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Ignorance, not bliss

I was thinking yesterday that I ought to apply for the job of general manager of the Detroit Lions. Now, it is true that I don't know anything about football, and have no background whatsoever in the sport. And actually, I don't like football. But I've had some minor success at other things – I've been told I'm a fairly bright guy. I know how to write and teach and run my mouth, and so I was thinking – I could do this. Well, I'm kidding. Though I am a little tempted, since the job probably would pay quite well, and I might be able to pile up a nest egg before I was fired in disgrace. If I was serious, I imagine people would demand that I get my blood levels checked. The idea of me running a major league football team is crazy. But not nearly as crazy as the fact that a new poll shows that Ben Carson would easily beat either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in Michigan if the election were held today, or that other polls show he is now the leading candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination. I mean, how much more damage could anyone do to the pathetic Lions? The country is another story. Carson is, indeed, a highly talented pediatric brain surgeon. He is also completely unqualified to hold what may still be the most important job in the world. He has never been an elected member of a legislature, or been in a job where he had to bring people to some kind of consensus on issues. His public pronouncements show that he is largely profoundly ignorant of how government works. His political views are often characterized as conservative, but in fact are an odd pastiche of often clashing views. He is against gun control, but thinks semi-automatic firearms should somehow be regulated in high-crime areas. Carson hates Obamacare, but wants to give every child instead a health care savings account at birth and set up a complex formula under which the government and private employers would make annual deposits into it, something sure to require a vast new bureaucracy. He doesn't believe man has anything to do with climate change, doesn't believe in evolution, and thinks the Great Pyramids of Egypt were either built by space aliens or the Biblical Joseph as silos to store grain for the famine in the Book of Genesis. That's all fascinating, but scary. What's scarier is our apparent notion that you can be president without any qualifications whatsoever. It used to be that to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, someone had to have been elected and then reelected at least once to some job like U.S. Senator or governor. That made a certain amount of sense. What's now clear to me is that the problem is that we need a royal family of our own to obsess over, like the Reagans or the Kennedys or maybe the Trumps. Then we could elect a fairly faceless but competent person to lead the country. They do that in Great Britain, and it works pretty well. I'm pretty sure I'm right about this, but not at all sure who our royal family should be. But as long as it's not the Kardashians, I'm there. . Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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ArtPod on Matt Jones, Sundance, and indie Detroit

We've got indie rocker Matt Jones on his new (and maybe best) album, his Civil War obsession (sure, ok) and what happens when Sundance comes looking for Michigan talent. Some in the Detroit film community think Michigan students don't have the competitive edge it takes to make it in NY or LA. 





13 years ago Brenda Lawrence won a mayorial race. Now she's running for Congress, and may win

I discovered something bizarre when Brenda Lawrence first ran for mayor of Southfield 13 years ago. Back then, Southfield, a suburban business center and bedroom community just north of Detroit, had just become a majority African-American city. Lawrence was challenging a white mayor who'd been in office almost 30 years. When I talked to some of the 70,000 residents, I found white voters who were excited about her candidacy and who wanted to get rid of the longtime incumbent. But I talked to upwardly mobile black voters who emphatically did not want a black mayor. They told me that every community that elects a black mayor soon became an impoverished ghetto. Lawrence vowed that wouldn't happen. She won, and it hasn't. She has been in office ever since. Southfield was hit hard by the recession, and there are too many vacant storefronts along the main streets. But it has remained a leafy suburb filled with well-maintained, solidly middle-class homes. It is a place with intensely loyal residents and people who want to live there. And the voters have overwhelmingly continued to reelect their Brenda – even though she has tried three times for higher office. She ran for county executive against Brooks Patterson six years ago. Two years later, she was the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. Then two years ago, she ran for Congress in the newly created 14th district. You may have heard a lot about so-called gerrymandering — bizarrely shaped congressional districts aimed at preserving one-party dominance, not community cohesion. Legislators did this in Michigan three years ago in order to pack as many Democrats into as few districts as possible. Democrats might have done much the same thing if they'd been in charge, but they weren't. The 14th district Republicans created is one of the oddest-shaped districts in the nation. It starts in the Grosse Pointes, takes in about half of impoverished Detroit, and ends in a collection of suburbs, including Lawrence's Southfield. Whoever wins the Democratic primary is virtually certain to win in November. Lawrence finished a weak third two years ago. That's not surprising given that two incumbent congressmen were also in the race. Now however, the man who won, Gary Peters, is running for the U.S. Senate. It's now a wide-open race, and she may be the front-runner. Her rivals are State Representative Rudy Hobbs, who has many endorsements but little name recognition, and former congressman Hansen Clarke, who is charismatic but often notoriously unorganized. Lawrence thinks that as a mayor, she can bring a perspective to Congress that legislators immersed in partisan political battles may lack. Now 59, she's lived in Southfield for years, but was born and raised in Detroit, and is optimistic about its future. I asked what she most wanted people to know about her. "I keep my word," she said. "So many people label politics as a negative thing. But to me, public service is one of the most honorable positions you can have in America, to be able to have the trust of people who send you to be the keeper of their tax dollars." I don't know if she'll win this race. But I do wish more politicians saw their jobs the way she does. Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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ArtPod knows what you need to be reading right now

Oh sure, it's fun to read on the beach on a sweaty summer afternoon. But personally, we prefer a good book a chilly Fall night, wrapped up under the covers with some hot here's a list of the new, great Michigan reads you shouldn't miss. Happy Pumpkin Spice Latte Season to you. 

ArtPod for April 30 2013

This week, ArtPod is aaaall about the ladies. You name 'em, we've got them: Michigan photographers, amateur actresses, adventure authors...the works. What unites them? They're all seeking a change. First up, two moms who found each other in the neonatal intensive care unit. Sara Joy was about to lose her infant son. Monni Must was volunteering her talents as a family photographer, coming in to take a final family portrait for Sara and her son. What they didn't know is how those photos would help them both heal. Then, we head off to a different kind of Shakespearean drama. Inmates at a Michigan's women's correctional facility are putting on "The Tempest." Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris hangs out during their rehearsals, watching the production come together and the actresses build their characters out of their own experiences. Finally, one adventurous author takes off her hiking boots long enough to chat about her new book, "A One-Thousand-Mile Great Lakes Walk: One Woman's Trek Along the Shorelines of All Five Great Lakes."

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This week, the times they are a changin'

Come gather round ArtPod this week, as we rip off Bob Dylan for a cute headline. Today, ArtPod is talking about change. All kinds of change: political, cultural, even technological change. We'll talk with a storyteller, actors, students and even the operators of a small town movie theater about how they deal with bad changes (the end of an era for mom-and-pop cinemas), weird change (so you've got an emergency manager! Now what?), and cultural change (the tricky, tricky task of talking about race). Their projects are radically different, but they each help us talk about or understand a difficult change – which may be what all art is supposed to do.

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Attack of the ArtPod!

It's baaaaaack. After a brief hiatus, ArtPod is bigger and better than ever, bringing you all the Michigan artists and thinkers we're following now. This week, we're hashing out the best of the Arab American film festival in Dearborn. Every festival has its inside-baseball politics about which films get in and which don't. But Sundance just might be a cakewalk compared with trying to tackle the Arab spring and the Syrian conflict in just one week of screenings. We hear from the guy who's got that job, and we get the rundown on his favorite picks of the year. We're also heading to a Detroit shelter for LGBT teens. Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris tells us how these young men (and a handful of women) are making their own kind of families, with a little help from Madonna: it's called vogue dancing, and for gay youth in Detroit, it's brave stuff. You've gotta hear this story, and then you need to check out the video here: Then, we cut the baby boomers some slack for a change: sure, they're notoriously self-obsessed and nostalgic for those groovy gone-by years of their youth. But guess what? So are Millenials! (Hint: young adults born after 1981.) For proof, look no further than Frontier Ruckus, a folk-rock country band whose new album is an ode to growing up in 90's suburbia. Ah yes, the good old days when all girls were named Caitlin and "Doug" cartoons were appointment television. So it's only right that the generation that brought you bromance now gives you four guys with one banjo, the requisite amount of hipstery facial hair, and some yearning tunes about the days when they were too young to see "Reality Bites." And as always, we want to hear from you. ArtPod can't be everywhere (although we sure do try, but sometimes ArtPod needs a nap and some snacks, just like any podcast) so step up and let us know what we're missing in Michigan's art world. Leave a comment below or go to and click on "Share Your Story." We may not be able to get back to each one of you, but we really do read everything you send us. And thanks!

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Art Pod's Send-off to Summer: Idlewild's Centennial, "Sole Survivor" wraps filming, and more

We say good-bye to summer arts, from Idlewild (once known as the "Black Eden") celebrating their centennial, even as the town struggles to survive; filming wraps up on a documentary about sole survivors of commercial plane crashes; and the Holocaust Memorial Center gets a startling new exhibit.

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Commentary: Voting Tomorrow

Tomorrow is primary election day across the state. Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry says that in many cases, the primary is the election that matters most.

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