Oxford School Shooting

Oxford School Shooting

There are lots of things to be sad about regarding the mass shooting at Oxford High School last November — first and foremost, the deaths, the injuries, and the ongoing trauma.

But I also find it incredibly sad how an incident like this has become more or less normalized. Almost six months afterward, it’s more of a legal push/pull and less of a tragedy. Just like all those other school shootings.

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You’re Ruining the Only Safe Talking Point

You're Ruining the Only Safe Talking Point

“The decision to protect unborn life should be left up to each state.” That’s a direct quote from US Rep. Tim Walberg. The Detroit Free Press got reactions from various Michigan politicians to the Roe vs. Wade leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court, and that was his.

Of course he prefaced it with a fair amount of righteous indignation about the manner in which the news was leaked.

“The SCOTUS leak is a brazen and wholly unacceptable attempt at intimidation. Getting to the bottom of this should be the top priority of the DOJ today to preserve the integrity of the court.”

That, of course, is also a safe talking point. But I would argue it’s not about abortion. It’s about avoiding talking about abortion.

Look, it’s cards on the table time. If you’re a politician who wants to make abortion illegal, own it. Say it directly. Tell everybody what your end game is. Stop trying to hedge with “I think the states should…” and all the other “well, constitutionally…” dodges. Let voters know so they know exactly who they are voting for (or against).

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Sen. Mallory McMarrow. That’s it. That’s the cartoon.

Sen. Mallory McMarrow. That's it. That's the cartoon.

I was a bit later than most in seeing State Senator Mallory McMorrow’s remarkable speech that went viral last week, which is a lifetime ago in the modern news-cycle. So forgive me if this somehow feels “over,” but I think it’s important.

Quick background: Fellow State Senator Lana Theis recently sent a campaign fundraising email that mentioned McMorrow by name, claiming that McMorrow had an agenda to “groom and sexualize kindergarteners,” among other unseemly and unsubstantiated allegations. McMorrow responded to Theis on the floor of the Michigan Senate — publicly and directly in person (you know, like something a person with integrity would do). If you haven’t already seen the video, definitely take a few minutes.

What Sen. McMorrow does is exactly what a good editorial cartoon aims to do — confronts wrongs, shines a light on the truth, punches up (never down). She is forceful but never needlessly aggressive. She both defends her positions and advances her cause. And her summarizing message is indelibly clear, “We will not let hate win.” Truly, what more needs to be said?

Well, maybe this: If you’re looking at McMorrow’s speech as one side attacking another, as a victory or defeat in a political battle, you’re missing the larger point. McMorrow is calling out lies, standing up to false accusations, and demanding that we all take note and hold to a higher standard. This is how Senate floors are supposed to work. 

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We Have the Best Experts — We Just Don’t Listen to Them

We Have the Best Experts — We Just Don't Listen to Them

I was listening to the Smartless podcast episode with author Michael Lewis as the guest. Lewis wrote MoneyballThe Big Short, and many other books that have been made into movies. He is known for his thorough research and ability to uncover compelling, important stories that others just don’t see.

Lewis was talking about doing research on a more recent project about the COVID-19 pandemic and noted just how poor the response was by the United States, despite the fact that seven or eight years ago we were widely regarded as being the country best prepared for one (the best plan, the best resources). What happened? We didn’t follow our plan, and we didn’t use our resources effectively. Why? That’s what Americans do. As Lewis put it, “We have the best experts — we just don’t listen to them.”

If ever there was a statement that reveals who we’ve become, it’s that. We invest time and money into education, into programs, into research and development. And then… I don’t know what. We just drop the ball.

The rippling effects are equally as bad. Bridge Michigan had a story last week about a program in West Michigan to create 500 new nurses. A legitimate question is, what’s the point? Is anybody going to listen to them anyway? Because one of the reasons we need so many new ones is that many of the existing nurses have become disillusioned and quit.

One more recent input that may help explain all this: The Atlantic has an article titled, “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid.” It’s worth a read for yourself but their short answer is:

“Social scientists have identified at least three major forces that collectively bind together successful democracies: social capital (extensive social networks with high levels of trust), strong institutions, and shared stories. Social media has weakened all three.”

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Explaining Away the Brutality

Explaining Away the Brutality

There are no pointed accusations or suggested solutions (and certainly no laughs) in this week’s cartoon. It’s a simple lament. We human beings have been doing terrible things to each other for 2,000 years. (Longer actually, but the last 2,000 have been particularly well documented.) The general consensus, of course, is that it’s wrong, but that doesn’t seem to stop it.

It’s difficult to reconcile. So we often try to explain it away as something sometimes necessary. But whether capital punishment is carried out by design or by unintended consequence, the result is the same — a brutal death.

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Fred Upton Comes to a Decision

Fred Upton Comes to a Decision

Earlier this week, longtime U.S. representative Fred Upton announced that he would not be seeking re-election this fall. Upton is currently the representative for Michigan’s 6th District, which covers most of southwest, lower Michigan. In a newly redrawn district, Upton would have run in the Republican primary against fellow representative, Bill Huizenga.

Upton has plenty of reasons not to run — both the ones he stated in his speech on the House floor and the ones he didn’t. My guess is that it had mostly to do with having to deal with McConnellism — the putting of political party above all else (including country). Granted, Mitch McConnell is neither the first nor the only politician to do this. He simply has perfected it. (Former President Trump, it must be acknowledged, has militarized it. But he already has too many isms named after him.)

So it makes sense that Upton — a West Michigan Republican in the tradition of Gerald Ford and Vern Ehlers — would not be inclined to take on both his own party and the opposition party to get elected. But it sure doesn’t make me very optimistic about future representatives representing the people (all of the people) of their district.

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Don’t Ruin My Talking Points with Reality

Don't Ruin My Talking Points with Reality

Is it just me or is the whole “government always bad” schtick feel played out? I mean, it seems very much like the vaudeville “take my wife…please” humor that made its way into the TV sitcoms — maybe it was funny the 50s and 60s, but it’s certainly not today.

Ronald Regan had a nice run with all this 40 years ago.

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.” <insert laugh track>

The thing is, it was hyperbole, a joke to get his point across, which was the desire for a more limited role of government. Now folks (including the entire Republican Party) seem to interpret “government always bad” literally, which has taken it from kinda corny to fundamentally dangerous.

Let’s get on with the reality that our government does have a role. We’ve been blessed with this constitutional republic, and however imperfect, it’s ours to use to our advantage (or ours to ruin).

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Defending the Governor Whitmer Kidnapping Plot

Defending the Governor Whitmer Kidnapping Plot

With all that is currently going on (raging European land war, economic trauma, Lindsey Graham’s hurt feelings, etc.), it’s understandable if the trial for the four suspects charged with plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has fallen off your radar. It certainly has for me.

Yes, part of the reason is the overwhelming amount of other news to doom scroll. But another part is the four men themselves. I don’t like to think about them. They make me uncomfortable. Not for a reason you might expect — anger, fear, disgust. I feel sad for them.

This feeling likely comes from having grown up spending a considerable amount time with guys who smoked a lot of weed and said a lot of really stupid things making really stupid plans. I kinda know guys like this, and they were obviously way out of their league in dealing with the FBI.

Nevertheless, I absolutely believe they deserve to be on trial. Planning and plotting to kidnap and harm an elected official (and clearly having the means to do it) is definitely something our legal system is there to prevent. (January 6, 2021 is a pretty good example of what can happen when stupid plans are allowed to be executed.)

And while I may be inclined to feel sadness, it’s not hard for me to imagine what others might feel about this situation. There is a well-documented history of Black men in this country not being given the benefit of the doubt as reflected in their disproportionate rate of incarceration, especially when drugs are involved. So I’d expect that if “they can’t be held responsible — they were high” works for four White guys, it’d be pretty hard to reconcile.

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Ignore That Guy — Here’s $400!

Ignore That Guy — Here's $400!

Please note: I am going to accept my $400 per insured vehicle refund check from the state unreservedly and with a clear conscience. As should anybody who has been paying (almost certainly overpaying) into the catastrophic injury fund these many, many years.

Another way of putting it: Michigan auto owners did not create the harsh mistakes generated by the 2019 no-fault insurance reform law — the insurance companies and the state government did. And while I don’t believe cutting off severely injured car crash survivors from their at-home care was anybody’s specific evil intent, the end result is, well, pretty evil.

Michigan Radio has done a thorough job reporting on all this since the in-home care market started cratering. It’s not a simple problem to unwind. Frankly, it’s stupid that we have it in the first place. In a civilized country, those who are severely injured (by auto accident or otherwise) would not be left to fear losing proper, decent, human health care.

But this is where we find ourselves, and our government needs to work with the insurance companies to fix it. Because it’s literally killing people.

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Where Did a Candidate Like Robert Regan Come From?

Where Did a Candidate Like Robert Regan Come From?

I’m loathe to give Robert “RJ” Regan any more media oxygen than he’s already gotten. But he is likely going to be my state representative in a couple months, so I felt compelled to say something. 

Regan’s recent “ha-ha, amirite guys?” quip about advising his three daughters that “if rape is inevitable, you should just lie back and enjoy it” made national news this week. Unfortunately, it fully tracks with other miserable things he has said and done while running for public office these past few years. I won’t list them. Bridge Michigan has a summary if you’re morbidly curious.

How the hell did it come to this? Well, it’s not too difficult to figure out. There are lots of ways to describe Regan’s behavior, but “Trumpian” may be the most accurate. (Another guy I don’t really want to provide with any more media oxygen.)

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