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LGBTQ Michiganders deserve legal protections

Feb 9, 2018
flickr user Charlie Nguyen / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

I am both a human being and a journalist, and so I’m not surprised by most human frailties. I understand jealousy and greed and theft. I understand get-rich-quick schemes, sexual and romantic desires that aren’t always appropriate, and overeating.

But I don’t understand why anyone would attack and severely injure or kill anyone for their sexual orientation.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

When I was a senior at Powers Central Catholic High School in Flint, I went on a weekend religious retreat with a few of my classmates. It was fairly standard — two days away from the world to reflect and pray and to share the experience with peers. It took place on the grounds of a monastery that was also a working farm, so there were some rules. Mostly we needed to stay in or around the building that was dedicated for retreats.

Gov. Snyder (quietly) owns up to his policy failures

Feb 8, 2018

Politicians, even lame-duck and completely retired ones, do not like admitting they were wrong. Usually about the best you can get is some statement like “mistakes were made.”

In the worst cases, they obstinately keep on pushing wrong-headed policies even when they have clearly been shown to be disastrous. For further proof of this, read any good history of the Vietnam War. 

Michigan's 13th congressional district
Wikipedia

Just in case you were wondering, I’m not running for the vacant seat in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District. I’m not trying to start rumors. I’m not running for anything, and can’t imagine I ever would. I’m a journalist, not a politician.

Making it easier to vote

Feb 6, 2018
people in voting booths
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Hard to believe, but today would have been Ronald Reagan’s 107th birthday. I remember meeting him when he made a surprise visit to the press tent at an international economic summit conference in 1983. He seemed bigger in real life than I had expected.

The next year, I remember seeing him in a soft rain, urging everyone to go out and vote, and to get their friends and neighbors to do the same. That was when he was running for reelection, in a campaign where the only real question was whether he’d win all fifty states.

Former Michigan Gov. John Engler speaks at Hillsdale College on on January 25, 2009.
Chuck Grimmett / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan State University is consumed by the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. It’s so far claimed the school’s president, its athletic director and a growing chunk of its reputation. So, what does MSU’S partisan Board of Trustees do? They tap former Republican governor John Engler as interim president.

As confidence-building measures go, the move doesn’t rank among the best of them. It nakedly exposes just how partisan the governance of MSU really is – and how irrelevant the students, the faculty and transparency are to those making the decisions.

Remove the trustees. Now.

Feb 2, 2018
Michigan State University sign
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

To the best of my knowledge, the New York Times, the nation’s newspaper of record, has never before bothered to notice Michigan State University’s Board of Trustees.

But in a stunning editorial Wednesday, the Times called on Governor Rick Snyder to remove the disgraced eight MSU trustees who did nothing to exercise oversight or protect one of the nation’s major universities from perhaps the worst scandal in higher education history.

Belmont Tower at MSU
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

The local coverage of sexual assaults at Michigan State University seemed to fly under the national radar for months, until hundreds of the victims of former sports doctor Larry Nassar spoke up in court. Now it’s a national headline, and will be for years.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

A single word to summarize these Larry Nassar trials? How about, "ugh"? Well, it may not be a real word, but it's a real feeling. Still, as stomach-churning as this experience has been, there are some,  if not positive, then at least hopeful takeaways.

Why hate flourishes on the internet

Feb 1, 2018
mconnors / morgue file

Last night I had dinner with Morris Dees, the legendary founder and head of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the group that essentially put the Ku Klux Klan out of business. Not many people know this, but Dees is in Michigan fairly often these days.

He married Kathleen Kalahar, a high-powered Detroit lawyer, a year or so ago, and the couple split their time between Detroit and Alabama. You might say the definition of true love is voluntarily leaving Alabama to spend weeks in Detroit in January.

John Engler's challenge

Jan 31, 2018
Former Governor John Engler
WikiCommons

Twenty-seven years ago, Jim Blanchard and State Senate Majority Leader John Engler ran against each other in one of the most dramatic gubernatorial elections in Michigan history. Blanchard, the incumbent, was heavily favored. But in the biggest upset in state political history, John Engler won a narrow victory and went on to serve three terms.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette proposed yesterday we amend the constitution to give the governor the power to appoint the boards of Michigan’s three biggest universities – the University of Michigan, Michigan State, and Wayne State.

MSU needs a president who can restore trust

Jan 29, 2018
Michigan State University sign
MSU

In recent days, I’ve heard people affiliated with various other universities say how glad they are not to be at Michigan State. Parents whose children go to MSU are worried. Not about sexual molestation, but about the school’s reputation.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Michigan’s Big Three universities have a big problem, and it starts in the boardroom.

Michigan is the only state in the country that elects its major university trustees by at-large statewide ballots. They don’t represent districts.

Few have the sharp business acumen needed to govern multi-billion dollar institutions. And as the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal in East Lansing shows, it doesn’t hold them accountable, either.

Whose job is it to keep an eye on university trustees?

Jan 26, 2018

One of the central problems of any government or corporation is this: Whose job is it to keep an eye on those in charge? Political science professors are fond of quoting the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, who supposedly put it this way: Who will guard the guardians?

Well, Plato never actually said that; some Latin poet did, hundreds of years later. Plato did, however, worry about it. Americans used to think we’d solved the problem.

John Auchter / auchtoons.com

Governor Rick Snyder delivered his final State of the State address Tuesday. It was pretty much what we've come to expect from Snyder, a vaguely corporate PowerPoint presentation. That’s in keeping with "business nerd" shtick, so no big surprise or disappointment.

Simon's resignation letter proves she still doesn't get it

Jan 25, 2018
Michigan State University
John M. Quick / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Quite unintentionally, Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon and trustee Joel Ferguson did their stricken university a great service in the past few days.

In their attempt to save her job and prevent any real change from happening, they proved how desperately necessary change was.

What’s astounding is that neither of them seems to get it, even now.

Governor Rick Snyder
Rick Snyder for Michigan / Facebook Page

Governor Rick Snyder gave his last state-of-the-state speech last night, though for a good chunk of it we really had Governor Richard Dale Snyder, his actual full name, wearing a dark suit and a blue tie, warning the lawmakers to be fiscally responsible.

The speech, like virtually all such speeches by all governors, was little noted, except by political reporters. Nor, to further steal from Lincoln, will it be long remembered. But it was interesting for a number of reasons.

Wayne State University
Wayne State University

This week, Wayne State University will begin a year-long celebration of what it is calling its sesquicentennial or 150th anniversary. Though I may get in trouble for saying this, the fact is that this anniversary is essentially an invented public relations one.

While the ancestor of the university’s medical school was indeed founded in 1868, Wayne State really grew out of the Detroit public school system, which began to offer junior college classes around the time of World War I. Nothing resembling a complete university existed before the 1930s, and the medical school was grafted on years later.

Who should investigate MSU?

Jan 22, 2018
Michigan State University sign
MSU

When I heard Friday that Michigan State University’s Board of Trustees was meeting behind closed doors with President Lou Anna Simon, I assumed this was to accept or compel her resignation. After the revelation that she had known at least something about the allegations against sports medicine Dr. Larry Nassar for years, I thought there was no other option.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Detroit’s comeback narrative doesn’t play in Seattle.

That’s the home of Amazon, the giant online retailer. It dropped the Motor City this week from its list of towns vying to land the company’s second North American headquarters.

Realists will not be surprised.

Knowing when to go

Jan 19, 2018
MSU President Lou Anna Simon
Bike Ann Arbor / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

I do not know Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon very well, but I did know her predecessor, Peter McPherson, whom she served as provost.

Once, I asked him how long a university president should stay in office. McPherson’s hero, the legendary John Hannah, had been MSU’s president for 27 years, and transformed the school from a small mostly agricultural college into a huge “megaversity.”

McPherson said the ideal was to leave one year before people wanted you to, so that in coming years, they would say “I wish President X would have stayed around for another year?” rather than, “thank God, at least Old X is finally gone.”

Governor Snyder should resign. Here's why.

Jan 18, 2018
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
Courtesy of Governor Snyder's office

If Governor Rick Snyder were prime minister of Great Britain, he’d have gone to the palace and resigned this morning. That’s because he lost what Parliament would have called a vote of no confidence, and lost it in spectacular fashion.

Both the state House and Senate overwhelmingly voted to override Snyder’s vetoes on two bills. There are 90 Republicans in the legislature, and our Republican governor kept the support of precisely one of them. 

More than a dozen state senators have sponsored a bill that would eliminate Michigan's income tax by 2022.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Last week I talked about the fact that Michigan is headed for a serious budget crisis that threatens everything from education to foster care to public safety.  

We’ve been cutting state government spending on programs that give people a chance at a better life for years. We’ve been neglecting the vitally important public sector of our economy, which is why so many of our roads and bridges are falling apart.

State Senator Gretchen Whitmer

These days, the place to go for solid in-depth print reporting on what’s happening in this state is not a newspaper, but Bridge, the online magazine.

Bridge, a publication of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Center for Michigan, has hired many of the state’s best journalists to do deep-dive, penetrating reporting about conditions in this state.

Today, they have a blockbuster story that indicates that Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and a number of union leaders are trying to recruit another Democratic candidate for governor.

What MLK day should mean

Jan 15, 2018
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking at Cobo Hall Detroit, June 23, 1963.
50th Anniversary Freedom Walk Facebook Page

Today is not only the Martin Luther King federal holiday, but Dr. King’s actual birthday. Had he not caught that bullet on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel half a century ago, he might still be with us.

John Dingell, the longest-serving congressman in our history, is still very much alive, and sending daily tweets about the insanity that is Washington today.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The future arrived Friday, courtesy of General Motors.

Just in time for the Detroit auto show. Imagine that.

Yep, that alleged archetype of American industrial decline says it will have a fully self-driving car on the road next year.

Not in three years, like its rival Ford. Not in whenever, like Elon Musk and his Tesla. Next year.

But let’s be clear: This isn’t the end of road for anything. It’s barely the beginning of the revolution transforming the auto industry.

Michigan's budget is heading down a dangerous path

Jan 12, 2018

Most people don’t know this, but both branches of the Legislature have nonpartisan fiscal agencies that analyze the economic impact of bills on the Michigan economy.

Five days before Christmas, the Senate Fiscal Agency published a short book that was guaranteed not to become a best seller: Michigan’s Economic Outlook and Budget Review.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner used to do a routine called "The 2000 Year Old Man." In it, Reiner was a reporter interviewing Brooks, a man from ancient times. It was largely adlibbed with the reporter deftly setting the premise with genuinely curious questions and the old man providing outrageous answers (in a thick Yiddish accent).

The senatorial agony of the Michigan Republican Party

Jan 11, 2018
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow
Studio08Denver / Flickr - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCl0

For Michigan Republicans, running for the U.S. Senate has become an exercise that reminds me of a group of single guys who go off to the bar. They are happy, relaxed, they’ve just been paid, and they sit there and drink and talk about all the worlds they will conquer.

But the hours go by and dawn approaches, and in the morning, they trudge back to work in the cold gray half-light of reality. That’s what we are starting to see now, in Michigan Republicans' attempts to win the seat held by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow.

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