What You Get When You Vote for Rick Snyder

Rick SnyderWhile looking for something nice (Fun!) to read, I came upon Ramona Grigg’s article, When the Cameras Leave Flint, Michigan Will Still Be Michigan. It’s a very good article — you should go read the whole thing. She takes us back to the first days of Rick Snyder’s administration. She’s right that Rachel Maddow was all over the story of Michigan’s “emergency manager” law that was basically being used to destroy local democracy in Michigan. I remember those segments because they reminded me of the old 60 Minutes, where stories actually had an effect. In this case, not so much.

In fact, as Ramona noted, in 2014, Snyder won re-election “handily” — by over 4 percentage points. I remember wondering how that could be. But then I remembered that Hitler would have won in a landslide in 1938 if he had had to run for election. As long as you are screwing over a small percentage of the people, and the economy is good: you are golden. The fact that turnout was even lower in 2014 than it was in 2010, didn’t help. And maybe it’s good to remember that in 2010, he won by over 18 percentage point. It was a small amount of progress.

The fundamental issue here is that democracy wasn’t curtailed in Michigan (or most of the other states where Republicans have control) by accident. The people of Flint were not poisoned by accident. I discussed this the other day, What Conservatism Means to the Republican Base. In it, I used Marco Rubio’s statement that no one wanted to poison the people of Flint. No one is saying they did. It’s like when I’m walking down the road: I step on and kill countless insects. I don’t want to kill them. It’s not my intent to kill them. But their deaths don’t mean anything to me compared to my goal of walking to wherever I’m walking.

But what I don’t understand is why this goes on. I don’t mean, “Why was Rick Snyder re-elected?” I don’t understand why he was elected in the first place.

That’s the Republican Party. It doesn’t want to hurt the poor (although I would say a good deal of its voting base does and the party uses this fact for political advantage). It just doesn’t care. Getting tax breaks for the rich, gutting regulations to make the rich richer, destroying unions to make the party stronger and the rich richer: these are the things the Republican Party cares about. If it means countless lives are destroyed because of lead poisoning, so what?! It only became a problem to the party when it became a political problem. It is as if the local paper started writing stories, “Frank Moraes Thoughtlessly Kills Insects on Walks.” That might just turn me into a Jain — at least in public.

But what I don’t understand is why this goes on. I don’t mean, “Why was Rick Snyder re-elected?” I don’t understand why he was elected in the first place. How did the people of Michigan think that he was going to do anything but what he did? It’s kind of like the Bill Clinton sex scandal. In that case, I think most people didn’t care because they knew when they voted for him, he was the kind of guy who would have a sex scandal. (Also: what a pathetic sex scandal!) So why is there any surprise when a Republican acts in a way that shows complete callousness toward everyone but their rich buddies?

Ramona is right: Michigan will remain. And the residents of the state will continue to be abused as long as they vote for Republicans. It’s an unfortunate side effect of democracy. In 2010, roughly 40% of the voters did not vote to have Flint’s water poisoned. But 60% did. Rick Snyder didn’t pull a bait and switch. And even if he had: he’s a Republican. He won’t necessarily poison your water, but it certainly wasn’t on his “Do Not Do” list. But raising taxes sure was. And that’s true all over America. I’ll quote Rashomon, “I just don’t understand.”

Morning Music: Jules and the Polar Bears

Got No Breading - Jules and the Polar BearsAs far as I know, Funky Kings produced a second album, but the record company refused to released it and the band split up. This would not be the last time such a thing would happen to Jules Shear. But I find it interesting. It reminds me of William Goldman’s maxim about Hollywood, “Nobody knows anything.” Here were these amazingly talented guys who would all go on to great success, but the “experts” at the record company couldn’t see it. Anyway, without a band, Jules Shear started Jules and the Polar Bears.

Their first album is so great that I’m going to spend two days on it, Got No Breading. Every song on it is a gem. For years, when Jules Shear was producing “new wave” albums how I wished that he would just get a plain old rock band and kill it as he had on this album. His writing has always been stellar, so it is usually just a question of whether or not it is properly accompanied.

Today, we are going to listen to the first Jules and the Polar Bears song I ever heard, “Lovers By Rote.” I wrote about this almost two years ago, How I Discovered Jules Shear. In that article, I tell the story of being in a band with an older guy who was constantly telling me that this or that just couldn’t be done. In one case, it was that I had placed a chanting section smack in the middle of what was, by my standards, a rocker. Well, a couple of days later, this older guy excitedly shared with me “Lovers By Rote.” Since someone on an album had done what I was doing (Four years earlier!) then it must be okay.

So this was my introduction to Jules and the Polar Bears. But it’s interesting because now I’m not especially fond of the song. It’s great. But it’s also somewhat preachy. But it’s got great lyrics like these:

You inherit in your mind
Like it was so much cash
You better take out some insurance
On what keeps you attached
I got the only words to tell you
It’s a matter of fact:
You gotta make your mind your own
Before you find your mind a match.

Anyway, day one of Jules and the Polar Bears:

Afterword: the Chant

The chant is hard to understand. Here it is:

All you really got to do
Is tug a little leash
To find yourself constricted.
All you really got to do
Is think about the crime
To find yourself convicted.

Also: stupid questions about love really are the stupidest questions of them all.

Anniversary: Kepler’s Third Law of Planetary Motion

Johannes Kepler - Planetary MotionI’m not sure of this, but maybe on this day, our man Johannes Kepler discovered his third law of planetary motion. Now we all know the first law, right? Planets orbit the Sun in ellipses where the Sun is at one of the foci (which I would write “focuses” if this weren’t math we were talking about). The reason that this was a big discovery is because most planets don’t have very elliptical orbits. So it was pretty subtle. The eccentricity of the earth is just 0.017 — damned close to a circle.

The second law of planetary motion is really the most interesting. Basically what it says is that planets move faster when they get closer to the Sun. Now this is exactly what we would expect, but that’s just because we all know Newton. But at that time, Newton wouldn’t even be born for another 25 years. The way the law is presented is this: “A line segment joining a planet and the Sun sweeps out equal areas during equal intervals of time.” That’s the thing about Kepler: he was really a mathematician. He thought in terms of geometry. That’s probably why I’ve always felt a special kinship to him.

Now the third law of planetary motion, well, that’s an odd one. It is stated thusly: “The square of the orbital period of a planet is proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit.” Now that’s real analytic geometry! The semi-major axis is more or less the radius for objects like the Earth that move more or less in circles. For a highly elliptical object like Halley’s Comet, you can think of it as half the distance from its closest and furthest approaches to the Sun. So imagine that: this mathematical relationship is the same for the Earth as it is for Halley’s Comet.

Big Caveat on Planetary Motion

I’ve been slowly making my way through Small Gods and there is some discussion in there of how philosophers only raise questions. Any question that is raised only leads to dozens of new ones. So all this stuff that Kepler worked out is true in a universe that has exactly two objects. Clearly, all the planets affect each other. And that’s especially true, I would assume, of Halley’s Comet. Plus, Halley’s comet is losing material via the solar wind, which has got to screw up its momentum. So nothing I’ve discussed is exactly true. But then, what is truth? Is truth beauty? Or is beauty truth? Or should we all be weapons designers?