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A Dead Rat That Had Been Living in the Shadows

A Dead Rat That Had Been Living in the Shadows

This week saw further developments in the sex abuse tragedy in which a former doctor, Richard Anderson, sexually assaulted athletes and students over the 36 years he worked for the University of Michigan. Survivors have now stepped forward to urge the University of Michigan and its Board of Regents to take accountability for its failure to protect students.

It’s really quite sickening. Frankly, I found looking at the reference images of dead rats taped to my drawing board much less stomach-churning than reading about what happened and how it was allowed to go on for so long.

All I can add is that now is the exact worst time to bring up talk of “let’s get past this” and “we need to move on” because “what’s done is done” and “that was a long time ago.” 

The lessons are all there. Larry Nassar, Jerry Sandusky. The Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America. What good came from covering up their abuses or trying to move quickly past them? Not a single thing. We know too well the terrible consequences of allowing the weak and venerable to be preyed upon and then attempting to cover up the wreckage.

If this scandal is not properly investigated, if healing light is not allowed to expose the guilty and lift up the survivors, more and more rats will die off in the shadows, and the stench might never go away.

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Another Audit?! Are You Serious?!

I’m sometimes asked what my motivations are for drawing editorial cartoons. Am I trying to convince readers to agree with my point of view? Evangelize? Score points? And the answer is, no … mostly. I mean, there is always a small slice of ego that longs to be validated, right? The idea that people read my cartoons and say, “You know, before seeing this I held the exact opposite view, but now that my eyes have been opened by this man’s scathingly brilliant observations, and I have come to complete agreement! Also, my sides have split with laughter.”

No, in reality it is something much less ambitious. More often than not, I’m simply expressing a thought and hoping to spark further thought. No winning or losing an argument. No promoting a particular ideology. And certainly no converting.

I’m sharing this with you this particular week because I really don’t have anything to add to the cartoon itself. I’m incredulous that anybody would think that an additional audit of the 2020 election here in Michigan would be a good idea (especially by a private firm). And I’m equally incredulous that anybody would think that a 9/11-style commission on the events of January 6th would be a bad idea. I hope that makes you think about that, too.

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Finally Something We Can All … Agree On

Finally Something We Can All ... Agree On

It was a pretty straight path to the cartoon this week. I was reading an article in the Detroit Free Press about newly proposed bills in the state legislature to use $25 million of federal COVID-19 relief funds to staff up at the Secretary of State offices. Lengthy closings because of the pandemic created a backlog of Michiganders needing to update licenses, register vehicles, and so on.

So the idea is to use one-time money that doesn’t come out of our budget to solve a problem that affects nearly all of us. If ever there was something we can all agree on, thought I, this was it. But then I read on. 

It seems it was a couple of Democrats (Rep. Stephanie Young, D-Detroit, Rep. Julie Brixie, D-Meridian Township) behind the bills. I would not have been surprised if it had been two Republicans, but apparently it matters.

The bills are written with the forward-looking objective of improving service. The SOS offices would expand on the current appointment system, aiming to build flexibility and efficiency into the system as a hedge against future disruptions. Republicans would prefer to simply open offices back up with the pre-pandemic take-a-number system. You know, the one that pretty much everyone (including the workers) loathe. Why? I don’t know. It could be that they are still not totally onboard with preventing sickness and death. It could be that it simply wasn’t their idea.

See? This is why we can’t have nice (or even simple) things.

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Why Don’t People Want to Take These Jobs?

Why Don't People Want to Take These Jobs?

The worst job I ever had was my first one. When I was 13 years old, my friend Joe convinced me that we should give caddying at a local country club a try. (Joe redeemed himself a few years later when he convinced me to tryout for the school musical where I met my future wife.)

It was a hard job, to be sure. Some of the golf bags probably weighed more than I did. And the pay wasn’t great — $6 for 18 holes plus a tip, which was a buck or two if the guy had a good round and was happy. But those weren’t the main reasons I hated it.

The caddymaster was a condescending jerk. My friend and I didn’t have any connections to the club, so we were immediately relegated to the lowest caste. Often we were among the first to arrive at dawn on Saturday and Sunday mornings where we had to wait in the basement of the old clubhouse — a series of rooms filled with broken furniture, a derelict pool table (with only some of the balls and no cues), and a TV with no cable or antenna. Most everybody else would get called up before us. Sometimes it’d be noon before we got a golfer and wouldn’t get home till late afternoon. Sometimes we’d be sent home without getting on the course at all. And if you didn’t caddy, you didn’t get paid.

There was no bathroom in the basement, so you’d have to sneak to the caddymaster’s office upstairs (nobody wanted to see a filthy caddy indoors) and ask permission. Sometimes he would say no.

I lasted about two months and then convinced my parents that I should quit. They didn’t like the idea of me quitting something so relatively quickly, but they were never thrilled with having to to drive me there, so win-win.

A lesson learned: Not all jobs are worth staying with, and I was fortunate to be able to choose not to ever do that again. I could mow lawns or babysit. Or just avoid spending money altogether — I didn’t need it for what a suburban boy at that age generally needed money for back then: a minibike and weed.

Another thing learned was empathy for anybody who feels stuck in a job they don’t want to do.

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Rep. Matt Maddock Demonstrates Hypocrisy

Rep. Matt Maddock Demonstrates Hypocrisy

I hesitated to draw this cartoon because Michigan state Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford) is not widely known. That’s a good thing, and I don’t really want to change that. He’s clearly one of those “rally the base” sort of attention seekers who are better off left alone to shake their tiny fists and scream into the void.

Except, of course, when they appear to be doing something truly dangerous, which is exactly what Maddock did last week in proposing a law that would require fact-checkers to register with the state. The Maddock bill would, as the Washington Post reported:

Require fact-checkers to register with the state and insure themselves with $1 million fidelity bonds. Any fact-checker who did not register with the state could face a $1,000 per day fine. The proposed legislation would also allow anyone to sue a fact-checker over “any wrongful conduct that is a violation of the laws of this state.”

So, who or what is a fact-checker? Nobody really knows. But it could be, very conveniently, anybody (especially journalists) who might challenge, find evidence, and refute what Maddock (or his wife, who is co-chair of the Michigan GOP) say is true. Coincidentally, this happens A LOT.

Beyond being a serious attack on the First Amendment, it is the exact opposite of the “government can’t be trusted” ideology he and his colleagues supposedly live by. And yes, there’s very little chance that this bill will ever become law — Gov. Whitmer would never sign it. Still, it’s…well, this is how the conservative Detroit News editorial board put it

“A group of Michigan Republican lawmakers is floating the idea of registering “fact checkers” with the state. It flies in the face of the First Amendment, and they should ditch this dangerous and dumb idea.”

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Thank Goodness There’s Online Gambling!

Thank Goodness There's Online Gambling!

So it turns out that rebooting an economy after the shock and lingering effects of a global pandemic is not easy. In fact, it’s pretty stilted and awkward.

All this has people understandably frustrated. Many have money to spend, but with limited options. Service industries (such as restaurants, resorts, and hotels) cannot attract enough low-wage workers to staff up. And many manufactured items (such as furniture, appliances, and automobiles) are simply not available because of disrupted supply chains.

Thank goodness Michigan approved online gambling back in January — at least there is somebody out there eager and willing to take our money! Apparently, many Michigan officials are just delighted with the way it has taken off. And also, calls to problem gambling helplines have spiked tremendously. I wonder if the increased tax revenue will offset the write-offs necessary for all of the personal bankruptcies?

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Feeling Better After the Cleanse

Feeling Better After the Cleanse

I usually try to stay away from sweeping generalizations — all workers good, all politicians bad — that sort of thing. But there has been so much partisan hackery lately (especially in Lansing) that I felt a need to comment, and sweeping generalization seemed to be the best angle to take.

Michigan is sitting on a bunch of money right now, federal funds from the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan. Much of how it will be spent is up to our state government in Lansing, which is by design and mostly a good thing. But unfortunately a significant portion has been held up by the legislature playing a game of chicken with Governor Whitmer, using it as leverage to extract political gain. 

The problem is, the money is actually needed — especially by workers and small business owners. Yes, ours is not a swift process. (Again, by design and mostly a good thing because it’s important to be good stewards of the money.) But slowing the distribution further is at best a needless sideshow and at worst a dereliction of duty.

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Great Lakes States and the 2020 Census

Great Lakes States and the 2020 Census

If there was one good thing that came out of the Great Recession, it’s that it finally made Michigan and the industrial midwest come to terms with reality: The massive employment from living wage manufacturing was not coming back. No state, no country, no town was going to be magically turned around by some new assembly plant. That was the old model. It was fun while it lasted, but that era is definitely over.

As a consequence, Michigan lost population. Actually in this past decade we started to gain population again, just not as fast as some other states in the south and west. But now we have the opportunity to build on some of our strengths.

The cartoon is an exaggeration (as most cartoons are). But clearly our biggest advantage is our unique abundance of fresh water — lakes (great and otherwise), springs, rain, lots and lots of snow — we’ve got it all. And as climate change goes on, it’s just going to make us more attractive. Taking the lead in guaranteeing safe drinking water would be an obvious additional way to (as the business folks say) leverage our advantage.

Our manufacturing legacy also provides us with another distinct edge. We know how to make stuff. A little more emphasis on supporting trades and applied technology, and — boom! — we’re a magnet attracting living wage jobs and creative industries.

If we want our representatives back, we’re gonna need new residents: Immigrants. Yet another advantage — we’ve grown like this before! (Both with people from other countries and by the Great Migration.) Immigrants bring new ideas, new energy, and new opportunity, especially to depleted cities and rural communities.

Also, we have the best beer.

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You Gotta Make Sure He Pulls Through, Doc…

You Gotta Make Sure He Pulls Through, Doc...

I hate to provide the man with any additional media attention, but Michigan’s own Ted Nugent was in the news this week having recently proclaimed that COVID-19 was not real and shortly thereafter announcing he contracted it (and, as advertised, it was not pleasant for him). No additional comment.

Also recently, it was disclosed that Governor Whitmer had travelled to Florida before being vaccinated. This also pinged my hypocrisy meter, but it turns out Whitmer was visiting her elderly father who is battling a chronic illness. Also, for somebody who has credibly been threatened by kidnapping plots, it’s understandable why she kept this visit unannounced, even though she’s a public figure.

However, her declining to criticize Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel for a spring vacation trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama — that’s some pretty weak tea.

Look, maybe the only thing we all have in common these days is pandemic fatigue. Certain behaviors (by other people) are simply going to set us off. My bête noire is wearing a mask under your nose. C’mon folks! Whether you believe in the effectiveness of masks or don’t, you’ve had well over a year to find one that fits and can be worn properly. Geez freakin’ louise! 

But the people who have the clearest right to be frustrated at this point are the frontliners in the medical profession. This third wave surge we’ve been experiencing here in Michigan has again pushed hospitals to their breaking points. God bless the support staffs, the nurses, the doctors. And God bless those who are honestly trying to make their jobs less difficult.

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Recommendations for Michigan GOP

Bridge Michigan has done an excellent job of summarizing the voting plan that the Michigan GOP are proposing. They compare this plan with the package recently put into law in Georgia. It’s a good way to get some context because there has been a lot of exaggeration and misinterpretation.

These packages aren’t entirely bad. But contain plenty of bad that either directly or as a consequence will suppress votes. Regardless, I think the biggest reasons to question the motivations of the Michigan GOP is that (1) the 2018 and 2020 elections did not go their way and (2) it has been verified over and over (and over) that those elections were extremely well run and without fraud. So a significant package of ambitious legislation for something that wasn’t an actual problem raises some red flags.

When you put that together with the aggressive way the Michigan GOP has fought against independent redistricting commissions to prevent gerrymandering, it’s fairly clear that their first priority is power, not advocating for fair elections.

These tactics are, of course, not unique to the Michigan GOP or Republicans in general. Illinois and Maryland are pretty good examples of where the Democratic Party has prioritized their own power over their state’s citizens. But much in the same way I feel about Georgia, I live here in Michigan and want our elections to best reflect the interests and values all Michiganders.

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