Rand Paul is evolving. So is Jeb Bush.  I expect Hillary Clinton to mutate rapidly as soon as she declares officially. It’s the miracle of modern politics. A process that takes nature millions of years takes politicians only minutes after discovering that their previously-held positions are being questioned by potential voters.

While natural selection generally favors qualities, like increased intelligence, that improve the species, political evolution seems to work only backward.

Senator Paul, within a nanosecond of throwing his hat in the ring, was announcing that his Iran policy had changed.

“As many of your are aware,” Paul stated in his much-anticipated announcement speech, “I once said that it would be unwise for Congress to further sanction Iran while the President was negotiating with them. It was a responsible and nuanced approach to a complicated issue.

“Forget I ever said that. As a senator I have certain responsibilities. But as a candidate for president I disavow responsibility and nuance. In fact, for the duration of the campaign I promise never to make a nuanced statement on any issue. You have my word on it.”

Meanwhile, former Florida governor Bush was doing his own evolving.

“Yeah, it was pretty funny that I accidentally called myself Hispanic when I registered. Now, some of you might think I was just trying to court the Hispanic vote, because in the past, unlike most Republicans, I’ve said some genuinely sensible things about immigration,” the latest Bush to run for the highest office explained.

“But that was before I evolved. Now I realize that if I’m going to win the nomination I have to be just as stupid as the rest of the GOP on the subject. I know lots of people think I’m the smart Bush, and that I should have been president instead of my brother George. But I’m here to tell you that I’m at least as dumb as he is, and maybe even dumber,  especially on immigration.”

Hillary Clinton, who has yet to declare her candidacy, has not indicated how she will change once she is officially in the race. Her office would only comment that she currently is spending her time learning how to save emails.

“These new technologies aren’t easy for her,” a spokesperson said, ” but she’s evolving.”


Okay, the internet is back up and the tv is working again. So far, so good, except now we can’t get get a signal from the Blu-ray player.

This is still an improvement over yesterday, when the internet was down, so Lisa couldn’t cancel the tickets she bought on Expedia within the 24-hour cancellation window. She bought them there because the Frontier Airlines website wasn’t working and there was an hour-and-half wait to talk to a ticket agent on the phone, which pretty much used up the battery life of the iPhone, which we had to use because the home phone, which is Comcast, wasn’t working.

The internet has been giving us fits because of some weird glitch that suddenly cropped up out of nowhere between the Airport Express and the Comcast router. Everything had been working fine until a few weeks ago, when it all went berserk. Comcast claimed it was because they’d upgraded their security and our 5-year-old tv wasn’t new enough to cope with the technology, so it wasn’t their fault.

None of which explained the internet working intermittently, or not at all. Our computers are both brand new. A call to Comcast solved nothing, but it did solve the problem of what to do for three hours on a Thursday night.

Then yesterday, everything went out. No phone, no tv, no iPad, no nothing. Fortunately, the iPhone was working and still getting internet through the T-Mobile system, so we could call and discover that there was a neighborhood outage. The Comcast folks came out and spent several hours working in the alley. They told us that squirrels had chewed through the cable. They did a great job replacing the cable and cleaning up the wiring at our house. Then the really nice service guy spent two hours reworking our system in the house, and everything, including the Blu-ray, worked great. what a relief!

Until ten minutes after he left, when the internet AND the Blu-ray went out again. The tv worked, though.

Another call to Comcast, and two hours later and another complete reworking of the entire system, the internet is back up and working fine, although we’re now using the Airport instead of the Comcast router for the internet signal. We deleted the Comcast network, because it was fighting with the Apple network.

But I still need to call Comcast for a fourth time, because the Blu-ray isn’t working. My iPad is getting internet, though, and so is the iPhone, so we’re 80% there.

I don’t know. Maybe we tied too much of our lives to electronic gadgetry, which rely on too many services that speak too many incompatible languages, none of which I speak a word of. Maybe in the pursuit of  total connectedness, we reached too high.

We, the unhappy citizens of Babel.


Not Just Ferguson

The New York times ran a fascinating story today–fascinating if you call sad and outrageous fascinating–about how the police department and courts in Ferguson, MO, and in many, many other towns across the country, stick it to the poor.

The Ferguson police, with the complicity of the court system, collect much of their budget in the form of fines and fees imposed on people–primarily minorities–they stop for routine traffic violations. Because that’s where their funding comes from, there is a perverse incentive to keep stopping people for minor (or trumped-up) offenses, and to add court fees on top of the fines, and penalties on top of that for people who can’t pay. Although this country supposedly does not have debtors prisons, too many people end up serving jail time for failing to pay fines. It’s an inherently racist system.

And Ferguson is hardly the only community that operates in this fashion; it’s just the one that the Justice Department singled out in its investigation of the Michael Brown shooting.

What the Times story didn’t do was connect this horrendous practice with the broader national issues of government funding and taxation. Police forces aren’t the only public institutions which the relentless push by conservatives to cut taxes and starve government have shortchanged.

As federal tax rates have fallen over the years, more and more services that used to be borne by all of us have fallen to the states; and, as state governments have been taken over by the anti-tax crowd, on municipalities in turn. Budgeting by fees and fines is by far the most regressive form of taxation–it falls most heavily on those least able to pay. The wealthiest keep more of their money, and the poorest are made to pay even more. The dirty little secret in all of this is that what’s being done is largely invisible outside impoverished communities like Ferguson. It took the tragedy there to reveal to the rest of the country how the city really functioned.

My hope is that the Times’ investigation inspires journalists all over the country to take a long, hard look at how their their own communities operate.  Only by shining a cleansing light can we ever hope to change.


Truth, Screenwriting and Memory

Three of the films up for Oscars last night,  “Selma,” “The Imitation Game”  and “American Sniper,” have been criticized for the liberties they took with the historical record.

I won’t get into the discussion about whether movies about historical events and people have a duty to represent their subjects as accurately as possible, or whether as works of art and popular entertainment they have license to distort the record in search of great storytelling.

The question for me as a storyteller is somewhat different. In Sleeper Ave., my new webcomic, I’m writing about things that happened fifty and sixty years ago, knowing full well how faulty memory can be. Plus, just as screenwriters need to make their stories compelling, I have to find a way to dramatize these events so that my readers will find the tales interesting. Every writer does that by selectively highlighting certain details and diminishing or ignoring others. Does this mean my work is an unreliable record?

I’m trying hard not to fictionalize anything for dramatic effect, but my memory might already have played that trick on me years ago. The only choice, really, is to tell the truth as I remember it.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The Sad State of Colorado Journalism

The  newspaper industry has been on the ropes for years, with devastating consequences for our democracy. As newspapers go out of business, and as the remaining ones cut staff and coverage, we are simply less well informed.

Political parties and their funders now have greater access to the public than the Fourth Estate. This is not good news for a democracy that depends of an informed electorate to make the right choices.   I believe that there’s a direct link between the decline of the press and the rise of the hyper-partisan gridlock that has paralyzed Washington and now threatens to do the same in the Colorado legislature.

Ever since the Rocky Mountain News, newspaper I worked for for 31 years, folded, Coloradans have been missing more and more important stories.

This story in the Columbia Journalism Review illustrates that concern. This is an issue that should have been widely covered locally, yet was ignored by what’s left of our mainstream press.

Off to See the Wizard

I just posted the next SleeperAve. story this morning, about going to see the Wizard of Oz for the very first time.

For a kid, it was a really scary movie, what with tornadoes carrying people away, a genuinely terrifying witch, and worst of all, the flying monkeys. When it was released in 1939, it didn’t do particularly well at the box office, most likely because those grim scenes were too much of a downer for a Depression-weary public. It only became popular through repeated re-releases.

I first saw it in 1955, when my mother and I were on a trip to  Dallas. I’m guessing Waco was too small a market.

I remember being scared, especially by the tornado. I was still traumatized by the giant twister that devastated Waco two years earlier.  I actually thought the monkeys were cool. Despite the scary stuff, I was captivated by the film, and have loved it ever since.

Plus, that movie is the greatest gift ever given to cartoonists. There’s just something about it that generates endless metaphors for political cartoons.

At any rate, check out the new Sleeper Ave. post. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Plus, even though I’ve succeeded in fully funding my challenge at Beacon Reader, there are still a few days left for you to underwrite the project, if you want.


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

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  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.

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