Sunday, May 13, 2018

Guest Cartoon: The Highwayman: "Arbeit Macht Frei: GOP Work Requirements Must Die"

<"Arbeit Macht Frei (GOP Style)": The Highwayman on the image to get the full effect!>

We all knew it couldn't last, here at Ramen Noodle Nation HQ: Michigan lawmakers can never rest until they make sure the Wolverine State becomes the butt of a new joke. In this case, it's Senate Bill 897, the creation of one Mike Shirkey, who apparently won't rest until he pries those people with disabilities and shiftless multiple job-holders (including yours truly) off their newly-minted, yet hard-won, Healthy Michigan Medicaid coverage.

In brief, Shirkey's bill would make recipients show they're working 29 hours per week, going to school, or getting job training, to keep their coverage. Otherwise, they're bounced off the rolls (or locked out for a year if they don't report their hours). A lot of ink has already been expended on this topic, but rather than rehash it, we urge you to check out the links below, and see how much havoc Mad Mike's creation would wreak, if it's passed as written.

You must have seen the ground 
where we upheld the Law
I was a young man then, 
I was a young man then

Spending time on the killing floor
Do as you would want to be

Joy of labour, sets you free
Motörhead, "Joy Of Labour"

Of course, this is the usual fuzzily-conceived GOP creation, one that harks back to a totally different era...when folks a) worked 40 hours, b) didn't need to take a second or third job to stay afloat, and c) had employer-provided health insurance -- in other words, features that have evaporated for the great majority. Nor does it fund trifles like assistance with daycare or transportation, two things that lower-income residents often lack. Without them, this bill is just a pipe dream.

And that's before we get to the shockingly racist aspect, in which counties with jobless rates of 8.5 percent or higher are exempt. This little twist leaves residents in mostly white counties off the hook, but not their minority counterparts in high unemployment cities like Detroit, or Flint, whose poisoned water represents a toxic legacy, in its most literal sense. Can we say 1916, anyone?

So far, these issues don't seem to faze Mad Mike and his cohorts, though Governor Rick Snyder's office is apparently prodding them to negotiate on some of the the 29-hour requirement, which -- if it stands -- would be the most stringent in America. Ah, well, as The Highwayman and I would's good to see Michigan excel at something. Oh, and crank up "The Joy Of Labour," while you're at it. --The Reckoner

Links To Go (Hurry, Hurry,
Before Your Coverage Disappears): Racial Accuations
Embroil Michigan Medicaid Debate

Motorhead: The Joy Of Labour (w/lyrics):

The Macomb Daily:
Michigan Lawmakers
Move Toward Work Requirements
For Medicaid Recipients:

The Michigan Daily:
Republicans Medicaid Madness

Do you even know what the devil does
He drives a man 'til he can't take no more
I was a young man then, 
I was a young man then
Spending time on the killing floor
Motörhead, "Joy Of Labour"

Monday, April 30, 2018

Punk Rock Art Corner: Hipster Word Cloud (Takes I+II)

<"The book behind you 
is the book behind you; 
the book ahead of you 
is the book ahead of you. 

And a success
 can be as difficult 
to survive 
as a failure. 

When you're a success, 
if you believe it, you're finished.">

<"Any real artist 
will never be judged 
in the time of his time
whatever judgment is delivered 
in the time of his time 
cannot be trusted.">

James Baldwin,
New York Times, 1985

The Reckoner

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Punk Rock Art Corner: "Away From The Numbers" (Word Clouds #1-6)

<"I was sick and tired 
of my little niche

Was gonna break away 

and find where life is...">

<"And all those fools 
I thought were my friends

(Coaching is easy)

They now stare at me 
and don't see a thing
(Reality's so hot hard)...">

<"Till their life is over 
and they start to moan

How they never had the chance 

to make good...">

<"Then I saw that I was really the same
So this link's
 breaking away from the chain..">

<Away from the numbers
Away from the numbers
is where I'm gonna be
is reality...>

<Reality's so hot hard, 
reality's so hot hard, reality's so hard...>

///Words: Paul Weller\\\
///Images: The Reckoner\\\

"In The City harbored one true masterpiece. From its opening power chords, the claustrophobic 'Away From The Numbers' was compelling.

"Too much could be made of lines, 'I'm gonna break away and find what life is'...but there does seem to be a grim determination to look beyond existing boundaries, onwards and upwards, away from the 'numbers,' Sixties Mod slang for the throng."

<John Reed: 
Paul Weller: My-Ever Changing Moods
Omnibus Press, 1996>

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Punk Rock Art Corner: "Ghost Feet"

<:"Ghost Feet">
<Photo: The Reckoner>

This picture reminds of me of that statutory opening line from "The Raven," by Edgar Allen Poe, one of many that we all had to read in school, so we should -- theoretically, at least -- know it by heart, right? You know the drill: "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary..." Blah, blah, blah. And so on, and so forth.

But that's the sight I confronted when I got in the elevator one earlySunday night, to drag the laundry to the second floor. (Note to bygone architect who designed our apartment complex, and building: whatever seemed futuristic or cutting edge in the '60s and '70s is purely teeth-grinding today.) I knew this sight would disappear, come Monday morning, so what did I do? I ran and got my camera. This is Take I (the first and best, or so they say).

How'd these footprints get here? Do they only belong to one person? Why did they end up splattered in white paint, and where did they go? I don't know, and I don't care to ask. --The Reckoner

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Guest Cartoon: The Highwayman: "The GOP Monster Mash"

<"The GOP Monster Mash": The Highwayman
Click the image to get the full size/flavor!>

Judging by the response, House Speaker Paul Ryan's announcement last week that he, too, is following his Republican cohorts out the door provoked nothing less than a political earthquake. Personally, I wasn't as surprised as the pundits, once you work out the likeliest reason for Ryan's decision. Let's tick off the possibilities, shall we?

Spend more time squirrel hunting with his kids? Well, he said something along those lines, but -- given how little time he's spent lately in his district -- I wouldn't put money on it. This is the same guy who went 650 days without holding a town hall, and 900 without holding any other public event in his district. Given all the animosity that the GOP brand has aroused, I suspect you'll probably see a pig flying past your window before you see Ryan show his Eddie Munster-esque mug in Janesville, WI.

Fear of losing to political newcomers Randy "Ironstache" Bryce, and Cathy Myers? Maybe, though, realistically, a lot can happen in seven months -- and novice candidates often make their share of unforced errors (as we saw in Jon Ossoff's bid against unseat Karen Handel in Georgia). Scattered polling suggested this race was Ryan's to lose, though unexpectedly robust fundraising from Bryce, in particular ($4.75 million to date, $2.1 million in his last quarter alone), and to a lesser extent, Myers ($750,000 so far) suggested some sort of volcanic event in the making.

A desire to cash in 20 years of political connections, to make money hand over fist? If you said, "Yes," our bell is going ding, ding, ding! in your head. Ryan might have little fear of losing his own race, but if those "blue tsunami" predicts come to pass, being just another Congressman in a GOP minority would feel like a definite comedown. Why else would you effectively make yourself a lame duck before the elections have even taken place?

Far better, then, to become head of a think tank, churning out endless policy papers and ideal budgets that few outside the already committed will probably read -- as former Senator Jim DeMint did, until the Heritage Foundation booted him out last year from his president's perch -- or becoming a lobbyist, or a consultant, or just spend the rest of your life shoveling in six-figure speaking fees on the rubber chicken circuit (Hey, remember all those promises we made with our tax reform bill? Yeah, I know, it was all a pipe dream...but didn't we have a blast dreaming it up?).

Time will how Ryan's future, and that of his party, plays out. In the meantime, I asked our house artist, The Highwayman, for a cartoon to capture the mood -- and, while you're at it, enjoy this vintage clip (below) of Bobby Pickett performing his biggest hit, which inspired this week's cartoon...oh, and feel free to boot the odd pumpkin or two over the goal line, once the midterms get closer. --The Reckoner

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Life's Little Injustices (Take XI): Two Lives, Interrupted

<Photo/Collage: The Reckoner>

36 Years (& Out)
I'd just finished a hard day's night of proofreading, which happens to me every couple o'weeks, I've worked with this client, a local newspaper publisher, for a dozen years now, so we've got the routine down. This week, we spent an hour or two going over the latest edition at 2:30-ish, then adjourned, for various boring reasons, until 11:30 p.m. 

Some editions take longer to sort out than others, so we didn't wind down until 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. ... which is when the usual small town gossip creeps into the conversation. My client asks, "You heard what happened to Lady B?"

"No," I responded. "Not good news, I take it?"

"She put it out on her website about a month ago," my client said. "She got pushed out the door at the radio station, because they want to hire younger people, and pay them cheaper."

"No surprise there, I guess. So what's she say, then?"

"Well, she's found some other lower-level job, and she's barely making it. She almost lost her house, but managed to save it. She's really depressed."

"Gee, I can't imagine why," I said. "Well, guess I'll have to check that one for myself. Goodnight, then."

"Goodnight." Click!

The minute we hang up, I head to Lady B's website, where (sure enough) she's posted her account. She recounted watching her station's "money-grubbing management" methodically run off other older (now ex-) colleagues, and replace them with younger people, part-timers, or nobody (as so often happens). Lady B thought her lengthy tenure would ensure a place on the payroll, but, of course, that assumption turned out to be mistaken ("the only job I ever had").

So that's how she found herself escorted off the premises, during the first week in January ...without a chance to say goodbye to anyone, let alone a going away party, nor even a token recognition for her service. The stress associated with such a sudden, drastic loss of income has left Lady B racked with anxiety, depression, and shortness of breath. If it weren't for her son's support, "I'd have immediately moved away," she writes. "I feel so alienated here now."

And that's before we get to the people who melted away, once the word got out -- who only befriended her, apparently, "because of what I did for a living,"  as Lady B writes, leaving a potential support network shredded, without a second thought. "We're talking about losing a lifetime. And I'm still broken." Having been voted off the island myself a couple of times...I can relate, to put it mildly.

What's really disconcerting here is, we're talking about someone who's well-known locally, who's emceed at beauty pageants, and served as grand marshal for this parade, or a judge at that cooking contest, things of that nature. One time, Lady B gave a presentation to our depression support group: just one of many projects on her day planner, it seemed, that she did without fanfare.

Obviously, if someone like her isn't secure, nobody is. But, then again, I find myself thinking -- Trump's words to the contrary -- America won't make itself great again, until we embrace we start lifting each other up, and embrace that idea once more. Until that day arrives, we won't even be middling. Or something like that.

<Photo/Collage: The Reckoner>

Dumpster Dive (Take I)
The next night, I found myself driving back from a music rehearsal, heading back to my apartment complex in the kind of frigid, unforgiving weather that only the Midwest can dish out.

I swung around the corner of our building, and the dumpster behind it. I noticed a bicycle leaning against the dumpster. Two or three plastic bags crammed with returnable pop cans were tied to the handlebars. I spotted a larger garbage bag sprawled across the top of the dumpster.

Just, then, a young man began hoisting himself out of our dumpster (which had only been emptied the day before). He wore a knit cap and a plaid Carhartt jacket. He didn't look a day over 30, even if the black patch of five o'clock shadow creeping across his face seemed to suggest otherwise.

Not wanting to spook him, I looked away, and rounded the corner, following the oval drive to  our building. I parked in front of it, and began hauling out the groceries.

Just then, the young man shot around the corner. He briefly waved at me, and I waved back. Hope his haul was good, I told myself. Only yesterday, we'd had a brief outburst of spring-like temps in the 40s and 50s. He must have gotten most of it then, I thought, since we'd fallen back today into our familiar teeth-chattering mode (high of 20 degrees, real feel, 10), so I'm sure he wouldn't have found too many cans then.

I wondered how often he plied his trade. The scene reminded me of a comment made by the guitarist of a certain well-known '60s proto-punk band, on his efforts to get a record deal on his own recognizance: "Whenever I actually get these guys on the phone, they're always saying, 'Wow, cool! It's great talking to you!" Then came the punchline. "But you know how it is. It's a young man's world."

Which world? I wondered. And what kind of world is this, anyway?

Not that I had time to ponder the point. Tonight, the world of transcription awaited me, and I'd need to rack up X amount toward my weekly goal ($200, $250-plus and up), in my never-ending quest to make that monthly nut. So hustled inside, with two or three grocery bags in my hand. Duty called, I guess. Or something like that. --The Reckoner

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Guest Cartoon: The Highwayman: "Yer Tax Cuts Passed? Tax THIS!"

<"Yer Tax Cuts Passed? Tax THIS!": The Highwayman>
<click the image to get the full size/flavor!>

>A Few Passing Thoughts...<
“How can you vote for tax reform if it’s going to increase the taxes in your district?” Mr. King asked, suggesting lawmakers would have to say: “Great victory! We got the first tax reform through in 30 years. Your taxes are going up, but it’s O.K. because we got it through.”

People will think you’re nuts,” Mr. King said.
<New York Times: 11/08/17)>

"Republicans need not have proceeded in this fashion. They could have undertaken revenue-neutral corporate-tax reform and tax cuts only for those making, say, less than $75,000. That, however, would not have pleased their big donors. 

"Now the GOP will pay the political price for a bait-and-switch, just as it did on Trumpcare, which paid for tax cuts for the very rich by cutting Medicaid. 

Republicans seem incapable of avoiding these reverse Robin Hood schemes. Perhaps they really do care only about the rich."
(Jennifer Rubin, "Right Turn," Washington Post)

"The foundation of the Republican tax plan is a massive $1 trillion corporate tax cut that isn’t paid for at all. From the beginning, Republicans gave themselves space to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit in order to make the corporate tax cut even bigger.

"Yet the party of fiscal conservatism had no qualms about supporting it. They simply placed their faith in unsubstantiated projections of economic growth to fill that hole — and if it does not, they are already talking about cutting spending for Medicare and Social Security to make up the difference."

"The end result is sheer absurdity: a reform that actually complicates the tax code further, and that must contradict itself and partially self-destruct to attain some semblance of the fiscal discipline Republicans claim to value. It’s hard to imagine a more egregious waste of time and energy, or a worse outcome for taxpayers and the broader economy."
(Bloomberg View)

“The test of our progress is not 
whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”
(President Franklin Delano Roosevelt)

I think they are going to spend millions of dollars
trying to put lipstick on this pig. But unfortunately
 there’s nothing they can do to change it from being a pig.”
(Ezra Levin, co-executive director, Indivisible)