Archive for Michigan Press Association

The NRA’s Principled Stance on Mental Health

The NRA's Principled Stance on Mental Health

Legislation was recently introduced in the State House to make our Michigan a “constitutional carry” state. House Bills 4416-4419 would relax gun laws to allow some Michiganders to conceal firearms without having to get a concealed pistol license. It’s kind of a melding of concealed carry with less restrictive open carry rules.

It made me wonder where exactly the National Rifle Association (NRA) position was on this. They had advocated at some length in the past (especially after mass murder incidents) about the need for better mental health care in the United States and keeping firearms out of the hands of the unstable. These proposed Michigan laws seemed counter to that.

So I went looking for evidence, especially for anything related to the recent healthcare repeal and replace debacle. One of the guarantees under the ACA is that all insurance plans must provide for mental health services. There were several proposals to weaken or remove that protection in the frenzied bartering stage between the White House and Freedom Caucus.

I didn’t find anything on the NRA website — nothing like a press release or position paper. What I did find was a lot of videos, including a speech that NRA President Wayne LaPierre recently gave at Hillsdale College here in Michigan. It was titled, “Why the Media Is Failing.”

Wow. If ever you need a lesson on how to demonize those who oppose you while sanctifying those who support you, this is your primer. (Tip-of-the-day: Start sentences with “The truth is…” so everybody knows you are the sole arbiter of truth.) It really was a tour de force of partisanship, which is what it was intended to be and what the audience wanted.

It’s just disappointing that guns seem to be one of those topics that can only be discussed in a binary way — either you are for them or against them. That’s it. It’s too bad because there are opportunities for, if not common ground, then common goals. The truth is (see what I did there?), the truth is the NRA using its considerable resources to safeguard and promote universal access to mental health services would be a tremendous opportunity.

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Ask a Michigan Representative How Insurance Works

Ask a Michigan Representative How Insurance Works

We’re nearing the end of the season of Lent, and for Catholics (and others who participate in Lenten practice of “giving up stuff”) this is around the time we tend to lose focus and start to obsess about the beer or chocolate or whatever we pledged to eschew for 40 days. We begin to miss the point of why we did it — to demonstrate that habits and pleasures do not have power over us. We exercise our self-control muscles to show that even something like beer and chocolate together, like, say, a Founders Breakfast Stout with its creamy, dark goodness that… that even though it is a perfectly blended cacophony of sublime flavors augmented by fresh-roasted java notes that dance across the palette like… like…

Look, we’re human. Sometimes we can want something so badly, we get sidetracked.

I think this is where Republicans are with healthcare reform. Their collective tunnel-vision on repeal and replace has rendered them unable to remember how insurance works or why voters desire functional health insurance in the first place.

As a reminder, insurance is when many people contribute to a pool of money, so there is money available when those people need it. And we desire this for both health and financial security. Winning or adhering to an ideology or trying to reconcile ill-conceived campaign promises — all that is secondary to the health and financial well-being of Americans, all Americans.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s Mike Bishop, Tim Walberg, Bill Huizenga, and a little Paul Mitchell at the bottom of the drawing. But truly the cartoon is intended for all Michigan public office holders who have lost focus on this issue. There is still enough Lent left for them to work on it.

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Back to Reality for Red Wings Fans

Extra Time on the Hands of Wings Fans

As I’m sure Red Wings fans are keenly aware, there will be no Detroit hockey club in the NHL playoffs this year. After 25 straight years of qualifying (and winning The Cup four times), the Wings were eliminated. It’s a shame, but it was a really good run.

When I was six and living in South Carolina, I was geographically predisposed to be a fan of the Atlanta Falcons. But ever the contrarian, I arbitrarily picked the San Francisco 49ers as my first-ever favorite team. Every year they made the playoffs. Every year the Dallas Cowboys beat them in the playoffs. Every year I cried. My brother and I shared a bedroom and each night before I fell asleep I would say “Forty-Niners” out loud so that if I died in my sleep, my brother would be able to tell the world what my last word was.

All that to say, I understand the passions of the Wings faithful. I don’t have a grander point to make — the thought of being entirely unprepared for life without the post-season seemed amusing in an empathetic sort of way. (And suddenly realizing just who had become President during the hockey season also seemed amusing, but more in a nighmarish sort of way.)

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Vaccine Campaigns

Vaccine Campaigns

When I was a kid I remember seeing a “man on the street” segment on TV interviewing people about the value of seat belts. One guy in particular had a very low opinion of them and made this case: “If my car ever plunges off a bridge and into a body a water, the time it would take to undo my seat belt might be the difference between surviving and drowning.” I had to think about that for a sec, but I imagined he was right — in that nightmarish scenario it would be awful to be trapped in a car rapidly filling with water.

At some point I mentioned this to my Dad as justification for not wanting to wear a seat belt. He put things into perspective for me. I don’t know if it was the straightforward, “Well that’s a pretty stupid reason not to wear a seat belt” that he started with, or the more nuanced explanation with words such as “likelihood” and “logical” that came after. But afterwards I was firmly pro-seat belt.

The medical community has realized that they need to have a “Dad Talk” with the citizens of Michigan regarding vaccinations. This from an MLive story this week:

“According to the 2015 National Immunization Survey, Michigan ranks 43rd in the U.S. for children ages 19 to 35 months, and data from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry shows 54 percent of children ages 19 to 35 months and 29 percent of teens aged 13 to 18 are fully up to date on vaccinations.”

It is creating a health risk where cases of preventable diseases such as whooping cough are now making a comeback. Accordingly, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced this week a new campaign called “I Vaccinate.” to increase awareness and provide validated information.

Hopefully this measured, sensible approach will work. And if it doesn’t, there’s always irrational fearmongering….

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Invasive Species of the Great Lakes

Invasive Species of the Great Lakes

The one clear positive from President Trump’s proposed budget: It’s bringing Michiganders closer together. Specifically, in the budget proposal the White House sent to Congress last week, the Trump administration is suggesting to cut the budget of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) from $300 million per year to $10 million per year.

Well, that’s not so much a “cut” as a “gut.” And not so much an art-of-the-deal low-ball opener as a kick in the crotch.

Whatever you call it, the result has been bipartisan condemnation from politicians and voters in Michigan and other Great Lakes states. The focus of the GLRI is to clean up polluted areas, prevent and control invasive species, reduce nutrient runoff that cause algal blooms, and restore habitat to protect native species. In other words, the GLRI helps us take proper care of our most vital environmental and economic resource.

Why then would President Trump want to mess with that? Especially when we are the very same states that tipped the electoral college to his favor? It seems counterintuitive.

Ah, but this is just Trump being Trump. He’s doing what he said he’d do — shaking up the establishment by not being a typical politician. A typical politician would provide at least some quid pro quo for votes. Not Trump, so this is no surprise.

What might be a wake-up call, however, is that this is a good example of another part of Trump’s nature. His 40+ year public record pretty clearly demonstrates that he acts first in his own self interest. Always. It’s fine when your goals align with his. But when they don’t, he wins, you lose.

So if you’re thinking he could maybe cut back on those Mar-a-Lago golf weekends to free up money for the GLRI, you’re going to be disappointed.

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Town Hall Excuses

Town Hall Excuses

Probably the easiest way for editorial cartoonists to get readers on their side is to make a general target of politicians. You know, not really saying anything, but instead depending on people’s recognition of the stereotype to do all the work — kind of like a hack standup comedian, “And hey, what’s up with those politicians? Have you seen these guys? They’re killing me with their this and their that. Who’s with me? Am I right?!”

I do my best to avoid that. Although on those days when the deadline is looming and that one really good idea has yet to make its appearance, it can be awfully tempting.

The thing is, I have no doubt that being a US representative or senator is a very, very difficult job. I mean, if you’re doing it right, you are beholden to your constituents, who are (as it turns out) real live people. And anytime there are more than a handful of people, there is going to be disagreement. I imagine it is an enormous challenge to navigate that for an entire district or a state.

But this is exactly why I have such disdain for those politicians who are weaseling out of having live, in-person town hall meetings (and in venues large enough to accommodate all those who are interested). It just feeds that negative politician stereotype.

Of course these town hall meetings are likely to be uncomfortable. The politicians will face difficult questions. They will face difficult people. Get over it! Voters literally gave them their jobs with those sweet, sweet healthcare benefits. They will never have to worry about the quality of medical care for themselves or their family. They will never have to imagine financial ruin from an unfortunate illness. The very least they can do is explain to us why all Americans can’t have that, too.

C’mon now! Politicians! Am I right?

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Totally Missed Spring

Totally Missed Spring

Are you guys exhausted? I know I am. I don’t know that I can continue to maintain this level of political outrage. I mean, I draw editorial cartoons, so political outraged is something of a default mode. But lately — especially this past month — it’s been like drinking from a fire hose. There is just so much to be relentlessly outraged about.

I’ve read that the process for effecting political change is more of a marathon than a sprint. I think that’s true. The prudent plan is to pick key battles and set an even pace. But it is difficult to think long term when it feels like the house is on fire.

That’s actually where the idea for this week’s comic started. I recently bought a t-shirt featuring a very popular meme taken from KC Green and his webcomic, “Gunshow.” It’s an image of a placid little doggie with a bowler hat sitting in a house that is engulfed in flames saying, “This is fine.”

It got me to thinking — what’s the inverse of that? If it’s bad to be completely numb to the danger that surrounds you, what’s the consequence of perpetual reaction and losing sight of the beauty that surrounds you? What is the right level of vigilance?

One of the benefits of living in Michigan is the harsh lessons the weather can teach us. It was nice this week. Incredibly nice for February, and a gift that should be appreciated. A typical Michigan spring lasts all of 20 minutes, and this may have been the only one we’re gonna get. I hope you were able to take a moment away from the fire hose to enjoy it!

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Billionaire Types

Billionaire Types

After last week’s multi-panel, text-filled cartoon, I wanted to do something simple and quick (for your sake and for mine). And while I like it, and I think it makes its point, I will cop to the fact that it is not necessarily 100% accurate.

Mike Ilitch died this past week. He was a Michigan icon, born in Detroit to working-class immigrant parents. He and his wife Marian founded Little Caesars Pizza and grew it into a business empire. He was longtime owner and fierce supporter of our beloved Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers. His charitable life ran the gamut from youth sports programs and education to community economic assistance and veteran affairs.

But the truth is, Mr. Ilitch was not all “give.” He was a businessperson who created a great deal of wealth by looking after his own interests. The new Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit is a pretty good example of that. It was certainly within Mr. Ilitch’s ability to pay for the entire facility himself, but instead he managed to get $350 million in taxpayer money to share the cost.

Some people resent this and hold it against Ilitch . I tend to take a broader view. First, billionaires get to be billionaires by taking money people are willing to give them. Second, Detroit could have done a whole lot worse with a sports franchise owner. (Donald Trump famously not only sunk his New Jersey Generals football team in the 1980s but pretty much drove the whole United States Football League out of business.)

Nevertheless, the truth may also be that Trump is not all “take.” (If he’d just release his tax returns, we’d be better able to qualify that. And whether he is in fact a billionaire.) But the point is that cartoons (and memes) exaggerate to be funny or provoke a response, but real life is much more nuanced. Ideally, simple and quick start conversations, not end them.

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Let me, Gerry Mander, Work for You!

Let me, Gerry Mander, Work for You!

All of our money (as in United States of America legal tender) has the motto, “In God We Trust.” Our coins also have “E pluribus unum” (out of many, one) and “Liberty.” They are there, I believe, as reminders of who we are and would like to be as Americans. It may get a little crowded (especially on the dime), but I humbly submit that we should add one more: “We are a country of action; lies do not become us.”

That is, of course, comes from the great William Goldman and his book and screenplay for “The Princess Bride.” I hope you have read the book and seen the movie. (If Betsy DeVos wants to begin to win me over, she can start by making this a national education requirement.)

Even if you have and don’t remember, there is a scene where the evil Prince Humperdinck and his soldiers capture our heroes Westley and Princess Buttercup. In exchange for agreeing to go with Humperdinck, Buttercup makes him promise to return Westley safely to his ship. He lies to Buttercup, giving his word that it will be done. After Humperdinck and Buttercup ride off, the prince’s henchman, Rugen, sneers down at Westley, “Come, sir, we must get you to your ship.” Westley, knowing full well he intends to torture and kill him, replies, “We are men of action; lies do not become us.”

To my mind, that fits perfect with our other mottoes. It explicitly demonstrates the ideals we Americans aspire to: Honor. Courage. Fortitude. No BS.

Gerrymandering is contrary to those ideals. It lies about who we are. It skews what we represent. It nurtures the self-preservation of those in power. It tips the balance to favor a privileged few over liberty for all. It limits discourse. It protects scoundrels.

We are a country of action; lies do not become us.

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Time Traveler from 1975

Time Traveler from 1975

The topic for this week’s cartoon started with news of Michigan Republican legislators pushing for tax cuts ahead of Governor Snyder presenting a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. It seemed fairly irresponsible, given the challenges Michigan faces and the fact that they cannot ever seem to be bothered with identifying the budgets that would require corresponding cutting. The governor, to his credit, pointed this out:
http://michiganradio.org/post/governor-snyder-pushes-back-against-tax-cut-fever-legislature

But the inspiration came from a good friend of mine, Jim, who earlier this week shared an old Detroit News article about his great uncle, Jerry terHorst. Mr. terHorst was the press secretary for Gerald Ford who famously resigned his position when Ford pardoned Richard Nixon. From the article:

…tenHorst was “stunned” to learn the President was going to pardon Richard Nixon, before indictment and before trial. TenHorst recalls: “I wondered very briefly that afternoon whether there wasn’t some way I could serve my conscience and still stay on at the White House. But that period of consideration was very short. I knew I couldn’t.”

So even though President Ford was an old and dear friend, tenHorst felt he could not be a mouthpiece for something his values absolutely could not support.

But here’s the kicker: To find a new press secretary, Ford had head-hunters contact terHorst. Ford so respected terHorst he did not hesitate to go to him for advice.

Wow. Where have these people gone?

The thing is, I know principled, conservative, Christian Republicans still exist. My friend Jim is one, and he shares those very traits with his uncle. If I happen to run into him, I expect we’ll talk about the cartoon, and he’ll share his view, which will likely run counter to mine. (Note that I wrote “view” and not “side.” I’m positive we are on the same side: the importance of fiscal responsibility.)

But where the heck are the principled, conservative, Christian people in Republican leadership?

I was outed long ago as a Gerald Ford fanboy, so forgive me yet another indulgence, but consider:

  • President Gerald Ford and press secretary Jerry terHorst
  • President Donald Trump and press secretary Sean Spicer

Could there possibly be a more stark contrast in personal integrity?

Wow.

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