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Opinion

The president rightly credited with saving Detroit’s auto industry from itself is gone. Barack Obama’s $80 billion-dollar decision remains controversial but the outcome is much less so.

In the space of eight years, the automakers once teetering on the edge of collapse look nothing like the two creaking hulks that endured bankruptcy. The third, Ford Motor, barely avoided a similar fate.

While the Japanese use our calendar for practical purposes, they officially start a new era every time an emperor takes office. This is, for example, Heisei 29 in Japan, not 2017.

We do a version of the same thing. We talk of the “Clinton years,” or the “Bush years,” and even link cultural events to the reigns of our presidents, none of which last more than eight years. We talk about Reagan-era fashions, for example.

JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

One of the big downsides to January in Michigan is the annual State of the State address. We have not been blessed with governors who are accomplished orators, at least not during the time that I've been editorial cartooning.

John Engler was so bad it was actually part of his charm. (That may be the only published instance where you will see "charm" and "John Engler" in the same sentence.)

He was an effective behind-the-scenes guy who was clearly uncomfortable speechifying. You could almost see the thought balloon above his head as he talked

Congressman Justin Amash, a Republican from Grand Rapids just starting his fourth term, is never going to be part of the good old boys and girls club that runs Congress.

He doesn’t “go along to get along,” follows his own brand of “libertarian light” conservatism, and if he hasn’t had time to read a bill or grasp its full implications, traditionally just votes “present” no matter what his party’s leadership says.

Governor Rick Snyder gave his annual state of the state speech last night. If you missed it, don’t feel bad. There was virtually nothing to miss. I’ve seen five different governors deliver these annual speeches over the last 40 years.

None of them will live for the ages. Years ago, after one, a reporter for United Press International turned to me and said, “We have nothing to fear except fear itself, and another speech next year.”

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his seventh State of the State address tonight. My guess is that not many people will watch or listen; with this speech, they hardly ever do.

Abraham Lincoln famously said at Gettysburg that “the world will little note nor long remember what we say here.”

Lincoln was as wrong as he could be about his own words.

For many Americans, the life of Martin Luther King Jr. means mostly that they get a day off from work or school, a day in which the banks are closed and the mail doesn’t come.

They may also know him as a one-dimensional icon of the civil rights movement, who repeatedly said “I have a dream,” during some famous speech a long time ago, and also said, “I may not get there with you, but we as a people will get to the promised land,” and then got shot.

The biggest stars at this week’s Detroit auto show aren’t the usual, splashy new car or truck. They’re the futuristic autonomous vehicle from Google and President-elect Donald Trump. Trump’s incessant tweeting this week has transfixed a global press corps and roiled the auto industry it covers.

Detroitsound.org

You could argue that the biggest Michigan story of the last decade was Detroit – the fall of its famously corrupt mayor, the city’s descent into bankruptcy, and its reemergence and renaissance. Nobody would have believed 10 years ago that downtown Detroit would be booming today, or that Midtown near Wayne State University would be a trendy place to live.

Today, Detroit’s streetlights are all on again, and a balding and plump white guy from the suburbs is the most popular mayor in years.

Auchtertoon.com

The Amazon TV-series The Man in the High Castle explores an America in which the Allies lost World War II and Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan rule over our country. A 2004 mockumentary, C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, considers what might have happened if the South had won our Civil War. These sorts of alternate histories can be highly entertaining and also add perspective to real history through drama and satire.

For a while yesterday, it looked as if we might have some hope of better things from Lansing.

New Speaker of the House Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt, seems to be a genuinely well-liked man, who has talked about reaching across party lines.

You may have heard that we Baby Boomers are no longer the largest generation in America; millennials passed us a couple years ago. But we really haven’t started to die off. There are still more than 74 million of us left, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

But we have started to reach retirement age. The oldest of us will be 71 this year; the youngest approaching their mid’ 50s. Notice I said that we are reaching retirement age. That’s not the same thing as being able to retire. Most of us can’t afford it.

Ten days from now we will have a new President, and in time he will name a new justice to the Supreme Court, and eventually a nominee is likely to be confirmed.

I teach college students, mostly seniors and graduates, journalism history and law. And sometime after the new justice takes office, one will ask me when they’ll have to run for reelection. They don’t, of course; they are selected for life.

One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons showed a judge looking down at a defendant and asking, “So – just how much justice can you afford?” Judges never say things like that, or at least I hope not. But the system sort of does, whether we admit it or not.

If you doubt that, consider this: Let’s say some state agency went after Dick and Betsy DeVos and accused them of defrauding the taxpayers out of money. They were not only ordered to pay it back; they were then assessed a fine four times the size of what they got…

Donald Trump’s showing no sign of easing up on his whacking of the auto industry.

His latest target is Toyota. Apparently Detroit’s automakers aren’t the only ones building cars in Mexico for sale in the United States. So are Volkswagen and Audi and anyone else smart enough to realize the advantages. You know, the ones that start with Mexican trade deals giving these companies access to 60 percent of the world’s economic output.

Even the best deal maker on the planet cannot deliver that – not yet, anyway.

By now, millions of people have been horrified by the great Macomb County sinkhole, which has destroyed at least three modern houses in the suburb of Fraser.

Imagine waking up on Christmas Eve, as one couple did, to the sounds of the foundations of your house popping as it sank into the ground.

Auchter's Art: Respect for government workers?

Jan 6, 2017
John Auchter

Earlier this week Governor Snyder offered President-elect Trump some unsolicited advice, as one businessperson who was new to public office to another: Respect that most government workers know what they’re doing.

Milton Mack, who was chief probate judge in Wayne County for many years, is probably the state judiciary’s top expert in the problems of prisons and the mentally ill.

Mack, now state court administrator, has long maintained that we could significantly reduce both our state prison population and its costs if more of our mentally ill could be put on medication instead of being locked up. But efforts at reform have too often been stymied by politicians who were more concerned about looking “tough on crime.”

A long time ago, a graceful man named Adlai Stevenson ran for President against Dwight D. Eisenhower, the much-beloved national war hero. The campaign was hopeless.

When he conceded defeat, full of charm and wit as always, a reporter asked if Stevenson planned to run again in four years. The candidate looked startled, and then broke into a broad grin. “Examine that man’s head!” he said, laughing. Stevenson would eventually run again, but he knew that nobody in the country wanted to think about another political campaign for a while.

Except for a few brief years in the 1960’s, it has never been fashionable to care about the desperately poor in this country. John F. Kennedy did challenge us to do something about poverty in his inaugural address:

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

But today, we have a President-elect who said:

“Benefits should have strings attached to them."

Happy New Year!  Since Michigan Radio graciously allows me to express my opinions, I thought I’d start by asserting the holidays were a very nice break, but that they didn’t last long enough. Well, that may be the least controversial thing I’ve said in a while.

We are in a new year, about to have a new administration in Washington, and I thought I might start it out by talking about the nature of journalism and what I try to do.

John Auchter / www.auchtoon.com

ARTIST'S POV:

Here's hoping we get on the right side of history sooner rather than later in the new year. Cheers!

John Auchter is an editorial cartoonist. Views expressed in his cartoons are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

It’s sometimes difficult to figure out what voters really want. But that’s clearly not true when it comes to one thing: Hunting wolves. Michigan citizens want that outlawed.

Every poll has shown that.

Two years ago the people overwhelmingly voted to outlaw wolf hunting by a nearly two-to-one margin. This would be off the table for now in any event, because the federal government has declared wolves an endangered species.

JOHN AUCHTER / WWW.AUCHTOON.COM

To all I wish peace, love, and good health this holiday season and throughout the new year!

For my fellow Christians, I also want to note that we have some big responsibilities in 2017. 

I mean, we always do, but because the election of Donald Trump was largely our doing, we owe it to ourselves and our country to be particularly attentive.

The election is finally and officially over, so no matter the reason we voted for Trump (a single issue, the lesser of two evils, wholehearted support), the reason no longer matters.

He will be the President.

I was recently tempted to bludgeon one of my students into recognizing that interesting things had happened, even before he was born, back in the ancient early 1990s, say.

We were discussing the origins of the World Wide Web, the invention that actually made wide-ranging use of cyberspace possible. Having considered this, he said prior to that, I must have actually had to find things in books.

When I learned yesterday morning that Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette had charged two Flint former emergency managers in connection with the water crisis, what popped first into my head was an image long ago of a young senator from Tennessee.

“What did the President know, and when did he know it?” Howard Baker had asked on national television more than 43 years ago, when Rick Snyder was in high school.

The country tore itself apart over the next 14 months over this, and we all know how Watergate turned out.

There is a leaked audio tape that has caused a sensation in political circles in the Detroit area. The language is raw, shocking and horribly vile, and, for once is not about sex.

A voice that sounds very much like that of Warren Mayor Jim Fouts complains that quote, “while on Fridays in the past I would be going to meet some women, tonight I am meeting with a group of retards. Tonight is retard night.” 

If you’ve been following politics, you’ve probably heard that the Electoral College is meeting today, and is expected to formally ratify the election of Donald Trump as President.

Well, that statement isn’t really true. The Electoral College never “meets” in the sense of everybody going to a central location. What happens is that electors from each state go to their state capitols, including Lansing, and fill out ballots casting two separate votes, one for President and the other for Vice-President.

Very cold Detroit is hot again.

Look at what the people whose business is to place bets on the next new thing are doing. They’re coming to Detroit, and doing it with a regularity and purpose that are changing the narrative of the city and Michigan.

Walt Disney will use the North American International Auto Show next month to unveil the latest creation from its Pixar Animation studios — a life-size version of one of the stars in its animated “Cars 3” movie. Hollywood comes to Detroit in January? Yep.

Auchter / Auchtoons.com

You may think that I'm kidding about Flint hitting up Russia for a little help. I'm not sure that I am. It's been three years now. Three years of unsafe drinking water in Flint. Michigan. USA. And as recent stories on Michigan Radio will tell you, there is no clear indication as to when the situation will be totally fixed.

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