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No, Gary Peters' investment in a French oil company does not raise eyebrows

by: Eric B.

Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 17:25:09 PM EDT

Chad Selweski found a post at the Detroit News opinion blog thing that he linked to because it was supposed to do what Chad Selweski like to do, pretend that everyone is equally terrible so you don't have to take a position on someone's awfulness. In this case, it's Terri Lynn Land's awfulness as a candidate and the mysterious $3 million and whatnot. Or, in the case of the original post that Selweski links to, a portion of Gary Peters' investment portfolio.

Kudos to Brandon Helderop, a New Hudson freelance writer, who has reportedly uncovered a glaring bit of hypocrisy in Senate candidate Gary Peters’ personal finances.

A Republican activist, Helderop wrote on his blog that the Democratic congressman, who paints himself as pro-environment and anti-Keystone pipeline, has a large investment in a French oil company, Total S.A. France. According to the company’s website, they are the fifth largest publicly-traded international oil and gas company in the world.

How large an investment, what percentage of his total portfolio is invested in oil? We're never actually told, only that it's large. So, what about the hypocritical nature of this particular investment? It's pure "Al Gore flies in jets, so he doesn't care about climate change" nonsense. It's expecting someone to hold themselves to a standard that you yourself set for them and that is arbitrary and unrealistic.

First off, Total S.A. isn't behind the Keystone pipeline. A Canadian pipeline company is. Second, petroleum isn't the same thing as the petroleum-like substance synthesized from Canadian tar sands. Third, the only way this smacks the slightest of hypocrisy is if Gary Peters has ever in his life said that we need to stop burning all petroleum right this instant, which not only hasn't ever happened but would be, well, an insane thing to say (we should stop burning petroleum, but we are currently dependent upon it).

So, there's no "glaring hypocrisy" or anything else here. It's just that Gary Peters' investment portfolio includes holdings in energy, which if you want an investment portfolio that is, you know, successful, you probably want.

This is great stuff for rightwing bloggers to flog. These people are mostly bellowing and shouting the same kind of thing about Tom Steyer just as they did it when they discovered that Al Gore's house used a lot of electricity (also that Al Gore at one point was heavy). This is the sort of thing that works to whip the rubes into a right frenzy and into believing that they're on to something. In some circles, Al Gore's energy use is still considered a reliable excuse to say that climate change is a myth.

Chad Selweski isn't a rightwing blogger, however. He's a centrist columnist who should know better than to fall for this sort of thing. Hopefully anyone who reads his post will be smart enough not to join him.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Bridge says that governor was lying when he lied about pension tax

by: Eric B.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 12:30:00 PM EDT

The thing I hate the most about Very Serious Person-driven political truth squading is the tendency to try to parse things down to finite details rather than just simply coming out and saying something. For instance, when our benevolent overlord Rick Michigan helped scale back Michigan's pension tax credit, everyone recognized that while it was technically ending a tax credit that it was in fact a new tax on pensions, which had been previously safe from taxation. Everyone understood this because of the very simple cause-and-effect relationship involved: Income from pensions that was previously untaxed because of a tax credit were now subject to the income tax.

Earlier this summer, our benevolent overlord Rick Michigan tried to get out from under that by telling a room from olds that it wasn't actually a pension tax. Everyone kind of laughed because it was so bald faced and obvious. Bridge this morning finally got around to flagging it as a "foul."

For those keeping score at home, it was a more significant lie than last year's PolitiFact's lie of the year, which was the president saying that if you like you insurance that you could keep it. What makes these different is that when people's health insurance got canceled, it was mostly the insurance companies doing the canceling and not the president. This is a public official who is actually responsible for something and trying to duck accountability for it by passing it off as something that it ain't.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

If'n you please, no longer refers to Michigan simply as "a dump"

by: Eric B.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 12:11:12 PM EDT

"Too much proximity to folly tends to make it seem normal."--Ed Abbey

As some of you already know, I just got back from backpacking yesterday afternoon. I was gone a week, which was apparently just long enough for this to strike me as idiocy of the highest order.

As other states ban landfills from accepting low-level radioactive waste, up to 36 tons of the sludge already rejected by two other states was slated to arrive in Michigan late last week.

Let me sum up the story for you: A landfill in Wayne County is accepting low-level radioactive fracking waste that other states won't accept and that, in the case of Ohio, the state's were recommending Michigan as a destination. Among the many WTF questions from that previous question is just how much radioactive waste is created through fracking that doesn't actually get removed from the well?

This is your addiction to fossil fuels, people, and it's killing humanity's future one day at a time.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Terri Lynn Land: A taker, not a maker

by: Eric B.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 11:37:09 AM EDT

Today we learn what Terri Lynn Land's effective tax the last three years: Less than 3 percent.

Land’s payments to the tax man are less clear. In July, Land released her 2012 and 2013 tax records to The News, showing she filed separately from her husband, Daniel Hibma — a wealthy west Michigan developer — and earned $44,726 in 2012 and $89,729 in 2013. Her effective tax rate was 2.7 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively.

On Monday, Land defended her low tax rate, saying it was due to her substantial contributions to charity.

The average Michigan taxpayer paid an effective tax rate of 12.9 percent of adjusted gross income in 2012, while the national average was 13.7 percent, according to the most recently available Internal Revenue Service data.

That's effective tax rate on her earned income, mind you. She was able to get away with an effective tax rate of below 5 percent -- below 5 percent -- because a lot of the money she made came by way of capital gains from an apartment building she owns. The entire story, by the way, should be required reading by all members of the media as it relates to issues that are of actual substantive importance in understanding who it is that we're being asked to vote for. It's a useful alternative to the mishmash of horse race nonsense and summaries of political ads that have constituted political campaign coverage the last couple of cycles. Who these people are is how they will help govern.

In this case, Terri Lynn Land doesn't have much use for a day job. She can literally give away most of her income to charity because most of her money comes in via investment. How many people do you know who live like this?

Her communications strategy on this is also just plain terrible. It is one dash "Making an issue out of Terri Lynn Land's income tax returns is as terrible as that time we said that Gary Peters wants you to pay for his daugthers' elective abortions," and one dash "Terri Lynn has such little use for her middle class income that she can donate most of it." The one is bizarre and stupid on its face; the other simply sends the message that she is out of touch with how most people live.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

And now, a word from our ... awwww, nuts

by: Eric B.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 09:31:43 AM EDT

Thanks to TJ Bucholz and the team at Vanguard Public Affairs for sponsoring Michigan Liberal this last little while. In fact, they did such good work, that one of their team dropped off my son and I at the trailhead last week, but also picked us up yesterday. That's service!

The space is open and empty right now. It's a sad little space begging for some attention.

Are you a campaign hoping to introduce yourself to media and political people across the state? Are you the sort of person who reads the content here and says, "I can get behind this to the tune of X-number of dollars."? Are you sick of my whining already and just want it to end? If so, a sponsorship is probably a thing you should do.

Cost is $360 a month, $100 a week or $25 by the day. If you sponsor for the next month, it's my happy privilege to report that you'll be sponsoring this website on my birthday. What better gift could you give (a nice bottle of bourbon, perhaps).

Contact me at ebaerren@michiganliberal.com, or via text at 517/881-8008 or over Teh Social Medias to reserve space or find out more.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Today in campaign news: Dems' 3rd Supreme Court nomination

by: ScottyUrb

Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 18:11:22 PM EDT

Brace yourselves - Eric will be back to tormenting enlightening us on these here pages in the coming days. You've been warned.

*-- We've known that Richard Bernstein would likely be nominated for one of the eight-year terms on the Court, with Deborah Thomas to be nominated for a two-year term. But what about the other eight-year term? Late last week, it was announced that the Michigan Association for Justice is supporting Jucge Bill Murphy for that slot. Murphy is the chief judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals. However, now there are concerns from a number of individuals regarding Murphy's views on choice. I have not been able to find anything that would corroborate those concerns - but long story short, we may have a contest at the Democratic convention this weekend. 

*--We're still months  away from the start of the next Legislature, but already there's posturing among Republicans to see who will be the new House Republican leader. Al Pscholka announced that Lisa Lyons is supporting him, with Lyons likely to take another leadership role. Kevin Cotter says he's got the support of 25 lawmakers - but he's in danger of losing his own seat to Bryan Mielke this fall. Which begs the question: If he does lose, will Cotter's supporters back Pscholka? If not, who will they back?

*--Mark Totten has a new video.

Discuss :: (15 Comments)

Today in campaign news: Tense times for Republicans

by: ScottyUrb

Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 19:15:53 PM EDT

*--#JustLikeTheDetroitFlood is a thing on Twitter.

*--Republican county conventions are taking place tonight. The one in Oakland County will feature extra security.

“The tea party people have advocated throwing chairs if they don’t get what they want,” Thienel told The Detroit News. “At the first sign of unruly behavior, we will recess. ... I will do everything in my power to ensure that nothing happens.”

...

Maddock, a bail bondsman, said Thursday he is prepared to be arrested.

Gongwer and Chad Livengood are there.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Today in campaign news: Snyder's Katrina?

by: ScottyUrb

Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 20:31:18 PM EDT

*-- Since when is damage to your vacation house anything like having your only home flooded? Since this morning, apparently.

"I've been through a lot of things like that, Frank," Snyder said on WJR. "We just recently had holes in our roof from storm damage to our lake house. We have a vacation place, and we had a limb come down, put holes in the roof and had water running through the whole place. Those experiences are not pleasant ones."

Should be worth noting that in addition to his lake home and his place in Ann Arbor, he's got a mansion on the Grand River in Lansing and a cottage on Mackinac Island. Granted, he'll be losing the latter two on New Year's, but still.

*-- Michigan's unemployment rate jumped from 7.5% to 7.7% - a contrast to the national figures which show that June had the highest percentages of job openings since 2001.

*-- The wolf hunt thing passed the Senate today. 

Discuss :: (10 Comments)

Today in campaign news: On the tube

by: ScottyUrb

Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 21:12:14 PM EDT

First and foremost, I hope all of you affected by the flooding are okay. It appears lots of folks throughout the metro Detroit area were affected in one way or another. I can't imagine what you all are going through. We actually had a small tornado come through last month, but all that happened here was a loss of power. On a totally different note, can I just point out how cruel the Grim Reaper is for taking both Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall in about 24 hours of each other? Okay, back to campaign stuff.

*--The Schauer campaignDGA, and Michigan Nurses Association all have new ads.

*--Meanwhile, the Koch Brothers' ads have been put on hold for the time being. On the other hand, "Ending Spending" and the NRSC are ramping up their ad buys. It appears that they realize that the Koch brothers have a bad name here in Michigan.

*--Retired Justice Marilyn Kelly looks to be running for Wayne State Board of Governors, according to MIRS. Nominees for those posts will be decided at the convention next weekend.

*--Bill Schuette has $1.9 million in the bank to Mark Totten's $150,000. No word on if any of that was raised at a funeral. Either way, Schuette's going to need it - he'll struggle to get young people to support an anti-equality AG.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Absentee Voting Data From the Primary

by: Grebner

Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 22:18:34 PM EDT

I've put together a set of charts showing how quickly absentee ballots were returned, along with an examination of the characteristics of people who failed to return their ballot at all.

My goals:

1) Convincing everybody that people do not generally return their absentee ballots right away - the supposed rule of thumb that half the ballots are returned in the first week is completely bogus.  And

2) A very important and overlooked GOTV target should be voters who request a ballot but never actually return it.  Among some groups of voters, 15% or even 25% of their votes are lost, because campaigns fail to understand that the battle for votes isn't over when the ballot is requested, but only when it's filled out and returned.

Updated August 12, showing when ballots were returned according to when they were sent. 

There's More... :: (8 Comments, 3603 words in story)

From the same people who were only moderately upset by maggots in prison food

by: Eric B.

Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 11:00:00 AM EDT

Our benevolent overlord Rick Michigan's people: The same people who said that it was no big deal to craft eduction policy in the shadows with people paid for by a anonymously-funded slush fund; the same people who said that there was no connection between campaign donations and a backdated pollution permit; the same people who excuse lavish spending by education and housing executives as part of the cost of doing business; the same people who said ... well, you get the point.

On a related note, the Au Sable river has a reputation as a trout fishery that extends well beyond Michigan.

In yesterday's Freep.

The permit allows Harrietta Hills Grayling fish hatchery owner Dan Vogler — who is leasing the property for $1 a year from Crawford County — to increase fish production on the nearly century-old facility from 20,000 pounds to about 300,000 pounds.

Vogler’s fish farm in the Upper Peninsula was contaminated with whirling disease, an invasive parasite that thrives in the sludgy environment created by phosphorous fish feces. Anglers are concerned that could happen again on the Au Sable. Whirling disease triggered failures in rainbow trout out west, and some streams have lost up to 90% of their trout.

The punchline...

“What if something happens? Will he abandon the facility and let it go bankrupt, letting the citizens deal with the mess? A performance bond makes sense,” said Baird.

The DEQ rejected the request, stating, “If there was a catastrophic failure of the waste management system that resulted in significant negative impact on the Au Sable River or fishery, and the permittee was financially unable to remedy the situation, the state of Michigan would be able to utilize its resources, knowledge, and experience in operating aquaculture facilities to restore facility, the river and fishery.”

So, yes, Baird is right. It would fall on taxpayers.

Socialized costs, privatized profits. The free market is a great idea. We should even try it out someday.

It would be wrong to lay the responsibility for this solely at the feet of our current governor. It's his people who are ultimtely responsible, including the statement that we should all just relax and stop complaining because if this guy screws up the state will land on him with a pair of iron-toed sized 12 boots. Of course, things didn't quite work out that way for Aramark, but that's a different story.

Really, though, the way these people approach the environment and really everything evokes this memories of this line.

Wilfred responds only to things that have weight and bulk and value! He FEELS books, he doesn't read them! He APPRAISES paintings, he doesn't seek out their truth or their beauty!

It comes straight to us from a Tee Vee show that was perhaps the best written in that medium's history, The Twilight Zone.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Mark Hackel, in a role that will touch you

by: Eric B.

Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 09:46:45 AM EDT

If he had any more soul, we'd have to order out for greens.

New Baltimore from David on Vimeo.

Don't ask, because I have no answers.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Next week we hike: Open thread

by: Eric B.

Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 12:56:58 PM EDT

Might have mentioned that here in a few days I'm hitting the trail for a week of backpacking with the kid. We went to the same basic place last year, except for only three days and only hiked part of the trail we're visiting. This time, it's the whole enchilada plus an order of rice on the side. As a side note, I'm also coming to the end a dietary cleanse. The last eight days, it's been no alcohol and no caffeine and a vegan diet. Thought the booze was going to be the hardest part, but that's been a snap, actually. The hardest part's been not having caffeine. I come off this, coincidentally, the same Tuesday morning we're leaving for camping.

For the rest of you, consider this the opening of the thread.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Citing shitty service, our benevolent overlord decides against canceling Aramark contract

by: Eric B.

Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 15:25:56 PM EDT

What a terrible governor this guy has turned out to be. From Ye Olde Inbox.

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Rick Snyder today issued the following statement in conjunction with a letter to Aramark regarding food service operations in Michigan prisons. 

“One of our main goals has always been to run state government and state services in the most efficient way possible.  To that end, we are on pace to save Michigan taxpayers $14 million per year by implementing the existing contract between the Department of Corrections (DOC) and Aramark Correctional Services. 

However, the transition to utilizing Aramark’s services has seen errors on both sides of the relationship which are unacceptable and need to be corrected going forward.  Therefore, we will be taking multiple corrective actions to ensure that our prison food service operations are implementing best practices and achieving the same success that Aramark has seen in working with other states.

Michigan will assess a $200,000 fine onto Aramark and require the company to redesign their current training and staffing procedures in close coordination with the DOC.  The fine imposed onto Aramark will be used to implement structural changes on the state side, including appointing an independent Contract Oversight Senior Advisor, not employed by Aramark or the DOC, but working directly in the state’s Executive Office.  This Contract Oversight Senior Advisor will serve as a liaison between Aramark, the DOC, and other state officials, to promote effective communication and the prompt resolution of any performance issues. 

Michigan will also establish a system of independent contract monitors, review the DOC warehousing system, and work with Aramark to establish a set of mutually-agreed performance metrics to be used to objectively measure Aramark’s performance on a monthly basis. 

Aramark has provided services successfully to hundreds of correctional facilities across the country for nearly 40 years.  I fully expect the DOC and Aramark to work in close partnership to ensure the same success here in Michigan.”

Keep in mind that they originally didn't want to privatize food service because there wasn't going t be any realy savings realized ... and now they're creating even more costs ... to pay a company that in the first seven months of providing service has seen a bunch of employees fired and banned from prisons from having sex with prisoners, caused food riots, was fined for menu substitutions and for havin maggots found in and around their serving lines. Its worse service than we were getting before food service was privatized ... and it ain't that much cheaper.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

MSHDA chief to step down over expense reports

by: Eric B.

Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 12:43:56 PM EDT

MIRS tweet:

BREAKING: MSHDA Chief Scott Woosley stepping down amid expense report revelations.

Just yesterday, there was something about our benevolent overlord Rick Michigan defending his expenses as the normal cost of doing business. And Woosley himself said he'd happily have someone audit his expense reports and repay anything improper, which -- ummm -- had just happened, but whatever.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)
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