Freshly Squeezed 8/23/14


The last in the series of Sam’s (and my) indulgence in midlife (mine would be a tad later) introspection. This one may be truer to my psychic makeup than the previous ones. I grew up on superhero comics, and I was infatuated as a kid by the art of cartooning because that world was more real and vibrant to me than the drab one I happened to inhabit. I was lucky enough to make a living drawing those silly pictures, but I never quite gave up the impossible dream of living in the world on the other side of the pen.

Americans Stunned that Race Still an Issue

Americans this morning expressed shock and disbelief over the continuing racial unrest in Ferguson, MO.

“I thought we were all done with that,” said Melanie P. Granville, interviewed at her home in Tuscaloosa, AL.

“Racial tension? Isn’t that a band?” asked Joseph Warbler, of Atlanta, GA.

People from all parts of the country were shaken by the angry demonstrations and the heavy-handed police response after the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager shot by an unidentified policeman in Ferguson.

“I honestly thought we were living in a post-racial era,” lamented Scott Pleasantry, a Memphis, TN , gas station attendant. “I mean, we have a black president, and you never hear that even being brought up. Everyone’s just fine with that, right?”

Tasha Hartman of Chicago, IL, remarked, “Has anyone ever seen such an excessive show of force by police? It’s just weird.”

The chaos in Ferguson was the topic of discussion among a group sitting at a lunch counter in Selma, AL.

“I don’t get it. You just don’t hear about police anywhere having run-ins with minorities,” a young man who identified himself as John said. “Maybe once and a while in New York, but not in the  South.”

“Even in New York, I’m sure that flap about Barney’s profiling black customers was just an aberration.”

“Sure, there’s some talk about voter ID laws being aimed at suppressing minority voting and stuff, but that’s pretty much a thing of the past, right?” Jane added.

“When was the last time a state like Florida gerrymandered a bunch of majority white districts?” asked George. “It’s unheard of today.”

“And the moves in Congress to cut off welfare and food stamps and unemployment insurance, kill Obamacare and not raise the minimum wage, that’s just all about balancing the budget. None of those have any racial impact, do they?”

“Of course not,” Phil replied. “And it’s not like the justice system fills the prisons with blacks and hispanics these days. We’ve moved past that, haven’t we?”

“And we’re no longer weird about immigration, either,” Jane added. Didn’t the House just agree it’s actually good for the country to let kids fleeing drug gangs in South America to start a new life here?”

“And of course they want to come here, where people are judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin, where it’s perfectly safe to be black or brown.” agreed John.

“Who would have dreamed that what’s going on in Ferguson could happen in 21st Century America?”





Bergdahl Blues

Critics of the Obama administration today bitterly objected to the military’s investigation of the capture and imprisonment of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by the Taliban.

“Allowing Bergdahl to tell his story is an outrage,” a spokesman for HATO (Haters of All Things Obama) said  Wednesday. “We already know all we need to know,”

The release of Sgt, Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban detainees in May created a brief political firestorm, with opponents of the administration and even some members  of his unit accusing Bergdahl of deserting and Obama of paying too high a ransom for someone they considered to be a traitor.

According to Eugene Fidell, one of Bergdahl’s lawyers, Sgt. Bergdahl has been open and cooperative with the investigation.

“That just proves how devious the man is,” the spokesman for HATO said. “He’s had five years to perfect his story. If he didn’t have anything to hide, would he be this willing to spin his web of deceit? It will be a sad day if his story holds together and people come to believe that he isn’t who we say he is.

“We rushed to judgement in May based on the very sincere belief that anything we accuse Obama of must be true because we hate him so much, and nothing we’ve heard or seen since has changed our minds.  And at this late date we certainly don’t expect anything Bergdahl says, no matter how true it may seem to unbiased observers, to move us in any way.

“Even if they decide he’s innocent and return him to active duty, it will just be further proof of how much Obama has corrupted this country’s once  great military.

“We made up our minds a long time ago. The facts won’t change that.”



Terrorists Condemn Botched Execution

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) today denounced the United States for the bungled execution of a condemned inmate in Arizona.

The Islamic extremist group, better known by the acronym ISIS, objected in strident terms to the “unspeakably cruel, inhumane treatment” of Joseph Randolph Wood, who reportedly gasped and snorted for more than and hour and a half before being pronounced dead.

Arizona is one of a number of states that have struggled in recent years to acquire the combination of lethal drugs used in administering the death penalty after European suppliers refused to allow the use of their products to put prisoners to death.

Wood joins several others in recent years whose executions were botched. In Ohio, a man gasped for 25 minutes before dying after being injected with the same drugs used in Arizona. In Oklahoma, a convicted killer writhed in pain after a needle became dislodged, ultimately dying of a heart attack as the execution was halted.

A black-clad spokesman for ISIS said, “Let me be clear. We have nothing against executions. We’ve kill by the thousands, but we do it humanely, shooting people with machine guns, slashing throats, even bombing crowded public squares and buildings, but we don’t have a policy of letting our victims linger in anguish. We may be terrorists, but we’re not monsters.

“We put the infidels on trial and kill them the same day. Quick, clean, merciful.”

“Frankly, we’re shocked by the barbaric treatment of prisoners in America. You keep them on death row for years, for decades, filling them with false hope, allowing them to file futile appeals before finally putting them to death, and even then you force them to die in prolonged agony.

“How can people who do such things call themselves civilized?”

Looking for Mr. Hobby Lobby

Yesterday, after the Supreme Court decided that the craft store chain was exempt from the Obamacare contraception mandate, I went to my local Hobby Lobby store.

I was wondering if it would be relieved now that its religious principles had been protected from the parts of the health care law it found offensive. I was expecting to see a big smile of relief on its facade, but it looked pretty much the same as it always had. a rather drab retail building with big orange letters spelling out “Hobby Lobby” on the front.

I asked the building, “So, how does it feel to have your religious convictions upheld by the justices of the Supreme Court?” 

I admit I felt a little silly trying to have a conversation with a store, but if the Court says that Hobby Lobby is actually a person and not just another retail corporation that sells stuff, who am I to argue?

The building didn’t answer, so I went inside. My first stop was in the art supply section, the area I know best. I figured if there was any part of the store I could talk to, this was it.

“So,” I said, giving the pencils a friendly wink, “How about that Supreme Court decision? You must be pleased.” No response. I repeated my question to the oil paints. No answer. The brushes were equally mute. This was indeed perplexing. If Hobby Lobby cared so much that it brought this case all the way to the highest court in the land, you’d think it would be shouting with joy.

A young lady wearing a blue vest and a name tag came up to me, looking a bit nervous. She probably wasn’t used to customers talking to  the drawing pads.

“May I help you?” she asked.

“Yes, thank you, “I answered. “Are YOU by any chance Hobby Lobby, the person?”

“Uh…I just work here.”

“But you aren’t the actual artificial corporate human person the Supreme Court just ruled in favor of?”

“I don’t know who that is. I’m just an employee.”

“You know about the Supreme Court decision, though?” I probed.

“Yeah, I heard  about that.”

“You must be thrilled that the company no longer has to provide contraception benefits in your insurance plan, in violation of your deeply-held religious principles.”

“Uh, well…” she said, looking around warily. She leaned close and whispered, “I probably shouldn’t be talking about this while I’m working, but I’m not particularly religious. I liked it that my insurance paid for that. Now I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know how I can afford to pay for it on what I make here.”

“Really?” I said. “I’m surprised. I assumed that since you’re part of the big happy corporate Hobby Lobby person, all the actual people here would be ecstatic that your synthetic corporate person’s religious rights have been affirmed.”

“Rights?” she said. “Maybe Hobby Lobby has rights, but the company didn’t ask ME what I want. I just work here.”

“Yes, but…”

“I’m a woman, not a corporation. I don’t have rights.”

The India ink said nothing.

Etta Hulme, 1923-2014

My old friend and ink-slinging compatriot Etta Hulme died Wednesday. She was 90.

Etta was one of the first women ever hired as an editorial cartoonist for a major daily newspaper, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which her cartoons livened for 36 years.

In her long career at the Star-Telegram, which spanned from the Nixon administration to the election of Obama, she lampooned her favorite targets, from Tricky Dick Nixon to Slippery Dick Cheney, with equal relish. She published her last cartoon in late 2008, one final blast at Dubya and friends before their ignominious exit. I only wish she’d stayed around long enough to take on Ted Cruz. Now, that would have been a contest to remember!

A short, plump woman with with soft Texas drawl, she could easily have been mistaken for someone’s kindly old aunt or doting grandmother until she let loose. She was her buddy Molly Ivins’ equal when it came to delivering a blisteringly funny and perfectly-timed one-liner. 

Her cartoons were a lot like her. Rendered in a soft, feathery line, her disarmingly quiet, smartly captioned drawings packed a surprisingly biting punch. An uncompromising liberal’s liberal on a conservative paper in a conservative town in a conservative state, she had to be—and was—one tough, feisty lady.

She’s been described as the den mother to all the guys (and the few lonely gals) at our annual conventions of editorial cartoonists, That description doesn’t come close to doing her justice. She was the equal of the best of us as both an artist and commentator, and more than capable of holding her own in our mostly testosterone-driven profession.

And we loved her.

Racist Owners

Poor Donald Sterling. Made a national pariah for racist remarks caught on tape, and then forced by the league to sell his beloved Los Angeles Clippers. The current hight bid, by Steve Ballmer, who apparently doesn’t know what else to do with his Microsoft fortune, is a measly $2 billion.

For his transgressions, Sterling, who paid $12.5 million for the franchise in 1981, stands to make a profit of $1,977,500,000.00, minus capital gains taxes, give or take a few shekels. Hasn’t he suffered enough?

I have a confession to make. I, too, am a bigot. I have a well-documented record of intolerance of right-wing zealots, birthers and gun-rights absolutists. For years my cartoons and commentaries have been full of vitriolic denunciations of abortion-clinic bombers, wing-nut militia members and neo-Nazis. I have even ordered my wife never to bring a climate change denier with her to Nuggets games (a moot point, really, because she refuses to watch basketball). Clearly, I am unfit, in the current political climate, to own a web log.

As punishment for my sins, I am willing to accept the forced sale of my blog. I paid something like $30 for the domain name two years ago. Using Sterling’s return on investment of 15,900%, assuming he accepts Ballmer’s bid, as a starting point, I will entertain any offer over $4,770.

Let the bidding begin!

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