Last Build Date: Sun, 11 Dec 2016 02:33:10 +0000
Fri, 09 Dec 2016 16:06:19 +0000I respect most people who go into politics, and have admired some. But with a very few exceptions, I’ve never been in awe of those I’ve met, including Presidents. They were highly accomplished people, occupying an institution I revered, but people still the same. But that’s not how I felt on a cold March morning almost thirty-four years ago, when I climbed into a small plane in Washington headed for New Hampshire.
Thu, 08 Dec 2016 16:50:07 +0000Well, the chaotic mess of Michigan’s off-again, on-again recount battle is apparently finally over. The reason I say “apparently” is that absolutely nothing has been certain this year, and it is still possible, though unlikely, that more courts could intervene. Essentially, everyone connected with this looks like the gang who couldn’t shoot straight, right down to Mark Goldsmith, who appeared to be a flip-flopping federal judge. The Republicans look worst of all, however. Based on what I know about Michigan elections, there is virtually no reason to think a full recount could or would have overturned Donald Trump’s almost 11,000 vote lead. No reason, except one: The near-panic with which Republicans were determined to stop the recount. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette essentially abandoned any pretense at being a non-partisan lawyer for all our citizens, and functioned as chief prosecutor for the Republican Party. What’s most amazing is that we now know that a full recount would
Wed, 07 Dec 2016 14:59:01 +0000Ottawa County is a pretty lovely place on the western shore of Lake Michigan, a little south of Grand Rapids. I know it primarily for two things: the tulip festival in Holland, and for being the most Republican county in Michigan. Ottawa last voted Democratic for president in 1864, when the local farmers decided they’d had enough of the Civil War and wanted their boys home. Since then, it has been as Republican as they come. Franklin Roosevelt couldn’t carry it, nor could Lyndon Johnson.
Tue, 06 Dec 2016 14:36:36 +0000One of the most frightening, haunting and horrible stories I heard this year had nothing to do with politics. In September, an eight-year-old autistic child in Lake Orion was supposedly misbehaving in class. So his teacher locked him in a padded room by himself for three and a half hours – a barbaric, medieval punishment called “seclusion and restraint.”
Mon, 05 Dec 2016 16:12:07 +0000On Election Night it seemed clear the Republican candidate had won an upset narrow victory in Michigan. But some people wouldn’t accept it. They fought to get a recount. The Republicans opposed it. But when a recount was finally ordered, irregularities and mistakes began to turn up. Figures had been transposed. Soon, the lead changed. When two thirds of the state had been recounted, the Republican gave up. The Democrat at the top of the ticket had carried the state, and that changed history. No, that’s not just the scenario Democrats are hoping for, as the statewide recount of the presidential election gets underway this afternoon. That’s something that really happened. Not in a presidential race, but in a contest for governor. The year was 1950, when G. Mennen Williams, who was always called “Soapy,” was running for reelection for the first time. Gubernatorial terms were only two years back then. Michigan, then as now, often voted Democratic for president, but Republicans dominated
Fri, 02 Dec 2016 15:54:50 +0000Pretty much anyone who ever amounted to anything has been inspired to success at some point by a teacher, usually in elementary or high school. Which makes the Michigan Legislature’s running war on teachers somewhat hard to understand. Yes, I understand the Republicans hate teacher unions, primarily the National Education Association, because they often contribute to Democratic campaigns.
Thu, 01 Dec 2016 16:49:47 +0000Tim Greimel, the outgoing leader of the Democrats in the Michigan House of Representatives, put it this way: “I’ve talked to thousands of voters, and never had a single one say we’ve needed more money and less accountability and less transparency in politics.” I have no doubt that’s true. But one man believes that’s exactly what we need: State Senator Dave Robertson, a Genesee County Republican who chairs the committee on Elections and Government Reform. Over the last two years, Robertson has successfully blocked anything that would make it easier for citizens to vote. But Robertson does want to make it easier for big moneyed interests to give unlimited amounts to political candidates, and for such candidates to ask them for funds, which grownups know always come with strings attached. According to Craig Mauger, the executive director of the nonpartisan and non-profit Michigan Campaign Finance Network, Robertson’s Senate Bill 638 would allow a candidate for any state office, to go to a
Wed, 30 Nov 2016 14:29:00 +0000The state officially certified Michigan’s election returns two days ago, and though the focus was on the extremely close presidential race, there was something I found even more troubling in another result, one that’s drawn very little notice. That would be the vote for the state board of education. John Austin, who is now the board’s president, courageously rallied his colleagues to support the rights of transgender students.
Tue, 29 Nov 2016 16:37:47 +0000As you may have heard, Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate, is asking for a recount of the vote in the three key states that decided the election – Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and our own state of Michigan, which was the closest of all. The Clinton campaign, or whatever remains of it, doesn’t hold out any real hope that the outcome will change, but supports the recounts, on the ground the public ought to be assured of the integrity of the process.
Mon, 28 Nov 2016 16:12:16 +0000There was a lot of horrified reaction from those who support public schools at the announcement that Michigan’s own Betsy DeVos was Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of education. John Austin, the president of the Michigan Board of Education, said “it’s like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse and feeding it school children.” Austin, however, was narrowly defeated this year, and won’t be around to try and resist.
Wed, 23 Nov 2016 16:04:17 +0000Wayne State University is, I often tell the parents of prospective students, quite possibly the safest large campus in the state. I’ve taught there for nearly a quarter-century, and I get crime reports from Wayne’s superb police chief, Anthony Holt. They usually have entries like this: “Student was wandering around Cass Avenue at 2 a.m. and a man grabbed her cell phone and ran away.” Yes, if you put your i-Pad down and turn your back, it is quite likely to disappear. Somebody 10 years ago threw a brick through my car’s back window one night, and stole what they must have thought was a computer bag. I wonder what the thief thought when he found out he’d scored a paperback biography of Soapy Williams and a half-eaten apple. My sweetheart, who is barely five feet tall, earned a graduate degree a few years ago mainly by taking night classes at Wayne, and neither she nor I had any worries. So it was a shock and a blow when I heard that a Wayne State officer had been shot in the head last
Tue, 22 Nov 2016 16:53:52 +0000Fifteen years ago, a group called Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation sued Nestle Waters North America, a division of the huge international conglomerate, over its plans to withdraw vast amounts of groundwater in Osceola County in Northwest Michigan. Nestle wanted to siphon 400 gallons a minute from the aquifer, to bottle and sell at a profit. The environmentalists were concerned about what this would do to nearby rivers, streams, and ultimately, Lake Michigan. After years of legal wrangling, they came to a compromise in 2009. Nestle agreed to siphon off only a little over 200 gallons a minute. By the way, Nestle, or any private property owner, can legally take all the water they want to from their property for free, except for a $200 yearly fee to the state. Technically, they aren’t allowed to sell it outside the region. But that restriction is pretty meaningless, since the fine print allows them to ship it to Outer Mongolia as long as they do so in containers smaller than 5.7
Mon, 21 Nov 2016 17:00:46 +0000Here’s the story I’m worried about hearing this weekend: An angry Clinton supporter carving a turkey plunges the knife not into the white meat, but his Trump-supporting uncle. That’s not as far- fetched as it sounds. Inability to cope with what happened November 8th has meant lots of extra work for grief counselors, therapists, and the like.
Fri, 18 Nov 2016 16:44:14 +0000There were just a few lines on the obituary page of yesterday, with a tiny picture. Margaret Fishman, beloved wife of Alvin, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt. Graveside services this morning in Detroit. Nothing exceptional, except for one line: “Margaret was a lifetime fighter for world peace, civil rights, workers’ rights, and justice for all.” That she was. And for a moment sixty-three years ago, she was at the center of the world’s attention, at the dawn of the age of television journalism. Her younger brother, Milo Radulovich, was caught in the maw of Cold War hysteria.
Thu, 17 Nov 2016 16:41:47 +0000Yesterday we learned that the Detroit News is inviting every editorial employee, from the most junior reporter to the executive editor, to quit their jobs. If you work there and you decide to voluntarily walk the plank, they’ll give you one week’s pay for every year you were there, up to half a year’s pay. That’s not a very good offer as buyouts go; a year ago, a friend of mine who had been a News columnist for many years was offered a year’s pay to quit.
Wed, 16 Nov 2016 17:09:35 +0000Sixteen years ago, during the campaign that led to the famous Bush-Gore disputed presidential election, I did a joint appearance with pollster Steve Mitchell, who predicted victory for George W. Bush and then-Senator Spencer Abraham in Michigan. I said that I thought the pollster’s Republican bias was showing. He said that wasn’t true, and to prove it he regretfully predicted that Mike Rogers, a state senator then trying to be elected to Congress, was going to lose.
Tue, 15 Nov 2016 14:10:16 +0000You may not have noticed, but Gov. Rick Snyder is in China this week, on what his administration is calling his sixth “investment” mission to the world’s newest economic superpower. This particular trip is designed, the governor’s office says, to help establish Michigan’s global leadership in “autonomous vehicle technology,” which is industry-speak for cars that will drive themselves, at least to some extent.
Mon, 14 Nov 2016 15:56:02 +0000I have been a staunch defender of the Electoral College, that quaint mechanism left over from the early days of the republic. You may well know how it works, though many people don’t. When you voted for president last week, you in fact voted not for a candidate, but for a slate of sixteen people who pledge to vote for that candidate. The winning electors will drive to Lansing on December 19 and cast their votes in longhand as they would have done in 1792.
Fri, 11 Nov 2016 16:07:30 +0000When I woke up the morning after the election, what popped into my head were some lyrics from the Democracy, written by that greatest of all poets of song, Leonard Cohen “I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean/I love the country, but I just can’t stand the scene. And I’m neither left nor right/I’m just staying home tonight/getting lost in that hopeless little screen.” I suspected Wednesday morning that many people felt the same way.
Thu, 10 Nov 2016 16:36:28 +0000I spent yesterday working in my office and hearing from people whose emotional state could be compared to that of survivors from a destroyed village. They were in utter despair and wanted hope. Donald Trump, a man whose campaign had been defined by attacks on women, immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, and general boorish behavior, was President-elect of the United States. Angela Russo, a former student of mine, an occupational therapist in her early 30s and a former television reporter, was mostly stunned.