Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Michigan Driver license changes

If you are a new Michigan driver, a new law goes into effect today if who hold a Level 2 graduated license.

Under the graduated license requirement, new drivers under 18 years of age go through a three-step increase in driving privileges. A Level 3 full driver’s license is issued to a driver when they reach 17 years old and meet training, educational and other requirements.

Without going into all the details, typically, Level 2 drivers are 16 years old and can only drive under certain conditions including unsupervised driving for only a part of the day.

Effective today, the driving-while-supervised time for new Level 2 drivers has been moved up two hours from midnight to 10:00 p.m. This requirement to have a person with a full license in the car continues until 5 a.m. in the morning.

In plain talk, a Level 2 driver can’t drive a vehicle late at night to early in the morning, unless they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or by a licensed adult driver over age 21, unless they are driving to or from work.

Additionally, a Level 2 driver can’t operate a motor vehicle carrying more than one passenger who is under 21 years of age unless the passengers are members of the driver’s immediate family or the travel is to or from school or a school-sanctioned event.

Also, on Monday, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced that Michigan driver’s licenses will soon have added security features involving the Mackinac Bridge picture, the great seal of Michigan, the driver’s photo and date of birth, and other imprints.

More information is available on the Secretary of State website.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Falling home prices

Yet another report out today that home prices continue to fall -- including in the Detroit area. Some prices are the lowest they have been since 2000.

Instead of getting into yet another war, perhaps the president and our congress should focus on turning around the housing market.

But for the rest of us, we should face reality and accept that our home is NOT our most important investment.

Having said that, I will go on to say that while your home may not be such a hot deal, real estate is still an attractive investment. That is, of course, if you have cash or really good credit.

Many homeowners are unaware that they have really good credit in the equity of their own home. They may not be able to sell it, but they can borrow against it at very favorable rates.

Setting up a home equity loan account, especially if your mortgage is almost paid, is quite easy. And if you let the bank know about your other tangible assets, you may be quite surprised at how low the interest will be.

What is more, these accounts are the closest thing to cash. And that if what is needed to purchase cheap real estate today. If you can go directly to the bank or the homeowner on a short sale and say I have this amount of money, and we can close this deal this week, many will accept lowball bids for cash.

So stop crying about the lost paper profits of your home and figure out a way to leverage it into a real investment.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Give it up NPR

NPR's On the Media show spent another hour last night trying to prove to the world that they are not liberal.

I don't think this is a good idea.

For one thing, my respect for the organization has gone down. For another, who do they think they are fooling?

The logic being employed seems to be based on a misconception that the terms liberal and conservative are like black and white.

However, little has been offered on the many shades of gray in between. And when it comes down to people -- they are rarely ultra conservative or ultra liberal. Their self-definition lies somewhere in the range between the extremes.

I consider myself a mild social liberal and a strong economic conservative. My wife likes to think of herself as a strong social liberal, but she really hates to pay taxes.

The variations are limitless.

But, for NPR's self-definition, rather than spending all this time trying to say they are not "liberal" without defining what that means, or even what "conservative" means, is just silly.

If it makes them feel any better, here is my take on it: They are not hard left-wing liberal; they are not as left-wing and Rush Limbaugh is right-wing; but they are definitely leaning to the left of me and many other Americans.

Business on the Move

The Oakland Press business page and the stocks page have moved. They are now permanently anchored on the back of the A section of the paper.

There were several reasons for the move:

First. Readers did not like the fact that the Thursday business section was scattered through the paper. Also, the deadline for printing the Business section in the early press run meant that around once a month the stocks page had to be printed before the stocks arrived -- which meant they got skipped into the A section.

Second. Making the Opinion page a section front allows us to print it in color.

And third, this new arrangement makes the entire paper more flexible.

Let us know what you think about the changes. You can call me at 248-745-4618 or email me at

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pot: What's in a name?

Medical marijuana is a controversial subject. There are supporters and opponents.

One supporter emailed us to say that she believes The Oakland Press shows bias against medical marijuana when we use the word "pot' in our headlines.

We certainly did not intend our use of the word to indicate a position for or against. Headline writers like to use short words, because they fit in the limited space we have to get the point across. And, frankly, "marijuana" is a pretty long word.

The nickname "pot" comes from the Spanish word "potiguaya," which means marijuana leaves. It’s a Mexican-Spanish word that is a contraction of potación de guaya, which referred to an alcoholic drink made of marijuana leaves soaked in brandy or wine. The name became popular in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s.

There are certainly a large number of slang terms for marijuana. The slang dictionary lists hundreds. Here are some of the more common terms: Weed, boo, ganja, grass, herb, Mary Jane, Aunt Mary, refer (as in "Refer Madness"), ditchweed (low potency), good stuff or good shit (high potency), bhang (Indian) kif (Moroccan), loco weed, lucas, hash, paca lolo (Hawaiian), and the list goes on and on.

One of the slang terms is hemp, which is the fiber in the stem of the plant. Industrial hemp products are made from Cannabis plants selected to produce an abundance of fiber. To satisfy the UN Narcotics Convention, some hemp strains have been developed which contain minimal levels of THC, the psychoactive molecule that produces the "high" associated with marijuana. George Washington grew Indian hemp on Mount Vernon and wrote to Ben Franklin, "I wouldn't miss the hemp harvest at Mount Vernon for all the tea in China."

The OP has not editorialized in favor of medical marijuana, but we did come down in favor of local control of dispensing the plant as a medicine. We have been in favor of taxing the sale of marijuana as a potential new source of much-needed government revenue.

I would say the position of the newspaper staff is that legalization of medicinal herbs is a good thing, at least as good as the legalization of most of the pharmaceuticals now being legally sold in this country. Many prescribed and over-the-counter drugs are derived from plants.

Now, the question is what do you think? Is the term "pot" a word that indicates negative bias? Tell us what you think.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Funding NPR

Don't get me wrong. I like NPR and I listen to a number of their programs. But should our tax dollars support them? I would say that they should, except that they are distinctly left in their bias.

If there were a tax on liberals, this would be a good source of revenue for NPR.

But I can understand why conservatives would be opposed to using their money for this organization.

Those of you who listened to On the Media over the weekend will appreciate what I mean.

Most of the show was dedicated to the question of NPR bias. Their conclusion? We are not biased.

That is absurd on a number of levels.

First of all, the "investigation" by the staff, responding to a challenge by Ira Glass, was to examine the claims that NPR is biased. That is certainly a case of the foxes guarding the hen house.

Glass himself said when issuing the challenge that he did not believe NPR is biased. What a way to start an investigation!

Let me offer an alternative way to examine the bias question: Has anyone ever accused NPR of having a conservative bias? Of course not.

And please do not confuse "conservative bias" with having listeners accuse NPR of bending over backwards to accommodate conservatives -- which they sometimes do.

They have to, because their bias is so blatant that now self-respecting conservative will go on NPR programs and allow themselves and their ideas to be demeaned by the righteous attitudes of the interviewers.

In a nutshell, NPR staffers and editors are overwhelmingly liberal and by group agreement, they consider their viewpoint to be correct.

However, the NPR viewpoint is not mainstream. And most taxpayers do not share it -- so why should they support it?

Burning trash -- should Michigan ban it?

Well that did not take long. The governor and the state have backed off on a proposed ban on burning of trash.

There will be hearings on the topic later this summer. Also, there is a bill in the House to kill the ban.

Those who oppose burning say, rightly, that burning trash stinks, releases harmful gases and lowers air quality.

Those who favor burning say it is the only inexpensive alternative to some rural residents. And, that those who do not burn, will likely dump their unwanted trash along the side of the road.

If you have an opinion, you should let Gov. Rick Snyder know how you think.

To to and send him an email.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Too much information -- leads to identity theft

There are too many businesses asking customers for too much information -- and people have no assurances that that information is secure, or necessary.

Here is an example. I stop at RiteAid and pick up a bottle of wine. The clerk asks me for my birthday and I say 1955. She responds that she has to have the entire date of birth and shows me on her screen where she has to type it in.

I tell her, make something up. And she says she can lose her job if she does.

This is a rather silly exchange because I am obviously more than twice the required age of 21. There is not a hair on my head that is not gray.

It is also silly because it is useless information to comply with a law meant to catch underage purchasers of alcohol. Those who look underage are asked to produce a photo ID with a birthdate on it.

For the rest of us, we can make up any date we want as long as it puts us over the 21 age requirement.

I would heartily recommend that you lie and give a false birth date when asked under such circumstances.

This merchant already has your credit card number, your name, your address, and now they want your birth date.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I will keep my birth date to myself until it is really required to establish my identity.

Handing it out to any fool who asks is just inviting the theft of your identity.

Monday, March 14, 2011

social media and disasters

The news is different now.

If you have not been keeping up, and I count myself in that lagging crowd, social media has added new dimensions to news -- the creation of it, the recording of it and the following of it.

It has been evident in the revolutions sweeping the Arab world.

But nowhere was it more evident than in the coverage of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. If you had the opportunity to follow the event on TV, on Twitter, and on YouTube, you saw a unbelievable disaster unfold before your eyes almost as it happened on the other side of the world, and you could listen to people right in the middle of the event talking about it as they shot videos on their cell phones. You could hear the reaction here from everyday people to celebrities. And you could define the direction of your coverage of the event.

This new interactive relationship with the news and with newsmakers provides a new depth of understanding of a world event.

NPR funding

Seems pretty simple to me.

NPR claims they are unbiased. Many taxpayers disagree.

Three choices.

Launch a second tax-supported broadcast system with a conservative slant.

Revamp NPR so that it really is politically neutral.

Get government out of the business of supporting broadcasting.

Anyone have a preference?

I would say, given that the nation is operating in the red, option 3 looks good.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pontiac cops vote down union

Wednesday, the same day the state Senate passed a bill extending the powers of emergency managers -- including the power to dissolve unions -- the Pontiac Police officers voted to dissolve their union and allow Pontiac to contract for police services with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.

The House has already passed a similar bill and Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign the final version.

The 31 to 5 vote was taken Wednesday night during a meeting of the Michigan Association of Police, the union representing the patrol officers.

Pontiac's Emergency Financial Manager Michael Stampfler has been pushing for that contract since last fall.He says it will save the city $2 million a year.

The department’s staffing has been cut to 60 in recent years, from 175 sworn officers in 2005.

The vote is a surprise, but when you think about it, it makes sense: After all the new law will pave the way for the new contract with the Sheriff and the Pontiac patrol officers do want a shot at the jobs he will be filling. Who is he more likely to hire, those who fight to the bitter end or those who go quietly when the point of fighting is gone.

Readers had plenty to say about it:

Joe USA wrote on Mar 9, 2011 6:30 PM:
" Give it up. They had no choice. "

Adam Zapple wrote on Mar 9, 2011 6:37 PM:
" Exactly Joe USA.
While I have been a vocal supporter of the city contracting police service through the county, I am not a supporter of dissolving their union to do it. Now these poor souls will have little to no negotiating power going forward. It's no like the BS these cops deal with is going away.
FYI - The union was never the problem here. The state, county, and city of Pontiac politics have always been the problem. "

wolfpack48342 wrote on Mar 9, 2011 6:38 PM:
" It's about time they do something to protect the citizens of Pontiac cause everyone knows that they were only worried about their jobs, thats why it has teken them so long to finally let Oakland County step in. "

pipes wrote on Mar 9, 2011 7:31 PM:
" The Union was protecting legacy costs....back pay for vacation, sick time etc.....I don't blame them one bit for sticking by their guns (no pun intended). Hopefully those brave men and women will get a boss that will help them rather than concentrate on keeping his job....See Ya Val. "

wtf wrote on Mar 9, 2011 7:33 PM:
" Betcha Gross is P...ed! There goes his kingdom. "

bart_mancuso wrote on Mar 9, 2011 7:38 PM:
" The Sheriff is a Union shop, they will be well represented. So, don't cry any rivers for the PPD officers. So, who wins and who loses?

The PPD officers LOSE a traditional pension going forward. What they have already put in is safe, but everything going forward with the Sheriff will be a 401K type retirement - like most Americans have.

Some of the bad apple PPD officers with shady backgrounds or extensive diciplinary records will not get hired at the County, this is a LOSS for them but a WIN for the community and their co-workers who no longer have to be embarassed by that trash.

The PPD officers who do make the transition WIN with higher pay and career opportunities beyond their wildest imagination. They WIN with better training, better equipment and a new support structure that has the resources to back them up.

The citizens of Pontiac LOSE some bragging rights, a point of pride, and some of the shady politicians lose some of their influence over the police. Everything is on the up and up now, no more favors for cousin Joe or my sisters baby daddy.

The citizens WIN with safer streets, more bang for their taxpayer buck, and the new energy that the Sheriff will bring. Lives will be saved, crime will go down, and maybe even some businesses move in and propery values go up. The Sheriff must make progress or he will face the voters in the next election.

All in all, I put this in the win column. God bless Pontiac and all who call her home. "

English Breakfast wrote on Mar 9, 2011 10:16 PM:
" Since they won the temporary injunction and had a good chance of winning the extension on Tuesday, you would think they could have waited 6 days to vote.
Cause if they had won in court on Tuesday, there would have been no layoffs.

Oakland County will be making cutbacks this year and the Pontiac officers who do get hired will have no seniority and will be the first to get laid-off.
So they will just be laid-off by the County instead.
(All the checks come from MARVIN anyways) "

Jim wrote on Mar 9, 2011 10:39 PM:
" Thanks for the info, Bart. "

Waterford Resident wrote on Mar 9, 2011 11:27 PM:
" Oh English McMuffin,

Let me explain to you why this was not dumb on their part. In case you haven't been paying attention, there is a bill that is about to be passed in Michigan that will give the EFM the power to ignore contracts and city charters.

If they had voted no then they would have run the risk of this same result without any owed vacation pay.

Also, I don't know where you get the crazy idea that they had a chance of winning in court. That is "Dumb" "

bart_mancuso wrote on Mar 9, 2011 11:46 PM:
" Goodbye were part of the problem, not the solution. You can do no more damage.

Lets all hope that the Sheriff does a better job than the PPD did. If we run the criminals out of town, maybe we can stop the downward spiral and have a safe community again, then comes the employers, jobs, people moving in for the jobs, property values go up, then the schools get better. I know in my heart it can happen. This city CAN be great again! "

Sailor man wrote on Mar 10, 2011 6:00 AM:
" Well thank heavens there is still some cmmon sense in Pontiac. It's about time Chief Val Gross loses his throne,as the only thing that concerned him was him,and his security blanket. Now you may have to give up that confiscated Cadillac Mr. Gross. I bet you are heart broken ,eh? Willy P.? Bless all the fine Pontiac Police officers,welcomeOCSD! "

Sailor man wrote on Mar 10, 2011 6:03 AM:
" oops! I meant common sense! Bless all the good people of Pontiac-good-bye crime. "

furred wrote on Mar 10, 2011 7:10 AM:
" Silly me! I was always under the impression that the police were there to serve and protect, but it is quite obvious that through this whole ordeal, the number one concern is backpay and vacation time! "

waterfordmike wrote on Mar 10, 2011 8:33 AM:
" This is a great deal for the citizens of Pontiac, and for the cops.
Now they will have to get of of the underworked/overpaid way of working and get the job done.
The whole problem is that the supervisors/management and lazy union reps will also go the the county department, thus corruption.
The police can do so much, as our very LIBERAL judges in oakland county will continue to let criminals go, so they will not overcrowd the jail.
SHAME SHAME SHAME on the oc judges. "

alotonmymind wrote on Mar 10, 2011 8:46 AM:
" OK we will see how the OCS do... I bet they do no better job with 74 OCS than Pontiac did with 51. Next year they be asking for a million dollars more cause they need more resources to combat the crime in the city. Crime aint gonna stop cause the OCS is in town. hell they always been here, and what they do then. I see alot more tickets being handed out, more harassment on residents, and unneccessary arrest. The picture of Pontiac has already been painted as a slum to the surrounding communities. I know people who won't even come to Pontiac. how many of these sherrifs live in Pontiac. Most of these sherriffs are from those surrounding communities. All I can say is Pontiac good Luck with this. To the poor whites, blacks, and latinos that live in Pontiac you are now a target. Tell you all the truth. I see the crime going up and alot of unsolved crimes.

"Mass Incarceration In The Age Of Colorblindness":THE NEW JIM CROW LAW IS HERE...... "

furred wrote on Mar 10, 2011 9:04 AM:
" I tend to disagree that the crime will not at least curtail once the OCSD is in town. If you think for a MINUTE that the criminal element in Pontiac doesn't know that the PPD would turn a blind eye to their actions, you are crazy.
I think Val Gross has innocent blood on his hands because of his ego. "

alotonmymind wrote on Mar 10, 2011 9:05 AM:
" I believe that a Police Officer, Fireman, Teacher, and GI's should get paid more than Lawyers, Politicians, Judges, and Emergency Managers. They risk their lives for us to have freedom of speech, religion, etc. Everybody forgets about that. Also when i pick up the Oakland Press I see more crimes in the outer communities than in Pontiac. I hope im wrong and the OCS does a good job, but right now i don't see it. And to all those Pontiac Haters who don't come to Pontiac, I expect to see more of you now that OCS is Patroling the City. See You All Soon!!!!!!! "

Mort wrote on Mar 10, 2011 10:08 AM:
Will priave sector salaries rise with the demise of union? If you think that is so go back to your sweat shops and work for a dollar a day. The demise of unions will lead to lower "private sector" wages and benefits. Why can't you understand this simple concept? "

Had Enough wrote on Mar 10, 2011 10:15 AM:
" One of the things not discussed is the fact that the new emergency manager will now be able to get into all of the pension money and completely destroy the future of all retired people. Remember, this is a State law, so everyone else can hang on to their butts. Every retired person in this state will be getting the shaft. "

SMH wrote on Mar 10, 2011 10:22 AM:
" Gotta say it. I'm disappointed that the PPD union did not wait to vote until after their court date.

I wish all of them well, and would like to take this opportunity to thank them for a job well done in servicing this community.

Yeah Yeah haters we may have a couple of bad seeds in the bunch, but over all PPD had a good department.

Thank you officers for being there when I called. For putting yourselves on the line for a ungrateful community. I wish you all the best.

Lastly mayor, I hope you are really pleased with the results. You help to sell out the community that supported you. Good looking out. Job well done ...NOT! "

pontiac res wrote on Mar 10, 2011 11:12 AM:
" Good luck to all PPD Officers as they move forward to the OCSD. With the new Emergency Manager bill certain to pass and be signed by Gov. Synder they were left with no options. unfortunitly within the next two years the citizens of Pontiac will be delt another blow.

when the city is not able to afford the OCSD services and the number of patrol officers in the city gets reduced from approx: 74 to around where we are now. "

IWANTOUTHOMEOWNER wrote on Mar 10, 2011 12:30 PM:
" I pay city and property taxes in Ponticrack. I want my money spent wisely, meaning as many officers as we can get. I don't give a damn if we have our OWN police department or not. My number one concern, until I can get out, is safety. "

randrews wrote on Mar 10, 2011 12:36 PM:
" I agree with Mayor Jukowsky... it is a sad day for Pontiac, BUT... These are new times. The city come out ahead with cost containments, the citizens will come out with at least the same service levels, possibly improved, and the cops come out ahead with jobs and continuity of income if they have been performing well. As for the Chief, he simply does not get it. Oh he gets it alright, he is pretending to be hurt as he fights to protect his fiefdom while badmouthing the sheriff in telling the citizens they just got the short end of the stick. Meantime he has stalled all this time only driving the deficit up. Another selfish chief not able to tell right from wrong. Don't let the door hit ya . . . "