I’m Pretty Sure I Don’t Like the Media Anymore

I'm Pretty Sure I Don't Like the Media Anymore

This is a bit of a continuation of an earlier theme of things working the way they should. Recently I did a cartoon about Michigan Democrats and Republicans delivering a tax cut bill quickly and efficiently, but neither were completely happy about it. Which is good because that’s how the system is supposed to work.

Now Democrats are now in control of all the levers of state-level political power (albeit with wafer-thin majorities in the legislature). And with such responsibility comes increased media scrutiny. Which is good because that’s how the system is supposed to work.

No politician should like the media. Respect the media, certainly. But expecting real journalists to be on your “side” is foolish. In slight defense of Democrats, it’s easy to see how they would get the sense that the general media is aligned with them. The continuous flow of Michigan Republican buffoonery these past few years has commandeered most of the media bandwidth.

By way of example, the much more obvious topic for me to address this week was the Michigan GOP ad comparing recently passed gun safety legislation with the Holocaust. I had to look past a lot of low hanging fruit to make sure that I’m calling out those in power on their shenanigans, too. Which is good because that’s how the system is supposed to work.

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Maybe Not the Best Spokesperson

Maybe not the Best Spokesperson

It looks likely that the Michigan legislature will pass and Governor Whitmer will sign a repeal of the 2012 law that made us a right-to-work state. It can be kind of confusing, not least because “right-to-work” is really more of a PR victory than an actual description. (Props to the evil geniuses who not only developed it but somehow made it stick.)

At this point, I really only have two thoughts on the situation. The first is expressed in the cartoon. Basically, I would imagine the very “business leaders” responsible for the abjectly stupid decisions that destroyed Silicon Valley Bank are the same folks who would vehemently oppose a union workforce.

The other may seem unrelated, but it isn’t. Earlier this month, the state of Arkansas passed a legislation to reduce oversight of child labor laws. One of the arguments: Less regulation makes them more competitive. But apparently it wasn’t in time to fill their meatpacking industry with enough low-cost 14-year-old migrant children because this week Tyson Foods announced it will close a poultry plant in Arkansas with close to 1,000 employees.

Arkansas is a right-to-work state. In general, I think we should be aiming for less Arkansas.

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Hey, the System Worked!

Hey, the System Worked!

It was kind of a big deal that Governor Whitmer signed a bill this week, as Michigan Radio’s Rick Pluta reported, “…to restore a tax break on retirement income and to boost the state earned income tax credit — the biggest state tax overhaul in a dozen years.”

Not only will this have a direct effect on the lives of us Michiganders, it also represents remarkably swift action by our state government. Have we not been conditioned by the past couple of decades to expect a slow grind at best and complete gridlock as status quo? How did this happen?

Well, the Democrats pitched some stuff including a $180 tax rebate check. The Republicans countered angling toward a permanent decrease in the state income tax rate. Compromises were made. Some things was tabled. But legislation got done. The system worked!

Now, are the two political parties completely happy about this? No. Are they actively seeking opportunities to sink knives into each others backs? Of course. But this proves out that progress is not dependent on Republican/Democrat kumbaya — we just need them to be able to work together.

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Time Traveler from the 20th Century

Time Traveler from the 20th Century

Until recently, I really thought that certain things were settled law. Like, child labor — it’s bad. Nazis are bad, no exceptions. War in general is bad, but a land war in Europe is an especially terrible idea. I mean, I wasn’t exactly paying attention to every lesson growing up, but I thought we all agreed on that.

Apparently not. Because this week, the New York Times broke a story that included a company in West Michigan actively employing migrant children in highly dangerous jobs. Dilbert cartoonist, Scott Adams, and his toxic views on race relations finally became widely known. His cartooning career appears to have tanked, but that’s okay — he’s already rich and he’s got Elon Musk on his side.

And of course it was the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine, which is a highly complicated situation. Except for the very simple truth that if the one person who started it (Putin) wanted it to end, he could end it. (I do realize that “end it” could mean negotiated peace or nuclear holocaust. Let’s be optimists and go with the former.)

The mistakes are all right there on display in the previous century. It’s disappointing we don’t seem to notice.

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Now Is Not the Time — This Is Much Too Divisive

Now Is Not the Time — This Is Much Too Divisive

In Michigan, certain basic rights are codified by the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976. It specifically prohibits, “discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in the exercise of those rights based upon religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status.”

Of course it took awhile to evolve for such a law to be created. Now, nearly 50 years later, our society has evolved further to consider additional rights — specifically, whether Elliot-Larsen includes protection from discrimination for LGBTQ Michiganders.

This has already worked its way through the judiciary, and last summer a 5-2 majority of the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the law does include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. However, State Senator Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) is sponsoring a bill to make that actual law. It is now on the calendar for a formal vote.

Previous efforts never made it out of Republican-controlled legislatures, often with the excuse that “it was not the right time and the issue was too divisive.” The cartoon is just a gentle reminder of how well that excuse holds up to history.

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It’s About the Children. Or Is It?

It's About the Children. Or Is It?

I just couldn’t figure out a way to properly express my deep, deep sadness with the mass shooting on the Michigan State University campus this week. It’s simply too much to distill. Also, honestly, it was yet another mass shooting in the USA — we’ve gotten to the point where we reflexively rank these things. (Only three dead? Not so bad.)

We. Are. Broken. If you don’t think so, then you should know that, as I write this, there have already been five more mass shooting since Monday. Statistically, there will be at least a couple more before you read this. I just didn’t feel like drawing a tearful Sparty was going to help anybody.

Instead, I wanted to alert you to the fact that gun violence (of which mass shootings are only a small part) is now the number one cause of death for those 19-years-old and younger in the United States. And even though only one of the three beautiful young people who died Monday was technically in that category, close enough. Too frickin’ close.

We. Are. Broken.

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Why Not More Than $180? They Gotta Be Careful…

Why Not More Than $180? They Gotta Be Careful...

This is a bit of a strange thing for me to write, but I hope you don’t read too much politics into today’s cartoon. My intention was to go a little lighter — poke fun at this cold, miserable, arthritic, melt-off so everything is gray and brown February weather. Even in more typical winter conditions, it is our Michigander instinct to look for a way out and typically that translates into a trip to Florida. It’s especially intense now because we don’t even have the snow to cover the ugly.

It wasn’t until I was putting the finishing touches on the cartoon that I thought about all the political minutia associated with Florida these days: DeSantis, Trump, banned books, don’t say gay, culture wars, and so on. (Then of course there is also the everyday “Florida man” insanity that makes Florida Florida.)

There is lots to say about all that. And, please, go ahead and think those thoughts if you wish. But as far as this cartoon goes, my thought stopped with, “nice place to visit.” (Still, I’m glad I don’t live there.)

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Why Do We Even Need Black History Month?

Why Do We Even Need Black History Month?

The genesis of this cartoon was actually a James Baldwin quote I had come across earlier this week:

“If any white man in the world says give me liberty or give me death, the entire white world applauds. When a black man says exactly the same thing — word for word — he is judged a criminal and treated like one.”

That’s just how brilliant Baldwin was: He was able to create a complete editorial cartoon without having to draw anything.

There was no improving on that, so instead I tried to frame an observation about race and race relations in America from my experience. It worries me when people put iconic civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, and Rosa Parks in the “safe” category.

The fact is, they were very smart, keenly observant human beings. And because of that, they were often quite bold and sometimes even angry. They were radicals. Not acknowledging that diminishes their full legacy.

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Best Representation of American Values Award

Best Representation of American Values Award

The guest on a recent Smartless podcast was Bono, activist, philanthropist, and singer-songwriter for the band U2. During the interview, he was asked for his take on the general state of affairs in America — particularly from his perspective as an Irishman who has worked in and written a lot about America.

Disclaimer: Bono is one of those overfed and overpaid rock stars. You can go ahead and dismiss him on those grounds, but he is also self-aware and self-effacing about it. It’s worth listening to the podcast.

Here’s what Bono said, “America is the greatest idea the world has ever had, but it doesn’t exist yet.”

He wasn’t talking specifically about gun violence, but I couldn’t help but to make the connection myself. Among the declared goals of these United States of America is famously to the inherent and inalienable right to “the preservation of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Too often gun violence limits (and with horrible frequency, extinguishes) all three of those rights.

For victims of gun violence, America is a great idea that is not being realized. This, of course, is nothing new. But that shouldn’t prevent us from working toward bringing the idea of America to life for everyone.

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Protecting Our Water Resources

Protecting Our Water Resources

Okay, I’ll admit it. Whenever I see a story about the southwestern United States and their crisis with insufficient water, I can feel smug, maybe even a bit superior. As I write this, a significant rain is lashing at my window in my Michigan home. (I mean, it’s January, and it should be snow, but that’s for another environmental topic.)

So not having enough water is not a concern. Our skies are typically filled with clouds laden with precipitation, our sump pumps often strain to keep rising water tables in check, our many lakes surround us creating pleasant peninsulas. But that doesn’t mean that we Michiganders don’t have water concerns.

For us, our primary challenge is not the lack of water but properly taking care of all that we have.

PFAS contamination, for example, is a vexing problem. Two stories this past week reminded us all of this: The delay in the cleanup of a former industrial site near Grand Rapids, and new warnings to limit consumption of certain fish from some of our larger lakes.

With so much water, water everywhere (and lots and lots to drink), it’s a little too easy to look down on the fools who insist on building new homes in deserts. Let us not be similar fools in how we manage and protect our water.

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