This is another call for sponsors, while still linking off-handedly to the Columbia Journalism Review. The CJR isn't sponsoring this site, but the person who is wants you to visit them, probably because they do good work there. Once that sponsorship runs out next week, the space will again be blank and I'll have to go back to posting photos of sad animals and crying babies and stuff like that until someone steps forward. Is this a form of blackmail? I guess you could say that it is. That's a nice Internet you've got there. Be a real shame if anything happened to it.
Let's take a quick minute to thank all supporters from the past and those who will support in the future. It's from your generous assistance that I can rationalize spending time fisking the latest Magic Frank nonsense, or spend the evening researching the latest rumors only to have it all come up fruitless (this has happened a couple of time, you just never heard about it because I don't like to write that nothing is happening), or generally making a pain in the neck out of myself over some of the issues we bring to the forefront here.
If you'd like to join our long and storied list of people who've helped in the past, you can do that by sponsoring Michigan Liberal for a day, a week, or a month (or, for some other period of time based on just contacting me and asking). Rates are $25 a day, $100 a week, or $360 a month. You can contact me at email@example.com, through social media, by text at 517/881-8008, or by walking up to me in person and socking me in the gut. There's also the little Paypal button off to the left that is mostly successful in donating.
Nancy Kaffer at the Freep has a great column today about the perils of secret money and public office. It's done to prevent the spotlight of transparency, but that's also the tag against it. Without that transparency, it's never certain whether things are operating on the up-and-up. Like this:
Rich Baird, Snyder’s “transformation manager,” isn’t on the state payroll — but he is heavily involved with crafting administration policy. He’s paid $100,000 a year by NERD. Rick DiBartolomeo, Snyder’s former campaign manager, was NERD’s sole paid employee before he quit to take a job as a senior investments manager for the state.
Baird is paid through MI Partners LLC, a consulting company with just one client: Snyder. Recently released e-mails show Baird assisted the controversial “skunk works” group, an off-books working group that developed a plan for a dramatic overhaul of public education in the state. The group included charter school operators, software company representatives and a voucher advocate, but no public education experts. So, when the group came up with a plan to lower the cost of public education through a backdoor voucher system, online learning and expanded charters, it was hardly surprising.
This is, or should be, a matter of very serious concern, because the appearance it gives is that the democratic processes by which policy is intended to be shaped are a charade, that real policy is shaped behind the scenes by groups of people unaccountable to the public, and that everything else are just the trappings of democracy intended for public digestion.
Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr is considering whether the multibillion-dollar collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts should be considered city assets that potentially could be sold to cover about $15 billion in debt.
How much is the art at the DIA worth? Nobody knows exactly, but several billion dollars might well be a low estimate.
Welcome to Babbit Nation, where everything is on the table and priced to go.
The DIA's response, via Facebook:
The DIA strongly believes that the museum and the City hold the museum’s art collection in trust for the public. The DIA manages and cares for that collection according to exacting standards required by the public trust, our profession and the Operating Agreement with the City. According to those standards, the City cannot sell art to generate funds for any purpose other than to enhance the collection. We remain confident that the City and the emergency financial manager will continue to support the museum in its compliance with those standards, and together we will continue to preserve and protect the cultural heritage of Detroit.
I really hope this point takes hold. There is a difference between public ownership and government ownership. This is true regarding the air, the water, and our wildlife. It used to be true of our airwaves, although those have been mostly sold off. The emergency manager doesn't get to just privatize something and sell it off because bond holders were dumb enough to lend an obviously mismanaged city government money. He ought not be allowed to sell off a public art collection (and, isn't there a millage the people in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties pay for upkeep, meaning that it's not just a Detroit asset, but one of everyone who pays into it) in the same way that the state can't sell off the Manistee River to balance its budget.
I'll confess that until this morning, I hadn't heard of the Sergio Garcia fried chicken flap. Why's that? I hate golf. I hate golf nearly as much as I hate basketball. In fact, I would have been entirely unaware of who Sergio Garcia is had I not made my usual Friday morning stop to see what mindbogglingly awful argument Magic Frank. This morning's columnis, well...
Given the events of the last week, I’m not sure it’s permissible for me to make this admission.
The last time he did this, he declared that he is a heterosexual person. Do you suppose he's coming out of the closet this week?
This morning, I started work on a column that'll appear in the local paper next week about accident wrecker policy. It's actually more interesting than you might think, because it involves the intersection of the private sector and a public need (at that nexus, you'll always find conflict). I started sending e-mails to every local police agency because last year our dispatch got tired of getting yelled at by various wrecker services and got out of the business of dispatching wreckers from a rotation. Now, it's a matter of the local market. One of our local governments is the village of Shepherd, most famous for its maple syrup festival. I went to the village's website to find out who is the local police chief and found ... nothing. There is no good information on the local police, who runs the joint, or how to contact these people. I went to the village staff directory to find out the name of the village manager so I could contact that person. Again, zilch. So, what's on the website? Mostly just cryptic references to EVIP transparency data.
It's a requirement for what now passes for statutory shared revenue. Local governments have to post budget data to the Internet so citizens can access it and, if so moved, show up to a council meeting and shout at the trustees. I'm all for transparency, but simply posting raw data to the Internet does little except encourage half-informed speculation. Still, it's on there, and posted at EVIP.
If you're going to post budget data to the Internet to encourage transparency, it's probably best not to call it EVIP data, because nobody knows what that means. Someone spent time in the Village of Shepherd posting data required by the state but that's probably not very helpful to the average person and not posting how to contact the police or village staff. This is reflected in a guest column at Bridge by the mayor of Linden.
So I ask this question: Is this what EVIP was intended to do? I think not. If the goal was efficiency and better government, we have lost our way and instead managed to create a new bureaucracy, and add cost and inefficiency. But we should ask ourselves, is the return on our investment such that it negates the new problem we have built? In my view this is not spurring incentivizing vitality, it is applying a one-size-fits-all-approach to the services that matter the most.
The approach to local government, like the approach to public education, has been a trend of awful for the last two decades. The funding model is completely broken, and even counties, villages, cities and townships that are well run are seeing matters spiral beyond their control. The response by the state has been terrible neglect, and an arrogance that local governments have to deal with a problem largely foisted off on them by Lansing. Lansing cuts funds, local governments have to look elsewhere for money, and then explain to citizens why they have to pick between a public safety millage or fewer cops on the beat.
As MiddleGrandGuy mentioned in comments a few days ago, the city of Charlotte is one of these. There's no reason why a city of 10,000 people should be looking at a local income tax. There's no reason why Mount Pleasant, my hometown, should have to look at one. When I wrote last year that this was a decision Lansing was forcing on local governments, I heard the next day from a former mayor of Mount Pleasant, a fiscally conservative Republican, that he agreed with me entirely but couldn't get our local elected representatives to respond. They had it in their heads that things should work one way, even if they worked in a way entirely different.
The Bridge has had some excellent commentary on this, this week. Not just from local officials, but also from Mitch Bean, who used to run the House Fiscal Agency. Basically, what it's boiled down to is that you have on one side people familiar with how local governments work saying that it's all broken (this should sound familiar, since the recent outrage in Buena Vista School District was a sign that something is horribly amiss with how schools are funded), and the policy makers who know in their heart of hearts that it works a different way.
LANSING, MI - A coalition supported by the Humane Society of the United States says it is considering a second petition drive aimed at banning wolf hunting in Michigan.
An initial hunt is already scheduled for this fall in parts of the Upper Peninsula where wolves have killed livestock and pets. Opponents of a wolf hunt say they haven’t given up on blocking that hunt, as well as possible future hunts.
“We continue to explore all options to stop the senseless hunting and trapping of wolves in our state,” Jill Fritz, director of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, said in an email Wednesday.
Beyond the disgraceful way the Legislature circumvented democracy in doing this, it's also something that ironically the Tea Party ought to be out, wearing tri-corner hats, and waving signs filled with misspellings over. Letting the NRC determine what animals constitute game animals implies that the state's wildlife belongs to state government rather than the people. That's not the case. The state's wildlife belongs to the people, and what animals are determined to be hunted as game animals is a decision that ought to be left up to the owners of the wildlife ... the people, either through their elected representatives or by direct vote of them.
I'm told there's video of Right to Life lobbyist Ed Rivet president Barb Listing comparing rape to an auto accident or a house fire, as his group gears up to ignore our democratic principles by devious means.
LANSING — Abortion opponents will embark on a petition drive to ensure that Michigan residents have to buy an optional rider on their health insurance to cover abortions.
And unlike most petition drives, if they get at least 258,088 valid signatures, and the Legislature approves the issue, it will become law without a signature from Gov. Rick Snyder, who has already vetoed the bill last year, or a vote of the people.
The state Board of Canvassers approved the petition form Wednesday and the organizers can begin collecting signatures after getting petitions printed and training circulators, said Barbara Listing, president of Right to Life of Michigan.
“This is good public policy,” she said. “People do not want to pay for other people’s abortions.”
Actually, it's terrible public policy in that it ignores the entire point of an insurance pool, and that opting out of part of it is like saying that you don't want to be part of an auto insurance pool that includes teen-agers because they're more likely to get into a wreck. It's also terrible policy from the standpoint that it's being done in such a way to purposefully skirt democratic processes and allow a minority of people to impose its will on the majority.
I'm told that Progress Michigan shot video and that Planned Parenthood has audio of Right to Life's Ed Rivet saying the latest stupid Republican thing about rape, comparing it to a house fire or an auto accident. Will post it when I get it.
Update! ... the video:
It's ... vile, comparing an unwanted pregnancy to a natural disaster. That's beyond the comparing rape to a house fire business.
Progress Michigan has a petition you can sign ... here.
BREAKING! MUST CITE MICHIGAN LIBERAL CITING MIRS INSIDER NEWSLETTER!
Former U.S. Rep. Mark SCHAUER has been laying the groundwork for a gubernatorial run for weeks, and now a Democratic insider tells MIRS today that his candidacy is "imminent."
To that end, Schauer looks to be putting the band back together, with word that B.J. NEIDHARDT will be tapped as campaign manager--a position he held in Schauer's 2008 congressional campaign. Neidhardt has served a number of roles for Schauer, including director of external affairs when his boss was in the state Senate and Washington director when Schauer was in Congress.
Ken BROCK, who served as Schauer's chief of staff during his time in the Senate and Congress, likely would be senior adviser. And Zack POHL is expected to leave his job as director of Progress Michigan to head up communications, just as he did when Schauer was a congressman.
"So, you may have a question for me," Whitehouse said. "Why do you care? Why do you, Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, care if we Republicans run off the climate cliff like a bunch of proverbial lemmings and disgrace ourselves? I'll tell you why. We're stuck in this together. We are stuck in this together. When cyclones tear up Oklahoma and hurricanes swamp Alabama and wildfires scorch Texas, you come to us, the rest of the country, for billions of dollars to recover. And the damage that your polluters and deniers are doing doesn't just hit Oklahoma and Alabama and Texas. It hits Rhode Island with floods and storms. It hits Oregon with acidified seas, it hits Montana with dying forests. So, like it or not, we're in this together."
All of it empirically true. It also feeds into the "loading of the dice" idea that climate scientists say global warming represents. As a warmed atmosphere changes the climate, it loads the dice when it comes weather events. Rather than rolling traditional dice to see if a weather event will be extreme, you get dice that have the 1 replaced with a second six. It's also true that these extreme weather events are apt to not occur right where someone is loading the atmosphere with additional carbon dioxide, that an especially powerful hurricane that hits Florida drew its additional energy made available by fossil fuel-related activity around the world.
Magic Frank, not one to let an opportunity to remind us that he never took science very seriously, weighs in.
Amazingly, these supposedly smart people are either ignorant of, or refuse to acknowledge, the history of extreme weather events on our planet, in our country, and – where tornadoes are concerned – in the American Southwest.
If you're going to call people ignorant and stupid, you should probably make sure that the one factual claim you make in the same sentence is at least accurate. The American Southwest isn't associated with any history of tornadoes. The Great Plains, Midwest, and South ... yes. The Southwest ... no. Also, Oklahoma? It's a Great Plains state, not a southwestern one. Just look at a map.
I wish I could get people like this senator to just read and consider the information as easily available as reading a Wiki page. Read the “List of North American tornadoes and tornado outbreaks” history here.
This is a novel argument ... climate change doesn't exist because Wikipedia says it doesn't. I, on the other hand, wish I could get people like Magic Frank to just read and consider the information as easily available as reading this Wiki page.
As Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville speaks with his caucus about budget targets, he told members of the media after session today that he does not expect Medicaid expansion will be part of the 2013-14 fiscal year budget – for now.
Mr. Richardville (R-Monroe) said that he expects targets to be signed within the next few hours as he has a meeting with Governor Rick Snyder and House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) at 12:30.
The state Legislature increasingly reminds me of a scene from an old Treehouse of Terror episode on The Simpsons where the people of Springfield say no to everything, including the recharge of their fire extinguishers, a free service from the Fire Department. Everyone thinks this is a good idea, except lawmakers. So, we won't get it.
You might have heard about the state's unexpected increase in revenue last week. I'm kind of surprised that conservatives haven't been out, banging the drum that it is proof positive that cutting taxes leads to more revenue for government. You might also have heard that the federal deficit is being cut, even as we speak, for matters that are entirely unrelated to the sequester cuts.
You'd think this would be good news. Not so, writes Nolan Finley. It's horrible news because there's less pressure during good times to cut government.
Prosperity is the greatest enemy of fiscal discipline. When fortunes begin to reverse, the urgency to cut spending, find savings and use resources more efficiently wanes.
Both Michigan and the federal government are enjoying revenue windfalls thanks to the recovering economy.
If you're a conservative group whose natural tendencies to paranoia about government plots has you convinced that Kenyan Manchurian President Barry Soetero has it in for you personally, Michigan's finest legal mind Bill Schuette wants to hear from you.
LANSING, MI -- Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is calling on President Barack Obama to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Internal Revenue Service and inviting local organizations who feel they were targeted by the agency to contact his office.
A special prosecutor, Schuette said Friday afternoon in a release, would ensure an independent investigation into the IRS, where employees reportedly gave extra scrutiny to conservative groups with "tea party" or "patriot" in their names while reviewing applications for 501(c)(4) non-profit status during the 2010 election cycle.
Now, keep in mind that there is exactly zero evidence anywhere that conservative ideology had anything to do with this, and even less that the president was somehow involved. What there is lots of evidence for is that the IRS started profiling groups with political-sounding names because those groups shouldn't have any kind of tax exempt status, and wound up doing it in clumsy fashion.
Still, no matter. If it's true that Schuette is a career politician always looking for the next job, it's good grist for a primary mill.