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14 posts from February 2011

How can we avoid a civil war here in Michigan over the union issue?

Labor leaders say the Republican-controlled Legislature is pushing "Wisconsin-style assaults" on unions through a series of bills, including one to repeal Michigan's prevailing wage law and another to end binding arbitration for police and firefighters.


Are we headed towards a civil war in Michigan over the role of unions in our local and state government?

Like a bad storm coming from the west over Lake Michigan, one can see the storm clouds blowing in from the anger being generated at the Wisconsin State Capitol.

People in our town are getting jumpy and defensive about their positions on these issues. It's almost like when you say "Good morning" to somebody and you feel compelled to respond "What do you mean by that?"

I feel myself responding that way,at least, on a silent level.

Today's rally of the various sides at the Michigan Capitol will tell a lot. Will leaders, union, business and political, be able to encourage useful political discussion without making people feel like they are under attack?

I'm glad the sun's out today in mid-Michigan, otherwise it would be easy to feel glum about the future.

What do you think? Can we overcome our differences, work them out and come together as a whole?

Michigan retirees: Raise your hands if you want your pensions taxed

The budget calls for total spending of $46 million, deep cuts, higher personal taxes for many Michigan residents, and a business tax cut of nearly $1.8 billion. Even before the 11 a.m. start of Snyder's budget explanation to lawmakers, negative reaction was being heard from state employees, cities and seniors whose pensions will be taxed for the first time.


Is this the best that new Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder could do to fix our state's chronic financial problems?

He's proposing that state businesses get a $1.8 billion tax cut and that senior citizens and the elderly pay more.

Should we be impressed that he's taking only a $1 salary as governor this year? What does an almost $200,000 salary mean to a person who has millions?

Is it time for a do-over on last-year's gubernatorial election?

What would have Virg Bernero's budget looked like, if he had been elected?

For the record, I consider myself to be a conservative of the Barry Goldwater variety.

My ties to the Republican party are becoming a memory.

How many Michigan cities are going to go bankrupt?

Snyder will announce a 33 percent cut in one pot of money that gets shared among municipalities, his Director of Strategy Bill Rustem said. The pain for cities comes when plummeting property values and a poor economy have forced major cuts to local services and sent some cities to the verge of bankruptcy.


Reading this morning's Detroit News online, I see that Gov. Rick Snyder wants to cut state revenue sharing to cities by 33 percent.

Keep in mind that this is not a free gift to cities. It's part of a thought-out plan that was developed by municipalities and the state to finance cities.

Michigan cities are in trouble if the legislature accepts Snyder's proposal to slash revenue sharing.

Will our State Capital city be forced into bankruptcy? How many other cities are in the same position?

Is it really true that 90 percent of heart bypass patients don't change lifestyle?

Medical studies have shown that even though people who have had heart-bypass surgery are told that they must change their lifestyle or die, about 90 percent do not change. Typically, 2 years after surgery the patients haven’t altered their lifestyle. It seems that most would rather die than change.


I'm of the baby-boomer age where more and more of my peers either have looked at or have had heart bypass surgery.

Part of the regimen after surgery is a lifestyle change. You need to watch what you eat and you exercise.

Check the above quote from Our Daily Bread that says 90 percent do not change. Most would rather die than change. Amazing.

QUESTION: When you shop for groceries in Michigan, are you being cheated?

My wife and I just got home from grocery shopping at Meijers on West Saginaw in Lansing, something we do every week and usually enjoy doing together, but the question in the title for this post keeps being raised.  Why?

It's the periodic difference between the price on a product and the price that's scanned at the checkout.  Now if it was an infrequent experience, it would be easy to excuse.  But we are finding that it's becoming more and more common and it is becoming costly.

Now this issue has taken on new relevance with Michigan's new Gov. Rick Snyder demanding that the Michigan Legislature repeal the item pricing law that protects consumers when there are item pricing mistakes like this.  The Republicans who have a majority in both houses are poised to put this legislation on the fast track with the results that consumers would have no recourse.

What about our negative experiences with item pricing at our Meijers store?


Let me just recount what happened today.  While going through the canned fruit aisle, I discovered that there were cut-out boxes of fruit with no prices marked on the cans, but there were cards on the edge of the shelves with the prices.  There were other cases with the individual prices.

While putting our food in the shopping cart, I saw the store director, Mike Borek and introduced myself and share my observations.  He listened and seemed concerned and then talked about the in-store audits done to assure that each item has the correct price.  I believe, he mentioned, that they were in the 99 percent range. 

We had a useful conversation where he shared the challenges of keeping up with price changes and their attentiveness to the state item-pricing law.


The Meijers store director and I then shook hands after I thanked him for the time and we went to the wine aisle.  We were looking to buy a case of Great Lakes Red from Lelanau Wine Cellars up in the Traverse City area for our son's wedding out east.  I'm the best man and I was going to use it for the toast.  He and I both thought it was a great way to reconnect with his Michigan roots and it's a good wine.

Here's what we found.  My wife looked at the shelf which said it was $6.49 a bottle, but, the sticker on the bottle said, $7.99.  I found the store director again and asked him to see what I was concerned about.  He did.  The difference was roughly a $1.50 per bottle.  Do the math for a case.

I can provide other examples from our experience.


Is it time for grocery shoppers at Meijers to start matching-up their grocery receipts with what's on the item if it's marked as the state law requires?  There are waiviers for some items but not many.

How widespread is this problem?  Am I the only one to have this experience?  Do you match your grocery receipt with the prices on the item? 

How much money does Meijer earn from these errors between what an items is stickered at what it scans at?  A little?  A lot? 

How much is divorce and unmarried childbearing costing the state of Michigan?

In economic terms, divorce and unmarried childbearing cost American taxpayers at least $112 billion per year and significantly increase poverty rates of both mothers and children. Married mothers have lower rates of depression than single or cohabiting mothers.


Attitudes about marriage are changing everywhere, including the state of Michigan as more and more people think the institution is obsolete.

Read this column (click on above link) and one if left wondering how much divorce and unmarried childbearing is costing our state.

In the billions? Can the attitudes about marriage be changed? How?

This "baby-boomer" walked in his basement today with my treadmill, iPad and God

I miss walking in our neighborhood with my wife.  Because of these daily walks, I was able to dump blood pressure meds and maintain some level of fitness.  Right now, sidewalks are snowy and icy and it's cold outside.

So today I used our treadmill in the basement again.  I take my iPad with earbuds and watch a sermon from Ada Bible Church.  I continue to go through Pastor Jeff Manion's People of the Way series.  His teachings on Ephesians have been a game-changer for me and this is a great way to walk and to gain physically and spiritually.

I then record my workout in Runkeeper so my son and my son-in-law, my physical fitness support group, can see that I did it and I then share that on Facebook.  It looks like this:


Is President Obama the Ronald Reagan of the twenty-first century?

Today's marking of the 100th anniversary of Reagan's birth finds the country once again in a debilitating malaise. A new generation of young people worry they'll be denied their shot at the brass ring.

Our leaders are again trying to force us to sacrifice individual aspirations and choices for the greater good. Wealth and ambition are demonized.


Lots of the folks in the media class of the ruling elite are comparing President Obama to the late President Reagan. They point to the president's ability to turn a phrase in his speeches.

And President Reagan was able to do that in a way that stopped people on the street corner to smile that they had hope for a better future.

Check Nolan Finley's column from today's Detroit News about his impressions of Reagan.

It's not just the words, it's the content of those words. Obama and Reagan have two different worldviews.

Teen suicide in Lake Orion, Michigan and other places

That afternoon, Jacob was caught in an intimate situation with a girl in a room at the church. Parents were called, meetings held. He was embarrassed and felt like he had disappointed everybody. His church. His family. The girl. Later that night, he came home late, reeking of alcohol. Jacob denied drinking -- he always denied drinking -- so Ken Wolvin took his son to the Lake Orion Police Department to check.


I wonder how many teenage kids are thinking about suicide this morning.

What raises the question for me, is the story this morning about the seven high school kids in Lake Orion, Michigan, who committed suicide in the past few years.

It's not an easy story to read and for many parents, it's hard to relate to. But, it raise lots of questions about how our kids are being prepared for life and what to expect.

Do they know how to recover from bad decisions, big mistakes?  Where do they go for hope?  

It's a complex topic and it's hard to digest on a Sunday morning.

Sunday morning stuff: Can you be the master of your fate?

Today will follow a pattern:  It's Sunday morning and I know that I need to get both my body and my heart ready for church.  What does that mean?

I'm trying to realign the dials of my heart to focus on God and who he is and who he should be in my life.

I look at my life and all the uncertainties and I try to think of what I have control over.  Not much.  So much is outside of individual control.  That includes personal health, political happenings, money, safety and everything else.  What does that leave me with?

I was going through my collection of saved items from the web on my Evernote account and found an article from Billy Graham that provided the answer.  He wrote:

We are caught up in a stream of history that is beyond our ability to control. There is only one power available to change the course of history, and that is the power of prayer—the prayer of God-fearing, Christ-believing men and women.

But today we have come to a place where many people regard prayer as simply a formality. We have no sense of coming to grips with God, except for the continuation of a venerated tradition. Yet how can we go on unless there is a renewed emphasis on prayer?

As I eat my oatmeal with blueberries on top and as I move to the showers and then church, I pray that God will guide and use me in whatever happens.  I pray that churches in my town come alive with his grace and his hope.



Starting Sunday morning in mid-Michigan with Our Daily Bread

Yesterday, our Web Administrator explained to me the problems we’ve had keeping some of our sites up and running the last few days. Apparently the number of people trying to access Our Daily Bread and the family of RBC sites is growing at a rate that has exceeded the capacity of our servers.


I've always wondered how many people use the online version of Our Daily Bread from Radio Bible Class in Grand Rapids. When I'm sitting on my couch here in mid-Michigan reading the daily devotion, I seem to be alone in my contemplation to God's Word as it relates to my daily life.

This morning I read the above quote from Mart DeHaan of RBC about how there's such a large number of people using the online version of the devotion that they've had to expand their server capacity.

If you click on the above link, it will take you to DeHaan's blog where he writes about a wide-array of biblical topics and carries on a discussion with readers around the world.

Would such a tool work for the average church pastor? What a great way to communicate with parishioners and a wider circle of readers around the world.

Michigan State Treasurer Dillon warns about 100 local communities in financial distress

Dillon said "three or four" communities - he would not name them - are on the brink of financial collapse and might not be able to pay their employees in March. A state treasury report in 2009 said about 100 communities were in some financial distress.


What are the communities in Michigan in financial distress and what are the three or four that might not be able to make their payrolls in March?

Check the quote above from a sidebar to a Lansing State Journal that describes how state treasurer Andy Dillon is training a cadre of financial manager to assist local units with their financial troubles.

Does anybody have the list of 100 communities or the three or four who might not make their payroll?

FACTOID: State and local government in Michigan takes big chunk of your paycheck

Michigan's state government and its local units of government like cities, townships and counties are struggling to pay their bills for existing services and are threatening to cut things we've become used to.

The debate about the costs of these services is picking up and the noise level will probably become deafening at some point.

How much does state and local government take out of your paycheck?  Because you help pay the bill, it's important to know how much it's costing.  Right?

This story from today's Lansing State Journal says 14 percent and this is without figuring in the cost of local schools.  The story says:

Michiganders pay $1 for every $7 they earn to support state and local governments - a total of
$50.4 billion in 2010. When schools are included, the total cost was $82.5 billion.