Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Three global annoyances

1. Reuters stringers in Bangalore "reporting" on financial news in the United States.

2. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson whining to the Financial Times about what a hard job he has. According to Paulson, the United States government lacked the necessary tools to fix the current financial crisis. He also has found it burdensome to comprehend the horrifying magnitude of the problem more deeply than the public or Congress. Oh the pain of inside information and having a job to do.

3. Sudoku mania

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Insulting ad for desperate writers

This is the most insulting employment ad I have ever seen. You can find it on Craigslist Western Mass:

"Business Man Looking for All Writers"

"I need help with meeting the demand of technological and shopping reviews for a company that I work for. All of my works and "assisted" works all go under a ghost writer name. Therefore, your name will not be associated with the work.

For every 400 word article that you write for me, I will personally send to your check account $3. Yep, it is that easy. I also assist in giving you the topics that need to be "reviewed".

I am looking for about 20 people right now.
Please only serious replies."


Please, only serious ads. Be real.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sponsor an executive video -- humor we need

This is why I love Canada. Their number one export to the U.S. is fabulous comedy.
From "This Hour Has 22 Minutes," some of Canada's finest humor. Enjoy.

Illinois politics -- cesspool, not swamp

This week Illinois Gov. Blagojevich was arrested on corruption charges. Yawn.

Chicago was a swamp before it was a city. Underneath its spectacular architecture it is still a swamp.

Slimy politics are an Illinois thing. Consider it a kind of identity politics in which some take pride.

Vote early and often. If you're dead, even better. Pay-to-play is nothing new. Machine politics require lubrication, so don't be surprised if the Illinois slime-o-meter needle has smacked the end of the dial at a time campaigns have become obscenely pricey. Governor Blago is worse than we ever imagined! Lincoln is rolling in his grave! Nah. Blago had something lots of people wanted: a fresh Senate seat open to the highest bidder. How different is that from multi-million dollar campaigns selling candidates on television? If anything it's a more thrifty method of getting the seat filled. Skip the voters; it costs less. Aren't we in an economic crisis?

And speaking of record breaking campaign finance, there's a reason Obama won. There's a reason Obama appears so cool in the face of global crises and the next Great Depression. He made it through the proving ground of Illinois muck. He has seen things that fine, idealistic, morally pure voters cannot stomach and he has risen to the top. He has waded through the cesspool of Illinois politics and can still utter words like 'hope' and 'fairness' with a straight face.

He can see the world as it is, not as he might like it to be, and still function, perhaps more effectively than someone with more delicate sensibilities.

Some have speculated that Illinois is the most corrupt state in the country. Not a chance. The dance partner of machine politics is a passionate political activism that seeks transparency and justice, which opened a way for the FBI to gather information and make a case.

Relax. This is politics.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Be well, Michigan

Dearest Michigan,
I love you deeply, but it didn’t begin that way. You were not my first choice. An accident of relationship and employment brought me to you and your wonders. I came slowly to adore your pride and shame. Your watery beauty, blue-collar grit, and political dysfunction pressed me close for a time. Troubles and strife twinkled like sunny glints on Great Lakes’ waters, too many to count – sharp lights – shards of lost hope slashing at a coherent future: death by thousands of cuts. So many stories to tell, all of them worthy, tragedies mostly. But stories of resilient hope, too. Your people wooed me and filled my heart with life. You had me at ‘swing state’ and I worked for your rebirth.

Yet you pushed me away with denial of my rights wedged into the Constitution by the will of a few. A rigid notion of marriage fell half-rotten from your tree. Self-righteous contempt said ‘no’ to another way of loving and bearing fruit.

I’ll keep watching you sputter forward, praying you catch a break and manage a happier future, as I seek my own. Don’t be afraid to open yourself to difference – new ways of thinking and being and creating. I will be watching from my new home and posting sometimes.

An accident of relationship has taken me to another place, my first choice this time. My new home is bluer than Michigan, begins with an ‘M’ and legally recognizes same-sex marriage. Finally I can exhale. After ten years of marriage, I am legally, publically and proudly married.

You’ll remain in my heart, Michigan. From the Porcupine Mountains to the Renaissance Center, from Sleeping Bear Dunes to Cobo Hall, from Flint to Grosse Point Farms, and from Saugatuck to Frankenmuth. Be well, Michigan. Be well.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Recession nostalgia

This November the economy lost the most jobs since 1974. The Labor Department reports 533,000 jobs lost last month, but count on that number being revised upward later.

Back in 1974, bell bottoms were in and middle-class families were struggling. Watergate came to a head in August with Nixon's resignation. Ah, the bad and the good. The economy was horrible, but Nixon moved on.

Check out these video snippets from that fabulous year.

Mercury Comet and Capri boasting high mileage. This should embarrass the Big Three in 2008.



K-Mart advertisement


Tabby Treat Cat Food

Recession outrage



It's finally official: "we're in a recession." Whew, somebody said it.
And then...what the heck?
"And we've been in it for a year?"

That last part was not a surprise if you live in Michigan where the economy never left the 2001 recession. But if you live elsewhere and believe the TV news, you may have been blindsided to hear that the darned thing began in late 2007.

Anybody feeling some outrage? Even if you worked to keep your own house in order since 2001, some high rollers decided to put the entire system in jeopardy with an ethics holiday. These are the guys who hid toxic assets in seemingly good investments, like so many boogers in library books. Or was it more like burying leaky barrels of nuclear waste under a national park?

According to consumer confidence figures, the U.S. economy was in recession in March, although experts hadn't officially proclaimed it. Consumer confidence is a leading indicator, so if you had been paying attention, you probably had a hunch the darned thing started late in 2007.

Now prescient consumers (even those who still have jobs) are not spending on anything except essentials. In our consumer driven economy this perpetuates the constriction. But consumers are left little choice as credit remains frozen.

The most prudent among us will function on a cash basis like depression era fuddy duddies -- radically spending less than they earn. When things improve, these folks will still function on a cash a basis.

Don't blame them for a slow recovery next year. Thank them for having the sense to remain solvent. Hurl your outrage at legislators and regulators in Washington and in state governments who refused to regulate the criminal fraud that created the housing bubble and the derivatives bubble. Please, have some outrage. You'll find it much more satisfying than fear.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cars, karma and dogma

As the world waits for the rise (or more likely fall) of U.S. automotive manufacturing, Michiganders need a dose of healing and humor. Many Michiganders see their fates as terminally linked to fortunes of the Big Three and practically speaking, they are right. Working families and retirees depend on the Big Three for income and health care. Yet, these two necessities seem privileges in a time of recession, mass layoffs, soaring personal bankruptcies, rising home foreclosures and pervasive economic constriction.

When the wolf is at the door, laugh in his face, flip him off, and move on.

Products from the New Age industry can offer healing and humor. A word of caution and a disclaimer: some consider these serious modalities powerful medicine. Our Michigan does not endorse or guarantee results from any New Age healing methods.

"Are you ready to live an ABUNDANT life?" asks the advert. 'Well, shit yes," you might think. I've been laid off, am behind on my bills and eat Kraft dinner five nights a week, left-over Kraft dinner the other two. Maybe you need an "abundance coach" -- someone who can help you clear karma and limiting beliefs to get back on track with your true purpose.

Limiting beliefs are nasty little snares that trap us in the past or an illusion of powerlessness. Limiting belief number one in Michigan: Michigan's purpose is to manifest a twentieth-century automotive sector in the twenty-first century. While it is true that the current global economic crisis has doomed the Big Three, they created their own reality with wasteful designs, planned obsolescence, overproduction and finally outsourcing. They must change or die.

Limiting belief number two: you personally are responsible for remaining loyal to the Big Three even if it means short changing yourself and your family. You don't have to stay on the ship as it sinks. That's the CEO's job; he’s getting paid huge bonuses to stay aboard. You are not.

Limiting belief number three: Michigan can only thrive with the Big Three intact. There was a time Michigan teemed with lumberjacks. Situations change. You can, too, Michigan.

But if your abundance coach fails to lift you out of the pit, how about trying Divine Intervention Healing. Not just limited to the saints of old, you too can experience spontaneous remission, where the impossible becomes possible. Let’s see...the impossible: General Motors and Ford reinstate generous health care benefits for retirees, consumers have enough money to buy cars and the Big Three commit to a green future.

If that fails, how about consulting with a spirit medium for direct guidance from deceased loved ones or angels and guides? You probably won’t do any worse than recent guidance from your financial advisor and you might find out where Grandma hid the key to the safe deposit box.

In the end maybe you are looking for something more tangible... like a high colonic – an empowering change from the usual because you take it in the behind on your own terms for the sake of purging, cleansing and a refreshing lightness of being.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Prime Minister Gordon Brown against saving Big Three

I'm an anglophile, but Gordon Brown is testing my patience. Give me liberal doses of Monty Python, Shakespeare, the Magna Carta, Yorkshire pudding, paneer makhani, C.S. Lewis, the Rolling Stones, William Byrd, Beowulf, Peter Rabbit, cockles and mussels. But please spare me the advice to let the U.S. auto industry crumble.

At the G20 Summit yesterday British Prime Minster Gordon Brown described bailing out the U.S. auto industry as akin to 1930s style protectionism. Brown said, "The dividing line here is between an open society capable of trading round the world, against a protectionist response that happened in the 1930s and is totally unacceptable."

That's a whopper of an either/or. Either we're an open society presumably like Britain (hey what about all those cameras around London?) or we are stupid protectionists (pitching tea overboard). Has he trotted that past the Chinese, renowned for skewed trade practices, currency manipulation and government subsidized manufacturing? Probably not. Maybe he's just jealous that the United States still has a car industry to protect, while Britain does not...think Jaguar and Land Rover.

In fact, Mr. Brown champions extensive global management, regulation and oversight of finance. He would like to expand the IMF's role in the care and feeding of Mammon. According to the Times, "He wants the IMF to create a council of experts to monitor the markets for danger signs — his much-vaunted early-warning system — and the IMF’s coffers to be boosted by cash-rich states such as Saudi Arabia and China. He is also calling for a clean-up of the banking system, including a network of regulators to scrutinise the world’s biggest banks. "

But who minds the minders and what's Brown willing to trade away to get China and Saudi Arabia to ante up?

Friday, November 14, 2008

GOP to slay auto industry in bid to kill labor unions

Chances dwindle on bailout plan for automakers. So shrieks today's New York Times. Obstructionist Republican forces in Congress, even in this lame duck session, plan to sacrifice heavy manufacturing in the United States to make a point. Think of it as Republican tough love -- destroy manufacturing (and the village it sustains) to save it.

Those big, bad auto companies have only themselves to blame for their predicament, claims Senator Richard Shelby. If they hadn't bent to the demands of unions and the appetites of consumers things would be better for the industry. Shelby wraps it up neat and tidy in a statement, “The financial situation facing the Big Three is not a national problem but their problem.” That is to say, you're on your own, suckers.

It may not be a national problem yet, but if one or all of them go down, it will most certainly become a national problem. Millions of jobs will be lost, devastating entire communities and hurting millions of families and children.

Even if you agree that bowing to consumer-driven SUVmania of the last ten years combined with decades of overly generous compensation for union members weakened automakers' current financial position, it is still lunacy to advocate letting the Big Three go down in flames. These aren't just companies who can't make it, companies with bad business models that deserve to take the consequences of bad decisions. These companies form the core of American manufacturing. The Big Three are in fact thousands of small companies (parts suppliers and related businesses) located across the country employing millions of people.

This manufacturing infrastructure -- the Big Three and the thousands of small companies that supply them located in nearly every state -- can become the foundation of a national green energy economy. And government incentives could move development forward. This could actually be a win-win situation -- a chance for redemption rather than eternal damnation. A critically-ill Big Three could be ready to trade planned obsolescense for sustainability, to see the error of their ways and move ahead into a green future.

But if you are stuck in a punitive paternalism, like the GOP's minions, the only option is total destruction. Sure, that'll teach 'em.

Monday, November 10, 2008

GM no more? No way

Dire news from General Motors late last week...they may run out of cash required to operate early next year. And following that gem, Deutsche Bank torpedoed GM share value by speaking the previously unspeakable. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, "Deutsche Bank said publicly today what many detractors of General Motors Inc. have been thinking for some time — the company is worthless."

Across the blogosphere glib finance types are musing that any company with a failed business plan should not be bailed out. This on the heels of US taxpayers bailing out the failed, paper pushing, speculative financial shadow economy? Puhleeeze.

To spitefully dismantle the Big Three, because they have more value in pieces shed of legacy obligations is stupid, short-sighted and heartless.The auto industry represents the last hope for heavy manufacturing in the United States. This sector could be transformed and retooled to foster new energy and transportation technologies and products.

To posit that automakers are struggling due to a failed business model is also wrong. GM, Ford and Chrysler have spent the last several years implementing brutal restructuring precisely in recognition that their business model needed transforming. What is doing them in today and tomorrow and the next day is the same global credit crisis that plagues all sectors of our economy.

So why then should the Big Three get help? Because they are our best shot at developing a national industrial policy aimed at job creation and the restoration of American manufacturing. They could form the foundation of a new manufacturing sector centered on energy efficiency and green technology. Today's automotive infrastructure was built on the arsenal of democracy that supplied the U.S. during WWII. Tomorrow's green energy economy could be built on today's infrastructure.

This is not a Michigan issue. If the Big Three go down, millions of jobs will be lost across the country in the first year, according to the Center for Automotive Research.

Should one or two or three of the Big Three go down this little recession will become big. This is not a hunch; this is a fact.

So good luck and best wishes to Gov. Granholm as she participates in the Obama Administration transition team. Make us proud, Governor.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes we did, a new voter's landmark day

Jeremy Whiting shares his experience voting in this historic presidential election.


"Yes We Did.


I am an undergraduate student at Wayne State University. Yesterday, I voted for the first time in my life, and what a first time it was. I drove from Detroit back to Ann Arbor, where I am still registered, and stood in a relatively short line before casting my ballot. Although I was only cautiously optimistic, the hope I have seen in the city of Detroit in the past few weeks let me feel a little excited about my vote. (I have to say, I am most definitely an Obama supporter, though I don't consider myself a Democrat.)


Little Obama-Biden signs were sprinkled along most of the on-ramps on I-94, and homemade Obama banners on bedsheets hung from footbridges overhead. High in the late afternoon sky, a sheet of Georgia O'Keefe clouds stretched out, with blue in between. My friend Ben was also in the car, voting for the first time in Ann Arbor, and the two of us couldn't help but be in a good mood. For me it was partially the joy of participating in our government, and partially the banners. I've yet to see any sort of McCain gear that didn't come out of a machine.


Many people in Detroit and the rest of Michigan see Obama as a welcome change. Although he hasn't pandered to auto companies, Detroit and the unions still support him. In my opinion, it's because Barack Obama has been a welcome dose of honesty in a region that needs it badly. Between the Engler/Granholm mess that's been left in Lansing, the Bush-Cheney deception in the White house, and the sad corruption in Detroit city government, Michigan has taken a lot of hits in the honesty department.


Besides that, the fact that those in charge still cling to a car-based economy hurts even more. The Big Three probably won't exist in the way we are used to come next year. We have suffered more than most other states, with one of the worst economies in the nation, something reflected in our biggest city more than anywhere else. So even when Obama came to the city of Detroit early in the election and told the automakers to raise fuel economy without government handouts, Michigan didn't get mad. We all knew Obama was right, and Mitt Romney was wrong. Car jobs aren't coming back. And that was before the economic crap really started hitting the fan.


My polling place, an elementary school, is used by two wards in Ann Arbor. One ward consists of 1960s subdivisions and upper middle class families. The other hugs I-94 and includes co-housing, a sizable African-American community, and some of the only real low-income housing in the city proper. The election workers kept talking about how the lower income ward was voting in record numbers. People who hadn't voted in 20 years but were on the rolls were coming in and when I heard that, I knew they weren't voting for another old white man. I cast my vote with no big issues, no malfunctions, and was on my way back to the D.


When Ben and I got back, we eventually went to a friends' house to watch the results come in. On the way over, even one of the neighborhood bums was talking about the election (albeit after asking for a cigarette).


“Now, I see you all did your duty today, but let me ask you this. Do you really, really, think it's gonna happen?”


We said we hoped so. As he walked with us and talked about bringing the power to the people, I realized that for him, nothing would change no matter who won. But at least if Obama was elected, we would have a president who cared more about telling the people what was really happening than hiding the truth and giving away taxpayer money to corporations. Not to mention, we've been overdue for a black president for a long time.


As the results came in, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of accomplishment. Michigan went for Obama and so did the nation. Standing out on the porch, we could hear fireworks, celebratory gunshots, ecstatic cheers, and the city felt alive. People walking by cheered with us and the liquor store down the street was hopping. Drivers honked as they cruised by.


As we all called friends and family, I knew that I would vote in every election for the rest of my life. Because last night, people who had never voted, and people who hadn't voted in 20 years were the ones who made a difference. If nothing else, the thing I'll remember the most about last night was the feeling of hope I felt watching Obama speak, and the same feeling on the streets of Detroit. Thousands of people flooded them to celebrate, and we were back in the game. Michigan needed this one, and we got it."

Monday, November 3, 2008

Presidential election prediction from University of Illinois

The talented political science and computer science students at the University of Illinois offer their modeling of tomorrow's likely result. Who needs the "media" with its busyness and chatter and compulsion to fill every second of the next 24 hours with punditry and prattle? Not this Illinois alumnae.

Hail to the Orange.

See you at the polls.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A big day for economic indicators

Already markets around the globe are declining this morning. Brace yourselves for a tough day in New York, as well.

A lot of important data will be made public today. Here's the schedule, courtesy of Seeking Alpha:

8:30 Consumer Price Index
8:30 Jobless Claims
9:00 Treasury International Capital
9:15 Industrial Production
9:30Fed's Bullard speaks on U.S. growth potential
10:00 Philadelphia Fed Survey
10:35 EIA Natural Gas Report
1:00 PM NAHB Housing Market Index
4:30 PM Money Supply

Picking the next President

I don't belong to a political party and I am not active in either presidential campaign. But I have decided who's my man for this election.

If you are having trouble making up your mind, ask yourself these questions:
1. Do you want to make your choice on the content of a candidate's capabilities or the color of his skin?
2. Would you rather have a smart president or an angry one?
3. Would you rather have a president who can't manage his disdain for his opponent or one who stays cool while being attacked?
4. Would you rather have a president who can clearly articulate his policy positions or one who gets snared in his own talking points?
5. Would you rather have a president who knowingly put the country in danger by picking an ignorant running mate or a president who chose a running mate with greater experience than his own?
6. Do you want a president who months ago said he just doesn't understand the economy trying to govern during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression?
7. Would you rather have a president who wants to keep the middle class from going extinct or one who doesn't give a damn?
8. Would you rather have a president who wants to provide health care access to more Americans or one who wants to tax your health benefits?
9. Would you feel safe having a president with PTSD?
10. Would you rather have a president who has respect for women or one who chose vacuous pandering as a campaign tactic to win the "women's" vote?
11. Do you want another president who got into a prestigious college because of family connections and graduated near the bottom of the class or a president who earned his place at top schools through skill and aptitude, excelled, and paid his way with scholarships and aid?
12. Do you want a president who practices a politics of hope or a politics of hate, fear and smear?

Think carefully. Your future depends on this choice.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Obama's plan to help victims of financial crisis

Speaking in Toledo Monday, Senator Barack Obama laid out steps to help employers, automakers, homeowners, the unemployed, and state and local governments. A refreshing approach compared to the prevailing top-down measures that continue to come from the Bush administration's Treasury Department.

The International Herald Tribune reports that Obama, "proposed giving employers a $3,000 tax credit for each new hire to encourage job creation. He said he would seek to allow Americans of all ages to borrow from retirement savings without a tax penalty; to eliminate income taxes on unemployment benefits; and to double, to $50 billion, the government's loan guarantees for automakers.

Obama also called on the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to create a mechanism to lend money to cities and states with fiscal problems, and to expand the government guarantees for financial institutions to encourage a return to more normal lending. He also proposed a 90-day moratorium on most home foreclosures; it would require financial institutions that take government help to agree not to act against homeowners who are trying to make payments, even if not the full amounts."

Bernanke, Paulson press conference at 8:30 a.m.

Word is that the United States government is forcing nine major banks to partially nationalize. According to Seeking Alpha "The U.S. Treasury will reportedly invest about $125B in preferred shares of nine banks: $25B each for Citi (C), JP Morgan Chase (JPM), and Bank of America (BAC) (including Merrill); $10B each for Goldman Sachs (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS); $3B each for State Street (STT) and Bank of New York Mellon (BK), plus a still unspecified amount for Wells Fargo (WFC)."

This morning's press conference will lay out the details of so called "Market Stability Initiative" before the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange. True performance art.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Obama Acorn distraction

Brace yourselves. The GOP is in the home stretch of the smear campaign for the White House. McCain's Friday bombshell was an accusation of guilt by association: Obama is linked to a "front organization" for ACORN. This seems to be their counterpunch to "Phil Gramm and John McCain helped deregulate the entire financial sector so that greed could run amok and screw the middle class." Since their mob hate mongering and race baiting ran its course last week, they've moved on to "Obama is a socialist and a cheater and responsible for the financial crisis."

Curiously, what exactly ACORN is depends on the eye of the beholder. According to the Nation Magazine, ACORN is "the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, with over 350,000 member families, organized into 800 neighborhood chapters, in 104 cities nationwide."

But according to Mona Charen, "ACORN is where Sixties leftovers who couldn't get tenure at universities wound up."

And in the words of Michele Malkin, "This left-wing group takes in 40 percent of its revenues from American taxpayers — you and me — and has leveraged nearly four decades of government subsidies to fund affiliates that promote the welfare state and undermine capitalism and self-reliance, some of which have been implicated in perpetuating illegal immigration and encouraging voter fraud."

And here's a scary description of Obama's work from Stephanie Block:
"In the 80s, he was the lead organizer of the Developing Communities Project, a campaign funded by Chicago’s south-side Catholic churches and formed on the organizing principles of Saul Alinsky. He spent another four years building an organization in Roseland and the nearby Altgeld Gardens public housing complex." (Eek! Beware of those socially radical Roman Catholics trying to live the principles of justice laid out by Old Testament prophets.)

Here's a really hilarious one from Stanley Kurtz in the Chicago Daily Observer, asserting that poor people and dark-skinned people and community organizers are to blame for the financial crisis, since they bullied banks into giving loans to folks who couldn't manage their personal finances:

"In the name of fairness to minorities, community organizers occupy private offices, chant inside bank lobbies, and confront executives at their homes – and thereby force financial institutions to direct hundreds of millions of dollars in mortgages to low-credit customers.

In other words, community organizers help to undermine the US economy by pushing the banking system into a sinkhole of bad loans. And Obama has spent years training and funding the organizers who do it."

Community organizers forced banks to make bad loans? Wow. I thought banks were responding to President Bush's call for the mythical "ownership society."

As this latest smear campaign unwinds, keep your eye on the ball and keep asking questions. Give it all the test of reasonableness. Nobody forced banks to make stupid loans. Nobody forced loan originators, who wanted to make fat commissions, to falsify documents so that folks who shouldn't have gotten loans did get loans. Community organizers didn't lobby Congress to deregulate the financial services industry.

But if the worst allegations are true we might all throw up our hands and scream running for the hills, "Oh my God! Obama helped poor people form local groups to advocate on their own behalf in the legal system, which is typically unavailable to them since they lack money and connections. He tried to empower them to help themselves and their communities through skillful means and yes...this was community organizing. AH!!"

Okay, so Obama wasn't in the pocket of the shadow banking sector. So he marched in protest of payday loans in Illinois. So he spent time advising people how to navigate the legal system. So he served as a role model in leadership training seminars.

What's the problem?

Recession tips: Ten ways to stretch a dollar

Never mind how we got here. The real economy is constricting and some analysts expect three consecutive quarters of falling consumer spending -- unprecedented economic gloom. And that's alarming. But folks just don't have the easy credit necessary to keep spending for the sake of the country -- the kind of "patriotic", idiotic spendthrift behavior urged by our president after 9-11, and practiced by the Bush administration to this day. As the credit/mortgage/derivative/credit default swap ponzi scheme unwinds, a lot of people are beginning to understand the limits of the real economy on the ground. If most people actually attempt to live within their means, the economy will most certainly constrict. But the real economy is still the real economy. You have to eat and clothe your family and find shelter. Wheels may be an add-on for some, a necessity for others. So here are some thrifty tips from some one raised by Depression survivors. Thinking of it as a lifestyle choice and making a game of it can help.

1. Never pay full retail. You don't need anything bad enough to pay full retail in this economy. The thing you are looking at is not the last one on the planet. If you really need it, shop around. Or ask the seller if they'll come down in price. You can do this. The worst they can say is 'no.' And you can still walk away and shop around.

2. Pay cash, if possible. Ask if there is a different "cash price" than the price marked. You'll be surprised. And by the way "cash" means cash, not debit card or personal check. This can be a great way to get back at the credit card companies for charging merchants a percentage while charging you interest. The credit card companies make a alot of money off your transaction. Their merchant fees effectively inflate prices for everyone. So pay cash and stick it to them.

3. Buy non-perishables in bulk when they are on sale. Yes, that means you will be the one with 40 rolls of toilet paper at the check out. I recently spent $40 on $65 worth of contractor bags because the price was unbelievably good. I'm set for about 16 months. No harm in that.

4. Save gas by batching your errands. Take the time to plan a route for your errands and do them all at once. It takes a little thought, but it'll give you more uninterrupted free time the rest of the week.

5. Buy some of your clothes used. I know, this may seem beneath some of you. But you can make it tolerable by thinking of the Thrift Store as your cousin's closet. Didn't you trade clothes with your cousins when you were a kid? "Hey, Carol, I love that top. Can I borrow it?" No shame in that. Ann Arbor has an amazing Salvation Army. University of Michigan students love it for vintage clothing. It's cheap and chic. Don't be afraid, all the smart kids are doing it!

6. Focus on function and price. Think carefully about the functional need you are seeking to fill. Ditch bells and whistles if they drive up price. A car is a means of transportation, not a second home. A wristwatch lets you know the time; most of us don't needn't it to function at the bottom of the ocean, really.

7. Use the public library for your entertainment needs. Ann Arbor has a kick-ass public library with vast dvd and music cd collections (not to mention all the latest books). People in town pay an annual tax to sustain and grow it and at a little over $100 per household it's a crazy bargain. If you live outside Ann Arbor, you can pay an annual user fee, still a crazy bargain.

8. Share large tools with your neighbors. Get together with neighbors to save money on large tools like rototillers, wood splitters, extension ladders, power washers, snow blowers, chainsaws, etc.

9. Plant a garden and learn to can stuff. What you grow will be fresher and tastier and cheaper than anything at the supermarket. You will know where it came from, who picked it and how it was fertilized. And you will remember, in your deep archetypal self, that you are fundamentally a child of the Earth.

10. "Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without." I learned this from a lovely woman who was just a child during the Great Republican Depression of the 1930's. The idea is to spend only when necessary -- an idea antithetical to the easy-credit mentality of the last twenty years.

Good luck, campers.
More later...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Seasons greetings from Western Massachusetts

What would Abraham Lincoln say?

"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration." Lincoln's First Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1861.

These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people's money to settle the quarrel.
Speech to Illinois legislature, (January 1837); This is "Lincoln's First Reported Speech", found in the Sangamon Journal (28 January 1837) according to McClure's Magazine (March 1896); also in Lincoln's Complete Works (1905) ed. by Nicolay and Hay, Vol. 1, p. 24.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

McCain-Palin hate mongering, stinking slime of desperation

This week as the global economy continued to tank, the McCain-Palin campaign chose to whip up angry mobs with innuendo in a parallel universe energized by hate and ignorance. Rather than address voter concerns about the financial crisis, McCain-Palin seemed to align their campaign with hate, ignorance, fear and bigotry -- powerful, irrational motivating forces. There are some amazing videos documenting this activity.

Check out this one from Ohio:



The McCain-Palin campaign continues to push guilt by association with the Bill Ayers story. Tomorrow's St. Petersburg Times has an article debunking the assertion of guilt by association and surveying other notables who have associated with Ayers including the current mayor of Chicago, a former president of Northwestern University, and a former president of Brown University.

Unfortunately for Obama, McCain's slimy ads propagating this filth are just one part of a full-court press by the GOP's operatives. Check out this coverage and commentary:

Michael Reagan says, "If the truth becomes better known — and it will if the Ayers issue is doggedly pursued — it will be clear that Obama was not only deeply immersed the fetid swamp of Chicago's far-left political scene, but was from the very beginning of his career carefully groomed by the city's socialist left to follow the path he's on now in his quest for the presidency of the United States."

As someone educated in the socialist public schools of Illinois, kindergarten through masters degree, I sort of hope that's true (tongue in cheek).

Ed Morrissey wrote, "Barack Obama told us we could trust his judgment. Where was that judgment when he allied himself with people like Ayers, Khalidi, Tony Rezko, and the Daleys and their Chicago Machine? That’s not just a series of accidental associations from random juxtaposition, but deliberate alliances from which Obama benefited in his political career."

But at least one great Michigan Republican has rebuked the McCain-Palin slime machine. My favorite Republican, Bill Milliken has gone on record with his disappointment. Thank you, one more time from the bottom of my heart, Governor Milliken.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Adler Planetarium response to McCain claim about earmarks

"Adler Planetarium

STATEMENT ABOUT SENATOR JOHN McCAIN’S
COMMENTS AT THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

Last night, during the presidential debate in Nashville, Tennessee, Senator John McCain made the following statement:McCain: “While we were working to eliminate these pork barrel earmarks he (Senator Obama) voted for nearly $1 billion in pork barrel earmark projects. Including $3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?”

To clarify, the Adler Planetarium requested federal support – which was not funded – to replace the projector in its historic Sky Theater, the first planetarium theater in the Western Hemisphere. The Adler’s Zeiss Mark VI projector – not an overhead projector – is the instrument that re-creates the night sky in a dome theater, the quintessential planetarium experience. The Adler’s projector is nearly 40 years old and is no longer supported with parts or service by the manufacturer. It is only the second planetarium projector in the Adler’s 78 years of operation.

Science literacy is an urgent issue in the United States. To remain competitive and ensure national security, it is vital that we educate and inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Senator McCain’s statements about the Adler Planetarium’s request for federal support do not accurately reflect the museum's legislative history or relationship with Senator Obama.

The Adler has approached the Illinois Congressional delegation the last few years for federal assistance with various initiatives. These have included museum exhibitions, equipment and educational programs we offer to area schools, including the Chicago Public Schools. We have made requests to Senators Durbin and Obama, as well as to 6 area Congressmen from both political parties. We are grateful that all of the Members we have approached, including Senator Obama, have deemed our activities worthy of their support, and have made appropriations requests on our behalf, as they have for many worthy Illinois nonprofit organizations.

As a result of the hard work of our bipartisan congressional delegation, the Adler has been fortunate to receive a few federal appropriations the past couple of years.
However, the Adler has never received an earmark as a result of Senator Obama's efforts. This is clearly evidenced by recent transparency laws implemented by the Congress, which have resulted in the names of all requesting Members being listed next to every earmark in the reports that accompany appropriations bills.

October 8, 2008"

McCain shows contempt for Obama

Last night referring to Senator Barack Obama as "that one," Mr. Straight Talk Express showed his true colors: John McCain has contempt for Barack Obama.

John McCain can't say "my friends" enough to take away the sting of his expressing open contempt for fellow presidential candidate, Barack Obama, the likely next president of the United States according to all polls.

At least we now know what we suspected all along: Senator McCain is struggling desperately just to be civil, has a hot temper, feels entitled to be president and exhibits very poor judgment. And, in light of his choice of running mate, he may believe himself immortal.

In last night's town hall session McCain said he would talk softly and carry a big stick. But his contemptuous words uttered softly through a clenched jaw on national television and followed up with countless appeals to "my friends" reveal an arrogant, disingenuous person who will do or say anything to win this election.

Surely, "my friends" doesn't include those who openly support Barack Obama. Can "my friends" include anyone who respectfully disagrees with McCain? Can McCain respectfully disagree with anyone? If he can't, is he likely to possess the necessary humility and self control to be President? Will he listen to advisers who say things he doesn't want to hear, things at variance with his world view? Probably he's never heard of being a servant/leader, just a hard-ass leader.

He recently said he has always aspired to be dictator in a session with the DesMoines Register editorial board.



I suppose dictators don't have to respectfully disagree with opponents, they have other options.

Good thing we're electing a President in November!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sen. McCain, I am not your friend --live blog

If I hear "my friends," one more time, I'm going to stop watching this farce.

The Straight Talk Express has at least one bent axle, but still insists we trust it to "move forward". Yeah, and the future lies ahead.

9:45 p.m.Now, McCain just referred to Senator Obama as "that one." Contempt. Wow.

9:52 Obama, please just say health is a human right, not a commodity.

9:53 McCain tries to scare us -- Obama wants socialized medicine. McCain will give us a $5000 tax credit. Um what if we don't have the $5000 to pay for our health care, Mr. Straight Talk?

9:57 Obama says health care is a right! Thank you.

9:59 Sen. McCain, how will we be a peace maker? "America is the greatest force for good in the history of the world, my friends..." He will stand on his record. He's the man to make the decision to go to war. Hey what about Congress?

10:02 Obama says we are a force for good in the world.

10:06 McCain says "my friends" again, and I'm still watching. Oh God, again...

10:07 McCain says American blood is America's most precious asset.

10:08 Obama calls for more troops in Afghanistan.

10:13 McCain "I'll get Bin Laden. I know how to get him." So please vote for me.

Good night.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Financial bailout bill passes House

The Bush/Paulson/Pelosi/Reid bailout bill has passed, but a majority of Republicans still voted against it.

Prediction: The GOP will label this a Democratic Party handout to the rich, as they feign populism on the campaign trail.

VP candidate Palin might say, "Yessir you betcha, guys and gals, John McCain is a maverick and the GOP is ready to do something new in Washington. You know, I'm thinkin' Joe Six Pack needs representation at the highest levels of government. 'Cause Dubya was a little too, ya know, high brow, what with his time at Andover and Yale. What I'm gonna bring is a real, glad to know ya slice of life approach from God's country...the final frontier. That's right, the great state of Alaska. With a Palin/ McCain administration, you'll be able to count on straight talk and quick decisions, new leadership inspired by the spontaneous leading of the Spirit. Because, ya know, how else could I have gotten this far? George Bush was annointed and so is a Palin/McCain administration. Move over you elitist Democrats voting with Wall Street. We're here to help the millions of little people who, like me, can't keep up with details of government policy. They want easy answers. And we're here to give 'em." *wink.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Presidential candidates favor the trickle-down bailout

Our current financial system sucks capital out of small communities, pads pockets on Wall Street and condemns ordinary people to lives of debt. But it's the devil we know and the presidential candidates think we should keep it on life support by passing the "rescue plan" currently pending in Congress.

Obama has warned of financial catastrophe if the "rescue" doesn't pass.

In a brazen effort to win popular support linking the woes of Wall Street to the woes on Main Street, McCain said on CNN:

"By the way, the first thing I'd do is say, 'Let's not call it a bailout. Let's call it a rescue.' Because it is a rescue. It's a rescue of Main Street America."

This supposes that our bloated, top-heavy, corrupt, unproductive financial system is worth propping up in its current form. This supposes that business as usual is good for Main Street. This supposes that the current system based on greed, fraud, unregulated worthless derivatives, swindling and a lifestyle of deceit has ever helped Main Street.

The words "crisis" and "catastrophe" are meant to scare Congress away from their responsibility to deliberate. After 9-11, Congress traded away liberty for false security with the U.S.A. Patriot Act. Now, "crisis" and "catastrophe" are employed to sway Congress away from their golden opportunity to remake our horribly broken "financial system" by re-establishing appropriate regulation and oversight. There is tremendous popular support for letting Wall Street take its licks and letting the so-called "free market" function for a change. The People would like to dole out some tough love through their elected representatives.

But some argue, since our retirement savings and college savings are tied up in the financial sector's worthless products, we will all suffer if more institutions fail. Worse yet, as global credit remains sluggish, companies will not make payroll and people will lose their jobs. Credit is the life blood of the global financial system. Traders need to float puffy clouds of highly leveraged risk around the globe around the clock to grow our retirement savings. We are all in this together, they intone. And drug dealers need users to stay in business.

But remember, prior to the hideous meltdown, millions of people were already suffering and losing jobs through downsizing and outsourcing -- the result of efforts to increase share value quarter to quarter.

Instead of propping up the system that brought us this mess, why not start by helping small businesses and individuals directly harmed by the situation. Why should Congress save huge banks from their own bad investment decisions and let local communities continue to crumble as foreclosures drive down property values and devastate once healthy neighborhoods?

How about giving Main Street a bailout, a chance to start over and let the benefits trickle up to the bloated big boys for a change?

--Take the $700 billion and start making very small loans ($20,000-$50,000) to homeowners in trouble. Think of it as the grandest ever micro-loan program. Consumers will spend at the local level, resume making their mortgage payments and keep their mortgages from simply lapsing into "bad paper." The big boys will get their money and people won't lose their shelter.

--And if you really want to get radical, just make grants. Don't expect repayment. It would be no worse than the billions flushed down the drain in Iraq. In fact it would be better -- directly benefiting U.S. citizens and killing no one.

--Have local banks that meet strict criteria for sound lending administer the program, service and hold the loans, or disburse the grants. This would establish local financial institutions and people as authorities in their communities. This would cultivate working financial relationships at the local level.

--Create a service corps of financial counselors who can work with consumers lacking financial literacy to help them get on the right track. This would create jobs for dislocated financial industry workers.

--Assist small businesses having difficulty getting loans for operating expenses. Rather than prop up unproductive financial gamblers, get the money to small companies that make things people need and provide vital services in small communities. This would keep people employed and maintain consumer spending, which accounts for nearly two thirds of all economic activity.

Granted, things are in such a state, that the fat cats will need a little hand out to keep going. But it would be obscene if Congress provided that corporate wefare with no commensurate support for small businesses, workers, families and children and communities.

Senators Barack Obama, John McCain, and Joe Biden will all be in Washington, D.C. after sundown to vote on the Wall Street "rescue plan". Main Street will be watching closely.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Agree to the bailout, or else

Is this "economic crisis" the new 9-11 -- a scary tool to achieve concessions from the American people? Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctine, seems to think so.Listen to her on Democracy Now.
Klein says that "now is the time to resist Wall Street's shock doctrine."

"Be afraid, be very afraid," seemed to be President Bush's message as he advocated a $700 billion bailout plan. In a nationally broadcast address last night, he asserted that if the government doesn't purchase billions of worthless investments with taxpayer money, the entire economy might collapse. And just to be extra persuasive, he made it personal. If the bill is not passed, you could lose everything -- your house, your job, your retirement savings, access to credit.

"The market is not functioning properly. There has been a widespread loss of confidence, and major sectors of America's financial system are at risk of shutting down. ... Without immediate action by Congress, America could slip into a financial panic and a distressing scenario would unfold," the President said.

Seems to me the markets are functioning properly. The writing is on the wall. Fear and retrenchment are rational responses to what is unfolding. The pyramid scheme of worthless derivatives is crashing down and investors are leery. Sounds about right. Major Wall Street Institutions have vaporized and people are spooked. Also, sounds right. We are in the "distressing scenario."

Why is it that worshipers of the "free market" are now eager to engage in the largest ever exercise in corporate welfare?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Shh...did somebody say "Great Depression?"

Next year, we'll have a huge vegetable garden. I can feel my immigrant grandmother's instincts in my bones. Use what resources you have. We have some land. Get the ground ready for spring. Clean out the weeds. Amend the soil. Let manure work itself in over the winter. Tidy up the cold frame so it's ready to go.

Grandmother didn't garden because she needed to clear her mind or because it was chic. She gardened to feed her family during the Great Depression. My mother recounted feasts -- borscht, fresh baked chicken, cucumber onion salad, fresh eggs from the chickens -- in the midst of the Great Depression. Her hunger was satisfied with home grown goodness, the best her mother could provide. But my mother also remembered begging for new shoes and being told she'd have to wait. Grandmother couldn't grow shoes in the garden any more than Grandfather could find work on the streets of Chicago.

Mother's family knew abundance and lack.

With the current financial meltdown of the shadow banking world, movers in the know are uttering bleak words. Mark Patterson, co-founder and chairman of distressed investor MatlinPatterson Global Advisor said Tuesday that the odds of a Great Depression this year are between 20 and 25 percent .

But, if you are already unemployed and hungry the odds of a Great Depression are irrelevant. You are already experiencing need. Michigan has been in a so-called "one-state recession" for about two years. You say tomato; I say tomahto.

According to recent reports, even once booming West Michigan is hitting bottom as thousands enter extreme poverty. And the Salvation Army in Farmington Hills is giving out over 250 free loaves of bread in a day. Median family income in Farmington Hills in 2006 was over $85,000, well above U.S. median income, yet these people are lining up for free bread.

Yet, some movers and shakers persist in saying there are investment opportunities in this meltdown. Tell that to the children in poverty. "Buck up, little kids, you might be hungry, but there are some terrific deals in the banking sector and they're giving out bread in Farmington Hills."

Too bad the manure on Wall Street isn't good for the garden. There is so much of it these days.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Michigan, you could be the next Ohio

To a tried and true Michigander, this is a chilling thought. We don't want to be Ohio; we want to beat Ohio. But only on the football field, not at the game of corrupt elections, thank you very much.

The Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee are suing the Michigan GOP as a result of investigative journalism by the Michigan Messenger. Well, it wasn't even really hardcore "investigative" just the result of a well-conducted interview by a seasoned journalist. According to the Michigan Messenger, the Michigan GOP wanted to suppress votes by challenging people in the foreclosure process. The GOP denies it, because it really is repugnant. The Messenger stands by its story.

Some salient quotes about GOP strategy:

Laura Bush to the Michigan delegation at the recent GOP convention:
“I think Michigan can really be in play this time,” she said.
"We want every single Michigan independent. I want you to feel the pressure, because Michigan could be the Ohio of this election.”

Paul Weyrich, father of the conservative movement on the advantages of low voter turnout:


Here's a Project Vote explainer about caging.

Let's try to keep Michigan from turning into Ohio. Given our history with Ohio, the very thought of following in their footsteps should send chills down every Michigander's spine. If you have the time, go forth and protect the rights of Michiganders to vote.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Phil Gramm feeds McCain his lines on the economy

As 158-year-old Lehman Bros. investment bank collapsed into bankruptcy, GOP presidential candidate John McCain had the nerve to stay yesterday that the "fundamentals of the U.S. economy are strong." Really? Actually this puts him at odds with numerous economists.

He's also been quoted as saying he really doesn't understand the economy -- believable given his statement about good fundamentals yesterday. How then can a guy who admits he doesn't understand the economy make such ridiculous statements on the same day that Wall Street's excesses bring down industry giants?

Phil Gramm, one of McCain's economic advisers, must be whispering these idiotic sweet nothings to the candidate. Gramm prepared the way for this mess in 1999 with the historic Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. This law repealed the depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which prohibited a bank from offering investment, commercial banking, and insurance services. This is the real culprit behind our financial mess. Gramm's law freed up banks and insurance companies and investment firms to intertwine incestuously and invent absurdly complex "financial products"amounting to junk. Gramm's modernization of financial services actually facilitated greed and speculation run amok with boundaryless interlocking entities pawning off bad investments to eachother.

Remember Phil Gramm said we're in a mental recession and that Americans who are having a hard time are whiners.

Yesterday, thanks to Gramm-Leach-Bliley, Bank of American purchased Merrill Lynch. Bank of America, has benefited from Gramm-Leach-Bliley with CEO Lewis leading "a buying spree in recent years. In addition to the Countrywide purchase, Bank of America has acquired FleetBoston Financial Corp., credit card company MBNA Corp. and Chicago's LaSalle Bank. In July 2007, Bank of America paid $3.3 billion to buy private bank U.S. Trust Corp. from Charles Schwab & Co." (SanFrancisco Chronicle)

Probably, Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis isn't a whiner. He seems to be at the cutting edge of Phil Gramm's vision for the financial services sector. But even he thinks the economy is tanking. At a press conference yesterday, going over the fundamentals of the Merrill acquisition, Lewis allowed that the U.S. economy wouldn't see significant recovery until 2010, that the financial services sector would continue to spin out and that the next 12 months would be very difficult for economy generally.

Today central banks are scrambling to pump more cash into markets, you know, to keep this fundamentally sound system functioning. Today the Bank of England will inject $35.9 billion and the European Central Bank will pump in 70 billion euros (about $100 billion). But this hasn't settled down markets. This morning International Herald Tribune reports that "Wall St. woes trigger Asian markets sell off." Didn't those investors and central banks get the memo that the economy is fundamentally sound?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Palin and Clinton on Saturday Night Live

Time for overdue comic relief.

Brace yourselves for more bank and market turmoil

It's going to be a bumpy day on Wall Street.

Lehman files for bankruptcy (BBC)

Wall Street crisis: investors dump shares after Lehman collapse (U.K. Guardian)-- "The London stockmarket nosedived this morning as traders dumped shares and piled into gold and government bonds, following the turmoil on Wall Street."

Global markets dive after Lehman declares bankruptcy (Times Online)

Stunned Merril and Lehman staff eye shifting landscape (Reuters)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

New York Times: Once elected, Palin hired friends and lashed foes

Just read it for yourself and resist the urge to write it off as the liberal media bashing conservatives unfairly. It's a breathtaking account of vendettas and cronyism, just the kind that would dovetail nicely with the current crowd in Washington. The report also seems to support assertions that choosing Palin amounts to pandering to religious and social ultra-conservatives. It also reveals Palin's bold political ambition; she wants to be President. Democrats need to spend less time trying to caricature her and more time strategizing how to push back and play offense.

Excerpts:

"But an examination of her swift rise and record as mayor of Wasilla and then governor finds that her visceral style and penchant for attacking critics — she sometimes calls local opponents “haters” — contrasts with her carefully crafted public image.

Throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance, according to a review of public records and interviews with 60 Republican and Democratic legislators and local officials."

...

" Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy. The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records.

Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska professor, sought the e-mail messages of state scientists who had examined the effect of global warming on polar bears. (Ms. Palin said the scientists had found no ill effects, and she has sued the federal government to block the listing of the bears as endangered.) An administration official told Mr. Steiner that his request would cost $468,784 to process."

...

"She appointed a pastor to the town planning board. And she began to eye the library. For years, social conservatives had pressed the library director to remove books they considered immoral.

“People would bring books back censored,” recalled former Mayor John Stein, Ms. Palin’s predecessor. “Pages would get marked up or torn out.”

Witnesses and contemporary news accounts say Ms. Palin asked the librarian about removing books from the shelves. The McCain-Palin presidential campaign says Ms. Palin never advocated censorship.

But in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book “Daddy’s Roommate” on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.

“Sarah said she didn’t need to read that stuff,” Ms. Chase said. “It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn’t even read it.” "

Friday, September 12, 2008

Democratic party leader receives threat against Obama

According to a report from WHMI, an FM radio station in Livingston County, Michigan:

"The Secret Service Agency is investigating a handwritten threat that came in the mail yesterday to the Livingston County Democratic Party Headquarters in Brighton Township. Party Chair Judy Daubenmier tells WHMI the handwritten unsigned note was addressed to her. Using racial slurs, the person suggested that it was their fondest hope that Barrack Obama “gets a bullet.” While the area has been noted for its history of racial tension, Daubenmier says when they knock on doors and make phone calls in the county they virtually never hear this type of offensive language. She says the view of this “one cowardly person” doesn’t reflect the general feelings of residents, which is unfortunate given the efforts to rid others’ stereotypically negative views of the area relating to race. Commander of the Michigan State Police Brighton Post Gene Kapp tells WHMI the complete document was handed over to the Secret Service, who will assist them in the investigation. Daubenmier says they will not be intimidated by the threat because they know it doesn’t represent the feelings of the broad community."

Anti-Obama attack ads in Macomb County

Michigan is so critical in the presidential election that Freedom's Defense Fund in Washington has launched an attack ad against Senator Obama in Macomb County, what should be a democratic stronghold.

The ad employs guilt by association and resurrects the Reverend Wright flap. "Barack Obama's spiritual adviser for more than two decades is America's sharpest critic," said Todd Zirkle, executive director of the Freedom's Defense Fund.

To see the ad click here.

According to a press release from the group, the ad is scheduled to run a saturated one-week schedule on cable news networks in Macomb County, Michigan.

"Our donors are demanding that we be strategically relevant in this campaign," continued Zirkle. "We will stay active in Macomb County, as we believe it critical to the Michigan outcome. Michigan will be a decisive to the national result."

Last week, the group ran an ad falsely linking Obama with former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Jon Stewart: Sarah Palin - Vet this!

Wikipedia levels the playing field. Scroll ahead to 7:31 in the playtime to see Jon Stewart name the GOP's contempt for people helping at the ground level in their communities.

Palin says she's ready to be President, me too

Ratchet up the OMG factor. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin claims that although she's never met a foreign head of state, she is ready to be President of the United States, should it be necessary. Well folks, if she's ready to be President, I'm ready to be President.

Her reasoning? She won't blink. That's right. In an ABC news interview, when asked about McCain's asking her to be running mate she said, "I answered him 'yes' because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can't blink, you have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we're on, reform of this country and victory in the war, you can't blink," she said. "So I didn't blink then even when asked to run as his running mate."

Maybe the blink factor was important to McCain, because he passed over a number of better qualified Republican women in choosing Palin. Let's see...McCain could have picked Condi Rice, Heather Wilson, Olympia Snowe, Kay Granger, Margaret Spellings, or Elaine Chao (Correcton: Chao is ineligible since she was born in Taiwan)for starters. Or even Lynne Cheney to keep it all in the family. But he picked Sarah Palin who didn't blink and was a bang up demographic fit for getting out the hardcore social conservative base.

But I have to admit, if Obama had asked me to be his running mate, I wouldn't have blinked either. Not because I was committed to the mission or ready to become unconditionally committed to the mission. Rather, because I'd have been in a state of shock. I'd be thinking, "Hey, wait. There have to be better qualified people than me. Better qualified women even. You know, people who've traveled more, have foreign policy expertise, better grasp of geography, have devoted their lives to public service. Why are you picking me? You want a wise-cracking, bird-watching, garden-tending, middle-class, mother of three, former law librarian turned writer to be just a chicken bone away from the Presidency? There must be some mistake. You've got the wrong gal."

And then I'd say, if the offer was still on the table, "You know, I'd like to sleep on this. It's gonna wreck havoc on my family life, I'll have to drop all my professional activities and I'll have to put off writing the great American novel for a few more years."

Like I said if she's ready, I'm ready.

Top ten reasons women should vote for Obama

The recent buzz asserts women are switching to the McCain/Palin ticket just because Palin is a woman. But seriously, ladies, consider the issues that matter to families. Don't be fooled by McCain's brazen tokenism and PR stunt -- picking a moose-hunting, baby-nursing, gun-toting gal from Alaska.

From the Barack Obama campaign website:

1. Women in business:
"Barack Obama encourages investing in women-owned businesses, providing more support to women business owners and reducing discrimination in lending."

2. Equal pay for equal work:
"Barack Obama believes the government needs to take steps to better enforce the Equal Pay Act, fight job discrimination, and improve child care options and family medical leave to give women equal footing in the workplace."

3. Protecting Title IX:
"Barack Obama supports eliminating gender discrimination in American schools. For 35 years, Title IX has been a bulwark against sex discrimination against students and employees at all levels of education. Obama will fight to make sure women have equal opportunities and access from pre-kindergarten through graduate school."

4. Paid medical leave:
"Expanding Paid Medical Leave: Today, three-out-of-four low-wage workers have no paid sick leave. It is fundamentally unfair that a single mom playing by the rules can get fired or lose wages because her child gets sick. Barack Obama supports efforts to guarantee workers seven days of paid sick leave per year, a moderate proposal that should not impose too onerous a burden on employers. "

5. Reproductive choice:
"Barack Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women’s rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as President. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in that case. "

6. Responsible fatherhood:
"Promote Responsible Fatherhood: Obama will sign into law his Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act to remove some of the government penalties on married families, crack down on men avoiding child support payments, and ensure that payments go to families instead of state bureaucracies."

7. Parents and families:
"Support Parents with Young Children: Obama will expand the highly-successful Nurse-Family Partnership to all 570,000 low-income, first-time mothers each year. The Nurse-Family Partnership provides home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income expectant mothers and their families."

8. Family farms:
"Obama will fight for farm programs that provide family farmers with stability and predictability. Obama will implement a $250,000 payment limitation so that we help family farmers — not large corporate agribusiness. Obama will close the loopholes that allow mega farms to get around the limits by subdividing their operations into multiple paper corporations."

9. Fiscal discipline in Washington:
  • Reinstate PAYGO Rules: Obama believes that a critical step in restoring fiscal discipline is enforcing pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) budgeting rules which require new spending commitments or tax changes to be paid for by cuts to other programs or new revenue.
  • Reverse Bush Tax Cuts for the Wealthy: Obama will protect tax cuts for poor and middle class families, but he will reverse most of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers.
10. Making college affordable:
"Create the American Opportunity Tax Credit: Obama will make college affordable for all Americans by creating a new American Opportunity Tax Credit. This universal and fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students. Obama will also ensure that the tax credit is available to families at the time of enrollment by using prior year's tax data to deliver the credit when tuition is due."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Women in white flight to McCain, please reconsider

An ABC/Washington Post survey seems to indicate that white women ditching Obama for McCain-Palin in vast numbers are flipping Obama's advantage to McCain. The UK Guardian speculates "the loss of support among white women could be fatal for his chances of winning the presidency if it was to be sustained. Obama had upset this constituency before the conventions, with many Democratic women unhappy that he had dumped their champion, Hillary Clinton, out of the nomination race."

Ladies, please familiarize yourselves with McCain's positions. This material is from the McCain-Palin website.

On abortion:
"John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench."

Juno was a great movie, wasn't it?

On expanding the military:
"John McCain believes we must enlarge the size of our armed forces to meet new challenges to our security...John McCain believes that the answer to these challenges is not to roll back our overseas commitments...John McCain thinks it is especially important to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps to defend against the threats we face today."

Anybody feel a draft in here?

On marriage:
"John McCain believes the institution of marriage is a union between one man and one woman."
Whip up the base and pray away the gays.

On assault weapons:
"John McCain opposes restrictions on so-called "assault rifles" and voted consistently against such bans. Most recently he opposed an amendment to extend a ban on 19 specific firearms, and others with similar characteristics."

Guns don't kill people. People kill people.

On Supreme Court appointees:
"A President should have confidence in the judicial philosophy of those he is appointing to the bench. That is why he strongly supported John Roberts and Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court and that is why he would seek men and women like them as his judicial appointees."

Load the bench.

On globalization and subsequent outsourcing of jobs:
"John McCain believes that globalization is an opportunity for American workers today and in the future...John McCain understands that globalization will not automatically benefit every American."

Hey, Michigan, outsourcing will go on. Deal with it. No wonder he's sure the auto jobs are not returning to Michigan.

On the war on terror:
"John McCain supported the adoption of the Military Commissions Act (MCA) in 2006...John McCain recognizes that we cannot treat dangerous terrorists captured on the battlefield as we would common criminals."

No habeas corpus in the war on terror.

"John McCain is more concerned with protecting the American people from future terrorist attacks, by killing or bringing to justice those who commit them, than he is with giving terrorists rights that would allow a judge to set them free before they are tried."

Shoot first, ask questions later?

On Homeland Security:
"Public-private partnerships are an essential part of the entire homeland security effort – from planning to implementation and operations."

Entrepreneurs are essential to our economy. More domestic opportunities for Blackwater, perhaps?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Change, yes we can -- the McCain-Palin strategy of repackaging

Cross posted at Huffington Post

Obama says of McCain and Palin "You can’t just recreate yourself. You can’t just reinvent yourself. The American people aren’t stupid."

Oops. But, change? Yes, we can. The possibility to redefine and reinvent yourself is absolutely central to the American experience. It's at the heart of the immigrant story. Come to the new land, reinvent yourself and make your fortune. And if you make a mistake, try again and start over. This is the land of second, third and fourth chances. And rebranding.

Absent from McCain's claims of being a change agent is any admission that his past performance is wanting. He needs to pose as a change agent to win votes. The only reason for him to present himself as a reformer is to bait a citizenry ravenous for change in Washington -- he's betting that voters are so desperate for change, they can't think clearly and discern his rhetorical co-opting of Obama's message of change.

In fact, he seems to be taking a page from Dubya's 2000 campaign play book. McCain is claiming he'll "drain the swamp, "take 'em on" and "bring the right kind of change." While he sounds like a Clint Eastwood character, he actually sounds even more like Dubya on the campaign trail in 2000.

Here's how Dubya took aim at McCain in the 2000 election. From a New York Times article dated February 8, 2000:

"Bush proclaimed today that he was the true reformer in the Republican field and portrayed his chief opponent, Senator John McCain, as someone who 'says one thing and does another.'"

and...
"'If you're tired of no results and simple, empty rhetoric,' he said, 'if you're tired of people who say one thing and do another, come join our team.'"

McCain's Straight Talk Express, while an ironic joke to Obama supporters and intelligent, thoughtful observers, isn't about truth, facts or straight talk. It is about simple, short catch phrases -- verbal gestures that suggest populism and patriotism and the guy next door. The technique is meant to make a false impression, not to persuade on the merits of policy positions. It is calculated deceit to make McCain accessible to masses of voters who don't seem to realize that they're not going to have a beer with a guy owns seven houses and whose wife can afford a $300,000 outfit, no matter how plain spoken he presents himself on TV or at a town hall meeting.

The American people aren't stupid, just gullible and spent. And you only need to fool some of them in a very close race.

Unless Senator Obama has a brilliant trump card he's saving for the right moment, he'd better take off the gloves, quit being politely incredulous and let rip some real straight talk. If he delays much further, McCain's puffed-up fake populism and pretense of being a reformer might stick with voters.

Celebrate Banned Books Week with Sarah Palin: Sept. 27 - Oct. 4

Don't believe everything you read. Sarah Palin is not a book burner or banner, but she does tend toward small town cronyism. Reporting by the Boston Herald gets to the heart of the matter: Palin was willing to fire an employee for not complying with ideology and sent requests for resignation to administrators as "just a test of loyalty."

This morning I received an email sent and resent half a dozen times purporting to list books Sarah Palin wanted to ban from the Wasilla Public Library. Over four days the email has whipped up concern among intellectual freedom fans, book lovers,liberals and Obama supporters.

Looking like required reading for high schoolers with titles like A Clockwork Orange, Canterbury Tales, and Huckleberry Finn, the presence of a dictionary, Little Red Riding Hood, and Tarzan of the Apes suggest the list is fake. These just are not typical book banning choices for prudes or evangelicals.

But could it be true? Reporting by Time Magazine inspired the email rumor.

According to Time, former Wasilla mayor John Stein "says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor."

With that, the blogosphere was off and running, spinning yarns about lists.

Housecleaning with a new administration is standard procedure, but public librarians are not political appointees. They are civil servants who conform to professional standards and abide by ethics set forth by the American Library Association.

Maybe this is what ultimately qualifies her to be McCain's running mate: she's a political creature who values loyalty above professional standards and qualifications. If this is the case, the McCain Administration really could be Bush's third term.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The McCain--Palin road show: swagger and cheek in Michigan

McCain and Palin have hit the trail with swagger and cheek -- riding a post-convention boost in popularity straight into Michigan. Some Michiganders seem receptive to the story-telling road show, although many are resisting the snake oil. The hard facts of economic life in Michigan can't be cured with old-time remedies.

If this year's presidential campaigns were books, they'd be a western and an exhaustive non-fiction treatment of some tragic truth -- Louis L'Amour meets a remaindered tome on the demise of American industry. Which would you rather read in your off time? But we're not talking about picking summer reading; we're considering electing the next president of the United States.

The GOP is working one of its stock in trade strategies for electing presidents. Stick a cowboy hat on a guy (or gal) with a can-do attitude and you have a de facto American leader. Remember, Maverick is a legend of the west. And if your protagonist is a western hero in a white hat wrapped in the flag what does that make the other guy? Effete, over-intellectual, hand-wringing, unpatriotic...

What's worse, it doesn't have to be true to stick. Recently McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, told the Washington Post - that the election is "not about issues" but about "a composite view of what people take away from these candidates." Pure political pragmatism. This isn't about speaking truth to power; this is about power speaking myth to voters. This is about winning. Expect negative ads and plenty of misinformation.

A truckload of compelling facts can't necessarily compete with a myth, story and propaganda. Human beings are hardwired for stories. Our subconscious speaks in archetypes and the GOP knows this. So does team Obama, which has come this far thanks to strong message control and branding (Change, Yes we can).

Obama has a can-do attitude, but with a collective sensibility. McCain, on the other hand, is playing to American individualism. Obama wants to invite us to a barn raising with a big potluck afterwards. McCain wants to pace off at high noon and then fence off the back 48. Obama needs to remind voters that McCain will be a continuation of the last eight years. That swallowing more Bush administration "remedies" won't cure what ails us. That to elect McCain is like trying to heal an earache by blowing tobacco smoke into the ear and saying "pain, pain go away, go into a bale of hay." Sure, people tried it. It's even got quaint old west charm. But it doesn't work.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

AP: Michigan man accused of planning anti-GOP attack

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged a Michigan man as part of what they say was a scheme to use Molotov cocktails to attack the main arena for the Republican National Convention.

The U.S. attorney's office in Minneapolis says 23-year-old Matthew DePalma of Flint was charged Saturday with possessing unregistered firearms.

Authorities say DePalma attended an event in Waldo, Wis., in July called the CrimeThinc Convergence, and told an FBI source he wanted to attack the convention.

An FBI affidavit says DePalma talked about making Molotov cocktails, got the supplies and assembled five.

The affidavit says DePalma talked of attacking Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The Associated Press left a message for DePalma's public defender.

Viguerie annoints Palin, "the next Ronald Reagan"

Richard Viguerie, conservative icon, has dubbed Alaska Governor Sarah Palin "the next Ronald Reagan" after her acceptance speech last night.

Even if this is an overstatement, the Democrats seem to have a problem. Palin will mobilize white, middle America. She's an underdog, a hockey mom, a small-town gal, a devoted wife. She can zip up the American dream narrative like a comfy house dress while toting a rifle and flipping griddle cakes. She can line dance her way past accusations of being a Washington insider and talk tough. Well, she can deliver tough lines in a speech anyway.

Did the GOP succeed last night in contrasting their small-town, tough gal with the Democratic ticket? We shall see. Elections are about stories. Voters will eat up stories that resonate with their lives and give them hope. This has been Obama's strength. And now the GOP seems to have found a direct challenge to Obama's "change and hope" narrative. She's a tough gal with a tale. She's not afraid to take on Obama. And she's the only gal on the dance floor.

Biden better get busy.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bonior: the election will be "won at the margins"

Former John Edwards supporter, congressman David Bonior told Inter Press Service (Italy) the presidential election will "be won at the margins."

In an interview with IPS at the Democratic convention, Bonior allowed that the election will be a squeaker nationally and in Michigan.

Picking up that theme, Laura Bush today met with Michigan's delegation at the Republican convention and urged them to work hard for McCain, saying that "Michigan could be the Ohio of this time. Michigan could be the state that carries the ticket for us and carries the election for us."

In a very close race all it would take would be: a little caging, inadequate numbers of machines in heavily Democratic districts, aggressive GOP election challengers at polling places, long lines on a workday, strategic misinformation about where and when to vote, and misinformation about Michigan's voter ID law.

Back to work with Obama the "labor guy"

While a lot of bloggers surf the edge of the news cycle, hoping to be the first ashore with a brilliant insight, one can also take a break -- perhaps lounging under a shady tree with a refreshing drink, getting some perspective on what is really urgent and important. It could take an hour or, in my case, the entire month of August. So now it's back to work. There is a presidential race to parse!

Michigan, according to the latest polling numbers, seems to have morphed from a deep blue state into a pale blue swing state. The latest (8/18-8/21) EPIC-MRA poll of likely Michigan voters has Obama at 43 percent, McCain at 41 percent, undecided at 13 percent. Expect a lot of attention from the candidates as they attempt to solidify core supporters and woo undecideds.

Obama will be the "labor guy," as he told union organizers at Detroit's Hart Plaza yesterday. But what of McCain? Will he court west Michigan as the "family values guy" or will he leave that to running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with a gender-based division of campaign issues? Family stuff, that's women's work. McCain can deceptively appease the religious right trotting out Palin as a distraction from his mixed record on abortion, stem cell research and gay marriage.

According to the Detroit News, McCain's pick of Palin and his appearance at Saddleback megachurch earlier this month are winning the hearts and minds of social conservatives. Yet, it's the undecideds who are really up for grabs and they aren't a monolithic chunk of social conservatives or labor supporters.

Perhaps McCain will present himself as the "upper management guy" delivering more sober and pessimistic anti-union news to the people of Michigan as he did during the primary. However, telling Michigan voters that automotive jobs lost will never return won't win over marginally employed lunch-bucket Democrats, even if it is true.

Obama has a better spin on resuscitating Michigan's terminally ill automotive-centric economy. Automotive jobs lost (nearly half a million in the last ten years) can be replaced with work creating alternative energy -- green jobs -- and the federal government can subsidize the development of this sector. Sounds great. But how can he promise that Michigan will be the center for this activity? Lots of states could use the economic perk of a hot new technology sector and once a government program is established all states will want a shot at winning those jobs and dollars. Unless Michigan's congressional delegation has a lot of favors to call in, don't count on half a million green jobs for Michigan in 2009.

No Republican presidential candidate has carried Michigan since 1988. It is still a blue state. If Obama can appeal to the romantic memory of all that is good about labor unions and organizing and grassroots activity and community empowerment, he has an excellent chance in Michigan. If McCain patronizingly talks about inevitable demise of Michigan manufacturing through globalization and outsourcing, Obama has an excellent chance in Michigan. If McCain goes deceitfully negative, projecting fear and loathing of difference onto Obama, evoking unseen faceless enemies, things may get close.

From my shady spot though, this pleasant peninsula still looks like the perfect backdrop for Obama's economic narrative. Make it a "Main Street" election. Security begins with the pocketbook on the kitchen table.