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.