The Biggest North American International Auto Show Story

The Biggest North American International Auto Show Story

The Amazon TV-series “The Man in the High Castle” explores an America in which the Allies lost World War II and Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan rule over our country. A 2004 mockumentary, “C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America,” considers what might have happened if the South had won our Civil War. These sorts of alternate histories can be highly entertaining and also add perspective to real history through drama and satire.

I’d love to see a take on modern America, and specifically Michigan, if the automobile industry had been allowed to collapse eight years ago. I think it would be fascinating, especially if it used real economic models to extrapolate the consequences.

Of course, the reality was that the auto industry contracted hard, but first the Bush Administration and then the Obama Administration provided cover for survival. And credit where credit is due: It was Michigan autoworkers, from designers in Ann Arbor, to engineers in Detroit, to line workers in Flint (as well as suppliers and fabricators all over state) who contributed mightily to bring it back to its very healthy current state.

That good health is fairly obvious at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) presently going on in Detroit, and radically different from the NAIAS of 2009. Today we are talking about viable, mass-produced fully electric cars (the Chevy Bolt), a top-level pickup truck (Honda Ridgeline) not built by the big three, and — my goodness — the rebirth of the minivan (Chrysler Pacifica). We even have a major player (Volkswagen) openly confessing its sins and accepting the punishment. That’s progress!

In fact, one of the few similarities between now and then, is the chatter of government intervention. Back then, it was substantial and serious and critical to survival. Today it is randomly generated tweets. If you think about it, that too is progress, and I’m glad not to be in a Michigan of alternate history.

Comments

Snyder Advises Trump on the New Public Service Job

Snyder Advises Trump on the New Public Service Job

Earlier this week Governor Snyder offered President-elect Trump some unsolicited advice, as one businessperson who was new to public office to another: Respect that most government workers know what they’re doing. You can read the Michigan Radio story here: http://michiganradio.org/post/snyder-trump-respect-accomplishments-public-employees

It was actually pretty good advice, but it may ring a little hollow coming from Snyder. Of course the cartoon exaggerates what Snyder has said to public servants (as well as the public servant’s response), but it does capture the narrative that helped get Snyder elected and has generated much of his political power, which is: All private sector workers are virtuous, hard-working folks who earn their pay. All public sector workers are corrupt, lazy sub-humans who are a drain on society.

True to form, Trump has not only ignored the advice but doubled-down by calling into question the competence and integrity of our nation’s intelligence agencies and its workers. So now in addition to bureaucrats, educators, the IRS, and the military, our next president is starting off on the wrong foot with the FBI and CIA. Undoubtedly most of these workers are dedicated professionals, but how many times do they have to hear their Commander-in-Chief tell them they suck?

The best allegory I can think of for this is from science fiction humorist Douglas Adams and his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. He tells a story of the planet Golgafrincham. The inhabitants are convinced their planet is somehow doomed (their planet will crash into their sun, a moon will crash into the planet, they will be invaded by twelve-foot piranha bees — nobody knew for sure).

So they conceive a plan to escape. The Golgafrinchans identify a third of their population to be essentially useless, which includes those whose job it is to sanitize public telephones. They round of up these folks first and ship them off on a spaceship. After they are gone, the remaining population delights in their new utopia and decide to stay. Soon, however, a virulent disease contracted via unsanitary telephones wipes them all out. (If Trump can’t seem to heed direct advice, I can’t imagine he would comprehend the moral of the story, but there it is.)

Comments

Keeping Christ in Christian

Keeping Christ in Christian

To all I wish peace, love, and good health this holiday season and throughout the new year!

For my fellow Christians, I also want to note that we have some big responsibilities in 2017. I mean, we always do, but because the election of Donald Trump was largely our doing, we owe it to ourselves and our country to be particularly attentive.

The election is finally and officially over. So no matter the reason we voted for Trump (a single issue, the lesser of two evils, wholehearted support), the reason no longer matters. He will be the President. And as Christians it is our duty to hold him to our Christ-inspired standards for leadership: compassion, selflessness, honesty, and integrity.

It won’t be easy. (Following Christ never is — He was pretty clear about that.) Still, I am hopeful that if we act not as an inward facing tribe but as a community living the tenets of our faith we can have a positive influence on the President we elected.

Merry Christmas!

Comments

Flint Water Crisis: Desperate Times Call For…

Flint Water Crisis: Desperate Times Call For...

You may think that I’m kidding about Flint hitting up Russia for a little help. I’m not sure that I am. It’s been three years now. Three years of unsafe drinking water in Flint. Michigan. USA. And as recent stories on Michigan Radio will tell you, there is no clear indication as to when the situation will be totally fixed.

So why not hand Mr. Putin another propaganda victory? There doesn’t seem to any shame or consequence to that anymore. In fact, in this post-thinking, it’s-all-about-feeling world, it pays dividends. If those Russian computer scamps can plant stories and hack their way into our election system, they can certainly transfer some funds to pay for pipe replacement. Who cares where the money comes from?

Up is down. Down is up. And — above all — the end justifies the means. So, please, go ahead and at least check into it, Mayor Weaver. As our new besty comrades used to say, “Morally ambiguous leaders of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your souls!” (Okay. That’s not exactly accurate, but I don’t see how that matters.)

Comments

It’s Time to Play…Family Feud!

It’s Time to Play…Family Feud!

In writing these little “support” articles for my cartoons over the years, more than a few readers have made a point of telling me how much they hate having the cartoon “explained” to them. They feel the cartoon should stand on its own, and it definitely should. I get that. My intention is not to explain the cartoon but to add context to the subject, present a counter-view, or provide bonus value.

However, if you are one of those readers, you might want to move on because I’m gonna straight up explain this one.

The point of the cartoon: Telling people to shut up, stop whining, and get over it is unkind and if you are doing it, I am trying to shame you into stopping by pointing out the company that you are keeping.

It’s not about sides, it’s not political parties. I know all the rabbit holes we can take this down. “But Obama…” and “Well, Bush and Gore…” and “I just feel that…” and so on. It’s not about any of that either. It’s about trying to be a better human being.

Also, you should know that my entire memory of Family Feud comes from being sick as kid, staying home from school, and watching it on daytime TV. I assume the current incarnation is the same thing. I didn’t research it beyond noting that the host is different. (Steve Harvey doesn’t get all smoochy with the ladies the way Richard Dawson used to, does he? I sure hope not.)

Comments

Betsy DeVos Told Them To

Betsy DeVos Told Them To

When the president-elect nominated Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education last week, the most obvious metaphor seemed to be the fox put in charge of the hen-house. I rolled that around in my head for awhile but couldn’t make it work. I don’t think DeVos is that carnivorous or the education establishment that docile. (Plus drawing anthropomorphic characters is not really my strong suit. So, as is often the case, laziness wins.)

This cartoon worked much better because it reveals my main issue with the DeVos nomination: She’s a crank. A crank (for lack of a better term, let me know if there is one) is a person caught up in her own thoughts, plans, and ideology — dogmatically indifferent to the consequences. It’s been my experience that nearly every organization has one — work group, school board, sports team, professional society, whatever.

And for the most part, it’s good to have a crank. They provide a vital service: They keep everybody else honest. Nobody wants to set the crank off, so we tend to plan more carefully. For example, say you’re the chair of a church committee to raise funds for a mission trip. There is consensus for a pancake breakfast, but there is a crank on the finance team who believes with all her heart that using food for fundraising is a grave sin. If indeed you want to move forward, you will make sure to organize a solid and defensible plan. (Or you may decide to go with a bikini car wash instead, which oddly she has no problem with.)

But the last thing you want is for the crank to be in charge. Cranks by their nature are “my way or the highway” types and likely with a chip on the shoulder from having been handled and circumvented so much in the past. (Think Dwight Schrute from the TV series “The Office.”)

Of course, I’m prejudging here. Ms. DeVos may turn out to be the second coming of Eleanor Roosevelt — a determined woman from the privileged class who used her position to serve the poor and disenfranchised. But if I had to bet, I’d put my money on Dwight Schrute.

Comments

Stop Not Aligning with Our Data!

Stop Not Aligning with Our Data!

Okay, all right. Just one more cartoon on national political affairs, and I’ll try to turn my attention back to more Michigan-based shenanigans. But I couldn’t let this one go — it’s been festering for some time.

There is not a whole lot to add because we’ve all just experienced it. For the entire election season Americans have been managed and categorized, sorted and labeled, diced and sliced by both major political parties.

We are not individual voters with actual thoughts and real concerns. We are herds of demographics who think in lock-step on singular issues.

Analyzing data may bear this out to be approximately true (sometimes), but only with broad stereotyping, and the effect is awful. We are driven to fall in line with what the data says we ought to be. It drains away both the importance of free-thinking and our empathy for others. A group of people who are black become “the blacks.” Rural white people become “hillbillies.” Women become something less than a “real” person.

I would think that the first political party to be truly authentic and make us feel less managed would have a real advantage. I know that’s asking a lot, but if I had a wish list, that would be near the top.

Now then, what’s all this about Nestle trying to sneak our drinking water out of Michigan?

Comments

Nobody Wants to Be a Sucker

Don't Wanna Be a Sucker

Here’s a theory that might help to unify us in these difficult times: What all Americans really, really hate is to be a sucker. Whatever else we disagree on — politics, ideology, economics, dessert toppings, the truth — a common bond is that nobody likes being a sucker.

I think that had an enormous effect on getting Trump elected. Consider this: Many white folks who felt disenfranchised (a fancy word for feeling like a sucker) voted. Many black folks who felt disenfranchised didn’t vote. A little amplification by the electoral college, and — boom! — the GOP wins.

And as I say in the cartoon (literally, that’s me), my inclination is to respect the results. I’m good American. I believe in our system of government. I want to play along. But based on Paul Ryan’s habit of continuously abandoning his moral convictions, Mitch McConnell’s unrelenting enthusiasm for not doing his job (until now), and Donald Trump’s entire life history, I have some reservations. I share with you, my fellow Americans, your same passion: I. Don’t. Want. To. Be. A. Sucker.

That makes sense, right? I mean, whether you are for or against the objectives of the Republican party, you can at least understand my desire to resist. Yes? No? Well, in any case, you decide. Because that’s another thing we Americans really, really hate: Being told what to think.

Comments (4)

Work Together? Umm…

Let's Work Together ...Bitch

Earlier this week I was pulling into work when a replay of a Renee Montagne interview with the great Mel Brooks came up on Michigan Radio. I took the the opportunity to sit in the car and listen to the entire thing. It was good timing all around. Like always, he made me laugh out loud. But he also gave me some perspective.

Brooks has made a brilliant career out of finding the humor in the absurdity, the cruelty, the hypocrisy of life. As such, I could quote a thousand Mel Brooks lines that capture the essence of the 2016 campaign. But what came to mind as I got out of the car and walked to the office was one of his more obscure efforts.

“The Twelve Chairs” was Brooks’ second movie (after “The Producers” and before “Blazing Saddles”). It is primarily about relentless human greed, and it’s hilarious. One of the best parts is the theme song written specifically for the film. If you don’t have time to dig for the film, I strongly encourage you to listen to the song: https://youtu.be/l_TKXPPjhRk

It’s my theme for the impending Trump presidency. The title? “Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst.”

Comments (1)

It Was Nicer When They Used to Give Up on Us

It Was Nicer When They Gave Up on Us

Like most of us, I’ve pretty much run out of things to say about the election. Any thoughts — from salient points to outraged rants — have been expressed. I see many (cartoonists, commentators, Facebook posters) are settling now for “wow, what a messed up election season this has been” reflections, and that’s certainly understandable.

But I figured the most honest way for me to summarize would be to have one last go with Mr. Trump. He showed up again in Michigan this week, and I really, really, really tried to wrap my head around the idea of why I would consider voting for him.

A lyric from a song by the group Stars came to mind. (They’re Canadian, but it think it still applies.) It goes:

“When there is nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.”

To me that means that if you reach a point of total desperation, there is nothing left to do but to take a chance on anything else. If you feel that the current America is completely lost and hopeless, then, yes, why not cast your lot with a charismatic promiser-of-things like Donald Trump? It has romantic appeal that satisfies passionate desires. I get that.

I just don’t agree with it. First, I have faith in the American system. It can be aggravating and slow, untidy and unfair. Sometimes it feels broken. But that’s the way it has always been — we’ve been much more broken than this (1860, 1932, 1968) and not turned to demagoguery to find a way forward.

Second, he is simply not suited for the job. Emperor? Maybe. Generalissimo? Probably. But President of the United States? I don’t think so.

But in an election where feelings have won out over facts, it comes down to this: Trump is exactly the person my parents brought me up NOT to be. Why would I help make him my country’s leader?

Comments

« Previous Page« Previous entries « Previous Page · Next Page » Next entries »Next Page »