Wednesday, April 23 2014
Sunday, April 20 2014
I noted with interest the other day the awarding of a second Pulitzer Prize for History to former UC Davis Professor Alan Taylor, now at the University of Virginia. It’s hard to win a Pulitzer. I was a finalist once, and I can assure you that winning one in editorial cartooning is a far different pursuit than winning one in history.
For example, cartooning is stuff I make up, and historians really frown upon that device.
I also have a degree in U.S. history from Portland State University and took 18 credits toward a master’s degree in the same subject. My thesis is essentially done, so they told me 13 years ago. I even went down to the University of Oregon to discuss getting a Ph.D in history. So I have a truly academic interest in the subject. But, like an ADD cartoonist, I lost interest in the torturous work required to get one, like sequestering yourself in a fluorescent-lit room for 11 years while talking to yourself.
I can do that in a newspaper office.
Sunday, April 13 2014
Ethics, schmethics. Politically, we’ve operated in a ethical free-fire zone in California since they found gold at Sutter’s Mill. Periodically, someone will lightly adjust the rules, but the essential problem is always there:
Money. See also: vast amounts of same.
Whether it’s the now comparatively tame Sen. Ron Calderon indictment, in which a couple of guys made the usual chump change deals, or Sen. Rod Wright, who is not really sure where he lives (nor is Sen. Mimi Walters, who aspires to the 45th Congressional District seat in Orange County, but hasn’t been charged with perjury, voter fraud or any other unpleasantness), or the alleged gun-running-for-hire operation of Sen. Leland Yee, it’s always about how the bucks get passed out to the proper outstretched hands.
We’ve lost 9 percent of the California Senate in the last few months. Or, expressed another way, 11 percent of the Senate Democratic caucus.
Sunday, April 6 2014
Last week, I wrote a column based on my (small) belief that Gov. Jerry Brown is looking at the 2016 presidential race, in case Hillary Clinton doesn’t go for it.
Most people think she will/is, but I am not so sure. I think she is obviously doing everything to get in place, including freezing up a lot of 2014 money for the Democratic Senate and congressional races. Her health has been an issue recently, and she will be 69 in 2016. Of course, Jerry Brown will be 76, but his health isn’t in question, and he runs 3 miles a day. From 1976 to 2014, he’s used to long-distance running.
I posited the theory that Brown is almost uniquely qualified to step into the race with great credibility and a big head start, should Clinton take a pass. I got a lot of email about it, and the column was the most widely read piece in The Bee on Sunday. So, let’s say I’m right, for once.
One of the begged questions in the column was who might possibly serve as Brown’s running mate. I think the next VP nominee, if Hillary doesn’t go for the White House, should be a younger woman.
Thursday, April 3 2014
Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman: Old and new
Wednesday, April 2 2014
Sunday, March 30 2014
I think Gov. Jerry Brown will be the 45th president of the United States.
I ran this by one of my friends who is Deeply Knowledgeable About This Sort of Thing, and he snorted. And yet, here’s my thinking.
Brown has gotten, shall we say, a lot of positive coverage from The New York Times in the past few months. Last Sunday, Maureen Dowd, who gushed over Obama in 2007, could barely muster a question tougher than asking Brown if he had ever smoked marijuana.
Saturday, March 22 2014
When I was growing up in the 1970s, one of my hobbies was following Watergate like it was the Minnesota Twins. I enjoyed Watergate a bit too much, and I’m glad the U.S. government didn’t collapse. It would be wrong, that’s for sure.
One time, I was giving a speech to a group in Couer d’Alene, Idaho, in 1992. One of the questioners asked me how I got interested in political cartooning, and I replied something like, “I loved Watergate. Watergate was fantastic. I enjoyed every minute of Watergate.”
Afterward, a nice woman who was about 60 years old came up to me. She said, “Mr. Ohman, I enjoyed your remarks.”
Tuesday, March 18 2014
Sunday, March 16 2014
Sunday, March 16 2014
The writer Joe McGinniss died Tuesday. He wrote “The Selling of The President 1968,” an unvarnished chronicle of the media packaging of Richard Nixon.
McGinniss wrote the book when he was 27, which is a very young age to have re-invented political reporting. The previous landmark political campaign book series, Theodore H. White’s “The Making of the President,” was gumshoe reporting combined with elegiac prose lionizing the candidates and the American voter.
While lightly influenced by White’s books, McGinniss wrote his work with a bit of a twist: There was very little about the process that he liked or trusted.
Chronicling the re-invention of Nixon as a prepackaged, tightly choreographed candidate, McGinniss revealed there were very few words that Nixon uttered that were spoken outside of a controlled television studio with a hand-selected audience. The operation was supervised by Roger Ailes, now a renowned and notorious Fox News executive, who was barely 30 himself in 1968.
Friday, March 14 2014
Sunday, February 23 2014
Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman: Poetry from the Calderon Indictment
Friday, February 21 2014
For a while, it was looking like there would be no Republicans running to challenge Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. The man who has announced for this peculiar office is Ron Nehring, who was chairman of the California Republican Party from 2007 until 2011.
In his announcement, Nehring essentially created a fairly strong case for ending the office entirely, which is a curious early campaign decision. He noted that the office served as a “taxpayer-funded gubernatorial campaign committee.”
This isn’t a fun little dig at Gavin Newsom, or how, precisely, he occupies his time. Because it is pretty clear by now how he occupies his time. He’s just kind of going on television, radio, writing books about social networks and government, punching a few clocks at various state boards he’s constitutionally entitled to attend, and generally waiting around for someone his senior to retire from the job immediately above him.
Friday, February 14 2014
Even after the substantial rainfall recently, California is still looking at a drought. If droughts were biblical, like downpours, this would be a biblical drought. More importantly, the drought has become political. Even President Barack Obama visited the Central Valley to extend federal assistance.
Gov. Jerry Brown has been correctly noting for weeks that he can’t make it rain. But on Thursday, he went a little further than his usual protestations.
“You’ve got to have rain. Aside from the rain, you’ve got to use the water efficiently. You’ve got to have storage, and we have to balance the interests because we have no other choice.” Then came the bombshell:
“If anyone can get it done, I can get it done.” And, like his “Little Engine That Could,” I think he can, with the help of the new session of the Legislature. All he needs is:
Tuesday, February 11 2014
The news that lobbyist Kevin Sloat is being fined $133,500 by the Fair Political Practices Commission is not surprising. What is surprising is that probably no one will really care.
Oh, maybe a little. And maybe someone will do something, somehow. But it won’t be much, and it won’t be enough.
Sloat will, I am quite certain, keep his clients, and operate more or less as he and his K Street denizens do. Except Sloat got some unwanted publicity and established a record.
Thursday, February 6 2014
As if we didn’t need more bad news from CalPERS, it turns out that, on average, CalPERS retirees are going to be living longer than we thought: by, 2028, men will live 1.6 years longer, and women will tack on another 2.2 years.
Under other circumstances, this is always good news, right? We’re living longer! And, even better, we’re on CalPERS! But while medical technology has conquered death, temporarily, it has handed us another fiscal problem.
I would have loved to have been in that PowerPoint presentation with Gov. Jerry Brown and his advisers:
“Um, governor, we seem to have an actuarial problem. CalPERS retirees are living longer. All those anti-smoking programs and cancer-warning signage worked. Now what?”
Thursday, February 6 2014
Pvt. Earl W. Gustafson, 18, stares out of a sepia photograph I have in a family album. The photo was taken in 1918. Handsome and square-jawed in his Army uniform, Pvt. Gustafson looks ready to save the world for democracy during World War I, and come back home to Marquette, Mich.
Except he never got to do that.
He died stateside in an Army camp of the influenza epidemic that swept the world that year.
His sisters, my second cousins, many of whom lived into the late 1990s, still remembered Earl. He was a funny, athletic boy who loved to fish and hunt in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. But they never got the chance to see him grow into a father and husband, or a craftsman, a teacher or a community leader.
Wednesday, February 5 2014
Once again, a celebrity has died before his time because of his excesses. And once again, the usual finger-wagging has been played out in the media. There’s a predictable, sad trajectory in all these stories:
The news of the death. The shock among the fans and media. The discovery of the drug or drugs of choice. The narrative of the final hours and moments. The tsk tsks. The He Had It All And Blew It Commentary.
Then the funeral.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was someone who was an obvious genius, not some public relations machine Hollywood cut-out. This makes it harder to comprehend. NYU acting school, Broadway, an Oscar in 2006 for perhaps the most amazing portrayal I’ve ever seen, and his brilliant self-analyses of what he does and who he is.
Wednesday, February 5 2014
Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman: Mad Mentality
Saturday, February 1 2014
Morrie Turner, creator of the “Wee Pals” comic strip and West Sacramento resident, died last Saturday. He had a showing at The Red Dot in midtown a few weeks ago, and I went to see it. I had never met him.
He was in a wheelchair, frail but quippy at 90 and still drawing his comic strip for 40 newspapers. He signed books for all comers, and there were lots of comers. Morrie was a good friend of the late Rex Babin, my friend and predecessor. Rex often mentioned how much he enjoyed hanging out and talking with him. They were both ill. But they managed to comfort each other with arcane cartooning shop-talk.
Morrie had a fascinating and historic career. He started drawing cartoons during World War II for the 477th Bombardment Group newspaper, and created illustrations for Stars and Stripes. After the war, he drew the predecessor of “Wee Pals,” “Dinky Fellas” for the Chicago Defender. That’s intrinsically interesting, but Morrie did something that no one had done in 1965: Taking the advice of his mentor, Charles Schulz, he created “Wee Pals,” the first integrated comic strip.
Morrie only had five clients for “Wee Pals” when it launched in 1965. The theme of the strip was not just some black kids, but kids of every race and ethnicity. Morrie preached not black power but everybody power; he was a civil rights activist with a pen and ink. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, Morrie’s client list jumped to more than 100 newspapers, including The Sacramento Bee. You could just hear feature editors waking up: Oh. We need something other than Blondie and talking animals in our newspaper. Morrie woke them up.
Monday, January 27 2014
Last week, two of California’s most powerful political leaders, Gov. Jerry Brown and Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, discussed their father’s influence in public forums.
In Brown’s case, he recalled the time when he accompanied his father, Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, to the elder Brown’s State of the State Address in 1959, garbed in his Jesuitical collar and black suit. Last week after announcing his retirement, Miller mused about his fly-on-the-wall meetings between his father, a powerful California state senator, and then-Gov. Pat Brown. Both of these fathers exerted huge gravitational pull on the sons, both of whom went into California politics, and arguably became even more prominent leaders than their fathers.
Sometimes it works out that way, and, for better or worse, sometimes it doesn’t.
History is filled with these father/son and daughter acts. At the presidential level, we’ve had John Adams and John Quincy Adams, as well as George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. George H.W. Bush’s father, Prescott Bush, was a U.S. Senator from Connecticut. Hey, dad: I beat you. And W. was re-elected: Hey, dad: I beat you.
Friday, January 24 2014
Gov. Jerry Brown’s terse speech at the State of the State got me to thinking about his rhetorical style. When I was a teenager in the 1970s, I was fascinated by Brown when he was running for president in 1976. He would say the most refreshing things in an interesting manner. Limits, conserve, explore, create, new thinking: he was kind of a New Age JFK. He didn’t get the nomination, but it was easy to see how he could have.
He still expresses himself in an intriguing way, but the speech Wednesday left me feeling like the 1976 Jerry Brown was told by the 2014 Jerry Brown to get the hell off of his lawn.
When Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, 30 years younger than Jerry Brown, gave his own Pocket-Sized State of the State address while introducing the governor, Brown made sure that he was brushed back from the plate:
“Lieutenant Governor, I appreciate change but I also value continuity.”
Thursday, January 16 2014
Technically, I’m a baby boomer. I don’t really have much in common with them, since I was born in 1960 and they were more a just-after World War II demographic. So I got tacked onto their show.
They’re running all the TV networks, newspapers and magazines now, so they’re completely controlling the media narrative, which is fine. I am not sure I can stand to pay attention to the news when, in 2034, they start rolling out the 50th anniversary shows about how great Reagan was or the magic of big hair and shoulder pads. But for now, my guys are doing the 50th anniversary of everything.
It started with the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, and, of course, well worth observing. But I’ve noticed that in the past few weeks, the media machine is cranking up the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty and the 50th anniversary of the appearance of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. Again, these are subjects that are worthy of attention, certainly. But I can see it getting out of hand. Are we going to see the 50th anniversary of the Monkees, or the 50th anniversary of the flight of Gemini 6?