Fri, Jan 25 – Guns and Whatnot

Fri, Jan 25 – Guns and Whatnot
First the whatnot, in the form of this week’s strip, a little pictoral commentary calledIt’s called “The Golden New Age”
Guns and gun control have been much on people’s minds of late. While I haven’t done a strip on the topic recently, I have had a few folks write me to ask, “Hey, what was that strip you did where everybody’s got nuclear weapons?”, presumably noticing that the strip did in fact discuss the issue with typically Bobian obliqueness. So, just to get it out there for folks, the strip is called The Golden New Age. It’s in the archive! </p>

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Tucker Carlson on Women in the Military (and some responses)

Feminism’s latest victory: the right to get your limbs blown off in war. Congratulations.</p>
Tucker Carlson

@TuckerCarlson The “right” won was a woman’s freedom to decide if she wants to try to become a warrior for her country. Why so threatened?</p>
Denis Dison

@TuckerCarlson Women have been in combat since the CIVIL War & before. This is nothing new. And have you met Tammy Duckworth?</p>
Laura Chapin

@TuckerCarlson Absolutely, positively, undeniably spoken like someone who has never risked his life in service to his country or community</p>
Brian Austin

@TuckerCarlson Ummmm, sitting US Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth. But she’s a Dem so you probably didn’t hear of her.</p>
Christopher Swartout

@TuckerCarlson Women already in combat situations & getting killed, injured-this gives them chance to adbvance in miltary and get other jobs</p>
Al Bernstein

@TuckerCarlson Meet Lt Melissa Stockwell, CU graduate, Iraq Vet, Paralympic medalist, Ironman triathlete</p>
Laura Chapin

And Adam Serwer:

In the US military, a woman’s service is not recognized, professionally or financially, the same way as a man’s. Because women have not been eligible for “combat role” positions—even though they were shooting and being shot at—they were denied access to certain career opportunities. The plaintiffs in a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union filed against the Department of Defense over the exclusion of women from combat roles offer great examples of this discrimination. Two of the plaintiffs in that case have received Purple Hearts, and two have received combat medals. One of the plaintiffs, Air Force Major Mary Jennings Hegar, a helicopter pilot, was shot down in Afghanistan attempting to evacuate wounded US service members. She engaged in a firefight with enemy forces and was shot before escaping. Women are already “getting their limbs blown off in war.” Panetta’s announcement will ensure they are recognized for it.


In Politics, It’s a Wild Wild Weird World

Hunter S. Thompson said: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” But what do you do when things go from weird to completely psychedelic?

The political landscape at the beginning of the second term of America’s first biracial president – in the usual historical sense, calling him black kind of requires an asterisk – is a messed up, topsy-turvy, bass-ackwards place.

There is the president’s newfound liberal rhetoric, even going so far as to namecheck gays and lesbians in his Inaugural Address. Did anyone tell him or members of the media that Stonewall was an actual riot, that endorsing this landmark of liberation is to endorse violent revolutionary change? He came off as something as a peacenik, implying that he would be willing to talk to, say, Iran. How does that square with his onslaught of drones, a campaign that increasingly looks like a grim Vietnam-style war of attrition?

But it’s his timing I can’t figure.

Back in 2009, when he came into the White House with an overwhelming mandate for radical change in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, when he enjoyed Democratic control of both houses of Congress, when the Republicans were so whipped that opinion writers for the Wall Street Journal wondered aloud whether there was a future for the GOP, he tacked right. Now that obstructionist Republicans control the House, ordinary citizens have settled into a grouchy state of permanent discontent amid downward mobility and shrinking expectations, when there’s absolutely no reason to expect to get anything big or bold accomplished, the dude is breaking out as some sort of crazy progressive?

Then there’s the bizarre realignment of the two major parties.

Leading Republicans, spooked by the election results, polls that show that the voters of the future are liberal on gays, abortion and other social issues, and possibly from finally having picked up dogeared copies of the prescient tome The Emerging Democratic Majority at Books-a-Million, are freaking out in the weirdest possible way. Something has to be done! But not if it requires compromising on our core values. Um, guys…white guys…old white guys…the problem is that the voters don’t like Republican core values. Or you personally. So what is to be done? Something!

You almost have to feel sorry for Republicans. Sure, they started a bunch of crazy wars that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, and they opened a string of concentration camps around the world, and they rolled back 800 years of cherished civil liberties that go back to the Magna Carta. But it’s sad to watch the mighty crash like a dictator’s statue pulled down by invading Marines. Not only is a sorta black man in the White House, all the GOP’s classic election-stealing tricks – corrupting the Supreme Court, bullying recount officials with paid thugs, moving voting booths out of minority neighborhoods – aren’t enough to close the growing gap between their obsolete stances and an increasingly left-leaning electorate. Now they’re so desperate that they’re even flirting with rejiggering the Electoral College, an institution that historically benefits Republicans, in order to suck out two or three more terms with them in control of the House – forget the Senate – before fading away into Whig-like oblivion as the Democrats retaliate.

Not to say that the Democrats are walking the straight and narrow road of sanity.

Americans of all political stripes say there’s one issue that consumes them most. One thing that they think about all the time. Something personal, something that affects everything else. Happily, it’s something that the government not only can do something about, but has been able to address many times in the past. I am talking about, obviously, the economy. Unemployment. Underemployment. The fact that there are no jobs. And that the jobs that are being created are all crappy. Or are in another country. Americans have been remarkably consistent about this. It would be hard to think of another time when people told pollsters for four years in a row that the same issue was the number one issue in the country. Whatever his other challenges, President Obama certainly doesn’t have to wonder about what’s on our minds.

So what is his second-term agenda? Given that his laissez-faire approach to the economic collapse throughout his first term basically involved golfing a lot while hoping that magical market forces would revive on their own, you might think that he would focus in like a laser-guided drone on the economy – you know, the number one most important issue to most Americans – this time around. But no, everyone’s telling us that Obama’s ambitious second-term agenda is – wait for it – gun control, immigration and climate change.

Don’t get me wrong: one of the great tragedies of the last dozen years was that Al Gore, one of the few American politicians who understands the gravity and imminent threat of global warming, didn’t get to exercise the presidential powers he earned at the ballot box. Though I will be shocked! shocked! shocked! if Obama’s proposals rise above the level of the usual too little/too late/too vested in corporate profits to curb industrialization, it’s nice to see the issue get lip service. Restoring sanity to America’s immigration system – can’t get in legally, so sneak in and hide out for 15 or 20 years until the next amnesty – is long overdue. Though, again, I wouldn’t be surprised if we just end up with another Reagan-style amnesty that doesn’t open up the doors to a lot more legal immigrants. Gun control of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, of course, is just boilerplate post-Sandy Hook elementary school massacre reactionism.

Fortunately, at least one of these issues will probably resolve itself. Already there are fewer illegals trying to sneak into the United States across the border from Mexico because the economy here is so terrible. Who is going to want to come to an impoverished nation full of gun nuts shooting at each other underwater?

Still, it’s disconcerting to watch smug Democrats lord it over clueless Republicans when the only difference between the two parties is one of tone. Republicans let you know that they hate you. Democrats talk nice and then let you down. Neither party gives a damn about the fact that you haven’t gotten a raise in 30 years. How can they? Their contributors are the top executives of the corporations who’ve been lining their pockets at your expense.

One of these days, you’ve got to think that the people are going to notice.


Journo Trade Rags Whitewash Cartoonist Plagiarism Scandal

The scandal over cartoonist Bill Day’s plagiarism, recycling of his own previous cartoons and self-plagiarism is a teachable moment: an opportunity for cartoonists to reassess basic standards, readers to see that editorial cartoonists police their own, and for editors and  publishers – not to mention prize committees – to begin to understand the difference between high-quality artists with integrity and cheating hacks. Unfortunately, the main news outlets that cover the world of editorial cartooning and journalism are falling down on the job, alternatingly muddying the waters with stories that imply that clarity is impossible in such situations, or – in at least one case – deliberately obfuscating and downright lying about the facts.

Many of us were looking forward to the coverage of the Washington Post’s Michael Cavna, who writes the Comics Riffs  blog for the paper in the  nation’s capital.  Unfortunately, Cavna buried the lede in a piece that put my friend and colleague Scott Stantis’ wondering aloud about a New York Post cover at the top of an article that should have emphasized Bill Day’s perfidy, and then gave an excessive amount of space to disassembling by Daryl Cagle, Day’s syndicator and champion in an attempt to raise $35,000 via Indiegogo in order to subsidize the below-standard low rates that Cagle pays to Day.

Over at Poynter, another leading trade industry source pretty much everyone in the field, Andrew Beaujon didn’t just fumble the ball – he threw it away:

“Unauthorized interpolation? Ham-fisted aggregation? Media-blogger-baiting transgression? Whatever it is, it seems like a lesser light to shine on Day’s work.”

What the hell? What can you call a cartoonist who finds a piece of artwork online, one that is clearly labeled with copyright and credited information, Photoshop’s the image while stripping out the credits and bylines, pastes it into his own work, adds a smidge of his own drawing, and then has the gall to sign the thing? He isn’t an unauthorized interpolator or a ham-fisted aggregatoe or a transgressor. He is a plagiarist, pure and simple. Well, maybe not so pure.

But by far the most shameful dereliction of duty is by the once widely-respected trade magazine Editor & Publisher.  For, for the days of David Astor, a gentlemanly scribe who steered the magazine through several decades as newspapers and the syndication business crumbled. Astor has been put out to farm, relegated to writing for a local newspaper in New Jersey, and his old spot is now occupied by Rob Tornoe, a cartoonist, blogger and – wait for this – employee of Daryl Cagle. Yes, that Daryl Cagle. The guy who syndicates Bill Day.

According to reliable sources, Rob is a de facto full-time employee of Cagle Cartoons. In an email to me he categorically denied this, but the argument appears to hang on semantics. In order to avoid paying full benefits, Cagle, like many other American employers, deems Rob to be an independent contractor. But the fact that he gets a 1099 instead of a W2 at tax time doesn’t change the fact that he derives a substantial amount of his income – probably most of it – from a person he covers in the media. Not only has he written about Cagle and his cartoonists, he wrote about the Bill Day fundraising campaign without informing his readers of his fiduciary relationship.

When the scandal broke 12 days ago, E&P suddenly went silent. Of course, no one should really wonder why. After all, according to those same sources,  Rob himself originally conceived of and personally loaded the Day fund-raising campaign up to the website of Indiegogo. They further allege that Rob continues to play a leading role in managing not only the campaign but the post-plagiarism scandal crisis response. For example, after I posted a comment about the scandal to the Indiegogo page Rob apparently mentioned to Cagle that it was possible to delete it. It has since vanished.

Now E&P – or more accurately Rob – is finally breaking his silence about the scandal in an article whose dishonesty is so over-the-top that you either have to laugh or give up on journalism as an honest profession. To start: “(Full disclosure: I am a contributor)”

Hilarious! “Contributor” implies that his cartoons or columns are distributed through Daryl’s syndicate. No, Rob. Rob actually works for them. Whether he works 40 or 20 or 10 hours a week, this is the sort of thing that every writer knows he or she is supposed to reveal. Readers deserve and want to know when there are conflicts of interest. Why E&P continues to employ Rob is baffling beyond belief. Sort of like Cagle himself. Why is he keeping an acknowledged plagiarist on the syndication list?

By the way: the anonymous blogger who maintains the That Cartoon Critic Tumblr blog continues to post new examples of plagiarism. Right now we are at number 56.

Rob’s piece is a masterpiece of obfuscation, smoke and mirrors: “Further clouding debate…others see it as simply an opportunity for time-constrained cartoonists to take a shortcut…even Walt Disney employed similar time-saving methods.” Newsflash: editorial cartooning is different. No editor who subscribes to a syndicated editorial cartoonist expects to get recycled rehashed crap. And if you’re going to send out recycled rehashed self-plagiarized crap, the least that you can do is label it as such.

Those of us who oppose plagiarism and hackwork aren’t even being allowed to comment in response to these sleazy articles. I tried to post the comment below, and was repeatedly blocked – either by a name block recognition program or because the comment section had simply been disabled by E&P:

Of the many lame excuses that have been given to justify cartoonist Bill Day’s brazen acts of plagiarism, recycling, and self-plagiarism – no, there is absolutely nothing unclear about any of this, not if you’re honest and/or willing to pay attention – this one is one of the more nauseating: “…in a perfect world, editorial cartoonists would produce original and excellent new cartoons on a daily basis. But clearly, with cutbacks and layoffs adversely affecting the ranks of political cartoonists, such a perfect world doesn’t exist.”

The recession that has devastated the American economy and impacted journalism and print media exceptionally hard is no excuse to cut corners on basic journalistic ethics and integrity. If you don’t have the time or energy to produce high-quality original work, auction off your drafting table on eBay and go away.

Bill Day is a newcomer to the world that I and many other younger editorial cartoonists – I use the term loosely, since I will turn 50 later this year – been living in for decades. Bill Day has held numerous staff jobs, neither I nor any of the young generation of cartoonists ever have or likely ever will. He has won prizes that no member of the young generation ever has. In other words, he has had every advantage, yet he has squandered the accidental benefits of demographics – to be a baby boomer was to be able to walk into almost any newspaper and score a job – and wallowed in a cesspool of repeated ethical lapses.

I am broke. I don’t have a staff job. Never have. I might lose my house. But you won’t catch me plagiarizing, repurposing or self-plagiarizing my work. I do the best that I can with the talent that I have and let the chips fall where they may, as do many other hard-working impoverished cartoonists. We don’t ask for much, but it is disgusting to watch excuses be made for and prizes awarded to people who betray the basic standards that are universally accepted within our craft.


Even though it feels a lot like spitting in the wind to try to save a profession that doesn’t really seem to want to save itself, I will continue to do so because I love editorial cartooning and American journalism and I know that there are readers and cartoonists and others who care. This stuff matters.


Impotent Democracy

I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).

This week: Due to a quirk caused by redistricting, 4 million Californians will not have an elected state senator until the year 2014. Until then a caretaker senator from a neighboring district will take charge of these no man’s lands. How on earth are constituents supposed to pressure their fake senators?

Bill Day Follw-Up

Rob Tornoe has an article in Editor and Publisher today on the Bill Day controversy I wrote about last week. I wanted to address a specific defense I’ve heard from colleagues that is summed up by comics historian Michael Rhode in Tornoe’s piece.


“Day has been struggling to make ends meet since being laid off by the Memphis paper, which later had the gall to attempt to buy his work through his syndicate,” Rhode said. “After working a full-time job and being let go after being injured, cartooning is a part-time job which probably doesn’t really pay any bills at all for him. I understand his reusing his own material in these circumstances.”


While I sympathize with Day’s situation – trying to find your way in a broken economy and a dying art form – not being employed full-time isn’t actually an excuse for maintaining basic standards in the field. I and many other political cartoonists have never been employed and never will. For many people it’s a side job that is supplemented with other, better paying freelance work. Without a secure and decent-paying staff job, breaking down your hourly rate as a cartoonist is highly inadvisable. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do original art every week.

It also seems combing through the more than 50 examples (!) of Day’s re-issued cartoons on That Cartoon Critic reveals he’s been at this longer than the last three years. Judging by comments left on this site and elsewhere, professional cartoonists still haven’t all agreed that using other people’s work without attribution, re-purposing old work on a massive scale, and literally tracing other people’s cartoons is a problem worth discussing. As I mentioned before, all most editorial cartoonists have to contribute publicly to this debate is complete and utter silence. While it might be relatively rare, if five people are doing this in a field that numbers less than 100, the percentage is far too high to ignore or excuse.

Part of why we do this is our love for the craft of comics and the pride we take in our work – the illusion that it’s worth something or contributes to the conversation in some way. If I ever lose that feeling or that drive to create new work, I’m going to quit. I’m not sticking around because of the money.

Daryl Cagle told Poynter “With competing editorial cartoonists circling and smelling Bill’s blood in the water, I think it would be a good time for Bill to give up riffing on his old cartoons, and I’ve told him that.”

My motivations for criticizing Day has less to do with knocking down a competitor than raising the standards in this profession. Raising them to what I see as a very basic and low bar we should all be meeting. If Day is going to deliver original comics to the backers of his Indiegogo campaign, I think that’s all myself and others were ever asking for.