Archive for Michigan Press Association

Michigan 2022 Election Flowchart

Michigan 2022 Election Flowchart

We ignore at our own peril the continuing efforts of former President Trump to undermine laws and norms to claw his way back into power. He’s a demagogue in full-bullying mode, and a brief glance at history reveals the devastating consequences of letting somebody like that get their way.

And yet, the paradox is that attention — any attention — is exactly what a demagogue desires. He will use any and all attention to skew, manipulate, and outright lie in order to create legitimacy for furthering his singular, self-serving agenda.

A simple flowchart seemed like the best compromise to sound the alarm without feeding the monster.

I realize, of course, that the most obvious topic for a Michigan editorial cartoonist this week would have been the mass shooting in Oxford. Please don’t construe me not addressing it as “now is not the time.” Now and every moment from now is exactly the time to discuss and find solutions for gun violence. We’ve been conditioned to believe that it is an intractable problem, and it’s not. I’m just too sad at the moment to come up with anything to say.

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It’s Our Right to Be Ruined by Personal Bankruptcy

It's Our Right to Be Ruined by Personal Bankruptcy

Thursday is normally deadline day for submitting my cartoon, but with Thanksgiving this week, the deadline was moved up a day or two. That always presents a challenge to pick a topic that I have some confidence will remain relevant.

Well for years now (decades, actually) I’ve drawn cartoons about the United States being the only developed nation in the world where medical debt is the primary cause of personal bankruptcy. So when I came across the story about Singapore threatening punishment for those refusing the COVID-19 vaccine with medial debt, I thought, “Perfect — this is a topic I know isn’t going to change any time soon.”

And it seemed especially on-point with so many Michigan hospitals now at full capacity with unvaccinated patients. Yes, there is boatloads of federal money that supposedly will cover all covid-related costs, but it won’t. You know it, I know it. And if it did cover initial treatment costs, there are going to be so, so many with additional costs from the lingering effects. No way that’s gonna be covered. That’s just how messed up and needlessly expensive our healthcare system is.

If you want a good summary, you can check out the Medical Debt article in Wikipedia. I know, it’s Wikipedia, but you can follow the many reputable citations from the Pew Research center, Kaiser Family Foundation, and others if you want to get to the details.

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Endangered Species

Endangered Species

I used the term “Moderate Republican” in the cartoon because it is the simplest and most widely recognized term for folks like Michigan Representatives Peter Meijer and Fred Upton. But in truth, it’s archaic at best.

It really has nothing to do with “moderate.” In what other universe would somebody with a voting record like Liz Cheney be described as moderate? It arguably also has nothing to do with “Republican.” Were they not until recently the party of free-trade? Fiscal responsibility? Anti-authoritarian? Ally to our allies?

So really what is meant by “Moderate Republican” is “Those Who Used to Be Known as Republican Willing to Put Country Before Party.” (That’s quite a word jumble for a cartoon.) Functionally, it’s Republicans who have fallen out of step (if only for a moment) with Dear Leader.

Among Meijer’s transgressions is his voting in favor of congressional investigations into the causes of the January 6th insurrection. This has earned him death threats and a Trumpian candidate to run against him in the primary next year. Upton’s most recent no-no was voting in favor of the infrastructure legislation, which has earned him party condemnation and also death threats.

So you can see how these so-called Moderate Republicans are being purposely hunted to extinction — literally and figuratively.

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The Deer Hunter

The Deer Hunter

I was 9 years-old when my family moved to Michigan. There were some mysteries I needed to figure out. Like, why did November 15th seem to be a holiday? It was explained to me that it was opening day…for firearm season…for hunting deer…in the woods…for fun…for food…also for interior design.

It took me a while, but eventually I did catch on. (Well, not so much about why somebody would want to mount deer heads on wall.) I lacked context because I didn’t come from a hunting family and there weren’t any deer in my suburban neighborhood. Seeing a deer was something of an exotic experience. It required either going to that UpNorth place where everybody seemed to disappear to, or driving slowly down Saginaw Street in front of the GM plant in Grand Blanc and squinting into the wooded, fenced-in park where deer (for some reason) were stocked. 

Times have changed. Now I can see deer whenever I want by walking out in my city yard at dusk or dawn. There are always herds of varying sizes, and from early spring till mid-fall, my wife and I have to make sure to spray repellant on our landscaping. Otherwise, the hostas and other perennials become a salad bar. (We gave up on food gardening a long time ago.)

Anyway, I thought deer and managing deer populations would be a topic all Michiganders might enjoy and provide something of a break from pandemic news. Then, just after I finished the drawing, I saw an NPR story, “How SARS-CoV-2 in American deer could alter the course of the global pandemic.” 

There seems to be no escaping it.

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Thank You for Your Sacrifice

Thank You for Your Sacrifice

It’s Veterans Day next week. And for those of us who have not served in the United States Armed Forces, it’s sometimes difficult to know what to say to those who have. “Thank you for your service” has become something of a default. Like saying “I’m sorry for your loss” at a funeral, it’s safe and well-intentioned, but can sometimes feel short of the mark.

Yes, veterans have served. But it has been a long time since the draft, so it was their choice. I’m not at all trying to be glib. I realize that for many the choice to join the military really wasn’t much of a choice — mostly for economic reasons. What definitely wasn’t a choice for an awfully large percentage is what they sacrificed as part of their service. Too often, it was their health — mental and physical.

As a non-veteran, this is what I (gratefully) can’t imagine but feel the most compelled to acknowledge. And this is where we as country do fall short of the mark. Healthcare for veterans isn’t free. With the VA and VA facilities, they are availed to some additional services. But vets can be bankrupted just like the rest of us. Can that be fixed? Well, sure. We would just need to make some sacrifices.

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The Big Game

The Big Game

I have casually mentioned to certain friends and family over the past few years that I think Michigan and Michigan State should drop their football programs. It’s a relatively easy thing for me to say — I’m a Michigan Tech grad, so I’m not invested in either program. I do like football, though. I loved playing it and enjoy watching it. I’ll definitely be watching the game this Saturday. But I just don’t see football, especially college football, as a good long-term investment.

My reasoning: (1) It’s a fundamentally unsafe sport. We have made it safer, but we’ll never make it safe. Less and less parents are willing to let their kids play. Less kids want to play. It will never be as popular as it once was. (2) Michigan and Michigan State will likely never win a national championship. They’ll never make the “total war” level of commitment that the entire society around a, say, Alabama is willing to make. So why not get out now?

Well, money, tradition, and money. Those are the big reasons. Not insignificant, those. (Yes, I know I mentioned money twice.) So instead, how about this: Let the Southeastern Conference, Ohio State,  Clemson, and presumably all colleges in Texas and Florida form their own super division just for football. We’ll call it the “NFL Feeder Division.” They’ll play a 20-game schedule to determine the seeding for a 32-team playoff. The season will start in July and the winner would be crowned the true national champion in February. School would be optional.

All the other Division 1 programs (including Michigan and Michigan State) would go back to traditional college football — student-athlete teams playing rival schools geographically nearby with conference champions squaring off in bowl games on New Year’s Day. What do you think?

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It’s Not Personal — It’s Strictly Business

It's Not Personal — It's Strictly Business

The obvious cultural reference here is to “The Godfather” (or, if you prefer, “You’ve Got Mail” referencing “The Godfather” reference): It’s not personal — it’s strictly business.

The point is that it is personal. When something happens to a person (like losing a job…or a life), it’s always personal to them. Employers would do well to remember this when the balance of power inevitably swings back to them after The Great Resignation.

The less obvious cultural reference: The nameplate in the first frame says, “Shankly,” which is an allusion to a song (“Frankly, Mr. Shankly” by The Smiths) in which the singer is tendering his resignation. The lyrics definitely resonated more with me in my idealistic youth. To wit: 

Frankly, Mr. Shankly, this position I’ve held
It pays my way, and it corrodes my soul
I want to leave, you will not miss me
I want to go down in musical history

But I think the song still holds up in its argument for not suffering a job that is not good for you. Especially if you don’t have to suffer.

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Excited to Be Angry

Excited to Be Angry

It seems counterintuitive, but it seems most of us like to be angry. This was kind of proved out by the whistleblower congressional testimony last week. Facebook has tweaked their algorithms to take advantage of this — the more angry users are, the more they engage, the greater the profits.

Conversely, it’s not counterintuitive at all that most of us very much enjoy being on the winning team. (You diehard Lions fans are very difficult to explain.)

So as our congressional redistricting maps here in Michigan are starting to be revealed, we find ourselves caring less about the process, the fairness, the idea that they will provide an accurate reflection of our best interests as a whole and more about the possibility that we can either get really ticked off or revel in sticking it to the other team. And we wonder why our young republic can seem so fragile.

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Roughly 1 in 100

Roughly 1 in 100

So many great scenes in the film, Good Will Hunting. One of my favorites (often overlooked) is near the end when Sean (the psychiatrist played by Robin Williams) reconciles with his friend, Jerry (the mathematician played by Stellan Skarsgård). As they leave Sean’s office, they acknowledge their vast differences — Sean, a working class Southie, Jerry, a pretentious academic — and decide to go get a drink. Sean offers to pay, waving a lottery ticket.

Sean: C’mon, this one’s on me. I’ve got the winner right here, pal.

Jerry: Aw…

Sean: Yes sir, this is the one. This is my ticket to paradise.

Jerry: Sean, do you know what the odds are against winning the lottery?

Sean: What, 4 to 1?

Jerry: (laughs) About 70 million to 1.

Sean: Well, I still have a shot.

Of course Sean is well aware that the odds are not 4 to 1. But he throws out that number knowing Jerry knows exactly what the odds are (and to get a laugh). 

A headline in the Detroit Free Press this week read: “400 at Henry Ford Health quit over mandate.” About 400 workers have walked off the job at Henry Ford Health System rather than take a required COVID-19 vaccine. Which sounds like a lot and rather harsh. But another 1,900 received exemptions. And this out of a total of 33,000 employees in a system highly responsible for public health. So does leading with “400” tell the real story?

Point is, aside from highly trained mathematicians and self-taught geniuses, we humans are famously not very good with numbers. Well, large numbers. They can be too abstract to truly understand. To read that nearly 700,000 have died in the US from COVID-19 or that over 3 million have been hospitalized, it’s really difficult to, you know, picture it. So whenever possible, we chunk information into manageable sizes. And all the better if those manageable sizes support the narrative we want to believe.

What are the chances that all of you are going to agree with me on this? Oh, I’d say about 110 percent.

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It’s Mostly Our Fault, But We’re not Gonna Help You

As part of the auto insurance reform legislation that went into effect last year, payments were reduced for home care agencies serving those severely injured in auto accidents. However, the payments were cut below the cost for those agencies to function, so they have been shutting down operations in Michigan. The remaining ones are expected to close in October and November. Which means, those severely injured and highly immobile individuals are having to face the prospect of losing in-home care and navigating our health care system for help.

As Michigan Radio reported this week, people injured in catastrophic auto accidents, their families, and their home care agency providers came to the state Capitol on Tuesday, hoping to convince Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey to fix the crisis caused by the auto insurance law. But Shirkey said he is still waiting for “data” before he decides if the law needs to be ”tweaked.”

This from a guy who earlier this year tweeted this out to punctuate the GOP’s 2021 priorities for a healthier Michigan:

“The #MISenateGOP believe every Michigander deserves the opportunity to live and prosper in a safe, healthy community. We are committed to building on opportunities to give Michigan families and communities greater peace of mind about the future.”

Home care agencies will all be closed by November. Bills have been introduced to take action, but no hearings have been scheduled. People are obviously suffering. Some have already died. What kind of data is he waiting for? What does he mean by “tweak”?

The truth is, if we were a civilized country and had functional universal health care, we wouldn’t be dependent on our state Legislature and the likes of Mike Shirkey for patches on workarounds. Of course, the likes of Mike Shirkey is why we don’t have functional universal health care.

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