With ongoing posturing around spending bills in Washington, the building collapse in Florida, record high temps in the Pacific Northwest, and our own deluge of rain here in Michigan, this past week has seen plenty of opinions expressed over infrastructure and global climate change.
Which is fine and expected and, actually, necessary. There's a lot going on that affects our lives directly and indirectly, so it's reasonable for us to try to reconcile it.
In the classic TV sitcom Cheers, know-it-all barfly Cliff Clavin often filled gaps in conversation with unsolicited information — absurd, totally unbelievable, easily disproven information — but delivered with complete confidence. A particular favorite example of mine had Cliff offering his long-suffering buddies, Norm and Frasier, this little nugget:
"Yeah, it's a genetic quirk in the Clavin family that we all have two extra teeth. Ya see, that's the only way that we can prove that we are the rightful heirs to the Russian throne."
This week saw further developments in the sex abuse tragedy in which a former doctor, Robert Anderson, allegedly sexually assaulted athletes and students over the 36 years he worked for the University of Michigan. Survivors have now stepped forward to urge the University of Michigan and its Board of Regents to take accountability for its failure to protect students.
I'm sometimes asked what my motivations are for drawing editorial cartoons. Am I trying to convince readers to agree with my point of view? Evangelize? Score points? And the answer is, no ... mostly.
I mean, there is always a small slice of ego that longs to be validated, right? The idea that people read my cartoons and say, "You know, before seeing this I held the exact opposite view, but now that my eyes have been opened by this man's scathingly brilliant observations, I have come to complete agreement! Also, my sides have split with laughter."
I was reading an article in the Detroit Free Press about newly proposed bills in the state legislature to use $25 million of federal COVID-19 relief funds to staff up at the Secretary of State offices. Lengthy closings because of the pandemic created a backlog of Michiganders needing to update licenses, register vehicles, and so on.
So the idea is to use one-time money that doesn't come out of our budget to solve a problem that affects nearly all of us. If ever there was something we can all agree on, thought I, this was it. But then I read on.
The worst job I ever had was my first one. When I was 13 years old, my friend Joe convinced me that we should give caddying at a local country club a try.
I hesitated to draw this cartoon because Michigan state Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford) is not widely known. That's a good thing, and I don't really want to change that. He's clearly one of those "rally the base" sort of attention seekers who are better off left alone to shake their tiny fists and scream into the void.
So it turns out that rebooting an economy after the shock and lingering effects of a global pandemic is not easy. In fact, it's pretty stilted and awkward.
All this has people understandably frustrated. Many have money to spend, but with limited options. Service industries (such as restaurants, resorts, and hotels) cannot attract enough low-wage workers to staff up. And many manufactured items (such as furniture, appliances, and automobiles) are simply not available because of disrupted supply chains.
I usually try to stay away from sweeping generalizations — all workers good, all politicians bad — that sort of thing. But there has been so much partisan hackery lately (especially in Lansing) that I felt a need to comment, and sweeping generalization seemed to be the best angle to take.
If there was one good thing that came out of the Great Recession, it's that it finally made Michigan and the industrial Midwest come to terms with reality: The massive employment from living-wage manufacturing was not coming back. No state, no country, no town was going to be magically turned around by some new assembly plant. That was the old model. It was fun while it lasted, but that era is definitely over.
I hate to provide the man with any additional media attention, but Michigan's own Ted Nugent was in the news this week having recently proclaimed that COVID-19 was not real, and shortly thereafter announcing he contracted it (and, as advertised, it was not pleasant for him). No additional comment.
Bridge Michigan has done an excellent job summarizing the voting plan Michigan Republicans are proposing. They compare this plan with the package recently put into law in Georgia. It's a good way to get some context because there has been a lot of exaggeration and misinterpretation.
My brother-in-law is a Michigan State grad and a huge fan of Spartans sports teams. Several years ago, he was watching a men's basketball game on TV late in the evening. His older two children were very much from the same mold — dedicated fans that bled Spartan green. His youngest never had an active interest in MSU or sports in general, but noticing that his older siblings were getting to stay up past bedtime, he expressed a sudden interest in the game.
Last week, a video went public of Michigan state GOP Chairman Ron Weiser addressing the North Oakland Republican Club. In his remarks, Weiser made reference to Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel collectively as “three witches.”
I was scrolling through Facebook earlier this week, and I saw this post from Vincent Duffy who is the News Director and my editor at Michigan Radio:
Friend: What's the latest on the mass shooting?
Me: This is America, you'll need to be more specific.
It is almost word for word a conversation I had a few years ago with a work colleague from another country. He expressed concern about a gun violence event here in the U.S., and I had to ask him to clarify which one. How sad is that?
Ben Folds' song "All You Can Eat" is a scathing critique of human behavior, specifically the American variety:
First, let me be clear — anger and outrage are the very fuel of editorial cartoons. So I am not in any way trying to talk people out of their absolute right to be angry and outraged.
What I am suggesting is that it may not hurt to acknowledge the positive every once in a while.
Before, during, and after drawing a cartoon, my brain is in a constant search for a match — some cartoon or other media where I might have already seen the idea. It's the result of my paranoia that I accidentally commit the worst possible of sins, plagiarism.
As we come up to the one-year anniversary of the initial shut down here in Michigan, there have been plenty of headlines around our education systems and the challenges the pandemic continues to bring. These three in particular served as food for thought:
Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey has been on a roll lately. And not in a good way. This week on a radio show he managed to confirm that he is a responsible adult...and then immediately confirm that he is not, in fact, a responsible adult.
Amid the backdrop of, well, everything up to and after the November election, there were some encouraging signs this week in Michigan. A pair of bills were introduced by Republican state lawmakers and supported by Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to clear up confusion and build confidence in the voting system ahead of the next election.
There is a classic skit from the 1960s comedy team of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in which a reporter (Moore) interviews an eccentric gentleman (Cook) who owns a restaurant. A transcript is below, but to truly understand the humor (and their impeccable timing), I encourage you to listen for yourself.
For 27 years, you could reliably find me every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. playing pickup basketball at my local middle school gym. In fact, for the past 15 years, I've been the one in charge. Well, "in charge" makes it sound more impressive than it really is. Mostly I just bring basketballs, open the doors, and have a general awareness of where the defibrillator is.
A lot of readers may be confused and not recognize much about a cartoon referencing the merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and the PSA Group that finalized this week. But that's kind of the point.
It's remarkable that such a big, big story in the automotive world would seem to have so little resonance with Michiganders. That certainly wasn't the case when Chrysler acquired American Motors, or when Daimler-Benz merged with Chrysler, or when they divorced later. Those were top headlines. Especially in Michigan.
One of the great things about being Catholic is that you can do whatever you want to do, go to confession, say a few Our Fathers and Hail Marys, and all is forgiven — you are healed and free to start over! Except... that's not really how it works. At least, not the way it's supposed to work.
Wednesday morning I had sketched out kind of a light-hearted, "I know, right?" sort of cartoon to ease us all into the new year. Nothing too edgy. Of course that idea went out the window (along with a great deal of our nation's pride and dignity) with the insurrection later that afternoon. My Thursday deadline loomed.
When it's a big year for news, political cartoonists have plenty of material. Michigan Radio cartoonist John Auchter definitely took advantage of this year's chaotic news cycle.
Here are his seven most popular cartoons of the year.
You know what I was talking about, right? Don't make me say it. Please. I don't want to have to say it!
Okay, fine. The Electoral College results are in. The presidential election is over. It's final. It's final, final.
This week's cartoon presented a bit of a challenge. I intended to present two people having a conversation, but I wanted to model good behavior. The conversation itself suggests that the two people haven't seen each other for a while, which implies they aren't "bubbled."
But I couldn't put them indoors and mask them because I wanted to show their smiles fading with each panel. So I put them outside and at a reasonable distance, but still probably too close because I didn't want to draw them any smaller and lose their expressions.
I drew a variation of this cartoon four years ago. The first panel acknowledged why Christians celebrate Christmas — the birth of Jesus Christ. The second panel reminded readers that the birth was, of course, just the beginning — he eventually grew up and had a few things to say how to treat the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised, and so on. So being Christian is much more than just saying "Merry Christmas." (I know, not much of punchline.)
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