Archive for Michigan Press Association

Michigan UIA Undermining Us Again

Michigan UIA Undermining Us Again

Undermine is a good word. It’s very intuitive from its roots what it means. Is there a category for those types of words? It’s not quite an onomatopoeia, or is it? Perhaps Rebecca Kruth can help me out with this.

In any case, under and mine together creates a clear picture:

1. erode the base or foundation of (a rock formation).
“the flow of water had undermined pillars supporting the roof”

2. lessen the effectiveness, power, or ability of, especially gradually or insidiously.
“this could undermine years of hard work”

Let me add another:

3. ruin an already tenuous trust

“the Michigan UIA again undermined the notion that our government is of the people, by the people, for the people”

This week, just as Democrats and the Biden Administration continue to build the case for a more helpful and reliable government, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (as reported by Bridge Magazine) dropped this little nugget:

Nearly one-fifth of the Michigan residents who received unemployment payments during the pandemic are now learning their eligibility for jobless benefits didn’t meet federal standards.

Michigan officials will reevaluate claims filed by 690,092 people. The vast majority — 648,000 — will have to confirm their jobless status from a different set of criteria and may learn they weren’t eligible for funds they already received.

Even worse, the Michigan UIA has a well-documented past of grinding up unfortunate souls who have gotten caught in its machinery. It’s pretty awful. But does it prove that all government is fundamentally bad? I don’t think so. The Michigan UIA is to government what Enron was to capitalism — a really bad instance that undermines the whole thing.


Toyota: Let’s Support the Insurrection!

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to add much this week. Unfortunate because there is plenty to add, particularly on the half year anniversary of the January 6th insurrection.

But quickly, in regards to the Toyota story: It wouldn’t be such a story if Toyota (along with several other corporations) hadn’t pledged shortly after the events of January 6th to reconsider their political contributions to those who still voted not to certify the election. It’s fine for a corporation to change its mind or even to feign concern for PR purposes. They will do what they perceive as what’s in their best interest.

But then they shouldn’t be surprised to suffer the consequences. Especially when no other company is even close to the amount of money or number of donations that Toyota has made.


Not a Big Fan of Your Beliefs Right Now

Not a Big Fan of Your Beliefs Right Now

With ongoing posturing around spending bills in Washington, the building collapse in Florida, record high temps in the Pacific Northwest, and our own deluge of rain here in Michigan, this past week has seen plenty of opinions expressed over infrastructure and global climate change.

Which is fine and expected and, actually, necessary. There’s a lot going on that affects our lives directly and indirectly, so it’s reasonable for us to try to reconcile it.

That said, do we have to express our opinions with such confidence? Especially when those opinions are counter to what a consensus of experts are saying? You may believe that the state of our nation’s infrastructure is just fine or that climate change is a bunch of hooey, but have you considered that you might be wrong? Like that time you thought you could make it through that puddle?

It’s good to question what experts tell us — be curious, ask questions, challenge authority. But it’s not so good to dismiss what they say altogether.


What Color Is the Sky in Your World?

What Color Is the Sky in Your World?

In the classic TV sitcom Cheers, know-it-all barfly, Cliff Clavin often filled gaps in conversation with unsolicited information — absurd, totally unbelievable, easily disproven information — but delivered with complete confidence. A particular favorite example of mine had Cliff offering his long-suffering buddies, Norm and Frasier, this little nugget:

“Yeah, it’s a genetic quirk in the Clavin family that we all have two extra teeth. Ya see, that’s the only way that we can prove that we are the rightful heirs to the Russian throne.”

There’s a perfect comedic pause and then Frasier says, “Hello in there, Cliff.” Another pause. “Tell me — what color is the sky in your world?” 

Fellow Americans, we have always had Cliff Clavins in our country. Lots of them. I imagine that most countries do. But we seem to have made the unfortunate mistake these past few years of actually listening to them.

Seriously. We gotta stop doing that.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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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