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February 16, 2006

Maybe You Have To Be From Dixie

"A midlevel state appeals court on Thursday upheld the state's marriage law as constitutional," reports Associated Press reporter Mark Johnson today, "handing a defeat to same-sex couples seeking to be married in New York
Ho-hum. What does anybody expect? An heartening cadre of gay-positive straight folks aside, the heterosexual majority is quite comfortable holding fast to its position of privilege and shows little inclination to question its right to be on top of the heap.

"The couples claim state health regulations defining marriage as being only between a man and a woman violate the state Constitution's equal protection, privacy and due-process provisions," Johnson elaborates.

"In October, Peter Schiff, senior counsel with the state Attorney General's office, argued before the appellate court that the plaintiffs wanted the courts to rewrite the definition of marriage. He said that job is best handled by the legislative branch of government.

"The court agreed.

"In our opinion, the Legislature is where the changes to marriage" should be addressed, Justice John Lahtinen wrote in the 5-0 decision."

MY COMMENT: And what are the targets of discrimination supposed to do when Legislatures themselves are the guardians of injustice?

Alabama natives like me remember when our state legislators were delighted to deny just treatment to the African-American in Bull Conner Country. Bible-based arguments abounded for why God wanted racial inequality to prevail in perpetuity, and the majority of church-going Southerners could be counted upon to support lawmakers who stuck to their guns on this point.

It took unelected judges who were insulated from voter reprisals to face squarely the fact that longstanding Southern traditions were a gross affront to America's constitutional promise that all its citizens would be treated equally under the law. For me such "judicial activism" was inspiring during my youth. It gave the Bill of Rights real force; they were not a mere collection of platitudes on parchment.

As the right-wing packing of present-day courts proceeds apace and the ability of incensed majorities to elbow aside the aspirations of minorities resumes its standing as the norm, opportunities to be inspired by America's promises are few and far between.

Maybe it takes personal memories of watching elected legislators running amok in the thrall of bigotry-based "traditions" for Joe Public to grasp the full chilliness of news like today's.

March 3, 2006

Crunched Peanuts

A correctly proportioned Charlie Brtown image copped from the 1970 book Charlie Brown and Charlie Schulz, (by Lee Mendelson in association with Charles M. Schulz) contemplates his digitally smushed self as published in Wednesday's edition of the Berkshire Eagle.
Few geometric forms are as imbedded into the psychological DNA of Americans as is the shape of Charlie Brown's head. Hence my daily bout of annoyance when I open the comics page of our local morning paper, The Berkshire Eagle, and see that the comic strip squeezers have been at it again.

When I was a kid harboring dreams of someday creating a nationally syndicated newspaper strip of my own, I was forewarned by the Famous Artists Cartooning Course (a 24-lesson correspondence course I took while in high school) about the liberties individual newspapers would feel entitled to take with my future comic strip, no matter how well I were to write or draw it.

I was instructed to make certain panels — and even whole tiers of panels — expendable in the case of Sunday strips because editors would want the freedom to chop them up, rearrange the panels, and omit whole sections of the strip to save space. Succinct humor would be impossible; there had to be extraneous padding so that the jokes would still make sense after editorial amputations were completed.

I was told to make sure nothing important to a gag or storyline was placed in the bottom quarter-inch of a daily strip, since that section was routinely shaved off by editors who wanted to squeeze more features onto a page even if it cramped the effectiveness of each individual strip.

Then came the demand from editors for wholesale shrinkage of all syndicated comic strips all the time. No more Mr. Nice Editor. Page space was money.

Expertly drawn strips like Apartment 3G and Li'l Abner had to begin skimping on dynamic action and/or physical comedy. Atmospheric vistas of Manhattan and Dogpatch had to give way to endless close-ups of characters hunching awkwardly downward in their frames so that their expressive eyebrows would remain in view underneath word balloons that hogged more and more pictorial real estate (since you can't shrink text too much or it will become illegible).

The whole mass diminutivization requirement was grossly insulting to a creatively transcendent art form that in its heyday had spawned timeless classics like Krazy Kat and Little Nemo in Slumberland — strips whose beautifully crafted imagery invited rapt contemplation whether they the pictures were spare or elaborate.

And the disrespect was made even more humiliating by the industry's requirement that cartoonists cooperate in making the children of their imaginations ever more chop-uppable, rearrangeable, and ready to be mashed tightly into whichever jammed corners of their newspapers could be spared for such frivolous fare

Now of course, everything has been made easier by the digital revolution. Charles M. Schulz needn't be involved at all in the mutilation of his honored offspring. All that's required is some art department underling who knows how to mash a masterwork flat with Photoshop.

But maybe this kind of thing doesn't happen in your local newspaper, just mine.

March 6, 2006

Where We're At

So we've got a President of our United States who has squandered whatever trust that one would like to bestow by default on anyone holding that office and has repeatedly demonstrated that he is incompetent to lead our nation on any kind of sane path.

He is a man of astonishing shallowness who has banished nuance from all public discussions within his control and who is incapable of admitting any error of consequence.

He is in the thrall of a coterie of power-hungry liars whose instinct if not conscious goal is apparently to establish a de facto dictatorship in America while preaching about democracy elsewhere. They are serenely content to spill the blood of innocents around the world while throwing gasoline on the fires of dangerous hatreds.

Our President has, in the process of establishing his "my way or the highway" foreign policy, run roughshod over hard-won treaties forged by statesman with a greater degree of wisdom in their toenails that he is capable of imagining in his most vaulting moments.

Meanwhile, he is in the process of obliterating every humane and forward-looking program here at home and is shameless in his dedication to the unquenchable greed of his friends in the corporate ruling class.

He claims to worship God but kneels more convincingly before an unthinking ideology of tax-cutting that invites all of us to throw future solvency overboard so that his rich friends won't be asked to sacrifice any of their perks.

He and his Republican predecessors have packed the Supreme Court with judges who show little indication to protect the public from Executive Branch excesses, and both remaining branches of government are controlled by either wealth-obsessed amoralists or ineffective wusses who long ago lost whatever skills one would wish them to have that might enable them to rise to the occasion and effectively fight back.

The President has three more years in office. The voting machines destined to inform us whether we are pleased with the present crop of rulers are trusted by no one who has been paying attention.

God knows what ways the "opposition party" will find to make itself useless in dislodging the current ruling party from its position of reckless control, but it has proven itself to be endlessly inventive in accomplishing that task in the past.

Not to sound bleak or anything, but a fellow can't help wondering exactly what the American citizenry is supposed to do about this situation.

About Soapbox Break

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Loose Cruse: The Weblog in the Soapbox Break category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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