Archive for February, 2020

It’s Too Bad We Don’t Have Leaders Like Owen Bieber. Wait…

It's Too Bad We Don't Have Leaders Like Owen Bieber. Wait...

Saturday night my my dad, my son, and I spent 40 minutes in the waiting area of a local restaurant. It was our own fault. We had failed to take into account that it was Valentine’s Day weekend, understandable considering we had just come from watching the movie 1917 and were not feeling particularly romantic. While we waited for a table to open up, I had plenty of time to take in the restaurant’s decor, the theme of which was very patriotic and with an emphasis on police officers who have fallen in the line of duty. And then also a poster of Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali? Why Muhammad Ali? Like I said, I had plenty of time to consider.

I was making no judgements. In fact, I appreciated the uniqueness (something unlikely to be seen in a corporate chain restaurant). But I couldn’t let go of the juxtaposition of the Ali poster. You could argue that Ali was a good fit as somebody who challenged the system and was passionate about expressing his freedom as an American — what is more patriotic than that? But if this was 50 years ago, Ali would definitely not be up on that wall. Back then he was widely regarded as decidedly un-American for refusing the draft for Vietnam (and, let’s be honest, converting to Islam).

I thought about this some more when I read longtime UAW President Owen Bieber died. The obits were very gracious about his life’s work. Yes, I know that’s how obits generally work, but by all accounts Bieber was a thoroughly decent human being who deserves to be remembered in positive light. But if you go back a few decades, it wouldn’t be hard to find harsh criticism about how he was a union stooge killing the American economy or a weak compromiser who ruined the union’s chances of making real progress.

Anyway, it’s always difficult to truly appreciate somebody in their own time. It makes me wonder whether Democrats won’t be looking back at some point and thinking, “why is it again we didn’t think Elizabeth Warren was the right choice to be our nominee?”


If We Can Make Libraries More Accessible, Why Not Healthcare?

If We Can Make Libraries More Accessible, Why Not Healthcare?

There was an article in the Detroit Free Press this week, “Some Michigan libraries join nationwide trend: Eliminating late fees on overdue books.” Here’s an excerpt:

Libraries in metro Detroit, Michigan and across the U.S. have, or are considering, joining the nationwide trend of eliminating fines for overdue materials.

Larger library systems, including the Detroit Public Library, Kent District Library, and Grand Rapids Public Library, and smaller ones, such as the Ferndale Area District Library, Grosse Pointe Public Library and Chesterfield Township Library, either have eliminated overdue fines for all patrons or have gotten rid of late fines for certain patrons, such as children and teens.

The main reasons for this trend are that (1) the threat of fines have proven to be largely ineffective, (2) the money collected from fines tends to be less than the money it takes to collect them, and (3) people who can’t afford the fines often avoid checking out materials altogether.

So what I came away with is this bit of hopefulness: It is still possible in America to change a system to make it better. If data suggests an adjustment or elimination, we can go ahead and make that adjustment or elimination. If something is onerous, inefficient, and ineffective, suffering through it is not the only option.

Why does this not seem to apply to healthcare?


A Drunk Uncle and a Mom

A Drunk Uncle and a Mom

Can I be honest with you? I didn’t actually watch much of the State of the Union speech. I opted for college basketball. But that turned out to be pretty painful, too, as both Michigan and Michigan State lost their games in the waning seconds. Punishment for not being a good citizen, I suppose.

What I did see of President Trump I watched through squinted eyes — I find it difficult look directly at him when he’s doing his campaign-rally shtick, but especially in front of front of my full government and in my capital building. It struck me very much like a drunk uncle going off at a captive family gathering. Reading the transcript and fact checks the next day, I stand by that assessment.

Governor Whitmer’s Democrat response was quite a contrast. Clear, personal, without much embellishment…and much shorter. It felt like the sort of good, practical instruction you’d expect from your mother. With a dash of passive-aggressiveness to hasten compliance. Also, like a mom-talk, it took me till the next days to realize there were some holes — like, aren’t you the same governor who is currently trying to end-around the legislature for your roads package?

But that’s only what I thought. Others may be entertained by the theatrics or put off by a lecture. (The President himself famously cannot stand to have experts tell him things he does not know. Who needs knowledge when you got ego?) Hopefully next year we will have a President I can watch so I don’t jinx our basketball teams.