State Of The (Groan) Union

State of the Union871This week’s State of the Union dispelled any lingering doubt that the two dominant political parties truly hate each others guts . With Obama reeling off executive orders on immigration and Cuba, and the promised veto of the Keystone pipeline, any pretense of presidential submission in the coming congressional session was unceremoniously dumped onto the dungheap of history. The newly-seated Republican House and Senate wasted no time in making it clear that they will dive headfirst into the rabbit hole of psycho-wingnut legislation even though their first attempt, a bill restricting abortion, was itself aborted in a whirlwind of confusion and last-minute backsliding.

And the dust had barely settled on the midterm election before the campaign to replace Barack Obama had begun. Jeb Bush, hoping to go three for three on a Pennsylvania Avenue occupation, started to shed the potentially conflicting financial monkeys on his back and testing the temperature of the rich donor pool. Then suddenly, without warning, Zombie Romney arose from the dead, staggering from the elephant’s graveyard chanting “Come-back! Come-back!” There was much chattering among the also-running second tier wannabes, including Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and (!) Carly Fiorina?

It’s somewhat quieter on the Democratic side, with the smart money still betting on Hillary Clinton. To the left of the left, there are those that dream of Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Saunders denying Her Hillaryness another chance at the golden ring and fufilling the progressive dream of a socialist utopian society, but it seems unlikely at this early date. (Of course, we thought she was a shoo-in in ’08 as well.) All hope of retaining the top job for the Dems depends on Obama now. If he can keep the economy from sliding into the ditch and avoid bumbling us into another war, they may buck the electoral odds and stay in power.

And they’ll no doubt have plenty of help from the neanderthals in Congress. Right off the bat we have rising star Iowa Senator Joni Ernst  Joni Earnstcalling for self reliance in the official party rebuttal, despite her family’s pork barrel farm subsidies in the neighborhood of $463,000 from ’95 to ’09. That’s a lot of pig nuts, although it doesn’t hold a candle to our own congressdude Doug LaMalfa’s $5.1 million. We can expect plenty of belt-tightening for food stamp recipients while our Republican friends dine on Iowa oysters on a bed of California rice. Joni was followed by no less than four additional rebuttals from her fellow conservatives, all jockeying for position in the coming GOP presidential beauty contest.

Because that’s where the state of the union is now; in a perpetual campaign cycle. The give and take of legislating has been permanently replaced by partisan grandstanding. Oh, they’ll no doubt work together to keep the whole rotten mess from collapsing on their watch, but tackling real problems will have to wait until one side or the other claims total dominance over all three branches of government. And in a nation as divided as ours, that outcome is about as likely as peace in the Middle East.

Some people (who shall remain nameless) have accused me of being a cynic for pointing out the shortcomings of American politics: too negative, too combative. It’s not like there aren’t good people doing good things to make this a better world. I would agree, and you can find plenty of inspiring stories at the click of a mouse. It would be folly to just give in to despair, but all those good efforts will come to naught unless what passes for leadership changes their partisan stripes. Even a nation as rich and powerful as these United States can’t go on forever rearranging deckchairs while the ship of state slowly sinks into the sea of failed democracies. The “smart people” crow that we are still so far ahead of our closest competitor it will be another fifty years before they catch up. Yeah, well, time flies when you’re having fun.

So I’ll continue to add my voice to those who believe that it’s time to ditch these dinosaurs and find a place that truly fits the middle of America. The fantasy of waiting until one or the other of these extremes goes extinct is not an option. The clock is ticking…

UPDATE: House Speaker John Boehner, in a classic political Pearl Harbor moment, announced the booking of Israeli Top Gun Bibi the Yahoo for a one night stand at the capital, causing the White House to go into convulsions. Expect a counter attack in the weeks to come.

 

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Business As Usual

Pigs in Haiti845I did this panel in 1996. Things haven’t changed much in nineteen years.

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I’m Offended

Je Suis CharlieWhat is Freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.           -Salman Rushdie

I have been involved in some very heated discussions since the murder of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists on January 7, 2015. While there has been a massive amount of public support for the right to draw cartoons featuring religious figures such as the prophet Mohammad, there are those (including other cartoonists) who find the practice needlessly provocative and counter-productive.

Considering the potential consequences, it is not a wise career choice. Since the publication of the first issue of Charlie Hebdo after the massacre, there have been riots in several Islamic nations, destroying churches and synagogues. There are cartoonists such as Molly Norris and the Danish artists who were forced to go into hiding for even suggesting such blasphemy, and  Salman Rushdie, who spent decades underground for writing about Islam in less than reverent terms.

While I personally have never been the target of such fanatic behavior, I have done comics where I satirized Muslims. Even before I published my first comic, I drew Khadafy Duck and Ayatollah Kockamamie in posters I did for a local nightclub. After the publication of Tales of the Jackalope No. 3 (1986) featuring those characters, a few people accused me of racism for referring to Arabs as “towel jockeys” and implying that they lacked proper hygiene. In hindsight, that was an unfair stereotype, and these days I try to be more sensitive about making sweeping generalizations. Everyone should have the freedom to be young and dumb.

Ajackalopes NOW865Some things never change, it seems, and although both of these characters have gone to meet Allah, their successors have proven to be even more brutal and bloodthirsty.

Thanks to the modern miracle of the internet, anyone with a computer is able to see what goes on in these dark corners of the earth. Friends send me video links to the modern atrocities perpetuated by those who pervert the faith. I’ve seen women buried up to their neck and pummeled with stones until the screaming stops. I’ve witnessed the massacre of scores of young men whose crimes amounted to being part of the wrong sect in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’ve seen enough photos of girls’ faces scarred by acid to make my eyes bleed. Boko Haram slaughters entire villages and sells the children into slavery. There are home movies of beheadings. There’s another where a fanatic cuts open his fallen enemy and eats his heart. In Saudi Arabia blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to ten years and 1000 lashes for writing “the only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existance is an act of rebellion.” And just today comes a report of boys executed for watching a rival sect’s soccer match. I doubt that such a penalty will be levied on the New England Patriots for having deflated balls.

I don’t go out of my way to find these horrific scenes. They tend to show up in my news feed or in links from friends. I don’t enjoy seeing them, but like the driver passing a bloody car wreck, I can’t help but look. And I feel an obligation to look at them, if for no other reason than I will never see them in the sanitized mainstream media.

It makes me think back to the nineteen thirties, when it was considered bad taste to criticize the Germans and Japanese. It was none of our business what happened on the other side of the world. Charlie Chaplin was reviled for his famous film, The Great Dictator. In the years before the cold war, George Orwell was so disgusted by the lack of truthful reporting by the English press that he constructed his classic fable Animal Farm and had much difficulty in finding a publisher. In his proposed preface to the book he wrote:

If publishers and editors  exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion. In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face, and that fact does not seem to me to have had the discussion it deserves.

I don’t know what offends me more, the actual acts of terror or the lack of testicular journalism that coddles it. If the mainstream press is so pitifully afraid of showing a drawing as inoffensive as the cover of Charlie Hebdo,  CHARLIEare we to expect the next mass murder to be labeled as just another case of “workplace violence?”

I understand that the rationale for this behavior is to keep from upsetting the majority of Muslims who have never committed a crime. I have no animosity toward the followers of Islam, nor do I have any plans to start drawing Mohammad in compromising positions just to be mean. But I do intend to ridicule those who pervert the faith, because I’m offended by the things I see. I encourage others, especially Muslims, to follow suit and support those brave writers, cartoonists, or just girls who want more from life than “submission” in these oppressed lands. To remain silent or to make excuses in the face of such injustice is the greatest offense of all.

 

 

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The Hand

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Birds Of A Feather

ELLE

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Welcome To The Club

Cas Crop676A recent news flash from the Great Northwest brought to light the newest threat to jobs: too much marijuana. When Washington voters approved legalization in the Evergreen State, they really didn’t put too many limits on production. Enthusiastic growers flooded the state, and after a severe shortage during the first season, now they find themselves buried in bud.

You’d think that would be a boon to users, but producers are holding firm and trying to smuggle the excess goods out to less enlightened states where scarcity still rules the market. Eventually things will sort themselves out, but there will be many small timers who won’t be able to compete with  well-funded plantations.

This may come as a shock to those who have spent the better part of their lives living in the shadows of the cash economy. During periods of recession you could always survive in the pot trade. Like alcohol and food, there are those who can always come up with enough scratch to feed their habit, even if they couldn’t make the rent.

Now, many of those who grew, trimmed or sold may find themselves in the company of artists, musicians, journalists, book publishers, travel agents, loggers, and many other professions in the 21st century. The greatest hope for some will be interference from the government. If the taxes are excessive and regulations for growers too restrictive, the small illegals may yet find customers in the underground market.

As for the rest, welcome to the club. Take comfort in the knowledge that heroin and cocaine are still illegal. Even the old time pure religious Taliban had to backtrack on the poppy farm ban to keep the jihad funded, and the Mexican cartels are not about to start growing papayas. And even with Democrats in charge, it’s not likely that the drug wars will end any time soon. Nature and human weakness abhor a vacuum.

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Je Suis Bill

Here’s one for Scoopy and all the other phony liberals…

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Behind The Wall

Behind the Wall860Amazing how taxpayer-funded entities can tell the public to fuck off when it comes to transparency…

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Seeing Is Deceiving

The smoke from last week’s gunfire had barely dissipated before conspiracy theories began to bloom like magic mushrooms in a fresh cowpie. First, the unedited version of the now-famous scene of the terrorist killing the wounded policeman is making the rounds on the ‘net. Theorists claim the film clearly shows the bullet ricocheting off the sidewalk rather than exploding the head of the victim. That can only mean the cop was offed afterward by the (insert name of organization or government agency here) because he either saw too much or he was killed just to incite hatred of Muslims. We’ve become accustomed to such speculation in the information age and the evidence certainly bears investigating. But until I see Big Foot fleeing from the Charlie Hebdo offices on the back of a robot unicorn, I’ll reserve judgement.

paris-march-wide-shotAnd you do have to wonder what is real, after seeing this wide angle shot of the world leaders marching in solidarity with the grieving public. Oh wait, that’s not the public! It was just their security people, surrounded by soldiers. You can’t really blame them for being a little paranoid after the bloodbath, but whoever decided to make it look like the high potentates were at the head of the parade didn’t do them any favors. (Score one for conspirators.)

Warren Beatty warned us about this shit. You can’t trust your eyes, even with google glasses. As long as we see the world through the lens of the technician/artist, reality is more of an illusion than ever. We used to take drugs to do that.

The cartoonists have been laid to rest, and I had to smile when I saw the photos. Any cartoonist would be proud to go through eternity surrounded by the etchings of his friends and peers. I only hope they filled his pockets with fresh sharpies and a bottle of white-out.

cartoonist funeralMeanwhile, in the rest of the world, an NAACP office was firebombed in Colorado. Boko Haram murdered an estimated 2000 souls in their continuing reign of terror in Nigeria. In Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Mohammed Saleh Al Munajjid proclaimed that Muslims are forbidden to make snowmen, even if they don’t look like the prophet. The most surprising thing I learned from that story was that snow exists in Saudi Arabia.

possumAnd finally, school officials in Valley, Alabama announced that they would begin to stockpile canned goods, not to feed the poor or even themselves, but to use as weapons in case a gunman should invade the classroom. (The theory being that the terrorist would be so surprised by the assault he would immediately flee the scene or be rendered helpless until the police arrive. ) Talk about your food fight.

Once again, these events illustrate the need for cartoonists in this topsy turvy world. At least for those who can distinguish satire from what passes for reality.

 

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Kick Me

Kick Me One855Kick Me Two856Kick Me Three857Kick Me Four858Kick Me Five859

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