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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Where Does Your Hard-Earned Tax Money Go?

Where Does Your Hard-Earned Tax Money Go?

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 16, 2014

I think the big winner in the 2014 election turned out to be the cranks. The what? The cranks. You know, folks who say it’s all going to hell, that people are awful, government is hopeless, life used to be much better. Now it’s all ruined. What’s the use? Throw the bums out. If I were in charge, I’d <insert something over-simplified and vaguely racist>. That sort of thing. A crank.

I’m not saying cranks can’t be right. And I can’t say they don’t deserve to be heard. (Obviously they voted.) I’m just saying that it’s okay to poke a little fun at them. And point out that indignation is not always righteous. I will offer my own rabbit tracks down various Wikipedia trails as evidence that all the money taken from me in taxes was not necessarily hard-earned. So for all the cranks who have been and will be online shopping at work, let’s check ourselves with all that “hard-earned” talk.

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Very Cool! …But What’s the Plan?

Very Cool! ...But What's the Plan?

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 9, 2014

My daughter Ellie got me a humongous book of New Yorker cartoons a couple of weeks ago at a library book sale for $1. (So let’s review that quickly: cartoons, book sale, library, one dollar — I am so pleased with the way that kid has turned out!) I have been reading the book and after I conjured up this week’s cartoon, I realized its style was somewhat influenced from my reading. So when I got to the point of coloring it, I decided to try that watercolor wash that many (especially older) New Yorker cartoons have. I had bought some Photoshop watercolor brush plugins a year or two ago, and it always feels good to at least try to use the stuff you bought. And here it is. It’s obvious to me that I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, but I do like the effect.

As for the cartoon itself, yeah, it’s not entirely fair. But as I think I mentioned before, editorial cartoons don’t have to be fair. In fact, it’s better if they aren’t. My point: the GOP may have some actual arrows in their quiver, but as far as health care goes, myself and the rest of the voters are going to be very interested to see whether they have an actual plan. It does not bode well for them when Ted Cruz tells us that “net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet.” Ted, baby, your team won! You can’t continue calling everything you don’t like “Obamacare.” So …what’s the actual plan?

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…And That Is How We Choose Our Michigan Supreme Court

...And That Is How We Choose Our Michigan Supreme Court

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 2, 2014

Look, I want you to vote. I definitely want you to vote. And it would be best if all of us Michiganders did all of our research before we do vote. But if you didn’t have the time to figure out which, say, supreme court justices that you support (and you are, like me, a bit mystified as to why you need to be voting on this anyway), I’d suggest leaving that part of the ballot blank. At the very least, don’t use any of the methods illustrated in the comic to make your decision. And I will do the same. Thanks. Now go vote!

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I’ve Got My Eye on That Tesla, Mister!

I've Got My Eye on That Tesla, Mister!

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
October 26, 2014

I was hoping for something a little bit more. Not expecting. Hoping. The backstory: Gov. Rick Snyder signs ‘anti-Tesla’ bill into law

Basically this is a law that was already a law in Michigan: Autos have to be sold through dealerships. You can debate the merits of that — it seems anti-competitive, but there are some compelling reasons for consumer protection. This new law reiterates that and then has some extra stuff slipped in, seemingly designed to make life difficult for new competitors in the market, such as Tesla the electric carmaker. The startling thing is that it passed through the legislature with only one vote against it. Even non-binding resolutions for, say, “support our troops” or “puppies are cute” tend to have more than one No vote.

So Governor Snyder had an excellent opportunity to distinguish himself as the true independent, business-first capitalist that he says he is and veto it. Instead he signed it saying basically “it doesn’t change existing law and the legislature really liked it.” Nothing about meeting a real need or solving a necessary issue. I don’t blame Snyder. He is a couple weeks away from a closer-than-expected election, and politically he did the safe thing. Again, wasn’t expecting more. Was just hoping.

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Hoping for Gaffes

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
October 19, 2014

Back in May, Republican nominee Terri Lynn Land basically face-planted on the first hurdle of the Senate race. She has not gotten a whole lot better since then. It made me wonder what other face-plants might look like:

  • Gary Peters is the Democratic nominee for Senate. He has run a pretty smooth campaign, including a jovial spot where he cites a pair of his shoes with holes in the soles as an example of his fiscal frugalness. But what if he let slip a secret every tea-party conservative suspects to live in his coal-black heart?
  • Rick Snyder is the current governor and prides himself on relentless positivity. He has shown a few cracks of irritability here and there, but I’d like to know what a complete breakdown would look like.
  • Mark Schauer is the Democratic challenger for governor. As a challenger, his job is to spin the record of the current governor as negatively as possible. And he has, including equating a pension tax as evidence that Rick Snyder has it in for senior citizens. Schauer has been very consistent about that. But one goof up and people might stop believing.

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Did I Say Asian Carp?…

Did I Say Asian Carp?...

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
October 12, 2014

The merging of two stories here. First, the ongoing efforts from Michiganders, such as our state Department of Natural Resources, to sound the alarm about Asian carp. As the comic says, they are an invasive species that could massively alter the fisheries of the Great Lakes. For years now many in Michigan (and especially the Department of Natural Resources) has been sounding the alarm about the potentially devastating effects these fish could have on recreational and commercial fishing, not to mention the vast environmental impact. And it’s a real threat because the Mississippi River system, which is linked to the Great Lakes via canals, has already been totally compromised. Despite this not much has been done.

The second is the hysterical cable news stories about ISIS and ebola and the willingness to devote massive amounts of money and attention to prevent these invasions. Of course these are real issues, but perspective… we seemed to have lost all perspective. The Daily Show actually did a pretty good send up of this that’s worth a watch: A Million Ways to Die in the U.S.

By the way, that’s Ed Golder behind the podium there. He was my editor at the Grand Rapids Press for many years, and he transitioned to PR Director at the DNR. He’s a really good guy. He would never scare people to try to get them to do the right thing, so I am glad to do this for him.

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Only Thing I Can Tell from Negative Ads

Only Thing I Can Tell from Negative Ads

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
October 5, 2014

It’s best not to watch campaign ads at all. But if you have to, the mute button helps. It helps to bring out the comedy, especially in the negative ads. I imagine a room full of political operatives pouring over thousands of sepia-toned, slightly out-of-focus, sour-faced pictures of their opponents trying to find the one with just the right amount of unappealing. Apparently they do a good job because that’s the one they end up with.

In Michigan, Gary Peters is running against Terri Lynn Land for a US Senate seat that Carl Levin is retiring from. That makes it an “open” seat, and some significant money has been spent on both sides. Pretty typical stuff. The twist here is that Peters is polling ahead of Land, but it is Peters who has been begging for a formal debate. Typically the underdog wants the debate — nothing to lose. But in this case, Land has avoided it. She may change her mind at the last minute (again, nothing to lose). Or maybe she’s still hoping to find that magical photo of Peters that makes him look like he pooped his pants. God help us if that actually works.

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Liberal or Conservative? Keeping My Options Open

Liberal or Conservative? Keeping My Options Open

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

When people ask me whether I’m liberal or conservative, I say neither because I like to keep my options open. It’s not that I can’t make commitments — I did the rough sketch for this cartoon with a pencil I bought at the Michigan Tech bookstore 30+ years ago. How’s that for commitment! No, it’s more that I don’t want to wear a label that others define (then violate).

What I’m saying in the cartoon I believe to be absolutely true: in general, those who identify themselves as liberals tend to want to be so fair about everything that it can create a mess. At a certain point, legislators need to consider whether the laws they propose are actually functional. Conservatives, in general, have great disdain for this. Until, of course, they see a very specific fairness they want to legislate. Case in point, Michigan Speaker of the House Jase Bolger floating the idea of paring a gay right amendment with a “religious freedom” act. Uh-huh. That wouldn’t open a Pandora’s Box of differing interpretations, counter laws, and lawsuits.

So, yeah. Keeping my options open…

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At Campaign Headquarters All Over Michigan

At Campaign Headquarters All Over Michigan

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

Of course this was much more topical when it ran on Sunday. Now the fact that the Tigers have been shutout two games in a row is more of the stress point.

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