Sunday, July 31, 2011

Look At All Those Liberals Out There

For our "culture of balance" friends in both the media and politics, who insist on repeating the meme that there are two equal sides that have pushed this debt debate to a standstill, let's take a look at the numbers on the side that would be portrayed as the "far left" under that manufactured parameter.

(This one is for you, Claire. There is nothing more infuriating than Democrats who give cover to these false equivalencies that are nothing more than deft political framing on the part of Republicans.)

So here we go. On tax increases:

Despite what the GOP keeps telling us, Bruce Bartlett has compiled a list of 19 different polls taken since January that demonstrate that Americans support increasing taxes in order to reduce the deficit and inequality. Americans may not love tax increases, but they understand their necessity for deficit reduction.

On entitlements:

Nearly twice as many Americans say it is more important to maintain the benefits from entitlement programs than it is to cut the budget deficit, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released Thursday, the day President Obama and top congressional leaders met to discuss budget and debt issues.

On priorities:

Americans name the economy and unemployment/jobs as the most important problems facing the nation, as they have all year, despite the dominant focus in Washington on the federal debt ceiling.

Now, y'all can keep ignoring the American people if you want, but don't be surprised when you receive very low approval numbers, or maybe even lose your jobs, for doing so.

It really doesn't get any clearer than this. If the Democrats would only stand up and fight for what is fair, and most importantly for job creation first, they would win in a landslide. And yet, they can't seem to formulate a coherent message around these very simple principles.


Update: Once again, Digby is right about the "deal". And I've pretty much given up on the idea of hope.

That isn't "shared sacrifice," it's asking the poorest, oldest and sickest among us to give up a piece of their meager security in exchange for the wealthy giving up some tip money and the defense industry giving up a couple of points of profit. It's stripping the nation of necessary educational, safety and environmental protections while the wealthy greedily absorb more and more of the nation's wealth and the corporations and financial industry gamble with the rest.

I'm not so sure the wealthy or the defense industry will end up giving up anything at all, but we haven't seen the final verdict yet. There is still a chance this all blows up if it can't get through the House, and they have a track-record now of being extreme problem children. Any "triggers" that offer protection to the American people could scuttle the entire thing.

Update 2: And right on cue, teabaggers are already complaining that they didn't get to destroy the entire government right now. That's what happens when you negotiate with terrorists.

Healing Trees

Nature Bats Last
Telephone pole near my house, from a few years ago. Last year, they chopped all the growth off of it. This year, it's halfway back up the pole again. You have to laugh.

When you see abandoned industrial property being taken over by vegetation growing up around and through the concrete, keep this story in mind:

A federal grant will be used to help plant thousands of trees to control contaminants at a former General Motors factory near the Flint River.

The U.S. Agriculture Department has given Flint $375,000 to survey the property and provide a variety of trees at a place known as the old Chevy in the Hole manufacturing complex. The trees are expected to aid the natural breakdown of contaminants and prevent groundwater from carrying pollution to the river. Planting could start by fall.

It basically works like this:

Steve Montle, Flint's green cities coordinator, said some trees already are growing without someone actually planting them.

"The natural process sort of takes over (at abandoned sites). We're just going to speed that up," Montle said.

He said trees help by taking water from the ground, stabilizing the contaminants and then releasing water as a neutral vapor.

There is no doubt the Earth will heal itself from human contamination, given enough time. It's too bad that spending like this will probably be targeted in the name of austerity. But hey, what's a few more cancer-causing chemicals in our rivers, right? You didn't want to swim or eat those fish, did you?

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Checking out the talent (and food!) at West Michigan in 2010

Hate to lose Wells and Furbush, but perhaps this will be that miracle trade that gets the Tigers to the top:

The Detroit Tigers have a better chance to win the division title now than they did a day or two ago.

They paid a high price to be able to say that, but that is expected at this time of year.

The Tigers announced today that they have obtained starting pitcher Doug Fister and relief pitcher David Pauley from the Seattle Mariners. In return, the Tigers sent pitcher Charlie Furbush, outfielder Casper Wells, prospect Francisco Martinez and a player to be named later to the Mariners.

“We have a chance to win,” general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “We have a very good ballclub, and I'm looking for us to take off and do better. I think this gives us the opportunity to do that.

“It's hard to do that when every fifth day you're just not sure. It's hard to get a winning streak. It's hard to get going. I think this gives us an opportunity.”

Sounds like a good trade. Didn't give up an arm, when reportedly everyone wanted Jacob Turner, who is pitching at Comerica as I type. We don't need another Jair Jurrjens mistake. Wells and Furbush go right on the roster at Seattle, and with Castellanos moving fast (DNews thinks as early as next year) Martinez was expendable.

Hero or goat? We will see, won't we. I'm feeling better about their chances though.

Fareed Zakaria: "Almost Like A War"

Hat tip to DKos for bringing this interview to our attention. Here's a few quotes from Fareed Zakaria on the behavior of the Tea Party Republicans :

"So instead of accepting some compromise that can get through the democratic process, what they're saying is, "We'll blow up the country if you don't listen to us. We'll hold hostage the credit of the United States, the good standing of the United States, and we'll blow it up."

And further:

"They have not been elected as dictators of the United States."


"A national emergency, almost like a war."

Yes, this is a war. The Republicans have declared war on the President of the United States and the Democratic Party. They mean to control as dictators, and they don't care if they have to destroy the country to do it. Doesn't matter how many people get hurt. Doesn't matter if we lose our "good name". They'll just blame everything on Obama and the Dems for not doing what they want anyway. They'll never take responsibility for their actions. Ever. They are zealots, and they are economic terrorists. It's time to start labeling these actions in a truthful manner. We've gone far beyond simple "politics".

Zakaria calls on Obama to use the 14th amendment. He's not kidding. Listen to the whole interview. Very powerful.

It's starting to sink in with the pundit class now. About time.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Urban Scarecrow Revisited

Remember this little guy from May?


Here he is today.

urban scarecrow 2

Things are going good at the Community Gardens. Someone has some mutant corn that I swear is nearly eight feet tall, all the plants are looking very healthy and it seems every plot is filled with a wide variety of... well, everything you can think of, from sunflowers to vegetables to tree seedlings and back again.

I'll check back around harvest and see how Mr. Bear held up. The rains haven't taken too bad a toll on him, so it looks like he will be there for the duration...

Cheers to the community farmers. It's a whole lotta work, and they are doing an excellent job.

Another before and after series for you - Huff Park in March:


And Huff Park in July. Hard to hit the same mark, but I came very close:


Is this a great state or what?

Motor Away

Looking for some good news...

President Barack Obama — joined by Detroit's Big Three CEOs, the California governor and the head of the United Auto Workers union — is expected to unveil a landmark deal today to boost fuel efficiency standards of cars and light trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 in a move that will reshape what Americans drive.

Last-minute haggling over final details was still taking place late Thursday, but automakers were confident a final deal would be reached before today's late morning event.

This is the largest increase in mileage requirements since the government began keeping score in the 70s. There has been some grumbling about the higher standards, including a letter to the President signed by the entire Michigan congressional delegation minus John Conyers, who decided to stand on the side of sanity. But flexibility concerning trucks, coupled with a consumer market that has definitely turned their wallets to purchasing fuel efficient cars, has most everyone on board with this. Our Michigan lawmakers are now tentatively showing favor, the UAW applauds the rules, California won't demand higher standards, Mazda and Volvo have flipped in the last few days, and only Daimler and Volkswagon are still voicing complaints.

Automakers were heading in this direction anyway, and with more hybrids coming in the future, they should be able to meet this demand. Consumers are already there.

And the auto companies have gotten a lot better at building popular small cars that are fuel efficient — thanks to gas-electric hybrids and advances in battery technology — and consumers are responding.grvolt0706 Six of the 10 best-selling vehicles in America are small or midsize cars, and one of the most popular pickup models on the market is a Ford F-Series with a high-mileage, six-cylinder engine.


The new mind-set in Detroit has been helped by some give and take on the government’s side. G.M., Ford and Chrysler pressed for less onerous mileage goals for their profitable pickup trucks and got them. And the administration agreed to revisit the new requirements halfway through their course, with the possibility of adjusting them.

Speaking of those trucks, both light and heavy, they are making giant strides as well. Ford announced that they are teaming up with Azure Dynamics to introduce plug-in hybrid technology to the Super Duty F-Series by 2013. The Ford Explorer SUV is getting an EcoBoost engine to boost fuel economy. Chrysler recently topped Ford in light truck sales in Canada based on sales of the Dodge Journey, which gets better gas mileage than traditional SUVs - and they are now testing an electric version of the popular Dodge Ram trucks. No plans for production just yet, but you can bet that will change in the coming years.

About the only thing that can slow this down now are massive cuts in funding to R & D efforts championed by the Department of Energy. Better hope that this bill doesn't make it through in its current form, or we might have to revisit those mileage requirements in a few decades. If foreign automakers get funding from their government for new development and we don't make the same investment, domestics could find themselves behind the curve once again. Hopefully, they are already well on their way and can escape the new austerity movement that will put some American efforts on the sidelines.

Whether or not their customers can do the same is unknown at this point. Cuts that are slowing economic growth and job creation will have consumers pulling back on auto purchases - predictions are still that we should see sales improve this fall, keep your fingers crossed that holds true.

Update: Some facts from the White House press release on the event that are worth noting:

These programs, combined with the model year 2011 light truck standard, represent the first meaningful update to fuel efficiency standards in three decades and span Model Years 2011 to 2025. Together, they will save American families $1.7 trillion dollars in fuel costs, and by 2025 result in an average fuel savings of over $8,000 per vehicle. Additionally, these programs will dramatically cut the oil we consume, saving a total of 12 billion barrels of oil, and by 2025 reduce oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels a day – as much as half of the oil we import from OPEC every day.

The standards also curb carbon pollution, cutting more than 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas over the life of the program – more than the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the United States last year. The oil savings, consumer, and environmental benefits of this comprehensive program are detailed in a new report entitled Driving Efficiency: Cutting Costs for Families at the Pump and Slashing Dependence on Oil, which the Administration released today.

Go to it!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

America: Lonely People

RIP Dan Peek, singer and writer of the song above, who passed away Sunday at the age of 60.

Electrolux Goes Back to Court to Force Demolition of Belding's Clock Tower

Made in where? Ran across this box just the other day. Coincidences are funny like that. What does it have to do with this story? Nothing. Just thought I'd toss it out there for thought.

My previous post on Electrolux and the fight to save Belding's clock tower has drawn a good bit of attention, so here's an update on the situation. Mlive/GR Press has now picked up on the story that Electrolux is pressing in court for the right of demolition, but once again the best reporting can be found in the Greenville Daily News.

Electrolux believes it should be able to tear down the historic Gibson Building and clock tower because Belding's moratorium against the project was enacted improperly.

beldingclocktowerThe company filed a motion Tuesday in Ionia County's 8th Judicial Circuit Court seeking a judgment to declare the moratorium invalid.

According to court documents provided by Electrolux, the city established the demolition moratorium before setting up the historic study committee and beginning to review the proposed district.

The company claims the moratorium is unfairly stopping it from demolishing the buildings, which would eliminate the liability they pose for Electrolux in their current state of disrepair.

A hearing will be held Aug. 23 in the Ionia County Courthouse in front of Judge Scott P. Hill-Kennedy, who is the same guy that denied Electrolux just a few weeks ago. In the meantime, the Belding City Council will be holding two readings on the amendment to make the Gibson Building part of the historic district, and if it passes, it will happen before that court date.

Wonder if the City Council will be more inclined to preserve the tower since Electrolux is forcing the issue and making them spend time and money to fight this in court. Will update again with that answer...

Next Up on the GOP Hit List: The Environment

Turtle on the Grand, keeping an eye out for Pete.

If you think the debt ceiling battle is bad, just wait until we get to battle over the budget in the coming months. Won't America be surprised when these radicals threaten government shutdown if they don't get to pollute our environment...

With the nation’s attention diverted by the drama over the debt ceiling, Republicans in the House of Representatives are loading up an appropriations bill with 39 ways — and counting — to significantly curtail environmental regulation.

One would prevent the Bureau of Land Management from designating new wilderness areas for preservation. Another would severely restrict the Department of Interior’s ability to police mountaintop-removal mining. And then there is the call to allow new uranium prospecting near Grand Canyon National Park.

Those three examples don't even begin to describe the damage they would do. You really need to read this list to see how the Republicans are waging war against the EPA in an effort to eliminate clean air, water and wildlife protection. In fact, one Republican is openly bragging about how they would get rid of the EPA altogether should they happen to take back the Senate and White House next year. But, in case that doesn't happen, they intend to inflict as much pain as they possibly can now.

Representative Norm Dicks, Democrat of Washington and ranking minority member on the appropriations committee, said Republicans were adding provisions unchecked to the law and getting away with very little scrutiny. He expected even more regulatory rollbacks to be added to the bill this week. The bill is under open debate on the House floor, and policy changes requested by members but not included by the appropriations committee can now be added one by one to the bill, in addition to the 39 riders that came out of the committee.

“It is already like a wish list for polluters,” Mr. Dicks said, “and it is going to get worse on the floor.”

Conservatives have been adding amendments at a furious pace. Earthjustice, an environmental advocacy group, counted more than 70 anti-environmental amendments filed as of Wednesday morning and was monitoring for more.

Please, stop calling them "conservatives". This is not in any way, shape or form "conservative". Conservative, in the traditional definition, seeks to preserve what we have or to limit change. This is radical, destructive policy that wants to strip away all environmental protection and progress, and we can thank the Koch funded Tea Party for all of it. Freedom to pollute indiscriminately is their main goal and reason for existence in the first place. And yes, these Republicans will probably threaten another government shutdown over this (or many other budget issues) before the year is out.

But Mr. Goldston of the Natural Resources Defense Council said that although most of the policy attachments would never become law, the Republican appropriations flurry was still unnerving — and could pose more reason for concern in coming months. ”We are then going to be in a situation again where the Senate and president face the question of whether they are willing to shut down the government or appease a motley group in the House over a spending bill,” he said. “No one knows how that plays out.”

I wasn't kidding the other day (or back in April) when I said the GOP has declared war on America. I'm starting to see that sentiment echoed in op-eds more and more - perhaps as the budget plays out, the scope of the GOP's intention to radically change our way of life will become glaringly apparent.

Question is: Will the Democrats stand up and call this out for what it is? That's the only way we break through the "cult of balance" media who probably will be more than happy to trot out paid experts to proclaim that benzene in the water is good for you, and that we don't need all those animal species anyway.

Yes, that is a bit of tongue-in-cheek hyperbole, but nothing surprises me anymore. I fully expect to see every. single. budget. turn into a full-blown war over ideology, until we get to the point that the public is exhausted and disgusted with the "dysfunction" and tune out completely - and that's exactly what the Republicans have in mind.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Schauer Not Running for Congress in 2012


I wanted to personally email you, before you heard it in the press, that I will not be a candidate for Congress in 2012. As you can imagine, with all the dysfunction in the Congress today, this was not an easy decision.

Congressman Mark SchauerA combination of factors led me to this conclusion — the joy I've found in re-connecting with my family, especially our three little grandsons; the difference I'm making as national co-chair of the BlueGreen Alliance Jobs 21! campaign; and Republican Congressional redistricting that removes my hometown of Battle Creek from my old Congressional district.

I'm incredibly proud of the public service work I've been a part of in Lansing and in Congress since 1996. Public service is in my blood, and making things better for children, families, communities, and small businesses is what I enjoy most.

Can't say as I blame him. He would have had to move to try again in the 7th, or try and run in the GR area, which is going to cost a slight fortune...

Governor 2014. That was my first choice anyway, even if it wasn't his. ;-)

Where does that leave the 3rd? I ran into Pat Miles at the Hollyhock Parade on the 4th, and he said he was considering another run. I believe it's very winnable for the Dems - IF they put in the resources (read: people and $$). Amash is too extreme for this moderate area, and his voting record will show it.

Will the Dems commit? We will see.

The Job Creators

Portrait of a West Michigan "job creator". Company goes through hard times in the Great Recession...

As the office furniture industry grows again following a deep downturn in 2009 and early 2010, restructurings made the Grand Rapids-based Steelcase more “fit” today to compete in a global economy and better enables the company to invest in new product development and pursue emerging markets.

“It helped us navigate through the last recession and had us fit for where we need to be now,” Hackett told shareholders this morning at the company’s annual meeting.

Tell us Mr. Hackett, how did you "restructure" your company?

The latest restructuring move started in January, when Steelcase announced plans to shut down three factories, including its Kentwood East seating plant, and move the work to Mexico. The closing will eliminate 750 jobs, including 400 in Kentwood.

But that's not fast enough for some folks.

One shareholder, who also identified himself as a Steelcase employee, noted that the company, the global leader in industry sales, lags competitors in profitability, despite all of the restructuring of the last decade.

“I’m just wondering how long this goes on before really affecting our bottom line?” he asked.

Ah, the smell of insatiable greed in the morning. The AP brings us the entire picture:

Wages and salaries accounted for just 1 percent of economic growth in the first 18 months after economists declared that the recession had ended in June 2009, according to Sum and other Northeastern researchers.

In the same period after the 2001 recession, wages and salaries accounted for 15 percent. They were 50 percent after the 1991-92 recession and 25 percent after the 1981-82 recession.

Corporate profits, by contrast, accounted for an unprecedented 88 percent of economic growth during those first 18 months. That's compared with 53 percent after the 2001 recession, nothing after the 1991-92 recession and 28 percent after the 1981-82 recession.

What are those corporations doing with all that money? Like the example above, they are taking those profits to "emerging markets".

— U.S. corporations are expanding overseas, not so much at home. McDonald's and Caterpillar said overseas sales growth outperformed the U.S. in the April-June quarter. U.S.-based multinational companies have been focused overseas for years: In the 2000s, they added 2.4 million jobs in foreign countries and cut 2.9 million jobs in the United States, according to the Commerce Department.

— Back in the U.S., companies are squeezing more productivity out of staffs thinned by layoffs during the Great Recession. They don't need to hire. And they don't need to be generous with pay raises; they know their employees have nowhere else to go.

— Companies remain reluctant to spend the $1.9 trillion in cash they've accumulated, especially in the United States, which would create jobs. They're unconvinced that consumers are ready to spend again with the vigor they showed before the recession, and they are worried about uncertainty in U.S. government policies.

Obviously, more tax cuts are in order here.

Yes I'm being snarky. Just wondering when supply-side economics will finally be discredited once and for all.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Goodbye to the Rural Post Office

The Idlewild Post Office. It's on the list.

Marking the changes that time and technology bring.

The United States Postal Service announced today that it is reviewing 3,700 post offices in the United States for possible closure — more than 60 are listed in Michigan on the USPS' website.

See the complete list here.

In a statement, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said many customers don't need to go to a post office to send mail.

"Our customer's habits have made it clear that they no longer require a physical post office to conduct most of their postal business," he said. "The Postal Service of the future will be smaller, leaner and more competitive and it will continue to drive commerce, serve communities and deliver value."

There is talk of moving services into a "village post office", which would operate in a local business and such - might be a good idea to help save money and bring customers into small businesses in the small towns. But still, it's kind of sad to see the quaint and sometimes historic offices go...

(P.S. Hey Mom - Vulcan is on the list too.)

Update: And this comes from the AP the following day:

New census figures show that rural places now account for just 16 percent of the nation's population. It's the lowest share ever as cities and suburbs boom.

The rural share has gone below the previous low of 20 percent in 2000.


In 1910, the population share of rural America was as high as 72 percent.

GOP Declares War on America

That is all.

I really don't know how to put it other than that.

I've seen this movie before here in Michigan, where the Republicans simply say "no" to everything, insult the office of the executive (and the voters) by declaring that they are in charge, and then proceed to insist on getting everything done their way - or they shut down the government. I predicted this last year...

The Bishop Pure Obstruction Playbook is currently being applied in the US Senate, and if Republicans take back the US House, you can guarantee that we will see "pure politics trumping good public policy" on a scale like you wouldn't believe.

... more than once as a matter of fact, and to my horror, it's worse than I thought it would be. I honestly didn't think they would take it this far.

And on the flip, the fact that the President put Social Security on the table when there was absolutely no reason to offer it up is very, very disturbing to me. Suddenly, defending the elderly and the sick has become the "partisan fringe" position, even though the vast majority of Americans want to see those programs protected.

Well, call me a crazy socialist, but I want to protect Social Security*. And if that isn't the position of the Democratic Party anymore, well, I guess I've got some decisions to make, don't I. And that's most of the problem right there. I have no idea where the bottom line is, what the Democrats are willing to fight for... and I imagine I'm not alone in that.

All I know is that the Republicans are hell-bent on turning this country into a full-blown banana republic where regulations are gutted, the government is destroyed, and all the money goes to the wealthy (one look at the budgets being suggested and/or passed out of committee in the House will verify that fact) - and if no one is willing to take a stand against them, where does that leave us?

Scary times.

* = and yes, we do know the facts on the Social Security offer that was placed on the table. Got a problem with the numbers or the reporting of such? Take your argument to Klein. Was it a head fake, knowing the Republicans wouldn't raise taxes or the Democrats wouldn't vote for it? Unknown. Point is - it was unnecessary. SS is solvent until 2037, and has nothing to do with current deficit issues.

Update: Check this WaPo poll for "what the American people want" when it comes to reducing the national debt.

(7/27: One last thing to add- we are starting to use the words "debt" and "deficit" like they are interchangeable, when I believe that "debt" is used to describe what we already owe, and "deficit" refers to a shortfall in a current and perhaps future year budget(s). Meaning, running a deficit can add to the debt. You get the gist.)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Gone Wilde


"We are all in the gutter, some of us are looking at the stars."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Smokin' Hot


"She's gonna blow, Captain!"

DTE just went to rolling blackouts in Ferndale, which was already suffering from scattered outages. Consumers is asking people to reduce power usage if at all possible. The Heat Warning runs through Friday night, when we should start to moderate back down.

Consumers Energy is asking its 1.8 million electric customers to reduce their power use because of the heat wave that has gripped Michigan for days.

The Jackson-based utility says temperatures in the 90s and high humidity have pushed up the customer demand for electricity to near-record levels on its system.

Examples: turn off the lights, don't run the dishwasher or other high-energy appliances until after 8pm, don't open the fridge so much because nothing's changed since the last time you looked in there an hour ago, and turn up the air conditioner temperature a few degrees for Pete's sake before you blackout the entire country.

Actually, I'm surprised our decrepit grid is holding up as well as it is, considering we aren't the only state that is sucking down record levels of juice right now.

Keep cool. By Monday this is over, and we are back to your regularly-scheduled hot summer weather.

Update: Consumers is now asking for an immediate reduction in usage, and an energy conservation alert has been placed by the regional Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator. Consumers is looking at a record day. Usage peaks from 4-7pm, here are the numbers:

On a typical day, the Jackson-based utility sees a peak usage of about 5,000 megawatts, today they are at 8,300 megawatts, Holyfield said.

The all-time record was 8,883 megawatts on Aug. 6, 2006, where temperatures and the humidity that day and that week were similar to what residents across the state are experiencing now.

So, when we are talking about 200MW wind farms, you now have an idea of what a regular baseload day is like. And that's only Consumers. It's why we can't just turn off all the coal and nukes, as nice as that would be. Gonna take lots of wind and sun to replace that kind of power.

U.S. Officially Out of Chrysler

Mark the date.

It's official: The U.S. Treasury has completed the sale of its stake in Chrysler Group LLC to Fiat SpA.

In early June, the Italian automaker Fiat agreed to acquire the U.S. Treasury's stake in Chrysler for $560 million, ending the Obama administration's involvement with the Auburn Hills automaker.

The deal finally passed all regulatory hurdles and the transaction was completed early today, a person briefed on the matter said. An official announcement is expected later today.

The White House and Chrysler didn't immediately comment. The move finally gives the Italian automaker a 52 percent majority stake in Chrysler.

The U.S. exit ends a 30-month involvement of two administrations in saving the company from collapse, beginning with the Bush administration's decision to bail out Chrysler with $4 billion in December 2008.

Can we still call them an American car company?

In other good car news, Chevrolet is reporting a new global sales record for the first half of 2011, and is giving big credit to the very popular Cruze, which is on pace to sell 1 million units by the end of 2012.

Chevrolet’s centennial year is shaping up to be the best in the company’s history.

General Motors Co. recently reported 2.35 million Chevrolet vehicles sold worldwide in the first six months of 2011, the best half-year performance in the brand’s 100-year history.

Record first-half sales in many countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, France, South Africa, and Turkey, helped the brand “drive the Motor City” to the record numbers, according to GM.

US sales "were up 16 percent following nine consecutive months of year-over-year sales increases." The article also notes this is coming almost two years to the day that GM exited bankruptcy.

Thank you President Obama. And Democrats would do well to tout this success as loud as they possibly can. Jobs, jobs, jobs were saved and created, and that's what the country needs to hear.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Former Whitecap, Michigan Native Below Starts Tonight for the Tigers

Duane Below 5/28

Homeboy makes it to The Show. Below is from Britton, a very small town of 672 near Dundee. The following comes from a very good Freep article written in 2008:

When he graduated from high school in 2004 — there were 40 students in his class — Below had no plans beyond pitching for a Blissfield-based American Legion team. Then came his break: Below pitched his best game of the summer against a team coached by Keith Schreiber. Schreiber also happened to be the coach at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor.

Afterward, Schreiber asked who had been recruiting Below. No one, he was told. That changed quickly. After posting an 18-4 record for Schreiber over two seasons, the Tigers selected Below in the 19th round of the 2006 amateur draft. He signed for $15,000 — and is saving it all, he said.

Below, 22, now has a realistic chance of making it to the major leagues. He went 13-5 with a 2.97 ERA in 26 starts for the Class A West Michigan Whitecaps last year, led the Midwest League with 160 strikeouts and was named the Tigers' minor league pitcher of the year.

Below was on the 2007 Whitecaps team that included Brennan Boesch, Scott Sizemore, Charlie Furbush, and a few others that have made it up to the bigs at one time or another. Wish him luck. And all you internet commandos (sports is worse than politics, you should see what they do to Leyland) give him a break if he gets roughed up. Rookie starts can be brutal. Or, they can be spectacular. And Leyland says this was Verlander's decision to take an extra day, and I'd much rather have him start against the Twins anyway.

This was the first season I had the Rebel, was still trying to figure it all out. Unfortunately I wasn't shooting in RAW yet either. But, I got a few shots here and there...

Duane Below 2007

Update: Very good job. 5IP, 5H, 3R, only 1ER coming on a homer from Hideki Matsui, 1.80 ERA. An error by Gullien opened the door on the other runs, but Below kept his cool and pitched out of a jam. The Tigers took the lead after he left - but then proceeded to blow the game 7-5.

Does he have the stuff to be a starter? Not sure. He does not have a blazing fastball, and that's a problem. Middle relief maybe?

Wouldn't be surprised to see the Tigers make a trade for a seasoned starter - if they can find one. They come at a premium, and it would be foolish to trade the future for an "iffy" veteran today. Stay tuned.

Solar Firm Seeks UAW Partnership to Run New Detroit Manufacturing Center

Here's a little something for the Right-to-Work-for-Less crowd to chew on...

Kousay Said -- CEO of ZeroBase Energy LLC, the newest tenant at Detroit's NextEnergy -- plans to rapidly ramp up a new manufacturing center in the Detroit area. And he wants it to be run by members of the United Auto Workers.

A CEO moves a business owned by a New York private equity company to Detroit from Maine in part so he can hire higher-paid union workers? Absolutely, he says. A union shop is crucial to his plans to take a company founded in 2009 from its first revenue in 2010 to $1 billion in revenue in the next five or six years.

"I've had advanced discussions with the UAW. I'm very interested in having a union shop," said Said. "We're going to have a run rate of 1,000 units a year by the end of this year, and the best way to do that is to have a highly trained workforce."

The units he referred to are portable arrays of solar panels housed inside a glass-filled composite exterior shell. Carrying the trademarked name ReGenerator, they generate electricity in the field.

"Our strategy for production needs an automotive discipline. We don't need to educate that workforce. They can bring a lot of value to a production line. The union now is very interested in new ways of engaging management. This will yield benefits for both of us. I'm very excited about it," he said.

The ReGenerator line is currently being used by the Marines in Afghanistan, and ZeroBase assembles its products using components entirely made in the USA. The company is a small start-up based in Maine and only has 11 employees as of now. They hope to find an empty automotive space in Detroit and bring that total to 60 employees within a year. UAW President Bob King says it's unusual that a company outside of the automotive sector would seek UAW members, but Skip Simms, senior VP of Ann Arbor Spark, knows we have the sort of talent high-end manufacturers need.

"You will definitely see more of this in the future," he said of companies willing to pay a premium for trained workers for high-end manufacturing. "We discovered a couple of years ago that skilled talent, particularly highly skilled talent, is one of the top recruiting tools we have in Michigan, if not the top recruiting tool."

Wonder what will happen to that talent if Republicans pass all those union-busting laws, and right-to-work drives down wages in this state. Wonder what will happen when Republican budget cuts increase college tuition to the point where it forces young people to seek this sort of education elsewhere.

Wonder if anyone will point out that trend if it should happen in the coming years. For now, let's hope we can draw more diverse companies here with the talent we currently have, because with current policy that is eating all our seed corn, educating and retaining that talent in the future looks pretty uncertain.

Venture Capital Investment in Michigan Plunges in First Half of 2011

Important story that probably won't get more than a passing mention in the news, but it raises a very interesting question. If Michigan's business climate is supposedly "fixed" now, why are the big money investors playing elsewhere? Surely they had to know about the impeding changes to our tax code...

Venture capital investment in Michigan companies during the first six months of 2011 plunged to its lowest level in 16 years, according to new data released today by the National Venture Capital Association.

Michigan-based companies attracted only $17.2 million from venture capital firms in this year's first half, down 80% from the $86.6 million raised in the year-ago period, according to the MoneyTree Report from the NVCA and Price-waterhouseCoopers. The last time venture capital investment levels were this low was in 1995, when $10.4 million was invested in four companies.

The sharp drop comes even as venture capital investment nationwide increased in the first half of this year, rising 12.2% to $13.8 billion from $12.3 billion during the first six months of 2010. In the second quarter alone, $7.5 billion was invested, the highest quarterly amount since the second quarter of 2008.

The 2nd quarter is traditionally the high-water mark for the year. We only attracted $13 million total, as opposed to $72 million last year. Curious.

If Crain's or someone else takes a stab at an explanation, I'll update this post...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011



A few months after K died in 2005, I got a frantic call from K's mom. She was a volunteer at a nursing home, and a lady that she had cared for had this cat. Yes, the nursing home allowed pets. Nice place. Well, the cat, named Pumpkin, had taken to nipping when she wanted attention, and since the lady was very elderly with frail skin that broke easily, her family decided she couldn't have the cat anymore.

"Can you take her in?" Growing panic in the voice. A desperate plea.

I really didn't want another cat at that point. I was still in shock from losing K (and would be for most of the year. Or maybe the rest of my life, I'm still not sure), and the thought of emotional attachment, not to mention the financial cost, was too much to contemplate at the time. My mind searched for alternatives.

"Isn't there anyone in the family that can take her?"

"No, no one wants her."

"Is there anyone else at the home that can handle her?" I was thinking that maybe someone a little younger could tolerate the nips. I could tell from the description she was just being playful. "Or, how about an ad in the paper?"

"No, nobody here will take her. The family is going to have her put to sleep today if I can't find a place for her."

Well, that did it. I was obviously the last hope for a cat I had never met, and I wasn't going to turn down a woman who had just lost her adult child a few months before. I love K's mom and would do anything to help her out, especially if saving this cat would bring her some comfort and a sense of accomplishment.

Off I went to get the cat.

And I could tell right away, what a sweet cat she was. Mellow. Friendly. Confident. She came home with me, didn't fuss a bit in the car, and immediately fit in with Baby (she's the one in my Flickr avatar). She took charge of the place in very short order, and established herself as the Princess Who Will Not Be Denied. Baby was cool with that. And yes, she would nip from time to time, but I discovered if you just give in and give her whatever it is she wants, when she wants it, everything will be fine, thankyouverymuch. A cuddle-bunny, she insists on a few minutes under the covers on those cold winter nights, where she would receive some pets and immediately break out in loud purrs, only to leave after a bit to settle down right by my side through the night, every night. And wake me up very early for food.

So, that's MISS Pumpkin to you, and that's what I call her. That, or "Orange Kitty". Not sure why I started saying that, but there it is.

Fast forward four years. In early 2009, she started losing weight. Everything else was normal; behavior, food, all the usual... just got very thin. Took her in to have her checked out, where they discovered a heart murmur. An echo-cardiogram showed thickening of the heart walls, and the diagnosis was made. She has heart disease. It's incurable. Nothing could be done. "Matter of time" they told me. "Could be tomorrow, could be years".

Home we went. And as it turns out, we had two-and-a-half very good years.

Right now, she is sleeping on her "spot", my old laptop bag that I had left on the floor. It's cool and comfortable. She has fluid in her belly that has made her appear quite bloated in the middle - it's a sign that she is entering end-stage heart failure. I have some medicine that * might * help a bit, but we have days, maybe a couple weeks, tops. When it becomes obvious that quality of life is gone (she's fine at this moment, no pain, still eating and drinking, behavior normal), I will have to make that decision.

God, I hate making that decision. I've had to do it before, a few times now as a matter of fact, and of course it's never easy. The heartache is so profound. But you know. You know when it's time. You don't want them to hurt. It's the kindest thing you can do when the end is near, to relieve that suffering, and to be with them when they go. But man, it rips you up. Being an adult really sucks sometimes.

That's the price we pay for outliving our furbabies, but they give so much back in their short lives, it's worth it. I feel so very blessed to have had such a good friend for these last six years.

So, I may not be around much. We will see. This heat over the next few days will probably have me trapped, so maybe I will knock out a few things. It all depends on how I feel, on how she feels.

Go hug your pet. Give 'em a special treat. And know that you are loved.

Union of Concerned Scientists Calls For 30% Renewable Energy Standard for Michigan

Well, duh.

The non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists releases its peer-reviewed report today. It and the Midwest Governors Association recommend Midwest states like Michigan require 30-percent of its electric supply come from renewable energy sources by the year 2030.

“Right now, Michigan is leaving Money on the table by not being as aggressive as it could be and as its neighbors like Illinois and Minnesota and others have been in creating clean energy jobs.”

U.C.S. Midwest Director Steve Frenkel says Michigan would do better if policy makers bought into the M.G.A. recommendation.

The state’s current renewable energy law requires 10-percent of its power be generated by renewable sources by 2015.

“The state of Michigan has tremendous potential to not only generate jobs and investment in the state but to really transition the economy towards a clean energy future by adopting stronger clean energy policies.”

The study shows we would gain 15,000 jobs and $6 billion in investment, not to mention $9 billion in savings for consumers on electric and natural gas prices.

How long, how long must we sing this song...

Update: Gongwer has more.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Try and stay cool.

Large swaths of Michigan could see the heat index climb as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit beginning Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

NWS meteorologists warned a mass of hot, humid air could bring about the dangerous conditions into the weekend.

Such scorching days bring about increased risk of heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion, the weather service said.

Latest forecast has 95 on Wednesday and 97 on Thursday. Yikes. No relief until sometime next week.

What Was That Again About Shared Sacrifice?

If Ezra is correct...

We seem to be coming closer to a deal on the debt ceiling. It begins with the McConnell plan, in which the debt ceiling is raised three times between now and November, and each time, Republicans are able to offer a resolution of disapproval. Then it adds in $1.5 trillion in spending cuts harvested from the Biden talks. Then it creates a committee of 12 lawmakers charged with sending a deficit-reduction plan to Congress by the end of the year. Whatever they decide on would be protected from the filibuster and immune to amendments.

For Republicans, this plan is something close to the best of all possible worlds (sorry, but I do not consider a world in which "Cut, Cap, and Balance" passes to be a possible one): It's all spending cuts and no revenues. It's a little plan that denies the Obama administration the political and substantive benefits of a big plan. It's a multi-part plan -- which is more important than people realize -- that forces Democrats to take three hard votes between now and the election, and almost ensures that deficit reduction will be an issue in 2013 and beyond. It's a plan that smartly pockets more than a trillion dollars in spending cuts Democrats can sort-of accept and only then begins a grand bargain process, ensuring that if there's a grand bargain later, it will cut far deeper into the bone of Democratic priorities. If it passes, Republicans will have escaped these negotiations without making any significant political or policy concessions.

As for the Democrats? Well, it's a deal. No particular part of it is so objectionably that Harry Reid couldn't pass it if he tried. And it raises the debt ceiling. That's not a particularly rousing argument, but perhaps it will be enough.

Emphasis mine.

Yeah. About those taxes.

Despite what the GOP keeps telling us, Bruce Bartlett has compiled a list of 19 different polls taken since January that demonstrate that Americans support increasing taxes in order to reduce the deficit and inequality. Americans may not love tax increases, but they understand their necessity for deficit reduction.

And about those entitlements.

Nearly twice as many Americans say it is more important to maintain the benefits from entitlement programs than it is to cut the budget deficit, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released Thursday, the day President Obama and top congressional leaders met to discuss budget and debt issues.

The poll found that about three of every five Americans said they wanted to maintain Social Security and Medicare benefits while 32% said it was more important to take steps to reduce the budget deficit. Politically, Democrats across all income levels support maintaining entitlement programs while the GOP is split, with the less affluent being more likely to support keeping the benefits than the rich.

OK, I'm going to stand back now, and see if this shakes out as described...

Update: And from CBS this morning...

Americans are unimpressed with their political leaders' handling of the debt ceiling crisis, with a new CBS News poll showing a majority disapprove of all the involved parties' conduct, but Republicans in Congress fare the worst, with just 21 percent backing their intransigent resistance to raising taxes.

51% of Republicans disapprove of Republicans. Imagine that.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Git Off My Lawn, Blackbird-Style

Yeah, got me too. Twice, I'm embarrassed to say. This is right across the street from the Ford Museum, so I imagine he was pretty tired by the end of all the ceremonies.

Watch and see. It's a riot.

The Coming Water Wars

Rosy Mound 5040

For those who haven't heard, Ohio Gov. Kasich and his merry band of teapublican legislators are planning on draining Lake Erie in the name of "jobs". Two Great Lakes governors have now spoken out, and amazingly enough one of them is ours - although it looks like New York's Cuomo is the only one who is talking tough about legal remedies.

The proposal, intended to align the state with the Great Lakes Compact, cleared the Republican-led state Legislature last month over the objections of two former Ohio governors and a former state natural resources director. Newspapers across the state also have urged a veto.

"There is potential legal action" ahead between the states if the Ohio bill becomes law, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday. "We don't want to get involved in a dispute with another state if we can avoid it, and we're going to have conversations because it is a situation that causes us concern.

But "We will do whatever we have to do to protect the rights of New York," he said.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's office also contacted Ohio on Thursday to express concern, said Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols. Nichols said a decision will be announced Friday, ahead of a Monday deadline for the governor to act.

I'm guessing Kasich goes through with it. We find out later today. And if he does, consider this the first major challenge to the intent of the Great Lakes Water Compact. In the years to come, we are probably going to see many, many more.

Any chance we can get the Canadians to weigh in on this?

Update: Wow, wrong. Surprised.

Gov. John Kasich vetoed a bill Friday that would have allowed Ohio factories to pull more water out of Lake Erie, amid pressure from governors from other Great Lakes states who expressed concerned about the measure.

Kasich, a first-term Republican, said in a statement that he was vetoing the bill because portions of it must be improved.

"Namely, Ohio's legislation lacks clear standards for conservation and withdrawals and does not allow for sufficient evaluation and monitoring of withdrawals or usage," he said.

Ohio legislators are scratching their heads and wondering why he didn't say anything before the bill was passed, but that was before other governors took notice. Look for them to try again; perhaps this warning shot will keep states from getting too greedy. You would hope anyway.

Thursday, July 14, 2011



The line forms inside DeVos Place to make the journey across the river...

Betty Ford returned Wednesday to the city where she grew up and wed the man who became the only president from Michigan, prompting hundreds to line the streets in front of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum as her casket arrived for a memorial service.

The service was followed by a public viewing at the museum, where Ford's flower-draped casket laid, surrounded by an honor guard and with a softly lit presidential seal overhead. At least 300 mourners had paid their respects Wednesday evening halfway through the four-hour viewing, which followed a similar, and sometimes tearful, send-off by thousands of well-wishers in California earlier in the day.

After another memorial service Thursday in Grand Rapids, Ford is to be buried next to her husband on the grounds of his presidential museum. Gerald Ford died in 2006.

Welcome home.

More pics here.

(Bumped back up - thx Paddy @ The Political Carnival for the link! Also added a few at the end from today's procession through town that came through my area of the city, including one from the front of the Center of the Universe building.)

Enough is Enough

Love it when my words are echoed by the President of the United States of America.

The latest on the debt ceiling impasse: Eric Cantor is claiming that Obama grew “agitated” in yesterday’s private meeting when Cantor insisted on a short term debt ceiling extension rather than a long term deal that falls short of what Republicans want. But Dems are pushing back, arguing that Obama simply told Cantor to drop the posturing: “Enough is enough.”

“Cantor’s account of tonight’s meeting is completely overblown,” a Dem aide emailed reporters last night. “Cantor rudely interrupted the President three times to advocate for short-term debt ceiling increases while the President was wrapping the meeting.”

The full quote according to the AP is: "Enough is enough. ... I'll see you all tomorrow", Obama dismissing Cantor's rude and incessant whining like you would wave away a bug as he left of the day. Cantor ran to the press because his massive smarmy ego was hurt, and thus another viral story is born. It appears that move has backfired on the Republicans, as their whole position is slowly coming unraveled in the eyes of many - and amazingly enough, so far it's being reported as such.

While the Dem aide above might want to downplay Obama's reaction, they may want to stop and consider what another official told Politico. Yeah, I know, it's an unnamed source in Politico, but listen to this:

“Obama lit him up. Cantor sat in stunned silence,” said an official in the meeting. “It was incredible. If the public saw Obama he would win in a landslide.”

It's exactly what the public needs to see. While we already have public opinion on taxes and the debt ceiling on our side (important caveat: except when it comes to cutting SS, Medicare and Medicaid), and, this episode goes a long way towards showing that the President is willing to take a stand, we still are back at square one and looking at massive cuts in spending that will cause more job loss and in turn continue to erode confidence in the economy. We've already got Rove's Crossroads propaganda machine in action on the airwaves on the economy issue, and the Koch-backed Americans For Prosperity are out on the streets, trying to "townhall" gas prices as Obama's fault. The wheels of 2012 are already in motion in small but very visible ways.

Don't underestimate the insidious nature of the continuous smear campaign. The public may blame the GOP for posturing on the debt ceiling, but the entire end-game is the one we need to worry about. Greg Sargent parses a new Quinnipiac poll, and finds the ultimate truth:

There are some bad numbers in here for Obama. Large numbers say his approach will impact the middle class and disapprove of his handling of the economy and deficit, and economic pessimism is running high. The economy may very well trump all in the end, reducing the debt ceiling brawl to minor sideshow status.

But when it comes to the debt limit impasse that’s now consuming Washington, the public now seems to generally view the argument on Obama’s terms.

The public would probably come around to viewing the economy and budget (remember, that's a separate fight) on Obama's terms as well - but he needs to make those terms clear, and be willing to fight for them. And that includes strong backup from the Democratic Party, too. Anyone flinches because they are afraid for their seat or whatever, and you undermine the entire effort. Hope they remember that.

The debt ceiling is just one skirmish in the big war to come, and will be forgotten as soon as it's over. That's why endurance and simplicity of message is so important; the next shiny object will be along shortly, and chances are we will get to do this kabuki all over again.

And again. And again...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thank You GRPD

thank you grpd 1238
Outside of Police HQ downtown

We owe these guys some big thanks for their heroic work during last Thursday's tragic shooting spree. Mayor Heartwell and the City Commission did just that this morning.

The Grand Rapids City Commission honored the Grand Rapids Police Department officers and command staff who dealt with Rodrick Dantzler's murderous rampage last week, with a brief ceremony Tuesday morning.

“I want to commend the extraordinary efforts of the officers, which saved lives,” said Mayor George Heartwell, citing the officer who drew Dantzler’s fire away from an intended victim near the police department headquarters downtown.

Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk asked everyone gathered to remember the friends and family of Dantzler’s victims.

Belk praised his negotiation team, who ensured three people walked out of the hostage house who otherwise may have been killed.

“It humbles me as a chief to think of the great works that they do,” he said.

News of Betty Ford's death has pretty much taken center stage now, as the department had to instantly move on to dealing with the logistics surrounding her funeral. I'm sure they will perform admirably, as they always do.

During the standoff, I was struck by the normal calls that were coming in amidst all the intense drama. Here we had police actually inside the house during hostage negotiations, talking in hushed tones as they moved about, and you would hear dispatch say something like, "Reports of trouble breathing at... accident on the corner of... domestic disturbance at..." and so on. And off they would go to answer those calls too.

These guys are the social workers of the world, responding to our crises when people are highly agitated and distressed, never knowing when a situation could get out of hand and turn deadly. They put their lives on the line everyday. To me, that is the ultimate in public service, and we can't give them enough in pay and benefits. It saddens me to think that some would demand they sacrifice more - when they are already willing to sacrifice everything to serve the public.

Thank you GRPD. This citizen is sure glad you are around.

House Rejects Massive Cut to DOE Renewable Energy Programs

Good. Hopefully this is a sign that they aren't totally insane. It looks like this amendment offered by the Republican Study Committee targeted the entire $3.2 billion for the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, home of the programs that are funding business start-ups and breakthroughs in renewable energy technology. It turns out elimination wasn't going to fly with a bunch of Republicans, even for show...

The House on Monday night rejected an amendment proposed by the Republican Study Committee that would have cut $3.25 billion from the Energy and Water Appropriations Act, effectively gutting the Department of Energy's alternative energy funding programs.

Members rejected the amendment, offered by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), by a 96-313 vote. In that vote, 96 Republicans supported the language, while 135 Republicans voted against it along with every voting Democrat.

McClintock earlier in the day said the amendment would ensure the government stops throwing money at various programs in an attempt to pick winners and losers, and also noted that many of these subsidies fund projects that private money does not see as viable.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) argued that Republicans were funding oil, coal and gas programs, but were looking to kill off funding for alternative energy programs. Markey has an amendment to move $100 million in funds from the former group to the latter group, which is expected to come up for a vote on Tuesday.

... but they aren't done chewing on the entire $30.6B bill yet. Lots of moving parts here, and don't be surprised if renewables take a hit in favor of oil and gas funding in the end. And what will make it through the Senate is anyone's guess, so stay tuned.

We'll get something out of this, but probably not as much as we need to keep up with the competition coming out of Asia. Unfortunate at this crucial point in renewable energy growth, but given currents events, we better take what we can get and run with it...

Monday, July 11, 2011

MI Republicans Get Around to Interfering With Straight Marriage

Well, it's about time. All this meddling with gay couples, you'd have thought that Republicans forgot their main agenda of forcing EVERYONE to live by their idea of what a "moral" life should be.

The way things work in Michigan, a happy couple can apply for a marriage license and then get married within three days if they want to. But, some believe it's time to slow that process down.

"We have so much divorce these days, I think it's a good thing," Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, said. "Just be careful and make sure people really want to get married and really want to be committed."

That's why Sen. Jones joined a group of state senators in sponsoring a package of bills aimed and preserving family and marriage. One of the bills, would increase the time couples could marry upon getting a license from three to 28 days, or they'd have to take a premarital counseling course.

More government regulations for your personal life. And that applies to divorce as well.

The other bills in the package are different, but related. One bill would make divorcing couples with minor children go through a "divorcing effects program." Another would make divorcing parents set up a "parenting plan" before a divorce is granted.

And who gets to judge the veracity of a "parenting plan"? Going to institute more government spending to make sure divorced couples are following the law?

Social engineering, indeed.

Out at Home

Bowling Green catcher Keith Castillo tags the Whitecaps' Luis Sanz in West Michigan's 11-7 loss Sunday at 5th3rd Park. Just an example of real reporting from a "political" blogger.

But Tim, how many traditional political reporters can catch the play at the plate?

Better watch where you paint with that broad-brush, or we might have to have a discussion about how I wasted two hours of my life writing a post based on your erroneous report about Granholm going to China. If we get things wrong, you may want to consider the source. And please don't lump us all together. The reasons for blogging are as varied as the people doing it. Some will be honest with the public about their intentions, some won't, but as I said the other day, at the least they are paying attention in the first place - and that counts for something.

A better story would be the death of the traditional media and how that has given rise to this new age of "opinion" journalism - and how the mainstream seems to be following the bloggers in that regard. Quite a bit of writing seems to be in the editorial style now, simply because it sells. And that's very scary on a certain level. How are people to find the facts if everyone is doing a spin?

Run that one by your editor and see if it will fly, ok? Besides, browbeating bloggers is so 2006. Either add a new dimension to the story, or drop it - because you certainly aren't going to stop it.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Some Green Stuff

Huff P Frog. No, not HuffPo, Huff Park. Sometimes they pose for you. 1000 px here.

This week in green:

  • Remember the story from last September about plans for Michigan's largest wind farm at Breckenridge? It's now taking shape, as crews will begin to install the turbines in the next few weeks. The wind farm will produce 200 MW of power - more than the 164 MW combined that we have now.

  • Mason County planners have approved a 100 MW farm for the Lake Winds Energy Park in Riverton and Summit townships. There has been some flak from locals who are apparently being aided by national * coughKochcough * wind farm opponents, but those with leases are happy. Consumers Energy, helping with the push, applauded the vote but hasn't announced its future plans.

  • Will home turbines gain in popularity? Ace Hardware and True Value are selling the gearless Honeywell turbine that can produce power at as low as 2mph wind speeds; read about one installed on a Detroit residence here. Home Depot announced this week that they will begin selling a product from Skystream in select locations, also designed for low wind speeds. Yes, it's a bit pricey now, but I'm willing to bet that will fall if they do become a standard.

  • More of this please: Mercy High School in Farmington Hills has signed a 20-yr. contract with DTE to produce 400 KW of energy from a rooftop solar array on the school. Big buildings seem such a natural for solar farms.

  • The LA Times takes a look at our Greenville Uni-Solar story today, and reports what we already know: If you provide the policy, we can build it all here. If you don't, these companies will move where the policy exists. Like Ontario...

  • ... and China. Devon Swezey, Project Director at Breakthrough Institute, warns of a coming clean-tech crash in America and Europe if we continue on the "austerity" path. "Short-term consequences will likely be a migration of much of the industry to Asia." Provided the Chinese don't burst their real-estate bubble under massive debt and take everyone down with them, that is.

  • Everywhere I look lately, there's Debbie Stabenow. She's got a great idea for another $2B investment in advanced batteries, from mining the lithium, to more research and development, to manufacturing and beyond. The bill will be introduced next week. Senator Stabenow will visit Holland tomorrow, and will be back in Grand Rapids on July 22 for a walking tour of the Wealthy Heights district.

  • Mark Phelan at the Freep tells us that soon "virtually every car will be a hybrid". Yup. It's inevitable.

  • "Green living" has become very popular. So good to see.

    That's all for now...
  • Republicans Demand You Pay the Entire Bill

    Is anyone really surprised by this?

    On the eve of a second round of high-level bipartisan talks set for Sunday, Mr. Boehner issued a statement saying he would now urge negotiators to instead focus on crafting a smaller package more in line with the $2 trillion to $3 trillion in spending cuts and revenue increases negotiated earlier by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

    “Despite good-faith efforts to find common ground, the White House will not pursue a bigger debt reduction agreement without tax hikes,” Mr. Boehner said. “I believe the best approach may be to focus on producing a smaller measure, based on the cuts identified in the Biden-led negotiations, that still meets our call for spending reforms and cuts greater than the amount of any debt limit increase.”

    The decision was a major reversal for Mr. Boehner, a veteran Congressional deal-maker who along with Mr. Obama had been the major advocate for seeking a far-reaching deal that would have combined a debt limit increase with substantial spending cuts, significant changes in social programs like Medicare, Medicaid and perhaps Social Security, and as much as $1 trillion in new revenues. Following a secret meeting between the two last weekend, Mr. Obama went public with his own call for a broad package.

    This should be proof positive (as if anyone believed them in the first place) that Republicans are not serious about deficit reduction. They want cuts only, they want cuts that will adversely affect the lives of a majority of poor and middle-class Americans, they wants cuts they can use as a political weapon in the next election. If the Democrats believe in protecting the people of this country, there is no better time to take a stand. Americans are overwhelmingly against cuts to "the big three" - and that includes independents and a split GOP.

    According to the Pew poll, Americans strongly back the major entitlement programs. In addition to backing the programs over cutting budget deficits, most Americans also oppose making Medicare recipients more responsible for their healthcare costs and allowing states to limit Medicaid eligibility. About 61% said people on Medicare already pay enough of their own healthcare costs; 31% said they think recipients need to pay more healthcare costs to make the system financially secure.

    On Medicaid, just 37% want to allow states to cut back on eligibility rules while a majority, 58%, said low-income people should continue to get Medicaid benefits.

    The political distinctions were intriguing as the nation moves along in the 2012 presidential cycle in which the economy and budget-related issues are considered to be the top draw for voters. Fifty percent of Republicans said that maintaining benefits is more important than deficit reduction, while Democrats, by 72% to 21%, overwhelmingly said preserving benefits was more important than reducing the deficit. Independents split in favor of benefits by 53% to 38%.

    The one group that favors benefit cuts? Wealthy Republicans.

    WH communications director Dan Pfeiffer talks of the "cynicism people have about politics", and frames it in terms of frustration with the process. If they think that's all this is about, they really are missing the point. Maybe it would be better if the White House and Democrats stop and consider that perhaps the reason people are cynical is because they are sick and tired of government that always seeks to please the 30% or so trickle-down dead-enders who are leading this country in the wrong direction.

    Enough is enough. President Obama is fond of telling us that someone has to be the "adult" here. Sometimes being the adult means that you have to put your foot down when the children are making unreasonable demands. Keep refusing to do that, and watch the disgust continue to grow. Is the White House oblivious to what is happening out here in the states? Everyday Americans are already paying the price across the country with massive cuts to schools and local services. The feds will appear to be piling on at this point.

    Any deal that even remotely appears to favor the Republicans and the wealthy will confirm that Americans are right to be cynical - and it will have nothing to do with the process. The Democrats need to walk away from this with a tangible victory, or the goal of winning in 2012 is going to become ever so much harder to achieve.

    Update: Hammer. Nail. Head.

    The only crisis we're facing is that one of our nation's political parties has decided to hold its breath until the nation turns red. And the media, the public, and the opposing party are treating this massive tantrum with far more respect than it deserves.

    Go read.

    Saturday, July 09, 2011

    A Life Well Lived

    The city was strangely quiet today. Not a lot of traffic, not a lot of people around. It was odd. Maybe they are still out of town, or maybe they are just in a bit of shock. Two major events in Grand Rapids' history took place in around 30 hours total, so perhaps it was time for a breather. No huge crowds down at the Ford, but there was a steady stream of folks going in and out of the museum to sign the books. If the shots above seem devoid of people it's because I didn't want to single anyone out, so I tended to wait until it was clear. (And one to note: the house towards the end is Betty's childhood home on Fountain Street, a few blocks from my house. Bet no one else has that.)

    There have been many great articles written about Betty Ford. The AP bio sums it up nicely, but the GR Press has a complete overview and better details on her early life in Grand Rapids, her battles with addiction and breast cancer, and her relentless advocacy for women's rights. Good stories all.

    Last year, I went down to the Ford for Betty's birthday in April. They have free admission and cake and I hadn't been there for a while, so I took some shots as I wandered the museum, smiling at what I remember from that time (I was all of nine when Jerry became president). Betty has a section of her own with photos and letters, and they play the 60 Minutes interview on a TV...

    Her frank and outspoken nature earned her high approval ratings — and plenty of critics.

    During the 1976 presidential election, supporters wore buttons that proclaimed “Betty’s Husband for President” and “Keep Betty in the White House.” Conversely, she pointed out more than once, “I’m the only First Lady to ever have a march organized against her.”

    That protest occurred after a “60 Minutes” interview with Morley Safer in which she stated premarital sex might lower the divorce rate, she probably would have tried marijuana had she been growing up in the 1970s and “... the best thing in the world was when the Supreme Court voted to legalize abortion, and in my words, bring it out of the back woods and put it in the hospitals, where it belonged. I thought it was a great, great decision.”

    ... and as I watched that, mesmerized at the difference between then and now, I had to laugh. How incredibly liberal she was. No way the Republicans of today would accept her - or Jerry either, for that matter.

    And how incredibly honest. That's the word I keep coming back to. It seems that sort of personal honesty and candor is completely absent from the political world today. Everything now seems so... calculated. Even the craziness. With the Fords, they were real. The museum features both the good stuff and the controversy, like the interview above. It's all there, triumph and defeat, all on display for the permanent record. Refreshing.

    And Betty was great. Read some of those links, and see how she broke new ground on issues that were pretty much taboo in the public conversation. As a kid I took it for granted, but now I understand how remarkable and bold it all was for the time we lived in.

    Thank you Betty. There is no doubt in my mind that you saved many lives by making it OK to talk about both addiction and breast cancer. And thank you for your fight on behalf of women's rights. It is a different world for women today because of the work you did.

    The funeral in Grand Rapids will be this Thursday. It won't be the big event that Jerry's was, but I'll try to get down there if I can, and help welcome her home. My life is better because of her, and I want to pay my respects.

    Friday, July 08, 2011

    RIP Betty Ford 1918 - 2011


    We'll be waiting here to welcome you home...

    Vigil Tonight

    candle fire

    From WOOD:

    A candlelight vigil is planned Friday night for the families of the victims in Thursday's slayings in Grand Rapids.

    The event will start at 8:30 p.m. at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. A Facebook page has been set up.

    Event organizers ask participants in the vigil to bring their own candles.

    Thursday, July 07, 2011


    Shock and profound sorrow tonight. Nothing like this has ever happened before here - and this is going national. From the NYT:

    Dozens of police officers with guns drawn have descended on a Grand Rapids, Mich., neighborhood in pursuit of suspect wanted in seven shooting deaths.

    State police Lt. Col. Gary Gorski says officers believe they have the suspect surrounded but warned residents to stay in their homes as a standoff developed. Gorski says the suspect, who led officers on a chase that tore through the city's downtown, has proven to be very mobile.

    National AP story here.

    The GR Press has a live coverage timeline that they are updating here.

    WOOD has on-going live coverage, they haven't left the air yet. Hundreds of cops are on the scene.

    Fulton and Division is roped off after shots were fired during pursuit as cops chased the suspect through town. One injury reported there.

    As I write this, the suspect is surrounded in a home on the northeast side and has one or possibly two hostages. You can listen to the scanner here.

    And say a prayer for my little town and the victims of this horrible tragedy.

    Update 11:30pm: WOOD reporting that the hostages are safe and the suspect has apparently shot himself. Been quite the day...