Eventually He’ll Realize He Did the Same Thing to You

Eventually He'll Realize He Did the Same Thing to You

This week the US Supreme Court heard cases involving the firing of gay and transgender people from their jobs. The defendants claimed they lost their jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identification and that this constitutes sexual discrimination. The prosecution argued that sex means strictly whether you’re a male or female, not whether you’re gay or straight. 

The transgender woman, Aimee Stephens, is from Michigan — she worked for six years as a funeral home director, but was let go two weeks after telling her boss she was transgender and would be dressing as a woman.

NPR had excellent coverage of the trial, and I would encourage you to read it if you want to know details. But the particular part that struck me was the focus on the 1964 Civil Rights Act and its Title VII, which addresses employment discrimination based on sex: Justice Samuel Alito noted that Congress in 1964 didn’t have gay and transgender employees in mind at all. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg chimed in that sexual harassment was not even a legal concept in 1964, and yet the court decades ago found it to be prohibited conduct under the 1964 law.

It’s both fascinating and agonizing to see the legal gymnastics performed in the decision-making process. It may seem very obvious to us what the right thing to do is. But there has to be justification. The case has to be built and tested if that “right thing” will eventually stand. 

And that’s just to get it right legally. Putting it into practice is even more difficult. Remember the lyric for the Bruce Hornsby song?

Well, they passed a law in ’64
To give those who ain’t got a little more
But it only goes so far
Because the law don’t change another’s mind
When all it sees at the hiring time
Is the line on the color bar, no
That’s just the way it is


Blatant Executive Overreach

Blatant Executive Overreach

This is a good example of an editorial cartoon that many will see as unfair. When Governor Whitmer used an extraordinary number of line-item vetoes to attempt to force the Republican-dominated legislation back into negotiations on the budget, there were hypocrisies all around. Democrat leadership has been madly spinning stories one way and Republicans the other. I could have picked on either party. But for the purposes of making the most pointed cartoon, only one party has a member who is the President actively undermining his oath of office, and the other party does not. At least for now.

But you should really never expect even-handedness from any editorial cartoonist. That is not our job and, frankly, being impartial can only lead to milquetoast cartoons. I only draw one cartoon a week, and even though I declare no allegiance to any particular side, readers have their own thoughts about that (as well they should.)

The solution? You should be reading more editorial cartoons! Get a variety from several cartoonists. There are plenty of places to find more, but if you’re looking for convenience, there is a new email newsletter called Counterpoint. You can sign up to get several of the very best sent to your inbox a couple times a week. And it purposely designed to provide a mix of political leanings and ideologies.


The GM Strike? Is That Still a Thing?

The GM Strike? Is That Still a Thing?
Editorial Cartoon — Michigan Radio

I can think of no better example that demonstrates the acceleration of our world than the current UAW strike of GM. If you could time travel back 20, 30, 40 years and tell a fellow Michigander, “Yeah, the UAW is striking GM, and it’s barely in the top ten of things that people are talking about,” they’d just look at you and say, “Well you ain’t talking about Michigan.” 

Yes, of course, those pre-Great Recession times were very different. The auto industry was much more dominant. The roles of labor and management were much more defined. It was truly central to our midwest industrial lives. But mostly there was arguably just much less going on. We are so filled up now, constantly, that there is no time to pause and consider. There is barely enough time to catch the next bit of news that flashes across our individual screens. 

It’s a shame, too, because there is a lot to consider with this strike. Do we value a living wage? Do we desire fair working conditions? Do we care about the viability of the auto industry? And what’s the best way to work it out? Unfortunately the sheer volume of information coming at us through the firehose dilutes it all.

I’m going the annual convention for the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists this weekend and expect 68% of the kvetching will be about exactly this: How can we possibly keep up? (The remaining balance will be about how stupid newspapers are and the price of beer in the current bar we are in.) 


Ruining a Perfectly Good Late Summer Weekend

Ruining a Perfectly Good Late Summer Weekend

Oftentimes, yes, the cartoon idea that wins and gets drawn is the one that is the most fun to draw. And that partially explains why I decided on the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference as a topic over a looming state government shutdown and the GM/UAW strike. (C’mon now. Sanders, Pence, DeVos. These are faces made for caricature!)

But the other part is why the mere sight of these three would ruin my perfect Michigan fall day. As Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders took the job from “White House messaging advocate” to “propaganda minister” by steadfastly standing behind demonstrable lies and attacking those who questioned them. As Vice President, Mike Pence continues to be the very definition of sycophant and a self-styled moral leader for a decidedly immoral administration. And Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is not only actively hostile toward public education, but seems incurious about her job and education as a whole.

That all said, I do think it’s important to acknowledge that these three are certainly not the only disdainful people in politics, and maybe you’re happy with them because they are getting you what you want. Still, make all the “what-about” comparisons and “the-end-justifies-the-means” arguments you want — what remains are three terrible public servants.


The Long Term Plan for Michigan Roads

The Long Term Plan for Michigan Roads

If you’ve been following along with the ongoing battle between Governor Whitmer and the state legislature over road funding, you may forgive me for taking the easy way out for this week’s cartoon. The whole process has just been so volatile! It’s gone from “critical to resolve now” to “it’s fine to talk about it later.” From “we’re very close to a workable resolution” to “we are not even in the same time zone on this.” From “they are all a bunch of stupid stupid-heads!” to “I know you are, but what am I?”

I really had no idea what the status will be when this is published, so I defaulted to a generic politician who accidentally tells the truth (he doesn’t really care) — it may be an unfair exaggeration, but at least it’s stable.

But to be honest, my biggest issue isn’t with the politicians themselves but with their handlers. The advisors, the managers, the consultants, the pollsters, the party apparatchiks. I have this sense that maybe, maybe if the governor and the legislative leaders could meet without their handlers, they could actually come up with a compromise solution. And that solution could be communicated directly without being filtered, packaged, sanitized, and spun.

I know. I know. If I believe that could happen, I might as well believe that our roads will magically fix themselves.


Mixed Feelings About Banning E-Cigarette Candy Flavors

Mixed Feelings About Banning E-Cigarette Candy Flavors

One of my favorite bits from the musical Hamilton has Alexander Hamilton entering George Washington’s office:

Hamilton: Mr. President, you asked to see me?

Washington: I know you’re busy.

Hamilton: What do you need, sir? Sir?

Washington: I wanna give you a word of warning.

Hamilton: Sir, I don’t know what you heard. But whatever it is, Jefferson started it.

Perfect. His first instinct is to be petty and partisan. Just like us modern day Americans! But while we tend to over-idealize the Founding Fathers, I do think there are instances where they would be rightfully disappointed in us.

The sorry state of our legislative branches, for example. Both at the state and federal levels, the legislative branch was designed to be the deliberative body where elected representatives hashed out the tough issues of the day — the place where decision were made. Now legislative branches have become the place where ideas go to die and discussions are avoided. So they are increasingly bypassed.

This week Governor Whitmer made a sideways maneuver to ban certain e-cigarette flavors in an effort to prevent children from becoming hooked on nicotine through vaping. It’s an honorable goal, but ideally it would have been handled through the standard legislative process. The excuse: That would be too difficult. That is not a good excuse. But it is, unfortunately, plausible.

It gets worse because the dysfunction of the modern day congress leads not only to what gets done by these end-arounds, but to what does not get done — such as laws, programs, and public health initiatives to deal with our gun violence epidemic.

The quiet, contemplative time provided by active shooter drills should not be where decisions are made.


Voter/Legislator Dysfunction

Voter/Legislator Dysfunction

Several years ago I was working for a software company that got bought by a larger software company. They wanted me to relocate. My wife and I didn’t and so they bought me out of the rest of my contract — about half a year’s pay. It was a lot of money as a lump sum in a single check!

However, when it comes in one check, the tax system assumes you get paid that kind of crazy money all the time, so it withholds a bunch of it in a higher tax bracket. It’s kind of an emotional shocker, even if you do intellectually know a lot of it will come back after you file your tax return for that year. Still, staring there at a number that was nearly half of what was actually paid to me, I was crestfallen. I said to my wife, “I’ve never felt so Republican in all my life.”

For months now Governor Whitmer and the state legislature have been doing this awkward dance around setting the state budget for the next fiscal year. Promises have been made to improve our roads, our schools, our water, but now comes the hard part of how to pay for it. And I think we voters must accept part of the blame for why it is so hard. Because at some point taxes will come due and whether we are rich, working class, or poor, if the number on our paycheck is smaller than before, we’re gonna have an emotional reaction. And there is nothing a legislator is more fearful of than getting the blame for that reaction.

Not that I’m in any way letting politicians of any stripe off the hook. They ran for the job, they get paid for the job, they should do the job right. I’m just noting that the voter/legislator relationship is, well, often dysfunctional. What’s the old joke? Our form government has to be the worst form of government…except for all the other forms of government.


Reckless, Irresponsible, and Dangerous

Look, I understand the draw of the “slippery slope” argument. It is both sneaky and effective. Which is why as a parent I used it all the time when my kids were younger.

“Dad, can we have a snack?”

“No, you may not have a snack.”


“First it’s a few peanut butter crackers, next it’s cake, then it’s deep fried Snickers bars. Soon your only focus is your next snack, you drop out of school, your friends do too, and it all eventually leads right up to the decline and fall of Western civilization.”

See how it works? You blow right past the immediate request (which may in fact have some merit) and bury it with speculation and hyperbole, pointing the debate to the worst possible (and not very likely) outcome. You avoid having to mention any real reason, which in the case of snacks was generally that I wasn’t hungry, so why should they be hungry? (Similar logic to why your Mom would make you put on a jacket when she was cold.)

Recently Gov. Whitmer indicated her willingness to consider providing undocumented immigrants with special drivers licenses. The idea would be to would help Michigan’s economy by making it easier for them work and pay taxes. I don’t know. I’m certainly not sold on the idea. But then I was put off by some Republican legislators who went right to the slippery slope argument: “Provide special drivers licenses today and soon they will all be citizens and making us eat strange food and and it all eventually leads right up to the decline and fall of Western civilization.”

There are real reasons to oppose it. Let’s hear ’em. We all know how the slippery slope argument has been used time and time again to bypass sensible gun safety measures, and that’s worked out just super terrific.


What You Do Not Do for One of These Least…

What You Do Not Do for One of These Least...
Editorial Cartoon — Michigan Radio

I’m sure you are well aware of the terrible things happening in the world recently — mass shootings, violent protests, family separations, economic slowdowns — the list (unfortunately) goes on. It can be difficult to get through a day carrying all these around with you. I try to be aware of what’s going on, but keep some healthy distance so I’m not wrecked.

But the one story that did get to me was the deportation and subsequent death of Jimmy Al-Daoud. Michigan Radio and the Detroit Free Press have full stories, but to summarize briefly: 

In the 1970s Mr. Al-Daoud came to the United States as a baby with his Iraqi Chaldean family to escape religious persecution. He grew up in Michigan. Mr. Al-Daoud suffered from mental illness and eventually diabetes. He had a criminal record, mostly petty theft, but with some more serious charges, which involved disputes with his father. Because of these criminal convictions he was deported on June 2nd by ICE to Iraq. Mr. Al-Daoud was scared, alone, and sick. He received some help from other deportees but was soon found dead, likely a consequence of his diabetes but no one knows for sure. The Chaldean Community Foundation is covering the cost of returning his body to the United States for a proper burial next to his mother.

How can you know that happened and not be wrecked?


Patterson and Young Together Again…Forever?

It’s a classic editorial cartooning trope — drawing a recently deceased famous person at heaven’s gate. It’s been overdone and often mishandled. For instance, when Steve Jobs died a few years ago there were all sorts of cartoons of him at heaven’s gate making witty remarks to St. Peter about having an app for getting in. The thing is, Jobs was a Buddhist, which involves neither St. Peter nor heaven. And for those who knew Jobs personally, heaven was not his likely destination.

So my unique angle on this: L Brooks Patterson is not quite to heaven’s gate but in purgatory. For non-Catholics out there, purgatory is the concept that after death a soul not pure enough to enter heaven needs to be cleansed first. And this place or state of being is where that happens. Going further into description here only invites a theological debate I have no intentions of participating in. Suffice to say, the purpose of purgatory (if it in fact exists) is atonement.

This all seems like a plausible eventuality for Patterson. His obit was a laundry list of good and bad. The additional Twilight-Zone twist is him having to be there with his arch-nemesis in life, Coleman Young. Like Brooks, supporters and detractors have very specific feelings about Young. But I think it’s fair to say that their battles of Oakland County vs. Detroit may have served their specific interests well, but did more harm than good to the region as a whole.

Still, I’m not trying to be too judgmental here. Because another good Twilight-Zone twist would be for my soul to end up in purgatory with all the other cartoonists who relied too heavily on heaven’s gate cartoons. (Or maybe just straight to hell.)


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