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16 posts from March 2008

Mackinac Center makes strong case for part-time Michigan Legislature

Michigan's Legislature has 148-members who fight and claw and anything else they need to do to stay in office for every possible day they can have under term limits.  They are full-time and many work hard to justify themselves in the eyes of voters.

To keep their almost $100,000 a year job, many of them have convinced themselves and voters that where there's legislative smoke there's fire.

Mackinac Center president Larry Reed, in an online column, outlines how the legislature tries to give citizens the impression that each need and problem can be solved with a bill.  Thousands are introduced every two-year session and several hundred are passed into law.

Think about it:  Can government solve the problems that make you stumble?  Can you point situations where government involvement has made a difference?  What about all the bills to have a state dog and a state whatever?  Is it worth it?

It's time to seriously talk about making Michigan's legislature part-time. 

We need to save the money that a full-time legislature costs and we need to move away from the idea that government can protect us from every ill wind that we encounter.


Young people embrace idea of serial marriage where there is a different partner for each phase of life, according to Barna survey

George Barna, the pollster, released results from a new poll on marriage and divorce.  It seems to say that lots of people get married and lots of people get divorced.  We know that already.  But this quote from his poll summary carries a jolt for anybody who wants to see their kids stay married:


"There no longer seems to be much of a stigma attached to divorce; it is now seen as an unavoidable rite of passage," the researcher indicated. "Interviews with young adults suggest that they want their initial marriage to last, but are not particularly optimistic about that possibility.

"There is also evidence that many young people are moving toward embracing the idea of serial marriage, in which a person gets married two or three times, seeking a different partner for each phase of their adult life."
   

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Is Michigan's hike in minimum wage a job killer for summer hires this year?

If your'e a high school or college student looking for a summer job in Michigan this year, you more than likely will have a tough time finding work.

The Detroit News reports this morning that with our state having the highest unemployment rate in the nation--7.2 percent--that students will have to compete for low-paying, part-time summer jobs alongside breadwinners who are trying to make ends meet.

Are there fewer summer jobs because of the increasing minimum wage?

Here's what one economist in the state said:


This summer's increase in the state's minimum wage won't help the job situation, said Dana Johnson, chief economist for Comerica Bank. The regular minimum wage increases from $7.15 an hour to $7.40 on July 1, and the sub-minimum wage, for those under 18, goes from $6.08 to $6.29.

Johnson called the wage hike a "job killer," because employers will hire fewer workers to compensate for their higher payrolls.


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Housing market in the city of Detroit shows some spark with bulk buyers

Housing bargains in the city of Detroit are so good that some buyers are getting them in bulk with purchases of 100 or more, according to a story in the Detroit Free Press this morning.

The story quotes some buyers who say they can pick-up a livable $85,000 in the city for $20,000 to $30,000 during these hard economic times.

Is there a silver-lining here for our struggling and biggest city in the state or are these buyers just vultures picking over the near dead?


I'm getting ready to "live blog" Lansing (MI) Mayor Virg Bernero's presentation of proposed budget to City Council tonight

How many of you pay attention to the debate of the budget for your local unit of government? I have lived in Lansing, Michigan's State Capital city, continuously since 1972 and have paid much attention to city government, let alone the city budget and its development. It's time for me to change that pattern. Tonight, Mayor Virg Bernero presents an austere budget to the council and I know that owning a house and living here means that I should pay attention. The presentation will be on the city government's cable access channel. I will watch this and then try to attend council budget hearings and discussions. I know that life in our city will be affected by these decisions and I firmly believe that as a citizen I need to be in formed. This post is to get me ready and get me familiar with a new web application called CoverItLive. If it works right, I can cover it live and viewers on my blog can see my comments as I write them. Let me know what you think.

Wrap-up: Our "empty-nester" trip to northern Michigan on Easter weekend 2008

We're home from our spontaneous quickie "empty-nester" weekend trip to northern Michigan.  We drove north on a whim realizing that our kids wouldn't be home from two different states; we had no dog to keep us home and the invite basket was empty for this Easter weekend.

Here are some notes that might be of casual interest:

  • I'm glad that we resisted the habit that we've acquired over the years of feeling that we needed to plan a foray that would take us out overnight.
  • It really helped to see some different scenery, but more it helped me resist the inertia of many babyboomers that keeps them on familiar ground like home.
  • Church is important for us and this being Easter Sunday, it was especially important. 
  • We found a neat little church in East Tawas, MI, called Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church that was packed to the rafters with a continuum of ages from the very young to the very old.  They seemed friendly and didn't seem pretentious.
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, East Tawas, MI H & H Bakery and Restaurant in AuGres, MI

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How good are Michigan's members of the U.S. Congress at getting pork barrel spending for the state

Detroit Free Press this morning has this list of Michigan members of the U.S. Congress and how much they've gotten for our state through earmarks, the latest way to get pork barrel spending.

Keep in mind this is your money and earmarks are usually done below the public radar and go to areas and projects with the best lobbyists and most powerful members of Congress.

Here's a definition of the process from the Free Press which Republican presidential candidate John McCain said he would end:

Earmarks are line items stuck in budget bills by representatives or senators for specific spending in their states or districts. They are debated little if at all, the thinking being that if you go after mine, I’m going to object to yours. So everyone just looks the other way. Earmarks also are veto-proof because they are line items that cannot be singled out in the huge spending bills sent to the president.

Congress has been a little more restrained about earmarks since the practice got so out of hand, but we are still talking about $18.3 billion in tax dollars this year. Earmarks are the latest incarnation of pork barrel spending, and of course everyone is against that — including the Free Press — unless the pork is extra money coming to Michigan. ;)


Super-wife and I look at Easter from the shores of Lake Huron

It's Easter morning and we are watching the news on television in our motel room in Tawas City.  We are here because of one of those "empty-nester moments."  The kids live in different states.  We don't have a dog to worry about and there wasn't anything else going on.

So, the light bulb went on and we decided to get in the car and drive to see where we landed.  We thought about Mackinaw City on the northern tip of Michigan.  We decided to keep an eye on the weather which can change on a moments notice in our state.  If you get too far away and snow comes the trip could become more of an adventure than we wanted to take in our older Chevy Malibu.

Our first stop yesterday was in Bay City where we visited friends.  Then we got in the car and drove along the eastern edge of the state right next to the Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron and landed here in Tawas City.

We will celebrate Easter here at a local church.  We know that Jesus lives and he reigns and that he's the only real hope in this messed up world.  He has risen.  You bet he has.  Here's a couple of pics:
Looking at Tawas Bay and Lake Huron Michigan

Super-wife and me


Question: What do you tell your son when he asks about free wi-fi in mid-town Manhattan?

Super-son is attending a conference in mid-town Manhattan and at suppertime, he called home. While talking he asked if I would look up free wi-fi locations nearby. I went to the social media site Yelp where I got a lengthy list with useful reviews written by those who used the individual facilities.

Check it out. You can find reviews of all kinds of services from a long list of places. It's interesting stuff and I wrote about it on my blog for MyCapitalWeb LLC, my blog consultancy.

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Baby boomer retirees: A recipe for accomplishing your life goals by Dr. Randy Carlson of Family Life Communications

Last month, I commented on my friend Dave Porter's blog, a Boomer in the Pew, that since I retired from my full-time day job, I've had trouble getting traction on a direction to pursue in the next chapter of my life.

Retiring bought a formless freedom where direction had to be sought out and followed. At times, I've felt like a deer on a Michigan road caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. It was hard to move.

Then I started listening to a new emphasis of "intentional living" by Dr. Randy Carlson of Family Life Communications. At first, I casually listened to his call-in radio program. What I heard made sense on the surface. I knew that I had to do the important things "intentionally." I just couldn't do them on an informal, casual basis without strategic or tactical thinking.

The logical next step came in the mail a few months later. As monthly contributors to his radio program, we received two CDs entitled "One Thing" where the first describes how life happens one thing at a time and how we should plan and implement that.

The second provided practical advice on how to implement that in daily life. And, of course, the advice is based on the Bible and its teachings.

I wish I would have done this before I retired and I can even say that I wish I would have retooled my thinking to this "one thing" approach during the heart of my "downtown" work life.

He summarizes this approach in a recent fundraising letter we received:

"I believe it comes down to this: your life and mine are lived at the speed of one thing at a time. We live one minute, one hour, one day, one meeting, one phone call, and one crisis at a time. We do life one interaction at a time-one fight with our spouse or kids, one disappointment, one success, one challenge.

"How you manage those 'one things' as they come your way will shape and define the larger outcome of your life. Picture it like a chain link fence. Just as each link is connected to the next to form the fence, so the individuals choices you make, no matter how small, add up to one big thing."

In the car, I've listened to the CDs probably five or six times. I'm solidifying my goals and meshing them with those of my wife and then I'm breaking them down into the "one things."

I feel some fire coming back into my daily routine. But, with the help of God that fire can become refirement and be more directed and purposeful or intentional.

Can anybody identify with this struggle?


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New allegations about Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick raise questions for all cities

Do you live in a city?  A township?  A county?  Do you know how each level of government handles the award of contracts and do you know how available that information is to the public which pays the bills?

A case in point: In today's Detroit Free Press Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick faces allegations that he gave special help and advance knowledge of contracts to be bid to a crony.  This friend did millions of dollars of business with the city.

The charge is based on text messages between the friend, the mayor and the then mayor's chief of staff. 

This makes me wonder about the contract award process for other cities, including my own.  I have no reason to believe there's anything dishonest going on, but if there's not a local newspaper like the Free Press to keep city officials accountable, then who's left to oversee the process?

Who's looking out for the public interest?

In Detroit, where was the City Council?


Does Meijers stores support Michigan wine industry?

In a couple of hours, super wife and I will make our weekly shopping trip to Meijers in Lansing, MI. We will probably make a quick pass through of a pretty extensive wine selection.

Our wine tastes are still underdeveloped, but with help from our son, Justin, and the Wine Library's Gary Vaynerchuk, we are becoming more educated about the wide-variety of fermented grape juice.

One question before we go:

Does Meijer stores carry representative sampling of Michigan wines? Michigan wines topped my list week

Does Meijers give Michigan wines the shelf space that they seem to deserve? 

Everytime we look for something from our home state, there seems to be a paucity of items to select from.

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I need to be reminded of Matthew West's song "Nothing Else" constantly

Are the lyrics to Matthew West's song "Nothing Else" just nice words to give you a warm, spiritual feeling in church or at a concert?

To me, it seems like his lyrics provide the foundation and focus and purpose for living.  It all starts with a lowest common denominator.  If you miss this, then you've missed everything, according to my belief.

Then why is there so little conversation about what this looks like in real life?  Other things seem to dominate the conversation about what brings happiness and peace.  Or will it come with money, a job, health, the right political candidate or the right social connections?  Listen to his lyrics.  What do you think?


A short guide for Michigan State University students from foreign countries on how to appreciate the State Capitol

My assignment:
Tomorrow I will be sharing with a group of Michigan State students about the State Capitol which is almost right next door to the East Lansing campus. I've been told that the students will be mostly from China and South Korea and are highly-educated.

Some or many of them have expressed an interest in state government which is so close and face the challenge of making sense of how we govern ourselves on the state level. It's also an encouragement for them to make the trip downtown to see for themselves our state government in operation.

Background:

By living in Michigan, they have front row seats on a human drama of many acts that will affect the lives of millions in this state, around the country and the world. Much of the outcome will be determined by what happens in our state's government, including the legislative, executive and judicial branches. All three are right here in Lansing and are accessible to everybody.

 My goal:
Watching American government in action can be much like watching this country's brand of football.  Without some orientation, it can be confusing to the point of not making sense.  There are so many different players and groups with their own agendas that making sense of what's happening can seem impossible.  But, in the end the winner is declared by having at least one more vote than the other person, whether running in an election or trying to make laws.      

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