Other Work on the River of Opportunity

Other Work on the River of Opportunity

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
January 25, 2015

In Governor Snyder’s State of the State address, he spoke of a metaphorical “River of Opportunity” and his plans to widen it to include more of Michigan’s struggling residents. Good idea. I tried to help him out with a few more.

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The NRA’s Only Solution

The NRA's Only Solution

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
January 18, 2015

So here’s the point: When I was growing up, I had many friends and neighbors who were members of the National Rifle Association (NRA). It was an organization focused on promoting safe gun use to hunters, collectors, and general enthusiasts. The NRA provided practical services to those with a genuine interest and use for their weapons.

Today, the NRA’s primary focus has clearly morphed into promoting gun sales. Sure, there is still the stuff about gun safety, but its enormous power and influence, its lobbyists and lawyers did not come from gun safety. It has grown from pushing gun sales to new markets. As the number of hunters and outdoorsman has waned, sales have skyrocketed to urban and suburban dwellers, many of whom don’t necessarily like or need guns but feel compelled (usually by fear) to buy them.

The NRA has been so successful that sometimes it gets blinded by its own ideology. Such is the case with a recent bill (SB 789) passed by the Michigan legislature during the lame duck session in December. The purpose of the bill is to reorganize how concealed weapon licenses are issued in Michigan counties. Mostly it is about changing the arbiter from a gun board to the state police. But slipped into the bill was an important change: Currently anybody that has a personal protection order (PPO) against them cannot be issued a concealed weapon license. The bill would have changed that and made it much more complicated. On Friday, Governor Snyder vetoed it citing the risk to domestic violence victims.

If it remains important to the NRA that a handful of people with questionable PPOs are allowed concealed weapons, then they can get a legislator to write a specific bill and try to pass it on its own merit. But I don’t think it does, and that’s why they tried to slip it into a bill that actually did have merit.

Just to be clear: My issue is not with the constitution and the 2nd amendment. My issue is not with gun ownership and our rights as Americans. My issue is not even with guns themselves. My issue, in this cartoon, is with what the NRA has become.

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Je Suis Charlie

Je Suis Charlie

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
January 11, 2015

Last week I had a kind of a lighthearted idea cued up about the latest improbable loss by the Detroit Lions. It was filled with words like “tragedy” and “devastating” and fans who were going to be bitter and disappointed all winter long. (I know this because I have been married to one of these fans for 27 years.) Then after the Charlie Hebdo attack in France, I wasn’t feeling so lighthearted.

I am well aware that on any given day it is not unusual for a dozen or so people to be murdered in the name of extremist ideology. So it seems slightly disingenuous that I should react to this particular instance just because there were four cartoonists among the dead. Still, it did make it personal because these men were killed for doing something that I do, too. It is understood to be part of the gig. Some people don’t understand parody and satire. Some people don’t like opposing views. Some people are so shallow in their own beliefs, striking others is their only defense. Some people have no sense of humor. And these people can hurt you.

I am fortunate; nobody has ever threatened to kill me. I have been threatened with many flavors of physical assault (mostly as a means to help me “learn my lesson”). I have been assured of the certainty of my damned soul. Often I have had the legitimacy of my heritage called into question. Some seemed convinced that I’m hopelessly stupid and then offer sage advice. (But truly, if my head ever did manage to somehow become lodged inside my own rectum, I don’t think I would need to be told to remove it.) But mostly it is just name calling and fist shaking.

The very purpose of an editorial cartoon is to cause a reaction, and so by definition they are volatile. Sometimes the reaction is just a laugh. The better ones inspire hope, challenge positions, poke at beliefs, cause people to think. Occasionally they step over a line, are in bad taste, or are simply wrong. That can happen. But nobody ever should have to die for that. So when I say, “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie), I am not saying I am as good as these cartoonists or as brave. I am saying that I stand with them and forever will be inspired by them.

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Michigan’s Unhealthy Obsessions

Michigan's Unhealthy Obsessions

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
January 4, 2015

The Bruce Springsteen song “Glory Days” is a melancholy story about a group of people whose quality of life basically peeked in high school and has been sliding downward since. They all seem fully aware how pathetic it is to be so relentlessly nostalgic, but better that than face a joyless future. Of course it is a catchy, upbeat song so most listeners hear it as a celebration of glory days and sing along just like the sad people in the story. Maybe that’s how Bruce intended it — his little joke.

And so University of Michigan football fans sing along with the hiring of new coach Jim Harbaugh. I wish them well. But I really, really hope the enthusiasm is more about building a new competitive and honorable program, and not about trying to recapture the Bo Schembechler glory days. Nothing more annoying than wistful U of M fans. Have you ever seen “The Big Chill”?

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Fear Not Good Yet Simple Voters!

Fear Not Good Yet Simple Voters!

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
December 28, 2014

After four plus years of “fixing our roads” as a lawmaking priority, the Michigan legislature and the governor still managed to punt on the funding bit — there will be a ballot vote come May to decide whether to raise the sales tax. Don’t we elect them (and pay them) to make tough, informed decisions? Weak, weak sauce…

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That’s What Christmas Is All About, Charlie Brown.

That's What Christmas Is All About, Charlie Brown.

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
December 21, 2014

As the story goes, a producer had sold a Christmas special to the Coca-Cola company without actually having the Christmas special. So the producer, Lee Mendelson, called his friend Charles Schultz and said, “Good news. We’re going to create a Christmas special in less than 6 months.” Luckily they had an experienced animator, Bill Melendez, and Charles Schultz was a genius. Starting from scratch and against all odds they put together a quirky, introspective, sometimes dark cartoon with real children’s voices and jazz music and no laugh track and (at Schultz’s insistence) a bible verse. When it was complete and screened for executives, they knew it was going to be …a horrible flop. But it was too late. It was already scheduled in the TV Guide, so it had to run. As it turned out, people absolutely loved it and have every Christmas season since 1966.

It is wonderful from start to finish. And every year of my childhood when it aired I strained to remember each frame, each note, each Dolly Madison commercial in between. But the lynchpin to the whole show is Linus saying “Lights please” and then reciting Luke, chapter 2, verses 8 to 14.

“8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
12And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.”

It is quite literally what Christmas is all about. That’s what Linus tells Charlie Brown. And in that context the show moves on to play out an example of joy of redemption. Perfect.

This month — as it does many places every year — a kerfuffle regarding a nativity scene on public property played out in our state capital. This time state Senator Rick Jones played the part of the put-upon keeper of all that is holy. My thoughts went to, “What if Rick Jones had been the producer of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’?” Thank God he wasn’t. (Actually, I don’t think it would have gone that far — I’m sure Schultz would have taken care of it.)

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Excuse Me, Mr Republican Party…

Excuse Me, Mr Republican Party...

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
December 14, 2014

Okay, two things I resent: being categorized and being dismissed. It’s like when you have a slightly non-standard issue with, say, the cable company. You contact them and in a calm, well-mannered tone present a thorough yet concise summary of your case. They immediately tag you as a troublemaker and send you into an inescapable phone-tree pit with actual troublemakers. “But… but I had a legitimate question!” Too bad for you.

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Lame Duck Outrages

Lame Duck Outrages

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
December 7, 2014

So there was this idea that the Michigan legislature could expand the state’s anti-discrimination to include protections for gay residents, and maybe even the transgender community — straightforward stuff that is already there for race and gender (like you can’t get fired from your job because of your sexual orientation). Politics being what they are, the best chance for doing the right thing is now while the Michigan legislature is in a lame duck session, so some politicians who would never want to be seen as siding with the LGBT community could vote for it. Well, it is not likely to happen. Or even get out of committee. The most hypocritical thing here (and there is lots to choose from) is being against lame duck legislation if you don’t like it, but a happy shrug if you do. Two years ago, the law making Michigan a right-to-work state passed in a lame duck session. What’s a more basic right to work than not to get fired indiscriminately?

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Long Live the Kings!

Long Live the Kings!

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
November 30, 2014

What you see here is not an editorial cartoon. I just basically illustrated a news story. It looks kind of editorial-ish because it is topical and there is a bit of cross-hatching. For the cartoons I do, it does have the necessary Michigan-spin. Those five bottles represent some of the best Michigan craft brewers. Maybe a grateful brewer will send me some free samples. (Hint. Hint.) I’m guessing there’s a law against that. Probably for good reason. It would only encourage me.

I had an early deadline last week because of Thanksgiving, so I needed to have my cartoon sent in on Tuesday. Monday night the Ferguson case blew up (literally and figuratively) and that really sucked the oxygen out of every other topic I was considering. I was going to make a tenuous Michigan connection by comparing Detroit 1967 to Ferguson 2014, but in the end I couldn’t simplify so much complexity and emotion in a single cartoon. Plus by the time it would be printed on Sunday, I had no feel for where this whole thing was going to go. So with a deadline looming I defaulted to beer. Not proud but intending for better moving forward. (Hey, that last sentence is a decent summary of America’s racial history, huh?)

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Welcome to the Michigan Legislature Hotline

Welcome to the Michigan Legislature Hotline

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
November 23, 2014

Because if there is one thing that unites us — whether doing battle with a private business like the cable company, or a government agency like the unemployment office, or something in between like an insurance company — we all detest having to climb the phone tree.

And also, someday it would be nice if our roads in Michigan weren’t so crappy.

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