Archive for May, 2017

Memorial Day Visit

Memorial Day Visit

Freedom is essential for a happy life and true success. I don’t think most would argue with that. But like most good things, freedom can be appropriated for self-serving purposes.

Fifty years ago, this sort of appropriation was something that tended to be associated with the left. Freedom to have sex without any responsibility, freedom to take drugs without personal or social consequence, freedom to market and sell to youth without ever providing anything of real value. Creates a certain picture, right? Dirty, filthy, commie, godless, hippie, scumbag. (The specific character that pops to my mind is Wesley, Jenny’s abusive boyfriend in Forrest Gump.)

Today, however, the appropriation of freedom for self-serving purposes seems much more associated with the right. Freedom to remove environmental safeguards without any real thought to the consequences. Freedom to finance tax breaks for the very rich by denying healthcare access to the working poor. Freedom to propagate unapologetic lies as long as they create a political advantage. (A whole host of non-fictional characters pop to mind for this.)

In both cases, the selfish march under the banner of “freedom” — and freedom becomes merely a means to an end.

Is that a reasonable parallel to make? I hope so. Because on Memorial Day weekend I not only appreciate the freedom to express my opinions, I also try to be mindful of the responsibilities that come with it.


Good Jobs for Michigan

Good Jobs for Michigan

My inner dialogue for this week’s cartoon —

Rational Me (RE): Let’s please do something without Donald Trump in it. There’s just so much going on with him right now, our cartoon might just get lost in the news swirl.

Emotional Me (EM): Absolutely. I’m on overload with that and besides drawing him kinda make us queasy.

RM: Right. So what’s been going on in Michigan this week?


RM: That’s all you ever want to talk about. How about cars, though? It looks like vehicle sales are leveling off in North America. The automakers are looking to cut back.

EM: Which means some dedicated Michiganders are going to lose their jobs to protect profit margins and stock prices.

RM: Well, yeah, but the companies need to protect themselves. Competition is fierce. Pruning some workers now might just just save more jobs later.

EM: Sure, sure. Absolutely. At least there will be plenty of good paying jobs with incredible benefits once the coal mines open.

RM: Um… there aren’t any coal mines in Michigan. There isn’t even any coal.

EM: Exactly.

RM: Oh, I see where you’re going with this. Not bad. But I thought we agreed to avoid Trump this week.

EM: Yeah… you’re right. Let’s check the news and see what else we got.

RM: Right. Okay, this just popped up: “No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly.” Guess who?

EM: Are you kidding me? That’s what he has to say to future leaders at a commencement address?!

RM: I mean, I understand that he talks in hyperbole, but I think he honestly means it! Does he have no real understanding of history? Geez louise, how thin-skinned can you get?!

EM: So, what do you want to draw?

RM: Oh, it’s on.

EM: Yep, let’s do this.


Benefits Race to the Bottom

Benefits Race to the Bottom

Ugh! This again! So earlier this week the story broke that Senate Majority Leader, Arlan Meekhof, and Speaker of the House, Tom Leonard, were making cuts to teacher retirement benefits a top priority in the state budget. Specifically, they want to transfer what is now a state-backed pension into a 401k plan.

The underlying reason is pragmatic enough — the state would pay much less money for public school employee retirement costs.There might be some token matching funds thrown in and a happy, shiny roll-out gleefully touting the empowering opportunities of personal investment. (Oh, boy! I know I love it!) But the real aim is to save the state money through cuts (and not investment).

This, of course, has been the unrelenting game plan for 21st century Michigan — cut our way to prosperity. Now within the context of the recessions we’ve been through (including that Great one), many cuts made sense. Because of revenue drops, they were necessary to meet the requirement of balancing the budget. And in some cases, they were a means to realigning our priorities as we went from a manufacturing state to …whatever it is that we’re becoming.

But now? Really? At some point it would seem reasonable to try to attract talent to professional positions. Instead, the Republican leadership in particular appears to be in a race to the benefits bottom for the average citizen.

Full disclosure: The cartoon is actually a variation on a similar theme I did several years ago — that one was specifically about medical benefits: “We can only be truly happy when we all have lousy medical benefits.” *Sigh*. I just want to let you guys know that my intention has always been to be a satirist, not a prophet.


Great Lakes Funding Plan

Great Lakes Funding Plan

None of what Donald Trump does should surprise anybody. His behavior is erratic, certainly, but highly predictable. He has spent a lifetime demonstrating in a very public way that acting in his own self-interest is his default mode, his plan B, his alternate route, his “upon further consideration,” and so on. Look it up — it’s right there in his books, his shows, and his copious media coverage.

And yet, how can it be so disappointing when he goes ahead and does something that you know was entirely probable? Pick your example over the past 100 days (or, indeed, over his lifespan), but what recently kicked me in the mouth was his unprompted embrace of two brutal strongmen, Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.

After “winning” a recent referendum that will allow Erdoğan to further consolidate his dictatorial powers in Turkey, President Trump made a point of calling him to congratulate him on his victory. This while Erdoğan has been busy jailing journalists, including editorial cartoonist, Musa Kart, for doing what journalists do. If you’re interested in knowing more about Mr. Kart, go to the Cartoonist Rights Network International website:

Duterte also has been ruthless with journalists. But he is perhaps best known for a brand of supposed law and order where he has encouraged summary execution as a preferred method of achieving justice. Heck, he’s even bragged of murdering people himself. President Trump has reached out to Duterte with kind praise and an invitation to visit at the White House.

Another common thread with these two? There are Trump Towers in Istanbul and Manila.

So… not surprising, but deeply disappointing.