Archive for March, 2023

Lots of Things to Admire About American Democracy, But…

Lots of Things to Admire About American Democracy, But...

The United States is not unique in having the right to keep and bear arms specified in its Constitution. It is, however, pretty rare. The list: the Czech Republic, Guatemala, Ukraine, Mexico, the Philippines, the United States, and Yemen. But even among those countries, there is a pretty wide variance on what that means in practical terms. (In Guatemala, for instance, the Constitution protects the right to keep arms, but only for “weapons not prohibited by law.”)

In other countries, private ownership is allowed, just not constitutionally guaranteed. Like Canada, our very similar neighbor to the north — both of us former British colonies with democratic institutions, diverse populations, and large amounts of land.

Why then is our gun culture so vastly different from Canada? Why are per capita gun-related deaths and injuries ridiculously higher here than in Canada? Why are active shooter incidents in our schools a frequent occurrence here but almost unheard of there?

There are so many things to admire about the United States. I can’t imagine Canada (or any other country) thinks our gun culture is one of them.


I’m Pretty Sure I Don’t Like the Media Anymore

I'm Pretty Sure I Don't Like the Media Anymore

This is a bit of a continuation of an earlier theme of things working the way they should. Recently I did a cartoon about Michigan Democrats and Republicans delivering a tax cut bill quickly and efficiently, but neither were completely happy about it. Which is good because that’s how the system is supposed to work.

Now Democrats are now in control of all the levers of state-level political power (albeit with wafer-thin majorities in the legislature). And with such responsibility comes increased media scrutiny. Which is good because that’s how the system is supposed to work.

No politician should like the media. Respect the media, certainly. But expecting real journalists to be on your “side” is foolish. In slight defense of Democrats, it’s easy to see how they would get the sense that the general media is aligned with them. The continuous flow of Michigan Republican buffoonery these past few years has commandeered most of the media bandwidth.

By way of example, the much more obvious topic for me to address this week was the Michigan GOP ad comparing recently passed gun safety legislation with the Holocaust. I had to look past a lot of low hanging fruit to make sure that I’m calling out those in power on their shenanigans, too. Which is good because that’s how the system is supposed to work.


Maybe Not the Best Spokesperson

Maybe not the Best Spokesperson

It looks likely that the Michigan legislature will pass and Governor Whitmer will sign a repeal of the 2012 law that made us a right-to-work state. It can be kind of confusing, not least because “right-to-work” is really more of a PR victory than an actual description. (Props to the evil geniuses who not only developed it but somehow made it stick.)

At this point, I really only have two thoughts on the situation. The first is expressed in the cartoon. Basically, I would imagine the very “business leaders” responsible for the abjectly stupid decisions that destroyed Silicon Valley Bank are the same folks who would vehemently oppose a union workforce.

The other may seem unrelated, but it isn’t. Earlier this month, the state of Arkansas passed a legislation to reduce oversight of child labor laws. One of the arguments: Less regulation makes them more competitive. But apparently it wasn’t in time to fill their meatpacking industry with enough low-cost 14-year-old migrant children because this week Tyson Foods announced it will close a poultry plant in Arkansas with close to 1,000 employees.

Arkansas is a right-to-work state. In general, I think we should be aiming for less Arkansas.


Hey, the System Worked!

Hey, the System Worked!

It was kind of a big deal that Governor Whitmer signed a bill this week, as Michigan Radio’s Rick Pluta reported, “…to restore a tax break on retirement income and to boost the state earned income tax credit — the biggest state tax overhaul in a dozen years.”

Not only will this have a direct effect on the lives of us Michiganders, it also represents remarkably swift action by our state government. Have we not been conditioned by the past couple of decades to expect a slow grind at best and complete gridlock as status quo? How did this happen?

Well, the Democrats pitched some stuff including a $180 tax rebate check. The Republicans countered angling toward a permanent decrease in the state income tax rate. Compromises were made. Some things was tabled. But legislation got done. The system worked!

Now, are the two political parties completely happy about this? No. Are they actively seeking opportunities to sink knives into each others backs? Of course. But this proves out that progress is not dependent on Republican/Democrat kumbaya — we just need them to be able to work together.


Time Traveler from the 20th Century

Time Traveler from the 20th Century

Until recently, I really thought that certain things were settled law. Like, child labor — it’s bad. Nazis are bad, no exceptions. War in general is bad, but a land war in Europe is an especially terrible idea. I mean, I wasn’t exactly paying attention to every lesson growing up, but I thought we all agreed on that.

Apparently not. Because this week, the New York Times broke a story that included a company in West Michigan actively employing migrant children in highly dangerous jobs. Dilbert cartoonist, Scott Adams, and his toxic views on race relations finally became widely known. His cartooning career appears to have tanked, but that’s okay — he’s already rich and he’s got Elon Musk on his side.

And of course it was the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine, which is a highly complicated situation. Except for the very simple truth that if the one person who started it (Putin) wanted it to end, he could end it. (I do realize that “end it” could mean negotiated peace or nuclear holocaust. Let’s be optimists and go with the former.)

The mistakes are all right there on display in the previous century. It’s disappointing we don’t seem to notice.