Opinion

There are thousands of journalists in Philadelphia today, covering the opening of the Democratic National Convention. I don’t want to give anything away, but the Democrats are going to end up nominating Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.

Remember, you heard it here first. But there are fewer print reporters than there used to be, and they will return to newsrooms that have a small fraction of the staffs they once did. Increasingly, so-called dailies don’t deliver every day, or cover nearly as many stories.

Forget the cheering, bravado and juvenile attacks that came from Republicans in Cleveland this week.

Ignore the apocalyptic predictions of what could become of the United States should either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton be elected president.

Ask yourself only this: Is this the best we can do?

Something happened in a courtroom in Detroit Thursday that may have more impact on the November elections in Michigan than anything at the Republican convention.

Earlier this year, Republicans in the legislature outlawed straight-ticket voting in all elections in Michigan. They gave a lot of phony excuses for why they did this, but the real reason is clear. Straight-ticket voting tends to help Democrats, especially for offices that are less high-profile, like board of education seats.

Auchter's Art: Running government like a business

Jul 22, 2016
JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

Artist's POV:

I've worked in the business world for quite some time now. From private to public companies, startups to established corporations, employee to contractor. I even had my own company for a dozen years. So I think I have a fairly broad understanding.

It would be easy to watch the terminal narcissism unfolding in Cleveland this week and conclude that politics have nothing to do with real life. I was half-tempted at one point to call Dr. Mona, the hero doctor of Flint, and ask her how important the question of Melania Trump’s plagiarism was to the poisoned children and desperate parents of Flint.

Then I realized I couldn’t justify wasting even a few seconds of her time that way. But that doesn’t mean everyone who runs for office is an egomaniac.

Thirty-two years ago, I watched President Ronald Reagan give a speech in Michigan in which he attacked Democratic nominee and former Vice-President Walter Mondale.

“If his administration had been a book,” Reagan said of the man running against him, “you would have had to read it from back to front to get a happy ending.”

The bottom line, Phil Power told me recently, is that our future is all about the schools.

Power isn’t exactly a wild and crazy left-wing radical. He ran for the U.S. Senate once as a moderate Democrat nearly 40 years ago, but lost the primary to a fellow named Carl Levin.


Several weeks ago, I was rushing to a meeting at Wayne State University, distracted and speeding on the freeway. Suddenly, I saw the flashing lights and was soon pulled over by a black policeman, who took my license and registration and went back to his car.

I expected a ticket and points on my record, and I indeed deserved them. But he eventually came back, gave me a warning, and said I had better slow down and be careful.
 

I was astonished and grateful. But today I am scared.

Road to self-driving cars depends on people

Jul 16, 2016

The talk of the auto industry this year isn’t about Detroit’s record profits. Rather, it’s about racing to field vehicles that drive themselves.

But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

The road to self-driving cars isn’t just about technology.

Remember the Onion, that crazy satirical newspaper people couldn’t get enough of in the 1990s? It’s still around, but these days, I think real life has gotten better than art at being utterly absurd. Certainly that was the case in Michigan yesterday.

I mean, can you imagine a better Onion headline than “Governor whose aides poisoned children appoints oil industry lobbyist to head environmental agency?”

Auchter's Art: Finding common ground on guns

Jul 15, 2016

Artist's POV:

A cop shoots a man dead. Is your first thought to want to know their racial profiles?

A man uses a military assault rifle to kill multiple people. Is your first thought to hope for a reason that won't conflict with your political views?

A neighborhood teen takes his own life with a handgun. Is your first thought to wonder why a handgun was available to him at a moment of despair?

A young woman is gunned down in Chicago. Is your first thought to consider how this might affect gun control statistics?

Governor Rick Snyder did something sensible Wednesday – he asked the Michigan Supreme Court for an opinion as to whether it is legal under the Michigan Constitution for the state to use taxpayer dollars to provide aid to private schools.

In a sense, this is actually putting the cart before the horse, in that Snyder signed an education budget last month that includes a two and a half million dollar appropriation for private schools. At the time, he was urged to use his line-item veto to prevent that from happening, but he declined, saying he believed this was legal.

I never met Julie Plawecki, the state representative from Dearborn Heights who died unexpectedly last month while hiking in Oregon. By all accounts, she was a hard-working legislator and someone who virtually everyone liked and respected.

And she had the sort of background I’d like to see more lawmakers have. Too many are lawyers or real estate agents. Plawecki, who was 54, had worked in medical technology, but spent most of her life as an elementary and high school math and science teacher.

Once upon a time there was a Republican politician who took office at a time when the nation was bitterly divided over social issues.

He knew this was not the way things should be.

“We are not enemies, but friends,” he pleaded with his people. He told them he was optimistic that America would do better, and that our hearts would be touched by “the better angels of our nature.”

Two days after the killings of five police officers in Dallas, there was an editorial in the Detroit News that began “The last thing we need in this country is a race war.”

Well, just about everybody who is sane would agree with that. But there are a lot of black people who could tell you that a race war has been going on for centuries. 

GOP schism deepens after Flint water crisis

Jul 9, 2016
The Detroit News

Credit good ol’ politics for the widening split separating Michigan’s top two Republicans.

The legal jeopardy posed by the Flint water crisis—and controversial decisions affecting special interests—are exposing Attorney General Bill Schuette’s unmistakable desire to succeed Rick Snyder as governor come 2018.

Not that the AG will say so. The growing record of disagreements between Schuette and Snyder is producing a special kind of political fallout: It’s positioning the AG for the state’s top office, and sometimes doing it at the expense of the sitting governor.

Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about politics; they have lives instead. They go to work or practice their professions; raise their kids, spend time on their hobbies.

Many of them do get somewhat interested every four years, when the time comes to pick a new president. Slightly more than half of them actually vote, which doesn’t happen in other elections.

JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

Artist's POV:

Last month, Rick DeVos complained aloud via Twitter that the state flag of Michigan was "ugly" and "non-useful."

Well, sharing needlessly judgmental observations is what Twitter is for, so we likely would have all moved quickly on to the next snark if DeVos wasn't (a) the founder of ArtPrize, and (b) offering $500 to the best three redesigns.

Yesterday, I talked about how Lake Erie is endangered by pollution from factory farms, which dump hundreds of millions of gallons of animal waste onto the ground every year.

This is far too much for the soil to absorb, and a considerable amount gets into the lake. There, the nitrates and phosphorous it contains help spur huge toxic algae blooms.


You might remember two years ago, when people in Toledo couldn’t drink the water for a couple days because it had been poisoned by toxic cyanobacteria in Lake Erie.


Well, the Fourth of July is over and it is now, emotionally as well as officially, summer. The presidential primary season is over too. That, unlike even a Michigan winter, seemed to last forever. 

But we now know – with all due respect to the Libertarian and Green party candidates – either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be our next president. The only excitement remaining is to find out who they will select as their vice presidential candidates.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Don’t believe the smart folks who say Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, and the wild show that passes for American presidential politics today, are just evidence of one big, transatlantic hissy fit. They’re wrong.

Republican and Democratic leaders here, political classes on both sides of the pond and financial markets around the globe are demonstrating, once again, a remarkable disconnect from the concerns of everyday people from Liverpool to Lansing.

Dogs as Weapons

Jul 1, 2016

To me, one of the most horrific stories over the last year came in December, when a lady named Lucille Strickland was walking her five-year-old son to kindergarten in Detroit.

Suddenly, a pack of four pit bull-type dogs appeared, grabbed the child, pulled him under a fence and into their yard and killed him. Neither the child nor his mother had done anything to provoke the dogs.  Police came and killed the dogs, but were too late to save the child.

Auchter's Art: Celebrating July 4th

Jul 1, 2016
Auchter's Art
JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

Artist's POV:

I was trying to work up some righteous indignation about Michigan's fireworks laws and the decision in 2011 to allow in-state sales of the loud, semi-dangerous variety.

Maybe it was being awoken at 1:00 a.m. Tuesday by somebody’s sudden need to express their patriotism very close to my bedroom window.

This has been a surprising political year, to put it mildly, and there are still more than four months to go before the actual election. Whatever happens, it is safe to say that nobody a year ago really thought Donald Trump would be the Republican Presidential nominee.

Hillary Clinton was expected to be the Democratic choice – but nobody imagined that a grumpy old socialist named Bernie Sanders would do as well as he did. In fact, the biggest upset on the Democratic side this spring was Sanders’ stunning victory in the Michigan primary.

Detroit is commonly and correctly thought to be doing better than it has been in a long time. There’s a sense of hope again. The streetlights are back, and the bankruptcy’s over.

 There are still more problems than solutions.

The U.S. Supreme Court has made some controversial decisions this term, including Monday, when the nation’s highest court struck down a Texas law designed to make it harder for women to get abortions, something that is now a long-established constitutional right.

But the court also did something that was entirely predictable and scarcely controversial at all. They declined to hear yet another appeal by former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick of his public corruption conviction. That means that unless he comes up with yet other grounds for appeal, he is in federal prison until August 2037.

Is this the end of marriage, capitalism, and God?

Jun 27, 2016
FLICKR USER JIM BAUER/FLICKR / HTTPS://FLIC.KR/P/91DHSU

The Next Idea

 

The next big thing isn’t a clever gadget or miracle drug, it’s a way of life -- not a breakthrough invention but a social innovation.

 

I’ve been avidly interested in presidential politics since I was about eight years old, and have followed or personally covered every election since Kennedy barely beat Nixon.

I remember Michigan Governor George Romney refusing to endorse Barry Goldwater because of that year’s Republican nominee’s stand on civil rights. I remember various Michigan Democratic politicians trying not to appear on the same platform as George McGovern.

But I’ve never seen a candidate like Donald Trump.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

It’s all about the money for some Ford and General Motors shareholders. 

Their money, to be exact.

Doesn’t matter that the Blue Oval booked all-time high North American profits last year, and probably will again this year. Or that GM is making roughly a billion dollars a month selling cars and trucks. Or that both are betting shareholder cash on an emerging mobility space said to be worth more than $5 trillion.

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