Great Lakes States and the 2020 Census

Great Lakes States and the 2020 Census

If there was one good thing that came out of the Great Recession, it’s that it finally made Michigan and the industrial midwest come to terms with reality: The massive employment from living wage manufacturing was not coming back. No state, no country, no town was going to be magically turned around by some new assembly plant. That was the old model. It was fun while it lasted, but that era is definitely over.

As a consequence, Michigan lost population. Actually in this past decade we started to gain population again, just not as fast as some other states in the south and west. But now we have the opportunity to build on some of our strengths.

The cartoon is an exaggeration (as most cartoons are). But clearly our biggest advantage is our unique abundance of fresh water — lakes (great and otherwise), springs, rain, lots and lots of snow — we’ve got it all. And as climate change goes on, it’s just going to make us more attractive. Taking the lead in guaranteeing safe drinking water would be an obvious additional way to (as the business folks say) leverage our advantage.

Our manufacturing legacy also provides us with another distinct edge. We know how to make stuff. A little more emphasis on supporting trades and applied technology, and — boom! — we’re a magnet attracting living wage jobs and creative industries.

If we want our representatives back, we’re gonna need new residents: Immigrants. Yet another advantage — we’ve grown like this before! (Both with people from other countries and by the Great Migration.) Immigrants bring new ideas, new energy, and new opportunity, especially to depleted cities and rural communities.

Also, we have the best beer.


You Gotta Make Sure He Pulls Through, Doc…

You Gotta Make Sure He Pulls Through, Doc...

I hate to provide the man with any additional media attention, but Michigan’s own Ted Nugent was in the news this week having recently proclaimed that COVID-19 was not real and shortly thereafter announcing he contracted it (and, as advertised, it was not pleasant for him). No additional comment.

Also recently, it was disclosed that Governor Whitmer had travelled to Florida before being vaccinated. This also pinged my hypocrisy meter, but it turns out Whitmer was visiting her elderly father who is battling a chronic illness. Also, for somebody who has credibly been threatened by kidnapping plots, it’s understandable why she kept this visit unannounced, even though she’s a public figure.

However, her declining to criticize Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel for a spring vacation trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama — that’s some pretty weak tea.

Look, maybe the only thing we all have in common these days is pandemic fatigue. Certain behaviors (by other people) are simply going to set us off. My bête noire is wearing a mask under your nose. C’mon folks! Whether you believe in the effectiveness of masks or don’t, you’ve had well over a year to find one that fits and can be worn properly. Geez freakin’ louise! 

But the people who have the clearest right to be frustrated at this point are the frontliners in the medical profession. This third wave surge we’ve been experiencing here in Michigan has again pushed hospitals to their breaking points. God bless the support staffs, the nurses, the doctors. And God bless those who are honestly trying to make their jobs less difficult.


Recommendations for Michigan GOP

Bridge Michigan has done an excellent job of summarizing the voting plan that the Michigan GOP are proposing. They compare this plan with the package recently put into law in Georgia. It’s a good way to get some context because there has been a lot of exaggeration and misinterpretation.

These packages aren’t entirely bad. But contain plenty of bad that either directly or as a consequence will suppress votes. Regardless, I think the biggest reasons to question the motivations of the Michigan GOP is that (1) the 2018 and 2020 elections did not go their way and (2) it has been verified over and over (and over) that those elections were extremely well run and without fraud. So a significant package of ambitious legislation for something that wasn’t an actual problem raises some red flags.

When you put that together with the aggressive way the Michigan GOP has fought against independent redistricting commissions to prevent gerrymandering, it’s fairly clear that their first priority is power, not advocating for fair elections.

These tactics are, of course, not unique to the Michigan GOP or Republicans in general. Illinois and Maryland are pretty good examples of where the Democratic Party has prioritized their own power over their state’s citizens. But much in the same way I feel about Georgia, I live here in Michigan and want our elections to best reflect the interests and values all Michiganders.


Pro Sports Are Dead to Me

My brother-in-law is a Michigan State grad and a huge fan of Spartans sports teams. Several years ago, he was watching a men’s basketball game that happened to be on TV later in the evening. His older two children were very much from the same mold — dedicated fans that bled Spartan green. His youngest never had an active interest in MSU or sports in general. But noticing that his older siblings were getting to stay up past bedtime, he expressed a sudden interest in the game.

His Dad said, “If you can name just one player on the Michigan State team, I’ll let you stay up.”

He pondered and searched his archives and then ventured, “Um… LeBron James?”

He was summarily sent off to bed.

So, if you happen be like the older kids, the cartoon (and this little story) likely don’t need additional explanation. But if you’re like the youngest, you may need to know that for the past few years (and in the Lions’ case, forever), the major professional sports teams from Detroit has been absolutely terrible. To the point of wearing down even the hardest of hardcore fans.

Also, you should know that LeBron James not only never played college basketball, he was well into his professional basketball career when my nephew tried to pass him off as a Spartan.


Correlation Does not Imply Causation

Last week, a video went public of Michigan state GOP Chairman Ron Weiser addressing the North Oakland Republican Club. In his remarks, Weiser made reference to Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel collectively as “three witches.”

Clearly Weiser was playing to the crowd (with this and other ill-advised comments). And, yes, he has apologized, but you have to wonder whether he would have if his seat on the University of Michigan Board of Regents wasn’t at stake. Still, he said what he said. Why? The most charitable reason I can come up with is that he just didn’t think it through.

Cut to the news this week about Michigan’s spike in COVID-19 cases. I’ve heard and read plenty of confident decrees that this proof that our state’s response to the pandemic has been a complete failure and that everybody should immediately do whatever the heck they want. We can all understand the impulse — we all want this to be over. But how many of these bold proclamations come not from impulse but careful consideration? Likely not many.

Admittedly, “correlation does not imply causation” is an awfully smartypants way of saying “you should probably think that through first.” But I have given it some thought, and that’s what I mean.


This Is America

This Is America

I was scrolling through Facebook earlier this week, and I saw this post from Vincent Duffy who is the News Director and my editor at Michigan Radio:

Friend: What’s the latest on the mass shooting?
Me: This is America, you’ll need to be more specific.

It is almost word for word a conversation I had a few years ago with a work colleague from another country. He expressed concern about a gun violence event here in the US, and I had to ask him to clarify which one. How sad is that?

But what’s sadder than having those conversations is not having these conversations. My foreign friends and co-workers aren’t asking questions anymore. For Sandy Hook, Aurora, Vegas, Parkland, etc. they would want to know why/how something like this could happen. They would try to understand. This past week nobody has asked me about Atlanta or Boulder. I think it’s because they don’t need to ask. They know — this is America.

It’s difficult to come up with something new on our country’s gun violence. Even “this is America” is a callback to a song addressing the subject released by Childish Gambino three years ago. The video, with its sudden bursts of gun violence, is particularly disturbing, but that’s the point.

This is America. This is America.

It doesn’t have to be. But it is.


This Is Exhausting!

This Is Exhausting!

Ben Folds’ song “All You Can Eat” is a scathing critique of human behavior, specifically the American variety: 

See that a—— with the peace sign on his license plate?
Giving me the finger and running me out of his lane
God made us number one because he loves us the best
Well he should go bless someone else for a while
Give us a rest

The thing I like best about it is that Folds doesn’t pull any punches. He’s not going after a particular “side” — he’s just listing out his grievances, whether it’s professed peaceniks lapsing into violence or the self-righteous who confuse tribalism with holiness. He’s calling us out on our, um, stuff.

And that’s kind of the theme for this week’s cartoon. This particular example happens to be about the shortage of semiconductor chips that could cause 100,000 less vehicles to be built in North America this year. The same people who extoll the virtues of free market capitalism seem to be the first to demand government intervention. But only if it won’t provide a political advantage to somebody they don’t like.

We all have done stuff like that at one time or another — say one thing, do another. Truly, it can be exhausting.


We Interrupt This Program

Editorial Cartoon — Michigan Radio

First, let me be clear — anger and outrage are the very fuel of editorial cartoons. So I am not in any way trying to talk people out of their absolute right to be angry and outraged.

What I am suggesting is that it may not hurt to acknowledge the positive every once in a while.

Earlier this week I saw a post on Facebook from a guy I went to high school with expressing his thoughts about Speedy Gonzales and Pepe LePew cartoons. His point was that he enjoyed them and didn’t see anything wrong with them. Fair enough. But the way he said it was with anger and outrage at the “real losers in this country” who would disagree with him. And then, as it often happens, the subsequent comments took all that up a few notches.

I considered for a brief moment pointing out that I, too, love those cartoons, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing wrong with them. Times change. People evolve. Some things age better than others. We are still free to enjoy them in the context of our experience, but others have good reasons not to.

Anyway, I was ruminating on that when I got an email from a friend thanking me for a caricature that I had done for him years ago. He has been using it as an avatar and in fact had just used it again as a volunteer to a project that has been collecting and publishing data about COVID-19 here in the United States. It struck me as a very un-angry and un-outraged thing to do. So I thought, “Yeah, there ought to be a way I can work something like that into a cartoon, too.”


Not Automatically On-Board

Before, during, and after drawing a cartoon, my brain is in a constant search for a match — some cartoon or other media where I could have already seen the idea. It’s the result of my paranoia that I accidentally commit the worst possible of sins, plagiarism.

And it’s more than a little unsettling (and definitely not mentally healthy) that the search part of my brain delights when it thinks it has found a match. “Oh! Oh! Now you’ve done it! Now you’re gonna get in troubbbbbllllllle!!!”

So it was after I had just put the final touches on this week’s cartoon. Fortunately, what my brain turned up wasn’t a forgery, but an influence. (Well, that’s what I think — you can decide yourself.)

Last year during the 2020 election, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, Darrin Bell, did a cartoon that was simply a drawing of a letter being written. The letter says,

Dear America,
I would very much like to critique Kamala Harris’s criminal justice record, but I’m too busy critiquing YOUR “birther” and “she’s not really black” nonsense. Would you please lay off the racism for a while?

Your Cartoonist,
Darrin B

I’m pretty comfortable in saying it’s similar but not the same. (Honestly, if I was going to steal anything, it would be the fearless way that Mr. Bell draws, but I don’t have the skills.) The similarity is this: I would love to more fully address Governor Whitmer’s lack of transparency in her decision-making processes, but there is so much nonsense in the way. To paraphrase then, dear Michigan, would you please lay off the conspiracy theories for a while?


I Blame Others

I Blame Others

As we come up to the one-year anniversary of the initial shut down here in Michigan, there have been plenty of stories around our education systems and the challenges the pandemic continues to bring. These three in particular served as food for thought: 

To summarize: Education has become even more complex and difficult this past year. And all of us standing on the sidelines offering nothing but our opinions? Yeah, that ain’t helping.


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