Thursday, November 28, 2013

The living will envy

Accompanying thoughts:
… Because getting things is the reason for the season!

… People say Black Friday like it's a good thing.

… today, I learn, is also known as Gray Thursday …

… sighted the first Christmas tree atop a car Friday, Nov. 22 (!)

… saw many homes had already vomited their ornaments onto the front lawns …
… I just read that Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the third week in November — Franksgiving, his foes called it — to boost Christmas retail sales in the last years of the Depression. So the cause was already lost long ago.
 So it begins …

Enjoy, if you must.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Rethink Thanksgiving

Maybe this will be my new Thanksgiving tradition — trying to change it.

Maybe I'll trot this turkey to the fore each  year to urge people to rethink the holiday. It'll take time before change gonna come.

After all, Jon Carroll doesn't expect to transform holiday charity in one go. That's why each year the San Francisco Chronicle columnist writes an entertaining variation on the same idea, which he calls the Untied Way. He proposes a charity of purest efficiency, calling on people simply to withdraw money from their ATM accounts (as much as is comfortable) and amble down the street, distributing the $20s to those who ask. Givers, Carroll says, should give without favor or fear whether recipients might misspend the gift. Here's Carroll's 2012 appeal. Slowly, slowly, I think, he's winning converts.

So it will be, I suppose, with my Rethink Thankgiving™® campaign.

My proposal is simple: Thanksgiving is for giving thanks; it is not for eating turkey.

We think it's for turkey. All our media perpetuates this conclusion. Lord knows National Public Radio, my daily companion, talks turkey. And talks and talks and talks. Radio doesn't do food very well, but NPR is undeterred, betraying its patrician sensibilities on all its various and sundry shows (hell, Science Friday!) for the Haute Cuisine that should be Thanksgiving. Heaven forfend your turkey come out dry! Worse than scabs and boils!

Tomorrow, I'm sure, I'll have to hear Susan Stamberg's goddamn family cranberry relish recipe (sounds awful! tastes terrific!) on Morning Edition. Again. But I digress.

Executing Rethink Thanksgiving©™ will be difficult but also daring adventure for all willing to try it. It'll take a month of Thanksgivings — maybe a year of them — to change any minds, and once changed, what will they do with Thanksgiving?

Give thanks, of course! Which can — and should — take many forms.

Now, though, it takes one form, and it's often not for the giving of thanks.
Editor's note: Please, for god's sake, don't get me wrong. I am not saying, "Don't eat turkey!" If turkey and trimmings and tradition are the way you give and share thanks, then give it, by all means. Enjoy!

A lot of people this time of year hanker for Thanksgiving — conditioned to it, perhaps — and the smells and crisp air spur memories and longing, and some people play touch football with old friends home from break, etc. etc. etc. I get it.

What I'm saying is that if Thanksgiving means solely the construction and deconstruction of a meal based around a turkey, do something else to give thanks.

I'm not anti-turkey. I'm pro thanks.
Many times I watched my mom go through the Six Stages of Thanksgiving. You're probably familiar with them.

First came Hope, the buoyant deliverance that This Year Will be Different Though All its Parts Will Be the Same, that the bosom of family would resemble the ideal in Technicolor™© on the TV.

Stage 2: Resolve, as the wave of work involved for The Day rose to its crest, the weight of it become a vertical wall leaning forward. Loud sighs issued and kitchen drawers opened and closed in quick succession.

Industry was Stage 3, the surfing of said wave, in various bowls of cold and wet and steaming and whipped foods going through their own stages of being cooked and prepared.

Next came Anxiety, as the wave of work finally crested to crash into ruins and too-cold, not-enough, burned-through substances, and no amount of help or getting out of the way would usher success.

Stage Five was Recrimination for the expectation of others to have this feast on the table in the first place. Asking why Thanksgiving dinner was to be eaten at 3 p.m. anyway was ill-advised at this stage. Nor did helping help.

The final stage was Detente, as mom burned slowly at the table  and we all made every attempt to show appreciation for the dinner and defuse any chance that dad might say something to reignite a volcano. In all the meal, so much turkey and creamed beans with bacon and glorified rice and stuffing and cranberry relish in the shape of the can it came in and potatoes and gravy and crescent rolls, got eaten in 22 minutes, mostly in silence.

That's not Thanksgiving. That's what many families and friends do, but that doesn't make it Thanksgiving. And so tense. So tense. 

Thanksgiving needn't even be a meal, though meals make it a good reason to gather whom you should thank. Thanksgiving need be time and space.

My model for Rethink Thanksgiving is a walk in the park with sandwiches for the meal. Homemade, from the sandwich shop — cheese and crackers! Soup! — it doesn't matter. Just time together.

But that's just an example. Thanksgiving can take a multitude of forms.

The keys are (1) gathering or being gathered, and (2) having a shared expectation of Giving Thanks.

When I was in fifth or sixth grade I composed a prayer that I read at the Thanksgiving table for grace. It was appreciated, but we are not a people given to do such things. I think we secretly wanted to be such people but did not know the first thing about how to give or receive thanks in that way. I felt embarrassed, not by anything anyone did or didn't do, because I know my family loved and supported me, even for trying a homemade heartfelt grace. Mostly I felt embarrassed because it wasn't something we did.

Thanks should be the high point of Rethink Thanksgiving®™. No one has to make a gesture of thanks, but everyone should know he or she can, and it will be returned in kind.

My point: Give thanks. Be thankful for what you have, for the people who make your life what it is. Gather those people around if you can. If you can't, give thanks in other ways: A phone call, a donation, an act of generosity to those who could use one. Maybe that act, that donation, is a turkey, but it doesn't have to be.

Our expectation for a high feast and more food than we can justify only intensifies our divisions: The haves have in abundance, the have-nots want for this one day what the haves have. Food lockers around the country struggle mightily to fulfill that want, and we donate if we can to assuage our separateness, but the other days go on, the divisions remain, just less visible.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

So nobly advanced

Seven score and eight years ago, the Union held, the great experiment in democracy carried on, turning on Abraham Lincoln's famous words to commemorate the national cemetery under construction at Gettysburg.

Then along came Willie Brown to turn democracy into a rigged game.

Not him alone, of course. You could say the system has been gamed from the get-go. Today U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, for example, leads his party in let's-filibuster-every-appointment-President-Obama-proposes-because-we-want-him-to-fail-at-every-step-and-serving-our-own-constituents-is-so-boring. Corrupt Democrats, reasoning rightly that their voters have forgotten they exist, take the under-the-table money and run, again, on their records.

Willie Brown, though, was the Grand Master.

He was Tip O'Neill "all politics is local" old school. He was good to San Francisco and The City loved him back, returning him many times to state office where his game board was set up to his deft maneuver.

The Assembly speaker learned from another Grand Master, former speaker and state treasurer Jesse Unruh who once said of lobbyists, "If you can't eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women and then vote against them, you have no business being up here."

Brown shook off almost every controversy that followed him. President Reagan had nothing on the Assembly speaker. Willie Brown's Teflon™© was weapons grade.

Accused by open-government activists of holding secret lawmaker meetings, Brown admitted to it and essentially told the public, "So what?" I took it a step further with this cartoon and put Brown in Lincoln's place; I figured this is a good week to post it. If he saw the cartoon at all, Brown might have smiled. Plink! See, not a scratch!

Only term limits could defeat Brown, who was the poster child for the term-limit initiative movement. Even then Brown bounced back as mayor of San Francisco, giving The City its very model of swagger and bravado and fedora-capped style. His nickname: Da Mayor.

The state has named the western span of the Bay Bridge — the older stretch that connects The City with Treasure Island — the Willie L. Brown Jr. Bridge.

Enough said.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cheap parlor tricks

[Committed to memory, with the hope it would time-release into folds of my conscience … ahem]
Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as the final resting place for those who died here, that that nation might live. This we may in all propriety do.

But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have hallowed it far above our poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, while it cannot forget what they did here.

Rather, it is for us, the living — we here: Be dedicated to the great task remaining before us. That from these honored dead, we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion. That we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain. That this nation shall have a new birth of freedom. And that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
[Ta da.]

President Lincoln presented these words 150 years ago today. Some variation of these words, anyway. At least six versions exist. I memorized one attributed to John George Nicolay, Lincoln's personal secretary, for no other reason than I could, as my own captain of history.

No one is to say, of course, which version Lincoln truly spoke. The punctuation is mine, and a few of the words may be off: A this for the, perhaps.

It struck me Nicolay might have the version that hews closest, the version last worked over by Lincoln's pen, with Nicolay as his last test audience; it struck me too, in my limited knowledge of the subject, that these words sound more like dialogue, a dictation of what was said rather than what others, including Lincoln, might have hoped to hear.

I memorized it just to do so, because the words were sweet and full but foreign, because in doing so I learned more about why Lincoln gathered and arranged these words to say, gathered and arranged them for certain detonations of meaning.

(Here is an interactive deconstruction of the words, with two history professors describing the world behind them. Try, if you may, to read Garry Wills' book Lincoln at Gettysburg, such a thorough analysis of that world. In my hillbilly logic I scoffed at how a book could be made from a speech some 300 words long. Wills' book is so full, it turned out, I had trouble learning from it, felt I was suddenly incapable of learning anything, suffocating under the torrent of scholarship.)

No one hears me recite Lincoln's words except our dog, who must put up with it from time to time on morning walks, if she's paying attention at all. If she was, she has heard it more frequently in the last few days. No one else is going to hear them, either, unless one day I'm in public somewhere and someone calls out, "Quick, does anybody know the Gettysburg Address?" Hasn't happened.

I'm nowhere near the first, of course, to point out that people do remember what he said there and have forgotten what they did there in Gettysburg — that Confederate forces had not expected to engage in this crossroads town but did so with superior tactics, until the Union somehow used topography and technique to drive Confederate forces back. More than 50,000 died in that battle, said to have turned the Civil War to the Union's favor, and kept the United States intact.

"Four score and seven years ago," strikes us strangely; maybe we don't know where it comes from, but we know the words. Gettysburg is a battle in a war long ago; the North won.

I also memorized some of the words Shakespeare breathed into Henry V as the king rallied his  outnumbered English soldiers before the Battle of Agincourt against France. I remembered them for all the wrong reasons, trying to impose a brand among the Boy Scout Troop when I was Scoutmaster. I wanted them to think of themselves as a band of brothers.

But you can't impose esprit de corps on a group; it must arise from those who share in the group. And if one does try to impose unity, for god's sake don't use words meant to stir men into grievous battle … unless you're going into battle. These kids were backpacking.

Still I tried. I even fashioned a convoluted Scoutmaster's Minute (supposed to be a short moment of reflection at the end of a Troop meeting, emphasis on minute; mine were nothing if not overwrought, and never shorter than three minutes; poor Scouts …) which concluded with these words:
This story shall the good man teach his son: And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, from this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remember'ed. We few — we happy few — we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother. Be he ne'er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition. And gentlemen in England now abed shall think themselves accursed, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon St. Crispin's Day.
I spoke it with all the drama I could dredge, fairly shouting into the night — we met outdoors in summer — "to the ending of the WORLD!" Some of the Scouts' eyes got big with surprise or shock that I dared be such a dork. What an embarrassment I was many times. Well meaning, but an embarrassment.

Still, the words remain with me.  The dog doesn't hear them as much.

I heard actor Peter O'Toole say once that he had memorized all 154 of Shakespeare's sonnets, that they are his constant and comforting companion. As a Gold Rush tour guide I have memorized spiels, even lengthy ones of my own devising, and quote from Mark Twain — but those feats are absolutely nothing compared to the work of actors I know, who made the majority of the first corps of tour guides I belonged to. When I can I go to their plays, amazed at what they have fit into their heads and hearts, spilling it onto the stage.

People I know from one and two generations back seem as children to have learned many passages from memory — The Song of Hiawatha, say, or The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The practice escaped my generation, or I was taking experimental history and English classes when others were getting the basics and the classics.

I recommend it, though. Memorize something; let your brain go through the try-and-fail-and-try-again process of committing a lengthy stretch of words to memory. Give your brain something extra to do. As names of public figures more and more slip my memory even as I see their faces — as I enter and exit rooms more than once without remembering what I was to do there — I know it couldn't hurt me.

Maybe the words will trickle into your heart and be your constant and comforting companion.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Three (Hundred) Faces of Shawn

Somehow it happened. Three-hundred posts passed through this blog. This is No. 300.

My apologies for every single one.

Yet who am I to ignore this milestone?! Who but I would note it?! So I celebrate with faces and musings from 2013. Again, my apologies.

Unsure from the start what this blog was supposed to be, I reach this milestone still unclear. I think it was to be an easy way to showcase my art, but much of my art requires explanation so I wrote about it too. Some of my art defies explanation but that hasn't stopped me from trying.

Put me before a keyboard and you can't shut me up. I do my best talking out of my fingertips, with time and isolation and a handy dictionary and a delete key.

The face — that Opie pie face, the logo for my business — was born of innocence. It's my actual fifth grade class photo. You laugh, perhaps, but let me suggest the indignity of lugging a hoop around your head all day long at school; let me further note the prescience of eyeglasses, which I didn't need until high school (a blog post for another day). Maybe now you're impressed, or you feel bad for me.

It was a burgundy-and-white world back then.

The face became an easy tool for my rants and raves and low trivia. It's my big-nosed barometer, from which you can know my mood without all them wordy words.

From the look on my face, for example, you could tell the tragic arc of the San Francisco Giants, my team, as it lost Opening Day when Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw hit the go-ahead home run.

Optimism held steady for a few months …

But then the Giants could do no right and my face lost its structure. As the Giants melted down the stretch, so did I. Finally I had to grieve and let go.

Among you faithful who read this blog, fewer faithful read the baseball posts. Maybe you're bored with baseball. Maybe you're not a Giants fan. Maybe you rightly know the waste of time and energy in caring so much about something that wastes so much time and energy and money.

More of you read when I spout off, without reason or right, about What the Hell's Wrong with Things.

About our government. About our place in the world. About our collective insanity or apathy.

About our helplessness.

Were I judged as a news reporter, I'd have fired myself by now: I rarely follow up my rants, rarely find closure.

When a young man shot up Sandy Hook Elementary School before Christmas last year, I shot my mouth off and literally painted my blog blood red with indignation, then again when I got mad at how nothing was being done.

Nothing is still being done and I've stopped writing about it. Nothing except people are still being shot and killed, and still at schools. A student allegedly shot three students leaving a high school in Pittsburgh, Pa., just yesterday.

Last month, a teenager brought a gun to school in Sparks, Nev., two hours away, and killed a teacher, wounded two students, then killed himself.

The killings go on, nothing gets done about it. My words didn't help.

The country spies on you and me and the rest of the world. I took many words to conclude, "Whatcha gonna do?" It ain't the country of our constitutional ideals. It ain't even our country. It's the country of who holds the money and the information. My words don't help.

Syria enraged me, as you can see. The death, destruction and displacement of Syria and its people is what should really be enraging me, but instead it was the possibility that our country would ensnare itself in yet another war following Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons.

Then a too-good-to-be-true thing happened, and Syria agreed to inspections and eventual dismantling of its chemical weapons supplies.

I had moved on already. Maybe good news creeps me out. Maybe I don't believe it. Maybe something else got my attention.

Like the government shutdown. I vented a good bit of patriotic rage over that, and defended the Affordable Care Act, the straw dog over which government services, research, care and recreation came to a halt.

It turns out the Affordable Care Act may in fact be made from
straw and suckage, stitched together with false promises and 20th Century technical know-how in a 21st Century world. The Web site's continuing to get better, the government keeps saying. Sometimes you can't keep your health care plan, the president is saying, even though he promised you could. (Breaking news, apparently: You can keep your old plan!)

Three coders working from four desks in San Francisco, meanwhile, just created a buy-your-plan Web site in three days.

I wrote about swimming or some such instead. Busy busy, you know.

The only real-world issue I followed through to the end was Scouting's relationship with gays in the ranks.

Scouting moved a massive millimeter this year, allowing Scouts who are gay to join, but barring adult leader who are gay. Because being gay is a youthful indiscretion that a 10-mile hike will sweat out of you? I dunno. I remain perplexed but prepared to trot my likeness out next time Scouting's glacier of decision nudges forward.

Three-hundred posts, all personal, many trivial, maybe a couple phoned in but the rest written with a shard of my soul. Each a welcome to my little world of illustration and side gigs and swimming and the stuff that's been part of me. Some days I simply shared something you might like.

Thank you — and condolences — for reading any and all.

A toast: To 300 more. I wonder what they'll be about.

Liam Turner photo

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hapless wanderer

Kids these days, with their Nike™® this and iPhone©®™ that! Brands rule, all else drools. If it ain't shiny and new, it just ain't.

Once upon a time we Boy Scout leaders decided to out-Shinola™® those shiny baubles with some guerrilla marketing of our own.

Thus was hatched the Hurner-Turner Burner™©-brand Backpacking Trip.

Hurner is Greg Hurner, just now stepping down as Scoutmaster for our sons' Troop. Greg grew up cattle ranching and hunting, born outdoors, built Ford™® tough and all that. He's got hooves for feet and can climb slopes at a sprint. With an impish grin (some may say slightly wicked), he frequently challenges Scouts to the limits of their physical ability, encouraging activities that are safe but just beyond their comfort level. He's good for the Scouts. That's him above, stick-figured high atop a peak.

Turner is me, Scoutmaster at the time, born old and indoors, the Air Force brat who didn't take up backpacking until my son joined Scouting. I love the outdoors as much as the next person, but count every trip a success when I and the Scouts return unscathed. 

I was the Troop's Nervous Nellie, bearer of paperwork, making sure that the Troop filed all the necessary permits, that drivers were secured, and enough trained adults were on hand to help. I was always the sweep, the last guy in line on a trek, making sure no one was left behind and prodding Scouts even slower than me to pick up the pace. I was good for the Troop welfare, I think. That's me in the way back of the illustration, sweeping.

We adults were fighting a growing epidemic in the Troop, a slouching toward languor. When Scouts joined outings at all, they preferred car camping: Ride in a car to a campsite, unfold lawn chair, open Spaghettios®© and Gatorade©™, argue with other Scouts about who does dishes, collapse late in a sleeping bag leaving the dishes a mess, breakfast on Pop-Tarts™®, gather the dirty dishes in a blanket, throw it in the car, argue about who will take it home to wash, drive to In-N-Out™© for burgers Animal Style®™, go home.

Car camping has its rare place in the Troop, but it falls under the category of Things Scouts Can Do Just As Easily With Their Own Families. Boy Scouts can be unique among kids' groups if we let it, and backpacking is one of its classic distinctions.

(Yes, yes, Boy Scouts is supposed to be boy run, but without a good nudge/push, it would be Spaghettios®™ and Gatorade™® and grousing over dishes ad infinitum.) 

Nudging the Troop toward a backpacking trip, we decided to make it an event, complete with its own T-shirt, the way we traditionally did for summer camp.

I designed it with felt pen which I scanned into Photoshop®™ and enhanced with an Illustrator®© flame and letterform shapes. A lifetime absorption of little R. Crumb and Big Daddy Roth, some SempĂ© and R.O. Blechman and George Herriman and Sunday comics, leaked out into the finished piece.

In an important way, the Hurner-Turner Burner®© was a hit, attracting most of our Scouts, and even a couple of full patrols, which was rare. Desolation Wilderness, a funny name for such a beautiful place above Lake Tahoe to the west, provided something for everyone, a "wasteland" of granite face for play and solitude. Heavily protected, Desolation Wilderness requires permits and restricts visitors' first night's stay in certain zones of the wilderness. It required our Troop to split into patrols and operate on their own about a third of a mile from one another for the first night. Everyone ate out of his own mess kit, so arguments over dish washing fell by the way.

While new Scouts stayed near a lake and took it easy trying out their first backpacking experience, older Scouts spent a night of the long weekend hiking in the slopes of another zone and roughing it among themselves near a distant peak.

In another important way, the Hurner-Turner Burner™© was a big failure.

Let's just say it involved an abundance of confidence, a good measure of hope and a scarcity of preparation; a hopeful contingency plan, a mis-read topographical map, a missed trail spur, a long vigil for Messrs. Hurner and Turner in a remote parking lot; and a California Highway Patrol helicopter.

Everyone was safe, no one got hurt, except for feelings and egos. Recriminations surfaced, the thin veneer of civility wore through in places, and my fire-bright outlook on Scouting dimmed a bit.

A snow camping trip, tentatively called the Hurner-Turner Ice Burner™© or the Hurner-Turner Snow Churner®©, never materialized. Previous trips had cured older Scouts of any desire to camp in snow ever again.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

In a similar vein

Ethics, ever vigilant watchdog, expected a long and rewarding career …
Someday, or so the plan went, I'd hang around long enough as an editorial cartoonist to have my own tropes — recurring characters and icons of my own devising to serve as whimsical shorthand for whatever evergreen ox I was goring.

Readers would see the trope traipse into the cartoon and know immediately the issue and my opinion.

I'm surprised more editorial cartoonists don't employ these devices. Now that I think on it, only one comes to mind.
Punk and Edmund Muskie

Of course, Pat Oliphant, my cartooning man crush: He is a master.

This isn't about jack-booted menaces representing anything
vaguely evil or fascist, or the Star of David to represent Israel, or a girded Mars to stand in for war. Republican elephants, Democratic donkeys —those are staple icons many cartoonists use, Oliphant included.
Jack Ohman's Gov. Brown spokesdog

Nor is it about Punk, the miniscule penguinish character who appears somewhere in almost every Oliphant cartoon, cracking wise on the downbeat. Sacramento Bee cartoonist Jack Ohman has used the zeitgeist of his new job to conscript Gov. Jerry Brown's corgi, named Sutter, into the same role.

This is about what Oliphant does better than anybody, and that I had one shining chance to emulate.

Oliphant, for example, uses Uncle Sam (as others do) in all his Flagg-ian fury when the issue suits, as he did here following the 9/11 attacks:
But when the United States stumbles and bumbles and stinks up the world, as it's apt, Oliphant's Uncle Sam becomes W.C. Fields:
Pissing off multiple constituencies in one swift motion …
I wonder how long Oliphant can keep using this analogy, as Mr. Fields slips from our collective memory.

Similarly, Oliphant drags out a brutish, swarthy, money-counting thug to represent the national debt (I'm not sure whether he's a figure in literature or popular culture; something Dickensian, my narrow mind thinks; if you know, tell me).

When the Equal Rights Amendment was big and women's liberation was all the talk, Oliphant represented the issue as a breast-plated and helmeted Brunhilde, usually pummeling her milquetoast husband.

Oliphant isn't out to make friends.

So inspired, I created an ethics watchdog to safeguard the state Legislature, and made him way too small for his collar to show how well the Legislature designed it — present, but toothless.

Ethics made its debut following Shrimpscam, the FBI sting that ensnared several state officials and sent some lawmakers to jail. I 'tooned about it last post.

The Legislature wanted to clean house, or look like it was, after key lawmakers got caught taking bribes in exchange for favorable legislation.

The keeping up of upright appearances culminated, naturally, in voter initiatives. Because when your lawmaker doesn't know right from wrong, blame voters and punish them with a mumbly-jumbly proposition that may or may not do anything and gets tied up in court to boot.

Proposition 112 in 1990, which put strict limits on lawmakers' outside and under-the-table graft — and seems to have worked until the last couple of years — tied good behavior to a boost in lawmakers' pay. Presumably if our representatives were paid more, they wouldn't have to cadge strangers for their trips to Hawaii or college tuition for their kids. Honor comes at a cost.

California lawmakers this week just got a pay raise, shortly after the latest bribery scandal blew up. It's probably coincidence.

Little Ethics could still be on the job today, gumming miscreants into submission — if he could ever climb out of his spiked collar.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Corruption, absolutely!

Whatcha might call an evergreen cartoon …
Thank God for greed and arrogance at the state capitol!

Now my excuse for trotting out these 'toons doesn't stink so bad.

They come from another time when our lawmakers weren't worth the money we paid for them if they didn't take everything undercover feds had to offer.

Sort of restores your faith in government. Snif!

This time it's State Sen. Ronald Calderon, a Democrat from Montebello in Southern California, who faces allegations of accepting bribes and gifts in exchange for help steering legislation that would benefit his benefactor.

The benefactor turned out to be an FBI agent masquerading as a movie studio owner, from whom Sen. Calderon allegedly received as much as $60,000 in gifts and trips, Aljazeera America reported last week. Citing a sealed affidavit it received, Aljazeera reports Calderon received payments in the form of "income" to the senator's daughter, and got the bogus studio owner to pay part of his son's college tuition.

Calderon allegedly hired the studio owner's "girlfriend," also an FBI agent, to work in his office at more than $3,000 a month, even though she had no skills for the job. All this, allegedly, in exchange for Calderon's help in steering legislation giving tax breaks to independent filmmakers.

The FBI raided Calderon's office in June, the affidavit supporting the search.
Former Assembly Republican leader Pat Nolan
Back in the day, the sting was all about shrimp. FBI agents in the late 1980s posed as operators of a West Sacramento shrimp processing company, looking for help in legislation allowing their company to operate.

"Shrimpscam" sent to prison Assembly Republic leader Pat Nolan of Glendale, Democratic Sen. Joseph Montoya of Whittier, and Board of Equalization member Paul Carpenter, among other convictions.

The sting also targeted but did not ensnare Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, Democrat from San Francisco.

Editorial cartoons are weakest in the wake of blatant graft because:

(1) It's a softball pitch, and the wickedest swing at the subject usually fouls it off. Only the most gifted cartoonist can match the height of corruption with the pinnacle of satire. The corruption alone should stand alone as the biggest joke.

(2) Cartoons often require a learning curve, a history lesson before the joke or satire has a chance. There's a good chance constituents don't care their representatives may be living it up in Las Vegas on the take. Chances are they don't know who their representatives are.

Which may be the first problem.