Fred Upton Comes to a Decision

Fred Upton Comes to a Decision

Earlier this week, longtime U.S. representative Fred Upton announced that he would not be seeking re-election this fall. Upton is currently the representative for Michigan’s 6th District, which covers most of southwest, lower Michigan. In a newly redrawn district, Upton would have run in the Republican primary against fellow representative, Bill Huizenga.

Upton has plenty of reasons not to run — both the ones he stated in his speech on the House floor and the ones he didn’t. My guess is that it had mostly to do with having to deal with McConnellism — the putting of political party above all else (including country). Granted, Mitch McConnell is neither the first nor the only politician to do this. He simply has perfected it. (Former President Trump, it must be acknowledged, has militarized it. But he already has too many isms named after him.)

So it makes sense that Upton — a West Michigan Republican in the tradition of Gerald Ford and Vern Ehlers — would not be inclined to take on both his own party and the opposition party to get elected. But it sure doesn’t make me very optimistic about future representatives representing the people (all of the people) of their district.

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Don’t Ruin My Talking Points with Reality

Don't Ruin My Talking Points with Reality

Is it just me or is the whole “government always bad” schtick feel played out? I mean, it seems very much like the vaudeville “take my wife…please” humor that made its way into the TV sitcoms — maybe it was funny the 50s and 60s, but it’s certainly not today.

Ronald Regan had a nice run with all this 40 years ago.

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.” <insert laugh track>

The thing is, it was hyperbole, a joke to get his point across, which was the desire for a more limited role of government. Now folks (including the entire Republican Party) seem to interpret “government always bad” literally, which has taken it from kinda corny to fundamentally dangerous.

Let’s get on with the reality that our government does have a role. We’ve been blessed with this constitutional republic, and however imperfect, it’s ours to use to our advantage (or ours to ruin).

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Defending the Governor Whitmer Kidnapping Plot

Defending the Governor Whitmer Kidnapping Plot

With all that is currently going on (raging European land war, economic trauma, Lindsey Graham’s hurt feelings, etc.), it’s understandable if the trial for the four suspects charged with plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has fallen off your radar. It certainly has for me.

Yes, part of the reason is the overwhelming amount of other news to doom scroll. But another part is the four men themselves. I don’t like to think about them. They make me uncomfortable. Not for a reason you might expect — anger, fear, disgust. I feel sad for them.

This feeling likely comes from having grown up spending a considerable amount time with guys who smoked a lot of weed and said a lot of really stupid things making really stupid plans. I kinda know guys like this, and they were obviously way out of their league in dealing with the FBI.

Nevertheless, I absolutely believe they deserve to be on trial. Planning and plotting to kidnap and harm an elected official (and clearly having the means to do it) is definitely something our legal system is there to prevent. (January 6, 2021 is a pretty good example of what can happen when stupid plans are allowed to be executed.)

And while I may be inclined to feel sadness, it’s not hard for me to imagine what others might feel about this situation. There is a well-documented history of Black men in this country not being given the benefit of the doubt as reflected in their disproportionate rate of incarceration, especially when drugs are involved. So I’d expect that if “they can’t be held responsible — they were high” works for four White guys, it’d be pretty hard to reconcile.

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Ignore That Guy — Here’s $400!

Ignore That Guy — Here's $400!

Please note: I am going to accept my $400 per insured vehicle refund check from the state unreservedly and with a clear conscience. As should anybody who has been paying (almost certainly overpaying) into the catastrophic injury fund these many, many years.

Another way of putting it: Michigan auto owners did not create the harsh mistakes generated by the 2019 no-fault insurance reform law — the insurance companies and the state government did. And while I don’t believe cutting off severely injured car crash survivors from their at-home care was anybody’s specific evil intent, the end result is, well, pretty evil.

Michigan Radio has done a thorough job reporting on all this since the in-home care market started cratering. It’s not a simple problem to unwind. Frankly, it’s stupid that we have it in the first place. In a civilized country, those who are severely injured (by auto accident or otherwise) would not be left to fear losing proper, decent, human health care.

But this is where we find ourselves, and our government needs to work with the insurance companies to fix it. Because it’s literally killing people.

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Where Did a Candidate Like Robert Regan Come From?

Where Did a Candidate Like Robert Regan Come From?

I’m loathe to give Robert “RJ” Regan any more media oxygen than he’s already gotten. But he is likely going to be my state representative in a couple months, so I felt compelled to say something. 

Regan’s recent “ha-ha, amirite guys?” quip about advising his three daughters that “if rape is inevitable, you should just lie back and enjoy it” made national news this week. Unfortunately, it fully tracks with other miserable things he has said and done while running for public office these past few years. I won’t list them. Bridge Michigan has a summary if you’re morbidly curious.

How the hell did it come to this? Well, it’s not too difficult to figure out. There are lots of ways to describe Regan’s behavior, but “Trumpian” may be the most accurate. (Another guy I don’t really want to provide with any more media oxygen.)

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Pain and Suffering

Pain and Suffering

Maybe it was because it was Ash Wednesday, and as a proper Roman Catholic, I was just looking for a reason to feel guilty. But as I was driving and listening to Michigan Radio and the latest news from the war in Ukraine, I passed a gas station. When I saw $3.79 on the marquee, I instinctively calculated the cost of my next fill-up and frowned in disapproval. Then the radio informed me that there are already one million Ukrainian refugees with up to four million expected soon.

So, yeah, poor me.

Now, I fully understand that rising gas prices are a significant problem for many Americans. But it isn’t fleeing our home. It isn’t exploding missiles. It isn’t violent death.

As Americans we are blessed with two oceans that have kept us well insulated. The last large-scale land war we experienced directly ended 157 years ago (and it was us battling us). I am absolutely grateful for this. But as a consequence, we don’t seem to have the proper context for what war is.

So, let us carry on with our kvetching about gas prices and other real and perceived inconveniences. I mean, we’re human — we’re gonna complain no matter what. But perhaps give some consideration for what real pain and suffering is.

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Pothole Season

In other most other states, the end of February brings forth flowering trees, chirping birds, and pleasant temperatures. They call it spring. In Michigan, we recognize an ongoing series of freeze/thaw cycles to be pothole season. Sure, it’s awful, but at the end awaits our glorious summer (and fall), which are generally why we endure the rest.

Anyway, with a land war now fully underway in Europe, I thought I’d try to keep it on the lighter side this week.

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End of School Mask Mandates

End of School Mask Mandates

Nearly two years into this pandemic, I remain mystified at the intense emotions around masks.

I mean, I get that people in general do not like to be told what to do, and when something is added that was previously not on the list, pushback is inevitable. It is somewhat comforting to know that 100 years ago there was over-the-top vitriol directed at mask-wearing in the last major flu event.

But it’s also disheartening to realize that we haven’t progressed beyond folks who thought prohibiting alcohol was a workable idea and giving women the right to vote was a difficult decision.

Mask mandates are quickly coming to an end at schools all across Michigan.

The happy news — the news we should all be focusing on — is that the omicron variant is quickly dissipating, which means FEWER infections and FEWER health issues. So there is less need for masks, especially for those who are vaccinated. Huzzah!

Instead, much of the news is framed as a pro- and anti-mask mandate issue. Who won? Who lost? Will this fire up the base? How will this affect the elections? How will we know who to scream at next time we’re at Meijer?

It would be nice someday not to consider public health decisions as some sort of sport REQUIRING US to choose sides. But in the great flu pandemic of 2122, I suspect it will be exactly the same.

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Canadian Trucker Protests

Canadian Trucker Protests

Every day before work, my wife makes for me a fruit bowl that I have as my mid-morning snack. The contents vary but can include blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, kiwi, green grapes, red grapes, cherries, grapefruit, oranges, and apples. Yes, I know — clearly I am spoiled. But on so many levels!

First and foremost, having a loving spouse who cares enough to select, purchase, and assemble the fruit bowls. (And not include mango because, ewww, mango.) But also because here I am living a middle-class life in the upper-midwest where only a few generations ago my only option for fresh produce in February would have been a withered turnip that had been harvested just before the ground froze.

Now I get a selection of all these sweet, delicious fruits! Sure, they may not all be up to the heavenly standards of a local in-season harvest. But for having made the trip from Mexico and South America (and New Zealand!), they are pretty dang good.

I saw an article this week about how inflationary prices finally hitting fresh produce after largely sparing that segment until now. Among the many reasons why — the minimum wage in Mexico has doubled in the past four years, and that cost has finally worked its way through to the end consumer. I’m embarrassed to say that my first thought was, “But I don’t want to pay more for my winter blueberries!”

I say embarrassed because my ideology is more about having empathy for those Mexican farmers and how higher wages benefit them (and make it much less likely that they would need to leave their homes). But just like with a guy who supports the Canadian trucker protest until his new vehicle is delayed, ideology can go quickly out the window when it effects you personally.

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Expressing an Opinion, Making a Threat

Expressing an Opinion, Making a Threat

Garrett Soldano is a Republican candidate for governor of Michigan. He was recently on a podcast expressing his thoughts regarding women, rape, pregnancy, and adoption in the context of some of his personal experiences. A clip was tweeted by Heartland Signal this week, and it quickly went viral.

It’s fairly obvious why it did go viral — there were a ton of tripwire issues packed into what Soldano said. It would be difficult for anybody not to have an emotional response. I didn’t want to add fuel to that fire, but there was one point I took issue with.

Some seem to feel that Soldano has been unfairly attacked for expressing his opinion. If he were just an ordinary citizen, I might agree. But he’s not. He’s running for governor. And as a candidate running for public office, his opinions inform voters of his intentions. In this case, the intention seems clear — make abortion, even for rape victims, illegal. 

His freely expressed opinion quickly became a thinly veiled threat.

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