Have the Democrats Blown it for a Generation?

Independent’s Eye by Joe Gandelman

It would be bittersweet for Democrats to rewatch HBO’s “By the People: the Election of Barack Obama” which details the 2008 election and the high hopes raised — and tears joyfully shed — on an election night seemingly a lifetime ago.

Cartoon by Hajo de Reijger - Cagle Cartoons (click to reprint)

Cartoon by Hajo de Reijger - Cagle Cartoons (click to reprint)

Things haven’t worked out according to their hopes and dreams. And, in fact, the question should now be asked: have the Democrats blown it for a generation?

On election night Democrats dreamed of a post-partisan era (in which their party would be dominant), more liberal Supreme Court justices, major Iraq and Afghanistan war policy changes, massive environmental policy shifts, scuttling Don’t Ask Don’t Tell regarding gays in the military, and an economic recovery from the Bush administration’s failures that would deep-six conservatism and the polarizing talk radio political culture once and for all.

Many Democratic Party liberals (OOPS! the word now is “progressives,” which is to “liberals” as “pre-owned cars” is to “used cars”)  felt the election was a triumph of their policies, ideas and dreams even though polls indicated voters really wanted to boot out the party that seriously messed things up.  And now?

Every day seems to bring smellier poll number news for the Democratic Party. For instance a new Mason Dixon Poll finds that in Missouri Obama’s approval rating is 34 percent and 27 percent among independent voters. Nationally, there are fears Obama could drag down Senate candidates.

The worst news for Democrats: independent voters have been generally turning against Obama and company, although there has been something of a see-saw effect.

What has happened?

Once again the Democrats ““ particularly the party’s liberal wing — considered winning power in 2008 a big ideological “mandate” rather than what it was:  Democrats being provisionally rehired and closely watched while on job probation. Obama faced a bumpy ride — but own party has made it bumpier.

This isn’t the first time Democrats misinterpreted their candidate’s victory as consolidating a long-term majority and winning the ongoing partisan national argument. Hopes that elections meant the party and its policies had  “won” were dashed during the presidencies of Lyndon Baines Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton.

In each of these presidencies the liberal wing overreached in proposals and/or rhetoric, imprinting an image of a party craving to veer left even though Democrats won national elections by winning over moderates, independents, centrists and disgruntled Republicans. There were other factors, to be sure, but this was one constant.

The party’s image took a 2009 hit when some Congressional Democrats saw the stimulus as a way to try and get pork. The party’s liberal wing — sneering at Democratic moderates like Republican conservatives do at Republican moderates — became a major headache for an Obama attempting to be centrist on some issues via compromise and consensus.

Democrats also correctly blame their poll erosion on bad job numbers, talk shows hosts such as Rush Limbaugh for successfully cajoling GOP party elites not to compromise, a strong Republican info machine, the race issue, tea party movement, Republican Party discipline and Obama’s surprising communications problems. Now some disappointed liberals threaten to not vote in 2010 to teach their “corporatist” party a lesson — just like they taught “it” a lesson in 2000 by not voting or voting for Ralph Nader (which allowed the GOP to make strong inroads in the judiciary and bureaucracy). Senator Al Franken warns about waking up to find a GOP Congress.

If you tune in a liberal talk show you’ll invariably hear some callers go on and on about how mad they STILL are that Obama didn’t support “the public option” (three words now as obnoxious as chalk screeching on a blackboard), or a liberal talk show host lace into Obama in a way that will discourage Democrats from voting.

Liberal Democrats should remember that sitting on your hands on election day doesn’t give you a leg up on your foes: when you sit on your hands you lose and you later find it’s one, swift, political pain in the neck.


Copyright 2010 Joe Gandelman

Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at [email protected] and can be booked to speak at your event at www.mavenproductions.com. Follow Joe Gandelman on Twitter at www.twitter.com/joegandelman

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The Power and Danger of Talk Radio

Independent’s Eye by Joe Gandelman

What’s the real power in America? What has revolutionalized American politics, its direction, tone, even the way political parties interact and politicos talk on the stump, in Congress and in front of cameras?

The answer: talk radio, which some argue has become a partisan unifying political force in America. But it’s also a divisive force undermining America’s already-sagging political center.

Cartoon by David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Star (click to reprint)

Cartoon by David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Star (click to reprint)

Some argue that talk radio now virtually sets Republican Party strategy.  But it has revolutionized American politics itself ““ creating a talk radio political culture that nurtures confrontation, demonization, promotion of left and right extremes, and dismissive attitudes toward centrists, consensus and compromise. This goes for most right and left talk radio and cable shows.

Starting with Rush Limbaugh, who went from funny ideological gadfly talk show host to  self-serious GOP partisan after the first President George Bush invited him to sleep over in the Lincoln Bedroom in 1992, talk radio has become American politics’ ““ and entertainment’s –  powerhouse. Talk radio is to 21st century American politics what professional wrestling is to sports.

It’s the quintessential town hall, rallying the faithful. Talk show hosts give their versions of the party line or an actual party line or a party line feeler based on party bigwigs’ feedback and communicate it to their “troops” who pick it up and run with it. Talk show hosts bring down their wrath on those (particularly moderates in both parties) who seem “squishy” and don’t follow the partisan line thus making them 21st century versions of old city political party bosses.

Party bigwigs may ultimately adopt talk show hosts’ strategical advice. These hosts have access to listeners easily won over to the views of a host who they’ve spent X hours a day listening to and watching and who they view as a trusted, credible friend.

Talk radio has shoved center-right, center-left personalities further right and left as they seek bigger audiences, better ratings and fatter paychecks. After decrying Limbaugh’s conservative talk show model how did liberals respond? By trying to clone conservative talk shows and be the anti-Rush Limbaugh.

Air America was attempted left wing Limbaugh ““ minus Limbaugh’s broadcasting talent.

All of this takes the U.S. on a shaky political path. A talk radio broadcaster’s goals aren’t the same as a political party’s. Political parties traditionally value national unity and seek broad coalitions. The only consensus a talk show host seeks is his audience demographics’ consensus which he himself shapes.

A talk show host’s goal is to saw off a portion of the populace, capture and define that key demographic, keep it coming back, get more of that demographic then deliver it to advertisers. All in today’s era of “narrowcasting” versus the 50s and early 60s era of “broadcasting” which sought to piece together entertainment coalitions of different ages and groups. Talk radio encourages both parties to cater to their bases.

The talk radio style resulted in Mark Williams and his Tea Party Express being booted from the Tea Party Federation after he wrote a blog post related to his dispute with the NAACP that even a cabbage in a supermarket would consider “racist.”  Williams, in his blog posts and TV appearances, communicated like a typical combative, polarizing talk show host. Only this time, the red meat was judged rancid.

Where will this trend take American politics, the quality of debate “” and the ability of political parties to govern once they win power after their side’s talk shows  totally trashed, demonized and infuriated their foes?

Will it forever be (totally) good us against (totally) bad them each time a party now gets in power?

Or will it swerve back to “all of us” again?

Not if talk show hosts have anything to say about it.


Copyright 2010 Joe Gandelman

Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Anywhere But Here

Making Sense, by Michael Reagan

Plans to build a mosque and Islamic center just 200 meters from the former site of the World Trade Center where 3,000 people died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks are not merely inappropriate, they are an outrage.

This isn’t about some sort of reconciliation between Muslims and their New York neighbors, it’s the equivalent of plunging a dagger into the very heart of America. If the Muslim community had any sense of compassion for the feelings of their fellow Americans, they’d find someplace else to build their mosque. Instead, they choose a site that forever serves as a reminder of that fatal blow against the American people.

Incredibly, the proposed $100 million development is located at the site of the former Burlington Coat Factory in Lower Manhattan, which closed after the landing gear from one of the 9/11 planes hit the building. It is about 200 meters from World Trade Center, where 3,000 people died in the terrorist attack.

Do the members of the Muslim community have any idea of how the American people feel about the site of that cowardly attack on the World Trade Center buildings? Do they not understand that the site itself stands as an indictment of the perfidy of the 9/11 sneak attack and is the least appropriate site for a Muslim religious complex that will stand as a stark reminder of that attack and the people behind it?

The proposed mosque will be part of what is known as the Cordoba House project, a 13-story Muslim community center planned to include a theater and sports facilities, including a swimming pool.

I agree with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin who asked “peace-seeking Muslims, to try to understand that a Ground Zero mosque is unnecessary provocation; it stabs hearts.”

That fact failed to impress Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who is reported to have said “there is controversy and there are parties that have a political agenda and want to intimidate the American people against the mosque project which has not yet begun.” He singled out Republican Congressman Peter King, whose opinion, he said, “should not be considered because his ideas are extreme.

Rep. King, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said he favors an investigation into the funding of a proposed mosque near ground zero and has demanded an investigation into the financing of the center. He wants to know who is really footing the bill for the 100 million dollar project.

“It’s a house of worship, but we are at war with al-Qaida,” King told the AP. “I think the 9/11 families have a right to know where the funding comes from; I think there are significant questions.

“Right at this moment in history, it’s bad form to put it there,” he said. “There are things you are allowed to do, but that aren’t appropriate to do.”

According to Imam Abdul Rauf, the Islamic center would be financed through contributions from Muslims here in the United States, and by donations from various Arab and Islamic countries. He admits that building a Mosque, due to accommodate some 2,000 worshippers, has stirred heated controversy and criticism from families of 9/11 victims.

That’s putting it mildly. Many of the 9/11 victims’ families have voiced strong objections to the proposed mosque. Evelyn Pettigano, whose sister died on 9/11, told the Associated Press: “I’m not prejudiced.it‘s too close to the area where our family members were murdered.”

And said the mother of a New York City firefighter who died as well: “I think it’s despicable, and I think it’s atrocious that anyone would even consider allowing them to build a mosque near the World Trade Center.”

If this project is allowed to continue, Mohamed Atta WINS!!!

That pretty much says it all.


Mike Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is spokesperson for The Reagan PAC (www.thereaganpac.com) and chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation (www.reaganlegacyfoundation.org). Look for Mike’s books and other information at www.Reagan.com. E-mail comments to [email protected].

©2010 Mike Reagan. If you’re not a paying subscriber to our service, you must contact us to print or Web post this column. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. For info contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail [email protected], (800) 696-7561.

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Of Junk Food and Junk News

Once on a flight I ate a cheeseburger-in-a-bag. It was a wonderfully microwaved beefy dough ball of cheesy-type goo. It tasted amazing! Of course, it’s designed to taste amazing. Mission so accomplished. The sandwich had the right amount of fat and salt to appeal to my ancient binge-to-survive-winter DNA. It was laced with artificial scents, laboratory flavors and synthetic colors. It had the proper “mouth feel.” The right size. The perfect temperature. My cheeseburger-in-a-bag was like a friend who had been paid to be nice to me: comforting, as long as you don’t think about it too much.

Cartoon by Nate Beeler - Washington Examiner (click to reprint)

Cartoon by Nate Beeler - Washington Examiner (click to reprint)

In short: The meal was manipulated by years of food science and marketing research to manipulate me. The “taste to actual health benefits ratio” was way off. It was more appealing than life sustaining.
It was the definition of junk.

Which is an apt metaphor for the state of cable news in America.

Watch your average for-profit 24-hour station for one hour. Your pulse will start racing. Something horrible is going down! Something that will kill you and your family and everyone you care about is close and imminent! You MUST stay tuned! There’s something outrageous! That’s why people are yelling at each other!

Cable news starts with a story, removes the grain and nuance then mainlines the fury. It’s all high-fructose hyperbole all the time.

Originally there was one 24-hour cable news channel, CNN. Then there were three. Now the three have spin-offs and there are by my count nine (CNN, HLN, CNN International, CNN en Espanol, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network and Bloomberg) all vying for attention. That’s 216 hours of programming to fill with the news of just one day. It used to be the formula of Fox News to be a parody of Howard Beale in The Network, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Now all the channels are guilty of the same schtick – doing whatever they can to fling themselves to the top of the heap to make their respective Faye Dunaways happy.

In short: The shows are manipulated by years of psychology and marketing research to manipulate us. The “entertainment to information ratio” is way off. It’s more appealing than illuminating”¦which also makes it junk.

The literal translation of what locals in Somalia call the man on the BBC who reads the news is “He Who Scares Old People.” For the higher-on-the-dial news shows this moniker is a selling point, if not a requirement.

Because if you’re not afraid, you’re not watching.

Just as an experiment – instead of cable news watch PBS or listen to NPR. Try it. It’s like going from Oreos to oat bran. There’s a sudden withdrawal. You keep expecting someone to yell, shake their fists and proclaim “We’re doomed!” but it doesn’t happen. It seems as if the world might go on – that we have some problems, here they are and here is the context for said problems. No one calls anyone a Nazi”¦unless they actually served in the SS. It’s very novel and foreign when you’re accustomed to “loud equals accurate.”

A study released at the beginning of the year by Shawn Powers at USC and Mohammed el-Nawawy at Queens University found that the more their subjects in the study watched Al-Jazeera English, the less dogmatic they were in their thinking. Participants retained their opinions but were more open to the views of others. It’s like all the studies that find a diet of real food consisting of vegetables and fiber makes you feel better in every way. It’s interesting”¦and ignored.

We have too much over-processed junk food available round the clock, and we are fat. We have too much over-sensationalized news available around the clock, and we are miserable. More importantly a giant chunk of us are incredibly ignorant. Just as obese people are often malnourished, there are people who watch the “news” constantly and are horribly uninformed. It’s overconsumption of junk.

What’s the result of an uninformed, frightened and hysterical populace? As the saying goes, we get the government we deserve: shortsighted, petty and trend-obsessed. Which in fairness”¦is great for ratings.


Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer, editor and columnist for Cagle Cartoons. Follow Tina on Twitter @TinaDupuy.

Want to run Tina’s column in your publication? Contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail [email protected], (800) 696-7561.

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Screw You, Kiss Me

Raging Moderate, by Will Durst

What is wrong with the GOP? Are they blind, reckless or just plain mean? They must see that reinforcing their stereotype as the Party Of The Rich is not a good idea. They have unanimously said “No. Hell, no” to every budget proposal floated their way, yet are willing to make an exception to give money to the rich. Rich. Rich. Rich. Rich. Rich. Rich. Rich. Curious mantra. Now. During an election year. It’s like hitting the upstairs maid with a splintered 2-by-4 while conducting interviews for a new butler. Word gets out. People talk. You hear things.

Cartoon by Nate Beeler - Washington Examiner (click to reprint)

Cartoon by Nate Beeler - Washington Examiner (click to reprint)

Republican senators are responsible for blocking three attempts to extend unemployment insurance and bragging about it. And determined to continue filibustering until Democrats come up with cuts in other programs to make it budget neutral. Which makes a certain amount of sense. “You want to eat this week? Then put that video game back on the shelf mister. And don’t give me that face. I’ll give you something to cry about.”

The problem is, Republicans triple-lock their wallets only when a Democrat is in the White House. When George W. Bush was president, they used pneumatic tubes to siphon money from the mint as quickly as possible. A trillion for the Pharmaceuticals here. A couple trillion for some pre-emptive wars there. Another trillion in tax cuts for rich people. In 2002, somewhere between his third and fourth myocardial infarctions, Dick Cheney told Treasury Secretary O’Neill, “Ronald Reagan taught us deficits don’t matter.” And apparently neither do heart attacks. Does this guy even have a pulse anymore?

Because of Congress’ inaction, 375,000 American workers are losing unemployment benefits every week. Its obvious Mitch McConnell’s intent is to deny Obama any political victory while sucking up to the Tea Partiers with his newly unearthed fiscal responsibility, but he might want to remember people without jobs can read newspapers too. As a matter of fact, they often have an excess of free time to campaign and stuff envelopes and get out the vote.

It’s easy to understand why Republicans hate giving money to the poor. Poor people are icky. And they never know which fork to use. and those shoes! But most importantly, poor people seldom top any respected list of major political campaign donors. As opposed to the rich, who understand that money gets you access and access provides influence and before you know it, you’re in the back room of the Capitol Grille on your second pitcher of argaritas helping write regulations that allow lethal doses of magnesium in 2 percent milk.

So though they talk the budget-neutrality talk, they don’t walk the budget-neutrality walk. At the same time they’re wishing the jobless lots of luck fighting with dogs for food, they’re also lobbying to extend Bush’s expiring tax cuts to the rich, and budget neutrality can take a flying leap off a short pier into a crashing sea of toxic sludge.

See, tax cuts are different. That’s not welfare for the rich; that’s playing the magic note on the economic flute that calls the Trickle-Down Fairy to fly from capitalist heaven and carry us away to a nice, warm free-market bath. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a mite suspicious of the alkaline nature of this whole trickle-down thing. Good time to invest in a trickle-down umbrella. Available for one day only this November 2.


Will Durst is a San Francisco-based political comedian who often writes. This being an example wherein he castigates the rich: a group that stubbornly refuses to include him as a member. Catch his stand-up at The Last Day Saloon in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Saturday, July 17, and The Sebastiani Theater in Sonoma, Calif., on Sunday, July 18. His new CD, “Raging Moderate,” is now available from Stand Up! Records on both iTunes and Amazon.

Copyright ©2010, Will Durst, distributed by the Cagle Cartoons Inc. syndicate. Call Cari Dawson-Bartley at 800-696-7561 or e-mail [email protected]. Will Durst is a political comedian who has performed around the world. He is a familiar pundit on television and radio. E-mail Will at [email protected]. Check out willandwillie.com for the latest podcast. Will Durst’s book, “The All American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing,” is available from Amazon and better bookstores all over this great land of ours. Don’t forget to check out his rooftop comedy minutes at: http://www.rooftopcomedy.com/shows/BurstOfDurst.

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Link to This

There are several things, Barack Obama, that I’m going to do, Tea Party, to promote what I write, Lady Gaga, and generate more buzz, oil-covered birds.

The first is to include as many tags as possible in the first sentence so that Internet searchers are directed to my articles whether they care about them or not. It’s part of my SEO, or search engine optimization.

Cartoon by Mike Keefe - Denver Post (click to reprint)

Cartoon by Mike Keefe - Denver Post (click to reprint)

**A message from Bud: This column’s for you.** The preceding sentence is an example of advertising that I’ll be placing within my reports. I’ll also be selling product-placement plugs, but unlike my ads which will be identified, the plugs will be designed to fool readers who won’t realize that when I mention driving to the scene of a story in, say, an all-new 2011 Odyssey with its aggressive stance and sporty lightning bolt beltline, that I’m actually getting paid by Honda.

I’m going to launch a blog in which I’ll ramble about the exciting things that happen to me while writing columns. I’ll blog about how my mother always phones to see if I’ve written anything funny just as I’m about to think of something funny, and how we spend the next hour trying to come up with an entry for The New Yorker magazine’s weekly cartoon caption contest, which we never win, even though I seriously believe many of my entries have been superior to those the judges picked. And who, exactly, are these judges anyway?

I’ll also be able to blog about a lot of stuff that editors and readers keep telling me no one cares about, but which I think are kind of interesting. For instance, I intend to blog about the fact that official scorers in Major League baseball are much kinder to fielders than they are in my men’s amateur league. Sun in your eyes? Ball hits a pebble? Turn the wrong way? Don’t worry, in the Majors its a hit! Stuff like that.

I’m installing a webcam on my computer so readers will be able to go online and watch me write 24/7. In order to make it more interesting, and to address the fact that I only manage to write 2/5, I’ve placed a monitor behind my desk so lurkers can see LolCats.com in the background.

From now on I’m going to Tweet when I get an idea for a story. For example: researching Biden fave BBQ recipes, 2500 wds.

I’ve hired hourly workers in Singapore to develop apps for my columns. So far they’ve come up with an app that tells what time it is wherever I’m writing.

On the advice of industry pundits, I’ve decided not to erect a pay wall around my content. This is a huge gamble, because with millions and millions of Net surfers out there, if just one would pay me $19.95 per month, I’d have almost $20.

This is kind of cool: I’m going to record myself reading everything I write and make it available as a Podcast. I’ve often heard that audiences enjoy letting their imaginations run wild when listening to writers painting delightful word pictures, so I’ll be offering my downloads for just 99 cents.

From now on, you’ll find a considerable number of hyperlinks in my writing. These can be annoying, I know, because they’re going to appear in different colors and some will be underlined. On the bright side, I’ll be sending readers to sites that will pay me money for each click.

I’m going to offer RSS feeds as soon as I learn more about how to do that.

I think this new “model” is going to provide me with more lift than I’ve been getting with the old model, which I first developed when they stopped selling ribbons for my IBM Selectric.

I’m sure to wind up with many new followers, Tiger Woods.


©2010 Peter Funt. This column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Cari Dawson Bartley at 800 696 7561 or e-mail [email protected].

Peter Funt writes about newspapers at www.FuntonFronts.com and is a writer and public speaker. He’s also the long-time host of “Candid Camera.” A collection of his DVDs is available at www.candidcamera.com.

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The Only Group in History to Request to be Taxed More

Americans hate taxes. It’s not a right or left issue. It’s not a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s not an old or young issue. It’s strangely not even a rich or poor issue. It’s an American issue. It’s our biggest peeve. We all agree on some level: Our country is great, but we feel very cranky about forking over our money to the government.

Cartoon by Daryl Cagle - msnbc.com (click to reprint)

Cartoon by Daryl Cagle - msnbc.com (click to reprint)

This is an odd character trait in Americans. For example, we happily pay for cable even though television is free ““ we clearly have no problem signing up for more bills.

The average American credit card debt is around $10,000 and the average APR is 14% – we clearly have no problem doling out loads of cash with nothing to show for it.

We don’t even pay out that much of our income to the government when compared with other industrialized nations. An average family with children pays about 20% of their income to taxes. For singles it’s 37%. Belgians pay close to 55%.

But Americans hate taxes. We always have. We hate even the idea of them. We want to believe freedom and taxes absolutely contradict one other. Like improv and comedy.

Other colonies of Great Britain (e.g., Canada and Australia) simply asked for their independence. But not us. Americans were so outraged about the King’s raising taxes we started a costly and bloody revolutionary war lasting nearly a decade.

Yes, it all started with a tax hike. “No more taxes!” is the original American battle cry. In a way, our country’s birth was a giant scheme to avoid giving up a fraction of our salaries to bureaucrats.

We simply despise taxes.

Taxes are so loathed by Americans that politicians have to come up with new phrases in order to talk about them. That’s why “fees,” “tariffs” and “tolls” are used to “balance deficits,” instead of just putting it plainly: Taxes are needed to fund the government. It’s an attempt to make taxes palatable to American sensibilities. This prettier word tactic is combated by calling anything you disagree with the ominous “hidden tax.” A hidden tax is something lurking in the bushes that can jump out and bill you. Very scary.

Notorious tax-phobe Grover Norquist requests conservative candidates sign his heavy-handed pledge not to raise taxes. He wants them to be like 1981’s tax-cutter President Ronald Reagan. Not like 1982’s, 1983’s, 1984’s, 1985’s, 1986’s and 1987’s tax-raiser President Ronald Reagan. Because when it comes to taxes ““ always accentuate the cuts.

For politicians, raising taxes is taboo. It’s an unmentionable.

But if you talk with the average weed advocate ““ er, marijuana activist ““ er, cannabis enthusiast, one of their selling points is if pot were legal you could tax it.

Yes, a sin tax! A sin tax is what the government puts on things like gambling, booze or tobacco. It’s designed to discourage people from doing it – because taxes are just that revolting. A sin tax is punitive. It’s monetary punishment for being a sinner – quite literally “hell to pay.”

Could pot smokers be the only group in the history of the world to want to be taxed? To hope to be taxed? To specifically ask the government to tax them more?

“I can’t remember the last time an interest group volunteered to be taxed,” admitted councilwoman Janice Hahn of Los Angeles, the semi-legal weed capital of the country.

This might be a first. Historic. A group of Americans are actually lobbying the government asking to give more money to the government in the form of a tax. Weed is rumored to expand your mind in all sorts of unspecified ways. We may have found one of them.

Volumes of political theory have just been challenged. We’re witnessing history here. Someone notify the media!

Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer, editor and columnist for Cagle Cartoons. Follow Tina on Twitter @TinaDupuy.

Want to run Tina’s column in your publication? Contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail [email protected], (800) 696-7561.

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The Science of Stupidity

Making Sense, by Michael Reagan

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden recently told Al Jazeera English that President Obama “wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with the dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science. and math and engineering.” After hearing this statement, my deepest fears about the dangerous priorities being put forth by this administration were confirmed.

Cartoon by Eric Allie - Cagle Cartoons (click to reprint)

Cartoon by Eric Allie - Cagle Cartoons (click to reprint)

Could someone please explain to the hard-working men and women of NASA, or, even more importantly to us as taxpayers who fund the agency, why the leader of that organization is being asked to essentially serve as a diplomat? Why such a foolish edict to a leader who is already facing severe budget cuts at his agency and is being continuously challenged on the viability and affordability of the space mission? Where in NASA’s mission statement does it discuss the role of the agency in making nations “feel good”?

With such an egregious misuse of resources, personnel and priorities, I hardly know where to start.

Now this is not to say that the United States should not engage in efforts to improve the usually rocky relations we share with so many nations in the Middle East. Doing so can build a level of trust and a greater understanding of our diverse cultures. But that is a job for the U.S. State Department, not an agency dedicated to space exploration.

So what does this tell us? First, it reveals an administration that is unable or unwilling to focus its personnel and resources on their respective jobs at hand. This is a time when our federal government should be trying to do more with less through greater efficiency and accountability, not foolish duplication and misdirection of our available assets. Asking an administration that should be focused on travel to Mars to try to bridge the divide between our nation and the Muslim population of the world is not only ignorant, it is a dangerous abuse of the nation’s resources.

Second, this story is also going to fuel the rumors that abound when it comes to the President and affinity for and preferential treatment of the Islamic world — a potentially hazardous approach when considering our own security and that of our key allies, such as Israel.

Right now, Americans want policy approaches that get our economy back on track and put more Americans to work, cut out the massive spending spree in which our government is engaged, and ensure the safety of our national security interests at home and abroad. Asking NASA to step into foreign relations simply does not fit into this package of priorities, and the president will surely pay the price at the polls when his time comes.

America’s space program has led to some of the most dramatic moments in American history. From the first orbit around the earth, the lunar landings, development of an amazing shuttle fleet and even the tragedies that have unfortunately befallen our brave men and women, NASA has pushed the bounds of who we are and who we can be. As an agency and as explorers, NASA has helped shape the America of today. It is not, however, the agency that should be tasked shaping the Middle East of tomorrow.

Mr. President, this is not rocket science.


Mike Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is spokesperson for The Reagan PAC (www.thereaganpac.com) and chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation (www.reaganlegacyfoundation.org). Look for Mike’s books and other information at www.Reagan.com. E-mail comments to [email protected].

©2010 Mike Reagan. If you’re not a paying subscriber to our service, you must contact us to print or Web post this column. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. For info contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail [email protected], (800) 696-7561.

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In the Past Decade – Extreme Weather Deaths Outnumbered War Casualties

Safe to say, nothing is so bad that a hurricane can’t make worse. Take an existing problem, toss it around in the wind and smack it with flying debris – it’s certainly not going to improve. Shoddy construction is made worse, communication concerns – made worse, a struggling economy – made worse, disastrous Bush presidency – made worse. And now the wonders of deregulation – the BP Oil Spill – the worst environmental disaster in the history of the U.S. ““ has already found itself in the pathway of early riser Alex, the first official hurricane of this season.

Cartoon by John Darkow - Columbia Daily Tribune (click to reprint)

Cartoon by John Darkow - Columbia Daily Tribune (click to reprint)

Alex shut down drilling and clean-up efforts for a few days until it made landfall in Monterrey, Mexico, missing the marshes of Louisiana. Rain instead has plagued the region. The BP Oil Spill is already a current-carried glob of doom. It’s a mass of toxic sludge submerged in the Northern Hemisphere’s hotbed of hurricanes. As usual, we are at the mercy of the winds. We are the subjects of the impending season of storms that rip through our Gulf Coast every year.

In 2007 during a cable interview, Senator Barbara Boxer said, “One of the very important national security threats we face is climate change.” Warmer waters in the Gulf will promise more hurricanes. Oceans will rise from the melting of glaciers. Heat waves will kill crops and damage industries. Famine, floods, tornadoes, drought, violent storms, fires, tsunamis, disease and unrest? Sure, this could be a concern to the security of the nation.

Now, sacked Hewlett-Packard CEO turned California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina used the Boxer clip for an attack ad. Carly, in her curious Jodie Foster accent, said in the spot, “Terrorism kills and Barbara Boxer is worried about the weather.”

Then the self-proclaimed fringe to the “lamestream media” and fraction-of-a-term governor Sarah Palin chimed in on Twitter, “BarbBoxer sez ‘greatest security threat’ is WEATHER. Not nukes, or unsustainable debt leading 2 insolvency? Silly Senator, glad theres competition.” [Spaces added.]

Palin is like a militant reformed smoker ““ she quit her job as governor and now has contempt for all who continue the habit of public service. Silly Senator, keeping oaths are for chumps.

Okay, first off: the “weather” is not the “climate.” The difference between weather and climate is length of time. Weather is the immediate information – climate is the big picture. So it’s like trying to discuss a concern about a decade and Carly Fiorina says you’re worrying about an hour. This is why climate change deniers disagree with scientists ““ they’re not using the same measurements. If you believed miles were inches, you’d think eggheads were lying to you to all the time too.

Our climate is changing. And yes, weather is also something which warrants worry: In the last ten years, there have been more Americans who died from extreme weather than U.S. soldiers who died in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined. According to the National Weather Service, during the last decade 5,754 people have died due to weather events such as extreme temperatures, flooding and hurricanes. Compare that death toll with the 5,521 soldiers killed in the two wars we’ve waged since 2001. Truth be told, to date there have been more U.S. lives lost as a result of Hurricane Katrina (estimated 1,800) than there have been U.S. soldiers killed in the war in Afghanistan (1,125).

And as far as Fiorina’s focus on terrorism killing ““ well, an average of 42 Americans die from being struck by lightning every year. As opposed to – well, almost none from terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11.
Here’s the problem with the politics of fear and confusion: it confuses what to fear. Is terrorism still a threat? Sure. Should we pursue the elimination of terrorism while ignoring all other concerns because it makes politicians seem tough? No ““ at least not anymore.

This week the National Weather Service issued an excessive heat advisory for the Northeast. Forecasters predict prolonged temperatures exceeding 102 degrees could wreak havoc in cities like New York, D.C. and Philadelphia. Several have already died from the heat. In 1980 during a similar heat wave was responsible for 1,250 deaths.

Why? Because weather kills.

How’s that “worried about the weather-y” thing workin’ for ya?


Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer, editor and columnist for Cagle Cartoons. Follow Tina on Twitter @TinaDupuy.

Want to run Tina’s column in your publication? Contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail [email protected], (800) 696-7561.

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The Daily Content

You have here what I’d humbly call an “opinion column.” Fact is, you can call this 665-word missive anything you like, as long as you don’t call it “content.”

For those who take their creativity seriously, content has become a dirty word.

Cartoon by Brian Fairrington - Cagle Cartoons (click to reprint)

Cartoon by Brian Fairrington - Cagle Cartoons (click to reprint)

With so much space to fill on the Internet and the cable dial, not to mention satisfying the seemingly endless needs of iThis and iThat, it’s all about content. I’ve sat through lengthy industry dissertations about how media can’t get enough video content, audio content and, of course, written content, but I don’t ever recall anyone mentioning “good” content.

Imagine going to a restaurant hoping to get a culinary treat and instead learning you’ll be served a plate of “kitchen content.” How about if you went to pick up your suit at the cleaners and were handed a bag of “laundry content.”

If this were only a semantic shortcut it would be no big deal. But lumping together the efforts of writers, musicians, videographers and so many other hard working creative folks and calling it content is not only demeaning, it’s also part of the mindset that devalues creativity – by under paying, plagiarizing and repackaging it to the disadvantage of reputable creators.

Much of what’s published on the Internet these days comes from companies known as “content farms.” It’s difficult to imagine a more abhorrent term for what passes as journalism, but it’s a billion-dollar business at places like Demand Media, a leading farm that harvests roughly 4,000 “pieces of content” each day.

On its own sites, such as eHow.com and Golflink.com, as well as for outside clients ranging from the newspaper USA Today to the fashion guru Tyra Banks, Demand develops its content by monitoring words and topics sought in Internet searches, then paying freelancers to write short articles and videos to address the supposed need.

One eHow contributor named “Jenajera” describes herself as a mother of four living in the Pacific Northwest and a “paralegal-turned-SEO-writer.” (SEO is a slick term meaning “search engine optimization.”) She has written such reports as “How to Determine the Value of Scrap Gold” and “How to Choose a Site for a Backyard Chicken Coop.” But perhaps her most enlightening piece is “How to Make Money Writing eHow Articles,” in which she notes that her most recent story “has earned me nearly $1 in less than a week” – from ad revenue that Demand Media shares with some writers on top of a fee of about $15.

Her advice: “The key to optimizing your earnings is to create a large cache of targeted, keyword heavy articles quickly.” Also: “You will make more money from your eHow articles if you choose topics that are well supported by advertisers.”

I have no beef with Jenajera or thousands of others like her, who undoubtedly work hard for each dollar Demand Media pays them. But, as the axiom has it, you get what you pay for, and it’s fair to say readers of Demand’s content aren’t getting much.

Still, low-cost, low-quality content has certain appeal. Media analyst Tish Grier, writing for the respected Poynter journalism site, goes so far as to suggest that companies like Demand Media could help struggling newspapers stay afloat by providing “edited, optimized evergreen content at reasonable cost.”

That’s true, I suppose, just as optimized toys can be purchased at reasonable cost from China.

It remains a possibility that as new media become more established, and the fascination wears off, things will change for the better. After all, the earliest material for television involved harvesting content from radio, until viewers demanded more. And when cable emerged as a programming force, ESPN, for example, cared so little about the quality of its fare that it devoted hours to rugby and Australian Rules Football, until fans grew tired of cheap sports content.

In the end, it’s not all just “content,” anymore than it’s all just laundry, which is why the public must continue to demand the most from its media.


Peter Funt writes about newspapers at: www.FuntonFronts.com.

©2010 Peter Funt. This column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Cari Dawson Bartley at 800 696 7561 or e-mail [email protected].

Peter Funt is a writer and public speaker. He’s also the long-time host of “Candid Camera.” A collection of his DVDs is available at www.candidcamera.com.

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