Something to Carp About
Do you lie awake nights, worrying about the Asian carp menace and its
possible migration into the Great Lakes?
Relax, were probably screwed on this one any way you look at it.
These carp reach up to four feet in length and weigh up to 100 lbs.
They reproduce like rabbits and eat like elephants, gobbling up enough
food to equal 40% of their own body weight each day.
Two species of the Asian carp escaped when floodwaters engulfed a
couple of fish farms down South back in the 90s. Theyve been making
their way up the Mississippi ever since, and threaten to enter Lake
Michigan by way of the Illinois River and Chicago Ship and Sanitary
According to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the carp have been
spotted approximately 40 miles from Lake Michigan. Once here, its
feared the ravenous fish will kill off other species and wreck the
Great Lakes $7 billion fishing industry.
An electrical barrier was established in the Chicago
canal in 2006. But, according to an article in the Detroit Free
Press, pressure from tugboat and barge operators kept it from being
turned on until last April. The fear was that sparks from the barrier
would electrocute boat operators, or possibly even set cargos on fire.
Eventually, the electrical barrier was turned on at one-quarter of
Currently, Senator Carl Levin is drumming up support in Congress to
have the canal sealed off by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But
this has aroused the wrath of barge operators, who transport 24
million tons of coal, oil and other items through the canal each year.
In any case, one might note that closing off the canal may not be a
deterrent for the Asian carp, for the same reason that you can find
other species of fish thriving in lakes that are hundreds of miles
from other water sources: birds.
This is one of those Are you smarter than a fifth grader?
observations, but one can only imagine that any elementary school
science class is aware that fish commonly travel long distances
overland through the help of birds.
How? Tiny fish eggs attach to the legs of birds that are visiting
populated ponds, then come off into the new ponds and hatch there,
according to a website called askabiologist.org.
In our case, seagulls picking at the corpses of dead carp will most
likely bring some fish eggs up to Lake Michigan.
Flooding rivers also allow fish to travel long distances. Hmmm,
werent there some major floods in Illinois last year?
You can close the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal, or electrify it to
its maximum voltage, but either way -- as was the Chaos Theory lesson
in Jurassic Park -- this monster fish would seem likely to become a
guest of the Great Lakes in the very near future, no matter what we do
to stop it.
A Whiff of Britney
Funny what you learn each year while Christmas shopping. On a whim, I
wandered through a department stores cosmetics aisle, looking for
some perfume for my wife, and found that just about every fragrance
was modeled around some movie star or pop singer. Were talking about
$30-$40 perfumes from Britney Spears, Faith Hill, Paris Hilton, Liz
Taylor, J Lo and Halle Berry. And mens colognes too, if you wish to
wear the scent of David Beckham, Usher, Sean Combs, Prince or Antonio
Each to their own, but the idea of splashing some Derek Jeter on
myself each day (with the aroma of chilled grapefruit, black pepper
and oak moss) seems kind of skanky...
Reconsidering Term Limits
Michigan voters established term limits for state legislators back in
1992 in an attempt to keep lawmakers from getting too cozy with
special interests and lobbyists.
Currently, however, theres some retro thinking on this matter that
argues that term limits have been destructive to Michigan because we
keep putting inexperienced people in office. The new lawmakers mean
well, but they‘re poorly equipped to handle the task of forging our
states $40 billion budget each year.
State Rep. Timothy Bledsoe (D-Grosse Pointe) notes that there are
currently 44 freshmen out of 110 members in the State House of
Representatives and that 29 of 38 Senate seats will turn over next
This high level of inexperience, lack of trust, partisanship, and lack
of long-term relationships has been widely blamed for this falls
budget fiasco in Lansing, where newcomers were more inclined to play
games with the governor and each other than create a balanced budget.
One newspaper editorial notes that the budget disaster made Michigan
a laughingstock around the country.
More than ever, we need capable and experienced leadership in
Lansing, yet due to term limits we continually replace one group of
leaders with another, Rep. Bledsoe wrote in a recent editorial.
He adds that making collective decisions (like hammering out the
State budget) requires the building of coalitions and cooperative
relationships unlike anything in the hierarchal corporate world.
Mutual trust is the cornerstone of these relationships,“ Bledsoe
adds. “Yet trust evolves only from prior shared experiences and
anticipated future dealings. In other words, I trust you because I
have dealt with you before and you have shown yourself to be
trustworthy, and because I anticipate future interactions with you
where our mutual needs will be at stake. To have a relationship of
trust, two individuals must have a past and they must anticipate a
Makes sense -- if you trust your legislators not to be corrupted by
special interests by remaining in office too long, that is. Been
there, done that...
Bledsoe will present voters with an initiative to change term limits
next year, allowing legislators to serve up to 14 years. He points
out that two of Michigans last three budgets have suffered from an
absence of experienced leadership in Lansing, making a strong argument
to get surer hands on the reins of government.
Robert Downes is the author of Planet Backpacker, a global travel
adventure, available at area bookstores, amazon.com, or