Friday, August 29, 2014

TGIF Linkages

This thread is updated throughout the day, so keep checking back!
Some of the news and views on the internet this morning that have caught my eye...

MARK SCHAUER: WHY WE'RE FIGHTING FOR MICHIGAN
On Labor Day, Mark Schauer's two-minute video essay on his vision for Michigan is especially appropriate.

MICHIGAN DEMOCRATS UNANIMOUSLY PASS RESOLUTION CONDEMNING DAVID TROTT'S UNETHICAL FORECLOSURE PRACTICES
The issue isn't that David Trott, the GOP congressional candidate in Oakland County, is a vulture who has become incredibly wealthy preying on the misfortune of others (he has). He also lobbied his Republican buddies in the Legislature to make it easier and more profitable for him to prey on the misfortune of others.
The Democratic Party has called him out on it but, inevitably, the media will ignore the resolution on the grounds that a political party is all about winning elections and shouldn't be taken seriously on actual policy questions.
The always excellent Eclectablog details the resolution, and why Trott isn't exactly an example of WWJD.
(Full disclosure: the Curmudgeon was a member of the Democratic Party platform committee which recommended the resolution to the full convention.)

TERRI LYNN LAND'S TRANSPORTATION PLAN IS... INTERESTING
The non-partisan Alliance for American Manufacturing has look at Silent Terri's plans to cut federal transportation spending, forcing Michigan to double the gas tax just to stay in place (and a pothole-filled place it is). They aren't exactly impressed, especially when it could end up costing American jobs.
"Here's the problem: Land's plan would eliminate federal Buy America requirements, which ensure that the steel, iron and other manufactured that go into Michigan's roads, bridges and highways are Made in America, whenever possible."
Terri Lynn Land: Still Not Ready for Prime Time

Jack Lessenberry: WORKERS IN MINNESOTA SEE WAGE GAINS, WHLE WORKERS IN MICHIGAN SEE STEADY WAGE LOSSES
Still another study demonstrates that Michigan's economic game-plan of cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations, slashing education and multiple takeaways from the working poor and middle class isn't working. Instead of trying to be Mic
hissippi, maybe the Great Lakes State should emulate the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

CBO Projects Economy to Grow Through 2024

I thought that Kenyan socialist had destroyed our economy. I've been told Obamacare will send us back into recession.
Apparently not.
Two documents from the Congressional Budget Office make the case for a sustained decade of economic growth: a blog post and a 15-slide presentation which lay out its economic projections of a gradually strengthening economy through 2024.
Take note of where the bottom drops out, and where the recovery begins. And the answers: "Bush" for the former, "Obama" for the latter.

UPDATED: LCV Flips from Snyder to Schauer


The Michigan League of Conservation Voters endorsed Rick Snyder for Governor in 2010. In an apparent case of buyers' remorse, the LCV today endorsed Mark Schauer to replace Snyder.

"Mark Schauer has an incredible track record in advancing policies that protect our natural resources while growing Michigan's economy. We are proud to endorse Mark Schauer today because he understands that our Pure Michigan is more than just an ad campaign. It's a way of life."

The Link Letter

This post is updated throughout the day. Don't miss one exciting link: check back often!
Catching the Curmudgeon's eye as we he recovers from the "we're back" traffic in East Lansing...

FEDS: U.S. AUTO PRODUCTION RATE HIGHEST SINCE 2002
Wondering why Michigan has added 300,000 jobs since the Bush recession? Look no further than the auto industry. By the way - the Governor of Michigan has little or nothing to do with how many cars get built and sold around the world. Jennifer Granholm didn't cause the disaster at GM, and Rick Snyder didn't save GM. Michigan's "comeback" was started by the FEDERAL action to save GM and Chrysler. Thank you President Obama for taking what, at the time, was unpopular but decisive action to save America's most important manufacturing industry...and save Michigan's economy.



MICHIGAN DEMOCRACY ON THE ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST
Michigan Constitution - Section 9
The people reserve to themselves the power to propose laws and to enact and reject laws, called the initiative, and the power to approve or reject laws enacted by the legislature, called the referendum...


Once again, the Legislature has voted to circumvent the constitutional right of Michigan voters to have a referendum. The new system: you collect the signatures, and if we don't like your position we'll figure out how to make your petitions invalid.
This time the issue was wolf hunting. In the past, the Legislature has thumbed its collective nose at voters on the issues of Emergency Fiscal Managers, the minimum wage, rape insurance and an earlier wolf-hunting petition.
This band of Republicans looks on the state's Constitution as a list of suggestions, not the ultimate law of the state.

UPDATE: MICHIGAN WOLF HUNTING MAY WAIT UNTIL 2015 WHILE OPPONENTS PREPARE LEGAL CHALLENGE TO NEW LAW

NEW NONPROFIT AIMS TO BOOST MICHIGAN WOMEN'S ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE
While "Silent Terri" Lynn Land sips coffee and smiles smugly, term-limited Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer will actually do something in support of women's health care.
The East Lansing mom will be the face of an organization educating women on the impact of public policy on their own bodies. As a non-profit they won't endorse candidates, but you can be sure the GOP will (continue to) attack Whitmer for standing up for the half of our population that gives birth.
The tipping point for Whitmer was the passage of the infamous "rape insurance" law which forces women to buy an insurance rider (often unavailable) to have coverage for terminating pregnancies resulting from rape and incest.

MDOT: PIECEMEAL APPROACH TO ROADS KEY FLOOD FACTOR IN DETROIT
Thanks, Legislature, for only passing a half-assed response to fixing the worst roads in America. Yes, it will mean raising taxes and we know that tax increases are a capital crime in tea-party-world.
According to MDOT 58% of the pumps used to remove flood water from roads are in poor condition.
You'd think even the pea-brains in the tea party would understand that increasing taxes to fix our transportation system is far less expensive than dealing with the damage resulting from a broken system.

ONE DEMOCRAT'S GAMBLE ON CLIMATE CHANGE
Gary Peters is following in the tradition set by Senators Phil Hart and Carl Levin: telling the truth regardless of short-term political consequences. Hart (so beloved one of the two Senate Office Buildings is named in his honor) and Levin (winner of six elections) understood that voters will respect and trust a Senator who tells the truth.
Peters understands it, too. He is willing to take on the massively wealthy fossil-fuel industries to speak truth about our climate. Politico.com seems somewhat nonplussed by the concept of treating voters like adults.
And it's interesting to note that "Silent Terri" was unavailable to talk with Politico about the campaign. She apparently won't talk with anyone who isn't already on the Koch brothers' payroll.

THE FABRIC OF OUR STATE
In a related article, Pulitzer Prize winning journalism Eric Freedman speculates on the role of environmental issues in the fall campaign. He sees signs, reflected in community newspapers, that environmental issues ranging from mining, the Enbridge oil mess and Asian carp to transportation, will play a role in November's vote.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Schauer edges ahead of Snyder, 45% to 43%, in new governor race poll

This is the first lead for Schauer in the EPIC/MRA poll since April 2013.

"Snyder’s support among Republicans has softened slightly, Schauer’s name recognition has improved sharply, and he has widened his lead over Snyder among female voters" according to the Detroit Free Press story.

The recent barrage of stories detailing scandals small and not-so-small in the Snyder administration appear to be sinking in as voters start to pay attention to the race.

There's even more upside for Schauer - his name recognition, while significantly higher, is still only at 71%. Schauer and Snyder have similar margins among their party bases, good news for Schauer in a blue-leaning state. And he has a 15-point lead among women.

Linking In

Some of the good stuff on the internet in mid-week...

SHOULD CHEVY DEALERSHIP GET STATE INCENTIVES TO 'STAY AFLOAT'? MEDC BOARD APPROVES RENOVATION PLAN
This makes no sense for economic development. Local-economy retail businesses don't bring wealth into the community, they just split up local spending. If one dealership fails (and there's a market need) another will open. So why are we spending tax dollars to prop up this dealership?





DEMS LAUNCH NEW AD ATTACKING TERRI LYNN LAND ON SUPPORT FOR WOMEN
Silently sipping coffee apparently didn't end the debate for "Silent Terri".


40 PERCENT OF RESTAURANT WORKERS LIVE IN NEAR-POVERTY
Workers are being exploited, and so are the taxpayers -- the social safety net amounts to a massive subsidy for restaurant chain owners. One-in-six restaurant workers lives below the poverty level, being asked to live on third-world wages.
You would expect that workers in such dire straights would want to unionize but, of course, the GOP makes sure that won't help them with their "Right to Work for Less" laws.

ECLECTABLOG - TERRI LYNN LAND EMBRACES TEA PARTY'S "FORCE STATES TO RAISE GAS TAXES ON THEMSELVES TO FIX ROADS ACT"
And in the process, "Silent Terri" tries to blame Gary Peters for Michigan not getting enough money back from Washington.
Right. It's all the fault of a member of the minority party in the U.S. House. Actually, Michigan's status as a "donor state" has been going on for decades thanks to the growing dominance of southern states, especially Florida and Texas.
She wants to eliminate the federal gas tax and leave the transportation infrastructure to the states. In Michigan, that would mean doubling the gas tax. Think the Michigan Legislature is ready to do that? No. They'll just let our oh-so-crappy roads get even worse.

JUDGES CHIDE STATE LAWYERS OVER GAY MARRIAGE BANS
Significantly the most skeptical judge was a Reagan appointee to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals as he lambasted lawyers defending marriage inequality in Wisconsin and Indiana.
"It was a tradition to not allow blacks and whites to marry - a tradition that got swept away," the 75-year-old judge said. Prohibition of same sex marriage, Posner said, derives from "a tradition of hate ... and savage discrimination" of homosexuals.


GOVERNOR'S RACE SPENDING COULD TOP $40M, WITH MUCH ON POLITICAL ADS
It won't be a record.
Thanks to billionaire Rich DeVos' self-funded $38-million effort in 2006 (which, you may recall, failed) the 2014 will likely claim 2nd place on the spending charts. Much of the money, according to Michigan Campaign Finance Network guru Rich Robinson, will come from out-of-state.
The Snyder campaign will be back on the TV after Labor Day; Schauer is running a commercial now reemphasizing his theme of "an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy."
Hopefully we'll see more shots of Governor Snyder SCUBA diving in his swimming pool.

At the Democratic Party state convention last weekend delegates were urged to call, email and Tweet Governor Snyder to protest a second 10-percent pay cut for Detroit teachers (they took a 10% cut in 2011, with no raises after that). The DPS dictator Emergency Manager, Jack Martin, said he also planned to put 43 students in some classroom.
Pay teachers less, increase their workload, minimize individual attention for students: not exactly a formula for education excellence. (Maybe the idea is to incentivize parents to send kids to those awesomely effective profit-based charter schools?)

The Daily Show: Racism, Fox News Style

Jon Stewart, thankfully, is back from a summer break. He came out with both barrels last night with a two segments on Fox News' onslaught of reverse racism in its "coverage" of the events in Ferguson, Missouri.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Game Changer?

The headline says it all:
"The NRA Pissed Off the Wrong Nerd Genius".
The world's richest person and most generous philanthropist is getting political. Until now, Bill Gates has been content to eradicating polio and malaria, strengthening education, attacking contaminated waters supplies and the like. But now, he has taken aim at the gun lobby (joining with small-time billionaire Michael Bloomberg) with a $1-million donation in support of a Washington background-check initiative. Just to keep things in the family, his Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has kicked in $500,000.

The Michigan Policast Is Up

This week's political gabfest includes:

  • a recap state conventions for both major parties
  • Christine's R-rated evaluation of Rick Snyder's empathy for regular people
  • Amy's report on the growing military might of Michigan police departments, and 
  • an interview with 8th District congressional candidate Eric Schertzing. 

Snyder, Land Ducking Debates

It's pretty clear neither Rich Snyder nor "Silent Terri" Lynn Land want to debate their opponents. The latest turndowns are from offers made months ago by WOTV (NBC) in Grand Rapids.
Snyder and Land prefer to tell their stories via tens-of-millions of dollars on paid ads that may or may not be factual, ads where they can avoid defending their actual positions on real issues.
In the case of Snyder, it makes some sense politically since the conventional wisdom for incumbents is to deny your opponent a shared platform. But you'd think he'd be eager to talk about his "Michigan Comeback" record, especially against an opponent who in the past has not shown himself to be a strong debater.

Snyder's problem: the facts don't support his rhetoric, and he knows it. He doesn't want to defend Michigan's recovery lagging behind that of the nation, or explain how he can take credit for all the jobs created by the resurgence of GM and Chrysler, or show even one job that has been created by his "Right to Work for Less" law or massive tax cuts for his business friends, or defend the litany of scandals in his administration.
For Land avoiding debates defies conventional wisdom: she is trailing in all the polls and sinking. She has the multi-million-dollar backing of the Koch brothers to slam her opponent, but to date those ads don't appear to be effective.
But she cannot debate because she suffers from Palin Syndrome: total unfamiliarity with the policy issues she would have to face in the U.S. Senate ("I can see Amway from my front porch...").
Are Michigan voters willing to elect people who cannot or will not talk about the issues facing the state and the decisions they will make on our behalf?
Snyder got away with that four years ago. He never told us he'd slash education funding, or impose dictators on a dozen cities and school districts, or raise taxes on middle class families and retirees. He was all smiles, bumper sticker slogans and dashboards. He waited until he was in office to reveal the real Rick Snyder.
Apparently he thinks he can get away with it again. And Terri Lynn Land, given her total unsuitability for the job, really has no choice.

Linkages

Today's evolving cornucopia of news and views from across the wide, wide internet ...

ANTI-UNION GROUPS IN HIGHLY-FUNDED EFFORT TO GET TEACHERS TO FREELOAD AND "OPT-OUT" OF UNIONS THAT PROTECT THEM
Eclectablog has an excellent report on the Koch-funded effort to destroy the MEA by lying and misleading teachers about their union, and its value to them.
I just wanted to make sure we're all clear what their intentions here are... The Mackinac Center's effort, put simply, is to destroy the political power of the MEA. Period.

Rick Snyder...still can't lead on the most important issue for Michiganders, even with his own party in full control of state government. That's a pretty amazing feat.
**********************
TEA PARTY SUPPORT OF SNYDER-CALLEY NOT A GIVEN, DEFEATED ACTIVIST WES NAKAGIRI SAYS
Wes Nakagiri, whose tea party bid to unseat Lt. Gov. Brian Calley was soundly defeated at Saturday's Republican convention, said today he hasn't decided whether he will cast a ballot for Gov. Rick Snyder in November and isn't sure how many of his supporters will do so.

Gee, that would be a real shame.

**********************
As the fall campaign season begins, Peters' new ad introduces him to the masses who, until now, haven't paid much attention to the candidates.
**********************
BURGER KING IN TALKS TO BUY TIM HORTONS AND MOVE TO CANADA
Except the company will continue to make most of its profits in the United States. It just isn't interested in paying taxes in the United States. Because, you see, corporations are people and ... uh ... and ???? Of course, if you or I tried this scam the IRS would be seizing our property and maybe sending us to the Graybar Hilton.
**********************
WALKER WANTED FUNDS FUNNELED TO WISCONSIN CLUB FOR GROWTH
That's the allegation and, sadly, that would be really illegal. Terri Lynn Land, take notes...
**********************
Yah, we seem fixated on Scott Walker today. But this post from the Daily Kos bears a startling resemblance to an earlier story on how Michigan's economy is lagging well behind that of Minnesota ... for many of the same reasons.


Monday, August 25, 2014

A Big Setback for Opponents of Gerrymandering

It's a fact: in 2012, Michigan voters supported Democrats for both the U.S. House (50% - 46%) and the state House (54%-46%). But Republicans won control of the state House 59-50 (with 1 independent), and won nine of the 14 Congressional seats.

They did it with creative mapmaking called "gerrymandering." It is the art of jamming and cramming - putting as many of your opponents' supporters in as few districts as possible. The concept is 200 years old, originating with Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry back in 1812. With the coming of the computer age, what began as an art is now a science. The combination of data mining and sophisticated mapping programs give the creators of maps control over the outcome of elections.

In most states, the process is controlled by the political party that runs state government. For a one-party state, that means major-league mischief. Both parties do it when they get the chance.

Florida is among a handful of states that has tried to reform the process. But they made a mistake: they wrote new criteria for maps designed to end political mischief, but they left the process itself in the hands of the Legislature.

The results were predictable in a state where one party controls the Legislature and Governor's office: a map that ignored the voters' mandate for the sake of extending the majority party's control. But today, even though a court has ruled the map in violation of Florida's constitution, the tainted map will be used again in the 2014 election.

Florida tried, but did it wrong. Any real reform to the all-important process of drawing district boundaries must include some basic concepts:

  • Hands-off of redistricting for "professional partisans": the Legislature, Governor, political parties and elected judges ... and their allies in interest groups
  • Strict adherence to population equality (there's a 10% difference in population between the largest and smallest state Senate districts)
  • Respecting communities of interest rather than artificial political boundaries. The greater Lansing area, for example, is split between three congressional districts. It's safe to say Lansing has more in common with Delta Township (immediately to the west) than with central Oakland County, yet the 8th district excludes the next-door suburb and stretches 70 miles to the east
  • Creating a redistricting commission of technical experts, people with knowledge of demographics, geography and economics rather than political science
  • Prohibiting the redistricting commission from taking into consideration the impact of the map on any individual or political party (the 7th Congressional district was drawn specifically to prevent Mark Schauer from running against Tim Walberg in 2012)

Can it happen? It will be difficult, because fairly drawn election districts inevitably hurt the party in power. The party in power never, ever wants to relinquish any advantages it might have.

Another challenge: the vast majority of people don't understand the issue or its importance (thank you, cutbacks in civics classes). Before there can be reform, there must be a statewide education effort to show people the importance of who draws the lines. If politicians draw the lines, the lines protect those politicians. If citizens with expertise draw the lines, the lines protect representative government.

The Link Letter

This post is updated throughout the day

"Monday, Monday, so good to me. Monday morning, it was all I hoped it would be...": Democrats are united, tea party Republicans are saying they'll sit it out in November. What could be better?

Democrats complete ticket, portray GOP as part of 'bigots, billionaires and bullies'
Democrats solidify November ticket led by gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer
Michigan Dems approve candidates, get ready for November elections

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley gets nomination over Nakagiri
Tim Skubick: Lt. Gov. Calley may have won nomination, but tea party could still tip race

These two photos, from a Detroit News story, pretty much sum up how the race for Governor is going:

MI GOP CANDIDATES FLAT-OUT LIE ABOUT THE ACA
It's just like the impact of the GM/Chrysler bailout: they attack everything Obama, and then take credit for the President's accomplishments. It's just a matter of time until they take credit for killing bin Laden.

OBAMACARE HAS GROWING SUPPORT, EVEN IF ITS NAME DOES NOT
Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne reflects on the reality of the ACA for actual people.
It was notable that the ACA was prominently featured at both state party conventions over the weekend. Democratic Senate candidate Gary Peters says the only true statement about him by the Koch brothers is that he did, in fact, vote for the ACA and he's proud he did so.
"Silent Teri" Lynn Land, in her prepared remarks (the only kind she offers) promised to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. But, like most other Republicans, she doesn't tell us about the "replace" part. She'd just leave 600,000 newly insured Michigan residents up the creek without a paddle.

LAWMAKERS KNOW BEST? MICHIGAN SENATE, NOT PUBLIC, EXPECTED TO VOTE ON WOLF HUNT INITIATIVE
Anti wolf-hunting forces collected more than 400,000 signatures to force a statewide vote. The Michigan Legislature once again looks on the Michigan constitution as a suggestion on how to deal with voter initiatives rather than the right supposedly guaranteed by the constitution.

TAKE AWAY THE TRUMP CARD FROM OIL, GAS AND MINING COMPANIES
Opinion in mLive from Lisa Wozniak, head of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, on the ability of extraction companies to override our property rights.

SCHAUER TAPS DEBATE NEGOTIATOR AS SNYDER CAMPAIGN SAYS BALL IN HIS COURT
If you had Rick Snyder's record on middle-class tax increases, pothole-plagued roads, right-to-work, discriminating against LGBT citizens, education cuts ... and a lengthy list of scandals ... would you want to debate Mark Schauer?


A Ticket That Looks Like Michigan...

A tale of two tickets in two photos:

Diversity Republican Style: Some Of Their Candidates Wear Ties, Some Do Not


Diversity Democratic Style: A Ticket That Looks Like Michigan


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Passing the Baton

Carl Levin and John Dingell were saluted at the Democratic State Convention on Saturday. They have combined for an amazing 95 years of service in Congress. They both made it clear they very much want to see Levin's seat filled by Congressman Gary Peters "because I'll sleep better at night" said Levin.

Land of Link-In

Goodies from the e-world on a Saturday morning...
This post is updated through the day

STEVE MILLER: MICHIGAN DEMOCRATS USE OPEN RECORDS TO FORCE RESIGNATION IN DISGRACE
Miller, who writes a monthly column about transparency, accuses Michigan Democrats of practicing journalism. Dastardly!

The column includes links to all the expense records of Scott Woolsley which, for inexplicable reasons, the MSM never published (until now).

TAXES: WHO PAYS HOW MUCH IN EIGHT CHARTS
If you don't follow Bill Moyers' blog (you can connect with Twitter, Facebook, or Google+), you should. This column demonstrates, among other things, that 1) America's taxes are amongst the lowest in the world, and 2) America's tax system favors the wealthy. Neither is a shock ... but now you'll have the data to counter the arguments from your right-wing uncle at the family picnic.

MIT RESEARCHERS: 1 OLD CAR BATTERY CAN HELP POWER 30 HOMES
Really. It's the 12-volt wonder that is under your hood! They've come up with a way to turn old car betteries into durable solar panels.

FERGUSON MO. IN TWO STUNNING MAGAZINE COVERS

HOW LONG UNTIL TEXAS CHANGES 'OPEN CARRY' LAW
National progressive talk-show host (and Lansing native) Thom Hartmann speculates on the future of the Texas open-carry law now that the Huey Newton Gun Club is showing up at police stops carrying firearms (in compliance with Texas law).



Rich Baird: Snyder's Chief Tax Cheat?

By now you've heard the story of Rich Baird, Governor Snyder's $140,000/year "Transformation Manager", who until Friday ostensibly was a resident of both Illinois and Michigan. Seems he caught claiming homestead tax exemptions on residences in both states which is, uh, tax fraud.

A Snyder spokesperson more politely stated that Baird, former Global Managing Partner with the massive accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, had made an "inadvertent" mistake (translation: he didn't think he'd get caught by the media).

When banks and rich guys get caught cheating the public, they usually buy their way out of the problem which is what Baird has done. On Friday he paid $16,700 in back taxes to Clinton County for his $500,000 home Hawk Hollow shack. That means he has declared his home in Bath is NOT his primary residence. That would be Palatine, Illinois (which is where his wife lives).

Baird is also registered to vote in both states. Just another unfortunate mixup, according to Snyder's spokesperson. It isn't vote fraud. It is simply because Illinois has yet to update its voter files. But to register to vote in Michigan, you have to be a resident of Michigan and the city or township in which you register. (Baird also ran for Republican precinct delegate in Clinton County. State law requires that you must be a resident of the precinct in which you run.)

Let's summarize:

For tax purposes, Rich Baird is a resident of Palatine, Illinois. For voting purposes, he is a resident of Bath, Michigan.

Can you be both? And why the dual identity?

Maybe it has to do with Governor Snyder's pension tax (which Baird helped get passed).

As a retired Global Managing Partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers, Baird certainly has a very generous retirement plan (enough to allow him to have a $500,000 '2nd home' in Bath). Illinois exempts virtually all pension income from state taxes. Michigan, thanks to Rick Snyder, raised taxes on pensions.

So by claiming Illinois residency, Baird potentially saves thousands of dollars annually in Michigan income tax.

So here are the questions I have sent to Sara Wurfel, Governor Snyder's press secretary:
  1. Did Rich Baird file a Michigan tax return last year as a resident, or non-resident? 
  2. Did he pay Michigan income tax on his Pricewaterhouse pension? 
  3. Is he willing to release his Michigan income tax return (with appropriate redactions)?
  4. If he filed as a non-resident of Michigan, how can he register to vote in Michigan since state law requires you to be a resident in order to vote?
I'm not holding my breath over getting a response.

Earlier: Did al Qaeda Underwrite Snyder's NERD Fund?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Links for You and Me

This post is updated throughout the day
Goodies from across the e-world catching my eye today...

AUTO PRODUCTION AT ITS HIGHEST RATE SINCE 2002
Another result of what Republicans lovingly call "the failed Obama economy" - something that is of some importance in Michigan.

SCHAUER VS. SNYDER ON EDUCATION FUNDING - SOME FACT CHECKING NEEDED
My Michigan Policast colleague Amy Kerr Hardin injects some actual facts into the debate over the Snyder record on supporting public schools.

TIM SKUBICK: WE'LL SEE IF GOV. SNYDER'S CHARMED POLITICAL LIFE CONTINUES
"The bad thing about running as an incumbent and not a neophyte is that you do have a record and Mr. Snyder has done lots of stuff to offend just about everyone."
And Skubick omits the fact that Snyder 1) won the 2010 GOP primary with just 25% of the vote, thanks to three tea party types splitting the wingnut vote, and 2) 2010 was a year in which no Democrat was going to win

FERGUSON FEEDS OFF THE POOR
The troubled Missouri city's second-biggest source of revenue: municipal court fines, with an average of three warrants a year per household. And you wonder why there is antagonism towards city police?

TEXAS JOURNALISTS URGE NATIONAL PRESS TO TAKE PERRY CASE MORE SERIOUSLY
The Beltway gang writes it off as "political payback" but some of the state's top journalists say it's much deeper than that. They note that the judge and special prosecutor at the center of the criminal complaint are Republicans. Oops!

WHITE HOUSE ISSUES NEW FIX FOR CONTRACEPTIVE COVERAGE
It is stunning how screwed up things became once the activist Roberts court decided that corporations are people protected by the Bill of Rights. In other words, we go with the intent of the Founding Fathers except when it isn't convenient for our corporate masters. This new fix to assure women employees that their insurance includes contraception coverage looks like an awkward work-around that will be effective (but should be totally unnecessary).

OBAMA'S GOLF VACATION
The inevitable criticism of President Obama taking time off is this week's drumbeat from the "loyal" opposition is predictable, and bullshit. STFU.

Did al Qaeda Underwrite Snyder's NERD Fund?

Probably not.

And it probably was not funded by Vladimir Putin, Frank Underwood, Kim Jong-Il, Anthony Stark or Walter 'Heisenberg' White.  But we don't know and won't know, because the Governor's now-disbanded NERD fund (which paid for all sorts of things "ancillary" to being Governor) will not reveal who paid the bills.

(Much) more likely is that the money came in huge chunks from Snyder's corporate friends, and from politically active folks like the Koch brothers and the DeVos family. But we don't know, because the Governor still refuses to tell us.

The questions become more critical today in light of new revelations about Snyder's "Transformation Manager," Rich Baird. Until 2013 Baird operated pretty much in secret because he was not a government employee. The source of his paycheck was a secret. (After a lot of public blowback he was moved to the state payroll at $140,000/year.)

Snyder's office has confirmed Rich Baird is registered to vote in both Illinois and Michigan. Snyder's office has also confirmed Baird claimed homestead property tax breaks in both Illinois and Michigan (stating both homes are his 'primary residence'). The Governor's office called those two facts "inadvertant" and totally innocent.

And it may turn out Rich Baird avoids the Governor's pension tax by claiming Illinois residency for tax purposes.

The double life of Rich Baird was brought to light yesterday by the MIRS subscription newsletter.

The Mark Schauer campaign is adding Baird's unusual dual existence to the ever-growing list of scandals linked to the Snyder administration:

  • Keeping former state Treasurer Andy Dillon on the payroll for weeks after he left the job, even paying him while Dillon took a Caribbean cruise
  • Working to drastically increase state spending on new furniture for Snyder appointees, with the $41-million contract going to the Governor's cousin
  • Failing to rein in the high-flying expense-account loving director of MSHDA until his extravagant travel bills were revealed by the Democratic party
  • Hiring a chancellor for the controversial Education Achievement Authority who resigned after news reports of more extravagant travel spending, along with poor results in the Detroit school system he took over
  • The NERD Fund paid for a luxury condo for Detroit Emergency Manager Kevin Orr (on top of his $275,000 state pay check)
UPDATE
Two days after getting caught with his hands in the cookie jar, Rich Baird has paid $16,700 in back taxes. As with all of Snyder's recent scandals, the announcement was made on a Friday afternoon (the optimal time to make an announcement that you don't want people to hear).

Today's news reports on Baird:
Detroit News
Detroit Free Press
mLive
Michigan Democratic Party news release

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Trolling the Links

Some stuff from The Internets that is catching my eye --

McCONNELL PROMISES SHUTDOWN WARS IN A GOP MAJORITY
If ever America had a reason to elect a Democratic controlled Senate, here it is. The Kentucky Tortoise is promising to use "must-pass" spending bills as bargaining chips, even to the point of frequent government shutdowns.

MICHIGAN GAY RIGHTS PUSH SPURS OUT OF STATE CONTRIBUTIONS, PUSHBACK FROM SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES
Looks like some pro-equality rich guys are trying to "encourage" Speaker Jase Bolger with some very large campaign contributions. That's not making the anti-gay caucus of the GOP very happy. And props to Bolger mouthpiece Ari Adler for the line of the day, saying of anti-equality former Michigan legislator (and former resident) Jack Hoogendyk "his lack of accomplishments while he was in office speak for themselves."

OPEN CARRY ADVOCATES MARCH IN SOUTH DALLAS
Normally, an NRA wet dream. But (horrors) THESE marchers are African Americans, specifically Black Panthers and the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, protesting police violence. OMG!
Credit: WFAA
MICHIGAN PUBLIC RADIO: WILL WE SEE CANDIDATE DEBATES THIS FALL?
Few or none, I predict. When you have limitless cash it is far more effective to flood the airwaves with your spin knowing that most people won't bother to check to see if you are lying. A lie, told often enough, becomes "truth."

The Birthday of Lansing's 20th Century Economy

This is the day Lansing forgets to celebrate the founding of the Olds Motor Vehicle Company on August 21, 1897. That company fundamentally changed the area's economy forever.
For a century the area's economy was a three-legged stool: Oldsmobile/GM, state government and Michigan State University. GM employs roughly 8,000 in the region; MSU 10,500; state government 42,000.

Thanks in large part to the enlightened leadership of former Mayor David Hollister the economy has diversified with two more major pillars to boost the region: financial services/insurance (14,000 jobs), and healthcare (26,600 jobs). Yes, government doesn't create jobs. But an activist government can create be the catalyst.



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The State Reneges on Still Another Commitment

The we-hate-public-employees folks are at it again, this time with a one-sided report attempting to show that Michigan's government retirees are getting gold-plated benefits. The report fails to note the numerous pay cuts, furlough days, pay freezes and increasing co-pays that state workers gave in exchange for those benefits. (The two foundations that funded the report were founded through fortunes made in the insurance and oil industries.)

For most state retirees the Snyder administration doubled the employees' share of insurance premiums. That cut the net retirement income of an average married couple by more than $1,800/year.

A new round of negotiations has resulted in an even greater share of healthcare costs being shifted to retirees:

  • Increases of annual deductibles from $300 to $400 for individuals, for families from $600 to $800
  • Office call co-pays increased 33%
  • Prescription co-pays increased up to 50%
  • Annual in-network out-of-pocket maximum doubled

The people impacted by these changes are retired with a fixed income. Changing benefits negotiated 20-to-30 years ago is nothing more than reneging on a contract.

The response is "we can't afford these benefits anymore." Translation: we don't want to honor the agreements made by the state and, since WE ARE the state, we don't have to. (It's pretty much the same argument used to screw local governments out of revenue sharing.)

Across the Internets

Some of the posts catching my eye this morning ---

CAVIAR AND MAGGOTS
This week's Michigan Policast featuring Amy Kerr Hardin and yours truly, the Michigan Curmudgeon.

UBER PICKS DAVID PLOUFFE TO WAGE REVOLUTIONARY FIGHT
The ride-sharing service regularly faces major pushback from regulators and taxi companies. In Michigan, Ann Arbor has been especially hostile (even though the customers in AA seem to love the service). Uber is waging its campaign with the mastermind behind President Obama's two campaigns.
(Disclosure: I am an Uber "partner" who takes people for rides in my Volt every weekend.)

SNYDER SCANDALS
An emerging theme in the campaign to end Rick Snyder's daily commute between his Ann Arbor mansion and Lansing takes its name from a popular politics-based TV series: "Scandal". Democrats are building a fact-based narrative of multiple scandals that show a pattern of different standards for top-level government appointees and the rest of us.
Today the Democratic Party unveiled a massive inflatable chair to illustrate what appears to be a little nepotism in the awarding of a $41-million furniture contract to a firm owned by Snyder's cousin. The money, it turns out, was used to outfit the offices of top Snyder appointees. (Back when I was a Blanchard appointee we got all of our furniture either from the state's recycle shop, or from prison industries. It was functional but leather-bound lounge chairs weren't an option.)
We'll attach links to news coverage of this story when they become available.
(Photo by Todd Tennis)

According to a report from the Michigan League for Public Policy, older citizens are left out in the cold.

The claim: Peters hasn't accomplished anything in Congress. The reality: he has. Money trumps truth once again as a really rich guy buys all the TV time he wants.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Link Land

Items that caught my eye this morning from across the Tubes of The Internets --

BIG GAP IN PETERS, LAND TAX RATES
"Silent Terri" Lynn Land has been able to donate $3-million to her campaign for Senate despite an income of 44,726 in 2012 and $89,729 in 2013. And her effective tax rate was just 2.2% last year. The Detroit News calls Land's tax situation "less clear" than that of Gary Peters, whose federal tax rate was a much more normal 18%.

MICHIGAN LANDFILL TAKING OTHER STATES' RADIOACTIVE FRACKING WASTES
The headline should be enough to make you say "this can't be good."

SCANDALS HIDING IN PLAIN SITE
Four current and one former Governor are facing potentially serious scandals. The current Govs (3 Republicans and Andrew Cuomo) all want to be President; the ex-Gov, Bob McDonnell, was on Mitt Romney's short-list for Vice President. 

NBC'S INELEGANT BOOTING OF DAVID GREGORY SPEAKS TO TV'S OBSESSION WITH BOTTOM LINE 
Tim Skubick laments the firing of David Gregory as host of Meet the Press, ignoring Gregory's incompetence as an interviewer. Tim Russert (and Skubick) never allowed politicians to contradict their own earlier positions, spout lies, talking points, misrepresentations and general b.s. unchallenged. Gregory never had a problem with letting it all go unchallenged, or by countering one talking point with another. And people are getting tired of seeing the same faces week-after-week on the Sunday morning shows (John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Mike Rogers) and cumulative guest lists dominated by white-male-Republican politicians.

NO COMMON OPINION ON COMMON CORE
The latest polling, by Education Next, shows majority support remains for Common Core standards for schools, but support is slipping - especially among teachers. A year ago teachers supported Common Core 76%-12%; now it is a 46%-44% proposition.

FOUL ON GOVERNOR SNYDER FOR PLAYING WORD GAMES WITH PENSION TAX
The Michigan Truth Squad rules Snyder's claim that he didn't pass a pension tax "sophistry." That's a college-level word for bullshit.

TRUTH SQUAD FLAMED FOR "WARNING" ON SCHAUER"S FIRST CAMPAIGN AD
The same Michigan Truth Squad issued a warning for Mark Schauer's ad statements that the Snyder economy is working for the wealthy, but not for the rest of us ... and that Snyder has cut education funding. The fact-checkers labored mightily to back up their warning, and then took it on the chin from readers. I don't normally pay attention to online reader comments, but these comments make the case for a "FOUL" on the Michigan Truth Squad.

SNYDER BY THE NUMBERS
Progress Michigan has updated their SnyderFails website with the latest numbers on Michigan's economic performance - the dashboard the Governor doesn't want people to see.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sarah Palin Proves Again She Is, Well, So Palin

Sen. Elizabeth Warren was the keynote speaker at the Netroots Nation convention in Detroit. Three weeks later, Alaska's half-term Governor managed to come up with a response on her TV channel. As you watch this, remember that John McCain believed this person was fully prepared to be President of the United States.


This IS NOT a Tina Fey skit. It is really Sister Sarah. Enjoy!

The Link Letter

A few items that have caught my eye lately....

From the White House, more data demonstrating that when it comes to the economy, Barack Obama was a huge improvement over W. Job openings hit a 13-year high this summer.

An important rule in Michigan electoral politics is "don't screw up in Macomb County." The county is known for its ticket-splitting proclivities. When you get called out by the local news editor of The Macomb Daily, you've broken that rule. Jeff Payne writes "when it counted most, governor failed the test." Ouch!

The ride-sharing service Uber is a different business model: peer-to-peer commerce, similar in philosophy to eBay and AirBNB. Individual customers deal with individual entrepreneurs; Uber acts as the go-between. Uber is in dozens of cities across America. Customers love it, and The Google doesn't yield any news stories demonstrating problems with drivers and/or customers. But taxi companies and regulators aren't happy. In metro Lansing city leaders are taking a different approach, welcoming and encouraging innovation in commerce.

John Boehner, the least effective Speaker of the House in modern times, is sounding more and more like a member of the Fox & Friends half-wits. Steve Benen, who edits the MaddowBlog, writes the Boehner's contempt for Obama has reached a tipping point.

Worst Candidate of the Year: "Silent Terri" Lynn Land

I won't make a habit of publishing, verbatim, news releases from others. But this latest email from Joshua Pugh at the Michigan Democratic Party lays out the facts pretty clearly: Terri Lynn Land's campaign for the U.S. Senate is only viable because 1) she has the Koch brothers et. al. giving her huge amounts of cash, and 2) she has dumped $3-million of her own (or her husband's) money into the campaign.
She seems clueless on the issues, she refuses to answer questions, she refuses to even tell people about planned campaign events.
I have referred to Silent Terri as "Sarah Palin without the charisma." But now, I think I'll switch to "Clarence Thomas without a lifetime appointment" since she seems to emulate America's silent Justice.

**********************************
From: Michigan Democratic Party

VIDEO: Terri Lynn Land's Latest "Tour" A Major Bust 
Less than 80 Days to Election, Land Has Not Held Public Event 

LANSING - Former Republican National Committeewoman Terri Lynn Land went on a three-day bus tour through Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, but didn’t hold a single public campaign event or announce any stops in advance. The Michigan Democratic Party today released a video showing a person getting kicked out of multiple events during Land’s trip because event organizers stated that they were private and not open to the public. 


While Land was on her non-public trip last week, the Michigan Democratic Party held a Week of Action to highlight Land’s anti-middle class agenda. The week elicited additional questions that Land refuses to answer, such as:

1. How many employees does she have at Green Light Management?
  • Land has less than 50 employees, but how many are in the small business she touts? “Ms. Land's campaign had only said that Green Light Management LLC, the company she directly owns and that her campaign and Land and Company have said is separate from Land and Company, has fewer than 50 employees. That means it is not subject to any of the mandates under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act…It has not said whether Green Light offers health insurance to its employees, or if it does, whether that includes contraceptive coverage. Land campaign officials could not be reached late Monday evening for additional comment.” [Gongwer; 8/11/14]
2.  Why then did Land previously say that she employed hundreds? 
  • In August of last year, Land bragged: “We Were Fortunate Enough To Grow What Started As A Very Small Family Business Into A Successful Michigan Based Company That Provides Jobs For Hundreds Of Michigan Residents.” Reported the AP in August 2013, “Republican U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land and her family have assets worth tens of millions of dollars, mostly in western Michigan apartment complexes and Florida condominiums run by her husband, according to a financial disclosure report. ‘We've been fortunate enough to grow what started as a very small family business into a successful Michigan-based company that provides jobs for hundreds of Michigan residents,’ the former Michigan secretary of state said in a statement Monday.” [Associated Press, 8/6/13]
3. How many vacation homes has she been hiding from the public?
  • Land revealed a previously undisclosed Florida vacation home...so how many more homes is Land hiding? “The MDP also uncovered that Land didn't list a Kissimmee, Florida condominium in her financial disclosure form with the U.S. Senate. Eight other properties in Florida are listed on the form…However, the Land campaign reported that the condo is a vacation home for her and her husband, Dan Hibma, and is not required to be reported on the disclosure form because it doesn't generate income.” [MIRS; 8/12/14]
4. Why is Land not paying taxes on special perks from her family's business?
  • Land received a Land & Co. car and cell phone but hasn’t paid taxes on the benefits. “A Land & Co. spokesman confirmed to The Detroit News in July that Land had received an email address, car and cellphone through the business. She, too, had done unpaid work for the company. Because Land was never employed, she didn't have to pay taxes, the spokesman said. That's fodder for Democrats, who say one of Land's first campaign commercials touted her small business experience at the site that once held some 170 trailer park units and a motel. Families living there in 2004 had one year to move, with assistance in the form of relocation fees from the company, as developers worked to close the site down. Land's acceptance of company assets without paying taxes calls her employment history into question, [Lon] Johnson said. Questions, he argues, aren't being answered transparently.” [MLive; 8/14/14]

"Terri Lynn Land still hasn’t held a single public campaign event where Michiganders – not her hand-picked guests – can ask her questions about her business experience and potentially illegal self-funding," said Kevin McAlister, MDP Senior Communications Advisor. "Land still refuses to tell Michiganders the truth about her work for her family’s business, Land & Co., and defend her anti-middle class agenda. With less than 80 days until the election, Land is spending millions in negative attacks hoping to avoid accountability but Michiganders won’t let that happen. Land should agree to debates, so voters can hear from both candidates and judge for themselves.”

Totten Slams Schuette's Extreme Tea Party Agenda

Attorney General candidate Mark Totten has launched what will undoubtedly be a drumbeat of condemnation of Bill Schuette's tea party mentality, taking him on for a history of Quixotic right-wing court battles in a YouTube video.



In an email to supporters, Totten lays out his case against Schuette very clearly:

This race is about giving Michigan families an advocate who keeps them safe and never lets politics get in the way. But it’s also about stopping a politician who is the most extreme, far-right Attorney General in the nation – a crusader who needs to be stopped now, before he does even more harm later.

In other words, we've got to stop him now before he tries to move up the ladder. Given Schuette's 30 years of running for public office (Congress, Legislature, Court of Appeals, Attorney General) it is assumed that reelection as Attorney General will be the start of his campaign for Governor.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Links for a Sunday Brunch

Some of the best from The Tubes of the Internets this Sunday morning...

Rich Robinson - Government or the "free market" - who do you trust to keep your water drinkable?

Amy Kerr Hardin - Are political yard signs protected by the First Amendment? SCOTUS to decide

Tim Skubick - The Legislature likes it both ways when they circumvent a vote of the people

Jill Fritz - Trust voters to decide on wolf hunting

Rick Haglund - Is the Michigan tax on seniors' pensions fair?

Eclectablog - Terri Lynn Land's energy plan? Gas guzzlers and diverting midwest oil to the world

Former CBS and NBC correspondent Ed Rabel is running for Congress, but he the TV station newsroom he once ran now forbids covering his campaign.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Wal•Mart - The New Mayo Clinic?

Wal-Mart, never exactly a leader in providing employees with healthcare coverage, thinks it can turn healthcare into another profit center. The New York Times reports the company has opened six in-store healthcare clinics, a second shot at expanding into medicine.

It's worth noting that the six clinics are in Texas and South Carolina, two red states that refused to expand Medicaid (at federal expense) because that Obama guy is a Kenyan socialist Muslim or something. It's also worth noting that lower income people, the type who make up the bulk of Wal-Mart customers, will likely be using their Obamacare-subsidized insurance to pay their bill.

Two positive takeaways:

* Wal-Mart stores are a major presence in rural areas which are traditionally medically underserved. The new clinics will be popular, and are needed.

* Wal-Mart employees at the stores will only be charged a $4 co-pay assuming they are on the company's health plan. Of course, when you are only making minimum wage ...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Robin Williams in a Political Blog?

Yes. The sage of Detroit Country Day is missed even by The Curmudgeon.

Robin Williams' brilliance included some incredible political commentary. In 2009 he was part of a show in London before a crowd that included Princess Charles and Camilla (a.k.a. "Chuck" and "Cam"), with an introduction from John Cleaves. The show was shortly after the election of Barack Obama. It is nine minutes of sheer delight unless, of course, you subscribe to Breitbart and The Daily Caller, or your middle initial is 'W'.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

So Where Are the Jobs? Michigan Unemployment Increases in July.

Governor Snyder got just about everything he wanted to make Michigan the jobs mecca of America - a $1.8-billion tax cut, "right-to-work" laws designed to gut unions, reduced regulations so corporations can more easily exploit our natural resources. And earlier this month he got another business tax cut, this time a $500-million gift to business through repeal of the personal property tax.

So we should be rockin', right? Not so fast, my friend. Michigan still has one of the worst unemployment rates in the nation, and the number actually inched up last month even as the national unemployment rate held steady.

As regular readers of my Facebook page know, I have long advocated Michigan look to the economic leader in the Midwest -- Minnesota -- for some clues on how to grow an economy. We don't have the July numbers yet, but in June the Land of 10,000 Lakes had an unemployment one-third lower than Michigan.

How does Minnesota do it? Rather than slash programs to pay for massive business tax cuts, Minnesota invests in itself.

Michigan should look to the Governor who recognized that, in order to prosper, we need to invest in education, infrastructure and basic government services ... and need to pay for those services. He doubled the state budget in just five years. He pushed through the state income tax to pay the bills. His name was George W. Romney.

(George Romney was also outspokenly pro-choice, pushed hard to enact civil rights legislation, and worked to create bipartisan coalitions within state government - things Mitt apparently has forgotten. When George Romney resigned to join the Nixon cabinet, he turned the reigns over to William Milliken who built on the Romney legacy by becoming a national leader in environmental advocacy.)

As I Was Saying Before I Interrupted Myself Three Years Ago ...

Yup, the Michigan Curmudgeon is back.

For the last couple of years I've been posting random thoughts on my Facebook page "Citizen Sorg". Posts appeared whenever the muse moved me. But recently I have joined forces with two rather amazing women, Christine Barry and Amy Kerr Hardin. We're producing a weekly podcast talking in some depth about significant political events at the state and even local level. We call it the Michigan Policast.

I also spent a year writing for Lansing City Pulse, a weekly alternative newspaper that's done some really good reporting locally. But the constraints of size and content that go hand-in-hand with a print publication finally convinced me I needed a little more room.

Put it together and I'm back to blogging. No editors, no space limitations, no hard-and-fast publication schedule. But plenty of opportunity to spout off!

I've kept my old posts on the blog because I am proud of them. None has been edited from the original (I even noticed some typos that will stand). What I said then I continue to believe today. In several cases time has demonstrated I was right (at least, in my mind!).

I encourage open dialogue. Many of my friends disagree with me on issues; some of them just about all the time. My only rules for the discussions:

* Keep it civil. No name-calling or meaningless epithets (one of the favorites of the right is using 'liberal' as a four-letter word). President Obama isn't a socialist or Naza or Kenyan; Muslims are not inherently evil (23% of the world's population is Muslim!); the University of Michigan is a fine school even though I hate to admit it.

* Back up your rhetoric with facts. A link to an opinion website (say, World Net Daily, Breitbart.com, The Daily Caller or Fox News) isn't proof ... it's just somebody with an opinion matching yours. The one exception is opinion from a recognized expert in the field. That ain't Glenn Beck...

* If you instinctively reject academic research, scientific studies or news stories in mainstream media as part of the vast left-wing conspiracy, just go away. I don't have time for people whose world view is formed through gut feelings that run counter to actual informed knowledge (think Copernicus and the Inquisition).

And, of course, I reserve the right to change the rules at anytime for any reason without notice. It's my playpen!