Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"I can't allow you to drive down I-75, Dave"

Meet the Ford Evos concept, a new hybrid plug-in that will be shown at the Frankfort Auto Show next month. Not only will it get great fuel economy, it's going to look after your health as well.

On the technology front, Evos will show the latest refinements in Ford's Sync in-vehicle communications platform.

“The intent is not to convert the vehicle into a smartphone, but rather to provide personalized and safe connection to the outside world,” Kuzak said.

The car, which also will be shown at next January's Detroit Auto Show, will provide a test bed for software apps Ford has developed that will allow drivers to monitor heart rates, blood sugar levels and pollen counts in the environment.

Ford researchers have already developed technologies focused on driver wellness, such as the heart-rate monitoring seat and certified allergy-free interiors.

“Our wellness research and technologies are focused on relieving driver stress and enhancing their situational awareness,” said Paul Mascarenas, Ford chief technology officer.

And if the car senses you are past the optimum weight for your height and frame, perhaps the voice will have a few things to say when the GPS indicates you are pulling into a McDonald's... hey, are we really sure we want our cars talking to us?

(Video from the DNews, text from the Freep.)

Popcorn Time

The Engler vs. DeVos battle continues, all these years later. Heh.

Former Michigan Gov. John Engler said Wednesday he believes Detroit charter school founder Clark Durant should stay out of the U.S. Senate race, leaving the road clear for former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra to win the GOP nomination and challenge two-term Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

Engler, appearing on the statewide Michigan Talk Network with radio and TV host Michael Patrick Shiels, made the comments when Shiels asked him if he planned to make an endorsement, according to a transcript released by the show's producer.

"I'm just hopeful that Clark decides he will stay with education and let Pete (Hoekstra) be the candidate," Engler said on the program.

Big John usually doesn't get involved in these things, so to see his name pop up was very interesting. And not a peep lately from Daddy DeVos, who endorsed Randy Hekman a couple months back, which splits the DeVos family money in this race.

Can Durant beat Turtle Pete? Doubtful, because I'm sure he has very little name recognition outside of Detroit, but then again, Pete is a horrible campaigner and fundraiser...

Grab your popcorn, this one might be fun.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Michigan Democrats Go on Record With Support for Battery Industry

Do I expect the Republicans to listen? No. Bipartisanship is dead in Lansing, and Democrats do not have a voice. That much has been made very clear. But, let the record reflect that it was the Democrats who moved to strengthen and advance this job-creating industry while the Republicans twiddled their thumbs and offered nothing but banal statements about their support for this so-far very successful economic development in Michigan.

At a series of seven press conferences held across the state, Democratic legislators trumpeted the previous track record: As of December 2009, Michigan's auto battery incentives have attracted more than $3 billion in new investments and created more than 6,600 new jobs.

Democratic Sen. Steve Bieda of Warren said the state-of-the-art battery laboratory at the General Motors Tech Center would have been located elsewhere without the previous state tax breaks. While serving in the House, Bieda was the first lawmaker to propose tax credits to lure the battery industry, which was tied to the burgeoning of electric-powered vehicles.

The Democrats aren't asking for the moon here, just some simple credits to easier facilitate production and purchase of electric vehicles, from supply chain on down to the consumer.

• Tax credits for battery producers and manufacturers, including battery-pack manufacturing, facilities construction, vehicle integration and others.

• Substantial income tax credits for people who buy an electric vehicle made in Michigan.

• Tax credits for the purchase and installation of electric vehicle charging stations.

• And a $50 million grant from the “economic gardening” fund established by the Snyder administration to cultivate existing Michigan businesses. The grant for electric vehicle and battery businesses would come from existing funds in the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The Snyder response? Predictable. And uninspiring.

“The state is working overtime to retool Michigan’s economic development programs and funding so that not only the battery industry, but all industries, thrive and that Michigan is the place to do business, live and work,” Wurfel said. “And also (we will) be able to take full advantage of strategic growth opportunities, which may well be the advanced battery industry.”

Zzzzz. Oh, sorry, drifted off there. MEDC released its plans for the new tax credit program just recently with the same vanilla flavor, indicating that there will be $100 million available for "loans or other economic assistance of up to $10 million to businesses that are creating qualified new jobs and making new investments in Michigan." Not sure what "qualified" new jobs entails, or if MEDC's "gardening" budget is separate from this (if I'm not mistaken, the gardening portion has more to do with loans than credits or grants), but there doesn't seem to be a coherent strategy for targeting high-growth sectors anymore. Add that to the fact that companies are going to have to do a dance for the Legislature to receive any consideration for a capped amount of incentives, while other states are rolling out the red carpet of convenience, and you can start to foresee all sorts of problems with Snyder's economic plan. The competition is fierce out there, and so far Republicans in Lansing seem to be more focused on cutting state services than they are on creating jobs. So be it.

We should be set for now, the battery factory roots planted pretty deep with the current credits and the funding from the Recovery Act, but the second someone leaves for Indiana or Ohio? Nail the idiots to the wall.

And, if we lose them to overseas competition, well, that's on Congress - which is a whole 'nother blog post.

Monday, August 29, 2011

100 Years of Electric

1910 Baker Electric

From the 2011 Metro Cruise (GR's version of Detroit's Dream Cruise) - I didn't realize what I caught here until I got home. The car in the front is a 1910 Baker Electric, and the car in the back is a Chevy Volt. Two steps to the left would have made a better composition, but I wasn't consciously thinking about including the Volt to show the time span on this technology...

Electric cars were around as early as 1828, and by 1900 they were second only to steam cars in America. What happened? They were expensive, they had short range, and they could only go 20 mph, tops. The roads were soon paved, gas got cheaper, and when America wanted to go faster and farther... well, we know what happened next. Read the Wiki entry for a brief synopsis of the history of the electric car. You'll see that the car manufacturers never gave up on the idea (the GM Electrovette!), but until range anxiety and cost were addressed, it just wasn't going to fly.

And here we are today.

More coming from the Metro Cruise later. Been out trying to soak up the sun while I still can...

Friday, August 26, 2011

24 Governors Call on President Obama to Develop Wind Energy, Extend Tax Credits

I'm hoping that the President's Really Big Speech after Labor Day hits on green energy jobs again. Remember that earlier this year, in a Gallup survey on eight actions that Congress could take, "pass a bill that provides incentives for using solar and other alternative energy sources" came in first place with a 83% approval. I doubt that has changed over the past six months, as the issue still draws wide bipartisan support, evidenced as follows.

Last month, a group of 24 governors, who have formed the Governors' Wind Energy Coalition, called on the President to address the nation's "most pressing needs" of jobs, energy and economic development by using renewable energy resources - and they want current production tax credits extended years out to bring certainty to the market. And yes, Governor Snyder is on the list.

“Although tax credits for wind energy have long enjoyed bipartisan support, they are scheduled to expire next year. Wind-related manufacturing will slow if the credits are not extended, and some of the tax credits’ benefit will be lost if Congress pursues a last-minute extension. It is important to have consistency in policy to support the continued development of wind manufacturing in the United States. Extending the production tax credit and the investment tax credit, without a gap, is critical to the health of wind manufacturing in our nation. The wind manufacturing industry in the U.S. would benefit even greater if the extension of these credits would be for at least seven years.”

And it's not just a bunch of Dem governors and a few so-called moderates; we've got some of the teabagger types here, too. Scott of Florida, Brownback of Kansas, Lepaige of Maine, a very diverse group of names appear on that letter to the President. Add this to the many Republican presidential contenders who made a big show in Iowa of signing a turbine blade to support wind energy, and it's hard to see how the Republicans as a whole could say no to this extension.

Perhaps all those names above could be used to persuade some R's in the House, and if not, call 'em out on it. If we don't do it, we will start losing the jobs that we have already created in wind manufacturing. One Michigan example of how this credit helps the entire supply chain is Danotek of Canton, who makes turbine generators. Congressman Dingell visited them recently.

With pending orders of more than $50 million, Danotek relies on a chain of 18 Michigan suppliers, including several in the Detroit area, for the parts and services that go into its products. The company has grown from 12 employees in March 2009 to almost 70 today, recruited from around the globe, including nine with Ph.D. degrees.

“We have created this technical melting pot in the Detroit area,” the chief executive officer, Don Naab, told Dingell.

Naab asked Dingell for support, particularly for the renewal of the production tax credit, or PTC, which offers wind farms a tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity produced through utility-sized wind turbines. The PTC, first launched in 1992, is set to expire at the end of next year. Danotek doesn't receive the credit directly, but gets a “major trickledown benefit” from it, as do suppliers and turbine manufacturers, said Sarah Zajas, the company's marketing director.

Dingell didn't sound too confident that it was going to happen, but these credits need to be extended if we are to remain even remotely competitive with China, and we need to have them be extended for a longer time period than just a year.

If the House blocks it, then they can answer to their constituents when these jobs dry up - if the Dems make sure and point it out, that is.

Portrait of a Hurricane

Full Disk Image of Earth Captured August 26, 2011

From NASA.

Weather survivor guilt: Picture perfect summer day here in Michigan today. It doesn't get much better than this, and the high pressure will stay parked because of the hurricane.

Wishing all the best to everyone out East...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Time to Buy Some Legislators: Snyder Forms a PAC

They grow up so fast, don't they?

Gov. Rick Snyder is forming a political action committee called "One Tough Nerd," stirring speculation he needs more financial muscle to win approval of his controversial bridge plan.

Paperwork to form the "One Tough Nerd" committee was recently filed with the Michigan Secretary of State. Snyder's press secretary, Sara Wurfel, confirmed Thursday the PAC is Snyder's.

It's official. He's a politician. But you could tell that already by his poll numbers.

But unlike Granholm or Engler, Snyder refused to accept PAC donations during his campaign for governor in 2010. Corporations and lobbying groups often form PACs, and Snyder said during the campaign he refused to accept PAC money to show that he would not be beholden to special interests.

Forming the committee may be "a practical necessity" as Snyder tries to push through legislation to create a public authority to oversee construction of a new international bridge across the Detroit River, said Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Now to track who he donates to...

Welcome to the big leagues, Rick. Surprised it took this long.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mean People Suck

The only folks left on any sort of cash assistance from the state are families with children. Children. 12,600 families, an estimated 25-30,000 children. (edit 8/25 - hard numbers from the DNews: 11,188 adults and 29,707 children) At a time when unemployment is starting to climb again, when 1,000 people show up to apply for 12 jobs at an Aldi's, and with the cold winter on the way, these rich, pampered Lansing assholes just voted to end a pittance of money to families with children - perhaps the only funds that were paying the utility bills, perhaps the only money that was keeping a roof over their heads.

These children were already living in poverty, and our legislature voted to put them in the street - all to give businesses more tax cuts.

The welfare limit already has been approved as part of the state budget that kicks in Oct. 1. Lawmakers plan to put the cap in a separate state statute to help implement the budget plan. The state's current four-year limit on welfare benefits would expire Sept. 30 unless the Legislature revises or extends the limitations.

The revised welfare limits have fewer exemptions than the four-year limit now in state law.

A family of three currently receiving cash assistance gets about $415 per month, a spokesperson for the Department of Human Services told 24 Hour News 8. The new welfare reform does not affect food assistance.

To add insult to injury, according to the MCC, these Republican legislators had NO CLUE what voting for this entails. I have a very hard time believing that, but then again, they are just that thoughtless, selfish and lazy that they wouldn't bother to study the impact of legislation on people. Party before state, ideology before compassion, right?

The Michigan Catholic Conference sent letters to Republican legislative leaders asking that the bill be sent to a joint House/Senate conference committee after immediate effect is granted so that public hearing can be held on the issue. Maluchnik said some Republican lawmakers were unaware that children would be among those to lose their benefits if the legislation is adopted.

Maluchnik noted that the number of children in poverty is listed as an indicator of economic strength on the "dashboard" Gov. Rick Snyder is using to chart Michigan's economic recovery.

"I don't see how booting tens of thousands of people off cash assistance is going to move that needle on the dashboard," Maluchnik said.

No, it won't, but it may gain a really hot place described by the Christian religion some new customers when these lawmakers deprive this earth of their presence. Pray for mercy on their souls - because they are going to need it.

And BTW, they just stuck it to the working folks as well, voting to cap the amount local governments and school districts can pay for employee insurance. So much for that local control - the state will now dictate what your schools and community can spend to attract the best and the brightest talent, right before they cut funding for that again to facilitate even more business tax cuts.

So, how does everyone like being a red state so far?

Michigan’s First Green Airport

Oakland County International is Michigan's second busiest airport behind Detroit Metro, and the 12th-busiest general aviation airport in the world. Now that a giggling L. Brooks Patterson has a world-class, soon-to-be-certified LEED Gold terminal, maybe we can convince him to go to work on his Republican friends in Congress and stop them from making major cuts to the FAA and the DOE, who, along with state funding from a MDOT - Bureau of Aeronautics grant and airport user fees, paid for this $7.5 million project.

The corporate types that fly into Oakland County are going to be very impressed, and we can thank "government spending" for putting a green face on this major Michigan airport. Check out the specs - and make note of where the wind and solar components were made:

From the “living wall” air cleaning system — a wall of tropical plants watered by stored rainwater — at the entrance, to the state-of-the-art geothermal cooling and heating system in the kitchen-clean basement boiler room, the terminal is a marvel of modern energy efficiency and comfortable, user-friendly architectural design. The geothermal system alone will cut the airport’s heating and cooling costs by more than 50 percent, Patterson said.

The airport also has 15 percent of its electricity generated from renewable sources — a solar array on the roof and three 1,200-watt Windspire vertical axis wind turbines outside, manufactured in Michigan and sold by SolarWorks of Whitmore Lake.

Other green touches include a solar water heating system, highly efficient flourescent and LED lighting, electric car charging stations in the parking lot, the use of recycled construction materials and the recycling of used construction materials, low volatile-organic-compound emitting paint, carpet, adhesives and wood products, and the construction of rain gardens and bioswales to allow rain runoff to re-enter the groundwater rather than being directed to the sewer system.

The airport also features a larger Customs area, outdoor space for viewing take-offs and landings, and a conference room with catering. Sounds like a nice place. Go read the original story for the list of over 30 Michigan contractors who were involved in supplying workers and products to the project.

Who says the government isn't creating green jobs?

EPA to Hire Unemployed for Great Lakes Cleanup

Here we go. This is coming out of the funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

In recent weeks, EPA has been announcing grants for projects around the region from the $300 million allocated for the 2011 fiscal year. The final $6 million from that pot of money will go to the unemployment initiative, said Susan Hedman, EPA's regional administrator in Chicago.

Supporters of the Great Lakes initiative have said repeatedly it would stimulate the region's economy and create jobs. The newly announced program is unique because it specifically targets jobless workers, said Phillippa Cannon, spokeswoman for the agency's Chicago office.

Hedman said the initiative is similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Depression-era program that put the unemployed to work.

Would be great to see every government agency implement something like this, or at the least maybe make more grant money available to private entities that make provisions for hiring currently unemployed workers. Not sure if it could be done at this point, with all funding under assault from the "destroy government" faction in Congress, but perhaps something could be slipped in the coming budget...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

From Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. My favorite version.

RIP Nick Ashford, and thank you for some really great songs. Motown forever!

Will Republicans, Mackinac Center Criticize Snyder's Overseas Trade Trips?

Need to clarify a little something in Paul Egan's column about Snyder's upcoming trade mission to Asia...

When Gov. Rick Snyder leaves Sept. 24 on his first overseas trip, he will do something former Gov. Jennifer Granholm never did in eight years.

"Gov. Snyder will be the first governor to visit China since Gov. (John) Engler visited there," Snyder communications director Geralyn Lasher said in releasing details of his weeklong trip to China, Japan and South Korea.

Snyder "will be talking to … businesses about why investment in our state is such a sound idea," and promoting Michigan farm products, Lasher said.

Granholm was criticized for not including China, the world's most populous nation and a fast-rising economic powerhouse, among 10 countries visited by her or Lt. Gov. John Cherry on 13 overseas trade missions. The trips included four visits to Japan and one to South Korea.

Actually, Granholm was repeatedly criticized nearly every single time she went on any trip at all. The Republicans and their supporters were quite vicious about it, too, enough so that this is one that really deserves a look back at the archives. Specific countries rarely entered the conversation; it was just a general, constant complaining about trying to drum-up international business. Here are a few examples to make the point:

  • April 2008, before Granholm's trip to the Mideast, the Mackinac Center called such trips "demeaning".

    "I wonder about the degree to which these deals were already cut and the governor just goes over for a symbolic ribbon-cutting ceremony," said Michael LaFaive, fiscal policy director for the Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "Companies and people were moving to Michigan long before government officials got into the business of picking winners and losers in the marketplace."

    LaFaive said it's "demeaning" for the leader of the state to go overseas, hat in hand, and beg businesses to come to Michigan. (DNews 4/17/2008)

    Wow. Is it now "demeaning" for Snyder to go? Would love to see a follow-up question on that particular terminology. And from the same article, the ever-present whiny drone of Saul Anuzis:

    "The governor is trying to attract businesses from places where they don't know her because she's an abject failure at attracting business among those who do know her."

    Hmmm. OK, please point to the businesses that former CEO and businessman Rick Snyder has attracted to Michigan since he took office. You would think that he would "know" all sorts of leaders of industry and could have acquired some deals fairly easily by now, yes? Just to score some points? And yet here he is, leaving the country to attract jobs and score points. Wonder why that is.

  • July 2007, before a trade mission to Sweden and Germany, here's Saul again:

    Saul Anuzis, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, called the trip "Granholm's European Vacation."

    He said Granholm should instead take a tour of Michigan businesses to find out what is needed to spur the economy here or to other states that have lured away Michigan companies.

    "If the governor wants to go on a 'real' jobs mission, she should travel to other states to convince the hundreds of companies that have left Michigan on her watch to come back," Anuzis said. (DNews July 11, 2007)

    Perhaps Snyder should think about doing the same. Besides the well-publicized example of solar-company Fronius USA moving its HQ from Brighton, MI to create manufacturing jobs in Indiana, we have Spartan Motors and Molded Foam moving to the Hoosier state as well, and recently Durcon Inc. of Canton has left us for Texas. These came during or after our new "business friendly" tax code passed, too. Those are just a few that have made the press, there are probably others that didn't receive any publicity.

  • May 2006, Japan. If you want to talk about China, Egan's story did bring up an important point. While Governor Granholm may not have gone to China herself, MEDC did, and "made at least six China trips under Granholm and helped bring 41 Chinese companies to Michigan". You don't hear about that too often. MEDC head Jim Epolito traveled on to South Korea and China during this 2006 trip; Saul was busy yip, yip, yipping to the press:

    Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis criticized Granholm's trip, saying the "taxpayer-funded trip is nothing more than a publicity stunt."

    But Jim ratted them out in a bit of candor that would foreshadow what was to be Page One of the Republican playbook after the election:

    Election-year politics coupled with a (MEDC) budget slashed 72 percent over the past four years are affecting the state's ability to move forward, he said.

    "We do have a legislature, a Republican-controlled legislature, that really doesn't want to see economic development," Epolito said. "There's a few of them that don't want to see any action this year because it's an election year."(GR Press, May 4 & 15, 2006)

    Republicans obstructing job creation because a Democrat is in the top office? Who woulda thunk it. Anyway, the intensity of the criticism is something that grew over the years, as you can see. They laid the groundwork by being "skeptical" and criticizing around the edges during earlier missions. After all, Engler had made many of these trips as well, and Blanchard before him...

  • August 2005, after Granholm returned from Japan.

    "Did the governor taking a trip to Japan for five days suddenly make these companies want to come to Michigan?" said Ari Adler, spokesman for Senate Republican Leader Ken Sikkema. "Was it necessary for the state's top elected official... to go to Japan to net less than 1,000 jobs over the next five years?

    "Whether this trip produces any further results remains to be seen."(GR Press, 8/3/2005)

    Will all these same questions and criticisms be applied to Snyder? I'm not holding my breath. But it's important to point out that, just as with the MEGA business tax credits, Michigan Republicans are simply continuing economic practices that they once used as campaign weapons, and that they also used in the "politics of personal destruction" against Granholm. The world-at-large tends to forget these things, and perhaps if the hypocrisy is brought to their attention more often, the misdirection and falsehoods perpetrated by the Republicans during the tenure of Democrats in power wouldn't carry as much weight.

    A girl can dream, anyway.
  • Monday, August 22, 2011

    Welcome James McCann

    Your first look at the Tigers top draft pick of 2011.


    Catcher James McCann signed August 9th, played a few games in the Gulf Coast League, and then made his Midwest League debut with the Whitecaps yesterday, going 1-4. He will stay with the team for the remaining two weeks of the season, where he ends up next year is anyone's guess at this point. The Tigers are very deep at the C position, but it wouldn't surprise me to see them start McCann at Lakeland next year and move Brantly up to Erie.

    McCann hit .306 with six home runs, 38 RBIs and 14 doubles as a junior this past spring at the University of Arkansas, and was the first catcher taken in this year's draft.

    Hard to believe the season is almost over. Where does the time go?


    Sunday, August 21, 2011

    The Green Streets of Grand Rapids

    Monitoring the sun power at the Green Well

    My little neighborhood in the East Hills of Grand Rapids seems to be ground zero for both green buildings and new energy programs. Besides having the first electric car charging station in Grand Rapids, now we have the The Green Well Gastro Pub on Cherry St. as part of Consumers Energy's SmartStreet pilot program, using both smart-meters and solar power as a demonstration of the future of electric energy.

    Smart meters that show real-time energy usage have been distributed in the area, and look for these to go statewide in the coming years as Consumers starts to replace the old monthly meters. They help identify when and where you can cut energy use, which ultimately will help save money on your electric bill.

    (Roger Morgenstern, the SmartGrid communications coordinator) and his team are playing with different models during this stage of the program to find out the best way to manage energy costs, resources and incentives.

    “We may do credit awards, where people pay different amounts per kilowatt,” he said. “It is possible that we may offer prices that represent different resources like solar energy. We haven’t finalized it.”

    The Green Well also received a very nice gift from United Solar Ovonic and Cascade Renewable Energy, a small roof-top array (see picture here) of Uni-Solar's new PowerTilt modules that track the sun.

    United Solar and Cascade Renewable Energy, which supplied the engineering and design services, are proud sponsors of the SmartStreet project. The Green Well project combines solar power with energy efficiency and smart meter technology, all working tandem. This project acts as a demonstration installation and consists of ten UNI-SOLAR brand PowerTilt® photovoltaic modules. At maximum output, the installed solar panels can generate 1.44 kilowatts of electricity. Green Well customers can view a video and watch a real-time display of the energy being produced by the rooftop UNI-SOLAR solar panels.

    The HD display above shows the power that was being generated at 1:30 in the afternoon on a sunny day, the next screen in the sequence indicated that they had generated 3.4 kwh on the day, and over 434 kwh total. For the calendar month? Not sure. For comparison, as of 2009, the average Michigan home used 666 kwh a month. Don't know exactly when they flipped on the switch, just that the panels were installed sometime last month. The restaurant manager told the Press he could already see a 5-10% energy savings on their bill, so I'm assuming they have been running for over a month now.

    The screens show other information like carbon dioxide saved, etc., a rolling display of the benefits of the solar in real-time. It's a nice touch for the restaurant, and a nice selling tool for solar power - keep it visible, and people will start to think about it for their own homes.

    I hear that the food is real good too, one of these days I'll be sure to give them a try. Thanks Consumers and Uni-Solar for this experiment; looking forward to hearing the results from the whole program - because what they learn here will translate into savings statewide someday.

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    Back to the Park


    This is why I love Huff Park - you'll just be walking along, and out strolls a deer...

    State of Confusion

    I know that I'm supposed to jump on the Snyder administration on the news that Michigan's unemployment numbers are trending upward again. It would be so easy. But I can't. In fact, I find it horribly depressing - and more than a bit confusing, actually.

    We added jobs in July. We've added jobs year-over-year, 60,000 in fact. We also had people drop out of the labor force. Usually, those factors help to suppress the reported jobless rate, and yet it ticked up 0.4% last month, which is a moderately significant jump.

    Why? The DNews takes a half-hearted stab at an explanation.

    The monthly report contained some confusing numbers. A household survey of workers found 33,000 fewer had jobs in July, but a poll of employers showed a gain of 23,000 nonfarm payroll jobs for the month, with a loss of just 3,000 business and professional jobs, mostly among temporary workers.

    Some of that contradiction is caused by the different approaches of the two surveys, explained Bruce Weaver. The household survey captures self-employed workers and those who haven't recently been on an employer's payroll.

    The survey only asks people if they have a job and, if not, whether they are looking for one. When discouraged workers come off the sidelines and start job-hunting again, their numbers can swell the jobless count.

    But they didn't come off the sidelines this time; 17,000 of them dropped out, so they aren't being counted in this current jump. The article also goes on to explain the seasonal factors; automakers didn't lay-off in the usual numbers during the summer months, which apparently is padding the number of manufacturing jobs. Tourism, education, same thing. This will be revised in the future, as these numbers often are, and perhaps that will account for the disparity. It's still rather puzzling for reasons that no one can quite adequately explain.

    Doesn't matter though, really. They are what they are. The problem comes in public perception as to the state of the economy right now. Even though we have gained jobs at a pace that leads the nation...

    Michigan led the nation with the highest unemployment rate for years, but has been recovering faster than the nation as a whole. Since July 2010, unemployment in Michigan has fallen by 14 percent, outpacing the national rate of decline of about 5 percent.

    ... these new numbers will be used by the Snyder administration as proof that we need more business tax cuts, now! Granted, that would be their answer to any set of numbers that came out, good or bad, but it gives them a ready-made excuse to turn up the heat on the urgency. On one hand, the CW is that the recent tax cuts haven't kicked in yet, so THAT can't be it, but on the other hand, they are using these numbers as an excuse to push for more, more, more...

    Gov. Rick Snyder has been talking about job growth this week during a tour of the Upper Peninsula. A spokeswoman for him said Wednesday that the jobless rate rise is another reason the Republican governor wants to push ahead with changes to make Michigan a more business-friendly state. Most companies will benefit from $1.1 billion in annual business tax relief starting next year, an amount that will climb to $1.7 billion in 2013.

    "This reinforces why that is so crucial," spokeswoman Geralyn Lasher said of the climbing jobless rate. "We need to continue to be aggressive on all fronts. ... We want to see these numbers dramatically turn around."

    ... which is going to kill our revenue down the road. All this comes just as consumers are starting to show a marked drop in confidence about the economy, causing analysts to revise auto-sales figures downward for 2011. The wallets start snapping shut all over America as everyone freaks out about the wild swings in the market coupled with these rising unemployment numbers, and as it has before, that will hit Michigan harder than any other state.

    We begin the cycle again. And, since Snyder doesn't seem interested in the idea of diversifying our economy by actively recruiting new industry to come here (no "aggression" on that front that is apparent, anyway), preferring to rest on tax cuts and deregulation as his only economic weapons - we are about to make the same mistakes we have made in the past, except this time it's going to be worse. Republicans are already gutting the safety net, cutting weeks of unemployment insurance, throwing families off assistance, eliminating tax credits which will only push more people (especially children) into poverty. And they're just getting started.

    We have to turn our eyes elsewhere to interrupt this trend - and that means the feds. Yeah. I know. I'm going to reserve judgment on any plan from Obama until I hear what it is; all I can say is that he better go big on the stimulus side, and play the "hope" card once again (yes, it will work) in a major way, because we need people feeling confident and buying those cars. Right, John?

    Without that, it's hard to see how we continue the momentum we started in 2010. Even if it doesn't get through the House, which it probably won't, people need something they can look forward to - even if it's just the thought of another wave election in 2012.

    Until then, they have a right to be confused and scared about the numbers they are seeing from day-to-day. Give them a reason to change their attitude, and they will.

    Made in America: The New Maserati SUV

    For real.

    Fiat's Maserati is betting that Italian luxury can also be a made-in-Detroit SUV.

    The elite car brand, based in Modena, Italy, plans to build its first SUV at Chrysler's Jefferson North assembly plant, said a person familiar with the matter. A concept version of the model, which will be based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, is to be unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show next month, said the person, who declined to be identified before the official announcement.

    The American-made Maserati SUV is a product of the integration between Fiat and Chrysler. Sergio Marchionne, who runs both carmakers, aims to expand Maserati and sister brand Alfa Romeo by drawing on Fiat and Chrysler's combined size to boost profit.

    Gotta hand it to Sergio, he does think big.

    In other "now I've seen everything" news: Union-busting, drown-government Republican former Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt is a lobbyist for the Big Three, praising the bailout, the Obama administration, and the UAW.

    Just goes to show you, money CAN buy you Republican love. And a SUV that will cost you well over $100,000.

    What a country.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Most Beautiful Place in America

    Sleeping Bear Dunes. But we knew this already, right? Right.

    Have been all around that area in recent years, but haven't gone to the actual Dunes since I was a kid. Need to put it on the list...

    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    Winners and Losers

    Winners and losers! Winners and losers! OMG, the state government is picking winners and losers again! What about that free market? What about those Mackinac Center studies? Was all that angst for nothing? Was the entire Snyder campaign just a lie? And the budget! Remember the budget spin?

    Most are aware now that Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget aims to eliminate the state’s history of picking “winners and losers” by awarding special tax credits to a select number of individuals and businesses.

    But... but... but... the state is still picking winners and losers! There are people winning, and there are people losing! To this day! Oh the humanity! Won't someone think of the death of those Republican talking points? Those cost money you know! And now they are the losers!

    Zeeland-based Gentex Corp. won state tax credits Tuesday morning to aid in an expansion project that includes plans for up to 1,110 new West Michigan jobs over the next five years.


    MEDCThe Michigan Economic Growth Authority tax credit approved Tuesday could be worth up to $2.4 million. The state also expects Zeeland and Holland Township to approve an estimated $7.2 million in tax abatements in support of the project.

    Though MEGA credits are approved in advance, companies only receive them when jobs are actually created. Figuring in the value of the tax credits, the state expects it will take in an extra $48.8 million due to the expansion projects, according to the state memo.

    Wait, what? They only get the credits based on jobs created? Get out! Amazing that someone didn't point that out before! And the state expects to make a lot of money on the deal? Seriously?


    The prosecution rests.

    For the year to date, the MEGA board has approved agreements to assist the expansion of 47 companies that are projected to invest approximately $1.16 billion and create or retain approximately 12,968 direct jobs. It has also approved 15 brownfield redevelopment projects with projected new investment of more than $734.6 million.

    Wow, still bragging the numbers, too. Even though the Snyder administration made a big honking deal about not picking "winners and losers", as predicted in May, they still are out there doing it - and good for them. And us.

    For the record, I've always been in favor of targeted tax/job creation incentives, as anyone who has followed me lo these many years knows. In a perfect world we wouldn't have to do this, but until everyone else disarms, we can't either. I would like to see them targeted more towards continuing to diversify the economy so we aren't so auto-centric, but it's up to the Snyder administration and the people he placed at MEDC to pick the winners and losers here.

    I'm just going to rub the hypocrisy in their face a bit. Indulge me.

    Hound Dog

    In honor of Elvis, here is the song that, quite literally, changed the destiny of the country.

    June 5th, 1956. The Elvis phenomena had already been growing for some time; a performance a month earlier in LaCrosse, Wisconsin was described by a local newspaper editor as 'sexual gratification on stage' and had drawn the attention of none other than J. Edgar Hoover, but it was the Milton Berle Show performance of "Hound Dog" that brought Presley the notoriety that would catapult him into super-stardom.

    The ultimate fallout over Elvis’s controversial performance of “Hound Dog” on the Milton Berle Show of June 5, 1956, is that all of the condemnation heaped on Presley immediately afterward backfired on the critics who did the heaping. By ratcheting up the controversy, the pundits made Elvis even more popular. The critics continued to denounce Presley, but his increasing number of young supporters dug in their heels in his defense.

    During the first half of 1956, when Elvis Presley brought his show to town, local press coverage varied widely. After June 5, however, Elvis was front page news everywhere he went. No single event gave Elvis Presley’s career a greater boost than that provided by those two-and-a-half rock ’n’ rollin’ minutes on Uncle Miltie’s show on June 5, 1956.

    You could also say that it was this moment that led to his ultimate demise on August 16th, 1977 - but if not here, it would have come somewhere else. He was already on the way up and was a force that could not be stopped, and he paved the way for rock-n-roll as we know it today.

    Somewhere in this house I have the GR Press with the headline of his death. I wasn't a huge Elvis fan, pretty boy Paul McCartney held my 12 year-old heart and attention at that time, but I certainly enjoyed and respected his music, and especially loved his voice. Man, that cat could sing.

    RIP Elvis. Your memory lives on.

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Obamacare It Is

    This is the way to handle an attempted smear from the right. Take their cutesie little putdowns right out of their hands, and turn it against them.

    Good job Mr. President. Keep it up.

    Evergreen Solar to File Bankruptcy, Close Plant in Michigan

    Unless we get to work on creating a strong national energy policy and tweak some trade agreements, we could see more of this in the future. Hope it's not too late to stop it from happening.

    Evergreen Solar Inc. (ESLR), a maker of electricity generating solar panels, filed bankruptcy with plans to sell itself at an auction in order to pay creditors owed $485.6 million.

    Investors who hold more than 70 percent of the company’s convertible senior secured notes have agreed to act as the so- called stalking-horse, or initial bidder, in a proposed auction for Evergreen’s assets, including new technology to make solar wafers at lower cost, Evergreen Chief Executive Officer Michael El-Hillow said in court papers today.

    The company, based in Marlboro, Massachusetts, blamed the bankruptcy on increased competition from government-subsidized solar-panel makers in China and the failure of the U.S. to adopt clean-energy policies.

    And yes, this means closing the Midland plant as well, even though as of late May the company still had high hopes that a change in strategy would strengthen its remaining operations here in the US. Evergreen had 30 employees in Michigan.

    The company will fire about 65 people in Europe and the U.S., including at its plant in Midland, Michigan, which will be closed. A factory in Wuhan, China, built with a $33 million investment by the local government, will remain open while the company negotiates with its Chinese investors.

    Wonder if Dow would be interested in that technology...

    And another, 8/16: Germany-based Solon Corp., located in Tucson, AZ, announced that they will cease manufacturing panels in America, although they will keep a sales office here for developing utility scale projects. 60 jobs lost.

    Solon SE has solar-module manufacturing operations in Germany and Italy. As part of a recent move to restructure overall operations, the parent company said it would look to low-cost sources in Asia.


    Alcombright said the company assembled a skilled, loyal local production workforce that builds top-quality products.

    But with the global price of solar modules dropping from about $800 per 225-watt panel in 2009 to about $300 per panel now, Solon's relatively small plant can't compete, he said.

    "As the price falls, we're having trouble penciling out the economics of this from a business standpoint," he said. "The real issue for us is our scale. We're a 60-megawatt (annual capacity) plant competing against multi-gigawatt plants."

    Solon has two module suppliers in Asia, Alcombright said.

    Do we want green manufacturing jobs or not? If so, we must address this issue.

    When the Bill for Tax Cut Austerity Comes Due

    Don't look now, but it appears that the state of Michigan is busy setting the stage for another perfect revenue storm that should hit about 2014 or so, just in time for a new governor who will have to deal with the consequences of decisions being made today. In the meantime, better get down on those knees and pray that we continue with some measure of economic recovery and this current equation changes, because in the next few years we are facing a one-two-three loss-of-revenue punch that will certainly require some more "shared sacrifice" from those who can least afford it.

    To set the stage: The stimulus money is gone. This has forced the majority of the states to enact "budget cuts (that) will hit education, health care, and other state-funded services harder in the 2012 fiscal year – which started July 1, 2011 – than in any year since the recession began." The CBPP reports that nearly all states will spend less in 2012 than they did in 2008, and that 38 states are making "major cuts to core public services". This is going to be a drag on the national economy as states continue to cut jobs and reduce spending on goods. On top of that, we have 12 states that have continued to cut taxes in the face of these budget shortfalls - and as you already know, Michigan is one of them.

    While our revenue is coming in above projections right now, that won't be the case a few years down the road, as the price of eliminating the MBT takes its toll.

    But the House Fiscal Agency points out that replacing the Michigan Business Tax with a 6 percent corporate income tax will bring in less revenue over the next two years and that the anticipated extra revenues won't be able to make up for the lost money.

    Just about the time that loss really starts to kick in, the feds will be poised to swing the ax at aid to the states, thanks to Republican grandstanding over the debt ceiling.

    And now comes the Budget Control Act of 2011, the deal reached in Congress to cut $2.4 trillion over the next decade in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. Although the deal could have been worse and was structured by White House negotiators to reduce the impact on safety-net programs like Medicare and Medicaid, it will do real damage at the state and local level.

    The act will cut $917 billion out of domestic discretionary programs, about 60 percent of which will come from nondefense spending. That will inevitably reduce transportation, education and environmental aid sent to the states.

    Out of a $47B yearly state budget, 44% of our funding comes from the federal government, or roughly $400 million a week. The Snyder administration is certainly aware of the coming cuts, even if they don't know the details yet. All they will say is that they are watching Washington so they can "plan accordingly". Now, can anyone out there guess what the plan includes so far? C'mon, you should know the answer by now...

    If you said "more business tax cuts", congratulations, you may already be a fiscally-irresponsible Republican.

    The next big tax reform -- getting rid of Michigan's $800 million-plus tax on industrial and commercial personal property -- is heading to the Capitol.

    Shaping up is a Snyder administration proposal to eliminate the tax businesses pay on everything from office equipment and furniture to industrial presses. Proponents of eliminating the levy say it discourages business investment and growth and makes Michigan uncompetitive.

    "It's a disincentive to place productive equipment in Michigan," said Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who is spearheading development of a proposal expected to emerge this fall. "It's not a system I want to fix; it's a system I want to get rid of."

    This move was predicted last May after the MBT was cut, and chances are they will push it through this fall, ensuring you will forget all about it in the din of the election noise of 2012 with the impact to be felt much later. The Michigan Municipal League is already starting a campaign to make sure that revenue is replaced, as it accounts for "more than 50 percent of budgets" in some communities. If it isn't replaced, that means more loss in police, fire, and other general operations funding - piling on top of a decade of state cuts combined with the drop of local tax revenue that has already severely impacted services in a lot of places.

    So, how does the Snyder administration plan to address the problem they are about to create?

    Sara Wurfel, Gov. Rick Snyder's press secretary, said the administration does not know "whether something is going to be a dedicated funding source. We don't know whether it's going to be whole or in part" revenue replacement.

    She said, "Everything is still being closely looked at, other than there's a very strong commitment to make sure there's some kind of replacement revenue."

    "We don't know." Or won't say. Well, given the Snyder administration's track record for shifting the tax burden onto seniors, students, the working poor, and local government officials, anyone want to take a guess who will be paying the bill for that "replacement revenue"?

    Things can and will change this scenario over time, but you can see how all of these pieces will start to fall in place if the course isn't altered in some way. And, due to the time lag on these tax/austerity budget cuts, in a couple of years most people will have long forgotten where they originated. The NY Times lays it out in no uncertain terms on the national level now...

    The Republicans who produced this artificial crisis, and are responsible for its effects, say they would like nothing more than to see a reduction in state as well as federal spending. That is where government hits closest to home, affecting the size of classrooms, the bulbs in streetlights, the asphalt in potholes, and the lines in emergency rooms.

    They are well on their way to achieving their goal, making life more difficult in every city and town.

    ... and that goes double for Republican governors and state legislatures that continue to cut revenue when they know that the federal government is about to deal them a huge blow.

    Only question left is: Will the Democrats make them pay the price for their fiscal irresponsibility? Better start calling this out for what it is now, because Governor Schauer is going to have one hell of a mess to clean up later if this all comes to pass.

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    Michigan Republicans Invite Communists to Vote in Primary

    Who says they don't have a big tent?

    Michigan Republicans decided Saturday to hold a presidential primary, with Feb. 28 seen as the most likely date.

    After debate at the Lansing Center, the Michigan Republican Party State Committee voted 92-17 vote in favor of a primary, rather than a party caucus and convention, to allocate the delegates who will help select the party's presidential nominee at the national convention.


    But Washtenaw County Republican Bill Bigler argued for the caucus and convention process, under which delegates would be chosen through a process that would begin with small meetings at the precinct level, followed by county conventions and a state convention. Bigler said the primary would be closed in name only.

    "Any registered voter -- Republican, Democrat, communist -- is eligible," Bigler said.

    Awesome! It's about time someone asked the communists what they think of the Republican candidates...

    Of course I'm kidding. The Republicans are spending $10 million in taxpayer money to hold this primary; if "others" decide to vote in it to throw the results, don't come crying about it later.

    (MDP Chairman Mark) Brewer said it's wrong for either party to meddle in the other's elections, but he expects it will happen again.

    "I can't stop it," he said. "They're taking a huge risk that you're going to have all these people show up and vote who are not Republicans."

    We even have vintage footage of previous meddling...

    Should be fun. Study those issues now...

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    The Green Army

    When reading this story, keep in mind that, according to Wiki, DOD spending for FY2010 is $689B. For one year. This is $7.1B spread out over ten years. Gives you a little perspective on the numbers. Still, it's nice to see the federal government move in this direction since they are consuming so much power. It will save us money in the long run, and create domestic jobs at the same time.

    The U.S. Army has high hopes of using renewable energy to fulfill a quarter of its energy needs by 2025. But it can't get there without adding large-scale renewable energy projects to its arsenal, so the Army has launched a special task force to enlist the private sector for the challenge.

    The Energy Initiatives Office (EIO) Task Force will be operational by Sept. 15 to engage the private sector in identifying and investing in big green power projects that may be built on the Army's vast land holdings.

    "Through that office we intend to work very hard with the private sector," said Army Secretary John M. McHugh during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. "It will serve as a one-stop shop to allow the private sector to come and find opportunities for partnership in a variety of renewable energy and alternative energy programs."

    And the project has a budget only the military could procure: McHugh said that in order to meet its energy security measures, the Army expects to invest $7.1 billion in the task force in the next 10 years.

    The federal government is the nation's largest energy consumer, accounting for about 1.5 percent of use. And the Department of Defense is the biggest driver behind that energy consumption, responsible for about 80 percent.

    Better to spend Department of Defense money on renewable energy projects rather than fighter jets ($77B for 187 planes) we aren't going to use, yes? But first of all, we had to get the Army out of the way of the Army, and it appears that they have finally figured out how to do that.

    The DOD has streamlined procedures on approval for projects across the country that might have interfered with military operations - which, from the list, appeared to be every big and small renewable energy project in nearly every state, public or private, didn't matter. For example, Michigan's biggest wind farm at Breckenridge showed up on that list, as well as one - one - turbine that will be installed right outside Grand Rapids.

    Solar farms and wind turbines produce electromagnetic fields that can skew electronic sensing devices, and turbines in particular are the biggest problem, as they really mess with radar equipment. That made the DOD rather tentative (to be kind) on approving projects. In July, they cut through the red tape, and cleared the way for hundreds of projects to move forward. It's about time.

    A Defense Department clearinghouse for renewable energy projects has approved 229 of 249 projects proposed in 35 states and Puerto Rico, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said last week.

    “These projects represent 10 gigawatts of renewable energy generation capacity in wind energy alone,” Lynn said at an Army and Air Force energy forum.

    “Our action removes a major stumbling block for developers who are trying to attract financing, showing the department’s commitment to supporting the president’s vision for energy … without compromising our national security,” the deputy secretary said.

    Energy Secretary Steven Chu noted during a speech at the same forum that the Defense Department has played a crucial role in developing technologies, including the GPS system, the Internet and semiconductor electronics.

    “As an early investor and adopter, [DOD] has actually advanced those technologies that have become the core wealth generators … of today,” he said.

    Chu likened the development of renewable energy technology to a second industrial revolution. “We still need the energy and the power to propel our military, our economy, our world -- but we need to do it in a cleaner way,” he said.

    Exactly. What the military discovers with these projects will work its way into everyday civilian life - think space exploration and all that has brought us - and ultimately save a bundle of money as well as create more jobs. It's win - win. Getting to 25% renewables in the DOD is a substantial savings in energy costs. Can we put that figure - whatever it is - down as budget cuts?

    Find a way and make it work, Super Congress.

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Republican Cat Fight in MI Senate Race

    Here's a good one, in a tweet from Gongwer:

    Huge development in the U.S. Senate race in MI: Betsy DeVos, Spencer Abraham and Saul Anuzis endorse Clark Durant for GOP nomination.

    Pete, Pete, Pete... what did you DO to deserve this?

    Methinks there is some bad blood out there in wingnut land...

    More!: Lessenberry explains the rift that I had forgotten all about because I don't tend to dwell on Repub intra-fights. Got enough problems trying to dodge the liberal vs. partisan fights on the Dem side. Tear it up, kids!

    Live Stream of President Obama's Visit to Johnson Controls in Holland

    Video: President Obama at JCI Holland:

    I'm still on the media list for these events, but unfortunately due to family illness and camera issues (mostly the camera issues, if I can't shoot I'm not going through the hassle of Secret Service, even though they are real sweet people), I'm watching it on the TeeVee.

    Local media is going full-blast on this as you can imagine.

    WOOD has a full page dedicated to coverage, and will be streaming it live online and interrupting the soaps to broadcast as well. Bet they get some phone calls about that.

    WZZM also has extensive coverage, including an interview with Heather Zichal, the Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy, that explains the reason for the President's visit and the great return we are getting on our investment.

    Looks like the White House site will be audio only, perhaps they will have the entire video later. They tape everything.

    Mlive is providing a live coverage chat, with Twitter updates at #obamaholland.

    Joe LaFurgey at WOOD points out how the stimulus money that created these jobs is helping to bring down unemployment in the area.

    WOOD also pointed out the other day the jobs being created by supply chain industries - which is the great untold story in all of this. Jobs beget jobs: Nine suppliers are already there, four more are interested in coming.

    In other battery news today, A123 has signed a contract with GM to produce batteries and components; it's not known how many jobs that will create or what vehicles will be supplied at this time. GM has already contracted with LG Chem/Compact Power for the Volt. A123 recently hired its 1000th employee in Michigan, and obviously will be adding more in the future.

    And to top this all off, the Dept. of Energy announced yesterday that Michigan will receive $46 million in grants for nine projects that will "target technologies such as lightweight materials, advanced batteries, new fluids and a number of methods to boost engine efficiency". Looks like a little under half will go to the Big Three, the rest distributed to other automotive companies over the next three-five years.

    Jobs? Yeah, we know who is creating the jobs. Thanks go out to President Obama, Governor Granholm, the former team at MEDC, the U.S. Dept. of Energy, regional economic development and city officials like Lakeshore and others, and the members of Congress who voted to make this happen.

    Take a bow folks, and ignore the jealous naysayers. This is an historic accomplishment that is already bringing great benefits to our state and to our country, and you deserve all the applause and accolades we can throw your way.

    Update: Link to the President's remarks at Johnson Controls - and this was definitely a speech with a campaign flavor. President no happy with Congress, but then again, who is?

    When the Real Job Creator Comes to Town, Rick Snyder Runs Away

    Rick Snyder, who has used green jobs created by Democrats for his own political purposes at Toda in Battle Creek (batteries), fortu PowerCell in Muskegon (batteries), and Energetx in Holland (turbines), Ford's renovated assembly plant in Wayne (electric/hybrid cars), and probably a few others that I'm forgetting, suddenly has "other commitments" when the real job creator comes to town.

    Several Republicans, including Gov. Rick Snyder and state Rep. Bob Genetski, were sent invitations but said they had other commitments.

    “Unfortunately, we had already booked him for several events on the other side of the state,” said Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel. Snyder will be represented by an official of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., she said.

    How convenient. Or perhaps deliberate, knowing that a side-by-side comparison on job creation policies would find our current governor sorely lacking in that department.

    “We're certainly excited for him to be visiting Michigan and for him to learn about all of the exciting things going on in our state,” Wurfel said.

    Oh, President Obama knows, because he and the Democrats are the ones who made the "exciting things" possible. The resurgent auto industry (that Republicans would have let collapse), the green energy grants and initiatives (that Republicans fought every step of the way), the targeted tax credits that brought new high-growth businesses to our state (that Republicans now have ended), I'm sure the President is aware of them all.

    But please, tell us, what "exciting things" has Snyder brought to our state? You brought it up, surely you can provide some examples, can't you? It's been eight months now. There must be something.

    Anyone? Can anyone point out the job creation from the Snyder administration? Anything at all?

    Yeah. Thought so.

    Maybe it's best if he does stay away. When you put these two together, is becomes glaringly obvious who has created jobs, and who has cut jobs. Probably not a good photo opportunity for the Republicans.

    But don't worry, I'm sure Snyder will be available for the next Democratic job creation celebration, when the real job creators aren't around. It's become his forte'.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Ford to Sell Home Solar Energy System With the Focus Electric

    Now that's interesting. Consider it the ultimate in green car accessories.

    Ford is upping the green ante with its 2012 Ford Focus Electric, saying on Wednesday that it will sell an optional home solar energy system to offset about 1,000 miles of driving a month.

    The home-rooftop solar system also helps to counter complaints from environmentalists who argue that driving an electric vehicle isn't the greenest choice because electricity from the grid is often produced by burning coal and other fossil fuels.

    The solar system will have a base price of just under $10,000 after federal tax credits — but does not include modifications to the roof of your house, an electrical service panel or "excessive wire requirements," said Ford in a statement.

    The system will also be compatible with the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid electric vehicle due out in 2012.

    Ford is teaming up with SunPower to offer the system. The national Focus roll-out for 19 markets has been pushed back to Spring of 2012; some dealers in New York and California will see the car late this year.

    The Spin

    Since 1908, only 13 state lawmakers have been recalled across the entire nation.

    Thirteen. Out of thousands of legislators. Here in Michigan, two Democrats were recalled in 1983, an event that seems to haunt and intimidate the direction of the party to this very day, even though it took place nearly thirty years ago.

    In Wisconsin yesterday, two Republican state senators were recalled. Based on the track record above, you would think this event would send a message about the overreach of the Republican agenda, with Democrats successfully venturing into red territory and claiming two seats. You would think the press would be impressed.

    You would be wrong. From the AP: "Wisconsin victory gives GOP a national boost".

    A stand by Wisconsin Republicans against a massive effort to oust them from power could reverberate across the country as the battle over union rights and the conservative revolution heads toward the 2012 presidential race.

    Democrats succeeded in taking two Wisconsin state Senate seats away from Republican incumbents on Tuesday but fell one short of what they needed to seize majority control of the chamber.

    Republicans saw it as a big win for Gov. Scott Walker and a confirmation of his conservative agenda, the hallmark of which was a polarizing proposal taking away most collective bargaining rights from public workers.

    An amazing feat, to recall state lawmakers. But because the Democrats couldn't pull off a miracle, according to the AP, it's a victory for the entire GOP agenda across the nation.

    Want more? The New York Times. The Washington Post (although that is Cillizza, who I find suspect at times). All with the same theme. Time was a little better, but not much, labeling movements in Wisconsin and Ohio as "isolated retaliations".

    Just so you know.

    Who gets the D spin right? Markos. But you also know what Democrats think of their activist supporters.

    Beyond Wisconsin, if we can enjoy a similar "loss rate" in Republican-held districts (picking up 33 percent of them), Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have a huge majority in 2013. We had a message that resonated with large numbers of working people in overwhelmingly white working-class districts that shifted hard against Democrats in 2010. GOP overreach is winning them back for us. Just think, before today, only 13 state legislators had been recalled in the entire history of this nation.

    That is true. The GOP is at a 20-year high in disapproval according to a new CNN poll, with 59% of Americans upset with the recent behavior and/or agenda coming from Republicans in Congress.

    There is a huge opening here. Whether Democrats take advantage of it is another story altogether. Republicans take what should be a rebuke and turn it into a victory. They swagger. They brag. And they push on with their very unpopular agenda.

    Until Democrats develop their own swagger (and clear message on agenda), it's going to be very hard to defeat the spin above. And just think, only a little would go such a long way against a discredited GOP. America is ready for it. Are the Democrats?

    Congrats to the fighters in Wisconsin. Taking two seats is a great victory, even if the CW doesn't recognize it right now. But just wait until the Walker recall, when you have the whole state able to weigh in on the "conservative agenda". Got a feeling this spin will turn in a heartbeat - so keep on keeping on.

    And brag a little bit. Ya done good.

    Update: Greg Sargent at the WaPo gets it right as well.

    Tuesday, August 09, 2011

    Michigan Leads Nation in Clean Car Jobs

    Not surprising, but very pleasing. We are the state that put the nation on wheels, only fitting that we are the state that will change the way those wheels turn.

    At least 155,000 auto industry jobs now exist in the United States devoted to fuel-efficient vehicle technologies, with that number likely to grow, according to a joint report released today by the UAW and two environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council National Wildlife Federation.

    The new study found that more than 300 companies in 43 states and the District of Columbia are currently involved in manufacturing tied directly to clean and fuel efficient technologies. That number is likely to expand even more in the wake of recently announced fuel economy standards that would require a fleet average of 54.5 m.p.g. by 2025.

    Michigan led the nation with 97 facilities in the state employing about 38,000 workers, the report found.

    That was followed by Ohio, with about 14,000 workers employed at 28 facilities, and Indiana with about 12,000 workers at 30 facilities.

    Would love to see the Freep update this map of automotive jobs from 2008 and include all the R & D efforts this report cites. Want to see the totals now, after the contraction and then expansion that concentrated Big Three jobs back here. Still scary that we are back to putting our economic hopes in the hands of one industry (again), but it sure is nice to still be No. 1.

    And for those who want to see more mass transit/heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency, know that that is happening as well. The White House made this announcement today:

    “While we were working to improve the efficiency of cars and light-duty trucks, something interesting happened,” said President Obama. “We started getting letters asking that we do the same for medium and heavy-duty trucks. They were from the people who build, buy, and drive these trucks. And today, I’m proud to have the support of these companies as we announce the first-ever national policy to increase fuel efficiency and decrease greenhouse gas pollution from medium-and heavy-duty trucks.”


    Under the comprehensive new national program, trucks and buses built in 2014 through 2018 will reduce oil consumption by a projected 530 million barrels and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by approximately 270 million metric tons. Like the Administration’s historic car standards, this program – which relies heavily on off-the-shelf technologies – was developed in coordination with truck and engine manufacturers, fleet owners, the State of California, environmental groups and other stakeholders.

    The joint DOT/EPA program will include a range of targets which are specific to the diverse vehicle types and purposes. Vehicles are divided into three major categories: combination tractors (semi-trucks), heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, and vocational vehicles (like transit buses and refuse trucks). Within each of those categories, even more specific targets are laid out based on the design and purpose of the vehicle. This flexible structure allows serious but achievable fuel efficiency improvement goals charted for each year and for each vehicle category and type.

    The standards are expected to yield an estimated $50 billion in net benefits over the life of model year 2014 to 2018 vehicles, and to result in significant long-terms savings for vehicle owners and operators. A semi-truck operator could pay for the technology upgrades in under a year and realize net savings of $73,000 through reduced fuel costs over the truck’s useful life. These cost saving standards will also reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants like particulate matter, which can lead to asthma, heart attacks and premature death.

    You can already see it happening with buses and fixed route delivery vehicles, a natural for electric and natural gas technology. New semi-trucks can be made to be more aerodynamic, and even the old ones can be retro-fitted to increase fuel efficiency. These stories don't get the play that passenger vehicles do, just know it's out there and on the way.

    What we are witnessing is a quiet fuel revolution that is going to add up to a huge victory for this country when all is said and done. Starting to think that saving the American auto industry and requiring these fuel efficiency measures might be President Obama's most important legacy; we just can't see the big picture right now because we are too close to it and it is still in motion. Not exactly your instant gratification policy that makes the splashy headlines, but it will pay-off big time in the end. Not only are we helping to save and create a healthy global environment, we are slowly going to wean ourselves off of our foreign oil dependency - and that in turn is going to save us money, create more domestic jobs, and help out on national security too. That is "winning the future", to borrow a phrase.

    If you live long enough, you will see it in hindsight. Now, to get to work on reducing coal use and powering homes and businesses with renewable energy... national RPS, anyone?

    Wind Turbine Tower Manufacturer Ventower to Start Production Thursday

    Ventower produces the columns that hold the big commercial-size wind turbines, you can read the back-story from the groundbreaking in 2010 here. As of this week, they are up and running.

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and U.S. Rep. John Dingell were among the political dignitaries at the ribbon cutting ceremony for a new wind turbine tower manufacturer in Monroe this morning.

    Ventower is expected to bring 150 to 300 new jobs to the area after it begins production Thursday at its plant on a former brownfield.

    The company makes the 60-foot-tall steel columns which wind turbines sit upon.
    Ventower was partnered with Monroe County Community College to train employees.

    “It’s all about jobs; it’s high skilled training,” said college president David Nixon. “It’s ability to bounce back.”

    Green jobs for Michigan, coming to fruition. This is one that we won from Ohio; the Recovery Act and MEDC incentives figured in on the deal.

    Federal, state and local incentives helped Michigan win the project over a competing site in Ohio. Ventower is using a federal advanced energy manufacturing tax credit worth $2.5 million funded through the Recovery Act to help purchase equipment needed for tower manufacturing. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) supported a state employment credit worth up to $3.7 million over 10 years and a brownfield redevelopment credit worth up to $5.8 million. The city of Monroe is assisting with a local abatement and infrastructure upgrades to the Port of Monroe.

    Glad someone was in favor of "relentless positive action" when it came to recruiting green jobs back in 2010, because we certainly haven't seen any announcements lately on landing any new recruits. In fact, Snyder and the Republican legislature will be moving on to red-meat right-wing "social issues" this fall, the jobs issue nowhere on the radar.

    So, thank the nice President and Governor Granholm for their efforts. And remember Republican inaction on this issue in 2012. Maybe we can turn this around, at least at the federal level, and get moving in the right direction again.

    Still clinging to hope here...

    Banner Change

    ... for the day, for luck and in honor of our friends in Wisconsin. Good luck Badgers - GOTV!

    Monday, August 08, 2011

    E-Trade Baby Loses Everything

    They got to the YouTube version, here is the original.

    Sunday, August 07, 2011

    Barefoot Skiing

    Summer. Better get out and enjoy it while you can.

    Tough week. I liken it to the guy above, water skiing barefoot with one foot in the air after suffering a cut that had been hastily wrapped with duct tape. You can guess what happened in the next few frames, just as you can guess that NPR rumor now has it we might witness our own "wipe-out" tomorrow when the markets open. Fingers crossed they are wrong about that.

  • More good news for John McCain bad news for Rick Snyder on yet another negative poll. MSU's spring/summer survey shows the approval rating at 32%, tumbling from 45% in winter survey. Obama is holding steady at 45%. Granholm had a 58% approval at this point in her first term. Rick says the people he talks to are "voicing support", which probably means he only hangs out with his business-buddy base. Good spin, or failure to acknowledge reality? Maybe a little of both.

  • Credit where credit is due: Snyder did join Stabenow, Levin, and 36 other Senators in requesting full funding for LIHEAP, the energy assistance program that helps keep the heat on in the winter for low-income households. 615,000 Michigan households were served last year alone. Congress is considering a 50% cut in funding. Dammit.

  • Another problem with heating funds has presented itself, this time at the state level: A recent court decision has ruled that Michigan's LIEEF (Low Income and Energy Efficiency Fund) doesn't have the authority to distribute money to folks like the Salvation Army because our legislature forgot to include the language in the 2008 energy bills. That's $90 million, sitting on the sidelines. The PSC is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court, or our current legislature can pass a bill authorizing its use. Anyone want to place any bets on a good outcome from either of those options? Better bundle up.

  • Peter Luke brings us some chilling statistics on the cost of college in Michigan. For the first time, we have passed an average of $10,000 a year in tuition and fees, and since 2002, prices have risen an average of 110%. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call a "back-door tax increase", as Republicans in the legislature have insisted on cuts to funding rather than investment in our people.

  • Debtors' prisons. They're back. And the ACLU wants to do something about it. They should, because not only is it archaic and cruel, it's a huge waste of money.

  • Republicans block Detroit bridge under Democratic governor. Republicans block Detroit bridge under Republican governor. Now, Republican governor is forced to find a way past Republican obstruction, ha ha ha. The Republican administration is now insinuating they will cut the Republican legislature out of the decision. Hilarity ensues. Hey, why didn't we think of that?

  • Storm debris from the winds that whipped through Calhoun County in May will be turned into "green power" at the Genesee Power Station in Flint. More than 800 tons of tree limb left-overs will be mulched and transferred and turned into electricity. Marshall is happy to get it gone - the pile was two-stories tall.

  • Climate change is bringing southern spiders to Michigan. And they have nasty bites. Ick.

  • Wind turbines can catch on fire? It's rare, but it happens.

  • Another loss to Michigan's heritage: Manistique Papers Inc. is closing, taking with them 150 jobs and a 90 years of economic support to the small UP city along Lake Michigan. Manistique was originally a lumber town and MPI was one of their largest remaining employers. The banks cut them off, forcing their bankruptcy. They hope to attract a buyer. Biomass, maybe? Hello, MEDC, want to step up here?

  • Ending on a nice note: Detroit 1-8-7 actress Erin Cummings plans on continuing her Mittens for Detroit charity drive, predicting that 2011 will double the 2010 donation of 10,000 pairs. "The city and state means so much to us. Just because I'm not living in Michigan and 'Detroit 1-8-7' won't be there filming anymore, it doesn't mean that winters in Michigan are going to get any warmer." There are some real angels in this world, and we are very lucky we found one of them. Thank you Erin.

    Get out and have a great day today, for you never know what tomorrow may bring!