Archive for MLive Media Group

The World Is Going to Hell …or Not

Editorial Cartoon -- MLive Media Group

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
June 7, 2015

Also posted online at MLive.com, June 6, 2015

When I graduated from Michigan Tech, the special speaker at the ceremony was an executive from Intel Corporation. He prattled on for his allotted 30 minutes about the current state of the microchip business, how there was once great promise, but now the Japanese competition was eating their lunch. (This to a group of young engineers predominantly from southeast Michigan who were intimately familiar with Japanese competition eating lunches.) There was nothing inspiring about it. The take-away message for me as a graduate was “the world used to be better, but now it pretty much sucks — alas for you.” Worst. Commencement. Address. Ever.

Maybe that’s why it’s a pet peeve of mine when some (generally older) person goes off on an “everything is going to hell” rant. First, it’s not helpful. Second, it’s not true. Yes, there may be some things today that are undeniably worse (quality of journalism). But you can’t just cherry pick because some things that are undeniably better (beer choices).

Mostly I believe it to be a case of the world evolving and having to deal with new variations of the same human challenges.

So give the youth a break. Try to share perspective, not opinion. (As it turns out, the mid-80s were a minor low point in the life of Intel, and the company went on to tremendous success.) Because there really is nothing more insufferable than an older person (especially a baby boomer) going on about how their music was so much better than yours.

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Beware This Union Brute

Beware This Union Brute

Also posted online at MLive.com, May 30 2015

The summer between my junior and senior years in college, I was a second shift supervisor at a GM foundry in Saginaw. A large part of my job involved finding Smiley. I don’t remember his real name. (Smiley was one of those ironic nicknames; his facial expression was pretty much non-existent.) He was old, like everybody else I supervised you know, over 30. He had thick, tear-drop glasses perched over a bushy, fu manchu mustache and stringy hair that straggled out from under a hard-hat liner (as was the foundry style, which made workers look like mutant World War I fighter pilots). Smiley struck me as a rejected Doobie Brother.

At the beginning of a shift, Smiley would punch in and then typically disappear. To be honest, if I didn’t need Smiley I wouldn’t necessarily look for him. After I set up my lines in the finishing department (it didn’t take long; the workers knew much more than I did), I’d go off to find bins of important castings that the first-shift supervisor had hidden from me (so his production numbers would look better than mine that’s another story.)

The finishing department was at the end of the foundry where the castings were heat treated, cleaned and shipped. It was a huge warren of aisles and machinery populated by randomly stacked bins filled with assortments of metal castings. It was a great place to hide. So usually it was only by chance that I’d find Smiley behind a door, crouched in a dark corner, whatever. I’d send him back to his job, and he’d dutifully work the rest of the shift. That’s how the game was played. Nothing I could do to change the rules; the union protected him.

All that to say, 30 or 40 years ago, I would agree: It was appropriate to be wary of a system that allowed a 35 year-old man to get paid a living wage to play hide and seek. But today, the foundry is long gone, and there are a lot less Smileys, and also a lot, lot less living wage jobs. For issues like prevailing wage laws, the same drumbeat to crush organized labor seems disproportionate and counterproductive. It’s 2015 and time to refocus on laws that are going to help Michigan on the whole.

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Hello, Michergrainians!

Hello, Michergrainians!

Editorial Cartoon

Also posted online at MLive.com, May 23 2015

Disclaimer: This one is a little bit unfair. (Well… all editorial cartoons are at least a little bit unfair.) And yet, I would like to state for the record: I believe Democratic candidates for president to have equal capacity in their cluelessness of all things Michigan. But at this point there are just so many more GOP candidates, and they have already started visiting. Plus Mitt Romney pretty much tarnished their brand during the last cycle. Despite having Michigan roots, Mr. Romney was spectacularly clueless. (Hint for current candidates: Don’t lecture us on the academic virtues of private market bankruptcies; turns out we don’t like that much.)

Say what you will about Barack Obama (as if you need prompting), but as a candidate he was pretty good at talking on themes important to Michiganders (say, the benefits of a healthy manufacturing base) without trying to relate to us as our best buddy. I found his steadfast allegiance to his Chicago sports teams to be admirable, even as I despised the Bulls.

So who knows? Maybe somebody will break out of the pack and neither pander nor insult us. But I fully expect a summer of cringe-worthy quotes from the GOP candidates and from Ms. Clinton (assuming a challenger makes it worth her while to stop by). And that would be okay. As true Michiganders know — anything that makes summer last longer is a positive.

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Why Is Lansing Filled with Idiots? Oh, Yeah…

Why Is Lansing Filled with Idiots? Oh, Yeah...

Also posted online at MLive.com, May 16, 2015

In the 1960s, the British comedy duo of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore had this skit called “Frog and Peach” in which Moore played a reporter interviewing an eccentric restauranteur played by Cook. (It’s definitely worth looking up if you are not familiar with it.)

After introductions Moore asks Cook when he started his restaurant, “The Frog and Peach.”

Cook replies, “Shortly after the Second World War.” And then continues, “Do you remember that? Absolutely ghastly business. Absolutely ghastly.” Pauses and adds, “I was against it.”

Moore agrees, “I… I think we all were.”

A bit indignantly, Cook replies, “Yes, well, I wrote a letter.”

Indeed. So not only was I against that ghastly Proposal 1 business, I wrote a letter. Well… in my case, it was a cartoon. For others it was a comment or blog post or perhaps even an actual letter. As evidenced by the vote, we were all pretty much against it.

But being right and indignant doesn’t necessarily absolve us of blame. It is Michigan voters who keep electing representatives who actively proclaim to hate government, who proudly want no part of knowing how to create viable legislation, whose only perceptible lawmaking skills are saying “no” and kicking a can down the road. Why would we have any reason to expect competence?

We’re just as nutty as a fellow who opens a restaurant in the middle of a bog that serves only two dishes — Frog a la Peche and Peche a la Frog — both of which are as revolting as they sound. Of course, the business has been a catastrophe. Near the end of the skit Moore asks Cook, “Do you feel you have learned from your mistakes?”

Cook replies enthusiastically, “Oh, certainly. Certainly. I have learned from my mistakes, and I’m sure I could repeat them exactly.”

Seriously. You should give it a listen:

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Proposal 1 and My Taxes

Proposal 1 and My Taxes

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News

May 3, 2015

Help me out here: Is there a word or term for the feeling when somebody offers you information that is factual, but not necessarily helpful? More specifically, what do you call it when truth is both unsolicited and worthless — and kinda makes you angry?

That’s what I’m getting at in this week’s cartoon. The fact is, taxes are not the problem. Tax rates on the whole for Americans and Michiganders are relatively low. Sure, maybe a few minor taxes have fluttered upward, but major ones like income and property have, at worst, been stable. So all the tea-party-induced puckering over Prop 1 and higher taxes is really misguided. Middle-class folks should be much more upset about our declining wages.

And how did hearing that make us feel? Because it may be true, but there is still less money in our pockets.

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Check out Auchtoon! on MLive.com

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Readers, Friends, Family,

A wide and deep thank you to those who contacted MLive on my behalf and advocated for my editorial cartoons. You made a difference! First, for me — I was honored by the thoughtful words you sent to Mr. Fettig. More importantly, your emails helped immensely with an initial step toward getting my cartoons on MLive.com and back in every Sunday newspaper:

This morning, MLive posted one of my cartoons:
http://www.mlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/05/auchtoons_editorial_cartoons_f.html

And now, I am again asking for your help: Please follow the link and check it out! Click around the MLive site and then come back to the cartoon (as many times as you’d like!). Share it on Facebook; tweet it; link to it; forward this email to friends. The more page views, the easier it will be for me to sell the value of local editorial cartoons to the decision-makers.

By the way, I think you will actually enjoy the cartoon. (That should really be what’s selling this, right?) Note that it’s four panels, so you’ll have to do some clicking to get to the punch line.)

Again, thank you so much for your support.!

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Return Weekly Editorial Cartoons — and Make Them Available Online!

Readers, Friends, Family,

Because of recent budget decisions at MLive newspapers, my contract for editorial cartoons has been reduced — from once per week to once per month. As you might imagine, I don’t think it’s a good decision, either for me or for the readers. I hope you agree because I could use your help.

I am proposing to MLive that they return my editorial cartoons to each Sunday print edition. But then, to add value, to also make these same cartoons available as stories on the MLive.com site. They would appear as a headline and image along with a paragraph or two of my commentary (similar to the way they now appear on my blog, http://auchtoon.2gtech.com).

Up to this point, my cartoons have been only in the physical newspapers as an exclusive benefit to print buyers or subscribers. But adding the cartoons to MLive’s online site would draw new readers and clicks — the online version is definitely where newspapers see their future. So, print subscribers would continue to enjoy a weekly editorial cartoon crafted specially for Michigan readers, and online readers would benefit from a great new feature perfectly suited for online delivery.

Please take a moment to send an email to Todd Fettig, Director of Presentation at MLive: tfettig1@mlive.com  

A few words in support of my proposal would be very much appreciated. If you would like to send a note to the editor of your local newspaper, that would be great, too. And please feel free to forward this email to anybody you know who might be interested.

If you have questions or want more information about any of this, please contact me. Thank you so much.

Sincerely and respectfully,
John

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We Are All in This Together! …Except for Me

We Are All in This Together! ...Except for Me.

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
April 5, 2015

We Americans have this bipolar thing going on. We are intensely proud of being Americans, yet fiercely independent. We wrap ourselves in the flag, embrace our neighbors, and chant “USA!” in enormous crowds. Yet we are deeply suspicious of those same neighbors when it appears they might be getting something we are not. We have an absolute belief in the importance of universal fairness. Until that fairness conflicts with our own personal preferences.

We should really take our meds. That is, if we could agree on whether we should (and who should pay for them).

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Welcome to Michigan! (But Maybe not You)

Welcome to Michigan! (But Maybe not You)

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
March 29, 2015

Well it really blew up in Indiana last week, but Michigan is fixin’ to do the same thing: pass a law that essentially legalizes discrimination under the guise of protecting religious liberty. And why should we be suspicious of this Republican-led effort when they assure us that they have the best of intentions? Well, it’s an ol’ GOP duplicity, I suppose.

On one hand, you have the Governor Snyder wing — the former CEO who is all about business and jobs and growing the economy. On the other, you have the Gary Glenn wing — the state rep from Midland who is all about a creepy fascination with a supposed gay agenda. His last week’s rallying of the troops to form a witch hunt committee for the new editor of the Midland newspaper (who happens to be gay) is just another example. You can’t be pro-business and anti-certain kinds of people. (Actually, Susan Demas has a pretty good article that expands on this point.)

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Sunshine Week: Transparency Is for Everybody

Sunshine Week: Transparency Is for Everybody

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
March 22, 2015

Sunshine Week is a national initiative spearheaded by the American Society of News Editors to educate the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy. It was actually March 15–21 this year, but I had just found out the bit about our Governor and legislators being exempt for FOI requests, so I figured the week after was still topical. The cartoon itself is kind of a reaction to last week’s cartoon about open carry. The comments continued to pour in with the majority summarily dismissing any larger point I was attempting to make by lumping me into a political category — liberal dirtbag in this case. It’s unfortunate because it salts the earth to prevent any sort of real discussion from growing, which is exactly what excessive and unnecessary secrecy needs to thrive.

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