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36 posts from December 2010

Cigarette smuggling on big time rise in Michigan, says Mackinac Center

Michigan's being cheated on millions in cigarette taxes because of smugglers.  Why?  Check out this video from the Mackinac Center.  Also, here's what they wrote about the problem.


Where There's Cigarette Taxes, There's Smuggling from Mackinac Center on Vimeo.

In a 2010 update to their 2008 study "Cigarette Taxes and Smuggling" (, Michael LaFaive and Todd Nesbit show the strong correlation between high cigarette taxes and smuggling, theft and other violent crimes.

(Note: The study covers 47 of the 48 contiguous states, omitting North Carolina as the basic source state for smuggled cigarettes.)

VIDEO: My six month old grandson likes watching Morning Joe on his new MacBook

My grandson is only six months old and he's getting a good foundation in the basics.  Check out this video of him watching Morning Joe where lively discussion about political topics is featured everyday and where respect is always the guiding force.  And check his computer (his dad's), a MacBook.  This kid is being trained right. 

LINK: Get the skinny on how member of U.S. Congress spend your money This is our money and members of the U.S. Congress are spending it like they are members of a special ruling class.  Are you comfortable with that?

As you are driving today and wondering if your used car is going to make it back from grandma's house or if you are concerned if you have enough in the bank account to pay that $300 a month car payment, check out how many U.S. Representatives, U.S. Senators and their staffs are driving around in Cadilac Escalades and better.

This site from is a database where you can plug in any member of Congress and get the scoop. 

Is it time to let them know how you feel?  Should they be more prudent with our money?

Does Rick Snyder lift his skirt high enough to see more than his knees?

But for many Michigan residents, the only really tangible measure of Snyder's success will be the answer to one question: Do I have a job and money in my pocket?


We need to change our attitude about living in Michigan, according to Rick Snyder who will become governor on Saturday.

Read the above story in today's Detroit Free Press where he says our state is in such bad shape that it can't be fixed. He says, it has to be reinvented.

One of the things he might do, according to the story is start a web-based dashboard where state residents can check his stats on affecting household income and such other economic indicators in Michigan.

Does he get it? He's still thinking and acting like a CEO where you can rule from the top down. Being governor of a state is more than that.

He talks in clipped and crafted generalities that mean little.

Snyder brags about his "nerd" type attitude. If that means, he understands the age of social media and building community, then he needs to kick it into high gear.

Google Cluetrain Manifesto, one of the foundational documents for our new age of communication and you'll see that the marketplace has changed. CEO-style communicating through news releases and canned speeches doesn't work like it used to.

The marketplace, whether of ideas or products, expects conversation that's transparent and two-way.

Has anybody seen that yet with Rick Snyder? I haven't.

Would Michigan be better off without one-party rule?

Voters in the U.S. generally recognize that political gridlock is better than one-party rule — a judgment that seems lost on the ruling class.


Would the state of Michigan be better off in the New Year if it were not controlled by one political party?

Check the above column by the Mackinac Center's Russ Harding who raises the question about Republicans controlling both the Michigan governor's office, as well as both houses of the State Legislature.

Will it be too easy to ram bills through the legislative and then get them signed by the governor?

Harding points to the prospects of poorly thought out legislation that leads to bigger and less effective state government.

He raises the point that we might be better off with some gridlock in the process.

What do you think?

Should Michigan legislators be required to report meals with lobbyists?

I've never gone to lunch with a lobbyist. We've made it a policy... I bring my own lunch everyday to work, I don't allow lobbyists to buy meals for me and I haven't spent a lot of time with them. It's one of the reasons why in Lansing, I'm not that popular among the lobbying community because I haven't spent personal time with them.


Next time you see your state legislator--either a House or Senate member--ask them how many times a lobbyist had bought them a meal.

Check the above quote from Gov. Jennifer Granholm in the blog-Blogging For Michigan--where she says she never let a lobbyist buy her lunch during her eight years in office. She brings her own lunch to work, she says.

What about it? How effectively can a lobbyist get a lawmaker's ear by buying a meal every month or so? We are not talking a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup.

It's usually a real nice place with an expensive meal and maybe a few drinks and solid one-on-one face time with a special interest.

The lobbyist picks up the bill.

Should lawmakers be required to report each meal? List the lobbyist and the issues discussed. Would it help?

Is there a positive justification for a lobbyist to buy a lawmaker a meal? Isn't part of a lobbyist's job to educate?

Can that be done effectively in a hour meeting in the office?

How do you fight despair in your everyday life?

Watch this video of Emily Colson talk about dealing with a son who has autism and how she moved from despair to celebration.  She speaks with her dad, Chuck Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship.  She also wrote a book about this experience, Dancing With Max.

I'm a firm believer in learning from other's stories. This is real life and it seems relevant to today's circumstances where life is pretty rugged for a lot of people. 

The message was given as Seacoast Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  Look at their website for all the outreach the church is involved in.  How big of an answer is the church to today's societal problems if it filled its biblical role?

Emily colson


U.S. House Republicans fail in their first big test

WASHINGTON -- Republicans taking control of the U.S. House in January say they'll trim members' office budgets by 5%, but Congress members will keep a few perks, including taxpayer-paid leases for vehicles -- ranging from compacts to SUVs to offices on wheels -- for their personal use.


When you talk to Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, you need to watch what's coming out of both sides of their mouth, it appears.

Click on the above Detroit Free Press story about how Republicans in Congress voted to continue paying for vehicle leases for members. This includes the luxury SUV's and just about anything else they want to drive including BMWs.

Didn't Republicans campaign a month or two back about austerity and leading by example? They are spending our money and not there's.

What would they lease if they had to spend their own money?

More on Newark Mayor Cory Booker and his servant leadership

After a blizzard started blanketing the Northeast on Dec. 26, an event that earned the Twitter hashtag #snowpocalypse, Booker turned the microblogging site into a public-service tool. Residents of the city, which has a population of around 280,000, swarmed Booker's account (@CoryBooker) with requests for help, and the mayor responded. He and his staff have bounced around Newark shoveling streets and sending plows to areas where residents said they were still snowed in. "Just doug [sic] a car out on Springfield Ave and broke the cardinal rule: 'Lift with your Knees!!' I think I left part of my back back there," he reported in one message. One person let Booker know, via Twitter, that the snowy streets were preventing his sister from buying diapers. About an hour later, Booker was at the sister's door, diapers in hand.


Read the above paragraph and click on the link and tell me you're not impressed by the style of servant leadership shown by Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

He's out there and leading by example as shown in yet another story about his response to the snowstorm that crippled his city.

Check out how he delivered diapers to a family who needed them for a new baby. He also shoveled cars out that were stuck.

Is he for real? I could get excited about our city if our mayor showed that kind of leadership and if our city council did the same.

How about you?

How does your mayor compare to Cory Booker in Newark, NJ?

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat viewed by his party as a rising star, has crisscrossed the city personally to help clear snow and has kept a running, very public log of his efforts on Twitter.

“I’m on it,” Booker tweeted, in response to a user who said their car was covered in snow on Cutler Street.

Another user tweeted, “my mom stuck on 9th ave and 12th that whole block wasn’t plowed,” prompting Booker to respond: “I will get someone to your mom’s street, tell her to stay put”


Wherever you live in Michigan or the United States, you need to pay attention to Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker. Why?

This guy seems to get it when it comes to public service. He's out there serving and the recent snowstorm that hit his city and his response to it seems to really show that.

He was out there, involved in helping people and really communicating with those he serves.

What about Michigan's new governor, Rick Snyder who called himself a "nerd" during the campaign?

Booker used Twitter as a real tool to communicate and it worked.

Does Snyder use Twitter himself and would he know a tweet from a twit? It's time for him to show his social media prowess. If he doesn't know how to use it, then he needs to learn.

What about the mayor in your town? How would you compare him to Cory Booker?

Michigan's budget problems are getting $1.8 billion worse

The Senate Fiscal Agency now projects a 2012 budget deficit of more than $1.8 billion in the state's general fund, if current spending and revenue policies remain in place. That's an increase of $400 million over projections made by the SFA in October.


Michigan residents need to keep their eyes focused on the State Capitol in the coming weeks as it deals with new budget projections for the next fiscal year.

State revenues are expected to continue dropping with the next year's state revenues to fall $1.8 billion short of expenses.

What does this mean to you who live outside of the State Capitol?

There will be lots of voices with different answers. One side says that there's nothing left to cut, while the other side says there's plenty of fat.

Will the Rick Snyder, the governor-elect and the Michigan Legislature intentionally include residents in a straight-forward conversation?

Is this Mackinac Center video about Canadian healthcare wrong?

We know that the debate about the healthcare system in this country is not going away. It will come back again and probably this next year.

When Obamacare was debated I heard a lot of noise, but I didn't hear many clarifying answers to questions that were asked, like, "What about the Canadian healthcare system?"  How is it better than ours?  How is it worse? 

This is a topic where rational debate seems impossible.  If you ask questions, it seems like you get banged over the head with rhetoric and ridicule from both sides. 

Watch this video from the Mackinac Center.  Is this true about the Canadain healthcare system?  Half true?  Not true at all?  Completely true and even worse?


"I'm really happy for you Justin"

Our son and his finance just left to spend a few days with her family in the St. Louis area.  During their time here we had a chance to get to know her better. 

When super-wife and I go to church this morning, I have plenty to thank God for, including the addition of his fiance Lauren Morris to our family.  They seem to fit together so well and they both have a rock-solid foundation on which to build a marriage. 

I raise my cup of pumpkin spice coffee to them and I pray that their upcoming spring marriage will bring them the say joy that mine has brought to me.  Here's a picture of the four of us just before they left.


Does anybody have a list of MI "tax expenditures" -- credits, deductions?


Treasury Department reports have pegged the cost of "tax expenditures," which include credits, deductions and exemptions, at more than $30 billion.


Michigan's governor-elect, Rick Snyder says he's looking at cuts among the more than $30 billion in tax credits, deductions and exemptions.

Does anybody have an itemized list of those with background behind each one?

Are all "tax expenditures" bad and free money to special interests?

Does Snyder have the legislative skills to convince legislators to essentially raise taxes? What about the special interests? Can he convince them?

Michigan needs to become familiar with the late Pastor Henry Covington of Detroit

Thanks Mitch Albom for writing your column this morning in the Detroit Free Press about your friend Pastor Henry Covington of the Motor City who is an icon for the whole state of Michigan and the country as it struggles through some tough challenges.

Pastor Covington's congregation were the homeless and the down-and-outers inside the city that most everybody had given-up on and for whom daily life is a matter of survival.  Many struggle with habits and addictions that keep them down. 

That's where Henry came from.  He knew dope and violence and had been in prison and then he developed a relationship with Jesus whose birthday we are celebrating this week.  That's where Albom and Henry met and became friends and co-workers to help others.  It's a great story and one everybody needs to hear right now.  Albom wrote a book about their efforts:  Have A Little Faith.



THORP REPORT 2010: Our Family Is Growing!

Our highlights from the past year as told through a letter

to our sixth-month-old grandson


PLEASE NOTE:  This is the featured post during the Christmas season; new posts are below


Dec. 21, 2010

Dear Xavier,

When you were here with your parents for Thanksgiving, you and I got distracted in our various conversations.  We talked about all kinds of important stuff including the spiffy cloth diapers you wore with the Velcro, instead of safety pins.  There was our conversation about Mac vs. PC, the joys of snow Xavierandi blowing and your new home in North Carolina.

Now that you’re six months old, it’s important that I bring you up-to-date about what grandma and I did this past year.  There was quite a bit.  

Next time we get together, I will show you the video I took of many of these things with my Flip video camera.  You can help me edit them.  Here goes:

  • Easter in Destin on Florida's Gulf Coast--In April, grandma and I drove to Destin, Florida to stay with your great-aunt and uncle Ron and Aileen Anderson.  Along the way, we stopped in Brewton, Alabama where we had sweet potato french fries. On the way, we stopped at the Pensacola Airport to pick-up your Uncle Justin who drew a crowd on the beach with his brand new iPad.
  • Washington D.C. in May--We had an early celebration of your Uncle Justin's birthday, his 26th. Ask Gladysandxavier him about what he does as director of customer happiness at his company.  He travels a lot and meets with lots of people.  He treated us to a really fancy brunch on the top of the Kennedy Center and, of course, we saw more of the sights.
  • Indy in June at the hospital--Your dad called us early on the morning on June 21 that your mom was in the hospital to give birth to you.  We drove from Lansing right to the north side of the Indy area where you were born.  Grandma and I sat in the waiting room drinking pressed coffee when we heard a lullaby over the sound system when you were born.  Then a few minutes later, we met you for the first time.  We had become official grandparents.  Wow!
  • Celebration on Deerfield Avenue--It was my 64th birthday when everybody came to our house, including you and your parents.  Uncle Justin was there with his then girlfriend Lauren.  There was Aunt Gloria, Uncle Don and your great-cousins Dan and Jessica with their kids.  They had a great time getting to know you. 
  • Sebastian Port-au-Prince, Haiti in October--Your grandma and I were part of a mission trip to help rebuild an orphanage just outside the city which had been badly-damaged by the big earthquake.  For a week, we stayed at another orphanage.  We saw thousands and thousands of people living in tents who were struggling to find enough food to eat.  
  • Telephone call from New York City--Your Uncle Justin called last Saturday to say you were going to have a new aunt.  Her name is Lauren and she lives and works in Washington and met your uncle at the Church of the Resurrection.  She works for a company that monitors foreign aid projects and she has a popular blog.  You'll have fun at their wedding. 

Just so you know grandma and I have a busy winter coming up.  She’s still helping student teachers for Spring Arbor University.  She tutors a couple of Burmese girls and she and I hang out a lot.  Before the snow came, she and I walked more than two miles everyday in our neighborhood.

We can’t wait to take you to our new church-the Ada Bible Church where we’ve been attending for the  Me past year.  You will like Pastor Jeff Manion and there are a lot of kids your age there.  We feel that we are growing in our relationship to Jesus Christ.

I will step up my blogging effort this next year with my personal blog--Daily Grit and two others.  I have almost a year left to serve on Lansing's Board of Ethics and along with your grandma I am involved in neighborhood activities.  She and I watch our city council meetings every Monday night. 

Remember that book you and I read together?  It’s “That’s Where God Is.”  The grandpa challenged his grandson to spend the next week looking for God.  And, the little boy found God in all kinds of things.

Justinlauren2 In a couple of days, we will be celebrating the birth of Jesus.  The most important thing you can do is get to know him.  It's his birth, his death on Good Friday and his rising from the dead on Easter that gives us hope that will never go away.  Never stop looking for God in your life.  He's there.  He really came to earth.  It really happened. 

We are anxious to hear about your first Christmas and we hope that all our friends and family see Jesus in a new way in the coming year.

I can't wait to see you next month in Washington when we celebrate grandma's 60th birthday and your dad's 30th. 

We love you.  You are a winner.

Grandpa Thorp

Family pic

Chew on Milton Friedman's words about socking it to the rich with higher taxes

On the surface, it makes sense to charge a higher tax rate to those who are rich and make tons of money.  They can afford it.  Right?

Listen to what the late Milton Friedman, Nobel prize winning economist, had to say about this belief that it's good policy to soak the rich with high tax rates.  This is a YouTube clip from an old Phil Donahue show:


Are you seeing the "darkness" rather than the "light" this Christmas?

Is life sucking for you right now?  It's Christmas and living in Michigan right now can be hard for a whole host of reasons.  Jobs.  Relationships.  Family.  Health.  Aging.  You name it.

At church today--Ada Bible Church--we heard Pastor Jeff Manion talk about an oft-heard verse this time of year, Isaiah 9: 2, 6.  These verses can be gold for everybody this time of the year.  Click here to see the sermon.  It costs nothing to watch and the payback can be a world-changer for you.


Is a Sunday newspaper worth two bucks?

Grpress How many of you still get a Sunday paper?  Do you have it delivered or do you buy it over-the-counter?

Today, when we got out of church, we stopped for a sandwich at a Subway with a gas station next door where I plunked down two bucks for a copy of the Grand Rapids Press.  What got into me?  Just think of how many dollars I would have to have in a savings account for a year to earn the purchase price.

So what did I get for my money?  In this post, I will itemize what I find useful as I read it, including ads and coupons.  How about you?  Do you get back from the paper what you pay for it?  I will post and publish as I read.  Here goes: 

  • Column by the GR Press editor Paul Keep about the paper's future on the web.  I'm reading it now.  He writes about how his paper is transitioning from a paper first product to a web first product.  Wow.  I'm impressed.  This means that his paper will feed a 24-hour news cycle where you can tap into stories as they happen.  Can this work?  What do you think?
  • Editorial about getting illegal firearms off the streets of Grand Rapids.  One important fact from the editorial mentions that the average time from a firearm being stolen to used in a crime is 13 years.  Also noted in the piece is the paper's series of stories last week that detailed the trail of local guns from the time they were stolen to when they were used in a crime.  I'd like to read those.
  • Story highlighting pictures of a young woman who once had been a model and then got into the local drug scene.  It's a page one banner story that jumps to the next page and seems to have little reason for existence other than mention of a drug study show an increase in use among the area's youth particularly high school seniors. 
  • A pull-out TV booklet listing all the television shows in the local area.  This seems to be a good thing and has some value.
  • Coupons are not in the paper I purchased with the exception of a sheet of coupons from Steak and Shake with pictures of burgers, fries and shakes that would make any cardiologist smiles.  Tastes good though, I'm sure.
  • Small town news from nearby communities described on the page as Ada to Zeeland.  It's a bunch of bits and pieces of small city and township stuff that you would find in a typical local shopper. 

Did I waste two bucks?  Probably.  It was my contribution to the news industry in this part of Michigan. 

It had some interesting facts about the local area here and there.  But, it was light on any depth and skipped many local units and levels of government that need journalistic oversight. 

I will be checking their website though to see if there's more.