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Opinion

Sixty-three years ago, the most famous journalist in America broadcast this on national television:

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends on evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear of one another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason.”

John Aucter / Auchtertoon.com

The topic for this week's cartoon started with news of Michigan Republican legislators pushing for tax cuts ahead of Governor Snyder presenting a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

It seemed irresponsible, given the challenges Michigan faces and the fact that they cannot ever seem to be bothered with identifying the budgets that would require corresponding cutting.

The governor, to his credit, pointed this out.

I’ve never met Eli Broad, the billionaire Los Angeles philanthropist, though I have interviewed him on the phone. He comes across as a kindly man who cares deeply about education and the arts.

I think there would be a lot less resentment of the so-called "one percent" if more of them were like Mr. Broad, who is committed to giving away 75% of his wealth.

Here are three examples of how messed-up and dysfunctional Michigan government has become.

First, last fall the Democrats had a candidate for state representative who had been convicted of eight felonies, charged with three more, and who had cost taxpayers nearly $100,000 thanks to a sexual harassment suit filed against him by an aide.


Tampons and sanitary napkins.

I’ve been a journalist for four decades, and during that time have written and broadcast about everything from train wrecks to Marshall Tito. I’ve written about plumbing problems in Russia and filed stories from Paraguay, but don’t think I have ever written a word about tampons. That isn’t because I am squeamish about them.

Yesterday I was talking to State Senator David Knezek of Dearborn Heights about a tax bill, when I decided to ask him what he thought of the president’s sudden order barring entry to this country from seven Muslim nations.

I would normally never ask a first-term state senator to comment on a foreign policy initiative by the president of the United States. But these are not normal times, and Dave Knezek is not just another state senator. He served two tours of duty in Iraq.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Nearly half the country may have found the first week of Donald Trump’s presidency full of depressing news, but Detroit arguably shouldn’t be one of them.

I’m in Grand Rapids today, at the annual convention of the Michigan Press Association, which represents daily and weekly newspapers throughout the state. It is largely a happy event.

Those gathered celebrate and award prizes to some of the best journalism in the state. This year’s top winner was an investigation in which the Detroit News revealed that dirty surgical equipment was being used in operating rooms at a major hospital.

Auchter's Art: Free market capitalism charade

Jan 27, 2017
AUCHTOON.COM

See? See?! This is exactly why I think it's ridiculous to declare allegiance to any particular political party. Who they are and what they represent is a fluid thing — they change over time. Sometimes very, very quickly.

Donald Trump is far from the only politician to believe in “alternative facts.” During the 1984 presidential campaign, when I was working for the Detroit News, I somehow ended up interviewing Lyndon LaRouche, who managed to be both zany and sinister at the same time.

LaRouche, sometimes a Trotskyite and sometimes a right-winger, alternated between competing as a Democrat and running as an independent, and may be best remembered for his theory that Queen Elizabeth II was the mastermind of a huge drug cartel.

I spent lunchtime the other day with a highly educated suburban woman named Amina, who lives in the white-collar suburb of Canton, in the same county but light-years away from Detroit. Her husband is a professor at Lawrence Tech, and she has degrees in both post-childhood development and in education policy with a focus on global studies.

Now thirty-six, she’s lived in many places, but was born not far from where she lives now. She’s thoroughly American, but a bit different from many of her neighbors. She has four children, which isn’t that common these days. She also spends much of her time with other kids in a part of Detroit where her neighbors might never go in a million years.

A century ago, opinionated journalism was dominated by the brilliant and sarcastic columnist H.L. Mencken. Among other things, he was a flamboyant atheist. Once, someone demanded to know what he would do if he died and found himself before God and his angels.

Mencken replied that he would bow and say, “Gentlemen, I was wrong.”

Well, I haven’t been hauled up before the Almighty – yet -- but I am indeed sometimes wrong.

I got a wonderful email yesterday from Jim Bower, a listener in Byron Center near Grand Rapids. Believe it or not, I think most writers enjoy hearing thoughtful criticism, even if, or maybe especially if, the reader or listener disagrees.

Cheyna Roth/Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Even with the election over and the new president sworn in, discussing politics can be volatile for many people. In many instances, the dialogue can quickly become inflammatory or accusatory. Feelings are hurt. Relationships are strained.  

Nobody knows exactly what our new president will do, or will be able to do. He hasn’t always been consistent, and much of what he wants would have to get through Congress.

But one of the things he has been fairly consistent about is immigration. He is still promising to build a wall, and has said he wants to force every undocumented person to leave.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

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.

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. 

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.

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