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Enbridge pipeline: Menace to the state's cultural heritage

by: Eric B.

Sun Oct 04, 2015 at 14:15:35 PM EDT

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.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

MIRS: Agema might run for the 1st Congressional District

by: Eric B.

Thu Oct 01, 2015 at 15:31:51 PM EDT

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.
Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Bridge cards: Golden ticket to shaming the poors

by: Eric B.

Fri Sep 25, 2015 at 11:51:40 AM EDT

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.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

America, land of manna and nuts

by: Eric B.

Thu Sep 24, 2015 at 15:17:45 PM EDT

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.

Discuss :: (5 Comments)

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

by: Eric B.

Tue Sep 22, 2015 at 12:30:00 PM EDT

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.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

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

by: Eric B.

Tue Sep 22, 2015 at 10:20:38 AM EDT

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!

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 48 words in story)

Greg McNeilly's greatest crime is that his jokes are trite and unfunny

by: Eric B.

Mon Sep 21, 2015 at 12:47:00 PM EDT

Greg McNeilly gets taken very seriously by Ye Olde Emm Ess Emm because he is a gay Republican. As such, he's a living, breathing Nixon Goes to China*, which anyone who follows the form understands to be a favorite trope of the Ye Olde Emm Ess Emm. In this case, McNeilly has had Very Serious Person status conferred to him because it is assumed that if he is brave enough to stand up to the knuckle-dragging Neanderthals in his party, everything he says must be worth considering, no matter how blindingly stupid they are.

Over the weekend, up at the Mackinac dealie, McNeilly refered to Obama as our first female president because he is an emasculate male. A lot of people immediately jumped on the misogynistic bent of the comment and apparently McNeilly promptly clarified that he didn't mean that Obama is our first female president because he is an emasculated Carly Fiorni. If you are having trouble figuring out exactly what the hell he really meant, just keep in mind the lesson from the previous paragraph: Greg McNeilly says a lot of really, really dumb things but people continue to pay attention to him because only Greg McNeilly can go to China.

If you were one of those people who came down firmly on the side of, "No, Greg McNeilly has belittled women," you have history on your side. A few years ago, after Rick Jones insulted every woman working within the Lansing bubble (not to mention conservative activists and people with mental illness) because Rick Jones is not particularly bright (according to Jones, the people of Michigan are going to rise up and make marijuana possession a capital offense aaaaaaaaaany day now), McNeilly decided to insert himself into things for some reason by referring to Gretchen Whitmer as a "government hooker." And while people's eyebrows arched over the sheer stupidity of the Lady Gaga defense he invoked, it largely got overlooked because Greg McNeilly last year was one of the first to get married when Barb Byrum married same-sex couples for a few hours before Michigan's Finest Legal Mind had proceedings temporarily interupted (temporary as in a year and a few months).

In fact, that case has already been amply made, by both others and the public record. Let's instead focus on McNeilly's other crime, his crime against humor. I say this as someone who thinks there is a lot out of bounds when it comes to cracking wise. You can turn a joke about anything, from genocide to sexual assault, as long as you are being a) truthful, b) insightful, c) focused, and d) clever. You can, for instance, tell a joke in which you refer to Mexicans as wetbacks. It goes like this, "I understand that Donald Trump reached out to minorities over the weekend by talking to a fellow hotel guest over the weekend. 'You just in from California,' he said. 'Stay away from my daughter. I kid. I love you wetbacks ... now here's a dollar to fetch my luggage from the cab.'" It's funny because Trump is campaigning on the very racist idea that the best way to make America great again is to keep out the horde of Mexican rapists now pouring into California, an idea worthy of ridicule.

As for McNeilly's swipe, it's meets none of those. What truth is he trying to project**? Who believes that the president is emasculated and how did he become this way? Which women are nothing more than emasculated men? This is supposed to be clever? It isn't funny because there is no answer to any of those, and Greg McNeilly has an unfortunate history of saying stuff like this, probably because no one has the heart to tell him that these sorts of things just aren't funny. Not because the target is off limits, but because they just aren't. If you understand that, you probably understand how to use humor in political speech. If you don't, you should probably figure out another way to express yourself.

As for Ye Olde Emm Ess Emm, the takeaway from this is that treating this sort of thing with Nixon Goes to China reverence isn't just engaging in banal punditry, it's also enabling bad humor.

*--A Nixon Goes to China happens when a political figure goes against his party platform or his general ideological drift and endorses conventional wisdom. See "Andy Dillon endoreses public sector health care reforms conservatives want." The argument is that if even a Democratic House Speaker says this is necessary, why are you fringe liberals arguing against it?

**--The idea that Obama is a woman man has been circulating around rightwing corners since he took office. It's never been explained or subjected to exploration, because people in those corners are more interested in simple mockery than making good jokes. It's funny to a very select few number of people, because they dislike the guy who is the punch line.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

John Yob gets decked at Mackinac

by: Eric B.

Fri Sep 18, 2015 at 12:39:25 PM EDT

Every decade it seems, Republicans at the Mackinac dealie have to have violence there to sweep out the build up of bad blood.

A huge Republican political gathering on Mackinac Island got under way Thursday night with a barroom incident in which a top official for presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio allegedly threw a punch at a Michigan consultant working for Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

The alleged incident took place at Horn's Bar, a popular nightspot on Mackinac Island, which hosts the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, which is held every year and has drawn six GOP presidential hopefuls this year.

The story goes on to point out that Mike Bishop, then a state senator, got decked there in 2003. What the story doesn't mention is that Bishop got punched allegedly because he was trying to make time with another man's wife and insulted the guy.

In this case, the video is circulating and ... Jesus, dude, take these things witl a little dignity.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Todd Courser, candidate for office he vacated last week

by: Eric B.

Fri Sep 18, 2015 at 12:18:07 PM EDT

Well, I think we can agree that this is less surprising that Cindy Gamrat's candidacy, given Courser's obvioius narcissim.

Former state Rep. Todd Courser, who resigned last week in the wake of a sex scandal and cover up as his colleagues weighed expelling him from the House of Representatives, announced Friday that he intends to file to run for his old seat.

I'm not sure who ultimately is pulling the strings behind this, Democrats who want to keep this running Republican embarrassment to press an election advantage, or Republicans who want to keep it alive to distract everyone that the Legislature ain't fixing the roads.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Gamrat files to run for seat she was expelled from

by: Eric B.

Thu Sep 17, 2015 at 15:51:05 PM EDT

Todd Courser allegedly uncertain at this moment.

This takes, err, some chutzpah. The fact that she'll get votes is an indictment on the American electorate.

Discuss :: (8 Comments)

School vouchers, another dumb zombie idea that won't fix anything

by: Eric B.

Thu Sep 17, 2015 at 13:17:34 PM EDT

Hey, guess how the state constitution is viewed inside the Lansing bubble:

"We obviously have a pesky Constitution that limits public dollars to private, parochial use. I think nothing should be off the table," Kelly said.

"Everybody believes education in Detroit is deplorable," Kelly said. "Yet nobody wants to take the means to do what's right. And I think what you need is to open up more choice and provide an avenue of escape for more families to determine the direction they'd like to have their child educated."

What he's talking about is his iron-hard belief that school vouchers will educate children. As with most iron-hard beliefs, there is little evidence that this works and lots of evidence that it won't, but these guys have proven time and again to be immune to facts. What they possess is their certainty that they are right and anything that says otherwise to them is simply another opinion, kind of like arguing that it's a matter of opiinion that the sky appears blue because of light energy being refracted through water vapor.

It's not only against the constitution, but we had a vote about this not actually that long ago. Nobody wants vouchers, to which this clown says, "Let's do this anyway and let the courst sort it out." It's not only a terrible idea, but it's terrible execution. Our lawmakers shouldn't be passing laws they think might get struck down in the courts because it's a waste of taxpayer resources (keep in mind these guys drone on endlessly about fraud, waste and abuse in the social safety net).

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Dear Michigan media, Dan Benishek already announced plans to violate his three-term pledge

by: Eric B.

Tue Sep 15, 2015 at 12:03:38 PM EDT

Making the rounds this morning is word that the teabaggin' surgeon Dan Benishek won't seek another term in Congress. This comes after telling everyone that he would seek a fourth term and spending a bunch of time and energy getting his name into headlines saying and looking like he was doing things for veterans.

So far, the political media is focusing on the fact that he is conforming to his original pledge to only serve three terms. This is false. He was already willing to violate that pledge and had an excuse ready when he said he planned to. Backtracking on that vow to break an oath is not the same thing as holding that oath true in the first place. It's just a sign that something happened to change the calculus by which that decision was made. Was that tanking poll numbers or sagging fund raising or the threat of credible primary challenge (Benishek is weirdly hated by his conservative constituents)?

Please, political media, make note of this. Not for partisan point scoring sake, but for accuracy and truth telling to your audience sake.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Filed! Conversion to Wordpress request

by: Eric B.

Mon Sep 14, 2015 at 11:08:24 AM EDT

I just received a confirmation e-mail from the people at Soapblox that migration to Wordpress can take place once I have a hosting company and probably a theme. I've got some stuff going this week yet, and there's a month to git 'er done before Soapblox goes dark for good. in the meantime, as always, I'm putting out the blanket ask for suggestions for a theme and to host the site. Someone a bit back suggested A2 hosting. Anyone have experience with them? Would prefer to stay Michigan and progressively-oriented if possible.
Discuss :: (3 Comments)

John Oliver on Todd Courser

by: Eric B.

Mon Sep 14, 2015 at 10:47:26 AM EDT

Please go watch this. It's John Oliver from his HBO shot last night, talking about Courser-Gamrat. I cried.There are dried tears on the side of my cheek now. Don't make my suffering be in vain.
Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Accommodating people's religious beliefs on the job is a terrible idea

by: Eric B.

Sat Sep 12, 2015 at 13:58:34 PM EDT

Unless you live under a rock, and probably some of you do, you've by now heard about the more local, Muslim equivalent of the Hillbilly Jesus lady who thinks it's okay for her to ignore the Supreme Court because Jesus told her to. No doubt some of you are already applying fingers to keyboards to explain why it's okay for a Muslim flight attendant to not serve alcohol and not okay for Hillbilly Jesus lady to sign marriage certificates. I have had several conversations about this the last few days, and progressives appear to think that there is s significant difference. There is not. For tape, we go to an Op-Ed by Dawud Walid in the D'News.

Charee Stanley began working for ExpressJet prior to converting to Islam. After becoming Muslim, she later accepted the majority opinion within Islamic teachings that Muslims are prohibited from serving alcoholic beverages. Upon bringing her sincerely held beliefs to the attention of ExpressJet, airline reportedly stated that her co-flight attendants could serve alcoholic beverages upon request to both accommodate passengers and Stanley given their Detroit hub flights always have two flight attendants. Stanley welcomed and followed these directions by the airline.

This accommodation reportedly took place without any issues for approximately two months until a co-worker who returned from maternity leave launched a complaint containing Islamophobic overtones about Stanley not serving alcohol as well as referring to Stanley wearing a head scarf and possessing a book with “foreign writings.” The accommodation which the airline gave to Stanley was subsequently revoked before she was placed on unpaid leave which could lead to her eventual termination.

None of these distinctions are terribly compelling, nor is it that the woman who filed a complaint is a bigot. The question at hand is whether we should allow anyone to pick and choose what job requirements they'll fulfill based on their beliefs (being an atheist, I am pretty unswayed that we should grant religious beliefs special consideration in the first place over say deeply rooted political beliefs about stuff like the environment and social justice).

By way of example, let me share a personal experience. I work (today, tomorrow and the two days after that) in a group home. Used to be my boss was a Jehovah's Witness (my other boss had undefined religious beliefs, which mostly were used to justify being corrupt and lazy, but that's another story), and since the agency that employs me pays tme and a half on holidays she'd happily let people take Christmas off so she could work their shift. As a result of her sincerely held religious beliefs, the actual celebration of Christmas was pawned off on the rest of us. The people who lived in the house, of the five who live there now only one is himself religious, celebrated Christmas not according to their customs, beliefs or lack of beliefs, but the beliefs of the woman managing the home. She didn't ask for this religious accommodation, of course. She just sort of took it.

But, stripped away, that's essentially what we have in most of these religious accommodation stories ... someone's religious beliefs wind up forcing everyone else to accommodate them, even to their inconvenience. If, in the instance of Charee Stanley, you had to wait five minutes for a drink because the other flight attendant was busy, you were inconvenienced in the same way that the people who live in the home that employs me were. You get your drink a little later, they get their gifts a little later, but in the big picture it's the same basic thing.

Because I am an atheist, I see no special need to take Christmas off (in fact, I think it's kind of a dumb holiday). But I did resent being asked to do extra work that should have fallen on a different shift. I also feel that service should be delivered at the convenience and customs of the consumer, not the service provider ... that's whether it's in-flight cocktails or Christmas presents.

This is different than an accommodation that doesn't foist off job duties on co-workers or place your personal beliefs of people you're supposed to service. If you want a holy day off or want to wear religious garb while working, that's fine, but once you clock in if you're unwilling to do your job duties then it's fair for everyone else to suggest you find a new line of work.

Discuss :: (8 Comments)
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