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Opinion

When I heard yesterday afternoon that Senator Carl Levin was not going to run for reelection, the first  thing that popped into my mind was a line from Macbeth.

"Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it."

That doesn’t exactly fit here, though the way in which he chose to leave the Senate was as classy as his spotless  career.

Some years ago, when the Green Party in Germany first had a chance to join a coalition government, there was a tremendous battle within the party between the purists and the pragmatists. The purists, who were nicknamed the “fundis,” felt that would be selling out. The practical politicians, called the “realos,” thought that by joining the government they could influence events and at least get some of their agenda enacted.

Bill Ballenger, who has been watching politicians in Lansing for close to half a century, had an interesting survey last week in his biweekly newsletter, Inside Michigan Politics.

He decided to find out how many members of the legislature are members of each religious denomination, something he does every few years.

What struck me as most interesting is that some people didn’t want to be pinned down as to what religion they were.

That was, he said, because some politicians prefer “to give the impression that the legislator could be affiliated with any number of faiths with whose parishioners she or he might actually worship from time to time.”

Pretty much everyone knows that our roads are in terrible shape, and need to be repaired.

However, at the same time, pretty much everyone also doesn’t want to pay to fix them.

We think somebody else should pay.

So far, Governor Rick Snyder has been the closest thing to a grownup on this issue. He reasons that those who use the roads, people otherwise known as drivers, should pay most of the cost.

That cost is pretty steep: Just to bring our existing roads back to acceptable condition will require $1.2 billion a year for at least the next ten years.

The governor proposes increasing the gas tax by nineteen cents a gallon on diesel fuel, fourteen cents on gasoline. This would be done at the wholesale level, which means the fuel companies wouldn’t necessarily have to pass them on to the consumer.

Okay, well, you’re allowed to laugh.

Snyder would also raise car registration fees by about 60 percent, and heavy truck plate charges by 25 percent.

Well, that plan seemed to bring people together: Everybody hated it.

While Detroit can technically appeal the governor’s decision to appoint an emergency manager, it is clear that the city is going to get one within the next couple of weeks.

Detroiters are now waiting to find out the identity of the person who will have more power in their city than any mayor has ever had. 

Right-to-work in Michigan: Is there a middle ground?

Dec 10, 2012
Rick Pluta/MPRN

One thing I know about politically polarizing issues: arguing for middle-of-the-road positions alienates a lot of folks.

But here goes anyway.

I don’t love unions.

And I feel I can say that with some authority, given that as an employee of several media companies, I’ve been a member of three of them.

In every case, I felt unions were so concerned about protecting territory, that they were, at times, anti-progressive, and too often in the business of preserving their power.

I couldn’t touch equipment.

I was prevented from developing technical skills I would have been wise to learn.

Later in my career, when I worked at non-union shops, I was glad that, if I wanted to try something new, I could.

Now, that may seem like a funny way for me to argue that right-to-work laws are a bad idea, but that’s where I’m going with this.

I heard a political ad for radio this week that really got me angry.

OK…sure…I’m probably not alone in that.

But I wasn’t angry because I agree or disagreed with the position taken, or because the ad was misleading or an outright fabrication.

I’m used to “pants on fire” statements in political ads and even expect it. 

What bothered me about this particular ad was that it was produced to sound exactly like a news story. A news story that’s close enough to being possible that many listeners could be easily fooled.

The election is now only four days away, and I’ve been thinking about what will happen afterward.

Earlier this week, I received a nasty phone call from a woman named Bonnie.

She believes President Obama is evil, and a traitor.

She thinks the media are covering up the truth behind the killing of the American ambassador to Libya.

She was also upset that we are covering up the “fact,” as she put it, that President Obama’s family were all Communists.

I told her, in not very polite terms, that was idiotic.

She began screaming and I hung up.

Want to vote early in Michigan? What's your excuse?

Oct 2, 2012
Voting booth
suttonhoo.blogspot.com

The presidential election is still a month away, but in many states, early voting is already underway.

Today, Ohio opened the polls to early voters.

It’s one of 34 states that have some kind of early voting system.

Michigan, however, is not one of those states.

Last week, I went to my local city hall. I was feeling good. It was my daughter’s 18th birthday. I helped her register to vote - civic pride for a dad.

After that, my mood darkened.

Here is a quiz:

The Obama Administration is responsible for:

a) The financial rescue of General Motors;

b) The future financial failure of General Motors;

c) Both a) and b);

d) None of the above.

You won’t find the correct answer in upside-down small print at the bottom of this blog.  I am not quite sure myself what the right answer might be.  But answer (b) might not be such an incredible response.

Conservative Super-PACS have pulled their campaign ads supporting Mitt Romney in Michigan. That’s fueling speculation the Romney campaign and conservative groups will move their efforts and money elsewhere. 

Commentator Keith Oppenheim has these thoughts.

Back in June, I thought we had a chance.

The polls were getting tight.

The commercials were booming.

NPR

I made a point of tuning into C-SPAN on the last night of the Democratic National Convention.  It wasn’t because I was looking forward to a political speech from Desperate Housewife Eva Longoria.  Although in retrospect, Ms. Longoria’s speech was statesman-like in comparison to what went before her.

What I saw shocked me.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

I just spent about $5,000 at the two national political conventions.

No, I wasn’t out wining and dining with the heavy hitters, and despite how much my critics would love to finally be able to prove my biases, I wasn’t handing out political contributions to candidates either.

I spent the money to send Michigan Radio reporters to cover the Michigan delegation at each convention.

Last Tuesday was National Radio Day! How do I know? I saw it on Facebook, of course, which is where everyone who is younger than me seems to get all their news.

But not me. I’m still a radio guy. So I celebrated National Radio Day by working in the news room at Michigan Radio, where we also spend lots of time on Facebook.

Hey NPR, what about those 500 economists for Romney?

Aug 21, 2012

One of the best things about blogging for Michigan Radio is the pleasure of introducing you to an idea or a person that network listeners and viewers of the website haven’t seen anywhere else in public radio.

When I introduced myself to Michigan Radio’s webpage readers, I suggested that at one level, NPR news is hard to criticize; what you hear in broadcasts is mostly beyond reproach.

But sometimes a larger story awaits, in what you don’t hear on the air or see on the websites. A case in point:  Economists for Romney

Economists for Romney is a group of 500 national economists, who support for Mitt Romney’s economic plan, signing a public letter to the nation that begins, “We enthusiastically endorse Governor Mitt Romney’s economic plan to create jobs and restore economic growth while returning America to its tradition of economic freedom. The plan is based on proven principles: a more contained and less intrusive federal government, a greater reliance on the private sector, a broad expansion of opportunity without government favors for special interests, and respect for the rule of law including the decision-making authority of states and localities.”

Citizenship question easiest one to answer when I vote

Aug 10, 2012

When I voted on Tuesday, there were several things I needed to know. 

The toughest thing was figuring out who to vote for among all of the candidates for several obscure township boards and lower-level county offices.  These people do important things, but their work is almost entirely below the radar-level of most media.  Their names, and even the offices they hold, are relatively unknown.  It is sometimes hard to even know, without help from the ballot, whether I’m voting for just one candidate, or “two of five” names, or even all four of just four names on the ballot.

Michigan Radio

The Boy Scouts of America recently reaffirmed their ban on allowing openly gay boys to participate in Boy Scouts, and openly gay or lesbian adults from being leaders.

(Full disclosure – I was a Boy Scout for many years during my teens, but that was decades before anyone was debating this issue.)

We live in an odd world where what side of the “homosexual agenda” you are on can now be demonstrated not only by your participation in scouts, but also where you buy your chicken sandwich.

If I asked the well-informed Michigan Radio listeners to name the mayors of Ann Arbor, Birmingham, Flint and Grand Rapids, and those cities' most critical electoral issues, I expect that very few could do it.

But naming the mayor of Troy, and her most pressing issue, is something most of us can easily do. That is because Troy mayor Janice Daniels is facing a recall election.  And not just any recall; the reason Daniels faces a recall is that last summer, she posted this comment to her own Facebook page:

“I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there.”

Vincent Duffy

Last week, a bomb threat called in from Canada shut down the tunnel that runs under the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor. The tunnel is the second busiest crossing between the United States and Canada. The busiest crossing is the Ambassador Bridge just more than a mile down river. The tunnel was closed to traffic for most of the afternoon while authorities from both countries inspected the tunnel and found no bomb.

Michigan Radio reported on these events, keeping commuters up to date on the traffic situation and the rest of our audience informed about the events.

The four most famous words that Mitt Romney never wrote are, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

You read that right.  Mitt Romney never wrote those words.  They were the headline of a New York Times op-ed column that was authored by Romney and published in the newspaper on November 18, 2008.

I doubt that most people could accurately recite so much as a sentence of the op-ed that Governor Romney actually wrote in that column.  All that anybody remembers is the headline, which I have discovered was written by a New York Times editor, not Governor Romney.

The President and the Chief Justice: An ironic history

Jul 11, 2012

Of all of the hyper-partisan episodes in the long political career of President Barack Obama, there is one that strikes me as being historically ironic.

In 2005, the then-junior Senator from Illinois voted against the confirmation of U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. as Chief Justice of United States Supreme Court. It turned out to be Justice Roberts whose actions on that court saved President Obama’s signature healthcare legislation.

Confessions of an 'NPR conservative'

Jul 3, 2012

“NPR Conservative.” 

To some, that term might sound like an oxymoron straight from the writing staff of The Colbert Report.

It happens to be me.

My guess is that a lot of  people these days are a little shaky about what Memorial Day is all about,  except perhaps in families that have military service in their background.   I think most of us know that it has something to do with honoring the nation’s  war dead. Though I imagine that the numbers of people visiting  cemeteries is probably a pretty small minority. More people decorated veterans’  graves when I was a child.

WBUR

In my large Irish family, our stories get better with age. It’s not that we lie about what’s happened to us, but when we get together for holidays or family events, we usually tell the same stories and they get better every time.

They start out as true of course, and the people, places and events all stay the same, but over time the funny parts get a little more funny, the dialogue a little more snappy and clever, and the reactions from onlookers a little more outrageous.

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