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Opinion

Mackinac vs. Michigan

May 30, 2017
grand hotel on mackinac island
David Ball / creative commons

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference begins today; I’ll be there, though so far, it doesn’t look like the most momentous conference they’ve ever had.

There will be a few national speakers worth hearing, including historian Michael Beschloss and journalist and author Walter Isaacson.

Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan will give keynote addresses, and there will be panels on politics, and on things like “Michigan’s Digital Future.”

Steve Shotwell / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Nine years after Ford Motor recruited an outsider to save it from itself, the automaker’s doing it again.

This time, the savior is more familiar. It’s Jim Hackett. He's the guy who wooed Jim Harbaugh back to the Michigan sidelines once prowled by the legendary Bo Schembechler. Harbaugh says Hackett’s all about teamwork, about making the team better, and the football coach says the new Ford CEO is, quote, “tougher than a two-dollar steak.”

John F. Kennedy
By Cecil (Cecil William) Stoughton / US National Archives/Wikimedia Commons

The other night I had dinner with former State Senator John Kelly, who has a law degree and a doctorate and served his country in the JAG, or Judge Advocate General Corps. He told me once about the moment he decided to go into public service.

It was the day before his eleventh birthday at the Michigan State Fair in Detroit on Labor Day in 1960, and he was sitting on his father’s shoulders. He reached out for the hand of the big man with the shock of reddish-brown hair. “My initials are JFK!” he said.

“Well, then, you’ll go into politics too,” John F. Kennedy told him.

JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

Freedom is essential for a happy life and true success. I don't think most would argue with that. But like most good things, freedom can be appropriated for self-serving purposes.

Drowning in manure

May 25, 2017
Free Use Photos / Flickr, http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

I want to warn you that today, I’m going to be talking about poop. Specifically, more than 3.3 billion gallons of it a year, all of it produced in Michigan by what are euphemistically called “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations,” or CAFOs.

Many of us call them “Factory Farms” instead. They are places where animals are crowded in what are anything but humane conditions to be fattened as quickly as possible for slaughter, or if they are cows, drained of their milk.

But beyond animal cruelty, what I’m concerned about is our drinking water. Three years ago, toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie left the water unsafe to drink for a few days.

creative commons

We have an education crisis in this state; in case you haven’t noticed, Michigan is having trouble recruiting enough teachers, especially good teachers, especially in our larger cities.

That’s not surprising.

Teaching elementary and high school students is difficult and draining, if done right. You are chained to the academic calendar –no fall vacations or long weekends. Teaching involves a lot of work on nights and weekends.

Is unrest smoldering in Detroit?

May 23, 2017
Jack Lessenbery
Michigan Radio

Twenty years ago, when I was covering Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s assisted suicide crusade, I came to know a retired Detroit policeman named Ray Good, whose wife Janet was a Kevorkian ally.

Good was present at his own moment in history, when he was the first police lieutenant on the scene at 12th Street and Clairmount in the wee hours of Sunday, July 23, 1967.

Remembering Joyce Braithwaite-Brickley

May 22, 2017

When we talk about our elected leaders, we usually act as if they did it all by themselves. We only tend to notice their assistants if they start slipping, or show signs of clumsiness.

Whatever your politics, the fact that Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway have been so savaged in the press is a clear indication that they, and their boss, are failing to do their jobs.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Another week in the Motor City and you get buyouts at Ford Motor and news of General Motors bolting yet two more foreign markets. What’s going on here?

Simple: this ain’t your father’s auto industry anymore.

These are pillars of the American industrial economy. They're companies worth rescuing with taxpayer money and the biggest home improvement loan ever. And they're vying for relevance.

How to cut corrections

May 19, 2017

Six years ago, the superintendent of a small and struggling school district in Gratiot County wrote a tongue-in-cheek letter to Governor Rick Snyder asking that his school be declared a prison. 

John Auchter / Auchtoon.com

My inner dialogue for this week's cartoon —

Rational Me (RE): Let's please do something without Donald Trump in it. There's just so much going on with him right now, our cartoon might just get lost in the news swirl.

Emotional Me (EM): Absolutely. I'm on overload with that <redacted> and besides drawing him kinda make us queasy.

House could be placing a bad bet on horse racing

May 18, 2017
Shelly Provost / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Yesterday, a graduate student came to visit me who had never really seen Detroit before. So, I gave her a little mini-tour of the booming downtown and midtown areas.

Great candidate, not so great name

May 17, 2017
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

I spent an hour the other morning with a newcomer on the political scene, one of the most brilliant and charismatic candidates I’ve ever met.

Let’s imagine for a moment that his name is Andy Smith. Make Andy the son of completely legal immigrants who enthusiastically embraced everything American. As a boy, he went to one of the best public high schools in Michigan, where he was the captain of the football, the wrestling and lacrosse teams, and then played lacrosse in college.

The pyramid of student loan debt

May 16, 2017
money
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

What do you think is the biggest category of consumer debt in this nation, apart from home mortgage loans? Car loans? Medical bills?

Not even close. It is student loan debt, now nearly $1.5 trillion dollars, and getting bigger by the day. The average undergrad leaves school, degree or no degree, owing $35,000. 

Looking out for our animals

May 15, 2017
Tony Nova / Tony Nova

Tommy Brann, a freshman state representative from Wyoming, a West Michigan town near Grand Rapids, isn’t someone who puts on airs. He’s passionate about public service and proud to be part of the legislature, but still thinks of himself as “Tommy the Restaurant Guy.”

M-1 RAIL / Facebook

Sixty one years after General Motors buses replaced Detroit’s streetcars, they’re back.

The QLine fleet started rolling along Woodward yesterday, tracing a 6.6-mile round trip that is the next step forward in the reinvention of Detroit. As signs go, it’s about as positive as you can get for the downtown a lot of Detroiters — in the city and in the suburbs — long ago gave up for dead.

North country philosopher

May 12, 2017

Here’s a little secret about our profession journalists don’t like to admit. To an extent, we are sort of the stenographers of society.

We may not accept everything at face value, but we cluster around established institutions to look for stories. We get a lot of them, but we miss things too.

Auchter's Art: Benefits Race to the Bottom
JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

Ugh! This again! So earlier this week the story broke that Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and Speaker of the House Tom Leonard were making cuts to teacher retirement benefits a top priority in the state budget. Specifically, they want to transfer what is now a state-backed pension into a 401k plan for new hires.

Does the Constitution protect Planned Parenthood?

May 11, 2017
Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood of Michigan

If you listen to the rhetoric about Planned Parenthood from Republican congressmen and legislators, you might think it is the world’s biggest abortion mill.

It’s not. Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization that primarily provides contraception, pregnancy and disease testing, and has long gotten federal and state aid for providing what are essentially public health services.

Comey firing is deja vu

May 10, 2017
Library of Congress

Twenty-two years ago, I sat in President Gerald Ford’s home in California for an hour-long interview about his presidency. Twenty-two years before that, he had been nominated, but not yet confirmed as vice president, when the infamous events known as the Saturday Night Massacre took place. That was when Richard Nixon ordered the firing of a special prosecutor assigned to investigate Watergate. The attorney general and his deputy refused, and resigned.

Is the governor's race over?

May 9, 2017

Congressman Dan Kildee of Flint has decided that he will not, after all, run for the Democratic nomination for governor next year. Sources close to the congressman told me last night that he had been wavering until last week, when House Republicans rammed through a health care bill that few understood and which made Democrats extremely mad.

Kildee, who has told me he loves Congress, had an epiphany then that his work was to stay in the House, where he has a safe seat, and fight for what is right for the nation.

Losing an election prepares future winners

May 8, 2017

Right after New Year’s Day I attempted to argue that it was too early to be asking voters to start thinking about who they wanted to support and vote for in next year’s elections.

After all, we are still recovering from last year’s endless campaign. But it’s clear I was howling into an unstoppable hurricane. Not only do I get daily notifications that this candidate or that is running for the legislature in November, 2018, I already am detecting the first embryonic stirrings among Democrats, such as Elizabeth Warren, who are starting to test Presidential waters for 2020.

flickr.com/photos/briansolis/2321406871

You may have heard that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently chose little ol’ Dearborn to lean into the real world. Good choice, even if the mogul’s posts after his visit proved Detroit isn’t the only patch of America living and working in a bubble. Silicon Valley is, too.

Health care hypocrisy

May 5, 2017
Adrian Clark / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Unless you spent yesterday in a salt mine, you know that the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill radically altering the Affordable Care Act.

If you don’t know exactly what’s in this bill, or how it would affect you, you are not alone. Neither did virtually any of the members of congress, all of them Republicans, who voted for this bill, which they are calling the American Health Care Act.



Audio FileDaniel Howes, April 29, 2017Edit | Remove

  As wake up calls go, think tank reports ain’t much.

Yeah, they marshal the grim statistics. They make harsh comparisons. They tell the people who bother to read them, mostly the already converted, just how Michigan is failing in education and job growth, in per-capita income and in the number of adults who work.

JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

Nothing Donald Trump does should surprise anybody. His behavior is erratic, certainly, but highly predictable. 

He has spent a lifetime demonstrating in a very public way that acting in his own self-interest is his default mode, his plan B, his alternate route, his "upon further consideration," and so on. Look it up — it's right there in his books, his shows, and his copious media coverage.

Half a century ago, we were a nation split more along news anchor lines than party lines. Some of us got our news from Walter Cronkite, some from Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.

Viewers made choices, but not really along party lines. The anchors were supposed to be essentially neutral, which is why it was such a big deal when Cronkite told America that in his opinion, the Vietnam War was a failure.

Beyond driverless cars

May 3, 2017

I sat down the other morning with Gary Peters, Michigan’s junior U.S. Senator, to get his take on what’s happening in Washington and how that’s playing out here.

Peters is beginning his third year in the Senate; in 2014, during a historic Republican congressional landslide, he was the only Democrat in the nation to win an open seat, when he was elected to replace Carl Levin. Historically, the first term is crucial for U.S. Senators from Michigan; if they are not defeated when they first run for reelection, they tend to stay for decades.

Those auto manufacturing jobs are not coming back

May 2, 2017
Zelda Richardson / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Nobody would ever hire me to give motor vehicle advice. The climax of my career as a “car guy” came long ago in then-Communist Romania, where they made a dreadful little automobile called a Dacia. Romania was a hellhole back then, and I can’t imagine that anyone other than a corrupt high Communist official could buy one.

Back when I was in junior high school, one of my classmates announced one April 30th that he had decided to become a Communist. This was not a very popular political choice in the Detroit suburbs in 1964, and our shocked social studies teacher asked why.

Well, little Richard said, we had learned that May Day was an international Communist holiday, and he wanted the day off. The teacher said nice try, but as long as we were operating under our Constitution, even Communists were expected to show up for school.

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