Monday, September 15, 2014

Happy New Week! Links

There's a touch of autumn in the air, and that means political campaigns are ramping is our need for energy to heat our homes and light those darker mornings. And The Curmudgeon is basking in the flow of three NFL wins for Michigan State quarterbacks (and trying to forget about the Detroit Lions).
Here's what's catching our eye going into the new week:

Terri Lynn Land's "no-show strategy"
"Silent Terri Lynn" is gaining national attention for her unique campaign style of avoiding contact with the media and voters. Steve Benen, editor of the Maddow Blog, takes note of Michigan's quietest political candidate.
It’s one thing to duck debates, but I can't remember the last time I saw a major-party candidate in a competitive statewide race literally hide from the public.
Benen takes note of two ominous signs for the Land campaign:

  • Governor Snyder is staying as far away from her as possible
  • The Koch brothers' political machine has thrown in the towel, cancelling further "independent" ads supporting her.

National Exposure: Michigan's "Foreclosure King" is Trying to Win a Seat in Congress
David Trott amassed a fortune of somewhere between $60-million and $205-million throwing people out of their homes. Although contending they were just assisting clients assert their legal property rights, the Trott law firm has a reputation for cutthroat and marginally ethical/legal tactics to assert
those "property rights."
“He built the machine that was made to feed off of human misery,” said Curtis Hertel Jr., register of deeds for Ingham County, Michigan, who tangled with Trott’s law firm on a number of cases. “I’ve had kids crying in my office. I’ve seen terrible human tragedy, and frankly they didn’t care.”
Normally Michigan's 11th District would be given up as a lost cause by national Democrats because of a well-gerrymandered map creating a big Republican advantage. But the Trott reputation, documented in the New Republic, gives Democrats hope in a district where a lot of the Republicans fall into that endangered subset known as moderates.
Also giving Democrats hope: a first-rate candidate in Bobby McKenzie, whose internal polling shows Trott leading just 44-40% going the home stretch.
This YouTube ad is not from Bobby McKenzie, but was produced in the spring by a tea party group that dubbed David Trott the "Foreclosure King."

Florida Sun-Sentinel
An Epidemic of Wage Theft is Costing Workers Hundreds of Millions Every Year
It's bad enough minimum-wage sweatshops like the fast-food industry is fighting a living minimum wage for full-time workers. Turns out a lot of employers at that end of the pay scale are cheating their employees as well: refusing to pay, paying for some hours but not others, or failing to pay overtime premiums when employees' hours exceed 40 hours in a week.
The Curmudgeon has seen the latter personally, with a local small-business owner telling employees who exceed 40 hours in a week to cut back the following week to keep the biweekly hours under 80. In his mind, that's fair. Actually, it is illegal.
To put wage theft into perspective, the Economic Policy Institute says the total of wage theft is three times the cost of all robberies, burglaries, larcenies and motor vehicle thefts in the nation (as recorded in the FBI's uniform crime reports).

GOPer Sanford Turns to Facebook to Break Up with Former Mistress-Turned-Fiancée
The sleazeball who once confused the Appalachian Trail with Argentina – at least to explain extended absences from the Governor's residence in South Carolina – has struck again.
This is the guy who almost lost a rock-solid Republican seat in the House to Stephen Colbert's sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch.
You can see Terry Sanford's remarkable Facebook status update here.
Love those family-value politicians.
(Cross-posting from

Downtowns now and then: Why they're important to Michigan's economic development
Here's something that hopefully can bring bipartisan agreement. Lansing is an example of a city that has found its core and brought it back to life.
Lansing Circa 1930
In Lansing the story began 20 years ago with the election of longtime Democratic state representative David Hollister as Mayor. Virg Bernero built on Hollister's legacy, forcefully bringing more change to the city's downtown in conjunction with urban-redevelopment gurus like Pat Gillespie, whose company specializes developing urban residential spaces that meet the needs of today's millenial professionals.
The story is repeated throughout the state: Paw Paw, Traverse City, Saginaw, Kalamazoo, . The common denominator: Mayors (usually elected on the non-partisan ballot) who are Democrats. It is a story worth telling, and Emily Lawler of mLive makes a good start in telling that story.

Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind
New York Times photo
In America the climate-change deniers and the hydro-carbon industry (oil and coal) fight efforts to increase the percentage of electricity generated from renewable resources. In
Germany, a national effort to increase the use of renewables is paying dividends for the environment and the economy.
"Electric utility executives all over the world are watching nervously as technologies they once dismissed as irrelevant begin to threaten their long-established business plans."

Democrats Have 70% Chance to Control Senate
Yes, The Curmudgeon is a big Nate Silver fan (the Curmudgeon first interviewed the East Lansing native on the radio months before his national breakout on Keith Olbermann's Countdown show), and Nate sees the GOP the slight favorite to win control of the Senate in 2015.
The Princeton Election Consortium gets less publicity, but it actually had a better track record predicting the 2012 outcomes than Silver. And the Princeton group sees D
emocrats holding onto control of the Senate ... but without enough votes to overcome GOP obstructionism.
Why is such tenuous control important? One word: judges.
The Senate confirms appointments to the federal bench. With Republicans in control, it is likely the only judges the Senate could confirm would be right-wing activists intent on rolling back most of the 20th century's legal precedents. With Democrats in charge, we could revive W's "Up or Down Vote" mantra The Great Decider used so effectively to bless us with conservative activists John Roberts and Sam Alito.

Would a GOP Senate be king of the world?
Politico points out that Mitch McConnell (assuming he survives reelection) has promised to tie all sorts of policy changes to appropriations bills, forcing the President to either accept the tea party agenda or risk still another government shutdown.
McConnell wants to tie the President's hands on every bit of progress that has been made either through legislation or executive action: climate change, health care, XL pipeline, education policy, Wall Street regulation, women's healthcare, and on and on. (Are you ready for Oklahoma oil lobbyist James Inhofe as chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee?)
They'll want to "reform" (a.k.a. gut) Social Security and Medicare in the name of fiscal responsibility. They will fight for even more tax loopholes for their very rich patrons.
Not to mention the never-ending "investigations" (a.k.a. witch hunts) that are already a major part of the House agenda under the warped leadership of Darrell Issa. More Benghazi! More IRS! More Anything That Diverts Our Attention from Doing Anything Substantive!
The stakes are high. Very high.

Survey: Republicans Like Obamacare a Lot More If You Call It By a Different Name
From The New Republic: Medicaid expansion is supported by 36% of Republicans when pollsters tied the policy to the Affordable Care Act. In a second sample, the support went up to 51% is there was no mention of ACA.
Support among independents goes from 57% up to 70%. 88% of Democrats support the Medicaid expansion no matter what you call it.
So ... Medicaid expansion's overall support is at 71% if you don't mention that it happens because of the Affordable Care Act.
So the Fox News/Koch brothers et. al. attempt to diminish the President's prestige and popularity is working.
People like his policies but have been trained to automatically oppose anything he does. It is a strategy that used to be called The Big Lie.

California Just Banned Free Plastic Bags. Hold the Rejoicing
Mother Jones looks at the environmental impact of plastic vs. compostable vs. reusable, and comes up with some interesting (and unexpected answers).
Some amazing statistics:

  • Worldwide we use 1,000,000,000,000 plastic bags a year (that's TRILLION)
  • The average use time of a typical bag is 12 minutes
  • Californians alone throw away 14,000,000,000 bags a year, creating 123,000 tons of waste
  • A cotton bag has 132-times the carbon footprint of a plastic bag, meaning you have to use it 133 times to have a net reduction in carbon footprint
  • A paper bag has a four-to-one carbon footprint disadvantage to single-use plastic bags
Side note: the Michigan Biotechnology Institute (a spin-off of Michigan State University) developed a corn-starch-based, biodegradable 'plastic' bag 25 years ago.
President Obama touring MBI in February 2014
White House photo

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