Your Offensive Lifestyle

Your Offensive Lifestyle

Happy Flag Day, fellow Americans! Enjoy flying Old Glory, but remember to do it properly (not upside-down). Unless of course you are at sea and in distress. Or trying to prove a point to your neighbor. In that case, you may want to check with your spouse first (especially if they happen to be a Supreme Court justice).

Speaking of at sea, if you are demonstrating your fealty, er, patriotism in the boat parade on the Detroit River this weekend, please keep in mind that your fellow Americans do not have to embrace every flag you fly. Just like you do not have to embrace certain flags. Listening is encouraged. Discussions can be helpful. And, as always, stealing of flags is right out.

Now get out there and enjoy your freedom of speech and expression! (Responsibly, please.)

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A Redemption Story

A Redemption Story

Americans, particularly us Midwesterners, sure love a redemption story. And the Michigan Central Station is a good one.

As the passenger rail station for Detroit, it opened in 1913 and was a magnificent doorway into the industrial boomtown. But as Detroit peaked, so did rail travel, and eventually in 1988 service to the depot ceased and quickly fell into disuse and decline.

The 13-story structure in the Corktown neighborhood easily dominated the views of the surrounding areas, and as weather and scrappers decimated the structure, it became a quintessential example of “ruin porn” (or the more benign, “ruins photography”).

By 2011, efforts were being made to at least slow the decay. But it wasn’t till 2018 when the Ford Motor Company purchased it that the real restoration began. And now this week, it has been officially reopened as office space for Ford and Ford suppliers, with the potential to support the return of rail travel.

See? Every once in a while, I can focus on the positive!

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Gordie Howe Bridge

Gordie Howe Bridge

The Gordie Howe Bridge linking Detroit and Windsor (aka, South Detroit) is nearly complete! Well, the last piece of bridge deck will soon be in place, but it won’t be fully operational till the end of next summer. Still, it’s quite a milestone. And quite a visual metaphor to see the last gap between the two sides at last filled.

The bridge is very much about what America aspires to be: open, welcoming, engaging. Developing commerce, building relationships, free trade. Whereas the various walls and obstacles on our southern border reveal our darker inclinations: closed, hostile, dismissive. Limiting commerce, straining relationships, taxing trade.

Realistically, we want to land somewhere in the middle, much like that last piece of decking. We should be as open as possible to growth while being mindful that the rest of the world does not necessarily play by the same rules.

We should also factor in the costs. For instance, Canada is paying the entire bill for the construction of the Gordie Howe Bridge — Mexico never has and never will pay for walls (despite what certain people say).

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Hey, You Challenged Me

Editorial Cartoon — Michigan Public

Don’t get me wrong — I have no intentions of missing out on any of the Michigan summer. (Well, other than maybe a quick jaunt to Chicago or an unplanned business trip.) As we stand at summer’s doorstep, I am filled with joy at the prospect and ready to walk right in.

But also, I am a bit salty, having just paid our auto insurance bill. Our rates got jacked … again! (Yes, we have done price comparisons — please don’t provide my name to a friendly agent!) It’s not our lack of due diligence, it’s not our insurance company, it’s Michigan!

Michigan consistently has one of the highest, if not the highest, auto insurance rates in the United States. Turns out, verifying this is an adventure in click-bait, so I have a moral obligation not to provide a link. But I believe most Michiganders already have firsthand evidence.

Some blame comes from a history of Michigan auto insurance providing, by default, lifetime care to victims of catastrophic accidents. This was changed by the so-called reform a few years ago — prices stabilized somewhat before again soaring. But even worse, as a terrible consequence, many catastrophic accident victims now have either been priced out of care or their care no longer exists.

Michigan summers are to be enjoyed by all. Or, at least, everybody should have the opportunity.

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Yoopers Be Like…

Yoopers Be Like...

Most of Michigan’s population is in the lower half of the Lower Peninsula. So recently when the northern lights paid a rare visit, it was understandable that the bulk of the people in our state were so delighted. But it had to be a bit of an eye-rolling experience for Yoopers.

I’m no Yooper (resident of the Upper Peninsula), but I did go to college there (go you Tech Huskies, eh?!). And among the things I learned was that with being way the heck up north and almost non-existent light pollution, it is not uncommon to experience the aurora borealis.

However, because the Upper Peninsula contains 29% of the land area of Michigan but only 3% of its total population, Trolls (residents of the Lower Peninsula) tend to forget that the UP exists. For the most part, this does not seem to bother Yoopers. But if you really want to experience the northern lights in Michigan, come to the UP in the winter and bring your tourist dollars.

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Is Michigan Even a Swing State Anymore?

Is Michigan Even a Swing State Anymore?

In truth, I don’t believe that Michigan journalists are conspiring to keep Michigan a swing state. Like all folks in media these days, simply trying to survive is more than a full-time job. So I’m sure they appreciate presidential candidates coming to our state to share their visions (or their bile) — it makes for news that directly pertains to their readers/viewers. But the Michigan media certainly doesn’t have the capacity to orchestrate it.

No, we can thank the Electoral College for all this. Our Founding Fathers may have had the best of intentions, but there was so much that they couldn’t have anticipated, especially the two-party system. That part wasn’t at all by design but has become the de facto standard for most of our history. As a consequence, if one party dominates state politics, all the votes for that state predictably go to the candidate of that party.

But however you feel about the Electoral College, I think we all can agree that it makes certain states — so-called swing states or battleground states — more relevant than others. Michigan is one of them, and, on the whole, that’s at least better than not being relevant. Or to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, “There is only one thing in politics worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

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What’s Your Excuse?

What's Your Excuse?

When I was in college, in the days before Internet, there was a closed-circuit system to deliver news and announcements — TVs (large cathode-ray tube TVs the weight of a Volkswagen) suspended precariously from walls and ceilings in various public areas around campus.

The system only showed still screens, but it could play video with audio. So the professor of the video editing class got some of her students together and pitched the idea of us creating content. The folks in charge were a little dubious, but the initial pieces were some nice stories about sports and college history, so they gave it a green light.

Then I got involved and started to create (at least in my mind) comedy pieces. My instructor and fellow students were fully onboard. But the admin in charge of loading the content into the system, not so much. My bits proved to be popular with the audience but made her worry about her job.

Eventually I produced a new piece about the notoriously limited dorm space at that time at Michigan Tech. It was not unusual for three students to be assigned to a single room at the start of the school year. I pretended to be an investigative reporter who had discovered evidence in the form of a secret memo revealing that the Michigan Tech housing department purposely assigned 43 kids to a single dorm room and pocketed the money. Then I got a bunch of friends to jam into a room and I “interviewed” them. I also got the actual director of housing to be part of a scene where I go to his house for answers and he slams the front door in my face. (He thought it was funny.)

The admin, however, freaked. I don’t know whether she thought it was real or that we had simply gone too far. But she declared that she was going to shut the whole thing down. My fellow students and I were indignant. Censorship! Tyranny! We schemed all sorts of ways to fight the power. But in the end, cooler heads prevailed. Our instructor carefully explained to us what was and what was not actual censorship, and she worked out a deal with the admin (the main selling feature: the fact that I was weeks away from graduation and would soon be gone).

The moral of the story? Well, there really isn’t one. It’s more of a gentle reminder that college students are supposed to be excitable and passionate and sometimes do things they, intentionally or unintentionally, are not supposed to do. Typically, the stakes and consequences are very low. But even when they are high like in these current protests, it’s good to remember that the vast majority of those involved are, in fact, college students.

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A Sack of Taxpayer Cash

A Sack of Taxpayer Cash

Last week the news broke that General Motors plans to move its global headquarters from the iconic Renaissance Center in Detroit to a newly developed building, also in Detroit. It’s news, but not historic news. Decades ago when GM moved from its glory-days location in the New Center area of Detroit to the RenCen, it involved thousands of workers. The number this time is estimated to be 850.

Also news: Taxpayers are gonna get hosed in the process. The new building, which is on the site of what was the flagship Hudson’s department store, was financed with tax breaks for the promise of 2,000 new jobs. The GM jobs coming to that building are not new — and certainly not a net gain for Detroit.

Taxpayers getting the short end of the stick is not unusual. But it does come at a time when Michiganders are particularly sensitive about highly touted deals in which we are likely going to get a diminished return on investment. Deals that Michigan made for big automotive battery projects just a couple of years ago are now being questioned and revisited.

The pendulum seems to be swinging toward the “no tax breaks” side of economic development. We’ll see how long that lasts when other states go back to outbidding us with their tax breaks.

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Southern Governors and the UAW

Southern Governors and the UAW

This week — perhaps even by the time you read this — autoworkers at a Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, are voting on whether to join the United Autoworkers (UAW) union. This is the start of a drive by the UAW to get autoworkers currently in non-union plants (mostly in the south) to join them. Republican governors from six southern states (Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas) put out a joint statement warning that doing so will put jobs in jeopardy and, by the way, you can’t trust them unionizers.

As Michiganders, we know well that there are compelling arguments for and against unions in general and the UAW in particular. But “disingenuous” is the most charitable way that I can describe southern politicians accusing the UAW of running campaigns “driven by misinformation and scare tactics.” Misinformation and scare tactics have been their favorite tools for union prevention (and union busting) for generations!

Careful readers will notice that there are six states but only five governors in the cartoon. Six was just too crowded, and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee was by far the least interesting to draw.

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You Know What, Governor Whitmer?

You Know What, Governor Whitmer?

I don’t think Governor Whitmer actually regrets repealing the 1931 Michigan law defining abortion access that could have very well become active law after Roe v. Wade was overturned. But — you know what? — it really shouldn’t matter what I think Whitmer thinks.

In fact, we would all be much better off if we spent less time trying to imagine the motivations of candidates and elected officials.

I believe getting rid of that zombie law was the right thing to do, specifically from a women’s health point of view. You may have a different position. That’s fine. We both then should do our best to learn about the issue, understand it, and vote accordingly — and not be trying to use our votes to effect some sort of strategic outcome.

Arizona did not successfully remove its even more ancient and draconian abortion law, and now it is the actual law in that state. This is an inconvenience for Donald Trump and his campaign. But it’s women and families who will suffer the real-life consequences. Learn about that, understand it, and vote accordingly.

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