“So if the election were held today…” An Unscientific Survey of Non-Hillary Voters

One of my favorite get-togethers has always been the night before a wedding or reunion–everyone’s in town and it’s much more casual in some bar than the big shin-dig the next day.  But one of those great nights was tainted on September 11th, 1998 with the release of Kenneth Starr’s report on Bill Clinton (link). One year earlier, I had been ridiculed by one of the guys when I admitted voting not once but twice for Clinton.  While I knew many of my friends were clearly planted on the opposite side of the political spectrum we’d always handled our differences smoothly; but that night seemed to move beyond the friendly rivalry, beyond my buddies’ standard bewilderment about rooting for the Lions.  It felt very personal, very judgmental–that I was being regarded as a naive, weak fool–a 1998 “snowflake.”  I have always had friends who voted differently than me, but I don’t recall ever questioning their intelligence and morals the… Read More…

House on the Hill or the Shack in the Shade? Bungalows Depart from Suburbs with the Middle Class

Probably midway through junior high was when I finally put some kind of tie between the size of a house and the income-level of the dad who pulled up in the driveway at dinnertime.  I didn’t notice that one pal’s father was an executive at Ford and the other guy’s dad fixed transmissions (way cooler, by the way).  The most awesome dads coached little league or took us to Tiger games; the coolest moms were den-mothers for the cub scouts or didn’t mind us screaming “Marco Polo” for eleven straight hours in their above-ground pool. Clawson, Michigan remains a small town with hundreds of ranches on the 1960s “newer” north end of town and the bungalows and frame houses from the twenties when you cross Main street nearly one mile away.  24 years ago, I moved a full two miles away to Royal Oak an older cousin to Clawson with a cemetery that boasts… Read More…

Day 28 – The Reichstag Fire, “Dangerous” Immigrants & Emergency Decrees

“Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!” Thus, in typical thin-skin, knee-jerk Twitter-ese, President Trump issues a Don Corleone “and that day may never come” warning in the wake of a court-ruling stalling his seven-country travel ban. Nothing makes people more willing to give up their rights than an emergency.  And nothing primes the pump better for an emergency decree than a worst-case-scenario actually happening. Adolf Hitler didn’t take over Germany by force–he was elected chancellor, not dictator in 1932 and sworn in on January 30, 1933.  He promised change, jobs for the working class and most importantly plenty of scapegoats to blame for losing WWI and the nation’s terrible economy.  A 24-year-old out-of-work bricklayer provided Hitler his “sign from God.” Hitler hadn’t been in office for a month when the Reichstag was set fire, the guilty… Read More…

Back to the Classroom, Slide Projectors, Mountains & Mole Hills

Four years ago, my intended formula for this blog was pretty simple–pick a form of media (TV show, movie, billboard, cat footprints) and let it take you down a path or two.  But the last path I took was in August, before I returned to the high school classroom for my 26th year.  Being in an office setting since 2012 certainly gave me more physical and creative energy for activities like blogging as well as producing a documentary series, but it also pulled me a bit away from some basic reality-check questions that I’ve always enjoyed from teenagers–beyond “Can you give me passing grade and a pass to go home?” The days following Election Day produced some poignant conversations for this English major turned video production teacher–with just a minor in US History. Q.  How can the losing candidate can have 3 million more votes–and what the hell is an Electoral College? It’s certainly a… Read More…

Please De-Friend Me! A 12-Step Facebook Litmus Test

I’m often baffled by anyone who want to be friends with me–particularly about lefty agenda items that can’t be shaken out of my brain through a meme or “But Hillary did worse!” argument. Maybe they are on an evangelical Karl Rove mission to let me see my folly–or perhaps they’re just fans of NASCAR crashes and fifth grade choir concerts.  It’s like me saying, “You say you sell Amway?  Let’s hear all about it!” I think the Zuckerbergians in the bowels of Facebook should develop a litmus-test for friends, replacing the holistic score we give folks as we look over our friends “in common” before we let them in our virtual lives of cats, knee injuries and occasional political viewpoints. No one likes unpleasant surprises, such as finding out your house-closing that your new neighbor can’t stand people with consonants in their names.  I’d love a Zillow rating system such as a “Cup of Sugar” score of 9 indicating the likelihood to… Read More…

Solar Power In Bizarro World

Look, just because this is being written from a parallel universe, you’d be wrong to think that everyone over here is so totally freaky that you couldn’t possibly carry on a conversation with any of us without a cheat sheet in your breast coat pocket. “There’s more that unites us than divides us.” Isn’t that what the bumper sticker makers say?  Well, I’ve always put my faith in their deep wisdom and I think you should do the same. I’ll give you a ‘for instance’ because over here, just like over there, a quality ‘for instance’ makes everything so much easier to understand.  For instance, don’t assume that we on our side of the wormhole don’t damn well love to see John Wayne punch a hippy in his shaggy face, so we can hear the hairy dude whimper “not cool man” as he collapses like a house of cards onto the Duke’s unswept… Read More…

Defining the American Masses: The Common Man or Third-Graders without a Chaperone?

“You’ve reached group-sales for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  How may I help you?” “Hi there!  Our third-graders are touring Manhattan and we thought we could bring them by tomorrow.” “Certainly.” “That’s great.  This chaperoning is wearing us down so thought we’d drop them off in the morning, catch a show and a few beers and pick them up around 5 or so, if that’s okay” “Umm….Well, we need to have the kids chaperoned…because, you know, there’s a lot of priceless items…” “Thanks so much.  We’ll be by at 10!” There aren’t too many teachers or directors of any respected institution that would permit this scenario.  After all, it’s hard to take a selfie of you and Van Gogh if there’s some kid drawing horns sticking out of the straw hat.  But lately, we’re okay with our other famously innovative institution being taken over by the kids—namely our country. Perhaps… Read More…

The $10 Voter-Apathy Tax: Avoiding Lead-Poisoning & Raising $1 Billion for Michigan

My first job was supposed to be as a dishwasher–until my buddy heard me mention I was applying for the job and got there an hour before me.  I ended up becoming the kitchen slopboy/custodian–mopping the basement and scraping out the grease under the prep table after the health department again threatened to shut down the swanky Pagoda. Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen. Place your bets… The place is long-gone but I still have that first green pay-stub reflecting my 9 hours that July 1979–for $3 an hour.  I remember looking at the top right and seeing $27.00 “gross pay” (pretty accurate considering the nasty work).  Then at the bottom was “net pay” for six bucks less.  It was my first non-paper route payday so after I cashed the check, I asked my dad who had ripped me off. “Well,” he said pointing out the little boxes, “that’s the federal tax, that’s the state tax… Read More…

The Right to Bear Left: 2nd Amendment Mad-Libs, Replacing Cars for Guns

What if, under an old desk in James Madison’s study,  the following were found scribbled on the back-side of the Second Amendment–the words in bold written into blank spots like a Mad Libs page… Amendment 2.5:  A well-regulated Transportation System, being necessary to the mobility of a free State, the right of the people to keep and conduct Transportation Devices, shall not be infringed. After all, the right to transport yourself is a pretty inalienable right, too, isn’t it? Eisenhower saw the immediate benefit of the German autobahn–allowing quick movement of Hitler’s troops across WWII.  But in addition to Cold War defense, Eisenhower also saw the expressways as a vital route for emergency evacuation–all under strict central government oversight.  After all, you wouldn’t want your best friend deciding how much weight an overpass can bear, would you?  It’s pretty much accepted that some things are better off in the hands of Big Brother. Madison and Jefferson pushed forward… Read More…

New Podcast: GM’s “Google Years” with Ken Pickering, former Director of Engineering

Ken Pickering, GM’s retired Executive Director, Engineering and Design Services, joins Digging Detroit’s Kevin Walsh and Pete Kalinski to discuss his career in the exciting years of design in the 1950s and beyond. Moving from western Pennsylvania to WWII to GM Hard work combined with some great breaks Harley Earl & Bill Mitchell How long a car takes from design to production Women in design via Harley Earl The Corvette SR2 created in 5 weeks for Earl’s son Henry Ford, Willow Run and the Arsenal of Democracy Motorama—Harley Earl’s Manhattan Runway Man’s love-affair with cars David Temple’s new book Motorama:  GM’s Legendary Show & Concept Cars (below) Photos from Ken Pickering… The first is my personal 1956 Corvette that I purchased used for $2150 in 1958.  I had an “alligatored” black paint job and was a mess but it had a 265 CID V8 with dual 4 Barrel carbs.  My friends in the… Read More…

Which America is Yours? A Proposed Four-Party Hogwarts Government

Maybe Washington could do with a leach or two… If you were sick in ancient Greece your body’s chemicals were simply off-kilter–a bad mix of the four humours:  blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile… There are four seasons (for now), four legs on a chair and four balls for a free base–but only two parties running the country.  Have you had much luck on a two-legged stool lately? Wouldn’t it be great if, like mood rings, we could glance at someone’s wardrobe and know who we’re about to ask to babysit your kid?  The Scots had it right–you could spot an enemy clansman running up the heath by the pattern of his kilt.  Even in the Harry Potter series, my own kids walked around the house with Griffindor’s gold-and-red scarves.  Now if our congress were forced to wear such identifiers from their lobbyists, it might be easier come election day. Men from Mars, Women from Venus, Dogs… Read More…

New (and Old) Frontiers: Above Detroit with Aerial Photographer Alex MacLean

Alex MacLean has seen Detroit from the sky at various stages since 1980.  The large green-spaces below, for example, were once crowded neighborhoods and business districts in a city’s footprint that is large enough to fit Houston, Boston and Manhattan.  These grassy fields seen from Google Maps might be mistaken for parks. Similar green spaces a few miles north of town generally have bunkers and greens fees. A trained architect, pilot, author and photographer, MacLean lives in Massachusetts but has seen Detroit from above as Ronald Reagan received the Republican presidential nomination, for the 1998 demolition of the landmark Hudson Building and last autumn at  a request from the New York Times.  Each visit is like dropping into a different chapter of the city’s history–urban farms were previously dangerous abandoned homes and lots. From the sky, many travelers have to change planes in the hub of Detroit Metro.  As they glance out the window and see the river and the skyline, are they like… Read More…

The Consolidated States of America

This past summer the kids and I took our annual trip to the beach in North Carolina from Connecticut.  We decided to play the old license plate game along the way.  Of course, the kids added a new media twist to it using an app.  As we ventured down the east coast and tracked our states we started to question why there were so many states.  Why was Rhode Island an actual state?  No offense the Dakotas, you are awfully small. 3 teenagers and a preteen quickly reeducated me in the history of the United States, the colonies and how we came to be.  The capitalist and cost optimizer in me then challenged them with new thinking.  What if you had to start over today in 2014?  Would you have this many states and if so, why, and if not, what would you do.  As we checked the list of… Read More…

New Podcast: Detroit From Above – Alex S. MacLean’s Aerial Photography of Detroit

  Following the December 7, 2014 publication of his New York Times Sunday Review, “Detroit By Air” which examines the city’s dramatic haves and have-nots, photographer Alex MacLean is interviewed by Kevin Walsh and Thomas J. Reed, Jr. of the new website, DiggingDetroit.com. Topics include… Alex’s background, including his fear of flying leading to his pilot’s license Detroit’s past, present and future Regrowing urban communities Alex’s transition from aerial surveyor to gallery artist His favorite audiences Switching to digital, but still loving prints—and those amazing drones!   More information on Alex can be found at his website:  http://alexmaclean.com

An Apology to My Daughters, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan Among Others…

As I was reading a magazine today I turned the page to an article about Congress’s First Black Female Republican and I sat there stunned for a few moments. How could this be? I was honestly struck dumb with the realization that this was a milestone that was just NOW happening in the year 2014? Hadn’t it happened sooner? I had assumed that we had all sorts of women of every color and race populating the corridors in Washington DC. I was truly stunned that this was an event to celebrate in the year 2014. Where have the last 30 years gone? I was raised with the idea that I as a woman could do anything. I sat down in front of the TV back in the 70’s when Bobby Riggs and Billy Jean King battled it out on the tennis courts. I celebrated when Billy Jean smashed the ball… Read More…

New Podcast: Flooding, Insurance & Ethics – Dialogue with Attorney Judy Herman

This interview follows Kevin’s August 15th, Acts of God? Creative Interpretations During Flooding: Unlike a Good Neighbor… Following the intense rain within a single four-hour period in August, 2014, thousands of metro Detroiters found their basements flooded with sewage and little to no assistance from their insurers “flood” coverage. Attorney, Judy Herman, discusses her 27 year career dealing with insurance companies and offers some advice for consumers and ethical guidelines both companies and customers would be wise to follow.

Acts of God? Creative Interpretations During Flooding: Unlike a Good Neighbor…

For a follow-up discussion on insurance companies and ethics, listen to our 10/7/14 podcast with attorney Judy Herman. I remember the feeling of helplessness all too well.  And this Monday evening it happened again. Our son was three weeks old and we were camping in northern Michigan when we got the call from my brother-in-law, who just lived around the block from us. “We got a ton of rain, the streets are flooded.  I shined the flashlight down into your basement through the window and the light bounced right back up.” Not a good sign since the carpeting had just been installed three months earlier. We bought the Royal Oak house in 1993, a year into our marriage and waited a couple years before we decided to finish the basement.  The inspector said he didn’t see any signs of water-issues but we wanted to be sure.  Two years of thunderstorms later,… Read More…

Botched Executions And the Murderers Exposed

“My planes, My guns. My money, My soldiers, My blood is on my hands…It’s all my fault.” I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts, X. “It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man.” William Munny (Unforgiven) As a frequent critic of the death penalty, I get one question regularly when I’m asked to explain my position, and it’s a question I wrestle with myself: what about the victim?  I read it again yesterday when I posted on Facebook my outrage at the “botched execution” (already a cliché) of Joseph Wood two days ago.  I pointed out that Wood took two hours to die, and that he was reportedly “gasping and snorting” for a significant portion of that time. A Facebook friend commented on my post, “What did he do to deserve the execution?  Then, I’ll tell you if I have a problem with it.” Joseph Wood What he did was murder his ex-girlfriend and her… Read More…

Perhaps “Compromise” and “Politics” Can Coexist? Candidate Fishman Switches Sides and Hopes So

At first, term limits made sense.  At first, letting the giant wooden horse into the gates of Troy made sense, too.  For many, the possibility of voting for a Democrat who was a Republican nine months ago makes less sense. “We’ve always had term limits; they’re called elections,” joked retiring US Republican Congressman, William S. Broomfield in 1996 to me when he was being inducted into the Royal Oak Dondero High School Hall of Fame.  Michigan had just voted to only allow its state elected officials a few terms under the design that it would eliminate “career politicians.” Instead we have legislative musical chairs with no one staying in one job long enough to make any decisions that have any impact beyond six years.  Like short-lived mayflies, state reps exist just three terms then they move on to the next election—maybe a state senate seat, sheriff, mayoral race or the… Read More…

New Podcast: Not Your Father’s GOP – New Democrat Ryan Fishman, New Try for Michigan State Senate

What does it take to drive someone away from his own party?  Ronald Reagan, after all, left the Democrats in 1962 after being a successful union leader for years.   Ryan Fishman decided last September to run for his term-limited Michigan state senate district after a series of his op-ed articles convinced others to convince Ryan that he should leave the GOP and take a shot at a traditionally right-leaning district. Ryan and Kevin discuss: – Difficulties (or not, really) in switching parties – Reagan Republicans and Reagan Democrats – The bad business logic of Right to Work, removing unions and poor short-sighted infrastructures – Door-Knocking and Lawn Signs – Being under 30 and running for office – Problem with planning for just 7 of 9 innings