Archive for October, 2018

That Michael Ducarcass

That Michael Ducarcass

In our early years as a couple, my wife and I used to make a yearly visit to Pennsylvania to visit relatives — grandparents, great aunts and uncles. On one such visit in the fall of 1988, a post-dinner conversation turned to politics. Among the Sanka and Jell-O 3-2-1 Jello, opinions were expressed about the presidential candidates.

One of my aunts said, “I don’t like that Michael Ducarcass.” (His name, of course, is “Dukakis” but in a combination of her Pennsylvania Dutch accent and unfamiliarity with Greek names, it came out “Do-carcass.”) Why, I asked. “Because I don’t trust him after he dumped all that garbage into Boston Harbor.” That may sound like a non-sequitur now, but back then there was a TV attack ad very heavily implying that Michael Dukakis had, as Governor of Massachusetts, personally poured massive amounts of trash into Boston Harbor. It seemed kind of laughable. But it worked. And since that day, “That Michael Ducarcass” has been shorthand in our family for, “This attack ad is riddled with lies, but it’s probably gonna be effective.”

‘Tis the season for negative ads. Well, in truth they are never quite out of season. But late October, they are ubiquitous (the pumpkin-spice of advertisement flavors). And I’m fine with one candidate calling out another candidate’s shortcomings. (Especially if the funding source of the ad is transparent.) But when the negative get weaponized with lies and turns into an attack, that’s we should focus more on what we need, not what we fear.

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What Schuette Says (And What Schuette Says to His Base)

What Schuette Says (And What Schuette Says to His Base)

I was inspired this week by a movie that came out a couple years ago called Office Christmas Party. (No judgments! It was not what you would call critically acclaimed, but I will freely admit that I enjoyed it very much. More than once. …okay, go ahead and judge me.)

In the movie, a local branch of a tech company is planning an office Christmas party (or “non-denominational holiday mixer” as the HR rep calls it). Clay, the good-hearted slacker who is in charge of the branch wants to have the party. His corporate boss, Carol, is very much against it. The plans for the party come up accidentally during a meeting, and Clay tries to downplay it, but Carol is clear that she thinks it’s a waste of money and is cancelled. Clay assures Carol that, yes, it is cancelled, but immediately winks to his colleagues and mouths “it’s not.” Carol calls him out, and Clay again agrees that there will be no party, but then glances to his co-workers and indicates that the party is definitely on. Carol becomes more agitated, “Hey idiot, I’m looking right at you!” And it kind of goes on like that for a bit.

It’s funny in the movie because Clay is the protagonist who is looking out for his people and ultimately trying to save their jobs. Carol is the cold, uncaring corporate exec looking out only for herself. It is exaggerated and ridiculous.

It’s not so funny when it’s a gubernatorial candidate looking to attract moderate and independent votes. And even less so when it’s the President. (You can pick from the hundreds of examples, but one of the latest was that medicare-for-all op-ed he submitted to USA Today this week.)

I don’t know if there is a proper name for this particular technique. It could be classified as gaslighting, spoofing, trolling — but that just invites an argument over semantics. How about we agree not to put up with it?

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About Those Ballot Proposals

About Those Ballot Proposals

Look, it’s not like I’m unaware of my own inconsistencies and, well, let’s just say it: hypocrisy. I’ve drawn cartoons on several occasions expressing my opinion that ballot proposals are a bad idea and, well, let’s just say it: stupid.

And yet here I am fairly certain that I’m going to vote yes on all three of the proposals that will be on the November ballot. Let me attempt to explain, going from most defensible to least:

Proposal 18-2: A proposed constitutional amendment to establish a commission of citizens with exclusive authority to adopt district boundaries for the Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives and U.S. Congress, every 10 years. This is the “anti-gerrymandering” proposal. I support this wholeheartedly because it simply is not realistic to expect the legislature to fix this. In an ideal world, perhaps. But it is just so against nature for a ruling political party to cede any ground in defining boundaries for voting districts. This is the only practical way to get it done.

Proposal 18-3: A proposal to authorize automatic and Election Day voter registration, no-reason absentee voting, and straight ticket voting; and add current legal requirements for military and overseas voting and postelection audits to the Michigan Constitution. This is the “simplify voting” proposal. Again, in an ideal world, this wouldn’t be an issue. Of course we want to make participation for citizens as straightforward as possible. Who wouldn’t? Folks who benefit by making voting difficult, that’s who. A few years ago, this was easily solved by calling out the suppressors. These days, however, suppression appears to be an acceptable strategy.

Proposal 18-1: A proposed initiated law to authorize and legalize possession, use and cultivation of marijuana products by individuals who are at least 21 years of age and older, and commercial sales of marijuana through state-licensed retailers. This is the “legalize recreational marijuana” proposal. Truly this should be the job of the legislature, and the 2008 medical marijuana ballot proposal is the cautionary tale. Since its approval, it’s been a constant grind to make the rules that define exactly what “legal” means. Good legislation establishes those rules before becoming law. So I’m wavering on this one, but the legislature has shown no inclination to deal with it the right way.

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