Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Shrinking Great Lakes Reveal 125 Year Old Shipwreck Near My Grandpa's Island

Falling water levels have revealed a 125 year old shipwreck and several others in the Grand River by Harbor Island in Grand Haven, Michigan. That's just a couple miles south of me. And on a river island where my Great Grandfather built the only house on Harbor Island almost a hundred years ago. Now two years gone with just a driveway from Google Maps to show where it once was. The last line of the article "The Great Lakes are shrinking because of drought and rising temperatures." Photobucket
The dropping water levels in the Great Lakes have revealed the remains of a wooden steamer built 125 years ago. Sections of the 290-foot steamer Aurora and parts of at least four other shipwreck hulks were exposed by the receding waterline at Grand Haven near the edges of Harbor Island. The Aurora is in the Grand River, which flows into Lake Michigan nearby.
As a child I spent days and weekends there in the marshes, fishing off the small and drifting river island. My parents got married there. My great grandfather planted irises there. My great grandmother boiled kidneys there. Old country. You know. High speed silent and black and white movies of family gatherings there. Great uncle F making a beeline for the banquet table...stopping...fanning the space behind him and continuing on. In the cat-tails and muck I had a three pronged frog spear hunting nothing and anything...when most of the property was gone as the island drifted and the basement was filled with water and smelled musty and of river. Grandpa in his later years spent aquatic summer after summer bringing in fill dirt to build up the land and pump the water out, Netherlands style, until I could no longer fish from the back porch. I never caught anything with that trident.
At the time of its launch in 1887, the Aurora was considered to be the largest wooden steamship traveling the Great Lakes, according to Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates.
Swisher sweet smell of the air and redwing blackbird calls from the reeds. Guns in the pocket and skeleton keys. On the island. Grandpa on the concertina singing something that sounded Polish, I thought, or Slavic, or Spanish, or French. I'd find old glass, old bottles and cans and imagine they were ancient. Epic. Old medicine bottles. The old weeping willow. And the leaning garage filled with rust and iron and mystery where we should have been forbidden to go. And in the morning the house like a boat, the bathroom mortis-lock door opening and closing. Opening and closing. As if rocking in the waves on the island.
It served as a coal and grain trade vessel until it was damaged by a fire and turned into a barge. It was abandoned in Grand Haven in 1932. Valerie Van Heest, director of MSRA and a maritime historian, says this offers a rare chance to see wrecks without having to scuba dive.
My grandfather passed on surrounded by family. The house went empty. And the forces of time and the Grand River near where it meets Lake Michigan, overtook the house. It was torn down in 2010. Now there's just a driveway. And the weeping willow. And a Four Winns boat dealership and a marina.
The Great Lakes are shrinking because of drought and rising temperatures.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Real Stories of Higher Fuel Efficiency Standards Putting Industrial Midwest Back to Work

Put a way the shine and the polish. Put away the talking heads and their excellent hair and confidence opining with a certainty that is inversely proportional to their accuracy.

Give me a guy with callouses on his hands speaking from the heart, a woman speaking from experience, the coffee addled lab researchers talking about how they're pushing the limits. Show me the folks in the trenches with reports from the day to day world.

How is a higher fuel efficiency standard working for America?

It's working. It's putting the Industrial Powerhouse Midwest to work is how it's working. Here's a whole website dedicated to real-life stories of real, actual, real-life people getting real jobs and real businesses hiring and innovating BECAUSE OF, not in spite of, the recent increase in fuel efficiency standards:

www.drivinggrowth.org

Visit the site. Watch the videos and the stories from the ground.

Right now at this very moment, the 2007 35.5MPG by 2016 and the new 54MPG by 2025 fuel efficiency standards are pushing American companies to innovate, grow, hire and spark technologies with applications beyond the original market.  They're reducing our nation's need for energy. They're keeping more US money in our country. They're making American products more competitive globally.  They're keeping money in the pockets of American drivers at the pump, and putting downward pressure on gas prices from falling demand.

And they're reducing America's greenhouse gas emissions.

A higher fuel efficiency standard doesn't just impact a couple of car companies, mind you. This is about an entire industry from researchers and engineers, small parts manufacturers, and advanced battery manufacturers and all the small manufacturers in between.

This is from a Johnson Controls battery manufacturing plant in Ohio, a plant that employs 400 people and recently added 50 new jobs...

"This battery here is used for the Stop-Start application. The stop-start application is basically when your car is at idle position it shuts off and then the battery. And then the battery is used to keep your electrical components running and then restart your engine once you take off again....your battery will start your engine again when you take off the break."

Emerging Start-Stop technology will allow US cars to shut down the engine during stopped periods and start back up again when the light turns green. That's going to go a long way toward improving fuel efficiency.

Already popular in Europe, stop-start systems shut off the engine when it is not needed, such as when idling at traffic lights. It’s an inexpensive addition to conventional gasoline-powered cars and can reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions between 5 to 12 percent.
Reduce fuel consumption by up to TWELVE PERCENT...just by eliminating the fuel waste from sitting at a red light. 



This is a perfect example of  how we actually CAN reduce our energy use without all the hand wringing from the usual No We Can't voices telling us there's a secret agenda to send Americans back to living in caves.

We can do this. We as a nation CAN move toward a cleaner, lower carbon future. And the only way it's going to happen quickly is if we drive home the fact that it's not just GOOD for the planet and GOOD for our future. It's good for our economy and good for Right Now. Because a family struggling to get by -- and families are struggling to get by -- doesn't have climate change at top of mind. They've got worry and frustration in the pit of their gut because they very much need to see the dentist and they can't swing the cost. They're out of milk and not getting paid for another week. They have to shell out for $20 for their son's field trip and they're looking for quarters under couch cushions.

Let's put folks to work solving the world's problems like energy demands and climate change.

We know it works, because it's working.
More than 25 percent of total U.S. job growth in the auto sector since June, 2009 is concentrated is just three states – Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. For decades, these states have been at the center of U.S. auto manufacturing. Workers, companies and taxpayers in the Midwest are now benefiting from a resurgence of auto-related innovation and investment. As of June 2009, collectively, the three states saw an increase of 66,300 jobs, for a gain of 30.2 percent since the low point in June 2009.1

Michigan has seen the largest increase, adding 35,200 jobs for gain of 33.7 percent. Indiana’s auto manufacturing grew by 19,800 jobs for a gain of 39.8 percent. Finally, Ohio’s auto sector also is seeing robust growth with 11,300 jobs added for a gain of 17.4 percent since the economic low point of June 2009.
And
Stronger standards mean more “onshoring” of the production of fuel-efficiency components. Stronger U.S. standards means higher volumes of fuel-efficiency components and advanced vehicles that otherwise would be built overseas, since higher volumes justify producing locally. Examples of this onshoring trend are Toyota and Honda bringing hybrid production to Indiana, and Ford beginning to produce hybrid transmissions in Michigan, instead of purchasing from Japan.

America is manufacturing again. A large part of the credit goes to the man America just re-elected as president. And I suspect his re-election is due to his support for the hard-hit manufacturing states like Ohio and Michigan. We've noticed.






Thursday, July 5, 2012

July Moonlight in Wave Distorted Replica

My arms are lined with red, all on account of blackberries and Very Small Boys discovering plumes of shiny black fruit far back into the jagged plants. I reached through brier portals, up on tiptoes, precarious toward nestled and far berries. The bucket didn't have many of them. But purpleness stained the Very Small faces, hands, shirts.

With the fading red and orange of the cicada sun - the fishing sun. The burning sun. The blackberry sun - we were on the soft beach, still stained. Still lined in red. Absorbing somewhere the union of the sun and water that brings the cars in singlefile parades. The pilgrimage to the Big Lake. When it's angry and storming. When the waves crash high over the light house. When the red and orange blueberry sun sets. Or when the mind is restless. Grieving. Quiet.

But somehow there was no other pilgrimage in our chosen beach spot, along the sands which in the absence of people had shifted back to its banded, wind layered patterns. And the sun had slipped down into the banded and rhythmic waters. And the stars and moon shone from the South, reflecting on a shiny black surface in wave distorted replica.

A new sand castle began construction. In the moon darkness the sound of children: games and laughter feeding on itself, tunes hummed unselfconsciously from minds absorbed. I wandered into the dark waters and smelled the stirring sands, tripped on a sand bar surprisingly close to shore. My red lined arms plunged into the waters to catch my fall.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Visiting Michigan's Green Job Economy at the Michigan Energy Fair

Watching some Fullmetal Alchemist on Netflix, breathing in the warm evening breeze coming in from the window. Enjoying some time to myself after some time at the beach with some friends and the kids. Whole lotta splashing around and sand.

Last weekend my little boys and I made our way to the Michigan Energy Fair near Ludington and visited some of the many vendors and businesses in the area innovating through renewable energy, creating new jobs and opportunities in our state. Four Elements Energy for one. Those guys are cool. Clearly love what they do. They're the folks who set up the solar array for the folks down the street.

Here's a picture of somebody charging his or her Chevy Volt up at one of the Four Elements Energy solar setups:



There were quite a few Volt drivers there. Never seen so many in one place. If there wasn't a wall in the way I'd have been able to get a photograph with three Chevy Volts in it. Here it is:


There's one in the foreground charging up at a plugin station. There's one behind the tent, the silver one being charged up with the solar array, and inside that building is one more. But you can't see it cuz there's a wall in the way.

My two little boys made paper pinwheels, got a lot of fun schwag from the displays and vendors, and the made solar cooking boxes for making s'mores. Then we took a tour of the Lake Winds Energy Park under construction near Ludington. It was beautiful...and the construction of the wind farm employs 150 people.

We first got to see the place where they kept the wind turbine components as they got shipped in:

Here's a row of 165 foot long wind turbine blades.


This is a hub and some tower components:


And here they are under construction, with some completed ones:









Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Smell of the Big Lake

On the West Coast of Michigan we talk of the smell of the Big Lake. The smell coming into my window now. Right now. The smell of childhood and grounding. All things from the water and between the water and me. The ladyslippers and sassafras, wild columbines and trilliums tucked between shifting hemlock dunes.

The Big Lake. Said with reverence. Big Lake. The smell of the Big Lake. Lake Michigan. The smell of the Big Lake...with shared communal reverence. Because we know and remember. With a wistful nod to memories and dune grass and darkness in the mossy woods.

Spring comes and the smell of the Big Lake changes the city and the people to children and memories. Flashes of senses. Closing the eyes in the back seat, hot and with the head pressed against the window, light flashing behind closed eyes backdropped by eyelid blood vessels as the sun dashes between trees and treetops, dots and dashes too fast to interpret behind the closed eyes. Sugar sand in the shoes and in the car and in the hair.

But there's meaning. A message. Olfactorial and in the dreams. The window is open and you wonder why the sun is still up and you have to be in bed. And the sheer curtains breathe in and out a soft breeze. Outside a white noise off in the distance.

A hush.

A pulse of hushing. A ten thousand year song. And a breeze. The curtains sway. The smell of the Big Lake tells you something you both already know between the decaying oak and wintergreen, the algae and the white pine. Porcupines have stripped the thin and young beech and maples from the midsection on up and a damaged resin flows from millions of tiny scratches, and as you walk the dune ridges you turn your head to give privacy to the young and enamored who think they are alone among the springtime dunes and leaves and fresh fiddlehead ferns.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I'd Advise MI Republicans to Support the Green to Gold Renewable Energy Tech Initiative


**cough** I'd advise our Republican reps to take the new Green to Gold bill seriously, considering a solid majority of Americans of all political stripe support the renewable energy transition.

The new bill (Bill 5599) introduced by Rep. Charles Brunner - D of Bay City is a loan program (LOAN program) for providing incentives and low interest loans to small, green energy tech businesses in Michigan. It's a loan program (LOAN program) that provides capital to entrepreneurs, builds a new industry to diversify our economy, creates jobs...and helps to make Michigan a leader in renewable energy.

The Renewable Energy issue enjoys majority support from all parties. If Republicans choose to ignore the will of the people on this, the bill will be a nice cudgel to clobber Republicans during the election year.



Bill 5599, which Brunner introduced late last week and is certain to face Republican challenges in the Legislature, would provide loans and other economic development incentives to qualified businesses. This green to gold revolving loan fund would be created in the state treasury. The money would come from a variety of sources, including local, state and federal revenues, as well as private contributions.

"It's not a tax giveaway," Brunner said. "Companies receiving a loan must provide good-paying jobs that offer medical benefits."

The bill would also require loan recipients to set clear job creation requirements that must be met twice during the duration of the loan. If a company fails to meet its job-producing obligations, it would face higher interest rates on the loan, officials said.


Sounds good to me.

Monday, May 7, 2012

It feels like I've come back to something today


I went fishing with my older Boy today (8) and caught a northern pike. And hot diggity were we thrilled about that...but let me back up.

I remember walking through the woods with my Grandfather as a child. With the Swisher Sweet cigar in his hand, the passing smell of which now conjures vivid and warm memories, he'd show me  wild woodland plants I could eat and that seemed to me just about the coolest thing ever. Wintergreen. Sassafras leaves. Fern fiddlheads. Berries. Wild mushrooms. We'd walk out to the marshy land behind his sinking house, the one his own father built on an island along the Grand River, and we'd go fishing. Pull worms from a rusting can and cast them into the river. Swisher Sweet smell through the willows and cat tails and the metallic call of the redwing blackbird.

I remember imagining when I was with him that we could, in fact, survive off the land. The fish. The plants. The squirrels. In my child mind I'd become a nomad. I could escape into the deep woods and live off wintergreen and sassafras leaves.


That notion of eating locally was planted into my head early, but I never really took it seriously. A childhood imagination. I never took it seriously as a notion until recently. Sure, sure...I'd been dabbling in my organic garden. I buy stuff from the local farmers market. I liked the Eating Local idea, but I wasn't really prepared to go out of my way for it until, for whatever reason, that Havard Red Meat study came out.


Red Meat Consumption Linked to Increased Risk of Total, Cardiovascular, and Cancer Mortality


One daily serving of unprocessed red meat (about the size of a deck of cards) was associated with a 13% increased risk of mortality, and one daily serving of processed red meat (one hot dog or two slices of bacon) was associated with a 20% increased risk.



We all knew that, of course. I mean...it's no huge revelation that red meat is horrible for you. I just wasn't prepared for exactly how enormously, unquestionably horrible it is for you. I used to imagine it was just sort of slightly bad...or maybe a gray area. No. Absolutely not. No gray area. It's just bad.

And I'm aware that from an Eating Local perspective one could buy local beef. Even lower fat grass fed beef.

But the call of the stuff I had learned from my grandfather came back to me. Walking through the woods, reaching out and grabbing something to nibble on. Catching fish by the shore.

Recently the Boys and I decided we're going to spend the summer learning to fish.

I've always enjoyed fishing. But save for a couple excursions out on the Big Lake with some family friends to catch rainbow trout or salmon, my fishing experience rarely went much beyond bluegill and sunfish.

And bluegill is fun. Don't get me wrong. They're plentiful, easy to find, and fun to catch, and I like the way they taste. But I always felt like less than a real fisherman being somebody who only fished for bluegill.

So the older boy and I recently ventured into fishing with spinners. We read up on 'em. We experimented with them on the lake for a while. We went fishing over the weekend, and then went today. Today we went down to the lake, the boy with his red and white spoon and I with my brass colored French spinner....and holy smokes.....I caught a northern pike. It was a pretty awesome day. We jumped around and cheered. We compared notes about our various fishing techniques and the lures we were using. I think we're getting the boy a similar spinner but of larger size next time.

It feels like I've come back to something, today. Between the garden where my boys have their own spaces for gardening, and the fishing, I feel like I'm returning to something simpler and basic. Something closer to home, in my memories of my grandfather and in my food. A continuum that I hope to hand off to my small boys.

Anyway...we still have much to learn about fishing. So if you happen to have some sage fishing advice, I'm all ears.



Sunday, May 6, 2012

Power Outage at the Only Barriers Holding Back the Asian Carp


And this is why an electric barrier is no match for a brick wall.

I mean, who could have predicted this:

This week a power outage shut down electric barriers that are the one thing keeping the invasive asian carps from crossing over from the Mississippi basin to Lake Michigan. The invasive species are predicted to throw the entire managed Great Lakes ecosystem into chaos and potentially killing the 7 billion dollar a year Great Lakes fishing industry.


An electric barrier network near Chicago designed to prevent Asian carp and other species from migrating between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River systems had a 13-minute power outage this week, officials said Friday.

The outage began at 12:58 p.m. Wednesday, said Lt. Col. James Schreiner, deputy commander of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Chicago district. Two of three barriers were operating at the time and both failed. Backup generators were activated, but a power surge prevented them from immediately delivering electricity to the barriers. Personnel at the site manually reset a circuit breaker to get the generators working.



The Army Corps of Engineers has been studying long term strategies for keeping asian carps out of the Great Lakes and holy mother of f*** have they been taking their precious sweet time. While asian carps are knocking at the doors of the Great Lakes, the Army Corps of Engineers will release its report...in 2015.

How's that saying go? Politics is the art of delaying a decision until it's no longer relevant.

Many groups and US representatives from Great Lakes states are pushing to speed up the report and get on with the solution before it's too late.


TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- Legislation introduced in Congress would force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to speed up a study of how to prevent Asian carp and other invasive species from reaching the Great Lakes.
 
The corps has identified 18 locations where fish and other organisms could migrate between the lakes and other watersheds, including an artificial linkage between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River basin in the Chicago area.
 
Corps officials say they'll release their recommendations by late 2015.
 
Michigan's U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and U.S. Rep. Dave Camp say that isn't soon enough. They're sponsoring bills to require the corps to submit a progress report within 90 days of the legislation's enactment and a full plan within 18 months.
 
Scientists say Asian carp could starve out native Great Lakes fish.


The electric barriers are a joke.

Friday, May 4, 2012

I'm sure there's a metaphor in this spring garden diary somewhere


With the spring moving in, it's been time to tend the garden and, of course, re-stock the sand box. Here in Muskegon, the latter means taking a drive down to Pere Marquette park along the shore of Lake Michigan with a shovel and the biggest containers you can find. All along the drive, houses post signs offering...no...BEGGING people to take away sand. "Free sand!" sand "Freer Sand!" and "free range sand!" and "For the love of GOD PLEASE take away our san...mmmmmmfffff"

Because going back for thousands of years, Lake Michigan has been pushing sugar sand up and out along the shorelines, which means a massive dune will quickly form where the houses currently stand unless folks like me and my small son here pull up in our little car and start shoveling sand into buckets and haul it away for "personal use"



That's a rental property that apparently hasn't been shoveled out since last year. Note the sand encroaching on top of the deck there on the upper right corner.

Anyway, when you want sand here in Coastal West Michigan, that's where you go. Down to the beach to dig out somebody's house....

...which leads me to my organic garden. My wife finally took notice of my slow annexation of the yard and we've agreed, in a final armistice treaty, that my garden would stop at the tiny cedar, and before the gate.




Now that I'm no longer in expansion mode, I'm focusing on improving my garden internally to improve the yeilds, make it more pleasant, and grow more stuff.

I'm sure there's a metaphor in there for our nation, but I can't figure out what it is right now.

Anyway, back to the sand. I've delineated various parts of my garden with some flagstone that somebody dropped off at my house last year. He sort of..........................................................borrowed the flagstone after so and so's friend's home was foreclosed on. His friend said "take anything you want in that yard" and so he was all like "Yeah, okay." Anyway, the short story is a pile of flagstone was dumped in my yard. Not all bad. The rest of the wood in that garden is recycled and repurposed from other stuff.

I put the flagstone down...but now I'm thinking of taking it back up and making a path all proper like, with tamped down sand below it to keep the growth from coming back up. I realize it's kind of a long story about why I'm getting buckets of sand, but what the hell. It's a Friday:



On the lower left there is a raised bed for my two boys. They can go in and plant whatever the heck they want to plant there. There's some pumpkin and carrots and radishes and whatnot.

On the right is my perennial garden. I've got a perennial leek bed in the back there...trying to get that growing more. And then there's my son's strawberry patch. And to the right of that my perennial and semi-invasive egyptian walking onions...

This morning I made some breakfast with those this morning, along with some morels from my parents' yard and some brussel sprout greens from a brussel sprout plant that survived the winter.



Anyway. That's the garden and spring so far.



Howsabout you?

Neighborhoods and Gravel Roads


This afternoon we drove through gravel streets in Muskegon that not too long ago had been paved. With no city funds to fix the roads they deteriorated to axel destroying strips of potholes. Eventually the city of Muskegon Heights just dumped gravel over the streets.

Entire city blocks and neighborhoods near the center of town, road after road after road has been transformed from paved to gravel. Along the neighborhoods streets, boarded up homes and ragged blue tarps on the rooftops. Or moss. Or broken windows.

Near the housing projects.

My father recounted to me living in similar homes growing up. Wide tracts of homes once built to house soldiers returning from the war, then soon after used as places to herd impoverished families. The old homes, not quite as fancy as the Levittown homes, have since been sliced apart from one another and placed on the outskirts of town in their own disjointed neighborhoods of dilapidated homes built from the remnants of dilapidated homes.

As we drove through town a man whose yard was entirely dug up for a vegetable garden - a sensible decision in my opinion - had looked woozy and fell to the ground. Two other men across the street ran to him and helped him up. Broken glass windows and duct tape and card board, structural elements to keep the cold at bay just as long as it can.

People talk of a need for fundamental systemic change in this country. Fundamental systemic change to improve the situation of Americans.

I agree with that.

But what until then?


What do we do UNTIL then?  It's been a half century since my father grew up in the 1950s equivalent of housing projects.

How long EXACTLY do we wait for this fundamental systemic change that will solve everything?  While folks are battling the Big Fight about Big Ideas for the Big Future over there....what do we do down here?

I'm less interested in taking part in a battle royale about fundamental systemic change that may, might, somehow, some way come along and improve these chronically impoverished areas and communities that need something better RIGHT NOW.

I'm more interested in knowing what can happen TODAY? What can be done THIS WEEK? This MONTH? How can a community help a disadvantaged young man IN HIS LIFETIME while we wait for this grand systemic National change to take place? This HUGE systemic national change that's going to improve everybody's life Some Day. It's going to be great. I believe it will.

But what until then? How do we, down here, fix things Until That Day?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Keep Eclectablog Eclectablogging

The world of Eclectablog is having a quarterly fundraiser so that they can keep eclectablogging and lolgopping.

Show them some love.

Their readership has grown like crazy into the tens of thousands / hundreds of thousands. If you're not a reader, you ought be. If you're not a contributor, you ought be that, too.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Poll: Political Divide on Renewable Energy is a Total Myth


Heads up to our representatives: A new poll show's there's no victory to be had in being anti-renewable energy. Sure, sure...some organizations out there have an interest in creating some purely fabricated, false appearance that renewable energy is a hot button partisan political issue...as if there are herds of conservative voters out there willing to storm the polling booths to defend the good name of Coal.

But that's not even close to true. Not even close. By and large, Americans of all political stripes support a transition to clean, renewable energy: solar, wind, etc.

There is no political divide on renewable energy, according to an ORC International survey conducted by the Civil Society Institute.


A new poll conducted by ORC International for the non-partisan Civil Society Institute finds that 77% of Americans support — including 65% of Republicans surveyed — believe “the U.S. needs to be a clean energy technology leader and it should invest in the research and domestic manufacturing of wind, solar and energy efficiency technologies.

The poll found that Americans support subsidies for renewable energy over fossil energy 3 to 1. When asked about having to choose between only subsidizing clean energy or fossil energy, 38% of respondents said they’d choose renewables, while 13% would choose fossils.

Thinkprogress


Our reps need to stick that in their pipe and smoke it. Just one more instance of how DC insiders are miserably out of step with what Americans actually want as our reps listen to the echo-money chamber of the DC bubble.

Some of the poll findings below:



Conducted March 22-25, 2012, the new ORC International survey of 1,019 Americans shows that:
About two out of three Americans (66 percent) - including 58 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of Independents, and 75 percent of Democrats -- agree that the term "'clean energy standard' should not be used to describe any energy plan that involves nuclear energy, coal-fired power, and natural gas that comes from hydraulic fracturing, also known as 'fracking'."
Even with high gasoline prices today, 85 percent of Americans - including 76 percent of Republicans, 87 percent of Independents, and 91 percent of Democrats -- agree with the statement "energy development should be balanced with health and environmental concerns" versus just 13 percent who think "health and environmental concerns should not block energy development."
More than two out of three (68 percent) think it is "a bad idea for the nation to 'put on hold' progress towards cleaner energy sources during the current economic difficulty."
About three out of four Americans (73 percent) agree that "federal spending on energy should focus on developing the energy sources of tomorrow, such as wind and solar, and not the energy sources of yesterday, such as nuclear power." Fewer than one in four (22 percent) say that "federal spending on energy should focus on existing energy sources, such as nuclear, and not emerging energy sources, such as wind and solar."
OTHER KEY SURVEY FINDINGS
More than two out of three Americans (68 percent) - including 60 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Independents, and 74 percent of Democrats -- think that America's "new energy future" should be guided by the "precautionary principle," which would work very much like the Hippocratic oath does for doctors: "The precautionary principle would advocate a conservative approach to the use of technologies that may put public health at risk and create irreversible environmental harm. If there is not enough scientific evidence showing that it is safe, precaution should guide decisions in those cases."
Eight out of 10 Americans agree that "water shortages and the availability of clean drinking water are real concerns. America should put the emphasis on first developing new energy sources that require less water and result in lower water pollution. "Only 15 percent of Americans think that "America should proceed first with developing energy sources even if they may have significant water pollution and water shortage downsides."
Two thirds of Americans (67 percent) think that "political leaders should help to steer the U.S. to greater use of cleaner energy sources - such as increased efficiency, wind and solar - that result in fewer environmental and health damages." Under a third of Americans (30 percent) think that "political leaders should stay out of the energy markets and let private enterprise have a free hand in picking energy sources and setting prices."
More than eight out of 10 Americans (82 percent) - including 78 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of Independents, and 85 percent of Democrats -- agree with the following statement: 'Whether they are referred to as 'subsidies,' 'tax incentives' or 'loan guarantees,' the use of taxpayer dollars for energy projects are long-term investments. However, government incentives for energy must benefit public health and economic well-being. Clear guidelines are needed to direct public energy investments by shifting more of the risk from taxpayers and ratepayers and more to the companies involved.'"
About three out of four Americans (75 percent) - including 58 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of Independents, and 86 percent of Democrats -- think that "Congress and state public utility commissions that regulate electric utilities should put more emphasis on renewable energy and increased energy efficiency รข€¦ and less emphasis on major investments in new nuclear, coal and natural gas plants."
Despite high gas prices, less than one in five Americans (16 percent) think that "the energy price paid by consumers is the only factor that makes any difference. Production damages, such as from mining, environmental impacts such as pollution, health harms, and other costs associated with energy should be considered less important factors." By contrast, 81 percent of Americans believe that "the price paid by consumers is only part of the cost of energy. We have to look at the whole picture -- including environmental and health damages -- when we talk about what a particular source of energy costs America."
Nearly six in 10 Americans (56 percent) are now aware of the natural gas drilling process commonly referred to as "fracking." Fewer than three in 10 Americans (28 percent) are "not aware at all" of this extraction process.
Eight out of 10 Americans (81 percent) who are aware of fracking say that they are concerned - including nearly half (47 percent) who are "very concerned" - about the impact of fracking on water quality.
About nine out of 10 Americans (89 percent) agree that "U.S. energy planning and decision making must be made with full knowledge and understanding about the availability of water regionally and locally, and the impact this water use from specific energy choices has on their economies, including agricultural production."
Four out five Americans (80 percent) - including 78 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of Independents, and 82 percent of Democrats -- oppose the use by utilities in some states of advance billing - known as "Construction Work in Progress" - to pay for the construction of new nuclear and other power plants. Only 13 percent agree that "ratepayers should pay for electricity they use, and construction of nuclear reactors and other power plants that may come on line in the future."
Eight out of 10 Americans think U.S. taxpayers and ratepayers should not "finance the construction of new nuclear power reactors in the United States through tens of billions of dollars in proposed new federal loan guarantees." Three out of four Americans (76 percent) would support "a shift of federal loan-guarantee support for energy away from nuclear reactors and towards clean, renewable energy, such as wind and solar."


Monday, April 23, 2012

Michigan's New Tax Policy a "Leap of Faith"

“Our goal is to create a stronger economic environment,” [Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell] said. “Sometimes in tax reform you have to take a leap of faith that we’re all going to benefit. We’re trying to create a better environment so that we can compete.”
Leap of Faith. Yes. Republican senator Dave Hildebrand just referred to a new Republican economic policy to slash city revenue as a "leap of faith". "Leap of Faith." Exact words. And so that's it. Michigan Republican's economic policy comes down to a roll of the dice. A silent prayer as the roulette ball bounces around. Close your eyes and jump off the edge and hope for the best. "Leap of faith."
The tax is set to be phased out beginning in 2016 and Grand Rapids stands to lose more than $3 million annually once it is gone. Kent County would lose about $4.7 million, figures show. The more heavily industrialized a municipality is, the greater the loss.
"Leap of faith" -- Hey...MAYBE the cities and citizens, already crushed by Republican tax hikes on the Middle class at the expense of schools, roads, and public safety will do better with another 20% cut to their city revenue? Maybe! Some cities will get hit worse than others...

"Leap of faith." This is the Republican tax policy at work. There's no other thinking behind it than a blind walk across I96, folks. Best of luck, Michigan.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ever More Creative Ways to Kick Industrial Cities to the Ground

So. This map:

personal-prop-tax-michigan

That map shows some sample cities around the state, while the circles show the percentage of revenue the labeled city gets from a tax called the Personal Property Tax.

Allegan, for example, gets 30% of its tax from the personal property tax.

What's the personal property tax? It's basically a tax on the STUFF and EQUIPMENT a business owns. For example, my wife has some display cases in her store, so she has to pay a small tax on having display cases in her store. Yes. True. But in terms of meaningful business expenses it mostly applies to manufacturing companies that have lots and lots and lost of large equipment.

So one can imagine that the cities that get the most money from this tax are mostly Industrial centers. And if that's what you think, then you would be correct. This is a huge source of revenue for working class, industrial cities.

Conversely it's a very small source of revenue for the more affluent, less industrial cities like the Grosse Pointes or the Blooomfield Hills areas.

But for some middle class industrial towns, it can make up as much as 57% of the city's revenue.

So of course...Michigan's Republican legislature is currently discussing getting rid of this tax. But don't worry! They're going to replace it with some other type of tax....but not all of it. Just 81% of it. Or that's the word so far. So instead of losing millions and millions and millions of dollars in revenue, the hard-hit industrial cities will merely be losing millions in revenue.

PHEW!

I'm not going to lie and say I love this tax. I'm not even going to lie and say it's entirely bad our State is going to get rid of it. The bad thing about the tax is...it's HORRIBLE for start up companies who aren't even profitable yet. But you're still pulling most of the taxation from 'em right out of the gate for owning equipment. It's a big deterrent to the very folks we want here. The new folks. The small folks.

So I'm in favor of scrapping the tax. So...Republicans: Good job. Kill that tax. Here's a pat on the back.

Now let's not be assholes about it.

Cuz getting rid of the tax without a FULL replacement targets...TARGETS the cities and people that have already been knocked to the ground and kicked repeatedly for a decade. It sucks funding from cities already on the bring of collapse. It sucks funding from cities that are already closing schools and cutting police forces and watching their roads crumble.

There are perfectly reasonable ways to get rid of the Personal Property Tax, and there are Asshole ways to get rid of the Personal Property Tax. Let's do the reasonable ones. Just this one time.

Monday, April 16, 2012

West Michigan Fruit Production Devastated by Bizarre Weather

In November 2009 I wrote a diary titled the Fragile Climate of Fruit Growing Perfection. In in I talked about West Michigan's ideal microclimate for fruit production and how fragile those perfect conditions are. Well...this year we're seeing a catastrophic collapse in West Michigan's fruit production due to weeks of record breaking high temperatures in late February to mid March combined with a winter without a prolonged hard frost.

Sure sure...everybody knows Michigan and manufacturing. Michigan and cars. Michigan and the factory, machinist thing. Yadda yadda. That's there.

But the Michigan I know is also the Michigan among the top fruit producing regions in American. Michigan, a major producer of tart cherries, blueberrries, apples, juice grapes, pears, peaches, plums, strawberries, raspberries, asparagus, the leading producer of black beans and second largest producer of dried beans. West Michigan is peppered with city and street names like Fruitport, Fruitland Township, Fruitvale road, Orchard View...

The Farmer's market overflows with an amazing variety of local, seasonal produce and my wife has a cherry jam to die for that includes no fewer than seven varieties of local cherries.

But this year, all along the West Michigan coastline, the strange weather this year has devestated the crops....


We didn't have a prolonged hard frost this winter. It was warm. Very little ice or snow....ALL. WINTER. LONG.

Blueberries:

Because of the warm winter the blueberries didn't go into a period of dormancy. That means that many areas are likely to have very unproductive blueberries this year.



But because of the record breaking March weather, many of the fruit crops bloomed early....

....too early.

And are now getting killed by hard frosts.

Juice Grapes:

Frost wipes out juice grapes in southwest Michigan
A devastating frost has wiped out grapes grown for juice in southwestern Michigan.

John Jasper, a surveyor for Welch’s Foods, tells Channel 57 that he went through hundreds of acres before even finding a live bud. He estimates more than 10,000 acres were destroyed Thursday, mostly in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties.

Jasper says Welch’s gets approximately 17% of its grapes from southwestern Michigan. He says the company could be forced to change recipes for some products.

"The apple crop at Kercher's Sunrise Orchards in Goshen was also heavily damaged, the owner told us Sunday."

Tart Cherries:

NW Michigan Cherry Crop Takes Hit After Record-Busting March; 50-70% Of Fruit Lost In Hard Freeze

A hard freeze has wiped out a big portion of the cherry crop in Northwest Michigan this spring. The area produces more than half the state’s cherries that end up in desserts, juice and as dried fruit.



Asparagus:

Asparagus came up early, far before the migrant workers who usually pick it start to show up. Farmers are scrambling to find locals willing to pick asparagus....but you'll notice I'm sitting here blogging instead of traveling 40 miles to the north to pick asparagus.

Strawberry farmers, apricot farmers, apple and peach farmers....everybody is getting hit.

Mark Longstroth, a fruit educator at the Michigan State University Extension, said half an hour at 28 degrees around bloom time will cause damage and half an hour at 25 degrees could take 90 percent of the crop

Fruit production is a major economic driver in West Michigan, and was one of the few stable and even growing spots during the decade long Michigan recession. This year the entire region and fruit growing industry is getting hit hard.

Michigan's fruit growers are going to need some Federal relief to make it through to the next year.

This is our food supply, folks.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Obama Admin Joins Five States to Speed Up Great Lakes Offshore Wind Farms

It's easy to look at our the massive pile of rinky dink Tea Party reps taking up space in the halls of government in places like Michigan and think nothing positive is getting done. And in many cases, that's true.

But....
The Obama administration and five states, including Michigan, have reached an agreement to speed up approval of offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes, which have been delayed by cost concerns and public opposition.

With offshore wind power in the Great Lakes this is an issue that has NOTHING to do with Today, and has EVERYTHING to do with Tomorrow. It's the responsible thing to do to get that ball rolling NOW.

Many groups, including our group (the West Michigan Jobs Group), have lobbied Michigan leaders to get back to work on the offshore wind power permitting framework....even though the best case scenario is a bunch of reps who would prefer to ignore the issue, while in the worse case scenario some reps are making moves to ban offshore wind in the Great Lakes outright.

Ain't a chummy environment for renewable energy...or.....anything, really....in Michigan these days. Not until next election, baby. Am I right? Eh? Yeah, I'm right. We're so gonna flick those sticky green bums off our fingers.

But until day our leaders work with what they've got. Say what you want about Snyder, but he knows the score with our energy needs. It's not a matter of opinion...if we stick to the status quo with our energy, we're sunk for so many reasons.

The status quo isn't an option.

So the Federal government is teaming up with Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, and New York to speed up the regulatory process for offshore wind power in the region. That's what you call an End Run around teh stoopid. Michigan will still need to craft its own regulations...but we don't have to sit around twiddling our massive Michigan thumbs until we can get that done.


Administration officials said the region's offshore winds could generate more than 700 gigawatts — one-fifth of all potential wind energy nationwide. Each gigawatt of offshore wind could power 300,000 homes while reducing demand for electricity from coal, which emits greenhouse gases and other pollutants, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

and from an email I got

The MOU does not create any new laws¸ call for new regulations or change existing authorities. Rather, it empowers the state and federal agency signatories to coordinate and share information concerning how offshore wind proposals are reviewed and evaluated with the goal of improving coordination among all of the relevant agencies and ultimately the efficiency of such reviews.

The cooperation produced by the MOU is aimed at improving efficiencies in the review of proposed offshore wind projects by enabling simultaneous and complementary reviews, and avoiding duplicative reviews. The MOU will send a market signal to prospective developers and investors that the Great Lakes region is ready to consider offshore wind proposals and that the regulatory process will be timely and efficient.

This is an issue we need to look at through the lens of decades. As the global population climbs and third world nations much larger than the US successfully achieve a higher standard of living.

As I said earlier...this is not an issue that has anything to do with Today. this is an issue that has everything to do with Tomorrow. Even if an offshore wind farm were proposed today, it would be a decade before it's up and running.

I'm 37. I'll be nearly 60 by the time these wind farms are up. This isn't for us, or me. This is a life raft we're leaving to our kids. If they choose not to use them...or if they feel they don't need them, that will be their choice. But we can at least float that choice over to them when it's time for them to take the reins.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A World with 23 Years Worth of Coal Left.

Yikes.

Okay. So the World Coal Association website freaks me out a bit.

It has been estimated that there are over 847 billion tonnes of proven coal reserves worldwide. This means that there is enough coal to last us around 118 years at current rates of production. In contrast, proven oil and gas reserves are equivalent to around 46 and 59 years at current production levels.



According to the World Coal Association we have 118 years of coal.................................at current production. This is the World Coal Association. If we don't increase production AT ALL, we have 118 years left.

But there are these countries called India and China, right? And they have 8 times the population of the United States. And their economies are growing like crazy. And the folks living in grass huts want electricity and the same standard of living as we have here in the US.

We'd need to increase coal supply by at least 400% just to meet that demand.

118 years cut into quarters is 30 years.

Plus the global population is going to rise to 9 billion by 2050....just 38 years from now. That's another growth rate of 28%.

SO rather than just a 400% increase in power demand we'll be seeing a 512% increase in coal demand.....

.....................blarg. That 118 years gets chopped down right quick to 23 years IF we increase production to meet demand.

The other option is to maintain production in the face of growing demand and watch the price skyrocket.

Fiction: Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here

This is some fiction based on the theme Abandon Hope, from the WriteOnEdge writing prompt.

-------------------

"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here..." Dan's girlfriend whispered in his ear and squeezed his hand as they sat down at the Sushi restaurant.

Dan felt a miniature burst of adrenaline similar in quality to the burst one feels when a lover enters a room. He waited a moment to build the tension before opening his menu, even after his two friends and his girlfriend had.

He smiled secretly to himself then opened the sushi menu. The adrenaline momentarily sharpened his sense of smell and he could smell the roasted sesame oil from the table next to him. That made Dan smile even more secretly. And secretly even more.

Angie, his girlfriend, used her hand to still his bouncing knee.

"You're about to explode, aren't you."

"..........maybe. I'm not NOT about to explode." He gazed at the menu, his eyes darting from one item to the next. (Uni) Urchin. Tobiko (the eggs of flying fish). Partial to sashimi without the rice, but only just barely, he felt a paralysis of indecision. Saeweed salad, he had to have that. And spicy noodle soup with...but the tempura! His eyes moved from one item to the next.

He'd order it all if his funds were unlimited. But he had to choose. Every time, his mind froze up as if this was the last time he'd get to eat ever and it had to be a transcendent experience so he'd remember it and just the memory would nourish him for the rest of his life.

"You're not going to like what you get."

"I know it...." Dan felt the adrenaline and smiled secretly again.

Their friend James asked from across the table "What? You don't like sushi? We can go grab a burger...that's fine with me."

"No. No. He's in heaven right now." Angie waved her hand to dismiss the suggestion, "He loves sushi."

"I do." Dan said from behind the menu.

"I think it's just that we have to drive an hour to get to a sushi restaurant. So we only go once a year or so. He's got some weird fascination with Asian foods. Asian candies....he gets the most awful candies. Licorice lime. Bleh. It tastes like battery acid in salt."

Defensively and from behind his menu "Nuh uh. Okay. Maybe. But you say that like its a bad thing."

The waitress took everybody's order. Dan verbally oscillated between the soup and the Tako (Octopus) nagiri and the unagi rolls. "I'll have...the....unagi....I mean I just want the tako nagiri....wait....no...." Finally he got to the point of feeling stupid so resolved to stick with the last thing he said: "the spicy noodle soup". It was right there in the range of their budget and it looked good. Crab and shrimp and mussels. Hr ordered and stuck with it, feeling a sense of loss the rest of the meal.

His girlfriend turned and kissed him on his cheek, knowing he horribly missed the tempura. And the squid. And the urchin.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fiction: Helium Balloon

The boy isn't quite at the age of articulating his thoughts. But it's so easy for him to fall in love with a helium balloon. How strange and upside down and wonderful to feel weight and pull from above his chubby and dimpled hands. The boy holds the string and feels a gravity like force pull up as he lifts up to give the string slack and then pulls down fast, creating a THUMP sound from the rubber balloon knot. It's a lazy little balloon. Not very full. But full enough to float.

Thump, thump, thump. The boy walks aimlessly repeating the gesture, looking up at the orange ball above him on a string, squinting from the sunlight streaming through a canopy of broad green oak leaves. A cicada whirs from somewhere up there on the high summer day.

Thump thump thump. He tugs and tugs. He jumps and feels the pull of the balloon on his hand. He pulls the balloon hard and it bobs on down to his eye level but only for a moment and then rises again, making a nodding motion as it goes. The very little boy is dizzy now, looking up and walking in tight circles on uneven, scrubby grass. He trips on a breaching oak root and lets go of the balloon. He feels the string slip up his arm.

The boy stands up and sees the string just above his head and he feels for a moment that he can just reach up and grab the string of the lazy little balloon as it rises. He reaches up, but it's risen by then. Still out of reach. But not too far. Still within a tippie toe reach. His fingers graze the slowly rising string. But the little balloon rises and rises, dangling its string tail teasingly as it ascends.

The balloon is at the tree tops, then above, then a dot in the sky.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Oil Companies Sniffing For Oil Along Coastal Lake Michigan

Before talking about the new wave of oil prospectors sniffing around Muskegon, Mason, and Oceana county...I'd like to talk a little bit about watersheds or drainage basins.

Take a good look at this map of the Great Lakes watershed:



I'd like to call your attention to that state right smack dab in the middle of it. The state that is ENTIRELY within the Great Lakes watershed. Entirely. I call it home. Others call it Michigan.

Okay...so what does that mean? A watershed is wider area from which drainage converges to meet in another shared area. Imagine it like a funnel. Dump water anywhere in that funnel, it's all going to converge in the center. The funnel is the watershed for the center of the funnel. Or, for example, if you dump oil into the funnel, all that oil is also going to wind up in the center of that funnel.

So....more specific to Lake Michigan, the entirety of West Michigan is the drainage basin, or watershed, for Lake Michigan.

Here's a game: Dump water on the ground in West Michigan, it's going to either evaporate or end up in Lake Michigan.

Now let's try something else. Let's say you dump Vernor's ginger ail on the ground. Dump a Vernor's on the ground, it's going to either evaporate or it's going to wind up in Lake Michigan.

Get how this works?

Now let's try crude oil. Dump crude oil on the ground, whatever doesn't evaporate (yes, it does evaporate), is going to end up............

......altogether now.....IN LAKE MICHIGAN.

So...back to those oil prospectors.

Oil companies are sniffing around West Michigan for oil.

In recent months, landowners throughout Muskegon, Oceana, Newaygo and Mason counties have been approached by companies from as far away as Texas looking to lease mineral rights.

And

Imagine this scenario: An energy company thinks there might be untapped resources below your land and wants to pay $35 to $150 per acre for your permission to explore for oil and gas.

Do you even know where to start asking questions? If not, you’re not alone.
Because more landowners throughout West Michigan are being approached by companies with offers to lease the mineral rights to their property, state regulators and university leaders are holding an information meeting to help ensure more property owners enter those negotiations armed with a better understanding.

It wasn't too long ago that environmentalists and a congressman named Bart Stupak championed a Great Lakes Drilling Ban in 2003, which helped to end over 25 years of drilling for oil under Lake Michigan. Article

We don't have the likes of Bart Stupak around anymore. He's been replaced with some tow-the-line Conservative dude who definitely won't lift a finger to protect our waters if it's oil companies looking to muck around here.

See, Michigan once had plans of really capitalizing on its natural gas and oil currently under the Great Lakes. And for a while, they did. They used used something known as slant drilling....setting the rig on land and then drilling down, slantwise, under the lake. And they could claim it wasn't TECHNICALLY offshore drilling.

But I'm not exactly sure what the difference is........if you're perched atop the drainage basin, anyway. There's very little difference in the case of spillage. It's going to get into Lake Michigan. Drilling near the shoreline...drilling within the watershed....is little removed from to drilling within the water itself.

I'm not sure what's brought on this sudden interest in lakeshore communities as a great place to prospect for oil...but I have my suspicions it's an attempt to try to get back the days of slant drilling for oil and gas under Lake Michigan

Friday, March 16, 2012

I Need Your Endorsement to get a Netroots Nation Scholarship....

Heya folks...I need a couple seconds for your endorsement.

I"m looking to attend this year's Netroots Nation and I'm trying to get a scholarship because I feel it will help me in my work to further promote renewable energy in Michigan.

It sure helps me with my shot if I get endorsements.

Please give me an endorsement. Go to my Application and click Add Your Support.

Thanks!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Speaking and Learning at the Holland Renewable Energy and Jobs Presentation

I was part of a renewable energy panel discussion tonight in Holland, MI. We talked about jobs and wind power. I'm the surly looking one on the far right. I talked about the importance of standing up and making noise in favor of renewable energy.


The other speakers provided some incredible information about the state of wind power manufacturing in America and the jobs created there. A person from the Holland wind turbine blade manufacturer Energetx spoke as well. He made some incredible points about striving to make their product better and cheaper. Reducing the cost of the turbines is one of the central obsessions of wind turbine parts manufacturers.

That really struck a chord with me.

In the great wind power debate I hear an awful lot of folks screaming about government subsidies and mandates and how the free market could do this so much better.....

...but what they don't seem to realize is that the free market is very much at play here. Companies like Energetx don't exist in a vacuum. They exist in a world of hard core competition. They're not just competing with other parts manufacturers...they're competing with coal.

Folks worried that the precious and almighty free market isn't able to work its magic on renewable energies need to have a conversation with a parts manufacturer and ask them if they're forced to be highly competitive, making parts better and cheaper than they can be had from China or anywhere else in the US or Europe.

The market is very much in play. And it's making these parts better and cheaper by the day, which means our wind power is getting better and cheaper by the day.

Another interesting insight brought by a fellow with the last name of VanderVeen was this: as a general rule, a wind farm almost always has some level of activity during the day. And since wind is a product of the sun heating the earth, your greatest activity for wind power comes around noon to three o'clock when the sun is reaching its peak.....which luckily happens to coincide with peak demand times.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sharp Decline in Great Lakes Ice Cover over the past Four Decades

I used to call them icebergs. Back when I was a kid. Icebergs on Lake Michigan. Going out as far as you could see. And along the lakeshore, tall tall "ice dunes". "Ice Dunes". It's a word I learned recently. I never knew them as ice dunes. But as ice is pushed ashore by waves, and as the waves themselves crash on the shore and freeze, massive structures form along the lakeshore, known as ice dunes.

I meant to go out and take pictures of the ice dunes and have on occasion traveled down to Lake Michigan with my camera this winter, but the ice dunes were small to non-existent.

In fact, ice cover along the Great Lakes this year was down to about 5% this year. The lowest amount of ice cover on the Great Lakes ever recorded. Ice cover on the Great Lakes has been steadily declining since we started taking records in 1973 when ice covered 93% of the Great Lakes.

Spectral analysis shows that lake ice has both quasi-decadal and interannual periodicities of ~8 and ~4 yr. There was a significant downward trend in ice coverage from 1973 to the present for all of the lakes, with Lake Ontario having the largest, and Lakes Erie and St. Clair having the smallest. The translated total loss in lake ice over the entire 38-yr record varies from 37% in Lake St. Clair (least) to 88% in Lake Ontario (most). The total loss for overall Great Lakes ice coverage is 71%, while Lake Superior places second with a 79% loss.

Yeah, ice cover is cyclical. But the cycles seem to be 4 to 8 years. And it's been dropping steadily.

Winter ice cover on the Great Lakes has dropped dramatically over the past four decades, according to a new report. Peak ice has dropped by 71 percent on average, with Lake Michigan ice decreasing by even more.

Okay. So we're seeing a sharp decline in ice cover over the Great Lakes.

So what?

Wang says losing winter ice can cause a number of problems for the Great Lakes ecosystem. It can speed up wintertime evaporation from the lakes, which could reduce water levels. The trend could also fuel more and earlier algae blooms, which damage water quality and habitat. And it leaves shoreline more exposed to waves, accelerating erosion.

We're looking at drops in water levels due to greater evaporation....disruption of coastal ecosystems....disruptions in shipping.......and earlier algae blooms. Now, when I swim in Lake Michigan there are often these odd balls of algae floating around me, about the size of a pea and hundreds of them. That's a relatively new development.

The world is changing fast.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Dad on Limbaugh "You sleazy pedophile"

My father has always did have a way with words.

To Rush Limbaugh: I know this this wonderful young lady (about 12 years old) who was having painful monthly periods. She was prescribed birth control pills because it was known to the doctor that there was something in them that made monthly periods less painful. She is not a slut and she is not a prostitute. However, I am certain that you would enjoy watching her have sex, you sleazy pedophile.

This, of course, in response to Limbaugh's suggestion that women who are using birth control which is paid for by insurance are, by that fact, whores because they're being paid to have sex. Get it? And if they're whores and if Limbaugh is paying for it as part of the same insurance pool, Limbaugh says he be able to watch them have sex.

Creepy fucker.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

(Video) Ha! Obama Hilariously Destroys the GOP

A pal just sent me this vid and I think it pretty accurately and hilariously illustrates what we've been seeing this year and what we can expect to happen for the next 8 months. Obama has figured out the Republicans are gonna to demand the opposite of everything he wants......they can't help themselves. And Obama is finally using that. They're going to take the bait Every Single Time:

Exhibit A) payroll tax holiday.
Exhibit B) Birth control legislation
Exhibit C) I have a feeling he's going to start making hay over congressional resistance to ending oil and gas subsidies...

Enjoy this extremely accurate vid:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Muskegon Chronicle: 67 Year Old Muskegon Man using a walker Robbed in the Street by 4 GOP Presidential Candidates

A friend of mine found this appropriate headline/photo combination on his smart phone and took a picture of it.




If you can't read the headline it says "Midday Muskegon: Four men rob elderly Muskegon man using a walker..."

The caption next to it is a photo of Gingrich, Santorum, Romney, and Paul.

For the record, the man who was robbed was not physically harmed. The robbers took his cash. Hopefully the perpetrators will be brought to justice, and more importantly here's hoping he can feel safe at some point soon.

To confirm the photo wasn't photoshopped, I found it myself as well...here's my own screenshot:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fiction: The Epiphany

It felt good. Like a good stretch in the morning. Like finally finishing a day of hardworking yard chores on a hot day and all you want to do is crack a beer on the back porch and regard your dominion and the world you made. Like the smell of cut grass and sweat. It felt good.

Michael closed his eyes as endorphines filled his body. He breathed deep, nasal passages fully dilated and clear. He could breathe. For the first time since he couldn't remember he could breathe. Not the crushing, short breath of panic and the bruise in the heart and the impulse to exhale a groan. Sleepless nights bathed in adrenaline.

He breathed in. The smell of paper. Coffee. Shaving cream, pencil shavings, new carpet.

Peaceful.

Eyes closed. Heart pounding. Warmth and peace. He inhaled and held for the silence. He didn't want it to end.

But he felt, now, his hands gripping something hard. Something jagged. Pain. His hands felt pain. He exhaled, then opened his eyes to shards of broken glass and paper all around. His hand gripped a chair, wooden legs pointing outward, one broken off in a jagged fray of maple. He felt the stares of people. People who had been there only to deposit a check. Silent. Staring. Taking cover. A man in a tie and a suit huddled, peeked at him wide eyed trembling below a dented, office supply strewn table. Paper clips and bits of flat screen monitor.

Michael dropped the chair and felt the pain leave his hands. He opened and closed his fists.

Sirens. He realized now that he had been unaware of sound for a moment. The sound of multiple overlapping sirens grew louder. His ears felt hot. Good, he thought. Good. Where else would I go?

------------------

This is short fiction from the Red Writing Hood site.

use a Gandhi quote to inspire you to throw a little conflict at your characters in the name of strong plot development.

It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.
Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

(photodiary) Frozen Dunes, the Compelling Contours of the Small

Rick Santorum came to Muskegon a couple days ago. Maybe it was yesterday. Don't know. Seems so long ago. Went there with my 4 year old boy on promise of fruit snacks in exchange for Not Freaking Out at Having to Hear Extra White Christian Man Hate On Americans For Thirty Minutes. My son...he did pretty good. He earned those fruit snacks. EARNED them.

But we all know the guy's a douche. Really. What more could be said? He made the Not So Roundabout point he was against the domestic auto industry. He's basically another Romney.

Anyway, here's some pics of closeup winter dune formations along Lake Michigan.



See those dark outlines? That's magnetite on the sugar sands. Some type of iron based sediment. Naturally occurring. The occasional black striations occur naturally along the sandy beaches of the lakeshore giving contour and texture to the sandy, watery landscape.



But that can be seen any time of year. This time of year the sands are frozen wherever moisture touches them, creating bizarre and interesting sand formations.



and





and


DSC03533

You see...it's not just the water. It's not just the dunes. It's not just the distant birdseye view.

It's the world in microcosm and on the individual scale. It's the contours of the small. The closeups where the differences and beauty of shades and contours are revealed.





I have trouble with the world from a distant view. The small beauties and dramas are too easily overlooked, and understood only in aggregate. Too often the world is understood by taking the whole and divining the parts, rather than taking the time to see the parts as they are and divining the whole. The ugly. The stupid. The noble. The terrifying and the beautiful. The brilliant and the small.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Real Insanity Is that People Are Still Spewing this Service Economy Transition Crap in 2012

Now here's a fine example in CNN.com of a Straw Man fallacy written by Dr. Bergstrand: Nostalgia for factory jobs that will never come back

I'm sure that "Jeffrey Bergstrand, professor of finance at the University of Notre Dame" is a very smart man and knows what the hell he's talking about when it comes to things like Finance and Markets and whatnot. But that doesn't give him a free pass to be intellectually sloppy. Quite the opposite. Somebody's gotta drag him by his collar to the mess he made in the Morning News and have his face rubbed into it...."NO! NO Professor Bergtrand! NO! BAD BOY! No informal rhetorical fallacies. NO informal rhetorical fallacies! NO!"

Here's more of what he has to say with a little "begging the question" thrown in for good measure:

If there is a central public sentiment about economics prevailing in America right now, it seems to be this: We want to go back to our manufacturing roots.

The heyday of manufacturing, the block-long plants that produce not just tangible goods, but big, heavy ones like cars, gave us economic stability once; it can do it again.



But as with most nostalgic visions, this one doesn't reflect economic realities.

Get that?

1. He starts off by begging the question that there's likely a central public sentiment about wanting to return to our manufacturing roots...and...

2. That we're all gushy and nostalgic for the days of the "block long plants" or as he later calls it "Low-technology manufacturing" and the "assembly line"...and...

3. That kids these days need to pull up their pants. Wait, sorry. No. My bad. He didn't actually say that.

I don't know the last time Mr. Bergstrand has been in a factory or a machine shop....but all I can say to his initial debunking of his own shallow straw man: DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDUH! Not a lot of serious people are under the illusion that we've had traditional "Low technology" "assembly line" manufacturing for a long time, or could ever return to it. We're not going back to the days when huge factories founded entire towns around themselves based on some utopian dream of giving white, Christian families homes near a factory where they and their kids will work in prosperity until the end of time.

Nobody believes that.

What we do believe is the small scale machine shops which are seeing upticks in orders. Not mass produced objects like plastic Army Men, but precision highly skilled manufacturing, like, for example titanium hip screws which my uncle makes down in Florida. One. At. A. Time. And the titanium allow? It's mixed up right here in Muskegon at Cannon.

When talking about "economic realities" Dr. Bergstrand, it's important to tread lightly, because many folks in the industrial belt have LIVED the "economic reality" that service sector jobs were supposed to have brought for the past thirty years and let me tell ya....that is also not an "economic reality". You can't have an economy based on selling insurance and ringing up shoe purchases.

We do, in fact, need to make stuff.

That much is painfully, miserably clear.

And we're doing that again. Not in the huge low tech assembly line image our right wing critics think advocates of manufacturing want. But in small scale, skilled machining and production.

And yes...China's rising economy, increase in wages, and loosening fiscal policy has lead to goods becoming more expensive to produce in China, and therefore more profitable to make in the United States again.....but the notion that somebody else could replace what China had been to the US for the past 30 years...now THAT is a FANTASY. Yeah...we've been hearing about this great transition to a service economy for decades now. It's not all that.

the subsequent rapid per capita income growth in China has meant a rise in the relative price of their labor, so the cost differential is being alleviated. This cost differential is being further narrowed by China once again allowing its currency to gain in value compared to the U.S. dollar.

Once that differential diminishes, the rate of manufacturing decline has to slow.
However, this does not signal that "in-sourcing" or "re-shoring" is on the rise in America. Low-technology manufacturing is not anything we will ever get back to permanently. It's just too costly to produce here, and even if China becomes less attractive, there's still Latin America, and much of Asia and Africa.

Okay...let's do just a TINY bit of math here:

Population of China: 1,338,299,500

Population of South America: 572,039,894
Population of Africa: 1,022,234,000
Total Population of Africa and Latin America: 1,594,273,894

So what the Dr. or Economics is trying to tell us is...Yeah! We can TOTALLY move on to cheaper places once China becomes less viable...and all we'll need is to get more than two ENTIRE CONTINENTS and dozens of, often conflicting and frequently technologically backwards, nations to take the place of that one country.

EASY! Except that much of Latin America is already more expensive to produce in than China. For example, workers in Brazil make twice what a worker in China makes, and Mexico makes 1.5 times what a worker in China makes. But forget about that. Details, details....let's just pretend China's land of cheap goods can be easily ported over to, say, Burkana Fasso. What the hell.

The real la-la land insanity is that people who should know better are still spewing this Service Economy Transition crap in 2012.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Santorum Shows The Uncanny Inability to Not Hate On Detroit.

In some ways I pity Romney and Santorum as they writhe around in Michigan trying to shoehorn their ideologies into the real world.

As GM scores a RECORD BREAKING year of profits (7.6 billion dollars), as they dish out $7000 bonuses to their workers, as they continue to hire, as manufacturing rebounds nationwide, the Republican presidential candidates are compelled by some uncanny force to stick to their guns. They're incapable of saying what nearly everybody here in Michigan knows; The auto bailout saved American Manufacturing and the State of Michigan from falling off a cliff.


Romney is sinking in Michigan with the anchor of "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" wrapped around his neck while folks at RedState are scratch their heads wondering why...I mean...he was BORN in Detroit, right? Right? His father was our Governor. Of COURSE Michigan would love the guy. Except that he made the fatal mistake of being a dumbass, calling for cutting American Manufacturing loose. They don't seem to grasp the really super simple notion that people, even the Conservative people, in Michigan didn't much like the notion of letting the State's dominant industry collapse

Presented with this political death trap, one would think Santorum would just keep his mouth shut about the auto industry. Or at best get all Ari-Fleisher post modernist weird on the reporters until they get bored or confused or walk away.

But no...

Here comes that uncanny inability to not hate on Detroit and anything Obama Has Done:

"Romney supported a bailout for Wall Street and not the bailout of Detroit," Santorum said during a speech at the Cobo Center. "My position is the government should not be involved in bailouts period."

And

Santorum said that if he was in the Senate at the time he would not have supported bailing out the auto industry, agreeing that the companies could have survived without the intervention.

And

"Having government involved sets a dangerous precedent," he said. "I actually blame President Bush more than I blame President Obama. He was just following suit. President Bush set the precedent and it was the wrong precedent."

So you can clearly see how Santorum is drawing a distinction between himself and Romney on this issue. See, Romnyy would have just let the Domestic Auto Manufacturers drop dead, while SANTORUM would have let the Domestic Auto Manufacturers drop dead.

See?

Even with potential electoral victory in his grasp, Santorum just CAN'T keep from hating on Detroit for a measly two weeks.

Ya know? Romney may end up squeeking this one out, after all.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Obama Gets It: Proposes $8 Billion To Help Community Colleges Meet Local Employment Needs

I admit I get a bit of a thrill exploring places where I'm probably not supposed to be...particularly empty and dark parts of buildings. So I kind of enjoyed calling in on a White House press conference call. Now if you're gonna say "Uh...you're totally allowed to do that." My response would be to you "Hush up, now! You're ruining my fun!" It sure as heck FELT exciting.

The receptionist person was all like "And what news organization are you with sir?"

"News organization? I....of course...I'm with Muskegon Critic." **TEE HEE HEE** I told her I'm a NEWS ORGANIZATION...MUAAA HA HA HA HA HA HAAA! AAAHHHH HA HA HA HA HAAAAAA....

"Hold on a moment, let me patch you in...."

AHA! My cunning disguise as an actual DC reporter mucky muck was successful! And I didn't even have to wear pants! The FOOLS!

As I sat outside in my living room I listened in on the deepest darkest, darkest, filthiest secrets the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Education were wiling to share in this here press conference. Stuff like "The president's budget proposes 8 billion dollars for community colleges to partner with businesses to provide training in job skills that are in demand."

The new fund, announced at an event at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va., would support community college-based training programs that would expand training to meet the needs of employers in high-growth sectors, provide workers with the latest certified training and skills, and invest in registered apprenticeships and other on-the-job training opportunities.

The fund would also support paid internships for low-income community college students that would allow them to simultaneously earn credit for work-based learning and gain relevant employment experience.

This, of course, is huge. It's particularly critical for communities hit with a massive upheaval and transformation in how their economies function, such as manufacturing communities. Within the space of just a few years people have lost high paying jobs jobs where they'd been most of their lives and were either thrust into low wage jobs or they now have no jobs at all. It's a trend that's been going on for decades, and has come to a fine point in the past half decade.

A lot of manufacturing communities once offered jobs for folks right out of high school...and in many instances jobs right out of 9th grade. So there's often a low level of higher degree holders, and a low level of skilled labor. That's a problem.

For example...on the national level, about 39% of Americans over 25 have an Associate's degree or higher. Muskegon County, a historically industrial region, is almost half that 22% holding an Associates degree or higher.

In addition to there being a reduction of jobs overall, the drag on the local economy here is exacerbated by the fact that a low percentage of workers have the skill set many modern businesses need. So industrial regions are at a competitive disadvantage.

The local community college is sort of the forefront of the effort to bring the workforce up to speed AFFORDABLY and in direct response to and in communication with the needs of local businesses.

This is something THIS administration understands. The direct infusion of cash to help community colleges connect with businesses and create programs and curriculums that train people to meet the needs of local employers is ENORMOUS. And it's a clear sign our President GETS it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Strategically Placed Comma sends Michigan's Business, Tax Climate Soaring!

Pop English quiz. Who can tell me the difference between these two headlines?

"Michigan business, tax climate soars in Tax Foundation ratings, Snyder says"

and

"Michigan business tax climate soars in Tax Foundation ratings, Snyder says"

Give up? It was the comma. The comma is what makes the Detroit Free Press headline remotely accurate. Because the Michigan Business-Tax climate did not, in fact, "soar" according to the Tax Foundation, though Rick Snyder would love for us to think so.

See, at the Tax Foundation "Business Tax Climate" means a very specific thing. It's an aggregate of five different tax climates: Corporate Income Tax, Property Tax, Sales Tax, Individual Income Tax, and Unemployment Insurance Tax. That's what the "Business Tax Climate" is. As distinct from the "Business, Tax Climate".

See?

Here's the lead paragraph in the Detroit Free Press article:

The huge changes in Michigan’s tax structure during 2011 has prompted the Tax Foundation to move the state from 49th in terms of tax climate to 7th.

Funny story...that's not what the official Tax Foundation report actually says. In fact, Michigan's OVERALL business tax climate is listed at 18th for 2012...DOWN from 17th in 2011. And our Corporate Tax structure is still at 49th for 2012.

"That's weird" I thought. Would our Governor just LIE about something like this?

So I called the Tax Foundation. Those Tax Foundation dudes were REALLY nice and freely gave me their time and patiently explained to me what was going on.

Here's what's going on:

The numbers that Rick Snyder is touting are what are called "hypothetical" numbers. That's the exact word the gentleman from the Tax Foundation used: "Hypothetical". I'll get to that in a minute. First an explanation of the changes.

Basically the official number posted on the website (18th overall in Business Tax Climate and 49th in Corporate Tax Climate) were made before Snyder's tax policy took effect. So they decided to see what Michigan might have been ranked IF the current tax policies were in fact accounted for.

So, if we could freeze dry the entire world and go back in time and change ONLY Michigan's numbers, what would they be?

In this case, Michigan's CORPORATE tax climate would have gone from 49th to 7th in the nation. CORPORATE tax climate. But Michigan's overall BUSINESS tax climate would have gone up from 18th to 12th in the nation. A rise! But far from "soaring". And a rise from an already above average number.

Okay...so why did the Tax Foundation fellow call the revised numbers "Hypothetical" numbers? Two reasons.

ONE: Because the special report assumes that Michigan changed but everybody else stayed still. But that didn't happen. We really don't know where we stand relative to other states. We can only guess.

and more importantly

TWO: The revised report does NOT include changes to the Personal Income Tax which INCREASED for 51% of Michiganders as child tax credits and low income home interest tax credits are removed and pensions are now taxed. Our personal income tax situation is getting worse here in Michigan, not better. That's bound to be a drag on the overall Business Tax Climate.

it should be noted that Michigan's reform also included some changes to the personal income tax, most of which do not come on line until 2013. These changes are not included in the estimate above.

What Snyder would like to have us believe is that we've dramatically improved our Business Tax Climate. We haven't. Our tax climate was above average at 18th in the nation before Snyder's tax policies took effect. Even if we apply the new changes without the increase in personal income tax, the rosiest picture is us moving up from above average to slightly more above average.

But even that "rosy" scenario is a distant estimate that doesn't hold up under scrutiny. All he's done is give more tax breaks to the mega-corps. GREAT news if you're a mega corp. For the rest of us, not so much. But we knew that already.