Two Elections for the Price of Two

According to this Associated Press story,

Anti-tax activists on Monday began filing paperwork to recall state lawmakers who may vote for tax increases.

No tax vote has taken place yet in either the Michigan House or Senate as a possible solution to help fill the $1.8 billion hole in our state’s budget. From the way things look, if the MTA (Leon Drolet) thinks a legislator might be considering voting “yes” for any kind of tax increase, that’s enough to threaten them with a recall campaign.

What this means is that if a targeted legislator does vote to raise taxes, not only will they be running for re-election next year, there’s the possibility that they’ll also be running against a recall election. That’s right: two elections for the price of two. Drolet has deemed two elections at taxpayer expense a more efficient and responsible use of taxpayer resources than one election and any potential tax increase, no matter how small.

(It should be noted that the MTA’s symbol is a yellow and black snake coiled in front of an outline of the state of Michigan. It looks like it’s hissing, too. I’m not sure what a snake has to do with fighting taxes, but it does look a little like a Fox Snake, which is native to Michigan.)

Drolet has already started his campaign in some State Senate districts.

Drolet’s group is also blanketing some state Senators’ districts with robo-calls.

He says voters in the targeted districts get a 30-second recorded message explaining some of the tax increases being considered in Lansing, “and then they’re given the option to hit 1 at the end of the call and they’re patched directly through to their senator’s office, and they can talk to their state senator, or their state senator’s staffer, more likely.”

Robo-calls, as cheap as they are reputed to be, still require time and money. Drolet spends a lot of his time and money fighting tax increases. He pays himself, as head of the MTA, to do this. He’s also on the Macomb County Board of Commissioners, which means he lives off of taxpayer money and decides how to spend it.

To summarize: Drolet works for the government and for an anti-government advocacy group.

In acknowledgment of this paradox/conflict-of-interest, Drolet recently announced that he has formally challenged himself to a public debate. If he doesn’t agree to debate himself, he has vowed to launch a recall campaign against his own elected position on the Macomb County Board.

No date has been set for this highly anticipated self-dialogue. WKAR’s Tim Skubick has already agreed to moderate the debate. Drolet’s closest confidante, the Pink Recall Pig known as Mr. Perks, is expected to be in attendance.

Technical Problems (Or the 26 Cent Solution)

I’ve been having some technical problems with my iBook. It’s a G3 with 700MHz. Yes, it’s 5 years old. I believe in using my computers until they die. That’s why I haven’t been posting lately.

Well, mine did, the other day. Screen went black and it wouldn’t boot. So I took it to CompUSA where the technician was kind enough to tell me it was probably a problem with the logic board. He said it would cost $160 for the labor and another $400 or $500 for a new logic board. He said he’d rather sell me a new laptop. This was not what I wanted to hear.

So I went home and did what everyone else in the world does with Internet access: I researched the problem. And lo and behold there it was: page after page about Apple’s iBook Logic Board repair program and numerous complaints about logic board problems. I’ve never had a problem with the logic board until now. Unfortunately, my laptop is long out of warranty. So any fix would be costly or would have to be done myself. You can buy logic boards here. Then you can replace it yourself…if you don’t mind taking every single component of your laptop apart.

I don’t have the patience for that. Especially when I realized it was the BGA video chip. This issue is frustratingly very common; the chip becomes disengaged from the board so the solder needs to be re-heated in order to reseat the chip. You can read about a solution requiring a heat gun here. You can read about an even crazier solution here.

I chose a variation on this solution, specifically this.

That’s right, I created a shim on the underside of my iBook with a quarter and a penny, and a strip of duct tape. The pressure keeps the video chip attached to the logic board. I’m typing this blog post on my formerly broken iBook right now. I’m hoping it’ll keep working until I get a new MacBook in the next month or so.

60 Years of Independence

As India and Pakistan celebrate 60 years of independence from Britain, the Guardian is featuring a week-long series. It’s kicked-off with this piece by Siddhartha Deb.

These days it is not hard for an Indian writer to seal himself off from social and political turmoil, but in a country where the chattering classes are only concerned with received ideas about globalisation, progress, nationalism and the free market, a writer is unlikely to find any interesting material by being part of the establishment. Meanwhile, just outside a milieu that brings to mind Henry Miller’s phrase “air-conditioned nightmare” (he was speaking of America in the forties) is a sprawling and diverse India, quite willing to share its thoughts and experiences. The citizens of this other India may often be illiterate and trodden down by hierarchies, but they are also irreverent and vocal, well aware that the stories people tell are some of their best weapons against grandiose structures of wealth and power. For those of us who function as dissidents within the upper or middle classes, it is this majority that we collaborate with even as we plunder their lives for material.

Then there’s this short piece about Indian literature not in English by Hirsh Sawhney.

It’s a sprawling, postmodern epic, a radical history of the subcontinent which draws on two millennia of history in a vivid demonstration that Euro-American civilization doesn’t have a monopoly on progress or cosmopolitanism, a towering fictional achievement which summons up a country in flux and casts a steely eye over the myths of colonialism. Salman Rushdie’s genre-defining Midnight’s Children? No. I’m actually referring to Qurratulain Hyder’s A River of Fire.

I’ve just added A River of Fire to my Amazon Wish List. Can someone please tell me why none of our U.S. newspapers has this kind of broad thoughtful books coverage?

Top Ten Myths About the State of Michigan

Now that I have lived in the Great State of Michigan for a year, I feel it’s about time I write something for those dear readers who live outside the Oven Mitt and U.P. to provide an insight into this particular stretch of the Midwest…

Top Ten Myths About the State of Michigan

10) The State Song is “Wango Tango” by Ted Nugent.
Categorically false. There is no official state song, and there is some controversy to that. Besides, the Nuge does not even reside in Michigan anymore. He resides in Texas.

9) Amway is dead.
Surprisingly false. Contrary to what is popularly believed in the other 49 states, Amway is alive and well…and Amway distributors are ALWAYS needed! In fact, Amway is still going so strong that last year Dick Devos, the former president of the company and son of it’s founder, spent an outrageous sum of his own personal fortune in order to become Governor of this state. He lost.

8) Detroit is a Ghost City that has been sold for scrap metal.
Technically false. Over 800,000 people still call the city of Detroit home. Though I have yet to meet anyone who will admit to it. If you ask a person from a suburb of Chicago or New York or L.A. where they live, they will say the name of the city and then for clarification tell you the name of the suburb. (There are, of course, exceptions to those three cities and they are: Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Oak Park, Brooklyn (still not giving in to being a mere borough of New York City), and that area known as “Jersey.”) Those in suburbs of Detroit will tell you the name of the suburb and then for clarification will admit that it is “near” Detroit as if it was some sort of indiscretion that unfortunately could not be helped.

7) Everyone is leaving the state.
Demographically false. Though it would seem so, what with the rocky times the Big Three U.S. Auto-makers are having and with all the layoffs and forced retirements. Many are leaving. But the latest census figures show the state still has over 10 million people residing within its borders. We have a long way to go before everyone has left. And there are still many jobs going unfilled in the state.

6) You’re not a true resident of the U.P. (or “Yooper” as they are called) unless you have hit at least a dozen wild deer with your car.
Oh ya, dat’s false. The qualifications aren’t so severe. You only have to hit 4.

5) Everyone is a member of the Militia.
Demonstrably false. Though its current devoted membership believes all citizens would be better off and safer from the government if all were fully-armed and well-trained in the art of wilderness survival. Though I am often suspicious of my government, I’m not sure how being a good shot or knowing how to survive in the wild will protect us from warrantless wiretapping.

4) Ferries are a wonderfully economical and convenient way to traverse the beautiful waters of the Great Lakes.
False. Big-Time. I have never taken one of the many ferries that cross Lake Michigan or Green Bay. I have never been able to afford the price of the ticket for one of those slow-moving ferries. They are expensive and inefficient.

On my recent U.P. vacation, my in-laws looked into taking the ferry from Menomonee to Door County, WI and back. It would have cost us $40 per person each way. There were four of us plus my toddler son. And it would have taken an hour and a half (not including boarding time) to cover the 16 miles of bay. We drove it one way in slightly over 2 and a half hours in our car for much less than the price of filling up a Honda Civic.

Clearly, the ferry system is for people who can actually afford inefficiency.

3) There is no public transit in Michigan.
Oh so slightly true. No surprise given that the state is home to the Big Three Auto companies. If you want to get around, buy a car, preferably one with an American name on it, even if the parts are sourced from somewhere else. Some cities have a bus system. And yes, Detroit does have a People Mover. It is less Japanese bullet train than the Springfield Monorail of Simpson’s fame.

2) Everyone Eats Cherries.
Very sweetly true. Yes everyone does. Including me. It’s in the state constitution. We all have an assigned quota we are required to eat. There is even a Cherry Festival up in Traverse City every year with cherry pies, cherry crumbles, cherry ice cream, cherry crepes, cherry turnovers, cherry coffee cakes, cherry jam, cherry sauce, cherry syrup, dried cherries, chocolate-covered dried cherries, dark chocolate-covered dried cherries, etc. There are even some restaurants that have been known to serve, I kid you not, cherry omelets.

1) Hunting is the State Religion.
Spiritually false. Hunting has a long and proud tradition in this state. But the time, energy, and resources directed at hunting game pale in comparison to the time, energy, and resources mustered in the service of supporting the State’s True Religion: the rivalry between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.

The careful contemplation of selecting, buying, and maintaining guns and bows is dwarfed by the energy expended in maintaining the football rivalry. The devotion of this state’s citizens to this rivalry (everyone must choose sides as in Chicago’s White Sox/Cubs rivalry) is enough to make any Reverend, Minister, or Rabbi quiver with jealousy. National Championships are very important. But the only football game that really matters in any season is the MSU/U of M game. All you Buckeyes, sorry to disappoint you, but the Ohio State game is merely an interesting sideshow in comparison to the clash between Michigan’s two Big Ten universities.

Roughing It


This is the view from the cottage we stayed at this past week in the U.P. It’s on Green Bay, between Menominee and Escanaba.

Notice where the water is.

Notice where the sand is.

The water used to come up to the sand. Water levels are down about 3-4 feet. To get to water knee-deep, you have to walk over muck, then through ankle-deep water. All told about 200 yards. To get to waste deep, you have to go another 50 to 100 yards. I was too lazy to find out how far it would be to chest-deep water. Oh, and you need water shoes because of the muck and slippery rocks on the lake floor.

A week in a cottage without air conditioning during days in which the temperature hovers around 90 degrees fahrenheit, with hard water that stains sinks, showers, dinnerware, and finger nails a rusty shade of brown-orange and tastes like my mouth is bleeding is not comfortable. (You know the water is too hard when your not-quite-three-year-old son tells you he wants”clean water” for his bath.)

Still, the week was spent with family. So it was nice. It was quiet and fun. It was almost bucolic, even. And our son got some healthy spoiling from my in-laws. We drove around Green Bay and spent a day in Door County, seeing the Cana (Not An) Island Lighthouse and going to a Fish Boil in Fish Creek.

Before that, we were in Chicago for a few days, a mixture of work and pleasure for my wife. And pleasure for my son and me.

My wife and I finally took the Architecture River Tour we’d always talked about taking when we actually lived in the city, but never got around to doing. It was fantastic. It’s a great way to see a beautiful city and learn a lot about it’s history.

We saw buildings like these:




Sorry the pictures didn’t come out better. I’m not a photographer and it was a hazy day. Yes, I know, a hazy day in July in Chicago, imagine that.