Archive for April, 2023

But That One Is Still Pretty Broken

But That One Is Still Pretty Broken

It’s now been nine years since the start of the Flint Water Crisis. Nine years since the water source was switched and the troubles began. Looking back, it’s not difficult to imagine how it could have happened. Humans and human institutions are inherently flawed. Choosing an option to save money without taking the proper time to understand the potential consequences is, well, human. Decisions like that happen all of the time and in many places.

However, the especially cruel twist in what happened in Flint is that it took so long — 18 months! — for at least some of the issues to be acknowledged and to begin the process of correcting them by switching the water source back. Clearly, that is not a timeline that a community with more money and different demographics would have experienced. Everybody knows that. But for people dependent on Flint water, they not only know that, they continually have to live with it. Assuming they’re still living.


Individuals Organizing to Protect Themselves

Individuals Organizing to Protect Themselves

There was a news conference this week where several Michigan lawmakers expressed their concern and general opposition to two proposed battery plants for electric vehicles near Big Rapids, Michigan. A summary from a Michigan Radio report:

Michigan lawmakers remain split over whether a U.S.-based subsidiary of a Chinese-owned electric vehicle battery company should receive state incentive funding.

Back in October 2022, the Michigan Strategic Fund Board approved $175 million total in incentives to support the development of a Gotion Inc. battery component plant in Big Rapids.

Despite passing a multi-million dollar spending deal to free up the funding and the fanfare of the moment, some Republican lawmakers have since soured on the idea.

I’m fine with the GOP leaders changing their minds. (When new information becomes available, changing your mind can be the right thing to do.) I definitely get why it’s important to ensure the good stewardship of public money. And given the increasingly authoritarian nature of the regime that controls China, vetting a corporation with ties to China is the right thing to do.

What’s bizarre to me, however, is that leaders so keen to rally Michiganders to organize and stand up for their rights are the very same ones who vehemently oppose citizens doing the same through labor unions. Not exactly the first inconsistency in a political party that I’ve detected, but sometimes certain ones stand out.


I Think I Want to Run for Public Office!

I Think I Want to Run for Public Office!

When I was in college, one of my jobs was refereeing intramural basketball games. It was a mostly positive gig: I loved (and still love) basketball, I had a good understanding of the game, and I needed money. It all lined up nicely.

But while I never had the pleasure of having to deal with rabid fans or angry parents, I did often have to wrangle drunken frat boys. Especially for Friday night games. It wasn’t too difficult keeping them from killing each other. (Inbound the ball as quickly as possible and blow the whistle super loud when necessary — those were the keys.)

However, drunken or not, the one rule they all had trouble with was the no cursing rule. At the beginning of each game I would explain to both teams with great clarity that if they cursed loudly, I would have to call a technical foul on them. How loud? Loud enough for the local residents, who used the track around the outside of the basketball courts for their walking exercise, to hear it. Those nice people didn’t want to hear it, and, more importantly, the Michigan Tech administration (the ones who made the rule) didn’t want them to hear it.

Invariably, somebody would blow a layup and let loose with a salty scream. I’d call a T, and they would deny that they said anything, then deny it was cursing, then deny that anybody heard it, and finally deny that I ever told them about the rule.

Point of all this: sometimes it’s no fun being the referee. Just like I imagine it’s no fun being a politician. At least one that is actually trying to facilitate a fair game. For example, in West Michigan near Big Rapids, local officials are trying to navigate a tricky situation where half the residents are enthusiastic about plans to build two battery plants promised to create 2,350 jobs while the other half, for various reasons, absolutely do not want them.

There are excellent points to be made for both sides, so it will be impossible to find a solution that makes everybody happy. I have a lot sympathy for those local politicians. But mostly it reminds me why I don’t really want to ever be a referee again.


So Let’s Give a Warm, Unironic Hillsdale Welcome…

So Let's Give a Warm, Unironic Hillsdale Welcome...

Florida governor Ron DeSantis is scheduled to come to Michigan this week to give a speech at Hillsdale College. DeSantis hasn’t formally declared his candidacy, but he is very likely going to be a Republican nominee for president, and Hillsdale is something of a traditional spot to test those waters.

The college is generally viewed as a bastion of modern conservatism. It’s a private school with a curriculum based on Western heritage as a product of Greco-Roman culture and Christian tradition. It famously eschews all governmental financial support for itself and its students to avoid compromising its principles.

The DeSantis speech will take place after my deadline for this and the cartoon this week. But I imagine his speech went something like this:

“Thank you for inviting me to Michigan even though most of Michigan is in Florida this week on spring break. <laughter> But seriously, it’s an honor, and the trip here gave me plenty of time for some reflection. Hillsdale has a well-deserved reputation of living its conservative values, and it’s high time I do the same.

For example, purposely turning the power of government against a private business like Disney, threatening them and telling them how to run their company — what was I thinking?

And appointing six of my cronies to the Board of Trustees of New College of Florida so that I could hire and fire whomever I please and mold the school into what I think it should be. I mean, it’s a public institution, not my personal possession. That’s some pretty obvious government overreach right there!

And then there was the whole thing with parents at one of your charter schools in Florida losing their minds over Michelangelo’s David. Man oh man, you were right to call out the cartoonish behavior and pull your support. I apologize for encouraging people to look for the worst in every situation, including confusing classical art with pornography. That’s on me!

Please let me just say that I’m sorry, and I promise to be a more consistently thoughtful leader in the future. Thank you.”

How’d I do? Is this close to what he said?