Trusting the Experts

Trusting the Experts

Last week Michigan Public had a story about the EPA’s latest Climate Indicators Report and how it shows significant changes for Michigan and the Great Lakes as a whole. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.

OK, you’re busy. And there is a lot to think through. That’s because it was created from data collected and vetted by scientific experts — highly trained teams of individuals whose literal job it is to put these reports together. What’s more, it is the job of the entire scientific community to test and question and poke and prod to try to find errors, biases, and false claims in those reports (and it fills them with delight when they find something so there is every incentive to make them airtight).

Meanwhile, there is an ongoing battle in the country as a whole over education and what exactly we should be teaching our children. The only thing that approaches consensus is that STEM-related courses (science, technology, engineering, math) should be a priority.

And yet, we routinely dismiss the scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians when their expert recommendations do not align to our feelings and desires. The Supreme Court seemingly validated this by throwing out the so-called Chevron doctrine last month.

We’ve been doing a fine job of chasing teachers and nurses out of their professions. Are scientists and researchers next?

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Our Only Hope

Our Only Hope

I’ve commented before about the challenges of dealing with hyper-fast news cycles. The presidential debate last week took place a few hours past my deadline, so I missed that. Then earlier this week was the bombshell ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on presidential immunity.

And now with the Fourth of July holiday, I’m working a short week and guessing today (Wednesday) what might still be relevant Friday when the cartoon is published. This has left me playing catch up — but still needing to be careful not to run too far ahead.

So, no, I don’t really know how I came around to the Star Wars theme. And to readers who are Star Wars fans, yes, I realize that Trump is really more of a Jabba the Hut character, but I couldn’t make that work.

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The Foundation Is Crumbling

The Foundation Is Crumbling

As you may have gathered, I’m not a “make America great again” kind of person. It’s not that I don’t think America is great. (It is — especially the concept of it.) It’s just that I don’t think America has been a substantially better country at any given time in its history than it is now.

If we’re honest, we tend to paint the supposed good times with broad brush stokes that cover over those who were having a bad time. Nostalgia, rose-colored glasses, call it what you want.

Nevertheless, I can unabashedly say that I think our country was in a much better place 30 to 60 years ago when nearly everybody read a daily newspaper and was availed to network news broadcasts that had journalistic guardrails. There was a baseline level of knowing what was going on that was generally shared by everybody. It wasn’t perfect. It provided limited options. And, horrors, it could be considered not very entertaining. But the net effect was an at least somewhat informed electorate.

I’m not suggesting that we should try to go back — most obviously because we can’t. The newspaper business model has been thoroughly eviscerated and technology has nearly left network news in the dustbin of history. But it would be helpful if we could find another way to get to that baseline level of shared knowledge.

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Running out of New Places

Running out of New Places

The latest mass shooting here in Michigan (at least, the latest one that made the news) took place at a splash pad in Rochester Hills last Saturday. Nine people were injured, including two children. The shooter was later found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Michigan recently has made some progress in passing legislation and implementing programs designed to reduce gun violence. They represent positive, sensible efforts toward treating the disease. Certainly not a cure-all for what has been a uniquely intractable problem for us Americans, but at least attempting to mitigate unnecessary deaths and injuries.

However, a few days later the U.S. Supreme Court managed to again demonstrate just how intractable the problem is with a tortured, hair-splitting ruling on what exactly a machine gun is, which overturned a ban on bump stocks.

Look, the grim reaper and gun violence are in lockstep on this. They aren’t going to break up on their own. That’s our responsibility — with “our” very much including elected and appointed officials.

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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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