Five Purchases Every Michigan Progressive Should Make

While we vote but a few times a year, we make purchases every day that impact our economy, politics, and environment.  Here are five products that I have purchased. I hope you will consider purchasing these products, or other like them, so that we can live in a more sustainable Michigan.

1. A Michigan Made Vehicle– One thing that is pretty apparent is that Michigan’s economic recovery has a lot more to do with the recovery of the automobile industry than any policy that the Governor Snyder has implemented. Since our economy is tied so strongly to the automobile industry, and since the automobile industry offers jobs with living wages, thanks in large part to unions, every progressive should own a Michigan made vehicle.  I find it hard to understand why so many progressives drive imports.  If you drive an electric or a hybrid, I might give you a pass until GM releases the Bolt later this year.  Otherwise, stop going to the farmer’s market in your Subaru!  Instead, go down to your locally owned car dealership, not DeVos owned Fox Motors, and buy a car that is engineered and assembled in Michigan, then go to the farmer’s market!MP-25

2. A $15 an hour burger– Right wingers answer for not wanting a living wage for fast food workers is typically (a) they think they will have to pay $10 for a Big Mac, or (b) they compare the living wage of a burger flipper to some other unfortunate person who is underpaid in a more essential industry.  To dispel this non-sense simply go to one of Moo Cluck Moo’s two locations in suburban Detroit.  Moo Cluck Moo pays their workers at least $15 an hour.  A Moo Burger sells for $3,79, twenty cents cheaper than a Big Mac. And get this, their burger has no hormones, no preservatives, and no antibiotics.  They taste great too!Moo

3. Michigan Made Music– There is an abundance of Michigan made music to enjoy if you take the time to move beyond what the local radio stations are playing.  For instance, the Earthwork Collective is a group of musicians that have “created a new model as a collective of independent artists using music as a tool to raise awareness, to mentor youth, to build community and celebrate local culture, (and) to uplift individuals in times of need. While Joshua Davis is the most famous artist in the collective after appearing on NBC’s The Voice, their lineup is deep and talented.  Check out Seth Bernard, whose family farm hosts the amazing Earthworks Harvest Gathering Music Festival each fall.  He intermixes thought provoking lyrics with some pretty rich electric guitar riffs.  Listen to his song Reconciliation to get a feel for Bernard’s talent.  You can purchase his brand new album Eggtones for Peace on the Earthwork Music website.MP-3

4. A Michigan Craft Beer– Not only is Michigan’s craft beer industry well regarded, many of the breweries are champions of clean water initiatives and sustainability.  One of the best examples is Brewery Vivant, located in Grand Rapids.  Each year they release a sustainability report.  They have a goal of making 75% of their purchases from Michigan, and the report indicates that they are currently at 58.5%.  A few other notable items in their report are their goals for charity, employee volunteer hours, and their goals for renewable energy.  We should make it law that any business getting a tax break or state contract should have to create a sustainability report and make it public.
MP-5

5. A Detroit Rebirth Product– In Michigan we have to make things. At Shinola they make things.  Shinola brought back watchmaking not only to the U.S., but to Detroit.  Shinola has come under some criticism because the price of their watches are over $800 a pop, which is why I bought a wallet instead of a watch.  They have also come under fire because parts for their watches are Switzerland and several other countries. Remember, many of our car parts are also made in other countries unfortunately.  We cannot let perfection be the enemy of the good.   The bottom line is Shinola has invested in Detroit and its people, and now we should invest in Shinola and in any other company that has taken a gamble on Detroit’s comeback.
MP-15

 

Note: If you liked this top 5 list, you might also like my list Five Great Contemporary Economic Justice songs.

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Michigan Superdelegates Should Switch to Sanders or Risk Losing Voter’s Support

Picture courtesy of the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Picture courtesy of the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Despite all the polls and prognostications indicating otherwise, Senator Bernie Sanders
defeated Secretary Hillary Clinton
on Tuesday night in Michigan’s Presidential Primary.  Yet, Clinton will get more delegates from Michigan because thirteen of Michigan’s twenty superdelegates committed to Clinton before the voters of Michigan cast a single vote.  Superdelegates that already committed to Clinton include Congressman Dan Kildee and Sandy Levin and Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters.

Michigan superdelegates would be wise to back Sanders now for three pretty simple reasons.  For one, nothing makes voters believe their votes don’t matter more than having the winning candidate basically lose.  While Sanders will get a few more pledged delegates than Clinton thanks to actual voters, Clinton’s superdelegates will essentially give her a win in Michigan. Turning off voters in March might cost Democrats in November.

Second, Senator Sanders is winning battle ground states like Michigan and Minnesota, States that Democrats need to win in November to win the election.  Secretary Clinton is winning a lot of southern states like Mississippi and Texas which will not be won by Democrats in November.  In essence, it makes a lot more sense to back the candidate with the motivated voters in the states you can actually win in the general election. Plus, Sanders polls better against Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee.

Finally, many of the superdelegates may find themselves in hot water in their next election should they screw Michigan voters.  It’s doubtful our Senators would get hurt badly, Senators are almost untouchable.  However, people like Democratic Chair Brandon Dillon and Oakland County Commissioner Nancy Quarles could be vulnerable in their present positions.  It would be unfortunate if the superdelgates caused a civil war inside the Michigan Democratic party.  We know how that has played out for the Republicans nationally.

Michigan voters have spoken.  We do not need our votes overturned by a patriarchal establishment vote of superdelegates.  If you voted for Sanders, it might be time now to make a call or send an email to anyone of the Michigan’s superdelegates that are listed below.  If they don’t respect our votes, remember that the next time you see them asking for your support or your money.

Michigan superdelegates: Jill Arper, Dennis Archer, John Conyers, Steven Cook, Brandon Dillon, Debbie Dingell, Mary Fleming, Barry Goodman, Norwood Jewell, Dan Kildee, Brenda Lawrence, Sandy Levin, Daryl Newman, Gary Peters, Nancy Quarles, Virgie Rollins, and Debbie Stabenow

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Snyder’s Email Reveals Andy Dillon Made “Ultimate Decision” on Flint Water Switch

A short time ago Governor Snyder released his emails related to the Flint water crisis. It appears that he did a keyword search for Flint and released all of his emails related to the City.  As you can imagine, that lead to a bunch of tantalizing information.  For instance, Lt. Governor Bryan Calley emailed Governor Snyder stating they should change Michigan’s election law to prevent City Councilman Eric Mays from being the only person on the ballot for the Mayor of Flint.  Calley noted “too much progress has been made in Flint to let it go to this guy.”  Snyder passed an election law and Mays did not become Mayor.  But for the moment, lets refocus on the Flint Water Crisis

Governor Snyder’s Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore emailed Snyder on September 25th of this year stating “the issue of Flint’s water and its quality continues to be a challenging topic.”  A few lines later Muchmore states “I can’t figure out why the state is responsible except that Dillon did make the ultimate decision so we’re not able to avoid the subject.” “Dillon” is Andy Dillion, Snyder’s appointee as State Treasurer.  Dillon resigned amidst many controversies in October of 2013.

Water

While some people have come to the defense of Snyder stating that the City Council voted for this switch, we know that is not true.  We know because Flint’s City Council President Joshua Freeman told us so, and we also know based on the investigation of Michigan Radio Network’s Lindsey Smith.  This was a complete failure of the executive branch. Governor Snyder’s appointment of Andy Dillon, Governor Snyder’s Emergency Managers in Detroit and Flint, who both had a hand in the switch, the former by jacking the rates and the latter by approving the move, all share in the blame.  In fact, the Detroit Free Press pointed the finger at Dillon and Flint’s Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz in November.  The difference now is that we have the Governor’s own Chief of Staff clarifying the matter for us.  And for those wondering about the Governor’s response to Muchmore’s email, it is pretty much like his response to the entire Flint water crisis, silence.

Governor Snyder, the recklessness of your administration is either taught or allowed. Either way, you are ultimately responsible for the Flint Water Crisis.  I hope you’ve learnd that people aren’t numbers.  Lead in the water is not just data.  It’s too bad that it took the poisoning of our children for you and some of your supporters to realize that running government like a business doesn’t work! Someday this state will recover, Flint’s children may not be as fortunate.

Note: Click on the last link to see how one of our State Representatives ran a business and knowingly endangered a city’s water supply

 

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Movie Review: Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next”

Traverse City, Michigan, December 22- Don’t let the title of Michael Moore’s new documentary “Where to Invade Next” fool you. This is not the anti-war movie you might be expecting.  Instead, Moore takes you on a invasion of foreign countries in search of good ideas that he can claim for the United States.  Moore declares himself the General of this invasion because, as he puts it, the U.S. Military “needs a time out.”

State Theatre

Moore starts his invasion in Italy interviewing workers and managers at a clothing manufacturer and at the well known motorcycle company Ducati.  What stands out in this scene isn’t just that the Italian workers are exceedingly happy, but that the management of these companies are motivated to have a happy, and therefore, healthy workforce. In Italy he plants the American flag declaring that he is taking their mandatory vacation time and two hour lunches back to the U.S.

Moore then travels to France to have lunch with some elementary students. The students talk with Moore while drinking glasses of water and passing around real plates of food, family style.  The menu, which gets regular community input, includes a cheese and a dessert round!  Moore declares that from France, he is taking quality school lunches back to the U.S. These explorations continue on for the majority of the two hour run time.  In each new location, a new idea is claimed by Moore for the United States.  Each time, the viewer is left wishing that bringing these ideas back to the U.S. was as easy as brining back Saddam Husein’s personal artifacts.

At many points in the film Moore provides his interviewees an opportunity to give the U.S. populace some advice.  Almost always their message is to live out the values upon which our country was founded.  At the end of the movie Moore and a close friend stand in Berlin reminiscing the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Moore tells us if the wall that symbolized communism all over the world could be torn down in such short time, we could tear down these political walls that are preventing us from being as happy as the people he encountered in so many countries around the world.

Moore

Moore answers questions at the movie’s release in Traverse City, Michigan.

Listen up.  It’s time to put away your lightsabers and go see a movie that could actually make a difference in this galaxy.  If you need to laugh, if you need to be inspired, if you need hope, you will find it in “Where to Invade Next.”  If the movie  does inspire you, like it did me, I hope you will take Michael Moore’s advice and “do more than just like things on Facebook.”  Moore has claimed the ideas we need to advance our way of life, it’s up to us to make it happen using whatever means are necessary.  “Where to Invade Next” is being released today in New York and L.A.  It will be released everywhere else in February.

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Mackinac Center’s Education Director’s Charter School had One Student Pass the MSTEP

If you follow this blog, you know that I’ve been keeping my eye on the charter school known as Taylor Preparatory Academy.  The Treasurer of their Board of Directors was Audrey Spalding, who was also the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Education Director.  Spalding was the treasurer from the school’s inception in 2013 until August when she stepped down from the Board and the Mackinac Center in order to relocate out of state. With all the anti-public school rhetoric that the Mackinac Center put out under her leadership, one would assume that her own charter school would be a shining example of their alternative to traditional public schools. The data tells a different story.

This week the state released the results of Michigan’s new standardized test known as the M-Step.  The M-Step was taken last spring.  The test is a disaster, but that is for another story. The story here is that Taylor Preparatory Academy only had one student, 7% of the test takers, pass the M-Step 11th grade math portion.  Meanwhile, the state average was 28%.  The Taylor Prep students performed well below the state average in all four areas of the test.
Taylor Prep

 

 

 

Spalding’s work at the Mackinac Center made the state’s public school children worse off. She vilified public school teachers while advocating for the expansion of for-profit charter schools. Everyone, including the Mackinac Center, knows that the biggest risk factor for poor performance in school is poverty.  Yet, Spalding and the Mackinac Center advocated for policies that pay teachers and support staff less, who usually live in the community, in order to send profits outside those communities. Besides, charter schools perform no better than traditional public schools.

Even though Spalding has moved on, the Mackinac Center will continue to churn out propaganda under their new Education Director Ben DeGrow.  Like Spalding, DeGrow has no formal training in education.  He will have plenty of cash to spend on misinformation thanks to secret contributions from people with ties with charter schools as well as the Dow Foundation.

Link: Sign the Petition to Tell the Dow Foundation to Stop Funding the Mackinac Center

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Former DTE Lobbyist Now Powerful Person in Michigan K-12 Education

Six months ago Naif (Nick) Khouri was the Senior Vice President, and a registered lobbyist, for DTE Energy.  That’s good work if you can get it.  Khouri was able to cash in over $700,000 in DTE stocks in the past 18 months, and he still holds over a million dollars worth of their shares by my math.  It appears that he decided to trade making big money for holding political power.  This past April Khouri was appointed to the position of State Treasurer by Governor Snyder, without requested and constitutionally required approval of the Michigan Senate.  Thanks to a new law, Khouri is now one of the most powerful people in K-12 education.

Typically, the State Superintendent is second most powerful person in K-12 education after the Governor.  However, a series of new laws has stolen power from the Superintendent, and the State Board of Education, and handed it over to other non-elected officials.  In March, Snyder used an executive order, rather than the legislative process, to move control of the State School Reform District, and its 212 schools, from the Department of Education to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget. That office is lead by David Behen, a man who has degrees in public administration, not public education.  In June, the Governor singed a series of “early warning” bills that puts 171 schools under the control of the Treasury, lead by Khouri, for having reserve funds, known as fund balance or fund equity, of 5% or less.  It also expanded the Tresurer’s power to include being able to recommend the district receive an Emergency Manager.

naif

Naif “Nick” Khouri

Khouri, who holds degrees in economics, isn’t new to the education reform game.  Khouri was one of twelve people who served on Governor John Engler’s Education Task Force on Education Reform in 1993 when he was chief deputy treasurer.  The task force took all of six weeks to come up with their reforms.  Out of that task force, two main concepts were pushed out according to the book Handbook of Educational Policy by Gregory Cizek.  The first was charter schools.  Charter schools were to be “a driving force to improve educational quality” which we now know has not come to bear.  The task force also made many of the recommendations that would later be passed as Proposal A.  Proposal A shifted the tax burden of schools from primarily property taxes to primarily a six percent, instead of four percent, sales tax.  While mostly successful, one key problem with the law is that some students, mostly in down state affluent areas, still get as much as $2,000 more a year in funding than other students throughout the state.

With all the arguing that Michigan schools are broken, which I don’t agree with, and as more and more schools are without question financially broke, we have to wonder why Republicans still think they have the answer to “school reform.”  Governor Engler’s reforms haven’t beared much fruit.  While one could argue that somehow the Granholm administration is at fault, Republicans have held the Senate since Engler was in office. No significant education policy, or any policy for that matter, has occurred without their stamp of approval.  Moving educational decisions out of the hands of people who study education and putting it in the hands of public administrators and lobbyists isn’t likely to help.  But we know this about a power grab and not about what’s best for children.

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The Real Reason Why Snyder is not Running for President is Hilarious!

Governor Rick Snyder recently declared he is not running for president.  While he has said he is not running because wants to focus his attention on Michigan, there is probably another, more likely, reason.  That reason can be found in his polling numbers.  Snyder’s favorably rating was only 5 percent in an Arizona poll conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) earlier this month.  Eighty-four percent of respondents were unsure about him, likely because they do not even know who he is.  This is the funny part though.  As a control, PPP  inserted Detroit Free Press writer Paul Egan into the poll.  Egan’s favorability rating was six percent!  One percent higher than the governor of the so called “comeback state!”

A story in The Atlantic discusses how PPP came about selecting Egan as their control. They also discussed a similar poll that seems to paint the Republican Party as gender bias.  That poll used a female professor from Texas as a control.  Despite the likelihood of no one actually knowing who she is, she had a twenty percent unfavorable rating!

I hope PPP conducts more polls with control candidates.  I’d like to see how the Republicans would respond to a Rodrigo Gonzales, and how the Democrats would respond to a Winston Charles Wellsley III.  If they want to throw my name in the mix versus one Richard Dale Snyder, I’d be up for that too!

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Proposal 1: The Devil You Know is Better Than the Devil You Don’t Know.

There is a lot not to like about Proposal 1, which is why polling suggests it could go down in flames. When Republicans recklessly cut business taxes by 1.6 billion, it was just a matter of time before someone had to pick up the tab to pay for essential needs like roads. If Proposal 1 were to pass, the people who would feel most pain would be lower income folks, which is why this is called a regressive tax.  That sting would be partially offset by bumping back up the earned income tax credit for about 800,000 Michigan families. While the initiative prevents money from the school aid fund being shifted to universities, it doesn’t stop it from being spent on community colleges.  This shell game is lifting the school aid fund of over $250 million dollars this coming year.  Nothing is stopping the legislature from fully funding community colleges from the school aid fund which could mean swiping another 135 million.

Despite all the negatives about proposal 1, I still support it.  The proposal will increase road funding, school funding, and at least provide some softening of the blow for lower income working people.  While I hate to subsidize the business industry, whose tax money should be covering these essential needs, I’m left with no other choice.  If this ballot question fails, “plan B” will likely be more regressive and harmful to schools.  After all, the current legislature is more conservative and more in the pocket of big business than the last one.  In this case, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.  Vote yes!

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Five Reasons to Vote for Michigan’s own Joshua Davis on The Voice

Here are five reasons to vote for Michigan’s own Joshua Davis who is in the top 8 on The Voice.

1.  Joshua Davis has more hometowns than Mitt Romney, but they’re all in Michigan!  Davis was born in Marquette and spent many of his summers there.  He grew up in Oak Park giving him the kind of suburban Detroit “cred” that Kid Rock brags about.  Davis went to college in East Lansing and honed some of his skills playing weekly in a band there.  Davis  now lives in Traverse City.  He has played in many of the big towns and small towns in between his hometowns and yours.

2.  Joshua Davis believes in collective bargaining.  He introduces his song “Working Man’s Hymn” with a shout-out to those who are fighting for those rights here in Michigan.  By the way, “Working Man’s Hymn” might be Davis’ best song.  Check out the song below.

3. Joshua Davis has some great insight into the Israeli Palestine conflict.  Davis is half Jewish.  He visited Israel when he was younger and more recently he traveled to Palestine as a “cultural emissary.”  He wrote a whole album about the experience and gave a Ted-X talk about it too.  Both his music and his talk are really enlightening, especially for those of us who have never visited either Israel or Palestine.

4. Joshua Davis has a lot of courage.  Most of us are afraid to strike out and chase our dreams the way Davis has.  Davis has been a full-time musician since graduating college.   His appearance on The Voice is just another step in his journey.  The guy is pretty gutsy!

5. Joshua Davis is more talented than the rest of the singers in the Voice’s top 8.   Depending on your taste in music, you may think there are more talented singers left in the contest.  However, none of them can play guitar the way Davis can, and none of them have written the kind of songs Davis has.  His choice of genres is out of the mainstream, but his talent is out of this world.

Check out the official #davisnation page to find out all the ways you can vote.

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After Four Years of Blogging, is it Time to Stop?

Four years and no scores ago I posted my first article on this blog.  A lot has changed since then.  I have a third kid in tow, a larger yard to mow, and I’ve pretty much let my physical fitness completely go.

While my life changed before my eyes, the political landscape hasn’t change much at all. Governor Snyder is still in office and his policies still favor the elite over the working class.  He is still stealing money from public schools by transferring school aid money to the general fund.  Despite blogging, writing letters to the editor, writing letters to my representatives, protesting, networking, knocking doors, and crying in the fetal position, not much has changed.

There have been good things that have come from all this blogging.  I had a post that was shared over 8,000 times, and that was a pretty good feeling.  Sometimes people reach out to thank me for putting into words what they are thinking, and I appreciate those conversations.  My trip to Netroots Nation last summer allowed me to meet cool activists and bloggers like Chris Savage at Ecletablog.  It also gave me an opportunity to meet U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and Michigan Senator Gretchen Whitmer.  These are two of the most capable and charismatic people on the progressive team.  I hope someday to see them leading their respective executive branches.

In the past four years I’ve also seen several good progressive blogs come and go.  I think I know why these blogs die nearly as fast as the Mayfly.  It is hard to find time to research and write.  It’s hard to find the energy.  Most bloggers aren’t even able to cover their expenses with their blogs ads.  Then there is a chance that their employer, or a potential employer, won’t approve of them making so much political noise.  There is also the potential for a combination of all the aforementioned.

So at the four year point, I know I’m not done quite yet.  I have several posts in the pipeline about the shortcoming of for-profit charter schools.  I have more to say about employers paying a living wage and consumers helping those efforts by buying local.  But at some point, I might run out of energy, or I just might run out of topics that haven’t been regurgitated like so many Mayflys from mother Robin to her baby.  Maybe instead of writing I’ll figure out a more effective way to promote change in the political landscape. Whatever the case may be, when the time comes, I’ll make like Forest Gump and just stop. I’ll let you know when that time is.  For the moment though, please keep reading.  I appreciate you giving me a few moments of your day, and I’ll try to make it worth your time.

Sincerely,

Chad Phillips

 

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