Archive for February, 2017

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!


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.


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.


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:

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?