Archive for Editorial Cartoon

That Michael Ducarcass

That Michael Ducarcass

In our early years as a couple, my wife and I used to make a yearly visit to Pennsylvania to visit relatives — grandparents, great aunts and uncles. On one such visit in the fall of 1988, a post-dinner conversation turned to politics. Among the Sanka and Jell-O 3-2-1 Jello, opinions were expressed about the presidential candidates.

One of my aunts said, “I don’t like that Michael Ducarcass.” (His name, of course, is “Dukakis” but in a combination of her Pennsylvania Dutch accent and unfamiliarity with Greek names, it came out “Do-carcass.”) Why, I asked. “Because I don’t trust him after he dumped all that garbage into Boston Harbor.” That may sound like a non-sequitur now, but back then there was a TV attack ad very heavily implying that Michael Dukakis had, as Governor of Massachusetts, personally poured massive amounts of trash into Boston Harbor. It seemed kind of laughable. But it worked. And since that day, “That Michael Ducarcass” has been shorthand in our family for, “This attack ad is riddled with lies, but it’s probably gonna be effective.”

‘Tis the season for negative ads. Well, in truth they are never quite out of season. But late October, they are ubiquitous (the pumpkin-spice of advertisement flavors). And I’m fine with one candidate calling out another candidate’s shortcomings. (Especially if the funding source of the ad is transparent.) But when the negative get weaponized with lies and turns into an attack, that’s we should focus more on what we need, not what we fear.

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What Schuette Says (And What Schuette Says to His Base)

What Schuette Says (And What Schuette Says to His Base)

I was inspired this week by a movie that came out a couple years ago called Office Christmas Party. (No judgments! It was not what you would call critically acclaimed, but I will freely admit that I enjoyed it very much. More than once. …okay, go ahead and judge me.)

In the movie, a local branch of a tech company is planning an office Christmas party (or “non-denominational holiday mixer” as the HR rep calls it). Clay, the good-hearted slacker who is in charge of the branch wants to have the party. His corporate boss, Carol, is very much against it. The plans for the party come up accidentally during a meeting, and Clay tries to downplay it, but Carol is clear that she thinks it’s a waste of money and is cancelled. Clay assures Carol that, yes, it is cancelled, but immediately winks to his colleagues and mouths “it’s not.” Carol calls him out, and Clay again agrees that there will be no party, but then glances to his co-workers and indicates that the party is definitely on. Carol becomes more agitated, “Hey idiot, I’m looking right at you!” And it kind of goes on like that for a bit.

It’s funny in the movie because Clay is the protagonist who is looking out for his people and ultimately trying to save their jobs. Carol is the cold, uncaring corporate exec looking out only for herself. It is exaggerated and ridiculous.

It’s not so funny when it’s a gubernatorial candidate looking to attract moderate and independent votes. And even less so when it’s the President. (You can pick from the hundreds of examples, but one of the latest was that medicare-for-all op-ed he submitted to USA Today this week.)

I don’t know if there is a proper name for this particular technique. It could be classified as gaslighting, spoofing, trolling — but that just invites an argument over semantics. How about we agree not to put up with it?

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About Those Ballot Proposals

About Those Ballot Proposals

Look, it’s not like I’m unaware of my own inconsistencies and, well, let’s just say it: hypocrisy. I’ve drawn cartoons on several occasions expressing my opinion that ballot proposals are a bad idea and, well, let’s just say it: stupid.

And yet here I am fairly certain that I’m going to vote yes on all three of the proposals that will be on the November ballot. Let me attempt to explain, going from most defensible to least:

Proposal 18-2: A proposed constitutional amendment to establish a commission of citizens with exclusive authority to adopt district boundaries for the Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives and U.S. Congress, every 10 years. This is the “anti-gerrymandering” proposal. I support this wholeheartedly because it simply is not realistic to expect the legislature to fix this. In an ideal world, perhaps. But it is just so against nature for a ruling political party to cede any ground in defining boundaries for voting districts. This is the only practical way to get it done.

Proposal 18-3: A proposal to authorize automatic and Election Day voter registration, no-reason absentee voting, and straight ticket voting; and add current legal requirements for military and overseas voting and postelection audits to the Michigan Constitution. This is the “simplify voting” proposal. Again, in an ideal world, this wouldn’t be an issue. Of course we want to make participation for citizens as straightforward as possible. Who wouldn’t? Folks who benefit by making voting difficult, that’s who. A few years ago, this was easily solved by calling out the suppressors. These days, however, suppression appears to be an acceptable strategy.

Proposal 18-1: A proposed initiated law to authorize and legalize possession, use and cultivation of marijuana products by individuals who are at least 21 years of age and older, and commercial sales of marijuana through state-licensed retailers. This is the “legalize recreational marijuana” proposal. Truly this should be the job of the legislature, and the 2008 medical marijuana ballot proposal is the cautionary tale. Since its approval, it’s been a constant grind to make the rules that define exactly what “legal” means. Good legislation establishes those rules before becoming law. So I’m wavering on this one, but the legislature has shown no inclination to deal with it the right way.

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The Consequences of not Listening to Women

The Consequences of not Listening to Women

As a general disclaimer, my deadline for the cartoon was before the actual hearings with and Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh started. So I’m taking a guess at Ford’s hair color and style. I’m pretty sure Senators Hatch, Graham, and McConnell will not be sitting together. (I don’t think McConnell isn’t even on the Judiciary Committee.) And I’m positive that convicted sex offender and former Michigan State sports doctor Larry Nassar will not physically be there. But I have no doubt he will be there in spirit.

Nassar is an international story and cautionary tale for the consequences of not listening to women. But it has been felt in an especially direct way here in Michigan. His trial took place here. The vast majority of his victims lived here. The stories were (and continue to be) best documented and reported here. This has presented Michiganders with perhaps a deeper perspective, and here’s what stands out for me:

All the political efforts to manage the situation only seems to invite more damage. By trying to control the story and steer toward outcomes, actual events that happened to actual people are diffused. We need to get to the truth and, as it happens, we have systems for doing that, imperfect as they may be. So, do we believe in our constitutional government systems or not? Then let’s use them. Let’s investigate, hold hearings, subpoena for evidence. Let’s listen.

In her written opening statement, I believe Dr. Ford puts has put it best: “It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell the truth.”

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The Best Way Forward for Michigan?

The Best Way Forward for Michigan?

Earlier this week the Washington Post had an article, “American paradox: Voters want the anger to stop but can’t stop being angry.” It really could have been about anyplace in the United States, but the dateline was from Rochester, Michigan and centered on Elissa Slotkin’s campaign against incumbent Mike Bishop for Michigan’s 8th congressional district.

Slotkin is experienced (three tours in Iraq and 14 years working at the CIA, the State Department and the Pentagon), but a political newcomer. She felt compelled to run for office to address healthcare and economic issues. But in this hyper-partisan climate, she has found it a challenge to reach many of the voters she would like to help.

People are angry, which is understandable because there is plenty to be about. But the anger — especially when it has been released with a scream-fest at the family gathering here or a passive-aggressive tweet there — destroys the chance for further communication. As she campaigns, audiences are often asking her for advice:

“How do you deal with friends and family that are constantly posting things that are not accurate or that go blatantly against what you believe? How do I respond without turning into an angry person that no one wants to be around?”

Slotkin says that campaign events “often feel more like therapy sessions.”

Be nice, but don’t be a doormat. Express your feelings, but don’t be a jerk about it. Don’t compromise your ideals, but be willing to find consensus. Alas. Knowing all that and effectively executing it — that’s the difficulty. It’s at least comforting to know that people like Slotkin are trying to figure it out.

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The Sellout Price for My Vote

The Sellout Price for My Vote

I gotta admit, it was a great summer. Hot. Dry. Lovely. If you could stand the heat (and I have a pretty high tolerance), there was no reason not to be outside. I spent many a happy moment shooting hoops, chilling on the back patio, playing with the cats, putzing around the yard.

But no more. Oh, the weather is fine. Perfect, actually. It’s just that the sudden explosion of mosquitos has made being outside absolutely miserable. Recent rains seem to have spawned a whole year’s worth of hatching. At least in West Michigan, they wait for you to exit your car and then swarm like the cloud of dust that hovered around the Pig-Pen character from Peanuts cartoons. There are too many to all draw blood, so the extras busy themselves flying into ear canals and pinging off cheekbones. And you have to do that baboon walk — arms flailing around your head, legs bowed and taking giant exaggerated steps — just to survive. AAAUUUUGGHHH!

Look, I know I should be grateful for what we had, and things certainly could be worse. Like, hurricane worse. But as Joe Walsh used to sing, “I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do.”

If there is some good that comes from this it might be helping us recognize how vulnerable we are to impulse. We’ll soon be entering the desperation phase of election season when certain office seekers crank up the outlandish promises, appeals to our base fears, and out-and-out lies to get our vote. So if candidates happen to claim that they can make the mosquitos go away, don’t believe them. The only real solution is winter, and that has its own issues.

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Improving Michigan School Literacy

Improving Michigan School Literacy

Michigan schools are back in session. Many started two weeks before Labor Day. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say it has been oppressively hot and humid. Can you imagine what the learning environment has been like in classrooms with no air conditioning? I can almost hear the chorus of students and teachers reply, “It was miserable!”

Turns out miserable has consequences. NPR had a story not too long ago: “Heat Making You Lethargic? Research Shows It Can Slow Your Brain, Too.” It revolved around a new study from the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard, which found that high temperatures can muddle our thinking.

I was thinking about this as I listened to gubernatorial candidates Gretchen Whitmer and Bill Schuette answer questions about their plans to improve literacy rates among Michigan third-graders. Their answers are fine — general goals addressing the big picture. But I hope in the course of campaigning these next few months, they are curious enough to ask students and teachers what they need specifically. That way they’ll find out what’s really going to help.

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I Feel Sick

I Feel Sick

Sometimes the point of a conversation is to discuss an issue, not necessarily to resolve it. This goes against my middle-aged man tendencies. I’m inclined to want to find the resolution by providing the answer (or, let’s be honest, appearing as if I have the answer). But something like the current sorry state of public health in Michigan is a big, big issue and not easily resolved, certainly not within three panels of a cartoon.

So if you’re looking for my point this week, I must confess that I don’t have one. Well, not one that you would come to expect, like me having a very specific opinion or advocating for a certain course of action. No, this was more of me thinking the topic was important and wanting more people to know. (That and a desire to wedge in the Obamacare/Trumpdontcare joke.)

If you’re looking for actual depth, I would suggest you listen to the Stateside story from earlier this week. It explores a new report from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan about how underinvestment in our public health infrastructure has cost us (and will cost us) much more than we think we’re saving.

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Can’t Get More Michigan Than This

Can't Get More Michigan Than This

I’m on my annual summer family vacation, so I drew this cartoon a week ahead of time. It’s always a challenge to guess at what will remain topical for 24 hours let alone a full week. These days it’s darn near impossible.

So I punted. I didn’t even try. I went with something eternally and quintessentially Michigan: Winter is always near. (Well, at least until global climate change takes full effect.)

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Michigan Water Crisis – New and Improved

Michigan Water Crisis – New and Improved

It’s heartening to see the reaction to the per-and-polyfluoroalkyl chemicals, known collectively as PFAS, found contaminating the water supply of Parchment, Michigan. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality appears to be engaged and vigilant. The governor and lieutenant-governor seem to be listening and involved. The local governments are actively working together, including the city of Kalamazoo quickly extending its water system.

Sure, it’s not perfect. It can’t be. Not with this many people and groups of people involved. The fact that the contamination exists is testament to our uneven track record in managing consequences. The city of Parchment was created to manufacture paper, after all, not to ensure the water remained pristine.

But now, this current set of people seem intent on doing the right thing. The mess needs to be fixed. Health and lives need to be protected. That is commendable.

Still, the real reason why intentions are so good can be directly linked to the Flint Water Crisis. Without that obvious (and continued) failure, there is no doubt Parchment would be enjoying a much lower level of attention.

So as is often the case, the biggest heroes are not necessarily the ones who are doing the right things — they’re the ones who have made the biggest sacrifice, despite it never being their intention.

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