Monday, October 31, 2011

Unknown

unknown1121


On November 12th of 2005, a 50-ft section of the two-story high, 109 year-old stone wall that held in the north side of the Fulton St. Cemetery in Grand Rapids gave way. In the middle of a Saturday afternoon, with no warning, at the highest peak, it just let go. Rocks and dirt tumbled all the way to the driveways across the street below, and it was only a matter of luck that no one was walking or driving down the road at that particular moment. The landslide closed one lane the street for days, as workers cleared the dirt and engineers tried to figure out whether the wall that remained was in danger of falling as well.

Thoughts soon turned to how it could be fixed. Arguments ensued between those who wanted it replaced as it was, to those who wanted a new, tiered wall, to those who said just put in concrete and be done with it. Back and forth they bickered. As it turns out, a year would go by until they decided to replace 500 ft. of the wall with concrete and a sandstone facade that mimicked the stone look, which was the cheapest option available to try and keep with history. It still was going to cost the city over one million dollars. When work started in the spring of 2007, the city estimated that it would have to exhume 11-14 graves to build a temporary retaining wall to hold back the hill while they built the permanent structure.

In the end, they ended up exhuming a total of 23. Twelve of the graves were unmarked.

Along that north side of the city's oldest graveyard, mixed with Civil War heroes and other citizens of prominence, were pauper's graves. They carried no stone markers, although the city had records of who was buried there. You never knew they were below your feet though. Not before this. Not before the city up and moved them, and then gave them stones after they were reburied. They knew the names.

They knew the names of all but one. And that's the one you see pictured above.

I walk in this cemetery from time to time, especially in the fall. It's big, quiet, beautiful, historic. Somewhere, in the four external hard drives of pictures I have taken in the past seven years or so, are shots of this entire event; from the collapsed wall, to the earth moving equipment, to the scar on the ground where they replaced the earth, that eventually faded with time and new grass - it's all in there somewhere, but because of the time lapse, not all in one place. What happened over three years, and all the squabbling over money and aesthetics, it's really a brief moment in the history of this land, a footnote that will grow smaller with time. Maybe someone will want to see it someday.

In the fall of 2008, nearly three years after the wall caved in, they set the small polished stones on the previously unmarked graves of the paupers. Names and dates that weren't seen before. Making my rounds this year to that section of the cemetery, as I came across these relatively new markers, I wondered why society would give more respect to the poor when they are dead than we do while they are alive. A lot of these graves were from the late 1800s. What could life have been like for someone who was poor back then? Probably not a whole lot of fun, especially in a judgmental, puritan place like Grand Rapids. History books may hold some clues about that period in time, but we can't know about the fate of these particular lives.

Well, we do know their ultimate fate. It's the fate that awaits us all. And with that knowledge, you wonder why we waste so much time worrying over all the trivial matters in our lives. Rich, poor, in the end, it really doesn't matter, does it? And we will never know about the life of this unknown, but I know that I find him or her far more intriguing than the famous and wealthy city fathers, with their large, ornate grave markers. They have had their reward, and with it, they become merely ordinary to me. Maybe that's a judgment that I'm making. No matter. Others will sing their praises.

But this person, this unknown, I always make sure to stop by every time I visit. And I think of the others who must be there, away from the wall, without a stone to mark their existence, and I say hello to them too.

Later...: Made the Community Spotlight at Kos. Very cool.

And as always, big thanks go out to the mostest fun blog evah, The Political Carnival, for being so supportive of my work. Tis a pleasure to be featured there, because y'all are just so awesome...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

GOP: A Political Party In Name Only

Republican Party? There is no Republican Party. Not one for the people, anyway. The New York Times tells us that what we once knew as the Grand Old Party is now actually a dozen or so very wealthy gentlemen, sitting around in a room and coordinating their vast wealth and strategy, getting ready for election 2012. Thanks to Citizens United, the undisclosed funding they bring to the table has the power to supersede any remaining institutional power or constituent input. They are calling the shots here. And from the sounds of it, they have already developed the framework for targeting key voting blocs, swing states, and vulnerable politicians, particularly in the Senate.

On some level, anyone who was even remotely following politics sensed this was happening already. This story puts it in black and white for all to see. Now we are about to find out whether or not they can buy an election - and in a sense, buy the power structure of the entire country.

But almost none of them hold office or a job with the Republican Party itself. Instead, they represent conservative groups that channeled tens of millions of dollars into last year’s Congressional campaign. And as 2012 approaches, the groups — among them the Karl Rove-founded American Crossroads, the Republican Governors Association, the American Action Network and Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by the billionaire Koch brothers — have gathered into a loosely organized political machine poised to rival, and in many ways supplant, the official Republican Party apparatus.

At a time when the Republican National Committee remains weighed down by debt, outside conservative groups, freed from contribution limits by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision last year, are playing an ever larger role and operating in an increasingly coordinated fashion. In the coming months, the conservative groups will consult among themselves as they open pre-election advertising barrages against Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats.

How would that work? Here in Michigan, we have already seen one glaring example in action. Americans For Prosperity is working with Matty Moroun to stop the bridge in Detroit, even going over the head of a Republican governor and several powerful business interests to do so, at the behest of one billionaire with a monopoly. The multimillion dollar misleading advertising campaign, coupled with donations to politicians in key positions, has stopped the bridge from being built. So far so good. Child's play.

They are cannibalizing their own party to stop one bridge. Now, what do you think they are going to do to vulnerable Senate Democrats and President Obama? Consider the example in Michigan a warm-up, a test run, and get ready to throw out your television and recycle a bunch of mailers, because b-b-baby, you ain't seen nothing yet.

The Republican groups also had a head start. Most of them were formed in 2010, an election cycle that their leaders viewed as a test run after the Citizens United decision.

Now, they are poised to expand those efforts substantially. American Crossroads alone hopes to raise and spend $240 million during the 2012 elections; groups financed by the Kochs or conservative donors close to them, like Americans for Prosperity, will reportedly spend as much as $200 million.

Such figures rival what the formal Republican committees will spend. Much of the independent groups’ money will go to expensive television advertising, freeing the Republican National Committee and other party groups to focus their time and money on their traditional strength, voter turnout.

If they are saying $240 million, you can probably double that figure. Remember who we are dealing with here, and what their specialty is. Don't believe a word they say. And because they don't have to disclose, we will probably never know the exact dollar amount of their spending - but you can see it reaching upwards of a billion total, easily. Some of the remaining party regulars are speaking up about "outsourcing so much traditional party work", but like the moderates before them, they will quietly acquiesce, or they will be shown the door. Count on it.

And get ready for an election battle like you've never seen before. About the only thing working against them at this point is the fact that they don't have a viable candidate to center this effort on, but, even if they can't take the White House this time, they will probably be able to do significant damage elsewhere... and start the planning for 2016.

This doesn't stop until we get the money out of politics, and if anyone has a way that we can do that - please get those ideas out there. And do it quick.

Weather Survivor Guilt

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I'm looking at all that snow out East and enjoying our good luck. Yesterday was actually pretty nice with the sun breaking out from time to time, and we still have some good color on the trees.

I'm sure we will pay for it later. Until then, better get out there...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Not So Subtle Shift in Strategy: Republicans as Champions for the Poor

No shame. And it's very hard to believe that this Republican shift in strategy will work, but stranger things have happened. After all, these are the people who have made it a point of pride to not only dodge blame for the consequences of their policies, but they have figured out the way to effectively pin all the damage on the Democrats nearly every single time. With that in mind, this next bit bears watching.

The following comes from a Republican National Committee mailing, complete with picture of Paul Ryan, the author of the grand plan to dismantle Medicare and give more tax cuts to the wealthy. The RNC "Presidential Trust" is begging for money to make Obama a "one term president". Here's the text:

“America is at a tipping point. 14 million Americans are unemployed and 9.3 million are underemployed. Our debt has grown over $4 trillion in less than three years and will be above $16 trillion before the end of 2012. The safety net for the poor is coming apart at the seams and no one in Washington seems to care.”

I'll let Steve Benen take it from here.

The letter is right to note that there’s a jobs crisis, though it seems pertinent that President Obama has presented a popular and effective jobs plan that congressional Republicans have killed. The letter is also right to note that the deficit is quite high, though it matters that Democrats have unveiled sensible, moderate debt-reduction plans that Republicans have rejected.

But putting that aside, a Paul Ryan letter sent by the RNC is concerned that “the net for the poor is coming apart at the seams and no one in Washington seems to care”?

You’ve. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

Ryan is the one swinging the machete at the safety net precisely because he doesn’t care. Put it this way: there’s only one party in Washington trying to slash spending on unemployment aid, student loans, food stamps, and job training, and I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the Democrats.

But unless the Democrats make that perfectly clear, the tactic of simple repetition is going to start to set in. Before you know it, it will be the Republicans who want to keep that safety net intact, if only it weren't for that meddling Obama and those Democrats in the Senate. Ryan kept up with this theme in a speech to the right-wing Heritage Foundation this week, attempting to tear down the message coming from Elizabeth Warren and yet somehow take ownership of the good stuff at the same time. Joe Conason reports:

Under a Ryan budget, infrastructure and education would not only continue to languish but starve. He also nodded toward "our safety-net system," calling it "necessary, I believe, to help people who can't themselves, to help people who are down on their luck get back onto their feet," without acknowledging that his budget would decimate that system entirely, depriving seniors of the benefits that have raised millions from poverty over the past half-century.

The gist of Ryan's speech was to scold President Obama for allegedly promoting "class warfare" and for incivility toward his political opponents. (Such complaints might be taken more seriously from a politician who had spoken up at some point against the racially divisive "birther" propaganda in his own party.) Understandably, Ryan isn't eager to discuss the issues of wealth and income distribution, preferring to focus on "upward mobility."

If you start seeing this from other Republicans, we've got a problem that needs to be nipped in the bud right now, or you're going to see it featured in ads next year. The job will be even harder to do with the Democrats on the Super Committee offering up cuts to Medicare and a chained CPI on Social Security. Doesn't matter if that never passes; the Republicans will use it against the Democrats anyway. Have we forgotten the lesson of 2010 already?

Ryan repeating this theme to Heritage is tacit permission to the troops to start spreading this particular talking point, so watch for it from here on out. And FSM help us if it takes root.

70s Saturday: "Hello Hooray"




Detroit native Alice Cooper may be the perfect artist to feature on Halloween weekend, but I decided to stay away from the typical spooky song selection(s) from him and go with my favorite instead. "Hello Hooray" comes from 1973's monster (forgive the pun) hit "Billion Dollar Babies", and was originally a Judy Collins song, believe it or not.

A song about strength that comes from finally getting the freedom to be yourself. As far as I can tell, this originally aired on German TV, and all the YouTube copies cut-off in the middle. I found this version on some Russian site.

It has a macabre ending, so it fits with the season. Boo! Be afraid. You've been warned.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Detroit Protesters Shut Down Ambassador Bridge

100 people shut down an international border and trade for nearly an hour, and the Windsor Star is the only one who has covered it so far.

The border. You know, the one with Canada.

How very odd that what must be a federal offense hasn't drawn any attention from our media.

Angry Detroit protesters defied police and stalled international trade Thursday by forming a human blockade at the Ambassador Bridge, snarling truck traffic all the way back to Windsor.

About 100 protesters, made up of Bridge Watch Detroit supporters and an Occupy Detroit contingent, locked hands, chanted slogans and blocked big rigs from exiting the bridge for nearly an hour.

As they waved signs and argued with police — protesting the actions and influence of billionaire bridge owner Matty Moroun — a long line of motionless tractor trailers stretched back across to Huron Church Road.

“Today we made sure our Windsor sisters and brothers knew we were doing this,” said Democratic State Representative Rashida Tlaib. “They’re tired as much as we are. They’re tired of the trucks rumbling through their community. They’re tired of the asthma rate increases. I mean we’re tired. We need respect. We may not be billionaires, but we have rights. We have power. The 99 per cent — we may not have money, but the power of the people matters.”

The cops held back. Very nice of them.

No one was arrested but if protesters didn’t disperse when they did, police were ready to move in. As the group chanted and cheered, officers stood in the background sorting plastic handcuffs.

“We were fully prepared to take action,” said Tolbert. “If it would have gone any further we would have had to take the appropriate action. But since they said they were going to leave, rather than give people felony arrests we decided to wait it out.”

The group promises to be back, and will stay longer next time, until Moroun "does the right thing".

Sure hope they have good lawyers.

Update 4am: The DNews files a story after 1am. The AP picks it up on the DNews story.

Why do I find it remarkable that coverage was so scant? The border, for one. But the confluence of both the bridge story, that has been on-going in Michigan for years and in the news in a big way recently, meeting up with the Occupy movement, should have made for very topical content.

Report from National Wildlife Federation Warns of Super Congress Cuts to Michigan Parks

picrocks1896
I'll take any excuse to post a picture from the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore


The National Wildlife Federation wants to remind us that some of Michigan's greatest parks and tourist destinations are at risk from big cuts from Super Congress. Just another something to think about when the howling begins...

Cuts to federal conservation programs will have negative impacts on a key Michigan tourism destination and several environmentally sensitive areas, according to a report released Thursday.

Efforts to craft a federal budget in tough economic times have resulted in disproportionate cuts in conservation spending in recent years, according the National Wildlife Federation. Congress is currently waiting on the recommendations of a bi-partisan committee charged with coming up with suggestions to trim the deficit by means outside the typical federal budgeting process.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Traverse City is managed by the National Park Service. According to the National Wildlife Federation, cuts to the service's funding could have dire economic repercussions there as well as other sites such as Isle Royale National Park and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

"If this federal funding is slashed, the management of these parks will suffer and visitors will no longer be able to enjoy the use of these facilities," the report reads. "Tourism will decline, negatively impacting the area, especially those who are dependent on income from tourists and recreational visitors. The deterioration of our Great Lakes parks would negatively impact all Michiganders."

The full report takes a look at other sites across the nation, and points out that conservation efforts recently sustained a 30% cut in funding, while other discretionary spending only saw 7%. If the Joint Committee fails to reach agreement, across-the-board cuts could devastate these parks and the tourism jobs and dollars that go with them. The NWF also looks at the damage that cuts to both the Clean Water State Revolving Funds and the U.S. Forestry Service would do to our state.

Nationwide, we are looking at some pretty big numbers:

A new economic study demonstrates that the great outdoors and historic preservation generate a conservative estimate of more than $1 trillion in total economic activity and support 9.4 million jobs each year. The outdoor recreation industry alone contributes $730 billion annually to the U.S. economy, supporting more than 6 million jobs and $49 billion in federal tax revenues. Grants issued under the Clean Air Act have had a direct impact on the health and welfare of millions of Americans: a report issued by EPA in 2010 estimated that the law has prevented 160,000 premature deaths, 130,000 heart attacks, 13 million lost workdays and 1.7 million asthma attacks.

I would hope that if this happens, states will step up and do what they can to keep these national treasures up and running. Seeing as how most state budgets are still underwater at this point though, that could be wishful thinking.

Are we really going to do this, America? The NWF mentions closing some loopholes to maintain funding, but you know how that goes...

Homecoming

Daniel Howes is singing her praises (it's true!), the advanced battery show wraps up in Novi, and Governor Snyder will (again!) be celebrating jobs at GM that she and the Democrats in Washington created and/or saved. Makes for a nice homecoming, don't you think?

Governor Granholm will be in-state this weekend for a couple of appearances. Stop on by, and give her a hug for me.

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and her husband, Dan Mulhern, will be at the Meridian Mall on Friday to sign their book, “A Governor’s Story: The Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future.”

The book signing will be from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Schuler’s Books & Music, 1982 Grand River Ave. The event will be the first time the couple has been in the Lansing area to sign copies of their book since it was released in September. Visitors on Friday can bring their own copy or purchase one at Schuler’s.

The couple also will sign copies of their book from noon until 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Michigan International Book Festival at the Laurel Park Place Mall in Livonia.

And if you can't make it to either of those appearances for a copy of the book, remember Amazon is only a click away...

Gov. Snyder Proposes $1.4 Billion In New State Taxes To Fix Roads

That title comes straight from the Gongwer story on Snyder's road proposal at Mi-Tech News.

$1.4 billion in new state taxes. Now, chances are the whole thing won't pass intact, but the fact that this is even being suggested should bring us to a place where it's well past time to point out an important fact about the "no new taxes, ever" Michigan Republicans.

Why is it that when it comes to health benefits and pay for teachers and public employees, or basic sustenance for the poor, or weeks of benefits for unemployed workers, or building a new bridge to Canada, or any number of other programs that help citizens, the Republicans will gnash their teeth and rend their garments and wail endlessly about how they need to protect all those struggling, over-burdened taxpayers of Michigan, but when it comes to funding their priorities, such as big tax cuts for businesses and better roads for businesses, suddenly massive tax increases on those same citizens are A-OK and, by gosh, the right thing to do?

Anyone? Anyone want to tackle this subject? Because let's say this does pass in its entirety, as it's slated to come up next year, and probably well before the election. That would mean that, between the tax increases they passed this year and this road proposal, in less than two years in office, mind you, the totally Republican-controlled government will have raised taxes on Michigan citizens to the tune of roughly $3 billion dollars in total.

$3 billion. Stop and think about that for a minute. If the Democrats had proposed such a thing, the Tea Party types would have gone apoplectic, and would have taken to protesting with their silly hats and sidearms every damn day down in Lansing.

And you know it.

Governor Rick Snyder called for overhauling how the state funds and maintains its road system Wednesday, to generate $1.4 billion in new revenue most say the transportation system needs. It could result in $120 more per year in vehicle registration fees.

Snyder's plan delves into the three fundamentals of the system: where the money comes from, how it is distributed and who is in charge of spending that money. Mr. Snyder, in delivering his special message on infrastructure at Lawrence Technological University, which is developing new materials that can replace rebar, said the subject may not inspire the same passion as education or other issues, but it should.

"It's what we take for granted," he said. "And what we take for granted is slipping." As Gongwer News Service reported Tuesday, Mr. Snyder floated the concept of an increase in state vehicle registration fees to generate the $1.4 billion in new revenue most say the transportation system needs.

Snyder said he was not formally proposing a $120 per vehicle increase in the fee, which is set at 0.5 percent of the manufacturers suggested retail price, but called the idea a "worthwhile concept" and it certainly seemed that is his method of choice to raise the money. He also is framing the proposal as "$10 a month" although such fees are paid annually, not monthly.

Snyder also proposed, as Gongwer first reported Monday, allowing counties and regional authorities to levy a local vehicle registration fee to raise money for local transportation with voter approval required. The fee could not exceed an average of $40 per vehicle and would be collected by the state with the funds remitted to the local road agency.

So the local fee would be on top of an increased state fee? Wow. Ready to pay an extra $160 a year to register your car?

Asked about the additional cost to motorists that a vehicle registration hike would mean, Snyder said it at least was a way for motorists to quantify what they are putting into the system, as well as a sustainable source of revenue.

Well there you go. That makes it OK. All that other stuff mentioned above, not so much.

Be sure and read the entire Gongwer write-up on this proposal. The way other news stories have described the shift in the gas tax to wholesale seems to indicate that if the price goes up to a certain level, motorists will be paying more at the pump than we are now. It gets complicated, and let's wait until the final formula is presented, but call it a hunch you will be paying more whatever happens in the end.

There are some good things in there about Detroit transit, removing old dams, and broadband for the UP, but let's wait and see on those, too. For some reason, you just can't trust anything these guys say...

RIP Howard Wolpe

I'm sure I voted for him, but I certainly don't remember it. In 1994, I was in a band, working in the coolest record store in the state, hanging out on the music scene, chasing a boy, and generally concerned with having an alcohol-fueled good time. Politics wasn't something that I gave more than a passing glance, except to make my way to the polls and be a Good Dog Democrat whenever I could. You can thank Ronald Reagan for that.

So, it brought a smile to read this from the story of Howard Wolpe's remarkable life in public service...

(Chief of staff Marda) Robillard said Wolpe did the right thing even if it wasn’t always the most popular choice.

An example was in 1986 when he authored sanctions legislation against South Africa’s apartheid government. President Ronald Reagan vetoed the bill, and Wolpe authored a bill to override the veto, which succeeded.

The two biggest employers in his district at the time, The Upjohn Co. in Kalamazoo and Kellogg Co. in Battle Creek, both had facilities in South Africa and were affected by the legislation, Robillard noted.

Until yesterday, I had forgotten that Wolpe ran for governor with Debbie Stabenow. And I was pleasantly surprised to see that Ken Brock was his campaign manager, as I would come to know Ken later from hanging with the Schauer crowd. Very nice guy.

Brock mentions that Wolpe was "frustrated with the level of partisanship in politics in Washington" in recent years, and it's interesting to note that both Stabenow and Dingell mention the word "civility" in their remembrances. Perhaps we all tend to look at the past through rose-colored glasses, but this comes up so often that it cements my theory that something has fundamentally shifted in this new age of obstruction at all costs. Sounds like Wolpe got out at the right time and went to work as an expert on issues concerning Africa, which was a life-long passion of his.

Go read his entire story. It's an introduction for those too young to know, a reminder for those like me who were otherwise preoccupied, and a remembrance for those who he served with honor.

Rest in peace Congressman, and thank you for you service.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Occupy Halloween

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Is that supposed to be a top hat and monocle on that pumpkin? I can't be sure, but I like to think so.

I have very creative neighbors.

More: And right after I post this, up pops this story from ABC News (via a tweet from the AP):

Among the self-proclaimed 99 percent, the anti-Wall Street protests that began in New York and spread across the U.S. are inspiring lots of costume ideas this Halloween.

"We're ready to go," said Kris Ruby in Greenwich, Connecticut. She is dressing her 7-year-old golden retriever, Morgan Stanley, as a 1 percenter in business suit, red tie and tweed hat. "My dad works for Morgan Stanley."

Ricky's NYC, with an online shop and 56 stores throughout the city, stocked up on extra "V for Vendetta" masks, those plastic faces popping up on protesters around the world. The company iParty reports an uptick in requests for dollar-sign jewelry, play money, suspenders and glasses among young people looking to go as bankers and CEOs.

Actual protesters have been invited to take part in the huge Greenwich Village Halloween parade, not far from their home base in Zuccotti Park. Occupy Wall Streeters have set up a website with some costume ideas for the parade, calling on supporters to dress as Wall Street zombies, corporate vampires, "laissez fairies," unemployed superheroes, or the top-hatted plutocrat from Monopoly, Rich Uncle Pennybags.

"Occupy Halloween," the site urges. "Because the top 1 percent shouldn't get all the candy."

Ha! Love it.

The Citizens United School District

State takes over troubled schools, creates new "district".

The new statewide school district for Michigan's worst K-12 schools is being funded by $2 million in private dollars pledged this year, making it the only district in the nation supported primarily by donations, experts said Tuesday.

$400,000 will be donated from the Broad Foundation, and they will give another half-million next year. The rest? Well, they're not telling.

The state's decision to privately fund the start-up of the EAA (Education Achievement Authority) makes it the only school system in the country that is -- for now -- primarily funded by private dollars, experts said. State officials declined to identify donors other than Broad.

Several experts told the Free Press that such a large role for private donations has the burden of being transparent and also of avoiding any conflicts or situations of donors trying to exert influence and direct policy.

They are assembling a paid cabinet now, and then they will design policy for this new district, using teams from across the state. The EEA will start receiving the per-pupil foundation state money next year when they take over still-unnamed schools in the Detroit Public School system, and then they plan to move out across the state the following year.

State Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, a co-sponsor of 2009 legislation that paved the way for a state official to take control of the state's worst schools, said the private funding of a public schools system should concern parents and taxpayers.

"Behind money, there is always an agenda," he said. "And the citizens need to know the agenda."

Mike Griffith, senior policy analyst for the Denver-based Education Commission of the States, said soliciting donations makes sense in a state that's suffering budget cuts.

However, EAA officials must make sure that the donors do not exert undue influence, he said.

"You have to make it clear, there is no quid pro quo," Griffith said. "If Joe Schmoe is a millionaire, he can't give the money and say everything it is to be used for. There has to be a wall between him and the school district's decisions."

And the Snyder administration is not going to tell us who "Joe Schmoe" is - but if this is watched closely, you will probably be able to figure it out by the policy that is set.

Will this be watched closely? Good question. Maybe on a local basis, but it's hard to believe that it will see statewide attention when you are talking about taking these schools one-by-one. Cash poor schools that are deemed as "failing" probably will see their union teachers blamed and then removed, setting the stage for charters and others to reap the rewards. It will be easy to justify under the guise of "something must be done!", and poor districts certainly don't have the funds to fight back.

Slowly but surely we could see the privatization of a lot of schools out of this, which is probably what these anonymous donors have in mind. Those kids carry quite a substantial dollar amount on their heads, taxpayer funding for the taking towards the for-profit model bottom line - and we won't know who is facilitating it.

Kind of like our elections. How is that working out for us?

Raw Video from Oakland



Oakland police fire tear gas at Occupy demonstrators. Reports of arrests in Atlanta, as the police move in there as well.

Makes you wonder how far this is going to go. As Chris Hayes said, "every single time police suppress non-violent dissent with force and violence it makes #ows stronger."

And escalates the chances that this takes a turn for the worse, which was always a possibility given the unhappiness and frustration that is out there. Stay cool, people.

Update: Great photo diary at DKos.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Michigan Poem



WK Kellogg Foundation grantee Kinetic Affect performs "Michigan Poem".

we believe
we believe
we believe

that we will never forget who we are.

we believe
we believe
we believe

that we will never forget what we’re
made of.

And most importantly

we believe
we believe
we believe

that we will never forget
that Michigan deserves to be
believed in.

Read the full text here (pdf). Good stuff.

Hat tip to the Michigan League for Human Services.

Not Ready For Prime Time

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.



OK, thanks for playing.

Next?

This is just weird. Beyond amateur right into the surreal.

More: Now my thought is that this was calculated to get coverage, as I'm watching every news outlet including the Today Show run a story on it. But what a strange way to gather publicity. Dude is not attractive or dynamic, the copy is bland, the smile at the end is creepy, and we don't even have to get into the smoking issue.

If they were trying to get attention by showing how unappealing they are, I guess they have succeeded.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hey Michigan Counties, Raise Your Own Taxes for Road Repair

Now local officials can take the blame for either raising taxes or failing to fix the roads.

Governor Rick Snyder will propose allowing counties and regions to charge a local vehicle registration fee to raise revenue for local roads or public transit, Gongwer News Service has learned.

Mr. Snyder will unveil his special message on infrastructure Wednesday, and several sources, speaking on condition they not be named, said it will recommend bold, systemic changes in how the state funds and maintains its road network and public transit.

So, how would you pay this new tax "fee"? Through the SOS? Separate trip to a local government office? Those same local government offices that have had to slash their services and staff to the bone already because of revenue sharing cuts? Going to make them hold special elections and beg, beg, beg their citizens, like they already have to do with public safety and school millage requests?

And what if no one decides they want to institute a "local vehicle registration fee"? Just going to let all the roads go to hell anyway?

This sounds like a train-wreck waiting to happen, but let's await the details. Maybe it's not as bad as it sounds. After all, they've done such a swell job already...

Richardville Film Legislation Doesn't Include New Funding

Oh. My. G.... We are going through all this song and dance for a bill that doesn't lift the cap? Are you kidding me with this?

Richardville's legislation doesn't allocate any additional funds to the program, but it describes specific production costs that qualify and the percentage of costs (initially, between 27 and 30 percent) they would be reimbursed for. The Michigan Film Office said this month it would not take any applications for the current fiscal year until such a framework was in place.

So this new media blitz on Randy's part is utter nonsense. If we are stuck at $25 million a year, Hollywood will NOT be back in a big way.

Here is the latest list of state film incentives. Louisiana's credits are still in the neighborhood of 35%, with no cap. Georgia offers 30% with no cap. Those two alone will beat us out for the bulk of the business.

This is all smoke and mirrors on the part of Michigan Republicans to cover their ass for losing the film jobs. Hope someone with a big microphone calls them out on it.

Jeff? Michael? Mitch? Care to speak to this?

America Loves Them Some EPA

power8603
This is actually steam, but the visual works


And the survey said:


  • 78 percent of Americans want the EPA to hold corporations responsible for toxins they release into the environment, with 83 percent of women and 80 percent Latina women agreeing.

  • 69 percent of Americans agree with health experts who support the reduction of air pollution from industrial sources, rather than those who advocate overruling the EPA to protect jobs, with 75 percent of women and 73 percent of Latina women agreeing.

  • 70 percent of Americans support the EPA requiring stricter limits on the amount of toxic chemical industrial facilities can release, with 77 percent of women and 76 percent of Latina women agreeing.

  • Why the emphasis on women? This is Public Policy Polling, 1,249 registered voters in 2012 "battleground" states (including Michigan), and it was conducted for League of United Latin American Citizens, the League of Women Voters, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. They over-sampled suburban and Latina women because, according to PPP's Tom Jensen, they are two of the fastest growing sectors of voters.

    Loaded questions? Maybe. Here's an example:

    In order to fairly pose a question, two alternative sides of an argument were presented. For example, the American Lung Association position that with regulations deaths could be prevented -- was the counterpoint to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce belief that a stronger smog standard would limit business expansion and cost jobs.

    Real deaths vs. unspecified job loss. Loaded or not, that's where the Republican argument always falls apart; they cannot point to what jobs would be created or lost by allowing pollution, and the threats to health outweigh that factor anyway. Destroying the environment because it would "create jobs" was always a very specious argument, one that most Americans probably aren't going to buy.

    Jensen stated, "Attacks on clean air and the federal agency charged with protecting the environment and the health of Americans is an unpopular position with most Americans, including those in nine key 2012 battleground states." He concluded that assaults on the Clean Air Act and the EPA were "likely to be perceived as decidedly extreme and well outside of the mainstream of the public's thinking."

    Not only that, the folks at UMass’s Political Economy Research Institute can show you a study that points out the fact that stronger EPA regulations would create nearly 1.5 million jobs, as power companies either retrofit existing plants or build new ones.

    James Heintz, associate director at the UMass’s Political Economy Research Institute, which did the study, said in a telephone interview that the potential job growth was not only dynamic, but diverse. “You are talking about an intense infusion of new capital for construction and installation and direct jobs for [people making] boilers, pollution control technologies, scrubbers, and component parts,’’ he said. “The indirect jobs are the kind created that when you install a natural gas-fired generator’’ which includes components made at factories across the country.

    Defending a clean environment (and by inference, the EPA) is pretty much a winner, and the poll shows it especially wins with women voters. Throw in the fact that it would create more jobs than allowing deregulation and it's a no-brainer.

    Much to the Koch brothers chagrin. The US House may continue its assault by trying to cut funding for the EPA, but don't look for the Republicans to run ads touting the fact they want to poison the air and rivers. This is one argument the Democrats can win - if they choose to use it.

    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    Let's Play Offense

    Not sure how much he can do by executive order, but it's time.

    With his jobs plan stymied in Congress by Republican opposition, President Obama on Monday will begin a series of executive-branch actions to confront housing, education and other economic problems over the coming months, heralded by a new mantra: “We can’t wait” for lawmakers to act.

    According to an administration official, Mr. Obama will kick off his new offensive in Las Vegas, ground zero of the housing bust, by promoting new rules for federally guaranteed mortgages so that more homeowners, those with little or no equity in their homes, can refinance and avert foreclosure.

    And Wednesday in Denver, the official said, Mr. Obama will announce policy changes to ease college graduates’ repayment of federal loans, seeking to alleviate the financial concerns of students considering college at a time when states are raising tuition.

    Pass Mitch the tissues. He doesn't appear to have an answer for this one.

    “The only way we can truly attack our economic challenges is with bold, bipartisan action in Congress,” said Dan Pfeiffer, Mr. Obama’s communications director. “The president will continue to pressure Congressional Republicans to put country before party and pass the American Jobs Act, but he believes we cannot wait, so he will act where they won’t.”

    Privately, some Republicans worry that they could suffer from that line of attack. On Sunday the Senate Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, offered an alternate narrative, saying that Mr. Obama, for all his complaints about Republican opposition, had given little prominence to his signing of three free-trade agreements that won bipartisan approval this month.

    “They’re ashamed to mention any of the things that they do with Republicans because it steps on their story line,” Mr. McConnell said on the CNN program “State of the Union.” “Their story line is that there must be some villain out there who’s keeping this administration from succeeding.”

    Yeah. It's probably this guy.

    "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president" - Mitch McConnell, October 2010.

    One initiative a week will be announced by the President; keeping Republican inaction in the forefront will be a good strategy. Whether the media will give this attention or not is another story, especially with the looming problems associated with Super Congress! right around the corner. Something tells me they will suck all the oxygen out of the room fairly soon.

    But until then...

    Misty Fall Morning Roundup

    reedsfall1028
    The mist and the frost gave Reeds Lake a painted look this morning. Still some color left to see out there...


    Yeah, yeah, this is going up in the evening, I know. Tried to get out and enjoy the sun while it lasted. Some articles that caught my eye from today and the week that was:


  • Brian Dickerson has a scathing column on what's happening with the Legislature, Matty Moroun, and the Detroit bridge. Check these words: bordello, sailor on shore leave, legalized prostitution, payola, "get in line with the other johns". Yikes. I've always tried to shy away from using such descriptors, but if the shoe fits...

  • Matty is but a symptom of the disease though, and Tom Walsh's column about the recent social unrest and the election next year segues nicely here.

    What's clear is that anger and frustration abound across the land. A lot of people feel, justifiably, that the economy is rigged to keep rewarding the rich while the rest scrap for crumbs from a pie that's not growing.

    Walsh is a business guy. If he admits the economy is rigged, well, then you know it's true. And that situation will only get worse if the Republicans are allowed to implement more trickle-down economic policies. Who is it that is calling for more tax cuts for the rich again?

  • The Great Recession hit Michigan hard. State demographer Kenneth Darga breaks down some numbers.

  • The UP escapes the worst of the property value drop. Good for them.

  • While the Republicans in our Legislature come up with all kinds of lame excuses for passing regressive laws that will take away domestic partner benefits from public employees, the Fortune 500 companies show us what is happening out in the real world:

    All but two of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies and 70 percent include gender identity. Eighty-eight percent extend domestic partner benefits, including health insurance, to the same-sex domestic partners of employees.

    So much for "running the state like a business", huh?

  • Bob Emerson, Don Gilmer and Mary Lannoye, also known as our last three budget directors under Engler and Granholm, get together and write an op-ed telling us how fiscally irresponsible and cruel it is for Republicans to apply an asset test for food stamps. Couple that with the story above, as well as some of the other mean-spirited actions they have taken this year, and you can start to see a legacy take shape already. History will not be kind.

  • Michigan was the most-improved state for energy efficiency last year. Since the energy legislation that called for efficiency measures was passed in 2008, we have gone from 34th to 17th in the nation.

  • The Toledo Blade has a great story on wind energy and the financial benefits it has brought to the NW corner of Ohio/SE corner of Michigan. (Yes, they address some of the controversy too.) On the flip side, the uncertainty in national energy policy has caused a major wind farm that was slated for northern Indiana to cancel their plans.

  • Ending on a positive note, the Recreation Passport plan, a voluntary $10 annual fee that passed last year to help fund our state parks, topped its goal for the first year. The program brought in $18.9 million, where the previous system had averaged $11.7 million over the past three years. 24.7% of the state's motorists signed up; the DNR is shooting for 30% next year.

    Have a great week...
  • Michigan as a Leading Indicator

    See if this rings a bell. Greg Sargent (with an assist from the AP) describes a voter that has soured on Obama because of the GOP's policy of pure obstruction.

    The Associated Press, in a story about the new AP poll, interviews a voter who captures the dynamic perfectly:

    “If Romney and Obama were going head to head at this point in time I would probably move to Romney,” said Dale Bartholomew, 58, a manufacturing equipment salesman from Marengo, Ill. Bartholomew said he agrees with Obama’s proposed economic remedies and said partisan divisions have blocked the president’s initiatives.

    But, he added: “His inability to rally the political forces, if you will, to accomplish his goal is what disappoints me.”

    And there you have it. This voter agrees with Obama’s policies, but blames the failure to get them enacted on generalized partisanship and Obama’s inability to roll over the GOP — and is prepared to vote against him as a result.

    I don’t know if this voter is representative of broader sentiment or not, but I suspect he is, and his reaction to what’s happening is important to flag as a clue to a dynamic we should be watching. Voters either don’t understand, or they don’t care, that the GOP has employed an unprecedented level of filibustering in order to block all of Obama’s policies, even ones that have majority public support from Dems, independents and Republicans alike.

    Their reaction, in a nutshell, seems to be: The Obama-led government isn’t acting on the economy? Obama can’t get his policies passed? Well, he must be weak.

    Wow, does that sound familiar. And horrifying to those of us who have lived it before.

    Indeed, if the GOP’s strategy is to deliberately create government dysfunction out of a belief that the public will blame Obama for it and lose faith on government in general, turning to GOP ideology instead, it very well may be working. The new AP poll finds that only 41 percent say government can do much to create jobs, a finding that’s borne out in other polls.

    So, how did that work out for us here in Michigan?

    Pray the nation looks to us as a leading indicator in politics as well as economics. The Bishop Playbook taken to a national scale is already paying dividends for the GOP, and we've got one year to figure out how to stop it. The dynamics are different of course, and unforeseen events can and will change the trajectory between now and then - but just be aware that this is happening, and do what you can to point it out.

    The GOP may be doing a good job of imploding on its own, but we can't take the chance that this gambit works - or we will never see the end of it.

    Saturday, October 22, 2011

    70s Saturday: "O-o-h Child"



    In the mood for some defiant optimism today. The thing I love about this totally lip-synced performance is that the lead guitarist hits every lick like his axe was plugged in. Way to sell it.

    The Five Stairsteps were the Burke family from Chicago, their story very similar to the story of the Jackson 5, with Dad managing the family band. Dubbed the "First Family of Soul", they were big on the R & B charts in the late 60s, and finally cracked the Billboard Top Ten with "O-o-h Child" in 1970. It would be the band's only single to do so.

    It's like comfort food for the ears. And the soul. Enjoy.

    Friday, October 21, 2011

    Pay No Attention to the Man in Front of the Depot

    Either you guys want a flat tax or not. Make up your mind. It's amazing how quickly tax "exemptions" leap back into the picture after Republicans sell themselves to the public on the idea of eliminating them, isn't it?

    Today, Herman Cain will be using the grand backdrop of Michigan Central Depot to entirely change the tax plan that brought him to prominence in the first place.

    After sharp criticism over his one-size-fits-all plan from Republicans and Democrats alike, Cain was set Friday to propose exemptions for businesses investing in "opportunity zones" as a way to give an economic jolt to rundown neighborhoods. He's also proposing new tax brackets to reflect different income levels.

    Yes, we had those, they were called "Renaissance Zones", and after the Republicans campaigned on eliminating them at the state level, it looks like they may put them right back in again. Guess it's better that Cain would do the flip-flop now and get it out of the way.

    And gee, "tax brackets" sounds suspiciously like a progressive income tax, too. Shocker.

    OK, carry on...

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    Meet the New Senate Republicans, Same as the Old Senate Republicans

    Some things never change.

    New Detroit bridge. You've seen the ads. You've heard the debate. Been going on for years and years. Surprised the Canadians haven't told us to "stuff it" and taken their offer to New York by now. So embarrassing.

    The latest. Senate Republicans refuse to pass legislation out of committee, Snyder administration offers sweeteners to get Dem votes; namely protective benefits for the citizens that will be displaced by the new bridge. Reasonable, yes? Of course. This was bargained at the last second yesterday, with much paperwork confusion that upset delicate Republican cognitive functions, causing committee to adjourn in a huff. "Huff!", they said, and left. Nothing new there.

    Come back today, and Republicans shoot down the agreement that would have helped citizens...

    Minutes earlier, a substitute bill supported by Democrats, which provided community benefits for Delray area of southwest Detroit, where the bridge would be located, was voted down, 5-2, on a party-line vote.

    ... and Democrats, understandably, walked on the subsequent vote for the original language without the citizen protection...

    The bill for the New International Trade Crossing was defeated 3-2 in the Senate Economic Development Committee, with the two Democrats on the committee abstaining from the vote.

    ... which then caused Majority Leader Richardville, with a 26-12 super-majority of his own party in this chamber, mind you, to blame the Democrats for the failure of the vote.

    GongwerMichigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville just told reporters he is done with the proposed #NITC bridge legislation for now, blames Dems.

    That's about enough now, don't you think?

    “Apparently the Republicans fail to understand that acting in a bipartisan manner means living up to your word when agreements are reached,” (Sen. Tupac Hunter, D-Detroit) said in a release. “While we were focused on crafting sound public policy, the Republicans were simply wasting everyone’s time. In a year that’s seen such rampant partisanship from their side of the aisle, this may mark a new low in the legislative process.”

    For all time, or just this year? Because this seems to be standard operating procedure with a Senate Republican majority, and apparently it doesn't matter what year it is, or who is running the show. They will have everything done their way, period, end of story, even when they won't put up the votes for their own legislation. If the Democrats don't go along with it, they will a) throw a hissy hit and then b) blame the Democrats for the consequences of Republican behavior.

    Hope the Democrats hold out for more now. Or no votes for this. Let Snyder do it by executive order if he has to.

    On behalf of the sane citizens of Michigan, deepest apologies go out today to the Canadian government. We are so, so sorry. You have no idea how much.

    Let's go to the video tape: Here's the Senate Dems - pay close attention to what Senator Whitmer has to say.

    Occupy Wall Street: The Musical

    No, it hasn't come to that yet, but don't be surprised.

    Some women from Kansas were taking in as much of New York City as they could Wednesday. They hopped on a subway, watched the construction at the World Trade Center site and visited lower Manhattan's newest tourist destination: the park where Occupy Wall Street protesters have camped out for more than a month.

    ...

    The protest against corporate influence in government and wealth inequality has many of the things tourists look for, including photo-worthy moments and even some trinkets. In this case, the T-shirts and buttons offered by protesters are generally free, though they accept donations.

    The double-decker buses offering tours of Manhattan pass by on Broadway, with guides pointing out the park site and tourists - in sunny weather - often waving sympathetically at protesters from the top decks.

    There has been much hand-wringing over the question as to whether the movement will be co-opted by... whoever, and the answer is, yes, yes of course it's going to be co-opted. This is America. That is what we do. If a subject gains national attention, which obviously this has, then everyone and their brother with a cause, a t-shirt to sell, an office to run for, or a blog to post to, will be on it.

    So what. As long as the core message isn't corrupted, it's all good.

    This has changed the national conversation from "deficits" to "income inequality", from "austerity" to "jobs". Just like that. It may even save us from the mistakes that Greece and Britain and others have made, because it's going to be that much harder for Congress to sock it to the little guy now (although they will certainly try and probably succeed). Obama and the Democrats may not have to directly embrace the movement, but they sure better embrace the theme - because it is resonating with just about everyone, and is rapidly becoming conventional wisdom.

    As DKos points out, this may be the first protest to "air a positive branding ad". And what could be more American than that?



    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Urban Scarecrow: Fall Edition

    Mr. Bear, spring.

    urbanscarecrow


    Mr. Bear, summer.

    urban scarecrow 2


    Mr. Bear, fall.

    urbanscarecrow3


    If they leave him out in the snow, I guess I'll get a shot of that too. Stay tuned.

    Nov. 19th: He was gone last time I went by, the gardens pretty much wrapped up for the year.

    While Snyder and MEDC Make Excuses, Indiana Adds Over 1000 Jobs in October Alone

    He's a businessman. He's going to create jobs.

    And it should be obvious by now to anyone that's even remotely paying attention that he is driving our economic development efforts right into the ditch.

    While MEDC Chairman Doug Rothwell makes excuses...

    "The bad news is the national economy is really putting a cloud over the state," Rothwell said. "That could really be a drag on what should be a very good Michigan recovery all things being equal."

    ... Indiana isn't having a problem expanding and/or recruiting new jobs. They've added over 1000 so far this month, and we're only halfway through (they tend to space out the announcements). I didn't have the heart to look back to September.

  • Sunright America Inc - 100 jobs
  • Lippert Components Manufacturing Inc and Kinro Manufacturing Inc - 330 jobs
  • Crown Equipment Corporation - 150 jobs
  • Kronos Incorporated - 250 jobs
  • LEP Special Fasteners Inc - 160 jobs
  • Böttcher America Corporation - 35 jobs
  • Wieland Designs Inc - 120 jobs

  • If you think I'm happy about turning the tables and using Mitch Daniels to point out a problem here, I'm not.

    State tax incentives may be just a game, but as of right now it is the game. And it's as if the rest of the country is still playing chess, while the Snyder administration has arrogantly decided it will play checkers instead - just like Engler did long ago - and now they want turn around and complain that it's the national economy that is causing us to lose a game that they are refusing to play.

    The jobs above? Incentives. The jobs announced at Priceline here in Grand Rapids yesterday? Incentives. And that is simply an expansion of a successful recruit from 2008. Priceline's Cindy Elenbaas flat-out said on camera that 500 jobs being created would have left the state without them. (although that clip didn't make it to the web, WOOD reporter Anne Schieber mentions they had other offers on the one that did)

    No, not happy at all. Rather sick to my stomach watching this slow-motion train-wreck happening, and knowing it's happening while no analysis of Snyder's economic non-plan is being offered by what's left of our state media. I'm very dismayed that we are making the exact same mistake that John Engler made in the early 90s, the mistake that was predicted well over a year ago by Rick Haglund and others, the mistake that business development officials themselves warned us about. It's happening, and the word "diversify" has dropped right off the radar.

    It seems that efforts to reduce our reliance on the auto industry have stopped. Rothwell admits in the interview that MEDC is moving away from business attraction, and, although he did indicate that MEDC will seek more money to be "competitive" with other states, he says it won't be that much more than what it is now.

    And the next time the auto industry suffers a recession, as they have in nearly every decade of their existence, we will once again look around and go, "why oh why didn't we continue to diversify our economy?" Because someone had this nebulous idea about "gardening" instead, and refused to be aggressive when it came to an economic plan and direction other than "cut taxes".

    Only question left is: How many years will it take the media this time to point out where we went off the tracks?

    Revolution 9

    All you need to know about Herman Cain. We don't even have to get into the electric fence nonsense. Or the Koch brothers, although that explains where the philosophy comes from...

    Somewhat oddly, the analysis (pdf) Cain posted from them has the word "draft" emblazoned on the bottom of every page. Confidence inspiring stuff. But even the draft analysis doesn't tell us much. What we need to know to decide whether the plan will raise taxes on those making the least is what tax wonks call "a distributional estimate" -- an estimate of what different income groups will pay under the new proposal. There's no such estimate in the Fiscal Associates draft. Luckily, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, who have long experience estimating tax-reform proposals, released just such an analysis last night.

    They found that the proposal would raise taxes on 84 percent of households -- and, broadly speaking, those 84 percent of households would be the bottom 84 percent. A family in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution can expect their tax bill to rise by more than $1,600. A family smack in the middle will be paying will be paying $3,238 more. It's not until you get to households making more than $200,000 that you begin to see tax cuts. If you're in the top one percent, your tax bill will drop by $307,000. The top 0.1 percent? A tax cut of almost $1.7 million.

    More tax cuts for the rich, more tax increases for you. Sound familiar?

    If America is stupid enough to vote for this, we deserve what we get. Hate to be so blunt, but I really don't know what it's going to take until people learn that the Republicans are in this for the 1% only, and if you keep voting for them and their trickle-down fantasies, this country will continue to circle the drain while the rest of the world moves forward.

    It really is that simple sometimes.

    More: Look, charts!

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Richardville Uses Hollywood Star to Tell Us Film Credits Shouldn't Go to Hollywood Stars

    This is a riot. Let's stand back and watch the Republicans twist themselves into all kinds of knots to justify the return of the Michigan film incentives less than a year after they jumped up and down and insisted on eliminating them.

    Senator Randy Richardville is positively giddy about dropping a big Hollywood name...

    Richardville told AM-1270 host and WWJ political analyst Charlie Langton that Governor Rick Snyder’s administration does not want an encore of what happened with ”Ironman 3,” which went to another state.

    “They learned from that and now are out negotiating on a Steven Spielberg movie, and I can’t really get into a whole lot of detail now,” said Richardville. “You could be hearing something very, very exciting over the next couple of weeks.”

    Ooo, squeal! Spielberg? Wow!

    But then he goes on to say this:

    “We have a lot of jobs here in Michigan that were created and now we just have to be competitive and make sure that credit goes back to Michigan businesses and Michigan employees,” said Richardville. “Because it’s all about the working class here, not the Hollywood stars.”

    And again, he's lying to try and cover up for the way Republicans have bungled up the messaging as well as the entire program. The Michigan film incentives were capped on individual salaries at $2 million per person per production - which means they couldn't write-off a huge portion of a major star's salary in the first place.

    But whatever. Maybe we can get some of the jobs the REPUBLICANS SENT AWAY back again.

    Someone should write a script about this. It could be the central plot line of "Dumb and Dumber Get Elected to Office". A laugh a minute, to be sure.

    UPDATE: Check out the latest news - Richardville legislation doesn't provide additional funding, credits still capped at $25 million a year. This is a big show for nothing.

    Construction to Begin in November on Consumers Lake Winds Energy Park

    The only paperwork left to do is to finalize some road permits, and construction on the 101MW, 56 turbine wind farm in Mason County will be underway as of Nov. 2.

    White Construction, lead contractor for the wind turbine project, is expected to start construction of access roads and turbine foundations this fall, keeping on track with Consumers anticipated completion of the project by the end of 2012.

    That means jobs. Green ones.

    Consumers Energy is urging motorists to be alert for construction traffic in Riverton and Summit townships, as well as throughout the county since many of the construction materials are coming from west Michigan area suppliers.

    The turbines themselves are coming from Vestas, manufactured in Colorado.

    Ah well, can't win 'em all.

    By the way, was Michigan even in the running for GE's solar panel factory, billed as the largest in the nation, that landed in Colorado? Inquiring minds want to know.

    We'll save that for another day. These announcements from other states are starting to add up, and probably deserve their own post. Indications are that the Snyder administration is dropping the ball when it comes to recruiting these jobs, and that may require some extra special attention pretty soon.

    MEDC to Seek More Money for Tax Incentives

    Well, duh.

    Sometimes the lede at Gongwer is enough.

    The money Michigan will have to commit to future economic development incentives will depend on the nature of personal property tax reform, but officials are looking to increase the initial $100 million appropriation, Doug Rothwell said Monday.

    In an interview with Gongwer News Service, the chair of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's Executive Board and president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan said it's unlikely the current appropriation will be adequate enough to compete with other states in years to come.

    This was all very predictable (see this post from May that nailed it), and will probably go unnoticed by a media that made it a point to trumpet Snyder's claim that we need to stop picking "winners and losers". Public now thinks that special tax breaks for companies have been eliminated (although we are getting another MEDC release today, and those are probably causing some cognitive dissonance out there), and chances are Republicans are now going to work to start putting back other breaks when and where business owners demand them.

    One example is the cry from developers over Renaissance Zones, previously reported in Muskegon, and now being heard in Grand Rapids. These guys are screaming mad that they now have to pay income taxes on this property, so Republican Sen. Dave Hildenbrand has introduced legislation to restore the credit to those "who already live in Renaissance districts or anyone who purchases a home before 2012."

    But that's it, promise. No, really. Until they demand more...

    I've always been in favor of targeted incentives. I've got a street full of inner-city property a block away from me that once was abandoned buildings and empty polluted lots, and is now teeming with restored buildings and new businesses - thanks to brownfield, historic, and MEDC tax credits. It wouldn't have happened without them.

    The problem I have with this now is that we have eliminated credits for individuals, such as the EITC, and raised taxes on people in other areas - while businesses have received a hefty tax cut, with more on the way, and will probably see all their tax credits restored in the long run as well. It simply becomes another way to shift the tax burden to citizens, and usually it's shifted to those that can least afford it.

    Leave it to the Republicans to take a good thing and pervert it into something that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Pat Miles Out in the 3rd

    This sucks.

    Between Amash's decidedly libertarian leanings that do not represent the moderate Grand Rapids area (or Battle Creek for that matter), and the hopes of higher Dem turnout in a presidential election year, I believe Pat Miles would have had a good shot at this seat. (Some D's complained that he was too centrist, but please, people, this is Grand Rapids we are talking about here.)

    And I have zero idea on who might step up now. After all, give me a name (besides Schauer) that can pull off this:

    “My campaign in 2010 cost about $1 million,” said Miles, who lost to Amash by a 3-2 margin. “I would estimate that an effective congressional campaign as a challenger in 2012 would probably be twice that.”

    I'm guessing more, if Amash and his corporate owners (read: Dick and Betsy correction: the rest of the DeVos family) felt seriously threatened.

    Anyone? Anyone want to represent the 99% in the 3rd? Come on down...

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    GOP's War on the Poor Continues: State Cuts Funding for Food Banks and Soup Kitchens

    Wasn't enough for the Snyder administration and the Republican majority to cut thousands of students from the food assistance. Wasn't enough for the DHS to start applying asset tests to all the rest, in the hopes of cutting even more people from the rolls of that federally funded program.

    Now we are going to cut assistance to the places where those folks may have to turn to ease their hunger.

    According to the state Department of Human Resources, 43 agencies -- food banks and soup kitchens -- have been cut from Emergency Services funding for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Last fiscal year, they received a total of $1,261,659 in funding.

    The state counters that the money was only for "emergencies". Makes you wonder just what constitutes an emergency in their eyes these days. Unemployment is still over 11% and climbing, people are losing their cash and heating assistance, and it seems the only the thing the state isn't cutting are the feeble pass-the-buck excuses they utter when questioned about these new policies.

    To add insult to injury, they also plan to keep referring people to the agencies that they cut.

    Friendship House in Hamtramck is already feeling the pinch from the state. For more than a decade, Friendship House received an annual $12,240 grant from the state Department of Human Services, which it used to buy food.

    Last month, the charity was told its grant was cut. Friendship House helps 1,100 to 1,500 people a month with food, clothing and utilities, said Friendship House executive director Linnea Berg.

    "I'm afraid we're going to see a big influx of people into the shelter system," Berg said.

    She said that despite DHS deciding not to award Friendship House a grant, local DHS office officials told her they will continue to refer people to Friendship House for emergency food.

    The favorite excuse of the 1% and their enablers is that people can turn to "charity" for assistance nowadays. But William Long, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan, reports that they have seen a 30% decline in help between public and private funding, and that food banks may have to start reducing the volume given to families from the remaining food they have left. Charities are strained to the max with new people coming to their doors; just imagine if you were referred to one by the state, only to be told that help wasn't available because the state cut funding.

    Probably be more than a little ticked off, don't you think?

    And Republicans wonder why people are marching in the streets...

    Saturday, October 15, 2011

    Thank You Tigers!

    tigers2008


    It was a really fun year. We'll get 'em next time.

    See ya next spring...

    70s Saturday: "My Little Town"


    Simon & Garfunkel My little town Live 1975 by wild-strawberry


    Happy Birthday to Paul Simon, who turned 70 last Thursday.

    This is from the Saturday Night Live appearance of October 18th, 1975, not easy to find as a stand alone, NBC being as difficult as they can be at times. The audio isn't the greatest and I apologize for the commercial, but this was a historic performance of this song - and it's always been one of my favorites.

    "My Little Town" was written by Simon for Art Garfunkel's solo album "Breakaway". After Paul played it for him in the studio, they decided to record it together, and it subsequently appeared on both of their solo albums that were released within weeks of this televised reunion. The song broke the Top Ten on Billboard in late 1975 - not bad for a duo that had "officially" split-up in 1970.

    In 1975 I turned 10, I rode my bike to school sometimes, and the factory in this case was a little company called "Amway". Although I didn't ride past its gates, I could see it (and when the wind was right, smell it) at recess, my school sitting on a big hill that overlooked the town of Ada. My Mom had "Breakaway" on 8-track. I might even still have it in the basement in a box. So quaint, the way the songs would break in the middle and then re-start again as it jumped to the next track...

    Art will turn 70 on November 5th. Hard to believe, isn't it?

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    Judge Blocks Privatization of Aides: Will Republicans Put the Budget Surplus Towards Care for Veterans?

    The initial ruling to block privatization of the aides at the GR Home for Veterans was to schedule a hearing; today's ruling is the result of that hearing.

    An Ingham County judge ordered a halt Friday to the state's plans to privatize nursing aide positions at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, saying she feared the change would cause "irreparable harm" to the more than 600 vets who live there.

    The privatization plan "all comes down to money, really," said Circuit Judge Paula Manderfield, noting state officials said they need to save $18,000 a day by turning 170 resident care aide positions over to a private contractor who pays workers about half as much money.

    "Budgets can be adjusted," she said. "The home can make cuts in other areas, or perhaps they can get some more money from the state."

    Assistant Attorney General Joseph Froehlich, representing the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs that runs the home, said he will appeal. Manderfield denied his request for a stay of her order pending the appeal.

    Yeah, about that money... this was supposedly going to save the state $4.2 million.

    The state budget is now running a surplus of $285 million.

    I think the Republicans can cough up a bit of money for the veterans, don't you?

    “We worked real hard to get our budget under control, to get spending matching income, and I think if we do get any extra money at the moment, we need to either save in our 'rainy day' fund or use it to pay down the debt instead of spending money even more when we look like we may have less money down the road if the economy continues to tank,” said Republican state Representative Chuck Moss. He chairs the state House Appropriations Committee.

    Um, wasn't that big tax cut for businesses supposed to improve our state's economy? Are Republicans now admitting that their economic policies are projected to fail?

    The prosecution rests.

    Give the money to the vets. Wonder if the courts can take that surplus into account when the state tries to appeal.

    Why is Governor Snyder Campaigning for President Obama?

    Once again, Governor Snyder will be on-hand to celebrate Michigan jobs that were created by Democrats...

    crummc Charlie Crumm by TheOaklandPress

    Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has indicated via email that he will also join President Obama on his tour of the General Motors Assembly Plant

    ... but according to the MRP, this is just a "campaign trip" for the President.

    Republican Party officials held a conference call this morning saying President Barack Obama’s trip to Michigan is a move to bolster his position in the state in advance of the 2012 election – despite the fact the White House says it is all about jobs to be created by a trade deal with South Korea.

    ...

    “This is a campaign trip to Michigan today, make no doubt about it,” said Wiley. “They’re looking at their prospects in Michigan and thinking they’re in a lot of trouble, with all these visits.”

    Well, so glad then that Governor Snyder has decided to help out with the campaign! Thanks Rick!

    Care to make a donation?

    Edited to add: Check out this bit of revisionist history, because you are probably going to see it again and again next year.

    Romney, for one, has said the auto companies needed to go through a structured bankruptcy – as they did – but that taxpayers should not have been on the hook for the money lent them.

    Schostak made the same argument during the call today, saying capital markets – the banks – would have been there to invest in the auto companies, leaving the taxpayers out of it.

    “The auto bailout was welcome dollars,” Schostak said, but “bankruptcy should be handled through the capital markets.”

    Please point out which major TARP bailed-out bank was ready and willing to loan both GM and Chrysler billions of dollars in late 2008. Just name one.

    We'll wait.

    Thought so.

    Thankfully the Freep points out what a farce this argument is, and the fact that all of the Michigan congressional delegation (except the absent Walberg) voted to lend the automakers the money.

    This is What Victory Looks Like

    Hat tip to DKos. Might want to turn down your speakers for this must-see video.



    Big smiles watching that.

    Congratulations OWS NYC, you are making the point for the entire nation. Keep it up!

    Michigan Republicans Ready to Shift the Cost of Catastrophic Care to Taxpayers

    Wave goodbye to our insurance laws that provided rehabilitation and/or lifetime care for those who suffer catastrophic injuries in an auto accident, as the "small government" Republicans are suddenly more than happy to shift those costs away from the insurance industry and onto the taxpayers as the provider of last resort.

    The MI GOP, who spent years screaming about trial lawyers and have fought to limit your ability to sue for damages under the guise of "tort reform", is now telling you that you should take your claims to court if the unthinkable happens. And if that doesn't work for you, then the party that wants to privatize Social Security and eliminate Medicaid/Medicare wants you to turn to those programs should you need help paying for your medical costs.

    Either way, most of the bills will ultimately go to the taxpayer in yet another attempt to write laws that "privatize profits, socialize losses". The mind reels at the hypocrisy.

    The effort to end lifetime benefits for those severely injured in an automotive accident took its first big step forward Thursday under legislation the House Insurance Committee reported that makes major changes to the state's auto no-fault system.

    With the end of unlimited coverage for catastrophic care, motorists could choose from coverage limits of $500,000, $1 million and $5 million, under HB 4936.

    You can hazard a guess that the $5 million platform will cost the big bucks, and most motorists will go for the cheapest policy possible. But what happens if that doesn't cover the cost of injury? Well, when you have a gubernatorial appointee that has spent a lifetime improving the bottom line of insurance companies running the state's Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation, amazingly enough the majority of those costs will now go to anyone but the insurance companies.

    Rep. Roy Schmidt (D-Grand Rapids) said his concern remained about those who would choose the minimum level of coverage and then be unable to afford treatment for injuries that are well above $500,000.

    (OFIR Commissioner Kevin) Clinton said he is concerned about that as well, but people can use their health insurance, go on Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security, or they can sue people. He said that is the way it works in the other 49 states.

    "That's not a good answer," Schmidt said.

    Rep. Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek) agreed.

    "Basically, we're telling middle class families throughout the state now that if you actually are injured in a catastrophic accident, you're going to have to spend down to poverty levels to qualify for Medicaid to get the benefits that you would have had under no-fault," Segal said.

    Guess you'll just have to get a lawyer. Too bad your firm's hands will be tied after Republicans removed the pertinent legal language, making sure those damage awards are limited.

    The Republican amendments removed restrictions on motorcyclists' ability to sue for damages, struck language regarding the definition of pain and suffering, and exempted ambulance companies providing emergency services from the workers' compensation fee schedule.

    In what has become standard operating procedure for this Legislature, the bills were changed at the last minute and rushed through committee before they knew what they were voting for. This sets us up later for the "Incompetence Excuse", as seen earlier this year on other major initiatives regarding tax reform, welfare reform, the funding for MEDC credits, and the destruction of the film industry. Might as well add this one to the list now.

    Rep. Andrew Kandrevas (D-Southgate), the minority vice chair, asked the substitute not be voted on because his members received the 42-page bill about an hour and a half before the meeting started.

    We won't be having any of that "bipartisanship" stuff either, as Democrats were again denied a voice. And to make it all stick, we're going to make sure the citizens don't have a recourse through referendum should they be thinking about any of those silly ballot proposals.

    There were four Democratic amendments. All were rejected.

    They dealt with the pay for in-home care workers, adding more transparency to the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association board, making sure medical providers were reimbursed in a timely fashion and removing the $50,000 appropriation in the bill that would make it referendum-proof.

    But don't worry, these changes will open up the market for "competition", because we all know how that has drastically reduced the cost of insurance over the last decade or so, right?

    Right.