Vampire Nation

Taking a breather from our Gulf Coast miasma in order to focus on an even ghastlier blight of cultural crude washing up on American shores. No, this is not about Lady Gaga. Although, I do intend to address walking parasites. Demon fiends. Bloodsucking vermin. The Ushers at the Gates of Hell themselves, of which we are experiencing a veritable glut, and I’m here to say that my soul is so weary of vampires. Bleh.

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

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

Used to be vampires were stylish and dangerous and romantic, partly due to their rarity. These days, Children of the Night sightings are as frequent as “Law & Order” reruns. More ubiquitous than Subway sandwich shops. And about as horrifying. Movies and television and magazines and commercials and straight-to-video DVDs and books and comic books and kids’ books and even Muppets. Only a matter of time before Fisher-Price comes out with a line of vampire mobiles to hang over cribs.

Bayou vampires and New York City vampires and Elvis Presley tribute artists and tiny vampires with thyroid imbalances wearing herringbone fezzes. Vampires fighting werewolves. Vampires befriending werewolves. Vampire cops and vampire legal department research assistants and vampire DPW dispatchers and vampire insurance adjusters. Admittedly, the latter smacks of redundancy.

Because of the proliferation of the walking undead to mainstream pervasiveness, these suburban mall vamps are consequently forced to raise the fantasy stakes to where the entire genre is tumbling into ridiculousness. Most frustrating is nobody plays by the rules anymore. Time-tested conventions are being discarded like blood ampoules at a neck-biters’ winter solstice mortuary retreat.

Garlic is no big deal unless it is. They can run extremely fast. Except when they can’t. Superhuman strength is at their command — sometimes. Silver, mirrors, daylight, holy water and wooden stakes: Take ’em or leave them. That’s the problem with kids today. No respect for their elders. If it was good enough for Bram Stoker, it should be good enough for these libidinous meat puppets.

You don’t have to be Freud to get the repressed sexual desires theme. But wasn’t it was a lot more interesting when society was repressed and not flaunted by young starlets emerging from limos sans underwear? And what is it with the brooding? You’re a thousand years old. How much time to do you need to adjust to the agony of immortality? Stop it with the teenage angst already.

And yes, yes, yesssssss. To be young is to identify with the alienation and the dressing all in black and the being pale and stuff. But the only thing less sexy than an ancient man caressing the carotid of a pubescent girl with his swollen incisors may be the prospect of she and he swapping denture cream. You think Anna Nicole Smith was creepy, multiply her husband’s age by eight or 10 and try imagining that. Not enough Ambien in Patrick Kennedy’s medicine cabinet to quell those nightmares. Makes Harold and Maude seem the stuff of fairy tails. Tales. That’s Tinker Bell in Vegas.

And this anguishing over the weight of the eternal hunger is getting a bit old. You’ve had multiple centuries to come up with an efficient way to feed. You’re not tormented, you’re incompetent. You know, if Hollywood is really interested in a new way to make big bucks frightening America, they should green-light a series of movies about the inner workings of Congress. Now, those soulless zombies are scary.

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Will Durst is a San Francisco-based political comic who often writes. This being a fine example. Catch his one-man show, “The Lieutenant Governor from the State of Confusion,” at a performing arts center near you. His new CD, “Raging Moderate” from Stand Up! Records, is now available on both iTunes and Amazon. Coming this fall: “Where the Rogue Things Go.”

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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The Hypocrisy of the Left – A General Crisis

Making Sense, by Michael Reagan

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who until today was the leader of U.S, and NATO forces in Afghanistan, has resigned in the wake of derogatory comments made by the general and his staff during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

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

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

One can only guess at this point why the general chose to publicly disclose his feelings on an array of topics in an on-the-record capacity to a journalist associated with this particular magazine, not one generally associated with thought-provoking foreign policy pieces. The president chose wisely in quickly replacing Gen. McChrystal with someone with impeccable credentials and a record of accomplishing military objectives that at first glance may seem to be unobtainable.

You may remember this man as Gen. David Petraeus, the former commander of forces in Iraq who crafted, implemented and led the famous surge that ultimately saved countless American and Iraqi lives. Interestingly, this is the same David Petraeus who faced the wrath of the uber-progressive MoveOn.org during that same timeframe. MoveOn launched a controversial ad entitled “Petraeus Betray Us,” which drew the wrath of a majority of Americans who felt it wholly inappropriate to attack a United States general who was in the field leading American personnel into battle. At the time, 72 sitting United States senators agreed.

On September 20, 2007, Senator John Cornyn of Texas (R) offered Senate Amendment 2934, which set out to: “express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces.” The measure passed overwhelmingly with 72 “yeas” to 25 “nays” and 3 not voting.

It will not surprise many of you to see the likes of Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer or Harry Reid voting against a measure that supported the leader of our armed forces engaged in battle in favor of a progressive grassroots organization. But what should concern many of us is that then-Sen. Obama decided to seek political refuge by not casting a vote. Then-Sen. Joe Biden did the same.

Gen. McChrystal, despite his proud military record, exercised extremely poor judgment in allowing such dismissing comments about the Obama administration to be aired in a public forum. The president’s choice to replace him is an understandable decision.

Less understandable is how President Obama can demand a respect he has been inconsistent in offering to others. In 2007, he was unwilling to stand up to the liberal elements of his party in defense of Gen. Petraeus. As he now calls on that same general to rescue him from the political firestorm flowing today and continue the surge in Afghanistan, I express only the greatest admiration for the honor and integrity of David Petraeus.

The war in Afghanistan stands at a crucial point as more American forces pour into the region. While I have nothing but confidence in Gen. Petraeus, the resignation of Gen. McChrystal is an unfortunate loss, and one symptomatic of the tension between the civilian and military dimensions of this effort. As President Obama and Gen. Petraeus move foward in this conflict, I hope the president will begin to take proactive steps to reconcile this divide, listen to the counsel of generals in the field, and increase coordination between all aspects of the fight in Afghanistan. That country, and ours, can afford no less.

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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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Exploit This Tragedy

Before the tar balls had a chance to touch down on the white sands of the Gulf Coast ““ the message from the oil-soaked Republican Party was clear: “Don’t exploit the disaster”¦if you’re a Democrat.” But if you’re a member of the GOP, feel free to exploit this endless spill for political gain. Use it as a battering ram against the president. “Obama’s Katrina.” “Obama’s un-American for criticizing BP.” “The moratorium is worse than the spill.” “Obama isn’t doing enough.” “Government is bad ““ where’s the National Guard?” So on and so forth.

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

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

But don’t try to pass an energy policy in the wake of the biggest environmental catastrophe this country has ever witnessed. That’s exploitative. Crude.

The “don’t exploit this tragedy” knee-jerk catch-all phrase is absolutely meaningless. In American politics, we rule by crisis. There is no political will to act unless something is burning, melting or spewing. We don’t plan for the future – we brace for it. Our policies are all emergency-based. Our country is like someone who won’t pay their bills until they get a shut off notice.

“We can wait no longer! Now is the time!”

The Republican’s hands-off philosophy back when they held all three branches of government enabled a horde of deregulated industries with imaginary blow-out preventers to burst: the banks, Wall Street, the auto industry, the housing market etc. We’ve had to attend to these disasters, one after another. Tipping point after tipping point. Cliff after cliff.

The one issue Obama did address when it was only slightly gangrene was health care. Yet this is also the issue he gets criticized for doing instead of mopping up the Armageddon-of-the-month.

Appointed Arizona Governor Jan Brewer enjoys exploiting a tragedy to defend her disastrous-to-civil-rights immigration law. Have any Republicans admonished her for it? Nope. It’s a showdown – and Obama is IGNORING the crisis! Even though most statistics admit both incidents of violence and illegal immigration at the border had already declined. Even though “securing the border” is as ambiguous and unobtainable as “wiping out terror.” Even though according to the Arizona Republic, the Customs and Border Protection federal law enforcement agency has an annual budget of $17 billion, doubling what was spent in 2003.

“I have repeatedly sent letters to the administration and to the president of the United States with absolutely no response,” Brewer said on Fox News. It’s like calling your elderly relative just to have them bark at you that you never call. I can’t imagine why Brewer would get ignored.

But if a perennial progressive issue turns into a crisis ““ tragedy is suddenly sacred. A mass shooting at a school? Don’t exploit this tragedy to talk about gun control. Miners killed due to hazardous conditions? Don’t exploit this tragedy to empower unions. Our Gulf Coast lost for a generation because of drilling shortcuts? Don’t exploit this dead gulf or you’ll kill jobs.

The point is: Obama should exploit this tragedy in the Gulf. Not “exploiting the tragedy” is saying the status quo is perfect. Don’t do anything. Just wait out the clock.

Yes, just like the “actions” of the 109th Congress – the last one controlled by Republican majorities in both houses. When the Republicans set the agenda, they met a whopping 242 days in two years, which was 12 fewer days than the 80th Congress, the first to be dubbed a Do-Nothing Congress by President Harry Truman. The 109th had an average of eight months off a year – because nothing celebrates government ineffectiveness more than a gig in congress being a nearly no-show job.

“But if we seize this moment we can rebuild our economy on a new foundation,” said President Obama on his Organizing for America site this week.

Please, exploit this crisis. Make it the reason a spill like this won’t happen again. “The only real solution is to take American ingenuity to get energy in different forms,” Microsoft’s Bill Gates said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Gates proposes spending one percent ($11 billion annually) of what we spend on energy for research and development.

Finally an idea, not just a denial with a chant. “Drill, baby, drill.”

Yes. Exploit this crisis and exploit the clean renewable natural resources inspired by Bill Gates ““ the country’s nerds.

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The Upside to Hiring Independent Contractors

It could turn out to be a good thing.

According to CNNMoney.com, the traditional full-time job with benefits is being displaced by temporary or contract positions.

With unemployment high, you see, employers have their pick of skilled workers. Why hire full-timers and fund costly benefits when they can pay a flat hourly or monthly rate instead?

Cartoon by Dave Granlund - PoliticalCartoons.com (click to reprint)

Cartoon by Dave Granlund - PoliticalCartoons.com (click to reprint)

Few full-time employees are aware of it, but their benefits package — health, life, dental and disability insurance, “free” college tuition, workers’ compensation insurance, 401(k) matching, etc. — is income.

An employee who earns $70,000 in annual salary is probably costing his employer closer to $100,000 total.

Employers also must pay half of the 15.3 percent FICA tax (Social Security and Medicare combined). Though half of that 15.3 percent is paid by the employer and half by the employee, many employees have little idea that all of the FICA tax is, in reality, coming out of their pockets.

Employers also must comply with a multitude of government mandates — such as providing health insurance under President Obama’s new plan — that make them wary of hiring full-timers.

Firing an unproductive employee, for instance, could open them up to a host of costly lawsuits.

Why bother with such burdens and risks when they can simply hire a contractor?

They can part with the contractor if work slows — part with him if his work is poor — and not have to worry about getting sued.

To be sure, government meddling has caused employers to prefer contractors over employees — but wouldn’t the country be better off if every worker were a self-employed contractor, if only for a little while?

I’ve been self-employed for many years. For the past 11 years, in addition to this column, I’ve contracted my communications services to a large technology firm in Virginia.

I manage my own invoicing and taxes. I know to the penny — once my CPA explains it to me — how high my income taxes are.

I manage my own health care. That’s why I shopped around for the best policy — a high-deductible policy. Since I pay the first $500 out of my own pocket, I also shop around when I need medicine or treatment — you’d be shocked at how much costs vary.

If all Americans had health plans such as mine — if all Americans shopped around and managed their employer’s health care dollars as though they were their own dollars — our health costs would surely be less than they are.

If Americans knew the real costs of health care, taxes and the burdens of hiring full-timers, they’d be more appreciative and sensible about the way they manage their affairs — certainly more sensible about which politicians they put into office.

CNNMoney.com says the percentage of contract workers is soaring. In 2005, roughly 31 percent of U.S. workers made their income as self-employed contractors. Experts say that number could increase to well beyond 40 percent in the next 10 years.

Which would do our country good.

Imagine a country rife with opportunity – one in which the majority of workers ask for nothing but the opportunity to compete and produce.

Imagine a country in which the harder you work, the more you earn.

Imagine a country in which the majority of citizens fully comprehend how government policy affects the economy — fully comprehend how bad government will cost them.

If only we could create a country like that — again.

In such a country, our companies might become so prosperous, again, that they’ll finally start hiring full-timers!

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©2010 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For more info contact Cari Dawson Bartley at 800 696 7561 or email [email protected]. Visit Tom on the web at www.TomPurcell.com or e-mail him at [email protected].

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Politics as Usual, Exponential Factor Four

Raging Moderate, by Will Durst

In an age of relentless change, it’s heartening to be able to count on a few simple things. Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann ranting and raving one pulse short of an aneurism. Water flowing downhill. Congress holding hearings whose only point is to express the indignant depths of their public outrage even though our chances of learning anything is less likely than the North Korean Minister of Medicine going on Oprah to talk about Kim Jong Il’s spider phobia. Its all good.

BP hayward lies

Cartoon by Pat Bagley - Salt Lake Tribune (click to reprint)

The spectacle of politics as usual is as reassuring as a warm, Vaseline-lined bathrobe. It’s comforting to be reminded every now and then that no matter how urgent the crisis facing the American people, our politicians can and will find ample time to grandstand even if their self-righteous preening cancels out the eensiest possibility of actual progress. Can’t wait for them to replace the gavel at these things with a hand-held mirror.

Take the recent seven-hour theatrical farce featuring Tony Hayward. Please. Strictly following the prescribed testimony demanded of these august tribunals, British Petroleum’s CEO stuck to the script and adopted the role of a character afflicted with a severe case of selective amnesia. The man didn’t know anything. Including which industry he was in or how to wipe that priggy smirk off his face.

Hayward’s disingenuousness was so complete he actually might have put himself in jeopardy of being charged with impersonating a Congressman. The deceit, the whole deceit, and nothing but deceit. His ability to be so utterly elusive, evasive and impossible to pin down could lead to a career filling in for the Roadrunner in future Looney Tunes cartoons.

Not to mention that grilling him on technical questions was predestined to be as fruitless as Antarctica in July. As CEO of a huge corporation, he’s got lackeys and minions and stooges and toadies for the heavy lifting of knowing stuff. Mr. Hayward’s job is to massage shareholders and pose for the cover of yearly financial reports, and in times of trouble act as designated fire hydrant to packs of media-hungry dogs. Or cartoon coyotes posing as concerned Congressmen.

This televised dramaturgy wasn’t ever about answers. This was pure stagecraft. Congressional hearings are to hypocrisy what green felt is to pool tables. Especially the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Which is code for the Big Oil Boys. The same politicians who receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions every year from the very people they’re supposedly regulating. Foxes, hen houses and flying feathers spring to mind.

The only person briefly maintaining a semblance of integrity was Rep. Joe Barton, R- Exxon-Mobil, who opened the proceedings by apologizing to BP for what he called a White House “shakedown.” At least this guy knows who his friends are. The very definition of an honest politician: one who stays bought.

But buyee’s remorse prevailed. Mere hours later, after a quiet tête-à-tête with the biggest dogs in the Republican Party, Barton emerged to call another press conference where he retracted his apology. That’s right. He apologized for his apology. For which we should apologize. Reportedly, the wolves threatened his committee seniority. And so he caved. And covered his comfortable butt. Reverted to form. Back to the normal scheme of things. Politics as usual, exponential factor four. Ain’t it grand?

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Will Durst is a San Francisco-based political comic who often writes. This being a curious example. Catch his one-man show, “The Lieutenant Governor from the State of Confusion,” at a performing arts center near you. His new CD, “Raging Moderate” from Stand Up! Records, is now available on both iTunes and Amazon. Coming this fall: “Where the Rogue Things Go.”

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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News I Can’t Bear

It’s becoming apparent that Americans are wasting too much time worrying about illegal immigrants when the far bigger danger turns out to be illegal bears.

Stories and photos about bears are showing up with alarming frequency in the nation’s news media, such as these just this month. LA Times: “Authorities on alert for increased bear sightings.” Baltimore Sun: “Area black bear sightings increase.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “Nuisance bear trapped near Kingston.”

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

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

Delaware News Journal: “Maryland man killed in bear crash.” Whoops. It seems the accident occurred in the town of Bear, Md., and did not involve any actual bears.

Associated Press: “Calif. freeway closed after bear wanders in lanes.” Elma, Wash. (UPI) – “Rest area closed due to bear.” Seattle Times: “Elma rest area reopens after bear wakes up, leaves.”

Daily Markets: “Bear of the Day: CONMED Corp.” Sorry. This story apparently concerns stock trading for a company that “competes in the orthopedic surgery markets,” and is not known to be involved with bears.

Asbury Park (N.J.) Press: “Wayward bear causes traffic snarl during Monday rush hour.” WPVI-TV: “Bear caught on tape in Lehigh Co. (Pa.) neighborhood.”

Verde (Ariz.) Independent: “Black bear cruises Clarkdale before capture.” I checked, and this cruising creature was confirmed to be a genuine bear. However, a report in an Alabama paper headlined, “Big changes for Boyertown American Legion Bears,” may involve a baseball team since, according to the story, “The Bears have combined a strong offense with inconsistent pitching.”

New Baltimore Voice Newspapers: “Bonds formed between women and prisoners making teddy bears.” The report discloses this is taking place as part of the Macomb Correctional Facility “Teddy Bear Program.”

The (Penn.) News Leader: “I looked out and all I saw was a paw, claws and fur,” Emily Miller said in reference to a black bear that has been stubbornly hanging around the Millers’ Craigsville home.

San Jose Mercury News: “Charges dropped vs. man in Tahoe bear death.” An El Dorado County sheriff’s investigation has determined that John Wilkinson of Tahoma, Calif., acted in self defense when he shot a bear that entered his home through a window. Ann Bryant, president of the Lake Tahoe-based BEAR League, said she was disappointed in the way the investigation was handled. “To just allow people to get by with something this tragic and this horrific is absolutely terrible,” she said.

Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel: Letter to the editor, “Why do we continue to penalize the poor black bear for the stupidity of people?”

Chicago Sun-Times: “Weekly Bears Q and A.” It turns out the questions pertain only to football.

Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune: “Hope the Internet-famous black bear cub has been spotted alive and apparently well by Ely bear researcher Sue Mansfield.”

From these accounts it’s clear that Americans are even more sharply divided about illegal bears than they are about illegal immigrants. Congress should hold hearings to resolve the bear issue, and President Obama must take a firm stand and not forget his campaign pledge to keep Hope, the Internet-famous bear, alive.

And speaking of Congressional hearings, I’d suggest a full investigation of the following piece of news, which I promise I didn’t invent, as reported by High Times:

“Bear Attack Victim Eligible for Workers’ Comp Despite Marijuana Use.”

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Peter Funt writes about newspapers at: www.FuntonFronts.com and may be reached at: www.CandidCamera.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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Feminism in the Wake of ‘Ladies’ Night’ is… Complicated

While perusing the Internet, I came across an article about how to be a more attractive woman. First on the list was to learn how to tell a funny story. “Wit is the key. Be interesting.” When have you ever heard anyone advise a woman to learn to tell a decent anecdote? Never. Encourage women to be interesting as opposed to hot? It was radical! Totally progressive and forward-thinking. Then I realized I misread the premise: it was how to be more attractive to women. The suggestion is well-worn and typical – for dudes.

Cartoon by Taylor Jones - Cagle Cartoons (click to purchase)

Cartoon by Taylor Jones - Cagle Cartoons (click to purchase)

Here’s the thing: if we still have a need for the word “feminist” then the goal of gender equality has not been reached. No one has to say they’re an abolitionist. It’s just assumed you’re against slavery unless otherwise indicated.

We clearly still need the word – and the concept of – feminism.

The 2010 primary season has marked an unprecedented number of female candidates for national and state offices”¦according to the hype. Republicans winning Republican primaries across the country is a victory for Republicans everywhere! There are more female GOP candidates this season than ever before. Well, there are four: former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, South Carolina State Representative Nikki Haley and former Nevada Assemblywoman Sharron Angle.

To some this could seem like a feminist victory. It’s a female Republican victory, sure. But being a feminist and being against reproductive freedoms means you are not a feminist. You can say you’re a Mets fan, but if you only want the Yankees to win ““ you’re not a Mets fan.

The irony is this swarm of candidates, almost all entirely anti-abortion rights (save Whitman) has the feminism movement to thank for their ability to be candidates. Which is like using Twitter to get your message out about the evils of micro-blogging.

This new trend in the Republican Party – putting up women who want to turn the clock back to criminalize abortion – is complicated for feminists. And feminism in its third wave (or so) is already complicated. Yes, it’s great to think of women in power, but not when they’re against women’s rights as their platform.

The anti-choice movement tells women they deserve better than abortion, that they are the ones who have the best interests of women in mind. But treating women like children who need to be told what’s best for them is hardly equality. It’s a step back. And saying not having an abortion is the right choice ““ is a choice.

A stealthy anti-abortion movement has been chipping away at access to information and services since before Roe v. Wade. Crisis Pregnancy Centers, the first opening in Hawaii in 1967, are fake women’s clinics offering no medical services, only religious-based misinformation and scare tactics to discourage abortion and in many cases premarital sex. They outnumber abortion providers 2-1 in this country.

The Dutch organization Women on Waves provides health services in countries where abortion is a crime. A doctor with the group told me an alarming amount of their calls are from women in the U.S. in desperate situations. Some are from U.S. soldiers who don’t have access to abortion while serving their country, even if they’re raped. This should be embarrassing to us. This should be a concern to thoughtful female candidates and patriots alike.

Currently, an amendment added to the 852-page Pentagon policy bill repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” calls for soldiers to get the same basic health care access as civilians. Civilians with money, at least. This has been called “government funding of abortions” by opponents and “supporting the troops” by everyone else.

Because nothing says “sanctity of life” like serving in a war zone.

The Republican rhetoric about freedom, the sacredness of the Constitution and government not encroaching on your rights all come to a screeching halt at reproductive issues. Republicans are for those platitudes”¦but with asterisks. To glaze over this contradiction, female anti-abortion GOP candidates have flippantly called themselves feminists. Which is like proclaiming yourself vegetarian while eating a ham sandwich. They’re not feminists. They’re just female. “Being a feminist isn’t a question of plumbing,” author Gloria Feldt said to me.

Yes, this third wave is complicated. But at least it’s interesting.

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Cowboy Down

Raging Moderate, by Will Durst

The same way that crème brulée is unlike pork rinds, and a Lincoln Town Car is not a pickup truck, so is Barack Obama not George Bush. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons Barack Obama is currently president is because he’s SO not George Bush. He might just be the most UnBushish politician currently in possession of a Y chromosome with the possible exception of Jerry Brown, who doesn’t count because he’s an alien.

Cartoon by Cam Cardow - Ottawa Citize (click to reprint)

Cartoon by Cam Cardow - Ottawa Citize (click to reprint)

But the relentlessly dispiriting Gulf Coast Leakage has beaten America with Jimmy Carter’s feeble stick and we’re feeling as impotent as a eunuch watching Cinemax at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning; trembling for Daddy to come to our rescue and punch the bad spill in the face. Hence, the media skies have been clouded with entreaties for the president to get his spurs on and Cowboy Up in front of we wee ones.

Calls have come from the left and the right in whispers and in shouts to do something bold and avoid becoming Mister Mission Unaccomplished. Never content to let a national crisis stand in the way of politics, the right has questioned the president’s manhood, suggesting the cold spring Gulf waters may have caused massive shriveling amongst the spillage. Even Spike Lee exhorted him to “one time, go off.” And what Spike Lee says, goes. Just ask the New York Knicks.

For good or for ill, Obama responded. First by intimating he was furious. And you could tell he really was upset because his face got all frowny-like. Less emphasis on hope and more on concerned contemplation. Then Press Secretary Robert Gibbs spoke of a clenched jaw. Which to be honest, could mean anything. Might have gotten a piece of tofu caught in his bridgework. Or perhaps he was trying to squeeze out the last bit of flavor in his Juicy Fruit. We don’t know.

Finally, Obama was heard to say, “We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose butt to kick.” Only he didn’t say butt. He said the A word that rhymes with big mouth bass. Whoa. Dude. Settle. Mister President. Sir. You are many things. But Butt Kicking Chief Executive is not why we hired you. Right now we need that calm and collected smartypants whose idea of wild and crazy is working till his deodorant nearly expires. Cooler than the other side of the pillow. Penguin-tail time.

Dubyah reminded us of an entitled, cackling jock giving geeks and nerds two-handed wedgies in the high school bathroom. You, however, are here to teach those dorks how to retire to a stall and rearrange themselves before reentering the hallway, studying hard and getting that job paying enough to turn the wedgie-giver’s dad’s GM dealership into a solar panel production facility.

You don’t need to answer Spike Lee’s outbursts. What, you going to base our foreign policy on an offhand remark by Delroy Lindo? America doesn’t need Harrison Ford or The Incredible Hulk flying out of the cargo door of Air Force One. Not even the Credible Hulk. Look at Congress. We got plenty of Hulks. Besides, you don’t wear the right kind of Butt Kicking Shoes. For that, you need cowboy boots. With those beautiful Italian loafers, a person runs the risk of spraining a foot. Or a midterm election.

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Will Durst is a San Francisco-based political comic who often writes. This being an egregious example. Catch his one-man show, “The Lieutenant Governor from the State of Confusion,” at a performing arts center near you. His new CD, “Raging Moderate” from Stand Up! Records, is now available on both iTunes and Amazon. Coming this fall: “Where the Rogue Things Go.”

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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An Administration Adrift

Making Sense, by Michael Reagan

As we pass the 50-day mark of the terrible oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, it seems like the more things change the more they stay the same.

As I have previously discussed, sometimes terrible tragedies occur for which even the most diligent administrations cannot prepare. While it can and should be properly debated whether this tragedy is one of those events, our collective priority must be the well-being of our ecosystem and the many Gulf Coast residents who are being impacted. We must also continue to keep the family members of those lost during the initial accident in our thoughts and prayers.

But today we must also explore the attitude and focus of the Obama administration as this terrible tragedy unfolds — seemingly around them.

What President Obama must learn is that his job is more than chief executive — it is also chief communicator. And on that side of the equation, his administration has failed terribly, always seeming to play catch-up when it comes to the unfolding Gulf narrative. At times the president has seemed distant and even disinterested — publicly partying with musicians or welcoming victorious basketball squads to the White House. He has seems oblivious to the fact that many of the cable networks carry his appearances alongside a live box of oil flowing from an underground pipe — poisoning our environment each passing moment he addresses another subject.

In a purely defensive posture, the president has tried to counter such criticisms by saying that he is not in the business of the “theater” but rather the business of leading on behalf of the people. And in a perfect world he would be right. But this is reality — a reality the president himself came to just a few days later when he used his pre-planned zinger about finding the right asses to kick in order to hold people accountable on the spill.

Simply put, the administration is trying everything it can think of to get its arms around this issue. At times, they seem just as concerned with trying to stop the leak of public opinion as trying to figure out a way to stop the Gulf leak from spewing oil.

With poll after poll showing that the public feels that both the administration and BP are equally at fault in not doing enough to get this disaster under control, the Obama presidency finds itself staring at further erosion of the support of a nation that overwhelmingly supported their change agenda. If they don’t resolve this matter by figuring out how the get this leak under control, clean up the habitat and protect Gulf residents from further harm, they may find themselves looking at the kind of political changes reserved for one-term presidencies.

For the good of our nation, especially our neighbors down south, and for his own political viability, President Obama better find a plan and a message that puts an end to a tragedy that is running 24/7 on cable news.

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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 Reaga[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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If I Ran a High School…

As my two kids progressed through public high school I launched numerous dinner table discussions with the same six words. Now that it’s graduation time, I’m going take one last crack at starting that way.

If I ran a high school…

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

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

…I’d make the demands of the school day fewer, and the school year longer. Kids don’t have enough time to think straight let alone juggle classes, clubs, sports, homework and family, and still get 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night, which most experts believe is necessary. At our high school in Carmel, Calif., they’re now considering starting classes an hour later, at 8:45 a.m., based on numerous studies showing teens don’t function best at an earlier hour. Incredibly, there is even research showing that teens have fewer accidents just getting to school if the bell rings later.

Yet, the U.S. is falling behind, and a cue can be taken from nations that have a shorter summer break. More 10-day vacations rather than two or three months off would be better than the current American approach.

…I’d cut down on homework, particularly the busy-work kind, even in AP and honors classes. I’d also command teachers to coordinate tests so they don’t pile up on the same days.

…Speaking of honors classes, I’d fix the problem some schools face with a “weighted” grade-point system that forces high achievers to opt out of electives – such as music or journalism – because even an “A” in those classes would lower their GPA.

…I’d give more time for a healthy lunch (our kids got 35 minutes). And I’d forbid clubs and other school groups from holding meetings at lunch, which serve to reduce meals to a few hasty bites.

…I’d see to it that all students in all grades have organized exercise daily, unless they play a team sport, in which case I’d place them in a special study hall where they can catch up on homework.

…I’d insist that loaded backpacks not be so heavy. The potential back strain won’t necessarily show up for years, when it’s too late. I see that a high school in Clearwater, Fla., is going to distribute Kindle e-readers to its 2,100 students, with all text book content loaded on the single lightweight device.

…However, I’d prohibit cell phones and other personal communication devices in classes. It astonishes me that some teachers allow texting in the classroom.

…I’d stop kids who do poorly in class from “making up” the credits by taking poorly run and virtually useless online courses run by outside companies.

…I’d be more conscientious about controlling the cost to each family for what is presumed to be a “free” public school education. If gym shorts cost $20, a yearbook $75, a field trip $170, an athlete fee $100, etc., then pretty soon free schooling isn’t so free. The school board in Brooksville, Fla., just vetoed a music trip to Scotland for which each student was going to be charged $6,000.

…I’d require students in band and orchestra to wear earplugs. Studies have shown how high volume affects kids’ hearing; one study even revealed that many music teachers suffer serious hearing loss without protection.

…I’d end the practice of allowing seniors to leave school early each day if they have sufficient credits for graduation. High school isn’t college, and 12th graders should have the same length work day as every other student.

…Maybe I have a professional bias, but I’d see to it that every school library carries several daily newspapers. And no matter how much technology the library acquires, I’d insist that for the foreseeable future it also continues to have actual printed books.

…Finally, I’d seek to reduce the stress that comes with college applications and admissions. A four-year college education at an expensive, big-name institution isn’t worth making a student an emotional wreck during four years of high school.

As it happens, I’m not an administrator or teacher or anyone responsible for implementing these changes. In fact, as of next month I’m not even a high school parent. So I’m leaving these notes with you, while I strike up a dinner conversation about what I’d do if I ran a college…

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

Peter Funt may be reached at: www.CandidCamera.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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