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21 posts from April 2007

Lansing City Council: I only need four votes to represent the Third Ward

Later today or tomorrow, I am going to turn in my application to be considered for an appointment to the Lansing City Council.  The position is for the unexpired portion of a term of our third ward councilman.  The new appointee would serve til the end of the year.

Why would I want to do this, you ask? 

I think I could contribute something positive to the operation of our city where I've lived most of my adult life.  I have no political ambitions.  I would not run for election to a seat on the council.  All I'm interested in is being an effective placeholder on the council for the person who would be elected to the position later this year.

During this interim period of now and the election to pick a replacement for the member who resigned, it's vital that our Third Ward be represented and that governing in the city not miss a beat. 

Because of my background, I know the importance of governmental officials working together to get budgets passed and to allow governing to take place.  My identity with a political party or a particular group is not important.  What counts is my desire to see the city of Lansing remain a great place to live, to raise a family and to work. 

Yes, I would use a blog (s) to get people involved  and to give their opinions and concerns about life in the city.  What the Third Ward needs is interaction with its local leaders.  A blog would help make this happen, along with making myself available and visible with the people I would represent.

My knowledge of city government and its specifics is limited.  However, I am a fast-learner and, right now, I have the time and the capability to do that.

To get there, I need four votes from the existing city council.

Making plans for more blog power in mid-Michigan

MeetupFour of us met last night at the Nuthouse on East Michigan Avenue in Lansing to plot a revolution of sorts.

The word "plotting" makes it sound more sinister than it was because all we were trying to do is organize bloggers in mid-Michigan of all stripes.

We see the changing nature of communication and we've seen how this change is gradually filtering down to grassroots America and for us how it starting to be used and talked about in an area made famous by Michigan State University, the Michigan State Capitol, Oldsmobile, General Motors, and various other people, things and institutions.

The four of us who ate Buffalo Wings and other goodies and sampled various refreshments are at various stages in our blogosphere experience.  They see the potential for blogs to provide platforms for everybody to have a say in whatever interests them.

Our next steps are starting come into focus:  We will be starting a mid-Michigan Bloggers blog, a Yahoo discussion group and will look towards holding another get-together depending on interest that is shown.

So far, the core group consists of me and you should know me from this blog.  Others include:

The goal of the organization effort is to help bloggers share information, get questions answered and to help those who are thinking about starting blogs.

We had been trying to organize through Meetup and because it doesn't seem to work well in our situation, we will probably change to something that's more informal and more specific to our needs.

Library of Congress: It becomes among the first in federal government to have a blog

The Library of Congress has demonstrated with its new blog that it is opening its big virtual doors wider and wider to its vast treasure chest of information.

I'm excited that the Library seems to really get this new technology and the mindset behind it. Matt Raymond, the blog author, writes in the first person and does it in a way where you feel he's sitting across the table from you. His honesty about getting used to this new channel of communication provides a fresh integrity and openness to federal government. Right on!

My next stop on the web this morning is to add the Library blog to my Bloglines and to my Google Reader. I look forward to making it a regular stop and I am anxious to see the links on the posts that will help me explore more of the resources inside this institution.

All I can say to the Library is to keep it up. With this newest change to your site, you are empowering people with another access point to information. That adds strength and it empowers the citizenry.

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Will GM's loss of position to Toyota affect Michigan's self-image?

How important is it that General Motors be the number one carmaker in the world?

I heard the news about Toyota overtaking GM in sales for the first-quarter of this year right after I got up. It would be easy to let that news be one more proof that the state of Michigan is making that last walk down industrial death row.

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I remember supper with David Halberstam at Emil's in Lansing, MI

I was stunned this morning when I read that David Halberstam, the newspaper reporter turned author was killed in a car accident. He was an icon.

He was always on a quest for truth in whatever topic he was reporting and he was a strong believer in every person's right to know what was happening in their government.

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GR blogger brings me up-to-date about my legislator, Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing

Knowing that Michigan is facing some really hard budget choices, I've been looking for some information about the activities and positions of my representatives in the Michigan Legislature.

It's important to set a little context about the financial condition of state government here.  We need to cut more than $600 million from the state budget by the last day of September.  Living here and watching our political leaders you feel like the doomsday clock has started running.  So, it's natural to look for information about what are elected officials are doing and saying.

In an earlier post, I complained about a paucity of info from my reps, State Rep. Barb Byrum and Sen. Gretchen Whitmer.

Well,Nick from the blog Michigan Right has come to the rescue.  Seems that Sen. Whitmer wants to legalize cloning in the Great Lakes state.  Read his post and check the links.  It's hard to argue her intent.

It's hard to not be sarcastic about this and become more cynical about the role or the non-role that our lawmakers seem to be playing in deciding the future of our state.

I wonder if either one knows about blogs and how they could be used to inform their constituents.

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How would you grade Michigan Legislature for handling state budget problems?

In the heart of mid-Michigan, it's hard to not wonder on a nice spring Monday morning what news awaits a state that's gasping for economic life.

While the week will probably bring a full menu of news stories about how the state's economy is suffering, the Michigan Legislature has known for months that the state faced almost a billion dollar shortfall for this fiscal year that ends on the last day of September.

From my vantage point, I've seen little action from either side of the aisle at the State Capitol in downtown Lansing.  Our state lawmakers are among the best paid in the country.  They have nice offices, all the latest conveniences and they have plenty of staff.

My state legislators,  Rep. Barb Byrum and Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, have not communicated anything that I can see about the problem. 

Isn't part of the job of being an elected official to educate their constituents about issues of the moment?  And then aren't they supposed to listen to constituents to gain their views?

From Rep. Byrum, I have gotten several pieces of taxpayer funded mail about being a senior citizen.  It's really patronizing stuff that I pay for.

I would bet that each mail piece costs at least 50 cents to send.  She could lower my taxes by a couple bucks a year that she  spends for the mail.

Both Byrum and Whitmer have been conspicuous by their absence among the people who elected them.  I'm sure they appear at some community events, ribbon-cuttings and that sort of thing.

But, both need to take some leadership and they need to keep their voters informed as Michigan's future is being decided.

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Getting stuck in life and not getting loose by Ada Bible Church Pastor Jeff Manion

Do you feel stuck in your life right now?  Maybe it's a job, a family situation, health problems or maybe a relationship gone bad.

When my wife and I drove from Lansing this morning to the Ada Bible Church just east of Grand Rapids, I was looking forward  to viewing church from a different perspective.  I belong to a local congregation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  For a while I've felt like going to Sunday services never quite opened the right circuit breakers in my heart.

At times, I've really beat myself up about church and my lack of
positive response.  I've had trouble connecting to sermons and figuring
out how they connect to my life.  The worship seemed to be chained down
by a formula that seems to stay the same regardless of how they change
it.  Considering my six decades and a few months of life, I should
revel in tradition and the old way of doing stuff.  But, I don't.

I grew up in our denomination that's rooted in a tradition of strong
doctrine based on Martin Luther's interpretation of the Bible.

Everything is focused on Jesus Christ and how we can go to heaven by
using his ticket which he gained for us by dying on the cross and
rising on Easter.

So what's wrong?

The church--at least, our part of it--seems to have grown lukewarm.  In
the process, I see my spritual temperature in a stuck position.  This
brings me back to this morning.

My expectations of the service at Ada Bible Church were not high.  I

just knew that I needed to go to church.  Inside my heart there was a
fight.  For several years I've been telling myself that I don't need
church.  I can worship God without it.  I can witness and I can
minister without belonging to a local church body.  But, there's
another part of me that acknowledges that God says we need each other.

What I found was not an epiphany that changed my life on the spot.

But, it was another piece of the puzzle taken out of the box that I can
fit into the other pieces.

Jeff Manion's sermon was based on a section of the Bible's book of

Phillipians where Paul writes about being in prison and the  effect his
imprisonment has on his attitudes, his motivations, his values and the
goals for his life. 

The Apostle Paul responded in a way that reminds me of the radicals
that I remember from the sixties.  He was focused.  His mission was
clear.  He knew what he wanted.  He was driven.

In everything that happened to him, he saw an opportunity to build a
bridge to others that showed Jesus and the hope that comes from his
love.  Paul was on fire in his passion for Jesus.  As a result, the
world around him was changed.   

I want some of that Jesus-driven passion.  I know the other stuff
doesn't work.  It doesn't have any staying power.  It will let you
down.  Jesus won't I know that. 

But, far too often that message for me, at least, has gotten fogged up in church. 

Pastor Manion, thanks for the message.  I needed it.  Hopefully, it can
leverage other pieces in the puzzle box to help get a real fire going
inside of me, one that burns for Jesus.

Michigan iPod controversey: Just so you know what you're giving every kid, what is an iPod?

In Michigan where the State House Democrats want to give an iPod to every school-age child, there's probably more than a few parents and grandparents asking, just what is an iPod?

Ipod The danger in learning the answer is that you will probably want one and you will learn to love it.  You can listen to music.  You can watch movies.  You can store still pictures.  Basically, it can handle, depending on the model, just about any audio or video content.  And, it can be easily download to your device. 

Millions and millions have been sold by Apple Computer raising the bottom line of the California company and making its stock attractive for those who have it.

Take a look at the Apple description of the device and its various models on its website. 

I'm sure it has potential applications for education.  But for entertainment, it can't be beat easily. 

Michigan iPod controversey: Do iPods have a role in K-12 education?

New Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon has proposed and now apparently pulled back an idea to give an Apple iPod to every student in our state.

Because of our state's economic condition, it's easy to stomp on this idea from the Michigan House Democrats without looking at the pros and cons.  Okay, so what would the benefits be of giving every kid their own iPod and how would it fit into their education?  Speaker Dillon must have had some evidence of this having worked someplace else.

I did a Google search and found a number of sites about using iPods for education.  But most were linked to Apple sites where the computer company extols the virtues of this technology in the classroom.  Maybe, I didn't click far enough but I didn't see any case studies from K-12 classrooms.

Education World lists several sites where teachers use them for themselves. 

Maybe Speaker Dillon and his advisers could share their information.  This would be good stuff for a House Education Committee meeting.  Perhaps even the Senate Education Committee.

NOTE:  Link to my first post about the Michigan iPod controversey: 

It's hard to not be sarcastic about MI House Dems and their plan to give iPods to every kid

My first reaction to the MI House Dem idea to give every schoolkid in the state a free iPod was that House Speaker Andy Dillon was really an idiot and a typical big-spending, no-thinking Democrat.  It was too easy for me to shake my head in disgust and move on.

How does the average citizen feel about their proposal?  Are they saying, yeah, that's a great idea and a good way to spend their money or are they shaking their collective heads in disgust too?

I'm really surprised that the state's news media hasn't jumped on this more.  It's a great news story where some decent reporting would show how the current genre of the state legislature works or doesn't work.

Now, let's add some context.  The state of Michigan is struggling for its economic life.  What our state is experiencing right now is more than the ups and downs of the auto industry.  The car makers continue to go down and they will never get back up.  This means thousands of jobs will never come back and that the state treasury has hit bottom.

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Easter 2007 in Indianapolis with our family

Indymuseum_2I sense a pattern developing in our family holiday celebrations.  Thanksgiving with super-son in the Washington D.C. area.  Christmas at home in Lansing and Easter with super-daughter in Indy.

It's hard to put into words the special pride that comes with seeing your kids and knowing that they're fully-engaged in life and its various issues.

For our daughter, the Hoosier, this includes a garage door that won't open.  The inside cable broke and the two windows, one of each side are painted shut making easy entry almost impossible.

Two excursions while there stand out.  On Saturday night, we went to the Buca di BePeppo, a family-style Italian restaurant in downtown Indy.  We bought large plates of tortelloni and spaghetti marinara and a large plate of garlic bread.  All this served five people.  Food was really good.  Service was fantastic and the setting inside made for a fun eating experience.

The second experience was a Monday afternoon visit to The Children's Museum near downtown Indy.  We saw some great exhibits made with kids in mind.  Inside the museum, they recreated a rain forest with dinosaurs.  There were resident fossil experts for kids to talk to.

Stuffed peppers: One of my all-time favorite meals

I never really learned how to cook, but I certainly learned how to eat and to appreciate food.  Growing up in Bay City, my mom would make stuffed peppers a couple of times a year.  I developed a special

Stuffed_pepper_2 fondness for the dish.  And I'm sure that's why my wife likes to make it on occasion.  It's something that i eat with enthusiasm and appreciation.

Ingredients included ground beef, onions, rice, tomato sauce.  She put it in the oven for an hour.  The wait was worth it.  It brought back great memories.

To top it off, she served fresh strawberries topped with yogurt.  We also had a salad.

I checked the recipe files on and they had more than one thousands recipes for stuffed peppers.



Do you feel the joy today, Easter 2007?

It's early on Easter morning and I've had a chance to peruse the online newspapers.

Go to the New York Times and you'll find a story from Trenton, New Jersey about nine homicides there during the first three months of the year.  Yesterday's Indy Star has a story about a young mom from the east side of the city who caught an accidental bullet.

Those kinds of stories repeat themselves many times over around the country and the world.

But, I found this devotion from Radio Bible Class' Our Daily Bread which reminds us that Easter brings hope because of what happened that day.  And Billy Graham reminds us of the power of Easter week and the hope that comes for each and everyone of us.

He is risen.  He is risen, indeed.

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You decide: Should MI Supreme Court Justices be given free state cars for business and personal use

Okay, you decide if the Michigan Supreme Court Justices are leading by example.

They and members of the Michigan Court of Appeals get free cars to drive when and where they want.  The state of Michigan picks up the tab.

Now let's provide some context:  The state of Michigan is in big trouble with a state budget that is much bigger than the revenues that are taken in.  Vital human service programs are being affected, like foster care, Medicaid.  Prisons are being closed and thousands of inmates are set to be released because the state can't afford them.

Michigan's top judges feel they deserve the perk.  Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Cliff Taylor explains:

He uses his car, a 2005 Ford 500, for work, commuting, law school visits, ceremonial functions, and occasional trips to the grocery and for dinners out.

While his vacations don't typically involve a state
car, he said, using one "would be perfectly permissible."

"That is the reigning interpretation. I've never heard anyone challenge it."

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Baby-boomers are still struggling with drug abuse, according to study

Are you a baby-boomer?

They grew up during the rise of the drug culture.  There was Acapulco God, LSD and a whole bunch of other drugs that they abused.

It seems like a bunch of them have moved from being young drug abusers to almost senior citizen abusers.  They haven't been able to kick the habit.

Check this from today's Detroit News:

One of the few comprehensive studies of the problem found that 3 million Americans older than 50 in 2004 had used illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine or heroin, or had misused anti-anxiety, anti-depression or other prescription drugs.

Research by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that number could more than double by 2020.

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Is it amateur hour in the Michigan Legislature or is there a plan to rescue the state?

As Michigan continues to move towards the perfect political storm, one has to wonder, if House Speaker Andy Dillon and other legislative leaders know what they're doing.

Is a major part of the problem Michigan's political novices who sit in the seats of power? 

After being elected, citizen legislators are whisked from their districts to positions of extreme power.  While still trying to figure out on the map where the State Capitol is located, they are making life and death decisions about major chunks of state government.  They may learn the lingo of legislative politics and have a veneer of understanding about issues, but their knowledge of the issues seems to be tissue paper thin.

The consequences are major.  Michigan continues its slide towards becoming an industrial backwater.

They argue, point fingers and trash talk each other.  Nothing's getting done.  There doesn't seem to be thought out plan.

As the shutdown of state government because of a lack of funds gets closer, here's the answer from MI House Speaker Andy Dillion from today's Detroit News:

"Let's fix the problem, rather than do what's politically popular," said Dillon, flanked by more than a dozen of his House Democratic colleagues.

Dillon said he is eager to push a plan to shift more of the business tax liability to companies that do business in Michigan, but don't have a plant or a workforce based here.

He said his plan also asks state employees to give up 2 percent of their health care costs, which he said would save the state $200 million to $250 million annually.

Michigan can save another $122 million, Dillon said, if it changes prison parole policies, to free more inmates who have served their minimum sentences, or place them in lower-cost community settings.

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While Ford Motor Co. struggles for its life, new CEO takes $28.2 million for three months

If new Ford CEO Alan Mulally is trying to lead by example, he should have some rough times with the United Auto Workers during this fall's negotiations.

Today's Detroit News says that Mulally got $28.2 million for his first three months on the job to save the Michigan-based automaker that's struggling for its very life.

The new CEO has been closing down plants and cutting jobs and affecting employee's livelihoods to save the company.

During national contract negotiations this fall, the UAW and its member employees will be asked to make huge sacrifices.  Count on it.

Does Mulally wants the blue-collars to follow his example?  Probably not? 

I'm not impressed with the new Ford guy.  When he first came, he seemed like he had a handle on issues.  But he certainly doesn't follow the paradigm of leading to provide an example.

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