Detroit 2011 Maker Faire

    I spent a good part of the day today stumbling around in the heat at the Detroit Maker Faire. Among other things, I did the following…

    I got to see an incredibly cool demonstration of a turn-of-the-century steam-powered threshing machine put on by the employees of Greenfield Village.

    I visited the HackPittsburgh yurt, and, while Linette and Clementine were occupied by their Cheez Whiz printer, I found out all about about their high altitude balloon program.

    I got to introduce Clementine to the team at Backyard Brains, who had her help with one of their electrophysiology experiments using a freshly severed cockroach leg.

    All in all, I’d say it was a pretty good day… except for the part where we had to say goodbye, for the fifth and final time, to our friends Amelia and Ruth, who are moving off to California at daybreak tomorrow.

    Oh, and we also got to see an episode of The Simpson’s on the lab coat of a guy who, whether intentionally or not, looked like Professor Frink.

    Posted in Art and Culture, Detroit, entrepreneurism, Other, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

    A deal on the debt ceiling looks imminent, but is it any good?

    It looks like our elected leaders in Washington may have finally struck a deal that would see the federal debt ceiling raised, thereby averting a situation with America’s credit rating… which would have, by the way, likely hit us all pretty hard in the pocketbook. Here, with more on that, is a quote from Obama a few days ago.

    …(F)or those who say they oppose tax increases on anyone, a lower credit rating would result potentially in a tax increase on everyone in the form of higher interest rates on their mortgages, their car loans, their credit cards. And that’s inexcusable…

    On the subject of taxes, I’m still trying to make sense of it, but, from what I can tell, the Republicans seem to have gotten their way. The agreed to legislation, it would appear, would see neither increased taxes on the wealthy, nor the closing of tax loopholes commonly exploited by them. The agreement would, however, see significant cuts to unspecified federal programs, totaling $3 trillion over 10 years. And, while the deal would avert another blow-up like this until after the 2012 election, it would do so by shifting the burden to the White House, thereby allowing Congressional Republicans to avoid personal responsibility for raising the debt ceiling. Here, with more on the specifics, is a clip from the Washington Post’s Felicia Sonmez:

    …On Sunday morning, McConnell sketched the outlines of a $3 trillion, debt framework that would pair an immediate increase in the federal borrowing limit with immediate spending cuts. The proposal would also include caps on spending over the next decade and would mandate that a bipartisan committee of lawmakers recommend further cuts and potential changes to entitlement programs by the fall, with a “trigger” mechanism to ensure that action is taken to reduce the debt if the committee reaches a stalemate.

    The process would involve a “resolution of disapproval” by Congress that would allow the debt ceiling to be further raised next year if one-third of either chamber agrees – an idea first proposed by McConnell in a “Plan B” he unveiled several weeks ago. The move would shift the political burden of raising the debt ceiling to the White House from congressional Republicans.

    Also included in the nascent proposal would be a provision calling for a vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution – an element that has become a rallying point for House conservatives. But one potential sticking point in any House vote is that the plan calls only for a vote on such an amendment, not the passage of one, something at which many conservative Republicans are likely to balk…

    So, if I’m reading this correctly, not only will the Republicans be able to shift the blame for raising the debt limit (which is something that they know has to happen), to the President, whom they can then attack viscously for doing so, but it also allows them to bring a balanced budget amendment to a vote, which they know will fail (for good reason), but will allow them the opportunity to cast their Democratic rivals as being “against balancing the budget.” I’m inclined to say that this is a horrible deal for the Democrats (and for Americans in general), not just because it seeks to balance the budget on the backs of the non-wealthy, but because it sets the Republicans up nicely to play the victims come November… but maybe I’m missing something. Here, with the other point of view, is a clip from a Reddit reader by the name of garyp714.

    …This deal would be a huge win for progressives in ways most progressives rarely concede or understand. The Dems boxed these tea party folk right into showing their asses, acting the fool and killing their chances at reelection. Obama played them like a fiddle and they exposed their ineptness and inability to play politics.

    You may not like these games, you may think politics is a game where your side must win every single match 100-0 but that’s not reality, that’s not how US politics works. In terms of US politics, Obama skull fucked Boehner and the tea party into killing their reelection chances while making a deal that isn’t that bad (for fucks sake, we have to start doing something – just like HCR) and doesn’t touch any of the left’s sacred cows.

    But just like the far right, the immature progressive users, joining with our far right cacophony will cry a river about how this is a failing of Obama to act like a 13 year old and stomp his feet and do nothing. And that’s sadly, not an accurate portrait of how things work or how the rest of the US and moderates in general will read the situation.

    And, as he goes on to point out, the Bush tax cuts are still scheduled to sunset at the end of 2012.

    So, what do you think of the deal? Am I being unrealistic when I say that I think we could have pushed for more? Am I naive for thinking that we could have struck a deal with some tax increases on the wealthy, seeing as how a vast majority of Americans (even Republicans) agree that’s the way to go?

    update: The following bullets on the deal were just shared with reporters by the White House

    • The president will be authorized to increase the debt limit by at least $2.1 trillion, eliminating the need for another increase until 2013.

    • The first tranche of cuts will come in at nearly $1 trillion. That includes savings of $350 billion from the Base Defense Budget, which will be trimmed based off a review of overall U.S. national security policy.

    • A bipartisan committee with enhanced procedural authority will be responsible for pinpointing $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction from both entitlements and tax reform, as well as other spending programs.

    • The committee will have to report out legislation by November 23, 2011.

    • Congress will be required to vote on Committee recommendations by December 23, 2011.

    • The trigger mechanism — should the committee’s recommendations not be acted upon — will be mandatory spending cuts. Those cuts, which will begin in January 2013, will be split 50/50 between domestic and defense spending. Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries and “low-income programs” would be exempted from those cuts.

    As the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein notes, “there is another enforcement mechanism that the president possesses.”

    “The Bush tax cuts expire as of 1/1/2013, the same date that the spending sequester [the trigger mechanism] would go into effect,” the fact sheet reads. “These two events together will force balanced deficit reduction. Absent a balanced deal, it would enable the President to use his veto pen to ensure nearly $1 trillion in additional deficit reduction by not extending the high-income tax cuts.”

    So, does this mean that the President might have an easier time of allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire? That is, of course, assuming that a Democrat wins in 2012.

    update: Glen S just left the following comment in another thread. I thought that I should move it up here.

    This evening, President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that a “compromise” on the debt-ceiling has been reached, and a Senate vote will follow soon.

    If passed, Republicans, the Tea Party, and President Obama will get much of what they’ve wanted all along — immediate, massive cuts, followed by additional major cuts that are guaranteed by a sham “Super-Special-Secret-Senate Committee,” and a series of “triggers” that virtually guarantee the cuts will be made one way or the other — and not a single penny in additional taxes on corporations or the wealthiest Americans.

    On the House side, the Progressive Caucus has called an “emergency meeting” for tomorrow morning to try to decide whether they will support the deal. Meanwhile, the Congressional Black Caucus already announced (yesterday) that they will not support anything other than a clean, “no-string” debt ceiling bill.

    Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced that she wanted to review the final legislation before committing to supporting it, and added:

    “I have to meet with my caucus tomorrow to see how they wish to proceed,” Pelosi said. “We all may not be able to support it, or none of us may be able to support it. But we’ll wait and see.”

    At this point, this seems to be a done deal … but there is still time to call/e-mail Congressman Dingell and Senators Levin and Stabenow, and ask them to vote against the Republicans and President Obama — and for the American people.

    Posted in Economics, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

      Gay people make Detroit, and everywhere else, better

      My friend Joe, who you might know better as Supergay Detroit, shared a video with me today about the gay scene in Detroit. It’s inspiring, and beautifully done, and I probably would have shared it anyway, but I’m especially happy to do so tonight, as it features, among others, my friend David Blair, who just passed away unexpectedly a few days ago, at the age of 43… That’s David that you hear talking 29 seconds in. (You can also see him performing at 6:35.) I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

      MotorCity Pride from 4exit4 on Vimeo.

      [I don't know if producers Toby Barlow and Dorota Coy intended this to be a gay recruitment piece, but, if they did, I think they'll find it pretty effective... In fact, I suspect that many of you in the audience are finding yourselves turning gay at this very moment, and planning your move to the Motor City.]

      Here, for those of you who didn’t watch, is part of what David has to say about the gay community of Detroit:

      “…I think we bring with us a lot of creativity. We have a knack for finding creative ways of getting what we need from life. And I think that we make places we go more beautiful.”

      And that was certainly the case for David, who most people here in Michigan knew as Blair.

      And, here, for those of you in Detroit, is information about David’s memorial, which will take place this Sunday, July 31, 2011.

      We want to give Blair back some of the love and life he gave to all of us. We are going to send him off with a 2nd Line Jazz funeral and we invite you to come mourn and celebrate.

      1pm: Please gather on the corner of Cass and MLK/Mack. We will march down Cass to the Unitarian Universalist Church (UU) at 4605 Cass on the corner of Forest. Percussion instruments are welcome to join in this march.

      2pm: Life Celebration at the UU church

      3pm: We will 2nd Line March back out into the street and let Detroit hear us celebrate.

      3:30pm: Community Potluck at Memorial Hall at the UU. Please bring a dish.

      Posted in Art and Culture, Detroit | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

      Putting an “I Support the Troops” magnetic ribbon on your car is one thing, but having wounded vets transported through your neighborhood is quite another

      OK, I may well be overreacting, but I just read an article about some Ann Arbor residents who are up in arms over the temporary use of shuttle busses to transport wounded soldiers through their neighborhood, on their way to and from the VA Hospital, and I feel obligated to fan the flames of outrage. Here’s a clip:

      …Residents along Glazier Way in Ann Arbor say they’re growing tired of the steady stream of shuttle buses coming and going between the VA hospital and Huron Hills Church — a situation they say is eroding the integrity of their otherwise peaceful neighborhood…

      I don’t want to go off on yet another rant about, “those people of Ann Arbor,” but, Jesus Christ. I cannot fathom having the gall to complain about a shuttle bus full of wounded or otherwise struggling soldiers – that stops running at 6:00 PM, by the way – and how its presence interferes with the “integrity” of my otherwise idyllic neighborhood. Sure, the thought might occur to me, but I can’t imagine ever being so heartless, and just plain stupid, as to say it. Here these men and women made incredible sacrifices for our country, and this is how we repay them – by complaining that the busses they take to have their prosthetics fitted cause us distress… I wonder if it’s the noise of the bus, or just the fact that it’s a reminder of the unpleasant fact that people are being killed, maimed and broken psychologically so that we can continue driving our SUVs and living in our sprawling suburban enclaves.

      For what it’s worth, I wasn’t going to write about this, until I got to the following quote by the head of the Glazier Way Association:

      “If this is allowed to stand in one of the more affluent neighborhoods in Ann Arbor, then no neighborhood is safe.”

      Yes, I’m sure that folks in Detroit, who are going to be sending their kids to schools with 60 kids in a classroom, are looking to Ann Arbor’s Glacier Way community, terrified of what might be coming their way.

      [Filed under "Ann Arbor Problems"]

      update: OK, it looks as though maybe I was overreacting here. From what I’m now being told, these shuttle busses are for the hospital staff, and not patients. It still rubs me the wrong way, but I suppose it’s not as horrible as I had at first thought. Compared to the troubles that a lot of others face in our neighborhoods, though, I don’t see how this really rises to the level of a real problem… At any rate, if people would like to have me remove this post, just let me know. I’d be happy to do so… Let’s put it to a vote, shall we?

      Posted in Ann Arbor, Other, Rants, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

      Open Thread…

      Things went so well with our “Tell it to Sara Jessica Parker’s severed HEAD!!!!” open thread that I thought that I’d do it again, with a a different celebrity head. So, feel free to open up and talk about whatever you like. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I promise not to judge you.

      Posted in Other, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 37 Comments

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