Archive for January, 2018

And Now the Opposing View to Infrastructure Investment and Fiscal Responsibility…

And Now the Opposing View to Infrastructure Investment and Fiscal Responsibility

Governor Rick Snyder delivered his final State of the State address this past Tuesday. It was, well, pretty much what we’ve come to expect from Snyder — a vaguely corporate PowerPoint presentation. That of course is in keeping with “business nerd” shtick, so no big surprise or disappointment.

The part I found remarkable was his emphasis on investing in our state (roads, education, etc.) and the need to commit to those investments by being good financial stewards. I know. Not exactly words that set your heart ablaze with passion, but still notable for their intention. We’ll see how it goes — Snyder’s past seven years of delivering on intentions can charitably be described as a mixed bag.

Still, his apparent desire for infrastructure investment with fiscal responsibility seems noble. In fact, if you were to ask me a few years ago the definition of conservative governmental policy, “infrastructure investment with fiscal responsibility” would be pretty close.

These day, pfffftttttt! (That’s me making a raspberry sound.) Conservative governmental policy has morphed into a groupthink that views all government as the enemy, as some sort of occupying force that needs to be dismantled and rendered unresponsive. This ideology has proven to be remarkably effective in benefiting its donors but also remarkably effective in starving our infrastructure while shirking fiscal responsibility.

This is what Governor Snyder is up against. The question is, in this last year in office, will he be a leader who delivers?


Jorge Garcia

Jorge Garcia

On Monday this week, while our nation celebrated the life and principles of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., immigration officials were actively deporting a family man from Lincoln Park, Michigan. Jorge Garcia came to America 30 years ago when he was a 10 year-old boy, brought by undocumented family members. He built his life here: a wife and two teenage children (all US citizens), a home, a career as a landscaper, and a law-abiding, tax-paying member of the community. The last piece of that American Dream puzzle was full citizenship, which he pursued for years spending $125,000 in legal costs. But it wasn’t enough to keep him from being deported.

You can read a full story from the Detroit Free Press.

Many people would consider this story a tragedy. Many others would certainly not feel great about it, but point to the fact that the law is the law. (A few lost all empathy at reading the hispanic name “Jorge Garcia.” Let’s just leave them out of this.) The issue then is one of alignment. Are we a nation that exemplifies Reagan’s “Shining City upon a Hill” or are we a nation of dedicated rule followers? Well, in fact, we are both. And we need to be both. We need to have ideals and virtues and lofty goals. We also need to respect the rules and laws we have created.

But they need to align. And clearly in Mr. Garcia’s case, we are way out of alignment. The laws need to be updated so we can say we are the best nation in the world and actually be the best nation in the world.

It’s deeply unfortunate that every worthwhile movement in our nation’s history seems to require martyrs. Dr. King certainly was one for the civil rights movement. Mr. Garcia and his family now find themselves candidates for the immigration reform movement. Let’s pray that a brief separation is all that is required from them to achieve reform.


Flint at the Purple Rose

Flint at the Purple Rose

Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner used to do a routine called “The 2000 Year Old Man.” In it, Reiner was a reporter interviewing Brooks, a man from ancient times. It was largely adlibbed with the reporter deftly setting the premise with genuinely curious questions and the old man providing outrageous answers (in a thick Yiddish accent).

One of my favorite bits was the question of a national anthem. The old man claims to have created the very first national anthem, clarifying that they didn’t actually have nations at that point — just groups of people who lived in caves.

The reporter: “Do you remember the national anthem of your cave?”

The old man: “I certainly do. I’ll never forget. You don’t forget a national anthem.”

The reporter: “Well, please, let us hear it.”

The old man (singing without hesitation): “Let them all go to hell, except Cave 76!”

It’s just a brilliant, brilliant piece of satire that lampoons the dark side of our natural inclination toward tribalism and (by extension) nationalism. I was aiming at the same target with the cartoon (fully aware it would fall well short of Brooks & Reiner).

There are plenty of preconceived notions of why Flint is the way it is. And tribalism solidifies these notions, pushing us to identify with our type, our group, our team. Alignment becomes the first priority and soon we are forming opinions about experiences before actually having the experiences.

In the press release for Flint, Jeff Daniels describes his intention for the play: “Flint will bring you up close and personal with the play’s four characters. I want you in the room with them. I want you to feel what they’re feeling.” It’d be a shame to miss out on understanding the Flint experience better because we think that we already know everything about it.


How Do We Know This Isn’t a Nuclear Winter?

How Do We Know This Isn't a Nuclear Winter?

My Dad let me use a car for the winter term of my senior year at Michigan Tech. It not only was a generous thing to do, it was also very smart, saving him from making multiple trips between Flint and the hinterlands of the Upper Peninsula to drop me off and pick me up. It did, however, come at a cost.

One day in the spring soon after I came home, Dad was in the driveway puzzling over the car. He called me over and asked, “John, what are all these nicks in the paint?”

I said, “What do you mean?”

“Well…,” he paused, “I can see if you got behind a gravel truck or something that these little cuts would be on the hood and maybe the roof, but they seem to be all over. What happened?”

I had to think for second, but then I remembered, “Oh! They’re from the snow shovel.”

“Um, snow shovel?”

“Yeah. I didn’t need to use the car while I was at school, but I made sure to drive it at least once a week like you told me. By the weekend, it would be completely covered in one big mound of snow, so I’d take my shovel and poke around in the drifts till I found it.”

Dad just stared at me.

I pantomimed holding a snow shovel and jabbing downward, “Kush, kush, kush, ting! Kush, kush, kush, ting! And sometimes I didn’t remember exactly where I parked it, so I’d have to dig enough to see the paint color.”

Dad laughed and gave me a pat on the back. Possibly the only positive reaction ever for a son who reduced the value of his father’s automobile.

I tell you this story for two reasons. First, to establish my credibility in understanding the potential harshness of winter. So even in a “best case” scenario where the United States nuked North Korea without them nuking us, there would still be horrific consequences (a possible nuclear winter among them).

And second, to avoid having to think about a President of the United States who would brag of such things.