Public Service Award for Michigan

Public Service Award for Michigan

Also posted online at MLive.com, August 22, 2015

 I’m a bit late getting to this one. I was on vacation when the Courser/Gamrat scandal broke, so I felt I needed find a different angle. A lot has already been said, but the irony of two family-values tea partiers behaving in a manner typically associated with corrupt political-machine bosses has been largely untapped. I couldn’t let that go by. That’s editorial cartooning gold, baby!

Still, I was honestly hoping to find a more positive takeaway from all this. I tried to figure out a way to juxtapose Courser and Gamrat with genuine, selfless public service. If they win the Kilpatrick, who gets the Bing? That would be Dave Bing, the Detroit Pistons star who after his basketball career became a successful entrepreneur and business leader in Michigan.

At the point of comfortable retirement and with a well-earned reputation, Bing sought and got the most difficult job imaginable: mayor of Detroit in the depths of the Great Recession after the city had been bled dry. He made unpopular but necessary decisions with limited power while navigating the uncharted waters of big city bankruptcy. That, my friends, is public service. I don’t expect Courser and Gamrat to be up for a Bing any time soon.

On a personal note, I would like to mention the passing of Richard “Dick” Daly on Tuesday, August 18. Dick was an exceptional public servant in the Flint community, dedicating his professional career to providing positive growth opportunities for citizens of the Flint area, most notably with his work in developing the Flint Olympian and CANUSA Games. Again, that is public service.

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Annual Public Service Reminder: Driving in Michigan

Annual Public Service Reminder: Driving in Michigan

 

Also posted online at MLive.com, August 15, 2015

I’ve done a few of these “public service reminders.” Here are links to a couple more:

Not exactly hard-hitting editorial commentary, but they do tend to elicit strong emotions. And anyway it helps me channel my road rage.

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August Is Precious

August Is Precious

Also posted online at MLive.com, August 8, 2015

 Here are three other pieces of dialogue I considered for Panel 4:

  • “What’s this Planned Parenthood thing all about?”
  • “What do you guys think about Obama’s new emission controls?”
  • “How ’bout those Tigers?”

In the end, I felt talking about an election that is 15 months away fits best the definition of “needless distraction.” It’s certainly the least controversial — especially the Tigers topic. I mean, what the heck happened there? The season had such potential, such promise. Then a few injuries, the bullpen never gels, inconsistent offense — boom! It all implodes. They trade away their ace, their closer, an all-star left fielder. Now Dombrowski is gone. And… wait… sorry….

Back to the original point: It’s summertime and the living’s easy. It’s our best hope to recharge. And February will be here soon enough.

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Hope College to Provide Spousal Benefits to Gay Employees

Hope College to Provide Spousal Benefits to Gay Employees

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
August 2, 2015

Also posted online at MLive.com, August 1, 2015

So that’s my prediction: Within 30 years the United States will have a national health care system. Now you can debate how it will be paid for; you can debate what will be covered; you can even debate how the status of your citizenship will or will not qualify you. (Oh, and those debates will rage!) But there will be single, federal system.

It will not be like Great Britain’s, because we won’t tolerate waiting in line for ice cream, let alone important medical services. It won’t be like Germany’s, because as the ACA has demonstrated, we don’t have the capacity to follow complicated rules. It won’t be like Canada’s, because everything would be fair and even, and we hate it when there is no clear winner. No, it will be something uniquely American. My guess is that it will be designed by Republicans — probably with vouchers, along the lines of what Paul Ryan has proposed for Medicare. But when a Democratic president implements it, the Republicans will call it socialism and undermine it by naming it “Chelsea-care.”

The one thing I do know is that your employment situation will no longer have anything to do with your health insurance. Why? Our current system is a historical anomaly. After World War II, companies started granting medical insurance to employees to attract workers. It was more cost-effective than raising salaries, and soon the government began to grant tax breaks to support it. It snowballed, and after a generation or two, we came to expect it.

But it has turned out to be grossly inefficient, and nobody really likes it. Take the tax breaks away, and employers will gladly give up having to administer health coverage. Private employers will be especially glad not having to make moral decisions such as whether to provide benefits for gay spouses. We will look back and think, “Wow, that old system was really dumb; I’m so glad we came to our senses.”

Of course if we go ahead and let Emperor Trump come to power, all bets are off.

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Accepting What Is Necessary to Keep Business Profitable

Accepting What Is Necessary to Keep Businesses Profitable

 

Also posted online at MLive.com, July 25, 2015

Years ago, a good friend of mine was planning a party — just a summer get-together with friends and co-workers, a potluck, some volleyball, board games, that sort of thing. He asked me to create an invitation and made the mistake of giving me free rein. It had such a communal feeling, I decided to call it a Communist Party.

Using a newfangled scanner at work, I got images of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, etc. and set about rewriting history. The basic premise was that the original intention of communism was potlucks with friends and workmates, not the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and world domination. But through a series of misunderstandings and poor coordination (e.g., a million Bolsheviks all bringing potato salad to the first Russian shindig), people got angry, turned on each other, and eventually the whole thing spiraled out of control. And so the theme of the party was a return to communal roots. It turned out great! (Only one person brought potato salad.)

So, despite inferred sympathies for UAW workers in the cartoon, that is the only communist party that I have ever been a member of. There. Hope I nipped that comment thread in the bud.

However, if airline travel continues to be the soul-crushing experience it has been these past few years, I might be persuaded to sign on to a Passenger Manifesto. (Airline travelers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your luggage!)

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Cutting Your Way to Success

Cutting Your Way to Success

Also posted online at MLive.com, July 18, 2015

I get it. I have a family budget. I owned my own company for a dozen years. I understand and fully support the truism that there are times when you have to cut back. If not enough money is coming in, something has to give, and reducing spending is a viable and, often, best option. We are on the same page here. Despite what you may think, I am at heart a fiscal conservative.

However, there are also times for planning, for managing, for investing. Continuous cutbacks will not lead to growth. Focusing only on numbers will not lead to innovation. And certainly lopping off important parts will not lead to health.

I didn’t bother labeling anybody in the cartoon on purpose — it’s an allegory for really any entity trying to cut its way to success: government, business, nonprofit, union, whatever. The doctor looks like Sen. Arlan Meekhof because the senator tends to proclaim his love for smaller government (instead of effective government), and I don’t think one always leads to the other. (Plus, Meekhof is fun to draw.) But it could have been Gov. Rick Snyder and the Aramark debacle. Or Tim Leuliette, CEO at Visteon Corp., who managed in less than a year to acquire a healthy and profitable electronics division of Johnson Controls Inc. in Holland and drive it into the ground during an automotive market boom time.

In any case, it’s not the decapitation that is so unsettling; it’s how pleased the decapitator seems to be about it.

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Non-Partisan Re-Districting v Gerrymandering

Non-Partisan Re-Districting v Gerrymandering

Also posted online at MLive.com, July 11, 2015

In the 1984 movie “All of Me,” Steve Martin plays a reluctant lawyer sent by his office to do the bidding of a very rich and very eccentric woman played by Lily Tomlin. The woman is quite sickly and has in fact called the lawyer to finalize her will. But that doesn’t stop her from verbally abusing him. She is snobby and condescending, and finally the lawyer (who hates having to work for snobby and condescending rich people in the first place) blows up, yelling at her:

“Just because my grandfather didn’t rape the environment and exploit the workers doesn’t make me a peasant. And it’s not that he didn’t want to rape the environment and exploit the workers; I’m sure he did. It’s just that as a barber, he didn’t have that much opportunity.”

I love it. It perfectly expresses Democrat posturing on the gerrymandering issue: It’s not that they don’t want to gerrymander like the Republicans — it’s just that they don’t currently have the opportunity. Which is exactly why districts must be redrawn by a nonpartisan commission. Whoever is in power should not be able to use redistricting to enhance their power. This “to the victors belong the spoils” system of tyrants is counter to the checks-and-balances system that our government was founded on.

For Republicans, this should really be a no-brainer. For years they have positioned themselves as the alternative to corrupt Democratic political machines: Boss Tweed’s New York City, Richard Daley’s Chicago, Coleman Young’s Detroit. By continuing to gerrymander and defend its practice, Republicans carry on the legacy of these political machines, consolidating power for party insiders while disenfranchising voters. Sometimes I think we could power Grand Rapids by the electricity generated by Gerald Ford spinning in his grave.

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Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day!

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
July 5, 2015

Also posted online at MLive.com, July 4, 2015

As an editorial cartoonist, it’s hard not to dwell on the negative. There is just so much to be negative about — the continuing saga of our lousy Michigan roads, the complete inability of politicians named Clinton to understand the concept of transparency, pretty much anything Antonin Scalia says or does — it’s a bountiful harvest. But whether an editorial cartoonist or general citizen, the trick is to avoid having the negativity develop into full blown cynicism. Yes, there are some things like the Charleston shootings that are undeniably awful. And there are plenty events and decisions that will set the little Lewis Black character in my head into a rage. (If you haven’t seen the movie Inside Out yet, go now!)

But anger for anger’s sake is a trap and, frankly, un-American. It’s important for me to remember and be grateful for all that is good about living in the United States. That first amendment is pretty sweet, right? Enjoy your Independence Day!

And, yes, that is Ryan Fischer front and center. The most purely patriotic person I’ve ever known, so it was an easy choice.

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Restricting Voting Looks Like…

Restricting Voting Looks Like...

Also posted online at MLive.com, June 27, 2015

I was born in Pennsylvania, but when I was 5 years-old my family moved to South Carolina. In third grade, I was on the playground when I let slip my place of birth. Bodie Upchurch challenged me to a fight …because I was a Yankee. I really didn’t want to fight. First, Bodie was just as skinny as me (if that was possible) but much shorter, so there was nothing to gain. Second, I didn’t think being a Yankee was something to fight over. (Now if he had said that Hot Wheels were better than Matchbox or if he had cheated at playing marbles, those would have been actionable offenses — I was known to enthusiastically throw punches for good reasons like that.)

Bodie tried explaining why we were compelled to hate each other. And then he went the standard route of goading me by questioning my pre-adolescent manhood, but I wouldn’t budge. In the end, he assured me that the next time the North and South went at it, the South would win. He left satisfied he made his point. I took a mental note not to bring up Pennsylvania again during recess.

Today, I like to imagine that if Bodie Upchurch were an elected official in South Carolina, he’d do the right thing and vote to remove the Confederate battle flag from their state house grounds — despite his ideology, despite his pride, despite his middle name being “Lee.” (I don’t know for sure that it was “Lee,” but I found that to be a pretty safe bet.) In a similar way, I’d like to think that Senators Arlan Meekhof and Dave Robertson would do the right thing and stop blocking passage of a bill that would make voting more convenient and inclusive — despite their ideology, despite their pride, despite their middle names being “Manipulate the System to the Benefit of My Political Party.” (Again, I don’t know for sure that it is, but it seems that way.)

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Snyder Loves Budgets

Snyder Loves Budgets

 

Also posted online at MLive.com, June 20, 2015

There was a pop song a few years ago called “Love Me Dead” by a group called Ludo. It has nothing to do with Governor Snyder or Michigan politics or the legislative process (other than I guess it being about dysfunctional relationships), but it has a lyric that goes: “You’re an office park without any trees.”  And that actually was my starting point for today’s cartoon. Reflecting on Governor Snyder’s past couple of weeks, he seemed to have all the human warmth of an office park without any trees. More “one tough nerd” and not so much “relentless positive action.”

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