Archive for May, 2020

Disaster on Our Hands

Disaster on Our Hands

My niece works as a chemical engineer in a petroleum refinery. When the pandemic hit, there was both a glut of oil and a sharp reduction in demand for oil products. That, along with stay-at-home orders for workers, led to the difficult decision to turn off the refinery for a bit. Refineries are intricate arrays of pipes and heat and reactions and processes all kept at a delicate balance. They are not really meant to be turned off because of the difficulty of turning them back on, which is exactly what my niece is going to be faced with soon. (She’s super smart and dedicated, so that’ll help.)

But it’s kinda like that for all of us. We are all having to deal with turning an economy back on that wasn’t necessarily designed to be turned off. In fact, it wasn’t designed at all. So it has all of the intricacies of a refinery, but none of the careful plans and documentation, which will make restarting especially challenging.

Case in point, child care. Michigan Radio had a story this week on the critical need for the child care industry to reboot as parents start getting back to work. But the process is likely to be painfully slow because it wasn’t actually working well before the pandemic. It’s a disaster that is not nearly as spectacular as a long-neglected dam giving way. But for families with young children looking to get their lives back (or at least functional), the lack of quality, affordable child care may make it feel just as devastating.


Not a Conspiracy Theorist (Definitely a Conspiracy Theorist)

Not a Conspiracy Theorist (Definitely  a Conspiracy Theorist)

Americans have always been prone to conspiracy theories — from the McCarthyism and the John Birch Society to pizzagate and anti-vaxxers. But it certainly seems to hit a higher gear lately, hasn’t it? Of course it doesn’t help having a president who gins up outrage as a matter of course and doesn’t feel confined by details (or truth).

Still, our willingness to enthusiastically believe what should be unbelievable is astonishing. Take the United States Postal Service as an example. It’s an institution older that the country itself with offices in biggest cities and smallest towns that have severed as keystones to our communities. How did it become a bad guy?

We can’t trust them as an integral part of our voting system? Because why? Because it has perpetuated massive voter fraud in the past? (It hasn’t.) Because it will in the future? (It won’t.) Because it’s government run, and therefore part of the deep state? (It isn’t.)

As a cartoonist, it’s can be exhausting trying to keep ahead of the conspiracy theories — to come up with satire so outlandish that it will it will make people pause to think or laugh (hopefully both). But, honestly, drawing a character that blame the historically terrible floods in Midland this week on the post office — is that over-the-top exaggeration or real life?


Justin Amash Running for President

Justin Amash Running for President

Justin Amash is the current U.S. Representative for Michigan’s 3rd congressional district. He was part of the tea party wave of Republicans elected in 2010. (I used to draw him as Sarah Palin back then.) He turned out to be a bit more substantive, earning a reputation for being thoughtful and deliberative, holding firm to his beliefs. Some would say (including many of his colleagues) too firm.

By 2019 he finally had enough of Trumpism and left the Republican Party, declaring himself independent. Recently, he aligned himself with the Libertarian Party and announced “the formation of an exploratory committee to seek its presidential nomination,” which means he’s now running for president.

Rep. Amash was one of the first national politicians to embrace social media as a means of communicating with his constituents, and he’s about as transparent as you could hope for a lawmaker to be. Whether or not you like his politics, I think you have to respect him. Case in point, Amash recently had a series of tweets defining his position on state-level “stay-in-place” orders. For example:

Government can’t know what is essential. Every human has the right to earn a living. We can live safely without edicts from the governor.

This aligns with Amash’s libertarian views, so points for clarity and consistency. And points off for blind adherence to ideology in the face of a pandemic reality. But that all can be a discussion for another time. The things that really struck me about what Amash said is that (1) he makes a coherent point and (2) he manages to do it being a functional adult (no narcism, no threats, actual words, the whole shabang). Such a low, low bar, and yet it’s thrilling to see somebody make it over!


Have We Learned Nothing?

Lee Chatfield Interpreter

The current quarantine binge watch of choice in my house is the comedy series Veep. My wife and I had seen a few episodes here and there over its run this past decade, but the dearth of live sports events to watch has afforded us the opportunity.

The show is hilarious. For those of you unfamiliar, it’s the account of Salina Meyer, a fictional Vice President of the United States played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. It starts in 2012 and tracks in current time, but the politicians (from Congress to governors to world leaders) are all fictional. Even better, there is never any mention of political party, no left or right, no conservative or liberal. So without the distraction of sides or tribes, the satire can stay focused on the people — the deeply, deeply flawed unrelentingly terrible people. Their awfulness is such an exaggeration that they are almost, well, cartoonish. And that’s what makes it entertaining. 

I realize now that I am attempting very much the same thing with the cartoon this week. I play up House Speaker, Lee Chatfield, and his recent actions related to the coronavirus crisis to reveal a point and (hopefully) entertain. I don’t necessarily believe Chatfield is as awful as a character from Veep. I would like to believe that he has the best interests of Michigan in mind and those interests supersede his political ambitions. 

He and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey seem quite intent on getting Michiganders back to work, which is great. But they also seem to be willfully missing hard lessons from our recent past (if, in fact, you can call the Flint Water Crisis “past”). So I hope what they are doing is not primarily political grandstanding because in the real world that’s just not funny.


Rights and Responsibilities

Rights and Responsibilities

I have a life hack for you. It applies mostly to guys (at least that has been my experience), but I think everybody could find it useful. Here it is: If you are ever in a situation where people are encouraging you to do something by telling you “don’t be a p—-y,” then don’t do it. In other words, never do what they are encouraging you to do. Simple, right? Not following their advice is 100% always the right choice.

Now, there will be instances in life when you’ll be advised to step up, take responsibility, even “be a man.” Sometimes those giving the advice will have your best interests in heart, and you can at least consider taking it. But if they say “don’t be a p—-y,” yeah, they don’t care about you.

Here’s a similar one: People who talk only rights but never responsibilities are better off not being listened to. What they are saying is all about them and nothing about you (or anybody else really).

I didn’t come up with the rights/responsibilities life hack myself. It’s from a podcast I heard recently, but it might as well have been from a high school civics course. Citizens taking care to exercise their rights responsibly is a basic tenant on which democracies depend to function properly. 

Also, don’t drink bleach. That’s another good one.