Archive for October, 2010

Anonymous Attack Ads — Where Do You Think the Money Comes from?…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, October 23, 2010

Classic editorial cartooning — from anecdotal evidence, gross oversimplification, and a silly drawing, truth (hopefully) is revealed.


Michigan Maturity and the Con-Con…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, October16, 2010

On the ballot next month Michigan voters will get to choose whether to have a convention to rewrite our state constitution (or the cool way to say it, have a “con-con”).

Why It’s a Good Idea: Our constitution has been amended several time since the last whisking nearly 50 years ago, and it’s a bit of a patchwork mess. In fact, the whole state is a bit of a patchwork mess. So now would be a good time to start fresh, realign goals, and move on a clear path forward.

Why It’s a Bad Idea: We can’t trust ourselves not to totally screw it up. Notice I didn’t say “politicians” or “Wall Street bankers” or “that damn Obamacare that is tearing the moral fabric of a once genteel and noble society leading us into ruination, bankruptcy, venereal diseases, and the designated hitter rule in baseball, which I have never liked.” No, it’s kind of like term limits — because we think so little of our capacity to make good decisions we take away our own options.

 For the comic I singled out the politicians because it’s election season and their pandering is in high gear (and because it was the path of least resistance to get the point across). But it is good to keep in mind that — in a country that is of the people, by the people, for the people — politicians are not separate citizens and government is not a separate institution. They are we, and it is us. Time to take some responsibility, read up, and vote.

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Justin Amish in a Dress. But a Nice, Sensible One!…

Not published

This was going to be the editorial cartoon in this Saturday’s Press. Unfortunately, my editor decided against it. Well, unfortunately for me (I was really pleased with the drawing — got Justin Amash’s lips just right), but fortunately for my editor. You see, my point in this is that Justin Amash, the Republican candidate for the Grand Rapids’ area congressional district, needs some definition. He’s a young guy who, after being a state rep, is running for congress for the first time, and he is likely to win this traditionally Republican district. Amash has big potential, but he also hews a line often to the right of previous representatives (re: Gerald Ford, Paul Henry, Vern Ehlers).

I’m not passing immediate judgment, but his website does read very much like Sarah Palin’s but without (to his credit) the cutsie “mama bear” stuff and cloying need to be part of pop culture. So I dressed him in a Palin-esque suit, wig, and glasses to draw attention to their political similarities and let readers decide how they feel about it. No labels, no arrows, and with some subtly. But subtly doesn’t work all that well in the weeks before an election. And the likely result? Letters and phone calls demanding to know “why your cartoonist is saying Justin Amash is a transvestite!” My editor would be the one getting those, not me. The dress. All certain folks would see is the dress. So I came up with something different. Buy a Saturday Press and let me know what you think.


The DeVos’s New House…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, October 9, 2010

A few week’s ago, the Grand Rapids Press ran a story on the recently completed summer home built on the south shore of Lake Macatawa near Holland. It is owned by the DeVos family. Richard DeVos and Jay Van Andel were founders of Amway Corporation, their families continue to run Amway, and have since created, developed, married into, and spawned many, many other ventures. Long story short, the DeVos’s are a prominent and successful West Michigan family.

So the article was basically “fabulously wealthy local family has existing mansion plowed and builds a magnificent new house and guest house in its place.” If nothing else, it made for attractive first page photos. Shortly thereafter the letters to the editor started rolling in regarding “in poor taste” this and “in these times of economic hardship” that. How dare the Press make this a headline story!  Then the counter letters started to show up with their “providing paying jobs” this and “you’re just jealous, so go suck an egg” that. It devolved from there. Which is all very understandable if not predictable — people have strong feelings and a baffling conviction that a letter to the editor or a post to a chat forum will convince the world to see it their way. But the truly remarkable thing was just how well sustained the argument. It has been a serious collective panty bunch for West Michigan for several weeks. The comic was my attempt at hastening the unbunching process.


Stellaluna Marie…

As long as I am going to share something very personal here in a blog post, I might as well go all the way and tell you this: Our cat Stellaluna was my potty pal. I generally start my day somewhere between 4:00 and 5:00AM, and the first thing I do after I drag out of bed is head to bathroom down the hall. I have to warm up to the idea of vertical, so I have a seat. That’s when Stellie (if she isn’t snoozing away with one of the kids) stops by to say good morning. She rubs and chats and brumbles. So I pick her up for a good skritching, and it isn’t long before she stretches her possum nose up to give a few kisses. Along about this time, our other cat Cassie (aka, Poo!) strolls past the door and throws us a “that’s disgusting and unsanitary” look, but then gets close enough for a few touches. After a minute or two, I put Stellie down, and she pads happily off. I take care of what I need to take care of, now fully awake. And happy because it is eminently clear: I am loved.

Stellaluna died Tuesday. She had congenital heart failure. It was sudden and horrible. I am certainly grateful for the seven and a half years of good health where she was her kind and sensitive Stellie self. (Nobody could enjoy a summer day quite like Stellie.) But you know what? I still feel cheated. I guess that’s normal when something or somebody goes too soon.

It’ll be okay. I feel bad — my whole family does — but we’ll work through it. It’s always difficult to lose something good, but it’s even more difficult to lose something special. I don’t expect that it will be very easy to find another potty pal.

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What the Heck Is a “Virg Bernero”?…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, October 2, 2010

I am not quite sure whether I am very proud of or sorely disappointed in the potential voters of West Michigan. It seems we will be voting for governor in less than a month and the disinterest is palpable. That is, the air is thick with not caring. Apathy is skyrocketing?… As you can see, I’m having some difficulty putting it into words. But the feeling I get is that it is very cool the governor’s race has not (yet) turned into a mudslinging sideshow of partisan bickering. And yet, it might be nice if voters had some idea of who in fact was running. (Point of information: Rick Snyder is the Republican candidate; Virg Bernero is the Democrat.) But, hey — the truth is, we’ve been pretty dazzled by ArtPrize around here, and if that’s the big distraction, the governor thing can wait.


Good News! The Recession Is Over!…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, September 25, 2010

The highly abridged back story is this: Bob Israels, a longtime West Michigan furniture store owner and entrepreneur, got caught in the credit crunch. Back in 2008, Israels borrowed a boatload of money to renovate the former Roger’s Department Store in Wyoming to be the new home of Klingman’s, a century old name for high quality furniture retail. The investment was stunning — the store, the building, the surrounding grounds were all top class, and a beacon for commercial development. 

Unfortunately, the timing could not have been worse. The Great Recession reached even into the ranks of Klingman’s customers — the upper and upper-middle class. Israels attempted to work with the banks for some flexibility with his loans. In years past, banks were glad to work with business people with high integrity and proven records. But the mid-size banks that Israels borrowed from were hurting for cash, too. Maybe they tried to work with him, I don’t know. But they ended up calling in the loans. Now Israels is liquidating Klingman’s.

So to review: Wall Street throws a party, sucks all the money out of the system, takes money from the government and keeps it, reports tidy profits as actual businesses in the hinterlands of America suffocate from lack of capital, and then attempts to bolster consumer confidence by declaring the recession over. That about right?…