* The emerald ash borer has devastated the ash forest in Michigan. And the bug may be felling Michigan's human residents, too: "Something else, less readily apparent, may have happened as well. When the U.S. Forest Service looked at mortality rates in counties affected by the emerald ash borer, they found increased mortality rates. Specifically, more people were dying of cardiovascular and lower respiratory tract illness -- the first and third most common causes of death in the U.S. As the infestation took over in each of these places, the connection to poor health strengthened."
* Are manners slipping? Does a bear do its business in the woods? One thing I have noticed on this front is that lots of young people don’t seem know about proper tipping for service staff.
* Toyota is testing an “autonomous” vehicle in Michigan. Fear not, it’s not on Interstate 96 or the Lodge – but at a research track in Ann Arbor. Gov. Rick Snyder, in his State of the State Address, said Michigan needs to be at the forefront of policy thinking on robotic vehicles. Better hurry.
* What is preschool worth? Michigan Radio is hosting an Issues & Ale event in Lansing on Jan. 31 to explore that very question. Bridge Magazine reported deeply on Michigan’s public preschool programs in a series, Michigan’s forgotten 4-year-olds, last fall.
* The first step in crafting better public policy is understanding the world as it is, not how we would like it to be – or not like it to be. The chart in this post gives an excellent piece of fundamental data – government spending in the last 50 years. When you click through, you will see that spending rose fairly consistently between 1962 and about 2010. In that time, Republicans and Democrats have controlled the White House and the Congress. And how about now? “If you believe that restraining government spending should supercharge private sector economic activity, then you ought to know that since 2010 we've been living through a nearly unprecedented level of public sector spending restraint,” writes Matt Yglesias.