Posted by hpayne on April 10, 2013
In my Detroit News column this week on the revival of the storied Detroit Electric car company, I quote D.E. Johnson, Michigan-based novelist and electric car historian on the uphill battle electrics face in the consumer market (from a piece in The Michigan View last year).
Beyond Johnson’s auto insight, I highly recommend his “faction” novel set in 1910 Detroit, “The Great Detroit Electric Scheme.” Not just a ripping good murder yarn – the book brings to life Detroit at the turn of the 20th century. From detailed encounters with the Dodge Bothers and young Edsel Ford to car factories on the riverfront to blind pigs on Gratiot, the book is a superb period piece (and he has a sequel in the works).
Johnson lives near Kalamazoo. He’s Pure Michigan. His full library of books can be found at his web page here.
Posted by hpayne on April 9, 2013
Paris, France – From Anglicanism to Catholicism, Europe’s history is full of state-based religion. In secular 21st century Europe, the unofficial state religion is the GreenChurch. Environmentalism inspires a devout, pro-Kyoto devotion here quite different than the more skeptical American outlook.
But France’s strident green political and media voices are curiously silent this year. Perhaps it’s the bone-chilling spring.
Parisians used to leafy April vistas shiver past leafless trees on Paris’s beautiful, tree-lined parks. Temperatures are in the mid-40s, well below the 60s-normal. Average temperatures across the continent are, on average,4-8 degrees below normal with March registering colder average temperatures than January. Snow fell in England, France, and Germany this spring- an unusual occurrence. The cold snap follows the frigid London Olympics last summer and over a decade of flat temperatures worldwide. Hardly the stuff of global warming. But the GreenChurch is firm in its doctrine – and the global warming high priests must be obeyed.
If Christianity was the opiate of the masses in centuries gone by, then global warming is the opiate of the upper middle class.
As such, politicians here have imposed draconian laws on their masses, from high gas taxes to high utility costs – a situation so extreme in Germany that the term “electric poverty” has become a common term. Unable to afford high energy costs imposed by government censor of sinful coal power, thousands have had their power shut off.
Here in Paris, French citizens suffer under $7.50 a gallon gas even as hey huddle at the pumps in winter overcoats. They pay their sin taxes, but, they may ask, to what end?
Posted by hpayne on April 8, 2013
Paris, France - Traveling to France these days seems like a trip back in time – or a trip into America’s future.
It starts aboard antiquated Air France which does not offer in-flight WiFi – a staple service aboard American airlines these days. But that is trivial compared to the economy that awaits on the other side of the Atlantic. Paris is as charming as ever, rooted in the capital city’s stunning King Louis palaces, Napoleonic columns, sprawling art museums, and wide boulevards.
But the economy beyond this government opulence is mired in backward market socialism – burdened by immobile, unionized workforces, stifling regulations, and crushing debt. Unemployment is stubbornly high – 10.6 percent and climbing as France is mired in yet another recession – despite years of stimulus spending. Per capita income is 70 percent of the U.S. The only thing the country has to show for its decades-long spending spree is 90-percent-of-GDP debt and Moody’s stripping the country of its AAA credit rating.
Sound familiar? It’s Barack Obama’s economic model.
Naturally, France’s socialist government is blaming all this on the rich and flogging a 75 percent top tax rate on the wealthy. It’s right out of the Obama playbook – and just as empty in effect. Its politics are also wearing thin.
Just as the Obama administration speaks fluent 99 Percenter by day, then parties at night with it One Percent pals, France has been rocked by financial hypocrisy at the highest levels. Last month, President François Hollande’s budget minister admitted he had sheltered much of his own private fortune in undeclared offshore bank accounts.
President Obama is a unique figure in America’s progress to overcome its civil rights past. But as a president, he is a throwback to Europe’s failed market socialism. Its ugly consequences are being felt all over Europe today.
Posted by hpayne on April 5, 2013
Give Big Oil a tax break and watch Michigan’s media tear it apart like Rottweilers. Give Big Hollywood a 42 percent tax credit and watch ‘em curl up like lap dogs.
The star-struck watchdogs were salivating all over the Michigan Film Office’s $1.7 million credit for Ryan Gosling’s fat cat producers this week. But then Matthew Modine had to go and play spoiler.
Modine was in state to talk up his new film, “Family Weekend,” shot here in 2011 under Jen “Defender of the 99 Percent” Granholm’s generous film handouts to One Percenters. Modine questioned the economic return for the state citing the games Tinseltown played to con more cash from state taxpayers.
“I think we came there and actually ripped off the tax subsidy program. I’m sorry to say that,” Modine said, suggesting the film’s producers stretched the definition of putting Michiganians to work in order to qualify for as big tax incentive as possible – noting that his driver was tasked with painting walls, for example.
“I felt like our producers were kind of gaming the system,” Modine said. “And it’s not supposed to work that way. You’re supposed to come and leave money in the state, not rob the state of its resources.”
Give Modine a reporter’s notebook.
While celebrity-addled journalists looked the other way, the state’s film subsidy generously doled out millions to millionaires from George Clooney to Michael Moore to shoot their films here. Meanwhile, the state’s credit rating cratered to AA- as Lansing neglected long-term liabilities for short-term ribbon cuttings with the stars – until Nerd Snyder slowed the gravy train.
Thanks to Matt Modine for reminding us.
Posted by hpayne on April 4, 2013
“People might be surprised to know that we have the best health care in the world,” said Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano after a State of the County address touting Metro Detroit health systems as an attraction for so-called health tourism.
“We just need to do a better job of marketing.”
Actually, the world already knows that the U.S. has the world’s best health care. It is Ficano’s political peers in Washington who have panned U.S. health care as second rate and in need of an extreme makeover.
Today, Detroit is a destination for foreigners — some 50,000 Canadians cross the border for treatment every year — desperately seeking specialists for everything from cancer to joint replacement.
But as the U.S. moves toward Obamacare, modeled on universal care systems abroad, fewer U.S. doctors will be less able to serve foreign customers, much less American customers.
“I fear (for Detroiters’ health care) access because more and more people in the medical field are going to revolt against a system that tries to control them,” Detroit native and world-renowned neurosurgeon Ben Carson tells me.
Ficano is correct — the U.S. is No. 1 for health care. So why does the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development rank the U.S. just 28th in life expectancy?
Because the U.S. is the murder capital of the developed world. Strip out fatal injuries from OECD tables and the U.S. vaults to the top. Wealth equals health. It also equals unparalleled access. For example, the U.S. has the highest breast cancer survival rate according to the Centers for Disease Control, 9 percent higher than Canada. From prostate cancer (184 percent higher) to colon cancer mortality among men (10 percent higher), Canadians suffer worse cancer survival rates than their neighbors.
Why? Because universal care does not mean universal access to treatment. In nationally-regulated systems from Canada to Germany, government regulation and health reimbursement creates doctor shortages and reduced treatment. This means “waits of six months or more for elective surgeries were reported to occur ‘very often’ or ‘often’ by 26-57 percent of executives” in non-U.S. systems, according to Harvard professor Robert Blendon. “Only 1 percent of U.S. hospitals reported this.”
That’s why medical tourists come to the U.S. But Obamacare is already pinching the U.S. advantage.
To deal with the federal act’s coming blizzard of paperwork, the U.S. is experiencing a wave of hospital megamergers — including the consolidation of Detroit Beaumont and Henry Ford hospital systems, a marriage that will mean less doctors and less innovation.
For years, health care innovation had been occurring away from hospitals in more nimble, less bureaucratic outpatient clinics.
“Today, most patients needing long-term dialysis no longer get it in hospitals but go to less costly, more convenient outpatient clinics,” reports Scott Gottlieb, a physician with the American Enterprise Institute.
“Complex issues like cancer are handled in specialized centers with expertise to better manage these problems, at lower cost.”
In Massachusetts where Obamacare’s cousin, Romneycare, has been in place since 2006, patient wait times have increased amid growing physician shortages, even as health care costs have soared to the highest in the nation.
The U.S. health system doesn’t need a overhaul, say experts like Carson, it just needs tweaking to empower individuals with tax incentives like corporations receive. “Let’s talk about what makes sense, what historically has made sense,” Carson said.
Instead, the U.S has embarked on a government-run system already proven wanting in the rest of the world. How do we know? Because the rest of the world has been coming here for years.
Posted by hpayne on April 1, 2013
So much for Dave Agema walking back his anti-gay Facebook bigotry. After a week of claiming his posting of an article by “Frank Joseph, MD” decrying “filthy” gay lifestyles was misunderstood – and no reason for him to resign his post as Michigan’s RNC committeeman (despite party leaders running from him like the plague) – the former West Michigan Congressman was at it again on his Facebook page over the weekend.
A decorated Vietnam fighter pilot, Agema has been honored by his country – but is now dishonoring his party and American civil liberties.
In response to Oakland County Young Republican Brad Fingeroot asking that Neanderthals like Agema adopt “a more inclusive tone,” Agema declined – then launched into an anti-gay attack, not hiding behind Frank Joseph, MD’s apron strings this time.
“The real issue,” wrote Agema, “is the homosexual community is pushing same sex marriage which will be taught in schools as an alternate lifestyle.”
“Let’s keep the smut on the sidelines,” responded Fingeroot.
“I can send you reems (sic) of studies showing the negative health affects (sic) of this lifestyle,” shot back Agema. ”The people of America have the right to know what lays ahead if the Supreme Court rules the wrong way. Dr. Joseph footnoted everywhere he got his information. Deal with it.”
Scratch Agema’s previous non-endorsement of the alleged statistics on gays. The response from his fellow GOPers was swift.
“After trying to hide his ignorance and bigotry for several days, Dave Agema has finally admitted he seeks to promote hate, viciousness and vitriol instead of the Republican Party’s traditional forward-looking message of equal opportunity for all. Dave Agema’s extremism has no place in our Republican Party,” says Dennis Lennox, the 28-year-old Grand Traverse County Republican precinct delegate who has led the call for Agema’s resignation – and writes about Agema’s fringe poltics - including Birtherism - in the Mt. Pleaseant Morning Sun today.
Fellow Detroit Newser Nolan Finley added to the calls for Agema’s ouster last Friday, writing that he “joins Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Murdock of Indiana (in a) a caveman fraternity that must be purged from the party.”
Ex-fighter pilot Angema just shot himself in the tail.
Posted by hpayne on March 26, 2013
‘When I was growing up in Detroit, there were people talking about, ‘this person’s being unfair, that’s unfair, this is against me.’ But you know what? Nobody stopped me from going into Wayne State University’s library and taking advantage of all kinds of programs,” says Dr. Ben Carson, ruing Detroit’s culture of victimization. “(We must) empower people to take advantage of the multiple opportunities that exist.”
You can take Ben Carson out of Detroit, but you can’t take Detroit out of Dr. Ben Carson.
The renowned neurosurgeon’s humble beginnings in Motown are never far from his thoughts. As his hometown gains an emergency manager to fix its fiscal crisis, Carson warns of the larger cultural crises that threaten Detroit’s children.
His plain-spoken style, coupled with high-profile political speeches at the National Prayer Breakfast and the Conservative Political Action Conference, proposing detailed tax and health reforms, have electrified Republicans who see him as a potential candidate — perhaps a Michigan Senate nominee in 2014 — when he retires from Johns Hopkins in June.
But what has made Carson a hero to opinion leaders like Juan Williams and Allen West is his courage — shared by Bill Cosby and Clarence Thomas — to speak honestly about inner cities’ most vexing problem: Family implosion.
Raised by a single mother, Carson says his family situation was the exception to the rule in the 1950s. Today, absent fathers are an epidemic — 80 percent of Detroit children are raised in single-parent homes — at the center of Detroit’s pathologies: Child poverty, low high school graduation rates, 49 percent adult illiteracy, sky-high crime rates.
“It wasn’t anywhere near that intense in the inner cities back during the time when you had intact families,” Carson says of his childhood. “It didn’t have so much to do with the economic status as it did with whether or not you had that intact nuclear family. When you don’t have that, you’re like a ship out to sea without a rudder.”
Studies by Columbia, Harvard, and Princeton have found a crisis among inner-city black males — driven in part by the lack of male role models — that far exceeds their white and Hispanic peers. Half of 20-something black men are unemployed. A Heritage Foundation study finds that single-parenthood is the No. 1 indicator of poverty. Yet this crisis is largely ignored by political elites.
“We’ve pretty much given away our sense of values for the sake of political correctness,” Carson laments. “In a politically correct world, there is no gold standard in terms of a family situation. If (youth) don’t have a well-established, intact family with lots of good values, they’re going to get them from . . . negative peers.”
He sees America’s behemoth, family-busting welfare state as the root of the problem.
“There is your elite group of intellectuals who pass judgment on everything. They see the people who are on the lower end of society and they say ‘you little poor thing’ and they pat you on the head and say, ‘we’re going to take care of you,’” he says. “Of course, that just enables them to remain in that situation without real incentive to improve themselves. You need a lower class in order for you to be the elite intellectual.”
Carson is unsparing of President Barack Obama for not making the family crisis a priority. Yet, he has been dismissive of government service. “I have no interest in running for political office,” he said in a Christian Post interview March 8. Still, he is passionate about filling a leadership void.
When asked who are America’s great leaders today, he is silent: “I’ll have to go back historically,” he says. “I look at people like Martin Luther King who preached about true things, not artificial things that we hear about today.”
Posted by hpayne on March 24, 2013
Will New York Nanny Michael Bloomberg regulate women’s pumps?
Despite a court setback to Mayor Bloomberg’s 16-ounce limit on soft drinks, Mayor Bloomberg has vowed to fight on in the name of reducing medical costs. “In a city. . . where health officials say the obesity epidemic is responsible for more than 5,000 deaths a year, the Mayor says his fight to make New Yorkers healthier will continue,” cheers NBC News.
But where does the fight on health costs and personal liberty – a fundamental principle of Bloombergism and Obamacare – end?
“Doctors say wearing heels higher than 2 inches can cause knee and back pain, shorten tendons, exacerbate arthritis and create all sorts of other problems,” reports The Detroit Free Press on the popularity of 5-inch heels – a $20 billion industry in the U.S.
“High heel shoes contribute to my practice,” says Dr. Paul Fortin, a Beaumont orthopedic surgeon. “I have a lot of patients coming to see me with problems.”
Is a Bloomberg ban on heels higher than 2 inches next? Can a Michelle Obama public campaign shaming retailers to take pumps off the shelves be far behind?
Posted by hpayne on March 21, 2013
“First day of spring?” said a WWJ-Detroit Radio forecasterWednesday morning in frigid, below-normal, 21-degree, Midwest temperatures with little relief in sight. “Feels more like the first day of January.”
What a difference a year makes.
Last March, the media welcomed spring in a panic over global warming, as local and national media sensationalized unseasonably warm temperatures. “”Meteorologists and other weather commentators have frequently commented they’ve never seen anything like this, exhausting superlatives,” hyperventilated Washington Post meteorologist Jason Samenow, citing the usual Horsemen of the Apocalypse, NASA’s James Hansen and activist Bill McKibben. “The background increases in greenhouse gases – at levels unprecedented in at least 800,000 years – are stacking the deck for more extreme heat events such as this and we have observed increases in average and extremely high temperatures.”
That was soooo 12 months ago. As usual, the global warming crowd was confusing weather and climate (not to mention hysteria and science). The science tells us the globe hasn’t warmed in 14 years, even as the planet trends warmer out of the Little Ice Age of the mid-19th century.
Weather makes for great anecdotal scare stories with which to push more regulation. Not surprisingly, the media hysteria was non-existent this week as Samenow & Co. went back to reading temperature forecasts. “And the chilly air is here to stay for a while,” deadpanned Samenow. New England welcomed spring with a foot of snow. No screaming headlines. No predictions of disaster. Nothing to see here, just move along.
That’s not to say that the green crowd isn’t still beating the drums for a carbon tax (never mind the pain of declining American incomes). The New York Times’ Tom Friedman continues to flog his favorite weather event – Superstorm Sandy – as evidence the climate is in chaos. But a simple check of scientific history finds plenty of Sandy-like behemoths over the centuries: 1667, 1693, 1788, 1821, 1893, 1938, 1944, 1954, 1960, and so on (the 1938 “Long Island Express” hit NYC as a Category 3 hurricane, churned up 18-foot storm surges, and killed 60 New Yorkers).
So happy spring, everyone. Enjoy the blessed silence of the green lobby.
Posted by hpayne on March 21, 2013
Michigan Rep. John Dingell, D-Ann Arbor, continues to be an excellent barometer for Obamacare’s false truths and false promises.
To Obamacare supporters’ claims that the government takeover is really a market-oriented reform, Dingell’s VIP presence at President Obama’s 2010 signing is a bracing contradiction. A longtime advocate of single-payer, socialized health care, Dingell enthusiastically embraced Obamacare’s bureaucratic, Washington’s-way-or-the-highway approach as the next best thing.
Dingell is a reliable cheerleader for the health law’s advancement these days even as the evidence shouts that the act is an unaffordable train wreck.
“Let me just say this: You ain’t seen nothing yet,” said Dingell this week from Planet Washington, joining House Minority Leader Pelosi in celebrating the third anniversary of the law’s passage. “(The America people) are going to live longer, be healthier. . . . (The) status quo was financially unsustainable — to families, to small businesses, to big business, [and] as it’s competitiveness issue, to our national, state and local budgets and to our economy.”
On Planet Earth, the reality is different.
Quality of care? The U.S. has been Number One with the best health care access in the world. Countries with the Obamacare’s government-run model have much higher rates of cancer mortality, for example, because patients can’t get care.
Affordability? States and businesses are madly scrambling to offload their health care obligations onto the feds for fear Obamacare’s mandates will bankrupt their bottom lines. Now comes news that health care premiums are about to explode due to Obamacare.
“Health insurers are privately warning brokers that premiums for many individuals and small businesses could increase sharply next year because of the health-care overhaul law,” reports The Wall Street Journal, “with the nation’s biggest firm projecting that rates could more than double for some consumers buying their own plans. The projected increases are at odds with what the Obama Administration says consumers should be expecting overall in terms of cost.”
Oh. Other than that, Mr. Lincoln, how was the play?
Posted by hpayne on March 19, 2013
“Like so many Americans, Tom knows what it’s like to climb the ladder of opportunity,” said President Obama Monday in introducing his new Secretary of labor, Thomas Perez.
By the looks of Perez’s Big Labor agenda, he seems determined to cut off the lower rungs of the ladder so few will follow him.
Obama praised Perez for his stint as secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor from 2006-2009, where “he helped implement the country’s first statewide living-wage law, because he understood that a minimum wage should be a wage that you can live on.” In truth, fewer people in Maryland have any wage at all because minimum wage laws increase unemployment – especially among youth.
Maryland’s living wage law mandates government contractors pay $11.30 an hour -an amount well above the national $7.25 minimum wage. It has hit young workers especially hard. Youth unemployment in the state is over 20 percent, with black youth unemployment over 40 percent.
Minimum wage workers are primarily under age 25 – looking for a leg up into the job market. The higher the minimum, the fewer young people get crucial entry-level jobs. A study by West Point economist Dr. Joseph Sabia, found that with every 10 percent hike in a state’s minimum wage came a corresponding drop in teenage employment of 3.6 percent. Indeed, after Congress’s 40 percent, phased-in minimum wage hike to $7.25 kicked in 2009, unemployment jumped. Teen unemployment today is at its highestlevels since records were first kept in 1948 with only 25 percent of 16-19-year-olds working.
The Obama-Perez minimum wage agenda (they want the national minimum raised further to $9 an hour) is actually a sop to their Big Labor allies who covet higher minimum floors for collective bargaining talks.
Meanwhile, the lowest rung on the ladder up to the job market gets further away.
Posted by hpayne on March 19, 2013
Former Chrysler bankruptcy counsel Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s new emergency manager, is a reminder that President Barack Obama, did — his campaign narrative aside — let Detroit go bankrupt.
Municipal bankruptcies are rare, but it is lost on no one that Gov. Rick Snyder had selected a bankruptcy expert for Detroit — as opposed to an accountant or former elected official. Orr’s selection reveals a state strategy very similar to Obama’s government takeover and bankruptcy restructuring of Chrysler after it faced a cash crisis in 2009.
The irony of Michigan’s Detroit emergency takeover is that — while Detroit politicians hailed the auto czar’s takeover of Chrysler — Motown pols have scorned the emergency manager. Yet both Steve Rattner’s White House auto task force and Orr’s emergency financial team exist to achieve three key goals:
1) Pre-emptive bankruptcy. Like Chrysler’s Chapter 11-avoiding, government-managed Chapter 363 restructuring, Michigan wants to avoid Chapter 9.
2) Preventing a larger collapse. An extended Chrysler (and GM) Chapter 11 bankruptcy during the Great Recession would have caused a chain reaction of failures among its “tail” of suppliers. A Detroit bankruptcy would have a ripple effect across Metro Detroit’s “tail” of municipalities, tanking their bond ratings.
3) Restructure long-term liabilities. Chrysler and Detroit had unsustainable pension and debt obligations that were consuming operating cash.
Of course, there are obvious differences between the Chrysler and Detroit government restructurings.
Detroit Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, speaking for many Detroiters after Obama’s re-election last fall, suggested he should bail out the city just as he did the autos. “(Obama should come) home with some bacon. That’s what you do,” she said.
Trouble is, there are only three auto companies whereas there are hundreds of American cities. Bailing out one would set a terrible precedent. Second, Obama’s “UAW Bailout” was crucial to his party as the UAW is a major Democratic donor and a key to his Midwest campaign strategy. And, finally, federal money was hardly free — in exchange for $8 billion loan, Washington demanded that the auto czar take over Chrysler in order to address its long-term liabilities.
Sound familiar? That’s exactly what the state of Michigan intends with Detroit’s emergency manager.
My Detroit News colleague, Dan Howes, points out that while Michigan doesn’t have $8 billion to loan (who does?), the state did extend $137 million in loans last year and will likely back up restructuring with more as the EM’s terms are met.
Believers in the Bailout Fairy should also recognize how unusual the Chrysler-GM bailouts were. They were rightly controversial because they involved government intervening in private markets. By contrast, Michigan’s emergency manager law is less controversial because cities are legal wards of the state. Lansing has every right to intervene to prevent municipal disasters — which is why the EM law has had bipartisan support for years.
Indeed, Orr’s appointment is a reminder of just how extra-legal the Obama administration’s actions in Chrysler were. Consider:
— Auto Czar Rattner gave priority to Chrysler unions ahead of its secure bondholders, a violation of U.S. law.
— The czar forced Chrysler bondholders to take 29 cents on the dollar, gutting the pensions of bondholding Indiana teachers and policemen — who then unsuccessfully sued Chrysler (which was represented by. . . Mr. Orr).
— The auto czar fired GM’s CEO, Rick Wagoner.
No similar, Detroit-related travesties are likely to happen under Orr’s new Republican boss, Rick Snyder.
Rattner’s task was formidable. Orr’s is even tougher. Chrysler had valuable assets that could earn money under restructuring. Detroit has few — though Belle Isle, the Water Department and other entities can help. But, as the very presence of Kevyn Orr testifies, Detroit — like Chrysler — is getting special government intervention. Indeed, the closeness of Orr and Snyder to Obama suggests that a good-faith Detroit restructuring may ultimately reap federal benefits.
With such state leadership, Detroit pols should be so lucky.
Posted by hpayne on March 15, 2013
The Masters of the Universe aren’t all-knowing after all.
“The last four years have been a net setback for the green movement,”wrote influential New York Times columnist Tom Friedman March 10. “(We) failed to anticipate that new technologies (particularly hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling at much greater distances) would produce new, vastly cheaper ways to tap natural gas trapped in shale as well as crude oil previously thought unreachable, making cleaner energy alternatives much less competitive.”
Is Friedman so naive? The history of energy markets is that entrepreneurs have found the cheapest fuels to meet economic demand. Yet Freidman advocated - and Washington bet – billions on expensive, unproven technologies that the Left guaranteed were the future. It’s easy to spend other people’s money.
Freidman has good company in the White House. “I told him of the revolution in the oil and gas industry and how we have the capacity to produce enough oil to enable America to replace OPEC,” oilman and fracking pioneer Harold Hamm recalls of his visit to Obama in 2011.
The president’s reaction? “He turned to me and said, ‘Oil and gas will be important for the next few years. But . . . [Energy] Secretary [Steven] Chu has assured me that within five years, we can have a battery developed that will make a car with the equivalent of 130 miles per gallon.’”
Billions in battery losses later – squandered on firms like A123 Systems and LG Chem – Obama’s future is nowhere in sight.
So in his State of the Union speech, he took credit for Hamm’s technological revolution despite pooh-poohing it just two years ago: “I’m proud of the fact that under my Administration oil production is higher than it has been in a decade or more.”
Such arrogance, such ignorance. But if Friedman and Obama know little of the future, Americans should know enough not to listen to their next prognostications.
Posted by hpayne on March 14, 2013
A businessman governor, a businessman mayor, and a Chrysler bankruptcy lawyer.
In an impressive show of unity and competence, Governor Snyder was joined by Mayor Bing and lawyer Kevyn Orr this afternoon to announce Orr as the emergency manager to operate on Detroit’s fiscal emergency.
Bing’s presence was huge.
“We must stop fighting. We must work together. This is a crisis out of neglect over 40 or 50 years” said Bing echoing almost to the letter Snyder’s call Relentless Positive Action delivered just moments before. Snyder and Bing have been at odds for a year on the EM, but that was water under the bridge as Snyder graciously praised Bing and thanked him for his support. Sometimes leadership means humility.
This is Snyder’s meat and potatoes – a venture capitalist who sees government as a business. Detroit, he says, is his greatest turnaround challenge yet.
For his part, Orr – a Michigan Law grad of Snyder’s generation which further illustrates the teamwork here – was glib, exuded confidence, and candid about his motivation calling this challenge his “call to action” after listening to Detroit’s troubles for too long on the Sunday talk shows.
Orr helped shepherd Chrysler through managed bankruptcy in 4 months.He told The Detroit News’ Nolan Finley he thinks Detroit can “easily be done in 18 months.” Even six. Given the enormous financial difficulties of the city (as outline by Dan Howes here), that may be optimistic. Especially given that Chrysler was bailed out by federal loans. But what Detroit saw today was leadership from three experience businessmen who have turned around businesses before.
With that leadership foundation, Detroit can finally start to build a solution.
Posted by hpayne on March 13, 2013
In America’s celebrity-obsessed culture, the pope has become another headliner in a nation that is only 24 percent Catholic (and declining). Who is he? Is he an Italian? Is he young? Is he old? Is he female?
But behind the tabloid coverage are interesting numbers for America’s famously rebel flock.
U.S. Catholics have seen the fastest decline among any major religion in the last generation with 24 percent of Americans calling themselves Catholic (down from 31 percent despite a growing, largely Catholic, Hispanic population). So while American Catholics rooted for one of their own – O’Malley! Dolan! – the logical choice (if not Italian) would be a Latin American or African pope where Catholic populations are booming.
“It would be electric if the next pope were an African,” wrote Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, also a practicing Catholic. “Or a South American.”
Electric. Meet Pope Francis, aka Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina.
But the modern celebrity status of the papacy (the hats, the smoky suspense – man, these guys know marketing!) belies its very conservative politics. And the new pope is a reminder of how liberal American Catholics remain.
Take the last two presidential elections. Despite the papacy’s adamant opposition to abortion, Catholics voted 54-45 for pro-choice Barack Obama in 2008. Then in 2012 – when Obamacare flaunted the First Amendment by forcing Catholic institutions to cover contraception – Catholic voters still favored the Democrat, 50-48.
Despite the New York Catholic Church’s lawsuit against Obamacare. Despite New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s outspoken opposition to Obamacare. What does Catholicism mean in America? Something very different than what it means in the Vatican, clearly. No wonder American Catholic numbers are down.
Posted by hpayne on March 13, 2013
At the risk of inspiring New York Nanny Michael Bloomberg to even more despotism, the mayor’s mistake in regulating pop was in not regulating soda calories like the EPA regulates auto MPG.
New York State Judge Milton A. Tingling struck down Bloomberg’s 16-ounce soda ban as arbitrary (banning restaurant sodas but leaving convenience store Big Gulps in place, for example) and outside the boundaries of his executive authority. “We feel the justice’s decision was strong,” said a spokesman for the American Beverage Association, the chief plaintiff in the case.
But beverage companies should be so lucky that Bloomberg’s edict targetsconsumer choice – not soda makers. As a result, the beverage industry has consumer opinion behind them, with 60 percent of New Yorkers objecting to pols restricting their drink choices.
But imagine if Bloomberg has regulated the beverage industry – not consumer choice.
Under perverse government fuel laws, by contrast, the feds force auto companies to reduce MPG by 2015 by 40 percent to an average 35.5 MPG. That is, the government doesn’t force customers to buy 35.5 MPG cars – it forces automakers to make them. The regulations are widely popular with the public (who doesn’t want more fuel efficiency?) while forcing the automakers to pay millions in lobbying fees in order to queer the regulations lest they have nothig left but Smart cars to sell.
What if Mayor Nanny applied the MPG lesson? What if he mandated that Coca Cola make every 16-ounce drink with 90 calories (a 50 percent decrease from the current 187)?
The law would surely be popular – customers don’t know how soda is made any more than they know engines – even as soda companies understood that removing that much sugar would crater soda sales. But with public opinion against them, they would take the easy way out – just as auto companies have done. Beverage companies would hire lobbyists to negotiate loopholes and credits in the calorie mandate to ensure that popular, 187-calorie soda would still be sold.
For example? GM gets credit against the 35.5 MPG law by selling plugin Chevy Volts – so that it can keep on selling popular, gas-guzzling Chevy Tahoes. Under similar soda regs, Coke Zero might grant Coca Cola credits against the 90 calorie law – so that it could keep selling popular, sugary Coke.
And government would grow ever more powerful. And pols would get ever more lobbying money from Big Business. Let’s just hope the pols don’t figure this one out.
Posted by hpayne on March 12, 2013
My wait in Detroit Metro’s airport security lines Friday were longer than normal, but that was due to the seasonal spring break migration south — not a change in Transportation Security Administration staffing.
That’s not the sequestered chaos the Obama administration had been hyping.
“If you’re traveling, get to the airport earlier than you otherwise would,” warned Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano last week, alleging that major airports had seen lines ballooning to 150-200 percent their normal size. “There’s only so much we can do with personnel.”
Not true. TSA officials confirmed that there have been no cuts in staffing and that lines were no longer than usual at Detroit Metro — or anywhere else. Like White House administration fear mongering over Capitol Hill janitors losing pay and teachers getting pink slips, the airport scare was a cry of wolf.
But Napolitano’s ploy was even more cynical because the TSA runs on fees paid by airline passengers, not general fund taxes.
“They run on dedicated revenue,” said U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, who sits on the House Committee on Homeland Security, which overseas the TSA. Indeed, explains Miller, since Sept. 11, passengers pay significant fees funding everything from customs inspections to TSA pat downs so the agency is self-funded — precisely so airport security is insulated from the unpredictability of the federal budget.
“Our fees have not been cut one penny, yet we’re being threatened with draconian cuts,” consumer advocate Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance, tells CBS News.
Every time we step on an airplane, we pay a $2.50 security fee for TSA security. Add aviation security fees and excise taxes paid by airlines and the total — $3.8 billion in 2012 — is enough to fund the budgets of TSA and customs and immigration controls.
“This (budget mess) shouldn’t be our problem,” Leocha said.
The White House, in other words, has not only fibbed about cuts that haven’t happened — but is also willing to scare Americans over airline security that the federal government has carefully isolated to prevent such fears. What kind of public servants engage in this kind of public abuse?
Michigan has seen this movie before.
In 2007, former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s second term also kicked off on a doomsday schedule as the Democratic governor and a Republican Senate played chicken with a government shutdown. Despite high unemployment, Granholm insisted on tax hikes to close the state’s yawning budget deficit rather than reform Michigan’s long-term benefits liabilities.
“People will die,” scared Granholm, if Republicans did not relent on their preferred spending cuts.
Today, Michigan’s perennial budget showdowns are a thing of the past thanks to Gov. Rick Snyder and GOP legislators who eschewed the politics of fear to balance the budget by making hard spending choices. “(The sequester) illustrates what a mess Washington is,” a frustrated Snyder told The Detroit News editorial board. “Do a budget. Do tax reform. Deal with the long-term debt issues. We’ve done all that in Michigan.”
Miller is also incensed by the Obama administration’s tactics. She is concerned about the impact of sequestration defense cuts on Selfridge Air Base in her district — but notes that local Macomb municipalities have had to deal with 30 percent cuts in hard times. Her own committee has had to cut its budget by 4 and 6 percent the last two years. Detroit-based Compuware this month announced a 5 percent cut in operations, closing 16 offices around the world. No drama. No predictions of Armageddon.
Now the White House can’t find 2 percent in the federal budget to cut without alarming airline passengers and teachers?
Posted by hpayne on March 11, 2013
In the autumn of 2003, Kwame Kilpatrick swept into our Detroit News editorial offices as we had come to expect – with swagger and purpose. Young, tailored, and charismatic, he instantly took charge of the room. With a beautiful wife and family, he represented a new generation of Detroiters focused – not on refighting the old civil rights wars – but the new challenges of broken schools and broken families.
But that day he gave a preview of the selfish pol that would ultimately self-combust in today’s 24-count racketeering conviction. Robert Thompson, a Metro Detroit construction millionaire-turned philanthropist, had offered the city $200 million in 2003 to build 15 charter schools promising Detroit families more education choice. But city unions resisted the competition. They held protests in Lansing and staged a work stoppage in Detroit. City Council, ever in Big Labor’s pocket, resisted Thompson’s generosity. Now was the moment for the young mayor to send a message that Detroit must stand for its kids, not the politics of the past.
“We don’t need anyone on a white horse riding in to save Detroit,” sneered Kilpatrick to The Detroit News editorial board.
Our hearts sank. Despite having two kids of his own in charter school. Despite a quarter of a billion dollar education gift. Despite a chance to build bridges with a Michigan businessman. . . Kwame chose the easy racial exit.
And so it would be for years to come. With him that day was his Chief-of-Staff Christine Beatty, though we did not yet know that she was his mistress in a text scandal that would send him to jail. Nor did we know of the criminal enterprise he was building with Bobby Ferguson that would rob the city – one of America’s poorest – of millions of dollars. But we did know then of his penchant for excess – for example, the outsized entourage that he liked to bring with him on such media visits.
Ultimately, Kwame Kilpatrick was about Kwame Kilpatrick. Not the people he was elected to serve.
The smart money was on Kilpatrick being acquitted today. The feds RICO case had reached for too much, the experts said. A hung Detroit jury wouldn’t convict one of their own, the pundits opined. But this 8 woman, 4 man, half-minority jury showed that a jury of one’s peers works. Call it Kwame fatigue, but his peers were disgusted at hearing a mayor steal from them – a bankrupt city.
“I thought that he could be a good leader,” said one juror after today’s unanimous verdict, “and sitting here on trial for the past six months I saw a lot that really, really turned my stomach and I couldn’t believe these things were going on.”
Her words echo those of a city that thought Kwame Kilpatrick represented the the future – only to reinforce the caricature of its past.
Posted by hpayne on March 8, 2013
With Sen. Carl Levin’s retirement, the silly season’s in full swing with speculation on who will run to replace him. But the first question when a major position opens in Michigan these days is:
Will Candice run?
With women the majority of voters in a politically moderate state, the moderate, savvy, plain-spoken, 58-year old, Republican rep from MacombCounty always tops the wish list of potential candidates. In the past Miller has refused to run for governor, for example, reportedly because she likes her seniority and committee assignments as a Macomb rep – and because the job security helps her support her retired husband. Miller didn’t wait long in throwing cold water on suggestions that she should run for senate.
“I will not be a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2014. It is my sincere honor to serve the people of Michigan’s 10th District in the United States House of Representatives and in 2014 it is my intention to seek their support for re-election,” she said in a typically matter-of-fact press release.
Other top GOPers already written off: Schuette (wants to be governor after Nerd), Cox (law firm start-up), and Durant (been there, done that). Gary Peters tops the Dem list. To the starting gates, boys and girls – the Levin seat is wide open.
Posted by hpayne on March 8, 2013
“He’s jumped the shark in Iraq,” said a Democrat friend 10 years ago of George Bush’s Iraq invasion. It stuck with me – not just because it was the first time I had heard the phrase, but also because my friend was ultimately right. At the pinnacle of his post-Afghanistan invasion power, Bush’s strained campaign to take us into war in Iraq was overreach. And his undoing.
Barack Obama jumped the shark this week with the sequester.
In all his post-election arrogance and glory, the president played his sequester card too long. He predicted the apocalypse. And when it didn’t happen, he shut schoolchildren out of White House tours. He “jumped the sequester” in Wall Street Journal Kim Strassel’s (one of the best journalists in D.C. – who thought Paul Gigot could be followed by someone of equal talent?) memorable phrase.
“The act was designed to spark outrage against Republicans, yet the sheer pettiness of it instead provided a moment of clarity,” writes Strassel. “Americans might not understand the technicalities of sequester, but this was something else entirely. Was the president actually claiming there was not a single other government item—not one—that could be cut instead of the White House tours?”
Most of the D.C. media – and their late night heroes Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert – were too mesmerized by Rand Paul’s 13-hour drone filibuster sideshow (Obamadrones are going to attack Arab-Americans in Dearborn cafeterias! Seriously, Mr. Paul?) to notice at first. But then a sixth-grade class posted a Facebook video pleading with the president to let them have their tour.
The White House did what? Were they really so heartless as to use kids as hostages in a political battle? They weren’t going to let them tour the people’s house?
By Jay Carney’s press conference Thursday, reporters were peppering the White House spokesman with when-are-you-going-to-stop-beating-the-kids questions.
President Obama, knee deep in polling data showing his disapproval plummeting, already knew the sequester gambit had backfired. After not meeting with Republican leaders since New Years until the day of the sequester deadline, he suddenly scheduled meetings with Republicans for dinner Wednesday and lunch Thursday to try and change the narrative. “In that moment, I think, a lot of Republicans realized that the ground had shifted in this debate. The president overplayed his hand, and he knows it,” a Senate aide told the Washington Examiner’s Byron York.
In this White House, the end is always politics (POTUS hasn’t put up a serious budget in four years), so the bipartisan window-dressing is temporary (the day of the GOP dinner, I got a mass email from Obama operative Stephanie Cutter telling me “$43 million for food programs for seniors” had been cut because Republicans “wouldn’t support closing tax loopholes for millionaires and billionaires — for things like yachts and corporate jets.”). But it’s a sign that something has changed.
The president jumped the shark.