Archive for April, 2017

Dear Flint…

Dear Flint...

After three years of the Flint water crisis, fatigue may have set in — first and foremost, for the citizens of Flint who have had to live with the daily grind and persistent worries. But also for Michiganders living outside and looking in. The fatigue for us is different — it’s trying to stay engaged with a story that may not seem to affect us, at least not directly. Three years is a long time to hold somebody’s attention.

This week Michigan Radio presented several stories from a number of angles to mark the anniversary. In fact, the reporters and staff have done yeoman’s work from the start to keep this very real and worthy story relevant to those outside of Flint. They have done such a wonderful job that I found myself hard pressed to come up with something new to say in a cartoon.

I finally got the idea of writing a thank you note because, well, my mom taught me the importance of writing thank you notes. When somebody has done something for you, it’s important to acknowledge the gift. And having grown up in the Flint area and lived in Michigan since, Flint has taught me (and continues to teach me) plenty.

Sometimes the lesson has been what to do, for example, witnessing the grace and resolve with which many of its citizens have handled this ongoing crisis. Sometimes the lesson has been what not to do, for example, building an amusement park without roller coasters or electing a self-serving, egotistical businessman named Don as your leader. (Sorry, those are inside jokes for Flintoids.)

But what may ultimately be the best reason to be thankful is this: If we can work with Flint to help it prosper, we can certainly handle any problem Michigan faces.


Make Isle Royale Great Again

Make Isle Royale Great Again

Back in high school, one of my friends had an older sister who spent a summer on Isle Royale doing research work. She made the mistake of trying to have a conversation about this with a bunch of 16 year-old boys.

Because we were from Flint, we all had a difficult time with the concept of gainful employment outside the context of a General Motors factory or a Halo Burger grill. (“You get paid money to walk around the woods?!”) Also, testosterone poisoning rendered us without any real social skills for conversation with an older girl.

But where she really lost us was when she mentioned her work involved counting wolf and moose droppings to assess the size and health of the herds. It was pretty much an endless series of poop jokes from that point.

I found out from a Michigan Radio story earlier this week that counting the wolf herd on Isle Royale is much more straightforward these day. There are only two left.

It was interesting to hear from experts why this might be important. We are often a country of 16 year-old boys when in comes to science. Experts don’t always have the answers and often they can be wrong. But considering the thoughts of those who have actually studied the issue is a great way start a conversation.

(And a belated apology to Linda Hasselbach wherever you are.)


The NRA’s Principled Stance on Mental Health

The NRA's Principled Stance on Mental Health

Legislation was recently introduced in the State House to make our Michigan a “constitutional carry” state. House Bills 4416-4419 would relax gun laws to allow some Michiganders to conceal firearms without having to get a concealed pistol license. It’s kind of a melding of concealed carry with less restrictive open carry rules.

It made me wonder where exactly the National Rifle Association (NRA) position was on this. They had advocated at some length in the past (especially after mass murder incidents) about the need for better mental health care in the United States and keeping firearms out of the hands of the unstable. These proposed Michigan laws seemed counter to that.

So I went looking for evidence, especially for anything related to the recent healthcare repeal and replace debacle. One of the guarantees under the ACA is that all insurance plans must provide for mental health services. There were several proposals to weaken or remove that protection in the frenzied bartering stage between the White House and Freedom Caucus.

I didn’t find anything on the NRA website — nothing like a press release or position paper. What I did find was a lot of videos, including a speech that NRA President Wayne LaPierre recently gave at Hillsdale College here in Michigan. It was titled, “Why the Media Is Failing.”

Wow. If ever you need a lesson on how to demonize those who oppose you while sanctifying those who support you, this is your primer. (Tip-of-the-day: Start sentences with “The truth is…” so everybody knows you are the sole arbiter of truth.) It really was a tour de force of partisanship, which is what it was intended to be and what the audience wanted.

It’s just disappointing that guns seem to be one of those topics that can only be discussed in a binary way — either you are for them or against them. That’s it. It’s too bad because there are opportunities for, if not common ground, then common goals. The truth is (see what I did there?), the truth is the NRA using its considerable resources to safeguard and promote universal access to mental health services would be a tremendous opportunity.


Ask a Michigan Representative How Insurance Works

Ask a Michigan Representative How Insurance Works

We’re nearing the end of the season of Lent, and for Catholics (and others who participate in Lenten practice of “giving up stuff”) this is around the time we tend to lose focus and start to obsess about the beer or chocolate or whatever we pledged to eschew for 40 days. We begin to miss the point of why we did it — to demonstrate that habits and pleasures do not have power over us. We exercise our self-control muscles to show that even something like beer and chocolate together, like, say, a Founders Breakfast Stout with its creamy, dark goodness that… that even though it is a perfectly blended cacophony of sublime flavors augmented by fresh-roasted java notes that dance across the palette like… like…

Look, we’re human. Sometimes we can want something so badly, we get sidetracked.

I think this is where Republicans are with healthcare reform. Their collective tunnel-vision on repeal and replace has rendered them unable to remember how insurance works or why voters desire functional health insurance in the first place.

As a reminder, insurance is when many people contribute to a pool of money, so there is money available when those people need it. And we desire this for both health and financial security. Winning or adhering to an ideology or trying to reconcile ill-conceived campaign promises — all that is secondary to the health and financial well-being of Americans, all Americans.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s Mike Bishop, Tim Walberg, Bill Huizenga, and a little Paul Mitchell at the bottom of the drawing. But truly the cartoon is intended for all Michigan public office holders who have lost focus on this issue. There is still enough Lent left for them to work on it.

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