Elections Matter

I know far too many people who sit out elections, especially off-year contests, with the tired excuse that both parties are basically the same. They’re not. Two stories in today’s Denver Post illustrate exactly why elections matter.

Republicans won control of the state senate in November. On certain social issues, the knee-jerk GOP sensibility drives me nuts. Case in point: as soon as they took office, the Republican majority defunding the program that allows legal immigrants to secure drivers licenses.  There are so many reasons to make sure that people who are here in this country legally can drive–to work, to school, to the doctor, to shop–and no good reason not to. The alternative, which should be obvious to anyone who’s thought this thing through, is that we will now have many more people either driving without a license or being forced to make expensive and time-consuming compromises,  harming working men and women and their children who are here legally and who pay taxes, solely to satisfy the anti-immigrant passions of the Right.

Still before the senate is the bill, sponsored by both a Democrat and a Republican, to continue funding the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, which has been remarkably successful aa t reducing teen pregnancy and abortion in the state. But, despite the overwhelming success of the program, the reflexively anti-family planning crowd is likely to greet anything to do with women’s reproductive health with hostility. And then we’ll have many more teen pregnancies and abortions for them to rail against.

Next time, remember what you’re voting for.


Vexed by Anti-Vaxxers

Here’s why the anti-vaccine movement drives me so crazy. Actually, there’s more than one reason. The first is that, aside from those who object for religious reasons or think that an organic diet prevents all ills, anti-vaxxers still rely on a wholly discredited 1998 paper based on fraudulent data linking vaccines with autism.

The second is that almost all the anti-vaxxers I’ve heard quoted live in a dream world that they can indulge precisely because of the vaccines that have kept them safe up until now. They simply have no idea what it was like before the  diseases that our grandparents so rightly dreaded were brought under control.

In 1912, the year my father was born, the life expectancy of a male was 51.5 years. Today it’s 76, a 50% increase in a century. That’s a startling improvement in a relatively short time span. What caused it? Partly, better nutrition, but by far the biggest impact was the widespread use of antibiotics and vaccines, which brought the biggest killers of young people to bay. We no longer fear that measles, diphtheria, whooping cough, smallpox, the flu and polio will kill or maim our children.

And the fear of those childhood killers is what we’ve forgotten. If the current trend continues, and we lose the herd immunity that large-scale immunization affords us, our children will suffer, and many of them will die from easily preventable infections.

Maybe then we’ll remember.

When I was growing up, and vaccines were new and miraculous, there were still those who found reasons not to immunize their children. Check out my latest story at Sleeperave.com.

The Glass is Half Full

As an editorial cartoonist, I was a “the glass is half empty” kind of guy, at least professionally. The darker and more pessimistic the cartoon, the better. Such was my life practicing that dour journalistic art (which I loved).

Now that I’m a webcomic artist, my world has brightened, and you’ve certainly helped. In only four days since the campaign to fund Sleeper Ave. began, we’ve reached 50% of our funding goal of $10,000 at Beacon Reader. That glass is definitely half FULL, and I thank all of you who have contributed so far.

Yes, there’s still the other 50% to go, but I’m thrilled with the response so far.


Thanks for Your Support

Only three days into the launch of my new webcomic, Sleeper Ave., the response has been unexpectedly wonderful. Lots of new signups, tons of favorable comments, many of which I’ve posted on my blog at Sleeperave.com.  I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished with this new form (for me) of storytelling, and thrilled that so many of you enjoy what I’m doing. If you haven’t yet signed up, you can do so below.

LindaPlus, in only three days we’ve reached 40% of the target underwriting at Beacon Reader, a great website for independent journalists.

I’m a strong believer that good journalism deserves the support of its readers, especially in this brave new era in which more and more writers and artists are losing the backing of traditional media and finding new platforms and new ways to make a living from their work.

So, if you haven’t already, please go to my page at Beacon and help underwrite this project.

How to Support Sleeper Ave.

My new webcomic, Sleeperave.com, launches tomorrow. Hooray!

Now, for the sales pitch: I need your support. I’m partnering with Beacon Reader to fund my work. If you like my stories, you can support me and a bunch of other independent artists and journalists  by making a pledge at the Sleeper Ave. page on BeaTipscon Reader. You can pledge a monthly amount or make a one-time contribution.

Here’s how it works: I have thirty days to raise $10,000; otherwise the project won’t be funded and the money will be returned, which would be really embarrassing and make me sad.

If you don’t want to or don’t have the moolah to spare, that’s fine. You can still read my work at Sleeperave.com for free.

But if you can, I’d really appreciate your support.

And if you haven’t signed up yet to get and email every time I post a story, you can do it below.


Sleeperave.com–Coming Wednesday

The time has come, dear reader. I’m launching Sleeper Ave. on Wednesday. Yay! If you haven’t already, you still have time to sign up below to receive each post in your inbox as I post it.Band2I’m also partnering with Beacon Reader to help fund the project. Here’s the sales pitch: if you value great cartooning and great journalism, you can support me and a bunch of other writers and artists by making a pledge to underwrite Sleeper Ave. When you do, you get access to all the terrific journalists at Beacon.

You don’t have to in order to read my work on my own site, but it would be really nice if you decided to support me on Beacon.


Coming Soon–Very Soon

Yesterday I finished the tenth Sleeper Ave. story, about a spooky UFO sighting when I was a kid. That gives me enough of a backlog to feel confident about launching the website. WhileLights4 I was busy drawing, my son Gabe (a.k.a. the internet whisperer),  was busy putting the finishing touches on the website design. When we’re finished with some fine-tuning, we’ll be ready to go. I’m hoping for the week after next at the latest.

So, if you haven’t signed up below or at Sleeperave.com to receive the stories when I post them, please do. And if you already have, please spread the word.

BAck to work

After a brief break, I’m back to work on Sleeper Ave.com, working on the tenth story, editing a couple of previous tales, and fine-tuning the website preparatory to launch later this month.

Not that I’m not also preoccupied by the horrific events in Paris. In my 31-year career at the Rocky Mountain News I never really worried that anything I drew would compromise my safety or that of my co-workers. Yes, there were occasional threats by people who were offended by my work, but nothing I took too seriously. I did call the police twice, and they took care of the problems, warning people that making those threats was illegal. In both cases, the offended parties backed off.

I’m frankly more worried by the response of so many American newspapers which chose not to show their readers the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. That the very newspapers STEIN0928which ran defiant cartoons by their own staffers showing the pen mightier than the sword were afraid to offend radical jihadists spoke volumes about who won this round in the war against free expression. I drew this cartoon in 2001 after 9-11, and I think it’s still timely.

Anyway, back to Sleeper Ave. I may upset some people on occasion, but I don’t think anything I draw or write for my new feature is likely to provoke jihadists. So it should be perfectly safe for you to sign up to receive the new stories as I post them. You can do that below or at Sleeperave.com.


Am I charlie?

It’s taken me a little while to try to come to terms with the carnage in Paris.  As a cartoonist and journalist, I share the overwhelming sense of horror and revulsion most of us feel. What these jihadist morons did was sickening beyond belief, yet another reminder that Western civil society is under increasing threat from an ideology that rejects an open, multi-cultural world view, and rejects it violently. What’s most terrifying is that it only takes a few dedicated extremists to cause enormous damage.

That said, I’m already a little tired of the deluge of cartoons by my ink-stained compatriots valiantly proclaiming, in one metaphor or another, the power of the pen over the sword. A bit too easy and glib for my taste, especially since the guys with the pen were butchered. I doubt that any of our American artists worried for one second that their lives would be in jeopardy because of yesterday’s cartoon celebrating the ultimate triumph of their drawing tools over AK-47s.

And let’s be honest about Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons. They weren’t what I would call genuine editorial cartoons, designed to make a specific editorial point. They were deliberately offensive broadsides, more adolescent sniggering than thoughtful comment. Not that there’s any excuse for murdering their creators, but let’s not pretend they were attempting serious journalism. In some ways, this makes the attacks worse. The killers were incensed not by an intellectual critique of their religious practices, but by a silly insult. As an editorial cartoonist I wouldn’t have drawn those cartoons. I never minded offending my subjects, but I never wanted to do it just for the sake of offending.

Another theme in yesterday’s editorial cartoons was the terrorists’ bullets striking Islam itself, often represented as a mosque. A version of this theme has Allah decrying the stupidity of the shooters. These, I thought, were marginally better cartoons, more substantial than the power of the pen drawings.

It’s not easy to come up with a really good cartoon on deadline in reaction to breaking news like this, especially when it hits so close to home, so I give my guys some slack. I might have done something similar. What I’m hoping to see in the next few days are some cartoons that delve deeper into the complex issues this incident raises. For instance, this isn’t all about free expression vs. oppression. There’s an irreconcilable  ideological conflict here between those of us who believe in a democratic, tolerant social structure and those who fervently believe in an autocratic theocracy. How do we protect our society when those conflicting world views clash? What has given rise to the growth and spread of jihadism? How do we contain it?

And what will any of us have the courage to draw if we know our life is in danger? I don’t honestly know what my answer would be.




Number 9, Number 9

Just finished story number 9 (about, sort of, with some other stream of consciousness stuff thrown in) the emotional aftermath  of the tornado that hit my hometown when I was a kid. I want to have ten in the vault before I launch Sleeperave.com, my GodworksAAnew webcomic about growing up in the 50s and 60s, so I’m getting really close to being able to go live, which honestly scares me. I’ve never been without the safety net of a newspaper or syndicate hawking my wares, so I’m going to be out there all alone.

Sign up below if you haven’t already, and you can help me build audience by spreading the word, for which I will be in your debt.

The online home of editorial cartoonist, writer and analyst Ed Stein.