Time to start thinking about turnout in the Michigan presidential primary

November 12, 2015 by  
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You heard it here first: turnout on March 8, 2016 is going to be HUGE.  I guess it'll be 2 million, maybe 2.2 million votes.  Largest of any presidential primary in Michigan's history.  Why?

There are two intertwined reasons.  First, because there will be something for everybody, in the sense that all sorts of political persuasions will be gratified by at least one candidate.  On the Democratic side, the Establishment folks will be turning out to protect Hillary, the nominee-apparent.  Old hippie types, and young activists, and old lefties, will have a chance to honor somebody who actually calls himself "a socialist".  (Even if he isn't really much of one.)

On the Republican side, it's even better.  Trump for brain-dead shouters.  Carson for the simple-minded pious.  Rand for the Libertarians.  Carly for - well, you know who.  Bush for the last hold-out Establishment types.  Kasich for the dozen remaining moderates.  Cruz for the Neanderthals.  (I realize that's ethnically insensitive, and I apologize to our extinct cousins.)  Christie for the frat boys who just live for drunken pranks.  Rubio for people who think winning is everything, and he's the ticket.  Lindsay Graham for Trivia experts. Pataki...

The second, related, reason is that voters - like all people - like to feel like they're participating in events.  They love dramatic narratives, even if the results seem fore-ordained.  And given the date of Michigan's election, barely 30 days after the start of the actual voting, we can be confident that things will still be interesting during the run-up to election day.  In fact, absentee voters will be requesting and casting ballots simultaneously with the results coming out of Iowa / New Hampshire / South Carolina / Nevada.

It'll be a big election. Lots of people voting.  Much excitement.  Great party ID data for those of us who collect such stuff.  Maybe not much real impact on events, but why does that matter?


Our ongoing experiment in the Dunning-Kruger effect: Where guns are the most important things ever

October 14, 2015 by  
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People often recoil in horror when I describe to them the rank idiocy of many of our lawmakers. People tend to believe that if you get elected to high office that you have to be smart and conventionally successful. When I tell them the truth, which is that most people get elected by projecting confidence and through an ability to jawjack, they at first think I'm just being cynical. It starts to make sense when I start to describe stuff like this.

The question about what type of gun-carrying is allowed in such spaces has led to public disputes and lawsuits in Michigan and drawn increased attention since a mass shooting at an Oregon college.

At a crowded hearing, supporters of the legislation said it would allow more people to responsibly carry guns and help prevent mass shootings, contending that shooters target “gun-free” areas where they know victims are not armed. They also argued it would address a loophole that has led to the court fights.

There is, of course, zero evidence that shooters target "gun-free" zones. There is a lot of assumption that they do, which explains why right after the Oregon community college shooting there was a lot of hootin' and a-hollerin' about how it was a gun-free zone, despite the fact that it wasn't (in fact, there were a number of armed students on campus that day at least one of whom opted not to get involved because he didn't want to get shot by a responding SWAT team).

But, facts are not important to these people. They operate purely on ideology regardless of what costs it imposes on the rest of us, which is -- well -- rich considering what they say about progressives/liberals/Democrat Party people.

But, let's take this to the full extension of what this will mean. No responsible school district is going to have people carrying concealed weapons on its campus without having someone there who is themselves armed. So, either they're going to hire a security guard (or at bigger schools, a few), which means creating non-education costs for schools that will have to come from somewhere (while, by the way, softly enacting Wayne LaPierre's lunatic ravings that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun post-Newtown), or administrators and/or teachers are going to have to get trained in firearms use, which of all the people I've ever met who went into teaching none of them did so because it afforded an opportunity to pack heat.

Coming next week: I have no idea…

October 10, 2015 by  
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Awhile back, the good people at Warecorp said they were going to make the entire Soapblox network go dark the 15th of this month. That's in five days.

I've got a Wordpress template picked out and a hosting company probably picked (thanks to Brainwrap for behind-the-scenes help on that). The original plan was to get it on track this week and roll it out next week in time for Soapblox to go dark and me to get paid to make it all happen.

Unfortunately, if we're friends on Facebook, you already know that the plan was blown to shit last weekend when a long-time resident of the group home I work in first went into the hospital and then was transferred to a critical care ward in Bay City. I work all day Monday, spent all day Tuesday traveling to Bay City to see him one last time, spent Wednesday at first trying to not write about it for my weekly column and then writing about it and then going to work to make up some hours from when we got lost leaving Bay City Tuesday. Thursday morning, he died and the last two days have been spent alternating between getting the word out to people who used to work in the place and basically not doing shit else because the rest of the week was so exhausting (also, this was the second long-time resident whose died in the last month and a half, which is stressful and draining under any circumstance).

My guess is that what's going to happen is that the site might wind up down for a few days or even a week as stuff gets migrated to a bare bones Wordpress dealie, and that the first couple of months will see gradual updates that replicate some of the stuff that here still works while getting rid of excess baggage. Since Congress is going to shut down the government for really dumb reasons, it'll be just like the rollout of the Obamacare website!

Flint: The culmination of decades of undermining our confidence in muncipal water

October 9, 2015 by  
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Gongwer notes the shift in tenor from our benevolent overlord Rick Michigan from relentless postive skepticism over Flint's chidlren being poisoned by lead in their drinking water to that of concern.

Thursday, in Flint for the first time since the crisis erupted, Mr. Snyder refused to acknowledge mistakes. The closest he came was to saying so was when he said he expected an “after action report” on the handling of the situation would show “opportunities” where different things could have occurred. The governor also sought to emphasize that he and his administration acted promptly to secure the funding to put the city back on Detroit water ($6 million from the state, $4 million from the Mott Foundation and $2 million from the city).

Yes, opportunities. I like the focus on what's going to happen to top-tier management types. Their opportunities to see what different things could have been done mean potentially a lifetime of disability for the kids who drank this water, but let's not bum everyone out.

But, let's take him at his word that he's concerned about this. The state has agreed to reconnect Flint to Detroit River water, after all, and monitor.  Let's instead take a look at one of the reasons why no one thought this through in the first place.

For years, the people in the bottled water industry have undermined public confidence in municipal water systems by suggesting that only suckers drink from the tap. Everyone else drinks bottled. The idea is that you can't drink water out of the tap because of course it's bad for you. And thus has the bottled water industry made a mint convincing people that otherwise safe water to drink isn't.

This not only appealed to that segment of the Republican Party who live to see someone make a profit, no matter whether it's from peddling ballpoint pens or human misery, and also the segment of the Republican Party that would like to see every function of government privatized. If you were to put the Republican Party into a Venn diagram -- and considering the mess in Congress, wouldn't that be fun --- the two would almost entirely overlap, of course.

These people run all of Michigan's state government right now. Whether any of them helped to greenlight the switch from Detroti water to Flint river water is a good question. It won't get asked, however, so nowhere will be explored to what degree this was driven by government officials who are just simply hostile to the idea of government.

Enbridge pipeline: Menace to the state’s cultural heritage

October 4, 2015 by  
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There've been a lot of pixels spilled over the summer about the Enbridge pipeline running below the Straits of Mackinac. How serious a threat is a rupture and contamination of the lakes? Any chance of that happening is a serious threat, one probably that is not actually being taken as seriously as it should be (it never is). Yet, the pipeline doesn't start and end with the Straits. It has to travel there, and that might be even more problematic.

"Quite frankly, we see a spill in the straits as a very low probability," said Steven Keck, who's based at the Coast Guard's Sault Ste. Marie station. "But that corridor along U.S.-2 we see as a much higher probability.

"We don't seem to get a lot of attention on that stretch between Manistique and St. Ignace, but it's still the Great Lakes."

To the west of Manistique, the pipeline heads vaguely north. Just where isn't clear. If there are any detailed maps on the Internet, they can't be found with a five minute Google search. What we do know is that the pipeline at some point crosses the Fox River and through Marquette County. And that makes a rupture of the Enbridge pipeline not just a threat to the environment, but also to Michigan's cultural heritage.

The Fox River was an inspiration for one of Ernest Hemingway's best short stories. Hemingway's youthful summers spent in Petoskey is an underappreciated piece of literary and Michigan history (thanks to my pal and fellow Hemingway buff Emily Dievendorf for posting this today). Lots of people remember him for covering the Spanish Civil War and hanging out in Paris and fishing off Cuba and finally his suicide in Idaho. The summers that inspired the Nick Adams stories are less remembered, as is the post-World War I trip he took to Seney to recuperate that inspirted Big, Two-Hearted River.

It doesn't look like the Enbridge pipeline crosses the Fox upstream of where Hemingway fished and camped, so a rupture would probably only taint the cultural tie in an abstract sense, which is bad enough. But, that's not as bad as the potential damage as a rupture in Marquette County.

That was home, half a century ago, to a fly fisherman named John Voelker. He wrote books about it. Oh yeah, he was an attorney, too, and a Michigan state supreme court justice. That last bit, to fishermen, is just an interesting wrinkle, because Voelker (pen name Robert Traver), is tied to a pond up that way the same way that Henry David Thoreau is connected to Walden Pond. It's called Frenchman's Pond.

The trouble is that like every great fisherman, Voelker never told anyone just where to find Frenchman's Pond. It could be anywhere. In fact, no one's been able to identify it. Or, for that matter, any of the little creeks that Voelker also fished. A spill along the pipeline could ruin Frenchman's Pond before anyone realized just what it was.

That makes these not just wild, natural places that could be despoiled. That would be a terrible thing. But, the specialness of these places have also made them a place in our literary heritage. Both places attract, oh, pilgrims all the time because of who they inspired. This isn't the sort of thing we ought to take lightly.

MIRS: Agema might run for the 1st Congressional District

October 1, 2015 by  
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What the headline says, based on comments Goat Killer made about fund raising. It's difficult to know whether he's serious or whether he's trolling his own party.

Bridge cards: Golden ticket to shaming the poors

September 25, 2015 by  
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Most of you are probably aware that my day job, well one of my day jobs, is working in a group home. I went full time in January and over the summer, owing to changes in management and staffing losses worked a bunch of extra hours. Things have mostly evened out now and last month I took on a couple of extra duties. For example ... who cleaned the contact points on the door alarms this week with alcohol swabs? You're looking at the fucking guy right now.

I also picked up the duty as primary grocery shopper. I do a lot of the cooking, anyway, and food and nutrition is a going interest to me, so it was a natural. I pop in a couple hours early on Mondays, take our Bridge cards and house credit card, and go to Meijer.

This week's column in the Morning Sun was about an incident that happened last week. To quickly summarize, the woman behind me was nice, right up to the point where I pulled out the Bridge cards. Then, her arms folded over her chest and her mouth settled into a well-worn frown. Now, it could have been the general Meijer atmosphere that'd worn on her. God knows other shoppers there try my patience endlessly. But, it was pretty remarkable how quickly her demeanor changed (she also had the look of someone who judged others so frequently that it is her natural state of existence).

But, while I can't say for certain that this woman was reacting negatively to the idea that an able-bodied man in front of her was paying with multiple Bridge cards, I can attest that since the column was published that I've confirmed that it happens frequently. Not just from people who get benefits through Bridge cards but from one brave soul who spent most of yesterday arguing with me that if the woman was all judge-y over my use of Bridge cards that I should understand it. That I wasn't doing anything wrong was not her concern. The woman had reason to suspect, so I should expect people's negative judgements.

And this, folks, comes courtesy years of waging war on the social safety net as something routinely exploited by cheats and layabouts. When you have Rick Jones endlessly whipping on this dog, eventually people think he's on to something, even when he isn't. People feel comfortable jumping to uninformed conclusions because they're told by our elected leaders that it's okay to. What results is terrible public policy that primarily torments the people it is intended to help.

I can't but help notice that most of the people who engage in this sort of thing consider themselves conservative Christians. I am not a religious man myself, but I have read their book and I am very much aware that the protagonist, a fellow named Jesus, had a thing or two to say about taking care of the poor and infirm (he also murdered a fig tree for not fruiting out of season, so there is that). In fact, a piece of Scripture that frequently gets tossed my way when I tell people I do this work has something to do with what you do for the least among you, you do to him.

As far as I can tell, this is supposed to mean that in exchange for lousy pay that doing this sort of work puts me in the good graces of The Lord. Not being a religious man, I don't know about that. The pay is terrible, but the work is interesting and enlightening and it does feel like a form of penance after spending time in and around politics, a vile business filled with lots of terrible people (oh, not you, of course). I take something less grace-filled from this, that if you call yourself a Christian and shit all over the poor, say assuming that they're doing something wrong in trying to get food or medicine, that you're also shitting all over the god who told you to take care of them. But maybe that's just me.

America, land of manna and nuts

September 24, 2015 by  
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I give you America, in the Year of Our Lord 2015.

Ritzheimer, 31, claims that after successfully detaining the Michigan Democrat, he and his armed militia “will continue to move across the country and arrest everyone involved with the Iran Nuke Deal” including the president.

If these people weren't completely unmoored from reality, they would be invited to count their blessing that this country isn't a quarter the tyranny they think it is, because arming yourself before threatening to "arrest" members of the ruling class in those places is a great way to get you "disappeared" in the dead of night.

Meanwhile, we go to Allegan County, where the Tea Party held a straw poll.

ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. — In her first candidate forum since announcing her candidacy for her former 80th District House seat, expelled Rep. Cindy Gamrat won in a straw poll against her eight GOP competitors.

This is only a Tea Party straw poll and not a poll of Republicans in the district, but it does demonstrate that when people say the Tea Party has abandoned both her and Courser, they are incorrect. In fact, remember that the Allegan tea party people originally called the expulsion hearings a new Sept. 11.

But, that's not the best part of this story. This is best part.

“Bill Sage, Shannon Szukala & Kevin Travis would all be considered possessing or at least holding close to the same values as the Allegan County Tea Party,” according to a post on the Allegan County Tea Party’s Facebook page.

The post goes on to say, Storey and DeWitt “would be considered conservative by most Republicans, but not necessarily constitutional,” while Whiteford is “a Democrat, running as a Republican.”

Conservative, but not necessarily constitutional ... because what these people really need are more litmus tests.

Cindy Gamrat’s attorney says she was given bum’s rush out of office

September 22, 2015 by  
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This is a thought-provoking read:

The rush to expel and backroom dealing was the biggest flaw in this rushed process. It was not until the leaders of the two caucus agreed to pass a resolution that referred the investigation to the Michigan State Police and the Republican attorney general that 2/3rds votes required under the House rules to expel were mustered.

Was this more a need by the republican caucus to purge itself of two members of the tea party wing who were abrasive and secured no friends in the state house?

As to the second paragraph ... yes, yes it was. This was all about the House Speaker (making and) taking an opportunity to shed himself of two thorns in his side.If they were interested in the actual scandal, they would have given themselves the necessary time.

It's high time that we recognize that the Legislature has basically degenerated into a high school without a principal or even teachers. It's Lord of the Flies meets Heathers, and Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat's biggest failing was that they failed to catch on with any of the cliques. So, when they screwed up, what always happens when people show a clink in their armor around large groups of unsupervised children. They were mercilessly slaughtered and the vultures fought over the right to strip flesh from the bones.

Their behavior was abhorrent in individual ways. Gamrat comes across as clueless and manipulative. Courser comes across as an erratic with delusions of grandeur. In a well-managed, orderly society, both would be individually unfit for the offices they held. But we live in our society, and they were able to exploit it to get where they were. They might have done things worthy of expulsion, but they weren't expelled for those things. They were expelled because the guy who runs the chamber lacks the experience in elected governed to have respect and an appreciation for it, and because when the choice was presented to him he sided with expediency and his own ambitions over respect for the state's citizens.

Goat Killer lets his anti-Muslim freak flag fly … again

September 22, 2015 by  
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Part of these people's crimes isn't just their bigotry, it's their terrible understaning of history. While the fantasy Thomas Jefferson who lives on in their fevered imaginations waged religious war against Muslims with almost as much fervor as they did against the British, the real deal was busy writing things like, "The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason and right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read, "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination."

But of course most of us knew about the real Jefferson's prickly relationship with organized religion, and his disdain of Christian superstitions evinced when he made his own Bible more useful by removing all of it (or, as Goat Kiler would probably say, "He got rid of all the good parts"). That these people's understanding of the actual people at the center of this country's founding is on shaky ground is already widely understood, as is their undersetanding of the Constitution and notions about the rule of law.

One notes that it took Dave Agema all of a week and a half following the dismissal of Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat from the House of Representatives that the party they were elected by itself refuses to remove from a position of internal prominence an unreconstructed bigot. So, just for the record, let's state the obvious: Michigan's national committeeman believes that subscribing to the Muslim faith disqualifies someone from being president.

Update! ... This morning, he compares to global jihad to same-sex domestic partner benefits!

Got that? He introduced bills prohibiting public employers from granting same sex partner benefits, which is part of the nation's struggle against Islamic jihad.

Probably worth mentioning, again, that he occupies a position of internal prominence in his own political party, which is unwilling to get rid of him.

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