Archive for Michigan Press Association

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.


Pro Sports Are Dead to Me

My brother-in-law is a Michigan State grad and a huge fan of Spartans sports teams. Several years ago, he was watching a men’s basketball game that happened to be on TV later in the evening. His older two children were very much from the same mold — dedicated fans that bled Spartan green. His youngest never had an active interest in MSU or sports in general. But noticing that his older siblings were getting to stay up past bedtime, he expressed a sudden interest in the game.

His Dad said, “If you can name just one player on the Michigan State team, I’ll let you stay up.”

He pondered and searched his archives and then ventured, “Um… LeBron James?”

He was summarily sent off to bed.

So, if you happen be like the older kids, the cartoon (and this little story) likely don’t need additional explanation. But if you’re like the youngest, you may need to know that for the past few years (and in the Lions’ case, forever), the major professional sports teams from Detroit has been absolutely terrible. To the point of wearing down even the hardest of hardcore fans.

Also, you should know that LeBron James not only never played college basketball, he was well into his professional basketball career when my nephew tried to pass him off as a Spartan.


Correlation Does not Imply Causation

Last week, a video went public of Michigan state GOP Chairman Ron Weiser addressing the North Oakland Republican Club. In his remarks, Weiser made reference to Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel collectively as “three witches.”

Clearly Weiser was playing to the crowd (with this and other ill-advised comments). And, yes, he has apologized, but you have to wonder whether he would have if his seat on the University of Michigan Board of Regents wasn’t at stake. Still, he said what he said. Why? The most charitable reason I can come up with is that he just didn’t think it through.

Cut to the news this week about Michigan’s spike in COVID-19 cases. I’ve heard and read plenty of confident decrees that this proof that our state’s response to the pandemic has been a complete failure and that everybody should immediately do whatever the heck they want. We can all understand the impulse — we all want this to be over. But how many of these bold proclamations come not from impulse but careful consideration? Likely not many.

Admittedly, “correlation does not imply causation” is an awfully smartypants way of saying “you should probably think that through first.” But I have given it some thought, and that’s what I mean.


This Is America

This Is America

I was scrolling through Facebook earlier this week, and I saw this post from Vincent Duffy who is the News Director and my editor at Michigan Radio:

Friend: What’s the latest on the mass shooting?
Me: This is America, you’ll need to be more specific.

It is almost word for word a conversation I had a few years ago with a work colleague from another country. He expressed concern about a gun violence event here in the US, and I had to ask him to clarify which one. How sad is that?

But what’s sadder than having those conversations is not having these conversations. My foreign friends and co-workers aren’t asking questions anymore. For Sandy Hook, Aurora, Vegas, Parkland, etc. they would want to know why/how something like this could happen. They would try to understand. This past week nobody has asked me about Atlanta or Boulder. I think it’s because they don’t need to ask. They know — this is America.

It’s difficult to come up with something new on our country’s gun violence. Even “this is America” is a callback to a song addressing the subject released by Childish Gambino three years ago. The video, with its sudden bursts of gun violence, is particularly disturbing, but that’s the point.

This is America. This is America.

It doesn’t have to be. But it is.


We Interrupt This Program

Editorial Cartoon — Michigan Radio

First, let me be clear — anger and outrage are the very fuel of editorial cartoons. So I am not in any way trying to talk people out of their absolute right to be angry and outraged.

What I am suggesting is that it may not hurt to acknowledge the positive every once in a while.

Earlier this week I saw a post on Facebook from a guy I went to high school with expressing his thoughts about Speedy Gonzales and Pepe LePew cartoons. His point was that he enjoyed them and didn’t see anything wrong with them. Fair enough. But the way he said it was with anger and outrage at the “real losers in this country” who would disagree with him. And then, as it often happens, the subsequent comments took all that up a few notches.

I considered for a brief moment pointing out that I, too, love those cartoons, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing wrong with them. Times change. People evolve. Some things age better than others. We are still free to enjoy them in the context of our experience, but others have good reasons not to.

Anyway, I was ruminating on that when I got an email from a friend thanking me for a caricature that I had done for him years ago. He has been using it as an avatar and in fact had just used it again as a volunteer to a project that has been collecting and publishing data about COVID-19 here in the United States. It struck me as a very un-angry and un-outraged thing to do. So I thought, “Yeah, there ought to be a way I can work something like that into a cartoon, too.”


Not Automatically On-Board

Before, during, and after drawing a cartoon, my brain is in a constant search for a match — some cartoon or other media where I could have already seen the idea. It’s the result of my paranoia that I accidentally commit the worst possible of sins, plagiarism.

And it’s more than a little unsettling (and definitely not mentally healthy) that the search part of my brain delights when it thinks it has found a match. “Oh! Oh! Now you’ve done it! Now you’re gonna get in troubbbbbllllllle!!!”

So it was after I had just put the final touches on this week’s cartoon. Fortunately, what my brain turned up wasn’t a forgery, but an influence. (Well, that’s what I think — you can decide yourself.)

Last year during the 2020 election, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, Darrin Bell, did a cartoon that was simply a drawing of a letter being written. The letter says,

Dear America,
I would very much like to critique Kamala Harris’s criminal justice record, but I’m too busy critiquing YOUR “birther” and “she’s not really black” nonsense. Would you please lay off the racism for a while?

Your Cartoonist,
Darrin B

I’m pretty comfortable in saying it’s similar but not the same. (Honestly, if I was going to steal anything, it would be the fearless way that Mr. Bell draws, but I don’t have the skills.) The similarity is this: I would love to more fully address Governor Whitmer’s lack of transparency in her decision-making processes, but there is so much nonsense in the way. To paraphrase then, dear Michigan, would you please lay off the conspiracy theories for a while?


I Blame Others

I Blame Others

As we come up to the one-year anniversary of the initial shut down here in Michigan, there have been plenty of stories around our education systems and the challenges the pandemic continues to bring. These three in particular served as food for thought: 

To summarize: Education has become even more complex and difficult this past year. And all of us standing on the sidelines offering nothing but our opinions? Yeah, that ain’t helping.


Mike Shirkey Did It Again!

Mike Shirkey Did It Again!

The Michigan Senate Majority Leader, Mike Shirkey, has been on quite a roll lately. And not in a good way. This week on a radio show he managed to confirm that he is a responsible adult…and then immediately confirm that he is not in fact a responsible adult.

In this instance, he acknowledged that President Joe Biden won Michigan by more than 154,000 votes, but followed that up by saying the state didn’t do enough to ensure election integrity — specifically that too many dead people voted. (Please refer to the Free Press story if you don’t know why it is a baseless conspiracy theory.)

Just last week news broke of Shirkey’s disastrous meeting at a diner, where he shared his thoughts that the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was a hoax and that former President Donald Trump was not responsible for it. He also added some oddly sexualized smack talk about outmaneuvering Governor Whitmer. In the radio interview, he attempted to clarify (with mixed results and without apology).

Shirkey is making it very difficult for us to remember his proudest moment — going to the White House in November and managing not to sell us all out by throwing the Michigan electoral college votes to the loser. (Kind of a low bar there.)

So, either Shirkey knows what he’s saying and he’s doing it purposefully to string along Trump supporters in the GOP. Or he actually believes it. Either way, this is not the Senate Majority Leader that Michiganders want or deserve.

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Why Are We Screaming at Each Other?

Why Are We Screaming at Each Other?

Amid the backdrop of, well, everything up to and after the November election, there were some encouraging signs this week in Michigan. A pair of bills were introduced by Republican state lawmakers and supported by Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to clear up confusion and build confidence in the voting system ahead of the next election.

To be clear, I don’t think this is big news. Nor do I think this is exciting news. But it is noteworthy — something doable is being done, something seemingly worthwhile and positive.

I also don’t think this should be called bipartisan. Bipartisan has come to imply that there was some sort of compromise worked out between two political parties. Say you have a line, and on one end is the truth and on the other are outrageous, easily disproven conspiracy theories. And the one party says to the other, “Hey, let’s meet in the middle.” That’s reasonable, right? Um, no.

There is no compromise with these bills — just agreement on some actions to help better maintain voter rolls. We… we can do that! It’s okay. No posturing or screaming or insurrecting required. Nice, huh?


The Pandemic Glass

The Pandemic Glass

There is a classic skit from the 1960s by the comedy team of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in which a reporter (Moore) interviews an eccentric gentleman (Cook) who owns a restaurant. I’m going to write out a bit of transcript here, but to truly understand the humor (and their impeccable timing), I encourage you to listen for yourself.

So after introductions and a bit of banter, the reporter asks the restaurant owner when he started his restaurant:

Restaurant Owner: I believe it was shortly after World War II. You remember that, World War II?

Reporter: Well, certainly, yes.

Restaurant Owner: Absolutely ghastly business.

Reporter: Oh, yes.

Restaurant Owner: Absolutely ghastly business.

Reporter: Yes, indeed.

Restaurant Owner: I was completely against it.

Reporter (slight pause as the audience catches on to the absurd obviousness of what was just said): Well, I think, I think we all were.

Restaurant Owner (indigently): Well I wrote a letter!

I share this with you for a couple of reasons. One, as we close in on a year of the pandemic and enter the depths of a Michigan February, my mind naturally turns to escapism, and this sketch always makes me laugh. By the way, the title is, “The Frog and Peach,” which is the name (and menu) of the restaurant. It’s rare these days to find anything that can top the ridiculousness of real life.

The second (and more the inspiration of the cartoon) is that our one very thin slice of common ground may be that we are all against the virus itself. Given the opportunity this time last year, we all would have said, “COVID-19 virus? No thank you. Let’s not do that.” Just as we would decline a world war. But for that commonality to be true, we need to believe others (even those we don’t like) would make the same choice. And that’s the hard part.


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