Saturday, June 30, 2012

Examiner.com article on Detroit Regional Chamber endorsements



U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow's official portrait


Detroit Regional Chamber endorses Stabenow and State House candidates
This past Thursday, the Detroit Regional Chamber announced its political action committee's endorsement of U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow for re-nomination. This event followed the organization's announcement on Tuesday of its endorsements for Michigan State House, including the group's recommendations for all four districts that represent Washtenaw County.

The Detroit Regional Chamber made its decision based on responses to a survey by the organization's PAC, input from PAC members, and personal interviews with leading candidates interested in the its endorsement. The issues the Detroit Regional Chamber considered in making its decision included continued support of the New International Trade Crossing, repeal of the state’s personal property tax, implementation of a system of regional transit, and increased investment in Michigan’s vital transportation system.

The Chamber's Vice President of Government Affairs Brad Williams elaborated on how and why the organization's PAC selected its endorsees in a press release. “The Detroit Regional Chamber PAC selects a bipartisan pool of candidates from our region and across the state who are committed to promoting legislation that will improve Michigan’s business climate. I am confident that the candidates endorsed this year will serve their communities and the state exceptionally well and look forward to continuing the Chamber's commitment to creating public policy that grows the economy and the region.”
The Detroit Regional Chamber PAC endorsed incumbents Mark Ouimet, Jeff Irwin, and David Rutledge for the 52nd, 53rd, and 54th State House Districts. Only Irwin is facing a challenge from Thomas Partridge in the Democratic primary. That should be an easy primary win for him.

On the other hand, they endorsed Adam Zemke for the open 55th District seat. Zemke has no experience as an elected official, but he has served on several government boards, including the Washtenaw County Community Action Board, the Ann Arbor Housing and Human Services Advisory Board, and the Dexter Township Public Safety Advisory Committee. His competition for the Democratic nomination comes from Andrea Brown-Harrison, who is currently serving on the Pittsfield Township Board of Trustees. That could be a tough race and I'm looking forward to covering it.

And that's it for this month's blogging. I hope you all enjoyed my jumping into things!

Republican war on higher education and social science

It's the end of the month, which means it's time to serve up leftovers. Here is a collection of links on a common theme that I've been sitting on this month, waiting for me to post them.

First up, an article from Alternet which looks like conspiracy theory at first, but I thought worth considering. After all, we live in weird times, and as Hunter S. Thompson famously said, when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

Alternet: Deciphering Right-Wing Code: What Conservatives Are Really Saying When They Seem to Spew Nonsense
Did Rick Santorum just declare the next right-wing crusade?

Rick Santorum is firing the opening salvos on a conservative war on public higher education.

That was a few months ago. Let's see how that is playing out over the jump.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Examiner.com article on heat advisory and air quality alert

I decided to turn the previous blog post into an article on Examiner.com. I was inspired to do it instead of re-writing a university press release. Besides, I may as well get paid for it.

Metro Detroit under combined heat advisory and air quality alert
Temperatures will be dangerously high today and tomorrow for metro Detroiters. In addition, the air will be unhealthy to breathe for sensitive individuals today, which is an ozone action day. Both sets of weather conditions call for people to remain indoors and limit their activity today.

This morning, the National Weather Service office for Detroit and Pontiac issued a heat advisory for southeast Michigan that will last until 9 P.M. Saturday. The counties affected are Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Wayne, Lenawee, and Monroe. These counties are experiencing high temperatures in the mid to upper 90s today and are forecast to have only slightly cooler temperatures tomorrow. It feels even hotter this afternoon, as the Heat Index ranges from the mid 90s to near 100 by the Ohio border.

The National Weather service warns that heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and dehydration are possible. Furthermore, four consecutive days of above 90 degree temperatures will add to the heat stress of people sensitive to the high temperatures. To prevent these conditions, drink plenty of fluids, remain out of the sun, and stay in an air-conditioned room. Also, check on your relatives, neighbors, and pets. Children and pets should never be left unattended in cars and trucks.
More on the air quality alert and what to do about it, as well as the effects and extent of the heat and drought, at the link in the headline. One of the links describing the effects is to this WXYZ video.




Also, for your amusement, here is a video of an ice-cream sandwich melting in the sun. The staffers at AnnArbor.com must have gotten bored.


Heat advisory in Metro Detroit and most of center of U.S.

Here's the video from WXYZ.




Heat Advisory Into the Weekend


As you can see, the heat advisory extends from metro Detroit south to Alabama, southwest to Texas, and west to the Kansas-Colorado state line. There is another area of heat advisories along the southern Atlantic coast. It's not just metro Detroit; most of the center of the country is affected and a strip of the southeast.

As for how long this will go on, here's the forecast for the summer in Warmest spring in Detroit history on Examiner.com.
Based on the ending of La Nina in the eastern Pacific and the return to neutral conditions, the NWS Forecast Office predicts that the above normal temperatures will persist through July, for fifteen consecutive months of warmer than average weather... The warm streak should break in August, when normal to slightly below normal temperatures should return.
So far, that prediction has been holding up.

For more, go over the jump.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tom Tomorrow and The Political Minute on Lisa Brown

People are not through having serious fun with Lisa Brown banned after saying "Vagina" and the resulting "Vagina Monologues" performance. Here are two more. First up, Tom Tomorrow.




Original at Daily Kos.


Next, Charles Como of The Political Minute on YouTube. The facts aren't all correct (Brown and Byrum had not been banned indefinitely, just until the legislature recessed), but the jokes are spot on.




Stay cool, and enjoy your chuckles while waiting for the Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Examiner.com article on U.S. Taxpayers Party



U.S. Constitution Party Presidental Candidate Virgil Goode


U.S. Taxpayers Party of Michigan announces candidates
Washtenaw County Elections 2010 Examiner
In a press release issued late Tuesday afternoon in an email from their State Party Chair Bill Mohr, the U.S. Taxpayers Party of Michigan announced their slate of candidates for the general election in November. The Taxpayers Party nominated 27 candidates for federal, state, and local offices. Of those, twelve will appear on ballots in Washtenaw County, including the party's nominees for President, Vice-President, U.S. Senator, State Supreme Court, and the state's four educational governance boards.

The Taxpayers Party nominated a full slate of eight candidates for the four boards supervising statewide K-12 education and Michigan's three research universities. They are the only party other than the Democrats and Republicans to have nominated complete slates of two candidates for each of the four boards.

The Taxpayers Party nominated their slate at their state convention in Lansing Township on June 16th. They were the fourth Michigan political party to either endorse or nominate their candidates after the Democrats, Greens, and Libertarians. The Natural Law Party will hold a meeting in July and the Republicans will hold their convention in September.
Details about the twelve candidates that will be on the statewide ballot, as well as the names of the candidates of the other parties that have already been nominated or endorsed (everyone but the Natural Law Party and the Republicans) at the link in the headline. Check out the candidate for Michigan Supreme Court; she looks like someone who is actually qualified.  I just wonder how a party to the right of both the Libertarians and Republicans managed to attract her.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Possibly (not) the last Detroit Fireworks Show

WXYZ reports.




On WWJ radio, I heard that the crowds were larger than usual, in part because it might be the last time Detroit holds this fireworks show unless the suburbs pitch in. The same could be true of the Thanksgiving Day parade, the one that displaced Occupy Detroit. The people being interviewed on the radio thought that would be a shame.

Based on what I think motivates Americans to act and the presence of the Michigan State Police and Wayne County Sheriffs at the show, I'm sure that the fireworks and parade will continue. People want their entertainment, especially if it comes in the form of an annual civic ritual to celebrate the seasons, and messing with America's entertainment is the one guaranteed thing that will get Americans to act.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Health care policy news from campuses on the campaign trail

The Supreme Court is expected to deliver its decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act AKA "Obamacare" tomorrow. Although I'm hoping they'll rule that it's constitutional, I'm not optimistic. While I'm waiting, I'll share these news items about health care policy with you, which were originally posted in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Venus Transit, Partial Eclipse, and Total Recall edition), Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Global Tipping Point edition), and Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Turing at 100 edition) on Daily Kos.

First, two news items that are explictly about the Affordable Care Act.

Rutgers University: Rutgers-Camden Law Professor says Congress has Authority to Protect Viability of Private Health Insurance
May 25, 2012
CAMDEN — While health care policy continues to be debated across the nation, a Rutgers–Camden law professor says Congress has the authority to ensure the viability of private health care insurance in the United States.

David M. Frankford, a professor at the Rutgers School of Law–Camden, is a widely published expert on health law and policy who has spent 28 years researching and teaching health care finance and regulation.

Much of the current debate on health care reform surrounds the Affordable Care Act, now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality of the law’s requirement of Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.

Opponents of the act say Congress lacks authority to force people to buy a product, but Frankford challenges that notion.

“The idea that the federal government, that Congress, lacks authority to maintain the viability of a private insurance system is quite surprising,” says Frankford, of Wynnewood, Pa. “A private insurance system is commerce under the constitution. Without these sorts of reform, it will continue to spiral downward. It has been eroding now over the course of a number of decades, a trend that accelerated over the last ten years. Congress has authority to protect the continued viability of this commerce and it has the discretion to choose among reasonable means of doing so.”
SUNY Buffalo: Report: Health Care Reform Must be Local, Regardless of Court Decision
"Communities of solution" that integrate primary care and public health are key to creating healthy neighborhoods, says UB family medicine professor and co-author
June 20, 2012
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Even with an imminent Supreme Court ruling on the health care overhaul law, it's still the primary care physician and the local community that will determine the path of true health care reform. That's the message from "Communities of Solution: The Folsom Report Revisited," a policy paper published online in the May/June issue of Annals of Family Medicine.

"The Folsom Report, published in 1967, called for a closer alliance between public health and primary care," says corresponding author Kim S. Griswold, MD, MPH, associate professor of family medicine in the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. "Now, nearly 50 years later, we're calling for the same thing. We need to inject -- and maintain -- the public ingredient in medical care."

The original Folsom Report grew, in part, out of the social justice movements of the 1960s and 1970s. It was responsible for several important advances, including the establishment in 1969 of a new medical specialty called family medicine.
Here's to hoping my pessimism about the decision is unfounded.

For the rest of the health care policy news, continue over the jump.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Space and astronomy news: Voyager, China, ice on the Moon, Mars landing, and more

I'm posting the space and astronomy news early this week, as there is a lot of it and at least one story, the Chinese space mission, is updating rapidly and constantly. So, without any further ado, here are the stories from last night's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Turing at 100 edition) on Daily Kos, along with additional material and updates.

Science at NASA on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Voyager 1 at the Final Frontier



At the edge of the solar system, Voyager 1 is reporting a sharp increase in cosmic rays that could herald the spacecraft's long-awaited entry into interstellar space.
This video has subtitles, but there is a complete transcript at Kowch737's copy. Also, the Denver Science Examiner has an article and slideshow up.

Voyager 1 approaches edge of solar system
June 23, 2012
Humanity is about to send its first ambassador beyond the solar system.

No, it’s not a person and, no, there are no planned appointments with any alien representatives. Instead, after more than 30 years of flight, two machines are about to enter interstellar space.

Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 has reached a region of space where the intensity of sub-atomic particles that are electrically charged has significantly increased. Scientists believe this indicates the probe is about to pass through the heliosphere.
DarkSyde on Daily Kos has more on this story, along with other space and science news, in This week in science: Hello from the planet earth.

The rest of this week's busy space and astronomy news, including This Week @NASA, the upcoming Mars landing, the latest on the Chinese orbital mission, and video of the landing of the X-37B, over the jump.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Video updates from WXYZ and WOOD on "Vagina" and bridge

The big story of last week was "Vagina" goes viral, which got more page views than any other entry I posted in the past seven days. I concluded that post with the following look ahead.
The fun and games aren't over yet. On Monday, there will be a performance of "Vagina Monologues" on the State Capitol steps starring nine female Michigan legislators. Never will the expression "political theater" be meant so literally.
So, how did that go? According to WXYZ, spectacularly.





V DAY PROTEST


WOOD-TV also covered the event, with even more crowd reaction and quotes from other politicians besides Lisa Brown, including Barb Byrum, who was also silenced.





Thousands showed up for a performance of the "Vagina Monologues."


In an earlier clip from WXYZ, Cheryl Chodun estimated the crowd to be at least 3,000. The lowest estimate I read was 2,500 and the highest 5,000. Whatever it was, I believe Chodun's observation that it was the largest crowd she's ever seen on the steps of the State Capitol to be spot on. My wife and I have been to protests in Lansing and were disappointed that they never got much over 1,000 participants. I'm glad this one was so well attended and covered.

That wasn't the only big story from last week. The signing of the agreement to build a
new Detroit-Windsor bridge, also merited my attention. At the end of my post about the event, I gave this advice.
I was approached by a petition circulator for this proposed referendum on Thursday. I asked her if this was for Maroun's second bridge. When she said yes, I responded that I would not sign the petition. I then told her that Matty Maroun could go to Hell and walked away. I hope all you who read this entry tell Maroun to go jump, too.
According to WXYZ, it's too late to stop this by not signing the petition.




People who oppose the state's plan to build a second span to Canada say they have enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot.
Looks like the place to oppose this is at the ballot box, that is, if the measure ever gets there. Eclectablog broke the news that at least Republican member of the Board of Canvassers is resigning. If both resign, then at least five initiatives, including this one, may be held off the November ballot because the Board lacks a quorum. That might be worth reporting for Examiner.com. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Gas price rollercoaster returns to this month's low

In The gas price rollercoaster starts up again, I chronicled how the local gas price dropped briefly from $3.65 to $3.55, then shot up to $3.79 while global oil prices dropped. Based on the advice of the GVSU economist in a WOOD-TV video, I then predicted that the price would drop. Events have proved me right.

By the end of last week, the price slid to $3.75 at the corner station. Confident that the price would continue to fall, I bought only half a tank. A few days later, it fell to $3.69. A couple days ago, the price dropped to $3.59. That was lower than where the ride had started, so I topped off the tank. I probably should have waited, as the price today fell again to $3.55, this month's low. Will that remain the low price for the month? Probably not, based on the price of oil falling even more this week, as Reuters reports.
U.S. August crude gained $1.48 to $79.25. It slid as low as $77.56, the lowest since October 5, 2011, after dropping 4 percent on Thursday. The contract was on course to post a loss of about 6 percent for the week.
...
U.S. crude has dropped $33 from its 2012 of $110.55 also struck in March.
That's the first time West Texas Intermediate (WTI) has been below $80 all year. What about Brent Crude? After all, for more than a year, gasoline prices have been tracking Brent instead of WTI. Reuters again.
Brent oil futures rose above $91 a barrel on Friday, rebounding from an 18-month low, but remained on course for a weekly decline of about 7 percent as investors worried about signs of slowing global economic growth.

Oil futures regained some composure after falling around 4 percent on Thursday as oversold conditions prompted some investors to return. However, recent weak economic data and currently abundant supplies have kept investors cautious in putting in higher bets, traders said.
...
In London, August Brent crude was up $1.81 at $91.04 by 12:40 p.m. EDT. It rebounded from a session low of $88.49, the lowest since December 2010.
...
At the day's lows, Brent has fallen nearly $40 from the year's high of $128.40 hit in March.
Looks like the price of gas will continue to fall. As for how far, my wife said she'd like gas around $3.00/gallon. I told her she might get her wish sometime this fall. She responded that she hoped so and that low gas prices would be good for Obama's re-election. All things being equal, she'd be right. I have my doubts that all things really are equal (these are not business as usual times), but I can hope. Just the same, as I'm fond of saying, this is "Good news, everyone," and it's not a suppository.



Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy Solstice from Detroit!

WXYZ reports.





The Summer Solstice celebration has been held at the Heidelberg project.


So, did we get summer weather?  Oh, did we!





Workers say they are trying to beat the heat on this 94 degree day.


Happy Solstice, everyone, and stay cool!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What will nine billion people eat for protein?

Not Soylent Green, but insects, according to the following article, which I included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (First female Taikonaut edition) on Daily Kos.*


Arizona Daily Star: Get used to idea of bug grub
Western palates will have to adjust to insects, scientists insist; sensing opportunity, UA grads help develop a line of cricket bars
Carli Brosseau Arizona Daily Star
June 10, 2012 12:00 am
Forty years from now, beef could be a luxury on par with today's tiny spoonfuls of caviar. What will take its spot on Americans' dinner plates? Increasingly, scientists are predicting bugs.
University of Arizona grad Patrick Crowley is one of a growing number of entrepreneurs getting in the game before affluent Westerners are - as scientists foresee it - forced to change their protein tastes. His company is developing recipes to make insects palatable and even delicious to people who now squirm at the notion.
There is a slideshow of him and his employees, their facility, and the cricket bars they are already manufacturing. Bon Appetit!

Coincidentally, I just happened to have mentioned insects as food in class on Thursday. My students were amazed that I actually had eaten caterpillars and grasshoppers and enjoyed them. I also mentioned that were likely be eating more jellyfish as seafood, as we'll have caused most of the fisheries to collapse. It's enough to make me hope that the idea of growing shrimp in Detroit succeeds. Of course, I couldn't resist mentioning this article on Tuesday to reinforce the point. Never miss a teachable moment.

*In the original Harry Harrison novel "Make Room, Make Room," Soylent Green was a soy-lentil mixture. Only in the eponymous movie did the script writers decide to make it into people.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Space and astronomy news: First female taikonaut

This week's news opens with the lead story from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (First female Taikonaut edition) on Daily Kos, which is from World News Australia.

China sends first woman into space
16 Jun 2012, 9:37 pm
China has launched its most ambitious space mission yet, with the Shenzhou 9 capsule lifting off as scheduled and on its way to an orbiting module.

China has launched its most ambitious space mission yet, carrying its first female astronaut and two male colleagues in an attempt to dock with an orbiting module and work on board for more than a week.

The Shenzhou 9 capsule lifted off as scheduled at 6.37pm on Saturday (2037 AEDT) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre on the edge of the Gobi Desert. All systems functioned normally and, just over 10 minutes later, it opened its solar panels and entered orbit.

Female astronaut Liu Yang, 33, and two male crew members - veteran astronaut Jing Haipeng and newcomer Liu Wang - are to dock the spacecraft with a prototype space lab launched last year in a key step toward building a permanent space station.
The Chinese, at least, are not interested in acting out the tragic science fiction plot of losing the ability to travel to space as a sign of a declining technological civilization. Too bad the idea of competing with the Chinese doesn't seem to inspire Americans the way competing with the Soviets 50 years ago did.

More news over the jump.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fantasy and reality about immigrants

WXYZ found a local angle on President Obama's announcement Friday about young undocumented immigrants.




family fighting deportation


After all this time, I don't think this serves much of a useful purpose anymore, at least in objective terms. In subjective ones, it reinforces a fear that runs counter to the evidence. Continue over the jump for two studies showing that immigrants do not contribute to crime and do contribute to thriving neighborhoods.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!



Unlike the massive orgy of consumption that is Mother's Day, Father's Day is pretty low key. I was only able to find a third of the videos about the day among my YouTube subscriptions that I saw for Mother's Day and I decided against embedding my favorite because it was unlisted. Watch the ones I did embed over the jump.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Vagina" goes viral





This has been a very busy week here in Michigan, and especially in Metro Detroit. In addition to the recall of Troy Mayor Janice Daniels, the agreement to build a new Detroit-Windsor bridge, and rising local gas prices, all of which I've blogged about, the following sustainability-related stories all made the news this week:


The big story this week from Michigan, the one that sucked all the oxygen out of the room as it went viral on social media and the national and international press, was the silencing of State Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum in the Michigan State House, ostensibly for saying "vagina" and "vasectomy" respectively. Join me over the jump for a sampling of the reaction so far, along with an overview of what was being debated when the incident happened.

New Detroit-Windsor Bridge: Up with Snyder and down with Maroun

WXYZ on YouTube: New bridge to Canada announced



Governor Snyder and Canadian Prime Minister Harper announce a second crossing from Detroit to Windsor.
This is good news, as a second bridge is desperately needed* and this is the only bridge the Canadians will allow to be built. Furthermore, the Canadians so want it to happen that they will subsidize Michigan's share of the construction. It's one of the few things Governor Snyder has done that I've always been in favor of.

That written, the owners of the Ambassador Bridge aren't happy about this. They want the second bridge to be one of theirs, never mind that the Canadians will never allow them to build it. They helped organize one of the groups of protesters at the ceremony. WXYZ on YouTube reports on them, too.



Two groups of protestors were at Cobo Center during the signing of a plan for a second crossing to Canada.
The owners of the Ambassador Bridge haven't given up. They're organizing a petition drive to put the bridge up for a vote this November.
The Moroun referendum: Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun and his family have begun a petition drive to put a referendum on the statewide ballot in November requiring voter approval to build a new international bridge or tunnel for motor vehicles.

Known as "The People Should Decide," the referendum would amend the state constitution to require such a vote both statewide and in the municipality where the bridge or tunnel is proposed.

The fine print in the referendum would apply it to any bridge or tunnel not actually open and serving traffic as of this past Jan. 1. If passed by voters, that provision would seem to mean that Gov. Rick Snyder's proposed public bridge would require an up-or-down vote by the people.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who serves as Snyder's point man on the bridge project, on Thursday called the referendum wording flawed in many respects and "a blatant attempt to protect a monopoly." He predicted that voters would reject it and that its terms could not be upheld in court even if voters approve the amendment.

As for the retroactive nature of the referendum, Calley said the constitutional protections for contracts bar attempts to amend contracts retroactively, so an agreement signed Friday between Michigan and Canada would be protected from a November referendum.
I was approached by a petition circulator for this proposed referendum on Thursday. I asked her if this was for Maroun's second bridge. When she said yes, I responded that I would not sign the petition. I then told her that Matty Maroun could go to Hell and walked away.  I hope all you who read this entry tell Maroun to go jump, too.

*Crossing at the Ambassador Bridge was so slow and expensive that I made a point of driving all the way up to the Blue Water Bridge between Port Huron and Sarnia whenever I wanted to go to Canada. Fortunately, I never had to go to Windsor. Instead, I was always driving to Stratford, London, Kitchener, Waterloo, Guelph, Brantford, Hamilton, or Buffalo, destinations that were just as accessible from the 402 as from the 401, if not more so.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Total Recall of Troy Mayor: A serious to silly update

The recall of Troy Mayor Janice Daniels has sprouted legs since I blogged about it two days ago. First, it made the local TV news. Take it away, WXYZ!




The mayor of Troy is facing a recall after a petition calling for her ouster was turned in.
In the segment, Daniels discounted the legitimacy of the recall.
"They're based upon my positions that I take, my votes that I take, and that is hardly reason to recall someone. A recall should be used if someone commits a crime and I have committed no crime."
That's not true, as a press release from Recall Janice Daniels quoted in The Oakland Press article about the story points out.
“This assertion has no basis in fact. Michigan’s Constitution and subsequent legislation ... permits recall for any objectionable conduct during the elected official’s term in office. In contrast, when an elected official has committed an illegal act, the officer can be removed ... (in) a completely separate and distinct procedure.”
In The Oakland Press article, Daniels also cited the example of Scott Walker in Wisconsin.
“I’m proud of the results in Wisconsin, where Scott Walker’s team proved the people don’t like recalls,” she said.
That same article also linked to Janice Daniels' website and concluded by quoting the Mayor's appeal for donations and volunteers to fight the recall. They didn't link to the website of the pro-recall group, so I will.




Recall Janice Daniels!


Things get silly over the jump.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The gas price rollercoaster starts up again

Not much happened since the last time I wrote about local gas prices two months ago. Prices dropped slowly from $3.79 to $3.69 then to $3.65, which is where they remained for weeks. Pretty boring, that is until last week. Then, the corner gas station dropped its price to $3.55, something my wife told me. I decided to wait until Thursday to fill up, since prices usually go up Friday morning. I waited too long, as the price went back up to $3.65 Thursday evening. I still had enough gas for another week, so I wasn't worried. Besides, gas and oil prices were dropping nationwide, so what did I have to worry about? Famous last words. Yesterday, gas at the corner station jumped to $3.79. Meanwhile, oil prices are still low. What gives?

Just as I asked myself that question this evening, I saw the following video from WOOD-TV on my YouTube subscriptions page, which answered my question.





It's a local issue. Michigan is subject to supply disruptions from as far away as Texas, including refinery shutdowns, and there were two of them recently. Fortunately, both will soon be over, and gas prices will drop. As I'm fond of saying, that's good news, and it's not a suppository.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Petitions filed for recall of Troy Mayor Janice Daniels





The City of Troy has provided a lot of blogging fodder during the past year, beginning with the struggle to save the city's library and continuing with posts about the municipality's revenue problems (which was the most popular post of 2011), the votes concerning its transit center, and its controversial Tea Party Mayor Janice Daniels. I concluded that last entry by predicting.
Congratulations, Mayor Daniels. You've shown how to become a textbook example of how to become the victim of your own political scandal not just once, but twice. You may not be resigning yet, but mark my words. The third time will be the charm.
Mayor Daniels isn't resigning, but it looks like she has worn out her welcome just the same, as Jeff Wattrick reports over at Deadline Detroit.

Organizers collect 9,300 signatures in effort to recall Troy Mayor Janice Daniels
The Recall Janice Daniels campaign delivered 9300 petition signatures to the Oakland County Clerk today in an effort to allow Troy voters the opportunity to remove Mayor Daniels in the November election.
...
Since her election last November, Daniels has been a lightning rod of controversy. She refused to swear an oath to the city’s charter at her inauguration, calling it a “whimsical document.”

During one Council session she read a rambling statement ostensibly about the transit center that, among other things, accused Troy city employees of reading her mail.
...
Daniels made national news when it was revealed that in a Facebook post last summer, she criticized New York for allowing “queers” (her word) to get married. In response to that controversy, she told the Troy High School Gay-Straight Alliance that she would like to invite a panel of psychologists to explain to them about the dangers of “the homosexual lifestyle.”
Eric B. over at Michigan Liberal elaborated on this news.
For those playing along at home, the first paragraph [the second paragraph quoted here--P.S./N.V.] provides you all the acceptable reason you need to vote yes. Refusing to swear an oath to the city charter because you believe it to be a "whimsical" document is the same thing as a Congressman refusing to swear an oath to uphold the Constitution. Again, in a constitutional democracy, consent from the governed is given to government by a vote of the people in support of -- at the city level -- the city charter. Refusing to swear to uphold it is the same thing as saying that you don't really need to consent of the governed to rule them like a king. In a totalitarian state, you can get away with it. In America, however, it's a pretty basic violation on the social contract; and if you aren't aware of that, you're just simply not fit to serve in any office at any level. And that, sunshines, is precisely what they made recalls for.

To that, you can certainly pile on that she's made the city a national laughingstock and made it more unfriendly to business development, which seems to violate the spirit in which suburban communities like to see themselves.
Looks like the question of Daniels' recall will be on this November's ballot. How many quatloos do any of you want to wager on her getting voted out? Of course, I'm taking the side of her leaving. After all, I remarked that she might be trouble when she was elected, so I might be biased.
Daniels won the mayor's race in Troy. That's a vote for austerity, as she's a founder of the Troy Tea Party.
I'll take sustainability over austerity any day. I hope the voters of Troy do, too. Here's to their making a jump and recalling Daniels.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Space and astronomy news: A bake sale for NASA

In last Saturday's This week in science: Chasing dreams and nightmares on Daily Kos, DarkSyde included links to three stories about space. The top story was about a Bake Sale for NASA. Yes, really. Here's an updated report on the event from Nature.

NASA scientists fight budget cuts with cupcakes
Planetary researchers bake cakes and shine shoes to raise awareness of declining budget.
Amber Dance
11 June 2012
It has come to this: planetary scientists across the United States hawked baked goods to the public on Saturday in an effort to drum up awareness of their field’s dwindling financial support. They were protesting plans in US President Barack Obama's 2013 budget request to cut 21% from NASA's planetary-science budget, and 38% from its Mars projects.

“The planetary programme is one of the shining examples of NASA at its best,” says Alan Stern, vice-president of research and development in the space science and engineering division at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, who coordinated the nationwide Planetary Exploration Car Wash and Bake Sale. “We’re not asking for a raise, but we sure would prefer not to have such a steep cut.”

One site where scientists are becoming agitated is NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, where many Mars missions are built and managed. As the lab held its annual open house on Saturday, planetary scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena and the University of California, Los Angeles enticed visiting space fans to stop outside the entrance for cupcakes and learn about the budget plight.
The planetary scientists weren't the only ones whose ox was gored. The deep-space people had an X-Ray observing satellite cancelled for going over budget. Read the comments; they're quite bitter. While last week's installment of space and astronomy news, had good news about crew vehicles, which indicates that the U.S. still has a future in near-Earth manned spaceflight, the cutting back of exploratory missions is a sign that our society is still facing what I consider to be the quintessential tragic science fiction sign of societal decline, loss of spaceflight. Sigh. At least Dream Chaser looks like a go.

The rest of the space and astronomy stories from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Global Tipping Point edition) on Daily Kos are over the jump.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Heading toward a tipping point

The featured story in yesterday's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Global Tipping Point edition) on Daily Kos came from the University of California, Berkeley. It was such an important news item that I'm giving it a post of its own.





Scientists uncover evidence of impending tipping point for Earth
By Robert Sanders, Media Relations
June 6, 2012
A prestigious group of scientists from around the world is warning that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change may be driving Earth toward an irreversible change in the biosphere, a planet-wide tipping point that would have destructive consequences absent adequate preparation and mitigation.

“It really will be a new world, biologically, at that point,” warns Anthony Barnosky, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of a review paper appearing in the June 7 issue of the journal Nature. “The data suggests that there will be a reduction in biodiversity and severe impacts on much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life, including, for example, fisheries, agriculture, forest products and clean water. This could happen within just a few generations.”

The Nature paper, in which the scientists compare the biological impact of past incidences of global change with processes under way today and assess evidence for what the future holds, appears in an issue devoted to the environment in advance of the June 20-22 United Nations Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The result of such a major shift in the biosphere would be mixed, Barnosky noted, with some plant and animal species disappearing, new mixes of remaining species, and major disruptions in terms of which agricultural crops can grow where.
I've been documenting the extreme weather Detroit and the nation have been having for the past year, most recently in Warmest spring in Detroit history on Examiner.com and excerpted in Examiner.com article on warmest spring in Detroit history here on this blog. I'll add another detail. After the mild winter and record warm spring, I was wondering if the fireflies would come out early. They did. On Saturday, I saw a firefly. This is the earliest I've ever seen one here in Michigan. When I first moved here 23 years ago, I didn't see them until about June 21st. I don't ever recall seeing them before Father's Day. This is on top of seeing the first June bug at the end of April, when one flew in the window, and the first maples leafing out in the middle of April. I don't usually see June bugs until the end of May and the maples don't leaf out until the last week of April. Everything is running early, including July weather on Memorial Day. I know weather isn't climate, but what has been happening the past year looks just like what I'd expect from a warming world.

That's just the climate. I haven't even touched other forms of pollution and resource depletion. Look for articles about those, along with a bonus video, over the jump.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Focus on Sustainability, Antiquity, and Economy from the CoDominion

I posted yesterday's Update on the CoDominion: Education, Antiquity, and Economy just in time. It turned out that there were more stories about China and the Sino-American relationship in last night's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Global Tipping Point edition) on Daily Kos. You'll find stories about China as a good example for the U.S., new information about the Great Wall, and China as an export market for agricultural products and machinery over the jump.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Update on the CoDominion: Education, Antiquity, and Economy

I haven't mentioned China for a month and The CoDominion for even longer. Combine those facts with three stories about China and relationships between U.S. and Chinese universities in the latest Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday on Daily Kos and it's time to post an update on the stories since I began the project of collecting stories from public research universities on the campaign trail.

Join me over the jump for stories from the past four months of Overnight News Digests on Daily Kos. Don't be surprised if you've seen some of them before. After all, I'm an environmentalist; I recycle.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Michigan Secretary of State attempts to screw over Libertarians




In my Examiner.com article Libertarians, Greens nominate candidates at Michigan state conventions, I describe the results of a very busy weekend for two of the smaller political parties, giving them the attention they deserve. I want you to read the article just for that, but there is another story buried inside of it that I want to call to your attention; one of the local corn pone fascists is trying to manipulate the election in favor of her party by interfering with the efforts of another party on the Right.

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is trying to keep Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party's nominee, off the ballot on a technicality. I guess she's trying to help out her fellow Republicans. If so, then it's not just Democrats she's screwing over!
At their state convention at the Embassy Suites in Livonia on Saturday, June 2nd, the Libertarian Party of Michigan nominated 45 candidates for federal, state, and local offices... The delegates also selected electors to the Electoral College for the Libertarian Party ticket of Gary Johnson for President and Judge James P. Gray for Vice President, which was selected at the party's national convention in Las Vegas last month. However, the Secretary of State may keep Johnson's name off the Michigan general election ballot because of her interpretation of the state's "sore loser" law.
...
Even though the Libertarians already nominated Gary Johnson for President, he may not appear on Michigan's ballot in November. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is interpreting Michigan law to prevent his name from being printed on the ballot for the general election. At issue is the Michigan "sore loser" law preventing a candidate from being on the ballot for two different parties during the same year. Johnson's name was on the ballot for the Michigan Republican Primary in February, so Ruth Johnson is declaring Gary Johnson ineligible to run as the Libertarian Party candidate in November. This is despite the precedent of John Anderson, who ran for President in 1980 as a Republican during the primary, then ran as an independent during the general election. Then Secretary of State Richard Austin allowed Anderson's name to appear on the November ballot. If the Secretary of State continues to refuse to allow Gary Johnson on the ballot, the Libertarian Party of Michigan will sue.
I descibed this situation to my wife, and she responded with exactly the same one word reaction that was on the tip of my tongue: "Petty!"  Yes, Dear, she is.

As for the Libertarian Party, it's no secret that I dislike their Objectivist wing and have a low opinion of the Paul-bearers among them, but I wish them luck in getting their preferred candidate on the ballot. They both deserve it and need it, especially with Michigan's partisan Supreme Court. Crossposted to Michigan Liberal.

Krugman wagging the Dalek on Real Time

Speaking of "Science Fiction Political Theater," Nancy over at Reason Creek posted this video of Paul Krugman on Real Time proposing that the government get the country out of recession by preparing for a fake alien invasion.




If this looks familiar, it's because I've blogged about it before, twice. Wag the Dalek!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

I was in a foul mood until I watched this video

I was annoyed about the conclusion to Tuesday's episode of Science Fiction Political Theater until I watched this video that my wife shared on her Facebook wall. It seems that the British have their own version of corn pone fascism in the BNP, which this song originally addressed, although the artist herself has since directed it at other targets.




There, I feel much better. Don't you?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Yesterday in Science Fiction Political Theater

It looks like I coined a phrase when I typed "Science Fiction Political Theater" as part of the title of yesterday's post. A Google search shows that I'm the only person to use it as a complete unit (the other result was dismissing an Arab proposal as "science fiction. Political theater" which is the same search string, but not the same usage; the period makes a difference), making yesterday's entry a first. That's the good news.

The bad news is that when I made the snarky comment that "Arnold Schwarzenegger can't have all the fun," the comparison to the Governator was a little too apt. After all, he was the hero in both the movie and the California Recall. That's right, he got to star in both the original and the real-world remake. So when Scott Walker ended up being the star of yesterday's political drama, he got the benefit of being the protagonist instead of the antagonist. Phooey. The real protagonists were Wisconsin's voters, but they didn't get the star billing. Too bad. That's the meme that needs to take hold.

At least there was a consolation prize in yesterday's vote for the Democrats; they got the majority back in the state senate.
State Senate - District 21 - Special General
60 of 60 Precincts Reporting - 100%
Name               Party Votes Vote %
Lehman, John       Dem   36,255 51%
Wanggaard, Van (i) GOP   35,476 49%
Wisconsin is no longer effectively a one-party state. Too bad the same can't be said about Michigan.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Space and astronomy stories for the week of Memorial Day

In Sustainability news from commericial sources for the week before Memorial Day I wrote "Time to move on to the next installment of space news!" And so it is. Here are the space and astronomy stories from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Venus Transit, Partial Eclipse, and Total Recall edition) on Daily Kos.

First up, a summary of this week's events involving NASA, including three successful tests of vehicles for the Commercial Crew Development Program.

NASA Television on YouTube: Dragon's Back on This Week @NASA



The first commercial spacecraft to journey to the International Space Station returns safely to Earth. Also, new milestones for other commercial crew/cargo spacecraft; John Glenn awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom at White House; and more!
Darksyde on Daily Kos had even more to say about Dragon's return, along with other space and science news, in This week in science: Spin me round.

Join me over the jump for news about the upcoming partial lunar eclipse, the transit of Venus, and other space and astronomy news.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sustainability news from commercial sources for the week before Memorial Day

sustainability_spheres


Yesterday, I boasted:
Would you believe I have enough material left for a post about sustainability news from commercial sources? Believe it.
Over the jump are all the posts from commercial sources included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Dragon docks with ISS edition) on Daily Kos last week.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Examiner.com article on warmest spring in Detroit history

I decided to convert two posts from last month into a paying article on Examiner.com once the record was confirmed.




Examiner.com: Warmest spring in Detroit history
Detroit just completed the warmest spring in recorded history, according to the National Weather Service Forecast Office for Detroit and Pontiac. The average temperature from March 1 through May 31 was 55.2 degrees F, more than two degrees warmer than the previous record warm spring in 2010 and at least five degrees warmer than normal. The record includes the warmest March in Detroit's history, which the NWS Forecast Office called "the most unusual climate event to ever be recorded in Southeast Michigan" as well as record high temperatures for several days in May, including 94 degrees F on Memorial Day, breaking the previous record by two degrees.
...
Record warmth has also been the experience of the rest of the United States, according to NOAA. The first four months of 2012 have been the warmest first four months of any year for the contiguous United States, with an average temperature of 45.4 degrees F, 5.4 degrees F above the long-term average. Twenty-six states, all east of the Rockies, recorded their highest averages for the four-month period, and an additional 17 states had temperatures for the period among their ten warmest.

In addition, the twelve consecutive months ending in April 2012 were the warmest in U.S. history. The twelve-month running average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 55.7 degrees F, which is 2.8 degrees F above the Twentieth Century average. These months included the second hottest summer, fourth warmest winter, and warmest March ever recorded for the contiguous United States. Twenty-two states set records for highest average temperatures during the 12-month period, and an additional nineteen states experienced temperatures among the ten highest in their histories.
Five more paragraphs at the link.

I'll also be promoting this article on Daily Kos as part of Overnight News Digest tonight.

Sustainability news from campuses on the campaign trail for the week before Memorial Day



sustainability_spheres
Even after sorting the stories from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Dragon docks with ISS edition) into theme posts about space, education, and health along with one story forming the core of a sustainability-related polical post, I still have enough left over for a post of their own. Continue over the jump for stories from Arkansas, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Environmental health news from universities on the campaign trail 1


sustainability_spheres


Time to jump into a new series with help from an existing one.
Sometimes when I'm preparing a linkspam, a distinct theme emerges connecting many of the week's articles. That's what inspired me to compose U.S.-China EcoPartnerships: The CoDominion plans for sustainability, one of my most read entries, as well as Universities studying and promoting civility in politics, among others.
That's how I opened Sustainability education news from campuses on the campaign trail, which spawned a sequel. It turns out that the bulk of the stories from last week's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Dragon docks with ISS edition), after I stipped out the space and education stories, also has a theme--environmental health and safety and health as a sustainability issue. Looks like a good series idea to me. That written, here are the health stories from public universities in Kentucky, Texas, and Wisconsin for the week before Memorial Day over the jump.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Nablopomo for June: Jump

NaBloPoMo June 2012


So, what's this month's theme?

JUMP


Every year when the pool opened, the first thing I needed to do was jump off the high dive. The whole act of jumping terrified me, and if I didn't do it as the first thing when I got to the pool, I would let that fall grow to epic proportions in my mind until I couldn't get myself to climb the ladder, and I'd kick myself the rest of the summer.

At BlogHer, we're going to encourage you this month to jump.

Jump into a new project, jump into a new idea, and most certainly jump into something that terrifies you so you can get over it. We're going to look at things that make us happy so we can jump for joy through our words. And we're going to look at things that make us nervous and jumpy.
...
So start thinking about different things you want to jump into this week.
At first, I thought that the theme of the month would come off as ironic considering that nearly everything I follow fell today. Then I noticed that the jump described was actually taking a plunge. That fits today's news perfectly. Even better, the concluding blogging idea was "look[ing] at things that make us nervous and jumpy." That's the entire purpose of this blog. I might as well jump!