Archive for June, 2009

Terri Land Ends Bid for Michigan Governor & Endorses Mike Bouchard

June 25, 2009

Earlier today Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) held a press conference where she was expected to announce her intentions to run for Governor in 2010.  Instead, she announced that she was putting and end to her exploratory committee and was endorsing Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard.

The following is an excerpt from her comments during the press conference:

I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration as a Republican candidate for Governor in 2010.  To my colleagues seeking the nomination, I wish you the best of luck.  The challenges ahead are great.  I believe Michigan needs a leader like Mike Bouchard.  I’ve worked with Mike for many years.  I have always been impressed with his ability to make tough decisions.  And I also appreciate his resourcefulness and grit: Mike is a real bulldog who won’t let challenges go unmet.

We’re both worried that our kids will be forced to leave Michigan to find jobs.

Mike realizes that it took a long time – and a lot of bad decisions – for our state to get here.  He knows that there aren’t any easy fixes or simple solutions to turn things around. Mike will do what’s right rather than what is popular.  And that’s the kind of leader we need to get Michigan working again.

And here’s some of what Bouchard said:

I’m really happy to have Terri’s support – it means a lot to me and my campaign.  Terri’s well respected across the state.  She’s a consensus builder who isn’t afraid to make the touch choices.  From day one as Secretary of State, she looked to cut costs and make her department more efficient.  We need more leaders like Terri who are working to turn our state around.

Terri’s endorsement is another big step forward for my campaign.  She is respected across the state as a true leader.  As Governor, I know that by working with leaders like Terri, we will fix Lansing so Michigan can get back to work. 

When asked “Where will you look for a Lieutenant Governor?”

Bouchard responded, “One [candidate] who would be and should be on anyone’s short list is standing here,” as he nodded toward Land.

The two also released the following video:

If you would’ve asked me who I honestly thought would win the race, I would’ve said Terri Land, so this comes as a shock to me.

But I think I may see where she’s coming from – a lot of people have said that as a woman, she’d be disadvantaged in the race, since she’d be running right after Granholm, who’s seriously screwed up the state.  Personally, I don’t think people will blame the state’s problems on electing a woman governor, but I may be putting too much faith in Michigan voters.

I think this move does tell us one thing though: Mike Bouchard has most likely picked a running mate, and I’m willing to bet that that running mate is Terri Land.

I was still undecided as to who I was supporting, but Land was up toward the top for me, and now that both her and L. Brooks Patterson have dropped out, I’m pretty much back to square one for figuring out who I’ll be backing.

I’ll continue to cover the race up until Election Day in 2010.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican

Michigan Cops Wasting Time & Taxpayer Money

June 22, 2009

So a friend and I were in a 7-11 in Dearborn Heights, Michigan the other night getting my daily Slurpee (no, I don’t really get one every day, but sometimes it seems like it), and there was a Dearborn Heights police car parked in the parking lot, but still running.

Inside the 7-11 were 2 Dearborn Heights police officers over by the magazine rack reading a magazine.  I figured they were just in there to quickly buy something so they just left the car running.

So I went over to the Slurpee machine and made my Slurpee, picked up a 2 liter of Diet Mt. Dew, and got some candy.  That took a few minutes – the officers are still there looking through magazines and just talking to each other, with both of their backs turned toward the car.  At that point, I began to wonder, “Why are they still here?”

So I got in line and waited for the cashier to get to me to ring me up, paid, and left.  The policemen were still there.  My friend and I were in the 7-11 for over 5 minutes, and in that time, the officers did nothing but read a couple magazines, with their car still running.

Now, I understand the logic behind leaving a car running for a long period of time so that the battery doesn’t drain, but if they were only going to be in there for a semi-short period of time, they could’ve easily turned the car off and saved the gas without putting their battery in jeopardy.  (And I have seen policemen turn their cars off when going in to a restaurant, so I know that they can be turned off for at least a certain amount of time without the equipment inside draining the battery).

But that’s not the biggest problem I had.  I’m more curious about why they were in a 7-11 reading magazines instead of doing what they’re supposed to be doing – out on patrol or taking calls.  Also, why wasn’t at least one of them watching the car?  Every winter, I heard on the news a local police chief urge people not to leave running cars unattended because it might get stolen.  The same goes for a police car.  What’s to stop a drunk (or stupid) teenager from getting dared into stealing a police car?  Sure, they wouldn’t get away with it, but chasing after them would still use up more police resources.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a LOT of respect for police officers – overall they’re probably one of my favorite groups of people.  But what I saw seemed to be nothing more than a waste of time and taxpayer money.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican

New York State Senate Still Deadlocked After Day in Court

June 16, 2009

This is a follow-up story about a story that I wrote about last week.  Last week, the New York State Senate Republicans took over the New York Senate by voting in a new leader.  The problem is, the Democrats didn’t like that and as the Republicans were voting in the new leader, they motioned to adjourn.  Well, there’s debate whether or not that vote was legal.

After reviewing the following video (not the best, since it’s not 100% complete, but it’s the best I could find), I still think that the Republicans are in the right here:

Now – here’s why I think the Republicans are in the right: the Republican (I believe it was Minority Leader Dean Skelos [R]) never yields the floor.  If the President gave Skelos the floor, he would have to yield it in order for somebody to make the motion to adjourn, and he never yielded the floor.

Well, yesterday, Senator Hiram Monserrate (D), one of the Democrats who switched to vote with the Republicans, switched back, making the partisan make-up 31-31.  Monserrate switched back because the Democratic caucus had elected Senator John Sampson as their “caucus leader,” while leaving Malcom Smith in his position as Majority Leader (in their eyes, even though in my view, they now legitimately have lost the majority).  Monserrate was unhappy with the way Smith had been leading and thought that Sampson would unify Democrats.

After that, Smith told reporters, “Clearly, after what happened last week, we have to make some adjustments in how we operate.  can look at John Sampson as C.E.O.”

Monserrate said of his “good friend John Sampson”: “I also want to send a message to the voters in my district, and the borough of Queens and downstate, in the neighborhoods that I grew up in throughout the city.  The voters in my district sent this ex-Marine, this ex-beat cop, to come up here and shake things up, and I’m not walking away from that.”

Of his vote last week, Monserrate said, “I took a vote, the vote was public, I believe some of you took pictures of it.”

Senator Pedro Espada, Jr. said, “What happened here last Monday was transformational.  It counts.”

Now, onto what happened today:

State Supreme Court Justice Thomas McNamara dismissed a case brought by Senator Smith against Senator Espada saying that it’s up to the legislature to resolve the issue.  That full opinion can be found here.

Governor David Patterson has said that he will step in and try to run the Senate chamber so that things can get accomplished until the issue is resolved.  The legality of that seems questionable to me, since it’s not the Governor’s job to run the Senate.

So, where is the Senate at now?  Here’s my view.  The Senate is legitimately controlled by the Republicans, who, as far as I can tell, legitimately took over the Senate through a legally binding resolution.  The count is now 31 Democrats to 31 Republicans (30 Republicans + 1 Democrat voting with them).  That means there’s a tie.  The Lt. Governor would be the tie-breaker, but there is no Lt. Governor.  Therefore, the Senate is deadlocked on this matter, and the Republicans would remain in control until the Democrats can reach 32 supporters.

I’ll continue with more posts as the situation continues.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican

The U.S. Digital TV Transition Happens Today

June 12, 2009

Well, today is the day that most TV stations will be switching over to a solely digital signal (if they haven’t done so already).  So, I figured it’d be appropriate to talk about the politics of the tranistion.

First, if you’re looking for information about the transition and how it will affect you, you can check out www.dtv.gov, a website run by the Federal Communications Commission.

Personally, I think the forced transition to digital is an overstepping of the government.  I personally don’t see the need for the government to do this, and I think the FCC has been deceptive to the American people in selling the DTV conversion.

In the FAQ, the FCC answer’s the question, “Why are we switching to DTV?” with an answer that seems like it’s the government doing great things for the American public:

An important benefit of the switch to all-digital broadcasting is that it will free up parts of the valuable broadcast spectrum for public safety communications (such as police, fire departments, and rescue squads). Also, some of the spectrum will be auctioned to companies that will be able to provide consumers with more advanced wireless services (such as wireless broadband).

Consumers also benefit because digital broadcasting allows stations to offer improved picture and sound quality, and digital is much more efficient than analog. For example, rather than being limited to providing one analog program, a broadcaster is able to offer a super sharp “high definition” (HD) digital program or multiple “standard definition” (SD) digital programs simultaneously through a process called “multicasting.” Multicasting allows broadcast stations to offer several channels of digital programming at the same time, using the same amount of spectrum required for one analog program. So, for example, while a station broadcasting in analog on channel 7 is only able to offer viewers one program, a station broadcasting in digital on channel 7 can offer viewers one digital program on channel 7-1, a second digital program on channel 7-2, a third digital program on channel 7-3, and so on. This means more programming choices for viewers. Further, DTV can provide interactive video and data services that are not possible with analog technology.

Now, all of that is true, but I find it deceptive the way that they organized that.  They placed the public safety section at the top, when in actuality, only 4 channels (63, 64, 68, and 69) will be reassigned to police departments, fire departments, etc.  Most of the analog spectrum has been sold off to companies such as AT&T or Verizon.

On the one hand, it’s great that the government is making some money by selling those frequencies, but think of how much money was spent on digital converters!  Congress budgeted anywhere from $890 million to $1.5 billion.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find how much money the government is making off of the analog frequency sales, but they sure are spending a lot on converters.

But the biggest reason that I oppose the forced transition to digital is that I don’t see why the government should care.  If they want to reallocate a few frequencies to public safety departments, that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of ALL analog television.  I just see this as the government being more involved than it has to be, especially at a time when the government has more important things to worry about.

Personally, I would’ve liked to have used Canada’s original method – allow the markets to control who switches and when – if people like digital, the TV stations will respond to the demand.  Unfortunately, even Canada gave in and will require most analog frequencies to stop broadcasting by August 31, 2011.

If you’d like to see the full legislation, a copy of the Digital Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 can be found here.

Again, if you need information about the DTV conversion, check out www.dtv.gov, and if you’d like to see what digital stations should be available in your area, check out the map feature here: http://www.fcc.gov/mb/engineering/maps/.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican

A Look at Monday’s Chaotic New York State Senate “Coup”

June 9, 2009

Yesterday, the New York state Senate broke out into chaos as 2 Democrats defected to join with Republicans to vote on a resolution that would give Republicans back the majority they lost in the 2008 elections.  A resolution passed the Senate 32-30 yesterday that voted in a new leader.  Democrats Pedro Espada, Jr. (Bronx) and Hiram Monserrate (Queens) were the 2 Democrats who broke ranks.  The resolution installed Republican Dean Skelos (Long Island) as Majority Leader and Espada as President Pro Tempore.

Here’s a short video of some of what happened:

Also, here’s a short clip courtesy of NY1 News that shows a little bit more of what happened:

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith released the following statement: “This was an illegal and unlawful attempt to gain control of the Senate and reverse the will of the people who voted for a Democratic Majority.  Nothing has changed, Senator Malcolm A. Smith remains the duly elected Temporary President and Majority Leader.  The real Senate Majority is anxious to get back to governing, and will take immediate steps to get us back to work.”

Senator Monserrate released the following statement: “I am a lifelong Democrat and remain a loyal Democrat.  After today’s proceedings, I am proud to form a bi-partisan coalition that has elected the first Latino President pro Tem of the New York State Senate, my colleague, the Honorable Pedro Espada Jr.  We look forward to conferencing with fellow Democrats to ensure that real reforms become a reality in the State of New York.”

Senator Skelos told reporters, “Quite frankly I think you’re going to see more and more of this throughout the country.  As people make a determination that everything shouldn’t be as partisan as it has been in the past.  And the only way you’re going to get good government is through open government and coalition type government.”

Governor David Patterson (D) also told reporters, “What happened to the integrity that we all believed we are advocating when we take our oath of office?  Now every week just because the senate is close between the two major parties and someone doesn’t like what’s going on we change leadership, or are we really changing leadership, aren’t we changing power.  This is despicable what happened here today.”

Senator Smith has said that the resolution was invalid because it occurred after the Senate had gaveled out.  I haven’t been able to find a whole video clip yet, so I can’t give a full opinion on whether the vote was valid or not; however, if the Democrats gaveled out of session in a manner that broke the rules of the Senate, in order to avoid making the resolution valid, the resolution would most likely be ruled legal.   I’m willing to bet that if this goes to court, the Republicans will win the legal battle, but again, I can’t say anything for sure until I see a full video of what happened.

One thing’s for sure - the New York Senate is inching it’s way closer to overtaking the Detroit City Council’s “Craziest Legislative Body” status.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican

General Motors Files For Bankruptcy – Better Late than Never (Sorta)

June 1, 2009

At 8:00 P.M. this morning, General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.  Judge Robert Gerber was assigned to the case.

GM CEO Fritz Hendesrson told reporters, “We intend to offer you nothing less than best-in-class cars and trucks.  We look forward to the chance to win your business, and win back your trust.”

GM will soon organize into a new company that will purchase nearly all of the assets from Old GM that New GM will need to implement a business plan.  According to an Obama Administration official, New GM will “have far less debt and a world class balance sheet.”

The Treasury Department will provide $30.1 billion in financing to support GM during this transition phase (the money will come from the Troubled Asset Reliefe Program, or TARP, who has already loaned out $20 billion to GM), but the Treasury Department “does not anticipate providing any additional assistance to GM beyond this commitment.” In return, the federal government will receive $8.8 billion in debt and 60% of equity in New GM.  The government will also get the right to appoint all but 2 initial directors of New GM.

The Obama administration said that the taxpayers would get money back, but how much and when is uncertain: “We certainly intend to maximize taxpayer proceeds.”

But the U.S. isn’t the only government helping GM.  Together, the governments of Canada and Ontario will lend $9.5 billion to GM and New GM, and they will receive $1.7 billion in debt and preferred stock as well as 12% of equity in New GM. The Canadian government will also have the right to appoint one initial director.

President Obama made the following statements concerning the filing for bankruptcy: “Our goal is to help GM get back on its feet … and get out quickly. … What we have then is a credible plan that is full of promise. … [The restructuring plan is a] viable, achievable plan that will give this iconic American company a chance to rise again. … Instead of taking so much stock in GM, we could have simply offered the company more loans.  But for years, GM has been buried under an unsustainable mountain of debt.  And piling an irresponsibly large debt on top of the new GM would mean simply repeating the mistakes of the past.”

The following is a summary of the restructuring plan, courtesy of FOX News:

– — Cut GM’s production break-even point from 16 million annual unit sales to 10 million. 

– UAW concessions include allowing GM to shed its $20 billion obligation to its pensions and health care fund, otherwise known as the VEBA. The White House said the UAW concessions were more substantial than those sought by the Bush administration when it was considering throwing the company a taxpayer lifeline. 

You really think the UAW would have given in to concessions proposed by the Bush Administration?  The only reason they gave in now is because they’ve finally realized that it’s give in or lose everything.

– Bondholders representing at least 54 percent of the company’s unsecured bonds have agreed to trade their portion of GM’s $27.1 billion in unsecured debt for a pro-rated share of 10 percent of the equity in the so-called new GM. In addition, the bondholders will receive warrants for an additional 15 percent of the company. The bankruptcy process, which the White House said should take between 60 and 90 days, will enforce this distribution as well as adjudicate proceeds for bondholders who do not participate in the White House deal. 

– The reorganized GM will buy most of the old GM assets needed to carry out its business plan. The purchase will happen in the Chapter 11 process. In exchange, the U.S. government will relinquish a majority of its loans to GM. 

– The new GM will create an independent trust (VEBA) that will finance health care benefits for GM’s retirees. The VEBA will be funded by a note of $2.5 billion payable in three installments that end in 2017. There will be an additional $6.5 billion purchase that will create 9 percent perpetual preferred stock. The VEBA will also receive 17.5 percent of the equity of New GM and warrants to purchase an additional 2.5 percent of the company. The VEBA will be able to chose one independent director for the new board. It will have no right to vote its shares or other exercise other governance rights. 

– The GM-qualified pensions for current hourly and salaried employees will be transferred to the new GM. 

– Treasury will provide $30.1 billion of debtor-in-possession financing to support GM through an accelerated Chapter 11 process. Officials anticipate no additional funding for GM. “There is no plan of any kind for future support beyond this point,” an official said.

I’ll believe that when this is all over.

The government will receive $8.8 billion in debt and preferred stock and 60 percent of the company’s equity. Treasury will appoint all new board of directors members not appointed by the VEBA and the Canadian government. 

– Governments in Canada and Ontario will lend $9.5 billion to GM and the new GM. The Canadian and Ontario governments will receive approximately $1.7 billion in debt and preferred stock, and approximately 12 percent of the equity of the new GM. The Canadian government will select one director to the new GM board. 

– The new GM will, as part of the government-supervised restructuring, build a new small car in an idled UAW factory. The goal is to increase the share of U.S. production for U.S. sale from 66 percent currently to 70 percent.

These are the White House “principles” for managing the ownership stake: 

– The government will sell equity stakes as “soon as practicable.” The goal is a profitable company without government involvement. 

– The government will reserve the right to set up-front conditions to protect taxpayers, promote financial stability and encourage growth.

– The government will manage its ownership stake in a hands-off, commercial manner. It will not interfere with day-to-day company operations. No government employees will serve on the boards or be employed by these companies. 

– The government will only vote on core governance issues, including the selection of a company’s board of directors and major corporate events or transactions.

Again – I’ll believe this when it’s all over.

Under the White House policy on new GM warranties, GM will honor consumer warranties. Last week, the Treasury Department provided $361 million in financing to the Warranty Support Program as a backstop so GM can pay warranties on vehicles sold during the restructuring. 

Also, employees will continue to receive ordinary salary, wages and benefits. The pension plan and VEBA will be transferred to the new GM. GM will seek authority at its “first day” bankruptcy hearing to continue to pay suppliers. In addition, the U.S. Treasury’s Supplier Support Program will continue to operate, and GM suppliers benefiting from the program will continue to receive that support.

So, there you go – General Motors has finally filed for bankruptcy.  While it’s not as independent of government intervention and money as I’d like it to be, it’s a step in the right direction away from endless bailouts and loans.

GM stock actually did pretty well today, up 0.1o points, from 0.75 to 0.85.  Meanwhile, the General Motors supplier Delphi (which I own stock in), who announced an agreement to emerge from bankruptcy, was down 0.02 points.

Overall, I think this is a good move.  I think that GM is going to come out of this stronger.  I think they’ll come out and survive just fine.  I still plan on buying some Ford stock, since I think they’ll emerge the strongest from this crisis, but we’ll see.

Like I’ve said many times before: bankruptcy courts exist for a reason, and just because a company is big and important, doesn’t mean they’re too special to use bankruptcy court; however, we must understand that companies with high-price products with warranties (such as cars) are different than other companies.  Consumers do wonder, “If GM fails, what happens to my warranty?”  But there are ways to work around this other than endless government bailouts.

What we must also remember is: Even if GM or Chrysler fails, there is NO auto company who is producing enough cars to make up for the sudden lack of automobile production caused by the failure of GM or Chrysler.  Let’s pretend that Chrysler fails.  What would happen?  Some Chrysler workers would lose their jobs – that’s inevitable.  But Ford would then pick up a division of Chrysler like Dodge, and Fiat may pick up JEEP, etc.  Jobs WOULD be lost, but the majority of the people would keep their jobs, because there’s no way that enough cars could be produced if one of the Big 3 failed.

I’ll continue to post more about the auto crisis through the coming months.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican


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