Thursday, September 29, 2011

Miggy

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Cabrera in 2008, when he led the league in home runs


Had to dig back in the archives to find a picture of your 2011 American League batting champion.

After going hitless his first two at-bats, Cabrera led off the sixth with a bloop single to right field. And in his next at-bat, he sent a double down the left-field line, clinching the crown.

Cabrera entered Wednesday with a five-point lead over Boston's Adrian Gonzalez and Texas' Michael Young in the race for the batting crown, and it only grew.

Cabrera finished with a .344 average, while Young and Gonzalez finished at .338.

"I think you've seen him at his best in the last three weeks," manager Jim Leyland said of Cabrera, who went 18-for-32 (.563) with four home runs, eight RBIs and two strikeouts his last nine games. "He's just been on an absolute mission.

And from the NYT:

He led the American League in home runs in 2008 and RBIs last year. According to STATS, LLC, he's one of three active players with a "career triple crown" - along with Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez.

Nice company. What do you say we get him a shiny ring to reward his efforts?

The mission continues Friday night in New York. Be sure and tune in.

Twenty Times

Report from Bloomberg really says it all. Solar manufacturers in the U.S. are preparing a trade complaint to be filed with the Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington in an effort to retain jobs in the industry here. But looking at the numbers, you start to wonder if that can be any match against a country that's willing to go all in on the investment they are making to rule this industry, especially when we have a small faction in our own midst that is dedicated to seeing us fail so they can gain.

There is this:

China provided $30 billion in credit to its biggest solar manufacturers last year, about 20 times the U.S. effort, Jonathan Silver, executive director of the Energy Department’s loan program, told a congressional panel Sept. 14.

Which led to this:

In the first seven months of this year, China shipped $1.4 billion of solar panels to the U.S., more than the $1.2 billion of panels it sent in all of 2010, according to U.S. International Trade Commission data. Imports from South Korea, the Philippines and India also jumped.

Which led to this:

SolarWorld Industries America, which is lobbying lawmakers such as Wyden to help protect its 1,000 jobs in Oregon, is owned by SolarWorld AG of Bonn, the biggest German maker of solar modules. The company said Sept. 2 that it was cutting almost 200 jobs at its facility in Camarillo, California.

“There is no cost advantage in China,” Santarris said. “But it is difficult for a Western company to compete with a centrally planned economy in China.”

Especially when it seems the only thing we can manufacture are phony political scandals like this:

The purpose of the hearing — indeed, the point of manufacturing a Solyndra investigation in the first place — is to embarrass the president. That’s how Washington works in the modern age: the party out of power gins up phony scandals aimed at hurting the party in power.

Trying to remember the phony scandals the Democrats ginned up during the Bush years when there were so many real ones to choose from. No matter. The American public isn't buying this:

We have seen nothing to indicate an impact on views of clean energy broadly, or solar specifically. In dozens of focus groups we have conducted this month across the country on a wide variety of subjects, when voters are asked where they would like new jobs in their state to come from, the first words out of their mouths are almost always the same – clean energy and related technology.

If Democrats fight for this industry, Democrats will win. But they better do it fast, and they better make sure they point out who is stopping progress.

It's been said that if you have good policy, the politics will take care of itself. And that is generally true. But if you don't take care of the politics, you won't get to do that policy - and in this case, that will be a huge loss to us all. Remember, one country has bet 20 times the amount we have, while we fuss over a small minority of politically-motivated Republicans who are clamoring for us to fold altogether.

Will we? The auto loan stand was a good start. We need to see the same effort made on behalf of the other renewable energy industries, because if this keeps up, eventually we will lose the wind and batteries, too. Mark it.

What worked once will work again - but only if we let them. That goes for foreign competition as well as the Republicans who create phony scandals for their benefit alone.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Busted Howes

Got a chuckle out of this one. Looks like Daniel walked it right up to the line (again), and his inference that it must have been Obama administration heavies that caused Ford to pull an ad has drawn the attention of forces bigger than the usual Michigan chattering class - and exposed to the country the Detroit News editorial tricks that we have had to suffer with for years.

It basically goes like this: Identify problem. Insert rotating villains of 1) President Obama, 2) unions, 3) Democrats, or 4) socialist government, or some variation on that theme, as underlying cause of problem. Write editorial column attacking chosen villain. Problem will be magically solved. Lather, rinse, repeat, ad nauseam.

Howes just happens to be really, really good at it. Where Nolan Finley is completely transparent in his contempt for anyone to the left of, say, Mussolini, Howes can sound very rational at times - until he hits you with something like this:

Apparently some right wing bloggers think they may have found their next big scandal: The White House may have pressured Ford Motor Company to yank a TV ad critical of Obama’s rescue of the auto companies!

That would be quite a story indeed — the latest example of heavy handed White House bullying of the private sector, all in service of its hated auto bailout. Except there’s a small problem: Ford and the White House are both denying the tale, and the original report that is the basis for all the chatter today is not even sourced at all.

The tale got started when a Detroit News columnist reported that Ford had pulled an ad it was airing that featured a Ford customer claiming he decided not to buy a car from Ford’s competitors because they had taken auto-bailout money. “I was going to buy from a manufacturer that’s standing on their own: win, lose, or draw,” the customer says in the ad.

The Detroit News made this allegation: “Ford pulled the ad after individuals inside the White House questioned whether the copy was publicly denigrating the controversial bailout policy.” No source was given for this claim.

That's because "the source" was probably some low-level right-wing paranoid stooge (Payne?) that made a joke in the newsroom, and Howes just took it from there. Hey, it's Obama! So it must be bad, right? Make it work.

The White House denies the claim. Ford denies the claim. And watch how Howes manages to weasel out of his claim, because this is classic. They should teach classes on this. It's better than FOX. Better than Rove. This guy is a master.

Odder still: The original Detroit News story doesn’t even allege pressure. Way down in the story an “industry source” is quoted claiming: “There was not any pressure to take down the ad.” The piece then goes on to hint that Ford might have felt some kind of pressure, but doesn’t quote anyone claiming that this was the case.

Make a claim. Take it back. Doubt still resides in the mind of the reader, and rumors start on the internet. Perfect. And how did DNews managing editor Dan Nauss respond to questions on this column?

“We stand by our column,” he told me. “It was based on multiple sources. It’s written by a business columnist who can draw conclusions based on the reporting that they do.”

The story contains no attribution for the central charge of White House calls to Ford. Asked about this, Nauss declined to comment.

Asked to clarify if the column was alleging any White House pressure on Ford (the story hints at it up top but quotes someone later saying there was no pressure), Nauss declined to say. “The story speaks for itself,” he said.

Yes, it certainly does. Howes "draws conclusions" based on his "reporting" all the time - it's just really interesting that his conclusions always point back to the same few villains, no matter what the subject matter.

Thanks goes out to Greg Sargent for noticing. Finally someone understands our pain, and DNews editorial claims will be scrutinized a little closer from now on, at least at the national level.

It's a start.

Update 9/29: And waalaa, just like that, looks like Howes has started a witch hunt here. Watch the Republicans try to whip up a scandal surrounding this charge that wasn't really a charge at all.

The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee wants Ford Motor Co. to explain why it halted an advertisement that was critical of the government's $85 billion auto industry bailout.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., asked Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally for "a full and complete explanation of Ford's decision to stop running the advertisement."

You may remember Rep. Issa from his starring role in the "I Was For Green Jobs Before I Was Against Them" episode that aired just recently. Rep. Issa now wants to display his displeasure at supposed administration interference in private business... by insisting that business tell him the decisions behind their advertising strategy. Which some would probably see as interference in a private business, but whatever. IOKIYAR.

"Given the close relationship between American automobile manufacturers, workers and unions and the U.S. government in the wake of a series of loans, grants and stimulus programs, accusations of White House interference in private business matters to support its own political and policy agendas are very serious issues," Issa wrote, adding he is "deeply concerned about undue political pressure exerted by the White House."

See? A conservative columnist said it, so it must be true.

Your taxpayer dollars in action. Thanks Daniel for wasting our time and money.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One Worker Not Left Behind

MSNBC had a lengthy story on the arguments behind worker retraining just the other day, and they focused on a couple of guys from Michigan, citing the efforts we have made here with No Worker Left Behind, as well as some of the other programs out there like the ones found at Focus: Hope in Detroit. It's quite extensive, as they run through the various pros and cons behind the idea at a national level. Take a look if you are so inclined. It's very good.

One line jumped out at me. A University of Chicago professor made the argument that the money spent for retraining displaced workers would be better spent on the young, and then he had the audacity to say that training is a "total failure … Its return is ZERO." That's a direct cut-and-paste from his e-mail for the article apparently, the all-capital treatment of that word.

Cold. And you know it's not ZERO. There are thousands of people that have successfully found work from the training they have received, not just here, but other states as well. It's not going to work for everyone, true. But it is well worth the money for this country to do what we can do to get people back on the job, if they want to make this effort.

Here's the story of one I know personally. We'll call him Bill, just because he's going to get political on you here, and I don't want to hang him out on that. I met Bill during my short stint at Steelcase, and back then he was talking about going back to school. A former GM worker, he had taken a buyout some time ago, and was tired of the temp life and jobs that went nowhere. So, back he went. We've kept in touch through e-mail over the past couple years, and I've followed his progress through his courses. Hey, school is tough, but he got through it with flying colors.

Well, he graduated this year. And immediately got out there and start applying. Here is the news I received just the other day, as he was going through the process of interviewing with a major name employer. I was talking about Governor Granholm's book, and this is what he had to say, unbidden on the issue of training. Another direct cut and paste from an e-mail, coming from the flip side of that so-smart professor...

I'd like to see that book that Granholm wrote. I still give her and Obama many thanks for the opportunity I have had to restart the last ten years of my working life. I was looking at doing menial sweat shop jobs making no more than 13 dollars an hour. Ever. At least now I have a good shot at getting a decent wage with benefits and non miserable working conditions. Doing something with an intellectual challenge to it. Any Republicans in office would not have allowed that; as a matter of fact the comments I've gotten from Repubs when I said I was going back to school and they basically said it was a waste of resources to re-educate someone so old. Whatever. Now I can start paying decent income taxes and social security taxes again. I can be a contributing member of society again. I'm looking forward to it. All because of these forward thinking Pols. Any chance you get to speak to her, Thank her for me. Like I said, I don't have the job yet, but it's looking pretty good.

I'm happy to report he got the job, and he starts next week. When I asked if I could write his story up, this is what he said:

Absolutely you may. Be sure to give credit where it is due though. Without the programs of both Granholm with NWLB and Obama and the easing of pell Grants and student loans I would not have been able to do that. While I never had to use NWLB, it was the inspiration of that program that got me started into thinking I could go back to school and retrain. If you recall, I was checking that out when I met you at Steelcase. The rest of it is due to the great training I got at the GRCC electronics department. Their staff is unequaled in their skill and guidance.

There you have it. One happy retrained camper, glad to be back in the work force. And where there is one, there are thousands.

So, you're wrong, Mr. Professor. We need to do this for our people. As long as Congress is going to keep passing these "free trade" deals, we need the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program to help out where it can. The Senate did pass a trimmed back version of the 2009 expansion, in anticipation of the new deals with Korea, Panama and Columbia. Republicans were insisting on cutting the program; we will see what happens in the House. We need more efforts at the state level as well. Tuition keeps going up; this has got to be made accessible to more folks.

Congrats to my friend Bill - I'm so proud of him for sticking with it, and making it through. Maybe he can afford those World Series tickets for me now.

Share the wealth, right? Am I right? :-)

Palisades Nuclear Plant in South Haven Venting Radioactive Steam

Well. Isn't that special. From Mich Mess:

Entergy’s Palisades nuclear plant near South Haven is venting radioactive steam into the environment as part of an unplanned shutdown triggered by an electrical accident.

This shutdown, which began Sunday evening, came just five days after the plant restarted from a shutdown that was caused by a leak in the plant’s cooling system.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokeswoman Prema Chandrithal said that the current shutdown happened because an object slipped during work on a circuit breaker and caused an arc that took out power for one of two DC electrical systems that power safety valves and other devices.

According to a notice filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the plant is stable and “controlling temperature using Atmospheric Dump Valves.”

“The steam that would normally go to the generators, that steam is now going into the environment … through the steam stack,” said Chandrithal. “This would have very low levels of tritium.”

Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen.

I've always been a little bit nervous living to the north and west east (oops! thanks goes out to the editor - it's west, I'm east) of this thing, especially because it is now 40 years old and it seems that we have had frequent reports in the past couple of years of these little glitches that are taking it offline. This part failed, that part failed, no problem though, really, honest folks, go about your business.

Am I that worried about it? No. But still. I would rather have a big 'ol wind farm down there and hear a report of a turbine failure, rather than a report of radioactive chemicals being released into the air. Wouldn't you?

And interesting that this isn't being reported by anyone in the MSM...

Update: Wow, did this go viral. Thanks all for passing it around. And by the way, Michigan's largest wind farm, a 212 MW operation in Gratiot County near the town of Breckenridge, held their "official" groundbreaking ceremony today. They have 32 turbines up, with 101 more on the way. We are getting there, slowly but surely...

Republicans Now Crying Over the Film Industry Milk They Spilled

Remember how the Republicans sent the film industry away? Follow that link for a detailed refresher course if you must; just know that thousands of jobs and millions of dollars left the state before the ink was dry on the budget that slashed our incentives. They were warned the industry would leave, and in their arrogance to rush through the budget process and drop their "atomic bomb" on Lansing, they didn't care.

Now Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville wants to blame others for the mess that he, Snyder, and the Republican Legislature made of our once rapidly growing movie business. (Is there something about that position that turns people into irresponsible crybabies, or what? Maybe an exorcism is in order.) First he takes a shot at MEDC:

Two big movies that were set to be filmed in Michigan are going elsewhere, and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville is blaming Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration for botching a $20 million deal with Disney and Marvel Films.

WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick reported that Richardville, a Republican, is complaining that the Snyder administration, through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, mishandled negotiations and, as a result, two major contracts were lost.

“I have a bill that kind of defines new parameters for film credits,” said Richardville. “We negotiated, the administration did, far below those parameters, and we lost it. So, it’s a disappointment to say the least.”

You "have a bill" that "kind of" defines the parameters. Kind of? Really? That a new legislative term these days? We're going to "kind of" define the budget from now on? Interesting. Still, you haven't passed your "kind of" bill. You set our film incentives at $25 million a year, period. That's it. And then you took the summer off. You tied the hands of MEDC and the Film Office with that law, and now you want to say that they were allowed to negotiate over what the budget called for? So you could, what, turn around later and claim they "overspent"?

No. You don't get to have it both ways. You either pass your new bill, or you stick with the law and the budget you - yes, you, Senator Richardville - made. And guess what. You don't get to try to low-ball major studios on your offers and expect them to just take the deal. They aren't Michigan citizens, they don't have to live under your every whim and command. They will go where they are welcomed.

The Hollywood studio had sought between $20 million to $30 million in incentives to film in Michigan, but the Michigan Film Office initially offered just $13 million, causing Marvel to launch talks with other states, said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.

The Michigan Film Office upped its offer to $20 million, matching North Carolina, according to Richardville, who tried to attract the movie to the state. But he said Marvel chose to film in North Carolina because it guaranteed the money whereas Michigan's deal was contingent on future legislative approval. Marvel did not return several requests seeking comment.

"They were more prepared than we were to win that deal," said Richardville, who was critical of the Michigan Film Office's handling of the negotiations. "We were seen as a real player and this is a real blow to that reputation."

No, we aren't seen as a "real player" on major blockbuster movies. Not anymore. They left months ago. Thanks to you. So, go ahead and blame MEDC, blame the Film Office, blame your momma, no one is buying it. Republicans killed the film industry in Michigan. You own this.

But as "Iron Man 3" shows, Hollywood doesn't like to deal with any uncertainty when it comes to incentives.

And here's another fun fact: Business development is not going to wait on the Legislature, either. This thought that anyone who wants a piece of our yearly $100 million in economic tax credits will have to go and do a song and dance for your committees (and campaign coffers?) down in Lansing will cost us jobs in the long run, just like the example above. Those companies are going to go to the places that roll out the red carpet and give them assurance - and there are many, many of those that will be happy to take the jobs and investment away from us.

So, maybe a little attitude adjustment is in order. Michigan Republicans may be able to bully the people of this state, but the rest of the world isn't going to put up with their pompous behavior. They'll just laugh, and roll their eyes, and do the deals with the states and countries who treat them with respect.

One thing is for certain though: Michigan Republicans will always find someone else to blame for their own incompetence. Pretty sure it's written in their party platform. Maybe someday the public will finally get a clue.

2012 sounds like a good year to start, doesn't it?

Monday, September 26, 2011

End of an Era

I used to take a lot of grief for being a so-called Lansing "insider". "How do you know so much?", they would ask.

They just assumed.

They were wrong.

Time to let you in on a little secret. I was never an "insider". No one ever told me what to write, no one ever told me what was going on, this has been all me, all this time, all these years. I did it from my house here in Grand Rapids, by reading everything I could possibly get my hands on. And I took it from there.

A great deal of my knowledge of state government, from now to going back many years before I ever starting blogging, came from this guy here:



Peter Luke
Peter Luke, at the Hillary Clinton GR Obama campaign stop, 2008


So it brings me great sadness to read this today:

rhaglund Booth Lansing Bureau political writer Peter Luke calls it a career Friday after 25 years covering the capital.

I introduced myself to Peter at the Clinton campaign stop above in '08, and have run into him again at various events since then. I don't know how he feels about bloggers, but he was always very nice to me. Last time I saw him was at a protest last spring, typing away on a laptop in the top floor of the Capitol. We had a good chat about the show going on below.

Damn. I am really going to miss him. Hope he lands somewhere, like Haglund at Bridge, where he can tell us what is going on, in that fair and balanced way of his.

But if not, a heartfelt "thanks" and "fare thee well" goes out today to Peter Luke for all the great work over the years. This citizen is very grateful he was here to report and analyze all the happenings in state government, and it's a great loss to the reading and voting public that he is leaving.

KBH, it's all on you now...

Art Mob

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Conversation With Myself. Full view of this cool sculpture here.


Haven't had the chance to spend too much time at Art Prize yet. Weather, timing, football, etc. all conspiring against me. The brief few hours I did make it down there it was insanely crowded; I had about two seconds to take the shot above before the next shrieking horde of schoolkids descended on the piece. And then the clouds rolled in by the time I made it to the BOB parking lot. Blah. I hope to make it down there towards the end of this week (weather permitting) for more pics. Here are a few from last Friday until then.

Other than that, I've been stuck in a house without heat and a neighbor that has been bang! bang! banging! on his roof next door, and these conditions have not been conducive to coherent thought. At all. I hope to have that cleared up by the end of the week too.

Have some links while I regroup:

  • Looky there, turns out the US government has been subsidizing energy since the 1700s. As in, colonial times. Like it was a tradition or something. The big winners? Nuclear, coal and oil. Renewables barely register in comparison. Someone please tell this new crowd of anti-green-energy-for-partisan-purposes-only the truth of the situation, k?

  • Along that line, the NYT calls the Republicans out on their manufactured outrage over Solyndra. They also point out that Republicans were very happy to stuff their pockets and districts with these projects that they now denounce. Pertinent paragraph here though:

    Recent studies suggest that, globally, renewable energy will grow faster than any other energy source in the coming decades. The surest way to guarantee that America gets its fair share of that business and those jobs would be to enact a comprehensive energy strategy that raises the price of older, dirtier fuels. Failing that, continued government support is absolutely essential.

    I don't know if we necessarily have to raise the price of fossils, but we need the green subsidizes to compete and grow the industry for now. But maybe not for long; First Solar has increased the efficiency on their thin-film technology to the point where they are beating Chinese solar panels, and may be able to be profitable without subsidizes in the next five years. Can I get an amen?

  • Good GM news: As a result of the new UAW contract, Spring Hill looks to reopen - and bring work back here that had been headed to Mexico. As a Saturn freak, that gives me a warm fuzzy. And maybe it will shut Corker up. But probably not. E.J. Dionne Jr. has a great editorial on GM here.

  • Scary GM news: Developing electric car technology with the Chinese, which may lead to car manufacturing such as the Volt there for import back here. You've been warned. And BTW, want an example of the so-called "free-market" world we live in?

    GM plans to start exporting Michigan-made Volts to China by year's end, but isn't likely to sell many. The Chinese government is pushing electrics with a subsidy that amounts to about $19,000 per car -- but only if the car is made in China. No imports allowed. There also are tariffs on cars imported to China, which lawmakers argue are unfair and may violate world trade rules.

    Someone fix this. Please.

  • More radical uncompassionate conservatism from the Michigan Republicans in the Legislature. Not only are they ignoring the fact that they still haven't fixed the problem with the heating aid funding, leaving poor people and the agencies that help them to wonder if they'll have heat this winter, they also are starting to charge interest on unemployment "overpayment" - with disastrous results in one case where THEY were in error. Public service indeed.

  • Big thanks goes out to my friend Paddy at the Political Carnival for linking to my Granholm Daily Show post - it really brought in the hits from across the country. Muchas gracias. Check out the Political Carnival sometime; they indulge in the "fun" news you can use, and it's sure to bring a smile.

    Speaking of the Governor, she will be at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor tomorrow night to sign books and answer questions, click here for more details. Given the speak-no-evil code, how WILL she dodge the Snyder issue? Curious, because you know that's what is on everyone's mind. Someone give a full report!

    I hear the hammer warming up, so that's it for now...
  • Friday, September 23, 2011

    Big Time: Governor Granholm on The Daily Show

    Once you go Stewart...



    Proud to say I knew her when. :-)

    Excellent show, watch the full interview here.

    GOP Takes America Hostage. Again.

    Here's a shocker. The US House Republicans are refusing to compromise on the disaster aid/temporary funding bill, and are threatening to shut down the government unless they get to cut those auto industry loans, right now! And, just to show you what a bunch of petulant, spoiled children they really are, they decided to play even more politics by throwing in $100 million in cuts to the DOE to kill green energy efforts, citing their manufactured outrage over the Solyndra incident as reason.

    They have left the Senate with a choice: Cut American jobs, or shut down the government. And you better hurry with a decision, because we are leaving for another vacation next week.

    “The House bill is not an honest effort at compromise,’’ said the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada. “It fails to provide the relief that our fellow Americans need as they struggle to rebuild their lives in the wake of floods, wildfires and hurricanes, and it will be rejected by the Senate.’’

    Mr. Reid said he had hoped House Republicans would move toward the middle. “Instead,’’ he said, “they moved even further toward the Tea Party.’’

    If the Senate balks, it is not clear how the two houses would overcome the resulting impasse and avert a government shutdown. Most federal agencies need money to continue operations beyond Oct. 1. The disaster relief fund of the Federal Emergency Management Agency is running short of money. And lawmakers were planning to leave town for a recess scheduled for next week.

    Know what?

    Democrats need to say, "We won't let the Tea Party cut American jobs!", and shut down the damn government if you have to.

    A livid Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) told reporters Thursday night "We're fed up with this...we're sick of it, we're tired of it."

    I hope so. Even the US Chamber of Commerce is against the cuts to the auto industry loans. And the $100 million to other green energy efforts is just silly, especially in the light of reports that many Republican lawmakers "privately sought Federal loan guarantees for green energy companies in their districts while publicly accusing the Obama administration of 'crony capitalism'" on the Solyndra deal.

    How many times are we going to let the radical fringe take the country hostage before we say enough is enough?

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    Government Intervention Saves Manistique Papers

    manistique3746
    Manistique. Seriously beautiful. You need to visit sometime. 1000 px here.


    First of all, let's review the philosophy that Tom Casperson ran with last year to win the seat in Michigan's 38th Senate District. Besides claiming that he "does not believe in government bailouts for a new State Police Headquarters, Detroit's Cobo Hall, or any other special interest project" on one page of his campaign website, he lists the following on another page that was basically filled with the typical rantings of an anti-government Republican. Among other things, Tom suggests that we need to...

    * Downsize the government, and rise against those who believe government is the universal solution.

    * Instill a real, conservative sense of fiscal responsibility. That includes reminding members of his own party to live by the ideals of Reagan who said, "the closest thing to immortality is a government program."

    Uh oh. Looks like we have a problem here.

    For those who don't know, Manistique is a beautiful little town situated along US 2 on Lake Michigan in the UP. Formed in the 1800s around the abundant white pine and the river that could carry that lumber to the ships on the lake, its main industry these days is a paper mill that had been in business for over 90 years. Prior to its bankruptcy shutdown in August, Manistique Papers employed 156 workers and was "the largest private employer in Schoolcraft County and one of the largest generators of economic activity in the U.P." The town faced devastation with the loss of the mill and those jobs, and, even though the company had a good financial history, its private lender was going to force them into liquidation.

    Who stepped up to save the day? That's right, the immoral government. Federal AND state. Look at all the sinners involved...

    The Michigan Strategic Fund Wednesday approved a loan of up to $5 million for Manistique Papers through the Michigan Business Growth Fund – Loan Participation Program, averting bankruptcy and savings 135 jobs.

    “Less than two months after its shutdown and bankruptcy, Manistique Papers will soon be fully operational with more than 130 people back on the job, thanks to the company’s management, their bankers at mBank, the MEDC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.P. legislators, especially Sen. Tom Casperson, and local partners, who all worked together to make this possible,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “This is what we mean by economic gardening, leveraging state resources to foster private sector solutions for businesses of all sizes and industry sectors.”

    ...

    Under a financing agreement reached in late August, Manistique-based mBank bought the company’s existing loans from RBS for $6.8 million and sold $2.5 million to the MEDC’s Michigan Business Growth Fund – Loan Participation Program. Under terms of MEDC’s participation, MPI would hire back 100 employees in addition to the 35 it then employed, over the next six months.

    Awesome. So glad we could leverage the power of the government to save these jobs and the town after the "free market" was willing to let them fail.

    Tom, care to restate your position on government solutions? After all, there are probably those that would say this is a "special interest", just like Cobo or any of the other downstate projects you ran against. We will give you time to think it over. Or scrub the website, whichever you want.

    Congratulations to Manistique. And let's remember this next time someone suggests that government is the problem. In this case, it obviously was the answer.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    House Dems Stand Strong Against Republican Job-Killing Auto Loan Cuts

    This is how we do it.

    In a surprise vote, the U.S. House rejected a short-term bill to fund the government that would have cut $1.5 billion from a program that offers low-interest government loans to the auto industry.

    By a 195-230 vote, the House rejected a bill that would fund the federal government through Nov. 18 and provide $3.7 billion for disaster relief. Democrats successfully labeled the bill a "jobs killer," while some Republicans said it spent too much money. Republicans must now find another way to fund the government's operations after Sept. 30.

    In an email to members, the House Democratic Leadership urged members to vote against the measure that would cut funds for "a program that is a job-creator."

    In 2008, Congress approved $7.5 billion to fund up to $25 billion in loans from the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program. The program has awarded about $9.2 billion in six loans — including $5.9 billion to Ford Motor Co.

    "The money in this program is responsible for thousands of American jobs and helps automakers and auto parts suppliers build next-generation vehicles that will comply with increased mileage and emissions standards, and ensure that the domestic auto manufacturers have the capacity to make these technologies in America rather than import them from China and other countries," House Democrats said. "This is a dangerous cut that will affect American jobs and another example of the Republicans inability to compromise, and the continuation of their no jobs agenda."

    Gary Peters points out that this is the program that brought jobs back from Mexico - Ford is building the Focus here in Michigan due to these loans.

    And again, these are loans. Not "spending", loans. As in, government gets paid back. The Republicans, in trying to cut the remaining money in the program, would have cost us future jobs and innovation, as many companies have outstanding applications and are waiting on a decision.

    (Note to the DOE: Get moving.)

    Democrats whipped against this bill, and it worked. Only 6 Dems voted for - and 47 Reps voted against.

    Yea team. Keep up the good work.

    On Class Warfare

    This video is making the rounds, and I thought I'd help it along.



    The good people of Massachusetts should hire this woman to be their Senator. Hat tip to TPM for the transcript.

    In a video of a recent Warren appearance, posted online by an individual who says he or she is not affiliated with the campaign, Warren answered the charge. “I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever,’” Warren said. “No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.

    “You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.

    “Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

    What I would give for every Democrat to start throwing this argument back at the anti-tax, we-must-serve-the-rich-only crowd.

    Go Elizabeth. Really looking forward to hearing more from you.

    Department of Energy Grant Will Convert Michigan Rest Stops to Solar Power

    While some politicians have made the Dept. of Energy a convenient target as of late, always keep in mind that this "government spending" is creating Michigan jobs for Michigan businesses, not only by providing loans and grants to renewable energy companies and the auto industry, but by little projects like this that will save taxpayer money on energy costs.

    Win-win.

    The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) today announced that Cascade Renewable Energy of Grand Rapids has been awarded a contract to develop and install technology to convert solar energy into electricity at three MDOT rest area facilities. The projects, two in the Upper Peninsula and one in southeast Michigan, will use three separate, grid-connected solar systems to lower overall energy costs while demonstrating the feasibility and benefit of photovoltaic (PV) energy generation. The project is 100 percent federally funded with a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, administered by MDOT and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

    The rest area projects are slated for St. Ignace (Mackinac County) at southbound I-75; Chelsea (Washtenaw County) at eastbound I-94, and Seney (Schoolcraft County) at M-28. An added feature at each rest area will be a lobby kiosk that will display real-time information about energy savings. Two of the rest areas will have ground-mounted solar energy systems capable of generating approximately 10 kW, with a third capable of generating approximately 16kW. All three projects are on a fast track; construction is scheduled to begin in mid-September with completion by the end of November. The Seney rest area project will save $1,440 annually in energy costs, while the St. Ignace rest area project will save $980 annually. The Chelsea rest area project will save $1,955 in energy costs annually. Combined, the three projects will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 tons annually.

    You may look at that and think the savings are small, but imagine if we converted all the rest stops over to this technology over the next few years. It really adds up. And it's creating jobs for Cascade Engineering and other companies at the same time.

    There are thousands of DOE projects like this, providing jobs and savings all over the country, something that the demagogues like to ignore. Just know they are out there, and we benefit from them in more ways than one.

    Back to you, Fred.

    Jobs? Not On The Michigan Republican Legislative Agenda

    Here's the latest from the Michigan GOP Mean Machine, cranking out legislation designed to appease the extremists that run the party. Just a few tidbits from the past couple of days to show you just what your taxpayer dollars are working on down in Lansing.

  • A report from Gongwer floats the idea that people who use state, local or school district e-mail for "political" purposes need to be thrown in jail. We can certainly afford that, right?

    Bill Banning Union Activities With Public Resources Reported

    Public employees found to have used their work e-mail for a political activity could face a year in jail under legislation reported Tuesday from the House Oversight, Reform and Ethics Committee.

    Define "political", because this could snare a whole bunch of legislators. That might be fun. Unfortunately, it's probably written to target union members only. More will be revealed if and when it comes to a vote.

  • Moving on, more punishment for the unemployed and hungry. Not content to go after just the college students, we need to take the - federally funded, mind you - food away from others as well. Say you have kids, and you were just laid off from your middle-class job, and found yourself taking home the max on unemployment, roughly $1200 a month if you're lucky. Well, buddy, you better start selling everything you own, or at least move those assets out of the sight of the state...

    Michigan has determined food assistance eligibility based only on income for roughly a decade. A new policy will include a review of certain financial assets starting Oct 1. The requirements will affect new applicants right away and existing recipients when their cases come up for review, which typically happens once every six months.

    Those with assets of more than $5,000 in bank accounts or some types of property would no longer be eligible for food assistance. Other assets that would count against the cap include vehicles with market values of more than $15,000 and second homes, depending on how much is owed on the properties.

    An undetermined number of people will be removed from the program, that way, Republicans can claim that they have reduced food stamp use. See how that works? Reducing use of social programs is easy if you throw everyone out. Other states have abandoned asset tests over the years; this is another example of how our crop of legislators is moving our state backwards from current accepted practices.

  • And finally, as predicted, here comes Ed Rivet and the anti-choice crowd, buying some unneeded and useless legislation to trumpet on the next round of fundraising letters. Partial birth abortion is already banned at the federal level, and as of early 2008, there hadn't been any reported in the state in the past three years. No matter, they have to pass this law against something that really doesn't exist - but don't miss the underlying agenda. It's the start of chip, chip, chipping away at a woman's right to choose.

    State Sens. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, and Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, introduced their bills earlier this year that essentially would outlaw physicians from performing partial-birth abortions in Michigan, except to save the mother's life, and establish sentencing guidelines making it a two-year felony.

    The Republican-controlled Senate is expected to approve both bills. Votes on Senate Bills 160 and 161 are expected Wednesday.

    ...

    Hansen said the state law, even with a federal ban already in place, is needed, because it "makes it easier to enforce the ban in Michigan." He said the state law would provide clarification of the ban for the Michigan Attorney General and law enforcement.

    Yeah, that's crap. They aren't happening now. This is totally unnecessary - unless you're trying proclaim victory to fleece the rubes to fund your next campaign as you promise to push for more restrictions later.

    Oh, but they're working on "jobs", honest they are!

    "Jobs is the No. 1 item we're working on, but we can't be paralyzed in other things we're doing," Hansen said. "But, jobs is the focus."

    Sure it is! Can't you tell?
  • Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    It's That Time Again

    ap4679


    Art Prize 2011 starts tomorrow. The constant hype has begun. I should have some pictures for you eventually - going to wait for a nice warm sunny day so I can walk around...

    Until then.

    Governor Granholm and Dan Mulhern Talk Michigan on Morning Joe

    I love this clip because it features the both of them. Give it a look:

    Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



    I also love the fact that we are starting to talk about the reality that Governor Granholm followed the Republican prescription of "cut taxes, cut government" during the first few years of her term - and how that wasn't the magic wand for fixing Michigan's economy.

    We cut taxes. We cut government. Republicans insisted we do so, and now they conveniently want to forget that they had a major hand in the direction of the policy that did eventually pass, and then they turned around and tried to blame her for ... well, everything under the sun.

    They are trying the same trick now on Obama, which makes the timing of this book absolutely perfect.

    Heed the warning, America. We lived it here, we starting turning around once we had investment in both the auto industry and green energy companies. A country cannot succeed on "all cuts", when the rest of the world is busy investing in their people and economy. It's time for us to get off the sidelines and get in the game.

    We'll just ignore the part about the blogs for now. Because I'd have to agree, as long as you include Facebook and newspaper sites. Ahem. ;-)

    Some good press on the Governor's book:


  • Salon has a great write-up that covers the whole story.

  • Mlive has the WJR interview with Paul W. Smith. He's always fun, isn't he?

  • Eclectablog also writes a very good review at A2Politico. Be sure and give it a click. Superb.

  • Kathy Barks Hoffman covers the human interest story behind the book for the AP. Since that's the one that has gone national, that's the one most people will read.

  • I'm enjoying watching the reaction roll in. So far, a lot of the Michigan media has been typical and predictable - to the point of where I'm just so bored with most of them. I knew what "the usual suspects" would say before they wrote it. Eh.

    The national media, however, has been very thoughtful and respectful, and I'm so glad to see the Governor and Dan getting out on that stage and spreading the word. That's where they need to be, and I hope this country gets the message.

    And I just can't wait for the Daily Show this Thursday. That's gonna be good. Be sure and tune in.

    Michigan Republicans Sure Do Love Them Some Taxes

    While we watch national Republicans reach for the smelling salts and the TV cameras over the mere mention of the word "taxes" when it comes to dealing with the federal budget, someone should make note that Michigan Republicans have found that passing a $1.4 billion tax increase on citizens was so much fun that it's the first place they turn to when they want to fund their priorities. The juxtaposition is quite amazing when you stop and think about it.

    Now, none of the following has come to pass yet, but it sure is curious that the idea of new taxes keeps popping up from the party that supposedly serves a Tea Party crowd that made a huge show over how oppressed they were at having to pay for the world that want to live in, not to mention the obstruction the GOP dished out when the Democrats held the governor's chair and the House. Only one story so far mentioned that Snyder wanted to add a tax to pop and increase cigarette taxes as part of his health initiative; makes you wonder what might have happened had it gone mainstream.

    Whether Snyder's proposals will go deeper is a subject of some question. Gongwer has learned that a draft of the message from about six weeks ago included some major proposals, like taxing sugared beverages and raising the cigarette tax from $2 to $3 a pack. That proposal also called for bolstering physical education requirements in K-12 schools. However, sources also told Gongwer that the Snyder administration has significantly pared its proposal and some of those items might have been eliminated from what Snyder will propose.

    He obviously backed off on the idea. The beverage people would have thrown a fit and starting running incessant TV ads as they lobbied lawmakers something fierce, and the problem with raising taxes on cigarettes is that eventually it would create a huge black market for smuggling. Ask New Jersey, who has seen a whopping 40% of the cigarettes smoked in that state come from criminal enterprise, after they enacted one of the highest taxes in the nation at $2.70 a pack.

    So, that's out the window for now. But when we turn to the issue of fixing the roads, a problem that was repeatedly pointed out during the Granholm administration and was dismissed by a GOP "no new taxes, ever" legislature that refused to lift a finger to serve the state, we find a very big bill coming due if we actually want pavement...

    To get most state and local paved roads into good or fair condition, another $1.83 billion per year will be needed from 2012 to 2023, according to a bipartisan report from two members of the Michigan House Transportation Committee.

    ...

    Rep. Rick Olson (R-York Township) said he is participating in Snyder's workgroup on infrastructure, which is examining whether new revenue for roads should be proposed.

    "I've got my opinions and whether my opinions are worth a darn is another question," he said. "There's a lot of ideas being tossed out and exactly what the governor will recommend, we'll have to wait and see."

    But Olson said the revenue would have to come from a "user fee of some sort," calling both the current gasoline tax and vehicle registration charge user fees. But he also noted that to raise all the revenue through a gasoline tax hike would require more than doubling the levy, and that's not going to happen.

    There has been some discussion of a mileage-based user fee although the trouble with that proposal is it conjures images of Big Brother with a device to measure mileage. Olson said he is exploring whether such data could be gathered without a device.

    A flat yearly fee would probably be the best bet; that way you can get the electrics to pay their share as well, a problem that other states are starting to address as they realize that cars that don't buy gas don't pay for the upkeep on the roads they use. Mileage trackers - no. Besides the very creepy big-government-tracking-your-every-move aspect, it would discourage day trips to the beach and such if people thought a jaunt on a whim would add to their tax bill. That could hurt in-state tourism and the small businesses that depend on it. Just drop the idea now.

    Snyder has gone on record as being against a gas tax, but we have to fix the roads. Olson said he is looking at a "lowest-cost scenario" - which means we are going to have to keep fixing the roads. They'd rather do it cheap that do it right, so get ready to pay more in the long run, whatever they finally come up with.

    And last but not least, collecting sales tax on internet purchases, something that should have been done from the start.

    The Michigan Retailers Association is making a renewed push to require more businesses selling items over the Internet to collect the state's 6 percent sales tax.

    Legislation dealing with the issue is expected to be discussed Tuesday at the state Capitol.

    The Michigan retail group says some out-of-state, online-only retailers use legal loopholes that allow them to avoid collecting state sales tax at the point of sale.

    They are right. We have a self-reporting system here in Michigan, but you know that isn't coming anywhere near the actual amount of sales. This is something that probably should be addressed on the national playing field so businesses don't have to worry about dealing with the paperwork of 50 different sales tax rules and rates, not to mention any local or city taxes that might be involved. Very complicated problem that won't have a simple solution.

    The irony here would be delicious if it weren't so incredibly frustrating. Obviously Michigan Republicans have no problem reaching for tax increases on the little guy when they hold the power, but when Democrats ask for everyone to pay their fair share? Suddenly we have to break out the snake flags and funny hats and talk of 2nd amendment remedies. Take note Democrats - it was all a bluff. Those people have all but disappeared now that Republicans are in power. Ask yourselves why.

    Perhaps if the media takes notice of this trend, and starts to point out the hypocrisy, we can have an adult conversation about taxes and investment in our state and country. But until then...

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Don't Tease

    Wonder what this is all about.

    U.S. trade officials will announce a major trade enforcement action against China on Tuesday, according to a U.S. Trade Representative's office advisory obtained from a business group.

    The advisory, which was distributed to media on a not-for-publication basis, said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk "will hold a press conference to announce a major trade enforcement action against China."

    Between that, and a President who came out swinging today...

    Faced with falling poll numbers for his leadership and an anxious party base, Mr. Obama did not just propose but insisted that any long-term debt-reduction plan must not shave future Medicare benefits without also raising taxes on the wealthiest taxpayers and corporations.

    He uncharacteristically backed up that stand with a veto threat, setting up a politically charged choice for anti-tax Republicans — protect the most affluent or compromise to attack deficits. Confident in the answers most voters would make, Mr. Obama plans to hammer on that choice through 2012, reflecting the fact that the White House has all but given up hopes of a “grand bargain” with Republicans to restore fiscal balance for years to come.

    “I will not support — I will not support — any plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans. And I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share,” Mr. Obama said. “We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable.”

    ...I'm starting to feel some glimmers of hope again.

    I don't expect the move against China, whatever it is, will be all that earth-shattering. I also don't expect that the Republicans are suddenly going to find sanity and start to act in the best interests of this country.

    But I sure am glad to see that we just might start to put up a fight here.

    Keep it up.

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Excerpt from "A Governor's Story:The Fight for Jobs and America's Economic Future"

    Since I was provided with a media review copy of Governor Granhom's "A Governor's Story", I'm going to go with a leap of faith here and see if I can get away with republishing the whole excerpt that has been provided at both Meet the Press and granholmmulhern.com. The G is kicking off a press tour this week for the book's national release this coming Tuesday, but you can buy it now at Amazon.com, and apparently at various bookstores in Michigan.

    While some in our state media have been quick to focus on and speculate about some of the more gossipy aspects of the book, when it comes down to it, that stuff really isn't all that important.

    This is.

    In his memoir, George W. Bush recalls hosting Chinese president Hu Jintao on his first visit to America in April 2006. Bush told the Chinese leader that the thing that kept him up at night was fear of another terrorist attack on the United States. Bush then asked Hu, “What keeps you up at night?”

    Hu’s response: Creating 25 million new jobs a year for his people was the challenge that kept him up at night. China is focused on creating jobs, and when China is focused, China gets what it wants.

    By contrast, our stubborn fealty to laissez-faire doctrine has left the United States helpless to combat the continuing departure of manufacturing jobs from our shores. Between 2001 and 2010, 42,000 factories were closed in America. One-third of all manufacturing jobs in the United States have disappeared. At the same time, manufacturing in other countries is on the upswing. No wonder—businesses can shift their production overseas and get twice the workforce at half the price.

    Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, summed up the business philosophy behind such shifts in these words: “Ideally you’d have every plant you own on a barge to move with currencies and changes in the economy.” That might work well for GE — but woe to workers and communities.

    The central error behind the conservative dogma that tax cuts automatically lead to economic growth is the assumption that we operate in a closed economic system. In reality, both the Michigan and U.S. economies are very small parts of a much larger global system. So when we cut corporate tax rates in a single state, like Michigan, many corporations will be just as likely, if not more likely to invest the savings in foreign workers, foreign companies, or foreign financial instruments, as to invest in America. And when Michigan consumers get a tax break, they may or may not “buy American”—if they have the option. Try to find a cell phone, a television, or even a shirt made in America.

    The numbers bear this out. Recent Commerce Department data show that in the decade between 2001 and 2011, domestic employment by U.S. companies declined by 2.9 million workers, but in the same period, overseas employment at U.S. companies grew by 729,000, to 11.9 million. A large part of the reason jobs have not returned as the recession has ended is that from the companies’ standpoint, the jobs never disappeared in the first place; they simply moved. The stories are legion. When Delphi filed for bankruptcy in 2005 as Kelly Keenan had predicted, it had 50,000 U.S. employees; today it has just 5,000, and 91 percent of its 100,000 hourly workers are in low-wage countries. In 2008, Sony announced that it would close its last U.S. LCD television factory and move it to Mexico. In 2009, Dell closed its computer factory in North Carolina and moved the jobs to other factories outside the United States. Between 2003 and 2008, as Michigan was leading the United States into the Great Recession, U.S. companies more than doubled their employment rolls in China.

    And, high-skill jobs, too, are moving at an alarming rate. Of the ten U.S. companies that spend the most on research and development, eight of them have R&D facilities in China or India. According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, in 1999 there were only 30 international R&D facilities located in China. By 2008, that number had grown fortyfold to 1,200. There are business reasons for these moves, such as the need to access growing markets abroad. Some profits are repatriated, and some jobs, especially white-collar jobs, remain in the U.S. But the net decline in U.S. jobs is huge and growing.

    The statistics make it clear that government is not the problem with the American economy and tax cuts aren’t the key to future growth. A handful of business leaders are showing the intellectual integrity to bring this to light. When legendary investor Warren Buffett was asked about “trickle-down capitalism,” he replied, “The rich are always going to say that, you know. ‘Just give us more money, and we’ll go out and spend more, and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you.’ But that has not worked the last ten years, and I hope the American public is catching on.”

    I’m aligned with leaders of both parties who want to simplify the federal corporate tax system and reduce the rate. But tax cuts aren’t enough. It’s time to overcome our fear of a more active government and to recognize—and deploy—the power of well-designed competitive economic policy.

    Copyright © 2011 PublicAffairs

    The New York Times has featured a couple of great articles about manufacturing recently that link nicely with this theme ("Does America Need Manufacturing?" and "Is Manufacturing Falling Off the Radar?"); be sure and read them. They take a look at how Michigan's story relates to the national picture in a short piece today about the release of the book entitled "Cautionary Lessons From Michigan".

    “The question is for the nation: Is there something that can happen now to prevent it from happening to the whole country and having a prolonged recession in the way that Michigan did?” Ms. Granholm said. “I think there are ways to stop it but it can only happen with a partnership with the federal government, because individual states simply do not have the tools to compete against China or the globe.”

    I think I may do a series of posts on this over the week. For me, who lived this story blow-by-blow for the past five years, it becomes a bit overwhelming to try and sum it up one post. If you want to read a good overview of the book, check out what the ever-professional Kathy Barks Hoffman has to say - so far she's hit the mark the best. As usual.

    More to come...

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Radical Uncompassionate Conservatism

    Startling revelation today from Gongwer's John Lindstrom in Dome Magazine, one that sheds some light on just how far the "less government" Republicans will go to actually use government power as a form of punishment for citizens who fail to live up to their archaic and increasingly delusional standards. How they get around the cognitive dissonance in their thoughts and actions is hard to understand, but they always manage to find a way when it comes to the desire to legislate to the extreme right-wing viewpoint.

    This week, Governor Snyder introduced a series of common sense measures that would help Michiganders live a healthier life: Eat better foods, exercise, lose weight, quit smoking, the usual. The state would track childhood obesity like they track immunizations. Nothing controversial at all, really - unless you're an anti-government Republican.

    But Mr. Snyder’s message was also filled with items that theoretically make Republicans gag: more controls on smoking by banning it from state beaches, for example; having the state track body mass indexes of children to fight fat; and then the big gut wrencher, required insurance coverage for autism care.

    And, and, and, Mr. Snyder called for working much of this through the health care exchanges each state is required to enact under — take your pick as to what it is called — the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. The exchanges, mind you, that a fair number of Republicans in the legislature want the state to refuse to enact.

    One Republican moaned sarcastically on a social media site after Mr. Snyder issued his statement: “It’s a great time to be a Republican in Michigan.”

    A reaction to what they consider "big government" intrusion into your life, right? Well, if so, then why would one Republican advocate this:

    And one GOP legislator, like a school’s lice fairy picking nits off the kids, ticked off a long list of objections to a colleague following a presentation on the proposal by Community Health Director Olga Dazzo. Focusing largely on the BMI measurement issue, the legislator sputtered: “If the kid is obese then his parents are probably obese and the kid isn’t going to do anything his parents won’t, so why don’t we just take the kids away from the family?

    Because there is nothing that screams "big government" about a state that would forcefully remove your children from your home if it deems you've been a bad role model. Nope, no problem there.

    It should be obvious by now that Michigan Republicans are more than happy use to the power of the law to shape the world that they want to see. They are using legislation to take away worker's rights and the ability to organize, they are cutting funding to schools and cities in an attempt to force more tax dollars into the hands of big business, they are persecuting "unmarried domestic partners" by trying to take away the benefit of health care, and they are punishing the less fortunate with removal of the minimal support structures such as cash assistance for families, food assistance for college students, and cutting weeks of benefits from the unemployed at a time when it takes longer than ever to find a job. And we haven't even started yet on the war on women's reproductive choices, but that one is coming up next.

    By now you have heard the story of the Tea Party extremists cheering for the death of a hypothetical uninsured patient during the debate the other night. It was a revealing, blood-chilling moment that said a lot about the state of "conservatives" in America today; they are not a party of "less government" libertarians, they are all for using the law to judge and punish those they don't like, or represent a threat to their power. And it's getting worse.

    Paul Krugman sums it up very well.

    Now, however, compassion is out of fashion — indeed, lack of compassion has become a matter of principle, at least among the G.O.P.’s base.

    And what this means is that modern conservatism is actually a deeply radical movement, one that is hostile to the kind of society we’ve had for the past three generations — that is, a society that, acting through the government, tries to mitigate some of the “common hazards of life” through such programs as Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.

    Are voters ready to embrace such a radical rejection of the kind of America we’ve all grown up in? I guess we’ll find out next year.

    I wasn't kidding when I described this as the "GOP Declares War on America". They want to dismantle anything that protects and/or improves the lives of our citizens, and at the same time they are suggesting that we use the law as a threat to institute their ideas on how citizens should conduct their lives. If that's not a scary, dystopian form of "big government", I don't know what is.

    America needs to wake up to what is going on here, and we need enlightened elected officials to speak up and speak out against this trend before it's too late. If it's not already.

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Moving Michigan Backwards

    Clear as mud. This piece of petty legislation makes no sense whatsoever, except to prove that the Michigan Republicans are still controlled by out-of-touch bigots who want to drive the young and the talented out of this state.

    Republicans who control the Michigan House on Thursday started another attempt to block the offering of taxpayer-paid health insurance to domestic partners living with public employees.

    The House passed legislation aimed at prohibiting public employers from extending the benefits to unmarried partners of employees— same sex or opposite sex — by a 64-44, mostly party line vote. The measure next goes to the Republican-led Senate.

    It's unclear how much impact the legislation would have if it were to become law. The proposal is written to apply to "all public employers to the greatest extent consistent with constitutionally allocated powers."

    Democrats who opposed the legislation say it is unconstitutional and would be challenged in court. They say public universities have the constitutional authority to determine their own policies, and that the Michigan Civil Service Commission has the power to make decisions about what kinds of benefits are offered to many state employees.

    How many lawsuits do we have going against all the Republican legislation passed this year? Anyone keeping count? Anyone adding it up? It's got to be costing the taxpayers quite a bit of money to test the whole radical right-wing social and economic agenda in court.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    Officially A Trend

    Unemployment rate goes up for the fourth month in a row. Now it's a trend.

    Michigan’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased in August by three-tenths of a percentage point to 11.2%, the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget said this afternoon.

    It's jumped a full point since April, from 10.2 to 11.2. Quick! Pass the buck!

    “With the recent slowdown in the national economy, Michigan’s unemployment rate has edged upward since April, but still remains below 2010 levels,” said Rick Waclawek, director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. “In August, small job reductions in manufacturing and retail were countered by a modest job gain in construction.”

    Err, no. It's now above the December 2010 rate of 11.1 when Granholm left office. Nice try though.

    So, how is everyone liking those business tax cuts that were going to create all those jobs? Working pretty well, don't you think?

    * sigh *

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    MI Republicans Target Democratic Lawmaker Who Refused to Shorten Unemployment Benefits

    Vote to hurt your unemployed constituents, or be recalled. That's the message Republicans are sending to Rep. Brandon Dillon here in the 75th.

    The petition, which must pass muster at a Sept. 29 hearing by the Kent County Election Commission, lists Dillon's “no” vote on a bill that would have shortened unemployment benefits as the reason for recalling the first term legislator.

    If approved, the petition requires the collection of 6,845 signatures within Dillon's district within 90 days.

    Nice guys, huh? Especially on the day that it's reported that a record number of 46.2 million Americans are living in poverty, and that unemployment benefits are keeping another 3.2 million out of poverty.

    Dillon says this is just a "distraction", and he's right, but it sure says a lot about the Michigan Republican Party when their angle is that you better push more people into poverty faster, or we will take you out.

    Of course, they have other reasons. See if you can pick out the magic word.

    “Brandon Dillon has a track record of misleading the taxpayers into believing he's fighting on their behalf when in fact, his voting records reveals he's fighting on behalf of union bosses and other special interests,” (Kent County GOP Chairman Sam) Moore said in a statement.

    Ah yes. Bottom line for Michigan Republicans is.... * drum roll * ...union busting. End of story. That's all they care about. They certainly don't care about the people they are hurting. After all, they already pushed this vote through. The benefits are shortened. It's all about their partisan political agenda.

    And it shows everyday.

    Bring On the Batteries: LG Chem Construction in Holland is Complete

    This has been a very tough news day, so I just had to blog something that made me smile.

    Construction work on the 600,OOO-square-foot LG Chem lithium Ion battery plant is complete and operators for making the batteries are now being trained.

    That was the word from LG Chem Planning Director Kee Eun this morning during a Holland Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting.

    Eun said about 300 employees would be on site working in 2012 when the plant goes to full production.

    “It’s hard to believe that just 18 months ago the land on East 48th Street was best for growing corn and now is one of the largest construction projects in the state of Michigan,” Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra told 260 Chamber members attending the meeting at the Haworth Inn and Conference Center.

    LG Chem is going to make batteries for the Chevy Volt. I'm wondering how the impending free trade agreement with S. Korea is going to impact the battery market, but Planning Director Kee Eun of LG Chem, a Korean company, indicates that Holland will be "hometown for advanced battery production in the U.S." as far as they are concerned.

    So be it. Let's keep it that way.

    In other good "jobs for the west side" news, Farmers Insurance, featured in this 2009 MEGA credit post, held the grand opening on their new campus in Caledonia today. The Snyder administration was there to downplay the "role of government" for this achievement, as they did at Energetx earlier this year, but the 1,600 people that Farmers plans to hire probably are very happy that someone decided to create some jobs.

    By the way, where are those thousands of jobs from the Snyder administration? Seems to me all these celebrations are courtesy of Democratic economic policy.

    Funny, that.

    Diluted DeVos

    Pete Hoekstra explains to the GR Press why he sucked as a gubernatorial candidate. Grab your tissues, it's a heart-breaker.

    “We didn't raise enough money and we didn't have the organizational capacity to run a statewide race,” Hoekstra said Monday.

    “We made it to the finish line, but we were physically exhausted,” said Hoekstra, who came in second to Gov. Rick Snyder.

    Are you feeling the confidence yet? No matter, Pete has lined himself up some big names and big money this time - and one in particular stood out.

    The $1,500-a-couple event was co-hosted by Amway Corp. Chairman Steve Van Andel, Amway President Doug DeVos, Calvin College President Gaylen Byker, Van Andel Institute chief executive Dave Van Andel, former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and real estate developers Sam Cummings and Gary Granger.

    So you have Daddy going with Hekman, Betsy (and presumably Dick) going with Durant, and now Doug throws in with Hoekstra. Very interesting. That's some serious family money, working at cross-purposes of each other.

    Look for Hekman to drop out. Durant is another story though - yesterday he picked up GM wiz Bob Lutz to run the financial arm of his campaign, which means he ain't going anywhere. A poll from Public Polling Associates has Hoekstra crushing the competition so far, but it's early days...

    This could be popcorn-worthy yet. Stay tuned.

    Update 9/18: Looks like Daddy is hedging his bets and attended the Hoekstra fundraiser as well.

    Yeah, bye-bye, Randy.

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Peace Comes to the Grand

    peacegrand8068

    All we are saying...

    When the Answer is in the Question

    The NYT asks "Is Manufacturing Falling Off the Radar?" today, and then proceeds to answer the question with a resounding "yes" as it spells out the consequences of letting that happen.

    There's this:

    Manufacturing’s contribution to gross domestic product — roughly equivalent to national income — has declined to just 11.7 percent last year from as much as 28 percent in the 1950s, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In this century, the 20-percent-or-more club draws its members mainly from Asia and Europe.

    The US still has a healthy manufacturing output in terms of dollar amount ($1.95T), but our GDP has become more dependent on "finance, insurance and real estate sectors". How is that working out for us? Well, we obviously have some problems as pointed out next, emphasis mine.

    It may seem remarkable that America’s fall — or impending fall — from first place in manufacturing isn’t generating all that many headlines, certainly not when compared with the controversies over the national debt or persistent unemployment. One reason may be that the nation’s political leaders don’t see manufacturing as a problem. Put another way, they don’t necessarily regard making an engine, a computer or even a pair of scissors as having as much value as investment banking or retailing or a useful Web site.

    That's too bad, because here is the reality behind the importance of manufacturing:

    Recovery from the recession, they say, would not be so sluggish if there were still enough manufacturers to jump-start an upturn by revving up production and rehiring en masse at the first signs of better times. What’s more, each new manufacturing job generates five others in the economy. Shrinking the relative size of manufacturing has undermined that multiplier effect.

    Gee, that might have helped the with the "persistent unemployment" and national debt problem, don't ya think?

    But wait! There's more! Here's what happens next...

    The damage doesn’t end there. The intractable trade deficit is attributable in part to manufacturing’s shaken status. And in many areas, craftsmanship in America has been eroding. Forty percent of the nation’s engineers work in manufacturing, for example, and that profession’s numbers have been declining. That is a particular problem because innovation often originates in manufacturing, frequently in research centers near factories, which aid in the creation of products and the tweaking of them on assembly lines.

    As multinationals place factories abroad, they are putting research centers near them, with as-yet-undetermined consequences. At the very least, this trend challenges the view that the United States has the best scientists and research centers and is thus the research-and-development pacesetter.

    "Yet undetermined consequences"? Does anyone foresee a positive outcome to that scenario? Of course not. It only means the loss of American innovation and more jobs in the long run.

    Go read the whole article to see how our multinationals are being wined and dined by foreign incentives; Michigan-based companies like Dow and Whirlpool make an appearance. And then shake your head over what we have done here. Far too much energy has been spent pointing our fingers at the corporations that have moved and countries they have moved to, when we should be looking at U.S. law that has allowed this to happen. We did this to ourselves.

    It's never too late to make some changes, but until we have leadership committed to a national manufacturing policy and adjustments in trade, we are going to continue to see those jobs slip away.

    Or, maybe we can just sell insurance to each other instead. Wonder what a rider for "Permanent Unemployment Due to Short-Sighted Economic Policy" would cost.

    Don't laugh. That's probably next.

    Friday, September 09, 2011

    The Real Saturn

    And now for something totally cool.

    5.6k Saturn Cassini Photographic Animation from stephen v2 on Vimeo.



    From Tecca:

    Animated from hundreds of thousands of still photographs from NASA's Cassini orbiter, the above video isn't actually a NASA project. Instead, it's a preview of a full-length IMAX film dubbed Outside In: a non-profit project funded by a number of individual supporters.

    The most striking thing to note about the breathtaking visual fly-by of Saturn seen above is that the footage isn't computer-generated or enhanced with CGI or 3D effects. What you see are a huge number of high-resolution still images animated in sequence to create full motion using a "2.75D" photographic fly-through technology. Filmmaker Stephen Van Vuuren is aiming for a limited IMAX release for the feature-length movie, to be accompanied by a synchronized light show in planetarium, museum, and gallery locations to be announced.

    Be sure and hit widescreen. And check out this awesome photo from NASA that shows a full Saturn and the Cassini view of the rings illuminated from behind. It's a must see.

    Wave Goodbye to the Public School System

    Fits right in with my earlier post about buyer's remorse. From a Gongwer tweet:

    Huge news on "Off the Record" today. Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville announces support for right-to-work bill for teachers.

    Should be pretty obvious by now that this was never about "reforming" public education; this is about turning the entire public school system over to private profit, and destroying the MEA once and for all. Package the above with the privatization bills already introduced below:

    Hundreds of school districts across the state, including several in the Thumb, have privatized some non-instructional services, such as food service, transportation and custodial, with the goal of saving money. Under legislation introduced Wednesday, teachers could be added to the list of positions that can be privatized.

    The bill is part of a seven-bill proposal, which includes Senate Bills (SB) 618 – 624. It’s been dubbed as the Parent Empowerment Education Reform package.

    Senate Bill 618, introduced by state Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair), allows districts to outsource teachers and removes the cap on university-authorized charter schools and special high school academies in the state.

    ...

    Also included in the package are:

    • SB 619, which authorizes cyber schools.

    • SB 620, which allows a public school to be converted to a charter school with a vote of parents and teachers.

    • SB 621, which revises the conditions under which a public school may receive school aid for instruction to nonpublic school students.

    • SB 622 and SB 623, which both address dual enrollment.

    • SB 624, which requires school districts to participate in schools of choice.

    Makes you wonder why Melton left the state, doesn't it. All his dreams are coming true.

    I'm also left to wonder what a truthful campaign from the Republicans would have looked like in 2010. They never told us that they would pass massive tax cuts for business and then shift the burden onto citizens and public safety, and they never told us that they intended to privatize the public schools.

    There is a reason for that. If they had, they wouldn't have been elected. Maybe one of these days we will learn, huh?

    More: Paul Egan hits the wire with the story for all to see.

    Previously, Richardville has joined Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in expressing a lack of interest in broader "right to work" legislation, despite a push by groups and some Republican lawmakers to pass such a bill.

    Richardville sees a "right to teach" bill as being part of a broader series of education reforms now being dealt with in the Legislature, spokeswoman Amber McCann said.

    "Do all teachers want to participate in the MEA (Michigan Education Association)," and do the dues paid to the union serve the purpose they once did? McCann paraphrased Richardville as having asked.

    Do all teachers want to go to work at "Teachers R Us", and be subject to the whims of a for-profit company? Would they be beholden to the kids, or to the shareholders first? And, if we privatize the entire staff of a school system, how is that still a "public" school? Because we pay for the buildings and the right to hire these for-profit private companies?

    And after that, we can do all the prisons, and the police and fire, and on and on... until there is no more "public" about anything anymore, except for the part where they are taking your tax dollars and putting them directly into the pockets of their wealthy corporate campaign donors, who will then turn around and make sure they stay in power.

    It's the Republican Way. And so far, it's working.