Cynical Synapse

Mon, 28 Sep 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Filed under: Budget, Economy, Government, Medicine, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 9:47 pm

The Good

Lions quarterback Stafford celebrates narrow win over Washington

Detroit’s pro football team, the Lions, finally broke their two-season losing streak on Sunday. They beat the Washington Redskins 19-14 in front of a home crowd at Ford Field, with 40,000 or so in attendance. Owner William Clay Ford said, “We got King Kong off our back,” of the event. “Nightmare over!” said play-by-play radio announcer Dan Miller. Ok, I get this is great news for Detroit and its incredible sports fans, but it’s one freaking game! The Lions are 1-2 for this season and so are the Redskins, who won against St. Louis the week before.

Michigan is receiving $25 million Stimulus money, most going to metro Detroit. In Detroit, the Federal money will clean up blighted commercial areas, repair 10 miles of roads, offer low-interest loans to start-up businesses, and help homeowners avoid foreclosure. Oakland County’s share will fix aging sewer pipes, repair roads, and provide a safety path to a shopping center. In Macomb County, the money will provide business start-up support to unemployed residents. Livonia and Dearborn, in Wayne County, will repair infrastructure and provide energy efficiency assistance to low income residents.

The Bad

prison-closed

Budget negotiations are calling for a $98.5 million reduction in Corrections. This is based on Gov. Granholm’s strategy of paroling 3,500 inmates who have served 120% of their minimum sentences and closing 3 prisons and 5 prison camps. Legislators also intend for Corrections to cut $841 from the annual per-prisoner cost. Good luck with that.

In the meantime, legislators slashed 40% from state aid to local libraries. Thus, only $6 million in state money will support local libraries.

Did I mention that lawmakers have already agreed to cut 8.3% from higher (college) education, although that bill has net yet been voted on? That’s on top of the $80.5 million slashed from Promise scholarships, the $72.2 million from other grants and scholarships, the $400,000 dropped from National Guard education assistance, and the $10.5 million eliminated from “No Worker Left Behind”. Um, yeah. Michigan’s really building the workforce of the future.

The Ugly

pot calling the kettle black

Democrats blasted Republicans for a weekend conference at Mackinac Island without pointing out the Democrats also took a 3-day weekend. Let’s not forget the Republican-led Michigan Senate passed a balanced budget in June. With a state government shutdown looming in less than a few of days, for weeks, now, we’ve been hearing the Democrats say they’re “very close” on a budget deal. But, Republicans don’t seem to see it the same way. As I noted yesterday, several key budgets still need resolving. Close may still be too far. Did I mention the Democratic House took the whole damn summer off?

In the world of the bizarre, this one’s got to be in the running for some type of award. Michigan Democrats propose taxing physicians to offset Medicaid reductions. Now, I know the legislature is big on fuzzy math, but come on! “If you pay 4%, then we won’t cut payments by 4%.” What’s up with that?

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Sun, 27 Sep 2009

D Minus 2: Michigan Shutdown Imminent

Filed under: Budget, Economy, Government, Michigan, Politics, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 3:04 pm

What’s wrong with this picture? Give up? The Michigan House of Representatives is empty! You see, the Michigan Legislature canceled today’s Sunday session. The House doesn’t reconvene until Tuesday. A quick check of the calendar tells me Tuesday is September 29th, giving the legislature just two days to resolve budget differences. Without a budget, or continuation law, Michigan state government will shut down again at 12:01 AM on October 1st.

Michigan’s Republican-controlled Senate passed balanced budget bills in June. As evidenced by taking today and tomorrow off, the Democratic House still doesn’t have any sense of urgency! What is their major malfunction? Speaker Andy Dillon says Michigan politics is dysfunctional. The only solution the Redford Democrat has is to roll over and agree to Republican cuts. The Senate’s balanced budget relies on cuts to programs like school aid, Promise grants for college education, veterans and National Guard, and Medicaid.

After taking most of the summer off, the Democratic House has managed to work on some areas of the budget. In the last week or so, they’ve passed joint conference versions of appropriations for agriculture, community colleges, Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth (DELEG), and the judiciary. In the meantime, the Senate has also passed agriculture, DELEG, military and veterans affairs, and judiciary. Out of conference and pending in the house is the school aid bill. Great work, you guys. Why not take a couple days off?

Not to sound like Chicken Little or anything, but the budget heavy-lifting still remains to get done. In 2 days, no less. It’s more likely I’ll win the Mega-Millions lottery. But then, what good would that be? There won’t be anyone in the lottery office to give me the prize. So, what’s left to work out? Community health, corrections, state police, human services, general government, and a couple small ones like environmental quality and natural resources.

Since I’m thinking the legislature won’t settle on a budget before Thursday, maybe the House work on that government continuation bill the Senate passed. It’s got the same kinds of cuts in it as their balanced budget bills did. At least folks would be able to still get their license plate tabs and food stamps while the inept representatives get the budget resolved. Did I mention Michigan’s legislature is the second-highest paid in the country? Waiting to the last minute like this seems pretty reckless, especially since Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) has not telegraphed any change from not signing a budget without Promise grants.

Bill Rustem summarized Michigan’s budget fiasco succinctly. The CEO of Public Sector Consultants said:

It’s the same thing that happened in 2007. The game has become more important than the results. Having an issue has become more important than having a solution. That’s not the way democracy was designed to work.

Sat, 26 Sep 2009

Healthcare Reform: This is Not the Bill You Want to Read

Filed under: Budget, Citizen rights, Congress, Economy, Government, Legal, Medicine, Politics, Rants, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 3:13 pm

“These are not the droids you’re looking for.”

Excuse me? There’s an old saying: the devil is in the details. A corollary of that: we’d rather the devil we know than the one we don’t. None of that matters to Democrats on the Senate Finance Committe, however. Yesterday the Baucus Caucus defeated a measure to make the bill public. Kentucky Republic Sen. Jim Bunning proposed the ammendment to give constituents the opportunity to review and comment on the bill. That’s a pretty radical concept for a representative democracy.

The Washington Examiner says Sen. Max Baucus claims it’s too difficult to put health care bill online. Baucus (D-MT), Finance Committee Chairman, said it would take his staff two weeks to post the bill on the web. So, how long did it take to post the 223 page Chairman’s Mark document, the plain-English version the Finance Committee agreed to post “before the vote”? And how before the vote do they mean? Nanoseconds? And who wrote and posted the 98 page Call to Action document? Here’s a thought: if the Finance Committee’s staff is so incompetent they can’t make an Adobe document, upload it, and put a link on the website, fire them. That might help the deficit problem just a tad.

Instead, the issue is really politics. Committee member John Kerry (D-MA) said Bunning’s ammendment “is fundamentally a delay tactic.” Um, giving people time to read the legal language, rather than make-believe plain English, is the morally correct thing to do. Since legislators themselves don’t see a need to read bills, their constituents need the time. How else can they let their representatives and senators know how they want votes cast?

Our so-called representatives, in both the House and Senate, are missing a key point. As House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said Wednesday:

The American people are angry that Speaker Pelosi didn’t allow the public and their elected representatives to read the trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ bill or the national energy tax before they were rammed through the House. Congress can, and must, do better.

At least Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking Finance Committee member, gets it. “It’s what [the public] expects us to do anyway—read a bill before you vote on it.” Don’t stand for your representatives passing secret legislation. Tell your Senators and US Represenative you will not tolerate them voting for bills not posted for public review and comment. Elections are coming and they serve at our pleasure, not theirs.

HT: theblogprof

Fri, 25 Sep 2009

Time in Detroit and the City’s Media Image

Filed under: Bailout, Behavior, Detroit, Life, Media, People, Sports — cynicalsynapse @ 3:39 pm

Detroit is the cover story of Time magazine’s October 5th issue. In fact, the city is the subject of a year-long project Time calls Assignment: Detroit. The magazine’s bought a house and already has a dozen or more stories on it’s website. Web reporters from time.com, cnnmoney.com, and si.com are participating, as are journalists from Fortune and Money.

Why such focused media attention on the D? Time says “Detroit has been misunderstood, underreported, stereotyped, avoided and exploited for decades.” They believe the Motor City’s rise, fall, and struggle to come back are representative of America’s challenges. They claim they “want Detroit to recover and find its way into the future.”

But, if that’s the case, why is Time‘s cover picture of the Packard plant, closed since 1956? How about the downtown skyline or maybe the stadium district for a positive spin?

Detroit is accustomed to negative attention from the media. Just look at the way the domestic automotive collapse was reported. I’m still waiting for the media to connect the automotive crisis with the financial fiasco. I’m still waiting for the media to heap loads of scorn on New York and Wall Street. I’m not, however, holding my breath.

As teamowens313 says, Detroit is “America’s most beautiful disaster…Icarus after the fall.” Even though other cities have political problems, Kwamegate put Detroit on national news. Hockeytown is a great sports town, with loyal fans even for the Lions after 19 straight losses. Fans for other teams in other cities—Penguins fans come to mind—get out of hand but they don’t go viral on the Internet:

The two girls in front of us were drunk before the game started. They grabbed one of our signs and trashed it (real classy) because were Vikings fans, and then spent most of the first half mocking us instead of watching the game because the Lions were ahead.

They left their seats and we thought they were gone for good but somehow they managed to buy even more beer and get back to their seats. They were spilling beer on themselves, the seats, and some of the other fans. After they spilled quite a bit of beer on the guys in the row below them, they turned around and told them to SIT DOWN. One girl didnt like that so she poured the rest of her beer on his head. Then I knew it was time to start the camera 🙂

So, will Time paint a positive portrait of Motown? “[W]e do not intend to be cheerleaders or apologists,” they say. But will they be honest? They will find Detroit is a gritty city and, as Ernie Harwell said, its people have grit. Let’s see which side of Detroit Time showcases.

Thu, 24 Sep 2009

Think an Elipses is When the Moon Moves in Front of the Sun?

Filed under: Behavior, Duh, Humor, Language, Life, People, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 9:22 pm

Who knew that today was National Punctuation Day?

In an era of instant messaging and texting, some may think punctuation almost irrelevant, except as elements of emoticons (which have been around since the 19th century, believe it or not). Others might argue there is a growing misuse—and misunderstanding—of punctuation. A number even consider the demise of proper punctuation as representative of the decline of civilization as we know it.

One of my pet peeves is apostrophe catastrophes. I think this is the leading punctuation faux pas in US English. I often wonder what the item is possessing when I see an apostrophe before an ending S that doesn’t belong there. Consider the sign in the opening picture: the baguette’s what? What does the baguette have? And who cares if Baker has a baguette? If Baker had a lot of baguettes, that might be worth a sign.

The misplaced apostrophe is a bigger deal than just the possessive. What about the difference between your and you’re? This not uncommon mistake has different meanings. Its corollary is even more insidious: there, they’re, their. How many times have you seen the wrong word in that context?

Although it doesn’t usually “bother” me, probably the next most common punctuation error is the unnecessary quotation marks—you know, when a word or phrase is place inside quotes for no good reason. While you have to see improper apostrophes, the unnecessary quotes can also occur in speach. Remember the last time you saw someone make the “quotes” gesture? If they’re making the gesture, it’s probably not proper use of quotation marks.

The sign at right is a nice sentiment, but it leaves me with two questions. Congrat’s what, or does Congrat own the Class of “2009”? Is it really the class of 2009 or are we “just saying” it’s the class of 2009?

So, is punctuation and language a big deal? I don’t know. Why not ask “Punctuation hero” Stefan Gatward?

Copyblogger has six common punctuation errors that bedevil bloggers. Whitesmoke has some other guidance on punctuation.

Think punctuation doesn’t really matter? Consider this. But, is it a big deal in the blogospere? Blogs can be corrected. Maybe the real concern is punctuation and usage based on millennia does matter.

Wed, 23 Sep 2009

Cutting Education Will Solve Michigan Budget Disaster. Not!

Filed under: Budget, Economy, Education, Government, Military, Politics, Rants, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 9:50 pm

A conference committee of Michigan’s Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat-controlled House agreed to substantial cuts in education funding as a means to balancing the state budget. What are these guys thinking? Have they forgotten Gov. Granholm won’t sign a budget bill without Promise grants? Granholm, a Democrat, maintains a college-educated workforce is what Michigan needs to transition from the automotive economy to economies of the future. So I’m thinking another state government shutdown is coming in 7 days.

Consider the logic. Education is what enables people to become contributing members to society. According to the Detroit Free Press, the cuts agreed to will slash $18.7 million from Detroit Public Schools. Say what you want about DPS, but $18,700,000 is real money! How do you suppose such cuts will affect literacy rates in Detroit? Suppose that will help the city’s 28.9% unemployment rate? I have long believed educational disparity is what keeps the urban poor mired in hopelessness and despair.

At a time Michigan is realizing prisons cost too much, it seems to me cutting education is penny-wise and dollar foolish. Without the fundamental skills needed for jobs in the 21st century, what hope do Michigan’s kids have? And if qualified workers aren’t available, what business wants to locate in Michigan? It’s hard to argue with State Rep. George Cushingberry’s (D-Detroit) logic:

It’s time for all of us to grow up and be men and women who have the guts to put our money where our mouth is. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. You have to pay the piper sometime, so today I’m doing my part to pay the piper.

I just don’t see education as being the thing that needs to be on the chopping block. I’d offer up programs like MIOSHA and DEQ which can be turned back over to the federal government. Michigan gains little, if anything (besides employing state workers), from handling these programs itself. This is where Cushingberry should be looking to put “our money where our mouth is.”

Cushingberry’s hoping some future revenue, such as a tax on bottled water or soda pop, will be able to bring back the Promise grants. Does he not get his constituents most need this assistance? Can’t he see Michigan needs educated citizens to lure the businesses of the 21st century? How does Cushingberry envision his constituents becoming productive, successful members of society if they can’t get the education they need? Has he not heard that hope is not a method?

There’s no question Michigan’s budget needs either cuts or increased revenues to work. Personally, I’m opposed to Gov. Granholm’s recent proposed tax hikes. Not that I’m opposed to tax hikes, but a penny on bottled water? Isn’t it already subject to the sales tax? And sales tax on live entertainment? Those tickets are already outrageously priced. How about applying the 6% sales tax to lottery tickets instead. But, I digress.

Education is a fundamental responsibility and core service of the state in the modern era. Underfunding and disincentivizing education at pre-collegiate and collegiate levels just doesn’t make sense for Michigan’s future. Urge your state representative and senator to vote against cutting education.

Tue, 22 Sep 2009

What to Do About Afghanistan

Filed under: Congress, Global War on Terror, Military, Politics, Take action, Terrorism — cynicalsynapse @ 11:45 pm

Let’s not forget the Global War on Terror started in Afghanistan after Al-Queda attacked America. It was then I knew my vote for George W. Bush, instead of Al Gore, had been the right decision at the time.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban provided a haven for Osama Bin Ladin and the Al-Queda terrorist network to train and operate from. Ousting that regime was a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, President Bush started, and became fixated on, the war in Iraq. This distracted us from the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Just as we’ve been behind the power curve in Iraq, we are about a year behind in Afghanistan. The US still has a Soldier missing there.

Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz refused to listen to Gen. Shinseki about troop strengths needed to keep the initiative in Iraq. As a result, we lost control when looting started after the fall of Hussein’s government. It’s taken 6 years to fix that and we’re not done yet. I hope Secretary Gates and President Obama don’t minimize Gen. McChrystle’s assessment on Afghanistan.

If our political leadership declines to accept the military professionals’ opinion on the Global War on Terror, and fails to resource it adequately, the US is doomed to repeat the fiasco of Vietnam. Here’s the key difference, however. In Vietnam, the north was trying to unite the country and we had taken on a failed cause from the French. The Taliban, Al-Queda, and other Islamist extremists, seek nothing less than the annihilation of western civilization and, particularly, the American way of life.

We must, therefore, see it through in Afghanistan, no matter what it takes. Make sure your senators and representative know your views on the struggle for America’s future taking place in Afghanistan right now.

Failure to persevere in Afghanistan is no worse than turning our backs on those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. We must, therefore, commit the resources necessary to achieve success in Afghanistan. Anything less dishonors our 9/11 fallen.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009

Kilpatrick Still Dissing Detroit

Filed under: Behavior, Detroit, Duh, Justice, Kwamegate, Legal, People, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 5:25 pm

Despite his lavish lifestyle, or maybe in spite of it, former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick lost his bid to cut restitution payments to the city. Claiming he no longer received advance payments that doubled his salary, Kilpatrick sought to reduce restitution from $6,000 to $3,000 per month.

The former mayor’s legacy is a patchwork of dysfunctionalism, from the Jayne-Laskey Family Fun Center to the Detroit Zoo. Both were places emblazoned with the former mayor’s name. But no more. Today, the zoo is run by the Detroit Zoological Society and the recreation center is closed for renovations.

Kilpatrick’s administration squandered countless opportunities. These included redevelopment deals at the base of the Belle Ilse bridge. And many others, no doubt.

Still, Kwame is doing better than the city he abandoned. He’s living in a gated community outside Dallas, while the city he “would never quit on” struggles with 28.9% unemployment. Nonetheless, Kilpatrick claimed he couldn’t afford his restitution payments.

Today, Kilpatrick lives in a million-dollar house in affluent Southlake, TX. He gets six-figure salary from Compuware subsidiary Covisint. On Thursday, the narcissist was a day late and $3,000 short with his restitution payment. Seems the >Michigan Court of Appeals said pay up anyway. They denied Kilpatrick’s motion reduce his payments “for lack of merit.”

Hard to claim poverty when you’re living in a million-dollar mansion. In a gated community. I’m thinking Detroiters aren’t feeling your pain, Kwame.

UPDATE Sept 23, 2009:

Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy filed a motion saying Kilpatrick has violated the terms of his probation. A court date’s been set for October 28th. The Detroit Free Press has the details and Worthy’s motion. And here’s a question: why isn’t Kwame using a lawyer with offices in Detroit?

Sat, 19 Sep 2009

Michigan Holds the Lead for 40 Months; Unemployment Hits 15.2%

Filed under: Budget, Detroit, Economy, Government, Life, Michigan, Politics, Unions — cynicalsynapse @ 3:08 pm

Michigan’s unemployment rate is back up to 15.2%, the highest in the nation. In fact, Michigan unemployment rate has led the nation for 40 months! That’s almost 4-1/2 years!

In August, Michigan lost 42,900 jobs, including 15,000 in manufacturing. In all, Michigan unemployment exceeds 3/4 of a million people!

If you live in Michigan, chances are pretty dang good you know someone affected by this. That is, if you’re not affected yourself. In my case, my brother took a buyout from his employer due to economic conditions rather than risk a layoff. And my friend Bob, who works for one of the Big 3, isn’t sure. His job is up in the air at the moment. So, yeah, the economic crisis has ramifications right here in the neighborhood.

Areas around Michigan are in particularly dire straits. Metro Detroit’s unemployment rate was 17.3% in August. The rate in Detroit itself is nearly 30%: 28.9% for August! Even the Church is affected!

Why do you suppose the city’s unions think Mayor Bing is out to get them? Didn’t they learn basic math in school? Maybe they just find a word problem too confusing.

Thu, 17 Sep 2009

Voice of Baseball: Eloquent as Always!

Filed under: Detroit, Heroes, Life, Media, Michigan, People, Sports — cynicalsynapse @ 10:16 am

For a lot of folks who grew up in Michigan, Ernie Harwell was the voice of baseball! He was always smooth and never at a loss for words. He’s truly in the Hall of Fame of baseball’s great announcers. At last night’s game, the Tigers paid tribute to their play-by-play legend.

As Ernie took to the field, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd, his remarks were eloquent as always! Thanks, Ernie, for being part of what makes Michigan—and Detroit—great!

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