Archive for May, 2015

Beware This Union Brute

Beware This Union Brute

Also posted online at, 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.


Hello, Michergrainians!

Hello, Michergrainians!

Editorial Cartoon

Also posted online at, 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.


Why Is Lansing Filled with Idiots? Oh, Yeah…

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

Also posted online at, 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:


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.

Comments (1)

Check out Auchtoon! on


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 and back in every Sunday newspaper:

This morning, MLive posted one of my cartoons:

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.!