sends me these science articles that are a bit over my head (me no science good), but I get the gist of it - and this one sounds like the winner.

    Efficiency is a problem with today's solar panels; they only collect about 20 percent of available light. Now, a University of Missouri engineer has developed a flexible solar sheet that captures more than 90 percent of available light, and he plans to make prototypes available to consumers within the next five years.

    Here comes the wonky part.

    Patrick Pinhero, an associate professor in the MU Chemical Engineering Department, says energy generated using traditional photovoltaic (PV) methods of solar collection is inefficient and neglects much of the available solar electromagnetic (sunlight) spectrum. The device his team has developed -- essentially a thin, moldable sheet of small antennas called nantenna -- can harvest the heat from industrial processes and convert it into usable electricity. Their ambition is to extend this concept to a direct solar facing nantenna device capable of collecting solar irradiation in the near infrared and optical regions of the solar spectrum.

    Yeah, OK, I believe you. It's the application that's important, and since this technology is on flexible film, they hope to produce it so it compliments what we have already started.

    "Our overall goal is to collect and utilize as much solar energy as is theoretically possible and bring it to the commercial market in an inexpensive package that is accessible to everyone," Pinhero said. "If successful, this product will put us orders of magnitudes ahead of the current solar energy technologies we have available to us today."

    As part of a rollout plan, the team is securing funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and private investors. The second phase features an energy-harvesting device for existing industrial infrastructure, including heat-process factories and solar farms.

    Within five years, the research team believes they will have a product that complements conventional PV solar panels. Because it's a flexible film, Pinhero believes it could be incorporated into roof shingle products, or be custom-made to power vehicles.

    Somehow hook it in to those big 'ol batteries we will be putting in electric cars? Oh yeah. Sounds better than my idea of using aerovoltiac tubing on the front grill and letting the forward motion of the car create wind generated power. (although I like that one too, I haven't heard it mentioned as a possibility yet)

    We get this right, and pretty soon we will more than hit grid parity because the potential for energy generation will far outweigh fossil fuels. Drilling and mining will seem as vulgar and archaic as rubbing two sticks together to create fire. I doubt we will get off oil in my lifetime because of its use in making plastics and other products, but if we can stop using it for energy... well, that would solve a lot of problems, wouldn't it?

    Monday, May 16, 2011

    Little Victories

    Take 'em where we can find 'em. As you may or may not have heard, the state was planning on closing 23 state forest campgrounds, 15 of them in the UP, due to a combined factor of budget cuts and low usage. The plan is on hold right now as the state is contacting local townships and counties to see if there is interest in leasing those planned for closure - but if details can't be worked out, down they will go.

    One of the targets was a place called Lime Island, tucked up just north of the DeTour Passage/Drummond Island on the St. Mary's River, and if I had ever heard about it before, I had forgotten it. A recent GR Press story told of a retired 40-year DNR employee by the name of Mike Paluda, who was on the task force to refurbish the island after the state first acquired it in 1982, reaching out to everyone he could think of to say, "hey, don't close this one"...

    "It’s a historically significant place and we have a huge investment of public dollars in it," said Mike Paluda, a retired DNR administrator now living in Marquette. "This is an embarrassingly bad decision by the DNR. We have over a million dollars invested in the island."

    Intrigued due to a piece I wrote about the historical state park of the town of Fayette last year, I did a little more research on this island, and it sounds like one of those cool little spots of Michigan history that might be fun to visit. You have to get there by boat, and the rustic, solar-powered (yes!) cabins do not have showers, but if you are into the camping experience - this sounds like a place you may want to go to sometime. From the (very good) DNR write-up:

    To those who have been there, the island is a premier outdoor recreation area, but even most of them don't know that the island was the site of summer camps of Woodland Indians some 5,000 years ago; or that lime kilns were constructed there in the early 1700s or that it was a 20th century sportsmen's club, attracting the likes of Hoot Gibson, Diamond Jim Brady and Mae West.

    "More recently, Lime Island was owned by Consolidated Coal, which supplied coal-burning steamers and, later, bunker oil to diesel-powered ships plying the Great Lakes," said Janet Chilson, a volunteer host on Lime Island.

    Janet and her husband, Howard, live on the island from May through September, caring for the island, interpreting its amazing history and helping campers to enjoy their visit.

    "When the company pulled out in 1982, the island's little village, including the small cottages, the one-room schoolhouse and the company superintendent's house, became a ghost town," Janet Chilson said. "Consolidated Coal then sold the island to the state for one dollar, but with no money for development, the village quickly deteriorated at the hands of vandals, until the DNR was given management oversight and began bringing the island back to life."

    Oh noes! Gubbermint spending! (most of it under Engler) But what an interesting place to spend it. The lime kilns date back to French occupation in the late 1700s, and the site is on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as on the Michigan register as the "oldest known industrial location". In 1822, they drew the line that gave it to us instead of Canada, and by the time we were a state in 1837, they had talked the Native Americans into giving it (and the rest of the UP) up as well.

    The island went through a series of owners starting in 1845, and by the late 1800s they were using the lime kilns again and had built a 30-room hotel. In 1910 they pulled 9 houses there over the ice in the winter, and in 1912 built a schoolhouse. The island was populated by a small amount of families and workers throughout the 1900s, but it could never compete with the bigger Mackinac and Drummond Island as a tourist destination, so it was mostly used as a refueling station. In 1982, when the coal dock closed, those remaining were asked to leave. The state took it over, let it sit abandoned for a couple of years where it was vandalized - and then they started to develop a plan to refurbish it in the late 1980s. They started with volunteers, drew the attention of the universities interested in the history and wildlife, and finally received funding to keep it maintained.

    Today it has cabins and camp sites, beaches, hiking trails, wild asparagus and apple trees, fishing - as well as black bears, terns and the occasional moose, too. Bring your own bedding and camping equipment, you can dock your boat for a small fee, and you've got yourself a very unique camping experience.

    The state was going to close this gem, citing the low occupation that only brought in $10,500 in camping fees in 2010. Running a boat out there makes it expensive to maintain - but this is one of those times where historical significance should be given some consideration. If abandoned, chances are it would fall to vandals once again, and this history might be lost forever.

    Late last week, word of a reprieve. In the story about the DNR delaying the decision to close the 23 campgrounds was this paragraph:

    The DNR Parks and Recreation Division is expected to take over management of six cabins on Lime Island, which were on the proposed closure list, Dettloff said.

    Not sure what happened there, if the former DNR officer got through to someone, or saner heads prevailed, but it looks like Lime Island lives to fight another day. With our current slash-and-burn Republican government, that is a victory indeed. Here's hoping that they leave it alone when the inevitable call for "more cuts" comes along, and perhaps someday we will learn that a little extra expenditure is worth the price of preserving history. Future generations will thank us.

    I hope I can get up there someday. Drummond too. I've never been east of 1-75 in the UP, and I bet it's as beautiful as the rest of the place. Maybe I'll even stay in a tent...

    Fund the Schools? No, More Tax Cuts! Say Republicans

    You're shocked, I know.

    Michigan tax revenues are officially on the rebound, which could be good news for K-12 schools facing cuts of at least $340 per pupil.

    How much cash is added back in as lawmakers complete the fiscal 2012 budget in coming weeks depends on competing pressures lawmakers face.

    Local school administrators and parents will argue that not only are the cuts approved so far too deep, they’re unnecessary given estimates today that show revenue up nearly $900 million total for fiscal 2011 and 2012.

    ...

    Some lawmakers want to reopen the tax debate and drop the income tax rate down to 4.25 percent on Oct. 1, as current law requires. Under Snyder’s tax plan he’ll sign into law this month, the rate stays at 4.35 percent until Jan. 1, 2013.

    "If Lansing seems interested in spending some of this estimated additional revenue, then I believe a significant portion of it should be used to drop the personal income tax rate...” said Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills.

    When times are good, you cut taxes. When times are bad, you cut taxes. When your schools, roads, and public safety systems are crumbling all around you, you cut taxes. The Republican answer for every problem ever known to mankind is... cut taxes.

    Had enough yet?

    UPDATE: Looks like we have to award the first Andy Dillon Memorial Medal of Gullibility to... Gretchen Whitmer, who apparently hasn't been paying attention to how the Republicans operate these past few years.

    East Lansing Democrat Gretchen Whitmer said she had a deal in place last week with Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville of Monroe that is not being acknowledged by Governor Rick Snyder.

    “We had an agreement that the cuts would be down to at least $245-per-pupil, which is a significant improvement from what the governor originally proposed,” Whitmer said.

    “We had an agreement, and now they’re back-tracking. So, yeah, I am frustrated. I don’t know how you can move the state of Michigan forward and leave forced cuts on our schools that are unnecessary. These dollars need to go toward education, and they need to live up to the promise of that,” she said.

    Supposedly there was a deal in place that if all the Democrats went on the board with a vote (allowing LG Calley to break the tie), some of the revenue would be put towards K-12. I'm not sure why the Democrats think that the Republicans give a damn about bipartisanship or keeping their word or anything like that... but there you go. Hopefully this was a "teaching moment", and we won't have to revisit it again.

    UPDATE II: And just as I posted that, up comes a story about "Dealmaker" Randy Richardville telling a Republican crowd just today that we need to cut personal property taxes on businesses, too.

    ‘We can’t afford to scare businesses away,” said Richardville, R-Monroe, who appeared before about 75 people at the Saginaw County Republican Party Lincoln Day luncheon Monday at the Horizons Conference Center. The issue could arise in the fall.

    Personal property taxes, or the taxes imposed on such things as machinery and equipment, help fuel local governments budgets, but cuts were needed, Richardville said, adding it could cause some “angst.”

    And then he bragged about cutting unemployment benefits, and he spit on the Michigan's schools too.

    Congratulations Michigan, you are officially a "red state" now. Enjoy your personal poverty. The Republicans certainly will.

    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    Greenage Roundup: Wyandotte Taps the Earth



    Crummy weather keeping me in, so you get the links I've been saving up:

  • Geothermal energy doesn't seem to get a lot of attention when we talk about meeting home consumer energy needs, but maybe it's something we need to take a look at a little closer. The city of Wyandotte is doing just that, and while start-up costs may seem a little high (over 20g's or so), you save 60% on your energy bills - anywhere from $500-$1000 a year. Watch the video from FoxDetroit above for the details. It's a good idea.

  • Offshore wind policy legislation is on hold in Michigan, as Gov. Snyder seems less than interested and the Legislature is planning on taking the summer off. Irritated wind energy developers heard from Former Sen. Patty Birkholz that it's on his radar, but it appears that Ohio will be the first to build an offshore wind farm in the Great Lakes in Lake Erie outside of Cleveland. With the goal of building a supply chain "as well as entice a turbine maker to build a full assembly plant in Ohio", the state looks to capture manufacturing jobs surrounding wind energy. Hey, why didn't we think of that...

  • ... oh wait, we did. Or, some of us did, anyway. The story of one company who did in West Michigan, Altronics Energy, made the papers this week. Altron Automation moved to diversify from automotive production back in 2008 when they found that sub-components from China just didn't have the quality needed for home wind-turbine systems being built by WindTronics in Muskegon, so they got on board with a new product line and now employ 80 people between the two divisions of the parent company. Maybe they can sell some stuff to Ohio too.

  • Look out advanced battery-makers, here comes China. But before you freak, check "quality issues" in the story above. They aren't there yet on cars, either.

  • 322 new jobs are coming to Oakland County in manufacturing fasteners for wind energy, thanks to a training incentive in our 2008 energy legislation. Oakland Community College trained the employees for Dokka Fasteners, who was looking at Indiana, Illinois and Missouri for its new location before the state stepped up with this program to land these jobs. I haven't heard if the Michigan New Jobs program survived or not - maybe it did, since it was part of previous legislation, maybe it didn't, because we elected idiots. Hard to tell, and maybe it's better if I just don't know about it if it didn't. Blood pressure issues and all.

  • Canton-based Duo-Gard is moving into custom designed solar-powered charging stations for electric cars. The company, in business for 27 years building outdoor shelters and translucent daylighting systems, has come up with an innovative weather-proofing design using solar panels. With the ability for steel fabrication already in-house, they can build both standard and custom sizes for municipal and any other types of mass consumer need.

  • Enbridge will be replacing 75 miles of old pipe along line 6B from Indiana to Michigan, the same line that ruptured last year and spilled 800,000 gallons of oil into the K-zoo River. Work has already been completed on the "dented" line under the St. Clair River, which is good to know. Nice to see the company taking care of business here.

  • This story is a couple weeks old, but worth a mention. The Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids will begin a study to see if it's feasible to grow its own biofuel on land around the airport. Using pennycress, oriental mustard and canola, they look to power one or two maintenance vehicles at the facility with biodiesel, and check the results on cost. They currently spend $280,000 a year on fuel for vehicles. Because of security purposes, and the fact that plants draw local wildlife for lunch, the plot will be located outside the main perimeter of the airport.



    That's all for now, but hopefully not for good. Even though Snyder is being an ass about recruiting renewable energy companies to Michigan, I still have hope that we have some progressive thinkers at MEDC who will make the effort. As I just mentioned below, I believe that tax incentives will continue to some extent, even though they want to claim for the media that they have wiped them out. Fingers crossed we can land some more companies and keep diversifying our economy - because we seem to be resting on the one-industry growth in autos once again, and history has proven that to be such a bad idea...
  • Predictable Predictions: Michigan's Business Tax Incentives Will Return, and the Film Industry May Be First in Line

    First of all, it's not like they completely went away. At last report, the legislature had set aside $75 million in the budget for the MEDC incentives to continue, only difference now is that companies will have to jump through hoops in front of lawmakers to get the credits. But, what is likely to happen next is that we are going to find out in short order that a cap is a bad idea, that the figure is not enough when you have states as close as Ohio throwing hundreds of millions at their economic incentives, and Michigan development officials will soon start to clamor for more money when they can't compete. Remember, Engler tried this in the 90s and quickly had to restore incentives when it became know that Michigan had "unilaterally disarmed in the war among the states for business investment". No reason to think that won't happen again.

    It will soon be easy for Republicans to justify returning incentives for businesses, and interestingly enough, it may start with Michigan's now barely-breathing film industry. Make note of the bipartisan effort in this legislation, introduced just this week.

    Two Michigan state senators have introduced a bill to preserve tax credits for movie making in the state that would allow the state to award filmmakers tax credits of up to 42 percent for their production expenditures, instead of an absolute 40- or 42-percent.

    Senate Bill No. 383 was introduced Thursday by Sens. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake Township, and Virgil Smith, D-Detroit. Kowall, chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee, acknowledged that winning support for it is "going to be tough," but "I've got a good feeling about it."

    Even though the state Legislature voted to eliminate the credits as part of a tax- reform package Thursday, Senate Bill 383 could restore some incentives for the industry.

    Call it the Pure Michigan playbook. For a brief recap on how that goes: When the Democrats were in power in the House, Senate Republicans adamantly insisted the very popular advertising campaign be cut from the budget. All attempts to fund the campaign were obstructed by the Senate, and after much back-and-forth squabbling that irritated the public, funding was restored to half of what it was late last year. What happened when the Republicans took power? One of the very first things they did was to restore full, permanent funding to the campaign, under their financial terms of course, and then Gov. Snyder gleefully took credit for it. It's the perfect example of why Democrats need to go to the mat to protect popular, effective programs that work - because what will happen is the Republicans will simply put it back, and then act like it was their idea all along. Another example on the horizon: Snyder has already indicated that he is interested in some sort of college scholarship program - but you can bet it won’t have the moniker of “promise” attached to it. And so on.

    The same thing might be happening now with the film industry. Although many businesses and movie industry workers have already fled the state because it was obvious that Snyder and the Republicans in the legislature were going to kill the incentives, there is the matter of the investment in the infrastructure that had already been started. For a glaringly convenient example, the very expensive Raleigh Studios in Kowall's own district comes to mind, a studio that has millions of dollars and prominent Republican names backing it, and it's doubtful they want to give up this investment so easily. And just like that, it's probably not a coincidence that bipartisan legislation for film incentives came up immediately after budget negotiations were complete.

    Another big clue that the film credits may return is the involvement of the MEDC. If these incentives were truly over and done, would anyone be talking about adjusting the percentages and expanding the scope to commercials? Doubtful. Sounds like this might have been the plan all along.

    Michael Finney, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., said that under these terms, he expects the state's film tax credits would vary from 10- to 30-percent. The actual number would vary depending on the state's negotiations with each production company. Kowall said he consulted with MEDC officials on the bill.

    Finney also said the state would like to make TV commercials eligible for the incentives for the first time.

    Republicans take away, Republicans give back, public that is barely paying attention will then thank Republicans for the effort. Will this make it through the legislature? Good question given the recent turmoil over cuts, but chances are it will eventually. The film incentives were very popular with the public, and the Republicans, who are not very popular with the public as of now, are probably looking to score some high-profile political points that they can trumpet in press releases. This would seem to fit the bill.

    If other states (and nations) were discarding economic incentives, we could too. They are not. We can't either. It's an unfortunate truth, but it is a truth, and we have to play this game if we want to compete in the global economy. And, if the Democrats ever want to win the game they have to play, they better take a lesson from what is happening here. Pure Michigan alone should have clued them in. Next time, better be willing to fight for the things people like and that are effective for the state - or the Republicans will be sure to do it, and then they will take all the credit for the results.

    Watch and see. What's old will suddenly be new again, but as long as incentives serve to diversify our economy and bring investment and jobs to the state, how can you argue against them?

    Saturday, May 14, 2011

    Bob King, Telling It Like It Is

    Looking for positive news after what has been a pretty tough week, I ran across this story about UAW leader Bob King speaking at a Saginaw County Dem fundraiser, and I just wanted to take a moment highlight his words and how he transcends simply talking about worker's issues into the bigger picture of creating a whole social justice movement - not just for the UAW, but for every one of us.

    I've seen King speak a few times now myself, and he is really something. You wouldn't know it by appearance - he looks like he should be teaching high school science, more "nerd" than that pseudo-nerd we have in the big chair now - but when he gets going...

    clintonschauer6692Sounding much like a preacher in the pulpit, King referred to his Christian faith and urged political activism to bring nonviolent change. The union leader criticized former CEO-turned-GOP Gov. Rick Snyder and Republicans in the Legislature with the enactment of tax polices and budget cuts that King said would double the budget deficit while giving tax breaks to corporations. Republicans have said the changes are necessary to create jobs and eliminate those same deficits.

    “Budgets are moral documents,” King said. “Don’t tell me you are for family values” and take away money from education, the poor and pensioners, he said.

    “Is it right to take money from all these groups and give a windfall to corporations? Absolutely not,” he declared. “Who in their right mind goes and gives a $1.9 billion giveaway to corporations in Michigan but does not require that one single job be put back in the state of Michigan? That’s crazy.

    “We need to be laying out the truth,” he added. “This is the most anti-democratic leadership, this is the most anti-Christian leadership. The Bible I believe in says you take care of the needy in society. Says that when people who (through) no fault of their own lose their jobs ... (you) create a cushion.”

    The governor’s spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

    No, probably not. When faced with the truth, those canned talking points lose any sort of resonance that they might have had otherwise. When speaking about the details of meeting the needs of people, the real needs such as education and jobs and food and shelter, "we're reinventing Michigan!" comes off as rather shallow and inadequate indeed. King goes on to call Congress out as well - and he certainly didn't mince his words.

    King faulted congressional Republicans with a push to enact permanent tax cuts for the wealthy and a failure to invest in infrastructure and education to create jobs, he said during the speech.

    “You don’t take from workers, you don’t take from pensioners, you don’t take from kids to try to give more and more to the wealthy,” he said. “They are destroying America. That sounds extreme, but I believe the facts are overwhelming. If we don’t demand fairness and justice in America, they are going to destroy America.”

    Yeah Bob, I think so too. It's why I still do what I do. And I sure am glad we have leaders out there like you that will lay it all on the table in such a clear fashion. Very uplifting to see, especially after such a difficult week.

    It gives me great hope. Please, keep it up, in as many venues as you can. And get those Democrats to start echoing, and most of all acting, on your words, and we will get there in the end.

    Spending the Michigan Recovery: Republicans Sacrifice the Future for More Tax Cuts Today

    Just want it noted for the record that Michigan is showing signs of a very solid economic recovery BEFORE the Republican plan for "more tax cuts!" kicks in. Even though revenues are running well above expectations right now, and that would mitigate the need for severe cuts to your schools, public safety, and health care services, the GOP-controlled state government is going to keep that money until they figure out how they can spend it on their special interests, thankyouverymuch.

    Michigan's improving economy likely will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue this year and next, the House and Senate fiscal agencies said Friday.

    The House Fiscal Agency warned, however, that the new business tax cut just enacted will cut revenue in the budget year that starts Oct. 1 and that about $77 million of this year's surplus likely will have to be used to fill the resulting hole.

    "Overall revenues are up, but the tax proposal that was just enacted will wipe out a portion of those increases," HFA deputy director Mary Ann Cleary told The Associated Press.

    The HFA is predicting a surplus of $483.7 million for the general and School Aid fund. The Senate Fiscal Agency comes in at $690.5 million. And remember, we went into this with a current surplus in the school fund that Republicans raided and sent to other parts of the budget - meaning that we didn't have to make that $1.1 billion in cuts to schools at all. But hey, what good is that nifty expanded emergency financial manager law if we don't get a chance to use it?

    State budget director John Nixon says he's pleased by the expected rise in tax dollars, but warned against heeding calls from Democratic lawmakers to use the extra funds to beef up spending on areas such as education rather than one-time costs.

    "Our recommended budget not only gets us truly balanced in 2012, but in 2013 as well," he said. "Decisions to build the 2012 budget with any 2011 surplus would jeopardize that strong position, and only serve to delay needed decisions by another year."

    "Needed decisions" being the code words for "putting the squeeze on the poor, the sick, the seniors, the kids, the teachers and the public employee unions so we can take that money and give it to our rich friends". That's the decision Republicans "needed" to make to keep their campaign donors happy. The Chamber of Commerce bought our government, see, and they want an instant return on their investment. Did you expect the shareholders of Michigan, Inc. to wait for their dividends? Don't be silly.

    GOP House Speaker Jase Bolger admits that Republicans have already spent our future on tax cuts for business. Sorry kids.

    "The temptation to spend unanticipated money will be strong, but we cannot forget that we have a duty to be fiscally responsible," he said in a release. "We need to stop the past practice of using one-time money to prop up ongoing spending."

    "One-time money" is an admission that they do not expect the Republican tax plan to bring the needed revenue for public services into our state coffers. Get that? In one sentence, Bolger unwittingly destroys the entire trickle-down theory that business tax cuts will bring us prosperity - and your schools are going to pay for it.

    The House Fiscal Agency's numbers show the business tax cut hitting the school aid fund hard, dropping revenue by nearly $670 million in the next budget year compared to what state economists expected in January. That would leave school aid revenue at $10.7 billion for the 2011-12 fiscal year. The agency expects total general fund revenue to be $7.8 billion.

    Bottom line: At this point in time, Michigan is showing signs of a robust recovery even with our current tax structure, and the Republicans are going to gut our state services and spend it all on business tax cuts anyway. Now, chances are public pressure will force them to put some of this surplus towards K-12, but they have admitted that this is probably a one-time shot - because their idea of "fiscal responsibility" is to exacerbate our deficit problem with cuts to revenue.

    Sad thing is, people don't follow this close enough to understand that they are being ripped off. You would think that after thirty years of trickle-down economics we would have caught on to the ruse by now.

    UPDATE 5/16: And the winning number is...

    Michigan’s treasury will have $429 million more revenue to spend this fiscal year than was expected earlier this year, state economists agreed today.

    But a projected $499 million windfall for next year could be largely eaten up by a new tax system awaiting Gov. Rick Snyder's signature.

    Again the term "one time windfall" came up, meaning that Republicans don't have any confidence that the new business tax structure will adequately cover any improvements or restoration of education and other funding to our state. Enjoy your diminished services...

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    CBS News Features Dow Solar Jobs

    Now that we know Governor Snyder won't be promoting our state and our workers, we need to thank people like Andrew Liveris of Dow for getting out there and touting our manufacturing capabilities when it comes to clean energy jobs.




    Can we get this guy to run for governor?

    Over the past decade, one-third of the manufacturing workforce in the U.S. - 5.5 million jobs - have vanished.

    (Dow CEO Andrew) Liveris says creating manufacturing jobs must be America's priority. After President John F. Kennedy said, "We go to the moon," Liveris says, "it actually created whole new industries because of a national mission. I think we need a national mission."

    A mission could help the entire economy take off. For every $1.00 in sales generated from manufacturing, another $1.40 is created for the businesses that support it.

    "Since when did making stuff become a bad thing?" Liveris asks. This past year, Michigan has created more than 30,000 new manufacturing jobs - more than any other state. To make solar shingles over the next four years, Dow expects to hire 1,300 workers with starting salaries of $30,000.

    "It's jobs where workers from displaced industries can be retooled and retrained," Liveris says. "We not only can do it. We are doing it."

    Good thing we still have some people with vision in this state. Keep your fingers crossed that we can overcome the idiocy of our elected officials who are content to sit back and wait for the trickle-down magic to kick in while the rest of the world passes us by.

    Thank you Dow. Now go clean up the river, and everyone will be happy.

    24 Hours of Fail

    Gee, where does one begin...

    The Republicans pass the Worst. Budget. Plan. Ever. A large majority of the public is opposed to it. The Democrats fail to stop it. We have a huge surplus of revenue, and the Republicans are refusing to use it.

    The Red Wings lose. Detroit 1-8-7 is canceled. Blogger, Twitter and YouTube all suffer outages. Paul Krugman scares me again.

    To top it all off, I woke up at 2AM last night, could not get back to sleep, so I've been whacked out all day long.

    Yes, there has been good news too, believe it or not, but I'm a bit too tired to get to it right now. Soon. As far as all of the above goes, maybe it's best to just move on...

    GM to Power Volt Production With Solar Energy

    Now that's what I'm talkin' about. Imagine if we could get all major manufacturers to do this.

    The largest photovoltaic solar array in Southeast Michigan will be built at the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, turning sunlight into electricity to help power the home of the Chevrolet Volt electric car.

    The 516-kilowatt project, announced Wednesday by GM and DTE Energy, will generate electricity capable of charging 150 of the electric cars with extended-range capability every day for a year – a total of 54,750 Volts.

    The 264,000-square-foot project is expected to be completed at the end of the summer and will save the facility approximately $15,000 per year over the 20-year easement agreement. The Detroit-Hamtramck facility was chosen because it has available space for the array and because it is home to the Volt.

    "This array will significantly decrease energy consumption by combining solar power with ongoing efficiency tactics such as lighting and equipment upgrades and automating equipment shut-down," said Bob Ferguson, vice president of GM Public Policy. "Making sustainable choices is good for both the environment and our bottom line. Obviously cost savings is critical for GM, and the ability to save $15,000 per year while being environmental serves us well."

    The Detroit-Hamtramck installation is part of DTE Energy's SolarCurrents pilot that calls for enough photovoltaic systems to be installed on customer property or rooftops during the next five years to generate 15 megawatts of electricity throughout Southeast Michigan. DTE is investing $3 million in the array at Detroit-Hamtramck.

    DTE recently announced that their SolarCurrents program, which provided incentives for customers to install solar, was now fully subscribed - meaning they wouldn't be offering those incentives anymore, potentially putting a damper on the expansion of new solar projects. Consumers Energy had also announced full subscription and suspension of their solar program, but was ordered yesterday by the Michigan Public Service Commission to expand the program to include an additional 2MW of generation between small and large projects. They are looking it over and haven't responded yet.

    It would be nice to see a permanent, flat-rate incentive applied with unlimited subscription for both business and residential - make the payout smaller if need be, but don't kill these programs. This is creating jobs in manufacturing and installation, and reducing our need to buy out-of-state coal. Win-win. Would be a shame to see it end.

    Snyder Celebrates Granholm's Clean Energy Job Creation at Holland's Energetx

    You know, I swore to myself that I wasn't going to do this, trying to get away from simply complaining about the Republicans all the time (ha! fat chance) and do other things - but I just have to say something. Republicans celebrating job creation that they would have stopped from happening really pushes me over the edge.

    Governor Snyder, who spent a campaign trash-talking both the state economic development team and the tax credits that are now growing a clean energy economy here in Michigan, not only used an advanced battery plant created with state incentives and stimulus money to introduce the Republican ticket last August, now has given his "Reinventing Michigan" award to another Governor Granholm/MEDC/Recovery Act success story - and tries to play it off as a victory surrounding his political talking points.

    Sir, you have no honor.

    Gov. Rick Snyder had kind words today for Energetx Composites, LLC as he presented the company with the first-ever “Reinventing Michigan” award, honoring the company’s contributions to the clean energy industry.

    As he presented the award, the governor said the company is an example of the innovative spirit that Michigan needs to recapture, and a reminder that individuals, not government, spark the ideas that lead to job growth.

    “Energetx Composites embodies the entrepreneurial spirit that once made Michigan the leader in job growth,” Snyder said in a release. “Our reinvention as a state is dependent on recapturing this spirit by creating an environment where small businesses like this are able to grow without being stifled by overly burdensome regulations or a job-killing business tax.”

    Regulations and the MBT had NOTHING to do with is happening at Energetx. Nothing. At. All. "Government" had EVERYTHING to do with this new job creation at Energetx. As a matter of fact, these jobs might not even be here if Snyder had been governor in 2009, when the company decided to diversify from yacht-making into wind energy components on the strength of a financial incentive package offered by the MEDC - the very type of tax credit that Snyder is now going to destroy with his budget plan.

    "Energetx Composites is uniquely positioned to provide precision engineering and world class manufacturing capacity in an optimal geographic location to effectively supply advanced composites for the growing wind energy industry in Michigan, the Great Lakes and internationally," Energetx Composites Principal David Slikkers said in a statement to the media. "We remain very impressed with the state of Michigan's commitment to wind energy manufacturing for the state. The fine professionals at MEDC, DELEG and the governor's office are providing outstanding support during a remarkable time in our state."

    Pete Hoekstra also tried to turn Energetx into a political football during his failed 2010 gubernatorial campaign, at the time holding a press conference to both celebrate the jobs and denounce the credits that brought them here - a move that forced CEO Slikkers to defend the company and the state economic development team. Awkward.

    Now, Snyder has given them a shiny award, and uses the occasion to push his simplistic trickle-down plan that probably would have had the company looking at Indiana or some other state for incentives in the first place. The hubris is amazing. We better hope that Governor Granholm's previous hard work can continue to pay off even in the face of Snyder's efforts to set us back - after all, we are going to need companies to distribute these awards to, right? Hate to have the glass artisans at The Henry Ford make all these pretty pieces for nothing.

    Grrrr.

    INSTANT UPDATE: Dave Alexander at the Muskegon Chronicle has more on Snyder's refusal to give credit where credit is due, and also his refusal to implement policy that would create more of these jobs in the future - which of course disappointed alternative energy company leaders in attendance at today's event. He's not even going to try. Bye-bye jobs!

    Roger Cope of MAG Automation Systems — the global machine tool industry leader with a wind-energy component manufacturing venture in Michigan — pleaded with Snyder to get out and let the world know about the activities and capabilities Michigan has in the clean energy sector. He said Michigan still is seen as part of the “Rust Belt” from East and West Coast alternative energy leaders.

    “Today's not the right date yet,” Snyder told the business group of his unwillingness to do national media interviews on Michigan's “comeback.” Michigan must accomplish a good portion of its turn-around before it can toot its own horn, he suggested.

    So, the plan is to not offer incentives and not sell our state to businesses or the nation, and just sit back and wait for everyone to come to us after we somehow accomplish this "turn-around" that can't happen if we don't get out there and promote our abilities in what is now a global competition for jobs. Right. That will work.

    OMG, this guy is a flaming idiot.

    Anyone got one of those recall petitions handy? Hmmm?

    Snyder Won't Be Involved in the "Relentless Positive Action"

    Anyone notice the disconnect in message here?

    “Shared sacrifice” is a consistent Snyder mantra. “I call it relentless positive action, because it’s not just doing a little bit,” he says. “We just need to keep pushing hard on the positive side.”

    But Snyder won't be doing that. Oh no. Not him.

    “Today's not the right date yet,” Snyder told the business group of his unwillingness to do national media interviews on Michigan's “comeback.” Michigan must accomplish a good portion of its turn-around before it can toot its own horn, he suggested.

    See, you are supposed to be happy and positive and optimistic that he is gutting your schools and cities and raising your taxes to give more money to his rich friends, while he refuses to even lift a finger to promote our state and attract new jobs.

    So, "it's not just doing a little bit". For Snyder, it's doing nothing at all. You - you howsoever, are a different story. Best get back to work and put a smile on your face, before you find yourself downsized out of the state.

    Hey, you wanted to elect a "boss". How is that working out for us?

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    Victory Lap

    Courtesy of E.J. Dionne:

    Don’t expect to see a lot of newspapers and Web sites with this headline: “Big Government Bailout Worked.” But it would be entirely accurate.

    The actual headlines make the point. “Demand for fuel-efficient cars helps GM to $3.2 billion profit,” declared The Post. “GM Reports Earnings Tripled in First Quarter, as Revenue Jumped 15%,” reported the New York Times.

    Far too little attention has been paid to the success of the government’s rescue of the Detroit-based auto companies, and almost no attention has been paid to how completely and utterly wrong bailout opponents were when they insisted it was doomed to failure.

    Remind us again... who was it that opposed the bailouts? We'll come back to that...

    The Detroit Free Press, yesterday:

    grvolt0758General Motors plans to kick off a hiring blitz today that will add or preserve about 4,200 jobs in eight states, including up to 2,000 in metro Detroit, people familiar with the planning said.

    ...

    In Detroit, GM plans to add a bulk of the new jobs at its Chevrolet Volt factory, which straddles a border with Hamtramck. Interest in the Volt extended-range electric car and the arrival of $4-a-gallon gasoline have prompted GM to move up the planned hire date for new workers at the plant, likely to late summer. GM had planned to double the number of workers, which currently numbers about 1,000. Now, it may add as many as 2,000.

    GM also plans to expand its work force at the Warren Tech Center and a variety of U.S.powertrain plants. The new hires will include a couple hundred white-collar workers. GM will add many of the jobs in 2012, with some hiring to start this year.

    Rick Haglund:

    Take that, all you naysayers who predicted the Volt would flop!

    It gets even better.

    “There is no greater evidence of the positive effect of the historic federal intervention than large new investments in major U.S. automotive facilities on the part of the rescued firms such as General Motors,” said Sean McAlinden, executive vice president of research and chief economist at the Center for Automotive Research.

    ...

    CAR estimates that this investment over the next year will in total support more than 28,000 jobs in the U.S. economy, including 4,083 people directly employed by GM; 8,638 indirect jobs, such as goods and service suppliers and their suppliers, and 15,492 consumer expenditure-induced jobs, which result from the direct and indirect employees spending their earnings.

    The 28,213 jobs earn a total of $1.65 billion in salary, contribute almost $2.9 billion to GDP, pay $169 million in income tax, and contribute $362 million in transfer payments, such as Social Security, Medicaid, Unemployment, and others.

    And back to Dionne again:

    It’s axiomatic that government isn’t perfect and that we’re better off having a large private sector. It ought to be axiomatic that the private market isn’t perfect, either, and that we need government to step in when the market fails. The success of the auto bailout and the failure of the Republicans’ anti-Medicare campaign both teach the same lesson: The era of anti-government extremism is ending.

    The auto makers have learned their lesson. Have we?

    Moral of the story: Don't listen to the Republicans. It's much better to create than it is to destroy.