All the Way to the Bank.

All the Way to the Bank.

Did you hear them laughing?

At the RNC, did you hear them scoffing at community organization? Did you hear them interrupt Rudi Giuliani with loud scoffing and booing when Rudi mentioned Obama's community organization record.

I did.

I heard Giuliani say "perhaps that was his first mistake" and the Republican convention cheered and jeered in unison.

The audacity!

They are laughing at me, and they are laughing at you. They are laughing at every American who has been put out of work because their job was shipped overseas. They are laughing at every American who has lost their home in the housing downturn. They are laughing at every victim of Hurricane Katrina, whose lot was made a thousand times worse because the White House was derelict in its duty.

They are laughing at every American that has been hurt by the Republican Party's eight long years of dereliction in their duty.

They are laughing at YOU.

And the Republicans laugh... all the way to the bank.

They make the mess, community organizers clean it up, and Republicans laugh... because for the most part, the mess they left behind has made them a packet of money.

And they laugh.

Never mind the human cost of their actions, never mind the pain and suffering it inflicts upon whole communities,

they laugh... because their bottom line is better for the pain and suffering the rest of us endure.

Palin and Giuliani both scoffed at the pain and suffering of ordinary Americans,

And then they have the nerve to call Obama "Elitist."

They must be beyond the scope of economic downturn, they must be wealthy enough to endure the train-wreck that is the Bush Administration's economic policy, they must be so damned rich and powerful, that they don't get it at all.

And then, there was the chant.

Regardless of the McCain-Palin stand on "standing up to big oil", it is pretty clear that the Republican Party is still run by big oil, and that Palin and McCain are both up to the gills in it.

"Drill baby drill" chants the crowd, whenever anybody mentions energy policy.

It might have worked in the 60's folks (it was bad policy then) but it can't wash now.

Oil interests in the White House have led this country to the brink of economic collapse, and the Republican answer to employment, the economy, and the energy crisis is "Drill baby drill."

Has America become so inured to politics that we can no longer spell cynical?

And they laugh... because their bottom line is better now than it ever was.

The cynical jokes of Big Oil Republicans have cost this country everything it holds dear,

and they're still laughing...

...all the way to the bank.

Its time to wipe that stupid grin from their faces.


Rodney B. Smith
Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA


Here we go again !!!

UPDATE: I have been informed by a council member that enforcement of this ordinance would be the responsibility of the School Liaison Officer, who apparently spends her time in school, where she would not find any truant children. So what is the point of the legislation? Does the city want to leave the door open for draconian, community-wide law enforcement because the school district can't take responsibility for those in its charge? This is even more preposterous, not less so!!

They’re at it again.

It would seem that the City of Ypsilanti is really good at proposing bad laws.

Now, mostly, I keep my nose out of City business because I live in the township. However, every now and then the City presents an ordinance that might actually affect me or mine.

This time, the City is proposing a curfew on all children between 6 and 16 years of age during school hours.

The proposed ordinance reads

Sec. 74-325. Generally.

A. It is unlawful for a minor under the age of 16 years who is enrolled in a public or private educational program to be absent from school and in a public place, as defined in subsection B.

Sec. 74-326. Definition.

A public place means any public street, avenue, highway, roadway, curb area, alley, park, playground or other public ground, place or building, amusement place, eating place, vacant lot, or any place open to the public during the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. when school is in session.

This, folks, is a curfew.

Now, the ordinance includes 10 exceptions for various cases where children may be enrolled in other institutions, or may be home-schooled, etcetera.

The fundamental problem is that it is effectively illegal for our children to be on the street during school hours, and the nature of the exceptions is that the burden of proof lies with the child.

What this means is that Chief Harshberger and his police officers are to assume that any child seen in a public place during school hours is in breach of this ordinance, and the officers are obliged to interrogate the child to determine if the child qualifies as exempt.

Lets go through a couple of examples.

An adolescent attends a charter school and his class has a half-day off on some pretext or other. He is in his father’s café, helping out and chatting with customers while his father is at work at another job. A police officer, upon entering that café, is obliged to interrogate the young man to determine whether he is within the law under this ordinance.

What level of stupidity is this?

What is the pressing issue that has our children under the threat of interrogation every time they leave their homes or school premises during public school hours?

Apparently the school district is having a truancy problem, and this is a proposal that is supposed to address it. As far as I can tell, truant children are not a threat to public safety, nor are they gathering in numbers and creating a public nuisance. Even if they were, we already have laws to cover that.

Apparently, then, the problem is an administrative one within the school district, and the school district is looking for a way to enlist the support of the City via the police force in its enforcement of the state’s truancy laws.

Well folks, this is the wrong solution!!

This ordinance makes it a police officer’s duty to interrogate every minor seen on the street during public school hours, whether the minor is making a nuisance or not. As if the officers don’t have enough on their plate as it is.!!

Another example.

I educate my son at home. In a few years, he will be old enough to do simple errands on his own. Suppose our lessons are done for the day, we are visiting Depot Town, and we get caught up yammering politics with someone on the street.

Suppose I send Jack to the café to grab an ice-cream. He ends up yammering to Forrest, (who has, by this time, graduated but Jack has known Forrest for years.)

An officer is obliged to interrogate Jack for being in a public place during school hours.

Yep, you heard right, my son could be interrogated for buying an ice-cream.

Now, suppose my son were to get defensive if the police officer starts to ask him about curriculum, then the officer is obliged to come to me and find out if I am in compliance with the law.

The ordinance reads that I must be educating Jack in an “organized educational program” according to exemption 10

10) The minor is being educated in an organized educational program at the minor’s home by his or her parent, legal guardian in accordance with Public Act No. 451 of 1976 (MCL 380.1, et seq.).

I have no problem complying with that, it is a requirement of state law.

I would hate to think, however, that an officer of the City of Ypsilanti Police Force might feel the need to come to my home in Ypsilanti Township to determine whether or not I am educating my son in a manner consistent with the law. I may also feel reluctant to believe that such an officer was qualified to make such a determination.

Now, if they just struck the words "in an organized educational program", then there is no obligation from the officer to determine anything more than that I am home-schooling.

So, recapping our hypothetical, I sent Jack to buy an ice-cream during public school hours, and it could end up that I face court on truancy charges because a police officer may not be qualified to make a judgment on my home-school curriculum.

Do you see why I am torqued about this?

It is the most extreme case, but it is possible under the ordinance as it is written now.

A curfew is the type of extreme measure that civilized societies reserve for times when all reasonable avenues have failed to address an issue of civil unrest or public nuisance.

A curfew is a heavy-handed measure to address a problem within the public school administration, which, as far as I can tell, causes no public nuisance.

Truancy laws are designed to bring to justice those abusive and reprobate parents/guardians who refuse to educate those children in their care.

Interrogating children who are going about their lawful business in an orderly manner is a high price for our community to pay for the failures of our school district.

No citizen should suffer police interrogation while going about his or her normal, lawful business, least of all a child!!.

Take Care



Paul Allen Curry, 1949-2008

Paul Allen Curry was a friend of mine.

In the strange new world that I had imported myself into, Al represented that very authentic Irish-working-class ethic that had permeated my previous existence. It was for this reason, more than any other, that Al and I shared a lasting friendship.

I came to the United States to marry my wife. It sounds a little gooey when I write it like that, but that was really the crux of it. This brought me into a strange new environment, not only America, with seasons, directions, and road-laws all done backwards, but also the middle class in the Midwest, where forthright is a swearword and subtext is everything.

Disoriented doesn’t begin to describe it. I had come from the Australian working class, where a man’s word was his bond, actions spoke louder than words, and subtext was a luxury that no-one had time, energy, or inclination to indulge.

Not long after Misti and I were married, her friend Shelly announced her engagement to Al Curry, and not long afterwards, I had a chance to meet the guy.

Shelly knows from manners and graces, and much of what I know about getting by in the middle class, I learned from Shelly (the rest of it I learned from my wife).

You can imagine my utter amazement, then, when I met Al. Al had learned the right language and the respectful way of doing social niceties, but he left no-one, ever, in any possible doubt, about what he thought; be it about them or about what they thought.

We hit it off immediately. I could have the conversations with Al that I had previously had with my bothers back home, where the shouting and emphatic language of ardent debate eventually gave way to rollicking laughter and the clatter-and-hiss of making more coffee and opening more beer.

For the first time since landing in America, I had found the flavour of home.

Al and I spent many a night exchanging yarns a devouring good whiskey while our wives nattered and did… whatever it is the womenfolk do when the guys are in thick and furious debate.

Of Al Curry, I would have to say that he was as true to himself as any mortal person could be. He was what he was, you could like it or lump it, but he wasn’t going to give a damn either way. He took responsibility for all of his own actions, and demanded that everyone else, from president to beggar, should do the same.

Al was a story-teller. His yarns about raising hell as a irreverent farm boy, and the various incidents and accidents that form the fabric of his life were a delight to hear. Al and I spent a lot of time exchanging yarns, but as a storyteller, he made me look like a rank amateur, though he never made me feel that way.

Al was a curmudgeon. He didn’t see the point in being nice for the sake of it, if he liked you, well and good, if he didn’t, that was perfectly obvious as well. He didn’t much care for the company of kids, he saw no point in liking people just because they are small, and he made no secret of that; though our Jack was well enough behaved that he didn’t mind him, and his grandchildren were the apple of his eye.

Al was forthright. He left no doubt in anyone’s mind what he thought about any issue. Unlike many opinionated people, Al could back his words with sound reason, and while I may not always have agreed with him, I could always see why he believed what he did.

Al was spiritual. You had to know him well to know that side of him at all, but the things that mattered to Al, mattered very deeply indeed. Being raised a Baptist cured him of any liking for religion. This did not stop him believing in God, but he had a real hard time believing in any church.

Al was, most of all, a writer. Shelly tells me he wrote every day. Writing is not something he did, a writer is what he was. Al had a CD published, he was an accomplished musician and a damned good songwriter, he also had a manuscript kicking around called “the free lunch chronicles” which was an aptly named collection of autobiographical yarns, the sort of stories that will get you a free lunch on a regular basis. The yarns are, of course, embellished just a little, but they make an entertaining read, and the core information is factual.

My most memorable experience of Al’s writing was in e-mail. Every now and then we’d be treated to an acerbic, irreverent, opinionated article about one level of government malfeasance or another. Al’s way with words and imagery was a delight to read, and well worth a re-read. His language was often strong, and his commentary was over-the-top, but it was so beautifully crafted you had to admire it.

Al died in the wee small hours of March 18, 2008, the day after St Patrick’s day, the day Al often referred to as the festival of amateur drunks and once-a-year Irish. This didn’t stop him getting plastered, flirting with the girls, and yammering in Gaelic to any who would listen.

Four of us sang “Danny Boy” to close his funeral, and that first sense of familiarity, the one friend I had in this country who could fill the place of a brother, was laid to rest.

I liked Al a lot.

I miss him.


Its not just republicans!!

Open letter to the Michigan Legislature

The Michigan Legislature has before it House Bill Number 5912, a bill that would require home-schooled children to be registered with their school district.

My first question is why?

The United States of America is built on the principle of freedom, and Michigan has fought, from its very inception, to maintain as much independence as is feasible from federal government inteference.

Are we not aware of the young Governor Mason, who was deposed briefly by federal intervention for purposes of political expedience, who was re-elected in a landslide by the people of Michigan who, on the same day, voted for the constitution which serves our state so well? We, the citizens of the State of Michigan, don’t like government interference unless we can see good reason for it.

It alarms me that the state legislature now intends to have home-schooled children registered with the state, a requirement that flies in the face of our freedom and can serve no useful end.

There is no good reason to register home-schooled children with the school district. It therefore represents a needless intrusion into the privacy of Michigan's citizens.

For any tale of woe about an irresponsible family who neglects their children by failing to educate them, there are a thousand such tales of publicly educated children who enter high-school without basic literacy skills.

Registering home-educators with the state system will not, nor can it, improve either situation. While home-education will continue successfully as it always has, the already burdened state system will have the increased workload of registering its home-educators and their students to no useful end. The increase in burden may not be great, but any increase is too much for a system that is already struggling.

As a home-educator, I can assure you that government registration represents a significant barrier to home-educating families who may consider moving to Michigan. Home-educators tend to be the very type of "can-do" people that are needed in this state as we pave a brighter future for our children.

There is no evidence to suggest that home-education in Michigan is broken. Registration of home-educators serves no useful end.

Registering home-educators with the state system can only serve to burden an already under-funded system with useless information, and present one more barrier for the families who want to immigrate to our state in these difficult times.

Please reconsider your co-sponsorship of this bill that flies in the face of our freedom, intrudes on our privacy, and adds to the already substantial burden that the people of the State of Michigan bear in these difficult times.


Rodney B. Smith
Home Educator

Please feel free to hijack any part of this for your own protest letters.

Representative Brenda Clack is the major sponsor of this bill.

Rep. Brenda Clack
N0798 House Office Building
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909-7514


CO-SPONSORS OF H.B. 5912 are:
(There are 24, you might want to select those who represent you.)

Joan Bauer: 517-373-0826, joanbauer@house.mi.gov
Bob Constan: 517-373-0849, bobconstan@house.mi.gov
Marc Corriveau: 517-373-3816, marccorriveau@house.mi.gov
Robert Dean: 517-373-2668, robertdean@house.mi.gov
Kate Ebli: 517-373-2617, KateEbli@house.mi.gov
Barbara Farrah: 517-373-0845, barbarafarrah@house.mi.gov
Richard Hammel: 517-373-7557, richardhammel@house.mi.gov
Ted Hammon: 517-373-3906, tedhammon@house.mi.gov
Shanelle Jackson: 517-373-1705, shanellejackson@house.mi.gov
Bert Johnson: 517-373-0144, bertjohnson@house.mi.gov
Robert Jones: 517-373-1785, robertjones@house.mi.gov
Kathleen Law: 517-373-1799, davidlaw@house.mi.gov
Richard LeBlanc: 517-373-2576, richardleblanc@house.mi.gov
Gabe Leland: 517-373-6990, gabeleland@house.mi.gov
Mark Meadows: 517-373-1786, markmeadows@house.mi.gov
Fred Miller: 517-373-0159, fredmiller@house.mi.gov
Gino Polidori: 517-373-0847, ginopolidori@house.mi.gov
Joel Sheltrown: 517-373-3817, joelsheltrown@house.mi.gov
Mike Simpson: 517-373-1775, mikesimpson@house.mi.gov
Alma Smith: 517-373-1771, almasmith@house.mi.gov
Virgil Smith: 517-373-0589, virgilsmith@house.mi.gov
Aldo Vagnozzi: 517-373-1793, aldovagnozzi@house.mi.gov
Lisa Wojno: 517-373-2275, lisawojno@house.mi.gov

All of them can also be reached at:

N0798 House Office Building
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909-7514


The Hard Work Begins

Congratulations to the SCIT campaign, now the hard work begins.

While Ypsilanti has shouted down the tax proposal in a 2-to-1 NO vote, as well it should, its citizens now have a lot of work to do.

Ypsilanti’s citizens have voted to do the hard work now, as opposed to having a greater burden imposed on future generations.

So they need to get busy. With the income tax firmly out of the question, it is now up to Ypsilanti’s best and brightest to come up with a plan for the future that does not increase the tax burden, yet shows a clear path towards prosperity.

Make no mistake about it, things will get worse before they can get any better, but a clear vision that embraces the determination of Ypsilanti’s citizens for a better future will make the short-term pain worth it for the long-term gain.

The stranglehold on power enjoyed by the former mayor has been soundly defeated. Ypsi’s most prominent citizens need to forge a new vision, a new direction forwards that faces the harsh realities of our current situation head-on, and carries its citizens forward into a brighter future.

While I am inclined to hope that the welfare of the whole city is more important than winning or losing a single issue, I have been shocked by the antics of some of the key players in this issue in the past. For this reason all eyes should be on the actions of council to make sure that those who were defeated don’t make life more difficult than it needs to be.

I supported Paul Schrieber on the Parkview issue because I believed he had the best interests of the Parkview tenants at heart.

I opposed Paul Schreiber in the Mayoral campaign because I knew he would support this tax.

I would like to see Mayor Schreiber stand up to be counted, to take this defeat in his stride, and to bring the citizens of Ypsilanti together under a new vision. I would like to believe in Paul’s own desire to represent his city well, to shake off the baggage of the past, and to honor the faith that the citizens of Ypsilanti have invested in him.

Roll your sleeves up, citizens of Ypsilanti, its time to put your shoulders to the wheel, there’s a lot of work to be done.

Take Care



Ypsilanti's What??

Income tax to be defeated

Cross-posted on Astrosage

I have a strong astro-hunch that the city income tax will be soundly defeated tomorrow. Mundane (political outcomes prediction) is not my specialty, though I am researching that field.

My educated hunch, then, is that the tax will be defeated. I think many members of the Mayor’s support base will come out to vote, but will vote no.

I’m not pretending to be impartial on this issue, I have been firmly against it for years.

Ypsilanti faces tough challenges in the housing and business markets, without facing the extra burden of an income tax. It’s a bad idea, there will never be a good time for it in this community.

The cuts that have to be made (with or without the tax) can be made without cutting police and fire services.

The tax is being proposed by the folks who masterminded the Water Street debacle, a sorry blight on Ypsilanti’s landscape that will cost taxpayers 32 million dollars, and is currently home to many derelict buildings, several flocks of geese, and squirrels, groundhogs, and water rats of unknown number.

These are the same people campaigning for Ypsilanti’s future.

These people are well intended, but severely challenged in the delivery department. If Water Street is anything to go by, then Downtown Detroit, Flint, and Hamtramck are going to look prosperous and inviting compared to Ypsilanti’s future under these clowns.

Take Care



The First Round of the income tax battle

Round 1

Ypsilanti hosts dozens of special interest festivals in the course of the year, however the Heritage festival is the ”big one” for the locals… hell even I go to that one and I’m nobody’s socialite.

Well, it seems that the movers and shakers who are peddling the income tax have leaned on the Heritage Festival organizers, and the Stop City Income Tax crew have been stopped from joining the parade.

I haven’t looked into this very deeply, but I know the SCIT folks had received their place (44) and their note of thanks from the Jaycees.

I know that the SCIT folks intended top use a Hybrid vehicle as part of their parade.

The SCIT folks applied for position in the parade with the name “Stop City Income Tax”.

Now, these are the relevant rules of the parade.


7. Units sponsored by or depicting a political or controversial issue will not be permitted in the Parade.
8. No vehicle is permitted to accompany marching units unless authorized by the Parade committee
10. AUTOMOBILES must be antique, or at least twenty-five years old. If you are sending a Queen or Royalty, if you are a politician, if you are a neighborhood group and do not have a float, the transportation for the parade must be in an antique car or truck or fire engine. NO CURRENT AUTOMOBILES WILL BE ALLOWED unless they are pulling a float.

My problem is this.

The organizers of the event have the right to make whatever rules and regulations they want for their event within reason.

They even have the right to enforce those rules how they please, again within reason.

The time to reject the SCIT proposal on either political or vehicular grounds was when the SCIT folks applied for it.

It is really bad form for the Heritage Festival committee to give these folks a place, and then pull the pin at the last minute. It is small-minded, petty, not to mention rude, and ignorant to do so. If the person who approved the application in the first place was in error, then the committee needs to live with its error.

It would seem that, in first allowing the SCIT folks to think they had a place, and then dismissing their hard work and preparation out-of-hand, the Herritage Festival Committee have expressed a strong political opinion in favor of the tax…

And I thought rule 7 was supposed to avoid all that? …. Silly me …

As usual, Ypsilanti’s movers and shakers get to set a double-standard which espouses equality and free speech on paper, but serves a very specific political agenda in reality.

I can’t believe Ypsi’s citizens are still eating this crap.

Wasn’t that what the Boston Tea Party was all about? Doing away with the influence of a few to impose higher taxes and increased burdens on the masses?

Maybe the next SCIT adventure should be a “Tea Party” at Farmer Meadows (Water Street)...

While round 1 officially goes to the Campaign for Ypsilanti’s Future, (the pro-tax group) for stopping the SCIT parade run, I think they have just cost themselves a lot of support in the long term.

Take care



Income Tax- the final showdown

The Battle Royal

Yawn...stretch...blink…blink… somebody say fight?

So it’s official, we now have two organized camps to re-hash and re-debate the city income tax.

If you have made up your mind about the tax, you will obviously be persuaded by the eloquence of your favoured camp. If not, then you might want to read this.

The question comes down to a matter of trust. Who do you believe? More importantly, but less frequently asked, why should you believe them?

The only reason to believe any of them is if they are heading in a direction you want to go.

In my world, “lips moving” is a sure sign that a politician is twisting the facts. It is true on both sides of any debate, it is true on both sides of the larger political arena, and it is true in most units of government.

The basic question, then, is not about truth or personal integrity, but about direction. Is [name the person] taking our city in a direction I want to go?

The two directions are these.

For the tax: A fear based campaign based on the ability to maintain services. In a nutshell, if you don’t give us the tax we will cut your police and fire services, blight will increase, as will insurance costs.

Against the tax: A hard-nosed campaign based on the inability of the tax to provide services in the long term. Basically, the tax cannot preserve existing services for more than 5 of the 6 years it will supposedly be in place for. With Water Street included in the budget, that is more like 2 years.

What the "for tax" camp is not saying is that, after 2 years (thanks to Water Street), we will have to make the same cuts in services with the same "dire" outcomes.

What the "against tax" camp is not saying is that the increased revenue stream makes the cuts (and the impact of Water Street) less drastic.

What the "for tax" camp is not saying is that, once their "temporary" tax is in place, the city will not be able to be solvent without it. There is nothing temporary about it. If you buy the idea that we need it in the first place, you will buy the idea that we can't continue without it.

The "for tax" camp also fails to address the impact on housing and business that the tax has. Its presence on the agenda has stalled housing markets in the city for years already. It fails to address how it is that the poorest community in the county is soon to have the highest tax rate-and for what extra services are we paying such a premium?

OK, so what ARE the facts that we can glean from the bologna?

The city is in poor financial shape.

The Blue Ribbon Committee on City Finances tells us the city is being well run. (Basically, the “well run” assessment means there is no obvious graft or corruption… I asked at the time).

The city cannot maintain services at current levels, with or without the tax.

There’s really not much more to it. Do we buy a couple of years of services, or do we begin to cut now?

For my money, we should bite the bullet and cut services, all the while working to make the best use of the resources we have. I expect we can trim some jobs in city hall without sacking firefighters and police officers.

Adding the tax gives the architects of Water Street (Farmer Meadows? … goose-poop acres?) a “new credit card”, paid for by the blood-sweat and tears of the rest of us. I don’t feel that the City Manager, Mayors past or present, or most of the city council have proven themselves responsible enough to handle the credit card without getting us into much deeper doo-doo.

The city’s fiscal situation is a mess. Water Street has compounded that mess many fold. Throwing money at it didn’t help before, it is not going to help now. The city manager has to start managing his departments in a way that IS sustainable and the good folks of Ypsilanti are going to have to live with it.

The addition of an extra tax burden does nothing to help the growth of our city, and cuts can be made that don’t affect police and fire.

In essence, the city needs to elect officials who are prepared to do the hard things necessary to achieve viability, rather than to continue to spend money we don’t have in the vain hope that the economy will turn around.

The bottom line - Do you want to pay more tax or not?

Its going to be difficult without the tax, its going to be difficult with the tax. The end result will be much the same either way.

Either way, there are drastic cuts to be made.

Either way, Water Street will draw heavily on the city’s coffers for the foreseeable future.

Either way, the people of Ypsilanti will have to roll their sleeves up and work their way out of this mess.

Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Take Care



"Interesting Times"


I have had plenty else to focus on of late, so Ypsi politics has taken a back seat for a while.

As some of you maybe aware, I have just started an astrology blog where I will be making general predictions for the district based on the full and new moons. These are not the sort of thing to bet the house on, but rather a general comment on community attitudes and the issues that are going to be on many minds over any two week period.

I just learned that a bunch of ypsi residents is issuing a recall election order on four city council members. (I told you I’ve been out of the loop!!). I knew the idea was being tossed around a few weeks ago, and I expressed my loathing for such actions. Then my life took my attention to other matters and I didn’t hear any more. I’ve been too busy to read the local papers and blogs, and so here I am, mostly in the dark.

The astrology favors grass roots support for major issues and suggests an open attack on the city for an act of oblivious mismanagement. The speech that launches the attack will be hard-hitting, cold, and full of dry facts.

I believe this will be the period that the good folk of Ypsilanti finally “get it” about water street and about the “head in the sand” approach taken by previous administrations.

I expect the backlash to take the leadership by surprise. The winner of this fight will be the party who can muster the anger of the people. I think the recall petition will gain a lot of strength under this moon.

The city will be stirring up its support base to sure up its position.

The climate is right for the community to get really angry over this one.

It has been my experience, however, that folks in this community enjoy attacking one another far more than they enjoy getting to the bottom of anything.

I have fanned a few of those fires, and I have no intention of fanning another.

Have at it folks.

Take Care



The Grumpy Old Men

Well that was fun…..

As I have said, I frequent the conservative debates because I find them interesting, entertaining, and often informative.

In a momentary lapse of reason, “yours truly” became the consensus nominee to fill Peter Fletcher’s position as moderator.

Yep, you heard right, Rodney “Left of Lenin” Smith moderating the conservative debate.

I find it amusing to be referred to as a left-winger in this country.

In Australia I hold a “middle ground” position with some sympathetic leanings to the left. My Labor Party friends are decidedly to my left, my Liberal Party (conservative- go figure) friends are decidedly to my right, and I would weigh the issues argument by argument to take my own stance.

The same position here puts me firmly in the left, and many of my democratic friends have positions well to the right of my own. I guess the difference is that I believe firmly in socialized medicine, the necessity of the trade-union movement (though it is often a necessary evil), the integral benefits of a living wage, and a solid social security net.

These are “middle ground” positions where I come from, the left and right arguments determine how these fundamentals should be administered.

Now to another misnomer… the conservative debate is actually not quite so conservative. It is certainly moderated by Peter Fletcher (a well known, and delightfully eloquent conservative in these parts) and it is probably the only regular gathering of conservatives in the (extremely liberal) county. It is true that the conservative position is always represented, but there are some notable liberals in regular attendance, and their voice receives a fair airing.

Politicians from all camps frequent the place, but the part I enjoy most is being able to discuss real issues with real people, some with whom I agree, and some with whom I don’t. There are folks on both sides of the political fence who hold indefensible positions in my opinion.

I won’t name names or quote speeches, because part of the gathering’s charm is that folks can be themselves without having every word scrutinized by the press.

I have earned a modest reputation as a smart-alec heckler in the group. I love to pepper the conversation with apropos (and sometimes non-apropos) “one liners” to keep us from taking ourselves too seriously. I pick and choose the topics I actually weigh in on, and like anyone else, I am heard out and often debated.

I have learned a great deal about American politics by attending these debates, and in a strange way, I have learned a lot about Australian politics as well.

It has become abundantly clear to me how elections are swayed by opinion, rather than by reason, in this country and my own.

You see, it doesn’t matter how defensible a position is. Reason is for those who concern themselves with such things. Political opinion begins with a plausible premise, reinforces it with an overly-simplistic analogy, attaches one of several emotive “catch cries” to it, and then proclaims itself sound reason. I am constantly amazed how little analysis folks do of an opinion before they espouse it, and how many eloquent and notable people dispense such hyperbole on a regular basis for the masses to lap up.

I watch this happen time and again, and well-intended folks rally to a cause that has little base in either fact or sound reason.

My wife and son have come to refer to this meeting as “The Grumpy Old Men”, so if you spot such a reference in the future, you know what I’m talking about.

Take Care



"The Secret" -in the balance

I finally had a look at “the Secret” the other day, and was somewhat underwhelmed. Billed as a thread of knowledge that has permeated the great minds of philosophy and science, you can imagine my let-down to be greeted by “Norman Vincent Peale meets the Celestine Prophecy”.

I think the thing that undoes it for me is that they give one-line quotes from some of the greatest minds in Western and Eastern thought without doing a single scrap of work to establish the source of the quote, let alone what it meant within its original context.

In other words, they quote great minds in the same manner that an evangelist might quote scripture, and like the evangelist, our “teachers” expect to be taken at their word.

In short, it is academically lazy and chock-a-block full of positive thinking pep talk. I had hoped that the authors might have attempted to string their affirmations together with something more enlightening than “great achievers are deeply focussed on their goals.”

On the positive side, the “law of attraction” they espouse actually has a lot of merit. It is the principle wherein we tend to manifest whatever is foremost in our thoughts. Visual cues take precedence over academic ones, and the intensity of “belief” takes precedence over empty repetition. We are conditioned to find negative thoughts more believable than positive ones, and with a bit of deliberate thought, we can reverse that trend and change our lives. Its pretty basic really, but we do need to be told, so I guess this presentation does that much.

In my experience, the “law of attraction” is one of several metaphysical laws that can be studied in depth by any student of the great metaphysical and religious disciplines. It is only “secret” because we tend to be intellectually lazy. I find it ironic that the post-modern era and the “information age” are co-existent with a pandemic that is best characterized by intellectual sloth. “The Secret” is actually hidden in plain sight.

Affirmation is a useful tool in good hands, but like any tool it leaves itself open to abuse. If you don’t use it properly, it won’t work well. Affirmation and visualization should be used as part of a larger metaphysical model, lest the hapless practitioner visualize and affirm their way into abject misery, a principle simply summed up by the old adage “be careful what you wish for”.

For $4.95, the refresher course in "attraction" is probably good value for money. Certainly the information us useful to those who have never encountered the concept.

My only real criticism of the presentation is that it is overly materialistic in its emphasis, which says a great deal more about its sponsors and its target audience, than it does about the quality of information it carries.

One would hope that the “teachers of the secret” take their students through a broader metaphysical training than the one they espouse in the presentation.

There is a free viewing here if you, like me, are simply curious about what these folks are peddling.

In summary, intellectually lazy and materialistic in focus, but nevertheless a reasonable refresher course in “the law of attraction” that is better taken as part of your greater metaphysical model than as a stand-alone.

Take Care



Stockings Stuffed!!

I’ve got to say that the “Stuff your Stocking” night in Depot town is a stroke of genius.

Our son, Jack, is now 3 years old. The “Stuff your Stocking” night represents a perfect way for us to celebrate the things we find most important in this season.

I like supporting local business. I like doing stuff for kids, particularly when they’re having a rough run. I like to teach my children about the value of contribution, and about the importance of making a difference in your community with what you have at your disposal.

My wife and I have been developing a set of seasonal rituals for our new family, being that the old ones we had were not appropriate for many reasons.

I grew up in a secular country that gives a nod to religion. For me, Christmas is a celebration of childhood and children. If there are no kids, it isn’t Christmas. Being from the southern hemisphere, beer and barbecue are common Christmas fare in my world, and Christmas itself portends the beginning of the summer season. (There is enough cultural hang-over from Mother England that many have roast lamb and plum pudding despite the heat… what was that about mad dogs and Englishmen?... but I digress).

A browse through the many fine shops in depot-town was a long-overdue excursion we had not previously made the time for. Shopping has always fallen under the category of “necessary evil” in my universe. I find it a lot less daunting in places like Depot Town. Now that I know what’s available and where, I can make a point of stopping by more frequently.

So, congratulations are in order for Laura and FF, of Ypsidixit fame, and Jim from Café Luwak for pulling this together out of thin air in less than 10 days, and to the participating vendors in Depot Town, without whom it wouldn’t be possible at all.

I’m looking forward to next year.

Well Done!!

Take Care




I realize I’ll probably get shot down in flames for this, but I’ll do it anyway.

So, the Democrats have taken the house and the senate at a national level, and the house at the state level, and City Hall at the local level. I should be heartened by this, right?

I went over to Ypsinews.com to have a look at how our new mayor, Democrat Paul Schreiber, is doing.

While the ypsinews crew managed to lose the first 30 minutes of the meeting, the last 43 minutes (actually the last 5 minutes is great viewing)told enough of the story for me to be see pretty much what I expected. Mayor Schreiber looking nervous but affable, Mayor Pro Tem Swanson looking calm and authoritative, Bill Nickels providing a sage voice of reason and the other players taking their usual roles.

Councilman Brian Robb in a suit and tie looked understandably uncomfortable trying to feel his way into his new role, but his comments made it clear that his heart is in the right place and I expect finesse will come with time.

I wish I could be so kind about the Mayor. Oh, I’m sure he will also develop finesse as time goes on, but the heart in the right place is the part that has me concerned.

Paul’s campaign for the democratic nomination was rife with inaccuracies and controversies. When his commitment to free speech was called to question, it was answered with a legal opinion. When the integrity of one of his endorsements was called into question, he remained defiant. He believed he would win regardless, and he was right. He did win without being held to account for any of it.

Now, all of the above can be put down to the thrust and parry of political campaigning, and the man’s work should really be judged by his conduct in office.

Unfortunately, his very first personal proposal in the mayoral office was to do away with the resolution to call an end to a public hearing. He wanted to be able to do this unilaterally himself. The reason cited? To save time. Now I ask you…? One minute to go through the motions of calling an end to a public hearing, yes it’s a drag, but it doesn’t take long. Far more importantly, EVERYBODY knows the hearing is finished, if someone on council has a point to make, they have a final chance to make it.

To take that right of recourse away in the name of chopping a whole minute off a 4 -5 hour council meeting is absolutely ridiculous. Giving any mayor the right to close a public hearing unilaterally at will is a reckless exercise in trust that begs to be misused by any mayor who has had a bad day, or perhaps, would like to avoid having a bad day.

What disturbs me most is that the Mayor did not think through the implications of his proposal, or if he did he assumes the city council members to be a lot dumber than they are.

Thankfully, and rightly, the proposal fell on deaf ears, as did his very clumsy attempt at reorganising the chairs in city hall. I’ve got no idea what he stokes in his pipe, but my goodness that was a lame, farcical beginning for a man who has taken on the Mayors position at one of the toughest junctures in the city’s history.

Now to the point of this post…

I realize that Ypsilanti is not a huge blip on anyone’s political radar outside Washtenaw County, but I wonder how may other positions held by Democrats are filled with guys or gals who are in at least one step over their heads.

Before this election, I saw the Democrats as a powerless bunch who were unable to give the Current Occupant (of the Whitehouse) the “thump’n” he so richly deserved back in 2004.

The election result hasn’t changed my view of the party.

In my opinion, the Democrats didn’t gain anywhere near as much ground as the Republicans lost in this election, and that concerns me greatly.

It concerns me because Democrats everywhere are congratulating themselves for a job well done when they have done nothing of note. They were simply “not Republicans”.

I hope Democrats everywhere, from Mayor Schreiber, to Governor Granholm, and the leaders of the house and senate federally, can pull themselves together and deliver to this great nation a vision it can get behind.

If the Democrats fail to capture the imagination of the people in these next two crucial years, the subsequent “thump’n” at the polls in ’08 would be an embarrassment from which the party should probably never recover.

I hope they can do it, if only to put an end to the burden of this reckless, fascist regime.

Take Care



Body? ... What Body?

Our own Michigan Democratic Senator, Debbie Stabenow, has voted for the single most irresponsible bill passed in the entire abysmal era of the Bush administration.

S.3930: Military Commissions Act of 2006.

This bill effectively gives the president of the United States power to detain any prisoner at will without trial, provided he can identify the prisoner as an enemy combatant.

At the heart of this legislation is the right of “habeas corpus” (latin:you should have the body]).

“Habeus Corpus” is defined here,

This right is enshrined in the Constitution, in section 9 “Limits on Congress”

“The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

And the act in question as it relates to Habeas Corpus can be found here
or from the official site here, though you'll need to dig a little.

Now to the reason I find this legislation irresponsible and reprobate for any lover of freedom in this country, regardless of party affiliation.

It is clear that the constitution allows for the suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus under certain specific circumstances where “public Safety” is under immediate threat.

In cases of rebellion or invasion, (those cited in the constitution), a clear and present threat, which has an arguably determinate period, appears to be the criterion of choice for the suspension of Habeas Corpus. A rebellion is either successful or it is not, an invasion is either successful or it is not. Either way, the imminent threat to public safety passes and the republic progresses to one form of normalcy or another.

President Bush’s “war on terror” has no determinate period, the threat to public safety will ebb and flow according to the whim of the terrorist as fuelled by the arrogance of the administration. Be that as it may, there is not an imminent threat of invasion. The public safety is no more at risk today than it has been any day since that fateful, disastrous day of September 11, 2001.

If an argument is to be made for heightened risk, it is due directly to the launching of an illegal, ill-fated war that has put our young men and women in harm’s way while providing a breeding ground for terrorists, a focal point for their ire, and a proving ground for their weapons and tactics.

Furthermore, this “war” has no end. If we pulled out of Iraq tomorrow, it would make not one jot of difference to this Presidents “war on terror”. Terrorism has been around for as long as civilization has, to declare war on it is to declare war on a fact of civilized life. (That fact being that there will always be uncivilized folk, some of whom will use murderous tactics of terror to meet their ignoble ends).

The US congress has just given the President of the United States despotic, privileges that allow him to pick and choose whom he calls an enemy combatant, and to detain these people without trial, indefinitely. Yep, that’s right, until the “war on terror” is won.

The president no longer has to produce “the body” to the judiciary. “Enemy Combatants” can go missing, forever, without recourse.

This President has proven himself incapable of disciplined governance, intolerant of dissent, a promoter of loyalty above ability, a promoter of privilege above justice, and woefully inadequate as a commander-in-chief. To give this man the right to pick and choose whom he will detain without trial, indefinitely, is the most egregious travesty ever visited on the American people. I say travesty, because the whitehouse today is a grotesque manifestation of a once-great institution, and then there are the American people who are blissfully un-aware of what this administration is doing, and care even less about it.

While Senator Stabenow’s vote, not even combined with the votes of ALL of the democrats and the republican lovers of freedom would have been enough to stop this egregious affliction on the people of the United States, I am dumbfounded as to why she voted in favor of it.

I believe she has just lost a large chunk of her support base in this state with that action.

If this reprobate act of congress is not enough to get the Democrats stirred up to win a victory, there is no hope for the democratic process in this country.

And lets not forget proposal 2 at the state level.

The yawns from the populace at large are chilling, eerie in fact. Its almost as though the American people have finally ceased to give a damn, in which case, we get the government we deserve.

What will it take, swastikas, goosestep, and a bad moustache?

Take Care



Neither Civil Nor Right

I am talking, of course, about the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

Full text Here. Official version Here

Cameron Getto has, as usual, produced a great article on this issue.

In a previous incarnation, (reporter for the Courier) I took the mayor to task over the ignorance of white citizens to their own sense of privilege.

Quoting from the op-ed section of the Ypsilanti Courier, October 13, 2005

Should it [race] matter? In an ideal world, perhaps not. But looking around our fair city, one has to be wearing very rosy glasses indeed to describe it as ideal in that sense. The level of distrust between certain sections of the black community and city officials is well documented at any audience participation session in city hall.

Why does this matter bother me so? Like many well meaning white folks, I have the luxury of believing that there doesn't need to be any difference between people based on the color of their skin.

I am reminded, however, whenever I think of my own [black]sons in Australia, that in white dominated countries, the difference will always be there for those who are not white. Racism is a fact of life for my sons, not an optional ideology as it is for well meaning white folks like me.

Are my sons racist? Not particularly, but they cannot escape the influence of those who are, and that is my point.

The same holds true for all forms of discrimination, be it gender, race, socio-economic, regional, and so on.

The “majority” players have the luxury of feeling it doesn’t matter, while the repressed minority cannot avoid the discrimination.

The thing that disappoints me most is that, for all of the rhetoric of “equality” posited by the proponents of this regressive legislation, it entrenches elitism and actual disadvantage into the State constitution.

To entrench elitism in this way is fundamentally contrary to the way most Americans see themselves.

Equality is a purely theoretical concept in North American (or any other) society. Disadvantaged parties must, in civilized society, be given assistance to prosper, lest the unrest grow so great as to destabilize the civilization.

It is madness, in times of hardship when jobs are scarce and the outlook is gloomy, to tread on the heads of the already downtrodden. It is a recipe for civil unrest that will make the 60’s look like a bake-sale.

Our Statewide community needs to look at two possibilities. Do we step on the heads of the oppressed, and increase spending on police and incarceration? Or do we work towards a more equitable solution for all of our citizens? Both options cost money. Both options require commitment.

With jails and police forces strapped for cash state-wide, it would be both morally reprehensible and fiscally irresponsible to abandon affirmative action, let alone to go so far as to make it illegal.

A vote for proposal 2 is a vote towards repression and civil unrest.

Lots of well-meaning folks could be duped into thinking it is a step in the right direction.

I’ll be working at a NOW fundraiser in a couple of weeks because anything I can do to help in my own little corner of the world is a step in the right direction.

Take Care



Pluto: Dirty Snowball or Planet?

The quick answer is “both”.

Kate asked for a comment to Pluto’s status a week ago, and I figure it deserves a post of its own.

When Pluto was discovered, (February 18, 1930) the astronomers were looking for a much larger body to explain the (still mysterious) perturbations to the orbits of the outer planets, and specifically of Neptune. Something out there is big enough to pull the king of the sea off course in a regular and predictable manner. We still haven’t found it.

In a “rags to riches” scenario, Pluto happened to be in the right place at the right time. The somewhat insignificant dirty snowball achieved the high and lofty position of “planet” and became a star overnight (yes the pun is intended, and no I’m not giving up may day-job to write historic fiction just yet).

Astronomers were mostly happy to add the quirky little guy to the fold of planets, and the astrologers set to work to find out its significance.

To determine the significance of any object in the solar system, astrologers put the object through its paces in thousands of charts to work out what it means for them. (Truth be told, some astrologers do this, the rest of us buy the books and then do our own more limited research.)

By that test, Pluto earned his stripes in the astrological world very quickly. Cycles of roughly 245 years (Pluto’s cycle in the tropical zodiac) appear fairly consistently in history, and transits of Pluto to natal horoscope positions are easily identifiable as huge turning points in the lives of individuals.

No two astrologers practice their art exactly the same way. There are some who use ancient techniques who have no use for Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto at all. There are others who use everything, including various collections of asteroids. There are others who use the 10 regular chart objects and several mythical objects that don’t physically exist as far as we can tell.

Me? I use Sun thru Pluto, one other dirty snowball called Chiron, a couple of significant nodal points, the “horoskopos” (ascendant) and the Medium Coeli (meridian).

Astrologers are far more interested in the fundamental usefulness of an object in the various forms of astrology one might practice, than they are in the scientific classification of solar system objects.

In short, astrology does not rely on astronomy’s classification methods for determining significance.

Pluto’s demotion by astronomers does not diminish its effectiveness as an astrological tool. Astronomy and Astrology are two separate studies that rely on some common information.

Take Care


The Impetus for Change

I was catching up on Cameron Getto’s excellent blog today, and came across this article.

Being that Cameron’s post is over a week old, I figured I should re-post my comment here.

The context (for those of you who haven’t read Cameron’s post) is the disenfranchising of the worker’s bargaining position through legislation that makes strikes illegal, staged in the broader context of the corruption that comes with power.

My comment to that issue reads as follows:

Coming from a country where the Government, the Industry leaders, and the Trade Unions sit together at an annual summit to set basic wages, cost of living increases, standards for working conditions and so forth, yeah I can see the benefits of a strong Union movement to a country's overall productivity and stability. We occasionally have major strikes, and when they occur, they bring the entire country to a standstill. We also have a living wage, national health, and a strong social security net, and we don’t pay much more tax than you do here.

Big business is working very hard to disenfranchise the unions in my home country. Bit by bit, with a long-standing conservative government at the helm, they are doing it. Big money is going to work to keep that government in power.

In its most progressive phases of history, the US is very conservative by world standards, and when it runs into a conservative slump like it has now, it is so much more so.

Neither political party is blameless in empowering the wealthy and disenfranchising the individuals who generate that wealth.

This bodes ill for the trade union movement, who rely on the impetus for change to drive their case forward.

How bad does it have to get before there is impetus for change? The answer is obviously “worse than it is”.

The greatest enemy facing both of our great nations is indifference. The average American and the average Australian are having a hard time working up a "give a shit" sufficient to the task.

Until that changes, we can piss and moan all we want, but not much will change.

Take Care



In Print again...

This time, in a letter to the editor on a subject I care about a lot.

The article that raised my ire was this one.

My response was published here.

However, I was in a pretty acrid mood that night, so they edited my work fairly heavily.

This is my original response, with a "1.00 am grammar" mistake fixed, but otherwise verbatim.

Your September 26, opinion column “Life is really not in the stars” by Astronomer Daniel B. Caton is a classic example of an expert holding forth about something entirely out of the realm of his expertise.

Asking an astronomer for an astrological opinion is like asking a lab technician for a medical opinion. He might know something, but chances are he doesn’t. To carry the allegory one step further, this “technician” would say all doctors are charlatans because he met a charlatan who called himself a doctor.

While astrology relies upon good astronomy for accurate results, the reverse is not the case. An astronomer knows nothing about astrology unless he or she has taken a separate course of study.

It is clear that Caton has taken no such study. His cheap shot anecdote about an illusionist writing astrology columns in ignorance, and Caton’s own irrelevant and insignificant, “experiments” with his students do not qualify as study.

They do, together, qualify as pseudoscientific piffle.

There are charlatans everywhere. Some of them write poor or misleading astrology columns. Others opine about things they know nothing about.

Rodney Smith


Designs on Intelligence

Well, here we go again

This time its not local, its state politics, and the illogical notion of teaching creationism (yes folks, that’s what “Intelligent Design” (ID) means) in a modern science curriculum.

We have a couple of ID proponents trying to weaken the Michigan Board of Education science curriculum guidelines to the point of absurdity, and they have won a couple of extra weeks to browbeat the legislature and then the board of education into their way of thinking.

The wording they are petitioning for will mandate the discussion of alternatives to evolution which will, surprise-surprise, bring the teaching of ID into the classroom.

The Detroit Free Press carried this article on Thursday which outlines the proceedings.


The people at Michigan Citizens for Science have called for concerned citizens to write to the board of education expressing our concern.


I encourage you to write and express your concern.

The reason I think this is illogical has nothing to with my opinions on ID, it goes to the roots of western science and the teaching of the prevailing scientific paradigm.

It defies good sense to attempt to teach high-school students a well-established and extremely successful method of scientific evaluation, and at the same time entertain a philosophical debate regarding its efficacy. This creates unnecessary and unwarranted confusion and erodes understanding

Evolution is the basis of the current scientific paradigm regarding natural science. It needs to be taught and understood for our students to progress in the field. The method also needs to be taught and understood before it can be intelligently debated.

Science has been dedicated to the parameters of space and time since the days shortly after Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, and Sir Isaac Newton left the crystal spheres of Ptolemy and Aristotle shattered once and for all in an untidy heap on the on the science room floor. They had shattered a 2200 year old prevailing belief that the Earth was at the centre of the Universe.

These men fully understood the prevailing teaching of the day. The debates about the nature of the Universe were rightly entertained at university level, and conducted with a complete understanding of the prevailing scientific, philosophical, and theological paradigm.

The day that western science made the leap of mathematical proof, was the day that the metaphysical universe was entirely removed from the western science classroom. The philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, the theology of the Church, and the astrology of Ptolemy were divorced from the hard physical reality of the mathematically defined universe. It was a marriage that had lasted over 1000 years.

Whether I believe that this was a good thing or not is irrelevant. This was the direction that our scientific community took, for better or for worse.

Those who are teaching science in a metaphysical context maybe teaching philosophy, astrology, theology, or cosmology, but they are not teaching modern science.

Intelligent Design predisposes a metaphysical context.

Introducing a metaphysical debate to the student before the foundation for modern scientific investigation is laid defies good sense. The metaphysical debate belongs in the universities once the foundation is laid for our students, and the current paradigm understood.

The onus of proof lies with ID because it requires a complete paradigm shift.

There is nothing to stop Intelligent Design being proven beyond reasonable doubt if that is at all possible. On that day, it should become part of the modern science curriculum. In the meantime, evolution is taught because it fits enough of the prevailing scientific paradigm to be a useful analytical tool.

Intelligent Design does not.

If our legislators wish to turn the scientific clock back 400 years to the Ptolemaic Universe where God the Creator was in charge of the crystal spheres that contained the planets, then perhaps they should like to teach Astrology, Alchemy, and Occult Philosophy along with their Theology.

It was all part of the same science curriculum.

Take Care



A Final Word on the Primary

A Final Word on the Election

The errors and nuisance value of the last Schreiber offering on the campaign trail make me certain that I have done the right thing in getting behind Pierce.

read it here http://www.schreiberformayor.com/images/hype10.pdf

Making plans that depend on a tax that is not going to fly is daft. Holding the Police and Fire department for ransom over the tax is almost criminal. There are many ways to trim the fat from City Hall:- Police, Fire and Trash should last on the list of any responsible community leader. They are right up there, front and centre, in the City cross hairs if it doesn’t get its tax.

A vote for Schreiber is a vote to be arm-twisted into accepting an income tax.

The factual errors Schreiber makes about the BRCCF and the income tax are well documented in my comments on this forum as well as on trustygetto.com.

The negative spectacle of the 2004 Township election is not something that needed to be dragged up here, but again, the Schreiber team have gone for impact and innuendo over substance and fact.

What those slogans from the township campaign bring to mind for me is the fundamental inability of the current administration to negotiate, and the determination of Schreiber to follow in its footsteps.

There is no doubt that the township officials won their seat with a negative campaign rejecting a closer relationship with the city. Using old rivalries and turf wars to get elected is an old ploy in politics. Ypsilanti cannot afford another 4 years of “us versus them” when “them” is every other unit of government in our region.

What surprises me is the negativity presented by Schreiber towards the idea of regional co-operation. This displays to me the Schreiber team’s wanton lack of vision.

Schreiber’s Ypsilanti 2020 initiative (released July 28, though I didn’t hear about it until much later) makes a lot of noise about getting Ypsi’s best and brightest to come up with a plan. On Schreiber’s own list of priorities is greater regional co-operation. This latest (and probably last) volley shows us that he has no interest at all in regional co-operation, either that, or Mr Schreiber has a lot to learn about negotiation if he thinks that rubbing salt into old wounds is any way to solicit a favourable negotiating environment.

Schreiber’s Ypsilanti 2020 statement is an admirable piece of work on the surface. It’s a pity I didn’t read it sooner, I might have given it a better run. It addresses several of the lacks that I had been carping about on this forum, but it does make 2 things very clear. The first thing the Schreiber administration will do is initiate a bunch of talk-fests. The last thing the Schreiber administration will do is put the Income Tax to the vote. This means that the tax issue will hover over the heads of Ypsilanti citizens for as long as Schreiber can make it last.

I realize there is more support for a vote on the tax than for the tax itself. Under those circumstances, putting it to the vote quickly is the best option by far.

Dragging this issue out for another 100 days of talk-fests, then another 100 days formulating the language for the ballot, then another 90 days lead time required by the state for the ballot…. How long do you want to drag this out for? For how long do you want to demoralize our Police and Firemen? By my estimation, the Schreiber plan won’t have the vote on the ballot before November 2007. Then what are we going to do when the people say no?

The City of Ypsilanti can ill afford another 4 years of bumbling around in the dark, trying to find a way to justify an unpopular tax.

There is another option, and the good folk of Ypsilanti would do well to take it.

Take Care



Just a thought....

My wife put an interesting question to me the other day, and I thought I would share it.

“Bill Gates draws your name out of a hat, and gives you 1 million dollars with which to help the City of Ypsilanti out in any way you saw fit. How would you spend the money for long-term gain?”

I thought about this for a while, and after the visions of the wildest street party you ever saw and other frivolous adventures dissipated, I then figured that a million really isn’t enough to do anything meaningful…. Then I thought about it some more.

The only thing I could come up with that would actually help the city in the long-term (that a million dollars could help with) is if Lansing produced some legislation that allows built-out cities to collect fair taxes.

To have any clout at all, such an initiative needs to have the backing of many municipalities, and there must be thousands of businesses state-wide that are hurting because their downtowns are deteriorating.

A million would go a long way to drafting a piece of legislation that businesses and municipalities could get behind, and that Lansing could benefit from as well, and hopefully the businesses would be able to add a little to the pot to put greater pressure on Lansing to act. A couple of studies that make the point, a protest rally or two, you get the idea…

So there it is. Organize a state-wide campaign to MAKE Lansing listen. It wouldn’t solve all of Ypsilanti’s problems, but it would sure up one part of its funding.

So… what would you do?

Take Care



Income Tax: The Real Mayoral Issue

To tax or not to tax, that is indeed the question.

I attended the CBC Candidates Forum the other night and had the pleasure of submitting a question to the candidates. I asked, quite plainly, (and somewhat aggressively, sorry folks, it slipped out that way!!) are you going to implement the tax, and secondly, how are you going to secure funding from Lansing in the future?.

Schreiber opened the discussion by saying that he reluctantly supports the tax, that the problems the city is facing are state-wide, and that no immediate help is coming from Lansing. Schreiber made the assessment that the tax removes the city from the edge of financial insolvency, while placing Ypsilanti in the middle of the state-wide tax bracket. [Having read his figures some time back, I know that he has standardised his findings across income and property value averages- the claim is otherwise clearly fallacious]

Richardson made the point that she had suggested the tax before anyone else had come up with it, and her hope that the property tax rollback could be sufficient to offset the impact of the tax. Richardson mentioned the need for greater regional co-operation and intergovernmental agreements at very level.

Pierce is opposed to the tax, period. He believes the tax will create a barrier to business and place a greater, unnecessary burden on the community. He explained the rollback couldn’t be made large enough to offset the impact of the tax, and that over half of Ypsilanti’s residents are renters, and therefore get no benefit from a rollback at all. Pierce believes that the City needs to rethink the way it does everything from the payroll upward. Pierce’s approach to Lansing was the same, he says he will go to Lansing, not to demand a better deal, but to find out “what we can do better.” Pierce made the point that the income tax would place Ypsilanti as the highest taxed municipality in the state.

While the candidates each have different styles, it is on the issue of the Income Tax that their paths truly diverge. I believe that the Democratic Primary on August 8 will be a referendum on the tax, between Schreiber and Pierce. Those who vote for Richardson will most likely be doing so for reasons other than her stand on the income tax.

When the tax was discussed at length last year, I took a long look at who was supporting it, and who was against it, and I figured it was going to be inevitable eventually. The people who really mattered as far as setting policy and direction were resigned to it as a necessary evil.

State Legislation restricts the tax to a maximum of 1 percent and a maximum property tax rollback of 2 mils. There is also a $600 minimum exemption written into the legislation. These restrictions do not allow the tax to raise sufficient revenue to offset the problems faced by the city in the long term. The tax is at best a “band-aid” that will buy some time.

Even as a band-aid it is weak, and long-term fiscal sustainability is thoroughly dependant on better balancing of the budget.

Schreiber wants the tax in order to keep the city afloat a little longer and buy some time in the hope of a miracle from Lansing and from the greater community.

Pierce is banking on being able to make huge savings fairly quickly from negotiations that have not begun yet.

Neither solution is without risk. The Income Tax poses the single biggest threat to residential and business growth in our community for as long as it is in place. People have other attractive options for both residence and business in the area. Higher taxes are not going to make Ypsilanti any more attractive. While the level of impact on population and trade is not known, the tax is bound to have significant negative impact on both residential and business growth.

The income tax cannot be implemented responsibly without a long-term strategy for growth in the community. To date, no such strategy is forthcoming. The community needs to know how and where the City will make the necessary changes to its current practices and structure to justify the cost to the community that the tax will impose.

Such a plan has not, to my knowledge, been put forward by City officials.

For Pierce, the risk is being able to turn Ypsilanti around before it runs out of funds completely. The situation is likely to look fiscally scary in the meantime. There is not much more to say about that risk. Its going to be hard to balance the budget for a few years. We are going to have to make some cuts, and do a lot of things differently, but we are not saddling ourselves with the baggage of an income tax to inhibit growth.

My own opinon is of little condsequence. It is for the community to decide which level of trouble it wants to buy, because there are no easy solutions.

A vote for Pierce is a vote against the Income Tax. A Vote for Schreiber or Richardson is a vote to put the tax on the ballot.

Lansing could, with the stroke of a pen, make things a lot easier for built-out communities, and it would not cost them a red cent.

It is time someone started pushing that barrow, because tax or no tax, we must come up with better solutions than we currently have.

Take Care



Pierce Scuttlebutt

So to the Pierce scuttlebutt.

Nobody who is criticizing Pierce wants to be quoted. I have always honoured that request when it is made of me (that’s how I get to know things, and eventually turn up something that can be quoted as authoritative).

So far, the most damning thing I have heard about Steve is that working with him leaves ”a bad taste in the mouth”. It is true that several of the people who have worked with him on various boards have openly supported Schreiber. Behind this “bad taste” lie accusations of double-talk and self-serving ends. There are folks who say he can’t get things done, and others who accuse him of being a snake.

Several people have quoted the Blue Ribbon Committee on City Finances and the infamous “not at the same meeting” comment from Paul Tait, who chaired the BRCCF. Paul’s comment was in response to a loud and lengthy objection from Steve when Mayor Farmer misconstrued the BRCCF final recommendation.

As it happens, I attended the deliberations of the BRCCF because I saw its recommendations as the most important discussion affecting the future of the City at the time.

I like Paul Tait, I think he did a great job with the BRCCF and I believe every member of that committee should be commended for the effort they put in to sorting through the city’s issues. It was a difficult job, and sitting in on those deliberations provided a great perspective on the problems the city faces.

As the committee was winding up and putting together a recommendation, it was clear in the minds of all present that an income tax, though entirely undesirable, represented a plausible band-aid respite that could buy the city enough time to get Lansing to pay attention and fund its commitments.

Paul Tait put together a resolution that basically recommended that the city put the tax to the vote. Steve Pierce objected to that recommendation, saying that the BRCCF was both ill equipped and unqualified to address the political questions about whether or not the tax should be put to the vote. Steve worked long and hard, against considerable resistance, to get the word “consider” put into the recommendation. He was successful. Ingrid Kock worked long and hard to get an alternative plan for the tax’s implementation to be appended to the final recommendation. She was also successful.

When Mayor Farmer came out with a blanket statement to the effect that the BRCCF had recommended that the city put the income tax to the vote, Steve hit the roof.

I probably still have a copy of the e-mail exchange that ensued over the next couple of days, it was long and loud and impassioned. Steve wanted to make it clear that he did not support the tax. Farmer said, “what am I missing here?” Paul Tait was saying that the committee had decided it was the only feasible solution. Pierce went on to elaborate other alternatives, making it clear that he did not support the tax. Tait was eventually quoted as saying, “we were not at the same meeting” by way of saying that Pierce had reconstructed the deliberations to suit his own ends.

At the time, of course, I was working as a journalist and had to stay out of the fight completely. Pierce did not want to be on the record as supporting the tax. Tait could not see a viable alternative to the tax. Farmer had wanted the tax as a means to maintain solvency.

Tait, while listening to the deliberations of Pierce and Koch and others, was looking to find the language of consensus, and perhaps paying less attention than might be expected to the substance of those deliberations. Paul had a tough job, and he did it very well. Tait was, from a point earlier than my attendance at meetings, largely resigned to implementation of the tax as a solution.

Pierce wanted to distance himself from any recommendation to implement the tax. Anyone who was at those meetings should know that much, unless they ignored him completely.

Farmer was looking for BRCCF’s authority to justify pursuing the tax.

Was Pierce’s reaction over the top? Maybe. But his point was nevertheless valid. Farmer had no business generalizing the committee’s recommendation in the manner that she did. (I recall hearing it at the time and thought… oh dear; this is not going to sit well) That’s what he was initially reacting to. Pierce had fought to have the word “consider” included, and both Farmer and Tait were ignoring it.

I can see why committee heads and others would find this tendency of Pierce’s to make sure he is not ignored irritating. If that’s what leaves “a bad taste in the mouth”, then this is a matter of personal style rather than of substance.

Oh, and I did personally laugh aloud when Steve nominated as a Democrat. You need to keep in mind that, where I come from, the Left is a long way further left of centre than it is here. True to form, however, he now has the support of several key Labour unions which places him a lot further Left than I would have given him credit for. A property owner and businessman who can successfully get the support of Labour must have a pretty convincing argument.

We are blessed with 3 candidates, none of which can be faulted for anything more than infractions of personal style and attention to detail (or the lack thereof).

We have the “Staus Quo” player, who is Schreiber. I have yet to see anything from him that suggests we will get too many surprises out of his tenure, should he win. In fact the
proven leadership in tough times” slogan suggests that nothing much will change.

We have the “Voice for Change” player who is Pierce. The conversation about the future of Ypsilanti is likely to take a sharp turn if Steve is elected. This may or may not be a good thing, but the conversation will be interesting, Steve will be ignored less often if he is Mayor

We have the “Voice of the Oppressed” candidate who is Richardson. Anyone who has lived in or around the city for a while knows that there are plenty of oppressed folks live in Ypsilanti. Lois’ grassroots support should not be underestimated, even if it is invisible online.

The vote for the Democratic primary, at this point, is a vote for style rather than for substance. I find this a bit disappointing. Hopefully the contenders can come up with a platform or two we can sink our teeth into.

Take Care



Back to Business

I made the comment below in response to John Gawlas, and I figured I should elevate the question to a post of its own.

This city, ... should be tired by now of pitched battles between factional groups.

I have yet to see a definitive written action plan from any candidate on

1. Water Street
2. the city income tax
3. the future for economic development.
4. securing adequate funding from Lansing

So, a note to all 3 candidates, lets cut with the crap and get down to business shall we? Who has a better plan?

Take Care


FOR THIS POST ONLY, I will ONLY ACCEPT comments that speak to these issues. (others will be deleted, and I am the only and final arbiter of that decision.) There are plenty of other posts on this blog where those who want to indulge in a Mayoral skirnmish can post. I want to hear about these issues here


3 Hyenas...

Well, that tears it…

Here I was figuring I could be sanctimonious and impartial about the Mayoral election, but there’s something about smear campaigns that sticks in my craw.

Our mayoral candidate Schreiber has a smear campaign on his hands. Front and centre on his website is the “endorsement” from a group which was dissolved a good while back and no longer exists in any shape or form beyond the memories of those involved.

This non-existent group handed over its still existent mailing list and letterhead to the Schreiber campaign and used his campaign funds to deceive the community into a) believing that the group still exists, and b) believing that Steve Pierce blocked the YCFE campaign at a 2002 DDA meeting when he was DDA president.

The text of this quasi-endorsement reads in part

“Steve Pierce is the third 2006 mayoral candidate. As president of Yp s i l a n t i ’s DDAin 2002, he refused to endorse us. We believe that if either Richardson or Pierce becomes mayor of Ypsilanti, our cause will no longer enjoy strong political support in this community. “

Please don’t get me wrong, I like what the YCFE stood for, I just don’t like deceit.

If you go over to Ypsidixit http://www.ypsidixit.com/blog/ for a look-see, you can read 40-comment brawl over this paragraph. Trusty Getto http://www.trustygetto.com/ also has a bit to say.

Cameron Getto did the legwork and got the minutes of the DDA meeting in 2002 when the YCFE asked for the DDA’s endorsement. Then president of the DDA and now mayoral candidate Steve “Devil is in the Details” Pierce did refrain from endorsing YCFE campaign because he saw it as out side the charter of the group. And so it is outside the charter of the City (and by extension, its commissions and authorities) to endorse a political campaign. Pierce knew that. Some other heads of various council commissions did not.

Steve was faced with a simple question. Should he use his influence to direct the DDA beyond its charter in the interest of a political campaign, or should he keep the DDA focussed on its job?

When put as simply as that, it’s a no-brainer. Of course he should keep the DDA doing what it does best, and lend his personal support to the YCFE, as he did, in other ways.
Were I in his position, I’d have done the same thing.

As it stands at the moment, Paul “Details? What Details?” Schreiber has two strikes against him in my view. There is the open meetings act, and now the smear campaign. Its a pity, because I like Paul and I think his intentions are pretty good, but jeez I wish he’d pay attention to what’s going on, and I’d be happier to see him conducting more of his YHC meetings in the open. My opening question about Schreiber still stands “does he have the time for the job?” If attention to detail is any measure, apparently not.

There is a third strike against Schreiber, and that is the “turncoat” mentality Just over a year ago, it was the Mayor and City council who hamstrung the YHC in their plans to develop Parkview. Paul was leading the YHC at the time, and the City’s stand made it very clear that they did not believe that the YHC (and Paul) could administer the project. So strong was the City’s conviction, that its interference overturned a “done deal” between HUD and the YHC for the development of Parkview.

This same city turned about face and now Paul enjoys their support. It seems that Paul can’t manage his YHC sufficient to the City’s standard, but he’ll make a good Mayor. Had someone insulted my talent to that degree, I’d have a hard time accepting his or her endorsement.

Politics is a dirty and duplicitous game. It is with good reason that I ignored it for a long time.

Pierce hasn’t done anything to upset me yet, and the more I see of him the more I like what he has to say. I’m not certain that he enjoys enough grass-roots support to win the Democratic nomination.

Richardson hasn’t done anything yet. She did approach me about putting a web-site up for her, but her chances are better without a site than with one I would make. Words, yes, websites, not really. It might have been a good way to find out what she stands for, but I’d feel guilty taking her money for something I do that poorly.

So, we have Steve “Devil in the Details” Pierce, Paul “Details? What Details?” Shreiber and Lois “If only I had Details” Richardson.

My money goes with someone who knows what’s going on.

You can be sure that if there are 3 hyenas and one piece of meat, some unseemly fighting will ensue. Forasmuch as we have striven for better in 5 millennia of civilization, we haven’t advanced all that much.

Take Care



Dear Mr Schreiber

Dear Mr Schreiber,

It has come to my attention that, apart from our wee skirmish over open meetings, some friends of yours have endorsed your candidacy, and directly slammed your opponents using the letterhead of a defunct Human Rights organization, in a campaign funded by your organization.

Now, we know that this is legally murky ground, in fact, its simply illegal.

So, where do you stand on mistakes, good man?

How will you handle them? You are going to make some mistakes as Mayor, as will Pierce or Richardson if either of them win.

You have lost some credibility, sir, and you need to regain it if you want to capture the swinging vote.

It is easy to “show leadership” when times are good, and on tough issues, however when the excreta hits the propeller, that’s when the true calibre of a leader can be measured. Will you tough it out or will you stand corrected? I know which course of action would win my vote if it mattered.

I watched our current Mayor preside over some monumental blunders and then defend those blunders as the right course of action. Some people find that admirable. I find it devastating, because the people of this city are paying for it every day. Don’t get me wrong, the city is a far better place to live in for the contribution that Mayor Farmer has made, but that doesn’t mean every decision she made was good, or that every course of action she defended was right.

You may feel sufficiently confident in your support base that you don’t need to answer this note. So be it. But whether you grace my corner of the net with your comments or not, the good folk of Ypsilanti should see the sort of stuff of which you are made,

Take Care



"He’s not doing it to us, M’ Lord, so we don’t care”

There are greater threats to national security, Mr. President, than 20,000 hippies giving the forest a collective hug.

From the June 29 edition of the DenverPost.com


""We're not picking on innocent people," said Denise Ottaviano, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman who came to Steamboat Springs from Washington as part of the task force. "Everyone there is part of an illegal gathering."

“Hundreds of those ticketed are set to appear before a federal magistrate in a makeshift courtroom today. The magistrate, manning the bench in a firehouse a few miles from the gathering site, could impose up to a $5,000 fine and six months of jail time on each defendant.”


"Federal officials contend the gathering is being held illegally, and officers last week began issuing citations to dozens of participants."

"The civil case, filed Tuesday by Denver attorney David Lane, argues that closed hearings on those citations being held in a nearby firehouse violate the Sixth Amendment".

US constitution, 1st Amendment

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

US Constitution 6th amendment

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."

Can someone explain to me what constitutes an “illegal gathering” in this country?

From an e-mail circulating on the subject

"The Bush Administration has spent millions of dollars trying to stop the Rainbow Gatherings. They are enforcing a 'Noncommercial Group Use' permit regulation that is impossible for unaffiliated individuals to comply with. 36 CFR 251.54 They require that that someone sign as an agent for a fictional group entity named as permit Holder -- which then must assume full liability from the Government and bind participants vicariously to its terms."

"By the creed of the gatherings, no one can appoint themselves to such a position. More importantly, such an ad hoc gathering has no legal capacity to designate agents or act as a group party in any way."

So there is the “legal” issue. Do I need to re-quote the constitution? I haven’t tracked down the law in question to verify its contents, but it would appear to be a pro-forma permit requirement of little real consequence… until now.

Last tally I heard was that over 500 people had been ticketed and that those ticketed were herded into makeshift detention centers and tried in a local fire station without adequate legal representation.

This sort of unwarranted and unnecessary conflict does nothing to quell the very real fears of American citizens that their president is abusing his power.

What possible threat does a bunch of tree hugging hippies pose to national security? If they pose no threat to national security, why are we spending a bazillion dollars arresting them?

A bunch of hippies is going to look after the forest in the same way that a bunch of devout Catholics will be respectful of St Peter’s Basillica. Of all citizens who gather in the forest in summer, these are the ones who present least threat of all.

This same non-cohesive gathering of The Rainbow Family has been meeting in national forests for 30 years without causing a major fire, or even leaving a major mess. That’s an impressive track record.

From the same e-mail.

"The Forest Service requires that a permit be applied for in advance of the gathering. And they use any excuse possible to deny a permit application when we [Rainbow Gathering] manage to submit one. This year their denial was based on the fact that a logging company had a permit to log in a nearby parcel of the national forest, even though there is no logging activity present whatsoever. The site is far remote from any inhabitants -- but still the Forest Service is all over our case."

"Millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent to block this harmless gathering from taking place."

So, here is the situation that the Federal Government is faced with.

A group has requested permission to gather in a national forest. The group has no designated authority; such authority is antithetical to the group’s nature. It is better described as a gathering than a group. This gathering is perhaps 20,000 people or so, it is a BIG gathering.

These people can’t sign a liability guarantee due to the nature of the gathering.

Looking at the track record of this gathering, they have been meeting for 30 years in National Forests, in summer, without lasting harm to the forest or to the surrounding communities.

A logging company has a permit that includes the parcel of forest near to the gathering, but is not being actively logged during the timeframe of the gathering. Basically, the logging is a non-issue, though the company should be advised of the presence and duration of the gathering.

So, we can let these people gather, as is their constitutional right, and we can waive liability guarantee based on the group’s track record of responsible behaviour, or we can spend a gazillion dollars rounding them up and ticketing them because their paperwork is not in order.

Guess which course of action our federal government has taken. Yep, you guessed it, our tax dollars are being spent rounding up and arresting, detaining, and charging hippies, because they want to gather together and hug some trees.

The fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party should be spitting nails about this. This is a very expensive show of force that serves no useful purpose.

The trillion dollar deficit continues to grow, our liberties continue to be eroded, and the republicans are sitting around their campfire singing “kum-ba-ya… He’s not doing it to us, M’ Lord, so we don’t care”

These are not the actions of an administration that is watching out for its citizens, these are the actions of an administration bullying a marginal group of citizens in an attempt to prove how tough it is.

I thought this country was founded by people who wanted something better than this.

Any administration, Republican or Democrat, that rounds up an orderly gathering of innocent people; which then detains and charges them without adequate legal representation on charges of insufficient paperwork, needs to be watched very carefully indeed, for these are actions befitting a tyrant…

I wonder if the Germans were singing a similar song in the 30’s as their democratically elected government led them down the path of tyranny.?

How does it go now?

“He’s not doing it to us, M’ Lord, so we don’t care”

Take Care