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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Alice’s Adventures in Michiganland

Editorial Cartoon

Also posted online at MLive.com, June 13, 2015

Last week I poked fun at old farts who complain about the current state of the world. Well, here’s my old fart complaint: Hardly anybody reads the classics anymore. Time was when an editorial cartoonist could use a classic literature reference (Aesop, Shakespeare, Swift, Dickens, Austin, Twain, Hugo, Poe, etc.) and be reasonably sure that the general public would understand. Nowadays, not so much, what with these kids and their self-esteem and video games and tattoos and that darn hippity hop music and… (um, you know how the rant goes from here).

So I was somewhat hesitant to use Alice in Wonderland. True, the Disney animated feature and the recent Tim Burton film have helped keep Alice in Wonderland in the public consciousness. But to truly appreciate the divine craziness, you need to read Lewis Carroll’s actual stories. Alice trying in vain to make sense of the Mad Hatter and March Hare’s tea party — what could be a better metaphor for Lansing politics and the utter delusional madness of the House Republican bill to fix our roads?

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The World Is Going to Hell …or Not

Editorial Cartoon -- MLive Media Group

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
June 7, 2015

Also posted online at MLive.com, June 6, 2015

When I graduated from Michigan Tech, the special speaker at the ceremony was an executive from Intel Corporation. He prattled on for his allotted 30 minutes about the current state of the microchip business, how there was once great promise, but now the Japanese competition was eating their lunch. (This to a group of young engineers predominantly from southeast Michigan who were intimately familiar with Japanese competition eating lunches.) There was nothing inspiring about it. The take-away message for me as a graduate was “the world used to be better, but now it pretty much sucks — alas for you.” Worst. Commencement. Address. Ever.

Maybe that’s why it’s a pet peeve of mine when some (generally older) person goes off on an “everything is going to hell” rant. First, it’s not helpful. Second, it’s not true. Yes, there may be some things today that are undeniably worse (quality of journalism). But you can’t just cherry pick because some things that are undeniably better (beer choices).

Mostly I believe it to be a case of the world evolving and having to deal with new variations of the same human challenges.

So give the youth a break. Try to share perspective, not opinion. (As it turns out, the mid-80s were a minor low point in the life of Intel, and the company went on to tremendous success.) Because there really is nothing more insufferable than an older person (especially a baby boomer) going on about how their music was so much better than yours.

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Beware This Union Brute

Beware This Union Brute

Also posted online at MLive.com, May 30 2015

The summer between my junior and senior years in college, I was a second shift supervisor at a GM foundry in Saginaw. A large part of my job involved finding Smiley. I don’t remember his real name. (Smiley was one of those ironic nicknames; his facial expression was pretty much non-existent.) He was old, like everybody else I supervised you know, over 30. He had thick, tear-drop glasses perched over a bushy, fu manchu mustache and stringy hair that straggled out from under a hard-hat liner (as was the foundry style, which made workers look like mutant World War I fighter pilots). Smiley struck me as a rejected Doobie Brother.

At the beginning of a shift, Smiley would punch in and then typically disappear. To be honest, if I didn’t need Smiley I wouldn’t necessarily look for him. After I set up my lines in the finishing department (it didn’t take long; the workers knew much more than I did), I’d go off to find bins of important castings that the first-shift supervisor had hidden from me (so his production numbers would look better than mine that’s another story.)

The finishing department was at the end of the foundry where the castings were heat treated, cleaned and shipped. It was a huge warren of aisles and machinery populated by randomly stacked bins filled with assortments of metal castings. It was a great place to hide. So usually it was only by chance that I’d find Smiley behind a door, crouched in a dark corner, whatever. I’d send him back to his job, and he’d dutifully work the rest of the shift. That’s how the game was played. Nothing I could do to change the rules; the union protected him.

All that to say, 30 or 40 years ago, I would agree: It was appropriate to be wary of a system that allowed a 35 year-old man to get paid a living wage to play hide and seek. But today, the foundry is long gone, and there are a lot less Smileys, and also a lot, lot less living wage jobs. For issues like prevailing wage laws, the same drumbeat to crush organized labor seems disproportionate and counterproductive. It’s 2015 and time to refocus on laws that are going to help Michigan on the whole.

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Hello, Michergrainians!

Hello, Michergrainians!

Editorial Cartoon

Also posted online at MLive.com, May 23 2015

Disclaimer: This one is a little bit unfair. (Well… all editorial cartoons are at least a little bit unfair.) And yet, I would like to state for the record: I believe Democratic candidates for president to have equal capacity in their cluelessness of all things Michigan. But at this point there are just so many more GOP candidates, and they have already started visiting. Plus Mitt Romney pretty much tarnished their brand during the last cycle. Despite having Michigan roots, Mr. Romney was spectacularly clueless. (Hint for current candidates: Don’t lecture us on the academic virtues of private market bankruptcies; turns out we don’t like that much.)

Say what you will about Barack Obama (as if you need prompting), but as a candidate he was pretty good at talking on themes important to Michiganders (say, the benefits of a healthy manufacturing base) without trying to relate to us as our best buddy. I found his steadfast allegiance to his Chicago sports teams to be admirable, even as I despised the Bulls.

So who knows? Maybe somebody will break out of the pack and neither pander nor insult us. But I fully expect a summer of cringe-worthy quotes from the GOP candidates and from Ms. Clinton (assuming a challenger makes it worth her while to stop by). And that would be okay. As true Michiganders know — anything that makes summer last longer is a positive.

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