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Opinion

John Auchter
Auchtoons.com

ARTISTS POV:

In the cartoon series South Park, there is a classic episode titled "Gnomes." In that episode, a high-strung, over-caffeinated boy named Tweek is freaked out when gnomes repeatedly sneak into his bedroom at night to steal his underpants from his dresser. Tweek tells his fellow grade-school friends about the gnomes, but they don't believe him.

A year or so ago, one of my students saw me talking with Kathleen Straus, a longtime member of the state board of education.

Later, he asked me who she was. When I told him, he said he hadn’t known there was such a board and asked me what they did.

I certainly haven’t been thrilled with the moral leadership shown by the leaders of the Michigan Democratic Party. None called for former State Senator Virgil Smith’s resignation after he shot up his ex-wife’s car on a residential street.

That was last year, and Smith is finally in jail now. Nor did any leading Democrats call on voters to reject another embarrassing creature, State Representative Brian Banks, who won a primary last week despite having been convicted of eight felonies.

Donald Trump started his week off by coming to Motown and delivering a traditional Republican speech to the Detroit Economic Club, the spiritual home of successful old-school businessmen.

I wasn’t there, though I later read the speech and watched a portion of it on one of my perpetually glowing glass screens. My first thought was that the media and hard-core fans of the raw Donald had to be disappointed. Trump behaved pretty much like a normal conservative candidate for President.

William Milliken, the longest-serving governor in Michigan history, and a man who has the Republican Party woven into his DNA, is announcing today his choice for President.

He will vote for Hillary Clinton. There are those who have said for years that Milliken is no longer a real Republican. They have called him a RINO – Republican in Name Only.

For years, those who know how badly our economy needs a new bridge over the Detroit River have waged an epic battle with Matty Moroun, owner of the aging Ambassador Bridge.

For a long time, Moroun, the 89-year-old-billionaire holder of the 87-year old bridge managed to thwart any attempt to build a new bridge at what is America and Canada’s most economically important border crossing. Billions of dollars in trade cross over it every week.

Auchter's Art: How can people be disillusioned?

Aug 5, 2016
John Auchter / auchtoon.com

There are few universally shared experiences these days. The ability to indulge our varied interests make points of intersection increasingly rare. One of the few exceptions is layoffs. Whether you have direct experience with the swinging axe or just near misses, we are all familiar with the type of "right-sizing" recently announced at Dow in mid-Michigan.

For years, hardworking, far-seeing people from both parties have been trying hard to come up with a mass transit plan that makes sense for metropolitan Detroit.

This is not, incidentally, something that’s been pushed primarily by environmentalists, though they are enthusiastically supportive. Intelligent, enlightened business interests know how badly the area needs a better way to get people to jobs.

Here’s what we learned from Tuesday’s primary election: Southeast Michigan residents love the Detroit Zoo, which is not in Detroit and is no longer controlled by the city. They overwhelmingly voted to keep supporting it.

Apart from that, it’s become clear that one of the effects of term limits is the creating of a sort of elected hereditary aristocracy. Wives are elected to succeed husbands; next year, if they win their general elections, Sylvia Santana will succeed Harvey Santana; Cara Clemente will follow Paul, and Daire Rendon will succeed Bruce.

Today is primary election day across Michigan, and whenever there’s an election, there are always a number of bizarre things going on. The best one I can remember happened sixteen years ago not in Michigan, but in Missouri, where a Republican United States Senator named John Ashcroft lost his reelection battle to a Democrat named Mel Carnahan.

Losing your seat is always humiliating, and it was made more so by the fact that Ashcroft’s party’s nominee for President, George W. Bush, carried Missouri that year.

Michigan’s statewide primary elections are tomorrow, and most of us probably won’t bother to vote.

And that’s too bad. Too bad for us, that is. Our first statewide primary was the presidential one in March, and it set an all-time turnout record. More than two and a half million people voted.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Judging by this year’s wild campaign, accountability is a foreign concept in presidential politics. But not in, say, the auto industry.

Ask Volkswagen AG. The $14 billion price tag for its diesel deception is creeping closer to $20 billion. And new lawsuits from three states say knowledge of the long-running global fraud runs all the way to the office of the new CEO. What a surprise.

If I had young adult children I might have called last night and told them, “I’m sorry, but Metropolitan Detroit is hopeless. You should start planning to move somewhere like Chicago.”

That’s because yesterday, two selfish and short-sighted men sabotaged perhaps our last best hope to bring decent 21st century mass transit to a region that largely operates on a 1955 model with worse roads.

Auchter's Art: That's the mayor of Detroit?

Jul 29, 2016
John Auchter / Auchtoon.com

In her later years, my wife's grandmother suffered from dementia. She was the same extraordinarily sweet, wonderful person she had always been, but her short-term memory faded and her filter disappeared. For a time she lived with my wife's family. Their formal dining room became her bedroom — it was easy to keep tabs on her from the adjacent kitchen. 

She would go to her room to watch the TV news, and as my wife did her homework in the kitchen, she could hear Nana talking to the news anchor or reporter as she watched.

If you have a sense of history, try to imagine this: Cast your mind back to 1960, when Senator John F. Kennedy was running for President against Richard Nixon, at the time the nation’s vice president.

What if JFK had publicly suggested that the Soviet Union try to steal Nixon’s private foreign policy memos and release them to the press?


Telling All

Jul 27, 2016

Well, after a rocky first day, the Democratic National Convention seems to be on course to doing what the Democrats wanted it to do. Certainly Hillary Clinton supporters can’t complain about Bernie Sanders; he’s been extremely gracious.

This convention, by the way, has inadvertently proven his longtime complaint that the process was rigged against him; the famous leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee made that perfectly clear. It also seemed unfair that states like Michigan cast a majority of their votes for Clinton, when Sanders actually won the primary here.

Shortly after the Democratic National Convention got started Monday morning, I got a phone call from a near-panicked Clinton supporter. “The convention is in chaos!” she said. “Bernie Sanders’ own supporters booed him when he told them to support Hillary.”


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.

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