Frank Szymanski likes to startle audiences by asking, “Have you ever seen a naked trial judge?” after which he takes off his suit coat and flings it on a chair.

“Don’t worry, I’m going to stop there,” he tells them.

“But if you don’t educate yourselves before you go into that voting booth, if you don’t know who I and Judge Deborah Thomas are, we might as well be naked. You need to know that we are both circuit court judges, we care about kids, that we care about justice for everyone, and that we were nominated by the Democratic Party for the Michigan Supreme Court.”

Gretchen Driskell got into politics by accident twenty-some years ago, when she was home with a toddler and a neighbor knocked on her door.

He was running for city council and wanted her support; she was an accountant and an MBA who had taken a few years off to raise her three kids, and was happy to talk to another adult.

There was a great fascination with Tom Hayden when I was in high school in the Detroit suburbs in the mid-1960s. Mostly on the part of the teachers, that is.

They regarded him as a boy gone wrong who had grown up in what was then sleepy, suburban Royal Oak and then become a radical enemy of America. Some of them knew his mother, who was a film librarian for the public schools.

Inside the Chevy Bolt.

Detroit should not be in the business of gloating.

Its automakers have closed too many plants and cut too many jobs. They’ve lost too much market share and destroyed too much capital. They’ve disappointed too many investors to claim the high ground in the global auto industry.

That image is not likely to change until they successfully weather an inevitable slowdown. The industry also needs to parry the competitive threats posed by Silicon Valley, the coming mobility revolution and the battle for young, tech-savvy talent. Could Detroit be holding its own?

For almost eight months, the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on the Flint Water Crisis has been meeting, taking testimony, and struggling to find solutions.

Two days ago, they released a major report aimed at preventing further disasters. Unfortunately, they did this the day of the final presidential debate, which meant it got less than full attention. 

Auchter's Art: Demanding party loyalty

Oct 21, 2016
John Auchter

Pointing out the inconsistencies and hypocrisies in politics has always been the go-to source for material for editorial cartooning. But in this year's bizarro election cycle — oh my goodness! — it's shooting fish in a barrel!

Forty years ago, Gerald Ford, the only man from Michigan ever to reach the White House, went to bed in the wee hours of Election Night not knowing whether he had won or lost.

For Ford, the very closeness of the election was a sort of vindication. He started the campaign terribly unpopular. Inflation was high, and he was the man who pardoned our one clearly criminal president, Richard Nixon.

For the last several weeks or months I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about politicians, usually people who want you to think they have accomplished more than they have, and are now promising to do more than they can possibly do.

As long as you vote for them, that is. Well, two people died in the last few days who spent their lives doing more than most people realized, and who weren’t very well known.

Last weekend I was invited to a birthday party with a 1980s theme in which guests were supposed to dress accordingly. Well, I don’t have any mustard-colored sports coats of the sort President Reagan sometimes wore.

So, as the guest of honor was a Democrat, I wore political buttons honoring that party’s three great losers of that decade – Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, and Michael Dukakis.

Someone asked me, what if Donald Trump loses the presidential election and refuses to concede defeat?

Well, legally, it doesn’t make any difference whatsoever.

From time to time, we’ve had Michigan candidates who didn’t have the grace to face their supporters and congratulate their opponents.

Geoffrey Fieger never formally conceded his race for governor. Neither did Terri Lynn Land when she was defeated by Gary Peters for the U.S. Senate two years ago. But both lost badly, the state certified the results, and that was that.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Leave it to the former chair of the Michigan Democratic Party to demand a grand jury investigation of Republican Governor Rick Snyder over his legal fees tied to the Flint water crisis.

Business has a better idea – lend its expertise, free of charge, to projects that promise to get Flint back on its feet after getting walloped by lead-tainted water and financial retrenchment.

According to the Special Theory of Relativity, time slows down as you approach the speed of light. I think that’s also true for political campaigns, especially this one.

Every day seems longer and more interminable as we get closer to the actual election, and more and more weird and fantastic stuff seems to be happening.


It's getting to be an archaic reference, so for you kids out there: Back in 1975 when Gerald Ford was president, upon arrival on a trip to Austria he stumbled down the stairway when exiting Air Force One.

I’ve been fascinated by politics my entire life, and have usually regarded election night the same way football fans regard the Super Bowl.

Whether the candidates I supported won or lost, I felt sort of a letdown after it was over; I’d have to wait another four years before a new presidential contest.

David MacNaughton, Canada’s relatively new ambassador to the United States, came to Detroit yesterday, to speak to an important but too-little known group, CUSBA, or the Canada-United States Business Association. Our relationship with Canada is, by far, the most important one there is for both countries.

Canadians always know that; Americans tend to forget.

Detroit-Windsor is also easily both countries’ most economically important border crossing. The Canadian consulate graciously invited me to lunch with the ambassador, a witty and urbane man who isn’t a typical career diplomat. After serving his nation briefly as a young man, he went on to build his own political PR firm, sold it, and went on to run two more. .

Type some words like “will the Republican Party survive this election” into any search engine, and you’ll find stories predicting its coming collapse.

Without any doubt, the GOP is now being torn by an internal civil war, and most of its key figures privately or publicly have written off Donald Trump’s chances.

When I was eight years old, something historic happened: The first-ever televised presidential debate between major party candidates.

My lower middle-class Detroit-area family watched it together, as did many American families, and I was encouraged to pay attention. The following day, my fourth-grade teacher encouraged discussion about the debate.

I am sure much of it was over my head, but I remember very vividly that everyone thought it an important event.

Kaiketsu / Wikimedia Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Bill Ford Jr.’s used to taking shots.

He got whacked repeatedly for touting environmentalism in the global auto industry long before going green was cool. That prompted rivals, even his own employees, to wonder if the son of America’s preeminent industrial dynasty was becoming unmoored from the realities of the family business.

Here’s what the Michigan Constitution says about state aid to private schools:

No public monies or property shall be appropriated or paid or any public credit utilized, by the legislature or any other political subdivision or agency of the state directly or indirectly to aid or maintain any private, denominational or other nonpublic, pre-elementary, elementary, or secondary school. No payment, credit, tax benefit, exemption or deductions, tuition voucher, subsidy, grant or loan of public monies or property shall be provided, directly or indirectly, to support the attendance of any student or the employment of any person at any such nonpublic school or at any location or institution where instruction is offered in whole or in part to such nonpublic school students.

That’s about as clear as could be.


A common question these days is, "How did it come to this? How did we end up with these presidential candidates?" The simplest answer is, "It's our fault." Would a curious, engaged, and active electorate have generated the current tickets? Probably not.

For many years, few people paid any attention to the politics of Michigan Supreme Court justices. Nor were elections for the state’s highest court usually exciting.

That’s because there used to be a presumption that judges were more or less above politics, and that once on the bench, they should remain there as long as they were honest and competent, until the magic age of 70, after which, under the Michigan Constitution, they may finish a current term, but are no longer eligible to run again.

If this election follows the familiar pattern, Donald Trump will lose Oakland County, Michigan’s second-largest and easily most affluent county, and lose it badly.

Oakland was once reliably Republican. But the party’s move to the right on social issues hasn’t played well with largely highly educated Oakland voters, especially professional women.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a President of the United States went stark raving mad? As in, thinking he or she was an eggplant?

Actually, there IS a system to deal with that. As I understand it, all that would have to happen would be for the vice president and a majority of the cabinet to sign a declaration that the president was not competent, and send it to Congress.

Flickr user Gage Skidmore / Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Donald Trump’s trashing again this week of Ford Motor Company and Michigan’s economy isn’t playing well with state business leaders. That’s at least two reasons why many of them are choosing to sit out this year’s bizarre presidential race.

The Detroit News caused quite a stir this week when it endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson for president.

The newspaper, which was founded in 1873, has never endorsed anyone except a Republican for the nation’s highest office, though on three occasions, including the contest between George Bush and John Kerry in 2004, it hasn’t endorsed anyone.

But do such endorsements matter?


In 2009, more than 11,000 untested rape kits were discovered in Detroit's abandoned crime lab. Rape kits contain the physical evidence of a victim's sexual assault. When processed, the DNA data generated can be used not only to bring perpetrators to justice, but also to add this information to a national database of sex offenders.

Courtesy Ed McDonald / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Arnold Palmer was born on the cusp of the Great Depression in Western Pennsylvania. His father, Deke, had been the greens keeper at Latrobe Country Club, advancing to club pro when Arnold was four.

A club pro has to listen to every member of the country club like they’re the most important person in the world. According to John Feinstein’s classic book, A Good Walk Spoiled, that’s a habit Arnold learned, too. Whether he was talking to a young professional, the hundredth fan that day, or, heaven forbid, a reporter, Palmer made eye contact, every time, and made the other person feel like they were a valued friend.

Democrats are liberals, and Republicans conservatives, right?

We usually talk and think about the major parties that way, as if they were two different flavors of ice cream.

Republicans are red raspberry; Democrats, blueberry.

Republicans want lower taxes and fewer services; Democrats higher taxes and more services.

Democrats are pro-choice; Republicans anti-abortion, et cetera, et cetera.

If Donald Trump is to be elected President, he almost certainly has to win either Michigan or Pennsylvania.

If Trump carries every state Mitt Romney won and adds Ohio, Florida and Iowa, he still loses – unless he can take Michigan or Pennsylvania away from the Democrats.

So far this year, polls show he may have a better chance here.

Hillary Clinton leads in Michigan, but by less than in Pennsylvania and by far less than President Obama won the state either time. But Republicans in Congress are now doing something that may torpedo any chance Trump has of flipping this state this year.

Macomb County resident Julie Baumer volunteered to care for her sister’s unwanted baby thirteen years ago. She was a 27-year-old mortgage broker who was engaged to be married and had a full life, but she didn’t want the little boy to be put up for adoption.

But a few weeks later, she took the baby to the hospital, where doctors discovered a lot of blood on his brain. She was suspected of violently shaking the baby.