Archive for January, 2022

Picking a New Vehicle Just Got Easier…

Picking a New Vehicle Just Got Easier...

It is, of course, quite an understatement to say that the automotive industry is not what it once was in Michigan. But it still has an oversized influence on both our economy and our identity.

I was listening to an episode of the “Armchair Expert” podcast with Dax Shepard and Monica Padman. Documentary filmmaker, author, and activist Michael Moore was the guest. Say what you will about Moore, but he is undeniably a Michigander. Shepard was also born and raised here (as well as his wife, Kristen Bell), so a lot of the episode was very inside baseball. I don’t know how enjoyable it was for somebody not from Michigan, but I thought it was great — GM proving grounds, Kellogg’s, St Andrews Hall, Huntington Woods — yeah, I know what you’re talking about. 

So when I saw the news this week about the General Motors plan to invest $7 billion in Michigan (with Ford having announced a couple months ago their intentions to invest in Tennessee and Kentucky), I was inspired. Only somebody from Michigan would truly understand the GM/Ford rivalry. Again, not what it once was, but it is in our Michigander DNA.

And, sure, GM isn’t necessarily more loyal to our state than Ford — both are big businesses most heavily influenced by where the tax breaks and government incentives are plentiful. But it was good news about automotive jobs, which (like a summer day on a lake UpNorth) just naturally makes us feel good.


Just Tell Me Who I’m Supposed to Hate

Just Tell Me Who I'm Supposed to Hate

This story about apparel company, Carhartt, wasn’t necessarily big news this week, but it’s the one my brain found interesting. So, yeah, I apologize for my characters needing to explain it in the cartoon. I spent considerable time trying to interest myself in something that would be more snackable, but, you know how it is with brains sometimes.

I came across the story in the Washington Post. (It’s behind a paywall, but I’m sure you can search for it elsewhere.) What hooked me was a teaser headline with “Michigan-based company” in it. But as I read on, I found myself doing exactly what the guy in cartoon is doing — looking for a good guy, looking for a bad guy, trying to fit the story into a familiar narrative.

Is Carhartt a hero for looking after the health and safety of its workers and insisting on COVID-19 vaccinations? Or a villain for not accommodating all of its workers? Am I annoyed with conservative media for turning so quickly on a company that makes products championed by its demographic? Does it matter that the workers protesting at its plants in Kentucky are unionized? And so on.

Eventually it occurred to me — I wasn’t learning anything, I was only processing. It was simply information — a well-written news story with the facts and context, and it wasn’t intended to be pro-this or anti-that. 

Anyway, it made me take a beat to consider: Maybe I should try understanding the whole story before trying to figure out who I’m supposed to hate. (And maybe that second part isn’t necessary.) 


Learning Lessons

Learning Lessons

My daughter is going back to school with the intention of becoming a counselor/therapist, specifically for teens and young women. She is smart, perceptive, and deeply empathetic, so I have no doubt she will be wonderful at it. I also have no doubt that she will be needed. (Actually, my only concern is that it will be overwhelming.)

The pandemic by itself has heaped an immense amount of pain and trauma on children. The behavior of many adults continues to compound it. From everyday rude treatment of service and healthcare workers to going ballistic at a school board meeting, children are watching and learning all of the time.

Some of this cannot be helped. Stressed people act out, and as it turns out, an ongoing worldwide viral infection generates a tremendous amount of stress. We’ve had two years to understand this. So now would be a good time for adults to consider what we can do to take care of our own mental health — both for our own good and for my daughter’s future workload.


We Must Protect the Institutions That Sustain Our Great Nation

We Must Protect the Institutions That Sustain Our Great Nation

I’ve been reading a book called “Bad Days in History” by Michael Farquhar. It’s sort of a devotional with “a gleefully grim chronicle of misfortune, mayhem, and misery for every day of the year.” It was published in 2015, so it obviously doesn’t include January 6, 2021, but it definitely should if there ever is a next edition.

I did, however, find an entry with rough parallels. January 6th was not the first time our country has had to deal with that sort of extreme nationalistic behavior. Perhaps we can find some solace in that:

The magnificent stone obelisk that is the Washington Monument today was still just a stump in 1854. And thanks to the actions of a group of anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant political agitators called the American party, or “Know-Nothings,” it remained that way for more than two decades.

The trouble began when Pope Pius IX donated a black marble stone for the memorial, one taken from the ruins of the temple of Concord in the Roman Forum. Though many other states and organizations had also given inscribed slabs to the construction effort, the Know-Nothings saw the papal gift as a loathsome declaration of the Vatican’s intent to control the United States through the mass influx of Catholic immigrants.

Outraged by the Holy Father’s supposed insult, a band of Know-Nothing Party thugs appeared at the construction site during the late hours of March 5, 1854, overpowered the guard, and snatched away the Vatican stone. Not content with this brazen act of thievery, the Know-Nothings next seized control of the Washington National Monument Society through a rigged election and took over construction. They didn’t get very far, though — installing only a few layers of inferior marble (which later had to be replaced) before an appalled Congress stopped funding the project altogether.

It was not until 1877, with the Know-Nothings having long since dissipated, that the work on the Washington Monument resumed. It was finally completed in 1884, and stands as the tallest freestanding stone structure in the world. Evidence of the Know-Nothings legacy is still clearly visible, however: The exterior of the obelisk is of two distinct shades of marble. The stone used in the first stage of construction was unavailable when the job was resumed so many years later.