Of New Year's past, present, and future

31 years ago:

Guy Lombardo is credited with popularizing Auld Lang Syne as the New Year's song of record on January 1, 1930. Lombardo's New Year's Eve broadcasts continued for many years; the one shown in the video was Lombardo's last as he died in November 1977. His brother Victor and son Bill helped ring in 1978 and 1979, respectively, on CBS. From 1980 to the mid-1990s, CBS had a program called Happy New Year, America, which featured different hosts over the years, including Donny Osmond, Andy Williams, and Natalie Cole. YouTube has a number of recordings of Happy New Year, America. Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve came around on 12/31/1972.

We are hours away from the 100th ball drop in the history of Times Square. To celebrate, they have introduced a new, fancier, and more energy-efficient ball. Here's more information on the new ball.

In the fall of 1995, as my mom was preparing to tuck in my eight-year-old self one night, we talked about a few holiday-related things - Christmas presents, July 4 fireworks, etc. One of the things she brought up was the fact that at New Year’s Eve, they drop a ball in New York that reaches the bottom right at the instant it becomes the New Year. I envisioned not that someone would literally stand on a building and then dop a ball, but that a ball attached to a tall building would glide down the side of a building, reaching the ground at midnight.

Fast forward to December 31, 1995. Mom, Dad, and I were invited to the house of our family friends Al and Connie, whom we knew from church. There I, eight years old, attended the only New Year’s Eve party I’ve ever attended. After eating, playing “Win, Lose, or Draw,” and chatting, someone turned on the TV, where a familiar face - Dick Clark from the $100,000 Pyramid - appeared. I saw the ball sitting atop a pole - in a different form than I had imagined. Then, after we all counted down, I saw the 1996 sign light up, and for reasons long forgotten in the twelve years since (perhaps nostalgia) I started to cry.

I have stayed home to ring in 1997 and each year since. That was the second of only three times in which all three of us - Mom, Dad, and myself (my brother spent some winters in Tucson at the University of Arizona and would either go to a party or sleep right through it) - have rung in the New Year together. Many years since then my dad has bartended at the Knights of Columbus New Year’s Party, or just sleeping in with Dereck.

I welcomed 1998 and 1999 with Mom and Grandma. At midnight going into 1998, I threw confetti I had cut up from scrap paper over the course of my Christmas break from school. Mom had also bought some pre-packaged confetti, but I saved it in case the University of Michigan won the Rose Bowl. They did, and I celebrated by dumping it on the floor and letting it make a mess of the living room and, as it turned out, the whole house. You see, we ended up tracing it throughout the house for several days and weeks; we’d even find a piece or two every now and then up to a couple years later! The tradition of ‘throwing’ confetti at New Year’s continued for all of one more year.

We didn’t celebrate the new millennium in 2000 - we celebrated in 2001. You see, we believed that there wasn’t a ‘year 0' - that the First Century went from AD 1-100, the second from AD 101-200, etc. Anyway, Grandma didn’t feel up to coming over and welcoming 2000 with us; she was 83 and we’d have to carry her in the car, then help her up the stairs. She decided to stay home. On 12/31/99 I was a little confused my ABC’s clock and didn’t even know the ball was dropping until about 20-25 seconds before midnight! (That never happened before or since.)

From the summer of 2000 on, Grandma spent most of her time at our house, sleeping next to Mom while Dad occupied Dereck’s room while he was in Arizona. While the parents went to a church New Year’s Eve party, Grandma and I stayed home and watched the excitement. As we counted down, I could hardly contain my excitement at the fact that what I believed to be the start of the new millennium was just seconds away. “Three! Two! One! Happy New Millennium!” was followed by my very first try at singing Auld Lang Syne at midnight on New Year’s (I knew the tune, but had just recently learned the lyrics). Grandma later told Mom I was good at it! That was Grandma’s last New Year’s; she passed away just six weeks later, February 13, 2001.

At 11:58 PM on December 31, 2001, I slyly went to the closet to get some silly string. I hid it behind the chair, and around 11:59:40 or so I grabbed it. Then just as I saw the 2002 sign light up in Times Square at midnight, Mom and then Dad found themselves covered in a gooey mess. They didn’t see that coming! A year later I began 2003 with a shout of “I love you, Jenny!” to celebrate the election of Jennifer Granholm, who was to become Governor of Michigan twelve hours later.

From 1999 to 2003 my paternal grandparents would call us mere seconds after midnight to wish us a happy new year. In 2004 I called them. Then in Apriul of that year, my grandfather passed away, and my grandmother went into a nursing home a couple months later. She called me earlier that evening to wish me a happy new year early before going to bed, reminding me of how she and Grandpa always used to call us.

I have recorded each of the last three ball drops on tape. To ring in 2005 Regis Philbin substituted for Dick Clark, who just weeks earlier suffered a stroke. Clark returned to welcome 2006, but his voice was quite raspy. I was saddened by how the ‘old Dick Clark’ seemed to have been lost by his stroke.

My parents both helped out at the Knights of Columbus hall on New Year’s Eve three of the last four years, so I’ve been alone, forced to ‘kiss’ my dogs at midnight. (That’s okay, I don’t really mind celebrating New Year’s alone).

This will be my 13th consecutive year watching the ball drop on New Year's Rockin' Eve. Mom and I will probably welcome in 2008 in the living room, watching New Year's Rockin' Eve, perhaps using a few noisemakers while I wear a plastic green top hat as she wears a tiara. Who knows what kind of food we'll eat? I know that this is my last New Year's before I turn 21. I'm just saying.

Maybe a few years from now I'll be among the million or so people who jam into Times Square on New Year’s Eve, standing for several hours on end braving the cold and not being able to use the restroom. I hear there’s nothing like it. Just give me some time to build up my stamina!


Bits of Tid: December 29, 2007

  • I'm back online after a two-day illness. I vomited three times Thursday, then suffered abdominal discomfort most of yesterday. But lucky for you - and sadly for our Republican friends - I'm back.
  • So Purdue won the Motor City Bowl, 51-48 over my beloved Chippewas. Which isn't surprising; actually, in a Big Ten vs. MAC matchup where the MAC team lost badly to North Dakota State at home, it should've been a blowout. Especially since this was a rematch of a game Purdue dominated earlier in the season.
  • Incidentally, remember last year when John L. Smith was axed as MSU's coach? His replacement was Cincinnati's Mark Dantonio, who was replaced at Cincy by CMU coach Brian Kelly. West Virginia Assistant Coach Butch Jones was chosen to be CMU's new coach. Well, Lloyd Carr is being replaced at U-M by West Virginia Head Coach Rich Rogriguez... and guess who was interviewed for the WV job? Yep, Butch Jones. After just one year at Central.
  • I'm going back to CMU in less than two weeks. I will have class just three days a week! And my Monday night class will be with a professor named Gary Peters. Incidentally, feel free to support Peters's campaign for Congress.
  • Harry Reid is keeping the Senate open over the holidays to prevent Bush from making recess appointments. Now that's what I call 'checks and balances.'
  • Lawmakers need to do away with the 'first-bill' tradition, whereby lawmakers are essentially required to feed their colleagues after their first bill passes. So says Jean Doss at Dome Magazine. I have to agree.
  • You know those credit card offers which say you're 'pre-approved' for such-and-such credit card? You can opt out of them.
  • As I post this, we're just about 56 hours away from 2008..... yikes!


Rudolph the Brown-Nosed Mayor (and other Christmas hits!)

There were Romney and Huckabee, McCain and Thompson,
Clinton and Edwards, Obama and Biden,
But do you happen to know the most infamous candidate of all?

Rudolph the Brown-Nosed Mayor
Had about a hundred wives
And like some other Repubs,
Corruption was his way of life.
The anti-choicers mocked him,
Used to laugh and call him names,
They wouldn’t let rich Rudolph
Join in any right-wing games.

Then one clear September day,
Fate would come to say,
“Rudy, your life is astray;
Capitalize on this horrific day.”
Then all the media loved him,
Laughed and shouted out with glee - Yippee!
“Rudolph the Brown-Nosed Mayor,
You’ll go down in history.”

O Come All Ye Spineless
O Come All Ye Spineless,
Lacking any backbone,
O come ye, o come ye to Washington.
Come and deplore him,
Born without a brain cell.
O come, let us deplore him,
O come, let us deplore him,
O come, let us deplore him,
George Dubya Bush!

O Little Town of Washington
O little town of Washington, how much we see thee lie!
You've cause so many souls to weep as all the years go by.
The blogosphere you chideth does not think you are bright;
Those rampant cheers of “Four More Years!” are lost on us tonight.

Rowdy Night (Dedicated to Jamie Lynn Spears)
Rowdy Night! Unholy Night!
I’m not calm, you’re not bright.
Surely not a virgin, bearing a child;
Britney, your sister sure is wild.
I just can’t sleep in peace,
I just can’t sleep in peace.

That all but concludes my Christmas present to you. To our conservative friends, I have one more song for you:

Bad tidings to you, if right wing you are;
Bad tidings for Christmas and a Crappy New Year!

We wish you a lousy Christmas,
We wish you a lousy Christmas,
We wish you a lousy Christmas,
And a Crappy New Year!


Bits of Tid: December 21, 2007

  • So I've been back from school for a week now, and I have 2 1/2 weeks left in my winter break. I am working on quite a few political items, including posts here and at Daily Kos... so stay tuned!
  • For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere who don't get to call Kevin Rudd our Prime Minister, these nights are the shortest of the year. Not that I would know much about things that are short. (Did I just say that?)
  • Of course, we all know that summer days are a lot longer than winter days - which is good for us, since solar energy is showing some promise. Too bad the same can't be said of coal. Speaking of which, I hope you’ve signed this petition on Progress Michigan.
  • Dear David Agema: We have bigger things to worry about than ‘saving’ Christmas.
  • Poor Tom Tancredo. Not.
  • I recently celebrated my first anniversary on Daily Kos.
  • One of the things I like about Senator Obama is that he backs up his talk with action. Case in point: His record in the Illinois Senate.
  • Nearly 470,000 people have donated to Obama's campaign, including myself. Want to be one of them? I invite you to donate through my personal fundraising page by clicking on the Christmas tree to the right.


Roosevelt endorses Urbanowski for re-election as Precinct Delegate

Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt has endorsed Democratic Precinct Delegate Scott Urbanowski in his bid for re-election as Democratic precinct delegate for Ward 1, Precinct 3, Kentwood, MI.

“I might have died 62 years ago, but I felt I had to come back to life to support my good friend Scott Urbanowski,” said America’s 32nd President.

“In his 16 months as a Democratic Precinct Delegate, Urbanowski has built a track record of fighting for the values our Party holds dear - or at least should hold dear,” said Roosevelt, 125.

“I would argue that he has done more to help promote the values of this great Party than most of the Democratic leadership in Washington,” said the liberal icon in an apparent swipe at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Franklin D. Roosevelt is one of the most courageous people ever to hold the mantle of leadership of this nation,” said Urbanowski. “The obstacles he faced during his lifetime and his Presidency are an inspiration to us all. I cannot tell you how humbled I am to receive the endorsement of this great American.”

Urbanowski reiterated his commitment to bringing the Democratic Party back to its roots.

“I care so much about this Party that I see no other option than to stand up and work to make it stand for the values it has long cherished,” declared Urbanowski. "The more the Democratic Party stands up for progressive values, the better Democrats do at the polls. And the better the Democrats do, the better this country does."

“I will not let capitulators and cronies in Washington define my Party,” he said defiantly. “Grassroots Democrats must remind DC Democrats that they are not elected to be Republican-lite and give an unpopular President everything he wants.”

Urbanowski said he also wants to improve Democratic performance in his precinct in next November's Presidential election.

"It would only take a couple hundred more votes to swing the Third Precinct toward the Democrats," said Urbanowski.

Urbanowski first came to prominence in 2004 when, two days before the Presidential election, the then-high school senior wrote a letter to the editor that was printed in The Grand Rapids Press.

Since then, he has taken many activist roles, including as a front-pager for Michigan Liberal, membership in the Kent and Isabella County Democratic parties as well as the Michigan Democratic Party, and two Executive Board positions with the College Democrats at Central Michigan University.

In August 2006, he was elected Democratic Precinct Delegate with 53 votes.


DNC: The failed Republican legacy on immigration

Glad to see the Democratic National Committee speaking the truth when it comes to Republican hypiocrisy on immigration.

Despite having majorities in Congress for twelve years and a President in the White House for the last seven years, Republicans ignored the issues of border security and immigration reform until it became politically convenient. To distract from their failure to address the issues and to distract from their failed economic policies, Republicans turned immigration into a wedge issue for electoral gain that has relied on scapegoating people and dividing Americans.

From border walls that were never funded to trying to criminalize immigrants, their families, and even clergy, the Republican legacy on border security and immigration reform amounts to failure and scapegoating.

There's a lot of useful information on that page.

Next time you hear a Republican talk about immigration reform, ask them why their party sat on its hands and did nothing while they had the chance to fix our borders.


Fun with CMU Trustees

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to attend the formal session of the CMU Board of Trustees. I had never been to a Trustees meeting before, but I was quite curious as to what goes on there. That, and I am considering joining one of the committees. More on that momentarily.

Make-up of the Board
The Board of Trustees consists of eight members whose terms expire on December 31 of an even-numbered year (i.e. each New Year's following an election). The Governor appoints trustees to the boards of each of Michigan's public universities (except U-M, MSU, and Wayne State, whose boards of control are elected by voters). Each trustee's term is eight years.

The current trustees, along with the year in which they were appointed and the year in which their terms expire, are:

  • Jeff Caponigro, Chair, 2002-2008*
  • John Kulhavi, Vice Chair, 2002-2008*
  • Stephanie Comai, 2003-2010**
  • Gail Torreano, 2003-2010**
  • Marilyn Hubbard, 2005-2012
  • Sam Kottamasu, 2005-2012
  • Brian Fannon, 2007-2014
  • Jacqueline Garrett, 2007-2014
*Caponigro and Kulhavi were each appointed after previous trustees resigned.
**Comai and Torreano were appointed in a controversial and unprecented move by Governor John Engler on January 1, 2003. Trustees' terms end right at the New Year, but the Governor's term ends at noon on New Year's Day. Many believed that Jennifer Granholm should have been the one to appoint the new trustees. (Of course if you know much about Engler, you wouldn't be surprised.)

As I touched on earlier, I have given some consideration to serving on the Trustees-Student Liaison Committee. This committee is comprised of three Trustees, the Student Body President, and three other students appointed by the Student Body President and confirmed by the SGA Senate. Traditionally, the President will appoint the President of the Residence Hall Assembly to the Committee, while this year President Mike Zeig appointed someone to deal specifically with diversity issues.

So, what happened?
In his report, President Michael Rao honored several students for their accomplishments, including football stars Dan LeFevour and Ike Brown. He also noted that a student's artwork was on display at the State Capitol.

An expert discussed the feasibility of building a medical school.

CMU Police Chief Stan Dinius gave a report on such items as emergency phones, emergency preparedness, and Night Rides.

So what did the Board actually do? Among other things, they:
  • Approved a $20 million renovation of the Rose Center, where sporting events, concerts, and commencement are held. To my relief, this will be funded entirely by donations.
  • Passed a resolution condemning the recent noose incident and recognizing the need for improving education on cultural and diversity issues.
  • Gave President Rao a raise. His salary is roughly in the middle in terms of Mid-American Conference salaries, at $293,550.
  • Granted emeritus rank to three outgoing faculty, including a dean.
  • Created a visiting professorship in Native American studies.
  • Named a room in the library for a longtime library employee.
  • Elected its officers for 2008. Caponigro will stay on as Chair, with Kulhavi as Vice Chair And Torreano as co-vice chair.
A Future Trustee?
After the meeting, Dean of Students Bruce Roscoe congratulated me on making it through the entire 193-minute meeting without once leaving the meeting room. I told him about my curiosity, and the fact that I have been thinking about joining the Trustees-Student Liaison Committee.

But I'm not gonna lie, I left that room on Thursday with a new lifetime goal: Serve as a Trustee. Yep, in 15-20 years when a Democratic Governor is looking for two new faces to join the CMU Board, and I am not an elected official, said governor should pencil in my name.

I mean, come on, I'm sure CMU can trust me to do a good job.


Changing our civic dialogue through word banishment!

Each year around New Year's Day, Lake Superior State University in Michigan's Upper Peninsula releases a list of "Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness." The list is the subject of a considerable amount of attention when it is released - including a mention or two on Countdown with Keith Olbermann in the past. Submissions for the list are accepted year round.

The complete list of banished words includes some classics, such as 'Awesome,' 'Dawg,' 'Y2K,' 'And I Approved This Message,' and 'Whatever.' Unfortunately, the all-time list also includes 'Liberal,' 'Truthiness,' and 'Blog.' So I decided to take action.

Throughout the year I submitted my own nominations for the Banished Words List, some of which have a political bent, while others don't. What follows is a list of the words and phrasesI have submitted for banishment, along with the reasons why I nominated it.

Get real

Do you ever hear people telling you to "get fake" or "get unreal?" I know I haven't.
Phony soldiers
Regardless of your feelings regarding the war, there's nothing phony about these brave people who wear the uniform of our country.
War on Christmas
Does this mean we can expect Santa Claus to ride in on a Bradley fighting vehicle and deliver cluster bombs to all the little girls and boys?
This is one of many code words politicians use to make themselves or policies they support look good. Most people who call themselves ‘pro-life’ aren't quite as ‘pro-life’ on some issues as they are on others.
Having your work cut out for you
On the surface, it sounds like someone’s done something nice for you: "Hey, I cut out your work just for you." Uh, not exactly.
Smart bomb
I didn’t know that some bombs could be more intelligent than others. Of course, nowadays it can seem as though some of our bombs are smarter than many of our politicians.
Gut feeling
Michael Chertoff must be good if he can predict a terrorist attack based on his gut. I wish I had such capabilities.
Color me surprised that this lousy excuse for a 'word' hasn't been banished yet.
One of the most pathetic compound words to pollute the English language. Why can't you just say 'enormous' or 'gigantic?'
Take Your Breath Away
So I will literally lack oxygen and possibly suffocate to death because of whatever it is you're trying to sell me? Hmm, somehow it doesn't seem all that appealing to me anymore.
And now, I have one more nomination which I have just submitted for the 2008 list:

Once thought by many to be the silver-bullet cure to all of America's ills, conservatism just isn't what it's hyped to be. The conservative movement has run its course. I would almost feel insulted if I were called a conservative.

Do you have any words that you would like to see on the LSSU Banished Word List? If so, be sure to submit your suggestions soon - they will probably start compiling the list soon, if they haven't already!


Bits of Tid: December 5, 2007

8,000 Hours Away Edition

  • As of today at 4PM EST, we will have exactly 8,000 hours until Election Day 2008. Polls will open in Michigan starting 8,000 hours from 11 PM.
  • FWIW: If all Hillary can attack Obama for is an essay he wrote in kindergarten, then he must be good.
  • I must say, I'll be more worried about the Dems' White House hopes in 2008 if Mike Huckabee got the nomination than I would be if anyone else got the Repub nod. People in Arkansas like him, and until tonight I hadn't heard much dirt on him. Until I read this.
  • Got gift cards? Use them. You may think I'm telling you something obvious, but lots of them go unused.
  • Is activism an aphrodisiac for you? This online petition will be sent to the Legislature asking for action on legislation that will protect our Great Lakes water. They're aiming for 5,000 signatures.
  • You. Must. Check. Out. Progress Michigan.
  • Sign seen on the door of a study lounge in CMU's Cobb Hall:
    This room is for studying books, not anatomy.
  • I have one more nomination for Lake Superior State's Banished Words List, which I will reveal to you this weekend. Stay tuned!


Who's the only Republican worth cheating with?

Guess who's ticked off about Michigan losing its DNC delegates?

I'll start by quoting Daily Kos user Neon Vincent, who says it better than I could:

The only winners, at least in the short term, are the Michigan GOP, who enabled the quixotic efforts of Debbie Dingell and others who wanted an earlier primary, when a February 5th caucus would have been perfectly acceptable to the DNC, the candidates, and most of the Michigan Democrats whose opinions I've heard and read. Instead, I'm disenfranchised so that some of the state party leaders can make a point about what they perceive as the unfairness of the primary calendar.

In the long run, it's time to reform the primary system and rationalize the calendar. In the short run, it's time to deny the Republicans the fruits of their victory by monkey-wrenching their primary.
Let me add that the January 15 primary will NOT give Michigan any more influence than Iowa or New Hampshire, because both of their primaries have been scheduled before January 15.

Plus, by not having delegates at the convention, Michigan will not be able to have any seats on the Platform Committee, costing Michigan Dems what influence we would have by having a caucus.

I don't buy this argument that 'they'll end up seating the delegates.' Is it likely the DNC will seat our delegates? Perhaps; I'm not an insider. But why would the DNC strip Michigan of its delegates only to return them?

What I do know is that supporters of the primary owe the very fact that the primary is even occurring to four far-right conservative ideologues on the state Supreme Court.

And I also know that dozens of people on Michigan Liberal alone - and surely hundreds of other Democratic activists around the state - are very angry about this. It is to these activists that the Michigan Democratic Party owes its recent success at the ballot box. This only serves to de-motivate many of them, causing them to lessen their activist role or, worse off, causing them to not vote Democratic.

So instead of more influence, which was the original intent of moving the primary on January 15, we get a primary which has cost Michigan its Convention delegates; will only include four candidates; will not feature campaigning from the candidates; is seriously dividing the state Party; and which owes its very existence to four extreme conservatives on the Supreme Court.

Yep, I'm quite ticked.

Disclaimer: For disclosure's sake, I should also note that (1) I support Barack Obama, one of the four who pulled out of the January 15 primary; and (2) I had been planning on seeking a spot as a Convention delegate.


The first big snowfall of the season

Warriner Hall

Wakelin McNeel Woodlot

Looking towards the Bovee University Center


Help stop coal power plants from being built in Michigan

From NoCoalRush.com:

Michigan's energy future is in the crosshairs. Our state is threatened with an onslaught of at least seven more dirty coal-fired power plants that will keep Michigan locked in the energy dark ages, dependent on imported fossil fuels and producing more dangerous global warming pollution. More outdated dirty coal plants will hamper the development of clean energy and the good paying jobs that come with it.

But the Legislature can stop this from happening NOW by passing a NO NEW COAL PLANT policy until Michigan has a strong Clean Energy Plan that would:

  • Enact a strong renewable energy standard that requires energy providers to generate 20 percent of their electric power from renewable sources by 2020.
  • Enact strong statewide utility funded energy efficiency programs that result in at least 1% energy savings per year.
  • Protect consumers from having to absorb the skyrocketing future costs of coal burning.
  • Implement a long term energy plan that guarantees energy efficiency and renewable power are used before any more outdated coal plants are built.
  • Develop new standards for controlling the emissions of CO2.
  • Governor Granholm has been working tirelessly bring renewable energy to the state, which will help improve the health of both our environment and our economy. Increasing coal production will hurt our environment without offering much promise for many more new jobs. So be sure to visit NoCoalRush.com and let your lawmakers know that you support our environment and our economy and oppose the building of coal-fired power plants in Michigan.

    And while you're at it, visit SmallStepBigChange.com and take the pledge to do your part.

    Now for something completely different - and funny!

    (It gets hilarious about 35 seconds from the end as the ref announces the penalty.)

    Here's a funny one starring Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings:

    And speaking of Jeopardy!, well of course, Sean Connery!


    1,000 barrels of oil pumped PER SECOND - and other astounding stats

    When's the last time you heard someone say, "Every ___ seconds someone is diagnosed with cancer," or "Every ___ seconds someone dies of ___ disease"?

    The World Clock is an eye-opening website that estimates several vital statistics, including the earth's temperature, population, incidences of disease, and more. Open the website, and you will see constantly updated stats for many categories for this year. Clicking each of the buttons at the top will give you data pertaining to this month, this week, and today.

    • The earth's temperature rises by one billionth of a degree every three seconds.

    • One thousand barrels of oil are pumped every second.

    • We lose a hectare of forest about every 2.5 seconds.

    • More than fifty species have become extinct today alone.

    • The world's population has grown by more than five million this week - nearly the population of Colorado.


    Bits of Tid: November 23, 2007

    • Well, here we are, the day after Thanksgiving, and we just lit our Christmas tree for the first time this season. We'll probably add some lights and ornaments before I go back to CMU this Sunday - and I may just post a few photos..........
    • Let me repost here a comment that I first posted on this Daily Kos bit:

      If Dems want to win the center...
      ...then they need only appeal to the base. I think most people who consider themselves moderate or centrist would find a progressive platform quite attractive (for lack of better words).

      If a guy like me can become a progressive Democrat, then so can others.

    • Two items of note for those concerned about the transgendered: First, Governor Granholm has added gender identity to a non-discrimination policy for state employees. Second, next week at CMU is Transgender Awareness Week.
    • Congressional Democrats want to include a requirement in the war funding bill that most US troops leave Iraq by a little over a year from now. They are backed by one Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (ret.), who himself was a commander in Iraq.
    • Would an uptick in violence result if US troops left Iraq? Well, Basra has seen a 90% drop in attacks since British troops left the region, so decide for yourself.
    • Shh, let's try to keep this on the 'down-low' from the Republicans (I like to surprise them): Indiana just might be a swing state next year. So what? you might ask. Well, not only does the Hoosier State have 11 electoral votes, but Lyndon Johnson was the last Democrat to carry Indiana. (If you didn't know, outside of the Southeast, LBJ won every state not named Arizona.)
    • Just a few weeks remain until Lake Superior State University releases its 2008 Banished Words List! Here's my latest entry:
      War on Christmas - Does this mean we can expect Santa Claus to ride in on a Bradley fighting vehicle and deliver cluster bombs to all the little girls and boys?
    • Just a reminder about Blogging for Michigan's Troop Care program - it ends Sunday!
    • And don't forget Michigan Liberal's daily feature, Coffee Talk. Remember that I am in charge of Coffee Talk most Sundays.


    What am I thankful for? Glad you asked.

    I am thankful for my family. Which is ironic, because I only have one brother, I don’t have many aunts, uncles, or cousins (not nearly as many as Dad), one of my grandpas died before I was born (as did all of my great-grandparents), and I only have one surviving grandparent (I’m 20). Still, I know that some have never met their families, while others are in very tumultuous family situations.

    I am thankful for my health. Which is ironic, because as I write this, I have a sore throat, cold, and fever. Still, I don’t have cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, or any other life-threatening condition. What’s more, I am pretty able-bodied. Not everyone can say that.

    I am thankful for my financial well-being. Which is ironic, because I’m nowhere near wealthy. I mean, not to reveal anything private, but at least a couple of my former roommates have indicated how much they have, and it’s a lot more than is to my name. Still, not everyone can say they have as much as me.

    I am thankful that I have a job. Which is ironic because it’s only a part-time job that pays $7.25 an hour, and it’s only 7 hours per week. Still, I am more fortunate than the nearly 8% of Michiganians on the unemployment rolls. And the many more who are unemployed, but aren’t counted as such. And the many who work more hours and get less in return.

    I am thankful for my home. Which is ironic, because it’s no mansion. It has many of the amenities, but no dishwasher, fireplace, or dining room. I live in a suburb (Kentwood, Michigan), but you can’t accuse us of being extravagant. Still, not everyone can even afford an apartment, much less a house. And a vast majority of the world's population lives in substandard housing.

    I am thankful for my cell phone, digital camera, DVD player, computer, TV, and other technological gadgets. Which is ironic, since my phone isn’t fancy, my camera doesn’t have very good resolution, my internet connection at home is slo-o-o-o-ow, and I don’t watch as much TV as I used to. Still, so many in this world go without having a single one of these gadgets.

    I am thankful that I am a student at Central Michigan University. Which is ironic, given that it’s no Ivy League school. Still, how many people can say they attend an eco-friendly and gay-friendly college? And that's barely the tip of the iceberg.

    I am thankful that I am a Democrat. Which is ironic, given its many flaws and my occasional frustrations with certain Democratic leaders. Still, what other party can say it has done so much for America - from the New Deal, to financial aid for college students? Strengthening this party - and returning it to its progressive roots - is by far our best hope for real change in America.

    I am thankful for those who have consistently fought for racial minorities, women, the GLBT community, the mentally ill, the disabled, and others. Which is ironic, given that I am an able-bodied, white heterosexual male who is not classified as mentally ill. Still, I realize that the fight for equal justice marches on - and we must join that march if we haven't already.

    I am thankful that I live in the United States of America. Which is ironic, given what has happened to this country over the last several years. Yet I know that it is We the People - all 300,000,000 of us - who matter, not merely the extremists in the White House. It’s up to us to show that we truly care about America - not merely through our words, but through our actions - by taking it back and once again making it easier for other countries to look up to us.

    I am thankful for all the people who have had a positive impact on my life. Which is ironic, since they are too many to name and I have forgotten many of them. Many I have met in real life, some I have known only through the "series of tubes." But they have impacted me all the same. And yes, I am talking about the Daily Kos community and the overall lefty blogosphere, among many others.

    Finally, I am thankful that I am alive. Which is ironic, because I’m only 20, and most people expect to live a lot longer than I have. I am definitely younger than most of the people who read this post. Yet countless millions don’t even get the chance to live to half my age. I hope and pray that I will be inspired and encouraged to use the remainder of my life in a way so that, when I die, my family and friends will be able to truthfully and sincerely eulogize me by saying, "The world is a better place because Scott Urbanowski lived in it."

    I am thankful for so many other things that I cannot name, lest this post be a several-hour-long read. Which is ironic, seeing as how I take them for granted so often.

    You see, folks, so many of us want so much more than we have. And don't get me wrong, there are many things I want that I don't have. Yet I believe that knowing that we are so fortunate is key to contentment and happiness in life.

    So whether or not you plan to spend time with family, eat turkey, see the Lions win, or just enjoy the day off, be sure to pause and remember just how lucky you really are.

    I bet you're a lot more fortunate than you realize.


    I Forbid: A brief history of presidential vetoes and overrides

    In celebration of the recent override of President Bush's veto of a water projects bill, let's take a look at the presidential vetoes and overrides through the ages.

    (NOTE: In case you're wondering why I'm posting this now instead of right after the override: I have been working on this post for a couple weeks now, but I've been somewhat busy.)

    The word veto comes from the Latin for 'I forbid.' While not mentioned specifically in the Constitution, it has come to describe the President's right to reject a bill. The president's veto power - and Congress's power to override such vetoes - are two of the most well-known examples of checks and balances in US government.

    Only seven US Presidents cast zero vetoes during their Presidencies (and two of those died early in their terms). James Garfield was the last President to not veto a single bill; that may have to do with the fact that he died of an assassin's bullet six months into office.

    Thomas Jefferson is the only President never to have cast a single veto in two full terms in office. Bush's first term marked the first time since John Quincy Adams that a President went through a full four-year term without vetoing a single bill.

    Only eleven Presidents went through their tenure without a single pocket veto. Pocket vetoes account for 42% of all Presidential vetoes.

    By overriding Bush's veto of the water-projects bill, Congress used its override power for the 107th time in history - the first time in ten years (almost to the day). In so doing, it has made Bush the 24th US President to see Congress override at least one of his vetoes.

    While five of America's first nine Presidents cast a total of 23 vetoes, none of those vetoes were overridden. Congress first used its power to override a veto on March 3, 1845, the day before President John Tyler left office (Inauguration Day back then was March 4). LBJ was the last President who never saw one of his vetoes overridden.

    Here's a complete list of US Presidents, the number of vetoes they cast, and the number of vetoes which were overridden:



    Yes, this is from an email. Apparently it's real, and happened in Pennsylvania!!

    Dear Mr. DeVries:
    It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Qualitythat there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property. You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity:

    Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond.

    A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity.

    A review of the Department's files shows that no permits have been issued. Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Pennsylvania Compiled Laws, annotated.

    The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris and flooding at downstream locations. We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free- flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel. All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 2006.

    Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff.

    Failure to comply with this request or any further unauthorized activity on the site may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action.

    We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter. Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.


    David L. Price
    District Representative and Water Management Division.

    Here is the actual response sent back by Mr. DeVries:

    Dear Mr. Price,

    Your certified letter dated 12/17/02 has been handed to me to respond to. I am the legal landowner but not the Contractor at 2088 Dagget Lane, Trout Run, Pennsylvania.

    A couple of beavers are in the (State unauthorized) process of constructing and maintaining two wood "debris" dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond. While I did not pay for, authorize, nor supervise their dam project, I think they would be highly offended that you call their skilful use of nature's building materials "debris". I would like to challenge your department to attempt to emulate their dam project any time and/or any place you choose. I believe I can safely state there is no way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.

    As to your request, I do not think the beavers are aware that they must first fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity.

    My first dam question to you is:

    (1) Are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers?
    (2) Or do you require all beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request

    If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, through the Freedom of Information Act, I request completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits that have been issued. Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Pennsylvania Compiled Laws, annotated.

    I have several concerns. My first concern is; aren't the beavers entitled to legal representation? The Spring Pond Beavers are financially destitute and are unable to pay for said representation -- so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer. The Department's dam concern that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain event, causing flooding, is proof that this is a natural occurrence, which the Department is required to protect. In other words, we should leave the Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing them and calling their dam names.

    If you want the stream "restored" to a dam free-flow condition please contact the beavers -- but if you are going to arrest them, they obviously did not pay any attention to your dam letter, they being unable to read English.

    In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream. They have more dam rights than I do to live and enjoy Spring Pond. If the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection lives up to its name, it should protect the natural resources (Beavers) and the environment (Beavers' Dams).

    So, as far as the beavers and I are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more elevated enforcement action right now. Why wait until 1/31/2006? The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice then and there will be no way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass them then.

    In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention to a real environmental quality, health, problem in the area. It is the bears! Bears are actually defecating in our woods. I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the beavers alone.

    If you are going to investigate the beaver dam, watch your step! The bears are not careful where they dump!

    Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.




    Nooses found in CMU classroom

    From CM Life:

    Central Michigan University Police are questioning students and employees after someone found four hangman nooses hanging inside a classroom.

    A student came across the nooses earlier this week while walking into Room 228 inside the Engineering and Technology Building, said Police Chief Stan Dinius.

    The student reported his findings to a staff member, who then forwarded the information on to police at 1:15 p.m. Monday.

    "At this time, we have no idea why someone would put them up there," Dinius said. "There are several people who operate in that room. It's an open lab where people can go at any time."
    Of course, this is not the first recent incident involving harrasment of certain groups on campus. Let's not forget last spring's anti-gay chalkings, as well as the Columbus Day and anti-Muslim flyers.

    What the hell is going on here? (I don't use language that strong very often.)

    Said President Rao in his most recent update to the campus community:
    Reported incidents on campus in recent weeks targeting specific groups of people have prompted me to reflect on the apparent decline in respect displayed for certain members of our community.

    On at least two occasions this month, written material was distributed on campus expressing improper generalizations about people based on their ethnicity, gender, or religious beliefs. Rather than dignifying the deplorable actions of a small number of individuals, it serves as a reminder to us all to maintain an ongoing open and appropriate dialogue on issues associated with respect, acceptance, and inclusion.

    The story has now reached CNN. I must say, I am somewhat queasy about the prospect of this incident giving CMU a bad reputation (in addition to being p1$$ed about the incident itself).


    Truly supporting the troops

    The phrase "Support the Troops" is often used as somewhat of a cliché that isn't usually backed by action. While some like to say they support the troops, not many people actually do anything to back up their words with deeds.

    Now, thanks to Blogging for Michigan's Troop Care fund, we have an excellent opportunity to put our words into action. Now through November 25, BFM is taking donations which will be used to help provide material support to Michigan-based troops currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Donations are being accepted online or by mail. They will appreciate any donation, large or small. If you don't feel you can afford to donate, please be sure to spread the word so that more people know about Troop Care.

    "Support the Troops" should be more than a phrase - it should be a way of life. Here's your chance to show that you really do care about those who are serving their country in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Finally, my thoughts on the primary/caucus fiasco

    So, as you probably know, a number of Presidential candidates - including my favorite, Barack Obama - withdrew from competing in the January 15 primary here in Michigan.

    As someone who has been angered by the disproportionate share of the nominating power held by four states whose combined population just barely exceeds Michigan's, I also know that having a small amount of influence is better than having zero influence.

    Michigan is supposed to send 156 delegates to Denver next year. Holding the primary on January 15 will put in doubt the likelihood of Michigan having voting delegates. If we lose our delegates, not only would this deny 156 good Michiganders the chance to represent our state at the largest, most prominent quadrennial gathering of Democrats, it would also impede Michigan's ability to have an impact on the Democratic platform.

    Each state gets a certain number of delegates to the Convention's Rules, Credentials, and Platform committees (Michigan will have 6). If we lose our delegates, we will have less of an opportunity to shape our party's platform in a manner that will favor the concerns of our state.

    Furthermore, holding the primary on January 15, I believe, will only make Michigan look worse, thus reducing, not increasing, the likelihood that the primary calendar will be changed to benefit Michigan in the future. Who wants to cater to the wishes of a group that has broken the rules - which this primary would do?

    Moreover, it makes no sense to me that we in Michigan should have only four candidates from whom to choose, as opposed to eight, as the rest of the country has. The fact that four of the eight candidates for President have said they won't participate in the caucus - and that a fifth one tried to remove his name from the ballot - is reason enough for the Michigan Democratic Party not to partake in the early primary.

    I believe it's important that the MDP keep fighting the good fight for fairness in our party's nominating process. And I realize that sometimes one must take risks to ensure that justice reigns supreme.

    But this is a risk we shouldn't be willing to take. The MDP needs to focus on changing the primary calendar in future election cycles.

    I urge you to take action by letting the MDP know that you want a February caucus instead of a January 15 primary. Please see this post on Michigan Liberal for more on how you can let the MDP know your thoughts.


    Bits of Tid: November 10, 2007

    • The Employee Non-Discrimination Act was passed in the House! Now on to the Senate!

    • Here's a question for you:
      What do you love about our state? What do you want to change? What's your best vision for Michigan's future?
      Have an answer to that? You might want to take part in the Center for Michigan's Envision Michigan competition.

    • Part of saving our planet involves changes in government policy; part of it involves making businesses and institutions more eco-friendly (see previous post); still another part will involve personal action by each of us. Are you living a sustainable life? American Public Media's Consumer Consequences game can help you find out.

    • Looks like Mike Bishop could be the target of a recall attempt.

    • Some serious issues are facing our world, as evidenced by the Latest News section of CNN.com. As of 8PM Saturday, the seventh and eighth stories in that section were "It's a boy for 'View' co-host Hasselbeck" and "Thirsty? Try a refreshing ham soda."

      Thank you, CNN, for raising awareness of these very volatile issues we face in America. Not.

    • Here's a new phrase I like: Green collar jobs.

    • And here's one I don't like: "Get real." Yep, it's my latest submission to Lake Superior State University's Banished Words List. My reasoning?
      Do you ever hear people telling you to "get fake" or "get unreal?" I know I haven't.
    • I haven't been blogging much. I realize that. I've had a lot on my plate. However, my academic load between now and Thanksgiving is as light as a college junior could expect, so maybe I'll post more. I am working on posts which will include:
      • A unique spin on this past week's elections;
      • A preview of 2008 Congressional elections;
      • An item discussing presidential veto overrides through the years;
      • Energy efficiency tips;
      • A few more photos from around campus;
      • Thoughts on young voters, incl. my ideas on how to actually get more of them voting; and
      • Another late-night humor post!


    Maroon and Gold goes green: What CMU is doing for Planet Earth

    A couple of months ago, I posted about Grand Rapids, MI, Mayor George Heartwell's vision of making Grand Rapids a 100% green-powered city, despite inaction from Washington on the energy crisis. So when I read about my university's efforts to make the school more energy-efficient, my interest was piqued.

    As a junior at Central Michigan University, I like to make sure that CMU's administration is not only spending my tuition dollars wisely, but also making this school a socially responsible institution - that is, one that encourages people not only to take action to improve our communities and our world, but one that actually does so itself.

    From CMU's online newsroom:

    The use of woodchips as a renewable fuel source for steam requirements saves the university up to $2 million annually in fuel costs. An additional $1 million or more, over the course of the four-year contract, will be saved as a result of a university contract with Wolverine Power Marketing Cooperative to purchase electricity.

    Facilities management and residence life also are in the process of modifying nearly 11,000 bathroom fixtures by installing special water conservation aerators and discs in order to reduce water and sewer costs. The new faucet diffusers will reduce water flow from 2.0 gallons per minute to 0.5 g.p.m.

    Last year, it was decided that all future new buildings and major renovations would follow the U.S. Green Building Council guidelines. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program provides very specific guidelines that buildings must meet in order to become certified. According to Lawrence, the new education building will be the first on CMU's campus to follow the LEED criteria.
    But it's not just the higher-ups at CMU who are doing their part for our environment - students, faculty, and staff are getting in on the act:
    Meanwhile, recycling on-campus has doubled. In June 2007, CMU averaged 38 tons of recycling materials per month, a 19-ton increase from August 2003.
    CMU: Saving tuition dollars and saving the environment at the same time.


    At CMU forum, top lawmakers say they'd take pay cut; all but Bishop rule out 2010 guv run

    I had the chance to attend the semi-annual Griffin Policy Forum, put on by the Robert and Marjorie Griffin Endowed Chair in American Government at CMU. (One Gary Peters currently holds that chair.)

    This fall's Griffin Forum was titled "Now What? Managing the budget crisis while promoting a positive future for Michigan." Their panelists were Andy Dillon, Mike Bishop, Craig DeRoche, and Mark Schauer, with Tim Skubick as moderator. Seeing as how the panel consisted of four titans in Michigan politics, there was no way I was going to pass up the chance to go.

    Few points were made by either side that I hadn't heard before then. Schauer discussed the uncertainty of the budget process and how that likely scared off businesses that would have otherwise invested in Michigan. Dillon called out the Repubs for not doing their jobs. DeRoche kept parroting the old GOP talking points: 'Taxes are bad!' 'We need reforms!' 'Why did I go to CMU? Go Broncos!' (Okay, he didn't use that last one.) All in all, not much besides what both sides have been saying for months now.

    That said, not many of the hundreds of people in attendance had followed the budget battle as closely as I have, so for them to argue the same points was understandable.

    They all agreed that extending the 6% tax on services was not a good idea; they disagreed as to where the new revenue should be replaced. Mike Bishop said he supports increasing the sales tax to 6.5%. Schauer supports retooling the new Michigan Business Tax. I'll have more on Republican tax hypocrisy in an upcoming post.

    Tim Skubick seemed to take his job as a journalist seriously. Not that I haven't been unhappy with some of the things he's said and done, but props to him for giving the panelists some tough questions. After DeRoche went on about reforms, Skubick p0wned him by asking, "Where were all the reforms when Engler was governor?" He's also good for a few laughs, though: "Here's the score of the game: Western 3, CMU 102." While discussing a forum on political stability which he moderated: "At the time, we were all in favor of it."

    Mark this down: When asked if they would take a pay cut, all four of them said they would. Schauer and I believe one other person said they and some of their colleagues return a portion of their salary to the Treasury. (While you might think this recent proposal offers hope in that regard, this proposal affects future lawmakers, not themselves.)

    Another thing to mark down: When asked if they would run for governor, Dillon, DeRoche, and Schauer all said No. Bishop's response? "You never know." Expect more definitive answers on this following next year's Presidential election.

    Following the forum, Bill Ballenger, the previous Griffin Endowed Chair, congratulated Peters on a job well done. I second Ballenger's remark. For him to get these heavyweights in Michigan politics under one roof is a rare feat. Peters should be commended for helping to enhance our education at CMU by bringing these titans to Mount Pleasant.


    Happy Election Day!!

    City officials make key decisions that impact our day-to-day lives in a more profound and direct way than do the folks in Washington and Lansing. Funding for police and fire departments, roads, and parks often come from city and township governments.

    Because of this, it is important that citizens make their voice heard by participating in community affairs. Perhaps the best way to do this is by voting.

    And tomorrow, people in many locales throughout the state and nation will have the opportunity to do that. Voter turnout in city elections is significantly lower than it is in elections for President or Governor - meaning your vote has a greater impact.

    Many future political leaders are running in these races. Today's city councilperson or mayor is tomorrow's state lawmaker or member of Congress. My Republican State Senator, Bill Hardiman, was mayor of my hometown of Kentwood for many years. Mark Schauer was a Battle Creek City Commissioner, while Gary Peters served on the Bloomfield Hills City Council. Both would become state Senators, and both are running for Congress in the 2008 election.

    So if you get the chance, and you haven't voted by absentee ballot, stop by your hometown and vote tomorrow between 7 AM and 8 PM. To help you out, here's a short list of candidates endorsed by the Michigan Democratic Party Youth Caucus:

    • Dayne Walling for Flint Mayor
    • Maureen Brosnan for Livonia Mayor
    • Nathan Triplett for East Lansing City Council
    • Jason Bauer for Auburn Hills City Council
    • Kevin Hrit for Troy City Council
    • Ryan Hersha for Battle Creek City Commission
    There are also elections in other cities and towns besides the ones listed above. So if there is an election near you, I hope you can take the time to vote tomorrow!



    Why the S-CHIP flip, Congressman Ehlers?

    Last month, declaring his support for the re-authorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), Vern Ehlers said he was very pleased with the program, which Michiganders know of as MIChild. He added:

    "Although this bill made some controversial changes to SCHIP, which I do not approve, I believe the overall bill is acceptable and I voted for it," said Congressman Ehlers. "I grew up with acute asthma, and I know personally how important it is for kids to have access to affordable health care. This bill will continue to provide health care coverage to millions of children who otherwise would be uninsured."
    Yet while he supported both the original passage of the bill and the attempt to override President Bush's veto, Ehlers las week voted against the new version of the S-CHIP reauthorization.

    So why did Congressman Ehlers flip-flop on this important issue? He says he had asthma when he was younger, which I have no reason not to believe. So why would he vote to deny millions of sick children in West Michigan and throughout the nation the insurance they need to live healthy, active lives - and in some cases to survive, period?


    Ahh, nature

    Nature is the greatest teacher. Walk slowly and observe, lest you miss her first lesson." - Dr. Wakelin McNeel, Professor Emeritus, Biology, Central Michigan University

    I have a digital camera, but I haven't done much photoblogging. That will change starting right... about... now.

    No matter how stressful your life is, taking a few minutes to enjoy nature can give your life the refreshing kick that it needs. So consider the following photos to be your refresher for today.

    Alongside a pond on the campus of CMU.

    Sunlight shines through the trees. Also at CMU.

    The Wakelin McNeel Woodlot.

    A wooded area in Mount Pleasant.

    Another pond reflects trees at CMU

    That same pond, with more leaves, reflects the Charles V. Park Library.

    The sky outside the Towers Residence Hall Complex at CMU

    More to come!

    "Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as life lasts." - Rachel Carson


    My birthday wish list

    I just cannot believe I am already into my third decade of life - my twenties!! I was born on October 21, 1987, in Greensboro, NC.

    I would like to thank all of you who wished me a happy birthday yesterday. I didn't get much in the way of presents - just some money, a couple of cards, and a thing of Rice Krispies Treats (which I have had for each birthday ever since I was about 6 - I'm not a fan of birthday cake.) Of course, that's pretty much all I had asked for, so I'm not that disappointed.

    But I would like to ask you all to do me a favor in honor of my 20th.

    In honor of my 20th birthday, I would like to ask you to do at least one or two of the following:

    • Donate either $20 or 20 minutes of your time to a charity of your choice.
    • Contact the offices of your members of Congress and share your thoughts on a few important issues of the day. I recommend telling them you support increasing the CAFE Standards and the Renewable Energy Standard, but oppose guaranteed loans to nuclear-power companies. Also, be sure to speak out against making the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) permanent. Elected officials are more likely to do what you want them to do when you contact them!
    • For those of you in Michigan, call your state lawmakers and remind them to pass a state budget soon!
    • Register someone to vote.
    • Post your favorite words of wisdom or a funny joke in the comments to this post.
    Deal? Deal.


    BREAKING: Colbert chooses Urbanowski as vice-presidential running mate

    KENTWOOD, MI - Presidential candidate Stephen T. Colbert announced Friday the selection of progressive blogger, Democratic activist, and Michigan Liberal front-pager Scott Urbanowski to be his vice-presidential running mate.

    "His commitment to truthiness makes him a top-notch candidate," declared Colbert said. "No one has done more for the wrist-awareness movement than has Urbanowski."

    Both Urbanowski, who turns 20 on Sunday, and Colbert dismissed concerns that he was too young or inexperienced for the job.

    "It is unpatriotic to criticize people’s youth during a time of war,” said Colbert.

    "If anything, my youth and inexperience make me a better, not worse, candidate. I will be younger than Bush, and less experienced than Cheney - yet I am already smarter and less of a snob," noted Urbanowski, a junior at Central Michigan University.

    "What’s more, unlike two people who have held the job I’m seeking, I haven’t shot anybody."

    Due to his age, Urbanowski technically is not allowed to become Vice President according to the Constitution, but he says that shouldn't be an obstacle.

    "The Constitution hasn't stopped the current administration - why should it stop me?"

    Urbanowski, known in the blogosphere as ScottyUrb, says he embraces the opportunity to hold an office held by only 46 others in American history.

    "To follow in the footsteps of such legends as Daniel Tompkins, George Dallas, William R.D. King, Thomas Hendricks, and Charles Fairbanks - what an honor that would be," said Colbert's new #2.

    Urbanowski was elected to the post of Democratic Precinct Delegate in his hometown of Kentwood, MI, in 2006. He has been a Democratic activist since the 2006 elections, when he did literature drops, made phone calls, wrote letters to the editor, and blogged like crazy.

    Urbanowski is also involved in his church, the Knights of Columbus, and campus life at CMU.


    Late-night laugh roundup

    Courtesy of About.com:

    "Al Gore has won an Academy award. He's won an Emmy award. And now, he's won the Nobel prize. But what he really wants is the Latin Grammy." --David Letterman
    "Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the environment. Then, in a stunning reversal, the Supreme Court awarded it to George Bush." --Amy Poehler
    "I think I know why you're happy tonight... 'cause Al Gore won the Nobel prize. Al Gore won the Nobel prize. Or, as President Bush announced it, 'Sweden is with the terrorists.' No, the president did not say that. What he said was, 'The Nobel Prize is just a theory. It needs more study.'" --Bill Maher
    "You can tell Al Gore is still worrying about these kind of things. They told him today, 'You received the most votes.' He said, 'Yeah, who won?'" --Bill Maher
    "A lot of people are now wondering if Al Gore will run for president, which would make it a Gore vs. Hillary Democratic primary. Kind of global warming vs. global cooling." --Jay Leno
    "Earlier tonight on NBC, Idaho Senator Larry Craig was on Matt Lauer. Until Matt was able to push him off." --Jay Leno
    "The interview was conducted in Senator Craig's home in Idaho. Beautiful home. Four bedrooms, 29 bathrooms." --Jay Leno
    "Hillary Clinton raised $35 million in three months. That's the most money ever raised by a woman, if you don't count what Oprah's made since lunch." --David Letterman
    "Yesterday, by the way, Hillary Clinton was a guest on 'The View.' ... Just when you thought that panel couldn't get any hotter." --David Letterman
    "A globe of the world once owned by Adolph Hitler is going to be auctioned off. ... So, Hitler's globe if you're thinking about getting a Christmas gift for Ann Coulter." --Jay Leno
    "Over the weekend, Senator Craig was inducted into the Idaho Stall of Fame. ... Did I say stall? I meant to say Hall of Fame. This guy got into the Idaho Hall of Fame. So who are the people who lost to Craig?" --Jay Leno
    "Barack Obama ... is attacking some of Hillary Clinton's comments on torture. At one point, Hillary Clinton said that in some narrow cases, torture could be acceptable. Like, for example, when you're husband is sneaking in at 2:30 in the morning" --Jay Leno
    "In a recent interview, President Bush's daughter, Jenna, said she believes there's a ghost in the White House. Then President Bush told her, 'No sweetheart, that's just your grandmother.'" --Conan O'Brien
    "Hillary Clinton's name was mentioned 12 times the other night. 12 times! Of course, Hillary was stunned. She's not used to guys yelling out her name." --Jay Leno
    (at a Republican debate)

    "Former 'Law & Order' star Fred Thompson appeared in his first presidential debate last night. Political experts called him uneven, flat and dull. In other words, Thompson was the highlight of the debate." --Conan O'Brien
    "According to a new survey, 52% of people have had sex with a colleague at work. 52%! You know, I can never look at Hannity and Colmes the same way again." --Jay Leno
    "The Yankees made it into the play-offs ... on a wild card. By the way, that's also how we got President Bush." --David Letterman
    "President Bush is now saying there's a good chance we will be bombing Iran ... because he is convinced they have nuclear weapons. Well, he would know." --David Letterman
    "This is good news: President Bush says he's going to ... finally take some action on global warming, because he became very alarmed when another chunk of ice broke off his mother" --David Letterman
    "Here's good news: George W. Bush says that he is committed to fighting global warming. Yeah, well, he nipped that in the bud, didn't he? ... President Bush says he's really going to buckle down now and fight global warming. As a matter of fact, he announced today he's sending 20,000 troops to the sun" --David Letterman
    "This Saturday, President Bush will be on hand in Washington to celebrate the Seventh Annual National Book Festival. The president's very excited about the festival, because he's been named Cliffs Notes Man of the Year." --Conan O'Brien
    "Yesterday while in Europe, presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani called for an expansion of NATO. After hearing this, President Bush said, 'I believe it's pronounced Nintendo.'" --Conan O'Brien

    Wow: Paul Krugman hits it on the nose re: Gore

    You. Must. Read. This.

    The worst thing about Mr. Gore, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right. In 1992, George H. W. Bush mocked him as the “ozone man,” but three years later the scientists who discovered the threat to the ozone layer won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 2002 he warned that if we invaded Iraq, “the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.” And so it has proved.

    But Gore hatred is more than personal. When National Review decided to name its anti-environmental blog Planet Gore, it was trying to discredit the message as well as the messenger. For the truth Mr. Gore has been telling about how human activities are changing the climate isn’t just inconvenient. For conservatives, it’s deeply threatening.


    Everything I’ve just said should be uncontroversial — but imagine the reception a Republican candidate for president would receive if he acknowledged these truths at the next debate. Today, being a good Republican means believing that taxes should always be cut, never raised. It also means believing that we should bomb and bully foreigners, not negotiate with them.


    Which brings us to the biggest reason the right hates Mr. Gore: in his case the smear campaign has failed. He’s taken everything they could throw at him, and emerged more respected, and more credible, than ever. And it drives them crazy.


    Bits of Tid: October 16, 2007

    Who Said That? Edition

    Who said this?

    {W}e've seen the corruption and the sectarian division. We understand what it's like to be stretched too thin. And we know when it's time to get out.
    Answer: Twelve former Army captains and Iraq veterans, in an op-ed in the Washington Post.

    Next quote:
    "We’ve treated the Arab world as a collection of big gas stations," the retired general said. "Our message to them is: Guys, keep your pumps open, prices low, be nice to the Israelis and you can do whatever you want out back. Osama and 9/11 is the distilled essence that represents everything going on out back."
    Answer: Gen. John Abizaid.

    Who's responsible for this one?
    “As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”
    Answer? 2,000+ active-duty service personnel. Phony soldiers, Rush?

    And speaking of which:
    Regardless of your feelings regarding the war, there's nothing phony about these brave people who wear the uniform of our country.
    That would be me, nominating 'phony soldiers' for banishment for Lake Superior State University's Banished Word List. It comes out in 2 1/2 months, so get your picks in soon!

    And finally, well, I don't need to ask you who said this:

    BTW: Is that Joe Knollenberg, about halfway in?


    Al Gore videos and links

    You surely know by now that Al Gore won a share of the Nobel Peace Prize (he shares it with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). He becomes the fifth person to hold one of America's two highest offices and win the Nobel Peace Prize, the others being Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, and Charles Dawes (Calvin Coolidge's VP).

    Here's the video of the announcement from the Nobel Committee:

    ...and here he is at a press conference following his win:

    Al himself has released three videos, one each about health care, Iraq, and protecting America. Check them out here.

    For more on all of this year's Nobel Prize winners, visit the Nobel Foundation's official website.


    Bits of Tid: October 12, 2007

    • As I write this, I am awaiting the Nobel committee's announcement as to who will win the Nobel Peace Prize. Will it be Al? For a fascinating look into the Nobel Prizes, be sure to check out Nobelprize.org.
    • Here's a pleasant surprise: Just after the recent tax increase, Granholm has a net positive approval rating. Not by much (46-41%), but from a Republican firm, this is great!
    • Both Mark Schauer and Gary Peters took in roughly $220,000 (give or take) during the third quarter. Darn good, given they weren't in the race the entire quarter. Knollenberg was also named to the League of Conervation Voters' Dirty Dozen. Oh, and they and Thad McCotter have been targeted by Catholic groups for opposing S-CHIP?
    • Babies are eligible to get married in Arkansas, due to a fluke in the law. If you take issue with the idea of babies getting married, ask yourself: Is it really that bad compared to allowing Hollywood celebrities to marry?
    • Coming soon to Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott:
      • What do I think of the latest mess surrounding the Michigan presidential primary? Find out this weekend.
      • Look for a couple of photoblogging posts in the next couple of weeks: one detailing the events of Homecoming at both CMU and East Kentwood High School, one showing autumn colors in mid-Michigan.
      • I still have a few more words I'm planning on submitting to Lake Superior State's Banished Words List.
      • I also have more late-night jokes on the way, so stay tuned!


    State revenues: enough with the whining already!

    What happened?

    Last week the Legislature passed a continuation budget that extended the deadline for passing the final Fiscal Year 2008 budget by four weeks. Governor Granholm refused to sign it, stating she would not sign any such proposal without a guarantee from the Legislature that there would be new revenues. Because of this, the state government partially shut down for 4 hours and 18 minutes on Monday.

    At 4:18 AM Monday morning, the Governor signed the continuation budget after two new sets of revenues were passed in both the House and the Senate; this ended the shutdown.

    The new revenues

    The state's income tax will go up from 3.9% to 4.35% - still lower than 2/3 of the state's income taxes. The state expects more than $750 billion in new revenues form this tax increase.

    Officials also expect a similar amount to be generated by an extension of the 6% sales tax to a number of services, which are listed here.

    How does Michigan's new tax rates stack up?

    I'll let this article from the Detroit Free Press sum it up:

    Thirty-six of the 43 states with income taxes have rates higher than Michigan's new 4.35 rate, at least as of January 2007, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators. But a fair comparison is elusive because most states, unlike Michigan, have graduated income taxes under which taxpayers see their rates increase as their incomes go up.


    The state's 6 percent sales tax in two months will go from covering 26 service categories to covering 53, including new categories such as skiing, consulting and interior design. At that point, Michigan will rank 27th nationally in the number of taxed services, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.

    Michigan is tied with nine other states that have a 6 percent sales tax, the nation's 11th highest. California has the highest rate, at 7.25 percent, while Colorado's 2.9 rate is the lowest among states that have sales taxes.
    Hey conservatives, if high taxes mean weaker economies, then why is Michigan's unemployment rate - 7.4% - the highest in the country instead of being in the middle of the pack?

    What this all means for you

    Will you pay more in taxes? Yes, but not much. Back to the Free Press article:
    The combination of a higher income tax and sales taxes on more services will cost a family of four earning $50,000 a year about $207 - $157 in income tax and about $50 in sales tax, treasury officials estimate.

    "That's $4 a week per household," Kleine said. "What that is doing is preventing very drastic cuts in higher education, school aid, Medicaid and public safety."
    $4 per family per week to keep Michigan from becoming even worse off? Sounds like a good investment to me - and I'm a college student whose family has mediocre health insurance!

    So enough with the whining and complaining about having to pay more. Tax cuts have not helped Michigan's economy, nor will tax hikes hurt. Please don't complain about having to pay just a little less than you used to. A few dollars a week is NOT going to hurt your bottom line.

    If anything, you ought to be complaining not about taxes that aren't really that high, but about the high cost of gas (which Democrats have tried to do something about), or prescription drugs (which Democrats have also tried to do something about).

    Or having to spend $4.50 for a pop at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Which I don't think many Dems can do anything about.


    Obama videos - 5 years after his antiwar speech

    Five years go yesterday, then-Illinois State Senator Barack Obama spoke at an anti-war rally and made a speech, the video of which has mostly been lost, except for a brief excerpt. Here is that excerpt, as well as a number of Obama supporters re-enacting it.

    5th Anniversary of Barack Obama's Anti-War Speech

    Even a successful war against Iraq will involve a US occupation of undetermined length at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

    Obama Offers a New Beginning in Iraq

    "We need to ask those who voted for the war, 'How can you give the President a blank check and then act surprised when he cashes it?'"

    Rep. Jan Schakowsky on Barack Obama's Courage

    Obama... is the only one who really has the capacity to send a very different signal around the world... and create a new tone that creates the space for peace in the 21st century.



    A few weeks ago I noted the importance of workers in our day-to-day lives:

    As much as we owe our freedom to the many men and women of the United States Armed Forces, we also owe the very fact that we have food to eat, cars to drive, roads to drive them on, homes to live in, buildings to work and study in, and beds to sleep in to the people who comprise the American workforce.

    Yesterday, the UAW's GM workers went on strike demanding quality pay and benefits not only for themselves, but also for retirees.

    With the conservative assault on labor accelerating under the Bush presidency, it is even more important than ever that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with workers and labor unions whose work makes our country great.


    Thoughts on leadership... and my pick for the White House

    Many Democrats picked their favorite Presidential candidate many a moon ago; others did so more recently. Many are undecided, with a few planning to withhold support until after our nominee is decided. Due to many factors - the state of our nation and its politics, the wide-openness of this election (with 18 major-party candidates), and the enormous burden that comes with the office - I have approached this decision carefully.

    It is the duty of each citizen of our country to not only vote, but to give serious consideration as to who is best fit for each office before they vote. After all, to vote for someone is to place in them a certain amount of trust. Is there any greater political trust than supporting someone's goal to take the reins of the White House?

    Not everyone is ready to lead even a small group or club. Far fewer are capable of bearing the immense burden that comes with leading this nation of 300,000,000+ people. The circumstances that will face America's next President make it all the more critical that none but a very capable leader take on this role. This person must have the leadership skills needed to help return dignity to the Oval Office, raise the bar for our politics, and restore in each of us a sense of pride as to what it truly means to be an American.

    So, I mentioned the word 'leadership.' 'Leadership' is a word that is tossed around so loosely nowadays that I think many have forgotten its true meaning. Here's what that word means to me.

    A good leader has certain qualities. They must be courageous and honest, saying and doing not what people want said or done, but what needs to be said and done. Leaders must have unquestionable integrity and good character. They must understand that they are a role model - that people emulate what their leaders do. They must hold themselves and others accountable, and demonstrate sound judgment. They must learn from the past, understand the present, and have a clear vision for the future - yet at the same time be open to new ideas. Above all, however, they must be worthy of the trust people place in them by choosing them to fulfill a leadership role.

    Unfortunately, few political leaders nowadays have shown that they possess these characteristics. Yet these characteristics are critical when it comes to leading this nation. Consider this: The President of this great country is called upon to make numerous important decisions the effects of which will last for generations: when our Armed Forces should be deployed, who should serve on the Supreme Court, what to make of each day's intelligence briefings, how to go about pushing a piece of legislation, what the upcoming fiscal year's budget will look like, when and where to go on diplomatic trips, what nonpolitical causes to support, etc.

    To me, when it comes to having the characteristics, vision, and judgment we ought to expect in the leader of this great country we call America, one person stands out above the rest. Drumroll please...

    That candidate is Barack Obama.

    It is clear to me that, more than anyone else running for President, Obama is the type of leader these times demand.


    On so many issues, Obama offers new angles to solving problems that I have not heard from many other campaigns. For example, his Iraq plan goes beyond the standard "bring-our-troops-home" answer. On his website, Obama discusses how our 'covenant with seniors' extends beyond protecting Social Security and fixing healthcare. His plan to fight poverty is very detailed and shows the importance of improving jobs, education, and healthcare when it comes to ending poverty.

    Though he was only a state senator at the time, Obama opposed the war from the beginning - something Edwards, Clinton, Biden, and Dodd can't say. His opposition to the war from the start hows sound judgment on Obama's part.

    I could go on about his many plans for this nation, but one thing is clear to me: Obama's vision is the most detailed, the most comprehensive, and the clearest of any of the candidates'.


    Regarding experience, let me make two points. First, political experience is not the only qualification. Each President is influenced more by his/her nonpolitical experiences than their political ones. JFK, Ford, and others brought their World War II experience to the White House. Carter and many others were influenced by their work on the farm. If elected, Obama will bring to the Oval Office his experience as a community organizer, professor, and attorney in Chicago, as well as lessons learned in both the Illinois Senate and in Washington.

    Second, years in elective office do not necessarily make someone more qualified for the job. If it did matter, then why don't we consider George H.W. Bush to have been a darn good President, with Eisenhower and Lincoln each thought of as epitomes of lousiness? More on that here.


    The key question on many Democrats' minds is, who is the most electable come next November? With quite a few more Americans calling themselves Democrats than Republicans, one would expect that our party has a distinct advantage when it comes to winning the Presidency next fall. While I agree that we do have the advantage, let's remember that Michigan was favored to defeat Appalachian State - and weirder things happen in politics than in sports.

    Countless people I have met have said they are impressed with Obama. The Central Michigan University chapter of Students for Barack Obama is headed by someone who I didn't even think cared much about politics. This just shows that Obama's inspirational message of hope for change does have appeal that transcends not only partisan lines, but extends to people who, for whatever reason, don't care much about politics. This will be crucial come next November 4.

    The question must then be asked: Can a black person like Obama become President? We cannot deny the continued existence of racist and sexist attitudes in Ameica. There will surely be those who won't vote for Obama simply because he's black, or for Hillary because she is a woman. However, let me ask you: How many people do you think will vote Republican if a black person heads our ticket, but would consider voting for any other Democrat (i.e. Edwards)? Probably very few.

    Final thoughts
    Each of the Democratic Presidential candidates has displayed qualities we should expect in our President. Edwards is a fierce champion of ordinary Americans and has an excellent vision for where this country should go. Richardson is a seasoned diplomat. Biden is an expert when it comes to foreign policy. Dodd has impeccable character. Few in Congress are as courageous as Kucinich. Hillary has long championed civil rights.

    Yet, to me, only Senator Obama has shown all of these characteristics. More than anyone else, Obama has proven that he is the one who most deserves our trust - and that, his 'inexperience' aside, he is the one most capable of bearing the burden of the Presidency and restoring common sense to the highest office in the land.

    So I ask you, why settle for less than the best? Sure, you may or may not agree with Obama on every policy issue; and sure, you may have doubts as to whether he has enough 'experience' (however you define that word). But during times like these, the United States of America needs nothing but the best leadership we can have, and no one has demonstrated these important leadership capabilities as has Barack Obama.

    For these reasons, I am proud to declare my support for Senator Barack Obama's campaign to become the 44th President of the United States.