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Weekend thread, open for your convenience

by: Eric B.

Sat Jan 24, 2015 at 11:59:02 AM EST

The last couple of days, for a couple of different reasons, I've been contemplating edamame. it might seem like a strange think to contemplate if you live in mid-Michigan, except that a) I really like salted, boiled edamame pods to eat with beer, and b) they are easy to grow. I used to grow them because they would help lock additional nitrogen into the soil of the garden I keep, so I would have less need to add nutrients.

We've also hit what are statistically speaking the coldest days of the year. It's the seasonal calendar's equivalent of Wednesday. After, oh, Groundhog Day it really is all downhill into summer, which is the weekend. What am I talking about? Yesterday, I went to get my paycheck, and it took four solid minutes to get dressed so I could go the three blocks to pick it up. I also had to get to the bank, my ISP and the coop to pick up lunch, alll of which involved further annoyance. All told, it took me 45 minutes to accompllish errands than in summer might take 20.

Also, for me, there's no edamame. For you, there is only open thread.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

On atheism, West Michigan and the end of Christian supremacy

by: Eric B.

Sat Jan 24, 2015 at 11:03:13 AM EST

If you pay much attention to demographic trends, one of the most striking is how unreligious young people are these days. It's been a trend, like newspaper circulation, that has been in decline for a very long time but has accelerated with the millenials. They are increasingly not interested in religion and find new, other ways to build community. You can probably blame the Internet for that, too.

That has set up yet another unavoidable generational conflict, that between the religious and the irreligious. It was at the heart of last month's controversy over Satanists from Detroit erecting a display on the state Capitol lawn, John Truscott calling it a public disgrace and Rick Jones finding someone to man the Nativity scene. It's now playing out in West Michigan, too.

— What is an atheist doing in the heart of Michigan's Bible Belt?

Raising hell, for one thing.

Mitch Kahle, who moved to this lakefront community in western Michigan a year ago, has quickly made his presence felt.

He convinced Ottawa County to remove a religious sign from a county park, persuaded Grand Haven to turn a 48-foot cross on city land into an anchor, and got two school districts to stop a minister from continuing to hold lunchtime programs at schools.

I heartily endorse all of this. There might have been a time when it was okay to put this stuff on public property, when communities were more homogenous, religiously speaking. It's not right, mind you, because it's still sends a message to dissenting belief systems that they exist on a lower tier, but you can rationalize it as an expression of community identity.

That age has passed, however. We now live in a time when communities are rapidly becoming more diverse places because of changes in who the American people just happen to be. And one of those places is in public expressions of spirituality.

I mark my official "coming out of the closet" as an atheist to a column I wrote about half a decade ago in opposition to the blue laws that prevented me from buying booze on Christmas. Why should I, the consumer, be forced to amend my purchasing habits to someone else's religious beliefs? The response I received was a torrent of rage and hate. Like this:

"How is it that a dirtbag can come into a community and cause so much controversy and destruction?" asked Rick Phillips, 59, a Spring Lake real estate broker who organized a rally to support the cross last year. "These carpetbaggers need to be driven from our community."

Now that I think about it, I received a piece of correspondence when my son was still an infant advising me that because I'd expressed myself that I'd consigned my son to eternal damnation. That was more than a decade ago, but the real point are the horrible things that self-described Christians feel entitled to say about people with different religious beliefs, especially those of us who are atheists.

Unfortunately for them, Christianity in America is in a state of generational contraction. Of the people I know, and I know a lot of people at all age groups, the percentage of them who are regular church goers is roughly inversely proportional to their age. While it's true that people tend to find God as they get older, a lot of those people grew up nominally and socially part of a church and who maintain connections to it throughout their young lives. Most of the young people I know these days simply say, "No thank you."

This sets up these sorts of legal fights. And social and cultural fights. It also strikes me as no surprising thing that Mitch Kahle wants to spark a number of culture wars across the state, but that are liberal in nature. I've met a lot of Christian people who believe that you need to believe in God to have an actual moral center, that people who don't believe in God have no source for a common morality except that we were raised properly.

That's a fairly insulting argument, and one that skips past the uncomfortable realities that established codes for morality predate the Bible. Some of it is based on the idea that unless we have rules we have chaos, some of it is -- I suspect -- hard wired into our genetics. As a species, contrary to what the Randians think, we do not thrive as individuals. No great human accomplishment was ever realized without group effort. We are a gregarious, weak creature and before we harnassed the power of our brains required others of our kind to survive. Would anyone be surprised to learn that, as such, our species' basic genetic code reflects that we require unspoken rules in how to interact and treat each other?

That is perhaps too much philosophical musing in a thing that is about what will become more frequent conflicts between the religious and America's growing number of people who remain unaffiliated, spiritually speaking. Change is coming, and like a lot of change that is taking place, our population of aging white people are the least likely to think that it's a good thing.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Benevolent overlord to meet with civil rights commission; Eliot-Larsen a possible topic

by: Eric B.

Sat Jan 24, 2015 at 09:26:51 AM EST

From Gongwer:

Governor Rick Snyder is planning Monday to attend the Civil Rights Commission's meeting, potentially making him only the second sitting governor to make that trek.

Mr. Snyder announced Friday that he would be attending the meeting to outline his priorities for the coming year. An issue likely to be discussed is changes to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to provide protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

it'll be interesting to see what our benevolent overlord does about the recalcitrance by our ongoing experiment in the Dunning-Kruger effect. As most of you know, he renewed calls to "discuss" expanding Eliot-Larsen in his state of the state.

For the record, they had the votes to move a fully inclusive expansion last Lame Duck. They also had the support of the business community. Why didn't they? Because Jase Bolger is a dick, who then blamed "the gays" for his own dickishness (as he always did). And, as we know, Mt. Pleasant's Finest isn't interested himself (despite the fact that his hometown two years ago expanded its own local version of Eliot-Larsen). The stumbling block was, is and will for the foreseeable future be our ongoing experiment in the Dunning-Kruger effect. Perhaps this is a sign that our benevolent overlord recognizes that and, like his work on the second Detroit bridge, is looking for a way to skirt it.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Detroit News: Address income disparity by cutting the capital gains tax

by: Eric B.

Fri Jan 23, 2015 at 11:55:26 AM EST

There's a meme involving John Schnatter of Papa John's making the rounds. In it, Schnatter is alleged to have said, ""If our business is successful and achieves excessive profits, we're under no obligation to share that with workers." I have been unable to this morning verify its authenticity, or even that anyone ever expressly said it in a place where they were quotable. It's a shame, because even if no one ever said it expressly, it's a reality that undergirds how we do things. Giving more money to business owners does not obligate them to share that money or even to do any hiring. They hire only the people they need to continue making profits and only pay them what they need to maintain their workforce. Anything else, anything they give extra that cuts into their profits, is gravy.

We first experimented with tax policy predicated on giving more to business owners and investors through cuts to the top income tax rates and rollbacks in the capital gains tax. Things worked out basically how you'd expect: Trickle down economics is really just the very wealthy urinating on everyone's backs and telling them that it's raining. This experiment has gone on now for 30 years and we keep getting the same results.

This brings us to this morning's editorial in the Detroit News.

It sounds like such a fair solution: The rich have more money than they need, while the poor and middle class have less than they need. So take some money from the wealthy and give it to those on the lower end of the income scale. Problem solved.

Of course, taking from the rich and giving to the poor hasn’t worked since Nottingham Forest. And it particularly hasn’t worked for President Barack Obama.

Actually, it did work. Not back when a fictional Robin Hood was taking the money from wealthy merchants and giving it to the poor of Sherwood Forest (who, by the way, would turn right around and give it back to those merchants in exchange for goods, which means it basically worked), but back when we first laid down progressive tax rates. We taxed the shit out of the wealthy, and invested that money in infrastructure and schools and other public works and social programs, and the United States was never more prosperous. Then, the wealthy began to complain that they were being punished by the tax code and gradually we rolled back the top rates and eventually they pushed too hard and got too much and we are where we are today.

The News' editorial was written in a vacuum of history, which is basically where you have to live if you believe stuff like this.

There’s only one proven way to move money from the pockets of the wealthy into those of the middle class and poor, and that’s to encourage the rich to invest in ways that create jobs.

Unfortunately, the higher capital gains and inheritance taxes requested by Obama will discourage such investments. The government middleman may get fatter, but the poor and middle class will continue to struggle.

I suppose it's possible that the News' editorial writers actually believe this nonsense. i suppose it's just as likely that they don't, but didn't feel like doing any real work this week and just dusted off an editorial that ran in 1982, changed a few names and called it good.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Lon Johnson announces bid for second term as Democratic Party chairman

by: Eric B.

Fri Jan 23, 2015 at 09:59:41 AM EST

Just saw the annoucement on Ye Olde Facebooks.

It's my official policy not to comment on these things in a way that should be considered an endorsement, but I will say that while a lot of people are probably very unhappy with how November's elections turned out (to be fair, Michigan Democrats at the top of the ticket outperformed Democrats in the rest of the country) that some of the things he's done needed doing and needed doing for a long, long time.

Discuss :: (8 Comments)

The climate, she's a changin'

by: Eric B.

Thu Jan 22, 2015 at 10:56:05 AM EST

i don't get to devote nearly as much space on this site to science reporting, which is something I really enjoy, as I'd like for various reasons. So, it's my pleasure to share this, this morning. If by pleasure, I mean it's aggravating to, at this late date, provide yet more evidence of global warming.

This is about as cut and dried as it gets. It should also put to final lie the nonsense that global warming ceased 18 years ago, although it probably won't.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

The Liberty response to the state of the state: Freedom to live and worship our god

by: Eric B.

Thu Jan 22, 2015 at 10:20:54 AM EST

Regular readers know that I am not a fan of political pageantry. I do not go in for ceremonies or speeches or what have you. Usually those things stand for self-aggrandizement for political insiders and pointless speculation about WHAT IT ALL MEANS. I used to watch every major speech, and in the bad old days of blogging, used to live blog them because that's The Thing that everyone did. But, ultimately I began to feel that that's a good way to start normalizing some of our worst instincts about politics, because it means letting someone else's agenda set yours and being constantly in a state of reaction to someone else's actions. Frankly, it's kind of boring.

So, I gave both the governor and the president a miss the other night. I did catch enough coverage of the speech that my impression is that our benevolent overlord gave a speech somewhere from the political center, which is great if his actions meet his words. He has achieved 80 percent of the things he's always said he wanted to achieve, and is leaving the other 20 to voters in May, and has no reason to cater to the Tea Party whackjobs who write legislation about lightbulbs and Agenda 21 and insisting that the way to solve every societal problem is to make sure that more people are carrying guns.

Good for him.

The only part of note is this rebuttal from Cindy Gamrat and Todd Courser. It is hilarious and a reminder that we have two delusional nuts (one of whom is training his children in the use of firearms to kill for Jesus, and one of whom thinks the biggest priority of the Legislature should be to defy the federal courts) now writing laws and a House Speaker who owes his chair at least in part to an alliance he crafted with them.

We want to first thank God and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for our salvation and His abounding and generous gifts, blessings and His grace, and mercy on our state and nation. It is important to acknowledge that it is only by His power and might that our state and nation remain. It is not the bills or the laws or the regulations that make our state and nation great, rather, it is recognizing who God is and submitting to His authority and dominion in our lives and as a state and nation; without this acknowledgement and also valuing God’s gift of life, then all other steps to set our state on the right course will be amiss.

This is just the first paragraph. Later on, they list rights they want to promote. The "Right to be born," is number one. They not only want to codify scientific illiteracy, they also want to impose their moral values on everyone in the state while at the same time stop a tyrannical government from imposing its values on everyone. It is not only ahistorical, religious insolence, it's also cognitive dissonance.

There are real questions about how much pull these lunatics will have on the legislative process. They are two among many, but among the many are others who are like minded but not so willing to be so public about it.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

About that planned merger of state departments

by: Eric B.

Tue Jan 20, 2015 at 10:36:30 AM EST

By now, you've probably heard about this...

LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder will announce plans to merge two of the state's largest departments in his State of the State address tonight, a spokesman confirmed.

Dave Murray said Snyder will announce a planned merger of the Department of Community Health and the Department of Human Services as a way of improving delivery of services to the needy.

The devil, as they say, will be in the details of how this is streamlined, what programs wind up being targeted as "redundancies," and -- most importantly -- who is picked to lead it. But the idea that we should house human services and health services under one roof is a pretty good idea. (Here, we go to Wendell Berry's notion that health and wellness -- not of the physical body, but the entirety of a person -- are intertwined. The idea that you can make someone phyiscally healthy while not also addressing their other needs like food and a sense of purpose and satisfaction is silly. It's also worth noting that one of the governor's best initatives from his first term -- Healthy Michigan (yes, I know ... Medicaid) -- was in part predicated on access to good food, and that while they were pursuing this through the Michigan Department of Community Health that it was being undermined by the Michigan Department of Human Services, where Maura Corrigan was doing her level-headed best to make more people ineligible for food stamps. So, this would prevent that moment of state departments working at cross purposes.

P.S. I might have missed something, but I think being overlooked is this executive order, intended to address the issue of homelessness. I'm not quite ready to get on the Snyder bandwagon, but these are two potentially impressive developments for his administration.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

And now, a word from our ... aww, nuts

by: Eric B.

Mon Jan 19, 2015 at 15:00:00 PM EST

It's my very sorry duty to inform all of you of further spending cuts here at Michigan Liberal. No one came forward last week to sponsor this website, so we had to cut another w from the headline. I realize that most of you don't feel this latest cut, but eventually it'll get to the point where it'll cause real, genuine grammar pain.

Won't someone think of the headlines?

You can do your part by sponsoring this-here website. It's cheap, still just $25 for a day, $100 for a week or $360 for a month. A month's sponsorship, in fact, would mean the immediate return to both w's to these headlines, but more importantly the placement of you before this entire community for a month. Wouldn't that be just grand?

Contact me at ebaerren@michiganliberal.com, via text message at 517/881-8008 or through social media networks. I'm not all that hard a guy to get in touch with.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Dave Agema's racist remark that no one is paying attention to

by: Eric B.

Mon Jan 19, 2015 at 13:43:22 PM EST

In yesterday's post about Brian Dickerson's column about the Tea Party's vulgar act of cultural appropriation here locally last weekend, he quoted Dave Agema making another horribly racist comment that no one has paid any attention to. It would have been raised yesterday, but Dickerson's column was such a fine read that making it about Dave Agema's continued bigotry would have been an insult to it. Anywhoo, quoth the Goat Killer:

"People tell me: 'But I'm not smart enough to run for state rep,' " Agema says. But he spent three terms in the House, and he's sure the least of those gathered in Mt. Pleasant can run circles around most of his former colleagues.

There was the time, for instance, when Agema asked an unnamed legislator from Detroit to support legislation cutting state expenditures for entitlements.

"His exact words to me were: 'But my people needs those entitlements,' " Agema recalls. He pauses, letting the grammatical error hang in the air. "His exact words."

Assuming, of course, that this exchange actually took place (why would Dave Agema, a notorious bigot from West Michigan, ask a representative from Detroit to support cuts to entitlement programs?), who else but Dave Agema would use a racially-charged dog whistle (man from Detroit!) as an example of stupidity in the Legislature? Keep in mind that he is not yet clear of controversy in which he favorably posted a white supremacist's screed in which the ability of black people to properly conjugate verbs was questioned.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Three paragraphs is all you need to read about the new Legislature

by: Eric B.

Mon Jan 19, 2015 at 10:43:08 AM EST

Chad Livengood at the News profiles the three tea bagger nutters who are taking seats in our ongoing experiment in the Dunning-Kruger effect. The first three paragraphs is all you really need to read.

Paragraph one:

Lansing — Rep. Todd Courser views himself as a "strong maverick," sent by voters in rural Lapeer County to reverse decades of government intrusion into their lives and wallets.

"Strong maverick" is an interesting way to describe a guy who is training his children in the use of military-style rifles to fight a tyrannical government on behalf of Jesus. But, do go on...

Rep. Cindy Gamrat argues the most pressing issue Michigan lawmakers must confront is ensuring state law says life begins at conception.


And Rep. Gary Glenn begins his two-year term in the House of Representatives determined to block the implementation of Common Core education standards once and for all.

When Michigan voters approved the nation's strictest term limits back in the early 90s, they guaranteed that this would happen.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

A columnist went to a gathering of aging, angry white people. What he saw will amaze you.

by: Eric B.

Sun Jan 18, 2015 at 10:57:25 AM EST

Brian Dickerson went to the Tea Party PowWow (appropriating indigenous culture since 2014!, and then wrote about it. It's a really excellent, satisfying read. It's the kind of read that I had to brew a second cup of coffee and put Miles Davis on pause to really absorb.

For anyone who doesn't understand why I treat these people with such contempt, this is the core of it.

Gamrat looks across a sea of white faces and asks those in the room, most of whom appear to be in their 50s and 60s, how many plan to attend next month's state Republican Party convention as precinct delegates. About a third raise their hands.

"And how many of you became involved in politics for the first time about four or five years ago?" she asks.

Nearly every hand in the room goes up.

Later on in the article, Brian Dickerson expresses a bit of common cause with the Tea Party, saying that he feels a lot of the same frustrations that they do. The difference, presumably, is that the Tea Party's response to it is a lot like some random person off the street, showing up at the scene of a house fire, and trying to direct everyone on where to go because he intuitively knows best how to manage the scene.

I'm not terribly big on ritual or tradition for the sake of those things. A lot of the things in politics, both at the state and federal level, strike me as self-aggrandizing ceremony intended more to fluff the egos of the people involved than to provide any kind of public service. On the other hand, what these clowns have dedicated themselves to is not creative destruction but simple vandalism. They are simply interested in tearing something apart and not worrying about what would fill the void, even if it's chaos. They are that way, not because they are stupid, but because they don't have the slightest idea what they're doing because they really only started paying attention when Fox News told them that a Muslim Manchurian candidate was in the Oval Office.

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

The point, she's been missed

by: Eric B.

Sat Jan 17, 2015 at 13:32:02 PM EST

Very slowly, by a matter of degrees, finally the state's political media is starting to admit that the Republican Party -- most notably its Michigan chapter -- is not hide bound by its bylaws in the jettisoning of Dave Agema from his position of prominence, that its hands are not tied by its almighty bylaws, written with the blood of saints and carried down from Mt. Sinai a short time after the Ten Commandments. Michigan Radio is the latest to acknowledge that there might be something else amiss. There is still room to grow, however.

But, they haven’t actually gotten rid of him. And that has led some to theorize that Republicans must not really want him gone. There’s been some breathless punditry suggesting that the GOP could ditch Agema, that is, if they really wanted to and sort of slyly implying some nefarious reasons behind it.

Let me speak as someone who has "theorized" that the GOP must not really want Dave Agema gone. There is nothing nefarious behind their reasons for not giving Goat Killer the heave-ho. It's a simple choice. Either A) they can go to the trouble of trying to get rid of him and deal with the fallout (success or failure), or B) they can go to the trouble of not trying to get rid of him and deal with the fallout. They chose B) and lied about not having open the first option.

The question is why they haven't pursued A). It is either because they don't actually find what he says repellent, or it's because they are afraid of trying and failing, or trying and succeeding and deal with the backlash of Agema supporters, who either don't find what he says genuinely repellent or who overlook it for some other reason. Either way, the root reason is very probably because there are enough people in enough positions to make it either practically or politically impossible to get rid of Dave Agema. This is straightforward reasoning. What Michigan Radio has done is given cover to all this by insinuating that people who believe this to be the case -- and this includes everyone I've talked to about this: media people, everyday folk, Republican Party activists -- are conspiracy mongerers.

Now some of the aforementioned theories are rooted in uncomfortable realities for the GOP. The first is that Agema does actually speak for some in his party who have extreme views on race, ethnicity, homosexuality and/or the nature of Islam. And second, even some of those who don’t share his views have stomached them in the past for the sake of winning elections.

This is entirely true. How many in the Republican Party does Dave Agema really speak for? Specifics are irrelevant. What is relevant is that he speaks for enough of them that the party panjandrums elected to not do anything about Agema. As to the second group of people, if they object to his bigotry but say and do nothing because he helps them win elections, they are moral cowards and unworthy of the benefit of the doubt.

One last.

Furthermore, no matter what the pundits say, these episodes tend to get drawn out and become very messy. The rules are not clear on how to get rid of a party official elected by a convention of Michigan Republicans.

This is a strawman argument. No one has ever said that it would be simple and straightforward. In fact, most of the ways that are available to the Michigan Republican Party involve a reinterpretation of or change to their internal rules. That means, in addition to arguing over whether to amend or reinterpret (by the way, the MRP bylaws say that removal of officers is discretionary and that as such there are no formal procedures for removal ... the chair can make them up: All they need do is interpret that this rule also applies to national committee representatives). Of course, there is a clear-cut way to get rid of him according to Robert's Rules of Order, which the Michigan Republican Party follows.

The problem is that no one calling for Agema's dismissal has actually done any of this. The process to get rid of him has already been messy and drawn out, but it hasn't involved anything more formal than individual Republicans disavowing him and calling on his to resign. It's not conspiracy mongering to say that the reason for this is that it would create a substantial blowback from Agema's supporters, who think the things he says are truth, because everyone basically already agrees that this is the case. What is needed is for more people to say this, rather than buying a storyline that everyone knows is bullshit.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Open thread for your weekend

by: Eric B.

Sat Jan 17, 2015 at 08:50:26 AM EST

Almost two years ago, I had to replace the hard drive of the laptop I'm currently writing this on. It crashed and took down the copy of Windows 7 it was operating on with it. When I got the new hard drive, I decided it was time to make the leap towards a better operating system and switched to Ubuntu. I wound up loving it, and I will never go back to Windows, that soul-sucking waste of money.

This Christmas, I got a desktop machine for the kid. It's an older model, and after trying a few different versions of this and that eventually got it working on something called Xubuntu, a stripped down version of Ubuntu. Last night, we had our first official conversation over social media chat, despite sitting five feet apart. It reminded me of the time that I was visiting relatives in Brooklyn, and my uncle told my cousin that dinner was ready over AOL instant chat rather than walking the two feet to the doorway of his room.

As for the rest of you, consider the thread open for the weekend.

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

SCOTUS to take up same-sex marriage case

by: Eric B.

Fri Jan 16, 2015 at 15:41:24 PM EST

Via Teh Twitters.

The US Supreme Court has agreed to take up the issue of same-sex marriage.

That's Pete Williams Twitter account from NBC.

Here's the order that made it happen.

Discuss :: (5 Comments)
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