State Sen. Tom Casperson badly wants to be in Congress. He ran eight years ago, and suffered a humiliating loss to then-Congressman Bart Stupak. This year, he's trying again.
Sadly, Tommy has had problems in the past stemming from either ignorance, stupidity, or a weak grasp on reality.
Several years ago, when I interviewed him on Michigan Radio, he told me that he was in favor of the Ten Commandments being displayed in public buildings.
After all, he said, "when the Founding Fathers came to Washington to write the Constitution," they found the commandments on display there.
I hadn't the heart to tell him that when the great document was written, Washington was an unsettled swamp.
He got statewide attention three years ago for telling the legislature that we needed to legalize wolf hunting because hordes of them were menacing a day care center in the Upper Peninsula. The story was a complete lie.
To his credit, he did apologize when the story turned out to be false. Nobody, as far as records show, has been been killed by a wolf in Michigan in modern times — or perhaps ever.
But Tommy didn't change his mind about hunting them, no sir. He told his fellow lawmakers:
"Years ago, when I worked for my family's trucking company, we didn't scrap a log truck because it had a flat tire. We fixed the tire and kept trucking."
Not quite sure what that means in English, but hey. There are those who make fun of Senator Tom because his prior experience was limited to the log truck and high school.
That's unfair. Not having a fancy degree isn't his problem; Harry Truman did quite well with only a high school education. Casperson's problem is having a learning curve that, as George Will once put it, doesn't curve. (Yes, I know he is only 56. Maturity takes time sometimes.)
Well, the up-north congressional seat is open now, and this year, Tom wants it in the worst way. He knows having accomplished something might help, and so he's tackling one of the state's major problems.
No, not Flint, or the roads they didn't really fix, nor the hugely expensive and failing prisons. Not the infrastructure, nor the schools, nor making higher education affordable.
Instead, Tom Casperson is going to save our kids by preventing transgender students from using the bathrooms of their choice! He plans to introduce a bill that would force Michigan public school students to "only use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their birth sex."
During an interview with Michigan Radio last week, he somewhat confusedly said: "What we're pushing back on is the idea that we're going to put children together in bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex." Gollee, Sarge! I never knew bathrooms and locker rooms were male and female!
Casperson is, of course, invoking the old fear of your son or daughter being traumatized and raped in the toilet.
"If my school district suggested they would allow a young boy to go into a locker room where my young daughter is, there's no way I would be comfortable," he adds.
Yes, how dare anyone think that kids could survive sharing a bathroom with someone of the opposite sex. Except ... that they all usually do so in their homes.
Casperson is mainly helping spread the outrageous myth that transgender people are dying to attack and rape anyone, especially small children.
This all comes in response to a common sense reform proposed by the State Board of Education, a body that actually cares about kids. The board is suggesting voluntary guidelines designed to protect gay and transgender students from harassment, including allowing them to use the restroom that matches the gender identity they choose.
Naturally, that drove the insecure and the right wing crazy. Kevin Cotter, the slimy Speaker of the House, immediately grabbed the wheel of the demagogue bus.
"Parents have very real concerns about the potential abuse of increased bathroom use and locker room access that puts their children at risk," he says.
Yes, that's what every parent I know is worrying about, not the fact that the Republicans have been destroying democracy, pensions, the middle class, and poisoning Flint.
Now, just like Fox News, I am always striving to be fair and balanced. So I thought I should go get a conservative's perspective on this. I found a 63-year-old automotive engineer from Howell, who was active in the GOP, thought of running for the legislature, and is an evangelical Christian.
"Fear and ignorance," the engineer said of Casperson. "Transgender people don't go around dreaming of attacking people in the bathroom." Instead, they dream of a world where they can go to the toilet and not be harassed.
My engineer ought to know. Jayne Locke worked for Ford for almost 30 years as a product development engineer, earning two patents of her own. But for most of that time, she was Jay Locke. That's right – she is transgender.
She was brave enough to tell me she was born with some characteristics of both sexes, and a sex wasn't listed on her birth certificate for months. Finally, after two marriages and a long, anguished life, she chose to become a woman.
I told her she has guts. "It took more bravery to live acting a role in a play I never wanted or chose to be in for 57 years," she says. Ironically, because of her religious and political beliefs, she tells me she isn't accepted by many members of the transgender community.
If so, they are fools. People need to know that transgender people are people like anyone else. They don't necessarily vote alike, think alike, eat the same.
What they do want is to be safe in the bathroom.
What I want every reader of this column to do is ask themselves who they think has more decency, humanity and integrity: Jayne Locke or Tommy Casperson and Kevin Cotter.
Yes, I know. Not even a contest.
But how you answer will say volumes about who you are.
Little Virgil, Parasite Till the Last: The good news is that by this time next week, Virgil Smith Jr., a pathetic disgrace of a legislator, will no longer be in the state senate.
Unfortunately, he still is, until April 12. He doesn't show up any more, however, mainly because he's sitting in Wayne County jail, where he'll be for the next 10 months.
Actually, he belongs in prison, after shooting up his ex-wife's car on a residential street last May. He also allegedly beat her up, and may have been trying to kill her.
However, he got off with a plea bargain deal – part of which was that he resign before putting on his orange suit. But as they were preparing to take him to the slam, Wayne Circuit Judge Lawrence Talon said he couldn't be forced to quit, that only the senate could expel him.
Smith had been ready to quit ... but then didn't.
No mystery as to why; he got to stay on the state payroll while in his cell, collecting his $1,378.56 every week.
Last week, however, the jig was up; the senate leadership finally announced they were getting ready to expel him. Virg then agreed to quit, though he dragged out the date.
Why is he going quietly? Not hard to guess: Legislators who resign retain certain privileges, like being able to show up and hang out in the Capitol. Those who are thrown out, don't.
As has been well-documented, Virgie has never really had another career, other than lawmaker and felon.
Which means that when he exits the slam, there's only one profession for which he will be qualified: