A Plot to Kidnap the Governor — Where Did That Come From?

A Plot to Kidnap the Governor — Where Did That Come From?

I’m at a loss for words this week. I mean, I can understand how a plot to kidnap a sitting governor could get started. People are passionate. We get ideas. We say crazy, stupid things.

What I don’t get is how the plan got far enough that the FBI had to step in. I’m guessing it has something to do with extreme ideology, easy access to weapons, and encouragement from Presidential tweets. But that doesn’t mean I understand it.

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Mike Shirkey: Other Jobs

Mike Shirkey: Other Jobs

Last week I was watching a panel discussion on the current state of editorial cartooning via Zoom. One of my good friends, Angelo Lopez, was one the featured guests. Angelo draws for Philippine News Today, and so much of his work reflects issues related to the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, a murderous despot. As a consequence, Angelo tends to draw a lot of skulls. In the course of his presentation, Angelo casually remarked, “I’m tired of drawing skulls.” 

Is “I’m tired of drawing skulls” not the most quintessential 2020 thing you’ve ever heard?

I don’t have the skills (or patience) to render skulls the way Angelo does, but I am similarly tired — tired of drawing about preventable death, tired of dealing with leaders putting party and ideology over health, tired of opinion winning over sensible consideration of expert advice.

So after the Michigan Supreme Court issued a decision against Governor Whitmer’s executive orders aimed at limiting the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey jumped immediately into the fray to (1) demand the Governor negotiate with the Legislature and then (2) assure everyone that he had no intention of negotiating with the Governor. Of course. And then he followed it up with his beliefs about the pandemic:

“Things, I don’t believe, are an emergency, nor do I believe they’re necessarily urgent, but they are important,” Shirkey told Crain’s Detroit Business. “So I think we’ve got the time to do that.” 

Ugh. I couldn’t not draw about that. Even if I’m tired of drawing these skulls.

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We Have Met the Enemy and…You Know the Rest

We Have Met the Enemy and...You Know the Rest

Comedian Jim Gaffigan has a bit where he says, “I’m a vegetarian now. Well, not a strict vegetarian. I do eat beef and pork. And chicken.” 

I think that sums us up nicely, don’t you? Us Americans. Us Michiganders. We sometimes say one thing, and then can completely contradict ourselves in the next breath. Well, not everybody. But enough of us.

I was thinking about this while I was watching (suffering) the presidential debate earlier this week. What has brought us to this lowly point? Well, yes, absolutely, politicians in general deserve their fair share of blame for the current state of affairs. And the moneyed interests that buy and sell them. And the shortcomings, if not flaws, of our particular system of government. 

But ultimately, enough voters in enough states elected Donald Trump in 2016. So there he was, and here we are. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Sure, we all can be hypocrites at times. We all have those tendencies to abandon certain principles in order to feed our id. But the thing about being an adult (and a good citizen) is that you try to control those tendencies instead of letting those tendencies control you. We’ll get to see how that plays out in this election.

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Don’t Want No Radical Lawbreakers Around Here

Don't Want No Radical Lawbreakers Around Here

It’s election season, which brings out the yard signs, which brings out the people who steal and vandalize yard signs. I’m sure you’ve seen the stories in newspapers and the postings on social media. Maybe you’ve had first-hand experience.

I try not to be too judgmental. I can imagine how in a moment of passion (or, more likely, drunkenness) an otherwise reasonable individual could have a lapse of reason. Naturally, it would need to be followed up with an apology and full restoration. It’s forgivable, right? Yard signs are by their nature ephemeral.

What I can’t abide is defending the act. It falls squarely into “the end justifies the means” school of tortured justification and morally bereft politics. (The saying is typically attributed to Italian Renaissance writer, Machiavelli. But I believe the modern spelling is M-c-C-o-n-n-e-l-l.)

In the end, the simplest solution is the best solution: Don’t steal or vandalize yard signs.

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Feeling Safe in Michigan?…

Feeling Safe in Michigan?...

As always, you are free to take the cartoon however you’d like. But I feel compelled to say that I did intend it in a spirit of camaraderie. It’s an incredibly stressful time — the fires, the floods, the ongoing pandemic. All whipped into a frenzy by the upcoming election. I’m with you. I feel you.

So when I read the headline this week “Rare mosquito-borne virus suspected in Michigan,” I thought, “Yeah, that seems about right.” I laughed and then went looking for something that would cheer me up.

I think most of us have certain go-tos (songs, videos, stories, etc.) that we have seen or heard over and over and yet they always bring the joy. One of mine is “Learn to Fly” by the Foo Fighters. Specifically, the video of the 1000 people playing the song back in 2015. A young man, Fabio Zaffagnini, wanted to have his favorite band come play a concert in his hometown of Cesena, Italy. So he organized an effort to have 1000 musicians play “Learn to Fly” in the hopes of attracting enough attention to make it happen. (Spoiler alert: It did.) The video just fills my heart.

A day or two later I happened to catch the recent story of Dave Grohl, founder of the Foo Fighters, had written a song for a 10 year-old girl, Nandi Bushell, who had recently beat him in a drum-off competition. Again, fully filled heart.

All that to say, there are a lot of truly terrible things going on right now. A little humor and a bit of joy can go a long way toward making it tolerable. 

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How Do You Feel About the President’s Lies?

How Do You Feel About the President's Lies?

Ugh! It happened AGAIN! These minute-by-minute news cycles are killing me. I had a complete cartoon all mapped out:

  • Frame 1 – Trump telling a bedtime story to a middle-aged Michigan guy, “…and then all the high-paying manufacturing jobs came back and the Michiganders lived happy ever after.” The guy smiles and says, “What a great story. It’s obviously not true, but I love hearing it.”
  • Frame 2 – he turns to the other side of the bed and says, “Okay Uncle Joe, now you tell it.” And Biden starts in with “Once upon a time…”

We Michiganders are (for the lack of a less politically charged name) suckers for a “I will make manufacturing like it used to be” story. You’d think we’d learn.

But as I went to draw it, the news broke from the new Bob Woodward book about President Trump knowing full well about the deadly seriousness of the coronavirus, yet purposely downplaying the risks, even rage tweeting at one point to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” That sucked most of the oxygen out to the recent Biden and Trump visits to Michigan to sell their plans for bringing back high-paying manufacturing jobs. But as with every Infrastructure Week this administration ever launched, the featured story quickly dissipated.

The craziest thing is, by the time you are reading this, the story (and taped recordings) of the President of United States willfully letting a deadly disease spread could become a distant memory from many news cycles ago.

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Memorial Drive, Detroit COVID-19 Victims

Memorial Drive, Detroit COVID-19 Victims

If you have limited time, I would encourage you to quit reading now and just go look at some of the videos taken at the Memorial Drive event on Belle Isle on Monday. It was really quite poignant. It’s so difficult to conceptualize what large numbers of deaths actually means, and this seemed like an awfully effective way of making it meaningful.

That said, some have argued (callously but correctly) that all these people were going to die eventually anyway. Yes, sure, but I’m pretty sure these people didn’t want to go when they did. And certainly not in the way they did — mostly alone, many struggling for breath. 

Some have also argued (again, callously but correctly) that wearing a mask is a personal choice. And so is deciding whether to stop at stop signs. It is your choice, but it’s important for your personal safety and the safety of others that you do stop. Dr. Deborah Birx was in Michigan this week and had this to say:

“We’re asking for behavioral change and whenever you ask people to change their behavior, it needs constant reinforcement. But I can tell you every place that has instituted a statewide mask mandate, or a countywide mask mandate, we see the impact on the cases. So, it is not theoretical. Masks work, and they protect and prevent spread of the virus.”

We who have been blessed not to have lost a loved one during this pandemic can’t possibly know what the mourners felt driving that route on Belle Isle.  But we can honor their loss by doing our part to limit the spread of the virus.

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Fearmongering!

Fearmongering!

First, I want to stress that I’m not making a “both sides do it” point with the cartoon. Well, okay, I am, but it’s nuanced (and like political conventions, political cartoons are not particularly well suited for nuance).

In my sampling of the Democratic and Republican Conventions over these past two weeks it was clear that fear was the featured technique to attract my vote. For the Democrats it was, “Can you imagine four more years of Donald Trump?” And for the Republicans it was one long, extended, panicked scream.

So, yes, while I would have preferred to hear more from the Democrats about what they are for and less about what they are against, the Republicans left me wondering what is the color of the sky is in the dystopian world they seem to be living in. Again, both sides, similar technique, but WAY different orders of magnitude.

Regardless, the reason it’s done at all is that it works. Or, at least, it has worked in the past. It’d be great if we can prove them wrong come November by voting on what we aspire to, not what scares us.

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What to Do in a Public Health Crisis

What to Do in a Public Health Crisis

I had a completely different cartoon mapped out when I sat down to draw, and then this story broke: Michigan reaches $600M settlement in Flint water crisis.

So I started again from scratch. It didn’t take me long to find parallels between the current coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing Flint water crisis — how Flint was kind of a “canary in the coal mine” for what we as a nation are experiencing now. Well, I suppose it’d be more correct to say that the Flint water crisis could have been a canary in the coal mine. (We all would have needed to notice and care that the canary died for the analogy to play through.)

But here’s what I really find notable: There are three basic types of consequences for these tragedies — death, chronic health conditions, and money. Which one is most likely to motivate people?

I’d say that evidence shows death is the least effective. We can’t (or simply don’t want to) relate to it. It’s too abstract, especially as numbers grow. Chronic health conditions are a bit more tangible — we can all imagine being sick. Perhaps not lead poisoning or lung damage sick, but sick.

But I think the best motivator is money. More specifically, our money, taxpayer money! The idea of somebody wasting our hard-earned money is pretty much what motivated this country to be a country. Perhaps we can channel that. A completely avoidable health crisis has now cost Michigan taxpayers $1 billion (this recent $600 million added to the $400 million already spent). That would seem like enough to get us to listen to medical experts.

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Other Options for Nebraska

Other Options for Nebraska
Editorial Cartoon — Michigan Radio

As many of you college football fans are already painfully aware, the Big Ten conference postponed its 2020 football season in hope of being able to play it next spring. The Pac-12 quickly followed suit. Many other conferences with smaller schools (including the Mid-America Conference) have already cancelled theirs.

It’s not surprise. Even if this country had a coordinated and effective response to COVID-19 (spoiler alert: we don’t), college football would be unwise before a vaccine (a real vaccine) can be administered nation-wide. 

Still, my first inclination was to poke fun at the superfans (But where are middle-aged men going to go to openly and freely unleash abuse upon 19 year-old kids?) or at the anti-fans (At last! Now competitive quilting is really going to take off!). But in the end, neither felt right. I like college football. The money around it is all messed up, and I worry about the long-term effects on the players, but it’s fun to watch, and it’s fun to be part of supporting a school. 

Good thing Scott Frost, coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, spoke up and provided me a focus. Earlier this week, while school administrators were deciding what to do about the season, Frost let it be known that his team was looking for other options. Wait…what? Options? What kind of options do you really have? Either you’re part of a conference or you’re not. There are no other options, technically or realistically. 

For somebody who gets paid millions of dollars and has done pretty well by the system, he sure doesn’t seem to understand or respect the system.

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