Ted Rall

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Smart Politics in Pictures and Words
Updated: 2 hours 18 min ago

Stumeanity

8 hours 50 min ago

President Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any other president, including Bush, in an attempt to convince Republicans to come to the bargaining table and agree on an immigration reform package that would allow him to slow down the pace of deportations. In the meantime, however, countless families are devastated. And the GOP shows no sign of budging.

The Case Against Gun Control

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 03:20

The shooter in the second Fort Hood shooting spree was reportedly angry because his supervisors refused his request for days off in order to attend his mother’s funeral. Would it be so bad for bosses to think all their workers might be packing, and about to go off?

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Schools Should Teach Nowology

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 15:35

Everyone has a strong opinion about education. But the controversies are always about the same topic: testing, teachers unions, funding, merit pay, vouchers/school choice, charter schools. Is college a smart investment? Is affirmative action fair? Has political correctness supplanted the basics?

I keep waiting for someone to bring up Now. As in the study of now — what’s currently going on in the fields of politics, history, literature, mathematics, science — everything.

Can we call it Nowology?

From K through 12 through senior year of college, American education focuses obsessively on the past. No matter what you study, the topics either relate to the past or the knowledge is dated.

Since I was a history major in college, I’ll focus on that.

I’ve never understood why history is taught chronologically. A book’s opening is crucial; either you get hooked straight away, or you get bored and turn blasé. So how is it that textbook publishers think it makes sense to start a fourth-grade history textbook with prehistoric humans who lived 10,000 years ago? It’s tough enough for me, at age 50, to relate to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. How can a typical American 9-year-old, who lives in the suburbs, connect intellectually to people who foraged for food (not in the fridge)?

Another problem with teaching history chronologically is that teachers rarely make it to the relevant, interesting history students might actually care about — what’s going on now. From junior through senior high, my high school teachers got bogged down in the battlefields of the Civil War. We never once made it as far as Reconstruction (which is actually fascinating), much less to the controversies of my childhood (Vietnam, Watergate, the Iran hostage crisis).

TV, radio and newspapers — that’s where what mattered was discussed. My classmates and I had fathers who served in Vietnam. We had neighbors who’d dodged the draft, whose faces stared at us from wanted posters at the post office. We argued over Nixon and Ford and Carter, but all that stuff — the controversy, the drama, the Now — took place outside school.

The not-so-subliminal message soon sunk in: school is where you learn about old stuff. Now stuff is everywhere else.

This is, of course, exactly the opposite of how we choose to teach ourselves.

Example: pop culture, like movies and music. No one’s musical education begins with recordings of recreations of primitive music, simple claps or banging objects together. Most children start out listening to contemporary music — whatever they hear on Pandora, Spotify, the radio, TV, etc. Those who decide to dig further usually work backward. They listen to older works by their favorite artists. They hear a musician talk about the bands that influenced them, and they check them out.

(When I was a kid, friends were surprised that Paul McCartney had been in some other band before Wings.) They might wind up getting into ragtime or Bach. Last. Not first.

Ditto for movies. No one starts out watching silent films.

There is some discussion of teaching history in reverse chronological order in other countries. Writing in the UK Prospect last year, Christopher Fear of the University of Exeter argues: “We should begin by showing children how to scratch the surface to find the recent pasts of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations — pasts which they can talk about together.” But the British too continue to teach history the boring/chronological way.

We’re constantly worrying about whether our schools are preparing children to compete in the global marketplace. To support their calls for reform, activists (mostly, but not exclusively, on the political right) point to surveys that show that Americans are woefully ignorant about basic facts such as evolution, essential geographic knowledge as the location of the country where U.S. troops have been fighting, killing and dying for a decade and a half, and even heliocentricity.

Sure, it would be nice if more Americans cracked open a newspaper (or its online edition) now and then. On the other hand, a lot of this material ought to be taught in schools — and it isn’t. Day one of American history class should begin with Obama, Congressional paralysis, the early jockeying for the 2016 presidential campaign, America’s clash with Russia over Ukraine, and the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. All of these subjects naturally require digging deeper, back in time, to explain why and how what’s going on now is happening.

And it’s not just history. Studying physics at Columbia in the 1980s, no one taught us about the latest advances in cosmology and quantum mechanics — some of which, ironically, were being discovered in labs in the same buildings by the same professors who were filling our heads with obsolete material.

Nowology: better late than never.

(Support independent journalism and political commentary. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

TALE Podcast: Ted Rall and Lynn Bixenspan

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 06:48

TALE is an awesome The Moth-like storytelling live show in New York City. If you know me personally, and you’ve seen me with beer inside me, you know I like telling stories. So anyway, TALE has launched storytelling podcasts! I’m in the first one, along with comedian Lynn Bixenspan and cohosts Harmon Leon and Alex Schmidt.

It’s about my personal experience as the target of post-9/11 government surveillance.

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: It’s Easier to Fight Poverty Where People Are Rich

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 03:53

 

The United States of America in Year 2014 is the wealthiest nation that has ever existed. Poverty among Americans is an obscenity: immoral, unnecessary, counterproductive. As disgusting as it is to watch $100,000 cars zoom past homeless panhandlers, however, there’s something even worse: politicians who pretend to care, who say they’re trying to help the poor and downtrodden, but are actually ignoring them as they revel in the institutional corruption of politics as usual.

As The Times’ Michael Finnegan, David Zahniser and Doug Smith reported:

In January, President Obama announced a block-by-block approach to relieving poverty in Los Angeles. Federal money, he said, would pour into a newly created Promise Zone.

The boundaries encompassed crowded immigrant communities around MacArthur Park and Koreatown, as well as upscale areas of Hollywood and Los Feliz. Left out was South L.A., where the poverty rate is higher. The exclusion stunned many South L.A. leaders.

Why did the White House snub South L.A., which is quantifiably poorer?

Only those previously funded organizations were eligible to seek Promise Zone aid. In Los Angeles, there was only one such group: a nonprofit led by Dixon Slingerland, a major campaign fundraiser for Obama and frequent White House visitor.

Under rules set by the White House and federal agencies, Mayor Eric Garcetti‘s office, working with Slingerland’s Youth Policy Institute, was required to draw the zone’s boundaries around an area where the nonprofit already was focusing its federal grants — either Hollywood or the northeast San Fernando Valley.

The result was an anti-poverty zone that left out communities south of the 10 Freeway, including areas of chronic poverty that drew worldwide attention after the 1965 and 1992 riots. Neighborhoods around Watts have a poverty rate 21% higher than communities within the Promise Zone, according to a Times analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. Neighborhoods east of USC have a poverty rate 39% higher.

This appears to be a political manifestation of the phenomenon described in the important 1996 book “The Winner-Take-All Society.” Influence begets influence, wealth and power aggregate into increasingly fewer hands. It’s why, for example, the best-paid professional athletes get the biggest offers for lucrative product endorsement deals. The more famous you are, the more stuff you can sell. The more stuff you sell, the more famous you get.

“It just seems like those that have keep getting,” shot U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn, who represents South L.A., after the news broke that South L.A. had been excluded. “And those that never had don’t even have a chance.” Hahn “pointedly skipped” a White House ceremony where Obama announced L.A.’s Promise Zone.

City Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who represents part of South L.A., pointed to Dixon Slingerland’s influence with the president: “You know exactly why they came out first. It was preordained.”

Slingerman denies that the Promise Zone’s odd mapping had anything to do with political payback.

Perhaps not. But if Slingerback wanted favors from Obama, he was certainly in a position to ask. Finnegan et al noted: ” Since Obama took office, Slingerland has been to the White House 19 times, logs show. The visits included one to the residence for a reception, three to the West Wing and 10 to the Old Executive Office Building. He attended two receptions at Vice President Joe Biden‘s home at the U.S. Naval Observatory.” I don’t know about you, but I’m still waiting for my first invite.

The soft corruption of coziness, or coincidence? I know not. But it definitely looks bad.

And it doesn’t just look bad in Los Angeles. The other four PZs are drawing fire too.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, “several areas of the city face challenges similar to or worse than Mantua,” the West Philly neighborhood designated as that city’s Promise Zone.

Politics appears to have influenced the selection of at least three of the first five Promise Zones. “Rural Kentucky, of all the distressed rural districts and deserving areas across the country, seems a somewhat random choice, but Kentucky Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell both attended the [Promise Zone] announcement, perhaps boosting the chances of bipartisan support,” wrote Susan Greenbaum.

But hey, maybe residents of South L.A. should be relieved that the Obama Administration gave them the cold shoulder. If the Promise Zones work as advertised, planning experts say, they’ll spur gentrification, rising rents and — ultimately — evictions.

And as always, the rich get richer and the poor get ignored.

The Culture of Knife Violence

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 03:30

A high school sophomore stabbed 19 classmates in western Pennsylvania. Once again, there will be a search for answers. But because the weapons were knives and not guns, the media and politicians will have to reach beyond the usual cheap parlor tricks of knee-jerk policy prescriptions.

Four Cartoonists of the Apocalypse

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 06:53

Support a roster of four smart political cartoonists – Marxist environmentalist Stephanie McMillan (“Minimum Security”), conservative Scott Stantis (Chicago Tribune), anarchic wild man Steve Notley (“Bob the Angry Flower”) and yours truly. For $5 a month, you get all our stuff pluseverything else at Beacon. Click here to support the Four Cartoonists of the Apocalypse.

Indoctrinating the Torture Invaders of the Future

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 03:57

Inspired by female warrior characters in video games and movies like “The Hunger Games,” toymakers are going butch, selling violence-themed merchandise like bows and guns, but colored pink for girls.

Premium Ignition Option

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 03:55

13 people died because GM refused to switch out a faulty ignition switch on the Chevy Cobalt and other models, despite being aware of the problem. The change would have cost GM 90 cents per car.

Like a Stephen King Story

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 13:36

When I was 14, this man kidnapped a 14-year-old girl walking to school three miles from my house, raped and killed her. She was not his only victim. Now, due to a DA screwup, he is back in town and may soon be released. This is such a creepy flashback, like something out of a Stephen King story. I never imagined I’d be so upset by something like this, especially since I didn’t know the victim, but it’s like I’m right back there.

http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/news/crime-law/oakwood-girls-murderer-back-town/nfRYH/

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Bruised Egos in Sacramento

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 07:52

 

 

 

Anything can be a point of pride. Your local baseball team. The weather. Political corruption.

The genesis of today’s cartoon is a barroom argument I found myself having at least 20 years ago with a Chicagoan. “The Illinois state legislature,” he stated confidently, “is the most corrupt in the country.” I made cases for my home state of Ohio and my adopted home of New York. Overhearing us, a third man approached, loaded for bear, to make clear that anyone who challenged Harrisburg, home of Pennsylvania’s state house, as the stinkiest cesspool in all of American politics would have to deal with him and his voluminous knowledge of the Keystone State’s seemingly infinite list of dirty deeds.

There was never any doubt that this week’s piece would be about Leland Yee, the pro-gun control state senator accused of attempted arms smuggling. As they say, you can’t make these things up. To think that people still ask me where I get my ideas!

“[Yee] held press conferences denouncing violent video games and helped pass legislation in California prohibiting sales of such games to minors. And yet, secretly, he was living the life of a Grand Theft Auto character,” Scott Shackford writes in Reason. Me, I thought Walter White from “Breaking Bad.” Whatever. Hand slaps forehead, jaw drops.

But how do you cartoon a story whose central character is itself a cartoon? Exaggeration isn’t possible; it’s already too extreme.

You can go with straightforward editorializing. “Isn’t it just awful.” “One more reason people don’t trust politicians.” “What a hypocrite.” Trouble is, the ballpeen hammer to the skull approach disproves the cliché that “it’s funny because it’s true.” It’s true — Yee’s alleged misdeeds are awful and do nothing to help citizens feel good about government ­ — but it’s not funny. Nor interesting.

Instead I approached this story through the back door. Inspired by having recently watched the finale of “Breaking Bad,” a show in which viewers are simultaneously appalled by and admiring of a criminal character, I decided to turn the perspective around. Rather than single out Yee as a bad apple (whom, thanks to the FBI, we can feel happy has been extracted from the newly virtuous political gathering in Sacramento), I depict his corrupt colleagues bemoaning their own lack of ambition and scope compared to Yee’s staggeringly over-the-top perfidy. Given the string of recent scandals out of the state capital, from Roy Ashburn (the gay state senator who voted against gay rights, arrested for DUI) to Michael Duvall (the family values conservative caught bragging about his affairs over an open mic), Yee’s arrest does not likely signal a 99-44/100ths pure state assembly.

It makes a bigger point about a more important issue.

With a little luck, it might even make you laugh.

Bitterly laugh, but still.

Appeared originally at The Los Angeles Times.

From Street Walker to Call Girl

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 07:33

The US Supreme Court has ruled to abolish overall caps on federal campaign contributions, bringing an end to most meaningful limits on the influence of money on Congress. Yeah, there’s going to be even more corruption. But think of the bright side: Congress can ask their sponsors for even more money! If nothing else, it will stimulate the economy.

LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Bruised Egos in Sacramento

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 03:27

 

Anything can be a point of pride. Your local baseball team. The weather. Political corruption.

The genesis of today’s cartoon is a barroom argument I found myself having at least 20 years ago with a Chicagoan. “The Illinois state legislature,” he stated confidently, “is the most corrupt in the country.” I made cases for my home state of Ohio and my adopted home of New York. Overhearing us, a third man approached, loaded for bear, to make clear that anyone who challenged Harrisburg, home of Pennsylvania’s state house, as the stinkiest cesspool in all of American politics would have to deal with him and his voluminous knowledge of the Keystone State’s seemingly infinite list of dirty deeds.

There was never any doubt that this week’s piece would be about Leland Yee, the pro-gun control state senator accused of attempted arms smuggling. As they say, you can’t make these things up. To think that people still ask me where I get my ideas!

“[Yee] held press conferences denouncing violent video games and helped pass legislation in California prohibiting sales of such games to minors. And yet, secretly, he was living the life of a Grand Theft Auto character,” Scott Shackford writes in Reason. Me, I thought Walter White from “Breaking Bad.” Whatever. Hand slaps forehead, jaw drops.

But how do you cartoon a story whose central character is itself a cartoon? Exaggeration isn’t possible; it’s already too extreme.

You can go with straightforward editorializing. “Isn’t it just awful.” “One more reason people don’t trust politicians.” “What a hypocrite.” Trouble is, the ballpeen hammer to the skull approach disproves the cliché that “it’s funny because it’s true.” It’s true — Yee’s alleged misdeeds are awful and do nothing to help citizens feel good about government ­ — but it’s not funny. Nor interesting.

Instead I approached this story through the back door. Inspired by having recently watched the finale of “Breaking Bad,” a show in which viewers are simultaneously appalled by and admiring of a criminal character, I decided to turn the perspective around. Rather than single out Yee as a bad apple (whom, thanks to the FBI, we can feel happy has been extracted from the newly virtuous political gathering in Sacramento), I depict his corrupt colleagues bemoaning their own lack of ambition and scope compared to Yee’s staggeringly over-the-top perfidy. Given the string of recent scandals out of the state capital, from Roy Ashburn (the gay state senator who voted against gay rights, arrested for DUI) to Michael Duvall (the family values conservative caught bragging about his affairs over an open mic), Yee’s arrest does not likely signal a 99-44/100ths pure state assembly.

It makes a bigger point about a more important issue.

With a little luck, it might even make you laugh.

Bitterly laugh, but still.

ANewDomain.Net Essay: The NSA Manifesto

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 10:42

The government knows we’re pissed off at the NSA. But the proposals they’ve floated so far barely scratch the surface of what they need to do to regain our trust and respect. I’ve set the bar in my essay for ANewDomain.net:

Clearly, politicians don’t get it.

The American people are overwhelmingly opposed to the NSA domestic surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden. Even after Obama promised reforms in a high-profile speech in January, polls showed that most Americans still don’t want the NSA spying on them. Not under any circumstance — not even as part of a terrorism investigation.

Hey Washington! Want to restore our trust? Here, from basic to best, is what you’re going to need to do.

Read the whole thing.

Death Benefit

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 03:17

No expense is spared to retrieve dead bodies, whether it’s the victims of the Malaysian Flight 370 victims at the bottom of the Indian Ocean or the mudslide victims buried by sludge in coastal Washington State or the soldiers who cannot be left behind on the field of battle. Yet when we’re ALIVE, we can’t get help when, for example, we lose our jobs.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The New Yorker is Bad for Cartooning

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 07:25

When you tell people you’re a cartoonist, one of the first things they ask you is whether you’ve ever had a cartoon published in The New Yorker. I don’t blame them. Everyone “knows” that running in the same pages that showcase(d) Addams and Chast proves you’re one of the best.

The marketing hype behind New Yorker cartoonist and cartoon editor Bob Mankoff’s new memoir — featuring something I really am jealous about, a “60 Minutes” interview — further cements the magazine’s reputation as cartooning’s Olympus.

“For nearly 90 years, the place to go for sophisticated, often cutting-edge humor has been The New Yorker magazine,” says Morley Safer.

As is often the case, what everyone knows is not true.

Here’s a challenge I frequently give to New Yorker cartoon proponents. Choose any issue. Read through the cartoons. How many are really good? You’ll be surprised at how few you find. But don’t feel bad. Like the idea that the U.S. is a force for good in the world, and the assumption that SNL was ever funny, the “New Yorker­ ­cartoons are sophisticated and smart” meme has been around so long that no one questions it.

From the psychiatrist’s couch to the sexless couple’s living room to the junior executive’s summons of his secretary via intercom, New Yorker cartoons are consistently bland, militantly middlebrow, and mind-numbingly repetitive decade after decade.

Which is fine.

What is not fine is not seeing fluff for the crap that it is.

The New Yorker is terrible for cartooning because it prints a lot of awful cartoons, and uses its reputation in order to elevate terrible work as the profession’s platinum standard.

They pay pretty well. Which prompts too many talented artists, who under a better economic and media model would produce interesting, intelligent, great cartoons (and did so, in the alternative weekly newspapers of the 1990s, for example), to pull their satiric punches and stifle their creativity. Of course, not every cartoonist follows the siren call to Mankoff’s office in the Condé Nast building. It is possible to make a living selling cartoons to other venues. I do. Still, the New Yorker casts a long shadow, silently asking a question one fears is heard by art directors everywhere: If you’re so smart and so funny and so talented, why aren’t you in The New Yorker?

Mankoff and his predecessors have created a bizarro meritocracy in reverse: bad is not merely good-enough, but the crème-de-la-crème. It’s like singling out the slowest runners in a race and awarding them prizes and endorsements. Some runners, devoted to excellence and the love of competition, will keep running as fast as they can. But fans will wonder why they don’t wise up.

What makes a cartoon good/funny? Originality, relevance, insight, audacity and random weirdness. (There are other factors, which I’ll remember after a minute after it’s too late.)

Originality in both substance and form, and in both writing and drawing, is the most important component of a great cartoon. It is rare to find. Cartooning is a highly incestuous art form; most practitioners slavishly copy or synthesize the work of their forebears. Editors and award committees (composed of editors) have short memories and no historical knowledge, which feeds lazy cartoonists’ temptation to present initially brilliant, but now hackneyed and recycled, ideas as their own. Other cartoonists’ punch lines, structural constructions, even their drawing styles, are routinely stolen wholesale; alas, media gatekeepers never have a clue. All too often, the plagiarists collect plaudits while the victims of their grand larceny of intellectual property die sad and alone.

Well, maybe not sad or alone. But annoyed over beer.

            Give The New Yorker its due: since it reacts to trends and news in politics and culture, the magazine’s funniest cartoons can be relevant. Sadly, their single-panel gags say less than Jerry Seinfeld’s jokes about nothing. At best, name-checking Lady Gaga or hat-tipping Instagram elicits a knowing ha ha, they read the same stuff I do (i.e. The New York Times).

Mankoff’s book takes its title from the line of perhaps his greatest hit: “How about never — is never good for you?” This is an “nth degree” concept. What happens if the back-and-forth busy people often experience when they’re trying to set a rendezvous achieves its ultimate, most extreme conclusion? It also showcases anxiety and insecurity among the aspirational bourgeoisie, the not-so-secret sauce of New Yorker humor, for nearly a century. But what does Mankoff’s cartoon say? What does it mean?

A cartoon doesn’t have to be political to matter. “The Far Side” wasn’t political, but most of Larsen’s work reveals something about human nature to which we hadn’t previously given much thought. To be funny, a cartoon must rise above it’s-funny-cuz-it’s-true tautology. Mankoff’s “never” toon does not. Nor does the magazine’s famous “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” piece, drawn by Peter Steiner in 1993 (though Matt Petronzio’s post-Snowden update does).

If you can credibly reply “so what?” to a cartoon, odds are it’s not worth your time.

A great cartoon is funny because it’s dangerous.

A 19th century relic of the degrading “shape ups” depicted in the film “The Bicycle Thief,” The New Yorker‘s submission policy is a system — intentional or not, no one knows — that filters out originality and rewards a schlocky “throw a lot of shit at the wall and see if anything sticks” approach to cartooning. Every Wednesday morning, Mankoff holds court, looking over submissions of cartoonists who must present themselves in person rather than, say, email or fax their work. Because submissions must be fully drawn and the odds of acceptance increase with the number of cartoons presented, New Yorker artists deploy dashed-off, sketchy drawing styles that haven’t changed much since the 1930s.

Editors at other publications work with professional cartoonists they trust to consistently deliver high-quality cartoons, and help them hone one or two rough sketches to a bright sheen. The results are almost always better than anything that runs in The New Yorker — yet “60 Minutes” doesn’t notice.

“How much do the cartoonists make? Editor [David] Remnick will only say: nobody’s becoming a millionaire,” Safer says in the “60 Minutes” piece.

Well, Mankoff did. But that’s another story for another time.

(Support independent journalism and political commentary. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

Autographed Copies Now for Sale! Revised/Updated 2014 Edition of “Silk Road to Ruin”

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 07:07

The expanded paperback 2nd edition of Silk Road to Ruin: Why Central Asia is the Next Middle East is OUT NOW. You can order it from Amazon or scroll below to order an autographed copy directly from me. Signed copies come with a personal sketch and can be dedicated to anyone you want. And most of the money goes to me, unlike Amazon, which pays authors about a buck a copy.

The new edition updates the politics and current events sections to the present. In addition, there is a bonus chapter about my expedition to Lake Sarez in Tajikistan — Central Asia’s “Sword of Damocles,” which could cause an epic flood that could kill millions of people at any time.

If you are a book critic or reviewer interested in a review copy, please contact NBM Publishing directly.

If you would like me to speak about Central Asia and the new book at an event, please contact me through the contact form here on the Rallblog.

To order an autographed copy:


Shipping Destination USA – includes shipping $25.95 USDCanada & Mexico $30.95 USDOther Countries $38.95 USD



Guest Blogger Post: Gays Are Being Set Up As Scapegoats

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 13:14

Susan here. In the UK, gays are about to gain marriage rights. While I’m happy about this, I’m not so happy that the British people are having austerity forced upon them at the same time. Social justice has to be implemented across the board, not just to one identity group. Why? Because divide-and-conquer is the basic technique which the Elite uses to rule, and giving rights to one group while depriving other groups sets the former up to be scapegoated. I think it’s imperative that gays orgs express their full condemnation of the forced impoverishment of the British people as a whole.

What Might Have Been: My Comic Strip Collaboration with Cartoonist Mike Ritter

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 05:42

My friend and fellow editorial cartoonist Mike Ritter died over the weekend of a severe heart problem. He was 48.

Mike and I were members of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, which is how we met. At the time, he was a conservative Republican, on staff at the since-defunct Tucson Tribune. He was an energetic, extremely funny guy, popular among our little fraternity, but as I got to know him better, I saw some darkness there too.

He was gay but deep in the closet.

I was the only person he knew who lived in a big, gay-friendly city (New York), and so he confided his secret and sought out advice. I encouraged him to leave Arizona, which at the time was even more conservative than now, and go somewhere where he could live openly. The more we talked about the importance of personal and sexual freedom, I could sense his politics drifting left as well.

As he considered life after a staff job, in 2003 we began talking about collaborating on a daily newspaper comic strip. He was a great artist and I’m a strong writer. We hoped to convince a syndicate to pick up “Urbana,” which, looking back now, kind of anticipates the conceit of “The Boondocks” as a fish-out-of-water story in which urban sophisticates move to the sticks to save money. Some samples are above.

Mid-collaboration, Mike went silent. It wasn’t just me; he vanished from the AAEC radar. There were sporadic Mike sightings over the years, but for the most part, he stopped communicating with his former colleagues. But he was working, as an openly-gay cartoonist and art director for the Georgia Voice. Not one to insist on bothering someone who has obviously made a conscious decision to drop out of touch, I left him alone. But I missed him. Many cartoonists did.

Now I’ll miss him even more.

Rest in peace, Mike. His was an all-too-short life, but he lived it more brilliantly than many who log twice as many miles.