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This one is personal: Brewster Rockit has been riffing on the recent discovery of a 3.7 billion year old bacterium.
The discovery was not of an actual 3.7 billion year old bacterium itself, but of its fossil, or, to be even more accurate, the discovery of a bed of such fossils, in the recently-exposed rocks of Greenland.
I still find the notion of fossilized bacteria mind-blowing. More typical, in the public mind, would be two examples of cartoons I saw this week in which kids blithely walked over small stones that, in a cross-section of the earth, we saw were actually the tops of entire dinosaur skeletons.
Well, you never know. About all sorts of things.
One of the things I warned a son about, as he headed off to college with a car, was that there would always be someone around with a good idea of how to have some off-campus fun at any given moment. As owner of a car, he'd find an endless supply of those opportunities, but he needed to bear in mind that -- his being a competitive college -- those people with good ideas for fun at a given moment would be investing their other hours in work and study.
He could find himself in serious academic trouble if he did not also set aside most of his time for academics, and, given that he graduated with solid grades, either he paid attention to my advice or he didn't need it.
Very high on the list of people I knew with good ideas of how to have fun was my friend Jack Sepkoski.
Jack was one of the funniest and more inventive people I've ever known, but that was about what I knew of him at the time: He was a blast to be around, not simply because he was fun, but because the hilarious things he said were grounded in a very intelligent sense of humor.
It was a quarter century or so later, when I had to track him down for an informal reunion of friends, that I learned he was more than "very intelligent" and was, in fact, a pioneer in paleontology on a couple of levels including examining fossilized one-cell life which, until that moment, I didn't realize was even possible.
That's him, conferring with his University of Chicago associate, David Raup, either of whose names merits a "wow" from those within the discipline.
Which dovetails nicely with yesterday's discussion of heroes to this extent: Real geniuses, like real heroes, don't always announce themselves.
In fact, what Jack is wearing in that pic is pretty much how I remember him -- corduroy coat and all.
No pocket protectors, nor did he constantly prattle on in a pretentiously "intelligent" fashion, nor was he prissy and demanding and spoiled.
He was just a regular guy, except for the part where he was way far more intelligent, or at least way more focused, than anyone else in our crowd.
Unfortunately, he wasn't immortal and he died at 50, shortly after I got in touch with him but before we got to sit down and catch up.
He'd have gotten a good laugh out of this week's Brewster Rockit arc, though.
Real genius includes having both the room and the capacity for some breadth of interest and joy, eccentric twits like Sir Isaac notwithstanding.
And speaking of fossils
Today's F-Minus also touches off a memory of ancient things, but this one may be more universally amusing.
The joke that this time-traveling stock tip is way too late can be readily explained, if you're willing to impose my own experience: It actually arrived in a timely fashion but since then has been sitting in the tray buried, fossil-like, under the spam and the frauds and the announcements of luncheon specials.
Who still uses these outdated technologies? You might be surprised.
We still had police departments faxing us their activity logs at my last paper, and finally persuaded them to send them as electronic text so we didn't have to re-type them. That was eight or nine years ago and I don't know how many people still use fax machines, but they are only one of a number of fossilized objects that once bore a great deal more relevance.
In fact, they were revolutionary.
And they once were new, as well. I remember when I was a business reporter and had to leave the building, cross the street and borrow the fax machine at the office supply store because we didn't have one yet, at a daily paper with some 150 employees.
That was about when I wrote this, which you may find amusing in its own ancient, fossilized way. If nothing else, consider the conclusion at right.
This was the beginning of "doing more with less."
(Pay no attention to the cartoon at lower left)
Friend-of-the Blog Brian Fies has created a on reflection heroism, on one hero in particular, and on one anti-hero in particular.
As it happens, I just included this bit of Lou Grantly wisdom for the young writers I direct in the job that pays my rent:
Editor's Note: Don't expect a moral to every story
As you work to learn the difference between writing as a journalist and writing as a student, there are all sorts of little things that pop up, and this one makes me smile.
Teachers usually assign a story or book because it contains a moral and they want you to figure out what that moral is.
Certainly, high quality novels and movies contain morals, and it's worthwhile to point them out. But we often assign book and movie reviews just for fun, and the point of your review is to tell our readers if it's worth their time and money to check it out.
Often, there isn't any moral. It's just for fun.
Don't strain your brain looking for something that isn't there.
Brian's moral is most certainly there, and it hit me at a receptive time, not only because of the immediate example that inspired him, but because of a more general commentary he offers on us, and on our times.
I'm perfectly willing to look for morals when they are present, and, at this moment in our history, we seem obsessed with the concept of heroism.
Since 9/11, when genuine heroes gave their lives in an attempt to save others, we've begun to declare anyone who wears a uniform a "hero" without requiring anything more, and yet there has to be more.
In his short story, "A Mystery of Heroism," Stephen Crane wrote of a pointless, unnecessary act of derrying-do, opening the issue of what merits the label. A young soldier, his unit pinned down in battle, races to a well and back to fetch water, less because they needed the water than because he wanted to prove his bravery.
I prefer Tolstoy, whose heroes operate largely out of circumstance rather than deliberate choice, most notably Denisov, for whom heroism is second nature. If Denisov had the opportunity to live his entire life without performing a single heroic act, he would take it, but he doesn't turn away from the moment either.
Denisov would not have been so vainglorious as to risk his neck for a pail of water, but he did destroy his military career to hijack a supply wagon for his men, because sometimes the enemy is not the person shooting at you, and there's your mystery of heroism.
Which brings us back, or close enough anyway, to Brian's point.
And, beyond the specific example he brings forth is this: Underlying his description of the original, pure Superman is the cold fact that, while there was a time when Clark Kent was an uncomplicated, metaphorical hero, we have since changed things such that the main thrust of storytelling appears to be denying and undercutting all good intentions and proving that Superman is "more complex" than that.
It's no longer a story, told in a single issue of the comic, about red kryptonite or Mister Mxyzptlk, but rather a sweeping declaration of our collective refusal to accept the idea of someone who simply wants to do right and is content to make the world a better place.
Twas not always so.
I'm not sure why: Perhaps Davy, like Superman, was untouchable, inhumanly perfect, more metaphor than person.
Unlike Zorro's servant, Bernardo, Georgie did more than hand Davy things: He stepped up and took the risks alongside him, and he did it with more intimacy and friendship than any of Robin Hood's Merry Men or those who fought alongside the Swamp Fox.
That roll call being one of the Grand Ironies, since we were raised with visions of heroes who stood up to injustice in the form of alcaldes and Sheriffs of Nottingham and bureaucrats who tried to steal land from the Indians, but the intention, as they proved a decade later, had not been to bring up a generation who marched in the streets.
Nonetheless, those were our heroes, and we could use a few of them today, and you only need a couple of Davy Crocketts if they are backed up by a sufficient number of Georgie Russells.
Juxtaposition of the Day, w/clarification
One moment in the debate that raised my skepticism was the claim that a Trump company had been sued by the feds for discrimination. His response, that several companies were involved and that he never admitted guilt in the matter, seemed credible.
That is, it's not unprecedented for a lawsuit to name a number of companies under a broad umbrella for various practices, such as, for instance, including provisions to land sales that prevent re-sale of the land to minorities.
Those restrictive clauses were once common, tucked into contracts amid all the boilerplate, and honored more in the breach than in reality. Still, it was necessary to make sure they were taken out. Similar odd, out-of-date, unacceptable things popped up in rental agreements and other real estate documents.
So when you hear that a company has faced action over discrimination, and settled it without an admission of guilt, it's entirely possible that they were swept up in one of these clarification moments, responded with a consent decree, perhaps paid a fine and then moved on.
Because people aren't metaphors. And they aren't always heroes.
This really happened, and it destroyed his political career.
Still can't believe Walt showed it to a generation of kids.
Pros and Cons captures the post-debate mood.
Enough analysis. Enough conversation. Enough advice.
Pour the coffee.
And, if you want an opinion, here's one: Most people's analysis is about as good as their coffee.
Thank god for Sophie, and for good coffee.
Red and Rover offers no Big Issues from which to hide, but it does offer a memory.
I didn't grow up with oak trees. I guess they don't penetrate the inner Adirondacks, where fall was more of a pitter-patter of little beechnuts, to the delight of a very large cross-section of animals, from chipmunks and squirrels to deer and bear.
But when I lived in Plattsburgh, on the edge of that forest, I spent a fall in an old house on the edge of the woods where oak trees were the dominant species, and the neighbor had a camper parked at the edge of those woods. And the woods were full of flying squirrels who would come out at night and leap through the trees, dislodging the acorns which would then fall on the metal roof of the camper.
It was like living next-door to a tone-deaf steel drum band, but I kind of miss it.
Frazz delights in showing kids dance along the margins of wisdom, and I wish more people would have her skepticism over sources and could come to her clear-headed conclusion. I don't know which I dislike more: Cultural appropriation in the form of condescending fables, or finding myself in the position of having to either bite my tongue or interrupt something sincere, however ill-founded.
I do recall one curriculum guide I was writing that had to do with slavery, in which I tried, as diplomatically and gently as possible, to say that, even if there were any evidence that the song "Follow the Drinking Gourd" had existed earlier than a half-century after the Civil War, the alleged instructions were too specific to have been useful except from one location.
Fortunately, everyone was busy that year teaching how quilts were really a super secret mapping system, so that you could spend three months making a quilt in a wrench pattern to signal "Tonight!" rather than simply leaving a wrench out on the porch rail.
And the appetite for comforting bullshit continues. From that linked National Geographic story, this cheerful dismissal of scholastic rigor:
Fact or myth, people agree that the idea of a quilt code is compelling. Bonnie Browning of the American Quilter's Society in Paducah, Kentucky, said: "It makes a wonderful story."
Yes. Yes, it does.
Another cup of coffee, Sophie, and you'd better put something in this one.
Ben has been contemplating mortality, specifically the idea that he might outlive his wife.
I'd love to see the list of French euphemisms Daniel Shelton came up with for the original Quebecois version of today's strip, but the bottom line apparently cuts across cultures: We don't like the word "died."
Years ago, when obituaries were free, they were treated as news and subjected to newsroom style, in which people died. But once newspapers changed to consider them advertising space and allow people to say whatever they wanted, the "editing" of obits was reduced to checking for grammar and spelling, and nobody ever died again.
The obits came from the funeral directors, which spared us from being caught in the middle of family quarrels, and I remember one that came across my desk in which the Loved One not only didn't die, but he didn't even just go home to his Lord and Savior, either.
Angels came to Earth and swept him away to Heaven.
I called the funeral director and told him, if it happened again, to get a picture.
Finally, Susan continues to struggle with her empty-nest identity in Between Friends, and this one strikes close to home.
Yes, kid, there are mature students, and, as it happens, I dated one who went back to school the year her only daughter headed out to college. She had been Mrs. Colonel for years, and had picked up three hours here and three more there while they were being transferred around the country, but the old credits kept expiring and she wasn't getting any closer to a degree.
Now that she was on her own, she took advantage of Smith College's Ada Comstock Program and landed a fellowship to that school, where she spent four years as a full-time student and -- from two hours away -- I spend four years as the occasional weekend distraction.
The philosophy behind this sort of decision is based on an Ann Landers riff, which is that the answer to "But, if I go back to school now, by the time I graduate in four years, I'll be 45," is "How old will you be in four years if you don't go back to school now?"
I don't know if Susan has her degree, but, if not, she needs to contemplate that bit of wisdom.
For my part, four years of regularly dropping in on Smithies was an education, too. I didn't have to be tied to a chair and lectured, but I will admit to having some rough edges sanded away in the process.
Brace yourself, Harvey. However she resolves this identity crisis, you certainly don't have to be left behind, but you sure won't be able to stay where you are.
Jack Ohman is one of the first out of the blocks on last night's debate, and comes as close as anyone is likely to in summing it up: Trump boasted, Clinton watched.
I doubt that it had much impact on the convinced, but voters who have been wavering might have been driven one direction or the other.
However, talk about who "won" the debate assumes a universal measuring stick by which, for instance, repeatedly interrupting and making false assertions is a bad thing.
For some people, however, the interruptions translate as refusing to be intimidated and the assertions will never be fact-checked. (And, if fact-checks are brought forward, they are dismissed as prejudiced at best and as part of the conspiracy at its most paranoid.)
You can accept that, or you can be snide about it, but on November 8, the votes of the well-informed, the ill-informed, the analytical and the unbalanced will all count the same and it won't really matter how you feel about anyone's opinion.
What we (and Ann Telnaes) saw last night was a good representation of Hillary Clinton and a good representation of Donald Trump and the chief result is likely a hardening of loyalties rather than a shifting of choices.
As Tom Tomorrow suggests, there isn't much point in arguing the facts with True Believers, the quibble here being that it's hardly a one-sided matter.
But the facts aren't the point. The point, rather, is how the debate is perceived as an event.
It's certainly possible to do some mop-up criticism.
Whether or not she was coached quite as Bruce Plante envisions, Clinton did a pretty good job.
On the other hand, she whipped out a pair of clever names for Trump economic policies that she'd have done better to keep under wraps, since he wasn't doing a lot of name-calling himself.
However, those schoolyard insults didn't seem to have a lot of traction and probably didn't matter.
And Trump's ducking of specifics might also have mattered a great deal more in a contest to weigh the actual policies each candidate was proposing, but this wasn't that contest.
What will matter now is the narrative the media carries forward, because debates aren't about the candidates or the voters but about the direction coverage will take as a result of them.
There was a time when journalists at least attempted to be neutral in these matters; I remember being appalled when Andrea Mitchell began to pepper her stand-ups in front of the Clinton White House with snide remarks, the most memorable being to categorize the President, when he had deferred some question (probably about the pending health care reform proposals) to his wife, as "hiding behind her skirts."
This was in the pre-Internet days, before anyone outside the profession knew that Mitchell was dating the head of the Federal Reserve, which should have disqualified her for the White House beat in the first place.
Now we have a kerfuffle over Trump complaining that debate moderator Lester Holt is a registered Democrat when, in fact, he is a registered Republican.
In my day, boys and girls, journalists did not register with political parties.
True neutrality wasn't a practical goal, but behaving in a neutral fashion was not only a goal but a professional requirement.
John Chancelor famously did not even vote because he felt that taking a position, even privately, would tend to prejudice his judgement.
That was widely seen as striving to be more Catholic than the Pope, but belonging to a party, contributing to political causes or sporting political bumperstickers was off-limits.
Well, it was all theoretical at best, and Charles Pierce has a depressing and insightful reminder of how the far-from-neutral media drummed up and perpetuated the image of Al Gore as a pompous, condescending liar during the 2000 debates.
Which you may remember unless you are one of the thousands of young Americans who died as a result of that election.
I Laughed Because It Wasn't Funny
Can't let today's Retail go by unremarked, and it does fit the narrative about people who find it easier to demand results if they ignore the necessary details.
In my case, it was a demand that my reporters write more stories, coupled with a demand that I avoid letting them claim overtime.
Comic strips often compress time to fit things into a three- or four-panel format, and, in real life, it wouldn't have been so bad to have one half of the demand made at one point while the second part came a week later.
However, like Marla, I'd get both parts in a single meeting, and, if upper management didn't know how long it took to do interviews, take photos and write up a story, they certainly knew how long it took to drive from one town to another.
Simply stopping in the middle of town, blowing the car horn and driving on to the next must-have-coverage-every-issue hamlet would have put my reporters into overtime.
But that wasn't management's problem to solve. It was mine.
Hail and Farewell
Rina Piccolo is wrapping up her time as one of the Six Chix, and the strip will be the poorer for her absence, though her replacement is worthy.
Six Chix isn't at the top of my list, but, then, it shouldn't be, since it is purposely aimed at a female audience, and maintains a kind of "Sex And The City" consciousness that seems to include an awful lot of shoes and chocolate, as, I suppose, an antidote to Good Old Boy strips that obsess about golf.
I don't play golf, either.
(Though I do know that golf holes are marked by flags such that, when a famous golfer dies, you can draw a golf hole with the flag at half-mast. In fact, you are apparently required to.)
Anyway, Piccolo is a terrific gag cartoonist and her Wednesdays were a pleasure. I hope whatever she has coming up next-and-instead is visible, because I'll miss her at Chix.
Ah well. We'll always have Tina.
Harry Bliss makes the hair on my neck stand up.
Thank god I live alone and don't have to be told how to tie off a garbage bag. Or maybe not wanting to be told how to tie off a garbage bag is why I live alone.
But this is the point where I release the bag, let it drop down into the trash bin, walk out of the room, flip on ESPN and become uncommunicative.
Which is the wrong choice.
You're not supposed to avoid talking about things.
You're also wrong to stay to talk about it, because, if you simply contradict and say that your way of doing it works just fine, that's confrontational.
And, if instead of doing that, you explain why you tie off the garbage sack the way you do, that's "mainsplaining." Dear God, we can't have "mansplaining."
This may have hit me harder because it came on a Monday, and so came after a weekend of watching football and therefore of commercials that rely on schlub humor, in which irresponsible, childlike men have to be manipulated into getting the muffins for a breakfast they hadn't remembered, and in which football coverage is continually interrupted to remind us that "Kevin Can Wait" is America's #1 New Comedy.
(Which I think means it has aired twice and follows "The Big Bang Theory" in which time slot "Sunrise Semester" would be a ratings giant.)
Anyway, this hangdog asshole tanked his family's insurance rates, but he's a good guy and accepts the fact that he is an incompetent and does everything wrong.
Though, if he wants to feel guilty, he could admit he should have looked into accident forgiveness and found that Liberty Mutual is far from the only insurance carrier that offers it and that it isn't part of their default package, either.
But that would have entailed mansplaining.
Better to just suck it up and be the fool who ruined everything. He probably suggested State Farm in the first place. Thank god he married a wise and competent woman.
And I've never understood why things like antiquing and family get-togethers have to happen on Sunday rather than Saturday in the fall, which form of planning, by the way, already assumes that Dear Old Dad doesn't deserve to be asked for input before such things are arranged.
The joke here is that he should have gotten on the boat. So he's still doing it wrong.
Mother Goose and Grimm reminds me of how grateful I am that I don't have a Jack Russell, given the lack of activity around here this summer.
Though our previous routine had been a full-fledged trip to the park each morning and several mile-or-so walks elsewhere in the day, he's a hound and thus happy with whatever fragments of that can be captured. As I write, he's snoozing on the couch.
If I had a Jack Russell or a border collie, I'd have to put him on Doggie Downers to get through all this, but, fortunately, I left hyperactive dogs behind when I ran out of little boys to keep them stimulated.
Incidentally, Mike Peters has an exhibit happening at the Billy Ireland in November, and, if you can't wait for that, here's an interview I did with him back at the dawn of time.
For all that today began with "nobody understands me," here's Rhymes With Orange truly tapping into a major part of my youth.
We had big yards, in part because we could and in part because the farther back to the woods you cut, the farther away from the house the mosquitoes gathered, and we had some prodigious games of not-quite-baseball.
There was a baseball field, too, only a fair ball down the rightfield line was a ground rule double and everyone on both teams had to go into the woods to find it.
But that field was for big kids and for big kids who brought their little brothers and sisters and had to be responsible for them, and so games there weren't nearly as frequent as just setting up in the yard with the plastic bat and whatever ball was appropriate and whoever was available.
As I recall, use of the actual Whiffleball was limited to times when you had five or six people, some of whom were five or six. A sponge-rubber ball was too heavy and would damage the bat. The favored missile was a tennis ball, assuming you had at least one outfielder, two infielders and a pitcher.
But, whatever the ball, whatever the team lineup, Ghost Runner #1 was the All-Star.
Random memory: One of those games at the semi-real ball field included about a dozen of us, plus a very little brother, who was content to eat an apple and take a very little brother role in the game. At his age, however, "eat an apple" meant to skin it and discard the rest, and at one point, I managed to glove the white orb he had left on the ground, take it out to the mound and serve it up to the next batter.
The result was applesauce all over the infield and everybody bent over in laughter except the fellow who was furious, since it surely would have been a home run if it hadn't been an apple. Good times!
The symmetry between yesterday and today's headlines and content is purely unplanned. The best things in life are.
Now here we are, with comics like Speed Bump, which really cracked me up but doesn't inspire any particular commentary.
Except to note that you used to be able to buy this gag that looked like a book, only when you opened it, it would give you a tingly zap. But, at about 11 or 12, my little friends who were starting to work on cars could make similar gag items that would just about put you through the wall into the next room.
I think "tingly zap" is one reason why there are so few of those gag shops left. "Tingly zap" didn't make it, and there are legal repercussions involved in selling "Jesus! What the hell were you thinking?" sorts of gag items.
And, on the topic of disappearing retail categories, it's not easy to mount much of a rant to today's Brevity, because it got more of an appreciative nod than an actual laff.
We only have one small enclosed mall here and I don't think anyone is building them anymore, and that's got to have an impact not just on gag shops but also on the calendar industry, because they used to set up their kiosks about this time of year with calendars not only of comics, as Dan Thompson has shown here, but of various dog breeds and horses and lighthouses, though,if you didn't need to be organized until mid-January, you could wait and get a calendar for about a buck.
Now that enclosed malls are no longer a thing, you won't stumble over those spinner racks today the way you would have a decade ago, and, if you need a 2017 wall calendar, I guess you'll have to go to a Hallmark shop or a chain bookstore now.
Or New South Wales. My vote would be New South Wales.
On a less trivial note
Jen Sorensen makes the point that continues to elude a lot of people who post on Facebook, whom I hope do not actually represent real voters.
This, too, elicits little commentary. I'm not going to sit here and explain the Supreme Court because I have a dog and I can explain it to him instead and it will be an equally good use of my time. Either you already get it or you never will, and, either way, why bother?
Though it did occur to me the other day that there's a difference between "representative democracy," in which we elect people whose judgment we trust, and "direct democracy" in which we make the decisions ourselves.
Having just been through a couple of surgeries, I'm all about selecting people who know what the hell they're doing rather than assuming I can handle it on my own. And I feel the same way about my car.
But I'm probably fighting a losing battle in the political arena and Sorensen has it correct: The great majority will choose between the candidates based on godknowswhat and we'll all have to live with the results.
We had a chain bookstore here until a few months ago. It wasn't a very good bookstore -- mostly best-sellers and teddy bears and coffee -- but it was a bookstore.
It's gone now, and they're putting in its place one of those craft shops that sells cheap fooferal to make cheesy things that people will thank you for and then put in the attic as soon as you're gone.
That's not a rant, just an observation.
Which I would point out Hillary has attended many times, though I can't remember exactly when inviting guests who insult your intelligence and sense of decency became a "thing." (Oh, wait ... yes, I can. And it just barely predated her time in the White House.)
But there's a difference between being a preppy wiseass at a dinner for preppy wiseasses and actively trying to undermine something that matters.
I also recall that, during the Anita Hill hearings, a young professor who had worked with her was forced to testify on her behalf while the head of his tenure committee sat front and center wearing a pro-Thomas button.
This sort of gamesmanship is beneath contempt, but what else is new?
Rowe's cartoon is tasteless, but completely appropriate.
And so anyway ...
Have a great Sunday. Spend some time with the kids.
Jack Ohman's local cartoons are often more fun than his nationals, because he uses a multi-panel approach to eviscerate somebody on a topic his readers in Sacramento are familiar with.
In this case, the topic is that a protestor smashed a pie into the face of Sacramento Mayor and former NBA star Kevin Johnson, and I mention the NBA part because apparently being a professional athlete gives you different reaction times than does being a frequent Occupy protestor, and the fellow ended up on the ground with a mayor on his chest and a bruise on his face.
And if you try to find the original story, you'll find speculation and debate about whether it is correct to punch someone who has just punched you, if he had been holding a pie between his hand and your face, which in and of itself is enough foolishness to justify Ohman's further extenuation of What It All Means.
Which in turn brings up one of the dominant themes of the election, and brings us to our
Juxtaposition of the Day
This is the opposite of the pie-smashing incident, in which a small incident gets blown out of proportion, and is, rather, a case of a substantial matter continuing to float under the radar.
There are complex issues, or at least issues that require some experience and background, floating around the Clinton Foundation, such as (A) why you would start that sort of thing when only one of you is retired from public life and (B) how often major donors request favors and how you handle those requests.
I can't answer (A) and it troubles me, but I don't consider it disqualifying, at least now that primaries are over.
(B) is easier to deal with: You smile and say "I'll see what I can do" and maybe the result is a smile and a handshake and nothing more and sometimes it isn't that much. And, yes, it could be more but I haven't seen the evidence and the Foundation has a spotless record of taking money from here and putting it to good use there.
Meanwhile, the self-dealing of the Trump Foundation is only one element of that phognus-bolognus organization that screams for outrage and, instead, inspires crickets. (See Scott Bateman's chart here, from the Nib)
Setting up a non-profit requires jumping through some hoops, and, while they aren't major or insurmountable, they sure are there and they sure are obvious and clear, particularly on topics like where the money can come from and where it can go and who can be in charge of deciding that.
We have a couple of things going on here:
1. This falls under the umbrella of things we'd know more about if Trump would release his tax returns. And, if it seemed to be on the square, that wouldn't matter, but, since it appears there is at least abuse, if not deliberate fraud, involved, it increases the importance of letting us look inside.
2. The rules for charitable giving are not impenetrable, and anyone setting up a foundation quickly knows the basics. If you are using a foundation for fraudulent purposes, it may be possible to make a few missteps, but you can't innocently spend money as the Washington Post's investigations suggest this foundation has.
3. That means either Trump is in on the fraud himself or his ability to police his own business organization is so low as to be non-existent.
This puts him in a Presidential category along with Warren G. Harding, who died before we really found out how much he knew about Teapot Dome but who is generally considered to have not been an innocent bystander, if only because you can't be both President of the United States and an innocent bystander.
So the question is, are we going to drag these questions out into the light? Because they aren't going to dance out there on their own.
Check back after Monday's debate. I wouldn't expect this particular thing to come up then, but I think we'll have a better idea of whether we're going to hash it all out based on the facts, or just on the commonly accepted memes.
I can't explain this either
Francis is a decidedly Catholic comic strip, and bringing in the Muslim woman, Gabriella, is a good move, because both the Pope and Brother Leo have to explain things to her that then remain delightfully unexplained, like this.
The scene of the chaplain blessing the Jeep in MASH dances over the duality of "What you must believe" and "What you may use to enhance your belief," because you can bless anything, but, while I think having an actual prayer for Jeeps is probably fiction, you'd be surprised at the specific prayers you can dig up in the back of a really thick missal.
The "communion of saints," the idea that the dead and living are united in a community, goes back nearly to the beginning of Christianity, but it diverges from there.
Saints are, fundamentally, a list of people we are sure made it to the next level, and coming up with specific names should provide models for behavior, though it can also provide a few semi-dubious St. Louis's here and there, as well as some Valentines and Christophers that you really must sweep under the carpet later.
But before I offend half my family, let me provide the simple answer: Holy cards are like baseball cards, only your mother isn't going to throw them away and will be deeply upset if you do.
You get them at funerals and on some other occasions, and you're supposed to stick them in the back of your missal and keep them forever.
If you touch the American flag to the ground, or it just gets worn and tattered in respectful use, there is a special ceremony where you can burn it.
I have no idea how you dispose of a holy card. I think you just put it in a drawer for your survivors to deal with.
Seeing Mike Cope's photos of the Kenosha Festival of Cartooning really made me wish I'd been there, but one thing, on a personal note, that I observed was that Wiley Miller looks great. I knew he went vegan some time ago and had dropped a bunch of weight, but I haven't seen him since then. So I wondered if he were still on the diet and today's Non Sequitur seems to confirm that.
The Billy Ireland Museum has begun adding period pieces at the Nib; this second one, by Frederick Burr Opper, is from Puck in 1881 and falls under the category of "nothing new under the sun," as you'll see by examining the various fears over easily obtained revolvers.
I wish the curator would provide more background, because revolvers weren't new in 1881, so we have to assume that this was a much less expensive model or one that was being promoted aggressively. It may also be that this was when the older style cap-and-ball revolver gave way to the revolver that took a self-contained metal encased bullet, much easier for the civilian to load and fire.
In any case, the objections haven't changed a whole lot.
Meanwhile, the King Features Archivist does provide context for the vintage cartoons profiled over there, and happens to also touch upon Puck this week, with some good, expandable-to-see-the-detail examples of old time comics.
The archivist somewhat skips over the earlier Puck -- a free-standing magazine which once featured this tribute of sorts to Hearst and his comics, and was later acquired by Pulitzer -- and focused on Puck, the Comic Weekly, which was a more aggressively promotional piece offered to local newspapers.
I'm not sure how I viewed these things: I knew that a Spooky or Little Lulu comic was a comic, and ditto with most of the comics in the Sunday paper, while an Elsie and Elmer cartoon was going to wind up telling me about Carnation milk or Elmer's glue, and I seem to remember Boys Life having cartoons that were tied to a sponsor, but I'm not sure I felt ripped off or exploited by the commercial tie-ins.
Which I guess was part of their Cunning Plan.
John Deering notes that rising statistics don't signal the end of the economic crisis, and that it doesn't matter that most people are doing better if you don't have a job.
It branches out in a couple of directions from there: You can't dismiss either side. It's undeniably good that things are looking up. It's undeniably true that we can't take our foot off the gas now.
If you drive through a particular place in our town, where the Interstate crosses the road with all the shopping and fast-food places, you'll see people panhandling right next to help-wanted signs, and there's a quick temptation to point to the sign.
But, first of all, the jobs suck and you can't live on what they pay. It's good that the government is willing to subsidize companies that pay a lower minimum wage so that half of fast-food workers are on some kind of relief, but it's not a sustainable model.
The other thing is that most of those panhandlers live in the homeless camps along the river and, first of all, even if you got them a shower and a set of fresh clothes, they wouldn't be able to maintain and hold a job. And, if they could, I'm not sure there's a good reason to stand and flip burgers when it's just a small boost to your SSI.
Make the job worth the 40 hours spent doing it and let's talk again.
We need to start by doing better by the working poor. I did a story on this several years ago, but I'm sure it hasn't changed: Decent, hardworking people who, for whatever reason, just can't get their chins much above the water.
This woman was telling me about how the farmer her husband worked for let them put their trailer on the property, so they only had to pay for the well and the electrical hookup. Her mom bought the kids a swingset and they had a video game set for rainy days, and those were extravagances.
The big treat, she said, was when dad took the kids to a car show. They were told they couldn't buy anything there but, if they were good, they could get a soda on their way home.
A bottle of Coke -- not a Happy Meal, not a Coke and a candy bar -- was their big treat, maybe for the month. But their folks made it work, and there are good people living that life throughout our country. The stats don't necessarily touch them, especially if the price of Coke rises, too.
It used to be that we'd just run them off. Then we tried funding facilities for them. The third option is to give up.
What I'd like at this point is for someone in the upcoming debates to talk some serious policy on jobs.
"I'm going to fix it" is nonsense without details, and, as for details, it's as ridiculous to simply declare that you'll bring the jobs back as it would be to declare that you'll put the iron and the coal back in the ground so it can be taken out again.
You can't just make everything the way it used to be, and, if you could, somebody would still be joyfully married to his first wife.
Clinton has talked about retraining people in coal country, and it's not impossible. When the mines and the mill in my hometown closed, there were some good retraining programs and people took advantage of them.
But those who retrained had, for the most part, to relocate, and that's hard when your family has lived in the same place for five generations or more. It may not look like much to you, but it's home.
Last time I was home, I ran into an old classmate who was commuting about 60 miles each way each day for a laborer's job.
Five percent wasn't gonna help him a lot, either, and he was working hard, and happy to have a chance to.
The one most relevant to the blog's mission is this Mike Luckovich Wells Fargo cartoon, which shines out from a pile of "The stagecoach company robbed itself" sorts of takes.
I don't know if Luckovich came up with it before or after or independent of Elizabeth Warren's bravura questioning of Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf before the Senate Banking Committee, but she went after the same point: The driver is never to blame, it's always the horses.
Or, "Road apples roll downhill."
I don't much care for congressional committee "hearings" that are a cover for speeches and I am aware of a strong possibility for a conflict of interest in my approving of Warren's grilling, since I agree with her.
It's certainly the case, though, that she followed the attorneys' rule to never ask a question to which you do not already know the answer: There's a point where she pulls out the documentation and just fries the guy.
And, morally, she couldn't sit back and wait for someone else to pull this stinking corpse from behind the curtain. It really was a case of "If not you, who? If not now, when?"
And, as Sanders has said, we've got to stop shooting the horses and start holding the fellas holding the reins accountable for where the coach goes.
If you missed it, here's the grilling:
(Spoiler Alert: The Military/Industrial Complex doesn't much like Elizabeth Warren. They're not big on Bernie Sanders, either.)
Pat Bagley takes off the gloves to discuss the latest outrage in the ongoing, never-ending horror story that results in butt-hurt sunshine patriots weeping at football games and police unions defending the indefensible.
Here's Chuck Canterbury's interview on NPR in which he explains that they want to fight poverty and thereby reduce crime, but fails to tie in how shooting unarmed people in the street is tied to that goal. And in which he explains that the police do not need reform.
Which, in as much as it ties in Colin Kaeperlink's silent protest against this blindness to the issue, brings to mind a small incident following the famous raised-fist protests at the Mexico City Olympics by John Carlos and Tommy Smith.
The weekend after, Notre Dame was playing Georgia Tech, and a group of Notre Dame students carried some banners around the edge of the field before the game supporting Smith and Carlos and generally decrying racism.
It should have been no big deal, but they were greeted with boos and pelted with whatever people had at hand, which seemed bizarre at Our Lady's University.
After the demonstration, the marchers went off and hung the banners in the student center, and shortly after that, I was there with a buddy and a couple of young women from St. Mary's, the college across the road, when some Georgia Tech fans came in and made as if to tear down the banners.
"Hey!" my friend said, "Those aren't yours. Leave them alone."
And the large redneck thugs looked at the somewhat average-sized hippies and I thought, oh, shit, I hope Mark fights as well as he talks.
But then they turned and walked away.
And I exhaled and rejoiced in the cowardice of thugs.
Which is relevant in part because the people who get so upset over Kaepernick and the growing group of athletes who also think shooting unarmed innocent black people is a bad thing are, in my humble opinion, cowards and blow-hards and easily turned aside if we but do so.
And in part because Mark, who now lives in Kenosha, dropped by the festival this past weekend and met some people and had a good time, adding one more reason I wish I'd made it there.
The world is full of good people. They've just got to speak up and let the world know that they are there.
Speaking of being heard
PC and Pixel brings to mind a problem this country boy always had with the old "if a tree falls in the forest" thingie, which is that, while I appreciate the metaphysical concept, the forest is full of ears and there's always someone to hear what happens.
And, no, changing it to "if a tree falls in the desert" doesn't help, since you've still got the fact of the tree, which can't live in a place where there are no other beings.
And if a tree falls on the moon ... no, it just doesn't work, and even Mighty Google can't fix it.
Bottomliners isn't so much a matter of the metaphor as a chuckle over the current state of business. I made the switch from cubicle to free-range, or, actually, pasture-raised, almost a decade ago and so laughed that, yes, it happens but at least nobody has the damn nerve to try to make you do it within the same company.
And then I realized that a lot of editorial cartoonists have, in fact, been put through that process internally.
So I got a laff and maybe they won't. But, if we're going to press the point, they're really more cage-free than free-range or free-roaming.
Latest pressing issue for Social Justice Warriors
Greek cartoonist Dino points out the latest opportunity to be more socially sensitive, just and superior to everyone else on the Internet.
In the words of Abbie Hoffman, "Where's your sense of social responsibility?" and, yeah, you SJWs didn't invent that, either. We used to bat around the term "relevance" in just those parameters: Anything that didn't advance social justice was irrelevant.
I'm going to come back to the whole SJW topic, but, for now, I have to decide if I'm going to ask Brad and Angie to return that fondue pot or just be cool about it.
And finally ...
Frazz reminds us that, if you want to solve real problems in the real world, it helps not to get too caught up in the metaphors and just deal with what is.