Late Edition Weekly, Feb. 7
Recognizing Black History Month, a recent legislation review, and more
I need your help(again)! I’m working on a story detailing the experiences of people in Houghton County who have been directly impacted by COVID-19. I have a couple really great interviews, but I don’t feel like that’s representative of the experience of people in here yet.
If you’ve caught COVID-19, or if you’ve lost someone to COVID-19, please reach out to me via email to set up an interview. The goal is not to be lurid, but to share local stories and highlight the lasting impacts of the disease. Even mild cases have a place in the story. No matter the severity of your case, please consider allowing me to include your story in the article.
One other thing - I want to pick your brain a little. In the reader survey, I asked very broadly what you might like to see coverage of in Copper Country. Now, I’d like to take it a step further. Please share with me what specific stories you’d like to read that are currently going entirely unreported. I want to find unique stories to tell that you aren’t getting elsewhere, and the best way to find them is to just ask. If more than a couple people suggest the same, untold story, then I’ll know clearly what to work on.
Anyway, here’s the Late-est Edition.
Don’t forget to click the underlined text! Lots of good stuff just through the hyperlinks.
Recognizing Black History Month
In part because of the newness of Late Edition, February and Black History Month were upon me before I knew it. I found some time to think about what I could do to recognize the contributions and sacrifices of black people throughout history, and I decided that as a white man, it might be best if I just take a step back. Instead of writing editorials this month, I’m lining up a series of black creators to express themselves to you. I’m leaving what topic they present on up to them.
The first person I’d like to introduce you to is Jamel Watson, who very graciously pulled something together for us on late notice.
Watson was born and raised in Detroit, and is a graduate of Grand Valley State University, like myself. He holds a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting. He currently works as an enrollment counselor at Western Governors University, a private college specializing in online courses(it was founded by 19 U.S. governors). He writes on TV and film for True Hollywood Tea, and he’s the host of the YouTube channel Eastside Reviews, where he talks about everything from “My Hero Academia” and “Sonic the HedgeHog” to Disney’s “Peter Pan” and “One Night In Miami”. He has a self-professed love for movies, television and wrestling.
Celebration of Black Excellence:
Black History Month film suggestions
By Jamel Watson
February has come again and it’s that time to celebrate the achievements and advancements made by African Americans with the celebration of Black History Month. From strides in the field of politics, to critical breakthroughs in medicine, black men and women have provided some of the most important accomplishments in history. I have the strongest belief that black history should not be limited to a single month, but should be taught and celebrated year around, as black history is truly American and World history, however as we often see, non-white history is unfortunately still stunted and pushed aside, so we must make sure this month has a recognition of all aspects of black culture in excellence. I am here to provide a snapshot of some recent films that were either written by, directed, or star brilliant black creatives as a way to give you a jumping-off point for the month. Hopefully, this will inspire more exploration in not just the creative aspect of black history, but a deeper desire and appreciation of the culture as a whole.
One Night In Miami…(2020): Based on a stage play by Kemp Powers, the film centers on a meeting between four pillars of the 1960s civil rights movement--singer Sam Cooke, football legend Jim Brown, boxing great Muhammad Ali, and activist Malcolm X--on the night of Ali’s heavyweight championship win over Sonny Liston in 1964. The film is directed by Regina King, in her directorial debut and stars Leslie Odom Jr. as Cooke, Aldis Hodge as Brown, Eli Goree as Ali, and Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X. King’s direction gives the film life as most of the film takes place in a single location, akin to the stage play it’s based on, and the performers all have amazing chemistry, with the stand outs being Odom and Ben-Adir, as they have some of the most poignant confrontations and discussions in the film, as it relates to the power that each man has earned and how they should use it for the advancement of the struggle. Since its release in late 2020, the film has garnered a wealth of praise, particularly for King’s direction and the strong performances of the lead actors.
Get Out (2017): Another feature film directing debut, this time from comedian Jordan Peele, “Get Out” centers on a young photographer named Chris Washington and his meeting of his girlfriend’s family and the insanity that follows. Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allision Williams, Lil Rel Howery, Bradley Whitford, and Catherine Keener, the movie has elements of the classic “Stepford Wives” mixed with a lot of themes involving identity and race. The idea of black people and blackness as a whole are viewed as something that can be stolen, perverted, and warped, in addition to the uncomfortable nature of being a black person in an environment of mostly white people. Pay close attention to two elements of the film, the words used by Allision Williams character Rose and the entire garden party scene, both highlight key elements of the film such as manipulation and attitudes towards people seen as “liberal”. The film received numerous accolades and was showered with praise, with Peele netting an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, as well as nominations for Best Actor and Best Picture.
Hidden Figures (2016): Closing things out on a more upbeat note, “Hidden Figures” tells the story of three brilliant black mathematicians and the critical role each played during the height of the US vs USSR space race during the 1960s. Starring Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan, and Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson, we get to know each woman personally, see their struggles in both their personal and professional lives, and the vital work that each was able to do. Katherine Johnson was so critical during the initial Mercury missions, that John Glenn refused to fly without her verifying the calculations for the launch. The film is bolstered by a score from Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams and ably directed by Theodore Melfi and anchored by strong performances by Henson, Spencer, and Monae, with Spencer receiving an Academy Award nomination for her role.
Those are my suggestions for films to get a start with this Black History Month, but there are plenty of others that are there for your viewing pleasure. If you truly want to celebrate the month properly, look into donating to important causes as it relates to black culture, take time to consider others, and always remember to treat others well. Thank you for reading and continue to have a marvelous day!
“If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves and allow those responsible to salve their conscience by believing that they have our acceptance and concurrence. We should, therefore, protest openly everything… that smacks of discrimination or slander.” —Mary McLeod Bethune, Educator, 1875-1955
You can follow Jamel Watson on Instagram and Twitter, @Jamel727.
Tales from Lansing
Interesting legislative action from the Michigan Capitol
I don’t spend a lot of time calling representatives and senators, but I do try to keep an eye on the legislation being moved through the House and Senate in Lansing. In the last few months and weeks, several bills and resolutions have come up that I think are worth mentioning.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 31 was introduced by our own Sen. Ed McBroom(R) last September, previous to our elections. In it, McBroom disagreed with two court cases and supported the “duly enacted election laws that ensure the integrity and efficient administration of our elections.”
A Trump-appointed district judge struck down as unenforceable provisions in law prohibiting the paid transportation of voters to the polls, and limiting who may assist and absentee voter with their ballot. A judge appointed by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm issued an injunction extending the ballot receipt deadline by 14 days.
McBroom asserted in his resolution that allowing these things creates opportunities for political groups to engage in quid-pro-quo crimes and increase fraud and “diminish public confidence in election results.”
An amendment was offered by Sen. Jeff Irwin(D), to commit to the selection of Electoral College electors that would faithfully vote in accordance with the certified Michigan vote. The amendment was unanimously adopted, although the resolution itself never left the Committee on Elections and Ethics for a vote in the House.
At the time of the Senate vote, which succeeded 22-14 along party lines, the Senate Journal quoted Sen. Jeremy Moss(D) as saying that while the resolution is “fine enough” when taken by itself, but not when considering the history of voter disenfranchisement being struck down by the courts, including literacy tests, poll taxes and wealth requirements.
“…I’m not comfortable making a statement that state election law is infallible, because sadly that flies in the face of voters and their struggle to affirm their enfranchisement in this country,” Moss said.
Sen. Stephanie Chang(D) pointed out that thousands of votes were not tallied in the August 2020 election because they were rejected for being received too late, and that the court order McBroom took exception to was a prudent step in avoiding that happening on election day the following November.
“Do you really want to deny them their voting rights?” she asked.
McBroom said the idea that he sought to disenfranchise voters was “so profoundly insulting and derogatory towards the maker of this resolution that it’s almost insufferable.”
He went on to explain that extending the time to collect mail-in ballots was a slippery slope, and unnecessary in light of a voter’s “enormous amount of time” already allowed to collect the ballot, decide who to vote for, and get it in the mail or drive it to the clerk’s office.
“I mean, come on,” the Senate Journal quotes him as saying. “Seriously, how much time do you need?”
Federal appeals courts with majority Republican-appointed judges later reinstated the laws in October. One dissenting judge argued the Republican Legislature should not have been able to intervene in the cases as they did.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 37 was also introduced by McBroom, on Dec. 18, 2021.
The first paragraph reads:
A concurrent resolution to call for a continued commitment to investigating allegations of fraud and irregularities in our election, to considering and implementing reforms to improve our elections and audit processes, and to restoring citizens’ faith in the accuracy and integrity of elections in Michigan.
The resolutions quotes an uptick in absentee voting, testimony from concerned citizens, county clerks, and poll challengers, and allegations of “fraud and irregularities, such as deceased persons voting, mismatched signatures on absentee ballots, error-prone voting equipment and other things” demand a thorough investigations.
He additionally called for prosecution of the “propagation of rumors designed to create mistrust and deceive the public”.
The rule to send the resolution to committee was suspended, and the resolution passed the Senate 21-16 along strict party lines.
Sen. Sylvia Santana(D) and others strongly opposed the resolution and her comments were recorded in the Senate Journal(page 81).
“…this resolution is not worth the paper it’s written on and truly is a waste of taxpayer’s resources,” she said, in part. “The real problem is not that there was fraud—it’s the lack of this body to take action and give our clerks the proper tools to perform their jobs.”
Santana pointed out that the opportunity to recount ballots was not exercised in 2020 “so I ask the question, why are you trying to play these shenanigans?”, and thanked Michigan clerks for their integrity before ending her statement.
McBroom responded that he was truly trying to ensure integrity and faith in elections. McBroom has corrected some false claims in hearings he presided over in his role as the chair of the Senate Oversight Committee. However, he also allowed hours of rehashed assertions about court-rejected and debunked allegations.
On Dec. 3, 2020, McBroom was part of a group of senators that introduced Senate Bill 1253. This bill, had it not been vetoed, would have limited the epidemic orders from the Department of Health and Human Services to 28 days without extensions from the legislature.
Democrats in the House and Senate both tried introducing amendments that would have weakened the bill, but the amendments failed each time. The bill passed the Senate 22-16 along party lines, and passed the House 59-44, with mostly Republican support, but some Democrats, including Rep. Sara Cambensy(D), who represents the Marquette area.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed the bill on Dec. 30.
These bills surround coronavirus relief, primarily. HB 4047 appropriates $393.5 million in state tax dollars to give breaks to business impacted by lockdowns including restaurants and bars, exercise and recreation facilities and entertainment venues.
It passed the House on Feb. 4 with mostly Republican support, 60-49, and has been sent to the Senate.
Cambensy voted in favor of HB 4048, but not 4049, which it is tie-barred to. This means they can only be enacted together.
HB 4048 allocates the $1.8 billion in federal aid to schools. It passed the House 58-52.
HB 4049 strips the MDHHS director of the authority to close schools or restrict school sporting events, and give the authority to local health departments instead. It passed the house 57-52, with no Democrats in support, and a single Republican joining them in opposition.
House Republicans have also passed House Bill 4019, which will appropriate about a quarter of the new federal relief money.
House Democrats have introduced their own federal coronavirus relief money approprations bill in House Bill 4039, which would immediately authorize $3.661 billion in federal aid for unemployment payments and vaccine distribution, as well as millions in state spending to bolster other aid, including for businesses. It was referred to the House Appropriations committee, and was motioned to be discharged from that committee for a vote by Rep. Yousef Rabhi(D) on Feb. 4.
A large group of Democrats recently proposed House Bill 4023, which would expand gun-free zones to include all buildings owned or leased by the state of Michigan. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Government Operations, chaired by Mike Mueller(R).
A few Democrats in the Senate also proposed Senate Bill 34 and 35. SB 34 prohibits the possession of a firearm on the premises of the state capitol. SB 35 only prohibits concealed firearms. Both bills were forwarded to the Committee on Government Operations without seeing a vote.
On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Gary Eisen has introduced a suite of bills to reduce prohibitions of firearms.
House Bills 4010, 4011 and 4012 reduce the penalties for the first offense of carrying a pistol into a gun-free zone, particularly for a qualified concealed pistol instructor. None of the bills has received a vote.
Perhaps Eisen’s most disturbing bill is House Bill 4006, which would exempt elected officials from gun-free zone restrictions, and the exemption would remain for a year after leaving office. This bill has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and hasn’t received a vote.
MTU Winter Carnival snow statue photos
I shared a lot of my snow statue photos earlier in the week. I went out on Wednesday, while the sun was still out. I think the snow and ice looks particularly nice in the sun, but the statues were not quite complete, either. I didn’t get the chance to head back out for more photos before the storm hit. I wonder what the statues look like half-buried in snow, though.
Here are a few from Wednesday that I didn’t share in my earlier email.
MTU put together this fun little video with aerial shots recognizing all the winners that’s worth a quick watch, too.
Nonprofit Development Report
The group working on this has decided to meet every other week, and met for the first time on Friday, via Zoom. It was very exciting!
We discussed the beginnings of the model, potential partnerships with other organizations, educational outreach, and just got to know each other a little better. For the next couple weeks, I’ll be writing and polishing a mission statement to build the business model around while I keep studying up and cataloguing more potential resources.
If you’re interested in the process, I encourage you to read the guide on INN’s website, or you can watch the following “town hall” video to get some insight on the potential.
One thing they mentioned in this video that I think I may have needed to hear is that, working as an individual, I won’t be able to replicate even what the Gazette currently is, let alone what it was in its heyday—a “mighty oak” of news production. But I’ll also be a lot better than the unreliable “grassroots” news that moves through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Late Edition, and any journalist working independently, is more like an aspen tree. Not as strong or tall as the mighty oak, but more so than the grass, and able to support and share resources with the other aspens—local, independent journalists. It isn’t a perfect analogy, but I hope you get the idea.
I think that will be the mindset I move forward with, until the nonprofit is in a position where it can grow into a mighty oak of its own. My branches can’t cover everything, but I can make a valuable contribution to a forest.
Aggregated News - Endorsed, not sponsored
These are articles (and a couple podcasts) I’ve found that I thought should be shared. None of the work is my own, but it comes from colleagues and organizations that I find generally trustworthy, or am personally a member of.
Click on the headline to be taken to the story.
A reporter from Interlochen Public Radio ‘visited’ Mount Bohemia to talk about the light snow this winter. It would be a different story this weekend.
Bellingcat, an award-winning international collective of investigators, explains what exactly QAnon is. They also assembled this very thorough timeline & analysis.
Sen. Ed McBroom said we should stay true to our democratic processes, then the Senate rejected five Whitmer appointees that are unrelated to pandemic restrictions.
Van Dyke talks to organizers of the potential charter school, and also to Doug Harrer about how CopperDog will happen this year. The UP200 has been canceled.
This podcast just launched, to evaluate how the “grand experiment” of the U.S.A. has been going. The first episode investigates a curious loophole in the Constitution.
This story reminded me of Garrett Neese, at the Daily Mining Gazette. He’s the only person in the area I know who still keeps close track of the local court and crime beat.
An election fraught with accusations of internal fraud has created a rift in the Michigan Republican Party between the old establishment and Trump-supporters.
There’s really not much else going on right now. If you’d like to support Late Edition, check out the Patreon page. Subscribers get early access to some content, and exclusive access to Q&A sessions, and there’s more in the works!