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Opinion

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.

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.

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.

Three days ago, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission asked the highest court in the land to decide whether our state’s emergency manager law is unconstitutional.

Specifically, the issue is whether the law violates the federal Voting Rights Act by lessening the voting power of minorities. Nearly all the cities and school districts where emergency managers have been appointed had black majority populations.

JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

ARTIST'S POV: After three years of the Flint water crisis, fatigue has set in — first and foremost, for the citizens of Flint who have had to live with the daily grind and persistent worries. But also for Michiganders living outside and looking in. 

Saving Lake Erie

Apr 27, 2017
A cyanobacteria bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

There’s a little-noticed battle going on across the region to save Lake Erie. Now, I know this story can’t possibly compare in interest or importance to a bunch of football players visiting Rome, or which politician might run for something next year.

Flint water crisis protest
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

This week, my colleagues at Michigan Radio have done an amazing package of stories to mark the third anniversary of the Flint water crisis. If you didn’t have a chance to hear them, I recommend you go read and listen.

Even if you’ve heard them, they are worth hearing again. In journalism, the very first sentence in a story is called the lede. And for sheer eloquence and simplicity, it would be hard to improve on the way Lindsey Smith began her story Tuesday: Three years ago today, Flint switched the source of its drinking water, and triggered a public health crisis.

kids at computers
U.S. Department of Education / Creative Commons

When I was a child, there was this widespread quaint notion that children ought to attend the public schools where they lived. Except for a few kids that went to Catholic schools, and one who won a scholarship to Cranbrook, everybody did.

Well, it’s now all but official: Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley is running for governor next year. Running, that is, to try to win the Republican primary in August 2018.

He’s posted a video of a “countdown clock” on his website, and appears to be marching towards a formal announcement of his candidacy on May 30, during the Mackinac Policy Conference when the state’s political, business and media leaders get together.

John Auchter

CARTOONIST'S POV:

When my son was three years-old, he had an astonishingly straightforward way of expressing himself. If he was busy doing something and we told him it was time to do something else (go to bed, get in the car, take a bath, whatever), he would just look at us, incredulous, and say, "But I want to do what I want to do."

Sometimes he would repeat it. Slowly. Because we didn't seem to understand the perfect logic, as if to say: "How are you people not getting this? Are you that dense?!"

The Michigan state capitol building
Thetoad / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

By now you’ve heard about Michigan’s “Comeback.”

You can find it in booming auto sales and fat corporate profits. You can feel it in a 5.1% unemployment rate. That’s roughly a third of its high point in the throes of the Great Recession.

You can see the revival all over downtown Detroit. That’s where billions in fresh capital are remaking an urban core into the kind of hip and happening place that a lot of folks thought they’d never see in the city America gave up for dead.

But that’s only part of the story.

By all appearances, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof likes wielding power. He’s been in the Michigan Legislature for a decade, and he has been a strong, if controversial, leader of the Senate for more than two years now.

But in little more than a year and a half, his political career will be over—probably forever. Term limits mean he won’t be able to run for re-election to the state Senate.

John Auchter / Auchtoon.com

ARTIST'S POV: Back in high school, one of my friends had an older sister who spent a summer on Isle Royale doing research. She made the mistake of trying to have a conversation about this with a bunch of 16 year-old boys.

Journalism matters

Apr 20, 2017

Last night I went to the annual Society of Professional Journalists banquet, where every year someone is named journalist of the year. I wasn’t unbiased. I wanted my Michigan Radio colleague Steve Carmody to win for his magnificent reporting on Flint.

https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ernie_Harwell

There’s a belief in some quarters that Detroit does not appreciate its history. The city, which was really a large town before they started making cars a century ago, exploded in size, going from fewer than 300,000 to 1.6 million people in 30 years.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Long ago, way back in, say, the 1980s, there was something quaint about most elections in this country: Candidates did not actually begin running until the year of the election itself. We hold primaries in August and general elections in November, and it was thought that if you declared your candidacy in January, say, that would give you enough time to persuade voters.

I have to admit I was surprised four years ago when Tom Watkins was appointed head of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority. When I first knew him, Watkins was state superintendent of schools. That is, until Governor Jennifer Granholm pressed to have him fired for questioning some of her policies.

NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW

These days, Detroit is all about showing it’s new. It’s different. That it’s learned from the past.

Then what happened at the New York Auto Show this week? Markets collided, and the winners are buyers of trucks, SUVs and even muscle cars, not investors hot for all things electric.

Major players transformed the Big Apple into a shameless celebration of size and horsepower. It’s more evidence that the emissions-free future touted by the industry and rewarded by traders is trumped by reality, that is: consumer demand, low interest rates and cheap gas.

Two summers ago, something happened that gave parents nightmares throughout the Detroit area. A 20-year-old camp counselor at a Jewish community center was discovered to have been secretly photographing little boys naked and posting them on a Russian child porn website.

He also had written vivid fantasy descriptions of doing things to them, though a massive investigation turned up no evidence that he had ever touched a child.

JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

ARTIST'S POV: Legislation was recently introduced in the state House to make Michigan a "constitutional carry" state. House Bills 4416-4419 would relax gun laws to allow many Michiganders to conceal firearms without having to get a concealed pistol license. It's kind of a melding of concealed carry with less restrictive open carry rules.

I’ve never met Chris Campbell, an attorney in Traverse City, but I’ve gotten thoughtful emails from him many times over the years. Mr. Campbell, who grew up in Bay City, loves this state. 

LAW
user southerfried / morguefile

You have to feel bad for Michigan Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, a good and decent man who has the thankless task of heading a party so small it is more like a faction.

I once saw former State Representative Todd Courser expound on how the welfare state was bad and people needed to take personal responsibility for their lives. Cindy Gamrat, his fellow representative, political soulmate and secret mistress, was nodding vigorously.

Complaining about mythical welfare queens and other so-called predatory poor people is pretty much standard fare for the right wing, and has been, to a greater or lesser degree, since the New Deal.

Less than two weeks ago, President Donald Trump launched his latest Twitter attack on the nation’s most important newspaper, the New York Times. 

The Tesla Model S, first introduced in June 2012
Tesla Motors

Here’s the latest Detroit indignity: Tiny Tesla, the electric automaker, is felling giants.

The Silicon Valley startup created in 2003 is worth more in market value than the American industrial icon founded exactly 100 years earlier by Henry Ford, the premier innovator of his time.

Tesla’s not far behind General Motors, either. The promise of game-changing innovation, the hope that someone new can crack the emissions-free code is causing tons of smart money to flow into Chairman Elon Musk’s Tesla.

Nearly $49 billion-worth, to be precise.

I was listening to one of the dumber stories of the week Thursday, about a Twitter squabble between two Republicans, a White House staffer and Congressman Justin Amash.

John Auchter / Auchtoon.com

We're nearing the end of the season of Lent, and for Catholics (and others who participate in the Lenten practice of "giving up stuff") this is around the time we tend to lose focus and start to obsess about the beer or chocolate or whatever we pledged to eschew for 40 days.

State Representative Tom Cochran, a Democrat from the Lansing suburb of Mason, has introduced a “Death with Dignity” act to allow terminally ill people to ask for medication to end their lives. His bill is well-crafted to safeguard against abuses.

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