Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Awful, Horrible, No Good EPA Cleaning Up a Century of Industrial Sludge from Muskegon Lake

There's a barge out in the middle of Muskegon Lake filled with sand. I was down that way on Friday when I took my boy to the candy store after school, telling him he could get $2 worth of candy. After a half hour of dithering he eventually settled on a gummi pizza, a jelly fruit slice (lemon) and Superman ice cream of the Hudsonville, MI brand. I can't exactly describe the flavor of Superman ice cream. It's more of a color than a flavor.

Anyway...just behind the candy store is a marina with the dock for the Lake Express cross lake ferry, and just beyond that is Muskegon Lake. And in Muskegon Lake...a barge, filled with sand.


It took me a bit to figure it out....after a century and a half of industrial dumping in our beautiful lake, the Federal government is investing 12 million dollars to clean it up, courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency. Keep in mind, if our conservative brethren have their way, West Michigan Congressman Bill Huizenga included, we'd be leaving this lake polluted and we'd be helpless to stop more industry from dumping more nasty stuff into it.

This is going to be awesome for the health of people living here, for the wildlife and for the safe edibility of the fish we pull out of there. And it's going to be a great thing for Muskegon's tourism.

Federal and state environmental agencies have approved a $12 million Great Lakes Legacy Act cleanup of contaminated sediment at Muskegon Lake’s Division Street Outfall area starting in May.

The initial focus of the Muskegon Lake project involves the dredging and safe disposal of 41,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the bottom of the lake between Heritage Landing and Hartshorn Marina.

Much of this sediment contains elevated levels of mercury and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons.

The project also includes placement of a 6- to 12-inch sand cover over 120,000 cubic yards of sediment with lower levels of contamination. Workers will also restore shoreline habitat, providing improved ecological conditions for fish and other aquatic life.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Politically and Morally Incapable of Maintaining our Civilization

Michigan urgently needs infrastructure investment. At least a billion dollars worth. That's where Governor Snyder and I agree. And if we don't do it now, it's going to cost us WAY more than that to play catch-up.

And now comes the task of paying for it. Snyder's idea is to dramatically increase vehicle registration fees by $120 per year.

$120 more per year to drive my car. That's a spicy meatball.

But hell...

As annoyed as I am that they'd give 1.6 billion in tax cuts to midsized and large businesses in Michigan at a time when Michigan is in desperate need for infrastructure investment, I would cheer our leaders for doing the responsible thing. I may be annoyed that the dude driving the Hummer and the dude driving the 1994 Honda Civic beater are paying the same vehicle registration fee....but whatever. We need these roads. I'd cheer our reps for actually RAISING the revenue needed to do the right thing and maintain our foundational infrastructure.

But I strongly suspect they won't. They're already fleeing from the notion of raising revenue. I've come to believe Michigan's congressional Republicans are politically and morally incapable of doing what needs to be done to maintain even the most basic foundations of our civilization: our roads. Our bridges...

Even the matter of bridges, the matter of building stronger more expedient trade routes with our largest international trade partner, is a contested one. The Maroun family owns the one bridge between Detroit and Canada and they're not giving up their effective monopoly without a fight. They've got most Michigan congressional republicans in their pockets....forget about the 10,000 jobs constructing a second bridge would create, forget about a new bridge connecting to an actual highway, forget about the fact that CANADA is going to pay for it, forget that business leaders, our governor, most citizens, pundits, editorial boards, cities, and three year olds and their stuffed walruses are in favor of the bridge...

Michigan congressmen like Senator Goeff Hansen are bought and in the pocket of the family who owns the Ambassador Bridge. They will sell out Michigan's future and nearly 10 million people just to keep a relationship with a rich family that doesn't even live here.

Michigan's Republican congress simply doesn't have the political or moral capacity to carry our state maintain even the basics of civilization.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

AWESOME! National Rocketry Competition Coming to Muskegon 2012



National rocketry event coming to Muskegon County in 2012

MUSKEGON COUNTY — The national championships competition for the hobby of model rocketry is coming to Muskegon County next summer.

One of three national rocketry events held annually, the National Association of Rocketry's NARAM 54 is set to be conducted July 28-Aug. 3, 2012, at Muskegon County's wastewater site that covers 11,000 acres in Egelston and Moorland townships. The weeklong event is expected to attract 300 to 400 people, with 150 to 200 staying the entire week.



I think I just peed my pants.

Summer going to RULE.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Muskegon County Unanimously Approves 100 MW Wind Farm Lease , Plus Local Green Manufacturing

Just returned from the Muskegon County Comissioners meeting where our county comissioners UNANIMOUSLY approved a proposed lease agreement for a wind farm in the 11,000 acre Muskegon waste water treatment facility. The commissioners and attendees were optimistic and excited to see this step in a 100 MW wind farm in Muskegon County move forward...enough to power over 20,000 homes, or about a third of the numer of households in Muskegon County.

The fellow I was sitting to, who actually asked not to be named, is from a local manufacturing company. His company is somehow involved in the process, and is happy that the contract includes a requirement for a certain percentage of locally manufactured components.

That's what I'm talking about.............

Not just jobs. But diversified jobs. Jobs in a new, non automobile related industry. See....while our leaders in Lansing seem singularly to blame tax code for Michigan's long term economic failure, the saner money would put that blame on an economy nearly singular focsued on a faltering domestic automobile manufacturing industry.

Economic diversification is the key. And that's what we're getting here. Is it going to be the one thing that saves us? No. Nothing will be. It will be A thing, ONE of the things, that helps us diversify into a more robust and buoyant economy.

The wind farm will be a significant source of revenue for the county, as well...and assuming our leaders don't scrap the Personal Property Tax without a replacement, it will also prove to be a healthy revenue source for local municiapalities.

We're moving forward here, in Muskegon County. We WANT to succeed. We WANT to embrace a hope and ambitious future. After decades of languishing, after getting beaten down from de-industrialization and factories fleeing the region for Mexico and China, Muskegon is preapared to do big things.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Running the Dunes 'Til Our Legs Can't Keep Up


I watched my three year old run up the dunes this afternoon. We walked down to Lake Harbor Park, mid-day. My boy leaped from wooden retaining walls, ran up and down embankments, climbed on benches. A group of people, some elderly, some in wheel chairs, some with oxygen tanks, sat around a picnic table near a pavilion where brown leaves fell onto the wet green turf. Up and down wooden steps my tiny little boy ran and ran. He ran past the group of people. Ran down a leaf strewn trail under a falling canopy. Ran up and down a small dune toward the parking lot area and hid behind trees. Ran past young men walking into the woods with their friends to that place, the place where sweet, resinous smells mix with the autumn leaves, the place where young people go, where they've always gone. My boy ran up that hill to the place where the young people have always gone, past a group of young people sitting in a group, smiling or looking away, with their hands behind their backs...

"Excuse us...just passing through" is what I always tell them when one of my boys chooses this dune to climb, and this branch of woods to explore.

We ran past them. Through the hemlocks and the small, scraggly oaks clinging to a sandy shifting edge. And then down. And then across the dry dune grass, and then I sat and watched as my three year old boy ran up a large dune face. A trail where people have climbed for decades. A trail where people sled down.

Up, up, up he ran and I stayed at the bottom and watched the tiny little boy grow tinier, and tinier, and tinier as he climbed and turned and waved and climbed and climbed some more until he was a teeny tiny, tiny boy far up the dune.

And when I expected him to run down that steep, sandy dune, with gravity carrying him faster and faster until his little legs couldn't keep up and he did a face plant...he chose to stay up the hill instead and disappear into the woods at the top.

I yelled to him and he peeked around the corner of a dried wooden stump and then he disappeared again, and so I ran up the hill...

I ran and ran, up, up, up, the hundred foot dune after that tiny boy.

I used to run up the very same dune as a teenager. As a very young man I ran up this exact same dune. I walked over three miles to this park from my home then. And I'd get to the bottom of this dune and I'd run up it as fast as I could, and when I reached the top, I would vomit from exhaustion, and lay unable to move. Running up a sand dune isn't like running up a hill. The feet sink into the sand, and you slide back, and you lift your legs high and plant your next step and slide and on and on, gaining just inches with each step.

I ran up the hill after my tiny boy today, much older and heavier and sedentary than I was in high school, tasting iron from lungs with each breath, with aching then quivering calves, up, up, up and collapsing at the top where my boy was watching me from a gray, dried branch.

"Oh...." I panted to him... "hi...there you are........... you need to come down....when I call you..........." my lungs ached "......your squirt gun is.......over there by the grass....." I pointed over a little down the hill to his purple squirt gun, my legs were like rubber. He leaped down the dune from his perch on the branch and grabbed his squirt gun and ran back up to me. The leaping into the soft sand from such a height was apparently fun enough that he did it five or six more times while I felt the heat radiate from my own chest.

When I was finally able to breathe normally again, we ran down the hill, faster and faster until gravity overtook us, and our legs were moving faster than we could keep up with and we fell into the soft sand at the bottom. Then we walked home.

Shout Out to all the Small Town Occupy Movements

Far away from the Fanfare of the New Yorks and Bostons, Chicagos and Seattles...

Far from the attention of the national media fray...

Far, far from from large groups of hundreds or thousands of fellow protesters...

...all over America in smaller towns there are smaller camps of ten or six, or less, protesting in small camps. They're out there in the cold October nights in their tents showing their dedication to a better world night after night after night, maybe feeling at times like they're on the other side of Pluto, far from the bright center of the solar system.

It's cold out here. And getting colder.

But there they are. Camping out in a smallish downtown that's been trying to revitalize itself for decades. There they are in a muddy lot just off the road, and down a hill, behind an old brick building. There they are, every day, every night, fighting the good fight for people in a blue collar town that's been kicked in the ribs again and again as it tries to get back up.

I can't claim to be one of those dedicated folks. I bring firewood. I bring food and water. I attend the occasional General Assembly and voice my support.

But I'm not camping in a tent or carrying my sign.

While these smaller towns are out there showing their solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. I'd like the folks in the larger towns to take a moment to think about the tiny, but dedicated camps all around America...and make the occasional shout out about how Occupy Wall Street is showing solidarity with Occupy Springfield, Occupy Muskegon, Occupy Wichetaw, Occupy Missoula...and all the smaller town across this nation where people are standing up, not afraid to say what needs to be said.

In the meantime, here's a Johnathan Coulton song I love,

Friday, October 21, 2011

Great Lakes Critters See Rise in Mercury Contamination as GOP Works to Stop EPA Limits

As promised. Mercury in the Great Lakes:

Mercury levels found in Great Lakes critters is on the rise.

Nobody knows why.

That's pretty much it in a nutshell.

After dropping for decades, mercury levels in Great Lakes fish and wildlife are edging back up again.

Mercury emitted from American smokestacks has been declining for years. But contamination levels in loons, walleyes and some other species has actually increased in the last decade, according to the largest report yet on mercury in the Great Lakes region.

The report, released Tuesday by the Great Lakes Commission, was based on 35 research studies and samples from tens of thousands of fish, birds and other animals. It concludes that the forests, lakes and wetlands that characterize the Great Lakes make the region particularly sensitive to mercury pollution.

Even more importantly, the authors conclude, the nature and extent of the region's mercury problem is more severe than was previously known - and, for reasons that are not understood, appears to be getting worse for some species.

Read more:

It's even reached toxic levels in some instances:

The report found that mercury levels are higher in fish in inland lakes than those in the big lakes. That was true of walleye from northern Minnesota, and other heavily forested areas with wetlands.

Six of the 15 most commonly eaten fish had mercury levels higher than the EPA recommends for human consumption. And many species, including loons, showed sensitivities to mercury at much lower concentrations than had been known.

Meanwhile, our new barking mad congress feels mercury levels are just fine or not nearly high they're looking to scale back the ability of the EPA to regulate things like mercury. They're looking to curtail attempts to reduce mercury emissions from coal fired power plants.

As I mentioned before, scientists aren't quite sure where the increased mercury levels are coming from. Most of the mercury in the Great Lakes to date has come from power plants. For the lifetime of each incandescent (normal, old timey) light bulb, a coal fired power plant releases about 13 milligrams of mercury INTO THE AIR. That's 5 milligrams more than is released when powering a compact fluorescent bulb, EVEN IF YOU ADD IN THE MERCURY in the compact fluorescent bulb.

Coal fired power plants are dumping 48 tons of mercury INTO OUR AIR every year and it ends up in our water. Cuz, you's heavy.

We're not quite sure why our Great Lakes and inland water critters are seeing higher concentrations of mercury. It's entirely possible that zebra and quagga mussels have something to do with it....

NOTE: This is pure speculation on my part...but hear me out...

...the scientific community has found that zebra and quagga mussels, because they're FILTERING MACHINES, will filter toxins from the water from the ENTIRE lake and then poop it out where the mussels are, along the shoreline. So while the lake in total may have fewer toxins, they end up being concentrated toward the shoreline.

Same thing may be happening with mercury. But like I said, that's PURE SPECULATION on my part.

I do know one thing for absolute certain....Weakening power plant emissions, or failing to make a higher standard, is NOT going to improve our mercury situation. And frankly, I don't want my kids taking in any more mercury than is absolutely necessary.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I hate politics

Before talking about mercury in the Great Lakes, let's talk about politics.

I hate it.

I hate politics.

I hate that I feel briefly good when going on a rant about X or Y, but then feel terrible later because I really, in my heart of hearts, don't feel that those who disagree with me are villains. They're my neighbors. They're my friends. They're people who I genuinely like...and though we have different views of this nation I'm guilty of preferring to bury the hatchet than to get everything I want.

Sure, there are ideological loyalists. I ain't that. I'd rather have meaningful friendships, at the end of the day, with kind people with similar interests than have friendships with people who merely agree with me.

There's too much politically polarized demonization. Looking on our friends and neighbors with suspicion because they want this or that. Communists. Nazis. Fasciests. Words meant to shove one another into a frame from which they can never again re-enter polite society.

That's no good.

I don't have the heart to be an ideological purist, or a partisan. I simply don't believe that people are evil. I don't believe people who disagree with me are evil. Or bad. Or even immoral. Or even misguided. Wrong. MAYBE wrong. I maybe believe they're wrong.

But out to destroy all that is good in civilization?


Do I get frustrated? Sure I do. I see people demonize the folks at Occupy Wall Street, I hear them referred to as Nazis. As idiotic hippies. As anarchists. Anything, everything, meant to diminutize and dismiss.

Did I play that game with the TEA party? You bet I did. Bunch of geriatric malcontents, screaming for the government to keep their filthy government hands out of their Medicare and VA benefits.

But they were angry, weren't they? Mad about something. Mad about feeling like they don't have a voice. Atroturf or not, SOMETHING resonated with enough Americans to get them out on the streets and into town halls to protest. Some sense of decay. Some sense of loss. Some sense of fear. Some very real human experience.

I'm tired of the hating and demonizing. I'm not cut out for it, really. I can't sustain it. The best I can sustain is the occasional outburst of frustration.

Long term.....maybe not so much.

What the hell am I talking about? I don't know. It's late. I'm probably delirious from sleep deprivation. I'm sure tomorrow I'll be eviscerating the bad guys old school.

I think I was going to talk about mercury in the Great Lakes. Maybe next time.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Maybe You Just Have No CONCEPT of What a Democratic Grassroots Movement Looks Like

I need to vent a bit.

After attending the Occupy Muskegon event I'm reading tons of comments from the news and in the comment threads about how the Occupy Muskegon event, which I considered to be wonderfully inspiring and successful, was disorganized and directionless.

To those folks I say, Piss Off.

Disorganized and directionless?

Ya know what? YOU may be happy being told what to stand for. YOU may be happy to be told what kind of ridiculous, cartoon hat to wear. YOU may be happy to be told what to chant and when. YOU may be happy to be told what to believe and when to believe it.


The first meeting of the Occupy Muskegon General Assembly was meant to ASK people what they want, not TELL us what we SHOULD WANT.


WHAT a concept.

A movement that ASKS Americans what they ACTUALLY WANT and then decides as a group how they're going to address those issues.

Holy crap. That almost.....ALMOST...sounds like a Democracy. Directionless. Disorganized. MESSY. With all these people having a VOICE and DISAGREEING with each other sometimes.



Why...this DEMOCRACY thing sounds an awful lot like ANARCHY. If no single person is in charge? It MUST be anarchy! Right? Because the will of the general populace couldn't POSSIBLY have anything useful to say or have even the remotest capacity to SELF GOVERN.


Oh...YOU feel like our meetings are directionless and disorganized.

Well thanks for the input.

We'll write it down on our big whiteboard and take your criticism under advisement.

You know what...maybe...just MAYBE...YOU are not comfortable with Democracy. MAYBE you NEED somebody to tell you what to believe. WHAT to stand for. And how.

Or maybe you just have NO CONCEPT...


...of how an ACTUAL grass roots, democratic movement works.

Two Hundred Occupy Muskegon

Today began Occupy Muskegon. The General Assembly met at Hackley Park with around two hundred in attendance.

I overheard a friend of mine speaking with two very friendly police officers who were simply trying to inform people of an ordnance requiring people be out of the park by 11:00 PM.

The officer asked my friend "We need to speak to the person in charge."

"In charge?" My friend looked around "Well, there's not really anybody in charge. We're all sort of in charge."

The police officer persisted "We need to speak to the organizer. The person who called this protest together."

"There were at least a dozen of them..." He looked around again "Yeah, I don't know who you'd talk to."

The officer continued "We need to speak to the person leading this thing...we're supposed to tell them that there's an ordnance requiring people out of the park by 11:30"

"I'm no trying to be difficult, but there's really nobody in leading it. We're talking agenda items right now. I guess you can put your name on the list to speak and tell the General Assembly."

The police officer smiled and declined saying "Can you spread the word for us, then? And, try to keep it down to a dull roar."

A dull roar is right.

There were around 200 people there in downtown Muskegon on a very cold, windy day. Folks of all ages. My mother was there with me, and she ran into several of her friends. I ran into the mother of one of my high school friends and we chatted for a while.

What few people realize is that the Occupy movement is as much or more about a style of protest as it is a set of demands. It's a style of protest that exemplifies the type of democratic process we'd like to see in our government, where everybody's voice matters, and everybody's voice is HEARD.

The critics don't get that.

Heck. I didn't fully get that until today.

We had started discussing when our next assembly would be when somebody spoke up telling the speaker she was out of order...that we hadn't discussed what our next topic of discussion would be. She suggested discussing whether or not we'd march today at noon as a show of support for and solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, and ultimately that became the first point of discussion.

This crowd-sourced Democracy is a beautiful thing.

So folks can criticize the "directionlessness" of the Occupy movement all they like, and all it serves to do is show that they really have little understanding of what's going on in the movement.

Ultimately...there was a small march on this windy, windy day.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Where Little Black Creek Empties Into the Big Lake - Photo Diary

I went through the campground at Hoffmaster State Park, on my way down to the lake.

I expected the campground to be mostly empty, but there was well over half occupancy. Tents. Campers. Most of them were decorated with skeletons, pumpkins, ropes strung between trees like massive spiderwebs, flags and banners with zombies and witches, all behind the morning autumn mist.

Morning campfires filled the woods with the scent of burning pine and the distinctive musty smell of black walnut.

Children, at 9:30 AM in early autumn, rolled along on skateboards and scooters.

The campground itself covered the Hoffmaster State Park sign with a green skeleton, and put up banners for the campers telling them of a childrens' harvest festival.

On the way to the water's edge, golden maple and beech leaves rained in slow motion through the woods, along the pathway and through the trees, up the steep dunes.

The beach sand held a natural windswept cascading pattern, distinct from the summer pitted pattern from swimmers and sun bather walking along the beach. But humans, being a compuslively symbolic species still scrawled messages where the sand was wet and packed. Children's names. Brief messages of adoration. Designs made with sticks.

Other animals left their own patterns. Brief records of their existence along the shifting sands.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Awesome TED Talks Vid About the Great Lakes

There was a TED Talks event in Muskegon recently...people discussing exciting and visionary ideas, packed with information. This was one of my favorites, about Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes:

Community Along the Roadside

An old man sold used bikes off Pontaluna road. Hidden behind a mesh of Norwegian spruce, behind thin maples and a rotting wood fence, an small white clapboard sided home down a gravel driveway. Along the road a row of bikes and a hand painted sign "Bikes For Sale". Ten speeds, mountain bikes, childrens bikes, dirt bikes. Every day. All day.

Drive down the dirt road past rows and rows of bikes in ascending size, a repetition of shape with varience of size and color. A pile of rusted bike parts and wheels blend with the woods behind the garage, and a massive oak is draped with hundred, maybe thousands of drooping bicycle innertubes.

Approaching the home, out of the car, turn to the home and knock on the door and wait. Knock again and wait.


And then a voice. An old man sitting, almost molded into in a frayed easy chair in his garage.

"You want a bike?"

He shuffled down the gravel driveway over to the bikes, guided us through the rows of childrens' bikes, and helped us pick out and size a bike four our 4 year old. Then he shuffled back to his green, threadbare easy chair. He asked for $8.

Today I drove along Apple avenue and passed a roadside vegetable stand overflowing with squash, cabbages, bushels of tomatoes outside a small white clapboard sided home down a gravel driveway. I turned around and pulled up, ready to put my dollar or two into a can to buy a butternut squash.

A tiny old woman in a red threadbare easy chair surprised me as I walked up, asking me "You want squash?" I couldn't quite make out her accent.

"Yeah!" I said "I'm looking for butternut squash"

"They a dollar fifty each" she said "How much you have?"

I reached into my pocket and pulled out three dollars, and said "I have three dollars"

"I sell them for a dollar each." She said. I looked down at the squash with tape on it reading "$1.50"

"Sounds good to me."

We talked for a bit about butternut squash recipes, then she saw me eyeing up a peck of potatoes "Those a dollar also." She reached over and pulled on out and cut into it, reveaing a creamy yellow interior "See? Very good potatoes"

We talked about her land. Her farm. The growing season. She bagged up my $2 worth of produce and with wrinkled hands smelling strongly of tobacco she handed me two tomatoes. "Here." She said "I have too many tomatoes."

We talked a bit more. She lives alone with her dogs. She buys whole cows and freezes the meat, and feeds her dogs T bone steak...they eat what she eats.

Tonight, I'm making potato and butternut squash soup.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Michigan Legislators Strip Food Assistance from a 13 Year Old Girl

Some acquaintances of mine have recently started taking care of a 13 year old girl.

Great kid. Wonderful with my kids and their kids. She was abandoned over the past two years. Neither of her parents, who were split up, wanted her. The grandmother also avoids having anything to do with her. I'm not sure whatever happened to the parents. But I know that the girl fell into the foster home system.

She had food assistance, to help her out and the family that was taking care of her.


HAD food assistance.

A new law, passed by the Republican congress and signed by the Republican governor, stripped the 13 year old girl of food assistance. The law takes into account more assets when determining eligibility.

And guess what? The 13 year old girl has a modest trust fund which she can't touch until she's 18. So her food assistance was stripped.

Michigan has determined food assistance eligibility based only on income for roughly a decade. A new policy will include a review of certain financial assets starting Oct 1. The requirements will affect new applicants right away and existing recipients when their cases come up for review, which typically happens once every six months.

Those with assets of more than $5,000 in bank accounts or some types of property would no longer be eligible for food assistance. Other assets that would count against the cap include vehicles with market values of more than $15,000 and second homes, depending on how much is owed on the properties.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Slip obscured into the autumn fog and silence

It's the season of mushrooms. The fragrance of cedar and the air of moss and rain, without cedar. Ghosts of fallen trees, red cubes and red dust framed in green. The season to observe distant strangers in the woods crouched among the stumps and tree bases. In the dune valleys. Knowledge of the woods explored to children who run ahead and drift behind. Spelunk under leaves and mist off the trail to strange domes of red and orange, to cities in miniature where red-backed salamanders make a home beneath bruised wet caps.

The woods are filled with swords. With hushed waves and ravens calls.

Each path leads to dragons, and tree-duels and sparring along the way to low and interesting spaces. Spaces between. Spaces below. Around. Where earth walls contemplate dungeons and rolling without complaint. Where mossbeds like green carpet are places to lay and talk and munch on wintergreen earthen candy between tree adventures, and insects are metallic and kingly.

Like blood. Like rust. Earthy red mushrooms dot the low, sandy patches that get into the clothing among the scrub oak and juniper and crusty, starshaped puffballs. It all ends up swept when the shoes come off. A spray of grit spilled along the floorgrain, the dunes have their ways of moving in by wind and by shoe and by emptied pockets, there's no stopping them in their centuries long agenda of shifting. Only the hardened dunegrasses can tame them, but they bloom in the fall in tassels while the fibers wash along the shore.

The trees know when to stop.

Their gnarled rootfeet terminate at the ridge in pause and never dare to move into the sharp dunegrass and eroding, sanding winds. They stand and watch and listen to the edge of the wind, knowing where the world ends. Soon they fade from green, to yellow, to red and slip obscured into an autumn fog and silence.

Join Us for Occupy Muskegon, Next Saturday.

Show your support for America’s future and the Wall Street protests this Saturday, October 15th , at Hackley Park at 10:00 AM. Cities and towns all over America are standing up to voice support for the Occupy Wall Street movement, holding local gatherings of their own. Chicago, Boston, and Seattle are doing it. Detroit, Lansing, and Grand Rapids are doing it. And now Muskegon, Michigan is joining its voice with people who want Washington to focus on regular, hardworking Americans.

Nearly one month ago, thousands of people started a long-term protest on Wall Street, frustrated that our leaders were not listening to ordinary Americans. The protests were born of a deep concern that our leaders are more focused on the interests of the banks and multinational businesses than the interests of American voters and mom and pop businesses.

The peaceful show of support for regular American workers has continued night and day since it began September 17th, and continues to grow in scope and size. More than 15,000 Americans assembled on Wall Street last Monday, with hundreds of thousands showing their support all across America in similar gatherings. Another 10,000 assembled in Seattle alone.

If you feel your voice no longer matters in America, join us at Hackley Park in downtown Muskegon, this Saturday, October 15th, at 10:00 PM, and make your voice heard with hundreds of thousands of others gathering across our nation.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

THIS is what happens when community rallies to do big things.

It's a huge deal!

It's a huge deal for renewable energy and wind power. It's a HUGE deal for the study and health of birds and bats over the Great Lakes. Its a HHHUGE deal for Great Lakes researchers and the ecological health of the Great Lakes.

And it's a huge deal for West Michigan and Muskegon and Grand Valley State Universtiy.


THIS is what happens when a region and a community rallies to do and reach for BIGGER things.


Today in Muskegon, Michigan, researches held a dedication ceremony for the FIRST EVER advanced research buoy in North America to be put into the water at all, ever, and it was launched right here at the Muskegon based, NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

This thing is going to monitor weather patters, wind speeds, bird migration, water temperatures and currents, water chemistry. This thing is the most advanced floating laboratory ever put in the water in the United States and it's going into my beloved lake.

Sure, sure...there are currently three advanced offshore wind research buoys. But two of them are currently languishing on the shore, waiting for the funding and go-ahead to actually be launched.

The launch of the buoy in the Great Lakes is the first introduction of this technology anywhere in North America, said Arn Boezaart, director of the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center. “The research buoy represents an amazing new capacity for wind research in the Great Lakes," he said. "It includes the most advanced wind measurement technology available."

Following a week of tests on Muskegon Lake, the buoy will move four miles offshore on Lake Michigan for a month-long trial.

Real-time data will be transmitted from the platform to researchers at Grand Valley, U-M and the Michigan Natural Features Inventory of Michigan State University. The research will provide information to support possible future development of offshore wind energy technology in the Great Lakes. MNFI research will focus on bird and bat flight patterns and migration studies.

The primary objective of the Lake Michigan offshore wind assessment is to gain a better understanding of the potential of offshore wind energy, as well as other physical, biological and environmental conditions on the Great Lakes. The research will provide information for the future development of offshore wind energy technology. In June 2010, the project secured $3.3 million in grants and research funds, including a $1.33 million energy efficiency grant from the Michigan Public Service Commission.

The world is inexorably moving in the direction of renewable energy.

It cannot be stopped.

We still do big things in America. We still reach for a better world. And there are still parts of America where people rally together to move forward. This buoy is a huge joint effort from many groups and people from all political ideologies, industries, non profit organizations, and scientific disciplines.

We WANT to be people of vision.

We WANT to dream big dreams.

We WANT to lead the way in renewable energy and a future sector of green manufacturing, offshore wind power.

And we're doing it right here in Muskegon, Michigan.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Michigan Republicans Raise Taxes on Low Wage Earners By $1000 per Year

I suppose I should be talking about this since it's on my beat, though Wizardkitten has an excellent diary about the Republican tax raises in Muskegon.

As it turns out, our Conservative representatives gleefully stripped downtown Muskegonites of the tax free Renaissance zone. The tax free Renaissance zone was set up to help a LITERALLY demolished city center lure people and businesses downtown to have a city center again. For some reason a tax free Renaissance zone was far too libertarian for our Tea Party congress so they...

...oh who am I kidding?

They stripped the tax free zone because there were mostly just poor poeple living there, and who gives a crap about them, right? Am I right?

Of course I'm right.

The Ren zone was mostly populated by low wage earners. If you're making 25,000 in downtown Muskegon, guess what? The Michigan Republicans raised your taxes by $1000 per year!


You'd think our State Senator Goeff Hansen would have given a crap...but he still gleefully rubber stamped the bill.


As did our State representative Holly Hughs.


They GLEEFULLY signed that bill. With gusto.

The very same bill that stripped young families of the state Child Tax Credit.

Folks are asking me all the time now, like they've JUST heard about it, "Is it true that we're losing the child tax credit this year?

I'm happy to tell them who punched their young family in the gut. Happy to tell them that Goeff Hansen and Holly Hughs JOYFULLY rubber stamped the bill that is raising their taxes by HUNDREDS and in some cases a THOUSAND dollars.

Middle class taxes: raised
Child tax credits for young families: scrapped
Food assistance: slashed
Help for the poorest citizens: retroactively slashed
Pensions: Taxed
Schools, police, fire departments: slashed

All to splash MORE and MORE and MORE money on the folks who don't seem to be hiring anybody right now. But I'm sure they're paying out some mad cash to Hansen and Hughs.

It can't be more direct. We're robbing regular Americans to give to the rich.

The Free Market Won't Fix the Toxic Algae Blooms

I'm not sure when the free market is supposed to come along and fix things...or when it becomes too expensive to throw taxpayer money at a problem to fix what regulation could have fixed CHEAPER. I think the All Republican Government in Ohio is testing those limits right now. They're spending millions.


The State of Ohio is spending MILLIONS of dollars battling toxic algae blooms. And not even in Lake Erie, but in a much, much smaller lake.

Ohio spent millions of tax dollars this summer fighting toxic, blue-green algae in Grand Lake St. Marys with chemicals, dredging equipment and nets.

Grand Lake St. Mary's...that's like way south of Lake Erie and near the border of Indiana.

What's Ohio doing about the algae blooms in Lake Erie? You know, the lake that generates over 10 BILLION dollars in economic activity?

Study groups.

Erie saw a record toxic-algae bloom spread across its western basin this year, adding to the “dead zone” where fish can’t live and threatening the lake’s $10 billion annual tourism industry.

A massive economic driver is in peril from toxic algae blooms, and the state can't muster the political will to do what needs to be done, through a sound economic regulatory framework.

Critics say that state officials know that farms and sewage-treatment plants are the biggest culprits but are reluctant to mandate changes.

Let's get a clue here.....the free market can't fix this.

The free market WON'T fix this.

Here's what happens when Lake Erie becomes a toxic dead zone: business dies or goes someplace else. It doesn't fix the problem. I just leaves.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Glad to See Muskegon, Michigan Represented at Occupy Wall Street

For as long as I can remember, my mother has made the occasional remark about how mass protests seem to be a thing of the past. It's not a constant concern on the front burner of her mind. But now and then, when we discuss politics and the evils of the world she wonders aloud where the passion is. Where are the people who should be taking to the streets?

So I was happy to tip her off to the Occupy Wall Street protests. And she was happy to hear about them. As we all know, it's not really being covered by the major media outlets and unless you're cued in to the right points of the blogosphere or the right twitter feeds, you're not going to find them.

We sat around and watched the live stream yesterday as one protester after another was arrested from the Brooklyn Bridge.

She later spent more time digging around on YouTube to learning more about this Occupy Wall Street thing and quite by random accident she ran across this vid featuring a young woman from Muskegon, speaking up, making her voice heard, and taking some hell from the police.

Jump to 3:00 mark below...

I'm glad to see somebody representing Muskegon at those protests. Glad to see people in general representing working Americans at these protests.

I don't know you Anna Kathryn Sluka, but thank you for doing what you're doing. You've got tons of support.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Court Kill Heating Assistance and Renewable Energy with One Stone

Not only are we watching heating assistance for 95,000 low income families come to an abrupt end with no resolution or action from our legislature. But we also get to watch the de-funding of a Lake Michigan platform for researching the viability of offshore wind power.

Two in one blow!

The Michigan Public Service Commission set up and administers the "Low Income and Energy Efficiency Fund" as per the Customer Choice and Electricity Reliability Act of 2000.

What does it do? For one, it helps low income families pay for heat in the winter. It ALSO invests in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. It has for most of a decade.

But that was then. This is now:

"The courts earlier this summer ruled that the Public Service Commission did not have legislative authority in the latest Michigan energy law to fund the Low Income and Energy Efficiency Fund

The Michigan Public Service Commission, under new law, no longer has the AUTHORITY to FUND the Low Income and Energy Efficiency Fund.

Nor does it have the authority to GRANT funds from it. The court ruling earlier suggested that LIEEF was not about energy regulation (the mission of the Public Service Commission), but was a form of welfare, and therefore, the PSC has no authority to fund LIEEF, administer LIEEF, or grand funds from LIEEF.

Who does?


Who cares, right?

Does it really matter? The same Conservative leadership that shoved thousands of Michigan families out on the streets today during the worst jobs crisis in generations, now gets to stand by and watch 95,000 Michiganders off from heating assistance with no action.

And as a bonus, they get to deal a massive wound to renewable energy efforts.