Opinion

I assume there are probably some real issues facing the voters in Michigan’s 8th Congressional District, which is anchored by Lansing in the bottom middle of the state.

After all, a lot of folks here used to work for Oldsmobile, which was, you may remember, a mighty division of General Motors before going extinct a dozen years ago.

Only about 10% of the population is black or Latino, which puts Democrats at a disadvantage, but there are a lot of government workers and suburbanites trying to put their kids through school.

Here’s a little secret about those of us who cover news: We don’t like to admit it, but to a great extent, we begin what we do by being stenographers for the institutions of society.

We tend to divide news into little silos: Police news, political news, business news, sports news, entertainment and society news, etc. Then we divvy up coverage that way.

Journalists sometimes have difficulty with stories that don’t fit neatly into one silo or another, and sometimes they miss them altogether.

I was prepared to give Gov. Rick Snyder credit for having agreed to speak at a Pancakes and Politics breakfast in Detroit Monday.

This is a traditional Detroit political ritual sponsored by the Michigan Chronicle, the state’s African-American newspaper.

However, this particular session was held in the serious old-money atmosphere of the Detroit Athletic Club, few of whose members actually live in Detroit. There, the governor for the first time fingered a culprit for Flint’s water crisis.

He said it was “career bureaucrats” who had an “absolute lack of common sense,” because they didn’t add corrosion control chemicals to the water.

This explanation may get a sympathetic hearing in some circles. After all, “career bureaucrats” are mostly Democrats, right?


Khalilshah / Flickr

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The list of people who have lost out in our state is too long for this space. The people of Flint, students in Detroit, even the Detroit Lions, all have been beaten by forces beyond their control.

The other day, after watching the latest spat of televised nastiness between Donald Trump and whomever, I thought of something political I had also seen on television.

Something from another world long ago.

That time the speaker was a Michigan man, in every sense of that term, and he was also a politician who had survived a battle we then thought was the nastiest and most bizarre of our lifetimes. Virtually everyone was watching when he said:

“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our Great Republic is a government of laws and not men.”

By now you may have come to realize that the best interests of the citizens is not what the Michigan legislature cares most about. For years, the voters’ top priority has been fixing our state’s terrible roads. The lawmakers refused to fix them.

Finally, they passed a disgraceful bill that raises our taxes and cuts essential services but won’t generate any serious new money for the roads for years.

I was struck this morning by two stories dominating the front page of today’s Detroit News. Newspapers are on the decline in this nation, and the News, which once sold almost 700,000 copies every day, now sells far fewer than a hundred thousand.

That means even most people who live in the Detroit area don’t see it. If they did, I wonder how many people would notice the odd contrast between these two things:

Roman Gribbs was pretty much a forgotten man, politically at any rate, the first time I went to see him almost seventeen years ago. He was respected in the legal community, and coming to the end of an almost twenty-year career as judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals.

But apart from that, he spent forty years as the answer to a trivia question: Who was the last white mayor of Detroit? By the turn of the century, many people had forgotten. 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/9090732482

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Every year, the United States spends $218 billion growing, transporting, and processing food that no one ever eats. That's billion. The financial, resource, and environmental costs of all the wasted food in the United States is staggering. 

Well, it’s supposed to be spring, but when I woke up this morning it was 19 degrees and there was ice on the forsythia. Flint’s water is still unsafe to drink, and Donald Trump is still the likely winner of the Republican presidential nomination.

Legos
Bill Ward / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

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Instead of being the vehicle to join the middle class that it once was, higher education is now an obstacle that actually prevents access to knowledge and reinforces existing privilege. This was the powerful message of a compelling Economist cover story last year titled America’s New Aristocracy

Late Saturday afternoon I was in Lansing, driving to an awards ceremony at the state Library of Michigan, when I started hitting a whole bunch of potholes near the Capitol.

“Don’t the legislators drive on these roads?” my sweetheart asked. My flip answer was that I didn’t think most of them went to the library very often.


State Senator Tom Casperson, a Republican from Escanaba, wants the voters to send him to Congress next year. He’s served almost twelve years in the legislature, and ought to know something about Michigan and its problems. And, he hopes to do something about one of them before he leaves Lansing.

You might think our major problems were things like Detroit’s collapsing schools and the unaffordability of higher education, or our bloated and hugely expensive prison system. There’s the fact that our roads are still falling apart despite the legislature’s passing a grossly inadequate scheme to fix them last year.

And then there is Flint, and the state’s crumbling infrastructure.

If you are a Michigan Democrat, I’ve got good news. If Virgil Smith Jr. is as good as his word, there soon won’t be any Democratic state senators in jail.

That’s because Smith, according to his lawyer, has promised to resign by tomorrow. This comes nearly a year after the senator stood naked on a crowded residential street, firing shot after shot into his ex-wife’s Mercedes, wrecking the car but not killing her.

There are those in Lansing who say, perhaps not so openly, that the people who run Detroit Public Schools can’t be trusted, that they are incompetents and thieves, and that to give them more money and free them from emergency management is to court disaster.

Yesterday, we learned that the federal government is accusing a dozen present and former principals of doing their part to prove that Detroit Public School administrators deserve to be held in contempt.

I’ve got some good news about this year’s presidential campaign. For the first time in what seems like forever, there are no primary or caucuses to obsess over today. We only get a one-week reprieve, however, Wisconsin votes next Tuesday.

What I am selfishly hoping this means is a brief break from the junior high school locker room fight otherwise known as the Republican nomination contest.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bobthemagicdragon/7003917056

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Growing up in Chicago during the 1950s was a remarkably innocent experience for me. We lived in a bubble of post-WWII gratitude, and religious diversity meant only Christianity and Judaism. Tales like “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” and “Aladdin and the Magic Carpet” were the closest I came to even hearing about Islam, which was called Mohammedanism then.

Last week everyone, including me, talked about the devastating report issued by the Flint Water Advisory Task Force. It laid the blame squarely on the state for the crisis that ruined the city’s water and put thousands of children at risk of lead poisoning.

This is one of the most pointed government documents I’ve ever seen. I had a chance to really read it over the weekend – and it is, frankly, riveting.

Thirty years ago I was a young editor at the Detroit News, and there was an employee who was a transgender woman. She was not a journalist and I did not see her often, but when I did, I made small talk about things like the weather.

One afternoon she came up to me crying, and thanked me for treating her as a human being. I felt then and feel now as if I didn’t deserve any credit. I had merely talked to her as I would someone standing in line with me at the dry cleaners.

For the last few weeks, the Snyder administration has been pushing the narrative that the real culprit in the Flint water crisis was the federal Environmental Protection Agency. They don’t deny the state had some role in the crisis.

The mantra they’ve been chanting is “mistakes were made at all levels of government.”

But they’ve wanted to create the impression that the EPA was mostly to blame. Republicans especially love this explanation since, while they control all levels of state government, the President is a Democrat and technically responsible for all his appointees.

Nobody, including me, has spent much time praising the legislature recently. But the Michigan Senate did something great yesterday.

They passed a comprehensive package of bills designed to save public education in Detroit – not just the students in the nearly bankrupt Detroit Public Schools.

For years, I got a lot of information about what was happening in mid-Michigan, especially Flint from one of the state’s most colorful gadflies, Pat Clawson.

Clawson had been everything from a disc jockey to a political candidate to a private detective to an award-winning investigative reporter for CNN. Usually, he held several jobs at once. He was sometimes a little nutty. Once, after he spoke to a class of mine at Wayne State University, he said he was shocked that I would venture into Detroit without wearing a gun.

If you’ve been following the presidential race, you probably know that most of the conservative establishment is in a tizzy over the now-likely nomination of Donald Trump.

The New York Times’ David Brooks, for example, wrote a column this weekend in which he proclaimed Trump was essentially the worst candidate in history, and concluded,

“No, not Trump, not ever.”

Many Republicans are now desperately rallying around Ted Cruz, who finished a distant second in Michigan’s Republican primary two weeks ago.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cliffhorn/8000874224/

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Over the past several years, economists and skilled trade industries have been incredibly optimistic about the future of U. S. manufacturing. In today’s society, consumers value American-made goods and the return of domestic manufacturing that comes with them.

If you’ve somehow missed the latest outrage in the Flint water crisis, here it is. Taxpayers are about to pay $1.2 million dollars for legal fees to personally protect Governor Rick Snyder from civil or criminal prosecution over his role in the poisoning of the city.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Bill Schuette wants us to cough up $1.5 million to cover the cost of an outside attorney named Todd Flood, a contributor to Schuette’s campaigns, who he is hiring to investigate Flint’s public health disaster.

https://www.iconlife.org/welcome/
The Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities, University of Michigan

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Rob Stephenson, professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Health Behavior and Biological Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, admits that he is "obsessed with HIV."

 Think about this: As the world now knows, an entire city’s water supply was poisoned by a series of decisions switching the city over to unsafe river water.

Nobody checked to see if the water was safe; nobody added corrosion control chemicals to prevent lead from leaching out of the pipes. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality did nothing to stop this.

Instead, there is considerable evidence that they lied and tried to cover up how bad things were. MDEQ bureaucrats and its spokesman showed considerable contempt for anyone concerned about the water quality.

Michigan voters sent the political and media elites a message of defiance last night. The elites told the people how to vote, and the people told them where to go.

On the Republican side, every establishment figure on two legs made scathing attacks on Donald Trump. Mitt Romney, who lost his home state by a landslide four years ago, was somehow felt to be the right messenger to tell the rank and file not to vote for Trump.

Vote Today!

Mar 8, 2016

Well, for once Michigan seems to have set our presidential primary at the right time, neither too early, nor too late. Today, we could have a decisive effect on both parties’ races.

When my sweetheart and I got home last night, we each had a robocall on our land lines. Hers was from Brian Calley urging a vote for John Kasich; mine from Mitt Romney urging one for Marco Rubio.

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Most of us know someone — a friend, colleague, or relative — who has experienced a fight with cancer. We share their names and stories, do what we can to help, and take part in fundraisers for cancer treatment and research. And thanks to all that research, doctors today are able to construct individualized treatment programs for cancer patients with great accuracy. It’s a far cry from the “one-size-fits-all” approach of the past.

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