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21 posts from February 2008

In light of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's actions, Michigan needs to look at taking control of Detroit

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is not the first public official to cheat on his wife and family. 

Look at King David and how he even ordered the murder of the husband of the woman with whom he had an affair.  Then remember Bill Clinton who turned the White House Oval Office into a hideaway where he had sex with an intern.

Now we have Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick who lied about his affair with his chief of staff and then used more than $8 million of taxpayers money to cover it up.  He fought tenaciously to keep hidden the documents showing the details of the affair that has further besmirched Michigan's number one city.

Evidence shows that it's time for the state of Michigan to start talking about taking over the operation of the Motor City.  Discussions about the future of Detroit and its operations need to start with the Michigan Legislature.

Continue reading "In light of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's actions, Michigan needs to look at taking control of Detroit" »

You can follow super-son, Justin Thorp, and his travels to Miami to represent Clearspring, the widget-maker

My son, Justin, is in Miami for the next few days getting to know web developers attending BarCamp Miami and then the Future of Web Apps conference.2298356028_939e76239a_m

He's now working for Clearspring of MaClean, Virginia, as the web developer community organizer for this impressive young start-up that's cutting new ground in how web content is distributed through widgets.

You can track his travels and contacts three different ways:

My Sunday a.m. reading: Auto worker buyouts, rising Michigan property taxes, etc.

Here are links to news stories and other items I read before church this morning:

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Michigan's state lawmakers need to follow John McCain's position on ethanol

Michigan politicians are falling over themselves to bring special tax breaks to ethanol producers, a bio-fuel that supposedly lessens our need for fossil fuels like crude oil and its derivative gasoline. 

Evidence shows that ethanol made from corn holds out false hopes as an energy substitute to operate our cars.  I wrote two earlier posts about this.  It will cost more to produce, requires record-sized federal and state subsidies, is more harmful to the environment and is less efficient for cars that use it.

Our State House voted 108-0 to give bio-fuel companies a preferential tax break.

John  McCain has had the political backbone to recognize and publicly state that ethanol is not a good deal for our country.  Here's what Ken Braun of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy says in a comment on my post about the topic:

Something else I meant to mention is that not all politicians are duped by ethanol. One very notable exception is none other than John McCain, who went to Iowa and more or less told them that he wasn't going to seriously contest their caucus because he had every intention of cutting off their ethanol subsidies if he won the White House.

This really raises my opinion about McCain.  Is his openness typical of the way he handles issues generally?

CNN's interview with Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page shows big media can get facts wrong

While watching CNN this morning, I watched an interview with the Chicago Tribune's political pundit Clarence Page.  During his comments about the presidential primary campaigns, a graphic came up on the screen stating that he started with Trib in 1972.

Wrong!  Basic factual error.

How do I know that?  In 1969, Clarence and I were partners at the Trib's Neighborhood News covering the southside.  He stayed with the Trib, left for awhile to do television and then came back. 

My point:  The New York Times today published a story about John McCain suggesting that he had an inappropriate relationship with a female lobbyist.  There were assertions supported by virtually nothing other than unnamed sources.

You judge whether the story is true or whether it's sloppy or yellow journalism. 

But, look at the giant international news station, CNN, couldn't even get a basic fact about Clarence Page right.

Michigan ethanol: Do some research and vote on whether producers should get a tax break

The Michigan Legislature wants to give ethanol producers in the state preferential tax treatment.  This gasoline substitute is viewed as an alternative to gasoline for our cars.  A main component is corn.

In a post yesterday, I wrote about how the Michigan House of Representatives provided unanimous support to a tax break bill for ethanol producers even though this fuel might not deliver what's hoped for. 

The question:
Should ethanol and other renewable fuel producers be given a tax break or could this developing industry be better served by letting a free market decide?

My knowledge about the fuel is still elementary.  Here are some links to info that I will be exploring for answers:

  • Michigan's senior United States Carl Levin shares how he feels our state's future is tied to the production of ethanol.  He says major investment is need to make sure this happens.
  • Gov. Jennifer Granholm talks about construction in Michigan of an ethanol plant where the fuel would include wood chips as a key ingredient, rather than corn.
  • Wikipedia talks about whether ethanol results in a net energy gain or loss.  How much energy is used in the production of the corn or other material?  In the end will more energy be consumed by ethanol production?  What's the gain?
  • UPDATED:  Wall Street Journal says bio-fuels like ethanol are more harmful to the environment than fossil fuels.
  • UPDATED:  Wall Street Journal looks at sugarcane as a source for ethanol versus the more popular use of corn.

Does anybody have other links to share, either pro or con about ethanol?

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Daniel Parmenter, student at Northern Illinois University, took the bullets for his girlfriend

When the shooter entered the classroom and started shooting, Daniel Parmenter was sitting next to his girlfriend, Lauren Debrauwere.  He covered her body with his 6' 5" frame and took several bullets, including a couple to his head.  She survived.  He didn't. It's an amazing and inspiring story.  The Chicago Tribune provides details.

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Can anything be done to prevent Michigan potholes from forming?

Driving in Michigan these days, you almost need a spotter for the potholes in the road.  Here in middle part of the state we have been through several freeze thaw cycles so far this year and the roads are showing it in spades.

At a city hall meeting yesterday, everybody was talking about their cars and the beating they were taking.  One member of the committee I serve on is a retired state employee with engineering background.  He says:

Potholes can be prevented.
A retired guy with a background in engineering, he said the solution rests with the construction method.  He shared technical details and maintained adamantly that it all depends on taking the right steps.

Okay, anybody agree?  Can we do anything to get rid of potholes?

Just to provide some context, read this story from today's Detroit Free Press about a woman's trip in a new car and how it got swallowed up by a pothole.

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My trip to Cuba was truly eye-opening about using diplomacy vs. tough talk

It was the late 70s and President Jimmy Carter opened Cuba to American visits for a short period of time.  I was part of one of the first groups to legally make the trip to our communist neighbor 90 miles south of Key West.

My traveling companion-Charlie-was a reporter for a major newspaper and I was the newsroom manager at our state capitol.  We were two young guys looking for a different vacation and we were not disappointed.

What we saw was a different world that was as close to this country as Lansing, our state capital city, to the city of Detroit.  We traveled for more than a week from Varadero Beach in the north to Cienfuegos in the south and back to Havana. In between, we made it to the Bay of Pigs.  We were struck by:

  • Poverty that existed just about everywhere.  Food was sparse and very limited.  At hotels, portions for meals that we paid for we small and there was no opportunity for extra serving.  Those who tried to get more were lectured.
  • Freedom was even more limited.  Cubans who took the risk to talk to us were watched closely.  They had real fear about being seen talking to Americans.
  • Most people we talked to had some connection to the United States.  Many had family in Michigan and other states.  They loved American cars and followed American athletes.
With the transition from Fidel Castro, it's time for this country to make change in Cuban policy.  It's time to set things right with our neighbors to the south. 

We can have relationships with their people with trade and exchanges without endorsing a less than free government.

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Is it bad policy for Michigan to give preferential tax treatment to ethanol producers?

You decide. 

Is Michigan making good public policy by providing preferential tax breaks for the production of ethanol and other crop-based fuels?

Just about every politician in our state and everywhere else has been hailing the production of ethanol as the answer to our high prices for fossil fuels like gasoline.  On the surface, it seems like a good deal where you take a portion of our corn production and turn it into fuel to run our cars.

I'm sure that's why Rep. Jeff Mayes of Bay City has introduced House Bill 5100 where ethanol producers in Michigan are given preferential tax breaks.  On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer. Who could be against it.  It passed the Michigan House of Representatives overwhelmingly and is on the Michigan Senate floor for a final vote.

But, a story in Michigan Capitol Confidential published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy raises serious questions about the corn-based fuel.

Continue reading "Is it bad policy for Michigan to give preferential tax treatment to ethanol producers?" »

Which presidential candidate can do something about the potholes in Lansing, MI?

During this time of high politics in our country, it's easy to get caught up in the more weighty issues of the moment like the economy and healthcare. But, here in Lansing, MI, our state's capital city, I'm more concerned right now about potholes on city roads.

Taking my wife to work this morning, a five-minute drive, I ran into crater-sized potholes which come up with no warning in the day time and when it's dark are just plain impossible to see. I haven't taken a ruler to measure their depth, but I'm sure that many measure a foot deep or more.

Yesterday, I traveled Jolly Road, a main east-west corridor on the southside of the city. Instead of driving my almost ten year-old Malibu, I need a Humvee to travel a road that resembled the backroads of a developing African country that I visited a couple of years ago.

What's the answer to this freeze thaw cycle that destroys Michigan road's especially during this winter season where the weather can go from below zero to the high 40's in the matter of a day?

Part of the answer lies in communication, I believe. City Hall and Mayor Virg Bernero need to weave residents into the whole process of what's happening with our streets. Extra efforts need to be made to communicate why the city can't do a better job.

Lansing City Hall, including City Council members, has to do a better job of listening, communicating and reacting.

Anybody agree? Disagree?

How big was threat of prevailing wage ordinance in helping Lansing (MI) lose TechSmith construction

There should be some serious lamenting going on at Lansing (MI) City Hall right now with the announcement that the city was losing the construction of a promised new corporate headquarters for software developer TechSmith.  It was to anchor a Michigan State University high tech park inside the city limits.

Tech Smith CEO Bill Hamilton is quoted in today's Lansing State Journal as saying now is just not the right time for his company to construct a 100,000 square foot building that would cost $20 million.  His company makes the popular SnagIt and Camtasia Studio software.

One of the factors, but not the deciding one, according to Hamilton is:

A proposal before the Lansing City Council to create a prevailing wage and require it of local contractors on projects that receive local tax incentives.

My question:  How big of a factor was the City Council's talk of a prevailing wage ordinance in losing this project?  And what is our city gaining from a possible prevailing wage?

We've lost this project and the employment that it would have brought in the future. 

Where's the gain?

Here's a reason why we should be careful about buying prescription drugs from Canada

Have you ever been tempted to buy your prescription drugs from Canada and save a ton of money?

Over the past several years, there have been countless news stories about consumers crossing over into Canada to get prescriptions filled.  They save substantial amounts of money by making this easy trip from just about any place in Michigan.

Our U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow has led bus trips filled with senior citizens across the border where many saved hundreds of dollars.

But, today's news about a Chinese manufacturing plant being the target of concerns for being a source of a deadly allergic reaction by hundreds of U.S. patients from the blood thinner heparin.

The plant which supplies the active ingredient for the drug had never been inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  This blood thinner is used in heart surgery, kidney dialysis and other procedures, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Could situations like this be the reason we should be careful about buying cheaper prescription drugs dispensed from Canada?

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What should I write about in my personal blog--Daily Grit?

For the past several weeks, I've struggled with the question of what I should write about in my four year-old personal blog-Daily Grit.  Somehow I got distracted from my reason for doing this.

I've viewed this blog as a mirror that shows an image of what I'm doing, thinking, reading and planning for the future. 

And I'm doing this from a special vantage point.  I'm part of the huge first class of baby boomers born in 1946.  Many of us have retired and are searching for their next assignment in life.  Secondly, I live in Michigan, a state that at one time was the center of hope for earning a good living and for raising a family.

Now our state is at the edge of a high economic cliff.  The once proud auto industry is hardly a shadow of its former self.  High paying factory jobs are quickly becoming a memory.  The challenge is whether Michigan can make the transition or will it continue to decline.

This blog is about looking at life on a daily basis through my eyes.  There will be continued opinion, references and links to what I'm reading along with other items that matter to me and might matter to someone else.


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Is there a spiritual revival going on at Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing?

Can you explain what's happening at Michigan State University more regarded as a party school than for its spirituality?

More than 7,000 attended Ash Wednesday services at a Catholic parish in East Lansing that caters to students.  And for most of mid-Michigan, last Wednesday night was the start of a heavy snow storm.

Lansing State Journal columnist John Schneider writes about his conversation with a Catholic priest at the parish where each attender gets an ash cross put on their forehead.

He raises the question of why Ash Wednesday draws more students than either celebrations for Christmas or Easter?

Anybody have any ideas?

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Is it time to stop celebrating Black History Month?

When you pick up the Lansing State Journal from your cold porch in mid-Michigan, you are hit by the headline on Black History Month?

Our local paper raises  the question this morning whether the celebration of African American history during February should be eliminated.  Should it just be embedded into the teaching of history?  Have  Black History Month celebrations become tokenized to the point of having minimal meaning?

From a white guy's perspective, I feel its celebration is unfortunately minimized.  Sure, there's the obligatory stories in the paper.  Mayor Virg Bernero will probably issue a proclamation.  The public schools will probably do something and I assume the African American community will have observances.

But during this time of national political discussion about our past, present and future, I see little discussion about the role that African Americans have played in our history, whether on a national, state or local level. 

Many in the Christian Right brag about how great our nation is and how we need to be proud.  Yes . . . to a point. 

As a nation, we need to never forget the role of a group of people whose history needs to be told and retold.

Anybody agree?  Disagree?

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Quick read: Born again voters would vote Democratic if election was held today, according to George Barna survey

Republican party leaders will need to take a big gulp when they read that born again voters are defecting from the party in droves, according pollster George Barna.  He says that if the election was held today that "born-agains" would vote Democrat.

That's a dramatic change from the past and could cause seizures in the GOP.  Barna explains what's behind this change.

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Quick read: Detroit News says growing number of car buyers are delinquent with their car loans

As the state of Michigan struggles with the downsizing of the auto industry, the Detroit News reports this morning that an increasing number of new car buyers are behind with their car payments. 

Here in the Lansing area, car plants assemble vehicles that retail in the high 30's and 40's.  What does this mean for them?

The story says:

  • The latest data from the American Bankers Association showed the delinquency rate for indirect auto loans, typically arranged by dealers for their customers, rose in the third quarter to 2.86 percent, a 16-year high.
  • Highly rated borrowers are falling behind, too. In December, 2.09 percent of prime auto loans rated by Standard & Poor's in 2006 were more than 30 days past due, up from 1.85 percent for loans made a year earlier, and above the historical highs of 2001.

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Quick-read: My first read of the day was the scales and then Weight Watchers online

I've finally gotten to the point where I've said enough is enough.

I'm talking about being overweight.  I'm hesitant to talk about this because I'm afraid I might jinx this, but I rejoined Weight Watchers online.  Okay, I've been down this path before.  This time I know that I need to pay more attention to two words--risk factor.

At age 61, I have a fresh awareness that my extra weight could ignite a whole set of problems I'd rather not touch.  So, that's why when I stepped on the scales this morning I was happy that I lost more than two pounds.

This was even after a small at-home Super Bowl party last night with a glass of wine, cut-up fat free hot dogs with a sauce that tasted like barbeque and reduced fat Triscuits with peach mango salsa, not to mention cut-up veggies with a pretty tasty dip.

I really want to do this, but I don't want to overturn my life with constant thoughts about dieting. 

I will share more as I continue this journey.

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