Sunday, December 25, 2011

EGR Xmas Eve

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yet Another Festivus Miracle

Cave.

House Republicans have reversed course and agreed to pass the payroll tax cut extension for two more months, reports National Journal, citing "Republican and Democratic sources." It comes after first Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and then President Obama reiterated that the House ought to pass the temporary compromise before starting to negotiate on a full-year extension of the 2 percent cut. House Speaker John Boehner originally rejected McConnell's request, saying he'd prefer to work out a deal on the full-year extension now.

Now watch these children act all magnanimous about it in 3... 2... 1....

Happy Festivus everybody. This is great news for all that were counting on unemployment checks to pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads - it will help make the season a little less stressful.

So, cheers to them, and may Santa check his naughty and nice list and act appropriately on the others. Going to be a big run on lumps of coal...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Seems to Me...

... you don't want to talk about it... seems to me... you just turn your pretty head and walk away...

Watch the House Republicans walk away from the American people, not even allowing a vote on the compromise that they asked for in the first place. Pretty hard to have "negotiations" if you close down the chamber and leave for vacation.

Fade to black...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Harry Says No

... to the latest Republican attempt to take the American people hostage.

But if Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is pinning his hopes for an 11th hour payroll tax cut deal on a conference committee, he is basically alone. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will not appoint conferees, his office stressed again to The Huffington Post on Tuesday morning.

"[There will be] no negotiations until Boehner follows through and passes the compromise that Senators Reid and McConnell negotiated at his request, and which received 90 percent support in the Senate," said a Senate Democratic leadership aide. "It's shameful that he won't even give it an up or down vote. Hopefully fellow Republicans can prevail upon their wayward colleagues in the House."

Asked specifically if that means Reid wouldn't appoint conferees, the aide said Reid would not.

The House shot down the Senate bill this morning, but from what I read they did it in a way that it could be taken back up again. If not, they get the blame for raising taxes on the middle class and cutting people off of unemployment.

Meanwhile, President Obama is enjoying a sudden rise in the polls on who is better equipped to deal with the problems of the middle class and taxes...

More: President says "no" as well.

Now, let’s be clear: Right now, the bipartisan compromise that was reached on Saturday is the only viable way to prevent a tax hike on January 1st. It’s the only one.

That's it. All on the House now.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Maybe It's Time to Shoot Some Hostages

Re: House Republicans will kill tax cut/unemployment insurance extension bill that was agreed to just last week.

Had enough yet?

Timothy Noah at the New Republic correctly identifies the problem with the "both sides do it" argument the generally comes from the majority of the media, explaining how the Republicans did this very same thing with the super committee, and then comes to the conclusion that America itself is slowly but surely realizing (emphasis mine)...

Pearlstein believes the solution is to refuse to give political contributions to either side until Democrats and Republicans learn to cooperate. But as the foregoing demonstrates, even capitulation by Democrats does not achieve agreement. The problem isn't Democrat vs. Republican. It's Republican opposition to Democrats, to other Republicans, and ultimately to anything that runs the slightest risk of being labelled a "compromise." The public seems to understand this. A recent Pew poll shows that the public blames Republicans in Congress specifically for intransigence. Independents blame Republicans in Congress specifically for intransigence. Even Republicans blame Republicans in Congress specifically for intransigence.

What we need is a game-theory model that demonstrates how to get the Washington press corps and third-way goo-goos to accept what everybody but them seems to know. The Republican party is at war with Democrats, with reality, and ultimately with itself. It has gone insane. The only strategy I can think of is to watch the GOP self-destruct and hope the result benefits Democrats in November.

If there is any time to hang the bad behavior around their necks, this is it. They had an agreement with the Senate. Senate passes bill on an overwhelming bipartisan vote. The House GOP then blows it up. A GOP source admits to CNN that R members are concerned about the "political benefit the White House could gain in the national dialogue over taxes." They are playing political games with people's lives for political purposes only.

It doesn't get any more clear-cut than this stunt they are pulling right now.

Again, capitulation does not work.

Knowing that, this may be the time for a showdown.

Update: Reid says no.

“Senator McConnell and I negotiated a compromise at Speaker Boehner’s request. I will not re-open negotiations until the House follows through and passes this agreement that was negotiated by Republican leaders, and supported by 90 percent of the Senate," Reid said in a statement.

Get the flack out flacking about this. Any D Senators left in town that can make the circuit?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

TIME Person(s) of the Year: The Protester

snyderprotest0239
The Michigan Capitol last March. One of the most amazing sights I ever saw.


Excellent choice from TIME Magazine:

"Massive and effective street protest" was a global oxymoron until — suddenly, shockingly — starting exactly a year ago, it became the defining trope of our times. And the protester once again became a maker of history.

Haven't had time to read the whole thing yet - but they are right, and it has been a global phenomenon.


(On a personal note - very busy right now, posting is going to be very sporadic to non-existent for the time being. I want to thank everyone who has been reading, hope to be back again someday on a limited basis, maybe with some lovely new photos for you... until then, have a great holiday season, and all the best on the New Year!)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mascoma Ethanol Plant in Kinross to Open in 2013

This hasn't been reported in Michigan yet that I've seen. The wood-to-ethanol plant in Kinross has been planned for over three years, recession and delays with the DOE holding up progress until now. Apparently all the funding issues have cleared up, and it's back on track again.

Valero Energy Corp., an independent U.S. oil refiner that owns ten corn-based ethanol plants, agreed to provide the majority of financing for a Mascoma Corp. plant in Michigan that will convert wood to ethanol.

Mascoma expects construction on the the $232 million plant to begin within six months and to be complete by the end of 2013, the Lebanon, New Hampshire-based biofuel company said today in a statement.

Wonder if Snyder will show up to take the credit. Anyone want to place a bet?

Newt Gingrich, Creator of the 1%

Since Newt boasts that he made Mitt Romney the wealthy man that he is today, let's give credit where credit is due: Newt helped to create the 1%.

Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich stumbled upon a new campaign line Tuesday during an appearance on CNBC. The former House speaker came to the conclusion that policies he shepherded through the House of Representatives led to GOP rival Mitt Romney's personal wealth.

"I was part of (the late Rep.) Jack Kemp's little cabal of supply-siders who, largely by helping convince (President Ronald) Reagan and then working with Reagan, profoundly changed the entire trajectory of the American economy in the nineteen-eighties," Gingrich said. "You could make the argument that I helped Mitt Romney get rich because I helped pass the legislation."

CNBC host Larry Kudlow asked if Gingrich had ever made that argument before, prompting the White House hopeful to say: "I am as of right this minute, it just occurred to me."

And that's why "a huge share of the nation's economic growth over the past 30 years has gone to the top one-hundredth of one percent", and we have the charts to prove it.

Thanks for clearing that up!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Newtmentum!

The other day I tweeted that someone should poll Michigan to see if we had been infected yet. The answer is yes. See what happens when you don't take your shots?

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has pulled slightly ahead of favorite son Mitt Romney among voters likely to participate in Michigan's Feb. 28 presidential primary election, according to a poll released today.

Gingrich was the choice of 30.75 percent of likely voters, passing Romney, the choice of 28.74 percent, according to the survey of Michigan voters likely to participate in the open primary, said John Yob, CEO of Strategic National, a Grand Rapids political consulting firm.

Fickle, fickle, fickle, these Republicans are. How could you ever trust them when they change candidates so often?

More polls: MIRS released a poll last night that shows Romney up 48-33, and third place went to Bachmann at 11. Here's the stupid thing though - they didn't include Paul, Huntsman, or Santorum in the poll, so how can it be credible?

Waiting on an EPIC...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Drift Away



One of my all-time favorite songs, RIP Dobie Gray. This is live at the BBC in 1974.

Another rememberance goes out today to Detroit-born, Muskegon-raised Harry Bratsburg, later known as Harry Morgan, of "Dragnet" and "M*A*S*H" fame. Morgan passed away at the age of 96 in Los Angeles.

Thank you gentlemen for the memories.

On Pearl Harbor Day

The ghosts of WWII still sail the Great Lakes. This is the Lee A. Tregurtha, loading up at the Marquette dock in 2010...

lee2207


And that's just the nose. Check the 1000 px version to get an idea of how big this ship really is.

We were on our way up to Big Bay, and stopped at the Presque Isle Park in Marquette for a bit to rest. I snapped a couple shots and marveled at the length of the dock, not realizing that I was looking at a decorated WWII veteran until I got home and looked up the name of the ship months later.

The history behind this tanker is a long and astounding one. Commissioned by the Navy in 1942 under the name USS Chiwawa, she served in the Atlantic Fleet providing fuel to destroyers and merchant ships, and won two Battle Stars during the years of 1943-44. In 1945 after a refit, she was transferred to the Pacific Fleet, arriving in Pearl Harbor in August. From there she ran convoys to Okinawa, earning the Navy Occupation Service Medal before being decommissioned in 1946 and transferred to the National Defense Reserve Fleet. The totals of her war service:

To summarize the USS Chiwawa's World War II service from her commissioning to September 1, 1945, the oiler journeyed approximately 164,000 miles (263,925 k) or the equivalent of close to 6.5 times around the world. Her largest monthly mileage achieved was in July, 1945 with 9,229 miles (14,852 k). She carried about 2.8 million barrels (445,860 m3) of gasoline, kerosene, diesel oil and fuel oil of which 417,000 barrels (66,401 m3) were transferred at sea to vessels of all sizes.

Sold to private interests in 1947, eventually she ended up with the Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Co. by 1960, and was retro-fitted for Great Lakes sailing. After various names and ownership changes, including a brief stint as the "William Clay Ford" under ownership of the Ford Motor Co., she became the Lee A. Tregurtha in 1989, named after the wife of Paul R. Tregurtha, an owner of Interlake Steamship Co. As far as I know, she is still sailing out there right now, at nearly 70 years old.

A salute goes out to all the veterans of WWII today. Whether we realize it or not, we are still living the results of that battle, the rise and fall of American manufacturing over these last seventy years starting with the need created during that time. It's something to keep in mind when you see these relics of the past, still in service in our lives today.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

More of This, Please

More of this guy. Please please please.



Hat tip to Think Progress. And listen to the applause at "it doesn't work". Here's the transcript:

"Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there’s been a certain crowd in Washington for the last few decades who respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If only we cut more regulations and cut more taxes – especially for the wealthy – our economy will grow stronger. Sure, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everyone else. And even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, they argue, that’s the price of liberty.

It’s a simple theory – one that speaks to our rugged individualism and healthy skepticism of too much government. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker. Here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible post-war boom of the 50s and 60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade."

Please keep that up. Step one is making people aware that trickle-down is a lie, it's always been a lie, and if you remove that from the national psyche, you can defeat the Republican economic agenda every time. Now, it's been a part of conventional wisdom for thirty years, so it may take a while, but we have to start somewhere.

Tax cuts for the wealthy, primarily those passed by Republicans in 2001 and 2003, lowered rates for the richest Americans to historically low levels — but those cuts were followed by massive deficits and weak job growth, not the economic boom conservatives promised. Anti-regulatory policies helped lead to a predatory financial system that busted the housing market, nearly collapsed the financial industry, and threw America into a recession that largely spared — and even enriched — the nation’s wealthiest. At the same time, millions of lower- and middle-class Americans lost jobs, retirement funds, and any hope of economic prosperity in their lifetime. Under 30 years of trickle down policies, wage growth has stagnated even as CEO pay has boomed.

Not only that, but we've let our infrastructure deteriorate to the point of crumbling. The cost of higher education and health care has skyrocketed. We've stopped doing "big things", like the space program. It's not all gloom and doom, there has been progress - but we could have done so much more.

Keep it up, Mr. President. And drag your party members with you. There's a few that could stand to learn the lesson as well.

The Michigan Republican Power Grab Continues

Not one, not two, but three stories this morning on last minute legislation that will continue to consolidate power for the Republicans.

First off, they want to make it harder to register to vote...

Sponsoring voter registration drives in Michigan would become more difficult under a proposed change in state law.

How difficult is a matter of debate.

A spokesman from the Fair Election Legal Network, a Washington D.C.-based organization, calls the proposed law “onerous,” and the League of Women Voters of Michigan also has declared its opposition.

The two groups are among those also opposed to a second bill that would require photo identification for in-person registration and absentee voting.

The Senate is expected to vote on Senate Bills 751 and 754 this week.

The proposed changes “create unnecessary barriers to voting while doing little to improve Michigan’s election system,” said a mass email sent Monday by the League of Women Voters, in which they urged people to contact their legislators to oppose Senate bills 751 and 754. “The bills create unnecessary barriers for people who want to vote and make voting requirements more confusing.”

Follow the link for details on the bills. At first glance, yes, they are raising more barriers to registration, especially for those hard-to-reach (read: poor, elderly, minority) individuals that voter drives tend to target. GOP-led voter suppression is happening all across the country, surprised it took our legislators this long to act.

Next up, back to the favorite flavor of the year, more punishment for the unions! You didn't think they were done, did you?

Public employers would no longer be allowed to use payroll deduction to collect contributions to political action committees, a move backers say separates government operations from politics but opponents say is aimed at keeping unions from helping Democrats.

The state House Redistricting and Elections Committee this morning voted 6-2 along party lines to approve a pair of bills preventing public bodies such as state agencies and municipalities from working with political action committees to collect political contributions.

Knew that was coming. Another swipe at the MEA.

And last but certainly not least, more bureaucracy and government oversight for any city or school district under the emergency manager provision. How much will we have to pay a "transition team" anyway? And how long would they stay in "transition"? Until the unions are totally gone?

Treasurer Andy Dillon was on WJR-AM on Tuesday talking about the state's preliminary financial review of Detroit. He said that the administration wants legislation aimed at helping communities coming out of an EM situation transition back.

SB 0865 outlines broad powers for the transition team. The board would have veto power over the municipality or school district's budget and could review monthly cash flow projections and compliance with the debt elimination plan. The board also could require a consensus revenue estimating conference. And the board would have approval over collective bargaining agreements.

Bust 'em up, hold 'em down, and then keep 'em down, eh? Whew. That's a whole lotta government for a party that proclaims we need "less government", don't you think?

The rush is on to throw as much odious legislation at the wall that they possibly can before they take their six weeks off for Xmas break, hopes are that you will forget all about it by the time they come back - and that's usually what happens.

Maybe someone is keeping a list...

When You Elect People That Hate the Government...

... don't be surprised when government stops working.

Congress is close to wrapping up one of its least productive sessions in recent memory, as the House and Senate have passed a scant number of bills compared with other non-election years, and President Obama has signed the fewest measures into law in at least two decades.

...

Through Nov. 30, the House had passed 326 bills, the fewest in at least 10 non-election years, according to annual tallies in the Congressional Record. The Senate had approved 368 measures, the fewest since 1995.

By comparison, the House approved 970 bills in 2009 and 1,127 in 2007. The Senate totals for those years were 478 and 621, respectively. (Both chambers are expected to pass more bills before adjourning this month, but probably not enough to change the overall picture.)

And the White House need not fear an ink shortage — Obama had signed only 62 bills into law through November. The last time there was a new Republican majority in the House and a Democrat in the White House, 1995, President Bill Clinton signed 88 measures.

Deja vu all over again. We've seen this movie before here in Michigan in the run-up to 2010, but don't forget that it was happening in other states as well (ask Rendell). One can only hope that we are not a leading indicator in this regard, but if we are, here is basically how it's going to go:

Republicans obstruct the government when the Democrats hold any branch of power, refusing to compromise on any and all legislation. They then turn around and proclaim that government just doesn't work and needs to "get out of the way", people get discouraged at the constant bickering and lack of progress and don't show up at the polls, Republicans then take back power, and suddenly the government IS the answer to all our problems, and it will be used to further the right-wing agenda only.

Republicans are making the most of their majority in Michigan's state government, approving an above-average number of new laws in the first 11 months of the state Legislature's 2011-12 session.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley have combined to sign 231 new public acts since taking office in January. The bills were sent their way by a Legislature that has Republican majorities in both the House and Senate.

The new laws affect a broad range of topics from the state budget to schools to how financially struggling local governments are managed. About 95 percent of the new laws come from legislation whose primary sponsor was Republican.

Will the voters recognize this pattern? They might. Krugman seems to think that 2012 will be "a year of Republican triumph", but I think he underestimates how deeply unhappy people are with Republican governance out in (some of) the states.

The mood here in Michigan has definitely soured. Wisconsin seems to be on the verge of a rare gubernatorial recall. Kasich in Ohio is suddenly backing down off his previous arrogant bluster. Scott in Florida has poll numbers that are in the dumps, I'm guessing LePage is still down there as well, and on and on... if all these states continue to push an unpopular Republican agenda, perhaps we can hope to see a backlash in the next election.

If not, well, we can't say we weren't warned. You can bet that if the Republicans gain control in DC you will see the same thing happen, and a government that serves their agenda only will be a wonderful working thing indeed. For their friends, anyway.

For you, not so much.

Monday, December 05, 2011

There's Just No Pleasing You People

So. You were grumpy with the cool progressive visionary governor. Now you don't like the authoritarian business guy governor. Just what is it that will make you people happy, huh? From the MSU State of the State Fall Survey:

Gov. Rick Snyder's favorable rating plummeted again, and has fallen consistently since taking office.

Only 19.3 percent of Michigan residents rated Snyder's job performance as "excellent" or "good," down from 31.5 percent in the spring survey and 44.5 percent when he came into office.

MLive (and survey director MSU's Charles Ballard) goes on to say that Snyder is now below Granholm's numbers - as compared to when she left office. Why they don't compare them to her numbers at the same time in the term, which would have been Fall 2003, I really don't know. I can't get the damn MSU .pdf to open, but I believe her approval was still in the 50's on a timeline comparison, so, really, there is no comparison. Rick has driven his happy bus right over the cliff.

You thought you wanted to "run the state like a business" and you were WRONG. Now you're unhappy. And lookee there, it's his own people who are a big part of the problem.

Snyder's falling numbers are due in large part to a growing lack of support from Republicans, Ballard said. Nearly 66 percent of Republicans rated Snyder's job performance favorably in the spring survey.

Now, support from the GOP is down to 32.3 percent.

But... but... but... you picked him! And he's got a Republican legislature, so don't be looking in that direction! This is all on you, Republicans. All of it.

If this is the way you're going to be, I don't see how we trust you with this presidential primary stuff. You'll just screw that up too. Maybe the Michigan Republican Party needs an Emergency Manager to pick your winner, because you obviously can't handle the "tough choices" necessary here.

Geez.

But have some faith, because there is one group of people that we all are really disappointed with...

Less than 1 percent of survey respondents gave Congress an "excellent" or "good" mark, a harsher assessment than what's been reported in national surveys, Ballard said.

Those polls typically find about 9 to 14 percent of the county approving of Congress' job.

Less than one. And Obama is coming in at 40.5, so he's the big winner here in Unhappy Land this time around.

Good for him.

Although, maybe we're not much of a prize...

Made in America by a Japanese Company for South Korean Customers

Got a laugh out of this one.

Toyota will begin exporting Kentucky-made Camrys to South Korea beginning in January at an annual rate of about 6,000.

This will be the second model Toyota exports to South Korea. The Japanese automaker began shipping its Sienna minivan, assembled in Princeton, Ind., to South Korea last month.

“The export of thousands of Camry vehicles to South Korea is an important development that builds on the work of our talkented U.S. team members as well as our extensive investments across North America,” said Yoshimi Inaba, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor North America, in a statement.

The Camry, built at Toyota’s 7,000-worker assembly plant in Georgetown, Ky., and at the Subaru of Indiana plant in Lafayette, has been the best-selling car in America for 13 of the past 14 years. This is the first time Camrys built in the U.S. have been shipped outside of North America.

Well, OK, I guess. Got that free trade deal signed, might as well take advantage of that cheap American labor.

Ahem.

This is your new global economy. If assembling the cars here is where we fit in, so be it.

Justice After All

Ron Santo
Santo leads the crowd in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in 2008


Sometimes the wrongs are made right.

A year too late for him to enjoy it, 30 years past the day he should’ve been selected, the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans’ Committee has finally elected the most deserving candidate not in Cooperstown, Ron Santo.

For those who doubt, here is my statistical analysis of the five leading playing candidates:

The simplest tool for judging a player against his contemporaries is, I think, the most overlooked one – exact comparisons, from a guy’s debut season through his final year.

Awards are useful, especially as an indicator of greatness – in Ron Santo’s case, the five straight NL Gold Gloves 1964-68 pretty much confirm his defensive prowess – consider the one from 1964, when Cardinals’ third baseman and defensive hero Ken Boyer was MVP, but Santo still won the Glove.

The hardware is nice. But statistics are better.

In short, in his era, from when he came up with the Cubs in 1960 through his last year with the White Sox in 1964, Ron Santo was one of the top ten hitters in all of baseball.

Santo was fifth in RBI in his era.

Santo was ninth in Runs in his era.

Santo was tenth in Homers in his era.

Santo was tenth in Hits in his era.

There are 17 players besides Santo on these four lists of the top ten offensive producers of the 1960’s. Only four men on all four lists: Aaron, Frank Robinson, Billy Williams – and Santo. Even the three men who are only on three lists, compared to Santo’s four, are all in Cooperstown already.

Keith Olbermann has more on the stats, but check out the Wiki for the full story of Ron's life and career. It was quite remarkable. I'm too young to remember Ron as a player, but I sure loved him as an announcer - and I miss him dearly.

Maybe there is some justice in this world after all...

More: Al Yellon at Bleed Cubbie Blue has a nice write-up on this story, and ends with this:

Congratulations, Ron, for an honor long deserved, and better received now, than not at all. Don't be sad on this day because he's not here. He wouldn't have wanted that; last year, in eulogizing him, Pat Hughes reminded all of us to remember Ron with a smile. Do that on this happy day, and also, let's turn this into the biggest celebration the Hall of Fame has ever seen.

Amen.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Nobody Makes It Better Than Michigan

Look what we can do.



Dowding Industries first appeared on my radar way back in 2007 when the push for the RPS started in earnest; since then, they rode through the turmoil of the Great Recession, forced to lay off people but eventually hiring them all back and adding more, and they came out the other side with flying colors.

"It matters where things are made, and nobody makes it better than Michigan," Senator Debbie Stabenow, (D-MI.) said.

As of Monday, nobody casts hubs and other components for wind turbines faster than Dowding Industries Astraeus Wind in Eaton Rapids.

"It's the fastest in the world," Jeff Metts, president of Dowding Industries Astraeus Wind, said.

Senator Stabenow, joined by leaders in business and labor, announced a machine that produces the space needed to connect parts of a wind turbine. This machine is not a new idea, but the speed in which it works is record-setting.

"So we developed a machine that could take the process time from 30 hours down to four and a half," Metts said.

The facility where the machine is housed, when at full capacity, could bring in roughly 200 new jobs to Eaton Rapids.

The Lansing State Journal ran a nice profile on Jeff Metts, telling the story of how this company almost went to Iowa until Michigan made the business case to keep them here, how they didn't receive the MEGA credit that was lined up because the recession kept them from creating the jobs needed to reach that incentive - but now they have bounced back, with sales up 37% and expected to hit around $50 million this year. Dowding employs 200 people with plans to hire more - but trouble looms on the horizon again, this time in the form of willful opposition on the part of some in Congress to creating jobs in America.

Republicans are trying to turn the country against green manufacturing and clean energy, as you know. Metts had the unfortunate experience of having to deal with do-nothing Tim Walberg when he went to Washington to urge that Congress extend the Production Tax Credit, a crucial component for competing with other countries that are heavily subsidizing their manufacturing for this industry. Walberg, as you could have predicted, said "no" to jobs for Michigan.

Metts said he was disappointed when he visited Washington recently to meet with legislators, including Rep. Tim Walberg, a Republican from Tipton, about extending the tax credit.

"I told (Walberg) the wind industry needs to be developed and be supported so it makes products and a profit," Metts said. "He listened and seems to understand but talked about how (the federal government) can't continue to subsidize us. I said you have been subsidizing oil and gas for 40 years, and they don't need it anymore. We just need it for another five years."

Fossil subsidies far outweigh those for renewable energy, $409 billion to $66 billion in 2010. 23 governors and 369 organizations have joined the effort to urge Congress to renew the production credit for four years before it expires at the end of 2012. Big names are behind it too - people like National Association of Manufacturers, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Western Governors’ Association, the United Steelworkers, and many others.

If they don't do it, we may lose the jobs that are already here. It's that simple. Metts has indicated as such, and there are other manufacturers in Michigan saying the same thing.

Along with Michigan's renewable energy standards, the federal production tax credit, which originally was approved in 1992 and extended four times, is largely responsible for the growth of the wind industry in Michigan, said Peter Gibson, vice president of sales with Danotek Motion Technologies, a Canton Township-based wind turbine component maker that produces an advanced permanent magnet generator.

"There is a big effort to extend the tax credit because the companies that develop the wind farms need to have some certainty about the financials of the commitment of their projects before Jan. 1, 2013," Gibson said. "If the credit is not extended in the next few months, there is a risk of those developers delaying purchase of turbines and services, which could result in a significant slowdown in orders and business," Gibson said.

During the past 19 years, the tax credit has been allowed to expire three times, resulting in boom and bust cycles in the wind industry where installation orders dropped by as much as 75 percent, said Jeff Bocan, managing director with Farmington Hills-based venture capital and private equity firm Beringea.

This is unacceptable. One wind farm slated for Indiana has already canceled its plans due to this uncertainty; they also cite Indiana's lack of a mandatory RPS as a reason as well. How many others are out there? How many jobs are we losing? How many orders won't be coming Dowding's way, due to representatives like Walberg that are dragging their feet for partisan purposes only?

If the Dems were smart, they would round up a list of these projects and start advertising that House Republicans are "job killers" - because they are. Americans are still in favor of green jobs despite the Republican (Koch) effort to paint renewables in a bad light. It's a winning issue, as long as Democrats don't run away from it - and start fighting back.

So, cheers to Dowding for sticking with the plan through the tough times, and cheers to Senator Stabenow and Co. for highlighting this Michigan innovation and the jobs it can create. And here's to hoping that her colleagues get on board and continue to push to develop America's clean energy efforts. They will be pleasantly surprised by the reaction of the voters if they do.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Dillon Calls for State Review of Detroit's Finances

Boom, there it is.

Michigan Treasurer Andy Dillon today ordered a review of the finances of the city of Detroit, a preliminary step in what could lead to appointment of an emergency manager.

The anticipated move comes amid public opposition from Mayor Dave Bing and members of the Detroit City Council.

“While we have long hoped the mayor and city council would agree on a viable recovery plan, given the mayor’s description of the city’s financial condition and the prospect the city may run out of cash in mere months, it has become clear that a preliminary financial review is not only warranted but necessary,” Dillon said in a news release. “We must begin the review process, in the event the city does not develop a workable plan. The longer we wait to address Detroit’s financial problems, the more painful the eventual solutions become."

Per Paul Egan, here is what happens next:

• Takes up to 30 days and requires written notice

• Can be triggered in several ways. The law includes a catchall reason for ordering a financial review if the state treasurer detects "facts or circumstances ... indicative of municipal financial stress."

• Local elected and appointed officials must provide requested information.

WHAT'S NEXT
If the financial review identifies "probable financial stress," the governor appoints a financial review team that has up to 60 days to perform a more in-depth study.

Follow the link for the rest. Here is the .pdf of the formal request, with Dillon's reasoning for ordering the review.

I'm guessing "financial stress" is a given, it's what they are going to do about it that is the real question. Long time Lansing veteran and former state Treasurer Bob Kleine doesn't think an EM could fix the problem anyway, due to lack of tax base and cuts to revenue sharing.

Good luck Detroit.

(Per Gongwer, add Inkster to the pile today too, but I'm guessing that won't get a lot of press)

Consumers Energy Cancels Coal Plant in Bay County

It had been on hold. Apparently they have changed their plans altogether.

Consumers Energy will not build a new $2.3 billion coal-fired power plant on the shores of Saginaw Bay in Hampton Township, Township Supervisor Terry Spegel said Friday.

A Consumers spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment but Spegel said he was told of the news by the company.

Update: Here is the explanation from Consumers:

David Mengebier, senior vice president of governmental affairs, said a surplus generating capacity in the Midwest market, along with some of the lowest natural gas prices the market has seen in years played into the decision.

"It would have been great if we could have built the $2 billion-plus coal plant in Bay County but the market conditions right now tell us that doesn't make sense," Mengebier said. "It's much less economically attractive."

Consumers on Friday also announced tentative plans to suspend operations of seven smaller coal-fired units on Jan. 1, 2015, including two units at Karn Weadock in Hampton Township. Other Consumers operations that are set to be suspended in 2015 include three units at J.R. Whiting Generating Complex near Luna Pier, and two at the B.C. Cobb Generating Plant in Muskegon.

Total Recall

Now that the people were successful in removing a state lawmaker, it must be time to change the law.

Less than a month after the rare recall of a state lawmaker, Republican leaders in the Michigan Senate proposed a constitutional amendment on Thursday to limit the reasons for which an elected public official can be recalled.

Michigan law now allows a recall to be attempted for just about any reason, including an elected official’s policies and votes. The proposed amendment would limit a recall to reasons such as certain criminal convictions, official misconduct or misuse of public resources. An elected official could not be recalled for the “discretionary performance of a lawful act or of a prescribed duty.”

The proposal comes less than a month after voters in Genesee County narrowly recalled state Republican state Rep. Paul Scott from office for his education policy and budget votes.

Hmmm. Don't seem to remember the Republicans being so hot to move on this when out-of-state anti-tax groups were funneling money to Leon Drolet in the attempt to recall Democratic lawmakers who voted to raise taxes in 2007. But now that we are living in the age of the Big Power Grab, might as well take away this right from the citizens too, eh?

Only nineteen states have the power of recall over state officials, and in eight of those, you need specific reasons like the ones listed above. Michigan is a rarity in this regard - but so are successful recall attempts. It's virtually impossible to recall a governor, incredibly difficult to recall a representative or senator, a bit easier at the local level, where petty differences have led to some abuse in certain areas of the state.

So be it. Yes, they can be annoying. Yes, they can be frivolous. But ultimately, the decision to remove an elected official is still in the hands of the voters, and that's where it needs to stay, now more than ever. Since we are also living in the age where campaigns for elected office are intentionally deceptive and/or vague on the details of how an elected official would govern once in power, it's a very important right to keep intact.

Consider this: Does anyone think that Rick Snyder would have been elected had he come out and said, "Yes, I'm going to make deeps cuts to funding for your schools and cities, raise taxes on seniors, take away your middle-class tax deductions, cut unemployment benefits, throw people off of food assistance, sign a law that would allow for the complete takeover of your city, and to top it off, I'm going to give more tax cuts to business owners?" It's doubtful. And even after all of that, we still couldn't get a recall on the ballot, although that can probably be chalked up to lack of money and time to collect enough signatures. They came up with nearly a half a million, which is an astounding number for a group that didn't have the backing of the party or professional organization.

Political campaigns have always carried a certain amount of deception to be sure, but lately it's been turned into an art form. Any sense of shame and decency has been thrown right out the window. The Romney campaign flat-out lied in an ad recently, and then bragged about it later. That's where we are at, laughing at the lie, and happy to get away with it. And now that we are also in the age of unlimited, secret donations to campaigns to purchase this type of false advertising, citizens need to retain the right to remove those that have intentionally deceived the public, if the public is that unhappy with how the official has chosen to govern once in office. In the case of four-year terms, if you have to wait for the next election, it may be too late.

Changing Michigan's law would take a constitutional amendment, and that's no easy feat to pull off, either. It will take 2/3rds in the House and Senate before it would go to the voters, and it may look like an attempt by lawmakers to protect their own jobs. That probably won't go over well with the majority of voters at this point. But who knows. People may be sick of the squabbling too, and voluntarily give up their right to recall. Hard to believe, but stranger things have happened. For now, let's hope it doesn't come to that.

We may be very sorry someday if it does.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

One



In honor of World AIDS Day.

"You say
Love is a temple
Love a higher law
Love is a temple
Love the higher law
You ask me to enter
But then you make me crawl
And I can't be holding on
To what you got
When all you got is hurt

One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
Sisters
Brothers
One life
But we're not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

One..."


A Righteous Veto

Snyder tells arrogant Legislature to stuff it. Back story here.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed his first piece of legislation today after 11 months in office.

Snyder vetoed a bill passed by the Republican Legislature that would prohibit state agencies from enacting regulations with standards that exceed federal regulations.

In his veto message, Snyder said he strongly supports the bill’s goal of reducing burdensome regulations but is concerned the legislation “would inhibit the state’s ability to work with businesses and citizens to ensure that our regulatory structure fits Michigan’s unique profile.”

Critics have said that Michigan has unique characteristics that sometimes call for unique regulations. For example, as the Great Lakes state it might need clean water regulations more stringent than federal rules.

The way Adler put it, the bills would have allowed for stricter regulations, but only if approved by the Legislature, and not at the discretion of the governor or the agencies that actually have to deal with the issues.

Bzzzt. Bad idea. Congrats to Governor Snyder for displaying some sense here, and for showing these yahoos who is ultimately the boss.

Ha.

Bing to Present "United Front" Against State Intervention

Wait, what? We are all over the board at this point. The DNews keeps changing their story copy too. Here is the latest:

A state review of the city's finances could come as early as Friday, but Mayor Dave Bing won't be the one asking for it, his spokesman said today.

State officials have repeatedly said they want the city to initiate the review process as it works to bail itself out of a financial crisis. But Bing has refused, saying he wants the city to fix its budget without state intervention.

City spokesman Dan Lijana said Gov. Rick Snyder is moving toward a review of the city's finances, but "Mayor Bing will not be requesting it."

Bing will join city council members, union leaders, ministers and businesspeople at a 5 p.m. press conference at City Hall to address the looming financial review and present a united front against state intervention in Detroit's affairs.

Representatives for the governor and state treasurer said today the financial review is under consideration but would not say when it might happen.

More to be revealed at the news conference...

Update: The news conference basically featured Bing and the Council and labor leaders telling Lansing no, we are running this city, we don't want an EM, and by the way, where's our money. Snyder looks like he may appoint a review anyway.

Are we headed for a showdown here? Or is all this a bluff to bring everyone together to avoid an EM? Stay tuned...

One Emergency Manager for Detroit, Coming Up

As predicted, say goodbye to Detroit as you knew it.

Gov. Rick Snyder is expected as early as Friday to begin the process to appoint an emergency manager for the city of Detroit, the Free Press has learned.

Snyder is expected to call for a financial review, the first step in state intervention. Both Mayor Dave Bing and Detroit City Council have refused to initiate such a review.

Bing and Snyder had a conversation Wednesday, and Snyder informed the mayor he intended to start the emergency manager process.

Snyder also has been involved in conversations with the council and the faith-based community to gather support for state intervention, according to a source close to the situation.

I've seen too many editorials from locals like Riley and Lessenberry, too many nods from leadership that this is the way they prefer to go. Bing didn't want a consent decree because it couldn't extract major concessions from the unions, and that is the main goal here. Now it's going to happen, and it has to happen before that petition to repeal PA 4 hits the system.

But when you have rhetoric like this...

Anger and calls for unity set the tone for a Detroit City Council meeting this morning designed to solicit cost-savings ideas from labor unions to avoid insolvency and the appointment of an emergency manager.

Detroiters and some council members likened an emergency manager to a dictator and slave owner.

"We as a community and as a people can agree to disagree but at the end of the day we have to decide what our destiny is going to be before someone comes in as a master, as someone to control the plantation," Councilman Kwame Kenyatta said.

"We don't need someone else's consent to do the business that the people put us in charge of."

... you just have to pray for the city.

Seriously.

Not to mention that this has got to be shaking the Democratic political structure right to the core, too. Flint, Detroit, centers of public employee union power and money that will be very angry and/or discouraged, their numbers and influence slowly being whittled away. The MEA is under constant attack from the Legislature and fighting for their survival. The UAW is still standing and strong, but certainly not as numerous as they used to be.

The Republicans mean to break these working people - and along with them break the very base of their political opponent's power - and it sure looks like they are going to succeed.

Or, will this be enough to finally rally everyone to stand up together? Unknown at this point.

In the end, this may force the Democrats to break out of their cocoon and start reaching out to other constituentcies instead of being so insulated all the time, and ultimately that may be a very good thing, but it might be a very rough road from here to there.

Out of the ashes...

More: The Freep is adding to this story as it develops. Snyder's office is already back-pedaling on the idea:

“A preliminary review absolutely does not equate to an emergency manager,” Wurfel said today. “The governor is hopeful we can avoid an emergency manager for the city.”

Then perhaps this is just a threat to leverage those concessions? Sure. But anyone that looks at the books will probably come to the conclusion that expenditures cannot be sustained as they are, which is the conclusion that Bing and the Council have already made. Take it from there.

Even more: The DNews has Snyder as "undecided", but read between the lines:

"The governor has talked with the mayor …and basically what he was hoping, and was still urging, was that the mayor and the City Council can come together and come up with a shared viable solution to the fiscal crisis," spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said. A financial review would be the first step toward state intervention in Detroit's finances, whether through a consent agreement or appointment of an emergency manager.

Snyder told The Detroit News editorial board today that he has no immediate plans to pursue a consent agreement or emergency manager, although he is keeping close tabs on the situation.

Do it, or we will do it for you.